Part 5 out of 12
facilitate the moving of the chest, towing which the boat soon began to
double the point, to which the name of Flotsam Point was given.
The chest was heavy, and the barrels were scarcely sufficient to keep it
above water. The sailor also feared every instant that it would get loose
and sink to the bottom of the sea. But happily his fears were not realized,
and an hour and a half after they set out--all that time had been taken up
in going a distance of three miles--the boat touched the beach below Granite
Canoe and chest were then hauled up on the sands; and as the tide was
then going out, they were soon left high and dry. Neb, hurrying home,
brought back some tools with which to open the chest in such a way that it
might be injured as little as possible, and they proceeded to its
inventory. Pencroft did not try to hide that he was greatly excited.
The sailor began by detaching the two barrels, which, being in good
condition, would of course be of use. Then the locks were forced with a
cold chisel and hammer, and the lid thrown back. A second casing of zinc
lined the interior of the chest, which had been evidently arranged that the
articles which it enclosed might under any circumstances be sheltered from
"Oh!" cried Neb, "suppose it's jam!
"I hope not," replied the reporter.
"If only there was--" said the sailor in a low voice.
"What?" asked Neb, who overheard him.
The covering of zinc was torn off and thrown back over the sides of the
chest, and by degrees numerous articles of very varied character were
produced and strewn about on the sand. At each new object Pencroft uttered
fresh hurrahs, Herbert clapped his hands, and Neb danced up and down. There
were books which made Herbert wild with joy, and cooking utensils which Neb
covered with kisses!
In short, the colonists had reason to be extremely satisfied, for this
chest contained tools, weapons, instruments, clothes, books; and this is
the exact list of them as stated in Gideon Spilett's note-book:
--Tools:--3 knives with several blades, 2 woodmen's axes, 2 carpenter's
hatchets, 3 planes, 2 adzes, 1 twibil or mattock, 6 chisels, 2 files, 3
hammers, 3 gimlets, 2 augers, 10 bags of nails and screws, 3 saws of
different sizes, 2 boxes of needles.
Weapons:--2 flint-lock guns, 2 for percussion caps, 2 breach-loader
carbines, 5 boarding cutlasses, 4 sabers, 2 barrels of powder, each
containing twenty-five pounds; 12 boxes of percussion caps.
Instruments:--1 sextant, 1 double opera-glass, 1 telescope, 1 box of
mathematical instruments, 1 mariner's compass, 1 Fahrenheit thermometer, 1
aneroid barometer, 1 box containing a photographic apparatus, object-glass,
plates, chemicals, etc.
Clothes:-2 dozen shirts of a peculiar material resembling wool, but
evidently of a vegetable origin; 3 dozen stockings of the same material.
Utensils:-1 iron pot, 6 copper saucepans, 3 iron dishes, 10 metal plates,
2 kettles, 1 portable stove, 6 table-knives,
Books:-1 Bible, 1 atlas, 1 dictionary of the different Polynesian idioms,
1 dictionary of natural science, in six volumes; 3 reams of white paper, 2
books with blank pages.
"It must be allowed," said the reporter, after the inventory had been
made, "that the owner of this chest was a practical man! Tools, weapons,
instruments, clothes, utensils, books--nothing is wanting! It might really
be said that he expected to be wrecked, and had prepared for it
"Nothing is wanting, indeed," murmured Cyrus Harding thoughtfully.
"And for a certainty," added Herbert, "the vessel which carried this
chest and its owner was not a Malay pirate!"
"Unless," said Pencroft, "the owner had been taken prisoner by pirates--"
"That is not admissible," replied the reporter. "It is more probable that
an American or European vessel has been driven into this quarter, and that
her passengers, wishing to save necessaries at least, prepared this chest
and threw it overboard."
"Is that your opinion, captain?" asked Herbert.
"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer, "that may have been the case. It is
possible that at the moment, or in expectation of a wreck, they collected
into this chest different articles of the greatest use in hopes of finding
it again on the coast--"
"Even the photographic box!" exclaimed the sailor incredulously.
"As to that apparatus," replied Harding, "I do not quite see the use of
it; and a more complete supply of clothes or more abundant ammunition would
have been more valuable to us as well as to any other castaways!"
"But isn't there any mark or direction on these instruments, tools, or
books, which would tell us something about them?" asked Gideon Spilett.
That might be ascertained. Each article was carefully examined,
especially the books, instruments and weapons. Neither the weapons nor the
instruments, contrary to the usual custom, bore the name of the maker; they
were, besides, in a perfect state, and did not appear to have been used.
The same peculiarity marked the tools and utensils; all were new, which
proved that the articles had not been taken by chance and thrown into the
chest, but, on the contrary, that the choice of things had been well
considered and arranged with care. This was also indicated by the second
case of metal which had preserved them from damp, and which could not have
been soldered in a moment of haste.
As to the dictionaries of natural science and Polynesian idioms, both
were English; but they neither bore the name of the publisher nor the date
The same with the Bible printed in English, in quarto, remarkable from a
typographic point of view, and which appeared to have been often used.
The atlas was a magnificent work, comprising maps of every country in the
world, and several planispheres arranged upon Mercator's projection, and of
which the nomenclature was in French--but which also bore neither date nor
name of publisher.
There was nothing, therefore, on these different articles by which they
could be traced, and nothing consequently of a nature to show the
nationality of the vessel which must have recently passed these shores.
But, wherever the chest might have come from, it was a treasure to the
settlers on Lincoln Island. Till then, by making use of the productions of
nature, they had created everything for themselves, and, thanks to their
intelligence, they had managed without difficulty. But did it not appear as
if Providence had wished to reward them by sending them these productions
of human industry? Their thanks rose unanimously to Heaven.
However, one of them was not quite satisfied: it was Pencroft. It
appeared that the chest did not contain something which he evidently held
in great esteem, for in proportion as they approached the bottom of the
box, his hurrahs diminished in heartiness, and, the inventory finished, he
was heard to mutter these words:--"That's all very fine, but you can see
that there is nothing for me in that box!"
This led Neb to say,--
"Why, friend Pencroft, what more do you expect?"
"Half a pound of tobacco," replied Pencroft seriously, "and nothing would
have been wanting to complete my happiness!"
No one could help laughing at this speech of the sailor's.
But the result of this discovery of the chest was, that it was now more
than ever necessary to explore the island thoroughly. It was therefore
agreed that the next morning at break of day, they should set out, by
ascending the Mercy so as to reach the western shore. If any castaways had
landed on the coast, it was to be feared they were without resources, and
it was therefore the more necessary to carry help to them without delay.
During the day the different articles were carried to Granite House,
where they were methodically arranged in the great hall. This day--the 29th
of October--happened to be a Sunday, and, before going to bed, Herbert asked
the engineer if he would not read them something from the Gospel.
"Willingly," replied Cyrus Harding.
He took the sacred volume, and was about to open it, when Pencroft
stopped him, saying,--"Captain, I am superstitious. Open at random and read
the first verse which, your eye falls upon. We will see if it applies to
Cyrus Harding smiled at the sailor's idea, and, yielding to his wish, he
opened exactly at a place where the leaves were separated by a marker.
Immediately his eyes were attracted by a cross which, made with a pencil,
was placed against the eighth verse of the seventh chapter of the Gospel of
St. Matthew. He read the verse, which was this:--
"For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth."
The next day, the 30th of October, all was ready for the proposed exploring
expedition, which recent events had rendered so necessary. In fact, things
had so come about that the settlers in Lincoln Island no longer needed help
for themselves, but were even able to carry it to others.
It was therefore agreed that they should ascend the Mercy as far as the
river was navigable. A great part of the distance would thus be traversed
without fatigue, and the explorers could transport their provisions and
arms to an advanced point in the west of the island.
It was necessary to think not only of the things which they should take
with them, but also of those which they might have by chance to bring back
to Granite House. If there had been a wreck on the coast, as was supposed,
there would be many things cast up, which would be lawfully their prizes.
In the event of this, the cart would have been of more use than the light
canoe, but it was heavy and clumsy to drag, and therefore more difficult to
use; this led Pencroft to express his regret that the chest had not
contained, besides "his halfpound of tobacco," a pair of strong New Jersey
horses, which would have been very useful to the colony!
The provisions, which Neb had already packed up, consisted of a store of
meat and of several gallons of beer, that is to say enough to sustain them
for three days, the time which Harding assigned for the expedition. They
hoped besides to supply themselves on the road, and Neb took care not to
forget the portable stove.
The only tools the settlers took were the two woodmen's axes, which they
could use to cut a path through the thick forests, as also the instruments,
the telescope and pocket-compass.
For weapons they selected the two flint-lock guns, which were likely to
be more useful to them than the percussion fowling-pieces, the first only
requiring flints which could be easily replaced, and the latter needing
fulminating caps, a frequent use of which would soon exhaust their limited
stock. However, they took also one of the carbines and some cartridges. As
to the powder, of which there was about fifty pounds in the barrel, a small
supply of it had to be taken, but the engineer hoped to manufacture an
explosive substance which would allow them to husband it. To the firearms
were added the five cutlasses well sheathed in leather, and, thus supplied,
the settlers could venture into the vast forest with some chance of
It is useless to add that Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb, thus armed, were at
the summit of their happiness, although Cyrus Harding made them promise not
to fire a shot unless it was necessary.
At six in the morning the canoe put off from the shore; all had embarked,
including Top, and they proceeded to the mouth of the Mercy.
The tide had begun to come up half an hour before. For several hours,
therefore, there would be a current, which it was well to profit by, for
later the ebb would make it difficult to ascend the river. The tide was
already strong, for in three days the moon would be full, and it was enough
to keep the boat in the center of the current, where it floated swiftly
along between the high banks without its being necessary to increase its
speed by the aid of the oars. In a few minutes the explorers arrived at the
angle formed by the Mercy and exactly at the place where, seven months
before, Pencroft had made his first raft of wood.
After this sudden angle the river widened and flowed under the shade of
great evergreen firs.
The aspect of the banks was magnificent. Cyrus Harding and his companions
could not but admire the lovely effects so easily produced by nature with
water and trees. As they advanced the forest element diminished. On the
right bank of the river grew magnificent specimens of the ulmaceae tribe,
the precious elm, so valuable to builders, and which withstands well the
action of water. Then there were numerous groups belonging to the same
family, among others one in particular, the fruit of which produces a very
useful oil. Further on, Herbert remarked the lardizabala, a twining shrub
which, when bruised in water, furnishes excellent cordage; and two or three
ebony trees of a beautiful black, crossed with capricious veins.
From time to time, in certain places where the landing was easy, the
canoe was stopped, when Gideon Spilett, Herbert, and Pencroft, their guns
in their hands, and preceded by Top, jumped on shore. Without expecting
game, some useful plant might be met with, and the young naturalist was
delighted with discovering a sort of wild spinach, belonging to the order
of chenopodiaceae, and numerous specimens of cruciferae, belonging to the
cabbage tribe, which it would certainly be possible to cultivate by
transplanting. There were cresses, horseradish, turnips, and lastly, little
branching hairy stalks, scarcely more than three feet high, which produced
Do you know what this plant is?" asked Herbert of the sailor.
"Tobacco!" cried Pencroft, who evidently had never seen his favorite
plant except in the bowl of his pipe.
"No, Pencroft," replied Herbert; "this is not tobacco, it is mustard."
"Mustard be hanged!" returned the sailor; "but if by chance you happen to
come across a tobacco-plant, my boy, pray don't scorn that!"
"We shall find it some day!" said Gideon Spilett.
"Well!" exclaimed Pencroft, "when that day comes, I do not know what more
will be wanting in our island!"
These different plants, which had been carefully rooted up, were carried
to the canoe, where Cyrus Harding had remained buried in thought.
The reporter, Herbert, and Pencroft in this manner frequently
disembarked, sometimes on the right bank, sometimes on the left bank of the
The latter was less abrupt, but the former more wooded. The engineer
ascertained by consulting his pocket-compass that the direction of the
river from the first turn was obviously southwest and northeast, and nearly
straight for a length of about three miles. But it was to be supposed that
this direction changed beyond that point, and that the Mercy continued to
the north-west, towards the spurs of Mount Franklin, among which the river
During one of these excursions, Gideon Spilett managed to get hold of two
couples of living gallinaceae. They were birds with long, thin beaks,
lengthened necks, short wings, and without any appearance of a tail.
Herbert rightly gave them the name of tinamous, and it was resolved that
they should be the first tenants of their future poultry-yard.
But till then the guns had not spoken, and the first report which awoke
the echoes of the forest of the Far West was provoked by the appearance of
a beautiful bird, resembling the kingfisher.
"I recognize him!" cried Pencroft, and it seemed as if his gun went off
"What do you recognize?" asked the reporter.
"The bird which escaped us on our first excursion, and from which we gave
the name to that part of the forest."
"A jacamar!" cried Herbert.
It was indeed a jacamar, of which the plumage shines with a metallic
luster. A shot brought it to the ground, and Top carried it to the canoe.
At the same time half a dozen lories were brought down. The lory is of the
size of a pigeon, the plumage dashed with green, part of the wings crimson,
and its crest bordered with white. To the young boy belonged the honor of
this shot, and he was proud enough of it. Lories are better food than the
jacamar, the flesh of which is rather tough, but it was difficult to
persuade Pencroft that he had not killed the king of eatable birds. It was
ten o'clock in the morning when the canoe reached a second angle of the
Mercy, nearly five miles from its mouth. Here a halt was made for breakfast
under the shade of some splendid trees. The river still measured from sixty
to seventy feet in breadth, and its bed from five to six feet in depth. The
engineer had observed that it was increased by numerous affluents, but they
were unnavigable, being simply little streams. As to the forest, including
Jacamar Wood, as well as the forests of the Far West, it extended as far as
the eye could reach. In no place, either in the depths of the forests or
under the trees on the banks of the Mercy, was the presence of man
revealed. The explorers could not discover one suspicious trace. It was
evident that the woodman's axe had never touched these trees, that the
pioneer's knife had never severed the creepers hanging from one trunk to
another in the midst of tangled brushwood and long grass. If castaways had
landed on the island, they could not have yet quitted the shore, and it was
not in the woods that the survivors of the supposed shipwreck should be
The engineer therefore manifested some impatience to reach the western
coast of Lincoln Island, which was at least five miles distant according to
The voyage was continued, and as the Mercy appeared to flow not towards
the shore, but rather towards Mount Franklin, it was decided that they
should use the boat as long as there was enough water under its keel to
float it. It was both fatigue spared and time gained, for they would have
been obliged to cut a path through the thick wood with their axes. But soon
the flow completely failed them, either the tide was going down, and it was
about the hour, or it could no longer be felt at this distance from the
mouth of the Mercy. They had therefore to make use of the oars. Herbert and
Neb each took one, and Pencroft took the scull. The forest soon became less
dense, the trees grew further apart and often quite isolated. But the
further they were from each other the more magnificent they appeared,
profiting, as they did, by the free, pure air which circulated around them.
What splendid specimens of the flora of this latitude! Certainly their
presence would have been enough for a botanist to name without hesitation
the parallel which traversed Lincoln Island.
"Eucalypti!" cried Herbert.
They were, in fact, those splendid trees, the giants of the extratropical
zone, the congeners of the Australian and New Zealand eucalyptus, both
situated under the same latitude as Lincoln Island. Some rose to a height
of two hundred feet. Their trunks at the base measured twenty feet in
circumference, and their bark was covered by a network of farrows
containing a red, sweet-smelling gum. Nothing is more wonderful or more
singular than those enormous specimens of the order of the myrtaceae, with
their leaves placed vertically and not horizontally, so that an edge and
not a surface looks upwards, the effect being that the sun's rays penetrate
more freely among the trees.
The ground at the foot of the eucalypti was carpeted with grass, and from
the bushes escaped flights of little birds, which glittered in the sunlight
like winged rubies.
"These are something like trees!" cried Neb; "but are they good for
"Pooh!" replied Pencroft. "Of course there are vegetable giants as well
as human giants, and they are no good, except to show themselves at fairs!"
"I think that you are mistaken, Pencroft," replied Gideon Spilett, "and
that the wood of the eucalyptus has begun to be very advantageously
employed in cabinet-making."
"And I may add," said Herbert, "that the eucalyptus belongs to a family
which comprises many useful members; the guava-tree, from whose fruit guava
jelly is made; the clove-tree, which produces the spice; the pomegranate-
tree, which bears pomegranates; the Eugeacia Cauliflora, the fruit of which
is used in making a tolerable wine; the Ugui myrtle, which contains an
excellent alcoholic liquor; the Caryophyllus myrtle, of which the bark
forms an esteemed cinnamon; the Eugenia Pimenta, from whence comes Jamaica
pepper; the common myrtle, from whose buds and berries spice is sometimes
made; the Eucalyptus manifera, which yields a sweet sort of manna; the
Guinea Eucalyptus, the sap of which is transformed into beer by
fermentation; in short, all those trees known under the name of gum-trees
or iron-bark trees in Australia, belong to this family of the myrtaceae,
which contains forty-six genera and thirteen hundred species!"
The lad was allowed to run on, and he delivered his little botanical
lecture with great animation. Cyrus Harding listened smiling, and Pencroft
with an indescribable feeling of pride.
"Very good, Herbert," replied Pencroft, "but I could swear that all those
useful specimens you have just told us about are none of them giants like
"That is true, Pencroft."
"That supports what I said," returned the sailor, "namely, that these
giants are good for nothing!"
"There you are wrong, Pencroft," said the engineer; "these gigantic
eucalypti, which shelter us, are good for something."
"And what is that?"
"To render the countries which they inhabit healthy. Do you know what
they are called in Australia and New Zealand?"
"They are called 'fever trees.'"
"Because they give fevers?"
"No, because they prevent them!"
"Good. I must note that," said the reporter.
"Note it then, my dear Spilett; for it appears proved that the presence
of the eucalyptus is enough to neutralize miasmas. This natural antidote
has been tried in certain countries in the middle of Europe and the north
of Africa where the soil was absolutely unhealthy, and the sanitary
condition of the inhabitants has been gradually ameliorated. No more
intermittent fevers prevail in the regions now covered with forests of the
myrtaceae. This fact is now beyond doubt, and it is a happy circumstance
for us settlers in Lincoln Island."
"Ah! what an island! What a blessed island!" cried Pencroft. "I tell you,
it wants nothing--unless it is--"
"That will come, Pencroft, that will be found," replied the engineer;
"but now we must continue our voyage and push on as far as the river will
carry our boat!"
The exploration was therefore continued for another two miles in the
midst of country covered with eucalypti, which predominated in the woods of
this portion of the island. The space which they occupied extended as far
as the eye could reach on each side of the Mercy, which wound along between
high green banks. The bed was often obstructed by long weeds, and even by
pointed rocks, which rendered the navigation very difficult. The action of
the oars was prevented, and Pencroft was obliged to push with a pole. They
found also that the water was becoming shallower and shallower, and that
the canoe must soon stop. The sun was already sinking towards the horizon,
and the trees threw long shadows on the ground. Cyrus Harding, seeing that
he could not hope to reach the western coast of the island in one journey,
resolved to camp at the place where any further navigation was prevented
by want of water. He calculated that they were still five or six miles from
the coast, and this distance was too great for them to attempt during the
night in the midst of unknown woods.
The boat was pushed on through the forest, which gradually became thicker
again, and appeared also to have more inhabitants; for if the eyes of the
sailor did not deceive him, he thought he saw bands of monkeys springing
among the trees. Sometimes even two or three of these animals stopped at a
little distance from the canoe and gazed at the settlers without
manifesting any terror, as if, seeing men for the first time, they had not
yet learned to fear them. It would have been easy to bring down one of
these quadramani with a gunshot, and Pencroft was greatly tempted to fire,
but Harding opposed so useless a massacre. This was prudent, for the
monkeys, or apes rather, appearing to be very powerful and extremely
active, it was useless to provoke an unnecessary aggression, and the
creatures might, ignorant of the power of the explorers' firearms, have
attacked them. It is true that the sailor considered the monkeys from a
purely alimentary point of view, for those animals which are herbivorous
make very excellent game; but since they had an abundant supply of
provisions, it was a pity to waste their ammunition.
Towards four o'clock, the navigation of the Mercy became exceedingly
difficult, for its course was obstructed by aquatic plants and rocks. The
banks rose higher and higher, and already they were approaching the spurs
of Mount Franklin. The source could not be far off, since it was fed by the
water from the southern slopes of the mountain.
"In a quarter of an hour," said the sailor, "we shall be obliged to stop,
"Very well, we will stop, Pencroft, and we will make our encampment for
"At what distance are we from Granite House?" asked Herbert.
"About seven miles," replied the engineer, "taking into calculation,
however, the detours of the river, which has carried us to the northwest."
"Shall we go on?" asked the reporter.
"Yes, as long as we can," replied Cyrus Harding. "To-morrow, at break of
day, we will leave the canoe, and in two hours I hope we shall cross the
distance which separates us from the coast, and then we shall have the
whole day in which to explore the shore."
"Go ahead!" replied Pencroft.
But soon the boat grated on the stony bottom of the river, which was now
not more than twenty feet in breadth. The trees met like a bower overhead,
and caused a half-darkness. They also heard the noise of a waterfall, which
showed that a few hundred feet up the river there was a natural barrier.
Presently, after a sudden turn of the river, a cascade appeared through
the trees. The canoe again touched the bottom, and in a few minutes it was
moored to a trunk near the right bank.
It was nearly five o'clock. The last rays of the sun gleamed through the
thick foliage and glanced on the little waterfall, making the spray sparkle
with all the colors of the rainbow. Beyond that, the Mercy was lost in the
bushwood, where it was fed from some hidden source. The different streams
which flowed into it increased it to a regular river further down, but here
it was simply a shallow, limpid brook.
It was agreed to camp here, as the place was charming. The
colonists disembarked, and a fire was soon lighted under a clump
of trees, among the branches of which Cyrus Harding and his
companions could, if it was necessary, take refuge for the night.
Supper was quickly devoured, for they were very hungry, and then there
was only sleeping to think of. But, as roarings of rather a suspicious
nature had been heard during the evening, a good fire was made up for the
night, so as to protect the sleepers with its crackling flames. Neb and
Pencroft also watched by turns, and did not spare fuel. They thought they
saw the dark forms of some wild animals prowling round the camp among the
bushes, but the night passed without incident, and the next day, the 31st
of October, at five o'clock in the morning, all were on foot, ready for a
It was six o' clock in the morning when the settlers, after a hasty
breakfast, set out to reach by the shortest way, the western coast of the
island. And how long would it take to do this? Cyrus Harding had said two
hours, but of course that depended on the nature of the obstacles they
might meet with As it was probable that they would have to cut a path
through the grass, shrubs, and creepers, they marched axe in hand, and with
guns also ready, wisely taking warning from the cries of the wild beasts
heard in the night.
The exact position of the encampment could be determined by the bearing
of Mount Franklin, and as the volcano arose in the north at a distance of
less than three miles, they had only to go straight towards the southwest
to reach the western coast. They set out, having first carefully secured
the canoe. Pencroft and Neb carried sufficient provision for the little
band for at least two days. It would not thus be necessary to hunt. The
engineer advised his companions to refrain from firing, that their presence
might not be betrayed to any one near the shore. The first hatchet blows
were given among the brushwood in the midst of some mastic-trees, a little
above the cascade; and his compass in his hand, Cyrus Harding led the way.
The forest here was composed for the most part of trees which had already
been met with near the lake and on Prospect Heights. There were deodars,
Douglas firs, casuarinas, gum trees, eucalypti, hibiscus, cedars, and other
trees, generally of a moderate size, for their number prevented their
Since their departure, the settlers had descended the slopes which
constituted the mountain system of the island, on to a dry soil, but the
luxuriant vegetation of which indicated it to be watered either by some
subterranean marsh or by some stream. However, Cyrus Harding did not
remember having seen, at the time of his excursion to the crater, any other
watercourses but the Red Creek and the Mercy.
During the first part of their excursion, they saw numerous troops of
monkeys who exhibited great astonishment at the sight of men, whose
appearance was so new to them. Gideon Spilett jokingly asked whether these
active and merry quadrupeds did not consider him and his companions as
And certainly, pedestrians, hindered at each step by bushes, caught by
creepers, barred by trunks of trees, did not shine beside those supple
animals, who, bounding from branch to branch, were hindered by nothing on
their course. The monkeys were numerous, but happily they did not manifest
any hostile disposition.
Several pigs, agoutis, kangaroos, and other rodents were seen, also two
or three koalas, at which Pencroft longed to have a shot.
"But," said he, "you may jump and play just now; we shall have one or two
words to say to you on our way back!"
At half-past nine the way was suddenly found to be barred by an unknown
stream, from thirty to forty feet broad, whose rapid current dashed foaming
over the numerous rocks which interrupted its course. This creek was deep
and clear, but it was absolutely unnavigable.
"We are cut off!" cried Neb.
"No," replied Herbert, "it is only a stream, and we can easily swim
"What would be the use of that?" returned Harding. "This creek evidently
runs to the sea. Let us remain on this side and follow the bank, and I
shall be much astonished if it does not lead us very quickly to the coast.
"One minute," said the reporter. "The name of this creek, my friends? Do
not let us leave our geography incomplete."
"All right!" said Pencroft.
"Name it, my boy," said the engineer, addressing the lad.
"Will it not be better to wait until we have explored it to its mouth?"
"Very well," replied Cyrus Harding. "Let us follow it as fast as we can
"Still another minute!" said Pencroft.
"What's the matter?" asked the reporter.
"Though hunting is forbidden, fishing is allowed, I suppose," said the
"We have no time to lose," replied the engineer.
"Oh! five minutes!" replied Pencroft, "I only ask for five minutes to use
in the interest of our breakfast!"
And Pencroft, lying down on the bank, plunged his arm into the water, and
soon pulled up several dozen of fine crayfish from among the stones.
"These will be good!" cried Neb, going to the sailor's aid.
"As I said, there is everything in this island, except tobacco!" muttered
Pencroft with a sigh.
The fishing did not take five minutes, for the crayfish were swarming in
the creek. A bag was filled with the crustaceae, whose shells were of a
cobalt blue. The settlers then pushed on.
They advanced more rapidly and easily along the bank of the river than in
the forest. From time to time they came upon the traces of animals of a
large size who had come to quench their thirst at the stream, but none were
actually seen, and it was evidently not in this part of the forest that the
peccary had received the bullet which had cost Pencroft a grinder.
In the meanwhile, considering the rapid current, Harding was led to
suppose that he and his companions were much farther from the western coast
than they had at first supposed. In fact, at this hour, the rising tide
would have turned back the current of the creek, if its mouth had only been
a few miles distant. Now, this effect was not produced, and the water
pursued its natural course. The engineer was much astonished at this, and
frequently consulted his compass, to assure himself that some turn of the
river was not leading them again into the Far West.
However, the creek gradually widened and its waters became less
tumultuous. The trees on the right bank were as close together as on the
left bank, and it was impossible to distinguish anything beyond them; but
these masses of wood were evidently uninhabited, for Top did not bark, and
the intelligent animal would not have failed to signal the presence of any
stranger in the neighborhood.
At half-past ten, to the great surprise of Cyrus Harding, Herbert, who
was a little in front, suddenly stopped and exclaimed,--
In a few minutes more, the whole western shore of the island lay extended
before the eyes of the settlers.
But what a contrast between this and the eastern coast, upon which chance
had first thrown them. No granite cliff, no rocks, not even a sandy beach.
The forest reached the shore, and the tall trees bending over the water
were beaten by the waves. It was not such a shore as is usually formed by
nature, either by extending a vast carpet of sand, or by grouping masses of
rock, but a beautiful border consisting of the most splendid trees. The
bank was raised a little above the level of the sea, and on this luxuriant
soil, supported by a granite base, the fine forest trees seemed to be as
firmly planted as in the interior of the island.
The colonists were then on the shore of an unimportant little harbor,
which would scarcely have contained even two or three fishing-boats. It
served as a neck to the new creek, of which the curious thing was that its
waters, instead of joining the sea by a gentle slope, fell from a height of
more than forty feet, which explained why the rising tide was not felt up
the stream. In fact, the tides of the Pacific, even at their maximum
elevation, could never reach the level of the river, and, doubtless,
millions of years would pass before the water would have worn away the
granite and hollowed a practicable mouth.
It was settled that the name of Falls River should be given to this
stream. Beyond, towards the north, the forest border was prolonged for a
space of nearly two miles; then the trees became scarcer, and beyond that
again the picturesque heights described a nearly straight line, which ran
north and south. On the contrary, all the part of the shore between Falls
River and Reptile End was a mass of wood, magnificent trees, some straight,
others bent, so that the long sea-swell bathed their roots. Now, it was
this coast, that is, all the Serpentine Peninsula, that was to be explored,
for this part of the shore offered a refuge to castaways, which the other
wild and barren side must have refused.
The weather was fine and clear, and from a height of a hillock on which
Neb and Pencroft had arranged breakfast, a wide view was obtained. There
was, however, not a sail in sight; nothing could be seen along the shore as
far as the eye could reach. But the engineer would take nothing for granted
until he had explored the coast to the very extremity of the Serpentine
Breakfast was soon despatched, and at half-past eleven the captain gave
the signal for departure. Instead of proceeding over the summit of a cliff
or along a sandy beach, the settlers were obliged to remain under cover of
the trees so that they might continue on the shore.
The distance which separated Falls River from Reptile End was about
twelve miles. It would have taken the settlers four hours to do this, on a
clear ground and without hurrying themselves; but as it was they needed
double the time, for what with trees to go round, bushes to cut down, and
creepers to chop away, they were impeded at every step, these obstacles
greatly lengthening their journey.
There was, however, nothing to show that a shipwreck had taken place
recently. It is true that, as Gideon Spilett observed, any remains of it
might have drifted out to sea, and they must not take it for granted that
because they could find no traces of it, a ship had not been castaway on
The reporter's argument was just, and besides, the incident of the bullet
proved that a shot must have been fired in Lincoln Island within three
It was already five o'clock, and there were still two miles between the
settlers and the extremity of the Serpentine Peninsula. It was evident that
after having reached Reptile End, Harding and his companions would not have
time to return before dark to their encampment near the source of the
Mercy. It would therefore be necessary to pass the night on the promontory.
But they had no lack of provisions, which was lucky, for there were no
animals on the shore, though birds, on the contrary, abound--jacamars,
couroucous, tragopans, grouse, lories, parrots, cockatoos, pheasants,
pigeons, and a hundred others. There was not a tree without a nest, and not
a nest which was not full of flapping wings.
Towards seven o'clock the weary explorers arrived at Reptile End. Here
the seaside forest ended, and the shore resumed the customary appearance of
a coast, with rocks, reefs, and sands. It was possible that something might
be found here, but darkness came on, and the further exploration had to be
put off to the next day.
Pencroft and Herbert hastened on to find a suitable place for their camp.
Among the last trees of the forest of the Far West, the boy found several
thick clumps of bamboos.
"Good," said he; "this is a valuable discovery."
"Valuable?" returned Pencroft.
"Certainly," replied Herbert. "I may say, Pencroft, that the bark of the
bamboo, cut into flexible laths, is used for making baskets; that this
bark, mashed into a paste, is used for the manufacture of Chinese paper;
that the stalks furnish, according to their size, canes and pipes and are
used for conducting water; that large bamboos make excellent material for
building, being light and strong, and being never attacked by insects. I
will add that by sawing the bamboo in two at the joint, keeping for the
bottom the part of the transverse film which forms the joint, useful cups
are obtained, which are much in use among the Chinese. No! you don't care
for that. But--"
"But I can tell you, if you are ignorant of it, that in India these
bamboos are eaten like asparagus."
"Asparagus thirty feet high!" exclaimed the sailor. "And are they good?"
"Excellent," replied Herbert. "Only it is not the stems of thirty feet
high which are eaten, but the young shoots."
"Perfect, my boy, perfect!" replied Pencroft.
"I will also add that the pith of the young stalks, preserved in vinegar,
makes a good pickle."
"Better and better, Herbert!"
"And lastly, that the bamboos exude a sweet liquor which can be made
into a very agreeable drink."
"Is that all?" asked the sailor.
"That is all!"
"And they don't happen to do for smoking?"
"No, my poor Pencroft."
Herbert and the sailor had not to look long for a place in which to pass
the night. The rocks, which must have been violently beaten by the sea
under the influence of the winds of the southwest, presented many cavities
in which shelter could be found against the night air. But just as they
were about to enter one of these caves a loud roaring arrested them.
"Back!" cried Pencroft. "Our guns are only loaded with small shot, and
beasts which can roar as loud as that would care no more for it than for
grains of salt!" And the sailor, seizing Herbert by the arm, dragged him
behind a rock, just as a magnificent animal showed itself at the entrance
of the cavern.
It was a jaguar of a size at least equal to its Asiatic congeners, that
is to say, it measured five feet from the extremity of its head to the
beginning of its tail. The yellow color of its hair was relieved by streaks
and regular oblong spots of black, which contrasted with the white of its
chest. Herbert recognized it as the ferocious rival of the tiger, as
formidable as the puma, which is the rival of the largest wolf!
The jaguar advanced and gazed around him with blazing eyes, his hair
bristling as if this was not the first time he had scented men.
At this moment the reporter appeared round a rock, and Herbert, thinking
that he had not seen the jaguar, was about to rush towards him, when Gideon
Spilett signed to him to remain where he was. This was not his first tiger,
and advancing to within ten feet of the animal he remained motionless, his
gun to his shoulder, without moving a muscle. The jaguar collected itself
for a spring, but at that moment a shot struck it in the eyes, and it fell
Herbert and Pencroft rushed towards the jaguar. Neb and Harding also ran
up, and they remained for some instants contemplating the animal as it lay
stretched on the ground, thinking that its magnificent skin would be a
great ornament to the hall at Granite House.
"Oh, Mr. Spilett, how I admire and envy you!" cried Herbert, in a fit of
very natural enthusiasm.
"Well, my boy," replied the reporter, "you could have done the same."
"I! with such coolness!--"
"Imagine to yourself, Herbert, that the jaguar is only a hare, and you
would fire as quietly as possible."
"That is," rejoined Pencroft, "that it is not more dangerous than a
"And now," said Gideon Spilett, "since the jaguar has left its abode, I
do not see, my friends, why we should not take possession of it for the
"But others may come," said Pencroft.
"It will be enough to light a fire at the entrance of the cavern," said
the reporter, "and no wild beasts will dare to cross the threshold."
"Into the jaguar's house, then!" replied the sailor, dragging after him
the body of the animal.
While Neb skinned the jaguar, his companions collected an abundant supply
of dry wood from the forest, which they heaped up at the cave.
Cyrus Harding, seeing the clump of bamboos, cut a quantity, which he
mingled with the other fuel.
This done, they entered the grotto, of which the floor was strewn with
bones, the guns were carefully loaded, in case of a sudden attack, they had
supper, and then just before they lay down to rest, the heap of wood piled
at the entrance was set fire to. Immediately, a regular explosion, or
rather a series of reports, broke the silence! The noise was caused by the
bamboos, which, as the flames reached them, exploded like fireworks. The
noise was enough to terrify even the boldest of wild beasts.
It was not the engineer who had invented this way of causing loud
explosions, for, according to Marco Polo, the Tartars have employed it for
many centuries to drive away from their encampments the formidable wild
beasts of Central Asia.
Cyrus Harding and his companions slept like innocent marmots in the cave
which the jaguar had so politely left at their disposal.
At sunrise all were on the shore at the extremity of the promontory, and
their gaze was directed towards the horizon, of which two-thirds of the
circumference were visible. For the last time the engineer could ascertain
that not a sail nor the wreck of a ship was on the sea, and even with the
telescope nothing suspicious could be discovered.
There was nothing either on the shore, at least, in the straight line of
three miles which formed the south side of the promontory, for beyond that,
rising ground had the rest of the coast, and even from the extremity of the
Serpentine Peninsula Claw Cape could not be seen.
The southern coast of the island still remained to be explored. Now
should they undertake it immediately, and devote this day to it?
This was not included in their first plan. In fact, when the boat was
abandoned at the sources of the Mercy, it had been agreed that after having
surveyed the west coast, they should go back to it, and return to Granite
House by the Mercy. Harding then thought that the western coast would have
offered refuge, either to a ship in distress, or to a vessel in her regular
course; but now, as he saw that this coast presented no good anchorage, he
wished to seek on the south what they had not been able to find on the
Gideon Spilett proposed to continue the exploration, that the question of
the supposed wreck might be completely settled, and he asked at what
distance Claw Cape might be from the extremity of the peninsula.
"About thirty miles," replied the engineer, "if we take into
consideration the curvings of the coast."
"Thirty miles!" returned Spilett. "That would be a long day's march.
Nevertheless, I think that we should return to Granite House by the south
"But," observed Herbert, "from Claw Cape to Granite House there must be
at least another ten miles.
"Make it forty miles in all," replied the engineer, "and do not hesitate
to do it. At least we should survey the unknown shore, and then we shall
not have to begin the exploration again."
"Very good," said Pencroft. "But the boat?"
"The boat has remained by itself for one day at the sources of the
Mercy," replied Gideon Spilett; "it may just as well stay there two days!
As yet, we have had no reason to think that the island is infested by
"Yet," said the sailor, "when I remember the history of the turtle, I am
far from confident of that."
"The turtle! the turtle!" replied the reporter. "Don't you know that the
sea turned it over?"
"Who knows?" murmured the engineer.
"But,--" said Neb.
Neb had evidently something to say, for he opened his mouth to speak and
yet said nothing.
"What do you want to say, Neb?" asked the engineer.
"If we return by the shore to Claw Cape," replied Neb, "after having
doubled the Cape, we shall be stopped--"
"By the Mercy! of course," replied Herbert, "and we shall have neither
bridge nor boat by which to cross."
"But, captain," added Pencroft, "with a few floating trunks we shall have
no difficulty in crossing the river."
"Never mind," said Spilett, "it will be useful to construct a bridge if we
wish to have an easy access to the Far West!"
"A bridge!" cried Pencroft. "Well, is not the captain the best engineer
in his profession? He will make us a bridge when we want one. As to
transporting you this evening to the other side of the Mercy, and that
without wetting one thread of your clothes, I will take care of that. We
have provisions for another day, and besides we can get plenty of game.
The reporter's proposal, so strongly seconded by the sailor, received
general approbation, for each wished to have their doubts set at rest, and
by returning by Claw Cape the exploration would he ended. But there was not
an hour to lose, for forty miles was a long march, and they could not hope
to reach Granite House before night.
At six o'clock in the morning the little band set out. As a precaution
the guns were loaded with ball, and Top, who led the van, received orders
to beat about the edge of the forest.
From the extremity of the promontory which formed the tail of the
peninsula the coast was rounded for a distance of five miles, which was
rapidly passed over, without even the most minute investigations bringing
to light the least trace of any old or recent landings; no debris, no mark
of an encampment, no cinders of a fire, nor even a footprint!
From the point of the peninsula on which the settlers now were their gaze
could extend along the southwest. Twenty-five miles off the coast
terminated in the Claw Cape, which loomed dimly through the morning mists,
and which, by the phenomenon of the mirage, appeared as if suspended
between land and water.
Between the place occupied by the colonists and the other side of the
immense bay, the shore was composed, first, of a tract of low land,
bordered in the background by trees; then the shore became more irregular,
projecting sharp points into the sea, and finally ended in the black rocks
which, accumulated in picturesque disorder, formed Claw Cape.
Such was the development of this part of the island, which the settlers
took in at a glance, while stopping for an instant.
"If a vessel ran in here," said Pencroft, "she would certainly be lost.
Sandbanks and reefs everywhere! Bad quarters!"
"But at least something would be left of the ship," observed the
"There might be pieces of wood on the rocks, but nothing on the sands,"
replied the sailor.
"Because the sands are still more dangerous than the rocks, for they
swallow up everything that is thrown on them. In a few days the hull of a
ship of several hundred tons would disappear entirely in there!"
"So, Pencroft," asked the engineer, "if a ship has been wrecked on these
banks, is it not astonishing that there is now no trace of her remaining?"
"No, captain, with the aid of time and tempest. However, it would be
surprising, even in this case, that some of the masts or spars should not
have been thrown on the beach, out of reach of the waves."
"Let us go on with our search, then," returned Cyrus Harding.
At one o'clock the colonists arrived at the other side of Washington Bay,
they having now gone a distance of twenty miles.
They then halted for breakfast.
Here began the irregular coast, covered with lines of rocks and
sandbanks. The long sea-swell could be seen breaking over the rocks in the
bay, forming a foamy fringe. From this point to Claw Cape the beach was
very narrow between the edge of the forest and the reefs.
Walking was now more difficult, on account of the numerous rocks which
encumbered the beach. The granite cliff also gradually increased in height,
and only the green tops of the trees which crowned it could be seen.
After half an hour's rest, the settlers resumed their journey, and not a
spot among the rocks was left unexamined. Pencroft and Neb even rushed into
the surf whenever any object attracted their attention. But they found
nothing, some curious formations of the rocks having deceived them. They
ascertained, however, that eatable shellfish abounded there, but these
could not be of any great advantage to them until some easy means of
communication had been established between the two banks of the Mercy, and
until the means of transport had been perfected.
Nothing therefore which threw any light on the supposed wreck could be
found on this shore, yet an object of any importance, such as the hull of a
ship, would have been seen directly, or any of her masts and spans would
have been washed on shore, just as the chest had been, which was found
twenty miles from here. But there was nothing.
Towards three o'clock Harding and his companions arrived at a snug little
creek. It formed quite a natural harbor, invisible from the sea, and was
entered by a narrow channel.
At the back of this creek some violent convulsion had torn up the rocky
border, and a cutting, by a gentle slope, gave access to an upper plateau,
which might be situated at least ten miles from Claw Cape, and consequently
four miles in a straight line from Prospect Heights. Gideon Spilett
proposed to his companions that they should make a halt here. They agreed
readily, for their walk had sharpened their appetites; and although it was
not their usual dinner-hour, no one refused to strengthen himself with a
piece of venison. This luncheon would sustain them until their supper,
which they intended to take at Granite House. In a few minutes the
settlers, seated under a clump of fine sea-pines, were devouring the
provisions which Neb produced from his bag.
This spot was raised from fifty to sixty feet above the level of the sea.
The view was very extensive, but beyond the cape it ended in Union Bay.
Neither the islet nor Prospect Heights was visible, and could not be from
thence, for the rising ground and the curtain of trees closed the northern
It is useless to add that notwithstanding the wide extent of sea which
the explorers could survey, and though the engineer swept the horizon with
his glass, no vessel could be found.
The shore was of course examined with the same care from the edge of the
water to the cliff, and nothing could be discovered even with the aid of
"Well," said Gideon Spilett, "it seems we must make up our minds to
console ourselves with thinking that no one will come to dispute with us
the possession of Lincoln Island!"
"But the bullet," cried Herbert. "That was not imaginary, I suppose!"
"Hang it, no!" exclaimed Pencroft, thinking of his absent tooth.
"Then what conclusion may be drawn?" asked the reporter.
"This," replied the engineer, "that three months or more ago, a vessel,
either voluntarily or not, came here."
"What! then you admit, Cyrus, that she was swallowed up without leaving
any trace?" cried the reporter.
"No, my dear Spilett; but you see that if it is certain that a human
being set foot on the island, it appears no less certain that he has now
"Then, if I understand you right, captain," said Herbert, "the vessel has
"And we have lost an opportunity to get back to our country?" said Neb.
"I fear so."
"Very well, since the opportunity is lost, let us go on; it can't be
helped," said Pencroft, who felt home-sickness for Granite House.
But just as they were rising, Top was heard loudly barking; and the dog
issued from the wood, holding in his mouth a rag soiled with mud.
Neb seized it. It was a piece of strong cloth!
Top still barked, and by his going and coming, seemed to invite his
master to follow him into the forest.
"Now there's something to explain the bullet!" exclaimed Pencroft.
"A castaway!" replied Herbert.
"Wounded, perhaps!" said Neb.
"Or dead!" added the reporter.
All ran after the dog, among the tall pines on the border of the forest.
Harding and his companions made ready their firearms, in case of an
They advanced some way into the wood, but to their great disappointment,
they as yet saw no signs of any human being having passed that way. Shrubs
and creepers were uninjured, and they had even to cut them away with the
axe, as they had done in the deepest recesses of the forest. It was
difficult to fancy that any human creature had ever passed there, but yet
Top went backward and forward, not like a dog who searches at random, but
like a dog being endowed with a mind, who is following up an idea.
In about seven or eight minutes Top stopped in a glade surrounded with
tall trees. The settlers gazed around them, but saw nothing, neither under
the bushes nor among the trees.
"What is the matter, Top?" said Cyrus Harding.
Top barked louder, bounding about at the foot of a gigantic pine. All at
once Pencroft shouted,--"Ho, splendid! capital!"
"What is it?" asked Spilett.
"We have been looking for a wreck at sea or on land!"
"Well; and here we've found one in the air!"
And the sailor pointed to a great white rag, caught in the top of the
pine, a fallen scrap of which the dog had brought to them.
"But that is not a wreck!" cried Gideon Spilett.
"I beg your pardon!" returned Pencroft.
"Why? is it--?"
"It is all that remains of our airy boat, of our balloon, which has been
caught up aloft there, at the top of that tree!"
Pencroft was not mistaken, and he gave vent to his feelings in a
tremendous hurrah, adding,--
"There is good cloth! There is what will furnish us with linen for years.
There is what will make us handkerchiefs and shirts! Ha, ha, Mr. Spilett,
what do you say to an island where shirts grow on the trees?"
It was certainly a lucky circumstance for the settlers in Lincoln Island
that the balloon, after having made its last bound into the air, had fallen
on the island and thus given them the opportunity of finding it again,
whether they kept the case under its present form, or whether they wished
to attempt another escape by it, or whether they usefully employed the
several hundred yards of cotton, which was of fine quality. Pencroft's joy
was therefore shared by all.
But it was necessary to bring down the remains of the balloon from the
tree, to place it in security, and this was no slight task. Neb, Herbert,
and the sailor, climbing to the summit of the tree, used all their skill to
disengage the now reduced balloon.
The operation lasted two hours, and then not only the case, with its
valve, its springs, its brasswork, lay on the ground, but the net, that is
to say a considerable quantity of ropes and cordage, and the circle and the
anchor. The case, except for the fracture, was in good condition, only the
lower portion being torn.
It was a fortune which had fallen from the sky.
"All the same, captain," said the sailor, "if we ever decide to leave the
island, it won't be in a balloon, will it? These airboats won't go where we
want them to go, and we have had some experience in that way! Look here, we
will build a craft of some twenty tons, and then we can make a main-sail, a
foresail, and a jib out of that cloth. As to the rest of it, that will help
to dress us."
"We shall see, Pencroft," replied Cyrus Harding; "we shall see."
"In the meantime, we must put it in a safe place," said Neb.
They certainly could not think of carrying this load of cloth, ropes, and
cordage, to Granite House, for the weight of it was very considerable, and
while waiting for a suitable vehicle in which to convey it, it was of
importance that this treasure should not be left longer exposed to the
mercies of the first storm. The settlers, uniting their efforts, managed to
drag it as far as the shore, where they discovered a large rocky cavity,
which owing to its position could not be visited either by the wind or
"We needed a locker, and now we have one," said Pencroft; "but as we
cannot lock it up, it will be prudent to hide the opening. I don't mean
from two-legged thieves, but from those with four paws!"
At six o'clock, all was stowed away, and after having given the creek the
very suitable name of "Port Balloon," the settlers pursued their way along
Claw Cape. Pencroft and the engineer talked of the different projects which
it was agreed to put into execution with the briefest possible delay. It
was necessary first of all to throw a bridge over the Mercy, so as to
establish an easy communication with the south of the island; then the cart
must be taken to bring back the balloon, for the canoe alone could not
carry it, then they would build a decked boat, and Pencroft would rig it as
a cutter, and they would be able to undertake voyages of circumnavigation
round the island, etc.
In the meanwhile night came on, and it was already dark when the settlers
reached Flotsam Point, where they had found the precious chest.
The distance between Flotsam Point and Granite House was another four
miles, and it was midnight when, after having followed the shore to the
mouth of the Mercy, the settlers arrived at the first angle formed by the
There the river was eighty feet in breadth, which was awkward to cross,
but as Pencroft had taken upon himself to conquer this difficulty, he was
compelled to do it. The settlers certainly had reason to be pretty tired.
The journey had been long, and the task of getting down the balloon had not
rested either their arms or legs. They were anxious to reach Granite House
to eat and sleep, and if the bridge had been constructed, in a quarter of
an hour they would have been at home.
The night was very dark. Pencroft prepared to keep his promise by
constructing a sort of raft, on which to make the passage of the Mercy. He
and Neb, armed with axes, chose two trees near the water, and began to
attack them at the base.
Cyrus Harding and Spilett, seated on the bank, waited till their
companions were ready for their help, while Herbert roamed about, though
without going to any distance. All at once, the lad, who had strolled by
the river, came running back, and, pointing up the Mercy, exclaimed,--
"What is floating there?"
Pencroft stopped working, and seeing an indistinct object moving through
"A canoe!" cried he.
All approached, and saw to their extreme surprise, a boat floating down
"Boat ahoy!" shouted the sailor, without thinking that perhaps it would
be best to keep silence.
No reply. The boat still drifted onward, and it was not more than twelve
feet off, when the sailor exclaimed,--
"But it is our own boat! she has broken her moorings, and floated down
the current. I must say she has arrived very opportunely."
"Our boat?" murmured the engineer.
Pencroft was right. It was indeed the canoe, of which the rope had
undoubtedly broken, and which had come alone from the sources of the Mercy.
It was very important to seize it before the rapid current should have
swept it away out of the mouth of the river, but Neb and Pencroft cleverly
managed this by means of a long pole.
The canoe touched the shore. The engineer leaped in first, and found, on
examining the rope, that it had been really worn through by rubbing against
"Well," said the reporter to him, in a low voice, "this is a strange
"Strange indeed!" returned Cyrus Harding.
Strange or not, it was very fortunate. Herbert, the reporter, Neb, and
Pencroft, embarked in turn. There was no doubt about the rope having been
worn through, but the astonishing part of the affair was, that the boat
should arrive just at the moment when the settlers were there to seize it
on its way, for a quarter of an hour earlier or later it would have been
lost in the sea.
If they had been living in the time of genii, this incident would have
given them the right to think that the island was haunted by some
supernatural being, who used his power in the service of the castaways!
A few strokes of the oar brought the settlers to the mouth of the Mercy.
The canoe was hauled up on the beach near the Chimneys, and all proceeded
towards the ladder of Granite House.
But at that moment, Top barked angrily, and Neb, who was looking for the
first steps, uttered a cry.
There was no longer a ladder!
Cyrus Harding stood still, without saying a word. His companions searched
in the darkness on the wall, in case the wind should have moved the ladder,
and on the ground, thinking that it might have fallen down.... But the
ladder had quite disappeared. As to ascertaining if a squall had blown it
on the landing-place, half way up, that was impossible in the dark.
"If it is a joke," cried Pencroft, "it is a very stupid one! To come home
and find no staircase to go up to your room by--that's nothing for weary
men to laugh at."
Neb could do nothing but cry out "Oh! oh! oh!"
"I begin to think that very curious things happen in Lincoln Island!"
"Curious?" replied Gideon Spilett, "not at all, Pencroft, nothing can be
more natural. Some one has come during our absence, taken possession of our
dwelling and drawn up the ladder."
"Some one," cried the sailor. "But who?"
"Who but the hunter who fired the bullet?" replied the reporter.
"Well, if there is any one up there," replied Pencroft, who began to lose
patience, "I will give them a hail, and they must answer."
And in a stentorian voice the sailor gave a prolonged "Halloo!" which was
echoed again and again from the cliff and rocks.
The settlers listened and they thought they heard a sort of chuckling
laugh, of which they could not guess the origin. But no voice replied to
Pencroft, who in vain repeated his vigorous shouts.
There was something indeed in this to astonish the most apathetic of men,
and the settlers were not men of that description. In their situation every
incident had its importance, and, certainly, during the seven months which
they had spent on the island, they had not before met with anything of so
surprising a character.
Be that as it may, forgetting their fatigue in the singularity of the
event, they remained below Granite House, not knowing what to think, not
knowing what to do, questioning each other without any hope of a
satisfactory reply, every one starting some supposition each more unlikely
than the last. Neb bewailed himself, much disappointed at not being able to
get into his kitchen, for the provisions which they had had on their
expedition were exhausted, and they had no means of renewing them.
"My friends," at last said Cyrus Harding, "there is only one thing to be
done at present; wait for day, and then act according to circumstances. But
let us go to the Chimneys. There we shall be under shelter, and if we
cannot eat, we can at least sleep."
"But who is it that has played us this cool trick?" again asked Pencroft,
unable to make up his mind to retire from the spot.
Whoever it was, the only thing practicable was to do as the engineer
proposed, to go to the Chimneys and there wait for day. In the meanwhile
Top was ordered to mount guard below the windows of Granite House, and when
Top received an order he obeyed it without any questioning. The brave dog
therefore remained at the foot of the cliff while his master with his
companions sought a refuge among the rocks.
To say that the settlers, notwithstanding their fatigue, slept well on
the sandy floor of the Chimneys would not be true. It was not only that
they were extremely anxious to find out the cause of what had happened,
whether it was the result of an accident which would be discovered at the
return of day, or whether on the contrary it was the work of a human being;
but they also had very uncomfortable beds. That could not be helped,
however, for in some way or other at that moment their dwelling was
occupied, and they could not possibly enter it.
Now Granite House was more than their dwelling, it was their warehouse.
There were all the stores belonging to the colony, weapons, instruments,
tools, ammunition, provisions, etc. To think that all that might be
pillaged and that the settlers would have all their work to do over again,
fresh weapons and tools to make, was a serious matter. Their uneasiness led
one or other of them also to go out every few minutes to see if Top was
keeping good watch. Cyrus Harding alone waited with his habitual patience,
although his strong mind was exasperated at being confronted with such an
inexplicable fact, and he was provoked at himself for allowing a feeling to
which he could not give a name, to gain an influence over him. Gideon
Spilett shared his feelings in this respect, and the two conversed together
in whispers of the inexplicable circumstance which baffled even their
intelligence and experience.
"It is a joke," said Pencroft; "it is a trick some one has played us.
Well, I don't like such jokes, and the joker had better look out for
himself, if he falls into my hands, I can tell him."
As soon as the first gleam of light appeared in the east, the colonists,
suitably armed, repaired to the beach under Granite House. The rising sun
now shone on the cliff and they could see the windows, the shutters of
which were closed, through the curtains of foliage.
All here was in order; but a cry escaped the colonists when they saw that
the door, which they had closed on their departure, was now wide open.
Some one had entered Granite House--there could be no more doubt about
The upper ladder, which generally hung from the door to the landing, was
in its place, but the lower ladder was drawn up and raised to the
threshold. It was evident that the intruders had wished to guard themselves
against a surprise.
Pencroft hailed again.
"The beggars," exclaimed the sailor. "There they are sleeping quietly as
if they were in their own house. Hallo there, you pirates, brigands,
robbers, sons of John Bull!"
When Pencroft, being a Yankee, treated any one to the epithet of "son of
John Bull," he considered he had reached the last limits of insult.
The sun had now completely risen, and the whole facade of Granite House
became illuminated by its rays; but in the interior as well as on the
exterior all was quiet and calm.
The settlers asked if Granite House was inhabited or not, and yet the
position of the ladder was sufficient to show that it was; it was also
certain that the inhabitants, whoever they might be, had not been able to
escape. But how were they to be got at?
Herbert then thought of fastening a cord to an arrow, and shooting the
arrow so that it should pass between the first rounds of the ladder which
hung from the threshold. By means of the cord they would then be able to
draw down the ladder to the ground, and so re-establish the communication
between the beach and Granite House. There was evidently nothing else to be
done, and, with a little skill, this method might succeed. Very fortunately
bows and arrows had been left at the Chimneys, where they also found a
quantity of light hibiscus cord. Pencroft fastened this to a well-feathered
arrow. Then Herbert fixing it to his bow, took a careful aim for the lower
part of the ladder.
Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Pencroft, and Neb drew back, so as to see
if anything appeared at the windows. The reporter lifted his gun to his
shoulder and covered the door.
The bow was bent, the arrow flew, taking the cord with it, and passed
between the two last rounds.
The operation had succeeded.
Herbert immediately seized the end of the cord, but, at that moment when
he gave it a pull to bring down the ladder, an arm, thrust suddenly out
between the wall and the door, grasped it and dragged it inside Granite
"The rascals!" shouted the sailor. "If a ball can do anything for you,
you shall not have long to wait for it.
"But who was it?" asked Neb.
"Who was it? Didn't you see?"
"It was a monkey, a sapajou, an orangoutang, a baboon, a gorilla, a
sagoin. Our dwelling has been invaded by monkeys, who climbed up the ladder
during our absence."
And, at this moment, as if to bear witness to the truth of the sailor's
words, two or three quadrumana showed themselves at the windows, from which
they had pushed back the shutters, and saluted the real proprietors of the
place with a thousand hideous grimaces.
"I knew that it was only a joke," cried Pencroft; "but one of the jokers
shall pay the penalty for the rest."
So saying, the sailor, raising his piece, took a rapid aim at one of the
monkeys and fired. All disappeared, except one who fell mortally wounded on
the beach. This monkey, which was of a large size, evidently belonged to
the first order of the quadrumana. Whether this was a chimpanzee, an
orangoutang, or a gorilla, he took rank among the anthropoid apes, who are
so called from their resemblance to the human race. However, Herbert
declared it to be an orangoutang.
"What a magnificent beast!" cried Neb.
"Magnificent, if you like," replied Pencroft; "but still I do not see how
we are to get into our house."
"Herbert is a good marksman," said the reporter, "and his bow is here. He
can try again."
"Why, these apes are so cunning," returned Pencroft; "they won't show
themselves again at the windows and so we can't kill them; and when I think
of the mischief they may do in the rooms and storehouse--"
"Have patience," replied Harding; "these creatures cannot keep us long at
"I shall not be sure of that till I see them down here," replied the
sailor. "And now, captain, do you know how many dozens of these fellows are
It was difficult to reply to Pencroft, and as for the young boy making
another attempt, that was not easy; for the lower part of the ladder had
been drawn again into the door, and when another pull was given, the line
broke and the ladder remained firm. The case was really perplexing.
Pencroft stormed. There was a comic side to the situation, but he did not
think it funny at all. It was certain that the settlers would end by
reinstating themselves in their domicile and driving out the intruders, but
when and how? this is what they were not able to say.
Two hours passed, during which the apes took care not to show themselves,
but they were still there, and three or four times a nose or a paw was
poked out at the door or windows, and was immediately saluted by a gun-
"Let us hide ourselves," at last said the engineer. "Perhaps the apes
will think we have gone quite away and will show themselves again. Let
Spilett and Herbert conceal themselves behind those rocks and fire on all
that may appear."
The engineer's orders were obeyed, and while the reporter and the lad,
the best marksmen in the colony, posted themselves in a good position, but
out of the monkeys' sight, Neb, Pencroft, and Cyrus climbed the plateau and
entered the forest in order to kill some game, for it was now time for
breakfast and they had no provisions remaining.
In half an hour the hunters returned with a few rock pigeons, which they
roasted as well as they could. Not an ape had appeared. Gideon Spilett and
Herbert went to take their share of the breakfast, leaving Top to watch
under the windows. They then, having eaten, returned to their post.
Two hours later, their situation was in no degree improved. The
quadrumana gave no sign of existence, and it might have been supposed that
they had disappeared; but what seemed more probable was that, terrified by
the death of one of their companions, and frightened by the noise of the
firearms, they had retreated to the back part of the house or probably even
into the store-room. And when they thought of the valuables which this
storeroom contained, the patience so much recommended by the engineer, fast
changed into great irritation, and there certainly was room for it.
"Decidedly it is too bad," said the reporter; "and the worst of it is,
there is no way of putting an end to it."
"But we must drive these vagabonds out somehow," cried the sailor. "We
could soon get the better of them, even if there are twenty of the rascals;
but for that, we must meet them hand to hand. Come now, is there no way of
getting at them?"
"Let us try to enter Granite House by the old opening at the lake,"
replied the engineer.
"Oh!" shouted the sailor, "and I never thought of that."
This was in reality the only way by which to penetrate into Granite House
so as to fight with and drive out the intruders. The opening was, it is
true, closed up with a wall of cemented stones, which it would be necessary
to sacrifice, but that could easily be rebuilt. Fortunately, Cyrus Harding
had not as yet effected his project of hiding this opening by raising the
waters of the lake, for the operation would then have taken some time.
It was already past twelve o'clock, when the colonists, well armed and
provided with picks and spades, left the Chimneys, passed beneath the
windows of Granite House, after telling Top to remain at his post, and
began to ascend the left bank of the Mercy, so as to reach Prospect
But they had not made fifty steps in this direction, when they heard the
dog barking furiously.
And all rushed down the bank again.
Arrived at the turning, they saw that the situation had changed.
In fact, the apes, seized with a sudden panic, from some unknown cause,
were trying to escape. Two or three ran and clambered from one window to
another with the agility of acrobats. They were not even trying to replace
the ladder, by which it would have been easy to descend; perhaps in their
terror they had forgotten this way of escape. The colonists, now being able
to take aim without difficulty, fired. Some, wounded or killed, fell back
into the rooms, uttering piercing cries. The rest, throwing themselves out,
were dashed to pieces in their fall, and in a few minutes, so far as they
knew, there was not a living quadrumana in Granite House.
At this moment the ladder was seen to slip over the threshold, then
unroll and fall to the ground.
"Hullo!" cried the sailor, "this is queer!"
"Very strange!" murmured the engineer, leaping first up the ladder.
"Take care, captain!" cried Pencroft, "perhaps there are still some of
"We shall soon see," replied the engineer, without stopping however.
All his companions followed him, and in a minute they had arrived at the
threshold. They searched everywhere. There was no one in the rooms nor in
the storehouse, which had been respected by the band of quadrumana.
"Well now, and the ladder," cried the sailor; "who can the gentleman have
been who sent us that down?"
But at that moment a cry was heard, and a great orang, who had hidden
himself in the passage, rushed into the room, pursued by Neb.
"Ah, the robber!" cried Pencroft.
And hatchet in hand, he was about to cleave the head of the animal, when
Cyrus Harding seized his arm, saying,--
"Spare him, Pencroft."
"Pardon this rascal?"
"Yes! it was he who threw us the ladder!"
And the engineer said this in such a peculiar voice that it was difficult
to know whether he spoke seriously or not.
Nevertheless, they threw themselves on the orang, who defended himself
gallantly, but was soon overpowered and bound.
"There!" said Pencroft. "And what shall we make of him, now we've got
"A servant!" replied Herbert.
The lad was not joking in saying this, for he knew how this intelligent
race could be turned to account.
The settlers then approached the ape and gazed at it attentively. He
belonged to the family of anthropoid apes, of which the facial angle is not
much inferior to that of the Australians and Hottentots. It was an
orangoutang, and as such, had neither the ferocity of the gorilla, nor the
stupidity of the baboon. It is to this family of the anthropoid apes that
so many characteristics belong which prove them to be possessed of an
almost human intelligence. Employed in houses, they can wait at table,
sweep rooms, brush clothes, clean boots, handle a knife, fork, and spoon
properly, and even drink wine . . . doing everything as well as the best
servant that ever walked upon two legs. Buffon possessed one of these apes,
who served him for a long time as a faithful and zealous servant.
The one which had been seized in the hall of Granite House was a great
fellow, six feet high, with an admirably poportioned frame, a broad chest,
head of a moderate size, the facial angle reaching sixty-five degrees,
round skull, projecting nose, skin covered with soft glossy hair, in short,
a fine specimen of the anthropoids. His eyes, rather smaller than human
eyes, sparkled with intelligence; his white teeth glittered under his
mustache, and he wore a little curly brown beard.
"A handsome fellow!" said Pencroft; "if we only knew his language, we
could talk to him."
"But, master," said Neb, "are you serious? Are we going to take him as a
"Yes, Neb," replied the engineer, smiling. "But you must not be jealous."
"And I hope he will make an excellent servant," added Herbert. "He
appears young, and will be easy to educate, and we shall not be obliged to
use force to subdue him, nor draw his teeth, as is sometimes done. He will
soon grow fond of his masters if they are kind to him."
"And they will be," replied Pencroft, who had forgotten all his rancor
against "the jokers."
Then, approaching the orang,--
"Well, old boy!" he asked, "how are you?"
The orang replied by a little grunt which did not show any anger.
"You wish to join the colony?" again asked the sailor. "You are going to
enter the service of Captain Cyrus Harding?"
Another respondent grunt was uttered by the ape.
"And you will be satisfied with no other wages than your food?"
Third affirmative grunt.
"This conversation is slightly monotonous," observed Gideon Spilett.
"So much the better," replied Pencroft; "the best servants are those who
talk the least. And then, no wages, do you hear, my boy? We will give you
no wages at first, but we will double them afterwards if we are pleased
Thus the colony was increased by a new member. As to his name the sailor
begged that in memory of another ape which he had known, he might be called
Jupiter, and Jup for short.
And so, without more ceremony, Master Jup was installed in Granite House.
The settlers in Lincoln Island had now regained their dwelling, without
having been obliged to reach it by the old opening, and were therefore
spared the trouble of mason's work. It was certainly lucky, that at the
moment they were about to set out to do so, the apes had been seized with
that terror, no less sudden than inexplicable, which had driven them out of
Granite House. Had the animals discovered that they were about to be
attacked from another direction? This was the only explanation of their
During the day the bodies of the apes were carried into the wood, where
they were buried; then the settlers busied themselves in repairing the
disorder caused by the intruders, disorder but not damage, for although
they had turned everything in the rooms topsy-turvy, yet they had broken
nothing. Neb relighted his stove, and the stores in the larder furnished a
substantial repast, to which all did ample justice.
Jup was not forgotten, and he ate with relish some stonepine almonds and
rhizome roots, with which he was abundantly supplied. Pencroft had
unfastened his arms, but judged it best to have his legs tied until they
were more sure of his submission.
Then, before retiring to rest, Harding and his companions seated round
their table, discussed those plans, the execution of which was most
pressing. The most important and most urgent was the establishment of a
bridge over the Mercy, so as to form a communication with the southern part
of the island and Granite House; then the making of an enclosure for the
musmons or other woolly animals which they wished to capture.
These two projects would help to solve the difficulty as to their
clothing, which was now serious. The bridge would render easy the transport
of the balloon case, which would furnish them with linen, and the
inhabitants of the enclosure would yield wool which would supply them with
As to the enclosure, it was Cyrus Harding's intention to establish it at
the sources of the Red Creek, where the ruminants would find fresh and
abundant pasture. The road between Prospect Heights and the sources of the
stream was already partly beaten, and with a better cart than the first,
the material could be easily conveyed to the spot, especially if they could
manage to capture some animals to draw it.
But though there might be no inconvenience in the enclosure being so far
from Granite House, it would not be the same with the poultry-yard, to
which Neb called the attention of the colonists. It was indeed necessary
that the birds should be close within reach of the cook, and no place
appeared more favorable for the establishment of the said poultry-yard than
that portion of the banks of the lake which was close to the old opening.
Water-birds would prosper there as well as others, and the couple of
tinamous taken in their last excursion would be the first to be
The next day, the 3rd of November, the new works were begun by the
construction of the bridge, and all hands were required for this important
task. Saws, hatchets, and hammers were shouldered by the settlers, who, now
transformed into carpenters, descended to the shore.
There Pencroft observed,--
"Suppose, that during our absence, Master Jup takes it into his head to
draw up the ladder which he so politely returned to us yesterday?"
"Let us tie its lower end down firmly," replied Cyrus Harding.
This was done by means of two stakes securely fixed in the sand. Then the
settlers, ascending the left bank of the Mercy, soon arrived at the angle
formed by the river.
There they halted, in order to ascertain if the bridge could be thrown
across. The place appeared suitable.
In fact, from this spot, to Port Balloon, discovered the day before on
the southern coast, there was only a distance of three miles and a half,
and from the bridge to the Port, it would be easy to make a good cart-road
which would render the communication between Granite House and the south of
the island extremely easy.
Cyrus Harding now imparted to his companions a scheme for completely
isolating Prospect Heights so as to shelter it from the attacks both of
quadrupeds and quadrumana. In this way, Granite House, the Chimneys, the
poultry-yard, and all the upper part of the plateau which was to be used
for cultivation, would be protected against the depredations of animals.
Nothing could be easier than to execute this project, and this is how the
engineer intended to set to work.
The plateau was already defended on three sides by water-courses, either
artificial or natural. On the northwest, by the shores of Lake Grant, from
the entrance of the passage to the breach made in the banks of the lake for
the escape of the water.
On the north, from this breach to the sea, by the new water-course which
had hollowed out a bed for itself across the plateau and shore, above and
below the fall, and it would be enough to dig the bed of this creek a
little deeper to make it impracticable for animals, on all the eastern
border by the sea itself, from the mouth of the aforesaid creek to the
mouth of the Mercy.
Lastly, on the south, from the mouth to the turn of the Mercy where the
bridge was to be established.
The western border of the plateau now remained between the turn of the
river and the southern angle of the lake, a distance of about a mile, which
was open to all comers. But nothing could be easier than to dig a broad
deep ditch, which could be filled from the lake, and the overflow of which
would throw itself by a rapid fall into the bed of the Mercy. The level of
the lake would, no doubt, be somewhat lowered by this fresh discharge of
its waters, but Cyrus Harding had ascertained that the volume of water in
the Red Creek was considerable enough to allow of the execution of this
"So then," added the engineer, "Prospect Heights will become a regular
island, being surrounded with water on all sides, and only communicating
with the rest of our domain by the bridge which we are about to throw
across the Mercy, the two little bridges already established above and
below the fall; and, lastly, two other little bridges which must be
constructed, one over the canal which I propose to dig, the other across to
the left bank of the Mercy. Now, if these bridges can be raised at will,
Prospect Heights will be guarded from any surprise."
The bridge was the most urgent work. Trees were selected, cut down,
stripped of their branches, and cut into beams, joists, and planks. The end
of the bridge which rested on the right bank of the Mercy was to be firm,
but the other end on the left bank was to be movable, so that it might be
raised by means of a counterpoise, as some canal bridges are managed.
This was certainly a considerable work, and though it was skillfully
conducted, it took some time, for the Mercy at this place was eighty feet
wide. It was therefore necessary to fix piles in the bed of the river so as
to sustain the floor of the bridge and establish a pile-driver to act on
the tops of these piles, which would thus form two arches and allow the
bridge to support heavy loads.
Happily there was no want of tools with which to shape the wood, nor of
iron-work to make it firm, nor of the ingenuity of a man who had a
marvelous knowledge of the work, nor lastly, the zeal of his companions,
who in seven months had necessarily acquired great skill in the use of
their tools; and it must be said that not the least skilful was Gideon
Spilett, who in dexterity almost equaled the sailor himself. "Who would
ever have expected so much from a newspaper man!" thought Pencroft.
The construction of the Mercy bridge lasted three weeks of regular hard
work. They even breakfasted on the scene of their labors, and the weather
being magnificent, they only returned to Granite House to sleep.
During this period it may be stated that Master Jup grew more accustomed
to his new masters, whose movements he always watched with very inquisitive
eyes. However, as a precautionary measure, Pencroft did not as yet allow
him complete liberty, rightly wishing to wait until the limits of the
plateau should be settled by the projected works. Top and Jup were good
friends and played willingly together, but Jup did everything solemnly.
On the 20th of November the bridge was finished. The movable part,
balanced by the counterpoise, swung easily, and only a slight effort was
needed to rise it; between its hinge and the last cross-bar on which it
rested when closed, there existed a space of twenty feet, which was
sufficiently wide to prevent any animals from crossing.
The settlers now began to talk of fetching the balloon-case, which they
were anxious to place in perfect security; but to bring it, it would be
necessary to take a cart to Port Balloon, and consequently, necessary to
beat a road through the dense forests of the Far West. This would take some
time. Also, Neb and Pencroft having gone to examine into the state of
things at Port Balloon, and reported that the stock of cloth would suffer
no damage in the grotto where it was stored, it was decided that the work
at Prospect Heights should not be discontinued.
"That," observed Pencroft, "will enable us to establish our poultry-yard
under better conditions, since we need have no fear of visits from foxes
nor the attacks of other beasts."
"Then," added Neb, "we can clear the plateau, and transplant wild plants
"And prepare our second corn-field!" cried the sailor with a triumphant
In fact, the first corn-field sown with a single grain had prospered
admirably, thanks to Pencroft's care. It had produced the ten ears foretold
by the engineer, and each ear containing eighty grains, the colony found
itself in possession of eight hundred grains, in six months, which promised
a double harvest each year.
These eight hundred grains, except fifty, which were prudently reserved,
were to be sown in a new field, but with no less care than was bestowed on
the single grain.
The field was prepared, then surrounded with a strong palisade, high and
pointed, which quadrupeds would have found difficulty in leaping. As to
birds, some scarecrows, due to Pencroft's ingenious brain, were enough to
frighten them. The seven hundred and fifty grains deposited in very regular
furrows were then left for nature to do the rest.
On the 21st of November, Cyrus Harding began to plan the canal which was
to close the plateau on the west, from the south angle of Lake Grant to the
angle of the Mercy. There was there two or three feet of vegetable earth,
and below that granite. It was therefore necessary to manufacture some more
nitro-glycerine, and the nitro-glycerine did its accustomed work. In less
than a fortnight a ditch, twelve feet wide and six deep, was dug out in the
hard ground of the plateau. A new trench was made by the same means in the
rocky border of the lake, forming a small stream, to which they gave the
name of Creek Glycerine, and which was thus an affluent of the Mercy. As
the engineer had predicted, the level of the lake was lowered, though very
slightly. To complete the enclosure the bed of the stream on the beach was
considerably enlarged, and the sand supported by means of stakes.
By the end of the first fortnight of December these works were finished,
and Prospect Heights--that is to say, a sort of irregular pentagon, having
a perimeter of nearly four miles, surrounded by a liquid belt--was
completely protected from depredators of every description.
During the month of December, the heat was very great. In spite of it,
however, the settlers continued their work, and as they were anxious to
possess a poultry-yard they forthwith commenced it.
It is useless to say that since the enclosing of the plateau had been
completed, Master Jup had been set at liberty. He did not leave his
masters, and evinced no wish to escape. He was a gentle animal, though very
powerful and wonderfully active. He was already taught to make himself
useful by drawing loads of wood and carting away the stones which were
extracted from the bed of Creek Glycerine.
The poultry-yard occupied an area of two hundred square yards, on the
southeastern bank of the lake. It was surrounded by a palisade, and in it
were constructed various shelters for the birds which were to populate it.
These were simply built of branches and divided into compartments, made
ready for the expected guests.
The first were the two tinamous, which were not long in having a number
of young ones; they had for companions half a dozen ducks, accustomed to
the borders of the lake. Some belonged to the Chinese species, of which the
wings open like a fan, and which by the brilliancy of their plumage rival
the golden pheasants. A few days afterwards, Herbert snared a couple of
gallinaceae, with spreading tails composed of long feathers, magnificent
alectors, which soon became tame. As to pelicans, kingfishers, water-hens,
they came of themselves to the shores of the poultry-yard, and this little
community, after some disputes, cooing, screaming, clucking, ended by
settling down peacefully, and increased in encouraging proportion for the
future use of the colony.
Cyrus Harding, wishing to complete his performance, established a pigeon-
house in a corner of the poultry-yard. There he lodged a dozen of those
pigeons which frequented the rocks of the plateau. These birds soon became
accustomed to returning every evening to their new dwelling, and showed
more disposition to domesticate themselves than their congeners, the wood-
Lastly, the time had come for turning the balloon-case to use, by cutting
it up to make shirts and other articles; for as to keeping it in its
present form, and risking themselves in a balloon filled with gas, above a
sea of the limits of which they had no idea, it was not to be thought of.
It was necessary to bring the case to Granite House, and the colonists
employed themselves in rendering their heavy cart lighter and more
manageable. But though they had a vehicle, the moving power was yet to be
But did there not exist in the island some animal which might supply the
place of the horse, ass, or ox? That was the question.
"Certainly," said Pencroft, "a beast of burden would be very useful to us
until the captain has made a steam cart, or even an engine, for some day we
shall have a railroad from Granite House to Port Balloon, with a branch
line to Mount Franklin!"
One day, the 23rd of December, Neb and Top were heard shouting and
barking, each apparently trying to see who could make the most noise. The
settlers, who were busy at the Chimneys, ran, fearing some vexatious
What did they see? Two fine animals of a large size that had imprudently
ventured on the plateau, when the bridges were open. One would have said
they were horses, or at least donkeys, male and female, of a fine shape,
dove-colored, the legs and tail white, striped with black on the head and
neck. They advanced quietly without showing any uneasiness, and gazed at
the men, in whom they could not as yet recognize their future masters.
"These are onagers!" cried Herbert, "animals something between the zebra
and the quagga!"
"Why not donkeys?" asked Neb.