"The Mysterious Island"
PART 3 - THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND
The Mysterious Island
by Jules Verne
Illustrated By N.C Wyeth
PART 3 - THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND
It was now two years and a half since the castaways from the balloon had been thrown on Lincoln Island, and during that period there had been no
communication between them and their fellow-creatures. Once the reporter had attempted to communicate with the inhabited world by confiding to a bird
a letter which contained the secret of their situation, but that was a chance on which it was impossible to reckon seriously. Ayrton, alone, under the
circumstances which have been related, had come to join the little colony. Now, suddenly, on this day, the 17th of October, other men had unexpectedly
appeared in sight of the island, on that deserted sea!
There could be no doubt about it! A vessel was there! But would she pass on, or would she put into port? In a few hours the colonists would
definitely know what to expect.
Cyrus Harding and Herbert having immediately called Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Neb into the dining-room of Granite House, told them what had
happened. Pencroft, seizing the telescope, rapidly swept the horizon, and stopping on the indicated point, that is to say, on that which had made the
almost imperceptible spot on the photographic negative,--
"I'm blessed but it is really a vessel!" he exclaimed, in a voice which did not express any great amount of satisfaction.
"Is she coming here?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Impossible to say anything yet," answered Pencroft, "for her rigging alone is above the horizon, and not a bit of her hull can be seen."
"What is to be done?" asked the lad.
"Wait," replied Harding.
And for a considerable time the settlers remained silent, given up to all the thoughts, and the emotions, all the fears, all the hopes, which were
aroused by this incident--the most important which had occurred since their arrival in Lincoln Island. Certainly, the colonists were not in the
situation of castaways abandoned on a sterile islet, constantly contending against a cruel nature for their miserable existence, and incessantly
tormented by the longing to return to inhabited countries. Pencroft and Neb, especially, who felt themselves at once so happy and so rich, would not
have left their island without regret. They were accustomed, besides, to this new life in the midst of the domain which their intelligence had as it
were civilized. But at any rate this ship brought news from the world, perhaps even from their native land. It was bringing fellow-creatures to them,
and it may be conceived how deeply their hearts were moved at the sight!
From time to time Pencroft took the glass and rested himself at the window. From thence he very attentively examined the vessel, which was at a
distance of twenty miles to the east. The colonists had as yet, therefore, no means of signalizing their presence. A flag would not have been
perceived; a gun would not have been heard; a fire would not have been visible. However, it was certain that the island, overtopped by Mount Franklin,
could not escape the notice of the vessel's lookout. But why was the ship coming there? Was it simple chance which brought it to that part of the
Pacific, where the maps mentioned no land except Tabor Island, which itself was out of the route usually followed by vessels from the Polynesian
Archipelagoes, from New Zealand, and from the American coast? To this question, which each one asked himself, a reply was suddenly made by Herbert.
"Can it be the 'Duncan'?" he cried.
The "Duncan," as has been said, was Lord Glenarvan's yacht, which had left Ayrton on the islet, and which was to return there someday to fetch
him. Now, the islet was not so far distant from Lincoln Island, but that a vessel, standing for the one, could pass in sight of the other. A hundred
and fifty miles only separated them in longitude, and seventy in latitude.
"We must tell Ayrton," said Gideon Spilett, "and send for him immediately. He alone can say if it is the 'Duncan.'"
This was the opinion of all, and the reporter, going to the telegraphic apparatus which placed the corral in communication with Granite House,
sent this telegram:--"Come with all possible speed."
In a few minutes the bell sounded.
"I am coming," replied Ayrton.
Then the settlers continued to watch the vessel.
"If it is the 'Duncan,' " said Herbert, "Ayrton will recognize her without difficulty, since he sailed on board her for some time."
"And if he recognizes her," added Pencroft, "it will agitate him exceedingly!"
"Yes," answered Cyrus Harding; "but now Ayrton is worthy to return on board the 'Duncan,' and pray Heaven that it is indeed Lord Glenarvan's
yacht, for I should be suspicious of any other vessel. These are ill-famed seas, and I have always feared a visit from Malay pirates to our island."
"We could defend it,', cried Herbert.
"No doubt, my boy," answered the engineer smiling, "but it would be better not to have to defend it."
"A useless observation," said Spilett. "Lincoln Island is unknown to navigators, since it is not marked even on the most recent maps. Do you
think, Cyrus, that that is a sufficient motive for a ship, finding herself unexpectedly in sight of new land, to try and visit rather than avoid it?"
"Certainly," replied Pencroft.
"I think so too," added the engineer. "It may even be said that it is the duty of a captain to come and survey any land or island not yet known,
and Lincoln Island is in this position."
"Well," said Pencroft, "suppose this vessel comes and anchors there a few cables-lengths from our island, what shall we do?"
This sudden question remained at first without any reply. But Cyrus Harding, after some moments' thought, replied in the calm tone which was usual
"What we shall do, my friends? What we ought to do is this:--we will communicate with the ship, we will take our passage on board her, and we will
leave our island, after having taken possession of it in the name of the United States. Then we will return with any who may wish to follow us to
colonize it definitely, and endow the American Republic with a useful station in this part of the Pacific Ocean!"
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Pencroft, "and that will be no small present which we shall make to our country! The colonization is already almost finished;
names are given to every part of the island; there is a natural port, fresh water, roads, a telegraph, a dockyard, and manufactories; and there will
be nothing to be done but to inscribe Lincoln Island on the maps!"
"But if anyone seizes it in our absence?" observed Gideon Spilett.
"Hang it!" cried the sailor. "I would rather remain all alone to guard it: and trust to Pencroft, they shouldn't steal it from him, like a watch
from the pocket of a swell!"
For an hour it was impossible to say with any certainty whether the vessel was or was not standing towards Lincoln Island. She was nearer, but in
what direction was she sailing? This Pencroft could not determine. However, as the wind was blowing from the northeast, in all probability the vessel
was sailing on the starboard tack. Besides, the wind was favorable for bringing her towards the island, and, the sea being calm, she would not be
afraid to approach although the shallows were not marked on the chart.
Towards four o'clock--an hour after he had been sent for--Ayrton arrived at Granite House. He entered the dining-room saying,--
"At your service, gentlemen."
Cyrus Harding gave him his hand, as was his custom to do, and, leading him to the window,--
"Ayrton," said he, "we have begged you to come here for an important reason. A ship is in sight of the island."
Ayrton at first paled slightly, and for a moment his eyes became dim; then, leaning out the window, he surveyed the horizon, but could see
"Take this telescope," said Spilett, "and look carefully, Ayrton, for it is possible that this ship may be the 'Duncan' come to these seas for the
purpose of taking you home again."
"The 'Duncan!'" murmured Ayrton. "Already?" This last word escaped Ayrton's lips as if involuntarily, and his head drooped upon his hands.
Did not twelve years' solitude on a desert island appear to him a sufficient expiation? Did not the penitent yet feel himself pardoned, either in
his own eyes or in the eyes of others?
"No," said he, "no! it cannot be the 'Duncan'!"
"Look, Ayrton," then said the engineer, "for it is necessary that we should know beforehand what to expect."
Ayrton took the glass and pointed it in the direction indicated. During some minutes he examined the horizon without moving, without uttering a
"It is indeed a vessel," said he, "but I do not think she is the 'Duncan.'"
"Why do you not think so?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Because the 'Duncan' is a steam-yacht, and I cannot perceive any trace of smoke either above or near that vessel."
"Perhaps she is simply sailing," observed Pencroft. "The wind is favorable for the direction which she appears to be taking, and she may be
anxious to economize her coal, being so far from land."
"It is possible that you may be right, Mr. Pencroft," answered Ayrton, "and that the vessel has extinguished her fires. We must wait until she is
nearer, and then we shall soon know what to expect."
So saying, Ayrton sat down in a corner of the room and remained silent. The colonists again discussed the strange ship, but Ayrton took no part in
the conversation. All were in such a mood that they found it impossible to continue their work. Gideon Spilett and Pencroft were particularly nervous,
going, coming, not able to remain still in one place. Herbert felt more curiosity. Neb alone maintained his usual calm manner. Was not his country
that where his master was? As to the engineer, he remained plunged in deep thought, and in his heart feared rather than desired the arrival of the
ship. In the meanwhile, the vessel was a little nearer the island. With the aid of the glass, it was ascertained that she was a brig, and not one of
those Malay proas, which are generally used by the pirates of the Pacific. It was, therefore, reasonable to believe that the engineer's apprehensions
would not be justified, and that the presence of this vessel in the vicinity of the island was fraught with no danger.
Pencroft, after a minute examination, was able positively to affirm that the vessel was rigged as a brig, and that she was standing obliquely
towards the coast, on the starboard tack, under her topsails and top- gallant-sails. This was confirmed by Ayrton. But by continuing in this direction
she must soon disappear behind Claw Cape, as the wind was from the southwest, and to watch her it would be then necessary to ascend the height of
Washington Bay, near Port Balloon--a provoking circumstance, for it was already five o'clock in the evening, and the twilight would soon make any
observation extremely difficult.
"What shall we do when night comes on?" asked Gideon Spilett. "Shall we light a fire, so as to signal our presence on the coast?"
This was a serious question, and yet, although the engineer still retained some of his presentiments, it was answered in the affirmative. During
the night the ship might disappear and leave for ever, and, this ship gone, would another ever return to the waters of Lincoln Island? Who could
foresee what the future would then have in store for the colonists?
"Yes," said the reporter, "we ought to make known to that vessel, whoever she may be, that the island is inhabited. To neglect the opportunity
which is offered to us might be to create everlasting regrets."
It was therefore decided that Neb and Pencroft should go to Port Balloon, and that there, at nightfall, they should light an immense fire, the
blaze of which would necessarily attract the attention of the brig.
But at the moment when Neb and the sailor were preparing to leave Granite House, the vessel suddenly altered her course, and stood directly for
Union Bay. The brig was a good sailer, for she approached rapidly. Neb and Pencroft put off their departure, therefore, and the glass was put into
Ayrton's hands, that he might ascertain for certain whether the ship was or was not the "Duncan." The Scotch yacht was also rigged as a brig. The
question was, whether a chimney could be discerned between the two masts of the vessel, which was now at a distance of only five miles.
The horizon was still very clear. The examination was easy, and Ayrton soon let the glass fall again, saying--
"It is not the 'Duncan'! It could not be!"
Pencroft again brought the brig within the range of the telescope, and could see that she was of between three and four hundred tons burden,
wonderfully narrow, well-masted, admirably built, and must be a very rapid sailer. But to what nation did she belong? That was difficult to say.
"And yet," added the sailor, "a flag is floating from her peak, but I cannot distinguish the colors of it."
"In half an hour we shall be certain about that," answered the reporter. "Besides, it is very evident that the intention of the captain of this
ship is to land, and, consequently, if not today, to-morrow at the latest, we shall make his acquaintance."
"Never mind!" said Pencroft. "It is best to know whom we have to deal with, and I shall not be sorry to recognize that fellow's colors!"
And, while thus speaking, the sailor never left the glass. The day began to fade, and with the day the breeze fell also. The brig's ensign hung in
folds, and it became more and more difficult to observe it.
"It is not the American flag," said Pencroft from time to time, "nor the English, the red of which could be easily seen, nor the French or German
colors, nor the white flag of Russia, nor the yellow of Spain. One would say it was all one color. Let's see: in these seas, what do we generally meet
with? The Chilean flag?--but that is tri-color. Brazilian?--it is green. Japanese?--it is yellow and black, while this--"
At that moment the breeze blew out the unknown flag. Ayrton seizing the telescope which the sailor had put down, put it to his eye, and in a
hoarse voice, --
"The black flag!" he exclaimed.
And indeed the somber bunting was floating from the mast of the brig, and they had now good reason for considering her to be a suspicious vessel!
Had the engineer, then, been right in his presentiments? Was this a pirate vessel? Did she scour the Pacific, competing with the Malay proas which
still infest it? For what had she come to look at the shores of Lincoln Island? Was it to them an unknown island, ready to become a magazine for
stolen cargoes? Had she come to find on the coast a sheltered port for the winter months? Was the settlers' honest domain destined to be transformed
into an infamous refuge--the headquarters of the piracy of the Pacific?
All these ideas instinctively presented themselves to the colonists' imaginations. There was no doubt, besides, of the signification which must be
attached to the color of the hoisted flag. It was that of pirates! It was that which the "Duncan" would have carried, had the convicts succeeded in
their criminal design! No time was lost before discussing it.
"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "perhaps this vessel only wishes to survey the coast of the island. Perhaps her crew will not land. There is a
chance of it. However that may be, we ought to do everything we can to hide our presence here. The windmill on Prospect Heights is too easily seen.
Let Ayrton and Neb go and take down the sails. We must also conceal the windows of Granite House with thick branches. All the fires must be
extinguished, so that nothing may betray the presence of men on the island."
"And our vessel?" said Herbert.
"Oh," answered Pencroft, "she is sheltered in Port Balloon, and I defy any of those rascals there to find her!"
The engineer's orders were immediately executed. Neb and Ayrton ascended the plateau, and took the necessary precautions to conceal any indication
of a settlement. While they were thus occupied, their companions went to the border of Jacamar Wood, and brought back a large quantity of branches and
creepers, which would at some distance appear as natural foliage, and thus disguise the windows in the granite cliff. At the same time, the ammunition
and guns were placed ready so as to be at hand in case of an unexpected attack.
When all these precautions had been taken,--
"My friends," said Harding, and his voice betrayed some emotion, "if the wretches endeavor to seize Lincoln Island, we shall defend it--shall we
"Yes, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "and if necessary we will die to defend it!"
The engineer extended his hand to his companions, who pressed it warmly. Ayrton remained in his corner, not joining the colonists. Perhaps he, the
former convict, still felt himself unworthy to do so!
Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in Ayrton's mind, and going to him--
"And you, Ayrton," he asked, "what will you do?"
"My duty," answered Ayrton.
He then took up his station near the window and gazed through the foliage.
It was now half-past seven. The sun had disappeared twenty minutes ago behind Granite House. Consequently the Eastern horizon was becoming
obscured. In the meanwhile the brig continued to advance towards Union Bay. She was now not more than two miles off, and exactly opposite the plateau
of Prospect Heights, for after having tacked off Claw Cape, she had drifted towards the north in the current of the rising tide. One might have said
that at this distance she had already entered the vast bay, for a straight line drawn from Claw Cape to Cape Mandible would have rested on her
Was the brig about to penetrate far into the bay? That was the first question. When once in the bay, would she anchor there? That was the second.
Would she not content herself with only surveying the coast, and stand out to sea again without landing her crew? They would know this in an hour. The
colonists could do nothing but wait.
Cyrus Harding had not seen the suspected vessel hoist the black flag without deep anxiety. Was it not a direct menace against the work which he
and his companions had till now conducted so successfully? Had these pirates--for the sailors of the brig could be nothing else--already visited the
island, since on approaching it they had hoisted their colors. Had they formerly invaded it, so that certain unaccountable peculiarities might be
explained in this way? Did there exist in the as yet unexplored parts some accomplice ready to enter into communication with them?
To all these questions which he mentally asked himself, Harding knew not what to reply; but he felt that the safety of the colony could not but be
seriously threatened by the arrival of the brig.
However, he and his companions were determined to fight to the last gasp. It would have been very important to know if the pirates were numerous
and better armed than the colonists. But how was this information to he obtained?
Night fell. The new moon had disappeared. Profound darkness enveloped the island and the sea. No light could pierce through the heavy piles of
clouds on the horizon. The wind had died away completely with the twilight. Not a leaf rustled on the trees, not a ripple murmured on the shore.
Nothing could be seen of the ship, all her lights being extinguished, and if she was still in sight of the island, her whereabouts could not be
"Well! who knows?" said Pencroft. "Perhaps that cursed craft will stand off during the night, and we shall see nothing of her at daybreak."
As if in reply to the sailor's observation, a bright light flashed in the darkness, and a cannon-shot was heard.
The vessel was still there and had guns on board.
Six seconds elapsed between the flash and the report.
Therefore the brig was about a mile and a quarter from the coast.
At the same time, the chains were heard rattling through the hawse-holes.
The vessel had just anchored in sight of Granite House!
There was no longer any doubt as to the pirates' intentions. They had dropped anchor at a short distance from the island, and it was evident that
the next day by means of their boats they purposed to land on the beach!
Cyrus Harding and his companions were ready to act, but, determined though they were, they must not forget to be prudent. Perhaps their presence
might still be concealed in the event of the pirates contenting themselves with landing on the shore without examining the interior of the island. It
might be, indeed, that their only intention was to obtain fresh water from the Mercy, and it was not impossible that the bridge, thrown across a mile
and a half from the mouth, and the manufactory at the Chimneys might escape their notice.
But why was that flag hoisted at the brig's peak? What was that shot fired for? Pure bravado doubtless, unless it was a sign of the act of taking
possession. Harding knew now that the vessel was well armed. And what had the colonists of Lincoln Island to reply to the pirates' guns? A few muskets
"However," observed Cyrus Harding, "here we are in an impregnable position. The enemy cannot discover the mouth of the outlet, now that it is
hidden under reeds and grass, and consequently it would be impossible for them to penetrate into Granite House."
"But our plantations, our poultry-yard, our corral, all, everything!" exclaimed Pencroft, stamping his foot. "They may spoil everything, destroy
everything in a few hours!"
"Everything, Pencroft," answered Harding, "and we have no means of preventing them."
"Are they numerous? that is the question," said the reporter. "If they are not more than a dozen, we shall be able to stop them, but forty, fifty,
"Captain Harding," then said Ayrton, advancing towards the engineer, "will you give me leave?"
"For what, my friend?"
"To go to that vessel to find out the strength of her crew."
"But Ayrton--" answered the engineer, hesitating, "you will risk your life--"
"Why not, sir?"
"That is more than your duty."
"I have more than my duty to do," replied Ayrton.
"Will you go to the ship in the boat?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"No, sir, but I will swim. A boat would be seen where a man may glide between wind and water."
"Do you know that the brig is a mile and a quarter from the shore?" said Herbert.
"I am a good swimmer, Mr. Herbert."
"I tell you it is risking your life," said the engineer.
"That is no matter," answered Ayrton. "Captain Harding, I ask this as a favor. Perhaps it will be a means of raising me in my own eyes!"
"Go, Ayrton," replied the engineer, who felt sure that a refusal would have deeply wounded the former convict, now become an honest man.
"I will accompany you," said Pencroft.
"You mistrust me!" said Ayrton quickly.
Then more humbly,--
"No! no!" exclaimed Harding with animation, "no, Ayrton, Pencroft does not mistrust you. You interpret his words wrongly."
"Indeed," returned the sailor, "I only propose to accompany Ayrton as far as the islet. It may be, although it is scarcely possible, that one of
these villains has landed, and in that case two men will not be too many to hinder him from giving the alarm. I will wait for Ayrton on the islet, and
he shall go alone to the vessel, since he has proposed to do so." These things agreed to, Ayrton made preparations for his departure. His plan was
bold, but it might succeed, thanks to the darkness of the night. Once arrived at the vessel's side, Ayrton, holding on to the main chains, might
reconnoiter the number and perhaps overhear the intentions of the pirates.
Ayrton and Pencroft, followed by their companions, descended to the beach. Ayrton undressed and rubbed himself with grease, so as to suffer less
from the temperature of the water, which was still cold. He might, indeed, be obliged to remain in it for several hours.
Pencroft and Neb, during this time, had gone to fetch the boat, moored a few hundred feet higher up, on the bank of the Mercy, and by the time
they returned, Ayrton was ready to start. A coat was thrown over his shoulders, and the settlers all came round him to press his hand.
Ayrton then shoved off with Pencroft in the boat.
It was half-past ten in the evening when the two adventurers disappeared in the darkness. Their companions returned to wait at the Chimneys.
The channel was easily traversed, and the boat touched the opposite shore of the islet. This was not done without precaution, for fear lest the
pirates might be roaming about there. But after a careful survey, it was evident that the islet was deserted. Ayrton then, followed by Pencroft,
crossed it with a rapid step, scaring the birds nestled in the holes of the rocks; then, without hesitating, he plunged into the sea, and swam
noiselessly in the direction of the ship, in which a few lights had recently appeared, showing her exact situation. As to Pencroft, he crouched down
in a cleft of the rock, and awaited the return of his companion.
In the meanwhile, Ayrton, swimming with a vigorous stroke, glided through the sheet of water without producing the slightest ripple. His head just
emerged above it and his eyes were fixed on the dark hull of the brig, from which the lights were reflected in the water. He thought only of the duty
which he had promised to accomplish, and nothing of the danger which he ran, not only on board the ship, but in the sea, often frequented by sharks.
The current bore him along and he rapidly receded from the shore.
Half an hour afterwards, Ayrton, without having been either seen or heard, arrived at the ship and caught hold of the main-chains. He took breath,
then, hoisting himself up, he managed to reach the extremity of the cutwater. There were drying several pairs of sailors' trousers. He put on a pair.
Then settling himself firmly, he listened. They were not sleeping on board the brig. On the contrary, they were talking, singing, laughing. And these
were the sentences, accompanied with oaths, which principally struck Ayrton:--
"Our brig is a famous acquisition."
"She sails well, and merits her name of the 'Speedy.'"
"She would show all the navy of Norfolk a clean pair of heels."
"Hurrah for her captain!"
"Hurrah for Bob Harvey!"
What Ayrton felt when he overheard this fragment of conversation may be understood when it is known that in this Bob Harvey he recognized one of
his old Australian companions, a daring sailor, who had continued his criminal career. Bob Harvey had seized, on the shores of Norfolk Island this
brig, which was loaded with arms, ammunition, utensils, and tools of all sorts, destined for one of the Sandwich Islands. All his gang had gone on
board, and pirates after having been convicts, these wretches, more ferocious than the Malays themselves, scoured the Pacific, destroying vessels, and
massacring their crews.
The convicts spoke loudly, they recounted their deeds, drinking deeply at the same time, and this is what Ayrton gathered. The actual crew of the
"Speedy" was composed solely of English prisoners, escaped from Norfolk Island.
Here it may be well to explain what this island was. In 29' 2' south latitude, and 165 42' east longitude, to the east of Australia, is found a
little island, six miles in circumference, overlooked by Mount Pitt, which rises to a height of 1,100 feet above the level of the sea. This is Norfolk
Island, once the seat of an establishment in which were lodged the most intractable convicts from the English penitentiaries. They numbered 500, under
an iron discipline, threatened with terrible punishments, and were guarded by 150 soldiers, and 150 employed under the orders of the governor. It
would be difficult to imagine a collection of greater ruffians. Sometimes,--although very rarely,--notwithstanding the extreme surveillance of which
they were the object, many managed to escape, and seizing vessels which they surprised, they infested the Polynesian Archipelagoes.
Thus had Bob Harvey and his companions done. Thus had Ayrton formerly wished to do. Bob Harvey had seized the brig "Speedy," anchored in sight of
Norfolk Island; the crew had been massacred; and for a year this ship had scoured the Pacific, under the command of Harvey, now a pirate, and well
known to Ayrton!
The convicts were, for the most part, assembled under the poop; but a few, stretched on the deck, were talking loudly.
The conversation still continued amid shouts and libations. Ayrton learned that chance alone had brought the "Speedy" in sight of Lincoln Island;
Bob Harvey had never yet set foot on it; but, as Cyrus Harding had conjectured, finding this unknown land in his course, its position being marked on
no chart, he had formed the project of visiting it, and, if he found it suitable, of making it the brig's headquarters.
As to the black flag hoisted at the "Speedy's" peak, and the gun which had been fired, in imitation of men-of-war when they lower their colors, it
was pure piratical bravado. It was in no way a signal, and no communication yet existed between the convicts and Lincoln Island.
The settlers' domain was now menaced with terrible danger. Evidently the island, with its water, its harbor, its resources of all kinds so
increased in value by the colonists, and the concealment afforded by Granite House, could not but be convenient for the convicts; in their hands it
would become an excellent place of refuge, and, being unknown, it would assure them, for a long time perhaps, impunity and security. Evidently, also,
the lives of the settlers would not be respected, and Bob Harvey and his accomplices' first care would be to massacre them without mercy. Harding and
his companions had, therefore, not even the choice of flying and hiding themselves in the island, since the convicts intended to reside there, and
since, in the event of the "Speedy" departing on an expedition, it was probable that some of the crew would remain on shore, so as to settle
themselves there. Therefore, it would be necessary to fight, to destroy every one of these scoundrels, unworthy of pity, and against whom any means
would be right. So thought Ayrton, and he well knew that Cyrus Harding would be of his way of thinking.
But was resistance and, in the last place, victory possible? That would depend on the equipment of the brig, and the number of men which she
This Ayrton resolved to learn at any cost, and as an hour after his arrival the vociferations had begun to die away, and as a large number of the
convicts were already buried in a drunken sleep, Ayrton did not hesitate to venture onto the "Speedy's" deck, which the extinguished lanterns now left
in total darkness. He hoisted himself onto the cutwater, and by the bowsprit arrived at the forecastle. Then, gliding among the convicts stretched
here and there, he made the round of the ship, and found that the "Speedy" carried four guns, which would throw shot of from eight to ten pounds in
weight. He found also, on touching them that these guns were breech-loaders. They were therefore, of modern make, easily used, and of terrible effect.
As to the men lying on the deck, they were about ten in number, but it was to be supposed that more were sleeping down below. Besides, by
listening to them, Ayrton had understood that there were fifty on board. That was a large number for the six settlers of Lincoln Island to contend
with! But now, thanks to Ayrton's devotion, Cyrus Harding would not be surprised, he would know the strength of his adversaries, and would make his
There was nothing more for Ayrton to do but to return, and render to his companions an account of the mission with which he had charged himself,
and he prepared to regain the bows of the brig, so that he might let himself down into the water. But to this man, whose wish was, as he had said, to
do more than his duty, there came an heroic thought. This was to sacrifice his own life, but save the island and the colonists. Cyrus Harding
evidently could not resist fifty ruffians, all well armed, who, either by penetrating by main force into Granite House, or by starving out the
besieged, could obtain from them what they wanted. And then he thought of his preservers--those who had made him again a man, and an honest mm, those
to whom he owed all--murdered without pity, their works destroyed, their island turned into a pirates' den! He said to himself that he, Ayrton, was
the principal cause of so many disasters, since his old companion, Bob Harvey, had but realized his own plans, and a feeling of horror took possession
of him. Then he was seized with an irresistible desire to blow up the brig and with her, all whom she had on board. He would perish in the explosion,
but he would have done his duty.
Ayrton did not hesitate. To reach the powder-room, which is always situated in the after-part of a vessel, was easy. There would be no want of
powder in a vessel which followed such a trade, and a spark would be enough to destroy it in an instant.
Ayrton stole carefully along the between-decks, strewn with numerous sleepers, overcome more by drunkenness than sleep. A lantern was lighted at
the foot of the mainmast, round which was hung a gun-rack, furnished with weapons of all sorts.
Ayrton took a revolver from the rack, and assured himself that it was loaded and primed. Nothing more was needed to accomplish the work of
destruction. He then glided towards the stern, so as to arrive under the brig's poop at the powder-magazine.
It was difficult to proceed along the dimly lighted deck without stumbling over some half-sleeping convict, who retorted by oaths and kicks.
Ayrton was, therefore, more than once obliged to halt. But at last he arrived at the partition dividing the aftercabin, and found the door opening
into the magazine itself.
Ayrton, compelled to force it open, set to work. It was a difficult operation to perform without noise, for he had to break a padlock. But under
his vigorous hand, the padlock broke, and the door was open.
At that moment a hand was laid on Ayrton's shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" asked a tail man, in a harsh voice, who, standing in the shadow, quickly threw the light of a lantern in Ayrton's face.
Ayrton drew beck. In the rapid flash of the lantern, he had recognized his former accomplice, Bob Harvey, who could not have known him, as he must
have thought Ayrton long since dead.
"What are you doing here?" again said Bob Harvey, seizing Ayrton by the waistband.
But Ayrton, without replying, wrenched himself from his grasp and attempted to rush into the magazine. A shot fired into the midst of the
powder-casks, and all would be over!
"Help, lads!" shouted Bob Harvey.
At his shout two or three pirates awoke, jumped up, and, rushing on Ayrton, endeavored to throw him down. He soon extricated himself from their
grasp. He fired his revolver, and two of the convicts fell, but a blow from a knife which he could not ward off made a gash in his shoulder.
Ayrton perceived that he could no longer hope to carry out his project. Bob Harvey had reclosed the door of the powder-magazine, and a movement on
the deck indicated a general awakening of the pirates. Ayrton must reserve himself to fight at the side of Cyrus Harding. There was nothing for him
But was flight still possible? It was doubtful, yet Ayrton resolved to dare everything in order to rejoin his companions.
Four barrels of the revolver were still undischarged. Two were fired-- one, aimed at Bob Harvey, did not wound him, or at any rate only slightly,
and Ayrton, profiting by the momentary retreat of his adversaries, rushed towards the companion-ladder to gain the deck. Passing before the lantern,
he smashed it with a blow from the butt of his revolver. A profound darkness ensued, which favored his flight. Two or three pirates, awakened by the
noise, were descending the ladder at the same moment.
A fifth shot from Ayrton laid one low, and the others drew back, not understanding what was going on. Ayrton was on deck in two bounds, and three
seconds later, having discharged his last barrel in the face of a pirate who was about to seize him by the throat, he leaped over the bulwarks into
Ayrton had not made six strokes before shots were splashing around him like hail.
What were Pencroft's feelings, sheltered under a rock on the islet! What were those of Harding, the reporter, Herbert, and Neb, crouched in the
Chimneys, when they heard the reports on board the brig! They rushed out on to the beach, and, their guns shouldered, they stood ready to repel any
They had no doubt about it themselves! Ayrton, surprised by the pirates, had been murdered, and, perhaps, the wretches would profit by the night
to make a descent on the island!
Half an hour was passed in terrible anxiety. The firing had ceased, and yet neither Ayrton nor Pencroft had reappeared. Was the islet invaded?
Ought they not to fly to the help of Ayrton and Pencroft? But how? The tide being high at that time, rendered the channel impassable. The boat was not
there! We may imagine the horrible anxiety which took possession of Harding and his companions!
At last, towards half-past twelve, a boat, carrying two men, touched the beach. It was Ayrton, slightly wounded in the shoulder, and Pencroft,
safe and sound, whom their friends received with open arms.
Ayrton's fight with the pirates
All immediately took refuge in the Chimneys. There Ayrton recounted all that had passed, even to his plan for blowing up the brig, which he had
attempted to put into execution.
All hands were extended to Ayrton, who did not conceal from them that their situation was serious. The pirates had been alarmed. They knew that
Lincoln Island was inhabited. They would land upon it in numbers and well armed. They would respect nothing. Should the settlers fall into their
hands, they must expect no mercy!
"Well, we shall know how to die!" said the reporter.
"Let us go in and watch," answered the engineer.
"Have we any chance of escape, captain?" asked the sailor.
"Hum! six against fifty!"
"Yes! six! without counting--"
"Who?" asked Pencroft.
Cyrus did not reply, but pointed upwards.
The night passed without incident. The colonists were on the qui vive, and did not leave their post at the Chimneys. The pirates, on their side,
did not appear to have made any attempt to land. Since the last shots fired at Ayrton not a report, not even a sound, had betrayed the presence of the
brig in the neighborhood of the island. It might have been fancied that she had weighed anchor, thinking that she had to deal with her match, and had
left the coast.
But it was no such thing, and when day began to dawn the settlers could see a confused mass through the morning mist. It was the "Speedy."
"These, my friends," said the engineer, "are the arrangements which appear to me best to make before the fog completely clears away. It hides us
from the eyes of the pirates, and we can act without attracting their attention. The most important thing is, that the convicts should believe that
the inhabitants of the island are numerous, and consequently capable of resisting them. I therefore propose that we divide into three parties. The
first of which shall be posted at the Chimneys, the second at the mouth of the Mercy. As to the third, I think it would be best to place it on the
islet, so as to prevent, or at all events delay, any attempt at landing. We have the use of two rifles and four muskets. Each of us will be armed,
and, as we are amply provided with powder and shot, we need not spare our fire. We have nothing to fear from the muskets nor even from the guns of the
brig. What can they do against these rocks? And, as we shall not fire from the windows of Granite House, the pirates will not think of causing
irreparable damage by throwing shell against it. What is to be feared is, the necessity of meeting hand-to-hand, since the convicts have numbers on
their side. We must therefore try to prevent them from landing, but without discovering ourselves. Therefore, do not economize the ammunition. Fire
often, but with a sure aim. We have each eight or ten enemies to kill, and they must be killed!"
Cyrus Harding had clearly represented their situation, although he spoke in the calmest voice, as if it was a question of directing a piece of
work and not ordering a battle. His companions approved these arrangements without even uttering a word. There was nothing more to be done but for
each to take his place before the fog should be completely dissipated. Neb and Pencroft immediately ascended to Granite House and brought back a
sufficient quantity of ammunition. Gideon Spilett and Ayrton, both very good marksmen, were armed with the two rifles, which carried nearly a mile.
The four other muskets were divided among Harding, Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert.
The posts were arranged in the following manner:--
Cyrus Harding and Herbert remained in ambush at the Chimneys, thus commanding the shore to the foot of Granite House.
Gideon Spilett and Neb crouched among the rocks at the mouth of the Mercy, from which the drawbridges had been raised, so as to prevent any one
from crossing in a boat or landing on the opposite shore.
As to Ayrton and Pencroft, they shoved off in the boat, and prepared to cross the channel and to take up two separate stations on the islet. In
this way, shots being fired from four different points at once, the convicts would be led to believe that the island was both largely peopled and
In the event of a landing being effected without their having been able to prevent it, and also if they saw that they were on the point of being
cut off by the brig's boat, Ayrton and Pencroft were to return in their boat to the shore and proceed towards the threatened spot.
Before starting to occupy their posts, the colonists for the last time wrung each other's hands.
Pencroft succeeded in controlling himself sufficiently to suppress his emotion when he embraced Herbert, his boy! and then they separated.
In a few moments Harding and Herbert on one side, the reporter and Neb on the other, had disappeared behind the rocks, and five minutes later
Ayrton and Pencroft, having without difficulty crossed the channel, disembarked on the islet and concealed themselves in the clefts of its eastern
None of them could have been seen, for they themselves could scarcely distinguish the brig in the fog.
It was half-past six in the morning.
Soon the fog began to clear away, and the topmasts of the brig issued from the vapor. For some minutes great masses rolled over the surface of the
sea, then a breeze sprang up, which rapidly dispelled the mist.
The "Speedy" now appeared in full view, with a spring on her cable, her head to the north, presenting her larboard side to the island. Just as
Harding had calculated, she was not more than a mile and a quarter from the coast.
The sinister black flag floated from the peak.
The engineer, with his telescope, could see that the four guns on board were pointed at the island. They were evidently ready to fire at a
In the meanwhile the "Speedy" remained silent. About thirty pirates could be seen moving on the deck. A few more on the poop; two others posted in
the shrouds, and armed with spyglasses, were attentively surveying the island.
Certainly, Bob Harvey and his crew would not be able easily to give an account of what had happened during the night on board the brig. Had this
half-naked man, who had forced the door of the powder-magazine, and with whom they had struggled, who had six times discharged his revolver at them,
who had killed one and wounded two others, escaped their shot? Had he been able to swim to shore? Whence did he come? What had been his object? Had
his design really been to blow up the brig, as Bob Harvey had thought? All this must be confused enough to the convicts' minds. But what they could no
longer doubt was that the unknown island before which the "Speedy" had cast anchor was inhabited, and that there was, perhaps, a numerous colony ready
to defend it. And yet no one was to be seen, neither on the shore, nor on the heights. The beach appeared to be absolutely deserted. At any rate,
there was no trace of dwellings. Had the inhabitants fled into the interior? Thus probably the pirate captain reasoned, and doubtless, like a prudent
man, he wished to reconnoiter the locality before he allowed his men to venture there.
During an hour and a half, no indication of attack or landing could be observed on board the brig. Evidently Bob Harvey was hesitating. Even with
his strongest telescopes he could not have perceived one of the settlers crouched among the rocks. It was not even probable that his attention had
been awakened by the screen of green branches and creepers hiding the windows of Granite House, and showing rather conspicuously on the bare rock.
Indeed, how could he imagine that a dwelling was hollowed out, at that height, in the solid granite? From Claw Cape to the Mandible Capes, in all the
extent of Union Bay, there was nothing to lead him to suppose that the island was or could be inhabited.
At eight o'clock, however, the colonists observed a movement on board the "Speedy." A boat was lowered, and seven men jumped into her. They were
armed with muskets; one took the yoke-lines, four others the oars, and the two others, kneeling in the bows, ready to fire, reconnoitered the island.
Their object was no doubt to make an examination but not to land, for in the latter case they would have come in larger numbers. The pirates from
their look-out could have seen that the coast was sheltered by an islet, separated from it by a channel half a mile in width. However, it was soon
evident to Cyrus Harding, on observing the direction followed by the boat, that they would not attempt to penetrate into the channel, but would land
on the islet.
Pencroft and Ayrton, each hidden in a narrow cleft of the rock, saw them coming directly towards them, and waited till they were within range.
The boat advanced with extreme caution. The oars only dipped into the water at long intervals. It could now be seen that one of the convicts held
a lead-line in his hand, and that he wished to fathom the depth of the channel hollowed out by the current of the Mercy. This showed that it was Bob
Harvey's intention to bring his brig as near as possible to the coast. About thirty pirates, scattered in the rigging, followed every movement of the
boat, and took the bearings of certain landmarks which would allow them to approach without danger. The boat was not more than two cables-lengths off
the islet when she stopped. The man at the tiller stood up and looked for the best place at which to land.
At that moment two shots were heard. Smoke curled up from among the rocks of the islet. The man at the helm and the man with the lead-line fell
backwards into the boat. Ayrton's and Pencroft's balls had struck them both at the same moment.
Almost immediately a louder report was heard, a cloud of smoke issued from the brig's side, and a ball, striking the summit of the rock which
sheltered Ayrton and Pencroft, made it fly in splinters, but the two marksmen remained unhurt.
Horrible imprecations burst from the boat, which immediately continued its way. The man who had been at the tiller was replaced by one of his
comrades, and the oars were rapidly plunged into the water. However, instead of returning on board as might have been expected, the boat coasted along
the islet, so as to round its southern point. The pirates pulled vigorously at their oars that they might get out of range of the bullets.
They advanced to within five cables-lengths of that part of the shore terminated by Flotsam Point, and after having rounded it in a semicircular
line, still protected by the brig's guns, they proceeded towards the mouth of the Mercy.
Their evident intention was to penetrate into the channel, and cut off the colonists posted on the islet, in such a way, that whatever their
number might be, being placed between the fire from the boat and the fire from the brig, they would find themselves in a very disadvantageous
A quarter of an hour passed while the boat advanced in this direction. Absolute silence, perfect calm reigned in the air and on the water.
Pencroft and Ayrton, although they knew they ran the risk of being cut off, had not left their post, both that they did not wish to show
themselves as yet to their assailants, and expose themselves to the "Speedy's" guns, and that they relied on Neb and Gideon Spilett, watching at the
mouth of the river, and on Cyrus Harding and Herbert, in ambush among the rocks at the Chimneys.
Twenty minutes after the first shots were fired, the boat was less than two cables-lengths off the Mercy. As the tide was beginning to rise with
its accustomed violence, caused by the narrowness of the straits, the pirates were drawn towards the river, and it was only by dint of hard rowing
that they were able to keep in the middle of the channel. But, as they were passing within good range of the mouth of the Mercy, two balls saluted
them, and two more of their number were laid in the bottom of the boat. Neb and Spilett had not missed their aim.
The brig immediately sent a second ball on the post betrayed by the smoke, but without any other result than that of splintering the rock.
The boat now contained only three able men. Carried on by the current, it shot through the channel with the rapidity of an arrow, passed before
Harding and Herbert, who, not thinking it within range, withheld their fire, then, rounding the northern point of the islet with the two remaining
oars, they pulled towards the brig.
Hitherto the settlers had nothing to complain of. Their adversaries had certainly had the worst of it. The latter already counted four men
seriously wounded if not dead; they, on the contrary, unwounded, had not missed a shot. If the pirates continued to attack them in this way, if they
renewed their attempt to land by means of a boat, they could be destroyed one by one.
It was now seen how advantageous the engineer's arrangements had been. The pirates would think that they had to deal with numerous and well-armed
adversaries, whom they could not easily get the better of.
Half an hour passed before the boat, having to pull against the current, could get alongside the "Speedy." Frightful cries were heard when they
returned on board with the wounded, and two or three guns were fired with no results.
But now about a dozen other convicts, maddened with rage, and possibly by the effect of the evening's potations, threw themselves into the boat. A
second boat was also lowered, in which eight men took their places, and while the first pulled straight for the islet, to dislodge the colonists from
thence the second maneuvered so as to force the entrance of the Mercy.
The situation was evidently becoming very dangerous for Pencroft and Ayrton, and they saw that they must regain the mainland.
However, they waited till the first boat was within range, when two well- directed balls threw its crew into disorder. Then, Pencroft and Ayrton,
abandoning their posts, under fire from the dozen muskets, ran across the islet at full speed, jumped into their boat, crossed the channel at the
moment the second boat reached the southern end, and ran to hide themselves in the Chimneys.
They had scarcely rejoined Cyrus Harding and Herbert, before the islet was overrun with pirates in every direction. Almost at the same moment,
fresh reports resounded from the Mercy station, to which the second boat was rapidly approaching. Two, out of the eight men who manned her, were
mortally wounded by Gideon Spilett and Neb, and the boat herself, carried irresistibly onto the reefs, was stove in at the mouth of the Mercy. But the
six survivors, holding their muskets above their heads to preserve them from contact with the water, managed to land on the right bank of the river.
Then, finding they were exposed to the fire of the ambush there, they fled in the direction of Flotsam Point, out of range of the balls.
The actual situation was this: on the islet were a dozen convicts, of whom some were no doubt wounded, but who had still a boat at their disposal;
on the island were six, but who could not by any possibility reach Granite House, as they could not cross the river, all the bridges being raised.
"Hallo," exclaimed Pencroft as he rushed into the Chimneys, "hallo, captain! What do you think of it, now?"
"I think," answered the engineer, "that the combat will now take a new form, for it cannot be supposed that the convicts will be so foolish as to
remain in a position so unfavorable for them!"
"They won't cross the channel," said the sailor. "Ayrton and Mr. Spilett's rifles are there to prevent them. You know that they carry more than a
"No doubt," replied Herbert; "but what can two rifles do against the brig's guns?"
"Well, the brig isn't in the channel yet, I fancy!" said Pencroft.
"But suppose she does come there?" said Harding.
"That's impossible, for she would risk running aground and being lost!"
"It is possible," said Ayrton. "The convicts might profit by the high tide to enter the channel, with the risk of grounding at low tide, it is
true; but then, under the fire from her guns, our posts would be no longer tenable."
"Confound them!" exclaimed Pencroft, "it really seems as if the blackguards were preparing to weigh anchor."
"Perhaps we shall be obliged to take refuge in Granite House!" observed Herbert.
"We must wait!" answered Cyrus Harding.
"But Mr. Spilett and Neb?" said Pencroft.
"They will know when it is best to rejoin us. Be ready, Ayrton. It is yours and Spilett's rifles which must speak now."
It was only too true. The "Speedy" was beginning to weigh her anchor, and her intention was evidently to approach the islet. The tide would be
rising for an hour and a half, and the ebb current being already weakened, it would be easy for the brig to advance. But as to entering the channel,
Pencroft, contrary to Ayrton's opinion, could not believe that she would dare to attempt it.
In the meanwhile, the pirates who occupied the islet had gradually advanced to the opposite shore, and were now only separated from the mainland
by the channel.
Being armed with muskets alone, they could do no harm to the settlers, in ambush at the Chimneys and the mouth of the Mercy; but, not knowing the
latter to be supplied with long-range rifles, they on their side did not believe themselves to be exposed. Quite uncovered, therefore, they surveyed
the islet, and examined the shore.
Their illusion was of short duration. Ayrton's and Gideon Spilett's rifles then spoke, and no doubt imparted some very disagreeable intelligence
to two of the convicts, for they fell backwards.
Then there was a general helter-skelter. The ten others, not even stopping to pick up their dead or wounded companions, fled to the other side of
the islet, tumbled into the boat which had brought them, and pulled away with all their strength.
"Eight less!" exclaimed Pencroft. "Really, one would have thought that Mr. Spilett and Ayrton had given the word to fire together!"
"Gentlemen," said Ayrton, as he reloaded his gun, "this is becoming more serious. The brig is making sail!"
"The anchor is weighed!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Yes, and she is already moving."
In fact, they could distinctly hear the creaking of the windlass. The "Speedy" was at first held by her anchor; then, when that had been raised,
she began to drift towards the shore. The wind was blowing from the sea; the jib and the foretopsail were hoisted, and the vessel gradually approached
From the two posts of the Mercy and the Chimneys they watched her without giving a sign of life, but not without some emotion. What could be more
terrible for the colonists than to be exposed, at a short distance, to the brig's guns, without being able to reply with any effect? How could they
then prevent the pirates from landing?
Cyrus Harding felt this strongly, and he asked himself what it would be possible to do. Before long, he would be called upon for his
determination. But what was it to be? To shut themselves up in Granite House, to be besieged there, to remain there for weeks, for months even, since
they had an abundance of provisions? So far good! But after that? The pirates would not the less be masters of the island, which they would ravage at
their pleasure, and in time, they would end by having their revenge on the prisoners in Granite House.
However, one chance yet remained; it was that Bob Harvey, after all, would not venture his ship into the channel, and that he would keep outside
the islet. He would be still separated from the coast by half a mile, and at that distance his shot could not be very destructive.
"Never!" repeated Pencroft, "Bob Harvey will never, if he is a good seaman, enter that channel! He knows well that it would risk the brig, if the
sea got up ever so little! And what would become of him without his vessel?"
In the meanwhile the brig approached the islet, and it could be seen that she was endeavoring to make the lower end. The breeze was light, and as
the current had then lost much of its force, Bob Harvey had absolute command over his vessel.
The route previously followed by the boats had allowed her to reconnoiter the channel, and she boldly entered it.
The pirate's design was now only too evident; he wished to bring her broadside to bear on the Chimneys and from there to reply with shell and ball
to the shot which had till then decimated her crew.
Soon the "Speedy" reached the point of the islet; she rounded it with ease; the mainsail was braced up, and the brig hugging the wind, stood
across the mouth of the Mercy.
"The scoundrels! they are coming!" said Pencroft.
At that moment, Cyrus Harding, Ayrton, the sailor, and Herbert, were rejoined by Neb and Gideon Spilett.
The reporter and his companion had judged it best to abandon the post at the Mercy, from which they could do nothing against the ship, and they
had acted wisely. It was better that the colonists should be together at the moment when they were about to engage in a decisive action. Gideon
Spilett and Neb had arrived by dodging behind the rocks, though not without attracting a shower of bullets, which had not, however, reached them.
"Spilett! Neb!" cried the engineer. "You are not wounded?"
"No," answered the reporter, "a few bruises only from the ricochet! But that cursed brig has entered the channel!"
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and in ten minutes she will have anchored before Granite House!"
"Have you formed any plan, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.
"We must take refuge in Granite House while there is still time, and the convicts cannot see us."
"That is, my opinion, too," replied Gideon Spilett, "but once shut up--"
"We must be guided by circumstances," said the engineer.
"Let us be off, then, and make haste!" said the reporter.
"Would you not wish, captain, that Ayrton and I should remain here?" asked the sailor.
"What would be the use of that, Pencroft?" replied Harding. "No. We will not separate!"
There was not a moment to be lost. The colonists left the Chimneys. A bend of the cliff prevented them from being seen by those in the brig, but
two or three reports, and the crash of bullets on the rock, told them that the "Speedy" was at no great distance.
To spring into the lift, hoist themselves up to the door of Granite House, where Top and Jup had been shut up since the evening before, to rush
into the large room, was the work of a minute only.
It was quite time, for the settlers, through the branches, could see the "Speedy," surrounded with smoke, gliding up the channel. The firing was
incessant, and shot from the four guns struck blindly, both on the Mercy post, although it was not occupied, and on the Chimneys. The rocks were
splintered, and cheers accompanied each discharge. However, they were hoping that Granite House would be spared, thanks to Harding's precaution of
concealing the windows when a shot, piercing the door, penetrated into the passage.
"We are discovered!" exclaimed Pencroft.
The colonists had not, perhaps, been seen, but it was certain that Bob Harvey had thought proper to send a ball through the suspected foliage
which concealed that part of the cliff. Soon he redoubled his attack, when another ball having torn away the leafy screen, disclosed a gaping aperture
in the granite.
The colonists' situation was desperate. Their retreat was discovered. They could not oppose any obstacle to these missiles, nor protect the stone,
which flew in splinters around them. There was nothing to be done but to take refuge in the upper passage of Granite House, and leave their dwelling
to be devastated, when a deep roar was heard, followed by frightful cries!
Cyrus Harding and his companions rushed to one of the windows--
The brig, irresistibly raised on a sort of water-spout, had just split in two, and in less than ten seconds she was swallowed up with all her
"She has blown up!" cried Herbert.
"Yes! blown up, just as if Ayrton had set fire to the powder!" returned Pencroft, throwing himself into the lift together with Neb and the lad.
"But what has happened?" asked Gideon Spilett, quite stunned by this unexpected catastrophe.
"Oh! this time, we shall know--" answered the engineer quickly.
"What shall we know?--"
"Later! later! Come, Spilett. The main point is that these pirates have been exterminated!"
And Cyrus Harding, hurrying away the reporter and Ayrton, joined Pencroft, Neb, and Herbert on the beach.
Nothing could be seen of the brig, not even her masts. After having been raised by the water-spout, she had fallen on her side, and had sunk in
that position, doubtless in consequence of some enormous leak. But as in that place the channel was not more than twenty feet in depth, it was certain
that the sides of the submerged brig would reappear at low water.
A few things from the wreck floated on the surface of the water, a raft could be seen consisting of spare spars, coops of poultry with their
occupants still living, boxes and barrels, which gradually came to the surface, after having escaped through the hatchways, but no pieces of the wreck
appeared, neither planks from the deck, nor timber from the hull,-- which rendered the sudden disappearance of the "Speedy" perfectly inexplicable.
However, the two masts, which had been broken and escaped from the shrouds and stays came up, and with their sails, some furled and the others
spread. But it was not necessary to wait for the tide to bring up these riches, and Ayrton and Pencroft jumped into the boat with the intention of
towing the pieces of wreck either to the beach or to the islet. But just as they were shoving off, an observation from Gideon Spilett arrested them.
"What about those six convicts who disembarked on the right bank of the Mercy?" said he.
In fact, it would not do to forget that the six men whose boat had gone to pieces on the rocks had landed at Flotsam Point.
They looked in that direction. None of the fugitives were visible. It was probable that, having seen their vessel engulfed in the channel, they
had fled into the interior of the island.
"We will deal with them later," said Harding. "As they are armed, they will still be dangerous; but as it is six against six, the chances are
equal. To the most pressing business first."
Ayrton and Pencroft pulled vigorously towards the wreck.
The sea was calm and the tide very high, as there had been a new moon but two days before. A whole hour at least would elapse before the hull of
the brig could emerge from the water of the channel.
Ayrton and Pencroft were able to fasten the masts and spars by means of ropes, the ends of which were carried to the beach. There, by the united
efforts of the settlers the pieces of wreck were hauled up. Then the boat picked up all that was floating, coops, barrels, and boxes, which were
immediately carried to the Chimneys.
Several bodies floated also. Among them, Ayrton recognized that of Bob Harvey, which he pointed out to his companion, saying with some emotion,--
"That is what I have been, Pencroft."
"But what you are no longer, brave Ayrton!" returned the sailor warmly.
It was singular enough that so few bodies floated. Only five or six were counted, which were already being carried by the current towards the open
sea. Very probably the convicts had not had time to escape, and the ship lying over on her side, the greater number of them had remained below. Now
the current, by carrying the bodies of these miserable men out to sea, would spare the colonists the sad task of burying them in some corner of their
For two hours, Cyrus Harding and his companions were solely occupied in hauling up the spars on to the sand, and then in spreading the sails which
were perfectly uninjured, to dry. They spoke little, for they were absorbed in their work, but what thoughts occupied their minds!
The possession of this brig, or rather all that she contained, was a perfect mine of wealth. In fact, a ship is like a little world in miniature,
and the stores of the colony would be increased by a large number of useful articles. It would be, on a large scale, equivalent to the chest found at
"And besides," thought Pencroft, "why should it be impossible to refloat the brig? If she has only a leak, that may be stopped up; a vessel from
three to four hundred tons, why she is a regular ship compared to our 'Bonadventure'! And we could go a long distance in her! We could go anywhere we
liked! Captain Harding, Ayrton and I must examine her! She would be well worth the trouble!"
In fact, if the brig was still fit to navigate, the colonists' chances of returning to their native land were singularly increased. But, to decide
this important question, it was necessary to wait until the tide was quite low, so that every part of the brig's hull might be examined.
When their treasures had been safely conveyed on shore, Harding and his companions agreed to devote some minutes to breakfast. They were almost
famished; fortunately, the larder was not far off, and Neb was noted for being an expeditious cook. They breakfasted, therefore, near the Chimneys,
and during their repast, as may be supposed, nothing was talked of but the event which had so miraculously saved the colony.
"Miraculous is the word," repeated Pencroft, "for it must be acknowledged that those rascals blew up just at the right moment! Granite House was
beginning to be uncomfortable as a habitation!"
"And can you guess, Pencroft," asked the reporter, "how it happened, or what can have occasioned the explosion?"
"Oh! Mr. Spilett, nothing is more simple," answered Pencroft. "A convict vessel is not disciplined like a man-of-war! Convicts are not sailors. Of
course the powder-magazine was open, and as they were firing incessantly, some careless or clumsy fellow just blew up the vessel!"
"Captain Harding," said Herbert, "what astonishes me is that the explosion has not produced more effect. The report was not loud, and besides
there are so few planks and timbers torn out. It seems as if the ship had rather foundered than blown up."
"Does that astonish you, my boy?" asked the engineer.
"And it astonishes me also, Herbert," replied he, "but when we visit the hull of the brig, we shall no doubt find the explanation of the matter."
"Why, captain," said Pencroft, "you don't suppose that the 'Speedy' simply foundered like a ship which has struck on a rock?"
"Why not," observed Neb, "if there are rocks in the channel?"
"Nonsense, Neb," answered Pencroft, "you did not look at the right moment. An instant before she sank, the brig, as I saw perfectly well, rose on
an enormous wave, and fell back on her larboard side. Now, if she had only struck, she would have sunk quietly and gone to the bottom like an honest
"It was just because she was not an honest vessel!" returned Neb.
"Well, we shall soon see, Pencroft," said the engineer.
"We shall soon see," rejoined the sailor, "but I would wager my head there are no rocks in the channel. Look here, captain, to speak candidly, do
you mean to say that there is anything marvelous in the occurrence?"
Cyrus Harding did not answer.
"At any rate," said Gideon Spilett, "whether rock or explosion, you will agree, Pencroft, that it occurred just in the nick of time!"
"Yes! yes!" replied the sailor, "but that is not the question. I ask Captain Harding if he sees anything supernatural in all this."
"I cannot say, Pencroft," said the engineer. "That is all the answer I can make."
A reply which did not satisfy Pencroft at all. He stuck to "an explosion," and did not wish to give it up. He would never consent to admit that in
that channel, with its fine sandy bed, just like the beach, which he had often crossed at low water, there could be an unknown rock.
And besides, at the time the brig foundered, it was high water, that is to say, there was enough water to carry the vessel clear over any rocks
which would not be uncovered at low tide. Therefore, there could not have been a collision. Therefore, the vessel had not struck. So she had blown up.
And it must be confessed that the sailor's arguments were reasonable.
Towards half-past one, the colonists embarked in the boat to visit the wreck. It was to be regretted that the brig's two boats had not been saved;
but one, as has been said, had gone to pieces at the mouth of the Mercy, and was absolutely useless; the other had disappeared when the brig went
down, and had not again been seen, having doubtless been crushed.
The hull of the "Speedy" was just beginning to issue from the water. The brig was lying right over on her side, for her masts being broken,
pressed down by the weight of the ballast displaced by the shock, the keel was visible along her whole length. She had been regularly turned over by
the inexplicable but frightful submarine action, which had been at the same time manifested by an enormous water-spout.
The settlers rowed round the hull, and in proportion as the tide went down, they could ascertain, if not the cause which had occasioned the
catastrophe, at least the effect produced.
Towards the bows, on both sides of the keel, seven or eight feet from the beginning of the stem, the sides of the brig were frightfully torn. Over
a length of at least twenty feet there opened two large leaks, which would be impossible to stop up. Not only had the copper sheathing and the planks
disappeared, reduced, no doubt, to powder, but also the ribs, the iron bolts, and treenalls which united them. From the entire length of the hull to
the stern the false keel had been separated with an unaccountable violence, and the keel itself, torn from the carline in several places, was split in
all its length.
"I've a notion!" exclaimed Pencroft, "that this vessel will be difficult to get afloat again."
"It will be impossible," said Ayrton.
"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett to the sailor, "the explosion, if there has been one, has produced singular effects! It has split the lower
part of the hull, instead of blowing up the deck and topsides! These great rents appear rather to have been made by a rock than by the explosion of a
"There is not a rock in the channel!" answered the sailor. "I will admit anything you like, except the rock."
"Let us try to penetrate into the interior of the brig," said the engineer; "perhaps we shall then know what to think of the cause of her
This was the best thing to be done, and it was agreed, besides, to take an inventory of all the treasures on board, and to arrange their
Access to the interior of the brig was now easy. The tide was still going down and the deck was practicable. The ballast, composed of heavy masses
of iron, had broken through in several places. The noise of the sea could be heard as it rushed out at the holes in the hull.
Cyrus Harding and his companions, hatchets in hand, advanced along the shattered deck. Cases of all sorts encumbered it, and, as they had been but
a very short time in the water, their contents were perhaps uninjured.
They then busied themselves in placing all this cargo in safety. The water would not return for several hours, and these hours must be employed in
the most profitable way. Ayrton and Pencroft had, at the entrance made in the hull, discovered tackle, which would serve to hoist up the barrels and
chests. The boat received them and transported them to the shore. They took the articles as they came, intending to sort them afterwards.
At any rate, the settlers saw at once, with extreme satisfaction, that the brig possessed a very varied cargo--an assortment of all sorts of
articles, utensils, manufactured goods, and tools--such as the ships which make the great coasting-trade of Polynesia are usually laden with. It was
probable that they would find a little of everything, and they agreed that it was exactly what was necessary for the colony of Lincoln Island.
However-and Cyrus Harding observed it in silent astonishment-not only, as has been said, had the hull of the brig enormously suffered from the
shock, whatever it was, that had occasioned the catastrophe, but the interior arrangements had been destroyed, especially towards the bows. Partitions
and stanchions were smashed, as if some tremendous shell had burst in the interior of the brig. The colonists could easily go fore and aft, after
having removed the cases as they were extricated. They were not heavy bales, which would have been difficult to remove, but simple packages, of which
the stowage, besides, was no longer recognizable.
The colonists then reached the stern of the brig--the part formerly surmounted by the poop. It was there that, following Ayrton's directions, they
must look for the powder-magazine. Cyrus Harding thought that it had not exploded; that it was possible some barrels might be saved, and that the
powder, which is usually enclosed in metal coverings might not have suffered from contact with the water.
This, in fact, was just what had happened. They extricated from among a large number of shot twenty barrels, the insides of which were lined with
copper. Pencroft was convinced by the evidence of his own eyes that the destruction of the "Speedy" could not be attributed to an explosion. That part
of the hull in which the magazine was situated was, moreover, that which had suffered least.
"It may be so," said the obstinate sailor; "but as to a rock, there is not one in the channel!"
"Then, how did it happen?" asked Herbert.
"I don't know," answered Pencroft, "Captain Harding doesn't know, and nobody knows or ever will know!"
Several hours had passed during these researches, and the tide began to flow. Work must be suspended for the present. There was no fear of the
brig being carried away by the sea, for she was already fixed as firmly as if moored by her anchors.
They could, therefore, without inconvenience, wait until the next day to resume operations; but, as to the vessel itself, she was doomed, and it
would be best to hasten to save the remains of her hull, as she would not be long in disappearing in the quicksands of the channel.
It was now five o'clock in the evening. It had been a hard day's work for the men. They ate with good appetite, and notwithstanding their fatigue,
they could not resist, after dinner, their desire of inspecting the cases which composed the cargo of the "Speedy."
Most of them contained clothes, which, as may be believed, was well received. There were enough to clothe a whole colony--linen for every one's
use, shoes for every one's feet.
"We are too rich!" exclaimed Pencroft, "But what are we going to do with all this?"
And every moment burst forth the hurrahs of the delighted sailor when he caught sight of the barrels of gunpowder, firearms and sidearms, balls of
cotton, implements of husbandry, carpenter's, joiner's, and blacksmith's tools, and boxes of all kinds of seeds, not in the least injured by their
short sojourn in the water. Ah, two years before, how these things would have been prized! And now, even though the industrious colonists had provided
themselves with tools, these treasures would find their use.
There was no want of space in the store-rooms of Granite House, but that daytime would not allow them to stow away the whole. It would not do also
to forget that the six survivors of the "Speedy's" crew had landed on the island, for they were in all probability scoundrels of the deepest dye, and
it was necessary that the colonists should be on their guard against them. Although the bridges over the Mercy were raised, the convicts would not be
stopped by a river or a stream and, rendered desperate, these wretches would be capable of anything.
They would see later what plan it would be best to follow; but in the meantime it was necessary to mount guard over cases and packages heaped up
near the Chimneys, and thus the settlers employed themselves in turn during the night.
The morning came, however, without the convicts having attempted any attack. Master Jup and Top, on guard at the foot of Granite House, would have
quickly given the alarm. The three following day--the 19th, 20th, and 21st of October--were employed in saving everything of value, or of any use
whatever, either from the cargo or rigging of the brig. At low tide they overhauled the hold--at high tide they stowed away the rescued articles. A
great part of the copper sheathing had been torn from the hull, which every day sank lower. But before the sand had swallowed the heavy things which
had fallen through the bottom, Ayrton and Pencroft, diving to the bed of the channel, recovered the chains and anchors of the brig, the iron of her
ballast, and even four guns, which, floated by means of empty casks, were brought to shore.
It may be seen that the arsenal of the colony had gained by the wreck, as well as the storerooms of Granite House. Pencroft, always enthusiastic
in his projects, already spoke of constructing a battery to command the channel and the mouth of the river. With four guns, he engaged to prevent any
fleet, "however powerful it might be," from venturing into the waters of Lincoln Island!
In the meantime, when nothing remained of the brig but a useless hulk, bad weather came on, which soon finished her. Cyrus Harding had intended to
blow her up, so as to collect the remains on the shore, but a strong gale from the northeast and a heavy sea compelled him to economize his powder.
In fact, on the night of the 23rd, the hull entirely broke up, and some of the wreck was cast up on the beach.
As to the papers on board, it is useless to say that, although he carefully searched the lockers of the poop, Harding did not discover any trace
of them. The pirates had evidently destroyed everything that concerned either the captain or the owners of the "Speedy," and, as the name of her port
was not painted on her counter, there was nothing which would tell them her nationality. However, by the shape of her boats Ayrton and Pencroft
believed that the brig was of English build.
A week after the castrophe--or, rather, after the fortunate, though inexplicable, event to which the colony owed its preservation--nothing more
could be seen of the vessel, even at low tide. The wreck had disappeared, and Granite House was enriched by nearly all it had contained.
However, the mystery which enveloped its strange destruction would doubtless never have been cleared away if, on the 30th of November, Neb,
strolling on the beach, had not found a piece of a thick iron cylinder, bearing traces of explosion. The edges of this cylinder were twisted and
broken, as if they had been subjected to the action of some explosive substance.
Neb brought this piece of metal to his master, who was then occupied with his companions in the workshop of the Chimneys.
Cyrus Harding examined the cylinder attentively, then, turning to Pencroft,--
"You persist, my friend," said he, "in maintaining that the 'Speedy' was not lost in consequence of a collision?"
"Yes, captain," answered the sailor. "You know as well as I do that there are no rocks in the channel."
"But suppose she had run against this piece of iron?" said the engineer, showing the broken cylinder.
"What, that bit of pipe!" exclaimed Pencroft in a tone of perfect incredulity.
"My friends," resumed Harding, "you remember that before she foundered the brig rose on the summit of a regular waterspout?"
"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.
"Well, would you like to know what occasioned that waterspout? It was this," said the engineer, holding up the broken tube.
"That?" returned Pencroft.
"Yes! This cylinder is all that remains of a torpedo!"
"A torpedo!" exclaimed the engineer's companions.
"And who put the torpedo there?" demanded Pencroft, who did not like to yield.
"All that I can tell you is, that it was not I," answered Cyrus Harding; "but it was there, and you have been able to judge of its incomparable
So, then, all was explained by the submarine explosion of this torpedo. Cyrus Harding could not be mistaken, as, during the war of the Union, he
had had occasion to try these terrible engines of destruction. It was under the action of this cylinder, charged with some explosive substance, nitro-
glycerine, picrate, or some other material of the same nature, that the water of the channel had been raised like a dome, the bottom of the brig
crushed in, and she had sunk instantly, the damage done to her hull being so considerable that it was impossible to refloat her. The "Speedy" had not
been able to withstand a torpedo that would have destroyed an ironclad as easily as a fishing-boat!
Yes! all was explained, everything--except the presence of the torpedo in the waters of the channel!
My friends, then," said Cyrus Harding, "we can no longer be in doubt as to the presence of a mysterious being, a castaway like us, perhaps,
abandoned on our island, and I say this in order that Ayrton may be acquainted with all the strange events which have occurred during these two years.
Who this beneficent stranger is, whose intervention has, so fortunately for us, been manifested on many occasions, I cannot imagine. What his object
can be in acting thus, in concealing himself after rendering us so many services, I cannot understand: But his services are not the less real, and are
of such a nature that only a man possessed of prodigious power, could render them. Ayrton is indebted to him as much as we are, for, if it was the
stranger who saved me from the waves after the fall from the balloon, evidently it was he who wrote the document, who placed the bottle in the
channel, and who has made known to us the situation of our companion. I will add that it was he who guided that chest, provided with everything we
wanted, and stranded it on Flotsam Point; that it was he who lighted that fire on the heights of the island, which permitted you to land; that it was
he who fired that bullet found in the body of the peccary; that it was he who plunged that torpedo into the channel, which destroyed the brig; in a
word, that all those inexplicable events, for which we could not assign a reason, are due to this mysterious being. Therefore, whoever he may be,
whether shipwrecked, or exiled on our island, we shall be ungrateful, if we think ourselves freed from gratitude towards him. We have contracted a
debt, and I hope that we shall one day pay it."
"You are right in speaking thus, my dear Cyrus," replied Gideon Spilett. "Yes, there is an almost all-powerful being, hidden in some part of the
island, and whose influence has been singularly useful to our colony. I will add that the unknown appears to possess means of action which border on
the supernatural, if in the events of practical life the supernatural were recognizable. Is it he who is in secret communication with us by the well
in Granite House, and has he thus a knowledge of all our plans? Was it he who threw us that bottle, when the vessel made her first cruise? Was it he
who threw Top out of the lake, and killed the dugong? Was it he, who as everything leads us to believe, saved you from the waves, and that under
circumstances in which any one else would not have been able to act? If it was he, he possesses a power which renders him master of the elements."
The reporter's reasoning was just, and every one felt it to be so.
"Yes," rejoined Cyrus Harding, "if the intervention of a human being is not more questionable for us, I agree that he has at his disposal means of
action beyond those possessed by humanity. There is a mystery still, but if we discover the man, the mystery will be discovered also. The question,
then, is, ought we to respect the incognito of this generous being, or ought we to do everything to find him out? What is your opinion on the matter?"
"My opinion," said Pencroft, "is that, whoever he may be, he is a brave man, and he has my esteem!"
"Be it so," answered Harding, "but that is not an answer, Pencroft."
"Master," then said Neb, "my idea is, that we may search as long as we like for this gentleman whom you are talking about, but that we shall not
discover him till he pleases."
"That's not bad, what you say, Neb," observed Pencroft.
"I am of Neb's opinion," said Gideon Spilett, "but that is no reason for not attempting the adventure. Whether we find this mysterious being or
not, we shall at least have fulfilled our duty towards him."
"And you, my boy, give us your opinion," said the engineer, turning to Herbert.
"Oh," cried Herbert, his countenance full of animation, "how I should like to thank him, he who saved you first, and who has now saved us!"
"Of course, my boy," replied Pencroft, "so would I and all of us. I am not inquisitive, but I would give one of my eyes to see this individual
face to face! It seems to me that he must be handsome, tall, strong, with a splendid beard, radiant hair, and that he must be seated on clouds, a
great ball in his hands!"
"But, Pencroft," answered Spilett, "you are describing a picture of the Creator."
"Possibly, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "but that is how I imagine him!"
"And you, Ayrton?" asked the engineer.
"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I can give you no better advice in this matter. Whatever you do will be best; when you wish me to join you in
your researches, I am ready to follow you.
"I thank you, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding, "but I should like a more direct answer to the question I put to you. You are our companion; you
have already endangered your life several times for us, and you, as well as the rest, ought to be consulted in the matter of any important decision.
"Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, "I think that we ought to do everything to discover this unknown benefactor. Perhaps he is alone. Perhaps he is
suffering. Perhaps he has a life to be renewed. I, too, as you said, have a debt of gratitude to pay him. It was he, it could be only he who must have
come to Tabor Island, who found there the wretch you knew, and who made known to you that there was an unfortunate man there to be saved. Therefore it
is, thanks to him, that I have become a man again. No, I will never forget him!"
"That is settled, then," said Cyrus Harding. "We will begin our researches as soon as possible. We will not leave a corner of the island
unexplored. We will search into its most secret recesses, and will hope that our unknown friend will pardon us in consideration of our intentions!"
For several days the colonists were actively employed in haymaking and the harvest. Before putting their project of exploring the yet unknown
parts of the island into execution, they wished to get all possible work finished. It was also the time for collecting the various vegetables from the
Tabor Island plants. All was stowed away, and happily there was no want of room in Granite House, in which they might have housed all the treasures of
the island. The products of the colony were there, methodically arranged, and in a safe place, as may be believed, sheltered as much from animals as
There was no fear of damp in the middle of that thick mass of granite. Many natural excavations situated in the upper passage were enlarged either
by pick-axe or mine, and Granite House thus became a general warehouse, containing all the provisions, arms, tools, and spare utensils--in a word, all
the stores of the colony.
As to the guns obtained from the brig, they were pretty pieces of ordnance, which, at Pencroft's entreaty, were hoisted by means of tackle and
pulleys, right up into Granite House; embrasures were made between the windows, and the shining muzzles of the guns could soon be seen through the
granite cliff. From this height they commanded all Union Bay. It was like a little Gibraltar, and any vessel anchored off the islet would inevitably
be exposed to the fire of this aerial battery.
"Captain," said Pencroft one day, it was the 8th of November, "now that our fortifications are finished, it would be a good thing if we tried the
range of our guns."
"Do you think that is useful?" asked the engineer.
"It is more than useful, it is necessary! Without that how are we to know to what distance we can send one of those pretty shot with which we are
"Try them, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "However, I think that in making the experiment, we ought to employ, not the ordinary powder, the
supply of which, I think, should remain untouched, but the pyroxyle which will never fail us."
"Can the cannon support the shock of the pyroxyle?" asked the reporter, who was not less anxious than Pencroft to try the artillery of Granite
"I believe so. However," added the engineer, "we will be prudent." The engineer was right in thinking that the guns were of excellent make. Made
of forged steel, and breech-loaders, they ought consequently to be able to bear a considerable charge, and also have an enormous range. In fact, as
regards practical effect, the transit described by the ball ought to be as extended as possible, and this tension could only be obtained under the
condition that the projectile should be impelled with a very great initial velocity.
"Now," said Harding to his companions, "the initial velocity is in proportion to the quantity of powder used. In the fabrication of these pieces,
everything depends on employing a metal with the highest possible power of resistance, and steel is incontestably that metal of all others which
resists the best. I have, therefore, reason to believe that our guns will bear without risk the expansion of the pyroxyle gas, and will give excellent
"We shall be a great deal more certain of that when we have tried them!" answered Pencroft.
It is unnecessary to say that the four cannons were in perfect order. Since they had been taken from the water, the sailor had bestowed great care
upon them. How many hours he had spent, in rubbing, greasing, and polishing them, and in cleaning the mechanism! And now the pieces were as brilliant
as if they had been on board a frigate of the United States Navy.
On this day, therefore, in presence of all the members of the colony, including Master Jup and Top, the four cannon were successively tried. They
were charged with pyroxyle, taking into consideration its explosive power, which, as has been said, is four times that of ordinary powder: the
projectile to be fired was cylindroconic.
Pencroft, holding the end of the quick-match, stood ready to fire.
At Harding's signal, he fired. The shot, passing over the islet, fell into the sea at a distance which could not be calculated with exactitude.
The second gun was pointed at the rocks at the end of Flotsam Point, and the shot striking a sharp rock nearly three miles from Granite House,
made it fly into splinters. It was Herbert who had pointed this gun and fired it, and very proud he was of his first shot. Pencroft only was prouder
than he! Such a shot, the honor of which belonged to his dear boy.
The third shot, aimed this time at the downs forming the upper side of Union Bay, struck the sand at a distance of four miles, then having
ricocheted: was lost in the sea in a cloud of spray.
For the fourth piece Cyrus Harding slightly increased the charge, so as to try its extreme range. Then, all standing aside for fear of its
bursting, the match was lighted by means of a long cord.
A tremendous report was heard, but the piece had held good, and the colonists rushing to the windows, saw the shot graze the rocks of Mandible
Cape, nearly five miles from Granite House, and disappear in Shark Gulf.
"Well, captain," exclaimed Pencroft, whose cheers might have rivaled the reports themselves, "what do you say of our battery? All the pirates in
the Pacific have only to present themselves before Granite House! Not one can land there now without our permission!"
"Believe me, Pencroft," replied the engineer, "it would be better not to have to make the experiment."
"Well," said the sailor, "what ought to be done with regard to those six villains who are roaming about the island? Are we to leave them to
overrun our forests, our fields, our plantations? These pirates are regular jaguars, and it seems to me we ought not to hesitate to treat them as
such! What do you think, Ayrton?" added Pencroft, turning to his companion.
Ayrton hesitated at first to reply, and Cyrus Harding regretted that Pencroft had so thoughtlessly put this question. And he was much moved when
Ayrton replied in a humble tone,--
"I have been one of those jaguars, Mr. Pencroft. I have no right to speak."
And with a slow step he walked away.
"What a brute I am!" he exclaimed. "Poor Ayrton! He has as much right to speak here as any one!"
"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "but his reserve does him honor, and it is right to respect the feeling which he has about his sad past."
"Certainly, Mr. Spilett," answered the sailor, "and there is no fear of my doing so again. I would rather bite my tongue off than cause Ayrton any
pain! But to return to the question. It seems to me that these ruffians have no right to any pity, and that we ought to rid the island of them as soon
"Is that your opinion, Pencroft?" asked the engineer.
"Quite my opinion."
"And before hunting them mercilessly, you would not wait until they had committed some fresh act of hostility against us?"
"Isn't what they have done already enough?" asked Pencroft, who did not understand these scruples.
"They may adopt other sentiments!" said Harding, "and perhaps repent."
"They repent!" exclaimed the sailor, shrugging his shoulders.
"Pencroft, think of Ayrton!" said Herbert, taking the sailor's hand. "He became an honest man again!"
Pencroft looked at his companions one after the other. He had never thought of his proposal being met with any objection. His rough nature could
not allow that they ought to come to terms with the rascals who had landed on the island with Bob Harvey's accomplices, the murderers of the crew of
the "Speedy," and he looked upon them as wild beasts which ought to be destroyed without delay and without remorse.
"Come!" said be. "Everybody is against me! You wish to be generous to those villains! Very well; I hope we mayn't repent it!"
"What danger shall we run," said Herbert, "if we take care to be always on our guard?"
"Hum!" observed the reporter, who had not given any decided opinion. "They are six and well armed. If they each lay hid in a corner, and each
fired at one of us, they would soon be masters of the colony!"
"Why have they not done so?" said Herbert. "No doubt because it was not their interest to do it. Besides, we are six also."
"Well, well!" replied Pencroft, whom no reasoning could have convinced. "Let us leave these good people to do what they like, and don't think
anything more about them!"
"Come, Pencroft," said Neb, "don't make yourself out so bad as all that! Suppose one of these unfortunate men were here before you, within good
range of your guns, you would not fire."
"I would fire on him as I would on a mad dog, Neb," replied Pencroft coldly.
"Pencroft," said the engineer, "you have always shown much deference to my advice; will you, in this matter, yield to me?"
"I will do as you please, Captain Harding," answered the sailor, who was not at all convinced.
"Very well, wait, and we will not attack them unless we are attacked first."
Thus their behavior towards the pirates was agreed upon, although Pencroft augured nothing good from it. They were not to attack them, but were to
be on their guard. After all, the island was large and fertile. If any sentiment of honesty yet remained in the bottom of their hearts, these wretches
might perhaps be reclaimed. Was it not their interest in the situation in which they found themselves to begin a new life? At any rate, for humanity's
sake alone, it would be right to wait. The colonists would no longer as before, be able to go and come without fear. Hitherto they had only wild
beasts to guard against, and now six convicts of the worst description, perhaps, were roaming over their island. It was serious, certainly, and to
less brave men, it would have been security lost! No matter! At present, the colonists had reason on their side against Pencroft. Would they be right
in the future? That remained to be seen.
However, the chief business of the colonists was to make that complete exploration of the island which had been decided upon, and which would have
two objects: to discover the mysterious being whose existence was now indisputable, and at the same time to find out what had become of the pirates,
what retreat they had chosen, what sort of life they were leading, and what was to be feared from them. Cyrus Harding wished to set out without delay;
but as the expedition would be of some days duration, it appeared best to load the cart with different materials and tools in order to facilitate the
organization of the encampments. One of the onagers, however, having hurt its leg, could not be harnessed at present, and a few days' rest was
necessary. The departure was, therefore, put off for a week, until the 20th of November. The month of November in this latitude corresponds to the
month of May in the northern zones. It was, therefore, the fine season. The sun was entering the tropic of Capricorn, and gave the longest days in the
year. The time was, therefore, very favorable for the projected expedition, which, if it did not accomplish its principal object, would at any rate be
fruitful in discoveries, especially of natural productions, since Harding proposed to explore those dense forests of the Far West, which stretched to
the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula.
During the nine days which preceded their departure, it was agreed that the work on Prospect Heights should be finished off.
Moreover, it was necessary for Ayrton to return to the corral, where the domesticated animals required his care. It was decided that he should
spend two days there, and return to Granite House after having liberally supplied the stables.
As he was about to start, Harding asked him if he would not like one of them to accompany him, observing that the island was less safe than
formerly. Ayrton replied that this was unnecessary, as he was enough for the work, and that besides he apprehended no danger. If anything occurred at
the corral, or in the neighborhood, he could instantly warn the colonists by sending a telegram to Granite House.
Ayrton departed at dawn on the 9th, taking the cart drawn by one onager, and two hours after, the electric wire announced that he had found all in
order at the corral.
During these two days Harding busied himself in executing a project which would completely guard Granite House against any surprise. It was
necessary to completely conceal the opening of the old outlet, which was already walled up and partly hidden under grass and plants, at the southern
angle of Lake Grant. Nothing was easier, since if the level of the lake was raised two or three feet, the opening would be quite beneath it. Now, to
raise this level they had only to establish a dam at the two openings made by the lake, and by which were fed Creek Glycerine and Falls River.
The colonists worked with a will, and the two dams which besides did not exceed eight feet in width by three in height, were rapidly erected by
means of well-cemented blocks of stone.
This work finished, it would have been impossible to guess that at that part of the lake, there existed a subterranean passage through which the
overflow of the lake formerly escaped.
Of course the little stream which fed the reservoir of Granite House and worked the lift, had been carefully preserved, and the water could not
fail. The lift once raised, this sure and comfortable retreat would be safe from any surprise.
This work had been so quickly done, that Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert found time to make an expedition to Port Balloon, The sailor was
very anxious to know if the little creek in which the "Bonadventure" was moored, had been visited by the convicts.
"These gentlemen," he observed, "landed on the south coast, and if they followed the shore, it is to be feared that they may have discovered the
little harbor, and in that case, I wouldn't give half-a-dollar for our 'Bonadventure.'"
Pencroft's apprehensions were not without foundation, and a visit to Port Balloon appeared to be very desirable. The sailor and his companions set
off on the 10th of November, after dinner, well armed. Pencroft, ostentatiously slipping two bullets into each barrel of his rifle, shook his head in
a way which betokened nothing good to any one who approached too near him, whether "man or beast," as he said. Gideon Spilett and Herbert also took
their guns, and about three o'clock all three left Granite House.
Neb accompanied them to the turn of the Mercy, and after they had crossed, he raised the bridge. It was agreed that a gunshot should announce the
colonists' return, and that at the signal Neb should return and reestablish the communication between the two banks of the river.
The little band advanced directly along the road which led to the southern coast of the island. This was only a distance of three miles and a
half, but Gideon Spilett and his companions took two hours to traverse it. They examined all the border of the road, the thick forest, as well as
Tabor Marsh. They found no trace of the fugitives who, no doubt, not having yet discovered the number of the colonists, or the means of defense which
they had at their disposal, had gained the less accessible parts of the island.
Arrived at Port Balloon, Pencroft saw with extreme satisfaction that the "Bonadventure" was tranquilly floating in the narrow creek. However, Port
Balloon was so well hidden among high rocks, that it could scarcely be discovered either from the land or the sea.
"Come," said Pencroft, "the blackguards have not been there yet. Long grass suits reptiles best, and evidently we shall find them in the Far
"And it's very lucky, for if they had found the 'Bonadventure' added Herbert, "they would have gone off in her, and we should have been prevented
from returning to Tabor Island."
"Indeed," remarked the reporter, "it will be important to take a document there which will make known the situation of Lincoln Island, and
Ayrton's new residence, in case the Scotch yacht returns to fetch him."
"Well, the 'Bonadventure' is always there, Mr. Spilett," answered the sailor. "She and her crew are ready to start at a moment's notice!"
"I think, Pencroft, that that is a thing to be done after our exploration of the island is finished. It is possible after all that the stranger,
if we manage to find him, may know as much about Tabor Island as about Lincoln Island. Do not forget that he is certainly the author of the document,
and he may, perhaps, know how far we may count on the return of the yacht!"
"But!" exclaimed Pencroft, "who in the world can he be? The fellow knows us and we know nothing about him! If he is a simple castaway, why should
he conceal himself! We are honest men, I suppose, and the society of honest men isn't unpleasant to any one. Did he come here voluntarily? Can he
leave the island if he likes? Is he here still? Will he remain any longer?"
Chatting thus, Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert got on board and looked about the deck of the "Bonadventure." All at once, the sailor having
examined the bitts to which the cable of the anchor was secured,--
"Hallo," he cried, "this is queer!"
"What is the matter, Pencroft?" asked the reporter.
"The matter is, that it was not I who made this knot!"
And Pencroft showed a rope which fastened the cable to the bitt itself.
"What, it was not you?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"No! I can swear to it. This is a reef knot, and I always make a running bowline."
"You must be mistaken, Pencroft."
"I am not mistaken!" declared the sailor. "My hand does it so naturally, and one's hand is never mistaken!"
"Then can the convicts have been on board?" asked Herbert.
"I know nothing about that," answered Pencroft, "but what is certain, is that some one has weighed the 'Bonadventure's' anchor and dropped it
again! And look here, here is another proof! The cable of the anchor has been run out, and its service is no longer at the hawse-hole. I repeat that
some one has been using our vessel!"
"But if the convicts had used her, they would have pillaged her, or rather gone off with her."
"Gone off! where to--to Tabor Island?" replied Pencroft. "Do you think, they would risk themselves in a boat of such small tonnage?'
"We must, besides, be sure that they know of the islet," rejoined the reporter.
"However that may be," said the sailor, "as sure as my name is Bonadventure Pencroft, of the Vineyard, our 'Bonadventure' has sailed without us!"
The sailor was positive that neither Gideon Spilett nor Herbert could dispute his statement. It was evident that the vessel had been moved, more
or less, since Pencroft had brought her to Port Balloon. As to the sailor, he had not the slightest doubt that the anchor had been raised and then
dropped again. Now, what was the use of these two maneuvers, unless the vessel had been employed in some expedition?
"But how was it we did not see the 'Bonadventure' pass in the sight of the island?" observed the reporter, who was anxious to bring forward every
"Why, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "they would only have to start in the night with a good breeze, and they would be out of sight of the
island in two hours."
"Well," resumed Gideon Spilett, "I ask again, what object could the convicts have had in using the 'Bonadventure,' and why, after they had made
use of her, should they have brought her back to port?"
"Why, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "we must put that among the unaccountable things, and not think anything more about it. The chief thing is
that the 'Bonadventure' was there, and she is there now. Only, unfortunately, if the convicts take her a second time, we shall very likely not find
her again in her place!"
"Then, Pencroft," said Herbert, "would it not be wisest to bring the 'Bonadventure' off to Granite House?"
"Yes and no," answered Pencroft, "or rather no. The mouth of the Mercy is a bad place for a vessel, and the sea is heavy there."
"But by hauling her up on the sand, to the foot of the Chimneys?"
"Perhaps yes," replied Pencroft. "At any rate, since we must leave Granite House for a long expedition, I think the 'Bonadventure' will be safer
here during our absence, and we shall do best to leave her here until the island is rid of these blackguards."
"That is exactly my opinion," said the reporter. "At any rate in the event of bad weather, she will not be exposed here as she would be at the
mouth of the Mercy."
"But suppose the convicts pay her another visit," said Herbert.
"Well, my boy," replied Pencroft, "not finding her here, they would not be long in finding her on the sands of Granite House, and, during our
absence, nothing could hinder them from seizing her! I agree, therefore, with Mr. Spilett, that she must be left in Port Balloon. But, if on our
return we have not rid the island of those rascals, it will be prudent to bring our boat to Granite House, until the time when we need not fear any
"That's settled. Let us be off," said the reporter.
Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett, on their return to Granite House, told the engineer all that had passed, and the latter approved of their
arrangements both for the present and the future. He also promised the sailor that he would study that part of the channel situated between the islet
and the coast, so as to ascertain if it would not be possible to make an artificial harbor there by means of dams. In this way, the "Bonadventure"
would be always within reach, under the eyes of the colonists, and if necessary, under lock and key.
That evening a telegram was sent to Ayrton, requesting him to bring from the corral a couple of goats, which Neb wished to acclimatize to the
plateau. Singularly enough, Ayrton did not acknowledge the receipt of the despatch, as he was accustomed to do. This could not but astonish the
engineer. But it might be that Ayrton was not at that moment in the corral, or even that he was on his way back to Granite House. In fact, two days
had already passed since his departure, and it had been decided that on the evening of the 10th or at the latest the morning of the 11th, he should
return. The colonists waited, therefore, for Ayrton to appear on Prospect Heights. Neb and Herbert even watched at the bridge so as to be ready to
lower it the moment their companion presented himself.
But up to ten in the evening, there were no signs of Ayrton. It was, therefore, judged best to send a fresh despatch, requiring an immediate
The bell of the telegraph at Granite House remained mute.
The colonists' uneasiness was great. What had happened? Was Ayrton no longer at the corral, or if he was still there, had he no longer control
over his movements? Could they go to the corral in this dark night?
They consulted. Some wished to go, the others to remain.
"But," said Herbert, "perhaps some accident has happened to the telegraphic apparatus, so that it works no longer?"
"That may be," said the reporter.
"Wait till to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding. "It is possible, indeed, that Ayrton has not received our despatch, or even that we have not
They waited, of course not without some anxiety.
At dawn of day, the 11th of November, Harding again sent the electric current along the wire and received no reply.
He tried again: the same result.
"Off to the corral," said he.
"And well armed!" added Pencroft.
It was immediately decided that Granite House should not be left alone and that Neb should remain there. After having accompanied his friends to
Creek Glycerine, he raised the bridge; and waiting behind a tree he watched for the return of either his companions or Ayrton.
In the event of the pirates presenting themselves and attempting to force the passage, he was to endeavor to stop them by firing on them, and as a
last resource he was to take refuge in Granite House, where, the lift once raised, he would be in safety.
Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft were to repair to the corral, and if they did not find Ayrton, search the neighboring woods.
At six o'clock in the morning, the engineer and his three companions had passed Creek Glycerine, and Neb posted himself behind a small mound
crowned by several dragon trees, on the left bank of the stream.
The colonists, after leaving the plateau of Prospect Heights, immediately took the road to the corral. They shouldered their guns, ready to fire
on the slightest hostile demonstration. The two rifles and the two guns had been loaded with ball.
The wood was thick on each side of the road and might easily have concealed the convicts, who owing to their weapons would have been really
The colonists walked rapidly and in silence. Top preceded them, sometimes running on the road, sometimes taking a ramble into the wood, but always
quiet and not appearing to fear anything unusual. And they could be sure that the faithful dog would not allow them to be surprised, but would bark at
the least appearance of danger.
Cyrus Harding and his companions followed beside the road the wire which connected the corral with Granite House. After walking for nearly two
miles, they had not as yet discovered any explanation of the difficulty. The posts were in good order, the wire regularly extended. However, at that
moment the engineer observed that the wire appeared to be slack, and on arriving at post No. 74, Herbert, who was in advance stopped, exclaiming,--
"The wire is broken!"
His companions hurried forward and arrived at the spot where the lad was standing. The post was rooted up and lying across the path. The
unexpected explanation of the difficulty was here, and it was evident that the despatches from Granite House had not been received at the corral, nor
those from the corral at Granite House.
"It wasn't the wind that blew down this post," observed Pencroft.
"No," replied Gideon Spilett. "The earth has been dug, up round its foot, and it has been torn up by the hand of man."
"Besides, the wire is broken," added Herbert, showing that the wire had been snapped.
"Is the fracture recent?" asked Harding.
"Yes," answered Herbert, "it has certainly been done quite lately."
"To the corral! to the corral!" exclaimed the sailor.
The colonists were now half way between Granite House and the corral, having still two miles and a half to go. They pressed forward with redoubled
Indeed, it was to be feared that some serious accident had occurred in the corral. No doubt, Ayrton might have sent a telegram which had not
arrived, but this was not the reason why his companions were so uneasy, for, a more unaccountable circumstance, Ayrton, who had promised to return the
evening before, had not reappeared. In short, it was not without a motive that all communication had been stopped between the corral and Granite
House, and who but the convicts could have any interest in interrupting this communication?
The settlers hastened on, their hearts oppressed with anxiety. They were sincerely attached to their new companion. Were they to find him struck
down by the hands of those of whom he was formerly the leader?
Soon they arrived at the place where the road led along the side of the little stream which flowed from the Red Creek and watered the meadows of
the corral. They then moderated their pace so that they should not be out of breath at the moment when a struggle might be necessary. Their guns were
in their hands ready cocked. The forest was watched on every side. Top uttered sullen groans which were rather ominous.
At last the palisade appeared through the trees. No trace of any damage could be seen. The gate was shut as usual. Deep silence reigned in the
corral. Neither the accustomed bleating of the sheep nor Ayrton's voice could be heard.
"Let us enter," said Cyrus Harding.
And the engineer advanced, while his companions, keeping watch about twenty paces behind him, were ready to fire at a moment's notice.
Harding raised the inner latch of the gate and was about to push it back, when Top barked loudly. A report sounded and was responded to by a cry
Herbert, struck by a bullet, lay stretched on the ground.
At Herbert's cry, Pencroft, letting his gun fall, rushed towards him.
"They have killed him!" he cried. "My boy! They have killed him!"
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett ran to Herbert.
The reporter listened to ascertain if the poor lad's heart was still beating.
"He lives," said he, "but he must be carried--"
"To Granite House? that is impossible!" replied the engineer.
"Into the corral, then!" said Pencroft.
"In a moment," said Harding.
And he ran round the left corner of the palisade. There he found a convict, who aiming at him, sent a ball through his hat. In a few seconds,
before he had even time to fire his second barrel, he fell, struck to the heart by Harding's dagger, more sure even than his gun.
During this time, Gideon Spilett and the sailor hoisted themselves over the palisade, leaped into the enclosure, threw down the props which
supported the inner door, ran into the empty house, and soon, poor Herbert was lying on Ayrton's bed. In a few moments, Harding was by his side.
On seeing Herbert senseless, the sailor's grief was terrible.
He sobbed, he cried, he tried to beat his head against the wall.
Neither the engineer nor the reporter could calm him. They themselves were choked with emotion. They could not speak.
However, they knew that it depended on them to rescue from death the poor boy who was suffering beneath their eyes. Gideon Spilett had not passed
through the many incidents by which his life had been checkered without acquiring some slight knowledge of medicine. He knew a little of everything,
and several times he had been obliged to attend to wounds produced either by a sword-bayonet or shot. Assisted by Cyrus Harding, he proceeded to
render the aid Herbert required.
The reporter was immediately struck by the complete stupor in which Herbert lay, a stupor owing either to the hemorrhage, or to the shock, the
ball having struck a bone with sufficient force to produce a violent concussion.
Herbert was deadly pale, and his pulse so feeble that Spilett only felt it beat at long intervals, as if it was on the point of stopping.
These symptoms were very serious.
Herbert's chest was laid bare, and the blood having been stanched with handkerchiefs, it was bathed with cold water.
The contusion, or rather the contused wound appeared,--an oval below the chest between the third and fourth ribs. It was there that Herbert had
been hit by the bullet.
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett then turned the poor boy over; as they did so, he uttered a moan so feeble that they almost thought it was his
Herberts back was covered with blood from another contused wound, by which the ball had immediately escaped.
"God be praised!" said the reporter, "the ball is not in the body, and we shall not have to extract it."
"But the heart?" asked Harding.
"The heart has not been touched; if it had been, Herbert would be dead!"
"Dead!" exclaimed Pencroft, with a groan.
The sailor had only heard the last words uttered by the reporter.
"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding, "no! He is not dead. His pulse still beats. He has even uttered a moan. But for your boy's sake, calm
yourself. We have need of all our self-possession."
"Do not make us lose it, my friend."
Pencroft was silent, but a reaction set in, and great tears rolled down his cheeks.
In the meanwhile, Gideon Spilett endeavored to collect his ideas, and proceed methodically. After his examination he had no doubt that the ball,
entering in front, between the seventh and eighth ribs, had issued behind between the third and fourth. But what mischief had the ball committed in
its passage? What important organs had been reached? A professional surgeon would have had difficulty in determining this at once, and still more so
However, he knew one thing, this was that he would have to prevent the inflammatory strangulation of the injured parts, then to contend with the
local inflammation and fever which would result from the wound, perhaps mortal! Now, what styptics, what antiphiogistics ought to be employed? By what
means could inflammation be prevented?
At any rate, the most important thing was that the two wounds should be dressed without delay. It did not appear necessary to Gideon Spilett that
a fresh flow of blood should be caused by bathing them in tepid water, and compressing their lips. The hemorrhage had been very abundant, and Herbert
was already too much enfeebled by the loss of blood.
The reporter, therefore, thought it best to simply bathe the two wounds with cold water.
Herbert was placed on his left side, and was maintained in that position.
"He must not be moved." said Gideon Spilett. "He is in the most favorable position for the wounds in his back and chest to suppurate easily, and
absolute rest is necessary."
"What! can't we carry him to Granite House?" asked Pencroft.
"No, Pencroft," replied the reporter.
"I'll pay the villains off!" cried the sailor, shaking his fist in a menacing manner.
"Pencroft!" said Cyrus Harding.
Gideon Spilett had resumed his examination of the wounded boy. Herbert was still so frightfully pale, that the reporter felt anxious.
"Cyrus," said he, "I am not a surgeon. I am in terrible perplexity. You must aid me with your advice, your experience!"
"Take courage, my friend," answered the engineer, pressing the reporter's hand. "Judge coolly. Think only of this: Herbert must be saved!"
These words restored to Gideon Spilett that self-possession which he had lost in a moment of discouragement on feeling his great responsibility.
He seated himself close to the bed. Cyrus Harding stood near. Pencroft had torn up his shirt, and was mechanically making lint.
Spilett then explained to Cyrus Harding that he thought he ought first of all to stop the hemorrhage, but not close the two wounds, or cause their
immediate cicatrization, for there had been internal perforation, and the suppuration must not be allowed to accumulate in the chest.
Harding approved entirely, and it was decided that the two wounds should be dressed without attempting to close them by immediate coaptation.
And now did the colonists possess an efficacious agent to act against the inflammation which might occur?
Yes. They had one, for nature had generously lavished it. They had cold water, that is to say, the most powerful sedative that can be employed
against inflammation of wounds, the most efficacious therapeutic agent in grave cases, and the one which is now adopted by all physicians. Cold water
has, moreover, the advantage of leaving the wound in absolute rest, and preserving it from all premature dressing, a considerable advantage, since it
has been found by experience that contact with the air is dangerous during the first days.
Gideon Spilett and Cyrus Harding reasoned thus with their simple good sense, and they acted as the best surgeon would have done. Compresses of
linen were applied to poor Herbert's two wounds, and were kept constantly wet with cold water.
The sailor had at first lighted a fire in the hut, which was not wanting in things necessary for life. Maple sugar, medicinal plants, the same
which the lad had gathered on the banks of Lake Grant, enabled them to make some refreshing drinks, which they gave him without his taking any notice
of it. His fever was extremely high, and all that day and night passed without his becoming conscious.
Herbert's life hung on a thread, and this thread might break at any moment. The next day, the 12th of November, the hopes of Harding and his
companions slightly revived. Herbert had come out of his long stupor. He opened his eyes, he recognized Cyrus Harding, the reporter, and Pencroft. He
uttered two or three words. He did not know what had happened. They told him, and Spilett begged him to remain perfectly still, telling him that his
life was not in danger, and that his wounds would heal in a few days. However, Herbert scarcely suffered at all, and the cold water with which they
were constantly bathed, prevented any inflammation of the wounds. The suppuration was established in a regular way, the fever did not increase, and it
might now be hoped that this terrible wound would not involve any catastrophe. Pencroft felt the swelling of his heart gradually subside. He was like
a sister of mercy. like a mother by the bed of her child.
Herbert dozed again, but his sleep appeared more natural.
"Tell me again that you hope, Mr. Spilett," said Pencroft. "Tell me again that you will save Herbert!"
"Yes, we will save him!" replied the reporter. "The wound is serious, and, perhaps, even the ball has traversed the lungs, but the perforation of
this organ is not fatal."
"God bless you!" answered Pencroft.
As may be believed, during the four-and-twenty hours they had been in the corral, the colonists had no other thought than that of nursing Herbert.
They did not think either of the danger which threatened them should the convicts return, or of the precautions to be taken for the future.
But on this day, while Pencroft watched by the sick-bed, Cyrus Harding and the reporter consulted as to what it would be best to do.
First of all they examined the corral. There was not a trace of Ayrton. Had the unhappy man been dragged away by his former accomplices? Had he
resisted, and been overcome in the struggle? This last supposition was only too probable. Gideon Spilett, at the moment he scaled the palisade, had
clearly seen some one of the convicts running along the southern spur of Mount Franklin, towards whom Top had sprung. It was one of those whose object
had been so completely defeated by the rocks at the mouth of the Mercy. Besides, the one killed by Harding, and whose body was found outside the
enclosure, of course belonged to Bob Harvey's crew.
As to the corral, it had not suffered any damage. The gates were closed, and the animals had not been able to disperse in the forest. Nor could
they see traces of any struggle, any devastation, either in the hut, or in the palisade. The ammunition only, with which Ayrton had been supplied, had
disappeared with him.
"The unhappy man has been surprised," said Harding, "and as he was a man to defend himself, he must have been overpowered."
"Yes, that is to be feared!" said the reporter. "Then, doubtless, the convicts installed themselves in the corral where they found plenty of
everything, and only fled when they saw us coming. It is very evident, too, that at this moment Ayrton, whether living or dead, is not here!"
"We shall have to beat the forest," said the engineer, "and rid the island of these wretches. Pencroft's presentiments were not mistaken, when he
wished to hunt them as wild beasts. That would have spared us all these misfortunes!"
"Yes," answered the reporter, "but now we have the right to be merciless!"
"At any rate," said the engineer, "we are obliged to wait some time, and to remain at the corral until we can carry Herbert without danger to
"But Neb?" asked the reporter.
"Neb is in safety."
"But if, uneasy at our absence, he would venture to come?"
"He must not come!" returned Cyrus Harding quickly. "He would be murdered on the road!"
"It is very probable, however, that he will attempt to rejoin us!"
"Ah, if the telegraph still acted, he might be warned! But that is impossible now! As to leaving Pencroft and Herbert here alone, we could not do
it! Well, I will go alone to Granite House."
"No, no! Cyrus," answered the reporter, "you must not expose yourself! Your courage would be of no avail. The villains are evidently watching the
corral, they are hidden in the thick woods which surround it, and if you go we shall soon have to regret two misfortunes instead of one!"
"But Neb?" repeated the engineer. "It is now four-and-twenty hours since he has had any news of us! He will be sure to come!"
"And as he will be less on his guard than we should be ourselves," added Spilett, "he will be killed!"
"Is there really no way of warning him?"
While the engineer thought, his eyes fell on Top, who, going backwards and forwards seemed to say,--
"Am not I here?"
"Top!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.
The animal sprang at his master's call.
"Yes, Top will go," said the reporter, who had understood the engineer.
"Top can go where we cannot! He will carry to Granite House the news of the corral, and he will bring back to us that from Granite House!"
"Quick!" said Harding. "Quick!"
Spilett rapidly tore a leaf from his note-book, and wrote these words:--
"Herbert wounded. We are at the corral. Be on your guard. Do not leave Granite House. Have the convicts appeared in the neighborhood? Reply by
This laconic note contained all that Neb ought to know, and at the same time asked all that the colonists wished to know. It was folded and
fastened to Top's collar in a conspicuous position.
"Top, my dog," said the engineer, caressing the animal, "Neb, Top! Neb! Go, go!"
Top bounded at these words. He understood, he knew what was expected of him. The road to the corral was familiar to him. In less than an hour he
could clear it, and it might be hoped that where neither Cyrus Harding nor the reporter could have ventured without danger, Top, running among the
grass or in the wood, would pass unperceived.
The engineer went to the gate of the corral and opened it.
"Neb, Top! Neb!" repeated the engineer, again pointing in the direction of Granite House.
Top sprang forwards, then almost immediately disappeared.
"He will get there!" said the reporter.
"Yes, and he will come back, the faithful animal!"
"What o'clock is it?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"In an hour he may be here. We will watch for his return."
The gate of the corral was closed. The engineer and the reporter re-entered the house. Herbert was still in a sleep. Pencroft kept the compresser
always wet. Spilett, seeing there was nothing he could do at that moment, busied himself in preparing some nourishment, while attentively watching
that part of the enclosure against the hill, at which an attack might be expected.
The settlers awaited Top's return with much anxiety. A little before eleven o'clock, Cyrus Harding and the reporter, rifle in hand, were behind
the gate, ready to open it at the first bark of their dog.
They did not doubt that if Top had arrived safely at Granite House, Neb would have sent him back immediately.
They had both been there for about ten minutes, when a report was heard, followed by repeated barks.
The engineer opened the gate, and seeing smoke a hundred feet off in the wood, he fired in that direction.
Almost immediately Top bounded into the corral, and the gate was quickly shut.
"Top, Top!" exclaimed the engineer, taking the dog's great honest head between his hands.
A note was fastened to his neck, and Cyrus Harding read these words, traced in Neb's large writing:--"No pirates in the neighborhood of Granite
House. I will not stir. Poor Mr. Herbert!"
So the convicts were still there, watching the corral, and determined to kill the settlers one after the other. There was nothing to be done but
to treat them as wild beasts. But great precautions must be taken, for just now the wretches had the advantage on their side, seeing, and not being
seen, being able to surprise by the suddenness of their attack, yet not to be surprised themselves. Harding made arrangements, therefore, for living
in the corral, of which the provisions would last for a tolerable length of time. Ayrton's house had been provided with all that was necessary for
existence, and the convicts, scared by the arrival of the settlers, had not had time to pillage it. It was probable, as Gideon Spilett observed, that
things had occurred as follows:
The six convicts, disembarking on the island, had followed the southern shore, and after having traversed the double shore of the Serpentine
Peninsula, not being inclined to venture into the Far West woods, they had reached the mouth of Falls River. From this point, by following the right
bank of the watercourse, they would arrive at the spurs of Mount Franklin, among which they would naturally seek a retreat, and they could not have
been long in discovering the corral, then uninhabited. There they had regularly installed themselves, awaiting the moment to put their abominable
schemes into execution. Ayrton's arrival had surprised them, but they had managed to overpower the unfortunate man, and--the rest may be easily
Now, the convicts,--reduced to five, it is true, but well armed,--were roaming the woods, and to venture there was to expose themselves to their
attacks, which could be neither guarded against nor prevented.
"Wait! There is nothing else to be done!" repeated Cyrus Harding. "When Herbert is cured, we can organize a general battle of the island, and have
satisfaction of these convicts. That will be the object of our grand expedition at the same time--"
"As the search for our mysterious protector," added Gideon Spilett, finishing the engineer's sentence. "An, it must be acknowledged, my dear
Cyrus, that this time his protection was wanting at the very moment when it was most necessary to us!"
"Who knows?" replied the engineer.
"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.
"That we are not at the end of our trouble yet, my dear Spilett, and that his powerful intervention may have another opportunity of exercising
itself. But that is not the question now. Herbert's life before everything."
This was the colonists' saddest thought. Several days passed, and the poor boy's state was happily no worse. Cold water, always kept at a suitable
temperature, had completely prevented the inflammation of the wounds. It even seemed to the reporter that this water, being slightly
sulphurous,--which was explained by the neighborhood of the volcano, had a more direct action on the healing. The suppuration was much less abundant,
and thanks to the incessant care by which he was surrounded!--Herbert returned to life, and his fever abated. He was besides subjected to a severe
diet, and consequently his wealmess was and would be extreme; but there was no want of refreshing drinks, and absolute rest was of the greatest
benefit to him. Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Pencroft had become very skilful in dressing the lad's wounds. All the linen in the house had been
sacrificed. Herbert's wounds, covered with compresses and lint, were pressed neither too much nor too little, so as to cause their cicatrization
without effecting any inflammatory reaction. The reporter used extreme care in the dressing, knowing well the importance of it, and repeating to his
companions that which most surgeons willingly admit, that it is perhaps rarer to see a dressing well done than an operation well performed.
In ten days, on the 22nd of November, Herbert was considerably better. He had begun to take some nourishment.
The color was returning to his cheeks, and his bright eyes smiled at his nurses. He talked a little, notwithstanding Pencroft's efforts, who
talked incessantly to prevent him from beginning to speak, and told him the most improbable stories. Herbert had questioned him on the subject of
Ayrton, whom he was astonished not to see near him, thinking that he was at the corral. But the sailor, not wishing to distress Herbert, contented
himself by replying that Ayrton had rejoined Neb, so as to defend Granite House.
"Humph!" said Pencroft, "these pirates! they are gentlemen who have no right to any consideration! And the captain wanted to win them by kindness!
I'll send them some kindness, but in the shape of a good bullet!"
"And have they not been seen again?" asked Herbert.
"No, my boy," answered the sailor, "but we shall find them, and when you are cured we shall see if the cowards who strike us from behind will dare
to meet us face to face!"
"I am still very weak, my poor Pencroft!"
"Well! your strength will return gradually! What's a ball through the chest? Nothing but a joke! I've seen many, and I don't think much of them!"
At last things appeared to be going on well, and if no complication occurred, Herbert's recovery might be regarded as certain. But what would have
been the condition of the colonists if his state had been aggravated, --if, for example, the ball had remained in his body, if his arm or his leg had
had to be amputated?
"No," said Spilett more than once, "I have never thought of such a contingency without shuddering!"
"And yet, if it had been necessary to operate," said Harding one day to him, "you would not have hesitated?"
"No, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett, "but thank God that we have been spared this complication!"
As in so many other conjectures, the colonists had appealed to the logic of that simple good sense of which they had made use so often, and once
more, thanks to their general knowledge, it had succeeded! But might not a time come when all their science would be at fault? They were alone on the
island. Now, men in all states of society are necessary to each other. Cyrus Harding knew this well, and sometimes he asked if some circumstance might
not occur which they would be powerless to surmount. It appeared to him besides, that he and his companions, till then so fortunate, had entered into
an unlucky period. During the two years and a half which had elapsed since their escape from Richmond, it might be said that they had had everything
their own way. The island had abundantly supplied them with minerals, vegetables, animals, and as Nature had constantly loaded them, their science had
known how to take advantage of what she offered them.
The wellbeing of the colony was therefore complete. Moreover, in certain occurrences an inexplicable influence had come to their aid!... But all
that could only be for a time.
In short, Cyrus Harding believed that fortune had turned against them.
In fact, the convicts' ship had appeared in the waters of the island, and if the pirates had been, so to speak, miraculously destroyed, six of
them, at least, had escaped the catastrophe. They had disembarked on the island, and it was almost impossible to get at the five who survived. Ayrton
had no doubt been murdered by these wretches, who possessed firearms, and at the first use that they had made of them, Herbert had fallen, wounded
almost mortally. Were these the first blows aimed by adverse fortune at the colonists? This was often asked by Harding. This was often repeated by the
reporter; and it appeared to him also that the intervention, so strange, yet so efficacious, which till then had served them so well, had now failed
them. Had this mysterious being, whatever he was, whose existence could not be denied, abandoned the island? Had he in his turn succumbed?
No reply was possible to these questions. But it must not be imagined that because Harding and his companions spoke of these things, they were men
to despair. Far from that. They looked their situation in the face, they analyzed the chances, they prepared themselves for any event, they stood firm
and straight before the future, and if adversity was at last to strike them, it would find in them men prepared to struggle against it.
The convalescence of the young invalid was regularly progressing. One thing only was now to be desired, that his state would allow him to be
brought to Granite House. However well built and supplied the corral house was, it could not be so comfortable as the healthy granite dwelling.
Besides, it did not offer the same security, and its tenants, notwithstanding their watchfulness, were here always in fear of some shot from the
convicts. There, on the contrary, in the middle of that impregnable and inaccessible cliff, they would have nothing to fear, and any attack on their
persons would certainly fail. They therefore waited impatiently for the moment when Herbert might be moved without danger from his wound, and they
were determined to make this move, although the communication through Jacamar Wood was very difficult.
They had no news from Neb, but were not uneasy on that account. The courageous Negro, well entrenched in the depths of Granite House, would not
allow himself to be surprised. Top had not been sent again to him, as it appeared useless to expose the faithful dog to some shot which might deprive
the settlers of their most useful auxiliary.
They waited, therefore, although they were anxious to be reunited at Granite House. It pained the engineer to see his forces divided, for it gave
great advantage to the pirates. Since Ayrton's disappearance they were only four against five, for Herbert could not yet be counted, and this was not
the least care of the brave boy, who well understood the trouble of which he was the cause.
The question of knowing how, in their condition, they were to act against the pirates, was thoroughly discussed on the 29th of November by Cyrus
Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Pencroft, at a moment when Herbert was asleep and could not hear them.
"My friends," said the reporter, after they had talked of Neb and of the impossibility of communicating with him, "I think, --like you, that to
venture on the road to the corral would be to risk receiving a gunshot without being able to return it. But do you not think that the best thing to be
done now is to openly give chase to these wretches?"
"That is just what I was thinking," answered Pencroft. "I believe we're not fellows to be afraid of a bullet, and as for me, if Captain Harding
approves, I'm ready to dash into the forest! Why, hang it, one man is equal to another!"
"But is he equal to five?" asked the engineer.
"I will join Pencroft," said the reporter, "and both of us, well-armed and accompanied by Top--"
"My dear Spilett, and you, Pencroft," answered Harding, "let us reason coolly. If the convicts were hid in one spot of the island, if we knew that
spot, and had only to dislodge them, I would undertake a direct attack; but is there not occasion to fear, on the contrary, that they are sure to fire
the first shot?"
"Well, captain," cried Pencroft, "a bullet does not always reach its mark."
"That which struck Herbert did not miss, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "Besides, observe that if both of you left the corral I should remain
here alone to defend it. Do you imagine that the convicts will not see you leave it, that they will not allow you to enter the forest, and that they
will not attack it during your absence, knowing that there is no one here but a wounded boy and a man?"
"You are right, captain," replied Pencroft, his chest swelling with sullen anger. "You are right; they will do all they can to retake the corral,
which they know to be well stored; and alone you could not hold it against them."
"Oh, if we were only at Granite House!"
"If we were at Granite House," answered the engineer, "the case would be very different. There I should not be afraid to leave Herbert with one,
while the other three went to search the forests of the island. But we are at the corral, and it is best to stay here until we can leave it together."
Cyrus Harding's reasoning was unanswerable, and his companions understood it well.
"If only Ayrton was still one of us!" said Gideon Spilett. "Poor fellow! his return to social life will have been but of short duration."
"If he is dead," added Pencroft, in a peculiar tone.
"Do you hope, then, Pencroft, that the villains have spared him?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Yes, if they had any interest in doing so."
"What! you suppose that Ayrton finding his old companions, forgetting all that he owes us--"
"Who knows?" answered the sailor, who did not hazard this shameful supposition without hesitating.
"Pencroft," said Harding, taking the sailor's arm, "that is a wicked idea of yours, and you will distress me much if you persist in speaking thus.
I will answer for Ayrton's fidelity."
"And I also," added the reporter quickly.
"Yes, yes, captain, I was wrong," replied Pencroft; "it was a wicked idea indeed that I had, and nothing justifies it. But what can I do? I'm not
in my senses. This imprisonment in the corral wearies me horribly, and I have never felt so excited as I do now.
"Be patient, Pencroft," replied the engineer. "How long will it be, my dear Spilett, before you think Herbert may be carried to Granite House?"
"That is difficult to say, Cyrus," answered the reporter, "for any imprudence might involve terrible consequences. But his convalescence is
progressing, and if he continues to gain strength, in eight days from now-- well, we shall see."
Eight days! That would put off the return to Granite House until the first days of December. At this time two months of spring had already passed.
The weather was fine, and the heat began to be great. The forests of the island were in full leaf, and the time was approaching when the usual crops
ought to be gathered. The return to the plateau of Prospect Heights would, therefore, be followed by extensive agricultural labors, interrupted only
by the projected expedition through the island.
It can, therefore, be well understood how injurious this seclusion in the corral must have been to the colonists.
But if they were compelled to bow before necessity, they did not do so without impatience.
Once or twice the reporter ventured out into the road and made the tour of the palisade. Top accompanied him, and Gideon Spilett, his gun cocked,
was ready for any emergency.
He met with no misadventure and found no suspicious traces. His dog would have warned him of any danger, and, as Top did not bark, it might be
concluded that there was nothing to fear at the moment at least, and that the convicts were occupied in another part of the island.
However, on his second sortie, on the 27th of November, Gideon Spilett, who had ventured a quarter of a mile into the woods, towards the south of
the mountain, remarked that Top scented something. The dog had no longer his unconcerned manner; he went backwards and forwards, ferreting among the
grass and bushes as if his smell had revealed some suspicious object to him.
Gideon Spilett followed Top, encouraged him, excited him by his voice, while keeping a sharp look-out, his gun ready to fire, and sheltering
himself behind the trees. It was not probable that Top scented the presence of man, for in that case, he would have announced it by half-uttered,
sullen, angry barks. Now, as he did not growl, it was because danger was neither near nor approaching.
Nearly five minutes passed thus, Top rummaging, the reporter following him prudently when, all at once, the dog rushed towards a thick bush, and
drew out a rag.
It was a piece of cloth, stained and torn, which Spilett immediately brought back to the corral. There it was examined by the colonists, who found
that it was a fragment of Ayrton's waistcoat, a piece of that felt, manufactured solely by the Granite House factory.
"You see, Pencroft," observed Harding, "there has been resistance on the part of the unfortunate Ayrton. The convicts have dragged him away in
spite of himself! Do you still doubt his honesty?"
"No, captain," answered the sailor, "and I repented of my suspicion a long time ago! But it seems to me that something may be learned from the
"What is that?" asked the reporter.
"It is that Ayrton was not killed at the corral! That they dragged him away living, since he has resisted. Therefore, perhaps, he is still
"Perhaps, indeed," replied the engineer, who remained thoughtful.
This was a hope, to which Ayrton's companions could still hold. Indeed, they had before believed that, surprised in the corral, Ayrton had fallen
by a bullet, as Herbert had fallen. But if the convicts had not killed him at first, if they had brought him living to another part of the island,
might it not be admitted that he was still their prisoner? Perhaps, even, one of them had found in Ayrton his old Australian companion Ben Joyce, the
chief of the escaped convicts. And who knows but that they had conceived the impossible hope of bringing back Ayrton to themselves? He would have been
very useful to them, if they had been able to make him turn traitor!
This incident was, therefore, favorably interpreted at the corral, and it no longer appeared impossible that they should find Ayrton again. On his
side, if he was only a prisoner, Ayrton would no doubt do all he could to escape from the hands of the villains, and this would be a powerful aid to
"At any rate," observed Gideon Spilett, "if happily Ayrton did manage to escape, he would go directly to Granite House, for he could not know of
the attempted assassination of which Herbert has been a victim, and consequently would never think of our being imprisoned in the corral."
"Oh! I wish that he was there, at Granite House!" cried Pencroft, "and that we were there, too! For, although the rascals can do nothing to our
house, they may plunder the plateau, our plantations, our poultry-yard!"
Pencroft had become a thorough farmer, heartily attached to his crops. But it must be said that Herbert was more anxious than any to return to
Granite House, for he knew how much the presence of the settlers was needed there. And it was he who was keeping them at the corral! Therefore, one
idea occupied his mind--to leave the corral, and when! He believed he could bear removal to Granite House. He was sure his strength would return more
quickly in his room, with the air and sight of the sea!
Several times he pressed Gideon Spilett, but the latter, fearing, with good reason, that Herbert's wounds, half healed, might reopen on the way,
did not give the order to start.
However, something occurred which compelled Cyrus Harding and his two friends to yield to the lad's wish, and God alone knew that this
determination might cause them grief and remorse.
It was the 29th of November, seven o'clock in the evening. The three settlers were talking in Herbert's room, when they heard Top utter quick
Harding, Pencroft, and Spilett seized their guns and ran out of the house. Top, at the foot of the palisade, was jumping, barking, but it was with
pleasure, not anger.
"Some one is coming."
"It is not an enemy!"
These words had hardly been exchanged between the engineer and his two companions when a body leaped over the palisade and fell on the ground
inside the corral.
It was Jup, Master Jup in person, to whom Top immediately gave a most cordial reception.
"Jup!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Neb has sent him to us," said the reporter.
"Then," replied the engineer, "he must have some note on him."
Pencroft rushed up to the orang. Certainly if Neb had any important matter to communicate to his master he could not employ a more sure or more
rapid messenger, who could pass where neither the colonists could, nor even Top himself.
Cyrus Harding was not mistaken. At Jup's neck hung a small bag, and in this bag was found a little note traced by Neb's hand.
The despair of Harding and his companions may be imagined when they read these words:--
"Friday, six o'clock in the morning.
"Plateau invaded by convicts.
They gazed at each other without uttering a word, then they re-entered the house. what were they to do? The convicts on Prospect Heights! that was
disaster, devastation, ruin.
Herbert, on seeing the engineer, the reporter, and Pencroft re-enter, guessed that their situation was aggravated, and when he saw Jup, he no
longer doubted that some misfortune menaced Granite House.
"Captain Harding," said he, "I must go; I can bear the journey. I must go."
Gideon Spilett approached Herbert; then, having looked at him,--
"Let us go, then!" said he.
The question was quickly decided whether Herbert should be carried on a litter or in the cart which had brought Ayrton to the corral. The motion
of the litter would have been more easy for the wounded lad, but it would have necessitated two bearers, that is to say, there would have been two
guns less for defense if an attack was made on the road. Would they not, on the contrary, by employing the cart leave every arm free? Was it
impossible to place the mattress on which Herbert was lying in it, and to advance with so much care that any jolt should be avoided? It could be done.
The cart was brought. Pencroft harnessed the onager. Cyrus Harding and the reporter raised Herbert's mattress and placed it on the bottom of the
cart. The weather was fine. The sun's bright rays glanced through the trees.
"Are the guns ready?" asked Cyrus Harding.
They were. The engineer and Pencroft, each armed with a double-barreled gun, and Gideon Spilett carrying his rifle, had nothing to do but start.
"Are you comfortable, Herbert?" asked the engineer.
"Ah, captain," replied the lad, "don't be uneasy, I shall not die on the road!"
While speaking thus, it could be seen that the poor boy had called up all his energy, and by the energy of a powerful will had collected his
The engineer felt his heart sink painfully. He still hesitated to give the signal for departure; but that would have driven Herbert to
despair--killed him perhaps.
"Forward!" said Harding.
The gate of the corral was opened. Jup and Top, who knew when to be silent, ran in advance. The cart came out, the gate was reclosed, and the
onager, led by Pencroft, advanced at a slow pace.
Certainly, it would have been safer to have taken a different road than that which led straight from the corral to Granite House, but the cart
would have met with great difficulties in moving under the trees. It was necessary, therefore, to follow this way, although it was well known to the
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett walked one on each side of the cart, ready to answer to any attack. However, it was not probable that the
convicts would have yet left the plateau of Prospect Heights.
Neb's note had evidently been written and sent as soon as the convicts had shown themselves there. Now, this note was dated six o'clock in the
morning, and the active orang, accustomed to come frequently to the corral, had taken scarcely three quarters of an hour to cross the five miles which
separated it from Granite House. They would, therefore, be safe at that time, and if there was any occasion for firing, it would probably not be until
they were in the neighborhood of Granite House. However, the colonists kept a strict watch. Top and Jup, the latter armed with his club, sometimes in
front, sometimes beating the wood at the sides of the road, signalized no danger.
The cart advanced slowly under Pencroft's guidance. It had left the corral at half-past seven. An hour after, four out of the five miles had been
cleared, without any incident having occurred. The road was as deserted as all that part of the Jacamar Wood which lay between the Mercy and the lake.
There was no occasion for any warning. The wood appeared as deserted as on the day when the colonists first landed on the island.
They approached the plateau. Another mile and they would see the bridge over Creek Glycerine. Cyrus Harding expected to find it in its place;
supposing that the convicts would have crossed it, and that, after having passed one of the streams which enclosed the plateau, they would have taken
the precaution to lower it again, so as to keep open a retreat.
At length an opening in the trees allowed the sea-horizon to be seen. But the cart continued its progress, for not one of its defenders thought of
At that moment Pencroft stopped the onager, and in a hoarse voice,--
"Oh! the villains!" he exclaimed.
And he pointed to a thick smoke rising from the mill, the sheds, and the buildings at the poultry-yard.
A man was moving about in the midst of the smoke. It was Neb.
His companions uttered a shout. He heard, and ran to meet them.
The convicts had left the plateau nearly half-an-hour before, having devastated it!
"And Mr. Herbert?" asked Neb.
Gideon Spilett returned to the cart.
Herbert had lost consciousness!
Of the convicts, the dangers which menaced Granite House, the ruins with which the plateau was covered, the colonists thought no longer. Herbert's
critical state outweighed all other considerations. Would the removal prove fatal to him by causing some internal injury? The reporter could not
affirm it, but he and his companions almost despaired of the result. The cart was brought to the bend of the river. There some branches, disposed as a
liner, received the mattress on which lay the unconscious Herbert. Ten minutes after, Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and Pencroft were at the foot of the
cliff, leaving Neb to take the cart on to the plateau of Prospect Heights. The lift was put in motion, and Herbert was soon stretched on his bed in
What cares were lavished on him to bring him back to life! He smiled for a moment on finding himself in his room, but could scarcely even murmur a
few words, so great was his weakness. Gideon Spilett examined his wounds. He feared to find them reopened, having been imperfectly healed. There was
nothing of the sort. From whence, then, came this prostration? why was Herbert so much worse? The lad then fell into a kind of feverish sleep, and the
reporter and Pencroft remained near the bed. During this time, Harding told Neb all that had happened at the corral, and Neb recounted to his master
the events of which the plateau had just been the theater.
It was only during the preceding night that the convicts had appeared on the edge of the forest, at the approaches to Creek Glycerine. Neb, who
was watching near the poultry-yard, had not hesitated to fire at one of the pirates, who was about to cross the stream; but in the darkness he could
not tell whether the man had been hit or not. At any rate, it was not enough to frighten away the band, and Neb had only just time to get up to
Granite House, where at least he was in safety.
But what was he to do there? How prevent the devastations with which the convicts threatened the plateau? Had Neb any means by which to warn his
master? And, besides, in what situation were the inhabitants of the corral themselves? Cyrus Harding and his companions had left on the 11th of
November, and it was now the 29th. It was, therefore, nineteen days since Neb had had other news than that brought by Top--disastrous news: Ayrton
disappeared, Herbert severely wounded, the engineer, reporter, and sailor, as it were, imprisoned in the corral!
What was he to do? asked poor Neb. Personally he had nothing to fear, for the convicts could not reach him in Granite House. But the buildings,
the plantations, all their arrangements at the mercy of the pirates! Would it not be best to let Cyrus Harding judge of what he ought to do, and to
warn him, at least, of the danger which threatened him?
Neb then thought of employing Jup, and confiding a note to him. He knew the orang's great intelligence, which had been often put to the proof. Jup
understood the word corral, which had been frequently pronounced before him, and it may be remembered, too, that he had often driven the cart thither
in company with Pencroft. Day had not yet dawned. The active orang would know how to pass unperceived through the woods, of which the convicts,
besides, would think he was a native.
Neb did not hesitate. He wrote the note, he tied it to Jup's neck, he brought the ape to the door of Granite House, from which he let down a long
cord to the ground; then, several times he repeated these words,--
"Jup Jup! corral, corral!"
The creature understood, seized the cord, glided rapidly down the beach, and disappeared in the darkness without the convicts' attention having
been in the least excited.
"You did well, Neb," said Harding, "but perhaps in not warning us you would have done still better!"
And, in speaking thus, Cyrus Harding thought of Herbert, whose recovery the removal had so seriously checked.
Neb ended his account. The convicts had not appeared at all on the beach. Not knowing the number of the island's inhabitants, they might suppose
that Granite House was defended by a large party. They must have remembered that during the attack by the brig numerous shot had been fired both from
the lower and upper rocks, and no doubt they did not wish to expose themselves. But the plateau of Prospect Heights was open to them, and not covered
by the fire of Granite House. They gave themselves up, therefore, to their instinct of destruction,--plundering, burning, devastating everything,--and
only retiring half an hour before the arrival of the colonists, whom they believed still confined in the corral.
On their retreat, Neb hurried out. He climbed the plateau at the risk of being perceived and fired at, tried to extinguish the fire which was
consuming the buildings of the poultry-yard, and had struggled, though in vain, against it until the cart appeared at the edge of the wood.
Such had been these serious events. The presence of the convicts constituted a permanent source of danger to the settlers in Lincoln Island, until
then so happy, and who might now expect still greater misfortunes.
Spilett remained in Granite House with Herbert and Pencroft, while Cyrus Harding, accompanied by Neb, proceeded to judge for himself of the extent
of the disaster.
It was fortunate that the convicts had not advanced to the foot of Granite House. The workshop at the Chimneys would in that case not have escaped
destruction. But after all, this evil would have been more easily reparable than the ruins accumulated on the plateau of Prospect Heights. Harding and
Neb proceeded towards the Mercy, and ascended its left bank without meeting with any trace of the convicts; nor on the other side of the river, in the
depths of the wood, could they perceive any suspicious indications.
Besides, it might be supposed that in all probability either the convicts knew of the return of the settlers to Granite House, by having seen them
pass on the road from the corral, or, after the devastation of the plateau, they had penetrated into Jacamar Wood, following the course of the Mercy,
and were thus ignorant of their return.
In the former case, they must have returned towards the corral, now without defenders, and which contained valuable stores.
In the latter, they must have regained their encampment, and would wait on opportunity to recommence the attack.
It was, therefore, possible to prevent them, but any enterprise to clear the island was now rendered difficult by reason of Herbert's condition.
Indeed, their whole force would have been barely sufficient to cope with the convicts, and just now no one could leave Granite House.
The engineer and Neb arrived on the plateau. Desolation reigned everywhere. The fields had been trampled over; the ears of wheat, which were
nearly full-grown, lay on the ground. The other plantations had not suffered less.
The kitchen-garden was destroyed. Happily, Granite House possessed a store of seed which would enable them to repair these misfortunes.
As to the wall and buildings of the poultry-yard and the onagers stable, the fire had destroyed all. A few terrified creatures roamed over the
plateau. The birds, which during the fire had taken refuge on the waters of the lake, had already returned to their accustomed spot, and were dabbling
on the banks. Everything would have to be reconstructed.
Cyrus Harding's face, which was paler than usual, expressed an internal anger which he commanded with difficulty, but he did not utter a word.
Once more he looked at his devastated fields, and at the smoke which still rose from the ruins, then he returned to Granite House.
The following days were the saddest of any that the colonists had passed on the island! Herbert's weakness visibly increased. It appeared that a
more serious malady, the consequence of the profound physiological disturbance he had gone through, threatened to declare itself, and Gideon Spilett
feared such an aggravation of his condition that he would be powerless to fight against it!
In fact, Herbert remained in an almost continuous state of drowsiness, and symptoms of delirium began to manifest themselves. Refreshing drinks
were the only remedies at the colonists' disposal. The fever was not as yet very high, but it soon appeared that it would probably recur at regular
intervals. Gideon Spilett first recognized this on the 6th of December.
The poor boy, whose fingers, nose, and ears had become extremely pale, was at first seized with slight shiverings, horripilations, and tremblings.
His pulse was weak and irregular, his skin dry, his thirst intense. To this soon succeeded a hot fit; his face became flushed; his skin reddened; his
pulse quick; then a profuse perspiration broke out after which the fever seemed to diminish. The attack had lasted nearly five hours.
Gideon Spilett had not left Herbert, who, it was only too certain, was now seized by an intermittent fever, and this fever must be cured at any
cost before it should assume a more serious aspect.
"And in order to cure it," said Spilett to Cyrus Harding, "we need a febrifuge."
"A febrifuge--" answered the engineer. "We have neither Peruvian bark, nor sulphate of quinine."
"No," said Gideon Spilett, "but there are willows on the border of the lake, and the bark of the willow might, perhaps, prove to be a substitute
"Let us try it without losing a moment," replied Cyrus Harding.
The bark of the willow has, indeed, been justly considered as a succedaneum for Peruvian bark, as has also that of the horse-chestnut tree, the
leaf of the holly, the snake-root, etc. It was evidently necessary to make trial of this substance, although not so valuable as Peruvian bark, and to
employ it in its natural state, since they had no means for extracting its essence.
Cyrus Harding went himself to cut from the trunk of a species of black willow, a few pieces of bark; he brought them back to Granite House, and
reduced them to a powder, which was administered that same evening to Herbert.
The night passed without any important change. Herbert was somewhat delirious, but the fever did not reappear in the night, and did not return
either during the following day.
Pencroft again began to hope. Gideon Spilett said nothing. It might be that the fever was not quotidian, but tertian, and that it would return
next day. Therefore, he awaited the next day with the greatest anxiety.
It might have been remarked besides that during this period Herbert remained utterly prostrate, his head weak and giddy. Another symptom alarmed
the reporter to the highest degree. Herbert's liver became congested, and soon a more intense delirium showed that his brain was also affected.
Gideon Spilett was overwhelmed by this new complication. He took the engineer aside.
"It is a malignant fever," said he.
"A malignant fever!" cried Harding. "You are mistaken, Spilett. A malignant fever does not declare itself spontaneously; its germ must previously
"I am not mistaken," replied the reporter. "Herbert no doubt contracted the germ of this fever in the marshes of the island. He has already had
one attack; should a second come on and should we not be able to prevent a third, he is lost."
"But the willow bark?"
"That is insufficient," answered the reporter, "and the third attack of a malignant fever, which is not arrested by means of quinine, is always
Fortunately, Pencroft heard nothing of this conversation or he would have gone mad.
It may be imagined what anxiety the engineer and the reporter suffered during the day of the 7th of December and the following night.
Towards the middle of the day the second attack came on. The crisis was terrible. Herbert felt himself sinking. He stretched his arms towards
Cyrus Harding, towards Spilett, towards Pencroft. He was so young to die! The scene was heart-rending. They were obliged to send Pencroft away.
The fit lasted five hours. It was evident that Herbert could not survive a third.
The night was frightful. In his delirium Herbert uttered words which went to the hearts of his companions. He struggled with the convicts, he
called to Ayrton, he poured forth entreaties to that mysterious being,--that powerful unknown protector,--whose image was stamped upon his mind; then
he again fell into a deep exhaustion which completely prostrated him. Several times Gideon Spilett thought that the poor boy was dead.
The next day, the 8th of December, was but a succession of the fainting fits. Herbert's thin hands clutched the sheets. They had administered
further doses of pounded bark, but the reporter expected no result from it.
"If before tomorrow morning we have not given him a more energetic febrifuge," said the reporter, "Herbert will be dead."
Night arrived--the last night, it was too much to be feared, of the good, brave, intelligent boy, so far in advance of his years, and who was
loved by all as their own child. The only remedy which existed against this terrible malignant fever, the only specific which could overcome it, was
not to be found in Lincoln Island.
During the night of the 8th of December, Herbert was seized by a more violent delirium. His liver was fearfully congested, his brain affected, and
already it was impossible for him to recognize any one.
Would he live until the next day, until that third attack which must infallibly carry him off? It was not probable. His strength was exhausted,
and in the intervals of fever he lay as one dead.
Towards three o'clock in the morning Herbert uttered a piercing cry. He seemed to be torn by a supreme convulsion. Neb, who was near him,
terrified, ran into the next room where his companions were watching.
Top, at that moment, barked in a strange manner.
All rushed in immediately and managed to restrain the dying boy, who was endeavoring to throw himself out of his bed, while Spilett, taking his
arm, felt his pulse gradually quicken.
It was five in the morning. The rays of the rising sun began to shine in at the windows of Granite House. It promised to be a fine day, and this
day was to be poor Herbert's last!
A ray glanced on the table placed near the bed.
Suddenly Pencroft, uttering a cry, pointed to the table.
On it lay a little oblong box, of which the cover bore these words:-- "SULPHATE OF QUININE."
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The illustrations are by N.C. Wyeth (1877-1943) Scribners 1918)