The Mysterious Island
Pencroft's first care, after unloading the raft, was to render the cave habitable by
stopping up all the holes which made it draughty. Sand, stones, twisted
branches, wet clay, closed up the galleries open to the south winds. One narrow
and winding opening at the side was kept, to lead out the smoke and to make the
fire draw. The cave was thus divided into three or four rooms, if such dark dens
with which a donkey would scarcely have been contented deserved the name.
But they were dry, and there was space to stand upright, at least in the principal
room, which occupied the center. The floor was covered with fine sand, and
taking all in all they were well pleased with it for want of a better.
"Perhaps," said Herbert, while he and Pencroft were working, "our companions
have found a superior place to ours."
"Very likely," replied the seaman; "but, as we don't know, we must work all the
same. Better to have two strings to one's bow than no string at all!"
"Oh!" exclaimed Herbert, "how jolly it will be if they were to find Captain Harding
and were to bring him back with them!"
"Yes, indeed!" said Pencroft, "that was a man of the right sort."
"Was!" exclaimed Herbert, "do you despair of ever seeing him again?"
"God forbid!" replied the sailor. Their work was soon done, and Pencroft declared
himself very well satisfied.
"Now," said he, "our friends can come back when they like. They will find a good
They now had only to make a fireplace and to prepare the supper--an easy task.
Large flat stones were placed on the ground at the opening of the narrow
passage which had been kept. This, if the smoke did not take the heat out with it,
would be enough to maintain an equal temperature inside. Their wood was
stowed away in one of the rooms, and the sailor laid in the fireplace some logs
and brushwood. The seaman was busy with this, when Herbert asked him if he
had any matches.
"Certainly," replied Pencroft, "and I may say happily, for without matches or tinder
we should be in a fix."
"Still we might get fire as the savages do," replied Herbert, "by rubbing two bits of
dry stick one against the other."