“What?” cried Pencroft. “Do you mean to say that you turn up your nose at suckling-pig?’
“No,” replied Gideon Spilett, without showing any enthusiasm; “provided one doesn’t eat too much”
“That’s right, that’s right,” returned the sailor, who was not pleased whenever he heard his chase made light of. “You like to make objections. Seven months ago, when we landed on the island, you would have been only too glad to have met with such game!”
“Well, well,” replied the reporter, “man is never perfect, nor contented.”
“Now,” said Pencroft, “I hope that Neb will distinguish himself. Look here! These two little peccaries are not more than three months old! They will be as tender as quails! Come along, Neb, come! I will look after the cooking myself.”
And the sailor, followed by Neb, entered the kitchen, where they were soon absorbed in their culinary labors.
They were allowed to do it in their own way. Neb, therefore, prepared a magnificent repast—the two little peccaries, kangaroo soup, a smoked ham, stone-pine almonds, Oswego tea; in fact, all the best that they had, but among all the dishes figured in the first rank the savory peccaries.
At five o’clock dinner was served in the dining-room of Granite House. The kangaroo soup was smoking on the table. They found it excellent.
To the soup succeeded the peccaries, which Pencroft insisted on carving himself, and of which he served out monstrous portions to each of the guests.
These suckling-pigs were really delicious, and Pencroft was devouring his share with great gusto, when all at once a cry and an oath escaped him.
“What’s the matter?” asked Cyrus Harding.
“The matter? the matter is that I have just broken a tooth!” replied the sailor.
“What, are there pebbles in your peccaries?” said Gideon Spilett.
“I suppose so,” replied Pencroft, drawing from his lips the object which had cost him a grinder!—
It was not a pebble—it was a leaden bullet.
It was now exactly seven months since the balloon voyagers had been thrown on Lincoln Island. During that time, notwithstanding the researches they had made, no human being had been discovered. No smoke even had betrayed the presence of man on the surface of the island. No vestiges of his handiwork showed that either at an early or at a late period had man lived there. Not only did it now appear to be uninhabited by any but themselves, but the colonists were compelled to believe that it never had been inhabited. And now, all this scaffolding of reasonings fell before a simple ball of metal, found in the body of an inoffensive rodent! In fact, this bullet must have issued from a firearm, and who but a human being could have used such a weapon?