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Book 2 Chapter 8

The first week of January was devoted to the manufacture of the linen garments required by the colony. The needles found in the box were used by sturdy if not delicate fingers, and we may be sure that what was sewn was sewn firmly.

There was no lack of thread, thanks to Cyrus Harding's idea of re- employing that which had been already used in the covering of the balloon. This with admirable patience was all unpicked by Gideon Spilett and Herbert, for Pencroft had been obliged to give this work up, as it irritated him beyond measure; but he had no equal in the sewing part of the business. Indeed, everybody knows that sailors have a remarkable aptitude for tailoring.

The cloth of which the balloon-case was made was then cleaned by means of soda and potash, obtained by the incineration of plants, in such a way that the cotton, having got rid of the varnish, resumed its natural softness and elasticity; then, exposed to the action of the atmosphere, it soon became perfectly white. Some dozen shirts and sock--the latter not knitted, of course, but made of cotton--were thus manufactured. What a comfort it was to the settlers to clothe themselves again in clean linen, which was doubtless rather rough, but they were not troubled about that! and then to go to sleep between sheets, which made the couches at Granite House into quite comfortable beds!

It was about this time also that they made boots of seal-leather, which were greatly needed to replace the shoes and boots brought from America. We may be sure that these new shoes were large enough and never pinched the feet of the wearers.

With the beginning of the year 1866 the heat was very great, but the hunting in the forests did not stand still. Agouties, peccaries, capybaras, kangaroos, game of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and Spilett and Herbert were too good marksmen ever to throw away their shot uselessly.

Cyrus Harding still recommended them to husband the ammunition, and he took measures to replace the powder and shot which had been found in the box, and which he wished to reserve for the future. How did he know where chance might one day cast his companions and himself in the event of their leaving their domain? They should, then, prepare for the unknown future by husbanding their ammunition and by substituting for it some easily renewable substance.

To replace lead, of which Harding had found no traces in the island, he employed granulated iron, which was easy to manufacture. These bullets, not having the weight of leaden bullets, were made larger, and each charge contained less, but the skill of the sportsmen made up this deficiency. As to powder, Cyrus Harding would have been able to make that also, for he had at his disposal saltpeter, sulphur, and coal; but this preparation requires extreme care, and without special tools it is difficult to produce it of a good quality. Harding preferred, therefore, to manufacture pyroxyle, that is to say gun-cotton, a substance in which cotton is not indispensable, as the elementary tissue of vegetables may be used, and this is found in an almost pure state, not only in cotton, but in the textile fiber of hemp and flax, in paper, the pith of the elder, etc. Now, the elder abounded in the island towards the mouth of Red Creek, and the colonists had already made coffee of the berries of these shrubs, which belong to the family of the caprifoliaceae.

The only thing to be collected, therefore, was elder-pith, for as to the other substance necessary for the manufacture of pyroxyle, it was only fuming azotic acid. Now, Harding having sulphuric acid at his disposal, had already been easily able to produce azotic acid by attacking the saltpeter with which nature supplied him. He accordingly resolved to manufacture and employ pyroxyle, although it has some inconveniences, that is to say, a great inequality of effect, an excessive inflammability, since it takes fire at one hundred and seventy degrees instead of two hundred and forty, and lastly, an instantaneous deflagration which might damage the firearms. On the other hand, the advantages of pyroxyle consist in this, that it is not injured by damp, that it does not make the gun-barrels dirty, and that its force is four times that of ordinary powder.

To make pyroxyle, the cotton must be immersed in the fuming azotic acid for a quarter of an hour, then washed in cold water and dried. Nothing could be more simple.

Cyrus Harding had only at his disposal the ordinary azotic acid and not the fuming or monohydrate azotic acid, that is to say, acid which emits white vapors when it comes in contact with damp air; but by substituting for the latter ordinary azotic acid, mixed, in the proportion of from three to five volumes of concentrated sulphuric acid, the engineer obtained the same result. The sportsmen of the island therefore soon had a perfectly prepared substance, which, employed discreetly, produced admirable results.

About this time the settlers cleared three acres of the plateau, and the rest was preserved in a wild state, for the benefit of the onagers. Several excursions were made into the Jacamar Wood and the forests of the Far West, and they brought back from thence a large collection of wild vegetables, spinach, cress, radishes, and turnips, which careful culture would soon improve, and which would temper the regimen on which the settlers had till then subsisted. Supplies of wood and coal were also carted. Each excursion was at the same time a means of improving the roads, which gradually became smoother under the wheels of the cart.

The rabbit-warren still continued to supply the larder of Granite House. As fortunately it was situated on the other side of Creek Glycerine, its inhabitants could not reach the plateau nor ravage the newly-made plantation. The oyster-bed among the rocks was frequently renewed and furnished excellent molluscs. Besides that, the fishing, either in the lake or the Mercy, was very profitable, for Pencroft had made some lines, armed with iron hooks, with which they frequently caught fine trout, and a species of fish whose silvery sides were speckled with yellow, and which were also extremely savory. Master Neb, who was skilled in the culinary art, knew how to vary agreeably the bill of fare. Bread alone was wanting at the table of the settlers, and as has been said, they felt this privation greatly.

The settlers hunted too the turtles which frequented the shores of Cape Mandible. At this place the beach was covered with little mounds, concealing perfectly spherical turtles' eggs, with white hard shells, the albumen of which does not coagulate as that of birds' eggs. They were hatched by the sun, and their number was naturally considerable, as each turtle can lay annually two hundred and fifty.

"A regular egg-field," observed Gideon Spilett, "and we have nothing to do but to pick them up."

But not being contented with simply the produce, they made chase after the producers, the result of which was that they were able to bring back to Granite House a dozen of these chelonians, which were really valuable from an alimentary point of view. The turtle soup, flavored with aromatic herbs, often gained well-merited praises for its preparer, Neb.

We must here mention another fortunate circumstance by which new stores for the winter were laid in. Shoals of salmon entered the Mercy, and ascended the country for several miles. It was the time at which the females, going to find suitable places in which to spawn, precede the males and make a great noise through the fresh water. A thousand of these fish, which measured about two feet and a half in length, came up the river, and a large quantity were retained by fixing dams across the stream. More than a hundred were thus taken, which were salted and stored for the time when winter, freezing up the streams, would render fishing impracticable. By this time the intelligent Jup was raised to the duty of valet. He had been dressed in a jacket, white linen breeches, and an apron, the pockets of which were his delight. The clever orang had been marvelously trained by Neb, and any one would have said that the Negro and the ape understood each other when they talked together. Jup had besides a real affection for Neb, and Neb returned it. When his services were not required, either for carrying wood or for climbing to the top of some tree, Jup passed the greatest part of his time in the kitchen, where he endeavored to imitate Neb in all that he saw him do. The black showed the greatest patience and even extreme zeal in instructing his pupil, and the pupil exhibited remarkable intelligence in profiting by the lessons he received from his master.

Judge then of the pleasure Master Jup gave to the inhabitants of Granite House when, without their having had any idea of it, he appeared one day, napkin on his arm, ready to wait at table. Quick, attentive, he acquitted himself perfectly, changing the plates, bringing dishes, pouring out water, all with a gravity which gave intense amusement to the settlers, and which enraptured Pencroft.

"Jup, some soup!"

"Jup, a little agouti!"

"Jup, a plate!"

"Jup! Good Jup! Honest Jup!"

Nothing was heard but that, and Jup without ever being disconcerted, replied to every one, watched for everything, and he shook his head in a knowing way when Pencroft, referring to his joke of the first day, said to him,--

"Decidedly, Jup, your wages must be doubled."

It is useless to say that the orang was now thoroughly domesticated at Granite House, and that he often accompanied his masters to the forest without showing any wish to leave them. It was most amusing to see him walking with a stick which Pencroft had given him, and which he carried on his shoulder like a gun. If they wished to gather some fruit from the summit of a tree, how quickly he climbed for it. If the wheel of the cart stuck in the mud, with what energy did Jup with a single heave of his shoulder put it right again.

"What a jolly fellow he is!" cried Pencroft often. "If he was as mischievous as he is good, there would be no doing anything with him!"

It was towards the end of January the colonists began their labors in the center of the island. It had been decided that a corral should be established near the sources of the Red Creek, at the foot of Mount Franklin, destined to contain the ruminants, whose presence would have been troublesome at Granite House, and especially for the musmons, who were to supply the wool for the settlers' winter garments.

Each morning, the colony, sometimes entire, but more often represented only by Harding, Herbert, and Pencroft, proceeded to the sources of the Creek, a distance of not more than five miles, by the newly beaten road to which the name of Corral Road had been given.

There a site was chosen, at the back of the southern ridge of the mountain. It was a meadow land, dotted here and there with clumps of trees, and watered by a little stream, which sprung from the slopes which closed it in on one side. The grass was fresh, and it was not too much shaded by the trees which grew about it. This meadow was to be surrounded by a palisade, high enough to prevent even the most agile animals from leaping over. This enclosure would be large enough to contain a hundred musmons and wild goats, with all the young ones they might produce.

The perimeter of the corral was then traced by the engineer, and they would then have proceeded to fell the trees necessary for the construction of the palisade, but as the opening up of the road had already necessitated the sacrifice of a considerable number, those were brought and supplied a hundred stakes, which were firmly fixed in the ground.

The construction of this corral did not take less than three weeks, for besides the palisade, Cyrus Harding built large sheds, in which the animals could take shelter. These buildings had also to be made very strong, for musmons are powerful animals, and their first fury was to be feared. The stakes, sharpened at their upper end and hardened by fire, had been fixed by means of cross-bars, and at regular distances props assured the solidity of the whole.

The corral finished, a raid had to be made on the pastures frequented by the ruminants. This was done on the 7th of February, on a beautiful summer's day, and every one took part in it. The onagers, already well trained, were ridden by Spilett and Herbert, and were of great use.

The maneuver consisted simply in surrounding the musmons and goats, and gradually narrowing the circle around them. Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, Neb, and Jup, posted themselves in different parts of the wood, while the two cavaliers and Top galloped in a radius of half a mile round the corral.

The musmons were very numerous in this part of the island. These fine animals were as large as deer; their horns were stronger than those of the ram, and their gray-colored fleece was mixed with long hair.

This hunting day was very fatiguing. Such going and coming, and running and riding and shouting! Of a hundred musmons which had been surrounded, more than two-thirds escaped, but at last, thirty of these animals and ten wild goats were gradually driven back towards the corral, the open door of which appearing to offer a means of escape, they rushed in and were prisoners.

In short, the result was satisfactory, and the settlers had no reason to complain. There was no doubt that the flock would prosper, and that at no distant time not only wool but hides would be abundant.

That evening the hunters returned to Granite House quite exhausted. However, notwithstanding their fatigue, they returned the next day to visit the corral. The prisoners had been trying to overthrow the palisade, but of course had not succeeded, and were not long in becoming more tranquil.

During the month of February, no event of any importance occurred. The daily labors were pursued methodically, and, as well as improving the roads to the corral and to Port Balloon, a third was commenced, which, starting from the enclosure, proceeded towards the western coast. The yet unknown portion of Lincoln Island was that of the wood-covered Serpentine Peninsula, which sheltered the wild beasts, from which Gideon Spilett was so anxious to clear their domain.

Before the cold season should appear the most assiduous care was given to the cultivation of the wild plants which had been transplanted from the forest to Prospect Heights. Herbert never returned from an excursion without bringing home some useful vegetable. One day, it was some specimens of the chicory tribe, the seeds of which by pressure yield an excellent oil; another, it was some common sorrel, whose antiscorbutic qualities were not to be despised; then, some of those precious tubers, which have at all times been cultivated in South America, potatoes, of which more than two hundred species are now known. The kitchen garden, now well stocked and carefully defended from the birds, was divided into small beds, where grew lettuces, kidney potatoes, sorrel, turnips, radishes, and other coneiferae. The soil on the plateau was particularly fertile, and it was hoped that the harvests would be abundant.

They had also a variety of different beverages, and so long as they did not demand wine, the most hard to please would have had no reason to complain. To the Oswego tea, and the fermented liquor extracted from the roots of the dragonnier, Harding had added a regular beer, made from the young shoots of the spruce-fir, which, after having been boiled and fermented, made that agreeable drink called by the Anglo-Americans spring- beer.

Towards the end of the summer, the poultry-yard was possessed of a couple of fine bustards, which belonged to the houbara species, characterized by a sort of feathery mantle; a dozen shovelers, whose upper mandible was prolonged on each side by a membraneous appendage; and also some magnificent cocks, similar to the Mozambique cocks, the comb, caruncle, and epidermis being black. So far, everything had succeeded, thanks to the activity of these courageous and intelligent men. Nature did much for them, doubtless; but faithful to the great precept, they made a right use of what a bountiful Providence gave them.

After the heat of these warm summer days, in the evening when their work was finished and the sea-breeze began to blow, they liked to sit on the edge of Prospect Heights, in a sort of veranda, covered with creepers, which Neb had made with his own hands. There they talked, they instructed each other, they made plans, and the rough good-humor of the sailor always amused this little world, in which the most perfect harmony had never ceased to reign.

They often spoke of their country, of their dear and great America. What was the result of the War of Secession? It could not have been greatly prolonged. Richmond had doubtless soon fallen into the hands of General Grant. The taking of the capital of the Confederates must have been the last action of this terrible struggle. Now the North had triumphed in the good cause, how welcome would have been a newspaper to the exiles in Lincoln Island! For eleven months all communication between them and the rest of their fellow-creatures had been interrupted, and in a short time the 24th of March would arrive, the anniversary of the day on which the balloon had thrown them on this unknown coast. They were then mere castaways, not even knowing how they should preserve their miserable lives from the fury of the elements! And now, thanks to the knowledge of their captain, and their own intelligence, they were regular colonists, furnished with arms, tools, and instruments; they had been able to turn to their profit the animals, plants, and minerals of the island, that is to say, the three kingdoms of Nature.

Yes; they often talked of all these things and formed still more plans.

As to Cyrus Harding he was for the most part silent, and listened to his companions more often than he spoke to them. Sometimes he smiled at Herbert's ideas or Pencroft's nonsense, but always and everywhere he pondered over those inexplicable facts, that strange enigma, of which the secret still escaped him!

他们在一月份的第一个礼拜赶制了队里所需要的衣服。所用的针都是箱子里的,他们的手虽然不巧,却很有力,我们可以肯定,做出来的活儿是很牢固的。

居民们并不缺少线。多亏赛勒斯·史密斯的倡议,他们用气球上的旧线,解决了缝纫上的问题。吉丁·史佩莱和赫伯特以惊人的耐心把它们全拆了下来,潘克洛夫则感到这项工作对于他简直是不能容忍,于是就半途而废了,可是在缝纫方面却是谁也比不上他。的确,水手们擅长缝纫,这是谁都知道的。

他们从焚烧植物的灰里取得小苏打和钾碱,用来洗净气囊的布料,经过洗涤以后,棉布上的油漆都脱落了,恢复了它原有的柔软和弹性,晾干以后,它就洁白如新了。他们缝制出好几打衬衫和袜套来——当然,这些袜套不是针织的,而是棉布做的。这群居民换上了干净的布衣,他们感到多么的舒适啊!固然这些布料相当粗,然而他们却毫不介意,同时他们感觉也有了被单,这些被单顿时使“花岗石宫”的睡榻变成舒适的床铺了!

也是在这个时候,他们还制造了一批海豹皮靴,从美国穿来的那些靴子现在已经非换不行了。这些新靴子做得非常宽大,决不会挤痛他们的脚。

现在已经是1866年,年初的时候天气很热,可是他们仍然到森林里打猎。这里到处都是刺鼠、野猪、水豚、袋鼠和其它各种兽类,史佩莱和赫伯特的射击技术十分高明,真是百发百中。

赛勒斯·史密斯仍旧要求大家节省火药,他尽量想法子用别的东西代替,把那箱子里的弹药,留到将来再用。在伙伴们和自己离开这块领地以前,谁能预料会发生什么事呢?因此,他们应该为了这不可知的前途节省火药,尽量使用容易补充的代用品。

史密斯在岛上找不到铅,于是他用铁粒来代替,这是很容易制造的。既然铁弹没有铅弹沉重,他就只好把它们做得大一些,少装一些火药。这样虽然效力稍差,可是由于射击者的技术好,却弥补了这个缺点。至于火药,赛勒斯·史密斯本来也能制造,因为他有的是硝石、硫磺和木炭,可是这项工作必须特别小心,没有特殊的工具很难保证质量。于是史密斯决定还是制造棉花火药,也就是火棉,这种东西并不是非要棉花不可,凡是植物纤维都可以用,大麻和亚麻、纸张、接骨木树心等的纤维,都和棉花的纤维一样纯净。荒岛的红河河口一带生长着大量的接骨木:这种灌木属于忍冬科的植物,移民们已经用它的果实制造过咖啡了。

唯一需要收集的就是接骨木的树心,至于制造棉花火药的其他必需品,就是发烟硝酸。现在史密斯手头有硫酸,只要加入硝石,就很容易地取得硝酸,而硝石又是可以从自然界取得的。于是他决定生产棉花火药以供使用,可是它有一些缺点,就是效果拿不稳,容易燃烧——它不是在240度,而是在170度就自燃——枪枝很容易因走火而损坏。另一方面,棉花火药也有它的优点,那就是:不怕受潮,不会弄脏枪筒,而且力量相当于普通火药的四倍。

制造棉花火药只要把棉花在发烟硝酸里浸一刻钟,然后在冷水里洗净晾干。没有比这个更简单的了。

赛勒斯·史密斯手头只有普通的硝酸而没有发烟硝酸或是硝酸单水化合物,也就是说,他的这种硝酸一碰到潮湿的空气就会冒白烟,于是工程师在普通的硝酸里掺了三倍至五倍的浓硫酸,也就得到了同样的效果。于是岛上的猎人很快就有了大量的火药,由于使用谨慎,效果也很好。

到这时候为止,他们在高地上已经开拓了三英亩的土地,其余的部分为了照顾野驴的缘故,还保留着草地。他们到啄木鸟林和远西森林去了好几次,从那里带回来大量的野菜、菠菜、水芹、萝卜和芜菁,这些菜蔬只要小心栽培,很快就能生长起来,这就能够调剂他们好久以来一直借以生存的食品。木材和煤炭也成车地装来了。每出外一次都随时修整路面,道路在车轮的滚动下,变得平坦光滑起来。

“花岗石宫”的食品室还是不断从养兔场取得肉类,幸亏养兔场在甘油河的对岸,否则它的“居民”就要到高地上来破坏新辟的农场了。岩石间的蛤蜊场里经常有新的食品补充进来,从那里可以得到上好的软体动物。除此以外,不论在格兰特湖还是在慈悲河上钓鱼,都可以得到很大的收获,潘克洛夫已经做了几根钓丝,上面装着铁钩,他们常常钓到美味的鳟鱼,还有一种鱼,银白色的腹部带着金黄色的斑点,也非常好吃。炊事员纳布精通烹调,经常更换菜单。他们所差的只有面包了,前面已经说过,这正是他们迫切需要的。

居民们也经常捕捉常到颚骨角沿岸来的海龟。这一带海滩上丘陵起伏,藏有雪白滚圆的硬壳龟蛋,它和鸟蛋不一样,蛋白是不会凝结的。这些龟蛋在阳光下孵化,每一只海龟每年能产卵二百五十枚左右,因此海滩上的龟蛋很多。

“真是一片蛋田,”吉丁·史佩莱说,“我们只要伸手去捡就行了。”

可是他们对这些产品还不满足,因此又去猎捕产品的供应者,结果带回来一打海龟,从营养观点来看,这的确是非常珍贵的。纳布在海龟汤里加了一些香料调味,大家吃得赞不绝口。

还有一件幸运的事情也必须提一提,他们得到了大量的冬季储备物资。一大批的鲑鱼进入了慈悲河,分布在上游好几英里之内。原来这正是雌鱼找地方产卵的季节,它们引着雄鱼成群地游入淡水,激起一阵唧唧的声音。一千来条长达二英尺半的鲑鱼到内河来了,居民们在河里做了一个水闸,把它们大量阻拦住。他们就这样捉住了一百多条,都腌了起来,以备冬天河水结冰不能钓鱼的时候食用。这时候,伶俐的杰普也提升为仆役了。它穿着一件外套,一条白亚麻的短裤,系着一条围裙,它对围裙上的口袋最感到兴趣。这只聪明的猩猩经过纳布巧妙的训练,已经有了很大进步,人们看见他们在谈话,一定会以为这个黑人和猩猩是彼此懂得对方语言的。杰普衷心喜爱纳布,纳布对它也是一样。杰普的日常工作是搬柴和上树,当它没有事情的时候,通常是呆在厨房里,模仿着纳布的一举一动。黑人极其耐心而又非常热心地教他的徒弟,徒弟也聪明异常,在师傅的教导下学会了很多东西。

有一天,杰普把餐巾搭在胳膊上,突然出人意外地到桌边来伺候大家吃饭了。“花岗石宫”的主人们是多么高兴啊!它动作迅速,专心致志,完全尽到了自己的责任;换盆子、拿碟子、倒水,一切都做得非常沉着,人人都放声大笑起来,潘克洛夫更是笑得不能自持。

“杰普,拿汤来!”

“杰普,给我点儿刺鼠肉!”

“杰普,拿一个盆子来!”

“杰普,好杰普!忠实的杰普!”

只听见大家嚷成一片,但是杰普还是有条不紊地一一办到,注意着每件事情;当潘克洛夫重新提起第一天的笑话来的时候,它摇头摆尾,好象通人性似的。

“真的,杰普,你的待遇要提高了。”

不用说,现在猩猩在“花岗石宫”里已经完全养驯了,它常跟随着主人到森林里去,从来也没想过离开他们。最有趣的是,它象扛枪似的扛着潘克洛夫给它的棍子走路。假如人们想摘树顶上的果子,它马上就爬上树去。假如车轮子陷在泥里,它也只要肩膀一扛,不费吹灰之力就解决了。

“这家伙真有意思!”潘克洛夫常这样说。“假如它光会顽皮而不好好干活,那就没有办法了!”

一月底,他们开始在荒岛的中部劳动。他们决定在红河发源地附近,富兰克林山的山脚下设一个畜栏,用来豢养反刍动物——因为把它们放在“花岗石宫”附近会发生一些麻烦——特别是他们为了取毛做冬衣的那些摩弗仑羊。

每天早上,小队里的人——有时候是全体,可是多半是史密斯、赫伯特和潘克洛夫三个人——总要经过新辟的畜栏路前往红河的发源地,这一段路不到五英里。

他们在富兰克林山的南面选择了一处地方。这是一块草地,当中有几棵树,一条小溪从山坡上流下来把这块地方的一边围住。这里有新鲜的野草,而且周围的大树并没有把这块地方遮盖起来。他们打算做一道相当高的栅栏围住草地,使最矫捷的兽类也跳不进去。这个畜栏要能够容得下一百只摩弗仑羊和野山羊以及未来的羊羔。

工程师画出了畜栏的边界后,他们下一步的工作就该去采伐装栅栏所必要的木料了,在筑路的时候,他们已经砍倒了不少树木,这时候就拿来做成一百个木桩,牢牢地埋在地里。

栅栏的迎面留了一个相当大的出口,有两扇结实的大门可以关闭。

建立这个畜栏费了不下三个星期的工夫,因为除了栅栏以外,赛勒斯·史密斯还做了些很大的兽棚供动物居住。这些兽棚也必须做得非常牢固,因为摩弗仑羊力量很大,它们乍一来的时候,那股兽性是相当可怕的。因此就把木桩的上端都削尖了,而且把它烤得很硬,用横木钉在一起,每隔一段距离有一根支柱,这样就保证了整个栅栏的结实耐久。

畜栏完工了,该在反刍动物经常出没的草地上打围了。他们选定了2月7日,这是一个明朗的夏天,小队全体都出动了。这时候两匹野驴已经完全训练好了,史佩莱和赫伯特骑着它们。在这次打猎中,它们的用处很大。

他们的计划很简单,就是包围摩弗仑羊和山羊,然后逐渐把包围圈缩小。赛勒斯·史密斯、潘克洛夫、纳布和杰普在森林里各守一方,两位骑士和托普则在畜栏周围半英里之内来回奔驰。

荒岛的这一带摩弗仑羊很多。这种优良的动物和鹿差不多大;它们的角比山羊角还要硬,灰色的底绒上,夹杂着许多长毛。

这一天打猎非常辛苦。他们来回奔跑,有时候骑坐,有时候叫喊!他们围住一百只摩弗仑羊,但是逃走的却占三分之二,最后终于有三十只摩弗仑羊和十只野山羊逐渐被逼近畜栏,畜栏的大门敞开,好象是一条逃生之路,但是一冲进去,就被擒了。

总之,成绩还不错,他们没有理由抱怨,这些摩弗仑羊多半是母羊,其中有几个快下羊羔了。因此,羊群无疑是会扩大的,不久以后就不仅有羊毛用,而且可以得到大量的皮革了。

当天晚上,这群猎人筋疲力尽地回到“花岗石宫”。虽然大家都很累,可是第二天还是到畜栏里去看了一下。俘虏们曾经试图撞倒栅栏,当然它们没有成功,不久以后,也就安静下来了。

二月份全月没有发生什么重要的事情。他们照例进行日常工作,在改进畜栏与气球港之间道路的同时,又开始修筑了第三条道路——从畜栏通往西海滨。在林肯岛上,他们至今还没有探索过盘蛇半岛的森林,那里隐藏着许多野兽,吉丁·史佩莱恨不得一下子就把它们从小队的领土上驱逐出去。

在天气变冷以前,他们特别小心地培育着从森林里移植到眺望岗来的植物。赫伯特每次出游都带回一些有用的菜蔬来。有时候他带来几棵菊苣科的标本(它的种籽可以压榨出一种上好的油料);有时候带回一些普通的酸模(它是治坏血病的特效药,因此是不可忽视的);此外,还带回一些珍贵的块茎(它们在南美洲终年生长着)和马铃薯(目前知道的,已经超过两百种了)。现在菜园里出产丰富而且不怕鸟来,许多菜畦分种着莴苣、卵形马铃薯、酸模、芜菁、萝卜和其他十字花科的植物。高地上的土壤特别肥沃,丰收是很有希望的。

他们也有各种各样的饮料,只要不想喝酒,即使最爱挑剔的人也没有什么可抱怨的了。除了薄荷茶和从麒麟树根里提出来的酿造酒以外,史密斯又新添了一种正式的啤酒,这种饮料是用针枞的嫩芽经过发酵和煮沸制成的,味道很好,英美人把它叫做“泉水啤酒”,也就是“松啤酒”。

夏末的时候,家禽场里添了一对美好的鸨,这种鸨属于鸨科,周身的羽毛很特别;还有一打阔嘴鸭,它们的上喙两边都多长了两片长膜;此外有一些美丽的公鸡,它们和莫三鼻给的公鸡有些相象,鸡冠、肉瘤和表皮都是黑色的。到目前为止,一切都很顺利,这应该归功于这些智勇双全的人的积极肯干。当然,他们的自然条件很好,可是,他们信守一句伟大的格言:“人必自助,而后天助之。”

在这炎热的夏天,白天的酷暑过去以后,晚间就吹来了阵阵的海风,这时正好工作完毕,他们总喜欢坐在眺望岗的边缘上,这里是纳布利用爬藤的覆盖而布置成的一个平台。他们在这里谈心,互相提意见,策划着将来,心直口快的水手常给这个小小的世界带来笑料,他们之间永远保持着无比的和睦。

他们常常谈到自己的国家,可爱的美国。南北战争的结果怎么样了?战争不会拖延太久的,里士满一定很快就会落入格兰特将军的手中。一攻破南部联邦的首府,这场可怕的战争就要结束了。现在北军正义的事业已经取得胜利,林肯岛上这群异乡的流浪人是多么渴盼着有一份报纸啊!他们和自己的同胞断绝音信已经有十一个月,再过不久就是3月24日了,这是气球把他们抛到这个无名海滩上来的周年纪念日。从去年那时候起,他们就成了一群难民,甚至在风霜雨雪的侵袭下,也不知道究竟应该怎样保全自己的残生!靠了工程师和大家的智慧,他们现在有了武器、仪器和工具,成了名符其实的移民,他们居然利用了岛上的动物、植物和矿藏——自然界的三大物类。

是的,他们常常谈论这些,而且为未来拟订更多的计划。

赛勒斯·史密斯大部分时间是沉默的,他总是听伙伴们谈话,很少自己发言。当赫伯特天真地谈出幻想和潘克洛夫信口开河的时候,他也许跟着笑一笑,可是他随时随地总在思索着那些不可思议的事实,到目前为止,他还没有猜破那些神秘的谜!



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