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Book 2 Chapter 9

The weather changed during the first week of March. There had been a full moon at the commencement of the month, and the heat was excessive. The atmosphere was felt to be full of electricity, and a period of some length of tempestuous weather was to be feared.

Indeed, on the 2nd, peals of thunder were heard, the wind blew from the east, and hail rattled against the facade of Granite House like volleys of grape-shot. The door and windows were immediately closed, or everything in the rooms would have been drenched. On seeing these hailstones, some of which were the size of a pigeon's egg, Pencroft's first thought was that his cornfield was in serious danger.

He directly rushed to his field, where little green heads were already appearing, and by means of a great cloth, he managed to protect his crop.

This bad weather lasted a week, during which time the thunder rolled without cessation in the depths of the sky.

The colonists, not having any pressing work out of doors, profited by the bad weather to work at the interior of Granite House, the arrangement of which was becoming more complete from day to day. The engineer made a turning-lathe, with which he turned several articles both for the toilet and the kitchen, particularly buttons, the want of which was greatly felt. A gunrack had been made for the firearms, which were kept with extreme care, and neither tables nor cupboards were left incomplete. They sawed, they planed, they filed, they turned; and during the whole of this bad season, nothing was heard but the grinding of tools or the humming of the turning-lathe which responded to the growling of the thunder.

Master Jup had not been forgotten, and he occupied a room at the back, near the storeroom, a sort of cabin with a cot always full of good litter, which perfectly suited his taste.

"With good old Jup there is never any quarreling," often repeated Pencroft, "never any improper reply. What a servant, Neb, what a servant!"

Of course Jup was now well used to service. He brushed their clothes, he turned the spit, he waited at table, he swept the rooms, he gathered wood, and he performed another admirable piece of service which delighted Pencroft--he never went to sleep without first coming to tuck up the worthy sailor in his bed.

As to the health of the members of the colony, bipeds or bimana, quadrumana or quadrupeds, it left nothing to be desired. With their life in the open air, on this salubrious soil, under that temperate zone, working both with head and hands, they could not suppose that illness would ever attack them.

All were indeed wonderfully well. Herbert had already grown two inches in the year. His figure was forming and becoming more manly, and he promised to be an accomplished man, physically as well as morally. Besides he improved himself during the leisure hours which manual occupations left to him; he read the books found in the case; and after the practical lessons which were taught by the very necessity of their position, he found in the engineer for science, and the reporter for languages, masters who were delighted to complete his education.

The tempest ended about the 9th of March, but the sky remained covered with clouds during the whole of this last summer month. The atmosphere, violently agitated by the electric commotions, could not recover its former purity, and there was almost invariably rain and fog, except for three or four fine days on which several excursions were made. About this time the female onager gave birth to a young one which belonged to the same sex as its mother, and which throve capitally. In the corral, the flock of musmons had also increased, and several lambs already bleated in the sheds, to the great delight of Neb and Herbert, who had each their favorite among these newcomers. An attempt was also made for the domestication of the peccaries, which succeeded well. A sty was constructed under the poultry-yard, and soon contained several young ones in the way to become civilized, that is to say, to become fat under Neb's care. Master Jup, entrusted with carrying them their daily nourishment, leavings from the kitchen, etc., acquitted himself conscientiously of his task. He sometimes amused himself at the expense of his little pensioners by tweaking their tails; but this was mischief, and not wickedness, for these little twisted tails amused him like a plaything, and his instinct was that of a child. One day in this month of March, Pencroft, talking to the engineer, reminded Cyrus Harding of a promise which the latter had not as yet had time to fulfil.

"You once spoke of an apparatus which would take the place of the long ladders at Granite House, captain," said he; "won't you make it some day?"

"Nothing will be easier; but is this a really useful thing?"

"Certainly, captain. After we have given ourselves necessaries, let us think a little of luxury. For us it may be luxury, if you like, but for things it is necessary. It isn't very convenient to climb up a long ladder when one is heavily loaded."

"Well, Pencroft, we will try to please you," replied Cyrus Harding.

"But you have no machine at your disposal."

"We will make one."

"A steam machine?"

"No, a water machine."

And, indeed, to work his apparatus there was already a natural force at the disposal of the engineer which could be used without great difficulty. For this, it was enough to augment the flow of the little stream which supplied the interior of Granite House with water. The opening among the stones and grass was then increased, thus producing a strong fall at the bottom of the passage, the overflow from which escaped by the inner well. Below this fall the engineer fixed a cylinder with paddles, which was joined on the exterior with a strong cable rolled on a wheel, supporting a basket. In this way, by means of a long rope reaching to the ground, which enabled them to regulate the motive power, they could rise in the basket to the door of Granite House.

It was on the 17th of March that the lift acted for the first time, and gave universal satisfaction. Henceforward all the loads, wood, coal, provisions, and even the settlers themselves, were hoisted by this simple system, which replaced the primitive ladder, and, as may be supposed, no one thought of regretting the change. Top particularly was enchanted with this improvement, for he had not, and never could have possessed Master Jup's skill in climbing ladders, and often it was on Neb's back, or even on that of the orang that he had been obliged to make the ascent to Granite House. About this time, too, Cyrus Harding attempted to manufacture glass, and he at first put the old pottery-kiln to this new use. There were some difficulties to be encountered; but, after several fruitless attempts, he succeeded in setting up a glass manufactory, which Gideon Spilett and Herbert, his usual assistants, did not leave for several days. As to the substances used in the composition of glass, they are simply sand, chalk, and soda, either carbonate or sulphate. Now the beach supplied sand, lime supplied chalk, sea-weeds supplied soda, pyrites supplied sulphuric acid, and the ground supplied coal to heat the kiln to the wished-for temperature. Cyrus Harding thus soon had everything ready for setting to work.

The tool, the manufacture of which presented the most difficulty, was the pipe of the glass-maker, an iron tube, five or six feet long, which collects on one end the material in a state of fusion. But by means of a long, thin piece of iron rolled up like the barrel of a gun, Pencroft succeeded in making a tube soon ready for use.

On the 28th of March the tube was heated. A hundred parts of sand, thirty-five of chalk, forty of sulphate of soda, mixed with two or three parts of powdered coal, composed the substance, which was placed in crucibles. When the high temperature of the oven had reduced it to a liquid, or rather a pasty state, Cyrus Harding collected with the tube a quantity of the paste: he turned it about on a metal plate, previously arranged, so as to give it a form suitable for blowing, then he passed the tube to Herbert, telling him to blow at the other extremity.

And Herbert, swelling out his cheeks, blew so much and so well into the tube-taking care to twirl it round at the same time--that his breath dilated the glassy mass. Other quantities of the substance in a state of fusion were added to the first, and in a short time the result was a bubble which measured a foot in diameter. Harding then took the tube out of Herbert's hands, and, giving it a pendulous motion, he ended by lengthening the malleable bubble so as to give it a cylindroconic shape.

The blowing operation had given a cylinder of glass terminated by two hemispheric caps, which were easily detached by means of a sharp iron dipped in cold water; then, by the same proceeding, this cylinder was cut lengthways, and after having been rendered malleable by a second heating, it was extended on a plate and spread out with a wooden roller.

The first pane was thus manufactured, and they had only to perform this operation fifty times to have fifty panes. The windows at Granite House were soon furnished with panes; not very white, perhaps, but still sufficiently transparent.

As to bottles and tumblers, that was only play. They were satisfied with them, besides, just as they came from the end of the tube. Pencroft had asked to be allowed to "blow" in his turn, and it was great fun for him; but he blew so hard that his productions took the most ridiculous shapes, which he admired immensely.

Cyrus Harding and Herbert, while hunting one day, had entered the forest of the Far West, on the left bank of the Mercy, and, as usual, the lad was asking a thousand questions of the engineer, who answered them heartily. Now, as Harding was not a sportsman, and as, on the other side, Herbert was talking chemistry and natural philosophy, numbers of kangaroos, capybaras, and agouties came within range, which, however, escaped the lad's gun; the consequence was that the day was already advanced, and the two hunters were in danger of having made a useless excursion, when Herbert, stopping, and uttering a cry of joy, exclaimed,--

"Oh, Captain Harding, do you see that tree?" and he pointed to a shrub, rather than a tree, for it was composed of a single stem, covered with a scaly bark, which bore leaves streaked with little parallel veins.

"And what is this tree which resembles a little palm?" asked Harding.

"It is a 'cycas revoluta,' of which I have a picture in our dictionary of Natural History!" said Herbert.

"But I can't see any fruit on this shrub!" observed his companion.

"No, captain," replied Herbert; "but its stem contains a flour with which nature has provided us all ready ground."

"It is, then, the bread-tree?"

"Yes, the bread-tree."

"Well, my boy," replied the engineer, "this is a valuable discovery, since our wheat harvest is not yet ripe; I hope that you are not mistaken!"

Herbert was not mistaken: he broke the stem of a cycas, which was composed of a glandulous tissue, containing a quantity of floury pith, traversed with woody fiber, separated by rings of the same substance, arranged concentrically. With this fecula was mingled a mucilaginous juice of disagreeable flavor, but which it would be easy to get rid of by pressure. This cellular substance was regular flour of a superior quality, extremely nourishing; its exportation was formerly forbidden by the Japanese laws.

Cyrus Harding and Herbert, after having examined that part of the Far West where the cycas grew, took their bearings, and returned to Granite House, where they made known their discovery.

The next day the settlers went to collect some, and returned to Granite House with an ample supply of cycas stems. The engineer constructed a press, with which to extract the mucilaginous juice mingled with the fecula, and he obtained a large quantity of flour, which Neb soon transformed into cakes and puddings. This was not quite real wheaten bread, but it was very like it.

Now, too, the onager, the goats, and the sheep in the corral furnished daily the milk necessary to the colony. The cart, or rather a sort of light carriole which had replaced it, made frequent journeys to the corral, and when it was Pencroft's turn to go he took Jup, and let him drive, and Jup, cracking his whip, acquitted himself with his customary intelligence.

Everything prospered, as well in the corral as in Granite House, and certainly the settlers, if it had not been that they were so far from their native land, had no reason to complain. They were so well suited to this life, and were, besides, so accustomed to the island, that they could not have left its hospitable soil without regret!

And yet so deeply is the love of his country implanted in the heart of man, that if a ship had unexpectedly come in sight of the island, the colonists would have made signals, would have attracted her attention, and would have departed!

It was the 1st of April, a Sunday, Easter Day, which Harding and his companions sanctified by rest and prayer. The day was fine, such as an October day in the Northern Hemisphere might be.

All, towards the evening after dinner, were seated under the veranda on the edge of Prospect Heights, and they were watching the darkness creeping up from the horizon. Some cups of the infusion of elder-berries, which took the place of coffee, had been served by Neb. They were speaking of the island and of its isolated situation in the Pacific, which led Gideon Spilett to say,--

"My dear Cyrus, have you ever, since you possessed the sextant found in the case, again taken the position of our island?"

"No," replied the engineer.

"But it would perhaps be a good thing to do it with this instrument, which is more perfect than that which you before used."

"What is the good?" said Pencroft. "The island is quite comfortable where it is!"

"Well, who knows," returned the reporter, "who knows but that we may be much nearer inhabited land than we think?"

"We shall know to-morrow," replied Cyrus Harding, "and if it had not been for the occupations which left me no leisure, we should have known it already."

"Good!" said Pencroft. "The captain is too good an observer to be mistaken, and, if it has not moved from its place, the island is just where he put it."

"We shall see."

On the next day, therefore, by means of the sextant, the engineer made the necessary observations to verify the position which he had already obtained, and this was the result of his operation. His first observation had given him the situation of Lincoln Island,--

In west longitude: from 1500 to 1550;

In south latitude: from 300 to 350

The second gave exactly:

In longitude: 1500 30'

In south latitude: 340 57'

So then, notwithstanding the imperfection of his apparatus, Cyrus Harding had operated with so much skill that his error did not exceed five degrees.

"Now," said Gideon Spilett, "since we possess an atlas as well as a sextant, let us see, my dear Cyrus, the exact position which Lincoln Island occupies in the Pacific."

Herbert fetched the atlas, and the map of the Pacific was opened, and the engineer, compass in hand, prepared to determine their position.

Suddenly the compasses stopped, and he exclaimed,

"But an island exists in this part of the Pacific already!"

"An island?" cried Pencroft.

"Tabor Island."

"An important island?"

"No, an islet lost in the Pacific, and which perhaps has never been visited."

"Well, we will visit it," said Pencroft.

"We?"

"Yes, captain. We will build a decked boat, and I will undertake to steer her. At what distance are we from this Tabor Island?"

"About a hundred and fifty miles to the northeast," replied Harding.

"A hundred and fifty miles! And what's that?" returned Pencroft. "In forty-eight hours, with a good wind, we should sight it!"

And, on this reply, it was decided that a vessel should be constructed in time to be launched towards the month of next October, on the return of the fine season.

三月的第一个星期,天气有了变化。月初的时候,月亮还很圆,天气也非常热。大气里似乎充满了雷电,可以预感到暴风雨要来临了。

果然,在3月2日那天,传来了隆隆的雷声,大风从东面吹来,冰雹象一阵葡萄弹似的乒乒乓乓地对着“花岗石宫”打过来,他们赶快关上门窗,要不然房里的东西都要搞湿了。这些冰雹大小和鸽蛋差不多,潘克洛夫一看见马上想到:他的麦田要遭殃了。

他立刻向地里奔去,绿色的穗梢已经可以看见了,他用一块大布把庄稼罩了起来。他为了麦穗不遭冰雹打,一点也没抱怨。

这次坏天气继续了一个星期,在这期间,雷声不停地在高空响着。

在两次暴风雨之间,天边不断传来隆隆的雷声。狂风暴雨又袭击了一次,空中闪耀着一道道电光,岛上好几棵树都被雷击倒了。森林边湖畔的那一棵大松树也被击倒在地上。有两三次,雷电打在沙滩上,使沙滩熔化成一种玻璃的晶体物质。工程师发现了这些玻璃物质以后,就想到可以用来在窗上安装又厚又结实的玻璃;这样就再也不用担心风霜雨雪的侵袭了。

他们没有什么迫切需要出去干的工作,因此就乘天气不好,在“花岗石宫”里做了一些事情,现在屋子里的布置一天天完善起来了。工程师制造了一台车床,旋了几件盥洗室和厨房的用品,特别是钮扣,这是他们现在感到非常需要的。又造了一个置放火器用的枪架,他极度小心地保管着它;此外,不论是桌子也好,碗柜也好,都不缺少了。他们锯的锯,刨的刨,锉的锉,旋的旋;在这几日闹天气的时候,只听得工具车床响成一片,和雷声互相呼应。

大家并没有忘记小杰普,他们把它安置在后面仓库附近的一间房里,这个房间象船仓似的,里面有一个吊铺,上面总是铺满着干草,完全合乎它的胃口。

“杰普真好,它从来不顶嘴,”潘克洛夫常常重复这句话,“它也决不强辩!多么好的仆人,纳布,多么好的仆人啊!”

当然,现在杰普服务得很好。它给大家刷衣服、烤肉、侍候吃饭、扫地、捡木柴,还有一件最妙的差事使潘克洛夫特别高兴——它不把可敬的水手侍候到钻进被窝,决不先去睡觉。

至于小队成员的健康,不管是两足动物或两手动物,四手类或四足类都不成问题。户外的生活,卫生的环境,温带的气候,脑力和体力的劳动,在这样条件下他们决不可能想到会生病。

的确,大家都非常健康。经过一年,赫伯特又高了两英寸。他的身体逐渐发育,更象个大人了,他立志要成为一个德才兼备、体魄健壮的全面发展的人才。他做完活,一有空就自修,他阅读箱子里找来的书,他随时随地从日常生活里获得实际知识,此外,他又向工程师学习科学,向通讯记者学习语文,这些老师都是非常愿意把他教育成人的。

工程师要把自己所知道的一切都教给赫伯特,他不但讲给他听,还做给他看。同时,赫伯特也能很好地把工程师教给他的知识用到实际中去。

“要是我死了,”赛勒斯·史密斯这样想,“代替我的就是赫伯特了!”

3月9日,暴风雨过去了,可是在这夏季最后的一个月,天空总是阴云密布。大气经过雷电的激烈震荡以后,还没有恢复它原有的宁静,除了三四个晴朗的日子出猎几次以外,几乎不是下雨就是有雾。这时候,母驴生产了,生下来的一头小母驴长得非常快。畜栏里的摩弗仑羊群也增加了,有几只羊羔已经在兽棚里咩咩地叫起来,纳布和赫伯特听了以后非常高兴,他们在这新添的羊群中,各有自己心爱的羊羔。此外,居民们还尝试了驯化野猪,结果也很成功。

家禽场附近新设了一个猪圈,里面不久就有了几只猪崽,而且性格也逐渐有了变化,也就是说,在纳布的饲养下,愈吃愈胖了。小杰普每天非常热心地送给它们饲料和厨房里的剩菜等等。有时候它喜欢拽那些小猪崽的尾巴玩,可是这仅仅是淘气,自然不能说是残忍,它的天性和孩子一样,把这些弯曲的小尾巴当做玩意儿了。在这三月里有一天,潘克洛夫在和工程师谈话的时候,提醒了赛勒斯·史密斯一件他答应完成但还没有时间完成的任务。

“队长,你曾经说过,可以用一种机械来代替‘花岗石宫’的梯子,”他说,“你能找个时间做起来吗?”

“你说的是一种升降梯吗?”赛勒斯·史密斯说。

“随便你说吧!我们就叫它升降梯,”水手回答说,“不管它叫什么名字,只要它能使我们在上下‘花岗石宫’的时候不费力就行了。”

“那再容易也没有了,可是这真有用吗?”

“当然有用,史密斯先生。等到有了这东西以后,想来会舒服多了。当然,对人来说,你可以认为是摆排场,可是对搬运东西说起来,这就是必需的了。带着沉重的东西爬长梯子是多么不方便!”

“好吧,潘克洛夫,我们可以使你满意,”赛勒斯·史密斯说。

“可是你手头没有机器呀。”

“我们可以做一架。”

“做一架蒸气机?”

“不,做一架水压机。”

的确,工程师已经掌握了现成的自然力量,可以毫不困难地使这种力量为他们的机器服务。要达到这个目的,只要增加供应“花岗石宫”内部用水的水流就行了。他扩大了石子与草丛间的缺口,使甬道的底部产生一股湍急的瀑布,甬道里的水漫出来以后,就从地下井排出去了。工程师在瀑布的下方安装了一个带有螺旋桨的圆筒;外面有一个轮盘,上面缠绕着结实的绳索连接在螺旋桨上,绳索挂着一个吊篮。这样,他们利用一根拖到地面的长绳调节动力,就可以坐在吊篮里,一直上升到“花岗石宫”的门口了。

3月17日开始使用升降梯,结果大家一致满意。从此以后,它代替了原始的梯子,所有的重荷,包括木料、煤炭、食粮,连他们自己在内,都从这个简单的装置里上下了。可以想得出,没有一个人对这项革新不感到满意。托普对它更是着了迷,因为它不能、而且也决不可能具有小杰普那样的登梯技术,它往往不得不攀在纳布的背上,有时候甚至攀在猩猩的背上上“花岗石宫”。也是在这个时候,赛勒斯·史密斯打算制造玻璃,他把那只陈旧的陶土炉子用在这项新的用途上。困难很多,几次试验都毫无结果,但是最后他终于配备好一个玻璃工厂,他的老助手史佩莱和赫伯特一连好几天都没有离开那里。制造玻璃的原料很简单,包括沙粒、白垩和碳酸钠或硫酸钠。海滩上有的是沙粒,石灰里有的是白垩,海藻里有的是小苏打,黄铁矿里有的是硫酸,地里有的是煤,陶土炉子可以加热到必要的温度。赛勒斯·史密斯马上就样样俱全,只等开工了。

最难制造的工具就是吹玻璃的吹管,这是一种五六英尺长的铁管,它的一端用来蘸液体玻璃。潘克洛夫把一条簿薄的铁片卷成枪筒形,也就做成了一根随时可以使用的吹管了。

8月28日,吹管开始使用了。他们在一百分沙粒,三十五分白垩,四十分硫酸钠里掺了两三分煤屑,混和在一起放在坩埚里。当炉里的高温使原料化为液体的时候——说得更恰当一些,是胶状物——赛勒斯·史密斯就用吹管蘸了一些,他在预先准备好的一块金属板上滚了滚吹管,做出一个适合于吹的形状来,然后把吹管递给赫伯特,教他吹另外的一端。

“象吹肥皂泡那样吗?”少年问道。

“是的,完全一样!”工程师说。

赫伯特鼓起嘴巴,往管子里用足气力一吹,同时两手不住旋转着吹管,玻璃就被吹得膨胀起来了。他们在半成品上又涂抹了一层胶状体,不久就制成一个直径达一英尺的玻璃球。然后史密斯把赫伯特手里的吹管拿过来,不断地来回摆动,最后他把这个柔顺的玻璃球拉长了,使它成为一个两头尖的圆柱体。

经过吹的工序以后,再去掉两头的半圆形帽子以后,就形成一个玻璃圆筒。这做起来很容易,只要用锋利的铁片先在冷水里浸湿,就可把两头去掉了,他们又用同样的方法把玻璃筒直着割开,经过再一次加热使玻璃软化了,就铺在平板上用木滚子碾平。

第一块玻璃就这样制成了,他们按照这个方法重复了五十次,就制得了五十块玻璃。“花岗石宫”的窗洞马上变成了玻璃窗;也许还不大洁白,可是却足够透明了。

至于做瓶子和杯子,那更不算一回事了。当这些东西从吹管的末端形成的时候,他们感到非常得意。潘克洛夫请求试试,大家也让他“吹”了一次,这对他真是一种乐趣,由于他吹气太猛,结果吹出来的东西奇形怪状,而他却爱不释手。

在这期间的一次旅行中,他们发现了一种树,它又增加了居民食物的来源。

有一天,赛勒斯·史密斯和赫伯特出去打猎,来到慈悲河左岸的远西森林里,少年照例提出了无数的问题,工程师都一一恳切地答复了。打猎也和世界上任何的工作一样,不专心地去做,也是不能成功的。工程师既不是猎人,而赫伯特又尽自谈论化学和物理学,于是大批的袋鼠、水豚和刺鼠来到射程之内,都被少年错过了;最后时间已经入暮,这两个猎人几乎就要空手回去了;正在这时候,赫伯特突然站住,高兴得大叫起来:

“啊,史密斯先生,你看见那棵树吗?”他指着一棵树说,这棵树与其说是乔木,不如说是灌木,因为它只是一根树茎包着一层鳞状树皮,上面长着叶脉平行的树叶子。

“这很象棕榈树,究竟是什么树呢?”史密斯问道。

“这是一棵凤尾松,我曾在我们的《博物学大辞典》里看到过一张这样的图画!”赫伯特说。

“可是我看这棵树上没有果实!”他的同伴说。

“不错,史密斯先生,”赫伯特答道;“可是它的树干里却有一种‘面粉’,这是大自然给我们磨好了的。”

“那么,这就是面包树了?”

“是的,面包树。”

“好,孩子,”工程师答道,“我们的小麦还没有成熟,这真是一个可贵的发现;我希望你没弄错!”

赫伯特的确没有错:他折断了一棵凤尾松的枝干,这是由一种腺状的组织构成的,里面有不少粉末,那就是树心,这种粉状的树心夹杂着木质纤维,由年轮——也是粉质的——形成一圈圈的同心圆,把它们分隔开。这种淀粉里混有一种气味刺鼻的粘液,不过,只要一压榨,就很容易把它清除掉。这种细胞质的物质是一种真正的上好面粉,非常富有营养;从前,日本法律还禁止出口哩。

赛勒斯·史密斯和赫伯特视察了生长凤尾松的这一地带以后,划了一个记号,就回“花岗石宫”去了,他们回去以后,向大家宣布了这个新的发现。

第二天,居民们去收“面粉”了。潘克洛夫对于他的岛愈来愈感兴趣,他向工程师问道:

“赛勒斯先生,你说世界上有没有遇难人的海岛?”

“你这是什么意思,潘克洛夫。”

“好吧!我告诉你,我的意思是说有一些海岛是特地为遇难的人才有的,这些可怜的人在那里总会有办法对付过去!”

“这是可能的。”工程师笑着说。

“这是肯定的,先生,”潘克洛夫说,“至少林肯岛就是这样的一个。”

居民们把大量的凤尾松茎带回“花岗石宫”来。工程师制造了一台压榨机,用来清除淀粉中刺鼻的粘液,经过加工,出产了大量面粉,纳布立刻用它做成糕点。这还不是真正的面包,可是已经很象了。

现在,畜栏里的野驴、山羊和绵羊每天也能供应小队以必要的奶品了。大车已经弃置不用,他们常常驾着一辆单人用的轻便兽力车到畜栏去;每次潘克洛夫去的时候,他总是带着杰普,让它赶车,杰普挥舞起鞭子,照例灵巧地执行自己的任务。

畜栏和“花岗石宫”里一样,一切都欣欣向荣,日渐发展,假如不是因为离乡背井、远隔重洋的话,他们实在没有什么可抱怨的。他们非常习惯于这里的生活,而且也熟悉了这个荒岛,假如一旦要离开这片乐土,他们一定会依依不舍的!

然而,他们热爱祖国的心情丝毫没有动摇,如果有船突然进入荒岛的视线,他们就会发放信号,吸引它的注意,然后乘船离开荒岛。目前,他们虽过着这样幸福的生活,可是他们经常提心吊胆,总希望不会发主任何意外的事情,打断这种生活。

但是,谁敢夸口,说自己能永远保住幸福,免去一切灾难呢?

不管怎么样,居民们在林肯岛上已经住了一年多了,这个岛常常是他们谈话的资料。有一天,他们对岛的位置又作了一次观测,而这次观测却和后来的一切遭遇有着很大的关系。

4月1日是复活节的礼拜天,史密斯和他的伙伴们休息了一天,并且做了祷告。这一天天朗气清,很象北半球十月里的天气。

傍晚,吃完饭以后,大家都坐在眺望岗边缘的平台上,他们凝视着逐渐昏黑的水平线。纳布给大家沏了几杯接骨木种籽的饮料代替咖啡。他们漫谈荒岛以及它孤悬在太平洋中的位置,吉丁·史佩莱不由说道:

“亲爱的赛勒斯,自从箱子里找到六分仪以后,你有没有重新测定过我们这个荒岛的位置?”

“没有。”工程师答道。

“这个仪器比你以前用的那套玩意儿要精确得多了,用它来测定一下也许更好呢?”

“那有什么用?”潘克洛夫说,“荒岛还不是仍旧在它所在的地方吗?”

“对!”吉丁·史佩莱说,“可是,不精确的仪器会使测量的结果不准,既然现在可以很容易地得到准确的结果……”

“你说得对,亲爱的史佩莱,”工程师说,“虽然上次可能产生的差错至多不过五度,不过还是应该及早核对一下。”

“那,谁知道呢,”通讯记者回答说,“也许我们离外界比想象中要近得多,谁知道呢?”

“明天我们就知道了,”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“假如不是因为事务使我抽不开身的话,我们早就可以知道了。”

“好!”潘克洛夫说。“象史密斯先生这么好的测量家是决不会错的,只要荒岛自己不往别处跑,那么它一定还在上次所记的地方。”

“等着瞧吧。”

第二天,工程师就利用六分仪进行了必要的观测,来证实他已经得到的位置;以下就是他所得出的结果。

第一次观测的结果,他知道了林肯岛的位置:

西经:150度到155度;

南纬:30度到35度。

第二次的数字精确了:

西经:150度30分;

南纬:34度57分。

上次虽然仪器不够完备,然而由于赛勒斯·史密斯量得极度精细,因此他的差错不到五度。

“现在,”吉丁·史佩莱说,“既然我们有六分仪和地图,亲爱的赛勒斯,我们就来瞧瞧林肯岛在太平洋中的正确位置吧。”

赫伯特跑去拿地图,大家都知道,这地图是法国出版的,当然,地图上的地名都是法文的。

他们铺开太平洋的区域图,工程师手里拿着指南针,准备确定他们所在的位置。

突然,指南针在他手中停住了,他大声喊道:

“太平洋的这一带地方早已有一个岛!”

“有一个岛?”潘克洛夫大声问道。

“那一定是我们这个岛。”史佩莱说。

“不对!”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“这个岛在西经153度,南纬37度11分。也就是在林肯岛西面两度半,南面两度的地方。”

“这是什么岛呢?”赫伯特问道。

“达抱岛。”

“是一个重要的岛吗?”

“不,是太平洋里一个荒岛,也许根本没有人到过。”

“那么,我们去。”潘克洛夫说。

“我们?”

“是的,史密斯先生。我们可以造一只有甲板的船,我来掌舵。我们离这个达抱岛有多远?”

“大概在我们这个岛的东北方一百五十海里左右。”史密斯答道。

“一百五十海里!这算得了什么?”潘克洛夫说。“假如顺风的话,四十八个钟头以内就可以看见它了!”

“这有什么用?”通讯记者问。

“现在不知道,以后瞧吧!”

弄清了这个问题以后,大家决定抓紧时间造一只船,准备在将近十月天气转暖的时候启程。



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