THE FINDING OF THE COPPER CYLINDERIt 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
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
"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, you know."
"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 point."
"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
"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
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
"Oh, a bit of timber," said Melick. "Probably the spar of some
"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
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
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
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
"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 these encumbrances.
"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 ages."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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.