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Chapter 11


CHAPTER 11

Half an hour later Cyrus Harding and Herbert had returned to the
encampment. The engineer merely told his companions that the land upon
which fate had thrown them was an island, and that the next day they would
consult. Then each settled himself as well as he could to sleep, and in
that rocky hole, at a height of two thousand five hundred feet above the
level of the sea, through a peaceful night, the islanders enjoyed profound
repose.

The next day, the 30th of March, after a hasty breakfast, which consisted
solely of the roasted tragopan, the engineer wished to climb again to the
summit of the volcano, so as more attentively to survey the island upon
which he and his companions were imprisoned for life perhaps, should the
island be situated at a great distance from any land, or if it was out of
the course of vessels which visited the archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean.
This time his companions followed him in the new exploration. They also
wished to see the island, on the productions of which they must depend for
the supply of all their wants.

It was about seven o'clock in the morning when Cyrus Harding, Herbert,
Pencroft, Gideon Spilett, and Neb quitted the encampment. No one appeared
to be anxious about their situation. They had faith in themselves,
doubtless, but it must be observed that the basis of this faith was not the
same with Harding as with his companions. The engineer had confidence,
because he felt capable of extorting from this wild country everything
necessary for the life of himself and his companions; the latter feared
nothing, just because Cyrus Harding was with them. Pencroft especially,
since the incident of the relighted fire, would not have despaired for an
instant, even if he was on a bare rock, if the engineer was with him on the
rock.

"Pshaw," said he, "we left Richmond without permission from the
authorities! It will be hard if we don't manage to get away some day or
other from a place where certainly no one will detain us!"

Cyrus Harding followed the same road as the evening before. They went
round the cone by the plateau which formed the shoulder, to the mouth of
the enormous chasm. The weather was magnificent. The sun rose in a pure sky
and flooded with his rays all the eastern side of the mountain.

The crater was reached. It was just what the engineer had made it out to
be in the dark; that is to say, a vast funnel which extended, widening, to
a height of a thousand feet above the plateau. Below the chasm, large thick
streaks of lava wound over the sides of the mountain, and thus marked the
course of the eruptive matter to the lower valleys which furrowed the
northern part of the island.

The interior of the crater, whose inclination did not exceed thirty five
to forty degrees, presented no difficulties nor obstacles to the ascent.
Traces of very ancient lava were noticed, which probably had overflowed the
summit of the cone, before this lateral chasm had opened a new way to it.

As to the volcanic chimney which established a communication between the
subterranean layers and the crater, its depth could not be calculated with
the eye, for it was lost in obscurity. But there was no doubt as to the
complete extinction of the volcano.

Before eight o'clock Harding and his companions were assembled at the
summit of the crater, on a conical mound which swelled the northern edge.

"The sea, the sea everywhere!" they cried, as if their lips could not
restrain the words which made islanders of them.

The sea, indeed, formed an immense circular sheet of water all around
them! Perhaps, on climbing again to the summit of the cone, Cyrus Harding
had had a hope of discovering some coast, some island shore, which he had
not been able to perceive in the dark the evening before. But nothing
appeared on the farthest verge of the horizon, that is to say over a radius
of more than fifty miles. No land in sight. Not a sail. Over all this
immense space the ocean alone was visible--the island occupied the center
of a circumference which appeared to be infinite.

The engineer and his companions, mute and motionless, surveyed for some
minutes every point of the ocean, examining it to its most extreme limits.
Even Pencroft, who possessed a marvelous power of sight, saw nothing; and
certainly if there had been land at the horizon, if it appeared only as an
indistinct vapor, the sailor would undoubtedly have found it out, for
nature had placed regular telescopes under his eyebrows.

From the ocean their gaze returned to the island which they commanded
entirely, and the first question was put by Gideon Spilett in these terms:--

"About what size is this island?"

Truly, it did not appear large in the midst of the immense ocean.

Cyrus Harding reflected a few minutes; he attentively observed the
perimeter of the island, taking into consideration the height at which he
was placed; then,--

"My friends," said he, "I do not think I am mistaken in giving to the
shore of the island a circumference of more than a hundred miles."

"And consequently an area?"

"That is difficult to estimate," replied the engineer, "for it is so
uneven."

If Cyrus Harding was not mistaken in his calculation, the island had
almost the extent of Malta or Zante, in the Mediterranean, but it was at
the same time much more irregular and less rich in capes, promontories,
points, bays, or creeks. Its strange form caught the eye, and when Gideon
Spilett, on the engineer's advice, had drawn the outline, they found that it
resembled some fantastic animal, a monstrous leviathan, which lay sleeping
on the surface of the Pacific.

This was in fact the exact shape of the island, which it is of
consequence to know, and a tolerably correct map of it was immediately
drawn by the reporter.

The east part of the shore, where the castaways had landed, formed a wide
bay, terminated by a sharp cape, which had been concealed by a high point
from Pencroft on his first exploration. At the northeast two other capes
closed the bay, and between them ran a narrow gulf, which looked like the
half-open jaws of a formidable dog-fish.

From the northeast to the southwest the coast was rounded, like the
flattened cranium of an animal, rising again, forming a sort of
protuberance which did not give any particular shape to this part of the
island, of which the center was occupied by the volcano.

From this point the shore ran pretty regularly north and south, broken at
two-thirds of its perimeter by a narrow creek, from which it ended in a
long tail, similar to the caudal appendage of a gigantic alligator.

This tail formed a regular peninsula, which stretched more than thirty
miles into the sea, reckoning from the cape southeast of the island,
already mentioned; it curled round, making an open roadstead, which marked
out the lower shore of this strangely-formed land.

At the narrowest part, that is to say between the Chimneys and the creek
on the western shore, which corresponded to it in latitude, the island only
measured ten miles; but its greatest length, from the jaws at the northeast
to the extremity of the tail of the southwest, was not less than thirty
miles.

As to the interior of the island, its general aspect was this, very woody
throughout the southern part from the mountain to the shore, and arid and
sandy in the northern part. Between the volcano and the east coast Cyrus
Harding and his companions were surprised to see a lake, bordered with
green trees, the existence of which they had not suspected. Seen from this
height, the lake appeared to be on the same level as the ocean, but, on
reflection, the engineer explained to his companions that the altitude of
this little sheet of water must be about three hundred feet, because the
plateau, which was its basin, was but a prolongation of the coast.

"Is it a freshwater lake?" asked Pencroft.

"Certainly," replied the engineer, "for it must be fed by the water which
flows from the mountain."

"I see a little river which runs into it," said Herbert, pointing out a
narrow stream, which evidently took its source somewhere in the west.

"Yes," said Harding; "and since this stream feeds the lake, most probably
on the side near the sea there is an outlet by which the surplus water
escapes. We shall see that on our return."

This little winding watercourse and the river already mentioned
constituted the water-system, at least such as it was displayed to the eyes
of the explorers. However, it was possible that under the masses of trees
which covered two-thirds of the island, forming an immense forest, other
rivers ran towards the sea. It might even be inferred that such was the
case, so rich did this region appear in the most magnificent specimens of
the flora of the temperate zones. There was no indication of running water
in the north, though perhaps there might be stagnant water among the
marshes in the northeast; but that was all, in addition to the downs, sand,
and aridity which contrasted so strongly with the luxuriant vegetation of
the rest of the island.

The volcano did not occupy the central part; it rose, on the contrary, in
the northwestern region, and seemed to mark the boundary of the two zones.
At the southwest, at the south, and the southeast, the first part of the
spurs were hidden under masses of verdure. At the north, on the contrary,
one could follow their ramifications, which died away on the sandy plains.
It was on this side that, at the time when the mountain was in a state of
eruption, the discharge had worn away a passage, and a large heap of lava
had spread to the narrow jaw which formed the northeastern gulf.

Cyrus Harding and his companions remained an hour at the top of the
mountain. The island was displayed under their eyes, like a plan in relief
with different tints, green for the forests, yellow for the sand, blue for
the water. They viewed it in its tout-ensemble, nothing remained concealed
but the ground hidden by verdure, the hollows of the valleys, and the
interior of the volcanic chasms.

One important question remained to be solved, and the answer would have a
great effect upon the future of the castaways.

Was the island inhabited?

It was the reporter who put this question, to which after the close
examination they had just made, the answer seemed to be in the negative.

Nowhere could the work of a human hand be perceived. Not a group of huts,
not a solitary cabin, not a fishery on the shore. No smoke curling in the
air betrayed the presence of man. It is true, a distance of nearly thirty
miles separated the observers from the extreme points, that is, of the tail
which extended to the southwest, and it would have been difficult, even to
Pencroft's eyes, to discover a habitation there. Neither could the curtain
of verdure, which covered three-quarters of the island, be raised to see if
it did not shelter some straggling village. But in general the islanders
live on the shores of the narrow spaces which emerge above the waters of
the Pacific, and this shore appeared to be an absolute desert.

Until a more complete exploration, it might be admitted that the island
was uninhabited. But was it frequented, at least occasionally, by the
natives of neighboring islands? It was difficult to reply to this question.
No land appeared within a radius of fifty miles. But fifty miles could be
easily crossed, either by Malay proas or by the large Polynesian canoes.
Everything depended on the position of the island, of its isolation in the
Pacific, or of its proximity to archipelagoes. Would Cyrus Harding be able
to find out their latitude and longitude without instruments? It would be
difficult. Since he was in doubt, it was best to take precautions against a
possible descent of neighboring natives.

The exploration of the island was finished, its shape determined, its
features made out, its extent calculated, the water and mountain systems
ascertained. The disposition of the forests and plains had been marked in a
general way on the reporter's plan. They had now only to descend the
mountain slopes again, and explore the soil, in the triple point of view,
of its mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.

But before giving his companions the signal for departure, Cyrus Harding
said to them in a calm, grave voice,--

Here, my friends, is the small corner of land upon which the hand of the
Almighty has thrown us. We are going to live here; a long time, perhaps.
Perhaps, too, unexpected help will arrive, if some ship passes by chance. I
say by chance, because this is an unimportant island; there is not even a
port in which ships could anchor, and it is to be feared that it is
situated out of the route usually followed, that is to say, too much to the
south for the ships which frequent the archipelagoes of the Pacific, and
too much to the north for those which go to Australia by doubling Cape
Horn. I wish to hide nothing of our position from you--"

"And you are right, my dear Cyrus," replied the reporter, with animation.
"You have to deal with men. They have confidence in you, and you can depend
upon them. Is it not so, my friends?"

"I will obey you in everything, captain," said Herbert, seizing the
engineer's hand.

"My master always, and everywhere!" cried Neb.

"As for me," said the sailor, "if I ever grumble at work, my name's not
Jack Pencroft, and if you like, captain, we will make a little America of
this island! We will build towns, we will establish railways, start
telegraphs, and one fine day, when it is quite changed, quite put in order
and quite civilized, we will go and offer it to the government of the
Union. Only, I ask one thing."

"What is that?" said the reporter.

"It is, that we do not consider ourselves castaways, but colonists, who
have come here to settle." Harding could not help smiling, and the sailor's
idea was adopted. He then thanked his companions, and added, that he would
rely on their energy and on the aid of Heaven.

"Well, now let us set off to the Chimneys!" cried Pencroft.

"One minute, my friends," said the engineer. "It seems to me it would be
a good thing to give a name to this island, as well as to, the capes,
promontories, and watercourses, which we can see.

"Very good," said the reporter. "In the future, that will simplify the
instructions which we shall have to give and follow."

"Indeed," said the sailor, "already it is something to be able to say
where one is going, and where one has come from. At least, it looks like
somewhere."

"The Chimneys, for example," said Herbert.

"Exactly!" replied Pencroft. "That name was the most convenient, and it
came to me quite of myself. Shall we keep the name of the Chimneys for our
first encampment, captain?"

"Yes, Pencroft, since you have so christened it."

"Good! as for the others, that will he easy," returned the sailor, who
was in high spirits. "Let us give them names, as the Robinsons did, whose
story Herbert has often read to me; Providence Bay, Whale Point, Cape
Disappointment!"

"Or, rather, the names of Captain Harding," said Herbert, "of Mr.
Spilett, of Neb!--"

"My name!" cried Neb, showing his sparkling white teeth.

"Why not?" replied Pencroft. "Port Neb, that would do very well! And Cape
Gideon--"

"I should prefer borrowing names from our country," said the reporter,
"which would remind us of America."

"Yes, for the principal ones," then said Cyrus Harding; "for those of the
bays and seas, I admit it willingly. We might give to that vast bay on the
east the name of Union Bay, for example; to that large hollow on the south,
Washington Bay; to the mountain upon which we are standing, that of Mount
Franklin; to that lake which is extended under our eyes, that of Lake
Grant; nothing could be better, my friends. These names will recall our
country, and those of the great citizens who have honored it; but for the
rivers, gulfs, capes, and promontories, which we perceive from the top of
this mountain, rather let us choose names which will recall their
particular shape. They will impress themselves better on our memory, and at
the same time will he more practical. The shape of the island is so strange
that we shall not he troubled to imagine what it resembles. As to the
streams which we do not know as yet, in different parts of the forest which
we shall explore later, the creeks which afterwards will he discovered, we
can christen them as we find them. What do you think, my friends?"

The engineer's proposal was unanimously agreed to by his companions. The
island was spread out under their eyes like a map, and they had only to
give names to all its angles and points. Gideon Spilett would write them
down, and the geographical nomenclature of the island would be definitely
adopted. First, they named the two bays and the mountain, Union Bay,
Washington Bay, and Mount Franklin, as the engineer had suggested.

"Now," said the reporter, "to this peninsula at the southwest of the
island, I propose to give the name of Serpentine Peninsula, and that of
Reptile-end to the bent tail which terminates it, for it is just like a
reptile's tail."

"Adopted," said the engineer.

"Now," said Herbert, pointing to the other extremity of the island, "let
us call this gulf which is so singularly like a pair of open jaws, Shark
Gulf."

"Capital!" cried Pencroft, "and we can complete the resemblance by naming
the two parts of the jaws Mandible Cape."

"But there are two capes," observed the reporter.

"Well," replied Pencroft, "we can have North Mandible Cape and South
Mandible Cape."

"They are inscribed," said Spilett.

"There is only the point at the southeastern extremity of the island to
he named," said Pencroft.

"That is, the extremity of Union Bay?" asked Herbert.

"Claw Cape," cried Neb directly, who also wished to he godfather to some
part of his domain.

In truth, Neb had found an excellent name, for this cape was very like
the powerful claw of the fantastic animal which this singularly-shaped
island represented.

Pencroft was delighted at the turn things had taken, and their
imaginations soon gave to the river which furnished the settlers with
drinking water and near which the balloon had thrown them, the name of the
Mercy, in true gratitude to Providence. To the islet upon which the
castaways had first landed, the name of Safety Island; to the plateau which
crowned the high granite precipice above the Chimneys, and from whence the
gaze could embrace the whole of the vast bay, the name of Prospect Heights.

Lastly, all the masses of impenetrable wood which covered the Serpentine
Peninsula were named the forests of the Far West.

The nomenclature of the visible and known parts of the island was thus
finished, and later, they would complete it as they made fresh discoveries.

As to the points of the compass, the engineer had roughly fixed them by
the height and position of the sun, which placed Union Bay and Prospect
Heights to the east. But the next day, by taking the exact hour of the
rising and setting of the sun, and by marking its position between this
rising and setting, he reckoned to fix the north of the island exactly,
for, in consequence of its situation in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun,
at the precise moment of its culmination, passed in the north and not in
the south, as, in its apparent movement, it seems to do, to those places
situated in the Northern Hemisphere.

Everything was finished, and the settlers had only to descend Mount
Franklin to return to the Chimneys, when Pencroft cried out,--

"Well! we are preciously stupid!"

"Why?" asked Gideon Spilett, who had closed his notebook and risen to
depart.

"Why! our island! we have forgotten to christen it!"

Herbert was going to propose to give it the engineer's name and all his
companions would have applauded him, when Cyrus Harding said simply,--

"Let us give it the name of a great citizen, my friend; of him who now
struggles to defend the unity of the American Republic! Let us call it
Lincoln Island!"

The engineer's proposal was replied to by three hurrahs.

And that evening, before sleeping, the new colonists talked of their
absent country; they spoke of the terrible war which stained it with blood;
they could not doubt that the South would soon be subdued, and that the
cause of the North, the cause of justice, would triumph, thanks to Grant,
thanks to Lincoln!

Now this happened the 30th of March, 1865. They little knew that sixteen
days afterwards a frightful crime would be committed in Washington, and
that on Good Friday Abraham Lincoln would fall by the hand of a fanatic.


Jules Verne