Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
by Jules Verne - 1874
PART 1--DROPPED FROM THE CLOUDS
"Are we rising again?" "No. On the contrary." "Are we descending?"
"Worse than that, captain! we are falling!" "For Heaven's sake heave out
the ballast!" "There! the last sack is empty!" "Does the balloon rise?"
"No!" "I hear a noise like the dashing of waves. The sea is below the
car! It cannot be more than 500 feet from us!" "Overboard with every
weight! ... everything!"
Such were the loud and startling words which resounded through the air,
above the vast watery desert of the Pacific, about four o'clock in the
evening of the 23rd of March, 1865.
Few can possibly have forgotten the terrible storm from the northeast,
in the middle of the equinox of that year. The tempest raged without
intermission from the 18th to the 26th of March. Its ravages were
terrible in America, Europe, and Asia, covering a distance of eighteen
hundred miles, and extending obliquely to the equator from the
thirty-fifth north parallel to the fortieth south parallel. Towns were
overthrown, forests uprooted, coasts devastated by the mountains of
water which were precipitated on them, vessels cast on the shore, which
the published accounts numbered by hundreds, whole districts leveled
by waterspouts which destroyed everything they passed over, several
thousand people crushed on land or drowned at sea; such were the traces
of its fury, left by this devastating tempest. It surpassed in disasters
those which so frightfully ravaged Havana and Guadalupe, one on the 25th
of October, 1810, the other on the 26th of July, 1825.
But while so many catastrophes were taking place on land and at sea, a
drama not less exciting was being enacted in the agitated air.
In fact, a balloon, as a ball might be carried on the summit of a
waterspout, had been taken into the circling movement of a column of
air and had traversed space at the rate of ninety miles an hour, turning
round and round as if seized by some aerial maelstrom.
Beneath the lower point of the balloon swung a car, containing five
passengers, scarcely visible in the midst of the thick vapor mingled
with spray which hung over the surface of the ocean.
Whence, it may be asked, had come that plaything of the tempest? From
what part of the world did it rise? It surely could not have started
during the storm. But the storm had raged five days already, and the
first symptoms were manifested on the 18th. It cannot be doubted that
the balloon came from a great distance, for it could not have traveled
less than two thousand miles in twenty-four hours.
At any rate the passengers, destitute of all marks for their guidance,
could not have possessed the means of reckoning the route traversed
since their departure. It was a remarkable fact that, although in the
very midst of the furious tempest, they did not suffer from it. They
were thrown about and whirled round and round without feeling the
rotation in the slightest degree, or being sensible that they were
removed from a horizontal position.
Their eyes could not pierce through the thick mist which had gathered
beneath the car. Dark vapor was all around them. Such was the density
of the atmosphere that they could not be certain whether it was day or
night. No reflection of light, no sound from inhabited land, no roaring
of the ocean could have reached them, through the obscurity, while
suspended in those elevated zones. Their rapid descent alone had
informed them of the dangers which they ran from the waves. However,
the balloon, lightened of heavy articles, such as ammunition, arms, and
provisions, had risen into the higher layers of the atmosphere, to a
height of 4,500 feet. The voyagers, after having discovered that the sea
extended beneath them, and thinking the dangers above less dreadful than
those below, did not hesitate to throw overboard even their most useful
articles, while they endeavored to lose no more of that fluid, the life
of their enterprise, which sustained them above the abyss.
The night passed in the midst of alarms which would have been death to
less energetic souls. Again the day appeared and with it the tempest
began to moderate. From the beginning of that day, the 24th of March,
it showed symptoms of abating. At dawn, some of the lighter clouds had
risen into the more lofty regions of the air. In a few hours the wind
had changed from a hurricane to a fresh breeze, that is to say, the rate
of the transit of the atmospheric layers was diminished by half. It
was still what sailors call "a close-reefed topsail breeze," but the
commotion in the elements had none the less considerably diminished.
Towards eleven o'clock, the lower region of the air was sensibly
clearer. The atmosphere threw off that chilly dampness which is felt
after the passage of a great meteor. The storm did not seem to have gone
farther to the west. It appeared to have exhausted itself. Could it have
passed away in electric sheets, as is sometimes the case with regard to
the typhoons of the Indian Ocean?
But at the same time, it was also evident that the balloon was again
slowly descending with a regular movement. It appeared as if it were,
little by little, collapsing, and that its case was lengthening and
extending, passing from a spherical to an oval form. Towards midday the
balloon was hovering above the sea at a height of only 2,000 feet. It
contained 50,000 cubic feet of gas, and, thanks to its capacity, it
could maintain itself a long time in the air, although it should reach a
great altitude or might be thrown into a horizontal position.
Perceiving their danger, the passengers cast away the last articles
which still weighed down the car, the few provisions they had kept,
everything, even to their pocket-knives, and one of them, having hoisted
himself on to the circles which united the cords of the net, tried to
secure more firmly the lower point of the balloon.
It was, however, evident to the voyagers that the gas was failing, and
that the balloon could no longer be sustained in the higher regions.
They must infallibly perish!
There was not a continent, nor even an island, visible beneath them.
The watery expanse did not present a single speck of land, not a solid
surface upon which their anchor could hold.
It was the open sea, whose waves were still dashing with tremendous
violence! It was the ocean, without any visible limits, even for those
whose gaze, from their commanding position, extended over a radius of
forty miles. The vast liquid plain, lashed without mercy by the storm,
appeared as if covered with herds of furious chargers, whose white and
disheveled crests were streaming in the wind. No land was in sight, not
a solitary ship could be seen. It was necessary at any cost to arrest
their downward course, and to prevent the balloon from being engulfed in
the waves. The voyagers directed all their energies to this urgent work.
But, notwithstanding their efforts, the balloon still fell, and at the
same time shifted with the greatest rapidity, following the direction of
the wind, that is to say, from the northeast to the southwest.
Frightful indeed was the situation of these unfortunate men. They were
evidently no longer masters of the machine. All their attempts were
useless. The case of the balloon collapsed more and more. The gas
escaped without any possibility of retaining it. Their descent was
visibly accelerated, and soon after midday the car hung within 600 feet
of the ocean.
It was impossible to prevent the escape of gas, which rushed through a
large rent in the silk. By lightening the car of all the articles which
it contained, the passengers had been able to prolong their suspension
in the air for a few hours. But the inevitable catastrophe could only
be retarded, and if land did not appear before night, voyagers, car, and
balloon must to a certainty vanish beneath the waves.
They now resorted to the only remaining expedient. They were truly
dauntless men, who knew how to look death in the face. Not a single
murmur escaped from their lips. They were determined to struggle to the
last minute, to do anything to retard their fall. The car was only a
sort of willow basket, unable to float, and there was not the slightest
possibility of maintaining it on the surface of the sea.
Two more hours passed and the balloon was scarcely 400 feet above the
At that moment a loud voice, the voice of a man whose heart was
inaccessible to fear, was heard. To this voice responded others not
less determined. "Is everything thrown out?" "No, here are still 2,000
dollars in gold." A heavy bag immediately plunged into the sea. "Does
the balloon rise?" "A little, but it will not be long before it falls
again." "What still remains to be thrown out?" "Nothing." "Yes! the
car!" "Let us catch hold of the net, and into the sea with the car."
This was, in fact, the last and only mode of lightening the balloon.
The ropes which held the car were cut, and the balloon, after its fall,
mounted 2,000 feet. The five voyagers had hoisted themselves into the
net, and clung to the meshes, gazing at the abyss.
The delicate sensibility of balloons is well known. It is sufficient to
throw out the lightest article to produce a difference in its vertical
position. The apparatus in the air is like a balance of mathematical
precision. It can be thus easily understood that when it is lightened of
any considerable weight its movement will be impetuous and sudden. So
it happened on this occasion. But after being suspended for an instant
aloft, the balloon began to redescend, the gas escaping by the rent
which it was impossible to repair.
The men had done all that men could do. No human efforts could save them
They must trust to the mercy of Him who rules the elements.
At four o'clock the balloon was only 500 feet above the surface of the
A loud barking was heard. A dog accompanied the voyagers, and was held
pressed close to his master in the meshes of the net.
"Top has seen something," cried one of the men. Then immediately a loud
"Land! land!" The balloon, which the wind still drove towards the
southwest, had since daybreak gone a considerable distance, which might
be reckoned by hundreds of miles, and a tolerably high land had, in
fact, appeared in that direction. But this land was still thirty miles
off. It would not take less than an hour to get to it, and then there
was the chance of falling to leeward.
An hour! Might not the balloon before that be emptied of all the fluid
it yet retained?
Such was the terrible question! The voyagers could distinctly see that
solid spot which they must reach at any cost. They were ignorant of what
it was, whether an island or a continent, for they did not know to what
part of the world the hurricane had driven them. But they must reach
this land, whether inhabited or desolate, whether hospitable or not.
It was evident that the balloon could no longer support itself! Several
times already had the crests of the enormous billows licked the bottom
of the net, making it still heavier, and the balloon only half rose,
like a bird with a wounded wing. Half an hour later the land was not
more than a mile off, but the balloon, exhausted, flabby, hanging in
great folds, had gas in its upper part alone. The voyagers, clinging to
the net, were still too heavy for it, and soon, half plunged into the
sea, they were beaten by the furious waves. The balloon-case bulged out
again, and the wind, taking it, drove it along like a vessel. Might it
not possibly thus reach the land?
But, when only two fathoms off, terrible cries resounded from four pairs
of lungs at once. The balloon, which had appeared as if it would never
again rise, suddenly made an unexpected bound, after having been struck
by a tremendous sea. As if it had been at that instant relieved of a new
part of its weight, it mounted to a height of 1,500 feet, and here it
met a current of wind, which instead of taking it directly to the coast,
carried it in a nearly parallel direction.
At last, two minutes later, it reproached obliquely, and finally fell on
a sandy beach, out of the reach of the waves.
The voyagers, aiding each other, managed to disengage themselves from
the meshes of the net. The balloon, relieved of their weight, was taken
by the wind, and like a wounded bird which revives for an instant,
disappeared into space.
But the car had contained five passengers, with a dog, and the balloon
only left four on the shore.
The missing person had evidently been swept off by the sea, which had
just struck the net, and it was owing to this circumstance that the
lightened balloon rose the last time, and then soon after reached the
land. Scarcely had the four castaways set foot on firm ground, than they
all, thinking of the absent one, simultaneously exclaimed, "Perhaps he
will try to swim to land! Let us save him! let us save him!"
Those whom the hurricane had just thrown on this coast were neither
aeronauts by profession nor amateurs. They were prisoners of war whose
boldness had induced them to escape in this extraordinary manner.
A hundred times they had almost perished! A hundred times had they
almost fallen from their torn balloon into the depths of the ocean. But
Heaven had reserved them for a strange destiny, and after having, on the
20th of March, escaped from Richmond, besieged by the troops of General
Ulysses Grant, they found themselves seven thousand miles from the
capital of Virginia, which was the principal stronghold of the South,
during the terrible War of Secession. Their aerial voyage had lasted
The curious circumstances which led to the escape of the prisoners were
That same year, in the month of February, 1865, in one of the coups
de main by which General Grant attempted, though in vain, to possess
himself of Richmond, several of his officers fell into the power of the
enemy and were detained in the town. One of the most distinguished was
Captain Cyrus Harding. He was a native of Massachusetts, a first-class
engineer, to whom the government had confided, during the war, the
direction of the railways, which were so important at that time. A
true Northerner, thin, bony, lean, about forty-five years of age; his
close-cut hair and his beard, of which he only kept a thick mustache,
were already getting gray. He had one-of those finely-developed heads
which appear made to be struck on a medal, piercing eyes, a serious
mouth, the physiognomy of a clever man of the military school. He was
one of those engineers who began by handling the hammer and pickaxe,
like generals who first act as common soldiers. Besides mental power, he
also possessed great manual dexterity. His muscles exhibited remarkable
proofs of tenacity. A man of action as well as a man of thought, all he
did was without effort to one of his vigorous and sanguine temperament.
Learned, clear-headed, and practical, he fulfilled in all
emergencies those three conditions which united ought to insure human
success--activity of mind and body, impetuous wishes, and powerful will.
He might have taken for his motto that of William of Orange in the 17th
century: "I can undertake and persevere even without hope of success."
Cyrus Harding was courage personified. He had been in all the battles of
that war. After having begun as a volunteer at Illinois, under Ulysses
Grant, he fought at Paducah, Belmont, Pittsburg Landing, at the siege of
Corinth, Port Gibson, Black River, Chattanooga, the Wilderness, on the
Potomac, everywhere and valiantly, a soldier worthy of the general who
said, "I never count my dead!" And hundreds of times Captain Harding had
almost been among those who were not counted by the terrible Grant; but
in these combats where he never spared himself, fortune favored him till
the moment when he was wounded and taken prisoner on the field of battle
near Richmond. At the same time and on the same day another important
personage fell into the hands of the Southerners. This was no other than
Gideon Spilett, a reporter for the New York Herald, who had been ordered
to follow the changes of the war in the midst of the Northern armies.
Gideon Spilett was one of that race of indomitable English or American
chroniclers, like Stanley and others, who stop at nothing to obtain
exact information, and transmit it to their journal in the shortest
possible time. The newspapers of the Union, such as the New York Herald,
are genuine powers, and their reporters are men to be reckoned with.
Gideon Spilett ranked among the first of those reporters: a man of great
merit, energetic, prompt and ready for anything, full of ideas, having
traveled over the whole world, soldier and artist, enthusiastic in
council, resolute in action, caring neither for trouble, fatigue, nor
danger, when in pursuit of information, for himself first, and then for
his journal, a perfect treasury of knowledge on all sorts of curious
subjects, of the unpublished, of the unknown, and of the impossible. He
was one of those intrepid observers who write under fire, "reporting"
among bullets, and to whom every danger is welcome.
He also had been in all the battles, in the first rank, revolver in one
hand, note-book in the other; grape-shot never made his pencil tremble.
He did not fatigue the wires with incessant telegrams, like those who
speak when they have nothing to say, but each of his notes, short,
decisive, and clear, threw light on some important point. Besides, he
was not wanting in humor. It was he who, after the affair of the Black
River, determined at any cost to keep his place at the wicket of the
telegraph office, and after having announced to his journal the result
of the battle, telegraphed for two hours the first chapters of the
Bible. It cost the New York Herald two thousand dollars, but the New
York Herald published the first intelligence.
Gideon Spilett was tall. He was rather more than forty years of age.
Light whiskers bordering on red surrounded his face. His eye was steady,
lively, rapid in its changes. It was the eye of a man accustomed to take
in at a glance all the details of a scene. Well built, he was inured to
all climates, like a bar of steel hardened in cold water.
For ten years Gideon Spilett had been the reporter of the New York
Herald, which he enriched by his letters and drawings, for he was as
skilful in the use of the pencil as of the pen. When he was captured,
he was in the act of making a description and sketch of the battle. The
last words in his note-book were these: "A Southern rifleman has just
taken aim at me, but--" The Southerner notwithstanding missed Gideon
Spilett, who, with his usual fortune, came out of this affair without a
Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett, who did not know each other except
by reputation, had both been carried to Richmond. The engineer's
wounds rapidly healed, and it was during his convalescence that he made
acquaintance with the reporter. The two men then learned to appreciate
each other. Soon their common aim had but one object, that of escaping,
rejoining Grant's army, and fighting together in the ranks of the
The two Americans had from the first determined to seize every chance;
but although they were allowed to wander at liberty in the town,
Richmond was so strictly guarded, that escape appeared impossible. In
the meanwhile Captain Harding was rejoined by a servant who was devoted
to him in life and in death. This intrepid fellow was a Negro born on
the engineer's estate, of a slave father and mother, but to whom Cyrus,
who was an Abolitionist from conviction and heart, had long since given
his freedom. The once slave, though free, would not leave his master. He
would have died for him. He was a man of about thirty, vigorous, active,
clever, intelligent, gentle, and calm, sometimes naive, always merry,
obliging, and honest. His name was Nebuchadnezzar, but he only answered
to the familiar abbreviation of Neb.
When Neb heard that his master had been made prisoner, he left
Massachusetts without hesitating an instant, arrived before Richmond,
and by dint of stratagem and shrewdness, after having risked his life
twenty times over, managed to penetrate into the besieged town. The
pleasure of Harding on seeing his servant, and the joy of Neb at finding
his master, can scarcely be described.
But though Neb had been able to make his way into Richmond, it was quite
another thing to get out again, for the Northern prisoners were very
strictly watched. Some extraordinary opportunity was needed to make the
attempt with any chance of success, and this opportunity not only did
not present itself, but was very difficult to find.
Meanwhile Grant continued his energetic operations. The victory of
Petersburg had been very dearly bought. His forces, united to those of
Butler, had as yet been unsuccessful before Richmond, and nothing gave
the prisoners any hope of a speedy deliverance.
The reporter, to whom his tedious captivity did not offer a single
incident worthy of note, could stand it no longer. His usually active
mind was occupied with one sole thought--how he might get out of
Richmond at any cost. Several times had he even made the attempt,
but was stopped by some insurmountable obstacle. However, the siege
continued; and if the prisoners were anxious to escape and join Grant's
army, certain of the besieged were no less anxious to join the Southern
forces. Among them was one Jonathan Forster, a determined Southerner.
The truth was, that if the prisoners of the Secessionists could not
leave the town, neither could the Secessionists themselves while the
Northern army invested it. The Governor of Richmond for a long time had
been unable to communicate with General Lee, and he very much wished to
make known to him the situation of the town, so as to hasten the march
of the army to their relief. Thus Jonathan Forster accordingly conceived
the idea of rising in a balloon, so as to pass over the besieging lines,
and in that way reach the Secessionist camp.
The Governor authorized the attempt. A balloon was manufactured and
placed at the disposal of Forster, who was to be accompanied by five
other persons. They were furnished with arms in case they might have
to defend themselves when they alighted, and provisions in the event of
their aerial voyage being prolonged.
The departure of the balloon was fixed for the 18th of March. It should
be effected during the night, with a northwest wind of moderate force,
and the aeronauts calculated that they would reach General Lee's camp in
a few hours.
But this northwest wind was not a simple breeze. From the 18th it was
evident that it was changing to a hurricane. The tempest soon became
such that Forster's departure was deferred, for it was impossible to
risk the balloon and those whom it carried in the midst of the furious
The balloon, inflated on the great square of Richmond, was ready to
depart on the first abatement of the wind, and, as may be supposed, the
impatience among the besieged to see the storm moderate was very great.
The 18th, the 19th of March passed without any alteration in the
weather. There was even great difficulty in keeping the balloon fastened
to the ground, as the squalls dashed it furiously about.
The night of the 19th passed, but the next morning the storm blew with
redoubled force. The departure of the balloon was impossible.
On that day the engineer, Cyrus Harding, was accosted in one of the
streets of Richmond by a person whom he did not in the least know. This
was a sailor named Pencroft, a man of about thirty-five or forty years
of age, strongly built, very sunburnt, and possessed of a pair of
bright sparkling eyes and a remarkably good physiognomy. Pencroft was an
American from the North, who had sailed all the ocean over, and who had
gone through every possible and almost impossible adventure that a being
with two feet and no wings would encounter. It is needless to say that
he was a bold, dashing fellow, ready to dare anything and was astonished
at nothing. Pencroft at the beginning of the year had gone to Richmond
on business, with a young boy of fifteen from New Jersey, son of a
former captain, an orphan, whom he loved as if he had been his
own child. Not having been able to leave the town before the first
operations of the siege, he found himself shut up, to his great disgust;
but, not accustomed to succumb to difficulties, he resolved to escape by
some means or other. He knew the engineer-officer by reputation; he knew
with what impatience that determined man chafed under his restraint. On
this day he did not, therefore, hesitate to accost him, saying, without
circumlocution, "Have you had enough of Richmond, captain?"
The engineer looked fixedly at the man who spoke, and who added, in a
"Captain Harding, will you try to escape?"
"When?" asked the engineer quickly, and it was evident that this
question was uttered without consideration, for he had not yet examined
the stranger who addressed him. But after having with a penetrating
eye observed the open face of the sailor, he was convinced that he had
before him an honest man.
"Who are you?" he asked briefly.
Pencroft made himself known.
"Well," replied Harding, "and in what way do you propose to escape?"
"By that lazy balloon which is left there doing nothing, and which looks
to me as if it was waiting on purpose for us--"
There was no necessity for the sailor to finish his sentence. The
engineer understood him at once. He seized Pencroft by the arm, and
dragged him to his house. There the sailor developed his project, which
was indeed extremely simple. They risked nothing but their lives in its
execution. The hurricane was in all its violence, it is true, but so
clever and daring an engineer as Cyrus Harding knew perfectly well how
to manage a balloon. Had he himself been as well acquainted with the art
of sailing in the air as he was with the navigation of a ship, Pencroft
would not have hesitated to set out, of course taking his young friend
Herbert with him; for, accustomed to brave the fiercest tempests of the
ocean, he was not to be hindered on account of the hurricane.
Captain Harding had listened to the sailor without saying a word,
but his eyes shone with satisfaction. Here was the long-sought-for
opportunity--he was not a man to let it pass. The plan was feasible,
though, it must be confessed, dangerous in the extreme. In the night,
in spite of their guards, they might approach the balloon, slip into the
car, and then cut the cords which held it. There was no doubt that they
might be killed, but on the other hand they might succeed, and without
this storm!--Without this storm the balloon would have started already
and the looked-for opportunity would not have then presented itself.
"I am not alone!" said Harding at last.
"How many people do you wish to bring with you?" asked the sailor.
"Two; my friend Spilett, and my servant Neb."
"That will be three," replied Pencroft; "and with Herbert and me five.
But the balloon will hold six--"
"That will be enough, we will go," answered Harding in a firm voice.
This "we" included Spilett, for the reporter, as his friend well knew,
was not a man to draw back, and when the project was communicated to him
he approved of it unreservedly. What astonished him was, that so simple
an idea had not occurred to him before. As to Neb, he followed his
master wherever his master wished to go.
"This evening, then," said Pencroft, "we will all meet out there."
"This evening, at ten o'clock," replied Captain Harding; "and Heaven
grant that the storm does not abate before our departure."
Pencroft took leave of the two friends, and returned to his lodging,
where young Herbert Brown had remained. The courageous boy knew of the
sailor's plan, and it was not without anxiety that he awaited the result
of the proposal being made to the engineer. Thus five determined
persons were about to abandon themselves to the mercy of the tempestuous
No! the storm did not abate, and neither Jonathan Forster nor his
companions dreamed of confronting it in that frail car.
It would be a terrible journey. The engineer only feared one thing; it
was that the balloon, held to the ground and dashed about by the
wind, would be torn into shreds. For several hours he roamed round the
nearly-deserted square, surveying the apparatus. Pencroft did the same
on his side, his hands in his pockets, yawning now and then like a man
who did not know how to kill the time, but really dreading, like
his friend, either the escape or destruction of the balloon. Evening
arrived. The night was dark in the extreme. Thick mists passed like
clouds close to the ground. Rain fell mingled with snow, it was very
cold. A mist hung over Richmond. It seemed as if the violent storm had
produced a truce between the besiegers and the besieged, and that the
cannon were silenced by the louder detonations of the storm. The streets
of the town were deserted. It had not even appeared necessary in that
horrible weather to place a guard in the square, in the midst of which
plunged the balloon. Everything favored the departure of the prisoners,
but what might possibly be the termination of the hazardous voyage they
contemplated in the midst of the furious elements?--
"Dirty weather!" exclaimed Pencroft, fixing his hat firmly on his head
with a blow of his fist; "but pshaw, we shall succeed all the same!"
At half-past nine, Harding and his companions glided from different
directions into the square, which the gas-lamps, extinguished by the
wind, had left in total obscurity. Even the enormous balloon, almost
beaten to the ground, could not be seen. Independently of the sacks of
ballast, to which the cords of the net were fastened, the car was
held by a strong cable passed through a ring in the pavement. The five
prisoners met by the car. They had not been perceived, and such was the
darkness that they could not even see each other.
Without speaking a word, Harding, Spilett, Neb, and Herbert took their
places in the car, while Pencroft by the engineer's order detached
successively the bags of ballast. It was the work of a few minutes only,
and the sailor rejoined his companions.
The balloon was then only held by the cable, and the engineer had
nothing to do but to give the word.
At that moment a dog sprang with a bound into the car. It was Top,
a favorite of the engineer. The faithful creature, having broken his
chain, had followed his master. He, however, fearing that its additional
weight might impede their ascent, wished to send away the animal.
"One more will make but little difference, poor beast!" exclaimed
Pencroft, heaving out two bags of sand, and as he spoke letting go the
cable; the balloon ascending in an oblique direction, disappeared, after
having dashed the car against two chimneys, which it threw down as it
swept by them.
Then, indeed, the full rage of the hurricane was exhibited to the
voyagers. During the night the engineer could not dream of descending,
and when day broke, even a glimpse of the earth below was intercepted by
Five days had passed when a partial clearing allowed them to see the
wide extending ocean beneath their feet, now lashed into the maddest
fury by the gale.
Our readers will recollect what befell these five daring individuals
who set out on their hazardous expedition in the balloon on the 20th of
March. Five days afterwards four of them were thrown on a desert coast,
seven thousand miles from their country! But one of their number was
missing, the man who was to be their guide, their leading spirit, the
engineer, Captain Harding! The instant they had recovered their feet,
they all hurried to the beach in the hopes of rendering him assistance.
The engineer, the meshes of the net having given way, had been carried
off by a wave. His dog also had disappeared. The faithful animal
had voluntarily leaped out to help his master. "Forward," cried the
reporter; and all four, Spilett, Herbert, Pencroft, and Neb, forgetting
their fatigue, began their search. Poor Neb shed bitter tears, giving
way to despair at the thought of having lost the only being he loved on
Only two minutes had passed from the time when Cyrus Harding disappeared
to the moment when his companions set foot on the ground. They had hopes
therefore of arriving in time to save him. "Let us look for him! let us
look for him!" cried Neb.
"Yes, Neb," replied Gideon Spilett, "and we will find him too!"
"Living, I trust!"
"Can he swim?" asked Pencroft.
"Yes," replied Neb, "and besides, Top is there."
The sailor, observing the heavy surf on the shore, shook his head.
The engineer had disappeared to the north of the shore, and nearly half
a mile from the place where the castaways had landed. The nearest point
of the beach he could reach was thus fully that distance off.
It was then nearly six o'clock. A thick fog made the night very dark.
The castaways proceeded toward the north of the land on which chance had
thrown them, an unknown region, the geographical situation of which they
could not even guess. They were walking upon a sandy soil, mingled with
stones, which appeared destitute of any sort of vegetation. The ground,
very unequal and rough, was in some places perfectly riddled with holes,
making walking extremely painful. From these holes escaped every minute
great birds of clumsy flight, which flew in all directions. Others, more
active, rose in flocks and passed in clouds over their heads. The sailor
thought he recognized gulls and cormorants, whose shrill cries rose
above the roaring of the sea.
From time to time the castaways stopped and shouted, then listened for
some response from the ocean, for they thought that if the engineer had
landed, and they had been near to the place, they would have heard the
barking of the dog Top, even should Harding himself have been unable to
give any sign of existence. They stopped to listen, but no sound arose
above the roaring of the waves and the dashing of the surf. The little
band then continued their march forward, searching into every hollow of
After walking for twenty minutes, the four castaways were suddenly
brought to a standstill by the sight of foaming billows close to
their feet. The solid ground ended here. They found themselves at the
extremity of a sharp point on which the sea broke furiously.
"It is a promontory," said the sailor; "we must retrace our steps,
holding towards the right, and we shall thus gain the mainland."
"But if he is there," said Neb, pointing to the ocean, whose waves shone
of a snowy white in the darkness. "Well, let us call again," and all
uniting their voices, they gave a vigorous shout, but there came no
reply. They waited for a lull, then began again; still no reply.
The castaways accordingly returned, following the opposite side of the
promontory, over a soil equally sandy and rugged. However, Pencroft
observed that the shore was more equal, that the ground rose, and he
declared that it was joined by a long slope to a hill, whose massive
front he thought that he could see looming indistinctly through the
mist. The birds were less numerous on this part of the shore; the sea
was also less tumultuous, and they observed that the agitation of the
waves was diminished. The noise of the surf was scarcely heard. This
side of the promontory evidently formed a semicircular bay, which the
sharp point sheltered from the breakers of the open sea. But to follow
this direction was to go south, exactly opposite to that part of the
coast where Harding might have landed. After a walk of a mile and a
half, the shore presented no curve which would permit them to return to
the north. This promontory, of which they had turned the point, must
be attached to the mainland. The castaways, although their strength
was nearly exhausted, still marched courageously forward, hoping every
moment to meet with a sudden angle which would set them in the first
direction. What was their disappointment, when, after trudging nearly
two miles, having reached an elevated point composed of slippery rocks,
they found themselves again stopped by the sea.
"We are on an islet," said Pencroft, "and we have surveyed it from one
extremity to the other."
The sailor was right; they had been thrown, not on a continent, not
even on an island, but on an islet which was not more than two miles in
length, with even a less breadth.
Was this barren spot the desolate refuge of sea-birds, strewn with
stones and destitute of vegetation, attached to a more important
archipelago? It was impossible to say. When the voyagers from their car
saw the land through the mist, they had not been able to reconnoiter
it sufficiently. However, Pencroft, accustomed with his sailor eyes
to piece through the gloom, was almost certain that he could clearly
distinguish in the west confused masses which indicated an elevated
coast. But they could not in the dark determine whether it was a single
island, or connected with others. They could not leave it either, as the
sea surrounded them; they must therefore put off till the next day their
search for the engineer, from whom, alas! not a single cry had reached
them to show that he was still in existence.
"The silence of our friend proves nothing," said the reporter. "Perhaps
he has fainted or is wounded, and unable to reply directly, so we will
The reporter then proposed to light a fire on a point of the islet,
which would serve as a signal to the engineer. But they searched in vain
for wood or dry brambles; nothing but sand and stones were to be found.
The grief of Neb and his companions, who were all strongly attached to
the intrepid Harding, can be better pictured than described. It was too
evident that they were powerless to help him. They must wait with what
patience they could for daylight. Either the engineer had been able to
save himself, and had already found a refuge on some point of the coast,
or he was lost for ever! The long and painful hours passed by. The cold
was intense. The castaways suffered cruelly, but they scarcely perceived
it. They did not even think of taking a minute's rest. Forgetting
everything but their chief, hoping or wishing to hope on, they continued
to walk up and down on this sterile spot, always returning to its
northern point, where they could approach nearest to the scene of the
catastrophe. They listened, they called, and then uniting their voices,
they endeavored to raise even a louder shout than before, which would
be transmitted to a great distance. The wind had now fallen almost to
a calm, and the noise of the sea began also to subside. One of Neb's
shouts even appeared to produce an echo. Herbert directed Pencroft's
attention to it, adding, "That proves that there is a coast to the west,
at no great distance." The sailor nodded; besides, his eyes could not
deceive him. If he had discovered land, however indistinct it might
appear, land was sure to be there. But that distant echo was the only
response produced by Neb's shouts, while a heavy gloom hung over all the
part east of the island.
Meanwhile, the sky was clearing little by little. Towards midnight the
stars shone out, and if the engineer had been there with his companions
he would have remarked that these stars did not belong to the Northern
Hemisphere. The Polar Star was not visible, the constellations were not
those which they had been accustomed to see in the United States; the
Southern Cross glittered brightly in the sky.
The night passed away. Towards five o'clock in the morning of the 25th
of March, the sky began to lighten; the horizon still remained dark,
but with daybreak a thick mist rose from the sea, so that the eye could
scarcely penetrate beyond twenty feet or so from where they stood. At
length the fog gradually unrolled itself in great heavily moving waves.
It was unfortunate, however, that the castaways could distinguish
nothing around them. While the gaze of the reporter and Neb were cast
upon the ocean, the sailor and Herbert looked eagerly for the coast
in the west. But not a speck of land was visible. "Never mind," said
Pencroft, "though I do not see the land, I feel it... it is there...
there... as sure as the fact that we are no longer at Richmond." But the
fog was not long in rising. It was only a fine-weather mist. A hot
sun soon penetrated to the surface of the island. About half-past
six, three-quarters of an hour after sunrise, the mist became more
transparent. It grew thicker above, but cleared away below. Soon the
isle appeared as if it had descended from a cloud, then the sea showed
itself around them, spreading far away towards the east, but bounded on
the west by an abrupt and precipitous coast.
Yes! the land was there. Their safety was at least provisionally
insured. The islet and the coast were separated by a channel about half
a mile in breadth, through which rushed an extremely rapid current.
However, one of the castaways, following the impulse of his heart,
immediately threw himself into the current, without consulting his
companions, without saying a single word. It was Neb. He was in haste
to be on the other side, and to climb towards the north. It had been
impossible to hold him back. Pencroft called him in vain. The reporter
prepared to follow him, but Pencroft stopped him. "Do you want to cross
the channel?" he asked. "Yes," replied Spilett. "All right!" said the
seaman; "wait a bit; Neb is well able to carry help to his master. If we
venture into the channel, we risk being carried into the open sea by
the current, which is running very strong; but, if I'm not wrong, it is
ebbing. See, the tide is going down over the sand. Let us have patience,
and at low water it is possible we may find a fordable passage." "You
are right," replied the reporter, "we will not separate more than we can
During this time Neb was struggling vigorously against the current. He
was crossing in an oblique direction. His black shoulders could be seen
emerging at each stroke. He was carried down very quickly, but he also
made way towards the shore. It took more than half an hour to cross from
the islet to the land, and he reached the shore several hundred feet
from the place which was opposite to the point from which he had
Landing at the foot of a high wall of granite, he shook himself
vigorously; and then, setting off running, soon disappeared behind
a rocky point, which projected to nearly the height of the northern
extremity of the islet.
Neb's companions had watched his daring attempt with painful anxiety,
and when he was out of sight, they fixed their attention on the land
where their hope of safety lay, while eating some shell-fish with which
the sand was strewn. It was a wretched repast, but still it was better
than nothing. The opposite coast formed one vast bay, terminating on the
south by a very sharp point, which was destitute of all vegetation,
and was of a very wild aspect. This point abutted on the shore in a
grotesque outline of high granite rocks. Towards the north, on the
contrary, the bay widened, and a more rounded coast appeared, trending
from the southwest to the northeast, and terminating in a slender cape.
The distance between these two extremities, which made the bow of the
bay, was about eight miles. Half a mile from the shore rose the islet,
which somewhat resembled the carcass of a gigantic whale. Its extreme
breadth was not more than a quarter of a mile.
Opposite the islet, the beach consisted first of sand, covered with
black stones, which were now appearing little by little above the
retreating tide. The second level was separated by a perpendicular
granite cliff, terminated at the top by an unequal edge at a height of
at least 300 feet. It continued thus for a length of three miles, ending
suddenly on the right with a precipice which looked as if cut by the
hand of man. On the left, above the promontory, this irregular and
jagged cliff descended by a long slope of conglomerated rocks till it
mingled with the ground of the southern point. On the upper plateau of
the coast not a tree appeared. It was a flat tableland like that above
Cape Town at the Cape of Good Hope, but of reduced proportions; at least
so it appeared seen from the islet. However, verdure was not wanting to
the right beyond the precipice. They could easily distinguish a confused
mass of great trees, which extended beyond the limits of their view.
This verdure relieved the eye, so long wearied by the continued ranges
of granite. Lastly, beyond and above the plateau, in a northwesterly
direction and at a distance of at least seven miles, glittered a white
summit which reflected the sun's rays. It was that of a lofty mountain,
capped with snow.
The question could not at present be decided whether this land formed
an island, or whether it belonged to a continent. But on beholding
the convulsed masses heaped up on the left, no geologist would have
hesitated to give them a volcanic origin, for they were unquestionably
the work of subterranean convulsions.
Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Herbert attentively examined this land, on
which they might perhaps have to live many long years; on which indeed
they might even die, should it be out of the usual track of vessels, as
was likely to be the case.
"Well," asked Herbert, "what do you say, Pencroft?"
"There is some good and some bad, as in everything," replied the sailor.
"We shall see. But now the ebb is evidently making. In three hours we
will attempt the passage, and once on the other side, we will try to get
out of this scrape, and I hope may find the captain." Pencroft was not
wrong in his anticipations. Three hours later at low tide, the greater
part of the sand forming the bed of the channel was uncovered. Between
the islet and the coast there only remained a narrow channel which would
no doubt be easy to cross.
About ten o'clock, Gideon Spilett and his companions stripped themselves
of their clothes, which they placed in bundles on their heads, and
then ventured into the water, which was not more than five feet deep.
Herbert, for whom it was too deep, swam like a fish, and got through
capitally. All three arrived without difficulty on the opposite shore.
Quickly drying themselves in the sun, they put on their clothes, which
they had preserved from contact with the water, and sat down to take
counsel together what to do next.
All at once the reporter sprang up, and telling the sailor that he would
rejoin them at that same place, he climbed the cliff in the direction
which the Negro Neb had taken a few hours before. Anxiety hastened
his steps, for he longed to obtain news of his friend, and he soon
disappeared round an angle of the cliff. Herbert wished to accompany
"Stop here, my boy," said the sailor; "we have to prepare an encampment,
and to try and find rather better grub than these shell-fish. Our
friends will want something when they come back. There is work for
"I am ready," replied Herbert.
"All right," said the sailor; "that will do. We must set about it
regularly. We are tired, cold, and hungry; therefore we must have
shelter, fire, and food. There is wood in the forest, and eggs in nests;
we have only to find a house."
"Very well," returned Herbert, "I will look for a cave among the rocks,
and I shall be sure to discover some hole into which we can creep."
"All right," said Pencroft; "go on, my boy."
They both walked to the foot of the enormous wall over the beach, far
from which the tide had now retreated; but instead of going towards the
north, they went southward. Pencroft had remarked, several hundred feet
from the place at which they landed, a narrow cutting, out of which
he thought a river or stream might issue. Now, on the one hand it was
important to settle themselves in the neighborhood of a good stream
of water, and on the other it was possible that the current had thrown
Cyrus Harding on the shore there.
The cliff, as has been said, rose to a height of three hundred feet, but
the mass was unbroken throughout, and even at its base, scarcely washed
by the sea, it did not offer the smallest fissure which would serve as
a dwelling. It was a perpendicular wall of very hard granite, which even
the waves had not worn away. Towards the summit fluttered myriads of
sea-fowl, and especially those of the web-footed species with long,
flat, pointed beaks--a clamorous tribe, bold in the presence of man,
who probably for the first time thus invaded their domains. Pencroft
recognized the skua and other gulls among them, the voracious little
sea-mew, which in great numbers nestled in the crevices of the granite.
A shot fired among this swarm would have killed a great number, but to
fire a shot a gun was needed, and neither Pencroft nor Herbert had one;
besides this, gulls and sea-mews are scarcely eatable, and even their
eggs have a detestable taste. However, Herbert, who had gone forward
a little more to the left, soon came upon rocks covered with sea-weed,
which, some hours later, would be hidden by the high tide. On these
rocks, in the midst of slippery wrack, abounded bivalve shell-fish, not
to be despised by starving people. Herbert called Pencroft, who ran up
"Here are mussels!" cried the sailor; "these will do instead of eggs!"
"They are not mussels," replied Herbert, who was attentively examining
the molluscs attached to the rocks; "they are lithodomes."
"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.
"Then let us eat some lithodomes."
The sailor could rely upon Herbert; the young boy was well up in natural
history, and always had had quite a passion for the science. His father
had encouraged him in it, by letting him attend the lectures of the best
professors in Boston, who were very fond of the intelligent, industrious
lad. And his turn for natural history was, more than once in the course
of time, of great use, and he was not mistaken in this instance. These
lithodomes were oblong shells, suspended in clusters and adhering
very tightly to the rocks. They belong to that species of molluscous
perforators which excavate holes in the hardest stone; their shell is
rounded at both ends, a feature which is not remarked in the common
Pencroft and Herbert made a good meal of the lithodomes, which were
then half opened to the sun. They ate them as oysters, and as they had
a strong peppery taste, they were palatable without condiments of any
Their hunger was thus appeased for the time, but not their thirst, which
increased after eating these naturally-spiced molluscs. They had then to
find fresh water, and it was not likely that it would be wanting in such
a capriciously uneven region. Pencroft and Herbert, after having taken
the precaution of collecting an ample supply of lithodomes, with which
they filled their pockets and handkerchiefs, regained the foot of the
Two hundred paces farther they arrived at the cutting, through which, as
Pencroft had guessed, ran a stream of water, whether fresh or not was to
be ascertained. At this place the wall appeared to have been separated
by some violent subterranean force. At its base was hollowed out a
little creek, the farthest part of which formed a tolerably sharp angle.
The watercourse at that part measured one hundred feet in breadth, and
its two banks on each side were scarcely twenty feet high. The river
became strong almost directly between the two walls of granite, which
began to sink above the mouth; it then suddenly turned and disappeared
beneath a wood of stunted trees half a mile off.
"Here is the water, and yonder is the wood we require!" said Pencroft.
"Well, Herbert, now we only want the house."
The water of the river was limpid. The sailor ascertained that at this
time--that is to say, at low tide, when the rising floods did not reach
it--it was sweet. This important point established, Herbert looked for
some cavity which would serve them as a retreat, but in vain; everywhere
the wall appeared smooth, plain, and perpendicular.
However, at the mouth of the watercourse and above the reach of the high
tide, the convulsions of nature had formed, not a grotto, but a pile
of enormous rocks, such as are often met with in granite countries and
which bear the name of "Chimneys."
Pencroft and Herbert penetrated quite far in among the rocks, by sandy
passages in which light was not wanting, for it entered through the
openings which were left between the blocks, of which some were only
sustained by a miracle of equilibrium; but with the light came also
air--a regular corridor-gale--and with the wind the sharp cold from the
exterior. However, the sailor thought that by stopping-up some of
the openings with a mixture of stones and sand, the Chimneys could be
rendered habitable. Their geometrical plan represented the typographical
sign "&," which signifies "et cetera" abridged, but by isolating the
upper mouth of the sign, through which the south and west winds blew so
strongly, they could succeed in making the lower part of use.
"Here's our work," said Pencroft, "and if we ever see Captain Harding
again, he will know how to make something of this labyrinth."
"We shall see him again, Pencroft," cried Herbert, "and when he returns
he must find a tolerable dwelling here. It will be so, if we can make a
fireplace in the left passage and keep an opening for the smoke."
"So we can, my boy," replied the sailor, "and these Chimneys will serve
our turn. Let us set to work, but first come and get a store of fuel. I
think some branches will be very useful in stopping up these openings,
through which the wind shrieks like so many fiends."
Herbert and Pencroft left the Chimneys, and, turning the angle, they
began to climb the left bank of the river. The current here was quite
rapid, and drifted down some dead wood. The rising tide--and it could
already be perceived--must drive it back with force to a considerable
distance. The sailor then thought that they could utilize this ebb and
flow for the transport of heavy objects.
After having walked for a quarter of an hour, the sailor and the boy
arrived at the angle which the river made in turning towards the left.
From this point its course was pursued through a forest of magnificent
trees. These trees still retained their verdure, notwithstanding the
advanced season, for they belonged to the family of "coniferae," which
is spread over all the regions of the globe, from northern climates to
the tropics. The young naturalist recognized especially the "deedara,"
which are very numerous in the Himalayan zone, and which spread around
them a most agreeable odor. Between these beautiful trees sprang up
clusters of firs, whose opaque open parasol boughs spread wide around.
Among the long grass, Pencroft felt that his feet were crushing dry
branches which crackled like fireworks.
"Well, my boy," said he to Herbert, "if I don't know the name of these
trees, at any rate I reckon that we may call them 'burning wood,' and
just now that's the chief thing we want."
"Let us get a supply," replied Herbert, who immediately set to work.
The collection was easily made. It was not even necessary to lop the
trees, for enormous quantities of dead wood were lying at their feet;
but if fuel was not wanting, the means of transporting it was not yet
found. The wood, being very dry, would burn rapidly; it was therefore
necessary to carry to the Chimneys a considerable quantity, and the
loads of two men would not be sufficient. Herbert remarked this.
"Well, my boy," replied the sailor, "there must be some way of carrying
this wood; there is always a way of doing everything. If we had a cart
or a boat, it would be easy enough."
"But we have the river," said Herbert.
"Right," replied Pencroft; "the river will be to us like a road which
carries of itself, and rafts have not been invented for nothing."
"Only," observed Herbert, "at this moment our road is going the wrong
way, for the tide is rising!"
"We shall be all right if we wait till it ebbs," replied the sailor,
"and then we will trust it to carry our fuel to the Chimneys. Let us get
the raft ready."
The sailor, followed by Herbert, directed his steps towards the river.
They both carried, each in proportion to his strength, a load of wood
bound in fagots. They found on the bank also a great quantity of dead
branches in the midst of grass, among which the foot of man had probably
never before trod. Pencroft began directly to make his raft. In a kind
of little bay, created by a point of the shore which broke the current,
the sailor and the lad placed some good-sized pieces of wood, which
they had fastened together with dry creepers. A raft was thus formed, on
which they stacked all they had collected, sufficient, indeed, to have
loaded at least twenty men. In an hour the work was finished, and the
raft moored to the bank, awaited the turning of the tide.
There were still several hours to be occupied, and with one consent
Pencroft and Herbert resolved to gain the upper plateau, so as to have a
more extended view of the surrounding country.
Exactly two hundred feet behind the angle formed by the river, the wall,
terminated by a fall of rocks, died away in a gentle slope to the edge
of the forest. It was a natural staircase. Herbert and the sailor began
their ascent; thanks to the vigor of their muscles they reached the
summit in a few minutes; and proceeded to the point above the mouth of
On attaining it, their first look was cast upon the ocean which not long
before they had traversed in such a terrible condition. They observed,
with emotion, all that part to the north of the coast on which the
catastrophe had taken place. It was there that Cyrus Harding had
disappeared. They looked to see if some portion of their balloon, to
which a man might possibly cling, yet existed. Nothing! The sea was but
one vast watery desert. As to the coast, it was solitary also. Neither
the reporter nor Neb could be anywhere seen. But it was possible that at
this time they were both too far away to be perceived.
"Something tells me," cried Herbert, "that a man as energetic as Captain
Harding would not let himself be drowned like other people. He must have
reached some point of the shore; don't you think so, Pencroft?"
The sailor shook his head sadly. He little expected ever to see Cyrus
Harding again; but wishing to leave some hope to Herbert: "Doubtless,
doubtless," said he; "our engineer is a man who would get out of a
scrape to which any one else would yield."
In the meantime he examined the coast with great attention. Stretched
out below them was the sandy shore, bounded on the right of the river's
mouth by lines of breakers. The rocks which were visible appeared like
amphibious monsters reposing in the surf. Beyond the reef, the sea
sparkled beneath the sun's rays. To the south a sharp point closed the
horizon, and it could not be seen if the land was prolonged in that
direction, or if it ran southeast and southwest, which would have made
this coast a very long peninsula. At the northern extremity of the bay
the outline of the shore was continued to a great distance in a wider
curve. There the shore was low, flat, without cliffs, and with great
banks of sand, which the tide left uncovered. Pencroft and Herbert then
returned towards the west. Their attention was first arrested by the
snow-topped mountain which rose at a distance of six or seven miles.
From its first declivities to within two miles of the coast were spread
vast masses of wood, relieved by large green patches, caused by the
presence of evergreen trees. Then, from the edge of this forest to the
shore extended a plain, scattered irregularly with groups of trees. Here
and there on the left sparkled through glades the waters of the little
river; they could trace its winding course back towards the spurs of the
mountain, among which it seemed to spring. At the point where the sailor
had left his raft of wood, it began to run between the two high granite
walls; but if on the left bank the wall remained clear and abrupt, on
the right bank, on the contrary, it sank gradually, the massive sides
changed to isolated rocks, the rocks to stones, the stones to shingle
running to the extremity of the point.
"Are we on an island?" murmured the sailor.
"At any rate, it seems to be big enough," replied the lad.
"An island, ever so big, is an island all the same!" said Pencroft.
But this important question could not yet be answered. A more perfect
survey had to be made to settle the point. As to the land itself, island
or continent, it appeared fertile, agreeable in its aspect, and varied
in its productions.
"This is satisfactory," observed Pencroft; "and in our misfortune, we
must thank Providence for it."
"God be praised!" responded Herbert, whose pious heart was full of
gratitude to the Author of all things.
Pencroft and Herbert examined for some time the country on which
they had been cast; but it was difficult to guess after so hasty an
inspection what the future had in store for them.
They then returned, following the southern crest of the granite
platform, bordered by a long fringe of jagged rocks, of the most
whimsical shapes. Some hundreds of birds lived there nestled in the
holes of the stone; Herbert, jumping over the rocks, startled a whole
flock of these winged creatures.
"Oh!" cried he, "those are not gulls nor sea-mews!"
"What are they then?" asked Pencroft.
"Upon my word, one would say they were pigeons!"
"Just so, but these are wild or rock pigeons. I recognize them by
the double band of black on the wing, by the white tail, and by their
slate-colored plumage. But if the rock-pigeon is good to eat, its eggs
must be excellent, and we will soon see how many they may have left in
"We will not give them time to hatch, unless it is in the shape of an
omelet!" replied Pencroft merrily.
"But what will you make your omelet in?" asked Herbert; "in your hat?"
"Well!" replied the sailor, "I am not quite conjuror enough for that;
we must come down to eggs in the shell, my boy, and I will undertake to
despatch the hardest!"
Pencroft and Herbert attentively examined the cavities in the granite,
and they really found eggs in some of the hollows. A few dozen being
collected, were packed in the sailor's handkerchief, and as the time
when the tide would be full was approaching, Pencroft and Herbert began
to redescend towards the watercourse. When they arrived there, it was
an hour after midday. The tide had already turned. They must now avail
themselves of the ebb to take the wood to the mouth. Pencroft did not
intend to let the raft go away in the current without guidance, neither
did he mean to embark on it himself to steer it. But a sailor is never
at a loss when there is a question of cables or ropes, and Pencroft
rapidly twisted a cord, a few fathoms long, made of dry creepers. This
vegetable cable was fastened to the after-part of the raft, and the
sailor held it in his hand while Herbert, pushing off the raft with
a long pole, kept it in the current. This succeeded capitally. The
enormous load of wood drifted down the current. The bank was very
equal; there was no fear that the raft would run aground, and before
two o'clock they arrived at the river's mouth, a few paces from the
Pencroft's first care, after unloading the raft, was to render the cave
habitable by stopping up all the holes which made it draughty. Sand,
stones, twisted branches, wet clay, closed up the galleries open to the
south winds. One narrow and winding opening at the side was kept, to
lead out the smoke and to make the fire draw. The cave was thus divided
into three or four rooms, if such dark dens with which a donkey would
scarcely have been contented deserved the name. But they were dry, and
there was space to stand upright, at least in the principal room, which
occupied the center. The floor was covered with fine sand, and taking
all in all they were well pleased with it for want of a better.
"Perhaps," said Herbert, while he and Pencroft were working, "our
companions have found a superior place to ours."
"Very likely," replied the seaman; "but, as we don't know, we must work
all the same. Better to have two strings to one's bow than no string at
"Oh!" exclaimed Herbert, "how jolly it will be if they were to find
Captain Harding and were to bring him back with them!"
"Yes, indeed!" said Pencroft, "that was a man of the right sort."
"Was!" exclaimed Herbert, "do you despair of ever seeing him again?"
"God forbid!" replied the sailor. Their work was soon done, and Pencroft
declared himself very well satisfied.
"Now," said he, "our friends can come back when they like. They will
find a good enough shelter."
They now had only to make a fireplace and to prepare the supper--an easy
task. Large flat stones were placed on the ground at the opening of the
narrow passage which had been kept. This, if the smoke did not take
the heat out with it, would be enough to maintain an equal temperature
inside. Their wood was stowed away in one of the rooms, and the sailor
laid in the fireplace some logs and brushwood. The seaman was busy with
this, when Herbert asked him if he had any matches.
"Certainly," replied Pencroft, "and I may say happily, for without
matches or tinder we should be in a fix."
"Still we might get fire as the savages do," replied Herbert, "by
rubbing two bits of dry stick one against the other."
"All right; try, my boy, and let's see if you can do anything besides
exercising your arms."
"Well, it's a very simple proceeding, and much used in the islands of
"I don't deny it," replied Pencroft, "but the savages must know how to
do it or employ a peculiar wood, for more than once I have tried to
get fire in that way, but I could never manage it. I must say I prefer
matches. By the bye, where are my matches?"
Pencroft searched in his waistcoat for the box, which was always there,
for he was a confirmed smoker. He could not find it; he rummaged the
pockets of his trousers, but, to his horror, he could nowhere discover
"Here's a go!" said he, looking at Herbert. "The box must have
fallen out of my pocket and got lost! Surely, Herbert, you must have
something--a tinder-box--anything that can possibly make fire!"
"No, I haven't, Pencroft."
The sailor rushed out, followed by the boy. On the sand, among the
rocks, near the river's bank, they both searched carefully, but in vain.
The box was of copper, and therefore would have been easily seen.
"Pencroft," asked Herbert, "didn't you throw it out of the car?"
"I knew better than that," replied the sailor; "but such a small article
could easily disappear in the tumbling about we have gone through. I
would rather even have lost my pipe! Confound the box! Where can it be?"
"Look here, the tide is going down," said Herbert; "let's run to the
place where we landed."
It was scarcely probable that they would find the box, which the waves
had rolled about among the pebbles, at high tide, but it was as well
to try. Herbert and Pencroft walked rapidly to the point where they had
landed the day before, about two hundred feet from the cave. They hunted
there, among the shingle, in the clefts of the rocks, but found nothing.
If the box had fallen at this place it must have been swept away by the
waves. As the sea went down, they searched every little crevice with
no result. It was a grave loss in their circumstances, and for the
time irreparable. Pencroft could not hide his vexation; he looked very
anxious, but said not a word. Herbert tried to console him by observing,
that if they had found the matches, they would, very likely, have been
wetted by the sea and useless.
"No, my boy," replied the sailor; "they were in a copper box which shut
very tightly; and now what are we to do?"
"We shall certainly find some way of making a fire," said Herbert.
"Captain Harding or Mr. Spilett will not be without them."
"Yes," replied Pencroft; "but in the meantime we are without fire, and
our companions will find but a sorry repast on their return."
"But," said Herbert quickly, "do you think it possible that they have no
tinder or matches?"
"I doubt it," replied the sailor, shaking his head, "for neither Neb nor
Captain Harding smoke, and I believe that Mr. Spilett would rather keep
his note-book than his match-box."
Herbert did not reply. The loss of the box was certainly to be
regretted, but the boy was still sure of procuring fire in some way or
other. Pencroft, more experienced, did not think so, although he was not
a man to trouble himself about a small or great grievance. At any rate,
there was only one thing to be done--to await the return of Neb and the
reporter; but they must give up the feast of hard eggs which they had
meant to prepare, and a meal of raw flesh was not an agreeable prospect
either for themselves or for the others.
Before returning to the cave, the sailor and Herbert, in the event of
fire being positively unattainable, collected some more shell-fish, and
then silently retraced their steps to their dwelling.
Pencroft, his eyes fixed on the ground, still looked for his box. He
even climbed up the left bank of the river from its mouth to the angle
where the raft had been moored. He returned to the plateau, went over it
in every direction, searched among the high grass on the border of the
forest, all in vain.
It was five in the evening when he and Herbert re-entered the cave.
It is useless to say that the darkest corners of the passages were
ransacked before they were obliged to give it up in despair. Towards
six o'clock, when the sun was disappearing behind the high lands of the
west, Herbert, who was walking up and down on the strand, signalized the
return of Neb and Spilett.
They were returning alone!... The boy's heart sank; the sailor had not
been deceived in his forebodings; the engineer, Cyrus Harding, had not
The reporter, on his arrival, sat down on a rock, without saying
anything. Exhausted with fatigue, dying of hunger, he had not strength
to utter a word.
As to Neb, his red eyes showed how he had cried, and the tears which he
could not restrain told too clearly that he had lost all hope.
The reporter recounted all that they had done in their attempt to
recover Cyrus Harding. He and Neb had surveyed the coast for a distance
of eight miles and consequently much beyond the place where the balloon
had fallen the last time but one, a fall which was followed by the
disappearance of the engineer and the dog Top. The shore was solitary;
not a vestige of a mark. Not even a pebble recently displaced; not a
trace on the sand; not a human footstep on all that part of the beach.
It was clear that that portion of the shore had never been visited by
a human being. The sea was as deserted as the land, and it was there,
a few hundred feet from the coast, that the engineer must have found a
As Spilett ended his account, Neb jumped up, exclaiming in a voice which
showed how hope struggled within him, "No! he is not dead! he can't be
dead! It might happen to any one else, but never to him! He could get
out of anything!" Then his strength forsaking him, "Oh! I can do no
more!" he murmured.
"Neb," said Herbert, running to him, "we will find him! God will give
him back to us! But in the meantime you are hungry, and you must eat
So saying, he offered the poor Negro a few handfuls of shell-fish, which
was indeed wretched and insufficient food. Neb had not eaten anything
for several hours, but he refused them. He could not, would not live
without his master.
As to Gideon Spilett, he devoured the shell-fish, then he laid himself
down on the sand, at the foot of a rock. He was very weak, but calm.
Herbert went up to him, and taking his hand, "Sir," said he, "we
have found a shelter which will be better than lying here. Night is
advancing. Come and rest! To-morrow we will search farther."
The reporter got up, and guided by the boy went towards the cave. On
the way, Pencroft asked him in the most natural tone, if by chance he
happened to have a match or two.
The reporter stopped, felt in his pockets, but finding nothing said, "I
had some, but I must have thrown them away."
The seaman then put the same question to Neb and received the same
"Confound it!" exclaimed the sailor.
The reporter heard him and seizing his arm, "Have you no matches?" he
"Not one, and no fire in consequence."
"Ah!" cried Neb, "if my master was here, he would know what to do!"
The four castaways remained motionless, looking uneasily at each other.
Herbert was the first to break the silence by saying, "Mr. Spilett,
you are a smoker and always have matches about you; perhaps you haven't
looked well, try again, a single match will be enough!"
The reporter hunted again in the pockets of his trousers, waistcoat, and
great-coat, and at last to Pencroft's great joy, no less to his extreme
surprise, he felt a tiny piece of wood entangled in the lining of his
waistcoat. He seized it with his fingers through the stuff, but he could
not get it out. If this was a match and a single one, it was of great
importance not to rub off the phosphorus.
"Will you let me try?" said the boy, and very cleverly, without breaking
it, he managed to draw out the wretched yet precious little bit of wood
which was of such great importance to these poor men. It was unused.
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft; "it is as good as having a whole cargo!" He
took the match, and, followed by his companions, entered the cave.
This small piece of wood, of which so many in an inhabited country are
wasted with indifference and are of no value, must here be used with the
The sailor first made sure that it was quite dry; that done, "We must
have some paper," said he.
"Here," replied Spilett, after some hesitation tearing a leaf out of his
Pencroft took the piece of paper which the reporter held out to him, and
knelt down before the fireplace. Some handfuls of grass, leaves, and dry
moss were placed under the fagots and disposed in such a way that the
air could easily circulate, and the dry wood would rapidly catch fire.
Pencroft then twisted the piece of paper into the shape of a cone, as
smokers do in a high wind, and poked it in among the moss. Taking a
small, rough stone, he wiped it carefully, and with a beating heart,
holding his breath, he gently rubbed the match. The first attempt did
not produce any effect. Pencroft had not struck hard enough, fearing to
rub off the phosphorus.
"No, I can't do it," said he, "my hand trembles, the match has missed
fire; I cannot, I will not!" and rising, he told Herbert to take his
Certainly the boy had never in all his life been so nervous. Prometheus
going to steal the fire from heaven could not have been more anxious. He
did not hesitate, however, but struck the match directly.
A little spluttering was heard and a tiny blue flame sprang up, making
a choking smoke. Herbert quickly turned the match so as to augment the
flame, and then slipped it into the paper cone, which in a few seconds
too caught fire, and then the moss.
A minute later the dry wood crackled and a cheerful flame, assisted
by the vigorous blowing of the sailor, sprang up in the midst of the
"At last!" cried Pencroft, getting up; "I was never so nervous before in
all my life!"
The flat stones made a capital fireplace. The smoke went quite easily
out at the narrow passage, the chimney drew, and an agreeable warmth was
not long in being felt.
They must now take great care not to let the fire go out, and always to
keep some embers alight. It only needed care and attention, as they had
plenty of wood and could renew their store at any time.
Pencroft's first thought was to use the fire by preparing a more
nourishing supper than a dish of shell-fish. Two dozen eggs were
brought by Herbert. The reporter leaning up in a corner, watched these
preparations without saying anything. A threefold thought weighed on his
mind. Was Cyrus still alive? If he was alive, where was he? If he had
survived from his fall, how was it that he had not found some means of
making known his existence? As to Neb, he was roaming about the shore.
He was like a body without a soul.
Pencroft knew fifty ways of cooking eggs, but this time he had no
choice, and was obliged to content himself with roasting them under
the hot cinders. In a few minutes the cooking was done, and the seaman
invited the reporter to take his share of the supper. Such was the
first repast of the castaways on this unknown coast. The hard eggs
were excellent, and as eggs contain everything indispensable to man's
nourishment, these poor people thought themselves well off, and were
much strengthened by them. Oh! if only one of them had not been missing
at this meal! If the five prisoners who escaped from Richmond had been
all there, under the piled-up rocks, before this clear, crackling fire
on the dry sand, what thanksgiving must they have rendered to Heaven!
But the most ingenious, the most learned, he who was their unquestioned
chief, Cyrus Harding, was, alas! missing, and his body had not even
obtained a burial-place.
Thus passed the 25th of March. Night had come on. Outside could be heard
the howling of the wind and the monotonous sound of the surf breaking
on the shore. The waves rolled the shingle backwards and forwards with a
The reporter retired into a dark corner after having shortly noted down
the occurrences of the day; the first appearance of this new land, the
loss of their leader, the exploration of the coast, the incident of the
matches, etc.; and then overcome by fatigue, he managed to forget his
sorrows in sleep. Herbert went to sleep directly. As to the sailor, he
passed the night with one eye on the fire, on which he did not
spare fuel. But one of the castaways did not sleep in the cave. The
inconsolable, despairing Neb, notwithstanding all that his companions
could say to induce him to take some rest, wandered all night long on
the shore calling on his master.
The inventory of the articles possessed by these castaways from the
clouds, thrown upon a coast which appeared to be uninhabited, was soon
made out. They had nothing, save the clothes which they were wearing at
the time of the catastrophe. We must mention, however, a note-book and
a watch which Gideon Spilett had kept, doubtless by inadvertence, not a
weapon, not a tool, not even a pocket-knife; for while in the car they
had thrown out everything to lighten the balloon. The imaginary heroes
of Daniel Defoe or of Wyss, as well as Selkirk and Raynal shipwrecked
on Juan Fernandez and on the archipelago of the Aucklands, were never in
such absolute destitution. Either they had abundant resources from their
stranded vessels, in grain, cattle, tools, ammunition, or else some
things were thrown up on the coast which supplied them with all the
first necessities of life. But here, not any instrument whatever, not a
utensil. From nothing they must supply themselves with everything.
And yet, if Cyrus Harding had been with them, if the engineer could
have brought his practical science, his inventive mind to bear on their
situation, perhaps all hope would not have been lost. Alas! they must
hope no longer again to see Cyrus Harding. The castaways could expect
nothing but from themselves and from that Providence which never
abandons those whose faith is sincere.
But ought they to establish themselves on this part of the coast,
without trying to know to what continent it belonged, if it was
inhabited, or if they were on the shore of a desert island?
It was an important question, and should be solved with the shortest
possible delay. From its answer they would know what measures to take.
However, according to Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to wait a few
days before commencing an exploration. They must, in fact, prepare some
provisions and procure more strengthening food than eggs and molluscs.
The explorers, before undertaking new fatigues, must first of all
recruit their strength.
The Chimneys offered a retreat sufficient for the present. The fire was
lighted, and it was easy to preserve some embers. There were plenty of
shell-fish and eggs among the rocks and on the beach. It would be easy
to kill a few of the pigeons which were flying by hundreds about the
summit of the plateau, either with sticks or stones. Perhaps the trees
of the neighboring forest would supply them with eatable fruit. Lastly,
the sweet water was there.
It was accordingly settled that for a few days they would remain at the
Chimneys so as to prepare themselves for an expedition, either along
the shore or into the interior of the country. This plan suited Neb
particularly. As obstinate in his ideas as in his presentiments, he
was in no haste to abandon this part of the coast, the scene of the
catastrophe. He did not, he would not believe in the loss of Cyrus
Harding. No, it did not seem to him possible that such a man had ended
in this vulgar fashion, carried away by a wave, drowned in the floods, a
few hundred feet from a shore. As long as the waves had not cast up the
body of the engineer, as long as he, Neb, had not seen with his eyes,
touched with his hands the corpse of his master, he would not believe
in his death! And this idea rooted itself deeper than ever in his
determined heart. An illusion perhaps, but still an illusion to be
respected, and one which the sailor did not wish to destroy. As for him,
he hoped no longer, but there was no use in arguing with Neb. He was
like the dog who will not leave the place where his master is buried,
and his grief was such that most probably he would not survive him.
This same morning, the 26th of March, at daybreak, Neb had set out on
the shore in a northerly direction, and he had returned to the spot
where the sea, no doubt, had closed over the unfortunate Harding.
That day's breakfast was composed solely of pigeon's eggs and
lithodomes. Herbert had found some salt deposited by evaporation in the
hollows of the rocks, and this mineral was very welcome.
The repast ended, Pencroft asked the reporter if he wished to accompany
Herbert and himself to the forest, where they were going to try to
hunt. But on consideration, it was thought necessary that someone should
remain to keep in the fire, and to be at hand in the highly improbable
event of Neb requiring aid. The reporter accordingly remained behind.
"To the chase, Herbert," said the sailor. "We shall find ammunition
on our way, and cut our weapons in the forest." But at the moment of
starting, Herbert observed, that since they had no tinder, it would
perhaps be prudent to replace it by another substance.
"What?" asked Pencroft.
"Burnt linen," replied the boy. "That could in case of need serve for
The sailor thought it very sensible advice. Only it had the
inconvenience of necessitating the sacrifice of a piece of handkerchief.
Notwithstanding, the thing was well worth while trying, and a part of
Pencroft's large checked handkerchief was soon reduced to the state of
a half-burnt rag. This inflammable material was placed in the central
chamber at the bottom of a little cavity in the rock, sheltered from all
wind and damp.
It was nine o'clock in the morning. The weather was threatening and the
breeze blew from the southeast. Herbert and Pencroft turned the angle of
the Chimneys, not without having cast a look at the smoke which, just at
that place, curled round a point of rock: they ascended the left bank of
Arrived at the forest, Pencroft broke from the first tree two stout
branches which he transformed into clubs, the ends of which Herbert
rubbed smooth on a rock. Oh! what would they not have given for a knife!
The two hunters now advanced among the long grass, following the bank.
From the turning which directed its course to the southwest, the river
narrowed gradually and the channel lay between high banks, over
which the trees formed a double arch. Pencroft, lest they should lose
themselves, resolved to follow the course of the stream, which would
always lead them back to the point from which they started. But the bank
was not without some obstacles: here, the flexible branches of the trees
bent level with the current; there, creepers and thorns which they had
to break down with their sticks. Herbert often glided among the
broken stumps with the agility of a young cat, and disappeared in the
underwood. But Pencroft called him back directly, begging him not to
wander away. Meanwhile, the sailor attentively observed the disposition
and nature of the surrounding country. On the left bank, the ground,
which was flat and marshy, rose imperceptibly towards the interior. It
looked there like a network of liquid threads which doubtless reached
the river by some underground drain. Sometimes a stream ran through the
underwood, which they crossed without difficulty. The opposite shore
appeared to be more uneven, and the valley of which the river occupied
the bottom was more clearly visible. The hill, covered with trees
disposed in terraces, intercepted the view. On the right bank walking
would have been difficult, for the declivities fell suddenly, and the
trees bending over the water were only sustained by the strength of
It is needless to add that this forest, as well as the coast already
surveyed, was destitute of any sign of human life. Pencroft only saw
traces of quadrupeds, fresh footprints of animals, of which he could not
recognize the species. In all probability, and such was also Herbert's
opinion, some had been left by formidable wild beasts which doubtless
would give them some trouble; but nowhere did they observe the mark of
an axe on the trees, nor the ashes of a fire, nor the impression of a
human foot. On this they might probably congratulate themselves, for on
any land in the middle of the Pacific the presence of man was perhaps
more to be feared than desired. Herbert and Pencroft speaking little,
for the difficulties of the way were great, advanced very slowly, and
after walking for an hour they had scarcely gone more than a mile.
As yet the hunt had not been successful. However, some birds sang
and fluttered in the foliage, and appeared very timid, as if man had
inspired them with an instinctive fear. Among others, Herbert described,
in a marshy part of the forest, a bird with a long pointed beak, closely
resembling the king-fisher, but its plumage was not fine, though of a
"That must be a jacamar," said Herbert, trying to get nearer.
"This will be a good opportunity to taste jacamar," replied the sailor,
"if that fellow is in a humor to be roasted!"
Just then, a stone cleverly thrown by the boy, struck the creature on
the wing, but the blow did not disable it, and the jacamar ran off and
disappeared in an instant.
"How clumsy I am!" cried Herbert.
"No, no, my boy!" replied the sailor. "The blow was well aimed; many a
one would have missed it altogether! Come, don't be vexed with yourself.
We shall catch it another day!"
As the hunters advanced, the trees were found to be more scattered, many
being magnificent, but none bore eatable fruit. Pencroft searched in
vain for some of those precious palm-trees which are employed in so many
ways in domestic life, and which have been found as far as the fortieth
parallel in the Northern Hemisphere, and to the thirty-fifth only in
the Southern Hemisphere. But this forest was only composed of coniferae,
such as deodaras, already recognized by Herbert, and Douglas pine,
similar to those which grow on the northwest coast of America, and
splendid firs, measuring a hundred and fifty feet in height.
At this moment a flock of birds, of a small size and pretty plumage,
with long glancing tails, dispersed themselves among the branches
strewing their feathers, which covered the ground as with fine down.
Herbert picked up a few of these feathers, and after having examined
"These are couroucous," said he.
"I should prefer a moor-cock or guinea-fowl," replied Pencroft, "still,
if they are good to eat--"
"They are good to eat, and also their flesh is very delicate," replied
Herbert. "Besides, if I don't mistake, it is easy to approach and kill
them with a stick."
The sailor and the lad, creeping among the grass, arrived at the foot
of a tree, whose lower branches were covered with little birds. The
couroucous were waiting the passage of insects which served for their
nourishment. Their feathery feet could be seen clasping the slender
twigs which supported them.
The hunters then rose, and using their sticks like scythes, they mowed
down whole rows of these couroucous, who never thought of flying away,
and stupidly allowed themselves to be knocked off. A hundred were
already heaped on the ground, before the others made up their minds to
"Well," said Pencroft, "here is game, which is quite within the reach of
hunters like us. We have only to put out our hands and take it!"
The sailor having strung the couroucous like larks on flexible twigs,
they then continued their exploration. The stream here made a bend
towards the south, but this detour was probably not prolonged for the
river must have its source in the mountain, and be supplied by the
melting of the snow which covered the sides of the central cone.
The particular object of their expedition was, as has been said, to
procure the greatest possible quantity of game for the inhabitants of
the Chimneys. It must be acknowledged that as yet this object had not
been attained. So the sailor actively pursued his researches, though he
exclaimed, when some animal which he had not even time to recognize
fled into the long grass, "If only we had had the dog Top!" But Top had
disappeared at the same time as his master, and had probably perished
Towards three o'clock new flocks of birds were seen through certain
trees, at whose aromatic berries they were pecking, those of the
juniper-tree among others. Suddenly a loud trumpet call resounded
through the forest. This strange and sonorous cry was produced by a game
bird called grouse in the United States. They soon saw several couples,
whose plumage was rich chestnut-brown mottled with dark brown, and tail
of the same color. Herbert recognized the males by the two wing-like
appendages raised on the neck. Pencroft determined to get hold of at
least one of these gallinaceae, which were as large as a fowl, and whose
flesh is better than that of a pullet. But it was difficult, for they
would not allow themselves to be approached. After several fruitless
attempts, which resulted in nothing but scaring the grouse, the sailor
said to the lad,--
"Decidedly, since we can't kill them on the wing, we must try to take
them with a line."
"Like a fish?" cried Herbert, much surprised at the proposal.
"Like a fish," replied the sailor quite seriously. Pencroft had found
among the grass half a dozen grouse nests, each having three or four
eggs. He took great care not to touch these nests, to which their
proprietors would not fail to return. It was around these that he
meant to stretch his lines, not snares, but real fishing-lines. He took
Herbert to some distance from the nests, and there prepared his singular
apparatus with all the care which a disciple of Izaak Walton would
have used. Herbert watched the work with great interest, though rather
doubting its success. The lines were made of fine creepers, fastened
one to the other, of the length of fifteen or twenty feet. Thick, strong
thorns, the points bent back (which were supplied from a dwarf acacia
bush) were fastened to the ends of the creepers, by way of hooks. Large
red worms, which were crawling on the ground, furnished bait.
This done, Pencroft, passing among the grass and concealing himself
skillfully, placed the end of his lines armed with hooks near the grouse
nests; then he returned, took the other ends and hid with Herbert behind
a large tree. There they both waited patiently; though, it must be
said, that Herbert did not reckon much on the success of the inventive
A whole half-hour passed, but then, as the sailor had surmised, several
couple of grouse returned to their nests. They walked along, pecking the
ground, and not suspecting in any way the presence of the hunters,
who, besides, had taken care to place themselves to leeward of the
The lad felt at this moment highly interested. He held his breath, and
Pencroft, his eyes staring, his mouth open, his lips advanced, as if
about to taste a piece of grouse, scarcely breathed.
Meanwhile, the birds walked about the hooks, without taking any notice
of them. Pencroft then gave little tugs which moved the bait as if the
worms had been still alive.
The sailor undoubtedly felt much greater anxiety than does the
fisherman, for he does not see his prey coming through the water. The
jerks attracted the attention of the gallinaceae, and they attacked the
hooks with their beaks. Three voracious grouse swallowed at the same
moment bait and hook. Suddenly with a smart jerk, Pencroft "struck" his
line, and a flapping of wings showed that the birds were taken.
"Hurrah!" he cried, rushing towards the game, of which he made himself
master in an instant.
Herbert clapped his hands. It was the first time that he had ever seen
birds taken with a line, but the sailor modestly confessed that it was
not his first attempt, and that besides he could not claim the merit of
"And at any rate," added he, "situated as we are, we must hope to hit
upon many other contrivances."
The grouse were fastened by their claws, and Pencroft, delighted at not
having to appear before their companions with empty hands, and observing
that the day had begun to decline, judged it best to return to their
The direction was indicated by the river, whose course they had only
to follow, and, towards six o'clock, tired enough with their excursion,
Herbert and Pencroft arrived at the Chimneys.
Gideon Spilett was standing motionless on the shore, his arms crossed,
gazing over the sea, the horizon of which was lost towards the east in
a thick black cloud which was spreading rapidly towards the zenith.
The wind was already strong, and increased with the decline of day.
The whole sky was of a threatening aspect, and the first symptoms of a
violent storm were clearly visible.
Herbert entered the Chimneys, and Pencroft went towards the reporter.
The latter, deeply absorbed, did not see him approach.
"We are going to have a dirty night, Mr. Spilett!" said the sailor:
"Petrels delight in wind and rain."
The reporter, turning at the moment, saw Pencroft, and his first words
"At what distance from the coast would you say the car was, when the
waves carried off our companion?"
The sailor had not expected this question. He reflected an instant and
"Two cables lengths at the most."
"But what is a cable's length?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"About a hundred and twenty fathoms, or six hundred feet."
"Then," said the reporter, "Cyrus Harding must have disappeared twelve
hundred feet at the most from the shore?"
"About that," replied Pencroft.
"And his dog also?"
"What astonishes me," rejoined the reporter, "while admitting that our
companion has perished, is that Top has also met his death, and that
neither the body of the dog nor of his master has been cast on the
"It is not astonishing, with such a heavy sea," replied the sailor.
"Besides, it is possible that currents have carried them farther down
"Then, it is your opinion that our friend has perished in the waves?"
again asked the reporter.
"That is my opinion."
"My own opinion," said Gideon Spilett, "with due deference to your
experience, Pencroft, is that in the double fact of the absolute
disappearance of Cyrus and Top, living or dead, there is something
unaccountable and unlikely."
"I wish I could think like you, Mr. Spilett," replied Pencroft;
"unhappily, my mind is made up on this point." Having said this, the
sailor returned to the Chimneys. A good fire crackled on the hearth.
Herbert had just thrown on an armful of dry wood, and the flame cast a
bright light into the darkest parts of the passage.
Pencroft immediately began to prepare the dinner. It appeared best to
introduce something solid into the bill of fare, for all needed to get
up their strength. The strings of couroucous were kept for the next day,
but they plucked a couple of grouse, which were soon spitted on a stick,
and roasting before a blazing fire.
At seven in the evening Neb had not returned. The prolonged absence of
the Negro made Pencroft very uneasy. It was to be feared that he had met
with an accident on this unknown land, or that the unhappy fellow had
been driven to some act of despair. But Herbert drew very different
conclusions from this absence. According to him, Neb's delay was caused
by some new circumstances which had induced him to prolong his search.
Also, everything new must be to the advantage of Cyrus Harding. Why had
Neb not returned unless hope still detained him? Perhaps he had found
some mark, a footstep, a trace which had put him in the right path.
Perhaps he was at this moment on a certain track. Perhaps even he was
near his master.
Thus the lad reasoned. Thus he spoke. His companions let him talk. The
reporter alone approved with a gesture. But what Pencroft thought most
probable was, that Neb had pushed his researches on the shore farther
than the day before, and that he had not as yet had time to return.
Herbert, however, agitated by vague presentiments, several times
manifested an intention to go to meet Neb. But Pencroft assured him
that that would be a useless course, that in the darkness and deplorable
weather he could not find any traces of Neb, and that it would be much
better to wait. If Neb had not made his appearance by the next day,
Pencroft would not hesitate to join him in his search.
Gideon Spilett approved of the sailor's opinion that it was best not to
divide, and Herbert was obliged to give up his project; but two large
tears fell from his eyes.
The reporter could not refrain from embracing the generous boy.
Bad weather now set in. A furious gale from the southeast passed over
the coast. The sea roared as it beat over the reef. Heavy rain was
dashed by the storm into particles like dust. Ragged masses of vapor
drove along the beach, on which the tormented shingles sounded as if
poured out in cart-loads, while the sand raised by the wind added as
it were mineral dust to that which was liquid, and rendered the united
attack insupportable. Between the river's mouth and the end of the
cliff, eddies of wind whirled and gusts from this maelstrom lashed the
water which ran through the narrow valley. The smoke from the fireplace
was also driven back through the opening, filling the passages and
rendering them uninhabitable.
Therefore, as the grouse were cooked, Pencroft let the fire die away,
and only preserved a few embers buried under the ashes.
At eight o'clock Neb had not appeared, but there was no doubt that the
frightful weather alone hindered his return, and that he must have
taken refuge in some cave, to await the end of the storm or at least the
return of day. As to going to meet him, or attempting to find him, it
The game constituted the only dish at supper; the meat was excellent,
and Pencroft and Herbert, whose long excursion had rendered them very
hungry, devoured it with infinite satisfaction.
Their meal concluded, each retired to the corner in which he had rested
the preceding night, and Herbert was not long in going to sleep near the
sailor, who had stretched himself beside the fireplace.
Outside, as the night advanced, the tempest also increased in strength,
until it was equal to that which had carried the prisoners from Richmond
to this land in the Pacific. The tempests which are frequent during the
seasons of the equinox, and which are so prolific in catastrophes, are
above all terrible over this immense ocean, which opposes no obstacle to
their fury. No description can give an idea of the terrific violence of
the gale as it beat upon the unprotected coast.
Happily the pile of rocks which formed the Chimneys was solid. It was
composed of enormous blocks of granite, a few of which, insecurely
balanced, seemed to tremble on their foundations, and Pencroft could
feel rapid quiverings under his head as it rested on the rock. But he
repeated to himself, and rightly, that there was nothing to fear, and
that their retreat would not give way. However he heard the noise of
stones torn from the summit of the plateau by the wind, falling down on
to the beach. A few even rolled on to the upper part of the Chimneys,
or flew off in fragments when they were projected perpendicularly. Twice
the sailor rose and intrenched himself at the opening of the passage, so
as to take a look in safety at the outside. But there was nothing to be
feared from these showers, which were not considerable, and he returned
to his couch before the fireplace, where the embers glowed beneath the
Notwithstanding the fury of the hurricane, the uproar of the tempest,
the thunder, and the tumult, Herbert slept profoundly. Sleep at last
took possession of Pencroft, whom a seafaring life had habituated to
anything. Gideon Spilett alone was kept awake by anxiety. He reproached
himself with not having accompanied Neb. It was evident that he had not
abandoned all hope. The presentiments which had troubled Herbert did not
cease to agitate him also. His thoughts were concentrated on Neb. Why
had Neb not returned? He tossed about on his sandy couch, scarcely
giving a thought to the struggle of the elements. Now and then, his
eyes, heavy with fatigue, closed for an instant, but some sudden thought
reopened them almost immediately.
Meanwhile the night advanced, and it was perhaps two hours from morning,
when Pencroft, then sound asleep, was vigorously shaken.
"What's the matter?" he cried, rousing himself, and collecting his ideas
with the promptitude usual to seamen.
The reporter was leaning over him, and saying,--
"Listen, Pencroft, listen!"
The sailor strained his ears, but could hear no noise beyond those
caused by the storm.
"It is the wind," said he.
"No," replied Gideon Spilett, listening again, "I thought I heard--"
"The barking of a dog!"
"A dog!" cried Pencroft, springing up.
"It's not possible!" replied the sailor. "And besides, how, in the
roaring of the storm--"
"Stop--listen--" said the reporter.
Pencroft listened more attentively, and really thought he heard, during
a lull, distant barking.
"Well!" said the reporter, pressing the sailor's hand.
"Yes--yes!" replied Pencroft.
"It is Top! It is Top!" cried Herbert, who had just awoke; and all three
rushed towards the opening of the Chimneys. They had great difficulty in
getting out. The wind drove them back. But at last they succeeded, and
could only remain standing by leaning against the rocks. They looked
about, but could not speak. The darkness was intense. The sea, the sky,
the land were all mingled in one black mass. Not a speck of light was
The reporter and his companions remained thus for a few minutes,
overwhelmed by the wind, drenched by the rain, blinded by the sand.
Then, in a pause of the tumult, they again heard the barking, which they
found must be at some distance.
It could only be Top! But was he alone or accompanied? He was most
probably alone, for, if Neb had been with him, he would have made
his way more directly towards the Chimneys. The sailor squeezed the
reporter's hand, for he could not make himself heard, in a way which
signified "Wait!" then he reentered the passage.
An instant after he issued with a lighted fagot, which he threw into the
darkness, whistling shrilly.
It appeared as if this signal had been waited for; the barking
immediately came nearer, and soon a dog bounded into the passage.
Pencroft, Herbert, and Spilett entered after him.
An armful of dry wood was thrown on the embers. The passage was lighted
up with a bright flame.
"It is Top!" cried Herbert.
It was indeed Top, a magnificent Anglo-Norman, who derived from these
two races crossed the swiftness of foot and the acuteness of smell which
are the preeminent qualities of coursing dogs. It was the dog of the
engineer, Cyrus Harding. But he was alone! Neither Neb nor his master
How was it that his instinct had guided him straight to the Chimneys,
which he did not know? It appeared inexplicable, above all, in the
midst of this black night and in such a tempest! But what was still more
inexplicable was, that Top was neither tired, nor exhausted, nor even
soiled with mud or sand!--Herbert had drawn him towards him, and was
patting his head, the dog rubbing his neck against the lad's hands.
"If the dog is found, the master will be found also!" said the reporter.
"God grant it!" responded Herbert. "Let us set off! Top will guide us!"
Pencroft did not make any objection. He felt that Top's arrival
contradicted his conjectures. "Come along then!" said he.
Pencroft carefully covered the embers on the hearth. He placed a few
pieces of wood among them, so as to keep in the fire until their return.
Then, preceded by the dog, who seemed to invite them by short barks to
come with him, and followed by the reporter and the boy, he dashed out,
after having put up in his handkerchief the remains of the supper.
The storm was then in all its violence, and perhaps at its height. Not a
single ray of light from the moon pierced through the clouds. To follow
a straight course was difficult. It was best to rely on Top's instinct.
They did so. The reporter and Herbert walked behind the dog, and the
sailor brought up the rear. It was impossible to exchange a word. The
rain was not very heavy, but the wind was terrific.
However, one circumstance favored the seaman and his two companions. The
wind being southeast, consequently blew on their backs. The clouds of
sand, which otherwise would have been insupportable, from being received
behind, did not in consequence impede their progress. In short, they
sometimes went faster than they liked, and had some difficulty in
keeping their feet; but hope gave them strength, for it was not at
random that they made their way along the shore. They had no doubt that
Neb had found his master, and that he had sent them the faithful dog.
But was the engineer living, or had Neb only sent for his companions
that they might render the last duties to the corpse of the unfortunate
After having passed the precipice, Herbert, the reporter, and Pencroft
prudently stepped aside to stop and take breath. The turn of the rocks
sheltered them from the wind, and they could breathe after this walk or
rather run of a quarter of an hour.
They could now hear and reply to each other, and the lad having
pronounced the name of Cyrus Harding, Top gave a few short barks, as
much as to say that his master was saved.
"Saved, isn't he?" repeated Herbert; "saved, Top?"
And the dog barked in reply.
They once more set out. The tide began to rise, and urged by the wind it
threatened to be unusually high, as it was a spring tide. Great billows
thundered against the reef with such violence that they probably passed
entirely over the islet, then quite invisible. The mole no longer
protected the coast, which was directly exposed to the attacks of the
As soon as the sailor and his companions left the precipice, the wind
struck them again with renewed fury. Though bent under the gale they
walked very quickly, following Top, who did not hesitate as to what
direction to take.
They ascended towards the north, having on their left an interminable
extent of billows, which broke with a deafening noise, and on their
right a dark country, the aspect of which it was impossible to guess.
But they felt that it was comparatively flat, for the wind passed
completely over them, without being driven back as it was when it came
in contact with the cliff.
At four o'clock in the morning, they reckoned that they had cleared
about five miles. The clouds were slightly raised, and the wind, though
less damp, was very sharp and cold. Insufficiently protected by their
clothing, Pencroft, Herbert and Spilett suffered cruelly, but not
a complaint escaped their lips. They were determined to follow Top,
wherever the intelligent animal wished to lead them.
Towards five o'clock day began to break. At the zenith, where the fog
was less thick, gray shades bordered the clouds; under an opaque belt, a
luminous line clearly traced the horizon. The crests of the billows were
tipped with a wild light, and the foam regained its whiteness. At the
same time on the left the hilly parts of the coast could be seen, though
At six o'clock day had broken. The clouds rapidly lifted. The seaman and
his companions were then about six miles from the Chimneys. They were
following a very flat shore bounded by a reef of rocks, whose heads
scarcely emerged from the sea, for they were in deep water. On the left,
the country appeared to be one vast extent of sandy downs, bristling
with thistles. There was no cliff, and the shore offered no resistance
to the ocean but a chain of irregular hillocks. Here and there grew two
or three trees, inclined towards the west, their branches projecting in
that direction. Quite behind, in the southwest, extended the border of
At this moment, Top became very excited. He ran forward, then returned,
and seemed to entreat them to hasten their steps. The dog then left the
beach, and guided by his wonderful instinct, without showing the least
hesitation, went straight in among the downs. They followed him. The
country appeared an absolute desert. Not a living creature was to be
The downs, the extent of which was large, were composed of hillocks
and even of hills, very irregularly distributed. They resembled a
Switzerland modeled in sand, and only an amazing instinct could have
possibly recognized the way.
Five minutes after having left the beach, the reporter and his two
companions arrived at a sort of excavation, hollowed out at the back of
a high mound. There Top stopped, and gave a loud, clear bark. Spilett,
Herbert, and Pencroft dashed into the cave.
Neb was there, kneeling beside a body extended on a bed of grass.
The body was that of the engineer, Cyrus Harding.
Neb did not move. Pencroft only uttered one word.
"Living?" he cried.
Neb did not reply. Spilett and the sailor turned pale. Herbert clasped
his hands, and remained motionless. The poor Negro, absorbed in his
grief, evidently had neither seen his companions nor heard the sailor
The reporter knelt down beside the motionless body, and placed his ear
to the engineer's chest, having first torn open his clothes.
A minute--an age!--passed, during which he endeavored to catch the
faintest throb of the heart.
Neb had raised himself a little and gazed without seeing. Despair had
completely changed his countenance. He could scarcely be recognized,
exhausted with fatigue, broken with grief. He believed his master was
Gideon Spilett at last rose, after a long and attentive examination.
"He lives!" said he.
Pencroft knelt in his turn beside the engineer, he also heard a
throbbing, and even felt a slight breath on his cheek.
Herbert at a word from the reporter ran out to look for water. He found,
a hundred feet off, a limpid stream, which seemed to have been greatly
increased by the rains, and which filtered through the sand; but nothing
in which to put the water, not even a shell among the downs. The lad was
obliged to content himself with dipping his handkerchief in the stream,
and with it hastened back to the grotto.
Happily the wet handkerchief was enough for Gideon Spilett, who only
wished to wet the engineer's lips. The cold water produced an almost
immediate effect. His chest heaved and he seemed to try to speak.
"We will save him!" exclaimed the reporter.
At these words hope revived in Neb's heart. He undressed his master
to see if he was wounded, but not so much as a bruise was to be found,
either on the head, body, or limbs, which was surprising, as he must
have been dashed against the rocks; even the hands were uninjured, and
it was difficult to explain how the engineer showed no traces of the
efforts which he must have made to get out of reach of the breakers.
But the explanation would come later. When Cyrus was able to speak he
would say what had happened. For the present the question was, how to
recall him to life, and it appeared likely that rubbing would bring this
about; so they set to work with the sailor's jersey.
The engineer, revived by this rude shampooing, moved his arm slightly
and began to breathe more regularly. He was sinking from exhaustion,
and certainly, had not the reporter and his companions arrived, it would
have been all over with Cyrus Harding.
"You thought your master was dead, didn't you?" said the seaman to Neb.
"Yes! quite dead!" replied Neb, "and if Top had not found you, and
brought you here, I should have buried my master, and then have lain
down on his grave to die!"
It had indeed been a narrow escape for Cyrus Harding!
Neb then recounted what had happened. The day before, after having
left the Chimneys at daybreak, he had ascended the coast in a northerly
direction, and had reached that part of the shore which he had already
There, without any hope he acknowledged, Neb had searched the beach,
among the rocks, on the sand, for the smallest trace to guide him. He
examined particularly that part of the beach which was not covered by
the high tide, for near the sea the water would have obliterated all
marks. Neb did not expect to find his master living. It was for a corpse
that he searched, a corpse which he wished to bury with his own hands!
He sought long in vain. This desert coast appeared never to have been
visited by a human creature. The shells, those which the sea had not
reached, and which might be met with by millions above high-water mark,
were untouched. Not a shell was broken.
Neb then resolved to walk along the beach for some miles. It was
possible that the waves had carried the body to quite a distant point.
When a corpse floats a little distance from a low shore, it rarely
happens that the tide does not throw it up, sooner or later. This Neb
knew, and he wished to see his master again for the last time.
"I went along the coast for another two miles, carefully examining
the beach, both at high and low water, and I had despaired of finding
anything, when yesterday, above five in the evening, I saw footprints on
"Footprints?" exclaimed Pencroft.
"Yes!" replied Neb.
"Did these footprints begin at the water's edge?" asked the reporter.
"No," replied Neb, "only above high-water mark, for the others must have
been washed out by the tide."
"Go on, Neb," said Spilett.
"I went half crazy when I saw these footprints. They were very clear
and went towards the downs. I followed them for a quarter of a mile,
running, but taking care not to destroy them. Five minutes after, as
it was getting dark, I heard the barking of a dog. It was Top, and Top
brought me here, to my master!"
Neb ended his account by saying what had been his grief at finding the
inanimate body, in which he vainly sought for the least sign of life.
Now that he had found him dead he longed for him to be alive. All his
efforts were useless! Nothing remained to be done but to render the last
duties to the one whom he had loved so much! Neb then thought of his
companions. They, no doubt, would wish to see the unfortunate man again.
Top was there. Could he not rely on the sagacity of the faithful animal?
Neb several times pronounced the name of the reporter, the one among his
companions whom Top knew best.
Then he pointed to the south, and the dog bounded off in the direction
indicated to him.
We have heard how, guided by an instinct which might be looked upon
almost as supernatural, Top had found them.
Neb's companions had listened with great attention to this account.
It was unaccountable to them how Cyrus Harding, after the efforts which
he must have made to escape from the waves by crossing the rocks, had
not received even a scratch. And what could not be explained either was
how the engineer had managed to get to this cave in the downs, more than
a mile from the shore.
"So, Neb," said the reporter, "it was not you who brought your master to
"No, it was not I," replied the Negro.
"It's very clear that the captain came here by himself," said Pencroft.
"It is clear in reality," observed Spilett, "but it is not credible!"
The explanation of this fact could only be produced from the engineer's
own lips, and they must wait for that till speech returned. Rubbing had
re-established the circulation of the blood. Cyrus Harding moved his arm
again, then his head, and a few incomprehensible words escaped him.
Neb, who was bending over him, spoke, but the engineer did not appear
to hear, and his eyes remained closed. Life was only exhibited in him by
movement, his senses had not as yet been restored.
Pencroft much regretted not having either fire, or the means of
procuring it, for he had, unfortunately, forgotten to bring the burnt
linen, which would easily have ignited from the sparks produced by
striking together two flints. As to the engineer's pockets, they were
entirely empty, except that of his waistcoat, which contained his watch.
It was necessary to carry Harding to the Chimneys, and that as soon as
possible. This was the opinion of all.
Meanwhile, the care which was lavished on the engineer brought him back
to consciousness sooner than they could have expected. The water with
which they wetted his lips revived him gradually. Pencroft also thought
of mixing with the water some moisture from the titra's flesh which
he had brought. Herbert ran to the beach and returned with two large
bivalve shells. The sailor concocted something which he introduced
between the lips of the engineer, who eagerly drinking it opened his
Neb and the reporter were leaning over him.
"My master! my master!" cried Neb.
The engineer heard him. He recognized Neb and Spilett, then his other
two companions, and his hand slightly pressed theirs.
A few words again escaped him, which showed what thoughts were, even
then, troubling his brain. This time he was understood. Undoubtedly they
were the same words he had before attempted to utter.
"Island or continent?" he murmured.
"Bother the continent," cried Pencroft hastily; "there is time enough
to see about that, captain! we don't care for anything, provided you are
The engineer nodded faintly, and then appeased to sleep.
They respected this sleep, and the reporter began immediately to make
arrangements for transporting Harding to a more comfortable place. Neb,
Herbert, and Pencroft left the cave and directed their steps towards
a high mound crowned with a few distorted trees. On the way the sailor
could not help repeating,--
"Island or continent! To think of that, when at one's last gasp! What a
Arrived at the summit of the mound, Pencroft and his two companions
set to work, with no other tools than their hands, to despoil of its
principal branches a rather sickly tree, a sort of marine fir; with
these branches they made a litter, on which, covered with grass and
leaves, they could carry the engineer.
This occupied them nearly forty minutes, and it was ten o'clock when
they returned to Cyrus Harding whom Spilett had not left.
The engineer was just awaking from the sleep, or rather from the
drowsiness, in which they had found him. The color was returning to his
cheeks, which till now had been as pale as death. He raised himself a
little, looked around him, and appeared to ask where he was.
"Can you listen to me without fatigue, Cyrus?" asked the reporter.
"Yes," replied the engineer.
"It's my opinion," said the sailor, "that Captain Harding will be
able to listen to you still better, if he will have some more grouse
jelly,--for we have grouse, captain," added he, presenting him with a
little of this jelly, to which he this time added some of the flesh.
Cyrus Harding ate a little of the grouse, and the rest was divided
among his companions, who found it but a meager breakfast, for they were
suffering extremely from hunger.
"Well!" said the sailor, "there is plenty of food at the Chimneys, for
you must know, captain, that down there, in the south, we have a house,
with rooms, beds, and fireplace, and in the pantry, several dozen of
birds, which our Herbert calls couroucous. Your litter is ready, and as
soon as you feel strong enough we will carry you home."
"Thanks, my friend," replied the engineer; "wait another hour or two,
and then we will set out. And now speak, Spilett."
The reporter then told him all that had occurred. He recounted all the
events with which Cyrus was unacquainted, the last fall of the balloon,
the landing on this unknown land, which appeared a desert (whatever it
was, whether island or continent), the discovery of the Chimneys,
the search for him, not forgetting of course Neb's devotion, the
intelligence exhibited by the faithful Top, as well as many other
"But," asked Harding, in a still feeble voice, "you did not, then, pick
me up on the beach?"
"No," replied the reporter.
"And did you not bring me to this cave?"
"At what distance is this cave from the sea?"
"About a mile," replied Pencroft; "and if you are astonished, captain,
we are not less surprised ourselves at seeing you in this place!"
"Indeed," said the engineer, who was recovering gradually, and who took
great interest in these details, "indeed it is very singular!"
"But," resumed the sailor, "can you tell us what happened after you were
carried off by the sea?"
Cyrus Harding considered. He knew very little. The wave had torn him
from the balloon net. He sank at first several fathoms. On returning
to the surface, in the half light, he felt a living creature struggling
near him. It was Top, who had sprung to his help. He saw nothing of the
balloon, which, lightened both of his weight and that of the dog, had
darted away like an arrow.
There he was, in the midst of the angry sea, at a distance which could
not be less than half a mile from the shore. He attempted to struggle
against the billows by swimming vigorously. Top held him up by his
clothes; but a strong current seized him and drove him towards the
north, and after half an hour of exertion, he sank, dragging Top
with him into the depths. From that moment to the moment in which he
recovered to find himself in the arms of his friends he remembered
"However," remarked Pencroft, "you must have been thrown on to the
beach, and you must have had strength to walk here, since Neb found your
"Yes... of course," replied the engineer, thoughtfully; "and you found
no traces of human beings on this coast?"
"Not a trace," replied the reporter; "besides, if by chance you had met
with some deliverer there, just in the nick of time, why should he have
abandoned you after having saved you from the waves?"
"You are right, my dear Spilett. Tell me, Neb," added the engineer,
turning to his servant, "it was not you who... you can't have had a
moment of unconsciousness... during which no, that's absurd.... Do any
of the footsteps still remain?" asked Harding.
"Yes, master," replied Neb; "here, at the entrance, at the back of
the mound, in a place sheltered from the rain and wind. The storm has
destroyed the others."
"Pencroft," said Cyrus Harding, "will you take my shoe and see if it
fits exactly to the footprints?"
The sailor did as the engineer requested. While he and Herbert, guided
by Neb, went to the place where the footprints were to be found, Cyrus
remarked to the reporter,--
"It is a most extraordinary thing!"
"Perfectly inexplicable!" replied Gideon Spilett.
"But do not dwell upon it just now, my dear Spilett, we will talk about
A moment after the others entered.
There was no doubt about it. The engineer's shoe fitted exactly to the
footmarks. It was therefore Cyrus Harding who had left them on the sand.
"Come," said he, "I must have experienced this unconsciousness which I
attributed to Neb. I must have walked like a somnambulist, without any
knowledge of my steps, and Top must have guided me here, after having
dragged me from the waves... Come, Top! Come, old dog!"
The magnificent animal bounded barking to his master, and caresses were
lavished on him. It was agreed that there was no other way of accounting
for the rescue of Cyrus Harding, and that Top deserved all the honor of
Towards twelve o'clock, Pencroft having asked the engineer if they could
now remove him, Harding, instead of replying, and by an effort which
exhibited the most energetic will, got up. But he was obliged to lean on
the sailor, or he would have fallen.
"Well done!" cried Pencroft; "bring the captain's litter."
The litter was brought; the transverse branches had been covered with
leaves and long grass. Harding was laid on it, and Pencroft, having
taken his place at one end and Neb at the other, they started towards
the coast. There was a distance of eight miles to be accomplished; but,
as they could not go fast, and it would perhaps be necessary to stop
frequently, they reckoned that it would take at least six hours to reach
the Chimneys. The wind was still strong, but fortunately it did not
rain. Although lying down, the engineer, leaning on his elbow, observed
the coast, particularly inland. He did not speak, but he gazed; and, no
doubt, the appearance of the country, with its inequalities of ground,
its forests, its various productions, were impressed on his mind.
However, after traveling for two hours, fatigue overcame him, and he
At half-past five the little band arrived at the precipice, and a short
time after at the Chimneys.
They stopped, and the litter was placed on the sand; Cyrus Harding was
sleeping profoundly, and did not awake.
Pencroft, to his extreme surprise, found that the terrible storm had
quite altered the aspect of the place. Important changes had occurred;
great blocks of stone lay on the beach, which was also covered with a
thick carpet of sea-weed, algae, and wrack. Evidently the sea, passing
over the islet, had been carried right up to the foot of the enormous
curtain of granite. The soil in front of the cave had been torn away
by the violence of the waves. A horrid presentiment flashed across
Pencroft's mind. He rushed into the passage, but returned almost
immediately, and stood motionless, staring at his companions.... The
fire was out; the drowned cinders were nothing but mud; the burnt
linen, which was to have served as tinder, had disappeared! The sea had
penetrated to the end of the passages, and everything was overthrown and
destroyed in the interior of the Chimneys!
In a few words, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb were made acquainted
with what had happened. This accident, which appeared so very serious
to Pencroft, produced different effects on the companions of the honest
Neb, in his delight at having found his master, did not listen, or
rather, did not care to trouble himself with what Pencroft was saying.
Herbert shared in some degree the sailor's feelings.
As to the reporter, he simply replied,--
"Upon my word, Pencroft, it's perfectly indifferent to me!"
"But, I repeat, that we haven't any fire!"
"Nor any means of relighting it!"
"But I say, Mr. Spilett--"
"Isn't Cyrus here?" replied the reporter.
"Is not our engineer alive? He will soon find some way of making fire
What had Pencroft to say? He could say nothing, for, in the bottom of
his heart he shared the confidence which his companions had in Cyrus
Harding. The engineer was to them a microcosm, a compound of every
science, a possessor of all human knowledge. It was better to be with
Cyrus in a desert island, than without him in the most flourishing town
in the United States. With him they could want nothing; with him they
would never despair. If these brave men had been told that a volcanic
eruption would destroy the land, that this land would be engulfed in the
depths of the Pacific, they would have imperturbably replied,--
"Cyrus is here!"
While in the palanquin, however, the engineer had again relapsed into
unconsciousness, which the jolting to which he had been subjected during
his journey had brought on, so that they could not now appeal to his
ingenuity. The supper must necessarily be very meager. In fact, all the
grouse flesh had been consumed, and there no longer existed any means of
cooking more game. Besides, the couroucous which had been reserved had
disappeared. They must consider what was to be done.
First of all, Cyrus Harding was carried into the central passage. There
they managed to arrange for him a couch of sea-weed which still remained
almost dry. The deep sleep which had overpowered him would no doubt be
more beneficial to him than any nourishment.
Night had closed in, and the temperature, which had modified when the
wind shifted to the northwest, again became extremely cold. Also, the
sea having destroyed the partitions which Pencroft had put up in certain
places in the passages, the Chimneys, on account of the draughts, had
become scarcely habitable. The engineer's condition would, therefore,
have been bad enough, if his companions had not carefully covered him
with their coats and waistcoats.
Supper, this evening, was of course composed of the inevitable
lithodomes, of which Herbert and Neb picked up a plentiful supply on the
beach. However, to these molluscs, the lad added some edible sea-weed,
which he gathered on high rocks, whose sides were only washed by the sea
at the time of high tides. This sea-weed, which belongs to the order
of Fucacae, of the genus Sargassum, produces, when dry, a gelatinous
matter, rich and nutritious. The reporter and his companions, after
having eaten a quantity of lithodomes, sucked the sargassum, of which
the taste was very tolerable. It is used in parts of the East very
considerably by the natives. "Never mind!" said the sailor, "the captain
will help us soon." Meanwhile the cold became very severe, and unhappily
they had no means of defending themselves from it.
The sailor, extremely vexed, tried in all sorts of ways to procure fire.
Neb helped him in this work. He found some dry moss, and by striking
together two pebbles he obtained some sparks, but the moss, not being
inflammable enough, did not take fire, for the sparks were really only
incandescent, and not at all of the same consistency as those which
are emitted from flint when struck in the same manner. The experiment,
therefore, did not succeed.
Pencroft, although he had no confidence in the proceeding, then tried
rubbing two pieces of dry wood together, as savages do. Certainly, the
movement which he and Neb exhibited, if it had been transformed into
heat, according to the new theory, would have been enough to heat the
boiler of a steamer! It came to nothing. The bits of wood became hot, to
be sure, but much less so than the operators themselves.
After working an hour, Pencroft, who was in a complete state of
perspiration, threw down the pieces of wood in disgust.
"I can never be made to believe that savages light their fires in this
way, let them say what they will," he exclaimed. "I could sooner light
my arms by rubbing them against each other!"
The sailor was wrong to despise the proceeding. Savages often kindle
wood by means of rapid rubbing. But every sort of wood does not answer
for the purpose, and besides, there is "the knack," following the usual
expression, and it is probable that Pencroft had not "the knack."
Pencroft's ill humor did not last long. Herbert had taken the bits of
wood which he had turned down, and was exerting himself to rub them.
The hardy sailor could not restrain a burst of laughter on seeing the
efforts of the lad to succeed where he had failed.
"Rub, my boy, rub!" said he.
"I am rubbing," replied Herbert, laughing, "but I don't pretend to do
anything else but warm myself instead of shivering, and soon I shall be
as hot as you are, my good Pencroft!"
This soon happened. However, they were obliged to give up, for this
night at least, the attempt to procure fire. Gideon Spilett repeated,
for the twentieth time, that Cyrus Harding would not have been troubled
for so small a difficulty. And, in the meantime, he stretched himself in
one of the passages on his bed of sand. Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft did
the same, while Top slept at his master's feet.
Next day, the 28th of March, when the engineer awoke, about eight in the
morning, he saw his companions around him watching his sleep, and, as on
the day before, his first words were:--
"Island or continent?" This was his uppermost thought.
"Well!" replied Pencroft, "we don't know anything about it, captain!"
"You don't know yet?"
"But we shall know," rejoined Pencroft, "when you have guided us into
"I think I am able to try it," replied the engineer, who, without much
effort, rose and stood upright.
"That's capital!" cried the sailor.
"I feel dreadfully weak," replied Harding. "Give me something to eat, my
friends, and it will soon go off. You have fire, haven't you?"
This question was not immediately replied to. But, in a few seconds--
"Alas! we have no fire," said Pencroft, "or rather, captain, we have it
And the sailor recounted all that had passed the day before. He amused
the engineer by the history of the single match, then his abortive
attempt to procure fire in the savages' way.
"We shall consider," replied the engineer, "and if we do not find some
substance similar to tinder--"
"Well?" asked the sailor.
"Well, we will make matches.
"It is not more difficult than that," cried the reporter, striking the
sailor on the shoulder.
The latter did not think it so simple, but he did not protest. All went
out. The weather had become very fine. The sun was rising from the sea's
horizon, and touched with golden spangles the prismatic rugosities of
the huge precipice.
Having thrown a rapid glance around him, the engineer seated himself on
a block of stone. Herbert offered him a few handfuls of shell-fish and
"It is all that we have, Captain Harding."
"Thanks, my boy," replied Harding; "it will do--for this morning at
He ate the wretched food with appetite, and washed it down with a little
fresh water, drawn from the river in an immense shell.
His companions looked at him without speaking. Then, feeling somewhat
refreshed, Cyrus Harding crossed his arms, and said,--
"So, my friends, you do not know yet whether fate has thrown us on an
island, or on a continent?"
"No, captain," replied the boy.
"We shall know to-morrow," said the engineer; "till then, there is
nothing to be done."
"Yes," replied Pencroft.
"Fire," said the sailor, who, also, had a fixed idea.
"We will make it, Pencroft," replied Harding.
"While you were carrying me yesterday, did I not see in the west a
mountain which commands the country?"
"Yes," replied Spilett, "a mountain which must be rather high--"
"Well," replied the engineer, "we will climb to the summit to-morrow,
and then we shall see if this land is an island or a continent. Till
then, I repeat, there is nothing to be done."
"Yes, fire!" said the obstinate sailor again.
"But he will make us a fire!" replied Gideon Spilett, "only have a
little patience, Pencroft!"
The seaman looked at Spilett in a way which seemed to say, "If it
depended upon you to do it, we wouldn't taste roast meat very soon"; but
he was silent.
Meanwhile Captain Harding had made no reply. He appeared to be very
little troubled by the question of fire. For a few minutes he remained
absorbed in thought; then again speaking,--
"My friends," said he, "our situation is, perhaps, deplorable; but, at
any rate, it is very plain. Either we are on a continent, and then, at
the expense of greater or less fatigue, we shall reach some inhabited
place, or we are on an island. In the latter case, if the island is
inhabited, we will try to get out of the scrape with the help of its
inhabitants; if it is desert, we will try to get out of the scrape by
"Certainly, nothing could be plainer," replied Pencroft.
"But, whether it is an island or a continent," asked Gideon Spilett,
"whereabouts do you think, Cyrus, this storm has thrown us?"
"I cannot say exactly," replied the engineer, "but I presume it is
some land in the Pacific. In fact, when we left Richmond, the wind was
blowing from the northeast, and its very violence greatly proves that
it could not have varied. If the direction has been maintained from
the northeast to the southwest, we have traversed the States of North
Carolina, of South Carolina, of Georgia, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico,
itself, in its narrow part, then a part of the Pacific Ocean. I cannot
estimate the distance traversed by the balloon at less than six to seven
thousand miles, and, even supposing that the wind had varied half a
quarter, it must have brought us either to the archipelago of Mendava,
either on the Pomotous, or even, if it had a greater strength than I
suppose, to the land of New Zealand. If the last hypothesis is correct,
it will be easy enough to get home again. English or Maoris, we shall
always find some one to whom we can speak. If, on the contrary, this is
the coast of a desert island in some tiny archipelago, perhaps we shall
be able to reconnoiter it from the summit of that peak which overlooks
the country, and then we shall see how best to establish ourselves here
as if we are never to go away."
"Never?" cried the reporter. "You say 'Never,' my dear Cyrus?"
"Better to put things at the worst at first," replied the engineer, "and
reserve the best for a surprise."
"Well said," remarked Pencroft. "It is to be hoped, too, that this
island, if it be one, is not situated just out of the course of ships;
that would be really unlucky!"
"We shall not know what we have to rely on until we have first made the
ascent of the mountain," replied the engineer.
"But to-morrow, captain," asked Herbert, "shall you be in a state to
bear the fatigue of the ascent?"
"I hope so," replied the engineer, "provided you and Pencroft, my boy,
show yourselves quick and clever hunters."
"Captain," said the sailor, "since you are speaking of game, if on my
return, I was as certain of roasting it as I am of bringing it back--"
"Bring it back all the same, Pencroft," replied Harding.
It was then agreed that the engineer and the reporter were to pass the
day at the Chimneys, so as to examine the shore and the upper plateau.
Neb, Herbert, and the sailor were to return to the forest, renew their
store of wood, and lay violent hands on every creature, feathered or
hairy, which might come within their reach.
They set out accordingly about ten o'clock in the morning, Herbert
confident, Neb joyous, Pencroft murmuring aside,--
"If, on my return, I find a fire at the house, I shall believe that
the thunder itself came to light it." All three climbed the bank; and
arrived at the angle made by the river, the sailor, stopping, said to
his two companions,--
"Shall we begin by being hunters or wood-men?"
"Hunters," replied Herbert. "There is Top already in quest."
"We will hunt, then," said the sailor, "and afterwards we can come back
and collect our wood."
This agreed to, Herbert, Neb, and Pencroft, after having torn three
sticks from the trunk of a young fir, followed Top, who was bounding
about among the long grass.
This time, the hunters, instead of following the course of the river,
plunged straight into the heart of the forest. There were still the
same trees, belonging, for the most part, to the pine family. In
certain places, less crowded, growing in clumps, these pines exhibited
considerable dimensions, and appeared to indicate, by their development,
that the country was situated in a higher latitude than the engineer had
supposed. Glades, bristling with stumps worn away by time, were covered
with dry wood, which formed an inexhaustible store of fuel. Then,
the glade passed, the underwood thickened again, and became almost
It was difficult enough to find the way among the groups of trees,
without any beaten track. So the sailor from time to time broke off
branches which might be easily recognized. But, perhaps, he was wrong
not to follow the watercourse, as he and Herbert had done on their first
excursion, for after walking an hour not a creature had shown itself.
Top, running under the branches, only roused birds which could not be
approached. Even the couroucous were invisible, and it was probable that
the sailor would be obliged to return to the marshy part of the forest,
in which he had so happily performed his grouse fishing.
"Well, Pencroft," said Neb, in a slightly sarcastic tone, "if this is
all the game which you promised to bring back to my master, it won't
need a large fire to roast it!"
"Have patience," replied the sailor, "it isn't the game which will be
wanting on our return."
"Have you not confidence in Captain Harding?"
"But you don't believe that he will make fire?"
"I shall believe it when the wood is blazing in the fireplace."
"It will blaze, since my master has said so."
"We shall see!"
Meanwhile, the sun had not reached the highest point in its course above
the horizon. The exploration, therefore, continued, and was usefully
marked by a discovery which Herbert made of a tree whose fruit was
edible. This was the stone-pine, which produces an excellent almond,
very much esteemed in the temperate regions of America and Europe. These
almonds were in a perfect state of maturity, and Herbert described them
to his companions, who feasted on them.
"Come," said Pencroft, "sea-weed by way of bread, raw mussels for meat,
and almonds for dessert, that's certainly a good dinner for those who
have not a single match in their pocket!"
"We mustn't complain," said Herbert.
"I am not complaining, my boy," replied Pencroft, "only I repeat, that
meat is a little too much economized in this sort of meal."
"Top has found something!" cried Neb, who ran towards a thicket, in the
midst of which the dog had disappeared, barking. With Top's barking were
mingled curious gruntings.
The sailor and Herbert had followed Neb. If there was game there this
was not the time to discuss how it was to be cooked, but rather, how
they were to get hold of it.
The hunters had scarcely entered the bushes when they saw Top engaged
in a struggle with an animal which he was holding by the ear. This
quadruped was a sort of pig nearly two feet and a half long, of a
blackish brown color, lighter below, having hard scanty hair; its toes,
then strongly fixed in the ground, seemed to be united by a membrane.
Herbert recognized in this animal the capybara, that is to say, one of
the largest members of the rodent order.
Meanwhile, the capybara did not struggle against the dog. It stupidly
rolled its eyes, deeply buried in a thick bed of fat. Perhaps it saw men
for the first time.
However, Neb having tightened his grasp on his stick, was just going to
fell the pig, when the latter, tearing itself from Top's teeth, by which
it was only held by the tip of its ear, uttered a vigorous grunt, rushed
upon Herbert, almost overthrew him, and disappeared in the wood.
"The rascal!" cried Pencroft.
All three directly darted after Top, but at the moment when they joined
him the animal had disappeared under the waters of a large pond shaded
by venerable pines.
Neb, Herbert, and Pencroft stopped, motionless. Top plunged into the
water, but the capybara, hidden at the bottom of the pond, did not
"Let us wait," said the boy, "for he will soon come to the surface to
"Won't he drown?" asked Neb.
"No," replied Herbert, "since he has webbed feet, and is almost an
amphibious animal. But watch him."
Top remained in the water. Pencroft and his two companions went to
different parts of the bank, so as to cut off the retreat of the
capybara, which the dog was looking for beneath the water.
Herbert was not mistaken. In a few minutes the animal appeared on the
surface of the water. Top was upon it in a bound, and kept it from
plunging again. An instant later the capybara, dragged to the bank, was
killed by a blow from Neb's stick.
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, who was always ready with this cry of triumph.
"Give me but a good fire, and this pig shall be gnawed to the bones!"
Pencroft hoisted the capybara on his shoulders, and judging by the
height of the sun that it was about two o'clock, he gave the signal to
Top's instinct was useful to the hunters, who, thanks to the intelligent
animal, were enabled to discover the road by which they had come. Half
an hour later they arrived at the river.
Pencroft soon made a raft of wood, as he had done before, though if
there was no fire it would be a useless task, and the raft following the
current, they returned towards the Chimneys.
But the sailor had not gone fifty paces when he stopped, and again
uttering a tremendous hurrah, pointed towards the angle of the cliff,--
"Herbert! Neb! Look!" he shouted.
Smoke was escaping and curling up among the rocks.
In a few minutes the three hunters were before a crackling fire. The
captain and the reporter were there. Pencroft looked from one to the
other, his capybara in his hand, without saying a word.
"Well, yes, my brave fellow," cried the reporter.
"Fire, real fire, which will roast this splendid pig perfectly, and we
will have a feast presently!"
"But who lighted it?" asked Pencroft.
Gideon Spilett was quite right in his reply. It was the sun which
had furnished the heat which so astonished Pencroft. The sailor could
scarcely believe his eyes, and he was so amazed that he did not think of
questioning the engineer.
"Had you a burning-glass, sir?" asked Herbert of Harding.
"No, my boy," replied he, "but I made one."
And he showed the apparatus which served for a burning-glass. It was
simply two glasses which he had taken from his own and the reporter's
watches. Having filled them with water and rendered their edges adhesive
by means of a little clay, he thus fabricated a regular burning-glass,
which, concentrating the solar rays on some very dry moss, soon caused
it to blaze.
The sailor considered the apparatus; then he gazed at the engineer
without saying a word, only a look plainly expressed his opinion that if
Cyrus Harding was not a magician, he was certainly no ordinary man. At
last speech returned to him, and he cried,--
"Note that, Mr. Spilett, note that down on your paper!"
"It is noted," replied the reporter.
Then, Neb helping him, the seaman arranged the spit, and the capybara,
properly cleaned, was soon roasting like a suckling-pig before a clear,
The Chimneys had again become more habitable, not only because the
passages were warmed by the fire, but because the partitions of wood and
mud had been re-established.
It was evident that the engineer and his companions had employed their
day well. Cyrus Harding had almost entirely recovered his strength, and
had proved it by climbing to the upper plateau. From this point his eye,
accustomed to estimate heights and distances, was fixed for a long time
on the cone, the summit of which he wished to reach the next day. The
mountain, situated about six miles to the northwest, appeared to him to
measure 3,500 feet above the level of the sea. Consequently the gaze of
an observer posted on its summit would extend over a radius of at least
fifty miles. Therefore it was probable that Harding could easily solve
the question of "island or continent," to which he attached so much
They supped capitally. The flesh of the capybara was declared excellent.
The sargassum and the almonds of the stone-pine completed the repast,
during which the engineer spoke little. He was preoccupied with projects
for the next day.
Once or twice Pencroft gave forth some ideas upon what it would be best
to do; but Cyrus Harding, who was evidently of a methodical mind, only
shook his head without uttering a word.
"To-morrow," he repeated, "we shall know what we have to depend upon,
and we will act accordingly."
The meal ended, fresh armfuls of wood were thrown on the fire, and
the inhabitants of the Chimneys, including the faithful Top, were soon
buried in a deep sleep.
No incident disturbed this peaceful night, and the next day, the 29th
of March, fresh and active they awoke, ready to undertake the excursion
which must determine their fate.
All was ready for the start. The remains of the capybara would be enough
to sustain Harding and his companions for at least twenty-four hours.
Besides, they hoped to find more food on the way. As the glasses had
been returned to the watches of the engineer and reporter, Pencroft
burned a little linen to serve as tinder. As to flint, that would not be
wanting in these regions of Plutonic origin. It was half-past seven in
the morning when the explorers, armed with sticks, left the Chimneys.
Following Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to take the road already
traversed through the forest, and to return by another route. It was
also the most direct way to reach the mountain. They turned the south
angle and followed the left bank of the river, which was abandoned at
the point where it formed an elbow towards the southwest. The path,
already trodden under the evergreen trees, was found, and at nine
o'clock Cyrus Harding and his companions had reached the western border
of the forest. The ground, till then, very little undulated, boggy at
first, dry and sandy afterwards, had a gentle slope, which ascended from
the shore towards the interior of the country. A few very timid animals
were seen under the forest-trees. Top quickly started them, but his
master soon called him back, for the time had not come to commence
hunting; that would be attended to later. The engineer was not a man who
would allow himself to be diverted from his fixed idea. It might even
have been said that he did not observe the country at all, either in
its configuration or in its natural productions, his great aim being
to climb the mountain before him, and therefore straight towards it he
went. At ten o'clock a halt of a few minutes was made. On leaving
the forest, the mountain system of the country appeared before the
explorers. The mountain was composed of two cones; the first, truncated
at a height of about two thousand five hundred feet, was sustained by
buttresses, which appeared to branch out like the talons of an immense
claw set on the ground. Between these were narrow valleys, bristling
with trees, the last clumps of which rose to the top of the lowest cone.
There appeared to be less vegetation on that side of the mountain which
was exposed to the northeast, and deep fissures could be seen which, no
doubt, were watercourses.
On the first cone rested a second, slightly rounded, and placed a little
on one side, like a great round hat cocked over the ear. A Scotchman
would have said, "His bonnet was a thocht ajee." It appeared formed of
bare earth, here and there pierced by reddish rocks.
They wished to reach the second cone, and proceeding along the ridge of
the spurs seemed to be the best way by which to gain it.
"We are on volcanic ground," Cyrus Harding had said, and his companions
following him began to ascend by degrees on the back of a spur, which,
by a winding and consequently more accessible path, joined the first
The ground had evidently been convulsed by subterranean force. Here and
there stray blocks, numerous debris of basalt and pumice-stone, were met
with. In isolated groups rose fir-trees, which, some hundred feet
lower, at the bottom of the narrow gorges, formed massive shades almost
impenetrable to the sun's rays.
During the first part of the ascent, Herbert remarked on the footprints
which indicated the recent passage of large animals.
"Perhaps these beasts will not let us pass by willingly," said Pencroft.
"Well," replied the reporter, who had already hunted the tiger in
India, and the lion in Africa, "we shall soon learn how successfully to
encounter them. But in the meantime we must be upon our guard!"
They ascended but slowly.
The distance, increased by detours and obstacles which could not be
surmounted directly, was long. Sometimes, too, the ground suddenly fell,
and they found themselves on the edge of a deep chasm which they had to
go round. Thus, in retracing their steps so as to find some practicable
path, much time was employed and fatigue undergone for nothing. At
twelve o'clock, when the small band of adventurers halted for breakfast
at the foot of a large group of firs, near a little stream which fell in
cascades, they found themselves still half way from the first plateau,
which most probably they would not reach till nightfall. From this
point the view of the sea was much extended, but on the right the high
promontory prevented their seeing whether there was land beyond it. On
the left, the sight extended several miles to the north; but, on the
northwest, at the point occupied by the explorers, it was cut short
by the ridge of a fantastically-shaped spur, which formed a powerful
support of the central cone.
At one o'clock the ascent was continued. They slanted more towards the
southwest and again entered among thick bushes. There under the shade
of the trees fluttered several couples of gallinaceae belonging to the
pheasant species. They were tragopans, ornamented by a pendant skin
which hangs over their throats, and by two small, round horns, planted
behind the eyes. Among these birds, which were about the size of a fowl,
the female was uniformly brown, while the male was gorgeous in his
red plumage, decorated with white spots. Gideon Spilett, with a stone
cleverly and vigorously thrown, killed one of these tragopans, on which
Pencroft, made hungry by the fresh air, had cast greedy eyes.
After leaving the region of bushes, the party, assisted by resting on
each other's shoulders, climbed for about a hundred feet up a steep
acclivity and reached a level place, with very few trees, where the soil
appeared volcanic. It was necessary to ascend by zigzags to make
the slope more easy, for it was very steep, and the footing being
exceedingly precarious required the greatest caution. Neb and Herbert
took the lead, Pencroft the rear, the captain and the reporter between
them. The animals which frequented these heights--and there were
numerous traces of them--must necessarily belong to those races of sure
foot and supple spine, chamois or goat. Several were seen, but this
was not the name Pencroft gave them, for all of a sudden--"Sheep!" he
All stopped about fifty feet from half-a-dozen animals of a large size,
with strong horns bent back and flattened towards the point, with a
woolly fleece, hidden under long silky hair of a tawny color.
They were not ordinary sheep, but a species usually found in the
mountainous regions of the temperate zone, to which Herbert gave the
name of the musmon.
"Have they legs and chops?" asked the sailor.
"Yes," replied Herbert.
"Well, then, they are sheep!" said Pencroft.
The animals, motionless among the blocks of basalt, gazed with an
astonished eye, as if they saw human bipeds for the first time. Then
their fears suddenly aroused, they disappeared, bounding over the rocks.
"Good-bye, till we meet again," cried Pencroft, as he watched them, in
such a comical tone that Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Neb
could not help laughing.
The ascent was continued. Here and there were traces of lava. Sulphur
springs sometimes stopped their way, and they had to go round them. In
some places the sulphur had formed crystals among other substances, such
as whitish cinders made of an infinity of little feldspar crystals.
In approaching the first plateau formed by the truncating of the lower
cone, the difficulties of the ascent were very great. Towards four
o'clock the extreme zone of the trees had been passed. There only
remained here and there a few twisted, stunted pines, which must have
had a hard life in resisting at this altitude the high winds from the
open sea. Happily for the engineer and his companions the weather was
beautiful, the atmosphere tranquil; for a high breeze at an elevation of
three thousand feet would have hindered their proceedings. The purity
of the sky at the zenith was felt through the transparent air. A perfect
calm reigned around them. They could not see the sun, then hid by the
vast screen of the upper cone, which masked the half-horizon of the
west, and whose enormous shadow stretching to the shore increased as
the radiant luminary sank in its diurnal course. Vapor--mist rather than
clouds--began to appear in the east, and assume all the prismatic colors
under the influence of the solar rays.
Five hundred feet only separated the explorers from the plateau, which
they wished to reach so as to establish there an encampment for the
night, but these five hundred feet were increased to more than two miles
by the zigzags which they had to describe. The soil, as it were, slid
under their feet.
The slope often presented such an angle that they slipped when the
stones worn by the air did not give a sufficient support. Evening
came on by degrees, and it was almost night when Cyrus Harding and his
companions, much fatigued by an ascent of seven hours, arrived at
the plateau of the first cone. It was then necessary to prepare an
encampment, and to restore their strength by eating first and sleeping
afterwards. This second stage of the mountain rose on a base of rocks,
among which it would be easy to find a retreat. Fuel was not abundant.
However, a fire could be made by means of the moss and dry brushwood,
which covered certain parts of the plateau. While the sailor was
preparing his hearth with stones which he put to this use, Neb and
Herbert occupied themselves with getting a supply of fuel. They soon
returned with a load of brushwood. The steel was struck, the burnt linen
caught the sparks of flint, and, under Neb's breath, a crackling fire
showed itself in a few minutes under the shelter of the rocks. Their
object in lighting a fire was only to enable them to withstand the cold
temperature of the night, as it was not employed in cooking the bird,
which Neb kept for the next day. The remains of the capybara and
some dozens of the stone-pine almonds formed their supper. It was not
half-past six when all was finished.
Cyrus Harding then thought of exploring in the half-light the large
circular layer which supported the upper cone of the mountain. Before
taking any rest, he wished to know if it was possible to get round the
base of the cone in the case of its sides being too steep and its summit
being inaccessible. This question preoccupied him, for it was possible
that from the way the hat inclined, that is to say, towards the north,
the plateau was not practicable. Also, if the summit of the mountain
could not be reached on one side, and if, on the other, they could not
get round the base of the cone, it would be impossible to survey the
western part of the country, and their object in making the ascent would
in part be altogether unattained.
The engineer, accordingly, regardless of fatigue, leaving Pencroft and
Neb to arrange the beds, and Gideon Spilett to note the incidents of the
day, began to follow the edge of the plateau, going towards the north.
Herbert accompanied him.
The night was beautiful and still, the darkness was not yet deep. Cyrus
Harding and the boy walked near each other, without speaking. In
some places the plateau opened before them, and they passed without
hindrance. In others, obstructed by rocks, there was only a narrow path,
in which two persons could not walk abreast. After a walk of twenty
minutes, Cyrus Harding and Herbert were obliged to stop. From this point
the slope of the two cones became one. No shoulder here separated the
two parts of the mountain. The slope, being inclined almost seventy
degrees, the path became impracticable.
But if the engineer and the boy were obliged to give up thoughts of
following a circular direction, in return an opportunity was given for
ascending the cone.
In fact, before them opened a deep hollow. It was the rugged mouth
of the crater, by which the eruptive liquid matter had escaped at
the periods when the volcano was still in activity. Hardened lava and
crusted scoria formed a sort of natural staircase of large steps, which
would greatly facilitate the ascent to the summit of the mountain.
Harding took all this in at a glance, and without hesitating, followed
by the lad, he entered the enormous chasm in the midst of an increasing
There was still a height of a thousand feet to overcome. Would the
interior acclivities of the crater be practicable? It would soon be
seen. The persevering engineer resolved to continue his ascent until
he was stopped. Happily these acclivities wound up the interior of the
volcano and favored their ascent.
As to the volcano itself, it could not be doubted that it was completely
extinct. No smoke escaped from its sides; not a flame could be seen in
the dark hollows; not a roar, not a mutter, no trembling even issued
from this black well, which perhaps reached far into the bowels of the
earth. The atmosphere inside the crater was filled with no sulphurous
vapor. It was more than the sleep of a volcano; it was its complete
extinction. Cyrus Harding's attempt would succeed.
Little by little, Herbert and he climbing up the sides of the interior,
saw the crater widen above their heads. The radius of this circular
portion of the sky, framed by the edge of the cone, increased obviously.
At each step, as it were, that the explorers made, fresh stars entered
the field of their vision. The magnificent constellations of the
southern sky shone resplendently. At the zenith glittered the splendid
Antares in the Scorpion, and not far was Alpha Centauri, which is
believed to be the nearest star to the terrestrial globe. Then, as the
crater widened, appeared Fomalhaut of the Fish, the Southern Triangle,
and lastly, nearly at the Antarctic Pole, the glittering Southern Cross,
which replaces the Polar Star of the Northern Hemisphere.
It was nearly eight o'clock when Cyrus Harding and Herbert set foot on
the highest ridge of the mountain at the summit of the cone.
It was then perfectly dark, and their gaze could not extend over a
radius of two miles. Did the sea surround this unknown land, or was it
connected in the west with some continent of the Pacific? It could not
yet be made out. Towards the west, a cloudy belt, clearly visible at the
horizon, increased the gloom, and the eye could not discover if the sky
and water were blended together in the same circular line.
But at one point of the horizon a vague light suddenly appeared, which
descended slowly in proportion as the cloud mounted to the zenith.
It was the slender crescent moon, already almost disappearing; but its
light was sufficient to show clearly the horizontal line, then detached
from the cloud, and the engineer could see its reflection trembling for
an instant on a liquid surface. Cyrus Harding seized the lad's hand, and
in a grave voice,--
"An island!" said he, at the moment when the lunar crescent disappeared
beneath the waves.
Half an hour later Cyrus Harding and Herbert had returned to the
encampment. The engineer merely told his companions that the land upon
which fate had thrown them was an island, and that the next day they
would consult. Then each settled himself as well as he could to sleep,
and in that rocky hole, at a height of two thousand five hundred feet
above the level of the sea, through a peaceful night, the islanders
enjoyed profound repose.
The next day, the 30th of March, after a hasty breakfast, which
consisted solely of the roasted tragopan, the engineer wished to climb
again to the summit of the volcano, so as more attentively to survey
the island upon which he and his companions were imprisoned for life
perhaps, should the island be situated at a great distance from any
land, or if it was out of the course of vessels which visited the
archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean. This time his companions followed
him in the new exploration. They also wished to see the island, on the
productions of which they must depend for the supply of all their wants.
It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Cyrus Harding, Herbert,
Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Neb quitted the encampment. No one
appeared to be anxious about their situation. They had faith in
themselves, doubtless, but it must be observed that the basis of this
faith was not the same with Harding as with his companions. The engineer
had confidence, because he felt capable of extorting from this wild
country everything necessary for the life of himself and his companions;
the latter feared nothing, just because Cyrus Harding was with them.
Pencroft especially, since the incident of the relighted fire, would
not have despaired for an instant, even if he was on a bare rock, if the
engineer was with him on the rock.
"Pshaw," said he, "we left Richmond without permission from the
authorities! It will be hard if we don't manage to get away some day or
other from a place where certainly no one will detain us!"
Cyrus Harding followed the same road as the evening before. They went
round the cone by the plateau which formed the shoulder, to the mouth of
the enormous chasm. The weather was magnificent. The sun rose in a pure
sky and flooded with his rays all the eastern side of the mountain.
The crater was reached. It was just what the engineer had made it out to
be in the dark; that is to say, a vast funnel which extended, widening,
to a height of a thousand feet above the plateau. Below the chasm, large
thick streaks of lava wound over the sides of the mountain, and thus
marked the course of the eruptive matter to the lower valleys which
furrowed the northern part of the island.
The interior of the crater, whose inclination did not exceed thirty five
to forty degrees, presented no difficulties nor obstacles to the ascent.
Traces of very ancient lava were noticed, which probably had overflowed
the summit of the cone, before this lateral chasm had opened a new way
As to the volcanic chimney which established a communication between the
subterranean layers and the crater, its depth could not be calculated
with the eye, for it was lost in obscurity. But there was no doubt as to
the complete extinction of the volcano.
Before eight o'clock Harding and his companions were assembled at the
summit of the crater, on a conical mound which swelled the northern
"The sea, the sea everywhere!" they cried, as if their lips could not
restrain the words which made islanders of them.
The sea, indeed, formed an immense circular sheet of water all around
them! Perhaps, on climbing again to the summit of the cone, Cyrus
Harding had had a hope of discovering some coast, some island shore,
which he had not been able to perceive in the dark the evening before.
But nothing appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, that is to
say over a radius of more than fifty miles. No land in sight. Not a
sail. Over all this immense space the ocean alone was visible--the
island occupied the center of a circumference which appeared to be
The engineer and his companions, mute and motionless, surveyed for
some minutes every point of the ocean, examining it to its most extreme
limits. Even Pencroft, who possessed a marvelous power of sight, saw
nothing; and certainly if there had been land at the horizon, if it
appeared only as an indistinct vapor, the sailor would undoubtedly
have found it out, for nature had placed regular telescopes under his
From the ocean their gaze returned to the island which they commanded
entirely, and the first question was put by Gideon Spilett in these
"About what size is this island?"
Truly, it did not appear large in the midst of the immense ocean.
Cyrus Harding reflected a few minutes; he attentively observed the
perimeter of the island, taking into consideration the height at which
he was placed; then,--
"My friends," said he, "I do not think I am mistaken in giving to the
shore of the island a circumference of more than a hundred miles."
"And consequently an area?"
"That is difficult to estimate," replied the engineer, "for it is so
If Cyrus Harding was not mistaken in his calculation, the island had
almost the extent of Malta or Zante, in the Mediterranean, but it was at
the same time much more irregular and less rich in capes, promontories,
points, bays, or creeks. Its strange form caught the eye, and when
Gideon Spilett, on the engineer's advice, had drawn the outline, they
found that it resembled some fantastic animal, a monstrous leviathan,
which lay sleeping on the surface of the Pacific.
This was in fact the exact shape of the island, which it is of
consequence to know, and a tolerably correct map of it was immediately
drawn by the reporter.
The east part of the shore, where the castaways had landed, formed a
wide bay, terminated by a sharp cape, which had been concealed by a high
point from Pencroft on his first exploration. At the northeast two other
capes closed the bay, and between them ran a narrow gulf, which looked
like the half-open jaws of a formidable dog-fish.
From the northeast to the southwest the coast was rounded, like
the flattened cranium of an animal, rising again, forming a sort of
protuberance which did not give any particular shape to this part of the
island, of which the center was occupied by the volcano.
From this point the shore ran pretty regularly north and south, broken
at two-thirds of its perimeter by a narrow creek, from which it ended in
a long tail, similar to the caudal appendage of a gigantic alligator.
This tail formed a regular peninsula, which stretched more than thirty
miles into the sea, reckoning from the cape southeast of the island,
already mentioned; it curled round, making an open roadstead, which
marked out the lower shore of this strangely-formed land.
At the narrowest part, that is to say between the Chimneys and the creek
on the western shore, which corresponded to it in latitude, the island
only measured ten miles; but its greatest length, from the jaws at the
northeast to the extremity of the tail of the southwest, was not less
than thirty miles.
As to the interior of the island, its general aspect was this, very
woody throughout the southern part from the mountain to the shore, and
arid and sandy in the northern part. Between the volcano and the east
coast Cyrus Harding and his companions were surprised to see a
lake, bordered with green trees, the existence of which they had not
suspected. Seen from this height, the lake appeared to be on the same
level as the ocean, but, on reflection, the engineer explained to his
companions that the altitude of this little sheet of water must be about
three hundred feet, because the plateau, which was its basin, was but a
prolongation of the coast.
"Is it a freshwater lake?" asked Pencroft.
"Certainly," replied the engineer, "for it must be fed by the water
which flows from the mountain."
"I see a little river which runs into it," said Herbert, pointing out a
narrow stream, which evidently took its source somewhere in the west.
"Yes," said Harding; "and since this stream feeds the lake, most
probably on the side near the sea there is an outlet by which the
surplus water escapes. We shall see that on our return."
This little winding watercourse and the river already mentioned
constituted the water-system, at least such as it was displayed to the
eyes of the explorers. However, it was possible that under the masses of
trees which covered two-thirds of the island, forming an immense forest,
other rivers ran towards the sea. It might even be inferred that such
was the case, so rich did this region appear in the most magnificent
specimens of the flora of the temperate zones. There was no indication
of running water in the north, though perhaps there might be stagnant
water among the marshes in the northeast; but that was all, in addition
to the downs, sand, and aridity which contrasted so strongly with the
luxuriant vegetation of the rest of the island.
The volcano did not occupy the central part; it rose, on the contrary,
in the northwestern region, and seemed to mark the boundary of the two
zones. At the southwest, at the south, and the southeast, the first part
of the spurs were hidden under masses of verdure. At the north, on the
contrary, one could follow their ramifications, which died away on the
sandy plains. It was on this side that, at the time when the mountain
was in a state of eruption, the discharge had worn away a passage, and
a large heap of lava had spread to the narrow jaw which formed the
Cyrus Harding and his companions remained an hour at the top of the
mountain. The island was displayed under their eyes, like a plan in
relief with different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the
sand, blue for the water. They viewed it in its tout-ensemble, nothing
remained concealed but the ground hidden by verdure, the hollows of the
valleys, and the interior of the volcanic chasms.
One important question remained to be solved, and the answer would have
a great effect upon the future of the castaways.
Was the island inhabited?
It was the reporter who put this question, to which after the close
examination they had just made, the answer seemed to be in the negative.
Nowhere could the work of a human hand be perceived. Not a group of
huts, not a solitary cabin, not a fishery on the shore. No smoke curling
in the air betrayed the presence of man. It is true, a distance of
nearly thirty miles separated the observers from the extreme points,
that is, of the tail which extended to the southwest, and it would have
been difficult, even to Pencroft's eyes, to discover a habitation there.
Neither could the curtain of verdure, which covered three-quarters
of the island, be raised to see if it did not shelter some straggling
village. But in general the islanders live on the shores of the narrow
spaces which emerge above the waters of the Pacific, and this shore
appeared to be an absolute desert.
Until a more complete exploration, it might be admitted that the island
was uninhabited. But was it frequented, at least occasionally, by
the natives of neighboring islands? It was difficult to reply to this
question. No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty
miles could be easily crossed, either by Malay proas or by the large
Polynesian canoes. Everything depended on the position of the island,
of its isolation in the Pacific, or of its proximity to archipelagoes.
Would Cyrus Harding be able to find out their latitude and longitude
without instruments? It would be difficult. Since he was in doubt, it
was best to take precautions against a possible descent of neighboring
The exploration of the island was finished, its shape determined, its
features made out, its extent calculated, the water and mountain systems
ascertained. The disposition of the forests and plains had been marked
in a general way on the reporter's plan. They had now only to descend
the mountain slopes again, and explore the soil, in the triple point of
view, of its mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.
But before giving his companions the signal for departure, Cyrus Harding
said to them in a calm, grave voice,--
"Here, my friends, is the small corner of land upon which the hand of
the Almighty has thrown us. We are going to live here; a long time,
perhaps. Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, if some ship passes
by chance. I say by chance, because this is an unimportant island; there
is not even a port in which ships could anchor, and it is to be feared
that it is situated out of the route usually followed, that is to say,
too much to the south for the ships which frequent the archipelagoes of
the Pacific, and too much to the north for those which go to Australia
by doubling Cape Horn. I wish to hide nothing of our position from
"And you are right, my dear Cyrus," replied the reporter, with
animation. "You have to deal with men. They have confidence in you, and
you can depend upon them. Is it not so, my friends?"
"I will obey you in everything, captain," said Herbert, seizing the
"My master always, and everywhere!" cried Neb.
"As for me," said the sailor, "if I ever grumble at work, my name's not
Jack Pencroft, and if you like, captain, we will make a little America
of this island! We will build towns, we will establish railways, start
telegraphs, and one fine day, when it is quite changed, quite put in
order and quite civilized, we will go and offer it to the government of
the Union. Only, I ask one thing."
"What is that?" said the reporter.
"It is, that we do not consider ourselves castaways, but colonists,
who have come here to settle." Harding could not help smiling, and the
sailor's idea was adopted. He then thanked his companions, and added,
that he would rely on their energy and on the aid of Heaven.
"Well, now let us set off to the Chimneys!" cried Pencroft.
"One minute, my friends," said the engineer. "It seems to me it would
be a good thing to give a name to this island, as well as to, the capes,
promontories, and watercourses, which we can see.
"Very good," said the reporter. "In the future, that will simplify the
instructions which we shall have to give and follow."
"Indeed," said the sailor, "already it is something to be able to say
where one is going, and where one has come from. At least, it looks like
"The Chimneys, for example," said Herbert.
"Exactly!" replied Pencroft. "That name was the most convenient, and it
came to me quite of myself. Shall we keep the name of the Chimneys for
our first encampment, captain?"
"Yes, Pencroft, since you have so christened it."
"Good! as for the others, that will be easy," returned the sailor, who
was in high spirits. "Let us give them names, as the Robinsons did,
whose story Herbert has often read to me; Providence Bay, Whale Point,
"Or, rather, the names of Captain Harding," said Herbert, "of Mr.
Spilett, of Neb!--"
"My name!" cried Neb, showing his sparkling white teeth.
"Why not?" replied Pencroft. "Port Neb, that would do very well! And
"I should prefer borrowing names from our country," said the reporter,
"which would remind us of America."
"Yes, for the principal ones," then said Cyrus Harding; "for those of
the bays and seas, I admit it willingly. We might give to that vast bay
on the east the name of Union Bay, for example; to that large hollow on
the south, Washington Bay; to the mountain upon which we are standing,
that of Mount Franklin; to that lake which is extended under our eyes,
that of Lake Grant; nothing could be better, my friends. These names
will recall our country, and those of the great citizens who have
honored it; but for the rivers, gulfs, capes, and promontories, which we
perceive from the top of this mountain, rather let us choose names which
will recall their particular shape. They will impress themselves better
on our memory, and at the same time will be more practical. The shape of
the island is so strange that we shall not be troubled to imagine
what it resembles. As to the streams which we do not know as yet, in
different parts of the forest which we shall explore later, the creeks
which afterwards will be discovered, we can christen them as we find
them. What do you think, my friends?"
The engineer's proposal was unanimously agreed to by his companions. The
island was spread out under their eyes like a map, and they had only to
give names to all its angles and points. Gideon Spilett would write
them down, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be
definitely adopted. First, they named the two bays and the mountain,
Union Bay, Washington Bay, and Mount Franklin, as the engineer had
"Now," said the reporter, "to this peninsula at the southwest of the
island, I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and that of
Reptile-end to the bent tail which terminates it, for it is just like a
"Adopted," said the engineer.
"Now," said Herbert, pointing to the other extremity of the island, "let
us call this gulf which is so singularly like a pair of open jaws, Shark
"Capital!" cried Pencroft, "and we can complete the resemblance by
naming the two parts of the jaws Mandible Cape."
"But there are two capes," observed the reporter.
"Well," replied Pencroft, "we can have North Mandible Cape and South
"They are inscribed," said Spilett.
"There is only the point at the southeastern extremity of the island to
be named," said Pencroft.
"That is, the extremity of Union Bay?" asked Herbert.
"Claw Cape," cried Neb directly, who also wished to be godfather to some
part of his domain.
In truth, Neb had found an excellent name, for this cape was very like
the powerful claw of the fantastic animal which this singularly-shaped
Pencroft was delighted at the turn things had taken, and their
imaginations soon gave to the river which furnished the settlers with
drinking water and near which the balloon had thrown them, the name of
the Mercy, in true gratitude to Providence. To the islet upon which the
castaways had first landed, the name of Safety Island; to the plateau
which crowned the high granite precipice above the Chimneys, and from
whence the gaze could embrace the whole of the vast bay, the name of
Lastly, all the masses of impenetrable wood which covered the Serpentine
Peninsula were named the forests of the Far West.
The nomenclature of the visible and known parts of the island was
thus finished, and later, they would complete it as they made fresh
As to the points of the compass, the engineer had roughly fixed them by
the height and position of the sun, which placed Union Bay and Prospect
Heights to the east. But the next day, by taking the exact hour of the
rising and setting of the sun, and by marking its position between this
rising and setting, he reckoned to fix the north of the island exactly,
for, in consequence of its situation in the Southern Hemisphere, the
sun, at the precise moment of its culmination, passed in the north and
not in the south, as, in its apparent movement, it seems to do, to those
places situated in the Northern Hemisphere.
Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount
Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,--
"Well! we are preciously stupid!"
"Why?" asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to
"Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!"
Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer's name and all his
companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,--
"Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now
struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it
The engineer's proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.
And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their
absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with
blood; they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and
that the cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks
to Grant, thanks to Lincoln!
Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen
days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and
that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.
They now began the descent of the mountain. Climbing down the crater,
they went round the cone and reached their encampment of the previous
night. Pencroft thought it must be breakfast-time, and the watches of
the reporter and engineer were therefore consulted to find out the hour.
That of Gideon Spilett had been preserved from the sea-water, as he had
been thrown at once on the sand out of reach of the waves. It was an
instrument of excellent quality, a perfect pocket chronometer, which the
reporter had not forgotten to wind up carefully every day.
As to the engineer's watch, it, of course, had stopped during the time
which he had passed on the downs.
The engineer now wound it up, and ascertaining by the height of the sun
that it must be about nine o'clock in the morning, he put his watch at
"No, my dear Spilett, wait. You have kept the Richmond time, have you
"Consequently, your watch is set by the meridian of that town, which is
almost that of Washington?"
"Very well, keep it thus. Content yourself with winding it up very,
exactly, but do not touch the hands. This may be of use to us.
"What will be the good of that?" thought the sailor.
They ate, and so heartily, that the store of game and almonds was
totally exhausted. But Pencroft was not at all uneasy, they would supply
themselves on the way. Top, whose share had been very much to his taste,
would know how to find some fresh game among the brushwood. Moreover,
the sailor thought of simply asking the engineer to manufacture some
powder and one or two fowling-pieces; he supposed there would be no
difficulty in that.
On leaving the plateau, the captain proposed to his companions to return
to the Chimneys by a new way. He wished to reconnoiter Lake Grant, so
magnificently framed in trees. They therefore followed the crest of one
of the spurs, between which the creek that supplied the lake probably
had its source. In talking, the settlers already employed the names
which they had just chosen, which singularly facilitated the exchange
of their ideas. Herbert and Pencroft--the one young and the other very
boyish--were enchanted, and while walking, the sailor said,
"Hey, Herbert! how capital it sounds! It will be impossible to lose
ourselves, my boy, since, whether we follow the way to Lake Grant, or
whether we join the Mercy through the woods of the Far West, we shall be
certain to arrive at Prospect Heights, and, consequently, at Union Bay!"
It had been agreed, that without forming a compact band, the settlers
should not stray away from each other. It was very certain that the
thick forests of the island were inhabited by dangerous animals, and it
was prudent to be on their guard. In general, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb
walked first, preceded by Top, who poked his nose into every bush. The
reporter and the engineer went together, Gideon Spilett ready to note
every incident, the engineer silent for the most part, and only stepping
aside to pick up one thing or another, a mineral or vegetable substance,
which he put into his pocket, without making any remark.
"What can he be picking up?" muttered Pencroft. "I have looked in vain
for anything that's worth the trouble of stooping for."
Towards ten o'clock the little band descended the last declivities of
Mount Franklin. As yet the ground was scantily strewn with bushes and
trees. They were walking over yellowish calcinated earth, forming a
plain of nearly a mile long, which extended to the edge of the wood.
Great blocks of that basalt, which, according to Bischof, takes three
hundred and fifty millions of years to cool, strewed the plain, very
confused in some places. However, there were here no traces of lava,
which was spread more particularly over the northern slopes.
Cyrus Harding expected to reach, without incident, the course of the
creek, which he supposed flowed under the trees at the border of the
plain, when he saw Herbert running hastily back, while Neb and the
sailor were hiding behind the rocks.
"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Spilett.
"Smoke," replied Herbert. "We have seen smoke among the rocks, a hundred
paces from us."
"Men in this place?" cried the reporter.
"We must avoid showing ourselves before knowing with whom we have to
deal," replied Cyrus Harding. "I trust that there are no natives on this
island; I dread them more than anything else. Where is Top?"
"Top is on before."
"And he doesn't bark?"
"That is strange. However, we must try to call him back."
In a few moments, the engineer, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert had rejoined
their two companions, and like them, they kept out of sight behind the
heaps of basalt.
From thence they clearly saw smoke of a yellowish color rising in the
Top was recalled by a slight whistle from his master, and the latter,
signing to his companions to wait for him, glided away among the
rocks. The colonists, motionless, anxiously awaited the result of this
exploration, when a shout from the engineer made them hasten forward.
They soon joined him, and were at once struck with a disagreeable odor
which impregnated the atmosphere.
The odor, easily recognized, was enough for the engineer to guess what
the smoke was which at first, not without cause, had startled him.
"This fire," said he, "or rather, this smoke is produced by nature alone.
There is a sulphur spring there, which will cure all our sore throats."
"Captain!" cried Pencroft. "What a pity that I haven't got a cold!"
The settlers then directed their steps towards the place from which the
smoke escaped. They there saw a sulphur spring which flowed abundantly
between the rocks, and its waters discharged a strong sulphuric acid
odor, after having absorbed the oxygen of the air.
Cyrus Harding, dipping in his hand, felt the water oily to the touch.
He tasted it and found it rather sweet. As to its temperature, that he
estimated at ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Herbert having asked on
what he based this calculation,--
"Its quite simple, my boy," said he, "for, in plunging my hand into the
water, I felt no sensation either of heat or cold. Therefore it has the
same temperature as the human body, which is about ninety-five degrees."
The sulphur spring not being of any actual use to the settlers, they
proceeded towards the thick border of the forest, which began some
hundred paces off.
There, as they had conjectured, the waters of the stream flowed clear
and limpid between high banks of red earth, the color of which betrayed
the presence of oxide of iron. From this color, the name of Red Creek
was immediately given to the watercourse.
It was only a large stream, deep and clear, formed of the mountain
water, which, half river, half torrent, here rippling peacefully over
the sand, there falling against the rocks or dashing down in a cascade,
ran towards the lake, over a distance of a mile and a half, its breadth
varying from thirty to forty feet. Its waters were sweet, and it was
supposed that those of the lake were so also. A fortunate circumstance,
in the event of their finding on its borders a more suitable dwelling
than the Chimneys.
As to the trees, which some hundred feet downwards shaded the banks of
the creek, they belonged, for the most part, to the species which abound
in the temperate zone of America and Tasmania, and no longer to those
coniferae observed in that portion of the island already explored
to some miles from Prospect Heights. At this time of the year, the
commencement of the month of April, which represents the month of
October, in this hemisphere, that is, the beginning of autumn, they
were still in full leaf. They consisted principally of casuarinas and
eucalypti, some of which next year would yield a sweet manna, similar to
the manna of the East. Clumps of Australian cedars rose on the sloping
banks, which were also covered with the high grass called "tussac" in
New Holland; but the cocoanut, so abundant in the archipelagoes of the
Pacific, seemed to be wanting in the island, the latitude, doubtless,
being too low.
"What a pity!" said Herbert, "such a useful tree, and which has such
As to the birds, they swarmed among the scanty branches of the eucalypti
and casuarinas, which did not hinder the display of their wings.
Black, white, or gray cockatoos, paroquets, with plumage of all colors,
kingfishers of a sparkling green and crowned with red, blue lories,
and various other birds appeared on all sides, as through a prism,
fluttering about and producing a deafening clamor. Suddenly, a strange
concert of discordant voices resounded in the midst of a thicket. The
settlers heard successively the song of birds, the cry of quadrupeds,
and a sort of clacking which they might have believed to have escaped
from the lips of a native. Neb and Herbert rushed towards the bush,
forgetting even the most elementary principles of prudence. Happily,
they found there, neither a formidable wild beast nor a dangerous
native, but merely half a dozen mocking and singing birds, known as
mountain pheasants. A few skillful blows from a stick soon put an end to
their concert, and procured excellent food for the evening's dinner.
Herbert also discovered some magnificent pigeons with bronzed wings,
some superbly crested, others draped in green, like their congeners at
Port-Macquarie; but it was impossible to reach them, or the crows and
magpies which flew away in flocks.
A charge of small shot would have made great slaughter among these
birds, but the hunters were still limited to sticks and stones, and
these primitive weapons proved very insufficient.
Their insufficiency was still more clearly shown when a troop of
quadrupeds, jumping, bounding, making leaps of thirty feet, regular
flying mammiferae, fled over the thickets, so quickly and at such a
height, that one would have thought that they passed from one tree to
another like squirrels.
"Kangaroos!" cried Herbert.
"Are they good to eat?" asked Pencroft.
"Stewed," replied the reporter, "their flesh is equal to the best
Gideon Spilett had not finished this exciting sentence when the sailor,
followed by Neb and Herbert, darted on the kangaroos tracks. Cyrus
Harding called them back in vain. But it was in vain too for the hunters
to pursue such agile game, which went bounding away like balls. After a
chase of five minutes, they lost their breath, and at the same time all
sight of the creatures, which disappeared in the wood. Top was not more
successful than his masters.
"Captain," said Pencroft, when the engineer and the reporter had
rejoined them, "Captain, you see quite well we can't get on unless we
make a few guns. Will that be possible?"
"Perhaps," replied the engineer, "but we will begin by first
manufacturing some bows and arrows, and I don't doubt that you will
become as clever in the use of them as the Australian hunters."
"Bows and arrows!" said Pencroft scornfully. "That's all very well for
"Don't be proud, friend Pencroft," replied the reporter. "Bows and
arrows were sufficient for centuries to stain the earth with blood.
Powder is but a thing of yesterday, and war is as old as the human
"Faith, that's true, Mr. Spilett," replied the sailor, "and I always
speak too quickly. You must excuse me!"
Meanwhile, Herbert constant to his favorite science, Natural History,
reverted to the kangaroos, saying,--
"Besides, we had to deal just now with the species which is most
difficult to catch. They were giants with long gray fur; but if I am not
mistaken, there exist black and red kangaroos, rock kangaroos, and rat
kangaroos, which are more easy to get hold of. It is reckoned that there
are about a dozen species."
"Herbert," replied the sailor sententiously, "there is only one species
of kangaroos to me, that is 'kangaroo on the spit,' and it's just the
one we haven't got this evening!"
They could not help laughing at Master Pencroft's new classification.
The honest sailor did not hide his regret at being reduced for dinner to
the singing pheasants, but fortune once more showed itself obliging to
In fact, Top, who felt that his interest was concerned went and ferreted
everywhere with an instinct doubled by a ferocious appetite. It was even
probable that if some piece of game did fall into his clutches, none
would be left for the hunters, if Top was hunting on his own account;
but Neb watched him and he did well.
Towards three o'clock the dog disappeared in the brushwood and gruntings
showed that he was engaged in a struggle with some animal. Neb rushed
after him, and soon saw Top eagerly devouring a quadruped, which ten
seconds later would have been past recognizing in Top's stomach. But
fortunately the dog had fallen upon a brood, and besides the victim he
was devouring, two other rodents--the animals in question belonged to
that order--lay strangled on the turf.
Neb reappeared triumphantly holding one of the rodents in each hand.
Their size exceeded that of a rabbit, their hair was yellow, mingled
with green spots, and they had the merest rudiments of tails.
The citizens of the Union were at no loss for the right name of these
rodents. They were maras, a sort of agouti, a little larger than their
congeners of tropical countries, regular American rabbits, with long
ears, jaws armed on each side with five molars, which distinguish the
"Hurrah!" cried Pencroft, "the roast has arrived! and now we can go
The walk, interrupted for an instant, was resumed. The limpid waters of
the Red Creek flowed under an arch of casuannas, banksias, and gigantic
gum-trees. Superb lilacs rose to a height of twenty feet. Other
arborescent species, unknown to the young naturalist, bent over the
stream, which could be heard murmuring beneath the bowers of verdure.
Meanwhile the stream grew much wider, and Cyrus Harding supposed that
they would soon reach its mouth. In fact, on emerging from beneath a
thick clump of beautiful trees, it suddenly appeared before their eyes.
The explorers had arrived on the western shore of Lake Grant. The place
was well worth looking at. This extent of water, of a circumference of
nearly seven miles and an area of two hundred and fifty acres, reposed
in a border of diversified trees. Towards the east, through a curtain
of verdure, picturesquely raised in some places, sparkled an horizon of
sea. The lake was curved at the north, which contrasted with the sharp
outline of its lower part. Numerous aquatic birds frequented the shores
of this little Ontario, in which the thousand isles of its American
namesake were represented by a rock which emerged from its surface, some
hundred feet from the southern shore. There lived in harmony several
couples of kingfishers perched on a stone, grave, motionless, watching
for fish, then darting down, they plunged in with a sharp cry, and
reappeared with their prey in their beaks. On the shores and on the
islets, strutted wild ducks, pelicans, water-hens, red-beaks, philedons,
furnished with a tongue like a brush, and one or two specimens of the
splendid menura, the tail of which expands gracefully like a lyre.
As to the water of the lake, it was sweet, limpid, rather dark, and from
certain bubblings, and the concentric circles which crossed each other
on the surface, it could not be doubted that it abounded in fish.
"This lake is really beautiful!" said Gideon Spilett. "We could live on
"We will live there!" replied Harding.
The settlers, wishing to return to the Chimneys by the shortest way,
descended towards the angle formed on the south by the junction of
the lake's bank. It was not without difficulty that they broke a path
through the thickets and brushwood which had never been put aside by the
hand of men, and they thus went towards the shore, so as to arrive at
the north of Prospect Heights. Two miles were cleared in this direction,
and then, after they had passed the last curtain of trees, appeared the
plateau, carpeted with thick turf, and beyond that the infinite sea.
To return to the Chimneys, it was enough to cross the plateau obliquely
for the space of a mile, and then to descend to the elbow formed by
the first detour of the Mercy. But the engineer desired to know how
and where the overplus of the water from the lake escaped, and the
exploration was prolonged under the trees for a mile and a half towards
the north. It was most probable that an overfall existed somewhere, and
doubtless through a cleft in the granite. This lake was only, in short,
an immense center basin, which was filled by degrees by the creek, and
its waters must necessarily pass to the sea by some fall. If it was so,
the engineer thought that it might perhaps be possible to utilize this
fall and borrow its power, actually lost without profit to any one.
They continued then to follow the shores of Lake Grant by climbing the
plateau; but, after having gone a mile in this direction, Cyrus Harding
had not been able to discover the overfall, which, however, must exist
It was then half-past four. In order to prepare for dinner it was
necessary that the settlers should return to their dwelling. The little
band retraced their steps, therefore, and by the left bank of the Mercy,
Cyrus Harding and his companions arrived at the Chimneys.
The fire was lighted, and Neb and Pencroft, on whom the functions of
cooks naturally devolved, to the one in his quality of Negro, to the
other in that of sailor, quickly prepared some broiled agouti, to which
they did great justice.
The repast at length terminated; at the moment when each one was about
to give himself up to sleep, Cyrus Harding drew from his pocket little
specimens of different sorts of minerals, and just said,--
"My friends, this is iron mineral, this a pyrite, this is clay, this is
lime, and this is coal. Nature gives us these things. It is our business
to make a right use of them. To-morrow we will commence operations."
"Well, captain, where are we going to begin?" asked Pencroft next
morning of the engineer.
"At the beginning," replied Cyrus Harding.
And in fact, the settlers were compelled to begin "at the very
beginning." They did not possess even the tools necessary for making
tools, and they were not even in the condition of nature, who, "having
time, husbands her strength." They had no time, since they had to
provide for the immediate wants of their existence, and though,
profiting by acquired experience, they had nothing to invent, still they
had everything to make; their iron and their steel were as yet only in
the state of minerals, their earthenware in the state of clay, their
linen and their clothes in the state of textile material.
It must be said, however, that the settlers were "men" in the complete
and higher sense of the word. The engineer Harding could not have been
seconded by more intelligent companions, nor with more devotion and
zeal. He had tried them. He knew their abilities.
Gideon Spilett, a talented reporter, having learned everything so as to
be able to speak of everything, would contribute largely with his head
and hands to the colonization of the island. He would not draw back from
any task: a determined sportsman, he would make a business of what till
then had only been a pleasure to him.
Herbert, a gallant boy, already remarkably well informed in the natural
sciences, would render greater service to the common cause.
Neb was devotion personified. Clever, intelligent, indefatigable,
robust, with iron health, he knew a little about the work of the forge,
and could not fail to be very useful in the colony.
As to Pencroft, he had sailed over every sea, a carpenter in the
dockyards in Brooklyn, assistant tailor in the vessels of the state,
gardener, cultivator, during his holidays, etc., and like all seamen,
fit for anything, he knew how to do everything.
It would have been difficult to unite five men, better fitted to
struggle against fate, more certain to triumph over it.
"At the beginning," Cyrus Harding had said. Now this beginning of which
the engineer spoke was the construction of an apparatus which would
serve to transform the natural substances. The part which heat plays in
these transformations is known. Now fuel, wood or coal, was ready for
immediate use, an oven must be built to use it.
"What is this oven for?" asked Pencroft.
"To make the pottery which we have need of," replied Harding.
"And of what shall we make the oven?"
"And the bricks?"
"With clay. Let us start, my friends. To save trouble, we will establish
our manufactory at the place of production. Neb will bring provisions,
and there will be no lack of fire to cook the food."
"No," replied the reporter; "but if there is a lack of food for want of
instruments for the chase?"
"Ah, if we only had a knife!" cried the sailor.
"Well?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Well! I would soon make a bow and arrows, and then there could be
plenty of game in the larder!"
"Yes, a knife, a sharp blade." said the engineer, as if he was speaking
At this moment his eyes fell upon Top, who was running about on the
shore. Suddenly Harding's face became animated.
"Top, here," said he.
The dog came at his master's call. The latter took Top's head between
his hands, and unfastening the collar which the animal wore round his
neck, he broke it in two, saying,--
"There are two knives, Pencroft!"
Two hurrahs from the sailor was the reply. Top's collar was made of a
thin piece of tempered steel. They had only to sharpen it on a piece of
sandstone, then to raise the edge on a finer stone. Now sandstone was
abundant on the beach, and two hours after the stock of tools in the
colony consisted of two sharp blades, which were easily fixed in solid
The production of these their first tools was hailed as a triumph. It
was indeed a valuable result of their labor, and a very opportune one.
They set out.
Cyrus Harding proposed that they should return to the western shore of
the lake, where the day before he had noticed the clayey ground of which
he possessed a specimen. They therefore followed the bank of the Mercy,
traversed Prospect Heights, and after a walk of five miles or more they
reached a glade, situated two hundred feet from Lake Grant.
On the way Herbert had discovered a tree, the branches of which the
Indians of South America employ for making their bows. It was the
crejimba, of the palm family, which does not bear edible fruit. Long
straight branches were cut, the leaves stripped off; it was shaped,
stronger in the middle, more slender at the extremities, and nothing
remained to be done but to find a plant fit to make the bow-string.
This was the "hibiscus heterophyllus," which furnishes fibers of such
remarkable tenacity that they have been compared to the tendons of
animals. Pencroft thus obtained bows of tolerable strength, for which he
only wanted arrows. These were easily made with straight stiff branches,
without knots, but the points with which they must be armed, that is
to say, a substance to serve in lieu of iron, could not be met with so
easily. But Pencroft said, that having done his part of the work, chance
would do the rest.
The settlers arrived on the ground which had been discovered the day
before. Being composed of the sort of clay which is used for making
bricks and tiles, it was very useful for the work in question. There was
no great difficulty in it. It was enough to scour the clay with sand,
then to mold the bricks and bake them by the heat of a wood fire.
Generally bricks are formed in molds, but the engineer contented himself
with making them by hand. All that day and the day following were
employed in this work. The clay, soaked in water, was mixed by the feet
and hands of the manipulators, and then divided into pieces of equal
size. A practiced workman can make, without a machine, about ten
thousand bricks in twelve hours; but in their two days work the five
brickmakers on Lincoln Island had not made more than three thousand,
which were ranged near each other, until the time when their complete
desiccation would permit them to be used in building the oven, that is
to say, in three or four days.
It was on the 2nd of April that Harding had employed himself in fixing
the orientation of the island, or, in other words, the precise spot
where the sun rose. The day before he had noted exactly the hour when
the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, making allowance for the
refraction. This morning he noted, no less exactly, the hour at which
it reappeared. Between this setting and rising twelve hours, twenty-four
minutes passed. Then, six hours, twelve minutes after its rising, the
sun on this day would exactly pass the meridian and the point of the sky
which it occupied at this moment would be the north. At the said hour,
Cyrus marked this point, and putting in a line with the sun two trees
which would serve him for marks, he thus obtained an invariable meridian
for his ulterior operations.
The settlers employed the two days before the oven was built in
collecting fuel. Branches were cut all round the glade, and they picked
up all the fallen wood under the trees. They were also able to hunt with
greater success, since Pencroft now possessed some dozen arrows armed
with sharp points. It was Top who had famished these points, by bringing
in a porcupine, rather inferior eating, but of great value, thanks to
the quills with which it bristled. These quills were fixed firmly at the
ends of the arrows, the flight of which was made more certain by some
cockatoos' feathers. The reporter and Herbert soon became very skilful
archers. Game of all sorts in consequence abounded at the Chimneys,
capybaras, pigeons, agouties, grouse, etc. The greater part of these
animals were killed in the part of the forest on the left bank of the
Mercy, to which they gave the name of Jacamar Wood, in remembrance of
the bird which Pencroft and Herbert had pursued when on their first
This game was eaten fresh, but they preserved some capybara hams, by
smoking them above a fire of green wood, after having perfumed them with
sweet-smelling leaves. However, this food, although very strengthening,
was always roast upon roast, and the party would have been delighted
to hear some soup bubbling on the hearth, but they must wait till a pot
could be made, and, consequently, till the oven was built.
During these excursions, which were not extended far from the
brick-field, the hunters could discern the recent passage of animals of
a large size, armed with powerful claws, but they could not recognize
the species. Cyrus Harding advised them to be very careful, as the
forest probably enclosed many dangerous beasts.
And he did right. Indeed, Gideon Spilett and Herbert one day saw an
animal which resembled a jaguar. Happily the creature did not attack
them, or they might not have escaped without a severe wound. As soon
as he could get a regular weapon, that is to say, one of the guns which
Pencroft begged for, Gideon Spilett resolved to make desperate war
against the ferocious beasts, and exterminate them from the island.
The Chimneys during these few days was not made more comfortable, for
the engineer hoped to discover, or build if necessary, a more convenient
dwelling. They contented themselves with spreading moss and dry leaves
on the sand of the passages, and on these primitive couches the tired
workers slept soundly.
They also reckoned the days they had passed on Lincoln Island, and from
that time kept a regular account. The 5th of April, which was Wednesday,
was twelve days from the time when the wind threw the castaways on this
On the 6th of April, at daybreak, the engineer and his companions were
collected in the glade, at the place where they were going to perform
the operation of baking the bricks. Naturally this had to be in the open
air, and not in a kiln, or rather, the agglomeration of bricks made an
enormous kiln, which would bake itself. The fuel, made of well-prepared
fagots, was laid on the ground and surrounded with several rows of dried
bricks, which soon formed an enormous cube, to the exterior of which
they contrived air-holes. The work lasted all day, and it was not till
the evening that they set fire to the fagots. No one slept that night,
all watching carefully to keep up the fire.
The operation lasted forty-eight hours, and succeeded perfectly. It then
became necessary to leave the smoking mass to cool, and during this time
Neb and Pencroft, guided by Cyrus Harding, brought, on a hurdle made of
interlaced branches, loads of carbonate of lime and common stones,
which were very abundant, to the north of the lake. These stones, when
decomposed by heat, made a very strong quicklime, greatly increased by
slacking, at least as pure as if it had been produced by the calcination
of chalk or marble. Mixed with sand the lime made excellent mortar.
The result of these different works was, that, on the 9th of April,
the engineer had at his disposal a quantity of prepared lime and some
thousands of bricks.
Without losing an instant, therefore, they began the construction of
a kiln to bake the pottery, which was indispensable for their domestic
use. They succeeded without much difficulty. Five days after, the kiln
was supplied with coal, which the engineer had discovered lying open to
the sky towards the mouth of the Red Creek, and the first smoke escaped
from a chimney twenty feet high. The glade was transformed into a
manufactory, and Pencroft was not far wrong in believing that from this
kiln would issue all the products of modern industry.
In the meantime what the settlers first manufactured was a common
pottery in which to cook their food. The chief material was clay, to
which Harding added a little lime and quartz. This paste made regular
"pipe-clay," with which they manufactured bowls, cups molded on stones
of a proper size, great jars and pots to hold water, etc. The shape of
these objects was clumsy and defective, but after they had been baked
in a high temperature, the kitchen of the Chimneys was provided with a
number of utensils, as precious to the settlers as the most beautifully
enameled china. We must mention here that Pencroft, desirous to know if
the clay thus prepared was worthy of its name of pipe-clay, made some
large pipes, which he thought charming, but for which, alas! he had no
tobacco, and that was a great privation to Pencroft. "But tobacco
will come, like everything else!" he repeated, in a burst of absolute
This work lasted till the 15th of April, and the time was well employed.
The settlers, having become potters, made nothing but pottery. When
it suited Cyrus Harding to change them into smiths, they would become
smiths. But the next day being Sunday, and also Easter Sunday, all
agreed to sanctify the day by rest. These Americans were religious men,
scrupulous observers of the precepts of the Bible, and their situation
could not but develop sentiments of confidence towards the Author of all
On the evening of the 15th of April they returned to the Chimneys,
carrying with them the pottery, the furnace being extinguished until
they could put it to a new use. Their return was marked by a fortunate
incident; the engineer discovered a substance which replaced tinder.
It is known that a spongy, velvety flesh is procured from a certain
mushroom of the genus polyporous. Properly prepared, it is extremely
inflammable, especially when it has been previously saturated with
gunpowder, or boiled in a solution of nitrate or chlorate of potash.
But, till then, they had not found any of these polypores or even any of
the morels which could replace them. On this day, the engineer, seeing
a plant belonging to the wormwood genus, the principal species of which
are absinthe, balm-mint, tarragon, etc., gathered several tufts, and,
presenting them to the sailor, said,--
"Here, Pencroft, this will please you."
Pencroft looked attentively at the plant, covered with long silky hair,
the leaves being clothed with soft down.
"What's that, captain?" asked Pencroft. "Is it tobacco?"
"No," replied Harding, "it is wormwood; Chinese wormwood to the learned,
but to us it will be tinder."
When the wormwood was properly dried it provided them with a very
inflammable substance, especially afterwards when the engineer had
impregnated it with nitrate of potash, of which the island possessed
several beds, and which is in truth saltpeter.
The colonists had a good supper that evening. Neb prepared some agouti
soup, a smoked capybara ham, to which was added the boiled tubercules of
the "caladium macrorhizum," an herbaceous plant of the arum family.
They had an excellent taste, and were very nutritious, being something
similar to the substance which is sold in England under the name of
"Portland sago"; they were also a good substitute for bread, which the
settlers in Lincoln Island did not yet possess.
When supper was finished, before sleeping, Harding and his companions
went to take the air on the beach. It was eight o'clock in the evening;
the night was magnificent. The moon, which had been full five days
before, had not yet risen, but the horizon was already silvered by those
soft, pale shades which might be called the dawn of the moon. At the
southern zenith glittered the circumpolar constellations, and above all
the Southern Cross, which some days before the engineer had greeted on
the summit of Mount Franklin.
Cyrus Harding gazed for some time at this splendid constellation, which
has at its summit and at its base two stars of the first magnitude, at
its left arm a star of the second, and at its right arm a star of the
Then, after some minutes thought--
"Herbert," he asked of the lad, "is not this the 15th of April?"
"Yes, captain," replied Herbert.
"Well, if I am not mistaken, to-morrow will be one of the four days in
the year in which the real time is identical with average time; that
is to say, my boy, that to-morrow, to within some seconds, the sun will
pass the meridian just at midday by the clocks. If the weather is fine
I think that I shall obtain the longitude of the island with an
approximation of some degrees."
"Without instruments, without sextant?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"Yes," replied the engineer. "Also, since the night is clear, I will
try, this very evening, to obtain our latitude by calculating the
height of the Southern Cross, that is, from the southern pole above the
horizon. You understand, my friends, that before undertaking the work
of installation in earnest it is not enough to have found out that this
land is an island; we must, as nearly as possible, know at what distance
it is situated, either from the American continent or Australia, or from
the principal archipelagoes of the Pacific."
"In fact," said the reporter, "instead of building a house it would
be more important to build a boat, if by chance we are not more than a
hundred miles from an inhabited coast."
"That is why," returned Harding, "I am going to try this evening to
calculate the latitude of Lincoln Island, and to-morrow, at midday, I
will try to calculate the longitude."
If the engineer had possessed a sextant, an apparatus with which the
angular distance of objects can be measured with great precision, there
would have been no difficulty in the operation. This evening by the
height of the pole, the next day by the passing of the sun at the
meridian, he would obtain the position of the island. But as they had
not one he would have to supply the deficiency.
Harding then entered the Chimneys. By the light of the fire he cut two
little flat rulers, which he joined together at one end so as to form
a pair of compasses, whose legs could separate or come together. The
fastening was fixed with a strong acacia thorn which was found in the
wood pile. This instrument finished, the engineer returned to the beach,
but as it was necessary to take the height of the pole from above a
clear horizon, that is, a sea horizon, and as Claw Cape hid the southern
horizon, he was obliged to look for a more suitable station. The best
would evidently have been the shore exposed directly to the south; but
the Mercy would have to be crossed, and that was a difficulty. Harding
resolved, in consequence, to make his observation from Prospect Heights,
taking into consideration its height above the level of the sea--a
height which he intended to calculate next day by a simple process of
The settlers, therefore, went to the plateau, ascending the left bank of
the Mercy, and placed themselves on the edge which looked northwest and
southeast, that is, above the curiously-shaped rocks which bordered the
This part of the plateau commanded the heights of the left bank, which
sloped away to the extremity of Claw Cape, and to the southern side of
the island. No obstacle intercepted their gaze, which swept the horizon
in a semi-circle from the cape to Reptile End. To the south the horizon,
lighted by the first rays of the moon, was very clearly defined against
At this moment the Southern Cross presented itself to the observer in an
inverted position, the star Alpha marking its base, which is nearer to
the southern pole.
This constellation is not situated as near to the antarctic pole as the
Polar Star is to the arctic pole. The star Alpha is about twenty-seven
degrees from it, but Cyrus Harding knew this and made allowance for
it in his calculation. He took care also to observe the moment when it
passed the meridian below the pole, which would simplify the operation.
Cyrus Harding pointed one leg of the compasses to the horizon, the
other to Alpha, and the space between the two legs gave him the angular
distance which separated Alpha from the horizon. In order to fix the
angle obtained, he fastened with thorns the two pieces of wood on a
third placed transversely, so that their separation should be properly
That done, there was only the angle to calculate by bringing back the
observation to the level of the sea, taking into consideration the
depression of the horizon, which would necessitate measuring the height
of the cliff. The value of this angle would give the height of Alpha,
and consequently that of the pole above the horizon, that is to say, the
latitude of the island, since the latitude of a point of the globe is
always equal to the height of the pole above the horizon of this point.
The calculations were left for the next day, and at ten o'clock every
one was sleeping soundly.
The next day, the 16th of April, and Easter Sunday, the settlers issued
from the Chimneys at daybreak, and proceeded to wash their linen. The
engineer intended to manufacture soap as soon as he could procure the
necessary materials--soda or potash, fat or oil. The important question
of renewing their wardrobe would be treated of in the proper time and
place. At any rate their clothes would last at least six months longer,
for they were strong, and could resist the wear of manual labor. But
all would depend on the situation of the island with regard to inhabited
land. This would be settled to-day if the weather permitted.
The sun rising above a clear horizon, announced a magnificent day, one
of those beautiful autumn days which are like the last farewells of the
It was now necessary to complete the observations of the evening before
by measuring the height of the cliff above the level of the sea.
"Shall you not need an instrument similar to the one which you used
yesterday?" said Herbert to the engineer.
"No, my boy," replied the latter, "we are going to proceed differently,
but in as precise a way."
Herbert, wishing to learn everything he could, followed the engineer to
the beach. Pencroft, Neb, and the reporter remained behind and occupied
themselves in different ways.
Cyrus Harding had provided himself with a straight stick, twelve feet
long, which he had measured as exactly as possible by comparing it with
his own height, which he knew to a hair. Herbert carried a plumb-line
which Harding had given him, that is to say, a simple stone fastened
to the end of a flexible fiber. Having reached a spot about twenty feet
from the edge of the beach, and nearly five hundred feet from the cliff,
which rose perpendicularly, Harding thrust the pole two feet into
the sand, and wedging it up carefully, he managed, by means of the
plumb-line, to erect it perpendicularly with the plane of the horizon.
That done, he retired the necessary distance, when, lying on the sand,
his eye glanced at the same time at the top of the pole and the crest of
the cliff. He carefully marked the place with a little stick.
Then addressing Herbert--"Do you know the first principles of geometry?"
"Slightly, captain," replied Herbert, who did not wish to put himself
"You remember what are the properties of two similar triangles?"
"Yes," replied Herbert; "their homologous sides are proportional."
"Well, my boy, I have just constructed two similar right-angled
triangles; the first, the smallest, has for its sides the perpendicular
pole, the distance which separates the little stick from the foot of the
pole and my visual ray for hypothenuse; the second has for its sides
the perpendicular cliff, the height of which we wish to measure, the
distance which separates the little stick from the bottom of the
cliff, and my visual ray also forms its hypothenuse, which proves to be
prolongation of that of the first triangle."
"Ah, captain, I understand!" cried Herbert. "As the distance from the
stick to the pole is to the distance from the stick to the base of the
cliff, so is the height of the pole to the height of the cliff."
"Just so, Herbert," replied the engineer; "and when we have measured the
two first distances, knowing the height of the pole, we shall only have
a sum in proportion to do, which will give us the height of the cliff,
and will save us the trouble of measuring it directly."
The two horizontal distances were found out by means of the pole, whose
length above the sand was exactly ten feet.
The first distance was fifteen feet between the stick and the place
where the pole was thrust into the sand.
The second distance between the stick and the bottom of the cliff was
five hundred feet.
These measurements finished, Cyrus Harding and the lad returned to the
The engineer then took a flat stone which he had brought back from one
of his previous excursions, a sort of slate, on which it was easy
to trace figures with a sharp shell. He then proved the following
500 x 10 = 5000
5000 / 15 = 333.3
From which it was proved that the granite cliff measured 333 feet in
Cyrus Harding then took the instrument which he had made the evening
before, the space between its two legs giving the angular distance
between the star Alpha and the horizon. He measured, very exactly, the
opening of this angle on a circumference which he divided into 360 equal
parts. Now, this angle by adding to it the twenty-seven degrees which
separated Alpha from the antarctic pole, and by reducing to the level of
the sea the height of the cliff on which the observation had been made,
was found to be fifty-three degrees. These fifty-three degrees being
subtracted from ninety degrees--the distance from the pole to the
equator--there remained thirty-seven degrees. Cyrus Harding concluded,
therefore, that Lincoln Island was situated on the thirty-seventh degree
of the southern latitude, or taking into consideration through the
imperfection of the performance, an error of five degrees, that it must
be situated between the thirty-fifth and the fortieth parallel.
There was only the longitude to be obtained, and the position of the
island would be determined, The engineer hoped to attempt this the same
day, at twelve o'clock, at which moment the sun would pass the meridian.
It was decided that Sunday should be spent in a walk, or rather an
exploring expedition, to that side of the island between the north of
the lake and Shark Gulf, and if there was time they would push their
discoveries to the northern side of Cape South Mandible. They would
breakfast on the downs, and not return till evening.
At half-past eight the little band was following the edge of the
channel. On the other side, on Safety Islet, numerous birds were gravely
strutting. They were divers, easily recognized by their cry, which much
resembles the braying of a donkey. Pencroft only considered them in
an eatable point of view, and learnt with some satisfaction that their
flesh, though blackish, is not bad food.
Great amphibious creatures could also be seen crawling on the sand;
seals, doubtless, who appeared to have chosen the islet for a place of
refuge. It was impossible to think of those animals in an alimentary
point of view, for their oily flesh is detestable; however, Cyrus
Harding observed them attentively, and without making known his idea, he
announced to his companions that very soon they would pay a visit to the
islet. The beach was strewn with innumerable shells, some of which would
have rejoiced the heart of a conchologist; there were, among others, the
phasianella, the terebratual, etc. But what would be of more use, was
the discovery, by Neb, at low tide, of a large oysterbed among the
rocks, nearly five miles from the Chimneys.
"Neb will not have lost his day," cried Pencroft, looking at the
"It is really a fortunate discovery," said the reporter, "and as it is
said that each oyster produces yearly from fifty to sixty thousand eggs,
we shall have an inexhaustible supply there."
"Only I believe that the oyster is not very nourishing," said Herbert.
"No," replied Harding. "The oyster contains very little nitrogen, and
if a man lived exclusively on them, he would have to eat not less than
fifteen to sixteen dozen a day."
"Capital!" replied Pencroft. "We might swallow dozens and dozens without
exhausting the bed. Shall we take some for breakfast?"
And without waiting for a reply to this proposal, knowing that it would
be approved of, the sailor and Neb detached a quantity of the molluscs.
They put them in a sort of net of hibiscus fiber, which Neb had
manufactured, and which already contained food; they then continued to
climb the coast between the downs and the sea.
From time to time Harding consulted his watch, so as to be prepared in
time for the solar observation, which had to be made exactly at midday.
All that part of the island was very barren as far as the point
which closed Union Bay, and which had received the name of Cape South
Mandible. Nothing could be seen there but sand and shells, mingled with
debris of lava. A few sea-birds frequented this desolate coast, gulls,
great albatrosses, as well as wild duck, for which Pencroft had a great
fancy. He tried to knock some over with an arrow, but without result,
for they seldom perched, and he could not hit them on the wing.
This led the sailor to repeat to the engineer,--
"You see, captain, so long as we have not one or two fowling-pieces, we
shall never get anything!"
"Doubtless, Pencroft," replied the reporter, "but it depends on you.
Procure us some iron for the barrels, steel for the hammers, saltpeter.
coal and sulphur for powder, mercury and nitric acid for the fulminate,
and lead for the shot, and the captain will make us first-rate guns."
"Oh!" replied the engineer, "we might, no doubt, find all these
substances on the island, but a gun is a delicate instrument, and needs
very particular tools. However, we shall see later!"
"Why," cried Pencroft, "were we obliged to throw overboard all the
weapons we had with us in the car, all our implements, even our
"But if we had not thrown them away, Pencroft, the balloon would have
thrown us to the bottom of the sea!" said Herbert.
"What you say is true, my boy," replied the sailor.
Then passing to another idea,--"Think," said he, "how astounded Jonathan
Forster and his companions must have been when, next morning, they found
the place empty, and the machine flown away!"
"I am utterly indifferent about knowing what they may have thought,"
said the reporter.
"It was all my idea, that!" said Pencroft, with a satisfied air.
"A splendid idea, Pencroft!" replied Gideon Spilett, laughing, "and
which has placed us where we are."
"I would rather be here than in the hands of the Southerners," cried the
sailor, "especially since the captain has been kind enough to come and
join us again."
"So would I, truly!" replied the reporter. "Besides, what do we want?
"If that is not--everything!" replied Pencroft, laughing and shrugging
his shoulders. "But, some day or other, we shall find means of going
"Sooner, perhaps, than you imagine, my friends," remarked the engineer,
"if Lincoln Island is but a medium distance from an inhabited island,
or from a continent. We shall know in an hour. I have not a map of the
Pacific, but my memory has preserved a very clear recollection of
its southern part. The latitude which I obtained yesterday placed New
Zealand to the west of Lincoln Island, and the coast of Chile to the
east. But between these two countries, there is a distance of at least
six thousand miles. It has, therefore, to be determined what point in
this great space the island occupies, and this the longitude will give
us presently, with a sufficient approximation, I hope."
"Is not the archipelago of the Pomoutous the nearest point to us in
latitude?" asked Herbert.
"Yes," replied the engineer, "but the distance which separates us from
it is more than twelve hundred miles."
"And that way?" asked Neb, who followed the conversation with extreme
interest, pointing to the south.
"That way, nothing," replied Pencroft.
"Nothing, indeed," added the engineer.
"Well, Cyrus," asked the reporter, "if Lincoln Island is not more than
two or three thousand miles from New Zealand or Chile?"
"Well," replied the engineer, "instead of building a house we will build
a boat, and Master Pencroft shall be put in command--"
"Well then," cried the sailor, "I am quite ready to be captain--as soon
as you can make a craft that's able to keep at sea!"
"We shall do it, if it is necessary," replied Cyrus Harding.
But while these men, who really hesitated at nothing, were talking,
the hour approached at which the observation was to be made. What Cyrus
Harding was to do to ascertain the passage of the sun at the meridian of
the island, without an instrument of any sort, Herbert could not guess.
The observers were then about six miles from the Chimneys, not far from
that part of the downs in which the engineer had been found after his
enigmatical preservation. They halted at this place and prepared for
breakfast, for it was half-past eleven. Herbert went for some fresh
water from a stream which ran near, and brought it back in a jug, which
Neb had provided.
During these preparations Harding arranged everything for his
astronomical observation. He chose a clear place on the shore, which
the ebbing tide had left perfectly level. This bed of fine sand was as
smooth as ice, not a grain out of place. It was of little importance
whether it was horizontal or not, and it did not matter much whether the
stick six feet high, which was planted there, rose perpendicularly. On
the contrary, the engineer inclined it towards the south, that is to
say, in the direction of the coast opposite to the sun, for it must
not be forgotten that the settlers in Lincoln Island, as the island was
situated in the Southern Hemisphere, saw the radiant planet describe its
diurnal arc above the northern, and not above the southern horizon.
Herbert now understood how the engineer was going to proceed to
ascertain the culmination of the sun, that is to say its passing the
meridian of the island or, in other words, determine due south. It was
by means of the shadow cast on the sand by the stick, a way which, for
want of an instrument, would give him a suitable approach to the result
which he wished to obtain.
In fact, the moment when this shadow would reach its minimum of length
would be exactly twelve o'clock, and it would be enough to watch the
extremity of the shadow, so as to ascertain the instant when, after
having successively diminished, it began to lengthen. By inclining his
stick to the side opposite to the sun, Cyrus Harding made the shadow
longer, and consequently its modifications would be more easily
ascertained. In fact, the longer the needle of a dial is, the more
easily can the movement of its point be followed. The shadow of the
stick was nothing but the needle of a dial. The moment had come, and
Cyrus Harding knelt on the sand, and with little wooden pegs, which he
stuck into the sand, he began to mark the successive diminutions of the
stick's shadow. His companions, bending over him, watched the operation
with extreme interest. The reporter held his chronometer in his hand,
ready to tell the hour which it marked when the shadow would be at its
shortest. Moreover, as Cyrus Harding was working on the 16th of April,
the day on which the true and the average time are identical, the hour
given by Gideon Spilett would be the true hour then at Washington, which
would simplify the calculation. Meanwhile as the sun slowly advanced,
the shadow slowly diminished, and when it appeared to Cyrus Harding that
it was beginning to increase, he asked, "What o'clock is it?"
"One minute past five," replied Gideon Spilett directly. They had now
only to calculate the operation. Nothing could be easier. It could be
seen that there existed, in round numbers, a difference of five hours
between the meridian of Washington and that of Lincoln Island, that is
to say, it was midday in Lincoln Island when it was already five o'clock
in the evening in Washington. Now the sun, in its apparent movement
round the earth, traverses one degree in four minutes, or fifteen
degrees an hour. Fifteen degrees multiplied by five hours give
Then, since Washington is 77deg 3' 11" as much as to say seventy-seven
degrees counted from the meridian of Greenwich which the Americans
take for their starting-point for longitudes concurrently with the
English--it followed that the island must be situated seventy-seven and
seventy-five degrees west of the meridian of Greenwich, that is to say,
on the hundred and fifty-second degree of west longitude.
Cyrus Harding announced this result to his companions, and taking into
consideration errors of observation, as he had done for the latitude, he
believed he could positively affirm that the position of Lincoln Island
was between the thirty-fifth and the thirty-seventh parallel, and
between the hundred and fiftieth and the hundred and fifty-fifth
meridian to the west of the meridian of Greenwich.
The possible fault which he attributed to errors in the observation was,
it may be seen, of five degrees on both sides, which, at sixty miles
to a degree, would give an error of three hundred miles in latitude and
longitude for the exact position.
But this error would not influence the determination which it was
necessary to take. It was very evident that Lincoln Island was at such a
distance from every country or island that it would be too hazardous to
attempt to reach one in a frail boat.
In fact, this calculation placed it at least twelve hundred miles from
Tahiti and the islands of the archipelago of the Pomoutous, more than
eighteen hundred miles from New Zealand, and more than four thousand
five hundred miles from the American coast!
And when Cyrus Harding consulted his memory, he could not remember in
any way that such an island occupied, in that part of the Pacific, the
situation assigned to Lincoln Island.
The next day, the 17th of April, the sailor's first words were addressed
to Gideon Spilett.
"Well, sir," he asked, "what shall we do to-day?"
"What the captain pleases," replied the reporter.
Till then the engineer's companions had been brickmakers and potters,
now they were to become metallurgists.
The day before, after breakfast, they had explored as far as the point
of Mandible Cape, seven miles distant from the Chimneys. There, the long
series of downs ended, and the soil had a volcanic appearance. There
were no longer high cliffs as at Prospect Heights, but a strange and
capricious border which surrounded the narrow gulf between the two
capes, formed of mineral matter, thrown up by the volcano. Arrived at
this point the settlers retraced their steps, and at nightfall entered
the Chimneys; but they did not sleep before the question of knowing
whether they could think of leaving Lincoln Island or not was definitely
The twelve hundred miles which separated the island from the Pomoutous
Island was a considerable distance. A boat could not cross it,
especially at the approach of the bad season. Pencroft had expressly
declared this. Now, to construct a simple boat even with the necessary
tools, was a difficult work, and the colonists not having tools they
must begin by making hammers, axes, adzes, saws, augers, planes, etc.,
which would take some time. It was decided, therefore, that they
would winter at Lincoln Island, and that they would look for a more
comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys, in which to pass the winter
Before anything else could be done it was necessary to make the iron
ore, of which the engineer had observed some traces in the northwest
part of the island, fit for use by converting it either into iron or
Metals are not generally found in the ground in a pure state. For the
most part they are combined with oxygen or sulphur. Such was the case
with the two specimens which Cyrus Harding had brought back, one of
magnetic iron, not carbonated, the other a pyrite, also called sulphuret
of iron. It was, therefore the first, the oxide of iron, which they must
reduce with coal, that is to say, get rid of the oxygen, to obtain it in
a pure state. This reduction is made by subjecting the ore with coal to
a high temperature, either by the rapid and easy Catalan method,
which has the advantage of transforming the ore into iron in a single
operation, or by the blast furnace, which first smelts the ore, then
changes it into iron, by carrying away the three to four per cent. of
coal, which is combined with it.
Now Cyrus Harding wanted iron, and he wished to obtain it as soon as
possible. The ore which he had picked up was in itself very pure and
rich. It was the oxydulous iron, which is found in confused masses of a
deep gray color; it gives a black dust, crystallized in the form of the
regular octahedron. Native lodestones consist of this ore, and iron
of the first quality is made in Europe from that with which Sweden and
Norway are so abundantly supplied. Not far from this vein was the vein
of coal already made use of by the settlers. The ingredients for the
manufacture being close together would greatly facilitate the treatment
of the ore. This is the cause of the wealth of the mines in Great
Britain, where the coal aids the manufacture of the metal extracted from
the same soil at the same time as itself.
"Then, captain," said Pencroft, "we are going to work iron ore?"
"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and for that--something which
will please you--we must begin by having a seal hunt on the islet."
"A seal hunt!" cried the sailor, turning towards Gideon Spilett. "Are
seals needed to make iron?"
"Since Cyrus has said so!" replied the reporter.
But the engineer had already left the Chimneys, and Pencroft prepared
for the seal hunt, without having received any other explanation.
Cyrus Harding, Herbert, Gideon Spilett, Neb, and the sailor were
soon collected on the shore, at a place where the channel left a ford
passable at low tide. The hunters could therefore traverse it without
getting wet higher than the knee.
Harding then put his foot on the islet for the first, and his companions
for the second time.
On their landing some hundreds of penguins looked fearlessly at them.
The hunters, armed with sticks, could have killed them easily, but they
were not guilty of such useless massacre, as it was important not to
frighten the seals, who were lying on the sand several cable lengths
off. They also respected certain innocent-looking birds, whose wings
were reduced to the state of stumps, spread out like fins, ornamented
with feathers of a scaly appearance. The settlers, therefore, prudently
advanced towards the north point, walking over ground riddled with
little holes, which formed nests for the sea-birds. Towards the
extremity of the islet appeared great black heads floating just above
the water, having exactly the appearance of rocks in motion.
These were the seals which were to be captured. It was necessary,
however, first to allow them to land, for with their close, short
hair, and their fusiform conformation, being excellent swimmers, it is
difficult to catch them in the sea, while on land their short, webbed
feet prevent their having more than a slow, waddling movement.
Pencroft knew the habits of these creatures, and he advised waiting till
they were stretched on the sand, when the sun, before long, would send
them to sleep. They must then manage to cut off their retreat and knock
them on the head.
The hunters, having concealed themselves behind the rocks, waited
An hour passed before the seals came to play on the sand. They could
count half a dozen. Pencroft and Herbert then went round the point of
the islet, so as to take them in the rear, and cut off their retreat.
During this time Cyrus Harding, Spilett, and Neb, crawling behind the
rocks, glided towards the future scene of combat.
All at once the tall figure of the sailor appeared. Pencroft shouted.
The engineer and his two companions threw themselves between the sea and
the seals. Two of the animals soon lay dead on the sand, but the rest
regained the sea in safety.
"Here are the seals required, captain!" said the sailor, advancing
towards the engineer.
"Capital," replied Harding. "We will make bellows of them!"
"Bellows!" cried Pencroft. "Well! these are lucky seals!"
It was, in fact, a blowing-machine, necessary for the treatment of
the ore that the engineer wished to manufacture with the skins of the
amphibious creatures. They were of a medium size, for their length did
not exceed six feet. They resembled a dog about the head.
As it was useless to burden themselves with the weight of both the
animals, Neb and Pencroft resolved to skin them on the spot, while Cyrus
Harding and the reporter continued to explore the islet.
The sailor and the Negro cleverly performed the operation, and three
hours afterwards Cyrus Harding had at his disposal two seals' skins,
which he intended to use in this state, without subjecting them to any
The settlers waited till the tide was again low, and crossing the
channel they entered the Chimneys.
The skins had then to be stretched on a frame of wood and sewn by means
of fibers so as to preserve the air without allowing too much to escape.
Cyrus Harding had nothing but the two steel blades from Top's collar,
and yet he was so clever, and his companions aided him with so much
intelligence, that three days afterwards the little colony's stock of
tools was augmented by a blowing-machine, destined to inject the air
into the midst of the ore when it should be subjected to heat--an
indispensable condition to the success of the operation.
On the morning of the 20th of April began the "metallic period," as the
reporter called it in his notes. The engineer had decided, as has been
said, to operate near the veins both of coal and ore. Now, according to
his observations, these veins were situated at the foot of the northeast
spurs of Mount Franklin, that is to say, a distance of six miles from
their home. It was impossible, therefore, to return every day to the
Chimneys, and it was agreed that the little colony should camp under a
hut of branches, so that the important operation could be followed night
This settled, they set out in the morning. Neb and Pencroft dragged the
bellows on a hurdle; also a quantity of vegetables and animals, which
they besides could renew on the way.
The road led through Jacamar Wood, which they traversed obliquely from
southeast to northwest, and in the thickest part. It was necessary to
beat a path, which would in the future form the most direct road to
Prospect Heights and Mount Franklin. The trees, belonging to the species
already discovered, were magnificent. Herbert found some new ones, among
others some which Pencroft called "sham leeks"; for, in spite of their
size, they were of the same liliaceous family as the onion, chive,
shallot, or asparagus. These trees produce ligneous roots which, when
cooked, are excellent; from them, by fermentation, a very agreeable
liquor is made. They therefore made a good store of the roots.
The journey through the wood was long; it lasted the whole day, and so
allowed plenty of time for examining the flora and fauna. Top, who
took special charge of the fauna, ran through the grass and brushwood,
putting up all sorts of game. Herbert and Gideon Spilett killed two
kangaroos with bows and arrows, and also an animal which strongly
resembled both a hedgehog and an ant-eater. It was like the first
because it rolled itself into a ball, and bristled with spines, and the
second because it had sharp claws, a long slender snout which terminated
in a bird's beak, and an extendible tongue, covered with little thorns
which served to hold the insects.
"And when it is in the pot," asked Pencroft naturally, "what will it be
"An excellent piece of beef," replied Herbert.
"We will not ask more from it," replied the sailor.
During this excursion they saw several wild boars, which however, did
not offer to attack the little band, and it appeared as if they would
not meet with any dangerous beasts; when, in a thick part of the wood,
the reporter thought he saw, some paces from him, among the lower
branches of a tree, an animal which he took for a bear, and which he
very tranquilly began to draw. Happily for Gideon Spilett, the animal in
question did not belong to the redoubtable family of the plantigrades.
It was only a koala, better known under the name of the sloth, being
about the size of a large dog, and having stiff hair of a dirty color,
the paws armed with strong claws, which enabled it to climb trees and
feed on the leaves. Having identified the animal, which they did not
disturb, Gideon Spilett erased "bear" from the title of his sketch,
putting koala in its place, and the journey was resumed.
At five o'clock in the evening, Cyrus Harding gave the signal to halt.
They were now outside the forest, at the beginning of the powerful spurs
which supported Mount Franklin towards the west. At a distance of some
hundred feet flowed the Red Creek, and consequently plenty of fresh
water was within their reach.
The camp was soon organized. In less than an hour, on the edge of the
forest, among the trees, a hut of branches interlaced with creepers,
and pasted over with clay, offered a tolerable shelter. Their geological
researches were put off till the next day. Supper was prepared, a good
fire blazed before the hut, the roast turned, and at eight o'clock,
while one of the settlers watched to keep up the fire, in case any wild
beasts should prowl in the neighborhood, the others slept soundly.
The next day, the 21st of April, Cyrus Harding accompanied by Herbert,
went to look for the soil of ancient formation, on which he had already
discovered a specimen of ore. They found the vein above ground, near the
source of the creek, at the foot of one of the northeastern spurs. This
ore, very rich in iron, enclosed in its fusible veinstone, was perfectly
suited to the mode of reduction which the engineer intended to employ;
that is, the Catalan method, but simplified, as it is used in
Corsica. In fact, the Catalan method, properly so called, requires the
construction of kilns and crucibles, in which the ore and the coal,
placed in alternate layers, are transformed and reduced, But Cyrus
Harding intended to economize these constructions, and wished simply to
form, with the ore and the coal, a cubic mass, to the center of which he
would direct the wind from his bellows. Doubtless, it was the proceeding
employed by Tubalcain, and the first metallurgists of the inhabited
world. Now that which had succeeded with the grandson of Adam, and which
still yielded good results in countries rich in ore and fuel, could not
but succeed with the settlers in Lincoln Island.
The coal, as well as the ore, was collected without trouble on the
surface of the ground. They first broke the ore into little pieces,
and cleansed them with the hand from the impurities which soiled their
surface. Then coal and ore were arranged in heaps and in successive
layers, as the charcoal-burner does with the wood which he wishes to
carbonize. In this way, under the influence of the air projected by the
blowing-machine, the coal would be transformed into carbonic acid, then
into oxide of carbon, its use being to reduce the oxide of iron, that is
to say, to rid it of the oxygen.
Thus the engineer proceeded. The bellows of sealskin, furnished at its
extremity with a nozzle of clay, which had been previously fabricated
in the pottery kiln, was established near the heap of ore. Using the
mechanism which consisted of a frame, cords of fiber and counterpoise,
he threw into the mass an abundance of air, which by raising the
temperature also concurred with the chemical transformation to produce
in time pure iron.
The operation was difficult. All the patience, all the ingenuity of the
settlers was needed; but at last it succeeded, and the result was a lump
of iron, reduced to a spongy state, which it was necessary to shingle
and fagot, that is to say, to forge so as to expel from it the liquefied
veinstone. These amateur smiths had, of course, no hammer; but they were
in no worse a situation than the first metallurgist, and therefore did
what, no doubt, he had to do.
A handle was fixed to the first lump, and was used as a hammer to forge
the second on a granite anvil, and thus they obtained a coarse but
useful metal. At length, after many trials and much fatigue, on the 25th
of April several bars of iron were forged, and transformed into tools,
crowbars, pincers, pickaxes, spades, etc., which Pencroft and Neb
declared to be real jewels. But the metal was not yet in its most
serviceable state, that is, of steel. Now steel is a combination of iron
and coal, which is extracted, either from the liquid ore, by taking from
it the excess of coal, or from the iron by adding to it the coal which
was wanting. The first, obtained by the decarburation of the metal,
gives natural or puddled steel; the second, produced by the carburation
of the iron, gives steel of cementation.
It was the last which Cyrus Harding intended to forge, as he possessed
iron in a pure state. He succeeded by heating the metal with powdered
coal in a crucible which had previously been manufactured from clay
suitable for the purpose.
He then worked this steel, which is malleable both when hot or cold,
with the hammer. Neb and Pencroft, cleverly directed, made hatchets,
which, heated red-hot, and plunged suddenly into cold water, acquired an
Other instruments, of course roughly fashioned, were also manufactured;
blades for planes, axes, hatchets, pieces of steel to be transformed
into saws, chisels; then iron for spades, pickaxes, hammers, nails,
etc. At last, on the 5th of May, the metallic period ended, the smiths
returned to the Chimneys, and new work would soon authorize them to take
a fresh title.
It was the 6th of May, a day which corresponds to the 6th of November in
the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. The sky had been obscured for
some days, and it was of importance to make preparations for the winter.
However, the temperature was not as yet much lower, and a centigrade
thermometer, transported to Lincoln Island, would still have marked an
average of ten to twelve degrees above zero. This was not surprising,
since Lincoln Island, probably situated between the thirty-fifth and
fortieth parallel, would be subject, in the Southern Hemisphere, to
the same climate as Sicily or Greece in the Northern Hemisphere. But as
Greece and Sicily have severe cold, producing snow and ice, so doubtless
would Lincoln Island in the severest part of the winter and it was
advisable to provide against it.
In any case if cold did not yet threaten them, the rainy season would
begin, and on this lonely island, exposed to all the fury of the
elements, in mid-ocean, bad weather would be frequent, and probably
terrible. The question of a more comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys
must therefore be seriously considered and promptly resolved on.
Pencroft, naturally, had some predilection for the retreat which he
had discovered, but he well understood that another must be found. The
Chimneys had been already visited by the sea, under circumstances
which are known, and it would not do to be exposed again to a similar
"Besides," added Cyrus Harding, who this day was talking of these things
with his companions, "we have some precautions to take."
"Why? The island is not inhabited," said the reporter.
"That is probable," replied the engineer, "although we have not yet
explored the interior; but if no human beings are found, I fear that
dangerous animals may abound. It is necessary to guard against a
possible attack, so that we shall not be obliged to watch every night,
or to keep up a fire. And then, my friends, we must foresee everything.
We are here in a part of the Pacific often frequented by Malay
"What!" said Herbert, "at such a distance from land?"
"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer. "These pirates are bold sailors as
well as formidable enemies, and we must take measures accordingly."
"Well," replied Pencroft, "we will fortify ourselves against savages
with two legs as well as against savages with four. But, captain, will
it not be best to explore every part of the island before undertaking
"That would be best," added Gideon Spilett.
"Who knows if we might not find on the opposite side one of the caverns
which we have searched for in vain here?"
"That is true," replied the engineer, "but you forget, my friends, that
it will be necessary to establish ourselves in the neighborhood of a
watercourse, and that, from the summit of Mount Franklin, we could not
see towards the west, either stream or river. Here, on the contrary, we
are placed between the Mercy and Lake Grant, an advantage which must not
be neglected. And, besides, this side, looking towards the east, is not
exposed as the other is to the trade-winds, which in this hemisphere
blow from the northwest."
"Then, captain," replied the sailor, "let us build a house on the edge
of the lake. Neither bricks nor tools are wanting now. After having been
brickmakers, potters, smelters, and smiths, we shall surely know how to
"Yes, my friend; but before coming to any decision we must consider
the matter thoroughly. A natural dwelling would spare us much work,
and would be a surer retreat, for it would be as well defended against
enemies from the interior as those from outside."
"That is true, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "but we have already
examined all that mass of granite, and there is not a hole, not a
"No, not one!" added Pencroft. "Ah, if we were able to dig out a
dwelling in that cliff, at a good height, so as to be out of the reach
of harm, that would be capital! I can see that on the front which looks
seaward, five or six rooms--"
"With windows to light them!" said Herbert, laughing.
"And a staircase to climb up to them!" added Neb.
"You are laughing," cried the sailor, "and why? What is there impossible
in what I propose? Haven't we got pickaxes and spades? Won't Captain
Harding be able to make powder to blow up the mine? Isn't it true,
captain, that you will make powder the very day we want it?"
Cyrus Harding listened to the enthusiastic Pencroft developing his
fanciful projects. To attack this mass of granite, even by a mine, was
Herculean work, and it was really vexing that nature could not help them
at their need. But the engineer did not reply to the sailor except by
proposing to examine the cliff more attentively, from the mouth of the
river to the angle which terminated it on the north.
They went out, therefore, and the exploration was made with extreme
care, over an extent of nearly two miles. But in no place in the bare,
straight cliff, could any cavity be found. The nests of the rock pigeons
which fluttered at its summit were only, in reality, holes bored at the
very top, and on the irregular edge of the granite.
It was a provoking circumstance, and as to attacking this cliff, either
with pickaxe or with powder, so as to effect a sufficient excavation, it
was not to be thought of. It so happened that, on all this part of the
shore, Pencroft had discovered the only habitable shelter, that is to
say, the Chimneys, which now had to be abandoned.
The exploration ended, the colonists found themselves at the north angle
of the cliff, where it terminated in long slopes which died away on the
shore. From this place, to its extreme limit in the west, it only formed
a sort of declivity, a thick mass of stones, earth, and sand, bound
together by plants, bushes, and grass inclined at an angle of only
forty-five degrees. Clumps of trees grew on these slopes, which were
also carpeted with thick grass. But the vegetation did not extend
far, and a long, sandy plain, which began at the foot of these slopes,
reached to the beach.
Cyrus Harding thought, not without reason, that the overplus of the lake
must overflow on this side. The excess of water furnished by the Red
Creek must also escape by some channel or other. Now the engineer had
not yet found this channel on any part of the shore already explored,
that is to say, from the mouth of the stream on the west of Prospect
The engineer now proposed to his companions to climb the slope, and to
return to the Chimneys by the heights, while exploring the northern
and eastern shores of the lake. The proposal was accepted, and in a few
minutes Herbert and Neb were on the upper plateau. Cyrus Harding, Gideon
Spilett, and Pencroft followed with more sedate steps.
The beautiful sheet of water glittered through the trees under the rays
of the sun. In this direction the country was charming. The eye feasted
on the groups of trees. Some old trunks, bent with age, showed black
against the verdant grass which covered the ground. Crowds of brilliant
cockatoos screamed among the branches, moving prisms, hopping from one
bough to another.
The settlers instead of going directly to the north bank of the lake,
made a circuit round the edge of the plateau, so as to join the mouth
of the creek on its left bank. It was a detour of more than a mile and a
half. Walking was easy, for the trees widely spread, left a considerable
space between them. The fertile zone evidently stopped at this point,
and vegetation would be less vigorous in the part between the course of
the Creek and the Mercy.
Cyrus Harding and his companions walked over this new ground with great
care. Bows, arrows, and sticks with sharp iron points were their only
weapons. However, no wild beast showed itself, and it was probable that
these animals frequented rather the thick forests in the south; but the
settlers had the disagreeable surprise of seeing Top stop before a snake
of great size, measuring from fourteen to fifteen feet in length. Neb
killed it by a blow from his stick. Cyrus Harding examined the reptile,
and declared it not venomous, for it belonged to that species of diamond
serpents which the natives of New South Wales rear. But it was possible
that others existed whose bite was mortal such as the deaf vipers with
forked tails, which rise up under the feet, or those winged snakes,
furnished with two ears, which enable them to proceed with great
rapidity. Top, the first moment of surprise over, began a reptile chase
with such eagerness, that they feared for his safety. His master called
him back directly.
The mouth of the Red Creek, at the place where it entered into the lake,
was soon reached. The explorers recognized on the opposite shore the
point which they had visited on their descent from Mount Franklin. Cyrus
Harding ascertained that the flow of water into it from the creek was
considerable. Nature must therefore have provided some place for the
escape of the overplus. This doubtless formed a fall, which, if it could
be discovered, would be of great use.
The colonists, walking apart, but not straying far from each other,
began to skirt the edge of the lake, which was very steep. The water
appeared to be full of fish, and Pencroft resolved to make some
fishing-rods, so as to try and catch some.
The northeast point was first to be doubled. It might have been supposed
that the discharge of water was at this place, for the extremity of the
lake was almost on a level with the edge of the plateau. But no signs of
this were discovered, and the colonists continued to explore the bank,
which, after a slight bend, descended parallel to the shore.
On this side the banks were less woody, but clumps of trees, here and
there, added to the picturesqueness of the country. Lake Grant was
viewed from thence in all its extent, and no breath disturbed the
surface of its waters. Top, in beating the bushes, put up flocks of
birds of different kinds, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert saluted with
arrows. One was hit by the lad, and fell into some marshy grass. Top
rushed forward, and brought a beautiful swimming bird, of a slate color,
short beak, very developed frontal plate, and wings edged with white. It
was a "coot," the size of a large partridge, belonging to the group of
macrodactyls which form the transition between the order of wading birds
and that of palmipeds. Sorry game, in truth, and its flavor is far from
pleasant. But Top was not so particular in these things as his masters,
and it was agreed that the coot should be for his supper.
The settlers were now following the eastern bank of the lake, and they
would not be long in reaching the part which they already knew.
The engineer was much surprised at not seeing any indication of the
discharge of water. The reporter and the sailor talked with him, and he
could not conceal his astonishment.
At this moment Top, who had been very quiet till then, gave signs of
agitation. The intelligent animal went backwards and forwards on the
shore, stopped suddenly, and looked at the water, one paw raised, as if
he was pointing at some invisible game; then he barked furiously, and
was suddenly silent.
Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions had at first paid any attention
to Top's behavior; but the dog's barking soon became so frequent that
the engineer noticed it.
"What is there, Top?" he asked.
The dog bounded towards his master, seeming to be very uneasy, and then
rushed again towards the bank. Then, all at once, he plunged into the
"Here, Top!" cried Cyrus Harding, who did not like his dog to venture
into the treacherous water.
"What's happening down there?" asked Pencroft, examining the surface of
"Top smells some amphibious creature," replied Herbert.
"An alligator, perhaps," said the reporter.
"I do not think so," replied Harding. "Alligators are only met with in
regions less elevated in latitude."
Meanwhile Top had returned at his master's call, and had regained the
shore: but he could not stay quiet; he plunged in among the tall grass,
and guided by instinct, he appeared to follow some invisible being which
was slipping along under the surface of the water. However the water
was calm; not a ripple disturbed its surface. Several times the settlers
stopped on the bank, and observed it attentively. Nothing appeared.
There was some mystery there.
The engineer was puzzled.
"Let us pursue this exploration to the end," said he.
Half an hour after they had all arrived at the southeast angle of the
lake, on Prospect Heights. At this point the examination of the banks of
the lake was considered finished, and yet the engineer had not been able
to discover how and where the waters were discharged. "There is no doubt
this overflow exists," he repeated, "and since it is not visible it must
go through the granite cliff at the west!"
"But what importance do you attach to knowing that, my dear Cyrus?"
asked Gideon Spilett.
"Considerable importance," replied the engineer; "for if it flows
through the cliff there is probably some cavity, which it would be easy
to render habitable after turning away the water."
"But is it not possible, captain, that the water flows away at the
bottom of the lake," said Herbert, "and that it reaches the sea by some
"That might be," replied the engineer, "and should it be so we shall be
obliged to build our house ourselves, since nature has not done it for
The colonists were about to begin to traverse the plateau to return to
the Chimneys, when Top gave new signs of agitation. He barked with fury,
and before his master could restrain him, he had plunged a second time
into the lake.
All ran towards the bank. The dog was already more than twenty feet off,
and Cyrus was calling him back, when an enormous head emerged from the
water, which did not appear to be deep in that place.
Herbert recognized directly the species of amphibian to which the
tapering head, with large eyes, and adorned with long silky mustaches,
"A lamantin!" he cried.
It was not a lamantin, but one of that species of the order of
cetaceans, which bear the name of the "dugong," for its nostrils were
open at the upper part of its snout. The enormous animal rushed on the
dog, who tried to escape by returning towards the shore. His master
could do nothing to save him, and before Gideon Spilett or Herbert
thought of bending their bows, Top, seized by the dugong, had
disappeared beneath the water.
Neb, his iron-tipped spear in his hand, wished to go to Top's help, and
attack the dangerous animal in its own element.
"No, Neb," said the engineer, restraining his courageous servant.
Meanwhile, a struggle was going on beneath the water, an inexplicable
struggle, for in his situation Top could not possibly resist; and
judging by the bubbling of the surface it must be also a terrible
struggle, and could not but terminate in the death of the dog! But
suddenly, in the middle of a foaming circle, Top reappeared. Thrown in
the air by some unknown power, he rose ten feet above the surface of the
lake, fell again into the midst of the agitated waters, and then soon
gained the shore, without any severe wounds, miraculously saved.
Cyrus Harding and his companions could not understand it. What was not
less inexplicable was that the struggle still appeared to be going on.
Doubtless, the dugong, attacked by some powerful animal, after having
released the dog, was fighting on its own account. But it did not last
long. The water became red with blood, and the body of the dugong,
emerging from the sheet of scarlet which spread around, soon stranded on
a little beach at the south angle of the lake. The colonists ran towards
it. The dugong was dead. It was an enormous animal, fifteen or sixteen
feet long, and must have weighed from three to four thousand pounds. At
its neck was a wound, which appeared to have been produced by a sharp
What could the amphibious creature have been, who, by this terrible
blow had destroyed the formidable dugong? No one could tell, and much
interested in this incident, Harding and his companions returned to the
The next day, the 7th of May, Harding and Gideon Spilett, leaving Neb to
prepare breakfast, climbed Prospect Heights, while Herbert and Pencroft
ascended by the river, to renew their store of wood.
The engineer and the reporter soon reached the little beach on which the
dugong had been stranded. Already flocks of birds had attacked the mass
of flesh, and had to be driven away with stones, for Cyrus wished to
keep the fat for the use of the colony. As to the animal's flesh
it would furnish excellent food, for in the islands of the Malay
Archipelago and elsewhere, it is especially reserved for the table of
the native princes. But that was Neb's affair.
At this moment Cyrus Harding had other thoughts. He was much interested
in the incident of the day before. He wished to penetrate the mystery
of that submarine combat, and to ascertain what monster could have given
the dugong so strange a wound. He remained at the edge of the lake,
looking, observing; but nothing appeared under the tranquil waters,
which sparkled in the first rays of the rising sun.
At the beach, on which lay the body of the dugong, the water was
tolerably shallow, but from this point the bottom of the lake sloped
gradually, and it was probable that the depth was considerable in the
center. The lake might be considered as a large center basin, which was
filled by the water from the Red Creek.
"Well, Cyrus," said the reporter, "there seems to be nothing suspicious
in this water."
"No, my dear Spilett," replied the engineer, "and I really do not know
how to account for the incident of yesterday."
"I acknowledge," returned Spilett, "that the wound given this creature
is, at least, very strange, and I cannot explain either how Top was
so vigorously cast up out of the water. One could have thought that a
powerful arm hurled him up, and that the same arm with a dagger killed
"Yes," replied the engineer, who had become thoughtful; "there is
something there that I cannot understand. But do you better understand
either, my dear Spilett, in what way I was saved myself--how I was drawn
from the waves, and carried to the downs? No! Is it not true? Now, I
feel sure that there is some mystery there, which, doubtless, we shall
discover some day. Let us observe, but do not dwell on these singular
incidents before our companions. Let us keep our remarks to ourselves,
and continue our work."
It will be remembered that the engineer had not as yet been able to
discover the place where the surplus water escaped, but he knew it must
exist somewhere. He was much surprised to see a strong current at this
place. By throwing in some bits of wood he found that it set towards the
southern angle. He followed the current, and arrived at the south point
of the lake.
There was there a sort of depression in the water, as if it was suddenly
lost in some fissure in the ground.
Harding listened; placing his ear to the level of the lake, he very
distinctly heard the noise of a subterranean fall.
"There," said he, rising, "is the discharge of the water; there,
doubtless, by a passage in the granite cliff, it joins the sea, through
cavities which we can use to our profit. Well, I can find it!"
The engineer cut a long branch, stripped it of its leaves, and plunging
it into the angle between the two banks, he found that there was a large
hole one foot only beneath the surface of the water. This hole was the
opening so long looked for in vain, and the force of the current was
such that the branch was torn from the engineer's hands and disappeared.
"There is no doubt about it now," repeated Harding. "There is the
outlet, and I will lay it open to view!"
"How?" asked Gideon Spilett.
"By lowering the level of the water of the lake three feet."
"And how will you lower the level?"
"By opening another outlet larger than this."
"At what place, Cyrus?"
"At the part of the bank nearest the coast."
"But it is a mass of granite!" observed Spilett.
"Well," replied Cyrus Harding, "I will blow up the granite, and the
water escaping, will subside, so as to lay bare this opening--"
"And make a waterfall, by falling on to the beach," added the reporter.
"A fall that we shall make use of!" replied Cyrus. "Come, come!"
The engineer hurried away his companion, whose confidence in Harding was
such that he did not doubt the enterprise would succeed. And yet, how
was this granite wall to be opened without powder, and with imperfect
instruments? Was not this work upon which the engineer was so bent above
When Harding and the reporter entered the Chimneys, they found Herbert
and Pencroft unloading their raft of wood.
"The woodmen have just finished, captain." said the sailor, laughing,
"and when you want masons--"
"Masons,--no, but chemists," replied the engineer.
"Yes," added the reporter, "we are going to blow up the island--"
"Blow up the island?" cried Pencroft.
"Part of it, at least," replied Spilett.
"Listen to me, my friends," said the engineer. And he made known to them
the result of his observations.
According to him, a cavity, more or less considerable, must exist in
the mass of granite which supported Prospect Heights, and he intended
to penetrate into it. To do this, the opening through which the water
rushed must first be cleared, and the level lowered by making a larger
outlet. Therefore an explosive substance must be manufactured, which
would make a deep trench in some other part of the shore. This was what
Harding was going to attempt with the minerals which nature placed at
It is useless to say with what enthusiasm all, especially Pencroft,
received this project. To employ great means, open the granite, create a
cascade, that suited the sailor. And he would just as soon be a chemist
as a mason or bootmaker, since the engineer wanted chemicals. He would
be all that they liked, "even a professor of dancing and deportment,"
said he to Neb, if that was ever necessary.
Neb and Pencroft were first of all told to extract the grease from the
dugong, and to keep the flesh, which was destined for food. Such perfect
confidence had they in the engineer, that they set out directly,
without even asking a question. A few minutes after them, Cyrus Harding,
Herbert, and Gideon Spilett, dragging the hurdle, went towards the vein
of coals, where those shistose pyrites abound which are met with in the
most recent transition soil, and of which Harding had already found a
specimen. All the day being employed in carrying a quantity of these
stones to the Chimneys, by evening they had several tons.
The next day, the 8th of May, the engineer began his manipulations.
These shistose pyrites being composed principally of coal, flint,
alumina, and sulphuret of iron--the latter in excess--it was necessary
to separate the sulphuret of iron, and transform it into sulphate as
rapidly as possible. The sulphate obtained, the sulphuric acid could
then be extracted.
This was the object to be attained. Sulphuric acid is one of the agents
the most frequently employed, and the manufacturing importance of a
nation can be measured by the consumption which is made of it. This acid
would later be of great use to the settlers, in the manufacturing of
candles, tanning skins, etc., but this time the engineer reserved it for
Cyrus Harding chose, behind the Chimneys, a site where the ground
was perfectly level. On this ground he placed a layer of branches and
chopped wood, on which were piled some pieces of shistose pyrites,
buttressed one against the other, the whole being covered with a thin
layer of pyrites, previously reduced to the size of a nut.
This done, they set fire to the wood, the heat was communicated to the
shist, which soon kindled, since it contains coal and sulphur. Then new
layers of bruised pyrites were arranged so as to form an immense
heap, the exterior of which was covered with earth and grass, several
air-holes being left, as if it was a stack of wood which was to be
carbonized to make charcoal.
They then left the transformation to complete itself, and it would
not take less than ten or twelve days for the sulphuret of iron to be
changed to sulphate of iron and the alumina into sulphate of alumina,
two equally soluble substances, the others, flint, burnt coal, and
cinders, not being so.
While this chemical work was going on, Cyrus Harding proceeded with
other operations, which were pursued with more than zeal,--it was
Neb and Pencroft had taken away the fat from the dugong, and placed it
in large earthen pots. It was then necessary to separate the glycerine
from the fat by saponifying it. Now, to obtain this result, it had to
be treated either with soda or lime. In fact, one or other of these
substances, after having attacked the fat, would form a soap by
separating the glycerine, and it was just this glycerine which the
engineer wished to obtain. There was no want of lime, only treatment by
lime would give calcareous soap, insoluble, and consequently useless,
while treatment by soda would furnish, on the contrary, a soluble soap,
which could be put to domestic use. Now, a practical man, like Cyrus
Harding, would rather try to obtain soda. Was this difficult? No; for
marine plants abounded on the shore, glass-wort, ficoides, and all
those fucaceae which form wrack. A large quantity of these plants
was collected, first dried, then burnt in holes in the open air. The
combustion of these plants was kept up for several days, and the result
was a compact gray mass, which has been long known under the name of
This obtained, the engineer treated the fat with soda, which gave both a
soluble soap and that neutral substance, glycerine.
But this was not all. Cyrus Harding still needed, in view of his future
preparation, another substance, nitrate of potash, which is better known
under the name of salt niter, or of saltpeter.
Cyrus Harding could have manufactured this substance by treating the
carbonate of potash, which would be easily extracted from the cinders of
the vegetables, by azotic acid. But this acid was wanting, and he would
have been in some difficulty, if nature had not happily furnished the
saltpeter, without giving them any other trouble than that of picking it
up. Herbert found a vein of it at the foot of Mount Franklin, and they
had nothing to do but purify this salt.
These different works lasted a week. They were finished before
the transformation of the sulphuret into sulphate of iron had been
accomplished. During the following days the settlers had time to
construct a furnace of bricks of a particular arrangement, to serve for
the distillation of the sulphate or iron when it had been obtained. All
this was finished about the 18th of May, nearly at the time when the
chemical transformation terminated. Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and
Pencroft, skillfully directed by the engineer, had become most clever
workmen. Before all masters, necessity is the one most listened to, and
who teaches the best.
When the heap of pyrites had been entirely reduced by fire, the result
of the operation, consisting of sulphate of iron, sulphate of alumina,
flint, remains of coal, and cinders was placed in a basinful of water.
They stirred this mixture, let it settle, then decanted it, and obtained
a clear liquid containing in solution sulphate of iron and sulphate of
alumina, the other matters remaining solid, since they are insoluble.
Lastly, this liquid being partly evaporated, crystals of sulphate of
iron were deposited, and the not evaporated liquid, which contained the
sulphate of alumina, was thrown away.
Cyrus Harding had now at his disposal a large quantity of these sulphate
of iron crystals, from which the sulphuric acid had to be extracted. The
making of sulphuric acid is a very expensive manufacture. Considerable
works are necessary--a special set of tools, an apparatus of
platina, leaden chambers, unassailable by the acid, and in which the
transformation is performed, etc. The engineer had none of these at his
disposal, but he knew that, in Bohemia especially, sulphuric acid is
manufactured by very simple means, which have also the advantage of
producing it to a superior degree of concentration. It is thus that the
acid known under the name of Nordhausen acid is made.
To obtain sulphuric acid, Cyrus Harding had only one operation to make,
to calcine the sulphate of iron crystals in a closed vase, so that the
sulphuric acid should distil in vapor, which vapor, by condensation,
would produce the acid.
The crystals were placed in pots, and the heat from the furnace would
distil the sulphuric acid. The operation was successfully completed, and
on the 20th of May, twelve days after commencing it, the engineer
was the possessor of the agent which later he hoped to use in so many
Now, why did he wish for this agent? Simply to produce azotic acid;
and that was easy, since saltpeter, attacked by sulphuric acid, gives
azotic, or nitric, acid by distillation.
But, after all, how was he going to employ this azotic acid? His
companions were still ignorant of this, for he had not informed them of
the result at which he aimed.
However, the engineer had nearly accomplished his purpose, and by a
last operation he would procure the substance which had given so much
Taking some azotic acid, he mixed it with glycerine, which had been
previously concentrated by evaporation, subjected to the water-bath, and
he obtained, without even employing a refrigerant mixture, several pints
of an oily yellow mixture.
This last operation Cyrus Harding had made alone, in a retired place, at
a distance from the Chimneys, for he feared the danger of an explosion,
and when he showed a bottle of this liquid to his friends, he contented
himself with saying,--
"Here is nitro-glycerine!"
It was really this terrible production, of which the explosive power is
perhaps tenfold that of ordinary powder, and which has already caused so
many accidents. However, since a way has been found to transform it into
dynamite, that is to say, to mix with it some solid substance, clay or
sugar, porous enough to hold it, the dangerous liquid has been used
with some security. But dynamite was not yet known at the time when the
settlers worked on Lincoln Island.
"And is it that liquid that is going to blow up our rocks?" said
"Yes, my friend," replied the engineer, "and this nitro-glycerine will
produce so much the more effect, as the granite is extremely hard, and
will oppose a greater resistance to the explosion."
"And when shall we see this, captain?"
"To-morrow, as soon as we have dug a hole for the mine, replied the
The next day, the 21st of May, at daybreak, the miners went to the point
which formed the eastern shore of Lake Grant, and was only five hundred
feet from the coast. At this place, the plateau inclined downwards from
the waters, which were only restrained by their granite case. Therefore,
if this case was broken, the water would escape by the opening and form
a stream, which, flowing over the inclined surface of the plateau,
would rush on to the beach. Consequently, the level of the lake would
be greatly lowered, and the opening where the water escaped would be
exposed, which was their final aim.
Under the engineer's directions, Pencroft, armed with a pickaxe, which
he handled skillfully and vigorously, attacked the granite. The hole was
made on the point of the shore, slanting, so that it should meet a
much lower level than that of the water of the lake. In this way the
explosive force, by scattering the rock, would open a large place for
the water to rush out.
The work took some time, for the engineer, wishing to produce a great
effect, intended to devote not less than seven quarts of nitro-glycerine
to the operation. But Pencroft, relieved by Neb, did so well, that
towards four o'clock in the evening, the mine was finished.
Now the question of setting fire to the explosive substance was raised.
Generally, nitro-glycerine is ignited by caps of fulminate, which in
bursting cause the explosion. A shock is therefore needed to produce
the explosion, for, simply lighted, this substance would burn without
Cyrus Harding could certainly have fabricated a percussion cap. In
default of fulminate, he could easily obtain a substance similar to
guncotton, since he had azotic acid at his disposal. This substance,
pressed in a cartridge, and introduced among the nitro-glycerine, would
burst by means of a fuse, and cause the explosion.
But Cyrus Harding knew that nitro-glycerine would explode by a shock.
He resolved to employ this means, and try another way, if this did not
In fact, the blow of a hammer on a few drops of nitro-glycerine, spread
out on a hard surface, was enough to create an explosion. But the
operator could not be there to give the blow, without becoming a victim
to the operation. Harding, therefore, thought of suspending a mass of
iron, weighing several pounds, by means of a fiber, to an upright just
above the mine. Another long fiber, previously impregnated with sulphur,
was attached to the middle of the first, by one end, while the other lay
on the ground several feet distant from the mine. The second fiber being
set on fire, it would burn till it reached the first. This catching
fire in its turn, would break, and the mass of iron would fall on the
nitro-glycerine. This apparatus being then arranged, the engineer, after
having sent his companions to a distance, filled the hole, so that the
nitro-glycerine was on a level with the opening; then he threw a few
drops of it on the surface of the rock, above which the mass of iron was
This done, Harding lit the end of the sulphured fiber, and leaving the
place, he returned with his companions to the Chimneys.
The fiber was intended to burn five and twenty minutes, and, in fact,
five and twenty minutes afterwards a most tremendous explosion was
heard. The island appeared to tremble to its very foundation. Stones
were projected in the air as if by the eruption of a volcano. The shock
produced by the displacing of the air was such, that the rocks of the
Chimneys shook. The settlers, although they were more than two miles
from the mine, were thrown on the ground.
They rose, climbed the plateau, and ran towards the place where the bank
of the lake must have been shattered by the explosion.
A cheer escaped them! A large rent was seen in the granite! A rapid
stream of water rushed foaming across the plateau and dashed down a
height of three hundred feet on to the beach!
Cyrus Harding's project had succeeded, but, according to his usual
habit he showed no satisfaction; with closed lips and a fixed look, he
remained motionless. Herbert was in ecstasies, Neb bounded with joy,
Pencroft nodded his great head, murmuring these words,--
"Come, our engineer gets on capitally!"
The nitro-glycerine had indeed acted powerfully. The opening which it
had made was so large that the volume of water which escaped through
this new outlet was at least treble that which before passed through the
old one. The result was, that a short time after the operation the level
of the lake would be lowered two feet, or more.
The settlers went to the Chimneys to take some pickaxes, iron-tipped
spears, string made of fibers, flint and steel; they then returned to
the plateau, Top accompanying them.
On the way the sailor could not help saying to the engineer,--
"Don't you think, captain, that by means of that charming liquid you
have made, one could blow up the whole of our island?"
"Without any doubt, the island, continents, and the world itself,"
replied the engineer. "It is only a question of quantity."
"Then could you not use this nitro-glycerine for loading firearms?"
asked the sailor.
"No, Pencroft; for it is too explosive a substance. But it would be easy
to make some guncotton, or even ordinary powder, as we have azotic acid,
saltpeter, sulphur, and coal. Unhappily, it is the guns which we have
"Oh, captain," replied the sailor, "with a little determination--"
Pencroft had erased the word "impossible" from the dictionary of Lincoln
The settlers, having arrived at Prospect Heights, went immediately
towards that point of the lake near which was the old opening now
uncovered. This outlet had now become practicable, since the water no
longer rushed through it, and it would doubtless be easy to explore the
In a few minutes the settlers had reached the lower point of the lake,
and a glance showed them that the object had been attained.
In fact, in the side of the lake, and now above the surface of the
water, appeared the long-looked-for opening. A narrow ridge, left bare
by the retreat of the water, allowed them to approach it. This orifice
was nearly twenty feet in width, but scarcely two in height. It was like
the mouth of a drain at the edge of the pavement, and therefore did
not offer an easy passage to the settlers; but Neb and Pencroft, taking
their pickaxes, soon made it of a suitable height.
The engineer then approached, and found that the sides of the opening,
in its upper part at least, had not a slope of more than from thirty to
thirty-five degrees. It was therefore practicable, and, provided that
the declivity did not increase, it would be easy to descend even to the
level of the sea. If then, as was probable, some vast cavity existed in
the interior of the granite, it might, perhaps, be of great use.
"Well, captain, what are we stopping for?" asked the sailor, impatient
to enter the narrow passage. "You see Top has got before us!"
"Very well," replied the engineer. "But we must see our way. Neb, go and
cut some resinous branches."
Neb and Herbert ran to the edge of the lake, shaded with pines and other
green trees, and soon returned with some branches, which they made
into torches. The torches were lighted with flint and steel, and Cyrus
Harding leading, the settlers ventured into the dark passage, which the
overplus of the lake had formerly filled.
Contrary to what might have been supposed, the diameter of the passage
increased as the explorers proceeded, so that they very soon were able
to stand upright. The granite, worn by the water for an infinite time,
was very slippery, and falls were to be dreaded. But the settlers were
all attached to each other by a cord, as is frequently done in ascending
mountains. Happily some projections of the granite, forming regular
steps, made the descent less perilous. Drops, still hanging from the
rocks, shone here and there under the light of the torches, and
the explorers guessed that the sides were clothed with innumerable
stalactites. The engineer examined this black granite. There was not a
stratum, not a break in it. The mass was compact, and of an extremely
close grain. The passage dated, then, from the very origin of the
island. It was not the water which little by little had hollowed it.
Pluto and not Neptune had bored it with his own hand, and on the wall
traces of an eruptive work could be distinguished, which all the washing
of the water had not been able totally to efface.
The settlers descended very slowly. They could not but feel a certain
awe, in this venturing into these unknown depths, for the first time
visited by human beings. They did not speak, but they thought; and
the thought came to more than one, that some polypus or other
gigantic cephalopod might inhabit the interior cavities, which were in
communication with the sea. However, Top kept at the head of the little
band, and they could rely on the sagacity of the dog, who would not fail
to give the alarm if there was any need for it.
After having descended about a hundred feet, following a winding road,
Harding who was walking on before, stopped, and his companions came up
with him. The place where they had halted was wider, so as to form a
cavern of moderate dimensions. Drops of water fell from the vault, but
that did not prove that they oozed through the rock. They were simply
the last traces left by the torrent which had so long thundered through
this cavity, and the air there was pure though slightly damp, but
producing no mephitic exhalation.
"Well, my dear Cyrus," said Gideon Spilett, "here is a very secure
retreat, well hid in the depths of the rock, but it is, however,
"Why uninhabitable?" asked the sailor.
"Because it is too small and too dark."
"Couldn't we enlarge it, hollow it out, make openings to let in light
and air?" replied Pencroft, who now thought nothing impossible.
"Let us go on with our exploration," said Cyrus Harding. "Perhaps lower
down, nature will have spared us this labor."
"We have only gone a third of the way," observed Herbert.
"Nearly a third," replied Harding, "for we have descended a hundred feet
from the opening, and it is not impossible that a hundred feet farther
"Where is Top?" asked Neb, interrupting his master.
They searched the cavern, but the dog was not there.
"Most likely he has gone on," said Pencroft.
"Let us join him," replied Harding.
The descent was continued. The engineer carefully observed all the
deviations of the passage, and notwithstanding so many detours, he
could easily have given an account of its general direction, which went
towards the sea.
The settlers had gone some fifty feet farther, when their attention was
attracted by distant sounds which came up from the depths. They stopped
and listened. These sounds, carried through the passage as through an
acoustic tube, came clearly to the ear.
"That is Top barking!" cried Herbert.
"Yes," replied Pencroft, "and our brave dog is barking furiously!"
"We have our iron-tipped spears," said Cyrus Harding. "Keep on your
guard, and forward!"
"It is becoming more and more interesting," murmured Gideon Spilett in
the sailor's ear, who nodded. Harding and his companions rushed to the
help of their dog. Top's barking became more and more perceptible,
and it seemed strangely fierce. Was he engaged in a struggle with some
animal whose retreat he had disturbed? Without thinking of the danger
to which they might be exposed, the explorers were now impelled by an
irresistible curiosity, and in a few minutes, sixteen feet lower they
There the passage ended in a vast and magnificent cavern.
Top was running backwards and forwards, barking furiously. Pencroft and
Neb, waving their torches, threw the light into every crevice; and
at the same time, Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, their spears
raised, were ready for any emergency which might arise. The enormous
cavern was empty. The settlers explored it in every direction. There was
nothing there, not an animal, not a human being; and yet Top continued
to bark. Neither caresses nor threats could make him be silent.
"There must be a place somewhere, by which the waters of the lake
reached the sea," said the engineer.
"Of course," replied Pencroft, "and we must take care not to tumble into
"Go, Top, go!" cried Harding.
The dog, excited by his master's words, ran towards the extremity of the
cavern, and there redoubled his barking.
They followed him, and by the light of the torches, perceived the mouth
of a regular well in the granite. It was by this that the water escaped;
and this time it was not an oblique and practicable passage, but a
perpendicular well, into which it was impossible to venture.
The torches were held over the opening: nothing could be seen. Harding
took a lighted branch, and threw it into the abyss. The blazing resin,
whose illuminating power increased still more by the rapidity of its
fall, lighted up the interior of the well, but yet nothing appeared. The
flame then went out with a slight hiss, which showed that it had reached
the water, that is to say, the level of the sea.
The engineer, calculating the time employed in its fall, was able to
calculate the depth of the well, which was found to be about ninety
The floor of the cavern must thus be situated ninety feet above the
level of the sea.
"Here is our dwelling," said Cyrus Harding.
"But it was occupied by some creature," replied Gideon Spilett, whose
curiosity was not yet satisfied.
"Well, the creature, amphibious or otherwise, has made off through this
opening," replied the engineer, "and has left the place for us."
"Never mind," added
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