Part 7 out of 12
been floating long in the sea."
"Nothing," replied Gideon Spilett, "and the document appears even to have
been recently written. What do you think about it, Cyrus?"
During this conversation Pencroft had not remained inactive. He had put
the vessel about, and the "Bonadventure," all sails set, was running
rapidly towards Claw Cape.
Every one was thinking of the castaway on Tabor Island. Should they be in
time to save him? This was a great event in the life of the colonists! They
themselves were but castaways, but it was to be feared that another might
not have been so fortunate, and their duty was to go to his succor.
Claw Cape was doubled, and about four o'clock the "Bonadventure" dropped
her anchor at the mouth of the Mercy.
That same evening the arrangements for the new expedition were made. It
appeared best that Pencroft and Herbert, who knew how to work the vessel,
should undertake the voyage alone. By setting out the next day, the 10th of
October, they would arrive on the 13th, for with the present wind it would
not take more than forty-eight hours to make this passage of a hundred and
fifty miles. One day in the island, three or four to return, they might
hope therefore that on the 17th they would again reach Lincoln Island. The
weather was fine, the barometer was rising, the wind appeared settled,
everything then was in favor of these brave men whom an act of humanity was
taking far from their island.
Thus it had been agreed that Cyrus Harding, Neb, and Gideon Spilett should
remain at Granite House, but an objection was raised, and Spilett, who had
not forgotten his business as reporter to the New York Herald, having
declared that he would go by swimming rather than lose such an opportunity,
he was admitted to take a part in the voyage.
The evening was occupied in transporting on board the "Bonadventure,"
articles of bedding, utensils, arms, ammunition, a compass, provisions for
a week; this being rapidly done, the colonists ascended to Granite House.
The next day, at five o'clock in the morning, the farewells were said,
not without some emotion on both sides, and Pencroft setting sail made
towards Claw Cape, which had to be doubled in order to proceed to the
The "Bonadventure" was already a quarter of a mile from the coast when
the passengers perceived on the heights of Granite House two men waving
their farewells; they were Cyrus Harding and Neb.
"Our friends," exclaimed Spilett, "this is our first separation in
Pencroft, the reporter and Herbert waved in return, and Granite House
soon disappeared behind the high rocks of the Cape.
During the first part of the day the "Bonadventure" was still in sight of
the southern coast of Lincoln Island, which soon appeared just like a green
basket, with Mount Franklin rising from the center. The heights, diminished
by distance, did not present an appearance likely to tempt vessels to touch
there. Reptile End was passed in about an hour, though at a distance of
about ten miles.
At this distance it was no longer possible to distinguish anything of the
Western Coast, which stretched away to the ridges of Mount Franklin, and
three hours after the last of Lincoln Island sank below the horizon.
The "Bonadventure" behaved capitally. Bounding over the waves she
proceeded rapidly on her course. Pencroft had hoisted the foresail, and
steering by the compass followed a rectilinear direction. From time to time
Herbert relieved him at the helm, and the lad's hand was so firm that the
sailor had not a point to find fault with.
Gideon Spilett chatted sometimes with one, sometimes with the other, if
wanted he lent a hand with the ropes, and Captain Pencroft was perfectly
satisfied with his crew.
In the evening the crescent moon, which would not be in its first quarter
until the 16th, appeared in the twilight and soon set again. The night was
dark but starry, and the next day again promised to be fine.
Pencroft prudently lowered the foresail, not wishing to be caught by a
sudden gust while carrying too much canvas; it was perhaps an unnecessary
precaution on such a calm night, but Pencroft was a prudent sailor and
cannot be blamed for it.
The reporter slept part of the night. Pencroft and Herbert took turns for
a spell of two hours each at the helm. The sailor trusted Herbert as he
would himself, and his confidence was justified by the coolness and
judgment of the lad. Pencroft gave him his directions as a commander to his
steersman, and Herbert never allowed the "Bonadventure" to swerve even a
point. The night passed quickly, as did the day of the 12th of October. A
south-easterly direction was strictly maintained. Unless the "Bonadventure"
fell in with some unknown current she would come exactly within sight of
As to the sea over which the vessel was then sailing, it was absolutely
deserted. Now and then a great albatross or frigate bird passed within
gunshot, and Gideon Spilett wondered if it was to one of them that he had
confided his last letter addressed to the New York Herald. These birds were
the only beings that appeared to frequent this part of the ocean between
Tabor and Lincoln Islands.
"And yet," observed Herbert, "this is the time that whalers usually
proceed towards the southern part of the Pacific. Indeed I do not think
there could be a more deserted sea than this."
"It is not quite so deserted as all that," replied Pencroft.
"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.
"We are on it. Do you take our vessel for a wreck and us for porpoises?"
And Pencroft laughed at his joke.
By the evening, according to calculation, it was thought that the
"Bonadventure" had accomplished a distance of a hundred and twenty miles
since her departure from Lincoln Island, that is to say in thirty-six
hours, which would give her a speed of between three and four knots an
hour. The breeze was very slight and might soon drop altogether. However,
it was hoped that the next morning by break of day, if the calculation had
been correct and the course true, they would sight Tabor Island.
Neither Gideon Spilett, Herbert, nor Pencroft slept that night. In the
expectation of the next day they could not but feel some emotion. There was
so much uncertainty in their enterprise! Were they near Tabor Island? Was
the island still inhabited by the castaway to whose succor they had come?
Who was this man? Would not his presence disturb the little colony till
then so united? Besides, would he be content to exchange his prison for
another? All these questions, which would no doubt be answered the next
day, kept them in suspense, and at the dawn of day they all fixed their
gaze on the western horizon.
"Land!" shouted Pencroft at about six o'clock in the morning.
And it was impossible that Pencroft should be mistaken, it was evident
that land was there. Imagine the joy of the little crew of the
"Bonadventure." In a few hours they would land on the beach of the island!
The low coast of Tabor Island, scarcely emerging from the sea, was not
more than fifteen miles distant.
The head of the "Bonadventure," which was a little to the south of the
island, was set directly towards it, and as the sun mounted in the east,
its rays fell upon one or two headlands.
"This is a much less important isle than Lincoln Island," observed
Herbert, "and is probably due like ours to some submarine convulsion."
At eleven o'clock the "Bonadventure" was not more than two miles off, and
Pencroft, while looking for a suitable place at which to land, proceeded
very cautiously through the unknown waters. The whole of the island could
now be surveyed, and on it could be seen groups of gum and other large
trees, of the same species as those growing on Lincoln Island. But the
astonishing thing was that no smoke arose to show that the island was
inhabited, no signal whatever appeared on the shore!
And yet the document was clear enough; there was a castaway, and this
castaway should have been on the watch.
In the meanwhile the "Bonadventure" entered the winding channels among
the reefs, and Pencroft observed every turn with extreme care. He had put
Herbert at the helm, posting himself in the bows, inspecting the water,
while he held the halliard in his hand, ready to lower the sail at a
moment's notice. Gideon Spilett with his glass eagerly scanned the shore,
though without perceiving anything.
However, at about twelve o'clock the keel of the "Bonadventure" grated on
the bottom. The anchor was let go, the sails furled, and the crew of the
little vessel landed.
And there was no reason to doubt that this was Tabor Island, since
according to the most recent charts there was no island in this part of the
Pacific between New Zealand and the American Coast.
The vessel was securely moored, so that there should be no danger of her
being carried away by the receding tide; then Pencroft and his companions,
well armed, ascended the shore, so as to gain an elevation of about two
hundred and fifty or three hundred feet which rose at a distance of half a
"From the summit of that hill," said Spilett, "we can no doubt obtain a
complete view of the island, which will greatly facilitate our search."
"So as to do here," replied Herbert, "that which Captain Harding did the
very first thing on Lincoln Island, by climbing Mount Franklin."
"Exactly so," answered the reporter, "and it is the best plan."
While thus talking the explorers had advanced along a clearing which
terminated at the foot of the hill. Flocks of rock-pigeons and sea-
swallows, similar to those of Lincoln Island, fluttered around them. Under
the woods which skirted the glade on the left they could hear the bushes
rustling and see the grass waving, which indicated the presence of timid
animals, but still nothing to show that the island was inhabited.
Arrived at the foot of the hill, Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert climbed
it in a few minutes, and gazed anxiously round the horizon.
They were on an islet, which did not measure more than six miles in
circumference, its shape not much bordered by capes or promontories, bays
or creeks, being a lengthened oval. All around, the lonely sea extended to
the limits of the horizon. No land nor even a sail was in sight.
This woody islet did not offer the varied aspects of Lincoln Island, arid
and wild in one part, but fertile and rich in the other. On the contrary
this was a uniform mass of verdure, out of which rose two or three hills of
no great height. Obliquely to the oval of the island ran a stream through a
wide meadow falling into the sea on the west by a narrow mouth.
"The domain is limited," said Herbert.
"Yes," rejoined Pencroft: "It would have been too small for us."
"And moreover," said the reporter, "it appears to be uninhabited."
"Indeed," answered Herbert, "nothing here betrays the presence of man."
"Let us go down," said Pencroft, "and search."
The sailor and his two companions returned to the shore, to the place
where they had left the "Bonadventure."
They had decided to make the tour of the island on foot, before exploring
the interior; so that not a spot should escape their investigations. The
beach was easy to follow, and only in some places was their way barred by
large rocks, which, however, they easily passed round. The explorers
proceeded towards the south, disturbing numerous flocks of sea-birds and
herds of seals, which threw themselves into the sea as soon as they saw the
strangers at a distance.
"Those beasts yonder," observed the reporter, "do not see men for the
first time. They fear them, therefore they must know them."
An hour after their departure they arrived on the southern point of the
islet, terminated by a sharp cape, and proceeded towards the north along
the western coast, equally formed by sand and rocks, the background
bordered with thick woods.
There was not a trace of a habitation in any part, not the print of a
human foot on the shore of the island, which after four hours' walking had
been gone completely round.
It was to say the least very extraordinary, and they were compelled to
believe that Tabor Island was not or was no longer inhabited. Perhaps,
after all the document was already several months or several years old, and
it was possible in this case, either that the castaway had been enabled to
return to his country, or that he had died of misery.
Pencroft, Spilett, and Herbert, forming more or less probable conjectures,
dined rapidly on board the "Bonadventure" so as to be able to continue
their excursion until nightfall. This was done at five o'clock in the
evening, at which hour they entered the wood.
Numerous animals fled at their approach, being principally, one might
say, only goats and pigs, which were obviously European species.
Doubtless some whaler had landed them on the island, where they had
rapidly increased. Herbert resolved to catch one or two living, and take
them back to Lincoln Island.
It was no longer doubtful that men at some period or other had visited
this islet, and this became still more evident when paths appeared trodden
through the forest, felled trees, and everywhere traces of the hand of man;
but the trees were becoming rotten, and had been felled many years ago; the
marks of the axe were velveted with moss, and the grass grew long and thick
on the paths, so that it was difficult to find them.
"But," observed Gideon Spilett, "this not only proves that men have
landed on the island, but also that they lived on it for some time. Now,
who were these men? How many of them remain?"
"The document," said Herbert, "only spoke of one castaway."
"Well, if he is still on the island," replied Pencroft, "it is impossible
but that we shall find him."
The exploration was continued. The sailor and his companions naturally
followed the route which cut diagonally across the island, and they were
thus obliged to follow the stream which flowed towards the sea.
If the animals of European origin, if works due to a human hand, showed
incontestably that men had already visited the island, several specimens of
the vegetable kingdom did not prove it less. In some places, in the midst
of clearings, it was evident that the soil had been planted with culinary
plants, at probably the same distant period.
What, then, was Herbert's joy, when he recognized potatoes, chicory,
sorrel, carrots, cabbages, and turnips, of which it was sufficient to
collect the seed to enrich the soil of Lincoln Island.
"Capital, jolly!" exclaimed Pencroft. "That will suit Neb as well as us.
Even if we do not find the castaway, at least our voyage will not have been
useless, and God will have rewarded us."
"Doubtless," replied Gideon Spilett, "but to see the state in which we
find these plantations, it is to be feared that the island has not been
inhabited for some time."
"Indeed," answered Herbert, "an inhabitant, whoever he was, could not have
neglected such an important culture!"
"Yes," said Pencroft, "the castaway has gone."
"We must suppose so."
"It must then be admitted that the document has already a distant date?"
"And that the bottle only arrived at Lincoln Island after having floated
in the sea a long time."
"Why not?" returned Pencroft. "But night is coming on," added he, "and I
think that it will be best to give up the search for the present."
"Let us go on board, and to-morrow we will begin again," said the
This was the wisest course, and it was about to be followed when Herbert,
pointing to a confused mass among the trees, exclaimed,--
All three immediately ran towards the dwelling. In the twilight it was
just possible to see that it was built of planks and covered with a thick
The half-closed door was pushed open by Pencroft, who entered with a
The hut was empty!
Pencroft, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett remained silent in the midst of the
Pencroft shouted loudly.
No reply was made.
The sailor then struck a light and set fire to a twig. This lighted for a
minute a small room, which appeared perfectly empty. At the back was a rude
fireplace, with a few cold cinders, supporting an armful of dry wood.
Pencroft threw the blazing twig on it, the wood crackled and gave forth a
The sailor and his two companions then perceived a disordered bed, of
which the damp and yellow coverlets proved that it had not been used for a
long time. In the corner of the fireplace were two kettles, covered with
rust, and an overthrown pot. A cupboard, with a few moldy sailor's clothes;
on the table a tin plate and a Bible, eaten away by damp; in a corner a few
tools, a spade, pickaxe, two fowling-pieces, one of which was broken; on a
plank, forming a shelf, stood a barrel of powder, still untouched, a barrel
of shot, and several boxes of caps, all thickly covered with dust,
accumulated, perhaps, by many long years.
"There is no one here," said the reporter.
"No one," replied Pencroft.
"It is a long time since this room has been inhabited," observed Herbert.
"Yes, a very long time!" answered the reporter.
"Mr. Spilett," then said Pencroft, "instead of returning on board, I
think that it would be well to pass the night in this hut."
"You are right, Pencroft," answered Gideon Spilett, "and if its owner
returns, well! perhaps he will not be sorry to find the place taken
"He will not return," said the sailor, shaking his head.
"You think that he has quitted the island?" asked the reporter.
"If he had quitted the island he would have taken away his weapons and
his tools," replied Pencroft. "You know the value which castaways set on
such articles as these the last remains of a wreck. No! no!" repeated the
sailor, in a tone of conviction; "no, he has not left the island! If he had
escaped in a boat made by himself, he would still less have left these
indispensable and necessary articles. No! he is on the island!"
"Living?" asked Herbert.
"Living or dead. But if he is dead, I suppose he has not buried himself,
and so we shall at least find his remains!"
It was then agreed that the night should be passed in the deserted
dwelling, and a store of wood found in a corner was sufficient to warm it.
The door closed, Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett remained there, seated on a
bench, talking little but wondering much. They were in a frame of mind to
imagine anything or expect anything. They listened eagerly for sounds
outside. The door might have opened suddenly, and a man presented himself
to them without their being in the least surprised, notwithstanding all
that the hut revealed of abandonment, and they had their hands ready to
press the hands of this man, this castaway, this unknown friend, for whom
friends were waiting.
But no voice was heard, the door did not open. The hours thus passed
How long the night appeared to the sailor and his companions! Herbert
alone slept for two hours, for at his age sleep is a necessity. They were
all three anxious to continue their exploration of the day before, and to
search the most secret recesses of the islet! The inferences deduced by
Pencroft were perfectly reasonable, and it was nearly certain that, as the
hut was deserted, and the tools, utensils, and weapons were still there,
the owner had succumbed. It was agreed, therefore, that they should search
for his remains, and give them at least Christian burial.
Day dawned; Pencroft and his companions immediately proceeded to survey
the dwelling. It had certainly been built in a favorable situation, at the
back of a little hill, sheltered by five or six magnificent gum-trees.
Before its front and through the trees the axe had prepared a wide
clearing, which allowed the view to extend to the sea. Beyond a lawn,
surrounded by a wooden fence falling to pieces, was the shore, on the left
of which was the mouth of the stream.
The hut had been built of planks, and it was easy to see that these
planks had been obtained from the hull or deck of a ship. It was probable
that a disabled vessel had been cast on the coast of the island, that one
at least of the crew had been saved, and that by means of the wreck this
man, having tools at his disposal, had built the dwelling.
And this became still more evident when Gideon Spilett, after having
walked around the hut, saw on a plank, probably one of those which had
formed the armor of the wrecked vessel, these letters already half effaced:
"Britannia," exclaimed Pencroft, whom the reporter had called; "it is a
common name for ships, and I could not say if she was English or American!"
"It matters very little, Pencroft!"
"Very little indeed," answered the sailor, "and we will save the survivor
of her crew if he is still living, to whatever country he may belong. But
before beginning our search again let us go on board the 'Bonadventure'."
A sort of uneasiness had seized Pencroft upon the subject of his vessel.
Should the island be inhabited after all, and should some one have taken
possession of her? But he shrugged his shoulders at such an unreasonable
supposition. At any rate the sailor was not sorry to go to breakfast on
board. The road already trodden was not long, scarcely a mile. They set out
on their walk, gazing into the wood and thickets through which goats and
pigs fled in hundreds.
Twenty minutes after leaving the hut Pencroft and his companions reached
the western coast of the island, and saw the "Bonadventure" held fast by
her anchor, which was buried deep in the sand.
Pencroft could not restrain a sigh of satisfaction. After all this vessel
was his child, and it is the right of fathers to be often uneasy when there
is no occasion for it.
They returned on board, breakfasted, so that it should not be necessary
to dine until very late; then the repast being ended, the exploration was
continued and conducted with the most minute care. Indeed, it was very
probable that the only inhabitant of the island had perished. It was
therefore more for the traces of a dead than of a living man that Pencroft
and his companions searched. But their searches were vain, and during the
half of that day they sought to no purpose among the thickets of trees
which covered the islet. There was then scarcely any doubt that, if the
castaway was dead, no trace of his body now remained, but that some wild
beast had probably devoured it to the last bone.
"We will set off to-morrow at daybreak," said Pencroft to his two
companions, as about two o'clock they were resting for a few minutes under
the shade of a clump of firs.
"I should think that we might without scruple take the utensils which
belonged to the castaway," added Herbert.
"I think so, too," returned Gideon Spilett, "and these arms and tools
will make up the stores of Granite House. The supply of powder and shot is
also most important."
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "but we must not forget to capture a couple or
two of those pigs, of which Lincoln Island is destitute."
"Nor to gather those seeds," added Herbert, "which will give us all the
vegetables of the Old and the New Worlds."
"Then perhaps it would be best," said the reporter, "to remain a day
longer on Tabor Island, so as to collect all that may be useful to us."
"No, Mr. Spilett," answered Pencroft, "I will ask you to set off to-morrow
at daybreak. The wind seems to me to be likely to shift to the west, and
after having had a fair wind for coming we shall have a fair wind for
"Then do not let us lose time," said Herbert, rising.
"We won't waste time," returned Pencroft. "You, Herbert, go and gather
the seeds, which you know better than we do. While you do that, Mr. Spilett
and I will go and have a pig hunt, and even without Top I hope we shall
manage to catch a few!"
Herbert accordingly took the path which led towards the cultivated part
of the islet, while the sailor and the reporter entered the forest.
Many specimens of the porcine race fled before them, and these animals,
which were singularly active, did not appear to be in a humor to allow
themselves to be approached.
However, after an hour's chase, the hunters had just managed to get hold
of a couple lying in a thicket, when cries were heard resounding from the
north part of the island, With the cries were mingled terrible yells, in
which there was nothing human.
Pencroft and Gideon Spilett were at once on their feet, and the pigs by
this movement began to run away, at the moment when the sailor was getting
ready the rope to bind them.
"That's Herbert's voice," said the reporter.
"Run!" exclaimed Pencroft.
And the sailor and Spilett immediately ran at full speed towards the spot
from whence the cries proceeded.
They did well to hasten, for at a turn of the path near a clearing they
saw the lad thrown on the ground and in the grasp of a savage being,
apparently a gigantic ape, who was about to do him some great harm.
To rush on this monster, throw him on the ground in his turn, snatch
Herbert from him, then bind him securely, was the work of a minute for
Pencroft and Gideon Spilett. The sailor was of Herculean strength, the
reporter also very powerful, and in spite of the monster's resistance he
was firmly tied so that he could not even move.
"You are not hurt, Herbert?" asked Spilett.
"Oh, if this ape had wounded him!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"But he is not an ape," answered Herbert.
At these words Pencroft and Gideon Spilett looked at the singular being
who lay on the ground. Indeed it was not an ape; it was a human being, a
man. But what a man! A savage in all the horrible acceptation of the word,
and so much the more frightful that he seemed fallen to the lowest degree
Shaggy hair, untrimmed beard descending to the chest, the body almost
naked except a rag round the waist, wild eyes, enormous hands with
immensely long nails, skin the color of mahogany, feet as hard as if made
of horn, such was the miserable creature who yet had a claim to be called a
man. But it might justly be asked if there were yet a soul in this body, or
if the brute instinct alone survived in it!
"Are you quite sure that this is a man, or that he has ever been one?"
said Pencroft to the reporter.
"Alas! there is no doubt about it," replied Spilett.
"Then this must be the castaway?" asked Herbert.
"Yes," replied Gideon Spilett, "but the unfortunate man has no longer
anything human about him!"
The reporter spoke the truth. It was evident that if the castaway had
ever been a civilized being, solitude had made him a savage, or worse,
perhaps a regular man of the woods. Hoarse sounds issued from his
throat between his teeth, which were sharp as the teeth of a wild
beast made to tear raw flesh.
Memory must have deserted him long before, and for a long time also he
had forgotten how to use his gun and tools, and he no longer knew how to
make a fire! It could be seen that he was active and powerful, but the
physical qualities had been developed in him to the injury of the moral
qualities. Gideon Spilett spoke to him. He did not appear to understand or
even to hear. And yet on looking into his eyes, the reporter thought he
could see that all reason was not extinguished in him. However, the
prisoner did not struggle, nor even attempt to break his bonds. Was he
overwhelmed by the presence of men whose fellow he had once been? Had he
found in some corner of his brain a fleeting remembrance which recalled him
to humanity? If free, would he attempt to fly, or would he remain? They
could not tell, but they did not make the experiment; and after gazing
attentively at the miserable creature,--
"Whoever he may be," remarked Gideon Spilett, "whoever he may have been,
and whatever he may become, it is our duty to take him with us to Lincoln
"Yes, yes!" replied Herbert, "and perhaps with care we may arouse in him
same gleam of intelligence."
"The soul does not die," said the reporter, "and it would be a great
satisfaction to rescue one of God's creatures from brutishness."
Pencroft shook his head doubtfully.
"We must try at any rate," returned the reporter; "humanity commands us."
It was indeed their duty as Christians and civilized beings. All three
felt this, and they well knew that Cyrus Harding would approve of their
"Shall we leave him bound?" asked the sailor.
"Perhaps he would walk if his feet were unfastened," said Herbert.
"Let us try," replied Pencroft.
The cords which shackled the prisoner's feet were cut off, but his arms
remained securely fastened. He got up by himself and did not manifest any
desire to run away. His hard eyes darted a piercing glance at the three
men, who walked near him, but nothing denoted that he recollected being
their fellow, or at least having been so. A continual hissing sound issued
from his lips, his aspect was wild, but he did not attempt to resist.
By the reporter's advice the unfortunate man was taken to the hut.
Perhaps the sight of the things that belonged to him would make some
impression on him! Perhaps a spark would be sufficient to revive his
obscured intellect, to rekindle his dulled soul. The dwelling was not far
off. In a few minutes they arrived there, but the prisoner remembered
nothing, and it appeared that he had lost consciousness of everything.
What could they think of the degree of brutishness into which this
miserable being had fallen, unless that his imprisonment on the islet dated
from a very distant period and after having arrived there a rational being
solitude had reduced him to this condition.
The reporter then thought that perhaps the sight of fire would have some
effect on him, and in a moment one of those beautiful flames, that attract
even animals, blazed up on the hearth. The sight of the flame seemed at
first to fix the attention of the unhappy object, but soon he turned away
and the look of intelligence faded. Evidently there was nothing to be done,
for the time at least, but to take him on board the "Bonadventure." This
was done, and he remained there in Pencroft's charge.
Herbert and Spilett returned to finish their work; and some hours after
they came back to the shore, carrying the utensils and guns, a store of
vegetables, of seeds, some game, and two couple of pigs.
All was embarked, and the "Bonadventure" was ready to weigh anchor and
sail with the morning tide.
The prisoner had been placed in the fore-cabin, where he remained quiet,
silent, apparently deaf and dumb.
Pencroft offered him something to eat, but he pushed away the cooked meat
that was presented to him and which doubtless did not suit him. But on the
sailor showing him one of the ducks which Herbert had killed, he pounced on
it like a wild beast, and devoured it greedily.
"You think that he will recover his senses?" asked Pencroft. "It is not
impossible that our care will have an effect upon him, for it is solitude
that has made him what he is, and from this time forward he will be no
"The poor man must no doubt have been in this state for a long time,"
"Perhaps," answered Gideon Spilett.
"About what age is he?" asked the lad.
"It is difficult to say," replied the reporter, "for it is impossible to
see his features under the thick beard which covers his face, but he is no
longer young, and I suppose he might be about fifty."
"Have you noticed, Mr. Spilett, how deeply sunk his eyes are?" asked
"Yes, Herbert, but I must add that they are more human than one could
expect from his appearance."
"However, we shall see," replied Pencroft, "and I am anxious to know what
opinion Captain Harding will have of our savage. We went to look for a
human creature, and we are bringing back a monster! After all, we did what
The night passed, and whether the prisoner slept or not could not be
known, but at any rate, although he had been unbound, he did not move. He
was like a wild animal, which appears stunned at first by its capture, and
becomes wild again afterwards.
At daybreak the next morning, the 15th of October, the change of weather
predicted by Pencroft occurred. The wind having shifted to the northwest
favored the return of the "Bonadventure," but at the same time it
freshened, which might render navigation more difficult.
At five o'clock in the morning the anchor was weighed. Pencroft took a
reef in the mainsail, and steered towards the north-east, so as to sail
straight for Lincoln Island.
The first day of the voyage was not marked by any incident. The prisoner
remained quiet in the fore-cabin, and as he had been a sailor it appeared
that the motion of the vessel might produce on him a salutary reaction. Did
some recollection of his former calling return to him? However that might
be, he remained tranquil, astonished rather than depressed.
The next day the wind increased, blowing more from the north,
consequently in a less favorable direction for the "Bonadventure." Pencroft
was soon obliged to sail close-hauled, and without saying anything about it
he began to be uneasy at the state of the sea, which frequently broke over
the bows. Certainly, if the wind did not moderate, it would take a longer
time to reach Lincoln Island than it had taken to make Tabor Island.
Indeed, on the morning of the 17th, the "Bonadventure" had been forty-
eight hours at sea, and nothing showed that she was near the island. It was
impossible, besides, to estimate the distance traversed, or to trust to the
reckoning for the direction, as the speed had been very irregular.
Twenty-four hours after there was yet no land in sight. The wind was
right ahead and the sea very heavy. The sails were close-reefed, and they
tacked frequently. On the 18th, a wave swept completely over the
"Bonadventure"; and if the crew had not taken the precaution of lashing
themselves to the deck, they would have been carried away.
On this occasion Pencroft and his companions, who were occupied with
loosing themselves, received unexpected aid from the prisoner, who emerged
from the hatchway as if his sailor's instinct had suddenly returned, broke
a piece out of the bulwarks with a spar so as to let the water which filled
the deck escape. Then the vessel being clear, he descended to his cabin
without having uttered a word. Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert,
greatly astonished, let him proceed.
Their situation was truly serious, and the sailor had reason to fear that
he was lost on the wide sea without any possibility of recovering his
The night was dark and cold. However, about eleven o'clock, the wind
fell, the sea went down, and the speed of the vessel, as she labored less,
Neither Pencroft, Spilett, nor Herbert thought of taking an hour's sleep.
They kept a sharp look-out, for either Lincoln Island could not be far
distant and would be sighted at daybreak, or the "Bonadventure," carried
away by currents, had drifted so much that it would be impossible to
rectify her course. Pencroft, uneasy to the last degree, yet did not
despair, for he had a gallant heart, and grasping the tiller he anxiously
endeavored to pierce the darkness which surrounded them.
About two o'clock in the morning he started forward,--
"A light! a light!" he shouted.
Indeed, a bright light appeared twenty miles to the northeast. Lincoln
Island was there, and this fire, evidently lighted by Cyrus Harding, showed
them the course to be followed. Pencroft, who was bearing too much to the
north, altered his course and steered towards the fire, which burned
brightly above the horizon like a star of the first magnitude.
The next day, the 20th of October, at seven o'clock in the morning, after a
voyage of four days, the "Bonadventure" gently glided up to the beach at
the mouth of the Mercy.
Cyrus Harding and Neb, who had become very uneasy at the bad weather and
the prolonged absence of their companions, had climbed at daybreak to the
plateau of Prospect Heights, and they had at last caught sight of the
vessel which had been so long in returning.
"God be praised! there they are!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding.
As to Neb in his joy, he began to dance, to twirl round, clapping his
hands and shouting, "Oh! my master!" A more touching pantomime than the
The engineer's first idea, on counting the people on the deck of the
"Bonadventure," was that Pencroft had not found the castaway of Tabor
Island, or at any rate that the unfortunate man had refused to leave his
island and change one prison for another.
Indeed Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert were alone on the deck of
The moment the vessel touched, the engineer and Neb were waiting on the
beach, and before the passengers had time to leap on to the sand, Harding
said: "We have been very uneasy at your delay, my friends! Did you meet
with any accident?"
"No," replied Gideon Spilett; "on the contrary, everything went
wonderfully well. We will tell you all about it."
"However," returned the engineer, "your search has been unsuccessful,
since you are only three, just as you went!"
"Excuse me, captain," replied the sailor, "we are four."
"You have found the castaway?"
"And you have brought him?"
"Where is he? Who is he?"
"He is," replied the reporter, "or rather he was a man! There, Cyrus,
that is all we can tell you!"
The engineer was then informed of all that had passed during the voyage,
and under what conditions the search had been conducted; how the only
dwelling in the island had long been abandoned; how at last a castaway had
been captured, who appeared no longer to belong to the human species.
"And that's just the point," added Pencroft, "I don't know if we have
done right to bring him here."
"Certainly you have, Pencroft," replied the engineer quickly.
"But the wretched creature has no sense!"
"That is possible at present," replied Cyrus Harding, "but only a few
months ago the wretched creature was a man like you and me. And who knows
what will become of the survivor of us after a long solitude on this
island? It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it must be
believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason, since you have found
this poor creature in such a state!"
"But, captain," asked Herbert, "what leads you to think that the
brutishness of the unfortunate man began only a few months back?"
"Because the document we found had been recently written," answered the
engineer, "and the castaway alone can have written it."
"Always supposing," observed Gideon Spilett, "that it had not been
written by a companion of this man, since dead."
"That is impossible, my dear Spilett."
"Why so?" asked the reporter.
"Because the document would then have spoken of two castaways," replied
Harding, "and it mentioned only one."
Herbert then in a few words related the incidents of the voyage, and
dwelt on the curious fact of the sort of passing gleam in the prisoner's
mind, when for an instant in the height of the storm he had become a
"Well, Herbert," replied the engineer, "you are right to attach great
importance to this fact. The unfortunate man cannot be incurable, and
despair has made him what he is; but here he will find his fellow-men, and
since there is still a soul in him, this soul we shall save!"
The castaway of Tabor Island, to the great pity of the engineer and the
great astonishment of Neb, was then brought from the cabin which he
occupied in the fore part of the "Bonadventure"; when once on land he
manifested a wish to run away.
But Cyrus Harding approaching, placed his hand on his shoulder with a
gesture full of authority, and looked at him with infinite tenderness.
Immediately the unhappy man, submitting to a superior will, gradually
became calm, his eyes fell, his head bent, and he made no more resistance.
"Poor fellow!" murmured the engineer.
Cyrus Harding had attentively observed him. To judge by his appearance
this miserable being had no longer anything human about him, and yet
Harding, as had the reporter already, observed in his look an indefinable
trace of intelligence.
It was decided that the castaway, or rather the stranger as he was
thenceforth termed by his companions, should live in one of the rooms of
Granite House, from which, however, he could not escape. He was led there
without difficulty, and with careful attention, it might, perhaps, be hoped
that some day he would be a companion to the settlers in Lincoln Island.
Cyrus Harding, during breakfast, which Neb had hastened to prepare, as
the reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft were dying of hunger, heard in detail
all the incidents which had marked the voyage of exploration to the islet.
He agreed with his friends on this point, that the stranger must be either
English or American, the name Britannia leading them to suppose this, and,
besides, through the bushy beard, and under the shaggy, matted hair, the
engineer thought he could recognize the characteristic features of the
"But, by the bye," said Gideon Spilett, addressing Herbert, "you never
told us how you met this savage, and we know nothing, except that you would
have been strangled, if we had not happened to come up in time to help
"Upon my word," answered Herbert, "it is rather difficult to say how it
happened. I was, I think, occupied in collecting my plants, when I heard a
noise like an avalanche falling from a very tall tree. I scarcely had time
to look round. This unfortunate man, who was without doubt concealed in a
tree, rushed upon me in less time than I take to tell you about it, and
unless Mr. Spilett and Pencroft--"
"My boy!" said Cyrus Harding, "you ran a great danger, but, perhaps,
without that, the poor creature would have still hidden himself from your
search, and we should not have had a new companion."
"You hope, then, Cyrus, to succeed in reforming the man?" asked the
"Yes," replied the engineer.
Breakfast over, Harding and his companions left Granite House and
returned to the beach. They there occupied themselves in unloading the
"Bonadventure," and the engineer, having examined the arms and tools, saw
nothing which could help them to establish the identity of the stranger.
The capture of pigs, made on the islet, was looked upon as being very
profitable to Lincoln Island, and the animals were led to the sty, where
they soon became at home.
The two barrels, containing the powder and shot, as well as the box of
caps, were very welcome. It was agreed to establish a small powder-
magazine, either outside Granite House or in the Upper Cavern, where there
would be no fear of explosion. However, the use of pyroxyle was to be
continued, for this substance giving excellent results, there was no reason
for substituting ordinary powder.
When the unloading of the vessel was finished,--
"Captain," said Pencroft, "I think it would be prudent to put our
'Bonadventure' in a safe place."
"Is she not safe at the mouth of the Mercy?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"No, captain," replied the sailor. "Half of the time she is stranded on
the sand, and that works her. She is a famous craft, you see, and she
behaved admirably during the squall which struck us on our return."
"Could she not float in the river?"
"No doubt, captain, she could; but there is no shelter there, and in the
east winds, I think that the 'Bonadventure' would suffer much from the
"Well, where would you put her, Pencroft?"
"In Port Balloon," replied the sailor. "That little creek, shut in by
rocks, seems to me to be just the harbor we want."
"Is it not rather far?"
"Pooh! it is not more than three miles from Granite House, and we have a
fine straight road to take us there!"
"Do it then, Pencroft, and take your 'Bonadventure' there," replied the
engineer, "and yet I would rather have her under our more immediate
protection. When we have time, we must make a little harbor for her."
"Famous!" exclaimed Pencroft. "A harbor with a lighthouse, a pier, and
dock! Ah! really with you, captain, everything becomes easy."
"Yes, my brave Pencroft," answered the engineer, "but on condition,
however, that you help me, for you do as much as three men in all our
Herbert and the sailor then re-embarked on board the "Bonadventure," the
anchor was weighed, the sail hoisted, and the wind drove her rapidly
towards Claw Cape. Two hours after, she was reposing on the tranquil waters
of Port Balloon.
During the first days passed by the stranger in Granite House, had he
already given them reason to think that his savage nature was becoming
tamed? Did a brighter light burn in the depths of that obscured mind? In
short, was the soul returning to the body?
Yes, to a certainty, and to such a degree, that Cyrus Harding and the
reporter wondered if the reason of the unfortunate man had ever been
totally extinguished. At first, accustomed to the open air, to the
unrestrained liberty which he had enjoyed on Tabor Island, the stranger
manifested a sullen fury, and it was feared that he might throw himself
onto the beach, out of one of the windows of Granite House. But gradually
he became calmer, and more freedom was allowed to his movements.
They had reason to hope, and to hope much. Already, forgetting his
carnivorous instincts, the stranger accepted a less bestial nourishment
than that on which he fed on the islet, and cooked meat did not produce in
him the same sentiment of repulsion which he had showed on board the
"Bonadventure." Cyrus Harding had profited by a moment when he was
sleeping, to cut his hair and matted beard, which formed a sort of mane and
gave him such a savage aspect. He had also been clothed more suitably,
after having got rid of the rag which covered him. The result was that,
thanks to these attentions, the stranger resumed a more human appearance,
and it even seemed as if his eyes had become milder. Certainly, when
formerly lighted up by intelligence, this man's face must have had a sort
Every day, Harding imposed on himself the task of passing some hours in
his company. He came and worked near him, and occupied himself in different
things, so as to fix his attention. A spark, indeed, would be sufficient to
reillumine that soul, a recollection crossing that brain to recall reason.
That had been seen, during the storm, on board the "Bonadventure!" The
engineer did not neglect either to speak aloud, so as to penetrate at the
same time by the organs of hearing and sight the depths of that torpid
intelligence. Sometimes one of his companions, sometimes another, sometimes
all joined him. They spoke most often of things belonging to the navy,
which must interest a sailor.
At times, the stranger gave some slight attention to what was said, and
the settlers were soon convinced that he partly understood them. Sometimes
the expression of his countenance was deeply sorrowful, a proof that he
suffered mentally, for his face could not be mistaken; but he did not
speak, although at different times, however, they almost thought that words
were about to issue from his lips. At all events, the poor creature was
quite quiet and sad!
But was not his calm only apparent? Was not his sadness only the result
of his seclusion? Nothing could yet be ascertained. Seeing only certain
objects and in a limited space, always in contact with the colonists, to
whom he would soon become accustomed, having no desires to satisfy, better
fed, better clothed, it was natural that his physical nature should
gradually improve; but was he penetrated with the sense of a new life? or
rather, to employ a word which would be exactly applicable to him, was he
not becoming tamed, like an animal in company with his master? This was an
important question, which Cyrus Harding was anxious to answer, and yet he
did not wish to treat his invalid roughly! Would he ever be a convalescent?
How the engineer observed him every moment! How he was on the watch for
his soul, if one may use the expression! How he was ready to grasp it! The
settlers followed with real sympathy all the phases of the cure undertaken
by Harding. They aided him also in this work of humanity, and all, except
perhaps the incredulous Pencroft, soon shared both his hope and his faith.
The calm of the stranger was deep, as has been said, and he even showed a
sort of attachment for the engineer, whose influence he evidently felt.
Cyrus Harding resolved then to try him, by transporting him to another
scene, from that ocean which formerly his eyes had been accustomed to
contemplate, to the border of the forest, which might perhaps recall those
where so many years of his life had been passed!
"But," said Gideon Spilett, "can we hope that he will not escape, if once
set at liberty?"
"The experiment must be tried," replied the engineer.
"Well!" said Pencroft. "When that fellow is outside, and feels the fresh
air, he will be off as fast as his legs can carry him!"
"I do not think so," returned Harding.
"Let us try," said Spilett.
"We will try," replied the engineer.
This was on the 30th of October, and consequently the castaway of Tabor
Island had been a prisoner in Granite House for nine days. It was warm, and
a bright sun darted its rays on the island. Cyrus Harding and Pencroft went
to the room occupied by the stranger, who was found lying near the window
and gazing at the sky.
"Come, my friend," said the engineer to him.
The stranger rose immediately. His eyes were fixed on Cyrus Harding, and
he followed him, while the sailor marched behind them, little confident as
to the result of the experiment.
Arrived at the door, Harding and Pencroft made him take his place in the
lift, while Neb, Herbert, and Gideon Spilett waited for them before Granite
House. The lift descended, and in a few moments all were united on the
The settlers went a short distance from the stranger, so as to leave him
He then made a few steps toward the sea, and his look brightened with
extreme animation, but he did not make the slightest attempt to escape. He
was gazing at the little waves which, broken by the islet, rippled on the
"This is only the sea," observed Gideon Spilett, "and possibly it does
not inspire him with any wish to escape!"
"Yes," replied Harding, "we must take him to the plateau, on the border
of the forest. There the experiment will be more conclusive."
"Besides, he could not run away," said Neb, "since the bridge is raised."
"Oh!" said Pencroft, "that isn't a man to be troubled by a stream like
Creek Glycerine! He could cross it directly, at a single bound!"
"We shall soon see," Harding contented himself with replying, his eyes
not quitting those of his patient.
The latter was then led towards the mouth of the Mercy, and all climbing
the left bank of the river, reached Prospect Heights.
Arrived at the spot on which grew the first beautiful trees of the
forest, their foliage slightly agitated by the breeze, the stranger
appeared greedily to drink in the penetrating odor which filled the
atmosphere, and a long sigh escaped from his chest.
The settlers kept behind him, ready to seize him if he made any movement
And, indeed, the poor creature was on the point of springing into the
creek which separated him from the forest, and his legs were bent for an
instant as if for a spring, but almost immediately he stepped back, half
sank down, and a large tear fell from his eyes.
"Ah!" exclaimed Cyrus Harding, "you have become a man again, for you can
Yes! the unfortunate man had wept! Some recollection doubtless had flashed
across his brain, and to use Cyrus Harding's expression, by those tears he
was once more a man.
The colonists left him for some time on the plateau, and withdrew
themselves to a short distance, so that he might feel himself free; but he
did not think of profiting by this liberty, and Harding soon brought him
back to Granite House. Two days after this occurrence, the stranger
appeared to wish gradually to mingle with their common life. He evidently
heard and understood, but no less evidently was he strangely determined not
to speak to the colonists; for one evening, Pencroft, listening at the door
of his room, heard these words escape from his lips:--
"No! here! I! never!"
The sailor reported these words to his companions.
"There is some painful mystery there!" said Harding.
The stranger had begun to use the laboring tools, and he worked in the
garden. When he stopped in his work, as was often the case, he remained
retired within himself, but on the engineer's recommendation, they
respected the reserve which he apparently wished to keep. If one of the
settlers approached him, he drew back, and his chest heaved with sobs, as
Was it remorse that overwhelmed him thus? They were compelled to believe
so, and Gideon Spilett could not help one day making this observation,--
"If he does not speak it is because he has, I fear, things too serious to
They must be patient and wait.
A few days later, on the 3rd of November, the stranger, working on the
plateau, had stopped, letting his spade drop to the ground, and Harding,
who was observing him from a little distance, saw that tears were again
flowing from his eyes. A sort of irresistible pity led him towards the
unfortunate man, and he touched his arm lightly.
"My friend!" said he.
The stranger tried to avoid his look, and Cyrus Harding having endeavored
to take his hand, he drew back quickly.
"My friend," said Harding in a firmer voice, "look at me, I wish it!"
The stranger looked at the engineer, and seemed to be under his power, as
a subject under the influence of a mesmerist. He wished to run away. But
then his countenance suddenly underwent a transformation. His eyes flashed.
Words struggled to escape from his lips. He could no longer contain
himself! At last he folded his arms; then, in a hollow voice,--"Who are
you?" he asked Cyrus Harding.
"Castaways, like you," replied the engineer, whose emotion was deep. "We
have brought you here, among your fellow-men."
"My fellow-men!. . . . I have none!"
"You are in the midst of friends."
"Friends!--for me! friends!" exclaimed the stranger, hiding his face in
his hands. "No--never--leave me! leave me!"
Then he rushed to the side of the plateau which overlooked the sea, and
remained there a long time motionless.
Harding rejoined his companions and related to them what had just
"Yes! there is some mystery in that man's life," said Gideon Spilett,
"and it appears as if he had only re-entered society by the path of
"I don't know what sort of a man we have brought here," said the sailor.
"He has secrets--"
"Which we will respect," interrupted Cyrus Harding quickly. "If he has
committed any crime, he has most fearfully expiated it, and in our eyes he
For two hours the stranger remained alone on the shore, evidently under
the influence of recollections which recalled all his past life--a
melancholy life doubtless--and the colonists, without losing sight of him,
did not attempt to disturb his solitude. However, after two hours,
appearing to have formed a resolution, he came to find Cyrus Harding. His
eyes were red with the tears he had shed, but he wept no longer. His
countenance expressed deep humility. He appeared anxious, timorous,
ashamed, and his eyes were constantly fixed on the ground.
"Sir," said he to Harding, "your companions and you, are you English?"
"No," answered the engineer, "we are Americans."
"Ah!" said the stranger, and he murmured, "I prefer that!"
"And you, my friend?" asked the engineer.
"English," replied he hastily.
And as if these few words had been difficult to say, he retreated to the
beach, where he walked up and down between the cascade and the mouth of the
Mercy, in a state of extreme agitation.
Then, passing one moment close to Herbert, he stopped and in a stifled
"What month?" he asked.
"December," replied Herbert.
"Twelve years! twelve years!" he exclaimed.
Then he left him abruptly.
Herbert reported to the colonists the questions and answers which had
"This unfortunate man," observed Gideon Spilett, "was no longer
acquainted with either months or years!"
"Yes!" added Herbert, "and he had been twelve years already on the islet
when we found him there!"
"Twelve years!" rejoined Harding. "Ah! twelve years of solitude, after a
wicked life, perhaps, may well impair a man's reason!"
"I am induced to think," said Pencroft, "that this man was not wrecked on
Tabor Island, but that in consequence of some crime he was left there."
"You must be right, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "and if it is so it
is not impossible that those who left him on the island may return to fetch
him some day!"
"And they will no longer find him," said Herbert.
"But then," added Pencroft, "they must return, and--"
"My friends," said Cyrus Harding, "do not let us discuss this question
until we know more about it. I believe that the unhappy man has suffered,
that he has severely expiated his faults, whatever they may have been, and
that the wish to unburden himself stifles him. Do not let us press him to
tell us his history! He will tell it to us doubtless, and when we know it,
we shall see what course it will be best to follow. He alone besides can
tell us, if he has more than a hope, a certainty, of returning some day to
his country, but I doubt it!"
"And why?" asked the reporter.
"Because that, in the event of his being sure of being delivered at a
certain time, he would have waited the hour of his deliverance and would
not have thrown this document into the sea. No, it is more probable that he
was condemned to die on that islet, and that he never expected to see his
"But," observed the sailor, "there is one thing which I cannot explain."
"What is it?"
"If this man had been left for twelve years on Tabor Island, one may well
suppose that he had been several years already in the wild state in which
we found him!"
"That is probable," replied Cyrus Harding.
"It must then be many years since he wrote that document!"
"No doubt," and yet the document appears to have been recently written!
"Besides, how do you know that the bottle which enclosed the document may
not have taken several years to come from Tabor Island to Lincoln Island?"
"That is not absolutely impossible," replied the reporter.
"Might it not have been a long time already on the coast of the island?"
"No," answered Pencroft, "for it was still floating. We could not even
suppose that after it had stayed for any length of time on the shore, it
would have been swept off by the sea, for the south coast is all rocks, and
it would certainly have been smashed to pieces there!"
"That is true," rejoined Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.
"And then," continued the sailor, "if the document was several years old,
if it had been shut up in that bottle for several years, it would have been
injured by damp. Now, there is nothing of the kind, and it was found in a
perfect state of preservation."
The sailor's reasoning was very just, and pointed out an incomprehensible
fact, for the document appeared to have been recently written, when the
colonists found it in the bottle. Moreover, it gave the latitude and
longitude of Tabor Island correctly, which implied that its author had a
more complete knowledge of hydrography than could be expected of a common
"There is in this, again, something unaccountable," said the engineer,
"but we will not urge our companions to speak. When he likes, my friends,
then we shall be ready to hear him!"
During the following days the stranger did not speak a word, and did not
once leave the precincts of the plateau. He worked away, without losing a
moment, without taking a minute's rest, but always in a retired place. At
meal times he never came to Granite House, although invited several times
to do so, but contented himself with eating a few raw vegetables. At
nightfall he did not return to the room assigned to him, but remained under
some clump of trees, or when the weather was bad crouched in some cleft of
the rocks. Thus he lived in the same manner as when he had no other shelter
than the forests of Tabor Island, and as all persuasion to induce him to
improve his life was in vain, the colonists waited patiently. And the time
was near, when, as it seemed, almost involuntarily urged by his conscience,
a terrible confession escaped him.
On the 10th of November, about eight o'clock in the evening, as night was
coming on, the stranger appeared unexpectedly before the settlers, who were
assembled under the veranda. His eyes burned strangely, and he had quite
resumed the wild aspect of his worst days.
Cyrus Harding and his companions were astounded on seeing that, overcome
by some terrible emotion, his teeth chattered like those of a person in a
fever. What was the matter with him? Was the sight of his fellow-creatures
insupportable to him? Was he weary of this return to a civilized mode of
existence? Was he pining for his former savage life? It appeared so, as
soon he was heard to express himself in these incoherent sentences:--
"Why am I here?.... By what right have you dragged me from my islet?....
Do you think there could be any tie between you and me?.... Do you know who
I am--what I have done--why I was there--alone? And who told you that I was
not abandoned there--that I was not condemned to die there?.... Do you know
my past?.... How do you know that I have not stolen, murdered--that I am
not a wretch--an accursed being--only fit to live like a wild beast, far
from all--speak--do you know it?"
The colonists listened without interrupting the miserable creature, from
whom these broken confessions escaped, as it were, in spite of himself.
Harding wishing to calm him, approached him, but he hastily drew back.
"No! no!" he exclaimed; "one word only--am I free?"
"You are free," answered the engineer.
"Farewell, then!" he cried, and fled like a madman.
Neb, Pencroft, and Herbert ran also towards the edge of the wood--but
they returned alone.
"We must let him alone!" said Cyrus Harding.
"He will never come back!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"He will come back," replied the engineer.
Many days passed; but Harding--was it a sort of presentiment?
--presentiment in the fixed idea that sooner or later the unhappy man
"It is the last revolt of his wild nature," said he, "which remorse has
touched, and which renewed solitude will terrify."
In the meanwhile, works of all sorts were continued, as well on Prospect
Heights as at the corral, where Harding intended to build a farm. It is
unnecessary to say that the seeds collected by Herbert on Tabor Island had
been carefully sown. The plateau thus formed one immense kitchen-garden,
well laid out and carefully tended, so that the arms of the settlers were
never in want of work. There was always something to be done. As the
esculents increased in number, it became necessary to enlarge the simple
beds, which threatened to grow into regular fields and replace the meadows.
But grass abounded in other parts of the island, and there was no fear of
the onagers being obliged to go on short allowance. It was well worth
while, besides, to turn Prospect Heights into a kitchen-garden, defended by
its deep belt of creeks, and to remove them to the meadows, which had no
need of protection against the depredations of quadrumana and quadrapeds.
On the 15th of November, the third harvest was gathered in. How
wonderfully had the field increased in extent, since eighteen months ago,
when the first grain of wheat was sown! The second crop of six hundred
thousand grains produced this time four thousand bushels, or five hundred
millions of grains!
The colony was rich in corn, for ten bushels alone were sufficient for
sowing every year to produce an ample crop for the food both of men and
beasts. The harvest was completed, and the last fortnight of the month of
November was devoted to the work of converting it into food for man. In
fact, they had corn, but not flour, and the establishment of a mill was
necessary. Cyrus Harding could have utilized the second fall which flowed
into the Mercy to establish his motive power, the first being already
occupied with moving the felting mill, but, after some consultation, it was
decided that a simple windmill should be built on Prospect Heights. The
building of this presented no more difficulty than the building of the
former, and it was moreover certain that there would be no want of wind on
the plateau, exposed as it was to the sea breezes.
"Not to mention," said Pencroft, "that the windmill will be more lively
and will have a good effect in the landscape!"
They set to work by choosing timber for the frame and machinery of the
mill. Some large stones, found at the north of the lake, could be easily
transformed into millstones, and as to the sails, the inexhaustible case of
the balloon furnished the necessary material.
Cyrus Harding made his model, and the site of the mill was chosen a
little to the right of the poultry-yard, near the shore of the lake. The
frame was to rest on a pivot supported with strong timbers, so that it
could turn with all the machinery it contained according as the wind
required it. The work advanced rapidly. Neb and Pencroft had become very
skilful carpenters, and had nothing to do but to copy the models provided
by the engineer.
Soon a sort of cylindrical box, in shape like a pepper-pot, with a
pointed roof, rose on the spot chosen. The four frames which formed the
sails had been firmly fixed in the center beam, so as to form a certain
angle with it, and secured with iron clamps. As to the different parts of
the internal mechanism, the box destined to contain the two millstones, the
fixed stone and the moving stone, the hopper, a sort of large square
trough, wide at the top, narrow at the bottom, which would allow the grain
to fall on the stones, the oscillating spout intended to regulate the
passing of the grain, and lastly the bolting machine, which by the
operation of sifting, separates the bran from the flour, were made without
difficulty. The tools were good, and the work not difficult, for in
reality, the machinery of a mill is very simple. This was only a question
Every one had worked at the construction of the mill, and on the 1st of
December it was finished. As usual, Pencroft was delighted with his work,
and had no doubt that the apparatus was perfect.
"Now for a good wind," said he, "and we shall grind our first harvest
"A good wind, certainly," answered the engineer, "but not too much,
"Pooh! our mill would only go the faster!"
"There is no need for it to go so very fast," replied Cyrus Harding. "It
is known by experience that the greatest quantity of work is performed by a
mill when the number of turns made by the sails in a minute is six times
the number of feet traversed by the wind in a second. A moderate breeze,
which passes over twenty-four feet to the second, will give sixteen turns
to the sails during a minute, and there is no need of more."
"Exactly!" cried Herbert, "a fine breeze is blowing from the northeast,
which will soon do our business for us."
There was no reason for delaying the inauguration of the mill, for the
settlers were eager to taste the first piece of bread in Lincoln Island. On
this morning two or three bushels of wheat were ground, and the next day at
breakfast a magnificent loaf, a little heavy perhaps, although raised with
yeast, appeared on the table at Granite House. Every one munched away at it
with a pleasure which may be easily understood.
In the meanwhile, the stranger had not reappeared. Several times Gideon
Spilett and Herbert searched the forest in the neighborhood of Granite
House, without meeting or finding any trace of him. They became seriously
uneasy at this prolonged absence. Certainly, the former savage of Tabor
island could not be perplexed how to live in the forest, abounding in game,
but was it not to be feared that he had resumed his habits, and that this
freedom would revive in him his wild instincts? However, Harding, by a sort
of presentiment, doubtless, always persisted in saying that the fugitive
"Yes, he will return!" he repeated with a confidence which his companions
could not share. "When this unfortunate man was on Tabor Island, he knew
himself to be alone! Here, he knows that fellow-men are awaiting him! Since
he has partially spoken of his past life, the poor penitent will return to
tell the whole, and from that day he will belong to us!"
The event justified Cyrus Harding's predictions. On the 3rd of December,
Herbert had left the plateau to go and fish on the southern bank of the
lake. He was unarmed, and till then had never taken any precautions for
defense, as dangerous animals had not shown themselves on that part of the
Meanwhile, Pencroft and Neb were working in the poultry-yard, while
Harding and the reporter were occupied at the Chimneys in making soda, the
store of soap being exhausted.
Suddenly cries resounded,--
Cyrus Harding and the reporter, being at too great a distance, had not
been able to hear the shouts. Pencroft and Neb, leaving the poultry-yard in
all haste, rushed towards the lake.
But before then, the stranger, whose presence at this place no one had
suspected, crossed Creek Glycerine, which separated the plateau from the
forest, and bounded up the opposite bank.
Herbert was there face to face with a fierce jaguar, similar to the one
which had been killed on Reptile End. Suddenly surprised, he was standing
with his back against a tree, while the animal gathering itself together
was about to spring.
But the stranger, with no other weapon than a knife, rushed on the
formidable animal, who turned to meet this new adversary.
The struggle was short. The stranger possessed immense strength and
activity. He seized the jaguar's throat with one powerful hand, holding it
as in a vise, without heeding the beast's claws which tore his flesh, and
with the other he plunged his knife into its heart.
The jaguar fell. The stranger kicked away the body, and was about to fly
at the moment when the settlers arrived on the field of battle, but
Herbert, clinging to him, cried,--
"No, no! you shall not go!"
Harding advanced towards the stranger, who frowned when he saw him
approaching. The blood flowed from his shoulder under his torn shirt, but
he took no notice of it.
"My friend," said Cyrus Harding, "we have just contracted a debt of
gratitude to you. To save our boy you have risked your life!"
"My life!" murmured the stranger. "What is that worth? Less than
"You are wounded?"
"It is no matter."
"Will you give me your hand?"
And as Herbert endeavored to. seize the hand which had just saved him,
the stranger folded his arms, his chest heaved, his look darkened, and he
appeared to wish to escape, but making a violent effort over himself, and
in an abrupt tone,--
"Who are you?" he asked, "and what do you claim to be to me?"
It was the colonists' history which he thus demanded, and for the first
time. Perhaps this history recounted, he would tell his own.
In a few words Harding related all that had happened since their
departure from Richmond; how they had managed, and what resources they now
had at their disposal.
The stranger listened with extreme attention.
Then the engineer told who they all were, Gideon Spilett, Herbert,
Pencroft, Neb, himself, and, he added, that the greatest happiness they had
felt since their arrival in Lincoln Island was on the return of the vessel
from Tabor Island, when they had been able to include among them a new
At these words the stranger's face flushed, his head sunk on his breast,
and confusion was depicted on his countenance.
"And now that you know us," added Cyrus Harding, "will you give us your
"No," replied the, stranger in a hoarse voice; "no! You are honest men!
These last words justified the colonists' presentiment. There had been some
mournful past, perhaps expiated in the sight of men, but from which his
conscience had not yet absolved him. At any rate the guilty man felt
remorse, he repented, and his new friends would have cordially pressed the
hand which they sought; but he did not feel himself worthy to extend it to
honest men! However, after the scene with the jaguar, he did not return to
the forest, and from that day did not go beyond the enclosure of Granite
What was the mystery of his life? Would the stranger one day speak of it?
Time alone could show. At any rate, it was agreed that his secret should
never be asked from him, and that they would live with him as if they
For some days their life continued as before. Cyrus Harding and Gideon
Spilett worked together, sometimes chemists, sometimes experimentalists. The
reporter never left the engineer except to hunt with Herbert, for it would
not have been prudent to allow the lad to ramble alone in the forest; and
it was very necessary to be on their guard. As to Neb and Pencroft, one day
at the stables and poultry-yard, another at the corral, without reckoning
work in Granite House, they were never in want of employment.
The stranger worked alone, and he had resumed his usual life, never
appearing at meals, sleeping under the trees in the plateau, never mingling
with his companions. It really seemed as if the society of those who had
saved him was insupportable to him!
"But then," observed Pencroft, "why did he entreat the help of his
fellow-creatures? Why did he throw that paper into the sea?"
"He will tell us why," invariably replied Cyrus Harding.
"Perhaps sooner than you think, Pencroft."
And, indeed, the day of confession was near.
On the 10th of December, a week after his return to Granite House,
Harding saw the stranger approaching, who, in a calm voice and humble tone,
said to him: "Sir, I have a request to make of you."
"Speak," answered the engineer, "but first let me ask you a question."
At these words the stranger reddened, and was on the point of
withdrawing. Cyrus Harding understood what was passing in the mind of the
guilty man, who doubtless feared that the engineer would interrogate him on
his past life.
Harding held him back.
"Comrade," said he, "we are not only your companions but your friends. I
wish you to believe that, and now I will listen to you."
The stranger pressed his hand over his eyes. He was seized with a sort of
trembling, and remained a few moments without being able to articulate a
"Sir," said he at last, "I have come to beg you to grant me a favor."
"What is it?"
"You have, four or five miles from here, a corral for your domesticated
animals. These animals need to be taken care of. Will you allow me to live
there with them?"
Cyrus Harding gazed at the unfortunate man for a few moments with a
feeling of deep commiseration; then,--
"My friend," said he, "the corral has only stables hardly fit for
"It will be good enough for me, sir."
"My friend," answered Harding, "we will not constrain you in anything.
You wish to live at the corral, so be it. You will, however, be always
welcome at Granite House. But since you wish to live at the corral we will
make the necessary arrangements for your being comfortably established
"Never mind that, I shall do very well."
"My friend," answered Harding, who always intentionally made use of this
cordial appellation, "you must let us judge what it will be best to do in
"Thank you, sir," replied the stranger as he withdrew.
The engineer then made known to his companions the proposal which had
been made to him, and it was agreed that they should build a wooden house
at the corral, which they would make as comfortable as possible.
That very day the colonists repaired to the corral with the necessary
tools, and a week had not passed before the house was ready to receive its
tenant. It was built about twenty feet from the sheds, and from there it
was easy to overlook the flock of sheep, which then numbered more than
eighty. Some furniture, a bed, table, bench, cupboard, and chest were
manufactured, and a gun, ammunition, and tools were carried to the corral.
The stranger, however, had seen nothing of his new dwelling, and he had
allowed the settlers to work there without him, while he occupied himself
on the plateau, wishing, doubtless, to put the finishing stroke to his
work. Indeed, thanks to him, all the ground was dug up and ready to he
sowed when the time came.
It was on the 20th of December that all the arrangements at the corral
were completed. The engineer announced to the stranger that his dwelling
was ready to receive him, and the latter replied that he would go and sleep
there that very evening.
On this evening the colonists were gathered in the diningroom of Granite
House. It was then eight o'clock, the hour at which their companion was to
leave them. Not wishing to trouble him by their presence, and thus imposing
on him the necessity of saying farewells which might perhaps be painful to
him, they had left him alone and ascended to Granite House.
Now, they had been talking in the room for a few minutes, when a light
knock was heard at the door. Almost immediately the stranger entered, and
without any preamble,--
"Gentlemen," said he, "before I leave you, it is right that you should
know my history. I will tell it you."
These simple words profoundly impressed Cyrus Harding and his companions.
The engineer rose.
"We ask you nothing, my friend," said he; "it is your right to be
"It is my duty to speak."
"Sit down, then."
"No, I will stand."
"We are ready to hear you," replied Harding.
The stranger remained standing in a corner of the room, a little in the
shade. He was bareheaded, his arms folded across his chest, and it was in
this posture that in a hoarse voice, speaking like some one who obliges
himself to speak, he gave the following recital, which his auditors did not
"On the 20th of December, 1854, a steam-yacht, belonging to a Scotch
nobleman, Lord Glenarvan, anchored off Cape Bernouilli, on the western
coast of Australia, in the thirty-seventh parallel. On board this yacht
were Lord Glenarvan and his wife, a major in the English army, a French
geographer, a young girl, and a young boy. These two last were the children
of Captain Grant, whose ship, the 'Britannia,' had been lost, crew and
cargo, a year before. The 'Duncan' was commanded by Captain John Mangles,
and manned by a crew of fifteen men.
"This is the reason the yacht at this time lay off the coast of
Australia. Six months before, a bottle, enclosing a document written in
English, German, and French, had been found in the Irish Sea, and picked up
by the 'Duncan.' This document stated in substance that there still existed
three survivors from the wreck of the 'Britannia,' that these survivors
were Captain Grant and two of his men, and that they had found refuge on
some land, of which the document gave the latitude, but of which the
longitude, effaced by the sea, was no longer legible.
"This latitude was 37deg 11' south; therefore, the longitude being unknown,
if they followed the thirty-seventh parallel over continents and seas, they
would be certain to reach the spot inhabited by Captain Grant and his two
companions. The English Admiralty having hesitated to undertake this
search, Lord Glenarvan resolved to attempt everything to find the captain.
He communicated with Mary and Robert Grant, who joined him. The 'Duncan'
yacht was equipped for the distant voyage, in which the nobleman's family
and the captain's children wished to take part, and the 'Duncan,' leaving
Glasgow, proceeded towards the Atlantic, passed through the Straits of
Magellan, and ascended the Pacific as far as Patagonia, where, according to
a previous interpretation of the document, they supposed that Captain Grant
was a prisoner among the Indians.
"The 'Duncan' disembarked her passengers on the western coast of
Patagonia, and sailed to pick them up again on the eastern coast at Cape
Corrientes. Lord Glenarvan traversed Patagonia, following the thirty-
seventh parallel, and having found no trace of the captain, he re-embarked
on the 13th of November, so as to pursue his search through the Ocean.
"After having unsuccessfully visited the islands of Tristan d'Acunha and
Amsterdam, situated in her course, the 'Duncan,' as I have said, arrived at
Cape Bernouilli, on the Australian coast, on the 20th of December, 1854.
"It was Lord Glenarvan's intention to traverse Australia as he had
traversed America, and he disembarked. A few miles from the coast was
established a farm, belonging to an Irishman, who offered hospitality to
the travelers. Lord Glenarvan made known to the Irishman the cause which
had brought him to these parts, and asked if he knew whether a three-masted
English vessel, the 'Britannia,' had been lost less than two years before
on the west coast of Australia.
"The Irishman had never heard of this wreck, but, to the great surprise
of the bystanders, one of his servants came forward and said,--
"'My lord, praise and thank God! If Captain Grant is still living, he is
living on the Australian shores.'
"'Who are you?' asked Lord Glenarvan.
"'A Scotchman like yourself, my lord,' replied the man; 'I am one of
Captain Grant's crew--one of the castaways of the "Britannia."'
"This man was called Ayrton. He was, in fact, the boatswain's mate of the
'Britannia,' as his papers showed. But, separated from Captain Grant at the
moment when the ship struck upon the rocks, he had till then believed that
the captain with all his crew had perished, and that he, Ayrton, was the
sole survivor of the 'Britannia.'
"'Only,' he added, 'it was not on the west coast, but on the east coast
of Australia that the vessel was lost, and if Captain Grant is still
living, as his document indicates, he is a prisoner among the natives, and
it is on the other coast that he must be looked for.'
"This man spoke in a frank voice and with a confident look; his words
could not be doubted. The irishman, in whose service he had been for more
than a year, answered for his trustworthiness. Lord Glenarvan, therefore,
believed in the fidelity of this man and, by his advice, resolved to cross
Australia, following the thirty-seventh parallel. Lord Glenarvan, his wife,
the two children, the major, the Frenchman, Captain Mangles, and a few
sailors composed the little band under the command of Ayrton, while the
'Duncan,' under charge of the mate, Tom Austin, proceeded to Melbourne,
there to await Lord Glenarvan's instructions.
"They set out on the 23rd of December, 1854.
"It is time to say that Ayrton was a traitor. He was, indeed, the
boatswain's mate of the 'Britannia,' but, after some dispute with his
captain, he endeavored to incite the crew to mutiny and seize the ship, and
Captain Grant had landed him, on the 8th of April, 1852, on the west coast
of Australia, and then sailed, leaving him there, as was only just.
"Therefore this wretched man knew nothing of the wreck of the
'Britannia'; he had just heard of it from Glenarvan's account. Since his
abandonment, he had become, under the name of Ben Joyce, the leader of the
escaped convicts; and if he boldly maintained that the wreck had taken
place on the east coast, and led Lord Glenarvan to proceed in that
direction, it was that he hoped to separate him from his ship, seize the
'Duncan,' and make the yacht a pirate in the Pacific."
Here the stranger stopped for a moment. His voice trembled, but he
"The expedition set out and proceeded across Australia. It was inevitably
unfortunate, since Ayrton, or Ben Joyce, as he may be called, guided it,
sometimes preceded, sometimes followed by his band of convicts, who had
been told what they had to do.
"Meanwhile, the 'Duncan' had been sent to Melbourne for repairs. It was
necessary, then, to get Lord Glenarvan to order her to leave Melbourne and
go to the east coast of Australia, where it would be easy to seize her.
After having led the expedition near enough to the coast, in the midst of
vast forests with no resources, Ayrton obtained a letter, which he was
charged to carry to the mate of the 'Duncan'--a letter which ordered the
yacht to repair immediately to the east coast, to Twofold Bay, that is to
say a few days' journey from the place where the expedition had stopped. It
was there that Ayrton had agreed to meet his accomplices, and two days
after gaining possession of the letter, he arrived at Melbourne.
"So far the villain had succeeded in his wicked design. He would be able
to take the 'Duncan' into Twofold Bay, where it would be easy for the
convicts to seize her, and her crew massacred, Ben Joyce would become
master of the seas. But it pleased God to prevent the accomplishment of
these terrible projects.
"Ayrton, arrived at Melbourne, delivered the letter to the mate, Tom
Austin, who read it and immediately set sail, but judge of Ayrton's rage
and disappointment, when the next day he found that the mate was taking the
vessel, not to the east coast of Australia, to Twofold Bay, but to the east
coast of New Zealand. He wished to stop him, but Austin showed him the
letter!... And indeed, by a providential error of the French geographer,
who had written the letter, the east coast of New Zealand was mentioned as
the place of destination.
"All Ayrton's plans were frustrated! He became outrageous. They put him
in irons. He was then taken to the coast of New Zealand, not knowing what
would become of his accomplices, or what would become of Lord Glenarvan.
"The 'Duncan' cruised about on this coast until the 3rd of March. On that
day Ayrton heard the report of guns. The guns on the 'Duncan' were being
fired, and soon Lord Glenarvan and his companions came on board.
"This is what had happened.
"After a thousand hardships, a thousand dangers, Lord Glenarvan had
accomplished his journey, and arrived on the east coast of Australia, at
Twofold Bay. 'Not "Duncan!"' He telegraphed to Melbourne. They answered,
'"Duncan" sailed on the 18th instant. Destination unknown.'
"Lord Glenarvan could only arrive at one conclusion; that his honest
yacht had fallen into the hands of Ben Joyce, and had become a pirate
"However, Lord Glenarvan would not give up. He was a bold and generous
man. He embarked in a merchant vessel, sailed to the west coast of New
Zealand, traversed it along the thirty-seventh parallel, without finding
any trace of Captain Grant; but on the other side, to his great surprise,
and by the will of Heaven, he found the 'Duncan,' under command of the
mate, who had been waiting for him for five weeks!
"This was on the 3rd of March, 1855. Lord Glenarvan was now on board the
'Duncan,' but Ayrton was there also. He appeared before the nobleman, who
wished to extract from him all that the villain knew about Captain Grant.
Ayrton refused to speak. Lord Glenarvan then told him, that at the first
port they put into, he would be delivered up to the English authorities.
Ayrton remained mute.
"The 'Duncan' continued her voyage along the thirty-seventh parallel. In
the meanwhile, Lady Glenarvan undertook to vanquish the resistance of the
"At last, her influence prevailed, and Ayrton, in exchange for what he
could tell, proposed that Lord Glenarvan should leave him on some island in
the Pacific, instead of giving him up to the English authorities. Lord
Glenarvan, resolving to do anything to obtain information about Captain
"Ayrton then related all his life, and it was certain that he knew
nothing from the day on which Captain Grant had landed him on the
"Nevertheless, Lord Glenarvan kept the promise which he had given. The
'Duncan' continued her voyage and arrived at Tabor Island. It was there
that Ayrton was to be landed, and it was there also that, by a veritable
miracle, they found Captain Grant and two men, exactly on the thirty-
"The convict, then, went to take their place on this desert islet, and at
the moment he left the yacht these words were pronounced by Lord
"'Here, Ayrton, you will be far from any land, and without any possible
communication with your fellow-creatures. You can-not escape from this
islet on which the 'Duncan' leaves you. You will be alone, under the eye of
a God who reads the depths of the heart, but you will be neither lost nor
forgotten, as was Captain Grant. Unworthy as you are to be remembered by
men, men will remember you. I know where you are Ayrton, and I know where
to find you. I will never forget it!
"And the 'Duncan,' making sail, soon disappeared. This was 18th of March,
(The events which have just been briefly related are taken from a
work which some of our readers have no doubt read, and which is
entitled, "Captain Grant's children." They will remark on this
occasion, as well as later, some discrepancy in the dates; but
later again, they will understand why the real dates were not at
"Ayrton was alone, but he had no want of either ammunition, weapons,
tools, or seeds.
"At his, the convict's disposal, was the house built by honest Captain
Grant. He had only to live and expiate in solitude the crimes which he had
"Gentlemen, he repented, he was ashamed of his crimes and was very
miserable! He said to himself, that if men came some day to take him from
that islet, he must be worthy to return among them! How he suffered, that
wretched man! How he labored to recover himself by work! How he prayed to
be reformed by prayer! For two years, three years, this went on, but
Ayrton, humbled by solitude, always looking for some ship to appear on the
horizon, asking himself if the time of expiation would soon be complete,
suffered as none other suffered! Oh! how dreadful was this solitude, to a
heart tormented by remorse!
"But doubtless Heaven had not sufficiently punished this unhappy man, for
he felt that he was gradually becoming a savage! He felt that brutishness
was gradually gaining on him!
"He could not say if it was after two or three years of solitude, but at
last he became the miserable creature you found!
"I have no need to tell you, gentlemen, that Ayrton, Ben Joyce, and I,
are the same."
Cyrus Harding and his companions rose at the end of this account. It is
impossible to say how much they were moved! What misery, grief, and despair
lay revealed before them!
"Ayrton," said Harding, rising, "you have been a great criminal, but
Heaven must certainly think that you have expiated your crimes! That has
been proved by your having been brought again among your fellow-creatures.
Ayrton, you are forgiven! And now you will be our companion?"
Ayrton drew back.
"Here is my hand!" said the engineer.
Ayrton grasped the hand which Harding extended to him, and great tears
fell from his eyes.
"Will you live with us?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Captain Harding, leave me some time longer," replied Ayrton, "leave me
alone in the hut in the corral!"
"As you like, Ayrton," answered Cyrus Harding. Ayrton was going to
withdraw, when the engineer addressed one more question to him:--
"One word more, my friend. Since it was your intention to live alone, why
did you throw into the sea the document which put us on your track?"
"A document?" repeated Ayrton, who did not appear to know what he meant.
"Yes, the document which we found enclosed in a bottle, giving us the
exact position of Tabor Island!"
Ayrton passed his hand over his brow, then after having thought, "I never
threw any document into the sea!" he answered.
"Never?" exclaimed Pencroft.
And Ayrton, bowing, reached the door and departed.