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Book 1 Chapter 16

It was the 6th of May, a day which corresponds to the 6th of November in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. The sky had been obscured for some days, and it was of importance to make preparations for the winter. However, the temperature was not as yet much lower, and a centigrade thermometer, transported to Lincoln Island, would still have marked an average of ten to twelve degrees above zero. This was not surprising, since Lincoln Island, probably situated between the thirty-fifth and fortieth parallel, would be subject, in the Southern Hemisphere, to the same climate as Sicily or Greece in the Northern Hemisphere. But as Greece and Sicily have severe cold, producing snow and ice, so doubtless would Lincoln Island in the severest part of the winter and it was advisable to provide against it.

In any case if cold did not yet threaten them, the rainy season would begin, and on this lonely island, exposed to all the fury of the elements, in mid-ocean, bad weather would be frequent, and probably terrible. The question of a more comfortable dwelling than the Chimneys must therefore be seriously considered and promptly resolved on.

Pencroft, naturally, had some predilection for the retreat which he had discovered, but he well understood that another must be found. The Chimneys had been already visited by the sea, under circumstances which are known, and it would not do to be exposed again to a similar accident.

"Besides," added Cyrus Harding, who this day was talking of these things with his companions, "we have some precautions to take."

"Why? The island is not inhabited," said the reporter.

"That is probable," replied the engineer, "although we have not yet explored the interior; but if no human beings are found, I fear that dangerous animals may abound. It is necessary to guard against a possible attack, so that we shall not be obliged to watch every night, or to keep up a fire. And then, my friends, we must foresee everything. We are here in a part of the Pacific often frequented by Malay pirates--"

"What!" said Herbert, "at such a distance from land?"

"Yes, my boy," replied the engineer. "These pirates are bold sailors as well as formidable enemies, and we must take measures accordingly."

"Well," replied Pencroft, "we will fortify ourselves against savages with two legs as well as against savages with four. But, captain, will it not be best to explore every part of the island before undertaking anything else?"

"That would be best," added Gideon Spilett.

"Who knows if we might not find on the opposite side one of the caverns which we have searched for in vain here?"

"That is true," replied the engineer, "but you forget, my friends, that it will be necessary to establish ourselves in the neighborhood of a watercourse, and that, from the summit of Mount Franklin, we could not see towards the west, either stream or river. Here, on the contrary, we are placed between the Mercy and Lake Grant, an advantage which must not be neglected. And, besides, this side, looking towards the east, is not exposed as the other is to the trade-winds, which in this hemisphere blow from the northwest."

"Then, captain," replied the sailor, "let us build a house on the edge of the lake. Neither bricks nor tools are wanting now. After having been brickmakers, potters, smelters, and smiths, we shall surely know how to be masons!"

"Yes, my friend; but before coming to any decision we must consider the matter thoroughly. A natural dwelling would spare us much work, and would be a surer retreat, for it would be as well defended against enemies from the interior as those from outside."

"That is true, Cyrus," replied the reporter, "but we have already examined all that mass of granite, and there is not a hole, not a cranny!"

"No, not one!" added Pencroft. "Ah, if we were able to dig out a dwelling in that cliff, at a good height, so as to be out of the reach of harm, that would be capital! I can see that on the front which looks seaward, five or six rooms--"

"With windows to light them!" said Herbert, laughing.

"And a staircase to climb up to them!" added Neb.

"You are laughing," cried the sailor, "and why? What is there impossible in what I propose? Haven't we got pickaxes and spades? Won't Captain Harding be able to make powder to blow up the mine? Isn't it true, captain, that you will make powder the very day we want it?"

Cyrus Harding listened to the enthusiastic Pencroft developing his fanciful projects. To attack this mass of granite, even by a mine, was Herculean work, and it was really vexing that nature could not help them at their need. But the engineer did not reply to the sailor except by proposing to examine the cliff more attentively, from the mouth of the river to the angle which terminated it on the north.

They went out, therefore, and the exploration was made with extreme care, over an extent of nearly two miles. But in no place in the bare, straight cliff, could any cavity be found. The nests of the rock pigeons which fluttered at its summit were only, in reality, holes bored at the very top, and on the irregular edge of the granite.

It was a provoking circumstance, and as to attacking this cliff, either with pickaxe or with powder, so as to effect a sufficient excavation, it was not to be thought of. It so happened that, on all this part of the shore, Pencroft had discovered the only habitable shelter, that is to say, the Chimneys, which now had to be abandoned.

The exploration ended, the colonists found themselves at the north angle of the cliff, where it terminated in long slopes which died away on the shore. From this place, to its extreme limit in the west, it only formed a sort of declivity, a thick mass of stones, earth, and sand, bound together by plants, bushes, and grass inclined at an angle of only forty-five degrees. Clumps of trees grew on these slopes, which were also carpeted with thick grass. But the vegetation did not extend far, and a long, sandy plain, which began at the foot of these slopes, reached to the beach.

Cyrus Harding thought, not without reason, that the overplus of the lake must overflow on this side. The excess of water furnished by the Red Creek must also escape by some channel or other. Now the engineer had not yet found this channel on any part of the shore already explored, that is to say, from the mouth of the stream on the west of Prospect Heights.

The engineer now proposed to his companions to climb the slope, and to return to the Chimneys by the heights, while exploring the northern and eastern shores of the lake. The proposal was accepted, and in a few minutes Herbert and Neb were on the upper plateau. Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, and Pencroft followed with more sedate steps.

The beautiful sheet of water glittered through the trees under the rays of the sun. In this direction the country was charming. The eye feasted on the groups of trees. Some old trunks, bent with age, showed black against the verdant grass which covered the ground. Crowds of brilliant cockatoos screamed among the branches, moving prisms, hopping from one bough to another.

The settlers instead of going directly to the north bank of the lake, made a circuit round the edge of the plateau, so as to join the mouth of the creek on its left bank. It was a detour of more than a mile and a half. Walking was easy, for the trees widely spread, left a considerable space between them. The fertile zone evidently stopped at this point, and vegetation would be less vigorous in the part between the course of the Creek and the Mercy.

Cyrus Harding and his companions walked over this new ground with great care. Bows, arrows, and sticks with sharp iron points were their only weapons. However, no wild beast showed itself, and it was probable that these animals frequented rather the thick forests in the south; but the settlers had the disagreeable surprise of seeing Top stop before a snake of great size, measuring from fourteen to fifteen feet in length. Neb killed it by a blow from his stick. Cyrus Harding examined the reptile, and declared it not venomous, for it belonged to that species of diamond serpents which the natives of New South Wales rear. But it was possible that others existed whose bite was mortal such as the deaf vipers with forked tails, which rise up under the feet, or those winged snakes, furnished with two ears, which enable them to proceed with great rapidity. Top, the first moment of surprise over, began a reptile chase with such eagerness, that they feared for his safety. His master called him back directly.

The mouth of the Red Creek, at the place where it entered into the lake, was soon reached. The explorers recognized on the opposite shore the point which they had visited on their descent from Mount Franklin. Cyrus Harding ascertained that the flow of water into it from the creek was considerable. Nature must therefore have provided some place for the escape of the overplus. This doubtless formed a fall, which, if it could be discovered, would be of great use.

The colonists, walking apart, but not straying far from each other, began to skirt the edge of the lake, which was very steep. The water appeared to be full of fish, and Pencroft resolved to make some fishing-rods, so as to try and catch some.

The northeast point was first to be doubled. It might have been supposed that the discharge of water was at this place, for the extremity of the lake was almost on a level with the edge of the plateau. But no signs of this were discovered, and the colonists continued to explore the bank, which, after a slight bend, descended parallel to the shore.

On this side the banks were less woody, but clumps of trees, here and there, added to the picturesqueness of the country. Lake Grant was viewed from thence in all its extent, and no breath disturbed the surface of its waters. Top, in beating the bushes, put up flocks of birds of different kinds, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert saluted with arrows. One was hit by the lad, and fell into some marshy grass. Top rushed forward, and brought a beautiful swimming bird, of a slate color, short beak, very developed frontal plate, and wings edged with white. It was a "coot," the size of a large partridge, belonging to the group of macrodactyls which form the transition between the order of wading birds and that of palmipeds. Sorry game, in truth, and its flavor is far from pleasant. But Top was not so particular in these things as his masters, and it was agreed that the coot should be for his supper.

The settlers were now following the eastern bank of the lake, and they would not be long in reaching the part which they already knew. The engineer was much surprised at not seeing any indication of the discharge of water. The reporter and the sailor talked with him, and he could not conceal his astonishment.

At this moment Top, who had been very quiet till then, gave signs of agitation. The intelligent animal went backwards and forwards on the shore, stopped suddenly, and looked at the water, one paw raised, as if he was pointing at some invisible game; then he barked furiously, and was suddenly silent.

Neither Cyrus Harding nor his companions had at first paid any attention to Top's behavior; but the dog's barking soon became so frequent that the engineer noticed it.

"What is there, Top?" he asked.

The dog bounded towards his master, seeming to be very uneasy, and then rushed again towards the bank. Then, all at once, he plunged into the lake.

"Here, Top!" cried Cyrus Harding, who did not like his dog to venture into the treacherous water.

"What's happening down there?" asked Pencroft, examining the surface of the lake.

"Top smells some amphibious creature," replied Herbert.

"An alligator, perhaps," said the reporter.

"I do not think so," replied Harding. "Alligators are only met with in regions less elevated in latitude."

Meanwhile Top had returned at his master's call, and had regained the shore: but he could not stay quiet; he plunged in among the tall grass, and guided by instinct, he appeared to follow some invisible being which was slipping along under the surface of the water. However the water was calm; not a ripple disturbed its surface. Several times the settlers stopped on the bank, and observed it attentively. Nothing appeared. There was some mystery there.

The engineer was puzzled.

"Let us pursue this exploration to the end," said he.

Half an hour after they had all arrived at the southeast angle of the lake, on Prospect Heights. At this point the examination of the banks of the lake was considered finished, and yet the engineer had not been able to discover how and where the waters were discharged. "There is no doubt this overflow exists," he repeated, and since it is not visible it must go through the granite cliff at the west!"

"But what importance do you attach to knowing that, my dear Cyrus?" asked Gideon Spilett.

"Considerable importance," replied the engineer; "for if it flows through the cliff there is probably some cavity, which it would be easy to render habitable after turning away the water."

"But is it not possible, captain, that the water flows away at the bottom of the lake," said Herbert, "and that it reaches the sea by some subterranean passage?"

"That might be," replied the engineer, "and should it be so we shall be obliged to build our house ourselves, since nature has not done it for us."

The colonists were about to begin to traverse the plateau to return to the Chimneys, when Top gave new signs of agitation. He barked with fury, and before his master could restrain him, he had plunged a second time into the lake.

All ran towards the bank. The dog was already more than twenty feet off, and Cyrus was calling him back, when an enormous head emerged from the water, which did not appear to be deep in that place.

Herbert recognized directly the species of amphibian to which the tapering head, with large eyes, and adorned with long silky mustaches, belonged.

"A lamantin!" he cried.

It was not a lamantin, but one of that species of the order of cetaceans, which bear the name of the "dugong," for its nostrils were open at the upper part of its snout. The enormous animal rushed on the dog, who tried to escape by returning towards the shore. His master could do nothing to save him, and before Gideon Spilett or Herbert thought of bending their bows, Top, seized by the dugong, had disappeared beneath the water.

Neb, his iron-tipped spear in his hand, wished to go to Top's help, and attack the dangerous animal in its own element.

"No, Neb," said the engineer, restraining his courageous servant.

Meanwhile, a struggle was going on beneath the water, an inexplicable struggle, for in his situation Top could not possibly resist; and judging by the bubbling of the surface it must be also a terrible struggle, and could not but terminate in the death of the dog! But suddenly, in the middle of a foaming circle, Top reappeared. Thrown in the air by some unknown power, he rose ten feet above the surface of the lake, fell again into the midst of the agitated waters, and then soon gained the shore, without any severe wounds, miraculously saved.

Cyrus Harding and his companions could not understand it. What was not less inexplicable was that the struggle still appeared to be going on. Doubtless, the dugong, attacked by some powerful animal, after having released the dog, was fighting on its own account. But it did not last long. The water became red with blood, and the body of the dugong, emerging from the sheet of scarlet which spread around, soon stranded on a little beach at the south angle of the lake. The colonists ran towards it. The dugong was dead. It was an enormous animal, fifteen or sixteen feet long, and must have weighed from three to four thousand pounds. At its neck was a wound, which appeared to have been produced by a sharp blade.

What could the amphibious creature have been, who, by this terrible blow had destroyed the formidable dugong? No one could tell, and much interested in this incident, Harding and his companions returned to the Chimneys.

5月6日,这一天相当于北半球地区的11月6日。一连好几天天气都是阴沉沉的,现在必须准备过冬了。可是目前的气温还不大低,如果林肯岛上有一只摄氏寒暑表量一下的话,平均温度一定还保持在零上10度到12度左右。这并不奇怪,因为林肯岛大致在南纬35度与40度之间,它的气候正和北半球的西西里岛和希腊一样。可是希腊和西西里岛也有严寒和冰雪,因此在冬季最冷的时候,林肯岛上一定也会封冻的,最好还是预先准备。

总之,即使还没有严寒的威胁,然而雨季也快来了。这座荒凉的海岛孤零零地处在大洋中,任凭风霜雨雪的侵袭,这里经常变天,往往成为严重的灾害。因此,寻找一个比“石窟”舒适的住所的问题,就必须认真考虑而且必须立刻解决了。

自然,潘克洛夫对自己找到的这个住所是有些偏爱的,可是他也知道必须另外找一个地方。海水已经到“石窟”里来过一次了,当时的情祝大家都清楚。如果再遇到一次类似的事件,那就不可收拾了。

“并且,”赛勒斯·史密斯当天和伙伴们谈到这些问题的时候补充道,“我们还要有一些防御设备。”

“为什么?岛上又没有人。”通讯记者说。

“我们还没有察看过内陆,”工程师说,“也可能没有人,不过,即使没有人,我想猛兽恐怕是不会少的。我们必须对于可能遭到的进攻有防备,这样就不需要每晚守夜或是生火了。另外,朋友们,我们对每一件事都必须有远见。我们所在的地方,是太平洋上海盗经常出没的地方……”

“什么!”赫伯特说,“离陆地这么远他们还会来?”

“是的,孩子,”工程师说。“海盗是勇敢的水手,同时也是可怕的敌人,我们必须采取适当的措施。”

“好,”潘克洛夫说,“不管是两条腿的野人还是四条腿的野兽,我们都得提防,可是,史密斯先生,我们先把海岛搜查一下,然后再决定行动不更好吗?”

“再好也没有了。”吉丁·史佩莱加了一句。

“我们在这里找来找去也找不到一个山洞,也许山那边有,谁知道呢?”

“对,”工程师答道,“可是你们忘了,朋友们,我们必须住在靠水的地方。根据在富兰克林山顶上所看到的情况,西边既没有小溪,又没有河流。相反的,我们这里却在慈悲河与格兰特湖之间,这个优越条件是不能忽略的。还有,南半球的贸易风是从西北吹来的,这里向着东方,不象其他的地方迎着风。”

“那么,”水手说,“我们就在湖边造一所房子吧。现在砖头和工具都有了。我们制砖工人、陶器工人、冶金工人和铁工的工作都做得了,瓦工的工作一定更能做得了!”

“是的,朋友。可是我们无论作什么决定,都必须经过全面的考虑。如果我们能找到一个天然的住宅,就可以省掉很多工作,而且也比较安全,因为天然的住宅既可以防御本岛的敌人,又可以防御外来的敌人。”

“对,赛勒斯,”通讯记者说,“可是整个的花岗石壁我们都检查过了,连一个窟窿,一条裂缝都没有!”

“的确,什么也没有!”潘克洛夫补充道。“唉,要是我们能在峭壁的高处,什么危险也达不到的地方凿一个住所,那就好了!面临大海,有五六间房……”

“房里还有窗户透亮!”赫伯特笑着说。

“还有楼梯可以上上下下!”纳布补充道。

“这有什么可笑的?”水手大声说,“难道我提议的就办不到吗?我们不是已经有鹤嘴锄和铲子了吗?史密斯先生难道不能给我们做火药炸山洞吗?史密斯先生,只要我们什么时候需要火药,你马上就可以做好,是不是?”

潘克洛夫在兴致勃勃地发挥他的幻想,赛勒斯·史密斯静听着。要想把花岗石炸开,即使有炸药也是十分困难的,如果自然界不能帮助他们解决住的问题,这的确是一件麻烦的事。工程师没有回答水手的问题,只是建议再从河口到北部峭壁尽头的拐角处去仔细检查一遍。

于是大家都出去了,在将近两英里的一段距离内,作了一次非常仔细的检查,可是峭壁光滑而陡峭,找不到一个洞穴。许多野鸽在峭壁的上空盘旋,它们的窝在峰顶上,实际是参差不齐的花岗石边缘上的一些小孔。

这种情况使人非常为难,不管用鹤嘴锄还是炸药,要打算在这个峭壁上开出一个能够住人的山洞来,都是妄想。因此,目前的情况是:一方面他们必须放弃原来潘克洛夫所找到的“石窟”;可是另一方面,除了“石窟”以外,这一带海岸上再也没有其他可以藏身的地方。

搜索完毕了,移民们已经来到峭壁的北边拐角,峭壁到这里就是终点,再过去经过一段很长的距离往下倾斜,平伏在海岸上。从这里直到西边的尽头,只剩下一层厚厚的岩石、泥土和沙粒所形成的斜坡,上面点缀着一些草木,它的倾斜度只有45度。斜坡上的树木是一丛丛地长在一起的,此外还铺着很厚的野草。可是过去不远,就没有植物,成为一片铺展得很开阔的沙地平原了,这片平原从斜坡的尽头开始,一直延伸到海滨。

赛勒斯·史密斯认为漫出来的湖水一定会流到这边来,他的想法并不是毫无根据。红河流过那么多的水来,当然要通过河流或其他水道才能输出。但是在已经探索过的岸上,也就是说,从眺望岗以西的河口起,工程师始终没有找到这个出口。

工程师现在向伙伴们建议爬上斜坡,从眺望岗回“石窟”去,这样就可以探索湖的东岸和北岸了。大家都一致同意,几分钟以后,赫伯特和纳布就爬上了高地。赛勒斯·史密斯、吉丁·史佩莱和潘克洛夫也沉着地跟了上去。

太阳照耀在美丽的湖面上,闪光透过树木射出来。这是海岛上景色特别优美的地方。他们贪看着成群的树木。权丫的老树在一片绿茵上显得格外黝黑。光艳夺目的美冠鹦鹉在枝头尖叫着,象转动着的万花筒似的,在树木之间往来跳跃。

居民们没有直接走向湖的北岸,他们绕过高地的边缘,从左边往河口走去。这一段弯弯曲曲的道路有一英里半以上。不过树木稀疏,间隔很宽,走起来并不困难。肥沃的土地到这儿显然就终止了,红河与慈悲河之间一带的草木大概是不会这么茂盛的。

赛勒斯·史密斯和他的伙伴们小心翼翼地在这片新土地上走着。他们的武器只有弓箭和带有铁尖的棍子。幸亏没有什么野兽出现,大概它们经常在南部密林出没,可是居民们突然看见托普站在一条蟒蛇的面前,不禁吃了一惊。这条蛇长达十四英尺到十五英尺,纳布一棍把它打死了。赛勒斯·史密斯仔细看了一下,然后告诉大家这条蛇并没有毒,它是衲脊蛇,新南威尔士的土人常常饲养这种蛇。可是这里也可能有其他能使人致命的毒蛇,例如叉尾的蝰蛇——它们常常从脚底下竖起来;或是飞蛇——它们生着一对耳朵,爬得非常快。托普刚受了一次惊吓,又开始追捕另一只爬虫去了,它跑得非常急促,大家都替它捏一把汗。它的主人马上就把它喊了回来。

他们很快就来到红河注入格兰特湖的地方。探险家们还记得,对岸就是他们从富兰克林山下来以后到过的地方。赛勒斯·史密斯认为流到湖里去的水量是相当可观的。因此大自然一定要给过多的湖水找一个出口。而且无疑会形成一个瀑布,如果能够找到它,是有很大用处的。

移民们拉开距离往前走,但是彼此间并不失去联系。他们绕着湖岸走,湖里的水很深,看起来到处都是游鱼。潘克洛夫决定做几根钓杆,想法子钓几条上来。

他们首先绕过东北角。湖水也许就是从这里流出去拘,因为湖岸几乎和高地的边缘一样高。然而还是找不到任何排水的痕迹。移民们继续沿岸搜索,拐了一个小弯以后,湖岸低落下来,和海岸保持平行。

岸这边的森林比较稀疏,可是东一丛西一簇的树木却使周围的风景更加美妙,从这里可以看到格兰特湖的全景,水面上没有一丝波纹。托普在灌木丛里搜寻着,赶出一大群各式各样的飞鸟。吉丁·史佩莱和赫伯特向它们敬了几箭,有一只被少年射中了,掉在草地上。托普跑过去,衔了一只美丽的水鸟回来。它浑身青灰色,嘴很短,前额非常发达,脚爪有蹼连着,好象花边一样,翅膀的周围镶着一道白线。这是一只“黑鸭”,大小和较大的鹧鸪差不多,是一种长趾类的水禽,介于涉水鸟和蹼足鸟之间。这种鸟的味道实在不值得一提,比雉差得很远。可是托普并不象它的主人们那样挑剔,因此大家决定把“黑鸭”留给它当晚饭。

居民们现在沿着湖的东岸前进,不久就要到上次来过的地方了。工程师找不到湖水流出去的迹象,感到非常诧异。他在跟通讯记者和水手说话的时候,也隐藏不住内心的惊讶。

托普一直保持着安静;这时候忽然显得急躁起来。这个机灵的畜生在岸边来回奔跑,突然停下来看着湖面。它举起一只爪子,好象指着什么看不见的动物似的,然后狂吠几声,又突然安静下来了。

起初,赛勒斯·史密斯和他的伙伴们都没有注意托普的行动;可是它愈叫愈厉害,这才引起工程师的注意。

“托普怎么了?”他问道。

托普向它的主人跳过来,显得非常不安,接着又往岸边冲去。突然,它跳到湖里去了。

“回来,托普!”赛勒斯·史密斯喊道,他怕狗到水里去会遇到危险。

“那里发生什么事了?”潘克洛夫望着湖面问道。

“托普闻到什么两栖动物了吧。”赫伯特回答说。

“也许是一只鳄鱼。”通讯记者说。

“我想不是的,”史密斯答道。“只有纬度较低的地方才有鳄鱼。”

这时候托普被它的主人喊住,又跑到岸上来了。但是它没法安静下来,它伏在深草丛中,受直觉的支配,两只眼睛好象紧盯着什么看不见的动物在水面下移动。这时湖上很平静,水面一点涟漪也没有。居民们几次停在岸边,注视着湖水,但是什么也看不见。水里不知暗藏着什么哑谜。

工程师也莫名其妙。

“我们把探测进行到底吧。”他说。

半个钟头以后,他们齐集在眺望岗上湖的东南角。到这里为止,湖岸算是搜查遍了,但是工程师还是没有发现湖水是从哪里流出去的。“这个出口肯定是存在的,”他重复道,“既然看不见,那么湖水一定是从西边的花岗石壁里流出去的!”

“你知道它从哪里流出去有什么用处呢,亲爱的赛勒斯?”吉丁·史佩莱问道。

“相当重要,”工程师说;“假如水是从峭壁里流出去的,那么峭壁里很可能有洞,只要把洞里的水排出去,就可以住人。”

“可是,史密斯先生,”赫伯特问道,“难道湖水不可能从湖底流出去,经过地道通入大海吗?”

“这也可能,”工程师说,“真要是那样,那是大自然没有给我们准备住的地方,我们就只好自己盖房子了。”

移民们正打算穿过高地回到“石窟”去,托普又表现得急躁起来。它愤怒地叫着,它的主人还没有来得及阻止,它又跳到水里去了。

大家齐往岸边跑去。托普已经游到二十英尺以外去了。赛勒斯正在喊它,水里突然钻出一个大脑袋来,那里的水看起来并不深。

这是一只两栖动物,它有着圆锥形的脑袋,一双大眼睛,嘴边长着柔软的长须。赫伯特一看就知道它的种类了。

“海牛!”他喊道。

这并不是海牛,而是鲸类的一种,叫做儒艮,它的鼻孔生在鼻子的上部。这只巨大的动物向托普扑过来,托普想往岸上逃。这时它的主人没法援救它,吉丁·史佩莱和赫伯特匆忙之中也没有想起弯弓搭箭。儒艮抓住托普,把它拖到水底下去了。

纳布手里拿着铁头的标枪,打算到那可怕的动物的活动区域去向它进攻,救出托普。

“不行,纳布。”工程师拦住了勇敢的仆人。

这时候水底展开了一场搏斗,这是一场不可思议的斗争。以托普所处的环境来说,它简直没法招架;水面上白浪翻腾,这场搏斗一定是非常可怕的,看来托普非死在这里不可了!然而,托普突然又从另一个漩涡里钻了出来。不知哪里来的一股力量把它一下子抛离水面十英尺,然后又掉在动荡的湖水里,不久以后,它就游上岸来了。奇怪的是它身上居然没有重伤,轻易地脱了险。

赛勒斯·史密斯和他的伙伴们都不明白这是怎么一回事。同样令人惊异的是:水里似乎还在继续搏斗。大概儒艮遭到什么猛兽的进攻,因此才放下托普进行自卫。搏斗并没有继续很久。湖水被鲜血染红了,儒艮从周围一片猩红色的湖水中浮了上来,很快就在湖南角的一小片沙滩上搁浅了。移民们向它跑去。儒艮已经死了。这是一只巨大的动物,长达十五到十六英尺,至少有三千到四千磅重。它的颈部有一处伤口,好象是尖刀割破的。

究竟是什么两栖动物进行了骇人的袭击,把凶猛的儒艮咬死的呢?谁也说不上来,史密斯和他的伙伴们对这件事情怀着莫大的兴趣,回“石窟”去了。



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