Puslapio vaizdai


"I don't deny it," replied Pencroff, "but the savages must know how to do it or employ a peculiar wood, for more than once I have tried to get fire in that way, but I could never manage it. I must say I prefer matches. By the bye, where are my matches?"

Pencroff searched in his waistcoat for the box, which was always there, for he was a confirmed smoker. He couldn't find it; he rummaged the pockets of his trousers, but, to his horror, he could nowhere find the box.

"Here's a go!" said he, looking at Harbert. "The box must have fallen out of my pocket and got lost! Surely, Harbert, you must have something,-a tinder-box,anything that can possibly make fire!"

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"No, I haven't, Pencroff."

The sailor rushed out, followed by the boy. On the sand, among the rocks, near the river's bank, they both searched carefully, but in vain. The box was of copper, and therefore would have been easily seen.

66 Pencroff," asked Harbert, "didn't you throw it out of the car?"

"I knew better than that," replied the sailor; "but such a small article could easily disappear in the tumbling about we have gone through. I would rather even have lost my pipe! Confound the box! Where can it be?"

"Look here, the tide is going down," said Harbert; "let's run to the place where we landed."

It was scarcely probable that they would find the box, which the waves had rolled about among the peb

bles, at high tide, but it was as well to try.

Harbert and Pencroff walked rapidly to the point where they had

landed the day before, about two hundred feet from the cave. They hunted there, along the shingle, in the clefts of the rocks, but found nothing. If the box had fallen at this place, it must have been swept away by the waves. As the sea went down, they searched every little crevice, with no result. It was a grave loss in their circumstances, and for the time irreparable. Pencroff could not hide his vexation; he looked very anxious, but said not a word. Harbert tried to console him by observing, that if they had found the matches, they would, very likely, have been wet by the sea and useless.

"No, my boy," replied the sailor; "they were in a copper box which shut very tightly; and now what are we to do?"



"We shall certainly find some way of making a fire," said Harbert. "Captain Smith or Mr. Spilett will not be without them."

"Yes," replied Pencroff, "but in the meantime we are without fire, and our companions will find but a sorry repast on their return."

"But," said Harbert quickly, "do you think it possible they will have no tinder or matches?"

"I doubt it," replied the sailor, shaking his head, "for neither Neb nor Captain Smith smokes, and I believe that Mr. Spilett would rather keep his note-book than his match-box."

boy was still sure of procuring fire in some way or other. Pencroff, more experienced, did not think so, although he was not a man to trouble himself about a small or great grievance. At any rate, there was only one thing to be done to wait the return of Neb and the reporter; but they must give up the feast of hard eggs which they had meant to prepare, and a meal of raw flesh was not an agreeable prospect, either for themselves or for the others.

Before returning to the cave, the sailor and Harbert, in the event of fire being positively unattainable, collected some more shell-fish, and then silently retraced their steps to their dwelling.

Pencroff, his eyes fixed on the ground, still looked for his box. He even climbed up the left bank of the river from its mouth to the angle where the raft had been moored. He returned to the plateau, went over it in every direction, searching along the high grass on the border of the forest,-all in vain.

It was five in the evening when he and Harbert re-entered the cave. It is useless to say that the darkest corners of the passages were ransacked before they were obliged to give it up in despair. Towards six o'clock, when the sun was disappearing behind the high lands of the west, Harbert, who was walking up and down on the strand, signalized the return of Neb and Spilett.

They were returning alone! . . . The boy's heart sank; the sailor had not been deceived in his forebodings; the engineer, Cyrus Smith, had not been found!


Harbert did not reply. The loss of the The reporter, on his arrival, sat down on box was certainly to be regretted, but the a rock, without saying anything. Exhaust

ed with fatigue, dying of hunger, he had not strength to utter a word.

As to Neb, his red eyes showed how he had cried, and the tears which he could not restrain, told too clearly that he had lost all hope.

The reporter recounted all that they had done in their attempt to recover Cyrus Smith. He and Neb had surveyed the coast for a distance of eight miles, and consequently much beyond the place where the balloon had fallen the last time but one, a fall which was followed by the disappearance of the engineer and the dog Top. The shore was solitary; not a vestige of a mark. Not even a pebble recently displaced; not a trace on the sand; not a human footstep on all that part of the beach. It was clear that that portion of the shore had never been visited by a human being. The sea was as deserted as the land, and it was there, a few hundred feet from the coast, that the engineer must have found a tomb.

As Spilett ended his account, Neb jumped up, exclaiming in a voice which showed how hope struggled within him: "No! he is not dead! he can't be dead! It might happen to any one else, but never to him! He could get out of anything!" Then, his strength forsaking him, ."Oh! I can do no more!" he murmured. "Neb," said Harbert, running to him; "we will find him! God will give him back to us! But in the meantime you are hungry and you must eat something."

So saying, he offered the poor negro a few handfuls of shell-fish, which was indeed wretched and insufficient food. Neb had not eaten anything for


several hours, but he refused them. could not, would not, live without his master.

As to Gideon Spilett, he devoured the shell-fish, then he laid himself down on the sand, at the foot of a rock. He was very weak, but calm. Harbert went up to him, and taking his hand, "Sir," said he, "we have found a shelter which will be better than lying here. Night is advancing. Come and rest! To-morrow we will search further." The reporter got up, and, guided by the boy, went towards the cave. On the way. Pencroff asked him in the most natural tone, if by chance he happened to have a match or two.

The reporter stopped, felt in his pockets, but, finding nothing, said, "I had some, but I must have thrown them away."





The seaman put the same question to Neb and received the same answer.

"Confound it!" exclaimed the sailor.

The reporter heard him and, seizing his arm, "Have you no matches?" he asked.

"Not one, and no fire in consequence!" "Ah!" cried Neb, "if my master were here, he would know what to do!"

The four castaways remained motionless, looking uneasily at each other. Herbert was the first to break the silence by saying: "Mr. Spilett, you are a smoker, and always have matches about you; perhaps you haven't looked well; try again, a single match will be enough!"

The reporter hunted again in the pockets of his trousers, waistcoat, and great-coat, and at last, to Pencroff's great joy, not less to his extreme surprise, he felt a tiny piece of wood entangled in the lining of his waistcoat. He seized it with his fingers through the stuff, but

could not get it out. If this was a match and a single one, it was of great importance not to rub off the phosphorus.

"Will you let me try?" said the boy, and very cleverly, without breaking it, he managed to draw out the wretched, yet precious, little bit of wood which was of such great importance to these poor men. It was unused. "Hurrah!" cried Pencroff; "it is as good as having a whole cargo!" He took the match, and followed by his companions, entered the cave.

This small piece of wood, so many of which, in an inhabited country, are wasted with indifference and are of no value, must here be used with the greatest caution.

The sailor first made sure that it was quite dry; that done, "We must have some paper," said he.


"Here," replied Spilett, after some hesitation, tearing a leaf out of his note-book.

Pencroff took the piece of paper which the reporter held out to him, and knelt down before the fire-place. Some handfuls of grass, leaves, and dry moss were placed under the fagots, and disposed in such a way that the air could easily circulate, and the dry wood rapidly catch fire.

Pencroff then twisted the piece of paper into the shape of a cone, as smokers do in a high wind, and poked it in amid the moss. Taking a small, rough stone, he wiped it carefully, and with a beating heart, holding his breath, he gently rubbed the match. The first attempt did not produce any effect. Pencroff had not struck hard enough, fearing to rub off the phosphorus.

"No, I can't do it," said he, "my hand trembles, the match has missed fire; I cannot, I will not!" and rising, he told Harbert to take his place.

Certainly, the boy had never in all his life been so nervous. Prometheus going to steal the fire from heaven could not have been more anxious. He did not hesitate, however, but struck the match directly.

A little spluttering was heard and a tiny blue frame sprang up, making a choking smoke. Harbert quietly turned the match so as to augment the flame, and then slipped it into the paper cone, which, in a few seconds, too, caught fire, and then the


A minute later the dry wood crackled, and a cheerful flame, assisted by the vigorous blowing of the sailor, sprang up in the midst of the darkness.

"At last!" cried Pencroff getting up; "I was never so nervous before in all my life!"

The flat stones made a capital fire-place. The smoke went quite easily out at the narrow passage, the chimney drew, and an agreeable warmth was not long in being felt..

They must now take great care not to let the fire go out, and always to keep some embers alight. It only needed care and attention, as they had plenty of wood and could renew their store at any time.

Pencroff's first thought was to use the fire in preparing a more nourishing supper than a dish of shell-fish. Two dozen eggs were brought by Harbert. The reporter, leaning up in a corner, watched these preparations without saying anything. three-fold thought weighed on his mind. Was Cyrus still alive? If he was alive, where was he? If he had survived his fall, how was it that he had not found some means of making known his existence? As to Neb, he was roaming about the shore. He was like a body without a soul.

had not been missing at this meal! If the five prisoners who escaped from Richmond. had been all there, under the piled up rocks, before this clear, crackling fire on the dry sand, what thanksgivings must they have rendered to heaven! But the most ingenious, the most learned, he who was their unquestioned chief, Cyrus Smith, was, alas! missing, and his body had not even obtained a burial-place.

Thus passed the 25th of March. Night had come on. Outside could be heard the howling of the wind and the monotonous sound of the surf breaking on the shore. The waves rolled the shingle backwards and forwards with a deafening noise.

The reporter retired into a dark corner, after having shortly noted down the occurrences of the day; the first appearance of this new land, the loss of their leader, the exploration of the coast, the incident of the matches, etc.; and then, overcome by fatigue, he managed to forget his sorrow in sleep. Harbert went to sleep directly. As to the sailor, he passed the night with one eye on the fire, which he kept well supplied with fuel. But one of the castaways did not sleep in the cave. The inconsolable, despairing Neb, notwithstanding all that his companions could say to induce him to take some rest, wandered all night long on the shore, calling on his



THE inventory of the articles possessed by these castaways from the clouds, thrown A upon a coast which appeared to be uninhabited, was soon made out. They had nothing, save the clothes which they were wearing at the time of the catastrophe. We must mention, however, a note-book and a watch which Gideon Spilett had kept, doubtless by inadvertence, not a weapon, not a tool, not even a pocketknife; for, while in the car, they had thrown out everything to lighten the balloon. The imaginary heroes of Daniel De Foe or of Wyss, as well as Selkirk and Raynal, shipwrecked on Juan Fernandez and on the Archipelago of the Auklands, were never in such absolute destitution. Either they had abundant resources from their stranded vessel, in grain, cattle, tools, ammunition, or else some things were thrown up on the coast which supplied them with all the first necessities of life. But here there was no instrument whatever, not a utensil. From

Pencroff knew fifty ways of cooking eggs, but this time he had no choice, and was obliged to content himself with roasting them under the hot cinders. In a few minutes the cooking was done and the seaman invited the reporter to take his share of the supper. Such was the first repast of the castaways on this unknown coast. The hard eggs were excellent, and as eggs contain everything indispensable to man's nourishment, these poor people thought themselves well off, and were much strengthened by them. Oh! if only one of them VOL. VIII-14

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