The Mysterious Island
Cyrus Harding stood still, without saying a word. His companions searched in the
darkness on the wall, in case the wind should have moved the ladder, and on the
ground, thinking that it might have fallen down.... But the ladder had quite
disappeared. As to ascertaining if a squall had blown it on the landing-place, half
way up, that was impossible in the dark.
"If it is a joke," cried Pencroft, "it is a very stupid one! To come home and find no
staircase to go up to your room by--that's nothing for weary men to laugh at."
Neb could do nothing but cry out "Oh! oh! oh!"
"I begin to think that very curious things happen in Lincoln Island!" said Pencroft.
"Curious?" replied Gideon Spilett, "not at all, Pencroft, nothing can be more
natural. Some one has come during our absence, taken possession of our
dwelling and drawn up the ladder."
"Some one," cried the sailor. "But who?"
"Who but the hunter who fired the bullet?" replied the reporter.
"Well, if there is any one up there," replied Pencroft, who began to lose patience,
"I will give them a hail, and they must answer."
And in a stentorian voice the sailor gave a prolonged "Halloo!" which was echoed
again and again from the cliff and rocks.
The settlers listened and they thought they heard a sort of chuckling laugh, of
which they could not guess the origin. But no voice replied to Pencroft, who in
vain repeated his vigorous shouts.
There was something indeed in this to astonish the most apathetic of men, and
the settlers were not men of that description. In their situation every incident had
its importance, and, certainly, during the seven months which they had spent on
the island, they had not before met with anything of so surprising a character.
Be that as it may, forgetting their fatigue in the singularity of the event, they
remained below Granite House, not knowing what to think, not knowing what to
do, questioning each other without any hope of a satisfactory reply, every one
starting some supposition each more unlikely than the last. Neb bewailed
himself, much disappointed at not being able to get into his kitchen, for the