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The Mysterious Island

Chapter 1
It was now exactly seven months since the balloon voyagers had been thrown on
Lincoln Island. During that time, notwithstanding the researches they had made,
no human being had been discovered. No smoke even had betrayed the
presence of man on the surface of the island. No vestiges of his handiwork
showed that either at an early or at a late period had man lived there. Not only
did it now appear to be uninhabited by any but themselves, but the colonists
were compelled to believe that it never had been inhabited. And now, all this
scaffolding of reasonings fell before a simple ball of metal, found in the body of
an inoffensive rodent! In fact, this bullet must have issued from a firearm, and
who but a human being could have used such a weapon?
When Pencroft had placed the bullet on the table, his companions looked at it
with intense astonishment. All the consequences likely to result from this
incident, notwithstanding its apparent insignificance, immediately took
possession of their minds. The sudden apparition of a supernatural being could
not have startled them more completely.
Cyrus Harding did not hesitate to give utterance to the suggestions which this
fact, at once surprising and unexpected, could not fail to raise in his mind. He
took the bullet, turned it over and over, rolled it between his finger and thumb;
then, turning to Pencroft, he asked,--
Are you sure that the peccary wounded by this bullet was not more than three
months old?"
"Not more, captain," replied Pencroft. "It was still sucking its mother when I found
it in the trap."
"Well," said the engineer, "that proves that within three months a gun- shot was
fired in Lincoln Island."
"And that a bullet," added Gideon Spilett, "wounded, though not mortally, this
little animal."
"That is unquestionable," said Cyrus Harding, "and these are the deductions
which must be drawn from this incident: that the island was inhabited before our
arrival, or that men have landed here within three months. Did these men arrive
here voluntarily or involuntarily, by disembarking on the shore or by being
wrecked? This point can only be cleared up later. As to what they were,
Europeans or Malays, enemies or friends of our race, we cannot possibly guess;