Part 11 out of 12
project which might be left for consideration, and they were, besides,
obliged to put off its execution until the next spring.
About the 15th of May the keel of the new vessel lay along the dockyard,
and soon the stem and stern-post, mortised at each of its extremities, rose
almost perpendicularly. The keel, of good oak, measured 110 feet in length,
this allowing a width of five-and-twenty feet to the midship beam. But this
was all the carpenters could do before the arrival of the frosts and bad
weather. During the following week they fixed the first of the stern
timbers, but were then obliged to suspend work.
During the last days of the month the weather was extremely bad. The wind
blew from the east, sometimes with the violence of a tempest. The engineer
was somewhat uneasy on account of the dockyard shed--which besides, he
could not have established in any other place near to Granite House--for
the islet only imperfectly sheltered the shore from the fury of the open
sea, and in great storms the waves beat against the very foot of the
But, very fortunately, these fears were not realized. The wind shifted to
the southeast, and there the beach of Granite House was completely covered
by Flotsam Point.
Pencroft and Ayrton, the most zealous workmen at the new vessel, pursued
their labor as long as they could. They were not men to mind the wind
tearing at their hair, nor the rain wetting them to the skin, and a blow
from a hammer is worth just as much in bad as in fine weather. But when a
severe frost succeeded this wet period, the wood, its fibers acquiring the
hardness of iron, became extremely difficult to work, and about the 10th of
June shipbuilding was obliged to be entirely discontinued.
Cyrus Harding and his companions had not omitted to observe how severe
was the temperature during the winters of Lincoln Island. The cold was
comparable to that experienced in the States of New England, situated at
almost the same distance from the equator. In the northern hemisphere, or
at any rate in the part occupied by British America and the north of the
United States, this phenomenon is explained by the flat conformation of the
territories bordering on the pole, and on which there is no intumescence of
the soil to oppose any obstacle to the north winds; here, in Lincoln
Island, this explanation would not suffice.
"It has even been observed," remarked Harding one day to his companions,
"that in equal latitudes the islands and coast regions are less tried by
the cold than inland countries. I have often heard it asserted that the
winters of Lombardy, for example, are not less rigorous than those of
Scotland, which results from the sea restoring during the winter the heat
which it received during the summer. Islands are, therefore, in a better
situation for benefiting by this restitution."
"But then, Captain Harding," asked Herbert, "why does Lincoln Island
appear to escape the common law?"
"That is difficult to explain," answered the engineer. "However, I should
be disposed to conjecture that this peculiarity results from the situation
of the island in the Southern Hemisphere, which, as you know, my boy, is
colder than the Northern Hemisphere."
"Yes," said Herbert, "and icebergs are met with in lower latitudes in the
south than in the north of the Pacific."
"That is true," remarked Pencroft, "and when I have been serving on board
whalers I have seen icebergs off Cape Horn."
"The severe cold experienced in Lincoln Island," said Gideon Spilett,
"may then perhaps be explained by the presence of floes or icebergs
comparatively near to Lincoln Island."
"Your opinion is very admissible indeed, my dear Spilett," answered Cyrus
Harding, "and it is evidently to the proximity of icebergs that we owe our
rigorous winters. I would draw your attention also to an entirely physical
cause, which renders the Southern colder than the Northern Hemisphere. In
fact, since the sun is nearer to this hemisphere during the summer, it is
necessarily more distant during the winter. This explains then the excess
of temperature in the two seasons, for, if we find the winters very cold in
Lincoln Island, we must not forget that the summers here, on the contrary,
are very hot."
"But why, if you please, captain," asked Pencroft, knitting his brows,
"why should our hemisphere, as you say, be so badly divided? It isn't just,
"Friend Pencroft," answered the engineer, laughing, "whether just or not,
we must submit to it, and here lies the reason for this peculiarity. The
earth does not describe a circle around the sun, but an ellipse, as it must
by the laws of rational mechanics. Now, the earth occupies one of the foci
of the ellipse, and so at one point in its course is at its apogee, that
is, at its farthest from the sun, and at another point it is at its
perigee, or nearest to the sun. Now it happens that it is during the winter
of the southern countries that it is at its most distant point from the
sun, and consequently, in a situation for those regions to feel the
greatest cold. Nothing can be done to prevent that, and men, Pencroft,
however learned they may be, can never change anything of the
cosmographical order established by God Himself."
"And yet," added Pencroft, "the world is very learned. what a big book,
captain, might be made with all that is known!"
"And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!" answered
At last, for one reason or another, the month of June brought the cold
with its accustomed intensity, and the settlers were often confined to
Granite House. Ah! how wearisome this imprisonment was to them, and more
particularly to Gideon Spilett.
"Look here," said he to Neb one day, "I would give you by notarial deed
all the estates which will come to me some day, if you were a good enough
fellow to go, no matter where, and subscribe to some newspaper for me!
Decidedly the thing that is most essential to my happiness is the knowing
every morning what has happened the day before in other places than this!"
Neb began to laugh.
"'Pon my word," he replied, "the only thing I think about is my daily
The truth was that indoors as well as out there was no want of work.
The colony of Lincoln Island was now at its highest point of prosperity,
achieved by three years of continued hard work. The destruction of the brig
had been a new source of riches. Without speaking of the complete rig which
would serve for the vessel now on the stocks, utensils and tools of all
sorts, weapons and ammunition, clothes and instruments, were now piled in
the storerooms of Granite House. It had not even been necessary to resort
again to the manufacture of the coarse felt materials. Though the colonists
had suffered from cold during their first winter, the bad season might now
come without their having any reason to dread its severity. Linen was
plentiful also, and besides, they kept it with extreme care. From chloride
of sodium, which is nothing else than sea salt, Cyrus Harding easily
extracted the soda and chlorine. The soda, which it was easy to change into
carbonate of soda, and the chlorine, of which he made chloride of lime,
were employed for various domestic purposes, and especially in bleaching
linen. Besides, they did not wash more than four times a year, as was done
by families in the olden times, and it may be added, that Pencroft and
Gideon Spilett, while waiting for the postman to bring him his newspaper,
distinguished themselves as washermen.
So passed the winter months, June, July, and August. They were severe,
and the average observations of the thermometer did not give more than
eight degrees of Fahrenheit. It was therefore lower in temperature than the
preceding winter. But then, what splendid fires blazed continually on the
hearths of Granite House, the smoke marking the granite wall with long,
zebra-like streaks! Fuel was not spared, as it grew naturally a few steps
from them. Besides, the chips of the wood destined for the construction of
the ship enabled them to economize the coal, which required more trouble to
Men and animals were all well. Master Jup was a little chilly, it must be
confessed. This was perhaps his only weakness, and it was necessary to make
him a well-padded dressing-gown. But what a servant he was, clever,
zealous, indefatigable, not indiscreet, not talkative, and he might have
been with reason proposed as a model for all his biped brothers in the Old
and New Worlds!
"As for that," said Pencroft, "when one has four hands at one's service,
of course one's work ought to be done so much the better!"
And indeed the intelligent creature did it well.
During the seven months which had passed since the last researches made
round the mountain, and during the month of September, which brought back
fine weather, nothing was heard of the genius of the island. His power was
not manifested in any way. It is true that it would have been superfluous,
for no incident occurred to put the colonists to any painful trial.
Cyrus Harding even observed that if by chance the communication between
the unknown and the tenants of Granite House had ever been established
through the granite, and if Top's instinct had as it were felt it, there
was no further sign of it during this period. The dog's growling had
entirely ceased, as well as the uneasiness of the orang. The two friends--
for they were such--no longer prowled round the opening of the inner well,
nor did they bark or whine in that singular way which from the first the
engineer had noticed. But could he be sure that this was all that was to be
said about this enigma, and that he should never arrive at a solution?
Could he be certain that some conjuncture would not occur which would bring
the mysterious personage on the scene? who could tell what the future might
have in reserve?
At last the winter was ended, but an event, the consequences of which
might be serious occurred in the first days of the returning spring.
On the 7th of September, Cyrus Harding, having observed the crater, saw
smoke curling round the summit of the mountain, its first vapors rising in
The colonists, warned by the engineer, left their work and gazed in silence
at the summit of Mount Franklin.
The volcano had awoke, and the vapor had penetrated the mineral layer
heaped at the bottom of the crater. But would the subterranean fires
provoke any violent eruption? This was an event which could not be
foreseen. However, even while admitting the possibility of an eruption, it
was not probable that the whole of Lincoln Island would suffer from it. The
flow of volcanic matter is not always disastrous, and the island had
already undergone this trial, as was shown by the streams of lava hardened
on the northern slopes of the mountain. Besides, from the shape of the
crater--the opening broken in the upper edge--the matter would be thrown to
the side opposite the fertile regions of the island.
However, the past did not necessarily answer for the future. Often, at
the summit of volcanoes, the old craters close and new ones open. This had
occurred in the two hemispheres--at Etna, Popocatepetl, at Orizabaand on
the eve of an eruption there is everything to be feared. In fact, an
earthquake--a phenomenon which often accompanies volcanic eruption--is
enough to change the interior arrangement of a mountain, and to open new
outlets for the burning lava.
Cyrus Harding explained these things to his companions, and, without
exaggerating the state of things, he told them all the pros and cons. After
all, they could not prevent it. It did not appear likely that Granite House
would be threatened unless the ground was shaken by an earthquake. But the
corral would be in great danger should a new crater open in the southern
side of Mount Franklin.
From that day the smoke never disappeared from the top of the mountain,
and it could even be perceived that it increased in height and thickness,
without any flame mingling in its heavy volumes. The phenomenon was still
concentrated in the lower part of the central crater.
However, with the fine days work had been continued. The building of the
vessel was hastened as much as possible, and, by means of the waterfall on
the shore, Cyrus Harding managed to establish an hydraulic sawmill, which
rapidly cut up the trunks of trees into planks and joists. The mechanism of
this apparatus was as simple as those used in the rustic sawmills of
Norway. A first horizontal movement to move the piece of wood, a second
vertical movement to move the saw--this was all that was wanted; and the
engineer succeeded by means of a wheel, two cylinders, and pulleys properly
arranged. Towards the end of the month of September the skeleton of the
vessel, which was to be rigged as a schooner, lay in the dockyard. The ribs
were almost entirely completed, and, all the timbers having been sustained
by a provisional band, the shape of the vessel could already be seen. The
schooner, sharp in the bows, very slender in the after-part, would
evidently be suitable for a long voyage, if wanted; but laying the planking
would still take a considerable time. Very fortunately, the iron work of
the pirate brig had been saved after the explosion. From the planks and
injured ribs Pencroft and Ayrton had extracted the bolts and a large
quantity of copper nails. It was so much work saved for the smiths, but the
carpenters had much to do.
Shipbuilding was interrupted for a week for the harvest, the haymaking,
and the gathering in of the different crops on the plateau. This work
finished, every moment was devoted to finishing the schooner. When night
came the workmen were really quite exhausted. So as not to lose any time
they had changed the hours for their meals; they dined at twelve o'clock,
and only had their supper when daylight failed them. They then ascended to
Granite House, when they were always ready to go to bed.
Sometimes, however, when the conversation bore on some interesting
subject the hour for sleep was delayed for a time. The colonists then spoke
of the future, and talked willingly of the changes which a voyage in the
schooner to inhabited lands would make in their situation. But always, in
the midst of these plans, prevailed the thought of a subsequent return to
Lincoln Island. Never would they abandon this colony, founded with so much
labor and with such success, and to which a communication with America
would afford a fresh impetus. Pencroft and Neb especially hoped to end
their days there.
"Herbert," said the sailor, "you will never abandon Lincoln Island?"
"Never, Pencroft, and especially if you make up your mind to stay there."
"That was made up long ago, my boy," answered Pencroft. "I shall expect
you. You will bring me your wife and children, and I shall make jolly chaps
of your youngsters!"
"That's agreed," replied Herbert, laughing and blushing at the same time.
"And you, Captain Harding," resumed Pencroft enthusiastically, "you will
be still the governor of the island! Ah, how many inhabitants could it
support? Ten thousand at least!"
They talked in this way, allowing Pencroft to run on, and at last the
reporter actually started a newspaper--the New Lincoln Herald!
So is man's heart. The desire to perform a work which will endure, which
will survive him, is the origin of his superiority over all other living
creatures here below. It is this which has established his dominion, and
this it is which justifies it, over all the world.
After that, who knows if Jup and Top had not themselves their little
dream of the future.
Ayrton silently said to himself that he would like to see Lord Glenarvan
again and show himself to all restored.
One evening, on the 15th of October, the conversation was prolonged later
than usual. It was nine o'clock. Already, long badly concealed yawns gave
warning of the hour of rest, and Pencroft was proceeding towards his bed,
when the electric bell, placed in the dining-room, suddenly rang.
All were there, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Ayrton, Pencroft,
Neb. Therefore none of the colonists were at the corral.
Cyrus Harding rose. His companions stared at each other, scarcely
believing their ears.
"What does that mean?" cried Neb. "Was it the devil who rang it?"
No one answered.
"The weather is stormy," observed Herbert. "Might not its influence of
Herbert did not finish his phrase. The engineer, towards whom all eyes
were turned, shook his head negatively.
"We must wait," said Gideon Spilett. "If it is a signal, whoever it may be
who has made it, he will renew it."
"But who do you think it is?" cried Neb.
"Who?" answered Pencroft, "but he--"
The sailor's sentence was cut short by a new tinkle of the bell.
Harding went to the apparatus, and sent this question to the corral:--
"What do you want?"
A few moments later the needle, moving on the alphabetic dial, gave this
reply to the tenants of Granite House:--
"Come to the corral immediately."
"At last!" exclaimed Harding.
Yes! At last! The mystery was about to be unveiled. The colonists'
fatigue had disappeared before the tremendous interest which was about to
urge them to the corral, and all wish for rest had ceased. Without having
uttered a word, in a few moments they had left Granite House, and were
standing on the beach. Jup and Top alone were left behind. They could do
The night was black. The new moon had disappeared at the same time as the
sun. As Herbert had observed, great stormy clouds formed a lowering and
heavy vault, preventing any star rays. A few lightning flashes, reflections
from a distant storm, illuminated the horizon.
It was possible that a few hours later the thunder would roll over the
island itself. The night was very threatening.
But however deep the darkness was, it would not prevent them from finding
the familiar road to the corral.
They ascended the left bank of the Mercy, reached the plateau, passed the
bridge over Creek Glycerine, and advanced through the forest.
They walked at a good pace, a prey to the liveliest emotions. There was
no doubt but that they were now going to learn the long-searched-for answer
to the enigma, the name of that mysterious being, so deeply concerned in
their life, so generous in his influence, so powerful in his action! Must
not this stranger have indeed mingled with their existence, have known the
smallest details, have heard all that was said in Granite House, to have
been able always to act in the very nick of time?
Every one, wrapped up in his own reflections, pressed forward. Under the
arch of trees the darkness was such that even the edge of the road could
not be seen. Not a sound in the forest. Both animals and birds, influenced
by the heaviness of the atmosphere, remained motionless and silent. Not a
breath disturbed the leaves. The footsteps of the colonists alone resounded
on the hardened ground.
During the first quarter of an hour the silence was only interrupted by
this remark from Pencroft:--
"We ought to have brought a torch."
And by this reply from the engineer:--
"We shall find one at the corral."
Harding and his companions had left Granite House at twelve minutes past
nine. At forty-seven minutes past nine they had traversed three out of the
five miles which separated the mouth of the Mercy from the corral.
At that moment sheets of lightning spread over the island and illumined
the dark trees. The flashes dazzled and almost blinded them. Evidently the
storm would not be long in bursting forth.
The flashes gradually became brighter and more rapid. Distant thunder
growled in the sky. The atmosphere was stifling.
The colonists proceeded as if they were urged onwards by some
At ten o'clock a vivid flash showed them the palisade, and as they
reached the gate the storm burst forth with tremendous fury.
In a minute the corral was crossed, and Harding stood before the hut.
Probably the house was occupied by the stranger, since it was from thence
that the telegram had been sent. However, no light shone through the
The engineer knocked at the door.
Cyrus Harding opened the door, and the settlers entered the room, which
was perfectly dark. A light was struck by Neb, and in a few moments the
lantern was lighted and the light thrown into every corner of the room.
There was no one there. Everything was in the state in which it had been
"Have we been deceived by an illusion?" murmured Cyrus Harding.
No! that was not possible! The telegram had clearly said,--
"Come to the corral immediately."
They approached the table specially devoted to the use of the wire.
Everything was in order--the pile on the box containing it, as well as all
"Who came here the last time?" asked the engineer.
"I did, captain," answered Ayrton.
"And that was--"
"Four days ago."
"Ah! a note!" cried Herbert, pointing to a paper lying on the table.
On this paper were written these words in English:--
"Follow the new wire."
"Forward!" cried Harding, who understood that the despatch had not been
sent from the corral, but from the mysterious retreat, communicating
directly with Granite House by means of a supplementary wire joined to the
Neb took the lighted lantern, and all left the corral. The storm then
burst forth with tremendous violence. The interval between each lightning-
flash and each thunder-clap diminished rapidly. The summit of the volcano,
with its plume of vapor, could be seen by occasional flashes.
There was no telegraphic communication in any part of the corral between
the house and the palisade; but the engineer, running straight to the first
post, saw by the light of a flash a new wire hanging from the isolator to
"There it is!" said he.
This wire lay along the ground, and was surrounded with an isolating
substance like a submarine cable, so as to assure the free transmission of
the current. It appeared to pass through the wood and the southern spurs of
the mountain, and consequently it ran towards the west.
"Follow it!" said Cyrus Harding.
And the settlers immediately pressed forward, guided by the wire.
The thunder continued to roar with such violence that not a word could be
heard. However, there was no occasion for speaking, but to get forward as
fast as possible.
Cyrus Harding and his companions then climbed the spur rising between
the corral valley and that of Falls River, which they crossed at its
narrowest part. The wire, sometimes stretched over the lower branches of
the trees, sometimes lying on the ground, guided them surely. The engineer
had supposed that the wire would perhaps stop at the bottom of the valley,
and that the stranger's retreat would be there.
Nothing of the sort. They were obliged to ascend the south-western spur,
and re-descend on that arid plateau terminated by the strangely-wild basalt
cliff. From time to time one of the colonists stooped down and felt for the
wire with his hands; but there was now no doubt that the wire was running
directly towards the sea. There, to a certainty, in the depths of those
rocks, was the dwelling so long sought for in vain.
The sky was literally on fire. Flash succeeded flash. Several struck the
summit of the volcano in the midst of the thick smoke. It appeared there as
if the mountain was vomiting flame. At a few minutes to eleven the
colonists arrived on the high cliff overlooking the ocean to the west. The
wind had risen. The surf roared 500 feet below.
Harding calculated that they had gone a mile and a half from the corral.
At this point the wire entered among the rocks, following the steep side
of a narrow ravine. The settlers followed it at the risk of occasioning a
fall of the slightly-balanced rocks, and being dashed into the sea. The
descent was extremely perilous, but they did not think of the danger; they
were no longer masters of themselves, and an irresistible attraction drew
them towards this mysterious place as the magnet draws iron.
Thus they almost unconsciously descended this ravine, which even in broad
daylight would have been considered impracticable.
The stones rolled and sparkled like fiery balls when they crossed through
the gleams of light. Harding was first--Ayrton last. On they went, step by
step. Now they slid over the slippery rock; then they struggled to their
feet and scrambled on.
At last the wire touched the rocks on the beach. The colonists had
reached the bottom of the basalt cliff.
There appeared a narrow ridge, running horizontally and parallel with the
sea. The settlers followed the wire along it. They had not gone a hundred
paces when the ridge by a moderate incline sloped down to the level of the
The engineer seized the wire and found that it disappeared beneath the
His companions were stupefied.
A cry of disappointment, almost a cry of despair, escaped them! Must they
then plunge beneath the water and seek there for some submarine cavern? In
their excited state they would not have hesitated to do it.
The engineer stopped them.
He led his companions to a hollow in the rocks, and there--
"We must wait," said he. "The tide is high. At low water the way will be
"But what can make you think-" asked Pencroft.
"He would not have called us if the means had been wanting to enable us
to reach him!"
Cyrus Harding spoke in a tone of such thorough conviction that no
objection was raised. His remark, besides, was logical. It was quite
possible that an opening, practicable at low water, though hidden now by
the high tide, opened at the foot of the cliff.
There was some time to wait. The colonists remained silently crouching in
a deep hollow. Rain now began to fall in torrents. The thunder was re-
echoed among the rocks with a grand sonorousness.
The colonists' emotion was great. A thousand strange and extraordinary
ideas crossed their brains, and they expected some grand and superhuman
apparition, which alone could come up to the notion they had formed of the
mysterious genius of the island.
At midnight, Harding carrying the lantern, descended to the beach to
The engineer was not mistaken. The beginning of an immense excavation
could be seen under the water. There the wire, bending at a right angle,
entered the yawning gulf.
Cyrus Harding returned to his companions, and said simply,--
"In an hour the opening will be practicable."
"It is there, then?" said Pencroft.
"Did you doubt it?" returned Harding.
"But this cavern must be filled with water to a certain height," observed
"Either the cavern will be completely dry," replied Harding, "and in that
case we can traverse it on foot, or it will not be dry, and some means of
transport will be put at our disposal."
An hour passed. All climbed down through the rain to the level of the
sea. There was now eight feet of the opening above the water. It was like
the arch of a bridge, under which rushed the foaming water.
Leaning forward, the engineer saw a black object floating on the water.
He drew it towards him. It was a boat, moored to some interior projection
of the cave. This boat was iron-plated. Two oars lay at the bottom.
"Jump in!" said Harding.
In a moment the settlers were in the boat. Neb and Ayrton took the oars,
Pencroft the rudder. Cyrus Harding in the bows, with the lantern, lighted
The elliptical roof, under which the boat at first passed, suddenly rose;
but the darkness was too deep, and the light of the lantern too slight, for
either the extent, length, height, or depth of the cave to be ascertained.
Solemn silence reigned in this basaltic cavern. Not a sound could penetrate
into it, even the thunder peals could not pierce its thick sides.
Such immense caves exist in various parts of the world, natural crypts
dating from the geological epoch of the globe. Some are filled by the sea;
others contain entire lakes in their sides. Such is Fingal's Cave, in the
island of Staffa, one of the Hebrides; such are the caves of Morgat, in the
bay of Douarnenez, in Brittany, the caves of Bonifacio, in Corsica, those
of Lyse-Fjord, in Norway; such are the immense Mammoth caverns in Kentucky,
500 feet in height, and more than twenty miles in length! In many parts of
the globe, nature has excavated these caverns, and preserved them for the
admiration of man.
Did the cavern which the settlers were now exploring extend to the center
of the island? For a quarter of an hour the boat had been advancing, making
detours, indicated to Pencroft by the engineer in short sentences, when all
"More to the right!" he commanded.
The boat, altering its course, came up alongside the right wall. The
engineer wished to see if the wire still ran along the side.
The wire was there fastened to the rock.
"Forward!" said Harding.
And the two oars, plunging into the dark waters, urged the boat onwards.
On they went for another quarter of an hour, and a distance of half-a-
mile must have been cleared from the mouth of the cave, when Harding's
voice was again heard.
"Stop!" said he.
The boat stopped, and the colonists perceived a bright light illuminating
the vast cavern, so deeply excavated in the bowels of the island, of which
nothing had ever led them to suspect the existence.
At a height of a hundred feet rose the vaulted roof, supported on basalt
shafts. Irregular arches, strange moldings, appeared on the columns erected
by nature in thousands from the first epochs of the formation of the globe.
The basalt pillars, fitted one into the other, measured from forty to fifty
feet in height, and the water, calm in spite of the tumult outside, washed
their base. The brilliant focus of light, pointed out by the engineer,
touched every point of rocks, and flooded the walls with light.
By reflection the water reproduced the brilliant sparkles, so that the
boat appeared to be floating between two glittering zones. They could not
be mistaken in the nature of the irradiation thrown from the glowing
nucleus, whose clear rays were shattered by all the angles, all the
projections of the cavern. This light proceeded from an electric source,
and its white color betrayed its origin. It was the sun of this cave, and
it filled it entirely.
At a sign from Cyrus Harding the oars again plunged into the water,
causing a regular shower of gems, and the boat was urged forward towards
the light, which was now not more than half a cable's length distant.
At this place the breadth of the sheet of water measured nearly 350 feet,
and beyond the dazzling center could be seen an enormous basaltic wall,
blocking up any issue on that side. The cavern widened here considerably,
the sea forming a little lake. But the roof, the side walls, the end cliff,
all the prisms, all the peaks, were flooded with the electric fluid, so
that the brilliancy belonged to them, and as if the light issued from them.
In the center of the lake a long cigar-shaped object floated on the
surface of the water, silent, motionless. The brilliancy which issued from
it escaped from its sides as from two kilns heated to a white heat. This
apparatus, similar in shape to an enormous whale, was about 250 feet long,
and rose about ten or twelve above the water.
The boat slowly approached it, Cyrus Harding stood up in the bows. He
gazed, a prey to violent excitement. Then, all at once, seizing the
"It is he! It can only be he!" he cried, "he!--"
Then, falling back on the seat, he murmured a name which Gideon Spilett
alone could hear.
The reporter evidently knew this name, for it had a wonderful
effect upon him, and he answered in a hoarse voice,--
"He! an outlawed man!"
"He!" said Harding.
At the engineer's command the boat approached this singular floating
apparatus. The boat touched the left side, from which escaped a ray of
light through a thick glass.
Harding and his companions mounted on the platform. An open hatchway was
there. All darted down the opening.
At the bottom of the ladder was a deck, lighted by electricity. At the
end of this deck was a door, which Harding opened.
A richly-ornamented room, quickly traversed by the colonists, was joined
to a library, over which a luminous ceiling shed a flood of light.
At the end of the library a large door, also shut, was opened by the
An immense saloon--a sort of museum, in which were heaped up, with all
the treasures of the mineral world, works of art, marvels of industry--
appeared before the eyes of the colonists, who almost thought themselves
suddenly transported into a land of enchantment.
Stretched on a rich sofa they saw a man, who did not appear to notice
Then Harding raised his voice, and to the extreme surprise of his
companions, he uttered these words,--
"Captain Nemo, you asked for us! We are here.--"
At these words the reclining figure rose, and the electric light fell upon
his countenance; a magnificent head, the forehead high, the glance
commanding, beard white, hair abundant and falling over the shoulders.
His hand rested upon the cushion of the divan from which he had just
risen. He appeared perfectly calm. It was evident that his strength had
been gradually undermined by illness, but his voice seemed yet powerful, as
he said in English, and in a tone which evinced extreme surprise,--
"Sir, I have no name."
"Nevertheless, I know you!" replied Cyrus Harding.
Captain Nemo fixed his penetrating gaze upon the engineer, as though he
were about to annihilate him.
Then, falling back amid the pillows of the divan,--
"After all, what matters now?" he murmured; "I am dying!"
Cyrus Harding drew near the captain, and Gideon Spilett took his hand--it
was of a feverish heat. Ayrton, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb stood
respectfully apart in an angle of the magnificent saloon, whose atmosphere
was saturated with the electric fluid.
Meanwhile Captain Nemo withdrew his hand, and motioned the engineer and
the reporter to be seated.
All regarded him with profound emotion. Before them they beheld that
being whom they had styled the "genius of the island," the powerful
protector whose intervention, in so many circumstances, had been so
efficacious, the benefactor to whom they owed such a debt of gratitude!
Their eyes beheld a man only, and a man at the point of death, where
Pencroft and Neb had expected to find an almost supernatural being!
But how happened it that Cyrus Harding had recognized Captain Nemo? why
had the latter so suddenly risen on hearing this name uttered, a name which
he had believed known to none?--
The captain had resumed his position on the divan, and leaning on his
arm, he regarded the engineer, seated near him.
"You know the name I formerly bore, sir?" he asked.
"I do," answered Cyrus Harding, "and also that of this wonderful
"The 'Nautilus'?" said the captain, with a faint smile.
"But do you--do you know who I am?"
"It is nevertheless many years since I have held any communication with
the inhabited world; three long years have I passed in the depth of the
sea, the only place where I have found liberty! Who then can have betrayed
"A man who was bound to you by no tie, Captain Nemo, and who,
consequently, cannot be accused of treachery."
"The Frenchman who was cast on board my vessel by chance sixteen years
"He and his two companions did not then perish in the maelstrom, in the
midst of which the 'Nautilus' was struggling?"
"They escaped, and a book has appeared under the title of 'Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,' which contains your history."
"The history of a few months only of my life!" interrupted the captain
"It is true," answered Cyrus Harding, "but a few months of that strange
life have sufficed to make you known."
"As a great criminal, doubtless!" said Captain Nemo, a haughty smile
curling his lips. "Yes, a rebel, perhaps an outlaw against humanity!"
The engineer was silent.
"It is not for me to judge you, Captain Nemo," answered Cyrus Harding,
"at any rate as regards your past life. I am, with the rest of the world,
ignorant of the motives which induced you to adopt this strange mode of
existence, and I cannot judge of effects without knowing their causes; but
what I do know is, that a beneficent hand has constantly protected us since
our arrival on Lincoln Island, that we all owe our lives to a good,
generous, and powerful being, and that this being so powerful, good and
generous, Captain Nemo, is yourself!"
"It is I," answered the captain simply.
The engineer and the reporter rose. Their companions had drawn near, and
the gratitude with which their hearts were charged was about to express
itself in their gestures and words.
Captain Nemo stopped them by a sign, and in a voice which betrayed more
emotion than he doubtless intended to show.
"Wait till you have heard all," he said.
And the captain, in a few concise sentences, ran over the events of his
His narrative was short, yet he was obliged to summon up his whole
remaining energy to arrive at the end. He was evidently contending against
extreme weakness. Several times Cyrus Harding entreated him to repose for a
while, but he shook his head as a man to whom the morrow may never come,
and when the reporter offered his assistance,--
"It is useless," he said; "my hours are numbered."
Captain Nemo was an Indian, the Prince Dakkar, son of a rajah of the then
independent territory of Bundelkund. His father sent him, when ten years of
age, to Europe, in order that he might receive an education in all respects
complete, and in the hopes that by his talents and knowledge he might one
day take a leading part in raising his long degraded and heathen country to
a level with the nations of Europe.
From the age of ten years to that of thirty Prince Dakkar, endowed by
Nature with her richest gifts of intellect, accumulated knowledge of every
kind, and in science, literature, and art his researches were extensive and
He traveled over the whole of Europe. His rank and fortune caused him to
be everywhere sought after; but the pleasures of the world had for him no
attractions. Though young and possessed of every personal advantage, he was
ever grave--somber even--devoured by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge,
and cherishing in the recesses of his heart the hope that he might become a
great and powerful ruler of a free and enlightened people.
Still, for long the love of science triumphed over all other feelings. He
became an artist deeply impressed by the marvels of art, a philosopher to
whom no one of the higher sciences was unknown, a statesman versed in the
policy of European courts. To the eyes of those who observed him
superficially he might have passed for one of those cosmopolitans, curious
of knowledge, but disdaining action; one of those opulent travelers,
haughty and cynical, who move incessantly from place to place, and are of
The history of Captain Nemo has, in fact, been published under the title
of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." Here, therefore, will apply the
observation already made as to the adventures of Ayrton with regard to the
discrepancy of dates. Readers should therefore refer to the note already
published on this point.
This artist, this philosopher, this man was, however, still cherishing
the hope instilled into him from his earliest days.
Prince Dakkar returned to Bundelkund in the year 1849. He married a noble
Indian lady, who was imbued with an ambition not less ardent than that by
which he was inspired. Two children were born to them, whom they tenderly
loved. But domestic happiness did not prevent him from seeking to carry out
the object at which he aimed. He waited an opportunity. At length, as he
vainly fancied, it presented itself.
Instigated by princes equally ambitious and less sagacious and more
unscrupulous than he was, the people of India were persuaded that they
might successfully rise against their English rulers, who had brought them
out of a state of anarchy and constant warfare and misery, and had
established peace and prosperity in their country. Their ignorance and
gross superstition made them the facile tools of their designing chiefs.
In 1857 the great sepoy revolt broke out. Prince Dakkar, under the belief
that he should thereby have the opportunity of attaining the object of his
long-cherished ambition, was easily drawn into it. He forthwith devoted his
talents and wealth to the service of this cause. He aided it in person; he
fought in the front ranks; he risked his life equally with the humblest of
the wretched and misguided fanatics; he was ten times wounded in twenty
engagements, seeking death but finding it not, but at length the sanguinary
rebels were utterly defeated, and the atrocious mutiny was brought to an
Never before had the British power in India been exposed to such danger,
and if, as they had hoped, the sepoys had received assistance from without,
the influence and supremacy in Asia of the United Kingdom would have been a
thing of the past.
The name of Prince Dakkar was at that time well known. He had fought
openly and without concealment. A price was set upon his head, but he
managed to escape from his pursuers.
Civilization never recedes; the law of necessity ever forces it onwards.
The sepoys were vanquished, and the land of the rajahs of old fell again
under the rule of England.
Prince Dakkar, unable to find that death he courted, returned to the
mountain fastnesses of Bundelkund. There, alone in the world, overcome by
disappointment at the destruction of all his vain hopes, a prey to profound
disgust for all human beings, filled with hatred of the civilized world, he
realized the wreck of his fortune, assembled some score of his most
faithful companions, and one day disappeared, leaving no trace behind.
Where, then, did he seek that liberty denied him upon the inhabited
earth? Under the waves, in the depths of the ocean, where none could
The warrior became the man of science. Upon a deserted island of the
Pacific he established his dockyard, and there a submarine vessel was
constructed from his designs. By methods which will at some future day be
revealed he had rendered subservient the illimitable forces of electricity,
which, extracted from inexhaustible sources, was employed for all the
requirements of his floating equipage, as a moving, lighting, and heating
agent. The sea, with its countless treasures, its myriads of fish, its
numberless wrecks, its enormous mammalia, and not only all that nature
supplied, but also all that man had lost in its depths, sufficed for every
want of the prince and his crew--and thus was his most ardent desire
accomplished, never again to hold communication with the earth. He named
his submarine vessel the "Nautilus," called himself simply Captain Nemo,
and disappeared beneath the seas.
During many years this strange being visited every ocean, from pole to
pole. Outcast of the inhabited earth in these unknown worlds he gathered
incalculable treasures. The millions lost in the Bay of Vigo, in 1702, by
the galleons of Spain, furnished him with a mine of inexhaustible riches
which he devoted always, anonymously, in favor of those nations who fought
for the independence of their country.
(This refers to the resurrection of the Candiotes, who were, in
fact, largely assisted by Captain Nemo.)
For long, however, he had held no communication with his fellow-
creatures, when, during the night of the 6th of November, 1866, three men
were cast on board his vessel. They were a French professor, his servant,
and a Canadian fisherman. These three men had been hurled overboard by a
collision which had taken place between the "Nautilus" and the United
States frigate "Abraham Lincoln," which had chased her.
Captain Nemo learned from this professor that the "Nautilus," taken now
for a gigantic mammal of the whale species, now for a submarine vessel
carrying a crew of pirates, was sought for in every sea.
He might have returned these three men to the ocean, from whence chance
had brought them in contact with his mysterious existence. Instead of doing
this he kept them prisoners, and during seven months they were enabled to
behold all the wonders of a voyage of twenty thousand leagues under the
One day, the 22nd of June, 1867, these three men, who knew nothing of the
past history of Captain Nemo, succeeded in escaping in one of the
"Nautilus's" boats. But as at this time the "Nautilus" was drawn into the
vortex of the maelstrom, off the coast of Norway, the captain naturally
believed that the fugitives, engulfed in that frightful whirlpool, found
their death at the bottom of the abyss. He was unaware that the Frenchman
and his two companions had been miraculously cast on shore, that the
fishermen of the Lofoten Islands had rendered them assistance, and that the
professor, on his return to France, had published that work in which seven
months of the strange and eventful navigation of the "Nautilus" were
narrated and exposed to the curiosity of the public.
For a long time alter this, Captain Nemo continued to live thus,
traversing every sea. But one by one his companions died, and found their
last resting-place in their cemetery of coral, in the bed of the Pacific.
At last Captain Nemo remained the solitary survivor of all those who had
taken refuge with him in the depths of the ocean.
He was now sixty years of age. Although alone, he succeeded in navigating
the "Nautilus" towards one of those submarine caverns which had sometimes
served him as a harbor.
One of these ports was hollowed beneath Lincoln Island, and at this
moment furnished an asylum to the "Nautilus."
The captain had now remained there six years, navigating the ocean no
longer, but awaiting death, and that moment when he should rejoin his
former companions, when by chance he observed the descent of the balloon
which carried the prisoners of the Confederates. Clad in his diving dress
he was walking beneath the water at a few cables' length from the shore of
the island, when the engineer had been thrown into the sea. Moved by a
feeling of compassion the captain saved Cyrus Harding.
His first impulse was to fly from the vicinity of the five castaways; but
his harbor refuge was closed, for in consequence of an elevation of the
basalt, produced by the influence of volcanic action, he could no longer
pass through the entrance of the vault. Though there was sufficient depth
of water to allow a light craft to pass the bar, there was not enough for
the "Nautilus," whose draught of water was considerable.
Captain Nemo was compelled, therefore, to remain. He observed these men
thrown without resources upon a desert island, but had no wish to be
himself discovered by them. By degrees he became interested in their
efforts when he saw them honest, energetic, and bound to each other by the
ties of friendship. As if despite his wishes, he penetrated all the secrets
of their existence. By means of the diving dress he could easily reach the
well in the interior of Granite House, and climbing by the projections of
rock to its upper orifice he heard the colonists as they recounted the
past, and studied the present and future. He learned from them the
tremendous conflict of America with America itself, for the abolition of
slavery. Yes, these men were worthy to reconcile Captain Nemo with that
humanity which they represented so nobly in the island.
Captain Nemo had saved Cyrus Harding. It was he also who had brought back
the dog to the Chimneys, who rescued Top from the waters of the lake, who
caused to fall at Flotsam Point the case containing so many things useful
to the colonists, who conveyed the canoe back into the stream of the Mercy,
who cast the cord from the top of Granite House at the time of the attack
by the baboons, who made known the presence of Ayrton upon Tabor Island, by
means of the document enclosed in the bottle, who caused the explosion of
the brig by the shock of a torpedo placed at the bottom of the canal, who
saved Herbert from certain death by bringing the sulphate of quinine; and
finally, it was he who had killed the convicts with the electric balls, of
which he possessed the secret, and which he employed in the chase of
submarine creatures. Thus were explained so many apparently supernatural
occurrences, and which all proved the generosity and power of the captain.
Nevertheless, this noble misanthrope longed to benefit his proteges still
further. There yet remained much useful advice to give them, and, his heart
being softened by the approach of death, he invited, as we are aware, the
colonists of Granite House to visit the "Nautilus," by means of a wire
which connected it with the corral. Possibly he would not have done this
had he been aware that Cyrus Harding was sufficiently acquainted with his
history to address him by the name of Nemo.
The captain concluded the narrative of his life. Cyrus Harding then
spoke; he recalled all the incidents which had exercised so beneficent an
influence upon the colony, and in the names of his companions and himself
thanked the generous being to whom they owed so much.
But Captain Nemo paid little attention; his mind appeared to be absorbed
by one idea, and without taking the proffered hand of the engineer,--
"Now, sir," said he, "now that you know my history, your judgment!"
In saying this, the captain evidently alluded to an important incident
witnessed by the three strangers thrown on board his vessel, and which the
French professor had related in his work, causing a profound and terrible
sensation. Some days previous to the flight of the professor and his two
companions, the "Nautilus," being chased by a frigate in the north of the
Atlantic had hurled herself as a ram upon this frigate, and sunk her
Cyrus Harding understood the captain's allusion, and was silent.
"It was an enemy's frigate," exclaimed Captain Nemo, transformed for an
instant into the Prince Dakkar, "an enemy's frigate! It was she who
attacked me--I was in a narrow and shallow bay--the frigate barred my way--
and I sank her!"
A few moments of silence ensued; then the captain demanded,--
"What think you of my life, gentlemen?"
Cyrus Harding extended his hand to the ci-devant prince and replied
gravely, "Sir, your error was in supposing that the past can be
resuscitated, and in contending against inevitable progress. It is one of
those errors which some admire, others blame; which God alone can judge. He
who is mistaken in an action which he sincerely believes to be right may be
an enemy, but retains our esteem. Your error is one that we may admire, and
your name has nothing to fear from the judgment of history, which does not
condemn heroic folly, but its results."
The old man's breast swelled with emotion, and raising his hand to
"Was I wrong, or in the right?" he murmured.
Cyrus Harding replied, "All great actions return to God, from whom they
are derived. Captain Nemo, we, whom you have succored, shall ever mourn
Herbert, who had drawn near the captain, fell on his knees and kissed his
A tear glistened in the eyes of the dying man. "My child," he said, "may
God bless you!"
Day had returned. No ray of light penetrated into the profundity of the
cavern. It being high-water, the entrance was closed by the sea. But the
artificial light, which escaped in long streams from the skylights of the
"Nautilus" was as vivid as before, and the sheet of water shone around the
An extreme exhaustion now overcame Captain Nemo, who had fallen back upon
the divan. It was useless to contemplate removing him to Granite House, for
he had expressed his wish to remain in the midst of those marvels of the
"Nautilus" which millions could not have purchased, and to wait there for
that death which was swiftly approaching.
During a long interval of prostration, which rendered him almost
unconscious, Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett attentively observed the
condition of the dying man. It was apparent that his strength was gradually
diminishing. That frame, once so robust, was now but the fragile tenement
of a departing soul. All of life was concentrated in the heart and head.
The engineer and reporter consulted in whispers. Was it possible to
render any aid to the dying man? Might his life, if not saved, be prolonged
for some days? He himself had said that no remedy could avail, and he
awaited with tranquillity that death which had for him no terrors.
"We can do nothing," said Gideon Spilett.
"But of what is he dying?" asked Pencroft.
"Life is simply fading out," replied the reporter.
"Nevertheless," said the sailor, "if we move him into the open air, and
the light of the sun, he might perhaps recover."
"No, Pencroft," answered the engineer, "it is useless to attempt it.
Besides, Captain Nemo would never consent to leave his vessel. He has lived
for a dozen years on board the 'Nautilus,' and on board the 'Nautilus' he
desires to die."
Without doubt Captain Nemo heard Cyrus Harding's reply, for he raised
himself slightly, and in a voice more feeble, but always intelligible,--
"You are right, sir," he said. "I shall die here--it is my wish; and
therefore I have a request to make of you."
Cyrus Harding and his companions had drawn near the divan, and now
arranged the cushions in such a manner as to better support the dying man.
They saw his eyes wander over all the marvels of this saloon, lighted by
the electric rays which fell from the arabesques of the luminous ceiling.
He surveyed, one after the other, the pictures hanging from the splendid
tapestries of the partitions, the chef-d'oeuvres of the Italian, Flemish,
French, and Spanish masters; the statues of marble and bronze on their
pedestals; the magnificent organ, leaning against the after-partition; the
aquarium, in which bloomed the most wonderful productions of the sea--
marine plants, zoophytes, chaplets of pearls of inestimable value; and,
finally, his eyes rested on this device, inscribed over the pediment of the
museum--the motto of the "Nautilus"--
"Mobilis in mobile."
His glance seemed to rest fondly for the last time on these masterpieces
of art and of nature, to which he had limited his horizon during a sojourn
of so many years in the abysses of the seas.
Cyrus Harding respected the captain's silence, and waited till he should
After some minutes, during which, doubtless, he passed in review his
whole life, Captain Nemo turned to the colonists and said,
"You consider yourselves, gentlemen, under some obligations to me?"
"Captain, believe us that we would give our lives to prolong yours."
"Promise, then," continued Captain Nemo, "to carry out my last wishes,
and I shall be repaid for all I have done for you."
"We promise," said Cyrus Harding.
And by this promise he bound both himself and his companions.
"Gentlemen," resumed the captain, "to-morrow I shall be dead."
Herbert was about to utter an exclamation, but a sign from the captain
"To-morrow I shall die, and I desire no other tomb than the 'Nautilus.'
It is my grave! All my friends repose in the depths of the ocean; their
resting-place shall be mine."
These words were received with profound silence.
"Pay attention to my wishes," he continued. "The 'Nautilus' is imprisoned
in this grotto, the entrance of which is blocked up; but, although egress
is impossible, the vessel may at least sink in the abyss, and there bury my
The colonists listened reverently to the words of the dying man.
"To-morrow, after my death, Mr. Harding," continued the captain,
"yourself and companions will leave the 'Nautilus,' for all the treasures
it contains must perish with me. One token alone will remain with you of
Prince Dakkar, with whose history you are now acquainted. That coffer
yonder contains diamonds of the value of many millions, most of them
mementoes of the time when, husband and father, I thought happiness
possible for me, and a collection of pearls gathered by my friends and
myself in the depths of the ocean. Of this treasure at a future day, you
may make good use. In the hands of such men as yourself and your comrades,
Captain Harding, money will never be a source of danger. From on high I
shall still participate in your enterprises, and I fear not but that they
After a few moments' repose, necessitated by his extreme weakness,
Captain Nemo continued,--
"To-morrow you will take the coffer, you will leave the saloon, of which
you will close the door; then you will ascend on to the deck of the
'Nautilus,' and you will lower the mainhatch so as entirely to close the
"It shall be done, captain," answered Cyrus Harding.
"Good. You will then embark in the canoe which brought you hither; but,
before leaving the 'Nautilus,' go to the stern and there open two large
stop-cocks which you will find upon the water-line. The water will penetrate
into the reservoirs, and the 'Nautilus' will gradually sink beneath the
water to repose at the bottom of the abyss."
And comprehending a gesture of Cyrus Harding, the captain added,--
"Fear nothing! You will but bury a corpse!"
Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions ventured to offer any
observation to Captain Nemo. He had expressed his last wishes, and they had
nothing to do but to conform to them.
"I have your promise, gentlemen?" added Captain Nemo.
"You have, captain," replied the engineer.
The captain thanked the colonists by a sign, and requested them to leave
him for some hours. Gideon Spilett wished to remain near him, in the event
of a crisis coming on, but the dying man refused, saying, "I shall live
until to-morrow, sir."
All left the saloon, passed through the library and the dining-room, and
arrived forward, in the machine-room where the electrical apparatus was
established, which supplied not only heat and light, but the mechanical
power of the "Nautilus."
The "Nautilus" was a masterpiece containing masterpieces with itself, and
the engineer was struck with astonishment.
The colonists mounted the platform, which rose seven or eight feet above
the water. There they beheld a thick glass lenticular covering, which
protected a kind of large eye, from which flashed forth light. Behind this
eye was apparently a cabin containing the wheels of the rudder, and in
which was stationed the helmsman, when he navigated the "Nautilus" over the
bed of the ocean, which the electric rays would evidently light up to a
Cyrus Harding and his companions remained for a time silent, for they
were vividly impressed by what they had just seen and heard, and their
hearts were deeply touched by the thought that he whose arm had so often
aided them, the protector whom they had known but a few hours, was at the
point of death.
Whatever might be the judgment pronounced by posterity upon the events of
this, so to speak, extra-human existence, the character of Prince Dakkar
would ever remain as one of those whose memory time can never efface.
"What a man!" said Pencroft. "Is it possible that he can have lived at
the bottom of the sea? And it seems to me that perhaps he has not found
peace there any more than elsewhere!"
"The 'Nautilus,'" observed Ayrton, "might have enabled us to leave
Lincoln Island and reach some inhabited country."
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Pencroft, "I for one would never risk myself in
such a craft. To sail on the seas, good, but under the seas, never!"
"I believe, Pencroft," answered the reporter, "that the navigation of a
submarine vessel such as the 'Nautilus' ought to be very easy, and that we
should soon become accustomed to it. There would be no storms, no lee-shore
to fear. At some feet beneath the surface the waters of the ocean are as
calm as those of a lake."
"That may be," replied the sailor, "but I prefer a gale of wind on board
a well-found craft. A vessel is built to sail on the sea, and not beneath
"My friends," said the engineer, "it is useless, at any rate as regards
the 'Nautilus,' to discuss the question of submarine vessels. The
'Nautilus' is not ours, and we have not the right to dispose of it.
Moreover, we could in no case avail ourselves of it. Independently of the
fact that it would be impossible to get it out of this cavern, whose
entrance is now closed by the uprising of the basaltic rocks, Captain
Nemo's wish is that it shall be buried with him. His wish is our law, and
we will fulfil it."
After a somewhat prolonged conversation, Cyrus Harding and his companions
again descended to the interior of the "Nautilus." There they took some
refreshment and returned to the saloon.
Captain Nemo had somewhat rallied from the prostration which had overcome
him, and his eyes shone with their wonted fire. A faint smile even curled
The colonists drew around him.
"Gentlemen," said the captain, "you are brave and honest men. You have
devoted yourselves to the common weal. Often have I observed your conduct.
I have esteemed you--I esteem you still! Your hand, Mr. Harding."
Cyrus Harding gave his hand to the captain, who clasped it
"It is well!" he murmured.
"But enough of myself. I have to speak concerning yourselves, and this
Lincoln Island, upon which you have taken refuge. You now desire to leave
"To return, captain!" answered Pencroft quickly.
"To return, Pencroft?" said the captain, with a smile. "I know, it is
true, your love for this island. You have helped to make it what it now is,
and it seems to you a paradise!"
"Our project, captain," interposed Cyrus Harding, "is to annex it to the
United States, and to establish for our shipping a port so fortunately
situated in this part of the Pacific."
"Your thoughts are with your country, gentlemen," continued the captain;
"your toils are for her prosperity and glory. You are right. One's native
land!--there should one live! there die! And I die far from all I loved!"
"You have some last wish to transmit," said the engineer with emotion,
"some souvenir to send to those friends you have left in the mountains of
"No, Captain Harding; no friends remain to me! I am the last of my race,
and to all whom I have known I have long been as are the dead.--But to
return to yourselves. Solitude, isolation, are painful things, and beyond
human endurance. I die of having thought it possible to live alone! You
should, therefore, dare all in the attempt to leave Lincoln Island, and see
once more the land of your birth. I am aware that those wretches have
destroyed the vessel you have built."
"We propose to construct a vessel," said Gideon Spilett, "sufficiently
large to convey us to the nearest land; but if we should succeed, sooner or
later we shall return to Lincoln Island. We are attached to it by too many
recollections ever to forget it."
"It is here that we have known Captain Nemo," said Cyrus Harding.
"It is here only that we can make our home!" added Herbert.
"And here shall I sleep the sleep of eternity, if--" replied the captain.
He paused for a moment, and, instead of completing the sentence, said
"Mr. Harding, I wish to speak with you--alone!"
The engineer's companions, respecting the wish, retired.
Cyrus Harding remained but a few minutes alone with Captain Nemo, and
soon recalled his companions; but he said nothing to them of the private
matters which the dying man had confided to him.
Gideon Spilett now watched the captain with extreme care. It was evident
that he was no longer sustained by his moral energy, which had lost the
power of reaction against his physical weakness.
The day closed without change. The colonists did not quit the "Nautilus"
for a moment. Night arrived, although it was impossible to distinguish it
from day in the cavern.
Captain Nemo suffered no pain, but he was visibly sinking. His noble
features, paled by the approach of death, were perfectly calm. Inaudible
words escaped at intervals from his lips, bearing upon various incidents of
his checkered career. Life was evidently ebbing slowly and his extremities
were already cold.
Once or twice more he spoke to the colonists who stood around him, and
smiled on them with that last smile which continues after death.
At length, shortly after midnight, Captain Nemo by a supreme effort
succeeded in folding his arms across his breast, as if wishing in that
attitude to compose himself for death.
By one o'clock his glance alone showed signs of life. A dying light
gleamed in those eyes once so brilliant. Then, murmuring the words, "God
and my country!" he quietly expired.
Cyrus Harding, bending low closed the eyes of him who had once been the
Prince Dakkar, and was now not even Captain Nemo.
Herbert and Pencroft sobbed aloud. Tears fell from Ayrton's eyes. Neb was
on his knees by the reporter's side, motionless as a statue.
Then Cyrus Harding, extending his hand over the forehead of the dead,
said solemnly, "May his soul be with God!" Turning to his friends, he
added, "Let us pray for him whom we have lost!"
Some hours later the colonists fulfilled the promise made to the captain
by carrying out his dying wishes.
Cyrus Harding and his companions quitted the "Nautilus," taking with them
the only memento left them by their benefactor, the coffer which contained
wealth amounting to millions.
The marvelous saloon, still flooded with light, had been carefully
closed. The iron door leading on deck was then securely fastened in such a
manner as to prevent even a drop of water from penetrating to the interior
of the "Nautilus."
The colonists then descended into the canoe, which was moored to the side
of the submarine vessel.
The canoe was now brought around to the stern. There, at the water-line,
were two large stop-cocks communicating with the reservoirs employed in the
submersion of the vessel.
The stop-cocks were opened, the reservoirs filled, and the "Nautilus,"
slowly sinking, disappeared beneath the surface of the lake.
But the colonists were yet able to follow its descent through the waves.
The powerful light it gave forth lighted up the translucent water, while
the cavern became gradually obscure. At length this vast effusion of
electric light faded away, and soon after the "Nautilus," now the tomb of
Captain Nemo, reposed in its ocean bed.
At break of day the colonists regained in silence the entrance of the
cavern, to which they gave the name of "Dakkar Grotto," in memory of
Captain Nemo. It was now low-water, and they passed without difficulty
under the arcade, washed on the right by the sea.
The canoe was left here, carefully protected from the waves. As
additional precaution, Pencroft, Neb, and Ayrton drew it up on a little
beach which bordered one of the sides of the grotto, in a spot where it
could run no risk of harm.
The storm had ceased during the night. The last low mutterings of the
thunder died away in the west. Rain fell no longer, but the sky was yet
obscured by clouds. On the whole, this month of October, the first of the
southern spring, was not ushered in by satisfactory tokens, and the wind
had a tendency to shift from one point of the compass to another, which
rendered it impossible to count upon settled weather.
Cyrus Harding and his companions, on leaving Dakkar Grotto, had taken the
road to the corral. On their way Neb and Herbert were careful to preserve
the wire which had been laid down by the captain between the corral and the
grotto, and which might at a future time be of service.
The colonists spoke but little on the road. The various incidents of the
night of October 15th had left a profound impression on their minds. The
unknown being whose influence had so effectually protected them, the man
whom their imagination had endowed with supernatural powers, Captain Nemo,
was no more. His "Nautilus" and he were buried in the depths of the abyss.
To each one of them their existence seemed even more isolated than before.
They had been accustomed to count upon the intervention of that power which
existed no longer, and Gideon Spilett, and even Cyrus Harding, could not
escape this impression. Thus they maintained a profound silence during
their journey to the corral.
Towards nine in the morning the colonists arrived at Granite House.
It had been agreed that the construction of the vessel should be actively
pushed forward, and Cyrus Harding more than ever devoted his time and labor
to this object. It was impossible to divine what future lay before them.
Evidently the advantage to the colonists would be great of having at their
disposal a substantial vessel, capable of keeping the sea even in heavy
weather, and large enough to attempt, in case of need, a voyage of some
duration. Even if, when their vessel should be completed, the colonists
should not resolve to leave Lincoln Island as yet, in order to gain either
one of the Polynesian Archipelagoes of the Pacific or the shores of New
Zealand, they might at least, sooner or later, proceed to Tabor Island, to
leave there the notice relating to Ayrton. This was a precaution rendered
indispensable by the possibility of the Scotch yacht reappearing in those
seas, and it was of the highest importance that nothing should be neglected
on this point.
The works were then resumed. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, and Ayrton,
assisted by Neb, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert, except when unavoidably
called off by other necessary occupations, worked without cessation. It was
important that the new vessel should be ready in five months--that is to
say, by the beginning of March--if they wished to visit Tabor Island before
the equinoctial gales rendered the voyage impracticable. Therefore the
carpenters lost not a moment. Moreover, it was unnecessary to manufacture
rigging, that of the "Speedy" having been saved entire, so that the hull
only of the vessel needed to be constructed.
The end of the year 1868 found them occupied by these important labors,
to the exclusion of almost all others. At the expiration of two months and
a half the ribs had been set up and the first planks adjusted. It was
already evident that the plans made by Cyrus Harding were admirable, and
that the vessel would behave well at sea.
Pencroft brought to the task a devouring energy, and would even grumble
when one or the other abandoned the carpenter's axe for the gun of the
hunter. It was nevertheless necessary to keep up the stores of Granite
House, in view of the approaching winter. But this did not satisfy
Pencroft. The brave, honest sailor was not content when the workmen were
not at the dockyard. when this happened he grumbled vigorously, and, by way
of venting his feelings, did the work of six men.
The weather was very unfavorable during the whole of the summer season.
For some days the heat was overpowering, and the atmosphere, saturated with
electricity, was only cleared by violent storms. It was rarely that the
distant growling of the thunder could not be heard, like a low but
incessant murmur, such as is produced in the equatorial regions of the
The 1st of January, 1869, was signalized by a storm of extreme violence,
and the thunder burst several times over the island. Large trees were
struck by the electric fluid and shattered, and among others one of those
gigantic nettle-trees which had shaded the poultry-yard at the southern
extremity of the lake. Had this meteor any relation to the phenomena going
on in the bowels of the earth? Was there any connection between the
commotion of the atmosphere and that of the interior of the earth? Cyrus
Harding was inclined to think that such was the case, for the development
of these storms was attended by the renewal of volcanic symptoms.
It was on the 3rd of January that Herbert, having ascended at daybreak to
the plateau of Prospect Heights to harness one of the onagers, perceived an
enormous hat-shaped cloud rolling from the summit of the volcano.
Herbert immediately apprised the colonists, who at once joined him in
watching the summit of Mount Franklin.
"Ah!" exclaimed Pencroft, "those are not vapors this time! It seems to me
that the giant is not content with breathing; he must smoke!"
This figure of speech employed by the sailor exactly expressed the
changes going on at the mouth of the volcano. Already for three months had
the crater emitted vapors more or less dense, but which were as yet
produced only by an internal ebullition of mineral substances. But now the
vapors were replaced by a thick smoke, rising in the form of a grayish
column, more than three hundred feet in width at its base, and which spread
like an immense mushroom to a height of from seven to eight hundred feet
above the summit of the mountain.
"The fire is in the chimney," observed Gideon Spilett.
"And we can't put it out!" replied Herbert.
"The volcano ought to be swept," observed Neb, who spoke as if perfectly
"Well said, Neb!" cried Pencroft, with a shout of laughter; "and you'll
undertake the job, no doubt?"
Cyrus Harding attentively observed the dense smoke emitted by Mount
Franklin, and even listened, as if expecting to hear some distant
muttering. Then, turning towards his companions, from whom he had gone
somewhat apart, he said,--
"The truth is, my friends, we must not conceal from ourselves that an
important change is going forward. The volcanic substances are no longer in
a state of ebullition, they have caught fire, and we are undoubtedly
menaced by an approaching eruption."
"Well, captain," said Pencroft, "we shall witness the eruption; and if it
is a good one, we'll applaud it. I don't see that we need concern ourselves
further about the matter."
"It may be so," replied Cyrus Harding, "for the ancient track of the lava
is still open; and thanks to this, the crater has hitherto overflowed
towards the north. And yet--"
"And yet, as we can derive no advantage from an eruption, it might be
better it should not take place," said the reporter.
"Who knows?" answered the sailor. "Perhaps there may be some valuable
substance in this volcano, which it will spout forth, and which we may turn
to good account!"
Cyrus Harding shook his head with the air of a man who augured no good
from the phenomenon whose development had been so sudden. He did not regard
so lightly as Pencroft the results of an eruption. If the lava, in
consequence of the position of the crater, did not directly menace the
wooded and cultivated parts of the island, other complications might
present themselves. In fact, eruptions are not unfrequently accompanied by
earthquakes; and an island of the nature of Lincoln Island, formed of
substances so varied, basalt on one side, granite on the other, lava on the
north, rich soil on the south, substances which consequently could not be
firmly attached to each other, would be exposed to the risk of
disintegration. Although, therefore, the spreading of the volcanic matter
might not constitute a serious danger, any movement of the terrestrial
structure which should shake the island might entail the gravest
"It seems to me," said Ayrton, who had reclined so as to place his ear to
the ground, "it seems to me that I can hear a dull, rumbling sound, like
that of a wagon loaded with bars of iron."
The colonists listened with the greatest attention, and were convinced
that Ayrton was not mistaken. The rumbling was mingled with a subterranean
roar, which formed a sort of rinforzando, and died slowly away, as if some
violent storm had passed through the profundities of the globe. But no
explosion properly so termed, could be heard. It might therefore be
concluded that the vapors and smoke found a free passage through the
central shaft; and that the safety-valve being sufficiently large, no
convulsion would be produced, no explosion was to be apprehended.
"Well, then!" said Pencroft, "are we not going back to work? Let Mount
Franklin smoke, groan, bellow, or spout forth fire and flame as much as it
pleases, that is no reason why we should be idle! Come, Ayrton, Neb,
Herbert, Captain Harding, Mr. Spilett, every one of us must turn to at our
work to-day! We are going to place the keelson, and a dozen pair of hands
would not be too many. Before two months I want our new 'Bonadventure'--
for we shall keep the old name, shall we not?--to float on the waters of
Port Balloon! Therefore there is not an hour to lose!"
All the colonists, their services thus requisitioned by Pencroft,
descended to the dockyard, and proceeded to place the keelson, a thick mass
of wood which forms the lower portion of a ship and unites firmly the
timbers of the hull. It was an arduous undertaking, in which all took part.
They continued their labors during the whole of this day, the 3rd of
January, without thinking further of the volcano, which could not, besides,
be seen from the shore of Granite House. But once or twice, large shadows,
veiling the sun, which described its diurnal arc through an extremely clear
sky, indicated that a thick cloud of smoke passed between its disc and the
island. The wind, blowing on the shore, carried all these vapors to the
westward. Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett remarked these somber
appearances, and from time to time discussed the evident progress of the
volcanic phenomena, but their work went on without interruption. It was,
besides, of the first importance from every point of view, that the vessel
should be finished with the least possible delay. In presence of the
eventualities which might arise, the safety of the colonists would be to a
great extent secured by their ship. Who could tell that it might not prove
some day their only refuge?
In the evening, after supper, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Herbert
again ascended the plateau of Prospect Heights. It was already dark, and
the obscurity would permit them to ascertain if flames or incandescent
matter thrown up by the volcano were mingled with the vapor and smoke
accumulated at the mouth of the crater.
"The crater is on fire!" said Herbert, who, more active than his
companion, first reached the plateau.
Mount Franklin, distant about six miles, now appeared like a gigantic
torch, around the summit of which turned fuliginous flames. So much smoke,
and possibly scoriae and cinders were mingled with them, that their light
gleamed but faintly amid the gloom of the night. But a kind of lurid
brilliancy spread over the island, against which stood out confusedly the
wooded masses of the heights. Immense whirlwinds of vapor obscured the sky,
through which glimmered a few stars.
"The change is rapid!" said the engineer.
"That is not surprising," answered the reporter. "The reawakening of the
volcano already dates back some time. You may remember, Cyrus, that the
first vapors appeared about the time we searched the sides of the mountain
to discover Captain Nemo's retreat. It was, if I mistake not, about the
15th of October."
"Yes," replied Herbert, "two months and a half ago!"
"The subterranean fires have therefore been smoldering for ten weeks,"
resumed Gideon Spilett, "and it is not to be wondered at that they now
break out with such violence!"
"Do not you feel a certain vibration of the soil?" asked Cyrus Harding.
"Yes," replied Gideon Spilett, "but there is a great difference between
that and an earthquake."
"I do not affirm that we are menaced with an earthquake," answered Cyrus
Harding, "may God preserve us from that! No; these vibrations are due to
the effervescence of the central fire. The crust of the earth is simply the
shell of a boiler, and you know that such a shell, under the pressure of
steam, vibrates like a sonorous plate. it is this effect which is being
produced at this moment."
"What magnificent flames!" exclaimed Herbert.
At this instant a kind of bouquet of flames shot forth from the crater,
the brilliancy of which was visible even through the vapors. Thousands of
luminous sheets and barbed tongues of fire were cast in various directions.
Some, extending beyond the dome of smoke, dissipated it, leaving behind an
incandescent powder. This was accompanied by successive explosions,
resembling the discharge of a battery of machine-guns.
Cyrus Harding, the reporter, and Herbert, after spending an hour on the
plateau of Prospect Heights, again descended to the beach, and returned to
Granite House. The engineer was thoughtful and preoccupied, so much so,
indeed, that Gideon Spilett inquired if he apprehended any immediate
danger, of which the eruption might directly or indirectly be the cause.
"Yes, and no," answered Cyrus Harding.
"Nevertheless," continued the reporter, "would not the greatest
misfortune which could happen to us be an earthquake which would overturn
the island? Now, I do not suppose that this is to be feared, since the
vapors and lava have found a free outlet."
"True," replied Cyrus Harding, "and I do not fear an earthquake in the
sense in which the term is commonly applied to convulsions of the soil
provoked by the expansion of subterranean gases. But other causes may
produce great disasters."
"How so, my dear Cyrus?'
"I am not certain. I must consider. I must visit the mountain. In a few
days I shall learn more on this point."
Gideon Spilett said no more, and soon, in spite of the explosions of the
volcano, whose intensity increased, and which were repeated by the echoes
of the island, the inhabitants of Granite House were sleeping soundly.
Three days passed by--the 4th, 5th, and 6th of January. The construction
of the vessel was diligently continued, and without offering further
explanations the engineer pushed forward the work with all his energy.
Mount Franklin was now hooded by a somber cloud of sinister aspect, and,
amid the flames, vomiting forth incandescent rocks, some of which fell back
into the crater itself. This caused Pencroft, who would only look at the
matter in the light of a joke, to exclaim,--
"Ah! the giant is playing at cup and ball; he is a conjurer."
In fact, the substances thrown up fell back again in to the abyss, and it
did not seem that the lava, though swollen by the internal pressure, had
yet risen to the orifice of the crater. At any rate, the opening on the
northeast, which was partly visible, poured out no torrent upon the
northern slope of the mountain.
Nevertheless, however pressing was the construction of the vessel, other
duties demanded the presence of the colonists on various portions of the
island. Before everything it was necessary to go to the corral, where the
flocks of musmons and goats were enclosed, and replenish the provision of
forage for those animals. It was accordingly arranged that Ayrton should
proceed thither the next day, the 7th of January; and as he was sufficient
for the task, to which he was accustomed, Pencroft and the rest were
somewhat surprised on hearing the engineer say to Ayrton--
"As you are going to-morrow to the corral I will accompany you."
"But, Captain Harding," exclaimed the sailor, "our working days will not
be many, and if you go also we shall be two pair of hands short!"
"We shall return to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "but it is necessary
that I should go to the corral. I must learn how the eruption is
"The eruption! always the eruption!" answered Pencroft, with an air of
discontent. "An important thing, truly, this eruption! I trouble myself
very little about it."
Whatever might be the sailor's opinion, the expedition projected by the
engineer was settled for the next day. Herbert wished to accompany Cyrus
Harding, but he would not vex Pencroft by his absence.
The next day, at dawn, Cyrus Harding and Ayrton, mounting the cart drawn
by two onagers, took the road to the corral and set off at a round trot.
Above the forest were passing large clouds, to which the crater of Mount
Franklin incessantly added fuliginous matter. These clouds, which rolled
heavily in the air, were evidently composed of heterogeneous substances. It
was not alone from the volcano that they derived their strange opacity and
weight. Scoriae, in a state of dust, like powdered pumice-stone, and
grayish ashes as small as the finest feculae, were held in suspension in
the midst of their thick folds. These ashes are so fine that they have been
observed in the air for whole months. After the eruption of 1783 in Iceland
for upwards of a year the atmosphere was thus charged with volcanic dust
through which the rays of the sun were only with difficulty discernible.
But more often this pulverized matter falls, and this happened on the
present occasion. Cyrus Harding and Ayrton had scarcely reached the corral
when a sort of black snow like fine gunpowder fell, and instantly changed
the appearance of the soil. Trees, meadows, all disappeared beneath a
covering several inches in depth. But, very fortunately, the wind blew from
the northeast, and the greater part of the cloud dissolved itself over the
"This is very singular, Captain Harding," said Ayrton.
"It is very serious," replied the engineer. "This powdered pumice-stone,
all this mineral dust, proves how grave is the convulsion going forward in
the lower depths of the volcano."
"But can nothing be done?"
"Nothing, except to note the progress of the phenomenon. Do you,
therefore, Ayrton, occupy yourself with the necessary work at the corral.
In the meantime I will ascend just beyond the source of Red Creek and
examine the condition of the mountain upon its northern aspect. Then--"
"Well, Captain Harding?"
"Then we will pay a visit to Dakkar Grotto. I wish to inspect it. At any
rate I will come back for you in two hours."
Ayrton then proceeded to enter the corral, and, while awaiting the
engineer's return, busied himself with the musmons and goats which seemed
to feel a certain uneasiness in presence of these first signs of an
Meanwhile Cyrus Harding ascended the crest of the eastern spur, passed
Red Creek, and arrived at the spot where he and his companions had
discovered a sulphurous spring at the time of their first exploration.
How changed was everything! Instead of a single column of smoke he
counted thirteen, forced through the soil as if violently propelled by some
piston. It was evident that the crust of the earth was subjected in this
part of the globe to a frightful pressure. The atmosphere was saturated
with gases and carbonic acid, mingled with aqueous vapors. Cyrus Harding
felt the volcanic tufa with which the plain was strewn, and which was but
pulverized cinders hardened into solid blocks by time, tremble beneath him,
but he could discover no traces of fresh lava.
The engineer became more assured of this when he observed all the
northern part of Mount Franklin. Pillars of smoke and flame escaped from
the crater; a hail of scoriae fell on the ground; but no current of lava
burst from the mouth of the volcano, which proved that the volcanic matter
had not yet attained the level of the superior orifice of the central
"But I would prefer that it were so," said Cyrus Harding to himself. "At
any rate, I should then know that the lava had followed its accustomed
track. who can say that it may not take a new course? But the danger does
not consist in that! Captain Nemo foresaw it clearly! No, the danger does
not lie there!"
Cyrus Harding advanced towards the enormous causeway whose prolongation
enclosed the narrow Shark Gulf. He could now sufficiently examine on this
side the ancient channels of the lava. There was no doubt in his mind that
the most recent eruption had occurred at a far-distant epoch.
He then returned by the same way, listening attentively to the
subterranean mutterings which rolled like long-continued thunder,
interrupted by deafening explosions. At nine in the morning he reached the
Ayrton awaited him.
"The animals are cared for, Captain Harding," said Ayrton.
"They seem uneasy, Captain Harding."
"Yes, instinct speaks through them, and instinct is never deceived."
"Are you ready?"
"Take a lamp, Ayrton," answered the engineer; "we will start at once."
Ayrton did as desired. The onagers, unharnessed, roamed in the corral.
The gate was secured on the outside, and Cyrus Harding, preceding Ayrton,
took the narrow path which led westward to the shore.
The soil they walked upon was choked with the pulverized matter fallen
from the cloud. No quadruped appeared in the woods. Even the birds had
fled. Sometimes a passing breeze raised the covering of ashes, and the two
colonists, enveloped in a whirlwind of dust, lost sight of each other. They
were then careful to cover their eyes and mouths with handkerchiefs, for
they ran the risk of being blinded and suffocated.
It was impossible for Cyrus Harding and Ayrton, with these impediments,
to make rapid progress. Moreover, the atmosphere was close, as if the
oxygen had been partly burned up, and had become unfit for respiration. At
every hundred paces they were obliged to stop to take breath. It was
therefore past ten o'clock when the engineer and his companion reached the
crest of the enormous mass of rocks of basalt and porphyry which composed
the northwest coast of the island.
Ayrton and Cyrus Harding commenced the descent of this abrupt declivity,
following almost step for step the difficult path which, during that stormy
night, had led them to Dakkar Grotto. In open day the descent was less
perilous, and, besides, the bed of ashes which covered the polished surface
of the rock enabled them to make their footing more secure.
The ridge at the end of the shore, about forty feet in height, was soon
reached. Cyrus Harding recollected that this elevation gradually sloped
towards the level of the sea. Although the tide was at present low, no
beach could he seen, and the waves, thickened by the volcanic dust, beat
upon the basaltic rocks.
Cyrus Harding and Ayrton found without difficulty the entrance to Dakkar
Grotto, and paused for a moment at the last rock before it.
"The iron boat should be there," said the engineer.
"It is here, Captain Harding," replied Ayrton, drawing towards him the
fragile craft, which was protected by the arch of the vault.
"On board, Ayrton!"
The two colonists stepped into the boat. A slight undulation of the waves
carried it farther under the low arch of the crypt, and there Ayrton, with
the aid of flint and steel, lighted the lamp. He then took the oars, and
the lamp having been placed in the bow of the boat, so that its rays fell
before them, Cyrus Harding took the helm and steered through the shades of
The "Nautilus" was there no longer to illuminate the cavern with its
electric light. Possibly it might not yet be extinguished, but no ray
escaped from the depths of the abyss in which reposed all that was mortal
of Captain Nemo.
The light afforded by the lamp, although feeble, nevertheless enabled the
engineer to advance slowly, following the wall of the cavern. A deathlike
silence reigned under the vaulted roof, or at least in the anterior
portion, for soon Cyrus Harding distinctly heard the rumbling which
proceeded from the bowels of the mountain.
"That comes from the volcano," he said.
Besides these sounds, the presence of chemical combinations was soon
betrayed by their powerful odor, and the engineer and his companion were
almost suffocated by sulphurous vapors.
"This is what Captain Nemo feared," murmured Cyrus Harding, changing
countenance. "We must go to the end, notwithstanding."
"Forward!" replied Ayrton, bending to his oars and directing the boat
towards the head of the cavern.
Twenty-five minutes after entering the mouth of the grotto the boat
reached the extreme end.
Cyrus Harding then, standing up, cast the light of the lamp upon the
walls of the cavern which separated it from the central shaft of the
volcano. What was the thickness of this wall? It might be ten feet or a
hundred feet--it was impossible to say. But the subterranean sounds were too
perceptible to allow of the supposition that it was of any great thickness.
The engineer, after having explored the wall at a certain height
horizontally, fastened the lamp to the end of an oar, and again surveyed
the basaltic wall at a greater elevation.
There, through scarcely visible clefts and joinings, escaped a pungent
vapor, which infected the atmosphere of the cavern. The wall was broken by
large cracks, some of which extended to within two or three feet of the
Cyrus Harding thought for a brief space. Then he said in a low voice,--
"Yes! the captain was right! The danger lies there, and a terrible
Ayrton said not a word, but, upon a sign from Cyrus Harding, resumed the
oars, and half an hour later the engineer and he reached the entrance of
The next day, the 8th day of January, after a day and night passed at the
corral, where they left all in order, Cyrus Harding and Ayrton arrived at
The engineer immediately called his companions together, and informed
them of the imminent danger which threatened Lincoln Island, and from which
no human power could deliver them.
"My friends," he said, and his voice betrayed the depth of his emotion,
"our island is not among those which will endure while this earth endures.
It is doomed to more or less speedy destruction, the cause of which it
bears within itself, and from which nothing can save it."
The colonists looked at each other, then at the engineer. They did not
clearly comprehend him.
"Explain yourself, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett.
"I will do so," replied Cyrus Harding, "or rather I will simply afford
you the explanation which, during our few minutes of private conversation,
was given me by Captain Nemo."
"Captain Nemo!" exclaimed the colonists.
"Yes, and it was the last service he desired to render us before his
"The last service!" exclaimed Pencroft, "the last service! You will see
that though he is dead he will render us others yet!"
"But what did the captain say?" inquired the reporter.
"I will tell you, my friends," said the engineer. "Lincoln Island does
not resemble the other islands of the Pacific, and a fact of which Captain
Nemo has made me cognizant must sooner or later bring about the subversion
of its foundation."
"Nonsense! Lincoln Island, it can't be!" cried Pencroft, who, in spite of
the respect he felt for Cyrus Harding, could not prevent a gesture of
"Listen, Pencroft," resumed the engineer, "I will tell you what Captain
Nemo communicated to me, and which I myself confirmed yesterday, during the
exploration of Dakkar Grotto.
"This cavern stretches under the island as far as the volcano, and is only
separated from its central shaft by the wall which terminates it. Now, this
wall is seamed with fissures and clefts which already allow the
sulphurous gases generated in the interior of the volcano to escape."
"Well?" said Pencroft, his brow suddenly contracting.
"Well, then, I saw that these fissures widen under the internal pressure
from within, that the wall of basalt is gradually giving way and that after
a longer or shorter period it will afford a passage to the waters of the
lake which fill the cavern."