小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 双语小说 » 神秘岛 The Mysterious Island » Book 3 Chapter 19
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Book 3 Chapter 19

The next day, the 8th day of January, after a day and night passed at the corral, where they left all in order, Cyrus Harding and Ayrton arrived at Granite House.

The engineer immediately called his companions together, and informed them of the imminent danger which threatened Lincoln Island, and from which no human power could deliver them.

"My friends," he said, and his voice betrayed the depth of his emotion, "our island is not among those which will endure while this earth endures. It is doomed to more or less speedy destruction, the cause of which it bears within itself, and from which nothing can save it."

The colonists looked at each other, then at the engineer. They did not clearly comprehend him.

"Explain yourself, Cyrus!" said Gideon Spilett.

"I will do so," replied Cyrus Harding, "or rather I will simply afford you the explanation which, during our few minutes of private conversation, was given me by Captain Nemo."

"Captain Nemo!" exclaimed the colonists.

"Yes, and it was the last service he desired to render us before his death!"

"The last service!" exclaimed Pencroft, "the last service! You will see that though he is dead he will render us others yet!"

"But what did the captain say?" inquired the reporter.

"I will tell you, my friends," said the engineer. "Lincoln Island does not resemble the other islands of the Pacific, and a fact of which Captain Nemo has made me cognizant must sooner or later bring about the subversion of its foundation."

"Nonsense! Lincoln Island, it can't be!" cried Pencroft, who, in spite of the respect he felt for Cyrus Harding, could not prevent a gesture of incredulity.

"Listen, Pencroft," resumed the engineer, "I will tell you what Captain Nemo communicated to me, and which I myself confirmed yesterday, during the exploration of Dakkar Grotto.

"This cavern stretches under the island as far as the volcano, and is only separated from its central shaft by the wall which terminates it. Now, this wall is seamed with fissures and clefts which already allow the sulphurous gases generated in the interior of the volcano to escape."

"Well?" said Pencroft, his brow suddenly contracting.

"Well, then, I saw that these fissures widen under the internal pressure from within, that the wall of basalt is gradually giving way and that after a longer or shorter period it will afford a passage to the waters of the lake which fill the cavern."

"Good!" replied Pencroft, with an attempt at pleasantry. "The sea will extinguish the volcano, and there will be an end of the matter!"

"Not so!" said Cyrus Harding, "should a day arrive when the sea, rushing through the wall of the cavern, penetrates by the central shaft into the interior of the island to the boiling lava, Lincoln Island will that day be blown into the air--just as would happen to the island of Sicily were the Mediterranean to precipitate itself into Mount Etna."

The colonists made no answer to these significant words of the engineer. They now understood the danger by which they were menaced.

It may be added that Cyrus Harding had in no way exaggerated the danger to be apprehended. Many persons have formed an idea that it would be possible to extinguish volcanoes, which are almost always situated on the shores of a sea or lake, by opening a passage for the admission of the water. But they are not aware that this would be to incur the risk of blowing up a portion of the globe, like a boiler whose steam is suddenly expanded by intense heat. The water, rushing into a cavity whose temperature might be estimated at thousands of degrees, would be converted into steam with a sudden energy which no enclosure could resist.

It was not therefore doubtful that the island, menaced by a frightful and approaching convulsion, would endure only so long as the wall of Dakkar Grotto itself should endure. It was not even a question of months, nor of weeks, but of days; it might be of hours.

The first sentiment which the colonists felt was that of profound sorrow. They thought not so much of the peril which menaced themselves personally, but of the destruction of the island which had sheltered them, which they had cultivated, which they loved so well, and had hoped to render so flourishing. So much effort ineffectually expended, so much labor lost.

Pencroft could not prevent a large tear from rolling down his cheek, nor did he attempt to conceal it.

Some further conversation now took place. The chances yet in favor of the colonists were discussed; but finally it was agreed that there was not an hour to be lost, that the building and fitting of the vessel should be pushed forward with their utmost energy, and that this was the sole chance of safety for the inhabitants of Lincoln Island.

All hands, therefore, set to work on the vessel. What could it avail to sow, to reap, to hunt, to increase the stores of Granite House? The contents of the storehouse and outbuildings contained more than sufficient to provide the ship for a voyage, however long might be its duration. But it was imperative that the ship should be ready to receive them before the inevitable catastrophe should arrive.

Their labors were now carried on with feverish ardor. By the 23rd of January the vessel was half-decked over. Up to this time no change had taken place on the summit of the volcano. Vapor and smoke mingled with flames and incandescent stones were thrown up from the crater. But during the night of the 23rd, in consequence of the lava attaining the level of the first stratum of the volcano, the hat-shaped cone which formed over the latter disappeared. A frightful sound was heard. The colonists at first thought the island was rent asunder, and rushed out of Granite House.

This occurred about two o'clock in the morning.

The sky appeared on fire. The superior cone, a mass of rock a thousand feet in height, and weighing thousands of millions of pounds, had been thrown down upon the island, making it tremble to its foundation. Fortunately, this cone inclined to the north, and had fallen upon the plain of sand and tufa stretching between the volcano and the sea. The aperture of the crater being thus enlarged projected towards the sky a glare so intense that by the simple effect of reflection the atmosphere appeared red-hot. At the same time a torrent of lava, bursting from the new summit, poured out in long cascades, like water escaping from a vase too full, and a thousand tongues of fire crept over the sides of the volcano.

"The corral! the corral!" exclaimed Ayrton.

It was, in fact, towards the corral that the lava was rushing as the new crater faced the east, and consequently the fertile portions of the island, the springs of Red Creek and Jacamar Wood, were menaced with instant destruction.

At Ayrton's cry the colonists rushed to the onagers' stables. The cart was at once harnessed. All were possessed by the same thought--to hasten to the corral and set at liberty the animals it enclosed.

Before three in the morning they arrived at the corral. The cries of the terrified musmons and goats indicated the alarm which possessed them. Already a torrent of burning matter and liquefied minerals fell from the side of the mountain upon the meadows as far as the side of the palisade. The gate was burst open by Ayrton, and the animals, bewildered with terror, fled in all directions.

An hour afterwards the boiling lava filled the corral, converting into vapor the water of the little rivulet which ran through it, burning up the house like dry grass, and leaving not even a post of the palisade to mark the spot where the corral once stood.

To contend against this disaster would have been folly--nay, madness. In presence of Nature's grand convulsions man is powerless.

It was now daylight--the 24th of January. Cyrus Harding and his companions, before returning to Granite House, desired to ascertain the probable direction this inundation of lava was about to take. The soil sloped gradually from Mount Franklin to the east coast, and it was to be feared that, in spite of the thick Jacamar Wood, the torrent would reach the plateau of Prospect Heights.

"The lake will cover us," said Gideon Spilett.

"I hope so!" was Cyrus Harding's only reply.

The colonists were desirous of reaching the plain upon which the superior cone of Mount Franklin had fallen, but the lava arrested their progress. It had followed, on one side, the valley of Red Creek, and on the other that of Falls River, evaporating those watercourses in its passage. There was no possibility of crossing the torrent of lava; on the contrary, the colonists were obliged to retreat before it. The volcano, without its crown, was no longer recognizable, terminated as it was by a sort of flat table which replaced the ancient crater. From two openings in its southern and eastern sides an unceasing flow of lava poured forth, thus forming two distinct streams. Above the new crater a cloud of smoke and ashes, mingled with those of the atmosphere, massed over the island. Loud peals of thunder broke, and could scarcely be distinguished from the rumblings of the mountain, whose mouth vomited forth ignited rocks, which, hurled to more than a thousand feet, burst in the air like shells. Flashes of lightning rivaled in intensity the volcano's eruption.

Towards seven in the morning the position was no longer tenable by the colonists, who accordingly took shelter in the borders of Jacamar Wood. Not only did the projectiles begin to rain around them, but the lava, overflowing the bed of Red Creek, threatened to cut off the road to the corral. The nearest rows of trees caught fire, and their sap, suddenly transformed into vapor, caused them to explode with loud reports, while others, less moist, remained unhurt in the midst of the inundation.

The colonists had again taken the road to the corral. They proceeded but slowly, frequently looking back; but, in consequence of the inclination of the soil, the lava gained rapidly in the east, and as its lower waves became solidified others, at boiling heat, covered them immediately.

Meanwhile, the principal stream of Red Creek Valley became more and more menacing. All this portion of the forest was on fare, and enormous wreaths of smoke rolled over the trees, whore trunks were already consumed by the lava.

The colonists halted near the lake, about half a mile from the mouth of Red Creek. A question of life or death was now to be decided.

Cyrus Harding, accustomed to the consideration of important crises, and aware that he was addressing men capable of hearing the truth, whatever it might be, then said,--

"Either the lake will arrest the progress of the lava, and a part of the island will be preserved from utter destruction, or the stream will overrun the forests of the Far West, and not a tree or plant will remain on the surface of the soil. We shall have no prospect but that of starvation upon these barren rocks--a death which will probably be anticipated by the explosion of the island."

"In that case," replied Pencroft, folding his arms and stamping his foot, "what's the use of working any longer on the vessel?"

"Pencroft," answered Cyrus Harding, "we must do our duty to the last!"

At this instant the river of lava, after having broken a passage through the noble trees it devoured in its course, reached the borders of the lake. At this point there was an elevation of the soil which, had it been greater, might have sufficed to arrest the torrent.

"To work!" cried Cyrus Harding.

The engineer's thought was at once understood. it might be possible to dam, as it were, the torrent, and thus compel it to pour itself into the lake.

The colonists hastened to the dockyard. They returned with shovels, picks, axes, and by means of banking the earth with the aid of fallen trees they succeeded in a few hours in raising an embankment three feet high and some hundreds of paces in length. It seemed to them, when they had finished, as if they had scarcely been working more than a few minutes.

It was not a moment too soon. The liquefied substances soon after reached the bottom of the barrier. The stream of lava swelled like a river about to overflow its banks, and threatened to demolish the sole obstacle which could prevent it from overrunning the whole Far West. But the dam held firm, and after a moment of terrible suspense the torrent precipitated itself into Grant Lake from a height of twenty feet.

The colonists, without moving or uttering a word, breathlessly regarded this strife of the two elements.

What a spectacle was this conflict between water and fire! What pen could describe the marvelous horror of this scene--what pencil could depict it? The water hissed as it evaporated by contact with the boiling lava. The vapor whirled in the air to an immeasurable height, as if the valves of an immense boiler had been suddenly opened. But, however considerable might be the volume of water contained in the lake, it must eventually be absorbed, because it was not replenished, while the stream of lava, fed from an inexhaustible source, rolled on without ceasing new waves of incandescent matter.

The first waves of lava which fell in the lake immediately solidified and accumulated so as speedily to emerge from it. Upon their surface fell other waves, which in their turn became stone, but a step nearer the center of the lake. In this manner was formed a pier which threatened to gradually fill up the lake, which could not overflow, the water displaced by the lava being evaporated. The hissing of the water rent the air with a deafening sound, and the vapor, blown by the wind, fell in rain upon the sea. The pier became longer and longer, and the blocks of lava piled themselves one on another. Where formerly stretched the calm waters of the lake now appeared an enormous mass of smoking rocks, as if an upheaving of the soil had formed immense shoals. Imagine the waters of the lake aroused by a hurricane, then suddenly solidified by an intense frost, and some conception may be formed of the aspect of the lake three hours alter the eruption of this irresistible torrent of lava.

This time water would be vanquished by fire.

Nevertheless it was a fortunate circumstance for the colonists that the effusion of lava should have been in the direction of Lake Grant. They had before them some days' respite. The plateau of Prospect Heights, Granite House, and the dockyard were for the moment preserved. And these few days it was necessary to employ in planking and carefully calking the vessel, and launching her. The colonists would then take refuge on board the vessel, content to rig her after she should be afloat on the waters. With the danger of an explosion which threatened to destroy the island there could be no security on shore. The walls of Granite House, once so sure a retreat, might at any moment fall in upon them.

During the six following days, from the 25th to the 30th of January, the colonists accomplished as much of the construction of their vessel as twenty men could have done. They hardly allowed themselves a moment's repose, and the glare of the flames which shot from the crater enabled them to work night and day. The flow of lava continued, but perhaps less abundantly. This was fortunate, for Lake Grant was almost entirely choked up, and if more lava should accumulate it would inevitably spread over the plateau of Prospect Heights, and thence upon the beach.

But if the island was thus partially protected on this side, it was not so with the western part.

In fact, the second stream of lava, which had followed the valley of Falls River, a valley of great extent, the land on both sides of the creek being flat, met with no obstacle. The burning liquid had then spread through the forest of the Far West. At this period of the year, when the trees were dried up by a tropical heat, the forest caught fire instantaneously, in such a manner that the conflagration extended itself both by the trunks of the trees and by their higher branches, whose interlacement favored its progress. It even appeared that the current of flame spread more rapidly among the summits of the trees than the current of lava at their bases.

Thus it happened that the wild animals, jaguars, wild boars, capybaras, koalas, and game of every kind, mad with terror, had fled to the banks of the Mercy and to the Tadorn Marsh, beyond the road to Port Balloon. But the colonists were too much occupied with their task to pay any attention to even the most formidable of these animals. They had abandoned Granite House, and would not even take shelter at the Chimneys, but encamped under a tent, near the mouth of the Mercy.

Each day Cyrus Harding and Gideon Spilett ascended the plateau of Prospect Heights. Sometimes Herbert accompanied them, but never Pencroft, who could not bear to look upon the prospect of the island now so utterly devastated.

It was, in truth, a heart-rending spectacle. All the wooded part of the island was now completely bare. One single clump of green trees raised their heads at the extremity of Serpentine Peninsula. Here and there were a few grotesque blackened and branchless stumps. The side of the devastated forest was even more barren than Tadorn Marsh. The eruption of lava had been complete. Where formerly sprang up that charming verdure, the soil was now nothing but a savage mass of volcanic tufa. In the valleys of the Falls and Mercy rivers no drop of water now flowed towards the sea, and should Lake Grant be entirely dried up, the colonists would have no means of quenching their thirst. But, fortunately the lava had spared the southern corner of the lake, containing all that remained of the drinking water of the island. Towards the northwest stood out the rugged and well-defined outlines of the sides of the volcano, like a gigantic claw hovering over the island. What a sad and fearful sight, and how painful to the colonists, who, from a fertile domain covered with forests, irrigated by watercourses, and enriched by the produce of their toils, found themselves, as it were, transported to a desolate rock, upon which, but for their reserves of provisions, they could not even gather the means of subsistence!

"It is enough to break one's heart!" said Gideon Spilett, one day.

"Yes, Spilett," answered the engineer. "May God grant us the time to complete this vessel, now our sole refuge!"

"Do not you think, Cyrus, that the violence of the eruption has somewhat lessened? The volcano still vomits forth lava, but somewhat less abundantly, if I mistake not."

"It matters little," answered Cyrus Harding. "The fire is still burning in the interior of the mountain, and the sea may break in at any moment. We are in the condition of passengers whose ship is devoured by a conflagration which they cannot extinguish, and who know that sooner or later the flames must reach the powder-magazine. To work, Spilett, to work, and let us not lose an hour!"

During eight days more, that is to say until the 7th of February, the lava continued to flow, but the eruption was confined within the previous limits. Cyrus Harding feared above all lest the liquefied matter should overflow the shore, for in that event the dockyard could not escape. Moreover, about this time the colonists felt in the frame of the island vibrations which alarmed them to the highest degree.

It was the 20th of February. Yet another month must elapse before the vessel would be ready for sea. Would the island hold together till then? The intention of Pencroft and Cyrus Harding was to launch the vessel as soon as the hull should be complete. The deck, the upperworks, the interior woodwork and the rigging might be finished afterwards, but the essential point was that the colonists should have an assured refuge away from the island. Perhaps it might be even better to conduct the vessel to Port Balloon, that is to say, as far as possible from the center of eruption, for at the mouth of the Mercy, between the islet and the wall of granite, it would run the risk of being crushed in the event of any convulsion. All the exertions of the voyagers were therefore concentrated upon the completion of the hull.

Thus the 3rd of March arrived, and they might calculate upon launching the vessel in ten days.

Hope revived in the hearts of the colonists, who had, in this fourth year of their sojourn on Lincoln island, suffered so many trials. Even Pencroft lost in some measure the somber taciturnity occasioned by the devastation and ruin of his domain. His hopes, it is true, were concentrated upon his vessel.

"We shall finish it," he said to the engineer, "we shall finish it, captain, and it is time, for the season is advancing and the equinox will soon be here. Well, if necessary, we must put in to Tabor island to spend the winter. But think of Tabor island after Lincoln Island. Ah, how unfortunate! Who could have believed it possible?"

"Let us get on," was the engineer's invariable reply.

And they worked away without losing a moment.

"Master," asked Neb, a few days later, "do you think all this could have happened if Captain Nemo had been still alive?"

"Certainly, Neb," answered Cyrus Harding.

"I, for one, don't believe it!" whispered Pencroft to Neb.

"Nor I!" answered Neb seriously.

During the first week of March appearances again became menacing. Thousands of threads like glass, formed of fluid lava, fell like rain upon the island. The crater was again boiling with lava which overflowed the back of the volcano. The torrent flowed along the surface of the hardened tufa, and destroyed the few meager skeletons of trees which had withstood the first eruption. The stream, flowing this time towards the southwest shore of Lake Grant, stretched beyond Creek Glycerine, and invaded the plateau of Prospect Heights. This last blow to the work of the colonists was terrible. The mill, the buildings of the inner court, the stables, were all destroyed. The affrighted poultry fled in all directions. Top and Jup showed signs of the greatest alarm, as if their instinct warned them of an impending catastrophe. A large number of the animals of the island had perished in the first eruption. Those which survived found no refuge but Tadorn Marsh, save a few to which the plateau of Prospect Heights afforded asylum. But even this last retreat was now closed to them, and the lava- torrent, flowing over the edge of the granite wall, began to pour down upon the beach its cataracts of fire. The sublime horror of this spectacle passed all description. During the night it could only be compared to a Niagara of molten fluid, with its incandescent vapors above and its boiling masses below.

The colonists were driven to their last entrenchment, and although the upper seams of the vessel were not yet calked, they decided to launch her at once.

Pencroft and Ayrton therefore set about the necessary preparations for the launching, which was to take place the morning of the next day, the 9th of March.

But during the night of the 8th an enormous column of vapor escaping from the crater rose with frightful explosions to a height of more than three thousand feet. The wall of Dakkar Grotto had evidently given way under the pressure of gases, and the sea, rushing through the central shalt into the igneous gulf, was at once converted into vapor. But the crater could not afford a sufficient outlet for this vapor. An explosion, which might have been heard at a distance of a hundred miles, shook the air. Fragments of mountains fell into the Pacific, and, in a few minutes, the ocean rolled over the spot where Lincoln island once stood.

赛勒斯·史密斯和艾尔通在畜栏里逗留了一天一夜,把一切都料理完毕,第二天——1月8日——又回到“花岗石宫”里来了。

工程师立刻召集了全体伙伴,告诉大家,林肯岛的危险就在眼前了,谁也没有办法拯救他们脱离这个险境。

“朋友们,”他的声音显得非常激动,“我们的岛并不是能和地球共存的岛。它早晚要毁灭了,毁灭的原因是潜藏在岛的里面,这是没法挽回的。”

移民们你看着我,我看着你,然后又看看工程师。他们还不大明白他的意思。

“你解释一下吧,赛勒斯!”吉丁·史佩莱说。

“我要解释的,”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“换句话说,我要把尼摩船长在和我所作的几分钟单独谈话里告诉我的事情传达给你们。”

“尼摩船长!”居民们叫道。

“是的,这是他在临死以前准备给我们尽的最后一次义务!”

“最后一次义务!”潘克洛夫大声说,“最后一次义务!你们将来会看到,虽然他死了,他还会给我们尽其他义务的!”

“船长究竟说了些什么呢?”通讯记者问道。

“我要告诉你们的,朋友们,”工程师说。“林肯岛和太平洋里的其他岛屿不同,尼摩船长告诉我,它的基础迟早要崩溃的。”

“这是没有的事!林肯岛决不会那样!”潘克洛夫叫道。虽然他很尊敬赛勒斯·史密斯,但是在这一点上,他却不由得耸了一耸肩膀。

“听着,潘克洛夫,”工程师接着说,“我要把尼摩船长告诉我的话讲给你们听。昨天我探索了达卡洞,已经亲自证实了他的话。这个洞窟在荒岛下面一直绵延到火山底下,火山的中央管道和洞窟之间只隔着一层洞底的石壁。这片石壁上有许多裂缝和洞隙,现在火山内部发出来的硫磺气体已经从缝隙里透出来了。”

“怎么?”潘克洛夫突然皱起眉头说。

“后来我发现这些缝隙由于内部压力的影响已经变宽了。玄武岩的石壁逐渐裂开,它早晚会裂成一条大口子,使火山管道与灌满海水的洞窟相沟通的。”

“好哇!”潘克洛夫打趣地说。“让海水把火山淹灭吧,然后就没有事了!”

“完全不是那样!”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“等到海水灌进洞窟,穿过中央管道进入荒岛内部沸腾的岩浆那儿去,那时候林肯岛就要炸到天上去了——要是地中海的海水灌到埃得纳火山里去,西西里岛也会发生这种情形的。”

居民们听了工程师这几句说明事态严重的话之后,都没有回答。他们现在明白自己将要遭到的危险了。

应该附带说明,赛勒斯·史密斯丝毫没有夸大值得担心的危险。火山的位置几乎都是靠海或是傍湖的;许多人都认为只要开一条通道把水灌进去,就可以使火山熄灭了。但是他们却不知道这样会引起地球局部爆炸的危险,正象锅炉里的汽体遇到高热突然膨胀的情形一样。火山内部洞穴里的热度有几千度高,水灌进去以后立刻就会转化为汽体,这样就产生出一种突然的能量,这种能量是任何屏障也阻挡不住的。

因此,即将到来的可怕剧变威胁着荒岛。达卡洞的石壁能保持多长时间,林肯岛也就只能存在多长时间,那是毫无疑义的。这已经不是几个月几个星期的问题,而是几天,甚至可能是几小时之内的问题。

居民们的心情首先是极度的忧伤。他们并没有过多考虑自己将要遇到的危险,他们考虑的是一向依赖它生存的荒岛将要遭到毁灭。他们开拓了这个荒岛,他们热爱这片土地,他们想使它变得无比繁荣。但是,无数的心血都白白消耗了。许多劳动都浪费了。

潘克洛夫忍不住掉下大颗眼泪来,他也不想隐藏他的悲痛。

现在又进一步谈论了其他的情况。移民们研究了还对他们有利的机会。最后大家一致同意一个钟头也不浪费,要拿出全部力量来加速赶造并装配新船,因为这是林肯岛居民唯一能够获得安全的出路。

于是,每个人都参加了造船工作。现在播种、收割、打猎和补充“花岗石宫”的储备物资还有什么用呢?不管要在海上航行多长时间,仓库和外室里现存的物资都足够船上的需要。但是要紧的是:必须把船造好,使它能在不可避免的灾难到来以前供他们使用。

现在他们热烈地进行着工作。l月23日前后,船上的甲板已经铺好一半了。到目前为止,火山顶上还没有发生新的变化。火山口还喷射着水汽、烟火和白热的岩石。但是在23日夜间,岩浆达到了火山第一层的表面,覆盖在另一个火山锥上的帽状火山锥不见了。只听见天崩地裂的一声响,居民们起初以为荒岛炸开了,他们连忙从“花岗石宫”里跑出来。

这时候大约是清晨两点钟。

天空好象火烧似的。上面的火山锥——它是一堆高达一千英尺的岩石,重约亿万斤——被抛到地面上来,震动了荒岛的整个地基。幸而这个火山锥偏向北边,因此落在大海和火山之间的沙石和凝灰岩的平原上了。火山口扩大以后,喷向天空的火焰更加明亮;反射出来的光线照得满天通红。同时,一股岩浆的洪流从新的山顶涌了出来,象一条长长的瀑布直泻下来,又好象花瓶里的水盛得太满,向外面溢出来似的。随着岩浆,有成干的火舌头沿着山坡直往下滚。

“畜栏!畜栏!”艾尔通叫道。

不错,岩浆正是向畜栏流去的。新的火山口面向着东方,因此,岛上的富饶地区、红河的源头和啄木鸟林马上就要遭到毁灭了。

移民们听见艾尔通的叫喊以后,急忙向野驴的厩房跑去。大车马上就套好了。人人都只抱着一个念头,那就是:赶快到畜栏去,把关在那里的牲口放出来。

将近早上三点钟的时候,他们来到了畜栏。受惊的摩弗仑羊和山羊大声尖叫,说明它们的恐惧。已经有一股燃烧的物质和岩浆从山坡上倾泻到牧场上来,一直流到栅栏旁边。艾尔通打开大门,吓慌了的牲畜向四面八方逃去。

一个钟头以后,畜栏里就充满了沸腾的岩浆,它们使横贯畜栏的河水化成一片蒸气,房子象干草似的烧光了。栅栏的木桩一根也没有剩,完全认不出这里曾经有过畜栏。

要和这种灾害进行顽抗,那简直是开玩笑,甚至可以说是发疯。面临着自然界的巨大变动,人们是毫无办法的。

现在天已经亮了,这一天是1月24日。赛勒斯·史密斯和他的伙伴们想在回“花岗石宫”以前,弄明白泛滥的岩浆大概要往哪一个方向流。从富兰克林山起,地势逐渐在东海岸倾斜下去,虽然有浓密的啄木鸟林隔着,恐怕岩浆的洪流还是会冲到眺望岗的高地上去的。

“格兰特湖会保护我们的。”吉丁·史佩莱说。

“但愿如此!”赛勒斯·史密斯简单地回答了一句。

居民们想到富兰克林山较高的火山锥所坠落的那片平原上去,但是岩浆把他们拦住了。岩浆顺着红河河谷和瀑布河河谷分两路流下来;流过的地方,把河水都蒸发了。要想跨过岩浆的洪流是不可能的,相反地,居民们只好往后撤退。火山去了顶以后,已经不象原来那样了。上面代替古代火山口的是一片平顶,象桌面似的。南边和东边各有一个喷口,岩浆不断从里面涌出来,清清楚楚地形成两股洪流。新火山口上冒起一片夹带灰垢的烟尘,它们和大气里的密云混合在一起,笼罩了整个的荒岛。连成一片的雷鸣轰响着,很难分清这究竟是雷声还是火山的轰隆声。燃烧的石块从火山口里直射到一千多英尺高的上空,然后象开花弹似的爆炸了。一道道的闪电在和火山互相媲美。

早上将近七点钟的时候,居民们的阵地再也守不住了。于是他们就到啄木鸟林的边缘去藏身。不仅是抛射出来的石块象雨点般地落在他们的周围,甚至沿红河河谷流下来的岩浆也要切断畜栏路了。最近的一排树木着了火。树脂突然被蒸发得响亮地爆裂开来。其他比较干燥的树木,在洪流里还没有炸裂。

居民们又走上了畜栏路。他们走得很慢,时常回头张望。由于地面倾斜,岩浆很快地往东流去,下层的岩浆刚刚凝固,跟着流来的沸腾岩浆马上又淹没了它们。

这时候,红河河谷的主要洪流造成的威胁愈来愈大了。这部分森林整个着了火,大股浓烟在树梢上翻滚着,树干已经被岩浆吞没了。

居民们在离红河河口半英里左右的湖边站下脚来。现在要决定生死存亡的问题了。

赛勒斯·史密斯是惯于考虑重要问题的,同时他也知道,不管问题多么严重,他的伙伴们听了以后,也能经受得住。于是他说:

“现在有两种可能:一种是湖水挡得住岩浆前进,这样荒岛上有一部分就可以保留下来,不致完全覆灭;另一种是洪流漫过整个的远西森林,使地上一草一木都不剩;要是这样,我们就没有别的指望,只好在这些光秃秃的石头上等死,如果荒岛爆炸,也许我们的死期还要提前。”

“既是这样,”潘克洛夫叉着两臂跺着脚说,“还要造什么船呢?”

“潘克洛夫,”赛勒斯·史密斯说,“我们一定要尽到最后的努力!”

这时候岩浆的洪流吞没了一部分美丽的树木,从森林里冲出一条道路,一直来到格兰特湖的边缘。这里有一段高岗,要是它的体积再大一些,就可以挡住洪流前进的道路。

“动手!”赛勒斯·史密斯大声说。

大家立刻领会了工程师的意思。他们是可以拦住洪流,让它注到湖里去的。

居民们急忙向造船所跑去,拿了许多铲子、铁锹和斧头回来。他们利用泥土和倒下来的树木,在几个钟头之内筑成一道三英尺高、几百英尺长的堤防。干到完工的时候,他们觉得似乎前后只不过几分钟。

他们完成得恰好是时候。岩浆不久就流到堤防脚下来了。它象洪水要漫过河岸似的泛滥起来。岩浆的来势凶猛,仿佛想冲倒这道唯一可以阻挡它吞食整个远西森林的障碍。但是堤防很牢固,紧张地相持了一会儿以后,洪流泻入了二十英尺以下的格兰特湖。

居民们屏住了气,一句话也不说,呆呆地看着这场水火之战。

这场水火之间的搏斗是多么壮丽的奇观啊!笔墨怎么能形容出这个惊心动魄的场面呢?沸腾的岩浆流进湖里,使湖水蒸发成水汽,发出咝咝的响声。蒸气在空中盘旋直上,升到极高的地方,好象一个大锅炉的汽门突然被打开似的。但是不管湖里的水有多少,最后它总要干涸的,因为湖水已经没法补充了,而岩浆却夹带着白热的物质源源不断地流到湖里来。

第一股岩浆流进湖里以后立刻就凝固了。它们堆积起来很快就高出水面。新的岩浆又泻到它们的表面上,依次化成岩石,但是岩石离湖中心一步比一步近。这样就堆成了一个突堤,看起来它们逐渐要把湖填满了。湖水倒是泛滥不起来的,因为岩浆侵占了它们的地盘,它们就蒸发成水汽了。到处是一片刺耳的咝咝声。水汽被风吹走以后,象雨点般地掉在海里。突堤愈来愈长,凝结的岩块互相堆积在一起。过去平静的湖面上,现在是一大堆热气腾腾的岩石,好象是上升的土地形成的一片宽广的浅滩。要是在脑子里虚构一幅这样的图画:湖水正在被飓风掀起来的时候突然遇到暴寒而冻结起来,那么就可以大致想象出这股不可阻挡的洪流注入湖内三小时以后的情景了。

这一次,水要被火打败了。

不管怎么样,岩浆朝着格兰特湖的方向倾注下来,对居民们还是有利的。他们又可以多活几天了。眺望岗的高地、“花岗石宫”和造船所,暂时都可以保全下来。现在必须利用这几天工夫进行辅板,仔细填塞船缝,赶快使新船下水。然后居民们就可以到船上去避难,等船下水以后再装索具。要是荒岛因为爆炸而被毁灭,那么在岸上是不可能得到安全的。“花岗石宫”这个石洞虽然一向是安全可靠的藏身之地,现在却随时都可能崩溃。

在以后的六天里,从1月25日到1月30日,居民们在造船工作中,做了相当于二十个人的工作。他们几乎片刻也不休息。火山口喷射出来的火光,使他们日夜都可以工作。岩浆继续在往外流,只是也许流得比以前少。幸亏是这样,因为格兰特湖几乎已经填满了,要是有更多的岩浆流过来,那一定会浸到眺望岗的高地上,然后从那里流到海滩上去的。

但是,虽然荒岛的这一边有一部分被挡住,西边的情形却不是这样。

第二股岩浆的洪流是沿着瀑布河的河谷流过来的,这条河谷非常宽阔,再加上两岸地势平坦,因此洪流没有遇到任何障碍。沸腾的岩浆涌进远西森林。在一年的这个时期,由于气候酷热,树木都烤干了。树木立刻起了火,火势非常猛烈,火焰不仅从这个树干蔓延到那个树干,甚至高处的树枝也成了火的媒介;特别是树枝都交叉在一起,蔓延起来更加迅速。树顶的火势似乎比树根岩浆的洪流前进得更快。

美洲豹、野猪、水豚、“考拉”以及各种飞禽走兽都惊惶地往慈悲河沿岸和通向气球港的大路那边的潦凫沼地逃去。居民们正忙着工作,连最凶猛的野兽也不怕了。他们离开了“花岗石宫”,也不住在“石窟”里,只是在慈悲河口搭一个帐篷,在那里露宿。

赛勒斯·史密斯和吉丁·史佩莱每天都到眺望岗的高地上去。有时候赫伯特跟着他们,但是潘克洛夫从来也不去,他不忍心去看目前岛上彻底遭到摧毁的惨象。

这的确是令人痛心的场面。岛上除了盘蛇半岛的尽头还留下一丛苍翠的树木以外,其余的森林地带一点儿也不剩了。到处都是奇形怪状的树桩,烟火把它们熏得漆黑,上面的树枝也都没有了。这一带劫后的森林甚至比潦凫沼地还要荒凉。岩浆的侵袭可以说是无孔不入。一向生气勃勃的青葱原野现在只剩下一片光秃的火山凝灰岩。瀑布河与慈悲河的河谷里,再没有一滴水流往大海了。要是格兰特湖完全干涸了的话,居民们就会没有水喝,幸亏岩浆保留了南边的一角湖水,这就是岛上全部能喝的淡水了。西北方屹立着轮廓鲜明的嶙峋的火山坡,它象一只巨爪从上面抓住荒岛。多么凄凉而可怕的景象啊!居民们一向住的是肥沃的领地,那里覆盖着森林,有水源灌溉,在辛勤的劳动下,还收获了丰富的物产;现在一下子成了荒凉的山石,他们除了保存的食粮以外,连维持生活的必需品都没有了;这是多么令人痛心的事啊!

“真教人心疼死了!”有一天吉丁·史佩莱说。

“是的,史佩莱,”工程师说。“但愿老天爷给我们时间让我们造成这只船,现在它是我们唯一的避难所了!”

“赛勒斯·史密斯,火山不是已经爆发得不那么猛烈了吗?假如我没有搞错的话,那么火山虽然还在喷岩浆,可喷得比以前少了。”

“那倒没有多大关系,”赛勒斯·史密斯说。“问题是火还在山下面燃烧呢,海水随时会灌进去的。我们就好比船上的一群旅客,船失了火,但是我们没法扑灭,同时又知道火一定会烧到火药库里去的。干吧,史佩莱,干吧,一个钟头也不要浪费!”

又过了八天,在这八天里,也就是说,直到2月7日,岩浆还是在不断泛滥,只是火山爆发还仅限在原来的范围以内。赛勒斯·史密斯十分担心岩浆泛滥到海边来,因为这样造船所就保不住了。此外,这时候居民们感到荒岛的结构颤动起来了,这使他们十分惊慌。

这一天是2月20日,还要过一个月,新船才能落成下水。荒岛能维持到那时候吗?按照潘克洛夫和赛勒斯·史密斯的意思,等船身完工以后,立刻就先让它下水。甲板、干舷、内部的木制品和索具都可以等到将来再补做,主要的是要让移民们在荒岛以外有一个可靠的避难所。也许把船带到气球港去——也就是说,尽量使它远离爆炸中心——要好一些,因为一旦发生剧变,他们的船在小岛和花岗石壁之间的慈悲河口,是有被砸碎的危险的。于是航海家们集中全力,赶做船身。

到了3月3日,他们估计在十天之内,可以使新船下水。

居民们在林肯岛上的第四个年头,经受了无数艰苦的考验。这时候他们心里又产生了希望。潘克洛夫一直为他的领地遭到破坏和毁灭而闷闷不乐,这时候也多少开朗一些了。不错,他的希望是寄托在他的船上的。

“我们要把它造成,”他对工程师说,“我们要把它造成,史密斯先生,并且也正是时候,现在正在过渡到秋天,再往后就要到秋分了。到不得已的时候,我们就把船靠在达抱岛,在那儿过冬。可是把达抱岛和林肯岛比较一下吧。啊,真倒楣!谁想得到会发生这样的事呢?”

“我们继续干吧。”工程师总是这么说。

于是他们抓紧每一分钟的时间,继续工作下去。

“主人,”又过了几天,纳布问道,“要是尼摩船长还活着,你认为这一切也会发生吗?”

“当然会的,纳布。”赛勒斯·史密斯说。

“拿我来说吧,我就不这样想!”潘克洛夫凑着纳布耳边说。

“我也有这个看法!”纳布一本正经地说。

三月份的第一个星期,情况又变得险恶了。上万条玻璃丝似的岩浆,雨点般地落在荒岛上。火山口的岩浆又沸腾起来,流遍山脊一带。洪流沿着凝固了的凝灰岩表面流去,把第一次火山爆发以后残存下来的几棵干枯的树干都摧毁了。这一次洪流向格兰特湖的西南岸没过来,一直流过甘油河,侵入眺望岗的高地。它给移民们的事业的最后一次打击是相当可怕的。磨坊、内院的建筑物和厩房都毁坏了。受惊的家禽向四面八方逃去。托普和杰普露出十分害怕的样子,似乎直觉已经告诉它们,大祸就要临头了。在第一次火山爆发的时候,荒岛上已经死了许多野兽。剩下来一些没有死的找不到别的地方安身,全躲在潦凫沼地上,只有少数的野兽逃到眺望岗的高地上来,把这里当作它们的收容所。但是,现在连最后的收容所也不允许它们避难了。岩浆的洪流顺着花岗石壁的边缘,往海滩倾泻下来,形成一道火光闪闪的瀑布。这一幕惊心动魄的场面是没法形容的。在夜里,只能把它比做岩浆的尼亚加拉大瀑布,它的上面是白热的水蒸气,下面是沸腾的物质。

居民们被驱逐到最后的堡垒里去了。虽然新船的上部缝隙还没有填好,他们还是决定让它立刻下水。

他们决定在第二天——3月9日——早上就让新船下水。潘克洛夫和艾尔通做好了必要的准备。

但是,在3月8日的夜晚,一股水蒸汽从火山口里喷出来,一直升到三千英尺以上的高空,就象一根极大的柱子似的,同时还发出惊天动地的爆炸声。显然发生了这样的情形:达卡洞的石壁受到气体的压力而崩裂了,海水穿过中央管道灌进火坑,立刻蒸发成水汽,但是火山口不能够把全部蒸汽排出来,于是发生了一次激荡空气的大爆炸。这次爆炸的声音,就是在一百英里以外也能听见。山岩的碎片飞进太平洋,几分钟以后,海水就漫过林肯岛原先所在的地方了。



欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533