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The Mysterious Island

Chapter 4
It was six o' clock in the morning when the settlers, after a hasty breakfast, set
out to reach by the shortest way, the western coast of the island. And how long
would it take to do this? Cyrus Harding had said two hours, but of course that
depended on the nature of the obstacles they might meet with As it was probable
that they would have to cut a path through the grass, shrubs, and creepers, they
marched axe in hand, and with guns also ready, wisely taking warning from the
cries of the wild beasts heard in the night.
The exact position of the encampment could be determined by the bearing of
Mount Franklin, and as the volcano arose in the north at a distance of less than
three miles, they had only to go straight towards the southwest to reach the
western coast. They set out, having first carefully secured the canoe. Pencroft
and Neb carried sufficient provision for the little band for at least two days. It
would not thus he necessary to hunt. The engineer advised his companions to
refrain from firing, that their presence might not be betrayed to any one near the
shore. The first hatchet blows were given among the brushwood in the midst of
some mastic-trees, a little above the cascade; and his compass in his hand,
Cyrus Harding led the way.
The forest here was composed for the most part of trees which had already been
met with near the lake and on Prospect Heights. There were deodars, Douglas
firs, casuarinas, gum trees, eucalypti, hibiscus, cedars, and other trees, generally
of a moderate size, for their number prevented their growth.
Since their departure, the settlers had descended the slopes which constituted
the mountain system of the island, on to a dry soil, but the luxuriant vegetation of
which indicated it to be watered either by some subterranean marsh or by some
stream. However, Cyrus Harding did not remember having seen, at the time of
his excursion to the crater, any other watercourses but the Red Creek and the
Mercy.
During the first part of their excursion, they saw numerous troops of monkeys
who exhibited great astonishment at the sight of men, whose appearance was so
new to them. Gideon Spilett jokingly asked whether these active and merry
quadrupeds did not consider him and his companions as degenerate brothers.
And certainly, pedestrians, hindered at each step by bushes, caught by creepers,
barred by trunks of trees, did not shine beside those supple animals, who,
bounding from branch to branch, were hindered by nothing on their course. The
monkeys were numerous, but happily they did not manifest any hostile
disposition.
 
 
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