The Mysterious Island
The inventory of the articles possessed by these castaways from the clouds,
thrown upon a coast which appeared to be uninhabited, was soon made out.
They had nothing, save the clothes which they were wearing at the time of the
catastrophe. We must mention, however, a note-book and a watch which Gideon
Spilett had kept, doubtless by inadvertence, not a weapon, not a tool, not even a
pocket-knife; for while in the car they had thrown out everything to lighten the
balloon. The imaginary heroes of Daniel Defoe or of Wyss, as well as Selkirk and
Raynal shipwrecked on Juan Fernandez and on the archipelago of the
Aucklands, were never in such absolute destitution. Either they had abundant
resources from their stranded vessels, in grain, cattle, tools, ammunition, or else
some things were thrown up on the coast which supplied them with all the first
necessities of life. But here, not any instrument whatever, not a utensil. From
nothing they must supply themselves with everything.
And yet, if Cyrus Harding had been with them, if the engineer could have brought
his practical science, his inventive mind to bear on their situation, perhaps all
hope would not have been lost. Alas! they must hope no longer again to see
Cyrus Harding. The castaways could expect nothing but from themselves and
from that Providence which never abandons those whose faith is sincere.
But ought they to establish themselves on this part of the coast, without trying to
know to what continent it belonged, if it was inhabited, or if they were on the
shore of a desert island?
It was an important question, and should be solved with the shortest possible
delay. From its answer they would know what measures to take. However,
according to Pencroft's advice, it appeared best to wait a few days before
commencing an exploration. They must, in fact, prepare some provisions and
procure more strengthening food than eggs and molluscs. The explorers, before
undertaking new fatigues, must first of all recruit their strength.
The Chimneys offered a retreat sufficient for the present. The fire was lighted,
and it was easy to preserve some embers. There were plenty of shell-fish and
eggs among the rocks and on the beach. It would be easy to kill a few of the
pigeons which were flying by hundreds about the summit of the plateau, either
with sticks or stones. Perhaps the trees of the neighboring forest would supply
them with eatable fruit. Lastly, the sweet water was there.
It was accordingly settled that for a few days they would remain at the Chimneys
so as to prepare themselves for an expedition, either along the shore or into the
interior of the country. This plan suited Neb particularly. As obstinate in his ideas
as in his presentiments, he was in no haste to abandon this part of the coast, the