The Mysterious Island
"Well, captain, where are we going to begin?" asked Pencroft next morning of the
"At the beginning," replied Cyrus Harding.
And in fact, the settlers were compelled to begin "at the very beginning." They did
not possess even the tools necessary for making tools, and they were not even
in the condition of nature, who, "having time, husbands her strength." They had
no time, since they had to provide for the immediate wants of their existence, and
though, profiting by acquired experience, they had nothing to invent, still they had
everything to make; their iron and their steel were as yet only in the state of
minerals, their earthenware in the state of clay, their linen and their clothes in the
state of textile material.
It must be said, however, that the settlers were men" in the complete and higher
sense of the word. The engineer Harding could not have been seconded by more
intelligent companions, nor with more devotion and zeal. He had tried them. He
knew their abilities.
Gideon Spilett, a talented reporter, having learned everything so as to be able to
speak of everything, would contribute largely with his head and hands to the
colonization of the island. He would not draw back from any task: a determined
sportsman, he would make a business of what till then had only been a pleasure
Herbert, a gallant boy, already remarkably well informed in the natural sciences,
would render greater service to the common cause.
Neb was devotion personified. Clever, intelligent, indefatigable, robust, with iron
health, he knew a little about the work of the forge, and could not fail to be very
useful in the colony.
As to Pencroft, he had sailed over every sea, a carpenter in the dockyards in
Brooklyn, assistant tailor in the vessels of the state, gardener, cultivator, during
his holidays, etc., and like all seamen, fit for anything, he knew how to do
It would have been difficult to unite five men, better fitted to struggle against fate,
more certain to triumph over it.
"At the beginning," Cyrus Harding had said. Now this beginning of which the
engineer spoke was the construction of an apparatus which would serve to