In Search of the Castaways
Part 11 out of 11
But before Ayrton was transferred, Harry Grant wished to do the honors
of his rock to his friends. He invited them to visit his wooden house,
and dine with him in Robinson Crusoe fashion.
Glenarvan and his friends accepted the invitation most willingly.
Robert and Mary were eagerly longing to see the solitary house
where their father had so often wept at the thought of them.
A boat was manned, and the Captain and his two children,
Lord and Lady Glenarvan, the Major, John Mangles, and Paganel,
landed on the shores of the island.
A few hours sufficed to explore the whole domain of Harry Grant. It was
in fact the summit of a submarine mountain, a plateau composed of basaltic
rocks and volcanic DEBRIS. During the geological epochs of the earth,
this mountain had gradually emerged from the depths of the Pacific,
through the action of the subterranean fires, but for ages back
the volcano had been a peaceful mountain, and the filled-up crater,
an island rising out of the liquid plain. Then soil formed.
The vegetable kingdom took possession of this new land.
Several whalers landed domestic animals there in passing; goats and pigs,
which multiplied and ran wild, and the three kingdoms of nature
were now displayed on this island, sunk in mid ocean.
When the survivors of the shipwrecked BRITANNIA took refuge there,
the hand of man began to organize the efforts of nature. In two years
and a half, Harry Grant and his two sailors had metamorphosed the island.
Several acres of well-cultivated land were stocked with vegetables
of excellent quality.
The house was shaded by luxuriant gum-trees. The magnificent
ocean stretched before the windows, sparkling in the sunlight.
Harry Grant had the table placed beneath the grand trees,
and all the guests seated themselves. A hind quarter of a goat,
nardou bread, several bowls of milk, two or three roots of
wild endive, and pure fresh water, composed the simple repast,
worthy of the shepherds of Arcadia.
Paganel was enchanted. His old fancies about Robinson Crusoe
revived in full force. "He is not at all to be pitied,
that scoundrel, Ayrton!" he exclaimed, enthusiastically.
"This little isle is just a paradise!"
"Yes," replied Harry Grant, "a paradise to these poor,
shipwrecked fellows that Heaven had pity on, but I am sorry
that Maria Theresa was not an extensive and fertile island,
with a river instead of a stream, and a port instead of a tiny
bay exposed to the open sea."
"And why, captain?" asked Glenarvan.
"Because I should have made it the foundation of the colony
with which I mean to dower Scotland."
"Ah, Captain Grant, you have not given up the project, then, which made
you so popular in our old country?"
"No, my Lord, and God has only saved me through your efforts that I
might accomplish my task. My poor brothers in old Caledonia,
all who are needy must have a refuge provided for them in another
land against their misery, and my dear country must have a colony
of her own, for herself alone, somewhere in these seas, where she
may find that independence and comfort she so lacks in Europe."
"Ah, that is very true, Captain Grant," said Lady Helena. "This is
a grand project of yours, and worthy of a noble heart.
But this little isle--"
"No, madam, it is a rock only fit at most to support a few settlers;
while what we need is a vast country, whose virgin soil abounds
in untouched stores of wealth," replied the captain.
"Well, captain," exclaimed Glenarvan, "the future is ours,
and this country we will seek for together."
And the two brave Scotchmen joined hands in a hearty grip
and so sealed the compact.
A general wish was expressed to hear, while they were on
the island, the account of the shipwreck of the BRITANNIA,
and of the two years spent by the survivors in this very place.
Harry Grant was delighted to gratify their curiosity,
and commenced his narration forthwith.
"My story," he said, "is that of all the Robinson Cru-soes
cast upon an island, with only God and themselves to rely on,
and feeling it a duty to struggle for life with the elements.
"It was during the night of the 26th or 27th of June, 1862,
that the BRITANNIA, disabled by a six days' storm, struck against
the rocks of Maria Theresa. The sea was mountains high,
and lifeboats were useless. My unfortunate crew all perished,
except Bob Learce and Joe Bell, who with myself managed to reach
shore after twenty unsuccessful attempts.
"The land which received us was only an uninhabited island,
two miles broad and five long, with about thirty trees
in the interior, a few meadows, and a brook of fresh water,
which fortunately never dried up. Alone with my sailors, in this
corner of the globe, I did not despair. I put my trust in God,
and accustomed myself to struggle resolutely for existence.
Bob and Joe, my brave companions in misfortune, my friends,
seconded me energetically.
"We began like the fictitious Robinson Crusoe of Defoe,
our model, by collecting the planks of the ship, the tools,
a little powder, and firearms, and a bag of precious seeds.
The first few days were painful enough, but hunting and fishing
soon afforded us a sure supply of food, for wild goats were
in abundance in the interior of the island, and marine animals
abounded on the coast. By degrees we fell into regular ways
and habits of life.
"I had saved my instruments from the wreck, and knew exactly the
position of the island. I found we were out of the route of vessels,
and could not be rescued unless by some providential chance.
I accepted our trying lot composedly, always thinking, however,
of my dear ones, remembering them every day in my prayers,
though never hoping to see them again.
"However, we toiled on resolutely, and before long several acres of land
were sown with the seed off the BRITANNIA; potatoes, endive, sorrel,
and other vegetables besides, gave wholesome variety to our daily fare.
We caught some young kids, which soon grew quite tame. We had milk
and butter. The nardou, which grew abundantly in dried up creeks,
supplied us with tolerably substantial bread, and we had no longer
any fears for our material life.
"We had built a log hut with the DEBRIS of the BRITANNIA,
and this was covered over with sail cloth, carefully tarred over,
and beneath this secure shelter the rainy season passed comfortably.
Many a plan was discussed here, and many a dream indulged in,
the brightest of which is this day realized.
"I had at first the idea of trying to brave the perils of the ocean
in a canoe made out of the spars of the ship, but 1,500 miles lay
between us and the nearest coast, that is to say the islands of the
Archipelago of Pomotou. No boat could have stood so long a voyage.
I therefore relinquished my scheme, and looked for no deliverance
except from a divine hand.
"Ah, my poor children! how often we have stood on the top of the rocks
and watched the few vessels passing in the distance far out at sea.
During the whole period of our exile only two or three vessels appeared
on the horizon, and those only to disappear again immediately.
Two years and a half were spent in this manner. We gave up hoping,
but yet did not despair. At last, early yesterday morning, when I
was standing on the highest peak of the island, I noticed a light smoke
rising in the west. It increased, and soon a ship appeared in sight.
It seemed to be coming toward us. But would it not rather steer clear
of an island where there was no harbor.
"Ah, what a day of agony that was! My heart was almost bursting.
My comrades kindled a fire on one of the peaks. Night came on,
but no signal came from the yacht. Deliverance was there, however.
Were we to see it vanish from our eyes?
"I hesitated no longer. The darkness was growing deeper.
The ship might double the island during the night.
I jumped into the sea, and attempted to make my way toward it.
Hope trebled my strength, I cleft the waves with superhuman vigor,
and had got so near the yacht that I was scarcely thirty fathoms off,
when it tacked about.
"This provoked me to the despairing cry, which only my two
children heard. It was no illusion.
"Then I came back to the shore, exhausted and overcome with
emotion and fatigue. My two sailors received me half dead.
It was a horrible night this last we spent on the island,
and we believed ourselves abandoned forever, when day dawned,
and there was the yacht sailing nearly alongside, under easy steam.
Your boat was lowered--we were saved--and, oh, wonder of
Divine goodness, my children, my beloved children, were there
holding out their arms to me!"
Robert and Mary almost smothered their father with kisses and caresses
as he ended his narrative.
It was now for the first time that the captain heard that he owed
his deliverance to the somewhat hieroglyphical
V. IV Verne document which he had placed in a bottle and confined
to the mercy of the ocean.
But what were Jacques Paganel's thoughts during Captain Grant's recital?
The worthy geographer was turning over in his brain for the thousandth
time the words of the document. He pondered his three successive
interpretations, all of which had proved false. How had this island,
called Maria Theresa, been indicated in the papers originally?
At last Paganel could contain himself no longer, and seizing
Harry Grant's hand, he exclaimed:
"Captain! will you tell me at last what really was in
your indecipherable document?"
A general curiosity was excited by this question of the geographer,
for the enigma which had been for nine months a mystery was about
to be explained.
"Well, captain," repeated Paganel, "do you remember the precise
words of the document?"
"Exactly," replied Harry Grant; "and not a day has passed without
my recalling to memory words with which our last hopes were linked."
"And what are they, captain?" asked Glenarvan. "Speak, for our _amour
propre_ is wounded to the quick!"
"I am ready to satisfy you," replied Harry Grant; "but, you know,
to multiply the chances of safety, I had inclosed three
documents in the bottle, in three different languages.
Which is it you wish to hear?"
"They are not identical, then?" cried Paganel.
"Yes, they are, almost to a word."
"Well, then, let us have the French document," replied Glenarvan.
"That is the one that is most respected by the waves, and the one
on which our interpretations have been mostly founded."
"My Lord, I will give it you word for word," replied Harry Grant.
"LE 27 JUIN, 1862, _le trois-mats Britannia, de Glasgow, s'est perdu
a quinze cents lieues de la Patagonie, dans l'hemisphere austral.
Partes a terre, deux matelots et le Capitaine Grant ont
atteint l'ile Tabor_--"
"Oh!" exclaimed Paganel.
"LA," continued Harry Grant, "_continuellement en proie
a une cruelle indigence, ils ont jete ce document par_ 153
degrees _de longitude et_ 37 degrees 11' _de latitude.
Venes a leur secours, ou ils sont perdus_."
At the name of Tabor, Paganel had started up hastily, and now being
unable to restrain himself longer, he called out:
"How can it be Isle Tabor? Why, this is Maria Theresa!"
"Undoubtedly, Monsieur Paganel," replied Harry Grant. "It is
Maria Theresa on the English and German charts, but is named
Tabor on the French ones!"
At this moment a vigorous thump on Paganel's shoulder almost bent
him double. Truth obliges us to say it was the Major that dealt the blow,
though strangely contrary to his usual strict politeness.
"Geographer!" said McNabbs, in a tone of the most supreme contempt.
But Paganel had not even felt the Major's hand. What was that compared
to the geographical blow which had stunned him?
He had been gradually getting nearer the truth, however,
as he learned from Captain Grant. He had almost
entirely deciphered the indecipherable document.
The names Patagonia, Australia, New Zealand, had appeared to him
in turn with absolute certainty. CONTIN, at first CONTINENT,
had gradually reached its true meaning, _continuelle.
Indi_ had successively signified _indiens, indigenes_,
and at last the right word was found--INDIGENCE. But one
mutilated word, ABOR, had baffled the geographer's sagacity.
Paganel had persisted in making it the root of the verb ABORDER,
and it turned out to be a proper name, the French name of the
Isle Tabor, the isle which had been a refuge for the shipwrecked
sailors of the BRITANNIA. It was difficult to avoid falling into
the error, however, for on the English planispheres on the DUNCAN,
the little isle was marked Maria Theresa.
"No matter?" cried Paganel, tearing his hair; "I ought not to have
forgotten its double appellation. It is an unpardonable mistake,
one unworthy of a secretary of the Geographical Society. I am disgraced!"
"Come, come, Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena; "moderate your grief."
"No, madam, no; I am a mere ass!"
"And not even a learned one!" added the Major, by way of consolation.
When the meal was over, Harry Grant put everything in order
in his house. He took nothing away, wishing the guilty to inherit
the riches of the innocent. Then they returned to the vessel,
and, as Glenarvan had determined to start the same day, he gave
immediate orders for the disembarkation of the quartermaster.
Ayrton was brought up on the poop, and found himself face to face
with Harry Grant.
"It is I, Ayrton!" said Grant
"Yes, it is you, captain," replied Ayrton, without the least sign
of surprise at Harry Grant's recovery. "Well, I am not sorry to see
you again in good health."
"It seems, Ayrton, that I made a mistake in landing you on
an inhabited coast."
"It seems so, captain."
"You are going to take my place on this uninhabited island.
May Heaven give you repentance!"
"Amen," said Ayrton, calmly.
Glenarvan then addressed the quartermaster.
"It is still your wish, then, Ayrton, to be left behind?"
"Yes, my Lord!"
"And Isle Tabor meets your wishes?"
"Now then, listen to my last words, Ayrton. You will be cut off here
from all the world, and no communication with your fellows is possible.
Miracles are rare, and you will not be able to quit this isle.
You will be alone, with no eye upon you but that of God,
who reads the deepest secrets of the heart; but you will be neither
lost nor forsaken, as Captain Grant was. Unworthy as you are of
anyone's remembrance, you will not be dropped out of recollection.
I know where you are, Ayrton; I know where to find you--
I shall never forget."
"God keep your Honor," was all Ayrton's reply.
These were the final words exchanged between Glenarvan and
the quartermaster. The boat was ready and Ayrton got into it.
John Mangles had previously conveyed to the island
several cases of preserved food, besides clothing,
and tools and firearms, and a supply of powder and shot.
The quartermaster could commence a new life of honest labor.
Nothing was lacking, not even books; among others, the Bible,
so dear to English hearts.
The parting hour had come. The crew and all the passengers were
assembled on deck. More than one felt his heart swell with emotion.
Mary Grant and Lady Helena could not restrain their feelings.
"Must it be done?" said the young wife to her husband.
"Must the poor man be left there?"
"He must, Helena," replied Lord Glenarvan. "It is in expiation
of his crimes."
At that moment the boat, in charge of John Mangles, turned away.
Ayrton, who remained standing, and still unmoved, took off his cap
and bowed gravely.
Glenarvan uncovered, and all the crew followed his example,
as if in presence of a man who was about to die, and the boat
went off in profound silence.
On reaching land, Ayrton jumped on the sandy shore, and the boat
returned to the yacht. It was then four o'clock in the afternoon,
and from the poop the passengers could see the quartermaster
gazing at the ship, standing with folded arms on a rock,
motionless as a statue.
"Shall we set sail, my Lord?" asked John Mangles.
"Yes, John," replied Glenarvan, hastily, more moved than he cared to show.
"Go on!" shouted John to the engineer.
The steam hissed and puffed out, the screw began to stir the waves,
and by eight o'clock the last peaks of Isle Tabor disappeared
in the shadows of the night.
CHAPTER XXI PAGANEL'S LAST ENTANGLEMENT
ON the 19th of March, eleven days after leaving the island,
the DUNCAN sighted the American coast, and next day dropped
anchor in the bay of Talcahuano. They had come back again
after a voyage of five months, during which, and keeping strictly
along the 37th parallel, they had gone round the world.
The passengers in this memorable expedition, unprecedented in
the annals of the Travelers' Club, had visited Chili, the Pampas,
the Argentine Republic, the Atlantic, the island of Tristan d'Acunha,
the Indian Ocean, Amsterdam Island, Australia, New Zealand, Isle Tabor,
and the Pacific. Their search had not been fruitless, for they
were bringing back the survivors of the shipwrecked BRITANNIA.
Not one of the brave Scots who set out at the summons of their chief,
but could answer to their names; all were returning to their old Scotia.
As soon as the DUNCAN had re-provisioned, she sailed along
the coast of Patagonia, doubled Cape Horn, and made a swift run up
the Atlantic Ocean. No voyage could be more devoid of incident.
The yacht was simply carrying home a cargo of happiness.
There was no secret now on board, not even John Mangles's
attachment to Mary Grant.
Yes, there was one mystery still, which greatly excited
McNabbs's curiosity. Why was it that Paganel remained always
hermetically fastened up in his clothes, with a big comforter
round his throat and up to his very ears? The Major was burning
with desire to know the reason of this singular fashion.
But in spite of interrogations, allusions, and suspicions
on the part of McNabbs, Paganel would not unbutton.
Not even when the DUNCAN crossed the line, and the heat
was so great that the seams of the deck were melting.
"He is so DISTRAIT that he thinks he is at St. Petersburg,"
said the Major, when he saw the geographer wrapped in an immense
great-coat, as if the mercury had been frozen in the thermometer.
At last on the 9th of May, fifty-three days from the time
of leaving Talcahuano, John Mangles sighted the lights
of Cape Clear. The yacht entered St. George's Channel,
crossed the Irish Sea, and on the 10th of May reached the Firth
of Clyde. At 11 o'clock she dropped anchor off Dunbarton,
and at 2 P.M. the passengers arrived at Malcolm Castle amidst
the enthusiastic cheering of the Highlanders.
As fate would have it then, Harry Grant and his two companions
were saved. John Mangles wedded Mary Grant in the old cathedral
of St. Mungo, and Mr. Paxton, the same clergyman who had
prayed nine months before for the deliverance of the father,
now blessed the marriage of his daughter and his deliverer.
Robert was to become a sailor like Harry Grant and John Mangles,
and take part with them in the captain's grand projects,
under the auspices of Lord Glenarvan.
But fate also decreed that Paganel was not to die a bachelor?
The fact was, the learned geographer after his heroic exploits,
could not escape celebrity. His blunders made quite a FURORE among
the fashionables of Scotland, and he was overwhelmed with courtesies.
It was then that an amiable lady, about thirty years of age,
in fact, a cousin of McNabbs, a little eccentric herself, but good
and still charming, fell in love with the geographer's oddities,
and offered him her hand. Forty thousand pounds went with it,
but that was not mentioned.
Paganel was far from being insensible to the sentiments of Miss Arabella,
but yet he did not dare to speak. It was the Major who was the medium
of communication between these two souls, evidently made for each other.
He even told Paganel that his marriage was the last freak he would be
able to allow himself. Paganel was in a great state of embarrassment,
but strangely enough could not make up his mind to speak the fatal word.
"Does not Miss Arabella please you then?" asked McNabbs.
"Oh, Major, she is charming," exclaimed Paganel, "a thousand times
too charming, and if I must tell you all, she would please me better
if she were less so. I wish she had a defect!"
"Be easy on that score," replied the Major, "she has, and more than one.
The most perfect woman in the world has always her quota.
So, Paganel, it is settled then, I suppose?"
"I dare not."
"Come, now, my learned friend, what makes you hesitate?"
"I am unworthy of Miss Arabella," was the invariable reply
of the geographer. And to this he would stick.
At last, one day being fairly driven in a corner by the intractable Major,
he ended by confiding to him, under the seal of secrecy, a certain
peculiarity which would facilitate his apprehension should the police
ever be on his track.
"Bah!" said the Major.
"It is really as I tell you," replied Paganel.
"What does it matter, my worthy friend?"
"Do you think so, Major?"
"On the contrary, it only makes you more uncommon.
It adds to your personal merits. It is the very thing to make
you the nonpareil husband that Arabella dreams about."
And the Major with imperturbable gravity left Paganel in a state
of the utmost disquietude.
A short conversation ensued between McNabbs and Miss Arabella.
A fortnight afterwards, the marriage was celebrated in grand style
in the chapel of Malcolm Castle. Paganel looked magnificent,
but closely buttoned up, and Miss Arabella was arrayed in splendor.
And this secret of the geographer would have been forever buried
in oblivion, if the Major had not mentioned it to Glenarvan,
and he could not hide it from Lady Helena, who gave a hint
to Mrs. Mangles. To make a long story short, it got in the end
to M. Olbinett's ears, and soon became noised abroad.
Jacques Paganel, during his three days' captivity among
the Maories, had been tattooed from the feet to the shoulders,
and he bore on his chest a heraldic kiwi with outspread wings,
which was biting at his heart.
This was the only adventure of his grand voyage that Paganel could never
get over, and he always bore a grudge to New Zealand on account of it.
It was for this reason too, that, notwithstanding solicitation
and regrets, he never would return to France. He dreaded lest
he should expose the whole Geographical Society in his person
to the jests of caricaturists and low newspapers, by their secretary
coming back tattooed.
The return of the captain to Scotland was a national event,
and Harry Grant was soon the most popular man in old Caledonia. His son
Robert became a sailor like himself and Captain Mangles, and under
the patronage of Lord Glenarvan they resumed the project of founding
a Scotch colony in the Southern Seas.
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