CHAPTER 22: The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo
WITHOUT STANDING UP, we stared in the direction of the forest, my hand
stopping halfway to my mouth, Ned Land's completing its assignment.
"Stones don't fall from the sky," Conseil said, "or else they
deserve to be called meteorites."
A second well-polished stone removed a tasty ringdove leg from
Conseil's hand, giving still greater relevance to his observation.
We all three stood up, rifles to our shoulders, ready to
answer any attack.
"Apes maybe?" Ned Land exclaimed.
"Nearly," Conseil replied. "Savages."
"Head for the skiff!" I said, moving toward the sea.
Indeed, it was essential to beat a retreat because some twenty natives,
armed with bows and slings, appeared barely a hundred paces off,
on the outskirts of a thicket that masked the horizon to our right.
The skiff was aground ten fathoms away from us.
The savages approached without running, but they favored us with a
show of the greatest hostility. It was raining stones and arrows.
Ned Land was unwilling to leave his provisions behind, and despite
the impending danger, he clutched his pig on one side, his kangaroos
on the other, and scampered off with respectable speed.
In two minutes we were on the strand. Loading provisions and weapons
into the skiff, pushing it to sea, and positioning its two oars
were the work of an instant. We hadn't gone two cable lengths
when a hundred savages, howling and gesticulating, entered the water
up to their waists. I looked to see if their appearance might
draw some of the Nautilus's men onto the platform. But no.
Lying well out, that enormous machine still seemed completely deserted.
Twenty minutes later we boarded ship. The hatches were open.
After mooring the skiff, we reentered the Nautilus's interior.