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   Chapter 15 MYSTERIOUS HAPPENINGS ON THE ISLAND

The Wonder Island Boys: Exploring the Island By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 12465

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The Professor supervised every part of the operation with the utmost care. "Before the plates are heated you must put a raised margin around each slate square, so the molten material will not run off."

"How high shall we make the margins?"

"About a quarter inch above the surface of the slate."

"As we are now ready to heat up the crucible, how shall the materials be mixed?"

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Fig. 37. Making Sheet Glass.

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"For this trial, measure out eight quarts of sand and two quarts of the lime, and after depositing it in the crucible, we are ready for the heat."

In a short time, with the assistance of the blower, which has already been described, the sand began to melt. It was now stirred so that the elements were thoroughly mingled. During the melting period the dross or impurities which came to the top were skimmed off, and when no more of the impurities collected the Professor stated that they might remove the crucible and pour the melted mass into small pockets, which they had previously formed with clay.

"Why not pour this on the slate forms we made?"

"Because we must know that we have a good sample of glass, and for the further reason that the product we are now to make should have some glass in it that has already been fluxed before, and we now have such a manufactured material."

The material which had been cast in the pockets was broken up with a hammer, as soon as it had cooled, and its appearance noted.

"I see we shall have to use less lime."

"Why?"

"You will note that it is too white or milky-like. This shows too much lime and consequently it is very brittle."

"Suppose, on the other hand, there was too little lime, what would be the result?"

"We should then have a glass which would not hang together at all. In the one case, as with the present sample, with too much lime in it, we have made a product which is closely allied to the alkaline base; and if we had, on the other hand, too little lime, we should have something which is nearly like quartz, hence not suitable for our purpose."

"It seems, then, we have to do in this case just as Red Angel did, make a test sample?"

This allusion to their pet caused a smile all around.

Since the trip made by our colonists two months before they made no effort to gain any additional knowledge of their island. What they really knew of the country, aside from two of the trips made in the interior, under very unfavorable circumstances, was of no value as a means of locating the natives.

That the island was inhabited there could no longer be any reason to doubt. The fire plot on the banks of the Cataract River, the lights near the woods beyond the West River, the finding of the arrows, and the mysterious use of the boat which had so strangely disappeared from the falls in South River, to say nothing of the removal of the flag and flagstaff, were evidences which could not be disregarded.

The further investigations which they must make for their own safety was one of the impelling steps which determined them to build another boat. The discovery of the wrecked portion of the life-boat and the decision to utilize the recovered portion for the new craft had facilitated their preparations somewhat, but there was still a great deal of work to do.

They had six imperfect guns, as they called them, mere pistols, muzzle-loaders, with barrels eight inches long, and the powder was not the best which could be made. Everything was crude and imperfect, and to boldly venture out among savage tribes with such an equipment would not be wise.

All these things were considered in their conferences. But another matter was suggested by the Professor, which carried some weight. A sail had been seen by them. There could be no question on that point. Other ships might come again, and now that they had a flag of such proportions that it would be seen miles further than the original one, it was possible that the opportunity of rescue might be more likely from their side of the island than anywhere else.

It was certain that if a ship should, in their absence, reach the port, and even discover their home through the instrumentality of the evidence which they had left at the signal flag, there was no assurance that the vessel would await their return, or undertake the mission of rescuing them from the savages, if they should be so unfortunate as to be captured.

It was a most distracting thing to solve. It was not only perplexing, but exceedingly trying, to feel that at any moment a visit might be expected from the natives.

Nevertheless, after all considerations, and giving due weight to the likelihood that some ship might visit them, the building of the boat was decided on, and it was to be of such a character that it could circumnavigate the island. They believed it to be their first duty to do this.

This was the Professor's view: "If we can build a boat large enough, and make it of sufficient strength to carry us and the provisions we must take with us, on such a voyage, we should, at some point in our tour, find the natives, and determine their character."

"But, supposing, Professor, that they discover our boat and should pursue us?"

"My reply to that is, that our vessel must be made of sufficient size and strength to outsail them. My opinion is that the most they have is canoes, and we could readily cope with them. The difficulty is this: If we should be discovered, their curiosity, to say the least, would be sufficient to cause them to trail us along the shore, and it would be exceedingly uncomfortable to have them follow us around the shores to our home. Afloat, in strange localities, on an uncharted sea, at night, is a trying situation with a sailor, even though he has all the instruments of navigation at his command. To go ashore, under the circumstances, knowing that the savages are in wait, would be fully as dangerous."

To Harry's practical turn of mind, there was another feature that might be considered. "Some time ago you stated, Professor, that it was quite possible we had an island near us as a neighbor, and from which we may have had visitors. If such is likely to be the case, our boat will be the means o

f enabling us to reach that island, because if they have boats of sufficient size to come here they will be civilized, at any rate."

It will thus be seen from a consideration of all the conditions what determined them to increase the dimensions of the proposed new boat, although it would consume more time than they had originally contemplated.

"Do you remember, boys, that it is now about one year since we left the harbor of New York on our voyage in the training ship Investigator?"

"Yes, and we have been on this island for nine months," answered George. "I can hardly believe it possible."

What might be called spring was now at hand, and as the warm rains had quickened the vegetation, the Professor suggested that it would be prudent to devote some time to the planting of such crops as could be utilized by them. Barley was a crop which grew in sufficient quantities all about them, so that no care need be taken in that direction.

Garden vegetables would be needed most. Wild potatoes grew in many places, but when they were needed search had to be made. Endives, which made excellent greens, could also be found, together with the cassava, and a variety of peas; but aside from the foregoing, nothing else was available.

While talking on this subject one day the Professor remarked: "In my wanderings I found quite a variety of plants that we might utilize in our proposed garden or farm. One of them is a small, triangularly formed, dark brown seed, which you may recognize."

"That," was Harry's answer, "looks something like our buckwheat."

"You are right; I found several varieties; none of them exactly like the kind grown in the States, but we can readily propagate it, so that it will be practically the same."

"How is the propagation done, so as to bring about the change?"

"It is merely a careful selection of the best varieties of the particular plant, and by budding, grafting, or inarching, transmitting the qualities of the good kind to the stalk or tree which bears the inferior kind. That is done with vegetation which is perennial, like fruit trees and the like."

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Fig. 38. Grafting. Fig. 39. Budding. Fig. 40. Inarching.

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"But how could any of these methods be used with the buckwheat?"

"An entirely different method is used in cultivating vegetation of that kind. You probably have seen wild oats growing here, as in the States. In its wild or native state the grains are so small as to be utterly useless. It is found that by taking this wild plant and changing the soil in which it grows, the seed will finally develop and become larger, until, in time, we get the full grain. The same thing is true in the development of fruit which is full of seeds. The banana in its wild state is full of seeds. By this process of cultivation it has finally become entirely seedless, and the value of the fruit greatly enhanced."

Beyond the Cataract was a low and level stretch of meadow, which the Professor thought was rich and could be readily worked, and it was the field which they determined to devote to agricultural purposes.

In the meantime, the plans for the boat were developed. A description of the recovered after part of the life-boat will make their plans better understood. When they landed on the rock, and its forward part was crushed and washed away, they saw the stern portion lodged in a saddle in the rocks. It was there for an instant only, as the next wave dislodged it, and when it was eventually found, months afterwards, it had caught in the rocks a hundred feet further inland.

The part which they recovered was still in a good condition, but the ruptured portion of the hull was a broken up and splintered mass, so that it would require considerable work to prepare it to receive the bow part which was now to be grafted on.

It had been originally sixteen feet long, with a five-foot beam. Harry's plan was to increase the new vessel to a length of twenty feet, and its extreme breadth six and a half feet, and in order to give greater security and carrying capacity, it should have a depth of two and a half feet.

"How much are you calculating on for the weight to be carried on the new boat?" was the Professor's question.

"I am estimating that the passenger weight will be 400 pounds and the weight of the boat itself at 500 pounds."

"That is a very liberal estimate. Have you considered the mast and sails?"

"That is something entirely beyond my knowledge. I do not know what kind of sail; or how large it shall be; nor the length or size of the masts. If I knew something about the kinds of sails used for vessels I might be able to decide on that as well as the other parts."

"The term ship, as usually applied, has reference to a vessel furnished with a bowsprit and three masts-a mainmast, a foremast and a mizzenmast; and these three masts are each composed of three parts, namely, a lowermast, a topmast, and a topgallant mast."

"The bowsprit is that mast which projects forward from the bow, isn't it?"

"Yes. In small vessels the cutter and the sloop have single masts, the difference being that in the cutter the jib-boom has no stay to support it."

"What's the difference between the jib-boom and the bowsprit; they both project out from the bow of the vessel?"

"The bowsprit projects out only a little forward of the bow, and the jib-boom is attached to the forward end of the bowsprit."

"Well, if we are to have only one mast, should we have a bowsprit?"

"It is not necessary, for the reason that in a small boat the boom, as it is called, to stretch the foot of the sail, runs out directly from the foot of the mast to which it is pivotally hinged."

"Then it would be better to have a single mast and a triangular sail, one side of the sail to be attached to the mast, and one of the other sides to the boom?"

"Yes; excepting that the sail must not be attached to the shaft, but to a cable which is run up the mast."

As the vessel was intended not for speed, but for safety and for ease of management, it was finally decided that the mast should be twenty feet long, and the boom sixteen feet, thus giving a sail area, approximately, of 150 square feet.

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