"The Mysterious Island"
DROPPED FROM THE CLOUDS - Part 2
The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Illustrated By N.C Wyeth
The Mysterious Island
DROPPED FROM THE CLOUDS - Part 2
In a few minutes the three hunters were before a crackling fire. The captain and the reporter were there. Pencroft looked from one to the other,
his capybara in his hand, without saying a word.
"Well, yes, my brave fellow," cried the reporter.
"Fire, real fire, which will roast this splendid pig perfectly, and we will have a feast presently!"
"But who lighted it?" asked Pencroft.
Gideon Spilett was quite right in his reply. It was the sun which had furnished the heat which so astonished Pencroft. The sailor could scarcely
believe his eyes, and he was so amazed that he did not think of questioning the engineer.
"Had you a burning-glass, sir?" asked Herbert of Harding.
"No, my boy," replied he, "but I made one."
And he showed the apparatus which served for a burning-glass. It was simply two glasses which he had taken from his own and the reporter's
watches. Having filled them with water and rendered their edges adhesive by means of a little clay, he thus fabricated a regular burning-glass, which,
concentrating the solar rays on some very dry moss, soon caused it to blaze.
The sailor considered the apparatus; then he gazed at the engineer without saying a word, only a look plainly expressed his opinion that if Cyrus
Harding was not a magician, he was certainly no ordinary man. At last speech returned to him, and he cried,--
"Note that, Mr. Spilett, note that down on your paper!"
"It is noted," replied the reporter.
Then, Neb helping him, the seaman arranged the spit, and the capybara, properly cleaned, was soon roasting like a suckling-pig before a clear,
The Chimneys had again become more habitable, not only because the passages were warmed by the fire, but because the partitions of wood and mud
had been re-established.
It was evident that the engineer and his companions had employed their day well. Cyrus Harding had almost entirely recovered his strength, and had
proved it by climbing to the upper plateau. From this point his eye, accustomed to estimate heights and distances, was fixed for a long time on the
cone, the summit of which he wished to reach the next day. The mountain, situated about six miles to the northwest, appeared to him to measure 3,500
feet above the level of the sea. Consequently the gaze of an observer posted on its summit would extend over a radius of at least fifty miles.
Therefore it was probable that Harding could easily solve the question of "island or continent," to which he attached so much importance.
They supped capitally. The flesh of the capybara was declared excellent. The sargassum and the almonds of the stone-pine completed the repast,
during which the engineer spoke little. He was preoccupied with projects for the next day.
Once or twice Pencroft gave forth some ideas upon what it would be best to do; but Cyrus Harding, who was evidently of a methodical mind, only
shook his head without uttering a word.
"To-morrow," he repeated, "we shall know what we have to depend upon, and we will act accordingly."
The meal ended, fresh armfuls of wood were thrown on the fire, and the inhabitants of the Chimneys, including the faithful Top, were soon buried
in a deep sleep.
No incident disturbed this peaceful night, and the next day, the 29th of March, fresh and active they awoke, ready to undertake the excursion
which must determine their fate.
All was ready for the start. The remains of the capybara would be enough to sustain Harding and his companions for at least twenty-four hours.
Besides, they hoped to find more food on the way. As the glasses had been returned to the watches of the engineer and reporter, Pencroft burned a
little linen to serve as tinder. As to flint, that would not be wanting in these regions of Plutonic origin. It was half-past seven in the morning
when the explorers, armed with sticks, left the Chimneys. Following Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to take the road already traversed through the
forest, and to return by another route. It was also the most direct way to reach the mountain. They turned the south angle and followed the left bank
of the river, which was abandoned at the point where it formed an elbow towards the southwest. The path, already trodden under the evergreen trees,
was found, and at nine o'clock Cyrus Harding and his companions had reached the western border of the forest. The ground, till then, very little
undulated, boggy at first, dry and sandy afterwards, had a gentle slope, which ascended from the shore towards the interior of the country. A few very
timid animals were seen under the forest-trees. Top quickly started them, but his master soon called him back, for the time had not come to commence
hunting; that would be attended to later. The engineer was not a man who would allow himself to be diverted from his fixed idea. It might even have
been said that he did not observe the country at all, either in its configuration or in its natural productions, his great aim being to climb the
mountain before him, and therefore straight towards it he went. At ten o'clock a halt of a few minutes was made. On leaving the forest, the mountain
system of the country appeared before the explorers. The mountain was composed of two cones; the first, truncated at a height of about two thousand
five hundred feet, was sustained by buttresses, which appeared to branch out like the talons of an immense claw set on the ground. Between these were
narrow valleys, bristling with trees, the last clumps of which rose to the top of the lowest cone. There appeared to be less vegetation on that side
of the mountain which was exposed to the northeast, and deep fissures could be seen which, no doubt, were watercourses.
On the first cone rested a second, slightly rounded, and placed a little on one side, like a great round hat cocked over the ear. A Scotchman
would have said, "His bonnet was a thocht ajee." It appeared formed of bare earth, here and there pierced by reddish rocks.
They wished to reach the second cone, and proceeding along the ridge of the spurs seemed to be the best way by which to gain it.
"We are on volcanic ground," Cyrus Harding had said, and his companions following him began to ascend by degrees on the back of a spur, which, by
a winding and consequently more accessible path, joined the first plateau.
The ground had evidently been convulsed by subterranean force. Here and there stray blocks, numerous debris of basalt and pumice-stone, were met
with. In isolated groups rose fir-trees, which, some hundred feet lower, at the bottom of the narrow gorges, formed massive shades almost impenetrable
to the sun's rays.
During the first part of the ascent, Herbert remarked on the footprints which indicated the recent passage of large animals.
"Perhaps these beasts will not let us pass by willingly," said Pencroft.
"Well," replied the reporter, who had already hunted the tiger in India, and the lion in Africa, "we shall soon learn how successfully to
encounter them. But in the meantime we must be upon our guard!"
They ascended but slowly.
The distance, increased by detours and obstacles which could not be surmounted directly, was long. Sometimes, too, the ground suddenly fell, and
they found themselves on the edge of a deep chasm which they had to go round. Thus, in retracing their steps so as to find some practicable path, much
time was employed and fatigue undergone for nothing. At twelve o'clock, when the small band of adventurers halted for breakfast at the foot of a large
group of firs, near a little stream which fell in cascades, they found themselves still half way from the first plateau, which most probably they
would not reach till nightfall. From this point the view of the sea was much extended, but on the right the high promontory prevented their seeing
whether there was land beyond it. On the left, the sight extended several miles to the north; but, on the northwest, at the point occupied by the
explorers, it was cut short by the ridge of a fantastically-shaped spur, which formed a powerful support of the central cone.
At one o'clock the ascent was continued. They slanted more towards the southwest and again entered among thick bushes. There under the shade of
the trees fluttered several couples of gallinaceae belonging to the pheasant species. They were tragopans, ornamented by a pendant skin which hangs
over their throats, and by two small, round horns, planted behind the eyes. Among these birds, which were about the size of a fowl, the female was
uniformly brown, while the male was gorgeous in his red plumage, decorated with white spots. Gideon Spilett, with a stone cleverly and vigorously
thrown, killed one of these tragopans, on which Pencroft, made hungry by the fresh air, had cast greedy eyes.
After leaving the region of bushes, the party, assisted by resting on each other's shoulders, climbed for about a hundred feet up a steep
acclivity and reached a level place, with very few trees, where the soil appeared volcanic. It was necessary to ascend by zigzags to make the slope
more easy, for it was very steep, and the footing being exceedingly precarious required the greatest caution. Neb and Herbert took the lead, Pencroft
the rear, the captain and the reporter between them. The animals which frequented these heights--and there were numerous traces of them-- must
necessarily belong to those races of sure foot and supple spine, chamois or goat. Several were seen, but this was not the name Pencroft gave them, for
all of a sudden--"Sheep!" he shouted.
All stopped about fifty feet from half-a-dozen animals of a large size, with strong horns bent back and flattened towards the point, with a woolly
fleece, hidden under long silky hair of a tawny color.
They were not ordinary sheep, but a species usually found in the mountainous regions of the temperate zone, to which Herbert gave the name of the
"Have they legs and chops?" asked the sailor.
"Yes," replied Herbert.
"Well, then, they are sheep!" said Pencroft.
The animals, motionless among the blocks of basalt, gazed with an astonished eye, as if they saw human bipeds for the first time. Then their fears
suddenly aroused, they disappeared, bounding over the rocks.
"Good-bye, till we meet again," cried Pencroft, as he watched them, in such a comical tone that Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb
could not help laughing.
The ascent was continued. Here and there were traces of lava. Sulphur springs sometimes stopped their way, and they had to go round them. In some
places the sulphur had formed crystals among other substances, such as whitish cinders made of an infinity of little feldspar crystals.
In approaching the first plateau formed by the truncating of the lower cone, the difficulties of the ascent were very great. Towards four o'clock
the extreme zone of the trees had been passed. There only remained here and there a few twisted, stunted pines, which must have had a hard life in
resisting at this altitude the high winds from the open sea. Happily for the engineer and his companions the weather was beautiful, the atmosphere
tranquil; for a high breeze at an elevation of three thousand feet would have hindered their proceedings. The purity of the sky at the zenith was felt
through the transparent air. A perfect calm reigned around them. They could not see the sun, then hid by the vast screen of the upper cone, which
masked the half-horizon of the west, and whose enormous shadow stretching to the shore increased as the radiant luminary sank in its diurnal course.
Vapor--mist rather than clouds--began to appear in the east, and assume all the prismatic colors under the influence of the solar rays.
Five hundred feet only separated the explorers from the plateau, which they wished to reach so as to establish there an encampment for the night,
but these five hundred feet were increased to more than two miles by the zigzags which they had to describe. The soil, as it were, slid under their
The slope often presented such an angle that they slipped when the stones worn by the air did not give a sufficient support. Evening came on by
degrees, and it was almost night when Cyrus Harding and his companions, much fatigued by an ascent of seven hours, arrived at the plateau of the first
cone. It was then necessary to prepare an encampment, and to restore their strength by eating first and sleeping afterwards. This second stage of the
mountain rose on a base of rocks, among which it would be easy to find a retreat. Fuel was not abundant. However, a fire could be made by means of the
moss and dry brushwood, which covered certain parts of the plateau. While the sailor was preparing his hearth with stones which he put to this use,
Neb and Herbert occupied themselves with getting a supply of fuel. They soon returned with a load of brushwood. The steel was struck, the burnt linen
caught the sparks of flint, and, under Neb's breath, a crackling fire showed itself in a few minutes under the shelter of the rocks. Their object in
lighting a fire was only to enable them to withstand the cold temperature of the night, as it was not employed in cooking the bird, which Neb kept for
the next day. The remains of the capybara and some dozens of the stone-pine almonds formed their supper. It was not half-past six when all was
Cyrus Harding then thought of exploring in the half-light the large circular layer which supported the upper cone of the mountain. Before taking
any rest, he wished to know if it was possible to get round the base of the cone in the case of its sides being too steep and its summit being
inaccessible. This question preoccupied him, for it was possible that from the way the hat inclined, that is to say, towards the north, the plateau
was not practicable. Also, if the summit of the mountain could not be reached on one side, and if, on the other, they could not get round the base of
the cone, it would be impossible to survey the western part of the country, and their object in making the ascent would in part be altogether
The engineer, accordingly, regardless of fatigue, leaving Pencroft and Neb to arrange the beds, and Gideon Spilett to note the incidents of the
day, began to follow the edge of the plateau, going towards the north. Herbert accompanied him.
The night was beautiful and still, the darkness was not yet deep. Cyrus Harding and the boy walked near each other, without speaking. In some
places the plateau opened before them, and they passed without hindrance. In others, obstructed by rocks, there was only a narrow path, in which two
persons could not walk abreast. After a walk of twenty minutes, Cyrus Harding and Herbert were obliged to stop. From this point the slope of the two
cones became one. No shoulder here separated the two parts of the mountain. The slope, being inclined almost seventy degrees, the path became
But if the engineer and the boy were obliged to give up thoughts of following a circular direction, in return an opportunity was given for
ascending the cone.
In fact, before them opened a deep hollow. It was the rugged mouth of the crater, by which the eruptive liquid matter had escaped at the periods
when the volcano was still in activity. Hardened lava and crusted scoria formed a sort of natural staircase of large steps, which would greatly
facilitate the ascent to the summit of the mountain.
Harding took all this in at a glance, and without hesitating, followed by the lad, he entered the enormous chasm in the midst of an increasing
There was still a height of a thousand feet to overcome. Would the interior acclivities of the crater be practicable? It would soon be seen. The
persevering engineer resolved to continue his ascent until he was stopped. Happily these acclivities wound up the interior of the volcano and favored
As to the volcano itself, it could not be doubted that it was completely extinct. No smoke escaped from its sides; not a flame could be seen in
the dark hollows; not a roar, not a mutter, no trembling even issued from this black well, which perhaps reached far into the bowels of the earth. The
atmosphere inside the crater was filled with no sulphurous vapor. It was more than the sleep of a volcano; it was its complete extinction. Cyrus
Harding's attempt would succeed.
Little by little, Herbert and he climbing up the sides of the interior, saw the crater widen above their heads. The radius of this circular
portion of the sky, framed by the edge of the cone, increased obviously. At each step, as it were, that the explorers made, fresh stars entered the
field of their vision. The magnificent constellations of the southern sky shone resplendently. At the zenith glittered the splendid Antares in the
Scorpion, and not far was Alpha Centauri, which is believed to be the nearest star to the terrestrial globe. Then, as the crater widened, appeared
Fomalhaut of the Fish, the Southern Triangle, and lastly, nearly at the Antarctic Pole, the glittering Southern Cross, which replaces the Polar Star
of the Northern Hemisphere.
It was nearly eight o'clock when Cyrus Harding and Herbert set foot on the highest ridge of the mountain at the summit of the cone.
It was then perfectly dark, and their gaze could not extend over a radius of two miles. Did the sea surround this unknown land, or was it
connected in the west with some continent of the Pacific? It could not yet be made out. Towards the west, a cloudy belt, clearly visible at the
horizon, increased the gloom, and the eye could not discover if the sky and water were blended together in the same circular line.
But at one point of the horizon a vague light suddenly appeared, which descended slowly in proportion as the cloud mounted to the zenith.
It was the slender crescent moon, already almost disappearing; but its light was sufficient to show clearly the horizontal line, then detached
from the cloud, and the engineer could see its reflection trembling for an instant on a liquid surface. Cyrus Harding seized the lad's hand, and in a
"An island!" said he, at the moment when the lunar crescent disappeared beneath the waves.
Half an hour later Cyrus Harding and Herbert had returned to the encampment. The engineer merely told his companions that the land upon which fate
had thrown them was an island, and that the next day they would consult. Then each settled himself as well as he could to sleep, and in that rocky
hole, at a height of two thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea, through a peaceful night, the islanders enjoyed profound repose.
The next day, the 30th of March, after a hasty breakfast, which consisted solely of the roasted tragopan, the engineer wished to climb again to
the summit of the volcano, so as more attentively to survey the island upon which he and his companions were imprisoned for life perhaps, should the
island be situated at a great distance from any land, or if it was out of the course of vessels which visited the archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean.
This time his companions followed him in the new exploration. They also wished to see the island, on the productions of which they must depend for the
supply of all their wants.
It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Cyrus Harding, Herbert, Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Neb quitted the encampment. No one appeared
to be anxious about their situation. They had faith in themselves, doubtless, but it must be observed that the basis of this faith was not the same
with Harding as with his companions. The engineer had confidence, because he felt capable of extorting from this wild country everything necessary for
the life of himself and his companions; the latter feared nothing, just because Cyrus Harding was with them. Pencroft especially, since the incident
of the relighted fire, would not have despaired for an instant, even if he was on a bare rock, if the engineer was with him on the rock.
"Pshaw," said he, "we left Richmond without permission from the authorities! It will be hard if we don't manage to get away some day or other from
a place where certainly no one will detain us!"
Cyrus Harding followed the same road as the evening before. They went round the cone by the plateau which formed the shoulder, to the mouth of the
enormous chasm. The weather was magnificent. The sun rose in a pure sky and flooded with his rays all the eastern side of the mountain.
The crater was reached. It was just what the engineer had made it out to be in the dark; that is to say, a vast funnel which extended, widening,
to a height of a thousand feet above the plateau. Below the chasm, large thick streaks of lava wound over the sides of the mountain, and thus marked
the course of the eruptive matter to the lower valleys which furrowed the northern part of the island.
The interior of the crater, whose inclination did not exceed thirty five to forty degrees, presented no difficulties nor obstacles to the ascent.
Traces of very ancient lava were noticed, which probably had overflowed the summit of the cone, before this lateral chasm had opened a new way to it.
As to the volcanic chimney which established a communication between the subterranean layers and the crater, its depth could not be calculated
with the eye, for it was lost in obscurity. But there was no doubt as to the complete extinction of the volcano.
Before eight o'clock Harding and his companions were assembled at the summit of the crater, on a conical mound which swelled the northern edge.
"The sea, the sea everywhere!" they cried, as if their lips could not restrain the words which made islanders of them.
The sea, indeed, formed an immense circular sheet of water all around them! Perhaps, on climbing again to the summit of the cone, Cyrus Harding
had had a hope of discovering some coast, some island shore, which he had not been able to perceive in the dark the evening before. But nothing
appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, that is to say over a radius of more than fifty miles. No land in sight. Not a sail. Over all this
immense space the ocean alone was visible--the island occupied the center of a circumference which appeared to be infinite.
The engineer and his companions, mute and motionless, surveyed for some minutes every point of the ocean, examining it to its most extreme limits.
Even Pencroft, who possessed a marvelous power of sight, saw nothing; and certainly if there had been land at the horizon, if it appeared only as an
indistinct vapor, the sailor would undoubtedly have found it out, for nature had placed regular telescopes under his eyebrows.
From the ocean their gaze returned to the island which they commanded entirely, and the first question was put by Gideon Spilett in these terms:--
"About what size is this island?"
Truly, it did not appear large in the midst of the immense ocean.
Cyrus Harding reflected a few minutes; he attentively observed the perimeter of the island, taking into consideration the height at which he was
"My friends," said he, "I do not think I am mistaken in giving to the shore of the island a circumference of more than a hundred miles."
"And consequently an area?"
"That is difficult to estimate," replied the engineer, "for it is so uneven."
If Cyrus Harding was not mistaken in his calculation, the island had almost the extent of Malta or Zante, in the Mediterranean, but it was at the
same time much more irregular and less rich in capes, promontories, points, bays, or creeks. Its strange form caught the eye, and when Gideon Spilett,
on the engineer's advice, had drawn the outline, they found that it resembled some fantastic animal, a monstrous leviathan, which lay sleeping on the
surface of the Pacific.
This was in fact the exact shape of the island, which it is of consequence to know, and a tolerably correct map of it was immediately drawn by the
The east part of the shore, where the castaways had landed, formed a wide bay, terminated by a sharp cape, which had been concealed by a high
point from Pencroft on his first exploration. At the northeast two other capes closed the bay, and between them ran a narrow gulf, which looked like
the half-open jaws of a formidable dog-fish.
From the northeast to the southwest the coast was rounded, like the flattened cranium of an animal, rising again, forming a sort of protuberance
which did not give any particular shape to this part of the island, of which the center was occupied by the volcano.
From this point the shore ran pretty regularly north and south, broken at two-thirds of its perimeter by a narrow creek, from which it ended in a
long tail, similar to the caudal appendage of a gigantic alligator.
This tail formed a regular peninsula, which stretched more than thirty miles into the sea, reckoning from the cape southeast of the island,
already mentioned; it curled round, making an open roadstead, which marked out the lower shore of this strangely-formed land.
At the narrowest part, that is to say between the Chimneys and the creek on the western shore, which corresponded to it in latitude, the island
only measured ten miles; but its greatest length, from the jaws at the northeast to the extremity of the tail of the southwest, was not less than
As to the interior of the island, its general aspect was this, very woody throughout the southern part from the mountain to the shore, and arid
and sandy in the northern part. Between the volcano and the east coast Cyrus Harding and his companions were surprised to see a lake, bordered with
green trees, the existence of which they had not suspected. Seen from this height, the lake appeared to be on the same level as the ocean, but, on
reflection, the engineer explained to his companions that the altitude of this little sheet of water must be about three hundred feet, because the
plateau, which was its basin, was but a prolongation of the coast.
"Is it a freshwater lake?" asked Pencroft.
"Certainly," replied the engineer, "for it must be fed by the water which flows from the mountain."
"I see a little river which runs into it," said Herbert, pointing out a narrow stream, which evidently took its source somewhere in the west.
"Yes," said Harding; "and since this stream feeds the lake, most probably on the side near the sea there is an outlet by which the surplus water
escapes. We shall see that on our return."
This little winding watercourse and the river already mentioned constituted the water-system, at least such as it was displayed to the eyes of the
explorers. However, it was possible that under the masses of trees which covered two-thirds of the island, forming an immense forest, other rivers ran
towards the sea. It might even be inferred that such was the case, so rich did this region appear in the most magnificent specimens of the flora of
the temperate zones. There was no indication of running water in the north, though perhaps there might be stagnant water among the marshes in the
northeast; but that was all, in addition to the downs, sand, and aridity which contrasted so strongly with the luxuriant vegetation of the rest of the
The volcano did not occupy the central part; it rose, on the contrary, in the northwestern region, and seemed to mark the boundary of the two
zones. At the southwest, at the south, and the southeast, the first part of the spurs were hidden under masses of verdure. At the north, on the
contrary, one could follow their ramifications, which died away on the sandy plains. It was on this side that, at the time when the mountain was in a
state of eruption, the discharge had worn away a passage, and a large heap of lava had spread to the narrow jaw which formed the northeastern gulf.
Cyrus Harding and his companions remained an hour at the top of the mountain. The island was displayed under their eyes, like a plan in relief
with different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the sand, blue for the water. They viewed it in its tout-ensemble, nothing remained concealed
but the ground hidden by verdure, the hollows of the valleys, and the interior of the volcanic chasms.
One important question remained to be solved, and the answer would have a great effect upon the future of the castaways.
Was the island inhabited?
It was the reporter who put this question, to which after the close examination they had just made, the answer seemed to be in the negative.
Nowhere could the work of a human hand be perceived. Not a group of huts, not a solitary cabin, not a fishery on the shore. No smoke curling in
the air betrayed the presence of man. It is true, a distance of nearly thirty miles separated the observers from the extreme points, that is, of the
tail which extended to the southwest, and it would have been difficult, even to Pencroft's eyes, to discover a habitation there. Neither could the
curtain of verdure, which covered three-quarters of the island, be raised to see if it did not shelter some straggling village. But in general the
islanders live on the shores of the narrow spaces which emerge above the waters of the Pacific, and this shore appeared to be an absolute desert.
Until a more complete exploration, it might be admitted that the island was uninhabited. But was it frequented, at least occasionally, by the
natives of neighboring islands? It was difficult to reply to this question. No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty miles could be
easily crossed, either by Malay proas or by the large Polynesian canoes. Everything depended on the position of the island, of its isolation in the
Pacific, or of its proximity to archipelagoes. Would Cyrus Harding be able to find out their latitude and longitude without instruments? It would be
difficult. Since he was in doubt, it was best to take precautions against a possible descent of neighboring natives.
The exploration of the island was finished, its shape determined, its features made out, its extent calculated, the water and mountain systems
ascertained. The disposition of the forests and plains had been marked in a general way on the reporter's plan. They had now only to descend the
mountain slopes again, and explore the soil, in the triple point of view, of its mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.
But before giving his companions the signal for departure, Cyrus Harding said to them in a calm, grave voice,--
Here, my friends, is the small corner of land upon which the hand of the Almighty has thrown us. We are going to live here; a long time, perhaps.
Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, if some ship passes by chance. I say by chance, because this is an unimportant island; there is not even a
port in which ships could anchor, and it is to be feared that it is situated out of the route usually followed, that is to say, too much to the south
for the ships which frequent the archipelagoes of the Pacific, and too much to the north for those which go to Australia by doubling Cape Horn. I wish
to hide nothing of our position from you--"
"And you are right, my dear Cyrus," replied the reporter, with animation. "You have to deal with men. They have confidence in you, and you can
depend upon them. Is it not so, my friends?"
"I will obey you in everything, captain," said Herbert, seizing the engineer's hand.
"My master always, and everywhere!" cried Neb.
"As for me," said the sailor, "if I ever grumble at work, my name's not Jack Pencroft, and if you like, captain, we will make a little America of
this island! We will build towns, we will establish railways, start telegraphs, and one fine day, when it is quite changed, quite put in order and
quite civilized, we will go and offer it to the government of the Union. Only, I ask one thing."
"What is that?" said the reporter.
"It is, that we do not consider ourselves castaways, but colonists, who have come here to settle." Harding could not help smiling, and the
sailor's idea was adopted. He then thanked his companions, and added, that he would rely on their energy and on the aid of Heaven.
"Well, now let us set off to the Chimneys!" cried Pencroft.
"One minute, my friends," said the engineer. "It seems to me it would be a good thing to give a name to this island, as well as to, the capes,
promontories, and watercourses, which we can see.
"Very good," said the reporter. "In the future, that will simplify the instructions which we shall have to give and follow."
"Indeed," said the sailor, "already it is something to be able to say where one is going, and where one has come from. At least, it looks like
"The Chimneys, for example," said Herbert.
"Exactly!" replied Pencroft. "That name was the most convenient, and it came to me quite of myself. Shall we keep the name of the Chimneys for our
first encampment, captain?"
"Yes, Pencroft, since you have so christened it."
"Good! as for the others, that will he easy," returned the sailor, who was in high spirits. "Let us give them names, as the Robinsons did, whose
story Herbert has often read to me; Providence Bay, Whale Point, Cape Disappointment!"
"Or, rather, the names of Captain Harding," said Herbert, "of Mr. Spilett, of Neb!--"
"My name!" cried Neb, showing his sparkling white teeth.
"Why not?" replied Pencroft. "Port Neb, that would do very well! And Cape Gideon--"
"I should prefer borrowing names from our country," said the reporter, "which would remind us of America."
"Yes, for the principal ones," then said Cyrus Harding; "for those of the bays and seas, I admit it willingly. We might give to that vast bay on
the east the name of Union Bay, for example; to that large hollow on the south, Washington Bay; to the mountain upon which we are standing, that of
Mount Franklin; to that lake which is extended under our eyes, that of Lake Grant; nothing could be better, my friends. These names will recall our
country, and those of the great citizens who have honored it; but for the rivers, gulfs, capes, and promontories, which we perceive from the top of
this mountain, rather let us choose names which will recall their particular shape. They will impress themselves better on our memory, and at the same
time will he more practical. The shape of the island is so strange that we shall not he troubled to imagine what it resembles. As to the streams which
we do not know as yet, in different parts of the forest which we shall explore later, the creeks which afterwards will he discovered, we can christen
them as we find them. What do you think, my friends?"
The engineer's proposal was unanimously agreed to by his companions. The island was spread out under their eyes like a map, and they had only to
give names to all its angles and points. Gideon Spilett would write them down, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be definitely
adopted. First, they named the two bays and the mountain, Union Bay, Washington Bay, and Mount Franklin, as the engineer had suggested.
"Now," said the reporter, "to this peninsula at the southwest of the island, I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and that of
Reptile-end to the bent tail which terminates it, for it is just like a reptile's tail."
"Adopted," said the engineer.
"Now," said Herbert, pointing to the other extremity of the island, "let us call this gulf which is so singularly like a pair of open jaws, Shark
"Capital!" cried Pencroft, "and we can complete the resemblance by naming the two parts of the jaws Mandible Cape."
"But there are two capes," observed the reporter.
"Well," replied Pencroft, "we can have North Mandible Cape and South Mandible Cape."
"They are inscribed," said Spilett.
"There is only the point at the southeastern extremity of the island to he named," said Pencroft.
"That is, the extremity of Union Bay?" asked Herbert.
"Claw Cape," cried Neb directly, who also wished to he godfather to some part of his domain.
In truth, Neb had found an excellent name, for this cape was very like the powerful claw of the fantastic animal which this singularly-shaped
Pencroft was delighted at the turn things had taken, and their imaginations soon gave to the river which furnished the settlers with drinking
water and near which the balloon had thrown them, the name of the Mercy, in true gratitude to Providence. To the islet upon which the castaways had
first landed, the name of Safety Island; to the plateau which crowned the high granite precipice above the Chimneys, and from whence the gaze could
embrace the whole of the vast bay, the name of Prospect Heights.
Lastly, all the masses of impenetrable wood which covered the Serpentine Peninsula were named the forests of the Far West.
The nomenclature of the visible and known parts of the island was thus finished, and later, they would complete it as they made fresh discoveries.
As to the points of the compass, the engineer had roughly fixed them by the height and position of the sun, which placed Union Bay and Prospect
Heights to the east. But the next day, by taking the exact hour of the rising and setting of the sun, and by marking its position between this rising
and setting, he reckoned to fix the north of the island exactly, for, in consequence of its situation in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun, at the
precise moment of its culmination, passed in the north and not in the south, as, in its apparent movement, it seems to do, to those places situated in
the Northern Hemisphere.
Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,--
"Well! we are preciously stupid!"
"Why?" asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to depart.
"Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!"
Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer's name and all his companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,--
"Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it
The engineer's proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.
And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with blood;
they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and that the cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks to Grant,
thanks to Lincoln!
Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and
that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.
They now began the descent of the mountain. Climbing down the crater, they went round the cone and reached their encampment of the previous night.
Pencroft thought it must be breakfast-time, and the watches of the reporter and engineer were therefore consulted to find out the hour.
That of Gideon Spilett had been preserved from the sea-water, as he had been thrown at once on the sand out of reach of the waves. It was an
instrument of excellent quality, a perfect pocket chronometer, which the reporter had not forgotten to wind up carefully every day.
As to the engineer's watch, it, of course, had stopped during the time which he had passed on the downs.
The engineer now wound it up, and ascertaining by the height of the sun that it must be about nine o'clock in the morning, he put his watch at
"No, my dear Spilett, wait. You have kept the Richmond time, have you not?"
"Consequently, your watch is set by the meridian of that town, which is almost that of Washington?"
"Very well, keep it thus. Content yourself with winding it up very, exactly, but do not touch the hands. This may be of use to us.
"What will be the good of that?" thought the sailor.
They ate, and so heartily, that the store of game and almonds was totally exhausted. But Pencroft was not at all uneasy, they would supply
themselves on the way. Top, whose share had been very much to his taste, would know how to find some fresh game among the brushwood. Moreover, the
sailor thought of simply asking the engineer to manufacture some powder and one or two fowling-pieces; he supposed there would be no difficulty in
On leaving the plateau, the captain proposed to his companions to return to the Chimneys by a new way. He wished to reconnoiter Lake Grant, so
magnificently framed in trees. They therefore followed the crest of one of the spurs, between which the creek that supplied the lake probably had its
source. In talking, the settlers already employed the names which they had just chosen, which singularly facilitated the exchange of their ideas.
Herbert and Pencroft--the one young and the other very boyish--were enchanted, and while walking, the sailor said,
"Hey, Herbert! how capital it sounds! It will be impossible to lose ourselves, my boy, since, whether we follow the way to Lake Grant, or whether
we join the Mercy through the woods of the Far West, we shall be certain to arrive at Prospect Heights, and, consequently, at Union Bay!"
It had been agreed, that without forming a compact band, the settlers should not stray away from each other. It was very certain that the thick
forests of the island were inhabited by dangerous animals, and it was prudent to be on their guard. In general, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb walked
first, preceded by Top, who poked his nose into every bush. The reporter and the engineer went together, Gideon Spilett ready to note every incident,
the engineer silent for the most part, and only stepping aside to pick up one thing or another, a mineral or vegetable substance, which he put into
his pocket, without making any remark.
"What can he be picking up?" muttered Pencroft. "I have looked in vain for anything that's worth the trouble of stooping for."
Towards ten o'clock the little band descended the last declivities of Mount Franklin. As yet the ground was scantily strewn with bushes and trees.
They were walking over yellowish calcinated earth, forming a plain of nearly a mile long, which extended to the edge of the wood. Great blocks of that
basalt, which, according to Bischof, takes three hundred and fifty millions of years to cool, strewed the plain, very confused in some places.
However, there were here no traces of lava, which was spread more particularly over the northern slopes.
Cyrus Harding expected to reach, without incident, the course of the creek, which he supposed flowed under the trees at the border of the plain,
when he saw Herbert running hastily back, while Neb and the sailor were hiding behind the rocks.
"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Spilett.
"Smoke," replied Herbert. "We have seen smoke among the rocks, a hundred paces from us."
"Men in this place?" cried the reporter.
"We must avoid showing ourselves before knowing with whom we have to deal," replied Cyrus Harding. "I trust that there are no natives on this
island; I dread them more than anything else. Where is Top?"
"Top is on before."
"And he doesn't bark?"
"That is strange. However, we must try to call him back."
In a few moments, the engineer, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert had rejoined their two companions, and like them, they kept out of sight behind the
heaps of basalt.
From thence they clearly saw smoke of a yellowish color rising in the air.
Top was recalled by a slight whistle from his master, and the latter, signing to his companions to wait for him, glided away among the rocks. The
colonists, motionless, anxiously awaited the result of this exploration, when a shout from the engineer made them hasten forward. They soon joined
him, and were at once struck with a disagreeable odor which impregnated the atmosphere.
The odor, easily recognized, was enough for the engineer to guess what the smoke was which at first, not without cause, had startled him.
"This fue," said he, "or rather, this smoke is produced by nature alone. There is a sulphur spring there, which will cure all our sore throats."
"Captain!" cried Pencroft. "What a pity that I haven't got a cold!"
The settlers then directed their steps towards the place from which the smoke escaped. They there saw a sulphur spring which flowed abundantly
between the rocks, and its waters discharged a strong sulphuric acid odor, after having absorbed the oxygen of the air.
Cyrus Harding, dipping in his hand, felt the water oily to the touch. He tasted it and found it rather sweet. As to its temperature, that he
estimated at ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Herbert having asked on what he based this calculation,--
"Its quite simple, my boy," said he, "for, in plunging my hand into the water, I felt no sensation either of heat or cold. Therefore it has the
same temperature as the human body, which is about ninety-five degrees."
The sulphur spring not being of any actual use to the settlers, they proceeded towards the thick border of the forest, which began some hundred
There, as they had conjectured, the waters of the stream flowed clear and limpid between high banks of red earth, the color of which betrayed the
presence of oxide of iron. From this color, the name of Red Creek was immediately given to the watercourse.
It was only a large stream, deep and clear, formed of the mountain water, which, half river, half torrent, here rippling peacefully over the sand,
there falling against the rocks or dashing down in a cascade, ran towards the lake, over a distance of a mile and a half, its breadth varying from
thirty to forty feet. Its waters were sweet, and it was supposed that those of the lake were so also. A fortunate circumstance, in the event of their
finding on its borders a more suitable dwelling than the Chimneys.
As to the trees, which some hundred feet downwards shaded the banks of the creek, they belonged, for the most part, to the species which abound in
the temperate zone of America and Tasmania, and no longer to those coniferae observed in that portion of the island already explored to some miles
from Prospect Heights. At this time of the year, the commencement of the month of April, which represents the month of October, in this hemisphere,
that is, the beginning of autumn, they were still in full leaf. They consisted principally of casuarinas and eucalypti, some of which next year would
yield a sweet manna, similar to the manna of the East. Clumps of Australian cedars rose on the sloping banks, which were also covered with the high
grass called "tussac" in New Holland; but the cocoanut, so abundant in the archipelagoes of the Pacific, seemed to be wanting in the island, the
latitude, doubtless, being too low.
"What a pity!" said Herbert, "such a useful tree, and which has such beautiful nuts!"
As to the birds, they swarmed among the scanty branches of the eucalypti and casuarinas, which did not hinder the display of their wings. Black,
white, or gray cockatoos, paroquets, with plumage of all colors, kingfishers of a sparkling green and crowned with red, blue lories, and various other
birds appeared on all sides, as through a prism, fluttering about and producing a deafening clamor. Suddenly, a strange concert of discordant voices
resounded in the midst of a thicket. The settlers heard successively the song of birds, the cry of quadrupeds, and a sort of clacking which they might
have believed to have escaped from the lips of a native. Neb and Herbert rushed towards the bush, forgetting even the most elementary principles of
prudence. Happily, they found there, neither a formidable wild beast nor a dangerous native, but merely half a dozen mocking and singing birds, known
as mountain pheasants. A few skillful blows from a stick soon put an end to their concert, and procured excellent food for the evening's dinner.
Herbert also discovered some magnificent pigeons with bronzed wings, some superbly crested, others draped in green, like their congeners at Port-
Macquarie; but it was impossible to reach them, or the crows and magpies which flew away in flocks.
A charge of small shot would have made great slaughter among these birds, but the hunters were still limited to sticks and stones, and these
primitive weapons proved very insufficient.
Their insufficiency was still more clearly shown when a troop of quadrupeds, jumping, bounding, making leaps of thirty feet, regular flying
mammiferae, fled over the thickets, so quickly and at such a height, that one would have thought that they passed from one tree to another like
"Kangaroos!" cried Herbert.
"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.
"Stewed," replied the reporter, "their flesh is equal to the best venison!--"
Gideon Spilett had not finished this exciting sentence when the sailor, followed by Neb and Herbert, darted on the kangaroos tracks. Cyrus Harding
called them back in vain. But it was in vain too for the hunters to pursue such agile game, which went bounding away like balls. After a chase of five
minutes, they lost their breath, and at the same time all sight of the creatures, which disappeared in the wood. Top was not more successful than his
"Captain," said Pencroft, when the engineer and the reporter had rejoined them, "Captain, you see quite well we can't get on unless we make a few
guns. Will that be possible?"
"Perhaps," replied the engineer, "but we will begin by first manufacturing some bows and arrows, and I don't doubt that you will become as clever
in the use of them as the Australian hunters."
"Bows and arrows!" said Pencroft scornfully. "That's all very well for children!"
"Don't be proud, friend Pencroft," replied the reporter. "Bows and arrows were sufficient for centuries to stain the earth with blood. Powder is
but a thing of yesterday, and war is as old as the human race--unhappily."
"Faith, that's true, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "and I always speak too quickly. You must excuse me!"
Meanwhile, Herbert constant to his favorite science, Natural History, reverted to the kangaroos, saying,--
"Besides, we had to deal just now with the species which is most difficult to catch. They were giants with long gray fur; but if I am not
mistaken, there exist black and red kangaroos, rock kangaroos, and rat kangaroos, which are more easy to get hold of. It is reckoned that there are
about a dozen species."
"Herbert," replied the sailor sententiously, "there is only one species of kangaroos to me, that is 'kangaroo on the spit,' and it's just the one
we haven't got this evening!"
They could not help laughing at Master Pencroft's new classification. The honest sailor did not hide his regret at being reduced for dinner to the
singing pheasants, but fortune once more showed itself obliging to him.
In fact, Top, who felt that his interest was concerned went and ferreted everywhere with an instinct doubled by a ferocious appetite. It was even
probable that if some piece of game did fall into his clutches, none would be left for the hunters, if Top was hunting on his own account; but Neb
watched him and he did well.
Towards three o'clock the dog disappeared in the brushwood and gruntings showed that he was engaged in a struggle with some animal. Neb rushed
after him, and soon saw Top eagerly devouring a quadruped, which ten seconds later would have been past recognizing in Top's stomach. But fortunately
the dog had fallen upon a brood, and besides the victim he was devouring, two other rodents--the animals in question belonged to that order--lay
strangled on the turf.
Neb reappeared triumphantly holding one of the rodents in each hand. Their size exceeded that of a rabbit, their hair was yellow, mingled with
green spots, and they had the merest rudiments of tails.
The citizens of the Union were at no loss for the right name of these rodents. They were maras, a sort of agouti, a little larger than their
congeners of tropical countries, regular American rabbits, with long ears, jaws armed on each side with five molars, which distinguish the agouti.
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, "the roast has arrived! and now we can go home."
The walk, interrupted for an instant, was resumed. The limpid waters of the Red Creek flowed under an arch of casuannas, banksias, and gigantic
gum-trees. Superb lilacs rose to a height of twenty feet. Other arborescent species, unknown to the young naturalist, bent over the stream, which
could be heard murmuring beneath the bowers of verdure.
Meanwhile the stream grew much wider, and Cyrus Harding supposed that they would soon reach its mouth. In fact, on emerging from beneath a thick
clump of beautiful trees, it suddenly appeared before their eyes.
The explorers had arrived on the western shore of Lake Grant. The place was well worth looking at. This extent of water, of a circumference of
nearly seven miles and an area of two hundred and fifty acres, reposed in a border of diversified trees. Towards the east, through a curtain of
verdure, picturesquely raised in some places, sparkled an horizon of sea. The lake was curved at the north, which contrasted with the sharp outline of
its lower part. Numerous aquatic birds frequented the shores of this little Ontario, in which the thousand isles of its American namesake were
represented by a rock which emerged from its surface, some hundred feet from the southern shore. There lived in harmony several couples of kingfishers
perched on a stone, grave, motionless, watching for fish, then darting down, they plunged in with a sharp cry, and reappeared with their prey in their
beaks. On the shores and on the islets, strutted wild ducks, pelicans, water-hens, red-beaks, philedons, furnished with a tongue like a brush, and one
or two specimens of the splendid menura, the tail of which expands gracefully like a lyre.
As to the water of the lake, it was sweet, limpid, rather dark, and from certain bubblings, and the concentric circles which crossed each other on
the surface, it could not be doubted that it abounded in fish.
"This lake is really beautiful!" said Gideon Spilett. "We could live on its borders!"
"We will live there!" replied Harding.
The settlers, wishing to return to the Chimneys by the shortest way, descended towards the angle formed on the south by the junction of the lake's
bank. It was not without difficulty that they broke a path through the thickets and brushwood which had never been put aside by the hand of mm, and
they thus went towards the shore, so as to arrive at the north of Prospect Heights. Two miles were cleared in this direction, and then, after they had
passed the last curtain of trees, appeared the plateau, carpeted with thick turf, and beyond that the infinite sea.
To return to the Chimneys, it was enough to cross the plateau obliquely for the space of a mile, and then to descend to the elbow formed by the
first detour of the Mercy. But the engineer desired to know how and where the overplus of the water from the lake escaped, and the exploration was
prolonged under the trees for a mile and a half towards the north. It was most probable that an overfall existed somewhere, and doubtless through a
cleft in the granite. This lake was only, in short, an immense center basin, which was filled by degrees by the creek, and its waters must necessarily
pass to the sea by some fall. If it was so, the engineer thought that it might perhaps be possible to utilize this fall and borrow its power, actually
lost without profit to any one. They continued then to follow the shores of Lake Grant by climbing the plateau; but, after having gone a mile in this
direction, Cyrus Harding had not been able to discover the overfall, which, however, must exist somewhere.
It was then half-past four. In order to prepare for dinner it was necessary that the settlers should return to their dwelling. The little band
retraced their steps, therefore, and by the left bank of the Mercy, Cyrus Harding and his companions arrived at the Chimneys.
The fire was lighted, and Neb and Pencroft, on whom the functions of cooks naturally devolved, to the one in his quality of Negro, to the other in
that of sailor, quickly prepared some broiled agouti, to which they did great justice.
The repast at length terminated; at the moment when each one was about to give himself up to sleep, Cyrus Harding drew from his pocket little
specimens of different sorts of minerals, and just said,--
"My friends, this is iron mineral, this a pyrite, this is clay, this is lime, and this is coal. Nature gives us these things. It is our business
to make a right use of them. To-morrow we will commence operations."
"Well, captain, where are we going to begin?" asked Pencroft next morning of the engineer.
"At the beginning," replied Cyrus Harding.
And in fact, the settlers were compelled to begin "at the very beginning." They did not possess even the tools necessary for making tools, and
they were not even in the condition of nature, who, "having time, husbands her strength." They had no time, since they had to provide for the
immediate wants of their existence, and though, profiting by acquired experience, they had nothing to invent, still they had everything to make; their
iron and their steel were as yet only in the state of minerals, their earthenware in the state of clay, their linen and their clothes in the state of
It must be said, however, that the settlers were men" in the complete and higher sense of the word. The engineer Harding could not have been
seconded by more intelligent companions, nor with more devotion and zeal. He had tried them. He knew their abilities.
Gideon Spilett, a talented reporter, having learned everything so as to be able to speak of everything, would contribute largely with his head and
hands to the colonization of the island. He would not draw back from any task: a determined sportsman, he would make a business of what till then had
only been a pleasure to him.
Herbert, a gallant boy, already remarkably well informed in the natural sciences, would render greater service to the common cause.
Neb was devotion personified. Clever, intelligent, indefatigable, robust, with iron health, he knew a little about the work of the forge, and
could not fail to be very useful in the colony.
As to Pencroft, he had sailed over every sea, a carpenter in the dockyards in Brooklyn, assistant tailor in the vessels of the state, gardener,
cultivator, during his holidays, etc., and like all seamen, fit for anything, he knew how to do everything.
It would have been difficult to unite five men, better fitted to struggle against fate, more certain to triumph over it.
"At the beginning," Cyrus Harding had said. Now this beginning of which the engineer spoke was the construction of an apparatus which would serve
to transform the natural substances. The part which heat plays in these transformations is known. Now fuel, wood or coal, was ready for immediate use,
an oven must be built to use it.
"What is this oven for?" asked Pencroft.
"To make the pottery which we have need of," replied Harding.
"And of what shall we make the oven?"
"And the bricks?"
"With clay. Let us start, my friends. To save trouble, we will establish our manufactory at the place of production. Neb will bring provisions,
and there will be no lack of fire to cook the food."
"No," replied the reporter; "but if there is a lack of food for want of instruments for the chase?"
"Ah, if we only had a knife!" cried the sailor.
"Well?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Well! I would soon make a bow and arrows, and then there could be plenty of game in the larder!"
"Yes, a knife, a sharp blade." said the engineer, as if he was speaking to himself.
At this moment his eyes fell upon Top, who was running about on the shore. Suddenly Harding's face became animated.
"Top, here," said he.
The dog came at his master's call. The latter took Top's head between his hands, and unfastening the collar which the animal wore round his neck,
he broke it in two, saying,--
"There are two knives, Pencroft!"
Two hurrahs from the sailor was the reply. Top's collar was made of a thin piece of tempered steel. They had only to sharpen it on a piece of
sandstone, then to raise the edge on a finer stone. Now sandstone was abundant on the beach, and two hours after the stock of tools in the colony
consisted of two sharp blades, which were easily fixed in solid handles.
The production of these their first tools was hailed as a triumph. It was indeed a valuable result of their labor, and a very opportune one. They
Cyrus Harding proposed that they should return to the western shore of the lake, where the day before he had noticed the clayey ground of which he
possessed a specimen. They therefore followed the bank of the Mercy, traversed Prospect Heights, and alter a walk of five miles or more they reached a
glade, situated two hundred feet from Lake Grant.
On the way Herbert had discovered a tree, the branches of which the Indians of South America employ for making their bows. It was the crejimba, of
the palm family, which does not bear edible fruit. Long straight branches were cut, the leaves stripped off; it was shaped, stronger in the middle,
more slender at the extremities, and nothing remained to be done but to find a plant fit to make the bow-string. This was the "hibiscus
heterophyllus," which furnishes fibers of such remarkable tenacity that they have been compared to the tendons of animals. Pencroft thus obtained bows
of tolerable strength, for which he only wanted arrows. These were easily made with straight stiff branches, without knots, but the points with which
they must be armed, that is to say, a substance to serve in lieu of iron, could not be met with so easily. But Pencroft said, that having done his
part of the work, chance would do the rest.
The settlers arrived on the ground which had been discovered the day before. Being composed of the sort of clay which is used for making bricks
and tiles, it was very useful for the work in question. There was no great difficulty in it. It was enough to scour the clay with sand, then to mold
the bricks and bake them by the heat of a wood fire.
Generally bricks are formed in molds, but the engineer contented himself with making them by hand. All that day and the day following were
employed in this work. The clay, soaked in water, was mixed by the feet and hands of the manipulators, and then divided into pieces of equal size. A
practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten thousand bricks in twelve hours; but in their two days work the five brickmakers on Lincoln
Island had not made more than three thousand, which were ranged near each other, until the time when their complete desiccation would permit them to
be used in building the oven, that is to say, in three or four days.
It was on the 2nd of April that Harding had employed himself in fixing the orientation of the island, or, in other words, the precise spot where
the sun rose. The day before he had noted exactly the hour when the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, making allowance for the refraction. This
morning he noted, no less exactly, the hour at which it reappeared. Between this setting and rising twelve hours, twenty-four minutes passed. Then,
six hours, twelve minutes after its rising, the sun on this day would exactly pass the meridian and the point of the sky which it occupied at this
moment would be the north. At the said hour, Cyrus marked this point, and putting in a line with the sun two trees which would serve him for marks, he
thus obtained an invariable meridian for his ulterior operations.
The settlers employed the two days before the oven was built in collecting fuel. Branches were cut all round the glade, and they picked up all the
fallen wood under the trees. They were also able to hunt with greater success, since Pencroft now possessed some dozen arrows armed with sharp points.
It was Top who had famished these points, by bringing in a porcupine, rather inferior eating, but of great value, thanks to the quills with which it
bristled. These quills were fixed firmly at the ends of the arrows, the flight of which was made more certain by some cockatoos' feathers. The
reporter and Herbert soon became very skilful archers. Game of all sorts in consequence abounded at the Chimneys, capybaras, pigeons, agouties,
grouse, etc. The greater part of these animals were killed in the part of the forest on the left bank of the Mercy, to which they gave the name of
Jacamar Wood, in remembrance of the bird which Pencroft and Herbert had pursued when on their first exploration.
This game was eaten fresh, but they preserved some capybara hams, by smoking them above a fire of green wood, after having perfumed them with
sweet-smelling leaves. However, this food, although very strengthening, was always roast upon roast, and the party would have been delighted to hear
some soup bubbling on the hearth, but they must wait till a pot could be made, and, consequently, till the oven was built.
During these excursions, which were not extended far from the brick- field, the hunters could discern the recent passage of animals of a large
size, armed with powerful claws, but they could not recognize the species. Cyrus Harding advised them to be very careful, as the forest probably
enclosed many dangerous beasts.
And he did right. Indeed, Gideon Spilett and Herbert one day saw an animal which resembled a jaguar. Happily the creature did not attack them, or
they might not have escaped without a severe wound. As soon as he could get a regular weapon, that is to say, one of the guns which Pencroft begged
for, Gideon Spilett resolved to make desperate war against the ferocious beasts, and exterminate them from the island.
The Chimneys during these few days was not made more comfortable, for the engineer hoped to discover, or build if necessary, a more convenient
dwelling. They contented themselves with spreading moss and dry leaves on the sand of the passages, and on these primitive couches the tired workers
They also reckoned the days they had passed on Lincoln Island, and from that time kept a regular account. The 5th of April, which was Wednesday,
was twelve days from the time when the wind threw the castaways on this shore.
On the 6th of April, at daybreak, the engineer and his companions were collected in the glade, at the place where they were going to perform the
operation of baking the bricks. Naturally this had to be in the open air, and not in a kiln, or rather, the agglomeration of bricks made an enormous
kiln, which would bake itself. The fuel, made of well-prepared fagots, was laid on the ground and surrounded with several rows of dried bricks, which
soon formed an enormous cube, to the exterior of which they contrived air- holes. The work lasted all day, and it was not till the evening that they
set fire to the fagots. No one slept that night, all watching carefully to keep up the fire.
The operation lasted forty-eight hours, and succeeded perfectly. It then became necessary to leave the smoking mass to cool, and during this time
Neb and Pencroft, guided by Cyrus Harding, brought, on a hurdle made of interlaced branches, loads of carbonate of lime and common stones, which were
very abundant, to the north of the lake. These stones, when decomposed by heat, made a very strong quicklime, greatly increased by slacking, at least
as pure as if it had been produced by the calcination of chalk or marble. Mixed with sand the lime made excellent mortar.
The result of these different works was, that, on the 9th of April, the engineer had at his disposal a quantity of prepared lime and some
thousands of bricks.
Without losing an instant, therefore, they began the construction of a kiln to bake the pottery, which was indispensable for their domestic use.
They succeeded without much difficulty. Five days after, the kiln was supplied with coal, which the engineer had discovered lying open to the sky
towards the mouth of the Red Creek, and the first smoke escaped from a chimney twenty feet high. The glade was transformed into a manufactory, and
Pencroft was not far wrong in believing that from this kiln would issue all the products of modern industry.
In the meantime what the settlers first manufactured was a common pottery in which to cook their food. The chief material was clay, to which
Harding added a little lime and quartz. This paste made regular "pipe-clay," with which they manufactured bowls, cups molded on stones of a proper
size, great jars and pots to hold water, etc. The shape of these objects was clumsy and defective, but after they had been baked in a high
temperature, the kitchen of the Chimneys was provided with a number of utensils, as precious to the settlers as the most beautifully enameled china.
We must mention here that Pencroft, desirous to know if the clay thus prepared was worthy of its name of pipe-clay, made some large pipes, which he
thought charming, but for which, alas! he had no tobacco, and that was a great privation to Pencroft. "But tobacco will come, like everything else!"
he repeated, in a burst of absolute confidence.
This work lasted till the 15th of April, and the time was well employed. The settlers, having become potters, made nothing but pottery. When it
suited Cyrus Harding to change them into smiths, they would become smiths. But the next day being Sunday, and also Easter Sunday, all agreed to
sanctify the day by rest. These Americans were religious men, scrupulous observers of the precepts of the Bible, and their situation could not but
develop sentiments of confidence towards the Author of all things.
On the evening of the 15th of April they returned to the Chimneys, carrying with them the pottery, the furnace being extinguished until they could
put it to a new use. Their return was marked by a fortunate incident; the engineer discovered a substance which replaced tinder. It is known that a
spongy, velvety flesh is procured from a certain mushroom of the genus polyporous. Properly prepared, it is extremely inflammable, especially when it
has been previously saturated with gunpowder, or boiled in a solution of nitrate or chlorate of potash. But, till then, they had not found any of
these polypores or even any of the morels which could replace them. On this day, the engineer, seeing a plant belonging to the wormwood genus, the
principal species of which are absinthe, balm-mint, tarragon, etc., gathered several tufts, and, presenting them to the sailor, said,--
"Here, Pencroft, this will please you."
Pencroft looked attentively at the plant, covered with long silky hair, the leaves being clothed with soft down.
"What's that, captain?" asked Pencroft. "Is it tobacco?"
"No," replied Harding, "it is wormwood; Chinese wormwood to the learned, but to us it will be tinder."
When the wormwood was properly dried it provided them with a very inflammable substance, especially afterwards when the engineer had impregnated
it with nitrate of potash, of which the island possessed several beds, and which is in truth saltpeter.
The colonists had a good supper that evening. Neb prepared some agouti soup, a smoked capybara ham, to which was added the boiled tubercules of
the "caladium macrorhizum," an herbaceous plant of the arum family. They had an excellent taste, and were very nutritious, being something similar to
the substance which is sold in England under the name of "Portland sago"; they were also a good substitute for bread, which the settlers in Lincoln
Island did not yet possess.
When supper was finished, before sleeping, Harding and his companions went to take the air on the beach. it was eight o'clock in the evening; the
night was magnificent. The moon, which had been full five days before, had not yet risen, but the horizon was already silvered by those soft, pale
shades which might be called the dawn of the moon. At the southern zenith glittered the circumpolar constellations, and above all the Southern Cross,
which some days before the engineer had greeted on the summit of Mount Franklin.
Cyrus Harding gazed for some time at this splendid constellation, which has at its summit and at its base two stars of the first magnitude, at its
left arm a star of the second, and at its right arm a star of the third magnitude.
Then, after some minutes thought--
"Herbert," he asked of the lad, "is not this the 15th of April?"
"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.
"Well, if I am not mistaken, to-morrow will be one of the four days in the year in which the real time is identical with average time; that is to
say, my boy, that to-morrow, to within some seconds, the sun will pass the meridian just at midday by the clocks. If the weather is fine I think that
I shall obtain the longitude of the island with an approximation of some degrees."
"Without instruments, without sextant?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Yes," replied the engineer. 'Also, since the night is clear, I will try, this very evening, to obtain our latitude by calculating the height of
the Southern Cross, that is, from the southern pole above the horizon. You understand, my friends, that before undertaking the work of installation in
earnest it is not enough to have found out that this land is an island; we must, as nearly as possible, know at what distance it is situated, either
from the American continent or Australia, or from the principal archipelagoes of the Pacific."
"In fact," said the reporter, "instead of building a house it would be more important to build a boat, if by chance we are not more than a hundred
miles from an inhabited coast."
"That is why," returned Harding, "I am going to try this evening to calculate the latitude of Lincoln Island, and to-morrow, at midday, I will try
to calculate the longitude."
If the engineer had possessed a sextant, an apparatus with which the angular distance of objects can be measured with great precision, there would
have been no difficulty in the operation. This evening by the height of the pole, the next day by the passing of the sun at the meridian, he would
obtain the position of the island. But as they had not one he would have to supply the deficiency.
Harding then entered the Chimneys. By the light of the fire he cut two little flat rulers, which he joined together at one end so as to form a
pair of compasses, whose legs could separate or come together. The fastening was fixed with a strong acacia thorn which was found in the wood pile.
This instrument finished, the engineer returned to the beach, but as it was necessary to take the height of the pole from above a clear horizon, that
is, a sea horizon, and as Claw Cape hid the southern horizon, he was obliged to look for a more suitable station. The best would evidently have been
the shore exposed directly to the south; but the Mercy would have to be crossed, and that was a difficulty. Harding resolved, in consequence, to make
his observation from Prospect Heights, taking into consideration its height above the level of the sea--a height which he intended to calculate next
day by a simple process of elementary geometry.
The settlers, therefore, went to the plateau, ascending the left bank of the Mercy, and placed themselves on the edge which looked northwest and
southeast, that is, above the curiously-shaped rocks which bordered the river.
This part of the plateau commanded the heights of the left bank, which sloped away to the extremity of Claw Cape, and to the southern side of the
island. No obstacle intercepted their gaze, which swept the horizon in a semi-circle from the cape to Reptile End. To the south the horizon, lighted
by the first rays of the moon, was very clearly defined against the sky.
At this moment the Southern Cross presented itself to the observer in an inverted position, the star Alpha marking its base, which is nearer to
the southern pole.
This constellation is not situated as near to the antarctic pole as the Polar Star is to the arctic pole. The star Alpha is about twenty-seven
degrees from it, but Cyrus Harding knew this and made allowance for it in his calculation. He took care also to observe the moment when it passed the
meridian below the pole, which would simplify the operation.
Cyrus Harding pointed one leg of the compasses to the horizon, the other to Alpha, and the space between the two legs gave him the angular
distance which separated Alpha from the horizon. In order to fix the angle obtained, he fastened with thorns the two pieces of wood on a third placed
transversely, so that their separation should be properly maintained.
That done, there was only the angle to calculate by bringing back the observation to the level of the sea, taking into consideration the
depression of the horizon, which would necessitate measuring the height of the cliff. The value of this angle would give the height of Alpha, and
consequently that of the pole above the horizon, that is to say, the latitude of the island, since the latitude of a point of the globe is always
equal to the height of the pole above the horizon of this point.
The calculations were left for the next day, and at ten o'clock every one was sleeping soundly.
The next day, the 16th of April, and Easter Sunday, the settlers issued from the Chimneys at daybreak, and proceeded to wash their linen. The
engineer intended to manufacture soap as soon as he could procure the necessary materials--soda or potash, fat or oil. The important question of
renewing their wardrobe would be treated of in the proper time and place. At any rate their clothes would last at least six months longer, for they
were strong, and could resist the wear of manual labor. But all would depend on the situation of the island with regard to inhabited land. This would
be settled to-day if the weather permitted.
The sun rising above a clear horizon, announced a magnificent day, one of those beautiful autumn days which are like the last farewells of the
It was now necessary to complete the observations of the evening before by measuring the height of the cliff above the level of the sea.
"Shall you not need an instrument similar to the one which you used yesterday?" said Herbert to the engineer.
"No, my boy," replied the latter, "we are going to proceed differently, but in as precise a way."
Herbert, wishing to learn everything he could, followed the engineer to the beach. Pencroft, Neb, and the reporter remained behind and occupied
themselves in different ways.
Cyrus Harding had provided himself with a straight stick, twelve feet long, which he had measured as exactly as possible by comparing it with his
own height, which he knew to a hair. Herbert carried a plumb-line which Harding had given him, that is to say, a simple stone fastened to the end of a
flexible fiber. Having reached a spot about twenty feet from the edge of the beach, and nearly five hundred feet from the cliff, which rose
perpendicularly, Harding thrust the pole two feet into the sand, and wedging it up carefully, he managed, by means of the plumb-line, to erect it
perpendicularly with the plane of the horizon.
That done, he retired the necessary distance, when, lying on the sand, his eye glanced at the same time at the top of the pole and the crest of
the cliff. He carefully marked the place with a little stick.
Then addressing Herbert--"Do you know the first principles of geometry?" he asked.
"Slightly, captain," replied Herbert, who did not wish to put himself forward.
"You remember what are the properties of two similar triangles?"
"Yes," replied Herbert; "their homologous sides are proportional."
"Well, my boy, I have just constructed two similar right-angled triangles; the first, the smallest, has for its sides the perpendicular pole, the
distance which separates the little stick from the foot of the pole and my visual ray for hypothenuse; the second has for its sides the perpendicular
cliff, the height of which we wish to measure, the distance which separates the little stick from the bottom of the cliff, and my visual ray also
forms its hypothenuse, which proves to be prolongation of that of the first triangle."
"Ah, captain, I understand!" cried Herbert. "As the distance from the stick to the pole is to the distance from the stick to the base of the
cliff, so is the height of the pole to the height of the cliff."
"Just so, Herbert," replied the engineer; "and when we have measured the two first distances, knowing the height of the pole, we shall only have a
sum in proportion to do, which will give us the height of the cliff, and will save us the trouble of measuring it directly."
The two horizontal distances were found out by means of the pole, whose length above the sand was exactly ten feet.
The first distance was fifteen feet between the stick and the place where the pole was thrust into the sand.
The second distance between the stick and the bottom of the cliff was five hundred feet.
These measurements finished, Cyrus Harding and the lad returned to the Chimneys.
The engineer then took a flat stone which he had brought back from one of his previous excursions, a sort of slate, on which it was easy to trace
figures with a sharp shell. He then proved the following proportions:--
500 x 10= 5000
From which it was proved that the granite cliff measured 333 feet in height.
Cyrus Harding then took the instrument which he had made the evening before, the space between its two legs giving the angular distance between
the star Alpha and the horizon. He measured, very exactly, the opening of this angle on a circumference which he divided into 360 equal parts. Now,
this angle by adding to it the twenty-seven degrees which separated Alpha from the antarctic pole, and by reducing to the level of the sea the height
of the cliff on which the observation had been made, was found to be fifty- three degrees. These fifty-three degrees being subtracted from ninety
degrees--the distance from the pole to the equator--there remained thirty- seven degrees. Cyrus Harding concluded, therefore, that Lincoln Island was
situated on the thirty-seventh degree of the southern latitude, or taking into consideration through the imperfection of the performance, an error of
five degrees, that it must be situated between the thirty-fifth and the fortieth parallel.
There was only the longitude to be obtained, and the position of the island would be determined, The engineer hoped to attempt this the same day,
at twelve o'clock, at which moment the sun would pass the meridian.
It was decided that Sunday should be spent in a walk, or rather an exploring expedition, to that side of the island between the north of the lake
and Shark Gulf, and if there was time they would push their discoveries to the northern side of Cape South Mandible. They would breakfast on the
downs, and not return till evening.
At half-past eight the little band was following the edge of the channel. On the other side, on Safety Islet, numerous birds were gravely
strutting. They were divers, easily recognized by their cry, which much resembles the braying of a donkey. Pencroft only considered them in an eatable
point of view, and learnt with some satisfaction that their flesh, though blackish, is not bad food.
Great amphibious creatures could also be seen crawling on the sand; seals, doubtless, who appeared to have chosen the islet for a place of refuge.
It was impossible to think of those animals in an alimentary point of view, for their oily flesh is detestable; however, Cyrus Harding observed them
attentively, and without making known his idea, he announced to his companions that very soon they would pay a visit to the islet. The beach was
strewn with innumerable shells, some of which would have rejoiced the heart of a conchologist; there were, among others, the phasianella, the
terebratual, etc. But what would be of more use, was the discovery, by Neb, at low tide, of a large oysterbed among the rocks, nearly five miles from
"Neb will not have lost his day," cried Pencroft, looking at the spacious oyster-bed.
"It is really a fortunate discovery," said the reporter, "and as it is said that each oyster produces yearly from fifty to sixty thousand eggs, we
shall have an inexhaustible supply there."
"Only I believe that the oyster is not very nourishing," said Herbert.
"No," replied Harding. "The oyster contains very little nitrogen, and if a man lived exclusively on them, he would have to eat not less than
fifteen to sixteen dozen a day."
"Capital!" replied Pencroft. "We might swallow dozens and dozens without exhausting the bed. Shall we take some for breakfast?"
And without waiting for a reply to this proposal, knowing that it would be approved of, the sailor and Neb detached a quantity of the molluscs.
They put them in a sort of net of hibiscus fiber, which Neb had manufactured, and which already contained food; they then continued to climb the coast
between the downs and the sea.
From time to time Harding consulted his watch, so as to be prepared in time for the solar observation, which had to be made exactly at midday.
All that part of the island was very barren as far as the point which closed Union Bay, and which had received the name of Cape South Mandible.
Nothing could be seen there but sand and shells, mingled with debris of lava. A few sea-birds frequented this desolate coast, gulls, great
albatrosses, as well as wild duck, for which Pencroft had a great fancy. He tried to knock some over with an arrow, but without result, for they
seldom perched, and he could not hit them on the wing.
This led the sailor to repeat to the engineer,--
"You see, captain, so long as we have not one or two fowling-pieces, we shall never get anything!"
"Doubtless, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "but it depends on you. Procure us some iron for the barrels, steel for the hammers, saltpeter. coal
and sulphur for powder, mercury and nitric acid for the fulminate, and lead for the shot, and the captain will make us first-rate guns."
"Oh!" replied the engineer, "we might, no doubt, find all these substances on the island, but a gun is a delicate instrument, and needs very
particular tools. However, we shall see later!"
"Why," cried Pencroft, "were we obliged to throw overboard all the weapons we had with us in the car, all our implements, even our pocket-
"But if we had not thrown them away, Pencroft, the balloon would have thrown us to the bottom of the sea!" said Herbert.
"What you say is true, my boy," replied the sailor.
Then passing to another idea,--"Think," said he, "how astounded Jonathan Forster and his companions must have been when, next morning, they found
the place empty, and the machine flown away!"
"I am utterly indifferent about knowing what they may have thought," said the reporter.
"It was all my idea, that!" said Pencroft, with a satisfied air.
"A splendid idea, Pencroft!" replied Gideon Spilett, laughing, "and which has placed us where we are."
"I would rather be here than in the hands of the Southerners," cried the sailor, "especially since the captain has been kind enough to come and
join us again."
"So would I, truly!" replied the reporter. "Besides, what do we want? Nothing."
"If that is not--everything!" replied Pencroft, laughing and shrugging his shoulders. "But, some day or other, we shall find means of going away!"
"Sooner, perhaps, than you imagine, my friends," remarked the engineer, "if Lincoln Island is but a medium distance from an inhabited island, or
from a continent. We shall know in an hour. I have not a map of the Pacific, but my memory has preserved a very clear recollection of its southern
part. The latitude which I obtained yesterday placed New Zealand to the west of Lincoln Island, and the coast of Chile to the east. But between these
two countries, there is a distance of at least six thousand miles. It has, therefore, to be determined what point in this great space the island
occupies, and this the longitude will give us presently, with a sufficient approximation, I hope."
"Is not the archipelago of the Pomoutous the nearest point to us in latitude?" asked Herbert.
"Yes," replied the engineer, "but the distance which separates us from it is more than twelve hundred miles."
"And that way?" asked Neb, who followed the conversation with extreme interest, pointing to the south.
"That way, nothing," replied Pencroft.
"Nothing, indeed," added the engineer.
"Well, Cyrus," asked the reporter, "if Lincoln Island is not more than two or three thousand miles from New Zealand or Chile?"
"Well," replied the engineer, "instead of building a house we will build a boat, and Master Pencroft shall be put in command--"
"Well then," cried the sailor, "I am quite ready to be captain--as soon as you can make a craft that's able to keep at sea!"
"We shall do it, if it is necessary," replied Cyrus Harding.
But while these men, who really hesitated at nothing, were talking, the hour approached at which the observation was to be made. What Cyrus
Harding was to do to ascertain the passage of the sun at the meridian of the island, without an instrument of any sort, Herbert could not guess.
The observers were then about six miles from the Chimneys, not far from that part of the downs in which the engineer had been found after his
enigmatical preservation. They halted at this place and prepared for breakfast, for it was half-past eleven. Herbert went for some fresh water from a
stream which ran near, and brought it back in a jug, which Neb had provided.
During these preparations Harding arranged everything for his astronomical observation. He chose a clear place on the shore, which the ebbing tide
had left perfectly level. This bed of fine sand was as smooth as ice, not a grain out of place. It was of little importance whether it was horizontal
or not, and it did not matter much whether the stick six feet high, which was planted there, rose perpendicularly. On the contrary, the engineer
inclined it towards the south, that is to say, in the direction of the coast opposite to the sun, for it must not be forgotten that the settlers in
Lincoln Island, as the island was situated in the Southern Hemisphere, saw the radiant planet describe its diurnal arc above the northern, and not
above the southern horizon.
Herbert now understood how the engineer was going to proceed to ascertain the culmination of the sun, that is to say its passing the meridian of
the island or, in other words, determine due south. It was by means of the shadow cast on the sand by the stick, a way which, for want of an
instrument, would give him a suitable approach to the result which he wished to obtain.
In fact, the moment when this shadow would reach its minimum of length would be exactly twelve o'clock, and it would be enough to watch the
extremity of the shadow, so as to ascertain the instant when, alter having successively diminished, it began to lengthen. By inclining his stick to
the side opposite to the sun, Cyrus Harding made the shadow longer, and consequently its modifications would be more easily ascertained. In fact, the
longer the needle of a dial is, the more easily can the movement of its point be followed. The shadow of the stick was nothing but the needle of a
dial. The moment had come, and Cyrus Harding knelt on the sand, and with little wooden pegs, which he stuck into the sand, he began to mark the
successive diminutions of the stick's shadow. His companions, bending over him, watched the operation with extreme interest. The reporter held his
chronometer in his hand, ready to tell the hour which it marked when the shadow would be at its shortest. Moreover, as Cyrus Harding was working on
the 16th of April, the day on which the true and the average time are identical, the hour given by Gideon Spilett would be the true hour then at
Washington, which would simplify the calculation. Meanwhile as the sun slowly advanced, the shadow slowly diminished, and when it appeared to Cyrus
Harding that it was beginning to increase, he asked, "What o'clock is it?"
"One minute past five," replied Gideon Spilett directly. They had now only to calculate the operation. Nothing could be easier. It could be seen
that there existed, in round numbers, a difference of five hours between the meridian of Washington and that of Lincoln Island, that is to say, it was
midday in Lincoln Island when it was already five o'clock in the evening in Washington. Now the sun, in its apparent movement round the earth,
traverses one degree in four minutes, or fifteen degrees an hour. Fifteen degrees multiplied by five hours give seventy-five degrees.
Then, since Washington is 770' 3' 11" as much as to say seventy-seven degrees counted from the meridian of Greenwich which the Americans take for
their starting-point for longitudes concurrently with the English--it followed that the island must be situated seventy-seven and seventy-five degrees
west of the meridian of Greenwich, that is to say, on the hundred and fifty-second degree of west longitude.
Cyrus Harding announced this result to his companions, and taking into consideration errors of observation, as he had done for the latitude, he
believed he could positively affirm that the position of Lincoln Island was between the thirty-fifth and the thirty-seventh parallel, and between the
hundred and fiftieth and the hundred and fifty-fifth meridian to the west of the meridian of Greenwich.
The possible fault which he attributed to errors in the observation was, it may be seen, of five degrees on both sides, which, at sixty miles to a
degree, would give an error of three hundred miles in latitude and longitude for the exact position.
But this error would not influence the determination which it was necessary to take. It was very evident that Lincoln Island was at such a
distance from every country or island that it would be too hazardous to attempt to reach one in a frail boat.
In fact, this calculation placed it at least twelve hundred miles from Tahiti and the islands of the archipelago of the Pomoutous, more than
eighteen hundred miles from New Zealand, and more than four thousand five hundred miles from the American coast!
And when Cyrus Harding consulted his memory, he could not remember in any way that such an island occupied, in that part of the Pacific, the
situation assigned to Lincoln Island.
The next day, the 17th of April, the sailor's first words were addressed to Gideon Spilett.
"Well, sir," he asked, "what shall we do to-day?"
"What the captain pleases," replied the reporter.
Till then the engineer's companions had been brickmakers and potters, now they were to become metallurgists.
The day before, after breakfast, they had explored as far as the point of Mandible Cape, seven miles distant from the Chimneys. There, the long
series of downs ended, and the soil had a volcanic appearance. There were no longer high cliffs as at Prospect Heights, but a strange and capricious
border which surrounded the narrow gulf between the two capes, formed of mineral matter, thrown up by the volcano. Arrived at this point the settlers
retraced their steps, and at nightfall entered the Chimneys; but they did not sleep before the question of knowing whether they could think of leaving
Lincoln Island or not was definitely settled.
The twelve hundred miles which separated the island from the Pomoutous Island was a considerable distance. A boat could not cross it, especially
at the approach of the bad season. Pencroft had expressly declared this. Now, to construct a simple boat even with the necessary tools, was a
difficult work, and the colonists not having tools they must begin by making hammers, axes, adzes, saws, augers, planes, etc., which would take some
time. It was decided, therefore, that they would winter at Lincoln Island, and that they would look for a more comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys,
in which to pass the winter months.
Before anything else could be done it was necessary to make the iron ore, of which the engineer had observed some traces in the northwest part of
the island, fit for use by converting it either into iron or into steel.
Metals are not generally found in the ground in a pure state. For the most part they are combined with oxygen or sulphur. Such was the case with
the two specimens which Cyrus Harding had brought back, one of magnetic iron, not carbonated, the other a pyrite, also called sulphuret of iron. It
was, therefore the first, the oxide of iron, which they must reduce with coal, that is to say, get rid of the oxygen, to obtain it in a pure state.
This reduction is made by subjecting the ore with coal to a high temperature, either by the rapid and easy Catalan method, which has the advantage of
transforming the ore into iron in a single operation, or by the blast furnace, which first smelts the ore, then changes it into iron, by carrying away
the three to four per cent. of coal, which is combined with it.
Now Cyrus Harding wanted iron, and he wished to obtain it as soon as possible. The ore which he had picked up was in itself very pure and rich. It
was the oxydulous iron, which is found in confused masses of a deep gray color; it gives a black dust, crystallized in the form of the regular
octahedron. Native lodestones consist of this ore, and iron of the first quality is made in Europe from that with which Sweden and Norway are so
abundantly supplied. Not far from this vein was the vein of coal already made use of by the settlers. The ingredients for the manufacture being close
together would greatly facilitate the treatment of the ore. This is the cause of the wealth of the mines in Great Britain, where the coal aids the
manufacture of the metal extracted from the same soil at the same time as itself.
"Then, captain," said Pencroft, "we are going to work iron ore?"
"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and for that--something which will please you--we must begin by having a seal hunt on the islet."
"A seal hunt!" cried the sailor, turning towards Gideon Spilett. "Are seals needed to make iron?"
"Since Cyrus has said so!" replied the reporter.
But the engineer had already left the Chimneys, and Pencroft prepared for the seal hunt, without having received any other explanation.
Cyrus Harding, Herbert, Gideon Spilett, Neb, and the sailor were soon collected on the shore, at a place where the channel left a ford passable at
low tide. The hunters could therefore traverse it without getting wet higher than the knee.
Harding then put his foot on the islet for the first, and his companions for the second time.
On their landing some hundreds of penguins looked fearlessly at them. The hunters, armed with sticks, could have killed them easily, but they were
not guilty of such useless massacre, as it was important not to frighten the seals, who were lying on the sand several cable lengths off. They also
respected certain innocent-looking birds, whose wings were reduced to the state of stumps, spread out like fins, ornamented with feathers of a scaly
appearance. The settlers, therefore, prudently advanced towards the north point, walking over ground riddled with little holes, which formed nests for
the sea-birds. Towards the extremity of the islet appeared great black heads floating just above the water, having exactly the appearance of rocks in
These were the seals which were to be captured. It was necessary, however, first to allow them to land, for with their close, short hair, and
their fusiform conformation, being excellent swimmers, it is difficult to catch them in the sea, while on land their short, webbed feet prevent their
having more than a slow, waddling movement.
Pencroft knew the habits of these creatures, and he advised waiting till they were stretched on the sand, when the sun, before long, would send
them to sleep. They must then manage to cut off their retreat and knock them on the head.
The hunters, having concealed themselves behind the rocks, waited silently.
An hour passed before the seals came to play on the sand. They could count half a dozen. Pencroft and Herbert then went round the point of the
islet, so as to take them in the rear, and cut off their retreat. During this time Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and Neb, crawling behind the rocks, glided
towards the future scene of combat.
All at once the tall figure of the sailor appeared. Pencroft shouted. The engineer and his two companions threw themselves between the sea and the
seals. Two of the animals soon lay dead on the sand, but the rest regained the sea in safety.
"Here are the seals required, captain!" said the sailor, advancing towards the engineer.
"Capital," replied Harding. "We will make bellows of them!"
"Bellows!" cried Pencroft. "Well! these are lucky seals!"
It was, in fact, a blowing-machine, necessary for the treatment of the ore that the engineer wished to manufacture with the skins of the
amphibious creatures. They were of a medium size, for their length did not exceed six feet. They resembled a dog about the head.
As it was useless to burden themselves with the weight of both the animals, Neb and Pencroft resolved to skin them on the spot, while Cyrus
Harding and the reporter continued to explore the islet.
The sailor and the Negro cleverly performed the operation, and three hours afterwards Cyrus Harding had at his disposal two seals' skins, which he
intended to use in this state, without subjecting them to any tanning process.
The settlers waited till the tide was again low, and crossing the channel they entered the Chimneys.
The skins had then to be stretched on a frame of wood and sewn by means of fibers so as to preserve the air without allowing too much to escape.
Cyrus Harding had nothing but the two steel blades from Top's collar, and yet he was so clever, and his companions aided him with so much
intelligence, that three days afterwards the little colony's stock of tools was augmented by a blowing-machine, destined to inject the air into the
midst of the ore when it should be subjected to heat--an indispensable condition to the success of the operation.
On the morning of the 20th of April began the "metallic period," as the reporter called it in his notes. The engineer had decided, as has been
said, to operate near the veins both of coal and ore. Now, according to his observations, these veins were situated at the foot of the northeast spurs
of Mount Franklin, that is to say, a distance of six miles from their home. It was impossible, therefore, to return every day to the Chimneys, and it
was agreed that the little colony should camp under a hut of branches, so that the important operation could be followed night and day.
This settled, they set out in the morning. Neb and Pencroft dragged the bellows on a hurdle; also a quantity of vegetables and animals, which they
besides could renew on the way.
The road led through Jacamar Wood, which they traversed obliquely from southeast to northwest, and in the thickest part. It was necessary to beat
a path, which would in the future form the most direct road to Prospect Heights and Mount Franklin. The trees, belonging to the species already
discovered, were magnificent. Herbert found some new ones, among others some which Pencroft called "sham leeks"; for, in spite of their size, they
were of the same liliaceous family as the onion, chive, shallot, or asparagus. These trees produce ligneous roots which, when cooked, are excellent;
from them, by fermentation, a very agreeable liquor is made. They therefore made a good store of the roots.
The journey through the wood was long; it lasted the whole day, and so allowed plenty of time for examining the flora and fauna. Top, who took
special charge of the fauna, ran through the grass and brushwood, putting up all sorts of game. Herbert and Gideon Spilett killed two kangaroos with
bows and arrows, and also an animal which strongly resembled both a hedgehog and an ant-eater. It was like the first because it rolled itself into a
ball, and bristled with spines, and the second because it had sharp claws, a long slender snout which terminated in a bird's beak, and an extendible
tongue, covered with little thorns which served to hold the insects.
"And when it is in the pot," asked Pencroft naturally, "what will it be like?"
"An excellent piece of beef," replied Herbert.
"We will not ask more from it," replied the sailor,
During this excursion they saw several wild boars, which however, did not offer to attack the little band, and it appeared as if they would not
meet with any dangerous beasts; when, in a thick part of the wood, the reporter thought he saw, some paces from him, among the lower branches of a
tree, an animal which he took for a bear, and which he very tranquilly began to draw. Happily for Gideon Spilett, the animal in question did not
belong to the redoubtable family of the plantigrades. It was only a koala, better known under the name of the sloth, being about the size of a large
dog, and having stiff hair of a dirty color, the paws armed with strong claws, which enabled it to climb trees and feed on the leaves. Having
identified the animal, which they did not disturb, Gideon Spilett erased "bear" from the title of his sketch, putting koala in its place, and the
journey was resumed.
At five o'clock in the evening, Cyrus Harding gave the signal to halt. They were now outside the forest, at the beginning of the powerful spurs
which supported Mount Franklin towards the west. At a distance of some hundred feet flowed the Red Creek, and consequently plenty of fresh water was
within their reach.
The camp was soon organized. In less than an hour, on the edge of the forest, among the trees, a hut of branches interlaced with creepers, and
pasted over with clay, offered a tolerable shelter. Their geological researches were put off till the next day. Supper was prepared, a good fire
blazed before the hut, the roast turned, and at eight o'clock, while one of the settlers watched to keep up the fire, in case any wild beasts should
prowl in the neighborhood, the others slept soundly.
The next day, the 21st of April, Cyrus Harding accompanied by Herbert, went to look for the soil of ancient formation, on which he had already
discovered a specimen of ore. They found the vein above ground, near the source of the creek, at the foot of one of the northeastern spurs. This ore,
very rich in iron, enclosed in its fusible veinstone, was perfectly suited to the mode of reduction which the engineer intended to employ; that is,
the Catalan method, but simplified, as it is used in Corsica. In fact, the Catalan method, properly so called, requires the construction of kilns and
crucibles, in which the ore and the coal, placed in alternate layers, are transformed and reduced, But Cyrus Harding intended to economize these
constructions, and wished simply to form, with the ore and the coal, a cubic mass, to the center of which he would direct the wind from his bellows.
Doubtless, it was the proceeding employed by Tubalcain, and the first metallurgists of the inhabited world. Now that which had succeeded with the
grandson of Adam, and which still yielded good results in countries which in ore and fuel, could not but succeed with the settlers in Lincoln Island.
The coal, as well as the ore, was collected without trouble on the surface of the ground. They first broke the ore into little pieces, and
cleansed them with the hand from the impurities which soiled their surface. Then coal and ore were arranged in heaps and in successive layers, as the
charcoal-burner does with the wood which he wishes to carbonize. In this way, under the influence of the air projected by the blowing-machine, the
coal would be transformed into carbonic acid, then into oxide of carbon, its use being to reduce the oxide of iron, that is to say, to rid it of the
Thus the engineer proceeded. The bellows of sealskin, furnished at its extremity with a nozzle of clay, which had been previously fabricated in
the pottery kiln, was established near the heap of ore. Using the mechanism which consisted of a frame, cords of fiber and counterpoise, he threw into
the mass an abundance of air, which by raising the temperature also concurred with the chemical transformation to produce in time pure iron.
The operation was difficult. All the patience, all the ingenuity of the settlers was needed; but at last it succeeded, and the result was a lump
of iron, reduced to a spongy state, which it was necessary to shingle and fagot, that is to say, to forge so as to expel from it the liquefied
veinstone. These amateur smiths had, of course, no hammer; but they were in no worse a situation than the first metallurgist, and therefore did what,
no doubt, he had to do.
A handle was fixed to the first lump, and was used as a hammer to forge the second on a granite anvil, and thus they obtained a coarse but useful
metal. At length, after many trials and much fatigue, on the 25th of April several bars of iron were forged, and transformed into tools, crowbars,
pincers, pickaxes, spades, etc., which Pencroft and Neb declared to be real jewels. But the metal was not yet in its most serviceable state, that is,
of steel. Now steel is a combination of iron and coal, which is extracted, either from the liquid ore, by taking from it the excess of coal, or from
the iron by adding to it the coal which was wanting. The first, obtained by the decarburation of the metal, gives natural or puddled steel; the
second, produced by the carburation of the iron, gives steel of cementation.
It was the last which Cyrus Harding intended to forge, as he possessed iron in a pure state. He succeeded by heating the metal with powdered coal
in a crucible which had previously been manufactured from clay suitable for the purpose.
He then worked this steel, which is malleable both when hot or cold, with the hammer. Neb and Pencroft, cleverly directed, made hatchets, which,
heated red-hot, and plunged suddenly into cold water, acquired an excellent temper.
Other instruments, of course roughly fashioned, were also manufactured; blades for planes, axes, hatchets, pieces of steel to be transformed into
saws, chisels; then iron for spades, pickaxes, hammers, nails, etc. At last, on the 5th of May, the metallic period ended, the smiths returned to the
Chimneys, and new work would soon authorize them to take a fresh title.
It was the 6th of May, a day which corresponds to the 6th of November in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. The sky had been obscured for
some days, and it was of importance to make preparations for the winter. However, the temperature was not as yet much lower, and a centigrade
thermometer, transported to Lincoln Island, would still have marked an average of ten to twelve degrees above zero. This was not surprising, since
Lincoln Island, probably situated between the thirty-fifth and fortieth parallel, would be subject, in the Southern Hemisphere, to the same climate as
Sicily or Greece in the Northern Hemisphere. But as Greece and Sicily have severe cold, producing snow and ice, so doubtless would Lincoln Island in
the severest part of the winter. and it was advisable to provide against it.
In any case if cold did not yet threaten them, the rainy season would begin, and on this lonely island, exposed to all the fury of the elements,
in mid-ocean, bad weather would be frequent, and probably terrible. The question of a more comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys must therefore be
seriously considered and promptly resolved on.
Pencroft, naturally, had some predilection for the retreat which he had discovered, but he well understood that another must be found. The
Chimneys had been already visited by the sea, under circumstances which are known, and it would not do to be exposed again to a similar accident.
"Besides," added Cyrus Harding, who this day was talking of these things with his companions, "we have some precautions to take."
"Why? The island is not inhabited," said the reporter.
"That is probable," replied the engineer, "although we have not yet explored the interior; but if no human beings are found, I fear that dangerous
animals may abound. It is necessary to guard against a possible attack, so that we shall not be obliged to watch every night, or to keep up a fire.
And then, my friends, we must foresee everything. We are here in a part of the Pacific often frequented by Malay pirates--"
"What!" said Herbert, "at such a distance from land?"
"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer. "These pirates are bold sailors as well as formidable enemies, and we must take measures accordingly."
"Well," replied Pencroft, "we will fortify ourselves against savages with two legs as well as against savages with four. But, captain, will it not
be best to explore every part of the island before undertaking anything else?"
"That would be best," added Gideon Spilett.
"Who knows if we might not find on the opposite side one of the caverns which we have searched for in vain here?"
"That is true," replied the engineer, "but you forget, my friends, that it will be necessary to establish ourselves in the neighborhood of a
watercourse, and that, from the summit of Mount Franklin, we could not see towards the west, either stream or river. Here, on the contrary, we are
placed between the Mercy and Lake Grant, an advantage which must not be neglected. And, besides, this side, looking towards the east, is not exposed
as the other is to the trade-winds, which in this hemisphere blow from the northwest."
"Then, captain," replied the sailor, "let us build a house on the edge of the lake. Neither bricks nor tools are wanting now. After having been
brickmakers, potters, smelters, and smiths, we shall surely know how to be masons!"
"Yes, my friend; but before coming to any decision we must consider the matter thoroughly. A natural dwelling would spare us much work, and would
be a surer retreat, for it would be as well defended against enemies from the interior as those from outside."
"That is true, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "but we have already examined all that mass of granite, and there is not a hole, not a cranny!"
"No, not one!" added Pencroft. "Ah, if we were able to dig out a dwelling in that cliff, at a good height, so as to be out of the reach of harm,
that would be capital! I can see that on the front which looks seaward, five or six rooms--"
"With windows to light them!" said Herbert, laughing.
"And a staircase to climb up to them!" added Neb.
"You are laughing," cried the sailor, "and why? What is there impossible in what I propose? Haven't we got pickaxes and spades? Won't Captain
Harding be able to make powder to blow up the mine? Isn't it true, captain, that you will make powder the very day we want it?"
Cyrus Harding listened to the enthusiastic Pencroft developing his fanciful projects. To attack this mass of granite, even by a mine, was
Herculean work, and it was really vexing that nature could not help them at their need. But the engineer did not reply to the sailor except by
proposing to examine the cliff more attentively, from the mouth of the river to the angle which terminated it on the north.
They went out, therefore, and the exploration was made with extreme care, over an extent of nearly two miles. But in no place in the bare,
straight cliff, could any cavity be found. The nests of the rock pigeons which fluttered at its summit were only, in reality, holes bored at the very
top, and on the irregular edge of the granite.
It was a provoking circumstance, and as to attacking this cliff, either with pickaxe or with powder, so as to effect a sufficient excavation, it
was not to be thought of. It so happened that, on all this part of the shore, Pencroft had discovered the only habitable shelter, that is to say, the
Chimneys, which now had to be abandoned.
The exploration ended, the colonists found themselves at the north angle of the cliff, where it terminated in long slopes which died away on the
shore. From this place, to its extreme limit in the west, it only formed a sort of declivity, a thick mass of stones, earth, and sand, bound together
by plants, bushes, and grass inclined at an angle of only forty-five degrees. Clumps of trees grew on these slopes, which were also carpeted with
thick grass. But the vegetation did not extend far, and a long, sandy plain, which began at the foot of these slopes, reached to the beach.
Cyrus Harding thought, not without reason, that the overplus of the lake must overflow on this side. The excess of water furnished by the Red
Creek must also escape by some channel or other. Now the engineer had not yet found this channel on any part of the shore already explored, that is to
say, from the mouth of the stream on the west of Prospect Heights.
The engineer now proposed to his companions to climb the slope, and to return to the Chimneys by the heights, while exploring the northern and
eastern shores of the lake. The proposal was accepted, and in a few minutes Herbert and Neb were on the upper plateau. Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett,
and Pencroft followed with more sedate steps.
The beautiful sheet of water glittered through the trees under the rays of the sun. In this direction the country was charming. The eye feasted on
the groups of trees. Some old trunks, bent with age, showed black against the verdant grass which covered the ground. Crowds of brilliant cockatoos
screamed among the branches, moving prisms, hopping from one bough to another.
The settlers instead of going directly to the north bank of the lake, made a circuit round the edge of the plateau, so as to join the mouth of the
creek on its left bank. It was a detour of more than a mile and a half. Walking was easy, for the trees widely spread, left a considerable space
between them. The fertile zone evidently stopped at this point, and vegetation would be less vigorous in the part between the course of the Creek and
Cyrus Harding and his companions walked over this new ground with great care. Bows, arrows, and sticks with sharp iron points were their only
weapons. However, no wild beast showed itself, and it was probable that these animals frequented rather the thick forests in the south; but the
settlers had the disagreeable surprise of seeing Top stop before a snake of great size, measuring from fourteen to fifteen feet in length. Neb killed
it by a blow from his stick. Cyrus Harding examined the reptile, and declared it not venomous, for it belonged to that species of diamond serpents
which the natives of New South Wales rear. But it was possible that others existed whose bite was mortal such as the deaf vipers with forked tails,
which rise up under the feet, or those winged snakes, furnished with two ears, which enable them to proceed with great rapidity. Top, the first moment
of surprise over, began a reptile chase with such eagerness, that they feared for his safety. His master called him back directly.
The mouth of the Red Creek, at the place where it entered into the lake, was soon reached. The explorers recognized on the opposite shore the
point which they had visited on their descent from Mount Franklin. Cyrus Harding ascertained that the flow of water into it from the creek was
considerable. Nature must therefore have provided some place for the escape of the overplus. This doubtless formed a fall, which, if it could be
discovered, would be of great use.
The colonists, walking apart, but not straying far from each other, began to skirt the edge of the lake, which was very steep. The water appeared
to be full of fish, and Pencroft resolved to make some fishing-rods, so as to try and catch some.
The northeast point was first to be doubled. It might have been supposed that the discharge of water was at this place, for the extremity of the
lake was almost on a level with the edge of the plateau. But no signs of this were discovered, and the colonists continued to explore the bank, which,
after a slight bend, descended parallel to the shore.
On this side the banks were less woody, but clumps of trees, here and there, added to the picturesqueness of the country. Lake Grant was viewed
from thence in all its extent, and no breath disturbed the surface of its waters. Top, in beating the bushes, put up flocks of birds of different
kinds, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert saluted with arrows. Orie was hit by the lad, and fell into some marshy grass. Top rushed forward, and brought
a beautiful swimming bird, of a slate color, short beak, very developed frontal plate, and wings edged with white. It was a "coot," the size of a
large partridge, belonging to the group of macrodactyls which form the transition between the order of wading birds and that of palmipeds. Sorry game,
in truth, and its flavor is far from pleasant. But Top was not so particular in these things as his masters, and it was agreed that the coot should be
for his supper.
The settlers were now following the eastern bank of the lake, and they would not be long in reaching the part which they already knew. The
engineer was much surprised at not seeing any indication of the discharge of water. The reporter and the sailor talked with him, and he could not
conceal his astonishment.
At this moment Top, who had been very quiet till then, gave signs of agitation. The intelligent animal went backwards and forwards on the shore,
stopped suddenly, and looked at the water, one paw raised, as if he was pointing at some invisible game; then he barked furiously, and was suddenly
Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions had at first paid any attention to Top's behavior; but the dog's barking soon became so frequent that the
engineer noticed it.
"What is there, Top?" he asked.
The dog bounded towards his master, seeming to be very uneasy, and then rushed again towards the bank. Then, all at once, he plunged into the
"Here, Top!" cried Cyrus Harding, who did not like his dog to venture into the treacherous water.
"What's happening down there?" asked Pencroft, examining the surface of the lake.
"Top smells some amphibious creature," replied Herbert.
"An alligator, perhaps," said the reporter.
"I do not think so," replied Harding. "Alligators are only met with in regions less elevated in latitude."
Meanwhile Top had returned at his master's call, and had regained the shore: but he could not stay quiet; he plunged in among the tall grass, and
guided by instinct, he appeared to follow some invisible being which was slipping along under the surface of the water. However the water was calm;
not a ripple disturbed its surface. Several times the settlers stopped on the bank, and observed it attentively. Nothing appeared. There was some
The engineer was puzzled.
"Let us pursue this exploration to the end," said he.
Half an hour after they had all arrived at the southeast angle of the lake, on Prospect Heights. At this point the examination of the banks of the
lake was considered finished, and yet the engineer had not been able to discover how and where the waters were discharged. "There is no doubt this
overflow exists," he repeated, and since it is not visible it must go through the granite cliff at the west!"
"But what importance do you attach to knowing that, my dear Cyrus?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Considerable importance," replied the engineer; "for if it flows through the cliff there is probably some cavity, which it would be easy to
render habitable after turning away the water."
"But is it not possible, captain, that the water flows away at the bottom of the lake," said Herbert, "and that it reaches the sea by some
"That might be," replied the engineer, "and should it be so we shall be obliged to build our house ourselves, since nature has not done it for
The colonists were about to begin to traverse the plateau to return to the Chimneys, when Top gave new signs of agitation. He barked with fury,
and before his master could restrain him, he had plunged a second time into the lake.
All ran towards the bank. The dog was already more than twenty feet off, and Cyrus was calling him back, when an enormous head emerged from the
water, which did not appear to be deep in that place.
Herbert recognized directly the species of amphibian to which the tapering head, with large eyes, and adorned with long silky mustaches, belonged.
"A lamantin!" he cried.
It was not a lamantin, but one of that species of the order of cetaceans, which bear the name of the "dugong," for its nostrils were open at the
upper part of its snout. The enormous animal rushed on the dog, who tried to escape by returning towards the shore. His master could do nothing to
save him, and before Gideon Spilett or Herbert thought of bending their bows, Top, seized by the dugong, had disappeared beneath the water.
Neb, his iron-tipped spear in his hand, wished to go to Top's help, and attack the dangerous animal in its own element.
"No, Neb," said the engineer, restraining his courageous servant.
Meanwhile, a struggle was going on beneath the water, an inexplicable struggle, for in his situation Top could not possibly resist; and judging by
the bubbling of the surface it must be also a terrible struggle, and could not but terminate in the death of the dog! But suddenly, in the middle of a
foaming circle, Top reappeared. Thrown in the air by some unknown power, he rose ten feet above the surface of the lake, fell again into the midst of
the agitated waters, and then soon gained the shore, without any severe wounds, miraculously saved.
Cyrus Harding and his companions could not understand it. What was not less inexplicable was that the struggle still appeared to be going on.
Doubtless, the dugong, attacked by some powerful animal, after having released the dog, was fighting on its own account. But it did not last long. The
water became red with blood, and the body of the dugong, emerging from the sheet of scarlet which spread around, soon stranded on a little beach at
the south angle of the lake. The colonists ran towards it. The dugong was dead. It was an enormous animal, fifteen or sixteen feet long, and must have
weighed from three to four thousand pounds. At its neck was a wound, which appeared to have been produced by a sharp blade.
What could the amphibious creature have been, who, by this terrible blow had destroyed the formidable dugong? No one could tell, and much
interested in this incident, Harding and his companions returned to the Chimneys.
Top is saved from the dugong
The next day, the 7th of May, Harding and Gideon Spilett, leaving Neb to prepare breakfast, climbed Prospect Heights, while Herbert and Pencroft
ascended by the river, to renew their store of wood.
The engineer and the reporter soon reached the little beach on which the dugong had been stranded. Already flocks of birds had attacked the mass
of flesh, and had to be driven away with stones, for Cyrus wished to keep the fat for the use of the colony. As to the animal's flesh it would furnish
excellent food, for in the islands of the Malay Archipelago and elsewhere, it is especially reserved for the table of the native princes. But that was
At this moment Cyrus Harding had other thoughts. He was much interested in the incident of the day before. He wished to penetrate the mystery of
that submarine combat, and to ascertain what monster could have given the dugong so strange a wound. He remained at the edge of the lake, looking,
observing; but nothing appeared under the tranquil waters, which sparkled in the first rays of the rising sun.
At the beach, on which lay the body of the dugong, the water was tolerably shallow, but from this point the bottom of the lake sloped gradually,
and it was probable that the depth was considerable in the center. The lake might be considered as a large center basin, which was filled by the water
from the Red Creek.
"Well, Cyrus," said the reporter, "there seems to be nothing suspicious in this water."
"No, my dear Spilett," replied the engineer, "and I really do not know how to account for the incident of yesterday."
"I acknowledge," returned Spilett, "that the wound given this creature is, at least, very strange, and I cannot explain either how Top was so
vigorously cast up out of the water. One could have thought that a powerful arm hurled him up, and that the same arm with a dagger killed the dugong!"
"Yes," replied the engineer, who had become thoughtful; "there is something there that I cannot understand. But do you better understand either,
my dear Spilett, in what way I was saved myself--how I was drawn from the waves, and carried to the downs? No! Is it not true? Now, I feel sure that
there is some mystery there, which, doubtless, we shall discover some day. Let us observe, but do not dwell on these singular incidents before our
companions. Let us keep our remarks to ourselves, and continue our work."
It will be remembered that the engineer had not as yet been able to discover the place where the surplus water escaped, but he knew it must exist
somewhere. He was much surprised to see a strong current at this place. By throwing in some bits of wood he found that it set towards the southern
angle. He followed the current, and arrived at the south point of the lake.
There was there a sort of depression in the water, as if it was suddenly lost in some fissure in the ground.
Harding listened; placing his ear to the level of the lake, he very distinctly heard the noise of a subterranean fall.
"There," said he, rising, "is the discharge of the water; there, doubtless, by a passage in the granite cliff, it joins the sea, through cavities
which we can use to our profit. Well, I can find it!"
The engineer cut a long branch, stripped it of its leaves, and plunging it into the angle between the two banks, he found that there was a large
hole one foot only beneath the surface of the water. This hole was the opening so long looked for in vain, and the force of the current was such that
the branch was torn from the engineer's hands and disappeared.
"There is no doubt about it now," repeated Harding. "There is the outlet, and I will lay it open to view!"
"How?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"By lowering the level of the water of the lake three feet." "And how will you lower the level?"
"By opening another outlet larger than this."
"At what place, Cyrus?"
"At the part of the bank nearest the coast."
"But it is a mass of granite!" observed Spilett.
"Well," replied Cyrus Harding, "I will blow up the granite, and the water escaping, will subside, so as to lay bare this opening--"
"And make a waterfall, by falling on to the beach," added the reporter.
"A fall that we shall make use of!" replied Cyrus. "Come, come!"
The engineer hurried away his companion, whose confidence in Harding was such that he did not doubt the enterprise would succeed. And yet, how was
this granite wall to be opened without powder, and with imperfect instruments? Was not this work upon which the engineer was so bent above their
When Harding and the reporter entered the Chimneys, they found Herbert and Pencroft unloading their raft of wood.
"The woodmen have just finished, captain." said the sailor, laughing, "and when you want masons--"
"Masons,--no, but chemists," replied the engineer.
"Yes," added the reporter, "we are going to blow up the island--"
"Blow up the island?" cried Pencroft.
"Part of it, at least," replied Spilett.
"Listen to me, my friends," said the engineer. And he made known to them the result of his observations.
According to him, a cavity, more or less considerable, must exist in the mass of granite which supported Prospect Heights, and he intended to
penetrate into it. To do this, the opening through which the water rushed must first be cleared, and the level lowered by making a larger outlet.
Therefore an explosive substance must be manufactured, which would make a deep trench in some other part of the shore. This was what Harding was going
to attempt with the minerals which nature placed at his disposal.
It is useless to say with what enthusiasm all, especially Pencroft, received this project. To employ great means, open the granite, create a
cascade, that suited the sailor. And he would just as soon be a chemist as a mason or bootmaker, since the engineer wanted chemicals. He would be all
that they liked, "even a professor of dancing and deportment," said he to Neb, if that was ever necessary.
Neb and Pencroft were first of all told to extract the grease from the dugong, and to keep the flesh, which was destined for food. Such perfect
confidence had they in the engineer, that they set out directly, without even asking a question. A few minutes after them, Cyrus Harding, Herbert, and
Gideon Spilett, dragging the hurdle, went towards the vein of coals, where those shistose pyrites abound which are met with in the most recent
transition soil, and of which Harding had already found a specimen. All the day being employed in carrying a quantity of these stones to the Chimneys,
by evening they had several tons.
The next day, the 8th of May, the engineer began his manipulations. These shistose pyrites being composed principally of coal, flint, alumina, and
sulphuret of iron--the latter in excess--it was necessary to separate the sulphuret of iron, and transform it into sulphate as rapidly as possible.
The sulphate obtained, the sulphuric acid could then be extracted.
This was the object to be attained. Sulphuric acid is one of the agents the most frequently employed, and the manufacturing importance of a nation
can be measured by the consumption which is made of it. This acid would later be of great use to the settlers, in the manufacturing of candles,
tanning skins, etc., but this time the engineer reserved it for another use.
Cyrus Harding chose, behind the Chimneys, a site where the ground was perfectly level. On this ground he placed a layer of branches and chopped
wood, on which were piled some pieces of shistose pyrites, buttressed one against the other, the whole being covered with a thin layer of pyrites,
previously reduced to the size of a nut.
This done, they set fire to the wood, the heat was communicated to the shist, which soon kindled, since it contains coal and sulphur. Then new
layers of bruised pyrites were arranged so as to form an immense heap, the exterior of which was covered with earth and grass, several air-holes being
left, as if it was a stack of wood which was to be carbonized to make charcoal.
They then left the transformation to complete itself, and it would not take less than ten or twelve days for the sulphuret of iron to be changed
to sulphate of iron and the alumina into sulphate of alumina, two equally soluble substances, the others, flint, burnt coal, and cinders, not being
While this chemical work was going on, Cyrus Harding proceeded with other operations, which were pursued with more than zeal,--it was eagerness.
Neb and Pencroft had taken away the fat from the dugong, and placed it in large earthen pots. It was then necessary to separate the glycerine from
the fat by saponifying it. Now, to obtain this result, it had to be treated either with soda or lime. In fact, one or other of these substances, after
having attacked the fat, would form a soap by separating the glycerine, and it was just this glycerine which the engineer wished to obtain. There was
no want of lime, only treatment by lime would give calcareous soap, insoluble, and consequently useless, while treatment by soda would furnish, on the
contrary, a soluble soap, which could be put to domestic use. Now, a practical man, like Cyrus Harding, would rather try to obtain soda. Was this
difficult? No; for marine plants abounded on the shore, glass-wort, ficoides, and all those fucaceae which form wrack. A large quantity of these
plants was collected, first dried, then burnt in holes in the open air. The combustion of these plants was kept up for several days, and the result
was a compact gray mass, which has been long known under the name of "natural soda."
This obtained, the engineer treated the fat with soda, which gave both a soluble soap and that neutral substance, glycerine.
But this was not all. Cyrus Harding still needed, in view of his future preparation, another substance, nitrate of potash, which is better known
under the name of salt niter, or of saltpeter.
Cyrus Harding could have manufactured this substance by treating the carbonate of potash, which would be easily extracted from the cinders of the
vegetables, by azotic acid. But this acid was wanting, and he would have been in some difficulty, if nature had not happily furnished the saltpeter,
without giving them any other trouble than that of picking it up. Herbert found a vein of it at the foot of Mount Franklin, and they had nothing to do
but purify this salt.
These different works lasted a week. They were finished before the transformation of the sulphuret into sulphate of iron had been accomplished.
During the following days the settlers had time to construct a furnace of bricks of a particular arrangement, to serve for the distillation of the
sulphate or iron when it had been obtained. All this was finished about the 18th of May, nearly at the time when the chemical transformation
terminated. Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, skillfully directed by the engineer, had become most clever workmen. Before all masters,
necessity is the one most listened to, and who teaches the best.
When the heap of pyrites had been entirely reduced by fire, the result of the operation, consisting of sulphate of iron, sulphate of alumina,
flint, remains of coal, and cinders was placed in a basinful of water. They stirred this mixture, let it settle, then decanted it, and obtained a
clear liquid containing in solution sulphate of iron and sulphate of alumina, the other matters remaining solid, since they are insoluble. Lastly,
this liquid being partly evaporated, crystals of sulphate of iron were deposited, and the not evaporated liquid, which contained the sulphate of
alumina, was thrown away.
Cyrus Harding had now at his disposal a large quantity of these sulphate of iron crystals, from which the sulphuric acid had to be extracted. The
making of sulphuric acid is a very expensive manufacture. Considerable works are necessary--a special set of tools, an apparatus of platina, leaden
chambers, unassailable by the acid, and in which the transformation is performed, etc. The engineer had none of these at his disposal, but he knew
that, in Bohemia especially, sulphuric acid is manufactured by very simple means, which have also the advantage of producing it to a superior degree
of concentration. It is thus that the acid known under the name of Nordhausen acid is made.
To obtain sulphuric acid, Cyrus Harding had only one operation to make, to calcine the sulphate of iron crystals in a closed vase, so that the
sulphuric acid should distil in vapor, which vapor, by condensation, would produce the acid.
The crystals were placed in pots, and the heat from the furnace would distil the sulphuric acid. The operation was successfully completed, and on
the 20th of May, twelve days after commencing it, the engineer was the possessor of the agent which later he hoped to use in so many different ways.
Now, why did he wish for this agent? Simply to produce azotic acid; and that was easy, since saltpeter, attacked by sulphuric acid, gives azotic,
or nitric, acid by distillation.
But, after all, how was he going to employ this azotic acid? His companions were still ignorant of this, for he had not informed them of the
result at which he aimed.
However, the engineer had nearly accomplished his purpose, and by a last operation he would procure the substance which had given so much trouble.
Taking some azotic acid, he mixed it with glycerine, which had been previously concentrated by evaporation, subjected to the water-bath, and he
obtained, without even employing a refrigerant mixture, several pints of an oily yellow mixture.
This last operation Cyrus Harding had made alone, in a retired place, at a distance from the Chimneys, for he feared the danger of an explosion,
and when he showed a bottle of this liquid to his friends, he contented himself with saying,--
"Here is nitro-glycerine!"
It was really this terrible production, of which the explosive power is perhaps tenfold that of ordinary powder, and which has already caused so
many accidents. However, since a way has been found to transform it into dynamite, that is to say, to mix with it some solid substance, clay or sugar,
porous enough to hold it, the dangerous liquid has been used with some security. But dynamite was not yet known at the time when the settlers worked
on Lincoln Island.
"And is it that liquid that is going to blow up our rocks?" said Pencroft incredulously.
"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and this nitro-glycerine will produce so much the more effect, as the granite is extremely hard, and will
oppose a greater resistance to the explosion."
"And when shall we see this, captain?"
"To-morrow, as soon as we have dug a hole for the mine, replied the engineer.
The next day, the 21st of May, at daybreak, the miners went to the point which formed the eastern shore of Lake Grant, and was only five hundred
feet from the coast. At this place, the plateau inclined downwards from the waters, which were only restrained by their granite case. Therefore, if
this case was broken, the water would escape by the opening and form a stream, which, flowing over the inclined surface of the plateau, would rush on
to the beach. Consequently, the level of the lake would be greatly lowered, and the opening where the water escaped would be exposed, which was their
Under the engineer's directions, Pencroft, armed with a pickaxe, which he handled skillfully and vigorously, attacked the granite. The hole was
made on the point of the shore, slanting, so that it should meet a much lower level than that of the water of the lake. In this way the explosive
force, by scattering the rock, would open a large place for the water to rush out.
The work took some time, for the engineer, wishing to produce a great effect, intended to devote not less than seven quarts of nitro-glycerine to
the operation. But Pencroft, relieved by Neb, did so well, that towards four o'clock in the evening, the mine was finished.
Now the question of setting fire to the explosive substance was raised. Generally, nitro-glycerine is ignited by caps of fulminate, which in
bursting cause the explosion. A shock is therefore needed to produce the explosion, for, simply lighted, this substance would burn without exploding.
Cyrus Harding could certainly have fabricated a percussion cap. In default of fulminate, he could easily obtain a substance similar to guncotton,
since he had azotic acid at his disposal. This substance, pressed in a cartridge, and introduced among the nitro-glycerine, would burst by means of a
fuse, and cause the explosion.
But Cyrus Harding knew that nitro-glycerine would explode by a shock. He resolved to employ this means, and try another way, if this did not
In fact, the blow of a hammer on a few drops of nitro-glycerine, spread out on a hard surface, was enough to create an explosion. But the operator
could not be there to give the blow, without becoming a victim to the operation. Harding, therefore, thought of suspending a mass of iron, weighing
several pounds, by means of a fiber, to an upright just above the mine. Another long fiber, previously impregnated with sulphur, was attached to the
middle of the first, by one end, while the other lay on the ground several feet distant from the mine. The second fiber being set on fire, it would
burn till it reached the first. This catching fire in its turn, would break, and the mass of iron would fall on the nitro-glycerine. This apparatus
being then arranged, the engineer, after having sent his companions to a distance, filled the hole, so that the nitro-glycerine was on a level with
the opening; then he threw a few drops of it on the surface of the rock, above which the mass of iron was already suspended.
This done, Harding lit the end of the sulphured fiber, and leaving the place, he returned with his companions to the Chimneys.
The fiber was intended to burn five and twenty minutes, and, in fact, five and twenty minutes afterwards a most tremendous explosion was heard.
The island appeared to tremble to its very foundation. Stones were projected in the air as if by the eruption of a volcano. The shock produced by the
displacing of the air was such, that the rocks of the Chimneys shook. The settlers, although they were more than two miles from the mine, were thrown
on the ground.
They rose, climbed the plateau, and ran towards the place where the bank of the lake must have been shattered by the explosion.
A cheer escaped them! A large rent was seen in the granite! A rapid stream of water rushed foaming across the plateau and dashed down a height of
three hundred feet on to the beach!
Cyrus Harding's project had succeeded, but, according to his usual habit he showed no satisfaction; with closed lips and a fixed look, he remained
motionless. Herbert was in ecstasies, Neb bounded with joy, Pencroft nodded his great head, murmuring these words,--
"Come, our engineer gets on capitally!"
The nitro-glycerine had indeed acted powerfully. The opening which it had made was so large that the volume of water which escaped through this
new outlet was at least treble that which before passed through the old one. The result was, that a short time after the operation the level of the
lake would be lowered two feet, or more.
The settlers went to the Chimneys to take some pickaxes, iron-tipped spears, string made of fibers, flint and steel; they then returned to the
plateau, Top accompanying them.
On the way the sailor could not help saying to the engineer,--
"Don't you think, captain, that by means of that charming liquid you have made, one could blow up the whole of our island?"
"Without any doubt, the island, continents, and the world itself," replied the engineer. "It is only a question of quantity."
"Then could you not use this nitro-glycerine for loading firearms?" asked the sailor.
"No, Pencroft; for it is too explosive a substance. But it would be easy to make some guncotton, or even ordinary powder, as we have azotic acid,
saltpeter, sulphur, and coal. Unhappily, it is the guns which we have not got.
"Oh, captain," replied the sailor, "with a little determination--"
Pencroft had erased the word "impossible" from the dictionary of Lincoln Island.
The settlers, having arrived at Prospect Heights, went immediately towards that point of the lake near which was the old opening now uncovered.
This outlet had now become practicable, since the water no longer rushed through it, and it would doubtless be easy to explore the interior.
In a few minutes the settlers had reached the lower point of the lake, and a glance showed them that the object had been attained.
In fact, in the side of the lake, and now above the surface of the water, appeared the long-looked-for opening. A narrow ridge, left bare by the
retreat of the water, allowed them to approach it. This orifice was nearly twenty feet in width, but scarcely two in height. It was like the mouth of
a drain at the edge of the pavement, and therefore did not offer an easy passage to the settlers; but Neb and Pencroft, taking their pickaxes, soon
made it of a suitable height.
The engineer then approached, and found that the sides of the opening, in its upper part at least, had not a slope of more than from thirty to
thirty-five degrees. It was therefore practicable, and, provided that the declivity did not increase, it would be easy to descend even to the level of
the sea. If then, as was probable, some vast cavity existed in the interior of the granite, it might, perhaps, be of great use.
"Well, captain, what are we stopping for?" asked the sailor, impatient to enter the narrow passage. You see Top has got before us!"
"Very well," replied the engineer. "But we must see our way. Neb, go and cut some resinous branches."
Neb and Herbert ran to the edge of the lake, shaded with pines and other green trees, and soon returned with some branches, which they made into
torches. The torches were lighted with flint and steel, and Cyrus Harding leading, the settlers ventured into the dark passage, which the overplus of
the lake had formerly filled.
Contrary to what might have been supposed, the diameter of the passage increased as the explorers proceeded, so that they very soon were able to
stand upright. The granite, worn by the water for an infinite time, was very slippery, and falls were to be dreaded. But the settlers were all
attached to each other by a cord, as is frequently done in ascending mountains. Happily some projections of the granite, forming regular steps, made
the descent less perilous. Drops, still hanging from the rocks, shone here and there under the light of the torches, and the explorers guessed that
the sides were clothed with innumerable stalactites. The engineer examined this black granite. There was not a stratum, not a break in it. The mass
was compact, and of an extremely close grain. The passage dated, then, from the very origin of the island. It was not the water which little by little
had hollowed it. Pluto and not Neptune had bored it with his own hand, and on the wall traces of an eruptive work could be distinguished, which all
the washing of the water had not been able totally to efface.
The settlers descended very slowly. They could not but feel a certain awe, in this venturing into these unknown depths, for the first time visited
by human beings. They did not speak, but they thought; and the thought came to more than one, that some polypus or other gigantic cephalopod might
inhabit the interior cavities, which were in communication with the sea. However, Top kept at the head of the little band, and they could rely on the
sagacity of the dog, who would not fail to give the alarm if there was any need for it.
After having descended about a hundred feet, following a winding road, Harding who was walking on before, stopped, and his companions came up with
him. The place where they had halted was wider, so as to form a cavern of moderate dimensions. Drops of water fell from the vault, but that did not
prove that they oozed through the rock. They were simply the last traces left by the torrent which had so long thundered through this cavity, and the
air there was pure though slightly damp, but producing no mephitic exhalation.
"Well, my dear Cyrus," said Gideon Spilett, "here is a very secure retreat, well hid in the depths of the rock, but it is, however,
"Why uninhabitable?" asked the sailor.
"Because it is too small and too dark."
"Couldn't we enlarge it, hollow it out, make openings to let in light and air?" replied Pencroft, who now thought nothing impossible.
"Let us go on with our exploration," said Cyrus Harding. "Perhaps lower down, nature will have spared us this labor."
"We have only gone a third of the way," observed Herbert.
"Nearly a third," replied Harding, "for we have descended a hundred feet from the opening, and it is not impossible that a hundred feet farther
"Where is Top?" asked Neb, interrupting his master.
They searched the cavern, but the dog was not there.
"Most likely he has gone on," said Pencroft.
"Let us join him," replied Harding.
The descent was continued. The engineer carefully observed all the deviations of the passage, and notwithstanding so many detours, he could easily
have given an account of its general direction, which went towards the sea.
The settlers had gone some fifty feet farther, when their attention was attracted by distant sounds which came up from the depths. They stopped
and listened. These sounds, carried through the passage as through an acoustic tube, came clearly to the ear.
"That is Top barking!" cried Herbert.
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and our brave dog is barking furiously!"
"We have our iron-tipped spears," said Cyrus Harding. "Keep on your guard, and forward!"
"It is becoming more and more interesting," murmured Gideon Spilett in the sailor's ear, who nodded. Harding and his companions rushed to the help
of their dog. Top's barking became more and more perceptible, and it seemed strangely fierce. Was he engaged in a struggle with some animal whose
retreat he had disturbed? Without thinking of the danger to which they might be exposed, the explorers were now impelled by an irresistible curiosity,
and in a few minutes, sixteen feet lower they rejoined Top.
There the passage ended in a vast and magnificent cavern.
Top was running backwards and forwards, barking furiously. Pencroft and Neb, waving their torches, threw the light into every crevice; and at the
same time, Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, their spears raised, were ready for any emergency which might arise. The enormous cavern was empty.
The settlers explored it in every direction. There was nothing there, not an animal, not a human being; and yet Top continued to bark. Neither
caresses nor threats could make him be silent.
"There must be a place somewhere, by which the waters of the lake reached the sea," said the engineer.
"Of course," replied Pencroft, "and we must take care not to tumble into a hole."
"Go, Top, go!" cried Harding.
The dog, excited by his master's words, ran towards the extremity of the cavern, and there redoubled his barking.
They followed him, and by the light of the torches, perceived the mouth of a regular well in the granite. It was by this that the water escaped;
and this time it was not an oblique and practicable passage, but a perpendicular well, into which it was impossible to venture.
The torches were held over the opening: nothing could be seen. Harding took a lighted branch, and threw it into the abyss. The blazing resin,
whose illuminating power increased still more by the rapidity of its fall, lighted up the interior of the well, but yet nothing appeared. The flame
then went out with a slight hiss, which showed that it had reached the water, that is to say, the level of the sea.
The engineer, calculating the time employed in its fall, was able to calculate the depth of the well, which was found to be about ninety feet.
The floor of the cavern must thus be situated ninety feet above the level of the sea.
"Here is our dwelling," said Cyrus Harding.
"But it was occupied by some creature," replied Gideon Spilett, whose curiosity was not yet satisfied.
"Well, the creature, amphibious or otherwise, has made off through this opening," replied the engineer, "and has left the place for us."
"Never mind," added the sailor, "I should like very much to be Top just for a quarter of an hour, for he doesn't bark for nothing!"
Cyrus Harding looked at his dog, and those of his companions who were near him might have heard him murmur these words,--
"Yes, I believe that Top knows more than we do about a great many things."
However, the wishes of the settlers were for the most part satisfied. Chance, aided by the marvelous sagacity of their leader, had done them great
service. They had now at their disposal a vast cavern, the size of which could not be properly calculated by the feeble light of their torches, but it
would certainly be easy to divide it into rooms, by means of brick partitions, or to use it, if not as a house, at least as a spacious apartment. The
water which had left it could not return. The place was free.
Two difficulties remained; firstly, the possibility of lighting this excavation in the midst of solid rock; secondly, the necessity of rendering
the means of access more easy. It was useless to think of lighting it from above, because of the enormous thickness of the granite which composed the
ceiling; but perhaps the outer wall next the sea might be pierced. Cyrus Harding, during the descent, had roughly calculated its obliqueness, and
consequently the length of the passage, and was therefore led to believe that the outer wall could not be very thick. If light was thus obtained, so
would a means of access, for it would be as easy to pierce a door as windows, and to establish an exterior ladder.
Harding made known his ideas to his companions.
"Then, captain, let us set to work!" replied Pencroft. "I have my pickaxe, and I shall soon make my way through this wall. Where shall I strike?"
"Here," replied the engineer, showing the sturdy sailor a considerable recess in the side, which would much diminish the thickness.
Pencroft attacked the granite, and for half an hour, by the light of the torches, he made the splinters fly around him. Neb relieved him, then
Spilett took Neb's place.
This work had lasted two hours, and they began to fear that at this spot the wall would not yield to the pickaxe, when at a last blow given by
Gideon Spilett, the instrument, passing through the rock, fell outside.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried Pencroft.
The wall only measured there three feet in thickness.
Harding applied his eye to the aperture, which overlooked the ground from a height of eighty feet. Before him was extended the sea-coast, the
islet, and beyond the open sea.
Floods of light entered by this hole, inundating the splendid cavern and producing a magic effect! On its left side it did not measure more than
thirty feet in height and breadth, but on the right it was enormous, and its vaulted roof rose to a height of more than eighty feet.
In some places granite pillars, irregularly disposed, supported the vaulted roof, as those in the nave of a cathedral, here forming lateral piers,
there elliptical arches, adorned with pointed moldings, losing themselves in dark bays, amid the fantastic arches of which glimpses could be caught in
the shade, covered with a profusion of projections formed like so many pendants. This cavern was a picturesque mixture of all the styles of Byzantine,
Roman, or Gothic architecture ever produced by the hand of man. And yet this was only the work of nature. She alone had hollowed this fairy Aihambra
in a mass of granite.
The settlers were overwhelmed with admiration. Where they had only expected to find a narrow cavity, they had found a sort of marvelous palace,
and Neb had taken off his hat, as if he had been transported into a temple!
Cries of admiration issued from every mouth. Hurrahs resounded, and the echo was repeated again and again till it died away in the dark naves.
"Ah, my friends!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding, "when we have lighted the interior of this place, and have arranged our rooms and storehouses in the
left part, we shall still have this splendid cavern, which we will make our study and our museum!"
"And we will call it?--" asked Herbert.
"Granite House," replied Harding; a name which his companions again saluted with a cheer.
The torches were now almost consumed, and as they were obliged to return by the passage to reach the summit of the plateau, it was decided to put
off the work necessary for the arrangement of their new dwelling till the next day.
Before departing, Cyrus Harding leaned once more over the dark well, which descended perpendicularly to the level of the sea. He listened
attentively. No noise was heard, not even that of the water, which the undulations of the surge must sometimes agitate in its depths. A flaming branch
was again thrown in. The sides of the well were lighted up for an instant, but as at the first time, nothing suspicious was seen.
If some marine monster had been surprised unawares by the retreat of the water, he would by this time have regained the sea by the subterranean
passage, before the new opening had been offered to him.
Meanwhile, the engineer was standing motionless, his eyes fixed on the gulf, without uttering a word.
The sailor approached him, and touching his arm, "Captain!" said he.
"What do you want, my friend?" asked the engineer, as if he had returned from the land of dreams.
"The torches will soon go out."
"Forward!" replied Cyrus Harding.
The little band left the cavern and began to ascend through the dark passage. Top closed the rear, still growling every now and then. The ascent
was painful enough. The settlers rested a few minutes in the upper grotto, which made a sort of landing-place halfway up the long granite staircase.
Then they began to climb again.
Soon fresher air was felt. The drops of water, dried by evaporation, no longer sparkled on the walls. The flaring torches began to grow dim. The
one which Neb carried went out, and if they did not wish to find their way in the dark, they must hasten.
This was done, and a little before four o'clock, at the moment when the sailor's torch went out in its turn, Cyrus Harding and his companions
passed out of the passage.
The next day, the 22nd of May, the arrangement of their new dwelling was commenced. In fact, the settlers longed to exchange the insufficient
shelter of the Chimneys for this large and healthy retreat, in the midst of solid rock, and sheltered from the water both of the sea and sky. Their
former dwelling was not, however, to be entirely abandoned, for the engineer intended to make a manufactory of it for important works. Cyrus Harding's
first care was to find out the position of the front of Granite House from the outside. He went to the beach, and as the pickaxe when it escaped from
the hands of the reporter must have fallen perpendicularly to the foot of the cliff, the finding it would be sufficient to show the place where the
hole had been pierced in the granite.
The pickaxe was easily found, and the hole could be seen in a perpendicular line above the spot where it was stuck in the sand. Some rock pigeons
were already flying in and out of the narrow opening; they evidently thought that Granite House had been discovered on purpose for them. It was the
engineer's intention to divide the right portion of the cavern into several rooms, preceded by an entrance passage, and to light it by means of five
windows and a door, pierced in the front. Pencroft was much pleased with the five windows, but he could not understand the use of the door, since the
passage offered a natural staircase, through which it would always be easy to enter Granite House.
"My friend," replied Harding, "if it is easy for us to reach our dwelling by this passage, it will be equally easy for others besides us. I mean,
on the contrary, to block up that opening, to seal it hermetically, and, if it is necessary, to completely hide the entrance by making a dam, and thus
causing the water of the lake to rise."
"And how shall we get in?" asked the sailor.
"By an outside ladder," replied Cyrus Harding, "a rope ladder, which, once drawn up, will render access to our dwelling impossible."
"But why so many precautions?" asked Pencroft. "As yet we have seen no dangerous animals. As to our island being inhabited by natives, I don't
"Are you quite sure of that, Pencroft?" asked the engineer, looking at the sailor.
"Of course we shall not be quite sure, till we have explored it in every direction," replied Pencroft.
"Yes," said Harding, "for we know only a small portion of it as yet. But at any rate, if we have no enemies in the interior, they may come from
the exterior, for parts of the Pacific are very dangerous. We must be provided against every contingency."
Cyrus Harding spoke wisely; and without making any further objection, Pencroft prepared to execute his orders.
The front of Granite House was then to be lighted by five windows and a door, besides a large bay window and some smaller oval ones, which would
admit plenty of light to enter into the marvelous nave which was to be their chief room. This facade, situated at a height of eighty feet above the
ground, was exposed to the east, and the rising sun saluted it with its first rays. It was found to be just at that part of the cliff which was
between the projection at the mouth of the Mercy and a perpendicular line traced above the heap of rocks which formed the Chimneys. Thus the winds
from the northeast would only strike it obliquely, for it was protected by the projection. Besides, until the window-frames were made, the engineer
meant to close the openings with thick shutters, which would prevent either wind or rain from entering, and which could be concealed in need.
The first work was to make the openings. This would have taken too long with the pickaxe alone, and it is known that Harding was an ingenious man.
He had still a quantity of nitro-glycerine at his disposal, and he employed it usefully. By means of this explosive substance the rock was broken open
at the very places chosen by the engineer. Then, with the pickaxe and spade, the windows and doors were properly shaped, the jagged edges were
smoothed off, and a few days alter the beginning of the work, Granite House was abundantly lighted by the rising sun, whose rays penetrated into its
most secret recesses. Following the plan proposed by Cyrus Harding, the space was to be divided into five compartments looking out on the sea; to the
right, an entry with a door, which would meet the ladder; then a kitchen, thirty feet long; a dining-room, measuring forty feet; a sleeping- room, of
equal size; and lastly, a "Visitor's room," petitioned for by Pencroft, and which was next to the great hall. These rooms, or rather this suite of
rooms, would not occupy all the depth of the cave. There would be also a corridor and a storehouse, in which their tools, provisions, and stores would
be kept. All the productions of the island, the flora as well as the fauna, were to be there in the best possible state of preservation, and
completely sheltered from the damp. There was no want of space, so that each object could be methodically arranged. Besides, the colonists had still
at their disposal the little grotto above the great cavern, which was like the garret of the new dwelling.
This plan settled, it had only to be put into execution. The miners became brickmakers again, then the bricks were brought to the foot of Granite
House. Till then, Harding and his companions had only entered the cavern by the long passage. This mode of communication obliged them first to climb
Prospect Heights, making a detour by the river's bank, and then to descend two hundred feet through the passage, having to climb as far when they
wished to return to the plateau. This was a great loss of time, and was also very fatiguing. Cyrus Harding, therefore, resolved to proceed without any
further delay to the fabrication of a strong rope ladder, which, once raised, would render Granite House completely inaccessible.
This ladder was manufactured with extreme care, and its uprights, formed of the twisted fibers of a species of cane, had the strength of a thick
cable. As to the rounds, they were made of a sort of red cedar, with light, strong branches; and this apparatus was wrought by the masterly hand of
Other ropes were made with vegetable fibers, and a sort of crane with a tackle was fixed at the door. In this way bricks could easily be raised
into Granite House. The transport of the materials being thus simplified, the arrangement of the interior could begin immediately. There was no want
of lime, and some thousands of bricks were there ready to be used. The framework of the partitions was soon raised, very roughly at first, and in a
short time, the cave was divided into rooms and storehouses, according to the plan agreed upon.
These different works progressed rapidly under the direction of the engineer, who himself handled the hammer and the trowel. No labor came amiss
to Cyrus Harding, who thus set an example to his intelligent and zealous companions. They worked with confidence, even gaily, Pencroft always having
some joke to crack, sometimes carpenter, sometimes rope- maker, sometimes mason, while he communicated his good humor to all the members of their
little world. His faith in the engineer was complete; nothing could disturb it. He believed him capable of undertaking anything and succeeding in
everything. The question of boots and clothes--assuredly a serious question,--that of light during the winter months, utilizing the fertile parts of
the island, transforming the wild flora into cultivated flora, it all appeared easy to him; Cyrus Harding helping, everything would be done in time.
He dreamed of canals facilitating the transport of the riches of the ground; workings of quarries and mines; machines for every industrial
manufacture; railroads; yes, railroads! of which a network would certainly one day cover Lincoln Island.
The engineer let Pencroft talk. He did not put down the aspirations of this brave heart. He knew how communicable confidence is; he even smiled to
hear him speak, and said nothing of the uneasiness for the future which he felt. In fact, in that part of the Pacific, out of the course of vessels,
it was to be feared that no help would ever come to them. It was on themselves, on themselves alone, that the settlers must depend, for the distance
of Lincoln Island from all other land was such, that to hazard themselves in a boat, of a necessarily inferior construction, would be a serious and
"But," as the sailor said, "they quite took the wind out of the sails of the Robinsons, for whom everything was done by a miracle."
In fact, they were energetic; an energetic man will succeed where an indolent one would vegetate and inevitably perish.
Herbert distinguished himself in these works. He was intelligent and active; understanding quickly, he performed well; and Cyrus Harding became
more and more attached to the boy. Herbert had a lively and reverent love for the engineer. Pencroft saw the close sympathy which existed between the
two, but he was not in the least jealous. Neb was Neb: he was what he would be always, courage, zeal, devotion, self-denial personified. He had the
same faith in his master that Pencroft had, but he showed it less vehemently. When the sailor was enthusiastic, Neb always looked as if he would say,
"Nothing could be more natural." Pencroft and he were great friends.
As to Gideon Spilett, he took part in the common work, and was not less skilful in it than his companions, which always rather astonished the
sailor. A "journalist," clever, not only in understanding, but in performing everything.
The ladder was finally fixed on the 28th of May. There were not less than a hundred rounds in this perpendicular height of eighty feet. Harding
had been able, fortunately, to divide it in two parts, profiting by an overhanging of the cliff which made a projection forty feet above the ground.
This projection, carefully leveled by the pickaxe, made a sort of platform, to which they fixed the first ladder, of which the oscillation was thus
diminished one-half, and a rope permitted it to be raised to the level of Granite House. As to the second ladder, it was secured both at its lower
part, which rested on the projection, and at its upper end, which was fastened to the door. In short the ascent had been made much easier. Besides,
Cyrus Harding hoped later to establish an hydraulic apparatus, which would avoid all fatigue and loss of time, for the inhabitants of Granite House.
The settlers soon became habituated to the use of this ladder. They were light and active, and Pencroft, as a sailor, accustomed to run up the
masts and shrouds, was able to give them lessons. But it was also necessary to give them to Top. The poor dog, with his four paws, was not formed for
this sort of exercise. But Pencroft was such a zealous master, that Top ended by properly performing his ascents, and soon mounted the ladder as
readily as his brethren in the circus. It need not be said that the sailor was proud of his pupil. However, more than once Pencroft hoisted him on his
back, which Top never complained of.
It must be mentioned here, that during these works, which were actively conducted, for the bad season was approaching, the alimentary question was
not neglected. Every day, the reporter and Herbert, who had been voted purveyors to the colony, devoted some hours to the chase. As yet, they only
hunted in Jacamar Wood, on the left of the river, because, for want of a bridge or boat, the Mercy had not yet been crossed. All the immense woods, to
which the name of the Forests of the Far West had been given, were not explored. They reserved this important excursion for the first fine days of the
next spring. But Jacamar Wood was full of game; kangaroos and boars abounded, and the hunters iron-tipped spears and bows and arrows did wonders.
Besides, Herbert discovered towards the southwest point of the lagoon a natural warren, a slightly damp meadow, covered with willows and aromatic
herbs which scented the air, such as thyme, basil, savory, all the sweet-scented species of the labiated plants, which the rabbits appeared to be
particularly fond of.
On the reporter observing that since the table was spread for the rabbits, it was strange that the rabbits themselves should be wanting, the two
sportsmen carefully explored the warren. At any rate, it produced an abundance of useful plants, and a naturalist would have had a good opportunity of
studying many specimens of the vegetable kingdom. Herbert gathered several shoots of the basil, rosemary, balm, betony, etc., which possess different
medicinal properties, some pectoral, astringent, febrifuge, others anti-spasmodic, or anti-rheumatic. When, afterwards, Pencroft asked the use of this
collection of herbs,--
"For medicine," replied the lad, "to treat us when we are ill."
"Why should we be ill, since there are no doctors in the island?" asked Pencroft quite seriously.
There was no reply to be made to that, but the lad went on with his collection all the same, and it was well received at Granite House. Besides
these medicinal herbs, he added a plant known in North America as "Oswego tea," which made an excellent beverage.
At last, by searching thoroughly, the hunters arrived at the real site of the warren. There the ground was perforated like a sieve.
"Here are the burrows!" cried Herbert.
"Yes," replied the reporter, "so I see."
"But are they inhabited?"
"That is the question."
This was soon answered. Almost immediately, hundreds of little animals, similar to rabbits, fled in every direction, with such rapidity that even
Top could not overtake them. Hunters and dog ran in vain; these rodents escaped them easily. But the reporter resolved not to leave the place, until
he had captured at least half-a-dozen of the quadrupeds. He wished to stock their larder first, and domesticate those which they might take later. It
would not have been difficult to do this, with a few snares stretched at the openings of the burrows. But at this moment they had neither snares, nor
anything to make them of. They must, therefore, be satisfied with visiting each hole, and rummaging in it with a stick, hoping by dint of patience to
do what could not be done in any other way.
At last, after half an hour, four rodents were taken in their holes. They were similar to their European brethren, and are commonly known by the
name of American rabbits.
This produce of the chase was brought back to Granite House, and figured at the evening repast. The tenants of the warren were not at all to be
despised, for they were delicious. It was a valuable resource of the colony, and it appeared to be inexhaustible.
On the 31st of May the partitions were finished. The rooms had now only to be furnished, and this would be work for the long winter days. A
chimney was established in the first room, which served as a kitchen. The pipe destined to conduct the smoke outside gave some trouble to these
amateur bricklayers. It appeared simplest to Harding to make it of brick clay; as creating an outlet for it to the upper plateau was not to be thought
of, a hole was pierced in the granite above the window of the kitchen, and the pipe met it like that of an iron stove. Perhaps the winds which blew
directly against the facade would make the chimney smoke, but these winds were rare, and besides, Master Neb, the cook, was not so very particular
When these interior arrangements were finished, the engineer occupied himself in blocking up the outlet by the lake, so as to prevent any access
by that way. Masses of rock were rolled to the entrance and strongly cemented together. Cyrus Harding did not yet realize his plan of drowning this
opening under the waters of the lake, by restoring them to their former level by means of a dam. He contented himself with hiding the obstruction with
grass and shrubs, which were planted in the interstices of the rocks, and which next spring would sprout thickly. However, he used the waterfall so as
to lead a small stream of fresh water to the new dwelling. A little trench, made below their level, produced this result; and this derivation from a
pure and inexhaustible source yielded twenty-five or thirty gallons a day. There would never be any want of water at Granite House. At last all was
finished, and it was time, for the bad season was near. Thick shutters closed the windows of the facade, until the engineer had time to make glass.
Gideon Spilett had very artistically arranged on the rocky projections around the windows plants of different kinds, as well as long streaming
grass, so that the openings were picturesquely framed in green, which had a pleasing effect.
The inhabitants of this solid, healthy, and secure dwelling, could not but be charmed with their work. The view from the windows extended over a
boundless horizon, which was closed by the two Mandible Capes on the north, and Claw Cape on the south. All Union Bay was spread before them. Yes, our
brave settlers had reason to be satisfied, and Pencroft was lavish in his praise of what he humorously called, "his apartments on the fifth floor
above the ground!"
The winter season set in with the month of June, which corresponds with the month of December in the Northern Hemisphere. It began with showers
and squalls, which succeeded each other without intermission. The tenants of Granite House could appreciate the advantages of a dwelling which
sheltered them from the inclement weather. The Chimneys would have been quite insufficient to protect them against the rigor of winter, and it was to
be feared that the high tides would make another irruption. Cyrus Harding had taken precautions against this contingency, so as to preserve as much as
possible the forge and furnace which were established there.
During the whole of the month of June the time was employed in different occupations, which excluded neither hunting nor fishing, the larder
being, therefore, abundantly supplied. Pencroft, so soon as he had leisure, proposed to set some traps, from which he expected great results. He soon
made some snares with creepers, by the aid of which the warren henceforth every day furnished its quota of rodents. Neb employed nearly all his time
in salting or smoking meat, which insured their always having plenty of provisions. The question of clothes was now seriously discussed, the settlers
having no other garments than those they wore when the balloon threw them on the island. These clothes were warm and good; they had taken great care
of them as well as of their linen, and they were perfectly whole, but they would soon need to be replaced. Moreover, if the winter was severe, the
settlers would suffer greatly from cold.
On this subject the ingenuity of Harding was at fault. They must provide for their most pressing wants, settle their dwelling, and lay in a store
of food; thus the cold might come upon them before the question of clothes had been settled. They must therefore make up their minds to pass this
first winter without additional clothing. When the fine season came round again, they would regularly hunt those musmons which had been seen on the
expedition to Mount Franklin, and the wool once collected, the engineer would know how to make it into strong warm stuff.... How? He would consider.
"Well, we are free to roast ourselves at Granite House!" said Pencroft. "There are heaps of fuel, and no reason for sparing it."
"Besides," added Gideon Spilett, "Lincoln Island is not situated under a very high latitude, and probably the winters here are not severe. Did you
not say, Cyrus, that this thirty-fifth parallel corresponded to that of Spain in the other hemisphere?"
"Doubtless," replied the engineer, "but some winters in Spain are very cold! No want of snow and ice; and perhaps Lincoln Island is just as
rigourously tried. However, it is an island, and as such, I hope that the temperature will be more moderate."
"Why, captain?" asked Herbert.
"Because the sea, my boy, may be considered as an immense reservoir, in which is stored the heat of the summer. When winter comes, it restores
this heat, which insures for the regions near the ocean a medium temperature, less high in summer, but less low in winter."
"We shall prove that," replied Pencroft. "But I don't want to bother myself about whether it will be cold or not. One thing is certain, that is
that the days are already short, and the evenings long. Suppose we talk about the question of light."
"Nothing is easier," replied Harding.
"To talk about?" asked the sailor.
"And when shall we begin?"
"To-morrow, by having a seal hunt."
"To make candles?"
Such was the engineer's project; and it was quite feasible, since he had lime and sulphuric acid, while the amphibians of the islet would furnish
the fat necessary for the manufacture.
They were now at the 4th of June. It was Whit Sunday and they agreed to observe this feast. All work was suspended, and prayers were offered to
Heaven. But these prayers were now thanksgivings. The settlers in Lincoln Island were no longer the miserable castaways thrown on the islet. They
asked for nothing more--they gave thanks. The next day, the 5th of June, in rather uncertain weather, they set out for the islet. They had to profit
by the low tide to cross the Channel, and it was agreed that they would construct, for this purpose, as well as they could, a boat which would render
communication so much easier, and would also permit them to ascend the Mercy, at the time of their grand exploration of the southwest of the island,
which was put off till the first fine days.
The seals were numerous, and the hunters, armed with their iron-tipped spears, easily killed half-a-dozen. Neb and Pencroft skinned them, and only
brought back to Granite House their fat and skin, this skin being intended for the manufacture of boots.
The result of the hunt was this: nearly three hundred pounds of fat, all to be employed in the fabrication of candles.
The operation was extremely simple, and if it did not yield absolutely perfect results, they were at least very useful. Cyrus Harding would only
have had at his disposal sulphuric acid, but by heating this acid with the neutral fatty bodies he could separate the glycerine; then from this new
combination, he easily separated the olein, the margarin, and the stearin, by employing boiling water. But to simplify the operation, he preferred to
saponify the fat by means of lime. By this he obtained a calcareous soap, easy to decompose by sulphuric acid, which precipitated the lime into the
state of sulphate, and liberated the fatty acids.
From these three acids-oleic, margaric, and stearic-the first, being liquid, was driven out by a sufficient pressure. As to the two others, they
formed the very substance of which the candles were to be molded.
This operation did not last more than four and twenty hours. The wicks, after several trials, were made of vegetable fibers, and dipped in the
liquefied substance, they formed regular stearic candles, molded by the hand, which only wanted whiteness and polish. They would not doubtless have
the advantages of the wicks which are impregnated with boracic acid, and which vitrify as they burn and are entirely consumed, but Cyrus Harding
having manufactured a beautiful pair of snuffers, these candles would be greatly appreciated during the long evenings in Granite House.
During this month there was no want of work in the interior of their new dwelling. The joiners had plenty to do. They improved their tools, which
were very rough, and added others also.
Scissors were made among other things, and the settlers were at last able to cut their hair, and also to shave, or at least trim their beards.
Herbert had none, Neb but little, but their companions were bristling in a way which justified the making of the said scissors.
The manufacture of a hand-saw cost infinite trouble, but at last an instrument was obtained which, when vigorously handled, could divide the
ligneous fibers of the wood. They then made tables, seats, cupboards, to furnish the principal rooms, and bedsteads, of which all the bedding
consisted of grass mattresses. The kitchen, with its shelves, on which rested the cooking utensils, its brick stove, looked very well, and Neb worked
away there as earnestly as if he was in a chemist's laboratory.
But the joiners had soon to be replaced by carpenters. In fact, the waterfall created by the explosion rendered the construction of two bridges
necessary, one on Prospect Heights, the other on the shore. Now the plateau and the shore were transversely divided by a watercourse, which had to be
crossed to reach the northern part of the island. To avoid it the colonists had been obliged to make a considerable detour, by climbing up to the
source of the Red Creek. The simplest thing was to establish on the plateau, and on the shore, two bridges from twenty to five and twenty feet in
length. All the carpenter's work that was needed was to clear some trees of their branches: this was a business of some days. Directly the bridges
were established, Neb and Pencroft profited by them to go to the oyster-bed which had been discovered near the downs. They dragged with them a sort of
rough cart, which replaced the former inconvenient hurdle, and brought back some thousands of oysters, which soon increased among the rocks and formed
a bed at the mouth of the Mercy. These molluscs were of excellent quality, and the colonists consumed some daily.
It has been seen that Lincoln Island, although its inhabitants had as yet only explored a small portion of it, already contributed to almost all
their wants. It was probable that if they hunted into its most secret recesses, in all the wooded part between the Mercy and Reptile Point, they would
find new treasures.
The settlers in Lincoln Island had still one privation. There was no want of meat, nor of vegetable products; those ligneous roots which they had
found, when subjected to fermentation, gave them an acid drink, which was preferable to cold water; they also made sugar, without canes or beet-
roots, by collecting the liquor which distils from the "acer saceharinum," a son of maple-tree, which flourishes in all the temperate zones, and of
which the island possessed a great number; they made a very agreeable tea by employing the herbs brought from the warren; lastly, they had an
abundance of salt, the only mineral which is used in food,... but bread was wanting.
Perhaps in time the settlers could replace this want by some equivalent, it was possible that they might find the sago or the breadfruit tree
among the forests of the south, but they had not as yet met with these precious trees. However, Providence came directly to their aid, in an
infinitesimal proportion it is true, but Cyrus Harding, with all his intelligence, all his ingenuity, would never have been able to produce that
which, by the greatest chance, Herbert one day found in the lining of his waistcoat, which he was occupied in setting to rights.
On this day, as it was raining in torrents, the settlers were assembled in the great hall in Granite House, when the lad cried out all at once,--
"Look here, captain--A grain of corn!"
And he showed his companions a grain--a single grain--which from a hole in his pocket had got into the lining of his waistcoat.
The presence of this grain was explained by the fact that Herbert, when at Richmond, used to feed some pigeons, of which Pencroft had made him a
"A grain of corn?" said the engineer quickly.
"Yes, captain; but one, only one!"
"Well, my boy," said Pencroft, laughing, "we're getting on capitally, upon my word! What shall we make with one grain of corn?"
"We will make bread of it," replied Cyrus Harding.
"Bread, cakes, tarts!" replied the sailor. "Come, the bread that this grain of corn will make won't choke us very soon!"
Herbert, not attaching much importance to his discovery, was going to throw away the grain in question; but Harding took it, examined it, found
that it was in good condition, and looking the sailor full in the face-- "Pencroft," he asked quietly, "do you know how many ears one grain of corn
"One, I suppose!" replied the sailor, surprised at the question.
"Ten, Pencroft! And do you know how many grains one ear bears?"
"No, upon my word."
"About eighty!" said Cyrus Harding. "Then, if we plant this grain, at the first crop we shall reap eight hundred grains which at the second will
produce six hundred and forty thousand; at the third, five hundred and twelve millions; at the fourth, more than four hundred thousands of millions!
There is the proportion."
Harding's companions listened without answering. These numbers astonished them. They were exact, however.
"Yes, my friends," continued the engineer, "such are the arithmetical progressions of prolific nature; and yet what is this multiplication of the
grain of corn, of which the ear only bears eight hundred grains, compared to the poppy-plant, which bears thirty-two thousand seeds; to the tobacco-
plant, which produces three hundred and sixty thousand? In a few years, without the numerous causes of destruction, which arrests their fecundity,
these plants would overrun the earth."
But the engineer had not finished his lecture.
"And now, Pencroft," he continued, "do you know how many bushels four hundred thousand millions of grains would make?"
"No," replied the sailor; "but what I do know is, that I am nothing better than a fool!"
"Well, they would make more than three millions, at a hundred and thirty thousand a bushel, Pencroft."
"Three millions!" cried Pencroft.
"In four years?"
"In four years," replied Cyrus Harding, "and even in two years, if, as I hope, in this latitude we can obtain two crops a year."
At that, according to his usual custom, Pencroft could not reply otherwise than by a tremendous hurrah.
"So, Herbert," added the engineer, "you have made a discovery of great importance to us. Everything, my friends, everything can serve us in the
condition in which we are. Do not forget that, I beg of you."
"No, captain, no, we shan't forget it," replied Pencroft; "and if ever I find one of those tobacco-seeds, which multiply by three hundred and
sixty thousand, I assure you I won't throw it away! And now, what must we do?"
"We must plant this grain," replied Herbert.
"Yes," added Gideon Spilett, "and with every possible care, for it bears in itself our future harvests."
"Provided it grows!" cried the sailor.
"It will grow," replied Cyrus Harding.
This was the 20th of June. The time was then propitious for sowing this single precious grain of corn. It was first proposed to plant it in a pot,
but upon reflection it was decided to leave it to nature, and confide it to the earth. This was done that very day, and it is needless to add, that
every precaution was taken that the experiment might succeed.
The weather having cleared, the settlers climbed the height above Granite House. There, on the plateau, they chose a spot, well sheltered from the
wind, and exposed to all the heat of the midday sun. The place was cleared, carefully weeded, and searched for insects and worms; then a bed of good
earth, improved with a little lime, was made; it was surrounded by a railing; and the grain was buried in the damp earth.
Did it not seem as if the settlers were laying the first stone of some edifice? It recalled to Pencroft the day on which he lighted his only
match, and all the anxiety of the operation. But this time the thing was more serious. In fact, the castaways would have been always able to procure
fire, in some mode or other, but no human power could supply another grain of corn, if unfortunately this should be lost!
From this time Pencroft did not let a single day pass without going to visit what he gravely called his "corn-field." And woe to the insects which
dared to venture there! No mercy was shown them.
Towards the end of the month of June, after incessant rain, the weather became decidedly colder, and on the 29th a Fahrenheit thermometer would
certainly have announced only twenty degrees above zero, that is considerably below the freezing-point. The next day, the 30th of June, the day which
corresponds to the 31st of December in the northern year, was a Friday. Neb remarked that the year finished on a bad day, but Pencroft replied that
naturally the next would begin on a good one, which was better.
At any rate it commenced by very severe cold. Ice accumulated at the mouth of the Mercy, and it was not long before the whole expanse of the lake
The settlers had frequently been obliged to renew their store of wood. Pencroft also had wisely not waited till the river was frozen, but had
brought enormous rafts of wood to their destination. The current was an indefatigable moving power, and it was employed in conveying the floating wood
to the moment when the frost enchained it. To the fuel which was so abundantly supplied by the forest, they added several cartloads of coal, which had
to be brought from the foot of the spurs of Mount Franklin. The powerful heat of the coal was greatly appreciated in the low temperature, which on the
4th of July fell to eight degrees of Fahrenheit, that is, thirteen degrees below zero. A second fireplace had been established in the dining-room,
where they all worked together at their different avocations. During this period of cold, Cyrus Harding had great cause to congratulate himself on
having brought to Granite House the little stream of water from Lake Grant. Taken below the frozen surface, and conducted through the passage, it
preserved its fluidity, and arrived at an interior reservoir which had been hollowed out at the back part of the storeroom, while the overflow ran
through the well to the sea.
About this time, the weather being extremely dry, the colonists, clothed as warmly as possible, resolved to devote a day to the exploration of
that part of the island between the Mercy and Claw Cape. It was a wide extent of marshy land, and they would probably find good sport, for water-birds
ought to swarm there.
They reckoned that it would be about eight or nine miles to go there, and as much to return, so that the whole of the day would be occupied. As an
unknown part of the island was about to be explored, the whole colony took part in the expedition. Accordingly, on the 5th of July, at six o'clock in
the morning, when day had scarcely broken, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, armed with spears, snares, bows and arrows, and
provided with provisions, left Granite House, preceded by Top, who bounded before them.
Their shortest way was to cross the Mercy on the ice, which then covered it.
"But," as the engineer justly observed, "that could not take the place of a regular bridge!" So, the construction of a regular bridge was noted in
the list of future works.
It was the first time that the settlers had set foot on the right bank of the Mercy, and ventured into the midst of those gigantic and superb
coniferae now sprinkled over with snow.
But they had not gone half a mile when from a thicket a whole family of quadrupeds, who had made a home there, disturbed by Top, rushed forth into
the open country.
"Ah! I should say those are foxes!" cried Herbert, when he saw the troop rapidly decamping.
They were foxes, but of a very large size, who uttered a sort of barking, at which Top seemed to be very much astonished, for he stopped short in
the chase, and gave the swift animals time to disappear.
The dog had reason to be surprised, as he did not know Natural History. But, by their barking, these foxes, with reddish-gray hair, black tails
terminating in a white tuft, had betrayed their origin. So Herbert was able, without hesitating, to give them their real name of "Arctic foxes." They
are frequently met with in Chile, in the Falkland Islands, and in all parts of America traversed by the thirtieth and fortieth parallels. Herbert much
regretted that Top had not been able to catch one of these carnivora.
"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft, who only regarded the representatives of the fauna in the island from one special point of view.
"No," replied Herbert; "but zoologists have not yet found out if the eye of these foxes is diurnal or nocturnal, or whether it is correct to class
them in the genus dog, properly so called."
Harding could not help smiling on hearing the lad's reflection, which showed a thoughtful mind. As to the sailor, from the moment when he found
that the foxes were not classed in the genus eatable, they were nothing to him. However, when a poultry-yard was established at Granite House, he
observed that it would be best to take some precautions against a probable visit from these four-legged plunderers, and no one disputed this.
After having turned the point, the settlers saw a long beach washed by the open sea. It was then eight o'clock in the morning. The sky was very
clear, as it often is after prolonged cold; but warmed by their walk, neither Harding nor his companions felt the sharpness of the atmosphere too
severely. Besides there was no wind, which made it much more bearable. A brilliant sun, but without any calorific action, was just issuing from the
ocean. The sea was as tranquil and blue as that of a Mediterranean gulf, when the sky is clear. Claw Cape, bent in the form of a yataghan, tapered
away nearly four miles to the southeast. To the left the edge of the marsh was abruptly ended by a little point. Certainly, in this part of Union Bay,
which nothing sheltered from the open sea, not even a sandbank, ships beaten by the east winds would have found no shelter. They perceived by the
tranquillity of the sea, in which no shallows troubled the waters, by its uniform color, which was stained by no yellow shades, by the absence of even
a reef, that the coast was steep and that the ocean there covered a deep abyss. Behind in the west, but at a distance of four miles, rose the first
trees of the forests of the Far West. They might have believed themselves to be on the desolate coast of some island in the Antarctic regions which
the ice had invaded. The colonists halted at this place for breakfast. A fire of brushwood and dried seaweed was lighted, and Neb prepared the
breakfast of cold meat, to which he added some cups of Oswego tea.
While eating they looked around them. This part of Lincoln Island was very sterile, and contrasted with all the western part. The reporter was
thus led to observe that if chance had thrown them at first on the shore, they would have had but a deplorable idea of their future domain.
"I believe that we should not have been able to reach it," replied the engineer, "for the sea is deep, and there is not a rock on which we could
have taken refuge. Before Granite House, at least, there were sandbanks, an islet, which multiplied our chances of safety. Here, nothing but the
"It is singular enough," remarked Spilett, "that this comparatively small island should present such varied ground. This diversity of aspect,
logically only belongs to continents of a certain extent. One would really say, that the western part of Lincoln Island, so rich and so fertile, is
washed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and that its shores to the north and the southeast extend over a sort of Arctic sea."
"You are right, my dear Spilett," replied Cyrus Harding, "I have also observed this. I think the form and also the nature of this island strange.
It is a summary of all the aspects which a continent presents, and I should not be surprised if it was a continent formerly."
"What! a continent in the middle of the Pacific?" cried Pencroft.
"Why not?" replied Cyrus Harding. "Why should not Australia, New Ireland, Australasia, united to the archipelagoes of the Pacific, have once
formed a sixth part of the world, as important as Europe or Asia, as Africa or the two Americas? To my mind, it is quite possible that all these
islands, emerging from this vast ocean, are but the summits of a continent, now submerged, but which was above the waters at a prehistoric period."
"As the Atlantis was formerly," replied Herbert.
"Yes, my boy... if, however, it existed."
"And would Lincoln Island have been a part of that continent?" asked Pencroft.
"It is probable," replied Cyrus Harding, "and that would sufficiently, explain the variety of productions which are seen on its surface."
"And the great number of animals which still inhabit it," added Herbert.
"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer, "and you furnish me with an argument to support my theory. It is certain, after what we have seen, that
animals are numerous in this island, and what is more strange, that the species are extremely varied. There is a reason for that, and to me it is that
Lincoln Island may have formerly been a part of some vast continent which had gradually sunk below the Pacific."
"Then, some fine day," said Pencroft, who did not appear to be entirely convinced, "the rest of this ancient continent may disappear in its turn,
and there will be nothing between America and Asia."
"Yes," replied Harding, "there will be new continents which millions and millions of animalculae are building at this moment."
"And what are these masons?" asked Pencroft.
The seal hunt
"Coral insects," replied Cyrus Harding. "By constant work they made the island of Clermont-Tonnerre, and numerous other coral islands in the
Pacific Ocean. Forty-seven millions of these insects are needed to weigh a grain, and yet, with the sea-salt they absorb, the solid elements of water
which they assimilate, these animalculae produce limestone, and this limestone forms enormous submarine erections, of which the hardness and solidity
equal granite. Formerly, at the first periods of creation, nature employing fire, heaved up the land, but now she entrusts to these microscopic
creatures the task of replacing this agent, of which the dynamic power in the interior of the globe has evidently diminished--which is proved by the
number of volcanoes on the surface of the earth, now actually extinct. And I believe that centuries succeeding to centuries, and insects to insects,
this Pacific may one day be changed into a vast continent, which new generations will inhabit and civilize in their turn."
"That will take a long time," said Pencroft.
"Nature has time for it," replied the engineer.
"But what would be the use of new continents?" asked Herbert. "It appears to me that the present extent of habitable countries is sufficient for
humanity. Yet nature does nothing uselessly."
"Nothing uselessly, certainly," replied the engineer, "but this is how the necessity of new continents for the future, and exactly on the tropical
zone occupied by the coral islands, may be explained. At least to me this explanation appears plausible."
"We are listening, captain," said Herbert.
"This is my idea: philosophers generally admit that some day our globe will end, or rather that animal and vegetable life will no longer be
possible, because of the intense cold to which it will be subjected. What they are not agreed upon, is the cause of this cold. Some think that it will
arise from the falling of the temperature, which the sun will experience alter millions of years; others, from the gradual extinction of the fires in
the interior of our globe, which have a greater influence on it than is generally supposed. I hold to this last hypothesis, grounding it on the fact
that the moon is really a cold star, which is no longer habitable, although the sun continues to throw on its surface the same amount of heat. If,
then, the moon has become cold, it is because the interior fires to which, as do all the stars of the stellar world, it owes its origin, are
completely extinct. Lastly, whatever may be the cause, our globe will become cold some day, but this cold will only operate gradually. What will
happen, then? The temperate zones, at a more or less distant period, will not be more habitable than the polar regions now are. Then the population of
men, as well as the animals, will flow towards the latitudes which are more directly under the solar influence. An immense emigration will take place.
Europe, Central Asia, North America, will gradually be abandoned, as well as Australasia and the lower parts of South America. The vegetation will
follow the human emigration. The flora will retreat towards the Equator at the same time as the fauna. The central parts of South America and Africa
will be the continents chiefly inhabited. The Laplanders and the Samoides will find the climate of the polar regions on the shores of the
Mediterranean. Who can say, that at this period, the equatorial regions will not be too small, to contain and nourish terrestrial humanity? Now, may
not provident nature, so as to give refuge to all the vegetable and animal emigration, be at present laying the foundation of a new continent under
the Equator, and may she not have entrusted these insects with the construction of it? I have often thought of all these things, my friends, and I
seriously believe that the aspect of our globe will some day be completely changed; that by the raising of new continents the sea will cover the old,
and that, in future ages, a Columbus will go to discover the islands of Chimborazo, of the Himalayas, or of Mont Blanc, remains of a submerged
America, Asia, and Europe. Then these new continents will become, in their turn, uninhabitable; heat will die away, as does the heat from a body when
the soul has left it; and life will disappear from the globe, if not for ever, at least for a period. Perhaps then, our spheroid will rest-- will be
left to death--to revive some day under superior conditions! But all that, my friends, is the secret of the Author of all things; and beginning by the
work of the insects, I have perhaps let myself be carried too far, in investigating the secrets of the future.
"My dear Cyrus," replied Spilett, "these theories are prophecies to me, and they will be accomplished some day."
"That is the secret of God," said the engineer.
"All that is well and good," then said Pencroft, who had listened with all his might, "but will you tell me, captain, if Lincoln Island has been
made by your insects?"
"No," replied Harding; "it is of a purely volcanic origin."
"Then it will disappear some day?"
"That is probable.
"I hope we won't be here then."
"No, don't be uneasy, Pencroft; we shall not be here then, as we have no wish to die here, and hope to get away some time."
"In the meantime," replied Gideon Spilett, "let us establish ourselves here as if forever. There is no use in doing things by halves."
This ended the conversation. Breakfast was finished, the exploration was continued, and the settlers arrived at the border of the marshy region.
It was a marsh of which the extent, to the rounded coast which terminated the island at the southeast, was about twenty square miles. The soil was
formed of clayey flint-earth, mingled with vegetable matter, such as the remains of rushes, reeds, grass, etc. Here and there beds of grass, thick as
a carpet, covered it. In many places icy pools sparkled in the sun. Neither rain nor any river, increased by a sudden swelling, could supply these
ponds. They therefore naturally concluded that the marsh was fed by the infiltrations of the soil and it was really so. It was also to be feared that
during the heat miasmas would arise, which might produce fevers.
Above the aquatic plants, on the surface of the stagnant water, fluttered numbers of birds. Wild duck, teal, snipe lived there in flocks, and
those fearless birds allowed themselves to be easily approached.
One shot from a gun would certainly have brought down some dozen of the birds, they were so close together. The explorers were, however, obliged
to content themselves with bows and arrows. The result was less, but the silent arrow had the advantage of not frightening the birds, while the noise
of firearms would have dispersed them to all parts of the marsh. The hunters were satisfied, for this time, with a dozen ducks, which had white bodies
with a band of cinnamon, a green head, wings black, white, and red, and flattened beak. Herbert called them tadorns. Top helped in the capture of
these birds, whose name was given to this marshy part of the island. The settlers had here an abundant reserve of aquatic game. At some future time
they meant to explore it more carefully, and it was probable that some of the birds there might be domesticated, or at least brought to the shores of
the lake, so that they would be more within their reach.
About five o'clock in the evening Cyrus Harding and his companions retraced their steps to their dwelling by traversing Tadorn's Fens, and crossed
the Mercy on the ice-bridge.
At eight in the evening they all entered Granite House.
This intense cold lasted till the 15th of August, without, however, passing the degree of Fahrenheit already mentioned. When the atmosphere was
calm, the low temperature was easily borne, but when the wind blew, the poor settlers, insufficiently clothed, felt it severely. Pencroft regretted
that Lincoln Island was not the home of a few families of bears rather than of so many foxes and seals.
"Bears," said he, "are generally very well dressed, and I ask no more than to borrow for the winter the warm cloaks which they have on their
"But," replied Neb, laughing, "perhaps the bears would not consent to give you their cloaks, Pencroft. These beasts are not St. Martins."
"We would make them do it, Neb, we would make them," replied Pencroft, in quite an authoritative tone.
But these formidable carnivora did not exist in the island, or at any rate they had not yet shown themselves.
In the meanwhile, Herbert, Pencroft, and the reporter occupied themselves with making traps on Prospect Heights and at the border of the forest.
According to the sailor, any animal, whatever it was, would be a lawful prize, and the rodents or carnivora which might get into the new snares
would be well received at Granite House.
The traps were besides extremely simple; being pits dug in the ground, a platform of branches and grass above, which concealed the opening, and at
the bottom some bait, the scent of which would attract animals. It must be mentioned also, that they had not been dug at random, but at certain places
where numerous footprints showed that quadrupeds frequented the ground. They were visited every day, and at three different times, during the first
days, specimens of those Antarctic foxes which they had already seen on the right bank of the Mercy were found in them.
"Why, there are nothing but foxes in this country!" cried Pencroft, when for the third time he drew one of the animals out of the pit. Looking at
it in great disgust, he added, "beasts which are good for nothing!"
"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "they are good for something!"
"And what is that?"
"To make bait to attract other creatures!"
The reporter was right, and the traps were henceforward baited with the foxes carcasses.
The sailor had also made snares from the long tough fibers of a certain plant, and they were even more successful than the traps. Rarely a day
passed without some rabbits from the warren being caught. It was always rabbit, but Neb knew how to vary his sauces and the settlers did not think of
However, once or twice in the second week of August, the traps supplied the hunters with other animals more useful than foxes, namely, several of
those small wild boars which had already been seen to the north of the lake. Pencroft had no need to ask if these beasts were eatable. He could see
that by their resemblance to the pig of America and Europe.
"But these are not pigs," said Herbert to him, "I warn you of that, Pencroft."
"My boy," replied the sailor, bending over the trap and drawing out one of these representatives of the family of sus by the little appendage
which served it as a tail. "Let me believe that these are pigs."
"Because that pleases me!"
"Are you very fond of pig then, Pencroft?"
"I am very fond of pig," replied the sailor, "particularly of its feet, and if it had eight instead of four, I should like it twice as much!"
As to the animals in question, they were peccaries belonging to one of the four species which are included in the family, and they were also of
the species of Tajacu, recognizable by their deep color and the absence of those long teeth with which the mouths of their congeners are armed. These
peccaries generally live in herds, and it was probable that they abounded in the woody parts of the island.
At any rate, they were eatable from head to foot, and Pencroft did not ask more from them.
Towards the 15th of August, the state of the atmosphere was suddenly moderated by the wind shifting to the northwest. The temperature rose some
degrees, and the accumulated vapor in the air was not long in resolving into snow. All the island was covered with a sheet of white, and showed itself
to its inhabitants under a new aspect. The snow fell abundantly for several days, and it soon reached a thickness of two feet.
The wind also blew with great violence, and at the height of Granite House the sea could be heard thundering against the reefs. In some places,
the wind, eddying round the corners, formed the snow into tall whirling columns, resembling those waterspouts which turn round on their base, and
which vessels attack with a shot from a gun. However, the storm, coming from the northwest, blew across the island, and the position of Granite House
preserved it from a direct attack.
But in the midst of this snow-storm, as terrible as if it had been produced in some polar country, neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions could,
notwithstanding their wish for it, venture forth, and they remained shut up for five days, from the 20th to the 25th of August. They could hear the
tempest raging in Jacamar Wood, which would surely suffer from it. Many of the trees would no doubt be torn up by the roots, but Pencroft consoled
himself by thinking that he would not have the trouble of cutting them down.
"The wind is turning woodman, let it alone," he repeated.
Besides, there was no way of stopping it, if they had wished to do so.
How grateful the inhabitants of Granite House then were to Heaven for having prepared for them this solid and immovable retreat! Cyrus Harding had
also his legitimate share of thanks, but after all, it was Nature who had hollowed out this vast cavern, and he had only discovered it. There all were
in safety, and the tempest could not reach them. If they had constructed a house of bricks and wood on Prospect Heights, it certainly would not have
resisted the fury of this storm. As to the Chimneys, it must have been absolutely uninhabitable, for the sea, passing over the islet, would beat
furiously against it. But here, in Granite House, in the middle of a solid mass, over which neither the sea nor air had any influence, there was
nothing to fear.
During these days of seclusion the settlers did not remain inactive.
There was no want of wood, cut up into planks, in the storeroom, and little by little they completed their furnishing; constructing the most solid
of tables and chairs, for material was not spared. Neb and Pencroft were very proud of this rather heavy furniture, which they would not have changed
on any account.
Then the carpenters became basket-makers, and they did not succeed badly in this new manufacture. At the point of the lake which projected to the
north, they had discovered an osier-bed in which grew a large number of purple osiers. Before the rainy season, Pencroft and Herbert had cut down
these useful shrubs, and their branches, well prepared, could now be effectively employed. The first attempts were somewhat crude, but in consequence
of the cleverness and intelligence of the workmen, by consulting, and recalling the models which they had seen, and by emulating each other, the
possessions of the colony were soon increased by several baskets of different sizes. The storeroom was provided with them, and in special baskets Neb
placed his collection of rhizomes, stone-pine almonds, etc.
During the last week of the month of August the weather moderated again. The temperature fell a little, and the tempest abated. The colonists
sallied out directly. There was certainly two feet of snow on the shore, but they were able to walk without much difficulty on the hardened surface.
Cyrus Harding and his companions climbed Prospect Heights.
What a change! The woods, which they had left green, especially in the part at which the firs predominated, had disappeared under a uniform color.
All was white, from the summit of Mount Franklin to the shore, the forests, the plains, the lake, the river. The waters of the Mercy flowed under a
roof of ice, which, at each rising and ebbing of the tide, broke up with loud crashes. Numerous birds fluttered over the frozen surface of the lake.
Ducks and snipe, teal and guillemots were assembled in thousands. The rocks among which the cascade flowed were bristling with icicles. One might have
said that the water escaped by a monstrous gargoyle, shaped with all the imagination of an artist of the Renaissance. As to the damage caused by the
storm in the forest, that could not as yet be ascertained; they would have to wait till the snowy covering was dissipated.
Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Herbert did not miss this opportunity of going to visit their traps. They did not find them easily, under the snow
with which they were covered. They had also to be careful not to fall into one or other of them, which would have been both dangerous and humiliating;
to be taken in their own snares! But happily they avoided this unpleasantness, and found their traps perfectly intact. No animal had fallen into them,
and yet the footprints in the neighborhood were very numerous, among others, certain very clear marks of claws. Herbert did not hesitate to affirm
that some animal of the feline species had passed there, which justified the engineer's opinion that dangerous beasts existed in Lincoln Island. These
animals doubtless generally lived in the forests of the Far West, but pressed by hunger, they had ventured as far as Prospect Heights. Perhaps they
had smelled out the inhabitants of Granite House. "Now, what are these feline creatures?" asked Pencroft. "They are tigers," replied Herbert. "I
thought those beasts were only found in hot countries?"
"On the new continent," replied the lad, "they are found from Mexico to the Pampas of Buenos Aires. Now, as Lincoln Island is nearly under the
same latitude as the provinces of La Plata, it is not surprising that tigers are to be met with in it."
"Well, we must look out for them," replied Pencroft.
However, the snow soon disappeared, quickly dissolving under the influence of the rising temperature. Rain fell, and the sheet of white soon
vanished. Notwithstanding the bad weather, the settlers renewed their stores of different things, stone-pine almonds, rhizomes, syrup from the
maple-tree, for the vegetable part; rabbits from the warren, agouties, and kangaroos for the animal part. This necessitated several excursions into
the forest, and they found that a great number of trees had been blown down by the last hurricane. Pencroft and Neb also pushed with the cart as far
as the vein of coal, and brought back several tons of fuel. They saw in passing that the pottery kiln had been severely damaged by the wind, at least
six feet of it having been blown off.
At the same time as the coal, the store of wood was renewed at Granite House, and they profited by the current of the Mercy having again become
free, to float down several rafts. They could see that the cold period was not ended.
A visit was also paid to the Chimneys, and the settlers could not but congratulate themselves on not having been living there during the
hurricane. The sea had left unquestionable traces of its ravages. Sweeping over the islet, it had furiously assailed the passages, half filling them
with sand, while thick beds of seaweed covered the rocks. While Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft hunted or collected wood, Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett
busied themselves in putting the Chimneys to rights, and they found the forge and the bellows almost unhurt, protected as they had been from the first
by the heaps of sand.
The store of fuel had not been made uselessly. The settlers had not done with the rigorous cold. It is known that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the
month of February is principally distinguished by rapid fallings of the temperature. It is the same in the Southern Hemisphere, and the end of the
month of August, which is the February of North America, does not escape this climatic law.
About the 25th, after another change from snow to rain, the wind shifted to the southeast, and the cold became, suddenly, very severe. According
to the engineer's calculation, the mercurial column of a Fahrenheit thermometer would not have marked less than eight degrees below zero, and this
intense cold, rendered still more painful by a sharp gale, lasted for several days. The colonists were again shut up in Granite House, and as it was
necessary to hermetically seal all the openings of the facade, only leaving a narrow passage for renewing the air, the consumption of candles was
considerable. To economize them, the cavern was often only lighted by the blazing hearths, on which fuel was not spared. Several times, one or other
of the settlers descended to the beach in the midst of ice which the waves heaped up at each tide, but they soon climbed up again to Granite House,
and it was not without pain and difficulty that their hands could hold to the rounds of the ladder. In consequence of the intense cold, their fingers
felt as if burned when they touched the rounds. To occupy the leisure hours, which the tenants of Granite House now had at their disposal, Cyrus
Harding undertook an operation which could be performed indoors.
We know that the settlers had no other sugar at their disposal than the liquid substance which they drew from the maple, by making deep incisions
in the tree. They contented themselves with collecting this liquor in jars and employing it in this state for different culinary purposes, and the
more so, as on growing old, this liquid began to become white and to be of a syrupy consistence.
But there was something better to be made of it, and one day Cyrus Harding announced that they were going to turn into refiners.
"Refiners!" replied Pencroft. "That is rather a warm trade, I think."
"Very warm," answered the engineer.
"Then it will be seasonable!" said the sailor.
This word refining need not awake in the mind thoughts of an elaborate manufactory with apparatus and numerous workmen. No! to crystallize this
liquor, only an extremely easy operation is required. Placed on the fire in large earthen pots, it was simply subjected to evaporation, and soon a
scum arose to its surface. As soon as this began to thicken, Neb carefully removed it with a wooden spatula; this accelerated the evaporation, and at
the same time prevented it from contracting an empyreumatic flavor.
After boiling for several hours on a hot fire, which did as much good to the operators as the substance operated upon, the latter was transformed
into a thick syrup. This syrup was poured into clay molds, previously fabricated in the kitchen stove, and to which they had given various shapes. The
next day this syrup had become cold, and formed cakes and tablets. This was sugar of rather a reddish color, but nearly transparent and of a delicious
The cold continued to the middle of September, and the prisoners in Granite House began to find their captivity rather tedious. Nearly every day
they attempted sorties which they could not prolong. They constantly worked at the improvement of their dwelling. They talked while working. Harding
instructed his companions in many things, principally explaining to them the practical applications of science. The colonists had no library at their
disposal; but the engineer was a book which was always at hand, always open at the page which one wanted, a book which answered all their questions,
and which they often consulted. The time thus passed away pleasantly, these brave men not appearing to have any fears for the future.
However, all were anxious to see, if not the fine season, at least the cessation of the insupportable cold. If only they had been clothed in a way
to meet it, how many excursions they would have attempted, either to the downs or to Tadorn's Fens! Game would have been easily approached, and the
chase would certainly have been most productive. But Cyrus Harding considered it of importance that no one should injure his health, for he had need
of all his hands, and his advice was followed.
But it must be said, that the one who was most impatient of this imprisonment, after Pencroft perhaps, was Top. The faithful dog found Granite
House very narrow. He ran backwards and forwards from one room to another, showing in his way how weary he was of being shut up. Harding often
remarked that when he approached the dark well which communicated with the sea, and of which the orifice opened at the back of the storeroom, Top
uttered singular growlings. He ran round and round this hole, which had been covered with a wooden lid. Sometimes even he tried to put his paws under
the lid, as if he wished to raise it. He then yelped in a peculiar way, which showed at once anger and uneasiness.
The engineer observed this maneuver several times.
What could there be in this abyss to make such an impression on the intelligent animal? The well led to the sea, that was certain. Could narrow
passages spread from it through the foundations of the island? Did some marine monster come from time to time, to breathe at the bottom of this well?
The engineer did not know what to think, and could not refrain from dreaming of many strange improbabilities. Accustomed to go far into the regions of
scientific reality, he would not allow himself to be drawn into the regions of the strange and almost of the supernatural; but yet how to explain why
Top, one of those sensible dogs who never waste their time in barking at the moon, should persist in trying with scent and hearing to fathom this
abyss, if there was nothing there to cause his uneasiness? Top's conduct puzzled Cyrus Harding even more than he cared to acknowledge to himself.
At all events, the engineer only communicated his impressions to Gideon Spilett, for he thought it useless to explain to his companions the
suspicions which arose from what perhaps was only Top's fancy.
At last the cold ceased. There had been rain, squalls mingled with snow, hailstorms, gusts of wind, but these inclemencies did not last. The ice
melted, the snow disappeared; the shore, the plateau, the banks of the Mercy, the forest, again became practicable. This return of spring delighted
the tenants of Granite House, and they soon only passed it in the hours necessary for eating and sleeping.
They hunted much in the second part of September, which led Pencroft to again entreat for the firearms, which he asserted had been promised by
Cyrus Harding. The latter, knowing well that without special tools it would be nearly impossible for him to manufacture a gun which would be of any
use, still drew back and put off the operation to some future time, observing in his usual dry way, that Herbert and Spilett had become very skilful
archers, so that many sorts of excellent animals, agouties, kangaroos, capybaras, pigeons, bustards, wild ducks, snipes, in short, game both with fur
and feathers, fell victims to their arrows, and that, consequently, they could wait. But the obstinate sailor would listen to nothing of this, and he
would give the engineer no peace till he promised to satisfy his desire. Gideon Spilett, however, supported Pencroft.
"If, which may be doubted," said he, "the island is inhabited by wild beasts, we must think how to fight with and exterminate them. A time may
come when this will be our first duty."
But at this period, it was not the question of firearms which occupied Harding, but that of clothes. Those which the settlers wore had passed this
winter, but they would not last until next winter. Skins of carnivora or the wool of ruminants must be procured at any price, and since there were
plenty of musmons, it was agreed to consult on the means of forming a flock which might be brought up for the use of the colony. An enclosure for the
domestic animals, a poultry-yard for the birds, in a word to establish a sort of farm in the island, such were the two important projects for the fine
In consequence and in view of these future establishments, it became of much importance that they should penetrate into all the yet unknown parts
of Lincoln Island, that is to say, through that thick forest which extended on the right bank of the Mercy, from its mouth to the extremity of the
Serpentine Peninsula, as well as on the whole of its western side. But this needed settled weather, and a month must pass before this exploration
could be profitably undertaken.
They therefore waited with some impatience, when an incident occurred which increased the desire the settlers had to visit the whole of their
It was the 24th of October. On this day, Pencroft had gone to visit his traps, which he always kept properly baited. In one of them he found three
animals which would be very welcome for the larder. They were a female peccary and her two young ones.
Pencroft then returned to Granite House, enchanted with his capture, and, as usual, he made a great show of his game.
"Come, we shall have a grand feast, captain!" he exclaimed. "And you too, Mr. Spilett, you will eat some!"
"I shall be very happy," replied the reporter; "but what is it that I am going to eat?"
"Oh, indeed, suckling-pig, Pencroft? To hear you, I thought that you were bringing back a young partridge stuffed with truffles!"
"What?" cried Pencroft. "Do you mean to say that you turn up your nose at suckling-pig?'
"No," replied Gideon Spilett, without showing any enthusiasm; "provided one doesn't eat too much"
"That's right, that's right," returned the sailor, who was not pleased whenever he heard his chase made light of. "You like to make objections.
Seven months ago, when we landed on the island, you would have been only too glad to have met with such game!"
"Well, well," replied the reporter, "man is never perfect, nor contented."
"Now," said Pencroft, "I hope that Neb will distinguish himself. Look here! These two little peccaries are not more than three months old! They
will be as tender as quails! Come along, Neb, come! I will look after the cooking myself."
And the sailor, followed by Neb, entered the kitchen, where they were soon absorbed in their culinary labors.
They were allowed to do it in their own way. Neb, therefore, prepared a magnificent repast--the two little peccaries, kangaroo soup, a smoked ham,
stone-pine almonds, Oswego tea; in fact, all the best that they had, but among all the dishes figured in the first rank the savory peccaries.
At five o'clock dinner was served in the dining-room of Granite House. The kangaroo soup was smoking on the table. They found it excellent.
To the soup succeeded the peccaries, which Pencroft insisted on carving himself, and of which he served out monstrous portions to each of the
These suckling-pigs were really delicious, and Pencroft was devouring his share with great gusto, when all at once a cry and an oath escaped him.
"What's the matter?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"The matter? the matter is that I have just broken a tooth!" replied the sailor.
"What, are there pebbles in your peccaries?" said Gideon Spilett.
"I suppose so," replied Pencroft, drawing from his lips the object which had cost him a grinder!--
It was not a pebble--it was a leaden bullet.
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The illustrations are by N.C. Wyeth (1877-1943) Scribners 1918)