The Mysterious Island
This intense cold lasted till the 15th of August, without, however, passing the
degree of Fahrenheit already mentioned. When the atmosphere was calm, the
low temperature was easily borne, but when the wind blew, the poor settlers,
insufficiently clothed, felt it severely. Pencroft regretted that Lincoln Island was
not the home of a few families of bears rather than of so many foxes and seals.
"Bears," said he, "are generally very well dressed, and I ask no more than to
borrow for the winter the warm cloaks which they have on their backs."
"But," replied Neb, laughing, "perhaps the bears would not consent to give you
their cloaks, Pencroft. These beasts are not St. Martins."
"We would make them do it, Neb, we would make them," replied Pencroft, in
quite an authoritative tone.
But these formidable carnivora did not exist in the island, or at any rate they had
not yet shown themselves.
In the meanwhile, Herbert, Pencroft, and the reporter occupied themselves with
making traps on Prospect Heights and at the border of the forest.
According to the sailor, any animal, whatever it was, would be a lawful prize, and
the rodents or carnivora which might get into the new snares would be well
received at Granite House.
The traps were besides extremely simple; being pits dug in the ground, a
platform of branches and grass above, which concealed the opening, and at the
bottom some bait, the scent of which would attract animals. It must be mentioned
also, that they had not been dug at random, but at certain places where
numerous footprints showed that quadrupeds frequented the ground. They were
visited every day, and at three different times, during the first days, specimens of
those Antarctic foxes which they had already seen on the right bank of the Mercy
were found in them.
"Why, there are nothing but foxes in this country!" cried Pencroft, when for the
third time he drew one of the animals out of the pit. Looking at it in great disgust,
he added, "beasts which are good for nothing!"
"Yes," said Gideon Spilett, "they are good for something!"
"And what is that?"