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A Light On The Horizon

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Studious if possible to conceal his real misgivings, and anxious that the rest of the party should be affected as little as might be by his own uneasiness, Servadac would wander alone about the island, racking his brain for an idea that would point the way out of the serious difficulty. But still all in vain.

One day he suddenly came upon Ben Zoof, and asked him whether he had no plan to propose. The orderly shook his head, but after a few moments' pondering, said: "Ah! master, if only we were at Montmartre, we would get shelter in the charming stone-quarries."

"Idiot!" replied the captain, angrily, "if we were at Montmartre, you don't suppose that we should need to live in stone-quarries?"

But the means of preservation which human ingenuity had failed to secure were at hand from the felicitous provision of Nature herself. It was on the 10th of March that the captain and Lieutenant Procope started off once more to investigate the northwest corner of the island; on their way their conversation naturally was engrossed by the subject of the dire necessities which only too manifestly were awaiting them. A discussion more than usually animated arose between them, for the two men were not altogether of the same mind as to the measures that ought to be adopted in order to open the fairest chance of avoiding a fatal climax to their exposure; the captain persisted that an entirely new abode must be sought, while the lieutenant was equally bent upon devising a method of some sort by which their present quarters might be rendered sufficiently warm. All at once, in the very heat of his argument, Procope paused; he passed his hand across his eyes, as if to dispel a mist, and stood, with a fixed gaze centered on a point towards the south. "What is that?" he said, with a kind of hesitation. "No, I am not mistaken," he added; "it is a light on the horizon."

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"A light!" exclaimed Servadac; "show me where."

"Look there!" answered the lieutenant, and he kept pointing steadily in its direction, until Servadac also distinctly saw the bright speck in the distance.

It increased in clearness in the gathering shades of evening. "Can it be a ship?" asked the captain.

"If so, it must be in flames; otherwise we should not be able to see it so far off," replied Procope.

"It does not move," said Servadac; "and unless I am greatly deceived, I can hear a kind of reverberation in the air."

For some seconds the two men stood straining eyes and ears in rapt attention. Suddenly an idea struck Servadac's mind. "The volcano!" he cried; "may it not be the volcano that we saw, whilst we were on board the Dobryna?"

The lieutenant agreed that it was very probable.

"Heaven be praised!" ejaculated the captain, and he went on in the tones of a keen excitement: "Nature has provided us with our winter quarters; the stream of burning lava that is flowing there is the gift of a bounteous Providence; it will provide us all the warmth we need. No time to lose! To-morrow, my dear Procope, to-morrow we will explore it all; no doubt the life, the heat we want is reserved for us in the heart and bowels of our own Gallia!"

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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