The Mysterious Island HTML version

Chapter 14
The next day, the 16th of April, and Easter Sunday, the settlers issued from the
Chimneys at daybreak, and proceeded to wash their linen. The engineer
intended to manufacture soap as soon as he could procure the necessary
materials--soda or potash, fat or oil. The important question of renewing their
wardrobe would be treated of in the proper time and place. At any rate their
clothes would last at least six months longer, for they were strong, and could
resist the wear of manual labor. But all would depend on the situation of the
island with regard to inhabited land. This would be settled to-day if the weather
The sun rising above a clear horizon, announced a magnificent day, one of those
beautiful autumn days which are like the last farewells of the warm season.
It was now necessary to complete the observations of the evening before by
measuring the height of the cliff above the level of the sea.
"Shall you not need an instrument similar to the one which you used yesterday?"
said Herbert to the engineer.
"No, my boy," replied the latter, "we are going to proceed differently, but in as
precise a way."
Herbert, wishing to learn everything he could, followed the engineer to the beach.
Pencroft, Neb, and the reporter remained behind and occupied themselves in
different ways.
Cyrus Harding had provided himself with a straight stick, twelve feet long, which
he had measured as exactly as possible by comparing it with his own height,
which he knew to a hair. Herbert carried a plumb-line which Harding had given
him, that is to say, a simple stone fastened to the end of a flexible fiber. Having
reached a spot about twenty feet from the edge of the beach, and nearly five
hundred feet from the cliff, which rose perpendicularly, Harding thrust the pole
two feet into the sand, and wedging it up carefully, he managed, by means of the
plumb-line, to erect it perpendicularly with the plane of the horizon.
That done, he retired the necessary distance, when, lying on the sand, his eye
glanced at the same time at the top of the pole and the crest of the cliff. He
carefully marked the place with a little stick.
Then addressing Herbert--"Do you know the first principles of geometry?" he