The Mysterious Island
All at once the reporter sprang up, and telling the sailor that he would rejoin them
at that same place, he climbed the cliff in the direction which the Negro Neb had
taken a few hours before. Anxiety hastened his steps, for he longed to obtain
news of his friend, and he soon disappeared round an angle of the cliff. Herbert
wished to accompany him.
"Stop here, my boy," said the sailor; "we have to prepare an encampment, and to
try and find rather better grub than these shell-fish. Our friends will want
something when they come back. There is work for everybody."
"I am ready," replied Herbert.
"All right," said the sailor; "that will do. We must set about it regularly. We are
tired, cold, and hungry; therefore we must have shelter, fire, and food. There is
wood in the forest, and eggs in nests; we have only to find a house."
"Very well," returned Herbert, "I will look for a cave among the rocks, and I shall
be sure to discover some hole into which we can creep."
"All right," said Pencroft; "go on, my boy."
They both walked to the foot of the enormous wall over the beach, far from which
the tide had now retreated; but instead of going towards the north, they went
southward. Pencroft had remarked, several hundred feet from the place at which
they landed, a narrow cutting, out of which he thought a river or stream might
issue. Now, on the one hand it was important to settle themselves in the
neighborhood of a good stream of water, and on the other it was possible that the
current had thrown Cyrus Harding on the shore there.
The cliff, as has been said, rose to a height of three hundred feet, but the mass
was unbroken throughout, and even at its base, scarcely washed by the sea, it
did not offer the smallest fissure which would serve as a dwelling. It was a
perpendicular wall of very hard granite, which even the waves had not worn
away. Towards the summit fluttered myriads of sea-fowl, and especially those of
the web-footed species with long, flat, pointed beaks--a clamorous tribe, bold in
the presence of man, who probably for the first time thus invaded their domains.
Pencroft recognized the skua and other gulls among them, the voracious little
sea-mew, which in great numbers nestled in the crevices of the granite. A shot
fired among this swarm would have killed a great number, but to fire a shot a gun
was needed, and neither Pencroft nor Herbert had one; besides this, gulls and
sea-mews are scarcely eatable, and even their eggs have a detestable taste.
However, Herbert, who had gone forward a little more to the left, soon came