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The Mysterious Island

Chapter 17
The next day, the 7th of May, Harding and Gideon Spilett, leaving Neb to prepare
breakfast, climbed Prospect Heights, while Herbert and Pencroft ascended by
the river, to renew their store of wood.
The engineer and the reporter soon reached the little beach on which the dugong
had been stranded. Already flocks of birds had attacked the mass of flesh, and
had to be driven away with stones, for Cyrus wished to keep the fat for the use of
the colony. As to the animal's flesh it would furnish excellent food, for in the
islands of the Malay Archipelago and elsewhere, it is especially reserved for the
table of the native princes. But that was Neb's affair.
At this moment Cyrus Harding had other thoughts. He was much interested in the
incident of the day before. He wished to penetrate the mystery of that submarine
combat, and to ascertain what monster could have given the dugong so strange
a wound. He remained at the edge of the lake, looking, observing; but nothing
appeared under the tranquil waters, which sparkled in the first rays of the rising
At the beach, on which lay the body of the dugong, the water was tolerably
shallow, but from this point the bottom of the lake sloped gradually, and it was
probable that the depth was considerable in the center. The lake might be
considered as a large center basin, which was filled by the water from the Red
"Well, Cyrus," said the reporter, "there seems to be nothing suspicious in this
"No, my dear Spilett," replied the engineer, "and I really do not know how to
account for the incident of yesterday."
"I acknowledge," returned Spilett, "that the wound given this creature is, at least,
very strange, and I cannot explain either how Top was so vigorously cast up out
of the water. One could have thought that a powerful arm hurled him up, and that
the same arm with a dagger killed the dugong!"
"Yes," replied the engineer, who had become thoughtful; "there is something
there that I cannot understand. But do you better understand either, my dear
Spilett, in what way I was saved myself--how I was drawn from the waves, and
carried to the downs? No! Is it not true? Now, I feel sure that there is some
mystery there, which, doubtless, we shall discover some day. Let us observe, but
do not dwell on these singular incidents before our companions. Let us keep our
remarks to ourselves, and continue our work."