In Search of the Castaways
Part 5 out of 11
"After breakfast, John," replied Glenarvan, "we'll discuss the program
of our new expedition _en famille_."
M. Olbinett's breakfast seemed quite a FETE to the hungry guests.
It was pronounced excellent, and even superior to the festivities
of the Pampas. Paganel was helped twice to each dish, through "absence
of mind," he said.
This unlucky word reminded Lady Helena of the amiable Frenchman's
propensity, and made her ask if he had ever fallen into his old habits
while they were away. The Major and Glenarvan exchanged smiling glances,
and Paganel burst out laughing, and protested on his honor that he would
never be caught tripping again once more during the whole voyage.
After this prelude, he gave an amusing recital of his disastrous mistake
in learning Spanish, and his profound study of Camoens. "After all,"
he added, "it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and I don't
regret the mistake."
"Why not, my worthy friend?" asked the Major.
"Because I not only know Spanish, but Portuguese. I can speak
two languages instead of one."
"Upon my word, I never thought of that," said McNabbs. "My compliments,
Paganel--my sincere compliments."
But Paganel was too busily engaged with his knife and fork to lose a
single mouthful, though he did his best to eat and talk at the same time.
He was so much taken up with his plate, however, that one little fact
quite escaped his observation, though Glenarvan noticed it at once.
This was, that John Mangles had grown particularly attentive to
Mary Grant. A significant glance from Lady Helena told him, moreover,
how affairs stood, and inspired him with affectionate sympathy for
the young lovers; but nothing of this was apparent in his manner to John,
for his next question was what sort of a voyage he had made.
"We could not have had a better; but I must apprise your Lordship
that I did not go through the Straits of Magellan again."
"What! you doubled Cape Horn, and I was not there!" exclaimed Paganel.
"Hang yourself!" said the Major.
"Selfish fellow! you advise me to do that because you want my rope,"
retorted the geographer.
"Well, you see, my dear Paganel, unless you have the gift of ubiquity
you can't be in two places at once. While you were scouring the pampas
you could not be doubling Cape Horn."
"That doesn't prevent my regretting it," replied Paganel.
Here the subject dropped, and John continued his account of his voyage.
On arriving at Cape Pilares he had found the winds dead against him,
and therefore made for the south, coasting along the Desolation Isle,
and after going as far as the sixty-seventh degree southern latitude,
had doubled Cape Horn, passed by Terra del Fuego and the
Straits of Lemaire, keeping close to the Patagonian shore.
At Cape Corrientes they encountered the terrible storm which had handled
the travelers across the pampas so roughly, but the yacht had borne
it bravely, and for the last three days had stood right out to sea,
till the welcome signal-gun of the expedition was heard announcing
the arrival of the anxiously-looked-for party. "It was only justice,"
the captain added, "that he should mention the intrepid bearing
of Lady Helena and Mary Grant throughout the whole hurricane.
They had not shown the least fear, unless for their friends,
who might possibly be exposed to the fury of the tempest."
After John Mangles had finished his narrative, Glenarvan turned
to Mary and said; "My dear Miss Mary, the captain has been
doing homage to your noble qualities, and I am glad to think
you are not unhappy on board his ship."
"How could I be?" replied Mary naively, looking at Lady Helena,
and at the young captain too, likely enough.
"Oh, my sister is very fond of you, Mr. John, and so am I,"
"And so am I of you, my dear boy," returned the captain,
a little abashed by Robert's innocent avowal, which had kindled
a faint blush on Mary's cheek. Then he managed to turn
the conversation to safer topics by saying: "And now that
your Lordship has heard all about the doings of the DUNCAN,
perhaps you will give us some details of your own journey,
and tell us more about the exploits of our young hero."
Nothing could be more agreeable than such a recital to Lady Helena
and Mary Grant; and accordingly Lord Glenarvan hastened to satisfy
their curiosity--going over incident by incident, the entire march
from one ocean to another, the pass of the Andes, the earthquake,
the disappearance of Robert, his capture by the condor,
Thalcave's providential shot, the episode of the red wolves,
the devotion of the young lad, Sergeant Manuel, the inundations,
the caimans, the waterspout, the night on the Atlantic shore--
all these details, amusing or terrible, excited by turns laughter
and horror in the listeners. Often and often Robert came in
for caresses from his sister and Lady Helena. Never was a boy
so much embraced, or by such enthusiastic friends.
"And now, friends," added Lord Glenarvan, when he had
finished his narrative, "we must think of the present.
The past is gone, but the future is ours. Let us come back
to Captain Harry Grant."
As soon as breakfast was over they all went into Lord Glenarvan's private
cabin and seated themselves round a table covered with charts and plans,
to talk over the matter fully.
"My dear Helena," said Lord Glenarvan, "I told you, when we came
on board a little while ago, that though we had not brought back
Captain Grant, our hope of finding him was stronger than ever.
The result of our journey across America is this: We have reached
the conviction, or rather absolute certainty, that the shipwreck
never occurred on the shores of the Atlantic nor Pacific. The natural
inference is that, as far as regards Patagonia, our interpretation
of the document was erroneous. Most fortunately, our friend Paganel,
in a happy moment of inspiration, discovered the mistake.
He has proved clearly that we have been on the wrong track,
and so explained the document that all doubt whatever is removed
from our minds. However, as the document is in French, I will ask
Paganel to go over it for your benefit."
The learned geographer, thus called upon, executed his task in the most
convincing manner, descanting on the syllables GONIE and INDI,
and extracting AUSTRALIA out of AUSTRAL. He pointed out that
Captain Grant, on leaving the coast of Peru to return to Europe,
might have been carried away with his disabled ship by the southern
currents of the Pacific right to the shores of Australia,
and his hypotheses were so ingenious and his deductions so subtle
that even the matter-of-fact John Mangles, a difficult judge,
and most unlikely to be led away by any flights of imagination,
was completely satisfied.
At the conclusion of Paganel's dissertation, Glenarvan announced
that the DUNCAN would sail immediately for Australia.
But before the decisive orders were given, McNabbs asked
for a few minutes' hearing.
"Say away, McNabbs," replied Glenarvan.
"I have no intention of weakening the arguments of my friend Paganel,
and still less of refuting them. I consider them wise and weighty,
and deserving our attention, and think them justly entitled to form
the basis of our future researches. But still I should like them
to be submitted to a final examination, in order to make their worth
incontestable and uncontested."
"Go on, Major," said Paganel; "I am ready to answer all your questions."
"They are simple enough, as you will see. Five months ago,
when we left the Clyde, we had studied these same documents,
and their interpretation then appeared quite plain.
No other coast but the western coast of Patagonia could possibly,
we thought, have been the scene of the shipwreck.
We had not even the shadow of a doubt on the subject."
"That's true," replied Glenarvan.
"A little later," continued the Major, "when a providential fit
of absence of mind came over Paganel, and brought him on board
the yacht, the documents were submitted to him and he approved
our plan of search most unreservedly."
"I do not deny it," said Paganel.
"And yet we were mistaken," resumed the Major.
"Yes, we were mistaken," returned Paganel; "but it is only human
to make a mistake, while to persist in it, a man must be a fool."
"Stop, Paganel, don't excite yourself; I don't mean to say that we
should prolong our search in America."
"What is it, then, that you want?" asked Glenarvan.
"A confession, nothing more. A confession that Australia
now as evidently appears to be the theater of the shipwreck
of the BRITANNIA as America did before."
"We confess it willingly," replied Paganel.
"Very well, then, since that is the case, my advice is not to let
your imagination rely on successive and contradictory evidence.
Who knows whether after Australia some other country may not
appear with equal certainty to be the place, and we may have
to recommence our search?"
Glenarvan and Paganel looked at each other silently, struck by the justice
of these remarks.
"I should like you, therefore," continued the Major, "before we actually
start for Australia, to make one more examination of the documents.
Here they are, and here are the charts. Let us take up each point
in succession through which the 37th parallel passes, and see if we come
across any other country which would agree with the precise indications
of the document."
"Nothing can be more easily and quickly done," replied Paganel;
"for countries are not very numerous in this latitude, happily."
"Well, look," said the Major, displaying an English planisphere
on the plan of Mercator's Chart, and presenting the appearance
of a terrestrial globe.
He placed it before Lady Helena, and then they all stood round,
so as to be able to follow the argument of Paganel.
"As I have said already," resumed the learned geographer,
"after having crossed South America, the 37th degree of latitude
cuts the islands of Tristan d'Acunha. Now I maintain that none
of the words of the document could relate to these islands."
The documents were examined with the most minute care,
and the conclusion unanimously reached was that these islands
were entirely out of the question.
"Let us go on then," resumed Paganel. "After leaving the Atlantic,
we pass two degrees below the Cape of Good Hope, and into the
Indian Ocean. Only one group of islands is found on this route,
the Amsterdam Isles. Now, then, we must examine these as we did
the Tristan d'Acunha group."
After a close survey, the Amsterdam Isles were rejected in their turn.
Not a single word, or part of a word, French, English or German,
could apply to this group in the Indian Ocean.
"Now we come to Australia," continued Paganel.
"The 37th parallel touches this continent at Cape Bernouilli,
and leaves it at Twofold Bay. You will agree with me that,
without straining the text, the English word STRA and the French
one AUSTRAL may relate to Australia. The thing is too plain
to need proof."
The conclusion of Paganel met with unanimous approval;
every probability was in his favor.
"And where is the next point?" asked McNabbs.
"That is easily answered. After leaving Twofold Bay, we cross an arm
of the sea which extends to New Zealand. Here I must call your attention
to the fact that the French word CONTIN means a continent, irrefragably.
Captain Grant could not, then, have found refuge in New Zealand,
which is only an island. However that may be though, examine and compare,
and go over and over each word, and see if, by any possibility,
they can be made to fit this new country."
"In no way whatever," replied John Mangles, after a minute
investigation of the documents and the planisphere.
"No," chimed in all the rest, and even the Major himself,
"it cannot apply to New Zealand."
"Now," went on Paganel, "in all this immense space between this
large island and the American coast, there is only one solitary
barren little island crossed by the 37th parallel."
"And what is its name," asked the Major.
"Here it is, marked in the map. It is Maria Theresa--a name of which
there is not a single trace in either of the three documents."
"Not the slightest," said Glenarvan.
"I leave you, then, my friends, to decide whether all these probabilities,
not to say certainties, are not in favor of the Australian continent."
"Evidently," replied the captain and all the others.
"Well, then, John," said Glenarvan, "the next question is,
have you provisions and coal enough?"
"Yes, your honor, I took in an ample store at Talcahuano, and, besides,
we can easily replenish our stock of coal at Cape Town."
"Well, then, give orders."
"Let me make one more observation," interrupted McNabbs.
"Go on then."
"Whatever likelihood of success Australia may offer us, wouldn't it
be advisable to stop a day or two at the Tristan d'Acunha Isles
and the Amsterdam? They lie in our route, and would not take us
the least out of the way. Then we should be able to ascertain
if the BRITANNIA had left any traces of her shipwreck there?"
"Incredulous Major!" exclaimed Paganel, "he still sticks to his idea."
"I stick to this any way, that I don't want to have to retrace our steps,
supposing that Australia should disappoint our sanguine hopes."
"It seems to me a good precaution," replied Glenarvan.
"And I'm not the one to dissuade you from it," returned Paganel;
"quite the contrary."
"Steer straight for Tristan d'Acunha."
"Immediately, your Honor," replied the captain, going on deck,
while Robert and Mary Grant overwhelmed Lord Glenarvan with
their grateful thanks.
Shortly after, the DUNCAN had left the American coast,
and was running eastward, her sharp keel rapidly cutting her way
through the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
CHAPTER II TRISTAN D'ACUNHA AND THE ISLE OF AMSTERDAM
IF the yacht had followed the line of the equator, the 196 degrees
which separate Australia from America, or, more correctly,
Cape Bernouilli from Cape Corrientes, would have been equal to 11,760
geographical miles; but along the 37th parallel these same degrees,
owing to the form of the earth, only represent 9,480 miles.
From the American coast to Tristan d'Acunha is reckoned 2,100 miles--
a distance which John Mangles hoped to clear in ten days,
if east winds did not retard the motion of the yacht.
But he was not long uneasy on that score, for toward evening
the breeze sensibly lulled and then changed altogether,
giving the DUNCAN a fair field on a calm sea for displaying
her incomparable qualities as a sailor.
The passengers had fallen back into their ordinary ship life, and it
hardly seemed as if they really could have been absent a whole month.
Instead of the Pacific, the Atlantic stretched itself out before them,
and there was scarcely a shade of difference in the waves
of the two oceans. The elements, after having handled them
so roughly, seemed now disposed to favor them to the utmost.
The sea was tranquil, and the wind kept in the right quarter,
so that the yacht could spread all her canvas, and lend its aid,
if needed to the indefatigable steam stored up in the boiler.
Under such conditions, the voyage was safely and rapidly accomplished.
Their confidence increased as they found themselves nearer
the Australian coast. They began to talk of Captain Grant
as if the yacht were going to take him on board at a given port.
His cabin was got ready, and berths for the men. This cabin was
next to the famous _number six_, which Paganel had taken possession
of instead of the one he had booked on the SCOTIA. It had been till
now occupied by M. Olbinett, who vacated it for the expected guest.
Mary took great delight in arranging it with her own hands,
and adorning it for the reception of the loved inmate.
The learned geographer kept himself closely shut up.
He was working away from morning till night at a work entitled
"Sublime Impressions of a Geographer in the Argentine Pampas,"
and they could hear him repeating elegant periods aloud
before committing them to the white pages of his day-book;
and more than once, unfaithful to Clio, the muse of history,
he invoked in his transports the divine Calliope, the muse
of epic poetry.
Paganel made no secret of it either. The chaste daughters of Apollo
willingly left the slopes of Helicon and Parnassus at his call.
Lady Helena paid him sincere compliments on his mythological visitants,
and so did the Major, though he could not forbear adding:
"But mind no fits of absence of mind, my dear Paganel;
and if you take a fancy to learn Australian, don't go and study
it in a Chinese grammar."
Things went on perfectly smoothly on board. Lady Helena
and Lord Glenarvan found leisure to watch John Mangles'
growing attachment to Mary Grant. There was nothing to be
said against it, and, indeed, since John remained silent,
it was best to take no notice of it.
V. IV Verne
"What will Captain Grant think?" Lord Glenarvan asked his wife one day.
"He'll think John is worthy of Mary, my dear Edward,
and he'll think right."
Meanwhile, the yacht was making rapid progress. Five days
after losing sight of Cape Corrientes, on the 16th of November,
they fell in with fine westerly breezes, and the DUNCAN might
almost have dispensed with her screw altogether, for she flew over
the water like a bird, spreading all her sails to catch the breeze,
as if she were running a race with the Royal Thames Club yachts.
Next day, the ocean appeared covered with immense seaweeds,
looking like a great pond choked up with the DEBRIS of trees
and plants torn off the neighboring continents. Commander Murray
had specially pointed them out to the attention of navigators.
The DUNCAN appeared to glide over a long prairie, which Paganel
justly compared to the Pampas, and her speed slackened a little.
Twenty-four hours after, at break of day, the man on the look-out
was heard calling out, "Land ahead!"
"In what direction?" asked Tom Austin, who was on watch.
"Leeward!" was the reply.
This exciting cry brought everyone speedily on deck. Soon a telescope
made its appearance, followed by Jacques Paganel. The learned
geographer pointed the instrument in the direction indicated,
but could see nothing that resembled land.
"Look in the clouds," said John Mangles.
"Ah, now I do see a sort of peak, but very indistinctly."
"It is Tristan d'Acunha," replied John Mangles.
"Then, if my memory serves me right, we must be eighty miles
from it, for the peak of Tristan, seven thousand feet high,
is visible at that distance."
"That's it, precisely."
Some hours later, the sharp, lofty crags of the group
of islands stood out clearly on the horizon. The conical
peak of Tristan looked black against the bright sky,
which seemed all ablaze with the splendor of the rising sun.
Soon the principal island stood out from the rocky mass,
at the summit of a triangle inclining toward the northeast.
Tristan d'Acunha is situated in 37 degrees 8' of southern latitude,
and 10 degrees 44' of longitude west of the meridian
at Greenwich. Inaccessible Island is eighteen miles to the
southwest and Nightingale Island is ten miles to the southeast,
and this completes the little solitary group of islets in
the Atlantic Ocean. Toward noon, the two principal landmarks,
by which the group is recognized were sighted, and at 3
P. M. the DUNCAN entered Falmouth Bay in Tristan d'Acunha.
Several whaling vessels were lying quietly at anchor there,
for the coast abounds in seals and other marine animals.
John Mangle's first care was to find good anchorage, and then
all the passengers, both ladies and gentlemen, got into the long
boat and were rowed ashore. They stepped out on a beach covered
with fine black sand, the impalpable DEBRIS of the calcined rocks
of the island.
Tristan d'Acunha is the capital of the group, and consists
of a little village, lying in the heart of the bay, and watered
by a noisy, rapid stream. It contained about fifty houses,
tolerably clean, and disposed with geometrical regularity.
Behind this miniature town there lay 1,500 hectares of meadow land,
bounded by an embankment of lava. Above this embankment,
the conical peak rose 7,000 feet high.
Lord Glenarvan was received by a governor supplied from the English
colony at the Cape. He inquired at once respecting Harry Grant
and the BRITANNIA, and found the names entirely unknown.
The Tristan d'Acunha Isles are out of the route of ships,
and consequently little frequented. Since the wreck of the
_Blendon Hall_ in 1821, on the rocks of Inaccessible Island,
two vessels have stranded on the chief island--the PRIMANGUET
in 1845, and the three-mast American, PHILADELPHIA, in 1857.
These three events comprise the whole catalogue of maritime
disasters in the annals of the Acunhas.
Lord Glenarvan did not expect to glean any information, and only asked
by the way of duty. He even sent the boats to make the circuit
of the island, the entire extent of which was not more than seventeen
miles at most.
In the interim the passengers walked about the village.
The population does not exceed 150 inhabitants, and consists
of English and Americans, married to negroes and Cape Hottentots,
who might bear away the palm for ugliness. The children of
these heterogeneous households are very disagreeable compounds
of Saxon stiffness and African blackness.
It was nearly nightfall before the party returned to the yacht,
chattering and admiring the natural riches displayed on
all sides, for even close to the streets of the capital,
fields of wheat and maize were waving, and crops of vegetables,
imported forty years before; and in the environs of the village,
herds of cattle and sheep were feeding.
The boats returned to the DUNCAN about the same time
as Lord Glenarvan. They had made the circuit of the entire
island in a few hours, but without coming across the least
trace of the BRITANNIA. The only result of this voyage
of circumnavigation was to strike out the name of Isle Tristan
from the program of search.
CHAPTER III CAPE TOWN AND M. VIOT
As John Mangles intended to put in at the Cape of Good Hope for coals,
he was obliged to deviate a little from the 37th parallel, and go
two degrees north. In less than six days he cleared the thirteen
hundred miles which separate the point of Africa from Tristan d'Acunha,
and on the 24th of November, at 3 P. M. the Table Mountain was sighted.
At eight o'clock they entered the bay, and cast anchor in the port
of Cape Town. They sailed away next morning at daybreak.
Between the Cape and Amsterdam Island there is a distance
of 2,900 miles, but with a good sea and favoring breeze,
this was only a ten day's voyage. The elements were now no longer
at war with the travelers, as on their journey across the Pampas--
air and water seemed in league to help them forward.
"Ah! the sea! the sea!" exclaimed Paganel, "it is the field _par
excellence_ for the exercise of human energies, and the ship is
the true vehicle of civilization. Think, my friends, if the globe
had been only an immense continent, the thousandth part of it
would still be unknown to us, even in this nineteenth century.
See how it is in the interior of great countries. In the steppes
of Siberia, in the plains of Central Asia, in the deserts of Africa,
in the prairies of America, in the immense wilds of Australia,
in the icy solitudes of the Poles, man scarcely dares to venture;
the most daring shrinks back, the most courageous succumbs.
They cannot penetrate them; the means of transport are insufficient,
and the heat and disease, and savage disposition of the natives,
are impassable obstacles. Twenty miles of desert separate men
more than five hundred miles of ocean."
Paganel spoke with such warmth that even the Major had nothing
to say against this panegyric of the ocean. Indeed, if the finding
of Harry Grant had involved following a parallel across continents
instead of oceans, the enterprise could not have been attempted;
but the sea was there ready to carry the travelers from one country
to another, and on the 6th of December, at the first streak of day,
they saw a fresh mountain apparently emerging from the bosom
of the waves.
This was Amsterdam Island, situated in 37 degrees 47 minutes
latitude and 77 degrees 24 minutes longitude, the high cone
of which in clear weather is visible fifty miles off.
At eight o'clock, its form, indistinct though it still was,
seemed almost a reproduction of Teneriffe.
"And consequently it must resemble Tristan d'Acunha," observed Glenarvan.
"A very wise conclusion," said Paganel, "according to the geometrographic
axiom that two islands resembling a third must have a common likeness.
I will only add that, like Tristan d'Acunha, Amsterdam Island is equally
rich in seals and Robinsons."
"There are Robinsons everywhere, then?" said Lady Helena.
"Indeed, Madam," replied Paganel, "I know few islands without
some tale of the kind appertaining to them, and the romance
of your immortal countryman, Daniel Defoe, has been often enough
realized before his day."
"Monsieur Paganel," said Mary, "may I ask you a question?"
"Two if you like, my dear young lady, and I promise to answer them."
"Well, then, I want to know if you would be very much frightened
at the idea of being cast away alone on a desert island."
"I?" exclaimed Paganel.
"Come now, my good fellow," said the Major, "don't go and tell us
that it is your most cherished desire."
"I don't pretend it is that, but still, after all, such an adventure
would not be very unpleasant to me. I should begin a new life;
I should hunt and fish; I should choose a grotto for my domicile in Winter
and a tree in Summer. I should make storehouses for my harvests:
in one word, I should colonize my island."
"All by yourself?"
"All by myself if I was obliged. Besides, are we ever obliged?
Cannot one find friends among the animals, and choose some tame
kid or eloquent parrot or amiable monkey? And if a lucky
chance should send one a companion like the faithful Friday,
what more is needed? Two friends on a rock, there is happiness.
Suppose now, the Major and I--"
"Thank you," replied the Major, interrupting him; "I have no inclination
in that line, and should make a very poor Robinson Crusoe."
"My dear Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena, "you are
letting your imagination run away with you, as usual.
But the dream is very different from the reality.
You are thinking of an imaginary Robinson's life, thrown on
a picked island and treated like a spoiled child by nature.
You only see the sunny side."
"What, madam! You don't believe a man could be happy on a desert island?"
"I do not. Man is made for society and not for solitude,
and solitude can only engender despair. It is a question of time.
At the outset it is quite possible that material wants
and the very necessities of existence may engross the poor
shipwrecked fellow, just snatched from the waves; but afterward,
when he feels himself alone, far from his fellow men, without any
hope of seeing country and friends again, what must he think,
what must he suffer? His little island is all his world.
The whole human race is shut up in himself, and when
death comes, which utter loneliness will make terrible,
he will be like the last man on the last day of the world.
Believe me, Monsieur Paganel, such a man is not to be envied."
Paganel gave in, though regretfully, to the arguments of Lady Helena,
and still kept up a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages
of Isolation, till the very moment the DUNCAN dropped anchor about
a mile off Amsterdam Island.
This lonely group in the Indian Ocean consists of two distinct islands,
thirty-three miles apart, and situated exactly on the meridian
of the Indian peninsula. To the north is Amsterdam Island,
and to the south St. Paul; but they have been often confounded
by geographers and navigators.
At the time of the DUNCAN'S visit to the island, the population consisted
of three people, a Frenchman and two mulattoes, all three employed
by the merchant proprietor. Paganel was delighted to shake hands
with a countryman in the person of good old Monsieur Viot. He was far
advanced in years, but did the honors of the place with much politeness.
It was a happy day for him when these kindly strangers touched at
his island, for St. Peter's was only frequented by seal-fishers, and now
and then a whaler, the crews of which are usually rough, coarse men.
M. Viot presented his subjects, the two mulattoes.
They composed the whole living population of the island,
except a few wild boars in the interior and myriads of penguins.
The little house where the three solitary men lived was in the heart
of a natural bay on the southeast, formed by the crumbling away
of a portion of the mountain.
Twice over in the early part of the century, Amsterdam Island became
the country of deserted sailors, providentially saved from misery
and death; but since these events no vessel had been lost on its coast.
Had any shipwreck occurred, some fragments must have been thrown on
the sandy shore, and any poor sufferers from it would have found their
way to M. Viot's fishing-huts. The old man had been long on the island,
and had never been called upon to exercise such hospitality.
Of the BRITANNIA and Captain Grant he knew nothing, but he was certain
that the disaster had not happened on Amsterdam Island, nor on the islet
called St. Paul, for whalers and fishing-vessels went there constantly,
and must have heard of it.
Glenarvan was neither surprised nor vexed at the reply;
indeed, his object in asking was rather to establish the fact
that Captain Grant had not been there than that he had.
This done, they were ready to proceed on their voyage next day.
They rambled about the island till evening, as its appearance was
very inviting. Its FAUNA and FLORA, however, were poor in the extreme.
The only specimens of quadrupeds, birds, fish and cetacea were
a few wild boars, stormy petrels, albatrosses, perch and seals.
Here and there thermal springs and chalybeate waters escaped from
the black lava, and thin dark vapors rose above the volcanic soil.
Some of these springs were very hot. John Mangles held his
thermometer in one of them, and found the temperature was 176
degrees Fahrenheit. Fish caught in the sea a few yards off,
cooked in five minutes in these all but boiling waters, a fact
which made Paganel resolve not to attempt to bathe in them.
Toward evening, after a long promenade, Glenarvan and his party
bade adieu to the good old M. Viot, and returned to the yacht,
wishing him all the happiness possible on his desert island,
and receiving in return the old man's blessing on their expedition.
CHAPTER IV A WAGER AND HOW DECIDED
ON the 7th of December, at three A. M., the DUNCAN lay puffing out
her smoke in the little harbor ready to start, and a few minutes
afterward the anchor was lifted, and the screw set in motion.
By eight o'clock, when the passengers came on deck, the Amsterdam Island
had almost disappeared from view behind the mists of the horizon.
This was the last halting-place on the route, and nothing now was between
them and the Australian coast but three thousand miles' distance.
Should the west wind continue but a dozen days longer, and the sea
remain favorable, the yacht would have reached the end of her voyage.
Mary Grant and her brother could not gaze without emotion
at the waves through which the DUNCAN was speeding her course,
when they thought that these very same waves must have dashed against
the prow of the BRITANNIA but a few days before her shipwreck.
Here, perhaps, Captain Grant, with a disabled ship and diminished crew,
had struggled against the tremendous hurricanes of the Indian Ocean,
and felt himself driven toward the coast with irresistible force.
The Captain pointed out to Mary the different currents on
the ship's chart, and explained to her their constant direction.
Among others there was one running straight to the Australian continent,
and its action is equally felt in the Atlantic and Pacific. It was
doubtless against this that the BRITANNIA, dismasted and rudderless,
had been unable to contend, and consequently been dashed against
the coast, and broken in pieces.
A difficulty about this, however, presented itself.
The last intelligence of Captain Grant was from Callao
on the 30th of May, 1862, as appeared in the _Mercantile
and Shipping Gazette_. "How then was it possible that on
the 7th of June, only eight days after leaving the shores
of Peru, that the BRITANNIA could have found herself in
the Indian Ocean? But to this, Paganel, who was consulted
on the subject, found a very plausible solution.
It was one evening, about six days after their leaving Amsterdam Island,
when they were all chatting together on the poop, that the above-named
difficulty was stated by Glenarvan. Paganel made no reply, but went
and fetched the document. After perusing it, he still remained silent,
simply shrugging his shoulders, as if ashamed of troubling himself
about such a trifle.
"Come, my good friend," said Glenarvan, "at least give us an answer."
"No," replied Paganel, "I'll merely ask a question for
Captain John to answer."
"And what is it, Monsieur Paganel?" said John Mangles.
"Could a quick ship make the distance in a month over that part
of the Pacific Ocean which lies between America and Australia?"
"Yes, by making two hundred miles in twenty-four hours."
"Would that be an extraordinary rate of speed?"
"Not at all; sailing clippers often go faster."
"Well, then, instead of '7 June' on this document, suppose that one figure
has been destroyed by the sea-water, and read '17 June' or '27 June,'
and all is explained."
"That's to say," replied Lady Helena, "that between the 31st of May
and the 27th of June--"
"Captain Grant could have crossed the Pacific and found himself
in the Indian Ocean."
Paganel's theory met with universal acceptance.
"That's one more point cleared up," said Glenarvan. "Thanks to
our friend, all that remains to be done now is to get to Australia,
and look out for traces of the wreck on the western coast."
"Or the eastern?" said John Mangles.
"Indeed, John, you may be right, for there is nothing in the document
to indicate which shore was the scene of the catastrophe,
and both points of the continent crossed by the 37th parallel,
must, therefore, be explored."
"Then, my Lord, it is doubtful, after all," said Mary.
"Oh no, Miss Mary," John Mangles hastened to reply, seeing the young
girl's apprehension. "His Lordship will please to consider that
if Captain Grant had gained the shore on the east of Australia,
he would almost immediately have found refuge and assistance.
The whole of that coast is English, we might say, peopled with colonists.
The crew of the BRITANNIA could not have gone ten miles without
meeting a fellow-countryman."
"I am quite of your opinion, Captain John," said Paganel. "On the eastern
coast Harry Grant would not only have found an English colony easily,
but he would certainly have met with some means of transport
back to Europe."
"And he would not have found the same resources on the side we
are making for?" asked Lady Helena.
"No, madam," replied Paganel; "it is a desert coast, with no communication
between it and Melbourne or Adelaide. If the BRITANNIA was wrecked
on those rocky shores, she was as much cut off from all chance of help
as if she had been lost on the inhospitable shores of Africa."
"But what has become of my father there, then, all these two years?"
asked Mary Grant.
"My dear Mary," replied Paganel, "you have not the least doubt,
have you, that Captain Grant reached the Australian continent
after his shipwreck?"
"No, Monsieur Paganel."
"Well, granting that, what became of him? The suppositions
we might make are not numerous. They are confined to three.
Either Harry Grant and his companions have found their way to the
English colonies, or they have fallen into the hands of the natives,
or they are lost in the immense wilds of Australia."
"Go on, Paganel," said Lord Glenarvan, as the learned Frenchman
made a pause.
"The first hypothesis I reject, then, to begin with, for Harry Grant
could not have reached the English colonies, or long ago he would
have been back with his children in the good town of Dundee."
"Poor father," murmured Mary, "away from us for two whole years."
"Hush, Mary," said Robert, "Monsieur Paganel will tell us."
"Alas! my boy, I cannot. All that I affirm is, that Captain Grant
is in the hands of the natives."
"But these natives," said Lady Helena, hastily, "are they--"
"Reassure yourself, madam," said Paganel, divining her thoughts.
"The aborigines of Australia are low enough in the scale
of human intelligence, and most degraded and uncivilized,
but they are mild and gentle in disposition, and not sanguinary
like their New Zealand neighbors. Though they may be prisoners,
their lives have never been threatened, you may be sure.
All travelers are unanimous in declaring that the Australian
natives abhor shedding blood, and many a time they have found
in them faithful allies in repelling the attacks of evil-disposed
convicts far more cruelly inclined."
"You hear what Monsieur Paganel tells us, Mary," said Lady Helena turning
to the young girl. "If your father is in the hands of the natives,
which seems probable from the document, we shall find him."
"And what if he is lost in that immense country?" asked Mary.
"Well, we'll find him still," exclaimed Paganel, in a confident tone.
"Won't we, friends?"
"Most certainly," replied Glenarvan; and anxious to give a less
gloomy turn to the conversation, he added--
"But I won't admit the supposition of his being lost,
not for an instant."
"Neither will I," said Paganel.
"Is Australia a big place?" inquired Robert.
"Australia, my boy, is about as large as four-fifths of Europe. It has
somewhere about 775,000 HECTARES."
"So much as that?" said the Major.
"Yes, McNabbs, almost to a yard's breadth. Don't you think now it
has a right to be called a continent?"
"I do, certainly."
"I may add," continued the SAVANT, "that there are but few
accounts of travelers being lost in this immense country.
Indeed, I believe Leichardt is the only one of whose fate we
are ignorant, and some time before my departure I learned
from the Geographical Society that Mcintyre had strong hopes
of having discovered traces of him."
"The whole of Australia, then, is not yet explored?"
asked Lady Helena.
"No, madam, but very little of it. This continent is not
much better known than the interior of Africa, and yet it
is from no lack of enterprising travelers. From 1606 to 1862,
more than fifty have been engaged in exploring along the coast
and in the interior."
"Oh, fifty!" exclaimed McNabbs incredulously.
"No, no," objected the Major; "that is going too far."
"And I might go farther, McNabbs," replied the geographer,
impatient of contradiction.
"Yes, McNabbs, quite that number."
"Farther still, Paganel."
"If you doubt me, I can give you the names."
"Oh, oh," said the Major, coolly. "That's just like
you SAVANTS. You stick at nothing."
"Major, will you bet your Purdy-Moore rifle against my telescope?"
"Why not, Paganel, if it would give you any pleasure."
"Done, Major!" exclaimed Paganel. "You may say good-by to your rifle,
for it will never shoot another chamois or fox unless I lend it to you,
which I shall always be happy to do, by the by."
"And whenever you require the use of your telescope, Paganel, I shall
be equally obliging," replied the Major, gravely.
"Let us begin, then; and ladies and gentlemen, you shall be our jury.
Robert, you must keep count."
This was agreed upon, and Paganel forthwith commenced.
"Mnemosyne! Goddess of Memory, chaste mother of the Muses!"
he exclaimed, "inspire thy faithful servant and fervent worshiper!
Two hundred and fifty-eight years ago, my friends, Australia was unknown.
Strong suspicions were entertained of the existence of a great
southern continent. In the library of your British Museum, Glenarvan,
there are two charts, the date of which is 1550, which mention a country
south of Asia, called by the Portuguese Great Java. But these charts
are not sufficiently authentic. In the seventeenth century,
in 1606, Quiros, a Spanish navigator, discovered a country which
he named Australia de Espiritu Santo. Some authors imagine that this
was the New Hebrides group, and not Australia. I am not going
to discuss the question, however. Count Quiros, Robert, and let us
pass on to another."
"ONE," said Robert.
"In that same year, Louis Vas de Torres, the second
in command of the fleet of Quiros, pushed further south.
But it is to Theodore Hertoge, a Dutchman, that the honor
of the great discovery belongs. He touched the western coast
of Australia in 25 degrees latitude, and called it Eendracht,
after his vessel. From this time navigators increased.
In 1618, Zeachen discovered the northern parts of the coast,
and called them Arnheim and Diemen. In 1618, Jan Edels went along
the western coast, and christened it by his own name. In 1622,
Leuwin went down as far as the cape which became his namesake."
And so Paganel continued with name after name until his hearers
cried for mercy.
"Stop, Paganel," said Glenarvan, laughing heartily, "don't quite
crush poor McNabbs. Be generous; he owns he is vanquished."
"And what about the rifle?" asked the geographer, triumphantly.
"It is yours, Paganel," replied the Major, "and I am very sorry for it;
but your memory might gain an armory by such feats."
"It is certainly impossible to be better acquainted with Australia;
not the least name, not even the most trifling fact--"
"As to the most trifling fact, I don't know about that,"
said the Major, shaking his head.
"What do you mean, McNabbs?" exclaimed Paganel.
"Simply that perhaps all the incidents connected with the discovery
of Australia may not be known to you."
"Just fancy," retorted Paganel, throwing back his head proudly.
"Come now. If I name one fact you don't know, will you give me
back my rifle?" said McNabbs.
"On the spot, Major."
"Very well, it's a bargain, then."
"Yes, a bargain; that's settled."
"All right. Well now, Paganel, do you know how it is that Australia
does not belong to France?"
"But it seems to me--"
"Or, at any rate, do you know what's the reason the English give?"
asked the Major.
"No," replied Paganel, with an air of vexation.
"Just because Captain Baudin, who was by no means a timid man,
was so afraid in 1802, of the croaking of the Australian frogs,
that he raised his anchor with all possible speed, and quitted
the coast, never to return."
"What!" exclaimed Paganel. "Do they actually give that version
of it in England? But it is just a bad joke."
"Bad enough, certainly, but still it is history in the United Kingdom."
"It's an insult!" exclaimed the patriotic geographer;
"and they relate that gravely?"
"I must own it is the case," replied Glenarvan, amidst a general
outburst of laughter. "Do you mean to say you have never heard
of it before?"
"Never! But I protest against it. Besides, the English call
us 'frog-eaters.' Now, in general, people are not afraid
of what they eat."
"It is said, though, for all that," replied McNabbs. So the Major
kept his famous rifle after all.
CHAPTER V THE STORM ON THE INDIAN OCEAN
Two days after this conversation, John Mangles announced
that the DUNCAN was in longitude 113 degrees 37 minutes,
and the passengers found on consulting the chart that consequently
Cape Bernouilli could not be more than five degrees off.
They must be sailing then in that part of the Indian Ocean
which washed the Australian continent, and in four days might
hope to see Cape Bernouilli appear on the horizon.
Hitherto the yacht had been favored by a strong westerly breeze,
but now there were evident signs that a calm was impending, and on
the 13th of December the wind fell entirely; as the sailors say,
there was not enough to fill a cap.
There was no saying how long this state of the atmosphere might last.
But for the powerful propeller the yacht would have been obliged to lie
motionless as a log. The young captain was very much annoyed, however,
at the prospect of emptying his coal-bunkers, for he had covered his ship
with canvas, intending to take advantage of the slightest breeze.
"After all, though," said Glenarvan, with whom he was talking over
the subject, "it is better to have no wind than a contrary one."
"Your Lordship is right," replied John Mangles; "but the fact is these
sudden calms bring change of weather, and this is why I dread them.
We are close on the trade winds, and if we get them ever so little
in our teeth, it will delay us greatly."
"Well, John, what if it does? It will only make our voyage
a little longer."
"Yes, if it does not bring a storm with it."
"Do you mean to say you think we are going to have bad weather?"
replied Glenarvan, examining the sky, which from horizon to zenith
seemed absolutely cloudless.
"I do," returned the captain. "I may say so to your Lordship,
but I should not like to alarm Lady Glenarvan or Miss Grant."
"You are acting wisely; but what makes you uneasy?"
"Sure indications of a storm. Don't trust, my Lord,
to the appearance of the sky. Nothing is more deceitful.
For the last two days the barometer has been falling in a most
ominous manner, and is now at 27 degrees. This is a warning I
dare not neglect, for there is nothing I dread more than storms
in the Southern Seas; I have had a taste of them already.
The vapors which become condensed in the immense glaciers at
the South Pole produce a current of air of extreme violence.
This causes a struggle between the polar and equatorial winds,
which results in cyclones, tornadoes, and all those multiplied
varieties of tempest against which a ship is no match."
"Well, John," said Glenarvan, "the DUNCAN is a good ship,
and her captain is a brave sailor. Let the storm come,
we'll meet it!"
John Mangles remained on deck the whole night, for though as yet
the sky was still unclouded, he had such faith in his weather-glass,
that he took every precaution that prudence could suggest.
About 11 P. M. the sky began to darken in the south,
and the crew were called up, and all the sails hauled in,
except the foresail, brigantine, top-sail, and jib-boom. At midnight
the wind freshened, and before long the cracking of the masts,
and the rattling of the cordage, and groaning of the timbers,
awakened the passengers, who speedily made their appearance on deck--
at least Paganel, Glenarvan, the Major and Robert.
"Is it the hurricane?" asked Glenarvan quietly.
"Not yet," replied the captain; "but it is close at hand."
And he went on giving his orders to the men, and doing his best to make
ready for the storm, standing, like an officer commanding a breach,
with his face to the wind, and his gaze fixed on the troubled sky.
The glass had fallen to 26 degrees, and the hand pointed to tempest.
It was one o'clock in the morning when Lady Helena and
Miss Grant ventured upstairs on deck. But they no sooner
made their appearance than the captain hurried toward them,
and begged them to go below again immediately. The waves were
already beginning to dash over the side of the ship, and the sea
might any moment sweep right over her from stem to stern.
The noise of the warring elements was so great that his words
were scarcely audible, but Lady Helena took advantage of a sudden
lull to ask if there was any danger.
"None whatever," replied John Mangles; "but you cannot remain
on deck, madam, no more can Miss Mary."
The ladies could not disobey an order that seemed almost an entreaty,
and they returned to their cabin. At the same moment the wind redoubled
its fury, making the masts bend beneath the weight of the sails,
and completely lifting up the yacht.
"Haul up the foresail!" shouted the captain. "Lower the
topsail and jib-boom!"
Glenarvan and his companions stood silently gazing at the struggle between
their good ship and the waves, lost in wondering and half-terrified
admiration at the spectacle.
Just then, a dull hissing was heard above the noise of the elements.
The steam was escaping violently, not by the funnel, but from the
safety-valves of the boiler; the alarm whistle sounded unnaturally loud,
and the yacht made a frightful pitch, overturning Wilson,
who was at the wheel, by an unexpected blow from the tiller.
The DUNCAN no longer obeyed the helm.
"What is the matter?" cried the captain, rushing on the bridge.
"The ship is heeling over on her side," replied Wilson.
"The engine! the engine!" shouted the engineer.
Away rushed John to the engine-room. A cloud of steam filled the room.
The pistons were motionless in their cylinders, and they were
apparently powerless, and the engine-driver, fearing for his boilers,
was letting off the steam.
"What's wrong?" asked the captain.
"The propeller is bent or entangled," was the reply.
"It's not acting at all."
"Can't you extricate it?"
"It is impossible."
An accident like this could not be remedied, and John's only resource
was to fall back on his sails, and seek to make an auxiliary
of his most powerful enemy, the wind. He went up again on deck,
and after explaining in a few words to Lord Glenarvan how things stood,
begged him to retire to his cabin, with the rest of the passengers.
But Glenarvan wished to remain above.
"No, your Lordship," said the captain in a firm tone,
"I must be alone with my men. Go into the saloon.
The vessel will have a hard fight with the waves, and they
would sweep you over without mercy."
V. IV Verne
"But we might be a help."
"Go in, my Lord, go in. I must indeed insist on it.
There are times when I must be master on board, and retire you must."
Their situation must indeed be desperate for John Mangles to speak
in such authoritative language. Glenarvan was wise enough to
understand this, and felt he must set an example in obedience.
He therefore quitted the deck immediately with his three companions,
and rejoined the ladies, who were anxiously watching the DENOUEMENT
of this war with the elements.
"He's an energetic fellow, this brave John of mine!" said Lord Glenarvan,
as he entered the saloon.
"That he is," replied Paganel. "He reminds me of your great
Shakespeare's boatswain in the 'Tempest,' who says to the king
on board: 'Hence! What care these roarers for the name of king?
To cabin! Silence! Trouble us not.'"
However, John Mangles did not lose a second in extricating his
ship from the peril in which she was placed by the condition
of her screw propeller. He resolved to rely on the mainsail
for keeping in the right route as far as possible, and to brace
the yards obliquely, so as not to present a direct front to the storm.
The yacht turned about like a swift horse that feels the spur,
and presented a broadside to the billows. The only question was,
how long would she hold out with so little sail, and what sail could
resist such violence for any length of time. The great advantage
of keeping up the mainsail was that it presented to the waves only
the most solid portions of the yacht, and kept her in the right course.
Still it involved some peril, for the vessel might get
engulfed between the waves, and not be able to raise herself.
But Mangles felt there was no alternative, and all he could
do was to keep the crew ready to alter the sail at any moment,
and stay in the shrouds himself watching the tempest.
The remainder of the night was spent in this manner, and it was hoped
that morning would bring a calm. But this was a delusive hope.
At 8 A. M. the wind had increased to a hurricane.
John said nothing, but he trembled for his ship, and those on board.
The DUNCAN made a frightful plunge forward, and for an instant
the men thought she would never rise again. Already they had
seized their hatchets to cut away the shrouds from the mainmast,
but the next minute the sails were torn away by the tempest,
and had flown off like gigantic albatrosses.
The yacht had risen once more, but she found herself at the mercy
of the waves entirely now, with nothing to steady or direct her,
and was so fearfully pitched and tossed about that every moment
the captain expected the masts would break short off. John had no
resource but to put up a forestaysail, and run before the gale.
But this was no easy task. Twenty times over he had all his work
to begin again, and it was 3 P. M. before his attempt succeeded.
A mere shred of canvas though it was, it was enough to drive
the DUNCAN forward with inconceivable rapidity to the northeast,
of course in the same direction as the hurricane.
Swiftness was their only chance of safety. Sometimes she would
get in advance of the waves which carried her along, and cutting
through them with her sharp prow, bury herself in their depths.
At others, she would keep pace with them, and make such enormous
leaps that there was imminent danger of her being pitched over on
her side, and then again, every now and then the storm-driven sea
would out-distance the yacht, and the angry billows would sweep
over the deck from stem to stern with tremendous violence.
In this alarming situation and amid dreadful alternations of hope
and despair, the 12th of December passed away, and the ensuing night,
John Mangles never left his post, not even to take food.
Though his impassive face betrayed no symptoms of fear, he was
tortured with anxiety, and his steady gaze was fixed on the north,
as if trying to pierce through the thick mists that enshrouded it.
There was, indeed, great cause for fear. The DUNCAN was
out of her course, and rushing toward the Australian coast
with a speed which nothing could lessen. To John Mangles
it seemed as if a thunderbolt were driving them along.
Every instant he expected the yacht would dash against some rock,
for he reckoned the coast could not be more than twelve miles off,
and better far be in mid ocean exposed to all its fury than
too near land.
John Mangles went to find Glenarvan, and had a private talk with him
about their situation, telling him frankly the true state of affairs,
stating the case with all the coolness of a sailor prepared for anything
and everything and he wound up by saying he might, perhaps, be obliged
to cast the yacht on shore.
"To save the lives of those on board, my Lord," he added.
"Do it then, John," replied Lord Glenarvan.
"And Lady Helena, Miss Grant?"
"I will tell them at the last moment when all hope of keeping
out at sea is over. You will let me know?"
"I will, my Lord."
Glenarvan rejoined his companions, who felt they were in
imminent danger, though no word was spoken on the subject.
Both ladies displayed great courage, fully equal to any of the party.
Paganel descanted in the most inopportune manner about the direction
of atmospheric currents, making interesting comparisons,
between tornadoes, cyclones, and rectilinear tempests.
The Major calmly awaited the end with the fatalism of a Mussulman.
About eleven o'clock, the hurricane appeared to decrease slightly.
The damp mist began to clear away, and a sudden gleam of
light revealed a low-lying shore about six miles distant.
They were driving right down on it. Enormous breakers fifty
feet high were dashing over it, and the fact of their height
showed John there must be solid ground before they could make
such a rebound.
"Those are sand-banks," he said to Austin.
"I think they are," replied the mate.
"We are in God's hands," said John. "If we cannot find any
opening for the yacht, and if she doesn't find the way in herself,
we are lost."
"The tide is high at present, it is just possible we may ride
over those sand-banks."
"But just see those breakers. What ship could stand them.
Let us invoke divine aid, Austin!"
Meanwhile the DUNCAN was speeding on at a frightful rate.
Soon she was within two miles of the sand-banks, which
were still veiled from time to time in thick mist.
But John fancied he could see beyond the breakers a quiet basin,
where the DUNCAN would be in comparative safety.
But how could she reach it?
All the passengers were summoned on deck, for now that the hour
of shipwreck was at hand, the captain did not wish anyone to be shut
up in his cabin.
"John!" said Glenarvan in a low voice to the captain, "I will try to save
my wife or perish with her. I put Miss Grant in your charge."
"Yes, my Lord," replied John Mangles, raising Glenarvan's hand
to his moistened eyes.
The yacht was only a few cables' lengths from the sandbanks.
The tide was high, and no doubt there was abundance of water
to float the ship over the dangerous bar; but these terrific
breakers alternately lifting her up and then leaving her almost dry,
would infallibly make her graze the sand-banks.
Was there no means of calming this angry sea? A last expedient
struck the captain. "The oil, my lads!" he exclaimed.
"Bring the oil here!"
The crew caught at the idea immediately; this was a plan that had
been successfully tried already. The fury of the waves had been
allayed before this time by covering them with a sheet of oil.
Its effect is immediate, but very temporary. The moment after a ship
has passed over the smooth surface, the sea redoubles its violence,
and woe to the bark that follows. The casks of seal-oil were forthwith
hauled up, for danger seemed to have given the men double strength.
A few hatchet blows soon knocked in the heads, and they were then
hung over the larboard and starboard.
"Be ready!" shouted John, looking out for a favorable moment.
In twenty seconds the yacht reached the bar. Now was the time.
"Pour out!" cried the captain, "and God prosper it!"
The barrels were turned upside down, and instantly a sheet of oil covered
the whole surface of the water. The billows fell as if by magic,
the whole foaming sea seemed leveled, and the DUNCAN flew over
its tranquil bosom into a quiet basin beyond the formidable bar;
but almost the same minute the ocean burst forth again with all its fury,
and the towering breakers dashed over the bar with increased violence.
CHAPTER VI A HOSPITABLE COLONIST
THE captain's first care was to anchor his vessel securely.
He found excellent moorage in five fathoms' depth of water,
with a solid bottom of hard granite, which afforded a firm hold.
There was no danger now of either being driven away or stranded
at low water. After so many hours of danger, the DUNCAN found
herself in a sort of creek, sheltered by a high circular point
from the winds outside in the open sea.
Lord Glenarvan grasped John Mangles' hand, and simply said:
"Thank you, John."
This was all, but John felt it ample recompense. Glenarvan kept to
himself the secret of his anxiety, and neither Lady Helena, nor Mary,
nor Robert suspected the grave perils they had just escaped.
One important fact had to be ascertained. On what part of the coast had
the tempest thrown them? How far must they go to regain the parallel.
At what distance S. W. was Cape Bernouilli? This was soon determined
by taking the position of the ship, and it was found that she had scarcely
deviated two degrees from the route. They were in longitude 36 degrees
12 minutes, and latitude 32 degrees 67 minutes, at Cape Catastrophe,
three hundred miles from Cape Bernouilli. The nearest port was Adelaide,
the Capital of Southern Australia.
Could the DUNCAN be repaired there? This was the question.
The extent of the injuries must first be ascertained, and in order
to do this he ordered some of the men to dive down below the stern.
Their report was that one of the branches of the screw was bent,
and had got jammed against the stern post, which of course prevented
all possibility of rotation. This was a serious damage, so serious
as to require more skilful workmen than could be found in Adelaide.
After mature reflection, Lord Glenarvan and John Mangles came
to the determination to sail round the Australian coast,
stopping at Cape Bernouilli, and continuing their route south
as far as Melbourne, where the DUNCAN could speedily be put right.
This effected, they would proceed to cruise along the eastern
coast to complete their search for the BRITANNIA.
This decision was unanimously approved, and it was agreed
that they should start with the first fair wind.
They had not to wait long for the same night the hurricane
had ceased entirely, and there was only a manageable breeze
from the S. W. Preparations for sailing were instantly commenced,
and at four o'clock in the morning the crew lifted the anchors,
and got under way with fresh canvas outspread, and a wind
blowing right for the Australian shores.
Two hours afterward Cape Catastrophe was out of sight.
In the evening they doubled Cape Borda, and came alongside
Kangaroo Island. This is the largest of the Australian islands,
and a great hiding place for runaway convicts. Its appearance
was enchanting. The stratified rocks on the shore were richly
carpeted with verdure, and innumerable kangaroos were jumping over
the woods and plains, just as at the time of its discovery in 1802.
Next day, boats were sent ashore to examine the coast minutely,
as they were now on the 36th parallel, and between that and the 38th
Glenarvan wished to leave no part unexplored.
The boats had hard, rough work of it now, but the men never complained.
Glenarvan and his inseparable companion, Paganel, and young Robert
generally accompanied them. But all this painstaking exploration came
to nothing. Not a trace of the shipwreck could be seen anywhere.
The Australian shores revealed no more than the Patagonian. However, it
was not time yet to lose hope altogether, for they had not reached
the exact point indicated by the document.
On the 20th of December, they arrived off Cape Bernouilli,
which terminates Lacepede Bay, and yet not a vestige of the
BRITANNIA had been discovered. Still this was not surprising,
as it was two years since the occurrence of the catastrophe,
and the sea might, and indeed must, have scattered and destroyed
whatever fragments of the brig had remained. Besides, the natives
who scent a wreck as the vultures do a dead body, would have
pounced upon it and carried off the smaller DEBRIS. There was
no doubt whatever Harry Grant and his companions had been
made prisoners the moment the waves threw them on the shore,
and been dragged away into the interior of the continent.
But if so, what becomes of Paganel's ingenious hypothesis about the
document? viz., that it had been thrown into a river and carried by a
current into the sea. That was a plausible enough theory in Patagonia,
but not in the part of Australia intersected by the 37th parallel.
Besides the Patagonian rivers, the Rio Colorado and the Rio Negro,
flow into the sea along deserted solitudes, uninhabited and uninhabitable;
while, on the contrary, the principal rivers of Australia--the Murray,
the Yarrow, the Torrens, the Darling--all connected with each other,
throw themselves into the ocean by well-frequented routes, and their
mouths are ports of great activity. What likelihood, consequently,
would there be that a fragile bottle would ever find its way along
such busy thoroughfares right out into the Indian Ocean?
Paganel himself saw the impossibility of it, and confessed to the Major,
who raised a discussion on the subject, that his hypothesis would
be altogether illogical in Australia. It was evident that the degrees
given related to the place where the BRITANNIA was actually shipwrecked
and not the place of captivity, and that the bottle therefore had been
thrown into the sea on the western coast of the continent.
However, as Glenarvan justly remarked, this did not alter
the fact of Captain Grant's captivity in the least degree,
though there was no reason now for prosecuting the search
for him along the 37th parallel, more than any other.
It followed, consequently, that if no traces of the BRITANNIA
were discovered at Cape Bernouilli, the only thing to be done was
to return to Europe. Lord Glenarvan would have been unsuccessful,
but he would have done his duty courageously and conscientiously.
But the young Grants did not feel disheartened. They had long since said
to themselves that the question of their father's deliverance was about
to be finally settled. Irrevocably, indeed, they might consider it,
for as Paganel had judiciously demonstrated, if the wreck had occurred
on the eastern side, the survivors would have found their way back
to their own country long since.
"Hope on! Hope on, Mary!" said Lady Helena to the young girl,
as they neared the shore; "God's hand will still lead us."
"Yes, Miss Mary," said Captain John. "Man's extremity
is God's opportunity. When one way is hedged up another is
sure to open."
"God grant it," replied Mary.
Land was quite close now. The cape ran out two miles into the sea,
and terminated in a gentle slope, and the boat glided easily
into a sort of natural creek between coral banks in a state
of formation, which in course of time would be a belt of coral
reefs round the southern point of the Australian coast.
Even now they were quite sufficiently formidable to destroy
the keel of a ship, and the BRITANNIA might likely enough
have been dashed to pieces on them.
The passengers landed without the least difficulty on an absolutely
desert shore. Cliffs composed of beds of strata made a coast
line sixty to eighty feet high, which it would have been
difficult to scale without ladders or cramp-irons. John Mangles
happened to discover a natural breach about half a mile south.
Part of the cliff had been partially beaten down, no doubt,
by the sea in some equinoctial gale. Through this opening the whole
party passed and reached the top of the cliff by a pretty steep path.
Robert climbed like a young cat, and was the first on the summit,
to the despair of Paganel, who was quite ashamed to see his long legs,
forty years old, out-distanced by a young urchin of twelve.
However, he was far ahead of the Major, who gave himself no concern
on the subject.
They were all soon assembled on the lofty crags, and from this
elevation could command a view of the whole plain below.
It appeared entirely uncultivated, and covered with shrubs and bushes.
Glenarvan thought it resembled some glens in the lowlands of Scotland,
and Paganel fancied it like some barren parts of Britanny. But along
the coast the country appeared to be inhabited, and significant signs
of industry revealed the presence of civilized men, not savages.
"A mill!" exclaimed Robert.
And, sure enough, in the distance the long sails of a mill appeared,
apparently about three miles off.
"It certainly is a windmill," said Paganel, after examining the object
in question through his telescope.
"Let us go to it, then," said Glenarvan.
Away they started, and, after walking about half an hour,
the country began to assume a new aspect, suddenly changing
its sterility for cultivation. Instead of bushes,
quick-set hedges met the eye, inclosing recent clearings.
Several bullocks and about half a dozen horses were feeding
in meadows, surrounded by acacias supplied from the vast plantations
of Kangaroo Island. Gradually fields covered with cereals came
in sight, whole acres covered with bristling ears of corn,
hay-ricks in the shape of large bee-hives, blooming orchards,
a fine garden worthy of Horace, in which the useful and agreeable
were blended; then came sheds; commons wisely distributed,
and last of all, a plain comfortable dwelling-house, crowned
by a joyous-sounding mill, and fanned and shaded by its long
sails as they kept constantly moving round.
Just at that moment a pleasant-faced man, about fifty years
of age, came out of the house, warned, by the loud barking
of four dogs, of the arrival of strangers. He was followed
by five handsome strapping lads, his sons, and their mother,
a fine tall woman. There was no mistaking the little group.
This was a perfect type of the Irish colonist--a man who,
weary of the miseries of his country, had come, with his family,
to seek fortune and happiness beyond the seas.
Before Glenarvan and his party had time to reach the house and
present themselves in due form, they heard the cordial words:
"Strangers! welcome to the house of Paddy O'Moore!"
"You are Irish," said Glenarvan, "if I am not mistaken,"
warmly grasping the outstretched hand of the colonist.
"I was," replied Paddy O'Moore, "but now I am Australian. Come in,
gentlemen, whoever you may be, this house is yours."
It was impossible not to accept an invitation given with such grace.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant were led in by Mrs. O'Moore, while the
gentlemen were assisted by his sturdy sons to disencumber themselves
of their fire-arms.
An immense hall, light and airy, occupied the ground floor of
the house, which was built of strong planks laid horizontally.
A few wooden benches fastened against the gaily-colored walls,
about ten stools, two oak chests on tin mugs, a large long table
where twenty guests could sit comfortably, composed the furniture,
which looked in perfect keeping with the solid house and robust inmates.
The noonday meal was spread; the soup tureen was smoking between roast
beef and a leg of mutton, surrounded by large plates of olives,
grapes, and oranges. The necessary was there and there was no
lack of the superfluous. The host and hostess were so pleasant,
and the big table, with its abundant fare, looked so inviting,
that it would have been ungracious not to have seated themselves.
The farm servants, on equal footing with their master,
were already in their places to take their share of the meal.
Paddy O'Moore pointed to the seats reserved for the strangers,
and said to Glenarvan:
"I was waiting for you."
"Waiting for us!" replied Glenarvan in a tone of surprise.
"I am always waiting for those who come," said the Irishman; and then,
in a solemn voice, while the family and domestics reverently stood,
he repeated the BENEDICITE.
Dinner followed immediately, during which an animated conversation
was kept up on all sides. From Scotch to Irish is but a handsbreadth.
The Tweed, several fathoms wide, digs a deeper trench between Scotland
and England than the twenty leagues of Irish Channel, which separates
Old Caledonia from the Emerald Isle. Paddy O'Moore related his history.
It was that of all emigrants driven by misfortune from their own country.
Many come to seek fortunes who only find trouble and sorrow,
and then they throw the blame on chance, and forget the true
cause is their own idleness and vice and want of commonsense.
Whoever is sober and industrious, honest and economical, gets on.
Such a one had been and was Paddy O'Moore. He left Dundalk,
where he was starving, and came with his family to Australia,
landed at Adelaide, where, refusing employment as a miner,
he got engaged on a farm, and two months afterward commenced
clearing ground on his own account.
The whole territory of South Australia is divided into lots,
each containing eighty acres, and these are granted to colonists
by the government. Any industrious man, by proper cultivation,
can not only get a living out of his lot, but lay by pounds
80 a year.
Paddy O'Moore knew this. He profited by his own former experience,
and laid by every penny he could till he had saved enough
to purchase new lots. His family prospered, and his farm also.
The Irish peasant became a landed proprietor, and though his little
estate had only been under cultivation for two years, he had five hundred
acres cleared by his own hands, and five hundred head of cattle.
He was his own master, after having been a serf in Europe,
and as independent as one can be in the freest country in the world.
His guests congratulated him heartily as he ended his narration;
and Paddy O'Moore no doubt expected confidence for confidence,
but he waited in vain. However, he was one of those discreet people
who can say, "I tell you who I am, but I don't ask who you are."
Glenarvan's great object was to get information about the BRITANNIA,
and like a man who goes right to the point, he began at once
to interrogate O'Moore as to whether he had heard of the shipwreck.
The reply of the Irishman was not favorable; he had never
heard the vessel mentioned. For two years, at least,
no ship had been wrecked on that coast, neither above nor below
the Cape. Now, the date of the catastrophe was within two years.
He could, therefore, declare positively that the survivors of
the wreck had not been thrown on that part of the western shore.
Now, my Lord," he added, "may I ask what interest you have
in making the inquiry?"
This pointed question elicited in reply the whole history of
the expedition. Glenarvan related the discovery of the document,
and the various attempts that had been made to follow up the precise
indications given of the whereabouts of the unfortunate captives;
and he concluded his account by expressing his doubt whether they
should ever find the Captain after all.
His dispirited tone made a painful impression on the minds of
his auditors. Robert and Mary could not keep back their tears,
and Paganel had not a word of hope or comfort to give them.
John Mangles was grieved to the heart, though he, too, was beginning
to yield to the feeling of hopelessness which had crept over the rest,
when suddenly the whole party were electrified by hearing
a voice exclaim: "My Lord, praise and thank God! if Captain Grant
is alive, he is on this Australian continent."
CHAPTER VII THE QUARTERMASTER OF THE "BRITANNIA"
THE surprise caused by these words cannot be described.
Glenarvan sprang to his feet, and pushing back his seat, exclaimed:
"I did," said one of the servants, at the far end of the table.
"You, Ayrton!" replied his master, not less bewildered than Glenarvan.
"Yes, it was I," rejoined Ayrton in a firm tone, though somewhat
agitated voice. "A Scotchman like yourself, my Lord, and one
of the shipwrecked crew of the BRITANNIA."
The effect of such a declaration may be imagined.
Mary Grant fell back, half-fainting, in Lady Helena's arms,
overcome by joyful emotion, and Robert, and Mangles,
and Paganel started up and toward the man that Paddy O'Moore
had addressed as AYRTON. He was a coarse-looking fellow,
about forty-five years of age, with very bright eyes,
though half-hidden beneath thick, overhanging brows.
In spite of extreme leanness there was an air of unusual
strength about him. He seemed all bone and nerves, or, to use
a Scotch expression, as if he had not wasted time in making fat.
He was broad-shouldered and of middle height, and though his
features were coarse, his face was so full of intelligence and
energy and decision, that he gave one a favorable impression.
The interest he excited was still further heightened by
the marks of recent suffering imprinted on his countenance.
It was evident that he had endured long and severe hardships,
and that he had borne them bravely and come off victor.
"You are one of the shipwrecked sailors of the BRITANNIA?"
was Glenarvan's first question.
"Yes, my Lord; Captain Grant's quartermaster."
"And saved with him after the shipwreck?"
"No, my Lord, no. I was separated from him at that terrible moment,
for I was swept off the deck as the ship struck."
"Then you are not one of the two sailors mentioned in the document?"
"No; I was not aware of the existence of the document.
The captain must have thrown it into the sea when I was no
longer on board."
"But the captain? What about the captain?"
"I believed he had perished; gone down with all his crew.
I imagined myself the sole survivor."
"But you said just now, Captain Grant was living."
"No, I said, '_if the captain is living_.'"
"And you added, '_he is on the Australian continent_.'"
"And, indeed, he cannot be anywhere else."
"Then you don't know where he is?"
"No, my Lord. I say again, I supposed he was buried
beneath the waves, or dashed to pieces against the rocks.
It was from you I learned that he was still alive."
"What then do you know?"
"Simply this--if Captain Grant is alive, he is in Australia."
"Where did the shipwreck occur?" asked Major McNabbs.
This should have been the first question, but in the excitement
caused by the unexpected incident, Glenarvan cared more to know
where the captain was, than where the BRITANNIA had been lost.
After the Major's inquiry, however, Glenarvan's examination proceeded
more logically, and before long all the details of the event stood
out clearly before the minds of the company.
To the question put by the Major, Ayrton replied:
"When I was swept off the forecastle, when I was hauling in the
jib-boom, the BRITANNIA was running right on the Australian coast.
She was not more than two cables' length from it and consequently
she must have struck just there."
"In latitude 37 degrees?" asked John Mangles.
"Yes, in latitude 37 degrees."
"On the west coast?"
"No, on the east coast," was the prompt reply.
"And at what date?"
"It was on the night of the 27th of June, 1862."
"Exactly, just exactly," exclaimed Glenarvan.
"You see, then, my Lord," continued Ayrton, "I might justly say,
_If Captain Grant_ is alive, he is on the Australian continent,
and it is useless looking for him anywhere else."
"And we will look for him there, and find him too, and save him,"
exclaimed Paganel. "Ah, precious document," he added,
with perfect NAIVETE, "you must own you have fallen into the hands
of uncommonly shrewd people."
But, doubtless, nobody heard his flattering words,
for Glenarvan and Lady Helena, and Mary Grant, and Robert,
were too much engrossed with Ayrton to listen to anyone else.
They pressed round him and grasped his hands.
It seemed as if this man's presence was the sure pledge
of Harry Grant's deliverance. If this sailor had escaped
the perils of the shipwreck, why should not the captain?
Ayrton was quite sanguine as to his existence; but on what part
of the continent he was to be found, that he could not say.
The replies the man gave to the thousand questions that assailed
him on all sides were remarkably intelligent and exact.
All the while he spake, Mary held one of his hands in hers.
This sailor was a companion of her father's, one of
the crew of the BRITANNIA. He had lived with Harry Grant,
crossed the seas with him and shared his dangers. Mary could
not keep her eyes off his face, rough and homely though it was,
and she wept for joy.
Up to this time no one had ever thought of doubting either
the veracity or identity of the quartermaster; but the Major,
and perhaps John Mangles, now began to ask themselves
if this Ayrton's word was to be absolutely believed.
There was something suspicious about this unexpected meeting.
Certainly the man had mentioned facts and dates which corresponded,
and the minuteness of his details was most striking.
Still exactness of details was no positive proof.
Indeed, it has been noticed that a falsehood has sometimes
gained ground by being exceedingly particular in minutiae.
McNabbs, therefore, prudently refrained from committing himself
by expressing any opinion.
John Mangles, however, was soon convinced when he heard Ayrton
speak to the young girl about her father. He knew Mary and Robert
quite well. He had seen them in Glasgow when the ship sailed.
He remembered them at the farewell breakfast given on board the BRITANNIA
to the captain's friends, at which Sheriff Mcintyre was present.
Robert, then a boy of ten years old, had been given into his charge,
and he ran away and tried to climb the rigging.
"Yes, that I did, it is quite right," said Robert.
He went on to mention several other trifling incidents,
without attaching the importance to them that John Mangles did,
and when he stopped Mary Grant said, in her soft voice:
"Oh, go on, Mr. Ayrton, tell us more about our father."
The quartermaster did his best to satisfy the poor girl,
and Glenarvan did not interrupt him, though a score
of questions far more important crowded into his mind.
Lady Helena made him look at Mary's beaming face, and the words
he was about to utter remained unspoken.
Ayrton gave an account of the BRITANNIA'S voyage across
the Pacific. Mary knew most of it before, as news of the ship
had come regularly up to the month of May, 1862. In the course
of the year Harry Grant had touched at all the principal ports.
He had been to the Hebrides, to New Guinea, New Zealand,
and New Caledonia, and had succeeded in finding an important
point on the western coast of Papua, where the establishment
of a Scotch colony seemed to him easy, and its prosperity certain.
A good port on the Molucca and Philippine route must attract ships,
especially when the opening of the Suez Canal would have supplanted
the Cape route. Harry Grant was one of those who appreciated
the great work of M. De Lesseps, and would not allow political
rivalries to interfere with international interests.
After reconnoitering Papua, the BRITANNIA went to provision herself at
Callao, and left that port on the 30th of May, 1862, to return to Europe
by the Indian Ocean and the Cape. Three weeks afterward, his vessel was
disabled by a fearful storm in which they were caught, and obliged to cut
away the masts. A leak sprang in the hold, and could not be stopped.
The crew were too exhausted to work the pumps, and for eight days
the BRITANNIA was tossed about in the hurricane like a shuttlecock.
She had six feet of water in her hold, and was gradually sinking.
The boats had been all carried away by the tempest; death stared them
in the face, when, on the night of the 22d of June, as Paganel had
rightly supposed, they came in sight of the eastern coast of Australia.
The ship soon neared the shore, and presently dashed
violently against it. Ayrton was swept off by a wave,
and thrown among the breakers, where he lost consciousness.
When he recovered, he found himself in the hands of natives,
who dragged him away into the interior of the country.
Since that time he had never heard the BRITANNIA's name mentioned,
and reasonably enough came to the conclusion that she had gone
down with all hands off the dangerous reefs of Twofold Bay.
This ended Ayrton's recital, and more than once sorrowful exclamations
were evoked by the story. The Major could not, in common justice,
doubt its authenticity. The sailor was then asked to narrate
his own personal history, which was short and simple enough.
He had been carried by a tribe of natives four hundred miles north
of the 37th parallel. He spent a miserable existence there--
not that he was ill-treated, but the natives themselves lived miserably.
He passed two long years of painful slavery among them, but always
cherished in his heart the hope of one day regaining his freedom,
and watching for the slightest opportunity that might turn up,
though he knew that his flight would be attended with innumerable dangers.
At length one night in October, 1864, he managed to escape the vigilance
of the natives, and took refuge in the depths of immense forests.
For a whole month he subsisted on roots, edible ferns and mimosa gums,
wandering through vast solitudes, guiding himself by the sun during
the day and by the stars at night. He went on, though often
almost despairingly, through bogs and rivers, and across mountains,
till he had traversed the whole of the uninhabited part of the continent,
where only a few bold travelers have ventured; and at last,
in an exhausted and all but dying condition, he reached the hospitable
dwelling of Paddy O'Moore, where he said he had found a happy home
in exchange for his labor.
"And if Ayrton speaks well of me," said the Irish settler,
when the narrative ended, "I have nothing but good to say of him.
He is an honest, intelligent fellow and a good
V. IV Verne worker; and as long as he pleases, Paddy O'Moore's
house shall be his."
Ayrton thanked him by a gesture, and waited silently for any fresh
question that might be put to him, though he thought to himself
that he surely must have satisfied all legitimate curiosity.
What could remain to be said that he had not said a hundred
times already. Glenarvan was just about to open a discussion about
their future plan of action, profiting by this rencontre with Ayrton,
and by the information he had given them, when Major McNabbs,
addressing the sailor said, "You were quartermaster, you say,
on the BRITANNIA?"
"Yes," replied Ayrton, without the least hesitation.
But as if conscious that a certain feeling of mistrust, however slight,
had prompted the inquiry, he added, "I have my shipping papers with me;
I saved them from the wreck."
He left the room immediately to fetch his official document,
and, though hardly absent a minute, Paddy O'Moore managed
to say, "My Lord, you may trust Ayrton; I vouch for his being
an honest man. He has been two months now in my service,
and I have never had once to find fault with him.
I knew all this story of his shipwreck and his captivity.
He is a true man, worthy of your entire confidence."
Glenarvan was on the point of replying that he had never doubted
his good faith, when the man came in and brought his engagement
written out in due form. It was a paper signed by the shipowners
and Captain Grant. Mary recognized her father's writing at once.
It was to certify that "Tom Ayrton, able-bodied seaman,
was engaged as quartermaster on board the three-mast vessel,
the BRITANNIA, Glasgow."
There could not possibly be the least doubt now of Ayrton's identity,
for it would have been difficult to account for his possession
of the document if he were not the man named in it.
"Now then," said Glenarvan, "I wish to ask everyone's opinion as to what
is best to be done. Your advice, Ayrton, will be particularly valuable,
and I shall be much obliged if you would let us have it."
After a few minutes' thought, Ayrton replied--"I thank you, my Lord,
for the confidence you show towards me, and I hope to prove worthy of it.
I have some knowledge of the country, and the habits of the natives,
and if I can be of any service to you--"
"Most certainly you can," interrupted Glenarvan.
"I think with you," resumed Ayrton, "that the captain and his two
sailors have escaped alive from the wreck, but since they have not
found their way to the English settlement, nor been seen any where,
I have no doubt that their fate has been similar to my own, and that
they are prisoners in the hands of some of the native tribes."
"That's exactly what I have always argued," said Paganel.
"The shipwrecked men were taken prisoners, as they feared.
But must we conclude without question that, like yourself,
they have been dragged away north of the 37th parallel?"
"I should suppose so, sir; for hostile tribes would hardly remain
anywhere near the districts under the British rule."
"That will complicate our search," said Glenarvan, somewhat disconcerted.
"How can we possibly find traces of the captives in the heart of so
vast a continent?"
No one replied, though Lady Helena's questioning glances at her
companions seemed to press for an answer. Paganel even was silent.
His ingenuity for once was at fault. John Mangles paced the cabin
with great strides, as if he fancied himself on the deck of his ship,
evidently quite nonplussed.
"And you, Mr. Ayrton," said Lady Helena at last, "what would you do?"
"Madam," replied Ayrton, readily enough, "I should re-embark
in the DUNCAN, and go right to the scene of the catastrophe.
There I should be guided by circumstances, and by any chance
indications we might discover."
"Very good," returned Glenarvan; "but we must wait till
the DUNCAN is repaired."
"Ah, she has been injured then?" said Ayrton.
"Yes," replied Mangles.
"To any serious extent?"
"No; but such injuries as require more skilful workmanship than
we have on board. One of the branches of the screw is twisted,
and we cannot get it repaired nearer than Melbourne."
"Well, let the ship go to Melbourne then," said Paganel,
"and we will go without her to Twofold Bay."
"And how?" asked Mangles.
"By crossing Australia as we crossed America, keeping along
the 37th parallel."
"But the DUNCAN?" repeated Ayrton, as if particularly anxious
on that score.
"The DUNCAN can rejoin us, or we can rejoin her, as the case may be.
Should we discover Captain Grant in the course of our journey,
we can all return together to Melbourne. If we have to go on to
the coast, on the contrary, then the DUNCAN can come to us there.
Who has any objection to make? Have you, Major?"
"No, not if there is a practicable route across Australia."
"So practicable, that I propose Lady Helena and Miss Grant
should accompany us."
"Are you speaking seriously?" asked Glenarvan.
"Perfectly so, my Lord. It is a journey of 350 miles, not more.
If we go twelve miles a day it will barely take us a month,
just long enough to put the vessel in trim. If we had to cross
the continent in a lower latitude, at its wildest part,
and traverse immense deserts, where there is no water and where
the heat is tropical, and go where the most adventurous travelers
have never yet ventured, that would be a different matter.
But the 37th parallel cuts only through the province
of Victoria, quite an English country, with roads and railways,
and well populated almost everywhere. It is a journey you
might make, almost, in a chaise, though a wagon would be better.
It is a mere trip from London to Edinburgh, nothing more."
"What about wild beasts, though?" asked Glenarvan, anxious to go
into all the difficulties of the proposal.
"There are no wild beasts in Australia."
"And how about the savages?"
"There are no savages in this latitude, and if there were,
they are not cruel, like the New Zealanders."
"And the convicts?"
"There are no convicts in the southern provinces, only in
the eastern colonies. The province of Victoria not only refused
to admit them, but passed a law to prevent any ticket-of-leave
men from other provinces from entering her territories.
This very year the Government threatened to withdraw its subsidy
from the Peninsular Company if their vessels continued to take
in coal in those western parts of Australia where convicts
are admitted. What! Don't you know that, and you an Englishman?"
"In the first place, I beg leave to say I am not an Englishman,"
"What M. Paganel says is perfectly correct," said Paddy O'Moore. "Not
only the province of Victoria, but also Southern Australia, Queensland,
and even Tasmania, have agreed to expel convicts from their territories.
Ever since I have been on this farm, I have never heard of one
in this Province."
"And I can speak for myself. I have never come across one."
"You see then, friends," went on Jacques Paganel, "there are few
if any savages, no ferocious animals, no convicts, and there
are not many countries of Europe for which you can say as much.
Well, will you go?"
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