“This is only the sea,” observed Gideon Spilett, “and possibly it does not inspire him with any wish to escape!”
“Yes,” replied Harding, “we must take him to the plateau, on the border of the forest. There the experiment will be more conclusive.”
“Besides, he could not run away,” said Neb, “since the bridge is raised.”
“Oh!” said Pencroft, “that isn’t a man to be troubled by a stream like Creek Glycerine! He could cross it directly, at a single bound!”
“We shall soon see,” Harding contented himself with replying, his eyes not quitting those of his patient.
The latter was then led towards the mouth of the Mercy, and all climbing the left bank of the river, reached Prospect Heights.
Arrived at the spot on which grew the first beautiful trees of the forest, their foliage slightly agitated by the breeze, the stranger appeared greedily to drink in the penetrating odor which filled the atmosphere, and a long sigh escaped from his chest.
The settlers kept behind him, ready to seize him if he made any movement to escape!
And, indeed, the poor creature was on the point of springing into the creek which separated him from the forest, and his legs were bent for an instant as if for a spring, but almost immediately he stepped back, half sank down, and a large tear fell from his eyes.
“Ah!” exclaimed Cyrus Harding, “you have become a man again, for you can weep!”
Yes! the unfortunate man had wept! Some recollection doubtless had flashed across his brain, and to use Cyrus Harding’s expression, by those tears he was once more a man.
The colonists left him for some time on the plateau, and withdrew themselves to a short distance, so that he might feel himself free; but he did not think of profiting by this liberty, and Harding soon brought him back to Granite House. Two days after this occurrence, the stranger appeared to wish gradually to mingle with their common life. He evidently heard and understood, but no less evidently was he strangely determined not to speak to the colonists; for one evening, Pencroft, listening at the door of his room, heard these words escape from his lips:—
“No! here! I! never!”
The sailor reported these words to his companions.
“There is some painful mystery there!” said Harding.
The stranger had begun to use the laboring tools, and he worked in the garden. When he stopped in his work, as was often the case, he remained retired within himself, but on the engineer’s recommendation, they respected the reserve which he apparently wished to keep. If one of the settlers approached him, he drew back, and his chest heaved with sobs, as if overburdened!
Was it remorse that overwhelmed him thus? They were compelled to believe so, and Gideon Spilett could not help one day making this observation,—