Part 6 out of 12
"Because they have not long ears, and their shape is more graceful!"
"Donkeys or horses," interrupted Pencroft, "they are 'moving powers,' as
the captain would say, and as such must be captured!"
The sailor, without frightening the animals, crept through the grass to
the bridge over Creek Glycerine, lowered it, and the onagers were
Now, should they seize them with violence and master them by force? No.
It was decided that for a few days they should be allowed to roam freely
about the plateau, where there was an abundance of grass, and the engineer
immediately began to prepare a stable near the poultry-yard, in which the
onagers might find food, with a good litter, and shelter during the night.
This done, the movements of the two magnificent creatures were left
entirely free, and the settlers avoided even approaching them so as to
terrify them. Several times, however, the onagers appeared to wish to leave
the plateau, too confined for animals accustomed to the plains and forests.
They were then seen following the water-barrier which everywhere presented
itself before them, uttering short neighs, then galloping through the
grass, and becoming calmer, they would remain entire hours gazing at the
woods, from which they were cut off for ever!
In the meantime harness of vegetable fiber had been manufactured, and
some days after the capture of the onagers, not only the cart was ready,
but a straight road, or rather a cutting, had been made through the forests
of the Far West, from the angle of the Mercy to Port Balloon. The cart
might then be driven there, and towards the end of December they tried the
onagers for the first time.
Pencroft had already coaxed the animals to come and eat out of his hand,
and they allowed him to approach without making any difficulty, but once
harnessed they reared and could with difficulty be held in. However, it was
not long before they submitted to this new service, for the onager, being
less refractory than the zebra, is frequently put in harness in the
mountainous regions of Southern Africa, and it has even been acclimatized
in Europe, under zones of a relative coolness.
On this day all the colony, except Pencroft who walked at the animals'
heads, mounted the cart, and set out on the road to Port Balloon.
Of course they were jolted over the somewhat rough road, but the vehicle
arrived without any accident, and was soon loaded with the case and rigging
of the balloon.
At eight o'clock that evening the cart, after passing over the Mercy
bridge, descended the left bank of the river, and stopped on the beach. The
onagers being unharnessed, were thence led to their stable, and Pencroft
before going to sleep gave vent to his feelings in a deep sigh of
satisfaction that awoke all the echoes of Granite House.
The first week of January was devoted to the manufacture of the linen
garments required by the colony. The needles found in the box were used by
sturdy if not delicate fingers, and we may be sure that what was sewn was
There was no lack of thread, thanks to Cyrus Harding's idea of re-
employing that which had been already used in the covering of the balloon.
This with admirable patience was all unpicked by Gideon Spilett and
Herbert, for Pencroft had been obliged to give this work up, as it
irritated him beyond measure; but he had no equal in the sewing part of the
business. Indeed, everybody knows that sailors have a remarkable aptitude
The cloth of which the balloon-case was made was then cleaned by means of
soda and potash, obtained by the incineration of plants, in such a way that
the cotton, having got rid of the varnish, resumed its natural softness and
elasticity; then, exposed to the action of the atmosphere, it soon became
perfectly white. Some dozen shirts and sock--the latter not knitted, of
course, but made of cotton--were thus manufactured. What a comfort it was
to the settlers to clothe themselves again in clean linen, which was
doubtless rather rough, but they were not troubled about that! and then to
go to sleep between sheets, which made the couches at Granite House into
quite comfortable beds!
It was about this time also that they made boots of seal-leather, which
were greatly needed to replace the shoes and boots brought from America. We
may be sure that these new shoes were large enough and never pinched the
feet of the wearers.
With the beginning of the year 1866 the heat was very great, but the
hunting in the forests did not stand still. Agouties, peccaries, capybaras,
kangaroos, game of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and Spilett and
Herbert were too good marksmen ever to throw away their shot uselessly.
Cyrus Harding still recommended them to husband the ammunition, and he
took measures to replace the powder and shot which had been found in the
box, and which he wished to reserve for the future. How did he know where
chance might one day cast his companions and himself in the event of their
leaving their domain? They should, then, prepare for the unknown future by
husbanding their ammunition and by substituting for it some easily
To replace lead, of which Harding had found no traces in the island, he
employed granulated iron, which was easy to manufacture. These bullets, not
having the weight of leaden bullets, were made larger, and each charge
contained less, but the skill of the sportsmen made up this deficiency. As
to powder, Cyrus Harding would have been able to make that also, for he had
at his disposal saltpeter, sulphur, and coal; but this preparation requires
extreme care, and without special tools it is difficult to produce it of a
good quality. Harding preferred, therefore, to manufacture pyroxyle, that
is to say gun-cotton, a substance in which cotton is not indispensable, as
the elementary tissue of vegetables may be used, and this is found in an
almost pure state, not only in cotton, but in the textile fiber of hemp and
flax, in paper, the pith of the elder, etc. Now, the elder abounded in the
island towards the mouth of Red Creek, and the colonists had already made
coffee of the berries of these shrubs, which belong to the family of the
The only thing to be collected, therefore, was elder-pith, for as to the
other substance necessary for the manufacture of pyroxyle, it was only
fuming azotic acid. Now, Harding having sulphuric acid at his disposal, had
already been easily able to produce azotic acid by attacking the saltpeter
with which nature supplied him. He accordingly resolved to manufacture and
employ pyroxyle, although it has some inconveniences, that is to say, a
great inequality of effect, an excessive inflammability, since it takes
fire at one hundred and seventy degrees instead of two hundred and forty,
and lastly, an instantaneous deflagration which might damage the firearms.
On the other hand, the advantages of pyroxyle consist in this, that it is
not injured by damp, that it does not make the gun-barrels dirty, and that
its force is four times that of ordinary powder.
To make pyroxyle, the cotton must be immersed in the fuming azotic acid
for a quarter of an hour, then washed in cold water and dried. Nothing
could be more simple.
Cyrus Harding had only at his disposal the ordinary azotic acid and not
the fuming or monohydrate azotic acid, that is to say, acid which emits
white vapors when it comes in contact with damp air; but by substituting
for the latter ordinary azotic acid, mixed, in the proportion of from three
to five volumes of concentrated sulphuric acid, the engineer obtained the
same result. The sportsmen of the island therefore soon had a perfectly
prepared substance, which, employed discreetly, produced admirable results.
About this time the settlers cleared three acres of the plateau, and the
rest was preserved in a wild state, for the benefit of the onagers. Several
excursions were made into the Jacamar Wood and the forests of the Far West,
and they brought back from thence a large collection of wild vegetables,
spinach, cress, radishes, and turnips, which careful culture would soon
improve, and which would temper the regimen on which the settlers had till
then subsisted. Supplies of wood and coal were also carted. Each excursion
was at the same time a means of improving the roads, which gradually became
smoother under the wheels of the cart.
The rabbit-warren still continued to supply the larder of Granite House.
As fortunately it was situated on the other side of Creek Glycerine, its
inhabitants could not reach the plateau nor ravage the newly-made
plantation. The oyster-bed among the rocks was frequently renewed and
furnished excellent molluscs. Besides that, the fishing, either in the lake
or the Mercy, was very profitable, for Pencroft had made some lines, armed
with iron hooks, with which they frequently caught fine trout, and a
species of fish whose silvery sides were speckled with yellow, and which
were also extremely savory. Master Neb, who was skilled in the culinary
art, knew how to vary agreeably the bill of fare. Bread alone was wanting
at the table of the settlers, and as has been said, they felt this
The settlers hunted too the turtles which frequented the shores of Cape
Mandible. At this place the beach was covered with little mounds,
concealing perfectly spherical turtles' eggs, with white hard shells, the
albumen of which does not coagulate as that of birds' eggs. They were
hatched by the sun, and their number was naturally considerable, as each
turtle can lay annually two hundred and fifty.
"A regular egg-field," observed Gideon Spilett, "and we have nothing to
do but to pick them up."
But not being contented with simply the produce, they made chase after
the producers, the result of which was that they were able to bring back to
Granite House a dozen of these chelonians, which were really valuable from
an alimentary point of view. The turtle soup, flavored with aromatic herbs,
often gained well-merited praises for its preparer, Neb.
We must here mention another fortunate circumstance by which new stores
for the winter were laid in. Shoals of salmon entered the Mercy, and
ascended the country for several miles. It was the time at which the
females, going to find suitable places in which to spawn, precede the males
and make a great noise through the fresh water. A thousand of these fish,
which measured about two feet and a half in length, came up the river, and
a large quantity were retained by fixing dams across the stream. More than
a hundred were thus taken, which were salted and stored for the time when
winter, freezing up the streams, would render fishing impracticable. By
this time the intelligent Jup was raised to the duty of valet. He had been
dressed in a jacket, white linen breeches, and an apron, the pockets of
which were his delight. The clever orang had been marvelously trained by
Neb, and any one would have said that the Negro and the ape understood each
other when they talked together. Jup had besides a real affection for Neb,
and Neb returned it. When his services were not required, either for
carrying wood or for climbing to the top of some tree, Jup passed the
greatest part of his time in the kitchen, where he endeavored to imitate
Neb in all that he saw him do. The black showed the greatest patience and
even extreme zeal in instructing his pupil, and the pupil exhibited
remarkable intelligence in profiting by the lessons he received from his
Judge then of the pleasure Master Jup gave to the inhabitants of Granite
House when, without their having had any idea of it, he appeared one day,
napkin on his arm, ready to wait at table. Quick, attentive, he acquitted
himself perfectly, changing the plates, bringing dishes, pouring out water,
all with a gravity which gave intense amusement to the settlers, and which
"Jup, some soup!"
"Jup, a little agouti!"
"Jup, a plate!"
"Jup! Good Jup! Honest Jup!"
Nothing was heard but that, and Jup without ever being disconcerted,
replied to every one, watched for everything, and he shook his head in a
knowing way when Pencroft, referring to his joke of the first day, said to
"Decidedly, Jup, your wages must be doubled."
It is useless to say that the orang was now thoroughly domesticated at
Granite House, and that he often accompanied his masters to the forest
without showing any wish to leave them. It was most amusing to see him
walking with a stick which Pencroft had given him, and which he carried on
his shoulder like a gun. If they wished to gather some fruit from the
summit of a tree, how quickly he climbed for it. If the wheel of the cart
stuck in the mud, with what energy did Jup with a single heave of his
shoulder put it right again.
"What a jolly fellow he is!" cried Pencroft often. "If he was as
mischievous as he is good, there would be no doing anything with him!"
It was towards the end of January the colonists began their labors in the
center of the island. It had been decided that a corral should be
established near the sources of the Red Creek, at the foot of Mount
Franklin, destined to contain the ruminants, whose presence would have been
troublesome at Granite House, and especially for the musmons, who were to
supply the wool for the settlers' winter garments.
Each morning, the colony, sometimes entire, but more often represented
only by Harding, Herbert, and Pencroft, proceeded to the sources of the
Creek, a distance of not more than five miles, by the newly beaten road to
which the name of Corral Road had been given.
There a site was chosen, at the back of the southern ridge of the
mountain. It was a meadow land, dotted here and there with clumps of trees,
and watered by a little stream, which sprung from the slopes which closed
it in on one side. The grass was fresh, and it was not too much shaded by
the trees which grew about it. This meadow was to be surrounded by a
palisade, high enough to prevent even the most agile animals from leaping
over. This enclosure would be large enough to contain a hundred musmons and
wild goats, with all the young ones they might produce.
The perimeter of the corral was then traced by the engineer, and they
would then have proceeded to fell the trees necessary for the construction
of the palisade, but as the opening up of the road had already necessitated
the sacrifice of a considerable number, those were brought and supplied a
hundred stakes, which were firmly fixed in the ground.
The construction of this corral did not take less than three weeks, for
besides the palisade, Cyrus Harding built large sheds, in which the animals
could take shelter. These buildings had also to be made very strong, for
musmons are powerful animals, and their first fury was to be feared. The
stakes, sharpened at their upper end and hardened by fire, had been fixed
by means of cross-bars, and at regular distances props assured the solidity
of the whole.
The corral finished, a raid had to be made on the pastures frequented by
the ruminants. This was done on the 7th of February, on a beautiful
summer's day, and every one took part in it. The onagers, already well
trained, were ridden by Spilett and Herbert, and were of great use.
The maneuver consisted simply in surrounding the musmons and goats, and
gradually narrowing the circle around them. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, Neb,
and Jup, posted themselves in different parts of the wood, while the two
cavaliers and Top galloped in a radius of half a mile round the corral.
The musmons were very numerous in this part of the island. These fine
animals were as large as deer; their horns were stronger than those of the
ram, and their gray-colored fleece was mixed with long hair.
This hunting day was very fatiguing. Such going and coming, and running
and riding and shouting! Of a hundred musmons which had been surrounded,
more than two-thirds escaped, but at last, thirty of these animals and ten
wild goats were gradually driven back towards the corral, the open door of
which appearing to offer a means of escape, they rushed in and were
In short, the result was satisfactory, and the settlers had no reason to
complain. There was no doubt that the flock would prosper, and that at no
distant time not only wool but hides would be abundant.
That evening the hunters returned to Granite House quite exhausted.
However, notwithstanding their fatigue, they returned the next day to visit
the corral. The prisoners had been trying to overthrow the palisade, but of
course had not succeeded, and were not long in becoming more tranquil.
During the month of February, no event of any importance occurred. The
daily labors were pursued methodically, and, as well as improving the roads
to the corral and to Port Balloon, a third was commenced, which, starting
from the enclosure, proceeded towards the western coast. The yet unknown
portion of Lincoln Island was that of the wood-covered Serpentine
Peninsula, which sheltered the wild beasts, from which Gideon Spilett was
so anxious to clear their domain.
Before the cold season should appear the most assiduous care was given to
the cultivation of the wild plants which had been transplanted from the
forest to Prospect Heights. Herbert never returned from an excursion
without bringing home some useful vegetable. One day, it was some specimens
of the chicory tribe, the seeds of which by pressure yield an excellent
oil; another, it was some common sorrel, whose antiscorbutic qualities were
not to be despised; then, some of those precious tubers, which have at all
times been cultivated in South America, potatoes, of which more than two
hundred species are now known. The kitchen garden, now well stocked and
carefully defended from the birds, was divided into small beds, where grew
lettuces, kidney potatoes, sorrel, turnips, radishes, and other coneiferae.
The soil on the plateau was particularly fertile, and it was hoped that the
harvests would be abundant.
They had also a variety of different beverages, and so long as they did
not demand wine, the most hard to please would have had no reason to
complain. To the Oswego tea, and the fermented liquor extracted from the
roots of the dragonnier, Harding had added a regular beer, made from the
young shoots of the spruce-fir, which, after having been boiled and
fermented, made that agreeable drink called by the Anglo-Americans spring-
Towards the end of the summer, the poultry-yard was possessed of a couple
of fine bustards, which belonged to the houbara species, characterized by a
sort of feathery mantle; a dozen shovelers, whose upper mandible was
prolonged on each side by a membraneous appendage; and also some
magnificent cocks, similar to the Mozambique cocks, the comb, caruncle, and
epidermis being black. So far, everything had succeeded, thanks to the
activity of these courageous and intelligent men. Nature did much for them,
doubtless; but faithful to the great precept, they made a right use of what
a bountiful Providence gave them.
After the heat of these warm summer days, in the evening when their work
was finished and the sea-breeze began to blow, they liked to sit on the
edge of Prospect Heights, in a sort of veranda, covered with creepers,
which Neb had made with his own hands. There they talked, they instructed
each other, they made plans, and the rough good-humor of the sailor always
amused this little world, in which the most perfect harmony had never
ceased to reign.
They often spoke of their country, of their dear and great America. What
was the result of the War of Secession? It could not have been greatly
prolonged. Richmond had doubtless soon fallen into the hands of General
Grant. The taking of the capital of the Confederates must have been the
last action of this terrible struggle. Now the North had triumphed in the
good cause, how welcome would have been a newspaper to the exiles in
Lincoln Island! For eleven months all communication between them and the
rest of their fellow-creatures had been interrupted, and in a short time
the 24th of March would arrive, the anniversary of the day on which the
balloon had thrown them on this unknown coast. They were then mere
castaways, not even knowing how they should preserve their miserable lives
from the fury of the elements! And now, thanks to the knowledge of their
captain, and their own intelligence, they were regular colonists, furnished
with arms, tools, and instruments; they had been able to turn to their
profit the animals, plants, and minerals of the island, that is to say, the
three kingdoms of Nature.
Yes; they often talked of all these things and formed still more plans.
As to Cyrus Harding he was for the most part silent, and listened to his
companions more often than he spoke to them. Sometimes he smiled at
Herbert's ideas or Pencroft's nonsense, but always and everywhere he
pondered over those inexplicable facts, that strange enigma, of which the
secret still escaped him!
The weather changed during the first week of March. There had been a full
moon at the commencement of the month, and the heat was excessive. The
atmosphere was felt to be full of electricity, and a period of some length
of tempestuous weather was to be feared.
Indeed, on the 2nd, peals of thunder were heard, the wind blew from the
east, and hail rattled against the facade of Granite House like volleys of
grape-shot. The door and windows were immediately closed, or everything in
the rooms would have been drenched. On seeing these hailstones, some of
which were the size of a pigeon's egg, Pencroft's first thought was that
his cornfield was in serious danger.
He directly rushed to his field, where little green heads were already
appearing, and by means of a great cloth, he managed to protect his crop.
This bad weather lasted a week, during which time the thunder rolled
without cessation in the depths of the sky.
The colonists, not having any pressing work out of doors, profited by the
bad weather to work at the interior of Granite House, the arrangement of
which was becoming more complete from day to day. The engineer made a
turning-lathe, with which he turned several articles both for the toilet
and the kitchen, particularly buttons, the want of which was greatly felt.
A gunrack had been made for the firearms, which were kept with extreme
care, and neither tables nor cupboards were left incomplete. They sawed,
they planed, they filed, they turned; and during the whole of this bad
season, nothing was heard but the grinding of tools or the humming of the
turning-lathe which responded to the growling of the thunder.
Master Jup had not been forgotten, and he occupied a room at the back,
near the storeroom, a sort of cabin with a cot always full of good litter,
which perfectly suited his taste.
"With good old Jup there is never any quarreling," often repeated
Pencroft, "never any improper reply. What a servant, Neb, what a servant!"
Of course Jup was now well used to service. He brushed their clothes, he
turned the spit, he waited at table, he swept the rooms, he gathered wood,
and he performed another admirable piece of service which delighted
Pencroft--he never went to sleep without first coming to tuck up the worthy
sailor in his bed.
As to the health of the members of the colony, bipeds or bimana,
quadrumana or quadrupeds, it left nothing to be desired. With their life in
the open air, on this salubrious soil, under that temperate zone, working
both with head and hands, they could not suppose that illness would ever
All were indeed wonderfully well. Herbert had already grown two inches in
the year. His figure was forming and becoming more manly, and he promised
to be an accomplished man, physically as well as morally. Besides he
improved himself during the leisure hours which manual occupations left to
him; he read the books found in the case; and after the practical lessons
which were taught by the very necessity of their position, he found in the
engineer for science, and the reporter for languages, masters who were
delighted to complete his education.
The tempest ended about the 9th of March, but the sky remained covered
with clouds during the whole of this last summer month. The atmosphere,
violently agitated by the electric commotions, could not recover its former
purity, and there was almost invariably rain and fog, except for three or
four fine days on which several excursions were made. About this time the
female onager gave birth to a young one which belonged to the same sex as
its mother, and which throve capitally. In the corral, the flock of musmons
had also increased, and several lambs already bleated in the sheds, to the
great delight of Neb and Herbert, who had each their favorite among these
newcomers. An attempt was also made for the domestication of the peccaries,
which succeeded well. A sty was constructed under the poultry-yard, and
soon contained several young ones in the way to become civilized, that is
to say, to become fat under Neb's care. Master Jup, entrusted with carrying
them their daily nourishment, leavings from the kitchen, etc., acquitted
himself conscientiously of his task. He sometimes amused himself at the
expense of his little pensioners by tweaking their tails; but this was
mischief, and not wickedness, for these little twisted tails amused him
like a plaything, and his instinct was that of a child. One day in this
month of March, Pencroft, talking to the engineer, reminded Cyrus Harding
of a promise which the latter had not as yet had time to fulfil.
"You once spoke of an apparatus which would take the place of the long
ladders at Granite House, captain," said he; "won't you make it some day?"
"Nothing will be easier; but is this a really useful thing?"
"Certainly, captain. After we have given ourselves necessaries, let us
think a little of luxury. For us it may be luxury, if you like, but for
things it is necessary. It isn't very convenient to climb up a long ladder
when one is heavily loaded."
"Well, Pencroft, we will try to please you," replied Cyrus Harding.
"But you have no machine at your disposal."
"We will make one."
"A steam machine?"
"No, a water machine."
And, indeed, to work his apparatus there was already a natural force at
the disposal of the engineer which could be used without great difficulty.
For this, it was enough to augment the flow of the little stream which
supplied the interior of Granite House with water. The opening among the
stones and grass was then increased, thus producing a strong fall at the
bottom of the passage, the overflow from which escaped by the inner well.
Below this fall the engineer fixed a cylinder with paddles, which was
joined on the exterior with a strong cable rolled on a wheel, supporting a
basket. In this way, by means of a long rope reaching to the ground, which
enabled them to regulate the motive power, they could rise in the basket to
the door of Granite House.
It was on the 17th of March that the lift acted for the first time, and
gave universal satisfaction. Henceforward all the loads, wood, coal,
provisions, and even the settlers themselves, were hoisted by this simple
system, which replaced the primitive ladder, and, as may be supposed, no
one thought of regretting the change. Top particularly was enchanted with
this improvement, for he had not, and never could have possessed Master
Jup's skill in climbing ladders, and often it was on Neb's back, or even on
that of the orang that he had been obliged to make the ascent to Granite
House. About this time, too, Cyrus Harding attempted to manufacture glass,
and he at first put the old pottery-kiln to this new use. There were some
difficulties to be encountered; but, after several fruitless attempts, he
succeeded in setting up a glass manufactory, which Gideon Spilett and
Herbert, his usual assistants, did not leave for several days. As to the
substances used in the composition of glass, they are simply sand, chalk,
and soda, either carbonate or sulphate. Now the beach supplied sand, lime
supplied chalk, sea-weeds supplied soda, pyrites supplied sulphuric acid,
and the ground supplied coal to heat the kiln to the wished-for
temperature. Cyrus Harding thus soon had everything ready for setting to
The tool, the manufacture of which presented the most difficulty, was the
pipe of the glass-maker, an iron tube, five or six feet long, which
collects on one end the material in a state of fusion. But by means of a
long, thin piece of iron rolled up like the barrel of a gun, Pencroft
succeeded in making a tube soon ready for use.
On the 28th of March the tube was heated. A hundred parts of sand,
thirty-five of chalk, forty of sulphate of soda, mixed with two or three
parts of powdered coal, composed the substance, which was placed in
crucibles. When the high temperature of the oven had reduced it to a
liquid, or rather a pasty state, Cyrus Harding collected with the tube a
quantity of the paste: he turned it about on a metal plate, previously
arranged, so as to give it a form suitable for blowing, then he passed the
tube to Herbert, telling him to blow at the other extremity.
And Herbert, swelling out his cheeks, blew so much and so well into the
tube-taking care to twirl it round at the same time--that his breath
dilated the glassy mass. Other quantities of the substance in a state of
fusion were added to the first, and in a short time the result was a bubble
which measured a foot in diameter. Harding then took the tube out of
Herbert's hands, and, giving it a pendulous motion, he ended by lengthening
the malleable bubble so as to give it a cylindroconic shape.
The blowing operation had given a cylinder of glass terminated by two
hemispheric caps, which were easily detached by means of a sharp iron
dipped in cold water; then, by the same proceeding, this cylinder was cut
lengthways, and after having been rendered malleable by a second heating,
it was extended on a plate and spread out with a wooden roller.
The first pane was thus manufactured, and they had only to perform this
operation fifty times to have fifty panes. The windows at Granite House
were soon furnished with panes; not very white, perhaps, but still
As to bottles and tumblers, that was only play. They were satisfied with
them, besides, just as they came from the end of the tube. Pencroft had
asked to be allowed to "blow" in his turn, and it was great fun for him;
but he blew so hard that his productions took the most ridiculous shapes,
which he admired immensely.
Cyrus Harding and Herbert, while hunting one day, had entered the forest
of the Far West, on the left bank of the Mercy, and, as usual, the lad was
asking a thousand questions of the engineer, who answered them heartily.
Now, as Harding was not a sportsman, and as, on the other side, Herbert was
talking chemistry and natural philosophy, numbers of kangaroos, capybaras,
and agouties came within range, which, however, escaped the lad's gun; the
consequence was that the day was already advanced, and the two hunters were
in danger of having made a useless excursion, when Herbert, stopping, and
uttering a cry of joy, exclaimed,--
"Oh, Captain Harding, do you see that tree?" and he pointed to a shrub,
rather than a tree, for it was composed of a single stem, covered with a
scaly bark, which bore leaves streaked with little parallel veins.
"And what is this tree which resembles a little palm?" asked Harding.
"It is a 'cycas revoluta,' of which I have a picture in our dictionary of
Natural History!" said Herbert.
"But I can't see any fruit on this shrub!" observed his companion.
"No, captain," replied Herbert; "but its stem contains a flour with which
nature has provided us all ready ground."
"It is, then, the bread-tree?"
"Yes, the bread-tree."
"Well, my boy," replied the engineer, "this is a valuable discovery,
since our wheat harvest is not yet ripe; I hope that you are not mistaken!"
Herbert was not mistaken: he broke the stem of a cycas, which was
composed of a glandulous tissue, containing a quantity of floury pith,
traversed with woody fiber, separated by rings of the same substance,
arranged concentrically. With this fecula was mingled a mucilaginous juice
of disagreeable flavor, but which it would be easy to get rid of by
pressure. This cellular substance was regular flour of a superior quality,
extremely nourishing; its exportation was formerly forbidden by the
Cyrus Harding and Herbert, after having examined that part of the Far
West where the cycas grew, took their bearings, and returned to Granite
House, where they made known their discovery.
The next day the settlers went to collect some, and returned to Granite
House with an ample supply of cycas stems. The engineer constructed a
press, with which to extract the mucilaginous juice mingled with the
fecula, and he obtained a large quantity of flour, which Neb soon
transformed into cakes and puddings. This was not quite real wheaten bread,
but it was very like it.
Now, too, the onager, the goats, and the sheep in the corral furnished
daily the milk necessary to the colony. The cart, or rather a sort of light
carriole which had replaced it, made frequent journeys to the corral, and
when it was Pencroft's turn to go he took Jup, and let him drive, and Jup,
cracking his whip, acquitted himself with his customary intelligence.
Everything prospered, as well in the corral as in Granite House, and
certainly the settlers, if it had not been that they were so far from their
native land, had no reason to complain. They were so well suited to this
life, and were, besides, so accustomed to the island, that they could not
have left its hospitable soil without regret!
And yet so deeply is the love of his country implanted in the heart of
man, that if a ship had unexpectedly come in sight of the island, the
colonists would have made signals, would have attracted her attention, and
would have departed!
It was the 1st of April, a Sunday, Easter Day, which Harding and his
companions sanctified by rest and prayer. The day was fine, such as an
October day in the Northern Hemisphere might be.
All, towards the evening after dinner, were seated under the veranda on
the edge of Prospect Heights, and they were watching the darkness creeping
up from the horizon. Some cups of the infusion of elder-berries, which took
the place of coffee, had been served by Neb. They were speaking of the
island and of its isolated situation in the Pacific, which led Gideon
Spilett to say,--
"My dear Cyrus, have you ever, since you possessed the sextant found in
the case, again taken the position of our island?"
"No," replied the engineer.
"But it would perhaps be a good thing to do it with this instrument,
which is more perfect than that which you before used."
"What is the good?" said Pencroft. "The island is quite comfortable where
"Well, who knows," returned the reporter, "who knows but that we may be
much nearer inhabited land than we think?"
"We shall know to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "and if it had not been
for the occupations which left me no leisure, we should have known it
"Good!" said Pencroft. "The captain is too good an observer to be
mistaken, and, if it has not moved from its place, the island is just where
he put it."
"We shall see."
On the next day, therefore, by means of the sextant, the engineer made
the necessary observations to verify the position which he had already
obtained, and this was the result of his operation. His first observation
had given him the situation of Lincoln Island,--
In west longitude: from 1500 to 1550;
In south latitude: from 300 to 350
The second gave exactly:
In longitude: 1500 30'
In south latitude: 340 57'
So then, notwithstanding the imperfection of his apparatus, Cyrus Harding
had operated with so much skill that his error did not exceed five degrees.
"Now," said Gideon Spilett, "since we possess an atlas as well as a
sextant, let us see, my dear Cyrus, the exact position which Lincoln Island
occupies in the Pacific."
Herbert fetched the atlas, and the map of the Pacific was opened, and the
engineer, compass in hand, prepared to determine their position.
Suddenly the compasses stopped, and he exclaimed,
"But an island exists in this part of the Pacific already!"
"An island?" cried Pencroft.
"An important island?"
"No, an islet lost in the Pacific, and which perhaps has never been
"Well, we will visit it," said Pencroft.
"Yes, captain. We will build a decked boat, and I will undertake to steer
her. At what distance are we from this Tabor Island?"
"About a hundred and fifty miles to the northeast," replied Harding.
"A hundred and fifty miles! And what's that?" returned Pencroft. "In
forty-eight hours, with a good wind, we should sight it!"
And, on this reply, it was decided that a vessel should be constructed in
time to be launched towards the month of next October, on the return of the
When Pencroft had once got a plan in his head, he had no peace till it was
executed. Now he wished to visit Tabor Island, and as a boat of a certain
size was necessary for this voyage, he determined to build one.
What wood should he employ? Elm or fir, both of which abounded in the
island? They decided for the fir, as being easy to work, but which stands
water as well as the elm.
These details settled, it was agreed that since the fine season would not
return before six months, Cyrus Harding and Pencroft should work alone at
the boat. Gideon Spilett and Herbert were to continue to hunt, and neither
Neb nor Master Jup, his assistant, were to leave the domestic duties which
had devolved upon them.
Directly the trees were chosen, they were felled, stripped of their
branches, and sawn into planks as well as sawyers would have been able to
do it. A week after, in the recess between the Chimneys and the cliff, a
dockyard was prepared, and a keel five-and-thirty feet long, furnished with
a stern-post at the stern and a stem at the bows, lay along the sand.
Cyrus Harding was not working in the dark at this new trade. He knew as
much about ship-building as about nearly everything else, and he had at
first drawn the model of his ship on paper. Besides, he was ably seconded
by Pencroft, who, having worked for several years in a dockyard in
Brooklyn, knew the practical part of the trade. It was not until after
careful calculation and deep thought that the timbers were laid on the
Pencroft, as may be believed, was all eagerness to carry out his new
enterprise, and would not leave his work for an instant.
A single thing had the honor of drawing him, but for one day only, from
his dockyard. This was the second wheat-harvest, which was gathered in on
the 15th of April. It was as much a success as the first, and yielded the
number of grains which had been predicted.
"Five bushels, captain," said Pencroft, alter having scrupulously
measured his treasure.
"Five bushels," replied the engineer; "and a hundred and thirty thousand
grains a bushel will make six hundred and fifty thousand grains."
"Well, we will sow them all this time," said the sailor, "except a little
"Yes, Pencroft, and if the next crop gives a proportionate yield, we
shall have four thousand bushels."
"And shall we eat bread?"
"We shall eat bread."
"But we must have a mill.
"We will make one."
The third corn-field was very much larger than the two first, and the
soil, prepared with extreme care, received the precious seed. That done,
Pencroft returned to his work.
During this time Spilett and Herbert hunted in the neighborhood, and they
ventured deep into the still unknown parts of the Far West, their guns
loaded with ball, ready for any dangerous emergency. It was a vast thicket
of magnificent trees, crowded together as if pressed for room. The
exploration of these dense masses of wood was difficult in the extreme, and
the reporter never ventured there without the pocket-compass, for the sun
scarcely pierced through the thick foliage and it would have been very
difficult for them to retrace their way. It naturally happened that game
was more rare in those situations where there was hardly sufficient room to
move; two or three large herbivorous animals were however killed during the
last fortnight of April. These were koalas, specimens of which the settlers
had already seen to the north of the lake, and which stupidly allowed
themselves to be killed among the thick branches of the trees in which they
took refuge. Their skins were brought back to Granite House, and there, by
the help of sulphuric acid, they were subjected to a sort of tanning
process which rendered them capable of being used.
On the 30th of April, the two sportsmen were in the depth of the Far
West, when the reporter, preceding Herbert a few paces, arrived in a sort
of clearing, into which the trees more sparsely scattered had permitted a
few rays to penetrate. Gideon Spilett was at first surprised at the odor
which exhaled from certain plants with straight stalks, round and branchy,
bearing grape-like clusters of flowers and very small berries. The reporter
broke off one or two of these stalks and returned to the lad, to whom he
"What can this be, Herbert?"
"Well, Mr. Spilett," said Herbert, "this is a treasure which will secure
you Pencroft's gratitude forever."
"Is it tobacco?"
"Yes, and though it may not be of the first quality, it is none the less
"Oh, good old Pencroft! Won't he be pleased! But we must not let him
smoke it all, he must give us our share."
"Ah! an idea occurs to me, Mr, Spilett," replied Herbert. "Don't let us
say anything to Pencroft yet; we will prepare these leaves, and one fine
day we will present him with a pipe already filled!"
"All right, Herbert, and on that day our worthy companion will have
nothing left to wish for in this world."
The reporter and the lad secured a good store of the precious plant, and
then returned to Granite House, where they smuggled it in with as much
precaution as if Pencroft had been the most vigilant and severe of custom-
Cyrus Harding and Neb were taken into confidence, and the sailor
suspected nothing during the whole time, necessarily somewhat long, which
was required in order to dry the small leaves, chop them up, and subject
them to a certain torrefaction on hot stones. This took two months; but all
these manipulations were successfully carried on unknown to Pencroft, for,
occupied with the construction of his boat, he only returned to Granite
House at the hour of rest.
For some days they had observed an enormous animal two or three miles out
in the open sea swimming around Lincoln Island. This was a whale of the
largest size, which apparently belonged to the southern species, called
the "Cape Whale."
"What a lucky chance it would be if we could capture it!" cried the
sailor. "Ah! if we only had a proper boat and a good harpoon, I would say
'After the beast,' for he would be well worth the trouble of catching!"
"Well, Pencroft," observed Harding, "I should much like to watch you
handling a harpoon. It would be very interesting."
"I am astonished," said the reporter, "to see a whale in this
comparatively high latitude."
"Why so, Mr. Spilett?" replied Herbert. "We are exactly in that part of
the Pacific which English and American whalemen call the whale field, and
it is here, between New Zealand and South America, that the whales of the
Southern Hemisphere are met with in the greatest numbers."
And Pencroft returned to his work, not without uttering a sigh of regret,
for every sailor is a born fisherman, and if the pleasure of fishing is in
exact proportion to the size of the animal, one can judge how a whaler
feels in sight of a whale. And if this had only been for pleasure! But they
could not help feeling how valuable such a prize would have been to the
colony, for the oil, fat, and bones would have been put to many uses.
Now it happened that this whale appeared to have no wish to leave the
waters of the island. Therefore, whether from the windows of Granite House,
or from Prospect Heights, Herbert and Gideon Spilett, when they were not
hunting, or Neb, unless presiding over his fires, never left the telescope,
but watched all the animal's movements. The cetacean, having entered far
into Union Bay, made rapid furrows across it from Mandible Cape to Claw
Cape, propelled by its enormously powerful flukes, on which it supported
itself, and making its way through the water at the rate little short of
twelve knots an hour. Sometimes also it approached so near to the island
that it could be clearly distinguished. It was the southern whale, which is
completely black, the head being more depressed than that of the northern
They could also see it throwing up from its air-holes to a great height a
cloud of vapor, or of water, for, strange as it may appear, naturalists and
whalers are not agreed on this subject. Is it air or is it water which is
thus driven out? It is generally admitted to be vapor, which, condensing
suddenly by contact with the cold air, falls again as rain.
However, the presence of this mammifer preoccupied the colonists. It
irritated Pencroft especially, as he could think of nothing else while at
work. He ended by longing for it, like a child for a thing which it has
been denied. At night he talked about it in his sleep, and certainly if he
had had the means of attacking it, if the sloop had been in a fit state to
put to sea, he would not have hesitated to set out in pursuit.
But what the colonists could not do for themselves chance did for them,
and on the 3rd of May shouts from Neb, who had stationed himself at the
kitchen window, announced that the whale was stranded on the beach of the
Herbert and Gideon Spilett, who were just about to set out hunting, left
their guns, Pencroft threw down his ax, and Harding and Neb joining their
companions, all rushed towards the scene of action.
The stranding had taken place on the beach of Flotsam Point, three miles
from Granite House, and at high tide. It was therefore probable that the
cetacean would not be able to extricate itself easily; at any rate it was
best to hasten, so as to cut off its retreat if necessary. They ran with
pick-axes and iron-tipped poles in their hands, passed over the Mercy
bridge, descended the right bank of the river, along the beach, and in less
than twenty minutes the settlers were close to the enormous animal, above
which flocks of birds already hovered.
"What a monster!" cried Neb.
And the exclamation was natural, for it was a southern whale, eighty feet
long, a giant of the species, probably not weighing less than a hundred and
fifty thousand pounds!
In the meanwhile, the monster thus stranded did not move, nor attempt by
struggling to regain the water while the tide was still high.
It was dead, and a harpoon was sticking out of its left side.
"There are whalers in these quarters, then?" said Gideon Spilett
"Oh, Mr. Spilett, that doesn't prove anything!" replied Pencroft. "Whales
have been known to go thousands of miles with a harpoon in the side, and
this one might even have been struck in the north of the Atlantic and come
to die in the south of the Pacific, and it would be nothing astonishing."
Pencroft, having torn the harpoon from the animal's side, read this
inscription on it:
MARIA STELLA, VINEYARD
"A vessel from the Vineyard! A ship from my country!" he cried. "The
'Maria Stella!' A fine whaler, 'pon my word; I know her well! Oh, my
friends, a vessel from the Vineyard!--a whaler from the Vineyard!"
And the sailor brandishing the harpoon, repeated, not without emotion,
the name which he loved so well--the name of his birthplace.
But as it could not be expected that the "Maria Stella" would come to
reclaim the animal harpooned by her, they resolved to begin cutting it up
before decomposition should commence. The birds, who had watched this rich
prey for several days, had determined to take possession of it without
further delay, and it was necessary to drive them off by firing at them
The whale was a female, and a large quantity of milk was taken from it,
which, according to the opinion of the naturalist Duffenbach, might pass
for cow's milk, and, indeed, it differs from it neither in taste, color,
Pencroft had formerly served on board a whaling-ship, and he could
methodically direct the operation of cutting up, a sufficiently
disagreeable operation lasting three days, but from which the settlers did
not flinch, not even Gideon Spilett, who, as the sailor said, would end by
making a "real good castaway."
The blubber, cut in parallel slices of two feet and a half in thickness,
then divided into pieces which might weigh about a thousand pounds each,
was melted down in large earthen pots brought to the spot, for they did not
wish to taint the environs of Granite House, and in this fusion it lost
nearly a third of its weight.
But there was an immense quantity of it; the tongue alone yielded six
thousand pounds of oil, and the lower lip four thousand. Then, besides the
fat, which would insure for a long time a store of stearine and glycerine,
there were still the bones, for which a use could doubtless be found,
although there were neither umbrellas nor stays used at Granite House. The
upper part of the mouth of the cetacean was, indeed, provided on both sides
with eight hundred horny blades, very elastic, of a fibrous texture, and
fringed at the edge like great combs, at which the teeth, six feet long,
served to retain the thousands of animalculae, little fish, and molluscs,
on which the whale fed.
The operation finished, to the great satisfaction of the operators, the
remains of the animal were left to the birds, who would soon make every
vestige of it disappear, and their usual daily occupations were resumed by
the inmates of Granite House.
However, before returning to the dockyard, Cyrus Harding conceived the
idea of fabricating certain machines, which greatly excited the curiosity
of his companions. He took a dozen of the whale's bones, cut them into six
equal parts, and sharpened their ends.
"This machine is not my own invention, and it is frequently employed by
the Aleutian hunters in Russian America. You see these bones, my friends;
well, when it freezes, I will bend them, and then wet them with water till
they are entirely covered with ice, which will keep them bent, and I will
strew them on the snow, having previously covered them with fat. Now, what
will happen if a hungry animal swallows one of these baits? Why, the heat
of his stomach will melt the ice, and the bone, springing straight, will
pierce him with its sharp points."
"Well! I do call that ingenious!" said Pencroft.
"And it will spare the powder and shot," rejoined Cyrus Harding.
"That will be better than traps!" added Neb.
In the meanwhile the boat-building progressed, and towards the end of the
month half the planking was completed. It could already be seen that her
shape was excellent, and that she would sail well.
Pencroft worked with unparalleled ardor, and only a sturdy frame could
have borne such fatigue; but his companions were preparing in secret a
reward for his labors, and on the 31st of May he was to meet with one of
the greatest joys of his life.
On that day, after dinner, just as he was about to leave the table,
Pencroft felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was the hand of Gideon Spilett, who said,--
"One moment, Master Pencroft, you mustn't sneak off like that! You've
forgotten your dessert."
"Thank you, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "I am going back to my
"Well, a cup of coffee, my friend?"
"A pipe, then?"
Pencroft jumped up, and his great good-natured face grew pale when he saw
the reporter presenting him with a ready-filled pipe, and Herbert with a
The sailor endeavored to speak, but could not get out a word; so, seizing
the pipe, he carried it to his lips, then applying the coal, he drew five
or six great whiffs. A fragrant blue cloud soon arose, and from its depths
a voice was heard repeating excitedly,--
"Tobacco! real tobacco!"
"Yes, Pencroft," returned Cyrus Harding, "and very good tobacco too!"
"O, divine Providence; sacred Author of all things!" cried the sailor.
"Nothing more is now wanting to our island."
And Pencroft smoked, and smoked, and smoked.
"And who made this discovery?" he asked at length. "You, Herbert, no
"No, Pencroft, it was Mr. Spilett."
"Mr. Spilett!" exclaimed the sailor, seizing the reporter, and clasping
him to his breast with such a squeeze that he had never felt anything like
"Oh Pencroft," said Spilett, recovering his breath at last, "a truce for
one moment. You must share your gratitude with Herbert, who recognized the
plant, with Cyrus, who prepared it, and with Neb, who took a great deal of
trouble to keep our secret."
"Well, my friends, I will repay you some day," replied the sailor. "Now
we are friends for life."
Winter arrived with the month of June, which is the December of the
northern zones, and the great business was the making of warm and solid
The musmons in the corral had been stripped of their wool, and this
precious textile material was now to be transformed into stuff.
Of course Cyrus Harding, having at his disposal neither carders,
combers, polishers, stretchers, twisters, mule-jenny, nor self-acting
machine to spin the wool, nor loom to weave it, was obliged to proceed in a
simpler way, so as to do without spinning and weaving. And indeed he
proposed to make use of the property which the filaments of wool possess
when subjected to a powerful pressure of mixing together, and of
manufacturing by this simple process the material called felt. This felt
could then be obtained by a simple operation which, if it diminished the
flexibility of the stuff, increased its power of retaining heat in
proportion. Now the wool furnished by the musmons was composed of very
short hairs, and was in a good condition to be felted.
The engineer, aided by his companions, including Pencroft, who was once
more obliged to leave his boat, commenced the preliminary operations, the
subject of which was to rid the wool of that fat and oily substance with
which it is impregnated, and which is called grease. This cleaning was done
in vats filled with water, which was maintained at the temperature of
seventy degrees, and in which the wool was soaked for four-and-twenty
hours; it was then thoroughly washed in baths of soda, and, when
sufficiently dried by pressure, it was in a state to be compressed, that is
to say, to produce a solid material, rough, no doubt, and such as would
have no value in a manufacturing center of Europe or America, but which
would be highly esteemed in the Lincoln Island markets.
This sort of material must have been known from the most ancient times,
and, in fact, the first woolen stuffs were manufactured by the process
which Harding was now about to employ. Where Harding's engineering
qualifications now came into play was in the construction of the machine
for pressing the wool; for he knew how to turn ingeniously to profit the
mechanical force, hitherto unused, which the waterfall on the beach
possessed to move a fulling-mill.
Nothing could be more rudimentary. The wool was placed in troughs, and
upon it fell in turns heavy wooden mallets; such was the machine in
question, and such it had been for centuries until the time when the
mallets were replaced by cylinders of compression, and the material was no
longer subjected to beating, but to regular rolling.
The operation, ably directed by Cyrus Harding, was a complete success.
The wool, previously impregnated with a solution of soap, intended on the
one hand to facilitate the interlacing, the compression, and the softening
of the wool, and on the other to prevent its diminution by the beating,
issued from the mill in the shape of thick felt cloth. The roughnesses with
which the staple of wool is naturally filled were so thoroughly entangled
and interlaced together that a material was formed equally suitable either
for garments or bedclothes. It was certainly neither merino, muslin,
cashmere, rep, satin, alpaca, cloth, nor flannel. It was "Lincolnian felt,"
and Lincoln Island possessed yet another manufacture. The colonists had now
warm garments and thick bedclothes, and they could without fear await the
approach of the winter of 1866-67.
The severe cold began to be felt about the 20th of June, and, to his
great regret, Pencroft was obliged to suspend his boat-building, which he
hoped to finish in time for next spring.
The sailor's great idea was to make a voyage of discovery to Tabor
Island, although Harding could not approve of a voyage simply for
curiosity's sake, for there was evidently nothing to be found on this
desert and almost arid rock. A voyage of a hundred and fifty miles in a
comparatively small vessel, over unknown seas, could not but cause him some
anxiety. Suppose that their vessel, once out at sea, should be unable to
reach Tabor Island, and could not return to Lincoln Island, what would
become of her in the midst of the Pacific, so fruitful of disasters?
Harding often talked over this project with Pencroft, and he found him
strangely bent upon undertaking this voyage, for which determination he
himself could give no sufficient reason.
"Now," said the engineer one day to him, "I must observe, my friend, that
after having said so much, in praise of Lincoln Island, after having spoken
so often of the sorrow you would feel if you were obliged to forsake it,
you are the first to wish to leave it."
"Only to leave it for a few days," replied Pencroft, "only for a few
days, captain. Time to go and come back, and see what that islet is like!"
"But it is not nearly as good as Lincoln Island."
"I know that beforehand."
"Then why venture there?"
"To know what is going on in Tabor Island."
"But nothing is going on there; nothing could happen there."
"And if you are caught in a hurricane?"
"There is no fear of that in the fine season," replied Pencroft. "But,
captain, as we must provide against everything, I shall ask your permission
to take Herbert only with me on this voyage."
"Pencroft," replied the engineer, placing his hand on the sailor's
shoulder, "if any misfortune happens to you, or to this lad, whom chance
has made our child, do you think we could ever cease to blame ourselves?"
"Captain Harding," replied Pencroft, with unshaken confidence, "we shall
not cause you that sorrow. Besides, we will speak further of this voyage,
when the time comes to make it. And I fancy, when you have seen our tight-
rigged little craft, when you have observed how she behaves at sea, when we
sail round our island, for we will do so together--I fancy, I say, that you
will no longer hesitate to let me go. I don't conceal from you that your
boat will be a masterpiece."
"Say 'our' boat, at least, Pencroft," replied the engineer, disarmed for
the moment. The conversation ended thus, to be resumed later on, without
convincing either the sailor or the engineer.
The first snow fell towards the end of the month of June. The corral had
previously been largely supplied with stores, so that daily visits to it
were not requisite; but it was decided that more than a week should never
be allowed to pass without someone going to it.
Traps were again set, and the machines manufactured by Harding were
tried. The bent whalebones, imprisoned in a case of ice, and covered with a
thick outer layer of fat, were placed on the border of the forest at a spot
where animals usually passed on their way to the lake.
To the engineer's great satisfaction, this invention, copied from the
Aleutian fishermen, succeeded perfectly. A dozen foxes, a few wild boars,
and even a jaguar, were taken in this way, the animals being found dead,
their stomachs pierced by the unbent bones.
An incident must here be related, not only as interesting in itself, but
because it was the first attempt made by the colonists to communicate with
the rest of mankind.
Gideon Spilett had already several times pondered whether to throw into
the sea a letter enclosed in a bottle, which currents might perhaps carry
to an inhabited coast, or to confide it to pigeons.
But how could it be seriously hoped that either pigeons or bottles could
cross the distance of twelve hundred miles which separated the island from
any inhabited land? It would have been pure folly.
But on the 30th of June the capture was effected, not without difficulty,
of an albatross, which a shot from Herbert's gun had slightly wounded in
the foot. It was a magnificent bird, measuring ten feet from wing to wing,
and which could traverse seas as wide as the Pacific.
Herbert would have liked to keep this superb bird, as its wound would
soon heal, and he thought he could tame it; but Spilett explained to him
that they should not neglect this opportunity of attempting to communicate
by this messenger with the lands of the Pacific; for if the albatross had
come from some inhabited region, there was no doubt but that it would
return there so soon as it was set free.
Perhaps in his heart Gideon Spilett, in whom the journalist sometimes
came to the surface, was not sorry to have the opportunity of sending forth
to take its chance an exciting article relating the adventures of the
settlers in Lincoln Island. What a success for the authorized reporter of
the New York Herald, and for the number which should contain the article,
if it should ever reach the address of its editor, the Honorable James
Gideon Spilett then wrote out a concise account, which was placed in a
strong waterproof bag, with an earnest request to whoever might find it to
forward it to the office of the New York Herald. This little bag was
fastened to the neck of the albatross, and not to its foot, for these birds
are in the habit of resting on the surface of the sea; then liberty was
given to this swift courier of the air, and it was not without some emotion
that the colonists watched it disappear in the misty west.
"Where is he going to?" asked Pencroft.
"Towards New Zealand," replied Herbert.
"A good voyage to you," shouted the sailor, who himself did not expect
any great result from this mode of correspondence.
With the winter, work had been resumed in the interior of Granite House,
mending clothes and different occupations, among others making the sails
for their vessel, which were cut from the inexhaustible balloon-case.
During the month of July the cold was intense, but there was no lack of
either wood or coal. Cyrus Harding had established a second fireplace in
the dining-room, and there the long winter evenings were spent. Talking
while they worked, reading when the hands remained idle, the time passed
with profit to all.
It was real enjoyment to the settlers when in their room, well lighted
with candles, well warmed with coal, after a good dinner, elderberry coffee
smoking in the cups, the pipes giving forth an odoriferous smoke, they
could hear the storm howling without. Their comfort would have been
complete, if complete comfort could ever exist for those who are far from
their fellow-creatures, and without any means of communication with them.
They often talked of their country, of the friends whom they had left, of
the grandeur of the American Republic, whose influence could not but
increase; and Cyrus Harding, who had been much mixed up with the affairs of
the Union, greatly interested his auditors by his recitals, his views, and
It chanced one day that Spilett was led to say--
"But now, my dear Cyrus, all this industrial and commercial movement to
which you predict a continual advance, does it not run the danger of being
sooner or later completely stopped?"
"Stopped! And by what?"
"By the want of coal, which may justly be called the most precious of
"Yes, the most precious indeed," replied the engineer; "and it would seem
that nature wished to prove that it was so by making the diamond, which is
simply pure carbon crystallized."
"You don't mean to say, captain," interrupted Pencroft, "that we burn
diamonds in our stoves in the shape of coal?"
"No, my friend," replied Harding.
"However," resumed Gideon Spilett, "you do not deny that some day the
coal will be entirely consumed?"
"Oh! the veins of coal are still considerable, and the hundred thousand
miners who annually extract from them a hundred millions of hundredweights
have not nearly exhausted them."
"With the increasing consumption of coal," replied Gideon Spilett, "it
can be foreseen that the hundred thousand workmen will soon become two
hundred thousand, and that the rate of extraction will be doubled."
"Doubtless; but after the European mines, which will be soon worked more
thoroughly with new machines, the American and Australian mines will for a
long time yet provide for the consumption in trade."
"For how long a time?" asked the reporter.
"For at least two hundred and fifty or three hundred years."
"That is reassuring for us, but a bad look-out for our great-
grandchildren!" observed Pencroft.
"They will discover something else," said Herbert.
"It is to be hoped so," answered Spilett, "for without coal there would be
no machinery, and without machinery there would be no railways, no
steamers, no manufactories, nothing of that which is indispensable to
"But what will they find?" asked Pencroft. "Can you guess, captain?"
"Nearly, my friend."
"And what will they burn instead of coal?"
"Water," replied Harding.
"Water!" cried Pencroft, "water as fuel for steamers and engines! water
to heat water!"
"Yes, but water decomposed into its primitive elements," replied Cyrus
Harding, "and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have
become a powerful and manageable force, for all great discoveries, by some
inexplicable laws, appear to agree and become complete at the same time.
Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel,
that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will
furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which
coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of steamers and the tenders of
locomotives will, instead of coal, be stored with these two condensed
gases, which will burn in the furnaces with enormous calorific power. There
is, therefore, nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it will
supply the wants of its inhabitants, and there will be no want of either
light or heat as long as the productions of the vegetable, mineral or
animal kingdoms do not fail us. I believe, then, that when the deposits of
coal are exhausted we shall heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will
be the coal of the future."
"I should like to see that," observed the sailor.
"You were born too soon, Pencroft," returned Neb, who only took part in
the discussion by these words.
However, it was not Neb's speech which interrupted the conversation, but
Top's barking, which broke out again with that strange intonation which had
before perplexed the engineer. At the same time Top began to run round the
mouth of the well, which opened at the extremity of the interior passage.
"What can Top be barking in that way for?" asked Pencroft.
"And Jup be growling like that?" added Herbert.
In fact the orang, joining the dog, gave unequivocal signs of agitation,
and, singular to say, the two animals appeared more uneasy than angry.
"It is evident," said Gideon Spilett, "that this well is in direct
communication with the sea, and that some marine animal comes from time to
time to breathe at the bottom."
"That's evident," replied the sailor, "and there can be no other
explanation to give. Quiet there, Top!" added Pencroft, turning to the dog,
"and you, Jup, be off to your room!"
The ape and the dog were silent. Jup went off to bed, but Top remained in
the room, and continued to utter low growls at intervals during the rest of
the evening. There was no further talk on the subject, but the incident,
however, clouded the brow of the engineer.
During the remainder of the month of July there was alternate rain and
frost. The temperature was not so low as during the preceding winter, and
its maximum did not exceed eight degrees Fahrenheit. But although this
winter was less cold, it was more troubled by storms and squalls; the sea
besides often endangered the safety of the Chimneys. At times it almost
seemed as if an under-current raised these monstrous billows which
thundered against the wall of Granite House.
When the settlers, leaning from their windows, gazed on the huge watery
masses breaking beneath their eyes, they could not but admire the
magnificent spectacle of the ocean in its impotent fury. The waves
rebounded in dazzling foam, the beach entirely disapppearing under the
raging flood, and the cliff appearing to emerge from the sea itself, the
spray rising to a height of more than a hundred feet.
During these storms it was difficult and even dangerous to venture out,
owing to the frequently falling trees; however, the colonists never allowed
a week to pass without having paid a visit to the corral. Happily, this
enclosure, sheltered by the southeastern spur of Mount Franklin, did not
greatly suffer from the violence of the hurricanes, which spared its trees,
sheds, and palisades; but the poultry-yard on Prospect Heights, being
directly exposed to the gusts of wind from the east, suffered considerable
damage. The pigeon-house was twice unroofed and the paling blown down. All
this required to be remade more solidly than before, for, as may be clearly
seen, Lincoln Island was situated in one of the most dangerous parts of the
Pacific. It really appeared as if it formed the central point of vast
cyclones, which beat it perpetually as the whip does the top, only here it
was the top which was motionless and the whip which moved. During the first
week of the month of August the weather became more moderate, and the
atmosphere recovered the calm which it appeared to have lost forever. With
the calm the cold again became intense, and the thermometer fell to eight
degrees Fahrenheit, below zero.
On the 3rd of August an excursion which had been talked of for several
days was made into the southeastern part of the island, towards Tadorn
Marsh. The hunters were tempted by the aquatic game which took up their
winter quarters there. Wild duck, snipe, teal and grebe abounded there, and
it was agreed that a day should be devoted to an expedition against these
Not only Gideon Spilett and Herbert, but Pencroft and Neb also took part
in this excursion. Cyrus Harding alone, alleging some work as an excuse,
did not join them, but remained at Granite House.
The hunters proceeded in the direction of Port Balloon, in order to reach
the marsh, after having promised to be back by the evening. Top and Jup
accompanied them. As soon as they had passed over the Mercy Bridge, the
engineer raised it and returned, intending to put into execution a project
for the performance of which he wished to be alone.
Now this project was to minutely explore the interior well, the mouth of
which was on a level with the passage of Granite House, and which
communicated with the sea, since it formerly supplied a way to the waters
of the lake.
Why did Top so often run round this opening? Why did he utter such
strange barks when a sort of uneasiness seemed to draw him towards this
well? Why did Jup join Top in a sort of common anxiety? Had this well
branches besides the communication with the sea? Did it spread towards
other parts of the island? This is what Cyrus Harding wished to know. He
had resolved, therefore, to attempt the exploration of the well during the
absence of his companions, and an opportunity for doing so had now
It was easy to descend to the bottom of the well by employing the rope
ladder which had not been used since the establishment of the lift. The
engineer drew the ladder to the hole, the diameter of which measured nearly
six feet, and allowed it to unroll itself after having securely fastened
its upper extremity. Then, having lighted a lantern, taken a revolver, and
placed a cutlass in his belt, he began the descent.
The sides were everywhere entire; but points of rock jutted out here and
there, and by means of these points it would have been quite possible for
an active creature to climb to the mouth of the well.
The engineer remarked this; but although he carefully examined these
points by the light of his lantern, he could find no impression, no
fracture which could give any reason to suppose that they had either
recently or at any former time been used as a staircase. Cyrus Harding
descended deeper, throwing the light of his lantern on all sides.
He saw nothing suspicious.
When the engineer had reached the last rounds he came upon the water,
which was then perfectly calm. Neither at its level nor in any other part
of the well, did any passage open, which could lead to the interior of the
cliff. The wall which Harding struck with the hilt of his cutlass sounded
solid. It was compact granite, through which no living being could force a
way. To arrive at the bottom of the well and then climb up to its mouth it
was necessary to pass through the channel under the rocky subsoil of the
beach, which placed it in communication with the sea, and this was only
possible for marine animals. As to the question of knowing where this
channel ended, at what point of the shore, and at what depth beneath the
water, it could not be answered.
Then Cyrus Harding, having ended his survey, re-ascended, drew up the
ladder, covered the mouth of the well, and returned thoughtfully to the
diningroom, saying to himself,--
"I have seen nothing, and yet there is something there!"
In the evening the hunters returned, having enjoyed good sport, and being
literally loaded with game; indeed, they had as much as four men could
possibly carry. Top wore a necklace of teal and Jup wreaths of snipe round
"Here, master," cried Neb; "here's something to employ our time!
Preserved and made into pies we shall have a welcome store! But I must have
some one to help me. I count on you, Pencroft."
"No, Neb," replied the sailor; "I have the rigging of the vessel to
finish and to look after, and you will have to do without me."
"And you, Mr. Herbert?"
"I must go to the corral to-morrow, Neb," replied the lad.
"It will be you then, Mr. Spilett, who will help me?"
"To oblige you, Neb, I will," replied the reporter; "but I warn you that
if you disclose your receipts to me, I shall publish them."
"Whenever you like, Mr. Spilett," replied Neb; "whenever you like."
And so the next day Gideon Spilett became Neb's assistant and was
installed in his culinary laboratory. The engineer had previously made
known to him the result of the exploration which he had made the day
before, and on this point the reporter shared Harding's opinion, that
although he had found nothing, a secret still remained to be discovered!
The frost continued for another week, and the settlers did not leave
Granite House unless to look after the poultry-yard. The dwelling was
filled with appetizing odors, which were emitted from the learned
manipulation of Neb and the reporter. But all the results of the chase were
not made into preserved provisions; and as the game kept perfectly in the
intense cold, wild duck and other fowl were eaten fresh, and declared
superior to all other aquatic birds in the known world.
During this week, Pencroft, aided by Herbert, who handled the sailmaker's
needle with much skill, worked with such energy that the sails of the
vessel were finished. There was no want of cordage. Thanks to the rigging
which had been discovered with the case of the balloon, the ropes and
cables from the net were all of good quality, and the sailor turned them
all to account. To the sails were attached strong bolt ropes, and there
still remained enough from which to make the halyards, shrouds, and sheets,
etc. The blocks were manufactured by Cyrus Harding under Pencroft's
directions by means of the turning lathe. It therefore happened that the
rigging was entirely prepared before the vessel was finished. Pencroft also
manufactured a flag, that flag so dear to every true American, containing
the stars and stripes of their glorious Union. The colors for it were
supplied from certain plants used in dyeing, and which were very abundant
in the island; only to the thirty-seven stars, representing the thirty-
seven States of the Union, which shine on the American flag, the sailor
added a thirty-eighth, the star of "the State of Lincoln," for he
considered his island as already united to the great republic. "And," said
he, "it is so already in heart, if not in deed!"
In the meantime, the flag was hoisted at the central window of Granite
House, and the settlers saluted it with three cheers.
The cold season was now almost at an end, and it appeared as if this
second winter was to pass without any unusual occurrence, when on the night
of the 11th of August, the plateau of Prospect Heights was menaced with
After a busy day the colonists were sleeping soundly, when towards four
o'clock in the morning they were suddenly awakened by Top's barking.
The dog was not this time barking near the mouth of the well, but at the
threshold of the door, at which he was scratching as if he wished to burst
it open. Jup was also uttering piercing cries.
"Hello, Top!" cried Neb, who was the first awake. But the dog continued
to bark more furiously than ever.
"What's the matter now?" asked Harding.
And all dressing in haste rushed to the windows, which they opened.
Beneath their eyes was spread a sheet of snow which looked gray in the
dim light. The settlers could see nothing, but they heard a singular
yelping noise away in the darkness. It was evident that the beach had been
invaded by a number of animals which could not be seen.
"What are they?" cried Pencroft.
"Wolves, jaguars, or apes?" replied Neb.
"They have nearly reached the plateau," said the reporter.
"And our poultry-yard," exclaimed Herbert, "and our garden!"
"Where can they have crossed?" asked Pencroft.
"They must have crossed the bridge on the shore," replied the engineer,
"which one of us must have forgotten to close."
"True," said Spilett, "I remember having left it open."
"A fine job you have made of it, Mr. Spilett," cried the sailor.
"What is done cannot be undone," replied Cyrus Harding. "We must consult
what it will now be best to do."
Such were the questions and answers which were rapidly exchanged between
Harding and his companions. It was certain that the bridge had been
crossed, that the shore had been invaded by animals, and that whatever they
might be they could by ascending the left bank of the Mercy reach Prospect
Heights. They must therefore be advanced against quickly and fought with if
"But what are these beasts?" was asked a second time, as the yelpings
were again heard more loudly than before. These yelps made Herbert start,
and he remembered having heard them before during his first visit to the
sources of the Red Creek.
"They are colpeo foxes!" he exclaimed.
"Forward!" shouted the sailor.
And all arming themselves with hatchets, carbines, and revolvers, threw
themselves into the lift and soon set foot on the shore.
Colpeos are dangerous animals when in great numbers and irritated by
hunger, nevertheless the colonists did not hesitate to throw themselves
into the midst of the troop, and their first shots vividly lighting up the
darkness made their assailants draw back.
The chief thing was to hinder these plunderers from reaching the plateau,
for the garden and the poultry-yard would then have been at their mercy,
and immense, perhaps irreparable mischief, would inevitably be the result,
especially with regard to the corn-field. But as the invasion of the
plateau could only be made by the left bank of the Mercy, it was sufficient
to oppose the colpeos on the narrow bank between the river and the cliff of
This was plain to all, and, by Cyrus Harding's orders, they reached the
spot indicated by him, while the colpeos rushed fiercely through the gloom.
Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft and Neb posted themselves in
impregnable line. Top, his formidable jaws open, preceded the colonists,
and he was followed by Jup, armed with knotty cudgel, which he brandished
like a club.
The night was extremely dark, it was only by the flashes from the
revolvers as each person fired that they could see their assailants, who
were at least a hundred in number, and whose eyes were glowing like hot
"They must not pass!" shouted Pencroft.
"They shall not pass!" returned the engineer.
But if they did not pass it was not for want of having attempted it.
Those in the rear pushed on the foremost assailants, and it was an
incessant struggle with revolvers and hatchets. Several colpeos already lay
dead on the ground, but their number did not appear to diminish, and it
might have been supposed that reinforcements were continually arriving over
The colonists were soon obliged to fight at close quarters, not without
receiving some wounds, though happily very slight ones. Herbert had, with a
shot from his revolver, rescued Neb, on whose back a colpeo had sprung like
a tiger cat. Top fought with actual fury, flying at the throats of the
foxes and strangling them instantaneously. Jup wielded his weapon
valiantly, and it was in vain that they endeavored to keep him in the rear.
Endowed doubtless with sight which enabled him to pierce the obscurity, he
was always in the thick of the fight uttering from time to time--a sharp
hissing sound, which was with him the sign of great rejoicing.
At one moment he advanced so far, that by the light from a revolver he
was seen surrounded by five or six large colpeos, with whom he was coping
with great coolness.
However, the struggle was ended at last, and victory was on the side of
the settlers, but not until they had fought for two long hours! The first
signs of the approach of day doubtless determined the retreat of their
assailants, who scampered away towards the North, passing over the bridge,
which Neb ran immediately to raise. When day had sufficiently lighted up
the field of battle, the settlers counted as many as fifty dead bodies
scattered about on the shore.
"And Jup!" cried Pencroft; "where is Jup?" Jup had disappeared. His
friend Neb called him, and for the first time Jup did not reply to his
Everyone set out in search of Jup, trembling lest he should be found
among the slain; they cleared the place of the bodies which stained the
snow with their blood. Jup was found in the midst of a heap of colpeos
whose broken jaws and crushed bodies showed that they had to do with the
terrible club of the intrepid animal.
Poor Jup still held in his hand the stump of his broken cudgel, but
deprived of his weapon he had been overpowered by numbers, and his chest
was covered with severe wounds.
"He is living," cried Neb, who was bending over him.
"And we will save him," replied the sailor. "We will nurse him as if he
was one of ourselves."
It appeared as if Jup understood, for he leaned his head on Pencroft's
shoulder as if to thank him. The sailor was wounded himself, but his wound
was insignificant, as were those of his companions; for thanks to their
firearms they had been almost always able to keep their assailants at a
distance. it was therefore only the orang whose condition was serious.
Jup, carried by Neb and Pencroft, was placed in the lift, and only a
slight moan now and then escaped his lips. He was gently drawn up to
Granite House. There he was laid on a mattress taken from one of the beds,
and his wounds were bathed with the greatest care. It did not appear that
any vital part had been reached, but Jup was very weak from loss of blood,
and a high fever soon set in after his wounds had been dressed. He was laid
down, strict diet was imposed, "just like a real person," as Neb said, and
they made him swallow several cups of a cooling drink, for which the
ingredients were supplied from the vegetable medicine chest of Granite
House. Jup was at first restless, but his breathing gradually became more
regular, and he was left sleeping quietly. From time to time Top, walking
on tip-toe, as one might say, came to visit his friend, and seemed to
approve of all the care that had been taken of him. One of Jup's hands hung
over the side of his bed, and Top licked it with a sympathizing air.
They employed the day in interring the dead, who were dragged to the
forest of the Far West, and there buried deep.
This attack, which might have had such serious consequences, was a lesson
to the settlers, who from this time never went to bed until one of their
number had made sure that all the bridges were raised, and that no invasion
However, Jup, after having given them serious anxiety for several days,
began to recover. His constitution brought him through, the fever gradually
subsided, and Gideon Spilett, who was a bit of a doctor, pronounced him
quite out of danger. On the 16th of August, Jup began to eat. Neb made him
nice little sweet dishes, which the invalid devoured with great relish, for
if he had a pet failing it was that of being somewhat of a gourmend, and
Neb had never done anything to cure him of this fault.
"What would you have?" said he to Gideon Spilett, who sometimes
expostulated with him for spoiling the ape. "Poor Jup has no other pleasure
than that of the palate, and I am only too glad to be able to reward his
services in this way!"
Ten days after taking to his bed, on the 21st of August, Master Jup
arose. His wounds were healed, and it was evident that he would not be long
in regaining his usual strength and agility. Like all convalescents, he was
tremendously hungry, and the reporter allowed him to eat as much as he
liked, for he trusted to that instinct, which is too often wanting in
reasoning beings, to keep the orang from any excess. Neb was delighted to
see his pupil's appetite returning.
"Eat away, my Jup," said he, "and don't spare anything; you have shed
your blood for us, and it is the least I can do to make you strong again!"
On the 25th of August Neb's voice was heard calling to his companions.
"Captain, Mr. Spilett, Mr. Herbert, Pencroft, come! come!"
The colonists, who were together in the dining-room, rose at Neb's call,
who was then in Jup's room.
"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.
"Look," replied Neb, with a shout of laughter. And what did they see?
Master Jup smoking calmly and seriously, sitting crosslegged like a Turk at
the entrance to Granite House!
"My pipe," cried Pencroft. "He has taken my pipe! Hello, my honest Jup, I
make you a present of it! Smoke away, old boy, smoke away!"
And Jup gravely puffed out clouds of smoke which seemed to give him great
satisfaction. Harding did not appear to be much astonished at this
incident, and he cited several examples of tame apes, to whom the use of
tobacco had become quite familiar.
But from this day Master Jup had a pipe of his own, the sailor's ex-pipe,
which was hung in his room near his store of tobacco. He filled it himself,
lighted it with a glowing coal, and appeared to be the happiest of
quadrumana. It may readily be understood that this similarity of tastes of
Jup and Pencroft served to tighten the bonds of friendship which already
existed between the honest ape and the worthy sailor.
"Perhaps he is really a man," said Pencroft sometimes to Neb. "Should you
be surprised to hear him beginning to speak to us some day?"
"My word, no," replied Neb. "What astonishes me is that he hasn't spoken
to us before, for now he wants nothing but speech!"
"It would amuse me all the same," resumed the sailor, "if some fine day
he said to me, "Suppose we change pipes, Pencroft."
"Yes," replied Neb, "what a pity he was born dumb!"
With the month of September the winter ended, and the works were again
eagerly commenced. The building of the vessel advanced rapidly, she was
already completely decked over, and all the inside parts of the hull were
firmly united with ribs bent by means of steam, which answered all the
purposes of a mold.
As there was no want of wood, Pencroft proposed to the engineer to give a
double lining to the hull, to insure the strength of the vessel.
Harding, not knowing what the future might have in store for them,
approved the sailor's idea of making the craft as strong as possible. The
interior and deck of the vessel was entirely finished towards the 15th of
September. For calking the seams they made oakum of dry seaweed, which was
hammered in between the planks; then these seams were covered with boiling
tar, which was obtained in great abundance from the pines in the forest.
The management of the vessel was very simple. She had from the first been
ballasted with heavy blocks of granite walled up, in a bed of lime, twelve
thousand pounds of which they stowed away.
A deck was placed over this ballast, and the interior was divided into
two cabins; two benches extended along them and served also as lockers. The
foot of the mast supported the partition which separated the two cabins,
which were reached by two hatchways let into the deck.
Pencroft had no trouble in finding a tree suitable for the mast. He chose
a straight young fir, with no knots, and which he had only to square at the
step, and round off at the top. The ironwork of the mast, the rudder and
the hull had been roughly but strongly forged at the Chimneys. Lastly,
yards, masts, boom, spars, oars, etc., were all furnished by the first week
in October, and it was agreed that a trial trip should be taken round the
island, so as to ascertain how the vessel would behave at sea, and how far
they might depend upon her.
During all this time the necessary works had not been neglected. The
corral was enlarged, for the flock of musmons and goats had been increased
by a number of young ones, who had to be housed and fed. The colonists had
paid visits also to the oyster bed, the warren, the coal and iron mines,
and to the till then unexplored districts of the Far West forest, which
abounded in game. Certain indigenous plants were discovered, and those fit
for immediate use contributed to vary the vegetable stores of Granite
They were a species of ficoide, some similar to those of the Cape, with
eatable fleshy leaves, others bearing seeds containing a sort of flour.
On the 10th of October the vessel was launched. Pencroft was radiant with
joy, the operation was perfectly successful; the boat completely rigged,
having been pushed on rollers to the water's edge, was floated by the
rising tide, amid the cheers of the colonists, particularly of Pencroft,
who showed no modesty on this occasion. Besides his importance was to last
beyond the finishing of the vessel, since, after having built her, he was
to command her. The grade of captain was bestowed upon him with the
approbation of all. To satisfy Captain Pencroft, it was now necessary to
give a name to the vessel, and, after many propositions had been discussed,
the votes were all in favor of the "Bonadventure." As soon as the
"Bonadventure" had been lifted by the rising tide, it was seen that she lay
evenly in the water, and would be easily navigated. However, the trial trip
was to be made that very day, by an excursion off the coast. The weather
was fine, the breeze fresh, and the sea smooth, especially towards the
south coast, for the wind was blowing from the northwest.
"All hands on board," shouted Pencroft; but breakfast was first
necessary, and it was thought best to take provisions on board, in the
event of their excursion being prolonged until the evening.
Cyrus Harding was equally anxious to try the vessel, the model of which
had originated with him, although on the sailor's advice he had altered
some parts of it, but he did not share Pencroft's confidence in her, and as
the latter had not again spoken of the voyage to Tabor Island, Harding
hoped he had given it up. He would have indeed great reluctance in letting
two or three of his companions venture so far in so small a boat, which was
not of more than fifteen tons' burden.
At half-past ten everybody was on board, even Top and Jup, and Herbert
weighed the anchor, which was fast in the sand near the mouth of the Mercy.
The sail was hoisted, the Lincolnian flag floated from the masthead, and
the "Bonadventure," steered by Pencroft, stood out to sea.
The wind blowing out of Union Bay she ran before it, and thus showed her
owners, much to their satisfaction, that she possessed a remarkably fast
pair of heels, according to Pencroft's mode of speaking. After having
doubled Flotsam Point and Claw Cape, the captain kept her close hauled, so
as to sail along the southern coast of the island, when it was found she
sailed admirably within five points of the wind. All hands were enchanted,
they had a good vessel, which, in case of need, would be of great service
to them, and with fine weather and a fresh breeze the voyage promised to be
Pencroft now stood off the shore, three or four miles across from Port
Balloon. The island then appeared in all its extent and under a new aspect,
with the varied panorama of its shore from Claw Cape to Reptile End, the
forests in which dark firs contrasted with the young foliage of other
trees and overlooked the whole, and Mount Franklin whose lofty head was
still whitened with snow.
"How beautiful it is!" cried Herbert.
"Yes, our island is beautiful and good," replied Pencroft. "I love it as
I loved my poor mother. It received us poor and destitute, and now what is
wanting to us five fellows who fell on it from the sky?"
"Nothing," replied Neb; "nothing, captain."
And the two brave men gave three tremendous cheers in honor of their
During all this time Gideon Spilett, leaning against the mast, sketched
the panorama which was developed before his eyes.
Cyrus Harding gazed on it in silence.
"Well, Captain Harding," asked Pencroft, "what do you think of our
"She appears to behave well," replied the engineer.
"Good! And do you think now that she could undertake a voyage of some
"What voyage, Pencroft?"
"One to Tabor Island, for instance."
"My friend," replied Harding, "I think that in any pressing emergency we
need not hesitate to trust ourselves to the 'Bonadventure' even for a
longer voyage; but you know I should see you set off to Tabor Island with
great uneasiness, since nothing obliges you to go there."
"One likes to know one's neighbors," returned the sailor, who was
obstinate in his idea. "Tabor Island is our neighbor, and the only one!
Politeness requires us to go at least to pay a visit."
"By Jove," said Spilett, "our friend Pencroft has become very particular
about the proprieties all at once!"
"I am not particular about anything at all," retorted the sailor, who was
rather vexed by the engineer's opposition, but who did not wish to cause
"Consider, Pencroft," resumed Harding, "you cannot go alone to Tabor
"One companion will be enough for me."
"Even so," replied the engineer, "you will risk depriving the colony of
Lincoln Island of two settlers out of five."
"Out of six," answered Pencroft; "you forget Jup."
"Out of seven," added Neb; "Top is quite worth another."
"There is no risk at all in it, captain," replied Pencroft.
"That is possible, Pencroft; but I repeat it is to expose ourselves
The obstinate sailor did not reply, and let the conversation drop, quite
determined to resume it again. But he did not suspect that an incident
would come to his aid and change into an act of humanity that which was at
first only a doubtful whim.
After standing off the shore the "Bonadventure" again approached it in
the direction of Port Balloon. It was important to ascertain the channels
between the sandbanks and reefs, that buoys might be laid down since this
little creek was to be the harbor.
They were not more than half a mile from the coast, and it was necessary
to tack to beat against the wind. The "Bonadventure" was then going at a
very moderate rate, as the breeze, partly intercepted by the high land,
scarcely swelled her sails, and the sea, smooth as glass, was only rippled
now and then by passing gusts.
Herbert had stationed himself in the bows that he might indicate the
course to be followed among the channels, when all at once he shouted,--
"Luff, Pencroft, luff!"
"What's the matter," replied the sailor; "a rock?"
"No--wait," said Herbert; "I don't quite see. Luff again--right--now."
So saying, Herbert, leaning over the side, plunged his arm into the
water, and pulled it out, exclaiming,--
He held in his hand a corked bottle which he had just seized a few
cables' length from the shore.
Cyrus Harding took the bottle. Without uttering a single word he drew the
cork, and took from it a damp paper, on which were written these words:--
"Castaway . . . . Tabor island: 153deg W. long., 37deg 11' S. lat."
"A castaway!" exclaimed Pencroft; "left on this Tabor Island not two
hundred miles from us! Ah, Captain Harding, you won't now oppose my going."
"No, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "and you shall set out as soon as
The engineer still held in his hand the paper which he had taken from the
bottle. He contemplated it for some instants, then resumed,
"From this document, my friends, from the way in which it is worded, we
may conclude this: first, that the castaway on Tabor Island is a man
possessing a considerable knowledge of navigation, since he gives the
latitude and longitude of the island exactly as we ourselves found it, and
to a second of approximation; secondly, that he is either English or
American, as the document is written in the English language."
"That is perfectly logical," answered Spilett; "and the presence of this
castaway explains the arrival of the case on the shores of our island.
There must have been a wreck, since there is a castaway. As to the latter,
whoever he may be, it is lucky for him that Pencroft thought of building
this boat and of trying her this very day, for a day later and this bottle
might have been broken on the rocks."
"Indeed," said Herbert, "it is a fortunate chance that the 'Bonadventure'
passed exactly where the bottle was still floating!"
"Does not this appear strange to you?" asked Harding of Pencroft.
"It appears fortunate, that's all," answered the sailor. "Do you see
anything extraordinary in it, captain? The bottle must go somewhere, and
why not here as well as anywhere else?"
"Perhaps you are right, Pencroft," replied the engineer; "and yet--"
"But," observed Herbert, "there's nothing to prove that this bottle has