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Title: In Search of the Castaways - A Romantic Narrative of the Loss of Captain Grant of the Brig Britannia and of the Adventures of His Children and Friends in His Discovery and Rescue
Author: Verne, Jules
Language: English
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A Voyage Round the World.

IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS:

A Romantic Narrative of the Loss of Captain Grant
of the Brig Britannia and of the Adventures of
His Children and Friends in His Discovery and Rescue.

[Illustration]

by

JULES VERNE,

Author of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," etc., etc.

Illustrated with One Hundred and Seventy Engravings



Philadelphia:
J. B. Lippincott & Co.
1874.



CONTENTS.

          I.      The Shark
         II.      The Three Documents
        III.      The Captain's Children
         IV.      Lady Glenarvan's Proposal
          V.      The Departure of the Duncan
         VI.      An Unexpected Passenger
        VII.      Jacques Paganel is Undeceived
       VIII.      The Geographer's Resolution
         IX.      Through the Strait of Magellan
          X.      The Course Decided
         XI.      Traveling in Chili
        XII.      Eleven Thousand Feet Aloft
       XIII.      A Sudden Descent
        XIV.      Providentially Rescued
         XV.      Thalcave
        XVI.      News of the Lost Captain
       XVII.      A Serious Necessity
      XVIII.      In Search of Water
        XIX.      The Red Wolves
         XX.      Strange Signs
        XXI.      A False Trail
       XXII.      The Flood
      XXIII.      A Singular Abode
       XXIV.      Paganel's Disclosure
        XXV.      Between Fire and Water
       XXVI.      The Return on Board
      XXVII.      A New Destination
     XXVIII.      Tristan d'Acunha and the Isle of Amsterdam
       XXIX.      The Storm on the Indian Ocean
        XXX.      A Hospitable Colonist
       XXXI.      The Quartermaster of the Britannia
      XXXII.      Preparations for the Journey
     XXXIII.      An Accident
      XXXIV.      Australian Explorers
       XXXV.      Crime or Calamity?
      XXXVI.      Fresh Faces
     XXXVII.      A Warning
    XXXVIII.      Wealth in the Wilderness
      XXXIX.      Suspicious Occurrences
         XL.      A Startling Discovery
        XLI.      The Plot Unveiled
       XLII.      Four Days of Anguish
      XLIII.      Helpless and Hopeless
       XLIV.      A Rough Captain
        XLV.      The Wreck of the Macquarie
       XLVI.      Vain Efforts
      XLVII.      A Dreaded Country
     XLVIII.      Introduction to the Cannibals
       XLIX.      A Momentous Interview
          L.      The Chief's Funeral
         LI.      Strangely Liberated
        LII.      The Sacred Mountain
       LIII.      A Bold Stratagem
        LIV.      From Peril to Safety
         LV.      Why the Duncan went to New Zealand
        LVI.      Ayrton's Obstinacy
       LVII.      A Discouraging Confession
      LVIII.      A Cry in the Night
        LIX.      Captain Grant's Story
         LX.      Paganel's Last Entanglement

[Illustration]

IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS.



CHAPTER I.

THE SHARK.


On the 26th of July, 1864, under a strong gale from the northeast, a
magnificent yacht was steaming at full speed through the waves of the
North Channel. The flag of England fluttered at her yard-arm, while at
the top of the mainmast floated a blue pennon, bearing the initials
E. G., worked in gold and surmounted by a ducal coronet. The yacht
was called the Duncan, and belonged to Lord Glenarvan, one of the
sixteen Scottish peers sitting in the House of Lords, and also a most
distinguished member of the "Royal Thames Yacht Club," so celebrated
throughout the United Kingdom.

Lord Edward Glenarvan was on board with his young wife, Lady Helena,
and one of his cousins, Major MacNabb. The Duncan, newly constructed,
had just been making a trial voyage several miles beyond the Frith of
Clyde, and was now on her return to Glasgow. Already Arran Island was
appearing on the horizon, when the look-out signaled an enormous fish
that was sporting in the wake of the yacht. The captain, John Mangles,
at once informed Lord Glenarvan of the fact, who mounted on deck with
Major MacNabb, and asked the captain what he thought of the animal.

"Indeed, your lordship," replied Captain Mangles, "I think it is a
shark of large proportions."

"A shark in these regions!" exclaimed Glenarvan.

"Without doubt," replied the captain. "This fish belongs to a species
of sharks that are found in all seas and latitudes. It is the
'balance-fish,' and, if I am not greatly mistaken, we shall have an
encounter with one of these fellows. If your lordship consents, and it
pleases Lady Helena to witness such a novel chase, we will soon see
what we have to deal with."

"What do you think, MacNabb?" said Lord Glenarvan to the major; "are
you of a mind to try the adventure?"

"I am of whatever opinion pleases you," answered the major, calmly.

"Besides," continued Captain Mangles, "we cannot too soon exterminate
these terrible monsters. Let us improve the opportunity, and, if your
lordship pleases, it shall be an exciting scene as well as a good
action."

"Very well, captain," said Lord Glenarvan. He then summoned Lady
Helena, who joined him on deck, tempted by the exciting sport.

The sea was magnificent. You could easily follow along its surface the
rapid motions of the fish, as it plunged and rose again with surprising
agility. Captain Mangles gave his orders, and the sailors threw over
the starboard ratling a stout rope, to which was fastened a hook baited
with a thick piece of pork.

[Sidenote: THE LAST MOUTHFUL.]

The shark, although still at a distance of fifty yards, scented the
bait offered to his voracity. He rapidly approached the yacht. You
could see his fins, gray at their extremity and black at their base,
beat the waves with violence, while his "caudal appendage" kept him
in a rigorously straight line. As he advanced, his great glaring eyes
seemed inflamed with eagerness, and his yawning jaws, when he turned,
disclosed a quadruple row of teeth. His head was large, and shaped like
a double-headed hammer. Captain Mangles was right. It was a very large
specimen of the most rapacious family of sharks,--the "balance fish" of
the English and the "jew-fish" of the Provençals.

[Illustration]

All on board of the Duncan followed the movements of the shark with
lively attention. The animal was soon within reach of the hook; he
turned upon his back, in order to seize it better, and the enormous
bait disappeared down his vast gullet. At the same time he hooked
himself, giving the line a violent shake, whereupon the sailors
hoisted the huge creature by means of a pulley at the end of the
yard-arm.

The shark struggled violently at feeling himself drawn from his natural
element, but his struggles were of no avail. A rope with a slip-noose
confined his tail and paralyzed his movements. A few moments afterward
he was hauled over the ratlings, and precipitated upon the deck of the
yacht. One of the sailors at once approached him, not without caution,
and with a vigorous blow of the hatchet cut off the formidable tail of
the animal.

The chase was ended, and there was nothing more to fear from the
monster. The vengeance of the sailors was satisfied, but not their
curiosity. Indeed, it is customary on board of every vessel to
carefully examine the stomachs of sharks. The men, knowing the
inordinate voracity of the creature, wait with some anxiety, and their
expectation is not always in vain.

Lady Glenarvan, not wishing to witness this strange "exploration,"
retired to the cabin. The shark was still panting. He was ten feet
long, and weighed more than six hundred pounds. These dimensions are
nothing extraordinary; for if the balance-fish is not classed among the
giants of this species, at least he belongs to the most formidable of
their family.

The enormous fish was soon cut open by a blow of the hatchet, without
further ceremony. The hook had penetrated to the stomach, which was
absolutely empty. Evidently the animal had fasted a long time, and
the disappointed seamen were about to cast the remains into the sea,
when the attention of the mate was attracted by a bulky object firmly
imbedded in the viscera.

"Ha! what is this?" he exclaimed.

"That," replied one of the sailors, "is a piece of rock that the
creature has taken in for ballast."

"Good!" said another; "it is probably a bullet that this fellow has
received in the stomach, and could not digest."

[Illustration: "Good," said Glenarvan; "wash the dirty thing, and bring
it into the cabin."]

"Be still, all of you!" cried Tom Austin, the mate; "do you not see
that the animal was a great drunkard? and to lose nothing, has drank
not only the wine, but the bottle too!"

"What!" exclaimed Lord Glenarvan, "is it a bottle that this shark has
in his stomach?"

"A real bottle!" replied the mate, "but you can easily see that it does
not come from the wine-cellar."

"Well, Tom," said Glenarvan, "draw it out carefully. Bottles found in
the sea frequently contain precious documents."

"Do you think so?" said Major MacNabb.

"I do; at least, that it may happen so."

"Oh! I do not contradict you," replied the major. "Perhaps there may be
a secret in this."

"We shall see," said Glenarvan. "Well, Tom?"

"Here it is," said the mate, displaying the shapeless object that he
had just drawn with difficulty from the interior of the shark.

"Good," said Glenarvan; "wash the dirty thing, and bring it into the
cabin."

Tom obeyed; and the bottle found under such singular circumstances was
placed on the cabin-table, around which Lord Glenarvan, Major MacNabb,
and Captain John Mangles took their seats, together with Lady Helena;
for a woman, they say, is always a little inquisitive.

Everything causes excitement at sea. For a moment there was silence.
Each gazed wonderingly at this strange waif. Did it contain the secret
of a disaster, or only an insignificant message confided to the mercy
of the waves by some idle navigator?

[Sidenote: "OLD IN BOTTLE."]

However, they must know what it was, and Glenarvan, without waiting
longer, proceeded to examine the bottle. He took, moreover, all
necessary precautions. You would have thought a coroner was pointing
out the particulars of a suspicious quest. And Glenarvan was right,
for the most insignificant mark in appearance may often lead to an
important discovery.

Before examining it internally, the bottle was inspected externally.
It had a slender neck, the mouth of which was protected by an
iron wire considerably rusted. Its sides were very thick, and
capable of supporting a pressure of several atmospheres, betraying
evidently previous connection with champagne. With these bottles the
wine-dressers of Aï and Epernay block carriage-wheels without their
showing the slightest fracture. This one could, therefore, easily bear
the hardships of a long voyage.

[Illustration]

"A bottle of the Maison Cliquot," said the major quietly; and, as if he
ought to know, his affirmation was accepted without contradiction.

"My dear major," said Lady Helena, "it matters little what this bottle
is, provided we know whence it comes."

"We shall know, my dear," said Lord Edward, "and already we can affirm
that it has come from a distance. See the petrified particles that
cover it, these substances mineralized, so to speak, under the action
of the sea-water. This waif had already taken a long voyage in the
ocean, before being engulfed in the stomach of a shark."

"I cannot but be of your opinion," replied the major; "this fragile
vase, protected by its strong envelope, must have made a long journey."

"But whence does it come?" inquired Lady Glenarvan.

"Wait, my dear Helena, wait. We must be patient with bottles. If I am
not greatly mistaken, this one will itself answer all our questions."

And so saying, Glenarvan began to scrape off the hard particles that
protected the neck. Soon the cork appeared, but very much damaged with
the salt water.

"This is a pity," said Glenarvan; "for if there is any paper in it, it
will be in a bad condition."

"That's what I fear," replied the major.

"I will add," continued Glenarvan, "that this badly-corked bottle would
soon have sunk; and it is fortunate that this shark swallowed it, and
brought it on board of the Duncan."

"Certainly," interposed Captain Mangles; "it would have been better,
however, had it been caught in the open sea on a well-known latitude
and longitude. We could then, by studying the atmospheric and marine
currents, have discovered the course traversed; but with a guide like
one of these sharks, that travel against wind and tide, we cannot know
whence it comes."

"We shall soon see," answered Glenarvan. At the same time he drew out
the cork with the greatest care, and a strong saline odor permeated the
cabin.

"Well?" said Lady Helena, with a truly feminine impatience.

"Yes," said Glenarvan; "I am not mistaken! Here are papers!"

"Documents! documents!" cried Lady Helena.

"Only," replied Glenarvan, "they appear to be damaged by the water.
It is impossible to remove them, for they adhere to the sides of the
bottle."

"Let us break it," said MacNabb.

"I would rather keep it whole," replied Glenarvan.

[Illustration: The fragments soon strewed the table, and several pieces
of paper were perceived adhering to each other. Glenarvan drew them out
carefully.]

"I should, too," said the major.

"Very true," added Lady Helena; "but the contents are more valuable
than that which contains them, and it is better to sacrifice one than
the other."

"Let your lordship only break off the neck," said the captain, "and
that will enable you to draw them out without injury."

"Yes, yes, my dear Edward!" cried Lady Glenarvan.

It was difficult to proceed in any other way, and, at all hazards,
Glenarvan determined to break the neck of the precious bottle. It was
necessary to use a hammer, for the stony covering had acquired the
hardness of granite. The fragments soon strewed the table, and several
pieces of paper were perceived adhering to each other. Glenarvan drew
them out carefully, separating and examining them closely, while Lady
Helena, the major, and the captain crowded around him.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER II.

THE THREE DOCUMENTS.


These pieces of paper, half destroyed by the sea-water, exhibited only
a few words, the traces of handwriting almost entirely effaced. For
several minutes Lord Glenarvan examined them attentively, turned them
about in every way, and exposed them to the light of day, observing
the least traces of writing spared by the sea. Then he looked at his
friends, who were regarding him with anxious eyes.

"There are here," said he, "three distinct documents, probably three
copies of the same missive, translated into three different languages:
one English, another French, and the third German. The few words that
remain leave no doubt on this point."

"But these words have at least a meaning?" said Lady Glenarvan.

"That is difficult to say, my dear Helena. The words traced on these
papers are very imperfect."

"Perhaps they will complete each other," said the major.

"That may be," replied Captain Mangles. "It is not probable that the
water has obliterated these lines in exactly the same places on each,
and by comparing these remains of phrases we shall arrive at some
intelligible meaning."

"We will do so," said Lord Glenarvan; "but let us proceed
systematically. And, first, here is the English document."

It showed the following arrangement of lines and words:

[Illustration]

"That does not mean much," said the major, with an air of
disappointment.

"Whatever it may mean," replied the captain, "it is good English."

"There is no doubt of that," said his lordship. "The words _wreck,
aland, this, and, lost_, are perfect. _Cap_ evidently means _captain_,
referring to the captain of a shipwrecked vessel."

"Let us add," said the captain, "the portions of the words _docu_ and
_ssistance_, the meaning of which is plain."

"Well, something is gained already!" added Lady Helena.

"Unfortunately," replied the major, "entire lines are wanting. How can
we find the name of the lost vessel, or the place of shipwreck?"

"We shall find them," said Lord Edward.

"Very likely," answered the major, who was invariably of the opinion of
every one else; "but how?"

"By comparing one document with another."

"Let us see!" cried Lady Helena.

The second piece of paper, more damaged than the former, exhibited only
isolated words, arranged thus:

[Sidenote: COMPARATIVE PHILOLOGY.]

[Illustration]

"This is written in German," said Captain Mangles, when he had cast his
eyes upon it.

"And do you know that language?" asked Glenarvan.

"Perfectly, your lordship."

"Well, tell us what these few words mean."

The captain examined the document closely, and expressed himself as
follows:

"First, the date of the event is determined. _7 Juni_ means June 7th,
and by comparing this figure with the figures '62,' furnished by the
English document, we have the date complete,--June 7th, 1862."

"Very well!" exclaimed Lady Helena. "Go on."

"On the same line," continued the young captain, "I find the word
_Glas_, which, united with the word _gow_ of the first document, gives
_Glasgow_. It is plainly a ship from the port of Glasgow."

"That was my opinion," said the major.

"The second line is missing entirely," continued Captain Mangles; "but
on the third I meet with two important words _zwei_, which means _two_,
and _atrosen_, or rather _matrosen_, which signifies _sailors_ in
German."

"There were a captain and two sailors, then?" said Lady Helena.

"Probably," replied her husband.

"I will confess, your lordship," said the captain, "that the next word,
_graus_, puzzles me. I do not know how to translate it. Perhaps the
third document will enable us to understand it. As to the two last
words, they are easily explained. _Bringt ihnen_ means _bring to them_,
and if we compare these with the English word, which is likewise on the
sixth line of the first document (I mean the word _assistance_), we
shall have the phrase _bring them assistance_."

"Yes, bring them assistance," said Glenarvan. "But where are the
unfortunates? We have not yet a single indication of the place, and the
scene of the catastrophe is absolutely unknown."

"Let us hope that the French document will be more explicit," said Lady
Helena.

"Let us look at it, then," replied Glenarvan; "and, as we all know this
language, our examination will be more easy."

Here is an exact fac-simile of the third document:

[Illustration]

"There are figures!" cried Lady Helena. "Look, gentlemen, look!"

"Let us proceed in order," said Lord Glenarvan, "and start at
the beginning. Permit me to point out one by one these scattered
and incomplete words. I see from the first letters _troi_ _ats_
(_trois-mats_), that it is a brig, the name of which, thanks to the
English and French documents, is entirely preserved: _The Britannia_.
Of the two following words, _gonie_ and _austral_, only the last has an
intelligible meaning."

[Sidenote: THE PUZZLE EXPLAINED.]

"That is an important point," replied Captain Mangles; "the shipwreck
took place in the southern hemisphere."

"That is indefinite," said the major.

"I will continue," resumed Glenarvan. "The word _abor_ is the trace of
the verb _aborder_ (to land). These unfortunates have landed somewhere.
But where? _Contin!_ Is it on a continent? _Cruel!_"

"'Cruel!'" cried Mangles; "that explains the German word _graus,
grausam, cruel_!"

"Go on, go on!" cried Glenarvan, whose interest was greatly excited as
the meaning of these incomplete words was elucidated. "_Indi_! Is it
India, then, where these sailors have been cast? What is the meaning of
the word _ongit_? Ha, longitude! And here is the latitude, 37° 11'. In
short, we have a definite indication."

"But the longitude is wanting," said MacNabb.

"We cannot have everything, my dear major," replied Glenarvan; "and
an exact degree of latitude is something. This French document is
decidedly the most complete of the three. Each of them was evidently
a literal translation of the others, for they all convey the same
information. We must, therefore, unite and translate them into one
language, and seek their most probable meaning, the one that is most
logical and explicit."

"Shall we make this translation in French, English, or German?" asked
the major.

"In English," answered Glenarvan, "since that is our own language."

"Your lordship is right," said Captain Mangles, "besides, it was also
theirs."

"It is agreed, then. I will write this document, uniting these parts of
words and fragments of phrases, leaving the gaps that separate them,
and filling up those the meaning of which is not ambiguous. Then we
will compare them and form an opinion."

Glenarvan at once took a pen, and, in a few moments, presented to his
friends a paper on which were written the following lines:

[Illustration]

At this moment a sailor informed the captain that the Duncan was
entering the Frith of Clyde, and asked his orders.

"What are your lordship's wishes?" said the captain, addressing Lord
Glenarvan.

"Reach Dumbarton as quickly as possible, captain. Then, while Lady
Helena returns to Malcolm Castle, I will go to London and submit this
document to the authorities."

The captain gave his orders in pursuance of this, and the mate executed
them.

"Now, my friends," said Glenarvan, "we will continue our
investigations. We are on the track of a great catastrophe. The lives
of several men depend upon our sagacity. Let us use therefore all our
ingenuity to divine the secret of this enigma."

"We are ready, my dear Edward," replied Lady Helena.

"First of all," continued Glenarvan, "we must consider three distinct
points in this document. First, what is known; second, what can be
conjectured; and third, what is unknown. What do we know? That on the
7th of June, 1862, a brig, the Britannia, of Glasgow, was wrecked;
that two sailors and the captain threw this document into the sea in
latitude 37° 11', and in it ask for assistance."

"Exactly," replied the major.

[Sidenote: "LINE UPON LINE."]

"What can we conjecture?" resumed Glenarvan. "First, that the
shipwreck took place in the South Seas; and now I call your attention
to the word _gonia_. Does it not indicate the name of the country which
they reached?"

"Patagonia!" cried Lady Helena.

"Probably."

"But is Patagonia crossed by the thirty-seventh parallel?" asked the
major.

"That is easily seen," said the captain, taking out a map of South
America. "It is so: Patagonia is bisected by the thirty-seventh
parallel, which crosses Araucania, over the Pampas, north of Patagonia,
and is lost in the Atlantic."

"Well, let us continue our conjectures. The two sailors and the captain
_abor, land_. Where? _Contin_,--the _continent_, you understand; a
continent, not an island. What becomes of them? We have fortunately
two letters, _pr_, which inform us of their fate. These unfortunates,
in short, are _captured_ (pris) or _prisoners_. By whom? The _cruel
Indians_. Are you convinced? Do not the words fit naturally into the
vacant places? Does not the document grow clear to your eyes? Does not
light break in upon your mind?"

Glenarvan spoke with conviction. His looks betokened an absolute
confidence; and his enthusiasm was communicated to his hearers. Like
him they cried, "It is plain! it is plain!"

A moment after Lord Edward resumed, in these terms:

"All these hypotheses, my friends, seem to me extremely plausible. In
my opinion, the catastrophe took place on the shores of Patagonia.
However, I will inquire at Glasgow what was the destination of the
Britannia, and we shall know whether she could have been led to these
regions."

"We do not need to go so far," replied the captain; "I have here the
shipping news of the _Mercantile and Shipping Gazette_, which will give
us definite information."

"Let us see! let us see!" said Lady Glenarvan.

Captain Mangles took a file of papers of the year 1862, and began to
turn over the leaves rapidly. His search was soon ended; as he said, in
a tone of satisfaction,--

"May 30, 1862, Callao, Peru, _Britannia_, Captain Grant, bound for
Glasgow."

"Grant!" exclaimed Lord Glenarvan; "that hardy Scotchman who wished to
found a new Scotland in the waters of the Pacific?"

"Yes," answered the captain, "the very same, who, in 1861, embarked in
the Britannia at Glasgow, and of whom nothing has since been heard."

"Exactly! exactly!" said Glenarvan; "it is indeed he. The Britannia
left Callao the 30th of May, and on the 7th of June, eight days after
her departure, she was lost on the shores of Patagonia. This is the
whole story elucidated from the remains of these words that seemed
undecipherable. You see, my friends, that what we can conjecture is
very important. As to what we do not know, this is reduced to one item,
the missing degree of longitude."

"It is of no account," added Captain Mangles, "since the country is
known; and with the latitude alone, I will undertake to go straight to
the scene of the shipwreck."

"We know all, then?" said Lady Glenarvan.

"All, my dear Helena: and these blanks that the sea has made between
the words of the document, I can as easily fill out as though I were
writing at the dictation of Captain Grant."

Accordingly Lord Glenarvan took the pen again, and wrote, without
hesitation, the following note:

"June 7, 1862.--The brig Britannia of Glasgow was wrecked on the shores
of Patagonia, in the Southern Hemisphere. Directing their course to
land, two sailors and Captain Grant attempted to reach the continent,
where they will be prisoners of the cruel Indians. They have thrown
this document into the sea, at longitude ----, latitude 37° 11'. Bring
them assistance or they are lost."

[Sidenote: A NOBLE RESOLVE.]

"Good! good! my dear Edward!" said Lady Glenarvan; "and if these
unfortunates see their native country again, they will owe this
happiness to you."

"And they shall see it again," replied Glenarvan. "This document is too
explicit, too clear, too certain, for Englishmen to hesitate. What has
been done for Sir John Franklin, and so many others, will also be done
for the shipwrecked of the Britannia."

"But these unfortunates," answered Lady Helena, "have, without doubt,
a family that mourns their loss. Perhaps this poor Captain Grant has a
wife, children----"

[Illustration: Dumbarton Castle.]

"You are right, my dear lady; and I charge myself with informing them
that all hope is not yet lost. And now, my friends, let us go on deck,
for we must be approaching the harbor."

Indeed, the Duncan had forced on steam, and was now skirting the shores
of Bute Island. Rothesay, with its charming little village nestling in
its fertile valley, was left on the starboard, and the vessel entered
the narrow inlets of the frith, passed Greenock, and, at six in the
evening, was anchored at the foot of the basaltic rocks of Dumbarton,
crowned by the celebrated castle.

Here a coach was waiting to take Lady Helena and Major MacNabb back to
Malcolm Castle. Lord Glenarvan, after embracing his young wife, hurried
to take the express train for Glasgow. But before going, he confided an
important message to a more rapid agent, and a few moments after the
electric telegraph conveyed to the _Times_ and _Morning Chronicle_ an
advertisement in the following terms:

"For any information concerning the brig Britannia of Glasgow, Captain
Grant, address Lord Glenarvan, Malcolm Castle, Luss, County of
Dumbarton, Scotland."



CHAPTER III.

THE CAPTAIN'S CHILDREN.


[Sidenote: THE GLENARVAN ANCESTRY.]

The castle of Malcolm, one of the most romantic in Scotland, is
situated near the village of Luss, whose pretty valley it crowns. The
limpid waters of Loch Lomond bathe the granite of its walls. From time
immemorial it has belonged to the Glenarvan family, who have preserved
in the country of Rob Roy and Fergus MacGregor the hospitable customs
of the ancient heroes of Walter Scott. At the epoch of the social
revolution in Scotland, a great number of vassals were expelled,
because they could not pay the great rents to the ancient chiefs
of the clans. Some died of hunger, others became fishermen, others
emigrated. There was general despair.

[Illustration]

Among all these the Glenarvans alone believed that fidelity bound the
high as well as the low, and they remained faithful to their tenants.
Not one left the roof under which he was born; not one abandoned the
soil where his ancestors reposed; all continued in the clan of their
ancient lords. Thus at this epoch, in this age of disaffection and
disunion, the Glenarvan family considered the Scots at Malcolm Castle
as their own people. All were descended from the vassals of their
kinsmen; were children of the counties of Stirling and Dumbarton, and
honestly devoted, body and estate, to their master.

Lord Glenarvan possessed an immense fortune, which he employed in
doing much good. His kindness exceeded even his generosity, for one
was boundless, while the other was necessarily limited. The lord of
Luss, the "laird" of Malcolm, represented his fellows in the House of
Lords; but with true Scottish ideas, little pleasing to the southrons,
he was disliked by many of them especially because he adhered to the
traditions of his ancestors, and energetically opposed some dicta of
modern political economy.

He was not, however, a backward man, either in wit or shrewdness; but
while ready to enter every door of progress, he remained Scotch at
heart, and it was for the glory of his native land that he contended
with his racing yachts in the matches of the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

Lord Edward Glenarvan was thirty-two years old. His form was erect and
his features sharp, but his look was mild, and his character thoroughly
imbued with the poetry of the Highlands. He was known to be brave to
excess, enterprising, chivalrous, a Fergus of the nineteenth century;
but good above all, better than Saint Martin himself, for he would have
given his very cloak to the poor people of the Highlands.

He had been married scarcely three months, having espoused Miss Helena
Tuffnel, daughter of the great traveler, William Tuffnel, one of the
numerous victims to the great passion for geographical discoveries.

Miss Helena did not belong to a noble family, but she was Scotch, which
equaled all nobilities in the eyes of Lord Glenarvan. This charming
young creature, high-minded and devoted, the lord of Luss had made the
companion of his life. He found her one day living alone, an orphan,
almost without fortune, in the house of her father at Kilpatrick. He
saw that the poor girl would make a noble wife, and he married her.

Miss Tuffnel was twenty-two, a youthful blonde, with eyes as blue as
the waters of the Scotch lakes on a beautiful morning in spring. Her
love for her husband exceeded even her gratitude. She loved him as if
she had been the rich heiress, and he the friendless orphan. As to
their tenants and servants, they were ready to lay down their lives for
her whom they called "our good lady of Luss."

[Sidenote: LIFE IN THE SCOTTISH HOME.]

Lord and Lady Glenarvan lived happily at Malcolm Castle, in the midst
of the grand and wild scenery of the Highlands, rambling in the
shady alleys of horse-chestnuts and sycamores, along the shores of
the lake, where still resounded the war cries of ancient times, or
in the depths of those uncultivated gorges in which the history of
Scotland lies written in ruins from age to age. One day they would
wander in the forests of beeches and larches, and in the midst of the
masses of heather; another, they would scale the precipitous summits
of Ben Lomond, or traverse on horseback the solitary glens, studying,
comprehending, and admiring this poetic country, still called "the land
of Rob Roy," and all those celebrated sites so grandly sung by Walter
Scott.

In the sweet, still evening, when the "lantern of Mac Farlane"
illumined the horizon, they would stroll along the "bartizans," an old
circular balcony that formed a chain of battlements to Malcolm Castle,
and there, pensive, oblivious, and as if alone in the world, seated
on some detached rock, under the pale rays of the moon, while night
gradually enveloped the rugged summits of the mountains, they would
continue wrapt in that pure ecstasy and inward delight known only to
loving hearts.

[Illustration]

Thus passed the first months of their married life. But Lord Glenarvan
did not forget that his wife was the daughter of a great traveler. He
thought that Lady Helena must have in her heart all the aspirations of
her father, and he was not mistaken. The Duncan was constructed, and
was designed to convey Lord and Lady Glenarvan to the most beautiful
countries of the world, along the waves of the Mediterranean, and to
the isles of the Archipelago. Imagine the joy of Lady Helena when her
husband placed the Duncan at her disposal! Indeed, can there be a
greater happiness than to lead your love towards those charming "isles
where Sappho sung," and behold the enchanting scenes of the Orient,
with all their spirit-stirring memories?

[Illustration]

Meantime Lord Glenarvan had started for London. The safety of the
unfortunate shipwrecked men was at stake. Thus, in his temporary
absence, Lady Helena showed herself more anxious than sad. The next
day a dispatch from her husband made her hope for a speedy return; in
the evening a letter hinted at its postponement. His proposal had to
encounter some difficulties, and the following day a second letter
came, in which Lord Glenarvan did not conceal his indignation against
the authorities.

[Illustration: "Please, madam, speak! I am strong against grief, and
can hear all."]

On that day Lady Helena began to be uneasy. At evening she was alone in
her chamber, when the steward of the castle, Mr. Halbert, came to ask
if she would see a young girl and boy who desired to speak with Lord
Glenarvan.

"People of the country?" asked Lady Helena.

"No, madam," replied the steward, "for I do not know them. They have
just arrived by the Balloch railway, and from Balloch to Luss they tell
me they have made the journey on foot."

"Bid them come up, steward," said Lady Glenarvan.

The steward withdrew. Some moments afterward the young girl and boy
were ushered into Lady Helena's chamber. They were brother and sister;
you could not doubt it by their resemblance.

The sister was sixteen. Her pretty face showed weariness, her eyes must
have shed many tears; her resigned, but courageous, countenance, and
her humble, but neat, attire, all prepossessed one in her favor. She
held by the hand a boy of twelve years, of determined look, who seemed
to take his sister under his protection. Indeed, whoever had insulted
the young girl would have had to settle with this little gentleman.

The sister stopped, a little surprised at seeing herself before Lady
Helena; but the latter hastened to open the conversation.

"You wish to speak with me?" said she, with an encouraging look at the
young girl.

[Sidenote: "ONE TOUCH OF NATURE."]

"No," answered the boy, in a decided tone; "not with you, but with Lord
Glenarvan himself."

"Excuse him, madam," said the sister, looking at her brother.

"Lord Glenarvan is not at the castle," replied Lady Helena; "but I am
his wife, and if I can supply his place with you----"

"You are Lady Glenarvan?" said the young girl.

"Yes, miss."

"The wife of Lord Glenarvan, of Malcolm Castle, who published an
advertisement in the _Times_ in regard to the shipwreck of the
Britannia?"

"Yes, yes!" answered Lady Helena, with alacrity. "And you?"

"I am Miss Grant, and this is my brother."

"Miss Grant! Miss Grant!" cried Lady Helena, drawing the young girl
towards her, and taking her hands, while she also drew the boy towards
her.

"Madam," replied the young girl, "what do you know of the shipwreck of
my father? Is he living? Shall we ever see him again? Speak! oh, please
tell me!"

"My dear child," said Lady Helena, "God forbid that I should answer you
lightly on such a subject; I would not give you a vain hope----"

"Please, madam, speak! I am strong against grief, and can hear all."

"My dear child," answered Lady Helena, "the hope is very slight, but
with the help of God who can do everything, it is possible that you
will one day see your father again."

"Alas, alas!" exclaimed Miss Grant, who could not restrain her tears,
while Robert covered the hands of Lady Glenarvan with kisses.

When the first paroxysm of this mournful joy was past, the young girl
began to ask innumerable questions. Lady Helena related the story of
the document, how that the Britannia had been lost on the shores
of Patagonia; in what way, after the shipwreck, the captain and two
sailors, the only survivors, must have reached the continent; and,
at last, how they implored the assistance of the whole world in this
document, written in three languages, and abandoned to the caprices of
the ocean.

During this recital Robert Grant devoured Lady Helena with his eyes;
his life seemed to hang on her lips. In his childish imagination he
reviewed the terrible scenes of which his father must have been the
victim. He saw him on the deck of the Britannia; he followed him to the
bosom of the waves; he clung with him to the rocks of the shore; he
dragged himself panting along the beach, out of reach of the waves.

Often during the course of this narration words escaped his lips.

"Oh, papa! my poor papa!" he cried, pressing close to his sister.

As for Miss Grant, she listened with clasped hands, and did not utter a
word until the story was ended, when she said,--

"Oh, madam, the document! the document!"

"I no longer have it, my dear child," replied Lady Helena.

"You no longer have it?"

"No; for the very sake of your father, Lord Glenarvan had to take it
to London; but I have told you all it contained, word for word, and
how we succeeded in discovering the exact meaning. Among these remains
of the almost effaced words the water had spared some characters.
Unfortunately the record of the longitude had altogether been
destroyed, but that was the only missing point. Thus you see, Miss
Grant, the minutest details of this document are known to you as well
as me."

"Yes, madam," replied the young girl; "but I would like to have seen my
father's writing."

[Sidenote: WAITING FOR THE VERDICT.]

"Well, to-morrow, perhaps, Lord Glenarvan will return. My husband
desired to submit this indisputable document to the authorities in
London, to induce them to send a vessel immediately in search of
Captain Grant."

"Is it possible, madam!" cried the young girl. "Did you do this for us?"

"Yes, my dear miss, and I expect Lord Glenarvan every moment."

"Madam," said the young girl, in a deep tone of gratitude, and with
fervency, "may Heaven bless Lord Glenarvan and you!"

"Dear child," answered Lady Helena, "we deserve no thanks. Any other
person in our place would have done the same. May the hopes that are
kindled be realized! Till Lord Glenarvan's return you will remain at
the castle."

"Madam," said the young girl, "I would not presume on the sympathy you
show to us strangers----"

"Strangers! Dear child, neither your brother nor you are strangers in
this house; and I desire that Lord Glenarvan on his arrival should
inform the children of Captain Grant of what is to be attempted to save
their father."

It was not possible to refuse an invitation made with so much
cordiality. It was, therefore, decided that Miss Grant and her brother
should await at Malcolm Castle the return of Lord Glenarvan.



CHAPTER IV.

LADY GLENARVAN'S PROPOSAL.


During this conversation, Lady Helena had not spoken of the fears
expressed in her husband's letters concerning the reception of his
petition by the London officials; nor was a word said in regard to the
probable captivity of Captain Grant among the Indians of South America.
Why afflict these poor children with their father's situation, and
check the hopes they had just conceived? It would not change matters.
Lady Helena was, therefore, silent on this point, and, after satisfying
all Miss Grant's inquiries, she questioned her concerning her life, and
situation in the world in which she seemed to be the sole protectress
of her brother. It was a simple and touching story, which still more
increased Lady Glenarvan's sympathy for the young girl.

Mary and Robert Grant were the only children of Captain Harry Grant,
whose wife had died at the birth of Robert, and during his long
voyages his children were left to the care of his good old cousin.
Captain Grant was a hardy sailor, a man well acquainted with his
profession, and a good negotiator, combining thus a twofold aptitude
for his calling commercially. His home was at Dundee, in the county of
Forfar, and he was moreover, by birth, a child of that "bonnie" place.
His father, a minister of Saint Catherine's Church, had given him a
thorough education, knowing that it would be sure to help all, even a
sea-captain.

[Sidenote: IDEAS AND REALITIES.]

During his early voyages, first as mate, and afterwards in the
capacity of skipper, Harry Grant prospered, and some years after
the birth of his son Robert, he found himself the possessor of a
considerable fortune.

Then a great idea entered his mind which made his name popular
throughout Scotland. Like the Glenarvans and several other great
families of the Highlands, he was opposed in heart, if not in deed,
to the advance and prevalence of English thought and feeling. The
interests of his country could not be in his eyes the same as those
of the Anglo-Saxons, and, in order to give the former a peculiar and
national development, he resolved to found a Scottish colony in some
part of the Southern World. Did he dream of that independence in the
future of which the United States had set the example, and which the
Indies and Australia cannot fail one day to acquire? Very likely;
but he allowed his secret hopes to be divined. It was, therefore,
known that the Government refused to lend their aid in his project
of colonization; nay, they even raised obstacles which in any other
country would have overcome the project.

But Harry Grant would not be discouraged. He appealed to the patriotism
of his countrymen, gave his fortune to serve the cause, built a vessel
and furnished it with a fine crew, confided his children to the care
of his old cousin, and set sail to explore the great islands of the
Pacific.

It was the year 1861. Until May, 1862, they had received news of him,
but since his departure from Callao, in the month of June, no one had
heard anything of the Britannia, and the marine intelligencers became
silent concerning the fate of the captain.

At this juncture of affairs the old cousin of Harry Grant died, and
the two children were left alone in the world. Mary Grant was then
fourteen. Her courageous soul did not flinch at the situation that was
presented, but she devoted herself entirely to her brother, who was
still a child. She must bring him up and instruct him. By dint of
economy, prudence, and sagacity, laboring night and day, sacrificing
all for him, denying herself everything, the sister succeeded in
educating her brother and bravely fulfilled her sisterly duties.

The two children lived thus at Dundee, and valiantly overcame
their sorrowful and lonely circumstances. Mary thought only of her
brother, and dreamed of a happy future for him. As for herself, alas!
the Britannia was lost forever, and her father dead! We must not,
therefore, attempt to depict her emotion when the advertisement in the
_Times_ accidentally met her eye, and suddenly raised her from her
despair.

It was no time to hesitate. Her resolution was immediately taken. Even
if she should learn that her father's dead body had been found on a
desert coast, or in the hull of a shipwrecked vessel, it was better
than this continual doubt, this eternal torment of uncertainty. She
told her brother all; and the same day the two children took the Perth
Railroad, and at evening arrived at Malcolm Castle, where Mary, after
so many harassing thoughts, began to hope.

Such was the sorrowful story that the young girl related to Lady
Glenarvan, in an artless manner, without thinking that through all
those long years of trial she had behaved herself like an heroic
daughter. But Lady Helena thought of this, and several times, without
hiding her tears, she clasped in her arms the two children of Captain
Grant.

As for Robert, it seemed as if he heard this story for the first time:
for he opened his eyes in astonishment, as he listened to his sister;
comprehended what she had done, what she had suffered; and at last,
encircling her with his arms, he exclaimed, unable longer to restrain
the cry that came from the very depths of his heart,--

"Oh, mamma! my dear mamma!"

[Illustration: "My father, my poor father!" cried Mary Grant, throwing
herself at the feet of Lord Glenarvan.]

Night had now fully set in; and Lady Helena, remembering the fatigue of
the two children, would not longer continue the conversation. Mary
and Robert were conducted to their chambers, and fell asleep dreaming
of a brighter future.



After they had retired, Lady Helena saw the major, and told him all the
events of the day.

"That Mary Grant is a brave girl," said MacNabb, when he had heard his
cousin's story.

"May Heaven grant my husband success in his enterprise!" replied Lady
Helena; "for the situation of the two children would be terrible!"

"He will succeed," answered MacNabb, "or the hearts of the authorities
must be harder than the stone of Portland."

In spite of the major's assurance, Lady Helena passed the night in the
greatest anxiety, and could scarce gain an hour's repose.

[Sidenote: "BROKEN CISTERNS."]

The next morning Mary and her brother rose at daybreak, and were
walking in the galleries and water terraces of the castle, when the
sound of a coach was heard in the great court-yard. It was Lord
Glenarvan returning to Malcolm Castle at the full speed of his horses.
Almost immediately Lady Helena, accompanied by the major, appeared
in the court-yard, and flew to meet her husband. But he seemed sad,
disappointed, and angry. He clasped his wife in his arms, and was
silent.

[Illustration]

"Well, Edward!" she exclaimed.

"Well, my dear Helena," he replied, "those people have no hearts!"

"They refused?"

"Yes, they refused me a vessel: they spoke of the millions vainly spent
in searching for Franklin; they declared the document was vague and
unintelligible; they said that the shipwreck of these unfortunates had
happened two years ago, and that there was little chance of finding
them. They maintained too, that, if prisoners of the Indians, they must
have been carried into the interior of the country; that they could not
ransack all Patagonia to find three men,--three Scotchmen; the search
would be vain and perilous, and would cost the lives of more men than
it would save. In short, they gave all the absurd reasons of people who
mean to refuse. They remembered the captain's projects, and I fear that
the unfortunate man is forever lost!"

"My father, my poor father!" cried Mary Grant, throwing herself at the
feet of Lord Glenarvan.

"Your father! What, Miss----?" said he, surprised at seeing a young
girl at his feet.

"Yes, Edward, Miss Grant and her brother," replied Lady Helena; "the
two children of Captain Grant, who have thus been condemned to remain
orphans."

"Ah, miss!" answered Lord Glenarvan, "if I had known of your
presence----"

He said no more. A painful silence, interrupted only by sobs, reigned
in the court-yard. No one raised his voice, neither Lord Glenarvan,
Lady Helena, the major, nor the servants of the castle, who were
standing about even at this early hour. But by their attitude they all
protested against the conduct of the officials.

After several moments the major resumed the conversation, and,
addressing Lord Glenarvan, said,--

"Then you have no more hope?"

"None."

"Well," cried young Robert, "I will go to these people, and--we shall
see----"

He did not finish his threat, for his sister stopped him; but his
clinched hands indicated his intentions.

"No, Robert," said she, "no; let us thank these kind people for what
they have done for us. Let us always keep them in remembrance; but now
we must take our departure."

"Mary!" cried Lady Helena.

"Miss, where would you go?" said Lord Glenarvan.

"I am going to throw myself at the feet of the Queen," replied the
young girl, "and we shall see if she will be deaf to the prayers of two
children imploring help for their father."

Lord Glenarvan shook his head; not that he doubted the clemency of Her
Gracious Majesty, but he doubted whether Mary Grant would gain access
to her; for but few suppliants reach the steps of a throne.

Lady Helena understood her husband's thoughts. She knew that the young
girl might make a fruitless journey, and she pictured to herself these
two children leading henceforth a cheerless existence. Then it was that
she conceived a grand and noble idea.

"Mary Grant," she exclaimed, "wait, my child; listen to what I am about
to say."

The young girl held her brother by the hand, and was preparing to go.
She stopped.

Then Lady Helena, with tearful eye, but firm voice and animated
features, advanced towards her husband.

[Sidenote: "NOBLY PLANNED."]

"Edward," said she, "when Captain Grant wrote that letter, and cast
it into the sea, he confided it to the care of God himself, who has
brought it to us. Without doubt He designed to charge us with the
safety of these unfortunates."

"What do you mean, Helena?" inquired Lord Glenarvan, whilst all waited
in silence.

"I mean," replied Lady Helena, "that we ought to consider ourselves
happy in beginning our married life with a good action. You, my dear
Edward, to please me, have planned a pleasure voyage. But what pleasure
can be more genuine or more beneficent than to save these unfortunates
whom hope has almost abandoned?"

"Helena!" cried Lord Glenarvan.

"Yes, you understand me, Edward. The Duncan is a good, staunch vessel.
It can brave the Southern seas; it can make the tour of the world,--and
it will, if necessary! Let us start, Edward,--let us go in search of
Captain Grant!"

At these courageous words Lord Glenarvan had extended his arms to his
wife. He smiled. He pressed her to his heart, while Mary and Robert
kissed her hands.

And during this touching scene the servants of the castle, affected and
enthusiastic, uttered from their hearts this cry of gratitude,--

"Hurrah for the lady of Luss! Hurrah! three times hurrah, for Lord and
Lady Glenarvan!"



CHAPTER V.

THE DEPARTURE OF THE DUNCAN.


It has been already said that Lady Helena had a brave and generous
soul. What she had just done was an undeniable proof of it, and Lord
Glenarvan had good reason to trust in this noble woman, who was
capable of comprehending and following him. The idea of sailing to
the rescue of Captain Grant had already taken possession of him when
he saw his petition rejected at London; but he could not have thought
of separating from her. Yet, since she desired to go herself, all
hesitation was at an end. The servants of the castle had received her
proposal with cries of joy; the safety of their brother Scots was at
stake, and Lord Glenarvan joined heartily in the hurrahs that greeted
the lady of Luss.

The scheme once resolved upon, there was not an hour to lose. That
very day Lord Glenarvan sent to Captain Mangles orders to bring the
Duncan to Glasgow, and make every preparation for a voyage to the South
Seas, which might become one of circumnavigation. Moreover, in her
plans Lady Helena had not overestimated the qualities of the Duncan:
of first-class construction with regard to strength and swiftness, she
could without injury sustain a long voyage.

[Sidenote: FITTING FOR SEA.]

The Duncan was a steam yacht of one hundred and ten tons burden.
She had two masts,--a foremast with fore-sail, main-sail, foretop
and foretop-gallant sails; and a mainmast, carrying a main-sail and
fore-staff. Her rigging was, therefore, sufficient, and she could
profit by the wind like a simple clipper; but she relied especially
upon her mechanical power. Her engine was of an effective force of one
hundred and sixty horse power, and was constructed on a new plan. It
possessed apparatus for overheating, which gave its steam a very great
tension. It was a high-pressure engine, and produced motion by a double
screw. The Duncan under full steam could acquire a speed equal to any
vessel of that day. Indeed, during her trial trip in the Frith of
Clyde, she had made, according to the log, seventeen knots an hour. She
was, therefore, fully capable of circumnavigating the world; and her
captain had only to occupy himself with the internal arrangement.

His first care was to increase his store-room, and take in the
greatest possible quantity of coal, for it would be difficult to renew
their supplies on the voyage. The same precaution was taken with the
steward's room, and provisions for two years were stowed away. Money,
of course, was not wanting, and a pivot-gun was furnished, which was
fixed at the forecastle. You do not know what may happen, and it is
always best to have the means of defense in your reach.

Captain Mangles, we must say, understood his business. Although he
commanded only a pleasure yacht, he was ranked among the ablest of
the Glasgow captains. He was thirty years of age, with rather rough
features, indicating courage and kindness. When a child, the Glenarvan
family had taken him under their care, and made him an excellent
seaman. He had often given proofs of skill, energy, and coolness during
his long voyages, and when Lord Glenarvan offered him the command of
the Duncan, he accepted it with pride and pleasure, for he loved the
lord of Malcolm Castle as a brother, and until then had vainly sought
an opportunity to devote himself to his service.

The mate, Tom Austin, was an old sailor worthy of all confidence; and
the crew of the Duncan was composed of twenty-five men, including
the captain and mate. They all belonged to the county of Dumbarton,
were all tried seamen, sons of the tenants of the family, and formed
on shipboard a genuine clan of honest people, who of course were not
without the national bagpipe. Lord Glenarvan had, in them, a band of
faithful subjects, happy in their avocation, devoted, courageous, and
skillful in the use of arms, as well as in the management of a ship,
while they were ready to follow him on the most perilous expeditions.
When they learned where they were going, they could not restrain their
joyous emotion, and the echoes of the rocks of Dumbarton awoke to their
cries of enthusiasm.

Captain Mangles, while occupied in lading and provisioning his craft,
did not forget to prepare Lord and Lady Glenarvan's apartments for a
long voyage. He likewise provided cabins for Captain Grant's children,
for Lady Helena could not refuse Mary permission to accompany her on
the expedition.

As for young Robert, he would have hidden in the hold sooner than
not go; even if he had been compelled to serve as cabin-boy, like
Lord Nelson and Sir John Franklin, he would have embarked on board
the Duncan. To think of opposing such a little gentleman! It was
not attempted. They were even obliged to take him other than as
passenger, for as cabin-boy or sailor he _would serve_. The captain was
accordingly commissioned to teach him the duties of a seaman.

"Good!" said Robert; "and let him not spare a few blows of the rope's
end if I do not walk straight."

"Be easy, my boy," replied Glenarvan, without adding that the use of
the "cat-o'-nine-tails" was prohibited, and moreover quite needless, on
board the Duncan.

[Sidenote: GLASGOW GOSSIP.]

To complete the roll of the passengers, it will be sufficient to
describe Major MacNabb. The major was a man of fifty, of calm,
regular features, who did as he was bid; of an excellent and superior
character, modest, taciturn, peaceable, and mild; always agreeing
with anything or any one, disputing nothing, and neither contradicting
himself nor exaggerating. He would mount with measured step the
staircase to his bed-chamber, even were a cannon-ball behind him; and
probably to his dying day would never find an opportunity to fly into a
passion.

This man possessed, in a high degree, not only the common courage of
the battle-field (that physical bravery due only to nervous strength),
but, better still, moral courage, that is to say, firmness of soul. If
he had a fault, it was that of being absolutely Scotch from head to
foot, a pure-blooded Caledonian, an infatuated observer of the ancient
customs of his country. Through his relationship to the Glenarvans he
lived at Malcolm Castle; and as major and military man it was very
natural that he should be found on board the Duncan.

Such, then, were the passengers of this yacht, summoned by unforeseen
circumstances to accomplish one of the most surprising voyages of
modern times. Since her arrival at the wharf at Glasgow, she had
monopolized the public attention. A considerable number came every day
to visit her. They were interested in her alone, and spoke only of her,
to the great umbrage of the other captains of the port, among others
Captain Burton, commanding the Scotia, a magnificent steamer, moored
beside the Duncan, and bound for Calcutta. The Scotia, from her size,
had a right to consider the Duncan as a mere fly-boat. Nevertheless,
all the attraction centred in Lord Glenarvan's yacht, and increased
from day to day.

The time of departure approached. Captain Mangles had shown himself
skillful and expeditious. A month after her trial trip in the Frith of
Clyde, the Duncan, laden, provisioned, and equipped, was ready to put
to sea. The 25th of August was appointed for the time of departure,
which would enable the yacht to reach the southern latitudes by the
beginning of spring. Lord Glenarvan, when his plan was matured, did
not neglect to make investigations into the hardships and perils of the
voyage; yet he did not hesitate on this account, but prepared to leave
Malcolm Castle.

On the 24th of August, Lord and Lady Glenarvan, Major MacNabb, Mary and
Robert Grant, Mr. Olbinett, the steward of the yacht, and his wife, who
was in the service of Lady Glenarvan, left the castle, after taking an
affectionate farewell of their family servants. Several hours afterward
they found themselves on board. Many of the population of Glasgow
welcomed with sympathetic admiration the young and courageous lady who
renounced the pleasures of a life of luxury, and sailed to the rescue
of the shipwrecked sailors.

The apartments of Lord Glenarvan and his wife occupied the entire stern
of the vessel. They consisted of two bed-chambers, a parlor, and two
dressing-rooms, adjoining which was an open square inclosed by six
cabins, five of which were occupied by Mary and Robert Grant, Mr. and
Mrs. Olbinett, and Major MacNabb. As for the cabins of the captain and
the mate, they were situated in the forecastle, and opened on the deck.
The crew were lodged between-decks very comfortably, for the yacht of
course carried nothing but her coal, provisions, and armament.

The Duncan was to start on the night of the 24th, as the tide fell at
three o'clock in the morning. But first those who were present were
witness to a touching scene. At eight in the evening Lord Glenarvan and
his companions, the entire crew, from the firemen to the captain, all
who were to take part in this voyage of sacrifice, left the yacht, and
betook themselves to Saint Mungo, the ancient cathedral of Glasgow.
This antique church, an uninjured relic in the midst of the ruins
caused by the Reformation, and so marvelously described by Walter
Scott, received beneath its massive arches the owners and sailors of
the Duncan.

[Sidenote: PRAYER, AND PROGRESS.]

A numerous throng accompanied them. There in the spacious aisle,
filled with tombs of the great and good, the Rev. Mr. Morton implored
the blessing of Heaven, and commended the expedition to the care of
Providence. For a moment the voice of Mary Grant arose in the old
church. The young girl was praying for her benefactors, and shedding
before God the sweet tears of gratitude. The assembly retired under the
influence of a deep emotion.

At eleven, every one was on board. The captain and the crew occupied
themselves with the final preparations. At midnight the fires were
kindled, and soon clouds of black smoke mingled with the vapors of the
night; the sails of the Duncan had been carefully reefed in a canvas
sheathing, which served to protect them from injury. The wind blew from
the southeast, and did not favor the progress of the vessel; but at two
o'clock the ship began to heave under the action of her boilers. The
manometer indicated a pressure of four atmospheres, and the overheated
steam whistled through the escape-valves. The sea was tranquil, and
soon daylight enabled them to distinguish the passes of the Clyde
between the buoys and beacons, whose lights were gradually extinguished
as the morning dawned.

Captain Mangles informed Lord Glenarvan, who at once came on deck. Very
soon the ebb-tide was felt. The Duncan gave a few shrill whistles,
slackened her cables, and separated from the surrounding vessels. Her
screw was set in motion, which propelled her into the channel of the
river. The captain had taken no pilot. He was perfectly acquainted with
the navigation of the Clyde, and no one could have commanded better. At
a sign from him the yacht started. With his right hand he controlled
the engine, and with his left the tiller, with silent but unerring
skill.

[Illustration: The Rev. Mr. Morton implored the blessing of Heaven, and
commended the expedition to the care of Providence.]

[Sidenote: A CHANGE OF SCENE.]

Soon the last workshops on the shore gave place to villas, built here
and there upon the hills, and the sounds of the city died away in the
distance. An hour afterwards, the Duncan passed the rocks of Dumbarton;
two hours later she was in the Frith of Clyde; and at six o'clock in
the morning she doubled Cantyre Point, emerged from the North Channel,
and gained the open sea.



[Illustration]



CHAPTER VI.

AN UNEXPECTED PASSENGER.


During the first day's voyage the sea was quite rough, and the wind
freshened towards evening. The Duncan rolled considerably, so that
the ladies did not appear on deck, but very wisely remained in their
cabins. The next day the wind changed a point, and the captain set the
main-, fore-, and foretop-sails, thus causing less perception of the
rolling and pitching motion.

Lady Helena and Mary Grant were able before daybreak to join Lord
Glenarvan, the major, and the captain, on deck. The sunrise was
magnificent. The orb of day, like a gilded metal disk, rose from the
ocean, as from an immense and silvery basin. The ship glided in the
midst of a splendid iridescence, and you would truly have thought that
her sails expanded under the influence of the sun's rays, whilst even
the crew of the yacht silently admired this reappearance of the orb of
day.

"What a magnificent spectacle!" said Lady Helena, at last. "This is
the beginning of a beautiful day. May the wind not prove contrary, but
favor the progress of the Duncan!"

"No better weather could be desired, my dear Helena," replied Lord
Glenarvan; "we have no reason to complain of the commencement of the
voyage."

"Will it be a long one, my dear Edward?"

"That is for the captain to answer," said he. "Are we progressing well?
Are you satisfied with your vessel, captain?"

"Very well indeed," was the answer. "She is a marvelous craft, and a
sailor likes to feel her under his feet. Never were hull and engine
more in unison. See how smooth her wake is, and how easily she rides
the waves. We are moving at the rate of seventeen knots an hour. If
this continues, we shall cross the line in ten days, and in five weeks
shall double Cape Horn."

"You hear, Mary," said Lady Helena: "in five weeks!"

"Yes," replied the young girl, "I hear; and my heart beat quickly at
the words of the captain."

"And how do you bear this voyage, Miss Mary?" inquired Lord Glenarvan.

"Very well, my lord; I do not experience very many discomforts.
Besides, I shall soon be accustomed to it."

"And young Robert?"

[Sidenote: COMPLIMENTS AND CONGRATULATIONS.]

"Oh, Robert!" replied Captain Mangles: "when he is not engaged with the
engine he is perched at mast-head. I tell you he is a boy who mocks
sea-sickness. Only look at him!"

At a gesture of the captain, all eyes were turned towards the mainmast,
and every one could perceive Robert, suspended by the stays of the
foretop-gallant sail, a hundred feet aloft. Mary could not restrain a
motion of fear.

"Oh, be easy, miss!" said Captain Mangles. "I will answer for him, and
promise you I will present, in a short time, a famous sailor to Captain
Grant; for we shall find that worthy captain."

"May Heaven hear you, sir!" replied the young girl.

"My dear child," said Lord Glenarvan, "there is in all this something
providential, which ought to give us hope. We are not merely going, we
are led; we are not seeking blindly, we are guided. And then see all
these brave people enrolled in the service of so good a cause. Not only
shall we succeed in our enterprise, but it will be accomplished without
difficulty. I have promised Lady Helena a pleasure voyage; and, if I am
not mistaken, I shall keep my word."

"Edward," said Lady Glenarvan, "you are the best of men."

"Not so; but I have the best of crews, on the best of ships. Do you not
wonder at our Duncan, Miss Mary?"

"On the contrary, my lord," answered the young girl, "I don't so much
wonder as admire; for I am well acquainted with ships."

"Ah! indeed!"

"When a mere child, I played on my father's ships. He ought to have
made a sailor of me. If it were necessary, perhaps I should not now be
embarrassed in taking a reef or twisting a gasket."

"What is that you're saying, miss?" exclaimed the captain.

"If you talk so," continued Lord Glenarvan, "you will make a great
friend of Captain John; for he thinks nothing in the world can equal
the life of a sailor. He sees no other, even for a woman. Is it not so,
John?"

"Undoubtedly, your lordship," replied the young captain; "and yet, I
confess, Miss Grant is better in her place on deck, than taking a reef
in the top-sail. But still I am very much flattered to hear her speak
so."

"And especially when she admires the Duncan!" added Glenarvan.

"Right, my lord; for she deserves it."

"Upon my word," said Lady Helena, "since you are so proud of your
yacht, you make me anxious to examine her to the very hold, and see how
our brave sailors are quartered between-decks."

"Admirably," replied the captain; "they are quite at home there."

"Indeed they are, my dear Helena," said Lord Glenarvan. "This yacht
is a part of our old Caledonia,--a detached portion of the county of
Dumbarton, traveling by special favor, so that we have not left our
country. The Duncan is Malcolm Castle, and the ocean is Loch Lomond."

"Well, then, my dear Edward, do the honors of the castle," said Lady
Helena.

"I am at your disposal, madam," answered her husband; "but first let me
inform Olbinett."

The steward of the yacht was an excellent manager, a Scotchman, who
deserved to have been a Frenchman from his self-importance, and,
moreover, fulfilled his duties with zeal and intelligence. He was at
once ready for his master's commands.

"Olbinett, we are going to make a tour of the vessel before breakfast,"
said Glenarvan, as if a journey to Tarbet or Loch Katrine was in
question. "I hope we shall find the table ready on our return."

Olbinett bowed gravely.

[Illustration: This man, tall, lank, and shriveled, might have been
forty years old. He resembled a long, broad-headed nail, for his head
was large and thick, his forehead high, his nose prominent, his mouth
wide, and his chin blunt.]

"Do you accompany us, major?" asked Lady Helena.

"If you order it," replied MacNabb.

"Oh!" said Lord Glenarvan, "the major is absorbed in the smoke of his
cigar; we must not disturb him, for I assure you he is an inveterate
smoker, Miss Mary; he smokes all the time, even in his sleep."

The major made a sign of assent, and the passengers descended
between-decks.

MacNabb remained alone, talking to himself, according to his custom,
but never contradicting himself. Enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke,
he stood motionless, gazing back at the wake of the yacht. After a few
moments of contemplation, he turned and found himself face to face with
a new character. If _anything_ could have surprised him, it must have
been this meeting, for the passenger was absolutely unknown to him.

[Sidenote: A TELESCOPIC APPARITION.]

This man, tall, lank, and shriveled, might have been forty years old.
He resembled a long, broad-headed nail, for his head was large and
thick, his forehead high, his nose prominent, his mouth wide, and
his chin blunt. As for his eyes, they were hidden behind enormous
eye-glasses, and his look seemed to have that indecision peculiar
to nyctalops. His countenance indicated an intelligent and lively
person, while it had not the crabbed air of those stern people who from
principle never laugh, and whose stupidity is hidden beneath a serious
guise. The nonchalance and amiable freedom of this unknown nonentity
clearly proved that he knew how to take men and things at their best
advantage. Even without his speaking you felt that he was a talker; but
he was abstracted, after the manner of those who do not see what they
are looking at or hear what they are listening to. He wore a traveling
cap, stout yellow buskins and leather gaiters, pantaloons of maroon
velvet, and a jacket of the same material, whose innumerable pockets
seemed stuffed with note-books, memoranda, scraps, portfolios, and a
thousand articles as inconvenient as they were useless, not to speak
of a telescope which he carried in a sling.

The curiosity of this unknown being was a singular contrast to the
calmness of the major. He walked around MacNabb, and gazed at him
questioningly, whilst the latter did not trouble himself whence the
stranger came, whither he was going, or why he was on board the Duncan.

When this enigmatical character saw his approaches mocked by the
indifference of the major, he seized his telescope, which at its full
length measured four feet; and motionless, with legs straddled, like a
sign-post on a highway, he pointed his instrument to the line where sky
and water met. After a few moments of examination, he lowered it, and
resting it on the deck, leaned upon it as upon a cane. But immediately
the joints of the instrument closed, and the newly discovered
passenger, whose point of support suddenly failed, was stretched at the
foot of the mainmast.

[Illustration]

Any one else in the major's place would at least have smiled, but he
did not even wink. The unknown then assumed his rôle.

"Steward!" he cried, with an accent that betokened a foreigner.

He waited. No one appeared.

"Steward!" he repeated, in a louder tone.

Mr. Olbinett was passing just then on his way to the kitchen under the
forecastle. What was his astonishment to hear himself thus addressed by
this tall individual, who was utterly unknown to him!

"Where did this person come from?" said he to himself. "A friend of
Lord Glenarvan? It is impossible."

However, he came on deck, and approached the stranger.

"Are you the steward of the vessel?" the latter asked him.

"Yes, sir," replied Olbinett; "but I have not the honor----"

"I am the passenger of cabin number six."

"Number six?" repeated the steward.

"Certainly; and your name is----?"

"Olbinett."

"Well, Olbinett, my friend," answered the stranger of cabin number six,
"I must think of dinner, and acutely, too. For thirty-six hours I have
eaten nothing, or, rather, have slept, which is pardonable in a man
come all the way from Paris to Glasgow. What hour do you dine, if you
please?"

"At nine o'clock," answered Olbinett, mechanically.

The stranger attempted to consult his watch; but this took some time,
for he did not find it till he came to his ninth pocket.

[Sidenote: CONFUSION WORSE CONFOUNDED.]

"Well," said he, "it is not yet eight o'clock; therefore, Olbinett, a
biscuit and a glass of sherry for the present; for I am fainting with
hunger."

Olbinett listened without understanding. Moreover, the unknown kept
talking, and passed from one subject to another with extreme volubility.

"Well," said he, "has not the captain risen yet? And the mate? What is
he doing? Is he asleep, too? Fortunately, the weather is beautiful, the
wind favorable, and the ship goes on quite by herself----"

Just as he said this, Captain Mangles appeared at the companion-way.

"Here is the captain," said Olbinett.

"Ah, I am delighted," cried the stranger, "delighted to make your
acquaintance, Captain Burton!"

If any one was ever astounded, John Mangles certainly was, not less at
hearing himself called "Captain Burton," than at seeing this stranger
on board his vessel.

The latter continued, with more animation:

"Permit me to shake hands with you, and if I did not do so day before
yesterday, it was that no one might be embarrassed at the moment of
departure. But to-day, captain, I am truly happy to meet you."

Captain Mangles opened his eyes in measureless astonishment, looking
first at Olbinett, and then at the new comer.

"Now," continued the latter, "the introduction is over, and we are old
friends. Let us have a talk; and tell me, are you satisfied with the
Scotia?"

"What do you mean by the Scotia?" asked the captain, at last.

"Why, the Scotia that carries us: a good ship, whose commander, the
brave Captain Burton, I have heard praised no less for his physical
than his moral qualities. Are you the father of the great African
traveler of that name? If so, my compliments!"

"Sir," replied Captain Mangles, "not only am I not the father of the
traveler Burton, but I am not even Captain Burton."

"Ah!" said the unknown, "it is the mate of the Scotia then, Mr.
Burdness, whom I am addressing at this moment?"

"Mr. Burdness?" replied Captain Mangles, who began to suspect the
truth. But was he talking to a fool, or a rogue? This was a question in
his mind, and he was about to explain himself intelligibly, when Lord
Glenarvan, his wife, and Miss Grant came on deck.

The stranger perceived them, and cried,--

"Ah! passengers! passengers! excellent! I hope, Mr. Burdness, you are
going to introduce me----"

And advancing with perfect ease, without waiting for the captain,--

"Madam" said he to Miss Grant, "Miss" to Lady Helena, "Sir" he added,
addressing Lord Glenarvan.

"Lord Glenarvan," said Captain Mangles.

"My lord," continued the unknown, "I beg your pardon for introducing
myself, but at sea we must relax a little from etiquette. I hope we
shall soon be acquainted, and that, in the society of these ladies, the
passage of the Scotia will seem as short to us as agreeable."

Lady Helena and Miss Grant could not find a word to answer. They were
completely bewildered by the presence of this intruder.

"Sir," said Glenarvan, at length, "whom have I the honor of addressing?"

"Jacques Eliacim François Marie Paganel, secretary of the Geographical
Society of Paris; corresponding member of the societies of Berlin,
Bombay, Darmstadt, Leipsic, London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and New
York; honorary member of the Royal Geographical and Ethnographical
Institute of the East Indies, who, after passing twenty years of his
life in studying geography, designs now to enter upon a roving life,
and is directing his course to India to continue there the labors of
the great travelers."



CHAPTER VII.

JACQUES PAGANEL IS UNDECEIVED.


The secretary of the Geographical Society must have been an agreeable
person, for all this was said with much modesty. Lord Glenarvan,
moreover, knew perfectly whom he had met. The name and merit of Jacques
Paganel were well known to him. His geographical labors, his reports
on modern discoveries, published in the bulletins of the Society, his
correspondence with the entire world, had made him one of the most
distinguished scientific men of France. Thus Glenarvan extended his
hand very cordially to his unexpected guest.

"And now that our introduction is over," added he, "will you permit me,
Monsieur Paganel, to ask you a question?"

"Twenty, my lord," replied Jacques Paganel; "it will always be a
pleasure to converse with you."

"You arrived on board this vessel the day before yesterday?"

"Yes, my lord, day before yesterday, at eight o'clock in the evening.
I took a cab from the Caledonian Railway to the Scotia, in which I had
engaged cabin number six at Paris. The night was dark. I saw no one on
board. Feeling fatigued by thirty hours of travel, and knowing that
a good way to avoid sea-sickness is to go to bed on embarking, and
not stir from your bunk for the first days of the voyage, I retired
immediately, and have conscientiously slept thirty-six hours, I assure
you."

Jacques Paganel's hearers now knew the reason of his presence on board.
The Frenchman, mistaking the vessel, had embarked while the crew of
the Duncan were engaged in the ceremony at Saint Mungo. Everything was
explained. But what would the geographer say, when he learned the name
and destination of the vessel on which he had taken passage?

"So, Monsieur Paganel," said Glenarvan, "you have chosen Calcutta as
your centre of action?"

"Yes, my lord. To see India is an idea that I have cherished all my
life. It is my brightest dream, which shall be realized at last in the
country of the elephants and the Thugs."

"Then you would not care to visit another country?"

"No, my lord; it would be even disagreeable, for I have letters from
Lord Somerset to the governor-general of India, and a mission from the
Geographical Society which I must fulfil."

"Ah! you have a mission?"

"Yes, a useful and curious voyage to undertake, the programme of
which has been arranged by my scientific friend and colleague, M.
Vivien de Saint Martin. It is to follow in the steps of the brothers
Schlagintweit, and many other celebrated travelers. I hope to succeed
where Missionary Krick unfortunately failed in 1846. In a word, I wish
to discover the course of the Yaroo-tsang-bo-tsoo, which waters Thibet,
and finally to settle whether this river does not join the Brahmapootra
in the northeast part of Assam. A gold medal is promised to that
traveler who shall succeed in supplying this much-needed information on
Indian geography."

Paganel was grandiloquent. He spoke with a lofty animation, and was
carried away in the rapid flight of imagination. It would have been
as impossible to check him as to stay the Rhine at the Falls of
Schaffhausen.

"Monsieur Jacques Paganel," said Lord Glenarvan, after a moment
of silence, "that is certainly a fine voyage, and one for which
science would be very grateful; but I will not further prolong your
ignorance. For the present, you must give up the pleasure of seeing
India."


"Give it up! And why?"

"Because you are turning your back upon the Indian peninsula."

"How? Captain Burton----"

"I am not Captain Burton," replied John Mangles.

"But the Scotia?"

"This vessel is not the Scotia."

Paganel's amazement cannot be depicted. He looked first at Lord
Glenarvan, always serious; then at Lady Helena and Miss Grant, whose
features expressed a sympathetic disappointment; and finally at Captain
Mangles, who was smiling, and the imperturbable major. Then, raising
his shoulders and drawing down his glasses from his forehead to his
eyes, he exclaimed,--

"What a joke!"

But at that his eyes fell upon the steering wheel, on which were
inscribed these two words, thus:

[Illustration]

"The Duncan! the Duncan!" he cried in a tone of real despair; and,
leaping down the companion-way, he rushed to his cabin.

When the unfortunate geographer had disappeared, no one on board,
except the major, could retain gravity, and the laugh was communicated
even to the sailors. To mistake the railroad was not so bad; to take
the train to Dumbarton, instead of Edinburgh, would do. But to mistake
the vessel, and be sailing to Chili, when he wished to go to India, was
the height of absent-mindedness.

[Sidenote: ABSENT-MINDEDNESS.]

"On the whole, I am not astonished at this on the part of Jacques
Paganel," said Glenarvan; "he is noted for such blunders. He once
published a celebrated map of America, in which he located Japan.
However, he is a distinguished scholar, and one of the best geographers
of France."

[Illustration]

"But what are we going to do with the poor gentleman?" asked Lady
Helena. "We cannot take him to Patagonia."

"Why not?" replied MacNabb gravely. "We are not responsible for his
errors. Suppose he were in a railroad car, would it stop for him?"

"No; but he could get out at the first station," answered Lady Helena.

"Well," said Glenarvan, "he can do so now, if he pleases, at our first
landing."

At this moment Paganel, woeful and humble, reappeared on deck, after
convincing himself that his baggage was on board. He kept repeating
those fatal words: "The Duncan! the Duncan!" He could find no others
in his vocabulary. He went to and fro, examining the rigging of the
yacht, and questioning the mute horizon of the open sea. At last he
returned to Lord Glenarvan.

[Illustration]

"And this Duncan is going----?" he asked.

"To America, Monsieur Paganel."

"And where especially?"

"To Concepcion."

"To Chili! to Chili!" cried the unfortunate geographer. "And my mission
to India! But what will M. de Quatrefages say, the President of the
Central Commission? How shall I represent myself at the sessions of the
Society?"

[Sidenote: COURTESY AND CONVERSE.]

"Come, monsieur," said Glenarvan, "do not despair. Everything can
be arranged, and you will only have to submit to a delay of little
consequence. The Yaroo-tsang-bo-tsoo will wait for you in the mountains
of Thibet. We shall soon reach Madeira, and there you will find a
vessel to take you back to Europe."

"I thank you, my lord, and must be resigned. But we can say this is an
extraordinary adventure, which would not have happened but for me. And
my cabin which is engaged on board the Scotia?"

"Oh, as for the Scotia, I advise you to give her up for the present."

"But," said Paganel after examining the vessel again, "the Duncan is a
pleasure yacht."

"Yes, sir," replied Captain Mangles, "and belongs to his lordship, Lord
Glenarvan----"

"Who begs you to make free use of his hospitality," said Glenarvan.

"A thousand thanks, my lord," replied Paganel; "I am truly sensible
to your courtesy. But permit me to make a simple remark. India is a
beautiful country. It offers marvelous surprises to travelers. These
ladies have probably never visited it. Well, the man at the helm needs
only to give a turn to the wheel, and the Duncan will go as easily to
Calcutta as Concepcion. Now, since this is a pleasure voyage----"

The negative reception that met Paganel's proposal did not permit him
to develop it. He paused.

"Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena at length, "if this were only a
pleasure voyage, I would answer: 'Let us all go to India,' and Lord
Glenarvan would not disapprove. But the Duncan is going to recover
some shipwrecked sailors, abandoned on the coast of Patagonia; and she
cannot change so humane a course."

In a few moments the Frenchman was acquainted with the situation of
affairs, and learned, not without emotion, the providential discovery
of the documents, the story of Captain Grant, and Lady Helena's
generous proposal.

"Madam," said he, "permit me to admire your conduct in all this, and to
admire it without reserve. May your yacht continue on her course; I
would reproach myself for delaying her a single day."

"Will you then join in our search?" asked Lady Helena.

"It is impossible, madam; I must fulfil my mission. I shall disembark
at your first landing."

"At Madeira then," said Captain Mangles.

"At Madeira let it be. I shall be only one hundred and eighty leagues
from Lisbon, and will wait there for means of further conveyance."

"Well, Monsieur Paganel," said Glenarvan, "it shall be as you desire;
and, for my part, I am happy that I can offer you for a few days the
hospitalities of my vessel. May you not grow weary of our company."

"Oh, my lord," exclaimed the geographer, "I am still too happy in being
so agreeably disappointed. However, it is a very ludicrous situation
for a man who takes passage for India, and is sailing to America."

In spite of this mortifying reflection, Paganel made the best use of a
delay that he could not avoid. He showed himself amiable, and even gay;
he enchanted the ladies with his good humor, and before the end of the
day he was the friend of every one. At his request the famous document
was shown to him. He studied it carefully, long and minutely. No other
interpretation appeared to him possible. Mary Grant and her brother
inspired him with the liveliest interest. He gave them good hopes. His
way of distinguishing the events, and the undeniable success that he
predicted for the Duncan, elicited a smile from the young girl.

[Sidenote: THIS, OR THAT, OR NEITHER.]

As to Lady Helena, when he learned that she was the daughter of William
Tuffnel, there was an outburst of surprise and admiration. He had known
her father. What a bold discoverer! How many letters they had exchanged
when the latter was corresponding member of the Society! He it was who
had introduced him to M. Malte-Brun. What a meeting! and how much
pleasure to travel with the daughter of such a man! Finally, he asked
Lady Helena's permission to kiss her, to which she consented, although
it was perhaps a little "improper."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE GEOGRAPHER'S RESOLUTION.


Meanwhile the yacht, favored by the currents, was advancing rapidly
towards the equator. In a few days the island of Madeira came in view.
Glenarvan, faithful to his promise, offered to land his new guest here.

"My dear lord," replied Paganel, "I will not be formal with you. Before
my arrival on board, did you intend to stop at Madeira?"

"No," said Glenarvan.

"Well, permit me to profit by the consequences of my unlucky blunder.
Madeira is an island too well known. Everything has been said and
written about it; and it is, moreover, rapidly declining in point of
civilization. If, then, it is all the same to you, let us land at the
Canaries."

"Very well, at the Canaries," replied Glenarvan. "That will not take us
out of our way."

"I know it, my dear lord. At the Canaries, you see, there are three
groups to study, not to speak of the Peak of Teneriffe, which I have
always desired to see. This is a fine opportunity. I will profit by
it; and, while waiting for a vessel, will attempt the ascent of this
celebrated mountain."

"As you please, my dear Paganel," replied Glenarvan, who could not help
smiling, and with good reason.

The Canaries are only a short distance from Madeira, scarcely two
hundred and fifty miles, a mere trifle for so good a vessel as the
Duncan.

The same day, at two o'clock in the afternoon, Captain Mangles and
Paganel were walking on the deck. The Frenchman pressed his companion
with lively questions concerning Chili. All at once the captain
interrupted him, and pointing towards the southern horizon, said,--

"Mr. Paganel!"

"My dear captain," replied the geographer.

"Please cast your eyes in that direction. Do you see nothing?"

"Nothing."

"You are not looking right. It is not on the horizon, but above, in the
clouds."

"In the clouds? I look in vain."

"Stop, now, just on a line with the end of the bowsprit."

"I see nothing."

"You do not wish to see. However that may be, although we are forty
miles distant, you understand, the Peak of Teneriffe is visible above
the horizon."

Whether Paganel wished to see or not, he had to yield to the evidence
some hours afterwards, or, at least, confess himself blind.

"You perceive it now?" said his companion.

"Yes, yes, perfectly!" replied Paganel. "And that," added he in a
contemptuous tone, "is what you call the Peak of Teneriffe?"

"The same."

"It appears to be of very moderate height."

"Yet it is eleven thousand feet above the level of the sea."

"Not so high as Mont Blanc."

"Very possibly; but when you come to climb it, you will find it,
perhaps, high enough."

[Illustration: They could scarcely see the city, which was on an
elevated plain in the form of a terrace, resting on volcanic rocks
three hundred feet in height. The appearance of the island through this
rainy curtain was misty.]

"Oh! climb it, my dear captain? What is the use, I ask you, after
Humboldt and Bonpland? What can I do after these great men?"

[Illustration: Peak of Teneriffe.]

"Indeed," replied Captain Mangles, "there is nothing left but to wander
about. It is a pity, for you would be very tired waiting for a vessel
at Teneriffe. You cannot look for many distractions there."

"Except my own," said Paganel, laughing. "But, my dear captain, have
not the Cape Verd Islands important landings?"

"Certainly. Nothing is easier than to land at Villa-Praïa."

"Not to speak of an advantage that is not to be despised," answered
Paganel; "that the Cape Verd Islands are not far from Senegal, where I
shall find fellow-countrymen."

"As you please, Mr. Paganel," replied Captain Mangles. "I am certain
that geographical science will gain by your sojourn in these islands.
We must land there to take in coal; you will, therefore, cause us no
delay."

[Sidenote: DECLINED, WITH THANKS.]

So saying, the captain gave the order to pass to the southeast of the
Canaries. The celebrated peak was soon left on the larboard; and the
Duncan, continuing her rapid course, cut the Tropic of Cancer the next
morning at five o'clock. The weather there changed. The atmosphere
had the moisture and oppressiveness of the rainy season, disagreeable
to travelers, but beneficial to the inhabitants of the African
islands, who have no trees, and consequently need water. The sea was
boisterous, and prevented the passengers from remaining on deck; but
the conversation in the cabin was not less animated.

The next day Paganel began to collect his baggage preparatory to
his approaching departure. In a short time they entered the bay of
Villa-Praïa, and anchored opposite the city in eight fathoms of
water. The weather was stormy and the surf high, although the bay was
sheltered from the winds. The rain fell in torrents so that they could
scarcely see the city, which was on an elevated plain in the form of a
terrace, resting on volcanic rocks three hundred feet in height. The
appearance of the island through this rainy curtain was misty.

Shipping the coal was not accomplished without great difficulty, and
the passengers saw themselves confined to the cabin, while sea and
sky mingled their waters in an indescribable tumult. The weather was,
therefore, the topic of conversation on board. Each one had his say
except the major, who would have witnessed the deluge itself with
perfect indifference. Paganel walked to and fro, shaking his head.

"It is an imperative fact," said he.

"It is certain," replied Glenarvan, "that the elements declare
themselves against you."

"I will see about that."

"You cannot face such a storm," said Lady Helena.

"I, madam? Certainly. I fear only for my baggage and instruments. They
will all be lost."

"Our landing is the only thing doubtful," resumed Glenarvan. "Once
at Villa-Praïa, you will not have very uncomfortable quarters; rather
uncleanly, to be sure, in the company of monkeys and swine, whose
surroundings are not always agreeable; but a traveler does not regard
that so critically. Besides, you can hope in seven or eight months to
embark for Europe."

"Seven or eight months!" exclaimed Paganel.

"At least that. The Cape Verd Islands are very rarely frequented
during the rainy season. But you can employ your time profitably. This
archipelago is still little known. There is much to do, even now."

"But," replied Paganel in a pitiful tone, "what could I do after the
investigations of the geologist Deville?"

"That is really a pity," said Lady Helena. "What will become of you,
Monsieur Paganel?"

Paganel was silent for a few moments.

"You had decidedly better have landed at Madeira," rejoined Glenarvan,
"although there is no wine there."

"My dear Glenarvan," continued Paganel at last, "where shall you land
next?"

"At Concepcion."

"Alas! but that would bring me directly away from India!"

"No; for when you have passed Cape Horn you approach the Indies."

"I very much doubt it."

"Besides," continued Glenarvan with the greatest gravity, "as long as
you are at the Indies, what difference does it make whether they are
the East or the West?"

"'What difference does it make'?"

"The inhabitants of the Pampas of Patagonia are Indians as well as the
natives of the Punjab."

"Eh! my lord," exclaimed Paganel, "that is a reason I should never have
imagined!"

[Sidenote: BAIT FOR A TRAVELLER.]

"And then, my dear Paganel, you know that you can gain the gold medal
in any country whatever. There is something to do, to seek, to
discover, everywhere, in the chains of the Cordilleras as well as the
mountains of Thibet."

"But the course of the Yaroo-tsang-bo-tsoo?"

"Certainly. You can replace that by the Rio Colorado. This is a river
very little known, and one of those which flow on the map too much
according to the fancy of the geographer."

"I know it, my dear lord; there are errors of several degrees. I do not
doubt that at my request the Society would have sent me to Patagonia as
well as to India; but I did not think of it."

"The result of your continual abstraction."

"Well, Monsieur Paganel, shall you accompany us?" asked Lady Helena in
her most persuasive tone.

"And my mission, madam?"

"I inform you that we shall pass through the Strait of Magellan,"
continued Glenarvan.

"My lord, you are a tempter."

"I add that we shall visit Port Famine."

"Port Famine!" cried the Frenchman, assailed on all sides; "that port
so celebrated in geographical fasts!"

"Consider also, Monsieur Paganel," continued Lady Helena, "that in this
enterprise you will have the right to associate the name of France with
that of Scotland."

"Yes; doubtless."

"A geographer may be very serviceable to our expedition; and what is
more noble than for science to enlist in the service of humanity?"

"That is well said, madam."

"Believe me, try chance, or rather Providence. Imitate us. It has sent
us this document; we have started. It has cast you on board the Duncan;
do not leave her."

"And do you, indeed, wish me, my good friends?" replied Paganel. "Well,
you desire me to stay very much?"

"And you, Paganel, you are dying to stay," retorted Glenarvan.

"Truly," cried the geographer, "but I fear I am very indiscreet."

Thus far the Duncan had acquitted herself admirably: in every way her
powers for steaming or sailing had been sufficiently tested, and her
captain and passengers were alike satisfied with her performance and
with one another.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IX.

THROUGH THE STRAIT OF MAGELLAN.


The joy on board was general, when Paganel's resolution was known.
Young Robert threw himself on his neck with very demonstrative
delight. The worthy geographer almost fell backwards. "A rough little
gentleman," said he; "I will teach him geography." As Captain Mangles
had engaged to make him a sailor, Glenarvan a man of honor, the major a
boy of coolness, Lady Helena a noble and generous being, and Mary Grant
a pupil grateful towards such patrons, Robert was evidently to become
one day an accomplished gentleman.

The Duncan soon finished shipping her coal, and then leaving these
gloomy regions she gained the current from the southeast coast of
Brazil, and, after crossing the equator with a fine breeze from the
north, she entered the southern hemisphere. The passage was effected
without difficulty, and every one had good hopes. On this voyage in
search of Captain Grant, the probabilities increased every day. Their
captain was one of the most confident on board; but his confidence
proceeded especially from the desire that he cherished so strongly at
heart, of seeing Miss Mary happy and consoled. He was particularly
interested in this young girl; and this feeling he concealed so well,
that, except Miss Grant and himself, no one on board the Duncan had
perceived it.

As for the learned geographer, he was probably the happiest man in the
southern hemisphere. He passed his time in studying the maps with which
he covered the cabin-table; and then followed daily discussions with
Mr. Olbinett, so that he could scarcely set the table.

But Paganel had all the passengers on his side except the major,
who was very indifferent to geographical questions, especially at
dinner-time. Having discovered a whole cargo of odd books in the mate's
chests, and among them a number of Cervantes' works, the Frenchman
resolved to learn Spanish, which nobody on board knew, and which would
facilitate his search on the shores of Chili. Thanks to his love for
philology, he did not despair of speaking this new tongue fluently on
arriving at Concepcion. He therefore studied assiduously, and was heard
incessantly muttering heterogeneous syllables. During his leisure hours
he did not fail to give young Robert practical instruction, and taught
him the history of the country they were rapidly approaching.

In the meantime the Duncan was proceeding at a remarkable rate. She
cut the Tropic of Capricorn, and her prow was headed toward the strait
of the celebrated geographer. Now and then the low shores of Patagonia
were seen, but like an almost invisible line on the horizon. They
sailed along the coast for more than ten miles, but Paganel's famous
telescope gave him only a vague idea of these American shores.

The vessel soon found herself at the head of the strait, and entered
without hesitation. This way is generally preferred by steam-vessels
bound for the Pacific. Its exact length is three hundred and
seventy-six miles. Ships of the greatest tonnage can always find deep
water, even near its shores, an excellent bottom, and many springs of
water. The rivers abound in fish, the forest in game, there are safe
and easy landings at twenty places, and, in short, a thousand resources
that are wanting in the Strait of Lemaire, and off the terrible rocks
of Cape Horn, which are continually visited by storms and tempests.

[Illustration: Sometimes the tips of her yards would graze the branches
of the beeches that hung over the waves.]

During the first hours of the passage, till you reach Cape Gregory,
the shores are low and sandy. The entire passage lasted scarcely
thirty-six hours, and this moving panorama of the two shores well
rewarded the pains the geographer took to admire it under the radiant
beams of the southern sun. No inhabitant appeared on the shores of the
continent; and only a few Fuegians wandered along the barren rocks of
Terra del Fuego.

At one moment the Duncan rounded the peninsula of Brunswick between
two magnificent sights. Just here the strait cuts between stupendous
masses of granite. The base of the mountains was hidden in the heart
of immense forests, while their summits, whitened with eternal snow,
were lost in the clouds. Towards the southeast Mount Taru towered
six thousand five hundred feet aloft. Night came, preceded by a long
twilight, the light melting away insensibly by gentle degrees, while
the sky was studded with brilliant stars.

In the midst of this partial obscurity, the yacht boldly continued on
her course, without casting anchor in the safe bays with which the
shores abound. Sometimes the tips of her yards would graze the branches
of the beeches that hung over the waves. At others her propeller would
beat the waters of the great rivers, starting geese, ducks, snipe,
teal, and all the feathered tribes of the marshes. Soon deserted ruins
appeared, and fallen monuments, to which the night lent a grand aspect;
these were the mournful remains of an abandoned colony, whose name
will be an eternal contradiction to the fertility of the coasts and
the rich game of the forests. It was Port Famine, the place that the
Spaniard Sarmiento colonized in 1581 with four hundred emigrants. Here
he founded the city of San Felipe. But the extreme severity of the cold
weakened the colony; famine devoured those whom the winter had spared,
and in 1587 the explorer Cavendish found the last of these four hundred
unfortunates dying of hunger amid the ruins of a city only six years in
existence.

[Sidenote: CHEERLESS MEMORIES.]

The vessel coasted along these deserted shores. At daybreak she sailed
in the midst of the narrow passes, between beeches, ash-trees, and
birches, from the bosom of which emerged ivy-clad domes, cupolas
tapestried with the hardy holly, and lofty spires, among which the
obelisk of Buckland rose to a great height. Far out in the sea sported
droves of seals and whales of great size, judging by their spouting,
which could be seen at a distance of four miles. At last they doubled
Cape Froward, still bristling with the ices of winter. On the other
side of the strait, on Terra del Fuego, rose Mount Sarmiento to the
height of six thousand feet, an enormous mass of rock broken by bands
of clouds which formed as it were an aerial archipelago in the sky.

[Illustration: Port Famine.]

Cape Froward is the real end of the American continent, for Cape Horn
is only a lone rock in the sea. Passing this point the strait narrowed
between Brunswick Peninsula, and Desolation Island. Then to fertile
shores succeeded a line of wild barren coast, cut by a thousand inlets
of this tortuous labyrinth.

The Duncan unerringly and unhesitatingly pursued its capricious
windings, mingling her columns of smoke with the mists on the rocks.
Without lessening her speed, she passed several Spanish factories
established on these deserted shores. At Cape Tamar the strait widened.
The yacht rounded the Narborough Islands, and approached the southern
shores. At last, thirty-six hours after entering the strait, the rocks
of Cape Pilares were discerned at the extreme point of Desolation
Island. An immense open glittering sea extended before her prow, and
Jacques Paganel, hailing it with an enthusiastic gesture, felt moved
like Ferdinand Magellan himself, when the sails of the Trinidad swelled
before the breezes of the Pacific.



CHAPTER X.

THE COURSE DECIDED.


Eight days after doubling Cape Pilares the Duncan entered at full speed
the Bay of Talcahuana, a magnificent estuary, twelve miles long and
nine broad. The weather was beautiful. Not a cloud is seen in the sky
of this country from November to March, and the wind from the south
blows continually along these coasts, which are protected by the chain
of the Andes.

Captain Mangles, according to Lord Glenarvan's orders, had kept close
to the shore of the continent, examining the numerous wrecks that lined
it. A waif, a broken spar, a piece of wood fashioned by the hand of
man, might guide the Duncan to the scene of the shipwreck. But nothing
was seen, and the yacht continued her course and anchored in the harbor
of Talcahuana forty-two days after her departure from the waters of the
Clyde.

[Sidenote: LEARNING SPANISH!]

Glenarvan at once lowered the boat, and, followed by Paganel, landed
at the foot of the palisade. The learned geographer, profiting by the
circumstance, would have made use of the language which he had studied
so conscientiously; but, to his great astonishment, he could not make
himself understood by the natives.

"The accent is what I need," said he.

"Let us go to the Custom-house," replied Glenarvan.

There they were informed by means of several English words, accompanied
by expressive gestures, that the British consul resided at Concepcion.
It was only an hour's journey. Glenarvan easily found two good horses,
and, a short time after, Paganel and he entered the walls of this great
city, which was built by the enterprising genius of Valdivia, the
valiant companion of Pizarro.

How greatly it had declined from its ancient splendor! Often pillaged
by the natives, burnt in 1819, desolate, ruined, its walls still
blackened with the flames of devastation, eclipsed by Talcahuana, it
now scarcely numbered eight thousand souls. Under the feet of its
idle inhabitants the streets had grown into prairies. There was no
commerce, no activity, no business. The mandolin resounded from every
balcony, languishing songs issued from the lattices of the windows, and
Concepcion, the ancient city of men, had become a village of women and
children.

Glenarvan appeared little desirous of seeking the causes of this
decline--though Jacques Paganel attacked him on this subject--and,
without losing an instant, betook himself to the house of J. R.
Bentock, Esq., consul of Her Britannic Majesty. This individual
received him very courteously, and when he learned the story of Captain
Grant undertook to search along the entire coast.

The question whether the Britannia had been wrecked on the shores of
Chili or Araucania was decided in the negative. No report of such an
event had come either to the consul, or his colleagues in other parts
of the country.

But Glenarvan was not discouraged. He returned to Talcahuana, and,
sparing neither fatigue, trouble, or money, he sent men to the coast,
but their search was in vain. The most minute inquiries among the
people of the vicinity were of no avail. They were forced to conclude
that the Britannia had left no trace of her shipwreck.

[Illustration: In Concepcion.]

[Sidenote: "TRY AGAIN!"]

Glenarvan then informed his companions of the failure of his endeavors.
Mary Grant and her brother could not restrain their grief. It was now
six days since the arrival of the Duncan at Talcahuana. The passengers
were together in the cabin. Lady Helena was consoling, not by her
words--for what could she say?--but by her caresses, the two children
of the captain. Jacques Paganel had taken up the document again, and
was regarding it with earnest attention, as if he would have drawn from
it new secrets. For an hour he had examined it thus, when Glenarvan,
addressing him, said,--

"Paganel, I appeal to your sagacity. Is the interpretation we have made
of this document incorrect? Is the sense of these words illogical?"

Paganel did not answer. He was reflecting.

"Are we mistaken as to the supposed scene of the shipwreck?" continued
Glenarvan. "Does not the name Patagonia suggest itself at once to the
mind?"

Paganel was still silent.

"In short," said Glenarvan, "does not the word _Indian_ justify us
still more?"

"Perfectly," replied MacNabb.

"And therefore, is it not evident that these shipwrecked men, when they
wrote these lines, expected to be prisoners of the Indians?"

"There you are wrong, my dear lord," said Paganel, at last; "and if
your other conclusions are just, the last at least does not seem to me
rational."

"What do you mean?" asked Lady Helena, while all eyes were turned
towards the geographer.

"I mean," answered Paganel, emphasizing his words, "that Captain Grant
is _now prisoner of the Indians_: and I will add that the document
leaves no doubt on this point."

"Explain yourself, sir," said Miss Grant.

"Nothing is easier, my dear Mary. Instead of reading _they will be
prisoners_, read _they are prisoners_, and all will be clear."

"But that is impossible," replied Glenarvan.

"Impossible? And why, my noble friend?" asked Paganel, smiling.

"Because the bottle must have been thrown when the vessel was breaking
on the rocks. Hence the degrees of longitude and latitude apply to the
very place of shipwreck."

"Nothing proves it," said Paganel, earnestly; "and I do not see why
the shipwrecked sailors, after being carried by the Indians into the
interior of the country, could not have sought to make known by means
of this bottle the place of their captivity."

"Simply, my dear Paganel, because to throw a bottle into the sea it is
necessary, at least, that the sea should be before you."

"Or, in the absence of the sea," added Paganel, "the rivers which flow
into it."

An astonished silence followed this unexpected, yet reasonable, answer.
By the flash that brightened the eyes of his hearers Paganel knew that
each of them had conceived a new hope. Lady Helena was the first to
resume the conversation.

"What an idea!" she exclaimed.

"What a _good_ idea!" added the geographer, simply.

"Your advice then?" asked Glenarvan.

"My advice is to find the thirty-seventh parallel, just where it meets
the American coast, and follow it, without deviating half a degree, to
the point where it strikes the Atlantic. Perhaps we shall find on its
course the survivors of the Britannia."

"A feeble chance," replied the major.

"However feeble it may be," continued Paganel, "we ought not to neglect
it. If I am right that this bottle reached the sea by following the
current of a river, we cannot fail to come upon the traces of the
prisoners. Look, my friends, look at the map of this country, and I
will convince you beyond a doubt."

[Sidenote: NIL DESPERANDUM!]

So saying, Paganel spread out before them upon the table a large map of
Chili and the Argentine Provinces. "Look," said he, "and follow me in
this passage across the American continent. Let us pass over the narrow
strip of Chili and the Cordilleras of the Andes, and descend into the
midst of the Pampas. Are rivers, streams, water-courses, wanting in
these regions? No. Here are the Rio Negro, the Rio Colorado, and their
affluents, cut by the thirty-seventh parallel, all of which might have
served to transport the document. There, perhaps, in the midst of a
tribe, in the hands of settled Indians, on the shores of these unknown
rivers, in the gorges of the sierras, those whom I have the right to
call our friends are awaiting an interposition of Providence. Ought
we, then, to disappoint their hopes? Do you not think we should follow
across these countries an unswerving course? And if, contrary to all
expectation, I am still mistaken, is it not our duty to trace this
parallel to the very end, and, if necessary, make upon it the tour of
the world?"

These words, spoken with a noble enthusiasm, excited a deep emotion
among Paganel's hearers. All rose to shake hands with him.

"Yes, my father is there!" cried Robert Grant, devouring the map with
his eyes.

"And wherever he is," replied Glenarvan, "we shall find him, my child.
Nothing is more consistent than our friend Paganel's interpretation,
and we must follow without hesitation the course he has indicated.
Either Captain Grant is in the hands of countless Indians, or is
prisoner in a feeble tribe. In the latter case, we will rescue him. In
the former, after ascertaining his situation, we will join the Duncan
on the eastern coast, sail to Buenos Ayres, and with a detachment,
organized by the major, can overcome all the Indians of the Argentine
Plains."

"Yes, yes, your lordship," answered Captain Mangles; "and I will add
that this passage of the continent will be without peril."

"Without peril, or fatigue," continued Paganel. "How many have already
accomplished it who had scarcely our means for success, and whose
courage was not sustained by the grandeur of the undertaking!"

"Sir, sir," exclaimed Mary Grant, in a voice broken with emotion, "how
can I thank a devotion that exposes you to so many dangers?"

"Dangers!" cried Paganel. "Who uttered the word _danger_?"

"Not I!" replied Robert Grant, with flashing eye and determined look.

"Danger!" repeated Paganel; "does such a thing exist? Moreover, what is
the question? A journey of scarcely three hundred and fifty leagues,
since we shall proceed in a straight line; a journey which will be
accomplished in a favorable latitude and climate; in short, a journey
whose duration will be only a month at most. It is a mere walk."

"Monsieur Paganel," asked Lady Helena at last, "do you think that, if
the shipwrecked sailors have fallen into the power of the Indians,
their lives have been spared?"

"Certainly I do, madam. The Indians are not cannibals; far from that,
one of my countrymen whom I knew in the Society was three years
prisoner among the Indians of the Pampas. He suffered, was ill-treated,
but at last gained the victory in this trying ordeal. A European is
a useful person in these countries. The Indians know his value, and
esteem him very highly."

"Well then, there is no more hesitation," said Glenarvan; "we must
start, and that, too, without delay. What course shall we take?"

"An easy and agreeable one," replied Paganel. "A few mountains to begin
with; then a gentle descent on the eastern slope of the Andes; and at
last a level, grassy, sandy plain, a real garden."

"Let us see the map," said the major.

"Here it is, my dear MacNabb. We shall begin at the end of the
thirty-seventh parallel on the coast of Chili. After passing through
the capital of Araucania, we shall strike the Cordilleras, and
descending their steep declivities across the Rio Colorado, we shall
reach the Pampas. Passing the frontiers of Buenos Ayres, we shall
continue our search until we reach the shores of the Atlantic."

[Sidenote: A STROLL ACROSS THE COUNTRY.]

Thus speaking and developing the programme of the expedition, Paganel
did not even take the trouble to look at the map spread before him.
And he had no need to; educated in the schools of Frézier, Molina,
Humboldt, and Miers, his unerring memory could neither be deceived nor
baffled. After finishing his plan, he added:

"Therefore, my dear friends, the course is straight. In thirty days we
shall accomplish it, and arrive before the Duncan on the eastern shore,
since the westerly winds will delay her progress."

"The Duncan then," said Captain Mangles, "will cross the thirty-seventh
parallel between Cape Corrientes and Cape St. Antonio?"

"Exactly."

"And whom would you constitute the members of such an expedition?"
asked Glenarvan.

"The fewer the better. The only point is to ascertain the situation of
Captain Grant, and not to engage in combat with the Indians. I think
that Lord Glenarvan, as our chief, the major, who would yield his place
to no one, your servant Jacques Paganel----"

"And I!" cried Robert Grant.

"Robert?" said Mary.

"And why not?" answered Paganel. "Travels develop youth. We four, then,
and three sailors of the Duncan----"

"What," exclaimed Captain Mangles, "your lordship does not intercede
for me?"

"My dear fellow," replied Glenarvan, "we shall leave the ladies on
board, the dearest objects we have in the world. Who would watch over
them, if not the devoted captain of the Duncan?"

"We cannot accompany you, then," said Lady Helena, whose eyes were
dimmed by a mist of sadness.

"My dear wife," replied Glenarvan, "our journey will be performed with
unusual rapidity, our separation will be short, and----"

[Illustration: The mate, Tom Austin, Wilson, a powerful fellow, and
Mulready, were the fortunate ones.]

[Sidenote: GOOD AFTERNOON!]

"Yes, yes; I understand you," answered Lady Helena. "Go, then, and may
you succeed in your enterprise."

"Besides, this is not a journey," added Paganel.

"What is it, then?" asked Lady Helena.

"A passage, nothing more. We shall pass, that is all, like honest
men, over the country and do all the good possible. '_Transire
benefaciendo_' is our motto."

With these words the discussion ended. The preparations were begun that
very day, and it was resolved to keep the expedition secret, in order
not to alarm the Indians. The 14th of October was fixed for the day of
departure.

When they came to choose the sailors who were to go, they all offered
their services, and Glenarvan was forced to make a choice. He preferred
to have them draw lots, that he might not mortify such brave men. This
was accordingly done; and the mate, Tom Austin, Wilson, a powerful
fellow, and Mulready, were the fortunate ones.

Lord Glenarvan had displayed great energy in his preparations, for he
wished to be ready at the day appointed; and he was. Captain Mangles
likewise supplied his ship with coal, that he might put to sea at any
moment. He wished to gain the Argentine shore before the travelers.
Hence there was a real rivalry between Glenarvan and the captain, which
was of advantage to both.

At last, on the 14th of October, at the time agreed upon, every one was
ready. At the moment of departure the passengers of the yacht assembled
in the cabin. The Duncan was on the point of starting, and already her
propeller was agitating the quiet waters of Talcahuana Bay. Glenarvan,
Paganel, MacNabb, Robert Grant, Tom Austin, Wilson and Mulready, armed
with carbines and Colt's revolvers, were preparing to leave the vessel.
Guides and mules were waiting for them on shore.

"It is time," said Lord Glenarvan at last.

"Go, then, my husband!" replied Lady Helena, restraining her emotion.

He pressed her to his breast, while Robert threw himself upon the neck
of his sister.

"And now, dear companions," said Jacques Paganel, "one last clasp of
the hand to last us till we reach the shores of the Atlantic."

It was not asking much, but these were clasps which would strengthen
the hopes of the worthy geographer.

They then returned to the deck, and the seven travelers left the
vessel. They soon reached the wharf, which the yacht approached within
less than half a cable's length.

Lady Helena cried for the last time,--

"My friends, God help you!"

"And he will help us, madam," answered Jacques Paganel; "for, I assure
you, we shall help ourselves."

"Forward!" shouted Captain Mangles to his engineer.

"_En route_!" returned Glenarvan; and at the same instant that the
travelers, giving reins to their animals, followed the road along the
shore, the Duncan started again at full speed on the highway of the
ocean.



CHAPTER XI.

TRAVELING IN CHILI.


The native troop engaged by Glenarvan consisted of three men and a boy.
The leader of the muleteers was an Englishman who had lived in the
country for twenty years. His occupation was to let mules to travelers,
and guide them across the passes of the Andes. Then he consigned them
to the care of a "laqueano" (Argentine guide), who was familiar with
the road over the Pampas.

[Sidenote: THE PROCESSION FORMED.]

This Englishman had not so forgotten his native tongue, in the company
of mules and Indians, that he could not converse with the travelers.
Hence it was easy for Glenarvan to make known his wishes, and for
the muleteer to execute his orders, of which circumstance the former
availed himself, since Paganel had not yet succeeded in making himself
understood.

This leader, or "catapaz," in the language of Chili, was assisted by
two native peons and a boy of twelve. The peons had charge of the
mules laden with the baggage of the party, and the boy led the madrina
(little mare), which wore small bells, and went in advance of the other
ten mules. The travelers were mounted on seven, and the catapaz on one,
of these animals, while the two others carried the provisions and a
few rolls of cloth designed to insure the good-will of the chiefs of
the plains. The peons traveled on foot according to their custom. This
journey in South America was, therefore, to be performed under the most
favorable conditions of safety and speed.

[Illustration]

Crossing the Andes is not an ordinary journey. It cannot be undertaken
without employing those hardy mules, of which the most preferable
belong to the Argentine Republic. These excellent animals have attained
in that country a development superior to their pristine quality and
strength. They are not very particular about their food, drink only
once a day, and easily make ten leagues in eight hours.

There are no taverns on this route, from one ocean to the other. You
eat dried meat, rice seasoned with allspice, and whatever game can be
captured on the way. In the mountains the torrents, and in the plains
the rivers, furnish water, generally flavored with a few drops of rum,
of which each has a supply in an ox-horn called "chiffle." However,
care must be taken not to indulge too much in alcoholic drinks, which
are specially injurious in a region where the nervous system is
peculiarly excited.

As for your bedding, it consists merely of the native saddle called
"recado." This saddle is made of sheep-skins tanned on one side and
covered with wool on the other, and is supported by broad girths
elaborately embroidered. A traveler wrapped in one of these warm
coverings can brave with impunity the dampness of the nights, and enjoy
the soundest repose.

Glenarvan, who knew how to travel and conform to the customs of
different countries, had adopted the Chilian costume for himself and
his friends. Paganel and Robert, two children (a large and a small
one), felt no pleasure in introducing their heads into the national
poncho (a large blanket with a hole in the centre), and their legs
into leathern stirrups. They would rather have seen their mules
richly caparisoned, with the Arab bit in their mouths, a long bridle
of braided leather for a whip, and their heads adorned with metal
ornaments and the "alforjas" (double saddle-bags containing the
provisions).

[Sidenote: LAND AND WATER.]

Paganel, always absent-minded, received three or four kicks from his
excellent animal just as he was mounting. Once in the saddle, however,
with his inseparable telescope in a sling and his feet confined in the
stirrups, he confided himself to the sagacity of his beast, and had
no reason to repent. As for young Robert, he showed from the first a
remarkable capacity for becoming an excellent horseman.

[Illustration]

They started. The day was magnificent, the sky was perfectly clear,
and the atmosphere sufficiently refreshed by the sea-breezes in spite
of the heat of the sun. The little party followed at a rapid pace the
winding shores of the bay, and made good progress the first day across
the reeds of old dried marshes. Little was said. The parting farewells
had left a deep impression upon the minds of all. They could still see
the smoke of the Duncan as she gradually disappeared on the horizon.
All were silent, except Paganel; this studious geographer kept asking
himself questions, and answering them, in his new language.

The catapaz was, moreover, quite a taciturn man, whose avocation had
not made him loquacious. He scarcely spoke to his peons, for they
understood their duty very well. Whenever a mule stopped, they urged
him with a guttural cry. If this did not suffice, a good pebble thrown
with sure aim overcame his obstinacy. If a girth gave way or a bridle
was loosened, the peon, taking off his poncho, enveloped the head of
the animal, which, when the injury was repaired, resumed its pace.

The custom of the muleteers is to set out at eight o'clock in the
morning after breakfast, and travel thus till it is time to rest at
four o'clock in the afternoon. Glenarvan, accordingly, conformed
to this custom. Precisely when the signal to halt was given by the
catapaz, the travelers arrived at the city of Arauco, situated at the
southern extremity of the bay, without having left the foam-washed
shore of the ocean. They would have had to proceed twenty miles farther
to the west to reach the limits of the thirty-seventh parallel; but
Glenarvan's agents had already traversed that part of the coast
without meeting with any signs of shipwreck. A new exploration became,
therefore, useless, and it was decided that the city of Arauco should
be chosen as their point of departure. From this their course was to
be directed towards the east in a rigorously straight line. The little
party entered the city and took up their quarters in the open court of
a tavern, whose accommodations were still in a rudimentary state.

While supper was preparing, Glenarvan, Paganel and the catapaz took a
walk among the thatch-roofed houses. Except a church and the remains
of a convent of Franciscans, Arauco presented nothing interesting.
Glenarvan attempted to make some inquiries, but failed, while Paganel
was in despair at not being able to make himself understood by the
inhabitants. But, since they spoke Araucanian, his Spanish served him
as little as Hebrew.

[Sidenote: ONWARD, AND ONWARD STILL.]

The next day, the madrina at the head, and the peons in the rear, the
little troop resumed the line of the thirty-seventh parallel towards
the east. They now crossed the fertile territory of Araucania, rich in
vineyards and flocks. But gradually solitude ensued. Scarcely, from
mile to mile, was there a hut of "rastreadores" (Indian horse-tamers).
Now and then they came upon an abandoned relay-station, that only
served as a shelter to some wanderer on the plains; and, by means of a
ford, they crossed the Rio Tubal, the mountains visible in the distance.

At four o'clock in the afternoon, after a journey of thirty-five miles,
they halted in the open country under a group of giant myrtles. The
mules were unharnessed, and left to graze at will upon the rich herbage
of the prairie. The saddle-bags furnished the usual meat and rice,
the pelions spread on the ground served as covering, the saddles as
pillows, and each one found on these improvised beds a ready repose,
while the peons and the catapaz watched in turn.

As the weather continued pleasant, all the travelers, not excepting
Robert, were still in good health; and, since the journey had begun
under such favorable auspices, they thought it best to profit by it,
and push on. The following day they advanced rapidly, crossed without
accident Bell Rapids, and at evening encamped on the banks of the Rio
Biobio. There were thirty-five miles more to travel before they were
out of Chili.

The country had not changed. It was still rich in amaryllis, violets,
date-trees, and golden-flowered cactuses. A few animals, among
others the ocelot, inhabited the thickets. A heron, a solitary owl,
thrushes and snipes wary of the talons of the hawk, were the only
representatives of the feathered tribe.

Of the natives few were seen; only some "guassos" (degenerate children
of the Indians and Spanish), galloping on horses which they lacerated
with the gigantic spurs that adorned their naked feet, and passing
like shadows. They met on the way no one who could inform them, and
inquiries were therefore utterly impossible.

[Sidenote: AN ASTONISHED CATAPAZ.]

Glenarvan thought that Captain Grant, if prisoner of the Indians, must
have been carried by them beyond the Andes. Their search could be
successful only in the Pampas. They must be patient, and travel on
swiftly and continuously.

[Illustration: By means of a ford, they crossed the Rio Tubal, the
mountains visible in the distance.]

They advanced in the same order as before, which Robert with difficulty
kept, for his eagerness led him to press forward, to the great
annoyance of his animal. Nothing but a command from Glenarvan would
keep the young boy at his place in the line. The country now became
more uneven; and several hillocks indicated that they were approaching
the mountains.

Paganel still continued his study of Spanish.

"What a language it is!" exclaimed he; "so full and sonorous!"

"But you are making progress, of course?" replied Glenarvan.

"Certainly, my dear lord. Ah! if there were only no accent! But, alas!
there is one!"

In studying this language, Paganel did not, however, neglect his
geographical observations. In these, indeed, he was astonishingly
clever, and could not have found his superior. When Glenarvan
questioned the catapaz about some peculiarity of the country, his
learned companion would always anticipate the answer of the guide, who
then gazed at him with a look of amazement.

That same day they met a road which crossed the line that they had
hitherto pursued. Lord Glenarvan naturally asked its name of their
guide, and Paganel as naturally answered,--

"The road from Yumbel to Los Angelos."

Glenarvan looked at the catapaz.

"Exactly," replied he.

Then, addressing the geographer, he said,--

"You have traveled in this country?"

"Certainly," replied Paganel gravely.

"On a mule?"

"No; in an arm-chair."

The catapaz did not understand, for he shrugged his shoulders and
returned to the head of the troop.

At five o'clock in the afternoon they stopped in a shallow gorge, a
few miles above the little town of Loja; and that night the travelers
encamped at the foot of the first slopes of the Andes.



CHAPTER XII.

ELEVEN THOUSAND FEET ALOFT.


The route through Chili had as yet presented no serious obstacles; but
now the dangers that attend a journey across the mountains suddenly
increased, the struggle with the natural difficulties was about to
begin in earnest.

An important question had to be decided before starting. By what pass
could they cross the Andes with the least departure from the prescribed
course? The catapaz was questioned on this subject.

"I know," he replied, "of but two passes that are practicable in this
part of the Andes."

"Doubtless the pass of Arica," said Paganel, "which was discovered by
Valdivia Mendoza."

"Exactly."

"And that of Villarica, situated to the south of Nevado."

"You are right."

"Well, my friend, these two passes have only one difficulty; they will
carry us to the south, or the north, farther than we wish."

"Have you another pass to propose?" asked the major.

"Yes," replied Paganel; "the pass of Antuco."

"Well," said Glenarvan; "but do you know this pass, catapaz?"

[Sidenote: ATTAINING TO EMINENCE.]

"Yes, my lord, I have crossed it, and did not propose it because it is
only a cattle-track for the Indian herdsmen of the eastern slopes."

"Never mind, my friend," continued Glenarvan; "where the herds of the
Indians pass, we can also; and, since this will keep us in our course,
let us start for the pass of Antuco."

The signal for departure was immediately given, and they entered the
valley of Los Lejos between great masses of crystalized limestone, and
ascended a very gradual slope. Towards noon they had to pass around
the shores of a small lake, the picturesque reservoir of all the
neighboring streams which flowed into it.

Above the lake extended vast "llanos," lofty plains, covered with
grass, where the herds of the Indians grazed. Then they came upon a
swamp which extended to the south and north, but which the instinct
of the mules enabled them to avoid. Soon Fort Ballenare appeared on a
rocky peak which it crowned with its dismantled walls. The ascent had
already become abrupt and stony, and the pebbles, loosened by the hoofs
of the mules, rolled under their feet in a rattling torrent.

The road now became difficult, and even perilous. The steepness
increased, the walls on either side approached each other more and
more, while the precipices yawned frightfully. The mules advanced
cautiously in single file, with their noses to the ground, scenting the
way.

Now and then, at a sudden turn, the madrina disappeared, and the little
caravan was then guided by the distant tinkling of her bell. Sometimes,
too, the capricious windings of the path would bend the column into
two parallel lines, and the catapaz could talk to the peons, while a
crevasse, scarcely two fathoms wide, but two hundred deep, formed an
impassable abyss between them.

Under these conditions it was difficult to distinguish the course. The
almost incessant action of subterranean and volcanic agency changes
the road, and the landmarks are never the same. Therefore the catapaz
hesitated, stopped, looked about him, examined the form of the rocks,
and searched on the crumbling stones for the tracks of Indians.

[Illustration]

Glenarvan followed in the steps of his guide. He perceived, he _felt_,
his embarrassment, increasing with the difficulties of the way. He did
not dare to question him, but thought that it was better to trust to
the instinct of the muleteers and mules.

For an hour longer the catapaz wandered at a venture, but always
seeking the more elevated parts of the mountain. At last he was forced
to stop short. They were at the bottom of a narrow valley,--one of
those ravines that the Indians call "quebradas." A perpendicular wall
of porphyry barred their exit.

[Sidenote: CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN.]

The catapaz, after searching vainly for a passage, dismounted, folded
his arms, and waited. Glenarvan approached him.

"Have you lost your way?" he asked.

"No, my lord," replied the catapaz.

"But we are not at the pass of Antuco?"

"We are."

"Are you not mistaken?"

"I am not. Here are the remains of a fire made by the Indians, and the
tracks left by their horses."

"Well, they passed this way?"

"Yes; but we cannot. The last earthquake has made it impracticable."

"For mules," replied the major; "but not for men."

"That is for you to decide," said the catapaz. "I have done what I
could. My mules and I are ready to turn back, if you please, and search
for the other passes of the Andes."

"But that will cause a delay."

"Of three days, at least."

Glenarvan listened in silence to the words of the catapaz, who had
evidently acted in accordance with his engagement. His mules could go
no farther; but when the proposal was made to retrace their steps,
Glenarvan turned towards his companions, and said,--

"Do you wish to go on?"

"We will follow you," replied Tom Austin.

"And even precede you," added Paganel. "What is it, after all? To scale
a chain of mountains whose opposite slopes afford an unusually easy
descent. This accomplished, we can find the Argentine laqueanos, who
will guide us across the Pampas, and swift horses accustomed to travel
over the plains. Forward, then, without hesitation."

"Forward!" cried his companions.

"You do not accompany us?" said Glenarvan to the catapaz.

"I am the muleteer," he replied.

"As you say."

"Never mind," said Paganel; "on the other side of this wall we shall
find the pass of Antuco again, and I will lead you to the foot of the
mountain as directly as the best guide of the Andes."

Glenarvan accordingly settled with the catapaz, and dismissed him, his
peons, and his mules. The arms, the instruments, and the remaining
provisions, were divided among the seven travelers. By common consent
it was decided that the ascent should be undertaken immediately, and
that, if necessary, they should travel part of the night. Around the
precipice to the left wound a steep path that mules could not ascend.
The difficulties were great; but, after two hours of fatigue and
wandering, Glenarvan and his companions found themselves again in the
pass of Antuco.

They were now in that part of the Andes properly so called, not far
from the main ridge of the mountains; but of the path traced out, of
the pass, nothing could be seen. All this region had just been thrown
into confusion by the recent earthquakes.

They ascended all night, climbed almost inaccessible plateaus, and
leaped over broad and deep crevasses. Their arms took the place of
ropes, and their shoulders served as steps. The strength of Mulready
and the skill of Wilson were often called into requisition. Many times,
without their devotion and courage, the little party could not have
advanced.

Glenarvan never lost sight of young Robert, whose youth and eagerness
led him to acts of rashness, while Paganel pressed on with all the
ardor of a Frenchman. As for the major, he only moved as much as
was necessary, no more, no less, and mounted the path by an almost
insensible motion. Did he perceive that he had been ascending
for several hours? It is not certain. Perhaps he imagined he was
descending.

[Sidenote: PRACTICING "EXCELSIOR."]

At five o'clock in the morning the travelers had attained a height of
seven thousand five hundred feet. They were now on the lower ridges,
the last limit of arborescent vegetation. At this hour the aspect of
these regions was entirely changed. Great blocks of glittering ice, of
a bluish color in certain parts, rose on all sides, and reflected the
first rays of the sun.

[Illustration]

The ascent now became very perilous. They no longer advanced without
carefully examining the ice. Wilson had taken the lead, and with his
foot tested the surface of the glaciers. His companions followed
exactly in his footsteps, and avoided uttering a word, for the least
sound might have caused the fall of the snowy masses suspended eight
hundred feet above their heads.

They had reached the region of shrubs, which, four hundred and fifty
feet higher, gave place to grass and cactuses. At eleven thousand feet
all traces of vegetation disappeared. The travelers had stopped only
once to recruit their strength by a hasty repast, and with superhuman
courage they resumed the ascent in the face of the ever-increasing
dangers.

[Illustration: Two hours more of terrible exertion followed. They kept
ascending, in order to reach the highest summit of this part of the
mountain.]

[Sidenote: SOMEWHAT SERIOUS.]

The strength of the little troop, however, in spite of their courage,
was almost gone. Glenarvan, seeing the exhaustion of his companions,
regretted having engaged in the undertaking. Young Robert struggled
against fatigue, but could go no farther.

Glenarvan stopped.

"We must take a rest," said he, for he clearly saw that no one else
would make this proposal.

"Take a rest?" replied Paganel; "how? where? we have no shelter."

"It is indispensable, if only for Robert."

"No, my lord," replied the courageous child; "I can still walk--do not
stop."

"We will carry you, my boy," said Paganel, "but we must, at all
hazards, reach the eastern slope. There, perhaps, we shall find some
hut in which we can take refuge. I ask for two hours more of travel."

"Do you all agree?" asked Glenarvan.

"Yes," replied his companions.

"I will take charge of the brave boy," added the equally brave Mulready.

They resumed their march towards the east. Two hours more of terrible
exertion followed. They kept ascending, in order to reach the highest
summit of this part of the mountain.

Whatever were the desires of these courageous men, the moment now came
when the most valiant failed, and dizziness, that terrible malady of
the mountains, exhausted not only their physical strength but their
moral courage. It is impossible to struggle with impunity against
fatigues of this kind. Soon falls became frequent, and those who fell
could only advance by dragging themselves on their knees.

Exhaustion was about to put an end to this too prolonged ascent; and
Glenarvan was considering with terror the extent of the snow, the cold
which in this fatal region was so much to be dreaded, the shadows that
were deepening on the solitary peaks, and the absence of a shelter for
the night, when the major stopped him, and, in a calm tone, said,--

"A hut!"

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIII.

A SUDDEN DESCENT.


Any one but MacNabb would have passed by, around, or even over this
hut a hundred times without suspecting its existence. A projection on
the surface of the snow scarcely distinguished it from the surrounding
rocks. It was necessary to uncover it; after half an hour of persistent
labor, Wilson and Mulready had cleared away the entrance to the
"casucha," and the little party stepped in.

[Sidenote: A "RESTAURANT" REOPENED.]

This casucha, constructed by the Indians, was made of adobes, a kind
of bricks dried in the sun. Ten persons could easily find room inside,
and, if its walls had not been sufficiently water-tight in the rainy
season, at this time, at least, they were some protection against the
severity of the cold. There was, besides, a sort of fireplace with a
flue of bricks very poorly laid, which enabled them to kindle a fire,
and thus withstand the external temperature.

"Here is a shelter, at least," said Glenarvan, "even if it is not
comfortable. Providence has led us hither, and we cannot do better than
accept this fortune."

"Why," replied Paganel, "it is a palace. It only wants sentries and
courtiers. We shall get along admirably here."

"Especially when a good fire is blazing on the hearth," said Tom
Austin; "for, if we are hungry, we are none the less cold it seems to
me; and, for my part, a good fagot would delight me more than a slice
of venison."

"Well, Tom," said Paganel, "we will try to find something combustible."

"Something combustible on the top of the Andes?" said Mulready, shaking
his head doubtfully.

"Since a chimney has been made in this hut," replied the major, "there
is probably something here to burn."

"Our friend is right," added Glenarvan. "Prepare everything for supper;
and I will play the part of wood-cutter."

"I will accompany you with Wilson," said Paganel.

"If you need me----," said Robert, rising.

"No, rest yourself, my brave boy," replied Glenarvan. "You will be a
man when others are only children."

Glenarvan, Paganel, and Wilson went out of the hut. It was six o'clock
in the evening. The cold was keen and cutting, in spite of the calmness
of the air. The azure of the sky was already fading, and the sun
shedding his last rays on the lofty peaks of the mountains.

Reaching a hillock of porphyry, they scanned the horizon in every
direction. They had now gained the summit of the Andes, which commanded
an extended prospect. To the east the sides of the mountains declined
by gentle gradations, down which they could see the peons sliding
several hundred feet below. In the distance extended long lines of
scattered rocks and stones that had been crowded back by glacial
avalanches. The valley of the Colorado was already growing dim in the
increasing twilight; the elevations of land, the crags and the peaks,
illumined by the rays of the sun, gradually faded, and darkness covered
the whole eastern slope of the Andes.

Towards the north undulated a succession of ridges that mingled
together insensibly. To the south, however, the view was magnificent;
and, as night descended, the grandeur was inimitable. Looking down
into the wild valley of Torbido, you saw Mount Antuco, whose yawning
crater was two miles distant. The volcano, like some enormous monster,
belched forth glowing smoke mingled with torrents of bright flame. The
circle of the mountains that inclosed it seemed to be on fire. Showers
of incandescent stones, clouds of reddish vapors, and streams of lava,
united in glittering columns. A loud rumbling that increased every
moment, and was followed by a dazzling flash, filled this vast circuit
with its sharp reverberations, while the sun, his light gradually
fading, disappeared as a star is extinguished in the shadows of the
horizon.

[Sidenote: FOOD BROUGHT TO THE DOOR.]

Paganel and Glenarvan would have remained a long time to contemplate
this magnificent struggle of the fires of earth with those of heaven,
and the improvised wood-cutters were becoming admirers of nature; but
Wilson, less enthusiastic, reminded them of their situation. Wood was
wanting, it is true, but fortunately a scanty and dry moss clothed the
rocks. An ample supply was taken, as well as of a plant whose roots
were quite combustible. This precious fuel was brought to the hut, and
piled in the fire-place; but it was difficult to kindle the fire, and
especially to keep it burning.

When the viands were prepared, each one drank several mouthfuls of
hot coffee with delight. As for the dried meat, it appeared a little
unsatisfactory, which provoked on the part of Paganel a remark as
useless as it was true.

"Indeed," said he, "I must confess a llama-steak would not be bad just
now."

"What!" cried the major, "are you not content with our supper, Paganel?"

"Enchanted, my good major; but I acknowledge a plate of venison would
be welcome."

"You are a sybarite," said MacNabb.

"I accept the title, major; but you yourself, whatever you may say,
would not be displeased with a beefsteak."

"Probably not."

"And if you were asked to take your post at the cannon, you would go
without a word."

"Certainly: and, although it pleases you----"

His companions had not heard any more, when distant and prolonged howls
were heard. They were not the cries of scattered animals, but those of
a herd approaching with rapidity. Would Providence, after furnishing
them with shelter, give them their supper? Such was the thought of the
geographer. But Glenarvan humbled his joy somewhat by observing that
the animals of the Andes were never met with in so elevated a region.

"Whence comes the noise, then?" asked Tom Austin. "Hear how it
approaches!"

"An avalanche!" said Mulready.

"Impossible! these are real howls!" replied Paganel.

"Let us see," cried Glenarvan.

"Let us see like hunters," answered the major, as he took his rifle.

All rushed out of the hut. Night had come. It was dark, but the sky was
studded with stars. The moon had not yet shown her disk. The peaks
on the north and east were lost in the darkness, and the eye only
perceived the grotesque outlines of a few towering rocks.

The howls--those of terrified animals--were redoubled. They came from
the dark side of the mountain. What was going on?

Suddenly there came a furious avalanche, but one of living creatures,
mad with terror. The whole plateau seemed to tremble. There were
hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these animals. Were they wild beasts
of the Pampas, or only llamas? The whole party had only time to throw
themselves to the earth, while this living whirlwind passed a few feet
above them.

At this moment the report of a fire-arm was heard. The major had shot
at a venture. He thought that a large animal fell a few paces from
him, while the whole herd, carried along by their resistless motion,
disappeared down the slopes illumined by the volcano.

"Ah, I have them!" cried a voice, that of Paganel.

"What have you?" asked Glenarvan.

"My glasses, to be sure!"

"You are not wounded?"

"No, a little kick,--but by what?"

"By this," replied the major, dragging after him the animal he had shot.

Each one hastened to gain the hut; and by the light of the fire
MacNabb's prize was examined. It was a pretty animal, resembling a
little camel without a hump. It had a small head, flat body, long legs
and claws, fine coffee-colored hair, and its breast was spotted with
white.

Scarcely had Paganel looked at it when he exclaimed,--

"It is a guanaco!"

"What is that?" asked Glenarvan.

"An animal that eats itself."

"And is it good?"

[Sidenote: "A DISH FOR THE GODS."]

"Delicious! a dish for the gods! I knew well that you would like fresh
meat for supper. And what meat this is! But who will dress the animal?"

"I will," said Wilson.

"Well, I will engage to broil it," replied Paganel.

"You are a cook, then, Monsieur Paganel?" said Robert.

"Certainly, my boy. A Frenchman is always a cook."

In a little while Paganel placed large slices of meat on the coals,
and, in a short time, served up to his companions this appetizing
viand. No one hesitated, but each attacked it ravenously. To the great
amazement of the geographer, a general grimace accompanied by a "pwah!"
followed the first mouthful.

"It is horrible!" said one.

"It is not eatable!" replied another.

The poor geographer, whatever was the difficulty, was forced to agree
that this steak was not acceptable even to starving men. They therefore
began to launch jokes at him, and deride his "dish for the gods," while
he himself sought a reason for this unaccountable result.

"I have it!" he cried. "I have it!"

"Is the meat too old?" asked MacNabb, calmly.

"No, my intolerant major; but it has traveled too much. How could I
forget that?"

"What do you mean?" asked Tom Austin.

"I mean that the animal is not good unless killed when at rest. I
can affirm from the taste that it has come from a distance, and,
consequently, the whole herd."

"You are certain of this?" said Glenarvan.

"Absolutely so."

"But what event could have terrified these animals so, and driven them
at a time when they ought to be peacefully sleeping in their lairs."

"As to that, my dear Glenarvan," said Paganel, "it is impossible for me
to say. If you believe me, let us search no farther. For my part I am
dying for want of sleep. Let us retire, major!"

"Very well, Paganel."

Thereupon each wrapped himself in his poncho, the fuel was replenished
for the night, and soon all but Glenarvan were buried in profound
repose.

He alone did not sleep. A secret uneasiness held him in a state of
wakeful fatigue. He could not help thinking of that herd, flying in one
common direction, of their inexplicable terror. They could not have
been pursued by wild beasts: at that height there were scarcely any,
and yet fewer hunters. What fright had driven them over the abysses
of Antuco, and what was the cause of it? He thought of their strange
situation, and felt a presentiment of coming danger.

However, under the influence of a partial drowsiness, his ideas
gradually modified, and fear gave place to hope. He saw himself in
anticipation, on the morrow, on the plain at the foot of the Andes.
There his actual search was to begin; and success was not, perhaps, far
distant. He thought of Captain Grant and his two sailors, delivered
from a cruel slavery.

These images passed rapidly before his mind, every instant interrupted
by a flash of fire, a spark, a flame, illumining the faces of his
sleeping companions, and casting a flickering shadow over the walls of
the hut. Then his presentiments returned with more vividness, while
he listened vaguely to the external sounds so difficult to explain on
these solitary summits.

At one moment he thought he heard distant rumblings, dull and
threatening like the rollings of thunder. These sounds could be caused
only by a tempest, raging on the sides of the mountain. He wished to
convince himself, and left the hut.

The moon had risen, and the sky was clear and calm. Not a cloud was to
be seen either above or below, only now and then the moving shadows of
the flames of the volcano. At the zenith twinkled thousands of stars,
while the rumblings still continued. They seemed to approach, and run
along the chain of the mountains.

[Illustration: The internal rumblings, the din of the avalanche, the
crash of the blocks of granite, and the whirlwinds of snow, rendered
all communication with each other impossible.]

Glenarvan returned more uneasy than before, seeking to divine what
relation there was between these subterranean noises and the flight of
the guanacos. He looked at his watch; it was two o'clock.

However, having no certain knowledge of immediate danger, he did not
wake his companions, whom fatigue held in a deep repose, but fell
himself into a heavy sleep that lasted several hours.

All at once a violent crash startled him to his feet. It was a
deafening roar, like the irregular noise of innumerable artillery
wagons rolling over a hollow pavement. Glenarvan suddenly felt the
earth tremble beneath his feet. He saw the hut sway and start open.

"Look out!" he cried.

His companions, awakened and thrown into confusion, were hurried down
a rapid descent. The day was breaking, and the scene was terrible. The
form of the mountains suddenly changed, their tops were truncated,
the tottering peaks disappeared, as if a pitfall had opened at their
base. A mass, several miles in extent, became detached entire, and slid
towards the plain.

"An earthquake!" cried Paganel.

He was not mistaken. It was one of those phenomena frequent on the
mountain frontier of Chili. This portion of the globe is disturbed
by subterranean fires, and the volcanoes of this chain afford only
insufficient outlets for the confined vapors.

In the meantime the plateau, to which seven stunned and terrified men
clung by the tufts of moss, glided with the rapidity of an express.
Not a cry was possible, not a movement of escape. They could not hear
each other. The internal rumblings, the din of the avalanche, the crash
of the blocks of granite, and the whirlwinds of snow, rendered all
communication with each other impossible.

[Sidenote: A STEEP GRADIENT.]

At one time the mass would slide without jolts or jars; at another,
seized with a pitching and rolling motion like the deck of a vessel
shaken by the billows, it would run along the edge of the abysses
into which the fragments of the mountain fell, uproot the trees of
centuries, and level with the precision of an enormous scythe all the
inequalities of the eastern slope.

How long this indescribable scene lasted, no one could tell; in what
abyss all were to be engulfed, no one was able to foresee. Whether they
were all there alive, or whether one of them was lying at the bottom of
a crevasse, no one could say. Stunned by the swiftness of the descent,
chilled by the keenness of the cold, blinded by the whirlwinds of snow,
they panted, exhausted and almost inanimate, and only clung to the
rocks by the supreme instinct of preservation.

All at once a shock of unusual violence arrested their gliding vehicle.
They were thrown forward and rolled upon the last declivities of the
mountains. The plateau had stopped short.

[Illustration]

For a few moments no one stirred. At last one rose, deafened by the
shock, but yet firm. It was the major. He shook off the snow that
blinded him, and looked around. His companions were not very far from
one another. He counted them. All but one lay on the ground. The
missing one was Robert Grant.



CHAPTER XIV.

PROVIDENTIALLY RESCUED.


The eastern side of the Andes consists of long slopes, declining
gradually to the plain upon which a portion of the mass had suddenly
stopped. In this new country, garnished with rich pastures and adorned
with magnificent vegetation, an incalculable number of apple-trees,
planted at the time of the conquest, glowed with their golden fruit
and formed true forests. It seemed as if a part of beautiful Normandy
had been cast into these monotonous regions, and under any other
circumstances the eye of a traveler would have been struck with this
sudden transition from desert to oasis, from snowy peak to verdant
prairie, from winter to summer.

The earth had regained an absolute immobility, and the earthquake had
ceased. But without doubt the subterranean forces were still exerting
their devastating action at a distance, for the chain of the Andes is
always agitated or trembling in some part. This time, however, the
commotion had been of extreme violence. The outline of the mountains
was entirely changed; a new view of summits, crests, and peaks was
defined against the azure of the sky; and the guide of the Pampas would
have sought in vain for his accustomed landmarks.

[Sidenote: COMEDY CHANGED TO TRAGEDY.]

A wonderfully beautiful day was breaking. The rays of the sun, issuing
from their watery bed in the Atlantic, glittered over the Argentine
plains and were already silvering the waves of the other ocean. It was
eight o'clock in the morning.

Glenarvan and his companions, revived by the aid of the major,
gradually recovered consciousness. Indeed, they had only undergone
a severe giddiness. The mountain was descended, and they would have
applauded a means of locomotion which had been entirely at nature's
expense, if one of the feeblest, Robert Grant, had not been missing.
Every one loved the courageous boy: Paganel was particularly attached
to him; the major, too, in spite of his coldness; but especially
Glenarvan.

When the latter learned of Robert's disappearance, he was desperate. He
pictured to himself the poor child engulfed in some abyss, and calling
vainly for him whom he considered his second father.

"My friends," said he, scarcely restraining his tears, "we must search
for him, we must find him! We cannot abandon him thus! Every valley,
every precipice, every abyss must be explored to the very bottom! You
shall tie a rope around me and let me down! I will do it, you hear me,
I will! May Heaven grant that Robert is still living! Without him,
how could we dare find his father? What right have we to save Captain
Grant, if his rescue costs the life of his child?"

His companions listened without speaking. They felt that he was seeking
in their looks some ray of hope, and they lowered their eyes.

"Well," continued Glenarvan, "you understand me; you are silent! You
have no more hope!"

A few moments of silence ensued, when MacNabb inquired:

"Who of you, my friends, remembers when Robert disappeared?"

To this question no answer was given.

"At least," continued the major, "you can tell with whom the boy was
during the descent."

"With me," replied Wilson.

"Well, at what moment did you last see him with you? Recall the
circumstances. Speak."

"This is all that I remember. Robert Grant was at my side, his hand
grasping a tuft of moss, less than two minutes before the shock that
caused our descent."

"Less than two minutes? Remember, Wilson, the minutes may have seemed
long to you. Are you not mistaken?"

"I think not--yes, it is so, less than two minutes."

"Well," said MacNabb; "and was Robert on your right, or on your left?"

"On my left. I remember that his poncho flapped in my face."

"And where were you situated in reference to us?"

"On the left also."

"Then Robert could have disappeared only on this side," said the major,
turning towards the mountain, and pointing to the right. "And also
considering the time that has elapsed since his disappearance, the
child must have fallen at a high part of the mountain. There we must
search, and, by taking different ways, we shall find him."

Not a word more was said. The six men, scaling the declivities of the
mountain, stationed themselves at different heights along the ridge,
and began their search. They kept always to the right of their line of
descent, sounding the smallest fissures, descending to the bottom of
precipices half filled with fragments of the mass; and more than one
came forth with his garments in shreds, his feet and hands lacerated,
at the peril of his life.

[Sidenote: A SLEEPLESS NIGHT.]

All this portion of the Andes, except a few inaccessible plateaus,
was carefully explored for many hours without one of these brave men
thinking of rest. But it was a vain search. The child had not only
found death in the mountains, but also a tomb, the stone of which,
made of some enormous rock, was forever closed over him.

Towards noon Glenarvan and his companions, bruised and exhausted, found
themselves again in the valley. The former was a prey to the most
violent grief. He scarcely spoke, and from his lips issued only these
words, broken by sighs,--"I will not go; I will not go!"

Each understood this determination, and respected it.

"We will wait," said Paganel to the major and Tom Austin. "Let us take
some rest, and recruit our strength. We shall need it, whether to begin
our search or continue our journey."

"Yes," replied MacNabb, "let us remain, since Edward wishes it. He
hopes: but what does he hope?"

"God knows!" said Tom Austin.

"Poor Robert!" replied Paganel, wiping his eyes.

Trees thronged the valley in great numbers. The major chose a group of
lofty carob-trees, under which was established a temporary encampment.
A few blankets, the arms, a little dried meat, and some rice, was
all that remained to the travelers. A stream, which flowed not far
off, furnished water, still muddy from the effects of the avalanche.
Mulready kindled a fire on the grass, and soon presented to his master
a warm and comforting repast. But Glenarvan refused it, and remained
stretched on his poncho in profound prostration.

Thus the day passed. Night came, clear and calm as the preceding. While
his companions lay motionless, although wakeful, Glenarvan reascended
the mountain. He listened closely, still hoping that a last cry might
reach him. He ventured alone and afar, pressing his ear to the ground,
listening, restraining the beatings of his heart, and calling in a
voice of despair.

The whole night long he wandered on the mountain. Sometimes Paganel,
sometimes the major, followed him, ready to help him on the slippery
summits, or on the edge of the chasms, where his rashness led him. But
his last efforts were fruitless; and to the cry of "Robert! Robert!" a
thousand times repeated, echo alone replied.

Day dawned, and it was necessary to go in search of Glenarvan on
the mountain, and bring him in spite of his reluctance back to the
encampment. His despair was terrible. Who would now dare to speak
to him of departure, and propose leaving this fatal valley? But the
provisions were failing. They would soon meet the Argentine guides
and horses to take them across the Pampas. To retrace their steps was
more difficult than to advance. Besides, the Atlantic was the place
appointed to meet the Duncan. All these reasons did not permit a longer
delay, and it was for the interest of all that the hour for departure
should be no longer deferred.

MacNabb attempted to draw Glenarvan from his grief. For a long time he
spoke without his friend appearing to hear him. Glenarvan shook his
head. At length, words escaped his lips.

"Go?" said he.

"Yes, go."

"One hour more!"

"Well, one hour more," replied the worthy major.

When it had passed, Glenarvan asked for another. You would have thought
a condemned man was praying for his life. Thus it continued till about
noon, when MacNabb, by the advice of all, would no longer hesitate, and
told Glenarvan that they must go, the lives of his companions depended
upon a prompt decision.

"Yes, yes," replied Glenarvan, "we will go, we will go!"

But as he spoke his eyes were turned away from MacNabb. His gaze was
fixed upon a black speck in the air. Suddenly his hand rose, and
remained immovable, as if petrified.

"There! there!" cried he. "See! see!"

[Illustration: The bird had raised him by his garments, and was now
hovering in mid-air at least one hundred and fifty feet above the
encampment. He had perceived the travelers, and was violently striving
to escape with his heavy prey.] All eyes were raised towards the sky,
in the direction so imperatively indicated. At that moment the black
speck visibly increased. It was a bird hovering at a measureless height.

"A condor," said Paganel.

"Yes, a condor," replied Glenarvan. "Who knows? He is coming, he is
descending! Let us wait."

What did Glenarvan hope? Was his reason wandering? He had said, "Who
knows?" Paganel was not mistaken. The condor became more distinct every
moment.

This magnificent bird, long revered by the Incas, is the king of
the southern Andes. In these regions he attains an extraordinary
development. His strength is prodigious; and he often precipitates
oxen to the bottom of the abysses. He attacks sheep, goats, and calves
wandering on the plain, and carries them in his talons to a great
height. Sometimes he hovers at an elevation beyond the limit of human
vision, and there this king of the air surveys, with a piercing look,
the regions below, and distinguishes the faintest objects with a power
of sight that is the astonishment of naturalists.

What had the condor seen? A corpse,--that of Robert Grant? "Who knows?"
repeated Glenarvan, without losing sight of him. The enormous bird
approached, now hovering, now falling with the swiftness of inert
bodies. He soon described circles of larger extent, and could be
perfectly distinguished. He measured fifteen feet across his wings,
which supported him in the air almost without motion, for it is the
peculiarity of these great birds to sail with a majestic calmness
unlike all others of the winged tribes.

The major and Wilson had seized their rifles, but Glenarvan stopped
them with a gesture. The condor was approaching in the circles of his
flight a sort of inaccessible plateau a quarter of a mile distant.
He was turning with a vertical rapidity, opening and closing his
formidable claws, and shaking his cartilaginous neck.

[Sidenote: SOMETHING WORSE.]

"There! there!" cried Glenarvan.

Then suddenly a thought flashed through his mind.

"If Robert is still living!" exclaimed he, with a cry of terror, "this
bird! Fire, my friends, fire!"

But he was too late. The condor had disappeared behind the lofty
boulders. A second passed that seemed an eternity. Then the enormous
bird reappeared, heavily laden, and rising slowly.

A cry of horror was uttered. In the claws of the condor an inanimate
body was seen suspended and dangling. It was Robert Grant. The bird had
raised him by his garments, and was now hovering in mid-air at least
one hundred and fifty feet above the encampment. He had perceived the
travelers, and was violently striving to escape with his heavy prey.

[Illustration]

"May Robert's body be dashed upon these rocks," cried Glenarvan,
"rather than serve----"

He did not finish, but, seizing Wilson's rifle, attempted to take aim
at the condor. But his arm trembled; he could not sight the piece. His
eyes were dimmed.

"Let me try," said the major.

With clear eye, steady hand, and motionless body, he aimed at the bird,
that was already three hundred feet above him. But he had not pressed
the trigger, when a report resounded in the valley. A light smoke
curled up between two rocks, and the condor, shot in the head, fell,
slowly turning, sustained by his broad outspread wings. He had not
released his prey, and at last reached the ground, ten paces from the
banks of the stream.

"Quick! quick!" said Glenarvan; and without seeking whence this
providential shot had come, he rushed towards the condor. His
companions closely followed him.

[Illustration]

[Sidenote: "THE LOST IS FOUND."]

When they arrived the bird was dead, and the body of Robert was hidden
under its great wings. Glenarvan threw himself upon the child, released
him from the talons of the condor, stretched him on the grass, and
pressed his ear to his breast.

Never did a wilder cry of joy issue from human lips than when Glenarvan
rose, exclaiming:

"He lives! he lives!"

In an instant Robert was stripped of his garments, and his face bathed
with fresh water. He made a movement, opened his eyes, looked around,
and uttered a few words:

"You, my lord--my father!----"

Glenarvan could not speak. Emotion stifled him, and, kneeling, he wept
beside this child so miraculously saved.



CHAPTER XV.

THALCAVE.


After the great danger that he had just escaped, Robert incurred
another, no less great,--that of being overwhelmed with caresses.
However feeble he was still, not one of these good people could refrain
from pressing him to his heart. But it must be confessed that these
well-meant embraces are not fatal, for the boy did not die.

When his rescue was certain, thought reverted to his rescuer, and the
major very naturally thought of looking around him. Fifty paces from
the stream, a man of lofty stature was standing, motionless, on one
of the first ledges of the mountain. A long gun lay at his feet. This
individual, who had so suddenly appeared, had broad shoulders, and
long hair tied with leathern thongs. His height exceeded six feet, and
his bronzed face was red between his eyes and mouth, black below his
eyelids, and white on his forehead. After the manner of the Patagonians
of the frontiers, the native wore a splendid cloak, decorated with
red arabesques, made of the skin of a guanaco, its silky fur turned
outward, and sewed with ostrich-tendons. Under his cloak a tippet of
fox-skin encircled his neck and terminated in a point in front. At his
girdle hung a little bag containing the colors with which he painted
his face. His leggings were of ox-hide, and fastened to the ankle with
straps regularly crossed.

The figure of this Patagonian was fine, and his face denoted real
intelligence in spite of the colors that adorned (!) it. He waited in
an attitude full of dignity, and, seeing him so motionless and stern on
his pedestal of rocks, you would have taken him for a statue.

The major, as soon as he perceived him, pointed him out to Glenarvan,
who hastened towards him. The Patagonian took two steps forward;
Glenarvan took his hand, and pressed it. There was in the latter's
look, in his physiognomy, such a feeling, such an expression of
gratitude, that the native could not mistake it. He inclined his head
gently, and uttered a few words that neither the major nor his friend
could understand.

The Patagonian, after regarding the strangers attentively, now changed
the language; but whatever it was, this new idiom was no better
understood than the first. However, certain expressions which he used
struck Glenarvan. They seemed to belong to the Spanish language, of
which he knew several common words.

"Spanish?" said he.

The Patagonian nodded.

"Well," said the major, "this is our friend Paganel's business. It is
fortunate that he thought of learning Spanish."

Paganel was called. He came at once and with all the grace of a
Frenchman saluted the Patagonian, to which the latter paid no
attention. The geographer was informed of the state of affairs, and was
only too glad to use his diligently-acquired knowledge.

[Sidenote: SOMETHING WRONG.]

"Exactly," said he. And opening his mouth widely in order to articulate
better, he said, in his best Spanish,--

"You--are--a--brave--man."

The native listened, but did not answer.

"He does not understand," said the geographer.

"Perhaps you do not pronounce well," replied the major.

"Very true! Curse the pronunciation!"

And again Paganel began, but with no better success.

"I will change the expression," said he. And pronouncing with
magisterial slowness, he uttered these words,--

"A--Patagonian,--doubtless?"

The native remained mute as before.

"Answer!" added Paganel.

The Patagonian did not reply.

"Do--you--understand?" cried Paganel, violently enough to damage his
organs of speech.

It was evident that the Indian did not understand, for he answered, but
in Spanish,--

"I do not understand."

It was Paganel's turn now to be astonished, and he hastily put on his
glasses, like one irritated.

"May I be hanged," said he, "if I understand a word of this infernal
jargon! It is certainly Araucanian."

"No," replied Glenarvan; "this man answered in Spanish."

And, turning to the Patagonian, he repeated,--

"Spanish?"

"Yes," replied the native.

Paganel's surprise became amazement. The major and Glenarvan looked at
him quizzingly.

"Ah, my learned friend!" said the major, while a half smile played
about his lips, "you have committed one of those blunders peculiar to
you."

"What!" cried the geographer, starting.

"Yes, it is plain that this Patagonian speaks Spanish."

"He?"

[Illustration: A man of lofty stature was standing, motionless, on
one of the first ledges of the mountain. This individual had broad
shoulders, and long hair tied with leathern thongs.]

[Sidenote: A PENINSULAR BABEL.]

"Yes. By mistake you have learnt another language, while thinking that
you studied----"

MacNabb did not finish. A loud "Oh!" from the geographer, accompanied
by shrugs of the shoulders, cut him short.

"Major, you are going a little too far," said Paganel in a very dry
tone.

"To be sure, since you do not understand."

"I do not understand because this native speaks so badly!" answered the
geographer, who began to be impatient.

"That is to say, he speaks badly, because you do not understand,"
returned the major, calmly.

"MacNabb," said Glenarvan, "that is not a probable supposition. However
abstracted our friend Paganel may be, we cannot suppose that his
blunder was to learn one language for another."

"Now, my dear Edward, or rather you, my good Paganel, explain to me
what the difficulty is."

"I will not explain," replied Paganel, "I insist. Here is the book
in which I practice daily the difficulties of the Spanish language!
Examine it, major, and you will see whether I impose upon you."

So saying, Paganel groped in his numerous pockets. After searching a
few moments, he drew forth a volume in a very bad state, and presented
it with an air of assurance. The major took the book, and looked at it.

"Well, what work is this?" he asked.

"The Lusiad," replied Paganel; "an admirable poem which----"

"The Lusiad!" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes, my friend, the Lusiad of the immortal Camoëns, nothing more or
less."

"Camoëns!" repeated Glenarvan; "but, unfortunate friend, Camoëns was
a Portuguese! It is Portuguese that you have been studying for six
weeks."

"Camoëns! Lusiad! Portuguese!"

Paganel could say no more. His eyes wandered, while a peal of Homeric
laughter rang in his ears.

The Patagonian did not wink; he waited patiently for the explanation of
this event, which was totally incomprehensible to him.

"Insensate! fool!" cried Paganel, at last. "What! is it so? Is it not
a mere joke? Have I done this? It is the confusion of languages, as at
Babel. My friends! my friends! to start for India and arrive at Chili!
to learn Spanish and speak Portuguese! this is too much, and, if it
continues, I shall some day throw myself out of the window instead of
my cigar."

To hear Paganel take his blunder thus, to see his comical actions, it
was impossible to keep serious. Besides, he set the example himself.

"Laugh, my friends," said he, "laugh with a will! you cannot laugh as
much as I do at myself."

And he uttered the most formidable peal of laughter that ever issued
from the mouth of a geographer.

"But we are none the less without an interpreter," said the major.

"Oh, do not be troubled," replied Paganel. "The Portuguese and Spanish
resemble each other so much that I made a mistake. However, this very
resemblance will soon enable me to rectify my error, and in a short
time I will thank this worthy Patagonian in the language he speaks so
well."

Paganel was right, for he could soon exchange a few words with the
native. He even learned that his name was Thalcave, a word which
signifies in Araucanian "the thunderer." This surname was doubtless
given to him for his skill in the use of fire-arms.

[Sidenote: BETTER PROSPECTS.]

But Glenarvan was particularly rejoiced to discover that the Patagonian
was a guide, and, moreover, a guide of the Pampas. There was,
therefore, something so providential in this meeting that the success
of the enterprise seemed already an accomplished fact, and no one any
longer doubted the rescue of Captain Grant.

In the meantime the travelers and the Patagonian had returned to
Robert. The latter stretched his arms towards the native, who, without
a word, placed his hand upon his head. He examined the child and felt
his wounded limbs. Then, smiling, he went and gathered on the banks
of the stream a few handfuls of wild celery, with which he rubbed the
boy's body. Under this treatment, performed with an extreme gentleness,
the child felt his strength revive, and it was plain that a few hours
would suffice to restore him.

It was therefore decided that that day and the following night should
be passed at the encampment. Besides, two important questions remained
to be settled--food, and means of conveyance. Provisions and mules were
both wanting.

Fortunately Thalcave solved the difficulty. This guide, who was
accustomed to conduct travelers along the Patagonian frontiers, and
was one of the most intelligent baqueanos of the country, engaged to
furnish Glenarvan all that his little party needed. He offered to take
him to a "tolderia" (encampment) of Indians, about four miles distant,
where they would find everything necessary for the expedition. This
proposal was made partly by gestures, partly by Spanish words which
Paganel succeeded in understanding. It was accepted, and Glenarvan and
his learned friend, taking leave of their companions, reascended the
stream under the guidance of the Patagonian.

They proceeded at a good pace for an hour and a half, taking long
strides to keep up to the giant Thalcave. All the region was charming,
and of a rich fertility. The grassy pastures succeeded each other,
and could easily have fed thousands of cattle. Large ponds, united by
a winding chain of streams, gave these plains a verdant moisture.
Black-headed swans sported on the mirror-like surface, and disputed the
empire of the waters with numberless ostriches that gamboled over the
plains, while the brilliant feathered tribes were in wonderful variety.

[Illustration]

Jacques Paganel proceeded from admiration to ecstasy. Exclamations
of delight continually escaped his lips, to the astonishment of the
Patagonian, who thought it very natural that there should be birds in
the air, swans on the lakes, and grass on the prairies. The geographer
had no reason to regret his walk, or complain of its length. He
scarcely believed himself started, or that the encampment would soon
come in sight.

This tolderia was at the bottom of a narrow valley among the mountains.
Here in huts of branches lived thirty wandering natives, grazing
large herds of milch cows, sheep, cattle and horses. Thus they roamed
from one pasture to another, always finding a repast ready for their
four-footed companions.

[Sidenote: GLENARVAN GOING TO MARKET.]

Thalcave took upon himself the negotiation, which was not long. In
return for seven small Argentine horses, all saddled, a hundred pounds
of dried meat, a few measures of rice, and some leathern bottles for
water, the Indians received twenty ounces of gold, the value of which
they perfectly understood. Glenarvan would have bought another horse
for the Patagonian, but he intimated that it was unnecessary.

[Illustration]

The bargain concluded, Glenarvan took leave of his new "providers," as
Paganel expressed it, and returned to the encampment. His arrival was
welcomed by cries of joy at sight of the provisions and horses. Every
one ate with avidity. Robert partook of some nourishment; he had almost
entirely regained his strength, and the remainder of the day was passed
in perfect rest. Various subjects were alluded to: the absent dear
ones, the Duncan, Captain Mangles, his brave crew, and Harry Grant who
was, perhaps, not far distant.

As for Paganel, he did not leave the Indian. He became Thalcave's
shadow, and could not remain quiet in the presence of a real
Patagonian, in comparison with whom he would have passed for a dwarf.
He overwhelmed the grave Indian with Spanish phrases, to which the
latter quietly listened. The geographer studied this time without a
book, and was often heard repeating words aloud.

"If I do not get the accent," said he to the major, "you must not be
angry with me. Who would have thought that one day a Patagonian would
teach me Spanish!"



CHAPTER XVI.

NEWS OF THE LOST CAPTAIN.


At eight o'clock the next morning Thalcave gave the signal for
departure. The slope was gradual, and the travelers had only to descend
a gentle declivity to the sea.

When the Patagonian declined the horse that Glenarvan offered him, the
latter thought that he preferred to go on foot, according to the custom
of certain guides; and indeed, his long legs ought to have made walking
easy. But he was mistaken.

At the moment of departure Thalcave whistled in a peculiar manner.
Immediately a magnificent Argentine horse, of superb form, issued from
a small wood near by, and approached at the call of his master. The
animal was perfectly beautiful. His brown color indicated a sound,
spirited and courageous beast. He had a small and elegantly poised
head, widely opening nostrils, a fiery eye, large hams, swelling
withers, broad breast, long pasterns, in short, all the qualities that
constitute strength and suppleness. The major, like a perfect horseman,
admired unreservedly this specimen of the horses of the plains. This
beautiful creature was called Thaouka, which means "bird" in the
Patagonian language, and he justly merited this appellation.

[Sidenote: A FRESH START.]

When Thalcave was in the saddle, the horse pranced with spirited grace,
and the Patagonian, a skillful rider, was magnificent to behold. His
outfit comprised two weapons of the chase, the "bolas" and the lasso.
The bolas consists of three balls tied together by a leathern string,
which are fastened to the front of the saddle. The Indians frequently
throw them the distance of a hundred paces at the animal or enemy that
they are pursuing, and with such precision that they twist about their
legs and bring them to the ground. It is, therefore, in their hands a
formidable instrument, and they handle it with surprising dexterity.
The lasso, on the contrary, does not leave the hand that wields it. It
consists simply of a leathern thong thirty feet in length, terminating
in a slip-noose which works upon an iron ring. The right hand throws
the slip-noose, while the left hand holds the remainder of the lasso,
the end of which is firmly tied to the saddle. A long carbine in a
sling completed the Patagonian's armament.

Thalcave, without observing the admiration caused by his natural
grace, ease and courage, took the lead, and the party advanced, now
at a gallop, and now at a walk, for their horses seemed entirely
unaccustomed to trotting. Robert mounted with much boldness, and
speedily convinced Glenarvan of his ability to keep his seat.

On issuing from the gorges of the Andes, they encountered a great
number of sand-ridges, called "medanos," real waves incessantly
agitated by the wind, when the roots of the herbage did not confine
them to the earth. This sand is of an extreme fineness; and, at the
least breath, they saw it float away in light clouds, or form regular
sand-columns which rose to a considerable height. This spectacle caused
pleasure as well as annoyance to the eyes. Pleasure, for nothing was
more curious than these columns, wandering over the plain, struggling,
mingling, sinking and rising in inexpressible confusion; and annoyance,
since an impalpable dust emanated from these innumerable medanos and
penetrated the eyelids, however tightly they were closed.

[Illustration]

This phenomenon continued during a great part of the day. Nevertheless,
they advanced rapidly, and towards six o'clock the Andes, forty miles
distant, presented a darkish aspect already fading in the mists of the
evening.

The travelers were a little fatigued with their journey, and,
therefore, saw with pleasure the approach of the hour for retiring.
They encamped on the shores of a turbulent stream, enclosed by lofty
red cliffs. Toward noon of the next day, the sun's rays became very
oppressive, and at evening a line of clouds on the horizon indicated
a change in the weather. The Patagonian could not be deceived, and
pointed out to the geographer the western portion of the sky.

"Good, I know," said Paganel, and addressing his companions: "A change
in the weather is about to take place. We shall have a 'pampero.'"

[Sidenote: TALKING LIKE A BOOK.]

He explained that this pampero is frequent on the Argentine Plains. It
is a very dry wind from the southwest. Thalcave was not mistaken, and
during the night, which was quite uncomfortable for people sheltered
with a simple poncho, the wind blew with great violence. The horses lay
down on the ground, and the men near them in a close group. Glenarvan
feared they would be delayed if the storm continued; but Paganel
reassured him after consulting his barometer.

"Ordinarily," said he, "this wind creates tempests, which last for
three days; but when the barometer rises as it does now, you are free
from these furious hurricanes in a few hours. Be assured, then, my dear
friend; at break of day the sky will have resumed its usual clearness."

"You talk like a book, Paganel," replied Glenarvan.

"And I am one," replied Paganel, "which you are free to consult as much
as you please."

He was not mistaken. At one o'clock in the morning the wind suddenly
subsided, and every one was able to enjoy an invigorating sleep. The
next morning they rose bright and fresh, especially Paganel, who
displayed great cheerfulness and animation.

During this passage across the continent, Lord Glenarvan watched with
scrupulous attention for the approach of the natives. He wished to
question them concerning Captain Grant, by the aid of the Patagonian,
with whom Paganel had begun to converse considerably. But they
followed a path little frequented by the Indians, for the trails over
the Pampas, which lead from the Argentine Republic to the Andes, are
situated too far to the north. If by chance a wandering horseman
appeared in the distance, he fled rapidly away, little caring to come
in contact with strangers.

However, although Glenarvan, in the interest of his search, regretted
the absence of the Indians, an incident took place which singularly
justified the interpretation of the document.

Several times the course pursued by the expedition crossed paths on
the Pampas, among others quite an important road--that from Carmen to
Mendoza--distinguishable by the bones of such animals as mules, horses,
sheep and oxen, whose remains were scattered by the birds of prey, and
lay bleaching in the sun. There were thousands of them, and, without
doubt, more than one human skeleton had added its bones to those of
these humbler animals.

Hitherto Thalcave had made no remark concerning the line so rigorously
followed. He understood, however, that if they kept no definite
course over the Pampas, they would not come to cities or villages.
Every morning they advanced towards the rising sun, without deviating
from the straight line, and every evening the setting sun was behind
them. In his capacity of guide, Thalcave must, therefore, have been
astonished to see that not only he did not guide them, but that they
guided him. Nevertheless, if he was astonished, with the reserve
natural to the Indians he made no remark. But to-day arriving at the
above-mentioned road, he stopped his horse, and turned towards Paganel.

"Road to Carmen," said he.

"Yes, my good Patagonian," replied the geographer, in his purest
Spanish; "road to Carmen and Mendoza."

"We do not take it?" resumed Thalcave.

"No," answered Paganel.

"And we are going----?"

"Always to the east."

"That is going nowhere."

"Who knows?"

Thalcave was silent, and gazed at the geographer with profound
surprise. He did not admit, however, that Paganel was joking the least
in the world. An Indian, with his natural seriousness, never imagines
that you are not speaking in earnest.

"You are not going to Carmen then?" he added, after an instant of
silence.

[Sidenote: A PROFESSORIAL DIFFICULTY.]

"No," replied Paganel.

"Nor to Mendoza?"

"No."

At this moment Glenarvan, rejoining Paganel, asked what Thalcave said,
and why he had stopped.

When he had told him, Glenarvan said,--

"Could you not explain to him the object of our expedition, and why we
must always proceed toward the east?"

"That would be very difficult," answered Paganel, "for an Indian
understands nothing of geography."

"But," said the major seriously, "is it the history, or the historian,
that he cannot understand?"

"Ah, MacNabb," said Paganel, "you still doubt my Spanish!"

"Try, my worthy friend."

"Very well."

Paganel turned to the Patagonian, and began a discourse, frequently
interrupted for want of words and from the difficulty of explaining to
a half-ignorant savage details which were rather incomprehensible to
him.

The geographer was just then a curious sight. He gesticulated,
articulated, and exerted himself in a hundred ways, while great
drops of sweat rolled down his face. When his tongue could no longer
move, his arm came to his aid. He dismounted, and traced on the
sand a geographical map, with lines of latitude and longitude, the
two oceans, and the road to Carmen. Never was professor in such
embarrassment. Thalcave watched these manoeuvres without showing whether
he comprehended or not.

The lesson in geography lasted more than half an hour. At last Paganel
ceased, wiped his face, which was wet with perspiration, and looked at
the Patagonian.

"Did he understand?" inquired Glenarvan.

"We shall see," replied Paganel; "but, if he did not, I give it up."

[Sidenote: "PERHAPS!"]

Thalcave did not stir. He no longer spoke. His eyes were fixed upon
the figures traced on the sand, which the wind was gradually effacing.

[Illustration: An important road--that from Carmen to
Mendoza--distinguishable by the bones of such animals as mules, horses,
sheep and oxen, whose remains were scattered by the birds of prey, and
lay bleaching in the sun.]

"Well?" asked Paganel.

Thalcave did not appear to hear him. Paganel already saw an ironical
smile forming upon the lips of the major, and, wishing to save
his reputation, had begun with renewed energy his geographical
demonstrations, when the Patagonian stopped him with a gesture.

"You are searching for a prisoner?" he said.

"Yes," replied Paganel.

"And exactly on the line from the setting to the rising sun?" said
Thalcave, indicating by a comparison, in the Indian manner, the course
from west to east.

"Yes, yes, that is it!"

"And it is your God," said the Patagonian, "who has confided to the
waves of the vast ocean the secrets of the prisoner?"

"God himself."

"May his will be accomplished then!" replied Thalcave, with a certain
solemnity. "We will go to the east, and, if necessary, even to the sun."

Paganel, in his exultation over his pupil, immediately translated to
his companions the replies of the Indian.

Glenarvan requested Paganel to ask the Patagonian if he had heard
of any strangers falling into the hands of the Indians, which was
accordingly done.

"Perhaps," replied the Patagonian.

As soon as this word was translated, Thalcave was surrounded by the
seven travelers, who gazed at him with questioning looks. Paganel,
excited and scarcely finding his words, resumed these interesting
interrogatories, while his eyes, fixed upon the grave Indian, strove
to anticipate his reply before it issued from his lips. Every word the
Patagonian said he repeated in English, so that his companions heard
the Indian speak, as it were, in their own language.

"And this prisoner?" inquired Paganel.

"He was a stranger," replied Thalcave slowly; "a European."

"You have seen him?"

"No, but he is mentioned in the accounts of the Indians. He was a brave
man."

"You understand, my friends," said Paganel; "a courageous man!"

"My father!" cried Robert Grant.

Then, addressing Paganel:

"How do you say 'It is my father,' in Spanish?" he asked.

"_Es mio padre_," answered the geographer.

Immediately Robert, taking Thalcave's hands, said in a sweet voice,--

"_Es mio padre!_"

"_Suo padre!_" replied the Patagonian, whose look brightened.

He took the boy in his arms, lifted him from his horse, and gazed at
him with the most curious sympathy. His intelligent countenance became
suffused with a peaceful emotion.

But Paganel had not finished his inquiries. Where was this prisoner?
What was he doing? When had Thalcave heard of him? All these questions
thronged his mind at once. He did not have to wait long for answers,
but learnt that the European was a slave of one of the Indian tribes
that scour the plains.

"But where was he last?" asked Paganel.

"With the cazique Calfoucoura," answered Thalcave.

"On the line we have been following?"

"Yes."

"And who is this cazique?"

"The chief of the Poyuches Indians; a man with two tongues and two
hearts."

[Sidenote: A SCIENTIFIC BATH.]

"That is to say, false in word and in deed," said Paganel, after
translating to his companions this beautiful metaphor of the Indian
language. "And can we rescue our friend?" he added.

"Perhaps so, if your friend is still in the hands of the Indians."

"And when did you hear of him?"

"A long time ago, and, since then, the sun has brought back two summers
to the sky."

Glenarvan's joy could not be described. This answer coincided exactly
with the date of the document. But one question remained to be asked.

"You speak of a prisoner," said Paganel; "but were there not three?"

"I do not know," replied Thalcave.

"And you know nothing of their actual situation?"

"Nothing."

This last word ended the conversation. It was possible that the three
prisoners had been separated a long time. But the substance of the
Patagonian's information was that the Indians spoke of a European who
had fallen into their power. The date of his captivity, the place where
he must have been, everything, even to the Patagonian phrase used to
express his courage, related evidently to Captain Harry Grant.

Their progress was now somewhat slow and difficult; their next object
being to reach and cross the river Colorado, to which at length
their horses brought them. Here Paganel's first care was to bathe
"geographically" in its waters, which are colored by a reddish clay. He
was surprised to find the depth so great as it really was, this being
the result of the snow having melted rapidly under the first heat of
summer. The width likewise of this stream was so considerable that it
was almost impossible for their horses to swim across; but they happily
discovered a sort of weir-bridge, of wattles looped and fastened
together, which the Indians were in the habit of using; and by its aid
the little troop was enabled to pass over to the left bank, where they
rested for the night.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XVII.

A SERIOUS NECESSITY.


They set out at daybreak. The horses advanced at a brisk pace among
the tufts of "paja-brava," a kind of grass that serves the Indians
as a shelter during the storms. At certain distances, but less and
less frequent, pools of shallow water contributed to the growth of
willows and a certain plant which is found in the neighborhood of
fresh water. Here the horses drank their fill, to fortify themselves
for the journey. Thalcave, who rode in advance, beat the bushes, and
thus frightened away the "cholinas" (vipers), while the agile Thaouka
bounded over all obstacles, and aided his master in clearing a passage
for the horses that followed.

[Illustration: They set out at daybreak. The horses advanced at a brisk
pace among the tufts of "paja-brava," a kind of grass that serves the
Indians as a shelter during the storms.]

Early in the afternoon, the first traces of animals were
encountered--the bones of an innumerable drove of cattle, in whitened
heaps. These fragments did not extend in a winding line, such as
animals exhausted and falling one by one would leave behind them. Thus
no one, not even Paganel, knew how to explain this chain of skeletons
in a space comparatively circumscribed. He therefore questioned
Thalcave, who was not at a loss for a reply.

"What is this?" they asked, after Paganel had inquired of the Indian.

"The fire of heaven," replied the geographer.

"What! the lightning could not have produced such a disaster," said Tom
Austin, "and stretched five hundred head of cattle on the earth!"

But Thalcave reaffirmed it, and he was not mistaken; for the storms of
the Pampas are noted for their violence.

At evening they stopped at an abandoned rancho, made of interlaced
branches plastered with mud and covered with thatch. This structure
stood within an inclosure of half-rotten stakes which, however,
sufficed to protect the horses during the night against the attacks of
the foxes. Not that they had anything to fear personally from these
animals, but the malicious beasts gnawed the halters, so that the
horses could escape.

A few paces from the rancho, a hole was dug which served as a kitchen
and contained half-cooled embers. Within, there was a bench, a bed of
ox-hide, a saucepan, a spit, and a pot for boiling maté. The maté is
a drink very much in use in South America. It is the Indian's tea,
consisting of a decoction of leaves dried in the fire, and is imbibed
through a straw. At Paganel's request, Thalcave prepared several
cups of this beverage, which very agreeably accompanied the ordinary
eatables, and was declared excellent.

[Sidenote: A CHANGE FOR THE WORSE.]

The next day they resumed their journey towards the east. About noon
a change took place in the appearance of the Pampas, which could
not escape eyes wearied with its monotony. The grass became more and
more scanty, and gave place to sickly burdocks and gigantic thistles;
while stunted nettles and other thorny shrubs grew here and there.
Heretofore, a certain moisture, preserved by the clay of the prairie,
freshened the meadows; the vegetation was thick and luxuriant. But now
a patchy growth, bare in many places, exposed the earth, and indicated
the poverty of the soil. These signs of increasing dryness could not be
mistaken, and Thalcave called attention to them.

[Illustration]

"I am not sorry at this change," said Tom Austin; "to see always grass,
nothing but grass, becomes tiresome before long."

"But where there is grass there is water," replied the major.

"Oh, we are not in want," said Wilson, "and shall find some river on
our course."

However, when Wilson said that the supply of water would not fail
he had not calculated for the unquenchable thirst that consumed his
companions all that day; and, when he added that they would meet with
some stream in their journey he had anticipated too much. Indeed, not
only were rivers wanting, but even the artificial wells dug by the
Indians were empty. On seeing these indications of dryness increase
from mile to mile, Paganel asked Thalcave where he expected to find
water.

"At Lake Salinas," replied the Indian.

"And when shall we arrive there?"

"To-morrow evening."

The natives ordinarily, when they travel on the Pampas, dig wells, and
find water a few feet below the surface; but the travelers, destitute
of the necessary implements, could not employ this expedient. It was
therefore necessary to obtain a supply in some other way, for, if they
did not absolutely suffer from the tormenting desire for drink, no one
could entirely allay his thirst.

At evening they halted, after a journey of thirty miles. Every one
relied upon a good night to recruit himself after the fatigues of
the day; but they were greatly annoyed by a very persistent swarm of
mosquitoes, which disappeared, however, after the wind changed.

If the major preserved his calmness in the midst of the petty
annoyances of life, Paganel, on the contrary, could not treat the
matter so indifferently. He fought the mosquitoes, and sadly regretted
the absence of his acid-water, which would have soothed the pain of
their bites. Although the major endeavored to console him, he awoke in
a very bad humor.

However, he was very easily persuaded to set out at daybreak, for it
was important to arrive at Lake Salinas the same day. The horses were
very much exhausted: they were dying of thirst; and, although their
riders had denied themselves on their account, still their share of
water had been very limited. The dryness was to-day even greater, and
the heat no less intolerable, with the dusty wind, the simoom of the
Pampas.

[Sidenote: INDIANS AHEAD!]

During the day the monotony of the journey was interrupted. Mulready,
who rode in advance, turned back, signaling the approach of a party of
Indians. This meeting elicited different opinions. Glenarvan thought
of the information that these natives might furnish concerning the
shipwrecked seamen of the Britannia. Thalcave, for his part, scarcely
enjoyed meeting in his journey the wandering Indians of the plains.
He considered them plunderers and robbers, and only sought to avoid
them. According to his orders, the little party collected together, and
made ready their fire-arms. It was necessary to be prepared for any
emergency.

The Indian detachment was soon perceived. It consisted of only ten
men, which fact reassured the Patagonian. They approached within a
hundred paces, so that they could be easily distinguished. Their high
foreheads, prominent rather than receding, their tall forms, and their
olive color, showed them to be magnificent types of the Indian race.
They were clad in the skins of guanacos, and carried various weapons of
war and the chase, while their dexterity in horsemanship was remarkable.

[Illustration]

Having halted, they appeared to hold a conference, crying and
gesticulating. Glenarvan advanced toward them; but he had not proceeded
two yards, when the detachment wheeled about and disappeared with
incredible swiftness. The tired horses of the travelers could never
have overtaken them.

"The cowards!" cried Paganel.

"They fly too fast for honest men," said MacNabb.

"What are these Indians?" inquired Paganel of Thalcave.

"Gauchos!" replied the Patagonian.

"Gauchos!" repeated Paganel, turning toward his companions, "Gauchos!
We had no need, then, to take such precautions. There was nothing to
fear!"

"Why?" asked the major.

"Because the Gauchos are inoffensive peasants."

"Do you think so, Paganel?"

"Certainly. They took us for robbers, and fled."

Glenarvan was quite disappointed in not speaking with them, as he
expected to obtain additional tidings of the lost sailors; but it
was necessary to push on, if they would reach their destination that
evening.

At eight o'clock Thalcave, who had gone a little in advance, announced
that the lake so long desired was in sight. A quarter of an hour
afterward the little party descended the high banks. But here a serious
disappointment awaited them,--the lake was dry!



CHAPTER XVIII.

IN SEARCH OF WATER.


Lake Salinas terminates the cluster of lagoons that adjoin the Ventana
and Guamini mountains. Numerous expeditions are made to this place
to obtain supplies of salt, with which these waters are strongly
impregnated. But now the water had evaporated under the heat of the
sun, and the lake was only a vast glittering basin.

When Thalcave announced the presence of a drinkable liquid at Lake
Salinas, he meant the streams of fresh water that flow from it in
many places. But at this time its affluents were as dry as itself.
The burning sun had absorbed everything. Hence, the consternation was
general when the thirsty party arrived at the parched shores of Lake
Salinas.

It was necessary to take counsel. The little water in the leathern
bottles was half spoiled, and could not quench their thirst, which
began to make itself acutely felt. Hunger and fatigue gave place to
this imperative want. A "roukah," a kind of upright tent, of leather,
which stood in a hollow, and had been abandoned by the natives, served
as a refuge for the travelers, while their horses, stretched on the
muddy shores of the lake, ate the saline plants and dry reeds, although
reluctantly.

When each had sat down in the roukah, Paganel asked Thalcave's advice
as to what was best to be done. A rapid conversation, of which
Glenarvan caught a few words, ensued between the geographer and the
Indian. Thalcave spoke calmly, while Paganel gesticulated for both.
This consultation lasted a few minutes, and then the Patagonian folded
his arms.

"What did he say?" inquired Glenarvan. "I thought I understood him to
advise us to separate."

"Yes, into two parties," replied Paganel. "Those of us whose horses are
so overcome with fatigue and thirst that they can scarcely move will
continue the journey as well as possible. Those who are better mounted,
on the contrary, will ride in advance, and reconnoitre the Guamini
River, which empties into Lake San Lucas. If there is sufficient water
there, they will wait for their companions on the banks of the stream;
if not, they will return to save the rest a useless journey."

"And then?" asked Tom Austin.

"Then we must go southward to the first branches of the Ventana
mountains, where the rivers are numerous."

"The plan is good," replied Glenarvan, "and we will follow it without
delay. My horse has not suffered so much yet from want of water, and I
offer to accompany Thalcave."

"Oh, my lord, take me!" cried Robert, as if a pleasure excursion were
in question.

"But can you keep up with us, my child?"

"Yes, I have a good beast that asks nothing better than to go in
advance. Will you, my lord? I beseech you!"

"Come then, my boy," said Glenarvan, delighted not to be separated from
Robert. "And we three," he added, "will be very stupid if we do not
discover some clear and fresh stream."

"And I?" said Paganel.

"Oh, you, my dear Paganel!" replied the major, "you will remain with
the reserve detachment. You know the course, the Guamini River, and the
Pampas, too well to abandon us. Neither Wilson, Mulready, nor myself
are capable of rejoining Thalcave at his rendezvous, unless we advance
confidently under the guidance of the brave Jacques Paganel."

[Illustration: "Poor father!" exclaimed Robert; "how he will thank you
when you have found him!" And, so saying, he took his lordship's hand
and pressed it to his lips.]

"I resign," said the geographer, very much flattered to obtain a higher
command.

"But no distractions!" added the major. "Do not lead us where we have
nothing to do, and bring us back to the shores of the Pacific!"

"You would deserve it, my intolerable major," said Paganel, smiling.
"But tell me, my dear Glenarvan, how will you understand Thalcave's
language?"

"I suppose," answered Glenarvan, "that the Patagonian and I will not
need to talk. Besides, with the few Spanish words that I know, I shall
succeed well enough on an emergency in giving him my opinion and
understanding his."

"Go then, my worthy friend," replied Paganel.

"Let us eat first," said Glenarvan, "and sleep till the hour of
departure."

They ate supper without drink, which was rather unrefreshing, and then
fell asleep. Paganel dreamed of torrents, cascades, streams, rivers,
ponds, brooks, nay even full bottles, in short, of everything which
generally contains water. It was a real nightmare.

The next morning at six o'clock the horses were saddled. They gave them
the last drink of water left, which they took with more dislike than
pleasure, for it was very nauseating. The three horsemen then mounted.

"_Au revoir!_" said the major, Austin, Wilson, and Mulready.

Soon the Patagonian, Glenarvan, and Robert (not without a certain
throbbing of the heart) lost sight of the detachment confided to the
sagacity of the geographer.

[Sidenote: THE YOUNG SAILOR ON HORSEBACK.]

Thalcave was right in first proceeding towards the Guamini, since this
stream lay on the prescribed course, and was the nearest. The three
horses galloped briskly forward. These excellent beasts perceived,
doubtless, by instinct, whither their masters were guiding them.
Thaouka, especially, showed a spirit that neither fatigue nor thirst
could overcome. The other horses followed, at a slower pace, but
incited by his example.

The Patagonian frequently turned his head to look at Robert Grant, and,
seeing the young boy firm and erect, in an easy and graceful position,
testified his satisfaction by a word of encouragement.

"Bravo, Robert!" said Glenarvan. "Thalcave seems to congratulate you.
He praises you, my boy!"

"And why, my lord?"

"Because of the way you ride."

"Oh, I merely keep firm; that is all," replied Robert, who blushed with
pleasure at hearing himself complimented.

"That is the main point, Robert," said Glenarvan; "but you are too
modest, and I am sure you cannot fail to become an accomplished
equestrian."

"Well," said Robert, "but what will papa say, who wishes to make a
sailor of me?"

"The one does not interfere with the other. If all horsemen do not make
good sailors, all sailors may certainly make good horsemen. To ride on
the yards, you must learn to keep yourself firm. As for knowing how to
manage your horse, that comes more easily."

"Poor father!" exclaimed Robert; "how he will thank you when you have
found him!" And, so saying, he took his lordship's hand and pressed it
to his lips.

"You love him well, Robert?"

"Yes, my lord; he was so kind to sister and me. He thought only of us,
and every voyage brought us a memento of the countries he visited, and,
what was better, tender caresses and kind words, on his return. Ah!
you will love him too, when you know him! Mary resembles him. He has a
sweet voice like her. It is singular for a sailor, is it not?"

"Yes, very singular, Robert," said Glenarvan.

"I see him still," replied the boy, as if speaking to himself. "Good
and brave papa! He rocked me to sleep on his knees, when I was little,
and kept humming an old Scottish song which is sung around the lakes of
our country. I sometimes recall the air, but indistinctly. How we loved
him, my lord! Well, I think one must be very young to love his father
well."

"And old to reverence him, my child," replied Glenarvan, quite moved by
the words that came from this young heart.

During this conversation, their horses had relaxed their pace and
fallen behind the other; but Thalcave called them, and they resumed
their former gait. It was soon evident, however, that, with the
exception of Thaouka, the horses could not long maintain this speed. At
noon it was necessary to give them an hour's rest.

Glenarvan grew uneasy. The signs of dryness did not diminish, and the
want of water might result in disastrous consequences. Thalcave said
nothing, but probably thought that if the Guamini was dry it would then
be time to despair, if indeed an Indian's heart has ever experienced
such an emotion.

They therefore kept on, and by use of whip and spur the horses were
induced to continue their journey, but they could not quicken their
pace. Thalcave might easily have gone ahead, for in a few hours Thaouka
could have carried him to the banks of the stream. He doubtless thought
of it, but probably did not like to leave his two companions alone in
the midst of this desert, and, that he might not outstrip them, he
forced Thaouka to lessen his speed. It was not, however, without much
resistance, prancing and neighing, that Thalcave's horse consented to
keep pace with the others. It was not so much the strength as the voice
of his master which restrained him; the Indian actually talked to his
horse; and the animal, if he did not answer, at least comprehended
him. The Patagonian must have used excellent arguments, for, after
"discussing" some time, Thaouka yielded, and obeyed his master's
commands.

[Sidenote: GAINED AT LAST.]

But, if Thaouka understood Thalcave, Thalcave had none the less
understood Thaouka. The intelligent animal, through his superior
instincts, had perceived a moisture in the air. He inhaled it eagerly,
and kept moving his tongue, as if it were steeped in a grateful liquid.
The Patagonian could not be deceived; water was not far distant.

He therefore encouraged his companions by explaining the impatience of
his horse, which the others were not long in understanding. They made a
final effort, and galloped after the Indian.

About three o'clock a bright line appeared in a hollow of the plain. It
trembled under the rays of the sun.

"Water!" cried Glenarvan.

"Water, yes, water!" cried Robert.

They had no more need to urge their horses. The poor beasts, feeling
their strength renewed, rushed forward with an irresistible eagerness.
In a few moments they had reached the Guamini River, and, saddled as
they were, plunged to their breasts into the cooling stream. Their
masters imitated their example, without reluctance, and took an
afternoon bath which was as healthful as it was pleasant.

[Illustration]

"Ah, how good it is!" said Robert, as he quenched his thirst in the
middle of the river.

"Be moderate, my boy," said Glenarvan, who did not set a good example.

Nothing was heard but the sound of rapid drinking. As for Thalcave,
he drank quietly, without hurrying, long and deeply, till they might
perhaps fear that the stream would be drained.

"Well," said Glenarvan, "our friends will not be disappointed in their
expectations. They are sure, on arriving at the Guamini, to find an
abundance of clear water, if Thalcave leaves any!"

"But could we not go to meet them?" asked Robert. "We could spare them
several hours of anxiety."

"Doubtless, my boy; but how carry the water? Wilson has charge of the
water-bottles. No, it is better to wait, as we agreed. Calculating the
necessary time, and the slow pace of the horses, our friends will be
here at night. Let us, then, prepare them a safe shelter and a good
repast."

Thalcave had not waited for Glenarvan's orders to search for a place
to encamp. He had very fortunately found on the banks of the river a
"ramada," a kind of inclosure designed for a cattle-fold and shut in
on three sides. The situation was excellent for the purpose, so long
as one did not fear to sleep in the open air; and that was the least
anxiety of Thalcave's companions. Thus they did not seek a better
retreat, but stretched themselves on the ground in the sun to dry their
water-soaked garments.

"Well, since here is shelter," said Glenarvan, "let us think of supper.
Our friends must be satisfied with the couriers whom they have sent
forward; and, if I am not greatly mistaken, they will have no reason
to complain. I think an hour's hunting will not be time lost. Are you
ready, Robert?"

"Yes, my lord," replied he, with gun in hand.

[Sidenote: AN EVENING'S SPORT.]

Glenarvan had conceived this idea because the banks of the Guamini
seemed to be the haunt of the game of the surrounding plains.
"Tinamous," a kind of partridge, plovers called "teru-teru," yellow
rails, and water-fowl of magnificent green were seen rising in flocks.
As for quadrupeds, they did not make their appearance; but Thalcave,
pointing to the tall grass and thick coppice, explained that they
were hidden there. The hunters had only to take a few steps to find
themselves in one of the best game-coverts in the world.

[Illustration]

They began to hunt, therefore, and, disdaining the feathered tribe,
their first attempts were made upon the large game of the Pampas. Soon
hares and guanacos, like those that had attacked them so violently on
the Andes, started up before them by hundreds; but these very timid
animals fled with such swiftness that it was impossible to come within
gun-shot. The hunters, therefore, attacked other game that was less
fleet. A dozen partridges and rails were brought down, and Glenarvan
shot a peccary, which was very good eating.

In less than half an hour they had obtained without difficulty all the
game they needed. Robert captured a curious animal called an armadillo,
which was covered with a sort of helmet of movable bony pieces and
measured a foot and a half in length. It was very fat, and would be an
excellent dish, as the Patagonian said; while Robert was proud of his
success.

As for Thalcave, he showed his companions a "nandou" hunt. This bird,
peculiar to the Pampas, is a kind of ostrich, whose swiftness is
marvelous.

The Indian did not try to decoy so nimble an animal, but urged his
horse to a gallop, straight towards the bird, so as to overtake it
at once, for, if the first attack should fail, the nandou would soon
fatigue both horse and rider with its giddy backward and forward
movements.

Thalcave, arriving at a proper distance, launched his "bolas" with a
strong hand, and so skillfully that they twisted about the legs of
the ostrich and paralyzed its efforts. In a few moments it lay on
the ground. The Indian soon captured his prize and contributed it
to the common repast. The string of partridges, Thalcave's ostrich,
Glenarvan's peccary, and Robert's armadillo were brought back to camp.
The ostrich and the peccary were immediately stripped of their skin
and cut into small slices. As for the armadillo, it is a dainty animal
which carries its roasting dish with it, and it was, accordingly,
placed in its own bony covering on the glowing embers.

The three hunters were satisfied with the partridges for supper, and
kept the rounds of beef for their friends. This repast was washed down
with clear water, which was then considered superior to all the wines
in the world.

The horses were not forgotten. A great quantity of dry fodder, piled in
the ramada, served them for food and bedding.

[Sidenote: DESERT SILENCE.]

When everything was ready, Glenarvan, Robert, and the Indian wrapped
themselves in their ponchos, and stretched their limbs on a bundle of
alfafares, the usual bed of the hunters of the Pampas.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE RED WOLVES.


Night came,--the night of the new moon, only the uncertain light of
the stars illumined the plain. On the horizon the zodiacal light faded
away in a dark mist. The waters of the Guamini flowed without a murmur,
while birds, quadrupeds, and reptiles reposed after the fatigues of
the day. The silence of the desert reigned on the vast expanse of the
Pampas.

Glenarvan, Robert, and Thalcave had yielded to the common law, and,
stretched on their thick beds of grass, they enjoyed a refreshing
sleep. The horses, overcome with fatigue, had lain down on the ground:
Thaouka alone, like a true blooded horse, slept standing, spirited in
repose as in action, and ready to start at the least sign from his
master. Perfect tranquillity reigned within the inclosure, and the
embers of the night-fire, as they gradually died out, cast their last
rays over the silent obscurity.

About ten o'clock, after a short sleep, the Indian awoke. His eyes
became fixed beneath his lowered eyebrows, and his head was turned in a
listening attitude towards the plain. He seemed endeavoring to detect
some scarcely perceptible sound. A vague uneasiness was soon expressed
on his face, usually so calm. Had he perceived the approach of prowling
Indians, or the coming of jaguars, water-tigers, and other formidable
beasts which are numerous in the neighborhood of rivers? This last
possibility doubtless appeared plausible to him, for he cast a rapid
glance over the combustible materials piled in the inclosure, and his
anxiety increased. In fact, all this dry bedding would quickly be
consumed, and could not long intimidate the audacious animals.

According to this conjecture, Thalcave had only to await the progress
of events, which he did, half reclining, his head resting on his hands,
his elbows on his knees, his eyes motionless, in the attitude of a man
whom a sudden anxiety has awakened from sleep.

An hour passed. Any other person but Thalcave, reassured by the outward
silence, would have lain down again. But where a stranger would have
suspected nothing, the highly-trained senses and natural instinct of
the Indian foresaw the coming danger.

While he was listening and watching, Thaouka gave a low neigh. His
nose was stretched towards the entrance to the ramada. The Patagonian
suddenly started.

"Thaouka has scented some enemy," said he.

He arose and scanned the plain attentively. Silence still reigned, but
not tranquillity. Thalcave discerned shadows moving noiselessly among
the tufts of grass. Here and there glittered luminous points, which
spread on all sides, now fading away, and now gleaming forth again. You
would have thought fantastic elves were dancing on the surface of an
immense lagoon. A stranger would doubtless have taken these flitting
sparks for glow-worms, which shine, when night comes, in many parts of
the Pampas. But Thalcave was not deceived; he knew with what enemies he
had to deal. He loaded his carbine, and took a position near the first
stakes of the inclosure.

He did not wait long. A strange cry, a mingling of barks and howls,
resounded over the plain. The report of the carbine answered it,
and was followed by a hundred frightful yelps. Glenarvan and Robert
suddenly awoke.

[Sidenote: FEARFUL ODDS.]

"What is the matter?" asked Robert.

"Indians?" said Glenarvan.

"No," replied Thalcave, "aguaras."

Robert looked at Glenarvan.

"Aguaras?" said he.

"Yes," replied Glenarvan, "the red wolves of the Pampas."

Both seized their weapons, and joined the Indian. The latter pointed
to the plain, from which arose a series of formidable howls. Robert
involuntarily took a step backward.

"You are not afraid of the wolves, my boy?" said Glenarvan.

"No, my lord," replied Robert, in a firm tone. "With you I fear
nothing."

"So much the better. These aguaras are not very formidable beasts; and
were it not for their numbers I should not even think of them."

"What does it matter?" replied Robert. "We are well armed. Let them
come."

"And they shall be well received."

Speaking thus, Glenarvan endeavored to reassure the lad; but he did
not think without a secret terror of that dense horde of exasperated
beasts. Perhaps there were hundreds of them; and these three, however
well armed, could not advantageously contend against so many and such
antagonists.

By the howls that resounded over the Pampas, and by the multitude of
shadows that flitted about the plain, Glenarvan could not be mistaken
as to the number. These animals had scented a sure prey, horse-flesh or
human flesh, and not one among them would return to his lair without
having his portion. The situation was, therefore, very alarming.

Meanwhile the circle of wolves grew gradually narrower. The horses,
awakened, gave signs of the liveliest terror. Thaouka alone pawed the
ground, seeking to break his halter, and ready to rush out. His master
succeeded in calming him only by whistling continually.

Glenarvan and Robert had stationed themselves so as to defend the
entrance of the ramada, and with their loaded rifles were about to fire
at the first ranks of wolves, when Thalcave turned aside their weapons
already poised for a shot.

"What does Thalcave wish?" asked Robert.

"He prohibits us from firing," answered Glenarvan.

"Why?"

"Perhaps he does not consider it the proper time."

This was not, however, the motive which actuated the Indian, but a
graver reason, which Glenarvan understood when Thalcave, raising his
powder-flask and inverting it, showed that it was almost empty.

"Well?" said Robert.

"We must economize our ammunition. Our hunt to-day has cost us dear,
and we are deficient in powder and shot. We have not twenty charges
left."

The boy answered nothing.

"You are not afraid, Robert?"

"No, my lord."

"Very well, my boy."

At this moment another report resounded. Thalcave had brought down a
too bold enemy. The wolves that were advancing in close ranks recoiled,
and gathered together again a hundred paces from the inclosure.

[Sidenote: THE LAST HOUR.]

Glenarvan, at a sign from the Indian, took his place at once, while the
latter, collecting the bedding, grass, and all combustible materials,
piled them at the entrance of the ramada and threw on a burning ember.
Soon a curtain of flame was defined against the dark background of the
sky, and through the openings the plain appeared illumined by great
moving reflections. Glenarvan could therefore judge of the great number
of animals against which they had to defend themselves. Never had so
many wolves been seen together before, nor so excited by rapacity. The
fiery barrier that Thalcave had just opposed to them had redoubled
their fury. Some, however, advanced to the very fire, crowded by
the rear ranks, and burned their paws. From time to time a shot was
necessary to check the howling horde, and at the end of an hour fifteen
bodies lay on the prairie.

The besieged were now in a situation relatively less dangerous. So long
as their supplies lasted, so long as the barrier of fire stood at the
entrance to the ramada, invasion was not to be feared. But what was to
be done if all these methods of repelling the wolves should fail at the
same time?

Glenarvan gazed at Robert, and felt his heart beat quick with
excitement. He forgot himself, and thought only of this poor child, who
displayed a courage beyond his years. Robert was pale, but his hand did
not leave his weapon, and he awaited with firm bearing the assault of
the enraged wolves.

Meantime, Glenarvan, after coolly considering the situation, resolved
to do something decisive.

"In one hour," said he, "we shall have no more powder, shot, or fire.
We must not wait till then to make a sally."

He turned towards Thalcave, and, recalling a few words of Spanish,
began a conversation with the Indian, frequently interrupted by the
cracks of the rifle.

It was not without difficulty that these two men succeeded in
understanding each other. Glenarvan, fortunately, knew the habits of
the red wolf. Without this knowledge he could not have interpreted the
words and gestures of the Patagonian.

Nevertheless, a quarter of an hour passed before he could give to
Robert the meaning of Thalcave's answer. He had questioned the Indian
concerning their situation.

"And what did he answer?" inquired Robert.

"He said that, cost what it may, we must hold out till daybreak. The
aguara goes out only at night, and when morning comes he returns to
his lair. He is the wolf of darkness, a cowardly beast that fears the
daylight."

"Well, let us defend ourselves till day."

"Yes, my boy, and with our knives if we can no longer use our guns."

Already Thalcave had set the example, and when a wolf approached the
fire, the long knife of the Patagonian was thrust through the flames
and drawn back again red with blood.

However, the means of defense were failing. About two o'clock in the
morning, Thalcave threw into the fire the last armful of fuel, and the
besieged had only five charges left.

Glenarvan cast about him a sorrowful glance. He thought of the child
who was there, of his companions, of all whom he loved. Robert said
nothing; perhaps the danger did not appear imminent to his hopeful
spirit. But Glenarvan pictured to himself that terrible event, now
apparently inevitable, the being devoured alive! He was not master of
his emotion; he drew the child to his breast, he clasped him to his
heart, he pressed his lips to his forehead, while tears flowed from his
eyes.

Robert gazed at him with a smile. "I am not afraid," said he.

"No, my boy, no," replied Glenarvan; "and you are right. In two hours,
day will appear, and we shall be saved! Well done, Thalcave, my brave
Patagonian!" cried he, as the Indian killed with the butt of his gun
two enormous beasts that were attempting to cross the glowing barrier.

[Sidenote: A DYING HOPE.]

But at this moment the dying light of the fire showed him the aguaras
advancing in a dense body to assail the ramada. The dénouement of the
bloody drama was approaching. The fire gradually subsided, for want
of fuel; the flames sank; the plain, before illumined, now relapsed
into shadow, and in the shadow reappeared the terrible eyes of the red
wolves. A few moments more, and the whole drove would rush into the
inclosure.

[Illustration]

Thalcave discharged his carbine for the last time, stretched out one
more of their enemies, and, as his ammunition was exhausted, folded
his arms. His head sank upon his breast; he appeared to be questioning
himself. Was he searching for some bold, novel, or rash scheme for
repelling this furious herd? Glenarvan did not venture to ask him.

At this moment a change took place in the action of the wolves. They
seemed to be retreating, and their howls, so deafening before, suddenly
ceased. An ominous silence reigned over the plain.

"They are going," said Robert.

"Perhaps," replied Glenarvan, who was listening with intentness.

But Thalcave shook his head. He knew well that the animals would not
abandon a certain prey until at daybreak they returned to their holes
and dens.

However, the tactics of their enemies had evidently changed, they no
longer endeavored to force the entrance of the ramada; but their new
manoeuvres were already causing a still more imminent danger.

The wolves, abandoning their design of penetrating the inclosure by
this entrance, which was defended by weapon and fire, went to the
back of the ramada and sought to assail it in the rear. Their claws
were soon heard rattling against the half-decayed wood. Already their
powerful paws and bloody mouths had forced their way between the
shattered stakes. The horses, bewildered and panic-stricken, broke
their halters and dashed into the inclosure. Glenarvan seized Robert
in his arms, to defend him to the last extremity; and he would have
attempted a rash flight, and rushed out of the ramada, had not his eyes
fallen upon the Indian.

Thalcave, turning like a deer, had suddenly approached his horse,
which was neighing with impatience, and was beginning to saddle him
carefully, forgetting neither strap nor buckle. He seemed no longer to
care for the howls, that were now redoubled. Glenarvan gazed at him
with a dark foreboding.

"He is leaving us!" cried he, seeing Thalcave gather up his reins as
though he were about to mount.

"He? never!" said Robert.

In truth the Indian was about to make a venture, not to leave his
friends, but to save them by sacrificing himself. Thaouka was ready.
He champed his bit; he pranced; his eyes, full of a fiery spirit, shot
forth lightning flashes; he understood his master.

Just as the Indian was seizing the mane of his horse, Glenarvan caught
him by the arm with a convulsive grasp.

"You are going?" said he, pointing to the plain, which was now deserted.

"Yes," replied the Indian, who comprehended the gesture of his
companion; and, with vehement gesticulations which were however
perfectly intelligible, he added a few words in Spanish, which
signified: "Thaouka--good horse--swift--will draw the wolves after him."

[Illustration: Frightful howls resounded. The wolves, starting on the
track of the horse, fled into the darkness with a terrible speed.]

"Ha! Thalcave!" cried Glenarvan.

"Quick, quick!" continued the Indian; while Glenarvan said to Robert,
in a voice broken by emotion,--

"Robert, my lad, you hear! He will sacrifice himself for us; he will
rush out over the plain, and turn aside the fury of the wolves upon
himself."

"Friend Thalcave," replied Robert, looking imploringly at the
Patagonian, "friend Thalcave, do not leave us!"

"No," said Glenarvan, "he will not leave us."

And, turning to the Indian, he added, pointing to the terrified horses
crowding against the stakes,--

"Let us go together."

"No," said the Indian, who was not mistaken as to the meaning of these
words. "Bad beasts--frightened--Thaouka--good horse."

"Very well," said Glenarvan. "Thalcave shall not leave, Robert. He
shows me what I have to do. It is my duty to go, and his to remain with
you."

Then, seizing Thaouka's bridle, he added,--

"I will go."

"No," replied the Patagonian, calmly.

"I tell you," cried Glenarvan, taking the bridle from the hands of the
Indian, "I will go. Save this boy! I trust him to you, Thalcave!"

Glenarvan, in his excitement, mingled English and Spanish together. But
what matters the language? In such a terrible situation, signs tell
all, and men quickly understand each other.

[Sidenote: SAFETY FOR TWO.]

However, Thalcave resisted, and the discussion was prolonged. The
danger was increasing every moment. Already the broken stakes were
yielding to the teeth and claws of the wolves. But neither Glenarvan
nor Thalcave appeared willing to yield. The Indian had drawn Glenarvan
towards the entrance of the inclosure. He pointed to the plain, now
free from wolves. In his animated language, he explained that not a
moment was to be lost; that the danger, if this plan failed, would be
greater for those who remained; in short, that he alone knew Thaouka
well enough to employ his marvelous agility and speed for the common
safety. Glenarvan blindly persisted in his resolve to sacrifice
himself, when suddenly he was pushed violently back. Thaouka pranced,
reared on his hind legs, and all at once, with a spring, cleared the
barrier of fire and the rampart of bodies, while a boyish voice cried,--

"God save you, my lord!"

Glenarvan and Thalcave had scarcely time to perceive Robert, who,
clinging to the horse's mane, disappeared in the darkness.

"Robert, unfortunate!" cried Glenarvan.

But these words the Indian himself could not hear. Frightful howls
resounded. The wolves, starting on the track of the horse, fled into
the darkness with a terrible speed.

Thalcave and Glenarvan rushed out of the ramada. Already the plain had
resumed its tranquillity, and they could scarcely distinguish a moving
line which undulated afar in the shadows of the night.

Glenarvan sank upon the ground, overcome, in despair, clasping his
hands. He gazed at Thalcave, who smiled with his accustomed calmness.

"Thaouka--good horse--brave child--he will be saved!" he repeated,
nodding his head.

"But if he falls?" said Glenarvan.

"He will not fall!"

In spite of Thalcave's confidence, his companion passed the night in
terrible anguish. He was no longer even mindful of the danger still to
be feared from the wolves. He would have gone in search of Robert, but
the Indian restrained him, and explained that their horses could not
overtake the boy, that Thaouka must have distanced his enemies, and
could not be found in the darkness. They must wait for day to start in
search of Robert.

At four o'clock in the morning day began to break. The mists of the
horizon were soon tinged with pale rays. A sparkling dew covered the
plain, and the tall grass began to wave under the first breezes of the
dawn.

The moment of departure had arrived.

"Forward!" said the Indian.

Glenarvan did not reply, but sprang upon Robert's horse, and the two
were soon galloping towards the west in the direction from which their
companions were to come.

For an hour they traveled thus with great speed, gazing around for
Robert, and dreading at each step to behold his mangled body. Glenarvan
tortured the flanks of his horse with his spurs. Suddenly shots were
heard, and reports at regular intervals, like signals for recognition.

[Illustration]

"It is they!" cried Glenarvan.

Thalcave and he urged their horses to a more rapid pace, and a few
moments afterwards they joined the party led by Paganel.

[Sidenote: LIVELY GRATITUDE.]

To Glenarvan's joy, Robert was there, alive, borne by the noble
Thaouka, who neighed with pleasure at seeing his master.

"Ah, my boy! my boy!" cried Glenarvan, with unspeakable tenderness; and
Robert and he, dismounting, rushed into each other's arms.

Then it was the Indian's turn to clasp to his breast the courageous son
of Captain Grant.

"He lives! he lives!" exclaimed Glenarvan.

"Yes," replied Robert, "thanks to Thaouka."

The Indian had not waited for these words of gratitude to embrace his
horse, but at that very moment he spoke to him and embraced him, as
if human blood flowed in the veins of the noble animal. Then, turning
towards Paganel, he pointed to young Robert.

"A brave boy!" said he.

Glenarvan, however, asked, even while he admired the lad,--

"Why, my son, did you not let Thalcave or me try this last chance of
saving you?"

"My lord," replied he, in accents of the liveliest gratitude, "was it
not my duty to sacrifice myself, when Thalcave has saved my life, and
you are going to save my father?"



CHAPTER XX.

STRANGE SIGNS.


After their first outbursts of joy at meeting were over, Paganel,
Austin, Wilson, and Mulready--all who had remained behind, except the
major--were conscious of one thing, namely, that they were suffering
from thirst. Fortunately, the Guamini flowed at no great distance.
They accordingly continued their journey, and at seven o'clock in the
morning the little party arrived at the ramada. On seeing its entrance
strewn with the bodies of the wolves, it was easy to understand the
violence of the attack and the vigor of the defense. The travelers,
after fully quenching their thirst, devoted their attention to
breakfast in the inclosure. The ostrich-steaks were declared excellent,
and the armadillo, roasted in its own covering, was a delicious dish.

"To eat reasonably of this," said Paganel, "would be ingratitude
towards Providence. We really must eat immoderately."

And he did so accordingly,--but was not sick, thanks to the clear water
of the Guamini, which appeared to possess superior digestive properties.

[Sidenote: AEROSTATIC EXPERIMENTS.]

At ten o'clock Glenarvan gave the signal for departure. The
water-bottles were filled, and they set out. The horses, being greatly
revived, evinced much spirit, and maintained an easy and almost
continuous canter. The next morning they crossed the boundary which
separates the Argentine Plains from the Pampas. Here Thalcave hoped
to meet the chiefs in whose hands he doubted not that he should find
Harry Grant and rescue him and his two companions from slavery.

Since they had left the Guamini, the travelers noticed, with great
satisfaction, a considerable change in the temperature, thanks to the
cold winds of Patagonia, which cause continual currents of air. Neither
man nor beast had any reason to complain, after suffering so much from
dryness and heat. They therefore pushed on with courage and confidence.
But, whatever might have been said, the country seemed to be entirely
uninhabited, or, to use a more exact word, "disinhabited."

Frequently they skirted the shores of fresh-water lagoons, on whose
banks, in the shelter of the bushes, tiny wrens skipped and melodious
larks warbled, in company with the brilliant-plumaged tanagers. These
pretty birds gayly fluttered about, heedless of the haughty starlings
that strutted on the banks like soldiers with their epaulettes and red
breasts. In the thorny coppices the nests of the annubis swung like
hammocks, and on the shores of the lagoons magnificent flamingoes,
marching in regular file, spread their fiery-colored wings to the wind.
Their nests were seen, by thousands together, like a small village, in
the shape of truncated cones a foot high. The birds were not startled
at the approach of the travelers, which was contrary to Paganel's
calculations.

"I have been curious for a long time," said he to the major, "to see a
flamingo fly."

"Well," said MacNabb.

"Now, since I have an opportunity, I shall profit by it."

"Do so, Paganel."

"Come with me, major, and you too, Robert; I need witnesses."

And Paganel, leaving his companions to go on, proceeded towards the
flock of flamingoes, followed by Robert and the major. Arriving within
range, Paganel fired a blank charge (for he would not needlessly
destroy even a bird), and all the flamingoes flew away, while the
geographer gazed at them attentively through his glasses.

"Well," said he to the major, when the flock had disappeared, "did you
see them fly?"

"Certainly," replied MacNabb; "you could not do otherwise, unless you
were blind. But let us hasten on, for we have fallen a mile behind."

When he had joined his companions, Paganel found Glenarvan in excited
conversation with the Indian, whom he did not appear to understand.
Thalcave had frequently stopped to examine the horizon, and each time
his countenance expressed a lively astonishment. Glenarvan, not seeing
his ordinary interpreter present, had attempted, but in vain, to
question the Patagonian. So, as soon as he perceived the geographer at
a distance, he cried,--

"Come, friend Paganel, Thalcave and I can scarcely succeed in
understanding each other."

Paganel conversed a few moments with the Indian, and, turning to
Glenarvan, said,--

"Thalcave is astonished at a circumstance that is really strange."

"What?"

"At meeting neither Indians, nor any traces of them, on these plains,
which are usually furrowed with their trails, whether they are driving
home the cattle stolen from the ranchos, or going to the Andes to sell
their zorillo carpets and whips of braided leather."

"And to what does Thalcave attribute this abandonment?"

"He cannot tell; he is astonished. That is all."

"But what Indians did he expect to find in this part of the Pampas?"

"The very ones who have had foreign prisoners; those natives who are
commanded by the caziques Calfoucoura, Catriel, and Yanchetruz."

"Who are these caziques?"

[Illustration: Arriving within range, Paganel fired a blank charge (for
he would not needlessly destroy even a bird), and all the flamingoes
flew away, while the geographer gazed at them attentively through his
glasses.]

"Chiefs of tribes that were very powerful thirty years ago, before they
were driven beyond the sierras. Since that time they have been subdued
as much as an Indian can be, and now scour the Pampas as well as the
province of Buenos Ayres. I am therefore astonished, like Thalcave,
at not encountering traces of them in a country where they generally
pursue the calling of plunderers."

"Well, then," inquired Glenarvan, "what course ought we to take?"

"I will see," replied Paganel.

After a few moments' conversation with Thalcave, he said,--

"This is his advice, which seems to me very wise. We must continue our
journey to the east as far as Fort Independence; and there, if we have
no news of Captain Grant, we shall at least know what has become of the
Indians of the plain."

"Is Fort Independence far?"

"No; it is situated at Tandil, sixty miles distant."

"And when shall we arrive there?"

"On the evening of the day after to-morrow."

Glenarvan was quite disconcerted at finding no Indians on the Pampas,
a circumstance which was little expected. There are ordinarily too
many of them. Some special cause must therefore have removed them.
But a serious question was to be considered. If Captain Grant was a
prisoner of one of these tribes, had he been carried to the north or
to the south? This problem harassed Glenarvan. It was advisable at all
hazards to keep track of the captain. In short, it was better to follow
Thalcave's advice and reach the village of Tandil, where at least they
could obtain information.

About four o'clock in the afternoon they approached a hill that might
have passed for a mountain in so level a country. It was Tapalquem
Sierra, and at its foot the travelers encamped for the night.

[Sidenote: GALLOPING GAUCHOS.]

The passage of this mountain was accomplished the next day with the
greatest ease. They followed the sandy undulations of a gradually
sloping terrace, which certainly did not present difficulties to
people who had scaled the Andes, and the horses scarcely relaxed their
rapid pace. At noon they reached the abandoned Fort Tapalquem, the
first of the chain of forts built on the southern frontier against the
plundering natives. But not a shadow of an Indian did they encounter,
to the increasing surprise of Thalcave; although, towards the middle of
the day, three rovers of the plain, well armed and mounted, gazed for
a moment at the little party, but prevented their approach, galloping
away with incredible rapidity. Glenarvan was furious.

"Gauchos," said the Patagonian.

"Ah! Gauchos," replied MacNabb. "Well, Paganel, what do you think of
these creatures?"

"I think they look like famous bandits," answered Paganel.

"And hence of course are, my dear geographer?"

"Of course, my dear major."

Paganel's avowal was followed by a general laugh, which did not
disconcert him at all.

According to Thalcave's orders, they advanced in close ranks, and
at evening encamped in a spacious abandoned rancho, where the chief
Catriel generally assembled his bands of natives. From an examination
of the ground and the absence of fresh tracks, the Patagonian knew that
it had not been occupied for a long time.

The next morning Glenarvan and his companions found themselves again
on the plain. The first estancias (vast establishments for raising
cattle), which border upon the Tandil, were descried; but Thalcave
resolved not to stop, but to keep straight on to Fort Independence,
where he wished to obtain information, especially concerning the
singular condition of this abandoned country.

The trees, so rare since leaving the Andes, now reappeared. The greater
part of these have been planted since the arrival of the Europeans
on the American continent. They generally surround "corrals," vast
cattle-inclosures protected with stakes. Here thousands of cattle,
sheep, cows, and horses, branded with the mark of the owner, graze
and fatten, while large numbers of huge dogs keep watch. The soil is
admirably adapted to raising cattle, and yields an excellent fodder.

The people lead the life of the shepherds of the Bible. Their flocks
are perhaps even more numerous than those which fed on the plains of
Mesopotamia; but the family element is wanting, and the owners of the
great folds of the Pampas have little to recommend themselves or their
manner of life.

Paganel explained all these particulars to his companions, and even
succeeded in interesting the major.

Thalcave, meanwhile, hastened their progress, as he wished to arrive
that evening at Fort Independence. The horses, urged on by their
masters, and following the example of Thaouka, dashed through the
tall grass. They passed several farms, fortified and defended by deep
ditches. The principal house was provided with an elevated terrace,
from which the inmates could fire upon the plunderers of the plain.
Glenarvan might perhaps have obtained here the information that he
sought; but it was wisest to go to the village of Tandil. They did not
stop, therefore, and soon the feet of the horses struck the grassy
sward of the first mountain slopes. An hour afterward the village
appeared at the bottom of a narrow gorge crowned by the embattled walls
of Fort Independence.

[Illustration: In fact, they were a dozen young children and boys who
were drilling very nicely. Their uniform consisted of a striped shirt
confined at the waist by a leathern girdle.]



CHAPTER XXI.

A FALSE TRAIL.


Paganel, after giving his companions a brief account of the village of
Tandil, added that they could not fail to obtain information there;
moreover, the fort was always garrisoned by a detachment of national
troops. Glenarvan, accordingly, put the horses into the stable of a
"fonda;" and Paganel, the major, Robert, and he, under the guidance of
Thalcave, proceeded towards Fort Independence.

After ascending the ridges of the mountains for a short time, they
arrived at the postern, rather carelessly guarded by a native sentinel.
They passed without difficulty, and inferred either great negligence or
extreme security. A few soldiers were exercising on the parade-ground
of the fort, the oldest of whom was not more than twenty and the
youngest scarcely ten. In fact, they were a dozen young children and
boys who were drilling very nicely. Their uniform consisted of a
striped shirt confined at the waist by a leathern girdle. The mildness
of the climate justified this light costume. Each of these young
soldiers carried a gun and a sword, which were too long and heavy for
the little fellows. All had a certain family resemblance, and the
corporal who commanded resembled them too: they were twelve brothers,
who were parading under the orders of the thirteenth.

[Sidenote: AN ARGENTINE COMMANDANT.]

Paganel was not astonished. He remembered his Argentine statistics, and
knew that in this country the average number of children in a family
exceeds nine. But what surprised him exceedingly was to see these
little soldiers practicing the French tactics, and to hear the orders
of the corporal given in his own native language.

"This is singular," said he.

But Glenarvan had not come to see boys drill, still less to occupy
himself with their nationality or relationship. He did not, therefore,
give Paganel time to express further astonishment, but besought him
to ask for the commander of the fortress. Paganel did so, and one of
the soldiers proceeded towards a small building which served as the
barracks.

A few moments after, the commander appeared in person. He was a man
of fifty, robust, with a military air, thick whiskers, prominent
cheek-bones, gray hair, and commanding look, so far as one could judge
through the clouds of smoke that issued from his short pipe.

Thalcave, addressing him, introduced Lord Glenarvan and his companions.
While he spoke, the commander kept scrutinizing Paganel with quite
embarrassing persistence. The geographer did not know what the trooper
meant, and was about to ask him, when the latter unceremoniously seized
his hand, and said, in a joyous tone, in his own language,--

"A Frenchman?"

"Yes, a Frenchman," replied Paganel.

"Ah, I am delighted! Welcome, welcome! I am almost a Frenchman,"
cried the commander, shaking the geographer's arm with rather painful
violence.

"One of your friends?" asked the major of Paganel.

"Yes," replied he, with national pride; "we have friends in all parts
of the world!"

[Illustration: "Ah, I am delighted! Welcome, welcome! I am almost a
Frenchman," cried the commander, shaking the geographer's arm with
rather painful violence.]

[Sidenote: RAISING A REGIMENT.]

He then entered into conversation with the commander. Glenarvan would
gladly have put in a word in regard to his affairs, but the soldier
was telling his story, and was not in the mood to be interrupted.
This honest man had left France a long time before; and the native
language was no longer perfectly familiar to him: he had forgotten,
if not words, at least the manner of combining them. As his visitors
soon learned, he had been a sergeant in the French army. Since the
foundation of the fort he had not left it, and commanded it by
appointment from the Argentine government. He was by parentage a
Basque, and his name was Manuel Ipharaguerre. A year after his arrival
in the country, Sergeant Manuel was naturalized, joined the Argentine
army, and married an honest Indian woman, who had twins,--boys, to be
sure, for the sergeant's worthy consort would never present him with
daughters. Manuel did not think of any other calling than that of the
soldier, and hoped, in time, with the help of God, to offer to the
republic a whole battalion of young soldiers.

"You have seen them?" said he. "Charming fellows! Good soldiers! José!
Juan! Miguel! Pepe! Pepe is only seven years old, and is already biting
his cartridge!"

Pepe, hearing himself complimented, joined his two little feet, and
presented arms with perfect precision.

"He will do!" added the sergeant. "He will be a major--or
brigadier-general one day!"

This story lasted a quarter of an hour, to Thalcave's great
astonishment. The Indian could not understand how so many words could
come from a single throat. No one interrupted the commander; and even
a French sergeant had to conclude at last, though not without forcing
his guests to accompany him to his dwelling. Here they were introduced
to Madame Ipharaguerre, who appeared to be "a good-looking person," if
this expression may be employed in regard to an Indian.

When he had exhausted himself, the sergeant asked his guests to what he
owed the honor of their visit. And now it was their turn to explain.

Paganel, opening the conversation in French, told him of their journey
across the Pampas, and ended by asking why the Indians had abandoned
the country.

"War!" replied the sergeant.

"War?"

"Yes, civil war."

"Civil war?" rejoined Paganel.

"Yes, war between Paraguay and Buenos Ayres," answered the sergeant.

"Well?"

"Why, all the Indians of the north are in the rear of General Flores,
and those of the plains are plundering."

"But the caziques?"

"The caziques with them."

This answer was reported to Thalcave, who shook his head. Indeed,
he either did not know, or had forgotten, that a civil war, which
was afterwards to involve Brazil, was decimating two-thirds of the
republic. The Indians had everything to gain in these internal
struggles, and could not neglect such fine opportunities for plunder.
The sergeant, therefore, was not mistaken in attributing this desertion
of the Pampas to the civil war that was being waged in the northern
part of the Argentine Provinces.

But this event disconcerted Glenarvan's hopes. If Captain Grant was
a prisoner of the caziques, he must have been carried by them to the
northern frontiers. Yet how and where to find him? Must they attempt
a perilous and almost useless search to the northern limits of the
Pampas? It was a serious matter, which was to be earnestly considered.

However, one important question was still to be asked of the sergeant,
and the major thought of this, while his companions were looking at
each other in silence.

"Have you heard of any Europeans being retained as prisoners by the
caziques of the Pampas?"

Manuel reflected for a few moments, like a man who recalls events to
recollection.

"Yes," said he, at length.

"Ah!" cried Glenarvan, conceiving a new hope.

[Sidenote: REVELATIONS.]

Paganel, MacNabb, Robert, and he now surrounded the sergeant.

"Speak, speak!" cried they, gazing at him with eagerness even in their
looks.

"Several years ago," replied Manuel, "yes,--that is it,--European
prisoners--but have never seen them."

"Several years ago?" said Glenarvan. "You are mistaken. The date of the
shipwreck is definite. The Britannia was lost in June, 1862, less than
two years ago."

"Oh, more than that, my lord!"

"Impossible!" cried Paganel.

"Not at all. It was when Pepe was born. There were two men."

"No, three!" said Glenarvan.

"Two," replied the sergeant, in a positive tone.

"Two?" exclaimed Glenarvan, very much chagrined. "Two Englishmen?"

"No," continued the sergeant. "Who speaks of Englishmen? It was a
Frenchman and an Italian."

"An Italian who was massacred by the Indians?" cried Paganel.

"Yes, and I learned afterwards--Frenchman saved."

"Saved!" exclaimed Robert, whose very life seemed to hang on the
sergeant's lips.

"Yes, saved from the hands of the Indians," replied Manuel.

Each looked to the geographer, who beat his brow in despair.

"Ah! I understand," said he, at last. "All is clear, all is explained."

"But what is to be done?" asked Glenarvan, with as much anxiety as
impatience.

"My friends," answered Paganel, taking Robert's hands, "we must submit
to a severe misfortune. We have followed a false trail! The captive
in question is not the captain, but one of my countrymen (whose
companion, Marco Vazello, was actually assassinated by the Indians),
a Frenchman who often accompanied these cruel savages to the banks of
the Colorado, and who, after fortunately escaping from their hands,
returned to France. While thinking that we were on the track of Captain
Grant, we have fallen upon that of young Guinnard."

A profound silence followed this declaration. The mistake was palpable.
The sergeant's story, the nationality of the prisoner, the murder
of his companion, and his escape from the hands of the Indians, all
accorded with the evident facts. Glenarvan gazed at Thalcave with a
bewildered air. The Indian then resumed the conversation.

"Have you never heard of three English captives?" he asked the sergeant.

"Never," replied Manuel. "It would have been known at Tandil. I should
have heard of it. No, it cannot be."

Glenarvan, after this formal response, had nothing more to do at Fort
Independence. He and his friends, therefore, departed, not without
thanking the sergeant and shaking hands with him.

Glenarvan was in despair at this complete overthrow of his hopes.
Robert walked beside him in silence, with tearful eyes, while his
protector could not find a single word to console him. Paganel
gesticulated and talked to himself. The major did not open his lips.
As for Thalcave, his Indian pride seemed humbled at having gone astray
on a false trail. No one, however, thought of reproaching him for so
excusable an error.

They returned to the encampment, saddened indeed. Still, not one of
the courageous and devoted men regretted so many hardships uselessly
endured, so many dangers vainly incurred. But each saw all hope of
success annihilated in an instant. Could they find Captain Grant
between Tandil and the sea? No. If any prisoner had fallen into the
hands of the Indians on the Atlantic coast, Sergeant Manuel would
certainly have been informed. An event of such a nature could not
have escaped the natives who trade from Tandil to Carmen. Among the
traders of the Argentine Plains everything is known and reported. There
was therefore but one course now to take,--to join, without delay, the
Duncan at Cape Medano, the appointed rendezvous.

[Illustration: More than once during the journey, the attention and
interest of all, but especially of Paganel, were arrested by the
curious illusion of the mirage.]

In the meantime, Paganel had asked Glenarvan for the document, by
relying on which their search had resulted so unfortunately. He
read it again with unconcealed vexation, seeking to discover a new
interpretation.

"This document is, at all events, clear," said Glenarvan. "It explains
in the most definite manner the shipwreck of the captain and the place
of his captivity."

"No," replied the geographer, stamping with his foot, "a hundred times
no! Since Captain Grant is not on the Pampas, he is not in America.
This document ought to tell where he is; and it shall, my friends, or I
am no longer Jacques Paganel."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE FLOOD.


[Sidenote: OMENS AND MIRAGES.]

Fort Independence is one hundred and fifty miles from the shores of
the Atlantic. But for unforeseen and unexpected delays, Glenarvan
could have rejoined the Duncan in four days. He could not, however,
reconcile himself to the idea of returning on board without Captain
Grant, and failing so completely in his search; and did not therefore,
as usual, give the orders for departure. But the major assumed the
task of saddling the horses, renewing the provisions, and making his
arrangements for the journey. Thanks to his activity, the little party,
at eight o'clock in the morning, was on its way down the grassy slopes
of the Tandil Sierra.

Glenarvan, with Robert at his side, galloped on in silence. His
lordship's bold and resolute character did not permit him to accept
this disappointment calmly. His heart beat violently, and his brain was
on fire. Paganel, tormented by the mystery of the document, arranged
the words in every way, as if to draw from them a new meaning. Thalcave
silently resigned himself to Thaouka's sagacity. The major, always
confident, performed his duties like a man upon whom discouragement can
have no effect. Tom Austin and his two sailors shared their master's
annoyance. Once, when a timid hare crossed the path in front of them,
the superstitious Scotchmen gazed at one another.

"A bad omen," said Wilson.

"Yes, in the Highlands," replied Mulready.

"What is bad in the Highlands is no better here," added Wilson,
sententiously.

About noon the travelers had descended the mountains and gained the
undulating plains that extend to the sea; the boundless prairie spread
its broad carpet of verdure before them.

More than once during the journey the attention and interest of all,
but especially of Paganel, were arrested by the curious illusion of
the mirage, by which was presented in the sky, at the limits of the
horizon, a semblance of the estancias, the poplars and willows near
them, and other objects; the images being so much like the reality that
it required a strong effort to realize their deceptive character.

The weather hitherto had been fine, but now the sky assumed a less
pleasing aspect. Masses of vapor, generated by the high temperature
of the preceding days, condensed into thick clouds and threatened to
dissolve in showers of rain. Moreover, the proximity of the Atlantic,
and the west wind, which here reigns supreme, rendered the climate of
this region peculiarly moist. However, for that day at least the heavy
clouds did not break; and at evening the horses, after traveling forty
miles, halted on the edge of a deep "cañada," an immense natural ditch
filled with water. A shelter was wanting, but the ponchos served for
tents as well as clothing, and peaceful slumbers enwrapped all.

The next day, as they progressed farther, the presence of subterranean
streams betrayed itself more noticeably, and moisture was seen in every
depression of the ground. Soon they came to large ponds, some already
deep and others just forming. So long as there were only lagoons, the
horses could easily extricate themselves; but with these treacherous
swamps it was more difficult. Tall grass obstructed them, and it was
necessary to incur the danger before it could be understood. These
quagmires had been already fatal to more than one human being.

Robert, who had ridden half a mile in advance, returned at a gallop,
crying,--

"Monsieur Paganel! Monsieur Paganel! A forest of horns!"

"What!" replied the geographer, "have you found a forest of horns?"

"Yes, yes; or at least a field."

"A field! you are dreaming, my boy," said Paganel, shrugging his
shoulders.

"I am not dreaming," retorted Robert; "you shall see for yourself. This
is a strange country! People sow horns, and they spring up like corn! I
should like very well to have some of the seed."

"But he speaks seriously," said the major.

"Yes, major, you shall see."

Robert was not mistaken, and soon they found themselves before a vast
field of horns, regularly planted.

"Well?" said Robert.

"This is something singular," replied Paganel, turning towards the
Indian with a questioning look.

[Sidenote: AN ANXIOUS INDIAN.]

"The horns come from the ground," explained Thalcave; "and the cattle
are under it."

"What!" cried Paganel, "is there a whole drove in this mire?"

"Yes," answered the Patagonian.

In fact, a vast herd had perished in this bog, which had given way
beneath them. Hundreds of cattle had thus met their death, side by
side, by suffocation in this vast quagmire. This circumstance, which
sometimes takes place on the plains, could not be ignored by the
Indian, and it was a warning which it was proper to heed. They passed
around this immense hecatomb, which would have satisfied the most
exacting gods of antiquity; and an hour after the field of horns was
far behind.

Thalcave now began to observe with an anxious air the state of things
around him. He frequently stopped, and rose in his stirrups. His tall
form enabled him to survey a wide range; but, perceiving nothing that
could enlighten him, he resumed his undeviating course. A mile farther,
he stopped again, and, turning from the beaten track, proceeded a short
distance, first to the north, then to the south, and then resumed his
place at the head of the party, without saying either what he hoped or
what he feared.

These manoeuvres, many times repeated, puzzled Paganel and annoyed
Glenarvan. The geographer was accordingly requested to interrogate
the Indian, which he did at once. Thalcave replied that he was
astonished to see the plain so soaked with moisture. Never within his
recollection, since he had performed the office of guide, had his feet
trodden a soil so saturated. Even in the season of the great rains the
Argentine plain was always easily passed.

"But to what do you attribute this increasing moisture?" asked Paganel.

"I know not," replied the Indian; "and what if I did?"

"Do the mountain streams, when swollen with the rains, ever overflow
their banks?"

"Sometimes."

"And now, perhaps?"

"Perhaps," said Thalcave.

Paganel was forced to be contented with this answer, and communicated
to Glenarvan the result of the conversation.

"And what does Thalcave advise?" inquired Glenarvan.

"What is to be done?" asked Paganel of the Patagonian.

"Advance quickly," replied the Indian.

This advice was easier to give than to follow. The horses were quickly
fatigued with treading a soil that sank beneath them deeper and deeper
as they progressed, so that this part of the plain might have been
compared to an immense basin in which the invading waters would rapidly
accumulate. It was advisable, therefore, to cross without delay these
sloping terraces that an inundation would have instantly transformed
into a lake.

They hastened their pace, though there was no great depth to the water
which spread out in a sheet beneath the horses' feet. About two o'clock
the flood-gates of the heavens opened, and tropical torrents of rain
descended. Never was a finer opportunity presented for showing oneself
a philosopher. There was no chance of escaping this deluge, and it was
better for the travelers to receive it stoically. Their ponchos were
soon dripping, and their hats wet them still more, like roofs whose
gutters have overflowed. The fringes of the saddle-cloths seemed so
many liquid streams; and the horsemen, bespattered by their animals,
whose hoofs splashed in the water at every step, rode in a double
shower, which came from the ground as well as the sky.

[Sidenote: HYDROPATHIC TREATMENT.]

It was in this wretchedly cold and exhausted state that they arrived,
towards evening, at a very miserable rancho. Only people who were not
fastidious could have given it the name of a shelter, only travelers in
distress would consent to occupy it. But Glenarvan and his companions
had no choice. They therefore cowered down in the abandoned hut which
would not have satisfied even a poor Indian of the plains. A sorry
fire of grass, which gave out more smoke than heat, was kindled with
difficulty. The torrents of rain made havoc without, and large drops
oozed through the mouldy thatch. The fire was extinguished twenty
times, and twenty times did Wilson and Mulready struggle against the
invading water.

The supper was very meagre and comfortless, and every one's appetite
failed. The major alone did justice to the water-soaked repast, and did
not lose a mouthful: he was superior to misfortune. As for Paganel,
like a Frenchman, he tried to joke; but now he failed.

"My jokes are wet," said he: "they miss fire."

However, as it was more agreeable--if possible, under the
circumstances--to sleep, each one sought in slumber a temporary
forgetfulness of his fatigues.

The night was stormy. The sides of the rancho cracked as if they would
break, while the frail structure bent beneath the gusts of wind and
threatened to give way at every shock. The unfortunate horses neighed
in terror without, exposed to the inclemency of the tempest; and their
masters did not suffer less in their miserable shelter. However, sleep
drowned all their troubles at last. Robert first closed his eyes,
reclining his head on Lord Glenarvan's shoulder; and soon all the
inmates of the rancho slept under the protection of God.

They woke the next morning at the call of Thaouka, who, always ready,
neighed without, and struck the wall of the hut vigorously with his
hoof, as though to give the signal for departure. They owed him too
much not to obey him, and they accordingly resumed their journey.

The rain had ceased, but the hard earth held what had fallen. On the
impenetrable clay, pools, marshes, and ponds overflowed and formed
immense "bañados" of treacherous depth. Paganel, on consulting his map,
judged rightly that the Grande and Nivarota Rivers, into which the
waters of the plain usually flow, must have mingled together in one
broad stream.

An extremely rapid advance, therefore, became necessary. The common
safety was at stake. If the inundation increased, where could they find
a refuge? The vast circle of the horizon did not offer a single point,
and on this level plain the progress of the water must be rapid. The
horses were urged to their utmost speed. Thaouka took the lead, and
might have borne the name of sea-horse, for he pranced as if he had
been in his native element.

Suddenly, about six o'clock in the evening, he manifested signs of
extreme agitation. He turned frequently towards the vast expanse to the
south; his neighs were prolonged, his nostrils keenly snuffed the air,
and he reared violently. Thalcave, whom his antics could not unseat,
managed his steed without difficulty. The froth from the horse's mouth
was mingled with blood under the action of the firmly-closed bit, and
yet the spirited animal could not be calm. If free, his master felt but
too well that he would have fled away at full speed towards the north.

"What is the matter with Thaouka?" asked Paganel. "Has he been bitten
by those voracious blood-suckers of the Argentine waters?"

"No," replied the Indian.

"Is he terrified, then, at some danger?"

"Yes, he has scented danger."

"What?"

"I do not know."

Although the eye did not yet reveal the peril that Thaouka divined,
the ear could already detect it. A low murmur, like the sound of a
rising tide, was heard as from the limit of the horizon. The wind blew
in damp gusts laden with spray; the birds, as if fleeing from some
unknown phenomenon, shot swiftly through the air; and the horses,
wading to their knees, felt the first impulse of the current. Soon a
mingled roar, like bellowing, neighing, and bleating, resounded half
a mile to the south, and immense herds appeared, tumbling, rising,
and rushing, a confused mass of terrified beasts, and fled by with
frightful rapidity. It was scarcely possible to distinguish them in the
midst of the clouds of spray dashed up by their flight.

[Illustration: "The flood! the flood!" replied Thalcave, spurring his
horse towards the north.]

"Quick! quick!" cried Thalcave, in a piercing voice.

"What is it?" said Paganel.

"The flood! the flood!" replied Thalcave, spurring his horse towards
the north.

"The inundation!" cried Paganel; and his companions, with him at their
head, fled away in the track of Thaouka.

It was time. Five miles to the south a high and broad wall of water
was rushing over the plain, which was fast becoming an ocean. The tall
grass disappeared as before the scythe, and the tufts of mimosas, torn
up by the current, separated and formed floating islands. The mass of
waters spread itself in broad waves of irresistible power. The dikes of
the great rivers had evidently given way, and perhaps the waters of the
Colorado and Rio Negro were now mingling in a common stream.

The wall of water descried by Thalcave advanced with the speed of a
race-horse. The travelers fled before it like a cloud driven by the
storm. Their eyes sought in vain a place of refuge. Sky and water
mingled together on the horizon. The horses, excited by the danger,
dashed along in a mad gallop, so that their riders could scarcely keep
their seats. Glenarvan frequently glanced behind him.

"The water is overtaking us," he thought.

"Quick! quick!" cried Thalcave.

[Sidenote: THE ARK.]

The unfortunate beasts were urged to a swifter pace. From their flanks,
lacerated with the spur, flowed bright red streams, which marked
their course on the water by long, crimson lines. They stumbled in
the hollows of the ground; they were entangled in the hidden grass;
they fell and rose again continually. The depth of the water sensibly
increased. Long surges announced the on-rush of the mass of water that
tossed its foaming crests less than two miles distant.

For a quarter of an hour this final struggle against the most terrible
of elements was prolonged. The fugitives could keep no account of the
distance they had traversed; but, judging by the rapidity of their
flight, it must have been considerable.

Meantime the horses, immersed to their breasts, could no longer
advance without extreme difficulty. Glenarvan, Paganel, Austin, all
believed themselves lost, victims of the horrible death of unfortunates
abandoned at sea. Their animals began to lose their footing; six feet
of water was sufficient to drown them.

We must forbear to picture the acute anguish of these eight men
overtaken by a rising inundation. They felt their powerlessness to
struggle against these convulsions of nature, superior to human
strength. Their safety was no longer in their own hands.

Five minutes after, the horses were swimming, while the current alone
carried them along with irresistible force and furious swiftness. All
safety seemed impossible, when the voice of the major was heard.

"A tree!" said he.

"A tree!" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes, yonder!" replied Thalcave, and he pointed northward to a kind of
gigantic walnut-tree, which rose solitary from the midst of the waters.

His companions had no need to be urged. This tree that was opportunely
presented to them they must reach at all hazards. The horses probably
could not accomplish the distance; but the men, at least, could be
saved,--the current would carry them.

At that moment Tom Austin's horse gave a stifled neigh and disappeared.
His rider, extricating himself from the stirrups, began to swim
vigorously.

"Cling to my saddle!" cried Glenarvan to him.

"Thanks, my lord," replied he, "my arms are strong."

"Your horse, Robert?" continued Glenarvan, turning towards the boy.

"All right, my lord, all right! He swims like a fish."

"Attention!" cried the major, in a loud voice.

This word was scarcely pronounced, when the enormous wall of water
reached them. A huge wave, forty feet high, overwhelmed the fugitives
with a terrible roar. Men and beasts, everything, disappeared in a
whirlpool of foam. A ponderous liquid mass engulfed them in its furious
tide. When the deluge had passed, the men regained the surface, and
rapidly counted their numbers; but the horses, except Thaouka, had
disappeared forever.

"Courage! courage!" cried Glenarvan, who supported Paganel with one arm
and swam with the other.

"All right! all right!" replied the worthy geographer; "indeed I am not
sorry----"

What was he not sorry for? No one ever knew; for the poor man was
forced to swallow the end of his sentence in half a pint of muddy water.

The major calmly advanced, taking a regular stroke of which the most
skillful swimmer would not have been ashamed. The sailors worked their
way along like porpoises in their native element. As for Robert, he
clung to Thaouka's mane, and was thus drawn along. The horse proudly
cut the waters, and kept himself instinctively on a line with the tree,
towards which the current bore him, and which was now not far distant.

In a few moments the entire party reached it. It was fortunate; for, if
this refuge had failed, all chance of safety would have vanished, and
they must have perished in the waves. The water was up to the top of
the trunk where the main branches grew, so that it was easy to grasp
them.

Thalcave, leaving his horse, and lifting Robert, seized the first limb,
and soon his powerful arms had lodged the exhausted swimmers in a place
of safety. But Thaouka, carried away by the current, was rapidly
disappearing. He turned his intelligent head towards his master, and,
shaking his long mane, neighed for him beseechingly.

[Illustration: A huge wave, forty feet high, overwhelmed the fugitives
with a terrible roar. Men and beasts, everything, disappeared in a
whirlpool of foam. A ponderous liquid mass engulfed them in its furious
tide.]

"Do you abandon him?" said Paganel.

"I?" cried the Indian, and, plunging into the tempestuous waters, he
reappeared some distance from the tree. A few moments after, his arm
rested upon the neck of Thaouka, and horse and horseman swam away
together towards the misty horizon of the north.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A SINGULAR ABODE.


The tree upon which Glenarvan and his companions had just found refuge
resembled a walnut-tree. It had the same shining foliage and rounded
form. It was the "ombu," which is met with only on the Argentine
Plains. It had an enormous, twisted trunk, and was confined to the
earth not only by its great roots, but also by strong shoots which held
it most tenaciously. It had thus resisted the force of the inundation.

[Sidenote: AN ORNITHOLOGICAL OMNIUM-GATHERUM.]

This ombu measured one hundred feet in height, and might have covered
with its shade a circumference of three hundred and sixty feet. All
the upper part rested on three great branches, which forked from the
top of the trunk, that was six feet in diameter. Two of these branches
were nearly perpendicular, and supported the immense canopy of foliage,
whose crossed, twisted, and interlaced limbs, as if woven by the hand
of a basket-maker, formed an impenetrable shelter. The third branch,
on the contrary, extended almost horizontally over the roaring waters;
its leaves were bathed in them, while it seemed a promontory to this
island of verdure surrounded by an ocean. There was abundant space,
also, in the interior of this gigantic tree. The foliage, which was
not very dense at its outer circumference, left large openings like
sky-lights, and made it well ventilated and cool. At sight of these
branches rising in innumerable ramifications towards the clouds, while
the parasitic convolvuli bound them to each other, and the rays of the
sun shone through the interstices of the leaves, you would really have
thought that the trunk of this ombu bore upon itself alone an entire
forest.

On the arrival of the fugitives, a feathered population flew away to
the top branches, protesting by their cries against so flagrant a
usurpation of their dwelling. These birds, that had themselves sought
refuge upon this solitary ombu, were seen by hundreds,--blackbirds,
starlings, and many other richly-feathered varieties; and when they
flew away it seemed as if a gust of wind had stripped the tree of its
leaves.

Such was the asylum offered to Glenarvan's little party. Robert and the
nimble Wilson were scarcely perched in the tree, before they hastened
to climb to the topmost branches. Their heads protruded above the dome
of verdure. From this lofty position the view embraced a wide range.
The ocean created by the inundation surrounded them on all sides,
and their eyes could discern no limit. No other tree emerged from
the watery surface; the ombu, alone in the midst of the unconfined
waters, groaned at every shock. At a distance, borne along by the
impetuous current, floated uprooted trunks, twisted branches, thatch
torn from some demolished rancho, beams swept by the waters from the
roofs of cattle-folds, bodies of drowned animals, bloody skins, and,
on a swaying tree, a whole family of growling jaguars that clung with
their claws to this fragile raft. Still farther off, a black speck
almost invisible attracted Wilson's attention. It was Thalcave and his
faithful Thaouka, disappearing in the distance.

[Illustration: He turned his intelligent head towards his master, and,
shaking his long mane, neighed for him beseechingly.]

[Sidenote: A COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY.]

"Thalcave, friend Thalcave!" cried Robert, stretching out his hands
towards the courageous Patagonian.

"He will be saved, Mr. Robert," said Wilson; "but let us join Lord
Glenarvan."

A moment after, Robert and the sailor descended the three stories
of branches and found themselves among their companions. Glenarvan,
Paganel, the major, Austin, and Mulready were seated astraddle, or
dangling in the branches, according to their own inclinations. Wilson
gave an account of their visit to the top of the tree. All shared his
opinion in regard to Thalcave. The only question was, whether Thalcave
would save Thaouka, or Thaouka Thalcave.

The present situation of these refugees was undeniably insecure. The
tree would not probably give way to the force of the current, but the
rising waters might reach the top branches, for the depression of
the soil made this part of the plain a deep reservoir. Glenarvan's
first care, therefore, was to establish, by means of notches, points
of comparison which enabled him to note the different heights of the
water. The flood was now stationary, and it appeared to have reached
its greatest elevation. This was encouraging.

"And now what shall we do?" asked Glenarvan.

"Build our nest, of course," replied Paganel.

"Build our nest!" cried Robert.

"Certainly, my boy, and live the life of birds, since we cannot live
the life of fishes."

"Very well," said Glenarvan; "but who will give us our beakful?"

"I," replied the major.

All eyes were turned towards MacNabb, who was comfortably seated in a
natural arm-chair formed of two pliant branches, and with one hand was
holding out the wet though well-filled saddle-bags.

"Ah, MacNabb," cried Glenarvan, "this is just like you! You think of
everything, even under circumstances where it is allowable to forget."

"As soon as it was decided not to be drowned, I concluded not to die of
hunger."

"I should not have thought of this," said Paganel, innocently; "but I
am so absent-minded!"

"And what do the saddle-bags contain?" inquired Tom Austin.

"Provisions for seven men for two days," replied MacNabb.

"Well," said Glenarvan, "I hope that the inundation will be
considerably lower twenty-four hours hence."

"Or that we shall find some means of gaining _terra firma_," added
Paganel.

"Our first business, then, is to breakfast," said Glenarvan.

"After drying ourselves," observed the major.

"And fire?" said Wilson.

"Why, we must make one," replied Paganel.

"Where?"

"At the top of the trunk, of course."

"With what?"

"With dead wood that we shall cut in the tree."

"But how kindle it?" said Glenarvan. "Our tinder is like a wet sponge."

"We will manage that," answered Paganel; "a little dry moss, a ray of
sunlight, the lens of my telescope, and you will see by what a fire I
will dry myself. Who will go for wood in the forest?"

"I!" cried Robert, and, followed by his friend Wilson, he disappeared
like a cat in the depths of the foliage.

[Sidenote: GOING BIRD'S-NESTING.]

During their absence Paganel found dry moss in sufficient quantity; he
availed himself of a ray of sunlight, which was easy, for the orb of
day now shone with a vivid brightness, and then, with the aid of his
lens, he kindled without difficulty the combustible materials which
were laid on a bed of leaves in the fork of the branches. It was a
natural fireplace, with no danger of conflagration.

Wilson and Robert soon returned with an armful of dead wood, which was
cast on the fire. Paganel, to cause a draught, placed himself above the
fireplace, his long legs crossed in the Arab fashion; then, moving his
body rapidly up and down, he produced, by means of his poncho, a strong
current of air. The wood kindled, and a bright, roaring flame soon rose
from this improvised oven. Each dried himself in his own way, while the
ponchos, hung on the branches, swung to and fro in the breeze.

They now breakfasted, sparingly however, for they had to allow for the
following day. The immense basin might not perhaps be empty so soon as
Glenarvan hoped, and, moreover, the provisions were limited. The tree
bore no fruit; but fortunately it afforded a remarkable supply of fresh
eggs, thanks to the numerous nests that loaded the branches, not to
speak of their feathered occupants. These resources were by no means to
be despised. The question now was, therefore, in case of a prolonged
stay, how to secure comfortable quarters.

"Since the kitchen and dining-room are on the ground floor," said
Paganel, "we will sleep in the first story. The house is large, the
rent reasonable, and we must take our ease. I perceive that above there
are natural cradles, in which, when we have once laid ourselves, we
shall sleep as well as in the best beds in the world. We have nothing
to fear; moreover, we will keep watch, and there are enough of us to
repulse all the wild animals."

"Only we have no arms," said Tom Austin.

"I have my revolvers," said Glenarvan.

"And I mine," replied Robert.

"What use," continued Tom Austin, "if Mr. Paganel does not find the
means of manufacturing powder?"

"It is not necessary," replied MacNabb, showing a full flask.

"Where did you get that, major?" inquired Paganel.

"Of Thalcave. He thought it might be useful to us, and gave it to me
before going back to Thaouka."

"Brave and generous Indian!" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes," added Tom Austin, "if all the Patagonians are fashioned after
this model, I pay my respects to Patagonia."

"I desire that the horse be not forgotten," said Paganel. "He forms
part of the Patagonian, and, if I am not greatly mistaken, we shall see
them again."

"How far are we from the Atlantic?" inquired the major.

"Not more than forty miles," answered Paganel. "And now, my friends,
since each is free to act, I ask permission to leave you. I am going to
choose an observatory above, and, with the aid of my telescope, will
keep you acquainted with what goes on here."

The geographer was allowed to go. He very adroitly swung himself
from branch to branch, and disappeared behind the thick curtain of
foliage. His companions at once occupied themselves with making the
sleeping-room and preparing their beds, which was neither a difficult
nor a lengthy task. As there were no bedclothes to fix nor furniture to
arrange, each soon resumed his place by the fire.

They then conversed, but not about their present condition, which they
must patiently endure. They returned to the inexhaustible subject of
Captain Grant's recovery. If the waters subsided, in three days the
travelers would be again on board the Duncan. But the captain and his
two sailors, those unfortunate castaways, would not be with them; and
it even seemed after this failure, after this vain search in South
America, as if all hope of finding them were irrevocably lost. Whither
direct a new search? What, too, would be the grief of Lady Helena and
Mary Grant on learning that the future had no hope in store for them!

"Poor sister!" exclaimed Robert; "all is over for us!"

[Illustration: Glenarvan, Paganel, the major, Austin, and Mulready were
seated astraddle, or dangling in the branches, according to their own
inclinations.]

Glenarvan, for the first time, had no consoling answer to make.
What hope could he give the child? Had he not followed with rigorous
exactitude the directions of the document?

"At all events," said he, "this thirty-seventh degree of latitude is
no vain indication. Have we not supposed, interpreted, and ascertained
that it relates to the shipwreck or the captivity of Captain Grant?
Have we not read it with our own eyes?"

"All that is true, my lord," replied Tom Austin; "nevertheless our
search has not succeeded."

"It is discouraging as well as annoying," said Glenarvan.

"Annoying if you will," replied MacNabb, in a calm tone, "but not
discouraging. Precisely because we thus have a definite item, we must
thoroughly exhaust all its instructions."

"What do you mean?" inquired Glenarvan. "What do you think ought to be
done?"

"A very simple and reasonable thing, my dear Edward. Let us turn our
faces towards the east, when we are on board the Duncan, and follow
the thirty-seventh parallel even around to our starting-point, if
necessary."

"Do you think, my dear major, that I have not thought of this?" replied
Glenarvan. "Indeed I have, a hundred times. But what chance have we of
succeeding? Is not leaving the American continent departing from the
place indicated by Captain Grant himself, from Patagonia, so clearly
named in the document?"

"Do you wish to begin your search in the Pampas again," replied the
major, "when you are sure that the shipwreck of the Britannia did not
take place on the Pacific or Atlantic coast?"

Glenarvan did not answer.

"And however feeble the chance of finding Captain Grant by following
this latitude may be, still ought we not to attempt it?"

"I do not deny it," replied Glenarvan.

[Sidenote: APPLIED GEOGRAPHY.]

"And you, my friends," added the major, addressing the sailors, "are
you not of my opinion?"

"Entirely," answered Tom Austin, while Wilson and Mulready nodded
assent.

"Listen to me, my friends," continued Glenarvan, after a few moments
of reflection, "and you too, Robert, for this is a serious question.
I shall do everything possible to find Captain Grant, as I have
undertaken to do, and shall devote my entire life, if necessary,
to this object. All Scotland would join me to save this noble man
who sacrificed himself for her. I too think, however slight may
be the chance, that we ought to make the tour of the world on the
thirty-seventh parallel; and I shall do so. But this is not the point
to be settled: there is a much more important one, and it is this:
Ought we once and for all to abandon our search on the American
continent?"

This question, so directly asked, was unanswered. No one dared to
declare his opinion.

"Well?" resumed Glenarvan, addressing the major more especially.

"My dear Edward," replied MacNabb, "it would involve too great a
responsibility to answer you now. The case requires consideration.
But first of all I desire to know what countries the thirty-seventh
parallel crosses."

"That is Paganel's business," replied Glenarvan.

"Let us ask him, then," said the major.

The geographer was no longer to be seen, as he was hidden by the thick
foliage. It was necessary to call him.

"Paganel! Paganel!" cried Glenarvan.

"Present!" answered a voice which seemed to come to them from the sky.

"Where are you?"

"In my tower."

"What are you doing?"

"Surveying the wide horizon."

"Can you come down a moment?"

"Do you need me?"

"Yes."

"What for?"

"To know what countries the thirty-seventh parallel crosses."

"Nothing easier," replied Paganel; "I need not even disturb myself to
tell you."

"Very well, then."

"Leaving America, the thirty-seventh parallel crosses the Atlantic."

"Good."

"It strikes Tristan d'Acunha Island."

"Well?"

"It passes two degrees to the south of the Cape of Good Hope."

"And then?"

"It runs across the Indian Ocean."

"And then?"

"It grazes St. Paul's Island of the Amsterdam group."

"Go on."

"It cuts Australia across the province of Victoria."

"Proceed."

"Leaving Australia----"

This last sentence was not finished. Did the geographer hesitate?
Did he know no more? No; but a startling cry was heard in the top of
the tree. Glenarvan and his friends grew pale as they gazed at each
other. Had a new calamity happened? Had the unfortunate Paganel fallen?
Already Wilson and Mulready were hastening to his assistance, when a
long body appeared. Paganel dangled from branch to branch. His hands
could grasp nothing. Was he alive, or dead? They did not know; but
he was about to fall into the roaring waters, when the major, with a
strong hand, arrested his progress.

"Very much obliged, MacNabb!" cried Paganel.

"Why, what is the matter with you?" said the major.

[Illustration: A long body appeared. Paganel dangled from branch to
branch. His hands could grasp nothing. Was he alive, or dead?]

"What has got into you? Is this another of your eternal distractions?"

"Yes, yes," replied Paganel, in a voice choked with emotion (and
leaves). "Yes, a distraction,--phenomenal this time."

"What is it?"

"We have been mistaken! We are still mistaken!"

"Explain yourself."

"Glenarvan, major, Robert, my friends," cried Paganel, "all you who
hear me, we are seeking Captain Grant where he is not."

"What do you say?" cried Glenarvan.

"Not only where he is not," added Paganel, "but even where he has never
been."



CHAPTER XXIV.

PAGANEL'S DISCLOSURE.


A profound astonishment greeted these unexpected words. What did the
geographer mean? Had he lost his senses? He spoke, however, with
such conviction that all eyes were turned towards Glenarvan. This
declaration of Paganel was a direct answer to the question the former
had asked. But Glenarvan confined himself to a negative gesture,
indicating disbelief in the geographer, who, as soon as he was master
of his emotion, resumed.

"Yes," said he, in a tone of conviction, "yes, we have gone astray in
our search, and have read in the document what is not written there."

"Explain yourself, Paganel," said the major; "and more calmly."

[Sidenote: A NEW IDEA.]

"That is very simple, major. Like you, I was in error; like you, I
struck upon a false interpretation. When, but a moment ago, at the top
of this tree, in answer to the question, at the word 'Australia' an
idea flashed through my mind, and all was clear."

"What!" cried Glenarvan, "do you pretend that Captain Grant----"

"I pretend," replied Paganel, "that the word _Austral_ in the document
is not complete, as we have hitherto supposed, but the root of the word
_Australia_."

"This is something singular," said the major.

"Singular!" replied Glenarvan, shrugging his shoulders; "it is simply
impossible!"

"Impossible," continued Paganel, "is a word that we do not allow in
France."

"What!" added Glenarvan, in a tone of the greatest incredulity, "do you
pretend, with that document in your possession, that the shipwreck of
the Britannia took place on the shores of Australia?"

"I am sure of it!" replied Paganel.

"By my faith, Paganel," said Glenarvan, "this is a pretension that
astonishes me greatly, coming from the secretary of a geographical
society."

"Why?" inquired Paganel, touched in his sensitive point.

"Because, if you admit the word Australia, you admit at the same time
that there are Indians in that country, a fact which has not yet been
proved."

Paganel was by no means surprised at this argument. He seemingly
expected it, and began to smile.

"My dear Glenarvan," said he, "do not be too hasty in your triumph.
I am going to defeat you completely, as no Englishman has ever been
defeated."

"I ask nothing better. Defeat me, Paganel."

"Listen, then. You say that the Indians mentioned in the document
belong exclusively to Patagonia. The incomplete word _indi_ does not
mean Indians, but natives (_indigènes_). Now do you admit that there
are natives in Australia?"

It must be confessed that Glenarvan now gazed fixedly at Paganel.

"Bravo, Paganel!" said the major.

"Do you admit my interpretation, my dear lord?"

"Yes," replied Glenarvan, "if you can prove to me that the imperfect
word _gonie_ does not relate to the country of the Patagonians."

"No," cried Paganel, "it certainly does not mean Patagonia. Read
anything you will but that."

"But what?"

"_Cosmogonie! théogonie! agonie!_"

"_Agonie!_" cried the major.

"That is indifferent to me," replied Paganel; "the word has no
importance. I shall not even search for what it may signify. The
principal point is that _Austral_ means Australia, and we must have
been blindly following a false trail, not to have discovered before so
evident a meaning. If I had found the document, if my judgment had not
been set aside by your interpretation, I should never have understood
it otherwise."

This time cheers, congratulations, and compliments greeted Paganel's
words. Austin, the sailors, the major, and Robert especially, were
delighted to revive their hopes, and applauded the worthy geographer.
Glenarvan, who had gradually been undeceived, was, as he said, almost
ready to surrender.

"One last remark, my dear Paganel, and I have only to bow before your
sagacity."

"Speak!"

"How do you arrange these newly-interpreted words, and in what way do
you read the document?"

[Illustration: The hunt promised well, and gave hopes of culinary
wonders.]

"Nothing is easier. Here is the document," said Paganel, producing the
precious paper that he had studied so conscientiously for several
days. A profound silence ensued, while the geographer, collecting his
thoughts, took his time to answer. His finger followed the incomplete
lines on the document, while, in a confident tone, he expressed himself
in the following terms:


"'June 7th, 1862, the brig Britannia, of Glasgow, foundered after'--let
us put, if you wish, 'two days, three days,' or, 'a long struggle,'--it
matters little, it is quite unimportant,--'on the coast of Australia.
Directing their course to shore, two sailors and Captain Grant
endeavored to land,' or 'did land on the continent, where they will
be,' or 'are prisoners of cruel natives. They cast this document,' and
so forth. Is it clear?"

"It is clear," replied Glenarvan, "if the word _continent_ can be
applied to Australia, which is only an island."

"Be assured, my dear Glenarvan, the best geographers are agreed in
naming this island the Australian continent."

"Then I have but one thing to say, my friends," cried Glenarvan. "To
Australia, and may Heaven assist us!"

"To Australia!" repeated his companions, with one accord.

"Do you know, Paganel," added Glenarvan, "that your presence on board
the Duncan is a providential circumstance?"

"Well," replied Paganel, "let us suppose that I am an envoy of
Providence, and say no more about it."

[Sidenote: A FESTIVE BANQUET.]

Thus ended this conversation, that in the future led to such great
results. It completely changed the moral condition of the travelers.
They had caught again the thread of the labyrinth in which they had
thought themselves forever lost. A new hope arose on the ruins of
their fallen projects. They could fearlessly leave behind them this
American continent, and already all their thoughts flew away to the
Australian land. On reaching the Duncan, they would not bring despair
on board, and Lady Helena and Mary Grant would not have to lament the
irrevocable loss of the captain. Thus they forgot the dangers of their
situation in their new-found joy, and their only regret was that they
could not start at once.

It was now four o'clock in the afternoon, and they resolved to take
supper at six. Paganel wished to celebrate this joyful day by a
splendid banquet. As the bill of fare was very limited, he proposed
to Robert that they should go hunting "in the neighboring forest,"
at which idea the boy clapped his hands. They took Thalcave's
powder-flask, cleaned the revolvers, loaded them with fine shot, and
started.

"Do not go far," said the major, gravely, to the two huntsmen.

After their departure Glenarvan and MacNabb went to consult the notches
on the tree, while Wilson and Mulready revived the smouldering embers.

Arriving at the surface of this immense lake, they saw no sign of
abatement. The waters seemed to have attained their highest elevation;
but the violence with which they rolled from south to north proved that
the equilibrium of the Argentine rivers was not yet established. Before
the liquid mass could lower, it must first become calm, like the sea
when flood-tide ends and ebb begins. They could not, therefore, expect
a subsidence of the waters so long as they flowed towards the north
with such swiftness.

While Glenarvan and the major were making these observations, reports
resounded in the tree, accompanied by cries of joy almost as noisy.
The clear treble of Robert contrasted sharply with the deep bass of
Paganel, and the strife was which should be the most boyish. The hunt
promised well, and gave hopes of culinary wonders.

When the major and Glenarvan returned to the fire, they had to
congratulate Wilson upon an excellent idea. The honest sailor had
devoted himself to fishing with wonderful success, with the aid of
a pin and a piece of string. Several dozen of little fish, delicate
as smelts, called "mojarras," wriggled in a fold of his poncho, and
seemed likely to make an exquisite dish.

At this moment the hunters descended from the top of the tree. Paganel
carefully carried some black swallows' eggs and a string of sparrows,
which he meant afterwards to serve up as larks. Robert had adroitly
brought down several pairs of "hilgueros,"--little green-and-yellow
birds, which are excellent eating, and very much in demand in the
Montevideo market. The geographer, who knew many ways of preparing
eggs, had to confine himself this time to cooking them in the hot
ashes. However, the repast was as varied as it was delicate. The dried
meat, the hard eggs, the broiled mojarras, and the roast sparrows and
hilgueros, formed a repast which was long remembered.

The conversation was very animated. Paganel was greatly complimented in
his twofold capacity of hunter and cook, and accepted these encomiums
with the modesty that belongs to true merit. Then he gave himself up to
singular observations on the magnificent tree that sheltered them with
its foliage, and whose extent, as he declared, was immense.

"Robert and I," said he jokingly, "imagined ourselves in the open
forest during the hunt. One moment I thought we should be lost. I could
not find my way. The sun was declining towards the horizon. I sought
in vain to retrace my steps. Hunger made itself felt acutely. Already
the gloomy coppices were resounding with the growls of ferocious
beasts,--but no, there are no ferocious beasts, and I am sorry."

"What!" cried Glenarvan, "you are sorry there are no ferocious beasts?"

"Certainly."

"But, when you have everything to fear from their ferocity----"

"Ferocity does not exist,--scientifically speaking," replied the
geographer.

[Illustration: However, the repast was as varied as it was delicate.
The dried meat, the hard eggs, the broiled mojarras, and the roast
sparrows and hilgueros, formed a repast which was long remembered.]

"Ha! this time, Paganel," said the major, "you will not make me admit
the utility of ferocious beasts. What are they good for?"

"Major," cried Paganel, "they are good to form classifications, orders,
families, genera, sub-genera, species----"

"Very fine!" said MacNabb. "I should not have thought of that! If I
had been one of Noah's companions at the time of the deluge, I should
certainly have prevented that imprudent patriarch from putting into
the ark pairs of tigers, lions, bears, panthers, and other animals as
destructive as they were useless."

"Should you have done so?" inquired Paganel.

"I should."

"Well, you would have been wrong in a zoological point of view."

"But not in a human one."

"This is shocking," continued Paganel; "for my part, I should have
preserved all the animals before the deluge of which we are so
unfortunately deprived."

"I tell you," replied MacNabb, "that Noah was right in abandoning them
to their fate, admitting that they lived in his time."

"I tell you that Noah was wrong," retorted Paganel, "and deserves the
malediction of scholars to the end of time."

The listeners to this argument could not help laughing at seeing the
two friends dispute about what Noah ought to have done or left undone.
The major, who had never argued with any one in his life, contrary to
all his principles, was every day at war with Paganel, who must have
particularly excited him.

Glenarvan, according to his custom, interrupted the debate, and said,--

[Sidenote: WANTED, A JAGUAR!]

"However much it is to be regretted, in a scientific or human point of
view, that we are deprived of ferocious animals, we must be resigned
to-day to their absence. Paganel could not hope to encounter any in
this aerial forest."

"No," replied the geographer, "although we beat the bush. It is a pity,
for it would have been a glorious hunt. A ferocious man-eater like the
jaguar! With one blow of his paw he can twist the neck of a horse. When
he has tasted human flesh, however, he returns to it ravenously. What
he likes best is the Indian, then the negro, then the mulatto, and then
the white man."

"However that may be, my good Paganel," said Glenarvan, "so long as
there are no Indians, mulattoes, or negroes among us, I rejoice in
the absence of your dear jaguars. Our situation is not, of course, so
agreeable----"

"What!" cried Paganel, "you complain of your lot?"

"Certainly," replied Glenarvan. "Are you at your ease in these
uncomfortable and uncushioned branches?"

"I have never been more so, even in my own study. We lead the life of
birds; we sing and flutter about. I almost think that men were destined
to live in the trees."

"They only want wings," said the major.

"They will make them some day."

"In the meantime," replied Glenarvan, "permit me, my dear friend, to
prefer the sand of a park, the floor of a house, or the deck of a
vessel to this aerial abode."

"Glenarvan," said Paganel, "we must take things as they come. If
favorable, so much the better; if unfavorable, we must not mind it. I
see you long for the comforts of Malcolm Castle."

"No, but----"

"I am certain that Robert is perfectly happy," interrupted Paganel, to
secure one advocate, at least, of his theories.

"Yes, Monsieur Paganel!" cried the boy, in a joyful tone.

"It is natural at his age," replied Glenarvan.

"And at mine," added the geographer. "The less ease we have, the fewer
wants; the fewer wants, the happier we are."

"Well," said the major, "here is Paganel going to make an attack upon
riches and gilded splendor."

"No, my dear major," continued Paganel; "but, if you wish, I will tell
you, in this connection, a little Arab story that occurs to me."

"Yes, yes, Monsieur Paganel," cried Robert.

"And what will your story prove?" asked the major.

"What all stories prove, my brave companion."

"Not much, then," replied MacNabb. "But go on, Scheherezade, and tell
one of those stories that you relate so well."

"There was once upon a time," said Paganel, "a son of the great
Haroun-al-Raschid who was not happy. He accordingly consulted an old
dervish, who told him that happiness was a very difficult thing to
find in this world. 'However,' added he, 'I know an infallible way
to procure you happiness.' 'What is it?' inquired the young prince.
'It is,' replied the dervish, 'to put on the shirt of a happy man.'
Thereupon the prince embraced the old man, and set out in search of his
talisman. He visited all the capitals of the earth; he tried the shirts
of kings, emperors, princes, and nobles; but it was a useless task, he
was no happier. Then he put on the shirts of artists, warriors, and
merchants, but with no more success. He had thus traveled far, without
finding happiness. At last, desperate from having tried so many shirts,
he was returning very sadly one beautiful day to the palace of his
father, when he spied in the field an honest laborer, who was joyously
singing as he ploughed. 'Here is, at all events, a man who possesses
happiness,' said he to himself, 'or happiness does not exist on earth.'
He approached him. 'Good man,' said he, 'are you happy?' 'Yes,' replied
the other. 'You wish for nothing?' 'No.' 'You would not change your lot
for that of a king?' 'Never!' 'Well, sell me your shirt!' 'My shirt! I
have none!'"

[Illustration: They were agreed on this point, that it was necessary to
have courage for every fortune, and be contented with a tree when one
has neither palace nor cottage.]



CHAPTER XXV.

BETWEEN FIRE AND WATER.


Jacques Paganel's story had a very great success. He was greatly
applauded, but each retained his own opinion, and the geographer
obtained the result common to most discussions,--of convincing nobody.
However, they were agreed on this point, that it was necessary to have
courage for every fortune, and be contented with a tree when one has
neither palace nor cottage.

During the course of this confabulation evening had come on. Only a
good sleep could thoroughly refresh, after this eventful day. The
inmates of the tree felt themselves not only fatigued by the sudden
changes of the inundation, but especially overcome by the heat, which
had been excessive. Their feathered companions had already set the
example; the hilgueros, those nightingales of the Pampas, had ceased
their melodious warblings, and all the birds had disappeared in the
recesses of the foliage. The best plan was to imitate them.

But before "retiring to their nest," as Paganel said, Glenarvan,
Robert, and he climbed to the observatory, to examine for the last
time the watery expanse. It was about nine o'clock. The sun had just
set in the sparkling mists of the horizon, and all the western part
of the firmament was bathed in a warm vapor. The constellations,
usually so dazzling, seemed veiled in a soft haze. Still they could
be distinguished, and Paganel pointed out to Robert, for Glenarvan's
benefit, that zone where the stars are most brilliant.

[Sidenote: PHILOSOPHY AND PONCHOS.]

While the geographer was discoursing thus, the whole eastern horizon
assumed a stormy aspect. A dense and dark band, clearly defined,
gradually rose, dimming the light of the stars. This cloud of
threatening appearance soon invaded almost the entire vault of the sky.
Its motive power must have been inherent in itself, for there was not
a breath of wind. Not a leaf stirred on the tree, not a ripple curled
the surface of the waters. Even the air seemed to fail, as if some
huge pneumatic machine had rarefied it. A strong electric current was
perceptible in the atmosphere, and every creature felt it course along
the nerves. Glenarvan, Paganel, and Robert were sensibly affected by
these electric currents.

"We shall have a storm," said Paganel.

"You are not afraid of thunder?" asked Glenarvan of the boy.

"Oh, no, my lord," replied Robert.

"Well, so much the better; for the storm is now not far distant."

"And it will be violent," continued Paganel, "so far as I can judge
from the state of the sky."

"It is not the storm that troubles me," said Glenarvan, "but the
torrents of rain with which it will be accompanied. We shall be
drenched to the skin again. Whatever you may say, Paganel, a nest
cannot suffice a man, as you will soon learn to your cost."

"Oh, yes, it can, with philosophy," briskly replied the geographer.

"Philosophy does not prevent you from getting wet."

"No, but it warms you."

"Well, then," said Glenarvan, "let us join our friends and persuade
them to envelop us with their philosophy and their ponchos as closely
as possible, and especially to lay in a stock of patience, for we shall
need it."

So saying, he gave another look at the threatening sky. The mass of
clouds now covered it entirely. A faint line of light towards the
horizon was scarcely discernible in the dimness. The sombre appearance
of the water had increased, and between the dark mass below and the
clouds above there was scarcely a separation. At the same time all
perception seemed dulled; and a leaden torpor rested upon both eyes and
ears, while the silence was profound.

"Let us go down," said Glenarvan; "the lightning will soon be here."

His two companions and himself slid down the smooth branches, and were
somewhat surprised to find themselves in a remarkable kind of twilight,
which was produced by myriads of luminous objects that crossed each
other and buzzed on the surface of the water.

"Phosphorescences?" said Glenarvan.

"No," replied Paganel, "but phosphorescent insects, real
glow-worms,--living diamonds, and not expensive, of which the ladies of
Buenos Ayres make magnificent ornaments for themselves."

"What!" cried Robert, "are these things, that fly like sparks, insects?"

"Yes, my boy."

Robert caught one of the brilliant creatures. Paganel was right. It
was a kind of large beetle, an inch in length, to which the Indians
give the name of "tuco-tuco." This curious insect threw out flashes at
two points situated in front of its sheath, and its light would have
enabled one to read in the darkness. Paganel, on bringing it close to
his watch, saw that it was ten o'clock.

Glenarvan now joined the major and the three sailors, and gave them
instructions for the night. A terrible storm was to be expected. After
the first rollings of the thunder, the wind would doubtless break forth
and the tree be violently shaken. It was, therefore, advisable for
every one to tie himself firmly to the bed of branches that had been
appropriated to him. If they could not avoid the torrents of the sky,
they must at least guard against those of the earth, and not fall
into the rapid current that broke against the trunk of the tree. They
wished each other good night without much hope of passing one, and then
each, getting into his aerial resting-place, wrapped himself in his
poncho and waited for sleep.

[Illustration: The incessant flashes assumed various forms. Some,
darting perpendicularly towards the earth, were repeated five or six
times in the same place; others spread in zigzag lines, and produced on
the dark vault of the heavens astonishing jets of arborescent flame.]

But the approach of a mighty tempest brings to the hearts of most
sentient beings a vague anxiety of which the bravest cannot divest
themselves. The occupants of the tree, agitated and fearful, could not
close their eyes, and the first thunder-clap found them all awake.
It took place about eleven o'clock, resembling a distant rumbling.
Glenarvan climbed to the end of the branch, and peered out from the
foliage. The dark firmament was fitfully illumined by vivid and
brilliant flashes, which the waters brightly reflected, and which
disclosed great rifts in the clouds. Glenarvan, after surveying the
zenith and the horizon, returned to his couch.

"What do you think, Glenarvan?" asked Paganel.

"I think that the storm is beginning, and, if it continues, it will be
terrible."

"So much the better," replied the enthusiastic Paganel. "I like a fine
spectacle, especially when I cannot avoid it. Only one thing would make
me anxious, if anxiety served to avert danger," added he, "and that
is, that the culminating point of this plain is the ombu upon which we
are perched. A lightning-conductor would be very useful here, for this
very tree among all those of the Pampas is the one that particularly
attracts the lightning. And then, as you are aware, my friends,
meteorologists advise us not to take refuge under trees during a storm."

"Well," said the major, "that is timely advice."

"It must be confessed, Paganel," replied Glenarvan, "that you choose a
good time to tell us these encouraging things!"

"Bah!" replied Paganel; "all times are good to receive information. Ah,
it is beginning!"

[Sidenote: AN EXTRAORDINARY STORM.]

Violent thunder-claps interrupted this conversation, and their
intensity increased till they reached the most deafening peals.
They soon became sonorous, and made the atmosphere vibrate in rapid
oscillations. The firmament was on fire, and during this commotion
it was impossible to distinguish from what electric spark emanated
the indefinitely-prolonged rumblings that reverberated throughout the
abysses of the sky.

The incessant flashes assumed various forms. Some, darting
perpendicularly towards the earth, were repeated five or six times in
the same place; others, separating into a thousand different branches,
spread in zigzag lines and produced on the dark vault of the heavens
astonishing jets of arborescent flame. Soon the sky, from east to
north, was crossed by a phosphorescent band of intense brilliancy. This
illumination gradually overspread the entire horizon, lighting up the
clouds like a bonfire, and was reflected in the mirror-like waters,
forming what seemed to be an immense circle of fire, of which the tree
occupied the centre.

Glenarvan and his companions watched this terrific spectacle in
silence. Sheets of dazzling light glided towards them, and blinding
flashes followed in rapid succession, now showing the calm countenance
of the major, then the speculative face of Paganel or the energetic
features of Glenarvan, and again the frightened look of Robert or the
unconcerned expression of the sailors. The rain, however, did not fall
as yet, nor had the wind risen. But soon the flood-gates of the heavens
opened, and the rain came down in torrents, the drops, as they struck
the surface of the water, rebounding in thousands of sparks illuminated
by the incessant lightning.

Did this rain predict the end of the storm? Were Glenarvan and his
companions to be released with a few thorough drenchings? At the height
of this struggle of the elements, suddenly there appeared at the end
of the branch which extended horizontally, a flaming globe, of the
size of a fist, and surrounded by a black smoke. This ball, after
revolving a few moments, burst like a bombshell, and with a noise that
was distinguishable in the midst of the general tumult. A sulphurous
vapor filled the atmosphere. There was a moment of silence, and then
Tom Austin was heard crying,--

"The tree is on fire!"

He was right. In a moment the flame, as if it had been communicated
to an immense piece of fireworks, spread along the west side of the
tree. The dead limbs, the nests of dry grass, and finally the live wood
itself, furnished material for the devouring element.

The wind now rose and fanned the flames into fury. Glenarvan and his
friends, speechless with terror, and venturing upon limbs that bent
beneath their weight, hastily took refuge in the other, the eastern
part of the tree.

Meantime the boughs shriveled, crackled, and twisted in the fire like
burning serpents. The glowing fragments fell into the rushing waters
and floated away in the current, sending forth flashes of ruddy light.
The flames at one moment would rise to a fearful height, to be lost
in the aerial conflagration, and the next, beaten back by the furious
hurricane, would envelop the tree like a robe of molten gold.

Glenarvan, Robert, the major, Paganel, and the sailors, were terrified.
A thick smoke was stifling them; an intolerable heat was scorching
them. The fire was extending to the lower part of the tree on their
side; nothing could stop or extinguish it; and they felt themselves
irrevocably doomed to the torture of those victims who are confined
within the burning sides of a sacrificial fire-basket.

At last their situation was no longer tenable, and of two deaths they
were forced to choose the least cruel.

"To the water!" cried Glenarvan.

[Illustration: In a few moments the gigantic water-spout struck the
ombu, and enveloped it in its watery folds.]

Wilson, whom the flames had reached, had already plunged into the
current, when they heard him cry, in tones of the greatest terror,--

"Help! help!"

Austin rushed towards him and assisted him to regain the trunk.

"What is the matter?"

"Caymans! caymans!" replied Wilson. And, in truth, the foot of the
tree was seen to be surrounded by the most formidable monsters.
Their scales glittered in broad plates of light, sharply defined
by the conflagration. Their flat tails, their pointed heads, their
protruding eyes, their jaws, extending back of their ears, all these
characteristic signs were unmistakable. Paganel recognized the
voracious alligators peculiar to America, and called caymans in Spanish
countries. There were a dozen of them, beating the water with their
powerful tails, and attacking the tree with their terrible teeth.

At this sight the unfortunate travelers felt themselves lost indeed. A
horrible death was in store for them,--to perish either by the flames
or by the teeth of the alligators. There are circumstances in which
man is powerless to struggle, and where a raging element can only be
repulsed by another equally strong. Glenarvan, with a wild look, gazed
at the fire and water leagued against him, not knowing what aid to
implore of Heaven.

The storm had now begun to abate; but it had developed in the air a
great quantity of vapor, which the electric phenomena were about to
set in violent commotion. To the south an enormous water-spout was
gradually forming,--an inverted cone of mist, uniting the raging waters
below to the stormy clouds above. It advanced revolving with frightful
rapidity, collected at its centre a liquid column, and by a powerful
attraction, caused by its gyratory motion, drew towards it all the
surrounding currents of air.

[Sidenote: A STRANGE BARK.]

In a few moments the gigantic water-spout struck the ombu and enveloped
it in its watery folds. The tree was shaken to its very base, so that
Glenarvan might have thought that the alligators had attacked it
with their powerful jaws and were uprooting it from the ground. His
companions and he, clinging to one another, felt the mighty tree give
way and fall, and saw its flaming branches plunge into the tumultuous
waters with a frightful hiss. It was the work of a second. The
water-spout had passed, to exert elsewhere its destructive violence,
and pumping the waters of the plain as if it would exhaust them.

The tree now, loosened from its moorings, floated onward under the
combined impulses of wind and current. The alligators had fled, except
one which crawled along the upturned roots and advanced with open jaws;
but Mulready, seizing a large brand, struck the creature so powerful
a blow that he broke its back. The vanquished animal sank in the
eddies of the torrent, still lashing his formidable tail with terrible
violence.

Glenarvan and his companions, delivered from these voracious creatures,
took refuge on the branches to leeward of the fire, while the tree,
wrapped by the blast of the hurricane in glowing sheets of flame,
floated on like a burning ship in the darkness of the night.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE RETURN ON BOARD.


For two hours the tree floated on the immense lake without reaching
_terra firma_. The flames had gradually died out, and thus the
principal danger of this terrible voyage had vanished. The current,
still keeping its original direction, flowed from southwest to
northeast; the darkness, though illumined now and then by flashes, had
become profound, and Paganel sought in vain for his bearings. But the
storm was abating, the large drops of rain gave place to light spray
that was scattered by the wind, while the huge distended clouds were
crossed by light bands.

The tree advanced rapidly on the impetuous torrent, gliding with
surprising swiftness, as if some powerful propelling means were
inclosed within its trunk. There was as yet no certainty that they
would not float on thus for many days. About three o'clock in the
morning, however, the major observed that the roots now and then struck
the bottom. Tom Austin, by means of a long branch, carefully sounded,
and declared that the water was growing shallow. Twenty minutes later,
a shock was felt, and the progress of the tree was checked.

"Land! land!" cried Paganel, in ringing tones.

The ends of the charred branches had struck against a hillock on the
ground, and never were navigators more delighted to land. Already
Robert and Wilson, having reached a firm plateau, were uttering shouts
of joy, when a well-known whistle was heard. The sound of a horse's
hoofs was heard upon the plain, and the tall form of the Indian emerged
from the darkness.

[Illustration: The sound of a horse's hoofs was heard upon the plain,
and the tall form of the Indian emerged from the darkness.]


"Thalcave!" cried Robert.

"Thalcave!" repeated his companions, as with one voice.

"Friends!" said the Patagonian, who had waited for them there, knowing
that the current would carry them as it had carried him.

At the same moment he raised Robert in his arms and clasped him to his
breast. Glenarvan, the major, and the sailors, delighted to see their
faithful guide again, shook his hands with the most earnest cordiality.
The Patagonian then conducted them to an abandoned estancia. Here
a good fire was burning, which revived them, and on the coals were
roasting succulent slices of venison, to which they did ample justice.
And when their refreshed minds began to reflect, they could scarcely
believe that they had escaped so many perils,--the fire, the water, and
the formidable alligators.

Thalcave, in a few words, told his story to Paganel, and ascribed to
his intrepid horse all the honor of having saved him. Paganel then
endeavored to explain to him the new interpretation of the document,
and the hopes it led them to entertain. Did the Indian understand the
geographer's ingenious suppositions? It was very doubtful; but he saw
his friends happy and very confident, and he desired nothing more.

It may be easily believed that these courageous travelers, after their
day of rest on the tree, needed no urging to resume their journey. At
eight o'clock in the morning they were ready to start. They were too
far south to procure means of transport, and were therefore obliged
to travel on foot. The distance, however, was only forty miles, and
Thaouka would not refuse to carry from time to time a tired pedestrian.
In thirty-six hours they would reach the shores of the Atlantic.

[Sidenote: IN THE DARK.]

As soon as refreshed the guide and his companions left behind them
the immense basin, still covered with the waters, and proceeded across
elevated plains, on which, here and there, were seen groves planted by
Europeans, meadows, and occasionally native trees. Thus the day passed.

The next morning, fifteen miles before reaching the ocean, its
proximity was perceptible. They hastened on in order to reach Lake
Salado, on the shores of the Atlantic, the same day. They were
beginning to feel fatigued, when they perceived sand-hills that hid the
foaming waves, and soon the prolonged murmur of the rising tide struck
upon their ears.

"The ocean!" cried Paganel.

"Yes, the ocean!" replied Thalcave.

And these wanderers, whose strength had seemed almost about to fail,
climbed the mounds with wonderful agility. But the darkness was
profound, and their eyes wandered in vain over the gloomy expanse. They
looked for the Duncan, but could not discern her.

"She is there, at all events," said Glenarvan, "waiting for us."

"We shall see her to-morrow," replied MacNabb.

Tom Austin shouted seaward, but received no answer. The wind was very
strong, and the sea tempestuous. The clouds were driving from the west,
and the foaming crests of the waves broke over the beach in masses of
spray. If the Duncan was at the appointed rendezvous, the lookout man
could neither hear nor be heard. The coast afforded no shelter. There
was no bay, no harbor, no cove; not even a creek. The beach consisted
of long sand-banks that were lost in the sea, and the vicinity of
which is more dangerous than that of the rocks in the face of wind and
tide. These banks, in fact, increase the waves; the sea is peculiarly
boisterous around them, and ships are sure to be lost if they strike on
these bars in heavy storms.

It was therefore very natural that the Duncan, considering this coast
dangerous, and knowing it to be without a port of shelter, kept at a
distance. Captain Mangles must have kept to the windward as far as
possible. This was Tom Austin's opinion, and he declared that the
Duncan was not less than five miles at sea.

The major, accordingly, persuaded his impatient relative to be
resigned, as there was no way of dissipating the thick darkness. And
why weary their eyes in scanning the gloomy horizon? He established a
kind of encampment in the shelter of the sand-hills; the remains of
the provisions furnished them a final repast; and then each, following
the major's example, hollowed out a comfortable bed in the sand, and,
covering himself up to his chin, was soon wrapped in profound repose.

Glenarvan watched alone. The wind continued strong, and the ocean still
showed the effects of the recent storm. The tumultuous waves broke
at the foot of the sand-banks with the noise of thunder. Glenarvan
could not convince himself that the Duncan was so near him; but as for
supposing that she had not arrived at her appointed rendezvous, it
was impossible, for such a ship there were no delays. The storm had
certainly been violent and its fury terrible on the vast expanse of the
ocean, but the yacht was a good vessel and her captain an able seaman;
she must, therefore, be at her destination.

These reflections, however, did not pacify Glenarvan. When heart and
reason are at variance, the latter is the weaker power. The lord of
Malcolm Castle seemed to see in the darkness all those whom he loved,
his dear Helena, Mary Grant, and the crew of the Duncan. He wandered
along the barren coast which the waves covered with phosphorescent
bubbles. He looked, he listened, and even thought that he saw a fitful
light on the sea.

"I am not mistaken," he soliloquized; "I saw a ship's light, the
Duncan's. Ah! why cannot my eyes pierce the darkness?"

[Illustration: Glenarvan watched alone. He could not convince himself
that the Duncan was so near him; but as for supposing that she had not
arrived at her appointed rendezvous, it was impossible, for such a ship
there were no delays.]

Then an idea occurred to him. Paganel called himself a nyctalops; he
could see in the night.

The geographer was sleeping like a mole in his bed, when a strong hand
dragged him from his sandy couch.

"Who is that?" cried he.

"I."

"Who?"

"Glenarvan. Come, I need your eyes."

"My eyes?" replied Paganel, rubbing them vigorously.

"Yes, your eyes, to distinguish the Duncan in this darkness. Come."

"And why my eyes?" said Paganel to himself, delighted, nevertheless, to
be of service to Glenarvan.

He rose, shaking his torpid limbs in the manner of one awakened from
sleep, and followed his friend along the shore. Glenarvan requested
him to survey the dark horizon to seaward. For several moments Paganel
conscientiously devoted himself to this task.

"Well, do you perceive nothing?" asked Glenarvan.

"Nothing. Not even a cat could see two paces before her."

"Look for a red or a green light, on the starboard or the larboard
side."

"I see neither a red nor a green light. All is darkness," replied
Paganel, whose eyes were thereupon involuntarily closed.

For half an hour he mechanically followed his impatient friend in
absolute silence, with his head bowed upon his breast, sometimes
raising it suddenly. He tottered along with uncertain steps, like those
of a drunken man. At last Glenarvan, seeing that the geographer was in
a state of somnambulism, took him by the arm, and, without waking him,
led him back to his sand-hole, and comfortably deposited him therein.

At break of day they were all started to their feet by the cry,--

[Sidenote: IMPATIENCE.]

"The Duncan! the Duncan!"

"Hurrah! hurrah!" replied Glenarvan's companions, rushing to the shore.

The Duncan was indeed in sight. Five miles distant, the yacht was
sailing under low pressure, her main-sails carefully reefed, while her
smoke mingled with the mists of the morning. The sea was high, and a
vessel of her tonnage could not approach the shore without danger.

Glenarvan, provided with Paganel's telescope, watched the movements of
the Duncan. Captain Mangles could not have perceived them, for he did
not approach, but continued to coast along with only a reefed top-sail.

At this moment Thalcave, having loaded his carbine heavily, fired it in
the direction of the yacht. They gazed and listened. Three times the
Indian's gun resounded, waking the echoes of the shore.

At last a white smoke issued from the side of the yacht.

"They see us!" cried Glenarvan. "It is the Duncan's cannon."

A few moments after, a heavy report rang out on the air, and the
Duncan, shifting her sail and putting on steam, was seen to be
approaching the shore. By the aid of the glass they saw a boat leave
the ship's side.

"Lady Helena cannot come," said Tom Austin: "the sea is too rough."

"Nor Captain Mangles," replied MacNabb: "he cannot leave his vessel."

"My sister! my sister!" cried Robert, stretching his arms towards the
yacht, which rolled heavily.

"I hope I shall soon get on board!" exclaimed Glenarvan.

"Patience, Edward! You will be there in two hours," replied MacNabb.

Glenarvan now joined Thalcave, who, standing with folded arms alongside
of Thaouka, was calmly gazing at the waves.

Glenarvan took his hand, and, pointing to the yacht, said,--

"Come!"

The Indian shook his head.

"Come, my friend!" continued Glenarvan.

"No," replied Thalcave, gently. "Here is Thaouka, and there are the
Pampas!" he added, indicating with a sweep of his hand the vast expanse
of the plains.

It was clear that the Indian would never leave the prairies, where the
bones of his fathers whitened. Glenarvan knew the strong attachment
of these children of the desert to their native country. He therefore
shook Thalcave's hand, and did not insist; not even when the Indian,
smiling in his peculiar way, refused the price of his services,
saying,--

"It was done out of friendship."

His lordship, however, desired to give the brave Indian something which
might at least serve as a souvenir of his European friends. But what
had he left? His arms, his horses, everything had been lost in the
inundation. His friends were no richer than himself. For some moments
he was at a loss how to repay the disinterested generosity of the brave
guide; but at last a happy idea occurred to him. He drew from his
pocket-book a costly medallion inclosing an admirable portrait, one of
Lawrence's master-pieces, and presented it to Thalcave.

"My wife," said Glenarvan.

Thalcave gazed with wonder at the portrait, and pronounced these simple
words,--

"Good and beautiful!"

Then Robert, Paganel, the major, Tom Austin, and the two sailors
bade an affectionate adieu to the noble Patagonian, who clasped each
one in succession to his broad breast. All were sincerely sorry at
parting with so courageous and devoted a friend. Paganel forced him
to accept a map of South America and the two oceans, which the
Indian had frequently examined with interest. It was the geographer's
most precious possession. As for Robert, he had nothing to give but
caresses, which he freely lavished upon his deliverer and upon Thaouka.

[Illustration: They pushed off, and the boat was rapidly borne from the
shore by the ebbing tide. For a long time the motionless outline of the
Indian was seen through the foam of the waves.]

At that instant the Duncan's boat approached, and, gliding into the
narrow channel between the sand-banks, grounded on the beach.

"My wife?" asked Glenarvan.

"My sister?" cried Robert.

"Lady Helena and Miss Grant await you on board," replied the cockswain.
"But we have not a moment to lose, my lord, for the tide is beginning
to ebb."

The last acknowledgments were given, and Thalcave accompanied his
friends to the boat. Just as Robert was about to embark, the Indian
took him in his arms and gazed at him tenderly.

"Now go," said he; "you are a man!"

"Adieu, my friend, adieu!" cried Glenarvan.

"Shall we ever see each other again?" asked Paganel.

"Who knows?" replied Thalcave, raising his arms towards heaven.

They pushed off, and the boat was rapidly borne from the shore by the
ebbing tide. For a long time the motionless outline of the Indian was
seen through the foam of the waves. Then his tall form grew indistinct,
and soon became invisible. An hour afterwards they reached the Duncan.
Robert was the first to spring upon the deck, where he threw himself
upon his sister's neck, while the crew of the yacht filled the air with
their joyous shouts.

Thus had our travelers accomplished the journey across South America
on a rigorously straight line. Neither mountains nor rivers had turned
them aside from their course; and, although they were not forced to
struggle against the evil designs of men, the relentless fury of the
elements had often tested their generous intrepidity to its utmost
powers of endurance.



CHAPTER XXVII.

A NEW DESTINATION.


The first moments were consecrated to the happiness of meeting.
Lord Glenarvan did not wish the joy in the hearts of his friends to
be chilled by tidings of their want of success. His first words,
therefore, were,--

"Courage, my friends, courage! Captain Grant is not with us, but we are
sure to find him."

It needed only such an assurance to restore hope to the passengers of
the Duncan. Lady Helena and Mary Grant, while the boat was approaching
the ship, had experienced all the anguish of suspense. From the deck
they endeavored to count those who were returning. At one time the
young girl would despair; at another she would think she saw her
father. Her heart beat quickly; she could not speak; she could scarcely
stand. Lady Helena supported her, while Captain Mangles stood beside
her in silence. His keen eyes, accustomed to distinguish distant
objects, could not discern the captain.

"He is there! he is coming! my father!" murmured the young girl.

But as the boat gradually drew near, the illusion vanished. Not only
Lady Helena and the captain, but Mary Grant, had now lost all hope. It
was, therefore, time for Glenarvan to utter his assuring words.

[Sidenote: "BREAKFAST!"]

After the first embraces, all were informed of the principal incidents
of the journey; and, first of all, Glenarvan made known the new
interpretation of the document, due to the sagacity of Jacques Paganel.
He also praised Robert, of whom his sister had a right to be proud.
His courage, his devotion, and the dangers that he had overcome, were
conspicuously set forth by his noble friend, so that the boy would not
have known where to hide himself, if his sister's arms had not afforded
him a sure refuge.

[Illustration: Lady Helena and Mary Grant, while the boat was
approaching the ship, had experienced all the anguish of suspense. From
the deck they endeavored to count those who were returning.]

"You need not blush, Robert," said Captain Mangles; "you have behaved
like the worthy son of Captain Grant."

He stretched out his arms towards Mary's brother, and pressed his lips
to the boy's cheeks, which were still wet with tears.

They then spoke of the generous Thalcave. Lady Helena regretted that
she could not have shaken hands with the brave Indian. MacNabb, after
the first outbursts of enthusiasm, repaired to his cabin to shave
himself. As for Paganel, he flitted hither and thither, like a bee,
extracting the honey of compliments and smiles. He wished to embrace
all on board the Duncan, and, beginning with Lady Helena and Mary
Grant, ended with Mr. Olbinett, the steward, who could not better
recognize such politeness than by announcing breakfast.

"Breakfast!" cried Paganel.

"Yes, Mr. Paganel," replied Olbinett.

"A real breakfast, on a real table, with table-cloth and napkins?"

"Certainly."

"And shall we not eat hard eggs, or ostrich steaks?"

"Oh, Mr. Paganel!" replied the worthy steward, greatly embarrassed.

"I did not mean to offend you, my friend," said the geographer; "but
for a month our food has been of that sort, and we have dined, not at
a table, but stretched on the ground, except when we were astride of
the trees. This breakfast that you have just announced seemed to me,
therefore, like a dream, a fiction, a chimera."

"Well, we will test its reality, Monsieur Paganel," replied Lady
Helena, who could not help laughing.

"Accept my arm," said the gallant geographer.

"Has your lordship any orders to give?" inquired Captain Mangles.

"After breakfast, my dear fellow," replied Glenarvan, "we will discuss
in council the programme of the new expedition."

The passengers and the young captain then descended to the cabin.
Orders were given to the engineer to keep up steam, that they might
start at the first signal. The major and the travelers, after a rapid
toilette, seated themselves at the table. Ample justice was done to
Mr. Olbinett's repast, which was declared excellent and even superior
to the splendid banquets of the Pampas. Paganel called twice for every
dish, "through absent-mindedness," as he said. This unfortunate word
led Lady Helena to inquire if the amiable Frenchman had occasionally
shown his habitual failing. The major and Lord Glenarvan looked at each
other with a smile. As for Paganel, he laughed heartily, and promised
"upon his honor" not to commit a single blunder during the entire
voyage. He then in a very comical way told the story of his mistake in
the study of Spanish.

"After all," he added, in conclusion, "misfortunes are sometimes
beneficial, and I do not regret my error."

"And why, my worthy friend?" asked the major.

"Because I not only know Spanish, but Portuguese also. I speak two
languages instead of one."

"By my faith, I should not have thought of that," replied MacNabb. "My
compliments, Paganel, my sincere compliments!"

[Sidenote: TABLE-TALK IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC.]

Paganel was applauded, but did not lose a single mouthful. He did not,
however, notice one peculiarity observed by Glenarvan, and that was the
young captain's attentions to his neighbor, Mary Grant. A slight sign
from Lady Helena to her husband told him how matters stood. He gazed at
the two young people with affectionate sympathy, and finally addressed
the captain, but upon a different subject.

"How did you succeed with your voyage, captain?" he inquired.

"Excellently," replied the captain; "only I must inform your lordship
that we did not return by way of the Strait of Magellan."

"What!" cried Paganel, "you doubled Cape Horn, and I was not there!"

"Hang yourself!" said the major.

"Selfish fellow! you give me this advice in order that you may share my
rope!" retorted the geographer.

"Well, my dear Paganel," added Glenarvan, "unless we are endowed with
ubiquity, we cannot be everywhere. Since you crossed the Pampas, you
could not at the same time double Cape Horn."

"Nevertheless, I am sorry," replied the geographer.

Captain Mangles now told the story of his voyage, and was congratulated
by Glenarvan, who, addressing Mary Grant, said,--

"My dear young lady, I see that Captain John pays his homage to your
noble qualities, and I am happy to find that you are not displeased
with his ship."

"Oh, how could I be?" replied Mary, gazing at Lady Helena, and perhaps
also at the young captain.

"My sister loves you, Mr. Captain," cried Robert, "and I do too."

"And I return your love, my dear boy," replied Captain Mangles, a
little confused by Robert's words, which also brought a slight blush to
the face of the young girl.

Then, changing the conversation to a less embarrassing subject, the
captain added,--

"Since I have related the Duncan's voyage, will not your lordship give
us a few particulars of your travels, and the exploits of our young
hero?"

No recital could have been more agreeable to Lady Helena and Miss
Grant, and Glenarvan hastened to satisfy their curiosity. He told, word
for word, all about their journey from ocean to ocean. The passage
of the Andes, the earthquake, Robert's disappearance, his capture by
the condor, Thalcave's fortunate shot, the adventure with the wolves,
the boy's devotion, the meeting with Sergeant Manuel, the inundation,
their refuge in the tree, the lightning, the fire, the alligators,
the water-spout, the night on the shores of the Atlantic, all these
incidents, cheerful or serious, excited alternately the joy and terror
of his hearers. Many a circumstance was related that brought Robert
the caresses of his sister and Lady Helena. Never was boy more highly
praised, or by more enthusiastic friends.

"Now, my friends," remarked Lord Glenarvan, when he had finished his
recital, "let us think of the present. Let us return to the subject of
Captain Grant."

When breakfast was over, the party repaired to Lady Helena's
state-room, and, taking seats around a table loaded with maps and
charts, resumed the conversation. Glenarvan explained that the
shipwreck had not taken place on the shores either of the Pacific or
the Atlantic, and that, consequently, the document had been wrongly
interpreted so far as Patagonia was concerned; that Paganel, by a
sudden inspiration, had discovered the mistake and proved that they had
been following a false trail. The geographer was accordingly asked to
explain the French document, which he did to the satisfaction of every
one. When he had finished his demonstration, Glenarvan announced that
the Duncan would immediately set sail for Australia.

The major, however, before the order was given, asked permission to
make a single remark.

"Speak, major," said Glenarvan.

"My object," said MacNabb, "is not to invalidate the arguments of my
friend Paganel, still less to refute them. I consider them rational,
sagacious, and worthy of our whole attention. But I desire to submit
them to a final examination, that their validity may be incontestable."

[Illustration: "My object," said MacNabb, "is not to invalidate the
arguments of my friend Paganel, still less to refute them."]

No one knew what the prudent MacNabb meant, and his hearers listened
with some anxiety.

"Go on, major," said Paganel: "I am ready to answer all your questions."

"Nothing can be simpler," said the major. "Five months ago, in
the Frith of Clyde, when we studied the three documents, their
interpretation seemed clear to us. No place but the western coast of
Patagonia could, we thought, have been the scene of the shipwreck. We
had not even the shadow of a doubt on the subject."

"Very true," added Glenarvan.

"Afterwards," resumed the major, "when Paganel, in a moment of
providential absent-mindedness, embarked on board our vessel, the
documents were submitted to him, and he unhesitatingly sanctioned our
search upon the American coast."

"You are right," observed the geographer.

"And, nevertheless, we are mistaken," said the major.

"Yes, we are mistaken," repeated Paganel; "but to be mistaken is only
to be human, while it is the part of a madman to persist in his error."

"Wait, Paganel," continued the major; "do not get excited. I do not
mean that our search ought to be prolonged in America."

"What do you ask, then?" inquired Glenarvan.

"Simply the acknowledgment that Australia now seems to be the scene of
the Britannia's shipwreck as much as South America did before."

"Granted," replied Paganel.

"Who knows, then," resumed the major, "whether, after Australia,
another country may not offer us the same probabilities, and whether,
when this new search proves vain, it may not seem evident that we ought
to have searched elsewhere?"

[Sidenote: FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.]

Glenarvan and Paganel glanced at each other. The major's remarks were
strictly correct.

"I desire, therefore," added MacNabb, "that a final test be made before
we start for Australia. Here are the documents and maps. Let us examine
successively all points that the thirty-seventh parallel crosses, and
see if there is not some other country to which the document has as
precise a reference."

"Nothing is easier," replied Paganel.

The map was placed before Lady Helena, and all showed themselves ready
to follow Paganel's demonstration. After carefully examining the
documents, it was unanimously agreed that Paganel's interpretation was
the correct one.

"I leave you, therefore, my friends," said he, in conclusion, "to
decide whether all the probabilities are not in favor of the Australian
continent."

"Evidently," replied the passengers and the captain with unanimity.

"Captain," said Glenarvan, "have you sufficient provisions and coal?"

"Yes, my lord, I procured ample supplies at Talcahuana, and, besides,
we can lay in a fresh stock of fuel at Cape Town."

"One more remark," said the major.

"A thousand, if you please!"

"Whatever may be the guarantees for success in Australia, will it not
be well to call for a day or two, in passing, at the islets of Tristan
d'Acunha and Amsterdam? They are situated so near our strict line of
search, that it is worth our while to ascertain if there be on them any
trace of the shipwreck of the Britannia."

"The unbeliever!" said Paganel.

"I do not want to have to return to them, monsieur, if Australia does
not after all realize our newly-conceived expectations."

"The precaution is not a bad one," said Glenarvan.

[Illustration: At sunrise they saw the conical peak of Tristan,
seemingly separated from all the rest of the rocky group.]

[Illustration: A few hours of their united toil resulted in the death
of a large number of seals who were "caught napping."]

"And I do not wish to dissuade you; quite the contrary," replied the
geographer.

"Well, then, we will adopt it, and start forthwith," said Lord
Glenarvan.

"Immediately, my lord," replied the captain, as he went on deck, while
Robert and Mary Grant uttered the liveliest expressions of gratitude;
and the Duncan, leaving the American coast and heading to the east, was
soon swiftly ploughing the waves of the Atlantic.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

TRISTAN D'ACUNHA AND THE ISLE OF AMSTERDAM.


[Sidenote: LOOKING ALOFT.]

The Duncan now had before her a broad stretch of ocean but little
traversed by navigators. Between the shores of South America and the
little speck in the ocean known by the name of Tristan d'Acunha, there
was no probability of her meeting with any strange sail; and under some
circumstances, or in some company, the days might have been monotonous
and the hours might have hung wearily. But so ardent was the desire
for success, and so accomplished, yet varied, were the characters of
those who composed the little assembly, that the voyage on the South
Atlantic, though devoid of striking incident, was by no means wanting
in interest. Much of the time was spent on deck, where the ladies'
cabins were now located, Mary Grant especially training her hand, head,
and heart in feeling, thought, and action. The geographer set to work
on a composition entitled "Travels of a Geographer on the Argentine
Pampas;" but many a blank page did he leave. Tho Scottish peer (when
tired of examining for the thousandth time all that belonged to his
yacht) could look at the books and documents which he had brought with
him, intending to peruse them carefully. And as to the major he was
never in company and never out of company; his cigar insured, nothing
else was wanted.

Ever and anon many miles of the ocean would be covered by masses of
sea-weed; these different species of algæ would afford subject for
research; specimens must be preserved, authorities must be consulted,
and as one result at least all would become wiser. Then a discussion
would ensue on some geographical problem, and maps that were not
attainable were of course appealed to by each disputant, though the
subject in question was often of very trivial moment. It was in the
midst of a debate of this kind, during the evening, that a sailor cried
out,--

"Land ahead!"

"In what direction?" asked Paganel.

"To windward," replied the sailor.

The landsmen's eyes were strained, but to no purpose. The geographer's
telescope was brought into requisition, but with no avail. "I do not
see the land," said its owner.

"Look into the clouds," said the captain.

"Ah!" replied Paganel, struck with the idea, and shortly with the
reality also; for there was the barren mountain-top of Tristan d'Acunha.

"Then," said he, "if I remember aright, we are eighty miles from it. Is
not that the distance from which this mountain is visible?"

"Exactly so," replied the captain.

A few hours brought them much nearer to the group of high and steep
rocks, and at sunrise they saw the conical peak of Tristan, seemingly
separated from all the rest of the rocky group, and reflecting the
glory of the blue heavens and of the rising orb on the placid sea at
its base.

There are three islets in this group,--Tristan d'Acunha, Inaccessible,
and Rossignol; but it was only at the first

[Illustration: Our friends found a few voluntary exiles on the former
island, who, by means of seal-fishing, eke out a scanty existence in
this out-of-the-way spot.]

[Illustration: Inasmuch as this was sufficient to cook fish,
Paganel decided that it was not necessary for him to bathe here
"geographically."] of these that the Duncan called. Inquiry was made
of the authorities (for these islets are governed by a British official
from the Cape of Good Hope) if there were any tidings of the Britannia.
But nothing was known of such a ship; they were told of the shipwrecks
which had occurred, but there was nothing that afforded a clue to that
which they sought. They spent some hours in examination of the fauna
and flora, which were not very extensive. They saw and were seen by the
sparse population that subsist here, and in the afternoon of the same
day the yacht left the islands and islanders so rarely visited.

Whilst the passengers had been thus engaged, Lord Glenarvan had allowed
his crew to employ their time advantageously to themselves in capturing
some of the seals which are so plentiful in these latitudes. A few
hours of their united toil resulted in the death of a large number
of seals who were "caught napping," and in the stowing away, for the
profit of the crew when they should reach the Australian market,
several barrels of the oil obtained from their carcases.

Still onward on the same parallel lay the course of the Duncan,
towards the Isles of Amsterdam and St. Paul; and the same subjects
of conversation, study, and speculation engaged them all, until, one
morning, they espied the first mentioned island, far ahead; and as they
drew nearer, a peak rose clearly before their vision which strongly
reminded them of the Peak of Teneriffe they had beheld a few months
before.

[Sidenote: WARM SPRINGS AND WARM TALK.]

The Isle of Amsterdam or St. Peter, and the Isle of St. Paul, have been
visited by very few, and but little is known of them. The latter is
uninhabited; but our friends found a few voluntary exiles on the former
island, who, by means of seal-fishing, eke out a scanty existence in
this out-of-the-way spot. Here again inquiry was made, but in vain,
for any information of the Britannia, her voyage, or her shipwreck.
Neither on the Isle of Amsterdam nor on that of St. Paul, which the
whalers and seal-fishers sometimes visit, had there been any trace of
the catastrophe.

Desolate as these lonely islands appeared to our travelers, they still
were not devoid of objects of interest. They were meagre enough in
vegetation and in animal life; but there were warm springs which well
repaid a visit. Captain Mangles found the temperature of their waters
to be 166° Fahrenheit; and, inasmuch as this was sufficient to cook
fish, Paganel decided that it was not necessary for him to bathe here
"geographically."

When they resumed their course, though many miles were before them,
there was a growing sense of anticipation; they were not to pause again
until the "Australian continent" was reached; and more and more did
the conversation and discussions tend towards this continent as their
subject. On one occasion so certain was Paganel as to the ease with
which they would be able to pursue their search, when they arrived,
that he asserted that more than fifty geographers had already made the
course clear for them.

"What! fifty, do you say?" asked the major, with an air of doubt.

"Yes, MacNabb, decidedly," said the geographer, piqued at the hesitancy
to believe him.

"Impossible!" replied the major.

"Not at all; and if you doubt my veracity, I will cite their names."

"Ah!" said the major, quietly, "you clever people stick at nothing."

"Major," said Paganel, "will you wager your rifle against my telescope
that I cannot name at least fifty Australian explorers?"

"Of course, Paganel, if you like," replied MacNabb, seeing that he
could not now recede from his position without incurring the ridicule
of the company.

[Illustration: "Major," said Paganel, "will you wager your rifle
against my telescope that I cannot name at least fifty Australian
explorers?"]

[Illustration: "Master Robert shall count for us." And forthwith the
learned geographer opened his budget, and poured forth the history of
the discovery of Australia.]

"Well, then," said Paganel to Lady Helena and Miss Grant, "come and
be umpires, and Master Robert shall count for us." And forthwith the
learned geographer opened his budget, and poured forth the history of
the discovery of Australia, with the names of its discoverers and the
dates of their explorations, as fluently as though his sole calling in
life was to be professor of Australian history. Rapidly he mentioned
the first twenty who found or traversed the Austral shores; as rapidly
did the names of the second score flow from his lips; and after the
prescribed fifty had been enumerated, he kept on as though his list
were inexhaustible.

"Enough, enough, Monsieur Paganel!" said Lady Helena. "You have shown
that there is nothing, great or small, about Australia, of which you
are ignorant."

"Nay, madam," said the geographer, with a bow.

Then, with a peculiar expression, he smiled as he said to the major,
"We will talk about the rifle at another time."



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE STORM ON THE INDIAN OCEAN.


Two days after this conversation, Captain Mangles took an observation,
and the passengers saw, to their great satisfaction, upon consulting
the map, that they were in the vicinity of Cape Bernouilli, which
they might expect to reach in four days. The west wind had hitherto
favored the progress of the yacht, but for several days it had shown a
tendency to fail, and now there was a perfect calm. The sails flapped
idly against the masts, and had it not been for her powerful screw, the
Duncan would have been becalmed on the ocean.

[Sidenote: FOREBODINGS OF DISASTER.]

This state of things might be prolonged indefinitely. At evening
Glenarvan consulted the captain on the subject. The latter, whose
supply of coal was rapidly diminishing, appeared much disturbed at the
subsidence of the wind. He had covered his ship with canvas, and set
his studding- and main-sails, that he might take advantage of the least
breeze; but, in nautical language, there was not enough wind "to fill a
hat."

"At all events," said Glenarvan, "we need not complain. It is better to
be without wind than to have a contrary one."

"Your lordship is right," replied Captain Mangles; "but I dread some
sudden change in the weather. We are now in the neighborhood of the
trade-winds, which, from October to April, blow from the northeast, and
our progress will, therefore, be very much retarded."

"But what can we do, captain? If this misfortune occurs, we must submit
to it. It will only be a delay, after all."

"Probably, if a storm does not come upon us too."

"Do you fear bad weather?" asked Glenarvan, looking at the sky, which,
however, was cloudless.

"Yes," replied the captain. "I tell your lordship, but would conceal my
apprehensions from Lady Helena and Miss Grant."

"You act wisely. What do you apprehend?"

"There are signs of a great storm. Do not trust the appearance of the
sky, my lord; nothing is more deceptive. For two days the barometer
has fallen to an alarming degree. This is a warning that I cannot
disregard. I particularly fear the storms of the South Seas, for I have
been already exposed to them."

"John," replied Glenarvan, "the Duncan is a stout vessel, and her
captain a skillful seaman. Let the storm come; we will take care of
ourselves."

Captain Mangles, while giving expression to his fears, was by no means
forgetful of his duty as a sailor. The steady fall of the barometer
caused him to take every measure of precaution. The sky, as yet, gave
no indication of the approaching tempest; but the warnings of his
infallible instrument were not to be disregarded.

The young captain accordingly remained on deck all night. About eleven
o'clock the sky grew threatening towards the south. All hands were
immediately called on deck, to take in the sails. At midnight the wind
freshened. The creaking of the masts, the rattling of the rigging,
and the groaning of bulkheads informed the passengers of the state of
affairs. Paganel, Glenarvan, the major, and Robert came on deck to
render assistance if it should be needed. Over the sky, that they had
left clear and studded with stars, now rolled thick clouds broken by
light bands and spotted like the skin of a leopard.

"Has the storm broken upon us?" asked Glenarvan.

"Not yet, but it will presently," replied the captain.

At that moment he gave the order to reef the top-sail. The sailors
sprang into the windward rattlings, and with difficulty accomplished
their task. Captain Mangles wished to keep on as much sail as possible,
to support the yacht and moderate her rolling. After these precautions
had been taken, he told the mate and the boatswain to prepare for the
assault of the tempest, which could not be long in breaking forth.
Still, like an officer at the storming of a breach, he did not leave
the point of observation, but from the upper deck endeavored to draw
from the stormy sky its secrets.

[Sidenote: AN ADDED CALAMITY.]

It was now one o'clock in the morning. Lady Helena and Miss Grant,
aroused by the unusual bustle, ventured to come on deck. The wind was
sharply whistling through the cordage, which, like the strings of a
musical instrument, resounded as if some mighty bow had caused their
rapid vibrations; the pulleys clashed against each other; the ropes
creaked with a sharp sound in their rough sockets; the sails cracked
like cannon, and vast waves rolled up to assail the yacht, as it
lightly danced on their foaming crests.

When the captain perceived the ladies, he approached and besought them
to return to the cabin. Several waves had already been shipped, and the
deck might be swept at any moment. The din of the elements was now so
piercing that Lady Helena could scarcely hear the young captain.

"Is there any danger?" she managed to ask him during a momentary lull
in the storm.

"No, madam," replied he; "but neither you nor Miss Mary can remain on
deck."

The ladies did not oppose an order that seemed more like an entreaty,
and returned to the cabin just as a wave, rolling over the stern,
shook the compass-lights in their sockets. The violence of the wind
redoubled; the masts bent under the pressure of sail, and the yacht
seemed to rise on the billows.

"Brail up the main-sail!" cried the captain; "haul in the top-sails and
jibs!"

The sailors sprang to their places; the halyards were loosened, the
brails drawn down, the jibs taken in with a noise that rose above the
storm, and the Duncan, whose smoke-stack belched forth torrents of
black smoke, rolled heavily in the sea.

Glenarvan, the major, Paganel, and Robert gazed with admiration and
terror at this struggle with the waves. They clung tightly to the
rigging, unable to exchange a word, and watched the flocks of stormy
petrels, those melancholy birds of the storm, as they sported in the
raging winds.

At that moment a piercing sound was heard above the roar of
the hurricane. The steam was rapidly escaping, not through the
escape-valve, but through the pipes of the boiler. The alarm-whistle
sounded with unusual shrillness; the yacht gave a terrible lurch, and
Wilson, who was at the helm, was overthrown by an unexpected blow
of the wheel. The vessel was in the trough of the sea, and no longer
manageable.

"What is the matter?" cried Captain Mangles, rushing to the stern.

"The ship is careening!" replied Austin.

"Is the rudder unhinged?"

"To the engine! to the engine!" cried the engineer.

The captain rushed down the ladder. A cloud of steam filled the
engine-room; the pistons were motionless in their cylinders, and the
cranks gave no movement to the shaft. The engineer, seeing that all
efforts were useless, and fearing for his boilers, had let out the
steam through the escape-valve.

"What has happened?" asked the captain.

"The screw is either bent or entangled," replied the engineer; "it will
not work."

"Is it impossible to free it?"

"Impossible, at present."

To attempt to repair the accident at that moment was out of the
question. The screw would not move, and the steam, being no longer
effective, had escaped through the valves. The captain was, therefore,
forced to rely on his sails, and seek the aid of the wind, which had
been hitherto his most dangerous enemy.

He came on deck, and, briefly informing Glenarvan of the situation,
begged him to return to the cabin with the others; but the latter
wished to remain.

"No, my lord," replied Captain Mangles, in a firm tone: "I must be
alone here with my crew. Go! The ship may be in danger, and the waves
would drench you unmercifully."

"But we may be of use----"

"Go, go, my lord; you must! There are times when I am master on board.
Retire, as I wish!"

[Sidenote: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED.]

For John Mangles to express himself so authoritatively, the situation
must have been critical. Glenarvan understood that it was his duty to
obey. He therefore left the deck, followed by his three companions, and
joined the ladies in the cabin, who were anxiously awaiting the result
of this struggle with the elements.

"My brave John is an energetic man," remarked Glenarvan as he entered.

Meantime Captain Mangles lost no time in extricating the ship from
her perilous situation. He resolved to keep towards the Cape, that he
might deviate as little as possible from his prescribed course. It was,
therefore, necessary to brace the sails obliquely to the wind. The
top-sail was reefed, a kind of fore-sail rigged on the main-stay, and
the helm crowded hard aport. The yacht, which was a stanch and fleet
vessel, started like a spirited horse that feels the spur, and proudly
breasted the angry billows.

The rest of the night was passed in this situation. They hoped that the
tempest would abate by break of day. Vain hope! At eight o'clock in the
morning it was still blowing hard, and the wind soon became a hurricane.

The captain said nothing, but he trembled for his vessel and those
whom she carried. The Duncan now and then gave a fearful lurch; her
stanchions cracked, and sometimes the yards of the mainmast struck the
crests of the waves. At one moment the crew thought the yacht would
not rise again. Already the sailors, hatchet in hand, were rushing
to cut away the fore-shrouds, when they were violently torn from
their fastenings by the blast. The ship righted herself, but, without
support on the waves, she was tossed about so terribly that the masts
threatened to break at their very foundations. She could not long
endure such rolling; she was growing weak, and soon her shattered sides
and opening seams must give way for the water.

[Illustration: Then, impelled by the hurricane, the billows outran
her; they leaped over the taffrail, and the whole deck was swept with
tremendous violence.]

[Sidenote: NEARING THE END.]

Captain Mangles had but one resource,--to rig a storm-jib. He succeeded
after several hours' labor, but it was not until three o'clock in the
afternoon that the jib was hauled to the main-stay and set to the
wind. With this piece of canvas the Duncan flew before the wind
with inconceivable rapidity. It was necessary to keep up the greatest
possible speed, for upon this alone depended her safety. Sometimes,
outstripping the waves, she cut them with her slender prow and plunged
beneath them, like an enormous sea-monster, while the water swept
her deck from stem to stern. At other times her swiftness barely
equaled that of the surges, her rudder lost all power, and she gave
terrific lurches that threatened to capsize her. Then, impelled by the
hurricane, the billows outran her; they leaped over the taffrail, and
the whole deck was swept with tremendous violence.

The situation was indeed alarming. The captain would not leave his
post for an instant. He was tortured by fears that his impassive face
would not betray, and persistently sought to penetrate with his gaze
the gathering gloom. And he had good cause for fear. The Duncan, driven
out of her course, was running towards the Australian coast with a
swiftness that nothing could arrest. He felt, too, as if by instinct,
that a strong current was drawing him along. At every moment he feared
the shock of a reef upon which the yacht would be dashed into a
thousand pieces, and he calculated that the shore was not more than a
dozen miles to leeward.

Finally he went in search of Lord Glenarvan, consulted with him in
private, explained their actual situation, viewed it with the coolness
of a sailor who is ready for any emergency, and ended by saying that he
should be obliged perhaps to run the Duncan ashore.

"To save those she carries, if possible, my lord," he added.

"Very well, captain," replied Glenarvan.

"And Lady Helena and Miss Grant?"

"I will inform them only at the last moment, when all hope is gone of
keeping at sea. You will tell me."

"I will, my lord."

Glenarvan returned to the ladies, who, without knowing all the danger,
felt it to be imminent. They displayed, however, a noble courage, equal
at least to that of their companions. Paganel gave himself up to the
most unreasonable theories concerning the direction of atmospheric
currents, while the major awaited the end with the indifference of a
Mussulman.

About eleven o'clock the hurricane seemed to moderate a little, the
heavy mists were gradually dissipated, and through the openings the
captain could see a low land at least six miles to leeward. He steered
directly for it. Huge waves rolled to a prodigious height, and he knew
that they must have a firm point of support to reach such an elevation.

"There are sand-bars here," said he to Tom Austin.

"That is my opinion," replied the mate.

"We are in the hands of God," continued the captain. "If He does not
himself guide the Duncan over the bar, we are lost."

"It is high tide now, captain; perhaps we may do it."

"But see the fury of those waves! What ship could resist them? God help
us, my friend!"

Meantime the Duncan dashed towards the shore with terrible swiftness.
Soon she was only two miles from the sand-bars. The mists still
continued to conceal the land. Nevertheless Captain Mangles thought he
perceived, beyond this foaming barrier, a tranquil haven, where the
Duncan would be in comparative safety. But how to reach it?

He called the passengers on deck, for he did not wish, when the hour
of shipwreck had come, that they should be confined in the cabin.
Glenarvan and his companions gazed at the awful sea. Mary Grant grew
pale.

"John," said Glenarvan in a low tone to the young captain, "I will try
to save my wife, or will perish with her. Do you take charge of Miss
Grant."

[Sidenote: OILY INFLUENCES.]

"Yes, your lordship," was the prompt reply.

The Duncan was now only a few cable-lengths from the sand-bars. As it
was high tide, there would doubtless have been sufficient water to
enable the yacht to cross these dangerous shoals; but the enormous
waves upon which she rose and fell would infallibly have wrecked her.
Was there then any means of allaying these billows, of calming this
tumultuous sea?

A sudden idea occurred to the captain.

"The oil!" cried he; "pour on oil, men, pour on oil!"

These words were quickly understood by all the crew. They were about
to employ a method that sometimes succeeds. The fury of the sea can
often be appeased by covering it with a sheet of oil, which floats
on the surface and destroys the shock of the waters. The effect is
instantaneous, but transient. As soon as a ship has crossed this
treacherous sea, it redoubles its fury; and woe to those who would
venture to follow.

The barrels containing the supply of seal-oil were hoisted into the
forecastle by the crew, to whom the danger gave new strength. Here
they were stove in with a blow of the hatchet, and suspended over the
starboard rattlings.

"Hold on!" cried the captain, waiting for the favorable moment.

In a few seconds the yacht reached the entrance to the pass, which was
barred by a terrible line of foam.

"Let go!" cried the young captain.

The barrels were inverted, and from their sides streamed floods of oil.
Immediately the unctuous liquid leveled the foaming surface of the sea,
and the Duncan sailed on calm waters, and was soon in a quiet harbor
beyond the terrible sand-bars; and then the ocean, released from its
fetters, bounded after its escaped prey with indescribable fury.

[Illustration: "Let go!" cried the young captain. The barrels were
inverted, and from their sides streamed floods of oil.]



CHAPTER XXX.

A HOSPITABLE COLONIST.


The captain's first care was to secure anchorage. He moored the vessel
in five fathoms of water. The bottom was good, a hard gravel, affording
an excellent hold. There was no danger of drifting, or of stranding at
low tide. The Duncan, after so many hours of peril, was now in a sort
of creek sheltered by a high promontory from the fury of the wind.

Lord Glenarvan shook the hand of the young captain, saying,--

"Thanks, John!"

And Captain Mangles felt himself fully rewarded by these simple words.
Glenarvan kept to himself the secret of his anguish, and neither Lady
Helena, Mary Grant, nor Robert suspected the magnitude of the perils
they had just escaped.

One important point remained to be settled. On what part of the
coast had the Duncan been cast by the storm? How could she regain
her prescribed course? How far were they from Cape Bernouilli? Such
were the first questions addressed to the captain, who at once took
his bearings and noted his observations on the map. The Duncan had
not deviated very far from her route. She was at Cape Catastrophe, on
the southern coast of Australia, not three hundred miles from Cape
Bernouilli.

But could the Duncan's injuries be repaired? This was the question to
decide. The captain wished to know the extent of the damage. It was
discovered, by diving, that a flange of the screw was bent and came
in contact with the stern-post. Hence it was impossible for the screw
to rotate. This injury was considered serious enough to necessitate
going into dry-dock, which of course could not be done in their present
locality.

Glenarvan and the captain, after mature reflection, resolved that
the Duncan should follow the western shore, seeking traces of the
Britannia, should stop at Cape Bernouilli, where further information
could be obtained, and then continue southward to Melbourne, where her
injuries could be repaired; and, as soon as this was done, that she
should cruise along the eastern shores to finish the search.

This arrangement was approved, and Captain Mangles resolved to take
advantage of the first favorable wind. He did not have to wait long.
Towards evening the hurricane had entirely subsided, and a moderate
breeze was blowing from the southwest. Preparations were made for
getting under way; new sails were set, and at four o'clock in the
morning the sailors heaved at the capstan, the anchor was weighed, and
the Duncan, with all sails set, cruised close to windward along the
coast.

They arrived at Cape Bernouilli without finding the least trace of the
lost vessel. But this failure proved nothing. Indeed, during the two
years since the shipwreck, the sea might have scattered or destroyed
the fragments of the brig. Besides, the natives, who scent shipwrecks
as a vulture does a corpse, might have carried away every vestige of
it. Harry Grant and his two companions, therefore, without doubt, had
been taken prisoners the moment the waves cast them ashore, and been
carried into the interior of the country.

[Sidenote: HOPING AGAINST HOPE.]

But here one of Paganel's ingenious suppositions failed. So long as
they were in the Argentine territory, the geographer could rightly
maintain that the latitude of the document referred to the place of
captivity,--not to the scene of the shipwreck. Indeed, the great rivers
of the Pampas and their numerous affluents could easily bear the
document to the sea. In this part of Australia, on the contrary, few
streams cross the thirty-seventh parallel, and the principal Australian
rivers--the Murray, the Yara, the Torrens, and the Darling--either flow
into each other, or empty into the ocean by mouths where navigation
is active. What probability was there, then, that a fragile bottle
could have descended these continually navigated waters, and reached
the Indian Ocean? This consideration could not escape such sagacious
minds. Paganel's supposition, plausible in Patagonia, was illogical
in Australia. The geographer perceived this in a discussion on the
subject with the major. It was clear that the latitude applied only to
the place of shipwreck, and that consequently the bottle had been cast
into the sea where the Britannia was wrecked,--on the western coast of
Australia.

However, as Glenarvan justly observed, this interpretation did not
preclude the possibility of Captain Grant's captivity, who, moreover,
had intimated as much by the words "where they will be prisoners of the
cruel Indians." But there was no more reason for seeking the prisoners
on the thirty-seventh parallel than on any other.

This conclusion, after much discussion, was finally accepted, and it
was decided that, if no traces of the Britannia were found at Cape
Bernouilli, Lord Glenarvan should return to Europe, relinquishing all
hope of finding the object of their search.

This resolution occasioned profound grief to the children of the lost
captain. As the boats containing the whole of the party were rowed
ashore, they felt that the fate of their father would soon be probably
decided; irrevocably, we may say, for Paganel, in a former discussion,
had clearly demonstrated that the shipwrecked seamen would have reached
their country long ago, if their vessel had stranded on the other, the
eastern coast.

[Sidenote: A NEW PROSPECT.]

"Hope! hope! never cease to hope!" said Lady Helena to the young girl
seated beside her, as they approached the shore. "The hand of God will
never fail us."

[Illustration: As the boats containing the whole of the party were
rowed ashore, they felt that the fate of their father would soon be
probably decided.]

"Yes, Miss Mary," said the captain; "when men have exhausted human
resources, then Heaven interposes, and, by some unforeseen event, opens
to them new ways."

"God grant it, captain!" replied Mary.

The shore was now only a cable's length distant. The cape terminated in
gentle declivities extending far out into the sea. The boat entered a
small creek, between banks of coral in process of formation, which in
time would form a chain of reefs along the southern coast of the island.

The passengers of the Duncan disembarked on a perfectly barren shore.
Steep cliffs formed a lofty sea-wall, and it would have been difficult
to scale this natural rampart without ladders or cramping-irons.
Fortunately, the captain discovered a breach half a mile southward,
caused by a partial crumbling of the cliffs. Probably the sea, during
violent equinoctial storms, had beaten against this fragile barrier,
and thus caused the fall of the upper portions of the mass.

Glenarvan and his companions entered this opening, and reached the
summit of the cliffs by a very steep ascent. Robert climbed an abrupt
declivity with the agility of a cat, and arrived first at the top,
to the great chagrin of Paganel, who was quite mortified at seeing
himself outstripped by a mere lad of twelve. However, he distanced the
peaceable major; but that worthy was utterly indifferent to his defeat.

The little party surveyed the plain that stretched out beneath them.
It was a vast, uncultivated tract, covered with bushes and brushwood,
and was compared by Glenarvan to the glens of the Scottish lowlands,
and by Paganel to the barren lands of Brittany. But though the country
along the coast was evidently uninhabited, the presence of man, not the
savage, but the civilized worker, was betokened by several substantial
structures in the distance.

"A mill!" cried Robert.

True enough, at no great distance apparently, the sails of a mill were
seen.

"It is indeed a mill," replied Paganel. "Here is a beacon as modest as
it is useful, the sight of which delights my eyes."

"It is almost a belfry," said Lady Helena.

"Yes, madam; and while one makes bread for the body, the other
announces bread for the soul. In this respect they resemble each other."

"Let us go to the mill," replied Glenarvan.

They accordingly started. After half an hour's walk the soil assumed
a new aspect. The transition from barren plains to cultivated fields
was sudden. Instead of brushwood, quick-set hedges surrounded an
inclosure freshly ploughed. Some cattle, and half a dozen horses,
grazed in pastures encircled by acacias. Then fields of corn were
reached, several acres of land bristling with the yellow ears, haycocks
like great bee-hives, vineyards with blooming inclosures, a beautiful
garden, where the useful and the ornamental mingled; in short, a fair
and comfortable locality, which the merry mill crowned with its pointed
gable and caressed with the moving shadow of its sails.

At this moment a man of about fifty, of prepossessing countenance,
issued from the principal house, at the barking of three great dogs
that announced the coming of the strangers. Five stout and handsome
boys, his sons, accompanied by their mother, a tall, robust woman,
followed him. This man, surrounded by his healthful family, in the
midst of these new erections, in this almost virgin country, presented
the perfect type of the colonist, who, endeavoring to better his lot,
seeks his fortune and happiness beyond the seas.

Glenarvan and his friends had not yet introduced themselves, they had
not had time to declare either their names or their rank, when these
cordial words saluted them:--

[Sidenote: AN AUSTRALIAN HOME.]

"Strangers, welcome to the house of Patrick O'Moore."

"You are an Irishman?" said Glenarvan, taking the hand that the
colonist offered him.

"I was," replied Mr. O'Moore. "Now I am an Australian. But come in,
whoever you are, gentlemen; this house is at your service."

The invitation so hospitably given was accepted without ceremony. Lady
Helena and Mary Grant, conducted by Mrs. O'Moore, entered the house,
while the colonist's sons relieved the visitors of their fire-arms.

A large, cool, airy room occupied the ground-floor of the house,
which was built of stout beams arranged horizontally. Several wooden
benches, built into the walls, and painted in gay colors, ten stools,
two oaken trunks, in which white china and jugs of polished pewter were
arranged, and a long table, at which twenty people could be comfortably
seated, constituted the furniture, worthy of the house and its hardy
inhabitants.

Dinner was soon served. Dishes of soup smoked between roast beef and
legs of mutton, flanked by large plates of olives, grapes, and oranges.
The host and hostess had such an engaging air, and the fare was so
tempting, so ample, and so abundantly furnished, that it would have
been unbecoming not to accept this rural bounty. The domestics of the
farm, the equals of their master, had already come to partake of the
repast; and the host reserved the place of honor for the strangers.

"I expected you," said he, quietly, to Lord Glenarvan.

"You did?" replied the latter, very much surprised.

"I always expect those who are coming," replied the Irishman.

Then, in a grave voice, while his household stood respectfully, he
invoked a Divine blessing. Lady Helena was much affected by his perfect
simplicity of manner, and a look from her husband told her that he
likewise was touched by it.

[Illustration: A fair and comfortable locality, which the merry mill
crowned with its pointed gable and caressed with the moving shadow of
its sails.]

[Sidenote: THE OLD QUESTION.]

Ample justice was done to the repast. The conversation was general.
The colonist told his story. It was like that of most deserving and
voluntary emigrants. Many go far to seek their fortunes, and find
only sorrow and disaster; they accuse fate, forgetting to blame their
ignorance, laziness, and vices. The man who is sober and persevering,
economical and honest, is almost sure to succeed.

This had been the case with Mr. O'Moore. He had left Dundalk, where
he was poor, and, emigrating with his family to Australia, had landed
at Adelaide. At first he engaged in mining, but soon relinquished
this for the less hazardous pursuits of the farmer, in which he had
been successful beyond his highest anticipations. His agricultural
knowledge was a great aid to him. He economized, and bought new lands
with the profits of the first. His family flourished, as well as his
farm. The Irish peasant had become a landed proprietor, and, although
his establishment was only two years old, he owned at that moment five
hundred acres of well-cultivated land and five hundred head of cattle,
was his own master, and as independent as one can be even in the freest
country in the world.

His guests congratulated him sincerely when his story was finished. He
doubtless expected a similar confidence, but did not urge it. Glenarvan
had an immediate interest in speaking of the Duncan, of his own
presence at Cape Bernouilli, and of the search that they had pursued so
perseveringly. But, like a man who considers the main object in view,
he first questioned his host concerning the shipwreck of the Britannia.

The Irishman's answer was not cheering. He had never heard of the
ship. No vessel had for some time been lost on the coast; and, as the
shipwreck had occurred only two years before, he could affirm with
absolute certainty that the sailors had not been cast on that part of
the western shore.

"And now, my lord," added he, "may I be allowed to ask why you have
inquired of me concerning this shipwreck?"

Glenarvan then told the story of the document, the voyage of the
Duncan, and the attempts made to find Captain Grant. He confessed that
his dearest hopes had been destroyed by Mr. O'Moore's discouraging
information, and that he now despaired of ever finding the shipwrecked
seamen of the Britannia.

These words produced a gloomy impression upon his hearers. Robert and
Mary listened to them with tearful eyes. Paganel could not find a word
of consolation or hope. Captain Mangles suffered a grief that he could
not subdue. Despair was seizing upon the souls of the noble people whom
the Duncan had vainly brought to these distant shores, when all at once
a voice was heard:--

"My lord, praise and thank God! If Captain Grant is living, he is in
Australia."



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE QUARTERMASTER OF THE BRITANNIA.


The astonishment that these words produced cannot be described.
Glenarvan sprang to his feet, and, pushing back his chair, cried,--

"Who says that?"

"I!" replied one of O'Moore's workmen, seated at the end of the table.

"You, Ayrton?" said the colonist, no less astonished than Glenarvan.

"I," repeated Ayrton, in an excited but firm tone; "I, a Scotchman like
yourself, my lord, one of the shipwrecked sailors of the Britannia!"

[Sidenote: A FRESH FACE.]

Mary Grant, half fainting with emotion, and overcome with happiness,
sank into the arms of Lady Helena; while Captain Mangles, Robert, and
Paganel went towards the man whom their host had called Ayrton.

He was a somewhat rough-looking, broad-shouldered man, of about
forty-five, of more than medium height, and with piercing eyes sunk
deeply beneath his projecting brows. His strength must have been
unusual, even considering his stature, for he was all bone and sinew.
His countenance, full of intelligence and energy, although the features
were stern, prepossessed one in his favor. The sympathy that he
elicited was still more increased by the traces of recent hardships
imprinted upon his face. It was evident that he had suffered much,
although he seemed a man able to brave, endure, and conquer suffering.

The travelers felt all this at first sight. Ayrton's appearance had
interested them; and Glenarvan, acting as spokesman for all, pressed
him with inquiries. This strange meeting had evidently produced a
bewildering effect, and the first questions were, to some extent,
without order.

"You are one of the sailors of the Britannia?" asked Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord; Captain Grant's quartermaster," replied Ayrton.

"Saved with him from the shipwreck?"

"No, my lord. At that terrible moment I was washed overboard and cast
ashore."

"You are not one of the sailors, then, of whom the document makes
mention?"

"No; I did not know of the existence of such a document. The captain
must have thrown it overboard after I was gone."

"But the captain, the captain?"

"I suppose he was lost, drowned, with the rest of the crew. I thought I
was the sole survivor."

"But you said that Captain Grant was living!"

[Illustration: He was a somewhat rough-looking, broad-shouldered man,
of about forty-five.]

[Illustration: "When I was washed from the forecastle, as I was hauling
down the jib, the Britannia was driving towards the coast of Australia,
which was not two cable-lengths distant."]

"No. I said, 'if the captain is living'----"

"'He is in Australia,' you added."

"He can be nowhere else."

"You do not know, then, where he is?"

"No, my lord. I repeat that I thought he was buried in the waves or
dashed upon the rocks. You say that perhaps he is still living."

"What do you know, then?" asked Glenarvan.

"Simply this, that if Captain Grant is living he is in Australia."

"Where did the shipwreck take place?" inquired the major.

This should have been the first question; but, in the excitement of the
moment, Glenarvan, anxious to know where Captain Grant was, had not
inquired where the Britannia was lost. From this point the conversation
assumed a more definite form, and soon the details of the complicated
story appeared clear and exact to the minds of Ayrton's hearers.

To the major's question Ayrton replied,--

"When I was washed from the forecastle, as I was hauling down the jib,
the Britannia was driving towards the coast of Australia, which was not
two cable-lengths distant. The shipwreck, therefore, took place at that
point."

"In latitude thirty-seven?" asked Captain Mangles.

"Thirty-seven," replied Ayrton.

"On the west coast?"

"No. On the east coast."

"And when?"

"On the night of June 27th, 1862."

"The same! the very same!" cried Glenarvan.

"You see, then, my lord," added Ayrton, "that I was right in saying
that, if Captain Grant still lives, you must seek him in Australia."

[Sidenote: OLD MEMORIES.]

"And we will seek, find, and save him, my friend!" cried Paganel. "Ah,
precious document!" added he, with perfect simplicity: "it must be
confessed that you have fallen into the hands of very sagacious people."

No one noticed these flattering words of Paganel. Glenarvan, Lady
Helena, Mary, and Robert had crowded around Ayrton, and eagerly clasped
his hands. It seemed as if the presence of this man was a guarantee of
the safety of Harry Grant. Since the sailor had escaped the dangers
of shipwreck, why should not the captain be safe and sound? Ayrton
repeated his declaration that if Captain Grant were living he must be
in Australia. He answered with remarkable intelligence and clearness
the many questions that were propounded to him. Miss Mary, while
he spoke, held one of his hands in her own. This sailor had been a
companion of her father, one of the shipwrecked survivors of the
Britannia. He had lived with Harry Grant, had sailed the seas with him,
had braved the same dangers! She could not withdraw her eyes from that
weather-beaten face, and she wept with happiness.

Hitherto no one had thought of doubting the veracity of the
quartermaster. Only the major, and perhaps Captain Mangles, questioned
whether Ayrton's story merited _entire_ confidence. This unexpected
meeting might be suspicious. To be sure, Ayrton had mentioned facts and
dates that agreed, and striking particulars. But details, however exact
they may be, do not constitute a certainty; and generally, as we know,
falsehood endeavors to strengthen itself by its preciseness. MacNabb,
therefore, reserved his opinion.

[Illustration: When he came to himself, he was in the hands of the
natives, who carried him into the interior of the country.]

As for Captain Mangles, his doubts did not stand long before the
assertions of the sailor, and he considered him a real companion of
Captain Grant when he heard him speak to the young girl of her father.
Ayrton knew Mary and Robert perfectly. He had seen them at Glasgow
on the departure of the Britannia. He remembered that they had been
present at the farewell dinner given on board to the friends of the
captain. Sheriff MacIntyre was one of the guests. Robert--scarcely
ten years old--had been confided to the care of Dick Turner, the
boatswain, but had escaped from him and climbed to the top-sail
yard-arm.

[Illustration: At last, exhausted and almost dead, he reached the
hospitable dwelling of Mr. O'Moore, where his labor insured him a
comfortable livelihood.]

"It is true! it is true!" cried Robert.

The quartermaster remembered, too, a thousand little circumstances
to which he did not seem to attach so much importance as did Captain
Mangles. When he stopped, Mary said, in her sweet voice,--

"Mr. Ayrton, please tell us more about our father."

Ayrton acceded to the young girl's request. Glenarvan was reluctant to
interrupt him, and yet many more important questions thronged his mind.
But Lady Helena, pointing out to him Mary's joyful excitement, checked
his inquiries.

[Sidenote: TWO YEARS OF SLAVERY.]

The quartermaster now told the story of the Britannia and her voyage
across the Pacific. During the period of a year Harry Grant landed
at the principal ports of Oceanica, opposing unjustifiable captures,
and often a victim to the hostility of unjust traders. He found,
however, an important point on the western coast of Papua. Here the
establishment of a Scottish colony appeared to him feasible, and its
prosperity assured. After examining Papua, the Britannia sailed to
Callao for provisions, and left that port on the 30th of May, 1862, to
return to Europe by the way of the Indian Ocean and the Cape. Three
weeks after her departure, a terrible tempest disabled her. It became
necessary to cut away the masts. A leak was discovered in the hold,
which they did not succeed in stopping. The crew were soon overtasked
and exhausted. The pumps could not be worked. For eight days the
vessel was at the mercy of the storm. There were six feet of water
in her hold, and she gradually foundered. The boats had been washed
overboard, and the crew had given themselves up for lost, when on the
night of June 22nd, as Paganel had rightly interpreted, they descried
the eastern coast of Australia. The vessel soon stranded. A violent
shock was felt. At this moment Ayrton, borne by a wave, was cast into
the midst of the breakers, and lost all consciousness. When he came to
himself, he was in the hands of the natives, who carried him into the
interior of the country. Since then he had heard nothing more of the
Britannia, and naturally supposed that she had been wrecked, with all
on board, on the dangerous reefs of Twofold Bay.

This was Ayrton's story, which elicited more than once exclamations of
sympathy. The major could not justly doubt its correctness; and after
this recital the quartermaster's own experiences possessed a more real
interest. Indeed, thanks to the document, they no longer doubted that
Captain Grant had survived the shipwreck with two of his sailors. From
the fate of the one they could fairly conjecture that of the other.

Ayrton was invited to tell of his own adventures, which was soon and
simply done. The shipwrecked sailor, prisoner of a native tribe, was
carried into the interior regions watered by the Darling. Here he led
a very wretched existence, because the tribe itself was miserable; but
he was not maltreated. For two long years he endured a painful slavery.
However, the hope of regaining his liberty sustained his courage. He
watched for the least opportunity of escaping, although his flight
would plunge him into the midst of innumerable perils. One night
in October he eluded the vigilance of the natives, and took refuge
in the depths of extensive forests. For a month, living on roots,
edible ferns, and the gum of the mimosa, often overcome by despair,
he wandered in those vast solitudes, with the sun as his guide by
day and the stars by night. In this way he crossed marshes, rivers,
mountains, in short, all that uninhabited portion of country that few
travelers have explored. At last, exhausted and almost dead, he reached
the hospitable dwelling of Mr. O'Moore, where his labor insured him a
comfortable livelihood.

"And if Ayrton is pleased with me," said the Irish colonist, when the
story was finished, "I cannot but be pleased with him. He is an honest
and intelligent man, a good worker, and, if he chooses, this house
shall long be at his service."

Ayrton thanked Mr. O'Moore, and waited for further questions. He
probably thought, however, that the legitimate curiosity of his hearers
ought to be satisfied. What could he say that had not been repeated
a hundred times already? Glenarvan was, therefore, about to open the
conversation on a new topic, to profit by the information received from
Ayrton, when the major, addressing him, said:

"You were quartermaster of the Britannia?"

"Yes," replied Ayrton.

But perceiving that a certain feeling of distrust, a doubt, however
slight, had suggested this inquiry, he added,--

"I saved my contract from the wreck."

He immediately left the room in search of this authoritative document.
During his absence, which lasted but a few moments, Mr. O'Moore said:

"My lord, I will answer for it that Ayrton is an honest man. During the
two months that he has been in my employ, I have had no fault to find
with him. I knew the story of his shipwreck and captivity. He is a true
man, and worthy of your entire confidence."

Glenarvan was about to answer that he had never doubted Ayrton's
honesty, when the latter returned and presented his contract. It was a
paper signed by the owners of the Britannia and Captain Grant, whose
writing Mary recognized immediately. It stated that "Tom Ayrton, able
seaman, was engaged as quartermaster on board the brig Britannia of
Glasgow." There was, therefore, no possible doubt of Ayrton's identity,
for it would have been difficult to suppose that this contract could be
in his hands and not belong to him.

[Sidenote: ENTANGLEMENTS.]

"Now," said Glenarvan, "I appeal to you all for advice as to what is
best to be done. Your advice, Ayrton, would be particularly valuable,
and I should be much obliged if you would give it to us."

The sailor reflected a few moments, and then replied:

"I thank you, my lord, for the confidence you place in me, and hope to
show myself worthy of it. I have some knowledge of the country, and of
the customs of the natives; and, if I can be of use to you----"

"Certainly," replied Glenarvan.

"I think, like you," continued Ayrton, "that Captain Grant and his two
sailors were saved from the shipwreck; but, since they have not reached
the English possessions, since they have not reappeared, I doubt not
that their fate was the same as my own, and that they are prisoners of
the natives."

"You repeat, Mr. Ayrton, the arguments that I have already
substantiated," said Paganel. "The shipwrecked seamen are evidently
prisoners of the natives, as they feared. But ought we to suppose that,
like you, they have been carried to the north?"

"It is quite likely, sir," replied Ayrton. "The hostile tribes would
hardly remain in the neighborhood of the English provinces."

"This fact will complicate our search," said Glenarvan, quite
disconcerted. "How shall we find the traces of the prisoners in the
interior of so vast a continent?"

A prolonged silence followed this remark. Lady Helena frequently
cast a questioning glance at her companions, but without eliciting a
responsive sign. Paganel himself was silent, contrary to his custom.
His usual ingenuity now failed him. Captain Mangles paced the room with
long strides, as if he had been on the deck of his vessel, involved in
some difficulty.

"And you, Mr. Ayrton," said Lady Helena, at length, to the
quartermaster, "what would you do?"

"Madam," replied he, promptly, "I should re-embark on board the Duncan,
and go straight to the place of the shipwreck. There I should act
according to circumstances, or indications that chance might furnish."

"Very good," said Glenarvan; "but we must wait till the Duncan is
repaired."

"Ah! you have suffered injuries?" inquired Ayrton.

"Yes," replies the captain.

"Serious?"

"No; but they necessitate repairs which cannot be made on board. One
of the flanges of the screw is bent, and this work can be done only at
Melbourne."

"Can you not sail?" asked the quartermaster.

"Yes; but, if the wind is contrary, it would take considerable time
to reach Twofold Bay, and at any rate we should have to return to
Melbourne."

"Well, let the yacht go to Melbourne," said Paganel, "and we will go
without her to Twofold Bay."

"But how?"

"By crossing Australia, as we crossed South America."

"But the Duncan?" added Ayrton, with singular persistency.

"The Duncan will join us, or we will join her, according to
circumstances. If Captain Grant is found during our journey, we will
return together to Melbourne. If, on the contrary, we continue our
search to the coast, the Duncan shall join us there. Who has any
objections to make to this plan? Have you, major?"

"No," replied MacNabb, "if it is practicable."

"So practicable," said Paganel, "that I propose that Lady Helena and
Miss Grant accompany us."

"Do you speak seriously, Paganel?" asked Glenarvan.

"Quite seriously, my lord. It is a journey of three hundred and fifty
miles. At the rate of twelve miles a day it would last scarcely a
month,--long enough to give time for repairing the Duncan."

"But the ferocious animals?" said Glenarvan, wishing to state all
possible objections.

[Sidenote: OBSTACLES EXPLAINED AWAY.]

"There are none in Australia."

"But the savages?"

"There are none in the course we shall take."

"Well, then, the convicts?"

"There are no convicts in the southern provinces of Australia, but only
in the eastern colonies."

"Mr. Paganel is perfectly right," said O'Moore; "they have all left the
southern provinces. Since I have lived on this farm, I have not heard
of one."

"And, for my part, I never met one," added Ayrton.

"You see, my friends," continued Paganel, "that there are few savages,
no wild beasts, and no convicts. There are not many countries of Europe
of which we could say as much. Well, is it agreed?"

"What do you think, Helena?" asked Glenarvan.

"What we all think," replied she, turning towards her companions.
"Forward!"



CHAPTER XXXII.

PREPARATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY.


It was not Glenarvan's habit to lose time in adopting and executing a
plan. As soon as Paganel's proposal was accepted, he at once resolved
that the preparations for the journey should be completed as soon as
possible.

And what was to be the result of this search? The existence of
Harry Grant seemed to have become undeniable, which increased the
probabilities of success. No one expected to find the captain exactly
on the line of the thirty-seventh parallel; but perhaps they would come
upon traces of him, and, at all events, their course would bring them
straight to the scene of the shipwreck, which was the principal point.

Moreover, if Ayrton would consent to join the travelers, to guide them
through the forests, and to the eastern coast, there was another chance
of success. Glenarvan felt the importance of this arrangement, and was
therefore particularly desirous of obtaining the services of Captain
Grant's companion. He inquired of his host whether he was willing for
him to propose to Ayrton to accompany them. Mr. O'Moore consented,
though not without regret at losing so good an assistant.

"Well, Ayrton, will you aid us in our search for the sailors of the
Britannia?"

The quartermaster did not answer immediately; he seemed to hesitate for
a few moments, but finally, after reflecting, said:

"Yes, my lord, I will follow you; and, if I do not set you upon the
track of Captain Grant, I will at least guide you to the place where
his vessel was wrecked."

"Thanks," replied Glenarvan.

"One question, my lord."

"Ask it."

"Where will you join the Duncan?"

"At Melbourne, if we do not cross Australia; on the eastern coast, if
our search is continued so far."

"But the captain of the Duncan?"

"He will await my orders at Melbourne."

"Very well, my lord," said Ayrton; "rely on me."

"I will," replied Glenarvan.

The quartermaster was heartily thanked by the travelers. Captain
Grant's children lavished upon him their most grateful caresses. All
were delighted at his decision, except the colonist, who would lose
in him an intelligent and faithful assistant. But he understood the
importance that Glenarvan attached to this new addition to his force,
and was resigned. He had, moreover, engaged to furnish them with the
means of conveyance for the journey, and, this business being settled,
the party returned on board.

[Illustration: This business being settled, the party returned on
board.]

Everything was now changed; all hesitation had vanished. These
courageous searchers were no longer to wander on blindly. Harry Grant,
they believed, had found a refuge on the continent, and each heart
was full of the satisfaction that certainty brings when it takes the
place of doubt. In two months, perhaps, the Duncan would land the lost
captain on the shores of Scotland.

When Captain Mangles seconded the proposal that they should attempt to
cross Australia with the ladies, he supposed that this time he would
accompany the expedition. He therefore consulted Glenarvan on the
subject, and brought forward various arguments in his own favor, such
as his desire to take part in the search for his countryman, and his
usefulness in the undertaking.

"One question, John," said Glenarvan. "You have absolute confidence in
your mate?"

"Absolute," replied he. "Tom Austin is a good sailor. He will take the
Duncan to Melbourne, repair her thoroughly, and bring her back at the
appointed time. He is a man devoted to duty and discipline, and will
never take the responsibility of changing or delaying the execution of
an order. You can rely upon him as fully as on myself."

"Very well, captain," replied Glenarvan; "you shall accompany us; for,"
added he, smiling, "you certainly ought to be present when we find Mary
Grant's father."

"Ah, my lord!" murmured Captain Mangles, with something like a blush
upon his swarthy cheeks.

[Sidenote: A PALACE-CART.]

The next day the captain, accompanied by the carpenter and by the
sailors loaded with provisions, returned to the farm of Mr. O'Moore,
who was to assist him in the preparations. All the family were waiting
for him, ready to work under his orders. Ayrton was there, and freely
gave them the benefit of his experience. He and his employer were
agreed on this point, that the ladies ought to make the journey in an
ox-cart, and the gentlemen on horseback. The colonist could procure
them the animals and vehicle.

The vehicle was a cart twenty feet long and covered with an awning,
the whole resting upon four wheels, without spokes, felloes, or tires.
The front wheels were a long way from the hind ones, and were joined
together by a rude contrivance that made it impossible to turn short.
To the body of the cart was attached a pole thirty-five feet long, to
which three pairs of oxen were coupled. The animals, thus arranged,
drew by means of a yoke across their necks, to which the bow was
fastened with an iron pin. It required great skill to manage this long,
narrow, tottering vehicle, and guide the oxen by means of the whip.
But Ayrton had served his apprenticeship at O'Moore's farm, and his
employer guaranteed his dexterity. Upon him, therefore, devolved the
duty of driving.

The cart, being without springs, was not very easy; but our travelers
were obliged to conform to circumstances as much as they could. As no
change was possible in its rude construction, Captain Mangles arranged
the interior in the most comfortable manner. He divided it into two
compartments by a wooden partition. The rear one was designed for
the provisions, the baggage, and Mr. Olbinett's portable kitchen,
while the forward one was reserved exclusively for the ladies. The
carpenter converted it into a convenient chamber, covered it with a
thick carpet, and furnished it with a dressing-table and two berths for
Lady Helena and Mary Grant. Thick leathern curtains secured privacy,
when necessary, and were a protection against the chilliness of the
night. In rainy weather the men could find shelter under the awning;
but a tent was to serve this purpose at the time of encampment. Captain
Mangles succeeded in crowding into this narrow space all that two
ladies could need, and Lady Helena and Mary Grant did not greatly miss
the comfortable cabins of the Duncan.

[Sidenote: A RETURN VISIT.]

As for the men, seven strong horses were apportioned to Lord
Glenarvan, Paganel, Robert Grant, Major MacNabb, Captain Mangles,
and the two sailors, Wilson and Mulready, who accompanied this new
expeditionary party. The horses and oxen grazed near at hand, and could
be easily collected at the moment of departure.

[Illustration: The vehicle was a cart twenty feet long and covered with
an awning, the whole resting upon four wheels, without spokes, felloes,
or tires.]

Having made his arrangements, and given his orders to the carpenter,
Captain Mangles returned on board with the colonist's family, who
wished to pay Lord Glenarvan a visit. Ayrton thought proper to join
them, and about four o'clock the captain crossed the gangway of the
Duncan.

Of course, Glenarvan invited his visitors to dinner, and they willingly
accepted his return hospitality. Mr. O'Moore was amazed. The furniture
of the cabins, the tapestry, the upholstery, and the fancy-work of
maple and ebony excited his admiration. Ayrton, on the contrary, gave
only a secondary attention to these costly luxuries. He first examined
the yacht from a sailor's point of view. He explored the hold; he
went down into the engine-room; he looked at the engine, inquired
its effective power and consumption; he visited the coal-house, the
pantry, and the powder-magazine, and took particular interest in the
gun-room and the mounted cannon in the forecastle. Glenarvan now had to
deal with a man who was a critical judge, as he could see by Ayrton's
keen inquiries. At last the quartermaster finished his exploration by
inspecting the masts and rigging; and, after a few moments of general
review, said:

"You have a fine vessel, my lord."

"A good one, too," replied Glenarvan.

"How many tons' burden is she?"

"Two hundred and ten."

"Shall I be greatly mistaken," added Ayrton, "if I say that the Duncan
can easily make fifteen knots an hour at full speed?"

"Say seventeen," interposed the captain, "and you will be nearer
right."

"Seventeen!" cried the quartermaster: "why, then, no man-of-war, not
even the best, could overtake her."

"Not one," said the captain. "The Duncan is a real racing yacht, and is
not to be beaten in any way."

"Not even in sailing?" asked Ayrton.

"Not even in sailing."

"Well, my lord, and you, captain, accept the compliments of a sailor
who knows what a vessel is worth."

"Thanks, Ayrton," replied Glenarvan; "and now remain on board, and it
will be your own fault if the ship is not all you can desire."

"I will think of it, my lord," said the quartermaster, modestly.

Mr. Olbinett now approached, and informed Lord Glenarvan that dinner
was ready; and they all adjourned to the saloon.

"That Ayrton is an intelligent man," said Paganel to the major.

"Too intelligent!" growled MacNabb, who, without any apparent reason,
disliked the looks and manners of the quartermaster.

During dinner, Ayrton gave some interesting information concerning
Australia, with which he was perfectly familiar. He inquired the number
of sailors that Glenarvan intended to take with him in his expedition.
When he learned that only two, Wilson and Mulready, were to accompany
them, he seemed astonished. He advised Glenarvan to form his party of
the best seamen of the Duncan. He even insisted upon this point, which
must have removed all suspicion from the mind of the major.

"But," said Glenarvan, "is there any danger in our journey across
Australia?"

"None," replied Ayrton.

[Sidenote: A CHANGE OF RESIDENCE.]

"Well, then, let us leave on board as many as possible. There must be
men to navigate the Duncan and take charge of her. It is especially
important that she should arrive promptly at the place of meeting,
which we will appoint hereafter. Let us not, therefore, lessen the
crew."

Ayrton seemed to appreciate this reason, and no longer insisted.

At evening the party separated. Ayrton and O'Moore's family returned to
their home. The horses and cart were to be ready the next day, and the
travelers were to start at eight o'clock in the morning.

Lady Helena and Mary Grant now made their last preparations, which were
short and less minute than those of Jacques Paganel. The geographer
passed half the night in unscrewing, cleaning, and screwing on again
the lenses of his telescope. He was still asleep the next morning, when
the major awoke him early with a loud summons.

The baggage had already been conveyed to the farm through the care of
Captain Mangles. A boat was waiting for the travelers, and they were
not long in embarking. The young captain gave his last orders to Tom
Austin, and instructed him above all to await the commands of Lord
Glenarvan at Melbourne, and execute them scrupulously whatever they
might be. The trusty sailor replied that they might rely on him. In the
name of the crew he offered to his lordship their best wishes for the
success of the expedition. The boat put off, and a thunder of applause
rent the air. In a few moments the party reached the shore, and in no
great length of time arrived at O'Moore's farm.

Everything was ready. Lady Helena was delighted with her quarters. The
immense cart, with its rude wheels and massive timbers, especially
pleased her. The six oxen yoked in pairs seemed to indicate primeval
simplicity, and were a novel sight. Ayrton, whip in hand, awaited the
orders of his new chief.

[Illustration: Ayrton and Olbinett took their places respectively in
front and in the rear part of the cart, while Glenarvan, the major,
Paganel, Robert, Captain Mangles, and the two sailors, mounted their
horses.]

"I declare!" said Paganel, "this is an admirable vehicle, worth all the
mail-coaches in the world. I know of no better way of traversing the
earth than in this style, like mountebanks. A house that moves when
you please and stops wherever you please is all you can desire."

[Illustration: The "Mosquito Plains," whose very name describes them,
and serves to tell of the tortures that our friends had to encounter.]

"Monsieur Paganel," replied Lady Helena, "I hope to have the pleasure
of receiving you in my parlor."

"Madam," replied the geographer, "you do me great honor! Have you
chosen a day?"

"I shall be at home every day for my friends," replied Lady Helena,
smiling, "and you are----"

"The most devoted of all," added Paganel, gallantly.

This exchange of compliments was interrupted by the arrival of seven
horses, all harnessed, driven by one of O'Moore's sons. Lord Glenarvan
paid for these new acquisitions, and added many thanks, which the
honest colonist seemed to value as highly as the gold and notes which
he received.

The signal for departure was now given. Lady Helena and Miss Grant
seated themselves in their compartment, Ayrton and Olbinett took their
places respectively in front and in the rear part of the cart, while
Glenarvan, the major, Paganel, Robert, Captain Mangles, and the two
sailors, all armed with carbines and revolvers, mounted their horses. A
"God bless you" was Mr. O'Moore's parting salute, which was echoed in
chorus by his family. Ayrton uttered a peculiar cry, and started his
long team. The cart moved, the timbers cracked, the axles creaked, and
the farm of the honest hospitable Irishman soon disappeared from view
at the turn of the road.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

AN ACCIDENT.


Our travelers made tolerably good progress by their new mode of
conveyance. The heat was great, but endurable, and the road was
quite easy for the horses. They were still in the province of South
Australia, and in this part at least the scenery was not of the
most interesting character. A succession of small hills, with very
dusty tracks, small shrubs, and scant herbage, had to be traversed
for several miles; and when these had been passed they reached the
"Mosquito Plains," whose very name describes them, and serves to tell
of the tortures that our friends had to encounter. Both the bipeds and
the quadrupeds suffered terribly from the infliction of these flying
pests, whom to avoid was impossible; but there was some consolation for
the former in the spirits of hartshorn, carried in the medicine-chest,
which alleviated the pain caused by the sting of those whom Paganel was
continually consigning to a place and person whom they would not visit.

But shortly a more pleasant neighborhood was reached. Hedges of
acacias, then a newly cut and better made roadway, then European
imported trees--oaks, olives, and lemons,--then a well-kept fence,--all
these signs told of their approach to Red-gum Station, the home and
settlement of an emigrant engaged in the cattle-breeding which is the
source of so much Australian wealth. It was in itself an establishment
of small importance; but to its owners it was a home, and to its
visitors, on this occasion, it was a hotel, as the "station" generally
is to the traveler.

[Illustration: Red-gum Station, the home and settlement of an emigrant
engaged in the cattle-breeding which is the source of so much
Australian wealth.]

[Illustration: The major was skillful enough to shoot a very rare
bird,--a "jabiru," or giant crane. This creature was five feet high;
and its broad, black, sharp conical beak measured eighteen inches in
length.]

Glenarvan's party invariably found beneath the roof of these solitary
settlers a well-spread and hospitable table; and in the Australian
farmer they always met an obliging host.

After a night spent at this resting-place the party advanced through a
grove, and at evening encamped on the shores of a brackish and muddy
lake. Mr. Olbinett prepared supper with his usual promptness, and the
travelers--some in the cart and others under the tent--were not long
in falling asleep, in spite of the dismal howlings of the dingos,--the
jackals of Australia.

The next morning Glenarvan and his companions were greeted with a
magnificent sight. As far as the eye could reach, the landscape seemed
to be one flowery meadow in spring-like luxuriance. The delicate blue
of the slender-leaved flax-plant mingled with the flaming scarlet
of the acanthus, and the ground was clothed with a rich carpet of
green and crimson. After a rapid journey of about ten miles, the cart
wound through tall groups of acacias, mimosas, and white gum-trees.
The vegetable kingdom on these plains did not show itself ungrateful
towards the orb of day, and repaid in perfume and color what it
received in sunshine.

As for the animal kingdom, it was no less lavish of its products.
Several cassowaries bounded over the plain with unapproachable
swiftness. The major was skillful enough to shoot a very rare bird,--a
"jabiru," or giant crane. This creature was five feet high; and its
broad, black, sharp conical beak measured eighteen inches in length.
The violet and purple colors of its head contrasted strongly with the
lustrous green of its neck, the dazzling white of its breast, and the
vivid red of its long legs.

[Sidenote: A FOUR-FOOTED ARMY.]

This bird was greatly admired, and the major would have won the honors
of the day, if young Robert had not encountered a few miles farther
on, and bravely vanquished, an unsightly beast, half hedgehog, half
ant-eater, a chaotic-looking animal, like those of pre-historic
periods. A long, glutinous, extensible tongue hung out of its mouth,
and fished up the ants that constituted its principal food. Of course,
Paganel wished to carry away the hideous creature, and proposed to
put it in the baggage-room; but Mr. Olbinett opposed this with such
indignation that the geographer gave up his idea of preserving this
curious specimen.

Hitherto few colonists or squatters had been seen. The country seemed
deserted. There was not even the trace of a native; for the savage
tribes wander farther to the north, over the immense wastes watered by
the Darling and the Murray. But now a singular sight was presented to
Glenarvan's party. They were fortunate enough to see one of those vast
herds of cattle which bold speculators bring from the eastern mountains
to the provinces of Victoria and South Australia.

About four o'clock in the afternoon, Captain Mangles descried, three
miles in advance, an enormous column of dust that spread along the
horizon. What occasioned this? It would have been very difficult to
say. Paganel was inclined to regard it as some phenomenon, for which
his lively imagination already sought a natural cause. But Ayrton
dissipated all his conjectures by declaring that this cloud of dust
proceeded from a drove of cattle.

The quartermaster was not mistaken. The thick cloud approached, from
the midst of which issued a chorus of bleatings, neighings, and
bellowings, while the human voice mingled in cries and whistles with
this pastoral symphony. A man emerged from the noisy multitude; it was
the commander-in-chief of this four-footed army. Glenarvan advanced to
meet him, and friendly relations were established without ceremony.
The leader, or, to give him his real title, the "stock-keeper," was
proprietor of a part of the herd. His name was Sam Machell, and he
was on his way from the eastern provinces to Portland Bay. His cattle
comprised one thousand oxen, eleven thousand sheep, and seventy-five
horses. All these animals, bought when lean on the plains of the
Blue Mountains, were to be fattened in the healthy pastures of South
Australia, where they would be sold for a large price.

Sam Machell briefly told his story, while the drove continued its
course through the clumps of mimosas. Lady Helena, Mary Grant, and
the horsemen dismounted, and, seated in the shade of a huge gum-tree,
listened to the stock-keeper's narrative.

He had set out seven months before, and had made about ten miles a day,
at which rate his journey would last three months longer. To aid him
in this laborious task, he had with him twenty dogs and thirty men.
Five of the men were blacks, who are very skillful in recovering stray
animals. Six carts followed the drove; and the drivers, provided with
stock-whips, the handles of which were eighteen inches and the lashes
nine feet in length, moved among the ranks and maintained order, while
the canine light dragoons hovered about on the wings.

The travelers were amazed at the discipline of this novel army. The
different classes advanced separately, for wild oxen and sheep do
not associate well; the first will never graze where the second have
passed. Hence it was necessary to place the oxen at the head; and these
accordingly, divided into two battalions, took the lead. Five regiments
of sheep, commanded by five drivers, followed, and the platoon of
horses formed the rear-guard.

The stock-keeper observed to his hearers that the leaders of the army
were neither dogs nor men, but oxen, whose superiority was recognized
by their mates. They advanced in the front rank with perfect gravity,
choosing the best course by instinct, and thoroughly convinced of their
right to be treated with consideration.

[Sidenote: AN UNFORESEEN HINDRANCE.]

Thus the discipline was maintained, for the drove obeyed them without
resistance. If it pleased them to stop, the others were obliged to
yield, and it was useless to attempt to resume the line of march if the
leaders did not give the signal.

Such was Sam Machell's account, during which a great part of the
herd had advanced in good order. It was now time for him to join his
army, and choose the best pastures. He therefore took leave of Lord
Glenarvan, mounted a fine native horse that one of his men was holding
for him, and a few moments after had disappeared in a cloud of dust,
while the cart, resuming its interrupted journey, stopped at nightfall
at the foot of Mount Talbot.

The next day they reached the shores of the Wimerra, which is half a
mile wide, and flows in a limpid stream between tall rows of gum-trees
and acacias. Magnificent myrtles raised aloft their long, drooping
branches, adorned with crimson flowers, while thousands of goldfinches,
chaffinches, and golden-winged pigeons, not to speak of chattering
parrots, fluttered about in the foliage. Below, on the surface of the
stream, sported a pair of black swans, shy and unapproachable.

Meantime the cart had stopped on a carpet of turf whose fringes hung
over the swiftly flowing waters. There was neither raft nor bridge, but
they must cross at all hazard. Ayrton busied himself in searching for
a practicable ford. A quarter of a mile up-stream, the river seemed to
him less deep, and from this point he resolved to reach the other bank.
Various soundings gave a depth of only three feet. The cart could,
therefore, pass over this shallow without running much risk.

"Is there no other way of crossing the river?" asked Glenarvan of the
quartermaster.

"No, my lord," replied Ayrton; "but this passage does not seem to me
dangerous. We can extricate ourselves from any difficulty."

"Shall Lady Helena and Miss Grant leave the cart?"

"Not at all. My oxen are sure-footed, and I will engage to keep them in
the right track."

"Well, Ayrton," said Glenarvan, "I trust to you."

The horsemen surrounded the heavy vehicle, and the party boldly entered
the river. Usually, when these fordings are attempted, the carts are
encircled by a ring of empty barrels, which support them on the water.
But here this buoyant girdle was wanting, and it was, therefore,
necessary to confide to the sagacity of the oxen, guided by the
cautious Ayrton. The major and the two sailors dashed through the rapid
current some distance ahead, while Glenarvan and Captain Mangles, one
on each side of the cart, stood ready to assist the ladies, and Paganel
and Robert brought up the rear.

Everything went well till they reached the middle of the river, but
here the depth increased, and the water rose above the felloes. The
oxen, if thrown out of their course, might lose their footing and
overturn the unsteady vehicle. Ayrton exerted himself to the utmost. He
leaped into the water, and, seizing the oxen by the horns, succeeded in
keeping them in the right track.

At this moment an accident, impossible to foresee, took place. A crack
was heard; the cart inclined at an alarming angle; the water reached
the feet of the ladies, and the whole vehicle threatened to give way.
It was an anxious moment.

Fortunately a vigorous blow upon the yoke brought the cart nearer the
shore. The river grew shallower, and soon men and beasts were in safety
on the opposite bank. Only the front wheels of the cart were damaged,
and Glenarvan's horse had lost the shoes of his fore-feet.

This mishap required immediate repair. The travelers gazed at each
other in some degree of perplexity, when Ayrton proposed to go to Black
Point Station, twenty miles to the north, and bring a farrier.

[Sidenote: FOOD, PHYSICAL AND MENTAL.]

"Very well, Ayrton," said Glenarvan. "How much time do you need to make
the journey and return to the encampment?"

"Fifteen hours," replied Ayrton.

"Go, then; and, while waiting for your return, we will encamp on the
banks of the Wimerra."

A few moments after, the quartermaster, mounted on Wilson's horse,
disappeared behind the thick curtain of mimosas.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AUSTRALIAN EXPLORERS.


After the departure of Ayrton, and during this compulsory halt,
promenades and conversations became the order of the day. There was
an abundance of agreeable surroundings to talk about, and nature
seemed dressed in one of her most attractive garbs. Birds, novel and
varied in their plumage, with flowers such as they had never before
gazed on, were the constant theme of the travelers' remark; and when,
in addition, they had in Mr. Olbinett one who knew how to spread
before them and make the best of all the culinary novelties that were
within reach, a very substantial foundation was possible for the
"feast of reason and the flow of soul" which followed, and for which,
as usual, they were to no small extent indebted to their learned
historico-geographical professor, whose stock of information was as
varied as it was pleasant.

[Illustration: A crack was heard; the cart inclined at an alarming
angle; the water reached the feet of the ladies, and the whole vehicle
threatened to give way. It was an anxious moment.]

After dinner the traveling party had, as if in anticipation, seated
themselves at the foot of a magnificent banksia; the young moon was
rising high into the heavens, lengthening the twilight, and prolonging
it into the evening hour; whilst the smoke of the major's cigar was
seen curling upwards, losing itself in the foliage of the tree.


[Illustration: After dinner the traveling party had, as if in
anticipation, seated themselves at the foot of a magnificent banksia;
the young moon was rising high into the heavens, lengthening the
twilight, and prolonging it into the evening hour.]

"Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena, "you have never given us the
history that you promised when you supplied us with that long list of
names."

The gentleman addressed did not require any lengthened entreaties on
this subject, but, with an attentive auditory, and in the grandest
of all lecture-rooms, he rehearsed to them the two great dramas of
Australian travel, which have made the names of Burke and Stuart
immortal in the history of that continent.

He told them that it was on the 20th of August, 1860, that Robert
O'Hara Burke set out, under the auspices of the Royal Society of
Melbourne, to cross the continent from south to north, and so to reach
the Indian Ocean. Eleven others--including a botanist, an astronomer,
and an army officer--accompanied him, with horses and other beasts of
burden. But the expedition did not long continue so numerous or so well
provided; in consequence of misunderstandings, several returned, and
Burke pressed on with but few followers and fewer aids. Again, on the
20th of November, he still further diminished his numbers by leaving
behind at an encampment several of his companions, that he and three
others might press on towards the north with as little incumbrance as
possible. After a very painful journey across a stony desert, they
arrived at the extreme point reached by Stuart in 1845; and from this
point, after determining as accurately as possible their latitude and
longitude, they again started northward and seaward.

[Sidenote: LYING DOWN TO DIE.]

By the 7th of January they had gone so far as to reach the southern
limit of the tropical heat; and now under a scorching sun, deceived by
the mirage, often without water, and then hailing a storm as a source
of refreshment, now and then meeting with the aborigines, who could in
no wise help them, they had indeed a hard road to travel, though having
neither rivers, lakes, nor mountains to bar their path.

At length, however, there were various signs that they were approaching
the sea; by-and-by they reached the bank of a river which flows into
the Gulf of Carpentaria; and finally Burke and Wills, after terrible
hardships, arrived at the point where the sea-water flowed up to and
inundated the marshes, though the sea-shore itself they did not reach.
With naught but barrenness in sight on either hand, their great desire
was to get back and rejoin their companions; but peril after peril
awaited them, many of which their note-book has preserved an account
of, but many more will be forever unrecorded. The three survivors
(for one of the party had succumbed to the hardships) now strained
every effort to reach the encampment, where they hoped to find their
companions and a store of provisions. On the 21st of April they
gained the goal, but the prize was missing; only seven hours before,
after five months of waiting in vain, their companions had taken
their departure. Of course nothing remained but to follow them with
their feeble strength and scanty means of subsistence; but calamities
still dogged their footsteps, and at last the leader, Burke, lay down
exhausted, saying to his companion, King, "I have not many hours to
live; here are my watch and my notes; when I am dead, place a pistol
in my right hand, and leave me without burial." His forebodings were
realized, and the next morning he died. King, in despair, went in
search of some Australian tribe, for now Wills had begun to sink,
and he shortly afterwards died also. At length the sole survivor was
rescued by an expedition sent out in search of Burke; and thus the sad
tale was told of this Australian tragedy.

[Illustration: "When I am dead, place a pistol in my right hand, and
leave me without burial." His forebodings were realized, and the next
morning he died.]

The narrative concerning Stuart was a less melancholy one, though the
trials endured on his expedition were likewise great. Aided by the
parliament of South Australia, he likewise proceeded northward,
in the year 1862, about seven degrees to the west of the line taken
by Burke. He found his route to be a more accessible and easy one
than the other, and was rewarded for his toil when, on the 24th of
July, he beheld the waters of the Indian Ocean, and proudly unfurled
the Australian flag from the topmost branch of the highest tree he
could find. His return to the inhabited regions was successfully
accomplished, and his entry into Adelaide, on the 17th of December, was
an ovation indeed. But his health was shattered, and, after receiving
the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and returning to his
native Scotland, he died on the 5th of June, 1866.

[Illustration: He beheld the waters of the Indian Ocean, and proudly
unfurled the Australian flag from the topmost branch of the highest
tree he could find.]

The histories of these Australian travels were lengthy, as told by
Paganel. When he had finished, hope and despair seemed to fight for the
mastery in the breasts of his listeners; but they did not fight long,
for peaceful slumbers soon enwrapped the company, except those whose
turn it was to watch over their fellow-travelers.



CHAPTER XXXV.

CRIME OR CALAMITY?


[Sidenote: THE MISCHIEF REPAIRED.]

It was not without a certain feeling of apprehension that the major
had seen Ayrton leave the Wimerra to procure a farrier at Black Point
Station. However, he did not breathe a word of his personal suspicions,
but contented himself with exploring the surroundings of the river,
whose tranquillity was undisturbed. As for Glenarvan, his only fear was
to see Ayrton return alone. In the absence of skilled labor, the cart
could not resume its journey, which would be interrupted for several
days perhaps; and his longings for success and eagerness to attain his
end admitted of no delay.

Fortunately, Ayrton had lost neither his time nor his trouble. The
next morning he reappeared at break of day. A man accompanied him, by
profession a farrier. He was a tall, stout fellow, but of a low and
brutish appearance, which did not prepossess one in his favor. However,
this was of little importance, if he knew his business. At all events
his breath was not wasted in idle words.

"Is he an efficient workman?" inquired Captain Mangles of the
quartermaster.

"I know no more than you, captain," replied Ayrton. "We shall see."

The farrier began his work. He was a man who understood his trade, as
one could see by the way in which he repaired the wheels of the cart.
He labored skillfully and with uncommon energy.

During the operation, the major noticed that the farrier's wrists were
considerably eroded, and that they were each encircled by a blackish
ring of extravasated blood. These were the marks of recent wounds,
which the sleeves of a miserable woolen shirt but partially concealed.
MacNabb questioned the man about these erosions, which must have been
very painful. He, however, made no reply, but stolidly kept on at his
work.

Two hours after, the injuries of the cart were repaired. As for
Glenarvan's horse, he was quickly shod. The farrier had taken care to
bring shoes all prepared. There was a peculiarity about them, however,
which did not escape the major. It was a trefoil rudely carved on the
outer rim. He pointed it out to Ayrton.

"It is the Black Point mark," replied the quartermaster, "which enables
them to follow the tracks of the horses that stray from the station,
and not confound them with others."

The farrier, having done all that was required of him, now claimed his
wages, and departed without having spoken four words.

Half an hour later, the travelers were on the move. Beyond the curtain
of mimosas extended a broad, uncovered space, which justly deserved its
name of "open plain." Fragments of quartz and ferruginous rocks lay
among the bushes, tall grass, and hedgerows that protected numerous
flocks. Several miles farther on, the wheels of the cart sank deeply
in the marshy lowlands, through which ran winding creeks, half hidden
beneath a canopy of gigantic rushes. The journey, notwithstanding, was
neither difficult nor tedious.

Lady Helena invited the horsemen to call upon her in turn, for her
parlor was very small. Each was thus relieved from the fatigue of
horseback riding, and enjoyed the society of this amiable lady,
who, assisted by Miss Mary, performed with perfect grace the honors
of her movable mansion. Captain Mangles was not forgotten in these
invitations, and his rather sober conversation was not at all
displeasing.

At eleven o'clock they arrived at Carlsbrook, quite an important
municipality. Ayrton thought it best to pass by the city without
entering. Glenarvan was of the same opinion; but Paganel, always
eager for something new, desired to visit the place. Accordingly,
the geographer, taking Robert with him as usual, started on his
explorations, while the cart slowly continued its journey. Their
inspection of the town was very rapid, and shortly afterwards they had
joined their companions.

While they were passing through this region, the travelers requested
Paganel to give them some account of its progress, and the geographer,
in compliance with their wishes, had just begun a lecture upon the
civilization of the country, when he was interrupted by a shrill
whistle. The party were not a mile from the railroad. A locomotive,
coming from the south, and going slowly, had stopped just where
the road they were following crossed the iron track. At this point
the railway passes over the Lutton on an iron bridge, and thither
Ayrton directed his cart, preceded by the horsemen. The travelers
were attracted, moreover, by a lively feeling of curiosity, for
a considerable crowd was already rushing towards the bridge. The
inhabitants of the neighboring stations, leaving their houses, and the
shepherds their flocks, lined the sides of the track. Frequent cries
were heard. Some serious event must have taken place to cause such
excitement,--a great accident, perhaps.

[Illustration: A terrible accident had occurred, not a collision, but a
running off the track and a fall into the river, which was filled with
the fragments of cars and locomotives.]

Glenarvan, followed by his companions, urged on his horse, and in a few
moments arrived at Camden Bridge. Here the cause of this agitation was
at once manifest. A terrible accident had occurred, not a collision,
but a running off the track and a fall into the river, which was filled
with the fragments of cars and locomotives. Either the bridge had
given way, or the engine had run off the track; for five coaches out
of six had been precipitated into the bed of the Lutton. The last car,
miraculously preserved by the breaking of its coupling, stood on the
very verge of the abyss. Below was to be seen nothing but a terrible
heap of blackened and bent axle-trees, broken cars, twisted rails, and
charred timbers. The boiler, which had burst at the shock, had thrown
its iron plates to an enormous distance. From this mass of unsightly
objects issued flames and spiral wreaths of steam, mingled with black
smoke. Large spots of blood, scattered limbs, and trunks of burnt
bodies appeared here and there; and no one dared to estimate the number
of victims buried beneath the ruins.

Glenarvan, Paganel, the major, and Captain Mangles mingled with the
crowd, and listened to the conjectures that passed from one to another.
Each sought to explain the catastrophe, while laboring to save what was
left.

"The bridge has broken," said one.

[Sidenote: CAUSES AND EFFECTS.]

"Broken?" replied others. "That cannot be, for it is still uninjured.
They forgot to close it for the passage of the train, that is all."

It was a draw-bridge, which had been constructed for the convenience of
the shipping. Had the man on guard, through unpardonable negligence,
forgotten to close it, and thus precipitated the train, at full speed,
into the bed of the Lutton? This supposition seemed plausible, for one
half of the bridge lay beneath the fragments of the cars, while the
other still hung intact in its chains. Doubt was no longer possible;
surely carelessness must have caused the calamity.

The accident had happened to the night express, which left Melbourne
at forty-five minutes past eleven. It must have been a quarter-past
three in the morning when the train reached Camden Bridge, where this
terrible destruction of life and property took place. The travelers
and employés of the last car at once busied themselves in seeking
assistance; but the telegraph-wires, whose poles lay on the ground,
were no longer available. It took the authorities of Castlemaine three
hours to reach the scene of the disaster; and it was, therefore, six
o'clock in the morning before a corps of workers was organized under
the direction of the surveyor-general of the district, and a detachment
of policemen, commanded by an officer. The squatters had come to their
aid, and exerted themselves to extinguish the fire, which consumed the
heap of ruins with unconquerable fierceness. Several unrecognizable
bodies lay on the edge of the embankment, but it was impossible
to rescue a living being from this furnace. The fire had rapidly
accomplished the work of destruction. Of the travelers in the train,
whose number was not known, only ten survived, those in the last car.
The railroad company had just sent an extra locomotive to convey them
to Castlemaine.

Meantime, Lord Glenarvan, having made the acquaintance of the
surveyor-general, was conversing with him and the police-officer. The
latter was a tall, thin man, of imperturbable coolness, who, if he
had any feeling, betrayed no sign of it on his impassible features.
He was like a mathematician engaged upon a problem; he was seeking to
elucidate the mystery of the disaster. To Glenarvan's first words,
"This is a great calamity!" he replied, calmly, "It is more than that."

"More than that!" cried Glenarvan; "and what can be more than that?"

"It is a crime!" replied the officer, coolly.

Glenarvan turned to Mr. Mitchell, the surveyor-general, with a
questioning look.

"That is correct," said the latter; "our examination has convinced us
that the catastrophe is the result of a crime. The last baggage-wagon
was robbed. The surviving travelers were attacked by a party of five or
six malefactors. The bridge was opened intentionally; and, taking into
account this fact with the disappearance of the guard, I cannot but
come to the conclusion that the miserable man was the accomplice of the
criminals."

The police-officer, at these words, slowly shook his head.

"You are not of my opinion?" inquired Mr. Mitchell.

"Not as regards the complicity of the guard."

"At any rate, this assumed complicity," continued the surveyor-general,
"enables us to attribute the crime to the natives who wander about the
country. Without the guard's assistance these natives could not have
opened the draw-bridge, for they do not understand its working."

"Exactly," replied the officer.

"Now, it is known," added Mr. Mitchell, "from the testimony of a
boatman, whose boat passed Camden Bridge at forty minutes past ten in
the evening, that the bridge was closed according to regulation, after
his passage."

"Quite right."

[Illustration: In the midst of the multitude two men were bearing a
corpse. It was that of the guard, already cold. A poniard-thrust had
pierced him to the heart.]

"Therefore the complicity of the guard seems to me to be proved
incontestably."

The officer again made a gesture of dissent.

"Then you do not attribute the crime to the natives?" inquired
Glenarvan.

"I do not."

"To whom, then?"

At this moment a loud uproar was heard half a mile up the river. A
crowd had formed, which rapidly increased, and was now approaching the
station. In the midst of the multitude two men were bearing a corpse.
It was that of the guard, already cold. A poniard-thrust had pierced
him to the heart. The assassins had dragged the body some distance from
Camden Bridge, doubtless intending by this means to mislead the police
in their first investigations. This discovery clearly justified the
doubts of the officer. The natives had no hand in the crime.

"Those who struck the blow," said he, "are persons already familiar
with the use of these little instruments."

As he spoke he displayed a pair of "darbies," a kind of manacles
consisting of a double ring of iron, furnished with a padlock.

"Before long," added he, "I shall have the pleasure of presenting them
with these bracelets as a new year's gift."

"Then you suspect----?"

"People who have 'traveled free on Her Majesty's vessels.'"

"What! convicts?" cried Paganel, who recognized the phrase employed in
the Australian colonies.

"I thought," observed Glenarvan, "that those who have been transported
had no right to stay in the province of Victoria."

"Ah, well," replied the officer, "if they have not the right, they take
it! Sometimes they escape; and, if I am not greatly mistaken, these
fellows have come direct from Perth. Well, they shall return again, you
may be sure."

[Sidenote: A RAILROAD SLEEPER.]

Mr. Mitchell nodded approvingly at the words of the officer. At this
moment the cart arrived at the railroad crossing. Glenarvan, wishing
to spare the ladies the spectacle at Camden Bridge, took leave of the
surveyor-general, and made a sign to his companions to follow him.

"There is no occasion," said he, "for us to interrupt our journey."

On reaching the cart, Glenarvan simply told Lady Helena that a railroad
accident had taken place, without mentioning the part that the convicts
had played in the catastrophe. He reserved this matter that he might
question Ayrton in private. The little party then crossed the track,
not far above the bridge, and resumed their route towards the east.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

FRESH FACES.


They had not proceeded far before they reached a native cemetery,
pleasantly situated and with abundance of shady trees. Here for a
time they halted, and, whilst Robert and Paganel were exploring, Lord
and Lady Glenarvan almost stumbled over a queer object. It was human,
indigenous, and sleeping; but at first this was all that they could
decide, until, as the eyes opened and the sleeper roused to active
life, they saw before them a boy of eight years, with a notice pinned
to the back of his jacket which read as follows: "TOLINÉ*, to be
conducted to Echuca, care of Jeff Smith, Railway Porter. Prepaid."

[Illustration: A boy of eight years, with a notice pinned to the back
of his jacket which read as follows: "Toliné, to be conducted to
Echuca, care of Jeff Smith, Railway Porter. Prepaid."]

Here, it would seem, was another waif that Providence had cast in their
path. They questioned him, and his answers were pertinent and clear. He
had been educated in the Wesleyan Methodist day-school at Melbourne,
and was now going for a time to visit his parents, who were living
with the rest of their tribe in Lachlan. He had been in the train to
which the accident had happened, and had, with childlike confidence,
troubled less about his fate than did those of older years. Going to a
little distance, and laying himself on the grass, he had soon fallen
into the slumber from which our travelers had aroused him.

[Illustration: Paganel and the others had now gathered round, and
Toliné had to answer many a question. He came out of his examination
very creditably.]

Paganel and the others had now gathered round, and Toliné had to answer
many a question. He came out of his examination very creditably; the
reverence with which he spoke of the Creator and of the Bible produced
a very favorable impression on the Scottish heads of the expedition,
whilst the fact that he had taken "the first prize in geography" was
sufficient introduction to Monsieur Paganel, who forthwith tested his
knowledge, greatly to his own satisfaction, and considerably to the
credit of his young pupil. The curiosity of his discoverers having been
fully satisfied, Toliné was made welcome, and partook with the others
of the general repast. Many were the plans and purposes concerning
him, and much wonder was expressed as to how they could speed him on
his way; but in the morning it was discovered that he had solved the
problem for himself, and a bouquet of fresh leaves and flowers, laid by
the side of Lady Helena's seat, was the only memento that Toliné had
left.

[Sidenote: A GOLDEN CITY.]

The party were now approaching the district which, in the years 1851
and 1852, was so much talked of throughout the civilized world,
and attracted from all parts so many reckless adventurers and
fortune-hunters. The line of the thirty-seventh parallel, on which they
were traveling, led them through the diggings and municipality of Mount
Alexander, which was one of the most successful spots for the digger at
the commencement of the gold fever, in consequence of the comparatively
level nature of the ground and the general richness of the soil, so
different from some other localities where only once in a while was
some enormous nugget to be found. As they drew near to the streets of
this hastily-built town, Ayrton and Mulready, who were in charge of the
cart, were sent forward, whilst the others walked through the place to
inspect what there might be of interest, as well as to ascertain what
might be learned concerning the object of their expedition.

Thus, in this strange gathering of all nationalities and creeds and
professions, the regular inhabitants beheld a still more extraordinary
sight than that every day afforded them: folks who to the refinement
which education and civilization give added both the earnestness
of the worker and the freshness and vigor of the pleasure-seeking
tourist. In the streets, in connection with the strange sign-boards and
announcements, the novel erections and purposes to which some of them
were adapted, Paganel had a history and commentary for every one.

Still more did he expatiate upon the thousand-and-one topics of
interest when they visited the bank building, which here is the
centre of more than one agency connected with this great gold-bearing
district. Here was the mineralogical museum, in which might be seen
specimens illustrative of all the various ways in which the gold has
been found, whether in combination with clay or other minerals, or--as
it is sometimes, to the great joy of the finder, discovered--_pur
et simple_. Here also were models, diagrams, and even the tools
themselves, to illustrate the different methods by which the object
of search was dug out, or washed, or crushed, or tested. Here also
was an almost unequaled collection of precious stones, gems of all
sorts, making the gallery in which they were placed a real Golconda
for its wealth and attractions. Besides all this, here was the centre
of the varied agencies by which the reports were brought in from the
companies established for mining purposes, and also from each isolated
worker, of the space purchased, the number of feet or yards dug, the
ore extracted, the comparative richness or poverty of the soil here,
there, and elsewhere, which in their summarized and aggregate form have
greatly helped to a correct knowledge of the comparative and absolute
gold-bearing value of various spots. Then, in addition to the usual
operations of a banking establishment, it was here that the ore was
stored, from hence that it was sent, under government escort and with
government guarantee, subject to a fixed, though moderate, charge,
so that the transport to Melbourne, which at first was a dangerous
and expensive "middle passage," was now as easily and inexpensively
accomplished as is the transmission of freight from London to Paris.

[Illustration: In the streets, in connection with the strange
sign-boards and announcements, the novel erections and purposes to
which some of them were adapted, Paganel had a history and commentary
for every one.]

Over the whole of this establishment they were conducted by the most
courteous and obliging of officials, and the services thus rendered
charmed the Frenchman, who was none the less loquacious, and was in
truth able even to enlighten his guides.

[Illustration: Here was the mineralogical museum, in which might be
seen specimens illustrative of all the various ways in which the gold
has been found.]

[Sidenote: PLEASING PROGRESS.]

But his joy culminated when, after some time spent in the hotel, the
party left the town, and passed through the "diggings," properly so
called. It was difficult to persuade Paganel and Robert--who kept
together--to come on, in order that they might not leave Ayrton and
Mulready too long in suspense. Now the Frenchman would see just the key
that he needed to understand a point not before clear to him; anon you
might see him as in the illustration, when he had picked up a pebble
and was sure that it was in itself so interesting as a mineralogical
specimen that he must treasure it up for the Bank of France, so that
his own land might have at least one part of Australia. All this was
done with such a mingling of childish good-nature and scientific and
national pride that it was useless to do anything but laugh, and an
irrepressible smile came over even the major's features. At length,
however, by drawing him into a lecture, they succeeded in persuading
him to follow them; and, as they left the diggings, he told them the
history of the prophecies, the discovery, and the spread of knowledge
as to the rich auriferous deposits of this part of Australia. He
could give them facts and incidents and dates as to the ingress into
Melbourne, and the exodus therefrom to the diggings, in the year 1852;
he told them how the energy and the love of order which characterize
the English-speaking peoples had reduced to system, method,
subordination, the chaotic surgings and restlessness which marked the
first weeks and months of this new era; and he detailed, as though
he had studied the subject to the entire neglect of other matters,
the working of the system,--how the land was registered, what was the
sum paid in the aggregate, how the taxes were collected, wherein the
system had been found faulty. All this occupied much time, and, before
he had finished, the cart was in sight, in which Lady Helena and Miss
Grant reseated themselves, and for the remainder of the day and the
succeeding night their progress was in the accustomed order.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

A WARNING.


At sunrise the travelers left the gold regions and crossed the
frontiers of the county of Talbot. Their line of travel now struck
the dusty roads of the county of Dalhousie. Half the journey was
accomplished. In fifteen days more of travel equally rapid the little
party would reach the shores of Twofold Bay. Moreover, every one was in
good health. Paganel's assertions as to the salubrity of this climate
were verified. There was little or no moisture, and the heat was quite
endurable. Neither men nor animals complained.

[Illustration: Anon you might see him as in the illustration, when
he had picked up a pebble and was sure that it was in itself so
interesting as a mineralogical specimen that he must treasure it up for
the Bank of France.] [Sidenote: A PILLARED GROVE.]

Only one change had been made in the line of march since leaving
Camden Bridge. The criminal disaster on the railway, when made known
to Ayrton, had induced him to take precautions hitherto needless.
The horsemen were not to lose sight of the cart. During the hours of
encampment one of them was always on guard. Morning and evening the
priming of the fire-arms was renewed. It was certain that a band of
malefactors were scouring the country; and, although nothing gave cause
for immediate suspicion, still it was necessary to be ready for any
emergency.

In truth they had reason to act thus. An imprudence, or negligence
even, might cost them dear. Glenarvan, moreover, was not alone in
giving heed to this state of affairs. In the isolated towns and
stations the inhabitants and squatters took precautions against any
attack or surprise. The houses were closed at nightfall. The dogs were
let loose within the palisades, and barked at the slightest alarm.
There was not a shepherd, collecting his numerous flocks on horseback
for the evening return, who did not carry a carbine suspended from the
pommel of his saddle. The news of the crime committed at Camden Bridge
was the reason for this excessive caution, and many a colonist who had
formerly slept with open doors and windows now carefully locked his
house at twilight.

After awhile, the cart entered a grove of giant trees, the finest
they had hitherto seen. There was a cry of admiration at sight of the
eucalyptuses, two hundred feet high, whose spongy bark was five inches
in thickness. The trunks measured twenty feet in circumference, and
were furrowed by streams of odorous sap. Not a branch, not a twig, not
a wanton shoot, not even a knot, disfigured their perfect symmetry.
They could not have issued smoother from the hand of the turner. They
were like so many columns exactly mated, and could be counted by
hundreds, spreading at a vast height into capitals of finely-shaped
branches adorned with vertical leaves, from which hung solitary
flowers, whose calices were like inverted urns.

Under this evergreen canopy the air circulated freely. A continual
ventilation absorbed the moisture of the earth, and horses, herds of
cattle, and carts could easily pass between these trees, which were
widely separated and arranged in straight rows. It was neither a
wood with thickets crowded and obstructed by brambles, nor a virgin
forest barricaded with fallen trunks and entangled with inextricable
parasites, where only axe and fire can clear a way for the pioneers.
A carpet of herbage below, and a sheet of verdure above; long vistas
of noble pillars; little shade or coolness; a peculiar light, like
the rays that sift through a delicate tissue; shadows sharply defined
upon the ground: all this constituted a strange sight. The forests of
Oceanica are entirely different from those of the New World, and the
eucalyptus--the "tara" of the aborigines--is the most perfect tree of
the Australian flora.

The shade is not dense, nor the darkness profound, beneath these domes
of verdure, owing to a strange peculiarity in the arrangement of the
leaves of the eucalyptus. Not one presents its face to the sun, but
only its sharp edge. The eye sees nothing but profiles in this singular
foliage. Thus the rays of the sun glide to the earth as if they had
passed between the slats of a window-blind.

Every one observed this and seemed surprised. Why this particular
arrangement? This question was naturally addressed to Paganel, who
replied like a man who is never at fault.

"What astonishes me," said he, "is not the freak of nature, for she
knows what she does; but botanists do not always know what they say.
Nature was not mistaken in giving to these trees this singular foliage;
but men are wrong in calling them eucalyptuses."

"What does the word mean?" asked Mary Grant.

"It comes from the Greek words [Greek: eu kalyptô], signifying _I cover
well_. But you all see that the eucalyptus covers badly."

[Sidenote: A SILENT MARCH.]

"Just so, my dear Paganel," replied Glenarvan; "and now tell us why the
leaves grow thus."

"In this country, where the air is dry," said Paganel, "where rains
are rare and the soil is parched, the trees need neither wind nor
sun. Hence these narrow leaves seek to defend themselves against the
elements and preserve themselves from too great an evaporation. They
therefore present their edges, and not their faces, to the action of
the solar rays. There is nothing more intelligent than a leaf."

"Nor more selfish," remarked the major. "They thought only of
themselves, and not at all of travelers."

The entire party was inclined to be of MacNabb's opinion, except
Paganel, who, as he wiped his face, congratulated himself upon
traveling beneath these shadowless trees. However, this arrangement of
foliage was to be regretted; for the journey through these forests is
frequently very long and painful, since nothing protects the traveler
from the heat of the sun.

All day long our travelers pursued their way under these interminable
arches. They met neither quadruped nor human being. A few cockatoos
inhabited the tops of the trees; but at that height they could scarcely
be distinguished, and their chattering was an almost inaudible murmur.
Sometimes a flock of parrots would shoot across a distant vista,
illumining it with a rapid flash of variegated light. But generally a
deep silence reigned in this vast temple of verdure, and the measured
tread of the horses, a few words exchanged now and then in desultory
conversation, the creaking of the cart-wheels, and from time to time a
cry from Ayrton as he urged on his sluggish team, were the only sounds
that disturbed this vast solitude.

[Illustration: They were like so many columns exactly mated, and could
be counted by hundreds.]

At evening they encamped at the foot of some trees that bore the marks
of a recent fire. They formed tall chimneys, as it were, for the flames
had hollowed them out internally throughout their entire length.
Having only this shell of bark remaining, they no longer suffered
severely from this treatment. However, this lamentable habit of the
squatters and natives will finally destroy these magnificent trees, and
they will disappear like the cedars of Lebanon, so many centuries old,
consumed by the careless fires of wandering encampments.

[Illustration: At evening they encamped at the foot of some trees that
bore the marks of a recent fire. They formed tall chimneys, as it were,
for the flames had hollowed them out internally throughout their entire
length.]

Olbinett, according to Paganel's advice, kindled a fire in one of these
tubular trunks. He obtained a draught at once, and the smoke soon
disappeared in the dark mass of foliage. The necessary precautions were
taken for the night, and Ayrton, Mulready, Wilson, and Captain Mangles
watched by turns till sunrise.

During all the next day the interminable forest presented its long,
monotonous avenues, till it seemed as if it would never end. Towards
evening, however, the rows of trees became thinner; and a few miles
farther on, upon a small plain, appeared a collection of regularly
built houses.

"Seymour!" cried Paganel. "This is the last place we shall meet with
before leaving the province of Victoria."

"Is it an important town?" inquired Lady Helena.

"Madam," replied he, "it is a simple parish that would like to become a
municipality."

"Shall we find a comfortable hotel?" asked Glenarvan.

"I hope so," answered the geographer.

"Well, then, let us go into the town; for the ladies will not be sorry,
I imagine, to rest here one night."

"My dear Edward," replied Lady Helena, "Mary and I accept; but on the
condition that it shall cause no trouble or delay."

"None at all," said Lord Glenarvan. "Moreover, our oxen are fatigued.
To-morrow we will start at break of day."

[Sidenote: A TALK AFTER SUPPER.]

It was now nine o'clock. The moon was approaching the horizon, and her
rays were dimmed by the gathering mist. The darkness was increasing.
The whole party, accordingly, entered the broad street of Seymour under
the guidance of Paganel, who always seemed to be perfectly acquainted
with what he had never seen. But his instinct directed him, and he went
straight to Campbell's North British Hotel. Horses and oxen were taken
to the stable, the cart was put under the shed, and the travelers were
conducted to quite comfortable apartments.

At ten o'clock the guests took their seats at a table, over which
Olbinett had cast his experienced eye. Paganel had just explored the
town, in company with Robert, and now related his nocturnal impressions
in a very laconic style. He had seen absolutely nothing.

However, a man less absent-minded would have observed a certain
excitement in the streets of Seymour. Groups were formed here and
there, which gradually increased. People talked at the doors of the
houses, and questioned each other with an air of anxiety. Various daily
papers were read aloud, commented upon, and discussed. These signs,
one might suppose, could not have escaped the most careless observer;
Paganel, however, had suspected nothing.

The major, on the contrary, without even leaving the hotel, had
ascertained the fears that were agitating the little community. Ten
minutes' conversation with the loquacious landlord had informed him;
but he did not utter a word. Not until supper was over, and Lady
Helena, Mary, and Robert had retired to their chambers, did the major
say to his companions:

"They have traced the authors of the crime committed at Camden Bridge."

"Have they been arrested?" asked Ayrton, quickly.

"No," replied MacNabb, without seeming to notice the eagerness of the
quartermaster.

"So much the worse," added Ayrton.

"Well," inquired Glenarvan, "to whom do they attribute the crime?"

"Read," said the major, handing to Glenarvan a copy of the _Australian
and New Zealand Gazette_, "and you will see that the police-officer was
not mistaken."

Glenarvan read aloud the following passage:

"Sydney, Jan. 2, 1865.--It will be remembered that on the night of
December 29 an accident took place at Camden Bridge, five miles from
Castlemaine Station, on the Melbourne and Sandhurst Railway, by which
the night express was precipitated at full speed into the Lutton River.
Numerous thefts committed after the accident, and the corpse of the
guard found half a mile above, prove that it was the result of a crime;
and, in accordance with the verdict at the inquest, this crime is to
be attributed to a band of convicts who escaped, six months ago, from
the Perth penitentiary, in Western Australia, as they were about to
be transferred to Norfolk Island. These convicts are twenty-nine in
number, and are commanded by a certain Ben Joyce, a dangerous criminal,
who arrived in Australia several months ago in some way, and upon whom
justice has not yet succeeded in laying hands. The inhabitants of the
cities, and the colonists and squatters of the stations, are warned
to be on their guard, and requested to send to the undersigned any
information which may assist his investigations.

                              "J. P. MITCHELL, Surveyor-General."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Glenarvan had finished reading this article, MacNabb turned to the
geographer and said:

"You see, Paganel, that there may yet be convicts in Australia."

"Runaways there may be, of course," replied Paganel, "but not those
who have been transported and regularly received. These people have no
right to be here."

"Well, at any rate they are here," continued Glenarvan; "but I do not
suppose that their presence need cause us to change our plans or delay
our journey. What do you think, captain?"

[Sidenote: LOOKING AT BOTH SIDES.]

Captain Mangles did not answer immediately. He hesitated between the
grief that the abandonment of the search would cause the two children,
and the fear of compromising the safety of the party.

"If Lady Glenarvan and Miss Grant were not with us," said he, "I should
care very little for this band of wretches."

Glenarvan understood him, and added:

"Of course it is not advisable to give up our undertaking; but perhaps
it would be prudent for the sake of the ladies to join the Duncan at
Melbourne, and continue our search for Captain Grant towards the east.
What do you think, MacNabb?"

"Before replying," said the major, "I should like to hear Ayrton's
opinion."

The quartermaster, thus addressed, looked at Glenarvan.

"I think," said he, "that, as we are two hundred miles from Melbourne,
the danger, if there is any, is as great on the southern as on the
eastern road. Both are little frequented, and one is as good as the
other. Moreover, I do not think that thirty malefactors can intimidate
eight well-armed and resolute men. Therefore, in the absence of better
advice, I should go on."

"Well said," replied Paganel. "By continuing our course we shall cross
Captain Grant's track, while by returning to the south we should go
directly away from it. I agree with you, therefore, and shall give
myself no uneasiness about the runaway convicts."

Thus the determination to make no change in the programme was
unanimously approved of.

"One more remark, my lord," said Ayrton, as they were about to separate.

"Speak."

"Would it not be advisable to send an order to the Duncan to sail to
the coast?"

"Why?" asked Captain Mangles. "It will be time enough to send the order
when we arrive at Twofold Bay. If any unforeseen event should compel
us to return to Melbourne, we might be sorry not to find the Duncan
there. Moreover, her injuries cannot yet have been repaired. I think,
therefore, that it would be better to wait."

"Well," replied Ayrton, without further remark.

The next day the little party, armed and ready for any emergency, left
Seymour, and half an hour after re-entered the forest of eucalyptuses,
which appeared again towards the east. Glenarvan would have preferred
to travel in the open country, for a plain is less favorable to sudden
attacks and ambuscades than a thick wood. But they had no alternative;
and the cart kept on all day between the tall, monotonous trees, and at
evening encamped on the borders of the district of Murray.

They were now setting foot on one of the least frequented portions of
the Australian continent, a vast uninhabited region stretching away to
the Australian Alps. At some future day its forests will be leveled,
and the home of the colonist will stand where now all is desolation;
but at present it is a desert. In this region is situated the so-styled
"reserve for the blacks." On these remote plains various spots have
been set apart, where the aboriginal race can enjoy to the full the
privilege of gradually becoming extinct. Though the white man is at
perfect liberty to invade this "reserved" territory, yet the black may
call it his own.

Paganel, who was in his element wherever statistics or history was
concerned, went into full details respecting the native races. He gave
a long account of the cruelties to which these unfortunate beings
had been subjected at the hands of the early colonists, and showed
how little had been done by the interference of the government. As
a striking instance of the manner in which the aborigines melt away
before the advance of civilization, he cited the case of Tasmania,
which at the beginning of this century had five thousand native
inhabitants, but in 1863 had only seven.

[Sidenote: STUDIES IN ANTHROPOLOGY.]

"Fifty years ago," said he, "we should have met in our course many
a tribe of natives; whereas thus far we have not seen even one. A
century hence, the black race will have utterly disappeared from this
continent."

At that moment Robert, halting in front of a group of eucalyptuses,
cried out:

"A monkey! there is a monkey!"

The cart was instantly stopped, and, looking in the direction
indicated by the boy, our travellers saw a huge black form moving with
astonishing agility from branch to branch, until it was lost from view
in the depths of the grove.

"What sort of a monkey is that?" asked MacNabb.

"That monkey," answered Paganel, "is a full-blooded Australian."

Just then were heard sounds of voices at some little distance; the oxen
were put in motion, and after proceeding a few hundred paces the party
came suddenly upon an encampment of aborigines, consisting of some
ten or twelve tents, made of strips of bark arranged in the manner of
tiles, and giving shelter to their wretched inhabitants on only one
side. Of these miserable beings there were about thirty, men, women,
and children, dressed in ragged kangaroo-skins. Their first movement
was one of flight; but a few words from Ayrton restored confidence, and
they slowly approached the party of Europeans.

The major jocularly insisted that Robert was correct in saying that
he had seen a monkey; but Lady Helena declined to accept his views,
and, getting out of the cart, made friendly advances to these degraded
beings, who seemed to look upon her as a divinity. Reassured by her
gentle manner, they surrounded the travelers, and began to cast wishful
glances at the provisions which the cart contained. Glenarvan, at the
request of his wife, distributed a quantity of food among the hungry
group.

[Illustration: Of these miserable beings there were about thirty, men,
women, and children, dressed in ragged kangaroo-skins.]

After this had been dispatched, our friends were favored by their new
acquaintances with a sham fight, which lasted about ten minutes, the
women urging on the combatants and pretending to mutilate those who
fell in the fray. Suddenly the excited crowd dropped their arms, and
a profound silence succeeded to the din of war. A flight of cockatoos
had made its appearance in the neighboring trees; and the opportunity
to display their proficiency in the use of the boomerang was at once
improved by the Australians. The skill manifested in the construction
and use of this instrument served Lady Helena as a strong argument
against the monkey theory, though the major pretended that he was not
yet convinced.

[Illustration: A sham fight, which lasted about ten minutes, the women
urging on the combatants and pretending to mutilate those who fell in
the fray.]

Lord Glenarvan was now about to give the order to advance, when a
native came running up with the news that he had discovered half
a dozen cassowaries. The chase that followed, with the ingenious
disguise assumed by the hunter, and the marvelous fidelity with which
he imitated the movements and cries of the bird, was witnessed with
interest by the travelers. Lady Helena adduced the skill displayed as
a still further argument against the major's theory; but the obstinate
MacNabb declined to recede from his position, citing to his antagonist
the statement of the negroes concerning the orang-outangs,--that they
are negroes like themselves, only that they are too cunning to talk,
for fear of being made to work.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

WEALTH IN THE WILDERNESS.


[Sidenote: A PIANO IN THE DESERT.]

After a peaceful night, the travelers, at seven o'clock in the morning,
resumed their journey eastward over the plains. Twice they crossed the
tracks of squatters, leading towards the north; and then the different
hoof-prints would have been confounded if Glenarvan's horse had not
left upon the dust the Black Point mark, distinguishable by its three
trefoils.

Sometimes the plain was furrowed with winding creeks, bordered by
box-wood, which took their source on the slopes of the Buffalo Range,
a chain of mountains whose picturesque outlines stretched along the
horizon, and which the party resolved to reach that evening. Ayrton
urged on his oxen, and, after a journey of thirty-five miles, they
reached the place. The tent was pitched beneath a great tree. Night had
come, and supper was quickly dispatched; all thought more of sleeping
than of eating, after the fatigues of the day.

Paganel, to whom fell the first watch, did not lie down, but, rifle on
shoulder, guarded the encampment, walking to and fro that he might the
better resist sleep. In spite of the absence of the moon, the night was
almost bright with the splendor of the southern constellations; and the
geographer amused himself in reading the great book of the firmament,
which is always open. The silence of sleeping nature was broken only
by the sound of the horses' chains as they rattled against their feet.
Paganel was becoming fully absorbed in his astronomical meditations,
and occupying himself more with the things of heaven than those of
earth, when a distant sound startled him from his reverie.

He listened attentively, and, to his great astonishment, thought he
distinguished the tones of a piano. A few boldly-struck chords wafted
to his ears their harmonious vibrations. He could not be mistaken.

"A piano in the desert!" said he to himself. "It cannot be!"

It was indeed very surprising, and Paganel began to think that some
strange Australian bird was imitating the sound of the instrument.

[Sidenote: A TWOFOLD SURPRISE.]

But at that moment a voice, harmoniously pitched, was heard. The
pianist was accompanied by a vocalist. The geographer listened
incredulously, but in a few moments was forced to recognize the
sublime air that struck upon his ear. It was "_Il mio tesoro tanto_"
from Don Juan.

[Illustration: Paganel did not lie down, but, rifle on shoulder,
guarded the encampment, walking to and fro that he might the better
resist sleep.]

"Parbleu!" thought the geographer, "however strange the Australian
birds may be, or even though the parrots were the most musical in the
world, they could not sing Mozart."

He listened to the end of this grand inspiration of the master. The
effect of this sweet melody, in the stillness of the starlit night,
was indescribable. He remained a long time under the influences of its
enchantment. At last the voice ceased, and all was silent.

When Wilson came to relieve the geographer, he found him wrapt in a
profound reverie. Paganel said nothing to the sailor, but, reserving
his account of the incident for Glenarvan the next day, he crept into
the tent.

In the morning the whole party were awakened by unexpected bayings.
Glenarvan at once arose. Two magnificent pointers were gamboling along
the edge of a small wood; but at the approach of the travelers they
disappeared among the trees, barking loudly.

"There must be a station in this desert," said Glenarvan, "and hunters,
since those are hunting-dogs."

Paganel was just about to relate his experiences of the past night,
when two men appeared, in hunting costume, mounted on fine horses. They
naturally stopped at sight of the little party, encamped in gypsy-like
fashion, and seemed to be wondering what the presence of armed men in
this place meant, when they perceived the ladies, who were alighting
from the cart.

They immediately dismounted, and advanced towards them, hat in hand.
Glenarvan went to meet them, and introduced himself and party, giving
the name and rank of each member. The young men bowed, and one of them,
the elder, said:

"My lord, will your ladies, your companions, and yourself do us the
honor to accompany us to our house?"

"May I ask, gentlemen, whom I have the honor of addressing?" inquired
Glenarvan.

"Michael and Alexander Patterson, proprietors of Hottam Station. You
are already on the grounds of the establishment, and have but a quarter
of a mile to go."

"Gentlemen," replied Glenarvan, "I should be unwilling to slight a
hospitality so graciously offered----"

"My lord," interrupted Michael Patterson, "by accepting you will confer
a favor upon two poor colonists, who will be only too happy to extend
to you the honors of the desert."

Glenarvan bowed in token of assent.

"Sir," said Paganel, addressing Michael Patterson, "should I be too
inquisitive were I to ask if it was you who sang that divine air of
Mozart last night?"

"It was I, sir," replied the gentleman; "and my brother accompanied me."

"Well, sir," continued Paganel, extending his hand, "accept the sincere
compliments of a Frenchman, who is an ardent admirer of Mozart's music."

The young man modestly returned the geographer's greeting, and then
pointed towards the right to the road they were to take. The horses had
been confided to the care of Ayrton and the sailors, and the travelers
at once betook themselves on foot to Hottam Station, under the guidance
of the two young men.

It was a magnificent establishment, characterized by the perfect order
of an English park. Immense meadows, inclosed by fences, extended as
far as the eye could reach. Here grazed thousands of oxen and sheep.
Numerous shepherds and still more numerous dogs tended this vast herd,
while with the bellowing and bleating mingled the baying of mastiffs
and the sharp crack of stock-whips.

[Sidenote: ARTIFICIAL SELECTION.]

To the east the prospect was broken by a border of gum-trees, beyond
which rose the imposing peak of Mount Hottam, seven thousand five
hundred feet high. Long avenues of tall trees stretched in all
directions, while here and there stood dense clumps of grass-trees,
shrubby plants about ten feet high, resembling the dwarf palm, with a
thick foliage of long narrow leaves. The air was laden with the perfume
of laurels, whose clusters of white flowers in full bloom exhaled the
most delicate fragrance.

With the charming groups of native trees were mingled those
transplanted from European climes. The peach, the pear, the apple,
the fig, the orange, and even the oak were hailed with delight by the
travelers, who, if they were not astonished at walking in the shade of
the trees of their country, wondered, at least, at the sight of the
birds that fluttered among the branches, the satin-birds with their
silky plumage, and the canaries, clad in golden and black velvet.

Here, for the first time, they saw the menure, or lyre-bird, whose tail
has the form of the graceful instrument of Orpheus. As the bird fled
away among the arborescent ferns, its tail striking the branches, they
almost expected to hear those harmonious chords that helped Amphion to
rebuild the walls of Thebes.

Lord Glenarvan was not satisfied with merely admiring the fairy
wonders of this oasis of the Australian desert. He listened with
profound interest to the young men's story. In England, in the heart
of civilization, a new-comer would have first informed his host
whence he came and whither he was going; but here, by a nice shade
of distinction, Michael and Sandy Patterson thought they should
make themselves known to the travelers to whom they offered their
hospitalities, and briefly told their story.

[Illustration: Here, for the first time, they saw the menure, or
lyre-bird, whose tail has the form of the graceful instrument of
Orpheus.]

[Sidenote: NATURE AND ART.]

It was like that of all intelligent and active young Englishmen,
who do not believe that the possession of riches absolves from the
responsibility to labor for the welfare of others. Michael and
Alexander Patterson were the sons of a London banker. When they were
twenty years old, their father had said: "Here is money, my sons. Go
to some distant land, found there a useful establishment, and acquire
in labor the knowledge of life. If you succeed, so much the better; if
you fail, it matters little. We shall not regret the money that will
have enabled you to become men." They obeyed; they chose the province
of Victoria as the place to sow the paternal bank-notes, and had no
reason to repent. At the end of three years their establishment had
attained its present prosperity.

They had just finished the brief account of their career, when the
dwelling came in sight at the end of a fine avenue of trees. It was a
charming house of wood and brick, surrounded by clusters of plants, and
had the elegant form of a Swiss cottage, while a veranda, from which
hung Chinese lanterns, encircled it like a Roman impluvium. The windows
were shaded by brilliant-colored awnings, which at a distance looked
almost like masses of flowers. Nothing could be prettier, cozier, or
pleasanter to the sight. On the lawn and among the shrubbery round
about stood bronze candelabra, supporting elegant lamps with glass
globes, which at nightfall illumined the whole garden with a beauteous
light.

No farm-hands, stables, or outhouses were to be seen,--nothing that
indicated scenes of toil. The dwellings of the workmen--a regular
village, consisting of some twenty cottages--were a quarter of a mile
distant, in the heart of a little valley. Telegraph-wires secured
immediate communication between the village and the house of the
proprietors, which, far from all tumult, was in truth "a thing of
beauty."

The avenue was soon passed. A little iron bridge, of great elegance,
crossing a murmuring stream, gave access to the private grounds. A
courteous attendant advanced to meet the travelers; the doors of
the house were opened, and the guests of Hottam Station entered the
sumptuous dwelling.

All the luxuries of refined and civilized life seemed to be present.
Into the vestibule, which was adorned with decorative subjects,
illustrating the turf or the chase, opened a spacious parlor, lighted
with five windows. A piano, covered with classic and modern music;
easels, upon which were half-finished paintings; marble statues,
mounted on tasteful pedestals; on the walls, a few pictures by Flemish
masters; rich carpets, soft to the feet as grassy meadows; panels of
tapestry, descriptive of pleasing mythological episodes; an antique
chandelier, costly chinaware, delicate vases, and a great variety
of articles of _virtù_, indicated a high appreciation of beauty and
comfort. Everything that could please, everything that could relieve
the tedium of a voluntary exile, everything that could remind one of a
luxurious European home, was to be found in this fairy abode. It would
have been easy to imagine oneself in some princely castle of England,
France, or Germany.

The five windows admitted, through delicate curtains, a light tempered
and softened by the shadows of the veranda. Lady Helena looked out,
and was astonished. The house, upon this side, commanded the view of a
broad valley, which extended to the eastern mountains. The alternation
of meadow and woodland, broken here and there by vast clearings, the
graceful sweep of the hill-sides, and the outlines of the entire
landscape, formed a picture beyond the power of description. This vast
panorama, intersected by broad bands of light and shade, changed every
hour with the progress of the sun.

In the mean time, in accordance with the hosts' orders, breakfast
had been prepared by the steward of the station, and in less than a
quarter of an hour the travelers were seated at a bountiful table. The
quality of the viands and the wines was unexceptionable; but what was
especially gratifying, in the midst of these refinements of wealth, was
the evident pleasure experienced by the young settlers in dispensing to
strangers, beneath their own roof, this magnificent hospitality.

[Sidenote: AUSTRALIANS, NATIVE AND IMPORTED.]

The young gentlemen were soon made acquainted with the object of the
expedition, and took a lively interest in Glenarvan's search, giving
also great encouragement to the captain's children.

"Harry Grant," said Michael, "has evidently fallen into the hands of
the natives, since he has not appeared in the settlements on the coast.
He knew his position exactly, as the document proves, and, as he has
not reached any English colony, he must have been made prisoner by the
natives as soon as he landed."

"That is precisely what happened to his quartermaster, Ayrton," replied
Captain Mangles.

"But, gentlemen," inquired Lady Helena, "have you never heard of the
shipwreck of the Britannia?"

"Never, madam," said Michael.

"And what treatment do you think Captain Grant would experience as a
prisoner among the Australians?"

"The Australians are not cruel, madam," replied the young settler:
"Miss Grant may reassure herself on this point. There are many
instances of their kindness; and some Europeans have lived a long time
among them, without having any reason to complain of brutality." These
words corroborated the information previously given by Paganel and
Ayrton.

When the ladies had left the table, the conversation turned upon
convicts. The settlers had heard of the accident at Camden Bridge,
but the band of runaways gave no uneasiness, they would not dare to
attack a station that was guarded by more than a hundred men. They were
confident, too, that they would not venture into the deserted regions
of the Murray, nor into the colonies of New South Wales, where the
roads are well protected.

[Sidenote: A DAY'S SPORT.]

Glenarvan could not decline the invitation of his amiable hosts to
spend the entire day at Hottam Station. The delay thus occasioned
could be turned to good account: the horses and oxen would be
greatly benefited by their rest in the comfortable stables of the
establishment. It was, therefore, decided to remain, and the two young
men submitted to their guests a programme for the day's sports, which
was adopted with alacrity.

[Illustration: It was a charming house of wood and brick, surrounded by
clusters of plants, and had the elegant form of a Swiss cottage.]

At noon, seven fine hunters pawed the ground at the gate of the
house. For the ladies was provided an elegant coach, and the long
reins enabled their driver to show his skill in manoeuvring the
"four-in-hand." The horsemen, accompanied by outriders, and well armed,
galloped beside the carriage, while the pack of hounds bayed joyously
in the coppices.

For four hours the cavalcade traversed the paths and avenues of these
spacious grounds. As for game, an army of bushmen could not have
started up a greater number of animals. Young Robert, who kept close to
the major's side, accomplished wonders. The intrepid boy, in spite of
his sister's injunctions, was always ahead, and the first to fire. But
Captain Mangles had promised to watch over him, a fact which tended not
a little to allay Miss Grant's apprehension for her brother's safety.

Of all the sports of the day the most interesting was unquestionably
a kangaroo hunt. About four o'clock the dogs started a troop of these
curious animals. The little ones took refuge in their mothers' pouches,
and the whole drove rushed away in single file. Nothing can be more
astonishing than the enormous bounds of the kangaroo, whose hind legs
are twice as long as its fore ones, and bend like a spring. At the head
of the drove was a male five feet high,--"an old man," in the language
of the bushmen.

For four or five miles the chase was briskly continued. The kangaroos
did not slacken their pace; and the dogs, who feared, with good reason,
the powerful blows of their formidable paws, did not venture to
approach them. But at last the drove stopped in exhaustion, and "the
old man" braced himself against the trunk of a tree, ready to fight
for his life. One of the pointers, carried on by the impetus of his
course, rolled within reach of him. A moment after, the unfortunate
dog was tossed into the air, and fell back lifeless. The entire pack,
deterred by the fate of their comrade, kept at a respectful distance.
It became necessary to dispatch the kangaroo with the rifle, and
nothing but bullets could bring down the gigantic quadruped.

At this juncture Robert narrowly escaped being the victim of his
rashness. In order to make sure of his aim, he approached so near the
kangaroo that the animal made a spring at him. Robert fell. A cry of
alarm resounded. Mary Grant, speechless with apprehension, stretched
her hands towards her brother. No one dared to fire, for fear of
hitting the boy.

Suddenly Captain Mangles, with his hunting-knife open, rushed upon the
kangaroo, at the risk of his life, and stabbed it to the heart. The
beast fell dead, and Robert rose unharmed. An instant after, he was in
the arms of his sister.

"Thanks, Captain Mangles! thanks!" said Mary, extending her hand to the
young captain.

"I promised to take care of him," replied the captain, as he took the
trembling hand of the young girl.

This adventure ended the hunt. The troop of kangaroos had scattered
after the death of their leader, whose carcass was brought to the house.

It was now six o'clock, and dinner was in readiness for the hunters;
comprising, among other dishes, a soup of kangaroo's tail, prepared in
the native style.

After a dessert of ices and sherbet, the party repaired to the parlor,
where the evening was devoted to music. Lady Helena, who was a good
pianiste, presided at the instrument, while Michael and Alexander
Patterson sang with great taste selections from the latest compositions
of the modern musical masters.

[Sidenote: A FRESH DEPARTURE.]

At eleven o'clock tea was served in true English style. Paganel
having desired to taste the Australian tea, a liquid, black as ink,
was brought to him. It consisted of a quart of water, in which half
a pound of tea had been boiled four hours. Paganel, with a wry face,
pronounced it excellent. At midnight the guests were conducted to cool
and comfortable chambers, where they renewed in dreams the pleasures of
the day.

The next morning, at sunrise, they took leave of the two young
settlers, with many thanks, and with warmly-expressed hopes to see them
at Malcolm Castle at no very distant day. The cart then started, and in
a few minutes, as the road wound around the foot of Mount Hottam, the
hospitable habitation disappeared, like a passing vision, from the eyes
of the travelers. For five miles farther they traversed the grounds
of the station, and not till nine o'clock did the little party pass
the last palisade and enter upon the almost unknown districts of the
country before them.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

SUSPICIOUS OCCURRENCES.


A mighty barrier crossed the road on the southeast. It was the chain
of the Australian Alps, which extend in capricious windings fifteen
hundred miles, and are capped with clouds four thousand feet aloft.

[Sidenote: ASCENDING THE MOUNTAINS.]

The sky was dull and lowering, and the rays of the sun struggled
through dense masses of mist. The temperature was, therefore,
endurable; but the journey was difficult on account of the irregularity
of the surface. The unevenness of the plain constantly increased,
and here and there rose mounds, covered with young green gum-trees.
Farther on, these excrescences formed the first slopes of the great
Alps. The ascent was very laborious, as was shown by the efforts of the
oxen, whose yokes cracked under the tension of the heavy vehicle. The
animals panted heavily, and the muscles of their hams were strained
almost to breaking. The axles threatened to give way under the sudden
jolts that Ayrton, with all his skill, could not prevent. The ladies,
however, lost none of their accustomed cheerfulness.

[Illustration: Of all the sports of the day the most interesting was
unquestionably a kangaroo hunt.]

Captain Mangles and the two sailors rode a few hundred paces in
advance, to choose practicable passes. It was a difficult and often a
perilous task. Several times Wilson was forced to make a way with his
hatchet through the midst of dense thickets. Their course deviated in
many windings, which impassable obstacles, lofty blocks of granite,
deep ravines, and treacherous swamps compelled them to make. At evening
they encamped at the foot of the Alps, on the banks of a small stream
that flowed along the edge of a plain covered with tall shrubbery,
whose bright-red foliage enlivened the banks.

"We shall have difficulty in passing here," said Glenarvan, as he gazed
at the chain of mountains, whose outlines were already growing dim in
the twilight. "Alps! that is a name suggestive of arduous climbing."

"You will change your opinion, my dear Glenarvan," replied Paganel.
"You must not think you are in Switzerland."

"Then these Australian Alps----?" asked Lady Helena.

"Are miniature mountains," continued Paganel. "You will cross them
without noticing it."

The next day, in spite of the assurances of the confident geographer,
the little party found great difficulty in crossing the mountains. They
were forced to advance at a venture, and descend into deep and narrow
gorges that, for aught they knew, might end in a wall of rock. Ayrton
would doubtless have been eventually nonplused had they not, after an
hour's climbing, caught sight of a tavern on one of the paths of the
mountain.

"Well!" said Paganel, as they reached the hostelry, "the proprietor of
this inn cannot make a great fortune in such a place. Of what use can
he be?"

"To give us the information we need for our journey," replied
Glenarvan. "Let us go in."

Glenarvan, followed by Ayrton, entered the tavern. The landlord of
"Bush Inn" was a coarse man, of forbidding appearance, who had to
consider himself as the principal customer for the gin, brandy, and
whisky of his tavern, and scarcely ever saw any one but squatters or
herdsmen.

He replied in an ill-humored way to the questions that were addressed
him; but his answers sufficed to determine Ayrton upon his course.
Glenarvan, however, remunerated the tavern-keeper for the little
trouble they had given him, and was about to leave the inn, when a
placard, affixed to the wall, attracted his attention. It was a notice
of the colonial police, detailing the escape of the convicts from
Perth, and setting a price upon the head of Ben Joyce--a hundred pounds
sterling to any one who should deliver him up.

"Indeed," said Glenarvan, "that is a rascal worth hanging."

"And especially worth taking," replied Ayrton. "A hundred pounds! What
a sum! He is not worth it."

"As for the inn-keeper," added Glenarvan, as he left the room, "I
scarcely put faith in him, despite his placard."

"Nor I either," said Ayrton.

Glenarvan and the quartermaster rejoined the party, and they all
proceeded to where a narrow pass wound across the chain. Here they
began the ascent.

[Sidenote: ANOTHER DEATH.]

But it was an arduous task. More than once the ladies and their
companions had to dismount, and it was often necessary to push the
wheels of the heavy vehicle at some steep ascent, or to hold it
back along the edge of some dangerous precipice. The oxen, as they
could not work to advantage at sudden turns, had frequently to be
unyoked, and the cart blocked to prevent it from sliding back. Ayrton
was repeatedly forced to bring the already exhausted horses to his
assistance.

Whether this exertion was too prolonged, or whether from some other
cause, one of the horses gave out during the ascent. He fell suddenly,
without an instant's warning. It was Mulready's horse; and when the
sailor attempted to help him up, he found that he was dead. Ayrton
examined the animal carefully, but did not seem to understand the cause
of this sudden death.

"The beast must have burst a blood-vessel," said Glenarvan.

"Evidently," replied Ayrton.

"Take my horse, Mulready," added Glenarvan; "I will join Lady Helena in
the cart."

Mulready obeyed, and the little party continued their fatiguing ascent,
abandoning the body to the crows.

The next day they began the descent, which was much more rapid. During
its course a violent hail-storm burst on them, and they were forced to
seek a shelter beneath the rocks. Not hailstones, but pieces of ice as
large as one's hand, were precipitated from the angry clouds. A sling
could not have hurled them with greater force, and several sharp blows
warned Paganel and Robert to be on their guard. The cart was pierced
through in many places: indeed, few roofs could have resisted the fall
of these cutting missiles, some of which froze to the trunks of the
trees. It was necessary to wait for the end of this avalanche, for fear
of being stoned to death, and it was an hour before the party regained
the steep path, still slippery with icy incrustations. At evening the
cart, considerably shattered, but still firm on its wooden wheels,
descended the last slopes of the Alps, between tall solitary pines, and
reached the plains of Gippsland.

[Illustration: Not hailstones, but pieces of ice as large as one's
hand, were precipitated from the angry clouds.]

[Sidenote: DIVIDED COUNSELS.]

All were impatient to gain their destination, the Pacific Ocean,
where the Britannia had been wrecked. There only could traces of the
shipwrecked seamen be found, and not in these desert regions. Ayrton
urged Lord Glenarvan to send an order to the Duncan to repair to the
coast, that he might have at his disposal all the aid possible in his
search. In his opinion they ought to take advantage of the Lucknow
road, which would lead them to Melbourne. Afterwards this might be
difficult, for highways leading directly to the capital would be
absolutely wanting.

This advice of the quartermaster seemed reasonable. Paganel seconded
it. He thought, too, that the yacht would be very useful under the
present circumstances, and added that they could no longer communicate
with Melbourne after passing the Lucknow road.

Glenarvan was undecided, and perhaps would have sent the order that
Ayrton so particularly desired, if the major had not opposed this plan
with great energy. He explained that Ayrton's presence was necessary
to the expedition; that on approaching the coast the country would be
unknown; that, if chance set them on the track of Captain Grant, the
quartermaster would be more capable than any one else of following it;
in short, that he alone could point out the place where the Britannia
was lost.

MacNabb, therefore, advocated their continuing on the journey without
change. Captain Mangles was of the same opinion. The young captain
observed that his lordship's orders could more easily reach the Duncan
if sent from Twofold Bay, than by dispatching a messenger two hundred
miles over a wild country.

The major carried his point, and it was therefore decided that they
should proceed to Twofold Bay. MacNabb noticed that Ayrton seemed quite
disappointed, but he said nothing, and, according to his custom, kept
his thoughts to himself.

Early in the afternoon they passed through a curious forest of ferns.
These arborescent plants, in full bloom, measured thirty feet in
height. Horses and horsemen could easily pass beneath their drooping
branches, and sometimes the rowel of a spur would ring, as it struck
against their solid stalks. The coolness of the grove was very grateful
to the wearied travelers. Paganel, always demonstrative, gave vent to
exclamations of delight that startled flocks of parrots and cockatoos.

All at once his companions saw the geographer reel in the saddle, and
fall to the ground like a log. Was it giddiness, or sunstroke, caused
by the heat?

They hastened to him.

"Paganel! Paganel! what is the matter?" cried Lord Glenarvan.

"The matter is, my dear friend," replied Paganel, extricating himself
from the stirrups, "that I no longer have a horse."

"What! your horse----?"

"Is dead, stricken like Mulready's."

At once Glenarvan, Captain Mangles, and Wilson examined the animal.
Paganel was right. His horse had been suddenly stricken dead.

"This is singular," said the captain.

"Very singular indeed," muttered the major.

Glenarvan could not restrain a feeling of uneasiness at this strange
occurrence. It was impossible for them to retrace their steps in this
desert; while, if an epidemic were to seize all the horses, it would be
very difficult to continue the journey.

Before the end of the day his fears seemed to be justified. A third
horse, Wilson's, fell dead, and, what was worse, one of the oxen was
also stricken. Their means of conveyance now consisted of only three
oxen and four horses.

[Sidenote: A FINE FERNERY.]

The situation had grown serious. The mounted horsemen could, of course,
take turns in traveling on foot. But, if it should be necessary to
leave the cart behind, what would become of the ladies? Could they
accomplish the one hundred and twenty miles that still separated them
from Twofold Bay?

Captain Mangles and Glenarvan anxiously examined the remaining horses:
perhaps preventives might be found against new calamities. No sign
of disease, however, could be detected. The animals were in perfect
health, and bravely endured the hardships of the journey. Glenarvan,
therefore, was inclined to think that this mysterious epidemic would
have no more victims. This was Ayrton's opinion too, who declared that
he could not at all understand the cause of the frightful mortality.

They started again, and the cart served to convey the pedestrians, who
rode in it by turns. At evening, after a journey of only ten miles, the
signal to halt was given, the encampment arranged, and the night was
passed comfortably beneath a large group of arborescent ferns, among
whose branches fluttered enormous bats.

The next day they made an excellent beginning, and accomplished fifteen
miles. Everything led them to hope that they would encamp that evening
on the banks of the Snowy River. Evening came, and a fog, clearly
defined against the horizon, marked the course of the long-looked-for
stream. A forest of tall trees was seen at a bend in the road, behind
a moderate elevation. Ayrton guided his oxen towards the tall trunks
dimly discerned in the shadow, and was just passing the boundary of the
wood, when the cart sank into the earth to the hubs.

"What is the matter?" asked Glenarvan, when he perceived that the cart
had come to a stop.

"We are fast in the mud," replied Ayrton.

He urged his oxen with voice and whip, but they were up to their knees
in the mire, and could not stir.

"Let us encamp here," said Captain Mangles.

"That is the best plan," answered Ayrton. "To-morrow, at daybreak, we
can see to extricate ourselves."

[Illustration: Early in the afternoon they passed through a curious
forest of ferns. These arborescent plants, in full bloom, measured
thirty feet in height.]

[Illustration: Flashes of lightning, the dazzling forerunners of a
coming storm, every now and then illumined the horizon.]

"Very well: be it so," replied Glenarvan.

Night had set in rapidly, after a short twilight, but the heat had not
departed with the sun. The air was heavy with stifling mists. Flashes
of lightning, the dazzling forerunners of a coming storm, every now and
then illumined the horizon.

The beds were prepared, and the sunken cart was made as comfortable as
possible. The sombre arch of the great trees sheltered the tent of the
travelers. Provided no rain fell, they would have no reason to complain.

Ayrton succeeded with difficulty in extricating his three oxen from
the mud, in which they had by this time sunk to their flanks. The
quartermaster picketed them with the four horses, and would allow no
one to give them their fodder. This service he performed himself with
great exactness, and that evening Glenarvan observed that his care was
redoubled, for which he thanked him, as the preservation of the team
was of paramount importance.

Meantime, the travelers partook of a hasty supper. Fatigue and heat had
driven away hunger, and they needed rest more than nourishment. Lady
Helena and Miss Grant, wishing their companions good-night, retired to
their accustomed bedroom. As for the men, some crawled under the tent,
while others stretched themselves on the thick grass at the foot of the
trees.

Gradually each sank into a heavy sleep. The darkness increased beneath
the curtain of dense clouds that covered the sky. Not a breath of
air was felt. The silence of the night was only interrupted by the
occasional howlings of wild animals.

About eleven o'clock, after an uneasy slumber, the major awoke. His
half-closed eyes were attracted by a dim light that flickered beneath
the great trees. One would have thought it was a whitish sheet
glittering like the surface of a lake. MacNabb imagined, at first, that
the flames of a conflagration were spreading over the ground.

[Sidenote: STRANGE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS.]

He rose and walked towards the wood. His surprise was great when
he found himself in the presence of a purely natural phenomenon.
Before him extended an immense field of mushrooms, which emitted
phosphorescent flashes.

The major, who was not selfish, was about to waken Paganel, that the
geographer might witness the spectacle with his own eyes, when an
unexpected sight stopped him.

The phosphorescent light illumined the wood for the space of half a
mile, and MacNabb thought he saw shadows rapidly moving along the edge
of the clearing. Did his eyes deceive him? Was he the sport of an
illusion?

He crouched down, and, after a long and attentive observation,
distinctly perceived several men, who seemed by their movements to be
searching the ground for something. What could these men want? He must
know, and, without an instant's hesitation or awakening his companions,
he crawled along on all-fours, carefully concealing himself in the tall
grass.



CHAPTER XL.

A STARTLING DISCOVERY.


[Sidenote: INCREASING PERPLEXITIES.]

It was a terrible night. At two o'clock in the morning the rain began
to fall in torrents, which continued to pour from the stormy clouds
till daylight. The tent was an insufficient shelter. Glenarvan and
his companions took refuge in the cart, where they passed the time
in conversing upon various subjects. The major, however, whose short
absence no one had noticed, contented himself with listening in
silence. The fury of the tempest gave them considerable uneasiness,
since it might cause an inundation, by which the cart, fast in the
mire, would be overwhelmed.

[Illustration: He crouched down, and, after a long and attentive
observation, distinctly perceived several men.]

More than once Mulready, Ayrton, and Captain Mangles went to ascertain
the height of the rushing waters, and returned drenched from head to
foot.

At length day appeared. The rain ceased, but the rays of the sun failed
to penetrate the thick veil of clouds. Large pools of muddy, yellowish
water covered the ground. A warm vapor issued from the water-soaked
earth and saturated the atmosphere with a sickly moisture.

Glenarvan, first of all, turned his attention to the cart. In his eyes,
this was their main support. It was imbedded fast in the midst of a
deep hollow of sticky clay. The fore wheels were almost entirely out of
sight, and the hind ones were buried up to the hubs. It would be a very
difficult matter to pull out the heavy vehicle, and would undoubtedly
require the united strength of men, oxen, and horses.

"We must make haste," said Captain Mangles. "If this clay dries, the
work will be more difficult."

Glenarvan, the two sailors, the captain, and Ayrton then entered the
wood, where the animals had passed the night.

It was a tall forest of gloomy gum-trees. Nothing met the eye but dead
trunks, widely separated, which had been destitute of their bark for
centuries. Not a bird built its nest on these lofty skeletons; not a
leaf trembled on the dry branches, that rattled together like a bundle
of dry bones. Glenarvan, as he walked on, gazed at the leaden sky,
against which the branches of the gum-trees were sharply defined. To
Ayrton's great astonishment, there was no trace of the horses and oxen
in the place where he had left them. The fettered animals, however,
could not have gone far.

They searched for them in the wood, but failed to find them. Ayrton
then returned to the banks of the river, which was bordered by
magnificent mimosas. He uttered a cry well known to his oxen, but
there was no answer. The quartermaster seemed very anxious, and his
companions glanced at each other in dismay.

An hour passed in a vain search, and Glenarvan was returning to the
cart, which was at least a mile off, when a neigh fell upon his ear,
followed almost immediately by a bellow.

"Here they are!" cried Captain Mangles, forcing his way between the
tall tufts of the gastrolobium, which were high enough to conceal a
whole herd.

Glenarvan, Mulready, and Ayrton rushed after him, and soon shared his
astonishment. Two oxen and three horses lay upon the ground, stricken
like the others. Their bodies were already cold, and a flock of hungry
crows, croaking in the mimosas, waited for their unexpected prey.

Glenarvan and his friends gazed at each other, and Wilson did not
suppress an oath that rose to his lips.

"What is the matter, Wilson?" said Lord Glenarvan, scarcely able to
control himself. "We can do nothing. Ayrton, bring the ox and horse
that are left. They must extricate us from the difficulty."

"If the cart were once out of the mud," replied Captain Mangles, "these
two animals, by short journeys, could draw it to the coast. We must,
therefore, at all events, release the clumsy vehicle."

"We will try, John," said Glenarvan. "Let us return to camp, for there
must be anxiety at our long absence."

Ayrton took charge of the ox, and Mulready of the horse, and the party
returned along the winding banks of the river. Half an hour after,
Paganel, MacNabb, Lady Helena, and Miss Grant were told the state of
affairs.

"By my faith," the major could not help exclaiming, "it is a pity,
Ayrton, that you did not shoe all our animals on crossing the Wimerra."

"Why so, sir?" asked Ayrton.

"Because of all our horses only the one you put into the hands of the
farrier has escaped the common fate."

"That is true," said Captain Mangles; "and it is a singular
coincidence!"

[Sidenote: MISTAKES AND MISAPPREHENSIONS.]

"A coincidence, and nothing more," replied the quartermaster, gazing
fixedly at the major.

MacNabb compressed his lips, as if he would repress the words ready
to burst from them. Glenarvan, the captain, and Lady Helena seemed to
expect that he would finish his sentence; but he remained silent, and
walked towards the cart, which Ayrton was now examining.

"What did he mean?" inquired Glenarvan of Captain Mangles.

"I do not know," replied the young captain. "However, the major is not
the man to speak without cause."

"No," said Lady Helena; "Major MacNabb must have suspicions of Ayrton."

"What suspicions?" asked Glenarvan. "Does he suppose him capable of
killing our horses and oxen? For what purpose, pray? Are not Ayrton's
interests identical with ours?"

"You are right, my dear Edward," said Lady Helena. "Besides, the
quartermaster has given us, ever since the beginning of the journey,
indubitable proofs of his devotion to our comfort."

"True," replied Captain Mangles. "But, then, what does the major's
remark mean? I must have an understanding."

"Perhaps he thinks he is in league with these convicts?" remarked
Paganel, imprudently.

"What convicts?" inquired Miss Grant.

"Monsieur Paganel is mistaken," said Captain Mangles quickly: "he knows
that there are no convicts in the province of Victoria."

"Yes, yes, that is so," eagerly replied Paganel, who would fain have
retracted his words. "What could I have been thinking of? Convicts? Who
ever heard of convicts in Australia? Moreover, as soon as they land,
they make very honest people. The climate, you know, Miss Mary, the
moral effect of the climate----"

In his desire to correct his blunder, the poor geographer became
hopelessly involved. Lady Helena looked at him, wondering what had
deprived him of his usual coolness; but, not wishing to embarrass him
further, she retired with Mary to the tent, where Mr. Olbinett was
engaged in preparing breakfast.

"I deserve to be transported myself," said Paganel piteously.

"I think so," replied Glenarvan.

Ayrton and the two sailors were still trying to extricate the cart.
The ox and the horse, yoked side by side, were pulling with all their
strength; the traces were stretched almost to breaking, and the bows
threatened to give way to the strain. Wilson and Mulready pushed at
the wheels, while the quartermaster, with voice and whip, urged on the
ill-matched team. But the heavy vehicle did not stir. The clay, now
dry, held it as if it had been cemented.

Captain Mangles wetted the clay to make it yield, but to no purpose:
the cart was immovable. Unless the vehicle was taken to pieces, they
must give up the idea of getting it out of the quagmire. As tools
were wanting, of course they could not undertake such a task. Ayrton,
however, who seemed determined to overcome the difficulty at any cost,
was about to renew his exertions, when Lord Glenarvan stopped him.

"Enough, Ayrton! enough!" said he. "We must be careful of the ox and
horse that remain. If we are to continue our journey on foot, one can
carry the two ladies and the other the provisions. They may do us good
service yet."

"Very well, my lord," replied the quartermaster, unyoking his exhausted
animals.

"Now, my friends," added Glenarvan, "let us return to camp, deliberate,
consider our situation, know what our chances are, and come to a
resolution."

[Illustration: But the heavy vehicle did not stir. The clay, now dry,
held it as if it had been cemented.]

A few minutes after, the travelers were indemnifying themselves for
their sleeplessness the past night by a good breakfast, and the
discussion of their affairs began.

The first question was to determine the exact position of the
encampment. Paganel was charged with this duty, and fulfilled it with
his customary precision.

"How far are we from Twofold Bay?" asked Glenarvan.

"Seventy-five miles," replied Paganel.

"And Melbourne is----?"

"Two hundred miles distant, at least."

"Very well. Our position being determined," continued Glenarvan, "what
is it best to do?"

The answer was unanimous,--make for the coast without delay. Lady
Helena and Mary Grant engaged to travel fifteen miles a day. The
courageous women did not shrink from traversing the entire distance on
foot, if necessary.

"But are we certain to find at the bay the resources that we need?"
asked Glenarvan.

"Without doubt," replied Paganel. "Eden is not a new municipality; and
its harbor must have frequent communication with Melbourne. I even
believe that thirty-five miles from here, at the parish of Delegete, we
can obtain provisions and the means of conveyance."

"And the Duncan?" asked Ayrton. "Do you not think it advisable to order
her to the bay?"

"What say you, captain?" said Glenarvan.

"I do not think that there is any necessity for such a proceeding,"
replied the young captain, after reflection. "There will be plenty of
time to send your orders to Tom Austin and summon him to the coast."

"That is quite true," added Paganel.

"Besides," continued Captain Mangles, "in four or five days we shall be
at Eden."

"Four or five days!" interposed Ayrton, shaking his head; "say fifteen
or twenty, captain, if you do not wish to regret your error hereafter."

[Sidenote: DIFFICULTIES FORESEEN.]

"Fifteen or twenty days to make seventy-five miles!" exclaimed
Glenarvan.

"At least, my lord. You will have to cross the most difficult portion
of Victoria,--plains covered with underbrush, without any cleared
roads, where it has been impossible to establish stations. You will
have to travel with the hatchet or the torch in your hand; and, believe
me, you will not advance rapidly."

Ayrton's tone was that of a man who is thoroughly acquainted with his
subject. Paganel, towards whom questioning glances were turned, nodded
approvingly at the words of the quartermaster.

"I acknowledge the difficulties," said Captain Mangles, at length.
"Well, in fifteen days, my lord, you can send your orders to the
Duncan."

"I may add," resumed Ayrton, "that the principal obstacles do not
proceed from the roughness of the journey. We must cross the Snowy,
and, very probably, have to wait for the subsidence of the waters."

"Wait!" cried the captain. "Can we not find a ford?"

"I think not," replied Ayrton. "This morning I searched in vain for a
practicable one. It is unusual to find a river so much swollen at this
season; it is a fatality against which I am powerless."

"This Snowy River is broad, then?" remarked Lady Glenarvan.

"Broad and deep, madam," answered Ayrton; "a mile in breadth, with a
strong current. A good swimmer could not cross it without danger."

"Well, then, let us build a boat!" cried Robert, who was never at fault
for a plan. "We can cut down a tree, hollow it out, embark, and the
thing is done."

"Good for the son of Captain Grant!" replied Paganel.

"The boy is right," continued Captain Mangles. "We shall be forced
to this. I therefore think it useless to waste our time in further
discussions."

"What do you think, Ayrton?" asked Glenarvan.

"I think, my lord, that if no assistance comes, in a month we shall
still be detained on the banks of the Snowy."

"But have you a better plan?" inquired Captain Mangles, somewhat
impatiently.

"Yes; let the Duncan leave Melbourne, and sail to the eastern coast."

"How can her presence in the bay assist us to arrive there?"

Ayrton meditated for a few moments, and then said, evasively:

"I do not wish to obtrude my opinion. What I do is for the interest
of all, and I am disposed to start as soon as your lordship gives the
signal for departure."

Then he folded his arms.

"That is no answer, Ayrton," continued Glenarvan. "Tell us your plan,
and we will discuss it. What do you propose?"

In a calm and confident tone the quartermaster thereupon expressed
himself as follows:

"I propose that we do not venture beyond the Snowy in our present
destitute condition. We must wait for assistance in this very place,
and this assistance can come only from the Duncan. Let us encamp here
where provisions are not wanting, while one of us carries to Tom Austin
the order to repair to Twofold Bay."

This unexpected proposal was received with a murmur of astonishment,
and Captain Mangles took no pains to conceal his aversion.

"In the mean time," continued Ayrton, "either the waters of the Snowy
will have subsided, which will enable us to find a practicable ford, or
we shall have to resort to a boat, and shall have time to construct it.
This, my lord, is the plan which I submit to your approval."

"Very well, Ayrton," replied Glenarvan; "your idea deserves to be
seriously considered. Its greatest objection is the delay it will
cause; but it spares us severe hardships, and perhaps real dangers.
What do you think, friends?"

[Illustration: "If it please your lordship, I will go."]

"Let us hear your advice, major," said Lady Helena. "During the whole
discussion you have contented yourself with listening simply."

"Since you ask my opinion," answered the major, "I will give it to you
very frankly. Ayrton seems to me to have spoken like a wise and prudent
man, and I advocate his proposition."

This answer was rather unexpected; for hitherto MacNabb had always
opposed Ayrton's ideas on this subject. Ayrton, too, was surprised,
and cast a quick glance at the major. Paganel, Lady Helena, and the
sailors had been favorably disposed to the quartermaster's project, and
no longer hesitated after MacNabb's declaration. Glenarvan, therefore,
announced that Ayrton's plan was adopted.

"And now, captain," added he, "do you not think that prudence dictates
this course, and that we should encamp on the banks of the river while
waiting for the means of conveyance?"

"Yes," replied Captain Mangles, "if the messenger succeeds in crossing
the Snowy, which we cannot cross ourselves."

All looked at the quartermaster, who smiled with the air of a man who
knows perfectly well what he is about to do.

"The messenger will not cross the river," said he.

"Ah!" cried Captain Mangles.

"He will strike the Lucknow road, which will take him direct to
Melbourne."

"Two hundred miles on foot!" exclaimed the captain.

"On horseback," continued Ayrton. "There is one good horse left. It
will be a journey of but four days. Add two days for the Duncan to
reach the bay, twenty-four hours for the return to the encampment, and
in a week the messenger will be back again with the crew."

[Sidenote: CANDIDATES FOR OFFICE.]

The major again nodded approvingly at these words, to the great
astonishment of Captain Mangles. But the quartermaster's proposition
had gained all the votes, and the only question was how to execute this
apparently well-conceived plan.

"Now, my friends," said Glenarvan, "it remains only to choose our
messenger. He will have a difficult and dangerous mission; that is
certain. Who is willing to devote himself for his companions, and carry
our instructions to Melbourne?"

Wilson, Mulready, Captain Mangles, Paganel, and Robert offered
themselves immediately. The captain particularly insisted that this
mission should be confided to him; but Ayrton, who had not yet
finished, resumed the conversation, and said:

"If it please your lordship, I will go. I am acquainted with the
country, and have often crossed more difficult regions. I can extricate
myself where another would fail. I therefore claim, for the common
welfare, the right to go to Melbourne. One word will place me on a good
footing with your mate, and in six days I engage to bring the Duncan to
Twofold Bay."

"Well said!" replied Glenarvan. "You are a brave and intelligent man,
Ayrton, and will succeed."

The quartermaster was evidently more capable than any one else of
fulfilling this difficult mission. Captain Mangles raised one final
objection, that Ayrton's presence was necessary to enable them to
find traces of the Brittania or Captain Grant; but the major observed
that they should remain encamped on the banks of the Snowy till the
messenger's return, that it was not proposed to resume the search
without him, and that consequently his absence could be in no way
prejudicial to their interests.

"Well then, Ayrton, start," said Glenarvan. "Make haste, and return to
the encampment by way of Eden."

A gleam of satisfaction seemed to light up the eyes of the
quartermaster. He turned his head to one side, though not so quickly
but that Captain Mangles had intercepted his glance, and instinctively
felt his suspicions increased.

The quartermaster made his preparations for departure, aided by the
two sailors, one of whom attended to his horse, and the other to his
provisions. Meantime Glenarvan wrote the letter designed for Tom Austin.

He ordered the mate of the Duncan to repair without delay to Twofold
Bay, and recommended the quartermaster to him as a man in whom he could
place entire confidence. As soon as he arrived at the bay, he was to
send a detachment of sailors under the command of Ayrton.

He had just reached this part of his letter, when the major, who had
been looking over his shoulder, asked him, in a singular tone, how he
wrote the word Ayrton.

"As it is pronounced," replied Glenarvan.

"That is a mistake," said the major coolly. "It is pronounced Ayrton,
but it is written 'Ben Joyce'!"



CHAPTER XLI.

THE PLOT UNVEILED.


The sound of the name of Ben Joyce fell upon the party like a
thunderbolt. Ayrton suddenly sprang to his feet. In his hand was a
revolver. A report was heard; and Glenarvan fell, struck by a bullet.

Before Captain Mangles and the sailors recovered from the surprise into
which this unexpected turn of affairs had thrown them, the audacious
convict had escaped, and joined his band, scattered along the edge of
the wood of gum-trees.

[Illustration: A report was heard; and Glenarvan fell, struck by a
bullet.]

The tent did not offer a sufficient shelter against the bullets, and
it was clearly necessary to beat a retreat. Glenarvan, who was but
slightly injured, had risen.

"To the cart! to the cart!" cried Captain Mangles, as he hurried on
Lady Helena and Mary Grant, who were soon in safety behind its stout
sides.

The captain, the major, Paganel, and the sailors then seized their
rifles, and stood ready to repel the convicts. Glenarvan and Robert had
joined the ladies, while Olbinett hastened to the common defence.

These events had transpired with the rapidity of lightning. Captain
Mangles attentively watched the edge of the wood; but the reports
suddenly ceased on the arrival of Ben Joyce, and a profound silence
succeeded the noisy fusillade. A few wreaths of white smoke were still
curling up between the branches of the gum-trees, but the tall tufts of
gastrolobium were motionless and all signs of attack had disappeared.

The major and Captain Mangles extended their examinations as far as the
great trees. The place was abandoned. Numerous footprints were seen,
and a few half-burnt cartridges smoked on the ground. The major, like
a prudent man, extinguished them, for a spark was enough to kindle a
formidable conflagration in this forest of dry trees.

"The convicts have disappeared," said Captain Mangles.

"Yes," replied the major; "and this disappearance alarms me. I should
prefer to meet them face to face. It is better to encounter a tiger in
the open plain than a serpent in the grass. Let us search these bushes
around the cart."

[Sidenote: UNRAVELINGS.]

The major and captain scoured the surrounding country. But from the
edge of the wood to the banks of the Snowy they did not meet with a
single convict. Ben Joyce's band seemed to have flown away, like a
flock of mischievous birds. This disappearance was too strange to
inspire a perfect security. They therefore resolved to keep on the
watch. The cart, which was a really immovable fortress, became the
centre of the encampment, and two men kept guard, relieving each other
every hour.

Lady Helena and Mary Grant's first care had been to dress Glenarvan's
wound. At the very moment that her husband fell, from Ben Joyce's
bullet, in her terror she had rushed towards him. Then, controlling
her emotion, this courageous woman had assisted Glenarvan to the cart.
Here the shoulder of the wounded man was laid bare, and the major
perceived that the ball had lacerated the flesh, causing no other
injury. Neither bones nor large muscles seemed affected. The wound bled
considerably, but Glenarvan, by moving the fingers of his hand and
fore-arm, encouraged his friends to expect a favorable result. When his
wound was dressed, he no longer desired any attention, and explanations
followed. The travelers, except Wilson and Mulready, who were keeping
guard outside, had taken seats as well as possible in the cart, and the
major was requested to speak.

Before beginning his story, he informed Lady Helena of the escape of
a band of convicts from Perth, their appearance in the province of
Victoria, and their complicity in the railway disaster. He gave her
the number of the _Australian and New Zealand Gazette_ purchased at
Seymour, and added that the police had set a price on the head of Ben
Joyce, a formidable bandit, whom eighteen months of crime had given a
wide-spread notoriety.

But how had MacNabb recognized this Ben Joyce in the quartermaster
Ayrton? Here was the mystery that all wished to solve; and the major
explained.

Since the day of his meeting with Ayrton he had suspected him. Two or
three almost insignificant circumstances, a glance exchanged between
the quartermaster and the farrier at Wimerra River, Ayrton's hesitation
to pass through the towns and villages, his strong wish to order the
Duncan to the coast, the strange death of the animals confided to his
care, and, finally, a want of frankness in his actions,--all these
facts, gradually noticed, had roused the major's suspicions.

However, he could form no direct accusation until the events that had
transpired the preceding night. Gliding between the tall clumps of
shrubbery, as was related in the previous chapter, he approached near
the suspicious shadows that had attracted his attention half a mile
from the encampment. The phosphorescent plants cast their pale rays
through the darkness. Three men were examining some tracks on the
ground, and among them he recognized the farrier of Black Point Station.

"Here they are," said one.

"Yes," replied another, "here is the trefoil of the hoofs again."

"It has been like this since leaving the Wimerra."

"All the horses are dead."

"The poison is not far away."

"There is enough here to settle an entire troop of cavalry. This
gastrolobium is a useful plant."

"Then they were silent," added MacNabb, "and departed. I wanted to know
more: I followed them. The conversation soon began again. 'A cunning
man, this Ben Joyce,' said the farrier; 'a famous quartermaster, with
his invented shipwreck. If his plan succeeds, it will be a stroke of
fortune. Devilish Ayrton! Call him Ben Joyce, for he has well earned
his name.' These rascals then left the wood of gum-trees. I knew what
I wished, and returned to the encampment with the certainty that all
the convicts in Australia are not reformed, in spite of Paganel's
arguments."

"Then," said Glenarvan, whose face was pale with anger, "Ayrton has
brought us here to rob and assassinate us?"

"Yes," replied the major.

"And, since leaving the Wimerra, his band has followed and watched us,
waiting for a favorable opportunity?"

[Sidenote: FROM DEPTH TO DEPTH.]

"Yes."

"But this wretch is not, then, a sailor of the Britannia? He has stolen
his name and contract?"

All eyes were turned towards MacNabb, who must have considered this
matter.

"These," replied he, in his calm voice, "are the proofs that can be
derived from this obscure state of affairs. In my opinion this man's
real name is Ayrton. Ben Joyce is his fighting title. It is certain
that he knows Harry Grant, and has been quartermaster on board the
Britannia. These facts, proved already by the precise details given
by Ayrton, are still further corroborated by the conversation of the
convicts that I have related. Let us not, therefore, be led astray
by vain conjectures, but only be certain that Ayrton is Ben Joyce, a
sailor of the Britannia, now chief of a band of convicts."

The major's explanation was accepted as conclusive.

"Now," replied Glenarvan, "will you tell me how and why Harry Grant's
quartermaster is in Australia?"

"How, I do not know," said MacNabb; "and the police declare they know
no more than I on the subject. Why, it is also impossible for me to
say. Here is a mystery that the future will explain."

"The police do not even know the identity of Ayrton and Ben Joyce,"
said Captain Mangles.

"You are right, John," replied the major; "and such information would
be likely to facilitate their search."

"This unfortunate, then," remarked Lady Helena, "intruded into
O'Moore's farm with a criminal intention?"

"There is no doubt of it," continued MacNabb. "He was meditating
some hostile attack upon the Irishman, when a better opportunity was
offered. Chance threw us in his way. He heard Glenarvan's story of the
shipwreck, and, like a bold man, he promptly decided to take part in
the expedition. At the Wimerra he communicated with one of his friends,
the farrier of Black Point, and thus left distinguishable traces of
our course. His band followed us. A poisonous plant enabled him to
gradually kill our oxen and horses. Then, at the proper moment, he
entangled us in the marshes of the Snowy, and surrendered us to the
convicts he commanded."

Everything possible had been said concerning Ben Joyce. His past had
just been reviewed by the major, and the wretch appeared as he was,--a
bold and formidable criminal. His intentions had been clearly proved,
and required, on the part of Glenarvan, extreme vigilance. Fortunately,
there was less to fear from the detected bandit than the secret traitor.

But one serious fact appeared from this explanation. No one had yet
thought of it; only Mary Grant, disregarding the past, looked forward
to the future. Captain Mangles first saw her pale and disconsolate. He
understood what was passing in her mind.

"Miss Mary!" cried he, "you are weeping!"

"What is the matter, my child?" asked Lady Helena.

"My father, madam, my father!" replied the young girl.

She could not continue. But a sudden revelation dawned on the mind of
each. They comprehended Mary's grief, why the tears flowed from her
eyes, why the name of her father rose to her lips.

The discovery of Ayrton's treachery destroyed all hope. The convict, to
entice Glenarvan on, had invented a shipwreck. In their conversation,
overheard by MacNabb, his accomplices had clearly confessed it. The
Britannia had never been wrecked on the reefs of Twofold Bay! Harry
Grant had never set foot on the Australian continent!

For the second time an erroneous interpretation of the document had set
the searchers of the Britannia on a false trail. All, in the face of
this situation and the grief of the two children, preserved a mournful
silence. Who then could have found words of hope? Robert wept in his
sister's arms. Paganel murmured, in a voice of despair,--

[Sidenote: CALM AND CLOUDINESS.]

"Ah, unlucky document! You can boast of having sorely puzzled the
brains of a dozen brave people!"

And the worthy geographer was fairly furious against himself, and
frantically beat his forehead.

In the mean time Glenarvan had joined Mulready and Wilson, who were on
guard without. A deep silence reigned on the plain lying between the
wood and the river. Heavy clouds covered the vault of the sky. In this
deadened and torpid atmosphere the least sound would have been clearly
transmitted; but nothing was heard. Ben Joyce and his band must have
fled to a considerable distance; for flocks of birds that sported on
the low branches of the trees, several kangaroos peacefully browsing on
the young shoots, and a pair of cassowaries, whose unsuspecting heads
were thrust between the tall bushes, proved that the presence of man
did not disturb these peaceful solitudes.

"You have not seen nor heard anything for an hour?" inquired Glenarvan
of the two sailors.

"Nothing, my lord," replied Wilson. "The convicts must be several miles
away."

"They cannot have been in sufficient force to attack us," added
Mulready. "This Ben Joyce probably intended to recruit some bandits,
like himself, among the bushrangers that wander at the foot of the
Alps."

"Very likely, Mulready," replied Glenarvan. "These rascals are cowards.
They know we are well armed, and are perhaps waiting for darkness to
commence their attack. We must redouble our vigilance at nightfall. If
we could only leave this marshy plain and pursue our journey towards
the coast! But the swollen waters of the river bar our progress. I
would pay its weight in gold for a raft that would transport us to the
other side!"

"Why," said Wilson, "does not your lordship give us the order to
construct this raft? There is plenty of wood."

"No, Wilson," answered Glenarvan; "this Snowy is not a river, it is an
impassable torrent."

[Illustration: A pair of cassowaries proved that the presence of man
did not disturb these peaceful solitudes.]

[Sidenote: READINESS FOR SERVICE.]

At this moment Captain Mangles, the major, and Paganel joined
Glenarvan. They had been to examine the Snowy. The waters, swollen by
the recent rains, had risen a foot above low-water mark, and formed
an impetuous current. It was impossible to venture upon this roaring
deluge, these rushing floods, broken into a thousand eddies by the
depressions of the river-bed. Captain Mangles declared that the passage
was impracticable.

"But," added he, "we ought not to remain here without making any
attempt. What we wished to do before Ayrton's treason is still more
necessary now."

"What do you say, captain?" asked Glenarvan.

"I say that assistance is needed; and since we cannot go to Twofold
Bay, we must go to Melbourne. One horse is left. Let your lordship give
him to me, and I will go."

"But it is a perilous venture, John," said Glenarvan. "Aside from the
dangers of this journey of two hundred miles across an unknown country,
all the roads may be guarded by Ben Joyce's accomplices."

"I know it, my lord; but I know, too, that our situation cannot be
prolonged. Ayrton only asked eight days' absence to bring back the crew
of the Duncan. But I will return in six days to the banks of the Snowy.
What are your lordship's orders?"

"Before Glenarvan speaks," said Paganel, "I must make a remark. It is
well that one of us should go to Melbourne, but not that these dangers
should be incurred by Captain Mangles. He is the captain of the Duncan,
and must not, therefore, expose himself. Allow me to go in his place."

"Well said," replied the major; "but why should it be you, Paganel?"

"Are we not here?" cried Wilson and Mulready.

"And do you believe," continued MacNabb, "that I am afraid to make a
journey of two hundred miles on horseback?"

"My friends," said Glenarvan, "if one of us is to go to Melbourne, let
fate decide. Paganel, write our names----"

"Not yours at least, my lord," insisted Captain Mangles.

"And why?" asked Glenarvan.

"Separate you from Lady Helena, when your wound is not yet healed?"

"Glenarvan," interposed Paganel, "you cannot leave the encampment."

"No," resumed the major; "your place is here. Edward, you must not go."

"There are dangers to incur," replied Glenarvan; "and I will not leave
my part to others. Write, Paganel; let my name be mingled with those of
my companions, and Heaven grant that it may be the first drawn."

All yielded to this wish; and Glenarvan's name was added to the others.
They then proceeded to draw, and the lot fell upon Mulready. The brave
sailor uttered a cry of joy.

"My lord, I am ready to go," said he.

Glenarvan clasped his hand, and then turned towards the cart, leaving
the major and Captain Mangles to guard the encampment. Lady Helena
was at once informed of the decision taken to send a messenger to
Melbourne, and of the result of the drawing by lot. She spoke words to
Mulready that went to the heart of that noble sailor. They knew that he
was brave, intelligent, hardy, and persevering. The lot could not have
fallen better.

It was decided that Mulready should depart at eight o'clock, after the
short twilight. Wilson charged himself with getting the horse ready. He
took the precaution to change the tell-tale shoe that he wore on his
left foot, and to replace it by one belonging to the horses that had
died in the night. The convicts could not now track Mulready, or follow
him, unless mounted.

[Sidenote: ANOTHER DISTRACTION.]

While Wilson was occupied with these arrangements, Glenarvan was
preparing the letter designed for Tom Austin; but his wounded arm
disabled him, and he asked Paganel to write for him. The geographer,
who seemed absorbed in one idea, was oblivious to what was passing
around him. It must be confessed that Paganel, in all this succession
of sad misfortunes, thought only of his false interpretation of the
document. He turned the words about in every way to draw from them a
new meaning, and remained wrapt in these meditations. Thus he did not
hear Glenarvan's request, and the latter was forced to repeat it.

"Very well," replied Paganel; "I am ready."

So saying, he mechanically produced his note-book. He tore out a blank
page, and then, with his pencil in his hand, made ready to write.
Glenarvan began to dictate the following instructions:

"Order for Tom Austin to put to sea, and bring the Duncan----"

Paganel had just finished this last word when his eyes fell upon the
number of the _Australian and New Zealand Gazette_ that lay upon the
ground. The paper, being folded, only allowed him to see the two last
syllables of its title. His pencil stopped, and he seemed to completely
forget Glenarvan and his letter.

"Well, Paganel?" said Glenarvan.

"Ah!" continued the geographer, uttering a cry.

"What is the matter?" asked the major.

"Nothing! nothing!" replied Paganel. Then, in a lower tone, he
repeated: "Aland! aland! aland!"

He had risen; he had seized the paper. He shook it, seeking to
repress words ready to escape his lips. Lady Helena, Mary, Robert,
and Glenarvan gazed at him without understanding this inexplicable
agitation. Paganel was like a man whom a sudden frenzy has seized. But
this state of nervous excitation did not last. He gradually grew calm.
The joy that gleamed in his eyes died away, and, resuming his place, he
said, in a quiet tone:

"When you wish, my lord, I am at your disposal."

Glenarvan continued the dictation of his letter, which was distinctly
worded as follows:

"Order for Tom Austin to put to sea, and bring the Duncan to the
eastern coast of Australia."

"Australia?" cried Paganel. "Ah, yes, Australia!"

The letter was now finished, and presented to Glenarvan for his
signature, who, although affected by his recent wound, acquitted
himself as well as possible of this formality. The note was then
folded and sealed, while Paganel, with a hand that still trembled from
excitement, wrote the following address:

                         "Tom Austin,
                             "Mate of the Yacht Duncan,
                                      "Melbourne."

Thereupon he left the cart, gesticulating, and repeating these
incomprehensible words:

"Aland! aland! Zealand!"



CHAPTER XLII.

FOUR DAYS OF ANGUISH.


The rest of the day passed without any other incident. Everything was
ready for the departure of Mulready, who was happy to give his master
this proof of his devotion.

Paganel had regained his coolness and accustomed manners. His look
still indicated an uneasy state of mind, but he appeared decided to
keep his secret. He had doubtless strong reasons for acting thus,
for the major overheard him repeating these words, like a man who is
struggling with himself:

"No, no! they would not believe me! And, besides what use is it? It is
too late!"

[Illustration: "Adieu, my lord," said he, in a calm voice, and soon
disappeared by a path along the edge of the wood.]

This resolution taken, he occupied himself with giving Mulready the
necessary directions for reaching Melbourne, and, with the map before
him, marked out his course. All the trails of the prairie converged
towards the Lucknow road, which, after extending straight southward to
the coast, suddenly turned in the direction towards Melbourne. It was
simply necessary to follow this, and not attempt to cross the unknown
country. Mulready could not, therefore, go astray. As for dangers, they
lay only a few miles beyond the encampment, where Ben Joyce and his
band were probably lying in wait. This point once passed, Mulready was
sure he could easily distance the convicts and accomplish his important
mission.

At six o'clock supper was eaten in common. A heavy rain was falling.
The tent no longer afforded sufficient shelter, and each had taken
refuge in the cart, which was a safe retreat. The sticky clay held
it in its place as firm as a fort on its foundations. The fire-arms
consisted of seven rifles and seven revolvers, and thus enabled
them to sustain a long siege, for neither ammunition nor provisions
were wanting. In six days the Duncan would anchor in Twofold Bay.
Twenty-four hours after, her crew would reach the opposite bank of
the river; and, if the passage was not then practicable, at least the
convicts would be compelled to retreat before superior forces. But,
first of all, it was necessary that Mulready should succeed in his
enterprise.

At eight o'clock the darkness became intense. It was the time to start.
The horse was brought out. His feet had been muffled; as an additional
precaution, and made no sound. The animal seemed fatigued, but upon
his surefootedness and endurance depended the safety of all. The
major advised the sailor to spare his beast as soon as he was out of
reach of the convicts. It was better to lose half a day and reach his
destination safely. Captain Mangles gave him a revolver, which he had
loaded with the greatest care. Mulready mounted.

[Sidenote: A GLOOMY PROSPECT.]

"Here is the letter which you are to take to Tom Austin," said
Glenarvan. "Let him not lose an hour, but start for Twofold Bay; and,
if he does not find us there, if we have not crossed the river, let him
come to us without delay. Now go, my brave sailor, and may God guide
you!"

Glenarvan, Lady Helena, Mary Grant, all clasped Mulready's hand. This
departure on a dark and stormy night, over a road beset with dangers,
across the unknown stretches of a desert, would have appalled a heart
less courageous than that of the sailor.

"Adieu, my lord," said he, in a calm voice, and soon disappeared by a
path along the edge of the wood.

At that moment the tempest redoubled its violence. The lofty branches
of the trees shook dismally in the darkness. You could hear the fall of
the dry twigs on the drenched earth. More than one giant tree, whose
sap was gone, but which had stood till then, fell during this terrible
hurricane. The wind roared amid the cracking of the trees and mingled
its mournful sounds with the rushing of the river. The heavy clouds
that chased across the sky poured forth masses of mist, while a dismal
darkness increased still more the horrors of the night.

The travelers, after Mulready's departure, ensconced themselves in the
cart. Lady Helena, Mary Grant, Glenarvan, and Paganel occupied the
front compartment, which had been made water-tight. In the rear part
Olbinett, Wilson, and Robert had found a sufficient shelter, while the
major and Captain Mangles were on guard without. This precaution was
necessary, for an attack by the convicts was easy and possible.

These two faithful guardians, therefore, took turns and philosophically
received the blasts that blew sharply in their faces. They strove to
pierce with their eyes the shades so favorable for an ambuscade, for
the ear could detect nothing amid the din of the storm, the roaring of
the wind, the rattling of the branches, the fall of trees, and the
rushing of the impetuous waters.

In the mean time there were several lulls in the fury of the tempest,
the wind ceasing as if to take breath. The river only moaned adown
the motionless reeds and the black curtain of the gum-trees, and the
silence seemed more profound during these momentary rests. The major
and Captain Mangles now listened attentively. During one of these
intervals a sharp whistle reached their ears.

The captain hastened to the major. "Did you hear anything?" asked he.

"Yes," replied MacNabb. "Was it a man or an animal?"

"A man," said the captain.

They both listened again. The mysterious whistle was suddenly repeated,
and something like a report followed it, but almost inaudibly, for the
storm just then broke forth with renewed violence. They could not hear
themselves talk, and took their stations to leeward of the cart.

At this moment the leathern curtains were raised, and Glenarvan joined
his two companions. He likewise had heard the suspicious whistle, and
the report.

"From what direction?" he asked.

"Yonder," said the captain, pointing to the dark line, towards which
Mulready had gone.

"How far?"

"The wind carried it," was the reply. "It must be three miles distant
at least."

"Let us go!" said Glenarvan, throwing his rifle over his shoulder.

"No," interposed the major; "it is a decoy to entice us away from the
cart."

"But if Mulready has fallen beneath the shots of these wretches!"
continued Glenarvan, seizing MacNabb's hand.

"We shall know to-morrow," replied the latter, firmly determined to
prevent Glenarvan from committing a useless imprudence.

[Sidenote: A CRY IN THE NIGHT.]

"You cannot leave the encampment, my lord," said Captain Mangles; "I
will go alone."

"No!" cried MacNabb, with energy. "Will you have us, then, perish
singly, diminish our numbers, and be left to the mercy of these
criminals? If Mulready has been their victim, it is a calamity that we
must not repeat a second time. He has gone according to lot. If the lot
had chosen me, I should have gone like him, but should neither have
asked nor expected any assistance."

In restraining Glenarvan and Captain Mangles the major was right from
every point of view. To attempt to reach the sailor, to go on such
a dark night to meet the convicts, ambuscaded in some coppice, was
useless madness. Glenarvan's little party did not number enough men to
sacrifice any more.

However, Glenarvan seemed unwilling to yield to these reasons. His
hand played nervously with his rifle. He walked to and fro around the
cart; he listened to the least sound; he strove to pierce the dismal
obscurity. The thought that one of his friends was mortally wounded,
helplessly abandoned, calling in vain upon those for whose sake he
had sacrificed himself, tortured him. MacNabb feared that he should
not succeed in restraining him, that Glenarvan, carried away by his
feelings, would cast himself into the power of Ben Joyce.

"Edward," said he, "be calm; listen to a friend; think of Lady Helena,
Mary Grant, all who remain! Besides, where will you go? Where find
Mulready? He was attacked two miles distant at least. On what road?
What path take?"

At this very moment, as if in answer to the major, a cry of distress
was heard.

"Listen!" said Glenarvan.

The cry came from the very direction whence the report had sounded, but
less than a quarter of a mile distant. Glenarvan, pushing back MacNabb,
was advancing along the path, when, not far from the cart, these words
were uttered:

"Help! help!"

It was a plaintive and despairing voice. Captain Mangles and the major
rushed towards it. In a few moments they perceived, on the edge of
the coppice, a human form that was dragging itself along and groaning
piteously. It was Mulready, wounded and half dead. When his companions
raised him, they felt their hands dabbling in blood. The rain now
increased, and the wind howled through the branches of the dead trees.
In the midst of these terrific gusts, Glenarvan, the major, and the
captain bore the body of Mulready.

On arriving at the cart, Paganel, Robert, Wilson, and Olbinett came
out, and Lady Helena gave up her room to the poor sailor. The major
took off Mulready's vest, wet with blood and rain. He discovered the
wound. It was a poniard stab, which the unfortunate had received in his
right side.

MacNabb dressed it skillfully. Whether the weapon had reached the vital
parts, he could not say. A stream of bright-red blood spurted forth,
while the paleness and the swoon of the wounded man proved that he had
been seriously injured. The major accordingly placed upon the opening
of the wound, after first washing it with fresh water, a thick wad of
tinder, and then a few layers of lint, confined by a bandage, and thus
succeeded in stopping the hemorrhage. The patient was then laid on his
side, his head and breast raised, and Lady Helena gave him a refreshing
draught.

At the end of a quarter of an hour, the wounded man, who had been
motionless till then, made a movement. His eyes half opened, his lips
murmured disconnected words, and the major, putting down his ear, heard
him say:

"My lord--the letter--Ben Joyce----"

[Sidenote: A DAY OF DOUBT.]

The major repeated these words, and glanced at his companions. What did
Mulready mean? Ben Joyce had attacked the sailor, but why? Was it not
simply for the purpose of preventing him from reaching the Duncan? This
letter--Glenarvan examined the sailor's pockets. The letter addressed
to Tom Austin was gone.

The night passed in anxiety and anguish. They feared every moment that
the wounded man would die. A burning fever consumed him. Lady Helena
and Mary Grant, as though his sisters, did not leave him; never was
patient better nursed, or by more tender hands.

Day appeared. The rain had ceased. Heavy clouds still rolled along
the vault of the sky, and the earth was strewn with the fragments of
branches. The clay, soaked by floods of water, had yielded; and the
sides of the cart became unsteady, but sank no deeper.

Captain Mangles, Paganel, and Glenarvan took a tour of exploration
around the camp. They traversed the path still marked with blood, but
found no trace of Ben Joyce or his band. They went to the place where
the attack had been made. Here two corpses lay on the ground, shot
by Mulready. One was the farrier of Black Point. His face, which had
mortified, was a horrible sight.

Glenarvan did not pursue his investigations farther, prudence
forbidding. He therefore returned to the cart, much alarmed by the
seriousness of the situation.

"We cannot think of sending another messenger to Melbourne," said he.

"But we must," replied Captain Mangles; "and I will make the attempt,
since my sailor has failed."

"No, John. You have not even a horse to carry you these two hundred
miles."

Indeed, Mulready's horse, the only one that remained, had not
reappeared. Had he fallen beneath the shots of the murderers? Was he
running wild over the desert? Had the convicts captured him?

[Illustration: In the midst of these terrific gusts, Glenarvan, the
major, and the captain bore the body of Mulready.]

[Sidenote: RESOLUTION, AND RECOVERY.]

"Whatever happens," continued Glenarvan, "we will separate no more.
Let us wait eight or fifteen days, till the waters of the river resume
their natural level. We will then reach Twofold Bay by short journeys,
and from there send to the Duncan by a surer way the order to sail for
the coast."

"This is the only feasible plan," replied Paganel.

"Well, then, my friends," resumed Glenarvan, "no more separation! A
man risks too much to venture alone across this desert, infested with
bandits. And now may God save our poor sailor and protect ourselves!"

Glenarvan was right in both resolves, first to forbid any single
attempt to cross the plains, and next to wait patiently on the banks
of the river for a practicable passage. Scarcely thirty-five miles
separated them from Delegete, the first frontier town of New South
Wales, where they would find means of reaching Twofold Bay. From this
point he could telegraph his orders to the Duncan.

These measures were wise, but they had been adopted rather tardily. If
they had not sent Mulready with the letter, what misfortunes would have
been avoided, not to speak of the attack upon the sailor!

On arriving at the camp, Glenarvan found his companions less anxious;
they seemed to have regained hope.

"He is better!" cried Robert, running to meet him.

"Mulready?"

"Yes, Edward," replied Lady Helena. "A reaction has taken place. The
major is more encouraged. Our sailor will live."

"Where is MacNabb?" asked Glenarvan.

"With him. Mulready wished to speak with him. We must not disturb them."

Indeed, within an hour the wounded man had rallied from his swoon, and
the fever had diminished. But the sailor's first care, on recovering
memory and speech was to ask for Lord Glenarvan, or, in his absence,
the major MacNabb, seeing him so feeble, would have forbidden all
conversation; but Mulready insisted with such energy that he was forced
to yield. The interview had already lasted some time, and they were
only waiting for the major's report.

Soon the curtains of the cart moved, and he appeared. He joined his
friends at the foot of a gum-tree. His face, usually so calm, betokened
a serious anxiety. When his eyes encountered Lady Helena and the young
girl, they expressed a deep sadness. Glenarvan questioned him, and
learned what the sailor had related.

On leaving the encampment, Mulready had followed one of the paths
indicated by Paganel. He hastened, as much at least as the darkness of
the night permitted him. According to his estimate, he had traveled a
distance of about two miles, when several men--five, he thought--sprang
to his horse's head. The animal reared. Mulready seized his revolver
and fired. He thought that two of his assailants fell. By the flash of
the report, he recognized Ben Joyce, but that was all. He had not time
to fully discharge his weapon. A violent blow was struck upon his right
side, which brought him to the ground. However, he had not yet lost
consciousness. The assassins believed him dead. He felt them search
him. Then a conversation ensued. "I have the letter," said one of them.
"Give it to me," replied Ben Joyce; "and now the Duncan is ours!"

At this point in the story Glenarvan could not restrain a cry.

MacNabb continued:

[Sidenote: A HOPELESS CHANCE.]

"'Now, you others,' said Ben Joyce, 'catch the horse. In two days I
shall be on board the Duncan, and in six at Twofold Bay. There is the
place of meeting. The lord's party will be still fast in the marshes
of the Snowy. Cross the river at Kemple Pier bridge, go to the coast,
and wait for me. I will find means to bring you on board. With the
crew once at sea, and a vessel like the Duncan, we shall be masters
of the Indian Ocean.' 'Hurrah for Ben Joyce!' cried the convicts.
Mulready's horse was then led up, and Ben Joyce disappeared at a gallop
on the Lucknow road, while the band proceeded southeastward to the
Snowy River. Mulready, although severely wounded, had strength to drag
himself within two hundred paces of the encampment, where we picked him
up almost dead. This," added MacNabb, "is Mulready's sad story. You
understand now why the courageous sailor wished so much to speak."

This revelation terrified all.

"Pirates! pirates!" cried Glenarvan. "My crew massacred, my Duncan in
the hands of these bandits!"

"Yes, for Ben Joyce will surprise the vessel," replied the major, "and
then----"

"Well, we must reach the coast before these wretches," said Paganel.

"But how cross the Snowy?" asked Wilson.

"Like them," answered Glenarvan. "They will cross Kemple Pier bridge,
and we will do the same."

"But what will become of Mulready?" inquired Lady Helena.

"We will take turns in carrying him. Shall I give up my defenceless
crew to Ben Joyce's band?"

The plan of crossing Kemple Pier bridge was practicable, but perilous.
The convicts might locate themselves at this point to defend it. It
would be at least thirty against seven! But there are moments when we
do not think of these things, when we must advance at all hazards.

"My lord," said Captain Mangles, at length, "before risking our
last chance, before venturing towards the bridge, it is prudent to
reconnoitre it first. I will undertake this."

"I will accompany you, captain," replied Paganel.

[Sidenote: THE BURNED BRIDGE.]

This proposal was accepted, and the captain and Paganel prepared to
start immediately. They were to follow along the bank of the river till
they came to the place indicated by Ben Joyce, and keep out of sight
of the convicts, who were probably lying in wait. These two courageous
men accordingly, well furnished with arms and provisions, set out, and
soon disappeared among the tall rushes of the river.

[Illustration: The animal reared. Mulready seized his revolver and
fired.]

All day the little party waited for them. At evening they had not yet
returned, and great fears were entertained. At last, about eleven
o'clock, Wilson announced their approach. They arrived, worn out with
the fatigues of a six-mile journey.

"The bridge? Is it there?" asked Glenarvan, rushing to meet them.

"Yes, a bridge of rushes," said Captain Mangles. "The convicts passed,
it is true, but----"

"But what?" cried Glenarvan, who foresaw a new calamity.

"They burned it after their passage," replied Paganel.



CHAPTER XLIII.

HELPLESS AND HOPELESS.


It was not the time to despair, but to act. If Kemple Pier bridge was
destroyed, they must cross the Snowy at all events, and reach Twofold
Bay before Ben Joyce's band. They lost no time, therefore, in vain
words; but the next day Captain Mangles and Glenarvan went to examine
the river, preparatory to a passage.

The tumultuous waters, swollen by the rains, had not subsided. They
whirled along with indescribable fury. It was certain death to brave
this torrent. Glenarvan, with folded arms and lowered head, stood
motionless.

"Do you wish me to try to swim to the opposite bank?" asked Captain
Mangles.

"No, John," replied Glenarvan, seizing the bold young man by the hand;
"let us wait."

They both returned to the encampment. The day was passed in the most
lively anxiety. Ten times did Glenarvan return to the river. He sought
to contrive some bold plan of crossing it, but in vain. It would not
have been more impassable if a torrent of lava had flowed between its
banks.

During these long hours of delay, Lady Helena, with the major's
assistance, bestowed upon Mulready the most skillful care. The sailor
felt that he was returning to life. MacNabb ventured to affirm that no
vital organ had been injured, the loss of blood sufficiently explained
the patient's weakness. Thus, as soon as his wound was healed and the
hemorrhage stopped, only time and rest were needed for his complete
restoration. Lady Helena had insisted upon his occupying her end of the
cart. Mulready felt greatly honored. His greatest anxiety was in the
thought that his condition might delay Glenarvan, and he forced them to
promise that they would leave him at the camp in charge of Wilson, as
soon as the river became fordable.

Unfortunately, this was not possible, either that day or the next. At
seeing himself thus detained, Glenarvan despaired. Lady Helena and the
major tried in vain to pacify and exhort him to patience. Patience!
when, at that moment perhaps, Ben Joyce was going on board the yacht,
when the Duncan was weighing anchor and steaming towards that fatal
coast, to which every hour brought her nearer!

[Sidenote: ALMOST DESPAIRING.]

Captain Mangles felt at heart all Glenarvan's anguish, and, as he
wished to overcome the difficulty at all hazards, he constructed a
canoe in the Australian fashion, with large pieces of the bark of the
gum-trees. These slabs, which were very light, were held together by
wooden cross-bars, and formed a very frail craft.

The captain and the sailor tried the canoe. All that skill, strength,
or courage could do they did. But scarcely were they in the current,
when they capsized and narrowly escaped with their lives. The boat was
drawn into the eddies and disappeared. Captain Mangles and Wilson had
not advanced ten yards into the river, which was swollen by the rains
and melting snows till it was now a mile in breadth.

Two days were wasted in this way. The major and Glenarvan went five
miles up stream without finding a practicable ford. Everywhere was the
same impetuosity, the same tumultuous rush of water; all the southern
slopes of the mountains had poured their liquid torrents into this
single stream. They were forced, therefore, to give up any hope of
saving the Duncan. Five days had passed since Ben Joyce's departure,
the yacht was probably that very moment at the coast, in the hands of
the convicts.

However, this state of things could not last long. Indeed, on the
morning of the third day, Paganel perceived that the waters were
beginning to subside. He reported to Glenarvan the result of his
observations.

"What does it matter now?" replied Glenarvan; "it is too late!"

"That is no reason for prolonging our stay at the encampment," replied
the major.

"Certainly not," said Captain Mangles; "to-morrow, perhaps, it will be
possible to cross."

"But will that save my unfortunate crew?" cried Glenarvan.

"Listen to me, my lord," continued Captain Mangles. "I know Tom Austin.
He was to execute your orders, and start as soon as his departure was
possible. Who knows whether the Duncan was ready, or her injuries
repaired, on the arrival of Ben Joyce at Melbourne? Supposing the
yacht could not put to sea, and suffered one or two days of delay?"

"You are right, John," replied Glenarvan. "We must reach Twofold Bay.
We are only thirty-five miles from Delegete."

"Yes," said Paganel, "and in that town we shall find rapid means of
conveyance. Who knows whether we shall not arrive in time to prevent
this calamity?"

"Let us start!" cried Glenarvan.

Captain Mangles and Wilson at once occupied themselves in constructing
a raft of large dimensions. Experience had proved that pieces of bark
could not resist the violence of the torrent. The captain cut down
several gum-trees, of which he made a rude but substantial raft. It was
a tedious task, and that day ended before the work was completed; but
the next day it was finished.

The waters had now considerably subsided. The torrent had become a
river again, with a rapid current. However, with proper management, the
captain hoped to reach the opposite bank.

At noon they put on board as much provisions as each could carry for
two days' travel. The rest was abandoned with the cart and the tent.
Mulready was well enough to be moved; he was recovering rapidly.

Each took his place on the raft, which was moored to the bank. Captain
Mangles had arranged on the starboard side, and confided to Wilson, a
kind of oar to sustain the raft against the current, and prevent its
drifting. As for himself, he stood at the stern, and steered by means
of a clumsy rudder. Lady Helena and Mary Grant occupied the centre
of the raft near Mulready. Glenarvan, the major, Paganel, and Robert
surrounded them, ready to lend assistance.

"Are we ready, Wilson?" asked Captain Mangles.

"Yes, captain," replied the sailor, seizing his oar with a firm hand.

[Illustration: However, the raft was entangled in the midst of the
river, half a mile below where they started.]

"Attention, and bear up against the current."

Captain Mangles unmoored the raft, and with one push launched it into
the current of the river. All went well for some time, and Wilson
resisted the leeway. But soon the craft was drawn into the eddies, and
turned round and round, so that neither oar nor rudder could keep it in
a straight course. In spite of their efforts, they were soon placed in
a position where it was impossible to use the oars.

They were forced to be passive; there was no means of preventing this
gyratory motion. They were whirled about with a giddy rapidity, and
sent out of their course. The captain, with pale face and set teeth,
stood and gazed at the eddying water.

However, the raft was entangled in the midst of the river, half a mile
below where they started. The current here was very strong, and, as
it broke the eddies, it lessened the whirling motion. The captain and
Wilson resumed their oars, and succeeded in propelling the craft in an
oblique direction. In this way they approached nearer the left bank,
and were only a few yards distant, when Wilson's oar broke. The raft,
no longer sustained against the current, was carried down stream. The
captain endeavored to prevent it, at the risk of breaking his rudder,
and Wilson with bleeding hands assisted him.

At last they succeeded, and the raft, after a voyage of more than half
an hour, ran upon the steeply-sloping bank. The shock was violent; the
timbers were thrown apart, the ropes broken, and the foaming water came
through. The travelers had only time to cling to the bushes that hung
over the stream. They extricated Mulready and the two ladies, who were
half drenched. In short, everybody was saved; but the greater part of
the provisions and arms, except the major's rifle, were swept away with
the fragments of the raft.

[Sidenote: A WEARY PILGRIMAGE.]

The river was crossed, but the little party were without resources,
thirty-five miles from Delegete, in the midst of these untrodden
deserts. They resolved to start without delay. Mulready saw that he
would cause trouble, and desired to remain behind, even alone, and wait
for aid from Delegete. But Glenarvan refused. He could not reach the
town before three days. If the Duncan had left Melbourne several days
before, what mattered a delay of a few hours?

"No, my friend," said he; "I will not abandon any one. We will make a
litter, and take turns in carrying you."

The litter was made of branches covered with leaves, and upon this
Mulready was placed. Glenarvan wished to be the first to bear the
sailor, and, seizing one end of the litter and Wilson the other, they
started.

What a sad sight! and how disastrously this journey, so well begun,
had ended! They were no longer going in search of Captain Grant.
This continent--where he was not, nor had ever been--threatened to
be fatal to those who were seeking traces of him, and perhaps new
discouragements still awaited them.

The first day passed silently and painfully. Every ten minutes they
took turns in carrying the litter. All the sailor's companions
uncomplainingly imposed upon themselves this duty, which was made still
more arduous by the great heat.

At evening, after accomplishing only five miles, they encamped under
a group of gum-trees. The rest of the provisions that had escaped the
shipwreck furnished the evening meal. They must hereafter rely on the
major's rifle; but he found no opportunity to fire a single shot.
Fortunately, Robert found a nest of bustards, containing a dozen large
eggs, which Olbinett cooked in the hot ashes. In addition to these
embarrassments, their way became very difficult. The sandy plains were
bristling with thorny plants that tore their garments and lacerated
their limbs. The courageous ladies, however, did not complain, but
valiantly advanced, setting the example, and encouraging each other by
a word or a look.

On the third day Mulready traveled part of the way on foot. His wound
had entirely healed. The town of Delegete was only ten miles distant,
and at evening they encamped on the very frontiers of New South Wales.

A fine and penetrating rain had been falling for several hours, and
all shelter would have failed, if Captain Mangles had not fortunately
discovered a ruined and abandoned sawyer's hut. They were obliged to
content themselves with this miserable hovel of branches and thatch.
Wilson attempted to kindle a fire to prepare the food, and accordingly
collected some dead wood that strewed the ground. But when he attempted
to light the fuel he did not succeed; the great quantity of aluminous
material that it contained prevented combustion. It was, therefore,
necessary to dispense with fire and food, and sleep in wet garments,
while the birds, hidden in the lofty branches, seemed to mock these
unfortunate travelers.

However, Glenarvan and his friends were approaching the end of their
sufferings; and it was time. The two ladies exerted themselves
heroically, but their strength was failing every hour. They dragged
themselves along, they no longer walked.

The next day they started at daybreak, and at eleven o'clock Delegete
came in sight, fifty miles from Twofold Bay. Here means of conveyance
were quickly obtained. Feeling himself so near the coast, hope returned
to Glenarvan's heart; perhaps there had been some slight delay, and he
would arrive before the Duncan! In twenty-four hours he would reach the
bay!

At noon, after a comforting repast, all the travelers took their seats
in a mail-coach, and left Delegete at the full speed of five strong
horses. The postilions, stimulated by the promise of a large reward,
drove them along at a rapid rate, over a well-kept road. No time was
lost in changing horses, and it seemed as if Glenarvan had inspired
all with his own intense eagerness.

[Illustration: The two ladies exerted themselves heroically, but their
strength was failing every hour. They dragged themselves along, they no
longer walked.]

All day and all night they traveled with the same swiftness, and at
sunrise the next morning a low murmur announced the proximity of the
Indian Ocean. It was necessary, however, to pass around the bay to gain
that part of the coast where Tom Austin was to meet the travelers.

When the sea appeared, all eyes quickly surveyed the wide expanse. Was
the Duncan there, by a miracle of Providence, as she had been discerned
before by some of them on the Argentine coast? Nothing was seen; sky
and water mingled in an unbroken horizon; not a sail brightened the
vast extent of ocean.

One hope still remained. Perhaps Tom Austin had thought it best to cast
anchor in Twofold Bay, as the sea was rough and a vessel could not be
moored in safety near such shores.

"To Eden!" said Glenarvan.

The mail-coach at once took the road to the right, which ran along the
edge of the bay, and proceeded towards the little town of Eden, only
five miles distant. The postilions stopped not far from the light that
guarded the entrance to the harbor. Several ships were anchored in the
roadstead, but none displayed the flag of Malcolm Castle.

Glenarvan, Captain Mangles, and Paganel alighted immediately, and
hastened to the custom-house. Here they questioned the employees, and
consulted the latest arrivals. No vessel had entered the bay for a week.

"She may not have started!" cried Glenarvan, who would not despair.
"Perhaps we have arrived before her!"

Captain Mangles shook his head. He knew Tom Austin; his mate would
never have delayed so long to execute an order.

"I will know what this means," said Glenarvan. "Certainty is better
than doubt."

[Sidenote: THE LAST HOPE.]

Fifteen minutes later a telegram was sent to the ship-brokers of
Melbourne, and the travelers repaired to the Victoria Hotel. Not long
after an answer was delivered to Lord Glenarvan. It read as follows:

"Lord Glenarvan,
            Eden, Twofold Bay.

"Duncan started on the 18th instant for some unknown destination."

The dispatch fell from Glenarvan's hands. There was no more doubt! The
honest Scotch yacht, in Ben Joyce's hands, had become a pirate-vessel!

Thus ended their search in Australia, begun under such favorable
auspices. The traces of Captain Grant and his shipwrecked sailors
seemed irrecoverably lost. This failure had cost the lives of an entire
crew. Lord Glenarvan was crushed by the blow, and this courageous
searcher, whom the leagued elements had failed to deter, was now
baffled by the malice of men.



CHAPTER XLIV.

A ROUGH CAPTAIN.


If ever the searchers for Captain Grant had reason to despair of seeing
him again, was it not when every hope forsook them at once? To what
part of the world should they venture a new expedition? how explore
unknown countries? The Duncan was no longer in their possession, and
they could not be immediately reconciled to their misfortune. The
undertaking of these generous Scots had, therefore, failed. Failure!
sad word, that finds no echo in a valiant soul; and yet, amid all
the changes of destiny, Glenarvan was forced to acknowledge his
powerlessness to pursue this work of mercy.

Mary Grant, in this situation, no longer had the courage to utter the
name of her father. She suppressed her own anguish by thinking of the
unfortunate crew. Controlling herself in the presence of her friend, it
was she who consoled Lady Helena, from whom she had received so many
consolations. The young girl was the first to speak of their return to
Scotland. At seeing her so courageous and resigned, Captain Mangles
admired her, and would have spoken a final word in favor of Captain
Grant, if Mary had not stopped him with a look and then said:

"No, Mr. John; let us think of those who have sacrificed themselves.
Lord Glenarvan must return to England."

"You are right, Miss Mary," replied he; "he must. The English
authorities must also be informed of the fate of the Duncan. But do not
give up all hope. The search that we have begun I would continue alone,
rather than abandon. I will find Captain Grant, or succumb to the task!"

This was a solemn compact which John Mangles thus made. Mary accepted
it, and gave her hand to the young captain, as if to ratify this
treaty. On the part of the latter it was a devotion of his entire life;
on the part of the former, an unchanging gratitude.

The time of their departure was now definitely decided. They resolved
to proceed to Melbourne without delay. The next day Captain Mangles
went to inquire about vessels that were upon the point of sailing. He
expected to find frequent communication between Eden and Melbourne, but
he was disappointed. The vessels were few; two or three anchored in
Twofold Bay composed the entire fleet of the place. There were none for
Melbourne, Sydney, or Point-de-Galle.

In this state of affairs, what was to be done? Wait for a ship? They
might be delayed a long time, for Twofold Bay is little frequented.
After some deliberation, Glenarvan was about to decide upon reaching
Sydney by the coast, when Paganel made a proposal that was unexpected
to every one.

The geographer had just returned from Twofold Bay. He knew that there
were no means of transportation to Sydney or Melbourne; but, of the
three vessels anchored in the roadstead, one was preparing to start
for Auckland, the capital of Ika-na-Maoui, the northern island of New
Zealand. Thither Paganel proposed to go by the bark in question, and
from Auckland it would be easy to return to England by the steamers of
the English company.

This proposition was taken into serious consideration, although Paganel
did not enter into those extended arguments of which he was usually so
lavish. He confined himself to stating the fact, and added that the
voyage would not last more than five or six days.

Captain Mangles advocated Paganel's plan. He thought it should be
adopted, since they could not wait for the uncertain arrival of other
vessels. But, before deciding, he judged it advisable to visit the ship
in question. Accordingly, he, with Glenarvan, the major, Paganel, and
Robert, took a boat, and pulled out to where it was anchored.

It was a brig of two hundred and fifty tons, called the Macquarie,
which traded between the different ports of Australia and New Zealand.
The captain, or rather the "master," received his visitors very
gruffly. They saw that they had to deal with an uneducated man, whose
manners were not different from those of the five sailors of his
crew. A coarse red face, big hands, a flat nose, a blinded eye, lips
blackened by his pipe, and a specially brutish appearance, made Will
Halley a very forbidding character. But they had no choice, and for a
voyage of a few days there was no need to be very particular.

"What do you want?" asked Will Halley, as the strangers reached the
deck of his vessel.

"The captain," replied Mangles.

[Sidenote: A BUSINESS INTERVIEW.]

"I am he," said Halley. "What then?"

"The Macquarie is loading for Auckland?"

"Yes. What of it?"

"What does she carry?"

"Anything that is bought or sold."

"When does she sail?"

"To-morrow, at the noon tide."

"Would she take passengers?"

"That depends upon the passengers, and whether they would be satisfied
with the ship's mess."

"They would take their own provisions."

"Well, how many are there?"

"Nine,--two of them ladies."

"I have no cabins."

"We will arrange a place for their exclusive use."

"What then?"

"Do you accept?" asked Captain Mangles, who was not embarrassed by this
curtness.

"I must see," replied the master of the Macquarie. He took a turn or
two, striking the deck with his heavy, hobnailed boots; then, turning
to Captain Mangles, said:

"What do you pay?"

"What do you ask?" was the reply.

"Fifty pounds."

Glenarvan nodded assent.

"Very well! Fifty pounds."

"But the passage in cash!" added Halley.

"In cash."

"Food separate?"

"Separate."

"Agreed. Well?" said Will Halley, holding out his hand.

"What?"

"The advance-money."

"Here is half the fare,--twenty-five pounds," said Captain Mangles,
counting out the sum, which the master pocketed without saying "thank
you."

"Be on board to-morrow," said he. "Whether you are here or not, I shall
weigh anchor."

"We will be here."

Thereupon Glenarvan, the major, Robert, Paganel, and Captain Mangles
left the vessel, without Will Halley's having so much as touched the
brim of his hat.

"What a stupid fellow!" was their first remark.

"Well, I like him," replied Paganel. "He is a real sea-wolf."

"A real bear!" remarked the major.

"And I imagine," added Captain Mangles, "that this bear has at some
time traded in human flesh."

"What matter," replied Glenarvan, "so long as he commands the
Macquarie, which goes to New Zealand? We shall see very little of him
on the voyage."

Lady Helena and Mary Grant were very much pleased to know that they
were to start the next day. Glenarvan observed, however, that the
Macquarie could not equal the Duncan for comfort; but, after so many
hardships, they were not likely to be overcome by trifles. Mr. Olbinett
was requested to take charge of the provisions. The poor man, since the
loss of the Duncan, had often lamented the unhappy fate of his wife,
who had remained on board, and would be, consequently, the victim of
the convicts' brutality. However, he fulfilled his duties as steward
with his accustomed zeal, and their food might yet consist of dishes
that were never seen on the ship's table.

In the mean time the major discounted at a money-changer's some drafts
that Glenarvan had on the Union Bank of Melbourne. As for Paganel, he
procured an excellent map of New Zealand.

Mulready was now quite well. He scarcely felt his wound, which had so
nearly proved fatal. A few hours at sea would complete his recovery.

[Illustration: The landlord of Victoria Hotel furnished them with two
horses, and they set out.]

Wilson went on board first, charged with arranging the passengers'
quarters. Under his vigorous use of the brush and broom the aspect
of things was greatly changed. Will Halley shrugged his shoulders,
but allowed the sailor to do as he pleased. As for Glenarvan and his
friends, he scarcely noticed them; he did not even know their names,
nor did he care to. This increase of cargo was worth fifty pounds to
him, but he valued it less than the two hundred tons of tanned leather
with which his hold was crowded,--the skins first, and the passengers
next. He was a real trader; and by his nautical ability he passed for a
good navigator of these seas, rendered so very dangerous by the coral
reefs.

During the afternoon, Glenarvan wished to visit once more the supposed
place of the shipwreck. Ayrton had certainly been the quartermaster of
the Britannia, and the vessel might really have been lost on that part
of the coast. And there, at all events, the Duncan had fallen into the
hands of the convicts. Had there been a fight? Perhaps they would find
on the beach traces of a struggle. If the crew had perished in the
waves, would not the bodies have been cast ashore?

Glenarvan, accompanied by his faithful captain, undertook this
examination. The landlord of Victoria Hotel furnished them with two
horses, and they set out. But it was a sad journey. They rode in
silence. The same thoughts, the same anxieties, tortured the mind of
each. They gazed at the rocks worn by the sea. They had no need to
question or answer; no sign of the Duncan could be found,--the whole
coast was bare.

Captain Mangles, however, found on the margin of the shore evident
signs of an encampment, the remains of fires recently kindled beneath
the few trees. Had a wandering tribe of natives passed there within
a few days? No, for an object struck Glenarvan's eye, which proved
incontestably that the convicts had visited that part of the coast.

[Sidenote: THE LAST NIGHT IN AUSTRALIA.]

It was a gray and yellow jacket, worn and patched, left at the foot
of a tree. It bore a number and badge of the Perth penitentiary. The
convict was no longer there, but his cast-off garment betrayed him.

"You see, John," said Glenarvan, "the convicts have been here! And our
poor comrades of the Duncan----"

"Yes," replied the captain, in a low voice, "they have certainly been
landed, and have perished!"

"The wretches!" cried Glenarvan. "If they ever fall into my hands, I
will avenge my crew!"

Grief and exposure had hardened Glenarvan's features. For several
moments he gazed at the vast expanse of water, seeking perhaps to
discern some ship in the dim distance. Then his eyes relaxed their
fierceness, he regained his composure, and, without adding a word or
making a sign, took the road to Eden.

Only one duty remained to be fulfilled,--to inform the constable of
the events that had just transpired, which was done the same evening.
The magistrate, Thomas Banks, could scarcely conceal his satisfaction
at making out the official record. He was simply delighted at the
departure of Ben Joyce and his band. The whole village shared his joy.
The convicts had left Australia because of a new crime; but, at all
events, they had gone. This important news was immediately telegraphed
to the authorities of Melbourne and Sydney.

Having accomplished his object, Glenarvan returned to the Victoria
Hotel. The travelers passed this last evening in Australia in sadness.
Their thoughts wandered over this country, so fertile in misfortunes.
They recalled the hopes they had reasonably conceived at Cape
Bernouilli, now so cruelly disappointed at Twofold Bay.

Paganel was a prey to a feverish agitation. Captain Mangles, who had
watched him since the incident at Snowy River, many times pressed him
with questions which Paganel did not answer. But that evening, as he
went with him to his chamber, the captain asked him why he was so
nervous.

"My friend," replied Paganel evasively, "I am no more nervous than
usual."

"Mr. Paganel, you have a secret that troubles you."

"Well, as you will," cried the geographer; "it is stronger than I."

"What is stronger than you?"

"My joy on the one hand, and my despair on the other."

"You are joyful and despairing at the same time?"

"Yes; joyful and despairing at visiting New Zealand."

"Have you any news?" asked Captain Mangles. "Have you discovered the
lost trail?"

"No, friend. _People never return from New Zealand!_ But yet--well, you
know human nature. As long as we breathe we can hope; and my motto is
'_dum spiro, spero_,' which is the best in the world."



CHAPTER XLV.

THE WRECK OF THE MACQUARIE.


The next day the travelers were installed on board the Macquarie.
Will Halley had not offered the ladies his cabin, which was not to be
regretted, as the lair was only fit for the brute.

At noon they made ready to take the flood-tide. The anchor was weighed.
A moderate breeze blew from the southwest. The sails were gradually
set, but the five men worked slowly. At last, incited by the oaths
of the skipper, they accomplished their task. But in spite of her
spread of canvas the brig scarcely advanced. Yet, however poorly she
sailed, in five or six days they hoped to reach the harbor of Auckland.
At seven o'clock in the evening they lost sight of the shores of
Australia, and the lighthouse at Eden. The sea was rough, and the
vessel labored heavily in the trough of the waves. The passengers found
their situation very uncomfortable; but, as they could not remain on
deck, they were forced to submit to confinement.

[Illustration: But on the next day seven canoes of the islanders
attacked it most violently and suddenly, causing it to capsize.]

That evening conversation very naturally turned upon the land to which
they were now sailing, its discovery and colonization; and just as
naturally all turned to Paganel as to a bookcase, for some information
thereon. It was very readily accessible, although evidently to the
geographer's mind there was something of a painful character connected
with the name, the impression, and the very thoughts of New Zealand and
its Maori inhabitants.

"Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena, "have your friends, the English,
been the only ones to search out this island?"

"By no means, madam," was the prompt reply. "On the contrary, they
have come second, nay, third, in the race; only," and he looked half
roguishly and half maliciously, "_they stayed when they came_."

And then he told them of its first discovery by Abel Tasman, the Dutch
navigator, in 1642; that, when first he landed, there seemed to be
amicable feelings expressed by the islanders toward himself, a number
of them coming back to his ship, and being apparently well pleased to
cultivate intercourse. But on the next day, as he sent his boat to
find good anchorage nearer to the shore, seven canoes of the islanders
attacked it most violently and suddenly, causing it to capsize, and so
vigorously assailing its occupants with their pikes that it was with
difficulty any of them were able to swim back to their ship, leaving
those of their companions who were not drowned to be butchered by the
natives.

[Sidenote: A SADDENING HISTORY.]

Of course he did not forget to mention that a French navigator,
Surville by name, was the next to visit the shores, and that his
visit likewise was the cause of bloodshed and misery. But he gave
them a more lengthy and extended narrative of Captain Cook's voyages,
which were the most important in their results as well as the most
interesting and tragic in many of their incidents. It was on the 6th
of October, 1769, that this navigator first landed on the shores which
he visited twice afterwards, and each time added greatly to the stock
of previous knowledge concerning these islands, their productions, and
their inhabitants. By him it was first ascertained that cannibalism was
practiced by some, if not all, of the tribes at that time; and it was
very evident, from the manner of Paganel's narration, that hereabout
lay the extremely sensitive point of the worthy geographer's fears and
forebodings. However, he was not deterred from rehearsing how one and
another not merely visited, but began to settle, on the island, so that
in the treaty of 1814 it was formally recognized as belonging to Great
Britain, and twenty years after was important enough to have a separate
official and governmental establishment.

Paganel also told, at great length, the tales of many of the sad
incidents which from time to time have marked even the commercial
intercourse between the European and the Maori; as, for instance, the
sad tale of conflict and bloodshed connected with the death of Captain
Marion, a French navigator, in 1772. He had landed near the spot where
Surville had ill-treated some of the natives and traitorously seized
a son of the chief, Takouri, who yet appeared to welcome this next
French visitant, though remembering none the less the terrible duty of
vengeance which is felt by the Maori to be so binding.

[Illustration: It was on the sixth of October, 1769, that this
navigator (Captain Cook) first landed on the shores.]

For a long time the cloak of friendship was worn by the natives, the
more thoroughly to lull the suspicions of the whites, and to entice a
larger number on shore; in which endeavor they succeeded only too well.
The French ships being greatly out of repair, Marion was induced to
fell timber at some distance in the interior, and to establish in this
occupation a great number of his men, going frequently to them, and
remaining with them and the apparently friendly chiefs. On one of these
occasions the Maoris fulfilled their revengeful project with a terrible
satisfaction to themselves. Only one man, of all those in the interior,
managed to escape, the commander himself falling a prey to their
vengeance. They then endeavored to kill the second in command, who,
with several others, was nearer to the shore. These, of course, at once
started for their boats; breathless, they reached them, hotly pursued
to the water's edge by the insatiate savages. Then, safe themselves,
the French marksmen picked off the chief, and the previous exultation
of the aborigines was, even in the hour of their triumph, turned to
lamentation, coupled with wonder at the terrible power of the white
man's fire-barrel.

[Illustration: Safe themselves, the French marksmen picked off the
chief.]

All this and much more did the geographer narrate; but it must be
confessed that he neither spoke, nor did they listen, with the
complacency evinced in his previous tales. Besides, their surroundings
were at the time uncomfortable, and the first prognostications of a
speedy passage were not likely to be verified.

Unfortunately, this painful voyage was prolonged. Six days after her
departure, the Macquarie had not descried the shores of Auckland.
The wind was fair, however, and still blew from the southwest; but
nevertheless the brig did not make much headway. The sea was rough, the
rigging creaked, the ribs cracked, and the vessel rode the waves with
difficulty.

Fortunately, Will Halley, like a man who was in no hurry, did not crowd
on sail, or his masts would inevitably have snapped. Captain Mangles
hoped, therefore, that this clumsy craft would reach its destination
in safety; still, he was pained to see his companions on board in such
miserable quarters.

[Sidenote: PERSISTENT GRIEF.]

But neither Lady Helena nor Mary Grant complained, although the
continual rain kept them confined, and the want of air and rolling of
the ship seriously incommoded them. Their friends sought to divert
them, and Paganel strove to while the time with his stories, but did
not succeed so well as previously.

Of all the passengers, the one most to be pitied was Lord Glenarvan.
They rarely saw him below; he could not keep still. His nervous and
excitable nature would not submit to an imprisonment between four
wooden walls. Day and night, heedless of the torrents of rain and the
dashing spray of the sea, he remained on deck, sometimes bending over
the rail, sometimes pacing up and down with feverish agitation. His
eyes gazed continually into space, and, during the brief lulls, his
glass persistently surveyed the horizon. He seemed to question the mute
waves; the mist that veiled the sky, the masses of vapor, he would have
penetrated with a glance; he could not be resigned, and his countenance
betokened an acute grief. The power and hopefulness of this man,
hitherto so energetic and courageous, had suddenly failed.

Captain Mangles seldom left him, but at his side endured the severity
of the storm. That day, Glenarvan, wherever there was an opening in
the mist, scanned the horizon with the utmost persistency. The young
captain approached him.

"Is your lordship looking for land?" he asked.

Glenarvan shook his head.

"It will yet be some time before we leave the brig. We ought to have
sighted Auckland light thirty-six hours ago."

Glenarvan did not answer. He still gazed, and for a moment his glass
was pointed towards the horizon to windward of the vessel.

"The land is not on that side," said Captain Mangles. "Your lordship
should look towards the starboard."

"Why, John?" replied Glenarvan. "It is not the land that I am seeking."

"What is it, my lord?"

[Sidenote: A COURAGEOUS CAPTAIN.]

"My yacht, my Duncan! She must be here, in these regions, plowing
these seas, in that dreadful employment of a pirate. She is here, I
tell you, John, on this course between Australia and New Zealand! I
have a presentiment that we shall meet her!"

[Illustration: Day and night, heedless of the torrents of rain and the
dashing spray of the sea, he remained on deck.]

"God preserve us from such a meeting, my lord!"

"Why, John?"

"Your lordship forgets our situation. What could we do on this brig, if
the Duncan should give us chase? We could not escape."

"Escape, John?"

"Yes, my lord. We should try in vain. We should be captured, at the
mercy of the wretches. Ben Joyce has shown that he does not hesitate at
a crime. I should sell my life dearly. We would defend ourselves to the
last extremity. Well! But, then, think of Lady Helena and Mary Grant!"

"Poor women!" murmured Glenarvan. "John, my heart is broken, and
sometimes I feel as if despair had invaded it. It seems to me as if
new calamities awaited us, as if Heaven had decreed against us! I am
afraid!"

"You, my lord?"

"Not for myself, John, but for those whom I love, and whom you love
also."

"Take courage, my lord," replied the young captain. "We need no longer
fear. The Macquarie is a poor sailer, but still she sails. Will Halley
is a brutish creature; but I am here, and if the approach to the land
seems to me dangerous I shall take the ship to sea again. Therefore
from this quarter there is little or no danger. But as for meeting the
Duncan, God preserve us, and enable us to escape!"

Captain Mangles was right. To encounter the Duncan would be fatal to
the Macquarie, and this misfortune was to be feared in these retired
seas, where pirates could roam without danger. However, that day, at
least, the Duncan did not appear, and the sixth night since their
departure from Twofold Bay arrived without Captain Mangles's fears
being realized.

But that night was destined to be one of terror. Darkness set in almost
instantaneously towards evening; the sky was very threatening. Even
Will Halley, whose sense of danger was superior to the brutishness of
intoxication, was startled by these warning signs. He left his cabin,
rubbing his eyes and shaking his great red head. Then he drew a long
breath, and examined the masts. The wind was fresh, and was blowing
strong towards the New Zealand coast.

Captain Halley summoned his men, with many oaths, and ordered them to
reef the top-sails. Captain Mangles approved in silence. He had given
up remonstrating with this coarse seaman; but neither he nor Glenarvan
left the deck.

Two hours passed. The sea grew more tempestuous, and the vessel
received such severe shocks that it seemed as if her keel were grating
on the sand. There was no unusual roughness, but yet this clumsy craft
labored heavily, and the deck was deluged by the huge waves. The boat
that hung in the larboard davits was swept overboard by a rising billow.

Captain Mangles could not help being anxious. Any other vessel would
have mocked these surges; but with this heavy hulk they might well fear
foundering, for the deck was flooded with every plunge, and the masses
of water, not finding sufficient outlet by the scuppers, might submerge
the ship. It would have been wise, as a preparation for any emergency,
to cut away the waistcloth to facilitate the egress of the water; but
Will Halley refused to take this precaution.

[Sidenote: A NAUTICAL COUP D'ETAT.]

However, a greater danger threatened the Macquarie, and probably there
was no longer time to prevent it. About half-past eleven Captain
Mangles and Wilson, who were standing on the leeward side, were
startled by an unusual sound. Their nautical instincts were roused,
and the captain seized the sailor's hand.

"The surf!" said he.

"Yes," replied Wilson. "The sea is breaking on the reefs."

"Not more than two cable-lengths distant."

"Not more! The shore is here!"

Captain Mangles leaned over the railing, gazed at the dark waves, and
cried:

"The sounding-lead, Wilson!"

The skipper, who was in the forecastle, did not seem to suspect his
situation. Wilson grasped the sounding-line, which lay coiled in its
pail, and rushed into the port-shrouds. He cast the lead; the rope
slipped between his fingers; at the third knot it stopped.

"Three fathoms!" cried Wilson.

"We are on the breakers!" shouted the sober captain to the stupefied
one.

Whether the former saw Halley shrug his shoulders or not is of little
consequence. At all events, he rushed towards the wheel and crowded
the helm hard alee, while Wilson, letting go the line, hauled upon the
top-sail yard-arms to luff the ship. The sailor who was steering, and
had been forcibly pushed aside, did not at all understand this sudden
attack.

"To the port-yards! let loose the sails!" cried the young captain,
managing so as to escape the reefs.

For half a minute, the starboard side of the brig grazed the rocks,
and, in spite of the darkness, John perceived a roaring line of
breakers that foamed a few yards from the ship.

[Sidenote: VERY CRITICAL CIRCUMSTANCES.]

At this moment Will Halley, becoming conscious of the imminent danger,
lost his presence of mind. His sailors, who were scarcely sober,
could not comprehend his orders. Moreover, his incoherent words and
contradictory commands showed that this stupid drunkard's coolness
had failed. He was surprised by the nearness of the land, which was
only eight miles off, when he thought it thirty or forty. The currents
had taken him unawares, and thrown him out of his ordinary course.

[Illustration: The sailor who was steering, and had been forcibly
pushed aside, did not at all understand this sudden attack.]

However, Captain Mangles's prompt management had rescued the brig from
her peril; but he did not know his position. Perhaps he was inclosed by
a chain of reefs. The wind blew fresh from the east, and at every pitch
they might strike bottom.

The roar of the surf was soon redoubled, and it was necessary to luff
still more. John crowded the helm down and braced farther to leeward.
The breakers multiplied beneath the prow of the ship, and they were
obliged to tack so as to put to sea. Would this manoeuvre succeed with
such an unsteady vessel, and under such reduced sail? It was uncertain,
but as their only chance they must venture it.

"Hard alee!" cried Captain Mangles to Wilson.

The Macquarie began to approach the new line of reefs. Soon the
water foamed above the submerged rocks. It was a moment of torturing
suspense. The spray glittered on the crests of the waves. You would
have thought a phosphorescent glow had suddenly illumined the water.
Wilson and Mulready forced down the wheel with their whole weight.

Suddenly a shock was felt. The vessel had struck upon a rock. The
bob-stays broke, and nearly overthrew the mainmast. Could they come
about without any other injury? No; for all at once there was a calm,
and the ship veered to windward again, and her movements suddenly
ceased. A lofty wave seized and bore her forward towards the reefs,
while she rolled heavily. The mainmast went by the board with all its
rigging, the brig heaved twice and was motionless, leaning over to
starboard. The pump-lights were shattered in pieces, and the passengers
rushed to the deck; but the waves were sweeping it from one end to
the other, and they could not remain without danger. Captain Mangles,
knowing that the ship was firmly imbedded in the sand, besought them
for their own sakes to go below again.

"The truth, John?" asked Glenarvan, faintly.

"The truth, my lord, is that we shall not founder. As for being
destroyed by the sea, that is another question; but we have time to
take counsel."

"Is it midnight?"

"Yes, my lord, and we must wait for daylight."

"Can we not put to sea in the boat?"

"In this storm and darkness it is impossible. And, moreover, where
should we strike land?"

"Well, John, let us remain here till morning."

Meantime Will Halley was running about the deck like a madman. His
sailors, who had recovered from their stupor, stove in a brandy-barrel
and began to drink. Mangles foresaw that their drunkenness would lead
to terrible scenes. The captain could not be relied upon to restrain
them; the miserable man tore his hair and wrung his hands; he thought
only of his cargo, which was not insured.

"I am ruined! I am lost!" cried he, running to and fro.

Captain Mangles scarcely thought of consoling him. He armed his
companions, and all stood ready to repel the sailors, who were filling
themselves with brandy, and cursing frightfully.

"The first of these wretches who approaches," said the major calmly, "I
will shoot like a dog."

The sailors doubtless saw that the passengers were determined to keep
them at bay, for, after a few attempts at plunder, they disappeared.
Captain Mangles paid no more attention to these drunken men, but waited
impatiently for day.

[Sidenote: SLEEPING IN A SAND-CRADLE.]

The ship was now absolutely immovable. The sea grew gradually calm,
and the wind subsided. The hull could, therefore, hold out a few hours
longer. At sunrise they would examine the shore. If it seemed easy to
land, the yawl, now the only boat on board, would serve to transport
the crew and passengers. It would require three trips, at least, to
accomplish this, for there was room for only four persons. As for the
gig, it had been swept overboard, during the storm, as before mentioned.

While reflecting on the dangers of his situation, the young captain,
leaning against the binnacle, listened to the roar of the surf. He
strove to pierce the dense darkness, and estimate how far he was from
that desired yet dreaded coast. Breakers are frequently heard several
leagues at sea. Could the frail cutter weather so long a voyage in her
present shattered state?

While he was thinking thus, and longing for a little light in the
gloomy sky, the ladies, relying upon his words, were reposing in their
berths. The steadiness of the brig secured them several hours of rest.
Glenarvan and the others, no longer hearing the cries of the drunken
crew, refreshed themselves also by a hasty sleep, and, early in the
morning, deep silence reigned on board this vessel, which had sunk to
rest, as it were, upon her bed of sand.

About four o'clock the first light appeared in the east. The clouds
were delicately tinged by the pale rays of the dawn. Captain Mangles
came on deck. Along the horizon extended a curtain of mist. A few
vague outlines floated in the vapors of the morning. A gentle swell
still agitated the sea, and the outer waves were lost in the dense,
motionless fog.

He waited. The light gradually brightened, and the horizon glowed with
crimson hues. The misty curtain gradually enveloped the vast vault of
the firmament. Black rocks emerged from the water. Then, a line was
defined along a border of foam, and a luminous point kindled like a
lighthouse at the summit of a peak against the still invisible disk of
the rising sun.

"Land!" cried Captain Mangles.

[Illustration: The mainmast went by the board with all its rigging, the
brig heaved twice and was motionless, leaning over to starboard.]

[Illustration: As the Macquarie lay over on her starboard beams, her
opposite side was raised, and the defective seams were out of water.]

His companions, awakened by his voice, rushed on deck, and gazed in
silence at the coast that was seen on the horizon. Whether hospitable
or fatal, it was to be their place of refuge.

"Where is that Halley?" asked Glenarvan.

"I do not know, my lord," replied Captain Mangles.

"And his sailors?"

"Disappeared, like himself."

"And like himself, doubtless, drunk," added MacNabb.

"Let us search for them," said Glenarvan; "we cannot abandon them on
this vessel."

Mulready and Wilson went down to the bunks in the forecastle. The place
was empty. They then visited between-decks, and the hold, but found
neither Halley nor his sailors.

"What! nobody?" said Glenarvan.

"Have they fallen into the sea?" asked Paganel.

"Anything is possible," replied Captain Mangles, who cared little for
their disappearance.

Then, turning towards the stern, he said,--

"To the boat!"

Wilson and Mulready followed, to assist in lowering it.

The yawl was gone!



CHAPTER XLVI.

VAIN EFFORTS.


Will Halley and his crew, taking advantage of the night and the
passengers' sleep, had fled with the only boat left. They could not
doubt it. This captain, who was in duty bound to be the last on board,
had been the first to leave.

[Sidenote: AN ADVANTAGEOUS LOSS.]

"The rascals have fled," said Captain Mangles. "Well, so much the
better, my lord. We are spared so many disagreeable scenes."

"I agree with you," replied Glenarvan. "Besides, there is a better
captain on board, yourself, and courageous seamen, your companions.
Command us; we are ready to obey you."

All endorsed Glenarvan's words, and, ranged along the deck, they stood
ready for the young captain's orders.

"What is to be done?" asked Glenarvan.

John cast a glance over the ocean, looked at the shattered masts of the
brig, and, after a few moments' reflection, said:

"We have two ways, my lord, of extricating ourselves from this
situation: either to raise the vessel and put her to sea, or reach the
coast on a raft, which can be easily constructed."

"If the vessel can be raised, let us raise it," replied Glenarvan.
"That is the best plan, is it not?"

"Yes, my lord; for, once ashore, what would become of us without means
of transport?"

"Let us avoid the coast," added Paganel. "We must beware of New
Zealand."

"All the more so, as we have gone considerably astray," continued
Captain Mangles. "Halley's carelessness has carried us to the south,
that is evident. At noon I will take an observation; and if, as I
presume, we are below Auckland, I will try to sail the Macquarie up
along the coast."

"But the injuries of the brig?" inquired Lady Helena.

"I do not think they are serious, madam," replied Captain Mangles. "I
shall rig a jury-mast at the bows; and we shall sail slowly, it is
true, but still we shall go where we wish. If, unfortunately, the hull
is stove in, or if the ship cannot be extricated, we must gain the
coast, and travel by land to Auckland."

"Let us examine the state of the vessel, then," said the major. "This
is of the first importance."

Glenarvan, the captain, and Mulready opened the main scuttle, and went
down into the hold. About two hundred tons of tanned hides were there,
very badly stowed away; but they could draw them aside without much
difficulty, by means of the main-stay tackling, and they at once threw
overboard part of this ballast so as to lighten the ship.

After three hours of hard labor, they could see the bottom timbers. Two
seams in the larboard planking had sprung open as far up as the channel
wales. As the Macquarie lay over on her starboard beams, her opposite
side was raised, and the defective seams were out of water. Wilson
hastened, therefore, to tighten the joints with oakum, over which he
carefully nailed a copper plate. On sounding they found less than two
feet of water in the hold, which the pumps could easily exhaust, and
thus relieve the ship. After his examination of the hull, the captain
perceived that it had been little injured in stranding. It was probable
that a part of the false keel would remain in the sand, but they could
pass over it.

Wilson, after inspecting the interior of the brig, dived, in order to
determine her position on the reef. The Macquarie was turned towards
the northwest, and lay on a very shelving, slimy sand-bar. The lower
end of her prow and two-thirds of her keel were deeply imbedded in
the sand. The rest, as far as the stern, floated where the water was
five fathoms deep. The rudder was not, therefore, confined, but worked
freely. The captain considered it useless to lighten her, as he hoped
they would be ready to make use of her at the earliest opportunity.
The tides of the Pacific are not very strong, but he relied upon their
influence to float the brig, which had stranded an hour before high
water. The only point was to extricate her, which would be a long and
painful task.

[Sidenote: LABOR FOR THE COMMON WEAL.]

"To work!" cried the captain.

His improvised sailors were ready. He ordered them to reef the sails.
The major, Robert, and Paganel, under Wilson's direction, climbed
the maintop. The top-sail, swelled by the wind, would have prevented
the extrication of the ship, and it was necessary to reef it, which
was done as well as possible. At last, after much labor, severe to
unaccustomed hands, the maintop-gallant was taken down. Young Robert,
nimble as a cat, and bold as a cabin-boy, had rendered important
services in this difficult operation.

It was now advisable to cast one anchor, perhaps two, at the stern of
the vessel in the line of the keel. The effect of this would be to
haul the Macquarie around into deep water. There is no difficulty in
doing this when you have a boat, but here all the boats were gone, and
something else must be supplied.

Glenarvan was familiar enough with the sea to understand the necessity
of these arrangements. One anchor was to be cast to prevent the ship
from stranding at low water.

"But what shall we do without a boat?" asked he of the captain.

"We will use the remains of the mizen-mast and the empty casks," was
the reply. "It will be a difficult, but not impossible task, for the
Macquarie's anchors are small. Once cast however, if they do not drag,
I shall be encouraged."

"Very well, let us lose no time."

To accomplish their object, all were summoned on deck; each took
part in the work. The rigging that still confined the mizen-mast was
cut away, so that the maintop could be easily withdrawn. Out of this
platform Captain Mangles designed to make a raft. He supported it by
means of empty casks, and rendered it capable of carrying the anchors.
A rudder was fastened to it, which enabled them to steer the concern.

This labor was half accomplished when the sun neared the meridian.
The captain left Glenarvan to follow out his instructions, and turned
his attention to determining his position, which was very important.
Fortunately, he had found in Will Halley's cabin a Nautical Almanac and
a sextant, with which he was able to take an observation. By consulting
the map Paganel had bought at Eden, he saw that they had been wrecked
at the mouth of Aotea Bay, above Cahua Point, on the shores of the
province of Auckland. As the city was on the thirty-seventh parallel,
the Macquarie had been carried a considerable distance out of her
course. It was, therefore, necessary to sail northward to reach the
capital of New Zealand.

"A journey of not more than twenty-five miles," said Glenarvan. "It is
nothing."

"What is nothing at sea will be long and difficult on land," replied
Paganel.

"Well, then," said Captain Mangles, "let us do all in our power to
float the Macquarie."

This question being settled, their labors were resumed. It was high
water, but they could not take advantage of it, since the anchors were
not yet moored. Yet the captain watched the ship with some anxiety.
Would she float with the tide? This point would soon be decided.

They waited. Several cracks were heard, caused either by a rising or
starting of the keel. Great reliance had been placed upon the tide, but
the brig did not stir.

The work was continued, and the raft was soon ready. The small anchor
was put on board, and the captain and Wilson embarked, after mooring
a small cable at the stern. The ebb-tide made them drift, and they
therefore anchored, half a cable's length distant, in ten fathoms of
water. The bottom afforded a firm hold.

[Sidenote: A MIDNIGHT CONCLAVE.]

The great anchor now remained. They lowered it with difficulty,
transported it on the raft, and soon it was moored behind the other;
the captain and his men returning to the vessel, and waiting for high
water, which would be early in the morning. It was now six o'clock
in the evening. The young captain complimented his sailors, and told
Paganel that, with the aid of courage and good discipline, he might one
day become quartermaster.

Meantime, Mr. Olbinett, after assisting in different operations, had
returned to the kitchen, and prepared a very comforting and seasonable
repast. The crew were tempted by a keen appetite, which was abundantly
satisfied, and each felt himself invigorated for fresh exertions.

After dinner, Captain Mangles took a final precaution to insure the
success of his experiment. He threw overboard a great part of the
merchandise to lighten the brig; but the remainder of the ballast, the
heavy spars, the spare yards, and a few tons of pig-iron, were carried
to the stern, to aid by their weight in liberating the keel. Wilson and
Mulready likewise rolled to the same place a number of casks filled
with water. Midnight arrived before these labors were completed.

But at this hour the breeze subsided, and only a few capricious
ripples stirred the surface of the water. Looking towards the horizon,
the captain observed that the wind was changing from southwest to
northwest. A sailor could not be mistaken in the peculiar arrangement
and color of the clouds. He accordingly informed Glenarvan of these
indications, and proposed to defer their work till the next day.

[Sidenote: "A TIDE IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN."]

"And these are my reasons," said he. "First, we are very much fatigued,
and all our strength is necessary to free the vessel. Then, when this
is accomplished, how can we sail among the dangerous breakers, and
in such profound darkness? Moreover, another reason induces me to
wait. The wind promises to aid us, and I desire to profit by it, and
am in hopes that it will drift the old hull out when the tide raises
her. To-morrow, if I am not mistaken, the breeze will blow from the
northwest. We will set the main-sails, and they will help to raise
the brig."

[Illustration: They therefore anchored, half a cable's length distant,
in ten fathoms of water.]


These reasons were decisive. Glenarvan and Paganel, the most impatient
on board, yielded, and the work was suspended.

The night passed favorably, and day appeared. Their captain's
predictions were realized. The wind blew from the northwest, and
continued to freshen. The crew were summoned. It was nine o'clock. Four
hours were still to elapse before it would be high water, and that time
was not lost. The laborers renewed their efforts with very good success.

Meantime the tide rose. The surface of the sea was agitated into
ripples, and the points of the rocks gradually disappeared, like
marine animals returning to their native element. The time for the
final attempt approached. A feverish impatience thrilled all minds.
No one spoke. Each gazed at the captain, and awaited his orders. He
was leaning over the stern-railing, watching the water, and casting an
uneasy glance towards the cables.

At last the tide reached its height. The experiment must now be made
without delay. The main-sails were set, and the mast was bent with the
force of the wind.

"To the windlass!" cried the captain.

Glenarvan, Mulready, and Robert on one side, and Paganel, the major,
and Olbinett on the other, bore down upon the handles that moved the
machine. At the same time the captain and Wilson added their efforts to
those of their companions.

"Down! down!" cried the young captain; "all together!"

The cables were stretched taut under the powerful action of the
windlass. The anchors held fast, and did not drag. But they must be
quick, for high tide lasts only a few moments, and the water would not
be long in lowering.

They redoubled their efforts. The wind blew violently, and forced the
sails against the mast. A few tremors were felt in the hull, and the
brig seemed on the point of rising. Perhaps a little more power would
suffice to draw her from the sand.

"Helena! Mary!" cried Glenarvan.

The two ladies came and joined their efforts to those of their
companions. A final crack was heard, but that was all! The experiment
had failed. The tide was already beginning to ebb, and it was evident
that, even with the aid of wind and tide, this insufficient crew could
not float their ship.

As their first plan had failed, it was necessary to have recourse to
the second without delay. It was plain that they could not raise the
Macquarie, and that the only way was to abandon her. To wait on board
for the uncertain arrival of assistance would have been folly and
madness.

The captain therefore proposed to construct a raft strong enough to
convey the passengers and a sufficient quantity of provisions to the
New Zealand coast. It was not a time for discussion, but for action.
The work was accordingly begun, and considerably advanced when night
interrupted them.

In the evening, after supper, while Lady Helena and Mary Grant were
reposing in their berths, Paganel and his friends conversed seriously
as they paced the deck. The geographer had asked Captain Mangles
whether the raft could not follow the coast as far as Auckland, instead
of landing the passengers at once. The captain replied that it would be
impossible with such a rude craft.

"And could we have done with the boat what we cannot do with the raft?"

"Yes, candidly speaking, we could," was the reply; "but with the
necessity of sailing by day and anchoring by night."

[Sidenote: A FRENCHMAN'S FOIBLE.]

"Then these wretches, who have abandoned us----"

"Oh," said Captain Mangles, "they were drunk, and in the profound
darkness I fear they have paid for their cowardly desertion with their
lives."

"So much the worse for them," continued Paganel; "and for us, too, as
this boat would have been useful."

"What do you mean, Paganel?" said Glenarvan. "The raft will take us
ashore."

"That is precisely what I would avoid," replied the geographer.

"What! can a journey of not more than twenty miles terrify us, after
what has been done on the Pampas and in Australia?"

"My friends," resumed Paganel, "I do not doubt your courage, nor that
of our fair companions. Twenty miles is nothing in any other country
except New Zealand. Here, however, anything is better than venturing
upon these treacherous shores."

"Anything is better than exposing yourself to certain death on a
wrecked vessel," returned Captain Mangles.

"What have we to fear in New Zealand?" asked Glenarvan.

"The savages!" replied Paganel.

"The savages?" said Glenarvan. "Can we not avoid them by following the
coast? Besides, an attack from a few wretches cannot intimidate ten
well-armed and determined Europeans."

"It is not a question of wretches," rejoined Paganel. "The New
Zealanders form terrible tribes that struggle against the English
government, fight with invaders, frequently conquer them, and always
eat them."

"Cannibals! cannibals!" cried Robert; and then he murmured, as though
afraid to give full utterance to the words, "My sister! Lady Helena!"

"Never fear, my boy!" said Glenarvan; "our friend Paganel exaggerates."

[Illustration: The work was accordingly begun, and considerably
advanced when night interrupted them.]

[Illustration: Not long since, in the year 1864, one of these clergymen
was seized by the chiefs and hung from the tree.]

"I do not exaggerate," replied Paganel. "With these New Zealanders war
is what the sports of the chase are to civilized nations; and the game
they hunt for they feast upon."

"Paganel," said the major, "this may be all very true, but have you
forgotten the introduction of Christianity? has it not destroyed these
anthropophagous habits?"

"No, it has not," was the prompt reply. "The records are yet fresh of
ministers who have gone out to proclaim Christianity and have fallen
victims to the murderous and cannibal instincts of those to whom they
preached. Not long since, in the year 1864, one of these clergymen
was seized by the chiefs, was hung to the tree, was tantalized and
tortured to his last moments; and then, whilst some tore his body to
pieces, others devoured the various members. No, the Maoris are still
cannibals, and will remain so for some time to come."

But Paganel was on this point a pessimist, contrary to his usual
characteristic.



CHAPTER XLVII.

A DREADED COUNTRY.


What Paganel had stated was indisputable. The cruelty of the New
Zealanders could not be doubted. There was, therefore, danger in
landing. But if the danger had been a hundred times greater, it must
have been faced. Captain Mangles felt the necessity of leaving this
vessel, which would soon break up. Between two perils, one certain, the
other only probable, there was no possible hesitation.

[Sidenote: ANOTHER CHANGE OF RESIDENCE.]

As for the chance of being picked up by some passing ship, they could
not reasonably rely upon it, for the Macquarie was out of the course
usually taken in going to New Zealand. The shipwreck had happened on
the desert shores of Ika-Na-Maoui.

"When shall we start?" asked Glenarvan.

"To-morrow morning at ten o'clock," replied Captain Mangles. "The tide
will begin to rise then, and will carry us ashore."

Early the next day the raft was finished. The captain had given
his entire attention to its construction. They needed a steady and
manageable craft, and one capable of resisting the waves for a voyage
of nine miles. The masts of the brig could alone furnish the necessary
materials.

The raft was at length completed. It could doubtless sustain the shock
of the surges; but could it be steered, and the coast be reached, if
the wind should veer? This was a question only to be decided by trial.

At nine o'clock the loading began. The provisions were first put on
board in sufficient quantities to last until the arrival at Auckland,
for there could be no reliance upon the products of this dreaded
country. Olbinett furnished some preserved meats, the remains of the
Macquarie's supplies. There was very little, however; and they were
forced to depend upon the coarse fare of the mess, which consisted of
very inferior ship-biscuits and two barrels of salt fish, greatly to
the steward's regret.

These stores were inclosed in sealed cans and then secured to the foot
of the mast. The arms and ammunition were put in a safe and dry place.
Fortunately, the travelers were well supplied with rifles and revolvers.

A small anchor was taken on board, in case they should reach the shore
at low tide and be forced to anchor in the offing. Flood-tide soon
began, the breeze blew gently from the northwest, and a slight swell
agitated the surface of the sea.

"Are we ready?" asked Captain Mangles.

"All is ready, captain," replied Wilson.

"Aboard, then!"

Lady Helena and Mary Grant descended the ship's side by a clumsy
rope-ladder, and took their seats at the foot of the mast near the
cases of provisions, their companions around them. Wilson took the
helm, the captain stationed himself at the sail-tackling, and Mulready
cut the cable that confined the raft to the brig. The sail was spread,
and they began to move towards the shore under the combined influence
of wind and tide.

The coast was only nine miles distant,--not a difficult voyage for a
well-manned boat; but with the raft it was necessary to advance slowly.
If the wind held out, they might perhaps reach land with this tide; but
if there should be a calm, the ebb would carry them back, or they would
be compelled to anchor and wait for the next tide.

However, Captain Mangles hoped to succeed. The wind freshened. As it
had been flood now for some hours, they must either reach land soon, or
anchor.

Fortune favored them. Gradually the black points of the rocks and
the yellow sand of the bars disappeared beneath the waves; but great
attention and extreme skill became necessary, in this dangerous
neighborhood, to guide their unwieldy craft.

They were still five miles from shore. A clear sky enabled them to
distinguish the principal features of the country. To the northeast
rose a lofty mountain, whose outline was defined against the horizon in
a very singular resemblance to the grinning profile of a monkey.

Paganel soon observed that all the sand-bars had disappeared.

"Except one," replied Lady Helena.

"Where?" asked Paganel.

"There," said Lady Helena, pointing to a black speck a mile ahead.

"That is true," answered Paganel. "Let us try to determine its
position, that we may not run upon it when the tide covers it."

[Illustration: The yawl was drawn alongside.]

"It is exactly at the northern projection of the mountain," said
Captain Mangles. "Wilson, bear away towards the offing."

"Yes, captain," replied the sailor, bearing with all his weight upon
the steering oar.

They approached nearer; but, strange to say, the black point still
rose above the water. The captain gazed at it attentively, and, to see
better, employed Paganel's telescope.

"It is not a rock," said he, after a moment's examination; "it is a
floating object, that rises and falls with the swell."

"Is it not a piece of the Macquarie's mast?" asked Lady Helena.

"No," replied Glenarvan; "no fragment could have drifted so far from
the ship."

"Wait!" cried Captain Mangles. "I recognize it. It is the boat."

"The brig's boat?" said Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord, the brig's boat, bottom upwards."

"The unfortunate sailors!" exclaimed Lady Helena, "they have perished!"

"Yes, madam," continued the captain; "and they might have foreseen
it; for in the midst of these breakers, on a stormy sea, and in such
profound darkness, they fled to certain death."

"May Heaven have pity on them!" murmured Mary Grant.

For a few moments the passengers were silent. They gazed at this frail
bark towards which they drew nearer and nearer. It had evidently
capsized a considerable distance from land, and of those who embarked
in it probably not one had survived.

"But this boat may be useful," said Glenarvan.

"Certainly," replied Captain Mangles. "Come about, Wilson."

[Sidenote: REALITIES AND FANCIES.]

The direction of the raft was changed, but the wind subsided gradually,
and it cost them much time to reach the boat. Mulready, standing at the
bow, warded off the shock, and the yawl was drawn alongside.

"Empty?" asked Captain Mangles.

"Yes, captain," replied the sailor, "the boat is empty, and her seams
have started open. She is of no use to us."

"Can we not save any part?" asked MacNabb.

"No," answered the captain. "She is only fit to burn."

"I am sorry," said Paganel, "for the yawl might have taken us to
Auckland."

"We must be resigned, Mr. Paganel," rejoined the captain. "Moreover, on
such a rough sea, I prefer our raft to that frail conveyance. A slight
shock would dash it in pieces! Therefore, my lord, we have nothing more
to stay here for."

"As you wish, John," said Glenarvan.

"Forward, Wilson," continued the young captain, "straight for the
coast!"

The tide would yet flow for about an hour, and in this time they could
accomplish a considerable distance. But soon the breeze subsided almost
entirely, and the raft was motionless. Soon it even began to drift
towards the open sea under the influence of the ebb.

The captain did not hesitate a moment.

"Anchor!" cried he.

Mulready, who was in an instant ready to execute this order, let fall
the anchor, and the raft drifted till the cable was taut. The sail was
reefed, and arrangements were made for a long detention. Indeed, the
tide would not turn till late in the evening; and, as they did not care
to sail in the dark, they anchored for the night in sight of land.

Quite a heavy swell agitated the surface of the water, and seemed to
set steadily towards the shore. Glenarvan, therefore, when he learned
that the whole night would be passed on board, asked why they did not
take advantage of this current to approach the coast.

[Illustration: Night approached. Already the sun's disk was
disappearing beneath the horizon.]

[Illustration: The ladies were carried in their companions' arms, and
reached the shore without wetting a single fold of their garments.]

"My lord," replied the young captain, "is deceived by an optical
illusion. The apparent onward movement is only an oscillation of the
water, nothing more. Throw a piece of wood into the water, and you will
see that it will remain stationary, so long as the ebb is not felt. We
must therefore have patience."

"And dinner," added the major.

Olbinett took out of a case of provisions some pieces of dried meat and
a dozen biscuits, though reluctant to offer such meagre fare. It was
accepted, however, with good grace, even by the ladies, whose appetites
the fresh sea air greatly improved.

Night approached. Already the sun's disk, glowing with crimson, was
disappearing beneath the horizon; and the waters glistened and sparkled
like sheets of liquid silver under his last rays. Nothing could be
seen but sky and water, except one sharply-defined object, the hull of
the Macquarie, motionless on the reefs. The short twilight was rapidly
followed by the darkness, and soon the land that bounded the horizon
some miles away was lost in the gloom. In this perplexing situation
these shipwrecked people lapsed into an uneasy and distressing
drowsiness, and as the result at daybreak all were more exhausted than
refreshed.

With the turn of the tide the wind rose. It was six o'clock in the
morning, and time was precious. Preparations were made for getting
under way, and the order was given to weigh anchor; but the flukes,
by the strain of the cable, were so deeply imbedded in the sand that
without the windlass even the tackling that Wilson arranged could not
draw them out.

[Sidenote: TERRA-FIRMA ONCE MORE.]

Half an hour passed in useless efforts. The captain, impatient to set
sail, cut the cable, and thus took away all possibility of anchoring,
in case the tide should not enable them to reach the shore. The sail
was unfurled, and they drifted slowly towards the land that rose in
grayish masses against the background of the sky, illumined by the
rising sun. The reefs were skillfully avoided, but, with the unsteady
breeze, they did not seem to draw nearer the shore.

At last, however, land was less than a mile distant, craggy with rocks
and very precipitous. It was necessary to find a practicable landing.
The wind now moderated and soon subsided entirely, the sail flapping
idly against the mast. The tide alone moved the raft; but they had to
give up steering, and masses of sea-weed retarded their progress.

After awhile they gradually became stationary three cable-lengths from
shore. But they had no anchor, and would they not be carried out to
sea again by the ebb? With eager glance and anxious heart the captain
looked towards the inaccessible shore.

Just at this moment a shock was felt. The raft stopped. They had
stranded on a sand-bar, not far from the coast. Glenarvan, Robert,
Wilson, and Mulready leaped into the water, and moored their bark
firmly with cables on the adjoining reefs. The ladies were carried in
their companions' arms, and reached the shore without wetting a single
fold of their garments; and soon all, with arms and provisions, had set
foot on the inhospitable shores of New Zealand.

Glenarvan, without losing an hour, would have followed the coast to
Auckland; but since early morning the sky had been heavy with clouds,
which, towards noon, descended in torrents of rain. Hence it was
impossible to start on their journey, and advisable to seek a shelter.

[Illustration: While the fire served to dry their garments conversation
beguiled the hours, as they lay or stood at ease.]

Wilson discovered, fortunately, a cavern, hollowed out by the sea in
the basaltic rocks of the shore, and here the travelers took refuge
with their arms and provisions. There was an abundance of dry sea-weed,
lately cast up by the waves. This formed a soft couch, of which they
availed themselves. Several pieces of wood were piled up at the
entrance and then kindled; and while the fire served to dry their
garments conversation beguiled the hours, as they lay or stood at ease.

[Illustration: Louper, with difficulty, managed to support himself on
one of them.]

[Sidenote: SEALS AND SIRENS.]

Paganel, as usual, upon being appealed to, could tell them of the
rise, extension, and consolidation of the British power upon the
island; he informed them of the beginnings--and, to his belief, of
the causes--of the strife which for years decimated the aborigines,
and was very injurious to the colonists who had emigrated; then, in
reply to Robert's questions, he went on to speak of those who on a
narrower theatre had emulated by their heroism and patience the deeds
of the world's great travelers and scientific explorers. He told them
of Witcombe and Charlton Howitt, men known in their own circles and
in connection with their own branch of the New Zealand government.
At still greater length he detailed the adventures of Jacob Louper,
who was the companion of Witcombe, and had gone as his assistant
to discover a practicable route over the mountains in the north of
the province of Canterbury. In those mountain wilds, which even the
islanders rarely traverse, these two Europeans suffered greatly, but
still worse was their fate when they descended to the water-level and
essayed to cross the Taramakau near its mouth. Jacob Louper at length
found two old and almost useless canoes, and by attaching the one to
the other they hoped to accomplish the passage safely. Before they
had reached the middle of the rapid current, however, both the tubs
capsized. Louper, with difficulty, managed to support himself on one
of them, and by clinging to it was at length carried to the river's
bank, which his companion also reached; but when after a period of
insensibility Louper returned to consciousness and found the body of
Witcombe, it was lifeless. Though terribly bruised and still bleeding
from his wounds, Louper hollowed a grave for the remains, and then,
after many more days of privation and danger, came to the huts of some
of the Maoris, by whose assistance he at length reached the settled
parts of the colony.

These facts and reminiscences, it must be confessed, were not of the
most inspiriting character; but they were in the same key as most of
Paganel's disquisitions and information concerning these islands, and
they were before a late hour exchanged for peaceful though probably
dreamy slumbers, by his hearers.

Early the next morning the signal for departure was given. The rain had
ceased during the night, and the sky was covered with grayish clouds,
which intercepted the rays of the sun, so that the temperature thus
moderated enabled them to endure the fatigues of the journey.

By consulting the map, Paganel had calculated that they would have to
travel eight days. But, instead of following the windings of the coast,
he considered it best to proceed to the village of Ngarnavahia, at the
junction of the Waikato and Waipa rivers. Here the overland mail-road
passed, and it would thence be easy to reach Drury, and rest, after
their hardships, in a comfortable hotel.

But before they left the shore their attention was drawn to the large
number of seals, of a peculiar appearance and genus, which lay on the
broad sands daily washed by the tidal water. These seals, with their
rounded heads, their upturned look, their expressive eyes, presented an
appearance, almost a physiognomy, that was mild and wellnigh tender,
and served to recall to the traveler's memory the tales about the
sirens of the olden and modern times, who served as the enchantresses
to just such inhospitable shores as that seemed on which they had
themselves been cast. These animals, which are very numerous on the
coast of New Zealand, are hunted and killed for the sake of their
oil and their skins, and Paganel was of course able to tell how much
within the last few years they had been searched for by the traders and
navigators on these seas.

[Illustration: These seals, with rounded heads, upturned look,
expressive eyes, presented an appearance, almost a physiognomy, that
was mild and wellnigh tender.]

[Illustration: The New Zealand "kiwi," known to naturalists as the
apteryx.]

Whilst speaking of these matters, Robert drew Paganel's attention to
some curious amphibious creatures, resembling the seals, but larger,
which were devouring with rapidity the large stones lying on the shore.

"Look," said he, "here are seals which feed on pebbles."

Paganel assured them that these sea-elephants were only weighting
themselves preparatory to their descent into the water, and protested
that if they would but wait for a time they might see them descend and
subsequently return when they had unloaded themselves. The first part
of this programme they saw accomplished; but, greatly to Paganel's
grief, Glenarvan would not longer delay the party, and they soon began
to see inland beauties and curiosities of another sort.

The district through which they had to walk this day and the next was
one very thick with brush and under-wood, and there was no possibility
of horse or vehicle passing or meeting them. They now regretted the
absence of their Australian cart, for the height and frequency of
the large ferns in the neighborhood prevented their making any rapid
progress on foot.

[Sidenote: THE LAST STAGE OF PERIPATETICS.]

Here and there, however, Robert and Paganel would rejoice together
over some choice bush or bird that they had met with. Notable among
the latter was the New Zealand "kiwi," known to naturalists as the
apteryx, and which is becoming very scarce, from the pursuit of its
many enemies. Robert discovered in a nest on the ground a couple of
these birds without tails or wings, but with four toes on the foot, and
a long beak or bill like that of a woodcock, and small white feathers
all over its body. Of this bird there was then an entire absence in the
zoological collections of Europe, and Paganel indulged the hope that he
might be able to be the proud contributor of such a valuable specimen
to the "Jardin" of his own city. For the present, at least, the
realization of his hopes had to be deferred; and at length, after some
days of weariness and continued travel, the party reached the banks
of the Waipa. The country was deserted. There was no sign of natives,
no path that would indicate the presence of man in these regions. The
waters of the river flowed between tall bushes, or glided over sandy
shallows, while the range of vision extended to the hills that inclosed
the valley on the east.

At four o'clock in the afternoon nine miles had been valiantly
accomplished. According to the map, which Paganel continually
consulted, the junction of the Waikato and Waipa could not be more
than five miles distant. The road to Auckland passed this point, and
there they would encamp for the night. As for the fifty miles that
would still separate them from the capital, two or three days would
be sufficient for this, and even eight hours, if they should meet the
mail-coach.

"Then," said Glenarvan, "we shall be compelled to encamp again
to-night."

"Yes," replied Paganel; "but, as I hope, for the last time."

"So much the better; for these are severe hardships for Lady Helena and
Mary Grant."

"And they endure them heroically," added Captain Mangles. "But, if I am
not mistaken, Mr. Paganel, you have spoken of a village situated at the
junction of the two rivers."

"Yes," answered the geographer; "here it is on the map. It is
Ngarnavahia, about two miles below the junction."

"Well, could we not lodge there for the night? Lady Helena and Miss
Grant would not hesitate to go two miles farther, if they could find a
tolerable hotel."

"A hotel!" cried Paganel. "A hotel in a Maori village! There is not
even a tavern. This village is only a collection of native huts;
and, far from seeking shelter there, my advice is to avoid it most
carefully."

"Always your fears, Paganel!" said Glenarvan.

"My dear lord, distrust is better than confidence among the Maoris. I
do not know upon what terms they are with the English. Now, timidity
aside, such as ourselves would be fine prizes, and I dislike to try New
Zealand hospitality. I therefore think it wise to avoid this village,
and likewise any meeting with the natives. Once at Drury, it will be
different, and there our courageous ladies can refresh themselves at
their ease for the fatigues of their journey."

The geographer's opinion prevailed. Lady Helena preferred to pass
the last night in the open air rather than to expose her companions.
Neither she nor Mary Grant required a halt, and they therefore
continued to follow the banks of the river.

Two hours after, the first shadows of evening began to descend the
mountains. The sun before disappearing below the western horizon had
glinted a few rays through a rift in the clouds. The eastern peaks were
crimsoned with the last beams of day.

Glenarvan and his friends hastened their pace. They knew the shortness
of the twilight in this latitude, and how quickly night sets in. It
was important to reach the junction of the two rivers before it became
dark. But a dense fog rose from the earth, and made it very difficult
to distinguish the way.

Fortunately, hearing availed in place of sight. Soon a distinct murmur
of the waters indicated the union of the two streams in a common bed,
and not long after the little party arrived at the point where the
Waipa mingles with the Waikato in resounding cascades.

"Here is the Waikato," cried Paganel, "and the road to Auckland runs
along its right bank."

"We shall see to-morrow," replied the major. "Let us encamp here. It
seems to me as if those deeper shadows yonder proceeded from a little
thicket of trees that has grown here expressly to shelter us. Let us
eat and sleep."

[Sidenote: A TRANSFORMATION SCENE.]

"Eat," said Paganel, "but of biscuits and dried meat, without kindling
a fire. We have arrived here unseen; let us try to go away in the same
manner. Fortunately, this fog will render us invisible."

The group of trees was reached, and each conformed to the geographer's
rigorous regulations. The cold supper was noiselessly eaten, and soon a
profound sleep overcame the weary travelers.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

INTRODUCTION TO THE CANNIBALS.


The next morning at break of day a dense fog was spreading heavily over
the river, but the rays of the sun were not long in piercing the mist,
which rapidly disappeared under the influence of the radiant orb. The
banks of the stream were released from their shroud, and the course of
the Waikato appeared in all its morning beauty.

A narrow tongue of land bristling with shrubbery ran out to a point
at the junction of the two rivers. The waters of the Waipa, which
flowed more swiftly, drove back those of the Waikato for a quarter of a
mile before they mingled; but the calm power of the one soon overcame
the boisterous impetuosity of the other, and both glided peacefully
together to the broad bosom of the Pacific.

As the mist rose, a boat might have been seen ascending the Waikato. It
was a canoe seventy feet long and five broad. The lofty prow resembled
that of a Venetian gondola, and the whole had been fashioned out of the
trunk of a pine. A bed of dry fern covered the bottom. Eight oars at
the bow propelled it up the river, while a man at the stern guided it
by means of a movable paddle.

This man was a native, of tall form, about forty-five years old, with
broad breast and powerful limbs. His protruding and deeply furrowed
brow, his fierce look and his sinister countenance, showed him to be a
formidable individual.

He was a Maori chief of high rank, as could be seen by the delicate
and compact tattooing that striped his face and body. Two black
spirals, starting from the nostrils of his aquiline nose, circled his
tawny eyes, met on his forehead, and were lost in his abundant hair.
His mouth, with its shining teeth, and his chin, were hidden beneath
a net-work of varied colors, while graceful lines wound down to his
sinewy breast.

There was no doubt as to his rank. The sharp albatross bone, used
by Maori tattooers, had furrowed his face five times, in close and
deep lines. That he had reached his fifth promotion was evident from
his haughty bearing. A large flaxen mat, ornamented with dog-skins,
enveloped his person; while a girdle, bloody with his recent conflicts,
encircled his waist. From his ears dangled ear-rings of green jade, and
around his neck hung necklaces of "pounamous," sacred stones to which
the New Zealanders attribute miraculous properties. At his side lay a
gun of English manufacture, and a "patou-patou," a kind of double-edged
hatchet.

Near him nine warriors, of lower rank, armed and of ferocious aspect,
some still suffering from recent wounds, stood in perfect immobility,
enveloped in their flaxen mantles. Three dogs of wild appearance were
stretched at their feet. The eight rowers seemed to be servants or
slaves of the chief. They worked vigorously, and the boat ascended the
current of the Waikato with remarkable swiftness.

In the centre of this long canoe, with feet tied, but hands free, were
ten European prisoners clinging closely to each other. They were Lord
Glenarvan and his companions.

[Sidenote: A TESTING TIME.]

The evening before, the little party, led astray by the dense fog, had
encamped in the midst of a numerous tribe of natives. About midnight,
the travelers, surprised in their sleep, were made prisoners and
carried on board the canoe. They had not yet been maltreated, but had
tried in vain to resist. Their arms and ammunition were in the hands of
the savages, and their own bullets would have quickly stretched them on
the earth had they attempted to escape.

They were not long in learning, by the aid of a few English words which
the natives used, that, being driven back by the British troops, they
were returning, vanquished and weakened, to the regions of the upper
Waikato. Their chief, after an obstinate resistance, in which he lost
his principal warriors, was now on his way to rouse again the river
tribes. He was called Kai-Koumou, a terrible name, which signified
in the native language "he who eats the limbs of his enemy." He was
brave and bold, but his cruelty equaled his bravery. No pity could be
expected from him. His name was well known to the English soldiers, and
a price had been set upon his head by the governor of New Zealand.

This terrible catastrophe had come upon Glenarvan just as he was
about reaching the long-desired harbor of Auckland, whence he would
have returned to his native country. Yet, looking at his calm and
passionless countenance, you could not have divined the depth of his
anguish, for in his present critical situation he did not betray the
extent of his misfortunes. He felt that he ought to set an example of
fortitude to his wife and his companions, as being the husband and
chief. Moreover, he was ready to die first for the common safety, if
circumstances should require it.

[Sidenote: CHIEFS, CIVILIZED AND UNCIVILIZED.]

His companions were worthy of him; they shared his noble thoughts, and
their calm and haughty appearance would scarcely have intimated that
they were being carried away to captivity and suffering. By common
consent, at Glenarvan's suggestion, they had resolved to feign a proud
indifference in the presence of the savages. It was the only way of
influencing those fierce natures.

[Illustration: A boat might have been seen ascending the Waikato. It
was a canoe seventy feet long and five broad.]

Since leaving the encampment, the natives, taciturn like all savages,
had scarcely spoken to each other. However, from a few words exchanged,
Glenarvan perceived that they were acquainted with the English
language. He therefore resolved to question the chief in regard to the
fate that was in store for them. Addressing Kai-Koumou, he said, in a
fearless tone:

"Where are you taking us, chief?"

Kai-Koumou gazed at him coldly without answering.

"Say, what do you expect to do with us?" continued Glenarvan.

The chief's eyes blazed with a sudden light, and in a stern voice he
replied:

"To exchange you, if your friends will ransom you; to kill you, if they
refuse."

Glenarvan asked no more, but hope returned to his heart. Doubtless,
some chiefs of the Maori tribe had fallen into the hands of the
English, and the natives would attempt to recover them by way of
exchange; their situation, therefore, was not one for despair.

Meantime the canoe rapidly ascended the river. Paganel, whose
changeable disposition carried him from one extreme to another, had
regained his hopefulness. He believed that the Maoris were sparing them
the fatigue of their journey to the English settlements, and that they
were certain to arrive at their destination. He was, therefore, quite
resigned to his lot, and traced on his map the course of the Waikato
across the plains and valleys of the province. Lady Helena and Mary
Grant, suppressing their terror, conversed in low tones with Glenarvan,
and the most skillful physiognomist could not have detected on their
faces the anxiety of their hearts.

The Waikato River is worshiped by the natives, as Paganel knew, and
English and German naturalists have never ascended beyond its junction
with the Waipa. Whither did Kai-Koumou intend to take his captives?
The geographer could not have guessed if the word "Taupo," frequently
repeated, had not attracted his attention. By consulting his map,
he saw that this name was applied to a celebrated lake in the most
mountainous part of the island, and that from it the Waikato flows.

Paganel, addressing Captain Mangles in French, so as not to be
understood by the savages, asked him how fast the canoe was going. The
captain thought about three miles an hour.

"Then," replied the geographer, "if we do not travel during the night,
our voyage to the lake will last about four days."

"But whereabouts are the English garrisons?" asked Glenarvan.

"It is difficult to say," replied Paganel. "At all events, the war
must have reached the province of Taranaki, and probably the troops
are collected beyond the mountains, on the side of the lake where the
habitations of the savages are concentrated."

"God grant it!" said Lady Helena.

Glenarvan cast a sorrowful glance at his young wife and Mary Grant,
exposed to the mercy of these fierce natives, and captives in a wild
country, far from all human assistance. But he saw that he was watched
by Kai-Koumou, and, not wishing to show that one of the captives was
his wife, he prudently kept his thoughts to himself, and gazed at the
banks of the river with apparent indifference.

[Sidenote: ACCESSIONS, AND PROGRESS.]

The sun was just sinking below the horizon as the canoe ran upon a bank
of pumice-stones, which the Waikato carries with it from its source
in the volcanic mountains. Several trees grew here, as if designed to
shelter an encampment. Kai-Koumou landed his prisoners.

The men had their hands tied, the ladies were free. All were placed
in the centre of the encampment, around which large fires formed an
impassable barrier.

Before Kai-Koumou had informed his captives of his intention to
exchange them, Glenarvan and Captain Mangles had discussed various
methods of recovering their liberty. What they could not venture in the
boat they hoped to attempt on land, at the hour for encamping, under
cover of the night.

But since Glenarvan's conversation with the chief, it seemed wise to
abandon this design. They must be patient. It was the most prudent
plan. The exchange offered chances that neither an open attack nor a
flight across these unknown regions could afford. Many circumstances
might indeed arise that would delay, and even prevent, such a
transaction; but still it was better to await the result. What,
moreover, could ten defenceless men do against thirty well-armed
savages? Besides, Glenarvan thought it likely that Kai-Koumou's tribe
had lost some chief of high rank whom they were particularly anxious to
recover; and he was not mistaken.

The next day the canoe ascended the river with increased swiftness.
It stopped for a moment at the junction of a small river which wound
across the plains on the right bank. Here another canoe, with ten
natives on board, joined Kai-Koumou. The warriors merely exchanged
salutations, and then continued their course. The new-comers had
recently fought against the English troops, as could be seen by their
tattered garments, their gory weapons, and the wounds that still bled
beneath their rags. They were gloomy and taciturn, and, with the
indifference common to all savage races, paid no attention to the
captives.

Towards evening Kai-Koumou landed at the foot of the mountains,
whose nearer ridges reached precipitously to the river-bank. Here
twenty natives, who had disembarked from their canoes, were making
preparations for the night. Fires blazed beneath the trees. A chief,
equal in rank to Kai-Koumou, advanced with measured pace, and, rubbing
his nose against that of the latter, saluted him cordially. The
prisoners were stationed in the centre of the encampment, and guarded
with extreme vigilance.

The next morning the ascent of the Waikato was resumed. Other boats
came from various affluents of the river. Sixty warriors, evidently
fugitives from the last insurrection, had now assembled, and were
returning, more or less wounded in the fray, to the mountain districts.
Sometimes a song arose from the canoes, as they advanced in single
file. One native struck up the patriotic ode of the mysterious "Pihé,"
the national hymn that calls the Maoris to battle. The full and
sonorous voice of the singer waked the echoes of the mountains; and
after each stanza his comrades struck their breasts, and sang the
warlike verses in chorus. Then they seized their oars again, and the
canoes were headed up stream.

During the day a singular sight enlivened the voyage. About four
o'clock the canoe, without lessening its speed, guided by the steady
hand of the chief, dashed through a narrow gorge. Eddies broke
violently against numerous small islands, which rendered navigation
exceeding dangerous. Never could it be more hazardous to capsize, for
the banks afforded no refuge, and whoever had set foot on the porous
crust of the shore would probably have perished. At this point the
river flowed between warm springs, oxide of iron colored the muddy
ground a brilliant red, and not a yard of firm earth could be seen.
The air was heavy with a penetrating sulphureous odor. The natives did
not regard it, but the captives were seriously annoyed by the noxious
vapors exhaled from the fissures of the soil and the bubbles that
burst and discharged their gaseous contents. Yet, however disagreeable
these emanations were, the eye could not but admire this magnificent
spectacle.

[Illustration: At this point the river flowed between warm springs, and
not a yard of firm earth could be seen.]

The canoes soon after entered a dense cloud of white smoke, whose
wreaths rose in gradually decreasing circles above the river. On the
shores a hundred geysers, some shooting forth masses of vapor, and
others overflowing in liquid columns, varied their effects, like the
jets and cascades of a fountain. It seemed as though some engineer was
directing at his pleasure the outflowings of these springs, as the
waters and vapor, mingling in the air, formed rainbows in the sunbeams.

For two miles the canoes glided within this vapory atmosphere,
enveloped in its warm waves that rolled along the surface of the water.
Then the sulphureous smoke disappeared, and a pure swift current of
fresh air refreshed the panting voyagers. The region of the springs was
passed. Before the close of the day two more rapids were ascended, and
at evening Kai-Koumou encamped a hundred miles above the junction of
the two streams. The river now turned towards the east, and then again
flowed southward into Lake Taupo.

The next morning Jacques Paganel consulted his map and discovered
on the right bank Mount Taubara, which rises to the height of three
thousand feet. At noon the whole fleet of boats entered Lake Taupo, and
the natives hailed with frantic gestures a shred of cloth that waved in
the wind from the roof of a hut. It was the national flag.



CHAPTER XLIX.

A MOMENTOUS INTERVIEW.


[Sidenote: NEW ZEALAND TOPOGRAPHY.]

Long before historic times, an abyss, twenty-five miles long and
twenty wide, must at some period have been formed by a subsidence of
subterranean caverns in the volcanic district forming the centre of
the island. The waters of the surrounding country have rushed down and
filled this enormous cavity, and the abyss has become a lake, whose
depth no one has yet been able to measure.

Such is this strange Lake Taupo, elevated eleven hundred and fifty
feet above the level of the sea, and surrounded by lofty mountains. On
the west of the prisoners towered precipitous rocks of imposing form;
on the north rose several distant ridges, crowned with small forests;
on the east spread a broad plain furrowed by a trail and covered with
pumice-stones that glittered beneath a net-work of bushes; and on
the north, behind a stretch of woodland, volcanic peaks majestically
encircled this vast extent of water, the fury of whose tempests equaled
that of the ocean cyclones.

But Paganel was scarcely disposed to enlarge his account of these
wonders, nor were his friends in a mood to listen. They gazed in
silence towards the northeast shore of the lake, whither the canoe was
bringing them.

The mission established at Pukawa, on the western shores, no longer
existed. The missionary had been driven by the war far from the
principal dwellings of the insurrectionists. The prisoners were
helpless, abandoned to the mercy of the vengeful Maoris, and in that
wild part of the island to which Christianity has never penetrated.
Kai-Koumou, leaving the waters of the Waikato, passed through the
little creek which served as an outlet to the river, doubled a sharp
promontory, and landed on the eastern border of the lake, at the base
of the first slopes of Mount Manga.

A quarter of a mile distant, on a buttress of the mountain, appeared
a "pah," a Maori fortification, situated in an impregnable position.
The prisoners were taken ashore, with their hands and feet free, and
conducted thither by the warriors. After quite a long détour, Glenarvan
and his companions reached the pah.

[Illustration: At noon the whole fleet of boats entered Lake Taupo.]

[Illustration: On their arrival, the captives were terribly impressed
at sight of the heads that ornamented the stakes of the second
inclosure.]

This fortress was defended by an outer rampart of strong palisades,
fifteen feet high. A second line of stakes, and then a fence of osiers,
pierced with loop-holes, inclosed the inner space, the court-yard of
the pah, in which stood several Maori tents, and forty huts which were
symmetrically arranged.

On their arrival, the captives were terribly impressed at sight of
the heads that ornamented the stakes of the second inclosure. Lady
Helena and Mary Grant turned away their eyes with more of disgust than
terror. These heads had most of them belonged to hostile chiefs, fallen
in battle, whose bodies had served as food for the conquerors. The
geographer knew them to be such by their hollow and eyeless sockets!

In Kai-Koumou's pah only the heads of his enemies formed this frightful
museum; and here, doubtless, more than one English skull had served to
increase the size of the chief's collection.

His hut, among those belonging to warriors of lower rank, stood at the
rear of the pah, in front of a large open terrace. This structure was
built of stakes, interlaced with branches, and lined inside with flax
matting.

Only one opening gave access to the dwelling. A thick curtain, made
of a vegetable tissue, served as a door. The roof projected so as to
form a water-shed. Several faces, carved at the ends of the rafters,
adorned the hut, and the curtain was covered with various imitations
of foliage, symbolical figures, monsters, and graceful sculpturing,
a curious piece of work, fashioned by the scissors of the native
decorators.

[Sidenote: FEMININE ORATORY.]

Inside of the habitation the floor was made of hard-trodden earth,
and raised six inches above the ground. Several rush screens and some
mattresses, covered with woven matting of long leaves and twigs,
served as beds. In the middle of the room a hole in a stone formed the
fireplace, and another in the roof answered for a chimney.

The smoke, when it became sufficiently thick, perforce escaped at this
outlet, but it of course blackened the walls of the house.

On one side of the hut were storehouses, containing the chief's
provisions, his harvest of flax, potatoes, and edible ferns, and
the ovens where the various articles of food were cooked by contact
with heated stones. Farther off, in small pens, pigs and goats were
confined, and dogs ran about seeking their scanty sustenance. They were
rather poorly kept, for animals that formed the Maori daily food.

Glenarvan and his companions had taken in the whole at a glance. They
awaited beside an empty hut the good pleasure of the chief, exposed to
the insults of a crowd of old women, who surrounded them like harpies,
and threatened them with their fists, crying and howling. Several
English words that passed their lips clearly indicated that they were
demanding immediate vengeance.

In the midst of these cries and threats, Lady Helena affected a
calmness that she could not feel in her heart. This courageous woman,
in order that her husband's coolness might not forsake him, heroically
controlled her emotions. Poor Mary Grant felt herself growing weak, and
Captain Mangles supported her, ready to die in her defence. The others
endured this torrent of invectives in various ways, either indifferent
like the major, or increasingly annoyed like Paganel.

Glenarvan, wishing to relieve Lady Helena from the assaults of these
shrews, boldly approached Kai-Koumou, and, pointing to the hideous
throng, said:

"Drive them away!"

The Maori chief gazed steadily at his prisoner without replying. Then
with a gesture he silenced the noisy horde. Glenarvan bowed in token of
thanks, and slowly resumed his place among his friends.

Kai-Koumou, fearing an insurrection of the fanatics of his tribe, now
led his captives to a sacred place, situated at the other end of the
pah, on the edge of a precipice. This hut rested against a rock that
rose a hundred feet above it and was a steep boundary to this side of
the fortification. In this consecrated temple the priests, or "arikis,"
instruct the New Zealanders. The building was spacious and tightly
closed, and contained the holy and chosen food of the god.

Here the prisoners, temporarily sheltered from the fury of the natives,
stretched themselves on the flax mats. Lady Helena, her strength
exhausted and her energy overcome, sank into her husband's arms.
Glenarvan pressed her to his breast, and said:

"Courage, my dear Helena; Heaven will not forsake us!"

Robert was scarcely within the hut before he climbed on Wilson's
shoulders, and succeeded in thrusting his head through an opening
between the roof and the wall, where strings of pipes were hanging.
From this point his view commanded the whole extent of the pah, as far
as Kai-Koumou's hut.

"They have gathered around the chief," said he, in a low voice. "They
are waving their arms, and howling. Kai-Koumou is going to speak."

The boy was silent for a few moments, then continued:

"Kai-Koumou is speaking. The savages grow calm; they listen."

"This chief," said the major, "has evidently a personal interest in
protecting us. He wishes to exchange his prisoners for some chiefs of
his tribe. But will his warriors consent?"

"Yes, they are listening to him," continued Robert. "They are
dispersing; some return to their huts,--others leave the fortification."

"Is it really so?" cried the major.

"Yes, Mr. MacNabb," replied Robert. "Kai-Koumou remains alone with the
warriors that were in the canoe. Ha! one of them is coming towards us!"

[Illustration: Robert was scarcely within the hut before he climbed
on Wilson's shoulders, and succeeded in thrusting his head through an
opening.]

"Get down, Robert," said Glenarvan.

At this moment Lady Helena, who had risen, seized her husband's arm.

"Edward," said she, in a firm voice, "neither Mary Grant nor I shall
fall alive into the hands of those savages!"

And, so saying, she presented to her husband a loaded revolver.

"A weapon!" exclaimed Glenarvan, whose eyes suddenly brightened.

"Yes. The Maoris do not search their female prisoners; but this weapon
is for us, Edward, not for them."

"Glenarvan," said MacNabb quickly, "hide the revolver. It is not time
yet."

The weapon was immediately concealed in his clothes. The mat that
closed the entrance of the hut was raised. A native appeared. He made a
sign to the captives to follow him. Glenarvan and his companions passed
through the pah, and stopped before Kai-Koumou.

Around him were assembled the principal warriors of his tribe, among
whom was seen the chief whose canoe had first joined Kai-Koumou on the
river. He was a man of about forty, robust, and of fierce and cruel
aspect. His name was Kara-Tété, which means in the native language
"The Irascible." Kai-Koumou treated him with some respect, and from
the delicacy of his tattooing it was evident that he occupied a high
rank in his tribe. An observer, however, would have detected a rivalry
between the two chiefs. The major, indeed, perceived that Kara-Tété's
influence surpassed that of Kai-Koumou. They both ruled the powerful
tribes of the Waikato with equal rank; and, during this interview,
although Kai-Koumou smiled, his eyes betrayed a deep hostility.

He now questioned Glenarvan.

"You are English?" said he.

"Yes," replied Glenarvan, without hesitation, for this nationality
would probably facilitate an exchange.

[Sidenote: THE RATE OF BARTER.]

"And your companions?" asked Kai-Koumou.

"My companions are also English. We are shipwrecked travelers, and, if
you care to know, we have taken no part in the war."

"No matter," replied Kara-Tété, brutally. "Every Englishman is our
enemy. Your people have invaded our island. They have stolen away our
fields; they have burned our villages."

"They have done wrong," said Glenarvan, in a grave tone. "I say so
because I think so, and not because I am in your power."

"Listen," continued Kai-Koumou. "Tohonga, the high-priest of
Nouï-Atoua, has fallen into the hands of your brothers. He is prisoner
of the Pakekas (Europeans). Our god commands us to ransom his life.
I would have torn out your heart, I would have hung your companions'
heads and yours forever to the stakes of this palisade. But Nouï-Atoua
has spoken."

So saying, Kai-Koumou, who had hitherto controlled himself, trembled
with rage, and his countenance was flushed with a fierce exultation.
Then, after a few moments, he resumed, more coolly:

"Do you think the English will give us our Tohonga in exchange for you?"

Glenarvan hesitated, and watched the Maori chief very attentively.

"I do not know," said he, after a moment's silence.

"Speak," continued Kai-Koumou. "Is your life worth that of our Tohonga?"

"No," answered Glenarvan. "I am neither a chief nor a priest among my
people."

Paganel was astounded at this reply, and gazed at Glenarvan in profound
wonder. Kai-Koumou seemed equally surprised.

"Then you doubt it?" said he.

"I do not know," repeated Glenarvan.

"Will not your people accept you in exchange for our Tohonga?"

"Not me alone," replied Glenarvan; "but perhaps all of us."

"Among the Maoris," said Kai-Koumou, "it is one for one."

"Offer these ladies first in exchange for your priest," answered
Glenarvan, pointing to Lady Helena and Mary Grant. Lady Helena would
have rushed towards her husband, but the major restrained her.

"These two ladies," continued Glenarvan, turning respectfully towards
them, "hold a high rank in their country."

The warrior glanced coldly at his prisoner. A malicious smile passed
over his face; but he almost instantly repressed it, and replied, in a
voice which he could scarcely control:

"Do you hope, then, to deceive Kai-Koumou by false words, cursed
European? Do you think that Kai-Koumou's eyes cannot read your heart?"

Then, pointing to Lady Helena, he said:

"That is your wife!"

"No, mine!" cried Kara-Tété.

Then, pushing back the prisoners, the chief laid his hand on Lady
Helena's shoulder, who grew pale at the touch.

"Edward!" cried the unfortunate woman, in terror.

Glenarvan, without uttering a word, raised his arm. A report resounded.
Kara-Tété fell dead.

At this sound a crowd of natives issued from the huts. The pah was
filled in an instant. A hundred arms were raised against the captives.
Glenarvan's revolver was snatched from his hand.

Kai-Koumou cast a strange look at Glenarvan, and then, guarding with
one hand the person of him who had fired, he controlled with the other
the throng that was rushing upon the Europeans.

[Illustration: At last his voice rose above the tumult. "Taboo! taboo!"
cried he.]

At last his voice rose above the tumult.

"Taboo! taboo!" cried he.

At this word the crowd fell back before Glenarvan and his companions,
thus temporarily preserved by a supernatural power. A few moments after
they were led back to the temple that served as their prison; but
Robert Grant and Paganel were no longer with them.



CHAPTER L.

THE CHIEF'S FUNERAL.


Kai-Koumou, according to a custom quite ordinary in New Zealand, joined
the rank of priest to that of chief, and could, therefore, extend to
persons or objects the superstitious protection of the taboo.

The taboo, which is common to the tribes of Polynesia, has the power
to prohibit at once all connection with the object or person tabooed.
According to the Maori religion, whoever should lay his sacrilegious
hand on what is declared taboo would be punished with death by the
offended god; and in case the divinity should delay to avenge his own
insult, the priests would not fail to excite his anger.

As for the prisoners confined in the temple, the taboo had rescued
them from the fury of the tribe. Some of the natives, the friends and
partisans of Kai-Koumou, had stopped suddenly at the command of their
chief, and had protected the captives.

[Sidenote: THE TORTURES OF SUSPENSE.]

Glenarvan, however, was not blind to the fate that was reserved for
him. Only his death could atone for the murder of a chief. Among savage
races death is always preceded by a protracted torture. He therefore
expected to cruelly expiate the righteous indignation that had nerved
his arm, but hoped that Kai-Koumou's rage would fall only on himself.

What a night he and his companions passed! Who could depict their
anguish, or measure their sufferings? Neither poor Robert nor brave
Paganel had reappeared. But how could they doubt their fate? Were they
not the first victims of the natives' vengeance? All hope had vanished
even from the heart of the major, who did not easily despair. John
Mangles felt himself growing mad at sight of the sad dejection of Mary
Grant, thus separated from her brother. Glenarvan thought of that
terrible request of Lady Helena, who, rather than yield to torture or
slavery, preferred to die by his hand. Could he summon this fearful
courage? As for an escape, that was plainly impossible. Ten warriors,
armed to the teeth, guarded the entrance of the temple.

Morning came at last. There had been no communication between the
natives and the prisoners. The hut contained a considerable quantity
of food, which the unfortunates scarcely touched. Hunger gave place to
grief. The day passed without bringing a change or a hope. Doubtless
the hour for the dead chief's funeral and their torture would be the
same.

However, although Glenarvan concluded that Kai-Koumou must have
abandoned all idea of exchange, the major on this point retained a
gleam of hope.

"Who knows," said he, reminding Glenarvan of the effect produced upon
the chief by the death of Kara-Tété,--"who knows but that Kai-Koumou in
reality feels obliged to you?"

But, in spite of these observations, Glenarvan would no longer hope.
The next day also passed away without the preparations for torture
being made. The reason of the delay was this.

The Maoris believe that the soul, for three days after death, inhabits
the body of the deceased, and therefore during this time the corpse
remains unburied. This custom was rigorously observed, and for two days
the pah was deserted. Captain Mangles frequently stood on Wilson's
shoulders and surveyed the fortification. No native was seen; only the
sentinels guarded in turn at the door of their prison.

But on the third day the huts were opened. The savages, men, women,
and children, to the number of several hundreds, assembled in the pah,
silent and calm. Kai-Koumou came out of his house, and, surrounded by
the principal warriors of his tribe, took his place on a mound several
feet high in the centre of the fortification. The crowd of natives
formed a semicircle around him, and the whole assembly preserved
absolute silence.

At a sign from the chief, a warrior advanced towards the temple.

"Remember!" said Lady Helena to her husband.

Glenarvan clasped his wife to his heart. At this moment Mary Grant
approached John Mangles.

"Lord and Lady Glenarvan," said she, "I think that, if a wife can die
by the hand of her husband to escape a degrading existence, a maiden
can likewise die by the hand of her lover. John (for I may tell you
at this critical moment), have I not long been your betrothed in the
depths of your heart? May I rely upon you, dear John, as Lady Helena
does upon Lord Glenarvan?"

"Mary!" cried the young captain, in terror. "Ah! dear Mary----"

He could not finish: the mat was raised, and the captives were dragged
towards Kai-Koumou. The two women were resigned to their fate, while
the men concealed their anguish beneath a calmness that showed
superhuman self-control. They came before the chief, who did not delay
sentence.

"You killed Kara-Tété!" said he to Glenarvan.

"I did."

[Sidenote: THE BEGINNING OF THE END.]

"You shall die to-morrow at sunrise."

"Alone?" inquired Glenarvan, whose heart beat quickly.

"What! as if our Tohonga's life were not more precious than yours!"
cried Kai-Koumou, whose eyes expressed a fierce regret.

At this moment a commotion took place among the natives. Glenarvan cast
a rapid glance around him. The crowd opened, and a warrior, dripping
with sweat and overcome with fatigue, appeared.

As soon as Kai-Koumou perceived him, he said in English, evidently that
he might be understood by the captives:

"You come from the camp of the pale-faces?"

"Yes," replied the Maori.

"You saw the prisoner, our Tohonga?"

"I did."

"Is he living?"

"He is dead! The English have shot him."

The fate of Glenarvan and his companions was settled.

"You shall all die to-morrow at daybreak!" cried Kai-Koumou.

The unfortunates were therefore to suffer a common death. Lady Helena
and Mary Grant raised towards heaven a look of thankfulness.

The captives were not taken back to the temple. They were to attend
that day the funeral of the dead chief, and the bloody ceremonies
connected therewith. A party of natives conducted them to the foot of
an enormous koudi, where these guardians remained without losing sight
of their prisoners. The rest of the tribe, absorbed in their official
mourning, seemed to have forgotten them.

The customary three days had elapsed since the death of Kara-Tété. The
soul of the deceased had therefore forever abandoned its mortal abode.
The sacred rites began.

The body was carried to a small mound in the centre of the
fortification, clothed in splendid costume, and enveloped in a
magnificent flaxen mat. The head was adorned with plumes, and wore a
crown of green leaves. The face, arms, and breast had been rubbed with
oil, and therefore showed no mortification.

The parents and friends of the deceased came to the foot of the
mound, and all at once, as if some director were beating time to a
funeral dirge, a great concert of cries, groans, and sobs arose on the
air. They mourned the dead in plaintive and modulated cadences. His
relations struck their heads together; his kinswomen lacerated their
faces with their nails, and showed themselves more lavish of blood than
of tears. These unfortunate females conscientiously fulfilled their
barbarous duty.

But these demonstrations were not enough to appease the soul of the
deceased, whose wrath would doubtless have smitten the survivors of his
tribe; and his warriors, as they could not recall him to life, wished
that he should have no cause to regret in the other world the happiness
of this.

Kara-Tété's wife was not to forsake her husband in the tomb. Moreover,
the unfortunate woman would not have been allowed to survive him;
it was the custom, in accordance with duty, and examples of such
sacrifices are not wanting in New Zealand history. The woman appeared.
She was still young. Her hair floated in disorder over her shoulders.
Vague words, lamentations, and broken phrases, in which she celebrated
the virtues of the dead, interrupted her groans; and, in a final
paroxysm of grief, she stretched herself at the foot of the mound,
beating the ground with her head.

At this moment Kai-Koumou approached her. Suddenly the unfortunate
victim rose; but a violent blow with the "méré," a formidable club,
wielded by the hand of the chief, struck her lifeless to the earth.

[Sidenote: POOR HUMANITY!]

Frightful cries at once broke forth. A hundred arms threatened the
captives, who trembled at the horrible sight. But no one stirred, for
the funeral ceremonies were not ended.

Kara-Tété's wife had joined her husband in the other world. Both bodies
lay side by side. But for the eternal life his faithful spouse could
not alone suffice the deceased. Who would serve them in presence of
Nouï-Atoua, if their slaves did not follow them?

Six unfortunates were brought before the corpse of their master and
mistress. They were servants, whom the pitiless laws of war had reduced
to slavery. During the life of the chief they had undergone the
severest privations, suffered a thousand abuses, had been scantily fed,
and compelled constantly to labor like beasts; and now, according to
the Maori belief, they were to continue their existence of servitude
for eternity.

They appeared to be resigned to their fate, and were not astonished
at a sacrifice they had long anticipated. Their freedom from all
bonds showed that they would meet death unresistingly. Moreover, this
death was rapid, protracted sufferings were spared them. These were
reserved for the captives who stood trembling not twenty paces distant.
Six blows of the méré, given by six stalwart warriors, stretched the
victims on the ground in a pool of blood. It was the signal for a
terrible scene of cannibalism, which followed in all its horrible
details.

Glenarvan and his companions, breathless with fright, strove to hide
this awful scene from the eyes of the two unhappy ladies. They now
understood what awaited them at sunrise the next day, and what cruel
tortures would doubtless precede such a death. They were dumb with
horror.

The funeral dance now began. Strong spirits, extracted from an
indigenous plant, maddened the savages till they seemed no longer
human. Would they not forget the taboo of the chief, and throw
themselves in their final outbreaks upon the prisoners who trembled at
their frenzy?

[Illustration: A terrible scene of cannibalism, which followed in all
its horrible details.]

[Illustration: The corpses, folded together, in a sitting posture,
and tied in their clothes by a girdle of withes, were placed on this
primitive bier.]

But Kai-Koumou had preserved his reason in the midst of the general
intoxication. He allowed this bloody orgy an hour to reach its utmost
intensity. The last act of the funeral was played with the usual rites.

The bodies of Kara-Tété and his wife were taken up, and their limbs
bent and gathered against the stomach, according to the New Zealand
custom. The place for the tomb had been chosen outside of the
fortification, about two miles distant, on the summit of a small
mountain, called Maunganamu, situated on the right shore of the lake.

Thither the bodies were to be carried. Two very rude palanquins, or
rather litters, were brought to the foot of the mound. The corpses,
folded together, in a sitting posture, and tied in their clothes by a
girdle of withes, were placed on this primitive bier. Four warriors
bore it between them, and the entire tribe, chanting the funeral hymn,
followed them in procession to the place of burial.

The captives, who were always watched, saw them leave the inner
inclosure of the pah, and then the songs and cries gradually died away.
For about half an hour this funeral escort continued in sight, in the
depths of the valley. Finally they perceived it again winding along
the mountain paths. The distance gave a fantastic appearance to the
undulating movements of the long, sinuous column.

The tribe stopped at the summit of the mountain, which was eight
hundred feet high, at the place prepared for Kara-Tété's interment.
A common Maori would have had only a hole and a heap of stones for a
grave; but for a powerful and dreaded chief, destined doubtless for a
speedy deification, a tomb worthy of his exploits was reserved.

[Sidenote: THE LAST NIGHT.]

The sepulchre had been surrounded by palisades, while stakes,
ornamented with faces reddened with ochre, stood beside the grave
where the bodies were to lie. The relatives had not forgotten that the
"waidoua" (the spirit of the dead) feeds on substantial nourishment
like the body during this perishable life. Food had therefore been
deposited in the inclosure, together with the weapons and clothes of
the deceased.

Nothing was wanting for the comfort of the tomb. Husband and wife were
laid side by side, and then covered with earth and grass after a series
of renewed lamentations. Then the procession silently descended the
mountain, and now no one could ascend it under penalty of death, for it
was tabooed.



CHAPTER LI.

STRANGELY LIBERATED.


Just as the sun was disappearing behind Lake Taupo, the captives were
led back to their prison. They were not to leave it again until the
summit of the Wahiti mountains should kindle with the first beams of
the day. One night remained to prepare for death. In spite of the
faintness, in spite of the horror with which they were seized, they
shared their repast in common.

"We shall need all the strength possible to face death," said
Glenarvan. "We must show these barbarians how Europeans and Christians
can die."

The meal being finished, Lady Helena repeated the evening prayer aloud,
while all her companions, with uncovered heads, joined her. Having
fulfilled this duty, and enjoyed this privilege, the prisoners embraced
each other. Lady Helena and Mary Grant then retired to one corner of
the hut, and stretched themselves upon a mat. Sleep, which soothes all
woes, soon closed their eyes, and they slumbered in each other's arms,
overcome by fatigue and long wakefulness.

Glenarvan, taking his friends aside, said:

"My dear companions, our lives and those of these poor ladies are in
God's hands. If Heaven has decreed that we shall die to-morrow, we can,
I am sure, die like brave people, like Christians, ready to appear
fearlessly before the final Judge. God, who does read the secrets of
the soul, knows that we are fulfilling a noble mission. If death awaits
us instead of success, it is his will. However severe his decree may
be, I shall not murmur against it. But this is not death alone; it is
torture, disgrace; and here are two women----"

Glenarvan's voice, hitherto firm, now faltered. He paused to control
his emotion. After a moment's silence, he said to the young captain:

"John, you have promised Mary Grant what I have promised Lady Helena.
What have you resolved?"

"This promise," replied John Mangles, "I believe I have the right in
the sight of God to fulfill."

"Yes, John; but we have no weapons."

"Here is one," answered John, displaying a poniard. "I snatched it from
Kara-Tété's hands when he fell at your feet. My lord, he of us who
survives the other shall fulfill this vow."

At these words a profound silence reigned in the hut. At last the major
interrupted it by saying:

"My friends, reserve this extreme measure till the last moment. I am no
advocate of what is irremediable."

"I do not speak for ourselves," replied Glenarvan. "We can brave
death, whatever it may be. Ah, if we were alone! Twenty times already
would I have urged you to make a sally and attack those wretches. But
_they_----"

[Sidenote: THE APPROACH OF DAY.]

At this moment Captain Mangles raised the mat and counted twenty-five
natives, who were watching at the door of their prison. A great fire
had been kindled, which cast a dismal light over the irregular outlines
of the pah. Some of these savages were stretched around the fire; and
others, standing and motionless, were darkly defined against the bright
curtain of flame.

It is said that, between the jailer who watches and the prisoner who
wishes to escape, the chances are on the side of the latter. Indeed,
the design of one is stronger than that of the other, for the first
may forget that he is guarding, but the second cannot forget that he
is guarded; the captive thinks oftener of escaping than his guardian
thinks of preventing his escape. But here it was hate and vengeance
that watched the prisoners, and not an indifferent jailer. They had not
been bound, for bonds were useless where twenty-five men guarded the
only outlet of the prison.

This hut was built against the rock that terminated the fortification,
and was only accessible by a narrow passage that connected it with the
front of the pah. The other two sides of the building were flanked
by towering precipices, and stood on the verge of an abyss a hundred
feet deep. A descent this way was therefore impossible. There was no
chance of escaping in the rear, which was guarded by the enormous rock.
The only exit was the door of the temple, and the Maoris defended the
narrow passage that connected it with the pah. All escape was therefore
out of the question; and Glenarvan, after examining the walls of his
prison, was forced to acknowledge this disheartening fact.

Meantime, the hours of this night of anguish were passing away. Dense
darkness had covered the mountain. Neither moon nor stars illumined
the deep shades. A few gusts of wind swept along the side of the
pah. The stakes of the hut groaned, the fire of the natives suddenly
revived at this passing draught, and the flames cast rapid flashes
into the temple, illumining for a moment the group of prisoners. These
poor people were absorbed with their last thoughts; a deathly silence
reigned in the hut.

It must have been about four o'clock in the morning, when the major's
attention was attracted by a slight sound that seemed to come from
behind the rear stakes, in the back wall that lay towards the rock. At
first he was indifferent to the noise, but finding that it continued,
he listened. At last, puzzled by its persistence, he put his ear close
to the ground to hear better. It seemed as if some one was scraping and
digging outside.

When he was certain of this fact, he passed quietly towards Glenarvan
and the captain, and led them to the rear of the hut.

"Listen," said he, in a low voice, motioning to them to bend down.

The scrapings became more and more audible. They could hear the little
stones grate under the pressure of a sharp instrument and fall down
outside.

"Some creature in its burrow," said Captain Mangles.

Glenarvan, with bewildered gaze, stood astonished.

"Who knows," said he, "but that it is a man?"

"Man or animal," replied the major, "I will know what is going on."

Wilson and Olbinett joined their companions, and all began to dig in
the wall, the captain with his poniard, the others with stones pulled
out of the ground, or with their nails, while Mulready, stretched on
the earth, watched the group of natives through the loop-hole of the
mat. But they were motionless around the fire, and did not suspect what
was transpiring twenty paces from them.

The soil was loose and crumbling, and lay upon a bed of clay, so that,
in spite of the want of tools, the hole rapidly enlarged. It was soon
evident that somebody, clinging to the sides of the pah, was making a
passage in its outer wall. What could be the object? Did he know of the
existence of the prisoners, or could a mere chance attempt at escape
explain the work that seemed nearly completed?

[Sidenote: HEAVENLY HELP FROM AN EARTHLY HAND.]

The captives redoubled their efforts. Their lacerated fingers bled,
but still they dug on. After half an hour's labor, the hole they were
drilling had reached a depth of three feet. They could perceive by the
sounds, which were now more distinct, that only a thin layer of earth
prevented immediate communication.

A few moments more elapsed, when suddenly the major drew back his hand,
which was cut by a sharp blade. He suppressed a cry that was about to
escape him. Captain Mangles, holding out his poniard, avoided the knife
that was moving out of the ground, but seized the hand that held it.
It was the hand of a woman or a youth, a European hand. Not a word had
been uttered on either side. There was plainly an object in keeping
silent.

"Is it Robert?" murmured Glenarvan.

But, though only whispering this name, Mary Grant, awakened by the
movement that was taking place in the hut, glided towards Glenarvan,
and, seizing this hand all soiled with mud, covered it with kisses.

"It is you! it is you!" cried the young girl, who could not be
mistaken, "you, my Robert!"

"Yes, little sister," replied Robert, "I am here to save you all! But
silence!"

"Brave lad!" repeated Glenarvan.

"Keep watch of the savages outside," continued Robert.

Mulready, whose attention had been diverted for a moment by the
appearance of the hand, resumed his post of observation.

"All is well," said he. "Only four warriors are watching now. The
others have fallen asleep."

"Courage!" replied Wilson.

In an instant the hole was widened, and Robert passed from the arms of
his sister into those of Lady Helena. Around his body was wound a rope
of flax.

"My boy! my boy!" murmured Lady Helena; "these savages did not kill
you?"

"No, madam," replied Robert. "Somehow, during the uproar, I succeeded
in escaping their vigilance. I crossed the yard. For two days I kept
hidden behind the bushes. At night I wandered about, longing to see you
again. While the tribe were occupied with the funeral of the chief,
I came and examined this side of the fortification, where the prison
stands, and saw that I could reach you. I stole this knife and rope
in a deserted hut. The tufts of grass and the bushes helped me to
climb. By chance I found a kind of grotto hollowed out in the very rock
against which this hut rests. I had only a few feet to dig in the soft
earth, and here I am."

Twenty silent kisses were his only answer.

"Let us start," said he, in a decided tone.

"Is Paganel below?" inquired Glenarvan.

"Mr. Paganel?" repeated the boy, surprised apparently at the question.

"Yes; is he waiting for us?"

"No, my lord. What! is he not here?"

"He is not, Robert," replied Mary Grant.

"What! have you not seen him?" exclaimed Glenarvan. "Did you not meet
each other in the confusion? Did you not escape together?"

"No, my lord," answered Robert, at a loss to understand the
disappearance of his friend Paganel.

"Let us start," said the major; "there is not a moment to lose.
Wherever Paganel may be, his situation cannot be worse than ours here.
Let us go."

Indeed, the moments were precious. It was high time to start.
The escape presented no great difficulties, but for the almost
perpendicular wall of rock outside of the grotto, twenty feet high. The
declivity then sloped quite gently to the base of the mountain, from
which point the captives could quickly gain the lower valleys, while
the Maoris, if they chanced to discover their flight, would be forced
to make a very long détour, since they were not aware of the passage
that had been dug in the mountain.

[Illustration: First her husband, and then she, slid down the rope to
the point where the perpendicular wall met the summit of the slope.]

They now prepared to escape, and every precaution was taken to insure
their success. The captives crawled one by one through the narrow
passage, and found themselves in the grotto. Captain Mangles, before
leaving the hut, concealed all traces of their work, and glided in his
turn through the opening, which he closed with the mats. Their outlet
was therefore entirely hidden.

The object now was to descend the perpendicular wall of rock, which
would have been impossible if Robert had not brought the flax rope. It
was unwound, fastened to a point of rock, and thrown over the declivity.

Before allowing his friends to trust their weight to these flaxen
fibres, Captain Mangles tested them. They seemed to be quite strong,
but it would not answer to venture rashly, for a fall might be fatal.

"This rope," said he, "can only bear the weight of two bodies, and we
must therefore act accordingly. Let Lord and Lady Glenarvan slide down
first. When they have reached the bottom, three shakes at the rope will
be the signal to follow them."

"I will go first," replied Robert. "I have discovered at the base of
the slope a sort of deep excavation, where those who descend first can
wait for the others in safety."

"Go then, my boy," said Glenarvan, clasping the boy's hand.

Robert disappeared through the opening of the grotto. A moment after,
three shakes of the rope informed them that he had accomplished his
descent successfully.

Glenarvan and Lady Helena now ventured out of the grotto. The
darkness below was still profound, but the gray light of dawn was
already tinging the top of the mountain. The keen cold of the morning
reanimated the young wife; she felt stronger, and commenced her
perilous escape.

[Sidenote: A PRECIPITATE DESCENT.]

First her husband, and then she, slid down the rope to the point where
the perpendicular wall met the summit of the slope. Then Glenarvan,
going before his wife and assisting her, began to descend the
declivity of the mountain backwards. He sought for tufts of grass and
bushes that offered a point of support, and tried them before placing
Lady Helena's feet upon them. Several birds, suddenly awakened, flew
away with shrill cries, and the fugitives shuddered when a large stone
rolled noisily to the base of the mountain.

They had accomplished half the distance when a voice was heard at the
opening of the grotto.

"Stop!" whispered Captain Mangles.

Glenarvan, clinging with one hand to a tuft of grass and holding his
wife with the other, waited, scarcely breathing.

Wilson had taken alarm. Hearing some noise outside, he had returned to
the hut, and, raising the mat, watched the Maoris. At a sign from him
the captain had stopped Glenarvan.

In truth, one of the warriors, startled by some unaccustomed sound,
had risen and approached the prison. Standing two paces from the
hut, he listened with lowered head. He remained in this attitude
for a moment, that seemed an hour, with ear intent and eye on the
alert. Then, shaking his head as a man who is mistaken, he returned
to his companions, took an armful of dead wood and threw it on the
half-extinct fire, whose flames revived. His face, brightly illumined
by the blaze, betrayed no more anxiety, and, after gazing at the first
glimmers of dawn that tinged the horizon, he stretched himself beside
the fire to warm his cold limbs.

"All right!" said Wilson.

The captain made a sign to Glenarvan to continue his descent. The
latter, accordingly, slid gently down the slope, and soon Lady Helena
and he stood on the narrow path where Robert was waiting for them. The
rope was shaken three times, and next Captain Mangles, followed by Mary
Grant, took the same perilous course. They were successful, and joined
Lord and Lady Glenarvan.

Five minutes later all the fugitives, after their fortunate escape
from the hut, left this temporary retreat, and, avoiding the inhabited
shores of the lake, made their way by narrow paths farther down the
mountain. They advanced rapidly, seeking to avoid all points where they
might be seen. They did not speak, but glided like shadows through the
bushes. Where were they going? At random, it is true, but they were
free.

About five o'clock day began to break. Purple tints colored the lofty
banks of clouds. The mountain peaks emerged from the mists of the
morning. The orb of day would not be long in appearing, and instead of
being the signal for torture, was to betray the flight of the condemned.

Before this dreaded moment arrived it was important that the fugitives
should be beyond the reach of the savages. But they could not advance
quickly, for the paths were steep. Lady Helena scaled the declivities,
supported and even carried by Glenarvan, while Mary Grant leaned upon
the arm of her betrothed. Robert, happy and triumphant, whose heart was
full of joy at his success, took the lead, followed by the two sailors.

For half an hour the fugitives wandered at a venture. Paganel was not
there to guide them,--Paganel, the object of their fears, whose absence
cast a dark shadow over their happiness. However, they proceeded
towards the east as well as possible, in the face of a magnificent
dawn. They had soon reached an elevation of five hundred feet above
Lake Taupo, and the morning air at this altitude was keen and cold.
Hills and mountains rose one above another in indistinct outlines; but
Glenarvan only wished to conceal himself and his companions. Afterwards
they would see about issuing from this winding labyrinth.

[Illustration: They saw, but were also seen.]

At last the sun appeared and flashed his first rays into the faces of
the fugitives. Suddenly a terrible yelling, the concentrated union of a
hundred voices, broke forth upon the air. It rose from the pah, whose
exact position Glenarvan did not now know. Moreover, a thick curtain of
mist stretched at their feet, and prevented them from distinguishing
the valleys below.

But the fugitives could not doubt that their escape had been
discovered. Could they elude the pursuit of the natives? Had they been
perceived? Would their tracks betray them?

At this moment the lower strata of vapor rose, enveloping them for an
instant in a moist cloud, and they discerned, three hundred feet below
them, the frantic crowd of savages.

They saw, but were also seen. Renewed yells resounded, mingled with
barks; and the whole tribe, after vainly endeavoring to climb the rock,
rushed out of the inclosure and hastened by the shortest paths in
pursuit of the prisoners, who fled in terror from their vengeance.



CHAPTER LII.

THE SACRED MOUNTAIN.


The summit of the mountain was a hundred feet higher. It was important
for the fugitives to reach it, that they might conceal themselves from
the sight of the Maoris, on the opposite slope. They hoped that some
practicable ridge would then enable them to gain the neighboring peaks.
The ascent was, therefore, hastened, as the threatening cries came
nearer and nearer. The pursuers had reached the foot of the mountain.

"Courage, courage, my friends!" cried Glenarvan, urging his companions
with word and gesture.

[Sidenote: A SCENE OF ENCHANTMENT.]

In less than five minutes they reached the top of the mountain. Here
they turned around to consider their situation, and take some route by
which they might evade the Maoris.

From this height the prospect commanded Lake Taupo, which extended
towards the west in its picturesque frame of hills. To the north rose
the peaks of Pirongia; to the south the flaming crater of Tongariro.
But towards the east the view was limited by a barrier of peaks and
ridges.

Glenarvan cast an anxious glance around him. The mist had dissolved
under the rays of the sun, and his eye could clearly distinguish the
least depressions of the earth. No movement of the Maoris could escape
his sight.

The natives were not five hundred feet distant, when they reached the
plateau upon which the solitary peak rested. Glenarvan could not, for
ever so short a time, delay longer. At all hazards they must fly, at
the risk of being hemmed in on all sides.

"Let us go down," cried he, "before our only way of escape is blocked
up."

But just as the ladies rose by a final effort, MacNabb stopped them,
and said:

"It is useless, Glenarvan. Look!"

And all saw, indeed, that an inexplicable change had taken place in the
movements of the Maoris. Their pursuit had been suddenly interrupted.
Their ascent of the mountain had ceased, as if by an imperious
interdict. The crowd of natives had checked their swiftness, and
halted, like the waves of the sea before an impassable rock.

All the savages, thirsting for blood, were now ranged along the foot
of the mountain, yelling, gesticulating, and brandishing guns and
hatchets; but they did not advance a single foot. Their dogs, like
themselves, as though chained to earth, howled with rage.

What was the difficulty? What invisible power restrained the natives?
The fugitives gazed without comprehending, fearing that the charm that
enchained Kai-Koumou's tribe would dissolve.

Suddenly Captain Mangles uttered a cry that caused his companions to
turn. He pointed to a little fortress at the summit of the peak.

"The tomb of the chief Kara-Tété!" cried Robert.

"Are you in earnest?" asked Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord, it is the tomb; I recognize it."

Robert was right. Fifty feet above, at the extreme point of the
mountain, stood a small palisaded inclosure of freshly-painted stakes.
Glenarvan, likewise, recognized the sepulchre of the Maori chief. In
their wanderings they had come to the top of the Maunganamu, where
Kara-Tété had been buried.

Followed by his companions, he climbed the sides of the peak, to the
very foot of the tomb. A large opening, covered with mats, formed the
entrance. Glenarvan was about to enter, when, all at once, he started
back suddenly.

"A savage!" said he.

"A savage in this tomb?" inquired the major.

"Yes, MacNabb."

"What matter? Let us enter."

Glenarvan, the major, Robert, and Captain Mangles passed into the
inclosure. A Maori was there, clad in a great flax mantle. The darkness
of the sepulchre did not permit them to distinguish his features. He
appeared very calm, and was eating his breakfast with the most perfect
indifference.

Glenarvan was about to address him, when the native, anticipating him,
said, in an amiable tone, and in excellent English:

"Be seated, my dear lord; breakfast is awaiting you."

It was Paganel. At his voice all rushed into the tomb, and gazed with
wonder at the worthy geographer. Paganel was found! The common safety
was represented in him. They were going to question him: they wished
to know how and why he was on the top of the mountain; but Glenarvan
checked this unseasonable curiosity.

[Illustration: "Be seated, my dear lord; breakfast is awaiting you."]

"The savages!" said he.

"The savages," replied Paganel, shrugging his shoulders, "are
individuals whom I supremely despise."

"But can they not----?"

"They! the imbeciles! Come and see them."

Each followed Paganel, who issued from the tomb. The Maoris were in the
same place, surrounding the foot of the peak, and uttering terrible
cries.

"Cry and howl till you are tired, miserable creatures!" said Paganel.
"I defy you to climb this mountain!"

"And why?" asked Glenarvan.

"Because the chief is buried here; this tomb protects us, and the
mountain is tabooed."

"Tabooed?"

"Yes, my friends; and that is why I took refuge here, as in one of
those asylums of the Middle Ages, open to unfortunates."

Indeed, the mountain was tabooed, and by this consecration had become
inaccessible by the superstitious savages.

The safety of the fugitives was not yet certain, but there was a
salutary respite, of which they strove to take advantage. Glenarvan, a
prey to unspeakable emotion, did not venture a word; while the major
nodded his head with an air of genuine satisfaction.

"And now, my friends," said Paganel, "if these brutes expect us to test
their patience they are mistaken. In two days we shall be beyond the
reach of these rascals."

"We will escape!" said Glenarvan; "but how?"

"I do not know," replied Paganel, "but we will do so all the same."

All now wished to hear the geographer's adventures. Strangely enough,
in the case of a man loquacious usually, it was necessary to draw,
as it were, the words from his mouth. He, who was so fond of telling
stories, replied only in an evasive way to the questions of his friends.

"Paganel has changed," thought MacNabb.

[Sidenote: THE WORTH OF SPECTACLES.]

Indeed, the countenance of the geographer was no longer the same. He
wrapped himself gloomily in his great flaxen mantle, and seemed to shun
too inquisitive looks. However, when they were all seated around him at
the foot of the tomb, he related his experiences.

After the death of Kara-Tété, Paganel had taken advantage, like Robert,
of the confusion of the natives, and escaped from the pah. But less
fortunate than young Grant, he had fallen upon an encampment of Maoris,
who were commanded by a chief of fine form and intelligent appearance,
who was evidently superior to all the warriors of his tribe. This chief
spoke English accurately, and bade him welcome by rubbing his nose
against that of the geographer. Paganel wondered whether he should
consider himself a prisoner; but seeing that he could not take a step
without being graciously accompanied by the chief, he soon knew how
matters stood on this point.

The chief, whose name was "Hihy" (sunbeam), was not a bad man. The
spectacles and telescope gave him a high opinion of Paganel, whom he
attached carefully to his person, not only by his benefits, but by
strong flaxen ropes, especially at night.

This novel situation lasted three long days. Was he well or badly
treated? Both, as he stated without further explanation. In short, he
was a prisoner, and, except for the prospect of immediate torture,
his condition did not seem more enviable than that of his unfortunate
friends.

Fortunately, last night he succeeded in biting asunder his ropes and
escaping. He had witnessed at a distance the burial of the chief,
knew that he had been interred on the summit of Maunganamu mountain,
and that it was tabooed in consequence. He therefore resolved to take
refuge there, not wishing to leave the place where his companions were
held captives. He succeeded in his undertaking, arrived at Kara-Tété's
tomb, and waited in hope that Providence would in some way deliver his
friends.

Such was Paganel's story. Did he omit designedly any circumstance
of his stay among the natives? More than once his embarrassment led
them to suspect so. However that might be, he received unanimous
congratulations; and as the past was now known, they returned to the
present.

Their situation was still exceedingly critical. The natives, if they
did not venture to climb the mountain, expected that hunger and thirst
would force their prisoners to surrender. It was only a matter of time,
and the savages had great patience. Glenarvan did not disregard the
difficulties of his position, but waited for the favorable issue which
Providence seemed to promise.

And first he wished to examine this improvised fortress; not to defend
it, for an attack was not to be feared, but that he might find a way of
escaping. The major and the captain, Robert, Paganel, and himself, took
the exact bearings of the mountain. They observed the direction of the
paths, their branches and declivities. A ridge a mile in length united
the Maunganamu to the Wahiti range, and then declined to the plain. Its
narrow and winding summit presented the only practicable route, in case
escape should become possible. If the fugitives could pass this point
unperceived, under cover of the night, perhaps they might succeed in
reaching the deep valleys and outwitting the Maoris.

But this course offered more than one danger, as they would have to
pass below within gun-shot. The bullets of the natives on the lower
ramparts of the pah might intercept them, and form a barrier that no
one could safely cross.

Glenarvan and his friends, as soon as they ventured on the dangerous
part of the ridge, were saluted with a volley of shots; but only a
few wads, borne by the wind, reached them. They were made of printed
paper. Paganel picked them up out of curiosity, but it was difficult to
decipher them.

[Sidenote: A STRANGE COLPORTEUR.]

"Why!" said he, "do you know, my friends, what these creatures use for
wads in their guns?"

"No," replied Glenarvan.

"Leaves of the Bible! If this is the use they make of the sacred
writings, I pity the missionaries. They will have difficulty in
founding Maori libraries."

"And what passage of the Scriptures have these natives fired at us?"
asked Glenarvan.

"A mighty promise of God," replied Captain Mangles, who had also read
the paper. "It bids us hope in Him," added the young captain, with the
unshaken conviction of his Scottish faith.

"Read, John," said Glenarvan.

He read this line, which had so strangely reached them:

"Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him:"
Psalm xci. I.

"My friends," said Glenarvan, "we must make known the words of hope to
our brave and dear ladies. Here is something to reanimate their hearts."

Glenarvan and his companions ascended the steep paths of the peak, and
proceeded towards the tomb, which they wished to examine. On the way
they were astonished to feel, at short intervals, a certain trembling
of the ground. It was not an irregular agitation, but that continued
vibration which the sides of a boiler undergo when it is fully charged.
Steam, in large quantities, generated by the action of subterranean
fires, seemed to be working beneath the crust of the mountain.

This peculiarity could not astonish people who had passed between the
warm springs of the Waikato. They knew that this region of Ika-Na-Maoui
is volcanic. It is like a sieve, from the holes of which ever issue the
vapors of subterranean laboratories.

Paganel, who had already observed this, called the attention of his
friends to the circumstance. The Maunganamu is only one of those
numerous cones that cover the central portion of the island. The least
mechanical action could provoke the formation of a crater in the clayey
soil.

"And yet," said Glenarvan, "we seem to be in no more danger here than
beside the boiler of the Duncan. This crust is firm."

"Certainly," replied the major; "but a boiler, however strong it may
be, will always burst at last after too long use."

"MacNabb," said Paganel, "I do not desire to remain on this peak. Let
Heaven show me a way of escape, and I will leave it instantly."

Lady Helena, who perceived Lord Glenarvan, now approached.

"My dear Edward," said she, "you have considered our position! Are we
to hope or fear?"

"Hope, my dear Helena," replied Glenarvan. "The natives will never come
to the top of the mountain, and we shall have abundant time to form a
plan of escape."

"Moreover, madam," said Captain Mangles, "God himself encourages us to
hope."

So saying, he gave her the text of the Bible which had been sent to
them. She and Mary Grant, whose confiding soul was always open to
the ministrations of Heaven, saw, in the words of the Holy Book, an
infallible pledge of safety.

"Now to the tomb!" cried Paganel, gayly. "This is our fortress, our
castle, our dining-room, and our workshop. No one is to disarrange it.
Ladies, permit me to do the honors of this charming dwelling."

All followed the good-natured Paganel. When the savages saw the
fugitives desecrate anew this tabooed sepulchre, they fired numerous
volleys, and uttered yells no less terrible. But fortunately their
bullets could not reach as far as their cries, for they only came
half-way, while their vociferations were lost in empty air.

[Sidenote: BOARD AND LODGING.]

Lady Helena, Mary Grant, and their companions, quite reassured at
seeing that the superstition of the Maoris was still stronger than
their rage, entered the tomb. It was a palisade of red painted stakes.
Symbolical faces, a real tattooing on wood, described the nobleness
and exploits of the deceased. Strings of pipes, shells, and carved
stones extended from one stake to another. Inside, the earth was hidden
beneath a carpet of green leaves. In the centre a slight protuberance
marked the freshly-made grave. Here reposed the weapons of the chief,
his guns loaded and primed, his lance, his splendid hatchet of green
jade, with a supply of powder and balls sufficient for the hunts of the
other world.

"Here is a whole arsenal," said Paganel, "of which we will make a
better use than the deceased. It is a good idea of these savages to
carry their weapons to heaven with them."

"But these are English guns!" said the major.

"Doubtless," replied Glenarvan; "it is a very foolish custom to make
presents of fire-arms to the savages, who then use them against the
invaders, and with reason. At all events, these guns will be useful to
us."

"But still more useful," said Paganel, "will be the provisions and
water intended for Kara-Tété."

The parents and friends of the dead had, indeed, faithfully fulfilled
their duties. The amount of food testified their esteem for the virtues
of the chief. There were provisions enough to last ten persons fifteen
days, or rather the deceased for eternity. They consisted of ferns,
sweet yams, and potatoes, which were introduced some time before by the
Europeans. Tall vases of fresh water stood near, and a dozen baskets,
artistically woven, contained numerous tablets of green gum.

The fugitives were, therefore, fortified for several days against
hunger and thirst, and they needed no urging to take their first meal
at the chief's expense. Glenarvan directed Mr. Olbinett's attention
to the food necessary for his companions; but he, with his usual
exactness, even in critical situations, thought the bill of fare rather
scanty. Moreover, he did not know how to prepare the roots, and there
was no fire.

But Paganel solved the difficulty, and advised him to simply bury his
ferns and potatoes in the ground itself, for the heat of the upper
strata was very great. Olbinett, however, narrowly escaped a serious
scalding, for, just as he had dug a hole to put his roots in, a stream
of watery vapor burst forth, and rose to the height of several feet.
The steward started back in terror.

"Close the hole!" cried the major, who, with the aid of the two
sailors, covered the orifice with fragments of pumice-stone, while
Paganel murmured these words:

"Well! well! ha! ha! very natural!"

"You are not scalded?" inquired MacNabb of Olbinett.

"No, Mr. MacNabb," replied the steward; "but I scarcely expected----"

"So many blessings," added Paganel, in a mirthful tone. "Consider
Kara-Tété's water and provisions, and the fire of the earth! This
mountain is a paradise! I propose that we found a colony here,
cultivate the soil, and settle for the rest of our days. We will
be Robinson Crusoes of Maunganamu. Indeed, I look in vain for any
deficiency on this comfortable peak."

"Nothing is wanting if the earth is firm," replied Captain Mangles.

"Well, it was not created yesterday," said Paganel. "It has long
resisted the action of internal fires, and will easily hold out till
our departure."

"Breakfast is ready," announced Mr. Olbinett, as gravely as if he had
been performing his duties at Malcolm Castle.

The fugitives at once sat down near the palisade, and enjoyed the
repast that Providence had so opportunely furnished to them in this
critical situation. No one appeared particular about the choice of
food, but there was a diversity of opinion concerning the edible
ferns. Some found them sweet and pleasant, and others mucilaginous,
insipid, and acrid. The sweet potatoes, cooked in the hot earth, were
excellent.

[Illustration: The steward started back in terror.]

Their hunger being satiated, Glenarvan proposed that they should,
without delay, arrange a plan of escape.

"So soon!" said Paganel, in a truly piteous tone. "What! are you
thinking already of leaving this delightful place?"

"I think, first of all," replied Glenarvan, "that we ought to attempt
an escape before we are forced to it by hunger. We have strength enough
yet, and must take advantage of it. To-night let us try to gain the
eastern valleys, and cross the circle of natives under cover of the
darkness."

"Exactly," answered Paganel; "if the Maoris will let us pass."

"And if they prevent us?" asked Captain Mangles.

"Then we will employ the great expedients," said Paganel.

"You have great expedients, then?" inquired the major.

"More than I know what to do with," rejoined Paganel, without further
explanation.

They could now do nothing but wait for night to attempt crossing
the line of savages, who had not left their position. Their ranks
even seemed increased by stragglers from the tribe. Here and there
freshly-kindled fires formed a flaming girdle around the base of the
peak. When darkness had invaded the surrounding valleys, the Maunganamu
seemed to rise from a vast conflagration, while its summit was lost in
a dense shade. Six hundred feet below were heard the tumult and cries
of the enemy's camp.

At nine o'clock it was very dark, and Glenarvan and Captain Mangles
resolved to make an exploration before taking their companions on
this perilous journey. They noiselessly descended the declivity some
distance, and reached the narrow ridge that crossed the line of natives
fifty feet above the encampment.

[Sidenote: ANOTHER SUNRISE.]

All went well so far. The Maoris, stretched beside their fires, did not
seem to perceive the two fugitives, who advanced a few paces farther.
But suddenly, to the left and right of the ridge, a double volley
resounded.

"Back!" cried Glenarvan; "these bandits have eyes like a cat, and the
guns of riflemen!"

Captain Mangles and he reascended at once the precipitous slopes of the
mountain, and speedily assured their terrified friends of their safety.
Glenarvan's hat had been pierced by two bullets. It was, therefore,
dangerous to venture on the ridge between these two lines of marksmen.

"Wait till to-morrow," said Paganel; "and since we cannot deceive the
vigilance of these natives, permit me to give them a dose in my own
way."

The temperature was quite cold. Fortunately, Kara-Tété wore in the tomb
his best night-robes, warm, flaxen coverings, in which each one wrapped
himself without hesitation; and soon the fugitives, protected by the
native superstition, slept peacefully in the shelter of the palisades,
on the earth that seemed to quake with the internal commotion.



CHAPTER LIII.

A BOLD STRATAGEM.


The rising sun awakened with his first rays the sleepers on the
Maunganamu. The Maoris for some time had been moving to and fro at the
foot of the peak without wandering from their post of observation.
Furious cries saluted the appearance of the Europeans as they issued
from the desecrated tomb.

Each cast a longing glance towards the surrounding mountains, the deep
valleys, still veiled in mist, and the surface of Lake Taupo, gently
rippling beneath the morning wind. Then all, eager to know Paganel's
new project, gathered around him with questioning looks; while the
geographer at once satisfied the restless curiosity of his companions.

"My friends," said he, "my project has this advantage, that if it does
not produce the result that I expect, or even fails, our situation will
not be impaired. But it ought to and will succeed."

"And this project?" asked the major.

"This is it," replied Paganel. "The superstition of the natives has
made this mountain a place of refuge, and this superstition must help
us to escape. If I succeed in convincing Kai-Koumou that we have become
the victims of our sacrilege, that the wrath of Heaven has fallen upon
us, in short, that we have met a terrible death, do you think that he
will abandon the mountain and return to his village?"

"Probably," said Glenarvan.

"And with what horrible death do you threaten us?" inquired Lady Helena.

"The death of the sacrilegious, my friends," continued Paganel. "The
avenging flames are under our feet. Let us open a way for them."

"What! you would make a volcano?" cried Captain Mangles.

"Yes, a factitious, an improvised one, whose fury we will control.
There is quite a supply of vapors and subterranean fires that only
ask for an outlet. Let us arrange an artificial eruption for our own
advantage."

"The idea is good," said the major, "and well conceived, Paganel."

"You understand," resumed the geographer, "that we are to feign being
consumed by the flames of Pluto, and shall disappear spiritually in the
tomb of Kara-Tété."

[Sidenote: A VOLCANO IN MINIATURE.]

"Where we shall remain three, four, or five days, if necessary, till
the savages are convinced of our death, and abandon the siege."

"But if they think of making sure of our destruction," said Miss Grant,
"and climb the mountain?"

"No, my dear Mary," replied Paganel, "they will not do that. The
mountain is tabooed, and if it shall itself devour its profaners the
taboo will be still more rigorous."

"This plan is really well conceived," remarked Glenarvan. "There is
only one chance against it, and that is, that the savages may persist
in remaining at the foot of the mountain till the provisions fail
us. But this is scarcely probable, especially if we play our part
skillfully."

"And when shall we make this last venture?" asked Lady Helena.

"This very evening," answered Paganel, "at the hour of the greatest
darkness."

"Agreed," said MacNabb. "Paganel, you are a man of genius; and although
from habit I am scarcely ever enthusiastic, I will answer for your
success. Ha! these rascals! we shall perform a little miracle for them
that will delay their conversion a good century. May the missionaries
pardon us!"

Paganel's plan was therefore adopted, and really, with the
superstitious notions of the Maoris, it might and ought to succeed.
It only remained to execute it. The idea was good, but in practice
difficult. Might not this volcano consume the audacious ones who should
dig the crater? Could they control and direct this eruption when the
vapors, flames, and lava should be let loose? Would it not engulf
the entire peak in a flood of fire? They were tampering with those
phenomena whose absolute control is reserved for forces higher than
theirs.

Paganel had foreseen these difficulties, but he expected to act
prudently, and not to venture to extremes. An illusion was enough to
deceive the Maoris, without the awful reality of a large eruption.

How long that day seemed! Each one counted the interminable hours.
Everything was prepared for flight. The provisions of the tomb had
been divided, and made into convenient bundles. Several mats, and the
fire-arms, which had been found in the tomb of the chief, formed light
baggage. Of course these preparations were made within the palisaded
inclosure and unknown to the savages.

At six o'clock the steward served a farewell feast. Where and when they
should eat in the valleys no one could foretell.

Twilight came on. The sun disappeared behind a bank of dense clouds of
threatening aspect. A few flashes illumined the horizon, and a distant
peal of thunder rumbled along the vault of the sky. Paganel welcomed
the storm that came to the aid of his design.

At eight o'clock the summit of the mountain was hidden by a foreboding
darkness, while the sky looked terribly black, as if for a background
to the flaming outbreak that Paganel was about to inaugurate. The
Maoris could no longer see their prisoners. The time for action had
come. Rapidity was necessary, and Glenarvan, Paganel, MacNabb, Robert,
the steward, and the two sailors at once set to work vigorously.

The place for the crater was chosen thirty paces from Kara-Tété's tomb.
It was important that this structure should be spared by the eruption,
for otherwise the taboo would become ineffective. Paganel had observed
an enormous block of stone, around which the vapors seemed to pour
forth with considerable force. This rocky mass covered a small natural
crater in the peak, and only by its weight prevented the escape of the
subterranean flames. If they could succeed in overturning it, the smoke
and lava would immediately issue through the unobstructed opening.

[Sidenote: VULCANS AT WORK.]

The fugitives made themselves levers out of the stakes of the tomb, and
with these they vigorously attacked the ponderous mass. Under their
united efforts the rock was not long in moving. They dug a sort of
groove for it down the side of the mountain, that it might slide on an
inclined plane.

As their action increased, the trembling of the earth became more
violent. Hollow rumblings and hissings sounded under the thin
crust. But the bold experimenters, like real Vulcans, governing the
underground fires, worked on in silence. Several cracks and a few gusts
of hot smoke warned them that their position was becoming dangerous.
But a final effort detached the block, which glided down the slope of
the mountain and disappeared.

The thin covering at once yielded. An incandescent column poured forth
towards the sky with loud explosions, while streams of boiling water
and lava rolled towards the encampment of the natives and the valleys
below. The whole peak trembled, and you might almost have thought that
it was disappearing in a general conflagration.

Glenarvan and his companions had scarcely time to escape the shock of
the eruption. They fled to the inclosure of the tomb, but not without
receiving a few scalding drops of the water, which bubbled and exhaled
a strong sulphureous odor.

Then mud, lava, and volcanic fragments mingled in the scene of
devastation. Torrents of flame furrowed the sides of the Maunganamu.
The adjoining mountains glowed in the light of the eruption, and the
deep valleys were illumined with a vivid brightness.

The savages were soon aroused, both by the noise and the heat
of the lava that flowed in a scalding tide through the midst of
their encampment. Those whom the fiery flood had not reached fled,
and ascended the surrounding hills, turning and gazing back at
this terrific phenomenon, with which their god, in his wrath, had
overwhelmed the desecrators of the sacred mountain; while at certain
moments they were heard howling their consecratory cry:

"Taboo! taboo! taboo!"

[Illustration: The fugitives made themselves levers out of the stakes
of the tomb.]

[Illustration: An incandescent column poured forth towards the sky with
loud explosions, while streams of boiling water and lava rolled towards
the encampment of the natives.]

Meantime an enormous quantity of vapor, melted stones, and lava had
escaped from the crater. It was no longer a simple geyser. All this
volcanic effervescence had hitherto been confined beneath the crust of
the peak, since the outlets of Tangariro sufficed for its expansion;
but as a new opening had been made, it had rushed forth with extreme
violence.

All night long, during the storm that raged above and below, the peak
was shaken with a commotion that could not but alarm Glenarvan. The
prisoners, concealed behind the palisade of the tomb, watched the
fearful progress of the outbreak.

Morning came. The fury of the volcano had not moderated. Thick,
yellowish vapors mingled with the flames, and torrents of lava poured
in every direction. Glenarvan, with eye alert and beating heart,
glanced between the interstices of the inclosure, and surveyed the camp
of the Maoris.

The natives had fled to the neighboring plateaus, beyond the reach of
the volcano. Several corpses, lying at the foot of the peak, had been
charred by the fire. Farther on, towards the pah, the lava had consumed
a number of huts, that were still smoking. The savages, in scattered
groups, were gazing at the vapory summit of Maunganamu with religious
awe.

Kai-Koumou came into the midst of his warriors, and Glenarvan
recognized him. The chief advanced to the base of the peak, on the side
spared by the eruption, but did not cross the first slopes. Here, with
outstretched arms, like a sorcerer exorcising, he made a few grimaces,
the meaning of which did not escape the prisoners. As Paganel had
foreseen, Kai-Koumou was invoking upon the mountain a more rigorous
taboo.

Soon after, the natives descended, in single file, the winding paths
that led towards the pah.

[Sidenote: A WEARY WAITING.]

"They are going!" cried Glenarvan. "They are abandoning their post!
God be thanked! Our scheme has succeeded! My dear Helena, my brave
companions, we are now dead and buried; but this evening we will
revive, we will leave our tomb, and flee from these barbarous tribes!"

It would be difficult to describe the joy that reigned within the
palisade. Hope had reanimated all hearts. These courageous travelers
forgot their past trials, dreaded not the future, and only rejoiced in
their present deliverance; although very little reflection would show
how difficult was the task of reaching an European settlement from
their present position. But if Kai-Koumou was outwitted, they believed
themselves safe from all the savages of New Zealand.

A whole day must pass before the decisive attempt could be made, and
they employed their time in arranging a plan of escape. Paganel had
preserved his map of New Zealand, and could therefore search out the
safest routes.

After some discussion, the fugitives resolved to proceed eastward
towards the Bay of Plenty. This course would lead them through
districts that were very rarely visited. The travelers, who were
already accustomed to overcoming natural difficulties, only feared
meeting the Maoris. They therefore determined to avoid them at all
hazards, and gain the eastern coast, where the missionaries have
founded several establishments. Moreover, this portion of the island
had hitherto escaped the ravages of the war and the depredations of the
natives. As for the distance that separated Lake Taupo from the Bay of
Plenty, it could not be more than one hundred miles. Ten days would
suffice for the journey. The missions once reached, they could rest
there, and wait for some favorable opportunity of gaining Auckland,
their destination.

These points being settled, they continued to watch the savages till
evening. Not one of them remained at the foot of the mountain, and
when darkness invaded the valleys of the lake, no fire betokened the
presence of the Maoris at the base of the peak. The coast was clear.

At nine o'clock it was dark night, and Glenarvan gave the signal for
departure. His companions and he, armed and equipped at Kara-Tété's
expense, began to cautiously descend the slopes of the Maunganamu.
Captain Mangles and Wilson led the way, with eyes and ears on the
alert. They stopped at the least sound,--they examined the faintest
light; each slid down the declivity, the better to elude detection.

Two hundred feet below the summit, Captain Mangles and his sailor
reached the dangerous ridge that had been so obstinately guarded by the
natives. If, unfortunately, the Maoris, more crafty than the fugitives,
had feigned a retreat to entice them within reach, if they had not
been deceived by the eruption, their presence would be discovered
at this point. Glenarvan, in spite of his confidence and Paganel's
pleasantries, could not help trembling. The safety of his friends was
at stake during the few moments necessary to cross the ridge. He felt
Lady Helena's heart beat as she clung to his arm.

But neither he nor Captain Mangles thought of retreating. The young
captain, followed by the others, and favored by the dense obscurity,
crawled along the narrow path, only stopping when some detached stone
rolled to the base of the mountain. If the savages were still in
ambush, these unusual sounds would provoke from each side a formidable
volley.

However, in gliding like serpents along this inclined crest, the
fugitives could not advance rapidly. When Captain Mangles had gained
the lowest part, scarcely twenty-five feet separated him from the
plain where the natives had encamped the night before. Here the ridge
ascended quite steeply towards a coppice about a quarter of a mile
distant.

[Sidenote: TABOOED NO LONGER.]

The travelers crossed this place without accident, and began the
ascent in silence. The thicket was invisible, but they knew where it
was, and, provided no ambuscade was laid there, Glenarvan hoped to
find a secure refuge. However, he remembered that they were now no
longer protected by the taboo. The ascending ridge did not belong to
the sacred mountain, but to a chain that ran along the eastern shores
of Lake Taupo. Therefore not only the shots of the savages, but also a
hand-to-hand conflict, were to be feared.

For a short time the little party slowly mounted towards the upper
elevations. The captain could not yet discern the dark coppice, but it
could not be more than two hundred feet distant.

Suddenly he stopped, and almost recoiled. He thought he heard some
sound in the darkness. His hesitation arrested the advance of his
companions.

He stood motionless long enough to alarm those who followed him. With
what agonizing suspense they waited could not be described. Would they
be forced to return to the summit of the mountain?

But, finding that the noise was not repeated, their leader continued
his ascent along the narrow path. The coppice was soon dimly defined
in the gloom. In a few moments it was reached, and the fugitives were
crouching beneath the thick foliage of the trees.



CHAPTER LIV.

FROM PERIL TO SAFETY.


Darkness favored the escape; and making the greatest possible progress,
they left the fatal regions of Lake Taupo. Paganel assumed the guidance
of the little party, and his marvelous instinct as a traveler was
displayed anew during this perilous journey. He managed with surprising
dexterity in the thick gloom, chose unhesitatingly the almost invisible
paths, and kept constantly an undeviating course.

At nine o'clock in the morning they had accomplished a considerable
distance, and could not reasonably require more of the courageous
ladies. Besides, the place seemed suitable for an encampment. The
fugitives had reached the ravine that separates the Kaimanawa and
Wahiti ranges. The road on the right ran southward to Oberland.
Paganel, with his map in his hand, made a turn to the northeast, and
at ten o'clock the little party had reached a sort of steep buttress,
formed by a spur of the mountain.

The provisions were taken from the sacks, and all did ample justice to
them. Mary Grant and the major, who had not hitherto been very well
satisfied with the edible ferns, made this time a hearty meal of them.
They rested here till two o'clock in the afternoon, then the journey
towards the east was resumed, and at evening the travelers encamped
eight miles from the mountains. They needed no urging to sleep in the
open air.

The next day very serious difficulties were encountered. They were
forced to pass through a curious region of volcanic lakes and geysers
that extends eastward from the Wahiti ranges. It was pleasing to the
eye, but fatiguing to the limbs. Every quarter of a mile there were
obstacles, turns, and windings, far too many for rapid progress; but
what strange appearances and what infinite variety does nature give to
her grand scenes!

[Sidenote: ALMOST TIRED OUT!]

Over this expanse of twenty square miles the overflow of subterranean
forces was displayed in every form. Salt springs, of a singular
transparency, teeming with myriads of insects, issued from the porous
ground. They exhaled a penetrating odor, and deposited on the earth a
white coating like dazzling snow. Their waters, though clear, were
at the boiling-point, while other neighboring springs poured forth
ice-cold streams. On every side water-spouts, with spiral rings of
vapor, spirted from the ground like the jets of a fountain, some
continuous, others intermittent, as if controlled by some capricious
sprite. They rose like an amphitheatre, in natural terraces one above
another, their vapors gradually mingling in wreaths of white smoke; and
flowing down the semi-transparent steps of these gigantic staircases,
they fed the lakes with their boiling cascades.

It will be needless to dilate upon the incidents of the journey, which
were neither numerous nor important. Their way led through forests and
over plains. The captain took his bearings by the sun and stars. The
sky, which was quite clear, was sparing of heat and rain. Still, an
increasing weariness delayed the travelers, already so cruelly tried,
and they had to make great efforts to reach their destination.

However, they still conversed together, but no longer in common. The
little party was divided into groups, not by any narrow prejudice or
ill feeling, but to some extent from sadness. Often Glenarvan was
alone, thinking, as he approached the coast, of the Duncan and her
crew. He forgot the dangers that still threatened him, in his grief for
his lost sailors and the terrible visions that continually haunted his
mind.

They no longer spoke of Harry Grant. And why should they, since they
could do nothing for him? If the captain's name was ever pronounced, it
was in the conversations of his daughter and her betrothed. The young
captain had not reminded her of what she had said to him on the last
night of their captivity on the mountain. His magnanimity would not
take advantage of words uttered in a moment of supreme despair.

[Sidenote: ACCOMPLISHING THE LAST STAGE.]

When he did speak of Captain Grant, he began to lay plans for a further
search. He declared to Mary that Lord Glenarvan would resume this
undertaking, hitherto so unsuccessful.

[Illustration: On every side water-spouts, with spiral rings of vapor,
spirted from the ground like the jets of a fountain.]

He maintained that the authenticity of the document could not be
doubted. Her father must, therefore, be somewhere; and though it were
necessary to search the whole world, they were sure to find him. The
young girl was cheered by these words; and both, bound by the same
thoughts, now sympathized in the same hope. Lady Helena often took part
in the conversation, and was very careful not to discourage the young
people with any sad forebodings.

Glenarvan and his companions, after many vicissitudes, reached the foot
of Mount Ikirangi, whose peak towered five thousand feet aloft. They
had now traveled almost one hundred miles since leaving the Maunganamu,
and the coast was still thirty miles distant. Captain Mangles had
hoped to make the journey in ten days, but he was ignorant then of
the difficulties of the way. There were still two good days of travel
before they could gain the ocean, and renewed activity and extreme
vigilance became necessary, for they were entering a region frequented
by the natives. However, each conquered the fatigue, and the little
party continued their course.

Between Mount Ikirangi, some distance on their right, and Mount Hardy,
whose summit rose to the left, was a large plain, thickly overspread
with twining plants and underbrush. Progress here was tedious and
difficult in the extreme; for the pliant tendrils wound a score of
folds about their bodies like serpents. Hunting was impossible; the
provisions were nearly exhausted, and could not be renewed, and water
failed, so that they could not allay their thirst, rendered doubly
acute by their fatigue. The sufferings of Glenarvan and his friends
were terrible, and for the first time their moral energy now almost
forsook them.

At last, dragging themselves along, wearied to the utmost degree in
body, almost despairing in mind, they reached Lottin Point, on the
shores of the Pacific.

At this place several deserted huts were seen, the ruins of a village
recently devastated by the war; around them were abandoned fields, and
everywhere the traces of plunder and conflagration. But here fate had
reserved a new and fearful test for the unfortunate travelers.

They were walking along the coast, when, at no great distance, a number
of natives appeared, who rushed towards the little party, brandishing
their weapons. Glenarvan, shut in by the sea, saw that escape was
impossible, and, summoning all his strength, was about to make
preparations for battle, when Captain Mangles cried:

"A canoe! a canoe!"

And truly, twenty paces distant, a canoe, with six oars, was lying on
the beach. To rush to it, set it afloat, and fly from this dangerous
place was the work of an instant; the whole party seemed to receive at
once a fresh accession of bodily strength and mental vigor.

In ten minutes the boat was at a considerable distance. The sea was
calm. The captain, however, not wishing to wander too far from the
coast, was about to give the order to cruise along the shore, when he
suddenly ceased rowing. He had observed three canoes starting from
Lottin Point, with the evident intention of overtaking and capturing
the unfortunate fugitives.

"To sea! to sea!" cried he; "better perish in the waves than be
captured!"

The canoe, under the strokes of its four oarsmen, at once put to sea,
and for some time kept its distance. But the strength of the weakened
fugitives soon grew less, and their pursuers gradually gained upon
them. The boats were now scarcely a mile apart. There was therefore
no possibility of avoiding the attack of the natives, who, armed with
their long guns, were already preparing to fire.

[Sidenote: DEATH ON EVERY HAND.]

What was Glenarvan doing? Standing at the stern of the canoe, he looked
around as if for some expected aid. What did he expect? What did he
wish? Had he a presentiment?

All at once his face brightened, his hand was stretched towards an
indistinct object.

"A ship!" cried he; "my friends, a ship! Row, row!"

Not one of the four oarsmen turned to see this unexpected vessel,
for they must not lose a stroke. Only Paganel, rising, directed his
telescope towards the place indicated.

"Yes," said he, "a ship, a steamer, under full headway, coming towards
us! Courage, captain!"

The fugitives displayed new energy, and for several moments longer they
kept their distance. The steamer grew more and more distinct. They
could clearly discern her masts, and the thick clouds of black smoke
that issued from her smoke-stack. Glenarvan, giving the helm to Robert,
had seized the geographer's glass, and did not lose a single movement
of the vessel.

But what were Captain Mangles and his companions to think when they
saw the expression of his features change, his face grow pale, and the
instrument fall from his hands. A single word explained this sudden
emotion.

"The Duncan!" cried Glenarvan,--"the Duncan and the convicts!"

"The Duncan?" repeated the captain, dropping his oar and rising.

"Yes, death on all sides!" moaned Glenarvan, overcome by so many
calamities.

It was indeed the yacht--without a doubt,--the yacht, with her crew of
bandits! The major could not repress a malediction. This was too much.

Meantime the canoe was floating at random. Whither should they guide
it, whither flee? Was it possible to choose between the savages and the
convicts?

[Illustration: A second ball whistled over their heads, and demolished
the nearest of the three canoes.]

[Sidenote: A MYSTERIOUS PRESERVATION.]

Just then a shot came from the native boat, that had approached nearer.
The bullet struck Wilson's oar; but his companions still propelled
the canoe towards the Duncan. The yacht was advancing at full speed,
and was only half a mile distant. Captain Mangles, beset on all sides,
no longer knew how to act, or in what direction to escape. The two poor
ladies were on their knees, praying in their despair.

The savages were now firing a continued volley, and the bullets rained
around the canoe. Just then a sharp report sounded, and a ball from the
yacht's cannon passed over the heads of the fugitives, who remained
motionless between the fire of the Duncan and the natives.

Captain Mangles, frantic with despair, seized his hatchet. He was on
the point of sinking their own canoe, with his unfortunate companions,
when a cry from Robert stopped him.

"Tom Austin! Tom Austin!" said the child. "He is on board! I see him!
He has recognized us! He is waving his hat!"

The hatchet was suspended in mid-air. A second ball whistled over
their heads, and demolished the nearest of the three canoes, while a
loud hurrah was heard on board the Duncan. The savages fled in terror
towards the coast.

"Help, help, Tom!" cried Captain Mangles, in a piercing voice. And
a few moments afterwards the ten fugitives, without knowing how, or
scarcely comprehending this unexpected good fortune, were all in safety
on board the Duncan.



CHAPTER LV.

WHY THE DUNCAN WENT TO NEW ZEALAND.


The feelings of Glenarvan and his friends, when the songs of old
Scotland resounded in their ears, it is impossible to describe. As soon
as they set foot on deck the bagpiper struck up a well remembered air,
while hearty hurrahs welcomed the owner's return on board. Glenarvan,
John Mangles, Paganel, Robert, and even the major, wept and embraced
each other. Their emotions rose from joy to ecstasy. The geographer was
fairly wild, skipping about and watching with his inseparable telescope
the canoes returning to shore.

But at sight of Glenarvan and his companions, with tattered garments,
emaciated features, and the traces of extreme suffering, the crew
ceased their lively demonstrations. These were spectres, not the bold
and dashing travelers whom, three months before, hope had stimulated to
a search for the shipwrecked captain. Chance alone had led them back to
this vessel that they had ceased to regard as theirs, and in what a sad
state of exhaustion and feebleness!

However, before thinking of fatigue, or the imperative calls of hunger
and thirst, Glenarvan questioned Tom Austin concerning his presence in
these waters. Why was the Duncan on the eastern coast of New Zealand?
Why was she not in the hands of Ben Joyce? By what providential working
had God restored her to the fugitives? These were the questions that
were hurriedly addressed to Tom Austin. The old sailor did not know
which to answer first. He therefore concluded to listen only to Lord
Glenarvan, and reply to him.

"But the convicts?" inquired Glenarvan. "What have you done with the
convicts?"

"The convicts!" replied Tom Austin, like a man who is at a loss to
understand a question.

"Yes; the wretches who attacked the yacht."

"What yacht, my lord? The Duncan?"

"Of course. Did not Ben Joyce come on board?"

"I do not know Ben Joyce; I have never seen him."

"Never?" cried Glenarvan, amazed at the answers of the old sailor.
"Then will you tell me why the Duncan is now on the shores of New
Zealand?"

[Sidenote: MYSTERY MORE MYSTERIOUS!]

Although Glenarvan and his friends did not at all understand Austin's
astonishment, what was their surprise when he replied, in a calm voice:

"The Duncan is here by your lordship's orders."

"By my orders?" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord. I only conformed to the instructions contained in your
letter."

"My letter?" exclaimed Glenarvan.

The ten travelers at once surrounded Tom Austin, and gazed at him in
eager curiosity. The letter written at the Snowy River had reached the
Duncan.

"Well," continued Glenarvan, "let us have an explanation; for I almost
think I am dreaming. You received a letter, Tom?"

"Yes; a letter from your lordship."

"At Melbourne?"

"At Melbourne; just as I had finished the repair of the ship."

"And this letter?"

"It was not written by you; but it was signed by you, my lord."

"Exactly; it was sent by a convict, Ben Joyce."

"No; by the sailor called Ayrton, quartermaster of the Britannia."

"Yes, Ayrton or Ben Joyce; it is the same person. Well, what did the
letter say?"

"It ordered me to leave Melbourne without delay, and come to the
eastern shores of----"

"Australia!" cried Glenarvan, with an impetuosity that disconcerted the
old sailor.

"Australia?" repeated Tom, opening his eyes. "No, indeed; New Zealand!"

"Australia, Tom! Australia!" replied Glenarvan's companions, with one
voice.

[Illustration: As soon as they set foot on deck the bagpiper struck up
a well remembered air, while hearty hurrahs welcomed the owner's return
on board.]

Austin was now bewildered. Glenarvan spoke with such assurance, that
he feared he had made a mistake in reading the letter. Could he,
faithful and accurate sailor that he was, have committed such a
blunder? He began to feel troubled.

[Illustration: This sally finished the poor geographer.]


"Be easy, Tom," said Lady Helena. "Providence has decreed----"

"No, madam, pardon me," returned the sailor; "no, it is not possible! I
am not mistaken. Ayrton also read the letter, and he, on the contrary,
wished to go to Australia."

"Ayrton?" cried Glenarvan.

"The very one. He maintained that it was a mistake, and that you had
appointed Twofold Bay as the place of meeting."

"Have you the letter, Tom?" asked the major, greatly puzzled.

"Yes, Mr. MacNabb," replied Austin. "I will soon bring it."

He accordingly repaired to his own cabin. While he was gone, they gazed
at each other in silence, except the major, who, with his eye fixed
upon Paganel, said, as he folded his arms:

"Indeed, I must confess, Paganel, that this is a little too much."

At this moment Austin returned. He held in his hand the letter written
by Paganel, and signed by Glenarvan.

"Read it, my lord," said the old sailor.

Glenarvan took the letter, and read:

"Order for Tom Austin to put to sea, and bring the Duncan to the
eastern coast of New Zealand."

"New Zealand?" cried Paganel, starting.

He snatched the letter from Glenarvan's hands, rubbed his eyes,
adjusted his spectacles to his nose, and read in his turn.

"New Zealand!" repeated he, in an indescribable tone, while the letter
slipped from his fingers.

Just then he felt a hand fall upon his shoulder. He turned, and found
himself face to face with the major.

[Sidenote: PAGANEL IN THE WITNESS-BOX.]

"Well, my good Paganel," said MacNabb, in a grave tone, "it is
fortunate that you did not send the Duncan to Cochin-China."

This sally finished the poor geographer. A fit of laughter seized the
whole crew. Paganel, as if mad, ran to and fro, holding his head in his
hands, and tearing his hair. However, when he had recovered from his
frenzy, there was still another unavoidable question to answer.

"Now, Paganel," said Glenarvan, "be candid. I acknowledge that your
absent-mindedness has been providential. To be sure, without you the
Duncan would have fallen into the hands of the convicts; without you we
should have been recaptured by the Maoris. But do tell me, what strange
association of ideas, what unnatural aberration, induced you to write
New Zealand instead of Australia?"

"Very well," said Paganel. "It was----"

But at that moment his eyes fell upon Robert and Mary Grant, and he
stopped short, finally replying:

"Never mind, my dear Glenarvan. I am a madman, a fool, an incorrigible
being, and shall die a most famous blunderer!"

The affair was no longer discussed. The mystery of the Duncan's
presence there was solved; and the travelers, so miraculously saved,
thought only of revisiting their comfortable cabins and partaking of a
good breakfast.

However, leaving Lady Helena, Mary Grant, the major, Paganel, and
Robert to enter the saloon, Glenarvan and Captain Mangles retained Tom
Austin with them. They wished to question him further.

"Now, Tom," said Glenarvan, "let me know: did not this order to sail
for the coast of New Zealand seem strange to you?"

"Yes, my lord," replied Austin. "I was very much surprised; but, as I
am not in the habit of discussing the orders I receive, I obeyed. Could
I act otherwise? If any accident had happened from not following your
instructions, should I not have been to blame? Would you have done
differently, captain?"

"No, Tom," answered Captain Mangles.

"But what did you think?" asked Glenarvan.

"I thought, my lord, that, in the cause of Captain Grant, it was
necessary to go wherever you directed me; that by some combination of
circumstances another vessel would take you to New Zealand, and that
I was to wait for you on the eastern coast of the island. Moreover,
on leaving Melbourne, I kept my destination secret, and the crew did
not know it till we were out at sea and the shores of Australia had
disappeared from sight. But then an incident occurred that perplexed me
very much."

"What do you mean, Tom?" inquired Glenarvan.

"I mean," he replied, "that when the quartermaster, Ayrton, learned,
the day after our departure, the Duncan's destination----"

"Ayrton!" cried Glenarvan. "Is he on board?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Ayrton here!" repeated Glenarvan, glancing at Captain Mangles.

"Wonderful indeed!" said the young captain.

In an instant, with the swiftness of lightning, Ayrton's conduct, his
long-contrived treachery, Glenarvan's wound, the attack upon Mulready,
their sufferings in the marshes of the Snowy, all the wretch's deeds,
flashed upon the minds of the two men. And now, by a strange fatality,
the convict was in their power.

"Where is he?" asked Glenarvan quickly.

"In a cabin in the forecastle," replied Tom Austin, "closely guarded."

"Why this confinement?"

[Sidenote: AN UNOFFICIAL TRIBUNAL.]

"Because, when Ayrton saw that the yacht was sailing for New Zealand,
he flew into a passion; because he attempted to force me to change the
ship's course; because he threatened me; and, finally, because he urged
my men to a mutiny. I saw that he was a dangerous person, and was
compelled, therefore, to take precautions against him."

"And since that time?"

"Since that time he has been in his cabin, without offering to come
out."

"Good!"

At this moment Glenarvan and Captain Mangles were summoned to the
saloon. Breakfast, which they so much needed, was ready. They took
seats at the table, but did not speak of Ayrton.

However, when the meal was ended, and the passengers had assembled on
deck, Glenarvan informed them of the quartermaster's presence on board.
At the same time he declared his intention of sending for him.

"Can I be released from attending this tribunal?" asked Lady Helena.
"I confess to you, my dear Edward, that the sight of this unfortunate
would be very painful to me."

"It is only to confront him, Helena," replied Glenarvan. "Remain,
if you can. Ben Joyce should see himself face to face with all his
intended victims."

Lady Helena yielded to this request, and Mary Grant and she took their
places beside him, while around them stood the major, Paganel, Captain
Mangles, Robert, Wilson, Mulready, and Olbinett, all who had suffered
so severely by the convict's treason. The crew of the yacht, who did
not yet understand the seriousness of these proceedings, maintained a
profound silence.

"Call Ayrton!" said Glenarvan.



CHAPTER LVI.

AYRTON'S OBSTINACY.


Ayrton soon made his appearance. He crossed the deck with a confident
step, and ascended the poop-stairs. His eyes had a sullen look, his
teeth were set, and his fists clinched convulsively. His bearing
displayed neither exultation nor humility. As soon as he was in Lord
Glenarvan's presence, he folded his arms, and calmly and silently
waited to be questioned:

"Ayrton," said Glenarvan, "here we all are, as you see, on board the
Duncan, that you would have surrendered to Ben Joyce's accomplices."

At these words the lips of the quartermaster slightly trembled. A quick
blush colored his hard features,--not the sign of remorse, but the
shame of defeat. He was prisoner on this yacht that he had meant to
command as master, and his fate was soon to be decided.

However, he made no reply. Glenarvan waited patiently, but Ayrton still
persisted in maintaining an obstinate silence.

"Speak, Ayrton; what have you to say?" continued Glenarvan.

The convict hesitated, and the lines of his forehead were strongly
contracted. At last he said, in a calm voice:

"I have nothing to say, my lord. I was foolish enough to let myself be
taken. Do what you please."

[Sidenote: A DUMB PRISONER.]

Having given his answer, the quartermaster turned his eyes toward
the coast that extended along the west, and affected a profound
indifference for all that was passing around him. You would have
thought, to look at him, that he was a stranger to this serious affair.

But Glenarvan had resolved to be patient. A powerful motive urged
him to ascertain certain circumstances of Ayrton's mysterious life,
especially as regarded Harry Grant and the Britannia. He therefore
resumed his inquiries, speaking with extreme mildness, and imposing the
most perfect calmness upon the violent agitation of his heart.

"I hope, Ayrton," continued he, "that you will not refuse to answer
certain questions that I desire to ask you. And, first, am I to call
you Ayrton or Ben Joyce? Are you the quartermaster of the Britannia?"

Ayrton remained unmoved, watching the coast, deaf to every question.
Glenarvan, whose eye flashed with some inward emotion, continued to
question him.

"Will you tell me how you left the Britannia, and why you were in
Australia?"

There was the same silence, the same obstinacy.

"Listen to me, Ayrton," resumed Glenarvan. "It is for your interest to
speak. We may reward a frank confession, which is your only resort. For
the last time, will you answer my questions?"

Ayrton turned his head towards Glenarvan, and looked him full in the
face.

"My lord," said he, "I have nothing to answer. It is for justice to
prove against me."

"The proofs will be easy," replied Glenarvan.

[Sidenote: USELESS APPEALS.]

"Easy, my lord?" continued the quartermaster, in a sneering tone.
"Your lordship seems to me very hasty. I declare that the best judge
in Westminster Hall would be puzzled to establish my identity. Who can
say why I came to Australia, since Captain Grant is no longer here to
inform you? Who can prove that I am that Ben Joyce described by the
police, since they have never laid hands upon me, and my companions are
at liberty? Who, except you, can charge me, not to say with a crime,
but even with a culpable action?"

[Illustration: Ayrton soon made his appearance. He crossed the deck
with a confident step, and ascended the poop-stairs.]

Ayrton had grown animated while speaking, but soon relapsed into his
former indifference. He doubtless imagined that this declaration would
end the examination: but Glenarvan resumed, and said:

"Ayrton, I am not a judge charged with trying you. This is not my
business. It is important that our respective positions should be
clearly defined. I ask nothing that can implicate you, for that is the
part of justice. But you know what search I am pursuing, and, with a
word, you can put me on the track I have lost. Will you speak?"

Ayrton shook his head, like a man determined to keep silent.

"Will you tell me where Captain Grant is?" asked Glenarvan.

"No, my lord."

"Will you point out where the Britannia was wrecked?"

"Certainly not."

"Ayrton," said Glenarvan, in almost a suppliant tone, "will you, at
least, if you know where Captain Grant is, tell his poor children, who
are only waiting for a word from your lips?"

The quartermaster hesitated; his features quivered; but, in a low
voice, he muttered:

"I cannot, my lord."

Then, as if he reproached himself for a moment's weakness, he added,
angrily:

"No, I will not speak! Hang me if you will!"

"Hang, then!" cried Glenarvan, overcome by a sudden feeling of
indignation.

But finally controlling himself, he said, in a grave voice:

"There are neither judges nor hangmen here. At the first landing-place
you shall be put into the hands of the English authorities."

"Just what I desire," replied the quartermaster.

Thereupon he was taken back to the cabin that served as his prison, and
two sailors were stationed at the door, with orders to watch all his
movements. The witnesses of this scene retired indignant and in despair.

Since Glenarvan had failed to overcome Ayrton's obstinacy, what was
to be done? Evidently to follow the plan formed at Eden, of returning
to England, and resuming hereafter this unsuccessful enterprise, for
all traces of the Britannia now seemed irrevocably lost. The document
admitted of no new interpretation. There was no other country on the
line of the thirty-seventh parallel, and the only way was to sail for
home.

He consulted his friends, and more especially Captain Mangles, on the
subject of return. The captain examined his store-rooms. The supply
of coal would not last more than fifteen days. It was, therefore,
necessary to replenish the fuel at the first port. He accordingly
proposed to Glenarvan to sail for Talcahuana Bay, where the Duncan had
already procured supplies before undertaking her voyage. This was a
direct passage. Then the yacht, with ample provisions, could double
Cape Horn, and reach Scotland by way of the Atlantic.

This plan being adopted, the engineer was ordered to force on steam.
Half an hour afterwards the yacht was headed towards Talcahuana, and at
six o'clock in the evening the mountains of New Zealand had disappeared
beneath the mists of the horizon.

[Sidenote: WOMANLY INFLUENCE.]

It was a sad return for these brave searchers, who had left the shores
of Scotland with such hope and confidence. To the joyous cries that
had saluted Glenarvan on his return succeeded profound dejection. Each
confined himself to the solitude of his cabin, and rarely appeared on
deck. All, even the loquacious Paganel, were mournful and silent. If
Glenarvan spoke of beginning his search again, the geographer shook
his head like a man who has no more hope, for he seemed convinced as
to the fate of the shipwrecked sailors. Yet there was one man on board
who could have informed them about this catastrophe, but whose silence
was still prolonged. There was no doubt that the rascally Ayrton knew,
if not the actual situation of the captain, at least the place of the
shipwreck. Probably Harry Grant, if found, would be a witness against
him; hence he persisted in his silence, and was greatly enraged,
especially towards the sailors who would accuse him of an evil design.

Several times Glenarvan renewed his attempts with the quartermaster.
Promises and threats were useless. Ayrton's obstinacy was carried
so far, and was so inexplicable, that the major came to the belief
that he knew nothing; which opinion was shared by the geographer and
corroborated his own ideas in regard to Captain Grant.

But if Ayrton knew nothing, why did he not plead his ignorance? It
could not turn against him, while his silence increased the difficulty
of forming a new plan. Ought they to infer the presence of Harry Grant
in Australia from meeting the quartermaster on that continent? At all
events, they must induce Ayrton to explain on this subject.

Lady Helena, seeing her husband's failures, now suggested an attempt,
in her turn, to persuade the quartermaster. Where a man had failed,
perhaps a woman could succeed by her gentle entreaty. Glenarvan,
knowing the tact of his young wife, gave his hearty approval. Ayrton
was, accordingly, brought to Lady Helena's boudoir. Mary Grant was to
be present at the interview, for the young girl's influence might also
be great, and Lady Helena would not neglect any chance of success.

[Illustration: For an hour the two ladies were closeted with the
quartermaster, but nothing resulted from this conference.]

For an hour the two ladies were closeted with the quartermaster, but
nothing resulted from this conference. What they said, the arguments
they used to draw out the convict's secret, all the details of this
examination, remained unknown. Moreover, when Ayrton left them they did
not appear to have succeeded, and their faces betokened real despair.

[Illustration: He contented himself with shrugging his shoulders,
which so increased the rage of the crew, that nothing less than the
intervention of the captain and his lordship could restrain them.]


When the quartermaster was taken back to his cabin, therefore, the
sailors saluted his appearance with violent threats. But he contented
himself with shrugging his shoulders, which so increased the rage of
the crew, that nothing less than the intervention of the captain and
his lordship could restrain them.

But Lady Helena did not consider herself defeated. She wished to
struggle to the last with this heartless man, and the next day she went
herself to Ayrton's cabin, to avoid the scene that his appearance on
deck occasioned.

For two long hours this kind and gentle Scotch lady remained alone face
to face with the chief of the convicts. Glenarvan, a prey to nervous
agitation, lingered near the cabin, now determined to thoroughly
exhaust the chances of success, and now upon the point of drawing his
wife away from this painful and prolonged interview.

But this time, when Lady Helena reappeared, her features inspired
confidence. Had she, then, brought this secret to light, and stirred
the dormant feeling of pity in the heart of this poor creature?

MacNabb, who saw her first, could not repress a very natural feeling
of incredulity. However, the rumor soon spread among the crew that the
quartermaster had at length yielded to Lady Helena's entreaties. All
the sailors assembled on deck more quickly than if Tom Austin's whistle
had summoned them.

"Has he spoken?" asked Lord Glenarvan of his wife.

"No," replied Lady Helena; "but in compliance with my entreaties he
desires to see you."

"Ah, dear Helena, you have succeeded!"

"I hope so, Edward."

"Have you made any promise that I am to sanction?"

"Only one: that you will use all your influence to moderate the fate in
store for him." [Sidenote: VERY BUSINESS-LIKE.]

"Certainly, my dear Helena. Let him come to me immediately."

Lady Helena retired to her cabin, accompanied by Mary Grant, and the
quartermaster was taken to the saloon where Glenarvan awaited him.



CHAPTER LVII.

A DISCOURAGING CONFESSION.


As soon as the quartermaster was in Lord Glenarvan's presence his
custodians retired.

"You desired to speak to me, Ayrton?" said Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord," replied he.

"To me alone?"

"Yes; but I think that if Major MacNabb and Mr. Paganel were present at
the interview it would be better."

"For whom?"

"For me."

Ayrton spoke calmly. Glenarvan gazed at him steadily, and then sent
word to MacNabb and Paganel, who at once obeyed his summons.

"We are ready for you," said Glenarvan, as soon as his two friends were
seated at the cabin-table.

Ayrton reflected for a few moments, and then said:

"My lord, it is customary for witnesses to be present at every contract
or negotiation between two parties. That is why I requested the
presence of Mr. Paganel and Major MacNabb; for, properly speaking, this
is a matter of business that I am going to propose to you."

Glenarvan, who was accustomed to Ayrton's manners, betrayed no
surprise, although a matter of business between this man and himself
seemed strange.

[Illustration: "Do you agree or not?"]

[Sidenote: BARGAINING FOR TERMS.]

"What is this business?" said he.

"This is it," replied Ayrton. "You desire to know from me certain
circumstances which may be useful to you. I desire to obtain from you
certain advantages which will be valuable to me. Now, I will make an
exchange, my lord. Do you agree or not?"

"What are these circumstances?" asked Paganel, quickly.

"No," corrected Glenarvan: "what are these advantages?"

Ayrton bowed, showing that he understood the distinction.

"These," said he, "are the advantages for which I petition. You
still intend, my lord, to deliver me into the hands of the English
authorities?"

"Yes, Ayrton; it is only justice."

"I do not deny it," replied the quartermaster. "You would not consent,
then, to set me at liberty?"

Glenarvan hesitated before answering a question so plainly asked.
Perhaps the fate of Harry Grant depended upon what he was about to say.
However, the feeling of duty towards humanity prevailed, and he said:

"No, Ayrton, I cannot set you at liberty."

"I do not ask it," replied the quartermaster, proudly.

"What do you wish, then?"

"An intermediate fate, my lord, between that which you think awaits me
and the liberty that you cannot grant me."

"And that is----?"

"To abandon me on one of the desert islands of the Pacific, with the
principal necessaries of life. I will manage as I can, and repent, if I
have time."

Glenarvan, who was little prepared for this proposal, glanced at his
two friends, who remained silent. After a few moments of reflection, he
replied:

"Ayrton, if I grant your request, will you tell me all that it is for
my interest to know?"

"Yes, my lord; that is to say, all that I know concerning Captain Grant
and the Britannia."

"The whole truth?"

"The whole."

"But who will warrant----?"

"Oh, I see what troubles you, my lord. You do not like to trust to
me,--to the word of a malefactor! That is right. But what can you do?
The situation is thus. You have only to accept or refuse."

"I will trust you, Ayrton," said Glenarvan, simply.

"And you will be right, my lord. Moreover, if I deceive you, you will
always have the power to revenge yourself."

"How?"

"By recapturing me on this island, from which I shall not be able to
escape."

Ayrton had a reply for everything. He met all difficulties, and
produced unanswerable arguments against himself. As was seen, he
strove to treat in his business with good faith. It was impossible for
a person to surrender with more perfect confidence, and yet he found
means to advance still further in this disinterested course.

"My lord and gentlemen," added he, "I desire that you should be
convinced that I am honorable. I do not seek to deceive you, but am
going to give you a new proof of my sincerity in this affair. I act
frankly, because I rely upon your loyalty."

"Go on, Ayrton," replied Glenarvan.

"My lord, I have not yet your promise to agree to my proposition, and
still I do not hesitate to tell you that I know little concerning Harry
Grant."

"Little!" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes, my lord; the circumstances that I am able to communicate to
you are relative to myself. They are personal experiences, and will
scarcely tend to put you on the track you have lost."

[Sidenote: REVELATIONS AND DISCLOSURES.]

A keen disappointment was manifest on the features of Glenarvan and
the major. They had believed the quartermaster to possess an important
secret, and yet he now confessed that his disclosures would be almost
useless.

However that may be, this avowal of Ayrton, who surrendered himself
without security, singularly affected his hearers, especially when he
added, in conclusion:

"Thus you are forewarned, my lord, that the business will be less
advantageous for you than for me."

"No matter," replied Glenarvan; "I accept your proposal, Ayrton. You
have my word that you shall be landed at one of the islands of the
Pacific."

"Very well, my lord," said he.

Was this strange man pleased with this decision? You might have doubted
it, for his impassive countenance betrayed no emotion. He seemed as if
acting for another more than for himself.

"I am ready to answer," continued he.

"We have no questions to ask you," rejoined Glenarvan. "Tell us what
you know, Ayrton, and, in the first place, who you are."

"Gentlemen," replied he, "I am really Tom Ayrton, quartermaster of the
Britannia. I left Glasgow in Captain Grant's ship on the 12th of March,
1861. For fourteen months we traversed together the Pacific, seeking
some favorable place to found a Scottish colony. Harry Grant was a man
capable of performing great deeds, but frequently serious disputes
arose between us. His character did not harmonize with mine. I could
not yield; but with Harry Grant, when his resolution is taken, all
resistance is impossible. He is like iron towards himself and others.
However, I dared to mutiny, and attempted to involve the crew and gain
possession of the vessel. Whether I did right or wrong is of little
importance. However it may be, Captain Grant did not hesitate to land
me, April 8, 1862, on the west coast of Australia."

"Australia!" exclaimed the major, interrupting Ayrton's story. "Then
you left the Britannia before her arrival at Callao, where the last
news of her was dated?"

"Yes," replied the quartermaster; "for the Britannia never stopped at
Callao while I was on board. If I spoke of Callao at O'Moore's farm, it
was your story that gave me this information."

"Go on, Ayrton," said Glenarvan.

[Sidenote: MORE BLANKS THAN PRIZES.]

"I found myself, therefore, abandoned on an almost desert coast, but
only twenty miles from the penitentiary of Perth, the capital of
Western Australia. Wandering along the shore, I met a band of convicts
who had just escaped. I joined them. You will spare me, my lord, the
account of my life for two years and a half. It is enough to know that
I became chief of the runaways, under the name of Ben Joyce. In the
month of September, 1864, I made my appearance at the Irishman's farm,
and was received as a servant under my true name of Ayrton. Here I
waited till an opportunity should be offered to gain possession of a
vessel. This was my great object. Two months later the Duncan arrived.
During your visit at the farm you related, my lord, the whole story of
Captain Grant. I then learned what I had not known, the Britannia's
stoppage at Callao, the last news of her, dated June, 1862, two months
after my abandonment, the finding of the document, the shipwreck of the
vessel, and finally the important reasons you had for seeking Captain
Grant in Australia. I did not hesitate, but resolved to appropriate
the Duncan,--a marvelous ship, that would have distanced the best of
the British navy. However, there were serious injuries to be repaired.
I therefore let her start for Melbourne, and offered myself to you in
my real character of quartermaster, volunteering to guide you to the
scene of the shipwreck, which I falsely located on the eastern coast
of Australia. Thus followed at a distance and sometimes preceded by
my band of convicts, I conducted your party across the province of
Victoria. My companions committed a useless crime at Camden Bridge,
since the Duncan, once at Twofold Bay, could not have escaped me, and
with it I should have been master of the ocean. I brought you thus
unsuspectingly as far as the Snowy River. The horses and oxen fell dead
one by one, poisoned by the gastrolobium. I entangled the cart in the
marshes. At my suggestion----but you know the rest, my lord, and can
be certain that, except for Mr. Paganel's absent-mindedness, I should
now be commander on board the Duncan. Such is my story, gentlemen. My
disclosures, unfortunately, cannot set you on the track of Captain
Grant, and you see that in dealing with me you have made a bad bargain."

The quartermaster ceased, crossed his arms, according to his custom,
and waited. Glenarvan and his friends were silent. They felt that this
strange criminal had told the entire truth. The capture of the Duncan
had only failed through a cause altogether beyond his control. His
accomplices had reached Twofold Bay, as the convict's blouse, found by
Glenarvan, proved. There, faithful to the orders of their chief, they
had lain in wait for the yacht, and at last, tired of watching, they
had doubtless resumed their occupation of plunder and burning in the
fields of New South Wales.

The major was the first to resume the examination, in order to
determine the dates relative to the Britannia.

"It was the 8th of April, 1862, then, that you were landed on the west
coast of Australia?" he asked of the quartermaster.

"Exactly," replied Ayrton.

"And do you know what Captain Grant's plans were then?"

"Vaguely."

"Continue, Ayrton," said Glenarvan. "The least sign may set us on the
track."

"What I can say is this, my lord. Captain Grant intended to visit New
Zealand. But this part of his programme was not carried out while I was
on board. The Britannia might, therefore, after leaving Callao, have
gained the shores of New Zealand. This would agree with the date, June
27, 1862, given in the document as the time of the shipwreck."

"Evidently," remarked Paganel.

"But," added Glenarvan, "there is nothing in these half-obliterated
portions of the document which can apply to New Zealand."

"That I cannot answer," said the quartermaster.

"Well, Ayrton," continued Glenarvan, "you have kept your word, and I
will keep mine. We will decide on what island of the Pacific you shall
be abandoned."

"Oh, it matters little to me," answered Ayrton.

"Return to your cabin now, and await our decision."

The quartermaster retired, under guard of the two sailors.

"This villain might have been a great man," observed the major.

"Yes," replied Glenarvan. "He has a strong and self-reliant character.
Why must his abilities be devoted to crime?"

"But Harry Grant?"

"I fear that he is forever lost! Poor children! who could tell them
where their father is?"

"I!" cried Paganel.

As we have remarked, the geographer, although so loquacious and
excitable usually, had scarcely spoken during Ayrton's examination. He
had listened in total silence. But this last word that he had uttered
was worth more than all the others, and startled Glenarvan at once.

"You, Paganel!" he exclaimed; "do you know where Captain Grant is?"

"As well as can be known," answered the geographer.

"And how do you know?"

"By that everlasting document."

[Sidenote: A GEOGRAPHER'S REMINISCENCES.]

"Ah!" said the major, in a tone of the most thorough incredulity.

"Listen first, MacNabb, and shrug your shoulders afterwards. I did
not speak before, because you would not have believed me. Besides, it
was useless. But if I speak to-day, it is because Ayrton's opinion
corroborates mine."

"Then New Zealand----?" asked Glenarvan.

"Hear and judge," replied Paganel. "I did not commit the blunder
that saved us, without reason. Just as I was writing that letter
at Glenarvan's dictation, the word Zealand was troubling my brain.
You remember that we were in the cart. MacNabb had just told Lady
Helena the story of the convicts, and had handed her the copy of the
_Australian and New Zealand Gazette_ that gave an account of the
accident at Camden Bridge. As I was writing, the paper lay on the
ground, folded so that only two syllables of its title could be seen,
and these were _aland_. What a light broke in upon my mind! 'Aland'
was one of the very words in the English document,--a word that we had
hitherto translated _ashore_, but which was the termination of the
proper name Zealand."

"Ha!" cried Glenarvan.

"Yes," continued Paganel, with profound conviction, "this
interpretation had escaped me, and do you know why? Because my
examinations were naturally confined more particularly to the French
document, where this important word was wanting."

"Ho! ho!" laughed the major, "that is too much imagination, Paganel.
You forget your previous conclusions rather easily."

"Well, major, I am ready to answer you."

"Then what becomes of your word _austral_?"

"It is what it was at first. It simply means the southern (_australes_)
countries."

"Very well. But that word _indi_, that was first the root of Indians
(_indiens_), and then of natives (_indigènes_)?"

"The third and last time, it shall be the first two syllables of the
word _indigence_ (destitution)."

"And _contin_!" cried MacNabb; "does it still signify _continent_?"

"No, since New Zealand is only an island."

"Then?" inquired Glenarvan.

"My dear lord," replied Paganel, "I will translate the document for
you, according to my third interpretation, and you shall judge. I only
make two suggestions. First, forget as far as possible the previous
interpretations; and next, although certain passages will seem to you
forced, and I may translate them wrongly, still, remember that they
have no special importance. Moreover, the French document serves as the
basis of my interpretation, and you must consider that it was written
by an Englishman who could not have been perfectly familiar with the
idioms of our language."

So saying, Paganel, slowly pronouncing each syllable, read the
following:

"On the 27th of June, 1862, the brig Britannia, of Glasgow, foundered,
after a long struggle (_agonie_), in the South (_australes_) Seas, on
the coasts of New Ze_aland_. Two sailors and Captain Grant succeeded
in landing (_abor_der). Here, continually (_contin_uellement) a prey
(_pr_oie) to a cruel (_cruel_le) destitution (_indi_gence), they cast
this document into the sea, at longitude ---- and latitude 37° 11'.
Come to their assistance, or they are lost."

Paganel stopped. His interpretation was admissible. But, although
it appeared as probable as the other, still it might be as false.
Glenarvan and the major therefore no longer attempted to dispute it.
However, since the traces of the Britannia had not been encountered on
the coasts of Patagonia or Australia, the chances were in favor of New
Zealand.

"Now, Paganel," said Glenarvan, "will you tell me why, for about two
months, you kept this interpretation secret?"

[Sidenote: UNANIMITY IN DESPAIR.]

"Because I did not wish to give you vain hopes. Besides, we were going
to Auckland, which is on the very latitude of the document."

"But afterwards, when we were taken out of our course, why did you not
speak?"

"Because, however just this interpretation may be, it cannot contribute
to the captain's rescue."

"Why, Paganel?"

"Because, admitting that Captain Grant was wrecked on the coast of New
Zealand, as long as he has not made his appearance for two years since
the disaster, he must have fallen a victim to the sea or the savages."

"Then your opinion is----?" asked Glenarvan.

"That we might perhaps find some traces of the shipwreck, but that the
seamen of the Britannia have perished."

"Keep all this silent, my friends," replied Glenarvan, "and leave me to
choose the time for telling this sad news to the children of Captain
Grant."



CHAPTER LVIII.

A CRY IN THE NIGHT.


The crew soon learned that Ayrton's disclosures had not thrown light
upon the situation of Captain Grant. The despair on board was profound,
for they had relied on the quartermaster, who, however, knew nothing
that could put the Duncan on the track of the Britannia. The yacht
therefore continued on the same course, and the only question now was
to choose the island on which to leave Ayrton.

Paganel and Captain Mangles consulted the maps on board. Exactly on
the thirty-seventh parallel was an island, generally known by the
name of Maria Theresa, a lone rock in the midst of the Pacific, three
thousand five hundred miles from the American coast, and one thousand
five hundred miles from New Zealand. No ship ever came within hail of
this solitary isle; no tidings from the world ever reached it. Only the
storm-birds rested here during their long flights, and many maps do not
even indicate its position.

If anywhere absolute isolation was to be found on earth, it was here,
afar from the ocean's traveled highways. Its situation was made known
to Ayrton, who consented to live there; and the vessel was accordingly
headed towards the island. Two days later the lookout hailed land on
the horizon. It was Maria Theresa, low, long, and scarcely emerging
from the waves, appearing like some enormous sea-monster. Thirty miles
still lay between it and the yacht, whose prow cut the waves with
such speed that soon the island grew distinct. The sun, now sinking
towards the west, defined its outlines in glowing light. Several slight
elevations were tinged with the last rays of the day.

At five o'clock Captain Mangles thought he distinguished a faint smoke
rising towards the sky.

"Is that a volcano?" he inquired of Paganel, who, with his telescope,
was examining the land.

"I do not know what to think," replied the geographer. "Maria Theresa
is a point little known. However, I should not be surprised if its
origin was due to some volcanic upheaval."

"But then," said Glenarvan, "if an eruption created it, may we not fear
that the same agency will destroy it?"

"That is scarcely probable," answered Paganel. "Its existence has
been known for several centuries; and this seems a guarantee for its
continuance."

"Well," continued Glenarvan, "do you think, captain, that we can land
before night?"

[Sidenote: ANOTHER ARTIFICIAL VOLCANO.]

"No, certainly not. I ought not to endanger the Duncan in the darkness,
on a coast that is not familiar to me. I will keep a short distance
from land, and to-morrow at daybreak we will send a boat ashore."

At eight o'clock Maria Theresa, although only five miles to windward,
appeared like a lengthened shadow, scarcely visible. An hour later,
quite a bright light, like a fire, blazed in the darkness. It was
motionless and stationary.

"That would seem to indicate a volcano," said Paganel, watching it
attentively.

"However," replied Captain Mangles, "at this distance we ought to hear
the commotion that always accompanies an eruption, and yet the wind
brings no sound to our ears."

"Indeed," observed Paganel, "this volcano glows, but does not
speak. You might say that it throws out intermittent flashes like a
lighthouse."

"You are right," continued Captain Mangles; "and yet we are not on the
illuminated side. Ha!" cried he, "another fire! On the shore this time!
See! it moves, it changes its place!"

He was not mistaken. A new light had appeared, that sometimes seemed to
go out, and then all at once flash forth again.

"Is the island inhabited?" asked Glenarvan.

"Evidently, by savages," replied Paganel.

"Then we cannot abandon the quartermaster here."

"No," said the major; "that would be giving even savages too dangerous
a present."

"We will seek some other deserted island," resumed Glenarvan, who could
not help smiling at MacNabb's delicacy. "I promised Ayrton his life,
and I will keep my promise."

"At all events, let us beware," added Paganel. "The New Zealanders have
the barbarous custom of misleading ships by moving fires. The natives
of Maria Theresa may understand this deception."

"Bear away a point," cried the captain to the sailor at the helm.
"To-morrow, at sunrise, we shall know what is to be done."

At eleven o'clock the passengers and the captain retired to their
cabins. At the bow the first watch was pacing the deck, while at the
stern the helmsman was alone at his post.

In the stillness Mary and Robert Grant came on deck. The two children,
leaning upon the railing, gazed sadly at the phosphorescent sea and the
luminous wake of the yacht. Mary thought of Robert's future; Robert
thought of his sister's; both thought of their father. Was that beloved
parent still living? Yet must they give him up? But no, what would life
be without him? What would become of them without his protection? What
would have become of them already, except for the magnanimity of Lord
and Lady Glenarvan?

The boy, taught by misfortune, divined the thoughts that were agitating
his sister. He took her hand in his.

"Mary," said he, "we must never despair. Remember the lessons our
father taught us. 'Courage compensates for everything in this world,'
he said. Let us have that indomitable courage that overcomes all
obstacles. Hitherto you have labored for me, my sister, but now I shall
labor for you."

"Dear Robert!" replied the young girl.

"I must tell you one thing," continued he. "You will not be sorry,
Mary?"

"Why should I be sorry, my child?"

"And you will let me do as I wish?"

"What do you mean?" asked she, anxiously.

"My sister, I shall be a sailor----!"

"And leave me?" cried the young girl, clasping her brother's hand.

[Sidenote: EULOGY AND THRENODY.]

"Yes, sister, I shall be a sailor, like my father, and like Captain
John. Mary, my dear Mary, he has not lost all hope! You will have, like
me, confidence in his devotion. He has promised that he will make me a
thorough and efficient sailor, and we shall seek our father together.
Say that you are willing, sister. What our father would have done for
us it is our duty, or mine at least, to do for him. My life has but one
object, to which it is wholly devoted,--to search always for him who
would never have abandoned either of us. Dear Mary, how good our father
was!"

"And so noble, so generous!" added Mary. "Do you know, Robert, that he
was already one of the glories of our country, and would have ranked
among its great men if fate had not arrested his course?"

"How well I know it!" answered Robert.

Mary pressed her brother to her heart, and the child felt tears
dropping upon his forehead.

"Mary! Mary!" cried he, "it is in vain for them to speak, or to keep
silent. I hope still, and shall always do so. A man like our father
does not die till he has accomplished his purpose!"

Mary Grant could not reply; sobs choked her utterance. A thousand
emotions agitated her soul at the thought that new attempts would be
made to find her father, and that the young captain's devotion was
boundless.

"Does Mr. John still hope?" asked she.

"Yes," replied Robert. "He is a brother who will never forsake us. I
shall be a sailor, shall I not, sister,--a sailor to seek my father
with him? Are you willing?"

"Yes," said Mary. "But must we be separated?"

"You will not be alone, Mary, I know. John has told me so. Lady Helena
will not permit you to leave her. You are a woman, and can and ought to
accept her benefits. To refuse them would be ungrateful. But a man, as
my father has told me a hundred times, ought to make his own fortune."

"But what will become of our house at Dundee, so full of associations?"

"We will keep it, my sister. All that has been well arranged by our
friend John and Lord Glenarvan, who will keep you at Malcolm Castle
like a daughter. He said so to John, who told me. You will be at home
there, and wait till John and I bring back our father. Ah, what a
joyful day that will be!" cried Robert, whose face was radiant with
enthusiasm.

"My brother, my child!" exclaimed Mary, "how happy our father would be
if he could hear you! How much you resemble him, dear Robert! When you
are a man you will be quite like him!"

"God grant it, Mary!" said Robert, glowing with holy and filial pride.

"But how shall we pay our debt to Lord and Lady Glenarvan?" continued
Mary.

"Oh, that will not be difficult," answered Robert, with his boyish
impulsiveness. "We will tell them how much we love and respect them,
and we will show it to them by our actions."

"That is all we can do!" added the young girl, covering her brother's
face with kisses; "and all that they will like, too!"

Then, relapsing into reveries, the two children of the captain gazed
silently into the shadowy obscurity of the night. However, in fancy
they still conversed, questioned, and answered each other. The sea
rocked the ship in silence, and the phosphorescent waters glistened in
the darkness.

But now a strange, a seemingly supernatural event took place. The
brother and sister, by one of those magnetic attractions that
mysteriously draw the souls of friends together, experienced at the
same instant the same curious hallucination.

[Sidenote: "METHOUGHT, THE BILLOWS SPOKE!"]

From the midst of these alternately brightening and darkening waves,
they thought they heard a voice issue, whose depth of sadness stirred
every fibre of their hearts.

"Help! help!" cried the voice.

"Mary," said Robert, "did you hear?"

And, raising their heads above the bulwarks, they both gazed
searchingly into the misty shadows of the night. Yet there was nothing
but the darkness stretching blankly before them.

"Robert," said Mary, pale with emotion, "I thought--yes, I thought like
you."

At this moment another cry reached them, and this time the illusion was
such that these words broke simultaneously from both their hearts:

"My father! my father!"

This was too much for Mary Grant. Overcome by emotion, she sank
senseless into her brother's arms.

"Help!" cried Robert. "My sister! my father! help!"

The man at the helm hastened to Miss Grant's assistance, and after
him the sailors of the watch, Captain Mangles, Lady Helena, and Lord
Glenarvan, who had been suddenly awakened.

"My sister is dying, and my father is yonder!" exclaimed Robert,
pointing to the waves.

No one understood his words.

"Yes," repeated he, "my father is yonder! I heard his voice, and Mary
did too!"

Just then Mary Grant recovered consciousness, and, looking wildly
around, cried:

"My father, my father is yonder!"

The unfortunate girl arose, and, leaning over the bulwark, would have
thrown herself into the sea.

"My lord! Madam!" repeated she, clasping her hands, "I tell you my
father is there! I declare to you that I heard his voice issue from the
waves like a despairing wail, like a last adieu!"

[Sidenote: THE POSITIVENESS OF DISBELIEF.]

Then her feelings overcame the poor girl, and she became insensible.
They carried her to her cabin, and Lady Helena followed, to minister to
her wants, while Robert kept repeating:

[Illustration: The unfortunate girl arose, and, leaning over the
bulwark, would have thrown herself into the sea.]

"My father! my father is there! I am sure of it, my lord!"

The witnesses of this sorrowful scene perceived at last that the two
children had been the sport of an hallucination. But how undeceive
their senses, which had been so strongly impressed? Glenarvan, however,
attempted it, and taking Robert by the hand, said:

"You heard your father's voice, my dear boy?"

"Yes, my lord. Yonder, in the midst of the waves, he cried, 'Help!
help!'"

"And you recognized the voice?"

"Did I recognize it? Oh, yes, I assure you! My sister heard and
recognized it, too. How could both of us be deceived? My lord, let us
go to his rescue. A boat! a boat!"

Glenarvan saw plainly that he could not undeceive the poor child.
Still, he made a last attempt, and called the helmsman.

"Hawkins," asked he, "you were at the wheel when Miss Grant was so
singularly affected?"

"Yes, my lord," replied Hawkins.

"And you did not see or hear anything?"

"Nothing."

"You see how it is, Robert."

"If it had been _his_ father," answered the lad, with irrepressible
energy, "he would not say so. It was _my_ father, my lord! my father,
my father----!"

Robert's voice was choked by a sob. Pale and speechless, he, too, like
his sister, lost consciousness. Glenarvan had him carried to his bed,
and the child, overcome by emotion, sank into a profound slumber.

"Poor orphans!" said Captain Mangles; "God tries them in a terrible
way!"

"Yes," replied Glenarvan, "excessive grief has produced upon both at
the same moment a similar effect."

"Upon both!" murmured Paganel. "That is strange!"

Then, leaning forward, after making a sign to keep still, he listened
attentively. The silence was profound everywhere. Paganel called in a
loud voice, but there was no answer.

"It is strange!" repeated the geographer, returning to his cabin; "an
intimate sympathy of thought and grief does not suffice to explain this
mystery."

Early the next morning the passengers (and among them were Robert
and Mary, for it was impossible to restrain them) were assembled
on deck. All wished to examine this land, which had been scarcely
distinguishable the night before. The principal points of the island
were eagerly scanned. The yacht coasted along about a mile from the
shore, and the unassisted eye could easily discern the larger objects.

Suddenly Robert uttered a cry. He maintained that he saw two men
running and gesticulating, while a third was waving a flag.

"Yes: the flag of England!" cried Captain Mangles, when he had used his
glass.

"It is true!" said Paganel, turning quickly towards Robert.

"My lord!" exclaimed the boy, trembling with excitement,--"my lord, if
you do not wish me to swim to the island, you will lower a boat! Ah, my
lord, if you please, I do wish to be the first to land!"

[Sidenote: A COMPENSATION FOR ALL.]

No one knew what to say. Were there three men, shipwrecked sailors,
Englishmen, on that island? All recalled the events of the night
before, and thought of the voice heard by Robert and Mary. Perhaps,
after all, they were not mistaken. A voice might have reached them.
But could this voice be that of their father? No, alas, no! And each,
thinking of the terrible disappointment that was probably in store,
trembled lest this new trial would exceed their strength. But how
restrain them? Lord Glenarvan had not the courage.

"Lower the boat!" cried he.

In a moment this was done; the two children, Glenarvan, Captain
Mangles, and Paganel stepped into it, and six earnest and skilled
oarsmen sped away towards the shore.

At ten yards therefrom, Mary uttered again the heart-rending cry:

"My father!"

A man was standing on the beach between two others. His form was tall
and stout, while his weather-beaten yet pleasant countenance betrayed
a strong resemblance to the features of Mary and Robert Grant. It was,
indeed, the man whom the children had so often described. Their hearts
had not deceived them. It was their father, it was Captain Grant!

He heard his daughter's cry, he opened his arms, and supported her
fainting form.



CHAPTER LIX.

CAPTAIN GRANT'S STORY.


Joy does not kill, for the long lost father and his recovered children
were soon rejoicing together and preparing to return to the yacht. But
how can we depict that scene, so little looked for by any? Words are
powerless.

[Sidenote: THE JOYS OF REUNION.]

As soon as he gained the deck, Harry Grant sank upon his knees. The
pious Scotchman, on touching what was to him the soil of his country,
wished, first of all, to thank God for his deliverance. Then, turning
towards Lady Helena; Lord Glenarvan, and their companions, he thanked
them in a voice broken by emotion. While on their way to the yacht, his
children had briefly told him the story of the Duncan.

[Illustration: A man was standing on the beach between two others. His
form was tall and stout.]

How great a debt of gratitude did he feel that he owed this noble woman
and her companions! From Lord Glenarvan down to the lowest sailor,
had not all struggled and suffered for him? Harry Grant expressed
the feelings of thankfulness that overflowed his heart with so much
simplicity and nobleness, and his manly countenance was illumined by so
pure and sincere a sentiment, that all felt themselves repaid for the
trials they had undergone. Even the imperturbable major's eye was wet
with a tear that he could not repress. As for Paganel, he wept like a
child who does not think of hiding his emotion.

Captain Grant could not cease gazing at his daughter. He found her
beautiful and charming, and told her so again and again, appealing
to Lady Helena as if to be assured that his fatherly love was not
mistaken. Then, turning to his son, he cried rapturously:

"How he has grown! He is a man!"

He lavished upon these two beings, so dearly loved, the thousand
expressions of love that had been unuttered during long years of
absence. Robert introduced him successively to all his friends. All had
alike proved their kindness and good wishes towards the two orphans.
When Captain Mangles came to be introduced, he blushed like a young
girl, and his voice trembled as he saluted Mary's father.

Lady Helena then told the story of the voyage, and made the captain
proud of his son and daughter. He learned the exploits of the young
hero, and how the boy had already repaid part of his obligation to Lord
Glenarvan at the peril of his life. Captain Mangles' language to Mary
and concerning her was so truly loving, that Harry Grant, who had been
already informed on this point by Lady Helena, placed the hand of his
daughter in that of the noble young captain, and, turning towards Lord
and Lady Glenarvan, said:

"My lord and lady, join with me to bless our children!"

It was not long before Glenarvan related Ayrton's story to the captain,
who confirmed the quartermaster's declaration in regard to his having
been abandoned on the Australian coast.

"He is a shrewd and courageous man," added he; "but his passions have
ruined him. May meditation and repentance lead him to better feelings!"

But before Ayrton was transferred to Tabor Island, Harry Grant wished
to show his new friends the bounds of his habitation. He invited them
to visit his house, and sit for once at his table. Glenarvan and his
companions cordially accepted the invitation, and Robert and Mary
were not a little desirous to see those haunts where their father had
doubtless at times bewailed his fate. A boat was manned, and the whole
party soon disembarked on the shores of the island.

A few hours sufficed to traverse Captain Grant's domain. It was in
reality the summit of a submarine mountain, covered with basaltic rocks
and volcanic fragments. When the shipwrecked seamen of the Britannia
took refuge here, the hand of man began to control the development of
nature's resources, and in two years and a half the captain and his
companions had completely metamorphosed their island home.

The visitors at last reached the house, shaded by verdant gum-trees,
while before its windows stretched the glorious sea, glittering in
the rays of the sun. Harry Grant set his table in the shade, and all
took seats around it. Some cold roast meat, some of the produce of the
breadfruit-tree, several bowls of milk, two or three bunches of wild
chicory, and pure, fresh water, formed the elements of the simple but
healthful repast. Paganel was in ecstasies. It recalled his old idea of
Robinson Crusoe.

[Sidenote: THE RULING PASSION STILL STRONG.]

"That rascal Ayrton will have no cause to complain," cried he in his
enthusiasm. "The island is a paradise!"

"Yes," replied Harry Grant, "a paradise for three poor sailors whom
Heaven sheltered here. But I regret that Maria Theresa is not a large
and fertile island, with a river instead of a rivulet, and a harbor
instead of a coast so exposed to the force of the waves."

"And why, captain?" asked Glenarvan.

"Because I would have laid here the foundation of that colony that I
wish to present to Scotland."

"Ah!" said Glenarvan. "Then you have not abandoned the idea that has
made you so popular in your native land?"

"No, my lord; and God has saved me, through your instrumentality, only
to permit me to accomplish it. Our poor brothers of old Caledonia shall
yet have another Scotland in the New World. Our dear country must
possess in these seas a colony of her own, where she can find that
independence and prosperity that are wanting in many European empires."

"That is well said, captain," replied Lady Helena. "It is a noble
project, and worthy of a great heart. But this island----?"

"No, madam, it is a rock, only large enough to support a few colonists;
while we need a vast territory, rich in all primitive treasures."

"Well, captain," cried Glenarvan, "the future is before us! Let us seek
this land together!"

The hands of both men met in a warm clasp, as if to ratify this
promise. All now wished to hear the story of the shipwrecked sailors
of the Britannia during those two long years of solitude. Harry Grant
accordingly hastened to satisfy the desires of his new friends, and
began as follows:

[Illustration: Harry Grant set his table in the shade, and all took
seats around it.]

[Sidenote: A TALE OF INDUSTRY.]

"It was on the night of the 26th of June, 1862, that the Britannia,
disabled by a six days' tempest, was wrecked on the rock of Maria
Theresa. The sea was so high that to save anything was impossible,
and all the crew perished except my two sailors, Bob Learce and Joe
Bell, and myself; and we succeeded in reaching the coast after many
struggles. The land that we thus reached was only a desert island, two
miles wide and five long, with a few trees in the interior, some meadow
land, and a spring of fresh water that, fortunately, has never ceased
to flow. Alone with my two sailors, in this quarter of the globe, I did
not despair, but, placing my confidence in God, engaged in a resolute
struggle. Bob and Joe, my companions and friends in misfortune,
energetically aided my efforts. We began, like Robinson Crusoe, by
collecting the fragments of the vessel, some tools, a little powder,
several weapons, and a bag of precious seeds. The first weeks were very
toilsome, but soon hunting and fishing furnished us subsistence, for
wild goats swarmed in the interior of the island, and marine animals
abounded on its coast. Gradually our daily routine was regularly
organized. I determined our exact situation by my instruments, which
I had saved from the shipwreck. We were out of the regular course of
ships, and could not be rescued except by a providential interposition.
Although thinking of those who were dear to me, and whom I never
expected to see again, still I accepted this trial with fortitude, and
my most earnest prayers were for my two children. Meantime we labored
resolutely. Much of the land was sown with the seeds taken from the
Britannia; and potatoes, chicory, sorrel, and other vegetables improved
and varied our daily food. We caught several goats, which were easily
kept, and had milk and butter. The breadfruit-tree, which grew in the
dry creeks, furnished us with a sort of nourishing bread, and the
wants of life no longer gave us any alarm. We built a house out of the
fragments of the Britannia, covered it with sails, carefully tarred,
and under this shelter the rainy season was comfortably passed. Here
many plans were discussed, and many dreams enjoyed, the best of which
has just been realized! At first I thought of braving the sea in a
boat made of the wreck of the vessel; but a vast distance separated us
from the nearest land. No boat could have endured so long a voyage.
I therefore abandoned my design, and no longer expected deliverance,
except through a Divine interposition. Ah, my poor children, how many
times, on the rocks of the coast, have we waited for ships at sea!
During the entire period of our exile only two or three sails appeared
on the horizon, and these soon to disappear again. Two years and a half
passed thus. We no longer hoped, but still did not wholly despair. At
last, yesterday afternoon, I had mounted the highest summit of the
island, when I perceived a faint smoke in the west, which grew clearer,
and I soon distinctly discerned a vessel that seemed to be coming
towards us. But would she not avoid this island, which offered no
landing-place? Ah, what a day of anguish, and how my heart throbbed! My
companions kindled a fire on one of the peaks. Night came, but the ship
gave no signal for approach. Deliverance was there, and should we see
it vanish? I hesitated no longer. The darkness increased. The vessel
might double the island during the night. I threw myself into the sea,
to swim to her. Hope increased my strength. I beat the waves with
almost superhuman energy, and approached the yacht. Scarcely thirty
yards separated me, when she tacked. Then I uttered those despairing
cries which my two children alone heard, for they were no illusion. I
returned to the shore, exhausted and overcome by fatigue and emotion.
It was a terrible night, this last one on the island. We believed
ourselves forever abandoned, when, at daybreak, I perceived the yacht
slowly coasting along the shores. Your boat was then lowered,--we were
saved, and, thanks to the Divine goodness of Heaven, my dear children
were there to stretch out their arms to me!" [Sidenote: THE DOCUMENT
ONCE MORE!]

Harry Grant's story was finished amid a fresh shower of kisses and
caresses from Robert and Mary. The captain learned now, for the first
time, that he owed his deliverance to that hieroglyphic document
that, eight days after his shipwreck, he had inclosed in a bottle and
confided to the mercy of the waves.

But what did Jacques Paganel think during this recital? The worthy
geographer revolved the words of the document a thousand ways in his
brain. He reviewed his three interpretations, which were all false. How
had this island been indicated in these damaged papers? He could no
longer restrain himself, but, seizing Harry Grant's hand, cried:

"Captain, will you tell me what your undecipherable document contained?"

At this request curiosity was general, for the long-sought clew to the
mystery would now be given.

"Well, captain," said Paganel, "do you remember the exact words of the
document?"

"Perfectly," replied Harry Grant; "and scarcely a day has passed but
memory has recalled those words upon which our only hope hung."

"And what are they, captain?" inquired Glenarvan. "Tell us, for our
curiosity is great."

"I am ready to satisfy you," continued Harry Grant; "but you know that,
to increase the chances of success, I inclosed in the bottle three
documents, written in three languages. Which one do you wish to hear?"

"They are not identical, then?" cried Paganel.

"Yes, almost to a word."

"Well, give us the French document," said Glenarvan. "This one was
spared the most by the waves, and has served as the principal basis for
our search."

"This is it, my lord, word for word," answered Harry Grant.

"'On the 27th June, 1862, the brig Britannia, of Glasgow, was lost
1500 leagues from Patagonia, in the southern hemisphere. Carried by the
waves, two sailors and Captain Grant reached Tabor Island----'"

"Ha!" interrupted Paganel.

"'Here,'" resumed Harry Grant, "'continually a prey to a cruel
destitution, they cast this document into the sea at longitude 153° and
latitude 37° 11'. Come to their aid, or they are lost.'"

At the word "Tabor," Paganel had suddenly risen, and then, controlling
himself no longer, he cried:

"How Tabor Island? It is Maria Theresa."

"Certainly, Mr. Paganel," replied Harry Grant; "Maria Theresa on the
English and German, but Tabor on the French maps."

At this moment a vigorous blow descended upon Paganel's shoulder. Truth
compels us to say that it was from the major, who now failed in his
strict habits of propriety.

"A fine geographer you are!" said MacNabb, in a tone of badinage. "But
no matter, since we have succeeded."

"No matter?" cried Paganel; "I ought never to have forgotten that
twofold appellation! It is an unpardonable mistake, unworthy of the
secretary of a Geographical Society. I am disgraced!"

When the meal was finished, Harry Grant put everything in order in his
house. He took nothing away, for he was willing that the guilty convict
should inherit his possessions.

They returned to the vessel; and, as he expected to sail the same day,
Glenarvan gave orders for the quartermaster's landing. Ayrton was
brought on deck, and found himself in the presence of Harry Grant.

"It is I, Ayrton," said he.

"Yes, captain," replied Ayrton, without betraying any astonishment at
Harry Grant's appearance. "Well, I am not sorry to see you again in
good health."

[Illustration: The passengers could see the quartermaster, with folded
arms, standing motionless as a statue, on a rock, and gazing at the
vessel.]

"It seems, Ayrton, that I made a mistake in landing you on an inhabited
coast."

"It seems so, captain."

"You will take my place on this desert island. May Heaven lead you to
repentance!"

"May it be so," rejoined Ayrton, in a calm tone.

Then Glenarvan, addressing the quartermaster, said:

"Do you still adhere, Ayrton, to this determination to be abandoned?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Does Tabor Island suit you?"

"Perfectly."

"Now listen to my last words. You will be far removed from every land,
and deprived of all communication with your fellow-men. Miracles are
rare, and you will not probably remove from this island, where we leave
you. You will be alone, under the eye of God, who reads the uttermost
depths of all hearts; but you will not be lost, as was Captain Grant.
However unworthy you may be of the remembrance of men, still they will
remember you. I know where you are, and will never forget you."

"Thank you, my lord!" replied Ayrton, simply.

Such were the last words exchanged between Glenarvan and the
quartermaster. The boat was ready, and Ayrton embarked. Captain Mangles
had previously sent to the island several cases of preserved food, some
clothes, tools, weapons, and a supply of powder and shot. The abandoned
man could therefore employ his time to advantage. Nothing was wanting,
not even books, foremost among which was a Bible.

The hour for separation had come. The crew and passengers stood on
deck. More than one felt the heart strangely moved. Lady Helena and
Mary Grant could not repress their emotion.

"Must it then be so?" inquired the young wife of her husband. "Must
this unfortunate be abandoned?"

[Sidenote: "FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL!"]

"He must, Helena," answered Glenarvan. "It is his punishment."

At this moment the boat, commanded by Captain Mangles, started. Ayrton
raised his hat and gave a grave salute. Glenarvan and the crew returned
this last farewell, as if to a man about to die, as he departed, in a
profound silence.

On reaching the shore, Ayrton leaped upon the sand, and the boat
returned. It was then four o'clock in the afternoon, and from the upper
deck the passengers could see the quartermaster, with folded arms,
standing motionless as a statue, on a rock, and gazing at the vessel.

"Shall we start, my lord?" asked Captain Mangles.

"Yes, John," replied Glenarvan, quickly, with more emotion than he
wished to manifest.

"All right!" cried the captain to the engineer.

The steam hissed, the screw beat the waves, and at eight o'clock the
last summits of Tabor Island disappeared in the shadows of the night.



CHAPTER LX.

PAGANEL'S LAST ENTANGLEMENT.


Eleven days after leaving Tabor Island the Duncan came in sight of the
American coast, and anchored in Talcahuana Bay. Five months had elapsed
since her departure from this port, during which time the travelers
had made the circuit of the world on this thirty-seventh parallel.
Their efforts had not been in vain, for they had found the shipwrecked
survivors of the Britannia.

The Duncan, having taken in her necessary stores, skirted the coasts
of Patagonia, doubled Cape Horn, and steamed across the Atlantic. The
voyage was very uneventful. The yacht carried a full complement of
happy people; there seemed to be no secrets on board.

A mystery, however, still perplexed MacNabb. Why did Paganel always
keep hermetically incased in his clothes, and wear a comforter over
his ears? The major longed to know the motive for this singular fancy.
But in spite of his questions, hints, and suspicions, Paganel did not
unbutton his coat.

At last, fifty-three days after leaving Talcahuana, Captain Mangles
descried the lighthouse of Cape Clear. The vessel entered St. George's
Channel, crossed the Irish Sea, and passed into the Frith of Clyde. At
eleven o'clock they anchored at Dumbarton, and early in the afternoon
the travelers reached Malcolm Castle, amidst the hurrahs of their
tenantry and friends.

Thus it was that Harry Grant and his two companions were rescued, and
that John Mangles married Mary Grant in the old cathedral of St. Mungo,
where the Rev. Mr. Morton, who nine months before had prayed for the
rescue of the father, now blessed the union of the daughter with one
of his deliverers. It was arranged that Robert should be a sailor,
like his father and brother-in-law, and that he should continue the
contemplated project of the former, under the munificent patronage of
Lord Glenarvan.

But was Jacques Paganel to die a bachelor? Certainly not; for, after
his heroic exploits, the worthy geographer could not escape celebrity.
His eccentricities (and his abilities) made him much talked of in
Scotland. People seemed as though they could not show him enough
attention.

Just at this time an amiable lady of thirty, none other than the
major's cousin, a little eccentric herself, but still agreeable and
charming, fell in love with the geographer's peculiarities. Paganel was
far from being insensible to Miss Arabella's attractions, yet did not
dare to declare his sentiments. The major accordingly undertook the
part of Cupid's messenger between these two congenial hearts, and even
told Paganel that marriage was "the last blunder" that he could commit.
But the geographer was very much embarrassed, and, strangely enough,
could not summon courage to speak for himself.

[Illustration: Early in the afternoon the travelers reached Malcolm
Castle, amidst the hurrahs of their tenantry and friends.]

"Does not Miss Arabella please you?" MacNabb would say to him.

"Oh, major, she is charming!" cried Paganel,--"a thousand times too
charming for me; and, if I must tell you, would please me better if she
were less so. I should like to find a defect."

"Be easy," answered the major; "she has more than one. The most perfect
woman always has her share. Well, then, Paganel, are you decided?"

"I do not dare."

"But, my learned friend, why do you hesitate?"

"I am unworthy of her!" was the geographer's invariable reply.

At last, one day, driven desperate by the irrepressible major, Paganel
confessed to him, under the pledge of secrecy, a peculiarity that would
facilitate his identification, if the police should ever be on his
track!

"Bah!" exclaimed the major.

"It is as I tell you," persisted Paganel.

"What matter, my worthy friend?"

"Is that your opinion?"

"On the contrary, you are only more remarkable. This adds to your
personal advantages. It makes you the inimitable individual of whom
Arabella has dreamed."

And the major, preserving an imperturbable gravity, left Paganel a prey
to the most acute anxiety.

A short interview took place between MacNabb and the lady, and fifteen
weeks after a marriage was celebrated with great pomp in the chapel of
Malcolm Castle.

[Illustration: Fifteen weeks after a marriage was celebrated with great
pomp in the chapel of Malcolm Castle.]

The geographer's secret would doubtless have remained forever
buried in the abysses of the unknown if the major had not told it to
Glenarvan, who did not conceal it from Lady Helena, who communicated
it to Mrs. Mangles. In short, it reached the ear of Mrs. Olbinett, and
spread.

Jacques Paganel, during his three days' captivity among the Maoris, had
been tattooed from head to foot, and bore on his breast the picture of
an heraldic kiwi with outstretched wings, in the act of biting at his
heart.

This was the only adventure of his great voyage for which Paganel
could never be consoled or pardon the New Zealanders. In spite of the
representations of his friends, he dared not go back to France, for
fear of exposing the whole Geographical Society in his person to the
jests and railleries of the caricaturists.

The return of Captain Grant to Scotland was welcomed as a cause for
national rejoicing, and he became the popular man of old Caledonia. His
son Robert has become a sailor like himself, and, under the patronage
of Lord Glenarvan, has undertaken the plan of founding a Scottish
colony on the shores washed by the Pacific Ocean.





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