The Mysterious Island HTML version

Chapter 21
From this time Pencroft did not let a single day pass without going to visit what
he gravely called his "corn-field." And woe to the insects which dared to venture
there! No mercy was shown them.
Towards the end of the month of June, after incessant rain, the weather became
decidedly colder, and on the 29th a Fahrenheit thermometer would certainly have
announced only twenty degrees above zero, that is considerably below the
freezing-point. The next day, the 30th of June, the day which corresponds to the
31st of December in the northern year, was a Friday. Neb remarked that the year
finished on a bad day, but Pencroft replied that naturally the next would begin on
a good one, which was better.
At any rate it commenced by very severe cold. Ice accumulated at the mouth of
the Mercy, and it was not long before the whole expanse of the lake was frozen.
The settlers had frequently been obliged to renew their store of wood. Pencroft
also had wisely not waited till the river was frozen, but had brought enormous
rafts of wood to their destination. The current was an indefatigable moving
power, and it was employed in conveying the floating wood to the moment when
the frost enchained it. To the fuel which was so abundantly supplied by the
forest, they added several cartloads of coal, which had to be brought from the
foot of the spurs of Mount Franklin. The powerful heat of the coal was greatly
appreciated in the low temperature, which on the 4th of July fell to eight degrees
of Fahrenheit, that is, thirteen degrees below zero. A second fireplace had been
established in the dining-room, where they all worked together at their different
avocations. During this period of cold, Cyrus Harding had great cause to
congratulate himself on having brought to Granite House the little stream of water
from Lake Grant. Taken below the frozen surface, and conducted through the
passage, it preserved its fluidity, and arrived at an interior reservoir which had
been hollowed out at the back part of the storeroom, while the overflow ran
through the well to the sea.
About this time, the weather being extremely dry, the colonists, clothed as
warmly as possible, resolved to devote a day to the exploration of that part of the
island between the Mercy and Claw Cape. It was a wide extent of marshy land,
and they would probably find good sport, for water-birds ought to swarm there.
They reckoned that it would be about eight or nine miles to go there, and as
much to return, so that the whole of the day would be occupied. As an unknown
part of the island was about to be explored, the whole colony took part in the
expedition. Accordingly, on the 5th of July, at six o'clock in the morning, when
day had scarcely broken, Cyrus Harding, Gideon Spilett, Herbert, Neb, and