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The Mysterious Island

Chapter 8
The first week of January was devoted to the manufacture of the linen garments
required by the colony. The needles found in the box were used by sturdy if not
delicate fingers, and we may be sure that what was sewn was sewn firmly.
There was no lack of thread, thanks to Cyrus Harding's idea of re- employing that
which had been already used in the covering of the balloon. This with admirable
patience was all unpicked by Gideon Spilett and Herbert, for Pencroft had been
obliged to give this work up, as it irritated him beyond measure; but he had no
equal in the sewing part of the business. Indeed, everybody knows that sailors
have a remarkable aptitude for tailoring.
The cloth of which the balloon-case was made was then cleaned by means of
soda and potash, obtained by the incineration of plants, in such a way that the
cotton, having got rid of the varnish, resumed its natural softness and elasticity;
then, exposed to the action of the atmosphere, it soon became perfectly white.
Some dozen shirts and sock--the latter not knitted, of course, but made of cotton-
-were thus manufactured. What a comfort it was to the settlers to clothe
themselves again in clean linen, which was doubtless rather rough, but they were
not troubled about that! and then to go to sleep between sheets, which made the
couches at Granite House into quite comfortable beds!
It was about this time also that they made boots of seal-leather, which were
greatly needed to replace the shoes and boots brought from America. We may
be sure that these new shoes were large enough and never pinched the feet of
the wearers.
With the beginning of the year 1866 the heat was very great, but the hunting in
the forests did not stand still. Agouties, peccaries, capybaras, kangaroos, game
of all sorts, actually swarmed there, and Spilett and Herbert were too good
marksmen ever to throw away their shot uselessly.
Cyrus Harding still recommended them to husband the ammunition, and he took
measures to replace the powder and shot which had been found in the box, and
which he wished to reserve for the future. How did he know where chance might
one day cast his companions and himself in the event of their leaving their
domain? They should, then, prepare for the unknown future by husbanding their
ammunition and by substituting for it some easily renewable substance.
To replace lead, of which Harding had found no traces in the island, he employed
granulated iron, which was easy to manufacture. These bullets, not having the
weight of leaden bullets, were made larger, and each charge contained less, but
the skill of the sportsmen made up this deficiency. As to powder, Cyrus Harding
 
 
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