The Secret of the Island
LOST OR SAVED--AYRTON SUMMONED--IMPORTANT DISCUSSION--IT IS NOT THE
DUNCAN--SUSPICIOUS VESSEL--PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN--THE SHIP
APPROACHES--A CANNON-SHOT--THE BRIG ANCHORS IN SIGHT OF THE ISLAND--
NIGHT COMES ON.
It was now two years and a half since the castaways from the balloon had
been thrown on Lincoln Island, and during that period there had been no
communication between them and their fellow-creatures. Once the
reporter had attempted to communicate with the inhabited world by
confiding to a bird a letter which contained the secret of their
situation, but that was a chance on which it was impossible to reckon
seriously. Ayrton, alone, under the circumstances which have been
related, had come to join the little colony. Now, suddenly, on this
day, the 17th of October, other men had unexpectedly appeared in sight
of the island, on that deserted sea!
There could be no doubt about it! A vessel was there! But would she
pass on, or would she put into port? In a few hours the colonists would
definitely know what to expect.
Cyrus Harding and Herbert having immediately called Gideon Spilett,
Pencroft, and Neb into the dining-room of Granite House, told them what
had happened. Pencroft, seizing the telescope, rapidly swept the
horizon, and stopping on the indicated point, that is to say, on that
which had made the almost imperceptible spot on the photographic
"I'm blessed but it is really a vessel!" he exclaimed, in a voice which
did not express any great amount of satisfaction.
"Is she coming here?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Impossible to say anything yet," answered Pencroft, "for her rigging
alone is above the horizon, and not a bit of her hull can be seen."
"What is to be done?" asked the lad.
"Wait," replied Harding.
And for a considerable time the settlers remained silent, given up to
all the thoughts, all the emotions, all the fears, all the hopes, which
were aroused by this incident--the most important which had occurred
since their arrival in Lincoln Island. Certainly, the colonists were
not in the situation of castaways abandoned on a sterile islet,
constantly contending against a cruel nature for their miserable
existence, and incessantly tormented by the longing to return to
inhabited countries. Pencroft and Neb, especially, who felt themselves
at once so happy and so rich, would not have left their island without
regret. They were accustomed, besides, to this new life in the midst of
the domain which their intelligence had as it were civilised. But at
any rate this ship brought news from the world, perhaps even from their
native land. It was bringing fellow-creatures to them, and it may be
conceived how deeply their hearts were moved at the sight!
From time to time Pencroft took the glass and rested himself at the
window. From thence he very attentively examined the vessel, which was
at a distance of twenty miles to the east. The colonists had as yet,
therefore, no means of signalising their presence. A flag would not
have been perceived; a gun would not have been heard; a fire would not
have been visible. However, it was certain that the island, overtopped
by Mount Franklin, could not have escaped the notice of the vessel's
look-out. But why was this ship coming there? Was it simple chance
which brought it to that part of the Pacific, where the maps mentioned
no land except Tabor Islet, which itself was out of the route usually
followed by vessels from the Polynesian Archipelagos, from New Zealand,
and from the American coast? To this question, which each one asked
himself, a reply was suddenly made by Herbert.
"Can it be the Duncan?" he cried.
The Duncan, as has been said, was Lord Glenarvan's yacht, which had
left Ayrton on the islet, and which was to return there some day to
fetch him. Now, the islet was not so far-distant from Lincoln Island,
but that a vessel, standing for the one, could pass in sight of the
other. A hundred and fifty miles only separated them in longitude, and
seventy in latitude.
"We must tell Ayrton," said Gideon Spilett, "and send for him
immediately. He alone can say if it is the Duncan."
This was the opinion of all, and the reporter, going to the telegraphic
apparatus which placed the corral in communication with Granite House,
sent this telegram:--"Come with all possible speed."
In a few minutes the bell sounded.
"I am coming," replied Ayrton.
Then the settlers continued to watch the vessel.
"If it is the Duncan," said Herbert, "Ayrton will recognise her
without difficulty, since he sailed on board her for some time."
"And if he recognises her," added Pencroft, "it will agitate him
"Yes," answered Cyrus Harding; "but now Ayrton is worthy to return on
board the Duncan, and pray Heaven that it is indeed Lord Glenarvan's
yacht, for I should be suspicious of any other vessel. These are
ill-famed seas, and I have always feared a visit from Malay pirates to
"We could defend it," cried Herbert.
"No doubt, my boy," answered the engineer smiling, "but it would be
better not to have to defend it."
"A useless observation," said Spilett. "Lincoln Island is unknown to
navigators, since it is not marked even on the most recent maps. Do you
not think, Cyrus, that that is a sufficient motive for a ship, finding
herself unexpectedly in sight of new land, to try and visit rather than
"Certainly," replied Pencroft.
"I think so too," added the engineer. "It may even be said that it is
the duty of a captain to come and survey any land or island not yet
known, and Lincoln Island is in this position."
"Well," said Pencroft, "suppose this vessel comes and anchors there a
few cables-lengths from our island, what shall we do?" This sudden
question remained at first without any reply. But Cyrus Harding, after
some moments' thought, replied in the calm tone which was usual to him--
"What we shall do, my friends? What we ought to do is this:--we will
communicate with the ship, we will take our passage on board her, and we
will leave our island, after having taken possession of it in the name
of the United States. Then we will return with any who may wish to
follow us to colonise it definitely, and endow the American Republic
with a useful station in this part of the Pacific Ocean!"
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Pencroft, "and that will be no small present which
we shall make to our country! The colonisation is already almost
finished; names are given to every part of the island; there is a
natural port, fresh water, roads, a telegraph, a dockyard, and
manufactories; and there will be nothing to be done but to inscribe
Lincoln Island on the maps!"
"But if any one seizes it in our absence?" observed Gideon Spilett.
"Hang it!" cried the sailor. "I would rather remain all alone to guard
it: and trust to Pencroft, they shouldn't steal it from him, like a
watch from the pocket of a swell!"
For an hour it was impossible to say with any certainty whether the
vessel was or was not standing towards Lincoln Island. She was nearer,
but in what direction was she sailing? This Pencroft could not
determine. However, as the wind was blowing from the north-east, in all
probability the vessel was sailing on the starboard tack. Besides, the
wind was favourable for bringing her towards the island, and, the sea
being calm, she would not be afraid to approach although the shallows
were not marked on the chart.
Towards four o'clock--an hour after he had been sent for--Ayrton arrived
at Granite House. He entered the dining-room, saying--
"At your service, gentlemen."
Cyrus Harding gave him his hand, as was his custom to do, and, leading
him to the window--
"Ayrton," said he, "we have begged you to come here for an important
reason. A ship is in sight of the island."
Ayrton at first paled slightly, and for a moment his eyes became dim;
then, leaning out of the window, he surveyed the horizon, but could see
"Take this telescope," said Spilett, "and look carefully, Ayrton, for it
is possible that this ship may be the Duncan come to these seas for
the purpose of taking you home again."
"The Duncan!" murmured Ayrton. "Already?" This last word escaped
Ayrton's lips as if involuntarily, and his head drooped upon his hands.
Did not twelve years' solitude on a desert island appear to him a
sufficient expiation? Did not the penitent yet feel himself pardoned,
either in his own eyes or in the eyes of others?
"No," said he, "no! it cannot be the Duncan!"
"Look, Ayrton," then said the engineer, "for it is necessary that we
should know beforehand what to expect."
Ayrton took the glass and pointed it in the direction indicated. During
some minutes he examined the horizon without moving, without uttering a
"It is indeed a vessel," said he, "but I do not think she is the
"Why do you not think so?" asked Gideon Spilett. "Because the Duncan
is a steam-yacht, and I cannot perceive any trace of smoke either above
or near that vessel."
"Perhaps she is simply sailing," observed Pencroft. "The wind is
favourable for the direction which she appears to be taking, and she may
be anxious to economise her coal, being so far from land."
"It is possible that you may be right, Mr Pencroft," answered Ayrton,
"and that the vessel has extinguished her fires. We must wait until she
is nearer, and then we shall soon know what to expect."
So saying, Ayrton sat down in a corner of the room and remained silent.
The colonists again discussed the strange ship, but Ayrton took no part
in the conversation. All were in such a mood that they found it
impossible to continue their work. Gideon Spilett and Pencroft were
particularly nervous, going, coming, not able to remain still in one
place. Herbert felt more curiosity. Neb alone maintained his usual
calm manner. Was not his country that where his master was? As to the
engineer, he remained plunged in deep thought, and in his heart feared
rather than desired the arrival of the ship. In the meanwhile, the
vessel was a little nearer the island. With the aid of the glass, it
was ascertained that she was a brig, and not one of those Malay proas,
which are generally used by the pirates of the Pacific. It was,
therefore, reasonable to believe that the engineer's apprehensions would
not be justified, and that the presence of this vessel in the vicinity
of the island was fraught with no danger. Pencroft, after a minute
examination, was able positively to affirm that the vessel was rigged as
a brig, and that she was standing obliquely towards the coast, on the
starboard tack, under her topsails and topgallant-sails. This was
confirmed by Ayrton. But by continuing in this direction she must soon
disappear behind Claw Cape, as the wind was from the south-west, and to
watch her it would be then necessary to ascend the heights of Washington
Bay, near Port Balloon--a provoking circumstance, for it was already
five o'clock in the evening, and the twilight would soon make any
observation extremely difficult.
"What shall we do when night comes on?" asked Gideon Spilett. "Shall we
light a fire, so as to signal our presence, on the coast?"
This was a serious question, and yet, although the engineer still
retained some of his presentiments, it was answered in the affirmative.
During the night the ship might disappear and leave for ever, and, this
ship gone, would another ever return to the waters of Lincoln Island?
Who could foresee what the future would then have in store for the
"Yes," said the reporter, "we ought to make known to that vessel,
whoever she may be, that the island is inhabited. To neglect the
opportunity which is offered to us might be to create everlasting
It was, therefore, decided that Neb and Pencroft should go to Port
Balloon, and that there, at nightfall, they should light an immense
fire, the blaze of which would necessarily attract the attention of the
But at the moment when Neb and the sailor were preparing to leave
Granite House, the vessel suddenly altered her course, and stood
directly for Union Bay. The brig was a good sailer, for she approached
rapidly. Neb and Pencroft put off their departure, therefore, and the
glass was put into Ayrton's hands, that he might ascertain for certain
whether the ship was or was not the Duncan. The Scotch yacht was also
rigged as a brig. The question was, whether a chimney could be
discerned between the two masts of the vessel, which was now at a
distance of only five miles.
The horizon was still very clear. The examination was easy, and Ayrton
soon let the glass fall again, saying--
"It is not the Duncan! It could not be her!"
Pencroft again brought the brig within the range of the telescope, and
could see that she was of between three and four hundred tons burden,
wonderfully narrow, well-masted, admirably built, and must be a very
rapid sailer. But to what nation did she belong? That was difficult to
"And yet," added the sailor, "a flag is floating from her peak, but I
cannot distinguish the colours of it."
"In half an hour we shall be certain about that," answered the reporter.
"Besides, it is very evident that the intention of the captain of this
ship is to land, and, consequently, if not to-day, to-morrow at the
latest, we shall make his acquaintance."
"Never mind!" said Pencroft. "It is best to know whom we have to deal
with, and I shall not be sorry to recognise that fellow's colours!"
And, while thus speaking, the sailor never left the glass. The day
began to fade, and with the day the breeze fell also. The brig's ensign
hung in folds, and it became more and more difficult to observe it.
"It is not the American flag," said Pencroft from time to time, "nor the
English, the red of which could be easily seen, nor the French or German
colours, nor the white flag of Russia, nor the yellow of Spain. One
would say it was all one colour. Let's see: in these seas, what do we
generally meet with? The Chilian flag?--but that is tri-colour.
Brazilian?--it is green. Japanese?--it is yellow and black, whilst
At that moment the breeze blew out the unknown flag. Ayrton, seizing
the telescope which the sailor had put down, put it to his eye, and in a
"The black flag!" he exclaimed.
And indeed the sombre bunting was floating from the mast of the brig,
and they had now good reason for considering her to be a suspicious
Had the engineer, then, been right in his presentiments? Was this a
pirate vessel? Did she scour the Pacific, competing with the Malay
proas which still infest it? For what had she come to look at the
shores of Lincoln Island? Was it to them an unknown island, ready to
become a magazine for stolen cargoes? Had she come to find on the coast
a sheltered port for the winter months? Was the settler's honest domain
destined to be transformed into an infamous refuge--the headquarters of
the piracy of the Pacific?
All these ideas instinctively presented themselves to the colonists'
imaginations. There was no doubt, besides, of the signification which
must be attached to the colour of the hoisted flag. It was that of
pirates! It was that which the Duncan would have carried, had the
convicts succeeded in their criminal design! No time was lost before
"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "perhaps this vessel only wishes to
survey the coast of the island. Perhaps her crew will not land. There
is a chance of it. However that may be, we ought to do everything we
can to hide our presence here. The windmill on Prospect Heights is too
easily seen. Let Ayrton and Neb go and take down the sails. We must
also conceal the windows of Granite House with thick branches. All the
fires must be extinguished, so that nothing may betray the presence of
men on the island."
"And our vessel?" said Herbert.
"Oh," answered Pencroft, "she is sheltered in Port Balloon, and I defy
any of those rascals there to find her!"
The engineer's orders were immediately executed. Neb and Ayrton
ascended the plateau, and took the necessary precautions to conceal any
indication of a settlement. Whilst they were thus occupied, their
companions went to the border of Jacamar Wood, and brought back a large
quantity of branches and creepers, which would at some distance appear
as natural foliage, and thus disguise the windows in the granite cliff.
At the same time, the ammunition and guns were placed ready so as to be
at hand in case of an unexpected attack.
When all these precautions had been taken--
"My friends," said Harding, and his voice betrayed some emotion, "if
these wretches endeavour to seize Lincoln Island, we shall defend it--
shall we not?"
"Yes, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "and if necessary we will die to
The engineer extended his hand to his companions, who pressed it warmly.
Ayrton alone remained in his corner, not joining the colonists. Perhaps
he, the former convict, still felt himself unworthy to do so!
Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in Ayrton's mind, and going to
"And you, Ayrton," he asked, "what will you do?"
"My duty," answered Ayrton.
He then took up his station near the window and gazed through the
It was now half-past seven. The sun had disappeared twenty minutes ago
behind Granite House. Consequently the eastern horizon was becoming
gradually obscured. In the meanwhile the brig continued to advance
towards Union Bay. She was now not more than two miles off, and exactly
opposite the plateau of Prospect Heights, for after having tacked off
Claw Cape, she had drifted towards the north in the current of the
rising tide. One might have said that at this distance she had already
entered the vast bay, for a straight line drawn from Claw Cape to Cape
Mandible would have rested on her starboard quarter.
Was the brig about to penetrate far into the bay? That was the first
question. When once in the bay, would she anchor there? That was the
second. Would she not content herself with only surveying the coast,
and stand out to sea again without landing her crew? They would know
this in an hour. The colonists could do nothing but wait.
Cyrus Harding had not seen the suspected vessel hoist the black flag
without deep anxiety. Was it not a direct menace against the work which
he and his companions had till now conducted so successfully? Had these
pirates--for the sailors of the brig could be nothing else--already
visited the island, since on approaching it they had hoisted their
colours. Had they formerly invaded it, so that certain unaccountable
peculiarities might be explained in this way? Did there exist in the as
yet unexplored parts some accomplice ready to enter into communication
To all these questions which he mentally asked himself, Harding knew not
what to reply; but he felt that the safety of the colony could not but
be seriously threatened by the arrival of the brig.
However, he and his companions were determined to fight to the last
gasp. It would have been very important to know if the pirates were
numerous and better armed than the colonists. But how was this
information to be obtained?
Night fell. The new moon had disappeared. Profound darkness enveloped
the island and the sea. No light could pierce through the heavy piles
of clouds on the horizon. The wind had died away completely with the
twilight. Not a leaf rustled on the trees, not a ripple murmured on the
shore. Nothing could be seen of the ship, all her lights being
extinguished, and if she was still in sight of the island, her
whereabouts could not be discovered.
"Well! who knows?" said Pencroft. "Perhaps that cursed craft will stand
off during the night, and we shall see nothing of her at daybreak."
As if in reply to the sailor's observation, a bright light flashed in
the darkness, and a cannon-shot was heard.
The vessel was still there and had guns on board.
Six seconds elapsed between the flash and the report.
Therefore the brig was about a mile and a quarter from the coast.
At the same time, the chains were heard rattling through the
The vessel had just anchored in sight of Granite House!
DISCUSSIONS--PRESENTIMENTS--AYRTON'S PROPOSAL--IT IS ACCEPTED--AYRTON
AND PENCROFT ON GRANT ISLET--CONVICTS FROM NORFOLK ISLAND--AYRTON'S
HEROIC ATTEMPT--HIS RETURN--SIX AGAINST FIFTY.
There was no longer any doubt as to the pirates' intentions. They had
dropped anchor at a short distance from the island, and it was evident
that the next day by means of their boats they purposed to land on the
Cyrus Harding and his companions were ready to act, but, determined
though they were, they must not forget to be prudent. Perhaps their
presence might still be concealed in the event of the pirates contenting
themselves with landing on the shore without examining the interior of
the island. It might be, indeed, that their only intention was to
obtain fresh water from the Mercy, and it was not impossible that the
bridge, thrown across a mile and a half from the mouth, and the
manufactory at the Chimneys might escape their notice.
But why was that flag hoisted at the brig's peak? What was that shot
fired for? Pure bravado doubtless, unless it was a sign of the act of
taking possession. Harding knew now that the vessel was well-armed.
And what had the colonists of Lincoln Island to reply to the pirates'
guns? A few muskets only.
"However," observed Cyrus Harding, "here we are in an impregnable
position. The enemy cannot discover the mouth of the outlet, now that
it is hidden under reeds and grass, and consequently it would be
impossible for them to penetrate into Granite House."
"But our plantations, our poultry-yard, our corral, all, everything!"
exclaimed Pencroft, stamping his foot. "They may spoil everything,
destroy everything in a few hours!"
"Everything, Pencroft," answered Harding, "and we have no means of
"Are they numerous? that is the question," said the reporter. "If they
are not more than a dozen, we shall be able to stop them, but forty,
fifty, more perhaps!"
"Captain Harding," then said Ayrton, advancing towards the engineer,
"will you give me leave."
"For what, my friend?"
"To go to that vessel to find out the strength of her crew."
"But Ayrton--" answered the engineer, hesitating, "you will risk your
"Why not, sir?"
"That is more than your duty."
"I have more than my duty to do," replied Ayrton.
"Will you go to the ship in the boat?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"No, sir, but I will swim. A boat would be seen where a man may glide
between wind and water."
"Do you know that the brig is a mile and a quarter from the shore?" said
"I am a good swimmer, Mr Herbert."
"I tell you it is risking your life," said the engineer.
"That is no matter," answered Ayrton. "Captain Harding, I ask this as a
favour. Perhaps it will be a means of raising me in my own eyes!"
"Go, Ayrton," replied the engineer, who felt sure that a refusal would
have deeply wounded the former convict, now become an honest man.
"I will accompany you," said Pencroft.
"You mistrust me!" said Ayrton quickly.
Then more humbly,--
"No! no!" exclaimed Harding with animation, "no, Ayrton, Pencroft does
not mistrust you. You interpret his words wrongly."
"Indeed," returned the sailor, "I only propose to accompany Ayrton as
far as the islet. It may be, although it is scarcely possible, that one
of these villains has landed, and in that case two men will not be too
many to hinder him from giving the alarm. I will wait for Ayrton on the
islet, and he shall go alone to the vessel, since he has proposed to do
so." These things agreed to, Ayrton made preparations for his
departure. His plan was bold, but it might succeed, thanks to the
darkness of the night. Once arrived at the vessel's side, Ayrton,
holding onto the main-chains, might reconnoitre the number and perhaps
overhear the intentions of the pirates.
Ayrton and Pencroft, followed by their companions, descended to the
beach. Ayrton undressed and rubbed himself with grease, so as to suffer
less from the temperature of the water, which was still cold. He might,
indeed, be obliged to remain in it for several hours.
Pencroft and Neb, during this time, had gone to fetch the boat, moored a
few hundred feet higher up, on the bank of the Mercy, and by the time
they returned, Ayrton was ready to start. A coat was thrown over his
shoulders, and the settlers all came round him to press his hand.
Ayrton then shoved off with Pencroft in the boat.
It was half-past ten in the evening when the two adventurers disappeared
in the darkness. Their companions returned to wait at the Chimneys.
The channel was easily traversed, and the boat touched the opposite
shore of the islet. This was not done without precaution, for fear lest
the pirates might be roaming about there. But after a careful survey,
it was evident that the islet was deserted. Ayrton then, followed by
Pencroft, crossed it with a rapid step, scaring the birds nestled in the
holes of the rocks; then, without hesitating, he plunged into the sea,
and swam noiselessly in the direction of the ship, in which a few lights
had recently appeared, showing her exact situation. As to Pencroft, he
crouched down in a cleft of the rock, and awaited the return of his
In the meanwhile, Ayrton, swimming with a vigorous stroke, glided
through the sheet of water without producing the slightest ripple. His
head just emerged above it and his eyes were fixed on the dark hull of
the brig, from which the lights were reflected in the water. He thought
only of the duty which he had promised to accomplish, and nothing of the
danger which he ran, not only on board the ship, but in the sea, often
frequented by sharks. The current bore him along and he rapidly receded
from the shore.
Half an hour afterwards, Ayrton, without having been either seen or
heard, arrived at the ship and caught hold of the main-chains. He took
breath, then, hoisting himself up, he managed to reach the extremity of
the cutwater. There were drying several pairs of sailors' trousers. He
put on a pair. Then settling himself firmly, he listened. They were
not sleeping on board the brig. On the contrary, they were talking,
singing, laughing. And these were the sentences, accompanied with
oaths, which principally struck Ayrton:--
"Our brig is a famous acquisition."
"She sails well, and merits her name of the Speedy."
"She would show all the navy of Norfolk a clean pair of heels."
"Hurrah for her captain!"
"Hurrah for Bob Harvey!"
What Ayrton felt when he overheard this fragment of conversation may be
understood when it is known that in this Bob Harvey he recognised one of
his old Australian companions, a daring sailor, who had continued his
criminal career. Bob Harvey had seized, on the shores of Norfolk
Island, this brig, which was loaded with arms, ammunition, utensils, and
tools of all sorts, destined for one of the Sandwich Islands. All his
gang had gone on board, and pirates after having been convicts, these
wretches, more ferocious than the Malays themselves, scoured the
Pacific, destroying vessels, and massacring their crews.
The convicts spoke loudly, they recounted their deeds, drinking deeply
at the same time, and this is what Ayrton gathered. The actual crew of
the Speedy was composed solely of English prisoners, escaped from
Here it may be well to explain what this island was. In 29 degrees 2
minutes south latitude, and 165 degrees 42 minutes east longitude, to
the east of Australia, is found a little island, six miles in
circumference, overlooked by Mount Pitt, which rises to a height of 1100
feet above the level of the sea. This is Norfolk Island, once the seat
of an establishment in which were lodged the most intractable convicts
from the English penitentiaries. They numbered 500, under an iron
discipline, threatened with terrible punishments, and were guarded by
150 soldiers, and 150 employed under the orders of the governor. It
would be difficult to imagine a collection of greater ruffians.
Sometimes,--although very rarely,--notwithstanding the extreme
surveillance of which they were the object, many managed to escape, and
seizing vessels which they surprised, they infested the Polynesian
Archipelagos. [Note. Norfolk Island has long since been abandoned as a
Thus had Bob Harvey and his companions done. Thus had Ayrton formerly
wished to do. Bob Harvey had seized the brig Speedy, anchored in
sight of Norfolk Island; the crew had been massacred; and for a year
this ship had scoured the Pacific, under the command of Harvey, now a
pirate, and well-known to Ayrton!
The convicts were, for the most part, assembled under the poop; but a
few, stretched on the deck, were talking loudly.
The conversation still continued amidst shouts and libations. Ayrton
learned that chance alone had brought the Speedy in sight of Lincoln
Island: Bob Harvey had never yet set foot on it; but, as Cyrus Harding
had conjectured, finding this unknown land in his course, its position
being marked on no chart, he had formed the project of visiting it, and,
if he found it suitable, of making it the brig's headquarters.
As to the black flag hoisted at the Speedy's peak, and the gun which
had been fired, in imitation of men-of-war when they lower their
colours, it was pure piratical bravado. It was in no way a signal, and
no communication yet existed between the convicts and Lincoln Island.
The settlers' domain was now menaced with terrible danger. Evidently
the island, with its water, its harbour, its resources of all kinds so
increased in value by the colonists, and the concealment afforded by
Granite House, could not but be convenient for the convicts; in their
hands it would become an excellent place of refuge, and, being unknown,
it would assure them, for a long time perhaps, impunity and security.
Evidently, also, the lives of the settlers would not be respected, and
Bob Harvey and his accomplices' first care would be to massacre them
without mercy. Harding and his companions had, therefore, not even the
choice of flying and hiding themselves in the island, since the convicts
intended to reside there, and since, in the event of the Speedy
departing on an expedition, it was probable that some of the crew would
remain on shore, so as to settle themselves there. Therefore, it would
be necessary to fight, to destroy every one of these scoundrels,
unworthy of pity, and against whom any means would be right. So thought
Ayrton, and he well knew that Cyrus Harding would be of his way of
But was resistance and, in the last place, victory possible? That would
depend on the equipment of the brig, and the number of men which she
This Ayrton resolved to learn at any cost, and as an hour after his
arrival the vociferations had begun to die away, and as a large number
of the convicts were already buried in a drunken sleep, Ayrton did not
hesitate to venture onto the Speedy's deck, which the extinguished
lanterns now left in total darkness. He hoisted himself onto the
cutwater, and by the bowsprit arrived at the forecastle. Then, gliding
among the convicts stretched here and there, he made the round of the
ship, and found that the Speedy carried four guns, which would throw
shot of from eight to ten pounds in weight. He found also, on touching
them, that these guns were breech-loaders. They were, therefore, of
modern make, easily used, and of terrible effect.
As to the men lying on the deck, they were about ten in number, but it
was to be supposed that more were sleeping down below. Besides, by
listening to them, Ayrton had understood that there were fifty on board.
That was a large number for the six settlers of Lincoln Island to
contend with! But now, thanks to Ayrton's devotion, Cyrus Harding would
not be surprised, he would know the strength of his adversaries, and
would make his arrangements accordingly.
There was nothing more for Ayrton to do but to return, and render to his
companions an account of the mission with which he had charged himself,
and he prepared to regain the bows of the brig, so that he might let
himself down into the water.
But to this man, whose wish was, as he had said, to do more than his
duty, there came an heroic thought. This was to sacrifice his own life,
but save the island and the colonists. Cyrus Harding evidently could
not resist fifty ruffians, all well-armed, who, either by penetrating by
main force into Granite House, or by starving out the besieged, could
obtain from them what they wanted. And then he thought of his
preservers--those who had made him again a man, and an honest man, those
to whom he owed all--murdered without pity, their works destroyed, their
island turned into a pirates' den! He said to himself that he, Ayrton,
was the principal cause of so many disasters, since his old companion,
Bob Harvey, had but realised his own plans, and a feeling of horror took
possession of him. Then he was seized with an irresistible desire to
blow up the brig, and with her, all whom she had on board. He would
perish in the explosion, but he would have done his duty.
Ayrton did not hesitate. To reach the powder-room, which is always
situated in the after-part of a vessel, was easy. There would be no
want of powder in a vessel which followed such a trade, and a spark
would be enough to destroy it in an instant.
Ayrton stole carefully along the between-decks, strewn with numerous
sleepers, overcome more by drunkenness than sleep. A lantern was
lighted at the foot of the mainmast, round which was hung a gun-rack,
furnished with weapons of all sorts.
Ayrton took a revolver from the rack, and assured himself that it was
loaded and primed. Nothing more was needed to accomplish the work of
destruction. He then glided towards the stern, so as to arrive under
the brig's poop at the powder-magazine.
It was difficult to proceed along the dimly-lighted deck without
stumbling over some half-sleeping convict, who retorted by oaths and
kicks. Ayrton was, therefore, more than once obliged to halt. But at
last he arrived at the partition dividing the after-cabin, and found the
door opening into the magazine itself.
Ayrton, compelled to force it open, set to work. It was a difficult
operation to perform without noise, for he had to break a padlock. But
under his vigorous hand, the padlock broke, and the door was open.
At that moment a hand was laid on Ayrton's shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" asked a tall man, in a harsh voice, who,
standing in the shadow, quickly threw the light of a lantern on Ayrton's
Ayrton drew back. In the rapid flash of the lantern, he had recognised
his former accomplice, Bob Harvey, who could not have known him, as he
must have thought Ayrton long since dead.
"What are you doing here?" again said Bob Harvey, seizing Ayrton by the
But Ayrton, without replying, wrenched himself from his grasp and
attempted to rush into the magazine. A shot fired into the midst of the
powder-casks, and all would be over!
"Help, lads!" shouted Bob Harvey.
At his shout two or three pirates awoke, jumped up, and, rushing on
Ayrton, endeavoured to throw him down. He soon extricated himself from
their grasp. He fired his revolver, and two of the convicts fell; but a
blow from a knife which he could not ward off made a gash in his
Ayrton perceived that he could no longer hope to carry out his project.
Bob Harvey had reclosed the door of the powder-magazine, and a movement
on the deck indicated a general awakening of the pirates. Ayrton must
reserve himself to fight at the side of Cyrus Harding. There was
nothing for him but flight!
But was flight still possible? It was doubtful, yet Ayrton resolved to
dare everything in order to rejoin his companions.
Four barrels of the revolver were still undischarged. Two were fired--
one, aimed at Bob Harvey, did not wound him, or at any rate only
slightly; and Ayrton, profiting by the momentary retreat of his
adversaries, rushed towards the companion-ladder to gain the deck.
Passing before the lantern, he smashed it with a blow from the butt of
his revolver. A profound darkness ensued, which favoured his flight.
Two or three pirates, awakened by the noise, were descending the ladder
at the same moment. A fifth shot from Ayrton laid one low, and the
others drew back, not understanding what was going on. Ayrton was on
deck in two bounds, and three seconds later, having discharged his last
barrel in the face of a pirate who was about to seize him by the throat,
he leapt over the bulwarks into the sea.
Ayrton had not made six strokes before shots were splashing around him
What were Pencroft's feelings, sheltered under a rock on the islet! what
were those of Harding, the reporter, Herbert, and Neb, crouched in the
Chimneys, when they heard the reports on board the brig! They rushed
out onto the beach, and, their guns shouldered, they stood ready to
repel any attack.
They had no doubt about it themselves! Ayrton, surprised by the
pirates, had been murdered, and, perhaps, the wretches would profit by
the night to make a descent on the island!
Half an hour was passed in terrible anxiety. The firing had ceased, and
yet neither Ayrton nor Pencroft had reappeared. Was the islet invaded?
Ought they not to fly to the help of Ayrton and Pencroft? But how? The
tide being high at that time, rendered the channel impassable. The boat
was not there! We may imagine the horrible anxiety which took
possession of Harding and his companions!
At last, towards half-past twelve, a boat, carrying two men, touched the
beach. It was Ayrton, slightly wounded in the shoulder, and Pencroft,
safe and sound, whom their friends received with open arms.
All immediately took refuge in the Chimneys. There Ayrton recounted all
that had passed, even to his plan for blowing up the brig, which he had
attempted to put into execution.
All hands were extended to Ayrton, who did not conceal from them that
their situation was serious. The pirates had been alarmed. They knew
that Lincoln Island was inhabited. They would land upon it in numbers
and well-armed. They would respect nothing. Should the settlers fall
into their hands, they must expect no mercy!
"Well, we shall know how to die!" said the reporter.
"Let us go in and watch," answered the engineer.
"Have we any chance of escape, captain?" asked the sailor.
"Hum! six against fifty!"
"Yes! six! without counting--"
"Who?" asked Pencroft.
Cyrus did not reply, but pointed upwards.
THE MIST RISES--THE ENGINEER'S PREPARATIONS--THREE POSTS--AYRTON AND
PENCROFT--THE FIRST BOAT--TWO OTHER BOATS--ON THE ISLET--SIX CONVICTS
LAND--THE BRIG WEIGHS ANCHOR--THE SPEEDY'S GUNS--A DESPERATE
The night passed without incident. The colonists were on the qui
vive, and did not leave their post at the Chimneys. The pirates, on
their side, did not appear to have made any attempt to land. Since the
last shots fired at Ayrton not a report, not even a sound, had betrayed
the presence of the brig in the neighbourhood of the island. It might
have been fancied that she had weighed anchor, thinking that she had to
deal with her match, and had left the coast.
But it was no such thing, and when day began to dawn the settlers could
see a confused mass through the morning mist. It was the Speedy.
"These, my friends," said the engineer, "are the arrangements which
appear to me best to make before the fog completely clears away. It
hides us from the eyes of the pirates, and we can act without attracting
their attention. The most important thing is, that the convicts should
believe that the inhabitants of the island are numerous, and
consequently capable of resisting them. I therefore propose that we
divide into three parties, the first of which shall be posted at the
Chimneys, the second at the mouth of the Mercy. As to the third, I
think it would be best to place it on the islet, so as to prevent, or at
all events delay, any attempt at landing. We have the use of two rifles
and four muskets. Each of us will be armed, and, as we are amply
provided with powder and shot, we need not spare our fire. We have
nothing to fear from the muskets, nor even from the guns of the brig.
What can they do against these rocks? And, as we shall not fire from
the windows of Granite House, the pirates will not think of causing
irreparable damage by throwing shell against it. What is to be feared
is, the necessity of meeting hand-to-hand, since the convicts have
numbers on their side. We must, therefore, try to prevent them from
landing, but without discovering ourselves. Therefore, do not economise
the ammunition. Fire often, but with a sure aim. We have each eight or
ten enemies to kill, and they must be killed!"
Cyrus Harding had clearly represented their situation, although he spoke
in the calmest voice, as if it was a question of directing a piece of
work, and not ordering a battle. His companions approved these
arrangements without even uttering a word. There was nothing more to be
done but for each to take his place before the fog should be completely
dissipated. Neb and Pencroft immediately ascended to Granite House and
brought back a sufficient quantity of ammunition. Gideon Spilett and
Ayrton, both very good marksmen, were armed with the two rifles, which
carried nearly a mile. The four other muskets were divided amongst
Harding, Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert.
The posts were arranged in the following manner:--
Cyrus Harding and Herbert remained in ambush at the Chimneys, thus
commanding the shore to the foot of Granite House.
Gideon Spilett and Neb crouched among the rocks at the mouth of the
Mercy, from which the drawbridges had been raised, so as to prevent any
one from crossing in a boat or landing on the opposite shore.
As to Ayrton and Pencroft, they shoved off in the boat, and prepared to
cross the channel and to take up two separate stations on the islet. In
this way, shots being fired from four different points at once, the
convicts would be led to believe that the island was both largely
peopled and strongly defended.
In the event of a landing being effected without their having been able
to prevent it, and also if they saw that they were on the point of being
cut off by the brig's boat, Ayrton and Pencroft were to return in their
boat to the shore and proceed towards the threatened spot.
Before starting to occupy their posts, the colonists for the last time
wrung each other's hands.
Pencroft succeeded in controlling himself sufficiently to suppress his
emotion when he embraced Herbert, his boy! and then they separated.
In a few moments Harding and Herbert on one side, the reporter and Neb
on the other, had disappeared behind the rocks, and five minutes later
Ayrton and Pencroft, having without difficulty crossed the channel,
disembarked on the islet and concealed themselves in the clefts of its
None of them could have been seen, for they themselves could scarcely
distinguish the brig in the fog.
It was half-past six in the morning.
Soon the fog began to clear away, and the topmasts of the brig issued
from the vapour. For some minutes great masses rolled over the surface
of the sea, then a breeze sprang up, which rapidly dispelled the mist.
The Speedy now appeared in full view, with a spring on her cable, her
head to the north, presenting her larboard side to the island. Just as
Harding had calculated, she was not more than a mile and a quarter from
The sinister black flag floated from the peak.
The engineer, with his telescope, could see that the four guns on board
were pointed at the island. They were evidently ready to fire at a
In the meanwhile the Speedy remained silent. About thirty pirates
could be seen moving on the deck. A few were on the poop; two others
posted in the shrouds, and armed with spy-glasses, were attentively
surveying the island.
Certainly, Bob Harvey and his crew would not be able easily to give an
account of what had happened during the night on board the brig. Had
this half-naked man, who had forced the door of the powder-magazine, and
with whom they had struggled, who had six times discharged his revolver
at them, who had killed one and wounded two others, escaped their shot?
Had he been able to swim to shore? Whence did he come? What had been
his object? Had his design really been to blow up the brig, as Bob
Harvey had thought? All this must be confused enough to the convicts'
minds. But what they could no longer doubt was that the unknown island
before which the Speedy had cast anchor was inhabited, and that there
was, perhaps, a numerous colony ready to defend it. And yet no one was
to be seen, neither on the shore, nor on the heights. The beach
appeared to be absolutely deserted. At any rate, there was no trace of
dwellings. Had the inhabitants fled into the interior? Thus probably
the pirate captain reasoned, and doubtless, like a prudent man, he
wished to reconnoitre the locality before he allowed his men to venture
During an hour and a half, no indication of attack or landing could be
observed on board the brig. Evidently Bob Harvey was hesitating. Even
with his strongest telescopes he could not have perceived one of the
settlers crouched among the rocks. It was not even probable that his
attention had been awakened by the screen of green branches and creepers
hiding the windows of Granite House, and showing rather conspicuously on
the bare rock. Indeed, how could he imagine that a dwelling was
hollowed out, at that height, in the solid granite. From Claw Cape to
the Mandible Capes, in all the extent of Union Bay, there was nothing to
lead him to suppose that the island was or could be inhabited.
At eight o'clock, however, the colonists observed a movement on board
the Speedy. A boat was lowered, and seven men jumped into her. They
were armed with muskets: one took the yoke-lines, four others the oars,
and the two others, kneeling in the bows, ready to fire, reconnoitred
the island. Their object was no doubt to make an examination but not to
land, for in the latter case they would have come in larger numbers.
The pirates from their look-out could have seen that the coast was
sheltered by an islet, separated from it by a channel half a mile in
width. However, it was soon evident to Cyrus Harding, on observing the
direction followed by the boat, that they would not attempt to penetrate
into the channel, but would land on the islet.
Pencroft and Ayrton, each hidden in a narrow cleft of the rock, saw them
coming directly towards them, and waited till they were within range.
The boat advanced with extreme caution. The oars only dipped into the
water at long intervals. It could now be seen that one of the convicts
held a lead-line in his hand, and that he wished to fathom the depth of
the channel hollowed out by the current of the Mercy. This showed that
it was Bob Harvey's intention to bring his brig as near as possible to
the coast. About thirty pirates, scattered in the rigging, followed
every movement of the boat, and took the bearings of certain landmarks
which would allow them to approach without danger. The boat was not
more than two cables-lengths off the islet when she stopped. The man at
the tiller stood up and looked for the best place at which to land.
At that moment two shots were heard. Smoke curled up from among the
rocks of the islet. The man at the helm and the man with the lead-line
fell backwards into the boat. Ayrton's and Pencraft's balls had struck
them both at the same moment.
Almost immediately a louder report was heard, a cloud of smoke issued
from the brig's side, and a ball, striking the summit of the rock which
sheltered Ayrton and Pencroft, made it fly in splinters, but the two
marksmen remained unhurt.
Horrible imprecations burst from the boat, which immediately continued
its way. The man who had been at the tiller was replaced by one of his
comrades, and the oars were rapidly plunged into the water. However,
instead of returning on board as might have been expected, the boat
coasted along the islet, so as to round its southern point. The pirates
pulled vigorously at their oars that they might get out of range of the
They advanced to within five cables-lengths of that part of the shore
terminated by Flotsam Point, and after having rounded it in a
semicircular line, still protected by the brig's guns, they proceeded
towards the mouth of the Mercy.
Their evident intention was to penetrate into the channel, and cut off
the colonists posted on the islet, in such a way, that whatever their
number might be, being placed between the fire from the boat and the
fire from the brig, they would find themselves in a very disadvantageous
A quarter of an hour passed whilst the boat advanced in this direction.
Absolute silence, perfect calm reigned in the air and on the water.
Pencroft and Ayrton, although they knew they ran the risk of being cut
off, had not left their post, both that they did not wish to show
themselves as yet to their assailants, and expose themselves to the
Speedy's guns, and that they relied on Neb and Gideon Spilett,
watching at the mouth of the river, and on Cyrus Harding and Herbert, in
ambush among the rocks at the Chimneys.
Twenty minutes after the first shots were fired, the boat was less than
two cables-lengths off the Mercy. As the tide was beginning to rise
with its accustomed violence, caused by the narrowness of the straits,
the pirates were drawn towards the river, and it was only by dint of
hard rowing that they were able to keep in the middle of the channel.
But, as they were passing within good range of the mouth of the Mercy,
two balls saluted them, and two more of their number were laid in the
bottom of the boat. Neb and Spilett had not missed their aim.
The brig immediately sent a second ball on the post betrayed by the
smoke, but without any other result than that of splintering the rock.
The boat now contained only three able men. Carried on by the current,
it shot through the channel with the rapidity of an arrow, passed before
Harding and Herbert, who, not thinking it within range, withheld their
fire, then, rounding the northern point of the islet with the two
remaining oars, they pulled towards the brig.
Hitherto the settlers had nothing to complain of. Their adversaries had
certainly had the worst of it. The latter already counted four men
seriously wounded if not dead; they, on the contrary, unwounded, had not
missed a shot. If the pirates continued to attack them in this way, if
they renewed their attempt to land by means of a boat, they could be
destroyed one by one.
It was now seen how advantageous the engineer's arrangements had been.
The pirates would think that they had to deal with numerous and
well-armed adversaries, whom they could not easily get the better of.
Half an hour passed before the boat, having to pull against the current,
could get alongside the Speedy. Frightful cries were heard when they
returned on board with the wounded, and two or three guns were fired
with no result.
But now about a dozen other convicts, maddened with rage, and possibly
by the effect of the evening's potations, threw themselves into the
boat. A second boat was also lowered, in which eight men took their
places, and whilst the first pulled straight for the islet, to dislodge
the colonists from thence, the second manoeuvred so as to force the
entrance of the Mercy.
The situation was evidently becoming very dangerous for Pencroft and
Ayrton, and they saw that they must regain the mainland.
However, they waited till the first boat was within range, when two
well-directed balls threw its crew into disorder. Then, Pencroft and
Ayrton, abandoning their posts, under fire from the dozen muskets, ran
across the islet at full speed, jumped into their boat, crossed the
channel at the moment the second boat reached the southern end, and ran
to hide themselves in the Chimneys.
They had scarcely rejoined Cyrus Harding and Herbert, before the islet
was overrun with pirates in every direction. Almost at the same moment,
fresh reports resounded from the Mercy station, to which the second boat
was rapidly approaching. Two, out of the eight men who manned her, were
mortally wounded by Gideon Spilett and Neb, and the boat herself,
carried irresistibly onto the reefs, was stove in at the mouth of the
Mercy. But the six survivors, holding their muskets above their heads
to preserve them from contact with the water, managed to land on the
right bank of the river. Then, finding they were exposed to the fire of
the ambush there, they fled in the direction of Flotsam Point, out of
range of the balls.
The actual situation was this: on the islet were a dozen convicts, of
whom some were no doubt wounded, but who had still a boat at their
disposal; on the island were six, but who could not by any possibility
reach Granite House, as they could not cross the river, all the bridges
"Hallo," exclaimed Pencroft as he rushed into the Chimneys, "hallo,
captain! What do you think of it, now?"
"I think," answered the engineer, "that the combat will now take a new
form, for it cannot be supposed that the convicts will be so foolish as
to remain in a position so unfavourable for them!"
"They won't cross the channel," said the sailor. "Ayrton and Mr
Spilett's rifles are there to prevent them. You know that they carry
more than a mile!"
"No doubt," replied Herbert; "but what can two rifles do against the
"Well, the brig isn't in the channel yet, I fancy!" said Pencroft.
"But suppose she does come there?" said Harding.
"That's impossible, for she would risk running aground and being lost!"
"It is possible," said Ayrton. "The convicts might profit by the high
tide to enter the channel, with the risk of grounding at low tide, it is
true; but then, under the fire from her guns, our posts would be no
"Confound them!" exclaimed Pencroft. "It really seems as if the
blackguards were preparing to weigh anchor."
"Perhaps we shall be obliged to take refuge in Granite House!" observed
"We must wait!" answered Cyrus Harding.
"But Mr Spilett and Neb?" said Pencroft.
"They will know when it is best to rejoin us. Be ready, Ayrton. It is
yours and Spilett's rifles which must speak now."
It was only too true. The Speedy was beginning to weigh her anchor,
and her intention was evidently to approach the islet. The tide would
be rising for an hour and a half, and the ebb current being already
weakened, it would be easy for the brig to advance. But as to entering
the channel, Pencroft, contrary to Ayrton's opinion, could not believe
that she would dare to attempt it.
In the meanwhile, the pirates who occupied the islet had gradually
advanced to the opposite shore, and were now only separated from the
mainland by the channel.
Being armed with muskets alone, they could do no harm to the settlers,
in ambush at the Chimneys and the mouth of the Mercy; but, not knowing
the latter to be supplied with long range rifles, they on their side did
not believe themselves to be exposed. Quite uncovered, therefore, they
surveyed the islet, and examined the shore.
Their illusion was of short duration. Ayrton's and Gideon Spilett's
rifles then spoke, and no doubt imparted some very disagreeable
intelligence to two of the convicts, for they fell backwards.
Then there was a general helter-skelter. The ten others, not even
stopping to pick up their dead or wounded companions, fled to the other
side of the islet, tumbled into the boat which had brought them, and
pulled away with all their strength.
"Eight less!" exclaimed Pencroft. "Really, one would have thought that
Mr Spilett and Ayrton had given the word to fire together!"
"Gentlemen," said Ayrton, as he reloaded his gun, "this is becoming more
serious. The brig is making sail!"
"The anchor is weighed!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Yes; and she is already moving."
In fact, they could distinctly hear the creaking of the windlass. The
Speedy was at first held by her anchor; then, when that had been
raised, she began to drift towards the shore. The wind was blowing from
the sea; the jib and the fore-topsail were hoisted, and the vessel
gradually approached the island.
From the two posts of the Mercy and the Chimneys they watched her
without giving a sign of life; but not without some emotion. What could
be more terrible for the colonists than to be exposed, at a short
distance, to the brig's guns, without being able to reply with any
effect? How could they then prevent the pirates from landing?
Cyrus Harding felt this strongly, and he asked himself what it would be
possible to do. Before long, he would be called upon for his
determination. But what was it to be? To shut themselves up in Granite
House, to be besieged there, to remain there for weeks, for months even,
since they had an abundance of provisions? So far good! But after
that? The pirates would not the less be masters of the island, which
they would ravage at their pleasure, and in time they would end by
having their revenge on the prisoners in Granite House.
However, one chance yet remained; it was that Bob Harvey, after all,
would not venture his ship into the channel, and that he would keep
outside the islet. He would be still separated from the coast by half a
mile, and at that distance his shot could not be very destructive.
"Never!" repeated Pencroft, "Bob Harvey will never, if he is a good
seaman, enter that channel! He knows well that it would risk the brig,
if the sea got up ever so little! And what would become of him without
In the meanwhile the brig approached the islet, and it could be seen
that she was endeavouring to make the lower end. The breeze was light,
and as the current had then lost much of its force, Bob Harvey had
absolute command over his vessel.
The route previously followed by the boats had allowed her to
reconnoitre the channel, and she boldly entered it.
The pirate's design was now only too evident: he wished to bring her
broadside to bear on the Chimneys and from there to reply with shell and
ball to the shot which had till then decimated her crew.
Soon the Speedy reached the point of the islet; she rounded it with
ease; the mainsail was braced up, and the brig hugging the wind, stood
across the mouth of the Mercy.
"The scoundrels! they are coming!" said Pencroft.
At that moment, Cyrus Harding, Ayrton, the sailor, and Herbert, were
rejoined by Neb and Gideon Spilett.
The reporter and his companion had judged it best to abandon the post at
the Mercy, from which they could do nothing against the ship, and they
had acted wisely. It was better that the colonists should be together
at the moment when they were about to engage in a decisive action.
Gideon Spilett and Neb had arrived by dodging behind the rocks, though
not without attracting a shower of bullets, which had not, however,
"Spilett! Neb!" cried the engineer, "you are not wounded?"
"No," answered the reporter; "a few bruises only from the ricochet! But
that cursed brig has entered the channel!"
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and in ten minutes she will have anchored
before Granite House!"
"Have you formed any plan, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.
"We must take refuge in Granite House whilst there is still time, and
the convicts cannot see us."
"That is my opinion, too," replied Gideon Spilett; "but once shut up--"
"We must be guided by circumstances," said the engineer.
"Let us be off, then, and make haste!" said the reporter.
"Would you not wish, captain, that Ayrton and I should remain here?"
asked the sailor.
"What would be the use of that, Pencroft?" replied Harding. "No. We
will not separate!"
There was not a moment to be lost. The colonists left the Chimneys. A
bend of the cliff prevented them from being seen by those in the brig;
but two or three reports, and the crash of bullets on the rock, told
them that the Speedy was at no great distance.
To spring into the lift, hoist themselves up to the door of Granite
House, where Top and Jup had been shut up since the evening before, to
rush into the large room, was the work of a minute only.
It was quite time, for the settlers, through the branches, could see the
Speedy, surrounded with smoke, gliding up the channel. The firing was
incessant, and shot from the four guns struck blindly, both on the Mercy
post, although it was not occupied, and on the Chimneys. The rocks were
splintered, and cheers accompanied each discharge. However, they were
hoping that Granite House would be spared, thanks to Harding's
precaution of concealing the windows, when a shot, piercing the door,
penetrated into the passage.
"We are discovered!" exclaimed Pencroft.
The colonists had not, perhaps, been seen; but it was certain that Bob
Harvey had thought proper to send a ball through the suspected foliage
which concealed that part of the cliff. Soon he redoubled his attack,
when another ball having torn away the leafy screen, disclosed a gaping
aperture in the granite.
The colonists' situation was desperate. Their retreat was discovered.
They could not oppose any obstacle to these missiles, nor protect the
stone, which flew in splinters around them. There was nothing to be
done but to take refuge in the upper passage of Granite House, and leave
their dwelling to be devastated, when a deep roar was heard, followed by
Cyrus Harding and his companions rushed to one of the windows--
The brig, irresistibly raised on a sort of water-spout, had just split
in two, and in less than ten seconds she was swallowed up with all her
THE COLONISTS ON THE BEACH--AYRTON AND PENCROFT WORK AMID THE
CONVERSATION DURING BREAKFAST--PENCROFT'S ARGUMENTS--MINUTE
OF THE BRIG'S HULL--THE POWDER-MAGAZINE UNTOUCHED--NEW RICHES--THE
OF THE WRECK--A BROKEN PIECE OF CYLINDER.
"She has blown up!" cried Herbert.
"Yes! blown up, just as if Ayrton had set fire to the powder!" returned
Pencroft, throwing himself into the lift together with Neb and the lad.
"But what has happened?" asked Gideon Spilett, quite stunned by this
"Oh! this time, we shall know," answered the engineer quickly.
"What shall we know?--"
"Later! later! Come, Spilett. The main point is that these pirates
have been exterminated!"
And Cyrus Harding, hurrying away the reporter and Ayrton, joined
Pencroft, Neb, and Herbert on the beach.
Nothing could be seen of the brig, not even her masts. After having
been raised by the water-spout, she had fallen on her side, and had sunk
in that position, doubtless in consequence of some enormous leak. But
as in that place the channel was not more than twenty feet in depth, it
was certain that the sides of the submerged brig would reappear at
A few things from the wreck floated on the surface of the water. A raft
could be seen consisting of spare spars, coops of poultry with their
occupants still living, boxes and barrels, which gradually came to the
surface, after having escaped through the hatchways, but no pieces of
the wreck appeared, neither planks from the deck, nor timber from the
hull,--which rendered the sudden disappearance of the Speedy perfectly
However, the two masts, which had been broken and escaped from the
shrouds and stays, came up, with their sails, some furled and the others
spread. But it was not necessary to wait for the tide to bring up these
riches, and Ayrton and Pencroft, jumped into the boat with the intention
of towing the pieces of wreck either to the beach or to the islet. But
just as they were shoving off an observation from Gideon Spilett
"What about those six convicts who disembarked on the right bank of the
Mercy?" said he.
In fact, it would not do to forget that the six men whose boat had gone
to pieces on the rocks, had landed at Flotsam Point.
They looked in that direction. None of the fugitives were visible. It
was probable that, having seen their vessel engulfed in the channel,
they had fled into the interior of the island.
"We will deal with them later," said Harding. "As they are armed, they
will still be dangerous; but as it is six against six, the chances are
equal. To the most pressing business first."
Ayrton and Pencroft pulled vigorously towards the wreck.
The sea was calm and the tide very high, as there had been a new moon
but two days before. A whole hour at least would elapse before the hull
of the brig could emerge from the water of the channel.
Ayrton and Pencroft were able to fasten the masts and spars by means of
ropes, the ends of which were carried to the beach. There, by the
united efforts of the settlers the pieces of wreck were hauled up. Then
the boat picked up all that was floating, coops, barrels, and boxes,
which were immediately carried to the Chimneys.
Several bodies floated also. Amongst them, Ayrton recognised that of
Bob Harvey, which he pointed out to his companion, saying with some
"That is what I have been, Pencroft."
"But what you are no longer, brave Ayrton!" returned the sailor warmly.
It was singular enough that so few bodies floated. Only five or six
were counted, which were already being carried by the current towards
the open sea. Very probably the convicts had not had time to escape,
and the ship lying over on her side, the greater number of them had
remained below. Now the current, by carrying the bodies of these
miserable men out to sea, would spare the colonists the sad task of
burying them in some corner of their island.
For two hours, Cyrus Harding and his companions were solely occupied in
hauling up the spars onto the sand, and then in spreading the sails,
which were perfectly uninjured, to dry. They spoke little, for they
were absorbed in their work, but what thoughts occupied their minds!
The possession of this brig, or rather all that she contained, was a
perfect mine of wealth. In fact, a ship is like a little world in
miniature, and the stores of the colony would be increased by a large
number of useful articles. It would be, on a large scale, equivalent to
the chest found at Flotsam Point.
"And besides," thought Pencroft, "why should it be impossible to refloat
the brig? If she has only a leak, that may be stopped up; a vessel from
three to four hundred tons, why she is a regular ship compared to our
Bonadventure! And we could go a long distance in her! We could go
anywhere we liked! Captain Harding, Ayrton and I must examine her! She
would be well worth the trouble!"
In fact, if the brig was still fit to navigate, the colonists' chances
of returning to their native land was singularly increased. But, to
decide this important question, it was necessary to wait until the tide
was quite low, so that every part of the brig's hull might be examined.
When their treasures had been safely conveyed on shore, Harding and his
companions agreed to devote some minutes to breakfast. They were almost
famished: fortunately, the larder was not far off, and Neb was noted for
being an expeditious cook. They breakfasted, therefore, near the
Chimneys, and during their repast, as may be supposed, nothing was
talked of but the unexpected event which had so miraculously saved the
"Miraculous is the word," repeated Pencroft, "for it must be
acknowledged that those rascals blew up just at the right moment!
Granite House was beginning to be uncomfortable as a habitation!"
"And can you guess, Pencroft," asked the reporter, "how it happened, or
what can have occasioned the explosion?"
"Oh! Mr Spilett, nothing is more simple," answered Pencroft. "A
convict vessel is not disciplined like a man-of-war! Convicts are not
sailors. Of course the powder-magazine was open, and as they were
firing incessantly, some careless or clumsy fellow just blew up the
"Captain Harding," said Herbert, "what astonishes me is that the
explosion has not produced more effect. The report was not loud, and
besides there are so few planks and timbers torn out. It seems as if
the ship had rather foundered than blown up."
"Does that astonish you, my boy?" asked the engineer.
"And it astonishes me also Herbert," replied he, "but when we visit the
hull of the brig, we shall no doubt find the explanation of the matter."
"Why, captain," said Pencroft, "you don't suppose that the Speedy
simply foundered like a ship which has struck on a rock?"
"Why not," observed Neb, "if there are rocks in the channel?"
"Nonsense, Neb," answered Pencroft, "you did not look at the right
moment. An instant before she sank, the brig, as I saw perfectly well,
rose on an enormous wave, and fell back on her larboard side. Now, if
she had only struck, she would have sunk quietly and gone to the bottom
like an honest vessel."
"It was just because she was not an honest vessel!" returned Neb.
"Well, we shall soon see, Pencroft," said the engineer.
"We shall soon see," rejoined the sailor, "but I would wager my head
there are no rocks in the channel. Look here, captain, to speak
candidly, do you mean to say that there is anything marvellous in the
Cyrus Harding did not answer.
"At any rate," said Gideon Spilett, "whether rock or explosion, you will
agree, Pencroft, that it occurred just in the nick of time!"
"Yes! yes!" replied the sailor, "but that is not the question. I ask
Captain Harding if he sees anything supernatural in all this."
"I cannot say, Pencroft," said the engineer. "That is all the answer I
A reply which did not satisfy Pencroft at all. He stuck to "an
explosion," and did not wish to give it up. He would never consent to
admit that in that channel, with its fine sandy bed, just like the
beach, which he had often crossed at low-water, there could be an
And besides, at the time the brig foundered, it was high-water, that is
to say, there was enough water to carry the vessel clear over any rocks
which would not be uncovered at low tide. Therefore, there could not
have been a collision. Therefore, the vessel had not struck.
Therefore, she had blown up.
And it must be confessed that the sailor's arguments were not without
Towards half-past one, the colonists embarked in the boat to visit the
wreck. It was to be regretted that the brig's two boats had not been
saved; but one, as has been said, had gone to pieces at the mouth of the
Mercy, and was absolutely useless; the other had disappeared when the
brig went down, and had not again been seen, having doubtless been
The hull of the Speedy was just beginning to issue from the water.
The brig was lying right over on her side, for her masts being broken,
pressed down by the weight of the ballast displaced by the shock, the
keel was visible along her whole length. She had been regularly turned
over by the inexplicable but frightful submarine action, which had been
at the same time manifested by an enormous water-spout.
The settlers rowed round the hull, and, in proportion as the tide went
down, they could ascertain, if not the cause which had occasioned the
catastrophe, at least the effect produced.
Towards the bows, on both sides of the keel, seven or eight feet from
the beginning of the stem, the sides of the brig were frightfully torn.
Over a length of at least twenty feet there opened two large leaks,
which it would be impossible to stop up. Not only had the copper
sheathing and the planks disappeared, reduced, no doubt, to powder, but
also the ribs, the iron bolts, and tree-nails which united them. From
the entire length of the hull to the stern the false keel had been
separated with unaccountable violence, and the keel itself, torn from
the carline in several places, was split in all its length.
"I've a notion!" exclaimed Pencroft, "that this vessel will be difficult
to get afloat again."
"It will be impossible," said Ayrton.
"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett to the sailor, "the explosion, if
there has been one, has produced singular effects! It has split the
lower part of the hull, instead of blowing up the deck and topsides!
These great rents appear rather to have been made by a rock than by the
explosion of a powder-magazine."
"There is not a rock in the channel!" answered the sailor. "I will
admit anything you like, except the rock."
"Let us try to penetrate into the interior of the brig," said the
engineer; "perhaps we shall then know what to think of the cause of her
This was the best thing to be done, and it was agreed, besides, to take
an inventory of all the treasures on board, and to arrange for their
Access to the interior of the brig was now easy. The tide was still
going down, and the deck was practicable. The ballast, composed of
heavy masses of iron, had broken through in several places. The noise
of the sea could be heard as it rushed out at the holes in the hull.
Cyrus Harding and his companions, hatchets in hand, advanced along the
shattered deck. Cases of all sorts encumbered it, and, as they had been
but a very short time in the water, their contents were perhaps
They then busied themselves in placing all this cargo in safety. The
water would not return for several hours, and these hours must be
employed in the most profitable way. Ayrton and Pencroft had, at the
entrance made in the hull, discovered tackle, which would serve to hoist
up the barrels and chests. The boat received them and transported them
to the shore. They took the articles as they came, intending to sort
At any rate, the settlers saw at once, with extreme satisfaction, that
the brig possessed a very varied cargo--an assortment of all sorts of
articles, utensils, manufactured goods, and tools--such as the ships
which make the great coasting-trade of Polynesia are usually laden with.
It was probable that they would find a little of everything, and they
agreed that it was exactly what was necessary for the colony of Lincoln
However--and Cyrus Harding observed it in silent astonishment--not only,
as has been said, had the hull of the brig enormously suffered from the
shock, whatever it was, that had occasioned the catastrophe, but the
interior arrangements had been destroyed, especially towards the bows.
Partitions and staunchions were smashed, as if some tremendous shell had
burst in the interior of the brig. The colonists could easily go fore
and aft, after having removed the cases as they were extricated. They
were not heavy bales, which would have been difficult to remove, but
simple packages, of which the stowage, besides, was no longer
The colonists then reached the stern of the brig--the part formerly
surmounted by the poop. It was there that, following Ayrton's
directions, they must look for the powder-magazine. Cyrus Harding
thought that it had not exploded; that it was possible some barrels
might be saved, and that the powder, which is usually enclosed in metal
coverings, might not have suffered from contact with the water.
This, in fact, was just what had happened. They extricated from amongst
a large number of shot twenty barrels, the insides of which were lined
with copper. Pencroft was convinced by the evidence of his own eyes
that the destruction of the Speedy could not be attributed to an
explosion. That part of the hull in which the magazine was situated
was, moreover, that which had suffered least.
"It may be so," said the obstinate sailor; "but as to a rock, there is
not one in the channel!"
"Then, how did it happen?" asked Herbert.
"I don't know," answered Pencroft, "Captain Harding doesn't know, and
nobody knows or ever will know!"
Several hours had passed during these researches, and the tide began to
flow. Work must be suspended for the present. There was no fear of the
brig being carried away by the sea, for she was already fixed as firmly
as if moored by her anchors.
They could therefore, without inconvenience, wait until the next day to
resume operations; but, as to the vessel herself, she was doomed, and it
would be best to hasten to save the remains of her hull, as she would
not be long in disappearing in the quicksands of the channel.
It was now five o'clock in the evening. It had been a hard day's work
for the men. They ate with good appetite, and, notwithstanding their
fatigue, they could not resist, after dinner, their desire of inspecting
the cases which composed the cargo of the Speedy.
Most of them contained clothes, which, as may be believed, were well
received. There were enough to clothe a whole colony--linen for every
one's use, shoes for every one's feet.
"We are too rich!" exclaimed Pencroft. "But what are we going to do
with all this?"
And every moment burst forth the hurrahs of the delighted sailor when he
caught sight of the barrels of gunpowder, fire-arms and side-arms, balls
of cotton, implements of husbandry, carpenter's, joiner's, and
blacksmith's tools, and boxes of all kinds of seeds, not in the least
injured by their short sojourn in the water. Ah, two years before, how
these things would have been prized! And now, even although the
industrious colonists had provided themselves with tools, these
treasures would find their use.
There was no want of space in the store-rooms of Granite House, but that
daytime would not allow them to stow away the whole. It would not do
also to forget that the six survivors of the Speedy's crew had landed
on the island, for they were in all probability scoundrels of the
deepest dye, and it was necessary that the colonists should be on their
guard against them. Although the bridges over the Mercy were raised,
the convicts would not be stopped by a river or a stream, and, rendered
desperate, these wretches would be capable of anything.
They would see later what plan it would be best to follow; but in the
meantime it was necessary to mount guard over cases and packages heaped
up near the Chimneys, and thus the settlers employed themselves in turn
during the night.
The morning came, however, without the convicts having attempted any
attack. Master Jup and Top, on guard at the foot of Granite House,
would have quickly given the alarm. The three following days--the 19th,
20th, and 21st of October--were employed in saving everything of value,
or of any use whatever, either from the cargo or rigging of the brig.
At low tide they overhauled the hold--at high tide they stowed away the
rescued articles. A great part of the copper sheathing had been torn
from the hull, which every day sank lower. But before the sand had
swallowed the heavy things which had fallen through the bottom, Ayrton
and Pencroft, diving to the bed of the channel, recovered the chains and
anchors of the brig, the iron of her ballast, and even four guns, which,
floated by means of empty casks, were brought to shore.
It may be seen that the arsenal of the colony had gained by the wreck,
as well as the store-rooms of Granite House. Pencroft, always
enthusiastic in his projects, already spoke of constructing a battery to
command the channel and the mouth of the river. With four guns, he
engaged to prevent any fleet, "however powerful it might be," from
venturing into the waters of Lincoln Island!
In the meantime, when nothing remained of the brig but a useless hulk,
bad weather came on, which soon finished her. Cyrus Harding had
intended to blow her up, so as to collect the remains on the shore, but
a strong gale from the north-east and a heavy sea compelled him to
economise his powder.
In fact, on the night of the 23rd, the hull entirely broke up, and some
of the wreck was cast up on the beach.
As to the papers on board, it is useless to say that, although he
carefully searched the lockers of the poop, Harding did not discover any
trace of them. The pirates had evidently destroyed everything that
concerned either the captain or the owners of the Speedy, and, as the
name of her port was not painted on her counter, there was nothing which
would tell them her nationality. However, by the shape of her boats
Ayrton and Pencroft believed that the brig was of English build.
A week after the catastrophe--or, rather, after the fortunate, though
inexplicable, event to which the colony owed its preservation--nothing
more could be seen of the vessel, even at low tide. The wreck had
disappeared, and Granite House was enriched by nearly all it had
However, the mystery which enveloped its strange destruction would
doubtless never have been cleared away if, on the 30th of November, Neb,
strolling on the beach, had not found a piece of a thick iron cylinder,
bearing traces of explosion. The edges of this cylinder were twisted
and broken, as if they had been subjected to the action of some
Neb brought this piece of metal to his master, who was then occupied
with his companions in the workshop of the Chimneys.
Cyrus Harding examined the cylinder attentively, then, turning to
"You persist, my friend," said he, "in maintaining that the Speedy was
not lost in consequence of a collision?"
"Yes, captain," answered the sailor. "You know as well as I do that
there are no rocks in the channel."
"But suppose she had run against this piece of iron?" said the engineer,
showing the broken cylinder.
"What, that bit of pipe!" exclaimed Pencroft in a tone of perfect
"My friends," resumed Harding, "you remember that before she foundered
the brig rose on the summit of a regular water-spout?"
"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.
"Well, would you like to know what occasioned that water-spout? It was
this," said the engineer, holding up the broken tube.
"That?" returned Pencroft.
"Yes! This cylinder is all that remains of a torpedo!"
"A torpedo!" exclaimed the engineer's companions.
"And who put the torpedo there?" demanded Pencroft, who did not like to
"All that I can tell you is, that it was not I," answered Cyrus Harding;
"but it was there, and you have been able to judge of its incomparable
THE ENGINEER'S DECLARATION--PENCROFT'S GRAND HYPOTHESIS--AN AERIAL
BATTERY--THE FOUR CANNONS--THE SURVIVING CONVICTS--AYRTON'S
CYRUS HARDING'S GENEROUS SENTIMENTS--PENCROFT'S REGRET.
So, then, all was explained by the submarine explosion of this torpedo.
Cyrus Harding could not be mistaken, as, during the war of the Union, he
had had occasion to try these terrible engines of destruction. It was
under the action of this cylinder, charged with some explosive
substance, nitro-glycerine, picrate, or some other material of the same
nature, that the water of the channel had been raised like a dome, the
bottom of the brig crushed in, and she had sunk instantly, the damage
done to her hull being so considerable that it was impossible to refloat
her. The Speedy had not been able to withstand a torpedo that would
have destroyed an ironclad as easily as a fishing-boat!
Yes! all was explained, everything--except the presence of the torpedo
in the waters of the channel!
"My friends, then," said Cyrus Harding, "we can no longer be in doubt as
to the presence of a mysterious being, a castaway like us, perhaps,
abandoned on our island, and I say this in order that Ayrton may be
acquainted with all the strange events which have occurred during these
two years. Who this beneficent stranger is, whose intervention has, so
fortunately for us, been manifested on many occasions, I cannot imagine.
What his object can be in acting thus, in concealing himself after
rendering us so many services, I cannot understand. But his services
are not the less real, and are of such a nature that only a man
possessed of prodigious power, could render them. Ayrton is indebted to
him as much as we are, for, if it was the stranger who saved me from the
waves after the fall from the balloon, evidently it was he who wrote the
document, who placed the bottle in the channel, and who has made known
to us the situation of our companion. I will add that it was he who
guided that chest, provided with everything we wanted, and stranded it
on Flotsam Point; that it was he who lighted that fire on the heights of
the island, which permitted you to land; that it was he who fired that
bullet found in the body of the peccary; that it was he who immersed
that torpedo in the channel, which destroyed the brig; in a word, that
all those inexplicable events, for which we could not assign a reason,
are due to this mysterious being. Therefore, whoever he may be, whether
shipwrecked, or exiled on our island, we shall be ungrateful, if we
think ourselves freed from gratitude towards him. We have contracted a
debt, and I hope that we shall one day pay it."
"You are right in speaking thus, my dear Cyrus," replied Gideon Spilett.
"Yes, there is an almost all-powerful being, hidden in some part of the
island, and whose influence has been singularly useful to our colony. I
will add that the unknown appears to possess means of action which
border on the supernatural if, in the events of practical life, the
supernatural were recognisable. Is it he who is in secret communication
with us by the well in Granite House, and has he thus a knowledge of all
our plans? Was it he who threw us that bottle, when the vessel made her
first cruise? Was it he who threw Top out of the lake, and killed the
dugong? Was it he, who as everything leads us to believe, saved you
from the waves, and that under circumstances in which any one else would
not have been able to act? If it was he, he possesses a power which
renders him master of the elements."
The reporter's reasoning was just, and every one felt it to be so.
"Yes," rejoined Cyrus Harding, "if the intervention of a human being is
not more questionable for us, I agree that he has at his disposal means
of action beyond those possessed by humanity. There is a mystery still,
but if we discover the man, the mystery will be discovered also. The
question, then, is, ought we to respect the incognito of this generous
being, or ought we to do everything to find him out? What is your
opinion on the matter?"
"My opinion," said Pencroft, "is that, whoever he may be, he is a brave
man, and he has my esteem!"
"Be it so," answered Harding, "but that is not an answer, Pencroft."
"Master," then said Neb, "my idea is, that we may search as long as we
like for this gentleman whom you are talking about, but that we shall
not discover him till he pleases."
"That's not bad, what you say, Neb," observed Pencroft.
"I am of Neb's opinion," said Gideon Spilett, "but that is no reason for
not attempting the adventure. Whether we find this mysterious being or
not, we shall at least have fulfilled our duty towards him."
"And you, my boy, give us your opinion," said the engineer, turning to
"Oh," cried Herbert, his countenance full of animation, "how I should
like to thank him, he who saved you first, and who has now saved us!"
"Of course, my boy," replied Pencroft, "so would I and all of us. I am
not inquisitive, but I would give one of my eyes to see this individual
face to face! It seems to me that he must be handsome, tall, strong,
with a splendid beard, radiant hair, and that he must be seated on the
clouds, a great ball in his hands!"
"But, Pencroft," answered Spilett, "you are describing a picture of the
"Possibly, Mr Spilett," replied the sailor, "but that is how I imagine
"And you, Ayrton?" asked the engineer.
"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I can give you no better advice in
this matter. Whatever you do will be best, when you wish me to join you
in your researches, I am ready to follow you."
"I thank you, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding, "but I should like a more
direct answer to the question I put to you. You are our companion; you
have already endangered your life several times for us, and you, as well
as the rest, ought to be consulted in the matter of any important
decision. Speak, therefore."
"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I think that we ought to do
everything to discover this unknown benefactor. Perhaps he is alone.
Perhaps he is suffering. Perhaps he has a life to be renewed. I, too,
as you said, have a debt of gratitude to pay him. It was he, it could
be only he who must have come to Tabor Island, who found there the
wretch you knew, and who made known to you that there was an unfortunate
man there to be saved! Therefore it is, thanks to him, that I have
become a man again. No, I will never forget him!"
"That is settled, then," said Cyrus Harding. "We will begin our
researches as soon as possible. We will not leave a corner of the
island unexplored. We will search into its most secret recesses, and
will hope that our unknown friend will pardon us in consideration of our
For several days the colonists were actively employed in haymaking and
harvest. Before putting their project of exploring the yet unknown
parts of the island into execution, they wished to get all possible work
finished. It was also the time for collecting the various vegetables
from the Tabor Island plants. All was stowed away, and happily there
was no want of room in Granite House, in which they might have housed
all the treasures of the island. The products of the colony were there,
methodically arranged, and in a safe place, as may be believed,
sheltered as much from animals as from man.
There was no fear of damp in the middle of that thick mass of granite.
Many natural excavations situated in the upper passage were enlarged
either by pick-axe or mine, and Granite House thus became a general
warehouse, containing all the provisions, arms, tools, and spare
utensils--in a word, all the stores of the colony.
As to the guns obtained from the brig, they were pretty pieces of
ordnance, which, at Pencroft's entreaty, were hoisted by means of tackle
and pulleys, right up into Granite House; embrasures were made between
the windows, and the shining muzzles of the guns could soon be seen
through the granite cliff. From this height they commanded all Union
Bay. It was like a little Gibraltar, and any vessel anchored off the
islet would inevitably be exposed to the fire of this aerial battery.
"Captain," said Pencroft one day, it was the 8th of November, "now that
our fortifications are finished, it would be a good thing if we tried
the range of our guns."
"Do you think that is useful?" asked the engineer.
"It is more than useful, it is necessary! Without that how are we to
know to what distance we can send one of those pretty shot with which we
"Try them, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "However, I think that in
making the experiment, we ought to employ, not the ordinary powder, the
supply of which, I think, should remain untouched, but the pyroxile
which will never fail us."
"Can the cannon support the shock of the pyroxile?" asked the reporter,
who was not less anxious than Pencroft to try the artillery of Granite
"I believe so. However," added the engineer, "we will be prudent."
The engineer was right in thinking that the guns were of excellent make.
Made of forged steel, and breech-loaders, they ought consequently to be
able to bear a considerable charge, and also have an enormous range. In
fact, as regards practical effect, the transit described by the ball
ought to be as extended as possible, and this tension could only be
obtained under the condition that the projectile should be impelled with
a very great initial velocity.
"Now," said Harding to his companions, "the initial velocity is in
proportion to the quantity of powder used. In the fabrication of these
pieces, everything depends on employing a metal with the highest
possible power of resistance, and steel is incontestably that metal of
all others which resists the best. I have, therefore, reason to believe
that our guns will bear without risk the expansion of the pyroxile gas,
and will give excellent results."
"We shall be a great deal more certain of that when we have tried them!"
It is unnecessary to say that the four cannons were in perfect order.
Since they had been taken from the water, the sailor had bestowed great
care upon them. How many hours he had spent, in rubbing, greasing, and
polishing them, and in cleaning the mechanism! And now the pieces were
as brilliant as if they had been on board a frigate of the United
On this day, therefore, in presence of all the members of the colony,
including Master Jup and Top, the four cannon were successively tried.
They were charged with pyroxile, taking into consideration its explosive
power, which, as has been said, is four times that of ordinary powder:
the projectile to be fired was cylindro-conic.
Pencroft, holding the end of the quick-match, stood ready to fire.
At Harding's signal, he fired. The shot, passing over the islet, fell
into the sea at a distance which could not be calculated with
The second gun was pointed at the rocks at the end of Flotsam Point, and
the shot, striking a sharp rock nearly three miles from Granite House,
made it fly into splinters. It was Herbert who had pointed this gun and
fired it, and very proud he was of his first shot. Pencroft only was
prouder than he! Such a shot, the honour of which belonged to his dear
The third shot, aimed this time at the downs forming the upper side of
Union Bay, struck the sand at a distance of four miles, then having
ricocheted, was lost in the sea in a cloud of spray.
For the fourth piece Cyrus Harding slightly increased the charge, so as
to try its extreme range. Then, all standing aside for fear of its
bursting, the match was lighted by means of a long cord.
A tremendous report was heard, but the piece had held good, and the
colonists rushing to the windows, saw the shot graze the rocks of
Mandible Cape, nearly five miles from Granite House, and disappear in
"Well, captain," exclaimed Pencroft, whose cheers might have rivalled
the reports themselves, "what do you say of our battery? All the
pirates in the Pacific have only to present themselves before Granite
House! Not one can land there now without our permission!"
"Believe me, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "it would be better not to
have to make the experiment."
"Well," said the sailor, "what ought to be done with regard to those six
villains who are roaming about the island? Are we to leave them to
overrun our forests, our fields, our plantations. These pirates are
regular jaguars, and it seems to me we ought not to hesitate to treat
them as such! What do you think, Ayrton?" added Pencroft, turning to
Ayrton hesitated at first to reply, and Cyrus Harding regretted that
Pencroft had so thoughtlessly put this question. And he was much moved
when Ayrton replied in a humble tone--
"I have been one of those jaguars, Mr Pencroft. I have no right to
And with a slow step he walked away.
"What a brute I am!" he exclaimed. "Poor Ayrton! He has as much right
to speak here as any one!"
"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "but his reserve does him honour, and it is
right to respect the feeling which he has about his sad past."
"Certainly, Mr Spilett," answered the sailor, "and there is no fear of
my doing so again. I would rather bite my tongue off than cause Ayrton
any pain! But to return to the question. It seems to me that these
ruffians have no right to any pity, and that we ought to rid the island
of them as soon as possible."
"Is that your opinion, Pencroft?" asked the engineer.
"Quite my opinion."
"And before hunting them mercilessly, you would not wait until they had
committed some fresh act of hostility against us?"
"Isn't what they have done already enough?" asked Pencroft, who did not
understand these scruples.
"They may adopt other sentiments!" said Harding, "and perhaps repent."
"They repent!" exclaimed the sailor, shrugging his shoulders.
"Pencroft, think of Ayrton!" said Herbert, taking the sailor's hand.
"He became an honest man again!"
Pencroft looked at his companions one after the other. He had never
thought of his proposal being met with any objection. His rough nature
could not allow that they ought to come to terms with the rascals who
had landed on the island with Bob Harvey's accomplices, the murderers of
the crew of the Speedy; and he looked upon them as wild beasts which
ought to be destroyed without delay and without remorse.
"Come!" said he. "Everybody is against me! You wish to be generous to
those villains! Very well; I hope we mayn't repent it!"
"What danger shall we run," said Herbert, "if we take care to be always
on our guard!"
"Hum!" observed the reporter, who had not given any decided opinion.
"They are six and well-armed. If they each lay hid in a corner, and
each fired at one of us, they would soon be masters of the colony!"
"Why have they not done so?" said Herbert. "No doubt because it was not
their interest to do it. Besides, we are six also."
"Well, well!" replied Pencroft, whom no reasoning could have convinced.
"Let us leave these good people to do what they like, and don't think
anything more about them!"
"Come, Pencroft," said Neb, "don't make yourself out so bad as all that!
Suppose one of these unfortunate men were here before you, within good
range of your gun, you would not fire."
"I would fire on him as I would on a mad dog, Neb," replied Pencroft
"Pencroft," said the engineer, "you have always shown much deference to
my advice; will you, in this matter, yield to me?"
"I will do as you please, Captain Harding," answered the sailor, who was
not at all convinced.
"Very well, wait, and we will not attack them unless we are attacked
Thus their behaviour towards the pirates was agreed upon, although
Pencroft augured nothing good from it. They were not to attack them,
but were to be on their guard. After all, the island was large and
fertile. If any sentiment of honesty yet remained in the bottom of
their hearts, these wretches might perhaps be reclaimed. Was it not
their interest in the situation in which they found themselves to begin
a new life? At any rate, for humanity's sake alone, it would be right
to wait. The colonists would no longer, as before, be able to go and
come without fear. Hitherto they had only wild beasts to guard against,
and now six convicts of the worst description, perhaps, were roaming
over their island. It was serious, certainly, and to less brave men, it
would have been security lost! No matter! At present, the colonists
had reason on their side against Pencroft. Would they be right in the
future? That remained to be seen.
EXPEDITIONS PLANNED--AYRTON AT THE CORRAL--VISIT TO PORT BALLOON--
PENCROFT'S OBSERVATIONS ON BOARD THE BONADVENTURE--DESPATCH SENT
CORRAL--NO REPLY FROM AYRTON--DEPARTURE THE NEXT DAY--THE REASON
WIRE DID NOT WORK--A REPORT.
However, the chief business of the colonists was to make that complete
exploration of the island which had been decided upon, and which would
have two objects: to discover the mysterious being whose existence was
now indisputable, and at the same time to find out what had become of
the pirates, what retreat they had chosen, what sort of life they were
leading, and what was to be feared from them. Cyrus Harding wished to
set out without delay; but as the expedition would be of some days'
duration, it appeared best to load the cart with different materials and
tools in order to facilitate the organisation of the encampments. One
of the onagers, however, having hurt its leg, could not be harnessed at
present, and a few days' rest was necessary. The departure was,
therefore, put off for a week, until the 20th of November. The month of
November in this latitude corresponds to the month of May in the
northern zones. It was, therefore, the fine season. The sun was
entering the tropic of Capricorn, and gave the longest days in the year.
The time was, therefore, very favourable for the projected expedition,
which, if it did not accomplish its principal object, would at any rate
be fruitful in discoveries, especially of natural productions, since
Harding proposed to explore those dense forests of the Far West, which
stretched to the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula.
During the nine days which preceded their departure, it was agreed that
the work on Prospect Heights should be finished off.
Moreover, it was necessary for Ayrton to return to the corral, where the
domesticated animals required his care. It was decided that he should
spend two days there, and return to Granite House after having liberally
supplied the stables.
As he was about to start, Harding asked him if he would not like one of
them to accompany him, observing that the island was less safe than
formerly. Ayrton replied that this was unnecessary, as he was enough
for the work, and that besides he apprehended no danger. If anything
occurred at the corral, or in the neighbourhood, he could instantly warn
the colonists by sending a telegram to Granite House.
Ayrton departed at dawn on the 9th, taking the cart drawn by one onager,
and two hours after, the electric wire announced that he had found all
in order at the corral.
During these two days Harding busied himself in executing a project
which would completely guard Granite House against any surprise. It was
necessary to completely conceal the opening of the old outlet, which was
already walled up and partly hidden under grass and plants, at the
southern angle of Lake Grant. Nothing was easier, since if the level of
the lake was raised two or three feet, the opening would be quite
beneath it. Now, to raise this level they had only to establish a dam
at the two openings made by the lake, and by which were fed Creek
Glycerine and Falls River.
The colonists worked with a will, and the two dams, which besides did
not exceed eight feet in width by three in height, were rapidly erected
by means of well-cemented blocks of stone.
This work finished, it would have been impossible to guess that at that
part of the lake, there existed a subterranean passage through which the
overflow of the lake formerly escaped.
Of course the little stream which fed the reservoir of Granite House and
worked the lift had been carefully preserved, and the water could not
fail. The lift once raised, this sure and comfortable retreat would be
safe from any surprise.
This work had been so quickly done, that Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and
Herbert found time to make an expedition to Port Balloon. The sailor
was very anxious to know if the little creek in which the Bonadventure
was moored, had been visited by the convicts.
"These gentlemen," he observed, "landed on the south coast, and if they
followed the shore, it is to be feared that they may have discovered the
little harbour, and in that case, I wouldn't give half-a-dollar for our
Pencroft's apprehensions were not without foundation, and a visit to
Port Balloon appeared to be very desirable. The sailor and his
companions set off on the 10th of November, after dinner, well-armed.
Pencroft, ostentatiously slipping two bullets into each barrel of his
rifle, shook his head in a way which betokened nothing good to any one
who approached too near to him, whether "man or beast," as he said.
Gideon Spilett and Herbert also took their guns, and about three o'clock
all three left Granite House.
Neb accompanied them to the turn of the Mercy, and after they had
crossed, he raised the bridge. It was agreed that a gun-shot should
announce the colonists' return, and that at the signal Neb should return
and re-establish the communication between the two banks of the river.
The little band advanced directly along the road which led to the
southern coast of the island. This was only a distance of three miles
and a half, but Gideon Spilett and his companions took two hours to
traverse it. They examined all the border of the road, the thick
forest, as well as Tabor Marsh. They found no trace of the fugitives
who, no doubt, not having yet discovered the number of the colonists, or
the means of defence which they had at their disposal, had gained the
less accessible parts of the island.
Arrived at Port Balloon, Pencroft saw with extreme satisfaction that the
Bonadventure was tranquilly floating in the narrow creek. However,
Port Balloon was so well hidden amongst high rocks that it could
scarcely be discovered either from the land or the sea.
"Come," said Pencroft, "the blackguards have not been there yet. Long
grass suits reptiles best, and evidently we shall find them in the Far
"And it's very lucky, for if they had found the Bonadventure," added
Herbert, "they would have gone off in her, and we should have been
prevented from returning to Tabor Island."
"Indeed," remarked the reporter, "it will be important to take a
document there which will make known the situation of Lincoln Island,
and Ayrton's new residence, in case the Scotch yacht returns to fetch
"Well, the Bonadventure is always there, Mr Spilett," answered the
sailor. "She and her crew are ready to start at a moment's notice!"
"I think, Pencroft, that that is a thing to be done after our
exploration of the island is finished. It is possible after all that
the stranger, if we manage to find him, may know as much about Tabor
Island as about Lincoln Island. Do not forget that he is certainly the
author of the document, and he may, perhaps, know how far we may count
on the return of the yacht!"
"But!" exclaimed Pencroft, "who in the world can he be? The fellow
knows us and we know nothing about him! If he is a simple castaway, why
should he conceal himself? We are honest men, I suppose, and the
society of honest men isn't unpleasant to any one. Did he come here
voluntarily? Can he leave the island if he likes? Is he here still?
Will he remain any longer?"
Chatting thus, Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert got on board and
looked about the deck of the Bonadventure. All at once, the sailor
having examined the bitts to which the cable of the anchor was secured--
"Hallo," he cried, "this is queer!"
"What is the matter, Pencroft?" asked the reporter.
"The matter is, that it was not I who made this knot!"
And Pencroft showed a rope which fastened the cable to the bitt itself.
"What, it was not you?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"No! I can swear to it. This is a reef knot, and I always make a
"You must be mistaken, Pencroft."
"I am not mistaken!" declared the sailor. "My hand does it so
naturally, and one's hand is never mistaken!"
"Then can the convicts have been on board?" asked Herbert.
"I know nothing about that," answered Pencroft, "but what is certain, is
that some one has weighed the Bonadventure's anchor and dropped it
again! And look here, here is another proof! The cable of the anchor
has been run out, and its service is no longer at the hawse-hole. I
repeat that some one has been using our vessel!"
"But if the convicts had used her, they would have pillaged her, or
rather gone off with her."
"Gone off! where to--to Tabor Island?" replied Pencroft. "Do you think
they would risk themselves in a boat of such small tonnage?"
"We must, besides, be sure that they know of the islet," rejoined the
"However that may be," said the sailor, "as sure as my name is
Bonadventure Pencroft, of the Vineyard, our Bonadventure has sailed
The sailor was so positive that neither Gideon Spilett nor Herbert could
dispute his statement. It was evident that the vessel had been moved,
more or less, since Pencroft had brought her to Port Balloon. As to the
sailor, he had not the slightest doubt that the anchor had been raised
and then dropped again. Now, what was the use of these two manoeuvres,
unless the vessel had been employed in some expedition?
"But how was it we did not see the Bonadventure pass in sight of the
island?" observed the reporter, who was anxious to bring forward every
"Why, Mr Spilett," replied the sailor, "they would only have to start
in the night with a good breeze, and they would be out of sight of the
island in two hours."
"Well," resumed Gideon Spilett, "I ask again, what object could the
convicts have had in using the Bonadventure, and why, after they had
made use of her, should they have brought her back to port?"
"Why, Mr Spilett," replied the sailor, "we must put that among the
unaccountable things, and not think anything more about it. The chief
thing is that the Bonadventure was there, and she is there now. Only,
unfortunately, if the convicts take her a second time, we shall very
likely not find her again in her place!"
"Then, Pencroft," said Herbert, "would it not be wisest to bring the
Bonadventure off to Granite House?"
"Yes and no," answered Pencroft, "or rather no. The mouth of the Mercy
is a bad place for a vessel, and the sea is heavy there."
"But by hauling her up on the sand, to the foot of the Chimneys?"
"Perhaps yes," replied Pencroft. "At any rate, since we must leave
Granite House for a long expedition, I think the Bonadventure will be
safer here during our absence, and we shall do best to leave her here
until the island is rid of these blackguards."
"That is exactly my opinion," said the reporter. "At any rate in the
event of bad weather, she will not be exposed here as she would be at
the mouth of the Mercy."
"But suppose the convicts pay her another visit," said Herbert.
"Well, my boy," replied Pencroft, "not finding her here, they would not
be long in finding her on the sands of Granite House, and, during our
absence, nothing could hinder them from seizing her! I agree,
therefore, with Mr Spilett, that she must be left in Port Balloon.
But, if on our return we have not rid the island of those rascals, it
will be prudent to bring our boat to Granite House, until the time when
we need not fear any unpleasant visits."
"That's settled. Let us be off," said the reporter.
Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett, on their return to Granite House,
told the engineer all that had passed, and the latter approved of their
arrangements both for the present and the future. He also promised the
sailor that he would study that part of the channel situated between the
islet and the coast; so as to ascertain if it would not be possible to
make an artificial harbour there by means of dams. In this way, the
Bonadventure would be always within reach, under the eyes of the
colonists, and if necessary, under lock and key.
That evening a telegram was sent to Ayrton, requesting him to bring from
the corral a couple of goats, which Neb wished to acclimatise to the
plateau. Singularly enough, Ayrton did not acknowledge the receipt of
the despatch, as he was accustomed to do. This could not but astonish
the engineer. But it might be that Ayrton was not at that moment in the
corral, or even that he was on his way back to Granite House. In fact,
two days had already passed since his departure, and it had been decided
that on the evening of the 10th or at the latest the morning of the
11th, he should return. The colonists waited, therefore, for Ayrton to
appear on Prospect Heights. Neb and Herbert even watched at the bridge
so as to be ready to lower it the moment their companion presented
But up to ten in the evening, there were no signs of Ayrton. It was,
therefore, judged best to send a fresh despatch, requiring an immediate
The bell of the telegraph at Granite House remained mute.
The colonists' uneasiness was great. What had happened? Was Ayrton no
longer at the corral, or if he was still there, had he no longer control
over his movements? Could they go to the corral in this dark night?
They consulted. Some wished to go, the others to remain.
"But," said Herbert, "perhaps some accident had happened to the
telegraphic apparatus, so that it works no longer?"
"That may be," said the reporter.
"Wait till to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding. "It is possible, indeed,
that Ayrton has not received our despatch, or even that we have not
They waited, of course not without some anxiety.
At dawn of day, the 11th of November, Harding again sent the electric
current along the wire and received no reply.
He tried again: the same result.
"Off to the corral," said he.
"And well-armed!" added Pencroft.
It was immediately decided that Granite House should not be left alone
and that Neb should remain there. After having accompanied his friends
to Creek Glycerine, he raised the bridge; and waiting behind a tree he
watched for the return of either his companions or Ayrton.
In the event of the pirates presenting themselves and attempting to
force the passage, he was to endeavour to stop them by firing on them,
and as a last resource he was to take refuge in Granite House, where,
the lift once raised, he would be in safety.
Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft were to repair to
the corral, and if they did not find Ayrton, search the neighbouring
At six o'clock in the morning, the engineer and his three companions had
passed Creek Glycerine, and Neb posted himself behind a small mound
crowned by several dragoniners on the left bank of the stream.
The colonists, after leaving the plateau of Prospect Heights,
immediately took the road to the corral. They shouldered their guns,
ready to fire on the smallest hostile demonstration. The two rifles and
the two guns had been loaded with ball.
The wood was thick on each side of the road and might easily have
concealed the convicts, who owing to their weapons would have been
The colonists walked rapidly and in silence. Top preceded them,
sometimes running on the road, sometimes taking a ramble into the wood,
but always quiet and not appearing to fear anything unusual. And they
could be sure that the faithful dog would not allow them to be
surprised, but would bark at the least appearance of danger.
Cyrus Harding and his companions followed beside the road the wire which
connected the corral with Granite House. After walking for nearly two
miles, they had not as yet discovered any explanation of the difficulty.
The posts were in good order, the wire regularly expended. However, at
that moment the engineer observed that the wire appeared to be slack,
and on arriving at post Number 74, Herbert, who was in advance stopped,
"The wire is broken!"
His companions hurried forward and arrived at the spot where the lad was
standing. The post was rooted up and lying across the path. The
unexpected explanation of the difficulty was here, and it was evident
that the despatches from Granite House had not been received at the
corral, nor those from the corral at Granite House.
"It wasn't the wind that blew down this post," observed Pencroft.
"No," replied Gideon Spilett. "The earth has been dug up round its
foot, and it has been torn up by the hand of man."
"Besides, the wire is broken," added Herbert, showing that the wire had
"Is the fracture recent?" asked Harding.
"Yes," answered Herbert, "it has certainly been done quite lately."
"To the corral! to the corral!" exclaimed the sailor.
The colonists were now half way between Granite House and the corral,
having still two miles and a half to go. They pressed forward with
Indeed, it was to be feared that some serious accident had occurred in
the corral. No doubt, Ayrton might have sent a telegram which had not
arrived, but this was not the reason why his companions were so uneasy,
for, a more unaccountable circumstance, Ayrton, who had promised to
return the evening before, had not reappeared. In short, it was not
without a motive that all communication had been stopped between the
corral and Granite House, and who but the convicts could have any
interest in interrupting this communication?
The settlers hastened on, their hearts oppressed with anxiety. They
were sincerely attached to their new companion. Were they to find him
struck down by the hands of those of whom he was formerly the leader?
Soon they arrived at the place where the road led along the side of a
little stream which flowed from the Red Creek and watered the meadows of
the corral. They then moderated their pace so that they should not be
out of breath at the moment when a struggle might be necessary. Their
guns were in their hands ready cocked. The forest was watched on every
side. Top uttered sullen groans which were rather ominous.
At last the palisade appeared through the trees. No trace of any damage
could be seen. The gate was shut as usual. Deep silence reigned in the
corral. Neither the accustomed bleating of the sheep nor Ayrton's voice
could be heard.
"Let us enter," said Cyrus Harding.
And the engineer advanced, whilst his companions, keeping watch about
twenty paces behind him, were ready to fire at a moment's notice.
Harding raised the inner latch of the gate and was about to push it
back, when Top barked loudly. A report sounded and was responded to by
a cry of pain.
Herbert, struck by a bullet, lay stretched on the ground.
THE REPORTER AND PENCROFT IN THE CORRAL--HERBERT'S WOUND--THE
DESPAIR--CONSULTATION BETWEEN THE REPORTER AND THE ENGINEER--MODE
TREATMENT--HOPE NOT ABANDONED--HOW IS NEB TO BE WARNED--A SURE AND
FAITHFUL MESSENGER--NEB'S REPLY.
At Herbert's cry Pencroft, letting his gun fall, rushed towards him.
"They have killed him!" he cried. "My boy! They have killed him!"
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett ran to Herbert.
The reporter listened to ascertain if the poor lad's heart was still
"He lives," said he; "but he must be carried--"
"To Granite House? that is impossible!" replied the engineer.
"Into the corral, then!" said Pencroft.
"In a moment," said Harding.
And he ran round the left corner of the palisade. There he found a
convict who, aiming at him, sent a ball through his hat. In a few
seconds, before he had even time to fire his second barrel, he fell,
struck to the heart by Harding's dagger, more sure even than his gun.
During this time, Gideon Spilett and the sailor hoisted themselves over
the palisade, leapt into the enclosure, threw down the props which
supported the inner door, ran into the empty house, and soon poor
Herbert was lying on Ayrton's bed. In a few moments, Harding was by his
On seeing Herbert senseless, the sailor's grief was terrible. He
sobbed, he cried, he tried to beat his head against the wall. Neither
the engineer nor the reporter could calm him. They themselves were
choked with emotion. They could not speak.
However, they knew that it depended on them to rescue from death the
poor boy who was suffering beneath their eyes. Gideon Spilett had not
passed through the many incidents by which his life had been chequered
without acquiring some slight knowledge of medicine. He knew a little
of everything, and several times he had been obliged to attend to wounds
produced either by a sword-bayonet or shot. Assisted by Cyrus Harding,
he proceeded to render the aid Herbert required.
The reporter was immediately struck by the complete stupor in which
Herbert lay, a stupor owing either to the haemorrhage, or to the shock,
the ball having struck a bone with sufficient force to produce a violent
Herbert was deadly pale, and his pulse so feeble that Spilett only felt
it beat at long intervals, as if it was on the point of stopping. These
symptoms were very serious. Herbert's chest was laid bare, and the
blood having been staunched with handkerchiefs, it was bathed with cold
water. The contusion, or rather the contused wound appeared,--an oval
below the chest between the third and fourth ribs. It was there that
Herbert had been hit by the bullet.
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett then turned the poor boy over; as they
did so, he uttered a moan so feeble that they almost thought it was his
Herbert's back was covered with blood from another contused wound, by
which the ball had immediately escaped.
"God be praised!" said the reporter, "the ball is not in the body, and
we shall not have to extract it."
"But the heart?" asked Harding.
"The heart has not been touched; if it had been, Herbert would be dead!"
"Dead!" exclaimed Pencroft, with a groan. The sailor had only heard the
last words uttered by the reporter.
"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding, "no! He is not dead. His pulse
still beats. He has even uttered a moan. But for your boy's sake, calm
yourself. We have need of all our self-possession. Do not make us lose
it, my friend."
Pencroft was silent, but a reaction set in, and great tears rolled down
In the meanwhile, Gideon Spilett endeavoured to collect his ideas, and
proceed methodically. After his examination he had no doubt that the
ball, entering in front, between the seventh and eighth ribs, had issued
behind between the third and fourth. But what mischief had the ball
committed in its passage? What important organs had been reached? A
professional surgeon would have had difficulty in determining this at
once, and still more so the reporter.
However, he knew one thing, this was that he would have to prevent the
inflammatory strangulation of the injured parts, then to contend with
the local inflammation and fever which would result from the wound,
perhaps mortal! Now, what stiptics, what antiphlogistics ought to be
employed? By what means could inflammation be prevented?
At any rate, the most important thing was that the two wounds should be
dressed without delay. It did not appear necessary to Gideon Spilett
that a fresh flow of blood should be caused by bathing them in tepid
water, and compressing their lips. The haemorrhage had been very
abundant, and Herbert was already too much enfeebled by the loss of
The reporter, therefore, thought it best to simply bathe the two wounds
with cold water.
Herbert was placed on his left side, and was maintained in that
"He must not be moved," said Gideon Spilett. "He is in the most
favourable position for the wounds in his back and chest to suppurate
easily, and absolute rest is necessary."
"What! can't we carry him to Granite House?" asked Pencroft.
"No, Pencroft," replied the reporter.
"I'll pay the villains off!" cried the sailor, shaking his fist in a
"Pencroft!" said Cyrus Harding.
Gideon Spilett had resumed his examination of the wounded boy. Herbert
was still so frightfully pale that the reporter felt anxious.
"Cyrus," said he, "I am not a surgeon. I am in terrible perplexity.
You must aid me with your advice, your experience!"
"Take courage, my friend," answered the engineer, pressing the
reporter's hand. "Judge coolly. Think only of this: Herbert must be
These words restored to Gideon Spilett that self-possession which he had
lost in a moment of discouragement on feeling his great responsibility.
He seated himself close to the bed. Cyrus Harding stood near. Pencroft
had torn up his shirt, and was mechanically making lint.
Spilett then explained to Cyrus Harding that he thought he ought first
of all to stop the haemorrhage, but not close the two wounds, or cause
their immediate cicatrisation, for there had been internal perforation,
and the suppuration must not be allowed to accumulate in the chest.
Harding approved entirely, and it was decided that the two wounds should
be dressed without attempting to close them by immediate coaptation.
And now, did the colonists possess an efficacious agent to act against
the inflammation which might occur?
Yes. They had one, for nature had generously lavished it. They had
cold water, that is to say, the most powerful sedative that can be
employed against inflammation of wounds, the most efficacious
therapeutic agent in grave cases, and the one which is now adopted by
all physicians. Cold water has, moreover, the advantage of leaving the
wound in absolute rest, and preserving it from all premature dressing, a
considerable advantage, since it has been found by experience that
contact with the air is dangerous during the first days.
Gideon Spilett and Cyrus Harding reasoned thus with their simple good
sense, and they acted as the best surgeon would have done. Compresses
of linen were applied to poor Herbert's two wounds, and were kept
constantly wet with cold water.
The sailor had at first lighted a fire in the hut, which was not wanting
in things necessary for life. Maple sugar, medicinal plants, the same
which the lad had gathered on the banks of Lake Grant, enabled them to
make some refreshing drinks, which they gave him without his taking any
notice of it. His fever was extremely high, and all that day and night
passed without his becoming conscious.
Herbert's life hung on a thread, and this thread might break at any
moment. The next day, the 12th of November, the hopes of Harding and
his companions slightly revived. Herbert had come out of his long
stupor. He opened his eyes, he recognised Cyrus Harding, the reporter,
and Pencroft. He uttered two or three words. He did not know what had
happened. They told him, and Spilett begged him to remain perfectly
still, telling him that his life was not in danger, and that his wounds
would heal in a few days. However, Herbert scarcely suffered at all,
and the cold water with which they were constantly bathed, prevented any
inflammation of the wounds. The suppuration was established in a
regular way, the fever did not increase, and it might now be hoped that
this terrible wound would not involve any catastrophe. Pencroft felt
the swelling of his heart gradually subside. He was like a sister of
mercy, like a mother by the bed of her child.
Herbert dozed again, but his sleep appeared more natural.
"Tell me again that you hope, Mr Spilett," said Pencroft. "Tell me
again that you will save Herbert!"
"Yes, we will save him!" replied the reporter. "The wound is serious,
and, perhaps, even the ball has traversed the lungs, but the perforation
of this organ is not fatal."
"God bless you!" answered Pencroft.
As may be believed, during the four-and-twenty hours they had been in
the corral, the colonists had no other thought than that of nursing
Herbert. They did not think either of the danger which threatened them
should the convicts return, or of the precautions to be taken for the
But on this day, whilst Pencroft watched by the sick-bed, Cyrus Harding
and the reporter consulted as to what it would be best to do.
First of all they examined the corral. There was not a trace of Ayrton.
Had the unhappy man been dragged away by his former accomplices? Had
he resisted, and been overcome in the struggle? This last supposition
was only too probable. Gideon Spilett, at the moment he scaled the
palisade, had clearly seen some one of the convicts running along the
southern spur of Mount Franklin, towards whom Top had sprung. It was
one of those whose object had been so completely defeated by the rocks
at the mouth of the Mercy. Besides, the one killed by Harding, and
whose body was found outside the enclosure, of course belonged to Bob
As to the corral, it had not suffered any damage. The gates were
closed, and the animals had not been able to disperse in the forest.
Nor could they see traces of any struggle, any devastation, either in
the hut, or in the palisade. The ammunition only, with which Ayrton had
been supplied, had disappeared with him.
"The unhappy man has been surprised," said Harding, "and as he was a man
to defend himself, he must have been overpowered."
"Yes, that is to be feared!" said the reporter. "Then, doubtless, the
convicts installed themselves in the corral where they found plenty of
everything, and only fled when they saw us coming. It is very evident,
too, that at this moment Ayrton, whether living or dead, is not here!"
"We shall have to beat the forest," said the engineer, "and rid the
island of these wretches. Pencroft's presentiments were not mistaken,
when he wished to hunt them as wild beasts. That would have spared us
all these misfortunes!"
"Yes," answered the reporter, "but now we have the right to be
"At any rate," said the engineer, "we are obliged to wait some time, and
to remain at the corral until we can carry Herbert without danger to
"But Neb?" asked the reporter.
"Neb is in safety."
"But if, uneasy at our absence, he would venture to come?"
"He must not come!" returned Cyrus Harding quickly. "He would be
murdered on the road!"
"It is very probable, however, that he will attempt to rejoin us!"
"Ah, if the telegraph still acted, he might be warned! But that is
impossible now! As to leaving Pencroft and Herbert here alone, we could
not do it! Well, I will go alone to Granite House."
"No, no! Cyrus," answered the reporter, "you must not expose yourself!
Your courage would be of no avail. The villains are evidently watching
the corral, they are hidden in the thick woods which surround it, and if
you go we shall soon have to regret two misfortunes instead of one!"
"But Neb?" repeated the engineer. "It is now four-and-twenty hours
since he has had any news of us! He will be sure to come!"
"And as he will be less on his guard than we should be ourselves," added
Spilett, "he will be killed!"
"Is there really no way of warning him?"
Whilst the engineer thought, his eyes fell on Top, who, going backwards
and forwards, seemed to say--
"Am not I here?"
"Top!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.
The animal sprang at his master's call.
"Yes, Top will go," said the reporter, who had understood the engineer.
"Top can go where we cannot! He will carry to Granite House the news of
the corral, and he will bring back to us that from Granite House!"
"Quick!" said Harding. "Quick!"
Spilett rapidly tore a leaf from his notebook, and wrote these words:--
"Herbert wounded. We are at the corral. Be on your guard. Do not
leave Granite House. Have the convicts appeared in the neighbourhood?
Reply by Top."
This laconic note contained all that Neb ought to know, and at the same
time asked all the colonists wished to know. It was folded and fastened
to Top's collar in a conspicuous position.
"Top, my dog," said the engineer, caressing the animal, "Neb, Top! Neb!
Top bounded at these words. He understood, he knew what was expected of
him. The road to the corral was familiar to him. In less than an hour
he could clear it, and it might be hoped that where neither Cyrus
Harding nor the reporter could have ventured without danger, Top,
running amongst the grass or in the wood, would pass unperceived.
The engineer went to the gate of the corral and opened it.
"Neb, Top! Neb!" repeated the engineer, again pointing in the direction
of Granite House.
Top sprang forwards, and almost immediately disappeared.
"He will get there!" said the reporter.
"Yes, and he will come back, the faithful animal!"
"What o'clock is it?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"In an hour he may be here. We will watch for his return."
The gate of the corral was closed. The engineer and the reporter
re-entered the house. Herbert was still in a sleep. Pencroft kept the
compresser always wet. Spilett, seeing there was nothing he could do at
that moment, busied himself in preparing some nourishment, whilst
attentively watching that part of the enclosure against the hill, at
which an attack might be expected.
The settlers awaited Top's return with much anxiety. A little before
eleven o'clock, Cyrus Harding and the reporter, rifle in hand, were
behind the gate, ready to open it at the first bark of their dog.
They did not doubt that if Top had arrived safely at Granite House, Neb
would have sent him back immediately.
They had both been there for about ten minutes, when a report was heard,
followed by repeated barks.
The engineer opened the gate, and seeing smoke a hundred feet off in the
wood, he fired in that direction.
Almost immediately Top bounded into the corral, and the gate was quickly
"Top, Top!" exclaimed the engineer, taking the dog's great honest head
between his hands.
A note was fastened to his neck, and Cyrus Harding read these words,
traced in Neb's large writing:--
"No pirates in the neighbourhood of Granite House. I will not stir.
Poor Mr Herbert!"
THE CONVICTS IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE CORRAL--PROVISIONAL
ESTABLISHMENT--CONTINUATION OF THE TREATMENT OF HERBERT--
FIRST REJOICINGS--CONVERSATION ON PAST EVENTS--WHAT THE FUTURE HAS
RESERVE--CYRUS HARDING'S IDEAS ON THIS SUBJECT.
So the convicts were still there, watching the corral, and determined to
kill the settlers one after the other. There was nothing to be done but
to treat them as wild beasts. But great precautions must be taken, for
just now the wretches had the advantage on their side, seeing, and not
being seen, being able to surprise by the suddenness of their attack,
yet not to be surprised themselves. Harding made arrangements,
therefore, for living in the corral, of which the provisions would last
for a tolerable length of time. Ayrton's house had been provided with
all that was necessary for existence, and the convicts, scared by the
arrival of the settlers, had not had time to pillage it. It was
probable, as Gideon Spilett observed, that things had occurred as
follows:--The six convicts, disembarking on the island, had followed the
southern shore, and after having traversed the double shore of the
Serpentine Peninsula, not being inclined to venture into the Far West
woods, they had reached the mouth of Falls River. From this point, by
following the right bank of the watercourse, they would arrive at the
spurs of Mount Franklin, among which they would naturally seek a
retreat, and they could not have been long in discovering the corral,
then uninhabited. There they had regularly installed themselves,
awaiting the moment to put their abominable schemes into execution.
Ayrton's arrival had surprised them, but they had managed to overpower
the unfortunate man, and--the rest may be easily imagined!
Now, the convicts,--reduced to five, it is true, but well-armed,--were
roaming the woods, and to venture there was to expose themselves to
their attacks, which could be neither guarded against nor prevented.
"Wait! There is nothing else to be done!" repeated Cyrus Harding.
"When Herbert is cured, we can organise a general battue of the island,
and have satisfaction of these convicts. That will be the object of our
grand expedition at the same time--"
"As the search for our mysterious protector," added Gideon Spilett,
finishing the engineer's sentence. "Ah, it must be acknowledged, my
dear Cyrus, that this time his protection was wanting at the very moment
when it was most necessary to us!"
"Who knows?" replied the engineer.
"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.
"That we are not at the end of our trouble yet, my dear Spilett, and
that his powerful invention may, perhaps, have another opportunity of
exercising itself. But that is not the question now. Herbert's life
This was the colonists' saddest thought. Several days passed, and the
poor boy's state was happily no worse. Cold water, always kept at a
suitable temperature, had completely prevented the inflammation of the
wounds. It even seemed to the reporter that this water, being slightly
sulphurous,--which was explained by the neighbourhood of the volcano,--
had a more direct action on the healing. The suppuration was much less
abundant, and--thanks to the incessant care by which he was
surrounded!--Herbert returned to life, and his fever abated. He was
besides subjected to a severe diet, and consequently his weakness was
and would be extreme; but there was no want of refreshing drinks, and
absolute rest was of the greatest benefit to him. Cyrus Harding, Gideon
Spilett, and Pencroft had become very skilful in dressing the lad's
wounds. All the linen in the house had been sacrificed. Herbert's
wounds, covered with compresses and lint, were pressed neither too much
nor too little, so as to cause their cicatrisation without determining
on inflammatory reaction. The reporter used extreme care in the
dressing, knowing well the importance of it, and repeating to his
companions that which most surgeons willingly admit, that it is perhaps
rarer to see a dressing well done than an operation well performed.
In ten days, on the 22nd of November, Herbert was considerably better.
He had begun to take some nourishment. The colour was returning to his
cheeks, and his bright eyes smiled at his nurses. He talked a little,
notwithstanding Pencraft's efforts, who talked incessantly to prevent
him from beginning to speak, and told him the most improbable stories.
Herbert had questioned him on the subject of Ayrton, whom he was
astonished not to see near him, thinking that he was at the corral. But
the sailor, not wishing to distress Herbert, contented himself by
replying that Ayrton had rejoined Neb, so as to defend Granite House.
"Humph!" said Pencroft, "these pirates! they are gentlemen who have no
right to any consideration! And the captain wanted to win them by
kindness! I'll send them some kindness, but in the shape of a good
"And have they not been seen again?" asked Herbert.
"No, my boy," answered the sailor, "but we shall find them, and when you
are cured we shall see if the cowards, who strike us from behind, will
dare to meet us face to face!"
"I am still very weak, my poor Pencroft!"
"Well! your strength will return gradually! What's a ball through the
chest? Nothing but a joke! I've seen many, and I don't think much of
At last things appeared to be going on well, and if no complication
occurred, Herbert's recovery might be regarded as certain. But what
would have been the condition of the colonists if his state had been
aggravated,--if, for example, the ball had remained in his body, if his
arm or his leg had had to be amputated?
"No," said Spilett more than once, "I have never thought of such a
contingency without shuddering!"
"And yet, if it had been necessary to operate," said Harding one day to
him, "you would not have hesitated?"
"No, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett, "but thank God that we have been
spared this complication!"
As in so many other conjectures, the colonists had appealed to the logic
of that simple good sense of which they had made use so often, and once
more, thanks to their general knowledge, it had succeeded! But might
not a time come when all their science would be at fault? They were
alone on the island. Now, men in all states of society are necessary to
each other. Cyrus Harding knew this well, and sometimes he asked
himself if some circumstance might not occur which they would be
powerless to surmount. It appeared to him besides, that he and his
companions, till then so fortunate, had entered into an unlucky period.
During the three years and a half which had elapsed since their escape
from Richmond, it might be said that they had had everything their own
way. The island had abundantly supplied them with minerals, vegetables,
animals, and as Nature had constantly loaded them, their science had
known how to take advantage of what she offered them.
The well-being of the colony was therefore complete. Moreover, in
certain occurrences an inexplicable influence had come to their aid! ...
But all that could only be for a time.
In short, Cyrus Harding believed that fortune had turned against them.
In fact, the convicts' ship had appeared in the waters of the island,
and if the pirates had been, so to speak, miraculously destroyed, six of
them, at least, had escaped the catastrophe. They had disembarked on
the island, and it was almost impossible to get at the five who
survived. Ayrton had no doubt been murdered by these wretches, who
possessed fire-arms, and at the first use that they had made of them,
Herbert had fallen, wounded almost mortally. Were these the first blows
aimed by adverse fortune at the colonists? This was often asked by
Harding. This was often repeated by the reporter; and it appeared to
him also that the intervention, so strange, yet so efficacious, which
till then had served them so well, had now failed them. Had this
mysterious being, whatever he was, whose existence could not be denied,
abandoned the island? Had he in his turn succumbed?
No reply was possible to these questions. But it must not be imagined
that because Harding and his companion spoke of these things, they were
men to despair. Far from that. They looked their situation in the
face, they analysed the chances, they prepared themselves for any event,
they stood firm and straight before the future, and if adversity was at
last to strike them, it would find in them men prepared to struggle
NO NEWS OF NEB--A PROPOSAL FROM PENCROFT AND THE REPORTER, WHICH IS
ACCEPTED--SEVERAL SORTIES BY GIDEON SPILETT--A RAG OF CLOTH--A
HASTY DEPARTURE--ARRIVAL ON THE PLATEAU OF PROSPECT HEIGHTS.
The convalescence of the young invalid was regularly progressing. One
thing only was now to be desired, that his state would allow him to be
brought to Granite House. However well built and supplied the corral
house was, it could not be so comfortable as the healthy granite
dwelling. Besides, it did not offer the same security, and its tenants,
notwithstanding their watchfulness, were here always in fear of some
shot from the convicts. There, on the contrary, in the middle of that
impregnable and inaccessible cliff, they would have nothing to fear, and
any attack on their persons would certainly fail. They therefore waited
impatiently for the moment when Herbert might be moved without danger
from his wound, and they were determined to make this move, although the
communication through Jacamar Wood was very difficult.
They had no news from Neb, but were not uneasy on that account. The
courageous negro, well intrenched in the depths of Granite House, would
not allow himself to be surprised. Top had not been sent again to him,
as it appeared useless to expose the faithful dog to some shot which
might deprive the settlers of their most useful auxiliary.
They waited, therefore, although they were anxious to be reunited at
Granite House. It pained the engineer to see his forces divided, for it
gave great advantage to the pirates. Since Ayrton's disappearance they
were only four against five, for Herbert could not yet be counted, and
this was not the least care of the brave boy, who well understood the
trouble of which he was the cause.
The question of knowing how, in their condition, they were to act
against the pirates, was thoroughly discussed on the 29th of November by
Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Pencroft, at a moment when Herbert
was asleep and could not hear them.
"My friends," said the reporter, after they had talked of Neb and of the
impossibility of communicating with him, "I think, like you, that to
venture on the road to the corral would be to risk receiving a gun-shot
without being able to return it. But do you not think that the best
thing to be done now is to openly give chase to these wretches?"
"That is just what I was thinking," answered Pencroft. "I believe we're
not fellows to be afraid of a bullet, and as for me, if Captain Harding
approves, I'm ready to dash into the forest! Why, hang it, one man is
equal to another!"
"But is he equal to five?" asked the engineer.
"I will join Pencroft," said the reporter, "and both of us, well-armed
and accompanied by Top--"
"My dear Spilett, and you, Pencroft," answered Harding, "let us reason
coolly. If the convicts were hid in one spot of the island, if we knew
that spot, and had only to dislodge them, I would undertake a direct
attack; but is there not occasion to fear, on the contrary, that they
are sure to fire the first shot."
"Well, captain," cried Pencroft, "a bullet does not always reach its
"That which struck Herbert did not miss, Pencroft," replied the
engineer. "Besides, observe that if both of you left the corral I
should remain here alone to defend it. Do you imagine that the convicts
will not see you leave it, that they will not allow you to enter the
forest, and that they will not attack it during your absence, knowing
that there is no one here but a wounded boy and a man?"
"You are right, captain," replied Pencroft, his chest swelling with
sullen anger. "You are right; they will do all they can to retake the
corral, which they know to be well stored; and alone you could not hold
it against them."
"Oh, if we were only at Granite House!"
"If we were at Granite House," answered the engineer, "the case would be
very different. There I should not be afraid to leave Herbert with one,
whilst the other three went to search the forests of the island. But we
are at the corral, and it is best to stay here until we can leave it
Cyrus Harding's reasoning was unanswerable, and his companions
understood it well.
"If only Ayrton was still one of us!" said Gideon Spilett. "Poor
fellow! his return to social life will have been but of short duration."
"If he is dead," added Pencroft, in a peculiar tone.
"Do you hope, then, Pencroft, that the villains have spared him?" asked
"Yes, if they had any interest in doing so."
"What! you suppose that Ayrton, finding his old companions, forgetting
all that he owes us--"
"Who knows?" answered the sailor, who did not hazard this shameful
supposition without hesitating.
"Pencroft," said Harding, taking the sailor's arm, "that is a wicked
idea of yours, and you will distress me much if you persist in speaking
thus. I will answer for Ayrton's fidelity."
"And I also," added the reporter quickly.
"Yes, yes, captain, I was wrong," replied Pencroft; "it was a wicked
idea indeed that I had, and nothing justifies it. But what can I do?
I'm not in my senses. This imprisonment in the corral wearies me
horribly, and I have never felt so excited as I do now."
"Be patient, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "How long will it be, my
dear Spilett, before you think Herbert may be carried to Granite House?"
"That is difficult to say, Cyrus," answered the reporter, "for any
imprudence might involve terrible consequences. But his convalescence
is progressing, and if he continues to gain strength, in eight days from
now--well, we shall see."
Eight days! That would put off the return to Granite House until the
first days of December. At this time two months of spring had already
passed. The weather was fine, and the heat began to be great. The
forests of the island were in full leaf, and the time was approaching
when the usual crops ought to be gathered. The return to the plateau of
Prospect Heights would, therefore, be followed by extensive agricultural
labours, interrupted only by the projected expedition through the
It can, therefore, be well understood how injurious this seclusion in
the corral must be to the colonists.
But if they were compelled to bow before necessity, they did not do so
Once or twice the reporter ventured out into the road and made the tour
of the palisade. Top accompanied him, and Gideon Spilett, his gun
cocked, was ready for any emergency.
He met with no misadventure and found no suspicious traces. His dog
would have warned him of any danger, and, as Top did not bark, it might
be concluded that there was nothing to fear at that moment at least, and
that the convicts were occupied in another part of the island.
However, on his second sortie, on the 27th of November, Gideon Spilett,
who had ventured a quarter of a mile into the wood, towards the south of
the mountains, remarked that Top scented something. The dog had no
longer his unconcerned manner; he went backwards and forwards, ferreting
amongst the grass and bushes as if his smell had revealed some
suspicious object to him.
Gideon Spilett followed Top, encouraged him, excited him by his voice,
whilst keeping a sharp look-out, his gun ready to fire, and sheltering
himself behind the trees. It was not probable that Top scented the
presence of man, for in that case, he would have announced it by
half-uttered, sullen, angry barks. Now, as he did not growl, it was
because danger was neither near nor approaching.
Nearly five minutes passed thus, Top rummaging, the reporter following
him prudently, when, all at once, the dog rushed towards a thick bush,
and drew out a rag.
It was a piece of cloth, stained and torn, which Spilett immediately
brought back to the corral. There it was examined by the colonists, who
found that it was a fragment of Ayrton's waistcoat, a piece of that
felt, manufactured solely by the Granite House factory.
"You see, Pencroft," observed Harding, "there has been resistance on the
part of the unfortunate Ayrton. The convicts have dragged him away in
spite of himself! Do you still doubt his honesty?"
"No, captain," answered the sailor, "and I repented of my suspicion a
long time ago! But it seems to me that something may be learned from
"What is that?" asked the reporter.
"It is that Ayrton was not killed at the corral! That they dragged him
away living, since he has resisted. Therefore, perhaps, he is still
"Perhaps, indeed," replied the engineer, who remained thoughtful.
This was a hope, to which Ayrton's companions could still hold. Indeed,
they had before believed that, surprised in the corral, Ayrton had
fallen by a bullet, as Herbert had fallen. But if the convicts had not
killed him at first, if they had brought him living to another part of
the island, might it not be admitted that he was still their prisoner?
Perhaps, even, one of them had found in Ayrton his old Australian
companion Ben Joyce, the chief of the escaped convicts. And who knows
but that they had conceived the impossible hope of bringing back Ayrton
to themselves? He would have been very useful to them, if they had been
able to make him turn traitor!
This incident was, therefore, favourably interpreted at the corral, and
it no longer appeared impossible that they should find Ayrton again. On
his side, if he was only a prisoner, Ayrton would no doubt do all he
could to escape from the hands of the villains, and this would be a
powerful aid to the settlers!
"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett, "if happily Ayrton did manage to
escape, he would go directly to Granite House, for he could not know of
the attempt of assassination of which Herbert has been a victim, and
consequently would never think of our being imprisoned in the corral!"
"Oh! I wish that he was there, at Granite House!" cried Pencroft, "and
that we were there, too! For, although the rascals can do nothing to
our house, they may plunder the plateau, our plantations, our
Pencroft had become a thorough farmer, heartily attached to his crops.
But it must be said that Herbert was more anxious than any to return to
Granite House, for he knew how much the presence of the settlers was
needed there. And it was he who was keeping them at the corral!
Therefore, one idea occupied his mind--to leave the corral, and when!
He believed he could bear removal to Granite House. He was sure his
strength would return more quickly in his room, with the air and sight
of the sea!
Several times he pressed Gideon Spilett, but the latter, fearing, with
good reason, that Herbert's wounds, half healed, might reopen on the
way, did not give the order to start.
However, something occurred which compelled Cyrus Harding and his two
friends to yield to the lad's wish, and God alone knew that this
determination might cause them grief and remorse.
It was the 29th of November, seven o'clock in the evening. The three
settlers were talking in Herbert's room, when they heard Top utter quick
Harding, Pencroft, and Spilett seized their guns and ran out of the
house. Top, at the foot of the palisade, was jumping, barking, but it
was with pleasure, not anger.
"Some one is coming."
"It is not an enemy!"
These words had hardly been exchanged between the engineer and his two
companions when a body leapt over the palisade and fell on the ground
inside the corral.
It was Tup, Master Jup in person, to whom Top immediately gave a most
"Jup!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Neb has sent him to us," said the reporter.
"Then," replied the engineer, "he must have some note on him."
Pencroft rushed up to the orang. Certainly if Neb had any important
matter to communicate to his master he could not employ a more sure or
more rapid messenger, who could pass where neither the colonists could,
nor even Top himself.
Cyrus Harding was not mistaken. At Jup's neck hung a small bag, and in
this bag was found a little note traced by Neb's hand.
The despair of Harding and his companions may be imagined when they read
"Friday, six o'clock in the morning.
"Plateau invaded by convicts.
They gazed at each other without uttering a word, then they re-entered
the house. What were they to do? The convicts on Prospect Heights!
that was disaster, devastation, ruin.
Herbert, on seeing the engineer, the reporter, and Pencroft re-enter,
guessed that their situation was aggravated, and when he saw Jup, he no
longer doubted that some misfortune menaced Granite House.
"Captain Harding," said he, "I must go; I can bear the journey. I must
Gideon Spilett approached Herbert; then, having looked at him--
"Let us go, then!" said he.
The question was quickly decided whether Herbert should be carried on a
litter or in the cart which had brought Ayrton to the corral. The
motion of the litter would have been more easy for the wounded lad, but
it would have necessitated two bearers, that is to say, there would have
been two guns less for defence if an attack was made on the road. Would
they not, on the contrary, by employing the cart leave every arm free?
Was it impossible to place the mattress on which Herbert was lying in
it, and to advance with so much care than any jolt should be avoided?
It could be done.
The cart was brought. Pencroft harnessed the onaga. Cyrus Harding and
the reporter raised Herbert's mattress and placed it on the bottom of
the cart. The weather was fine. The sun's bright rays glanced through
"Are the guns ready?" asked Cyrus Harding.
They were. The engineer and Pencroft, each armed with a
double-barrelled gun, and Gideon Spilett carrying his rifle, had nothing
to do but start.
"Are you comfortable, Herbert?" asked the engineer.
"Ah, captain," replied the lad, "don't be uneasy, I shall not die on the
Whilst speaking thus, it could be seen that the poor boy had called up
all his energy, and by the energy of a powerful will had collected his
The engineer felt his heart sink painfully. He still hesitated to give
the signal for departure; but that would have driven Herbert to
despair--killed him perhaps.
"Forward!" said Harding.
The gate of the corral was opened. Jup and Top, who knew when to be
silent, ran in advance. The cart came out, the gate was reclosed, and
the onaga, led by Pencroft, advanced at a slow pace.
Certainly, it would have been safer to have taken a different road than
that which led straight from the corral to Granite House, but the cart
would have met with great difficulties in moving under the trees. It
was necessary, therefore, to follow this way, although it was well-known
to the convicts.
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett walked one on each side of the cart,
ready to answer to any attack. However, it was not probable that the
convicts would have yet left the plateau of Prospect Heights.
Neb's note had evidently been written and sent as soon as the convicts
had shown themselves there. Now, this note was dated six o'clock in the
morning, and the active orang, accustomed to come frequently to the
corral, had taken scarcely three quarters of an hour to cross the five
miles which separated it from Granite House. They would, therefore, be
safe at that time, and if there was any occasion for firing, it would
probably not be until they were in the neighbourhood of Granite House.
However, the colonists kept a strict watch. Top and Jup, the latter
armed with his club, sometimes in front, sometimes beating the wood at
the sides of the road, signalised no danger.
The cart advanced slowly under Pencroft's guidance. It had left the
corral at half-past seven. An hour after four out of the five miles had
been cleared, without any incident having occurred. The road was as
deserted as all that part of the Jacamar Wood which lay between the
Mercy and the lake. There was no occasion for any warning. The wood
appeared as deserted as on the day when the colonists first landed on
They approached the plateau. Another mile and they would see the bridge
over Creek Glycerine. Cyrus Harding expected to find it in its place;
supposing that the convicts; would have crossed it, and that, after
having passed one of the streams which enclosed the plateau, they would
have taken the precaution to lower it again, so as to keep open a
At length an opening in the trees allowed the sea-horizon to be seen.
But the cart continued its progress, for not one of its defenders
thought of abandoning it.
At that moment Pencroft stopped the onaga, and in a hoarse voice--
"Oh! the villains!" he exclaimed.
And he pointed to a thick smoke rising from the mill, the sheds, and the
buildings at the poultry-yard.
A man was moving about in the midst of the smoke. It was Neb.
His companions uttered a shout. He heard, and ran to meet them.
The convicts had left the plateau nearly half-an-hour before, having
"And Mr Herbert?" asked Neb.
Gideon Spilett returned to the cart.
Herbert had lost consciousness!
HERBERT CARRIED TO GRANITE HOUSE--NEB RELATES ALL THAT HAS
HARDING'S VISIT TO THE PLATEAU--RUIN AND DEVASTATION--THE COLONISTS
BAFFLED BY HERBERT'S ILLNESS--WILLOW BARK--A DEADLY FEVER--TOP BARKS
Of the convicts, the dangers which menaced Granite House, the ruins with
which the plateau was covered, the colonists thought no longer.
Herbert's critical state outweighed all other considerations. Would the
removal prove fatal to him by causing some internal injury? The
reporter could not affirm it, but he and his companions almost despaired
of the result. The cart was brought to the bend of the river. There
some branches, disposed as a litter, received the mattress on which lay
the unconscious Herbert. Ten minutes after, Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and
Pencroft were at the foot of the cliff, leaving Neb to take the cart
onto the plateau of Prospect Heights. The lift was put in motion, and
Herbert was soon stretched on his bed in Granite House.
What cares were lavished on him to bring him back to life! He smiled
for a moment on finding himself in his room, but could scarcely even
murmur a few words, so great was his weakness. Gideon Spilett examined
his wounds. He feared to find them reopened, having been imperfectly
healed. There was nothing of the sort. From whence, then, came this
prostration? Why was Herbert so much worse? The lad then fell into a
kind of feverish sleep, and the reporter and Pencroft remained near the
bed. During this time, Harding told Neb all that had happened at the
corral, and Neb recounted to his master the events of which the plateau
had just been the theatre.
It was only during the preceding night that the convicts had appeared on
the edge of the forest, at the approaches to Creek Glycerine. Neb, who
was watching near the poultry-yard, had not hesitated to fire at one of
the pirates, who was about to cross the stream; but in the darkness he
could not tell whether the man had been hit or not. At any rate, it was
not enough to frighten away the band, and Neb had only just time to get
up to Granite House, where at least he was in safety.
But what was he to do there? How prevent the devastations with which
the convicts threatened the plateau? Had Neb any means by which to warn
his master? And, besides, in what situation were the inhabitants of the
corral themselves? Cyrus Harding and his companions had left on the
11th of November, and it was now the 29th. It was, therefore, nineteen
days since Neb had had other news than that brought by Top--disastrous
news: Ayrton disappeared, Herbert severely wounded, the engineer,
reporter, and sailor, as it were, imprisoned in the corral!
What was he to do? asked poor Neb. Personally he had nothing to fear,
for the convicts could not reach him in Granite House. But the
buildings, the plantations, all their arrangements at the mercy of the
pirates! Would it not be best to let Cyrus Harding judge of what he
ought to do, and to warn him, at least, of the danger which threatened
Neb then thought of employing Jup, and confiding a note to him. He knew
the orang's great intelligence, which had been often put to the proof.
Jup understood the word corral, which had been frequently pronounced
before him, and it may be remembered, too, that he had often driven the
cart thither in company with Pencroft. Day had not yet dawned. The
active orang would know how to pass unperceived through the woods, of
which the convicts, besides, would think he was a native.
Neb did not hesitate. He wrote the note, he tied it to Jup's neck, he
brought the ape to the door of Granite House, from which he let down a
long cord to the ground; then, several times, he repeated these words--
"Jup, Jup! corral, corral!"
The creature understood, seized the cord, glided rapidly down to the
beach, and disappeared in the darkness without the convicts' attention
having been in the least excited.
"You did well, Neb," said Harding; "but perhaps in not warning us you
would have done still better!"
And, in speaking thus, Cyrus Harding thought of Herbert, whose recovery
the removal had so seriously checked.
Neb ended his account. The convicts had not appeared at all on the
beach. Not knowing the number of the island's inhabitants, they might
suppose that Granite House was defended by a large party. They must
have remembered that during the attack by the brig numerous shot had
been fired both from the lower and upper rocks, and no doubt they did
not wish to expose themselves. But the plateau of Prospect Heights was
open to them, and not covered by the fire of Granite House. They gave
themselves up, therefore, to their instinct of destruction,--plundering,
burning, devastating everything,--and only retiring half an hour before
the arrival of the colonists, whom they believed still confined in the
On their retreat, Neb hurried out. He climbed the plateau at the risk
of being perceived and fired at, tried to extinguish the fire which was
consuming the buildings of the poultry-yard, and had struggled, though
in vain, against it until the cart appeared at the edge of the wood.
Such had been these serious events. The presence of the convicts
constituted a permanent source of danger to the settlers in Lincoln
Island, until then so happy, and who might now expect still greater
Spilett remained in Granite House with Herbert and Pencroft, while Cyrus
Harding, accompanied by Neb, proceeded to judge for himself of the
extent of the disaster.
It was fortunate that the convicts had not advanced to the foot of
Granite House. The workshop at the Chimneys would in that case not have
escaped destruction. But after all, this evil would have been more
easily reparable than the ruins accumulated on the plateau of Prospect
Heights. Harding and Neb proceeded towards the Mercy, and ascended its
left bank without meeting with any trace of the convicts; nor on the
other side of the river, in the depths of the wood, could they perceive
any suspicious indications.
Besides, it might be supposed that in all probability either the
convicts knew of the return of the settlers to Granite House, by having
seen them pass on the road from the corral, or, after the devastation of
the plateau, they had penetrated into Jacamar Wood, following the course
of the Mercy, and were thus ignorant of their return.
In the former case, they must have returned towards the corral, now
without defenders, and which contained valuable stores.
In the latter, they must have regained their encampment, and would wait
an opportunity to recommence the attack.
It was, therefore, possible to prevent them, but any enterprise to clear
the island was now rendered difficult by reason of Herbert's condition.
Indeed, their whole force would have been barely sufficient to cope with
the convicts, and just now no one could leave Granite House.
The engineer and Neb arrived on the plateau. Desolation reigned
everywhere. The fields had been trampled over; the ears of wheat, which
were nearly full grown, lay on the ground. The other plantations had
not suffered less.
The kitchen-garden was destroyed. Happily, Granite House possessed a
store of seed which would enable them to repair these misfortunes.
As to the wall and buildings of the poultry-yard and the onagas' stable,
the fire had destroyed all. A few terrified creatures roamed over the
plateau. The birds, which during the fire had taken refuge on the
waters of the lake, had already returned to their accustomed spot, and
were dabbling on the banks. Everything would have to be reconstructed.
Cyrus Harding's face, which was paler than usual, expressed an internal
anger which he commanded with difficulty, but he did not utter a word.
Once more he looked at his devastated fields, and at the smoke which
still rose from the ruins, then he returned to Granite House.
The following days were the saddest of any that the colonists had passed
on the island! Herbert's weakness visibly increased. It appeared that
a more serious malady, the consequence of the profound physiological
disturbance he had gone through, threatened to declare itself, and
Gideon Spilett feared such an aggravation of his condition that he would
be powerless to fight against it!
In fact, Herbert remained in an almost continuous state of drowsiness,
and symptoms of delirium began to manifest themselves. Refreshing
drinks were the only remedies at the colonists' disposal. The fever was
not as yet very high, but it soon appeared that it would probably recur
at regular intervals. Gideon Spilett first recognised this on the 6th
The poor boy, whose fingers, nose, and ears had become extremely pale,
was at first seized with slight shiverings, horripilations, and
tremblings. His pulse was weak and irregular, his skin dry, his thirst
intense. To this soon succeeded a hot fit; his face became flushed; his
skin reddened; his pulse quick; then a profuse perspiration broke out,
after which the fever seemed to diminish. The attack had lasted nearly
Gideon Spilett had not left Herbert, who, it was only too certain was
now seized by an intermittent fever, and this fever must, be cured at
any cost before it should assume a more serious aspect.
"And in order to cure it," said Spilett to Cyrus Harding, "we need a
"A febrifuge," answered the engineer. "We have neither Peruvian bark,
nor sulphate of quinine?"
"No," said Gideon Spilett, "but there are willows on the border of the
lake, and the bark of the willow might, perhaps, prove to be a
substitute for quinine."
"Let us try it without losing a moment," replied Cyrus Harding.
The bark of the willow has, indeed, been justly considered as
a succedaneum for Peruvian bark, as has also that of the
horse-chestnut-tree, the leaf of the holly, the snake-root, etcetera.
It was evidently necessary to make trial of this substance, although not
so valuable as Peruvian bark, and to employ it in its natural state,
since they had no means for extracting its essence.
Cyrus Harding went himself to cut from the trunk of a species of black
willow, a few pieces of bark; he brought them back to Granite House, and
reduced them to a powder, which was administered that same evening to
The night passed without any important change. Herbert was somewhat
delirious, but the fever did not reappear in the night, and did not
return either during the following day.
Pencroft again began to hope. Gideon Spilett said nothing. It might be
that the fever was not quotidian, but tertian, and that it would return
next day. Therefore, he awaited the next day with the greatest anxiety.
It might have been remarked besides that during this period Herbert
remained utterly prostrate, his head weak and giddy. Another symptom
alarmed the reporter to the highest degree. Herbert's liver became
congested, and soon a more intense delirium showed that his brain was
Gideon Spilett was overwhelmed by this new complication. He took the
"It is a malignant fever," said he.
"A malignant fever!" cried Harding. "You are mistaken, Spilett. A
malignant fever does not declare itself spontaneously; its germ must
previously have existed."
"I am not mistaken," replied the reporter. "Herbert no doubt contracted
the germ of this fever in the marshes of the island. He has already had
one attack; should a second come on and should we not be able to prevent
a third, he is lost."
"But the willow bark?"
"That is insufficient," answered the reporter; "and the third attack of
a malignant fever, which is not arrested by means of quinine, is always
Fortunately, Pencroft heard nothing of this conversation or he would
have gone mad.
It may be imagined what anxiety the engineer and the reporter suffered
during the day of the 7th of December and the following night.
Towards the middle of the day the second attack came on. The crisis was
terrible. Herbert felt himself sinking. He stretched his arms towards
Cyrus Harding, towards Spilett, towards Pencroft. He was so young to
die! The scene was heartrending. They were obliged to send Pencroft
The fit lasted five hours. It was evident that Herbert could not
survive a third.
The night was frightful. In his delirium Herbert uttered words which
went to the hearts of his companions. He struggled with the convicts,
he called to Ayrton, he poured forth entreaties to that mysterious
being,--that powerful unknown protector,--whose image was stamped upon
his mind; then he again fell into a deep exhaustion which completely
prostrated him. Several times Gideon Spilett thought that the poor boy
The next day, the 8th of December, was but a succession of the fainting
fits. Herbert's thin hands clutched the sheets. They had administered
further doses of pounded bark, but the reporter expected no result from
"If before to-morrow morning we have not given him a more energetic
febrifuge," said the reporter, "Herbert will be dead."
Night arrived--the last night, it was too much to be feared, of the
good, brave, intelligent boy, so far in advance of his years, and who
was loved by all as their own child. The only remedy which existed
against this terrible malignant fever, the only specific which could
overcome it, was not to be found in Lincoln Island.
During the night of the 8th of December, Herbert was seized by a more
violent delirium. His liver was fearfully congested, his brain
affected, and already it was impossible for him to recognise any one.
Would he live until the next day, until that third attack which must
infallibly carry him off? It was not probable. His strength was
exhausted, and in the intervals of fever he lay as one dead.
Towards three o'clock in the morning Herbert uttered a piercing cry. He
seemed to be torn by a supreme convulsion. Neb, who was near him,
terrified, ran into the next room where his companions were watching.
Top, at that moment, barked in a strange manner.
All rushed in immediately and managed to restrain the dying boy, who was
endeavouring to throw himself out of his bed, whilst Spilett, taking his
arm, felt his pulse gradually quicken.
It was five in the morning. The rays of the rising sun began to shine
in at the windows of Granite House. It promised to be a fine day, and
this day was to be poor Herbert's last!
A ray glanced on the table placed near the bed.
Suddenly Pencroft, uttering a cry, pointed to the table.
On it lay a little oblong box, of which the cover bore these words:--
"Sulphate of Quinine."
INEXPLICABLE MYSTERY--HERBERT'S CONVALESCENCE--THE PARTS OF THE
TO BE EXPLORED--PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE--FIRST DAY--NIGHT--
DAY--KAURIES--A COUPLE OF CASSOWARIES--FOOTPRINTS IN THE FOREST--
AT REPTILE POINT.
Gideon Spilett took the box and opened it. It contained nearly two
hundred grains of a white powder, a few particles of which he carried to
his lips. The extreme bitterness of the substance precluded all doubt;
it was certainly the precious extract of quinine, that pre-eminent
This powder must be administered to Herbert without delay. How it came
there might be discussed later.
"Some coffee!" said Spilett.
In a few moments Neb brought a cup of the warm infusion. Gideon Spilett
threw into it about eighteen grains of quinine, and they succeeded in
making Herbert drink the mixture.
There was still time, for the third attack of the malignant fever had
not yet shown itself. How they longed to be able to add that it would
Besides, it must be remarked, the hopes of all had now revived. The
mysterious influence had been again exerted, and in a critical moment,
when they had despaired of it.
In a few hours Herbert was much calmer. The colonists could now discuss
this incident. The intervention of the stranger was more evident than
ever. But how had he been able to penetrate during the night into
Granite House? It was inexplicable, and, in truth, the proceedings of
the genius of the island were not less mysterious than was that genius
himself. During this day the sulphate of quinine was administered to
Herbert every three hours.
The next day some improvement in Herbert's condition was apparent.
Certainly, he was not out of danger, intermittent fevers being subject
to frequent and dangerous relapses, but the most assiduous care was
bestowed on him. And besides, the specific was at hand; nor, doubtless,
was he who had brought it far-distant! and the hearts of all were
animated by returning hope.
This hope was not disappointed. Ten days after, on the 20th of
December, Herbert's convalescence commenced.
He was still weak, and strict diet had been imposed upon him, but no
access of fever supervened. And then, the poor boy submitted with such
docility to all the prescriptions ordered him! He longed so to get
Pencroft was as a man who has been drawn up from the bottom of an abyss.
Fits of joy approaching to delirium seized him. When the time for the
third attack had passed by, he nearly suffocated the reporter in his
embrace. Since then, he always called him Dr Spilett.
The real doctor, however, remained undiscovered.
"We will find him!" repeated the sailor.
Certainly, this man, whoever he was, might expect a somewhat too
energetic embrace from the worthy Pencroft!
The month of December ended, and with it the year 1867, during which the
colonists of Lincoln Island had of late been so severely tried. They
commenced the year 1868 with magnificent weather, great heat, and a
tropical temperature, delightfully cooled by the sea-breeze. Herbert's
recovery progressed, and from his bed, placed near one of the windows of
Granite House, he could inhale the fresh air, charged with ozone, which
could not fail to restore his health. His appetite returned, and what
numberless delicate, savoury little dishes Neb prepared for him!
"It is enough to make one wish to have a fever oneself!" said Pencroft.
During all this time, the convicts did not once appear in the vicinity
of Granite House. There was no news of Ayrton, and though the engineer
and Herbert still had some hopes of finding him again, their companions
did not doubt but that the unfortunate man had perished. However, this
uncertainty could not last, and when once the lad should have recovered,
the expedition, the result of which must be so important, would be
undertaken. But they would have to wait a month, perhaps, for all the
strength of the colony must be put into requisition to obtain
satisfaction from the convicts.
However, Herbert's convalescence progressed rapidly. The congestion of
the liver had disappeared, and his wounds might be considered completely
During the month of January, important work was done on the plateau of
Prospect Heights; but it consisted solely in saving as much as was
possible from the devastated crops, either of corn or vegetables. The
grain and the plants were gathered, so as to provide a new harvest for
the approaching half-season. With regard to rebuilding the
poultry-yard, wall, or stables, Cyrus Harding preferred to wait. Whilst
he and his companions were in pursuit of the convicts, the latter might
very probably pay another visit to the plateau, and it would be useless
to give them an opportunity of recommencing their work of destruction.
When the island should be cleared of these miscreants, they would set
about rebuilding. The young convalescent began to get up in the second
week of January, at first for one hour a day, then two, then three. His
strength visibly returned, so vigorous was his constitution. He was now
eighteen years of age. He was tall, and promised to become a man of
noble and commanding presence. From this time his recovery, while still
requiring care,--and Dr Spilett was very strict,--made rapid; progress.
Towards the end of the month, Herbert was already walking about on
Prospect Heights, and the beach.
He derived, from several sea-baths, which he took in company with
Pencroft and Neb, the greatest possible benefit. Cyrus Harding thought
he might now settle the day for their departure, for which the 15th of
February was fixed. The nights, very clear at this time of year, would
be favourable to the researches they intended to make all over the
The necessary preparations for this exploration were now commenced, and
were important, for the colonists had sworn not to return to Granite
House until their twofold object had been achieved; on the one hand, to
exterminate the convicts, and rescue Ayrton, if he was still living; on
the other, to discover who it was that presided so effectually over the
fortunes of the colony.
Of Lincoln Island, the settlers knew thoroughly all the eastern coast
from Claw Cape to the Mandible Capes, the extensive Tadorn Marsh, the
neighbourhood of Lake Grant, Jacamar Wood, between the road to the
corral and the Mercy, the courses of the Mercy and Red Creek, and
lastly, the spurs of Mount Franklin, among which the corral had been
They had explored, though only in an imperfect manner, the vast shore of
Washington Bay from Claw Cape to Reptile End, the woody and marshy
border of the west coast, and the interminable downs, ending at the open
mouth of Shark Gulf. But they had in no way surveyed the woods which
covered the Serpentine Peninsula, all to the right of the Mercy, the
left bank of Falls River, and the wilderness of spurs and valleys which
supported three quarters of the base of Mount Franklin, to the east, the
north, and the west, and where doubtless many secret retreats existed.
Consequently, many millions of acres of the island had still escaped
It was, therefore, decided that the expedition should be carried through
the Far West, so as to include all that region situated on the right of
It might, perhaps, be better worth while to go direct to the corral,
where it might be supposed that the convicts had again taken refuge,
either to pillage or to establish themselves there. But either the
devastation of the corral would have been an accomplished fact by this
time, and it would be too late to prevent it; or it had been the
convicts' interest to intrench themselves there, and there would be
still time to go and turn them out on their return.
Therefore, after some discussion, the first plan was adhered to, and the
settlers resolved to proceed through the wood to Reptile End. They
would make their way with their hatchets, and thus lay the first draft
of a road which would place Granite House in communication with the end
of the peninsula for a length of from sixteen to seventeen miles.
The cart was in good condition. The onagas, well rested, could go a
long journey. Provisions, camp effects, a portable stove, and various
utensils were packed in the cart, as also weapons and ammunition,
carefully chosen from the now complete arsenal of Granite House. But it
was necessary to remember that the convicts were, perhaps, roaming about
the woods, and that in the midst of these thick forests a shot might
quickly be fired and received. It was therefore resolved that the
little band of settlers should remain together and not separate under
any pretext whatever.
It was also decided that no one should remain at Granite House. Top and
Jup themselves were to accompany the expedition; the inaccessible
dwelling needed no guard. The 14th of February, eve of the departure,
was Sunday. It was consecrated entirely to repose, and thanksgivings
addressed by the colonists to the Creator. A place in the cart was
reserved for Herbert, who, though thoroughly convalescent, was still a
little weak. The next morning, at daybreak, Cyrus Harding took the
necessary measures to protect Granite House from any invasion. The
ladders, which were formerly used for the ascent, were brought to the
Chimneys and buried deep in the sand, so that they might be available on
the return of the colonists, for the machinery of the lift had been
taken to pieces, and nothing of the apparatus remained. Pencroft stayed
the last in Granite House in order to finish this work, and he then
lowered himself down by means of a double rope held below, and which,
when once hauled down, left no communication between the upper landing
and the beach.
The weather was magnificent.
"We shall have a warm day of it," said the reporter, laughing.
"Pooh! Dr Spilett," answered Pencroft, "we shall walk under the shade
of the trees and shan't even see the sun!"
"Forward!" said the engineer.
The cart was waiting on the beach before the Chimneys. The reporter
made Herbert take his place in it during the first hours at least of the
journey, and the lad was obliged to submit to his doctor's orders.
Neb placed himself at the onagas' heads. Cyrus Harding, the reporter,
and the sailor, walked in front. Top bounded joyfully along. Herbert
offered a seat in his vehicle to Jup, who accepted it without ceremony.
The moment for departure had arrived, and the little band set out.
The cart first turned the angle of the mouth of the Mercy, then, having
ascended the left bank for a mile, crossed the bridge, at the other side
of which commenced the road to Port Balloon and there the explorers,
leaving this road on their left, entered the cover of the immense woods
which formed the region of the Far West.
For the first two miles the widely-scattered trees allowed the cart to
pass with ease; from time to time it became necessary to cut away a few
creepers and bushes, but no serious obstacle impeded the progress of the
The thick foliage of the trees threw a grateful shade on the ground.
Deodars, douglas-firs, casuarinas, banksias, gum-trees, dragon-trees,
and other well-known species, succeeded each other far as the eye could
reach. The feathered tribes of the island were all represented--tetras,
jacamars, pheasants, lories, as well as the chattering cockatoos,
parrots, and paroquets. Agouties, kangaroos, and capybaras fled swiftly
at their approach; and all this reminded the settlers of the first
excursions they had made on their arrival at the island.
"Nevertheless," observed Cyrus Harding, "I notice that these creatures,
both birds and quadrupeds, are more timid than formerly. These woods
have, therefore, been recently traversed by the convicts, and we shall
certainly find some traces of them."
And, in fact, in several places they could distinguish traces, more or
less recent, of the passage of a band of men--here branches broken off
the trees, perhaps to mark out the way; there the ashes of a fire, and
footprints in clayey spots; but nothing which appeared to belong to a
The engineer had recommended his companions to refrain from hunting.
The reports of the fire-arms might give the alarm to the convicts, who
were, perhaps, roaming through the forest. Moreover, the hunters would
necessarily ramble some distance from the cart, which it was dangerous
to leave unguarded.
In the after-part of the day, when about six miles from Granite House,
their progress became much more difficult. In order to make their way
through some thickets, they were obliged to cut down trees. Before
entering such places Harding was, careful to send in Top and Jup, who
faithfully accomplished their commission, and when the dog and orang
returned without giving any warning, there was evidently nothing to
fear, either from convicts or wild beasts, two varieties of the animal
kingdom, whose ferocious instincts placed them on the same level. On
the evening of the first day the colonists encamped about nine miles
from Granite House, on the border of a little stream falling into the
Mercy, and of the existence of which they had till then been ignorant;
it evidently, however, belonged to the hydrographical system to which
the soil owed its astonishing fertility. The settlers made a hearty
meal, for their appetites were sharpened, and measures were then taken
that the night might be passed in safety. If the engineer had had only
to deal with wild beasts, jaguars, or others, he would have simply
lighted fires all round his camp, which would have sufficed for its
defence; but the convicts would be rather attracted than terrified by
the flames, and it was, therefore, better to be surrounded by the
profound darkness of night.
The watch was, however, carefully organised. Two of the settlers were
to watch together, and every two hours it was agreed that they should be
relieved by their comrades. And so, notwithstanding his wish to the
contrary, Herbert was exempted from guard, Pencroft and Gideon Spilett
in one party, the engineer and Neb in another, mounted guard in turns
over the camp.
The night, however, was but of few hours. The darkness was due rather
to the thickness of the foliage than to the disappearance of the sun.
The silence was scarcely disturbed by the howling of jaguars and the
chattering of the monkeys, the latter appearing to particularly irritate
master Jup. The night passed without incident, and on the next day, the
15th of February, the journey through the forest, rather tedious than
difficult, was continued. This day they could not accomplish more than
six miles, for every moment they were obliged to cut a road with their
Like true settlers, the colonists spared the largest and most beautiful
trees, which would besides have cost immense labour to fell, and the
small ones only were sacrificed, but the result was that the road took a
very winding direction, and lengthened itself by numerous detours.
During the day Herbert discovered several new specimens not before met
with in the island, such as the tree-fern, with its leaves spread out
like the waters of a fountain, locust-trees, on the long pods of which
the onagas browsed greedily, and which supplied a sweet pulp of
excellent flavour. There, too, the colonists again found groups of
magnificent kauries, their cylindrical trunks, crowned with a cone of
verdure, rising to a height of two hundred feet. These were the
tree-kings of New Zealand, as celebrated as the cedars of Lebanon.
As to the fauna, there was no addition to those species already known to
the hunters. Nevertheless, they saw, though unable to get near them, a
couple of those large birds peculiar to Australia, a sort of cassowary,
called emu, five feet in height, and with brown plumage, which belong to
the tribe of waders. Top darted after them as fast as his four legs
could carry him, but the emus distanced him with ease, so prodigious was
As to the traces left by the convicts, a few more were discovered. Some
footprints found near an apparently recently-extinguished fire were
attentively examined by the settlers. By measuring them one after the
other, according to their length and breadth, the marks of five men's
feet were easily distinguished. The five convicts had evidently camped
on this spot; but,--and this was the object of so minute an
examination,--a sixth foot-print could not be discovered, which in that
case would have been that of Ayrton.
"Ayrton was not with them!" said Herbert.
"No," answered Pencroft, "and if he was not with them, it was because
the wretches had already murdered him! but then these rascals have not a
den to which they may be tracked like tigers!"
"No," replied the reporter; "it is more probable that they wander at
random, and it is their interest to rove about until the time when they
will be masters of the island!"
"The masters of the island!" exclaimed the sailor; "the masters of the
island!" he repeated, and his voice was choked, as if his throat was
seized in an iron grasp. Then in a calmer tone, "Do you know, Captain
Harding," said he, "what the ball is which I have rammed into my gun?"
"It is the ball that went through Herbert's chest, and I promise you it
won't miss its mark!"
But this just retaliation would not bring Ayrton back to life, and from
the examination of the footprints left in the ground, they must, alas!
conclude that all hopes of ever seeing him again must be abandoned.
That evening they encamped fourteen miles from Granite House, and Cyrus
Harding calculated that they could not be more than five miles from
And, indeed, the next day the extremity of the peninsula was reached,
and the whole length of the forest had been traversed; but there was
nothing to indicate the retreat in which the convicts had taken refuge,
nor that, no less secret, which sheltered the mysterious unknown.
EXPLORATION OF THE SERPENTINE PENINSULA--ENCAMPMENT AT THE MOUTH
FALLS RIVER--GIDEON SPILETT AND PENCROFT RECONNOITRE--THEIR RETURN--
FORWARD, ALL!--AN OPEN DOOR--A LIGHTED WINDOW--BY THE LIGHT OF THE
The next day, the 18th of February, was devoted to the exploration of
all that wooded region forming the shore from Reptile End to Falls
River. The colonists were able to search this forest thoroughly, for,
as it was comprised between the two shores of the Serpentine Peninsula,
it was only from three to four miles in breadth. The trees, both by
their height and their thick foliage, bore witness to the vegetative
power of the soil, more astonishing here than in any other part of the
island. One might have said that a corner from the virgin forests of
America or Africa had been transported into this temperate zone. This
led them to conclude that the superb vegetation found a heat in this
soil, damp in its upper layer, but warmed in the interior by volcanic
fires, which could not belong to a temperate climate. The most
frequently-occurring trees were kauries and eucalypti of gigantic
But the colonists' object was not simply to admire the magnificent
vegetation. They knew already that in this respect Lincoln Island would
have been worthy to take the first rank in the Canary group, to which
the first name given was that of the Happy Isles. Now, alas! their
island no longer belonged to them entirely; others had taken possession
of it, miscreants polluted its shores, and they must be destroyed to the
No traces were found on the western coast, although they were carefully
sought for. No more footprints, no more broken branches, no more
"This does not surprise me," said Cyrus Harding to his companions. "The
convicts first landed on the island in the neighbourhood of Flotsam
Point, and they immediately plunged into the Far West forests, after
crossing Tadorn Marsh. They then followed almost the same route that we
took on leaving Granite House. This explains the traces we found in the
wood. But, arriving on the shore, the convicts saw at once that they
would discover no suitable retreat there, and it was then that, going
northwards again, they came upon the corral."
"Where they have perhaps returned," said Pencroft.
"I do not think so," answered the engineer, "for they would naturally
suppose that our researches would be in that direction. The corral is
only a store-house to them, and not a definitive encampment."
"I am of Cyrus' opinion," said the reporter, "and I think that it is
among the spurs of Mount Franklin that the convicts will have made their
"Then, captain, straight to the corral!" cried Pencroft. "We must
finish them off, and till now we have only lost time!"
"No, my friend," replied the engineer; "you forget that we have a reason
for wishing to know if the forests of the Far West do not contain some
habitation. Our exploration has a double object, Pencroft. If, on the
one hand, we have to chastise crime, we have, on the other, an act of
gratitude to perform."
"That was well said, captain," replied the sailor; "but, all the same,
it is my opinion that we shall not find that gentleman until he
And truly Pencroft only expressed the opinion of all. It was probable
that the stranger's retreat was not less mysterious than was he himself.
That evening the cart halted at the mouth of Falls River. The camp was
organised as usual, and the customary precautions were taken for the
night. Herbert, become again the healthy and vigorous lad he was before
his illness, derived great benefit from this life in the open air,
between the sea-breezes and the vivifying air from the forests. His
place was no longer in the cart, but at the head of the troop.
The next day, the 19th of February, the colonists, leaving the shore,
where, beyond the mouth, basalts of every shape were so picturesquely
piled up, ascended the river by its left bank. The road had been
already partially cleared in their former excursions made from the
corral to the west coast. The settlers were now about six miles from
The engineer's plan was this:--To minutely survey the valley forming the
bed of the river, and to cautiously approach the neighbourhood of the
corral; if the corral was occupied, to seize it by force; if it was not,
to intrench themselves there and make it the centre of the operations
which had for their object the exploration of Mount Franklin.
This plan was unanimously approved by the colonists, for they were
impatient to regain entire possession of their island.
They made their way along the narrow valley separating two of the
largest spurs of Mount Franklin. The trees, crowded on the river's
bank, became rare on the upper slopes of the mountain. The ground was
hilly and rough, very suitable for ambushes, and over which they did not
venture without extreme precaution. Top and Jup skirmished on the
flanks, springing right and left through the thick brushwood, and
emulating each other in intelligence and activity. But nothing showed
that the banks of the stream had been recently frequented--nothing
announced either the presence or the proximity of the convicts. Towards
five in the evening the cart stopped nearly 600 feet from the palisade.
A semicircular screen of trees still hid it.
It was necessary to reconnoitre the corral, in order to ascertain if it
was occupied. To go there openly, in broad daylight, when the convicts
were probably in ambush, would be to expose themselves, as poor Herbert
had done, to the fire-arms of the ruffians. It was better, then, to
wait until night came on.
However, Gideon Spilett wished without further delay to reconnoitre the
approaches to the corral, and Pencroft, who was quite out of patience,
volunteered to accompany him.
"No, my friends," said the engineer, "wait till night. I will not allow
one of you to expose himself in open day."
"But, captain," answered the sailor, little disposed to obey.
"I beg you, Pencroft," said the engineer.
"Very well!" replied the sailor, who vented his anger in another way, by
bestowing on the convicts the worst names in his maritime vocabulary.
The colonists remained, therefore, near the cart, and carefully watched
the neighbouring parts of the forest.
Three hours passed thus. The wind had fallen, and absolute silence
reigned under the great trees. The snapping of the smallest twig, a
footstep on the dry leaves, the gliding of a body amongst the grass,
would have been heard without difficulty. All was quiet. Besides, Top,
lying on the grass, his head stretched out on his paws, gave no signs of
uneasiness. At eight o'clock the day appeared far enough advanced for
the reconnaissance to be made under favourable conditions. Gideon
Spilett declared himself ready to set out accompanied by Pencroft.
Cyrus Harding consented. Top and Jup were to remain with the engineer,
Herbert, and Neb, for a bark or a cry at a wrong moment would give the
"Do not be imprudent," said Harding to the reporter and Pencroft; "you
have not to gain possession of the corral, but only to find out whether
it is occupied or not."
"All right," answered Pencroft.
And the two departed.
Under the trees, thanks to the thickness of their foliage, the obscurity
rendered any object invisible beyond a radius of from thirty to forty
feet. The reporter and Pencroft, halting at any suspicious sound,
advanced with great caution.
They walked a little distance apart from each other so as to offer a
less mark for a shot. And, to tell the truth, they expected every
moment to hear a report. Five minutes after leaving the cart, Gideon
Spilett and Pencroft arrived at the edge of the wood before the clearing
beyond which rose the palisade.
They stopped. A few straggling beams still fell on the field clear of
trees. Thirty feet distant was the gate of the corral, which appeared
to be closed. This thirty feet, which it was necessary to cross from
the border of the wood to the palisade, constituted the dangerous zone,
to coin a term: in fact, one or more bullets fired from behind the
palisade might knock over any one who ventured onto this zone. Gideon
Spilett and the sailor were not men to draw back, but they knew that any
imprudence on their part, of which they would be the first victims,
would fall afterwards on their companions. If they themselves were
killed, what would become of Harding, Neb, and Herbert?
But Pencroft, excited at feeling himself so near the corral where he
supposed the convicts had taken refuge, was about to press forward, when
the reporter held him back with a grasp of iron.
"In a few minutes it will be quite dark," whispered Spilett in the
sailor's ear; "then will be the time to act."
Pencroft, convulsively clasping the butt-end of his gun, restrained his
eagerness, and waited, swearing to himself.
Soon the last of the twilight faded away. Darkness, which seemed as if
it issued from the dense forest, covered the clearing. Mount Franklin
rose like an enormous screen before the western horizon, and night
spread rapidly over all, as it does in regions of low latitudes. Now
was the time.
The reporter and Pencroft, since posting themselves on the edge of the
wood, had not once lost sight of the palisade. The corral appeared to
be absolutely deserted. The top of the palisade formed a line, a little
darker than the surrounding shadow, and nothing disturbed its
distinctness. Nevertheless, if the convicts were there, they must have
posted one of their number to guard against any surprise.
Spilett grasped his companion's hand, and both crept towards the corral,
their guns ready to fire.
They reached the gate without the darkness being illuminated by a single
ray of light.
Pencroft tried to push open the gate, which, as the reporter and he had
supposed, was closed. However, the sailor was able to ascertain that
the outer bars had not been put up. It might, then, be concluded that
the convicts were there in the corral, and that very probably they had
fastened the gate in such a way that it could not be forced open.
Gideon Spilett and Pencroft listened. Not a sound could be heard inside
the palisade. The musmons and the goats, sleeping no doubt in their
huts, in no way disturbed the calm of night.
The reporter and the sailor hearing nothing, asked themselves whether
they had not better scale the palisades and penetrate into the corral.
This would have been contrary to Cyrus Harding's instructions.
It is true that the enterprise might succeed, but it might also fail.
Now, if the convicts were suspecting nothing, if they knew nothing of
the expedition against them, if, lastly, there now existed a chance of
surprising them, ought this chance to be lost by inconsiderately
attempting to cross the palisade?
This was not the reporter's opinion. He thought it better to wait until
all the settlers were collected together before attempting to penetrate
into the corral. One thing was certain, that it was possible to reach
the palisade without being seen, and also that it did not appear to be
guarded. This point settled, there was nothing to be done but to return
to the cart, where they would consult.
Pencroft probably agreed with this decision, for he followed the
reporter without making any objection when the latter turned back to the
In a few minutes the engineer was made acquainted with the state of
"Well," said he, after a little thought, "I now have reason to believe
that the convicts are not in the corral."
"We shall soon know," said Pencroft, "when we have scaled the palisade."
"To the corral, my friends!" said Cyrus Harding.
"Shall we leave the cart in the wood?" asked Neb.
"No," replied the engineer, "it is our waggon of ammunition and
provisions, and, if necessary, it would serve as an intrenchment."
"Forward, then!" said Gideon Spilett.
The cart emerged from the wood and began to roll noiselessly towards the
palisade. The darkness was now profound, the silence as complete as
when Pencroft and the reporter crept over the ground. The thick grass
completely muffled their footsteps.
The colonists held themselves ready to fire. Jup, at Pencroft's orders,
kept behind. Neb led Top in a leash, to prevent him from bounding
The clearing soon came in sight. It was deserted. Without hesitating,
the little band moved towards the palisade. In a short space of time
the dangerous zone was passed. Not a shot had been fired. When the
cart reached the palisade, it stopped. Neb remained at the onagas'
heads to hold them. The engineer, the reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft,
proceeded to the door, in order to ascertain if it was barricaded
inside. It was open!
"What do you say now?" asked the engineer, turning to the sailor and
Spilett. Both were stupefied.
"I can swear," said Pencroft, "that this gate was shut just now!"
The colonists now hesitated. Were the convicts in the corral when
Pencroft and the reporter made their reconnaissance? it could not be
doubted, as the gate then closed could only have been opened by them.
Were they still there, or had one of their number just gone out?
All these questions presented themselves simultaneously to the minds of
the colonists, but how could they be answered?
At that moment, Herbert, who had advanced a few steps into the
enclosure, drew back hurriedly, and seized Harding's hand.
"What's the matter?" asked the engineer. "Alight!"
"In the house?"
All five advanced and indeed, through the window fronting them, they saw
glimmering a feeble light. Cyrus Harding made up his mind rapidly. "It
is our only chance," said he to his companions, "of finding the convicts
collected in this house, suspecting nothing! They are in our power!
Forward!" The colonists crossed through the enclosure, holding their
guns ready in their hands. The cart had been left outside under the
charge of Jup and Top, who had been prudently tied to it.
Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, and Gideon Spilett on one side, Herbert and Neb
on the other, going along by the palisade, surveyed the absolutely dark
and deserted corral.
In a few moments they were near the closed door of the house.
Harding signed to his companions not to stir, and approached the window,
then feebly lighted by the inner light. He gazed into the apartment.
On the table burned a lantern. Near the table was the bed formerly used
On the bed lay the body of a man.
Suddenly Cyrus Harding drew back, and in a hoarse voice--
"Ayrton!" he exclaimed.
Immediately the door was forced rather than opened, and the colonists
rushed into the room.
Ayrton appeared to be asleep. His countenance showed that he had long
and cruelly suffered. On his wrists and ankles could be seen great
Harding bent over him.
"Ayrton!" cried the engineer, seizing the arm of the man whom he had
just found again under such unexpected circumstances.
At this exclamation Ayrton opened his eyes, and, gazing at Harding, then
at the others--
"You!" he cried, "you?"
"Ayrton! Ayrton!" repeated Harding.
"Where am I?"
"In the house in the corral!"
"But they will come back!" cried Ayrton. "Defend yourselves! defend
And he fell back exhausted.
"Spilett," exclaimed the engineer, "we may be attacked at any moment.
Bring the cart into the corral. Then barricade the door, and all come
Pencroft, Neb, and the reporter hastened to execute the engineer's
orders. There was not a moment to be lost. Perhaps even now the cart
was in the hands of the convicts!
In a moment the reporter and his two companions had crossed the corral
and reached the gate of the palisade behind which Top was heard growling
The engineer, leaving Ayrton for an instant, came out ready to fire.
Herbert was at his side. Both surveyed the crest of the spur
overlooking the corral. If the convicts were lying in ambush there,
they might knock the settlers over one after the other.
At that moment the moon appeared in the east, above the black curtain of
the forest, and a white sheet of light spread over the interior of the
enclosure. The corral, with its clumps of trees, the little stream
which watered it, and its wide carpet of grass, was suddenly
illuminated. From the side of the mountain, the house and a part of the
palisade stood out white in the moonlight. On the opposite side towards
the door, the enclosure remained dark.
A black mass soon appeared. This was the cart entering the circle of
light, and Cyrus Harding could hear the noise made by the door, as his
companions shut it and fastened the interior bars.
But, at that moment, Top, breaking loose, began to bark furiously and
rush to the back of the corral, to the right of the house.
"Be ready to fire, my friends!" cried Harding.
The colonists raised their pieces and waited the moment to fire.
Top still barked, and Jup, running towards the dog, uttered shrill
The colonists followed him, and reached the borders of the little
stream, shaded by large trees. And there, in the bright moonlight, what
did they see? Five corpses, stretched on the bank!
They were those of the convicts who, four months previously, had landed
on Lincoln Island!
AYRTON'S STORY--PLANS OF HIS FORMER ACCOMPLICES--THEIR INSTALLATION
THE CORRAL--THE AVENGING JUSTICE OF LINCOLN ISLAND--THE
RESEARCHES AROUND MOUNT FRANKLIN--THE UPPER VALLEYS--A
VOLCANO--PENCROFT'S OPINION--AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CRATER--RETURN.
How had it happened? Who had killed the convicts? Was it Ayrton? No,
for a moment before he was dreading their return.
But Ayrton was now in a profound stupor, from which it was no longer
possible to rouse him. After uttering those few words he had again
become unconscious, and had fallen back motionless on the bed.
The colonists, a prey to a thousand confused thoughts, under the
influence of violent excitement, waited all night, without leaving
Ayrton's house, or returning to the spot where lay the bodies of the
convicts. It was very probable that Ayrton would not be able to throw
any light on the circumstances under which the bodies had been found,
since he himself was not aware that he was in the corral. But at any
rate he would be in a position to give an account of what had taken
place before this terrible execution. The next day Ayrton awoke from
his torpor, and his companions cordially manifested all the joy they
felt, on seeing him again, almost safe and sound, after a hundred and
four days' separation.
Ayrton then in a few words recounted what had happened, or at least as
much as he knew.
The day after his arrival at the corral, on the 10th of last November,
at nightfall, he was surprised by the convicts, who had scaled the
palisade. They bound and gagged him; then he was led to a dark cavern,
at the foot of Mount Franklin, where the convicts had taken refuge.
His death had been decided upon, and the next day the convicts were
about to kill him, when one of them recognised him, and called him by
the name which he bore in Australia. The wretches had no scruples as to
murdering Ayrton! They spared Ben Joyce!
But from that moment Ayrton was exposed to the importunities of his
former accomplices. They wished him to join them again, and relied upon
his aid to enable them to gain possession of Granite House, to penetrate
into that hitherto inaccessible dwelling, and to become masters of the
island, after murdering the colonists!
Ayrton remained firm. The once convict, now repentant and pardoned,
would rather die than betray his companions. Ayrton--bound, gagged, and
closely watched--lived in this cave for four months.
Nevertheless the convicts had discovered the corral a short time after
their arrival in the island, and since then they had subsisted on
Ayrton's stores, but did not live at the corral.
On the 11th of November, two of the villains, surprised by the
colonists' arrival, fired at Herbert, and one of them returned, boasting
of having killed one of the inhabitants of the island; but he returned
alone. His companion, as is known, fell by Cyrus Harding's dagger.
Ayrton's anxiety and despair may be imagined when he learnt the news of
Herbert's death. The settlers were now only four, and, as it seemed, at
the mercy of the convicts. After this event, and during all the time
that the colonists, detained by Herbert's illness, remained in the
corral, the pirates did not leave their cavern, and even after they had
pillaged the plateau of Prospect Heights, they did not think it prudent
to abandon it.
The ill-treatment inflicted on Ayrton was now redoubled. His hands and
feet still bore the bloody marks of the cords which bound him day and
night. Every moment he expected to be put to death, nor did it appear
possible that he could escape.
Matters remained thus until the third week of February. The convicts,
still watching for a favourable opportunity, rarely quitted their
retreat, and only made a few hunting excursions, either to the interior
of the island, or the south coast.
Ayrton had no further news of his friends, and relinquished all hope of
ever seeing them again. At last, the unfortunate man, weakened by
ill-treatment, fell into a prostration so profound that sight and
hearing failed him. From that moment, that is to say, since the last
two days, he could give no information whatever of what had occurred.
"But, Captain Harding," he added, "since I was imprisoned in that
cavern, how is it that I find myself in the corral?"
"How is it that the convicts are lying yonder dead, in the middle of the
enclosure?" answered the engineer.
"Dead!" cried Ayrton, half rising from his bed, notwithstanding his
His companions supported him. He wished to get up, and with their
assistance he did so. They then proceeded together towards the little
It was now broad daylight.
There, on the bank, in the position in which they had been stricken by
death in its most instantaneous form, lay the corpses of the five
Ayrton was astounded. Harding and his companions looked at him without
uttering a word. On a sign from the engineer, Neb and Pencroft examined
the bodies, already stiffened by the cold.
They bore no apparent trace of any wound.
Only, after carefully examining them, Pencroft found on the forehead of
one, on the chest of another, on the back of this one, on the shoulder
of that, a little red spot, a sort of scarcely visible bruise, the cause
of which it was impossible to conjecture.
"It is there that they have been struck!" said Cyrus Harding.
"But with what weapon?" cried the reporter.
"A weapon, lightning-like in its effects, and of which we have not the
"And who has struck the blow?" asked Pencroft.
"The avenging power of the island," replied Harding, "he who brought you
here, Ayrton, whose influence has once more manifested itself, who does
for us all that which we cannot do for ourselves, and who, his will
accomplished, conceals himself from us."
"Let us make search for him, then!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Yes, we will search for him," answered Harding; "but we shall not
discover this powerful being who performs such wonders, until he pleases
to call us to him!"
This invisible protection, which rendered their own action unavailing,
both irritated and piqued the engineer. The relative inferiority which
it proved was of a nature to wound a haughty spirit. A generosity
evinced in such a manner as to elude all tokens of gratitude, implied a
sort of disdain for those on whom the obligation was conferred, which in
Cyrus Harding's eyes marred, in some degree, the worth of the benefit.
"Let us search," he resumed, "and God grant that we may some day be
permitted to prove to this haughty protector that he has not to deal
with ungrateful people! What would I not give could we repay him, by
rendering him in our turn, although at the price of our lives, some
From this day, the thoughts of the inhabitants of Lincoln Island were
solely occupied with the intended search. Everything incited them to
discover the answer to this enigma, an answer which could only be the
name of a man endowed with a truly inexplicable, and in some degree
superhuman power. In a few minutes, the settlers re-entered the house,
where their influence soon restored to Ayrton his moral and physical
Neb and Pencroft carried the corpses of the convicts into the forest,
some distance from the corral, and buried them deep in the ground.
Ayrton was then made acquainted with the facts which had occurred during
his seclusion. He learnt Herbert's adventures, and through what various
trials the colonists had passed. As to the settlers, they had despaired
of ever seeing Ayrton again, and had been convinced that the convicts
had ruthlessly murdered him.
"And now," said Cyrus Harding, as he ended his recital, "a duty remains
for us to perform. Half of our task is accomplished, but although the
convicts are no longer to be feared, it is not owing to ourselves that
we are once more masters of the island."
"Well!" answered Gideon Spilett, "let us search all this labyrinth of
the spurs of Mount Franklin. We will not leave a hollow, not a hole
unexplored! Ah! if ever a reporter found himself face to face with a
mystery, it is I who now speak to you, my friends!"
"And we will not return to Granite House until we have found our
benefactor," said Herbert.
"Yes," said the engineer, "we will do all that it is humanly possible to
do, but I repeat we shall not find him until he himself permits us."
"Shall we stay at the corral?" asked Pencroft.
"We shall stay here," answered Harding. "Provisions are abundant, and
we are here in the very centre of the circle we have to explore.
Besides, if necessary, the cart will take us rapidly to Granite House."
"Good!" answered the sailor. "Only I have a remark to make."
"What is it?"
"Here is the fine season getting on, and we must not forget that we have
a voyage to make."
"A voyage?" said Gideon Spilett.
"Yes, to Tabor Island," answered Pencroft. "It is necessary to carry a
notice there to point out the position of our island and say that Ayrton
is here in case the Scotch yacht should come to take him off. Who knows
if it is not already too late?"
"But, Pencroft," asked Ayrton, "how do you intend to make this voyage?"
"In the Bonadventure."
"The Bonadventure!" exclaimed Ayrton. "She no longer exists."
"My Bonadventure exists no longer!" shouted Pencroft, bounding from
"No," answered Ayrton. "The convicts discovered her in her little
harbour only eight days ago, they put to sea in her, and--"
"And?" said Pencroft, his heart beating.
"And not having Bob Harvey to steer her, they ran on the rocks, and the
vessel went to pieces."
"Oh, the villains, the cut-throats, the infamous scoundrels!" exclaimed
"Pencroft," said Herbert, taking the sailor's hand, "we will build
another Bonadventure--a larger one. We have all the iron-work--all
the rigging of the brig at our disposal."
"But do you know," returned Pencroft, "that it will take at least five
or six months to build a vessel of from thirty to forty tons?"
"We can take our time," said the reporter, "and we must give up the
voyage to Tabor Island for this year."
"Oh, my Bonadventure! my poor Bonadventure!" cried Pencroft, almost
broken-hearted at the destruction of the vessel of which he was so
The loss of the Bonadventure was certainly a thing to be lamented by
the colonists, and it was agreed that this loss should be repaired as
soon as possible. This settled, they now occupied themselves with
bringing their researches to bear on the most secret parts of the
The exploration was commenced at daybreak on the 19th of February, and
lasted an entire week. The base of the mountain, with its spurs and
their numberless ramifications, formed a labyrinth of valleys and
elevations. It was evident that there, in the depths of these narrow
gorges, perhaps even in the interior of Mount Franklin itself, was the
proper place to pursue their researches. No part of the island could
have been more suitable to conceal a dwelling whose occupant wished to
remain unknown. But so irregular was the formation of the valleys that
Cyrus Harding was obliged to conduct the exploration in a strictly
The colonists first visited the valley opening to the south of the
volcano, and which first received the waters of Falls River. There
Ayrton showed them the cavern where the convicts had taken refuge, and
in which he had been imprisoned until his removal to the corral. This
cavern was just as Ayrton had left it. They found there a considerable
quantity of ammunition and provisions, conveyed thither by the convicts
in order to form a reserve.
The whole of the valley bordering on the cave, shaded by fir and other
trees, was thoroughly explored, and on turning the point of the
south-western spur, the colonists entered a narrower gorge similar to
the picturesque columns of basalt on the coast. Here the trees were
fewer. Stones took the place of grass. Goats and musmons gambolled
among the rocks. Here began the barren part of the island. It could
already be seen that, of the numerous valleys branching off at the base
of Mount Franklin, three only were wooded and rich in pasturage like
that of the corral, which bordered on the west on the Falls River
valley, and on the east on the Red Creek valley. These two streams,
which lower down became rivers by the absorption of several tributaries,
were formed by all the springs of the mountain and thus caused the
fertility of its southern part. As to the Mercy, it was more directly
fed from ample springs concealed under the cover of Jacamar Wood, and it
was by springs of this nature, spreading in a thousand streamlets, that
the soil of the Serpentine Peninsula was watered.
Now, of these three well-watered valleys, either might have served as a
retreat to some solitary who would have found there everything necessary
for life. But the settlers had already explored them, and in no part
had they discovered the presence of man.
Was it then in the depths of those barren gorges, in the midst of the
piles of rock, in the rugged northern ravines, among the streams of
lava, that this dwelling and its occupant would be found?
The northern part of Mount Franklin was at its base composed solely of
two valleys, wide, not very deep, without any appearance of vegetation,
strewn with masses of rock, paved with lava, and varied with great
blocks of mineral. This region required a long and careful exploration.
It contained a thousand cavities, comfortless no doubt, but perfectly
concealed and difficult of access.
The colonists even visited dark tunnels, dating from the volcanic
period, still black from the passage of the fire, and penetrated into
the depths of the mountain. They traversed these sombre galleries,
waving lighted torches; they examined the smallest excavations; they
sounded the shallowest depths, but all was dark and silent. It did not
appear that the foot of man had ever before trodden these ancient
passages, or that his arm had ever displaced one of these blocks, which
remained as the volcano had cast them up above the waters, at the time
of the submersion of the island.
However, although these passages appeared to be absolutely deserted, and
the obscurity was complete, Cyrus Harding was obliged to confess that
absolute silence did not reign there.
On arriving at the end of one of these gloomy caverns, extending several
hundred feet into the interior of the mountain, he was surprised to hear
a deep rumbling noise, increased in intensity by the sonorousness of the
Gideon Spilett, who accompanied him, also heard these distant
mutterings, which indicated a revivification of the subterranean fires.
Several times both listened, and they agreed that some chemical process
was taking place in the bowels of the earth.
"Then the volcano is not totally extinct?" said the reporter.
"It is possible that since our exploration of the crater," replied Cyrus
Harding, "some change has occurred. Any volcano, although considered
extinct, may evidently again burst forth."
"But if an eruption of Mount Franklin occurred," asked Spilett, "would
there not be some danger to Lincoln Island?"
"I do not think so," answered the reporter. "The crater--that is to
say, the safety-valve, exists, and the overflow of smoke and lava would
escape, as it did formerly, by its customary outlet."
"Unless the lava opened a new way for itself towards the fertile parts
of the island!"
"And why, my dear Spilett," answered Cyrus Harding, "should it not
follow the road naturally traced out for it?"
"Well, volcanoes are capricious," returned the reporter.
"Notice," answered the engineer, "that the inclination of Mount Franklin
favours the flow of water towards the valleys which we are exploring
just now. To turn aside this flow, an earthquake would be necessary to
change the mountain's centre of gravity."
"But an earthquake is always to be feared at these times," observed
"Always," replied the engineer, "especially when the subterranean forces
begin to awake, as they risk meeting with some obstruction, after a long
rest. Thus, my dear Spilett, an eruption would be a serious thing for
us, and it would be better that the volcano should not have the
slightest desire to wake up. But we could not prevent it, could we? At
any rate, even if it should occur, I do not think Prospect Heights would
be seriously threatened. Between them and the mountain, the ground is
considerably depressed, and if the lava should ever take a course
towards the lake, it would be cast on the downs and the neighbouring
parts of Shark Gulf."
"We have not yet seen any smoke at the top of the mountain, to indicate
an approaching eruption," said Gideon Spilett.
"No," answered Harding, "not a vapour escapes from the crater, for it
was only yesterday that I attentively surveyed the summit. But it is
probable that at the lower part of the chimney, time may have
accumulated rocks, cinders, hardened lava, and that this valve of which
I spoke, may at any time become overcharged. But at the first serious
effort, every obstacle will disappear, and you may be certain, my dear
Spilett, that neither the island, which is the boiler, nor the volcano,
which is the chimney, will burst under the pressure of gas.
Nevertheless, I repeat, it would be better that there should not be an
"And yet we are not mistaken," remarked the reporter. "Mutterings can
be distinctly heard in the very bowels of the volcano!"
"You are right," said the engineer, again listening attentively. "There
can be no doubt of it. A commotion is going on there, of which we can
neither estimate the importance nor the ultimate result."
Cyrus Harding and Spilett, on coming out, rejoined their companions, to
whom they made known the state of affairs.
"Very well!" cried Pencroft, "the volcano wants to play his pranks! Let
him try, if he likes! He will find his master!"
"Who?" asked Neb.
"Our good genius, Neb, our good genius, who will shut his mouth for him,
if he so much as pretends to open it!"
As may be seen, the sailor's confidence in the tutelary deity of his
island was absolute, and, certainly, the occult power, manifested until
now in so many inexplicable ways, appeared to be unlimited; but also it
knew how to escape the colonists' most minute researches, for, in spite
of all their efforts, in spite of the more than zeal,--the obstinacy,--
with which they carried on their exploration, the retreat of the
mysterious being could not be discovered.
From the 19th to the 25th of February the circle of investigation was
extended to all the northern region of Lincoln Island, whose most secret
nooks were explored. The colonists even went the length of tapping
every rock. The search was extended to the extreme verge of the
mountain. It was explored thus to the very summit of the truncated cone
terminating the first row of rocks, then to the upper ridge of the
enormous hat, at the bottom of which opened the crater.
They did more; they visited the gulf, now extinct, but in whose depths
the rumbling could be distinctly heard. However, no sign of smoke or
vapour, no heating of the rock, indicated an approaching eruption. But
neither there, nor in any other part of Mount Franklin, did the
colonists find any traces of him of whom they were in search.
Their investigations were then directed to the downs. They carefully
examined the high lava-cliffs of Shark Gulf from the base to the crest,
although it was extremely difficult to reach even the level of the gulf.
In short, in these two words was summed up so much fatigue uselessly
expended, so much energy producing no result, that somewhat of anger
mingled with the discomfiture of Cyrus Harding and his companions.
It was now time to think of returning, for these researches could not be
prolonged indefinitely. The colonists were certainly right in believing
that the mysterious being did not reside on the surface of the island,
and the wildest fancies haunted their excited imaginations. Pencroft
and Neb, particularly, were not contented with the mystery, but allowed
their imaginations to wander into the domain of the supernatural.
On the 25th of February the colonists re-entered Granite House, and by
means of the double cord, carried by an arrow to the threshold of the
door, they re-established communication between their habitation and the
A month later they commemorated, on the 25th of March, the third
anniversary of their arrival on Lincoln Island.
THREE YEARS HAVE PASSED--THE NEW VESSEL--WHAT IS AGREED ON--
OF THE COLONY--THE DOCKYARD--COLD OF THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE--
Three years had passed away since the escape of the prisoners from
Richmond, and how often during those three years had they spoken of
their country, always present in their thoughts!
They had no doubt that the civil war was at an end, and to them it
appeared impossible that the just cause of the North had not triumphed.
But what had been the incidents of this terrible war? How much blood
had it not cost? How many of their friends must have fallen in the
struggle? They often spoke of these things, without as yet being able
to foresee the day when they would be permitted once more to see their
country. To return thither, were it but for a few days, to renew the
social link with the inhabited world, to establish a communication
between their native land and their island, then to pass the longest,
perhaps the best, portion of their existence in this colony founded by
them, and which would then be dependent of their country, was this a
dream impossible to realise?
There were only two ways of accomplishing it--either a ship must appear
off Lincoln Island, or the colonists must themselves build a vessel
strong enough to sail to the nearest land.
"Unless," said Pencroft, "our good genius himself provides us with the
means of returning to our country."
And, really, had any one told Pencroft and Neb that a ship of 300 tons
was waiting for them in Shark Gulf or at Port Balloon, they would not
even have made a gesture of surprise. In their state of mind nothing
But Cyrus Harding, less confident, advised them to confine themselves to
fact, and more especially so with regard to the building of a vessel--a
really urgent work, since it was for the purpose of depositing, as soon
as possible, at Tabor Island a document indicating Ayrton's new
As the Bonadventure no longer existed, six months at least would be
required for the construction of a new vessel. Now winter was
approaching, and the voyage could not be made before the following
"We have time to get everything ready for the fine season," remarked the
engineer, who was consulting with Pencroft about these matters. "I
think, therefore, my friend, that since we have to rebuild our vessel it
will be best to give her larger dimensions. The arrival of the Scotch
yacht at Tabor Island is very uncertain. It may even be that, having
arrived several months ago, she has again sailed after having vainly
searched for some trace of Ayrton. Will it not then be best to build a
ship which, if necessary, could take us either to the Polynesian
Archipelago or to New Zealand? What do you think?"
"I think, captain," answered the sailor; "I think that you are as
capable of building a large vessel as a small one. Neither the wood nor
the tools are wanting. It is only a question of time."
"And how many months would be required to build a vessel of from 250 to
300 tons?" asked Harding.
"Seven or eight months at least," replied Pencroft. "But it must not be
forgotten that winter is drawing near, and that in severe frost wood is
difficult to work. We must calculate on several weeks' delay, and if
our vessel is ready by next November we may think ourselves very lucky."
"Well," replied Cyrus Harding, "that will be exactly the most favourable
time for undertaking a voyage of any importance, either to Tabor Island
or to a more distant land."
"So it will, captain," answered the sailor. "Make out your plans then;
the workmen are ready, and I imagine that Ayrton can lend us a good
The colonists, having been consulted, approved the engineer's plan, and
it was, indeed, the best thing to be done. It is true that the
construction of a ship of from two to three hundred tons would be great
labour, but the colonists had confidence in themselves, justified by
their previous success.
Cyrus Harding then busied himself in drawing the plan of the vessel and
making the model. During this time his companions employed themselves
in felling and carting trees to furnish the ribs, timbers, and planks.
The forest of the Far West supplied the best oaks and elms. They took
advantage of the opening already made on their last excursion to form a
practicable road, which they named the Far West Road, and the trees were
carried to the Chimneys, where the dockyard was established. As to the
road in question, the choice of trees had rendered its direction
somewhat capricious, but that at the same time facilitated the access to
a large part of the Serpentine Peninsula.
It was important that the trees should be quickly felled and cut up, for
they could not be used while yet green, and some time was necessary to
allow them to get seasoned. The carpenters, therefore, worked
vigorously during the month of April, which was troubled only by a few
equinoctial gales of some violence. Master Jup aided them dexterously,
either by climbing to the top of a tree to fasten the ropes or by
lending his stout shoulders to carry the lopped trunks.
All this timber was piled up under a large shed, built near the
Chimneys, and there awaited the time for use.
The month of April was tolerably fine, as October often is in the
northern zone. At the same time other work was actively continued, and
soon all trace of devastation disappeared from the plateau of Prospect
Heights. The mill was rebuilt, and new buildings rose in the
poultry-yard. It had appeared necessary to enlarge their dimensions,
for the feathered population had increased considerably. The stable now
contained five onagas, four of which were well broken, and allowed
themselves to be either driven or ridden, and a little colt. The colony
now possessed a plough, to which the onagas were yoked like regular
Yorkshire or Kentucky oxen. The colonists divided their work, and their
arms never tired. Then who could have enjoyed better health than these
workers, and what good humour enlivened the evenings in Granite House as
they formed a thousand plans for the future!
As a matter of course Ayrton shared the common lot in every respect, and
there was no longer any talk of his going to live at the corral.
Nevertheless he was still sad and reserved, and joined more in the work
than in the pleasures of his companions. But he was a valuable workman
at need--strong, skilful, ingenious, intelligent. He was esteemed and
loved by all, and he could not be ignorant of it.
In the meanwhile the corral was not abandoned. Every other day one of
the settlers, driving the cart or mounted on an onaga, went to look
after the flock of musmons and goats and bring back the supply of milk
required by Neb. These excursions at the same time afforded
opportunities for hunting. Therefore Herbert and Gideon Spilett, with
Top in front, traversed more often than their companions the road to the
corral, and with the capital guns which they carried, capybaras,
agouties, kangaroos, and wild pigs for large game, ducks, tetras,
grouse, jacamars, and snipe for small, were never wanting in the house.
The produce of the warren, of the oyster-bed, several turtles which were
taken, excellent salmon which came up the Mercy, vegetables from the
plateau, wild fruit from the forest, were riches upon riches, and Neb,
the head cook, could scarcely by himself store them away.
The telegraphic wire between the corral and Granite House had of course
been repaired, and it was worked whenever one or other of the settlers
was at the corral and found it necessary to spend the night there.
Besides, the island was safe now and no attacks were to be feared, at
any rate from men.
However, that which had happened might happen again. A descent of
pirates, or even of escaped convicts, was always to be feared. It was
possible that companions or accomplices of Bob Harvey had been in the
secret of his plans, and might be tempted to imitate him. The
colonists, therefore, were careful to observe the sea around the island,
and every day their telescope swept the horizon enclosed by the Union
and Washington Bays. When they went to the corral they examined the sea
to the west with no less attention, and by climbing the spur their gaze
extended over a large section of the western horizon.
Nothing suspicious was discerned, but still it was necessary for them to
be on their guard.
The engineer one evening imparted to his friends a plan which he had
conceived for fortifying the corral. It appeared prudent to him to
heighten the palisade and to flank it with a sort of block-house, which,
if necessary, the settlers could hold against the enemy. Granite House
might, by its very position, be considered impregnable; therefore the
corral with its buildings, its stores, and the animals it contained,
would always be the object of pirates, whoever they were, who might land
on the island, and should the colonists be obliged to shut themselves up
there they ought also to be able to defend themselves without any
disadvantage. This was a project which might be left for consideration,
and they were, besides, obliged to put off its execution until the next
About the 15th of May the keel of the new vessel lay along the dockyard,
and soon the stem and stern-post, mortised at each of its extremities,
rose almost perpendicularly. The keel, of good oak, measured 110 feet
in length, this allowing a width of five-and-twenty feet to the midship
beam. But this was all the carpenters could do before the arrival of
the frosts and bad weather. During the following week they fixed the
first of the stern timbers, but were then obliged to suspend work.
During the last days of the month the weather was extremely bad. The
wind blew from the east, sometimes with the violence of a tempest. The
engineer was somewhat uneasy on account of the dockyard sheds--which,
besides, he could not have established in any other place near to
Granite House--for the islet only imperfectly sheltered the shore from
the fury of the open sea, and in great storms the waves beat against the
very foot of the granite cliff.
But, very fortunately, these fears were not realised. The wind shifted
to the south-east, and there the beach of Granite House was completely
covered by Flotsam Point.
Pencroft and Ayrton, the most zealous workmen at the new vessel, pursued
their labour as long as they could. They were not men to mind the wind
tearing at their hair, nor the rain wetting them to the skin, and a blow
from a hammer is worth just as much in bad as in fine weather. But when
a severe frost succeeded this wet period, the wood, its fibres acquiring
the hardness of iron, became extremely difficult to work, and about the
10th of June ship-building was obliged to be entirely discontinued.
Cyrus Harding and his companions had not omitted to observe how severe
was the temperature during the winters of Lincoln Island. The cold was
comparable to that experienced in the States of New England, situated at
almost the same distance from the equator. In the northern hemisphere,
or at any rate in the part occupied by British America and the north of
the United States, this phenomenon is explained by the flat conformation
of the territories bordering on the pole, and on which there is no
intumescence of the soil to oppose any obstacle to the north winds;
here, in Lincoln Island, this explanation would not suffice.
"It has even been observed," remarked Harding one day to his companions,
"that in equal latitudes the islands and coast regions are less tried by
the cold than inland countries. I have often heard it asserted that the
winters of Lombardy, for example, are not less rigorous than those of
Scotland, which results from the sea restoring during the winter the
heat which it received during the summer. Islands are, therefore, in a
better situation for benefiting by this restitution."
"But then, Captain Harding," asked Herbert, "why does Lincoln Island
appear to escape the common law?"
"That is difficult to explain," answered the engineer. "However, I
should be disposed to conjecture that this peculiarity results from the
situation of the island in the southern hemisphere, which, as you know,
my boy, is colder than the northern hemisphere."
"Yes," said Herbert, "and icebergs are met with in lower latitudes in
the south than in the north of the Pacific."
"That is true," remarked Pencroft, "and when I have been serving on
board whalers I have seen icebergs off Cape Horn."
"The severe cold experienced in Lincoln Island," said Gideon Spilett,
"may then perhaps be explained by the presence of floes or icebergs
comparatively near to Lincoln Island."
"Your opinion is very admissible indeed, my dear Spilett," answered
Cyrus Harding, "and it is evidently to the proximity of icebergs that we
owe our rigorous winters. I would draw your attention also to an
entirely physical cause, which renders the southern colder than the
northern hemisphere. In fact, since the sun is nearer to this
hemisphere during the summer, it is necessarily more distant during the
winter. This explains then the excess of temperature in the two
seasons, for, if we find the winters very cold in Lincoln Island, we
must not forget that the summers here, on the contrary, are very hot."
"But why, if you please, captain," asked Pencroft, knitting his brows,
"why should our hemisphere, as you say, be so badly divided? It isn't
"Friend Pencroft," answered the engineer, laughing, "whether just or
not, we must submit to it, and here lies the reason for this
peculiarity. The earth does not describe a circle round the sun, but an
ellipse, as it must by the laws of rational mechanics. Now, the earth
occupies one of the centres of the ellipse, and consequently, at the
time of its transfer, it is further from the sun, that is to say, at its
apogee, and at another time nearer, that is to say, at its perigee. Now
it happens that it is during the winter of the southern countries that
it is at its most distant point from the sun, and consequently, in a
situation for those regions to feel the greatest cold. Nothing can be
done to prevent that, and men, Pencroft, however learned they may be,
can never change anything of the cosmographical order established by God
"And yet," added Pencroft, persisting, "the world is very learned. What
a big book, captain, might be made with all that is known!"
"And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!" answered
At last, for one reason or another, the month of June brought the cold
with its accustomed intensity, and the settlers were often confined to
Granite House. Ah! how wearisome this imprisonment was to them, and
more particularly to Gideon Spilett.
"Look here," said he to Neb one day, "I would give you by notarial deed
all the estates which will come to me some day, if you were a
good-enough fellow to go, no matter where, and subscribe to some
newspaper for me! Decidedly the thing that is most essential to my
happiness is the knowing every morning what has happened the day before
in other places than this!"
Neb began to laugh.
"'Pon my word," he replied, "the only thing I think about is my daily
The truth was that indoors as well as out there was no want of work.
The colony of Lincoln Island was now at its highest point of prosperity,
achieved by three years of continued hard work. The destruction of the
brig had been a new source of riches. Without speaking of the complete
rig which would serve for the vessel now on the stocks, utensils and
tools of all sorts, weapons and ammunition, clothes and instruments,
were now piled in the store-rooms of Granite House. It had not even
been necessary to resort again to the manufacture of the coarse felt
materials. Though the colonists had suffered from cold during their
first winter, the bad season might now come without their having any
reason to dread its severity. Linen was plentiful also, and besides,
they kept it with extreme care. From chloride of sodium, which is
nothing else than sea salt, Cyrus Harding easily extracted the soda and
chlorine. The soda, which it was easy to change into carbonate of soda,
and the chlorine, of which he made chloride of lime, were employed for
various domestic purposes, and especially in bleaching linen. Besides,
they did not wash more than four times a year, as was done by families
in the olden time, and it may be added, that Pencroft and Gideon
Spilett, whilst waiting for the postman to bring him his newspaper,
distinguished themselves as washermen.
So passed the winter months, June, July, and August. They were very
severe, and the average observations of the thermometer did not give
more than eight degrees of Fahrenheit. It was therefore lower in
temperature than the preceding winter. But then, what splendid fires
blazed continually on the hearths of Granite House, the smoke marking
the granite wall with long, zebra-like streaks! Fuel was not spared, as
it grew naturally a few steps from them. Besides, the chips of the wood
destined for the construction of the ship enabled them to economise the
coal, which required more trouble to transport.
Men and animals were all well. Master Jup was a little chilly, it must
be confessed. This was perhaps his only weakness, and it was necessary
to make him a well-wadded dressing-gown. But what a servant he was,
clever, zealous, indefatigable, not indiscreet, not talkative, and he
might have been with reason proposed as a model for all his biped
brothers in the Old and the New World!
"As for that," said Pencroft, "when one has four hands at one's service,
of course one's work ought to be done so much the better!"
And indeed the intelligent creature did it well.
During the seven months which had passed since the last researches made
round the mountain, and during the month of September, which brought
back fine weather, nothing was heard of the genius of the island. His
power was not manifested in any way. It is true that it would have been
inutile, for no incident occurred to put the colonists to any painful
Cyrus Harding even observed that if by chance the communication between
the unknown and the tenants of Granite House had ever been established
through the granite, and if Top's instinct had as it were felt it, there
was no further sign of it during this period. The dog's growling had
entirely ceased, as well as the uneasiness of the orang. The two
friends--for they were so--no longer prowled round the opening of the
inner well, nor did they bark or whine in that singular way which from
the first the engineer had noticed. But could he be sure that this was
all that was to be said about this enigma, and that he should never
arrive at a solution? Could he be certain that some conjuncture would
not occur which would bring the mysterious personage on the scene? Who
could tell what the future might have in reserve?
At last the winter was ended, but an event, the consequences of which
might be serious, occurred in the first days of the returning spring.
On the 7th of September, Cyrus Harding, having observed the crater, saw
smoke curling round the summit of the mountain, its first vapours rising
in the air.
THE AWAKENING OF THE VOLCANO--THE FINE SEASON--CONTINUATION OF
EVENING OF THE 15TH OF OCTOBER--A TELEGRAM--A QUESTION--AN ANSWER--
DEPARTURE FOR THE CORRAL--THE NOTICE--THE ADDITIONAL WIRE--THE
COAST--AT HIGH TIDE--AT LOW TIDE--THE CAVERN--A DAZZLING LIGHT.
The colonists, warned by the engineer, left their work and gazed in
silence at the summit of Mount Franklin.
The volcano had awoke, and the vapour had penetrated the mineral layer
heaped up at the bottom of the crater. But would the subterranean fires
provoke any violent eruption? This was an event which could not be
foreseen. However, even while admitting the possibility of an eruption,
it was not probable that the whole of Lincoln Island would suffer from
it. The flow of volcanic matter is not always disastrous, and the
island had already undergone this trial, as was shown by the streams of
lava hardened on the northern slopes of the mountain. Besides, from the
shape of the crater--the opening broken in the upper edge--the matter
would be thrown to the side opposite the fertile regions of the island.
However, the past did not necessarily answer for the future. Often, at
the summit of volcanoes, the old craters close and new ones open. This
has occurred in the two hemispheres--at Etna, Popocatepetl, at Orizaba--
and on the eve of an eruption there is everything to be feared. In
fact, an earthquake--a phenomenon which often accompanies volcanic
eruptions--is enough to change the interior arrangement of a mountain,
and to open new outlets for the burning lava.
Cyrus Harding explained these things to his companions, and, without
exaggerating the state of things, he told them all the pros and cons.
After all they could not prevent it. It did not appear likely that
Granite House would be threatened unless the ground was shaken by an
earthquake. But the corral would be in great danger should a new crater
open in the southern side of Mount Franklin.
From that day the smoke never disappeared from the top of the mountain,
and it could even be perceived that it increased in height and
thickness, without any flame mingling in its heavy volumes. The
phenomenon was still concentrated in the lower part of the central
However, with the fine days work had been continued. The building of
the vessel was hastened as much as possible, and, by means of the
waterfall on the shore, Cyrus Harding managed to establish an hydraulic
saw-mill, which rapidly cut up the trunks of trees into planks and
joists. The mechanism of this apparatus was as simple as those used in
the rustic saw-mills of Norway. A first horizontal movement to move the
piece of wood, a second vertical movement to move the saw--this was all
that was wanted; and the engineer succeeded by means of a wheel, two
cylinders, and pulleys properly arranged. Towards the end of the month
of September the skeleton of the vessel, which was to be rigged as a
schooner, lay in the dockyard. The ribs were almost entirely completed,
and, all the timbers having been sustained by a provisional band, the
shape of the vessel could already be seen. This schooner, sharp in the
bows, very slender in the after-part, would evidently be suitable for a
long voyage, if wanted; but laying the planking would still take a
considerable time. Very fortunately, the iron-work of the pirate brig
had been saved after the explosion. From the planks and injured ribs
Pencroft and Ayrton had extracted the bolts and a large quantity of
copper nails. It was so much work saved for the smiths, but the
carpenters had much to do.
Ship-building was interrupted for a week for the harvest, the haymaking,
and the gathering in of the different crops on the plateau. This work
finished, every moment was devoted to finishing the schooner. When
night came the workmen were really quite exhausted. So as not to lose
any time they had changed the hours for their meals; they dined at
twelve o'clock, and only had their supper when daylight failed them.
They then ascended to Granite House, when they were always ready to go
Sometimes, however, when the conversation bore on some interesting
subject the hour for sleep was delayed for a time. The colonists then
spoke of the future, and talked willingly of the changes which a voyage
in the schooner to inhabited lands would make in their situation. But
always, in the midst of these plans, prevailed the thought of a
subsequent return to Lincoln Island. Never would they abandon this
colony, founded with so much labour and with such success, and to which
a communication with America would afford a fresh impetus. Pencroft and
Neb especially hoped to end their days there.
"Herbert," said the sailor, "you will never abandon Lincoln Island?"
"Never, Pencroft, and especially if you make up your mind to stay
"That was made up long ago, my boy," answered Pencroft. "I shall expect
you. You will bring me your wife and children, and I shall make jolly
little chaps of your youngsters!"
"That's agreed," replied Herbert, laughing and blushing at the same
"And you, Captain Harding," resumed Pencroft enthusiastically, "you will
be still the governor of the island! Ah! how many inhabitants could it
support? Ten thousand at least!"
They talked in this way, allowing Pencroft to run on, and at last the
reporter actually started a newspaper--the New Lincoln Herald!
So is man's heart. The desire to perform a work which will endure,
which will survive him, is the origin of his superiority over all other
living creatures here below. It is this which has established his
dominion, and this it is which justifies it, over all the world.
After that, who knows if Jup and Top had not themselves their little
dream of the future.
Ayrton silently said to himself that he would like to see Lord Glenarvan
again and show himself to all restored.
One evening, on the 15th of October, the conversation was prolonged
later than usual. It was nine o'clock. Already, long badly-concealed
yawns gave warning of the hour of rest, and Pencroft was proceeding
towards his bed, when the electric bell, placed in the dining-room,
All were there, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Ayrton,
Pencroft, Neb. Therefore none of the colonists were at the corral.
Cyrus Harding rose. His companions stared at each other, scarcely
believing their ears.
"What does that mean?" cried Neb. "Was it the devil who rang it?"
No one answered.
"The weather is stormy," observed Herbert. "Might not its influence of
Herbert did not finish his phrase. The engineer, towards whom all eyes
were turned, shook his head negatively.
"We must wait," said Gideon Spilett. "If it is a signal, whoever it may
be who has made it, he will renew it."
"But who do you think it is?" cried Neb. "Who?" answered Pencroft, "but
The sailor's sentence was cut short by a new tinkle of the bell.
Harding went to the apparatus, and sent this question to the corral:--
"What do you want?"
A few moments later the needle, moving on the alphabetic dial, gave this
reply to the tenants of Granite House:--
"Come to the corral immediately."
"At last!" exclaimed Harding.
Yes! At last! The mystery was about to be unveiled. The colonists'
fatigue had disappeared before the tremendous interest which was about
to urge them to the corral, and all wish for rest had ceased. Without
having uttered a word, in a few moments they had left Granite House, and
were standing on the beach. Jup and Top alone were left behind. They
could do without them.
The night was black. The new moon had disappeared at the same time as
the sun. As Herbert had observed great stormy clouds formed a lowering
and heavy vault, preventing any star rays. A few lightning-flashes,
reflections from a distant storm, illuminated the horizon.
It was possible that a few hours later the thunder would roll over the
island itself. The night was very threatening. But however deep the
darkness was, it would not prevent them from finding the familiar road
to the corral.
They ascended the left bank of the Mercy, reached the plateau, passed
the bridge over Creek Glycerine, and advanced through the forest.
They walked at a good pace, a prey to the liveliest emotions. There was
no doubt but that they were now going to learn the long-searched-for
answer to the enigma, the name of that mysterious being, so deeply
concerned in their life, so generous in his influence, so powerful in
his action! Must not this stranger have indeed mingled with their
existence, have known the smallest details, have heard all that was said
in Granite House, to have been able always to act in the very nick of
Every one, wrapped up in his own reflections, pressed forward. Under
the arch of trees the darkness was such that the edge of the road even
could not be seen. Not a sound in the forest. Both animals and birds,
influenced by the heaviness of the atmosphere, remained motionless and
silent. Not a breath disturbed the leaves. The footsteps of the
colonists alone resounded on the hardened ground.
During the first quarter of an hour the silence was only interrupted by
this remark from Pencroft:--
"We ought to have brought a torch."
And by this reply from the engineer:--
"We shall find one at the corral."
Harding and his companions had left Granite House at twelve minutes past
nine. At forty-seven minutes past nine they had traversed three out of
the five miles which separated the mouth of the Mercy from the corral.
At that moment sheets of lightning spread over the island and illumined
the dark trees. The flashes dazzled and almost blinded them. Evidently
the storm would not be long in bursting forth.
The flashes gradually became brighter and more rapid. Distant thunder
growled in the sky. The atmosphere was stifling.
The colonists proceeded as if they were urged onwards by some
At ten o'clock a vivid flash showed them the palisade, and as they
reached the gate the storm burst forth with tremendous fury.
In a minute the corral was crossed, and Harding stood before the hut.
Probably the house was occupied by the stranger, since it was from
thence that the telegram had been sent. However, no light shone through
The engineer knocked at the door.
Cyrus Harding opened the door, and the settlers entered the room, which
was perfectly dark. A light was struck by Neb, and in a few moments the
lantern was lighted and the light thrown into every corner of the room.
There was no one there. Everything was in the state in which it had
"Have we been deceived by an illusion?" murmured Cyrus Harding.
No! that was not possible! The telegram had clearly said--
"Come to the corral immediately."
They approached the table specially devoted to the use of the wire.
Everything was in order--the pile and the box containing it, as well as
all the apparatus.
"Who came here the last time?" asked the engineer.
"I did, captain," answered Ayrton.
"And that was--"
"Four days ago."
"Ah! a note!" cried Herbert, pointing to a paper lying on the table.
On this paper were written these words in English:--
"Follow the new wire."
"Forward!" cried Harding, who understood that the despatch had not been
sent from the corral, but from the mysterious retreat, communicating
directly with Granite House by means of a supplementary wire joined to
the old one.
Neb took the lighted lantern, and all left the corral. The storm then
burst forth with tremendous violence. The interval between each
lightning-flash and each thunder-clap diminished rapidly. The summit of
the volcano, with its plume of vapour, could be seen by occasional
There was no telegraphic communication in any part of the corral between
the house and the palisade; but the engineer, running straight to the
first post, saw by the light of a flash a new wire hanging from the
isolater to the ground.
"There it is!" said he.
This wire lay along the ground, and was surrounded with an isolating
substance like a submarine cable, so as to assure the free transmission
of the current. It appeared to pass through the wood and the southern
spurs of the mountain, and consequently it ran towards the west.
"Follow it!" said Cyrus Harding.
And the settlers immediately pressed forward, guided by the wire.
The thunder continued to roar with such violence that not a word could
be heard. However, there was no occasion for speaking, but to get
forward as fast as possible.
Cyrus Harding and his companions then climbed the spur rising between
the corral valley and that of Falls River, which they crossed at its
narrowest part. The wire, sometimes stretched over the lower branches
of the trees, sometimes lying on the ground, guided them surely. The
engineer had supposed that the wire would perhaps stop at the bottom of
the valley, and that the stranger's retreat would be there.
Nothing of the sort. They were obliged to ascend the south-western
spur, and re-descend on that arid plateau terminated by the
strangely-wild basalt cliff. From time to time one of the colonists
stooped down and felt for the wire with his hands; but there was now no
doubt that the wire was running directly towards the sea. There, to a
certainty, in the depths of those rocks, was the dwelling so long sought
for in vain.
The sky was literally on fire. Flash succeeded flash. Several struck
the summit of the volcano in the midst of the thick smoke. It appeared
there as if the mountain was vomiting flame. At a few minutes to eleven
the colonists arrived on the high cliff overlooking the ocean to the
west. The wind had risen. The surf roared 500 feet below.
Harding calculated that they had gone a mile and a half from the coral.
At this point the wire entered among the rocks, following the steep side
of a narrow ravine. The settlers followed it at the risk of occasioning
a fall of the slightly-balanced rocks, and being dashed into the sea.
The descent was extremely perilous, but they did not think of the
danger; they were no longer masters of themselves, and an irresistible
attraction drew them towards this mysterious place as the magnet draws
Thus they almost unconsciously descended this ravine, which even in
broad daylight would have been considered impracticable.
The stones rolled and sparkled like fiery balls when they crossed
through the gleams of light. Harding was first--Ayrton last. On they
went, step by step. Now they slid over the slippery rock; then they
struggled to their feet and scrambled on.
At last the wire touched the rocks on the beach. The colonists had
reached the bottom of the basalt cliff.
There appeared a narrow ridge, running horizontally and parallel with
the sea. The settlers followed the wire along it. They had not gone a
hundred paces when the ridge by a moderate incline sloped down to the
level of the sea.
The engineer seized the wire and found that it disappeared beneath the
His companions were stupefied.
A cry of disappointment, almost a cry of despair, escaped them! Must
they then plunge beneath the water and seek there for some submarine
cavern? In their excited state they would not have hesitated to do it.
The engineer stopped them.
He led his companions to a hollow in the rocks, and there--
"We must wait," said he. "The tide is high. At low-water the way will
"But what can make you think--" asked Pencroft.
"He would not have called us if the means had been wanting to enable us
to reach him!"
Cyrus Harding spoke in a tone of such thorough conviction that no
objection was raised. His remark, besides, was logical. It was quite
possible that an opening, practicable at low-water, though hidden now by
the high tide, opened at the foot of the cliff.
There was some time to wait. The colonists remained silently crouching
in a deep hollow. Rain now began to fall in torrents. The thunder was
re-echoed among the rocks with a grand sonorousness.
The colonists' emotion was great. A thousand strange and extraordinary
ideas crossed their brains, and they expected some grand and superhuman
apparition, which alone could come up to the notion they had formed of
the mysterious genius of the island.
At midnight, Harding, carrying the lantern, descended to the beach to
The engineer was not mistaken. The beginning of an immense excavation
could be seen under the water. There the wire, bending at a right
angle, entered the yawning gulf.
Cyrus Harding returned to his companions, and said simply--
"In an hour the opening will be practicable."
"It is there, then?" said Pencroft.
"Did you doubt it?" returned Harding.
"But this cavern must be filled with water to a certain height,"
"Either the cavern will be completely dry," replied Harding, "and in
that case we can traverse it on foot, or it will not be dry, and some
means of transport will be put at our disposal."
An hour passed. All climbed down through the rain to the level of the
sea. There was now eight feet of the opening above the water. It was
like the arch of a bridge, under which rushed the foaming water.
Leaning forward, the engineer saw a black object floating on the water.
He drew it towards him. It was a boat, moored to some interior
projection of the cave. This boat was iron-plated. Two oars lay at the
"Jump in!" said Harding.
In a moment the settlers were in the boat. Neb and Ayrton took the
oars, Pencroft the rudder. Cyrus Harding in the bows, with the lantern,
lighted the way.
The elliptical roof, under which the boat at first passed, suddenly
rose; but the darkness was too deep, and the light of the lantern too
slight, for either the extent, length, height, or depth of the cave to
be ascertained. Solemn silence reigned in this basaltic cavern. Not a
sound could penetrate into it, even the thunder peals could not pierce
its thick sides.
Such immense caves exist in various parts of the world, natural crypts
dating from the geological epoch of the globe. Some are filled by the
sea; others contain entire lakes in their sides. Such is Fingal's Cave,
in the island of Staffa, one of the Hebrides; such are the caves of
Morgat, in the bay of Douarucuez, in Brittany, the caves of Bonifacier,
in Corsica, those of Lyse-Fjord, in Norway; such are the immense Mammoth
caverns in Kentucky, 500 feet in height, and more than twenty miles in
length! In many parts of the globe, nature has excavated these caverns,
and preserved them for the admiration of man.
Did the cavern which the settlers were now exploring extend to the
centre of the island? For a quarter of an hour the boat had been
advancing, making detours, indicated to Pencroft by the engineer in
short sentences, when all at once--
"More to the right!" he commanded. The boat, altering its course, came
up alongside the right wall. The engineer wished to see if the wire
still ran along the side. The wire was there fastened to the rock.
"Forward!" said Harding.
And the two oars, plunging into the dark waters, urged the boat onwards.
On they went for another quarter of an hour, and a distance of
half-a-mile must have been cleared from the mouth of the cave, when
Harding's voice was again heard. "Stop!" said he.
The boat stopped, and the colonists perceived a bright light
illuminating the vast cavern, so deeply excavated in the bowels of the
island, of which nothing had ever led them to suspect the existence.
At a height of a hundred feet rose the vaulted roof, supported on basalt
shafts. Irregular arches, strange mouldings, appeared on the columns
erected by nature in thousands from the first epochs of the formation of
the globe. The basalt pillars, fitted one into the other, measured from
forty to fifty feet in height, and the water, calm in spite of the
tumult outside, washing their base. The brilliant focus of light,
pointed out by the engineer, touched every point of rock, and flooded
the walls with light. By reflection the water reproduced the brilliant
sparkles, so that the boat appeared to be floating between two
They could not be mistaken in the nature of the irradiation thrown from
the centre light, whose clear rays broke all the angles, all the
projections of the cavern. This light proceeded from an electric
source, and its white colour betrayed its origin. It was the sun of
this cave, and it filled it entirely.
At a sign from Cyrus Harding the oars again plunged into the water,
causing a regular shower of gems, and the boat was urged forward towards
the light, which was now not more than half a cable's length distant.
At this place the breadth of the sheet of water measured nearly 350
feet, and beyond the dazzling centre could be seen an enormous basaltic
wall, blocking up any issue on that side. The cavern widened here
considerably, the sea forming a little lake. But the roof, the side
walls, the end cliff, all the prisms, all the peaks, were flooded with
the electric fluid, so that the brilliancy belonged to them, and as if
the light issued from them.
In the centre of the lake a long cigar-shaped object floated on the
surface of the water, silent, motionless. The brilliancy which issued
from it escaped from its sides as from two kilns heated to a white heat.
This apparatus, similar in shape to an enormous whale, was about 250
feet long, and rose about ten or twelve above the water.
The boat slowly approached it. Cyrus Harding stood up in the bows. He
gazed, a prey to violent excitement. Then, all at once, seizing the
"It is he! It can only be he!" he cried, "he!--"
Then, falling back on the seat, he murmured a name which Gideon Spilett
alone could hear.
The reporter evidently knew this name, for it had a wonderful effect
upon him, and he answered in a hoarse voice--
"He! an outlawed man!"
"He!" said Harding.
At the engineer's command the boat approached this singular floating
apparatus. The boat touched the left side, from which escaped a ray of
light through a thick glass.
Harding and his companions mounted on the platform. An open hatchway
was there. All darted down the opening.
At the bottom of the ladder was a deck, lighted by electricity. At the
end of this deck was a door, which Harding opened.
A richly-ornamented room, quickly traversed by the colonists, was joined
to a library, over which a luminous ceiling shed a flood of light.
At the end of the library a large door, also shut, was opened by the
An immense saloon--a sort of museum, in which were heaped up, with all
the treasures of the mineral world, works of art, marvels of industry--
appeared before the eyes of the colonists, who almost thought themselves
suddenly transported into a land of enchantment.
Stretched on a rich sofa they saw a man, who did not appear to notice
Then Harding raised his voice, and to the extreme surprise of his
companions, he uttered these words--
"Captain Nemo, you asked for us! We are here."
CAPTAIN NEMO--HIS FIRST WORDS--THE HISTORY OF THE RECLUSE--HIS
ADVENTURES--HIS SENTIMENTS--HIS COMRADES--SUBMARINE LIFE--ALONE--
LAST REFUGE OF THE NAUTILUS IN LINCOLN ISLAND--THE MYSTERIOUS GENIUS
At these words the reclining figure rose, and the electric light fell
upon his countenance; a magnificent head, the forehead high, the glance
commanding, beard white, hair abundant and falling over the shoulders.
His hand rested upon the cushion of the divan from which he had just
risen. He appeared perfectly calm. It was evident that his strength
had been gradually undermined by illness, but his voice seemed yet
powerful, as he said in English, and in a tone which evinced extreme
"Sir, I have no name."
"Nevertheless, I know you!" replied Cyrus Harding.
Captain Nemo fixed his penetrating gaze upon the engineer as though he
were about to annihilate him.
Then, falling back amid the pillows of the divan--
"After all, what matters now?" he murmured; "I am dying!"
Cyrus Harding drew near the captain, and Gideon Spilett took his hand--
it was of a feverish heat. Ayrton, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb, stood
respectfully apart in an angle of the magnificent saloon, whose
atmosphere was saturated with the electric fluid.
Meanwhile Captain Nemo withdrew his hand, and motioned the engineer and
the reporter to be seated.
All regarded him with profound emotion. Before them they beheld that
being whom they had styled the "genius of the island," the powerful
protector whose intervention, in so many circumstances, had been so
efficacious, the benefactor to whom they owed such a debt of gratitude!
Their eyes beheld a man only, and a man at the point of death, where
Pencroft and Neb had expected to find an almost supernatural being!
But how happened it that Cyrus Harding had recognised Captain Nemo? Why
had the latter so suddenly risen on hearing this name uttered, a name
which he had believed known to none?
The captain had resumed his position on the divan, and leaning on his
arm, he regarded the engineer, seated near him.
"You know the name I formerly bore, sir?" he asked.
"I do," answered Cyrus Harding, "and also that of this wonderful
"The Nautilus?" said the captain, with a faint smile.
"But do you--do you know who I am?"
"It is nevertheless many years since I have held any communication with
the inhabited world; three long years have I passed in the depths of the
sea, the only place where I have found liberty! Who then can have
betrayed my secret?"
"A man who was bound to you by no tie, Captain Nemo, and who,
consequently, cannot be accused of treachery."
"The Frenchman who was cast on board my vessel by chance sixteen years
"He and his two companions did not then perish in the Maelstrom, in the
midst of which the Nautilus was struggling."
"They escaped, and a book has appeared under the title of Twenty
Thousand Leagues under the Sea, which contains your history."
"The history of a few months only of my life!" interrupted the captain
"It is true," answered Cyrus Harding, "but a few months of that strange
life have sufficed to make you known--"
"As a great criminal, doubtless!" said Captain Nemo, a haughty smile
curling his lips. "Yes, a rebel, perhaps an outlaw against humanity!"
The engineer was silent.
"It is not for me to judge you, Captain Nemo," answered Cyrus Harding,
"at any rate as regards your past life. I am, with the rest of the
world, ignorant of the motives which induced you to adopt this strange
mode of existence, and I cannot judge of effects without knowing their
causes; but what I do know is, that a beneficent hand has constantly
protected us since our arrival on Lincoln Island, that we all owe our
lives to a good, generous, and powerful being, and that this being so
powerful, good and generous, Captain Nemo, is yourself!"
"It is I," answered the captain simply.
The engineer and reporter rose. Their companions had drawn near, and
the gratitude with which their hearts were charged was about to express
itself in their gestures and words.
Captain Nemo stopped them by a sign, and in a voice which betrayed more
emotion than he doubtless intended to show.
"Wait till you have heard all," he said. [See Note 1.]
And the captain, in a few concise sentences, ran over the events of his
His narrative was short, yet he was obliged to summon up his whole
remaining energy to arrive at the end. He was evidently contending
against extreme weakness. Several times Cyrus Harding entreated him to
repose for a while, but he shook his head as a man to whom the morrow
may never come, and when the reporter offered his assistance--
"It is useless," he said; "my hours are numbered."
Captain Nemo was an Indian, the Prince Dakkar, son of a rajah of the
then independent territory of Bundelkund. His father sent him, when ten
years of age, to Europe, in order that he might receive an education in
all respects complete, and in the hopes that by his talents and
knowledge he might one day take a leading part in raising his long
degraded and heathen country to a level with the nations of Europe.
From the age of ten years to that of thirty Prince Dakkar, endowed by
Nature with her richest gifts of intellect, accumulated knowledge of
every kind, and in science, literature, and art his researches were
extensive and profound.
He travelled over the whole of Europe. His rank and fortune caused him
to be everywhere sought after; but the pleasures of the world had for
him no attractions. Though young and possessed of every personal
advantage, he was ever grave--sombre even--devoured by an unquenchable
thirst for knowledge, and cherishing in the recesses of his heart the
hope that he might become a great and powerful ruler of a free and
Still, for long the love of science triumphed over all other feelings.
He became an artist deeply impressed by the marvels of art, a
philosopher to whom no one of the higher sciences was unknown, a
statesman versed in the policy of European courts. To the eyes of those
who observed him superficially he might have passed for one of those
cosmopolitans, curious of knowledge, but disdaining action; one of those
opulent travellers, haughty and cynical, who move incessantly from place
to place, and are of no country.
This artist, this philosopher, this man was, however, still cherishing
the hope instilled into him from his earliest days.
Prince Dakkar returned to Bundelkund in the year 1849. He married a
noble Indian lady, who was imbued with an ambition not less ardent than
that by which he was inspired. Two children were born to them, whom
they tenderly loved. But domestic happiness did not prevent him from
seeking to carry out the object at which he aimed. He waited an
opportunity. At length, as he vainly fancied, it presented itself.
Instigated by princes equally ambitious and less sagacious and more
unscrupulous than he was, the people of India were persuaded that they
might successfully rise against their English rulers, who had brought
them out of a state of anarchy and constant warfare and misery, and had
established peace and prosperity in their country. Their ignorance and
gross superstition made them the facile tools of their designing chiefs.
In 1857 the great sepoy revolt broke out. Prince Dakkar, under the
belief that he should thereby have the opportunity of attaining the
object of his long-cherished ambition, was easily drawn into it. He
forthwith devoted his talents and wealth to the service of this cause.
He aided it in person; he fought in the front ranks; he risked his life
equally with the humblest of the wretched and misguided fanatics; he was
ten times wounded in twenty engagements, seeking death but finding it
not, when at length the sanguinary rebels were utterly defeated, and the
atrocious mutiny was brought to an end.
Never before had the British power in India been exposed to such danger,
and if, as they had hoped, the sepoys had received assistance from
without, the influence and supremacy in Asia of the United Kingdom would
have been a thing of the past.
The name of Prince Dakkar was at that time well-known. He had fought
openly and without concealment. A price was set upon his head, but he
managed to escape from his pursuers.
Civilisation never recedes; the law of necessity ever forces it onwards.
The sepoys were vanquished, and the land of the rajahs of old fell
again under the rule of England.
Prince Dakkar, unable to find that death he courted, returned to the
mountain fastnesses of Bundelkund. There, alone in the world, overcome
by disappointment at the destruction of all his vain hopes, a prey to
profound disgust for all human beings, filled with hatred of the
civilised world, he realised the wreck of his fortune, assembled some
score of his most faithful companions, and one day disappeared, leaving
no trace behind.
Where, then, did he seek that liberty denied him upon the inhabited
earth? Under the waves, in the depths of the ocean, where none could
The warrior became the man of science. Upon a deserted island of the
Pacific he established his dockyard, and there a submarine vessel was
constructed from his designs. By methods which will at some future day
be revealed he had rendered subservient the illimitable forces of
electricity, which, extracted from inexhaustible sources, was employed
for all the requirements of his floating equipage, as a moving,
lighting, and heating agent. The sea, with its countless treasures, its
myriads of fish, its numberless wrecks, its enormous mammalia, and not
only all that nature supplied, but also all that man had lost in its
depths, sufficed for every want of the prince and his crew--and thus was
his most ardent desire accomplished, never again to hold communication
with the earth. He named his submarine vessel the Nautilus, called
himself simply Captain Nemo, and disappeared beneath the seas.
During many years this strange being visited every ocean, from pole to
pole. Outcast of the inhabited earth in these unknown worlds he
gathered incalculable treasures. The millions lost in the Bay of Vigo,
in 1702, by the galleons of Spain, furnished him with a mine of
inexhaustible riches which he devoted always, anonymously, in favour of
those nations who fought for the independence of their country. [See
For long, however, he had held no communication with his
fellow-creatures, when, during the night of the 6th of November, 1866,
three men were cast on board his vessel. They were a French professor,
his servant, and a Canadian fisherman. These three men had been hurled
overboard by a collision which had taken place between the Nautilus
and the United States frigate Abraham Lincoln, which had chased her.
Captain Nemo learnt from this professor that the Nautilus, taken now
for a gigantic mammal of the whale species, now for a submarine vessel
carrying a crew of pirates, was sought for in every sea.
He might have returned these three men to the ocean, from whence chance
had brought them in contact with his mysterious existence. Instead of
doing this he kept them prisoners, and during seven months they were
enabled to behold all the wonders of a voyage of twenty thousand leagues
under the sea.
One day, the 22nd of June, 1867, these three men, who knew nothing of
the past history of Captain Nemo, succeeded in escaping in one of the
Nautilus's boats. But as at this time the Nautilus was drawn into
the vortex of the Maelstrom, off the coast of Norway, the captain
naturally believed that the fugitives, engulfed in that frightful
whirlpool, found their death at the bottom of the abyss. He was
ignorant that the Frenchman and his two companions had been miraculously
cast on shore, that the fishermen of the Loffoden Islands had rendered
them assistance, and that the professor, on his return to France, had
published that work in which seven months of the strange and eventful
navigation of the Nautilus were narrated and exposed to the curiosity
of the public.
For a long time after this, Captain Nemo continued to live thus,
traversing every sea. But one by one his companions died, and found
their last resting-place in their cemetery of coral, in the bed of the
Pacific. At last Captain Nemo remained the solitary survivor of all
those who had taken refuge with him in the depths of the ocean.
He was now sixty years of age. Although alone, he succeeded in
navigating the Nautilus towards one of those submarine caverns which
had sometimes served him as a harbour.
One of these ports was hollowed beneath Lincoln Island, and at this
moment furnished an asylum to the Nautilus.
The captain had now remained there six years, navigating the ocean no
longer, but awaiting death, and that moment when he should rejoin his
former companions, when by chance he observed the descent of the balloon
which carried the prisoners of the Confederates. Clad in his
diving-dress he was walking beneath the water at a few cables' length
from the shore of the island, when the engineer had been thrown into the
sea. Moved by a feeling of compassion the captain saved Cyrus Harding.
His first impulse was to fly from the vicinity of the five castaways;
but his harbour of refuge was closed, for in consequence of an elevation
of the basalt, produced by the influence of volcanic action, he could no
longer pass through the entrance of the vault. Though there was
sufficient depth of water to allow a light craft to pass the bar, there
was not enough for the Nautilus, whose draught of water was
Captain Nemo was compelled, therefore, to remain. He observed these men
thrown without resources upon a desert island, but had no wish to be
himself discovered by them. By degrees he became interested in their
efforts when he saw them honest, energetic, and bound to each other by
the ties of friendship. As if despite his wishes, he penetrated all the
secrets of their existence. By means of the diving-dress he could
easily reach the well in the interior of Granite House, and climbing by
the projections of rock to its upper orifice he heard the colonists as
they recounted the past, and studied the present and future. He learnt
from them the tremendous conflict of America with America itself, for
the abolition of slavery. Yes, these men were worthy to reconcile
Captain Nemo with that humanity which they represented so nobly in the
Captain Nemo had saved Cyrus Harding. It was he also who had brought
back the dog to the Chimneys, who rescued Top from the waters of the
lake, who caused to fall at Flotsam Point the case containing so many
things useful to the colonists, who conveyed the canoe back into the
stream of the Mercy, who cast the cord from the top of Granite House at
the time of the attack by the baboons, who made known the presence of
Ayrton upon Tabor Island, by means of the document enclosed in the
bottle, who caused the explosion of the brig by the shock of a torpedo
placed at the bottom of the canal, who saved Herbert from a certain
death by bringing the sulphate of quinine; and finally, it was he who
had killed the convicts with the electric balls, of which he possessed
the secret, and which he employed in the chase of submarine creatures.
Thus were explained so many apparently supernatural occurrences, and
which all proved the generosity and power of the captain.
Nevertheless, this noble misanthrope longed to benefit his proteges
still further. There yet remained much useful advice to give them, and,
his heart being softened by the approach of death, he invited, as we are
aware, the colonists of Granite House to visit the Nautilus, by means
of a wire which connected it with the corral. Possibly he would not
have done this had he been aware that Cyrus Harding was sufficiently
acquainted with his history to address him by the name of Nemo.
The captain concluded the narrative of his life. Cyrus Harding then
spoke; he recalled all the incidents which had exercised so beneficent
an influence upon the colony, and in the names of his companions and
himself thanked the generous being to whom they owed so much.
But Captain Nemo paid little attention; his mind appeared to be absorbed
by one idea, and without taking the proffered hand of the engineer--
"Now, sir," said he, "now that you know my history, your judgment!"
In saying this, the captain evidently alluded to an important incident
witnessed by the three strangers thrown on board his vessel, and which
the French professor had related in his work, causing a profound and
terrible sensation. Some days previous to the flight of the professor
and his two companions, the Nautilus, being chased by a frigate in the
north of the Atlantic, had hurled herself as a ram upon this frigate,
and sunk her without mercy.
Cyrus Harding understood the captain's allusion, and was silent.
"It was an enemy's frigate," exclaimed Captain Nemo, transformed for an
instant into the Prince Dakkar, "an enemy's frigate! It was she who
attacked me--I was in a narrow and shallow bay--the frigate barred my
way--and I sank her!"
A few moments of silence ensued; then the captain demanded--
"What think you of my life, gentlemen?"
Cyrus Harding extended his hand to the ci-devant prince and replied
gravely, "Sir, your error was in supposing that the past can be
resuscitated, and in contending against inevitable progress. It is one
of those errors which some admire, others blame; which God alone can
judge. He who is mistaken in an action which he sincerely believes to
be right may be an enemy, but retains our esteem. Your error is one
that we may admire, and your name has nothing to fear from the judgment
of history, which does not condemn heroic folly, but its results."
The old man's breast swelled with emotion, and raising his hand to
"Was I wrong, or in the right?" he murmured.
Cyrus Harding replied, "All great actions return to God, from whom they
are derived. Captain Nemo, we, whom you have succoured, shall ever
mourn your loss."
Herbert, who had drawn near the captain, fell on his knees and kissed
A tear glistened in the eyes of the dying man. "My child," he said,
"may God bless you!"
Note 1. The history of Captain Nemo has, in fact, been published under
the title of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. Here, therefore,
will apply the observation already made as to the adventures of Ayrton
with regard to the discrepancy of dates. Readers should therefore refer
to the note already published on this point.
Note 2. This refers to the insurrection of the Candiotes, who were, in
fact largely assisted by Captain Nemo.
LAST MOMENTS OF CAPTAIN NEMO--WISHES OF THE DYING MAN--A PARTING
HIS FRIENDS OF A DAY--CAPTAIN NEMO'S COFFIN--ADVICE TO THE COLONISTS--
THE SUPREME MOMENT--AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.
Day had returned. No ray of light penetrated into the profundity of the
cavern. It being high-water, the entrance was closed by the sea. But
the artificial light, which escaped in long streams from the skylights
of the Nautilus, was as vivid as before, and the sheet of water shone
around the floating vessel.
An extreme exhaustion now overcame Captain Nemo, who had fallen back
upon the divan. It was useless to contemplate removing him to Granite
House, for he had expressed his wish to remain in the midst of those
marvels of the Nautilus which millions could not have purchased, and
to await there for that death which was swiftly approaching.
During a long interval of prostration, which rendered him almost
unconscious, Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett attentively observed the
condition of the dying man. It was apparent that his strength was
gradually diminishing. That frame, once so robust, was now but the
fragile tenement of a departing soul. All of life was concentrated in
the heart and head.
The engineer and reporter consulted in whispers. Was it possible to
render any aid to the dying man? Might his life, if not saved, be
prolonged for some days? He himself had said that no remedy could
avail, and he awaited with tranquillity that death which had for him no
"We can do nothing," said Gideon Spilett.
"But of what is he dying?" asked Pencroft.
"Life is simply fading out," replied the reporter.
"Nevertheless," said the sailor, "if we moved him into the open air, and
the light of the sun, he might perhaps recover."
"No, Pencroft," answered the engineer, "it is useless to attempt it.
Besides, Captain Nemo would never consent to leave his vessel. He has
lived for a dozen years on board the Nautilus, and on board the
Nautilus he desires to die."
Without doubt Captain Nemo heard Cyrus Harding's reply, for he raised
himself slightly, and in a voice more feeble, but always intelligible--
"You are right, sir," he said. "I shall die here--it is my wish; and
therefore I have a request to make of you."
Cyrus Harding and his companions had drawn near the divan, and now
arranged the cushions in such a manner as to better support the dying
They saw his eyes wander over all the marvels of this saloon, lighted by
the electric rays which fell from the arabesques of the luminous
ceiling. He surveyed, one after the other, the pictures hanging from
the splendid tapestries of the partitions, the chef-d'oeuvres of the
Italian, Flemish, French, and Spanish masters; the statues of marble and
bronze on their pedestals; the magnificent organ, leaning against the
after-partition; the aquarium, in which bloomed the most wonderful
productions of the sea--marine plants, zoophytes, chaplets of pearls of
inestimable value; and, finally, his eyes rested on this device,
inscribed over the pediment of the museum--the motto of the Nautilus--
"Mobilis in mobile."
His glance seemed to rest fondly for the last time on these masterpieces
of art and of nature, to which he had limited his horizon during a
sojourn of so many years in the abysses of the seas.
Cyrus Harding respected the captain's silence, and waited till he should
After some minutes, during which, doubtless, he passed in review his
whole life, Captain Nemo turned to the colonists and said--
"You consider yourselves, gentlemen, under some obligations to me?"
"Captain, believe us that we would give our lives to prolong yours."
"Promise, then," continued Captain Nemo, "to carry out my last wishes,
and I shall be repaid for all I have done for you."
"We promise," said Cyrus Harding.
And by this promise he bound both himself and his companions.
"Gentlemen," resumed the captain, "to-morrow I shall be dead."
Herbert was about to utter an exclamation, but a sign from the captain
"To-morrow I shall die, and I desire no other tomb than the Nautilus.
It is my grave! All my friends repose in the depths of the ocean; their
resting-place shall be mine."
These words were received with profound silence.
"Pay attention to my wishes," he continued. "The Nautilus is
imprisoned in this grotto, the entrance of which is blocked up; but,
although egress is impossible, the vessel may at least sink in the
abyss, and there bury my remains."
The colonists listened reverently to the words of the dying man.
"To-morrow, after my death, Mr Harding," continued the captain,
"yourself and companions will leave the Nautilus, for all the
treasures it contains must perish with me. One token alone will remain
with you of Prince Dakkar, with whose history you are now acquainted.
That coffer yonder contains diamonds of the value of many millions, most
of them mementoes of the time when, husband and father, I thought
happiness possible for me, and a collection of pearls gathered by my
friends and myself in the depths of the ocean. Of this treasure, at a
future day, you may make good use. In the hands of such men as yourself
and your comrades, Captain Harding, money will never be a source of
danger. From on high I shall still participate in your enterprises, and
I fear not but that they will prosper."
After a few moments' repose, necessitated by his extreme weakness,
Captain Nemo continued--
"To-morrow you will take the coffer, you will leave the saloon, of which
you will close the door; then you will ascend onto the deck of the
Nautilus, and you will lower the main-hatch so as entirely to close
"It shall be done, captain," answered Cyrus Harding.
"Good. You will then embark in the canoe which brought you hither; but,
before leaving the Nautilus, go to the stern and there open two large
stop-cocks which you will find upon the water-line. The water will
penetrate into the reservoirs, and the Nautilus will gradually sink
beneath the water to repose at the bottom of the abyss."
And, comprehending a gesture of Cyrus Harding, the captain added--
"Fear nothing! You will but bury a corpse!"
Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions ventured to offer any
observation to Captain Nemo. He had expressed his last wishes, and they
had nothing to do but to conform to them.
"I have your promise, gentlemen?" added Captain Nemo.
"You have, captain," replied the engineer.
The captain thanked the colonists by a sign, and requested them to leave
him for some hours. Gideon Spilett wished to remain near him, in the
event of a crisis coming on, but the dying man refused, saying, "I shall
live until to-morrow, sir."
All left the saloon, passed through the library and the dining-room, and
arrived forward, in the machine-room, where the electrical apparatus was
established, which supplied not only heat and light but the mechanical
power of the Nautilus.
The Nautilus was a masterpiece, containing masterpieces within itself,
and the engineer was struck with astonishment.
The colonists mounted the platform, which rose seven or eight feet above
the water. There they beheld a thick glass lenticular covering, which
protected a kind of large eye, from which flashed forth light. Behind
this eye was apparently a cabin containing the wheels of the rudder, and
in which was stationed the helmsman, when he navigated the Nautilus
over the bed of the ocean, which the electric rays would evidently light
up to a considerable distance.
Cyrus Harding and his companions remained for a time silent, for they
were vividly impressed by what they had just seen and heard, and their
hearts were deeply touched by the thought that he whose arm had so often
aided them, the protector whom they had known but a few hours, was at
the point of death.
Whatever might be the judgment pronounced by posterity upon the events
of this, so to speak, extra-human existence, the character of Prince
Dakkar would ever remain as one of those whose memory time can never
"What a man!" said Pencroft. "Is it possible that he can have lived at
the bottom of the sea? And it seems to me that perhaps he has not found
peace there any more than elsewhere."
"The Nautilus," observed Ayrton, "might have enabled us to leave
Lincoln Island and reach some inhabited country."
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Pencroft, "I for one would never risk myself
in such a craft. To sail on the seas, good; but under the seas, never!"
"I believe, Pencroft," answered the reporter, "that the navigation of a
submarine vessel such as the Nautilus ought to be very easy, and that
we should soon become accustomed to it. There would be no storms, no
lee-shore to fear. At some feet beneath the surface the waters of the
ocean are as calm as those of a lake."
"That may be," replied the sailor, "but I prefer a gale of wind on board
a well-found craft. A vessel is built to sail on the sea, and not
"My friends," said the engineer, "it is useless, at any rate as regards
the Nautilus, to discuss the question of submarine vessels. The
Nautilus is not ours, and we have not the right to dispose of it.
Moreover, we could in no case avail ourselves of it. Independently of
the fact that it would be impossible to get it out of this cavern, whose
entrance is now closed by the uprising of the basaltic rocks, Captain
Nemo's wish is that it shall be buried with him. His wish is our law,
and we will fulfil it."
After a somewhat prolonged conversation, Cyrus Harding and his
companions again descended to the interior of the Nautilus. There
they took some refreshment and returned to the saloon.
Captain Nemo had somewhat rallied from the prostration which had
overcome him, and his eyes shone with their wonted fire. A faint smile
even curled his lips.
The colonists drew around him.
"Gentlemen," said the captain, "you are brave and honest men. You have
devoted yourselves to the common weal. Often have I observed your
conduct. I have esteemed you--I esteem you still! Your hand, Mr
Cyrus Harding gave his hand to the captain, who clasped it
"It is well!" he murmured.
"But enough of myself. I have to speak concerning yourselves, and this
Lincoln Island, upon which you have taken refuge. You desire to leave
"To return, captain!" answered Pencroft quickly.
"To return, Pencroft?" said the captain, with a smile. "I know, it is
true, your love for this island. You have helped to make it what it now
is, and it seems to you a paradise!"
"Our project, captain," interposed Cyrus Harding, "is to annex it to the
United States, and to establish for our shipping a port so fortunately
situated in this part of the Pacific."
"Your thoughts are with your country, gentlemen," continued the captain;
"your toils are for her prosperity and glory. You are right. One's
native land!--there should one live! there die! And I! I die far from
all I loved!"
"You have some last wish to transmit," said the engineer with emotion,
"some souvenir to send to those friends you have left in the mountains
"No, Captain Harding; no friends remain to me! I am the last of my
race, and to all whom I have known I have long been as are the dead.--
But to return to yourselves. Solitude, isolation, are painful things,
and beyond human endurance. I die of having thought it possible to live
alone! You should, therefore, dare all in the attempt to leave Lincoln
Island, and see once more the land of your birth. I am aware that those
wretches have destroyed the vessel you had built."
"We propose to construct a vessel," said Gideon Spilett, "sufficiently
large to convey us to the nearest land; but if we should succeed, sooner
or later we shall return to Lincoln Island. We are attached to it by
too many recollections ever to forget it."
"It is here that we have known Captain Nemo," said Cyrus Harding.
"It is here only that we can make our home!" added Herbert.
"And here shall I sleep the sleep of eternity, if--" replied the
He paused for a moment, and, instead of completing the sentence, said
"Mr Harding, I wish to speak with you--alone!"
The engineer's companions, respecting the wish of the dying man,
Cyrus Harding remained but a few minutes alone with Captain Nemo, and
soon recalled his companions; but he said nothing to them of the private
matters which the dying man had confided to him.
Gideon Spilett now watched the captain with extreme care. It was
evident that he was no longer sustained by his moral energy, which had
lost the power of reaction against his physical weakness.
The day closed without change. The colonists did not quit the
Nautilus for a moment. Night arrived, although it was impossible to
distinguish it from day in the cavern.
Captain Nemo suffered no pain, but he was visibly sinking. His noble
features, paled by the approach of death, were perfectly calm.
Inaudible words escaped at intervals from his lips, bearing upon various
incidents of his chequered career. Life was evidently ebbing slowly,
and his extremities were already cold.
Once or twice more he spoke to the colonists who stood around him, and
smiled on them with that last smile which continues after death.
At length, shortly after midnight, Captain Nemo by a supreme effort
succeeded in folding his arms across his breast, as if wishing in that
attitude to compose himself for death.
By one o'clock his glance alone showed signs of life. A dying light
gleamed in those eyes once so brilliant. Then, murmuring the words,
"God and my country!" he quietly expired.
Cyrus Harding, bending low, closed the eyes of him who had once been the
Prince Dakkar, and was now not even Captain Nemo.
Herbert and Pencroft sobbed aloud. Tears fell from Ayrton's eyes. Neb
was on his knees by the reporter's side, motionless as a statue.
Then Cyrus Harding, extending his hand over the forehead of the dead,
"May his soul be with God! Let us pray!"
Some hours later the colonists fulfilled the promise made to the captain
by carrying out his dying wishes.
Cyrus Harding and his companions quitted the Nautilus, taking with
them the only memento left them by their benefactor, that coffer which
contained wealth amounting to millions.
The marvellous saloon, still flooded with light, had been carefully
closed. The iron door leading on deck was then securely fastened in
such a manner as to prevent even a drop of water from penetrating to the
interior of the Nautilus.
The colonists then descended into the canoe, which was moored to the
side of the submarine vessel.
The canoe was now brought round to the stern. There, at the water-line,
were two large stop-cocks, communicating with the reservoirs employed in
the submersion of the vessel.
The stop-cocks were opened, the reservoirs filled, and the Nautilus,
slowly sinking, disappeared beneath the surface of the lake.
But the colonists were yet able to follow its descent through the waves.
The powerful light it gave forth lighted up the translucent water,
while the cavern became gradually obscure. At length this vast effusion
of electric light faded away, and soon after the Nautilus, now the
tomb of Captain Nemo, reposed in its ocean bed.
REFLECTIONS OF THE COLONISTS--THEIR LABOURS OF RECONSTRUCTION
THE 1ST OF JANUARY 1869--A CLOUD OVER THE SUMMIT OF THE VOLCANO--
WARNINGS OF AN ERUPTION--AYRTON AND CYRUS HARDING AT THE CORRAL--
EXPLORATION OF THE DAKKAR GROTTO--WHAT CAPTAIN NEMO HAD CONFIDED
At break of day the colonists regained in silence the entrance of the
cavern, to which they gave the name of "Dakkar Grotto," in memory of
Captain Nemo. It was now low-water, and they passed without difficulty
under the arcade, washed on the right by the sea.
The canoe was left here, carefully protected from the waves. As an
excess of precaution, Pencroft, Neb, and Ayrton drew it up on a little
beach which bordered one of the sides of the grotto, in a spot where it
could run no risk of harm.
The storm had ceased during the night. The last low mutterings of the
thunder died away in the west. Rain fell no longer, but the sky was yet
obscured by clouds. On the whole, this month of October, the first of
the southern spring, was not ushered in by satisfactory tokens, and the
wind had a tendency to shift from one point of the compass to another,
which rendered it impossible to count upon settled weather.
Cyrus Harding and his companions, on leaving Dakkar Grotto, had taken
the road to the corral. On their way Neb and Herbert were careful to
preserve the wire which had been laid down by the captain between the
corral and the grotto, and which might at a future time be of service.
The colonists spoke but little on the road. The various incidents of
the night of the 15th October had left a profound impression on their
minds. The unknown being whose influence had so effectually protected
them, the man whom their imagination had endowed with supernatural
powers, Captain Nemo, was no more. His Nautilus and he were buried in
the depths of the abyss. To each one of them their existence seemed
even more isolated than before. They had been accustomed to count upon
the intervention of that power which existed no longer, and Gideon
Spilett, and even Cyrus Harding, could not escape this impression. Thus
they maintained a profound silence during their journey to the corral.
Towards nine in the morning the colonists arrived at Granite House.
It had been agreed that the construction of the vessel should be
actively pushed forward, and Cyrus Harding more than ever devoted his
time and labour to this object. It was impossible to divine what future
lay before them. Evidently the advantage to the colonists would be
great of having at their disposal a substantial vessel, capable of
keeping the sea even in heavy weather, and large enough to attempt, in
case of need, a voyage of some duration. Even if, when their vessel
should be completed, the colonists should not resolve to leave Lincoln
Island as yet, in order to gain either one of the Polynesian
archipelagos of the Pacific or the shores of New Zealand, they might at
least, sooner or later, proceed to Tabor Island, to leave there the
notice relating to Ayrton. This was a precaution rendered indispensable
by the possibility of the Scotch yacht reappearing in those seas, and it
was of the highest importance that nothing should be neglected on this
The works were then resumed. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, and Ayrton,
assisted by Neb, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, except when unavoidably
called off by other necessary occupations, worked without cessation. It
was important that the new vessel should be ready in five months--that
is to say, by the beginning of March--if they wished to visit Tabor
Island before the equinoctial gales rendered the voyage impracticable.
Therefore the carpenters lost not a moment. Moreover, it was
unnecessary to manufacture rigging, that of the Speedy having been
saved entire, so that the hull only of the vessel needed to be
The end of the year 1868 found them occupied by these important labours,
to the exclusion of almost all others. At the expiration of two months
and a half the ribs had been set up and the first planks adjusted. It
was already evident that the plans made by Cyrus Harding were admirable,
and that the vessel would behave well at sea.
Pencroft brought to the task a devouring energy, and scrupled not to
grumble when one or the other abandoned the carpenter's axe for the gun
of the hunter. It was nevertheless necessary to keep up the stores of
Granite House, in view of the approaching winter. But this did not
satisfy Pencroft. The brave honest sailor was not content when the
workmen were not at the dockyard. When this happened he grumbled
vigorously, and, by way of venting his feelings, did the work of six
The weather was very unfavourable during the whole of the summer season.
For some days the heat was overpowering, and the atmosphere, saturated
with electricity, was only cleared by violent storms. It was rarely
that the distant growling of the thunder could not be heard, like a low
but incessant murmur, such as is produced in the equatorial regions of
The 1st of January, 1869, was signalised by a storm of extreme violence,
and the thunder burst several times over the island. Large trees were
struck by the electric fluid and shattered, and among others one of
those gigantic micocouliers which shaded the poultry-yard at the
southern extremity of the lake. Had this meteor any relation to the
phenomena going on in the bowels of the earth? Was there any connection
between the commotion of the atmosphere and that of the interior of the
earth? Cyrus Harding was inclined to think that such was the case, for
the development of these storms was attended by the renewal of volcanic
It was on the 3rd of January that Herbert, having ascended at daybreak
to the plateau of Prospect Heights to harness one of the onagas,
perceived an enormous hat-shaped cloud rolling from the summit of the
Herbert immediately apprised the colonists, who at once joined him in
watching the summit of Mount Franklin.
"Ah!" exclaimed Pencroft, "those are not vapours this time! It seems to
me that the giant is not content with breathing; he must smoke!"
This figure of speech employed by the sailor exactly expressed the
changes going on at the mouth of the volcano. Already for three months
had the crater emitted vapours more or less dense, but which were as yet
produced only by an internal ebullition of mineral substances. But now
the vapours were replaced by a thick smoke, rising in the form of a
greyish column, more than three hundred feet in width at its base, and
which spread like an immense mushroom to a height of from seven to eight
hundred feet above the summit of the mountain.
"The fire is in the chimney," observed Gideon Spilett.
"And we can't put it out!" replied Herbert.
"The volcano ought to be swept," observed Neb, who spoke as if perfectly
"Well said, Neb!" cried Pencroft, with a shout of laughter; "and you'll
undertake the job, no doubt?"
Cyrus Harding attentively observed the dense smoke emitted by Mount
Franklin, and even listened, as if expecting to hear some distant
muttering. Then, turning towards his companions, from whom he had gone
somewhat apart, he said--
"The truth is, my friends, we must not conceal from ourselves that an
important change is going forward. The volcanic substances are no
longer in a state of ebullition, they have caught fire, and we are
undoubtedly menaced by an approaching eruption."
"Well, captain," said Pencroft, "we shall witness the eruption; and if
it is a good one, we'll applaud it. I don't see that we need concern
ourselves further about the matter."
"It may be so," replied Cyrus Harding, "for the ancient track of the
lava is still open; and thanks to this, the crater has hitherto
overflowed towards the north. And yet--"
"And yet, as we can derive no advantage from an eruption, it might be
better it should not take place," said the reporter.
"Who knows?" answered the sailor. "Perhaps there may be some valuable
substance in this volcano, which it will spout forth, and which we may
turn to good account!"
Cyrus Harding shook his head with the air of a man who augured no good
from the phenomenon whose developments had been so sudden. He did not
regard so lightly as Pencroft the results of an eruption. If the lava,
in consequence of the position of the crater, did not directly menace
the wooded and cultivated parts of the island, other complications might
present themselves. In fact, eruptions are not unfrequently accompanied
by earthquakes; and an island of the nature of Lincoln Island formed of
substances so varied, basalt on one side, granite on the other, lava on
the north, rich soil on the south, substances which consequently could
not be firmly attached to each other, would be exposed to the risk of
disintegration. Although, therefore, the spreading of the volcanic
matter might not constitute a serious danger, any movement of the
terrestrial structure which should shake the island might entail the
"It seems to me," said Ayrton, who had reclined so as to place his ear
to the ground, "it seems to me that I can hear a dull, rumbling sound,
like that of a wagon loaded with bars of iron."
The colonists listened with the greatest attention, and were convinced
that Ayrton was not mistaken. The rumbling was mingled with a
subterranean roar, which formed a sort of rinforzando, and died slowly
away, as if some violent storm had passed through the profundities of
the globe. But no explosion, properly so termed, could be heard. It
might therefore be concluded that the vapours and smoke found a free
passage through the central shaft; and that the safety-valve being
sufficiently large, no convulsion would be produced, no explosion was to
"Well, then!" said Pencroft, "are we not going back to work? Let Mount
Franklin smoke, groan, bellow, or spout forth fire and flame as much as
it pleases, that is no reason why we should be idle! Come, Ayrton, Neb,
Herbert, Captain Harding, Mr Spilett, every one of us must turn to at
our work to-day! We are going to place the keelson, and a dozen pair of
hands would not be too many. Before two months I want our new
Bonadventure--for we shall keep the old name, shall we not?--to float
on the waters of Port Balloon! Therefore there is not an hour to lose!"
All the colonists, their services thus requisitioned by Pencroft,
descended to the dockyard, and proceeded to place the keelson, a thick
mass of wood which forms the lower portion of a ship and unites firmly
the timbers of the hull. It was an arduous undertaking, in which all
They continued their labours during the whole of this day, the 3rd of
January, without thinking further of the volcano, which could not,
besides, be seen from the shore of Granite House. But once or twice,
large shadows, veiling the sun, which described its diurnal arc through
an extremely clear sky, indicated that a thick cloud of smoke passed
between its disc and the island. The wind, blowing on the shore,
carried all these vapours to the westward. Cyrus Harding and Gideon
Spilett remarked these sombre appearances, and from time to time
discussed the evident progress of the volcanic phenomena, but their work
went on without interruption. It was, besides, of the first importance
from every point of view, that the vessel should be finished with the
least possible delay. In presence of the eventualities which might
arise, the safety of the colonists would be to a great extent secured by
their ship. Who could tell that it might not prove some day their only
In the evening, after supper, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and
Herbert, again ascended the plateau of Prospect Heights. It was already
dark, and the obscurity would permit them to ascertain if flames or
incandescent matter thrown up by the volcano were mingled with the
vapour and smoke accumulated at the mouth of the crater.
"The crater is on fire!" said Herbert, who, more active than his
companions, first reached the plateau.
Mount Franklin, distant about six miles, now appeared like a gigantic
torch, around the summit of which turned fuliginous flames. So much
smoke, and possibly scoriae and cinders were mingled with them, that
their light gleamed but faintly amid the gloom of the night. But a kind
of lurid brilliancy spread over the island, against which stood out
confusedly the wooded masses of the heights. Immense whirlwinds of
vapour obscured the sky, through which glimmered a few stars.
"The change is rapid!" said the engineer. "That is not surprising,"
answered the reporter. "The re-awakening of the volcano already dates
back some time. You may remember, Cyrus, that the first vapours
appeared about the time we searched the sides of the mountain to
discover Captain Nemo's retreat. It was, if I mistake not, about the
15th of October."
"Yes," replied Herbert, "two months and a half ago!"
"The subterranean fires have therefore been smouldering for ten weeks,"
resumed Gideon Spilett, "and it is not to be wondered at that they now
break out with such violence!"
"Do not you feel a certain vibration of the soil?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Yes," replied Gideon Spilett, "but there is a great difference between
that and an earthquake."
"I do not affirm that we are menaced with an earthquake," answered Cyrus
Harding, "may God preserve us from that! No; these vibrations are due
to the effervescence of the central fire. The crust of the earth is
simply the shell of a boiler, and you know that such a shell, under the
pressure of steam, vibrates like a sonorous plate. It is this effect
which is being produced at this moment."
"What magnificent flames!" exclaimed Herbert.
At this instant a kind of bouquet of flames shot forth from the crater,
the brilliancy of which was visible even through the vapours. Thousands
of luminous sheets and barbed tongues of fire were cast in various
directions. Some, extending beyond the dome of smoke, dissipated it,
leaving behind an incandescent powder. This was accompanied by
successive explosions, resembling the discharge of a battery of
Cyrus Harding, the reporter, and Herbert, after spending an hour on the
plateau of Prospect Heights, again descended to the beach, and returned
to Granite House. The engineer was thoughtful and preoccupied, so much
so, indeed, that Gideon Spilett inquired if he apprehended any immediate
danger, of which the eruption might directly or indirectly be the cause.
"Yes, and no," answered Cyrus Harding.
"Nevertheless," continued the reporter, "would not the greatest
misfortune which could happen to us be an earthquake which would
overturn the island? Now, I do not suppose that this is to be feared,
since the vapours and lava have found a free outlet."
"True," replied Cyrus Harding, "and I do not fear an earthquake in the
sense in which the term is commonly applied to convulsions of the soil
provoked by the expansion of subterranean gases. But other causes may
produce great disasters."
"How so, my dear Cyrus?"
"I am not certain. I must consider. I must visit the mountain. In a
few days I shall learn more on this point."
Gideon Spilett said no more, and soon, in spite of the explosions of the
volcano, whose intensity increased, and which were repeated by the
echoes of the island, the inhabitants of Granite House were sleeping
Three days passed by--the 4th, 5th, and 6th of January. The
construction of the vessel was diligently continued, and without
offering further explanations the engineer pushed forward the work with
all his energy. Mount Franklin was now hooded by a sombre cloud of
sinister aspect, and, amid the flames, vomited forth incandescent rocks,
some of which fell back into the crater itself. This caused Pencroft,
who would only look at the matter in the light of a joke, to exclaim--
"Ah! the giant is playing at cup and ball; he is a conjuror."
In fact, the substances thrown up fell back again into the abyss, and it
did not seem that the lava, though swollen by the internal pressure, had
yet risen to the orifice of the crater. At any rate, the opening on the
north-east, which was partly visible, poured out no torrent upon the
northern slope of the mountain.
Nevertheless, however pressing was the construction of the vessel, other
duties demanded the presence of the colonists on various portions of the
island. Before everything it was necessary to go to the corral, where
the flocks of musmons and goats were enclosed, and replenish the
provision of forage for those animals. It was accordingly arranged that
Ayrton should proceed thither the next day, the 7th of January; and as
he was sufficient for the task, to which he was accustomed, Pencroft and
the rest were somewhat surprised on hearing the engineer say to Ayrton--
"As you are going to-morrow to the corral I will accompany you."
"But, Captain Harding," exclaimed the sailor, "our working days will not
be many, and if you go also we shall be two pair of hands short!"
"We shall return to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "but it is necessary
that I should go to the corral. I must learn how the eruption is
"The eruption! always the eruption!" answered Pencroft, with an air of
discontent. "An important thing, truly, this eruption! I trouble
myself very little about it."
Whatever might be the sailor's opinion, the expedition projected by the
engineer was settled for the next day. Herbert wished to accompany
Cyrus Harding, but he would not vex Pencroft by his absence.
The next day, at dawn, Cyrus Harding and Ayrton, mounting the cart drawn
by two onagas, took the road to the corral and set off at a round trot.
Above the forest were passing large clouds, to which the crater of Mount
Franklin incessantly added fuliginous matter. These clouds, which
rolled heavily in the air, were evidently composed of heterogeneous
substances. It was not alone from the volcano that they derived their
strange opacity and weight. Scorias, in a state of dust, like powdered
pumice-stone, and greyish ashes as small as the finest feculae, were
held in suspension in the midst of their thick folds. These ashes are
so fine that they have been observed in the air for whole months. After
the eruption of 1783 in Iceland for upwards of a year the atmosphere was
thus charged with volcanic dust through which the rays of the sun were
only with difficulty discernible.
But more often this pulverised matter falls, and this happened on the
present occasion. Cyrus Harding and Ayrton had scarcely reached the
corral when a sort of black snow like fine gunpowder fell, and instantly
changed the appearance of the soil. Trees, meadows, all disappeared
beneath a covering several inches in depth. But, very fortunately, the
wind blew from the north-east, and the greater part of the cloud
dissolved itself over the sea.
"This is very singular, Captain Harding," said Ayrton.
"It is very serious," replied the engineer. "This powdered
pumice-stone, all this mineral dust, proves how grave is the convulsion
going forward in the lower depths of the volcano."
"But can nothing be done?"
"Nothing, except to note the progress of the phenomenon. Do you,
therefore, Ayrton, occupy yourself with the necessary work at the
corral. In the meantime I will ascend just beyond the source of Red
Creek and examine the condition of the mountain upon its northern
"Well, Captain Harding?"
"Then we will pay a visit to Dakkar Grotto. I wish to inspect it. At
any rate I will come back for you in two hours."
Ayrton then proceeded to enter the corral, and, while waiting the
engineer's return, busied himself with the musmons and goats, which
seemed to feel a certain uneasiness in presence of these first signs of
Meanwhile Cyrus Harding ascended the crest of the eastern spur, passed
Red Creek, and arrived at the spot where he and his companions had
discovered a sulphureous spring at the time of their first exploration.
How changed was everything! Instead of a single column of smoke he
counted thirteen, forced through the soil as if violently propelled by
some piston. It was evident that the crust of the earth was subjected
in this part of the globe to a frightful pressure. The atmosphere was
saturated with gases and carbonic acid, mingled with aqueous vapours.
Cyrus Harding felt the volcanic tufa with which the plain was strewn,
and which were but pulverised cinders hardened into solid blocks by
time, tremble beneath him, but he could discover no traces of fresh
The engineer became more assured of this when he observed all the
northern part of Mount Franklin. Pillars of smoke and flame escaped
from the crater; a hail of scorias fell on the ground; but no current of
lava burst from the mouth of the volcano, which proved that the volcanic
matter had not yet attained the level of the superior orifice of the
"But I would prefer that it were so," said Cyrus Harding to himself.
"At any rate, I should then know that the lava had followed its
accustomed track. Who can say that they may not take a new course? But
the danger does not consist in that! Captain Nemo foresaw it clearly!
No, the danger does not lie there!"
Cyrus Harding advanced towards the enormous causeway whose prolongation
enclosed the narrow Shark Gulf. He could now sufficiently examine on
this side the ancient channels of the lava. There was no doubt in his
mind that the most recent eruption had occurred at a far-distant epoch.
He then returned by the same way, listening attentively to the
subterranean mutterings which rolled like long-continued thunder,
interrupted by deafening explosions. At nine in the morning he reached
Ayrton awaited him.
"The animals are cared for, Captain Harding," said Ayrton.
"They seem uneasy, Captain Harding."
"Yes, instinct speaks through them, and instinct is never deceived."
"Are you ready?"
"Take a lamp, Ayrton," answered the engineer; "we will start at once."
Ayrton did as desired. The onagas, unharnessed, roamed in the corral.
The gate was secured on the outside, and Cyrus Harding, preceding
Ayrton, took the narrow path which led westward to the shore.
The soil they walked upon was choked with the pulverised matter fallen
from the cloud. No quadruped appeared in the woods. Even the birds had
fled. Sometimes a passing breeze raised the covering of ashes, and the
two colonists, enveloped in a whirlwind of dust, lost sight of each
other. They were then careful to cover their eyes and mouths with
handkerchiefs, for they ran the risk of being blinded and suffocated.
It was impossible for Cyrus Harding and Ayrton, with these impediments,
to make rapid progress. Moreover, the atmosphere was close, as if the
oxygen had been partly burnt up, and had become unfit for respiration.
At every hundred paces they were obliged to stop to take breath. It was
therefore past ten o'clock when the engineer and his companion reached
the crest of the enormous mass of rocks of basalt and porphyry which
composed the north-west coast of the island.
Ayrton and Cyrus Harding commenced the descent of this abrupt declivity,
following almost step for step the difficult path which, during that
stormy night, had led them to Dakkar Grotto. In open day the descent
was less perilous, and, besides, the bed of ashes which covered the
polished surface of the rock enabled them to make their footing more
The ridge at the end of the shore, about forty feet in height, was soon
reached. Cyrus Harding recollected that this elevation gradually sloped
towards the level of the sea. Although the tide was at present low, no
beach could be seen, and the waves, thickened by the volcanic dust, beat
upon the basaltic rocks.
Cyrus Harding and Ayrton found without difficulty the entrance to Dakkar
Grotto, and paused for a moment at the last rock before it.
"The iron boat should be there," said the engineer.
"It is here, Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, drawing towards him the
fragile craft, which was protected by the arch of a vault.
"On board, Ayrton!"
The two colonists stepped into the boat. A slight undulation of the
waves carried it farther under the low arch of the crypt, and there
Ayrton, with the aid of flint and steel, lighted the lamp. He then took
the oars, and the lamp having been placed in the bow of the boat, so
that its rays fell before them, Cyrus Harding took the helm and steered
through the shades of the grotto.
The Nautilus was there no longer to illuminate the cavern with its
electric light. Possibly it might not yet be extinguished, but no ray
escaped from the depths of the abyss in which reposed all that was
mortal of Captain Nemo.
The light afforded by the lamp, although feeble, nevertheless enabled
the engineer to advance slowly, following the wall of the cavern. A
deathlike silence reigned under the vaulted roof, or at least in the
anterior portion, for soon Cyrus Harding distinctly heard the rumbling
which proceeded from the bowels of the mountain.
"That comes from the volcano," he said.
Besides these sounds, the presence of chemical combinations was soon
betrayed by their powerful odour, and the engineer and his companion
were almost suffocated by sulphureous vapours.
"This is what Captain Nemo feared," murmured Cyrus Harding, changing
countenance. "We must go to the end, notwithstanding."
"Forward!" replied Ayrton, bending to his oars and directing the boat
towards the head of the cavern.
Twenty-five minutes after entering the mouth of the grotto the boat
reached the extreme end.
Cyrus Harding then, standing up, cast the light of the lamp upon the
walls of the cavern which separated it from the central shaft of the
volcano. What was the thickness of this wall? It might be ten feet or
a hundred feet--it was impossible to say. But the subterranean sounds
were too perceptible to allow of the supposition that it was of any
The engineer, after having explored the wall at a certain height
horizontally, fastened the lamp to the end of an oar, and again surveyed
the basaltic wall at a greater elevation.
There, through scarcely visible clefts and joinings, escaped a pungent
vapour, which infected the atmosphere of the cavern. The wall was
broken by large cracks, some of which extended to within two or three
feet of the water's edge.
Cyrus Harding thought for a brief space. Then he said in a low voice--
"Yes! the captain was right! The danger lies there, and a terrible
Ayrton said not a word, but, upon a sign from Cyrus Harding, resumed the
oars, and half an hour later the engineer and he reached the entrance of
CYRUS HARDING GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HIS EXPLORATION--THE
THE SHIP PUSHED FORWARD--A LAST VISIT TO THE CORRAL--THE BATTLE
FIRE AND WATER--ALL THAT REMAINS OF THE ISLAND--IT IS DECIDED TO
THE VESSEL--THE NIGHT OF THE 8TH OF MARCH.
The next day, the 8th of January, after a day and night passed at the
corral, where they left all in order, Cyrus Harding and Ayrton arrived
at Granite House.
The engineer immediately called his companions together, and informed
them of the imminent danger which threatened Lincoln Island, and from
which no human power could deliver them.
"My friends," he said, and his voice betrayed the depth of his emotion,
"our island is not among those which will endure while this earth
endures. It is doomed to more or less speedy destruction, the cause of
which it bears within itself, and from which nothing can save it."
The colonists looked at each other, then at the engineer. They did not
clearly comprehend him.
"Explain yourself, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett.
"I will do so," replied Cyrus Harding, "or rather I will simply afford
you the explanation which, during our few minutes of private
conversation, was given me by Captain Nemo."
"Captain Nemo!" exclaimed the colonists.
"Yes, and it was the last service he desired to render us before his
"The last service!" exclaimed Pencroft, "the last service! You will see
that though he is dead he will render us others yet!"
"But what did the captain say?" inquired the reporter.
"I will tell you, my friends," said the engineer. "Lincoln Island does
not resemble the other islands of the Pacific, and a fact of which
Captain Nemo has made me cognisant must sooner or later bring about the
subversion of its foundation."
"Nonsense! Lincoln Island, it can't be!" cried Pencroft, who, in spite
of the respect he felt for Cyrus Harding, could not prevent a gesture of
"Listen, Pencroft," resumed the engineer, "I will tell you what Captain
Nemo communicated to me, and which I myself confirmed yesterday, during
the exploration of Dakkar Grotto. This cavern stretches under the
island as far as the volcano, and is only separated from its central
shaft by the wall which terminates it. Now, this wall is seamed with
fissures and clefts which already allow the sulphureous gases generated
in the interior of the volcano to escape."
"Well?" said Pencroft, his brow suddenly contracting.
"Well, then, I saw that these fissures widen under the internal pressure
from within, that the wall of basalt is gradually giving way, and that
after a longer or shorter period it will afford a passage to the waters
of the lake which fill the cavern."
"Good!" replied Pencroft, with an attempt at pleasantry. "The sea will
extinguish the volcano, and there will be an end of the matter!"
"Not so!" said Cyrus Harding, "should a day arrive when the sea, rushing
through the wall of the cavern, penetrates by the central shaft into the
interior of the island to the boiling lava, Lincoln Island will that day
be blown into the air--just as would happen to the island of Sicily were
the Mediterranean to precipitate itself into Mount Etna."
The colonists made no answer to these significant words of the engineer.
They now understood the danger by which they were menaced.
It may be added that Cyrus Harding had in no way exaggerated the danger
to be apprehended. Many persons have formed an idea that it would be
possible to extinguish volcanoes, which are almost always situated on
the shores of a sea or lake, by opening a passage for the admission of
the water. But they are not aware that this would be to incur the risk
of blowing up a portion of the globe, like a boiler whose steam is
suddenly expanded by intense heat. The water, rushing into a cavity
whose temperature might be estimated at thousands of degrees, would be
converted into steam with a sudden energy which no enclosure could
It was not therefore doubtful that the island, menaced by a frightful
and approaching convulsion, would endure only so long as the wall of
Dakkar Grotto itself should endure. It was not even a question of
months, nor of weeks; but of days, it might be of hours.
The first sentiment which the colonists felt was that of profound
sorrow. They thought not so much of the peril which menaced themselves
personally, but of the destruction of the island which had sheltered
them, which they had cultivated, which they loved so well, and had hoped
to render so flourishing. So much effort ineffectually expended, so
much labour lost.
Pencroft could not prevent a large tear from rolling down his cheek, nor
did he attempt to conceal it.
Some further conversation now took place. The chances yet in favour of
the colonists were discussed; but finally it was agreed that there was
not an hour to be lost, that the building and fitting of the vessel
should be pushed forward with their utmost energy, and that this was the
sole chance of safety for the inhabitants of Lincoln Island.
All hands, therefore, set to work on the vessel. What could it now
avail to sow, to reap, to hunt, to increase the stores of Granite House?
The contents of the store-house and outbuildings contained more than
sufficient to provide the ship for a voyage, however long might be its
duration. But it was imperative that the ship should be ready to
receive them before the inevitable catastrophe should arrive.
Their labours were now carried on with feverish ardour. By the 23rd of
January the vessel was half-decked over. Up to this time no change had
taken place in the summit of the volcano. Vapour and smoke mingled with
flames and incandescent stones were thrown up from the crater. But
during the night of the 23rd, in consequence of the lava attaining the
level of the first stratum of the volcano, the hat-shaped cone which
formed over the latter disappeared. A frightful sound was heard. The
colonists at first thought the island was rent asunder, and rushed out
of Granite House.
This occurred about two o'clock in the morning.
The sky appeared on fire. The superior cone, a mass of rock a thousand
feet in height, and weighing thousands of millions of pounds, had been
thrown down upon the island, making it tremble to its foundation.
Fortunately, this cone inclined to the north, and had fallen upon the
plain of sand and tufa stretching between the volcano and the sea. The
aperture of the crater being thus enlarged projected towards the sky a
glare so intense that by the simple effect of reflection the atmosphere
appeared red-hot. At the same time a torrent of lava, bursting from the
new summit, poured out in long cascades, like water escaping from a vase
too full, and a thousand tongues of fire crept over the sides of the
"The corral! the corral!" exclaimed Ayrton.
It was, in fact, towards the corral that the lava was rushing, as the
new crater faced the east, and consequently the fertile portions of the
island, the springs of Red Creek and Jacamar Wood, were menaced with
At Ayrton's cry the colonists rushed to the onagas' stables. The cart
was at once harnessed. All were possessed by the same thought--to
hasten to the corral and set at liberty the animals it enclosed.
Before three in the morning they arrived at the corral. The cries of
the terrified musmons and goats indicated the alarm which possessed
them. Already a torrent of burning matter and liquefied minerals fell
from the side of the mountain upon the meadows as far as the side of the
palisade. The gate was burst open by Ayrton, and the animals,
bewildered with terror, fled in all directions.
An hour afterwards the boiling lava filled the corral, converting into
vapour the water of the little rivulet which ran through it, burning up
the house like dry grass, and leaving not even a post of the palisade to
mark the spot where the corral once stood.
To contend against this disaster would have been folly--nay, madness.
In presence of Nature's grand convulsions man is powerless.
It was now daylight--the 24th of January. Cyrus Harding and his
companions, before returning to Granite House, desired to ascertain the
probable direction this inundation of lava was about to take. The soil
sloped gradually from Mount Franklin to the east coast, and it was to be
feared that, in spite of the thick Jacamar Wood, the torrent would reach
the plateau of Prospect Heights.
"The lake will cover us," said Gideon Spilett.
"I hope so!" was Cyrus Harding's only reply.
The colonists were desirous of reaching the plain upon which the
superior cone of Mount Franklin had fallen, but the lava arrested their
progress. It had followed, on one side, the valley of Red Creek, and on
the other that of Falls River, evaporating those watercourses in its
passage. There was no possibility of crossing the torrent of lava; on
the contrary, the colonists were obliged to retreat before it. The
volcano, without its crown, was no longer recognisable, terminated as it
was by a sort of flat table which replaced the ancient crater. From two
openings in its southern and eastern sides an unceasing flow of lava
poured forth, thus forming two distinct streams. Above the new crater a
cloud of smoke and ashes, mingled with those of the atmosphere, massed
over the island. Loud peals of thunder broke, and could scarcely be
distinguished from the rumblings of the mountain, whose mouth vomited
forth ignited rocks, which, hurled to more than a thousand feet, burst
in the air like shells. Flashes of lightning rivalled in intensity the
Towards seven in the morning the position was no longer tenable by the
colonists, who accordingly took shelter in the borders of Jacamar Wood.
Not only did the projectiles begin to rain around them, but the lava,
overflowing the bed of Red Creek, threatened to cut off the road to the
corral. The nearest rows of trees caught fire, and their sap, suddenly
transformed into vapour, caused them to explode with loud reports,
whilst others, less moist, remained unhurt in the midst of the
The colonists had again taken the road to the corral. They proceeded
but slowly, frequently looking back; but, in consequence of the
inclination of the soil, the lava gained rapidly in the east, and as its
lower waves became solidified, others at boiling heat covered them
Meanwhile, the principal stream of Red Creek valley became more and more
menacing. All this portion of the forest was on fire, and enormous
wreaths of smoke rolled over the trees, whose trunks were already
consumed by the lava. The colonists halted near the lake, about half a
mile from the mouth of Red Creek. A question of life or death was now
to be decided.
Cyrus Harding, accustomed to the consideration of important crises, and
aware that he was addressing men capable of hearing the truth, whatever
it might be, then said--
"Either the lake will arrest the progress of the lava, and a part of the
island will be preserved from utter destruction, or the stream will
overrun the forests of the Far West, and not a tree or plant will remain
on the surface of the soil. We shall have no prospect but that of
starvation upon these barren rocks--a death which will probably be
anticipated by the explosion of the island."
"In that case," replied Pencroft, folding his arms and stamping his
foot, "what's the use of working any longer on the vessel?"
"Pencroft," answered Cyrus Harding, "we must do our duty to the last!"
At this instant the river of lava, after having broken a passage through
the noble trees it devoured in its course, reached the borders of the
lake. At this point there was an elevation of the soil which, had it
been greater, might have sufficed to arrest the torrent.
"To work!" cried Cyrus Harding.
The engineer's thought was at once understood. It might be possible to
dam, as it were, the torrent, and thus compel it to pour itself into the
The colonists hastened to the dockyard. They returned with shovels,
picks, axes, and by means of banking the earth with the aid of fallen
trees they succeeded in a few hours in raising an embankment three feet
high and some hundreds of paces in length. It seemed to them, when they
had finished, as if they had scarcely been working more than a few
It was not a moment too soon. The liquefied substances soon after
reached the bottom of the barrier. The stream of lava swelled like a
river about to overflow its banks, and threatened to demolish the sole
obstacle which could prevent it from overrunning the whole Far West.
But the dam held firm, and after a moment of terrible suspense the
torrent precipitated itself into Grant Lake from a height of twenty
The colonists, without moving or uttering a word, breathlessly regarded
this strife of the two elements.
What a spectacle was this conflict between water and fire! What pen
could describe the marvellous horror of this scene--what pencil could
depict it? The water hissed as it evaporated by contact with the
boiling lava. The vapour whirled in the air to an immeasurable height,
as if the valves of an immense boiler had been suddenly opened. But,
however considerable might be the volume of water contained in the lake,
it must eventually be absorbed, because it was not replenished, whilst
the stream of lava, fed from an inexhaustible source, rolled on without
ceasing new waves of incandescent matter.
The first waves of lava which fell in the lake immediately solidified,
and accumulated so as speedily to emerge from it. Upon their surface
fell other waves, which in their turn became stone, but a step nearer
the centre of the lake. In this manner was formed a pier which
threatened to gradually fill up the lake, which could not overflow, the
water displaced by the lava being evaporated. The hissing of the water
rent the air with a deafening sound, and the vapour, blown by the wind,
fell in rain upon the sea. The pier became longer and longer, and the
blocks of lava piled themselves one on another. Where formerly
stretched the calm waters of the lake now appeared an enormous mass of
smoking rocks, as if an upheaving of the soil had formed immense shoals.
Imagine the waters of the lake aroused by a hurricane, then suddenly
solidified by an intense frost, and some conception may be formed of the
aspect of the lake three hours after the irruption of this irresistible
torrent of lava.
This time water would be vanquished by fire.
Nevertheless it was a fortunate circumstance for the colonists that the
effusion of lava should have been in the direction of Lake Grant. They
had before them some days' respite. The plateau of Prospect Heights,
Granite House, and the dockyard were for the moment preserved. And
these few days it was necessary to employ them in planking, carefully
caulking the vessel, and launching her. The colonists would then take
refuge on board the vessel, content to rig her after she should be
afloat on the waters. With the danger of an explosion which threatened
to destroy the island there could be no security on shore. The walls of
Granite House, once so sure a retreat, might at any moment fall in upon
During the six following days, from the 25th to the 30th of January, the
colonists accomplished as much of the construction of their vessel as
twenty men could have done. They hardly allowed themselves a moment's
repose, and the glare of the flames which shot from the crater enabled
them to work night and day. The flow of lava continued, but perhaps
less abundantly. This was fortunate, for Lake Grant was almost entirely
choked up, and if more lava should accumulate it would inevitably spread
over the plateau of Prospect Heights, and thence upon the beach.
But if the island was thus partially protected on this side, it was not
so with the western part.
In fact, the second stream of lava, which had followed the valley of
Falls River, a valley of great extent, the land on both sides of the
creek being flat, met with no obstacle. The burning liquid had then
spread through the forest of the Far West. At this period of the year,
when the trees were dried up by a tropical heat, the forest caught fire
instantaneously, in such a manner that the conflagration extended itself
both by the trunks of the trees and by their higher branches, whose
interlacement favoured its progress. It even appeared that the current
of flame spread more rapidly among the summits of the trees than the
current of lava at their bases.
Thus it happened that the wild animals, jaguars, wild boars, cabybaras,
koulas, and game of every kind, mad with terror, had fled to the banks
of the Mercy and to the Tadorn Marsh, beyond the road to Port Balloon.
But the colonists were too much occupied with their task to pay any
attention to even the most formidable of these animals. They had
abandoned Granite House, and would not even take shelter at the
Chimneys, but encamped under a tent, near the mouth of the Mercy.
Each day Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett ascended the plateau of
Prospect Heights. Sometimes Herbert accompanied them, but never
Pencroft, who could not bear to look upon the prospect of the island now
so utterly devastated.
It was, in truth, a heartrending spectacle. All the wooded part of the
island was now completely bare. One single clump of green trees raised
their heads at the extremity of Serpentine Peninsula. Here and there
were a few grotesque blackened and branchless stumps. The site of the
devastated forest was even more barren than Tadorn Marsh. The irruption
of the lava had been complete. Where formerly sprang up that charming
verdure, the soil was now nothing but a savage mass of volcanic tufa.
In the valleys of the Falls and Mercy rivers no drop of water now flowed
towards the sea, and should Lake Grant be entirely dried up, the
colonists would have no means of quenching their thirst. But,
fortunately, the lava had spared the southern corner of the lake,
containing all that remained of the drinkable water of the island.
Towards the north-west stood out the rugged and well-defined outlines of
the sides of the volcano, like a gigantic claw hovering over the island.
What a sad and fearful sight, and how painful to the colonists, who,
from a fertile domain covered with forests, irrigated by watercourses,
and enriched by the produce of their toils, found themselves, as it
were, transported to a desolate rock, upon which, but for their reserves
of provisions, they could not even gather the means of subsistence!
"It is enough to break one's heart!" said Gideon Spilett, one day.
"Yes, Spilett," answered the engineer. "May God grant us the time to
complete this vessel, now our sole refuge!"
"Do not you think, Cyrus, that the violence of the eruption has somewhat
lessened? The volcano still vomits forth lava, but somewhat less
abundantly, if I mistake not."
"It matters little," answered Cyrus Harding. "The fire is still burning
in the interior of the mountain, and the sea may break in at any moment.
We are in the condition of passengers whose ship is devoured by a
conflagration which they cannot extinguish, and who know that sooner or
later the flames must reach the powder-magazine. To work, Spilett, to
work, and let us not lose an hour!"
During eight days more, that is to say until the 7th of February, the
lava continued to flow, but the eruption was confined within the
previous limits. Cyrus Harding feared above all lest the liquefied
matter should overflow the shore, for in that event the dockyard could
not escape. Moreover, about this time the colonists felt in the frame
of the island vibrations which alarmed them to the highest degree.
It was the 20th of February. Yet another month must elapse before the
vessel would be ready for sea. Would the island hold together till
then? The intention of Pencroft and Cyrus Harding was to launch the
vessel as soon as the hull should be complete. The deck, the
upper-works, the interior woodwork and the rigging, might be finished
afterwards, but the essential point was that the colonists should have
an assured refuge away from the island. Perhaps it might be even better
to conduct the vessel to Port Balloon, that is to say, as far as
possible from the centre of eruption, for at the mouth of the Mercy,
between the islet and the wall of granite, it would run the risk of
being crushed in the event of any convulsion. All the exertions of the
voyagers were therefore concentrated upon the completion of the hull.
Thus the 3rd of March arrived, and they might calculate upon launching
the vessel in ten days.
Hope revived in the hearts of the colonists, who had, in this fourth
year of their sojourn on Lincoln Island, suffered so many trials. Even
Pencroft lost in some measure the sombre taciturnity occasioned by the
devastation and ruin of his domain. His hopes, it is true, were
concentrated upon his vessel.
"We shall finish it," he said to the engineer, "we shall finish it,
captain, and it is time, for the season is advancing and the equinox
will soon be here. Well, if necessary, we must put in to Tabor Island
to spend the winter. But think of Tabor Island after Lincoln Island.
Ah, how unfortunate! Who could have believed it possible?"
"Let us get on," was the engineer's invariable reply.
And they worked away without losing a moment.
"Master," asked Neb, a few days later, "do you think all this could have
happened if Captain Nemo had been still alive?"
"Certainly, Neb," answered Cyrus Harding.
"I, for one, don't believe it!" whispered Pencroft to Neb.
"Nor I!" answered Neb seriously.
During the first week of March appearances again became menacing.
Thousands of threads like glass, formed of fluid lava, fell like rain
upon the island. The crater was again boiling with lava which
overflowed the back of the volcano. The torrent flowed along the
surface of the hardened tufa, and destroyed the few meagre skeletons of
trees which had withstood the first eruption. The stream flowing this
time towards the south-west shore of Lake Grant, stretched beyond Creek
Glycerine, and invaded the plateau of Prospect Heights. This last blow
to the work of the colonists was terrible. The mill, the buildings of
the inner court, the stables, were all destroyed. The affrighted
poultry fled in all directions. Top and Jup showed signs of the
greatest alarm, as if their instinct warned them of an impending
catastrophe. A large number of the animals of the island had perished
in the first eruption. Those which survived found no refuge but Tadorn
Marsh, save a few to which the plateau of Prospect Heights afforded an
asylum. But even this last retreat was now closed to them, and the
lava-torrent, flowing over the edge of the granite wall, began to pour
down upon the beach its cataracts of fire. The sublime horror of this
spectacle passed all description. During the night it could only be
compared to a Niagara of molten fluid, with its incandescent vapours
above and its boiling masses below.
The colonists were driven to their last entrenchment, and although the
upper seams of the vessel were not yet caulked, they decided to launch
her at once.
Pencroft and Ayrton therefore set about the necessary preparations for
the launch, which was to take place the morning of the next day, the 9th
But, during the night of the 8th an enormous column of vapour escaping
from the crater rose with frightful explosions to a height of more than
three thousand feet. The wall of Dakkar Grotto had evidently given way
under the pressure of the gases, and the sea, rushing through the
central shaft into the igneous gulf, was at once converted into vapour.
But the crater could not afford a sufficient outlet for this vapour. An
explosion, which might have been heard at a distance of a hundred miles,
shook the air. Fragments of mountains fell into the Pacific, and, in a
few minutes, the ocean rolled over the spot where Lincoln Island once
AN ISOLATED ROCK IN THE PACIFIC--THE LAST REFUGE OF THE COLONISTS OF
LINCOLN ISLAND--DEATH THEIR ONLY PROSPECT--UNEXPECTED SUCCOUR--WHY
HOW IT ARRIVES--A LAST KINDNESS--AN ISLAND ON TERRA FIRMA--THE TOMB OF
CAPTAIN PRINCE DAKKAR NEMO.
An isolated rock, thirty feet in length, twenty in breadth, scarcely ten
from the water's edge, such was the only solid point which the waves of
the Pacific had not engulfed.
It was all that remained of the structure of Granite House! The wall
had fallen headlong and been then shattered to fragments, and a few of
the rocks of the large room were piled one above another to form this
point. All around had disappeared in the abyss; the inferior cone of
Mount Franklin, rent asunder by the explosion; the lava jaws of Shark
Gulf, the plateau of Prospect Heights, Safety Islet, the granite rocks
of Port Balloon, the basalts of Dakkar Grotto, the long Serpentine
Peninsula, so distant nevertheless from the centre of the eruption. All
that could now be seen of Lincoln Island was the narrow rock which now
served as a refuge to the six colonists and their dog Top.
The animals had also perished in the catastrophe; the birds, as well as
those representing the fauna of the island--all either crushed or
drowned, and the unfortunate Jup himself had, alas! found his death in
some crevice of the soil.
If Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft, Neb, and Ayrton had
survived, it was because, assembled under their tent, they had been
hurled into the sea at the instant when the fragments of the island
rained down on every side.
When they reached the surface they could only perceive, at half a
cable's length, this mass of rocks, towards which they swam and on which
they found footing.
On this barren rock they had now existed for nine days. A few
provisions taken from the magazine of Granite House before the
catastrophe, a little fresh water from the rain which had fallen in a
hollow of the rock, was all that the unfortunate colonists possessed.
Their last hope, the vessel, had been shattered to pieces. They had no
means of quitting the reef; no fire, nor any means of obtaining it. It
seemed that they must inevitably perish.
This day, the 18th of March, there remained only provisions for two
days, although they limited their consumption to the bare necessaries of
life. All their science and intelligence could avail them nothing in
their present position. They were in the hand of God.
Cyrus Harding was calm, Gideon Spilett more nervous, and Pencroft, a
prey to sullen anger, walked to and fro on the rock. Herbert did not
for a moment quit the engineer's side as if demanding from him that
assistance he had no power to give. Neb and Ayrton were resigned to
"Ah, what a misfortune! what a misfortune!" often repeated Pencroft.
"If we had but a walnut-shell to take us to Tabor Island! But we have
"Captain Nemo did right to die," said Neb.
During the five ensuing days Cyrus Harding and his unfortunate
companions husbanded their provisions with the most extreme care, eating
only what would prevent them from succumbing to starvation. Their
weakness was extreme. Herbert and Neb began to show symptoms of
Under these circumstances was it possible for them to retain even the
shadow of a hope? No! What was their sole remaining chance? That a
vessel should appear in sight off the rock? But they knew only too well
from experience that no ships ever visited this part of the Pacific.
Could they calculate that, by a truly providential coincidence, the
Scotch yacht would arrive precisely at this time in search of Ayrton at
Tabor Island? It was scarcely probable; and, besides, supposing she
should come there, as the colonists had not been able to deposit a
notice pointing out Ayrton's change of abode, the commander of the
yacht, after having explored Tabor Island without result, would again
set sail and return to lower latitudes.
No! no hope of being saved could be retained, and a horrible death,
death from hunger and thirst, awaited them upon this rock.
Already they were stretched on the rock, inanimate, and no longer
conscious of what passed around them. Ayrton alone, by a supreme
effort, from time to time raised his head, and cast a despairing glance
over the desert ocean.
But on the morning of the 24th of March Ayrton's arms were extended
towards a point in the horizon; he raised himself, at first on his
knees, then upright, and his hand seemed to make a signal.
A sail was in sight off the rock. She was evidently not without an
object. The reef was the mark for which she was making in a direct
line, under all steam, and the unfortunate colonists might have made her
out some hours before if they had had the strength to watch the horizon.
"The Duncan!" murmured Ayrton--and fell back without sign of life.
When Cyrus Harding and his companions recovered consciousness, thanks to
the attention lavished upon them, they found themselves in the cabin of
a steamer, without being able to comprehend how they had escaped death.
A word from Ayrton explained everything.
"The Duncan!" he murmured.
"The Duncan!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding. And raising his hand to
Heaven, he said, "Oh! Almighty God! mercifully hast Thou preserved us!"
It was, in fact, the Duncan, Lord Glenarvan's yacht, now commanded by
Robert, son of Captain Grant, who had been despatched to Tabor Island to
find Ayrton, and bring him back to his native land after twelve years of
The colonists were not only saved, but already on the way to their
"Captain Grant," asked Cyrus Harding, "who can have suggested to you the
idea, after having left Tabor Island, where you did not find Ayrton, of
coming a hundred miles farther north-east?"
"Captain Harding," replied Robert Grant, "it was in order to find, not
only Ayrton, but yourself and your companions."
"My companions and myself?"
"Doubtless, at Lincoln Island."
"At Lincoln Island!" exclaimed in a breath Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb,
and Pencroft, in the highest degree astonished.
"How could you be aware of the existence of Lincoln Island?" inquired
Cyrus Harding, "it is not even named in the charts."
"I knew of it from a document left by you on Tabor Island," answered
"A document?" cried Gideon Spilett.
"Without doubt, and here it is," answered Robert Grant, producing a
paper which indicated the longitude and latitude of Lincoln Island, "the
present residence of Ayrton and five American colonists."
"It is Captain Nemo!" cried Cyrus Harding, after having read the notice,
and recognised that the handwriting was similar to that of the paper
found at the corral.
"Ah!" said Pencroft, "it was then he who took our Bonadventure and
hazarded himself alone to go to Tabor Island!"
"In order to leave this notice," added Herbert.
"I was then right in saying," exclaimed the sailor, "that even after his
death the captain would render us a last service."
"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, in a voice of the profoundest emotion,
"may the God of mercy have had pity on the soul of Captain Nemo, our
The colonists uncovered themselves at these last words of Cyrus Harding,
and murmured the name of Captain Nemo.
Then Ayrton, approaching the engineer, said simply, "Where should this
coffer be deposited?"
It was the coffer which Ayrton had saved at the risk of his life, at the
very instant that the island had been engulfed, and which he now
faithfully handed to the engineer.
"Ayrton! Ayrton!" said Cyrus Harding, deeply touched. Then, addressing
Robert Grant, "Sir," he added, "you left behind you a criminal; you find
in his place a man who has become honest by penitence, and whose hand I
am proud to clasp in mine."
Robert Grant was now made acquainted with the strange history of Captain
Nemo and the colonists of Lincoln Island. Then, observations being
taken of what remained of this shoal, which must henceforward figure on
the charts of the Pacific, the order was given to make all sail.
A few weeks afterwards the colonists landed in America, and found their
country once more at peace after the terrible conflict in which right
and justice had triumphed.
Of the treasures contained in the coffer left by Captain Nemo to the
colonists of Lincoln Island, the larger portion was employed in the
purchase of a vast territory in the State of Iowa. One pearl alone, the
finest, was reserved from the treasure and sent to Lady Glenarvan in the
name of the castaways restored to their country by the Duncan.
There, upon this domain, the colonists invited to labour, that is to
say, to wealth and happiness, all those to whom they had hoped to offer
the hospitality of Lincoln Island. There was founded a vast colony to
which they gave the name of that island sunk beneath the waters of the
Pacific. A river was there called the Mercy, a mountain took the name
of Mount Franklin, a small lake was named Lake Grant, and the forests
became the forests of the Far West. It might have been an island on
There, under the intelligent hands of the engineer and his companions,
everything prospered. Not one of the former colonists of Lincoln Island
was absent, for they had sworn to live always together. Neb was with
his master; Ayrton was there ready to sacrifice himself for all;
Pencroft was more a farmer than he had even been a sailor; Herbert, who
completed his studies under the superintendence of Cyrus Harding; and
Gideon Spilett, who founded the New Lincoln Herald, the best-informed
journal in the world.
There Cyrus Harding and his companions received at intervals visits from
Lord and Lady Glenarvan, Captain John Mangles and his wife, the sister
of Robert Grant, Robert Grant himself, Major McNab, and all those who
had taken part in the history both of Captain Grant and Captain Nemo.
There, to conclude, all were happy, united in the present as they had
been in the past; but never could they forget that island upon which
they had arrived poor and friendless, that island which, during four
years, had supplied all their wants, and of which there remained but a
fragment of granite washed by the waves of the Pacific, the tomb of him
who had borne the name of Captain Nemo.