Part 2 out of 12
soiled with mud or sand!--Herbert had drawn him towards him, and was
patting his head, the dog rubbing his neck against the lad's hands.
"If the dog is found, the master will be found also!" said the reporter.
"God grant it!" responded Herbert. "Let us set off! Top will guide us!"
Pencroft did not make any objection. He felt that Top's arrival
contradicted his conjectures. "Come along then!" said he.
Pencroft carefully covered the embers on the hearth. He placed a few
pieces of wood among them, so as to keep in the fire until their return.
Then, preceded by the dog, who seemed to invite them by short barks to come
with him, and followed by the reporter and the boy, he dashed out, after
having put up in his handkerchief the remains of the supper.
The storm was then in all its violence, and perhaps at its height. Not a
single ray of light from the moon pierced through the clouds. To follow a
straight course was difficult. It was best to rely on Top's instinct. They
did so. The reporter and Herbert walked behind the dog, and the sailor
brought up the rear. It was impossible to exchange a word. The rain was not
very heavy, but the wind was terrific.
However, one circumstance favored the seaman and his two companions. The
wind being southeast, consequently blew on their backs. The clouds of sand,
which otherwise would have been insupportable, from being received behind,
did not in consequence impede their progress. In short, they sometimes went
faster than they liked, and had some difficulty in keeping their feet; but
hope gave them strength, for it was not at random that they made their way
along the shore. They had no doubt that Neb had found his master, and that
he had sent them the faithful dog. But was the engineer living, or had Neb
only sent for his companions that they might render the last duties to the
corpse of the unfortunate Harding?
After having passed the precipice, Herbert, the reporter, and Pencroft
prudently stepped aside to stop and take breath. The turn of the rocks
sheltered them from the wind, and they could breathe after this walk or
rather run of a quarter of an hour.
They could now hear and reply to each other, and the lad having
pronounced the name of Cyrus Harding, Top gave a few short barks, as much
as to say that his master was saved.
"Saved, isn't he?" repeated Herbert; "saved, Top?"
And the dog barked in reply.
They once more set out. The tide began to rise, and urged by the wind it
threatened to be unusually high, as it was a spring tide. Great billows
thundered against the reef with such violence that they probably passed
entirely over the islet, then quite invisible. The mole no longer protected
the coast, which was directly exposed to the attacks of the open sea.
As soon as the sailor and his companions left the precipice, the wind
struck them again with renewed fury. Though bent under the gale they walked
very quickly, following Top, who did not hesitate as to what direction to
They ascended towards the north, having on their left an interminable
extent of billows, which broke with a deafening noise, and on their right a
dark country, the aspect of which it was impossible to guess. But they felt
that it was comparatively flat, for the wind passed completely over them,
without being driven back as it was when it came in contact with the cliff.
At four o'clock in the morning, they reckoned that they had cleared about
five miles. The clouds were slightly raised, and the wind, though less
damp, was very sharp and cold. Insufficiently protected by their clothing,
Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett suffered cruelly, but not a complaint escaped
their lips. They were determined to follow Top, wherever the intelligent
animal wished to lead them.
Towards five o'clock day began to break. At the zenith, where the fog was
less thick, gray shades bordered the clouds; under an opaque belt, a
luminous line clearly traced the horizon. The crests of the billows were
tipped with a wild light, and the foam regained its whiteness. At the same
time on the left the hilly parts of the coast could be seen, though very
At six o'clock day had broken. The clouds rapidly lifted. The seaman and
his companions were then about six miles from the Chimneys. They were
following a very flat shore bounded by a reef of rocks, whose heads
scarcely emerged from the sea, for they were in deep water. On the left,
the country appeared to be one vast extent of sandy downs, bristling with
thistles. There was no cliff, and the shore offered no resistance to the
ocean but a chain of irregular hillocks. Here and there grew two or three
trees, inclined towards the west, their branches projecting in that
direction. Quite behind, in the southwest, extended the border of the
At this moment, Top became very excited. He ran forward, then returned,
and seemed to entreat them to hasten their steps. The dog then left the
beach, and guided by his wonderful instinct, without showing the least
hesitation, went straight in among the downs. They followed him. The
country appeared an absolute desert. Not a living creature was to be seen.
The downs, the extent of which was large, were composed of hillocks and
even of hills, very irregularly distributed. They resembled a Switzerland
modeled in sand, and only an amazing instinct could have possibly
recognized the way.
Five minutes after having left the beach, the reporter and his two
companions arrived at a sort of excavation, hollowed out at the back of a
high mound. There Top stopped, and gave a loud, clear bark. Spilett,
Herbert, and Pencroft dashed into the cave.
Neb was there, kneeling beside a body extended on a bed of grass.
The body was that of the engineer, Cyrus Harding.
Neb did not move. Pencroft only uttered one word.
"Living?" he cried.
Neb did not reply. Spilett and the sailor turned pale. Herbert clasped
his hands, and remained motionless. The poor Negro, absorbed in his grief,
evidently had neither seen his companions nor heard the sailor speak.
The reporter knelt down beside the motionless body, and placed his ear to
the engineer's chest, having first torn open his clothes.
A minute--an age!--passed, during which he endeavored to catch the
faintest throb of the heart.
Neb had raised himself a little and gazed without seeing. Despair had
completely changed his countenance. He could scarcely be recognized,
exhausted with fatigue, broken with grief. He believed his master was dead.
Gideon Spilett at last rose, after a long and attentive examination.
"He lives!" said he.
Pencroft knelt in his turn beside the engineer, he also heard a
throbbing, and even felt a slight breath on his cheek.
Herbert at a word from the reporter ran out to look for water. He found,
a hundred feet off, a limpid stream, which seemed to have been greatly
increased by the rains, and which filtered through the sand; but nothing in
which to put the water, not even a shell among the downs. The lad was
obliged to content himself with dipping his handkerchief in the stream, and
with it hastened back to the grotto.
Happily the wet handkerchief was enough for Gideon Spilett, who only
wished to wet the engineer's lips. The cold water produced an almost
immediate effect. His chest heaved and he seemed to try to speak.
"We will save him!" exclaimed the reporter.
At these words hope revived in Neb's heart. He undressed his master to
see if he was wounded, but not so much as a bruise was to be found, either
on the head, body, or limbs, which was surprising, as he must have been
dashed against the rocks; even the hands were uninjured, and it was
difficult to explain how the engineer showed no traces of the efforts which
he must have made to get out of reach of the breakers.
But the explanation would come later. When Cyrus was able to speak he
would say what had happened. For the present the question was, how to
recall him to life, and it appeared likely that rubbing would bring this
about; so they set to work with the sailor's jersey.
The engineer, revived by this rude shampooing, moved his arm slightly and
began to breathe more regularly. He was sinking from exhaustion, and
certainly, had not the reporter and his companions arrived, it would have
been all over with Cyrus Harding.
"You thought your master was dead, didn't you?" said the seaman to Neb.
"Yes! quite dead!" replied Neb, "and if Top had not found you, and
brought you here, I should have buried my master, and then have lain down
on his grave to die!"
It had indeed been a narrow escape for Cyrus Harding!
Neb then recounted what had happened. The day before, after having left
the Chimneys at daybreak, he had ascended the coast in a northerly
direction, and had reached that part of the shore which he had already
There, without any hope he acknowledged, Neb had searched the beach,
among the rocks, on the sand, for the smallest trace to guide him. He
examined particularly that part of the beach which was not covered by the
high tide, for near the sea the water would have obliterated all marks. Neb
did not expect to find his master living. It was for a corpse that he
searched, a corpse which he wished to bury with his own hands!
He sought long in vain. This desert coast appeared never to have been
visited by a human creature. The shells, those which the sea had not
reached, and which might be met with by millions above high-water mark,
were untouched. Not a shell was broken.
Neb then resolved to walk along the beach for some miles. It was possible
that the waves had carried the body to quite a distant point. When a corpse
floats a little distance from a low shore, it rarely happens that the tide
does not throw it up, sooner or later. This Neb knew, and he wished to see
his master again for the last time.
"I went along the coast for another two miles, carefully examining the
beach, both at high and low water, and I had despaired of finding anything,
when yesterday, above five in the evening, I saw footprints on the sand."
"Footprints?" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Yes!" replied Neb.
"Did these footprints begin at the water's edge?" asked the reporter.
"No," replied Neb, "only above high-water mark, for the others must have
been washed out by the tide."
"Go on, Neb," said Spilett.
"I went half crazy when I saw these footprints. They were very clear and
went towards the downs. I followed them for a quarter of a mile, running,
but taking care not to destroy them. Five minutes after, as it was getting
dark, I heard the barking of a dog. It was Top, and Top brought me here, to
Neb ended his account by saying what had been his grief at finding the
inanimate body, in which he vainly sought for the least sign of life. Now
that he had found him dead he longed for him to be alive. All his efforts
were useless! Nothing remained to be done but to render the last duties to
the one whom he had loved so much! Neb then thought of his companions.
They, no doubt, would wish to see the unfortunate man again. Top was there.
Could he not rely on the sagacity of the faithful animal? Neb several times
pronounced the name of the reporter, the one among his companions whom Top
Then he pointed to the south, and the dog bounded off in the direction
indicated to him.
We have heard how, guided by an instinct which might be looked upon
almost as supernatural, Top had found them.
Neb's companions had listened with great attention to this account.
It was unaccountable to them how Cyrus Harding, after the efforts which
he must have made to escape from the waves by crossing the rocks, had not
received even a scratch. And what could not be explained either was how the
engineer had managed to get to this cave in the downs, more than a mile
from the shore.
"So, Neb," said the reporter, "it was not you who brought your master to
"No, it was not I," replied the Negro.
"It's very clear that the captain came here by himself," said Pencroft.
"It is clear in reality," observed Spilett, "but it is not credible!"
The explanation of this fact could only be produced from the engineer's
own lips, and they must wait for that till speech returned. Rubbing had
re-established the circulation of the blood. Cyrus Harding moved his arm
again, then his head, and a few incomprehensible words escaped him.
Neb, who was bending over him, spoke, but the engineer did not appear to
hear, and his eyes remained closed. Life was only exhibited in him by
movement, his senses had not as yet been restored.
Pencroft much regretted not having either fire, or the means of procuring
it, for he had, unfortunately, forgotten to bring the burnt linen, which
would easily have ignited from the sparks produced by striking together two
flints. As to the engineer's pockets, they were entirely empty, except that
of his waistcoat, which contained his watch. It was necessary to carry
Harding to the Chimneys, and that as soon as possible. This was the opinion
Meanwhile, the care which was lavished on the engineer brought him back
to consciousness sooner than they could have expected. The water with which
they wetted his lips revived him gradually. Pencroft also thought of mixing
with the water some moisture from the titra's flesh which he had brought.
Herbert ran to the beach and returned with two large bivalve shells. The
sailor concocted something which he introduced between the lips of the
engineer, who eagerly drinking it opened his eyes.
Neb and the reporter were leaning over him.
"My master! my master!" cried Neb.
The engineer heard him. He recognized Neb and Spilett, then his other two
companions, and his hand slightly pressed theirs.
A few words again escaped him, which showed what thoughts were, even
then, troubling his brain. This time he was understood. Undoubtedly they
were the same words he had before attempted to utter.
"Island or continent?" he murmured.
"Bother the continent," cried Pencroft hastily; "there is time enough to
see about that, captain! we don't care for anything, provided you are
The engineer nodded faintly, and then appeased to sleep.
They respected this sleep, and the reporter began immediately to make
arrangements for transporting Harding to a more comfortable place. Neb,
Herbert, and Pencroft left the cave and directed their steps towards a high
mound crowned with a few distorted trees. On the way the sailor could not
"Island or continent! To think of that, when at one's last gasp! What a
Arrived at the summit of the mound, Pencroft and his two companions set
to work, with no other tools than their hands, to despoil of its principal
branches a rather sickly tree, a sort of marine fir; with these branches
they made a litter, on which, covered with grass and leaves, they could
carry the engineer.
This occupied them nearly forty minutes, and it was ten o'clock when they
returned to Cyrus Harding whom Spilett had not left.
The engineer was just awaking from the sleep, or rather from the
drowsiness, in which they had found him. The color was returning to his
cheeks, which till now had been as pale as death. He raised himself a
little, looked around him, and appeared to ask where he was.
"Can you listen to me without fatigue, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.
"Yes," replied the engineer.
"It's my opinion," said the sailor, "that Captain Harding will be able to
listen to you still better, if he will have some more grouse jelly,--for we
have grouse, captain," added he, presenting him with a little of this
jelly, to which he this time added some of the flesh.
Cyrus Harding ate a little of the grouse, and the rest was divided among
his companions, who found it but a meager breakfast, for they were
suffering extremely from hunger.
"Well!" said the sailor, "there is plenty of food at the Chimneys, for
you must know, captain, that down there, in the south, we have a house,
with rooms, beds, and fireplace, and in the pantry, several dozen of birds,
which our Herbert calls couroucous. Your litter is ready, and as soon as
you feel strong enough we will carry you home."
"Thanks, my friend," replied the engineer; "wait another hour or two, and
then we will set out. And now speak, Spilett."
The reporter then told him all that had occurred. He recounted all the
events with which Cyrus was unacquainted, the last fall of the balloon, the
landing on this unknown land, which appeared a desert (whatever it was,
whether island or continent), the discovery of the Chimneys, the search for
him, not forgetting of course Neb's devotion, the intelligence exhibited by
the faithful Top, as well as many other matters.
"But," asked Harding, in a still feeble voice, "you did not, then, pick
me up on the beach?"
"No," replied the reporter.
"And did you not bring me to this cave?"
"At what distance is this cave from the sea?"
"About a mile," replied Pencroft; "and if you are astonished, captain, we
are not less surprised ourselves at seeing you in this place!"
"Indeed," said the engineer, who was recovering gradually, and who took
great interest in these details, "indeed it is very singular!"
"But," resumed the sailor, "can you tell us what happened after you were
carried off by the sea?"
Cyrus Harding considered. He knew very little. The wave had torn him from
the balloon net. He sank at first several fathoms. On returning to the
surface, in the half light, he felt a living creature struggling near him.
It was Top, who had sprung to his help. He saw nothing of the balloon,
which, lightened both of his weight and that of the dog, had darted away
like an arrow.
There he was, in the midst of the angry sea, at a distance which could
not be less than half a mile from the shore. He attempted to struggle
against the billows by swimming vigorously. Top held him up by his clothes;
but a strong current seized him and drove him towards the north, and after
half an hour of exertion, he sank, dragging Top with him into the depths.
From that moment to the moment in which he recovered to find himself in the
arms of his friends he remembered nothing.
"However," remarked Pencroft, "you must have been thrown on to the beach,
and you must have had strength to walk here, since Neb found your
"Yes... of course replied the engineer, thoughtfully; "and you found no
traces of human beings on this coast?"
"Not a trace," replied the reporter; "besides, if by chance you had met
with some deliverer there, just in the nick of time, why should he have
abandoned you after having saved you from the waves?"
"You are right, my dear Spilett. Tell me, Neb," added the engineer,
turning to his servant, "it was not you who... you can't have had a moment
of unconsciousness... during which no, that's absurd.... Do any of the
footsteps still remain?" asked Harding.
"Yes, master, replied Neb; "here, at the entrance, at the back of the
mound, in a place sheltered from the rain and wind. The storm has destroyed
"Pencroft," said Cyrus Harding, "will you take my shoe and see if it fits
exactly to the footprints?"
The sailor did as the engineer requested. While he and Herbert, guided by
Neb, went to the place where the footprints were to be found, Cyrus
remarked to the reporter,--
"It is a most extraordinary thing!"
"Perfectly inexplicable!" replied Gideon Spilett.
"But do not dwell upon it just now, my dear Spilett, we will talk about
A moment after the others entered.
There was no doubt about it. The engineer's shoe fitted exactly to the
footmarks. It was therefore Cyrus Harding who had left them on the sand.
"Come," said he, "I must have experienced this unconsciousness which I
attributed to Neb. I must have walked like a somnambulist, without any
knowledge of my steps, and Top must have guided me here, after having
dragged me from the waves... Come, Top! Come, old dog!"
The magnificent animal bounded barking to his master, and caresses were
lavished on him. It was agreed that there was no other way of accounting
for the rescue of Cyrus Harding, and that Top deserved all the honor of the
Towards twelve o'clock, Pencroft having asked the engineer if they could
now remove him, Harding, instead of replying, and by an effort which
exhibited the most energetic will, got up. But he was obliged to lean on
the sailor, or he would have fallen.
"Well done!" cried Pencroft; "bring the captain's litter."
The litter was brought; the transverse branches had been covered with
leaves and long grass. Harding was laid on it, and Pencroft, having taken
his place at one end and Neb at the other, they started towards the coast.
There was a distance of eight miles to be accomplished; but, as they could
not go fast, and it would perhaps be necessary to stop frequently, they
reckoned that it would take at least six hours to reach the Chimneys. The
wind was still strong, but fortunately it did not rain. Although lying
down, the engineer, leaning on his elbow, observed the coast, particularly
inland. He did not speak, but he gazed; and, no doubt, the appearance of
the country, with its inequalities of ground, its forests, its various
productions, were impressed on his mind. However, after traveling for two
hours, fatigue overcame him, and he slept.
At half-past five the little band arrived at the precipice, and a short
time after at the Chimneys.
They stopped, and the litter was placed on the sand; Cyrus Harding was
sleeping profoundly, and did not awake.
Pencroft, to his extreme surprise, found that the terrible storm had
quite altered the aspect of the place. Important changes had occurred;
great blocks of stone lay on the beach, which was also covered with a thick
carpet of sea-weed, algae, and wrack. Evidently the sea, passing over the
islet, had been carried right up to the foot of the enormous curtain of
granite. The soil in front of the cave had been torn away by the violence
of the waves. A horrid presentiment flashed across Pencroft's mind. He
rushed into the passage, but returned almost immediately, and stood
motionless, staring at his companions.... The fire was out; the drowned
cinders were nothing but mud; the burnt linen, which was to have served as
tinder, had disappeared! The sea had penetrated to the end of the passages,
and everything was overthrown and destroyed in the interior of the
In a few words, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb were made acquainted with
what had happened. This accident, which appeared so very serious to
Pencroft, produced different effects on the companions of the honest
Neb, in his delight at having found his master, did not listen, or
rather, did not care to trouble himself with what Pencroft was saying.
Herbert shared in some degree the sailor's feelings.
As to the reporter, he simply replied,--
"Upon my word, Pencroft, it's perfectly indifferent to me!"
"But, I repeat, that we haven't any fire!"
"Nor any means of relighting it!"
"But I say, Mr. Spilett--"
"Isn't Cyrus here?" replied the reporter.
"Is not our engineer alive? He will soon find some way of making fire for
What had Pencroft to say? He could say nothing, for, in the bottom of his
heart he shared the confidence which his companions had in Cyrus Harding.
The engineer was to them a microcosm, a compound of every science, a
possessor of all human knowledge. It was better to be with Cyrus in a
desert island, than without him in the most flourishing town in the United
States. With him they could want nothing; with him they would never
despair. If these brave men had been told that a volcanic eruption would
destroy the land, that this land would be engulfed in the depths of the
Pacific, they would have imperturbably replied,--
"Cyrus is here!"
While in the palanquin, however, the engineer had again relapsed into
unconsciousness, which the jolting to which he had been subjected during
his journey had brought on, so that they could not now appeal to his
ingenuity. The supper must necessarily be very meager. In fact, all the
grouse flesh had been consumed, and there no longer existed any means of
cooking more game. Besides, the couroucous which had been reserved had
disappeared. They must consider what was to be done.
First of all, Cyrus Harding was carried into the central passage. There
they managed to arrange for him a couch of sea-weed which still remained
almost dry. The deep sleep which had overpowered him would no doubt be more
beneficial to him than any nourishment.
Night had closed in, and the temperature, which had modified when the
wind shifted to the northwest, again became extremely cold. Also, the sea
having destroyed the partitions which Pencroft had put up in certain places
in the passages, the Chimneys, on account of the draughts, had become
scarcely habitable. The engineer's condition would, therefore, have been
bad enough, if his companions had not carefully covered him with their
coats and waistcoats.
Supper, this evening, was of course composed of the inevitable
lithodomes, of which Herbert and Neb picked up a plentiful supply on the
beach. However, to these molluscs, the lad added some edible sea-weed,
which he gathered on high rocks, whose sides were only washed by the sea at
the time of high tides. This sea-weed, which belongs to the order of
Fucacae, of the genus Sargassum, produces, when dry, a gelatinous matter,
rich and nutritious. The reporter and his companions, after having eaten a
quantity of lithodomes, sucked the sargassum, of which the taste was very
tolerable. It is used in parts of the East very considerably by the
natives. "Never mind!" said the sailor, "the captain will help us soon."
Meanwhile the cold became very severe, and unhappily they had no means of
defending themselves from it.
The sailor, extremely vexed, tried in all sorts of ways to procure fire.
Neb helped him in this work. He found some dry moss, and by striking
together two pebbles he obtained some sparks, but the moss, not being
inflammable enough, did not take fire, for the sparks were really only
incandescent, and not at all of the same consistency as those which are
emitted from flint when struck in the same manner. The experiment,
therefore, did not succeed.
Pencroft, although he had no confidence in the proceeding, then tried
rubbing two pieces of dry wood together, as savages do. Certainly, the
movement which he and Neb exhibited, if it had been transformed into heat,
according to the new theory, would have been enough to heat the boiler of a
steamer! It came to nothing. The bits of wood became hot, to be sure, but
much less so than the operators themselves.
After working an hour, Pencroft, who was in a complete state of
perspiration, threw down the pieces of wood in disgust.
"I can never be made to believe that savages light their fires in this
way, let them say what they will," he exclaimed. "I could sooner light my
arms by rubbing them against each other!"
The sailor was wrong to despise the proceeding. Savages often kindle wood
by means of rapid rubbing. But every sort of wood does not answer for the
purpose, and besides, there is "the knack," following the usual expression,
and it is probable that Pencroft had not "the knack."
Pencroft's ill humor did not last long. Herbert had taken the bits of
wood which he had turned down, and was exerting himself to rub them. The
hardy sailor could not restrain a burst of laughter on seeing the efforts
of the lad to succeed where he had failed.
"Rub, my boy, rub!" said he.
"I am rubbing," replied Herbert, laughing, "but I don't pretend to do
anything else but warm myself instead of shivering, and soon I shall be as
hot as you are, my good Pencroft!"
This soon happened. However, they were obliged to give up, for this night
at least, the attempt to procure fire. Gideon Spilett repeated, for the
twentieth time, that Cyrus Harding would not have been troubled for so
small a difficulty. And, in the meantime, he stretched himself in one of
the passages on his bed of sand. Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft did the same,
while Top slept at his master's feet.
Next day, the 28th of March, when the engineer awoke, about eight in the
morning, he saw his companions around him watching his sleep, and, as on
the day before, his first words were:--
"Island or continent?" This was his uppermost thought.
"Well!" replied Pencroft, "we don't know anything about it, captain!"
"You don't know yet?"
"But we shall know," rejoined Pencroft, "when you have guided us into the
"I think I am able to try it," replied the engineer, who, without much
effort, rose and stood upright.
"That's capital!" cried the sailor.
"I feel dreadfully weak," replied Harding. "Give me something to eat, my
friends, and it will soon go off. You have fire, haven't you?"
This question was not immediately replied to. But, in a few seconds--
"Alas! we have no fire," said Pencroft, "or rather, captain, we have it
And the sailor recounted all that had passed the day before. He amused
the engineer by the history of the single match, then his abortive attempt
to procure fire in the savages' way.
"We shall consider," replied the engineer, "and if we do not find some
substance similar to tinder--"
"Well?" asked the sailor.
"Well, we will make matches.
"It is not more difficult than that," cried the reporter, striking the
sailor on the shoulder.
The latter did not think it so simple, but he did not protest. All went
out. The weather had become very fine. The sun was rising from the sea's
horizon, and touched with golden spangles the prismatic rugosities of the
Having thrown a rapid glance around him, the engineer seated himself on a
block of stone. Herbert offered him a few handfuls of shell-fish and
"It is all that we have, Captain Harding."
"Thanks, my boy," replied Harding; "it will do--for this morning at
He ate the wretched food with appetite, and washed it down with a little
fresh water, drawn from the river in an immense shell.
His companions looked at him without speaking. Then, feeling somewhat
refreshed, Cyrus Harding crossed his arms, and said,--
"So, my friends, you do not know yet whether fate has thrown us on an
island, or on a continent?"
"No, captain," replied the boy.
"We shall know to-morrow," said the engineer; "till then, there is
nothing to be done."
"Yes," replied Pencroft.
"Fire," said the sailor, who, also, had a fixed idea.
"We will make it, Pencroft," replied Harding.
"While you were carrying me yesterday, did I not see in the west a
mountain which commands the country?"
"Yes," replied Spilett, "a mountain which must be rather high--"
"Well," replied the engineer, "we will climb to the summit to-morrow, and
then we shall see if this land is an island or a continent. Till then, I
repeat, there is nothing to be done."
"Yes, fire!" said the obstinate sailor again.
"But he will make us a fire!" replied Gideon Spilett, "only have a little
The seaman looked at Spilett in a way which seemed to say, "If it
depended upon you to do it, we wouldn't taste roast meat very soon"; but he
Meanwhile Captain Harding had made no reply. He appeared to be very
little troubled by the question of fire. For a few minutes he remained
absorbed in thought; then again speaking,--
"My friends," said he, "our situation is, perhaps, deplorable; but, at
any rate, it is very plain. Either we are on a continent, and then, at the
expense of greater or less fatigue, we shall reach some inhabited place, or
we are on an island. In the latter case, if the island is inhabited, we
will try to get out of the scrape with the help of its inhabitants; if it
is desert, we will try to get out of the scrape by ourselves."
"Certainly, nothing could be plainer," replied Pencroft.
"But, whether it is an island or a continent," asked Gideon Spilett,
"whereabouts do you think, Cyrus, this storm has thrown us?"
"I cannot say exactly," replied the engineer, "but I presume it is some
land in the Pacific. In fact, when we left Richmond, the wind was blowing
from the northeast, and its very violence greatly proves that it could not
have varied. If the direction has been maintained from the northeast to the
southwest, we have traversed the States of North Carolina, of South
Carolina, of Georgia, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, itself, in its narrow
part, then a part of the Pacific Ocean. I cannot estimate the distance
traversed by the balloon at less than six to seven thousand miles, and,
even supposing that the wind had varied half a quarter, it must have
brought us either to the archipelago of Mendava, either on the Pomotous, or
even, if it had a greater strength than I suppose, to the land of New
Zealand. If the last hypothesis is correct, it will be easy enough to get
home again. English or Maoris, we shall always find some one to whom we can
speak. If, on the contrary, this is the coast of a desert island in some
tiny archipelago, perhaps we shall be able to reconnoiter it from the
summit of that peak which overlooks the country, and then we shall see how
best to establish ourselves here as if we are never to go away."
"Never?" cried the reporter. "You say 'Never,' my dear Cyrus?"
"Better to put things at the worst at first," replied the engineer, "and
reserve the best for a surprise."
"Well said," remarked Pencroft. "It is to be hoped, too, that this
island, if it be one, is not situated just out of the course of ships; that
would be really unlucky!"
"We shall not know what we have to rely on until we have first made the
ascent of the mountain," replied the engineer.
"But to-morrow, captain," asked Herbert, "shall you be in a state to bear
the fatigue of the ascent?"
"I hope so," replied the engineer, "provided you and Pencroft, my boy,
show yourselves quick and clever hunters."
"Captain," said the sailor, "since you are speaking of game, if on my
return, I was as certain of roasting it as I am of bringing it back--"
"Bring it back all the same, Pencroft," replied Harding.
It was then agreed that the engineer and the reporter were to pass the
day at the Chimneys, so as to examine the shore and the upper plateau. Neb,
Herbert, and the sailor were to return to the forest, renew their store of
wood, and lay violent hands on every creature, feathered or hairy, which
might come within their reach.
They set out accordingly about ten o'clock in the morning, Herbert
confident, Neb joyous, Pencroft murmuring aside,--
"If, on my return, I find a fire at the house, I shall believe that the
thunder itself came to light it." All three climbed the bank; and arrived
at the angle made by the river, the sailor, stopping, said to his two
"Shall we begin by being hunters or wood-men?"
"Hunters," replied Herbert. "There is Top already in quest."
"We will hunt, then," said the sailor, "and afterwards we can come back
and collect our wood."
This agreed to, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, after having torn three
sticks from the trunk of a young fir, followed Top, who was bounding about
among the long grass.
This time, the hunters, instead of following the course of the river,
plunged straight into the heart of the forest. There were still the same
trees, belonging, for the most part, to the pine family. In certain places,
less crowded, growing in clumps, these pines exhibited considerable
dimensions, and appeared to indicate, by their development, that the
country was situated in a higher latitude than the engineer had supposed.
Glades, bristling with stumps worn away by time, were covered with dry
wood, which formed an inexhaustible store of fuel. Then, the glade passed,
the underwood thickened again, and became almost impenetrable.
It was difficult enough to find the way among the groups of trees, without
any beaten track. So the sailor from time to time broke off branches which
might be easily recognized. But, perhaps, he was wrong not to follow the
watercourse, as he and Herbert had done on their first excursion, for after
walking an hour not a creature had shown itself. Top, running under the
branches, only roused birds which could not be approached. Even the
couroucous were invisible, and it was probable that the sailor would be
obliged to return to the marshy part of the forest, in which he had so
happily performed his grouse fishing.
"Well, Pencroft," said Neb, in a slightly sarcastic tone, "if this is all
the game which you promised to bring back to my master, it won't need a
large fire to roast it!"
"Have patience," replied the sailor, "it isn't the game which will be
wanting on our return."
"Have you not confidence in Captain Harding?"
"But you don't believe that he will make fire?"
"I shall believe it when the wood is blazing in the fireplace."
"It will blaze, since my master has said so."
"We shall see!"
Meanwhile, the sun had not reached the highest point in its course above
the horizon. The exploration, therefore, continued, and was usefully
marked by a discovery which Herbert made of a tree whose fruit was edible.
This was the stone-pine, which produces an excellent almond, very much
esteemed in the temperate regions of America and Europe. These almonds were
in a perfect state of maturity, and Herbert described them to his
companions, who feasted on them.
"Come," said Pencroft, "sea-weed by way of bread, raw mussels for meat,
and almonds for dessert, that's certainly a good dinner for those who have
not a single match in their pocket!"
We mustn't complain," said Herbert.
"I am not complaining, my boy," replied Pencroft, "only I repeat, that
meat is a little too much economized in this sort of meal."
"Top has found something!" cried Neb, who ran towards a thicket, in the
midst of which the dog had disappeared, barking. With Top's barking were
mingled curious gruntings.
The sailor and Herbert had followed Neb. If there was game there this was
not the time to discuss how it was to be cooked, but rather, how they were
to get hold of it.
The hunters had scarcely entered the bushes when they saw Top engaged in
a struggle with an animal which he was holding by the ear. This quadruped
was a sort of pig nearly two feet and a half long, of a blackish brown
color, lighter below, having hard scanty hair; its toes, then strongly
fixed in the ground, seemed to be united by a membrane. Herbert recognized
in this animal the capybara, that is to say, one of the largest members of
the rodent order.
Meanwhile, the capybara did not struggle against the dog. It stupidly
rolled its eyes, deeply buried in a thick bed of fat. Perhaps it saw men
for the first time.
However, Neb having tightened his grasp on his stick, was just going to
fell the pig, when the latter, tearing itself from Top's teeth, by which it
was only held by the tip of its ear, uttered a vigorous grunt, rushed upon
Herbert, almost overthrew him, and disappeared in the wood.
"The rascal!" cried Pencroft.
All three directly darted after Top, but at the moment when they joined
him the animal had disappeared under the waters of a large pond shaded by
Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft stopped, motionless. Top plunged into the
water, but the capybara, hidden at the bottom of the pond, did not appear.
"Let us wait," said the boy, "for he will soon come to the surface to
"Won't he drown?" asked Neb.
"No," replied Herbert, "since he has webbed feet, and is almost an
amphibious animal. But watch him."
Top remained in the water. Pencroft and his two companions went to
different parts of the bank, so as to cut off the retreat of the capybara,
which the dog was looking for beneath the water.
Herbert was not mistaken. In a few minutes the animal appeared on the
surface of the water. Top was upon it in a bound, and kept it from plunging
again. An instant later the capybara, dragged to the bank, was killed by a
blow from Neb's stick.
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, who was always ready with this cry of triumph.
"Give me but a good fire, and this pig shall be gnawed to the bones!"
Pencroft hoisted the capybara on his shoulders, and judging by the height
of the sun that it was about two o'clock, he gave the signal to return.
Top's instinct was useful to the hunters, who, thanks to the intelligent
animal, were enabled to discover the road by which they had come. Half an
hour later they arrived at the river.
Pencroft soon made a raft of wood, as he had done before, though if there
was no fire it would be a useless task, and the raft following the current,
they returned towards the Chimneys.
But the sailor had not gone fifty paces when he stopped, and again
uttering a tremendous hurrah, pointed towards the angle of the cliff,--
"Herbert! Neb! Look!" he shouted.
Smoke was escaping and curling up among the rocks.
In a few minutes the three hunters were before a crackling fire. The
captain and the reporter were there. Pencroft looked from one to the other,
his capybara in his hand, without saying a word.
"Well, yes, my brave fellow," cried the reporter.
"Fire, real fire, which will roast this splendid pig perfectly, and we
will have a feast presently!"
"But who lighted it?" asked Pencroft.
Gideon Spilett was quite right in his reply. It was the sun which had
furnished the heat which so astonished Pencroft. The sailor could scarcely
believe his eyes, and he was so amazed that he did not think of questioning
"Had you a burning-glass, sir?" asked Herbert of Harding.
"No, my boy," replied he, "but I made one."
And he showed the apparatus which served for a burning-glass. It was
simply two glasses which he had taken from his own and the reporter's
watches. Having filled them with water and rendered their edges adhesive by
means of a little clay, he thus fabricated a regular burning-glass, which,
concentrating the solar rays on some very dry moss, soon caused it to
The sailor considered the apparatus; then he gazed at the engineer
without saying a word, only a look plainly expressed his opinion that if
Cyrus Harding was not a magician, he was certainly no ordinary man. At last
speech returned to him, and he cried,--
"Note that, Mr. Spilett, note that down on your paper!"
"It is noted," replied the reporter.
Then, Neb helping him, the seaman arranged the spit, and the capybara,
properly cleaned, was soon roasting like a suckling-pig before a clear,
The Chimneys had again become more habitable, not only because the
passages were warmed by the fire, but because the partitions of wood and
mud had been re-established.
It was evident that the engineer and his companions had employed their
day well. Cyrus Harding had almost entirely recovered his strength, and had
proved it by climbing to the upper plateau. From this point his eye,
accustomed to estimate heights and distances, was fixed for a long time on
the cone, the summit of which he wished to reach the next day. The
mountain, situated about six miles to the northwest, appeared to him to
measure 3,500 feet above the level of the sea. Consequently the gaze of an
observer posted on its summit would extend over a radius of at least fifty
miles. Therefore it was probable that Harding could easily solve the
question of "island or continent," to which he attached so much importance.
They supped capitally. The flesh of the capybara was declared excellent.
The sargassum and the almonds of the stone-pine completed the repast,
during which the engineer spoke little. He was preoccupied with projects
for the next day.
Once or twice Pencroft gave forth some ideas upon what it would be best
to do; but Cyrus Harding, who was evidently of a methodical mind, only
shook his head without uttering a word.
"To-morrow," he repeated, "we shall know what we have to depend upon, and
we will act accordingly."
The meal ended, fresh armfuls of wood were thrown on the fire, and the
inhabitants of the Chimneys, including the faithful Top, were soon buried
in a deep sleep.
No incident disturbed this peaceful night, and the next day, the 29th of
March, fresh and active they awoke, ready to undertake the excursion which
must determine their fate.
All was ready for the start. The remains of the capybara would be enough
to sustain Harding and his companions for at least twenty-four hours.
Besides, they hoped to find more food on the way. As the glasses had been
returned to the watches of the engineer and reporter, Pencroft burned a
little linen to serve as tinder. As to flint, that would not be wanting in
these regions of Plutonic origin. It was half-past seven in the morning
when the explorers, armed with sticks, left the Chimneys. Following
Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to take the road already traversed
through the forest, and to return by another route. It was also the most
direct way to reach the mountain. They turned the south angle and followed
the left bank of the river, which was abandoned at the point where it
formed an elbow towards the southwest. The path, already trodden under the
evergreen trees, was found, and at nine o'clock Cyrus Harding and his
companions had reached the western border of the forest. The ground, till
then, very little undulated, boggy at first, dry and sandy afterwards, had
a gentle slope, which ascended from the shore towards the interior of the
country. A few very timid animals were seen under the forest-trees. Top
quickly started them, but his master soon called him back, for the time had
not come to commence hunting; that would be attended to later. The engineer
was not a man who would allow himself to be diverted from his fixed idea.
It might even have been said that he did not observe the country at all,
either in its configuration or in its natural productions, his great aim
being to climb the mountain before him, and therefore straight towards it
he went. At ten o'clock a halt of a few minutes was made. On leaving the
forest, the mountain system of the country appeared before the explorers.
The mountain was composed of two cones; the first, truncated at a height of
about two thousand five hundred feet, was sustained by buttresses, which
appeared to branch out like the talons of an immense claw set on the
ground. Between these were narrow valleys, bristling with trees, the last
clumps of which rose to the top of the lowest cone. There appeared to be
less vegetation on that side of the mountain which was exposed to the
northeast, and deep fissures could be seen which, no doubt, were
On the first cone rested a second, slightly rounded, and placed a little
on one side, like a great round hat cocked over the ear. A Scotchman would
have said, "His bonnet was a thocht ajee." It appeared formed of bare
earth, here and there pierced by reddish rocks.
They wished to reach the second cone, and proceeding along the ridge of
the spurs seemed to be the best way by which to gain it.
"We are on volcanic ground," Cyrus Harding had said, and his companions
following him began to ascend by degrees on the back of a spur, which, by a
winding and consequently more accessible path, joined the first plateau.
The ground had evidently been convulsed by subterranean force. Here and
there stray blocks, numerous debris of basalt and pumice-stone, were met
with. In isolated groups rose fir-trees, which, some hundred feet lower, at
the bottom of the narrow gorges, formed massive shades almost impenetrable
to the sun's rays.
During the first part of the ascent, Herbert remarked on the footprints
which indicated the recent passage of large animals.
"Perhaps these beasts will not let us pass by willingly," said Pencroft.
"Well," replied the reporter, who had already hunted the tiger in India,
and the lion in Africa, "we shall soon learn how successfully to encounter
them. But in the meantime we must be upon our guard!"
They ascended but slowly.
The distance, increased by detours and obstacles which could not be
surmounted directly, was long. Sometimes, too, the ground suddenly fell,
and they found themselves on the edge of a deep chasm which they had to go
round. Thus, in retracing their steps so as to find some practicable path,
much time was employed and fatigue undergone for nothing. At twelve
o'clock, when the small band of adventurers halted for breakfast at the
foot of a large group of firs, near a little stream which fell in cascades,
they found themselves still half way from the first plateau, which most
probably they would not reach till nightfall. From this point the view of
the sea was much extended, but on the right the high promontory prevented
their seeing whether there was land beyond it. On the left, the sight
extended several miles to the north; but, on the northwest, at the point
occupied by the explorers, it was cut short by the ridge of a
fantastically-shaped spur, which formed a powerful support of the central
At one o'clock the ascent was continued. They slanted more towards the
southwest and again entered among thick bushes. There under the shade of
the trees fluttered several couples of gallinaceae belonging to the
pheasant species. They were tragopans, ornamented by a pendant skin which
hangs over their throats, and by two small, round horns, planted behind the
eyes. Among these birds, which were about the size of a fowl, the female
was uniformly brown, while the male was gorgeous in his red plumage,
decorated with white spots. Gideon Spilett, with a stone cleverly and
vigorously thrown, killed one of these tragopans, on which Pencroft, made
hungry by the fresh air, had cast greedy eyes.
After leaving the region of bushes, the party, assisted by resting on
each other's shoulders, climbed for about a hundred feet up a steep
acclivity and reached a level place, with very few trees, where the soil
appeared volcanic. It was necessary to ascend by zigzags to make the slope
more easy, for it was very steep, and the footing being exceedingly
precarious required the greatest caution. Neb and Herbert took the lead,
Pencroft the rear, the captain and the reporter between them. The animals
which frequented these heights--and there were numerous traces of them--
must necessarily belong to those races of sure foot and supple spine,
chamois or goat. Several were seen, but this was not the name Pencroft gave
them, for all of a sudden--"Sheep!" he shouted.
All stopped about fifty feet from half-a-dozen animals of a large size,
with strong horns bent back and flattened towards the point, with a woolly
fleece, hidden under long silky hair of a tawny color.
They were not ordinary sheep, but a species usually found in the
mountainous regions of the temperate zone, to which Herbert gave the name
of the musmon.
"Have they legs and chops?" asked the sailor.
"Yes," replied Herbert.
"Well, then, they are sheep!" said Pencroft.
The animals, motionless among the blocks of basalt, gazed with an
astonished eye, as if they saw human bipeds for the first time. Then their
fears suddenly aroused, they disappeared, bounding over the rocks.
"Good-bye, till we meet again," cried Pencroft, as he watched them, in
such a comical tone that Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb
could not help laughing.
The ascent was continued. Here and there were traces of lava. Sulphur
springs sometimes stopped their way, and they had to go round them. In some
places the sulphur had formed crystals among other substances, such as
whitish cinders made of an infinity of little feldspar crystals.
In approaching the first plateau formed by the truncating of the lower
cone, the difficulties of the ascent were very great. Towards four o'clock
the extreme zone of the trees had been passed. There only remained here and
there a few twisted, stunted pines, which must have had a hard life in
resisting at this altitude the high winds from the open sea. Happily for
the engineer and his companions the weather was beautiful, the atmosphere
tranquil; for a high breeze at an elevation of three thousand feet would
have hindered their proceedings. The purity of the sky at the zenith was
felt through the transparent air. A perfect calm reigned around them. They
could not see the sun, then hid by the vast screen of the upper cone, which
masked the half-horizon of the west, and whose enormous shadow stretching
to the shore increased as the radiant luminary sank in its diurnal course.
Vapor--mist rather than clouds--began to appear in the east, and assume all
the prismatic colors under the influence of the solar rays.
Five hundred feet only separated the explorers from the plateau, which
they wished to reach so as to establish there an encampment for the night,
but these five hundred feet were increased to more than two miles by the
zigzags which they had to describe. The soil, as it were, slid under their
The slope often presented such an angle that they slipped when the stones
worn by the air did not give a sufficient support. Evening came on by
degrees, and it was almost night when Cyrus Harding and his companions,
much fatigued by an ascent of seven hours, arrived at the plateau of the
first cone. It was then necessary to prepare an encampment, and to restore
their strength by eating first and sleeping afterwards. This second stage
of the mountain rose on a base of rocks, among which it would be easy to
find a retreat. Fuel was not abundant. However, a fire could be made by
means of the moss and dry brushwood, which covered certain parts of the
plateau. While the sailor was preparing his hearth with stones which he put
to this use, Neb and Herbert occupied themselves with getting a supply of
fuel. They soon returned with a load of brushwood. The steel was struck,
the burnt linen caught the sparks of flint, and, under Neb's breath, a
crackling fire showed itself in a few minutes under the shelter of the
rocks. Their object in lighting a fire was only to enable them to withstand
the cold temperature of the night, as it was not employed in cooking the
bird, which Neb kept for the next day. The remains of the capybara and some
dozens of the stone-pine almonds formed their supper. It was not half-past
six when all was finished.
Cyrus Harding then thought of exploring in the half-light the large
circular layer which supported the upper cone of the mountain. Before
taking any rest, he wished to know if it was possible to get round the base
of the cone in the case of its sides being too steep and its summit being
inaccessible. This question preoccupied him, for it was possible that from
the way the hat inclined, that is to say, towards the north, the plateau
was not practicable. Also, if the summit of the mountain could not be
reached on one side, and if, on the other, they could not get round the
base of the cone, it would be impossible to survey the western part of the
country, and their object in making the ascent would in part be altogether
The engineer, accordingly, regardless of fatigue, leaving Pencroft and
Neb to arrange the beds, and Gideon Spilett to note the incidents of the
day, began to follow the edge of the plateau, going towards the north.
Herbert accompanied him.
The night was beautiful and still, the darkness was not yet deep. Cyrus
Harding and the boy walked near each other, without speaking. In some
places the plateau opened before them, and they passed without hindrance.
In others, obstructed by rocks, there was only a narrow path, in which two
persons could not walk abreast. After a walk of twenty minutes, Cyrus
Harding and Herbert were obliged to stop. From this point the slope of the
two cones became one. No shoulder here separated the two parts of the
mountain. The slope, being inclined almost seventy degrees, the path became
But if the engineer and the boy were obliged to give up thoughts of
following a circular direction, in return an opportunity was given for
ascending the cone.
In fact, before them opened a deep hollow. It was the rugged mouth of the
crater, by which the eruptive liquid matter had escaped at the periods when
the volcano was still in activity. Hardened lava and crusted scoria formed
a sort of natural staircase of large steps, which would greatly facilitate
the ascent to the summit of the mountain.
Harding took all this in at a glance, and without hesitating, followed by
the lad, he entered the enormous chasm in the midst of an increasing
There was still a height of a thousand feet to overcome. Would the
interior acclivities of the crater be practicable? It would soon be seen.
The persevering engineer resolved to continue his ascent until he was
stopped. Happily these acclivities wound up the interior of the volcano and
favored their ascent.
As to the volcano itself, it could not be doubted that it was completely
extinct. No smoke escaped from its sides; not a flame could be seen in the
dark hollows; not a roar, not a mutter, no trembling even issued from this
black well, which perhaps reached far into the bowels of the earth. The
atmosphere inside the crater was filled with no sulphurous vapor. It was
more than the sleep of a volcano; it was its complete extinction. Cyrus
Harding's attempt would succeed.
Little by little, Herbert and he climbing up the sides of the interior,
saw the crater widen above their heads. The radius of this circular portion
of the sky, framed by the edge of the cone, increased obviously. At each
step, as it were, that the explorers made, fresh stars entered the field of
their vision. The magnificent constellations of the southern sky shone
resplendently. At the zenith glittered the splendid Antares in the
Scorpion, and not far was Alpha Centauri, which is believed to be the
nearest star to the terrestrial globe. Then, as the crater widened,
appeared Fomalhaut of the Fish, the Southern Triangle, and lastly, nearly
at the Antarctic Pole, the glittering Southern Cross, which replaces the
Polar Star of the Northern Hemisphere.
It was nearly eight o'clock when Cyrus Harding and Herbert set foot on
the highest ridge of the mountain at the summit of the cone.
It was then perfectly dark, and their gaze could not extend over a radius
of two miles. Did the sea surround this unknown land, or was it connected
in the west with some continent of the Pacific? It could not yet be made
out. Towards the west, a cloudy belt, clearly visible at the horizon,
increased the gloom, and the eye could not discover if the sky and water
were blended together in the same circular line.
But at one point of the horizon a vague light suddenly appeared, which
descended slowly in proportion as the cloud mounted to the zenith.
It was the slender crescent moon, already almost disappearing; but its
light was sufficient to show clearly the horizontal line, then detached
from the cloud, and the engineer could see its reflection trembling for an
instant on a liquid surface. Cyrus Harding seized the lad's hand, and in a
"An island!" said he, at the moment when the lunar crescent disappeared
beneath the waves.
Half an hour later Cyrus Harding and Herbert had returned to the
encampment. The engineer merely told his companions that the land upon
which fate had thrown them was an island, and that the next day they would
consult. Then each settled himself as well as he could to sleep, and in
that rocky hole, at a height of two thousand five hundred feet above the
level of the sea, through a peaceful night, the islanders enjoyed profound
The next day, the 30th of March, after a hasty breakfast, which consisted
solely of the roasted tragopan, the engineer wished to climb again to the
summit of the volcano, so as more attentively to survey the island upon
which he and his companions were imprisoned for life perhaps, should the
island be situated at a great distance from any land, or if it was out of
the course of vessels which visited the archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean.
This time his companions followed him in the new exploration. They also
wished to see the island, on the productions of which they must depend for
the supply of all their wants.
It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Cyrus Harding, Herbert,
Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Neb quitted the encampment. No one appeared
to be anxious about their situation. They had faith in themselves,
doubtless, but it must be observed that the basis of this faith was not the
same with Harding as with his companions. The engineer had confidence,
because he felt capable of extorting from this wild country everything
necessary for the life of himself and his companions; the latter feared
nothing, just because Cyrus Harding was with them. Pencroft especially,
since the incident of the relighted fire, would not have despaired for an
instant, even if he was on a bare rock, if the engineer was with him on the
"Pshaw," said he, "we left Richmond without permission from the
authorities! It will be hard if we don't manage to get away some day or
other from a place where certainly no one will detain us!"
Cyrus Harding followed the same road as the evening before. They went
round the cone by the plateau which formed the shoulder, to the mouth of
the enormous chasm. The weather was magnificent. The sun rose in a pure sky
and flooded with his rays all the eastern side of the mountain.
The crater was reached. It was just what the engineer had made it out to
be in the dark; that is to say, a vast funnel which extended, widening, to
a height of a thousand feet above the plateau. Below the chasm, large thick
streaks of lava wound over the sides of the mountain, and thus marked the
course of the eruptive matter to the lower valleys which furrowed the
northern part of the island.
The interior of the crater, whose inclination did not exceed thirty five
to forty degrees, presented no difficulties nor obstacles to the ascent.
Traces of very ancient lava were noticed, which probably had overflowed the
summit of the cone, before this lateral chasm had opened a new way to it.
As to the volcanic chimney which established a communication between the
subterranean layers and the crater, its depth could not be calculated with
the eye, for it was lost in obscurity. But there was no doubt as to the
complete extinction of the volcano.
Before eight o'clock Harding and his companions were assembled at the
summit of the crater, on a conical mound which swelled the northern edge.
"The sea, the sea everywhere!" they cried, as if their lips could not
restrain the words which made islanders of them.
The sea, indeed, formed an immense circular sheet of water all around
them! Perhaps, on climbing again to the summit of the cone, Cyrus Harding
had had a hope of discovering some coast, some island shore, which he had
not been able to perceive in the dark the evening before. But nothing
appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, that is to say over a radius
of more than fifty miles. No land in sight. Not a sail. Over all this
immense space the ocean alone was visible--the island occupied the center
of a circumference which appeared to be infinite.
The engineer and his companions, mute and motionless, surveyed for some
minutes every point of the ocean, examining it to its most extreme limits.
Even Pencroft, who possessed a marvelous power of sight, saw nothing; and
certainly if there had been land at the horizon, if it appeared only as an
indistinct vapor, the sailor would undoubtedly have found it out, for
nature had placed regular telescopes under his eyebrows.
From the ocean their gaze returned to the island which they commanded
entirely, and the first question was put by Gideon Spilett in these terms:
"About what size is this island?"
Truly, it did not appear large in the midst of the immense ocean.
Cyrus Harding reflected a few minutes; he attentively observed the
perimeter of the island, taking into consideration the height at which he
was placed; then,--
"My friends," said he, "I do not think I am mistaken in giving to the
shore of the island a circumference of more than a hundred miles."
"And consequently an area?"
"That is difficult to estimate," replied the engineer, "for it is so
If Cyrus Harding was not mistaken in his calculation, the island had
almost the extent of Malta or Zante, in the Mediterranean, but it was at
the same time much more irregular and less rich in capes, promontories,
points, bays, or creeks. Its strange form caught the eye, and when Gideon
Spilett, on the engineer's advice, had drawn the outline, they found that
it resembled some fantastic animal, a monstrous leviathan, which lay
sleeping on the surface of the Pacific.
This was in fact the exact shape of the island, which it is of
consequence to know, and a tolerably correct map of it was immediately
drawn by the reporter.
The east part of the shore, where the castaways had landed, formed a wide
bay, terminated by a sharp cape, which had been concealed by a high point
from Pencroft on his first exploration. At the northeast two other capes
closed the bay, and between them ran a narrow gulf, which looked like the
half-open jaws of a formidable dog-fish.
From the northeast to the southwest the coast was rounded, like the
flattened cranium of an animal, rising again, forming a sort of
protuberance which did not give any particular shape to this part of the
island, of which the center was occupied by the volcano.
From this point the shore ran pretty regularly north and south, broken at
two-thirds of its perimeter by a narrow creek, from which it ended in a
long tail, similar to the caudal appendage of a gigantic alligator.
This tail formed a regular peninsula, which stretched more than thirty
miles into the sea, reckoning from the cape southeast of the island,
already mentioned; it curled round, making an open roadstead, which marked
out the lower shore of this strangely-formed land.
At the narrowest part, that is to say between the Chimneys and the creek
on the western shore, which corresponded to it in latitude, the island only
measured ten miles; but its greatest length, from the jaws at the northeast
to the extremity of the tail of the southwest, was not less than thirty
As to the interior of the island, its general aspect was this, very woody
throughout the southern part from the mountain to the shore, and arid and
sandy in the northern part. Between the volcano and the east coast Cyrus
Harding and his companions were surprised to see a lake, bordered with
green trees, the existence of which they had not suspected. Seen from this
height, the lake appeared to be on the same level as the ocean, but, on
reflection, the engineer explained to his companions that the altitude of
this little sheet of water must be about three hundred feet, because the
plateau, which was its basin, was but a prolongation of the coast.
"Is it a freshwater lake?" asked Pencroft.
"Certainly," replied the engineer, "for it must be fed by the water which
flows from the mountain."
"I see a little river which runs into it," said Herbert, pointing out a
narrow stream, which evidently took its source somewhere in the west.
"Yes," said Harding; "and since this stream feeds the lake, most probably
on the side near the sea there is an outlet by which the surplus water
escapes. We shall see that on our return."
This little winding watercourse and the river already mentioned
constituted the water-system, at least such as it was displayed to the eyes
of the explorers. However, it was possible that under the masses of trees
which covered two-thirds of the island, forming an immense forest, other
rivers ran towards the sea. It might even be inferred that such was the
case, so rich did this region appear in the most magnificent specimens of
the flora of the temperate zones. There was no indication of running water
in the north, though perhaps there might be stagnant water among the
marshes in the northeast; but that was all, in addition to the downs, sand,
and aridity which contrasted so strongly with the luxuriant vegetation of
the rest of the island.
The volcano did not occupy the central part; it rose, on the contrary, in
the northwestern region, and seemed to mark the boundary of the two zones.
At the southwest, at the south, and the southeast, the first part of the
spurs were hidden under masses of verdure. At the north, on the contrary,
one could follow their ramifications, which died away on the sandy plains.
It was on this side that, at the time when the mountain was in a state of
eruption, the discharge had worn away a passage, and a large heap of lava
had spread to the narrow jaw which formed the northeastern gulf.
Cyrus Harding and his companions remained an hour at the top of the
mountain. The island was displayed under their eyes, like a plan in relief
with different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the sand, blue for
the water. They viewed it in its tout-ensemble, nothing remained concealed
but the ground hidden by verdure, the hollows of the valleys, and the
interior of the volcanic chasms.
One important question remained to be solved, and the answer would have a
great effect upon the future of the castaways.
Was the island inhabited?
It was the reporter who put this question, to which after the close
examination they had just made, the answer seemed to be in the negative.
Nowhere could the work of a human hand be perceived. Not a group of huts,
not a solitary cabin, not a fishery on the shore. No smoke curling in the
air betrayed the presence of man. It is true, a distance of nearly thirty
miles separated the observers from the extreme points, that is, of the tail
which extended to the southwest, and it would have been difficult, even to
Pencroft's eyes, to discover a habitation there. Neither could the curtain
of verdure, which covered three-quarters of the island, be raised to see if
it did not shelter some straggling village. But in general the islanders
live on the shores of the narrow spaces which emerge above the waters of
the Pacific, and this shore appeared to be an absolute desert.
Until a more complete exploration, it might be admitted that the island
was uninhabited. But was it frequented, at least occasionally, by the
natives of neighboring islands? It was difficult to reply to this question.
No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty miles could be
easily crossed, either by Malay proas or by the large Polynesian canoes.
Everything depended on the position of the island, of its isolation in the
Pacific, or of its proximity to archipelagoes. Would Cyrus Harding be able
to find out their latitude and longitude without instruments? It would be
difficult. Since he was in doubt, it was best to take precautions against a
possible descent of neighboring natives.
The exploration of the island was finished, its shape determined, its
features made out, its extent calculated, the water and mountain systems
ascertained. The disposition of the forests and plains had been marked in a
general way on the reporter's plan. They had now only to descend the
mountain slopes again, and explore the soil, in the triple point of view,
of its mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.
But before giving his companions the signal for departure, Cyrus Harding
said to them in a calm, grave voice,--
Here, my friends, is the small corner of land upon which the hand of the
Almighty has thrown us. We are going to live here; a long time, perhaps.
Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, if some ship passes by chance. I
say by chance, because this is an unimportant island; there is not even a
port in which ships could anchor, and it is to be feared that it is
situated out of the route usually followed, that is to say, too much to the
south for the ships which frequent the archipelagoes of the Pacific, and
too much to the north for those which go to Australia by doubling Cape
Horn. I wish to hide nothing of our position from you--"
"And you are right, my dear Cyrus," replied the reporter, with animation.
"You have to deal with men. They have confidence in you, and you can depend
upon them. Is it not so, my friends?"
"I will obey you in everything, captain," said Herbert, seizing the
"My master always, and everywhere!" cried Neb.
"As for me," said the sailor, "if I ever grumble at work, my name's not
Jack Pencroft, and if you like, captain, we will make a little America of
this island! We will build towns, we will establish railways, start
telegraphs, and one fine day, when it is quite changed, quite put in order
and quite civilized, we will go and offer it to the government of the
Union. Only, I ask one thing."
"What is that?" said the reporter.
"It is, that we do not consider ourselves castaways, but colonists, who
have come here to settle." Harding could not help smiling, and the sailor's
idea was adopted. He then thanked his companions, and added, that he would
rely on their energy and on the aid of Heaven.
"Well, now let us set off to the Chimneys!" cried Pencroft.
"One minute, my friends," said the engineer. "It seems to me it would be
a good thing to give a name to this island, as well as to, the capes,
promontories, and watercourses, which we can see.
"Very good," said the reporter. "In the future, that will simplify the
instructions which we shall have to give and follow."
"Indeed," said the sailor, "already it is something to be able to say
where one is going, and where one has come from. At least, it looks like
"The Chimneys, for example," said Herbert.
"Exactly!" replied Pencroft. "That name was the most convenient, and it
came to me quite of myself. Shall we keep the name of the Chimneys for our
first encampment, captain?"
"Yes, Pencroft, since you have so christened it."
"Good! as for the others, that will be easy," returned the sailor, who
was in high spirits. "Let us give them names, as the Robinsons did, whose
story Herbert has often read to me; Providence Bay, Whale Point, Cape
"Or, rather, the names of Captain Harding," said Herbert, "of Mr.
Spilett, of Neb!--"
"My name!" cried Neb, showing his sparkling white teeth.
"Why not?" replied Pencroft. "Port Neb, that would do very well! And Cape
"I should prefer borrowing names from our country," said the reporter,
"which would remind us of America."
"Yes, for the principal ones," then said Cyrus Harding; "for those of the
bays and seas, I admit it willingly. We might give to that vast bay on the
east the name of Union Bay, for example; to that large hollow on the south,
Washington Bay; to the mountain upon which we are standing, that of Mount
Franklin; to that lake which is extended under our eyes, that of Lake
Grant; nothing could be better, my friends. These names will recall our
country, and those of the great citizens who have honored it; but for the
rivers, gulfs, capes, and promontories, which we perceive from the top of
this mountain, rather let us choose names which will recall their
particular shape. They will impress themselves better on our memory, and at
the same time will be more practical. The shape of the island is so strange
that we shall not be troubled to imagine what it resembles. As to the
streams which we do not know as yet, in different parts of the forest which
we shall explore later, the creeks which afterwards will he discovered, we
can christen them as we find them. What do you think, my friends?"
The engineer's proposal was unanimously agreed to by his companions. The
island was spread out under their eyes like a map, and they had only to
give names to all its angles and points. Gideon Spilett would write them
down, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be definitely
adopted. First, they named the two bays and the mountain, Union Bay,
Washington Bay, and Mount Franklin, as the engineer had suggested.
"Now," said the reporter, "to this peninsula at the southwest of the
island, I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and that of
Reptile-end to the bent tail which terminates it, for it is just like a
"Adopted," said the engineer.
"Now," said Herbert, pointing to the other extremity of the island, "let
us call this gulf which is so singularly like a pair of open jaws, Shark
"Capital!" cried Pencroft, "and we can complete the resemblance by naming
the two parts of the jaws Mandible Cape."
"But there are two capes," observed the reporter.
"Well," replied Pencroft, "we can have North Mandible Cape and South
"They are inscribed," said Spilett.
"There is only the point at the southeastern extremity of the island to
be named," said Pencroft.
"That is, the extremity of Union Bay?" asked Herbert.
"Claw Cape," cried Neb directly, who also wished to be godfather to some
part of his domain.
In truth, Neb had found an excellent name, for this cape was very like
the powerful claw of the fantastic animal which this singularly-shaped
Pencroft was delighted at the turn things had taken, and their
imaginations soon gave to the river which furnished the settlers with
drinking water and near which the balloon had thrown them, the name of the
Mercy, in true gratitude to Providence. To the islet upon which the
castaways had first landed, the name of Safety Island; to the plateau which
crowned the high granite precipice above the Chimneys, and from whence the
gaze could embrace the whole of the vast bay, the name of Prospect Heights.
Lastly, all the masses of impenetrable wood which covered the Serpentine
Peninsula were named the forests of the Far West.
The nomenclature of the visible and known parts of the island was thus
finished, and later, they would complete it as they made fresh discoveries.
As to the points of the compass, the engineer had roughly fixed them by
the height and position of the sun, which placed Union Bay and Prospect
Heights to the east. But the next day, by taking the exact hour of the
rising and setting of the sun, and by marking its position between this
rising and setting, he reckoned to fix the north of the island exactly,
for, in consequence of its situation in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun,
at the precise moment of its culmination, passed in the north and not in
the south, as, in its apparent movement, it seems to do, to those places
situated in the Northern Hemisphere.
Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount
Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,--
"Well! we are preciously stupid!"
"Why?" asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to
"Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!"
Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer's name and all his
companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,--
"Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now
struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it
The engineer's proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.
And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their
absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with blood;
they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and that the
cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks to Grant,
thanks to Lincoln!
Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen
days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and
that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.
They now began the descent of the mountain. Climbing down the crater, they
went round the cone and reached their encampment of the previous night.
Pencroft thought it must be breakfast-time, and the watches of the reporter
and engineer were therefore consulted to find out the hour.
That of Gideon Spilett had been preserved from the sea-water, as he had
been thrown at once on the sand out of reach of the waves. It was an
instrument of excellent quality, a perfect pocket chronometer, which the
reporter had not forgotten to wind up carefully every day.
As to the engineer's watch, it, of course, had stopped during the time
which he had passed on the downs.
The engineer now wound it up, and ascertaining by the height of the sun
that it must be about nine o'clock in the morning, he put his watch at that
"No, my dear Spilett, wait. You have kept the Richmond time, have you
"Consequently, your watch is set by the meridian of that town, which is
almost that of Washington?"
"Very well, keep it thus. Content yourself with winding it up very,
exactly, but do not touch the hands. This may be of use to us.
"What will be the good of that?" thought the sailor.
They ate, and so heartily, that the store of game and almonds was totally
exhausted. But Pencroft was not at all uneasy, they would supply themselves
on the way. Top, whose share had been very much to his taste, would know
how to find some fresh game among the brushwood. Moreover, the sailor
thought of simply asking the engineer to manufacture some powder and one or
two fowling-pieces; he supposed there would be no difficulty in that.
On leaving the plateau, the captain proposed to his companions to return
to the Chimneys by a new way. He wished to reconnoiter Lake Grant, so
magnificently framed in trees. They therefore followed the crest of one of
the spurs, between which the creek that supplied the lake probably had its
source. In talking, the settlers already employed the names which they had
just chosen, which singularly facilitated the exchange of their ideas.
Herbert and Pencroft--the one young and the other very boyish--were
enchanted, and while walking, the sailor said,
"Hey, Herbert! how capital it sounds! It will be impossible to lose
ourselves, my boy, since, whether we follow the way to Lake Grant, or
whether we join the Mercy through the woods of the Far West, we shall be
certain to arrive at Prospect Heights, and, consequently, at Union Bay!"
It had been agreed, that without forming a compact band, the settlers
should not stray away from each other. It was very certain that the thick
forests of the island were inhabited by dangerous animals, and it was
prudent to be on their guard. In general, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb walked
first, preceded by Top, who poked his nose into every bush. The reporter
and the engineer went together, Gideon Spilett ready to note every
incident, the engineer silent for the most part, and only stepping aside to
pick up one thing or another, a mineral or vegetable substance, which he
put into his pocket, without making any remark.
"What can he be picking up?" muttered Pencroft. "I have looked in vain
for anything that's worth the trouble of stooping for."
Towards ten o'clock the little band descended the last declivities of
Mount Franklin. As yet the ground was scantily strewn with bushes and
trees. They were walking over yellowish calcinated earth, forming a plain
of nearly a mile long, which extended to the edge of the wood. Great blocks
of that basalt, which, according to Bischof, takes three hundred and fifty
millions of years to cool, strewed the plain, very confused in some places.
However, there were here no traces of lava, which was spread more
particularly over the northern slopes.
Cyrus Harding expected to reach, without incident, the course of the
creek, which he supposed flowed under the trees at the border of the plain,
when he saw Herbert running hastily back, while Neb and the sailor were
hiding behind the rocks.
"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Spilett.
"Smoke," replied Herbert. "We have seen smoke among the rocks, a hundred
paces from us."
"Men in this place?" cried the reporter.
"We must avoid showing ourselves before knowing with whom we have to
deal," replied Cyrus Harding. "I trust that there are no natives on this
island; I dread them more than anything else. Where is Top?"
"Top is on before."
"And he doesn't bark?"
"That is strange. However, we must try to call him back."
In a few moments, the engineer, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert had rejoined
their two companions, and like them, they kept out of sight behind the
heaps of basalt.
From thence they clearly saw smoke of a yellowish color rising in the
Top was recalled by a slight whistle from his master, and the latter,
signing to his companions to wait for him, glided away among the rocks. The
colonists, motionless, anxiously awaited the result of this exploration,
when a shout from the engineer made them hasten forward. They soon joined
him, and were at once struck with a disagreeable odor which impregnated the
The odor, easily recognized, was enough for the engineer to guess what
the smoke was which at first, not without cause, had startled him.
"This fue," said he, "or rather, this smoke is produced by nature alone.
There is a sulphur spring there, which will cure all our sore throats."
"Captain!" cried Pencroft. "What a pity that I haven't got a cold!"
The settlers then directed their steps towards the place from which the
smoke escaped. They there saw a sulphur spring which flowed abundantly
between the rocks, and its waters discharged a strong sulphuric acid odor,
after having absorbed the oxygen of the air.
Cyrus Harding, dipping in his hand, felt the water oily to the touch. He
tasted it and found it rather sweet. As to its temperature, that he
estimated at ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Herbert having asked on what
he based this calculation,--
"Its quite simple, my boy," said he, "for, in plunging my hand into the
water, I felt no sensation either of heat or cold. Therefore it has the
same temperature as the human body, which is about ninety-five degrees."
The sulphur spring not being of any actual use to the settlers, they
proceeded towards the thick border of the forest, which began some hundred
There, as they had conjectured, the waters of the stream flowed clear and
limpid between high banks of red earth, the color of which betrayed the
presence of oxide of iron. From this color, the name of Red Creek was
immediately given to the watercourse.
It was only a large stream, deep and clear, formed of the mountain water,
which, half river, half torrent, here rippling peacefully over the sand,
there falling against the rocks or dashing down in a cascade, ran towards
the lake, over a distance of a mile and a half, its breadth varying from
thirty to forty feet. Its waters were sweet, and it was supposed that those
of the lake were so also. A fortunate circumstance, in the event of their
finding on its borders a more suitable dwelling than the Chimneys.
As to the trees, which some hundred feet downwards shaded the banks of
the creek, they belonged, for the most part, to the species which abound in
the temperate zone of America and Tasmania, and no longer to those
coniferae observed in that portion of the island already explored to some
miles from Prospect Heights. At this time of the year, the commencement of
the month of April, which represents the month of October, in this
hemisphere, that is, the beginning of autumn, they were still in full leaf.
They consisted principally of casuarinas and eucalypti, some of which next
year would yield a sweet manna, similar to the manna of the East. Clumps of
Australian cedars rose on the sloping banks, which were also covered with
the high grass called "tussac" in New Holland; but the cocoanut, so
abundant in the archipelagoes of the Pacific, seemed to be wanting in the
island, the latitude, doubtless, being too low.
"What a pity!" said Herbert, "such a useful tree, and which has such
As to the birds, they swarmed among the scanty branches of the eucalypti
and casuarinas, which did not hinder the display of their wings. Black,
white, or gray cockatoos, paroquets, with plumage of all colors,
kingfishers of a sparkling green and crowned with red, blue lories, and
various other birds appeared on all sides, as through a prism, fluttering
about and producing a deafening clamor. Suddenly, a strange concert of
discordant voices resounded in the midst of a thicket. The settlers heard
successively the song of birds, the cry of quadrupeds, and a sort of
clacking which they might have believed to have escaped from the lips of a
native. Neb and Herbert rushed towards the bush, forgetting even the most
elementary principles of prudence. Happily, they found there, neither a
formidable wild beast nor a dangerous native, but merely half a dozen
mocking and singing birds, known as mountain pheasants. A few skillful
blows from a stick soon put an end to their concert, and procured excellent
food for the evening's dinner.
Herbert also discovered some magnificent pigeons with bronzed wings, some
superbly crested, others draped in green, like their congeners at Port-
Macquarie; but it was impossible to reach them, or the crows and magpies
which flew away in flocks.
A charge of small shot would have made great slaughter among these birds,
but the hunters were still limited to sticks and stones, and these
primitive weapons proved very insufficient.
Their insufficiency was still more clearly shown when a troop of
quadrupeds, jumping, bounding, making leaps of thirty feet, regular flying
mammiferae, fled over the thickets, so quickly and at such a height, that
one would have thought that they passed from one tree to another like
"Kangaroos!" cried Herbert.
"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.
"Stewed," replied the reporter, "their flesh is equal to the best
Gideon Spilett had not finished this exciting sentence when the sailor,
followed by Neb and Herbert, darted on the kangaroos tracks. Cyrus Harding
called them back in vain. But it was in vain too for the hunters to pursue
such agile game, which went bounding away like balls. After a chase of five
minutes, they lost their breath, and at the same time all sight of the
creatures, which disappeared in the wood. Top was not more successful than
"Captain," said Pencroft, when the engineer and the reporter had rejoined
them, "Captain, you see quite well we can't get on unless we make a few
guns. Will that be possible?"
"Perhaps," replied the engineer, "but we will begin by first
manufacturing some bows and arrows, and I don't doubt that you will become
as clever in the use of them as the Australian hunters."
"Bows and arrows!" said Pencroft scornfully. "That's all very well for
"Don't be proud, friend Pencroft," replied the reporter. "Bows and arrows
were sufficient for centuries to stain the earth with blood. Powder is but
a thing of yesterday, and war is as old as the human race--unhappily."
"Faith, that's true, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "and I always
speak too quickly. You must excuse me!"
Meanwhile, Herbert constant to his favorite science, Natural History,
reverted to the kangaroos, saying,--
"Besides, we had to deal just now with the species which is most
difficult to catch. They were giants with long gray fur; but if I am not
mistaken, there exist black and red kangaroos, rock kangaroos, and rat
kangaroos, which are more easy to get hold of. It is reckoned that there
are about a dozen species."
"Herbert," replied the sailor sententiously, "there is only one species
of kangaroos to me, that is 'kangaroo on the spit,' and it's just the one
we haven't got this evening!"
They could not help laughing at Master Pencroft's new classification. The
honest sailor did not hide his regret at being reduced for dinner to the
singing pheasants, but fortune once more showed itself obliging to him.
In fact, Top, who felt that his interest was concerned went and ferreted
everywhere with an instinct doubled by a ferocious appetite. It was even
probable that if some piece of game did fall into his clutches, none would
be left for the hunters, if Top was hunting on his own account; but Neb
watched him and he did well.
Towards three o'clock the dog disappeared in the brushwood and gruntings
showed that he was engaged in a struggle with some animal. Neb rushed after
him, and soon saw Top eagerly devouring a quadruped, which ten seconds
later would have been past recognizing in Top's stomach. But fortunately
the dog had fallen upon a brood, and besides the victim he was devouring,
two other rodents--the animals in question belonged to that order--lay
strangled on the turf.
Neb reappeared triumphantly holding one of the rodents in each hand. Their
size exceeded that of a rabbit, their hair was yellow, mingled with green
spots, and they had the merest rudiments of tails.
The citizens of the Union were at no loss for the right name of these
rodents. They were maras, a sort of agouti, a little larger than their
congeners of tropical countries, regular American rabbits, with long ears,
jaws armed on each side with five molars, which distinguish the agouti.
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, "the roast has arrived! and now we can go
The walk, interrupted for an instant, was resumed. The limpid waters of
the Red Creek flowed under an arch of casuannas, banksias, and gigantic
gum-trees. Superb lilacs rose to a height of twenty feet. Other arborescent
species, unknown to the young naturalist, bent over the stream, which could
be heard murmuring beneath the bowers of verdure.
Meanwhile the stream grew much wider, and Cyrus Harding supposed that
they would soon reach its mouth. In fact, on emerging from beneath a thick
clump of beautiful trees, it suddenly appeared before their eyes.
The explorers had arrived on the western shore of Lake Grant. The place
was well worth looking at. This extent of water, of a circumference of
nearly seven miles and an area of two hundred and fifty acres, reposed in a
border of diversified trees. Towards the east, through a curtain of
verdure, picturesquely raised in some places, sparkled an horizon of sea.
The lake was curved at the north, which contrasted with the sharp outline
of its lower part. Numerous aquatic birds frequented the shores of this
little Ontario, in which the thousand isles of its American namesake were
represented by a rock which emerged from its surface, some hundred feet
from the southern shore. There lived in harmony several couples of
kingfishers perched on a stone, grave, motionless, watching for fish, then
darting down, they plunged in with a sharp cry, and reappeared with their
prey in their beaks. On the shores and on the islets, strutted wild ducks,
pelicans, water-hens, red-beaks, philedons, furnished with a tongue like a
brush, and one or two specimens of the splendid menura, the tail of which
expands gracefully like a lyre.
As to the water of the lake, it was sweet, limpid, rather dark, and from
certain bubblings, and the concentric circles which crossed each other on
the surface, it could not be doubted that it abounded in fish.
"This lake is really beautiful!" said Gideon Spilett. "We could live on
"We will live there!" replied Harding.
The settlers, wishing to return to the Chimneys by the shortest way,
descended towards the angle formed on the south by the junction of the
lake's bank. It was not without difficulty that they broke a path through
the thickets and brushwood which had never been put aside by the hand of
mm, and they thus went towards the shore, so as to arrive at the north of
Prospect Heights. Two miles were cleared in this direction, and then, after
they had passed the last curtain of trees, appeared the plateau, carpeted
with thick turf, and beyond that the infinite sea.
To return to the Chimneys, it was enough to cross the plateau obliquely
for the space of a mile, and then to descend to the elbow formed by the
first detour of the Mercy. But the engineer desired to know how and where
the overplus of the water from the lake escaped, and the exploration was
prolonged under the trees for a mile and a half towards the north. It was
most probable that an overfall existed somewhere, and doubtless through a
cleft in the granite. This lake was only, in short, an immense center
basin, which was filled by degrees by the creek, and its waters must
necessarily pass to the sea by some fall. If it was so, the engineer
thought that it might perhaps be possible to utilize this fall and borrow
its power, actually lost without profit to any one. They continued then to
follow the shores of Lake Grant by climbing the plateau; but, after having
gone a mile in this direction, Cyrus Harding had not been able to discover
the overfall, which, however, must exist somewhere.
It was then half-past four. In order to prepare for dinner it was