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A Writer's Journal


25th March 1860


Cyrus Harding is still missing. I refuse to believe that he has been swallowed whole by the ocean. There is great strength contained in those wiry limbs, and I know for a fact that he possesses an even greater, fiercer will. The sea cannot claim him, he shant allow it!


The first day in this mysterious land (for I do not know whether it is part of a continent, or heaven forbid, an uncharted island) has been filled with stressful anxiety. Our struggles to lighten the balloon had ultimately left us with a miniscule success, that of landing whole and relatively without harm upon an islet at close to dawn, whereupon we first and foremostly realized that this small victory of life had been accomplished with a dear price, that of the loss of a great friend in the person of Captain Harding. We had also deduced that Top, his faithful dog, had followed him to the raging swells of the night's storm. Sitting here, warm and dry in this wretched alcove that the sailor Pencroft and his companion, the boy Herbert had contrived to set up for us, I cannot help but feel guilty of this lowly wretched heart, full of cowardice and fear and very much in wanting of the courage to leap out of a balloon in pursuit of a dear friend's life. No, the brutish animal instinct of survival overcame and overpowered this poor coward's soul, and I fear that the consequence may be too great to bear. I see Neb wandering out by the shore. He is not alone, though again this coward's heart deceives, and reveals me as a fraud, falling far short of even a servant's genuine affection that now mourns and grieves the loss of a truly great man. What I would give to see Cyrus alive and well right now! I would have the ocean swallow me instead to have him safe at this very instant, perhaps even by this very fire that would undoubtedly warm his body where it fails to warm my sickly soul. Neb and I have searched high and low, with all our powers, and when strength failed us, with all our will. Neb had proceeded a good deal of length before I caught up to him upon reaching the larger island, where I and my companions have concurred to be the closest to where Captain Harding had fallen. We are hoping that the swell would have carried him to its shores, and hour upon hour Neb and I struggled through rocks and ravines, scouring the beaches until exhaustion dominated our all too human compositions, and forced us to slacken our pace, whereupon we resolved to search thoroughly and repeatedly, moving back and forth along the sections we have visited with keen vision, and great worry for the rocks that jutted out of the surf and abounded greatly in the shores we searched.


Though we have reluctantly conceded to the victory of darkness for tonight, I know to the very marrow of my bones that the morrow shall have me and Neb up and searching once more. Tomorrow we shall search with all our lives, if that is what it takes. I know we do not have it in us to fail a second time.


26th March 1860


Pencroft the sailor and the young man Herbert had left the camp, "The Chimneys" as they call it, in search of food and other such needs as would supply us for the day and further for the plan to survey the island, if such it was, properly. In all of the things I wish right now, the greatest are two that involves this current predicament: that, firstly, Cyrus Harding may be found, by freak chance or complete miracle--mayhap he might even stumble into this place at this very moment; and, secondly, that the land of our salvation would turn out to be the tip of a continent where civilization exists, nay, even just that the presence of man be marked by trails leading to roads, then to villages, or towns or even cities. I do not want to contemplate the other possibilities. Pencroft and Herbert have taken up the task of surviving for this hapless party with much vigor and optimism. They are actively seeking out the necessities which would fuel us with life, and moreso energy for travel. I have elected to remain behind, and grudgingly admit to myself that it is more out of exhaustion and fear than of practicality, as such that may have been communicated by my suggestion. My companions would no doubt perceive me the coward in the end, and I doubt Neb has anything to admire of me anymore. I secretly plead exhaustion because I tire in my efforts to stave off despair, in lieu of hope, which I bank greatly in the survival of our one missing friend more than the chance that Fate has brought us to an inhabited land. And I also plead fear, for I am a coward, as I have shamefully confessed in private ink and paper, and the thought that the effort of living would take much more than the stroke of a pen hastens the depletion of my courage to stay well and alive.


(A page has been torn off after this entry.)


27th March 1860

Cyrus is alive! I shant speak more of it yet. The storm last night has wrecked our meager shelter, and there is no fire to warm his body. We have struggled all day yesterday to transport him from the cave that had been his apparent refuge from sea and then the storm, and it is a shame that we deliver him only to the ruins of our previous habitation. I and my companions have volunteered our coats and waistcoasts in a small effort to shelter his body from the frigid winds blowing from the ocean. The meals we have fed him and ourselves are but wretched grub, and yet we hope that it is enough to sustain him and give him strength for tomorrow's light. Tomorrow is a good day, I firmly believe, because Cyrus Harding is returned to us. I cannot thank Fate and Providence enough for this blessed reunion.


28th March 1860


Pencroft, Herbert and Neb had already left to find food and firewood. I and Cyrus have remained in the ruins of the Chimneys with two tasks: that of salvaging the most of the ruins of our dwellings, and also, to start a fire. Pencroft has expressed his doubts in the latter enterprise, though I suspect that he has already set his standards much too high to that of a raging bonfire by the time he returns. I, on the other hand, expect nothing of Cyrus. I have seen his mind at work, and he is undoubtedly a man of great capability. He could make a fire with the least difficulty, though I wouldn't begrudge him if he chooses to light a modest one instead. Still, it is amazing what he has achieved so far. In merely half an hour, he had fully surveyed the remains of the Chimneys and had then confided in me his plans for restoring parts of it to serve our needs until we find a better and more secure shelter. He says that if we shant find one, then it would be a worthwhile task to build one. His words give me great assurance, and I feel that his presence has rejuvinated my own will to live. It is better indeed to have Cyrus Harding with you on a deserted island, rather than be without him in a populated city. His own confidence in life and independent spirit fuels and envigorates me. I cannot thank the Author of all Creation enough for Cyrus' salvation.


Presently he has borrowed my pocket watch, and had produced his own as well, saying nothing more of this curious task. I am but resolved to watch and observe him. As I sit writing, he is dismantling the clocks and prising out the glass pieces. Now he tells me that he is making a burning-glass, in hopes that I shant be too offended should I feel that he has violated my possession. But I would gladly give him anything, in the happy confidence that he has a set purpose for all his endeavors. A dissembled timepiece is of no consequence, when here Cyrus has obviously found a greater purpose in one of its pieces.


The fire grows quickly. Cyrus is amazing! Surely he has the laugh over Pencroft now, ha!


29th March 1860

The day's travels were exhausting, but light-hearted as well. Pencroft the sailor provided much welcome amusement with his antics with the musmon, a kind of wild sheep as young Herbert explained, and which Pencroft had called "sheep". It is, as he implies, mutton by any name. We have spent most of the day climbing one of the mountains, one that is formed by two cones, its summit yet to be conquered by Captain Harding's indomitable will and mind as sharp as a pick-axe.


We have halted on a plateau, where it was unanimously decided to establish camp, and Cyrus has gone to survey the plateau's perimeter with the last of the light, while the others busied themselves with setting up the night's camp. We shall feast with the remaining capybara meat and almonds that we have brought, and tomorrow shall climb even higher, in hopes of gaining access to the summit, and more importantly, gaining full view of the lay of the land. I hope that Fortune would favor us the promise of civilization, or at least evidence of present human inhabitants other than ourselves. It is vital that we uncover all possibilities to our advantage, as Cyrus had explained earlier in the day, all the better that we can prepare for whatever lifestyle we may be forced to live with in the near future.


29th March

We are on an island.


Cyrus and Herbert had just returned from their excursions. Apparently, after following the line of the plateau for some length, the upper cone yielded to a natural staircase formed of rock-hard lava. To this they climbed, and thus they bore first witness to the crescent moon and to the waters it illuminated, which apparently surround this land of Providence completely.


I myself am very disappointed at this news, though I do not know if my cares were shown completely in the firelight. Pencroft has taken it with a certain grimness, if the light would be believed, but he has prepared himself for this inevitability for some days already, and I think that he'd have handled the fact that we are now officially islanders in a more drastic if not violent approach, had he not been a practical realist. He is a typical man of the sea, and thus he shares with her many temperaments. Herbert shares partially in Pencroft's resolve, but the boy possesses an uncanny amount of optimism and vitality, so I am sure that he would manage fine. Neb seems indifferent. I think perhaps it is because he is by his master's side, and that is all that matters to him. It is, ironically, Cyrus himself that I am worried about. He went to sleep with nary a word after his report, and seems too calm with this discovery. Perhaps his mind is already at work and he is simply waiting for the sun to arrive to give light to his new projects. Maybe I should follow him and put my mind at rest as well. I hope, for all of us, that it would all look better in the morning.


30th March 1860

We have been gripped in a naming frenzy. It served well to lighten our spirits, and indeed we have found some useful names not only for the island and its distinctive parts, but for ourselves. We are now Colonists. Certainly better than castaways, and this name would deliver us from a rough island life with pride and dignity for our great country. Even now I think of all the news I had missed. What is happening to the war effort? Certainly, Captain Harding has contributed much to the Northern side, and by this time I expect that victory is well within reach of the Union. However, I feel little guilt for Captain Harding's absence in the war. He is here in Lincoln Island, and so am I, and all five of us men of hardy dispositions find ourselves thrown together by Fate, who mayhap had reserved for us this small but important consolation after casting our balloon through a storm and onto an uncharted land. I still hope that a ship to rescue us would not be too far-fetched a possibility, but today's events have also instilled in me a calm practicality. I now cannot wait for the sun to arrive. Suddenly, the day does not seem to contain the despair of isolation, but rather the excitement and wonder of exploration.


31st March 1860

On traveling...


I daresay this is not how I imagine a "walk in the woods" would go. But there are certain elements that resemble the typical trot in the park that I cherish secretly as we go along in our exploration. Ahead of us, Cyrus' faithful canine friend, Top, is poking his nose into any and every bush. Then there is Pencroft and Herbert, the jolly pair, both engrossed in their new-found habitation which they are even now enriching with their gabble. In all the sounds of the forest, they are the only sentient noises, which unsurprisingly are most welcome to my ears. Neb is walking close to them, and I thank him for being himself. Unlike most Negroes I know or have encountered, he does not feel unwelcome among the company of caucassian men. He is unhesitant to join in the banter between the sailor and the boy, and truly he adds a good diversity to our merry band. I and Captain Harding cover the quiet rear. The silence we share is only broken by the scritch of my pen on my journal, the ocassional turning of the page as I consult the crude map I am even now refining, and then by the periodical stops when Cyrus would point to a certain tree, or shrubbery or unusual fauna, and I would oblige him with a hasty sketch or a notation in my journal.


31st March - 1st April 1860

The day's journeying have yielded many excellent discoveries. I suspect that we shall see more of Lake Grant now, following its fantastic view and its amazing collection of fowl and quadruped game. There is also the promise of better shelter there, but Cyrus' priorities are yet unclear. There are a million things we have to have, it seems, and Pencroft insistently pressures the captain on the need for hunting equipment, primarily guns. Cyrus has suggested of course the more primitive yet highly practical bow and arrow, and though I am not excellent in the art itself, I do consider myself quite adequate with this choice of weapon. Cyrus had just presented us with his own discoveries, which he simply collected during our trek. They consist of the following: iron, pyrite, clay, lime and coal. I do not follow to the exact the end-products of these substances, but these fruits of Providence found by our leader inspire much excitement for the inevitable work which we shall set upon using these very minerals. And it all begins today, yes, begin. In Cyrus Harding's own words: We will begin at the beginning. And I am very much looking forward to this fresh start, which Captain Harding will undoubtedly lead with great vigor and success.


15th April 1860

The captain has begun determining the island's longitude and latitude. It is amazing what he has done with very simple tools, using only a wooden ruler, a primitive sextant and his own wit. All of us are awed by his innumerable talents, I see it in them. Neb remains ever-faithful, and there is never a lack of devotion to his master. The young Herbert swears by Captain Harding already. He follows him everywhere and observes acutely his methods and even lifestyle. There is the spark of admiration in his eyes. Even Pencroft succumbs to it sometimes. There goes a man of great will and passion, but even he sees in the captain the kind of intellect that can bring raw strength to greater heights. Every one of us believes in him, and I for one await his words that a boat will be built and that we would soon be able to go home.


16th April 1860

Cyrus had explained to us his methods. Every single detail. And he has made sure to include the possibility of errors, but even those are steep. I wish he hadn't said it so dispassionately. He ended today's experiment with a lecturer's voice; how I detest it!! I cannot say that I am alone in my grief, but the others seem to be holding up better than me. Promptly after he declared that we are thousands of miles from anywhere civilized, that we are in fact stuck in an island in the middle of nowhere, I stumbled off to the waterline and sat on the wet sand for a long time, with no care for clothes or health. I have appeared miserable in front of my companions, and it was pathetic, I expect, but so is our general state. How can we live in Lincoln Island? I do not even want to imagine perishing in this unknown land. I watched the sky all afternoon, because it was absurdly beautiful, and cruel this way. It seems that I will never know the beauty of city lights anymore, nor the sound of a dozen printing presses or the music of a concierto. Toward sunset, my thoughts mellowed out to a calm lull, where the crash of the waves echoed in my mind and all my worries seemed to have washed off with the surf. And then it was Cyrus who was beside me, saying, "Come, friend, it is time for dinner." He patted my arm, once, and then got up. I allowed myself a minute of contemplation, and when my head cleared I realized, with a laugh, how these very words were the best thing for me to hear. How I laughed as I let him pull me up. We patted each others' shoulders as he laughed with me and led me back to the Chimneys. I hadn't realized that the others had gone on to spend their afternoons in a more worthwhile fashion. They had hunted and toiled so as to prepare a dinner feast, while I sat and wallowed in my own misery. But all had forgiving eyes, upon our return, and I couldn't help but feel relieved. There is a valuable lesson here, and Cyrus himself had reminded it to me in the very simplest of words. "It is time for dinner," he said, and I can just hear him saying also, "it is time to think of the immediate, one step at a time." And when he called me friend, it was to tell me, silently, "Do not worry, my dear Spilett." Truly, if anybody can get us all through the hardships of the future we would undoubtedly be spending a lot of in this island, none other than Captain Cyrus Harding can do it best.





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