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The Wonder Island Boys: Exploring the Island By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 14146

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

It was a relief to get on fairly even ground again, where it would not be necessary to make turns and twists around all sorts of obstructions, to say nothing of ravines and water courses. On the evening of the fifteenth day, calculations showed that they were halfway back from the point farthest west, but they still had no knowledge of their distance from the sea, which undoubtedly was to the east, or, possibly, northeast. West River flowed to the north, and all the streams crossed flowed north or northeasterly, how far, it was impossible to say.

Two days afterward the scene changed somewhat. There had been little wind during the journey thus far; but now breezes sprang up for two successive days, at about four in the afternoon, which came from the north.

"I think the sea is not far away."

"Why do you think so, Professor?"

"Did you notice the warm breezes this evening, and also last night at about the same time?"

"Why should the breezes from the ocean blow warm winds to us at this time of the year when it ought to be cold?"

"It is not at all likely that the breezes are any warmer than at other times of the year. Heat is merely a relative matter. We feel the difference of the wind temperatures principally for the reason that when the vast body of water in moving ocean streams is giving off its heat, it imparts it to the atmosphere and modifies it, so that as it sweeps over the land it is warmer than the natural temperature."

The following day, late in the afternoon, they caught the first glimpse of the sea, and it was welcomed. A camp was made for the night in the open, and with an early start next morning the explorers reached the last hill to the west of the cataract.

When they arrived home, which was not without considerable misgiving, owing to their long absence, they were overjoyed at finding everything at the house in perfect order, but their yaks were missing.

This was, at first, a sore grief to them, especially to George, who considered it to be a personal loss. Milk was a luxury, as well as a necessity, to him. The team was now all that remained of their herd.

"It is strange we did not see any of them on our journey."

It was a surprising thing to see their water wheel in motion, although they had taken considerable pains to push the wheel back so the blades would not be in contact with the water. It was found that the Cataract River was much swollen with the rains, so that the water had come into contact with the wheel.

As the team was now the sole reliance, so far as the herd was concerned, the Professor suggested that they should thereafter keep the team within the enclosure, so as to prevent their straying, as they might, in the absence of their fellows, try to escape.

The present house, which had been built since coming to the Cataract, had originally only one room, and two of the sides were formed, as stated, by the walls of the right-angled rocks, the room being about ten feet square.

After the water wheel was built and put in and the sawmill erected, they were enabled to get lumber, and an extension twelve by fifteen feet was put up, to be used as a sleeping and living room.

A small addition was also added, which was converted into a kitchen, so that the original enclosure could be used as a storeroom.

A sort of roadway passed the new addition, and beyond was the Cataract, not fifty feet away. Directly below the Cataract another building was put up, in one end of which was the sawmill, and at the other end was a sort of shed in which they had put up a furnace, blacksmith shop, and a kind of primitive foundry.

Within the workshop work was done during the rainy weather, and it was made as comfortable as possible.

They were now back, ready to take up active life again. Not that the past nineteen days were inactive ones. By no means; but they loved the work which every day had brought to them in the past, and were happy in the thought that they were accomplishing things of the greatest value to themselves. They were really tired, and for a few days did little active work.

"Do you think we have accomplished very much on our trip?" was George's inquiry the evening of their arrival.

"We saw a light, didn't we?"

The boys laughed, when they saw that the Professor said it with a broad smile. They had no doubt, but he wished to convey the impression that they had seen a light, just as many others had, without being able to understand it. George saw the point at once. "I hope we may be able to profit by it. But, really, how much more do we know than we knew a month ago?"

"The West River, the bear, the wildcat, the Baby; why, you had entirely forgotten him and his cute ways. We learned that there are, without doubt, savage tribes on the island. I am inclined to think the trip has taught us something."

The Baby was an interesting little chap. He would sit up at the table with innocent blinking eyes, and gravely imitate the motions of eating, especially if there was something sweet in sight.

That night a startling noise was heard, made by the unmistakable tramp of animals passing their home. Harry was the first to open the small port, which served as a window.

"Hurrah for our yaks!" There they were, back again, with two additional calves. The next morning they were contentedly lying down outside of the enclosure which held their team.

Didn't "Baby" enjoy the milk! So did the boys. The cattle had not strayed away far, but merely found a better feeding ground. The barley field had been exhausted.

"If there is anything I missed on the journey, it was the clock. I don't like guessing at time," was George's comment, after they had fully gone over their experiences on the trip.

"I suppose," said Harry, "we can make watches, but they will be rather cumbersome, because our tools are not very delicate. What do you think, Professor?"

"That is for you to decide. I am of the opinion that as we have a pretty good clock, and as it is susceptible of being nicely regulated, we could put in our time more profitably in doing some other much needed work."

"What is that? I am willing to do anything?"

"We have some hides that need tanning, and the fresh bear pelt must be cured. As our herd of cattle has increased we might slaughter several of them, so that we can dehair the pelts and tan them all at the same time; then we need some contrivances to enable us to determine the location of our island; and also to afford a means to measure distances in traveling, because, I presume, you are just as anxious as ever to know what we have on the island."

There was a hearty assent to this view of the situation.

"I want to do everything we can to learn about our surroundings," was George's response; "and I would like to have the fire, and the mystery of the boat, and the flagpole cleared up."

The thing which most interested Harry after their return, was the disposition of the barley which they had harvested before the last journey was undertaken. This was welcomed by the

Professor as a necessity. Accordingly a level floor was provided, on which was spread a thick layer of barley stalks, and this was beaten with flails. A flail is simply a piece of wood about the thickness and length of a broom handle. To this was attached, by means of leather strips, a club, not unlike a baseball bat, so the bat portion swung on the end of the handle, and in this manner the barley was threshed out.

* * *

Fig. 7. Threshing Flail.

* * *

Before the invention of the threshing machine this was the universal method of threshing, although it was also customary to tramp it out with horses, which were driven over a thick layer of the straw hour after hour.

In one day they threshed out five bushels; beautiful golden grain. The boys who had often seen wheat and oats threshed out, never appreciated grain as they did their own, acquired in the manner this was.

The grinding-stones, which they had previously made, were then set to work, making the meal, or flour, as they preferred to call it. Heretofore flour had been a luxury, and there was a longing for it, so it was decided to make up the first batch of bread.

You may be sure that the Professor did not object to activities in this direction; and they had long ago learned his peculiarities, particularly not to venture any information voluntarily, so the boys concluded to make bread on their own knowledge. They had often seen bread made.

"All you have to do is to mix up the flour with a little water, put some rising in it and let it stand until it raises and then bake it."

"That's all well enough, Harry, I suppose we can do all that, but where shall we get the yeast?"

"That's so; yeast is necessary; I suppose we shall have to see the Professor, after all; but hold on; I have seen sour milk used, George."

"So have I; but I think mother used something else with it."

"Well, there we are; who would think we could have trouble with such a simple thing as making bread?"

The Professor came smiling. "You want to make bread, and the only thing that troubles you is to raise it so it will be light?"

"Wouldn't it be bread if you didn't raise it? You know the Jews used unleavened, or unraised, bread."

"But we want regular bread, of course, and we want to know what to use to raise it with."

"I don't see that you particularly need anything."

"Why not?"

"If you let the dough stand in a temperature of between 90 and 120 degrees for a certain time, fermentation will take place, and it can then be baked."

"But why should it ferment?"

"Bread raising is merely fermentation. All flour is largely composed of starch. The high temperature, of 100 degrees or over, causes the starch to turn first into sugar, then into alcohol and carbonic acid, and the gases thus formed force their way up through the dough, causing it to swell, as you have often noticed."

* * *

Fig. 8. Imperfectly leavened. Perfectly Leavened. Samples of Bread

* * *

Without further instructions the boys began the making of bread. Shortly afterwards the Professor appeared laughing immoderately.

"Come and see the Baby."

The boys were out in an instant. The Baby was in the storeroom adjoining, and discovered the honey pot. It was a "sight." He sat there, both hands and arms covered with honey, blinking innocently, and licking his fingers and arms with the greatest joy imaginable.

"You little rascal, you are getting too fat now," was George's greeting; but Baby didn't mind. He knew George by this time.

The bread raised, but it, too, was a "sight." It was full of holes and at some places the bread had no appearance of having "come up," which is kitchen parlance for unraised bread.

"What is the matter with it, Harry?"

"Did you work it before you put it into the oven?"

"I forgot that."

When the Professor saw the sample he divined the trouble at once.

"Of course, you have to work it, for the reason that 'working' distributes the gases through the mass. I think you made the mistake in working it and then putting it into the oven immediately."

"How long should it stand after working?"

"That depends on the amount of carbonic gas which is developed. When it first raises the gas forces its way through the dough irregularly, and by then working it the gas is broken up and distributed evenly, so that if the mass is allowed to stand after the second working every part of it will be leavened. When it is then put into the oven, the heat at first causes a more rapid expansion, or raising, of the dough, and as the heat increases, fermentation is stopped, and the baking process sets the dough. The result is tiny little holes throughout the bread, where the gases were."

"But why do they use yeast if it can be done without?"

"Because it makes the raising process easier, and more positive."

"Is it the carbonic acid which makes some bread sour?"

"Yes; sour bread results if the fermentation is continued too long."

* * *

Fig. 9. Air Pocket.

* * *

It was George's custom each day to watch the movements of the yaks, because it was through them that they learned of the barley field which was such a source of usefulness to them. One day while out on an expedition of this kind, he wandered down to the rock cliffs, probably five hundred feet west of Observation Hill, this hill, it will be remembered, being close to the landing place when they were cast on the island. The sea was heavy and the tide coming in. He could not help reflecting, and his home, his parents, and his beautiful life there came up to his inward vision. The dreary pounding sea made him homesick, and for the first time he burst into tears. But George was a brave boy. He knew that crying was useless, and felt a little ashamed of himself.

His reflections were not long, however. To his left he saw a peculiar sight. At every inrushing wave there was a report like a cannon shot, followed by a tremendous stream and spray of water, which was shot out to sea high up above the waves.

This was an extraordinary sight to him, and unexplainable. The story was related to the Professor that evening.

"That was an air pocket in the rocks."

"What is an air pocket?"

"From your description it is probably a large cave, so situated in the wall of the cliff, that at a certain period the waves will entirely close the mouth. When the wave dashes up against the cliff and closes the mouth of the cave, the water tries to enter the cave. In doing so air is compressed in the pocket, and when the wave again starts to go out to sea, and the pressure is partly taken away, the compressed air explodes, so to say, and shoots out the water into a spray, and also causes the noise you heard."

"How much can air be compressed?"

"It is not known definitely how far. It has been compressed to less than one-eight-hundredth of its bulk. It is the most elastic substance known."

"Isn't water compressible?"

"No; if it had been compressible you would not have had that exhibition at the air pocket."

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