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Book 2 Chapter 7

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 sudden retreat.

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 winter clothes.

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 domesticated.

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 project.

"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 to it."

"And prepare our second corn-field!" cried the sailor with a triumphant air.

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- pigeons.

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 found.

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 incident.

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.

"Because they have not long ears, and their shape is more graceful!"

"Donkeys or horses," interrupted Pencroft, "they are 'moving powers,' as the captain would say, and as such must be captured!"

The sailor, without frightening the animals, crept through the grass to the bridge over Creek Glycerine, lowered it, and the onagers were prisoners.

Now, should they seize them with violence and master them by force? No. It was decided that for a few days they should be allowed to roam freely about the plateau, where there was an abundance of grass, and the engineer immediately began to prepare a stable near the poultry-yard, in which the onagers might find food, with a good litter, and shelter during the night.

This done, the movements of the two magnificent creatures were left entirely free, and the settlers avoided even approaching them so as to terrify them. Several times, however, the onagers appeared to wish to leave the plateau, too confined for animals accustomed to the plains and forests. They were then seen following the water-barrier which everywhere presented itself before them, uttering short neighs, then galloping through the grass, and becoming calmer, they would remain entire hours gazing at the woods, from which they were cut off for ever!

In the meantime harness of vegetable fiber had been manufactured, and some days after the capture of the onagers, not only the cart was ready, but a straight road, or rather a cutting, had been made through the forests of the Far West, from the angle of the Mercy to Port Balloon. The cart might then be driven there, and towards the end of December they tried the onagers for the first time.

Pencroft had already coaxed the animals to come and eat out of his hand, and they allowed him to approach without making any difficulty, but once harnessed they reared and could with difficulty be held in. However, it was not long before they submitted to this new service, for the onager, being less refractory than the zebra, is frequently put in harness in the mountainous regions of Southern Africa, and it has even been acclimatized in Europe, under zones of a relative coolness.

On this day all the colony, except Pencroft who walked at the animals' heads, mounted the cart, and set out on the road to Port Balloon.

Of course they were jolted over the somewhat rough road, but the vehicle arrived without any accident, and was soon loaded with the case and rigging of the balloon.

At eight o'clock that evening the cart, after passing over the Mercy bridge, descended the left bank of the river, and stopped on the beach. The onagers being unharnessed, were thence led to their stable, and Pencroft before going to sleep gave vent to his feelings in a deep sigh of satisfaction that awoke all the echoes of Granite House.

林肯岛上的这群居民没有被迫打开原有的洞口进房子,现在又从老路回到家里来了,他们因此省掉一番充当泥水匠的麻烦。正当他们打算去打开洞口的时期,猿猴们突然莫名其妙地受了惊吓,自己从“花岗石宫”里逃出来,这的确是他们的运气。猴子们发现他们要转移阵地来进攻自己了吗?这是唯一能够说明它们退却的理由。

他们乘白天把猿猴的尸体带到丛林里去,埋了起来,然后他们就忙着恢复被这群侵略者所搞乱的秩序——仅仅是混乱,而不是破坏,因为它们虽然把屋子搅得天翻地覆,却没有损坏任何东西。纳布又燃起了炉火,好在食品室里的储藏很丰富,人人都饱餐了一顿。

他们也没有忘记杰普,给了它许多南欧松子和块茎,它吃得津津有味。潘克洛夫把它前肢的束缚松开了,可是觉得后肢还是绑着的好,等它听话一些再说。

吃完饭,在睡觉以前,史密斯和他的伙伴们就围着桌子坐下来讨论计划了,这些计划需要赶快执行。最重要和最迫切的问题就是在慈悲河上搭一座桥,建立起荒岛南岸和“花岗石宫”之间的交通;然后造一个围栏,预备驯养他们所打算捕捉的摩弗仑羊和其他毛用动物。

这两个计划可以帮助他们解决当前严重的穿衣问题。搭起桥梁以后,就很容易把气球运来,那时候他们就可以得到布,围栏里的动物可以供给他们兽毛,用来做冬衣穿。

赛勒斯·史密斯打算把围栏设在红河的发源地附近,因为那里有反刍动物所需要的大量新鲜牧草。从眺望岗到红河发源地,有一段已经践踏成道路;假如有一辆比原来好一些的大车,特别是假如他们能捉到一些兽类来拉车的话,把东西运到这儿来就非常容易了。

纳布特别向大家提出一个问题,他认为围栏离“花岗石宫”这么远倒还不要紧,可是家禽场离这么远就不成了。当然,鸟类是必须离厨房近一些的,要建立这样的家禽场,除了靠近原来洞口的那一段湖岸以外,似乎再也找不到更合适的地方了。

在那里,不但可以繁育一般鸟类,而且还可以繁育水禽;他们首先要把在上次狩猎途中所捉到的鹌鹑养驯。

第二天,11月3日,新的造桥工程开始了,人人都要参加这项重要的工作。居民们现在一下子都变成木工,扛着锯、斧头和锤子,从河岸上走下去。

潘克洛夫忽然说:

“昨天多亏小杰普把梯子还给了我们,可是今天我们出去的时候,它会不会又想坏主意把梯子拿上去呢?”

“我们把梯子的下面紧紧地绑住。”赛勒斯·史密斯答道。

他们在沙地上牢牢地钉了两个木桩,把软梯缚住。然后就爬上了慈悲河的左岸,很快地来到河口拐角的地方。

他们停下来,考虑这里能不能架桥。这个地点似乎很合适。

从这里到前一天在南部海滨发现的气球港只有三英里半,在桥梁和气球港之间很容易开辟一条适于大车通行的道路,使“花岗石宫”和荒岛的南部之间有极便利的交通线。

赛勒斯·史密斯向他的伙伴们提出一个方案,要把整个眺望岗孤立起来,使野兽和猿猴都到不了这里。这样,“花岗石宫”、“石窟”、家禽场和耕种用的整个上半部高地都可以免得遭到它们的劫掠了。这个计划实行起来再容易也没有了,工程师就打算这样着手进行工作。

高地的三面已经有水围住了,有的是人工开掘的,有的是天然的。西北方是格兰特湖岸——从甬道的入口处,直到湖岸上排水的缺口。

北边从湖岸的缺口直到海边,是一条新的水道,这条水道在瀑布源头的上下两端,经过高地和岸边自己冲出一条河床来,只要把这条小河的河床稍微挖深一些,就可以把兽类隔绝在外边了,至于东部全境,从上述小河的河口到慈悲河口,则有大海作为屏障。

最后,南边是慈悲河——从河口到拐角(也就是计划搭桥的地方)的一段。

现在只剩下高地的西边可以通行了,这一段从河流的拐弯到格兰特湖的南角之间相隔约有一英里。可是最简便的办法还是挖一条又宽又深的沟渠,这条沟渠可以用湖水把它灌满,一旦湖水过多,就可以通过沟渠很快地流到慈悲河去。湖水骤然排出以后,湖面肯定就要降低一些了;赛勒斯·史密斯已经证实了红河的水量相当大,足够用来实现这项计划。

“这样一来,”工程师说,“眺望岗周围都是水,就成为一个正式的岛屿了,要想和我们岛上的其他领土联系,只能通过桥,一座是我们打算搭在慈悲河上的;此外两座小桥,一座在瀑布以上,一座在瀑布以下,都已搭好了;最后我们还要造两座小桥,一座造在我计划开凿的运河上,另外一座通往慈悲河的左岸。假如这些桥能随心所欲地吊起来的话,眺望岗就可以安如磐石了。”

为了使伙伴们了解得更清楚,赛勒斯·史密斯画了一幅眺望岗高地的详图。这幅图使大家明白了他的计划,于是大家一致表示赞成。潘克洛夫挥舞着斧头,大声叫道:

“我们先去修桥吧!”

修桥是目前最迫切的工程。他们砍伐选好的树木,除去杈枝,做成横梁、托架和厚板。这座桥,在慈悲河右岸的一头是固定的,可是在左岸的一头却是活动的,可以象某些运柯的吊桥一样,利用均衡锤吊起来。

这项工程当然是相当艰巨的,虽然领导有方,还是花了不少的时间,因为慈悲河在这里宽达八十英尺。必须在河床中打下一些桥桩,才能支撑桥板,为了打桩,就必须安装打桩机。桥桩应该形成两个弓架结构,使桥身能够承受重量。

幸亏木工用具、金属的安装工具和这方面的专门人才都不缺少,伙伴们的热情也很高。经过七个月的实际锻炼,他们在使用工具上已经有了高度的技术。必须说明,吉丁·史佩莱的技术也非常熟练,他的灵巧程度几乎跟水手不相上下,潘克洛夫想道:“一个记者竟能这样,真想不到!”

他们艰苦而有规律地进行了三个星期的劳动,才完成了慈悲河上的桥梁工程。他们甚至连吃早饭也在工地上吃,由于天气很好,只有吃晚饭的时候才回“花岗石宫”。

在这期间,小杰普对它的新主人逐渐熟悉了,它总是好奇地望着他们的一举一动。可是为了谨慎起见,潘克洛夫还没有完全解除它的束缚,他考虑得很正确,必须等到高地界河的计划工程完成以后,才允许它自由。托普和杰普相处得很好,它们很愿意在一起玩,可是杰普不论做什么都是一本正经的。

11月20日,桥梁完工了。桥身的活动部分由于有均衡锤的作用,很容易悬吊,只要稍微用一些气力,就可以把它升起来,枢纽和最后一根横木(当桥落下的时候,就用它来支撑)之间相隔二十英尺,任何动物也跳不过来。

现在居民们开始谈论搬运气球的问题了,他们急于要把它放在一个万无一失的地方,可是假如要搬运,就必须拉着大车到气球港去,要拉大车,就必须在远西森林中开辟出一条路来。这需要有相当长的时间才行。纳布和潘克洛夫到气球港去视察了一下,回来以后说,藏在石头洞中的布是不会损坏的,于是大家决定还是不要停止眺望岗的工作。

潘克洛夫说,“既然不怕狐狸和其它野兽上这儿来,我们就可以安心地开辟家禽场了。”

“那么,”纳布加上一句,“我们就可以开出一块高地来,把野生植物移种到那里去。”

“准备我们的第二块麦田!”水手得意洋洋地喊道。

的确,第一块麦田里那棵唯一的庄稼,在潘克洛夫的小心照料之下,长得很好。工程师说过可以结十个麦穗,现在已经结出来了,每个麦穗有八十颗麦粒,六个月的工夫他们就得到八百颗麦粒了,因此他们每年能够收获两次。

这八百颗麦粒,除了拿出五十颗珍藏起来以外,都打算用来种在一片新开垦的地里,他们决定要和过去照料那个单株一样小心地去照料它们。

耕地的准备工作做好以后,他们又在周围造了一道结实的栅栏,栅栏不仅很高,而且顶端都削尖了,一般的走兽是很难跳进来的。至于飞鸟,在潘克洛夫天才的设计下,用木板做了几个人体模型和发出响声的风车就可以把它们吓走。他们把这七百五十颗麦粒种在整齐的畦垅里,然后听凭大自然去摆布。

11月21日,赛勒斯·史密斯开始设计运河工程了,这条运河将要把高地与西边分隔开来,也就是从格兰特湖的南角直到慈悲河拐弯的地方。这里的地面有两三英尺深是腐植土,下面就是花岗石了,因此必须再制造一些硝化甘油。硝化甘油照例起了作用。不到两个星期,就在高地的坚硬地面上开了一条十二英尺宽、六英尺深的沟渠。他们又用同样的方法在岩石的湖岸上开了一条沟渠,从湖里引出水来,形成一条小河,他们把这条小河命名为甘油河,成了慈悲河的支流。正如工程师事先所说的那样,湖面降低了,不过降得很少。为了把高地周围全用河流包围起来,他们把海滩上的河床适当地加宽,同时用木桩隔开泥沙。

到十二月中旬,这些工程都完毕了,眺望岗——它成了一个不规则的五边形,周围将近四英里,流水象一条带子似的环绕着它——现在完全不伯盗贼的侵扰了。

十二月的时候,天气正热。可是居民们继续工作,由于他们急于想建立一个家禽场,就立刻动起手来。

自从高地的隔离工程完成以后,不用说,杰普就恢复自由了。它没有离开它的主人,而且根本没有逃跑的意思。它很温和,气力又大,而且惊人地矫捷。你看,它爬起“花岗石宫”的梯子来,真是谁也比不上。经过人们的教养,它已经能够拉木料,把甘油河里的石头成车地运走了。

“它还不能算是一个泥水匠,但已经是一只猴子了!”赫伯特开玩笑地说。“猴子”这个外号,原是泥水匠用来称呼自己的徒弟的。这个外号可说是再恰当也没有了。

家禽场占地二百平方码,在格兰特湖的东南岸。它由一道栅栏围着,里面有各种供飞鸟繁殖的窝棚。这些窝棚都是用树枝构造的,分隔成许多单间,随时可以供新来的客人居住。

头一个住进来的就是那一对鹌鹑,它们不久就孵出许多小鹌鹑来了;和它们住在一起的还有一打鸭子,这些鸭子惯于住在格兰特湖边。其中有些是中国种,它们张开翅膀就好象扇子似的,羽毛光彩艳丽,可以和锦鸡媲美。几天以后,赫伯特套住一对鹑鸡,它们的尾毛很长,向外张开;这是一种美丽的野鸽子,很快就养驯了。至于塘鹅,鱼狗,大鷭,它们都是自动到家禽场的岸边来的,这个小小的集体唧唧喳喳地吵叫一番以后,也就安稳地住下来了,它们的数目增长得非常快,小队可以不愁没有食用的了。

赛勒斯·史密斯为了完美起见,又在家禽场的一角建立了一个鸽棚。他养了一打常到高地岩石上来的鸽子。它们很快就住熟了,每天早出晚归,比起同类的斑鸠来,它们要好养得多。

终于到了该利用气球做衬衫和其他东西的时候了。至于要保持气球的原状,吹足了气,冒险渡过无边无际的大海回家去,只有无法生存下去的人,可能有这种打算,而实事求是的赛勒斯·史密斯连想也没想。

必须把气球的气囊运往“花岗石宫”,大家都想办法要使他们的大车减轻一些分量而易于驾驭。虽然他们有一辆车,可是还没有办法解决拉车的动力问题。

难道荒岛上没有一种动物能够代替马、驴或牛的吗?这是一个问题。

“当然,”潘克洛夫说,“目前牲口对我们还很有用,日后史密斯先生会制造蒸气大车,甚至要造火车头的,将来火车可以从‘花岗石宫’直达气球港,支线通往富兰克林山!”

纯朴的水手完全相信自己所说的话。你看:当幻想里加入了信念的时候,它的力量有多么大呀!

平心说,只要有一头拉车的牲口,就能做完潘克洛夫所有的事了。的确,老天爷特别宠爱他,并没有使他失望。

12月23日那一天,纳布和托普突然大喊大叫起来,显然他们都在尽量叫喊。居民们正在“石窟”里忙着,以为出了什么事情,赶快跑了出来。

他们看见了什么?原来是两只驯良的大牲口乘桥通着的时候冒冒失失地闯到高地上来了。人们可能会把它们当做马,至少是驴子,一公一母,长得很匀称,浑身是淡灰色的,腿部和尾巴雪白,头部、颈部以及全身有着黑色的条纹。它们稳步地向前走来,一点儿也不惊慌,瞪着眼看着人们,现在它们还不知道这些人就是自己未来的主人呢。

“是野驴!”赫伯特喊道,“一种介乎斑驴和斑马之间的牲口!”

“难道不是驴子吗?”纳布问道。

“因为它们耳朵不长,长相也比驴子要漂亮些!”

“驴也好,马也好,”潘克洛夫插嘴说,“反正是史密斯先生所说的‘动力’,必须把它逮住!”

水手悄悄地从草中爬到甘油河的桥上去,把桥板拉起来,于是这两只野驴就成为俘虏了。

现在需要用暴力抓住它们,强制驾驭它们吗,不,他们决定先让野驴自由自在地在高地上呆几天,反正这里有着大量的牧草;工程师立刻着手在家禽场旁边修建一个牲口棚,里面预备下野驴的饲料,垫上干草,好让它们晚上在里面过夜。

工作完毕了,他们让这两头漂亮的牲口行动完全自由,甚至避免走近它们,以防它们受惊。野驴有好几次对于长时间留在这里出不去表示不耐烦,很想离开高地远走,因为兽类是惯于生活在原野上和森林间的。居民们只见野驴沿着到处阻拦着它们的河水徘徊,发一阵短促的叫喊声,在草地里跳了一会,最后终于安稳下来,它们有时候还呆呆地望着那一片丛林。它们今后再也不能旧地重游了!

在这期间,他们又利用植物纤维制造了一套挽具。野驴来后不多天,不仅大车做好了,而且还在远西森林中笔直地开辟了一条道路——说得更恰当一些,是一条便道——从慈悲河的拐角直通气球港,大车可以驶过去。十二月底,他们第一次试驾野驴。

潘克洛夫已经能使牲口来吃他手里的东西,走到它们的身边它们也不跑了,可是一套上挽具,它们就直立起来,很难勒住。然而不久它们对这种新的差事也就顺从了,因为野驴不象斑马那样倔强,南非的山区里常常用它来作为动力,甚至在欧洲较冷的地区,它们也能适应。

这一天,全体队员都上了大车,潘克洛夫一个人在前面带领着牲口,沿着道路直往气球港走去。

当然,在这条坎坷不平的道路上,是难免要颠簸的,可是大车还是平安无事地到达了气球港,而且很快就装上了气球的气囊和绳索。

当天晚上八点钟,大车回来了,通过慈悲河上的桥,下了左边的堤岸,停在海滩上。他们解开野驴的疆绳,把它们牵到牲口棚里去。潘克洛夫在临睡以前,兴奋得大吼一声,整个的“花岗石宫”都震动了。



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