"The Mysterious Island"
PART 2 - ABANDONED - Section 2
The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Illustrated By N.C Wyeth
PART 2 - ABANDONED - Section 2
Winter arrived with the month of June, which is the December of the northern zones, and the great business was the making of warm and solid
The musmons in the corral had been stripped of their wool, and this precious textile material was now to be transformed into stuff.
Of course Cyrus Harding, having at his disposal neither carders, combers, polishers, stretchers, twisters, mule-jenny, nor self-acting machine to
spin the wool, nor loom to weave it, was obliged to proceed in a simpler way, so as to do without spinning and weaving. And indeed he proposed to make
use of the property which the filaments of wool possess when subjected to a powerful pressure of mixing together, and of manufacturing by this simple
process the material called felt. This felt could then be obtained by a simple operation which, if it diminished the flexibility of the stuff,
increased its power of retaining heat in proportion. Now the wool furnished by the musmons was composed of very short hairs, and was in a good
condition to be felted.
The engineer, aided by his companions, including Pencroft, who was once more obliged to leave his boat, commenced the preliminary operations, the
subject of which was to rid the wool of that fat and oily substance with which it is impregnated, and which is called grease. This cleaning was done
in vats filled with water, which was maintained at the temperature of seventy degrees, and in which the wool was soaked for four-and-twenty hours; it
was then thoroughly washed in baths of soda, and, when sufficiently dried by pressure, it was in a state to be compressed, that is to say, to produce
a solid material, rough, no doubt, and such as would have no value in a manufacturing center of Europe or America, but which would be highly esteemed
in the Lincoln Island markets.
This sort of material must have been known from the most ancient times, and, in fact, the first woolen stuffs were manufactured by the process
which Harding was now about to employ. Where Harding's engineering qualifications now came into play was in the construction of the machine for
pressing the wool; for he knew how to turn ingeniously to profit the mechanical force, hitherto unused, which the waterfall on the beach possessed to
move a fulling-mill.
Nothing could be more rudimentary. The wool was placed in troughs, and upon it fell in turns heavy wooden mallets; such was the machine in
question, and such it had been for centuries until the time when the mallets were replaced by cylinders of compression, and the material was no longer
subjected to beating, but to regular rolling.
The operation, ably directed by Cyrus Harding, was a complete success. The wool, previously impregnated with a solution of soap, intended on the
one hand to facilitate the interlacing, the compression, and the softening of the wool, and on the other to prevent its diminution by the beating,
issued from the mill in the shape of thick felt cloth. The roughnesses with which the staple of wool is naturally filled were so thoroughly entangled
and interlaced together that a material was formed equally suitable either for garments or bedclothes. It was certainly neither merino, muslin,
cashmere, rep, satin, alpaca, cloth, nor flannel. It was "Lincolnian felt," and Lincoln Island possessed yet another manufacture. The colonists had
now warm garments and thick bedclothes, and they could without fear await the approach of the winter of 1866-67.
The severe cold began to be felt about the 20th of June, and, to his great regret, Pencroft was obliged to suspend his boat-building, which he
hoped to finish in time for next spring.
The sailor's great idea was to make a voyage of discovery to Tabor Island, although Harding could not approve of a voyage simply for curiosity's
sake, for there was evidently nothing to be found on this desert and almost arid rock. A voyage of a hundred and fifty miles in a comparatively small
vessel, over unknown seas, could not but cause him some anxiety. Suppose that their vessel, once out at sea, should be unable to reach Tabor Island,
and could not return to Lincoln Island, what would become of her in the midst of the Pacific, so fruitful of disasters?
Harding often talked over this project with Pencroft, and he found him strangely bent upon undertaking this voyage, for which determination he
himself could give no sufficient reason.
"Now," said the engineer one day to him, "I must observe, my friend, that after having said so much, in praise of Lincoln Island, after having
spoken so often of the sorrow you would feel if you were obliged to forsake it, you are the first to wish to leave it."
"Only to leave it for a few days," replied Pencroft, "only for a few days, captain. Time to go and come back, and see what that islet is like!"
The courier of the air
"But it is not nearly as good as Lincoln Island."
"I know that beforehand."
"Then why venture there?"
"To know what is going on in Tabor Island."
"But nothing is going on there; nothing could happen there."
"And if you are caught in a hurricane?"
"There is no fear of that in the fine season," replied Pencroft. "But, captain, as we must provide against everything, I shall ask your permission
to take Herbert only with me on this voyage."
"Pencroft," replied the engineer, placing his hand on the sailor's shoulder, "if any misfortune happens to you, or to this lad, whom chance has
made our child, do you think we could ever cease to blame ourselves?"
"Captain Harding," replied Pencroft, with unshaken confidence, "we shall not cause you that sorrow. Besides, we will speak further of this voyage,
when the time comes to make it. And I fancy, when you have seen our tight- rigged little craft, when you have observed how she behaves at sea, when we
sail round our island, for we will do so together--I fancy, I say, that you will no longer hesitate to let me go. I don't conceal from you that your
boat will be a masterpiece."
"Say 'our' boat, at least, Pencroft," replied the engineer, disarmed for the moment. The conversation ended thus, to be resumed later on, without
convincing either the sailor or the engineer.
The first snow fell towards the end of the month of June. The corral had previously been largely supplied with stores, so that daily visits to it
were not requisite; but it was decided that more than a week should never be allowed to pass without someone going to it.
Traps were again set, and the machines manufactured by Harding were tried. The bent whalebones, imprisoned in a case of ice, and covered with a
thick outer layer of fat, were placed on the border of the forest at a spot where animals usually passed on their way to the lake.
To the engineer's great satisfaction, this invention, copied from the Aleutian fishermen, succeeded perfectly. A dozen foxes, a few wild boars,
and even a jaguar, were taken in this way, the animals being found dead, their stomachs pierced by the unbent bones.
An incident must here be related, not only as interesting in itself, but because it was the first attempt made by the colonists to communicate
with the rest of mankind.
Gideon Spilett had already several times pondered whether to throw into the sea a letter enclosed in a bottle, which currents might perhaps carry
to an inhabited coast, or to confide it to pigeons.
But how could it be seriously hoped that either pigeons or bottles could cross the distance of twelve hundred miles which separated the island
from any inhabited land? It would have been pure folly.
But on the 30th of June the capture was effected, not without difficulty, of an albatross, which a shot from Herbert's gun had slightly wounded in
the foot. It was a magnificent bird, measuring ten feet from wing to wing, and which could traverse seas as wide as the Pacific.
Herbert would have liked to keep this superb bird, as its wound would soon heal, and he thought he could tame it; but Spilett explained to him
that they should not neglect this opportunity of attempting to communicate by this messenger with the lands of the Pacific; for if the albatross had
come from some inhabited region, there was no doubt but that it would return there so soon as it was set free.
Perhaps in his heart Gideon Spilett, in whom the journalist sometimes came to the surface, was not sorry to have the opportunity of sending forth
to take its chance an exciting article relating the adventures of the settlers in Lincoln Island. What a success for the authorized reporter of the
New York Herald, and for the number which should contain the article, if it should ever reach the address of its editor, the Honorable James Bennett!
Gideon Spilett then wrote out a concise account, which was placed in a strong waterproof bag, with an earnest request to whoever might find it to
forward it to the office of the New York Herald. This little bag was fastened to the neck of the albatross, and not to its foot, for these birds are
in the habit of resting on the surface of the sea; then liberty was given to this swift courier of the air, and it was not without some emotion that
the colonists watched it disappear in the misty west.
"Where is he going to?" asked Pencroft.
"Towards New Zealand," replied Herbert.
"A good voyage to you," shouted the sailor, who himself did not expect any great result from this mode of correspondence.
With the winter, work had been resumed in the interior of Granite House, mending clothes and different occupations, among others making the sails
for their vessel, which were cut from the inexhaustible balloon-case.
During the month of July the cold was intense, but there was no lack of either wood or coal. Cyrus Harding had established a second fireplace in
the dining-room, and there the long winter evenings were spent. Talking while they worked, reading when the hands remained idle, the time passed with
profit to all.
It was real enjoyment to the settlers when in their room, well lighted with candles, well warmed with coal, after a good dinner, elderberry coffee
smoking in the cups, the pipes giving forth an odoriferous smoke, they could hear the storm howling without. Their comfort would have been complete,
if complete comfort could ever exist for those who are far from their fellow-creatures, and without any means of communication with them. They often
talked of their country, of the friends whom they had left, of the grandeur of the American Republic, whose influence could not but increase; and
Cyrus Harding, who had been much mixed up with the affairs of the Union, greatly interested his auditors by his recitals, his views, and his
It chanced one day that Spilett was led to say--
"But now, my dear Cyrus, all this industrial and commercial movement to which you predict a continual advance, does it not run the danger of being
sooner or later completely stopped?"
"Stopped! And by what?"
"By the want of coal, which may justly be called the most precious of minerals."
"Yes, the most precious indeed," replied the engineer; "and it would seem that nature wished to prove that it was so by making the diamond, which
is simply pure carbon crystallized."
"You don't mean to say, captain," interrupted Pencroft, "that we burn diamonds in our stoves in the shape of coal?"
"No, my friend," replied Harding.
"However," resumed Gideon Spilett, "you do not deny that some day the coal will be entirely consumed?"
"Oh! the veins of coal are still considerable, and the hundred thousand miners who annually extract from them a hundred millions of hundredweights
have not nearly exhausted them."
"With the increasing consumption of coal," replied Gideon Spilett, "it can be foreseen that the hundred thousand workmen will soon become two
hundred thousand, and that the rate of extraction will be doubled."
"Doubtless; but after the European mines, which will be soon worked more thoroughly with new machines, the American and Australian mines will for
a long time yet provide for the consumption in trade."
"For how long a time?" asked the reporter.
"For at least two hundred and fifty or three hundred years."
"That is reassuring for us, but a bad look-out for our great- grandchildren!" observed Pencroft.
"They will discover something else," said Herbert.
"It is to be hoped so," answered Spilett, "for without coal there would be no machinery, and without machinery there would be no railways, no
steamers, no manufactories, nothing of that which is indispensable to modern civilization!"
"But what will they find?" asked Pencroft. "Can you guess, captain?"
"Nearly, my friend."
"And what will they burn instead of coal?"
"Water," replied Harding.
"Water!" cried Pencroft, "water as fuel for steamers and engines! water to heat water!"
"Yes, but water decomposed into its primitive elements," replied Cyrus Harding, "and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have
become a powerful and manageable force, for all great discoveries, by some inexplicable laws, appear to agree and become complete at the same time.
Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will
furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of steamers and the tenders of
locomotives will, instead of coal, be stored with these two condensed gases, which will burn in the furnaces with enormous calorific power. There is,
therefore, nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it will supply the wants of its inhabitants, and there will be no want of either light
or heat as long as the productions of the vegetable, mineral or animal kingdoms do not fail us. I believe, then, that when the deposits of coal are
exhausted we shall heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will be the coal of the future."
"I should like to see that," observed the sailor.
"You were born too soon, Pencroft," returned Neb, who only took part in the discussion by these words.
However, it was not Neb's speech which interrupted the conversation, but Top's barking, which broke out again with that strange intonation which
had before perplexed the engineer. At the same time Top began to run round the mouth of the well, which opened at the extremity of the interior
"What can Top be barking in that way for?" asked Pencroft.
"And Jup be growling like that?" added Herbert.
In fact the orang, joining the dog, gave unequivocal signs of agitation, and, singular to say, the two animals appeared more uneasy than angry.
"It is evident," said Gideon Spilett, "that this well is in direct communication with the sea, and that some marine animal comes from time to time
to breathe at the bottom."
"That's evident," replied the sailor, "and there can be no other explanation to give. Quiet there, Top!" added Pencroft, turning to the dog, "and
you, Jup, be off to your room!"
The ape and the dog were silent. Jup went off to bed, but Top remained in the room, and continued to utter low growls at intervals during the rest
of the evening. There was no further talk on the subject, but the incident, however, clouded the brow of the engineer.
During the remainder of the month of July there was alternate rain and frost. The temperature was not so low as during the preceding winter, and
its maximum did not exceed eight degrees Fahrenheit. But although this winter was less cold, it was more troubled by storms and squalls; the sea
besides often endangered the safety of the Chimneys. At times it almost seemed as if an under-current raised these monstrous billows which thundered
against the wall of Granite House.
When the settlers, leaning from their windows, gazed on the huge watery masses breaking beneath their eyes, they could not but admire the
magnificent spectacle of the ocean in its impotent fury. The waves rebounded in dazzling foam, the beach entirely disapppearing under the raging
flood, and the cliff appearing to emerge from the sea itself, the spray rising to a height of more than a hundred feet.
During these storms it was difficult and even dangerous to venture out, owing to the frequently falling trees; however, the colonists never
allowed a week to pass without having paid a visit to the corral. Happily, this enclosure, sheltered by the southeastern spur of Mount Franklin, did
not greatly suffer from the violence of the hurricanes, which spared its trees, sheds, and palisades; but the poultry-yard on Prospect Heights, being
directly exposed to the gusts of wind from the east, suffered considerable damage. The pigeon-house was twice unroofed and the paling blown down. All
this required to be remade more solidly than before, for, as may be clearly seen, Lincoln Island was situated in one of the most dangerous parts of
the Pacific. It really appeared as if it formed the central point of vast cyclones, which beat it perpetually as the whip does the top, only here it
was the top which was motionless and the whip which moved. During the first week of the month of August the weather became more moderate, and the
atmosphere recovered the calm which it appeared to have lost forever. With the calm the cold again became intense, and the thermometer fell to eight
degrees Fahrenheit, below zero.
On the 3rd of August an excursion which had been talked of for several days was made into the southeastern part of the island, towards Tadorn
Marsh. The hunters were tempted by the aquatic game which took up their winter quarters there. Wild duck, snipe, teal and grebe abounded there, and it
was agreed that a day should be devoted to an expedition against these birds.
Not only Gideon Spilett and Herbert, but Pencroft and Neb also took part in this excursion. Cyrus Harding alone, alleging some work as an excuse,
did not join them, but remained at Granite House.
The hunters proceeded in the direction of Port Balloon, in order to reach the marsh, after having promised to be back by the evening. Top and Jup
accompanied them. As soon as they had passed over the Mercy Bridge, the engineer raised it and returned, intending to put into execution a project for
the performance of which he wished to be alone.
Now this project was to minutely explore the interior well, the mouth of which was on a level with the passage of Granite House, and which
communicated with the sea, since it formerly supplied a way to the waters of the lake.
Why did Top so often run round this opening? Why did he utter such strange barks when a sort of uneasiness seemed to draw him towards this well?
Why did Jup join Top in a sort of common anxiety? Had this well branches besides the communication with the sea? Did it spread towards other parts of
the island? This is what Cyrus Harding wished to know. He had resolved, therefore, to attempt the exploration of the well during the absence of his
companions, and an opportunity for doing so had now presented itself.
It was easy to descend to the bottom of the well by employing the rope ladder which had not been used since the establishment of the lift. The
engineer drew the ladder to the hole, the diameter of which measured nearly six feet, and allowed it to unroll itself after having securely fastened
its upper extremity. Then, having lighted a lantern, taken a revolver, and placed a cutlass in his belt, he began the descent.
The sides were everywhere entire; but points of rock jutted out here and there, and by means of these points it would have been quite possible for
an active creature to climb to the mouth of the well.
The engineer remarked this; but although he carefully examined these points by the light of his lantern, he could find no impression, no fracture
which could give any reason to suppose that they had either recently or at any former time been used as a staircase. Cyrus Harding descended deeper,
throwing the light of his lantern on all sides.
He saw nothing suspicious.
When the engineer had reached the last rounds he came upon the water, which was then perfectly calm. Neither at its level nor in any other part of
the well, did any passage open, which could lead to the interior of the cliff. The wall which Harding struck with the hilt of his cutlass sounded
solid. It was compact granite, through which no living being could force a way. To arrive at the bottom of the well and then climb up to its mouth it
was necessary to pass through the channel under the rocky subsoil of the beach, which placed it in communication with the sea, and this was only
possible for marine animals. As to the question of knowing where this channel ended, at what point of the shore, and at what depth beneath the water,
it could not be answered.
Then Cyrus Harding, having ended his survey, re-ascended, drew up the ladder, covered the mouth of the well, and returned thoughtfully to the
diningroom, saying to himself,--
"I have seen nothing, and yet there is something there!"
In the evening the hunters returned, having enjoyed good sport, and being literally loaded with game; indeed, they had as much as four men could
possibly carry. Top wore a necklace of teal and Jup wreaths of snipe round his body.
"Here, master," cried Neb; "here's something to employ our time! Preserved and made into pies we shall have a welcome store! But I must have some
one to help me. I count on you, Pencroft."
"No, Neb," replied the sailor; "I have the rigging of the vessel to finish and to look after, and you will have to do without me."
"And you, Mr. Herbert?"
"I must go to the corral to-morrow, Neb," replied the lad.
"It will be you then, Mr. Spilett, who will help me?"
"To oblige you, Neb, I will," replied the reporter; "but I warn you that if you disclose your receipts to me, I shall publish them."
"Whenever you like, Mr. Spilett," replied Neb; "whenever you like."
And so the next day Gideon Spilett became Neb's assistant and was installed in his culinary laboratory. The engineer had previously made known to
him the result of the exploration which he had made the day before, and on this point the reporter shared Harding's opinion, that although he had
found nothing, a secret still remained to be discovered!
The frost continued for another week, and the settlers did not leave Granite House unless to look after the poultry-yard. The dwelling was filled
with appetizing odors, which were emitted from the learned manipulation of Neb and the reporter. But all the results of the chase were not made into
preserved provisions; and as the game kept perfectly in the intense cold, wild duck and other fowl were eaten fresh, and declared superior to all
other aquatic birds in the known world.
During this week, Pencroft, aided by Herbert, who handled the sailmaker's needle with much skill, worked with such energy that the sails of the
vessel were finished. There was no want of cordage. Thanks to the rigging which had been discovered with the case of the balloon, the ropes and cables
from the net were all of good quality, and the sailor turned them all to account. To the sails were attached strong bolt ropes, and there still
remained enough from which to make the halyards, shrouds, and sheets, etc. The blocks were manufactured by Cyrus Harding under Pencroft's directions
by means of the turning lathe. It therefore happened that the rigging was entirely prepared before the vessel was finished. Pencroft also manufactured
a flag, that flag so dear to every true American, containing the stars and stripes of their glorious Union. The colors for it were supplied from
certain plants used in dyeing, and which were very abundant in the island; only to the thirty-seven stars, representing the thirty- seven States of
the Union, which shine on the American flag, the sailor added a thirty-eighth, the star of "the State of Lincoln," for he considered his island as
already united to the great republic. "And," said he, "it is so already in heart, if not in deed!"
In the meantime, the flag was hoisted at the central window of Granite House, and the settlers saluted it with three cheers.
The cold season was now almost at an end, and it appeared as if this second winter was to pass without any unusual occurrence, when on the night
of the 11th of August, the plateau of Prospect Heights was menaced with complete destruction.
After a busy day the colonists were sleeping soundly, when towards four o'clock in the morning they were suddenly awakened by Top's barking.
The dog was not this time barking near the mouth of the well, but at the threshold of the door, at which he was scratching as if he wished to
burst it open. Jup was also uttering piercing cries.
"Hello, Top!" cried Neb, who was the first awake. But the dog continued to bark more furiously than ever.
"What's the matter now?" asked Harding.
And all dressing in haste rushed to the windows, which they opened.
Beneath their eyes was spread a sheet of snow which looked gray in the dim light. The settlers could see nothing, but they heard a singular
yelping noise away in the darkness. It was evident that the beach had been invaded by a number of animals which could not be seen.
"What are they?" cried Pencroft.
"Wolves, jaguars, or apes?" replied Neb.
"They have nearly reached the plateau," said the reporter.
"And our poultry-yard," exclaimed Herbert, "and our garden!"
"Where can they have crossed?" asked Pencroft.
"They must have crossed the bridge on the shore," replied the engineer, "which one of us must have forgotten to close."
"True," said Spilett, "I remember having left it open."
"A fine job you have made of it, Mr. Spilett," cried the sailor.
"What is done cannot be undone," replied Cyrus Harding. "We must consult what it will now be best to do."
Such were the questions and answers which were rapidly exchanged between Harding and his companions. It was certain that the bridge had been
crossed, that the shore had been invaded by animals, and that whatever they might be they could by ascending the left bank of the Mercy reach Prospect
Heights. They must therefore be advanced against quickly and fought with if necessary.
"But what are these beasts?" was asked a second time, as the yelpings were again heard more loudly than before. These yelps made Herbert start,
and he remembered having heard them before during his first visit to the sources of the Red Creek.
"They are colpeo foxes!" he exclaimed.
"Forward!" shouted the sailor.
And all arming themselves with hatchets, carbines, and revolvers, threw themselves into the lift and soon set foot on the shore.
Colpeos are dangerous animals when in great numbers and irritated by hunger, nevertheless the colonists did not hesitate to throw themselves into
the midst of the troop, and their first shots vividly lighting up the darkness made their assailants draw back.
The chief thing was to hinder these plunderers from reaching the plateau, for the garden and the poultry-yard would then have been at their mercy,
and immense, perhaps irreparable mischief, would inevitably be the result, especially with regard to the corn-field. But as the invasion of the
plateau could only be made by the left bank of the Mercy, it was sufficient to oppose the colpeos on the narrow bank between the river and the cliff
This was plain to all, and, by Cyrus Harding's orders, they reached the spot indicated by him, while the colpeos rushed fiercely through the
gloom. Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft and Neb posted themselves in impregnable line. Top, his formidable jaws open, preceded the
colonists, and he was followed by Jup, armed with knotty cudgel, which he brandished like a club.
The night was extremely dark, it was only by the flashes from the revolvers as each person fired that they could see their assailants, who were at
least a hundred in number, and whose eyes were glowing like hot coals.
"They must not pass!" shouted Pencroft.
"They shall not pass!" returned the engineer.
But if they did not pass it was not for want of having attempted it. Those in the rear pushed on the foremost assailants, and it was an incessant
struggle with revolvers and hatchets. Several colpeos already lay dead on the ground, but their number did not appear to diminish, and it might have
been supposed that reinforcements were continually arriving over the bridge.
The colonists were soon obliged to fight at close quarters, not without receiving some wounds, though happily very slight ones. Herbert had, with
a shot from his revolver, rescued Neb, on whose back a colpeo had sprung like a tiger cat. Top fought with actual fury, flying at the throats of the
foxes and strangling them instantaneously. Jup wielded his weapon valiantly, and it was in vain that they endeavored to keep him in the rear. Endowed
doubtless with sight which enabled him to pierce the obscurity, he was always in the thick of the fight uttering from time to time--a sharp hissing
sound, which was with him the sign of great rejoicing.
At one moment he advanced so far, that by the light from a revolver he was seen surrounded by five or six large colpeos, with whom he was coping
with great coolness.
However, the struggle was ended at last, and victory was on the side of the settlers, but not until they had fought for two long hours! The first
signs of the approach of day doubtless determined the retreat of their assailants, who scampered away towards the North, passing over the bridge,
which Neb ran immediately to raise. When day had sufficiently lighted up the field of battle, the settlers counted as many as fifty dead bodies
scattered about on the shore.
"And Jup!" cried Pencroft; "where is Jup?" Jup had disappeared. His friend Neb called him, and for the first time Jup did not reply to his
Everyone set out in search of Jup, trembling lest he should be found among the slain; they cleared the place of the bodies which stained the snow
with their blood. Jup was found in the midst of a heap of colpeos whose broken jaws and crushed bodies showed that they had to do with the terrible
club of the intrepid animal.
Poor Jup still held in his hand the stump of his broken cudgel, but deprived of his weapon he had been overpowered by numbers, and his chest was
covered with severe wounds.
"He is living," cried Neb, who was bending over him.
"And we will save him," replied the sailor. "We will nurse him as if he was one of ourselves."
It appeared as if Jup understood, for he leaned his head on Pencroft's shoulder as if to thank him. The sailor was wounded himself, but his wound
was insignificant, as were those of his companions; for thanks to their firearms they had been almost always able to keep their assailants at a
distance. it was therefore only the orang whose condition was serious.
Jup, carried by Neb and Pencroft, was placed in the lift, and only a slight moan now and then escaped his lips. He was gently drawn up to Granite
House. There he was laid on a mattress taken from one of the beds, and his wounds were bathed with the greatest care. It did not appear that any vital
part had been reached, but Jup was very weak from loss of blood, and a high fever soon set in after his wounds had been dressed. He was laid down,
strict diet was imposed, "just like a real person," as Neb said, and they made him swallow several cups of a cooling drink, for which the ingredients
were supplied from the vegetable medicine chest of Granite House. Jup was at first restless, but his breathing gradually became more regular, and he
was left sleeping quietly. From time to time Top, walking on tip-toe, as one might say, came to visit his friend, and seemed to approve of all the
care that had been taken of him. One of Jup's hands hung over the side of his bed, and Top licked it with a sympathizing air.
They employed the day in interring the dead, who were dragged to the forest of the Far West, and there buried deep.
This attack, which might have had such serious consequences, was a lesson to the settlers, who from this time never went to bed until one of their
number had made sure that all the bridges were raised, and that no invasion was possible.
However, Jup, after having given them serious anxiety for several days, began to recover. His constitution brought him through, the fever
gradually subsided, and Gideon Spilett, who was a bit of a doctor, pronounced him quite out of danger. On the 16th of August, Jup began to eat. Neb
made him nice little sweet dishes, which the invalid devoured with great relish, for if he had a pet failing it was that of being somewhat of a
gourmend, and Neb had never done anything to cure him of this fault.
"What would you have?" said he to Gideon Spilett, who sometimes expostulated with him for spoiling the ape. "Poor Jup has no other pleasure than
that of the palate, and I am only too glad to be able to reward his services in this way!"
Ten days after taking to his bed, on the 21st of August, Master Jup arose. His wounds were healed, and it was evident that he would not be long in
regaining his usual strength and agility. Like all convalescents, he was tremendously hungry, and the reporter allowed him to eat as much as he liked,
for he trusted to that instinct, which is too often wanting in reasoning beings, to keep the orang from any excess. Neb was delighted to see his
pupil's appetite returning.
"Eat away, my Jup," said he, "and don't spare anything; you have shed your blood for us, and it is the least I can do to make you strong again!"
On the 25th of August Neb's voice was heard calling to his companions.
"Captain, Mr. Spilett, Mr. Herbert, Pencroft, come! come!"
The colonists, who were together in the dining-room, rose at Neb's call, who was then in Jup's room.
"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.
"Look," replied Neb, with a shout of laughter. And what did they see? Master Jup smoking calmly and seriously, sitting crosslegged like a Turk at
the entrance to Granite House!
"My pipe," cried Pencroft. "He has taken my pipe! Hello, my honest Jup, I make you a present of it! Smoke away, old boy, smoke away!"
And Jup gravely puffed out clouds of smoke which seemed to give him great satisfaction. Harding did not appear to be much astonished at this
incident, and he cited several examples of tame apes, to whom the use of tobacco had become quite familiar.
But from this day Master Jup had a pipe of his own, the sailor's ex-pipe, which was hung in his room near his store of tobacco. He filled it
himself, lighted it with a glowing coal, and appeared to be the happiest of quadrumana. It may readily be understood that this similarity of tastes of
Jup and Pencroft served to tighten the bonds of friendship which already existed between the honest ape and the worthy sailor.
"Perhaps he is really a man," said Pencroft sometimes to Neb. "Should you be surprised to hear him beginning to speak to us some day?"
"My word, no," replied Neb. "What astonishes me is that he hasn't spoken to us before, for now he wants nothing but speech!"
"It would amuse me all the same," resumed the sailor, "if some fine day he said to me, "Suppose we change pipes, Pencroft."
"Yes," replied Neb, "what a pity he was born dumb!"
With the month of September the winter ended, and the works were again eagerly commenced. The building of the vessel advanced rapidly, she was
already completely decked over, and all the inside parts of the hull were firmly united with ribs bent by means of steam, which answered all the
purposes of a mold.
As there was no want of wood, Pencroft proposed to the engineer to give a double lining to the hull, to insure the strength of the vessel.
Harding, not knowing what the future might have in store for them, approved the sailor's idea of making the craft as strong as possible. The
interior and deck of the vessel was entirely finished towards the 15th of September. For calking the seams they made oakum of dry seaweed, which was
hammered in between the planks; then these seams were covered with boiling tar, which was obtained in great abundance from the pines in the forest.
The management of the vessel was very simple. She had from the first been ballasted with heavy blocks of granite walled up, in a bed of lime,
twelve thousand pounds of which they stowed away.
A deck was placed over this ballast, and the interior was divided into two cabins; two benches extended along them and served also as lockers. The
foot of the mast supported the partition which separated the two cabins, which were reached by two hatchways let into the deck.
Pencroft had no trouble in finding a tree suitable for the mast. He chose a straight young fir, with no knots, and which he had only to square at
the step, and round off at the top. The ironwork of the mast, the rudder and the hull had been roughly but strongly forged at the Chimneys. Lastly,
yards, masts, boom, spars, oars, etc., were all furnished by the first week in October, and it was agreed that a trial trip should be taken round the
island, so as to ascertain how the vessel would behave at sea, and how far they might depend upon her.
During all this time the necessary works had not been neglected. The corral was enlarged, for the flock of musmons and goats had been increased by
a number of young ones, who had to be housed and fed. The colonists had paid visits also to the oyster bed, the warren, the coal and iron mines, and
to the till then unexplored districts of the Far West forest, which abounded in game. Certain indigenous plants were discovered, and those fit for
immediate use contributed to vary the vegetable stores of Granite House.
They were a species of ficoide, some similar to those of the Cape, with eatable fleshy leaves, others bearing seeds containing a sort of flour.
On the 10th of October the vessel was launched. Pencroft was radiant with joy, the operation was perfectly successful; the boat completely rigged,
having been pushed on rollers to the water's edge, was floated by the rising tide, amid the cheers of the colonists, particularly of Pencroft, who
showed no modesty on this occasion. Besides his importance was to last beyond the finishing of the vessel, since, after having built her, he was to
command her. The grade of captain was bestowed upon him with the approbation of all. To satisfy Captain Pencroft, it was now necessary to give a name
to the vessel, and, after many propositions had been discussed, the votes were all in favor of the "Bonadventure." As soon as the "Bonadventure" had
been lifted by the rising tide, it was seen that she lay evenly in the water, and would be easily navigated. However, the trial trip was to be made
that very day, by an excursion off the coast. The weather was fine, the breeze fresh, and the sea smooth, especially towards the south coast, for the
wind was blowing from the northwest.
"All hands on board," shouted Pencroft; but breakfast was first necessary, and it was thought best to take provisions on board, in the event of
their excursion being prolonged until the evening.
Cyrus Harding was equally anxious to try the vessel, the model of which had originated with him, although on the sailor's advice he had altered
some parts of it, but he did not share Pencroft's confidence in her, and as the latter had not again spoken of the voyage to Tabor Island, Harding
hoped he had given it up. He would have indeed great reluctance in letting two or three of his companions venture so far in so small a boat, which was
not of more than fifteen tons' burden.
At half-past ten everybody was on hoard, even Top and Jup, and Herbert weighed the anchor, which was fast in the sand near the mouth of the Mercy.
The sail was hoisted, the Lincolnian flag floated from the masthead, and the "Bonadventure," steered by Pencroft, stood out to sea.
The wind blowing out of Union Bay she ran before it, and thus showed her owners, much to their satisfaction, that she possessed a remarkably fast
pair of heels, according to Pencroft's mode of speaking. After having doubled Flotsam Point and Claw Cape, the captain kept her close hauled, so as to
sail along the southern coast of the island, when it was found she sailed admirably within five points of the wind. All hands were enchanted, they had
a good vessel, which, in case of need, would be of great service to them, and with fine weather and a fresh breeze the voyage promised to be charming.
Pencroft now stood off the shore, three or four miles across from Port Balloon. The island then appeared in all its extent and under a new aspect,
with the varied panorama of its shore from Claw Cape to Reptile End, the forests in which dark firs contrasted with the young foliage of other trees
and overlooked the whole, and Mount Franklin whose lofty head was still whitened with snow.
"How beautiful it is!" cried Herbert.
"Yes, our island is beautiful and good," replied Pencroft. "I love it as I loved my poor mother. It received us poor and destitute, and now what
is wanting to us five fellows who fell on it from the sky?"
"Nothing," replied Neb; "nothing, captain."
And the two brave men gave three tremendous cheers in honor of their island!
During all this time Gideon Spilett, leaning against the mast, sketched the panorama which was developed before his eyes.
Cyrus Harding gazed on it in silence.
"Well, Captain Harding," asked Pencroft, "what do you think of our vessel?"
"She appears to behave well," replied the engineer.
"Good! And do you think now that she could undertake a voyage of some extent?"
"What voyage, Pencroft?"
"One to Tabor Island, for instance."
"My friend," replied Harding, "I think that in any pressing emergency we need not hesitate to trust ourselves to the 'Bonadventure' even for a
longer voyage; but you know I should see you set off to Tabor Island with great uneasiness, since nothing obliges you to go there."
"One likes to know one's neighbors," returned the sailor, who was obstinate in his idea. "Tabor Island is our neighbor, and the only one!
Politeness requires us to go at least to pay a visit."
"By Jove," said Spilett, "our friend Pencroft has become very particular about the proprieties all at once!"
"I am not particular about anything at all," retorted the sailor, who was rather vexed by the engineer's opposition, but who did not wish to cause
"Consider, Pencroft," resumed Harding, "you cannot go alone to Tabor Island."
"One companion will be enough for me.
"Even so," replied the engineer, "you will risk depriving the colony of Lincoln Island of two settlers out of five."
"Out of six," answered Pencroft; "you forget Jup."
"Out of seven," added Neb; "Top is quite worth another."
"There is no risk at all in it, captain," replied Pencroft.
"That is possible, Pencroft; but I repeat it is to expose ourselves uselessly."
The obstinate sailor did not reply, and let the conversation drop, quite determined to resume it again. But he did not suspect that an incident
would come to his aid and change into an act of humanity that which was at first only a doubtful whim.
After standing off the shore the "Bonadventure" again approached it in the direction of Port Balloon. It was important to ascertain the channels
between the sandbanks and reefs, that buoys might be laid down since this little creek was to be the harbor.
They were not more than half a mile from the coast, and it was necessary to tack to beat against the wind. The "Bonadventure" was then going at a
very moderate rate, as the breeze, partly intercepted by the high land, scarcely swelled her sails, and the sea, smooth as glass, was only rippled now
and then by passing gusts.
Herbert had stationed himself in the bows that he might indicate the course to be followed among the channels, when all at once he shouted,--
"Luff, Pencroft, luff!"
"What's the matter," replied the sailor; "a rock?"
"No--wait," said Herbert; "I don't quite see. Luff again--right--now."
So saying, Herbert, leaning over the side, plunged his arm into the water, and pulled it out, exclaiming,--
He held in his hand a corked bottle which he had just seized a few cables' length from the shore.
Cyrus Harding took the bottle. Without uttering a single word he drew the cork, and took from it a damp paper, on which were written these
"Castaway.... Tabor island: 153¿W. long., 37¿ 11' S. lat."
"A castaway!" exclaimed Pencroft; "left on this Tabor Island not two hundred miles from us! Ah, Captain Harding, you won't now oppose my going."
"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "and you shall set out as soon as possible."
The engineer still held in his hand the paper which he had taken from the bottle. He contemplated it for some instants, then resumed,
"From this document, my friends, from the way in which it is worded, we may conclude this: first, that the castaway on Tabor Island is a man
possessing a considerable knowledge of navigation, since he gives the latitude and longitude of the island exactly as we ourselves found it, and to a
second of approximation; secondly, that he is either English or American, as the document is written in the English language."
"That is perfectly logical," answered Spilett; "and the presence of this castaway explains the arrival of the case on the shores of our island.
There must have been a wreck, since there is a castaway. As to the latter, whoever he may be, it is lucky for him that Pencroft thought of building
this boat and of trying her this very day, for a day later and this bottle might have been broken on the rocks."
"Indeed," said Herbert, "it is a fortunate chance that the 'Bonadventure' passed exactly where the bottle was still floating!"
"Does not this appear strange to you?" asked Harding of Pencroft.
"It appears fortunate, that's all," answered the sailor. "Do you see anything extraordinary in it, captain? The bottle must go somewhere, and why
not here as well as anywhere else?"
"Perhaps you are right, Pencroft," replied the engineer; "and yet--"
"But," observed Herbert, "there's nothing to prove that this bottle has been floating long in the sea."
"Nothing," replied Gideon Spilett, "and the document appears even to have been recently written. What do you think about it, Cyrus?"
During this conversation Pencroft had not remained inactive. He had put the vessel about, and the "Bonadventure," all sails set, was running
rapidly towards Claw Cape.
Every one was thinking of the castaway on Tabor Island. Should they be in time to save him? This was a great event in the life of the colonists!
They themselves were but castaways, but it was to be feared that another might not have been so fortunate, and their duty was to go to his succor.
Claw Cape was doubled, and about four o'clock the "Bonadventure" dropped her anchor at the mouth of the Mercy.
That same evening the arrangements for the new expedition were made. It appeared best that Pencroft and Herbert, who knew how to work the vessel,
should undertake the voyage alone. By setting out the next day, the 10th of October, they would arrive on the 13th, for with the present wind it would
not take more than forty-eight hours to make this passage of a hundred and fifty miles. One day in the island, three or four to return, they might
hope therefore that on the 17th they would again reach Lincoln Island. The weather was fine, the barometer was rising, the wind appeared settled,
everything then was in favor of these brave men whom an act of humanity was taking far from their island.
Thus it had been agreed that Cyrus Harding, Neb, and Gideon Spilett should remain at Granite House, but an objection was raised, and Spilett, who
had not forgotten his business as reporter to the New York Herald, having declared that he would go by swimming rather than lose such an opportunity,
he was admitted to take a part in the voyage.
The evening was occupied in transporting on board the "Bonadventure," articles of bedding, utensils, arms, ammunition, a compass, provisions for a
week; this being rapidly done, the colonists ascended to Granite House.
The next day, at five o'clock in the morning, the farewells were said, not without some emotion on both sides, and Pencroft setting sail made
towards Claw Cape, which had to be doubled in order to proceed to the southwest.
The "Bonadventure" was already a quarter of a mile from the coast when the passengers perceived on the heights of Granite House two men waving
their farewells; they were Cyrus Harding and Neb.
"Our friends," exclaimed Spilett, "this is our first separation in fifteen months."
Pencroft, the reporter and Herbert waved in return, and Granite House soon disappeared behind the high rocks of the Cape.
During the first part of the day the "Bonadventure" was still in sight of the southern coast of Lincoln Island, which soon appeared just like a
green basket, with Mount Franklin rising from the center. The heights, diminished by distance, did not present an appearance likely to tempt vessels
to touch there. Reptile End was passed in about an hour, though at a distance of about ten miles.
At this distance it was no longer possible to distinguish anything of the Western Coast, which stretched away to the ridges of Mount Franklin, and
three hours after the last of Lincoln Island sank below the horizon.
The "Bonadventure" behaved capitally. Bounding over the waves she proceeded rapidly on her course. Pencroft had hoisted the foresail, and steering
by the compass followed a rectilinear direction. From time to time Herbert relieved him at the helm, and the lad's hand was so firm that the sailor
had not a point to find fault with.
Gideon Spilett chatted sometimes with one, sometimes with the other, if wanted he lent a hand with the ropes, and Captain Pencroft was perfectly
satisfied with his crew.
In the evening the crescent moon, which would not be in its first quarter until the 16th, appeared in the twilight and soon set again. The night
was dark but starry, and the next day again promised to be fine.
Pencroft prudently lowered the foresail, not wishing to be caught by a sudden gust while carrying too much canvas; it was perhaps an unnecessary
precaution on such a calm night, but Pencroft was a prudent sailor and cannot be blamed for it.
The reporter slept part of the night. Pencroft and Herbert took turns for a spell of two hours each at the helm. The sailor trusted Herbert as he
would himself, and his confidence was justified by the coolness and judgment of the lad. Pencroft gave him his directions as a commander to his
steersman, and Herbert never allowed the "Bonadventure" to swerve even a point. The night passed quickly, as did the day of the 12th of October. A
south-easterly direction was strictly maintained. Unless the "Bonadventure" fell in with some unknown current she would come exactly within sight of
As to the sea over which the vessel was then sailing, it was absolutely deserted. Now and then a great albatross or frigate bird passed within
gunshot, and Gideon Spilett wondered if it was to one of them that he had confided his last letter addressed to the New York Herald. These birds were
the only beings that appeared to frequent this part of the ocean between Tabor and Lincoln Islands.
"And yet," observed Herbert, "this is the time that whalers usually proceed towards the southern part of the Pacific. Indeed I do not think there
could be a more deserted sea than this."
"It is not quite so deserted as all that," replied Pencroft.
"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.
"We are on it. Do you take our vessel for a wreck and us for porpoises?"
And Pencroft laughed at his joke.
By the evening, according to calculation, it was thought that the "Bonadventure" had accomplished a distance of a hundred and twenty miles since
her departure from Lincoln Island, that is to say in thirty-six hours, which would give her a speed of between three and four knots an hour. The
breeze was very slight and might soon drop altogether. However, it was hoped that the next morning by break of day, if the calculation had been
correct and the course true, they would sight Tabor Island.
Neither Gideon Spilett, Herbert, nor Pencroft slept that night. In the expectation of the next day they could not but feel some emotion. There was
so much uncertainty in their enterprise! Were they near Tabor Island? Was the island still inhabited by the castaway to whose succor they had come?
Who was this man? Would not his presence disturb the little colony till then so united? Besides, would he be content to exchange his prison for
another? All these questions, which would no doubt be answered the next day, kept them in suspense, and at the dawn of day they all fixed their gaze
on the western horizon.
"Land!" shouted Pencroft at about six o'clock in the morning.
And it was impossible that Pencroft should be mistaken, it was evident that land was there. Imagine the joy of the little crew of the
"Bonadventure." In a few hours they would land on the beach of the island!
The low coast of Tabor Island, scarcely emerging from the sea, was not more than fifteen miles distant.
The head of the "Bonadventure," which was a little to the south of the island, was set directly towards it, and as the sun mounted in the east,
its rays fell upon one or two headlands.
"This is a much less important isle than Lincoln Island," observed Herbert, "and is probably due like ours to some submarine convulsion."
At eleven o'clock the "Bonadventure" was not more than two miles off, and Pencroft, while looking for a suitable place at which to land, proceeded
very cautiously through the unknown waters. The whole of the island could now be surveyed, and on it could be seen groups of gum and other large
trees, of the same species as those growing on Lincoln Island. But the astonishing thing was that no smoke arose to show that the island was
inhabited, no signal whatever appeared on the shore!
And yet the document was clear enough; there was a castaway, and this castaway should have been on the watch.
In the meanwhile the "Bonadventure" entered the winding channels among the reefs, and Pencroft observed every turn with extreme care. He had put
Herbert at the helm, posting himself in the bows, inspecting the water, while he held the halliard in his hand, ready to lower the sail at a moment's
notice. Gideon Spilett with his glass eagerly scanned the shore, though without perceiving anything.
However, at about twelve o'clock the keel of the "Bonadventure" grated on the bottom. The anchor was let go, the sails furled, and the crew of the
little vessel landed.
And there was no reason to doubt that this was Tabor Island, since according to the most recent charts there was no island in this part of the
Pacific between New Zealand and the American Coast.
The vessel was securely moored, so that there should be no danger of her being carried away by the receding tide; then Pencroft and his
companions, well armed, ascended the shore, so as to gain an elevation of about two hundred and fifty or three hundred feet which rose at a distance
of half a mile.
"From the summit of that hill," said Spilett, "we can no doubt obtain a complete view of the island, which will greatly facilitate our search."
"So as to do here," replied Herbert, "that which Captain Harding did the very first thing on Lincoln Island, by climbing Mount Franklin."
"Exactly so," answered the reporter, "and it is the best plan."
While thus talking the explorers had advanced along a clearing which terminated at the foot of the hill. Flocks of rock-pigeons and sea- swallows,
similar to those of Lincoln Island, fluttered around them. Under the woods which skirted the glade on the left they could hear the bushes rustling and
see the grass waving, which indicated the presence of timid animals, but still nothing to show that the island was inhabited.
Arrived at the foot of the hill, Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert climbed it in a few minutes, and gazed anxiously round the horizon.
They were on an islet, which did not measure more than six miles in circumference, its shape not much bordered by capes or promontories, bays or
creeks, being a lengthened oval. All around, the lonely sea extended to the limits of the horizon. No land nor even a sail was in sight.
This woody islet did not offer the varied aspects of Lincoln Island, arid and wild in one part, but fertile and rich in the other. On the contrary
this was a uniform mass of verdure, out of which rose two or three hills of no great height. Obliquely to the oval of the island ran a stream through
a wide meadow falling into the sea on the west by a narrow mouth.
"The domain is limited," said Herbert.
"Yes," rejoined Pencroft: "It would have been too small for us."
"And moreover,' said the reporter, "it appears to be uninhabited."
"Indeed," answered Herbert, "nothing here betrays the presence of man."
"Let us go down," said Pencroft, "and search."
The sailor and his two companions returned to the shore, to the place where they had left the "Bonadventure."
They had decided to make the tour of the island on foot, before exploring the interior; so that not a spot should escape their investigations. The
beach was easy to follow, and only in some places was their way barred by large rocks, which, however, they easily passed round. The explorers
proceeded towards the south, disturbing numerous flocks of sea-birds and herds of seals, which threw themselves into the sea as soon as they saw the
strangers at a distance.
"Those beasts yonder," observed the reporter, "do not see men for the first time. They fear them, therefore they must know them."
An hour after their departure they arrived on the southern point of the islet, terminated by a sharp cape, and proceeded towards the north along
the western coast, equally formed by sand and rocks, the background bordered with thick woods.
There was not a trace of a habitation in any part, not the print of a human foot on the shore of the island, which after four hours' walking had
been gone completely round.
It was to say the least very extraordinary, and they were compelled to believe that Tabor Island was not or was no longer inhabited. Perhaps,
after all the document was already several months or several years old, and it was possible in this case, either that the castaway had been enabled to
return to his country, or that he had died of misery.
Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert, forming more or less probable conjectures, dined rapidly on board the "Bonadventure" so as to be able to continue
their excursion until nightfall. This was done at five o'clock in the evening, at which hour they entered the wood.
Numerous animals fled at their approach, being principally, one might say, only goats and pigs, which were obviously European species.
Doubtless some whaler had landed them on the island, where they had rapidly increased. Herbert resolved to catch one or two living, and take them
back to Lincoln Island.
It was no longer doubtful that men at some period or other had visited this islet, and this became still more evident when paths appeared trodden
through the forest, felled trees, and everywhere traces of the hand of man; but the trees were becoming rotten, and had been felled many years ago;
the marks of the axe were velveted with moss, and the grass grew long and thick on the paths, so that it was difficult to find them.
"But," observed Gideon Spilett, "this not only proves that men have landed on the island, but also that they lived on it for some time. Now, who
were these men? How many of them remain?"
"The document," said Herbert, "only spoke of one castaway."
"Well, if he is still on the island," replied Pencroft, "it is impossible but that we shall find him."
The exploration was continued. The sailor and his companions naturally followed the route which cut diagonally across the island, and they were
thus obliged to follow the stream which flowed towards the sea.
If the animals of European origin, if works due to a human hand, showed incontestably that men had already visited the island, several specimens
of the vegetable kingdom did not prove it less. In some places, in the midst of clearings, it was evident that the soil had been planted with culinary
plants, at probably the same distant period.
What, then, was Herbert's joy, when he recognized potatoes, chicory, sorrel, carrots, cabbages, and turnips, of which it was sufficient to collect
the seed to enrich the soil of Lincoln Island.
"Capital, jolly!" exclaimed Pencroft. "That will suit Neb as well as us. Even if we do not find the castaway, at least our voyage will not have
been useless, and God will have rewarded us."
"Doubtless," replied Gideon Spilett, "but to see the state in which we find these plantations, it is to be feared that the island has not been
inhabited for some time."
"Indeed," answered Herbert, "an inhabitant, whoever he was, could not have neglected such an important culture!"
"Yes," said Pencroft, "the castaway has gone."
"We must suppose so."
"It must then be admitted that the document has already a distant date?"
"And that the bottle only arrived at Lincoln Island after having floated in the sea a long time."
"Why not?" returned Pencroft. "But night is coming on," added he, "and I think that it will be best to give up the search for the present."
"Let us go on board, and to-morrow we will begin again," said the reporter.
This was the wisest course, and it was about to be followed when Herbert, pointing to a confused mass among the trees, exclaimed,--
All three immediately ran towards the dwelling. In the twilight it was just possible to see that it was built of planks and covered with a thick
The half-closed door was pushed open by Pencroft, who entered with a rapid step.
The hut was empty!
Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett remained silent in the midst of the darkness.
Pencroft shouted loudly.
No reply was made.
The sailor then struck a light and set fire to a twig. This lighted for a minute a small room, which appeared perfectly empty. At the back was a
rude fireplace, with a few cold cinders, supporting an armful of dry wood. Pencroft threw the blazing twig on it, the wood crackled and gave forth a
The sailor and his two companions then perceived a disordered bed, of which the damp and yellow coverlets proved that it had not been used for a
long time. In the corner of the fireplace were two kettles, covered with rust, and an overthrown pot. A cupboard, with a few moldy sailor's clothes;
on the table a tin plate and a Bible, eaten away by damp; in a corner a few tools, a spade, pickaxe, two fowling-pieces, one of which was broken; on a
plank, forming a shelf, stood a barrel of powder, still untouched, a barrel of shot, and several boxes of caps, all thickly covered with dust,
accumulated, perhaps, by many long years.
"There is no one here," said the reporter.
"No one," replied Pencroft.
"It is a long time since this room has been inhabited," observed Herbert.
"Yes, a very long time!" answered the reporter.
"Mr. Spilett," then said Pencroft, "instead of returning on board, I think that it would be well to pass the night in this hut."
"You are right, Pencroft," answered Gideon Spilett, "and if its owner returns, well! perhaps he will not be sorry to find the place taken
"He will not return," said the sailor, shaking his head.
"You think that he has quitted the island?" asked the reporter.
"If he had quitted the island he would have taken away his weapons and his tools," replied Pencroft. "You know the value which castaways set on
such articles as these the last remains of a wreck. No! no!" repeated the sailor, in a tone of conviction; "no, he has not left the island! If he had
escaped in a boat made by himself, he would still less have left these indispensable and necessary articles. No! he is on the island!"
"Living?" asked Herbert.
"Living or dead. But if he is dead, I suppose he has not buried himself, and so we shall at least find his remains!"
It was then agreed that the night should be passed in the deserted dwelling, and a store of wood found in a corner was sufficient to warm it. The
door closed, Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett remained there, seated on a bench, talking little but wondering much. They were in a frame of mind to
imagine anything or expect anything. They listened eagerly for sounds outside. The door might have opened suddenly, and a man presented himself to
them without their being in the least surprised, notwithstanding all that the hut revealed of abandonment, and they had their hands ready to press the
hands of this man, this castaway, this unknown friend, for whom friends were waiting.
But no voice was heard, the door did not open. The hours thus passed away.
How long the night appeared to the sailor and his companions! Herbert alone slept for two hours, for at his age sleep is a necessity. They were
all three anxious to continue their exploration of the day before, and to search the most secret recesses of the islet! The inferences deduced by
Pencroft were perfectly reasonable, and it was nearly certain that, as the hut was deserted, and the tools, utensils, and weapons were still there,
the owner had succumbed. It was agreed, therefore, that they should search for his remains, and give them at least Christian burial.
Day dawned; Pencroft and his companions immediately proceeded to survey the dwelling. It had certainly been built in a favorable situation, at the
back of a little hill, sheltered by five or six magnificent gum-trees. Before its front and through the trees the axe had prepared a wide clearing,
which allowed the view to extend to the sea. Beyond a lawn, surrounded by a wooden fence falling to pieces, was the shore, on the left of which was
the mouth of the stream.
The hut had been built of planks, and it was easy to see that these planks had been obtained from the hull or deck of a ship. It was probable that
a disabled vessel had been cast on the coast of the island, that one at least of the crew had been saved, and that by means of the wreck this man,
having tools at his disposal, had built the dwelling.
And this became still more evident when Gideon Spilett, after having walked around the hut, saw on a plank, probably one of those which had formed
the armor of the wrecked vessel, these letters already half effaced:
"Britannia," exclaimed Pencroft, whom the reporter had called; "it is a common name for ships, and I could not say if she was English or
"It matters very little, Pencroft!"
"Very little indeed," answered the sailor, "and we will save the survivor of her crew if he is still living, to whatever country he may belong.
But before beginning our search again let us go on board the 'Bonadventure'."
A sort of uneasiness had seized Pencroft upon the subject of his vessel. Should the island be inhabited after all, and should some one have taken
possession of her? But he shrugged his shoulders at such an unreasonable supposition. At any rate the sailor was not sorry to go to breakfast on
board. The road already trodden was not long, scarcely a mile. They set out on their walk, gazing into the wood and thickets through which goats and
pigs fled in hundreds.
Twenty minutes after leaving the hut Pencroft and his companions reached the western coast of the island, and saw the "Bonadventure" held fast by
her anchor, which was buried deep in the sand.
Pencroft could not restrain a sigh of satisfaction. After all this vessel was his child, and it is the right of fathers to be often uneasy when
there is no occasion for it.
They returned on board, breakfasted, so that it should not be necessary to dine until very late; then the repast being ended, the exploration was
continued and conducted with the most minute care. Indeed, it was very probable that the only inhabitant of the island had perished. It was therefore
more for the traces of a dead than of a living man that Pencroft and his companions searched. But their searches were vain, and during the half of
that day they sought to no purpose among the thickets of trees which covered the islet. There was then scarcely any doubt that, if the castaway was
dead, no trace of his body now remained, but that some wild beast had probably devoured it to the last bone.
"We will set off to-morrow at daybreak," said Pencroft to his two companions, as about two o'clock they were resting for a few minutes under the
shade of a clump of firs.
"I should think that we might without scruple take the utensils which belonged to the castaway," added Herbert.
"I think so, too," returned Gideon Spilett, "and these arms and tools will make up the stores of Granite House. The supply of powder and shot is
also most important."
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "but we must not forget to capture a couple or two of those pigs, of which Lincoln Island is destitute."
"Nor to gather those seeds," added Herbert, "which will give us all the vegetables of the Old and the New Worlds."
"Then perhaps it would be best," said the reporter, "to remain a day longer on Tabor Island, so as to collect all that may be useful to us."
"No, Mr. Spilett," answered Pencroft, "I will ask you to set off to-morrow at daybreak. The wind seems to me to be likely to shift to the west,
and after having had a fair wind for coming we shall have a fair wind for going back."
"Then do not let us lose time," said Herbert, rising.
"We won't waste time," returned Pencroft. "You, Herbert, go and gather the seeds, which you know better than we do. While you do that, Mr. Spilett
and I will go and have a pig hunt, and even without Top I hope we shall manage to catch a few!"
Herbert accordingly took the path which led towards the cultivated part of the islet, while the sailor and the reporter entered the forest.
Many specimens of the porcine race fled before them, and these animals, which were singularly active, did not appear to be in a humor to allow
themselves to be approached.
However, after an hour's chase, the hunters had just managed to get hold of a couple lying in a thicket, when cries were heard resounding from the
north part of the island, With the cries were mingled terrible yells, in which there was nothing human.
Pencroft and Gideon Spilett were at once on their feet, and the pigs by this movement began to run away, at the moment when the sailor was getting
ready the rope to bind them.
"That's Herbert's voice," said the reporter.
"Run!" exclaimed Pencroft.
And the sailor and Spilett immediately ran at full speed towards the spot from whence the cries proceeded.
They did well to hasten, for at a turn of the path near a clearing they saw the lad thrown on the ground and in the grasp of a savage being,
apparently a gigantic ape, who was about to do him some great harm.
To rush on this monster, throw him on the ground in his turn, snatch Herbert from him, then bind him securely, was the work of a minute for
Pencroft and Gideon Spilett. The sailor was of Herculean strength, the reporter also very powerful, and in spite of the monster's resistance he was
firmly tied so that he could not even move.
"You are not hurt, Herbert?" asked Spilett.
"Oh, if this ape had wounded him!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"But he is not an ape," answered Herbert.
At these words Pencroft and Gideon Spilett looked at the singular being who lay on the ground. Indeed it was not an ape; it was a human being, a
man. But what a man! A savage in all the horrible acceptation of the word, and so much the more frightful that he seemed fallen to the lowest degree
Shaggy hair, untrimmed beard descending to the chest, the body almost naked except a rag round the waist, wild eyes, enormous hands with immensely
long nails, skin the color of mahogany, feet as hard as if made of horn, such was the miserable creature who yet had a claim to be called a man. But
it might justly be asked if there were yet a soul in this body, or if the brute instinct alone survived in it!
"Are you quite sure that this is a man, or that he has ever been one?" said Pencroft to the reporter.
"Alas! there is no doubt about it," replied Spilett.
"Then this must be the castaway?" asked Herbert.
"Yes," replied Gideon Spilett, "but the unfortunate man has no longer anything human about him!"
The reporter spoke the truth. It was evident that if the castaway had ever been a civilized being, solitude had made him a savage, or worse,
perhaps a regular man of the woods. Hoarse sounds issued from his throat between his teeth, which were sharp as the teeth of a wild beast made to tear
Memory must have deserted him long before, and for a long time also he had forgotten how to use his gun and tools, and he no longer knew how to
make a fire! It could be seen that he was active and powerful, but the physical qualities had been developed in him to the injury of the moral
qualities. Gideon Spilett spoke to him. He did not appear to understand or even to hear. And yet on looking into his eyes, the reporter thought he
could see that all reason was not extinguished in him. However, the prisoner did not struggle, nor even attempt to break his bonds. Was he overwhelmed
by the presence of men whose fellow he had once been? Had he found in some corner of his brain a fleeting remembrance which recalled him to humanity?
If free, would he attempt to fly, or would he remain? They could not tell, but they did not make the experiment; and after gazing attentively at the
"Whoever he may be," remarked Gideon Spilett, "whoever he may have been, and whatever he may become, it is our duty to take him with us to Lincoln
"Yes, yes!" replied Herbert, "and perhaps with care we may arouse in him same gleam of intelligence."
"The soul does not die," said the reporter, "and it would be a great satisfaction to rescue one of God's creatures from brutishness."
Pencroft shook his head doubtfully.
"We must try at any rate," returned the reporter; "humanity commands us."
It was indeed their duty as Christians and civilized beings. All three felt this, and they well knew that Cyrus Harding would approve of their
"Shall we leave him bound?" asked the sailor.
"Perhaps he would walk if his feet were unfastened," said Herbert.
"Let us try," replied Pencroft.
The cords which shackled the prisoner's feet were cut off, but his arms remained securely fastened. He got up by himself and did not manifest any
desire to run away. His hard eyes darted a piercing glance at the three men, who walked near him, but nothing denoted that he recollected being their
fellow, or at least having been so. A continual hissing sound issued from his lips, his aspect was wild, but he did not attempt to resist.
By the reporter's advice the unfortunate man was taken to the hut. Perhaps the sight of the things that belonged to him would make some impression
on him! Perhaps a spark would be sufficient to revive his obscured intellect, to rekindle his dulled soul. The dwelling was not far off. In a few
minutes they arrived there, but the prisoner remembered nothing, and it appeared that he had lost consciousness of everything.
What could they think of the degree of brutishness into which this miserable being had fallen, unless that his imprisonment on the islet dated
from a very distant period and after having arrived there a rational being solitude had reduced him to this condition.
The reporter then thought that perhaps the sight of fire would have some effect on him, and in a moment one of those beautiful flames, that
attract even animals, blazed up on the hearth. The sight of the flame seemed at first to fix the attention of the unhappy object, but soon he turned
away and the look of intelligence faded. Evidently there was nothing to be done, for the time at least, but to take him on board the "Bonadventure."
This was done, and he remained there in Pencroft's charge.
Herbert and Spilett returned to finish their work; and some hours after they came back to the shore, carrying the utensils and guns, a store of
vegetables, of seeds, some game, and two couple of pigs.
All was embarked, and the "Bonadventure" was ready to weigh anchor and sail with the morning tide.
The prisoner had been placed in the fore-cabin, where he remained quiet, silent, apparently deaf and dumb.
Pencroft offered him something to eat, but he pushed away the cooked meat that was presented to him and which doubtless did not suit him. But on
the sailor showing him one of the ducks which Herbert had killed, he pounced on it like a wild beast, and devoured it greedily.
"You think that he will recover his senses?" asked Pencroft. "It is not impossible that our care will have an effect upon him, for it is solitude
that has made him what he is, and from this time forward he will be no longer alone."
"The poor man must no doubt have been in this state for a long time," said Herbert.
"Perhaps," answered Gideon Spilett.
"About what age is he?" asked the lad.
"It is difficult to say," replied the reporter, "for it is impossible to see his features under the thick beard which covers his face, but he is
no longer young, and I suppose he might be about fifty."
"Have you noticed, Mr. Spilett, how deeply sunk his eyes are?" asked Herbert.
"Yes, Herbert, but I must add that they are more human than one could expect from his appearance."
"However, we shall see," replied Pencroft, "and I am anxious to know what opinion Captain Harding will have of our savage. We went to look for a
human creature, and we are bringing back a monster! After all, we did what we could."
The night passed, and whether the prisoner slept or not could not be known, but at any rate, although he had been unbound, he did not move. He was
like a wild animal, which appears stunned at first by its capture, and becomes wild again afterwards.
At daybreak the next morning, the 15th of October, the change of weather predicted by Pencroft occurred. The wind having shifted to the northwest
favored the return of the "Bonadventure," but at the same time it freshened, which might render navigation more difficult.
At five o'clock in the morning the anchor was weighed. Pencroft took a reef in the mainsail, and steered towards the north-east, so as to sail
straight for Lincoln Island.
The first day of the voyage was not marked by any incident. The prisoner remained quiet in the fore-cabin, and as he had been a sailor it appeared
that the motion of the vessel might produce on him a salutary reaction. Did some recollection of his former calling return to him? However that might
be, he remained tranquil, astonished rather than depressed.
The wild man of Tabor Island
The next day the wind increased, blowing more from the north, consequently in a less favorable direction for the "Bonadventure." Pencroft was soon
obliged to sail close-hauled, and without saying anything about it he began to be uneasy at the state of the sea, which frequently broke over the
bows. Certainly, if the wind did not moderate, it would take a longer time to reach Lincoln Island than it had taken to make Tabor Island.
Indeed, on the morning of the 17th, the "Bonadventure" had been forty- eight hours at sea, and nothing showed that she was near the island. It was
impossible, besides, to estimate the distance traversed, or to trust to the reckoning for the direction, as the speed had been very irregular.
Twenty-four hours after there was yet no land in sight. The wind was right ahead and the sea very heavy. The sails were close-reefed, and they
tacked frequently. On the 18th, a wave swept completely over the "Bonadventure"; and if the crew had not taken the precaution of lashing themselves to
the deck, they would have been carried away.
On this occasion Pencroft and his companions, who were occupied with loosing themselves, received unexpected aid from the prisoner, who emerged
from the hatchway as if his sailor's instinct had suddenly returned, broke a piece out of the bulwarks with a spar so as to let the water which filled
the deck escape. Then the vessel being clear, he descended to his cabin without having uttered a word. Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, greatly
astonished, let him proceed.
Their situation was truly serious, and the sailor had reason to fear that he was lost on the wide sea without any possibility of recovering his
The night was dark and cold. However, about eleven o'clock, the wind fell, the sea went down, and the speed of the vessel, as she labored less,
Neither Pencroft, Spilett, nor Herbert thought of taking an hour's sleep. They kept a sharp look-out, for either Lincoln Island could not be far
distant and would be sighted at daybreak, or the "Bonadventure," carried away by currents, had drifted so much that it would be impossible to rectify
her course. Pencroft, uneasy to the last degree, yet did not despair, for he had a gallant heart, and grasping the tiller he anxiously endeavored to
pierce the darkness which surrounded them.
About two o'clock in the morning he started forward,--
"A light! a light!" he shouted.
Indeed, a bright light appeared twenty miles to the northeast. Lincoln Island was there, and this fire, evidently lighted by Cyrus Harding, showed
them the course to be followed. Pencroft, who was bearing too much to the north, altered his course and steered towards the fire, which burned
brightly above the horizon like a star of the first magnitude.
The next day, the 20th of October, at seven o'clock in the morning, after a voyage of four days, the "Bonadventure" gently glided up to the beach
at the mouth of the Mercy.
Cyrus Harding and Neb, who had become very uneasy at the bad weather and the prolonged absence of their companions, had climbed at daybreak to the
plateau of Prospect Heights, and they had at last caught sight of the vessel which had been so long in returning.
"God be praised! there they are!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.
As to Neb in his joy, he began to dance, to twirl round, clapping his hands and shouting, "Oh! my master!" A more touching pantomime than the
The engineer's first idea, on counting the people on the deck of the "Bonadventure," was that Pencroft had not found the castaway of Tabor Island,
or at any rate that the unfortunate man had refused to leave his island and change one prison for another.
Indeed Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert were alone on the deck of the "Bonadventure."
The moment the vessel touched, the engineer and Neb were waiting on the beach, and before the passengers had time to leap on to the sand, Harding
said: "We have been very uneasy at your delay, my friends! Did you meet with any accident?"
"No," replied Gideon Spilett; "on the contrary, everything went wonderfully well. We will tell you all about it."
"However," returned the engineer, "your search has been unsuccessful, since you are only three, just as you went!"
"Excuse me, captain," replied the sailor, "we are four."
"You have found the castaway?"
"And you have brought him?"
"Where is he? Who is he?"
"He is," replied the reporter, "or rather he was a man! There, Cyrus, that is all we can tell you!"
The engineer was then informed of all that had passed during the voyage, and under what conditions the search had been conducted; how the only
dwelling in the island had long been abandoned; how at last a castaway had been captured, who appeared no longer to belong to the human species.
"And that's just the point," added Pencroft, "I don't know if we have done right to bring him here."
"Certainly you have, Pencroft," replied the engineer quickly.
"But the wretched creature has no sense!"
"That is possible at present," replied Cyrus Harding, "but only a few months ago the wretched creature was a man like you and me. And who knows
what will become of the survivor of us after a long solitude on this island? It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it must be believed
that solitude can quickly destroy reason, since you have found this poor creature in such a state!"
"But, captain," asked Herbert, "what leads you to think that the brutishness of the unfortunate man began only a few months back?"
"Because the document we found had been recently written," answered the engineer, "and the castaway alone can have written it."
"Always supposing," observed Gideon Spilett, "that it had not been written by a companion of this man, since dead."
"That is impossible, my dear Spilett."
"Why so?" asked the reporter.
"Because the document would then have spoken of two castaways," replied Harding, "and it mentioned only one."
Herbert then in a few words related the incidents of the voyage, and dwelt on the curious fact of the sort of passing gleam in the prisoner's
mind, when for an instant in the height of the storm he had become a sailor.
"Well, Herbert," replied the engineer, "you are right to attach great importance to this fact. The unfortunate man cannot be incurable, and
despair has made him what he is; but here he will find his fellow-men, and since there is still a soul in him, this soul we shall save!"
The castaway of Tabor Island, to the great pity of the engineer and the great astonishment of Neb, was then brought from the cabin which he
occupied in the fore part of the "Bonadventure"; when once on land he manifested a wish to run away.
But Cyrus Harding approaching, placed his hand on his shoulder with a gesture full of authority, and looked at him with infinite tenderness.
Immediately the unhappy man, submitting to a superior will, gradually became calm, his eyes fell, his head bent, and he made no more resistance.
"Poor fellow!" murmured the engineer.
Cyrus Harding had attentively observed him. To judge by his appearance this miserable being had no longer anything human about him, and yet
Harding, as had the reporter already, observed in his look an indefinable trace of intelligence.
It was decided that the castaway, or rather the stranger as he was thenceforth termed by his companions, should live in one of the rooms of
Granite House, from which, however, he could not escape. He was led there without difficulty, and with careful attention, it might, perhaps, be hoped
that some day he would be a companion to the settlers in Lincoln Island.
Cyrus Harding, during breakfast, which Neb had hastened to prepare, as the reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft were dying of hunger, heard in detail
all the incidents which had marked the voyage of exploration to the islet. He agreed with his friends on this point, that the stranger must be either
English or American, the name Britannia leading them to suppose this, and, besides, through the bushy beard, and under the shaggy, matted hair, the
engineer thought he could recognize the characteristic features of the Anglo-Saxon.
"But, by the bye," said Gideon Spilett, addressing Herbert, "you never told us how you met this savage, and we know nothing, except that you would
have been strangled, if we had not happened to come up in time to help you!"
"Upon my word," answered Herbert, "it is rather difficult to say how it happened. I was, I think, occupied in collecting my plants, when I heard a
noise like an avalanche falling from a very tall tree. I scarcely had time to look round. This unfortunate man, who was without doubt concealed in a
tree, rushed upon me in less time than I take to tell you about it, and unless Mr. Spilett and Pencroft--"
"My boy!" said Cyrus Harding, "you ran a great danger, but, perhaps, without that, the poor creature would have still hidden himself from your
search, and we should not have had a new companion."
"You hope, then, Cyrus, to succeed in reforming the man?" asked the reporter.
"Yes," replied the engineer.
Breakfast over, Harding and his companions left Granite House and returned to the beach. They there occupied themselves in unloading the
"Bonadventure," and the engineer, having examined the arms and tools, saw nothing which could help them to establish the identity of the stranger.
The capture of pigs, made on the islet, was looked upon as being very profitable to Lincoln Island, and the animals were led to the sty, where
they soon became at home.
The two barrels, containing the powder and shot, as well as the box of caps, were very welcome. It was agreed to establish a small powder-
magazine, either outside Granite House or in the Upper Cavern, where there would be no fear of explosion. However, the use of pyroxyle was to be
continued, for this substance giving excellent results, there was no reason for substituting ordinary powder.
When the unloading of the vessel was finished,--
"Captain," said Pencroft, "I think it would be prudent to put our 'Bonadventure' in a safe place."
"Is she not safe at the mouth of the Mercy?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"No, captain," replied the sailor. "Half of the time she is stranded on the sand, and that works her. She is a famous craft, you see, and she
behaved admirably during the squall which struck us on our return."
"Could she not float in the river?"
"No doubt, captain, she could; but there is no shelter there, and in the east winds, I think that the 'Bonadventure' would suffer much from the
"Well, where would you put her, Pencroft?"
"In Port Balloon," replied the sailor. "That little creek, shut in by rocks, seems to me to be just the harbor we want."
"Is it not rather far?"
"Pooh! it is not more than three miles from Granite House, and we have a fine straight road to take us there!"
"Do it then, Pencroft, and take your 'Bonadventure' there," replied the engineer, "and yet I would rather have her under our more immediate
protection. When we have time, we must make a little harbor for her."
"Famous!" exclaimed Pencroft. "A harbor with a lighthouse, a pier, and dock! Ah! really with you, captain, everything becomes easy."
"Yes, my brave Pencroft," answered the engineer, "but on condition, however, that you help me, for you do as much as three men in all our work."
Herbert and the sailor then re-embarked on board the "Bonadventure," the anchor was weighed, the sail hoisted, and the wind drove her rapidly
towards Claw Cape. Two hours after, she was reposing on the tranquil waters of Port Balloon.
During the first days passed by the stranger in Granite House, had he already given them reason to think that his savage nature was becoming
tamed? Did a brighter light burn in the depths of that obscured mind? In short, was the soul returning to the body?
Yes, to a certainty, and to such a degree, that Cyrus Harding and the reporter wondered if the reason of the unfortunate man had ever been totally
extinguished. At first, accustomed to the open air, to the unrestrained liberty which he had enjoyed on Tabor Island, the stranger manifested a sullen
fury, and it was feared that he might throw himself onto the beach, out of one of the windows of Granite House. But gradually he became calmer, and
more freedom was allowed to his movements.
They had reason to hope, and to hope much. Already, forgetting his carnivorous instincts, the stranger accepted a less bestial nourishment than
that on which he fed on the islet, and cooked meat did not produce in him the same sentiment of repulsion which he had showed on board the
"Bonadventure." Cyrus Harding had profited by a moment when he was sleeping, to cut his hair and matted beard, which formed a sort of mane and gave
him such a savage aspect. He had also been clothed more suitably, after having got rid of the rag which covered him. The result was that, thanks to
these attentions, the stranger resumed a more human appearance, and it even seemed as if his eyes had become milder. Certainly, when formerly lighted
up by intelligence, this man's face must have had a sort of beauty.
Every day, Harding imposed on himself the task of passing some hours in his company. He came and worked near him, and occupied himself in
different things, so as to fix his attention. A spark, indeed, would be sufficient to reillumine that soul, a recollection crossing that brain to
recall reason. That had been seen, during the storm, on board the "Bonadventure!" The engineer did not neglect either to speak aloud, so as to
penetrate at the same time by the organs of hearing and sight the depths of that torpid intelligence. Sometimes one of his companions, sometimes
another, sometimes all joined him. They spoke most often of things belonging to the navy, which must interest a sailor.
At times, the stranger gave some slight attention to what was said, and the settlers were soon convinced that he partly understood them. Sometimes
the expression of his countenance was deeply sorrowful, a proof that he suffered mentally, for his face could not be mistaken; but he did not speak,
although at different times, however, they almost thought that words were about to issue from his lips. At all events, the poor creature was quite
quiet and sad!
But was not his calm only apparent? Was not his sadness only the result of his seclusion? Nothing could yet be ascertained. Seeing only certain
objects and in a limited space, always in contact with the colonists, to whom he would soon become accustomed, having no desires to satisfy, better
fed, better clothed, it was natural that his physical nature should gradually improve; but was he penetrated with the sense of a new life? or rather,
to employ a word which would be exactly applicable to him, was he not becoming tamed, like an animal in company with his master? This was an important
question, which Cyrus Harding was anxious to answer, and yet he did not wish to treat his invalid roughly! Would he ever be a convalescent?
How the engineer observed him every moment! How he was on the watch for his soul, if one may use the expression! How he was ready to grasp it! The
settlers followed with real sympathy all the phases of the cure undertaken by Harding. They aided him also in this work of humanity, and all, except
perhaps the incredulous Pencroft, soon shared both his hope and his faith.
The calm of the stranger was deep, as has been said, and he even showed a sort of attachment for the engineer, whose influence he evidently felt.
Cyrus Harding resolved then to try him, by transporting him to another scene, from that ocean which formerly his eyes had been accustomed to
contemplate, to the border of the forest, which might perhaps recall those where so many years of his life had been passed!
"But," said Gideon Spilett, "can we hope that he will not escape, if once set at liberty?"
"The experiment must be tried," replied the engineer.
"Well!' said Pencroft. "When that fellow is outside, and feels the fresh air, he will be off as fast as his legs can carry him!"
"I do not think so," returned Harding.
"Let us try,,' said Spilett.
"We will try," replied the engineer.
This was on the 30th of October, and consequently the castaway of Tabor Island had been a prisoner in Granite House for nine days. It was warm,
and a bright sun darted its rays on the island. Cyrus Harding and Pencroft went to the room occupied by the stranger, who was found lying near the
window and gazing at the sky.
"Come, my friend," said the engineer to him.
The stranger rose immediately. His eyes were fixed on Cyrus Harding, and he followed him, while the sailor marched behind them, little confident
as to the result of the experiment.
Arrived at the door, Harding and Pencroft made him take his place in the lift, while Neb, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett waited for them before
Granite House. The lift descended, and in a few moments all were united on the beach.
The settlers went a short distance from the stranger, so as to leave him at liberty.
He then made a few steps toward the sea, and his look brightened with extreme animation, but he did not make the slightest attempt to escape. He
was gazing at the little waves which, broken by the islet, rippled on the sand.
"This is only the sea," observed Gideon Spilett, "and possibly it does not inspire him with any wish to escape!"
"Yes," replied Harding, "we must take him to the plateau, on the border of the forest. There the experiment will be more conclusive."
"Besides, he could not run away," said Neb, "since the bridge is raised."
"Oh!" said Pencroft, "that isn't a man to be troubled by a stream like Creek Glycerine! He could cross it directly, at a single bound!"
"We shall soon see," Harding contented himself with replying, his eyes not quitting those of his patient.
The latter was then led towards the mouth of the Mercy, and all climbing the left bank of the river, reached Prospect Heights.
Arrived at the spot on which grew the first beautiful trees of the forest, their foliage slightly agitated by the breeze, the stranger appeared
greedily to drink in the penetrating odor which filled the atmosphere, and a long sigh escaped from his chest.
The settlers kept behind him, ready to seize him if he made any movement to escape!
And, indeed, the poor creature was on the point of springing into the creek which separated him from the forest, and his legs were bent for an
instant as if for a spring, but almost immediately he stepped back, half sank down, and a large tear fell from his eyes.
"Ah!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding, "you have become a man again, for you can weep!"
Yes! the unfortunate man had wept! Some recollection doubtless had flashed across his brain, and to use Cyrus Harding's expression, by those tears
he was once more a man.
The colonists left him for some time on the plateau, and withdrew themselves to a short distance, so that he might feel himself free; but he did
not think of profiting by this liberty, and Harding soon brought him back to Granite House. Two days after this occurrence, the stranger appeared to
wish gradually to mingle with their common life. He evidently heard and understood, but no less evidently was he strangely determined not to speak to
the colonists; for one evening, Pencroft, listening at the door of his room, heard these words escape from his lips:--
"No! here! I! never!"
The sailor reported these words to his companions.
"There is some painful mystery there!" said Harding.
The stranger had begun to use the laboring tools, and he worked in the garden. When he stopped in his work, as was often the case, he remained
retired within himself, but on the engineer's recommendation, they respected the reserve which he apparently wished to keep. If one of the settlers
approached him, he drew back, and his chest heaved with sobs, as if overburdened!
Was it remorse that overwhelmed him thus? They were compelled to believe so, and Gideon Spilett could not help one day making this observation,--
"If he does not speak it is because he has, I fear, things too serious to be told!"
They must be patient and wait.
A few days later, on the 3rd of November, the stranger, working on the plateau, had stopped, letting his spade drop to the ground, and Harding,
who was observing him from a little distance, saw that tears were again flowing from his eyes. A sort of irresistible pity led him towards the
unfortunate man, and he touched his arm lightly.
"My friend!" said he.
The stranger tried to avoid his look, and Cyrus Harding having endeavored to take his hand, he drew back quickly.
"My friend," said Harding in a firmer voice, "look at me, I wish it!"
The stranger looked at the engineer, and seemed to be under his power, as a subject under the influence of a mesmerist. He wished to run away. But
then his countenance suddenly underwent a transformation. His eyes flashed. Words struggled to escape from his lips. He could no longer contain
himself! At last he folded his arms; then, in a hollow voice,--"Who are you?" he asked Cyrus Harding.
"Castaways, like you," replied the engineer, whose emotion was deep. "We have brought you here, among your fellow-men."
"My fellow-men!... I have none!'
"You are in the midst of friends."
"Friends!--for me! friends!" exclaimed the stranger, hiding his face in his hands. "No--never--leave me! leave me!"
Then he rushed to the side of the plateau which overlooked the sea, and remained there a long time motionless.
Harding rejoined his companions and related to them what had just happened.
"Yes! there is some mystery in that man's life," said Gideon Spilett, "and it appears as if he had only re-entered society by the path of
"I don't know what sort of a man we have brought here," said the sailor. "He has secrets--"
"Which we will respect," interrupted Cyrus Harding quickly. "If he has committed any crime, he has most fearfully expiated it, and in our eyes he
For two hours the stranger remained alone on the shore, evidently under the influence of recollections which recalled all his past life--a
melancholy life doubtless--and the colonists, without losing sight of him, did not attempt to disturb his solitude. However, after two hours,
appearing to have formed a resolution, he came to find Cyrus Harding. His eyes were red with the tears he had shed, but he wept no longer. His
countenance expressed deep humility. He appeared anxious, timorous, ashamed, and his eyes were constantly fixed on the ground.
"Sir," said he to Harding, "your companions and you, are you English?"
"No," answered the engineer, "we are Americans."
"Ah!" said the stranger, and he murmured, "I prefer that!"
"And you, my friend?" asked the engineer.
"English," replied he hastily.
And as if these few words had been difficult to say, he retreated to the beach, where he walked up and down between the cascade and the mouth of
the Mercy, in a state of extreme agitation.
Then, passing one moment close to Herbert, he stopped and in a stifled voice,--
"What month?" he asked.
"December," replied Herbert.
"Twelve years! twelve years!" he exclaimed.
Then he left him abruptly.
Herbert reported to the colonists the questions and answers which had been made.
"This unfortunate man," observed Gideon Spilett, "was no longer acquainted with either months or years!"
"Yes!" added Herbert, "and he had been twelve years already on the islet when we found him there!"
"Twelve years!" rejoined Harding. "Ah! twelve years of solitude, after a wicked life, perhaps, may well impair a man's reason!"
"I am induced to think," said Pencroft, "that this man was not wrecked on Tabor Island, but that in consequence of some crime he was left there."
"You must be right, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "and if it is so it is not impossible that those who left him on the island may return to
fetch him some day!"
"And they will no longer find him," said Herbert.
"But then," added Pencroft, "they must return, and--"
"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "do not let us discuss this question until we know more about it. I believe that the unhappy man has suffered,
that he has severely expiated his faults, whatever they may have been, and that the wish to unburden himself stifles him. Do not let us press him to
tell us his history! He will tell it to us doubtless, and when we know it, we shall see what course it will be best to follow. He alone besides can
tell us, if he has more than a hope, a certainty, of returning some day to his country, but I doubt it!"
"And why?" asked the reporter.
"Because that, in the event of his being sure of being delivered at a certain time, he would have waited the hour of his deliverance and would not
have thrown this document into the sea. No, it is more probable that he was condemned to die on that islet, and that he never expected to see his
"But," observed the sailor, "there is one thing which I cannot explain."
"What is it?"
"If this man had been left for twelve years on Tabor Island, one may well suppose that he had been several years already in the wild state in
which we found him!"
"That is probable," replied Cyrus Harding.
"It must then be many years since he wrote that document!"
"No doubt," and yet the document appears to have been recently written!
"Besides, how do you know that the bottle which enclosed the document may not have taken several years to come from Tabor Island to Lincoln
"That is not absolutely impossible," replied the reporter.
"Might it not have been a long time already on the coast of the island?"
"No," answered Pencroft, "for it was still floating. We could not even suppose that after it had stayed for any length of time on the shore, it
would have been swept off by the sea, for the south coast is all rocks, and it would certainly have been smashed to pieces there!"
"That is true," rejoined Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.
"And then," continued the sailor, "if the document was several years old, if it had been shut up in that bottle for several years, it would have
been injured by damp. Now, there is nothing of the kind, and it was found in a perfect state of preservation."
The sailor's reasoning was very just, and pointed out an incomprehensible fact, for the document appeared to have been recently written, when the
colonists found it in the bottle. Moreover, it gave the latitude and longitude of Tabor Island correctly, which implied that its author had a more
complete knowledge of hydrography than could be expected of a common sailor.
"There is in this, again, something unaccountable," said the engineer, "but we will not urge our companions to speak. When he likes, my friends,
then we shall be ready to hear him!"
During the following days the stranger did not speak a word, and did not once leave the precincts of the plateau. He worked away, without losing a
moment, without taking a minute's rest, but always in a retired place. At meal times he never came to Granite House, although invited several times to
do so, but contented himself with eating a few raw vegetables. At nightfall he did not return to the room assigned to him, but remained under some
clump of trees, or when the weather was bad crouched in some cleft of the rocks. Thus he lived in the same manner as when he had no other shelter than
the forests of Tabor Island, and as all persuasion to induce him to improve his life was in vain, the colonists waited patiently. And the time was
near, when, as it seemed, almost involuntarily urged by his conscience, a terrible confession escaped him.
On the 10th of November, about eight o'clock in the evening, as night was coming on, the stranger appeared unexpectedly before the settlers, who
were assembled under the veranda. His eyes burned strangely, and he had quite resumed the wild aspect of his worst days.
Cyrus Harding and his companions were astounded on seeing that, overcome by some terrible emotion, his teeth chattered like those of a person in a
fever. What was the matter with him? Was the sight of his fellow-creatures insupportable to him? Was he weary of this return to a civilized mode of
existence? Was he pining for his former savage life? It appeared so, as soon he was heard to express himself in these incoherent sentences:--
"Why am I here?.... By what right have you dragged me from my islet?.... Do you think there could be any tie between you and me?.... Do you know
who I am--what I have done--why I was there--alone? And who told you that I was not abandoned there--that I was not condemned to die there?.... Do you
know my past?.... How do you know that I have not stolen, murdered--that I am not a wretch--an accursed being--only fit to live like a wild beast, far
from all--speak--do you know it?"
The colonists listened without interrupting the miserable creature, from whom these broken confessions escaped, as it were, in spite of himself.
Harding wishing to calm him, approached him, but he hastily drew back.
"No! no!" he exclaimed; "one word only--am I free?"
"You are free," answered the engineer.
"Farewell, then!" he cried, and fled like a madman.
Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert ran also towards the edge of the wood--but they returned alone.
"We must let him alone!" said Cyrus Harding.
"He will never come back!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"He will come back," replied the engineer.
Many days passed; but Harding--was it a sort of presentiment? --persisted in the fixed idea that sooner or later the unhappy man would return.
"It is the last revolt of his wild nature," said he, "which remorse has touched, and which renewed solitude will terrify."
In the meanwhile, works of all sorts were continued, as well on Prospect Heights as at the corral, where Harding intended to build a farm. It is
unnecessary to say that the seeds collected by Herbert on Tabor Island had been carefully sown. The plateau thus formed one immense kitchen-garden,
well laid out and carefully tended, so that the arms of the settlers were never in want of work. There was always something to be done. As the
esculents increased in number, it became necessary to enlarge the simple beds, which threatened to grow into regular fields and replace the meadows.
But grass abounded in other parts of the island, and there was no fear of the onagers being obliged to go on short allowance. It was well worth while,
besides, to turn Prospect Heights into a kitchen-garden, defended by its deep belt of creeks, and to remove them to the meadows, which had no need of
protection against the depredations of quadrumana and quadrapeds.
On the 15th of November, the third harvest was gathered in. How wonderfully had the field increased in extent, since eighteen months ago, when the
first grain of wheat was sown! The second crop of six hundred thousand grains produced this time four thousand bushels, or five hundred millions of
The colony was rich in corn, for ten bushels alone were sufficient for sowing every year to produce an ample crop for the food both of men and
beasts. The harvest was completed, and the last fortnight of the month of November was devoted to the work of converting it into food for man. In
fact, they had corn, but not flour, and the establishment of a mill was necessary. Cyrus Harding could have utilized the second fall which flowed into
the Mercy to establish his motive power, the first being already occupied with moving the felting mill, but, after some consultation, it was decided
that a simple windmill should be built on Prospect Heights. The building of this presented no more difficulty than the building of the former, and it
was moreover certain that there would be no want of wind on the plateau, exposed as it was to the sea breezes.
"Not to mention," said Pencroft, "that the windmill will be more lively and will have a good effect in the landscape!"
They set to work by choosing timber for the frame and machinery of the mill. Some large stones, found at the north of the lake, could be easily
transformed into millstones, and as to the sails, the inexhaustible case of the balloon furnished the necessary material.
Cyrus Harding made his model, and the site of the mill was chosen a little to the right of the poultry-yard, near the shore of the lake. The frame
was to rest on a pivot supported with strong timbers, so that it could turn with all the machinery it contained according as the wind required it. The
work advanced rapidly. Neb and Pencroft had become very skilful carpenters, and had nothing to do but to copy the models provided by the engineer.
Soon a sort of cylindrical box, in shape like a pepper-pot, with a pointed roof, rose on the spot chosen. The four frames which formed the sails
had been firmly fixed in the center beam, so as to form a certain angle with it, and secured with iron clamps. As to the different parts of the
internal mechanism, the box destined to contain the two millstones, the fixed stone and the moving stone, the hopper, a sort of large square trough,
wide at the top, narrow at the bottom, which would allow the grain to fall on the stones, the oscillating spout intended to regulate the passing of
the grain, and lastly the bolting machine, which by the operation of sifting, separates the bran from the flour, were made without difficulty. The
tools were good, and the work not difficult, for in reality, the machinery of a mill is very simple. This was only a question of time.
Every one had worked at the construction of the mill, and on the 1st of December it was finished. As usual, Pencroft was delighted with his work,
and had no doubt that the apparatus was perfect.
"Now for a good wind," said he, "and we shall grind our first harvest splendidly!"
"A good wind, certainly," answered the engineer, "but not too much, Pencroft."
"Pooh! our mill would only go the faster!"
"There is no need for it to go so very fast," replied Cyrus Harding. "It is known by experience that the greatest quantity of work is performed by
a mill when the number of turns made by the sails in a minute is six times the number of feet traversed by the wind in a second. A moderate breeze,
which passes over twenty-four feet to the second, will give sixteen turns to the sails during a minute, and there is no need of more."
"Exactly!" cried Herbert, "a fine breeze is blowing from the northeast, which will soon do our business for us."
There was no reason for delaying the inauguration of the mill, for the settlers were eager to taste the first piece of bread in Lincoln Island. On
this morning two or three bushels of wheat were ground, and the next day at breakfast a magnificent loaf, a little heavy perhaps, although raised with
yeast, appeared on the table at Granite House. Every one munched away at it with a pleasure which may be easily understood.
In the meanwhile, the stranger had not reappeared. Several times Gideon Spilett and Herbert searched the forest in the neighborhood of Granite
House, without meeting or finding any trace of him. They became seriously uneasy at this prolonged absence. Certainly, the former savage of Tabor
island could not be perplexed how to live in the forest, abounding in game, but was it not to be feared that he had resumed his habits, and that this
freedom would revive in him his wild instincts? However, Harding, by a sort of presentiment, doubtless, always persisted in saying that the fugitive
"Yes, he will return!" he repeated with a confidence which his companions could not share. "When this unfortunate man was on Tabor Island, he knew
himself to be alone! Here, he knows that fellow-men are awaiting him! Since he has partially spoken of his past life, the poor penitent will return to
tell the whole, and from that day he will belong to us!"
The event justified Cyrus Harding's predictions. On the 3rd of December, Herbert had left the plateau to go and fish on the southern bank of the
lake. He was unarmed, and till then had never taken any precautions for defense, as dangerous animals had not shown themselves on that part of the
Meanwhile, Pencroft and Neb were working in the poultry-yard, while Harding and the reporter were occupied at the Chimneys in making soda, the
store of soap being exhausted.
Suddenly cries resounded,--
Cyrus Harding and the reporter, being at too great a distance, had not been able to hear the shouts. Pencroft and Neb, leaving the poultry-yard in
all haste, rushed towards the lake.
But before then, the stranger, whose presence at this place no one had suspected, crossed Creek Glycerine, which separated the plateau from the
forest, and bounded up the opposite bank.
Herbert was there face to face with a fierce jaguar, similar to the one which had been killed on Reptile End. Suddenly surprised, he was standing
with his back against a tree, while the animal gathering itself together was about to spring.
But the stranger, with no other weapon than a knife, rushed on the formidable animal, who turned to meet this new adversary.
The struggle was short. The stranger possessed immense strength and activity. He seized the jaguar's throat with one powerful hand, holding it as
in a vise, without heeding the beast's claws which tore his flesh, and with the other he plunged his knife into its heart.
The jaguar fell. The stranger kicked away the body, and was about to fly at the moment when the settlers arrived on the field of battle, but
Herbert, clinging to him, cried,--
"No, no! you shall not go!"
Harding advanced towards the stranger, who frowned when he saw him approaching. The blood flowed from his shoulder under his torn shirt, but he
took no notice of it.
"My friend," said Cyrus Harding, "we have just contracted a debt of gratitude to you. To save our boy you have risked your life!"
"My life!" murmured the stranger. "What is that worth? Less than nothing!"
"You are wounded?"
"It is no matter."
"Will you give me your hand?"
And as Herbert endeavored to. seize the hand which had just saved him, the stranger folded his arms, his chest heaved, his look darkened, and he
appeared to wish to escape, but making a violent effort over himself, and in an abrupt tone,--
"Who are you?" he asked, "and what do you claim to be to me?"
It was the colonists' history which he thus demanded, and for the first time. Perhaps this history recounted, he would tell his own.
In a few words Harding related all that had happened since their departure from Richmond; how they had managed, and what resources they now had at
The stranger listened with extreme attention.
Then the engineer told who they all were, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft, Neb, himself, and, he added, that the greatest happiness they had
felt since their arrival in Lincoln Island was on the return of the vessel from Tabor Island, when they had been able to include among them a new
At these words the stranger's face flushed, his head sunk on his breast, and confusion was depicted on his countenance.
"And now that you know us," added Cyrus Harding, "will you give us your hand?"
"No," replied the, stranger in a hoarse voice; "no! You are honest men! And I--"
These last words justified the colonists' presentiment. There had been some mournful past, perhaps expiated in the sight of men, but from which
his conscience had not yet absolved him. At any rate the guilty man felt remorse, he repented, and his new friends would have cordially pressed the
hand which they sought; but he did not feel himself worthy to extend it to honest men! However, alter the scene with the jaguar, he did not return to
the forest, and from that day did not go beyond the enclosure of Granite House.
What was the mystery of his life? Would the stranger one day speak of it? Time alone could show. At any rate, it was agreed that his secret should
never be asked from him, and that they would live with him as if they suspected nothing.
For some days their life continued as before. Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett worked together, sometimes chemists, sometimes experimentalists.
The reporter never left the engineer except to hunt with Herbert, for it would not have been prudent to allow the lad to ramble alone in the forest;
and it was very necessary to be on their guard. As to Neb and Pencroft, one day at the stables and poultry-yard, another at the corral, without
reckoning work in Granite House, they were never in want of employment.
The stranger worked alone, and he had resumed his usual life, never appearing at meals, sleeping under the trees in the plateau, never mingling
with his companions. It really seemed as if the society of those who had saved him was insupportable to him!
"But then," observed Pencroft, "why did he entreat the help of his fellow-creatures? Why did he throw that paper into the sea?"
"He will tell us why," invariably replied Cyrus Harding.
"Perhaps sooner than you think, Pencroft."
And, indeed, the day of confession was near.
On the 10th of December, a week after his return to Granite House, Harding saw the stranger approaching, who, in a calm voice and humble tone,
said to him: "Sir, I have a request to make of you."
"Speak," answered the engineer, "but first let me ask you a question."
At these words the stranger reddened, and was on the point of withdrawing. Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in the mind of the guilty
man, who doubtless feared that the engineer would interrogate him on his past life.
Harding held him back.
"Comrade," said he, "we are not only your companions but your friends. I wish you to believe that, and now I will listen to you."
The stranger pressed his hand over his eyes. He was seized with a sort of trembling, and remained a few moments without being able to articulate a
"Sir," said he at last, "I have come to beg you to grant me a favor."
"What is it?"
"You have, four or five miles from here, a corral for your domesticated animals. These animals need to be taken care of. Will you allow me to live
there with them?"
Cyrus Harding gazed at the unfortunate man for a few moments with a feeling of deep commiseration; then,--
"My friend," said he, "the corral has only stables hardly fit for animals."
"It will be good enough for me, sir."
"My friend," answered Harding, "we will not constrain you in anything. You wish to live at the corral, so be it. You will, however, be always
welcome at Granite House. But since you wish to live at the corral we will make the necessary arrangements for your being comfortably established
"Never mind that, I shall do very well."
"My friend," answered Harding, who always intentionally made use of this cordial appellation, "you must let us judge what it will be best to do in
"Thank you, sir," replied the stranger as he withdrew.
The engineer then made known to his companions the proposal which had been made to him, and it was agreed that they should build a wooden house at
the corral, which they would make as comfortable as possible.
That very day the colonists repaired to the corral with the necessary tools, and a week had not passed before the house was ready to receive its
tenant. It was built about twenty feet from the sheds, and from there it was easy to overlook the flock of sheep, which then numbered more than
eighty. Some furniture, a bed, table, bench, cupboard, and chest were manufactured, and a gun, ammunition, and tools were carried to the corral.
The stranger, however, had seen nothing of his new dwelling, and he had allowed the settlers to work there without him, while he occupied himself
on the plateau, wishing, doubtless, to put the finishing stroke to his work. Indeed, thanks to him, all the ground was dug up and ready to he sowed
when the time came.
It was on the 20th of December that all the arrangements at the corral were completed. The engineer announced to the stranger that his dwelling
was ready to receive him, and the latter replied that he would go and sleep there that very evening.
On this evening the colonists were gathered in the diningroom of Granite House. It was then eight o'clock, the hour at which their companion was
to leave them. Not wishing to trouble him by their presence, and thus imposing on him the necessity of saying farewells which might perhaps be painful
to him, they had left him alone and ascended to Granite House.
Now, they had been talking in the room for a few minutes, when a light knock was heard at the door. Almost immediately the stranger entered, and
without any preamble,--
"Gentlemen," said he, "before I leave you, it is right that you should know my history. I will tell it you."
These simple words profoundly impressed Cyrus Harding and his companions. The engineer rose.
"We ask you nothing, my friend," said he; "it is your right to be silent."
"It is my duty to speak."
"Sit down, then."
"No, I will stand."
"We are ready to hear you," replied Harding.
The stranger remained standing in a corner of the room, a little in the shade. He was bareheaded, his arms folded across his chest, and it was in
this posture that in a hoarse voice, speaking like some one who obliges himself to speak, he gave the following recital, which his auditors did not
"On the 20th of December, 1854, a steam-yacht, belonging to a Scotch nobleman, Lord Glenarvan, anchored off Cape Bernouilli, on the western coast
of Australia, in the thirty-seventh parallel. On board this yacht were Lord Glenarvan and his wife, a major in the English army, a French geographer,
a young girl, and a young boy. These two last were the children of Captain Grant, whose ship, the 'Britannia,' had been lost, crew and cargo, a year
before. The 'Duncan' was commanded by Captain John Mangles, and manned by a crew of fifteen men.
"This is the reason the yacht at this time lay off the coast of Australia. Six months before, a bottle, enclosing a document written in English,
German, and French, had been found in the Irish Sea, and picked up by the 'Duncan.' This document stated in substance that there still existed three
survivors from the wreck of the 'Britannia,' that these survivors were Captain Grant and two of his men, and that they had found refuge on some land,
of which the document gave the latitude, but of which the longitude, effaced by the sea, was no longer legible.
"This latitude was 37¿ 11' south; therefore, the longitude being unknown, if they followed the thirty-seventh parallel over continents and seas,
they would be certain to reach the spot inhabited by Captain Grant and his two companions. The English Admiralty having hesitated to undertake this
search, Lord Glenarvan resolved to attempt everything to find the captain. He communicated with Mary and Robert Grant, who joined him. The 'Duncan'
yacht was equipped for the distant voyage, in which the nobleman's family and the captain's children wished to take part, and the 'Duncan,' leaving
Glasgow, proceeded towards the Atlantic, passed through the Straits of Magellan, and ascended the Pacific as far as Patagonia, where, according to a
previous interpretation of the document, they supposed that Captain Grant was a prisoner among the Indians.
"The 'Duncan' disembarked her passengers on the western coast of Patagonia, and sailed to pick them up again on the eastern coast at Cape
Corrientes. Lord Glenarvan traversed Patagonia, following the thirty- seventh parallel, and having found no trace of the captain, he re-embarked on
the 13th of November, so as to pursue his search through the Ocean.
"After having unsuccessfully visited the islands of Tristan d'Acunha and Amsterdam, situated in her course, the 'Duncan,' as I have said, arrived
at Cape Bernouilli, on the Australian coast, on the 20th of December, 1854.
"It was Lord Glenarvan's intention to traverse Australia as he had traversed America, and he disembarked. A few miles from the coast was
established a farm, belonging to an Irishman, who offered hospitality to the travelers. Lord Glenarvan made known to the Irishman the cause which had
brought him to these parts, and asked if he knew whether a three-masted English vessel, the 'Britannia,' had been lost less than two years before on
the west coast of Australia.
"The Irishman had never heard of this wreck, but, to the great surprise of the bystanders, one of his servants came forward and said,--
"'My lord, praise and thank God! If Captain Grant is still living, he is living on the Australian shores.'
"'Who are you?' asked Lord Glenarvan.
"'A Scotchman like yourself, my lord,' replied the man; 'I am one of Captain Grant's crew--one of the castaways of the "Britannia."'
"This man was called Ayrton. He was, in fact, the boatswain's mate of the 'Britannia,' as his papers showed. But, separated from Captain Grant at
the moment when the ship struck upon the rocks, he had till then believed that the captain with all his crew had perished, and that he, Ayrton, was
the sole survivor of the 'Britannia.'
"'Only,' he added, 'it was not on the west coast, but on the east coast of Australia that the vessel was lost, and if Captain Grant is still
living, as his document indicates, he is a prisoner among the natives, and it is on the other coast that he must be looked for.'
"This man spoke in a frank voice and with a confident look; his words could not be doubted. The irishman, in whose service he had been for more
than a year, answered for his trustworthiness. Lord Glenarvan, therefore, believed in the fidelity of this man and, by his advice, resolved to cross
Australia, following the thirty-seventh parallel. Lord Glenarvan, his wife, the two children, the major, the Frenchman, Captain Mangles, and a few
sailors composed the little band under the command of Ayrton, while the 'Duncan,' under charge of the mate, Tom Austin, proceeded to Melbourne, there
to await Lord Glenarvan's instructions.
"They set out on the 23rd of December, 1854.
"It is time to say that Ayrton was a traitor. He was, indeed, the boatswain's mate of the 'Britannia,' but, after some dispute with his captain,
he endeavored to incite the crew to mutiny and seize the ship, and Captain Grant had landed him, on the 8th of April, 1852, on the west coast of
Australia, and then sailed, leaving him there, as was only just.
"Therefore this wretched man knew nothing of the wreck of the 'Britannia'; he had just heard of it from Glenarvan's account. Since his
abandonment, he had become, under the name of Ben Joyce, the leader of the escaped convicts; and if he boldly maintained that the wreck had taken
place on the east coast, and led Lord Glenarvan to proceed in that direction, it was that he hoped to separate him from his ship, seize the 'Duncan,'
and make the yacht a pirate in the Pacific."
Here the stranger stopped for a moment. His voice trembled, but he continued,--
"The expedition set out and proceeded across Australia. It was inevitably unfortunate, since Ayrton, or Ben Joyce, as he may be called, guided it,
sometimes preceded, sometimes followed by his band of convicts, who had been told what they had to do.
"Meanwhile, the 'Duncan' had been sent to Melbourne for repairs. It was necessary, then, to get Lord Glenarvan to order her to leave Melbourne and
go to the east coast of Australia, where it would be easy to seize her. After having led the expedition near enough to the coast, in the midst of vast
forests with no resources, Ayrton obtained a letter, which he was charged to carry to the mate of the 'Duncan'--a letter which ordered the yacht to
repair immediately to the east coast, to Twofold Bay, that is to say a few days' journey from the place where the expedition had stopped. It was there
that Ayrton had agreed to meet his accomplices, and two days after gaining possession of the letter, he arrived at Melbourne.
"So far the villain had succeeded in his wicked design. He would be able to take the 'Duncan' into Twofold Bay, where it would be easy for the
convicts to seize her, and her crew massacred, Ben Joyce would become master of the seas. But it pleased God to prevent the accomplishment of these
"Ayrton, arrived at Melbourne, delivered the letter to the mate, Tom Austin, who read it and immediately set sail, but judge of Ayrton's rage and
disappointment, when the next day he found that the mate was taking the vessel, not to the east coast of Australia, to Twofold Bay, but to the east
coast of New Zealand. He wished to stop him, but Austin showed him the letter!... And indeed, by a providential error of the French geographer, who
had written the letter, the east coast of New Zealand was mentioned as the place of destination.
"All Ayrton's plans were frustrated! He became outrageous. They put him in irons. He was then taken to the coast of New Zealand, not knowing what
would become of his accomplices, or what would become of Lord Glenarvan.
"The 'Duncan' cruised about on this coast until the 3rd of March. On that day Ayrton heard the report of guns. The guns on the 'Duncan' were being
fired, and soon Lord Glenarvan and his companions came on board.
"This is what had happened.
"After a thousand hardships, a thousand dangers, Lord Glenarvan had accomplished his journey, and arrived on the east coast of Australia, at
Twofold Bay. 'No "Duncan!" ' He telegraphed to Melbourne. They answered, ' "Duncan" sailed on the 18th instant. Destination unknown.'
"Lord Glenarvan could only arrive at one conclusion; that his honest yacht had fallen into the hands of Ben Joyce, and had become a pirate vessel!
"However, Lord Glenarvan would not give up. He was a bold and generous man. He embarked in a merchant vessel, sailed to the west coast of New
Zealand, traversed it along the thirty-seventh parallel, without finding any trace of Captain Grant; but on the other side, to his great surprise, and
by the will of Heaven, he found the 'Duncan,' under command of the mate, who had been waiting for him for five weeks!
"This was on the 3rd of March, 1855. Lord Glenarvan was now on board the 'Duncan,' but Ayrton was there also. He appeared before the nobleman, who
wished to extract from him all that the villain knew about Captain Grant. Ayrton refused to speak. Lord Glenarvan then told him, that at the first
port they put into, he would be delivered up to the English authorities. Ayrton remained mute.
"The 'Duncan' continued her voyage along the thirty-seventh parallel. In the meanwhile, Lady Glenarvan undertook to vanquish the resistance of the
"At last, her influence prevailed, and Ayrton, in exchange for what he could tell, proposed that Lord Glenarvan should leave him on some island in
the Pacific, instead of giving him up to the English authorities. Lord Glenarvan, resolving to do anything to obtain information about Captain Grant,
"Ayrton then related all his life, and it was certain that he knew nothing from the day on which Captain Grant had landed him on the Australian
"Nevertheless, Lord Glenarvan kept the promise which he had given. The 'Duncan' continued her voyage and arrived at Tabor Island. It was there
that Ayrton was to be landed, and it was there also that, by a veritable miracle, they found Captain Grant and two men, exactly on the thirty- seventh
"The convict, then, went to take their place on this desert islet, and at the moment he left the yacht these words were pronounced by Lord
"'Here, Ayrton, you will be far from any land, and without any possible communication with your fellow-creatures. You can-not escape from this
islet on which the 'Duncan' leaves you. You will be alone, under the eye of a God who reads the depths of the heart, but you will be neither lost nor
forgotten, as was Captain Grant. Unworthy as you are to be remembered by men, men will remember you. I know where you are Ayrton, and I know where to
find you. I will never forget it!
"And the 'Duncan,' making sail, soon disappeared. This was 18th of March, 1855.
(The events which have just been briefly related are taken from a
work which some of our readers have no doubt read, and which is
entitled, "Captain Grant's children." They will remark on this
occasion, as well as later, some discrepancy in the dates; but
later again, they will understand why the real dates were not at
"Ayrton was alone, but he had no want of either ammunition, weapons, tools, or seeds.
"At his, the convict's disposal, was the house built by honest Captain Grant. He had only to live and expiate in solitude the crimes which he had
"Gentlemen, he repented, he was ashamed of his crimes and was very miserable! He said to himself, that if men came some day to take him from that
islet, he must be worthy to return among them! How he suffered, that wretched man! How he labored to recover himself by work! How he prayed to be
reformed by prayer! For two years, three years, this went on, but Ayrton, humbled by solitude, always looking for some ship to appear on the horizon,
asking himself if the time of expiation would soon be complete, suffered as none other suffered! Oh! how dreadful was this solitude, to a heart
tormented by remorse!
"But doubtless Heaven had not sufficiently punished this unhappy man, for he felt that he was gradually becoming a savage! He felt that
brutishness was gradually gaining on him!
"He could not say if it was after two or three years of solitude, but at last he became the miserable creature you found!
"I have no need to tell you, gentlemen, that Ayrton, Ben Joyce, and I, are the same."
Cyrus Harding and his companions rose at the end of this account. It is impossible to say how much they were moved! What misery, grief, and
despair lay revealed before them!
"Ayrton," said Harding, rising, "you have been a great criminal, but Heaven must certainly think that you have expiated your crimes! That has been
proved by your having been brought again among your fellow-creatures. Ayrton, you are forgiven! And now you will be our companion?"
Ayrton drew back.
"Here is my hand!" said the engineer.
Ayrton grasped the hand which Harding extended to him, and great tears fell from his eyes.
"Will you live with us?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Captain Harding, leave me some time longer," replied Ayrton, "leave me alone in the hut in the corral!"
"As you like, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding. Ayrton was going to withdraw, when the engineer addressed one more question to him:--
"One word more, my friend. Since it was your intention to live alone, why did you throw into the sea the document which put us on your track?"
"A document?" repeated Ayrton, who did not appear to know what he meant.
"Yes, the document which we found enclosed in a bottle, giving us the exact position of Tabor Island!"
Ayrton passed his hand over his brow, then after having thought, "I never threw any document into the sea!" he answered.
"Never?" exclaimed Pencroft.
And Ayrton, bowing, reached the door and departed.
"Poor man!" said Herbert, who had rushed to the door, but returned, having seen Ayrton slide down the rope on the lift and disappear in the
"He will come back," said Cyrus Harding.
"Come, now, captain," exclaimed Pencroft, "what does that mean? What! wasn't it Ayrton who threw that bottle into the sea? Who was it then?"
Certainly, if ever a question was necessary to be made, it was that one!
"It was he," answered Neb, "only the unhappy man was half-mad."
"Yes!" said Herbert, "and he was no longer conscious of what he was doing."
"It can only be explained in that way, my friends," replied Harding quickly, "and I understand now how Ayrton was able to point out exactly the
situation of Tabor Island, since the events which had preceded his being left on the island had made it known to him."
"However," observed Pencroft, "if he was not yet a brute when he wrote that document, and if he threw it into the sea seven or eight years ago,
how is it that the paper has not been injured by damp?"
"That proves," answered Cyrus Harding, "that Ayrton was deprived of intelligence at a more recent time than he thinks."
"Of course it must be so," replied Pencroft, "without that the fact would be unaccountable."
"Unaccountable indeed," answered the engineer, who did not appear desirous to prolong the conversation.
"But has Ayrton told the truth?" asked the sailor.
"Yes," replied the reporter. "The story which he has told is true in every point. I remember quite well the account in the newspapers of the yacht
expedition undertaken by Lord Glenarvan, and its result."
"Ayrton has told the truth," added Harding. "Do not doubt it, Pencroft, for it was painful to him. People tell the truth when they accuse
themselves like that!"
The next day--the 21st of December--the colonists descended to the beach, and having climbed the plateau they found nothing of Ayrton. He had
reached his house in the corral during the night and the settlers judged it best not to agitate him by their presence. Time would doubtless perform
what sympathy had been unable to accomplish.
Herbert, Pencroft, and Neb resumed their ordinary occupations. On this day the same work brought Harding and the reporter to the workshop at the
"Do you know, my dear Cyrus," said Gideon Spilett, "that the explanation you gave yesterday on the subject of the bottle has not satisfied me at
all! How can it be supposed that the unfortunate man was able to write that document and throw the bottle into the sea without having the slightest
recollection of it?"
"Nor was it he who threw it in, my dear Spilett."
"You think then--"
"I think nothing, I know nothing!" interrupted Cyrus Harding. "I am content to rank this incident among those which I have not been able to
explain to this day!"
"Indeed, Cyrus," said Spilett, "these things are incredible! Your rescue, the case stranded on the sand, Top's adventure, and lastly this
bottle... Shall we never have the answer to these enigmas?"
"Yes!" replied the engineer quickly, "yes, even if I have to penetrate into the bowels of this island!"
"Chance will perhaps give us the key to this mystery!"
"Chance! Spilett! I do not believe in chance, any more than I believe in mysteries in this world. There is a reason for everything unaccountable
which has happened here, and that reason I shall discover. But in the meantime we must work and observe."
The month of January arrived. The year 1867 commenced. The summer occupations were assiduously continued. During the days which followed, Herbert
and Spilett having gone in the direction of the corral, ascertained that Ayrton had taken possession of the habitation which had been prepared for
him. He busied himself with the numerous flock confided to his care, and spared his companions the trouble of coming every two or three days to visit
the corral. Nevertheless, in order not to leave Ayrton in solitude for too long a time, the settlers often paid him a visit.
It was not unimportant either, in consequence of some suspicions entertained by the engineer and Gideon Spilett, that this part of the island
should be subject to a surveillance of some sort, and that Ayrton, if any incident occurred unexpectedly, should not neglect to inform the inhabitants
of Granite House of it.
Nevertheless it might happen that something would occur which it would be necessary to bring rapidly to the engineer's knowledge. Independently of
facts bearing on the mystery of Lincoln Island, many others might happen, which would call for the prompt interference of the colonists,--such as the
sighting of a vessel, a wreck on the western coast, the possible arrival of pirates, etc.
Therefore Cyrus Harding resolved to put the corral in instantaneous communication with Granite House.
It was on the 10th of January that he made known his project to his companions.
"Why! how are you going to manage that, captain?" asked Pencroft. "Do you by chance happen to think of establishing a telegraph?"
"Exactly so," answered the engineer.
"Electric?" cried Herbert.
"Electric," replied Cyrus Harding. "We have all the necessary materials for making a battery, and the most difficult thing will be to stretch the
wires, but by means of a drawplate I think we shall manage it."
"Well, after that," returned the sailor, "I shall never despair of seeing ourselves some day rolling along on a railway!"
They then set to work, beginning with the most difficult thing, for, if they failed in that, it would be useless to manufacture the battery and
The iron of Lincoln Island, as has been said, was of excellent quality, and consequently very fit for being drawn out. Harding commenced by
manufacturing a drawplate, that is to say, a plate of steel, pierced with conical holes of different sizes, which would successively bring the wire to
the wished-for tenacity. This piece of steel, after having been tempered, was fixed in as firm a way as possible in a solid framework planted in the
ground, only a few feet from the great fall, the motive power of which the engineer intended to utilize. In fact as the fulling- mill was there,
although not then in use, its beam moved with extreme power would serve to stretch out the wire by rolling it round itself. It was a delicate
operation, and required much care. The iron, prepared previously in long thin rods, the ends of which were sharpened with the file, having been
introduced into the largest hole of the drawplate, was drawn out by the beam which wound it round itself, to a length of twenty-five or thirty feet,
then unrolled, and the same operation was performed successively through the holes of a less size. Finally, the engineer obtained wires from forty to
fifty feet long, which could be easily fastened together and stretched over the distance of five miles, which separated the corral from the bounds of
It did not take more than a few days to perform this work, and indeed as soon as the machine had been commenced, Cyrus Harding left his companions
to follow the trade of wiredrawers, and occupied himself with manufacturing his battery.
It was necessary to obtain a battery with a constant current. It is known that the elements of modern batteries are generally composed of retort
coal, zinc, and copper. Copper was absolutely wanting to the engineer, who, notwithstanding all his researches, had never been able to find any trace
of it in Lincoln Island, and was therefore obliged to do without it. Retort coal, that is to say, the hard graphite which is found in the retorts of
gas manufactories, after the coal has been dehydrogenized, could have been obtained, but it would have been necessary to establish a special
apparatus, involving great labor. As to zinc, it may be remembered that the case found at Flotsam Point was lined with this metal, which could not be
better utilized than for this purpose.
Cyrus Harding, after mature consideration, decided to manufacture a very simple battery, resembling as nearly as possible that invented by
Becquerel in 1820, and in which zinc only is employed. The other substances, azotic acid and potash, were all at his disposal.
The way in which the battery was composed was as follows, and the results were to be attained by the reaction of acid and potash on each other. A
number of glass bottles were made and filled with azotic acid. The engineer corked them by means of a stopper through which passed a glass tube, bored
at its lower extremity, and intended to be plunged into the acid by means of a clay stopper secured by a rag. Into this tube, through its upper
extremity, he poured a solution of potash, previously obtained by burning and reducing to ashes various plants, and in this way the acid and potash
could act on each other through the clay.
Cyrus Harding then took two slips of zinc, one of which was plunged into azotic acid, the other into a solution of potash. A current was
immediately produced, which was transmitted from the slip of zinc in the bottle to that in the tube, and the two slips having been connected by a
metallic wire the slip in the tube became the positive pole, and that in the bottle the negative pole of the apparatus. Each bottle, therefore,
produced as many currents as united would be sufficient to produce all the phenomena of the electric telegraph. Such was the ingenious and very simple
apparatus constructed by Cyrus Harding, an apparatus which would allow them to establish a telegraphic communication between Granite House and the
On the 6th of February was commenced the planting along the road to the corral, of posts furnished with glass insulators, and intended to support
the wire. A few days after, the wire was extended, ready to produce the electric current at a rate of twenty thousand miles a second.
Two batteries had been manufactured, one for Granite House, the other for the corral; for if it was necessary the corral should be able to
communicate with Granite House it might also be useful that Granite House should be able to communicate with the corral.
As to the receiver and manipulator, they were very simple. At the two stations the wire was wound round a magnet, that is to say, round a piece of
soft iron surrounded with a wire. The communication was thus established between the two poles; the current, starting from the positive pole,
traversed the wire, passed through the magnet which was temporarily magnetized, and returned through the earth to the negative pole. If the current
was interrupted, the magnet immediately became unmagnetized. It was sufficient to place a plate of soft iron before the magnet, which, attracted
during the passage of the current, would fall back when the current was interrupted. This movement of the plate thus obtained, Harding could easily
fasten to it a needle arranged on a dial, bearing the letters of the alphabet, and in this way communicate from one station to the other.
All was completely arranged by the 12th of February. On this day, Harding, having sent the current through the wire, asked if all was going on
well at the corral, and received in a few moments a satisfactory reply from Ayrton. Pencroft was wild with joy, and every morning and evening he sent
a telegram to the corral, which always received an answer.
This mode of communication presented two very real advantages: firstly, because it enabled them to ascertain that Ayrton was at the corral; and
secondly, that he was thus not left completely isolated. Besides, Cyrus Harding never allowed a week to pass without going to see him, and Ayrton came
from time to time to Granite House, where he always found a cordial welcome.
The fine season passed away in the midst of the usual work. The resources of the colony, particularly in vegetables and corn, increased from day
to day, and the plants brought from Tabor Island had succeeded perfectly.
The plateau of Prospect Heights presented an encouraging aspect. The fourth harvest had been admirable and it may be supposed that no one thought
of counting whether the four hundred thousand millions of grains duly appeared in the crop. However, Pencroft had thought of doing so, but Cyrus
Harding having told him that even if he managed to count three hundred grains a minute, or nine thousand an hour, it would take him nearly five
thousand five-hundred years to finish his task, the honest sailor considered it best to give up the idea.
The weather was splendid, the temperature very warm in the day time, but in the evening the sea-breezes tempered the heat of the atmosphere and
procured cool nights for the inhabitants of Granite House. There were, however, a few storms, which, although they were not of long duration, swept
over Lincoln Island with extraordinary fury. The lightning blazed and the thunder continued to roll for some hours.
At this period the little colony was extremely prosperous.
The tenants of the poultry-yard swarmed, and they lived on the surplus, but it became necessary to reduce the population to a more moderate
number. The pigs had already produced young, and it may be understood that their care for these animals absorbed a great part of Neb and Pencroft's
time. The onagers, who had two pretty colts, were most often mounted by Gideon Spilett and Herbert, who had become an excellent rider under the
reporter's instruction, and they also harnessed them to the cart either for carrying wood and coal to Granite House, or different mineral productions
required by the engineer.
Several expeditions were made about this time into the depths of the Far West Forests. The explorers could venture there without having anything
to fear from the heat, for the sun's rays scarcely penetrated through the thick foliage spreading above their heads. They thus visited all the left
bank of the Mercy, along which ran the road from the corral to the mouth of Falls River.
But in these excursions the settlers took care to be well armed, for they met with savage wild boars, with which they often had a tussle. They
also, during this season, made fierce war against the jaguars. Gideon Spilett had vowed a special hatred against them, and his pupil Herbert seconded
him well. Armed as they were, they no longer feared to meet one of those beasts. Herbert's courage was superb, and the reporter's sang-froid
astonishing. Already twenty magnificent skins ornamented the dining-room of Granite House, and if this continued, the jaguar race would soon be
extinct in the island, the object aimed at by the hunters.
The engineer sometimes took part in the expeditions made to the unknown parts of the island, which he surveyed with great attention. It was for
other traces than those of animals that he searched the thickets of the vast forest, but nothing suspicious ever appeared. Neither Top nor Jup, who
accompanied him, ever betrayed by their behavior that there was anything strange there, and yet more than once again the dog barked at the mouth of
the well, which the engineer had before explored without result.
At this time Gideon Spilett, aided by Herbert, took several views of the most picturesque parts of the island, by means of the photographic
apparatus found in the cases, and of which they had not as yet made any use.
This apparatus, provided with a powerful object-glass, was very complete. Substances necessary for the photographic reproduction, collodion for
preparing the glass plate, nitrate of silver to render it sensitive, hyposulfate of soda to fix the prints obtained, chloride of ammonium in which to
soak the paper destined to give the positive proof, acetate of soda and chloride of gold in which to immerse the paper, nothing was wanting. Even the
papers were there, all prepared, and before laying in the printing-frame upon the negatives, it was sufficient to soak them for a few minutes in the
solution of nitrate of silver.
The reporter and his assistant became in a short time very skilful operators, and they obtained fine views of the country, such as the island,
taken from Prospect Heights with Mount Franklin in the distance, the mouth of the Mercy, so picturesquely framed in high rocks, the glade and the
corral, with the spurs of the mountain in the background, the curious development of Claw Cape, Flotsam Point, etc.
Nor did the photographers forget to take the portraits of all the inhabitants of the island, leaving out no one.
"It multiplies us," said Pencroft.
And the sailor was enchanted to see his own countenance, faithfully reproduced, ornamenting the walls of Granite House, and he stopped as
willingly before this exhibition as he would have done before the richest shop-windows in Broadway.
But it must be acknowledged that the most successful portrait was incontestably that of Master Jup. Master Jup had sat with a gravity not to be
described, and his portrait was lifelike!
"He looks as if he was just going to grin!" exclaimed Pencroft.
And if Master Jup had not been satisfied, he would have been very difficult to please; but he was quite contented and contemplated his own
countenance with a sentimental air which expressed some small amount of conceit.
The summer heat ended with the month of March. The weather was sometimes rainy, but still warm. The month of March, which corresponds to the
September of northern latitudes, was not so fine as might have been hoped. Perhaps it announced an early and rigorous winter.
It might have been supposed one morning--the 21 st--that the first snow had already made its appearance. In fact Herbert looking early from one of
the windows of Granite House, exclaimed,--
"Hallo! the islet is covered with snow!"
"Snow at this time?" answered the reporter, joining the boy.
Their companions were soon beside them, but could only ascertain one thing, that not only the islet but all the beach below Granite House was
covered with one uniform sheet of white.
"It must be snow!" said Pencroft.
"Or rather it's very like it!" replied Neb.
"But the thermometer marks fifty-eight degrees!" observed Gideon Spilett.
Cyrus Harding gazed at the sheet of white without saying anything, for he really did not know how to explain this phenomenon, at this time of year
and in such a temperature.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Pencroft, "all our plants will be frozen!"
And the sailor was about to descend, when he was preceded by the nimble Jup, who slid down to the sand.
But the orang had not touched the ground, when the snowy sheet arose and dispersed in the air in such innumerable flakes that the light of the sun
was obscured for some minutes.
"Birds!" cried Herbert.
They were indeed swarms of sea-birds, with dazzling white plumage. They had perched by thousands on the islet and on the shore, and they
disappeared in the distance, leaving the colonists amazed as if they had been present at some transformation scene, in which summer succeeded winter
at the touch of a fairy's wand. Unfortunately the change had been so sudden, that neither the reporter nor the lad had been able to bring down one of
these birds, of which they could not recognize the species.
A few days after came the 26th of March, the day on which, two years before, the castaways from the air had been thrown upon Lincoln Island.
Two years already! and for two years the colonists had had no communication with their fellow-creatures! They were without news from the civilized
world, lost on this island, as completely as if they had been on the most minute star of the celestial hemisphere!
What was now happening in their country? The picture of their native land was always before their eyes, the land torn by civil war at the time
they left it, and which the Southern rebellion was perhaps still staining with blood! It was a great sorrow to them, and they often talked together of
these things, without ever doubting however that the cause of the North must triumph, for the honor of the American Confederation.
During these two years not a vessel had passed in sight of the island; or, at least, not a sail had been seen. It was evident that Lincoln Island
was out of the usual track, and also that it was unknown,--as was besides proved by the maps,--for though there was no port, vessels might have
visited it for the purpose of renewing their store of water. But the surrounding ocean was deserted as far as the eye could reach, and the colonists
must rely on themselves for regaining their native land.
However, one chance of rescue existed, and this chance was discussed one day on the first week of April, when the colonists were gathered together
in the dining-room of Granite House.
They had been talking of America, of their native country, which they had so little hope of ever seeing again.
"Decidedly we have only one way, said Spilett, "one single way for leaving Lincoln Island, and that is, to build a vessel large enough to sail
several hundred miles. It appears to me, that when one has built a boat it is just as easy to build a ship!"
"And in which we might go to the Pomoutous," added Herbert, "just as easily as we went to Tabor Island."
"I do not say no," replied Pencroft, who had always the casting vote in maritime questions; "I do not say no, although it is not exactly the same
thing to make a long as a short voyage! If our little craft had been caught in any heavy gale of wind during the voyage to Tabor Island, we should
have known that land was at no great distance either way; but twelve hundred miles is a pretty long way, and the nearest land is at least that
"Would you not, in that case, Pencroft, attempt the adventure?" asked the reporter.
"I will attempt anything that is desired, Mr. Spilett," answered the sailor, "and you know well that I am not a man to flinch!"
"Remember, besides, that we number another sailor amongst us now," remarked Neb.
"Who is that?" asked Pencroft.
"If he will consent to come," said Pencroft.
"Nonsense!" returned the reporter; "do you think that if Lord Glenarvan's yacht had appeared at Tabor Island, while he was still living there,
Ayrton would have refused to depart?"
"You forget, my friends," then said Cyrus Harding, "that Ayrton was not in possession of his reason during the last years of his stay there. But
that is not the question. The point is to know if we may count among our chances of being rescued, the return of the Scotch vessel. Now, Lord
Glenarvan promised Ayrton that he would return to take him off from Tabor Island when he considered that his crimes were expiated, and I believe that
he will return."
"Yes," said the reporter, "and I will add that he will return soon, for it is twelve years since Ayrton was abandoned."
"Well!" answered Pencroft, "I agree with you that the nobleman will return, and soon too. But where will he touch? At Tabor Island, and not at
"That is the more certain," replied Herbert, "as Lincoln Island is not even marked on the map."
"Therefore, my friends," said the engineer, "we ought to take the necessary precautions for making our presence and that of Ayrton on Lincoln
Island known at Tabor Island."
"Certainly," answered the reporter, "and nothing is easier than to place in the hut, which was Captain Grant's and Ayrton's dwelling, a notice
which Lord Glenarvan and his crew cannot help finding, giving the position of our island."
"It is a pity," remarked the sailor, "that we forgot to take that precaution on our first visit to Tabor Island."
"And why should we have done it?" asked Herbert. "At that time we did not know Ayrton's history; we did not know that any one was likely to come
some day to fetch him, and when we did know his history, the season was too advanced to allow us to return then to Tabor Island."
"Yes," replied Harding, "it was too late, and we must put off the voyage until next spring."
"But suppose the Scotch yacht comes before that," said Pencroft.
"That is not probable," replied the engineer, "for Lord Glenarvan would not choose the winter season to venture into these seas. Either he has
already returned to Tabor Island, since Ayrton has been with us, that is to say, during the last five months and has left again; or he will not come
till later, and it will be time enough in the first fine October days to go to Tabor Island, and leave a notice there."
"We must allow," said Neb, "that it will be very unfortunate if the 'Duncan' has returned to these parts only a few months ago!"
"I hope that it is not so," replied Cyrus Harding, "and that Heaven has not deprived us of the best chance which remains to us."
"I think," observed the reporter, "that at any rate we shall know what we have to depend on when we have been to Tabor Island, for if the yacht
has returned there, they will necessarily have left some traces of their visit."
"That is evident," answered the engineer. "So then, my friends, since we have this chance of returning to our country, we must wait patiently, and
if it is taken from us we shall see what will be best to do."
"At any rate," remarked Pencroft, "it is well understood that if we do leave Lincoln Island, it will not be because we were uncomfortable there!"
"No, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "it will be because we are far from all that a man holds dearest in the world, his family, his friends, his
Matters being thus decided, the building of a vessel large enough to sail either to the Archipelagoes in the north, or to New Zealand in the west,
was no longer talked of, and they busied themselves in their accustomed occupations, with a view to wintering a third time in Granite House.
However, it was agreed that before the stormy weather came on, their little vessel should be employed in making a voyage round the island. A
complete survey of the coast had not yet been made, and the colonists had but an imperfect idea of the shore to the west and north, from the mouth of
Falls River to the Mandible Capes, as well as of the narrow bay between them, which opened like a shark's jaws.
The plan of this excursion was proposed by Pencroft, and Cyrus Harding fully acquiesced in it, for he himself wished to see this part of his
The weather was variable, but the barometer did not fluctuate by sudden movements, and they could therefore count on tolerable weather. However,
during the first week of April, after a sudden barometrical fall, a renewed rise was marked by a heavy gale of wind, lasting five or six days; then
the needle of the instrument remained stationary at a height of twenty-nine inches and nine-tenths, and the weather appeared propitious for an
The departure was fixed for the 16th of April, and the 'Bonadventure," anchored in Port Balloon, was provisioned for a voyage which might be of
Cyrus Harding informed Ayrton of the projected expedition, and proposed that he should take part in it, but Ayrton preferring to remain on shore,
it was decided that he should come to Granite House during the absence of his companions. Master Jup was ordered to keep him company, and made no
On the morning of the 16th of April all the colonists, including Top, embarked. A fine breeze blew from the south-west, and the 'Bonadventure"
tacked on leaving Port Balloon so as to reach Reptile End. Of the ninety miles which the perimeter of the island measured, twenty included the south
coast between the port and the promontory. The wind being right ahead it was necessary to hug the shore.
It took the whole day to reach the promontory, for the vessel on leaving pon had only two hours of ebb tide and had therefore to make way for six
hours against the flood. It was nightfall before the promontory was doubled.
The sailor then proposed to the engineer that they should continue sailing slowly with two reefs in the sail. But Harding preferred to anchor a
few cable-lengths from the shore, so as to survey that part of the coast during the day. It was agreed also that as they were anxious for a minute
exploration of the coast they should not sail during the night, but would always, when the weather permitted it, be at anchor near the shore.
The night was passed under the promontory, and the wind having fallen, nothing disturbed the silence. The passengers, with the exception of the
sailor, scarcely slept as well on board the "Bonadventure" as they would have done in their rooms at Granite House, but they did sleep however.
Pencroft set sail at break of day, and by going on the larboard tack they could keep close to the shore.
The colonists knew this beautiful wooded coast, since they had already explored it on foot, and yet it again excited their admiration. They
coasted along as close in as possible, so as to notice everything, avoiding always the trunks of trees which floated here and there. Several times
also they anchored, and Gideon Spilett took photographs of the superb scenery.
About noon the 'Bonadventure" arrived at the mouth of Falls River. Beyond, on the left bank, a few scattered trees appeared, and three miles
further even these dwindled into solitary groups among the western spurs of the mountain, whose arid ridge sloped down to the shore.
What a contrast between the northern and southern part of the coast! In proportion as one was woody and fertile so was the other rugged and
barren! It might have been designated as one of those iron coasts, as they are called in some countries, and its wild confusion appeared to indicate
that a sudden crystallization had been produced in the yet liquid basalt of some distant geological sea. These stupendous masses would have terrified
the settlers if they had been cast at first on this part of the island! They had not been able to perceive the sinister aspect of this shore from the
summit of Mount Franklin, for they overlooked it from too great a height, but viewed from the sea it presented a wild appearance which could not
perhaps be equaled in any corner of the globe.
The "Bonadventure" sailed along this coast for the distance of half a mile. It was easy to see that it was composed of blocks of all sizes, from
twenty to three hundred feet in height, and of all shapes, round like towers, prismatic like steeples, pyramidal like obelisks, conical like factory
chimneys. An iceberg of the Polar seas could not have been more capricious in its terrible sublimity! Here, bridges were thrown from one rock to
another; there, arches like those of a wave, into the depths of which the eye could not penetrate; in one place, large vaulted excavations presented a
monumental aspect; in another, a crowd of columns, spires, and arches, such as no Gothic cathedral ever possessed. Every caprice of nature, still more
varied than those of the imagination, appeared on this grand coast, which extended over a length of eight or nine miles.
Cyrus Harding and his companions gazed, with a feeling of surprise bordering on stupefaction. But, although they remained silent, Top, not being
troubled with feelings of this sort, uttered barks which were repeated by the thousand echoes of the basaltic cliff. The engineer even observed that
these barks had something strange in them, like those which the dog had uttered at the mouth of the well in Granite House.
"Let us go close in," said he.
And the "Bonadventure" sailed as near as possible to the rocky shore. Perhaps some cave, which it would be advisable to explore, existed there?
But Harding saw nothing, not a cavern, not a cleft which could serve as a retreat to any being whatever, for the foot of the cliff was washed by the
surf. Soon Top's barks ceased, and the vessel continued her course at a few cables-length from the coast.
In the northwest part of the island the shore became again flat and sandy. A few trees here and there rose above a low, marshy ground, which the
colonists had already surveyed, and in violent contrast to the other desert shore, life was again manifested by the presence of myriads of water-fowl.
That evening the "Bonadventure" anchored in a small bay to the north of the island, near the land, such was the depth of water there. The night passed
quietly, for the breeze died away with the last light of day, and only rose again with the first streaks of dawn.
As it was easy to land, the usual hunters of the colony, that is to say, Herbert and Gideon Spilett, went for a ramble of two hours or so, and
returned with several strings of wild duck and snipe. Top had done wonders, and not a bird had been lost, thanks to his zeal and cleverness.
At eight o'clock in the morning the "Bonadventure" set sail, and ran rapidly towards North Mandible Cape, for the wind was right astern and
"However," observed Pencroft, "I should not be surprised if a gale came up from the west. Yesterday the sun set in a very red-looking horizon, and
now, this morning, those mares-tails don't forbode anything good."
These mares-tails are cirrus clouds, scattered in the zenith, their height from the sea being less than five thousand feet. They look like light
pieces of cotton wool, and their presence usually announces some sudden change in the weather.
"Well," said Harding, "let us carry as much sail as possible, and run for shelter into Shark Gulf. I think that the 'Bonadventure' will be safe
"Perfectly," replied Pencroft, "and besides, the north coast is merely sand, very uninteresting to look at."
"I shall not be sorry," resumed the engineer, "to pass not only to-night but to-morrow in that bay, which is worth being carefully explored."
"I think that we shall be obliged to do so, whether we like it or not," answered Pencroft, "for the sky looks very threatening towards the west.
Dirty weather is coming on!"
"At any rate we have a favorable wind for reaching Cape Mandible," observed the reporter.
"A very fine wind," replied the sailor; "but we must tack to enter the gulf, and I should like to see my way clear in these unknown quarters."
"Quarters which appear to be filled with rocks," added Herbert, "if we judge by what we saw on the south coast of Shark Gulf."
"Pencroft," said Cyrus Harding, "do as you think best, we will leave it to you."
"Don't make your mind uneasy, captain," replied the sailor, "I shall not expose myself needlessly! I would rather a knife were run into my ribs
than a sharp rock into those of my 'Bonadventure!'"
That which Pencroft called ribs was the pan of his vessel under water, and he valued it more than his own skin.
"What o'clock is it?" asked Pencroft.
"Ten o'clock," replied Gideon Spilett.
"And what distance is it to the Cape, captain?"
"About fifteen miles," replied the engineer.
"That's a matter of two hours and a half," said the sailor, "and we shall be off the Cape between twelve and one o'clock. Unluckily, the tide will
be turning at that moment, and will be ebbing out of the gulf. I am afraid that it will be very difficult to get in, having both wind and tide against
"And the more so that it is a full moon to-day," remarked Herbert, "and these April tides are very strong."
"Well, Pencroft," asked Harding, "can you not anchor off the Cape?"
"Anchor near land, with bad weather coming on!" exclaimed the sailor. "What are you thinking of, captain? We should run aground, of a certainty!"
"What will you do then?"
"I shall try to keep in the offing until the flood, that is to say, till about seven in the evening, and if there is still light enough I will try
to enter the gulf; if not, we must stand off and on during the night, and we will enter to-morrow at sunrise."
"As I told you, Pencroft, we will leave it to you," answered Harding.
"Ah!" said Pencroft, "if there was only a lighthouse on the coast, it would be much more convenient for sailors."
"Yes," replied Herbert, "and this time we shall have no obliging engineer to light a fire to guide us into port!"
"Why, indeed, my dear Cyrus," said Spilett, "we have never thanked you; but frankly, without that fire we should never have been able--"
"A fire?" asked Harding, much astonished at the reporter's words.
"We mean, captain," answered Pencroft, "that on board the 'Bonadventure' we were very anxious during the few hours before our return, and we
should have passed to windward of the island, if it had not been for the precaution you took of lighting a fire the night of the 19th of October, on
"Yes, yes! That was a lucky idea of mine!" replied the engineer.
"And this time," continued the sailor. "unless the idea occurs to Ayrton, there will be no one to do us that little service!"
"No! No one!" answered Cyrus Harding.
A few minutes after, finding himself alone in the bows of the vessel, with the reporter, the engineer bent down and whispered,--
"If there is one thing certain in this world, Spilett, it is that I never lighted any fire during the night of the 19th of October, neither on
Prospect Heights nor on any other part of the island!"
Things happened as Pencroft had predicted, he being seldom mistaken in his prognostications. The wind rose, and from a fresh breeze it soon
increased to a regular gale; that is to say, it acquired a speed of from forty to forty-five miles an hour, before which a ship in the open sea would
have run under close-reefed topsails. Now. as it was nearly six o'clock when the "Bonadventure" reached the gulf, and as at that moment the tide
turned, it was impossible to enter. They were therefore compelled to stand off, for even if he had wished to do so, Pencroft could not have gained the
mouth of the Mercy. Hoisting the jib to the mainmast by way of a storm-sail, he hove to, putting the head of the vessel towards the land.
Fortunately, although the wind was strong the sea, being sheltered by the land, did not run very high. They had then little to fear from the
waves, which always endanger small craft. The "Bonadventure" would doubtlessly not have capsized, for she was well ballasted, but enormous masses of
water falling on the deck might injure her if her timbers could not sustain them. Pencroft, as a good sailor, was prepared for anything. Certainly, he
had great confidence in his vessel, but nevertheless he awaited the return of day with some anxiety.
During the night, Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett had no opportunity for talking together, and yet the words pronounced in the reporter's ear by
the engineer were well worth being discussed, together with the mysterious influence which appeared to reign over Lincoln Island. Gideon Spilett did
not cease from pondering over this new and inexplicable incident, the appearance of a fire on the coast of the island. The fire had actually been
seen! His companions, Herbert and Pencroft, had seen it with him! The fire had served to signalize the position of the island during that dark night,
and they had not doubted that it was lighted by the engineer's hand; and here was Cyrus Harding expressly declaring that he had never done anything of
the sort! Spilett resolved to recur to this incident as soon as the "Bonadventure" returned, and to urge Cyrus Harding to acquaint their companions
with these strange facts. Perhaps it would be decided to make in common a complete investigation of every part of Lincoln Island.
However that might be, on this evening no fire was lighted on these yet unknown shores, which formed the entrance to the gulf, and the little
vessel stood off during the night.
When the first streaks of dawn appeared in the western horizon, the wind, which had slightly fallen, shifted two points, and enabled Pencroft to
enter the narrow gulf with greater ease. Towards seven o'clock in the morning, the "Bonadventure," weathering the North Mandible Cape, entered the
strait and glided on to the waters, so strangely enclosed in the frame of lava.
"Well," said Pencroft, "this bay would make admirable roads, in which a whole fleet could lie at their ease!"
"What is especially curious," observed Harding, "is that the gulf has been formed by two rivers of lava, thrown out by the volcano, and
accumulated by successive eruptions. The result is that the gulf is completely sheltered on all sides, and I believe that even in the stormiest
weather, the sea here must be as calm as a lake."
"No doubt," returned the sailor, "since the wind has only that narrow entrance between the two capes to get in by, and, besides, the north cape
protects that of the south in a way which would make the entrance of gusts very difficult. I declare our 'Bonadventure' could stay here from one end
of the year to the other, without even dragging at her anchor!"
"It is rather large for her!" observed the reporter.
"Well! Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "I agree that it is too large for the 'Bonadventure,' but if the fleets of the Union were in want of a
harbor in the Pacific, I don't think they would ever find a better place than this!"
"We are in the shark's mouth," remarked Nab, alluding to the form of the gulf.
"Right into its mouth, my honest Nab!" replied Herbert, "but you are not afraid that it will shut upon us, are you?"
"No, Mr. Herbert," answered Neb, "and yet this gulf here doesn't please me much! It has a wicked look!"
"Hallo!" cried Pencroft, "here is Neb turning up his nose at my gulf, just as I was thinking of presenting it to America!"
"But, at any rate, is the water deep enough?" asked the engineer, "for a depth sufficient for the keel of the 'Bonadventure' would not be enough
for those of our iron-clads."
"That is easily found out," replied Pencroft.
And the sailor sounded with a long cord, which served him as a lead-line, and to which was fastened a lump of iron. This cord measured nearly
fifty fathoms, and its entire length was unrolled without finding any bottom.
"There," exclaimed Pencroft, "our iron-dads can come here after all! They would not run aground!"
"Indeed," said Gideon Spilett, "this gulf is a regular abyss, but, taking into consideration the volcanic origin of the island, it is not
astonishing that the sea should offer similar depressions."
"One would say too," observed Herbert, "that these cliffs were perfectly perpendicular; and I believe that at their foot, even with a line five or
six times longer, Pencroft would not find bottom."
"That is all very well," then said the reporter, "but I must point out to Pencroft that his harbor is wanting in one very important respect!"
"And what is that, Mr. Spilett?"
"An opening, a cutting of some sort, to give access to the interior of the island. I do not see a spot on which we could land." And, in fact, the
steep lava cliffs did not afford a single place suitable for landing. They formed an insuperable barrier, recalling, but with more wildness, the
fiords of Norway. The "Bonadventure," coasting as close as possible along the cliffs, did not discover even a projection which would allow the
passengers to leave the deck.
Pencroft consoled himself by saying that with the help of a mine they could soon open out the cliff when that was necessary, and then, as there
was evidently nothing to be done in the gulf, he steered his vessel towards the strait and passed out at about two o'clock in the afternoon.
"Ah!" said Nab, uttering a sigh of satisfaction.
One might really say that the honest Negro did not feel at his ease in those enormous jaws.
The distance from Mandible Cape to the mouth of the Mercy was not more than eight miles. The head of the "Bonadventure" was put towards Granite
House, and a fair wind filling her sails, she ran rapidly along the coast.
To the enormous lava rocks succeeded soon those capricious sand dunes, among which the engineer had been so singularly recovered, and which
seabirds frequented in thousands.
About four o'clock, Pencroft leaving the point of the islet on his left, entered the channel which separated it from the coast, and at five
o'clock the anchor of the 'Bonadventure" was buried in the sand at the mouth of the Mercy.
The colonists had been absent three days from their dwelling. Ayrton was waiting for them on the beach, and Jup came joyously to meet them, giving
vent to deep grunts of satisfaction.
A complete exploration of the coast of the island had now been made, and no suspicious appearances had been observed. If any mysterious being
resided on it, it could only be under cover of the impenetrable forest of the Serpentine Peninsula, to which the colonists had not yet directed their
Gideon Spilett discussed these things with the engineer, and it was agreed that they should direct the attention of their companions to the
strange character of certain incidents which had occurred on the island, and of which the last was the most unaccountable.
However, Harding, returning to the fact of a fire having been kindled on the shore by an unknown hand, could not refrain from repeating for the
twentieth time to the reporter,--
"But are you quite sure of having seen it? Was it not a partial eruption of the volcano, or perhaps some meteor?"
"No, Cyrus," answered the reporter, "it was certainly a fire lighted by the hand of man. Besides; question Pencroft and Herbert. They saw it as I
saw it myself, and they will confirm my words."
In consequence, therefore, a few days after, on the 25th of April, in the evening, when the settlers were all collected on Prospect Heights, Cyrus
Harding began by saying,--
"My friends, I think it my duty to call your attention to certain incidents which have occurred in the island, on the subject of which I shall be
happy to have your advice. These incidents are, so to speak, supernatural--"
"Supernatural!" exclaimed the sailor, emitting a volume of smoke from his mouth. "Can it be possible that our island is supernatural?"
"No, Pencroft, but mysterious, most certainly," replied the engineer; "unless you can explain that which Spilett and I have until now failed to
"Speak away, captain," answered the sailor.
"Well, have you understood," then said the engineer, "how was it that after falling into the sea, I was found a quarter of a mile into the
interior of the island, and that, without my having any consciousness of my removal there?"
"Unless, being unconscious--" said Pencroft.
"That is not admissible," replied the engineer. "But to continue. Have you understood how Top was able to discover your retreat five miles from
the cave in which I was lying?"
"The dog's instinct--" observed Herbert.
"Singular instinct!" returned the reporter, "since notwithstanding the storm of rain and wind which was raging during that night, Top arrived at
the Chimneys, dry and without a speck of mud!"
"Let us continue," resumed the engineer. "Have you understood how our dog was so strangely thrown up out of the water of the lake, after his
struggle with the dugong?"
"No! I confess, not at all," replied Pencroft, "and the wound which the dugong had in its side, a wound which seemed to have been made with a
sharp instrument; that can't be understood, either."
"Let us continue again,' said Harding. "Have you understood, my friends, how that bullet got into the body of the young peccary; how that case
happened to be so fortunately stranded, without there being any trace of a wreck; how that bottle containing the document presented itself so
opportunely, during our first sea-excursion; how our canoe, having broken its moorings, floated down the current of the Mercy and rejoined us at the
very moment we needed it; how after the ape invasion the ladder was so obligingly thrown down from Granite House; and lastly, how the document, which
Ayrton asserts was never written by him, fell into our hands?"
As Cyrus Harding thus enumerated, without forgetting one, the singular incidents which had occurred in the island, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft
stared at each other, not knowing what to reply, for this succession of incidents, grouped thus for the first time, could not but excite their
surprise to the highest degree.
"'Pon my word," said Pencroft at last, "you are right, captain, and it is difficult to explain all these things!"
"Well, my friends," resumed the engineer, "a last fact has just been added to these, and it is no less incomprehensible than the others!"
"What is it, captain?" asked Herbert quickly.
"When you were returning from Tabor Island, Pencroft," continued the engineer, "you said that a fire appeared on Lincoln Island?"
"Certainly," answered the sailor.
"And you are quite certain of having seen this fire?"
"As sure as I see you now."
"You also, Herbert?"
"Why, captain," cried Herbert, "that fire was blazing like a star of the first magnitude!"
"But was it not a star?" urged the engineer.
"No," replied Pencroft, "for the sky was covered with thick clouds, and at any rate a star would not have been so low on the horizon. But Mr.
Spilett saw it as well as we, and he will confirm our words."
"I will add," said the reporter, "that the fire was very bright, and that it shot up like a sheet of lightning."
"Yes, yes! exactly," added Herbert, "and it was certainly placed on the heights of Granite House."
"Well, my friends," replied Cyrus Harding, "during the night of the 19th of October, neither Neb nor I lighted any fire on the coast."
"You did not!" exclaimed Pencroft, in the height of his astonishment, not being able to finish his sentence.
"We did not leave Granite House," answered Cyrus Harding, "and if a fire appeared on the coast, it was lighted by another hand than ours!"
Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb were stupefied. No illusion could be possible, and a fire had actually met their eyes during the night of the 19th of
October. Yes! they had to acknowledge it, a mystery existed! An inexplicable influence, evidently favorable to the colonists, but very irritating to
their curiosity, was executed always in the nick of time on Lincoln Island. Could there be some being hidden in its profoundest recesses? It was
necessary at any cost to ascertain this.
Harding also reminded his companions of the singular behavior of Top and Jup when they prowled round the mouth of the well, which placed Granite
House in communication with the sea, and he told them that he had explored the well, without discovering anything suspicious. The final resolve taken,
in consequence of this conversation, by all the members of the colony, was that as soon as the fine season returned they would thoroughly search the
whole of the island.
But from that day Pencroft appeared to be anxious. He felt as if the island which he had made his own personal property belonged to him entirely
no longer, and that he shared it with another master, to whom, willing or not, he felt subject. Neb and he often talked of those unaccountable things,
and both, their natures inclining them to the marvelous, were not far from believing that Lincoln Island was under the dominion of some supernatural
In the meanwhile, the bad weather came with the month of May, the November of the northern zones. It appeared that the winter would be severe and
forward. The preparations for the winter season were therefore commenced without delay.
Nevertheless, the colonists were well prepared to meet the winter, however hard it might be. They had plenty of felt clothing, and the musmons,
very numerous by this time, had furnished an abundance of wool necessary for the manufacture of this warm material.
It is unnecessary to say that Ayrton had been provided with this comfortable clothing. Cyrus Harding proposed that he should come to spend the bad
season with them in Granite House, where he would be better lodged than at the corral, and Ayrton promised to do so, as soon as the last work at the
corral was finished. He did this towards the middle of April. From that time Ayrton shared the common life, and made himself useful on all occasions;
but still humble and sad, he never took part in the pleasures of his companions.
For the greater part of this, the third winter which the settlers passed in Lincoln Island, they were confined to Granite House. There were many
violent storms and frightful tempests, which appeared to shake the rocks to their very foundations. Immense waves threatened to overwhelm the island,
and certainly any vessel anchored near the shore would have been dashed to pieces. Twice, during one of these hurricanes, the Mercy swelled to such a
degree as to give reason to fear that the bridges would be swept away, and it was necessary to strengthen those on the shore, which disappeared under
the foaming waters, when the sea beat against the beach.
It may well be supposed that such storms, comparable to water-spouts in which were mingled rain and snow, would cause great havoc on the plateau
of Prospect Heights. The mill and the poultry-yard particularly suffered. The colonists were often obliged to make immediate repairs, without which
the safety of the birds would have been seriously threatened.
During the worst weather, several jaguars and troops of quadrumana ventured to the edge of the plateau, and it was always to be feared that the
most active and audacious would, urged by hunger, manage to cross the stream, which besides, when frozen, offered them an easy passage. Plantations
and domestic animals would then have been infallibly destroyed, without a constant watch, and it was often necessary to make use of the guns to keep
those dangerous visitors at a respectful distance. Occupation was not wanting to the colonists, for without reckoning their out-door cares, they had
always a thousand plans for the fitting up of Granite House.
They had also some fine sporting excursions, which were made during the frost in the vast Tadorn Marsh. Gideon Spilett and Herbert, aided by Jup
and Top, did not miss a shot in the midst of myriads of wild-duck, snipe, teal, and others. The access to these hunting-grounds was easy; besides,
whether they reached them by the road to Port Balloon, after having passed the Mercy Bridge, or by turning the rocks from Flotsam Point, the hunters
were never distant from Granite House more than two or three miles.
Thus passed the four winter months, which were really rigorous, that is to say, June, July, August, and September. But, in short, Granite House
did not suffer much from the inclemency of the weather, and it was the same with the corral, which, less exposed than the plateau, and sheltered
partly by Mount Franklin, only received the remains of the hurricanes, already broken by the forests and the high rocks of the shore. The damages
there were consequently of small importance, and the activity and skill of Ayrton promptly repaired them, when some time in October he returned to
pass a few days in the corral.
During this winter, no fresh inexplicable incident occurred. Nothing strange happened, although Pencroft and Neb were on the watch for the most
insignificant facts to which they attached any mysterious cause. Top and Jup themselves no longer growled round the well or gave any signs of
uneasiness. It appeared, therefore, as if the series of supernatural incidents was interrupted, although they often talked of them during the evenings
in Granite House, and they remained thoroughly resolved that the island should be searched, even in those parts the most difficult to explore. But an
event of the highest importance, and of which the consequences might be terrible, momentarily diverted from their projects Cyrus Harding and his
It was the month of October. The fine season was swiftly returning. Nature was reviving; and among the evergreen foliage of the coniferae which
formed the border of the wood, already appeared the young leaves of the banksias, deodars, and other trees.
It may be remembered that Gideon Spilett and Herbert had, at different times, taken photographic views of Lincoln Island.
Now, on the 17th of this month of October, towards three o'clock in the afternoon, Herbert, enticed by the charms of the sky, thought of
reproducing Union Bay, which was opposite to Prospect Heights, from Cape Mandible to Claw Cape.
The horizon was beautifully clear, and the sea, undulating under a soft breeze, was as calm as the waters of a lake, sparkling here and there
under the sun's rays.
The apparatus had been placed at one of the windows of the dining-room at Granite House, and consequently overlooked the shore and the bay.
Herbert proceeded as he was accustomed to do, and the negative obtained, he went away to fix it by means of the chemicals deposited in a dark nook of
Returning to the bright light, and examining it well, Herbert perceived on his negative an almost imperceptible little spot on the sea horizon. He
endeavored to make it disappear by reiterated washing, but could not accomplish it.
"It is a flaw in the glass," he thought.
And then he had the curiosity to examine this flaw with a strong magnifier which he unscrewed from one of the telescopes.
But he had scarcely looked at it, when he uttered a cry, and the glass almost fell from his hands.
Immediately running to the room in which Cyrus Harding then was, he extended the negative and magnifier towards the engineer, pointing out the
Harding examined it; then seizing his telescope he rushed to the window.
The telescope, after having slowly swept the horizon, at last stopped on the looked-for spot, and Cyrus Harding, lowering it, pronounced one word
And in fact a vessel was in sight, off Lincoln Island!
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The illustrations are by N.C. Wyeth (1877-1943) Scribners 1918)