"The Mysterious Island"
The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Illustrated By N.C Wyeth
PART 2 - ABANDONED
It was now exactly seven months since the balloon voyagers had been thrown on Lincoln Island. During that time, notwithstanding the researches
they had made, no human being had been discovered. No smoke even had betrayed the presence of man on the surface of the island. No vestiges of his
handiwork showed that either at an early or at a late period had man lived there. Not only did it now appear to be uninhabited by any but themselves,
but the colonists were compelled to believe that it never had been inhabited. And now, all this scaffolding of reasonings fell before a simple ball of
metal, found in the body of an inoffensive rodent! In fact, this bullet must have issued from a firearm, and who but a human being could have used
such a weapon?
When Pencroft had placed the bullet on the table, his companions looked at it with intense astonishment. All the consequences likely to result
from this incident, notwithstanding its apparent insignificance, immediately took possession of their minds. The sudden apparition of a supernatural
being could not have startled them more completely.
Cyrus Harding did not hesitate to give utterance to the suggestions which this fact, at once surprising and unexpected, could not fail to raise in
his mind. He took the bullet, turned it over and over, rolled it between his finger and thumb; then, turning to Pencroft, he asked,--
Are you sure that the peccary wounded by this bullet was not more than three months old?"
"Not more, captain," replied Pencroft. "It was still sucking its mother when I found it in the trap."
"Well," said the engineer, "that proves that within three months a gun- shot was fired in Lincoln Island."
"And that a bullet," added Gideon Spilett, "wounded, though not mortally, this little animal."
"That is unquestionable," said Cyrus Harding, "and these are the deductions which must be drawn from this incident: that the island was inhabited
before our arrival, or that men have landed here within three months. Did these men arrive here voluntarily or involuntarily, by disembarking on the
shore or by being wrecked? This point can only be cleared up later. As to what they were, Europeans or Malays, enemies or friends of our race, we
cannot possibly guess; and if they still inhabit the island, or if they have left it, we know not. But these questions are of too much importance to
be allowed to remain long unsettled."
"No! a hundred times no! a thousand times no!" cried the sailor, springing up from the table. "There are no other men than ourselves on Lincoln
Island! By my faith! The island isn't large and if it had been inhabited, we should have seen some of the inhabitants long before this!"
"In fact, the contrary would be very astonishing," said Herbert.
"But it would be much more astonishing, I should think, observed the reporter, "if this peccary had been born with a bullet in its inside!"
"At least," said Neb seriously, "if Pencroft has not had--"
"Look here, Neb," burst out Pencroft. "Do you think I could have a bullet in my jaw for five or six months without finding it out? Where could it
be hidden?" he asked, opening his mouth to show the two-and-thirty teeth with which it was furnished. "Look well, Neb, and if you find one hollow
tooth in this set, I will let you pull out half a dozen!"
"Neb's supposition is certainly inadmissible," replied Harding, who, notwithstanding the gravity of his thoughts, could not restrain a smile. "It
is certain that a gun has been fired in the island, within three months at most. But I am inclined to think that the people who landed on this coast
were only here a very short time ago, or that they just touched here; for if, when we surveyed the island from the summit of Mount Franklin, it had
been inhabited, we should have seen them or we should have been seen ourselves. It is therefore, probable that within only a few weeks castaways have
been thrown by a storm on some part of the coast. However that may be, it is of consequence to us to have this point settled."
"I think that we should act with caution," said the reporter.
"Such is my advice," replied Cyrus Harding, "for it is to be feared that Malay pirates have landed on the island!"
"Captain," asked the sailor, "would it not be a good plan, before setting out, to build a canoe in which we could either ascend the river, or, if
we liked, coast round the inland? It will not do to be unprovided."
"Your idea is good, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "but we cannot wait for that. It would take at least a month to build a boat."
"Yes, a real boat," replied the sailor; "but we do not want one for a sea voyage, and in five days at the most, I will undertake to construct a
canoe fit to navigate the Mercy."
"Five days," cried Neb, "to build a boat?"
"Yes, Neb; a boat in the Indian fashion."
"Of wood?" asked the Negro, looking still unconvinced.
"Of wood," replied Pencroft, "of rather of bark. I repeat, captain, that in five days the work will be finished!"
"In five days, then, be it," replied the engineer.
"But till that time we must be very watchful," said Herbert.
"Very watchful indeed, my friends," replied Harding; "and I beg you to confine your hunting excursions to the neighborhood of Granite House."
The dinner ended less gaily than Pencroft had hoped.
So, then, the island was, or had been, inhabited by others than the settlers. Proved as it was by the incident of the bullet, it was hereafter an
unquestionable fact, and such a discovery could not but cause great uneasiness among the colonists.
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett, before sleeping, conversed long about the matter. They asked themselves if by chance this incident might not
have some connection with the inexplicable way in which the engineer had been saved, and the other peculiar circumstances which had struck them at
different times. However, Cyrus Harding, after having discussed the pros and cons of the question, ended by saying,--
"In short, would you like to know my opinion, my dear Spilett?"
"Well, then, it is this: however minutely we explore the island, we shall find nothing."
The next day Pencroft set to work. He did not mean to build a boat with boards and planking, but simply a flat-bottomed canoe, which would be well
suited for navigating the Mercy--above all, for approaching its source, where the water would naturally be shallow. Pieces of bark, fastened one to
the other, would form a light boat; and in case of natural obstacles, which would render a portage necessary, it would be easily carried. Pencroft
intended to secure the pieces of bark by means of nails, to insure the canoe being water-tight.
It was first necessary to select the trees which would afford a strong and supple bark for the work. Now the last storm had brought down a number
of large birch-trees, the bark of which would be perfectly suited for their purpose. Some of these trees lay on the ground, and they had only to be
barked, which was the most difficult thing of all, owing to the imperfect tools which the settlers possessed. However, they overcame all difficulties.
While the sailor, seconded by the engineer, thus occupied himself without losing an hour, Gideon Spilett and Herbert were not idle.
They were made purveyors to the colony. The reporter could not but admire the boy, who had acquired great skill in handling the bow and spear.
Herbert also showed great courage and much of that presence of mind which may justly be called "the reasoning of bravery." These two companions of the
chase, remembering Cyrus Harding's recommendations, did not go beyond a radius of two miles round Granite House; but the borders of the forest
furnished a sufficient tribute of agoutis, capybaras, kangaroos, peccaries, etc.; and if the result from the traps was less than during the cold,
still the warren yielded its accustomed quota, which might have fed all the colony in Lincoln Island.
Often during these excursions, Herbert talked with Gideon Spilett on the incident of the bullet, and the deductions which the engineer drew from
it, and one day--it was the 26th of October--he said--"But, Mr. Spilett, do you not think it very extraordinary that, if any castaways have landed on
the island, they have not yet shown themselves near Granite House?"
"Very astonishing if they are still here," replied the reporter, "but not astonishing at all if they are here no longer!"
"So you think that these people have already quitted the island?" returned Herbert.
"It is more than probable, my boy; for if their stay was prolonged, and above all, if they were still here, some accident would have at last
betrayed their presence."
"But if they were able to go away," observed the lad, "they could not have been castaways."
"No, Herbert; or, at least, they were what might be called provisional castaways. It is very possible that a storm may have driven them to the
island without destroying their vessel, and that, the storm over, they went away again."
"I must acknowledge one thing," said Herbert, "it is that Captain Harding appears rather to fear than desire the presence of human beings on our
"In short," responded the reporter, "there are only Malays who frequent these seas, and those fellows are ruffians which it is best to avoid."
"It is not impossible, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert, "that some day or other we may find traces of their landing."
"I do not say no, my boy. A deserted camp, the ashes of a fire, would put us on the track, and this is what we will look for in our next
The day on which the hunters spoke thus, they were in a part of the forest near the Mercy, remarkable for its beautiful trees. There, among
others, rose, to a height of nearly 200 feet above the ground, some of those superb coniferae, to which, in New Zealand, the natives give the name of
"I have an idea, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert. "If I were to climb to the top of one of these kauris, I could survey the country for an immense
"The idea is good," replied the reporter; "but could you climb to the top of those giants?"
"I can at least try," replied Herbert.
The light and active boy then sprang on the first branches, the arrangement of which made the ascent of the kauri easy, and in a few minutes he
arrived at the summit, which emerged from the immense plain of verdure.
From this elevated situation his gaze extended over all the southern portion of the island, from Claw Cape on the southeast, to Reptile End on the
southwest. To the northwest rose Mount Franklin, which concealed a great part of the horizon.
But Herbert, from the height of his observatory, could examine all the yet unknown portion of the island, which might have given shelter to the
strangers whose presence they suspected.
The lad looked attentively. There was nothing in sight on the sea, not a sail, neither on the horizon nor near the island. However, as the bank of
trees hid the shore, it was possible that a vessel, especially if deprived of her masts, might lie close to the land and thus be invisible to Herbert.
Neither in the forests of the Far West was anything to be seen. The wood formed an impenetrable screen, measuring several square miles, without a
break or an opening. It was impossible even to follow the course of the Mercy, or to ascertain in what part of the mountain it took its source.
Perhaps other creeks also ran towards the west, but they could not be seen.
But at last, if all indication of an encampment escaped Herbert's sight could he not even catch a glimpse of smoke, the faintest trace of which
would be easily discernible in the pure atmosphere?
For an instant Herbert thought he could perceive a slight smoke in the west, but a more attentive examination showed that he was mistaken. He
strained his eyes in every direction, and his sight was excellent. No, decidedly there was nothing there.
Herbert descended to the foot of the kauri, and the two sportsmen returned to Granite House. There Cyrus Harding listened to the lad's account,
shook his head and said nothing. It was very evident that no decided opinion could be pronounced on this question until after a complete exploration
of the island.
Two days after--the 28th of October--another incident occurred, for which an explanation was again required.
While strolling along the shore about two miles from Granite House, Herbert and Neb were fortunate enough to capture a magnificent specimen of the
order of chelonia. It was a turtle of the species Midas, the edible green turtle, so called from the color both of its shell and fat.
Herbert caught sight of this turtle as it was crawling among the rocks to reach the sea.
"Help, Neb, help!" he cried.
Neb ran up.
"What a fine animal!" said Neb; "but how are we to catch it?"
"Nothing is easier, Neb," replied Herbert. "We have only to turn the turtle on its back, and it cannot possibly get away. Take your spear and do
as I do."
The reptile, aware of danger, had retired between its carapace and plastron. They no longer saw its head or feet, and it was motionless as a rock.
Herbert and Neb then drove their sticks underneath the animal, and by their united efforts managed without difficulty to turn it on its back. The
turtle, which was three feet in length, would have weighed at least four hundred pounds.
"Capital!" cried Neb; "this is something which will rejoice friend Pencroft's heart."
In fact, the heart of friend Pencroft could not fail to be rejoiced, for the flesh of the turtle, which feeds on wrack-grass, is extremely savory.
At this moment the creature's head could be seen, which was small, flat, but widened behind by the large temporal fossae hidden under the long roof.
"And now, what shall we do with our prize?" said Neb. "We can't drag it to Granite House!"
"Leave it here, since it cannot turn over," replied Herbert, "and we will come back with the cart to fetch it."
"That is the best plan."
However, for greater precaution, Herbert took the trouble, which Neb deemed superfluous, to wedge up the animal with great stones; after which the
two hunters returned to Granite House, following the beach, which the tide had left uncovered. Herbert, wishing to surprise Pencroft, said nothing
about the "superb specimen of a chelonian" which they had turned over on the sand; but, two hours later, he and Neb returned with the cart to the
place where they had left it. The "superb specimen of a chelonian" was no longer there!
Neb and Herbert stared at each other first; then they stared about them. It was just at this spot that the turtle had been left. The lad even
found the stones which he had used, and therefore he was certain of not being mistaken.
"Well!" said Neb, "these beasts can turn themselves over, then?''
"It appears so," replied Herbert, who could not understand it at all, and was gazing at the stones scattered on the sand.
"Well, Pencroft will be disgusted!"
"And Captain Harding will perhaps be very perplexed how to explain this disappearance," thought Herbert.
"Look here," said Neb, who wished to hide his ill-luck, "we won't speak about it."
"On the contrary, Neb, we must speak about it," replied Herbert.
And the two, taking the cart, which there was now no use for, returned to Granite House.
Arrived at the dockyard, where the engineer and the sailor were working together, Herbert recounted what had happened.
"Oh! the stupids!" cried the sailor, "to have let at least fifty meals escape!"
"But, Pencroft," replied Neb, "it wasn't our fault that the beast got away; as I tell you, we had turned it over on its back!"
"Then you didn't turn it over enough!" returned the obstinate sailor.
"Not enough!" cried Herbert.
And he told how he had taken care to wedge up the turtle with stones.
"It is a miracle, then!" replied Pencroft.
"I thought, captain," said Herbert, "that turtles, once placed on their backs, could not regain their feet, especially when they are of a large
"That is true, my boy," replied Cyrus Harding.
"Then how did it manage?"
"At what distance from the sea did you leave this turtle?" asked the engineer, who, having suspended his work, was reflecting on this incident.
"Fifteen feet at the most," replied Herbert.
"And the tide was low at the time?"
"Well," replied the engineer, "what the turtle could not do on the sand it might have been able to do in the water. It turned over when the tide
overtook it, and then quietly returned to the deep sea."
"Oh! what stupids we were!" cried Neb.
"That is precisely what I had the honor of telling you before!" returned the sailor.
Cyrus Harding had given this explanation, which, no doubt, was admissible. But was he himself convinced of the accuracy of this explanation? It
cannot be said that he was.
On the 9th of October the bark canoe was entirely finished. Pencroft had kept his promise, and a light boat, the shell of which was joined
together by the flexible twigs of the crejimba, had been constructed in five days. A seat in the stern, a second seat in the middle to preserve the
equilibrium, a third seat in the bows, rowlocks for the two oars, a scull to steer with, completed the little craft, which was twelve feet long, and
did not weigh more than two hundred pounds. The operation of launching it was extremely simple. The canoe was carried to the beach and laid on the
sand before Granite House, and the rising tide floated it. Pencroft, who leaped in directly, maneuvered it with the scull and declared it to be just
the thing for the purpose to which they wished to put it.
"Hurrah!" cried the sailor, who did not disdain to celebrate thus his own triumph. "With this we could go round--"
"The world?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"No, the island. Some stones for ballast, a mast and a sail, which the captain will make for us some day, and we shall go splendidly! Well,
captain--and you, Mr. Spilett; and you, Herbert; and you, Neb--aren't you coming to try our new vessel? Come along! we must see if it will carry all
five of us!"
This was certainly a trial which ought to be made. Pencroft soon brought the canoe to the shore by a narrow passage among the rocks, and it was
agreed that they should make a trial of the boat that day by following the shore as far as the first point at which the rocks of the south ended.
As they embarked, Neb cried,--
"But your boat leaks rather, Pencroft."
"That's nothing, Neb," replied the sailor; "the wood will get seasoned. In two days there won't be a single leak, and our boat will have no more
water in her than there is in the stomach of a drunkard. Jump in!"
They were soon all seated, and Pencroft shoved off. The weather was magnificent, the sea as calm as if its waters were contained within the narrow
limits of a lake. Thus the boat could proceed with as much security as if it was ascending the tranquil current of the Mercy.
Neb took one of the oars, Herbert the other, and Pencroft remained in the stern in order to use the scull.
The sailor first crossed the channel, and steered close to the southern point of the islet. A light breeze blew from the south. No roughness was
found either in the channel or the green sea. A long swell, which the canoe scarcely felt, as it was heavily laden, rolled regularly over the surface
of the water. They pulled out about half a mile distant from the shore, that they might have a good view of Mount Franklin.
Pencroft afterwards returned towards the mouth of the river. The boat then skirted the shore, which, extending to the extreme point, hid all
This point, of which the distance was increased by the irregularity of the coast, was nearly three miles from the Mercy. The settlers resolved to
go to its extremity, and only go beyond it as much as was necessary to take a rapid survey of the coast as far as Claw Cape.
The canoe followed the windings of the shore, avoiding the rocks which fringed it, and which the rising tide began to cover. The cliff gradually
sloped away from the mouth of the river to the point. This was formed of granite reeks, capriciously distributed, very different from the cliff at
Prospect Heights, and of an extremely wild aspect. It might have been said that an immense cartload of rocks had been emptied out there. There was no
vegetation on this sharp promontory, which projected two miles from the forest, and it thus represented a giant's arm stretched out from a leafy
The canoe, impelled by the two oars, advanced without difficulty. Gideon Spilett, pencil in one hand and notebook in the other, sketched the coast
in bold strokes. Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft chatted, while examining this part of their domain, which was new to them, and, in proportion as the canoe
proceeded towards the south, the two Mandible Capes appeared to move, and surround Union Bay more closely.
As to Cyrus Harding, he did not speak; he simply gazed, and by the mistrust which his look expressed, it appeared that he was examining some
In the meantime, after a voyage of three-quarters of an hour, the canoe reached the extremity of the point, and Pencroft was preparing to return,
when Herbert, rising, pointed to a black object, saying,--
"What do I see down there on the beach?"
All eyes turned towards the point indicated.
"Why," said the reporter, "there is something. It looks like part of a wreck half buried in the sand."
"Ah!" cried Pencroft, "I see what it is!"
"What?" asked Neb.
"Barrels, barrels, which perhaps are full," replied the sailor.
"Pull to the shore, Pencroft!" said Cyrus.
A few strokes of the oar brought the canoe into a little creek, and its passengers leaped on shore.
Pencroft was not mistaken. Two barrels were there, half buried in the sand, but still firmly attached to a large chest, which, sustained by them,
had floated to the moment when it stranded on the beach.
"There has been a wreck, then, in some part of the island," said Herbert.
"Evidently," replied Spilett.
"But what's in this chest?" cried Pencroft, with very natural impatience. "What's in this chest? It is shut up, and nothing to open it with! Well,
perhaps a stone--"
And the sailor, raising a heavy block, was about to break in one of the sides of the chest, when the engineer arrested his hand.
"Pencroft," said he, "can you restrain your impatience for one hour only?"
But, captain, just think! Perhaps there is everything we want in there!"
"We shall find that out, Pencroft," replied the engineer; "but trust to me, and do not break the chest, which may be useful to us. We must convey
it to Granite House, where we can open it easily, and without breaking it. It is quite prepared for a voyage; and since it has floated here, it may
just as well float to the mouth of the river."
"You are right, captain, and I was wrong, as usual," replied the sailor.
The engineer's advice was good. In fact, the canoe probably would not have been able to contain the articles possibly enclosed in the chest, which
doubtless was heavy, since two empty barrels were required to buoy it up. It was, therefore, much better to tow it to the beach at Granite House.
And now, whence had this chest come? That was the important question. Cyrus Harding and his companions looked attentively around them, and
examined the shore for several hundred steps. No other articles or pieces of wreck could be found. Herbert and Neb climbed a high rock to survey the
sea, but there was nothing in sight--neither a dismasted vessel nor a ship under sail.
However, there was no doubt that there had been a wreck. Perhaps this incident was connected with that of the bullet? Perhaps strangers had landed
on another part of the island? Perhaps they were still there? But the thought which came naturally to the settlers was, that these strangers could not
be Malay pirates, for the chest was evidently of American or European make.
All the party returned to the chest, which was of an unusually large size. It was made of oak wood, very carefully closed and covered with a thick
hide, which was secured by copper nails. The two great barrels, hermetically sealed, but which sounded hollow and empty, were fastened to its sides by
strong ropes, knotted with a skill which Pencroft directly pronounced sailors alone could exhibit. It appeared to be in a perfect state of
preservation, which was explained by the fact that it had stranded on a sandy beach, and not among rocks. They had no doubt whatever, on examining it
carefully, that it had not been long in the water, and that its arrival on this coast was recent. The water did not appear to have penetrated to the
inside, and the articles which it contained were no doubt uninjured.
It was evident that this chest had been thrown overboard from some dismasted vessel driven towards the island, and that, in the hope that it would
reach the land, where they might afterwards find it, the passengers had taken the precaution to buoy it up by means of this floating apparatus.
"We will tow this chest to Granite House," said the engineer, "where we can make an inventory of its contents; then, if we discover any of the
survivors from the supposed wreck, we can return it to those to whom it belongs. If we find no one--"
"We will keep it for ourselves!" cried Pencroft. "But what in the world can there be in it?"
The sea was already approaching the chest, and the high tide would evidently float it. One of the ropes which fastened the barrels was partly
unlashed and used as a cable to unite the floating apparatus with the canoe. Pencroft and Neb then dug away the sand with their oars, so as to
facilitate the moving of the chest, towing which the boat soon began to double the point, to which the name of Flotsam Point was given.
The chest was heavy, and the barrels were scarcely sufficient to keep it above water. The sailor also feared every instant that it would get loose
and sink to the bottom of the sea. But happily his fears were not realized, and an hour and a half after they set out--all that time had been taken up
in going a distance of three miles--the boat touched the beach below Granite House.
Canoe and chest were then hauled up on the sands; and as the tide was then going out, they were soon left high and dry. Neb, hurrying home,
brought back some tools with which to open the chest in such a way that it might be injured as little as possible, and they proceeded to its
inventory. Pencroft did not try to hide that he was greatly excited.
The sailor began by detaching the two barrels, which, being in good condition, would of course be of use. Then the locks were forced with a cold
chisel and hammer, and the lid thrown back. A second casing of zinc lined the interior of the chest, which had been evidently arranged that the
articles which it enclosed might under any circumstances be sheltered from damp.
"Oh!" cried Neb, "suppose it's jam!
"I hope not," replied the reporter.
"If only there was--" said the sailor in a low voice.
"What?" asked Neb, who overheard him.
The covering of zinc was torn off and thrown back over the sides of the chest, and by degrees numerous articles of very varied character were
produced and strewn about on the sand. At each new object Pencroft uttered fresh hurrahs, Herbert clapped his hands, and Neb danced up and down. There
were books which made Herbert wild with joy, and cooking utensils which Neb covered with kisses!
In short, the colonists had reason to be extremely satisfied, for this chest contained tools, weapons, instruments, clothes, books; and this is
the exact list of them as stated in Gideon Spilett's note-book:
--Tools:--3 knives with several blades, 2 woodmen's axes, 2 carpenter's hatchets, 3 planes, 2 adzes, 1 twibil or mattock, 6 chisels, 2 files, 3
hammers, 3 gimlets, 2 augers, 10 bags of nails and screws, 3 saws of different sizes, 2 boxes of needles.
Weapons:--2 flint-lock guns, 2 for percussion caps, 2 breach-loader carbines, 5 boarding cutlasses, 4 sabers, 2 barrels of powder, each containing
twenty-five pounds; 12 boxes of percussion caps.
Instruments:--1 sextant, 1 double opera-glass, 1 telescope, 1 box of mathematical instruments, 1 mariner's compass, 1 Fahrenheit thermometer, 1
aneroid barometer, 1 box containing a photographic apparatus, object-glass, plates, chemicals, etc.
Clothes:-2 dozen shirts of a peculiar material resembling wool, but evidently of a vegetable origin; 3 dozen stockings of the same material.
Utensils:-1 iron pot, 6 copper saucepans, 3 iron dishes, 10 metal plates, 2 kettles, 1 portable stove, 6 table-knives,
Books:-1 Bible, 1 atlas, 1 dictionary of the different Polynesian idioms, 1 dictionary of natural science, in six volumes; 3 reams of white paper,
2 books with blank pages.
"It must be allowed," said the reporter, after the inventory had been made, "that the owner of this chest was a practical man! Tools, weapons,
instruments, clothes, utensils, books--nothing is wanting! It might really be said that he expected to be wrecked, and had prepared for it
"Nothing is wanting, indeed," murmured Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.
"And for a certainty," added Herbert, "the vessel which carried this chest and its owner was not a Malay pirate!"
"Unless," said Pencroft, "the owner had been taken prisoner by pirates--"
"That is not admissible," replied the reporter. "It is more probable that an American or European vessel has been driven into this quarter, and
that her passengers, wishing to save necessaries at least, prepared this chest and threw it overboard."
"Is that your opinion, captain?" asked Herbert.
"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer, "that may have been the case. It is possible that at the moment, or in expectation of a wreck, they collected
into this chest different articles of the greatest use in hopes of finding it again on the coast--"
"Even the photographic box!" exclaimed the sailor incredulously.
"As to that apparatus," replied Harding, "I do not quite see the use of it; and a more complete supply of clothes or more abundant ammunition
would have been more valuable to us as well as to any other castaways!"
"But isn't there any mark or direction on these instruments, tools, or books, which would tell us something about them?" asked Gideon Spilett.
That might be ascertained. Each article was carefully examined, especially the books, instruments and weapons. Neither the weapons nor the
instruments, contrary to the usual custom, bore the name of the maker; they were, besides, in a perfect state, and did not appear to have been used.
The same peculiarity marked the tools and utensils; all were new, which proved that the articles had not been taken by chance and thrown into the
chest, but, on the contrary, that the choice of things had been well considered and arranged with care. This was also indicated by the second case of
metal which had preserved them from damp, and which could not have been soldered in a moment of haste.
As to the dictionaries of natural science and Polynesian idioms, both were English; but they neither bore the name of the publisher nor the date
The same with the Bible printed in English, in quarto, remarkable from a typographic point of view, and which appeared to have been often used.
The atlas was a magnificent work, comprising maps of every country in the world, and several planispheres arranged upon Mercator's projection, and
of which the nomenclature was in French--but which also bore neither date nor name of publisher.
There was nothing, therefore, on these different articles by which they could be traced, and nothing consequently of a nature to show the
nationality of the vessel which must have recently passed these shores.
But, wherever the chest might have come from, it was a treasure to the settlers on Lincoln Island. Till then, by making use of the productions of
nature, they had created everything for themselves, and, thanks to their intelligence, they had managed without difficulty. But did it not appear as
if Providence had wished to reward them by sending them these productions of human industry? Their thanks rose unanimously to Heaven.
However, one of them was not quite satisfied: it was Pencroft. It appeared that the chest did not contain something which he evidently held in
great esteem, for in proportion as they approached the bottom of the box, his hurrahs diminished in heartiness, and, the inventory finished, he was
heard to mutter these words:--"That's all very fine, but you can see that there is nothing for me in that box!"
This led Neb to say,--
"Why, friend Pencroft, what more do you expect?"
"Half a pound of tobacco," replied Pencroft seriously, "and nothing would have been wanting to complete my happiness!"
No one could help laughing at this speech of the sailor's.
But the result of this discovery of the chest was, that it was now more than ever necessary to explore the island thoroughly. It was therefore
agreed that the next morning at break of day, they should set out, by ascending the Mercy so as to reach the western shore. If any castaways had
landed on the coast, it was to be feared they were without resources, and it was therefore the more necessary to carry help to them without delay.
During the day the different articles were carried to Granite House, where they were methodically arranged in the great hall. This day--the 29th
of October--happened to be a Sunday, and, before going to bed, Herbert asked the engineer if he would not read them something from the Gospel.
"Willingly," replied Cyrus Harding.
He took the sacred volume, and was about to open it, when Pencroft stopped him, saying,--"Captain, I am superstitious. Open at random and read the
first verse which, your eye falls upon. We will see if it applies to our situation."
Cyrus Harding smiled at the sailor's idea, and, yielding to his wish, he opened exactly at a place where the leaves were separated by a marker.
Immediately his eyes were attracted by a cross which, made with a pencil, was placed against the eighth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel
of St. Matthew. He read the verse, which was this:--
"For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth."
The discovery of the chest
The next day, the 30th of October, all was ready for the proposed exploring expedition, which recent events had rendered so necessary. In fact,
things had so come about that the settlers in Lincoln Island no longer needed help for themselves, but were even able to carry it to others.
It was therefore agreed that they should ascend the Mercy as far as the river was navigable. A great part of the distance would thus be traversed
without fatigue, and the explorers could transport their provisions and arms to an advanced point in the west of the island.
It was necessary to think not only of the things which they should take with them, but also of those which they might have by chance to bring back
to Granite House. If there had been a wreck on the coast, as was supposed, there would be many things cast up, which would be lawfully their prizes.
In the event of this, the cart would have been of more use than the light canoe, but it was heavy and clumsy to drag, and therefore more difficult to
use; this led Pencroft to express his regret that the chest had not contained, besides "his halfpound of tobacco," a pair of strong New Jersey horses,
which would have been very useful to the colony!
The provisions, which Neb had already packed up, consisted of a store of meat and of several gallons of beer, that is to say enough to sustain
them for three days, the time which Harding assigned for the expedition. They hoped besides to supply themselves on the road, and Neb took care not to
forget the portable stove.
The only tools the settlers took were the two woodmen's axes, which they could use to cut a path through the thick forests, as also the
instruments, the telescope and pocket-compass.
For weapons they selected the two flint-lock guns, which were likely to be more useful to them than the percussion fowling-pieces, the first only
requiring flints which could be easily replaced, and the latter needing fulminating caps, a frequent use of which would soon exhaust their limited
stock. However, they took also one of the carbines and some cartridges. As to the powder, of which there was about fifty pounds In the barrel, a small
supply of it had to be taken, but the engineer hoped to manufacture an explosive substance which would allow them to husband it. To the firearms were
added the five cutlasses well sheathed in leather, and, thus supplied, the settlers could venture into the vast forest with some chance of success.
It is useless to add that Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb, thus armed, were at the summit of their happiness, although Cyrus Harding made them promise
not to fire a shot unless it was necessary.
At six in the morning the canoe put off from the shore; all had embarked, including Top, and they proceeded to the mouth of the Mercy.
The tide had begun to come up half an hour before. For several hours, therefore, there would be a current, which it was well to profit by, for
later the ebb would make it difficult to ascend the river. The tide was already strong, for in three days the moon would be full, and it was enough to
keep the boat in the center of the current, where it floated swiftly along between the high banks without its being necessary to increase its speed by
the aid of the oars. In a few minutes the explorers arrived at the angle formed by the Mercy and exactly at the place where, seven months before,
Pencroft had made his first raft of wood.
After this sudden angle the river widened and flowed under the shade of great evergreen firs.
The aspect of the banks was magnificent. Cyrus Harding and his companions could not but admire the lovely effects so easily produced by nature
with water and trees. As they advanced the forest element diminished. On the right bank of the river grew magnificent specimens of the ulmaceae tribe,
the precious elm, so valuable to builders, and which withstands well the action of water. Then there were numerous groups belonging to the same
family, among others one in particular, the fruit of which produces a very useful oil. Further on, Herbert remarked the lardizabala, a twining shrub
which, when bruised in water, furnishes excellent cordage; and two or three ebony trees of a beautiful black, crossed with capricious veins.
From time to time, in certain places where the landing was easy, the canoe was stopped, when Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft, their guns in
their hands, and preceded by Top, jumped on shore. Without expecting game, some useful plant might be met with, and the young naturalist was delighted
with discovering a sort of wild spinach, belonging to the order of chenopodiaceae, and numerous specimens of cruciferae, belonging to the cabbage
tribe, which it would certainly be possible to cultivate by transplanting. There were cresses, horseradish, turnips, and lastly, little branching
hairy stalks, scarcely more than three feet high, which produced brownish grains.
Do you know what this plant is?" asked Herbert of the sailor.
"Tobacco!" cried Pencroft, who evidently had never seen his favorite plant except in the bowl of his pipe.
"No, Pencroft," replied Herbert; "this is not tobacco, it is mustard."
"Mustard be hanged!" returned the sailor; "but if by chance you happen to come across a tobacco-plant, my boy, pray don't scorn that!"
"We shall find it some day!" said Gideon Spilett.
"Well!" exclaimed Pencroft, "when that day comes, I do not know what more will be wanting in our island!"
These different plants, which had been carefully rooted up, were carried to the canoe, where Cyrus Harding had remained buried in thought.
The reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft in this manner frequently disembarked, sometimes on the right bank, sometimes on the left bank of the Mercy.
The latter was less abrupt, but the former more wooded. The engineer ascertained by consulting his pocket-compass that the direction of the river
from the first turn was obviously southwest and northeast, and nearly straight for a length of about three miles. But it was to be supposed that this
direction changed beyond that point, and that the Mercy continued to the north-west, towards the spurs of Mount Franklin, among which the river rose.
During one of these excursions, Gideon Spilett managed to get hold of two couples of living gallinaceae. They were birds with long, thin beaks,
lengthened necks, short wings, and without any appearance of a tail. Herbert rightly gave them the name of tinamous, and it was resolved that they
should be the first tenants of their future poultry-yard.
But till then the guns had not spoken, and the first report which awoke the echoes of the forest of the Far West was provoked by the appearance of
a beautiful bird, resembling the kingfisher.
"I recognize him!" cried Pencroft, and it seemed as if his gun went off by itself.
"What do you recognize?" asked the reporter.
"The bird which escaped us on our first excursion, and from which we gave the name to that part of the forest."
"A jacamar!" cried Herbert.
It was indeed a jacamar, of which the plumage shines with a metallic luster. A shot brought it to the ground, and Top carried it to the canoe. At
the same time half a dozen lories were brought down. The lory is of the size of a pigeon, the plumage dashed with green, part of the wings crimson,
and its crest bordered with white. To the young boy belonged the honor of this shot, and he was proud enough of it. Lories are better food than the
jacamar, the flesh of which is rather tough, but it was difficult to persuade Pencroft that he had not killed the king of eatable birds. It was ten
o'clock in the morning when the canoe reached a second angle of the Mercy, nearly five miles from its mouth. Here a halt was made for breakfast under
the shade of some splendid trees. The river still measured from sixty to seventy feet in breadth, and its bed from five to six feet in depth. The
engineer had observed that it was increased by numerous affluents, but they were unnavigable, being simply little streams. As to the forest, including
Jacamar Wood, as well as the forests of the Far West, it extended as far as the eye could reach. In no place, either in the depths of the forests or
under the trees on the banks of the Mercy, was the presence of man revealed. The explorers could not discover one suspicious trace. It was evident
that the woodman's axe had never touched these trees, that the pioneer's knife had never severed the creepers hanging from one trunk to another in the
midst of tangled brushwood and long grass. If castaways had landed on the island, they could not have yet quitted the shore, and it was not in the
woods that the survivors of the supposed shipwreck should be sought.
The engineer therefore manifested some impatience to reach the western coast of Lincoln Island, which was at least five miles distant according to
The voyage was continued, and as the Mercy appeared to flow not towards the shore, but rather towards Mount Franklin, it was decided that they
should use the boat as long as there was enough water under its keel to float it. It was both fatigue spared and time gained, for they would have been
obliged to cut a path through the thick wood with their axes. But soon the flow completely failed them, either the tide was going down, and it was
about the hour, or it could no longer be felt at this distance from the mouth of the Mercy. They had therefore to make use of the oars. Herbert and
Neb each took one, and Pencroft took the scull. The forest soon became less dense, the trees grew further apart and often quite isolated. But the
further they were from each other the more magnificent they appeared, profiting, as they did, by the free, pure air which circulated around them.
What splendid specimens of the flora of this latitude! Certainly their presence would have been enough for a botanist to name without hesitation
the parallel which traversed Lincoln Island.
"Eucalypti!" cried Herbert.
They were, in fact, those splendid trees, the giants of the extratropical zone, the congeners of the Australian and New Zealand eucalyptus, both
situated under the same latitude as Lincoln Island. Some rose to a height of two hundred feet. Their trunks at the base measured twenty feet in
circumference, and their bark was covered by a network of farrows containing a red, sweet-smelling gum. Nothing is more wonderful or more singular
than those enormous specimens of the order of the myrtaceae, with their leaves placed vertically and not horizontally, so that an edge and not a
surface looks upwards, the effect being that the sun's rays penetrate more freely among the trees.
The ground at the foot of the eucalypti was carpeted with grass, and from the bushes escaped flights of little birds, which glittered in the
sunlight like winged rubies.
"These are something like trees!" cried Neb; "but are they good for anything?"
"Pooh!" replied Pencroft. "Of course there are vegetable giants as well as human giants, and they are no good, except to show themselves at
"I think that you are mistaken, Pencroft," replied Gideon Spilett, "and that the wood of the eucalyptus has begun to be very advantageously
employed in cabinet-making."
"And I may add," said Herbert, "that the eucalyptus belongs to a family which comprises many useful members; the guava-tree, from whose fruit
guava jelly is made; the clove-tree, which produces the spice; the pomegranate- tree, which bears pomegranates; the Eugeacia Cauliflora, the fruit of
which is used in making a tolerable wine; the Ugui myrtle, which contains an excellent alcoholic liquor; the Caryophyllus myrtle, of which the bark
forms an esteemed cinnamon; the Eugenia Pimenta, from whence comes Jamaica pepper; the common myrtle, from whose buds and berries spice is sometimes
made; the Eucalyptus manifera, which yields a sweet sort of manna; the Guinea Eucalyptus, the sap of which is transformed into beer by fermentation;
in short, all those trees known under the name of gum-trees or iron-bark trees in Australia, belong to this family of the myrtaceae, which contains
forty-six genera and thirteen hundred species!"
The lad was allowed to run on, and he delivered his little botanical lecture with great animation. Cyrus Harding listened smiling, and Pencroft
with an indescribable feeling of pride.
"Very good, Herbert," replied Pencroft, "but I could swear that all those useful specimens you have just told us about are none of them giants
"That is true, Pencroft."
"That supports what I said," returned the sailor, "namely, that these giants are good for nothing!"
"There you are wrong, Pencroft," said the engineer; "these gigantic eucalypti, which shelter us, are good for something."
"And what is that?"
"To render the countries which they inhabit healthy. Do you know what they are called in Australia and New Zealand?"
"They are called 'fever trees.'"
"Because they give fevers?"
"No, because they prevent them!"
"Good. I must note that," said the reporter.
"Note it then, my dear Spilett; for it appears proved that the presence of the eucalyptus is enough to neutralize miasmas. This natural antidote
has been tried in certain countries in the middle of Europe and the north of Africa where the soil was absolutely unhealthy, and the sanitary
condition of the inhabitants has been gradually ameliorated. No more intermittent fevers prevail in the regions now covered with forests of the
myrtaceae. This fact is now beyond doubt, and it is a happy circumstance for us settlers in Lincoln Island."
"Ah! what an island! What a blessed island!" cried Pencroft. "I tell you, it wants nothing--unless it is--"
"That will come, Pencroft, that will be found," replied the engineer; "but now we must continue our voyage and push on as far as the river will
carry our boat!"
The exploration was therefore continued for another two miles in the midst of country covered with eucalypti, which predominated in the woods of
this portion of the island. The space which they occupied extended as far as the eye could reach on each side of the Mercy, which wound along between
high green banks. The bed was often obstructed by long weeds, and even by pointed rocks, which rendered the navigation very difficult. The action of
the oars was prevented, and Pencroft was obliged to push with a pole. They found also that the water was becoming shallower and shallower, and that
the canoe must soon stop. The sun was already sinking towards the horizon, and the trees threw long shadows on the ground. Cyrus Harding, seeing that
he could not hope to reach the western coast of the island in one journey, resolved to camp at the place where any further navigation was prevented by
want of water. He calculated that they were still five or six miles from the coast, and this distance was too great for them to attempt during the
night in the midst of unknown woods.
The boat was pushed on through the forest, which gradually became thicker again, and appeared also to have more inhabitants; for if the eyes of
the sailor did not deceive him, he thought he saw bands of monkeys springing among the trees. Sometimes even two or three of these animals stopped at
a little distance from the canoe and gazed at the settlers without manifesting any terror, as if, seeing men for the first time, they had not yet
learned to fear them. It would have been easy to bring down one of these quadramani with a gunshot, and Pencroft was greatly tempted to fire, but
Harding opposed so useless a massacre. This was prudent, for the monkeys, or apes rather, appearing to be very powerful and extremely active, it was
useless to provoke an unnecessary aggression, and the creatures might, ignorant of the power of the explorers' firearms, have attacked them. It is
true that the sailor considered the monkeys from a purely alimentary point of view, for those animals which are herbivorous make very excellent game;
but since they had an abundant supply of provisions, it was a pity to waste their ammunition.
Towards four o'clock, the navigation of the Mercy became exceedingly difficult, for its course was obstructed by aquatic plants and rocks. The
banks rose higher and higher, and already they were approaching the spurs of Mount Franklin. The source could not be far off, since it was fed by the
water from the southern slopes of the mountain.
"In a quarter of an hour," said the sailor, "we shall be obliged to stop, captain."
"Very well, we will stop, Pencroft, and we will make our encampment for the night."
"At what distance are we from Granite House?" asked Herbert.
"About seven miles," replied the engineer, "taking into calculation, however, the detours of the river, which has carried us to the northwest."
"Shall we go on?" asked the reporter.
"Yes, as long as we can," replied Cyrus Harding. "To-morrow, at break of day, we will leave the canoe, and in two hours I hope we shall cross the
distance which separates us from the coast, and then we shall have the whole day in which to explore the shore."
"Go ahead!" replied Pencroft.
But soon the boat grated on the stony bottom of the river, which was now not more than twenty feet in breadth. The trees met like a bower
overhead, and caused a half-darkness. They also heard the noise of a waterfall, which showed that a few hundred feet up the river there was a natural
Presently, after a sudden turn of the river, a cascade appeared through the trees. The canoe again touched the bottom, and in a few minutes it was
moored to a trunk near the right bank.
It was nearly five o'clock. The last rays of the sun gleamed through the thick foliage and glanced on the little waterfall, making the spray
sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow. Beyond that, the Mercy was lost in the bushwood, where it was fed from some hidden source. The different
streams which flowed into it increased it to a regular river further down, but here it was simply a shallow, limpid brook.
It was agreed to camp here, as the place was charming. The colonists disembarked, and a fire was soon lighted under a clump of trees, among the
branches of which Cyrus Harding and his companions could, if it was necessary, take refuge for the night.
Supper was quickly devoured, for they were very hungry, and then there was only sleeping to think of. But, as roarings of rather a suspicious
nature had been heard during the evening, a good fire was made up for the night, so as to protect the sleepers with its crackling flames. Neb and
Pencroft also watched by turns, and did not spare fuel. They thought they saw the dark forms of some wild animals prowling round the camp among the
bushes, but the night passed without incident, and the next day, the 31st of October, at five o'clock in the morning, all were on foot, ready for a
It was six o' clock in the morning when the settlers, after a hasty breakfast, set out to reach by the shortest way, the western coast of the
island. And how long would it take to do this? Cyrus Harding had said two hours, but of course that depended on the nature of the obstacles they might
meet with As it was probable that they would have to cut a path through the grass, shrubs, and creepers, they marched axe in hand, and with guns also
ready, wisely taking warning from the cries of the wild beasts heard in the night.
The exact position of the encampment could be determined by the bearing of Mount Franklin, and as the volcano arose in the north at a distance of
less than three miles, they had only to go straight towards the southwest to reach the western coast. They set out, having first carefully secured the
canoe. Pencroft and Neb carried sufficient provision for the little band for at least two days. It would not thus he necessary to hunt. The engineer
advised his companions to refrain from firing, that their presence might not be betrayed to any one near the shore. The first hatchet blows were given
among the brushwood in the midst of some mastic-trees, a little above the cascade; and his compass in his hand, Cyrus Harding led the way.
The forest here was composed for the most part of trees which had already been met with near the lake and on Prospect Heights. There were deodars,
Douglas firs, casuarinas, gum trees, eucalypti, hibiscus, cedars, and other trees, generally of a moderate size, for their number prevented their
Since their departure, the settlers had descended the slopes which constituted the mountain system of the island, on to a dry soil, but the
luxuriant vegetation of which indicated it to be watered either by some subterranean marsh or by some stream. However, Cyrus Harding did not remember
having seen, at the time of his excursion to the crater, any other watercourses but the Red Creek and the Mercy.
During the first part of their excursion, they saw numerous troops of monkeys who exhibited great astonishment at the sight of men, whose
appearance was so new to them. Gideon Spilett jokingly asked whether these active and merry quadrupeds did not consider him and his companions as
And certainly, pedestrians, hindered at each step by bushes, caught by creepers, barred by trunks of trees, did not shine beside those supple
animals, who, bounding from branch to branch, were hindered by nothing on their course. The monkeys were numerous, but happily they did not manifest
any hostile disposition.
Several pigs, agoutis, kangaroos, and other rodents were seen, also two or three koalas, at which Pencroft longed to have a shot.
"But," said he, "you may jump and play just now; we shall have one or two words to say to you on our way back!"
At half-past nine the way was suddenly found to be barred by an unknown stream, from thirty to forty feet broad, whose rapid current dashed
foaming over the numerous rocks which interrupted its course. This creek was deep and clear, but it was absolutely unnavigable.
"We are cut off!" cried Neb.
"No," replied Herbert, "it is only a stream, and we can easily swim over."
"What would be the use of that?" returned Harding. "This creek evidently runs to the sea. Let us remain on this side and follow the bank, and I
shall be much astonished if it does not lead us very quickly to the coast. Forward!"
"One minute," said the reporter. "The name of this creek, my friends? Do not let us leave our geography incomplete."
"All right!" said Pencroft.
"Name it, my boy," said the engineer, addressing the lad.
"Will it not be better to wait until we have explored it to its mouth?" answered Herbert.
"Very well," replied Cyrus Harding. "Let us follow it as fast as we can without stopping."
"Still another minute!" said Pencroft.
"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.
"Though hunting is forbidden, fishing is allowed, I suppose," said the sailor.
"We have no time to lose," replied the engineer.
"Oh! five minutes!" replied Pencroft, "I only ask for five minutes to use in the interest of our breakfast!"
And Pencroft, lying down on the bank, plunged his arm into the water, and soon pulled up several dozen of fine crayfish from among the stones.
"These will be good!" cried Neb, going to the sailor's aid.
"As I said, there is everything in this island, except tobacco!" muttered Pencroft with a sigh.
The fishing did not take five minutes, for the crayfish were swarming in the creek. A bag was filled with the crustaceae, whose shells were of a
cobalt blue. The settlers then pushed on.
They advanced more rapidly and easily along the bank of the river than in the forest. From time to time they came upon the traces of animals of a
large size who had come to quench their thirst at the stream, but none were actually seen, and it was evidently not in this part of the forest that
the peccary had received the bullet which had cost Pencroft a grinder.
In the meanwhile, considering the rapid current, Harding was led to suppose that he and his companions were much farther from the western coast
than they had at first supposed. In fact, at this hour, the rising tide would have turned back the current of the creek, if its mouth had only been a
few miles distant. Now, this effect was not produced, and the water pursued its natural course. The engineer was much astonished at this, and
frequently consulted his compass, to assure himself that some turn of the river was not leading them again into the Far West.
However, the creek gradually widened and its waters became less tumultuous. The trees on the right bank were as close together as on the left
bank, and it was impossible to distinguish anything beyond them; but these masses of wood were evidently uninhabited, for Top did not bark, and the
intelligent animal would not have failed to signal the presence of any stranger in the neighborhood.
At half-past ten, to the great surprise of Cyrus Harding, Herbert, who was a little in front, suddenly stopped and exclaimed,--
In a few minutes more, the whole western shore of the island lay extended before the eyes of the settlers.
But what a contrast between this and the eastern coast, upon which chance had first thrown them. No granite cliff, no rocks, not even a sandy
beach. The forest reached the shore, and the tall trees bending over the water were beaten by the waves. It was not such a shore as is usually formed
by nature, either by extending a vast carpet of sand, or by grouping masses of rock, but a beautiful border consisting of the most splendid trees. The
bank was raised a little above the level of the sea, and on this luxuriant soil, supported by a granite base, the fine forest trees seemed to be as
firmly planted as in the interior of the island.
The colonists were then on the shore of an unimportant little harbor, which would scarcely have contained even two or three fishing-boats. It
served as a neck to the new creek, of which the curious thing was that its waters, instead of joining the sea by a gentle slope, fell from a height of
more than forty feet, which explained why the rising tide was not felt up the stream. In fact, the tides of the Pacific, even at their maximum
elevation, could never reach the level of the river, and, doubtless, millions of years would pass before the water would have worn away the granite
and hollowed a practicable mouth.
It was settled that the name of Falls River should be given to this stream. Beyond, towards the north, the forest border was prolonged for a space
of nearly two miles; then the trees became scarcer, and beyond that again the picturesque heights described a nearly straight line, which ran north
and south. On the contrary, all the part of the shore between Falls River and Reptile End was a mass of wood, magnificent trees, some straight, others
bent, so that the long sea-swell bathed their roots. Now, it was this coast, that is, all the Serpentine Peninsula, that was to be explored, for this
part of the shore offered a refuge to castaways, which the other wild and barren side must have refused.
The weather was fine and clear, and from a height of a hillock on which Neb and Pencroft had arranged breakfast, a wide view was obtained. There
was, however, not a sail in sight; nothing could be seen along the shore as far as the eye could reach. But the engineer would take nothing for
granted until he had explored the coast to the very extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula.
Breakfast was soon despatched, and at half-past eleven the captain gave the signal for departure. Instead of proceeding over the summit of a cliff
or along a sandy beach, the settlers were obliged to remain under cover of the trees so that they might continue on the shore.
The distance which separated Falls River from Reptile End was about twelve miles. It would have taken the settlers four hours to do this, on a
clear ground and without hurrying themselves; but as it was they needed double the time, for what with trees to go round, bushes to cut down, and
creepers to chop away, they were impeded at every step, these obstacles greatly lengthening their journey.
There was, however, nothing to show that a shipwreck had taken place recently. It is true that, as Gideon Spilett observed, any remains of it
might have drifted out to sea, and they must not take it for granted that because they could find no traces of it, a ship had not been castaway on the
The reporter's argument was just, and besides, the incident of the bullet proved that a shot must have been fired in Lincoln Island within three
It was already five o'clock, and there were still two miles between the settlers and the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula. It was evident
that after having reached Reptile End, Harding and his companions would not have time to return before dark to their encampment near the source of the
Mercy. It would therefore be necessary to pass the night on the promontory. But they had no lack of provisions, which was lucky, for there were no
animals on the shore, though birds, on the contrary, abound--jacamars, couroucous, tragopans, grouse, lories, parrots, cockatoos, pheasants, pigeons,
and a hundred others. There was not a tree without a nest, and not a nest which was not full of flapping wings.
Towards seven o'clock the weary explorers arrived at Reptile End. Here the seaside forest ended, and the shore resumed the customary appearance of
a coast, with rocks, reefs, and sands. It was possible that something might be found here, but darkness came on, and the further exploration had to be
put off to the next day.
Pencroft and Herbert hastened on to find a suitable place for their camp. Among the last trees of the forest of the Far West, the boy found
several thick clumps of bamboos.
"Good," said he; "this is a valuable discovery."
"Valuable?" returned Pencroft.
"Certainly," replied Herbert. "I may say, Pencroft, that the bark of the bamboo, cut into flexible laths, is used for making baskets; that this
bark, mashed into a paste, is used for the manufacture of Chinese paper; that the stalks furnish, according to their size, canes and pipes and are
used for conducting water; that large bamboos make excellent material for building, being light and strong, and being never attacked by insects. I
will add that by sawing the bamboo in two at the joint, keeping for the bottom the part of the transverse film which forms the joint, useful cups are
obtained, which are much in use among the Chinese. No! you don't care for that. But--"
"But I can tell you, if you are ignorant of it, that in India these bamboos are eaten like asparagus."
"Asparagus thirty feet high!" exclaimed the sailor. "And are they good?"
"Excellent," replied Herbert. "Only it is not the stems of thirty feet high which are eaten, but the young shoots."
"Perfect, my boy, perfect!" replied Pencroft.
"I will also add that the pith of the young stalks, preserved in vinegar, makes a good pickle."
"Better and better, Herbert!"
"And lastly, that the bamboos exude a sweet liquor which can be made into a very agreeable drink."
"Is that all?" asked the sailor.
"That is all!"
"And they don't happen to do for smoking?"
"No, my poor Pencroft."
Herbert and the sailor had not to look long for a place in which to pass the night. The rocks, which must have been violently beaten by the sea
under the influence of the winds of the southwest, presented many cavities in which shelter could be found against the night air. But just as they
were about to enter one of these caves a loud roaring arrested them.
"Back!" cried Pencroft. "Our guns are only loaded with small shot, and beasts which can roar as loud as that would care no more for it than for
grains of salt!" And the sailor, seizing Herbert by the arm, dragged him behind a rock, just as a magnificent animal showed itself at the entrance of
It was a jaguar of a size at least equal to its Asiatic congeners, that is to say, it measured five feet from the extremity of its head to the
beginning of its tail. The yellow color of its hair was relieved by streaks and regular oblong spots of black, which contrasted with the white of its
chest. Herbert recognized it as the ferocious rival of the tiger, as formidable as the puma, which is the rival of the largest wolf!
The jaguar advanced and gazed around him with blazing eyes, his hair bristling as if this was not the first time he had scented men.
At this moment the reporter appeared round a rock, and Herbert, thinking that he had not seen the jaguar, was about to rush towards him, when
Gideon Spilett signed to him to remain where he was. This was not his first tiger, and advancing to within ten feet of the animal he remained
motionless, his gun to his shoulder, without moving a muscle. The jaguar collected itself for a spring, but at that moment a shot struck it in the
eyes, and it fell dead.
Herbert and Pencroft rushed towards the jaguar. Neb and Harding also ran up, and they remained for some instants contemplating the animal as it
lay stretched on the ground, thinking that its magnificent skin would be a great ornament to the hall at Granite House.
"Oh, Mr. Spilett, how I admire and envy you!" cried Herbert, in a fit of very natural enthusiasm.
"Well, my boy," replied the reporter, "you could have done the same."
"I! with such coolness!--"
"Imagine to yourself, Herbert, that the jaguar is only a hare, and you would fire as quietly as possible."
"That is," rejoined Pencroft, "that it is not more dangerous than a hare!"
"And now," said Gideon Spilett, "since the jaguar has left its abode, I do not see, my friends, why we should not take possession of it for the
"But others may come," said Pencroft.
"It will be enough to light a fire at the entrance of the cavern," said the reporter, "and no wild beasts will dare to cross the threshold."
"Into the jaguar's house, then!" replied the sailor, dragging after him the body of the animal.
While Neb skinned the jaguar, his companions collected an abundant supply of dry wood from the forest, which they heaped up at the cave.
Cyrus Harding, seeing the clump of bamboos, cut a quantity, which he mingled with the other fuel.
This done, they entered the grotto, of which the floor was strewn with bones, the guns were carefully loaded, in case of a sudden attack, they had
supper, and then just before they lay down to rest, the heap of wood piled at the entrance was set fire to. Immediately, a regular explosion, or
rather a series of reports, broke the silence! The noise was caused by the bamboos, which, as the flames reached them, exploded like fireworks. The
noise was enough to terrify even the boldest of wild beasts.
It was not the engineer who had invented this way of causing loud explosions, for, according to Marco Polo, the Tartars have employed it for many
centuries to drive away from their encampments the formidable wild beasts of Central Asia.
Cyrus Harding and his companions slept like innocent marmots in the cave which the jaguar had so politely left at their disposal.
At sunrise all were on the shore at the extremity of the promontory, and their gaze was directed towards the horizon, of which two-thirds of the
circumference were visible. For the last time the engineer could ascertain that not a sail nor the wreck of a ship was on the sea, and even with the
telescope nothing suspicious could be discovered.
There was nothing either on the shore, at least, in the straight line of three miles which formed the south side of the promontory, for beyond
that, rising ground had the rest of the coast, and even from the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula Claw Cape could not be seen.
The southern coast of the island still remained to be explored. Now should they undertake it immediately, and devote this day to it?
This was not included in their first plan. In fact, when the boat was abandoned at the sources of the Mercy, it had been agreed that after having
surveyed the west coast, they should go back to it, and return to Granite House by the Mercy. Harding then thought that the western coast would have
offered refuge, either to a ship in distress, or to a vessel in her regular course; but now, as he saw that this coast presented no good anchorage, he
wished to seek on the south what they had not been able to find on the west.
Gideon Spilett proposed to continue the exploration, that the question of the supposed wreck might be completely settled, and he asked at what
distance Claw Cape might be from the extremity of the peninsula.
"About thirty miles," replied the engineer, "if we take into consideration the curvings of the coast."
"Thirty miles!" returned Spilett. "That would be a long day's march. Nevertheless, I think that we should return to Granite House by the south
"But," observed Herbert, "from Claw Cape to Granite House there must be at least another ten miles.
"Make it forty miles in all," replied the engineer, "and do not hesitate to do it. At least we should survey the unknown shore, and then we shall
not have to begin the exploration again."
"Very good," said Pencroft. "But the boat?"
"The boat has remained by itself for one day at the sources of the Mercy," replied Gideon Spilett; "it may just as well stay there two days! As
yet, we have had no reason to think that the island is infested by thieves!"
"Yet," said the sailor, "when I remember the history of the turtle, I am far from confident of that."
"The turtle! the turtle!" replied the reporter. "Don't you know that the sea turned it over?"
"Who knows?" murmured the engineer.
"But,--" said Neb.
Neb had evidently something to say, for he opened his mouth to speak and yet said nothing.
"What do you want to say, Neb?" asked the engineer.
"If we return by the shore to Claw Cape," replied Neb, "after having doubled the Cape, we shall be stopped--"
"By the Mercy! of course," replied Herbert, "and we shall have neither bridge nor boat by which to cross."
"But, captain," added Pencroft, "with a few floating trunks we shall have no difficulty in crossing the river."
"Never mind," said Spilett, "it will be useful to construct a bridge if we wish to have an easy access to the Far West!"
"A bridge!" cried Pencroft. "Well, is not the captain the best engineer in his profession? He will make us a bridge when we want one. As to
transporting you this evening to the other side of the Mercy, and that without wetting one thread of your clothes, I will take care of that. We have
provisions for another day, and besides we can get plenty of game. Forward!"
The reporter's proposal, so strongly seconded by the sailor, received general approbation, for each wished to have their doubts set at rest, and
by returning by Claw Cape the exploration would he ended. But there was not an hour to lose, for forty miles was a long march, and they could not hope
to reach Granite House before night.
At six o'clock in the morning the little band set out. As a precaution the guns were loaded with ball, and Top, who led the van, received orders
to beat about the edge of the forest.
From the extremity of the promontory which formed the tail of the peninsula the coast was rounded for a distance of five miles, which was rapidly
passed over, without even the most minute investigations bringing to light the least trace of any old or recent landings; no debris, no mark of an
encampment, no cinders of a fire, nor even a footprint!
From the point of the peninsula on which the settlers now were their gaze could extend along the southwest. Twenty-five miles off the coast
terminated in the Claw Cape, which loomed dimly through the morning mists, and which, by the phenomenon of the mirage, appeared as if suspended
between land and water.
Between the place occupied by the colonists and the other side of the immense bay, the shore was composed, first, of a tract of low land, bordered
in the background by trees; then the shore became more irregular, projecting sharp points into the sea, and finally ended in the black rocks which,
accumulated in picturesque disorder, formed Claw Cape.
Such was the development of this part of the island, which the settlers took in at a glance, while stopping for an instant.
"If a vessel ran in here," said Pencroft, "she would certainly be lost. Sandbanks and reefs everywhere! Bad quarters!"
"But at least something would be left of the ship," observed the reporter.
"There might be pieces of wood on the rocks, but nothing on the sands," replied the sailor.
"Because the sands are still more dangerous than the rocks, for they swallow up everything that is thrown on them. In a few days the hull of a
ship of several hundred tons would disappear entirely in there!"
"So, Pencroft," asked the engineer, "if a ship has been wrecked on these banks, is it not astonishing that there is now no trace of her
"No, captain, with the aid of time and tempest. However, it would be surprising, even in this case, that some of the masts or spars should not
have been thrown on the beach, out of reach of the waves."
"Let us go on with our search, then," returned Cyrus Harding.
At one o'clock the colonists arrived at the other side of Washington Bay, they having now gone a distance of twenty miles.
They then halted for breakfast.
Here began the irregular coast, covered with lines of rocks and sandbanks. The long sea-swell could be seen breaking over the rocks in the bay,
forming a foamy fringe. From this point to Claw Cape the beach was very narrow between the edge of the forest and the reefs.
Walking was now more difficult, on account of the numerous rocks which encumbered the beach. The granite cliff also gradually increased in height,
and only the green tops of the trees which crowned it could be seen.
After half an hour's rest, the settlers resumed their journey, and not a spot among the rocks was left unexamined. Pencroft and Neb even rushed
into the surf whenever any object attracted their attention. But they found nothing, some curious formations of the rocks having deceived them. They
ascertained, however, that eatable shellfish abounded there, but these could not be of any great advantage to them until some easy means of
communication had been established between the two banks of the Mercy, and until the means of transport had been perfected.
Nothing therefore which threw any light on the supposed wreck could be found on this shore, yet an object of any importance, such as the hull of a
ship, would have been seen directly, or any of her masts and spans would have been washed on shore, just as the chest had been, which was found twenty
miles from here. But there was nothing.
Towards three o'clock Harding and his companions arrived at a snug little creek. It formed quite a natural harbor, invisible from the sea, and was
entered by a narrow channel.
At the back of this creek some violent convulsion had torn up the rocky border, and a cutting, by a gentle slope, gave access to an upper plateau,
which might be situated at least ten miles from Claw Cape, and consequently four miles in a straight line from Prospect Heights. Gideon Spilett
proposed to his companions that they should make a halt here. They agreed readily, for their walk had sharpened their appetites; and although it was
not their usual dinner-hour, no one refused to strengthen himself with a piece of venison. This luncheon would sustain them until their supper, which
they intended to take at Granite House. In a few minutes the settlers, seated under a clump of fine sea-pines, were devouring the provisions which Neb
produced from his bag.
This spot was raised from fifty to sixty feet above the level of the sea. The view was very extensive, but beyond the cape it ended in Union Bay.
Neither the islet nor Prospect Heights was visible, and could not be from thence, for the rising ground and the curtain of trees closed the northern
It is useless to add that notwithstanding the wide extent of sea which the explorers could survey, and though the engineer swept the horizon with
his glass, no vessel could be found.
The shore was of course examined with the same care from the edge of the water to the cliff, and nothing could be discovered even with the aid of
"Well," said Gideon Spilett, "it seems we must make up our minds to console ourselves with thinking that no one will come to dispute with us the
possession of Lincoln Island!"
"But the bullet," cried Herbert. "That was not imaginary, I suppose!"
"Hang it, no!" exclaimed Pencroft, thinking of his absent tooth.
"Then what conclusion may be drawn?" asked the reporter.
"This," replied the engineer, "that three months or more ago, a vessel, either voluntarily or not, came here."
"What! then you admit, Cyrus, that she was swallowed up without leaving any trace?" cried the reporter.
"No, my dear Spilett; but you see that if it is certain that a human being set foot on the island, it appears no less certain that he has now left
"Then, if I understand you right, captain," said Herbert, "the vessel has left again?'
"And we have lost an opportunity to get back to our country?" said Neb.
"I fear so."
"Very well, since the opportunity is lost, let us go on; it can't be helped," said Pencroft, who felt home-sickness for Granite House.
But just as they were rising, Top was heard loudly barking; and the dog issued from the wood, holding in his mouth a rag soiled with mud.
Neb seized it. It was a piece of strong cloth!
Top still barked, and by his going and coming, seemed to invite his master to follow him into the forest.
"Now there's something to explain the bullet!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"A castaway!" replied Herbert.
"Wounded, perhaps!" said Neb.
"Or dead!" added the reporter.
All ran after the dog, among the tall pines on the border of the forest. Harding and his companions made ready their firearms, in case of an
They advanced some way into the wood, but to their great disappointment, they as yet saw no signs of any human being having passed that way.
Shrubs and creepers were uninjured, and they had even to cut them away with the axe, as they had done in the deepest recesses of the forest. It was
difficult to fancy that any human creature had ever passed there, but yet Top went backward and forward, not like a dog who searches at random, but
like a dog being endowed with a mind, who is following up an idea.
In about seven or eight minutes Top stopped in a glade surrounded with tall trees. The settlers gazed around them, but saw nothing, neither under
the bushes nor among the trees.
"What is the matter, Top?" said Cyrus Harding.
Top barked louder, bounding about at the foot of a gigantic pine. All at once Pencroft shouted,--"Ho, splendid! capital!"
"What is it?" asked Spilett.
"We have been looking for a wreck at sea or on land!"
"Well; and here we've found one in the air!"
And the sailor pointed to a great white rag, caught in the top of the pine, a fallen scrap of which the dog had brought to them.
"But that is not a wreck!" cried Gideon Spilett.
"I beg your pardon!" returned Pencroft.
"Why? is it--?"
"It is all that remains of our airy boat, of our balloon, which has been caught up aloft there, at the top of that tree!"
Pencroft was not mistaken, and he gave vent to his feelings in a tremendous hurrah, adding,--
"There is good cloth! There is what will furnish us with linen for years. There is what will make us handkerchiefs and shirts! Ha, ha, Mr.
Spilett, what do you say to an island where shirts grow on the trees?"
It was certainly a lucky circumstance for the settlers in Lincoln Island that the balloon, after having made its last bound into the air, had
fallen on the island and thus given them the opportunity of finding it again, whether they kept the case under its present form, or whether they
wished to attempt another escape by it, or whether they usefully employed the several hundred yards of cotton, which was of fine quality. Pencroft's
joy was therefore shared by all.
But it was necessary to bring down the remains of the balloon from the tree, to place it in security, and this was no slight task. Neb, Herbert,
and the sailor, climbing to the summit of the tree, used all their skill to disengage the now reduced balloon.
The operation lasted two hours, and then not only the case, with its valve, its springs, its brasswork, lay on the ground, but the net, that is to
say a considerable quantity of ropes and cordage, and the circle and the anchor. The case, except for the fracture, was in good condition, only the
lower portion being torn.
It was a fortune which had fallen from the sky.
"All the same, captain," said the sailor, "if we ever decide to leave the island, it won't be in a balloon, will it? These airboats won't go where
we want them to go, and we have had some experience in that way! Look here, we will build a craft of some twenty tons, and then we can make a
main-sail, a foresail, and a jib out of that cloth. As to the rest of it, that will help to dress us."
"We shall see, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "we shall see."
"In the meantime, we must put it in a safe place," said Neb.
They certainly could not think of carrying this load of cloth, ropes, and cordage, to Granite House, for the weight of it was very considerable,
and while waiting for a suitable vehicle in which to convey it, it was of importance that this treasure should not be left longer exposed to the
mercies of the first storm. The settlers, uniting their efforts, managed to drag it as far as the shore, where they discovered a large rocky cavity,
which owing to its position could not be visited either by the wind or rain.
"We needed a locker, and now we have one," said Pencroft; "but as we cannot lock it up, it will be prudent to hide the opening. I don't mean from
two-legged thieves, but from those with four paws!"
At six o'clock, all was stowed away, and after having given the creek the very suitable name of "Port Balloon," the settlers pursued their way
along Claw Cape. Pencroft and the engineer talked of the different projects which it was agreed to put into execution with the briefest possible
delay. It was necessary first of all to throw a bridge over the Mercy, so as to establish an easy communication with the south of the island; then the
cart must be taken to bring back the balloon, for the canoe alone could not carry it, then they would build a decked boat, and Pencroft would rig it
as a cutter, and they would be able to undertake voyages of circumnavigation round the island, etc.
In the meanwhile night came on, and it was already dark when the settlers reached Flotsam Point, where they had found the precious chest.
The distance between Flotsam Point and Granite House was another four miles, and it was midnight when, after having followed the shore to the
mouth of the Mercy, the settlers arrived at the first angle formed by the Mercy.
There the river was eighty feet in breadth, which was awkward to cross, but as Pencroft had taken upon himself to conquer this difficulty, he was
compelled to do it. The settlers certainly had reason to be pretty tired. The journey had been long, and the task of getting down the balloon had not
rested either their arms or legs. They were anxious to reach Granite House to eat and sleep, and if the bridge had been constructed, in a quarter of
an hour they would have been at home.
The night was very dark. Pencroft prepared to keep his promise by constructing a sort of raft, on which to make the passage of the Mercy. He and
Neb, armed with axes, chose two trees near the water, and began to attack them at the base.
Cyrus Harding and Spilett, seated on the bank, waited till their companions were ready for their help, while Herbert roamed about, though without
going to any distance. All at once, the lad, who had strolled by the river, came running back, and, pointing up the Mercy, exclaimed,--
"What is floating there?"
Pencroft stopped working, and seeing an indistinct object moving through the gloom,--
"A canoe!" cried he.
All approached, and saw to their extreme surprise, a boat floating down the current.
"Boat ahoy!" shouted the sailor, without thinking that perhaps it would be best to keep silence.
No reply. The boat still drifted onward, and it was not more than twelve feet off, when the sailor exclaimed,--
"But it is our own boat! she has broken her moorings, and floated down the current. I must say she has arrived very opportunely."
"Our boat?" murmured the engineer.
Pencroft was right. It was indeed the canoe, of which the rope had undoubtedly broken, and which had come alone from the sources of the Mercy. It
was very important to seize it before the rapid current should have swept it away out of the mouth of the river, but Neb and Pencroft cleverly managed
this by means of a long pole.
The canoe touched the shore. The engineer leaped in first, and found, on examining the rope, that it had been really worn through by rubbing
against the rocks.
"Well," said the reporter to him, in a low voice, "this is a strange thing."
"Strange indeed!" returned Cyrus Harding.
Strange or not, it was very fortunate. Herbert, the reporter, Neb, and Pencroft, embarked in turn. There was no doubt about the rope having been
worn through, but the astonishing part of the affair was, that the boat should arrive just at the moment when the settlers were there to seize it on
its way, for a quarter of an hour earlier or later it would have been lost in the sea.
If they had been living in the time of genii, this incident would have given them the right to think that the island was haunted by some
supernatural being, who used his power in the service of the castaways!
A few strokes of the oar brought the settlers to the mouth of the Mercy. The canoe was hauled up on the beach near the Chimneys, and all proceeded
towards the ladder of Granite House.
But at that moment, Top barked angrily, and Neb, who was looking for the first steps, uttered a cry.
There was no longer a ladder!
Cyrus Harding stood still, without saying a word. His companions searched in the darkness on the wall, in case the wind should have moved the
ladder, and on the ground, thinking that it might have fallen down.... But the ladder had quite disappeared. As to ascertaining if a squall had blown
it on the landing-place, half way up, that was impossible in the dark.
"If it is a joke," cried Pencroft, "it is a very stupid one! To come home and find no staircase to go up to your room by--that's nothing for weary
men to laugh at."
Neb could do nothing but cry out "Oh! oh! oh!"
"I begin to think that very curious things happen in Lincoln Island!" said Pencroft.
"Curious?" replied Gideon Spilett, "not at all, Pencroft, nothing can be more natural. Some one has come during our absence, taken possession of
our dwelling and drawn up the ladder."
"Some one," cried the sailor. "But who?"
"Who but the hunter who fired the bullet?" replied the reporter.
"Well, if there is any one up there," replied Pencroft, who began to lose patience, "I will give them a hail, and they must answer."
And in a stentorian voice the sailor gave a prolonged "Halloo!" which was echoed again and again from the cliff and rocks.
The settlers listened and they thought they heard a sort of chuckling laugh, of which they could not guess the origin. But no voice replied to
Pencroft, who in vain repeated his vigorous shouts.
There was something indeed in this to astonish the most apathetic of men, and the settlers were not men of that description. In their situation
every incident had its importance, and, certainly, during the seven months which they had spent on the island, they had not before met with anything
of so surprising a character.
Be that as it may, forgetting their fatigue in the singularity of the event, they remained below Granite House, not knowing what to think, not
knowing what to do, questioning each other without any hope of a satisfactory reply, every one starting some supposition each more unlikely than the
last. Neb bewailed himself, much disappointed at not being able to get into his kitchen, for the provisions which they had had on their expedition
were exhausted, and they had no means of renewing them.
"My friends," at last said Cyrus Harding, "there is only one thing to be done at present; wait for day, and then act according to circumstances.
But let us go to the Chimneys. There we shall be under shelter, and if we cannot eat, we can at least sleep."
"But who is it that has played us this cool trick?" again asked Pencroft, unable to make up his mind to retire from the spot.
Whoever it was, the only thing practicable was to do as the engineer proposed, to go to the Chimneys and there wait for day. In the meanwhile Top
was ordered to mount guard below the windows of Granite House, and when Top received an order he obeyed it without any questioning. The brave dog
therefore remained at the foot of the cliff while his master with his companions sought a refuge among the rocks.
To say that the settlers, notwithstanding their fatigue, slept well on the sandy floor of the Chimneys would not be true. It was not only that
they were extremely anxious to find out the cause of what had happened, whether it was the result of an accident which would be discovered at the
return of day, or whether on the contrary it was the work of a human being; but they also had very uncomfortable beds. That could not be helped,
however, for in some way or other at that moment their dwelling was occupied, and they could not possibly enter it.
Now Granite House was more than their dwelling, it was their warehouse. There were all the stores belonging to the colony, weapons, instruments,
tools, ammunition, provisions, etc. To think that all that might be pillaged and that the settlers would have all their work to do over again, fresh
weapons and tools to make, was a serious matter. Their uneasiness led one or other of them also to go out every few minutes to see if Top was keeping
good watch. Cyrus Harding alone waited with his habitual patience, although his strong mind was exasperated at being confronted with such an
inexplicable fact, and he was provoked at himself for allowing a feeling to which he could not give a name, to gain an influence over him. Gideon
Spilett shared his feelings in this respect, and the two conversed together in whispers of the inexplicable circumstance which baffled even their
intelligence and experience.
"It is a joke," said Pencroft; "it is a trick some one has played us. Well, I don't like such jokes, and the joker had better look out for
himself, if he falls into my hands, I can tell him."
As soon as the first gleam of light appeared in the east, the colonists, suitably armed, repaired to the beach under Granite House. The rising sun
now shone on the cliff and they could see the windows, the shutters of which were closed, through the curtains of foliage.
All here was in order; but a cry escaped the colonists when they saw that the door, which they had closed on their departure, was now wide open.
Some one had entered Granite House--there could be no more doubt about that.
The upper ladder, which generally hung from the door to the landing, was in its place, but the lower ladder was drawn up and raised to the
threshold. It was evident that the intruders had wished to guard themselves against a surprise.
Pencroft hailed again.
"The beggars," exclaimed the sailor. "There they are sleeping quietly as if they were in their own house. Hallo there, you pirates, brigands,
robbers, sons of John Bull!"
When Pencroft, being a Yankee, treated any one to the epithet of "son of John Bull," he considered he had reached the last limits of insult.
The sun had now completely risen, and the whole facade of Granite House became illuminated by its rays; but in the interior as well as on the
exterior all was quiet and calm.
The settlers asked if Granite House was inhabited or not, and yet the position of the ladder was sufficient to show that it was; it was also
certain that the inhabitants, whoever they might be, had not been able to escape. But how were they to be got at?
Herbert then thought of fastening a cord to an arrow, and shooting the arrow so that it should pass between the first rounds of the ladder which
hung from the threshold. By means of the cord they would then be able to draw down the ladder to the ground, and so re-establish the communication
between the beach and Granite House. There was evidently nothing else to be done, and, with a little skill, this method might succeed. Very
fortunately bows and arrows had been left at the Chimneys, where they also found a quantity of light hibiscus cord. Pencroft fastened this to a
well-feathered arrow. Then Herbert fixing it to his bow, took a careful aim for the lower part of the ladder.
Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Neb drew back, so as to see if anything appeared at the windows. The reporter lifted his gun to his
shoulder and covered the door.
The bow was bent, the arrow flew, taking the cord with it, and passed between the two last rounds.
The operation had succeeded.
Herbert immediately seized the end of the cord, but, at that moment when he gave it a pull to bring down the ladder, an arm, thrust suddenly out
between the wall and the door, grasped it and dragged it inside Granite House.
"The rascals!" shouted the sailor. "If a ball can do anything for you, you shall not have long to wait for it.
"But who was it?" asked Neb.
"Who was it? Didn't you see?"
"It was a monkey, a sapajou, an orangoutang, a baboon, a gorilla, a sagoin. Our dwelling has been invaded by monkeys, who climbed up the ladder
during our absence."
And, at this moment, as if to bear witness to the truth of the sailor's words, two or three quadrumana showed themselves at the windows, from
which they had pushed back the shutters, and saluted the real proprietors of the place with a thousand hideous grimaces.
"I knew that it was only a joke," cried Pencroft; "but one of the jokers shall pay the penalty for the rest."
So saying, the sailor, raising his piece, took a rapid aim at one of the monkeys and fired. All disappeared, except one who fell mortally wounded
on the beach. This monkey, which was of a large size, evidently belonged to the first order of the quadrumana. Whether this was a chimpanzee, an
orangoutang, or a gorilla, he took rank among the anthropoid apes, who are so called from their resemblance to the human race. However, Herbert
declared it to be an orangoutang.
"What a magnificent beast!" cried Neb.
"Magnificent, if you like," replied Pencroft; "but still I do not see how we are to get into our house."
"Herbert is a good marksman," said the reporter, "and his bow is here. He can try again."
"Why, these apes are so cunning," returned Pencroft; "they won't show themselves again at the windows and so we can't kill them; and when I think
of the mischief they may do in the rooms and storehouse--"
"Have patience," replied Harding; "these creatures cannot keep us long at bay."
"I shall not be sure of that till I see them down here," replied the sailor. "And now, captain, do you know how many dozens of these fellows are
It was difficult to reply to Pencroft, and as for the young boy making another attempt, that was not easy; for the lower part of the ladder had
been drawn again into the door, and when another pull was given, the line broke and the ladder remained firm. The case was really perplexing. Pencroft
stormed. There was a comic side to the situation, but he did not think it funny at all. It was certain that the settlers would end by reinstating
themselves in their domicile and driving out the intruders, but when and how? this is what they were not able to say.
Two hours passed, during which the apes took care not to show themselves, but they were still there, and three or four times a nose or a paw was
poked out at the door or windows, and was immediately saluted by a gun- shot.
"Let us hide ourselves," at last said the engineer. "Perhaps the apes will think we have gone quite away and will show themselves again. Let
Spilett and Herbert conceal themselves behind those rocks and fire on all that may appear."
The engineer's orders were obeyed, and while the reporter and the lad, the best marksmen in the colony, posted themselves in a good position, but
out of the monkeys' sight, Neb, Pencroft, and Cyrus climbed the plateau and entered the forest in order to kill some game, for it was now time for
breakfast and they had no provisions remaining.
In half an hour the hunters returned with a few rock pigeons, which they roasted as well as they could. Not an ape had appeared. Gideon Spilett
and Herbert went to take their share of the breakfast, leaving Top to watch under the windows. They then, having eaten, returned to their post.
Two hours later, their situation was in no degree improved. The quadrumana gave no sign of existence, and it might have been supposed that they
had disappeared; but what seemed more probable was that, terrified by the death of one of their companions, and frightened by the noise of the
firearms, they had retreated to the back part of the house or probably even into the store-room. And when they thought of the valuables which this
storeroom contained, the patience so much recommended by the engineer, fast changed into great irritation, and there certainly was room for it.
"Decidedly it is too bad," said the reporter; "and the worst of it is, there is no way of putting an end to it."
"But we must drive these vagabonds out somehow," cried the sailor. "We could soon get the better of them, even if there are twenty of the rascals;
but for that, we must meet them hand to hand. Come now, is there no way of getting at them?"
"Let us try to enter Granite House by the old opening at the lake," replied the engineer.
"Oh!" shouted the sailor, "and I never thought of that."
This was in reality the only way by which to penetrate into Granite House so as to fight with and drive out the intruders. The opening was, it is
true, closed up with a wall of cemented stones, which it would be necessary to sacrifice, but that could easily be rebuilt. Fortunately, Cyrus Harding
had not as yet effected his project of hiding this opening by raising the waters of the lake, for the operation would then have taken some time.
It was already past twelve o'clock, when the colonists, well armed and provided with picks and spades, left the Chimneys, passed beneath the
windows of Granite House, after telling Top to remain at his post, and began to ascend the left bank of the Mercy, so as to reach Prospect Heights.
But they had not made fifty steps in this direction, when they heard the dog barking furiously.
And all rushed down the bank again.
Arrived at the turning, they saw that the situation had changed.
In fact, the apes, seized with a sudden panic, from some unknown cause, were trying to escape. Two or three ran and clambered from one window to
another with the agility of acrobats. They were not even trying to replace the ladder, by which it would have been easy to descend; perhaps in their
terror they had forgotten this way of escape. The colonists, now being able to take aim without difficulty, fired. Some, wounded or killed, fell back
into the rooms, uttering piercing cries. The rest, throwing themselves out, were dashed to pieces in their fall, and in a few minutes, so far as they
knew, there was not a living quadrumana in Granite House.
At this moment the ladder was seen to slip over the threshold, then unroll and fall to the ground.
"Hullo!" cried the sailor, "this is queer!"
"Very strange!" murmured the engineer, leaping first up the ladder.
"Take care, captain!" cried Pencroft, "perhaps there are still some of these rascals.
"We shall soon see," replied the engineer, without stopping however.
All his companions followed him, and in a minute they had arrived at the threshold. They searched everywhere. There was no one in the rooms nor in
the storehouse, which had been respected by the band of quadrumana.
"Well now, and the ladder," cried the sailor; "who can the gentleman have been who sent us that down?"
But at that moment a cry was heard, and a great orang, who had hidden himself in the passage, rushed into the room, pursued by Neb.
"Ah, the robber!" cried Pencroft.
And hatchet in hand, he was about to cleave the head of the animal, when Cyrus Harding seized his arm, saying,--
"Spare him, Pencroft."
"Pardon this rascal?"
"Yes! it was he who threw us the ladder!"
And the engineer said this in such a peculiar voice that it was difficult to know whether he spoke seriously or not.
Nevertheless, they threw themselves on the orang, who defended himself gallantly, but was soon overpowered and bound.
"There!" said Pencroft. "And what shall we make of him, now we've got him?"
"A servant!" replied Herbert.
The lad was not joking in saying this, for he knew how this intelligent race could be turned to account.
The settlers then approached the ape and gazed at it attentively. He belonged to the family of anthropoid apes, of which the facial angle is not
much inferior to that of the Australians and Hottentots. It was an orangoutang, and as such, had neither the ferocity of the gorilla, nor the
stupidity of the baboon. It is to this family of the anthropoid apes that so many characteristics belong which prove them to be possessed of an almost
human intelligence. Employed in houses, they can wait at table, sweep rooms, brush clothes, clean boots, handle a knife, fork, and spoon properly, and
even drink wine,... doing everything as well as the best servant that ever walked upon two legs. Buffon possessed one of these apes, who served him
for a long time as a faithful and zealous servant.
The one which had been seized in the hall of Granite House was a great fellow, six feet high, with an admirably poportioned frame, a broad chest,
head of a moderate size, the facial angle reaching sixty-five degrees, round skull, projecting nose, skin covered with soft glossy hair, in short, a
fine specimen of the anthropoids. His eyes, rather smaller than human eyes, sparkled with intelligence; his white teeth glittered under his mustache,
and he wore a little curly brown beard.
"A handsome fellow!" said Pencroft; "if we only knew his language, we could talk to him."
"But, master," said Neb, "are you serious? Are we going to take him as a servant?"
"Yes, Neb," replied the engineer, smiling. "But you must not be jealous."
"And I hope he will make an excellent servant," added Herbert. "He appears young, and will be easy to educate, and we shall not be obliged to use
force to subdue him, nor draw his teeth, as is sometimes done. He will soon grow fond of his masters if they are kind to him."
"And they will be," replied Pencroft, who had forgotten all his rancor against "the jokers."
Then, approaching the orang,--
"Well, old boy!" he asked, "how are you?"
The orang replied by a little grunt which did not show any anger.
"You wish to join the colony?" again asked the sailor. "You are going to enter the service of Captain Cyrus Harding?"
Another respondent grunt was uttered by the ape.
"And you will be satisfied with no other wages than your food?"
Third affirmative grunt.
"This conversation is slightly monotonous," observed Gideon Spilett.
"So much the better," replied Pencroft; "the best servants are those who talk the least. And then, no wages, do you hear, my boy? We will give you
no wages at first, but we will double them afterwards if we are pleased with you."
Thus the colony was increased by a new member. As to his name the sailor begged that in memory of another ape which he had known, he might be
called Jupiter, and Jup for short.
And so, without more ceremony, Master Jup was installed in Granite House.
The capture of the orang
The settlers in Lincoln Island had now regained their dwelling, without having been obliged to reach it by the old opening, and were therefore
spared the trouble of mason's work. It was certainly lucky, that at the moment they were about to set out to do so, the apes had been seized with that
terror, no less sudden than inexplicable, which had driven them out of Granite House. Had the animals discovered that they were about to be attacked
from another direction? This was the only explanation of their sudden retreat.
During the day the bodies of the apes were carried into the wood, where they were buried; then the settlers busied themselves in repairing the
disorder caused by the intruders, disorder but not damage, for although they had turned everything in the rooms topsy-turvy, yet they had broken
nothing. Neb relighted his stove, and the stores in the larder furnished a substantial repast, to which all did ample justice.
Jup was not forgotten, and he ate with relish some stonepine almonds and rhizome roots, with which he was abundantly supplied. Pencroft had
unfastened his arms, but judged it best to have his legs tied until they were more sure of his submission.
Then, before retiring to rest, Harding and his companions seated round their table, discussed those plans, the execution of which was most
pressing. The most important and most urgent was the establishment of a bridge over the Mercy, so as to form a communication with the southern part of
the island and Granite House; then the making of an enclosure for the musmons or other woolly animals which they wished to capture.
These two projects would help to solve the difficulty as to their clothing, which was now serious. The bridge would render easy the transport of
the balloon case, which would furnish them with linen, and the inhabitants of the enclosure would yield wool which would supply them with winter
As to the enclosure, it was Cyrus Harding's intention to establish it at the sources of the Red Creek, where the ruminants would find fresh and
abundant pasture. The road between Prospect Heights and the sources of the stream was already partly beaten, and with a better cart than the first,
the material could be easily conveyed to the spot, especially if they could manage to capture some animals to draw it.
But though there might be no inconvenience in the enclosure being so far from Granite House, it would not be the same with the poultry-yard, to
which Neb called the attention of the colonists. It was indeed necessary that the birds should be close within reach of the cook, and no place
appeared more favorable for the establishment of the said poultry-yard than that portion of the banks of the lake which was close to the old opening.
Water-birds would prosper there as well as others, and the couple of tinamous taken in their last excursion would be the first to be domesticated.
The next day, the 3rd of November, the new works were begun by the construction of the bridge, and all hands were required for this important
task. Saws, hatchets, and hammers were shouldered by the settlers, who, now transformed into carpenters, descended to the shore.
There Pencroft observed,--
"Suppose, that during our absence, Master Jup takes it into his head to draw up the ladder which he so politely returned to us yesterday?"
"Let us tie its lower end down firmly," replied Cyrus Harding.
This was done by means of two stakes securely fixed in the sand. Then the settlers, ascending the left bank of the Mercy, soon arrived at the
angle formed by the river.
There they halted, in order to ascertain if the bridge could be thrown across. The place appeared suitable.
In fact, from this spot, to Port Balloon, discovered the day before on the southern coast, there was only a distance of three miles and a half,
and from the bridge to the Port, it would be easy to make a good cart-road which would render the communication between Granite House and the south of
the island extremely easy.
Cyrus Harding now imparted to his companions a scheme for completely isolating Prospect Heights so as to shelter it from the attacks both of
quadrupeds and quadrumana. In this way, Granite House, the Chimneys, the poultry-yard, and all the upper part of the plateau which was to be used for
cultivation, would be protected against the depredations of animals. Nothing could be easier than to execute this project, and this is how the
engineer intended to set to work.
The plateau was already defended on three sides by water-courses, either artificial or natural. On the northwest, by the shores of Lake Grant,
from the entrance of the passage to the breach made in the banks of the lake for the escape of the water.
On the north, from this breach to the sea, by the new water-course which had hollowed out a bed for itself across the plateau and shore, above and
below the fall, and it would be enough to dig the bed of this creek a little deeper to make it impracticable for animals, on all the eastern border by
the sea itself, from the mouth of the aforesaid creek to the mouth of the Mercy.
Lastly, on the south, from the mouth to the turn of the Mercy where the bridge was to be established.
The western border of the plateau now remained between the turn of the river and the southern angle of the lake, a distance of about a mile, which
was open to all comers. But nothing could be easier than to dig a broad deep ditch, which could be filled from the lake, and the overflow of which
would throw itself by a rapid fall into the bed of the Mercy. The level of the lake would, no doubt, be somewhat lowered by this fresh discharge of
its waters, but Cyrus Harding had ascertained that the volume of water in the Red Creek was considerable enough to allow of the execution of this
"So then," added the engineer, "Prospect Heights will become a regular island, being surrounded with water on all sides, and only communicating
with the rest of our domain by the bridge which we are about to throw across the Mercy, the two little bridges already established above and below the
fall; and, lastly, two other little bridges which must be constructed, one over the canal which I propose to dig, the other across to the left bank of
the Mercy. Now, if these bridges can be raised at will, Prospect Heights will be guarded from any surprise."
The bridge was the most urgent work. Trees were selected, cut down, stripped of their branches, and cut into beams, joists, and planks. The end of
the bridge which rested on the right bank of the Mercy was to be firm, but the other end on the left bank was to be movable, so that it might be
raised by means of a counterpoise, as some canal bridges are managed.
This was certainly a considerable work, and though it was skillfully conducted, it took some time, for the Mercy at this place was eighty feet
wide. It was therefore necessary to fix piles in the bed of the river so as to sustain the floor of the bridge and establish a pile-driver to act on
the tops of these piles, which would thus form two arches and allow the bridge to support heavy loads.
Happily there was no want of tools with which to shape the wood, nor of iron-work to make it firm, nor of the ingenuity of a man who had a
marvelous knowledge of the work, nor lastly, the zeal of his companions, who in seven months had necessarily acquired great skill in the use of their
tools; and it must be said that not the least skilful was Gideon Spilett, who in dexterity almost equaled the sailor himself. "Who would ever have
expected so much from a newspaper man!" thought Pencroft.
The construction of the Mercy bridge lasted three weeks of regular hard work. They even breakfasted on the scene of their labors, and the weather
being magnificent, they only returned to Granite House to sleep.
During this period it may be stated that Master Jup grew more accustomed to his new masters, whose movements he always watched with very
inquisitive eyes. However, as a precautionary measure, Pencroft did not as yet allow him complete liberty, rightly wishing to wait until the limits of
the plateau should be settled by the projected works. Top and Jup were good friends and played willingly together, but Jup did everything solemnly.
On the 20th of November the bridge was finished. The movable part, balanced by the counterpoise, swung easily, and only a slight effort was needed
to rise it; between its hinge and the last cross-bar on which it rested when closed, there existed a space of twenty feet, which was sufficiently wide
to prevent any animals from crossing.
The settlers now began to talk of fetching the balloon-case, which they were anxious to place in perfect security; but to bring it, it would be
necessary to take a cart to Port Balloon, and consequently, necessary to beat a road through the dense forests of the Far West. This would take some
time. Also, Neb and Pencroft having gone to examine into the state of things at Port Balloon, and reported that the stock of cloth would suffer no
damage in the grotto where it was stored, it was decided that the work at Prospect Heights should not be discontinued.
"That," observed Pencroft, "will enable us to establish our poultry-yard under better conditions, since we need have no fear of visits from foxes
nor the attacks of other beasts."
"Then," added Neb, "we can clear the plateau, and transplant wild plants to it."
"And prepare our second corn-field!" cried the sailor with a triumphant air.
In fact, the first corn-field sown with a single grain had prospered admirably, thanks to Pencroft's care. It had produced the ten ears foretold
by the engineer, and each ear containing eighty grains, the colony found itself in possession of eight hundred grains, in six months, which promised a
double harvest each year.
These eight hundred grains, except fifty, which were prudently reserved, were to be sown in a new field, but with no less care than was bestowed
on the single grain.
The field was prepared, then surrounded with a strong palisade, high and pointed, which quadrupeds would have found difficulty in leaping. As to
birds, some scarecrows, due to Pencroft's ingenious brain, were enough to frighten them. The seven hundred and fifty grains deposited in very regular
furrows were then left for nature to do the rest.
On the 21st of November, Cyrus Harding began to plan the canal which was to close the plateau on the west, from the south angle of Lake Grant to
the angle of the Mercy. There was there two or three feet of vegetable earth, and below that granite. It was therefore necessary to manufacture some
more nitro-glycerine, and the nitro-glycerine did its accustomed work. In less than a fortnight a ditch, twelve feet wide and six deep, was dug out in
the hard ground of the plateau. A new trench was made by the same means in the rocky border of the lake, forming a small stream, to which they gave
the name of Creek Glycerine, and which was thus an affluent of the Mercy. As the engineer had predicted, the level of the lake was lowered, though
very slightly. To complete the enclosure the bed of the stream on the beach was considerably enlarged, and the sand supported by means of stakes.
By the end of the first fortnight of December these works were finished, and Prospect Heights--that is to say, a sort of irregular pentagon,
having a perimeter of nearly four miles, surrounded by a liquid belt--was completely protected from depredators of every description.
During the month of December, the heat was very great. In spite of it, however, the settlers continued their work, and as they were anxious to
possess a poultry-yard they forthwith commenced it.
It is useless to say that since the enclosing of the plateau had been completed, Master Jup had been set at liberty. He did not leave his masters,
and evinced no wish to escape. He was a gentle animal, though very powerful and wonderfully active. He was already taught to make himself useful by
drawing loads of wood and carting away the stones which were extracted from the bed of Creek Glycerine.
The poultry-yard occupied an area of two hundred square yards, on the southeastern bank of the lake. It was surrounded by a palisade, and in it
were constructed various shelters for the birds which were to populate it. These were simply built of branches and divided into compartments, made
ready for the expected guests.
The first were the two tinamous, which were not long in having a number of young ones; they had for companions half a dozen ducks, accustomed to
the borders of the lake. Some belonged to the Chinese species, of which the wings open like a fan, and which by the brilliancy of their plumage rival
the golden pheasants. A few days afterwards, Herbert snared a couple of gallinaceae, with spreading tails composed of long feathers, magnificent
alectors, which soon became tame. As to pelicans, kingfishers, water-hens, they came of themselves to the shores of the poultry-yard, and this little
community, after some disputes, cooing, screaming, clucking, ended by settling down peacefully, and increased in encouraging proportion for the future
use of the colony.
Cyrus Harding, wishing to complete his performance, established a pigeon- house in a corner of the poultry-yard. There he lodged a dozen of those
pigeons which frequented the rocks of the plateau. These birds soon became accustomed to returning every evening to their new dwelling, and showed
more disposition to domesticate themselves than their congeners, the wood- pigeons.
Lastly, the time had come for turning the balloon-case to use, by cutting it up to make shirts and other articles; for as to keeping it in its
present form, and risking themselves in a balloon filled with gas, above a sea of the limits of which they had no idea, it was not to be thought of.
It was necessary to bring the case to Granite House, and the colonists employed themselves in rendering their heavy cart lighter and more
manageable. But though they had a vehicle, the moving power was yet to be found.
But did there not exist in the island some animal which might supply the place of the horse, ass, or ox? That was the question.
"Certainly," said Pencroft, "a beast of burden would be very useful to us until the captain has made a steam cart, or even an engine, for some day
we shall have a railroad from Granite House to Port Balloon, with a branch line to Mount Franklin!"
One day, the 23rd of December, Neb and Top were heard shouting and barking, each apparently trying to see who could make the most noise. The
settlers, who were busy at the Chimneys, ran, fearing some vexatious incident.
What did they see? Two fine animals of a large size that had imprudently ventured on the plateau, when the bridges were open. One would have said
they were horses, or at least donkeys, male and female, of a fine shape, dove-colored, the legs and tail white, striped with black on the head and
neck. They advanced quietly without showing any uneasiness, and gazed at the men, in whom they could not as yet recognize their future masters.
"These are onagers!" cried Herbert, "animals something between the zebra and the quagga!"
"Why not donkeys?" asked Neb.
"Because they have not long ears, and their shape is more graceful!"
"Donkeys or horses," interrupted Pencroft, "they are 'moving powers,' as the captain would say, and as such must be captured!"
The sailor, without frightening the animals, crept through the grass to the bridge over Creek Glycerine, lowered it, and the onagers were
Now, should they seize them with violence and master them by force? No. It was decided that for a few days they should be allowed to roam freely
about the plateau, where there was an abundance of grass, and the engineer immediately began to prepare a stable near the poultry-yard, in which the
onagers might find food, with a good litter, and shelter during the night.
This done, the movements of the two magnificent creatures were left entirely free, and the settlers avoided even approaching them so as to terrify
them. Several times, however, the onagers appeared to wish to leave the plateau, too confined for animals accustomed to the plains and forests. They
were then seen following the water-barrier which everywhere presented itself before them, uttering short neighs, then galloping through the grass, and
becoming calmer, they would remain entire hours gazing at the woods, from which they were cut off for ever!
In the meantime harness of vegetable fiber had been manufactured, and some days after the capture of the onagers, not only the cart was ready, but
a straight road, or rather a cutting, had been made through the forests of the Far West, from the angle of the Mercy to Port Balloon. The cart might
then be driven there, and towards the end of December they tried the onagers for the first time.
Pencroft had already coaxed the animals to come and eat out of his hand, and they allowed him to approach without making any difficulty, but once
harnessed they reared and could with difficulty be held in. However, it was not long before they submitted to this new service, for the onager, being
less refractory than the zebra, is frequently put in harness in the mountainous regions of Southern Africa, and it has even been acclimatized in
Europe, under zones of a relative coolness.
On this day all the colony, except Pencroft who walked at the animals' heads, mounted the cart, and set out on the road to Port Balloon.
Of course they were jolted over the somewhat rough road, but the vehicle arrived without any accident, and was soon loaded with the case and
rigging of the balloon.
At eight o'clock that evening the cart, after passing over the Mercy bridge, descended the left bank of the river, and stopped on the beach. The
onagers being unharnessed, were thence led to their stable, and Pencroft before going to sleep gave vent to his feelings in a deep sigh of
satisfaction that awoke all the echoes of Granite House.
The first week of January was devoted to the manufacture of the linen garments required by the colony. The needles found in the box were used by
sturdy if not delicate fingers, and we may be sure that what was sewn was sewn firmly.
There was no lack of thread, thanks to Cyrus Harding's idea of re- employing that which had been already used in the covering of the balloon. This
with admirable patience was all unpicked by Gideon Spilett and Herbert, for Pencroft had been obliged to give this work up, as it irritated him beyond
measure; but he had no equal in the sewing part of the business. Indeed, everybody knows that sailors have a remarkable aptitude for tailoring.
The cloth of which the balloon-case was made was then cleaned by means of soda and potash, obtained by the incineration of plants, in such a way
that the cotton, having got rid of the varnish, resumed its natural softness and elasticity; then, exposed to the action of the atmosphere, it soon
became perfectly white. Some dozen shirts and sock--the latter not knitted, of course, but made of cotton--were thus manufactured. What a comfort it
was to the settlers to clothe themselves again in clean linen, which was doubtless rather rough, but they were not troubled about that! and then to go
to sleep between sheets, which made the couches at Granite House into quite comfortable beds!
It was about this time also that they made boots of seal-leather, which were greatly needed to replace the shoes and boots brought from America.
We may be sure that these new shoes were large enough and never pinched the feet of the wearers.
With the beginning of the year 1866 the heat was very great, but the hunting in the forests did not stand still. Agouties, peccaries, capybaras,
kangaroos, game of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and Spilett and Herbert were too good marksmen ever to throw away their shot uselessly.
Cyrus Harding still recommended them to husband the ammunition, and he took measures to replace the powder and shot which had been found in the
box, and which he wished to reserve for the future. How did he know where chance might one day cast his companions and himself in the event of their
leaving their domain? They should, then, prepare for the unknown future by husbanding their ammunition and by substituting for it some easily
To replace lead, of which Harding had found no traces in the island, he employed granulated iron, which was easy to manufacture. These bullets,
not having the weight of leaden bullets, were made larger, and each charge contained less, but the skill of the sportsmen made up this deficiency. As
to powder, Cyrus Harding would have been able to make that also, for he had at his disposal saltpeter, sulphur, and coal; but this preparation
requires extreme care, and without special tools it is difficult to produce it of a good quality. Harding preferred, therefore, to manufacture
pyroxyle, that is to say gun-cotton, a substance in which cotton is not indispensable, as the elementary tissue of vegetables may be used, and this is
found in an almost pure state, not only in cotton, but in the textile fiber of hemp and flax, in paper, the pith of the elder, etc. Now, the elder
abounded in the island towards the mouth of Red Creek, and the colonists had already made coffee of the berries of these shrubs, which belong to the
family of the caprifoliaceae.
The only thing to be collected, therefore, was elder-pith, for as to the other substance necessary for the manufacture of pyroxyle, it was only
fuming azotic acid. Now, Harding having sulphuric acid at his disposal, had already been easily able to produce azotic acid by attacking the saltpeter
with which nature supplied him. He accordingly resolved to manufacture and employ pyroxyle, although it has some inconveniences, that is to say, a
great inequality of effect, an excessive inflammability, since it takes fire at one hundred and seventy degrees instead of two hundred and forty, and
lastly, an instantaneous deflagration which might damage the firearms. On the other hand, the advantages of pyroxyle consist in this, that it is not
injured by damp, that it does not make the gun-barrels dirty, and that its force is four times that of ordinary powder.
To make pyroxyle, the cotton must be immersed in the fuming azotic acid for a quarter of an hour, then washed in cold water and dried. Nothing
could be more simple.
Cyrus Harding had only at his disposal the ordinary azotic acid and not the fuming or monohydrate azotic acid, that is to say, acid which emits
white vapors when it comes in contact with damp air; but by substituting for the latter ordinary azotic acid, mixed, in the proportion of from three
to five volumes of concentrated sulphuric acid, the engineer obtained the same result. The sportsmen of the island therefore soon had a perfectly
prepared substance, which, employed discreetly, produced admirable results.
About this time the settlers cleared three acres of the plateau, and the rest was preserved in a wild state, for the benefit of the onagers.
Several excursions were made into the Jacamar Wood and the forests of the Far West, and they brought back from thence a large collection of wild
vegetables, spinach, cress, radishes, and turnips, which careful culture would soon improve, and which would temper the regimen on which the settlers
had till then subsisted. Supplies of wood and coal were also carted. Each excursion was at the same time a means of improving the roads, which
gradually became smoother under the wheels of the cart.
The rabbit-warren still continued to supply the larder of Granite House. As fortunately it was situated on the other side of Creek Glycerine, its
inhabitants could not reach the plateau nor ravage the newly-made plantation. The oyster-bed among the rocks was frequently renewed and furnished
excellent molluscs. Besides that, the fishing, either in the lake or the Mercy, was very profitable, for Pencroft had made some lines, armed with iron
hooks, with which they frequently caught fine trout, and a species of fish whose silvery sides were speckled with yellow, and which were also
extremely savory. Master Neb, who was skilled in the culinary art, knew how to vary agreeably the bill of fare. Bread alone was wanting at the table
of the settlers, and as has been said, they felt this privation greatly.
The settlers hunted too the turtles which frequented the shores of Cape Mandible. At this place the beach was covered with little mounds,
concealing perfectly spherical turtles' eggs, with white hard shells, the albumen of which does not coagulate as that of birds' eggs. They were
hatched by the sun, and their number was naturally considerable, as each turtle can lay annually two hundred and fifty.
"A regular egg-field," observed Gideon Spilett, "and we have nothing to do but to pick them up."
But not being contented with simply the produce, they made chase after the producers, the result of which was that they were able to bring back to
Granite House a dozen of these chelonians, which were really valuable from an alimentary point of view. The turtle soup, flavored with aromatic herbs,
often gained well-merited praises for its preparer, Neb.
We must here mention another fortunate circumstance by which new stores for the winter were laid in. Shoals of salmon entered the Mercy, and
ascended the country for several miles. It was the time at which the females, going to find suitable places in which to spawn, precede the males and
make a great noise through the fresh water. A thousand of these fish, which measured about two feet and a half in length, came up the river, and a
large quantity were retained by fixing dams across the stream. More than a hundred were thus taken, which were salted and stored for the time when
winter, freezing up the streams, would render fishing impracticable. By this time the intelligent Jup was raised to the duty of valet. He had been
dressed in a jacket, white linen breeches, and an apron, the pockets of which were his delight. The clever orang had been marvelously trained by Neb,
and any one would have said that the Negro and the ape understood each other when they talked together. Jup had besides a real affection for Neb, and
Neb returned it. When his services were not required, either for carrying wood or for climbing to the top of some tree, Jup passed the greatest part
of his time in the kitchen, where he endeavored to imitate Neb in all that he saw him do. The black showed the greatest patience and even extreme zeal
in instructing his pupil, and the pupil exhibited remarkable intelligence in profiting by the lessons he received from his master.
Judge then of the pleasure Master Jup gave to the inhabitants of Granite House when, without their having had any idea of it, he appeared one day,
napkin on his arm, ready to wait at table. Quick, attentive, he acquitted himself perfectly, changing the plates, bringing dishes, pouring out water,
all with a gravity which gave intense amusement to the settlers, and which enraptured Pencroft.
"Jup, some soup!"
"Jup, a little agouti!"
"Jup, a plate!"
"Jup! Good Jup! Honest Jup!"
Nothing was heard but that, and Jup without ever being disconcerted, replied to every one, watched for everything, and he shook his head in a
knowing way when Pencroft, referring to his joke of the first day, said to him,--
"Decidedly, Jup, your wages must be doubled."
It is useless to say that the orang was now thoroughly domesticated at Granite House, and that he often accompanied his masters to the forest
without showing any wish to leave them. It was most amusing to see him walking with a stick which Pencroft had given him, and which he carried on his
shoulder like a gun. If they wished to gather some fruit from the summit of a tree, how quickly he climbed for it. If the wheel of the cart stuck in
the mud, with what energy did Jup with a single heave of his shoulder put it right again.
"What a jolly fellow he is!" cried Pencroft often. "If he was as mischievous as he is good, there would be no doing anything with him!"
It was towards the end of January the colonists began their labors in the center of the island. It had been decided that a corral should be
established near the sources of the Red Creek, at the foot of Mount Franklin, destined to contain the ruminants, whose presence would have been
troublesome at Granite House, and especially for the musmons, who were to supply the wool for the settlers' winter garments.
Each morning, the colony, sometimes entire, but more often represented only by Harding, Herbert, and Pencroft, proceeded to the sources of the
Creek, a distance of not more than five miles, by the newly beaten road to which the name of Corral Road had been given.
There a site was chosen, at the back of the southern ridge of the mountain. It was a meadow land, dotted here and there with clumps of trees, and
watered by a little stream, which sprung from the slopes which closed it in on one side. The grass was fresh, and it was not too much shaded by the
trees which grew about it. This meadow was to be surrounded by a palisade, high enough to prevent even the most agile animals from leaping over. This
enclosure would be large enough to contain a hundred musmons and wild goats, with all the young ones they might produce.
The perimeter of the corral was then traced by the engineer, and they would then have proceeded to fell the trees necessary for the construction
of the palisade, but as the opening up of the road had already necessitated the sacrifice of a considerable number, those were brought and supplied a
hundred stakes, which were firmly fixed in the ground.
The construction of this corral did not take less than three weeks, for besides the palisade, Cyrus Harding built large sheds, in which the
animals could take shelter. These buildings had also to be made very strong, for musmons are powerful animals, and their first fury was to be feared.
The stakes, sharpened at their upper end and hardened by fire, had been fixed by means of cross-bars, and at regular distances props assured the
solidity of the whole.
The corral finished, a raid had to be made on the pastures frequented by the ruminants. This was done on the 7th of February, on a beautiful
summer's day, and every one took part in it. The onagers, already well trained, were ridden by Spilett and Herbert, and were of great use.
The maneuver consisted simply in surrounding the musmons and goats, and gradually narrowing the circle around them. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, Neb,
and Jup, posted themselves in different parts of the wood, while the two cavaliers and Top galloped in a radius of half a mile round the corral.
The musmons were very numerous in this part of the island. These fine animals were as large as deer; their horns were stronger than those of the
ram, and their gray-colored fleece was mixed with long hair.
This hunting day was very fatiguing. Such going and coming, and running and riding and shouting! Of a hundred musmons which had been surrounded,
more than two-thirds escaped, but at last, thirty of these animals and ten wild goats were gradually driven back towards the corral, the open door of
which appearing to offer a means of escape, they rushed in and were prisoners.
In short, the result was satisfactory, and the settlers had no reason to complain. There was no doubt that the flock would prosper, and that at no
distant time not only wool but hides would be abundant.
That evening the hunters returned to Granite House quite exhausted. However, notwithstanding their fatigue, they returned the next day to visit
the corral. The prisoners had been trying to overthrow the palisade, but of course had not succeeded, and were not long in becoming more tranquil.
During the month of February, no event of any importance occurred. The daily labors were pursued methodically, and, as well as improving the roads
to the corral and to Port Balloon, a third was commenced, which, starting from the enclosure, proceeded towards the western coast. The yet unknown
portion of Lincoln Island was that of the wood-covered Serpentine Peninsula, which sheltered the wild beasts, from which Gideon Spilett was so anxious
to clear their domain.
Before the cold season should appear the most assiduous care was given to the cultivation of the wild plants which had been transplanted from the
forest to Prospect Heights. Herbert never returned from an excursion without bringing home some useful vegetable. One day, it was some specimens of
the chicory tribe, the seeds of which by pressure yield an excellent oil; another, it was some common sorrel, whose antiscorbutic qualities were not
to be despised; then, some of those precious tubers, which have at all times been cultivated in South America, potatoes, of which more than two
hundred species are now known. The kitchen garden, now well stocked and carefully defended from the birds, was divided into small beds, where grew
lettuces, kidney potatoes, sorrel, turnips, radishes, and other coneiferae. The soil on the plateau was particularly fertile, and it was hoped that
the harvests would be abundant.
They had also a variety of different beverages, and so long as they did not demand wine, the most hard to please would have had no reason to
complain. To the Oswego tea, and the fermented liquor extracted from the roots of the dragonnier, Harding had added a regular beer, made from the
young shoots of the spruce-fir, which, after having been boiled and fermented, made that agreeable drink called by the Anglo-Americans spring- beer.
Towards the end of the summer, the poultry-yard was possessed of a couple of fine bustards, which belonged to the houbara species, characterized
by a sort of feathery mantle; a dozen shovelers, whose upper mandible was prolonged on each side by a membraneous appendage; and also some magnificent
cocks, similar to the Mozambique cocks, the comb, caruncle, and epidermis being black. So far, everything had succeeded, thanks to the activity of
these courageous and intelligent men. Nature did much for them, doubtless; but faithful to the great precept, they made a right use of what a
bountiful Providence gave them.
After the heat of these warm summer days, in the evening when their work was finished and the sea-breeze began to blow, they liked to sit on the
edge of Prospect Heights, in a sort of veranda, covered with creepers, which Neb had made with his own hands. There they talked, they instructed each
other, they made plans, and the rough good-humor of the sailor always amused this little world, in which the most perfect harmony had never ceased to
They often spoke of their country, of their dear and great America. What was the result of the War of Secession? It could not have been greatly
prolonged. Richmond had doubtless soon fallen into the hands of General Grant. The taking of the capital of the Confederates must have been the last
action of this terrible struggle. Now the North had triumphed in the good cause, how welcome would have been a newspaper to the exiles in Lincoln
Island! For eleven months all communication between them and the rest of their fellow-creatures had been interrupted, and in a short time the 24th of
March would arrive, the anniversary of the day on which the balloon had thrown them on this unknown coast. They were then mere castaways, not even
knowing how they should preserve their miserable lives from the fury of the elements! And now, thanks to the knowledge of their captain, and their own
intelligence, they were regular colonists, furnished with arms, tools, and instruments; they had been able to turn to their profit the animals,
plants, and minerals of the island, that is to say, the three kingdoms of Nature.
Yes; they often talked of all these things and formed still more plans.
As to Cyrus Harding he was for the most part silent, and listened to his companions more often than he spoke to them. Sometimes he smiled at
Herbert's ideas or Pencroft's nonsense, but always and everywhere he pondered over those inexplicable facts, that strange enigma, of which the secret
still escaped him!
The weather changed during the first week of March. There had been a full moon at the commencement of the month, and the heat was excessive. The
atmosphere was felt to be full of electricity, and a period of some length of tempestuous weather was to be feared.
Indeed, on the 2nd, peals of thunder were heard, the wind blew from the east, and hail rattled against the facade of Granite House like volleys of
grape-shot. The door and windows were immediately closed, or everything in the rooms would have been drenched. On seeing these hailstones, some of
which were the size of a pigeon's egg, Pencroft's first thought was that his cornfield was in serious danger.
He directly rushed to his field, where little green heads were already appearing, and by means of a great cloth, he managed to protect his crop.
This bad weather lasted a week, during which time the thunder rolled without cessation in the depths of the sky.
The colonists, not having any pressing work out of doors, profited by the bad weather to work at the interior of Granite House, the arrangement of
which was becoming more complete from day to day. The engineer made a turning-lathe, with which he turned several articles both for the toilet and the
kitchen, particularly buttons, the want of which was greatly felt. A gunrack had been made for the firearms, which were kept with extreme care, and
neither tables nor cupboards were left incomplete. They sawed, they planed, they filed, they turned; and during the whole of this bad season, nothing
was heard but the grinding of tools or the humming of the turning-lathe which responded to the growling of the thunder.
Master Jup had not been forgotten, and he occupied a room at the back, near the storeroom, a sort of cabin with a cot always full of good litter,
which perfectly suited his taste.
"With good old Jup there is never any quarreling," often repeated Pencroft, "never any improper reply. What a servant, Neb, what a servant!"
Of course Jup was now well used to service. He brushed their clothes, he turned the spit, he waited at table, he swept the rooms, he gathered
wood, and he performed another admirable piece of service which delighted Pencroft--he never went to sleep without first coming to tuck up the worthy
sailor in his bed.
As to the health of the members of the colony, bipeds or bimana, quadrumana or quadrupeds, it left nothing to be desired. With their life in the
open air, on this salubrious soil, under that temperate zone, working both with head and hands, they could not suppose that illness would ever attack
All were indeed wonderfully well. Herbert had already grown two inches in the year. His figure was forming and becoming more manly, and he
promised to be an accomplished man, physically as well as morally. Besides he improved himself during the leisure hours which manual occupations left
to him; he read the books found in the case; and after the practical lessons which were taught by the very necessity of their position, he found in
the engineer for science, and the reporter for languages, masters who were delighted to complete his education.
The tempest ended about the 9th of March, but the sky remained covered with clouds during the whole of this last summer month. The atmosphere,
violently agitated by the electric commotions, could not recover its former purity, and there was almost invariably rain and fog, except for three or
four fine days on which several excursions were made. About this time the female onager gave birth to a young one which belonged to the same sex as
its mother, and which throve capitally. In the corral, the flock of musmons had also increased, and several lambs already bleated in the sheds, to the
great delight of Neb and Herbert, who had each their favorite among these newcomers. An attempt was also made for the domestication of the peccaries,
which succeeded well. A sty was constructed under the poultry-yard, and soon contained several young ones in the way to become civilized, that is to
say, to become fat under Neb's care. Master Jup, entrusted with carrying them their daily nourishment, leavings from the kitchen, etc., acquitted
himself conscientiously of his task. He sometimes amused himself at the expense of his little pensioners by tweaking their tails; but this was
mischief, and not wickedness, for these little twisted tails amused him like a plaything, and his instinct was that of a child. One day in this month
of March, Pencroft, talking to the engineer, reminded Cyrus Harding of a promise which the latter had not as yet had time to fulfil.
"You once spoke of an apparatus which would take the place of the long ladders at Granite House, captain," said he; "won't you make it some day?"
"Nothing will be easier; but is this a really useful thing?"
"Certainly, captain. After we have given ourselves necessaries, let us think a little of luxury. For us it may be luxury, if you like, but for
things it is necessary. It isn't very convenient to climb up a long ladder when one is heavily loaded."
"Well, Pencroft, we will try to please you," replied Cyrus Harding.
"But you have no machine at your disposal."
"We will make one."
"A steam machine?"
"No, a water machine.
And, indeed, to work his apparatus there was already a natural force at the disposal of the engineer which could be used without great difficulty.
For this, it was enough to augment the flow of the little stream which supplied the interior of Granite House with water. The opening among the stones
and grass was then increased, thus producing a strong fall at the bottom of the passage, the overflow from which escaped by the inner well. Below this
fall the engineer fixed a cylinder with paddles, which was joined on the exterior with a strong cable rolled on a wheel, supporting a basket. In this
way, by means of a long rope reaching to the ground, which enabled them to regulate the motive power, they could rise in the basket to the door of
It was on the 17th of March that the lift acted for the first time, and gave universal satisfaction. Henceforward all the loads, wood, coal,
provisions, and even the settlers themselves, were hoisted by this simple system, which replaced the primitive ladder, and, as may be supposed, no one
thought of regretting the change. Top particularly was enchanted with this improvement, for he had not, and never could have possessed Master Jup's
skill in climbing ladders, and often it was on Neb's back, or even on that of the orang that he had been obliged to make the ascent to Granite House.
About this time, too, Cyrus Harding attempted to manufacture glass, and he at first put the old pottery-kiln to this new use. There were some
difficulties to be encountered; but, after several fruitless attempts, he succeeded in setting up a glass manufactory, which Gideon Spilett and
Herbert, his usual assistants, did not leave for several days. As to the substances used in the composition of glass, they are simply sand, chalk, and
soda, either carbonate or sulphate. Now the beach supplied sand, lime supplied chalk, sea-weeds supplied soda, pyrites supplied sulphuric acid, and
the ground supplied coal to heat the kiln to the wished-for temperature. Cyrus Harding thus soon had everything ready for setting to work.
The tool, the manufacture of which presented the most difficulty, was the pipe of the glass-maker, an iron tube, five or six feet long, which
collects on one end the material in a state of fusion. But by means of a long, thin piece of iron rolled up like the barrel of a gun, Pencroft
succeeded in making a tube soon ready for use.
On the 28th of March the tube was heated. A hundred parts of sand, thirty-five of chalk, forty of sulphate of soda, mixed with two or three parts
of powdered coal, composed the substance, which was placed in crucibles. When the high temperature of the oven had reduced it to a liquid, or rather a
pasty state, Cyrus Harding collected with the tube a quantity of the paste: he turned it about on a metal plate, previously arranged, so as to give it
a form suitable for blowing, then he passed the tube to Herbert, telling him to blow at the other extremity.
And Herbert, swelling out his cheeks, blew so much and so well into the tube-taking care to twirl it round at the same time--that his breath
dilated the glassy mass. Other quantities of the substance in a state of fusion were added to the first, and in a short time the result was a bubble
which measured a foot in diameter. Harding then took the tube out of Herbert's hands, and, giving it a pendulous motion, he ended by lengthening the
malleable bubble so as to give it a cylindroconic shape.
The blowing operation had given a cylinder of glass terminated by two hemispheric caps, which were easily detached by means of a sharp iron dipped
in cold water; then, by the same proceeding, this cylinder was cut lengthways, and after having been rendered malleable by a second heating, it was
extended on a plate and spread out with a wooden roller.
The first pane was thus manufactured, and they had only to perform this operation fifty times to have fifty panes. The windows at Granite House
were soon furnished with panes; not very white, perhaps, but still sufficiently transparent.
As to bottles and tumblers, that was only play. They were satisfied with them, besides, just as they came from the end of the tube. Pencroft had
asked to be allowed to "blow" in his turn, and it was great fun for him; but he blew so hard that his productions took the most ridiculous shapes,
which he admired immensely.
Cyrus Harding and Herbert, while hunting one day, had entered the forest of the Far West, on the left bank of the Mercy, and, as usual, the lad
was asking a thousand questions of the engineer, who answered them heartily. Now, as Harding was not a sportsman, and as, on the other side, Herbert
was talking chemistry and natural philosophy, numbers of kangaroos, capybaras, and agouties came within range, which, however, escaped the lad's gun;
the consequence was that the day was already advanced, and the two hunters were in danger of having made a useless excursion, when Herbert, stopping,
and uttering a cry of joy, exclaimed,--
"Oh, Captain Harding, do you see that tree?" and he pointed to a shrub, rather than a tree, for it was composed of a single stem, covered with a
scaly bark, which bore leaves streaked with little parallel veins.
"And what is this tree which resembles a little palm?" asked Harding.
"It is a 'cycas revoluta,' of which I have a picture in our dictionary of Natural History!" said Herbert.
"But I can't see any fruit on this shrub!" observed his companion.
"No, captain," replied Herbert; "but its stem contains a flour with which nature has provided us all ready ground."
"It is, then, the bread-tree?"
"Yes, the bread-tree."
"Well, my boy," replied the engineer, "this is a valuable discovery, since our wheat harvest is not yet ripe; I hope that you are not mistaken!"
Herbert was not mistaken: he broke the stem of a cycas, which was composed of a glandulous tissue, containing a quantity of floury pith, traversed
with woody fiber, separated by rings of the same substance, arranged concentrically. With this fecula was mingled a mucilaginous juice of disagreeable
flavor, but which it would be easy to get rid of by pressure. This cellular substance was regular flour of a superior quality, extremely nourishing;
its exportation was formerly forbidden by the Japanese laws.
Cyrus Harding and Herbert, after having examined that part of the Far West where the cycas grew, took their bearings, and returned to Granite
House, where they made known their discovery.
The next day the settlers went to collect some, and returned to Granite House with an ample supply of cycas stems. The engineer constructed a
press, with which to extract the mucilaginous juice mingled with the fecula, and he obtained a large quantity of flour, which Neb soon transformed
into cakes and puddings. This was not quite real wheaten bread, but it was very like it.
Now, too, the onager, the goats, and the sheep in the corral furnished daily the milk necessary to the colony. The cart, or rather a sort of light
carriole which had replaced it, made frequent journeys to the corral, and when it was Pencroft's turn to go he took Jup, and let him drive, and Jup,
cracking his whip, acquitted himself with his customary intelligence.
Everything prospered, as well in the corral as in Granite House, and certainly the settlers, if it had not been that they were so far from their
native land, had no reason to complain. They were so well suited to this life, and were, besides, so accustomed to the island, that they could not
have left its hospitable soil without regret!
And yet so deeply is the love of his country implanted in the heart of man, that if a ship had unexpectedly come in sight of the island, the
colonists would have made signals, would have attracted her attention, and would have departed!
It was the 1st of April, a Sunday, Easter Day, which Harding and his companions sanctified by rest and prayer. The day was fine, such as an
October day in the Northern Hemisphere might be.
All, towards the evening after dinner, were seated under the veranda on the edge of Prospect Heights, and they were watching the darkness creeping
up from the horizon. Some cups of the infusion of elder-berries, which took the place of coffee, had been served by Neb. They were speaking of the
island and of its isolated situation in the Pacific, which led Gideon Spilett to say,--
"My dear Cyrus, have you ever, since you possessed the sextant found in the case, again taken the position of our island?"
"No," replied the engineer.
"But it would perhaps be a good thing to do it with this instrument, which is more perfect than that which you before used."
"What is the good?" said Pencroft. "The island is quite comfortable where it is!"
"Well, who knows," returned the reporter, "who knows but that we may be much nearer inhabited land than we think?"
"We shall know to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "and if it had not been for the occupations which left me no leisure, we should have known it
"Good!" said Pencroft. "The captain is too good an observer to be mistaken, and, if it has not moved from its place, the island is just where he
"We shall see."
On the next day, therefore, by means of the sextant, the engineer made the necessary observations to verify the position which he had already
obtained, and this was the result of his operation. His first observation had given him the situation of Lincoln Island,--
In west longitude: from 1500 to 1550;
In south latitude: from 300 to 350
The second gave exactly:
In longitude: 1500 30'
In south latitude: 340 57'
So then, notwithstanding the imperfection of his apparatus, Cyrus Harding had operated with so much skill that his error did not exceed five
"Now," said Gideon Spilett, "since we possess an atlas as well as a sextant, let us see, my dear Cyrus, the exact position which Lincoln Island
occupies in the Pacific."
Herbert fetched the atlas, and the map of the Pacific was opened, and the engineer, compass in hand, prepared to determine their position.
Suddenly the compasses stopped, and he exclaimed,
"But an island exists in this part of the Pacific already!"
"An island?" cried Pencroft.
"An important island?"
"No, an islet lost in the Pacific, and which perhaps has never been visited."
"Well, we will visit it," said Pencroft.
"Yes, captain. We will build a decked boat, and I will undertake to steer her. At what distance are we from this Tabor Island?"
"About a hundred and fifty miles to the northeast," replied Harding.
"A hundred and fifty miles! And what's that?" returned Pencroft. "In forty-eight hours, with a good wind, we should sight it!"
And, on this reply, it was decided that a vessel should be constructed in time to be launched towards the month of next October, on the return of
the fine season.
When Pencroft had once got a plan in his head, he had no peace till it was executed. Now he wished to visit Tabor Island, and as a boat of a
certain size was necessary for this voyage, he determined to build one.
What wood should he employ? Elm or fir, both of which abounded in the island? They decided for the fir, as being easy to work, but which stands
water as well as the elm.
These details settled, it was agreed that since the fine season would not return before six months, Cyrus Harding and Pencroft should work alone
at the boat. Gideon Spilett and Herbert were to continue to hunt, and neither Neb nor Master Jup, his assistant, were to leave the domestic duties
which had devolved upon them.
Directly the trees were chosen, they were felled, stripped of their branches, and sawn into planks as well as sawyers would have been able to do
it. A week after, in the recess between the Chimneys and the cliff, a dockyard was prepared, and a keel five-and-thirty feet long, furnished with a
stern-post at the stern and a stem at the bows, lay along the sand.
Cyrus Harding was not working in the dark at this new trade. He knew as much about ship-building as about nearly everything else, and he had at
first drawn the model of his ship on paper. Besides, he was ably seconded by Pencroft, who, having worked for several years in a dockyard in Brooklyn,
knew the practical part of the trade. It was not until after careful calculation and deep thought that the timbers were laid on the keel.
Pencroft, as may be believed, was all eagerness to carry out his new enterprise, and would not leave his work for an instant.
A single thing had the honor of drawing him, but for one day only, from his dockyard. This was the second wheat-harvest, which was gathered in on
the 15th of April. It was as much a success as the first, and yielded the number of grains which had been predicted.
"Five bushels, captain," said Pencroft, alter having scrupulously measured his treasure.
"Five bushels," replied the engineer; "and a hundred and thirty thousand grains a bushel will make six hundred and fifty thousand grains."
"Well, we will sow them all this time," said the sailor, "except a little in reserve."
"Yes, Pencroft, and if the next crop gives a proportionate yield, we shall have four thousand bushels."
"And shall we eat bread?"
"We shall eat bread."
"But we must have a mill.
"We will make one."
The third corn-field was very much larger than the two first, and the soil, prepared with extreme care, received the precious seed. That done,
Pencroft returned to his work.
During this time Spilett and Herbert hunted in the neighborhood, and they ventured deep into the still unknown parts of the Far West, their guns
loaded with ball, ready for any dangerous emergency. It was a vast thicket of magnificent trees, crowded together as if pressed for room. The
exploration of these dense masses of wood was difficult in the extreme, and the reporter never ventured there without the pocket-compass, for the sun
scarcely pierced through the thick foliage and it would have been very difficult for them to retrace their way. It naturally happened that game was
more rare in those situations where there was hardly sufficient room to move; two or three large herbivorous animals were however killed during the
last fortnight of April. These were koalas, specimens of which the settlers had already seen to the north of the lake, and which stupidly allowed
themselves to be killed among the thick branches of the trees in which they took refuge. Their skins were brought back to Granite House, and there, by
the help of sulphuric acid, they were subjected to a sort of tanning process which rendered them capable of being used.
On the 30th of April, the two sportsmen were in the depth of the Far West, when the reporter, preceding Herbert a few paces, arrived in a sort of
clearing, into which the trees more sparsely scattered had permitted a few rays to penetrate. Gideon Spilett was at first surprised at the odor which
exhaled from certain plants with straight stalks, round and branchy, bearing grape-like clusters of flowers and very small berries. The reporter broke
off one or two of these stalks and returned to the lad, to whom he said,--
"What can this be, Herbert?"
"Well, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert, "this is a treasure which will secure you Pencroft's gratitude forever."
"Is it tobacco?"
"Yes, and though it may not be of the first quality, it is none the less tobacco!"
"Oh, good old Pencroft! Won't he be pleased! But we must not let him smoke it all, he must give us our share."
"Ah! an idea occurs to me, Mr, Spilett," replied Herbert. "Don't let us say anything to Pencroft yet; we will prepare these leaves, and one fine
day we will present him with a pipe already filled!"
"All right, Herbert, and on that day our worthy companion will have nothing left to wish for in this world."
The reporter and the lad secured a good store of the precious plant, and then returned to Granite House, where they smuggled it in with as much
precaution as if Pencroft had been the most vigilant and severe of custom- house officers.
Cyrus Harding and Neb were taken into confidence, and the sailor suspected nothing during the whole time, necessarily somewhat long, which was
required in order to dry the small leaves, chop them up, and subject them to a certain torrefaction on hot stones. This took two months; but all these
manipulations were successfully carried on unknown to Pencroft, for, occupied with the construction of his boat, he only returned to Granite House at
the hour of rest.
For some days they had observed an enormous animal two or three miles out in the open sea swimming around Lincoln Island. This was a whale of the
largest size, which apparently belonged to the southern species, called the "Cape Whale."
"What a lucky chance it would be if we could capture it!" cried the sailor. "Ah! if we only had a proper boat and a good harpoon, I would say
'After the beast,' for he would be well worth the trouble of catching!"
"Well, Pencroft," observed Harding, "I should much like to watch you handling a harpoon. It would be very interesting."
"I am astonished," said the reporter, "to see a whale in this comparatively high latitude."
"Why so, Mr. Spilett?" replied Herbert. "We are exactly in that part of the Pacific which English and American whalemen call the whale field, and
it is here, between New Zealand and South America, that the whales of the Southern Hemisphere are met with in the greatest numbers."
And Pencroft returned to his work, not without uttering a sigh of regret, for every sailor is a born fisherman, and if the pleasure of fishing is
in exact proportion to the size of the animal, one can judge how a whaler feels in sight of a whale. And if this had only been for pleasure! But they
could not help feeling how valuable such a prize would have been to the colony, for the oil, fat, and bones would have been put to many uses.
Now it happened that this whale appeared to have no wish to leave the waters of the island. Therefore, whether from the windows of Granite House,
or from Prospect Heights, Herbert and Gideon Spilett, when they were not hunting, or Neb, unless presiding over his fires, never left the telescope,
but watched all the animal's movements. The cetacean, having entered far into Union Bay, made rapid furrows across it from Mandible Cape to Claw Cape,
propelled by its enormously powerful flukes, on which it supported itself, and making its way through the water at the rate little short of twelve
knots an hour. Sometimes also it approached so near to the island that it could be clearly distinguished. It was the southern whale, which is
completely black, the head being more depressed than that of the northern whale.
They could also see it throwing up from its air-holes to a great height a cloud of vapor, or of water, for, strange as it may appear, naturalists
and whalers are not agreed on this subject. Is it air or is it water which is thus driven out? It is generally admitted to be vapor, which, condensing
suddenly by contact with the cold air, falls again as rain.
However, the presence of this mammifer preoccupied the colonists. It irritated Pencroft especially, as he could think of nothing else while at
work. He ended by longing for it, like a child for a thing which it has been denied. At night he talked about it in his sleep, and certainly if he had
had the means of attacking it, if the sloop had been in a fit state to put to sea, he would not have hesitated to set out in pursuit.
But what the colonists could not do for themselves chance did for them, and on the 3rd of May shouts from Neb, who had stationed himself at the
kitchen window, announced that the whale was stranded on the beach of the island.
Herbert and Gideon Spilett, who were just about to set out hunting, left their guns, Pencroft threw down his ax, and Harding and Neb joining their
companions, all rushed towards the scene of action.
The stranding had taken place on the beach of Flotsam Point, three miles from Granite House, and at high tide. It was therefore probable that the
cetacean would not be able to extricate itself easily; at any rate it was best to hasten, so as to cut off its retreat if necessary. They ran with
pick-axes and iron-tipped poles in their hands, passed over the Mercy bridge, descended the right bank of the river, along the beach, and in less than
twenty minutes the settlers were close to the enormous animal, above which flocks of birds already hovered.
"What a monster!" cried Neb.
And the exclamation was natural, for it was a southern whale, eighty feet long, a giant of the species, probably not weighing less than a hundred
and fifty thousand pounds!
In the meanwhile, the monster thus stranded did not move, nor attempt by struggling to regain the water while the tide was still high.
It was dead, and a harpoon was sticking out of its left side.
"There are whalers in these quarters, then?" said Gideon Spilett directly.
"Oh, Mr. Spilett, that doesn't prove anything!" replied Pencroft. "Whales have been known to go thousands of miles with a harpoon in the side, and
this one might even have been struck in the north of the Atlantic and come to die in the south of the Pacific, and it would be nothing astonishing."
Pencroft, having torn the harpoon from the animal's side, read this inscription on it:
MARIA STELLA, VINEYARD
"A vessel from the Vineyard! A ship from my country!" he cried. "The 'Maria Stella!' A fine whaler, 'pon my word; I know her well! Oh, my friends,
a vessel from the Vineyard!--a whaler from the Vineyard!"
And the sailor brandishing the harpoon, repeated, not without emotion, the name which he loved so well--the name of his birthplace.
But as it could not be expected that the "Maria Stella" would come to reclaim the animal harpooned by her, they resolved to begin cutting it up
before decomposition should commence. The birds, who had watched this rich prey for several days, had determined to take possession of it without
further delay, and it was necessary to drive them off by firing at them repeatedly.
The whale was a female, and a large quantity of milk was taken from it, which, according to the opinion of the naturalist Duffenbach, might pass
for cow's milk, and, indeed, it differs from it neither in taste, color, nor density.
Pencroft had formerly served on board a whaling-ship, and he could methodically direct the operation of cutting up, a sufficiently disagreeable
operation lasting three days, but from which the settlers did not flinch, not even Gideon Spilett, who, as the sailor said, would end by making a
"real good castaway."
The blubber, cut in parallel slices of two feet and a half in thickness, then divided into pieces which might weigh about a thousand pounds each,
was melted down in large earthen pots brought to the spot, for they did not wish to taint the environs of Granite House, and in this fusion it lost
nearly a third of its weight.
But there was an immense quantity of it; the tongue alone yielded six thousand pounds of oil, and the lower lip four thousand. Then, besides the
fat, which would insure for a long time a store of stearine and glycerine, there were still the bones, for which a use could doubtless be found,
although there were neither umbrellas nor stays used at Granite House. The upper part of the mouth of the cetacean was, indeed, provided on both sides
with eight hundred horny blades, very elastic, of a fibrous texture, and fringed at the edge like great combs, at which the teeth, six feet long,
served to retain the thousands of animalculae, little fish, and molluscs, on which the whale fed.
The operation finished, to the great satisfaction of the operators, the remains of the animal were left to the birds, who would soon make every
vestige of it disappear, and their usual daily occupations were resumed by the inmates of Granite House.
However, before returning to the dockyard, Cyrus Harding conceived the idea of fabricating certain machines, which greatly excited the curiosity
of his companions. He took a dozen of the whale's bones, cut them into six equal parts, and sharpened their ends.
"This machine is not my own invention, and it is frequently employed by the Aleutian hunters in Russian America. You see these bones, my friends;
well, when it freezes, I will bend them, and then wet them with water till they are entirely covered with ice, which will keep them bent, and I will
strew them on the snow, having previously covered them with fat. Now, what will happen if a hungry animal swallows one of these baits? Why, the heat
of his stomach will melt the ice, and the bone, springing straight, will pierce him with its sharp points."
"Well! I do call that ingenious!" said Pencroft.
"And it will spare the powder and shot," rejoined Cyrus Harding.
"That will be better than traps!" added Neb.
In the meanwhile the boat-building progressed, and towards the end of the month half the planking was completed. It could already be seen that her
shape was excellent, and that she would sail well.
Pencroft worked with unparalleled ardor, and only a sturdy frame could have borne such fatigue; but his companions were preparing in secret a
reward for his labors, and on the 31st of May he was to meet with one of the greatest joys of his life.
On that day, after dinner, just as he was about to leave the table, Pencroft felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was the hand of Gideon Spilett, who said,--
"One moment, Master Pencroft, you mustn't sneak off like that! You've forgotten your dessert."
"Thank you, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "I am going back to my work."
"Well, a cup of coffee, my friend?"
"A pipe, then?"
Pencroft jumped up, and his great good-natured face grew pale when he saw the reporter presenting him with a ready-filled pipe, and Herbert with a
The sailor endeavored to speak, but could not get out a word; so, seizing the pipe, he carried it to his lips, then applying the coal, he drew
five or six great whiffs. A fragrant blue cloud soon arose, and from its depths a voice was heard repeating excitedly,--
"Tobacco! real tobacco!"
"Yes, Pencroft," returned Cyrus Harding, "and very good tobacco too!"
"O, divine Providence; sacred Author of all things!" cried the sailor. "Nothing more is now wanting to our island."
And Pencroft smoked, and smoked, and smoked.
"And who made this discovery?" he asked at length. "You, Herbert, no doubt?"
"No, Pencroft, it was Mr. Spilett."
"Mr. Spilett!" exclaimed the sailor, seizing the reporter, and clasping him to his breast with such a squeeze that he had never felt anything like
"Oh Pencroft," said Spilett, recovering his breath at last, "a truce for one moment. You must share your gratitude with Herbert, who recognized
the plant, with Cyrus, who prepared it, and with Neb, who took a great deal of trouble to keep our secret."
"Well, my friends, I will repay you some day," replied the sailor. "Now we are friends for life."
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The illustrations are by N.C. Wyeth (1877-1943) Scribners 1918)