A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A COPPER CYLINDER
A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A COPPER CYLINDER
JAMES DE MILLE
I. The Finding of the Copper Cylinder
II. Adrift in the Antarctic Ocean
III. A World of Fire and Desolation
IV. The Sight of Human Beings
V. The Torrent Sweeping Under the Mountains
VI. The New World
VII. Scientific Theories and Scepticism
VIII. The Cave-Dwellers
IX. The Cavern of the Dead
X. The Sacred Hunt
XI. The Swamp Monster
XII. The Baleful Sacrifice
XIII. The Awful "Mista Kosek"
XIV. I Learn My Doom
XV. The Kohen is Inexorable
XVI. The Kosekin
XVII. Belief and Unbelief
XVIII. A Voyage over the Pole
XIX. The Wonders of the "Amir"
XX. The Dark Maiden Layelah
XXI. The Flying Monster
XXIII. The Island of Fire
XXV. Falling like Icarus into the Sea
XXVI. Grimm's Law Again
XXVII. Oxenden Preaches a Sermon
XXVIII. In Prison
XXIX. The Ceremony of Separation
XXX. The Day of Sacrifice
THE FINDING OF THE COPPER CYLINDER
It occurred as far back as February 15 1850. It happened on that
day that the yacht Falcon lay becalmed upon the ocean between the
Canaries and the Madeira Islands. This yacht Falcon was the property
of Lord Featherstone who being weary of life in England had taken
a few congenial friends for a winter's cruise in these southern
latitudes. They had visited the Azores the Canaries and the Madeira
Islands and were now on their way to the Mediterranean.
The wind had failed a deep calm had succeeded and everywhere as far
as the eye could reach the water was smooth and glassy. The yacht
rose and fell at the impulse of the long ocean undulations and the
creaking of the spars sounded out a lazy accompaniment to the motion
of the vessel. All around was a watery horizon except in the one
place only toward the south where far in the distance the Peak of
Teneriffe rose into the air.
The profound calm the warm atmosphere the slow pitching of the
yacht and the dull creaking of the spars all combined to lull into a
state of indolent repose the people on board. Forward were the crew;
some asleep others smoking others playing cards. At the stern were
Oxenden the intimate friend of Featherstone and Dr. Congreve who
had come in the double capacity of friend and medical attendant.
These two like the crew were in a state of dull and languid
repose. Suspended between the two masts in an Indian hammock lay
Featherstone with a cigar in his mouth and a novel in his hand which
he was pretending to read. The fourth member of the party Melick was
seated near the mainmast folding some papers in a peculiar way. His
occupation at length attracted the roving eyes of Featherstone who
poked forth his head from his hammock and said in a sleepy voice:
"I say Melick you're the most energetic fellah I ever saw. By Jove!
you're the only one aboard that's busy. What are you doing?"
"Paper boats" said Melick in a business-like tone.
"Paper boats! By Jove!" said Featherstone. "What for?"
"I'm going to have a regatta" said Melick. "Anything to kill time
"By Jove!" exclaimed Featherstone again raising himself higher in his
hammock "that's not a bad idea. A wegatta! By Jove! glowious!
glowious! I say Oxenden did you hear that?"
"What do you mean by a regatta?" asked Oxenden lazily.
"Oh I mean a race with these paper boats. We can bet on them
At this Featherstone sat upright with his legs dangling out of
"By Jove!" he exclaimed again. "Betting! So we can. Do you know
Melick old chap I think that's a wegular piece of inspiration.
A wegatta! and we can bet on the best boat."
"But there isn't any wind" said Oxenden.
"Well you know that's the fun of it" said Melick who went solemnly
on as he spoke folding his paper boats; "that's the fun of it. For
you see if there was a wind we should be going on ourselves and the
regatta couldn't come off; but as it is the water is just right.
You pick out your boat and lay your bet on her to race to some given
"A given point? But how can we find any?"
"Oh easily enough; something or anything--a bubble'll do or we can
pitch out a bit of wood."
Upon this Featherstone descended from his perch and came near to
examine the proceedings while the other two eager to take advantage
of the new excitement soon joined him. By this time Melick had
finished his paper boats. There were four of them and they were made
of different colors namely red green yellow and white.
"I'll put these in the water" said Melick "and then we can lay our
bets on them as we choose. But first let us see if there is anything
that can be taken as a point of arrival. If there isn't anything I
can pitch out a bit of wood in any direction which may seem best."
Saying this he went to the side followed by the others and all
looked out carefully over the water.
"There's a black speck out there" said Oxenden.
"So there is" said Featherstone. "That'll do. I wonder what it is?"
"Oh a bit of timber" said Melick. "Probably the spar of some ship."
"It don't look like a spar" said the doctor; "it's only a round spot
like the float of some net."
"Oh it's a spar" said Melick. "It's one end of it the rest is under
The spot thus chosen was a dark circular object about a hundred
yards away and certainly did look very much like the extremity of
some spar the rest of which was under water. Whatever it was
however it served well enough for their present purpose and no one
took any further interest in it except as the point toward which the
paper boats should run in their eventful race.
Melick now let himself down over the side and placed the paper boats
on the water as carefully as possible. After this the four stood
watching the little fleet in silence. The water was perfectly still
and there was no perceptible wind but there were draughts of air
caused by the rise and fall of the yacht and these affected the tiny
boats. Gradually they drew apart the green one drifting astern the
yellow one remaining under the vessel while the red and the white
were carried out in the direction where they were expected to go with
about a foot of space between them.
"Two to one on the red!" cried Featherstone betting on the one which
had gained the lead.
"Done" said Melick promptly taking his offer.
Oxenden made the same bet which was taken by Melick and the doctor.
Other bets were now made as to the direction which they would take as
to the distance by which the red would beat the white as to the time
which would be occupied by the race and as to fifty other things
which need not be mentioned. All took part in this; the excitement
rose high and the betting went on merrily. At length it was noticed
that the white was overhauling the red. The excitement grew intense;
the betting changed its form but was still kept up until at last
the two paper boats seemed blended together in one dim spot which
gradually faded out of sight.
It was now necessary to determine the state of the race so
Featherstone ordered out the boat. The four were soon embarked and
the men rowed out toward the point which had been chosen as the end of
the race. On coming near they found the paper boats stuck together
saturated with water and floating limp on the surface. An animated
discussion arose about this. Some of the bets were off but others
remained an open question and each side insisted upon a different
view of the case. In the midst of this Featherstone's attention was
drawn to the dark spot already mentioned as the goal of the race.
"That's a queer-looking thing" said he suddenly. "Pull up lads a
little; let's see what it is. It doesn't look to me like a spar."
The others always on the lookout for some new object of interest
were attracted by these words and looked closely at the thing in
question. The men pulled. The boat drew nearer.
"It's some sort of floating vessel" said Oxenden.
"It's not a spar" said Melick who was at the bow.
And as he said this he reached out and grasped at it. He failed to get
it and did no more than touch it. It moved easily and sank but soon
came up again. A second time he grasped at it and with both hands.
This time he caught it and then lifted it out of the water into the
boat. These proceedings had been watched with the deepest interest;
and now as this curious floating thing made its appearance among
them they all crowded around it in eager excitement.
"It looks like a can of preserved meat" said the doctor.
"It certainly is a can" said Melick "for it's made of metal; but as
to preserved meat I have my doubts."
The article in question was made of metal and was cylindrical in
shape. It was soldered tight and evidently contained something. It was
about eighteen inches long and eight wide. The nature of the metal was
not easily perceptible for it was coated with slime and covered over
about half its surface with barnacles and sea-weed. It was not heavy
and would have floated higher out of the water had it not been for
"It's some kind of preserved meat" said the doctor. "Perhaps
something good--game I dare say--yes Yorkshire game-pie. They pot
all sorts of things now."
"If it's game" said Oxenden "it'll be rather high by this time. Man
alive! look at those weeds and shells. It must have been floating for
"It's my belief" said Featherstone "that it's part of the provisions
laid in by Noah for his long voyage in the ark. So come let's open
it and see what sort of diet the antediluvians had."
"It may be liquor" said Oxenden.
Melick shook his head.
"No" said he; "there's something inside but whatever it is it isn't
liquor. It's odd too. The thing is of foreign make evidently. I
never saw anything like it before. It may be Chinese."
"By Jove!" cried Featherstone "this is getting exciting. Let's go
back to the yacht and open it."
The men rowed back to the yacht.
"It's meat of some sort" continued the doctor. "I'm certain of that.
It has come in good time. We can have it for dinner."
"You may have my share then" said Oxenden. "I hereby give and
bequeath to you all my right title and interest in and to anything
in the shape of meat that may be inside."
"Meat cans" said Melick "are never so large as that."
"Oh I don't know about that" said the doctor "they make up pretty
large packages of pemmican for the arctic expeditions."
"But they never pack up pemmican in copper cylinders" said Melick
who had been using his knife to scrape off the crust from the vessel.
"Copper!" exclaimed Oxenden. "Is it copper?"
"Look for yourselves" said Melick quietly.
They all looked and could see where the knife had cut into the
vessel that it was as he said. It was copper.
"It's foreign work" said Melick. "In England we make tin cans for
everything. It may be something that's drifted out from Mogadore or
some port in Morocco."
"In that case" said Oxenden "it may contain the mangled remains of
one of the wives of some Moorish pasha."
By this time they had reached the yacht and hurried aboard. All were
eager to satisfy their curiosity. Search was made for a cold-chisel
but to no purpose. Then Featherstone produced a knife which was used
to open sardine boxes but after a faithful trial this proved useless.
At length Melick who had gone off in search of something more
effective made his appearance armed with an axe. With this he
attacked the copper cylinder and by means of a few dexterous blows
succeeded in cutting it open. Then he looked in.
"What do you see?" asked Featherstone.
"Something" said Melick "but I can't quite make it out."
"If you can't make it out then shake it out" said Oxenden.
Upon this Melick took the cylinder turned it upside down shook it
smartly and then lifted it and pounded it against the deck. This
served to loosen the contents which seemed tightly packed but came
gradually down until at length they could be seen and drawn forth.
Melick drew them forth and the contents of the mysterious copper
cylinder resolved themselves into two packages.
The sight of these packages only served to intensify their curiosity.
If it had been some species of food it would at once have revealed
itself but these packages suggested something more important. What
could they be? Were there treasures inside--jewels or golden
ornaments from some Moorish seraglio or strange coin from far Cathay?
One of the packages was very much larger than the other. It was
enclosed in wrappers made of some coarse kind of felt bound tight
with strong cords. The other was much smaller and was folded in the
same material without being bound. This Melick seized and began to
"Wait a minute" said Featherstone. "Let's make a bet on it. Five
guineas that it's some sort of jewels!"
"Done" said Oxenden.
Melick opened the package and it was seen that Featherstone had lost.
There were no jewels but one or two sheets of something that looked
like paper. It was not paper however but some vegetable product
which was used for the same purpose. The surface was smooth but the
color was dingy and the lines of the vegetable fibres were plainly
discernible. These sheets were covered with writing.
"Halloa!" cried Melick. "Why this is English!"
At this the others crowded around to look on and Featherstone in his
excitement forgot that he had lost his bet. There were three sheets
all covered with writing--one in English another in French and a
third in German. It was the same message written in these three
different languages. But at that moment they scarcely noticed this.
All that they saw was the message itself with its mysterious meaning.
It was as follows:
"To the finder of this:
"Sir--I am an Englishman and have been carried by a series of
incredible events to a land from which escape is as impossible as from
the grave. I have written this and committed it to the sea in the
hope that the ocean currents may bear it within the reach of civilized
man. Oh unknown friend! whoever you are. I entreat you to let this
message be made known in some way to my father Henry More Keswick
Cumberland England so that he may learn the fate of his son. The MS.
accompanying this contains an account of my adventures which I should
like to have forwarded to him. Do this for the sake of that mercy
which you may one day wish to have shown to yourself.
"By Jove!" cried Featherstone as he read the above "this is really
getting to be something tremendous."
"This other package must be the manuscript" said Oxenden "and it'll
tell all about it."
"Such a manuscript'll be better than meat" said the doctor
Melick said nothing but opening his knife he cut the cords and
unfolded the wrapper. He saw a great collection of leaves just like
those of the letter of some vegetable substance smooth as paper and
covered with writing.
"It looks like Egyptian papyrus" said the doctor. "That was the
common paper of antiquity."
"Never mind the Egyptian papyrus" said Featherstone in feverish
curiosity. "Let's have the contents of the manuscript. You Melick
read; you're the most energetic of the lot and when you're tired the
rest of us will take turns."
"Read? Why it'll take a month to read all this" said Melick.
"All the better" said Featherstone; "this calm will probably last a
month and we shall have nothing to interest us."
Melick made no further objection. He was as excited as the rest and
so he began the reading of the manuscript.
ADRIFT IN THE ANTARCTIC OCEAN
My name is Adam More. I am the son of Henry More apothecary Keswick
Cumberland. I was mate of the ship Trevelyan (Bennet master) which
was chartered by the British Government to convey convicts to Van
Dieman's Land. This was in 1843. We made our voyage without any
casualty landed our convicts in Hobart Town and then set forth on
our return home. It was the 17th of December when we left. From the
first adverse winds prevailed and in order to make any progress we
were obliged to keep well to the south. At length on the 6th of
January we sighted Desolation Island. We found it indeed a desolate
spot. In its vicinity we saw a multitude of smaller islands perhaps a
thousand in number which made navigation difficult and forced us to
hurry away as fast as possible. But the aspect of this dreary spot was
of itself enough to repel us. There were no trees and the multitude
of islands seemed like moss-covered rocks; while the temperature
though in the middle of the antarctic summer was from 38 to 58
In order to get rid of these dangerous islands we stood south and
west and at length found ourselves in south latitude 65 degrees
longitude 60 degrees east. We were fortunate enough not to find any
ice although we were within fifteen hundred miles of the South Pole
and far within that impenetrable icy barrier which in 1773 had
arrested the progress of Captain Cook. Here the wind failed us and we
lay becalmed and drifting. The sea was open all around us except to
the southeast where there was a low line along the horizon
terminating in a lofty promontory; but though it looked like land we
took it for ice. All around us whales and grampuses were gambolling
and spouting in vast numbers. The weather was remarkably fine and
For two or three days the calm continued and we drifted along
helplessly until at length we found ourselves within a few miles of
the promontory above mentioned. It looked like land and seemed to be
a rocky island rising from the depths of the sea. It was however all
covered with ice and snow and from this there extended eastward as
far as the eye could reach an interminable line of ice but toward the
southwest the sea seemed open to navigation. The promontory was very
singular in shape rising up to a peak which was at least a thousand
feet in height and forming a striking object easily discovered and
readily identified by any future explorer. We named it after our
ship Trevelyan Peak and then felt anxious to lose sight of it
forever. But the calm continued and at length we drifted in close
enough to see immense flocks of seals dotting the ice at the foot of
Upon this I proposed to Agnew the second mate that we should go
ashore shoot some seals and bring them back. This was partly for the
excitement of the hunt and partly for the honor of landing in a place
never before trodden by the foot of man. Captain Bennet made some
objections but he was old and cautious and we were young and
venturesome so we laughed away his scruples and set forth. We did not
take any of the crew owing to the captain's objections. He said that
if we chose to throw away our own lives he could not help it but that
he would positively refuse to allow a single man to go with us. We
thought this refusal an excess of caution amounting to positive
cowardice but were unable to change his mind. The distance was not
great the adventure was attractive and so the captain's gig was
lowered and in this Agnew and I rowed ashore. We took with us a
double-barrelled rifle apiece and also a pistol. Agnew took a glass.
We rowed for about three miles and reached the edge of the ice which
extended far out from the promontory. Here we landed and secured the