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Book 3 Chapter 14

Three years had passed away since the escape of the prisoners from Richmond, and how often during those three years had they spoken of their country, always present in their thoughts!

They had no doubt that the civil war was at an end, and to them it appeared impossible that the just cause of the North had not triumphed. But what had been the incidents of this terrible war? How much blood had it not cost? How many of their friends must have fallen in the struggle? They often spoke of these things, without as yet being able to foresee the day when they would be permitted once more to see their country. To return thither, were it but for a few days, to renew the social link with the inhabited world, to establish a communication between their native land and their island, then to pass the longest, perhaps the best, portion of their existence in this colony, founded by them, and which would then be dependent on their country, was this a dream impossible to realize?

There were only two ways of accomplishing it--either a ship must appear off Lincoln Island, or the colonists must themselves build a vessel strong enough to sail to the nearest land.

"Unless," said Pencroft, "our good genius, himself provides us with the means of returning to our country."

And, really, had any one told Pencroft and Neb that a ship of 300 tons was waiting for them in Shark Gulf or at Port Balloon, they would not even have made a gesture of surprise. In their state of mind nothing appeared improbable.

But Cyrus Harding, less confident, advised them to confine themselves to fact, and more especially so with regard to the building of a vessel--a really urgent work, since it was for the purpose of depositing, as soon as possible, at Tabor Island a document indicating Ayrton's new residence.

As the "Bonadventure" no longer existed, six months at least would be required for the construction of a new vessel. Now winter was approaching, and the voyage would not be made before the following spring.

"We have time to get everything ready for the fine season," remarked the engineer, who was consulting with Pencroft about these matters. "I think, therefore, my friend, that since we have to rebuild our vessel it will be best to give her larger dimensions. The arrival of the Scotch yacht at Tabor Island is very uncertain. It may even be that, having arrived several months ago, she has again sailed after having vainly searched for some trace of Ayrton. Will it not then he best to build a ship which, if necessary, could take us either to the Polynesian Archipelago or to New Zealand? What do you think?"

"I think, captain," answered the sailor; "I think that you are as capable of building a large vessel as a small one. Neither the wood nor the tools are wanting. It is only a question of time."

"And how many months would be required to build a vessel of from 250 to 300 tons?" asked Harding.

"Seven or eight months at least," replied Pencroft. "But it must not be forgotten that winter is drawing near, and that in severe frost wood is difficult to work. We must calculate on several weeks delay, and if our vessel is ready by next November we may think ourselves very lucky."

"Well," replied Cyrus Harding, "that will be exactly the most favorable time for undertaking a voyage of any importance, either to Tabor Island or to a more distant land."

"So it will, captain," answered the sailor. "Make out your plans then; the workmen are ready, and I imagine that Ayrton can lend us a good helping hand."

The colonists, having been consulted, approved the engineer's plan, and it was, indeed, the best thing to be done. It is true that the construction of a ship of from two to three hundred tons would be great labor, but the colonists had confidence in themselves, justified by their previous success.

Cyrus Harding then busied himself in drawing the plan of the vessel and making the model. During this time his companions employed themselves in felling and carting trees to furnish the ribs, timbers, and planks. The forest of the Far West supplied the best oaks and elms. They took advantage of the opening already made on their last excursion to form a practicable road, which they named the Far West Road, and the trees were carried to the Chimneys, where the dockyard was established. As to the road in question, the choice of trees had rendered its direction somewhat capricious, but at the same time it facilitated the access to a large part of the Serpentine Peninsula.

It was important that the trees should be quickly felled and cut up, for they could not be used while yet green, and some time was necessary to allow them to get seasoned. The carpenters, therefore, worked vigorously during the month of April, which was troubled only by a few equinoctial gales of some violence. Master Jup aided them dexterously, either by climbing to the top of a tree to fasten the ropes or by lending his stout shoulders to carry the lopped trunks.

All this timber was piled up under a large shed, built near the Chimneys, and there awaited the time for use.

The month of April was tolerably fine, as October often is in the northern zone. At the same time other work was actively continued, and soon all trace of devastation disappeared from the plateau of Prospect Heights. The mill was rebuilt, and new buildings rose in the poultry-yard. It had appeared necessary to enlarge their dimensions, for the feathered population had increased considerably. The stable now contained five onagers, four of which were well broken, and allowed themselves to be either driven or ridden, and a little colt. The colony now possessed a plow, to which the onagers were yoked like regular Yorkshire or Kentucky oxen. The colonists divided their work, and their arms never tired. Then who could have enjoyed better health than these workers, and what good humor enlivened the evenings in Granite House as they formed a thousand plans for the future!

As a matter of course Ayrton shared the common lot in every respect, and there was no longer any talk of his going to live at the corral. Nevertheless he was still sad and reserved, and joined more in the work than in the pleasures of his companions. But he was a valuable workman at need--strong, skilful, ingenious, intelligent. He was esteemed and loved by all, and he could not be ignorant of it.

In the meanwhile the corral was not abandoned. Every other day one of the settlers, driving the cart or mounted on an onager, went to look after the flock of musmons and goats and bring back the supply of milk required by Neb. These excursions at the same time afforded opportunities for hunting. Therefore Herbert and Gideon Spilett, with Top in front, traversed more often than their companions the road to the corral, and with the capital guns which they carried, capybaras, agouties, kangaroos, and wild pigs for large game, ducks, grouse, jacamars, and snipe for small game, were never wanting in the house. The produce of the warren, of the oyster-bed, several turtles which were taken, excellent salmon which came up the Mercy, vegetables from the plateau, wild fruit from the forest, were riches upon riches, and Neb, the head cook, could scarcely by himself store them away.

The telegraphic wire between the corral and Granite House had of course been repaired, and it was worked whenever one or other of the settlers was at the corral and found it necessary to spend the night there. Besides, the island was safe now and no attacks were to be feared, at any rate from men.

However, that which had happened might happen again. A descent of pirates, or even of escaped convicts, was always to be feared. It was possible that companions or accomplices of Bob Harvey had been in the secret of his plans, and might be tempted to imitate him. The colonists, therefore, were careful to observe the sea around the island, and every day their telescope covered the horizon enclosed by Union and Washington Bays. when they went to the corral they examined the sea to the west with no less attention, and by climbing the spur their gaze extended over a large section of the western horizon.

Nothing suspicious was discerned, but still it was necessary for them to be on their guard.

The engineer one evening imparted to his friends a plan which he had conceived for fortifying the corral. It appeared prudent to him to heighten the palisade and to flank it with a sort of blockhouse, which, if necessary, the settlers could hold against the enemy. Granite House might, by its very position, be considered impregnable; therefore the corral with its buildings, its stores, and the animals it contained, would always be the object of pirates, whoever they were, who might land on the island, and should the colonists be obliged to shut themselves up there they ought also to be able to defend themselves without any disadvantage. This was a project which might be left for consideration, and they were, besides, obliged to put off its execution until the next spring.

About the 15th of May the keel of the new vessel lay along the dockyard, and soon the stem and stern-post, mortised at each of its extremities, rose almost perpendicularly. The keel, of good oak, measured 110 feet in length, this allowing a width of five-and-twenty feet to the midship beam. But this was all the carpenters could do before the arrival of the frosts and bad weather. During the following week they fixed the first of the stern timbers, but were then obliged to suspend work.

During the last days of the month the weather was extremely bad. The wind blew from the east, sometimes with the violence of a tempest. The engineer was somewhat uneasy on account of the dockyard shed--which besides, he could not have established in any other place near to Granite House--for the islet only imperfectly sheltered the shore from the fury of the open sea, and in great storms the waves beat against the very foot of the granite cliff.

But, very fortunately, these fears were not realized. The wind shifted to the southeast, and there the beach of Granite House was completely covered by Flotsam Point.

Pencroft and Ayrton, the most zealous workmen at the new vessel, pursued their labor as long as they could. They were not men to mind the wind tearing at their hair, nor the rain wetting them to the skin, and a blow from a hammer is worth just as much in bad as in fine weather. But when a severe frost succeeded this wet period, the wood, its fibers acquiring the hardness of iron, became extremely difficult to work, and about the 10th of June shipbuilding was obliged to be entirely discontinued.

Cyrus Harding and his companions had not omitted to observe how severe was the temperature during the winters of Lincoln Island. The cold was comparable to that experienced in the States of New England, situated at almost the same distance from the equator. In the northern hemisphere, or at any rate in the part occupied by British America and the north of the United States, this phenomenon is explained by the flat conformation of the territories bordering on the pole, and on which there is no intumescence of the soil to oppose any obstacle to the north winds; here, in Lincoln Island, this explanation would not suffice.

"It has even been observed," remarked Harding one day to his companions, "that in equal latitudes the islands and coast regions are less tried by the cold than inland countries. I have often heard it asserted that the winters of Lombardy, for example, are not less rigorous than those of Scotland, which results from the sea restoring during the winter the heat which it received during the summer. Islands are, therefore, in a better situation for benefiting by this restitution."

"But then, Captain Harding," asked Herbert, "why does Lincoln Island appear to escape the common law?"

"That is difficult to explain," answered the engineer. "However, I should be disposed to conjecture that this peculiarity results from the situation of the island in the Southern Hemisphere, which, as you know, my boy, is colder than the Northern Hemisphere."

"Yes," said Herbert, "and icebergs are met with in lower latitudes in the south than in the north of the Pacific."

"That is true," remarked Pencroft, "and when I have been serving on board whalers I have seen icebergs off Cape Horn."

"The severe cold experienced in Lincoln Island," said Gideon Spilett, "may then perhaps be explained by the presence of floes or icebergs comparatively near to Lincoln Island."

"Your opinion is very admissible indeed, my dear Spilett," answered Cyrus Harding, "and it is evidently to the proximity of icebergs that we owe our rigorous winters. I would draw your attention also to an entirely physical cause, which renders the Southern colder than the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, since the sun is nearer to this hemisphere during the summer, it is necessarily more distant during the winter. This explains then the excess of temperature in the two seasons, for, if we find the winters very cold in Lincoln Island, we must not forget that the summers here, on the contrary, are very hot."

"But why, if you please, captain," asked Pencroft, knitting his brows, "why should our hemisphere, as you say, be so badly divided? It isn't just, that!"

"Friend Pencroft," answered the engineer, laughing, "whether just or not, we must submit to it, and here lies the reason for this peculiarity. The earth does not describe a circle around the sun, but an ellipse, as it must by the laws of rational mechanics. Now, the earth occupies one of the foci of the ellipse, and so at one point in its course is at its apogee, that is, at its farthest from the sun, and at another point it is at its perigee, or nearest to the sun. Now it happens that it is during the winter of the southern countries that it is at its most distant point from the sun, and consequently, in a situation for those regions to feel the greatest cold. Nothing can be done to prevent that, and men, Pencroft, however learned they may be, can never change anything of the cosmographical order established by God Himself."

"And yet," added Pencroft, "the world is very learned. what a big book, captain, might be made with all that is known!"

"And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!" answered Harding.

At last, for one reason or another, the month of June brought the cold with its accustomed intensity, and the settlers were often confined to Granite House. Ah! how wearisome this imprisonment was to them, and more particularly to Gideon Spilett.

"Look here," said he to Neb one day, "I would give you by notarial deed all the estates which will come to me some day, if you were a good enough fellow to go, no matter where, and subscribe to some newspaper for me! Decidedly the thing that is most essential to my happiness is the knowing every morning what has happened the day before in other places than this!"

Neb began to laugh.

"'Pon my word," he replied, "the only thing I think about is my daily work!"

The truth was that indoors as well as out there was no want of work.

The colony of Lincoln Island was now at its highest point of prosperity, achieved by three years of continued hard work. The destruction of the brig had been a new source of riches. Without speaking of the complete rig which would serve for the vessel now on the stocks, utensils and tools of all sorts, weapons and ammunition, clothes and instruments, were now piled in the storerooms of Granite House. It had not even been necessary to resort again to the manufacture of the coarse felt materials. Though the colonists had suffered from cold during their first winter, the bad season might now come without their having any reason to dread its severity. Linen was plentiful also, and besides, they kept it with extreme care. From chloride of sodium, which is nothing else than sea salt, Cyrus Harding easily extracted the soda and chlorine. The soda, which it was easy to change into carbonate of soda, and the chlorine, of which he made chloride of lime, were employed for various domestic purposes, and especially in bleaching linen. Besides, they did not wash more than four times a year, as was done by families in the olden times, and it may be added, that Pencroft and Gideon Spilett, while waiting for the postman to bring him his newspaper, distinguished themselves as washermen.

So passed the winter months, June, July, and August. They were severe, and the average observations of the thermometer did not give more than eight degrees of Fahrenheit. It was therefore lower in temperature than the preceding winter. But then, what splendid fires blazed continually on the hearths of Granite House, the smoke marking the granite wall with long, zebra-like streaks! Fuel was not spared, as it grew naturally a few steps from them. Besides, the chips of the wood destined for the construction of the ship enabled them to economize the coal, which required more trouble to transport.

Men and animals were all well. Master Jup was a little chilly, it must be confessed. This was perhaps his only weakness, and it was necessary to make him a well-padded dressing-gown. But what a servant he was, clever, zealous, indefatigable, not indiscreet, not talkative, and he might have been with reason proposed as a model for all his biped brothers in the Old and New Worlds!

"As for that," said Pencroft, "when one has four hands at one's service, of course one's work ought to be done so much the better!"

And indeed the intelligent creature did it well.

During the seven months which had passed since the last researches made round the mountain, and during the month of September, which brought back fine weather, nothing was heard of the genius of the island. His power was not manifested in any way. It is true that it would have been superfluous, for no incident occurred to put the colonists to any painful trial.

Cyrus Harding even observed that if by chance the communication between the unknown and the tenants of Granite House had ever been established through the granite, and if Top's instinct had as it were felt it, there was no further sign of it during this period. The dog's growling had entirely ceased, as well as the uneasiness of the orang. The two friends-- for they were such--no longer prowled round the opening of the inner well, nor did they bark or whine in that singular way which from the first the engineer had noticed. But could he be sure that this was all that was to be said about this enigma, and that he should never arrive at a solution? Could he be certain that some conjuncture would not occur which would bring the mysterious personage on the scene? who could tell what the future might have in reserve?

At last the winter was ended, but an event, the consequences of which might be serious occurred in the first days of the returning spring.

On the 7th of September, Cyrus Harding, having observed the crater, saw smoke curling round the summit of the mountain, its first vapors rising in the air.

里士满的俘虏们已经逃出来三年了。在这三年里,他们谈论过多少次自己所念念不忘的祖国啊:

他们深信内战已经结束了,他们认为北军的正义事业是不可能不获得胜利的。但是,在这场可怕的战争里,发生了哪些事情呢?究竟有多少人为它洒了鲜血呢?他们有多少朋友在这场战争里牺牲了性命呢?这些问题是他们常常谈起的,但是目前他们还不知道什么时候才能重新回到祖国。要是能回去一趟,哪怕仅仅是几天,只要和文明世界恢复社会联系,在故乡和林肯岛之间建立交通,然后再回到岛上来,也就满足了。那时候他们找到的这决土地已经属于他们的祖国,他们不妨在这里度过他们一生中最长的、也许是最幸福的一段日子。这个理想难道不能实现吗?

要实现这个理想,只有两种可能:或是有船到林肯岛附近来,或是移民们自己造一只船航行到最近的陆地去。

“只有等我们这位好心的圣人供给我们回国的工具了。”潘克洛夫说。

的确,即使有人告诉潘克洛夫和纳布,有一只三百吨重的大船在鲨鱼湾或气球港等着他们,他们也丝毫不会感到奇怪的。目前在他们的脑子里,不管什么事似乎没有不可能发生的了。

可是赛勒斯·史密斯却不那么有信心,他劝他们面对现实,特别是在造船这个问题上,更应该现实一些,因为这的确是一件紧急任务——必须尽快乘船把写明艾尔通的新地址的信件送到达抱岛去。

乘风破浪号已经没有了,造一只新船至少要六个月。不过现在冬天快来了,在开春以前,是不能航海的。

“我们有足够的时间在天气转暖以前做好一切准备,”工程师在和潘克洛夫商量这些问题的时候说。“朋友,既然我们要重新造船,我想最好还是把它造得大一些。要等苏格兰游船到达抱岛去,那是很靠不住的。它可能在几个月以前去过达抱岛,因为没有找到艾尔通的踪迹,已经离开了。如果造一只大船,在必要的时候,我们能乘着它到玻里尼西亚群岛或新西兰去,那不好吗?你认为怎么样?”

“史密斯先生,”水手回答说,“我认为大船和小船你都能够造。木料和工具都不缺少,只是时间问题。”

“造一只二百五十吨到三百吨的船,要几个月?”史密斯问道。

“至少七八个月,”潘克洛夫答道。“而且冬天快要到了,要知道在严寒封冻的时候,是很难做木工活的。我们必须估计到要耽搁几个星期的工作。要是能在明年十一月把船造好,就很不错了。”

“好,”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“那正是航海的好时候,到达抱岛去也好,到更远的地方去也好,不管是哪一种性质的航海,哪个季节都合适。”

“那么,就这样吧,史密斯先生,”水手说。“你去设计图样,工人随时都有。我想艾尔通是可以做一个得力的帮手的。”

和居民们商量了以后,大家一致同意工程师的计划。的确,这要算是最好的办法了。造一只二三百吨的大船,固然需要花很大的劳力,但是移民们觉得以前曾经成功过,因此很有信心。

于是赛勒斯·史密斯忙着设计船的图样和做模型了。在这期间,伙伴们就去砍伐树木,把木料运来做肋材、船骨和铺板。远西森林里有很好的橡树和榆树。他们把上次远征时所打开的通道辟成一条可以通行的道路,把它叫做远西路,砍下来的树木都运到“石窟”去,造船所就设在那里。上面说的那条路,由于选择树木的缘故,开辟得弯弯曲曲的,可是这样一来,往盘蛇半岛的大片地区去倒方便了。

有一点值得注意的是:伐树和锯木料的工作必须加快了,因为湿木料是不能用的,必须经过一段时间木料才能干燥。因此,木工们在四月份工作得非常紧张,只是在秋分时节刮暴风,工作才受到一些影响。小杰普非常灵巧,对他们有很大帮助,它有时上树系绳子,有时用结实的肩膀扛砍下来的树干。

“石窟”附近盖了一间大棚子,把所有这些木料都堆在那里,等候开工。

四月份天气相当晴朗,和北半球十月的天气差不多。在这期间,其他工作也没有停顿,都在积极地进行着。不久以后,眺望岗高地上被摧残的遗迹就消失得干干净净了。磨坊已经重新建立起来,家禽场里也树起了新的建筑物。因为鸟类大大地增加,这些建筑物非加以扩大不可了。厩房里现在有五头野驴,除了一头小驴以外,其余的四头都训练得很好,既肯拉车子,又肯让人骑。小队现在有一张犁,他们常常用两头野驴拉犁,象约克州和肯特基的真正的耕牛一样。移民们分工合作,从来也没有感到劳累。正因为这样,这些工人们在锻炼中形成的健康还有谁能比得上呢?每当傍晚,他们为了建设远景而提出上千条计划的时候,“花岗石宫”里是多么愉快和欢乐啊!

当然,如今艾尔通和大家在一起工作,再也不提回畜栏去住的话了。但是他还是愁眉不展,很少说话,经常和伙伴一起参加工作,却很少跟大家一起谈笑。但在紧张的时候,他却是一个难能可贵的工人——强壮、敏捷、灵巧、聪明。人人都器重他、爱护他,这一点他是不会感觉不到的。

在这期间,他们并没有放下畜栏不管。每隔一天,总有一个居民驾着车或骑着驴去照料摩弗仑羊和山羊,并且把纳布所要的羊奶带回来。一路上有机会还可以打猎。因此,到畜栏去得最勤的是赫伯特和吉丁·史佩莱。他们带着上好的猎枪,由托普带路打猎;“花岗石宫”里从来也没有断过野味,大的有水豚、刺鼠、袋鼠和野猪;小的有野鸭、山鸡、松鸡、啄木鸟和鹬。此外还有兔场和蛤蜊场的产品、捉来的海龟、游到慈悲河来的美味的鲑鱼、高地上的蔬菜和森林里的野果,真是花色繁多,大厨师纳布一个人几乎都保管不过来了。

当然,畜栏和“花岗石宫”之间的电报线又恢复了。如果某一个居民到了畜栏,觉得需要在那里过夜,他们就打电报联系一下。现在,荒岛上又安全了,居民们不必担心遭到任何攻击——至少是人的攻击。

可是,已经发生过的事情,还是有可能重新发生的。随时都可能有海盗甚至逃犯向岛上进行袭击。鲍勃·哈维的秘密计划也许还有别的伙伴和党羽知道,他们可能会学习他,来作同样的尝试。因此,移民们细心地注意着荒岛周围的海面,每天都用望远镜扫视联合湾和华盛顿湾之间的水平线。当他们到畜栏去的时候,同样小心地注意西边的海面;在支脉上,他们可以看到很大一部分西方的水平线。

他们并没有发现什么可疑的东西,但是小心戒备还是必要的。

一天晚上,工程师向伙伴们宣布了一个为畜栏设防的计划。为了谨慎起见,他认为应该加高栅栏,并且在侧面建立一个木堡;在必要的时候,居民们可以利用它防御敌人。“花岗石宫”由于所处的地势好,可以说是攻不破的;因此,不管是什么海盗,只要一旦登陆,就会把畜栏以及它的建筑物、贮藏物资和牲畜作为目标了。如果移民们被迫守在里面,他们也应该能够保卫自己,而不受任何不利的威胁。这个计划是值得考虑的,但是他们要等到明年春天才能实行。

5月15日前后,新船的龙骨已经搁在造船所了;不久,船首材和船尾材也已用榫头分别接在龙骨的两头,几乎直立起来。龙骨是用优良的橡木做成的,长达一百一十英尺,上面可以横架一根宽二十五英尺的中央船辐。但是,木匠们做完这些工作以后,严寒和坏天气就来临了。在以后的几个星期里,他们安上了第一批船尾的肋材,然后就只好暂时停止工作。

在这个月的最后几天,天气变得非常环。东风有时和暴风一样猛烈。工程师有些为造船所的棚屋操心,然而,他却没法把它盖在其他靠近“花岗石宫”的地方,因为小岛只能挡住从大海冲向海岸的一部分怒潮,在暴风雨猛烈的时候,波涛甚至会一直冲到花岗石壁的脚底下。

幸而这些顾虑并没有成为事实。风向转往东南,“花岗石宫”的整个海滩都有遗物角给挡住了风。

潘克洛夫和艾尔通是造船工作中最热心的工人,他们尽可能地坚持劳动。他们是不怕风吹雨打的好汉,不论是好天还是坏天,总是抡起锤子就干。但是下过这场雨紧接着就是一阵严寒,木质纤维变得和铁一样坚硬,工作起来十分困难。6月10日前后,造船工程只好全部停顿了。

赛勒斯·史密斯和他的伙伴们都有这么一个感觉,林肯岛冬季的气候是相当寒冷的,寒冷的程度和新英格兰各州(这几州和赤道之间的距离几乎和林肯岛和赤道之间的距离完全一样)差不多。在北半球,至少是在美洲的英国属地和美国北部,是由于北极附近地势平坦,没有高的山地阻挡北风,所以才寒冷的。但是在林肯岛,就不能这样解释了。

“人们已经注意到,”有一天史密斯对伙伴们说,“在纬度相同的地方,岛屿和沿海地区是不象内陆那么冷的。比方说,我常听说伦巴第的冬天并不比苏格兰的冬天暖和,这是因为苏格兰附近的海洋一到冬天就把它在夏天所吸收的热发散出来的缘故。由于岛屿能够受到这种影响,因此它的情况要比大陆好得多。”

“那么,史密斯先生,”赫伯特问道,“林肯岛为什么不符合一般规律呢?”

“这很难理解,”工程师回答说。“不过,我猜想这是由于林肯岛的位置在南半球的缘故。南半球比北半球冷,这一点,孩子,你是知道的。”

“是的,”赫伯特说,“拿冰山来说,南太平洋纬度较低的地方就比北太平洋纬度较低的地方要多。”

“不错,”潘克洛夫说,“我在捕鲸船上当水手的时候,就曾经在合恩角附近看见过冰山。”

“那么,”吉丁·史佩莱说,“林肯岛所以这么冷,也许是因为不远的地方有浮冰或是冰山的缘故。”

“你的看法的确很有道理,亲爱的史佩莱,”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“显然我们受到的严寒是由于靠近冰山,我还要请你们注意一个完全属于自然的道理。它也可以说明为什么南半球比北半球冷。事实上,太阳和南半球的距离夏天比较近,因此在冬天也就必然要远一些。这就是寒暑两季温度悬殊的原因。如果我们觉得林肯岛的冬天特别冷,反过来我们也不要忘记,这里的夏天也特别热。”

“可是,对不起,史密斯先生,”潘克洛夫皱着眉说,“为什么把我们的南半球划分得象你说的那么坏的呢?这,这不公平!”

“潘克洛夫同志,”工程师笑着说,“不管公平不公平,我们也只能顺着它。所以会划分得这样特别,道理是这样的:按着合理的力学定律,地球环绕太阳的轨道,不可能是圆形的,而只能是椭圆形。在地球运转的过程中,通过椭圆形中离太阳较远的一个极点的时候,它就是在远日点上;在另外一个时候,当它离太阳较近的时候,就是在近日点上。现在,在南半球的冬季,正是我们离太阳最远的时候,因此,这一带地区也就最冷。这是没有任何方法可以阻止的。潘克洛夫,不管人类的学识多么丰富,也绝对不能改变宇宙的规律。”

“但是,”潘克洛夫坚持往下说,“人类的知识是很丰富的。史密斯先生,要是把人所知道的一切写成一本书,这本书该有多大啊!”

“但是,假如把不知道的一切也写成一本书,那本书还要大得多呢!”史密斯说。

不管是什么原因,六月份照例带来了严寒,居民们只好成天坐守在“花岗石宫”里。啊!他们——特别是吉丁·史佩莱——对这种监禁生活感到多么腻烦啊!

“喂,”通讯记者有一天对纳布说,“不管你到哪儿去,假如你能大发慈悲给我订一份报来,我一定把我将来能够得到的全部财产都给你,说了就算!真的,对我说来最大的享受就是每天早上能知道前一天各地发生的事情了!”

纳布笑了起来。

“老实说,”他说,“我所想的只有我的日常工作!”

事实上,室内和室外一样,都有许多工作可做。

经过三年来不断的艰苦劳动,林肯岛小队的繁荣现在达到了全盛时代。双桅船的毁坏是一个新的富源。除了整套的索具可以装备正在建造中的新船以外,还有各种各样的器皿和工具、枪枝和弹药、衣服和用具,都储藏在“花岗石宫”的仓库里。甚至也不需要制造那种粗糙的“林肯毡”了。居民们在过第一个冬天的时候曾经挨过冻,但是现在不管天气多么坏,他们都没有害怕的必要了。他们有许多亚麻布制品,但还是用得很省。赛勒斯·史密斯利用氯化钠——其实就是海盐——毫不困难地取得小苏打和氯。小苏打很容易变成碳酸钠,再把氯做成氯化钙,工程师就这样把它们用在各种家庭用途上,特别是用它们把亚麻布漂白了。此外,他们和古老的家庭一样,一年至多不过洗四次衣服。应该附带说明,吉丁·史佩莱在等待邮差给他送报的同时,还和潘克洛夫充当了优秀的洗衣工人。

冬季的六月、七月、八月就这样过去了。这个月天气酷寒,平均温度只有华氏8度,比去年冬天还要低。但是,看那“花岗石宫”里的炉火多么旺盛啊!花岗石壁被烟熏成一条条的,和斑马身上的花纹一样。在离他们不远的地方就出产木柴,因此他们可以大量增添。只有煤炭运输起来比较困难些;但是在造船的时候,剩下许多零碎木头,可以使他们节省一些煤。

岛上的人畜都很平安。必须承认,小杰普有些怕冷。这恐怕是它唯一的弱点。居民们只好给它做一件厚厚的睡衣穿。它是一个多么好的仆人啊!——聪明、热心、慎重、不知道疲倦,也不爱多说话;它是完全有资格当选为新旧大陆猿猴类里的模范!

“它啊!”潘克洛夫说,“既然它有四只手干活,当然它的工作应该做得更好!”

事实上,这个机灵的畜生的确做得不错。

自从上次在山的周围进行了搜查以来,已经有七个月了。在这期间,包括天气转暖的九月份在内,荒岛上的圣人没有任何音信。他没有采用任何方法显示他的力量。事实上,即使发挥了力量,也是显不出来,因为移民们并没有遇到令人头痛的困难。

赛勒斯·史密斯甚至注意到,虽然陌生人有时候曾经通过“花岗石宫”和居民们取得联系,并且托普的直觉也曾经感觉出这一点,但是在这期间,却没有任何迹象说明这个事实。托普不咆哮了,猩猩也不再感到不安了。这两个朋友——它们的确是朋友——既不到地下井的井沿上去守望,也不再象工程师第一次看到的那样莫名其妙地叫喊了。但是,他能认为谜就是这些,永远也没法得到答案了吗?他能肯定以后不会再遇到什么紧急场合,使这个神秘的人当场出现吗?谁知道将来的事情会怎么样呢?

寒冬毕竟过去了。然而,就在大地回春的最初几天,发生了一件事。这件事可能会引起严重后果的。

9月7日,赛勒斯·史密斯观察了火山口,只见山顶上烟雾缭绕,第一缕蒸汽升向天空了。



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