The World of Ice
Robert Michael Ballantyne
Part 3 out of 5
two to three feet long, having a slight convexity on the outside. These
slabs were then so cut and arranged that, when they were piled upon
each other round the margin of the circle, they formed a dome-shaped
structure like a bee-hive, which was six feet high inside, and
remarkably solid. The slabs were cemented together with loose snow, and
every accidental chink or crevice filled up with the same material. The
natives sometimes insert a block of clear ice in the roof for a window,
but this was dispensed with on the present occasion--first, because
there was no light to let in; and, secondly, because if there had been,
they didn't want it.
The building of the hut occupied only an hour, for the hunters were cold
and hungry, and in their case the old proverb might have been
paraphrased, "No _work_, no supper." A hole, just large enough to permit
a man to creep through on his hands and knees, formed the door of this
bee-hive. Attached to this hole, and cemented to it, was a low tunnel of
about four feet in length. When finished, both ends of the tunnel were
closed up with slabs of hard snow, which served the purpose of double
doors, and effectually kept out the cold.
While this tunnel was approaching completion, Fred retired to a short
distance, and sat down to rest a few minutes on a block of ice.
A great change had come over the scene during the time they were at work
on the snow-hut. The night had settled down, and now the whole sky was
lit up with the vivid and beautiful coruscations of the aurora
borealis--that magnificent meteor of the North which, in some measure,
makes up to the inhabitants for the absence of the sun. It spread over
the whole extent of the sky in the form of an irregular arch, and was
intensely brilliant. But the brilliancy varied, as the green ethereal
fire waved mysteriously to and fro, or shot up long streamers toward the
zenith. These streamers, or "merry dancers," as they are sometimes
termed, were at times peculiarly bright. Their colour was most
frequently yellowish white, sometimes greenish, and once or twice of a
lilac tinge. The strength of the light was something greater than that
of the moon in her quarter, and the stars were dimmed when the aurora
passed over them as if they had been covered with a delicate gauze veil.
But that which struck our hero as being most remarkable was the
magnitude and dazzling brightness of the host of stars that covered the
black firmament. It seemed as if they were magnified in glory, and
twinkled so much that the sky seemed, as it were, to tremble with light.
A feeling of deep solemnity filled Fred's heart as he gazed upwards; and
as he thought upon the Creator of these mysterious worlds, and
remembered that he came to this little planet of ours to work out the
miracle of our redemption, the words that he had often read in the
Bible, "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?" came forcibly
to his remembrance, and he felt the appropriateness of that sentiment
which the sweet singer of Israel has expressed in the words, "Praise ye
him, sun and moon; praise him, all ye stars of light."
There was a deep, solemn stillness all around--a stillness widely
different from that peaceful composure which characterizes a calm day in
an inhabited land. It was the death-like stillness of that most peculiar
and dreary desolation which results from the total absence of animal
existence. The silence was so oppressive that it was with a feeling of
relief he listened to the low, distant voices of the men as they paused
ever and anon in their busy task to note and remark on the progress of
their work. In the intense cold of an Arctic night the sound of voices
can be heard at a much greater distance than usual, and although the men
were far off, and hummocks of ice intervened between them and Fred,
their tones broke distinctly, though gently, on his ear. Yet these
sounds did not interrupt the unusual stillness. They served rather to
impress him more forcibly with the vastness of that tremendous solitude
in the midst of which he stood.
Gradually his thoughts turned homeward, and he thought of the dear ones
who circled round his own fireside, and perchance talked of him--of the
various companions he had left behind, and the scenes of life and beauty
where he used to wander. But such memories led him irresistibly to the
Far North again; for in all home-scenes the figure of his father started
up, and he was back again in an instant, searching toilsomely among the
floes and icebergs of the Polar Seas. It was the invariable ending of
poor Fred's meditations, and, however successful he might be in
entering for a time into the spirit of fun that characterized most of
the doings of his shipmates, and in following the bent of his own joyous
nature, in the hours of solitude and in the dark night, when no one saw
him, his mind ever reverted to the one engrossing subject, like the
oscillating needle to the Pole.
As he continued to gaze up long and earnestly into the starry sky, his
thoughts began to wander over the past and the present at random, and a
cold shudder warned him that it was time to return to the hut. But the
wandering thoughts and fancies seemed to chain him to the spot, so that
he could not tear himself away. Then a dreamy feeling of rest and
comfort began to steal over his senses, and he thought how pleasant it
would be to lie down and slumber; but he knew that would be dangerous,
so he determined not to do it.
Suddenly he felt himself touched, and heard a voice whispering in his
ear. Then it sounded loud. "Hallo, sir! Mr. Ellice! Wake up, sir! d'ye
hear me?" and he felt himself shaken so violently that his teeth rattled
together. Opening his eyes reluctantly, he found that he was stretched
at full length on the snow, and Joseph West was shaking him by the
shoulder as if he meant to dislocate his arm.
"Hallo, West! is that you? Let me alone, man, I want to sleep." Fred
sank down again instantly: that deadly sleep produced by cold, and from
which those who indulge in it never awaken, was upon him.
"Sleep!" cried West frantically; "you'll die, sir, if you don't rouse
up.--Hallo! Meetuck! O'Riley! help! here.'
"I tell you," murmured Fred faintly, "I want to sleep--only a moment or
two--ah! I see; is the hut finished? Well, well, go, leave me. I'll
His voice died away again, just as Meetuck and O'Riley came running up.
The instant the former saw how matters stood, he raised Fred in his
powerful arms, set him on his feet, and shook him with such vigour that
it seemed as if every bone in his body must be forced out of joint.
"What mane ye by that, ye blubber-bag?" cried the Irishman wrathfully,
doubling his mittened fists and advancing in a threatening manner
towards the Esquimau; but seeing that the savage paid not the least
attention to him, and kept on shaking Fred violently with a
good-humoured smile on his countenance, he wisely desisted from
In a few minutes Fred was able to stand and look about him with a stupid
expression, and immediately the Esquimau dragged and pushed and shook
him along towards the snow-hut, into which he was finally thrust, though
with some trouble, in consequence of the lowness of the tunnel. Here, by
means of rubbing and chafing, with a little more buffeting, he was
restored to some degree of heat, on seeing which, Meetuck uttered a
quiet grunt and immediately set about preparing supper.
"I do believe I've been asleep," said Fred, rising and stretching
himself vigorously as the bright flame of a tin lamp shot forth and shed
a yellow lustre on the white walls.
"Aslaap is it! be me conscience an' ye have jist. Oh, then, may I niver
indulge in the same sort o' slumber!"
"Why so?" asked Fred in some surprise.
"You fell asleep on the ice, sir," answered West, while he busied
himself in spreading the tarpaulin and blanket-bags on the floor of the
hut, "and you were very near frozen to death."
"Frozen, musha! I'm not too sure that he's melted yit!" said O'Riley,
taking him by the arm and looking at him dubiously.
Fred laughed. "Oh yes; I'm melted now! But let's have supper, else I
shall faint for hunger. Did I sleep many hours?"
"You slept only five minutes," said West, in some surprise at the
question. "You were only gone about ten minutes altogether."
This was indeed the case. The intense desire for sleep which is produced
in Arctic countries when the frost seizes hold of the frame soon
confuses the faculties of those who come under its influence. As long as
Fred had continued to walk and work he felt quite warm; but the instant
he sat down on the lump of ice to rest, the frost acted on him. Being
much exhausted, too, by labour and long fasting, he was more susceptible
than he would otherwise have been to the influence of cold, so that it
chilled him at once, and produced that deadly lethargy from which, but
for the timely aid of his companions, he would never have recovered.
The arrangements for supping and spending the night made rapid progress,
and, under the influence of fire and animal heat--for the dogs were
taken in beside them--the igloe became comfortably warm. Yet the
snow-walls did not melt, or become moist, the intense cold without being
sufficient to counteract and protect them from the heat within. The fair
roof, however, soon became very dingy, and the odour of melted fat
rather powerful. But Arctic travellers are proof against such trifles.
The tarpaulin was spread over the floor, and a tin lamp, into which
several fat portions of the walrus were put, was suspended from a stick
thrust into the wall. Bound this lamp the hunters circled, each seated
on his blanket-bag, and each attended to the duty which devolved upon
him. Meetuck held a tin kettle over the flame till the snow with which
it was filled melted and became cold water, and then gradually heated
until it boiled; and all the while he employed himself in masticating a
lump of raw walrus-flesh, much to the amusement of Fred, and to the
disgust, real or pretended, of O'Riley. But the Irishman, and Fred too,
and every man on board the _Dolphin_, came at last to _relish_ raw meat,
and to long for it! The Esquimaux prefer it raw in these parts of the
world (although some travellers assert that in more southern latitudes
they prefer cooked meat); and with good reason, for it is much more
nourishing than cooked flesh, and learned, scientific men who have
wintered in the Arctic Regions have distinctly stated that in those cold
countries they found raw meat to be better for them than cooked meat,
and they assure us that they at last came to _prefer_ it! We would not
have our readers to begin forthwith to dispense with the art of cookery,
and cast Soyer to the dogs; but we would have them henceforth refuse to
accept that common opinion and vulgar error that Esquimaux eat their
food raw _because they are savages_. They do it because nature teaches
them that, under the circumstances, it is best.
The duty that devolved upon O'Riley was to roast small steaks of the
walrus, in which operation he was assisted by West; while Fred undertook
to get out the biscuit-bag and pewter plates, and to infuse the coffee
when the water should boil. It was a strange feast in a strange place,
but it proved to be a delightful one, for hunger requires not to be
tempted, and is not fastidious.
"Oh, but it's good, isn't it?" remarked O'Riley, smacking his lips, as
he swallowed a savoury morsel of the walrus and tossed the remnant, a
sinewy bit, to Dumps, who sat gazing sulkily at the flame of the lamp,
having gorged himself long before the bipeds began supper.
"Arrah! ye won't take it, won't ye?--Here, Poker!"
Poker sprang forward, wagging the stump of his tail, and turned his
head to one side, as if to say, "Well, what's up? Any fun going?"
"Here, take that, old boy; Dumps is sulky."
Poker took it at once, and a single snap caused it to vanish. He, too,
had finished supper, and evidently ate the morsel to please the
"Hand me the coffee, Meetuck," said Fred.--"The biscuit lies beside you,
West; don't give in so soon, man."
"Thank you, sir; I have about done."
"Meetuck, ye haythen, try a bit o' the roast; do now, av it was only to
Meetuck shook his head quietly, and, cutting a _fifteenth_ lump off the
mass of raw walrus that lay beside him, proceeded leisurely to devour
"The dogs is nothin' to him," muttered O'Riley. "Isn't it a curious
thing, now, to think that we're all _at sea_ a-eatin', and drinkin', and
slaapin'--or goin' to slaap--jist as if we wor on the land, and the
great ocean away down below us there, wid whales, and seals, and
walruses, and mermaids, for what I know, a-swimmin' about jist under
whare we sit, and maybe lookin' through the ice at us this very minute.
Isn't it quare?"
"It is odd," said Fred, laughing, "and not a very pleasant idea.
However, as there is at least twelve feet of solid ice between us and
the company you mention, we don't need to care much."
"Ov coorse not," replied O'Riley, nodding his head approvingly as he
lighted his pipe; "that's my mind intirely--in all cases o' danger, when
ye don't need to be afeard, you needn't much care. It's a good chart to
steer by, that same."
This last remark seemed to afford so much food for thought to the
company that nothing further was said by any one until Fred rose and
proposed to turn in. West had already crawled into his blanket-bag, and
was stretched out like a mummy on the floor, and the sound of Meetuck's
jaws still continued as he winked sleepily over the walrus-meat, when a
scraping was heard outside the hut.
"Sure, it's the foxes; I'll go and look," whispered O'Riley, laying down
his pipe and creeping to the mouth of the tunnel.
He came back, however, faster than he went, with a look of
consternation, for the first object that confronted him on looking out
was the enormous head of a Polar bear. To glance round for their
fire-arms was the first impulse, but these had unfortunately been left
on the sledge outside. What was to be done? They had nothing but their
clasp-knives in the igloe. In this extremity Meetuck cut a large hole in
the back of the hut, intending to creep out and procure one of the
muskets; but the instant the opening was made the bear's head filled it
up. With a savage yell O'Riley seized the lamp and dashed the flaming
fat in the creature's face. It was a reckless deed, for it left them all
in the dark; but the bear seemed to think himself insulted, for he
instantly retreated, and when Meetuck emerged and laid hold of a gun he
They found, on issuing into the open air, that a stiff breeze was
blowing, which, from the threatening appearance of the sky, promised to
become a gale; but as there was no apprehension to be entertained in
regard to the stability of the floe, they returned to the hut, taking
care to carry in their arms along with them. Having patched up the hole,
closed the doors, rekindled the lamp, and crept into their respective
bags, they went to sleep; for, however much they might dread the return
of Bruin, sleep was a necessity of nature that would not be denied.
Meanwhile the gale freshened into a hurricane, and was accompanied with
heavy snow, and when they attempted to move next morning, they found it
impossible to face it for a single moment. There was no alternative,
therefore, but to await the termination of the gale, which lasted two
days, and kept them close prisoners all the time. It was very wearisome,
doubtless, but they had to submit, and sought to console themselves and
pass the time as pleasantly as possible by sleeping, and eating, and
_Journey resumed--The hunters meet with bears and have a great fight, in
which the dogs are sufferers--A bear's dinner--Mode in which Arctic
rocks travel--The ice-belt._
On the abating of the great storm referred to in the last chapter, the
hunters sought to free themselves from their snowy prison, and succeeded
in burrowing, so to speak, upwards after severe labour, for the hut was
buried in drift which the violence of the gale had rendered extremely
O'Riley was the first to emerge into the upper world. Having dusted the
snow from his garments, and shaken himself like a Newfoundland dog, he
made sundry wry faces, and gazed round him with the look of a man that
did not know very well what to do with himself.
"It's a quare place, it is, intirely," he remarked, with a shake of the
head that betokened intense sagacity, while he seated himself on a mound
of snow and watched his comrades as they busied themselves in dragging
their sleeping-bags and cooking utensils from the cavern they had just
quitted. O'Riley seemed to be in a contemplative mood, for he did not
venture any further remark, although he looked unutterable things as he
proceeded quietly to fill his little black pipe.
"Ho! O'Riley, lend a hand, you lazy fellow," cried Fred; "work first and
play afterwards, you skulker."
"Sure that same is what I'm doin'," replied O'Riley with a bland smile,
which he eclipsed in a cloud of smoke. "Haven't I bin workin' like a
naagur for two hours to git out of that hole, and ain't I playin' a tune
on me pipe now? But I won't be cross-grained. I'll lind ye a hand av ye
behave yerself. It's a bad thing to be cross-grained," he continued,
pocketing his pipe and assisting to arrange the sledge; "me owld
grandmother always towld me that, and she wos wise, she wos, beyand
ordn'r. More like Salomon nor anything else."
"She must have directed that remark specially to you, I think," said
Fred--"(Let Dumps lead, West, he's tougher than the others)--did she
"Be no manes. It wos to the pig she said it. Most of her conversation
(and she had a power of it) wos wid the pig; and many's the word o' good
advice she gave it, as it sat in its usual place beside the fire
fore-nint her. But it wos all thrown away, it wos, for there wosn't
another pig in all the length o' Ireland as had sich a will o' its own;
and it had a screech, too, when it wosn't plaazed, as bate all the steam
whistles in the world, it did. I've often moralated on that same, and
I've noticed that, as it is wid pigs, so it is wid men and women--some
of them at laste--the more advice ye give them, the less they take."
"Down, Poker! quiet, good dog!" said West, as he endeavoured to
restrain the ardour of the team, which, being fresh and full fed, could
scarcely be held in by the united efforts of himself and Meetuck, while
their companions lashed their provisions, etc., on the sledge.
"Hold on, lads!" cried Fred, as he fastened the last lashing. "We'll be
ready in a second. Now, then, jump on, two of you! Catch hold of the
tail-line, Meetuck! All right!"
"Hall right!" yelled the Esquimau, as he let go the dogs and sprang upon
The team struggled and strained violently for a few seconds in their
efforts to overcome the _vis inertiae_ of the sledge, and it seemed as
if the traces would part; but they were made of tough walrus-hide, and
held on bravely, while the heavy vehicle gradually fetched way, and at
length flew over the floes at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour.
Travelling, however, was not now quite so agreeable as it had been when
they set out from the ship; for the floes were swept bare in some places
by the gale, while in other places large drifts had collected, so that
the sledge was either swaying to and fro on the smooth ice, and swinging
the dogs almost off their feet, or it was plunging heavily through banks
of soft snow.
As the wind was still blowing fresh, and would have been dead against
them had they attempted to return by a direct route to the ship, they
made for the shore, intending to avail themselves of the shelter
afforded by the ice-belt. Meanwhile the carcass of the walrus--at least
as much of it as could not be packed on the sledge--was buried in the
hut, and a spear planted above it to mark the spot.
"Ha! an' it's cowld," said O'Riley, wrapping himself more closely in his
fur jumper as they sped along. "I wish we wos out o' the wind, I do."
"You'll have your wish soon, then," answered West, "for that row of
icebergs we're coming to will shelter us nearly all the way to the
"Surely you are taking us too much off to the right, Meetuck," said
Fred; "we are getting farther away from the ship."
"No fee. De win' too 'trong. We turn hup 'long shore very quick,
Meetuck accompanied each word with a violent nod of his head, at the
same time opening and shutting his mouth and winking with both eyes,
being apparently impressed with the conviction that such contortions of
visage rendered his meaning more apparent.
"Look! look! ho! Nannook, nannook!" (a bear, a bear!) whispered the
Esquimau with sudden animation, just as they gained the lee of the first
The words were unnecessary, however, for the whole party were looking
ahead with the most intense eagerness at a bear which their sudden
advent had aroused from a nap in the crevice of the iceberg. A little
cub was discerned a moment after standing by her side, and gazing at the
intruders with infantine astonishment. While the muskets were being
loosened and drawn out, Meetuck let slip all the dogs, and in a few
seconds they were engaged in active warfare with the enemy.
"Oh! musha! Dumps is gone intirely!" The quadruped referred to was
tossed to a height of about thirty feet, and alighted senseless upon the
ice. The bear seized him with her teeth and tossed him with an
incredibly slight effort. The other dogs, nothing daunted by the fate of
their comrade, attacked the couple in the rear, biting their heels, and
so distracting their attention that they could not make an energetic
attack in any direction. Another of the dogs, however, a young one,
waxing reckless, ventured too near the old bear, and was seized by the
back, and hurled high into the air, through which it wriggled violently,
and descended with a sounding whack upon the ice. At the same moment a
volley from the hunters sent several balls into the carcass of both
mother and cub; but, although badly wounded, neither of them evinced any
sign of pain or exhaustion as they continued to battle with the
The dogs that had already fallen in the fray had not been used to
bear-hunting; hence their signal defeat. But this was not the case with
the others, all of which were old campaigners; and Poker especially,
although not old in years, was a practical fighter, having been trained
not to attack but to harass. The systematic and steady way in which they
advanced before the bear, and retired, right and left, leading her into
a profitless pursuit, was very interesting to witness. Another volley
from the hunters caused them to make off more rapidly, and wounded the
cub severely, so much so that in a few minutes it began to flag. Seeing
this, the mother placed it in front of her, and urged it forward with
her snout so quickly that it was with the utmost difficulty the men
could keep up with them. A well-directed shot, however, from Fred Ellice
brought the old bear to the ground; but she rose instantly, and again
advanced, pushing her cub before her, while the dogs continued to
embarrass her. They now began to fear that, in spite of dogs and men,
the wounded bears would escape, when an opportune crack in the ice
presented itself, into which they both tumbled, followed by the yelping,
and we may add limping, dogs. Before they could scramble up on the other
side, Meetuck and Fred, being light of foot, gained upon them
sufficiently to make sure shots.
"There they go," cried Fred, as the she-bear bounced out of the crack
with Poker hanging to her heels. Poker's audacity had at last
outstripped his sagacity, and the next moment he was performing a
tremendous somersault. Before he reached the ice, Meetuck and Fred fired
simultaneously, and when the smoke cleared away the old bear was
stretched out in death. Hitherto the cub had acted exclusively on the
defensive, and intrusted itself entirely to the protection of its dam;
but now it seemed to change its character entirely. It sprang upon its
mother's body, and, assuming an attitude of extreme ferocity, kept the
dogs at bay, snapping and snarling right and left until the hunters came
For the first time since the chase began a feeling, of intense pity
touched Fred's heart, and he would have rejoiced at that moment had the
mother risen up and made her escape with her cub. He steeled his heart,
however, by reflecting that fresh provisions were much wanted on board
the _Dolphin_; still, neither he nor his shipmates could bring
themselves to shoot the gallant little animal, and it is possible that
they might have made up their minds to allow it to escape after all, had
not Meetuck quietly ended their difficulty by putting a ball through its
"Ah! then, Meetuck," said O'Riley, shaking his head as they examined
their prize, "ye're a hardhearted spalpeen, ye are, to kill a poor
little baby like that in cowld blood. Well, well, it's yer natur', an'
yer trade, so I s'pose it's all right."
The weight of this bear, which was not of the largest size, was
afterwards found to be above five hundred pounds, and her length was
eight feet nine inches. The cub weighed upwards of a hundred pounds, and
was larger than a Newfoundland dog.
The operation of cutting out the entrails, preparatory to packing on the
sledge, was now commenced by Meetuck, whose practised hand applied the
knife with the skill, though not with the delicacy, of a surgeon.
"She has been a hungry bear, it seems," remarked Fred, as he watched the
progress of the work, "if we may judge from the emptiness of her
"Och! but she's had a choice morsel, if it was a small wan," exclaimed
O'Riley in surprise, as he picked up a plug of tobacco. On further
examination being made, it was found that this bear had dined on
raisins, tobacco, pork, and adhesive plaster! Such an extraordinary
mixture of articles, of course, led the party to conclude that either
she had helped herself to the stores of the _Dolphin_ placed on Store
Island, or that she had fallen in with those of some other vessel. This
subject afforded food for thought and conversation during the next hour
or two, as they drove towards the ship along the ice-belt of the shore.
The ice-belt referred to is a zone of ice which extends along the shore
from the unknown regions of the North. To the south it breaks up in
summer and disappears altogether, but in the latitude which our
travellers had now reached, it was a permanent feature of the scenery
all the year round, following the curvatures and indentations of bays
and rivers, and increasing in winter or diminishing in summer, but never
melting entirely away. The surface of this ice-belt was covered with
immense masses of rock many tons in weight, which had fallen from the
cliffs above. Pointing to one of these as they drove along, West
remarked to Fred,--
"There is a mystery explained, sir. I have often wondered how huge,
solitary stones, that no machinery of man's making could lift, have come
to be placed on sandy shores where there were no other rocks of any kind
within many miles of them. The ice must have done it, I see."
"True, West. The ice, if it could speak, would explain many things that
now seem to us mysterious; and yonder goes a big rock on a journey that
may perhaps terminate at a thousand miles to the south of this."
The rock referred to was a large mass that became detached from the
cliffs and fell, as he spoke, with a tremendous crash upon the ice-belt,
along which it rolled for fifty yards. There it would lie all winter,
and in spring the mass of ice to which it was attached would probably
break off and float away with it to the south, gradually melting until
it allowed the rock to sink to the bottom of the sea, or depositing it,
perchance, on some distant shore, where such rocks are not wont to
lie--there to remain an object of speculation and wonderment to the
unlearned of all future ages.
Some of the bergs close to which they passed on the journey were very
fantastically formed, and many of them were more than a mile long, with
clear, blue, glassy surfaces, indicating that they had been but recently
thrown off from the great glacier of the North. Between two of these
they drove for some time, before they found that they were going into a
sort of blind alley.
"Sure the road's gittin' narrower," observed O'Riley, as he glanced up
at the blue walls, which rose perpendicularly to a height of sixty feet
on either hand. "Have a care, Meetuck, or ye'll jam us up, ye will."
"'Tis a pity we left the ice-belt," remarked Fred, "for this rough work
among the bergs is bad for man and dog. How say you, Meetuck--shall we
take to it again when we get through this place?"
"Faix, then, we'll nive'r git through," said O'Riley, pointing to the
end of the chasm, where a third iceberg had entirely closed the opening.
The Esquimau pulled up, and after advancing on foot a short way to
examine, returned with a rueful expression on his countenance.
"Ha! no passage, I suppose?" said Fred.
"Bad luck to ye!" cried O'Riley, "won't ye spaak?"
"No rod--muss go bock," replied Meetuck, turning the dogs in the
direction whence they had come, and resuming his place on the sledge.
The party had to retrace their steps half-a-mile in consequence of this
unfortunate interruption, and return to the level track of the ice-belt,
which they had left for a time and taken to the sea-ice, in order to
avoid the sinuosities of the land. To add to their misfortunes, the dogs
began to flag, so that they were obliged to walk behind the sledge at a
slow pace, and snow began to fall heavily. But they pressed forward
manfully, and having regained the shore-ice, continued to make their way
northward towards the ship, which was now spoken of by the endearing
name of home.
_Departure of the sun--Effects of darkness on dogs--Winter arrangements
in the interior of the "Dolphin."_
It is sad to part with an old friend, especially if he be one of the
oldest and best friends we ever had. When the day of departure arrives,
it is of no avail that he tells us kindly he will come back again. That
assurance is indeed a comfort after he is gone, and a sweet star of hope
that shines brighter and brighter each day until he comes back; but it
is poor consolation to us at the time of parting, when we are squeezing
his hand for the last time, and trying to crush back the drops that
The crew of the _Dolphin_ had, in the course of that winter, to part
with one of their best friends; one whom they regarded with the most
devoted attachment; one who was not expected to return again till the
following spring, and one, therefore, whom some of them might, perhaps,
never see again.
Mivins became quite low-spirited about it, and said "as 'ow 'e'd 'ave a
'eavy 'eart for _h_ever and _h_ever, _h_amen," after he was gone.
O'Riley remarked, in reference to his departure, that every man in the
ship was about to lose a _son_! Yes, indeed he did; he perpetrated that
atrocious pun, and wasn't a bit ashamed of it. O'Riley had perpetrated
many a worse pun than that before; it's to be hoped for the credit of
his country he has perpetrated a few better ones since!
Yes, the period at length arrived when the great source of light and
heat was about to withdraw his face from these Arctic navigators for a
long, long time, and leave them in unvarying night. It was a good while,
however, before he went away altogether, and for many weeks after winter
set in in all its intensity, he paid them a daily visit which grew
gradually shorter and shorter, until that sad evening in which he
finally bade them farewell.
About the middle of October the dark months overspread the Bay of Mercy,
and the reign of perpetual night began. There was something terribly
depressing at first in this uninterrupted gloom, and for some time after
the sun ceased to show his disk above the horizon the men of the
_Dolphin_ used to come on deck at noon, and look out for the faint
streak of light that indicated the presence of the life-giving luminary
with all the earnestness and longing of Eastern fire-worshippers.
The dogs, too, became sensibly affected by the continued absence of
light, and seemed to draw more sympathetically than ever to their human
companions in banishment. A curious and touching instance of this
feeling was exhibited when the pack were sent to sleep on Store Island.
A warm kennel had been erected for them there, partly in order that the
ship might be kept more thoroughly clean, and partly that the dogs might
act as a guard over the stores, in case bears or wolves should take a
fancy to examine them. But nothing would induce the poor animals to keep
away from the ship and remain beyond the sound of human voices. They
deserted their comfortable abode with one consent the first time they
were sent to it, preferring to spend the night by the side of the ship
upon the bare snow. Coaxing them was of no use. O'Riley tried it in
"Ah! then," said he to Dumps with a wheedling air and expression of
intense affection that would have taken by storm the heart of any
civilized dog, "_won't_ ye come now an' lay in yer own kennel? Sure it's
a beautiful wan, an' as warm as the heart of an iceberg. Doo come now,
avic, an' I'll show ye the way."
But Dumps's heart was marble; he wouldn't budge. By means of a piece of
walrus, however, he was at length induced to go with the Irishman to the
kennel, and was followed by the entire pack. Here O'Riley endeavoured to
make them comfortable, and prevailed on them to lie down and go to
sleep; but whenever he attempted to leave them, they were up and at his
heels in a moment.
"Och! but ye're too fond o' me intirely, Doo lie down agin, and I'll
sing ye a ditty?"
True to his word, O'Riley sat down by the dog-kennel, and gave vent to a
howl which his "owld grandmother," he said, "used to sing to the pig;"
and whether it was the effects of this lullaby, or of the cold, it is
impossible to say, but O'Riley at length succeeded in slipping away and
regaining the ship, unobserved by his canine friends. Half-an-hour later
he went on deck to take a mouthful of fresh air before supper, and on
looking over the side he saw the whole pack of dogs lying in a circle
close to the ship, with Dumps comfortably asleep in the middle, and
using Poker's back for a pillow.
"Faix, but ye must be fond of the cowld to lie there all night when
ye've got a palace on Store Island."
"Fond of society, rather," observed Captain Guy, who came on deck at the
moment; "the poor creatures cannot bear to be left alone. It is a
strange quality in dogs which I have often observed before."
"Have ye, capting? Sure I thought it was all owin' to the bad manners o'
that baste Dumps, which is for iver leadin' the other dogs into
"Supper's ready, sir," said Mivins, coming up the hatchway, and touching
"Look here, Mivins," said O'Riley, as the captain went below, "can you
point out the mornin' star to me, lad?"
"The morning star?" said Mivins slowly, as he thrust his hands into the
breast of his jumper, and gazed upwards into the dark sky, where the
starry host blazed in Arctic majesty. "No, _h_of course, I can't. Why,
don't you know that there _h_ain't no _morning_ star when it's _night_
"Faix ye're right. I niver thought o' that."
Mivins was evidently a little puffed up with a feeling of satisfaction
at the clever way in which he had got out of the difficulty, without
displaying his ignorance of astronomy, and was even venturing, in the
pride of his heart, to make some speculative and startling assertions in
regard to the "'eavenly bodies" generally, when Buzzby put his head up
"Hallo! messmates, wot's ado now? Here's the supper awaitin', and the
tea bilin' like blazes!"
Mivins instantly dived down below, as the sailors express it; and we may
remark, in passing, that the expression, in this particular case, was
not inappropriate, for Mivins, as we have elsewhere said, was remarkably
agile and supple, and gave beholders a sort of impression that he went
head-foremost at everything. O'Riley followed at a more reasonable rate,
and in a few minutes the crew of the _Dolphin_ were seated at supper in
the cabin, eating with as much zest, and laughing and chatting as
blithely, as if they were floating calmly on their ocean home in
temperate climes. Sailors are proverbially light-hearted, and in their
moments of comfort and social enjoyment they easily forget their
troubles. The depression of spirits that followed the first
disappearance of the sun soon wore off, and they went about their
various avocations cheerfully by the light of the aurora borealis and
The cabin, in which they now all lived together, had undergone
considerable alterations. After the return of Fred Ellice and the
hunting-party, whom we left on the ice-belt in the last chapter, the
bulk-head, or partition, which separated the cabin from the hold had
been taken down, and the whole was thrown into one large apartment, in
order to secure a freer circulation of air and warmth. All round the
walls inside of this apartment moss was piled to the depth of twelve
inches to exclude the cold, and this object was further gained by the
spreading of a layer of moss on the deck above. The cabin hatchway was
closed, and the only entrance was at the farther end, through the hold,
by means of a small doorway in the bulk-head, to which was attached a
sort of porch, with a curtain of deer-skins hung in front of it. In the
centre of the floor stood an iron cooking-stove, which served at once
the purpose of preparing food and warming the cabin, which was lighted
by several small oil lamps. These were kept burning perpetually, for
there was no distinction between day and night in mid-winter, either in
the cabin or out of doors.
In this snug-looking place the officers and men of the ship messed, and
dwelt, and slept together; but, notwithstanding the _apparent_ snugness,
it was with the greatest difficulty they could keep themselves in a
sufficient degree of warmth to maintain health and comfort. Whenever the
fire was allowed to get low, the beams overhead became coated with
hoar-frost; and even when the temperature was raised to the utmost
possible pitch, it was cold enough, at the extreme ends of the
apartment, to freeze a jug of water solid.
A large table occupied the upper end of the cabin between the stove and
the stern, and round this the officers and crew were seated when O'Riley
entered and took his place among them. Each individual had his appointed
place at the mess-table, and with unvarying regularity these places were
filled at the appointed hours.
"The dogs seem to be disobedient," remarked Amos Parr, as his comrade
sat down; "they'd be the better of a taste o' Meetuck's cat, I think."
"It's truth ye're sayin'," replied O'Riley, commencing a violent assault
on a walrus-steak; "they don't obey orders at all, at all. An' Dumps,
the blaggard, is as cross-grained as me grandmother's owld pig--"
A general laugh here interrupted the speaker, for O'Riley could seldom
institute a disparaging comparison without making emphatic allusion to
the pig that once shared with him the hospitalities of his grandmother's
"Why, everything you speak of seems to be like that wonderful pig,
messmate," said Peter Grim.
"Ye're wrong there intirely," retorted O'Riley. "I niver seed nothing
like it in all me thravels except yerself, and that only in regard to
its muzzle, which was black and all kivered over with bristles, it wos.
I'll throuble you for another steak, messmate; that walrus is great
livin'.--We owe ye thanks for killin' it, Mister Ellice."
"You're fishing for compliments, but I'm afraid I have none to give
you. Your first harpoon, you know, was a little wide of the mark, if I
recollect right, wasn't it?"
"Yis, it wos--about as wide as the first bullet. I mis-remember exactly
who fired it--wos it you, Meetuck?"
Meetuck, being deeply engaged with a junk of fat meat at that moment,
expressed all he had to say in a convulsive gasp without interrupting
"Try a bit of the bear," said Fred to Tom Singleton; "it's better than
the walrus to my taste."
"I'd rather not," answered Tom, with a dubious shake of the head.
"It's a most unconscionable thing to eat a beast o' that sort," remarked
"Especially one who has been in the habit of living on raisins and
sticking-plaster," said Bolton with a grin.
"I have been thinking about that," said Captain Guy, who had been for
some time listening in silence to the conversation, "and I cannot help
thinking that Esquimaux must have found a wreck somewhere in this
neighbourhood and carried away her stores, which Bruin had managed to
steal from them."
"May they not have got some of the stores of the brig we saw nipped some
months ago?" suggested Singleton.
"Possibly they may."
"I dinna think that's likely," said Saunders, shaking his head. "Yon
brig had been deserted long ago, and her stores must have been consumed,
if they were taken out of her at all, before we thought o' comin' here."
For some time the party in the cabin ate in silence.
"We must wait patiently," resumed the captain, as if he were tired of
following up a fruitless train of thought. "What of your theatricals,
Fred? we must get them set a-going as soon as possible."
The captain spoke animatedly, for he felt that, with the prospect of a
long dark winter before them, it was of the greatest importance that the
spirits of the men should be kept up.
"I find it difficult to beat up recruits," answered Fred, laughing;
"Peter Grim has flatly refused to act, and O'Riley says he could no more
learn a part off by heart than--"
"His grandmother's pig could," interrupted David Mizzle, who, having
concluded supper, now felt himself free to indulge in conversation.
"Och! ye spalpeen," whispered the Irishman.
"I have written out the half of a play which I hope to produce in a few
days on the boards of our Arctic theatre with a talented company, but I
must have one or two more men--one to act the part of a lady. Will you
take that part, Buzzby?"
"Wot! _me_?" cried the individual referred to with a stare of amazement.
"Oh yes! _do_, Buzzby," cried several of the men with great delight.
"You're just cut out for it."
"Blue eyes," said one.
"Fair hair," cried another.
"And plump," said a third.
"Wid cheeks like the hide of a walrus," cried O'Riley; "but, sure, it
won't show wid a veil on."
"Come, now, you won't refuse."
But Buzzby did refuse; not, however, so determinedly but that he was
induced at last to allow his name to be entered in Fred's note-book as a
"Hark!" cried the captain; "surely the dogs must have smelt a bear."
There was instantly a dead silence in the cabin, and a long, loud wail
from the dogs was heard outside.
"It's not like their usual cry when game is near," said the second mate.
"Hand me my rifle, Mivins," said the captain, springing up and pulling
forward the hood of his jumper, as he hurried on deck followed by the
It was a bright, still, frosty night, and the air felt intensely sharp,
as if needles were pricking the skin, while the men's breath issued from
their lips in white clouds and settled in hoar-frost on the edges of
their hoods. The dogs were seen galloping about the ice-hummocks as if
in agitation, darting off to a considerable distance at times, and
returning with low whines to the ship.
"It is very strange," remarked the captain. "Jump down on the ice, boys,
and search for footprints. Extend as far as Store Island, and see that
all is right there."
In a few seconds the men scattered themselves right and left, and were
lost in the gloom, while the vessel was left in charge of Mivins and
four men. A strict search was made in all directions, but no traces of
animals could be found; the stores on the island were found undisturbed;
and gradually the dogs ceased their agitated gyrations, and seemed
inclined to resume their slumbers on the ice.
Seeing this, and supposing that they were merely restless, Captain Guy
recalled his men, and not long after every man in the cabin of the
_Dolphin_ was buried in profound slumber.
_Strangers appear on the scene--The Esquimaux are hospitably entertained
by the sailors--A spirited, traffic--Thieving propensities and summary
Dumps sat on the top of a hummock, about quarter of a mile from the
ship, with an expression of subdued melancholy on his countenance, and
thinking, evidently, about nothing at all. Poker sat in front of him
gazing earnestly and solemnly right into his eyes with a look that said,
as plain as if he had spoken, "What a tremendously stupid old fellow you
are, to be sure!" Having sat thus for full five minutes, Dumps wagged
his tail. Poker, observing the action, returned the compliment with his
stump. Then Poker sprang up and barked savagely, as much as to say,
"Play, won't you?" but Dumps wouldn't; so Poker endeavoured to relieve
his mind by gambolling violently round him.
We would not have drawn your attention, reader, to the antics of our
canine friends, were it not for the fact that these antics attracted the
notice of a personage who merits particular description. This was no
other than one of the Esquimau inhabitants of the land--a woman, and
_such_ a woman! Most people would have pronounced her a man, for she
wore precisely the same dress--fur jumper and long boots--that was worn
by the men of the _Dolphin_. Her lips were thick and her nose was blunt;
she wore her hair turned up, and twisted into a knot on the top of her
head; her hood was thrown back, and inside of this hood there was a
baby--a small and a very fat baby! It was, so to speak, a conglomerate
of dumplings. Its cheeks were two dumplings, and its arms were four
dumplings--one above each elbow and one below. Its hands, also, were two
smaller dumplings, with ten extremely little dumplings at the end of
them. This baby had a nose, of course, but it was so small that it might
as well have had none; and it had a mouth, too, but that was so
capacious that the half of it would have been more than enough for a
baby double the size. As for its eyes they were large and black--black
as two coals--and devoid of all expression save that of astonishment.
Such were the pair that stood on the edge of the ice-belt gazing down
upon Dumps and Poker. And no sooner did Dumps and Poker catch sight of
them than they sprang hastily towards them, wagging their tails--or,
more correctly speaking, their tail and a quarter. But on a nearer
approach those sagacious animals discovered that the woman and her child
were strangers, whereupon they set up a dismal howl, and fled towards
the ship as fast as they could run.
Now, it so happened that, at this very time, the howl of the dogs fell
upon the ears of two separate parties of travellers--the one was a band
of Esquimaux who were moving about in search of seals and walruses, to
which band this woman and her baby belonged; the other was a party of
men under command of Buzzby, who were returning to the ship after an
unsuccessful hunt. Neither party saw the other, for one approached from
the east, the other from the west, and the ice-belt, on the point of
which the woman stood, rose up between them.
"Hallo! what's yon?" exclaimed Peter Grim, who was first to observe the
"Dun'no'," said Buzzby, halting; "it looks like a bear."
"Faix an' it is, then, it's got a young wan on its back," cried O'Riley.
"We had better advance and find out," remarked West, as he led the way,
while several of the men threw up their arms in token of their friendly
intentions. O'Riley capered somewhat extravagantly as he drew near,
partly with the intention of expressing his feelings of good-will
towards the unknown, and partly in order to relieve the excitement
caused by the unexpected apparition.
These demonstrations, however, had the effect of terrifying the woman,
who wheeled suddenly round and made off.
"Och! it _is_ a man. Hooray, boys! give chase."
"Men don't usually carry babies on their backs and tie their hair up
into top-knots," remarked Grim, as he darted past in pursuit.
A few seconds sufficed to enable Grim to overtake the woman, who fell
on her knees the instant she felt the sailor's heavy hand on her
"Don't be afeard, we won't hurt ye," said Buzzby in a soothing tone,
patting the woman on the head and raising her up.
"No, avic, we's yer frinds; we'll not harm a hair o' yer beautiful head,
we won't. Ah! then, it's a swate child, it is, bless its fat face," said
O'Riley, stroking the baby's head tenderly with his big hand.
It was with difficulty that the poor creature's fears were calmed at
first, but the genuine tenderness displayed by the men towards the baby,
and the perfect complacency with which that conglomerate of dumplings
received their caresses, soon relieved her mind, and she began to regard
her captors with much curiosity, while they endeavoured by signs and
words to converse with her. Unfortunately Meetuck was not with the
party, he having been left on board ship to assist in a general cleaning
of the cabin that had been instituted that day.
"Sure, now, ye don't know how to talk with a girl at all, ye don't; let
_me_ try," cried O'Riley, after several of the party had made numerous
ineffectual attempts to convey their meaning. "Listen to _me_, darlint,
and don't mind them stupid grampuses. Where have ye comed from, now?
tell me, dear, _doo_ now."
O'Riley accompanied the question with a smile of ineffable sweetness and
a great deal of energetic pantomime, which, doubtless, explained much
of his meaning to himself, but certainly to no one else.
"Ah! then, ye don't understand me? Well, well, now, isn't that strange?
Look you, avic, have ye seen a brig or a brig's crew anywhere betune
this and the north pole?--try, now, an' remimber." He illustrated this
question by holding up both arms straight above his head to represent
the masts of a brig, and sticking his right leg straight out in front of
him, to represent the bowsprit; but the woman gazed at him with an air
of obtuse gravity that might have damped the hopes even of an Irishman.
O'Riley prided himself, however, on not being easily beat, and despite
his repeated failures, and the laughter of his messmates, was proceeding
to make a third effort, when a loud shout from the cliffs caused the
whole party to start and turn their eyes in that direction. The cry had
been uttered by a figure whose costume bore so close a resemblance to
that which they themselves wore, that they thought for a moment it was
one of their own shipmates; but a second glance proved that they were
mistaken, for the individual in question carried a spear, which he
brandished with exceedingly fierce and warlike intentions.
"Faix it must be her husband," said O'Riley.
"Hallo! lads, there's more on 'em," cried Grim, as ten or twelve
Esquimaux emerged from the rents and caverns, of the ice-belt, and
scrambling to the top of surrounding hummocks and eminences, gazed
towards the party of white men, while they threw about their arms and
legs, and accompanied their uncouth and violent gesticulations with
loud, excited cries. "I've a notion," he added, "that it was the scent
o' them chaps set the dogs off after yon strange fashion t'other night."
It was evident that the Esquimaux were not only filled with unbounded
astonishment at this Unexpected meeting With strangers, but were also
greatly alarmed to see one of their own women in their power.
"Let's send the woman over to them," suggested one of the men.
"No, no; keep her as a hostage," said another.
"Look out, lads," cried Buzzby, hastily examining the priming of his
musket, as additional numbers of the wild inhabitants of the North
appeared on the scene, and crowned the ice-belt and the hummocks around
them. "Let's show a bold front. Draw up in single line and hold on to
the woman. West, put her in front."
The men instantly drew up in battle array, and threw forward their
muskets; but as there were only a dozen of them, they presented a very
insignificant group compared with the crowds of Esquimaux who appeared
on the ice in front of them.
"Now, then, stand fast, men, and I'll show ye wot's the way to manage
them chaps. Keep yer weather-eyes open, and don't let them git in rear
So saying, Buzzby took the Woman by the arm and led her out a few yards
in front of his party, while the Esquimaux drew closer together, to
prepare either to receive or make an attack, as the case might be. He
then laid his musket down on the ice, and, still holding the woman by
the arm, advanced boldly towards the natives unarmed. On approaching to
within about twenty yards of them he halted, and raised both arms above
his head as a sign of friendship. The signal was instantly understood,
and one big fellow leaped boldly from his elevated position on a lump of
ice, threw down his spear, and ran to meet the stranger.
In a few minutes Buzzby and the Esquimau leader came to a mutual
understanding as to the friendly disposition of their respective
parties, and the woman was delivered up to this big fellow, who turned
out to be her husband after all, as O'Riley had correctly guessed. The
other Esquimaux, seeing the amicable terms on which the leaders met,
crowded in and surrounded them.
"Leave the half o' ye to guard the arms, and come on the rest of ye
without 'em," shouted Buzzby.
The men obeyed, and in a few minutes the two parties mingled together
with the utmost confidence. The sailors, however, deemed it prudent to
get possession of their arms again as soon as possible; and after
explaining as well as they could by signs that their home was only at a
short distance, the whole band started off for the ship. The natives
were in a most uproarious state of hilarity, and danced and yelled as
they ambled along in their hairy dresses, evidently filled with delight
at the prospect of forming a friendship with the white strangers, as
they afterwards termed the crew of the _Dolphin_, although some of the
said crew were, from exposure, only a few shades lighter than
Captain Guy was busily engaged with Fred Ellice and Tom Singleton in
measuring and registering the state of the tide, when this riotous band
turned the point of the ice-belt to the northward, and came suddenly
"Jump down below, Fred, and fetch my rifle and sword; there are the
natives!" cried the captain, seizing his telescope.--"Call all hands,
Mivins, and let them arm; look alive!"
"All 'ands, _ahoy_!" shouted the steward, looking down the hatchway;
"tumble up there, tumble up, 'ere come the Heskimows. Bring your harms
with ye. Look alive!"
"Ay, ay!" shouted the men from below, and in a few minutes they crowded
up the hatchway, pulling up their hoods and hauling on their mittens,
for it was intensely cold.
"Why, captain, there are some of our men with them," exclaimed Tom
Singleton, as he looked through his pocket-glass at them.
"So there are,--I see Buzzby and Grim. Come, that's fortunate, for they
must have made friends with them, which it is not always easy to do.
Hide your muskets, men, but keep on your cutlasses; it's as well to be
prepared, though I don't expect to find those people troublesome. Is the
soup in the coppers, David Mizzle?"
"Yes, sir, it is."
"Then put in an extra junk of pork, and fill it up to the brim."
While the cook went below to obey this order, the captain and half of
the crew descended to the ice, and advanced unarmed to meet the natives.
The remainder of the men stayed behind to guard the ship, and be ready
to afford succour if need be. But the precaution was unnecessary, for
the Esquimaux met the sailors in the most frank and confiding manner,
and seemed quite to understand Captain Guy when he drew a line round the
ship, and stationed sentries along it to prevent them from crossing. The
natives had their dogs and sledges with them, and the former they
picketed to the ice, while a few of their number, and the woman, whose
name was Aninga, were taken on board and hospitably entertained.
It was exceedingly interesting and amusing to observe the feelings of
amazement and delight expressed by those barbarous but good-humoured and
intelligent people at everything they saw. While food was preparing for
them, they were taken round the ship, on deck and below, and the sailors
explained, in pantomime, the uses of everything. They laughed, and
exclaimed, and shouted, and even roared with delight, and touched
everything with their fingers, just as monkeys are wont to do when let
loose. Captain Guy took Aninga and her tall husband, Awatok, to the
cabin, where, through the medium of Meetuck, he explained the object of
their expedition, and questioned the chief as to his knowledge of the
country. Unfortunately Awatok and his band had travelled from the
interior to the coast, and never having been more than twenty or thirty
miles to the north of the Bay of Mercy, could give no information either
in regard to the formation of the coast or the possibility of Europeans
having wintered there. In fact, neither he nor his countrymen had ever
seen Europeans before, and they were so much excited that it was
difficult to obtain coherent answers to questions. The captain,
therefore, postponed further inquiries until they had become somewhat
accustomed to the novelty of their position.
Meanwhile, David Mizzle furnished them with a large supply of pea-soup,
which they seemed to relish amazingly. Not so, however, the salt pork
with which it had been made. They did, indeed, condescend to eat it, but
they infinitely preferred a portion of raw walrus-flesh, which had been
reserved as food for the dogs, and which they would speedily have
consumed had it not been removed out of their reach. Having finished
this, they were ordered to return to their camp on the ice beside the
ship, and a vigorous barter was speedily begun.
First of all, however, a number of presents were made to them, and it
would really have done your heart good, reader, to have witnessed the
extravagant joy displayed by them on receiving such trifles as bits of
hoop-iron, beads, knives, scissors, needles, etc. Iron is as precious
among them as gold is among civilized people. The small quantities they
possessed of it had been obtained from the few portions of wrecks that
had drifted ashore in their ice-bound land. They used it for pointing
their spear-heads and harpoons, which, in default of iron, were
ingeniously made of ivory from the tusks of the walrus and the horn of
the narwal. A bit of iron, therefore, was received with immense glee,
and a penny looking-glass with shouts of delight.
But the present which drew forth the most uproarious applause was a
Union Jack, which the captain gave to their chief, Awatok. He was in the
cabin when it was presented to him. On seeing its gaudy colours
unrolled, and being told that it was a gift to himself and his wife, he
caught his breath, and stared, as if in doubt, alternately at the flag
and the captain; then he gave vent to a tremendous shout, seized the
flag, hugged it in his arms, and darted up on deck literally _roaring_
with delight. The sympathetic hearts of the natives on the ice echoed
the cry before they knew the cause of it; but when they beheld the
prize, they yelled, and screamed, and danced, and tossed their arms in
the air in the most violent manner.
"They're all mad, ivery mother's son o' them," exclaimed O'Riley, who
for some time had been endeavouring to barter an old rusty knife for a
pair of seal-skin boots.
"They looks like it," said Grim, who stood looking on with his legs
apart and his arms crossed, and grinning from ear to ear.
To add to the confusion, the dogs became affected with the spirit of
excitement that filled their masters, and gave vent to their feelings in
loud and continuous howling which nothing could check. The imitative
propensity of these singular people was brought rather oddly into play
during the progress of traffic. Buzzby had produced a large roll of
tobacco--which they knew the use of, having been already shown how to
use a pipe--and cut off portions of it, which he gave in exchange for
fox-skins, and deer-skins, and seal-skin boots. Observing this, a very
sly, old Esquimau began to slice up a deer-skin into little pieces,
which he intended to offer for the small pieces of tobacco! He was
checked, however, before doing much harm to the skin, and the principles
of exchange were more perfectly explained to him.
The skins and boots, besides walrus and seal flesh, which the crew were
enabled to barter at this time, were of the utmost importance, for their
fresh provisions had begun to get low, and their boots were almost worn
out, so that the scene of barter was exceedingly animated. Davie Summers
and his master, Mivins, shone conspicuous as bargain makers, and carried
to their respective bunks a large assortment of native articles. Fred,
and Tom Singleton, too, were extremely successful, and in a few hours a
sufficient amount of skins were bartered to provide them with clothing
for the winter. The quantity of fresh meat obtained, however, was not
enough to last them a week, for the Esquimaux lived from hand to mouth,
and the crew felt that they must depend on their own exertions in the
hunt for this indispensable article of food, without which they could
not hope to escape the assaults of the sailors' dread enemy, scurvy.
Meetuck's duties were not light upon this occasion, as you may suppose.
"Arrah! then, _don't_ ye onderstand me?" cried O'Riley, in an excited
tone, to a particularly obtuse and remarkably fat Esquimau, who was
about as sharp at a bargain as himself.--"Hallo! Meetuck, come here, do,
and tell this pork-faced spalpeen what I'm sayin'. Sure I couldn't spake
plainer av I wos to try."
"I'll never get this fellow to understand," said Fred.--"Meetuck, my
boy, come here and explain to him."
"Ho! Meetuck," shouted Peter Grim, "give this old blockhead a taste o'
your lingo, I never met his match for stupidity."
"I do believe that this rascal wants the 'ole of this ball o' twine for
the tusk of a sea-'oss.--Meetuck! w'ere's Meetuck? I say, give us a 'and
'ere, like a good fellow," cried Mivins; but Mivins cried in vain, for
at that moment Saunders had violently collared the interpreter and dragged
him towards an old Esquimau woman, whose knowledge of Scotch had not
proved sufficient to enable her to understand the energetically-expressed
words of the second mate.
During all this time the stars had been twinkling brightly in the sky,
and the aurora shed a clear light upon the scene, while the air was
still calm and cold; but a cloud or two now began to darken the horizon
to the north-east, and a puff of wind blew occasionally over the icy
plain, and struck with such chilling influence on the frames of the
traffickers, that with one consent they closed their business for that
day, and the Esquimaux prepared to return to their snow village, which
was about ten miles to the southward, and which village had been erected
by them only three days previous to their discovery of the ship.
"I'm sorry to find," remarked the captain to those who were standing
near him, "that these poor creatures have stolen a few trifling articles
from below. I don't like to break the harmonious feeling which now
exists between us for the sake of a few worthless things, but I know
that it does more harm than good to pass over an offence with the
natives of these regions, for they attribute our forbearance to fear."
"Perhaps you had better tax them with the theft," suggested the surgeon;
"they may confess it, if we don't look very angry."
A few more remarks were made by several of those who stood on the
quarter-deck, suggesting a treatment of the Esquimaux which was not of
the gentlest nature, for they felt indignant that their hospitality had
"No, no," replied the captain to such suggestions, "we must exercise
forbearance. These poor fellows do not regard theft in the same light
that we do; besides, it would be foolish to risk losing their
friendship. Go down, Meetuck, and invite Awatok and his wife, and
half-a-dozen of the chief men, into the cabin. Say I wish to have a talk
The interpreter obeyed, and in a few minutes the officers of the ship
and the chiefs of the Esquimaux were assembled in solemn conclave round
the cabin table.
"Tell them, Meetuck," said the captain, "that I know they have stolen
two pieces of hoop-iron and a tin kettle, and ask them why they were so
ungrateful as to do it."
The Esquimaux, who were becoming rather alarmed at the stern looks of
those around them, protested earnestly that they knew nothing about it,
and that they had not taken the things referred to.
"Say that I do not believe them," answered the captain sternly. "It is
an exceedingly wicked thing to steal and to tell lies. White men think
those who are guilty of such conduct to be very bad."
"Ah, ye villain!" cried Saunders, seizing one of the Esquimaux named
Oosuck by the shoulder, and drawing forth an iron spoon which he
observed projecting from the end of his boot.
An exclamation of surprise and displeasure burst from the officers, but
the Esquimaux gave vent to a loud laugh. They evidently thought stealing
to be no sin, and were not the least ashamed of being detected. Awatok,
however, was an exception. He looked grave and annoyed, but whether this
was at being found out, or at the ingratitude of his people, they could
"Tell them," said the captain, "that I am much displeased. If they
promise to return the stolen goods immediately, I will pass over their
offence this time, and we will trade together, and live like brothers,
and do each other good; but if not, and if any more articles are taken,
I will punish them."
Having had this translated to them, the chiefs were dismissed, but the
expression of indifference on some of their faces proved that no
impression had been made upon them.
In a quarter of an hour the articles that had been mentioned as missing
were returned; and in order to restore harmony, several plugs of tobacco
and a few additional trinkets were returned by the messenger. Soon
after, the dogs were harnessed, the sledges packed, and, with many
protestations of good-will on both sides, the parties separated. A few
cracks of their long whips, a few answering howls from the dogs, and the
Esquimaux were off and out of sight, leaving the _Dolphin_ in her former
solitude under the shadow of the frowning cliffs.
"Fetch me the telescope, Mivins," said the captain, calling down the
"Ay, ay, sir," answered the steward.
"Where's my hatchet?" cried Peter Grim, striding about the deck and
looking into every corner in search of his missing implement. "It's my
best one, and I can't get on without it, nohow."
The captain bit his lip, for he knew full well the cause of its
"Please, sir," said the steward, coming on deck with a very perturbed
expression of countenance, "the--the--a--"
"Speak out, man! what's the matter with you?"
"The glass ain't nowhere to be seen, sir."
"Turn up all hands!" shouted the captain, jumping down the hatchway.
"Arm the men, Mr. Bolton, and order the largest sledge to be got ready
instantly. This will never do. Harness the whole team."
Instantly the _Dolphin's_ deck was a scene of bustling activity. Muskets
were loaded, jumpers and mittens put on, dogs caught and harnessed, and
every preparation made for a sudden chase.
"There, that will do," cried the Captain, hurrying on deck with a brace
of pistols and a cutlass in his belt, "six men are enough; let twelve of
the remainder follow on foot. Jump on the sledge, Grim and Buzzby;
O'Riley, you go too. Have a Care, Fred; not too near the front. Now,
One crack of the long whip terminated the sentence as if with a full
stop, and in another moment the sledge was bounding over the snow like a
feather at the tails of twelve dogs.
It was a long chase, for it was a "stern" one, but the Esquimaux never
dreamed of-pursuit, and as their dogs were not too well fed they had
progressed rather slowly. In less than two hours they were distinguished
on the horizon far off to the southward, winding their way among the
"Now, Meetuck," said the captain, "drive like the wind, and lay me
alongside of Awatok's sledge;--and be ready, men, to act."
"Ay, ay, sir," Was the prompt reply, as the heavy whip fell on the
flanks of the leaders.
A few minutes brought them up with Awatok's sledge, and Captain Guy,
leaping upon it with a clasp-knife in his hand, cut the traces in a
twinkling, set the dogs free, and turning round, seized the Esquimau by
the collar. The big chief at first showed a disposition to resent this
unceremonious treatment, but before he could move Grim seized his elbows
in his iron grasp, and tied them adroitly together behind his back with
a cord. At the same time poor Aninga and her baby were swiftly
transferred to the sailors' sledge.
Seeing this, the whole band of natives turned back and rushed in a body
to the rescue, flourishing their lances and yelling fiercely.
"Form line!" shouted the captain, handing Awatok and Aninga over to the
care of O'Riley. "Three of you on the right fire over their heads, and
let the rest reserve their fire. I will kill one of their dogs, for it
won't do to let them fancy that nothing but noise comes out of our
A rattling volley followed, and at the same moment one of the dogs fell
with a death-yell on the ice, and dyed it with its blood.
"Forward!" shouted the captain.
The men advanced in a body at a smart run; but the terrified Esquimaux,
who had never heard the report of fire-arms before, did not wait for
them. They turned and fled precipitately, but not before Grim captured
Oosuck, and dragged him forcibly to the rear, where he was pinioned and
placed on the sledge with the others.
"Now, then, lads, that will do; get upon the sledge again. Away with
you, Meetuck.--Look after Awatok, Grim; O'Riley will see that Aninga
does not jump off."
"That he will, darlint," said the Irishman, patting the woman on the
"And I shall look after the baby," said Fred, chucking that series of
dumplings under the chin--an act of familiarity that seemed to afford it
immense satisfaction, for, notwithstanding the melancholy position of
its father and mother as prisoners, it smiled on Fred benignly.
In five minutes the party were far on their way back to the ship, and in
less than five hours after the Esquimaux had closed their barter and
left for their village, four of their number, including the baby, were
close prisoners in the _Dolphin's_ hold. It was not Captain Guy's
intention, however, to use unnecessarily harsh means for the recovery of
the missing articles. His object was to impress the Esquimaux with a
salutary sense of the power, promptitude, and courage of Europeans, and
to check at the outset their propensity for thieving. Having succeeded
in making two of their chief men prisoners, he felt assured that the
lost telescope and hatchet would soon make their appearance; and in this
he was not mistaken. Going to the hold where the prisoners sat with
downcast looks, he addressed to them a lengthened speech as to the sin
and meanness of stealing in general, and of stealing from those who had
been kind to them in particular. He explained to them the utter
hopelessness of their attempting to deceive or impose upon the white men
in any way whatever, and assured them that if they tried that sort of
thing again he would punish them severely; but that if they behaved
well, and brought plenty of walrus-flesh to the ship, he would give them
hoop-iron, beads, looking-glasses, etc. These remarks seemed to make a
considerable impression on his uncouth hearers.
"And now," said the captain in conclusion, "I shall keep Awatok and his
wife and child prisoners here, until my telescope and hatchet are
returned [Awatok's visage fell, and his wife looked stolid], and I shall
send Oosuck to his tribe [Oosuck's face lit up amazingly] to tell them
what I have said."
In accordance with this resolve Oosuck was set free, and, making use of
his opportunity, with prompt alacrity he sped away on foot over the ice
to the southward, and was quickly lost to view.
_The Arctic Theatre enlarged upon--Great success of the first play--The
Esquimaux submit, and become fast friends._
The 1st of December was a great day on board the _Dolphin_, for on that
day it was announced to the crew that "The Arctic Theatre" would be
opened, under the able management of Mr. F. Ellice, with the play of
"Blunderbore; or, the Arctic Giant." The bill, of which two copies were
issued gratis to the crew, announced that the celebrated Peter Grim,
Esq., who had so long trodden the boards of the _Dolphin,_ with
unparalleled success, had kindly consented to appear in the character of
_Blunderbore_ for one winter only. The other parts were as
follows:--_Whackinta,_ a beautiful Esquimau widow, who had been captured
by two Polar bears, both of which were deeply in love with her, by
Frederick Ellice, Esq. _First Bear,_ a big one, by Terrence O'Riley,
Esq. _Second Bear_, a little one, by David Summers, Esq. _Ben Bolt_, a
brave British seaman, who had been wrecked in Blunderbore's desolate
dominions, all the crew having perished except himself, by John Buzzby,
Esq. These constituted the various characters of the piece, the name of
which had been kept a profound secret from the crew until the morning
of the day on which it was acted.
Fred's duties, as manager and author, upon this occasion were by no
means light, for his troop, being unaccustomed to study, found the
utmost difficulty in committing the simplest sentences to memory.
O'Riley turned out to be the sharpest among them, but having agreed to
impersonate the First Bear, and having to act his part in dumb
show--bears not being supposed capable of speech--his powers of memory
had not to be exerted. Grim was also pretty good; but Davie Summers
could not be got to remember even the general arrangements of the piece;
and as for Buzzby, he no sooner mastered a line than he forgot the one
before it, and almost gave it up in despair. But by dint of much study
and many rehearsals in secret, under the superintendence of Fred, and
Tom Singleton, who undertook to assist, they succeeded at last in going
through it with only a few mistakes.
On the morning of the 1st December, while the most of the crew were away
at Red-Snow Valley cutting moss, Fred collected his _corps dramatique_
for a last rehearsal in the forecastle, where they were secure from
interruption, the place being so cold that no one would willingly go
into it except under the force of necessity. A dim lantern lit up the
"We must do it without a mistake this time," said Fred Ellice, opening
his book, and calling upon Grim to begin.
"'Tis cold," began Grim.
"Stop, you're wrong."
"Oh! so I am," cried Grim, slapping his thigh, "I'll begin again."
It may be remarked here, that although Blunderbore was supposed to be an
Esquimau monarch, he was compelled to speak English, being unfortunately
ignorant--if we may so speak--of his native tongue!
"Oh! 'tis a dismal thing," began Grim again, "to dwell in solitude and
cold! 'Tis very cold [Grim shuddered here tremendously],
"Hunger," said Fred.
"Hunger gnaws my vitals. My name is Blunderbore. 'Twere better had I
been born a Blunder_buss_, 'cause then I'd have _gone off_ and dwelt in
climes more shootable to my tender constitoosion. Ha! is that a bear I
sees before me?"
"It's not _sees_," interrupted Fred.
At this moment a tremendous roar was heard, and O'Riley bounded from
behind a top-sail, which represented an iceberg, dressed from head to
foot in the skin of a white bear which had been killed a few days
"Stop, O'Riley," cried Fred; "you're too soon, man. _I_ have to come on
first as an Esquimau woman, and when Grim says to the woman he wishes he
could see a bear, _then_ you are to come."
"Och! whirra, but me brains is confuged intirely wid it all," said
O'Riley, rising on his hind legs, and walking off with his tail,
literally as well as figuratively, between his legs.
"Now, Buzzby, now; it's _your_ time. When you hear the word 'misery,'
come on and fight like a Trojan with the bears. The doctor will remind
Fred was remarkably patient and painstaking, and his pupils, though not
apt scholars, were willing, so that the morning rehearsal was gone
through with fewer mistakes than might have been expected; and when the
crew came back to dinner about mid-day, which, however, was as dark as
midnight, their parts were sufficiently well got up, and nothing
remained to be done but to arrange the stage and scenery for the
evening's entertainment--it having been resolved that the performance
should commence after supper. The stage was at the after part of the
cabin, and raised about a foot above the deck; and its management had
been intrusted to the doctor, who, assisted by Peter Grim, transformed
that portion of the ship into a scene so romantically beautiful that the
first sight of it petrified the crew with surprise. But until the
curtain should rise all arrangements were carefully concealed from every
one except the _dramatis personae_. Even the captain and officers were
forbidden to peep behind the sail that formed a curtain to the stage;
and this secrecy, besides being necessary, was extremely useful,
inasmuch as it excited the curiosity of the men, and afforded them food
for converse and speculation for a week before the great day arrived.
The longed-for hour came at last. The cabin tables having been removed,
and rows of seats placed in front of the stage, the men were admitted
from the deck, to which they had been expelled an hour previous in order
not to impede preliminary arrangements. There was great joking, of
course, as they took their seats and criticised the fittings up. David
Mizzle was of opinion that the foot-lights "wos oncommon grand," which
was an unquestionable fact, for they consisted of six tin lamps filled
with seal-oil, from the wicks of which rose a compound of yellow flame
and smoke that had a singularly luminous effect. Amos Parr guessed that
the curtain would be certain sure to get jammed at the first haul, and
several of the others were convinced that O'Riley would stick his part
in one way or another. However, an end was put to all remarks and
expectation raised on tip-toe by the ringing of a small hand-bell, and
immediately thereafter a violent pulling at the curtain which concealed
the stage. But the curtain remained immovable (they always do on such
occasions), and a loud whispering was heard behind the scenes.
"Clap on extra tackle and call all hands to hoist away," suggested one
of the audience.
The laugh with which this advice was received was checked in the bud by
the sudden rising of the curtain with such violence that the whole
framework of the theatre shook again.
For a few seconds a dead silence reigned, for the men were stricken dumb
with genuine amazement at the scene before them. The stage was covered
with white sheets arranged in such a manner as to represent snow, and
the more effectually to carry out the idea several huge blocks of real
ice and a few patches of snow were introduced here and there, the cold
in the after part of the cabin being too great to permit of their
melting. A top-gallant-sail, on which were painted several blue cracks,
and some strong white lights did duty for an iceberg, and filled up the
whole back of the scene. In front of this, in the centre of the stage,
on an extemporized hummock, sat Peter Grim, as the Giant Blunderbore.
His colossal proportions were enhanced by the addition of an entire
white bear-skin to his ordinary hairy dress, and which was thrown round
his broad shoulders in the form of a tippet. A broad scarlet sash was
tied round his waist, and a crown of brown paper painted in alternate
diamonds of blue, red, and yellow sat upon his brow. Grim was in truth a
magnificent-looking fellow, with his black beard and moustache; and the
mock-heroic frown with which he gazed up (as one of the audience
suggested) at the aurora borealis, while he grasped an enormous club in
his right hand, became him well.
The first few seconds of dead silence with which this was received were
succeeded by a long and loud burst of applause, the heartiness of which
plainly showed that the scene far exceeded the expectations of the men.
"Bravo!" cried the captain, "excellent! nothing could be better."
"It beats natur', quite," said one.
"All to sticks," cried another.
"And wot a _tree_-mendous giant he makes. Three cheers for Peter Grim,
Three cheers were promptly given with right goodwill, but the giant did
not move a muscle. He was far too deeply impressed with the importance
of playing his part well to acknowledge the compliment. Having gazed
long enough to enable the men to get rid of their first flow of
enthusiasm, Blunderbore rose majestically, and coming forward to the
foot-lights, looked straight over the heads of the men, and addressed
himself to the opposite bulk-head.
"Oh! 'tis a dismal thing," he began, and continued to spout his part
with flashing eyes and considerable energy, until he came to the word
Blunderbuss, when, either from a mistaken notion as to when it was his
time to go on, or nervous forgetfulness of the plan of the piece, the
Little Bear sprang over the edge of the iceberg and alighted on the
middle of the stage.
"Oh! bad luck to yees intirely," said the Big Bear from behind the
scenes in an angry whisper, which was distinctly heard by the audience,
"ye've gone and spoiled it all, ye have. Come off, will ye, and take yer
turn at the right time, won't ye?"
In the midst of the shout of delight caused by this mistake, O'Riley,
forgetting that he was a bear, rushed on the stage on his hind legs,
seized the Little Bear by the fore leg, and dragged him off at the other
side amid loud applause. Blunderbore, with admirable self-possession,
resumed his part the instant there was a calm, and carried it
successfully to a close.
Just as he ended, Fred waddled on, in the guise of an Esquimau woman;
and so well was he got up that the crew looked round to see if Aninga
(who, with her husband, had been allowed to witness the play) was in her
place. Fred had intentionally taken Aninga as his model, and had been
very successful in imitating the top-knot of hair. The baby, too, was
hit off to perfection, having been made by Mivins, who proved himself a
genius in such matters. Its head was a ball of rags covered with brown
leather, and two white bone buttons with black spots in the centre did
duty for its eyes.
The first thing Whackinta did on coming forward was to deposit the baby
on the snow with its head downwards by mistake, whereat it began to
scream vociferously. This scream was accomplished by Davie Summers
creeping below the stage and putting his mouth to a hole in the flooring
close to which the baby's head lay. Davie's falsetto was uncommonly like
to a child's voice, and the effect was quite startling. Of course
Whackinta tried to soothe it, and failing in this she whipped it, which
caused it to yell with tenfold violence. Thereafter losing all patience,
she covered its face and stuffed its mouth with a quantity of snow, and
laying it down on its back, placed a large block of ice on its head.
This, as might be expected, had the desired effect, and the baby was
silenced--not, however, until Whackinta had twice called down the hole
in a hoarse whisper, "That'll do, Davie; stop, man, stop!" Then, sitting
down on the hummock which Blunderbore had just left--and from behind
which he was now eagerly watching her--she began to weep.
Having given full vent to her feelings in a series of convulsive sobs,
Whackinta addressed a lengthened harangue, in a melancholy tone of
voice, to the audience, the gist of which was that she was an
unfortunate widow; that two bears had fallen in love with her, and
stolen her away from her happy home in Nova Zembla; and, although they
allowed her to walk about as much as she chose, they watched her closely
and prevented her escaping to her own country. Worst of all, they had
told her that she must agree to become the wife of one or other of them,
and if she did not make up her mind and give them an answer that very
day, she was to be killed and eaten by both of them. In order the more
strongly to impress the audience with her forlorn condition, Whackinta
sang a tender and touching ditty, composed by herself expressly for the
occasion, and sang it so well that it was encored twice.
To all this Blunderbore listened with apparent rapture, and at length
ventured to advance and discover himself; but the instant Whackinta saw
him she fell on her knees and trembled violently.
"Spare me, good king," she said; "do not slay me. I am a poor widow, and
have been brought here by two bears against my will."
"Woman," said the giant, "my name is Blunderbore. I am, as you perceive
by my crown, a king; and I am a lonely man. If I kill the two bears you
speak of, will you marry me?"
"Oh, do not ask me, good Blunderbore! I cannot; it is impossible. I
cannot love you--you are--forgive me for saying it--too big, and fierce,
and ugly to love."
Blunderbore frowned angrily, and the audience applauded vociferously at
"You cannot love me! ha!" exclaimed the giant, glaring round with
At this moment the Big Bear uttered an awful roar, Whackinta gave a
piercing scream and fled, and Blunderbore hid himself hastily behind the
hummock. The next moment the two bears bounded on the stage and began to
gambol round it, tossing up their hind legs and roaring and leaping in a
manner that drew forth repeated plaudits. At length the Little Bear
discovered the baby, and, uttering a frantic roar of delight, took it in
its fore paws and held it up. The Big Bear roared also, of course, and
rushing forward caught the baby by the leg, and endeavoured to tear it
away from the Little Bear, at which treatment the poor baby again
commenced to cry passionately. In the struggle the baby's head came off,
upon which the Little Bear put the head into its mouth and swallowed it.
The Big Bear immediately did the same with the body; but its mouth was
too small, and the body stuck fast and could not be finally disposed of
until the Little Bear came to the rescue and pushed it forcibly down
its throat. Having finished this delicate little morsel the two bears
rose on their hind legs and danced a hornpipe together--Tom Singleton
playing the tune for them on a flute behind the scenes. When this was
done they danced off the stage, and immediately, as if in the distance,
was heard the voice of a man singing. It came gradually nearer, and at
last Buzzby, in the character of Ben Bolt, swaggered up to the
foot-lights with his hands in his breeches pockets.
"I'm a jolly, jolly tar,
Wot has comed from afar,
An' it's all for to seek my fortin"--
sang Buzzby. "But I've not found it yit," he continued, breaking into
prose, "and there don't seem much prospect o' findin' it here anyhow.
Wot an 'orrible cold place it is, ugh!"
Buzzby was received with enthusiastic cheers, for he was dressed in the
old familiar blue jacket, white ducks, pumps, and straw hat set jauntily
on one side of his head--a costume which had not been seen for so many
months by the crew of the _Dolphin_, that their hearts warmed to it as
if it were an old friend.
Buzzby acted with great spirit, and was evidently a prime favourite. He
could scarcely recollect a word of his part, but he remembered the
general drift of it, and had ready wit enough to extemporize. Having
explained that he was the only survivor of a shipwrecked crew, he
proceeded to tell some of his adventures in foreign lands, and
afterwards described part of his experiences in a song, to which the
doctor played an accompaniment behind the scenes. The words were
composed by himself, sung to the well-known Scotch air, "Corn Riggs,"
and ran as follows:--
THE JOLLY TAR.
My comrades, you must know
It was many years ago
I left my daddy's cottage in the greenwood O!
And I jined a man-o'-war
An' became a jolly tar,
An' fought for king and country on the high seas O!
Pull, boys, cheerily, our home is on the sea
Pull, boys, merrily and lightly O!
Pull, boys, cheerily, the wind is passing free
An' whirling up the foam an' water sky-high O!
There's been many a noble fight,
But Trafalgar was the sight
That beat the Greeks and Romans in their glory O!
For Britain's jolly sons
Worked the thunder-blazing guns,
And Nelson stood the bravest in the fore-front O!
Pull, boys, etc.
A roaring cannon shot
Came an' hit the very spot
Where my leg goes click-an'-jumble in the socket O!
And swept it overboard
With the precious little hoard
Of pipe an' tin an' baccy in the pocket O!
Pull, boys, etc.
They took me down below,
An' they laid me with a row
Of killed and wounded messmates on a table O!
Then up comes Dr. Keg,
An' says, Here's a livin' leg
I'll sew upon the stump if I am able O!
Pull, boys, etc.
This good and sturdy limb
Had belonged to fightin' Tim,
An' scarcely had they sewed it on the socket O!
When up the hatch I flew,
An' dashed among the crew,
An' sprang on board the Frenchman like a rocket O!
Pull, boys, etc.
'Twas this that gained the day,
For that leg it cleared the way--
And the battle raged like fury while it lasted O!
Then ceased the shot and shell
To fall upon the swell,
And the Union Jack went bravely to the mast-head O!'
Pull, boys, etc.
We need scarcely say that this song was enthusiastically encored, and
that the chorus was done full justice to by the audience, who picked it
up at once and sang it with lusty vehemence. At the last word Ben Bolt
nodded familiarly, thrust his hands into his pockets, and swaggered off
whistling "Yankee Doodle." It was a matter of uncertainty where he had
swaggered off to, but it was conjectured that he had gone on his journey
to anywhere that might turn up.
Meanwhile, Blunderbore had been bobbing his head up and down behind the
hummock in amazement at what he heard and saw, and when Ben Bolt made
his exit he came forward. This was the signal for the two bears to
discover him and rush on with a terrific roar. Blunderbore instantly
fetched them each a sounding whack on their skulls, leaped over both
their backs, and bounded up the side of the iceberg, where he took
refuge, and turned at bay on a little ice pinnacle constructed expressly
for that purpose.
An awful fight now ensued between the giant and the two bears. The
pinnacle on which Blunderbore stood was so low that the Big Bear, by
standing up on its hind legs, could just scratch his toes, which caused
the giant to jump about continually; but the sides of the iceberg were
so smooth that the bears could not climb up it. This difficulty, indeed,
constituted the great and amusing feature of the fight; for no sooner
did the Little Bear creep up to the edge of the pinnacle, than the
giant's tremendous club came violently down on its snout (which had been
made of hard wood on purpose to resist the blows), and sent it sprawling
back on the stage, where the Big Bear invariably chanced to be in the
way, and always fell over it. Then they both rose, and, roaring
fearfully, renewed the attack, while Blunderbore laid about him with the
club ferociously. Fortune, however, did not on this occasion favour the
brave. The Big Bear at last caught the giant by the heel and pulled him
to the ground; the Little Bear instantly seized him by the throat; and,
notwithstanding his awful yells and struggles, it would have gone ill
with Blunderbore had not Ben Bolt opportunely arrived at that identical
spot at that identical moment in the course of his travels.
Oh! it was a glorious thing to see the fear-nothing, dare-anything
fashion in which, when he saw how matters stood, Ben Bolt threw down his
stick and bundle, drew his cutlass, and attacked the two bears at once,
single-handed, crying, "Come on," in a voice of thunder. And it was a
satisfactory thing to behold the way in which he cut and slashed at
their heads (the heads having been previously prepared for such
treatment), and the agility he displayed in leaping over their backs and
under their legs, and holding on by their tails, while they vainly
endeavoured to catch him. The applause was frequent and prolonged, and
the two Esquimau prisoners rolled about their burly figures and laughed
till the tears ran down their fat cheeks. But when Ben Bolt suddenly
caught the two bears by their tails, tied them together in a double
knot, and fled behind a hummock, which the Big Bear passed on one side
and the Little Bear on the other, and so, as a matter of course, stuck
hard and fast, the laughter was excessive; and when the gallant British
seaman again rushed forward, massacred the Big Bear with two terrific
cuts, slew the Little Bear with one tremendous back-hander, and then
sank down on one knee and pressed his hand to his brow as if he were
exhausted, a cheer ran from stem to stern of the _Dolphin_, the like of
which had not filled the hull of that good ship since she was launched
upon her ocean home!
It was just at this moment that Whackinta chanced, curiously enough, to
return to this spot in the course of _her_ wanderings. She screamed in
horror at the sight of the dead bears, which was quite proper and
natural, and then she started at the sight of the exhausted Bolt, and
smiled sweetly--which was also natural--as she hastened to assist and
sympathize with him. Ben Bolt fell in love with her at once, and told
her so off-hand, to the unutterable rage of Blunderbore, who recovered
from his wounds at that moment, and seizing the sailor by the throat,
vowed he would kill and quarter, and stew and boil, and roast and eat
him in one minute if he didn't take care what he was about.
The audience felt some fears for Ben Bolt at this point, but their
delight knew no bounds when, shading the giant off and springing
backwards, he buttoned up his coat and roared, rather than said, that
though he were all the Blunderbores and blunderbusses in the world
rolled together and changed into one immortal blunder-_cannon_, he
didn't care a pinch of bad snuff for him, and would knock all the teeth
in his head down his throat. This valorous threat he followed up by
shaking his fist close under the giant's nose and crying out, "Come on'"
But the giant did not come on. He fortunately recollected that he owed
his life to the brave sailor; so he smiled, and saying he would be his
friend through life, insisted on seizing him by the hand and shaking it
violently. Thereafter he took Ben Bolt and Whackinta by their right
hands, and leading them forward to the foot-lights, made them a long
speech to the effect that he owed a debt of gratitude to the former for
saving his life which he could never repay, and that he loved the latter
too sincerely to stand in the way of her happiness. Then he joined their
right hands, and they went down on one knee, and he placed his hands on
their heads, and looked up at the audience with a benignant smile, and
the curtain fell amid rapturous cheers.
In this play it seemed somewhat curious and unaccountable that Whackinta
forgot to inquire for her demolished baby, and appeared to feel no
anxiety whatever about it. It was also left a matter of uncertainty
whether Ben Bolt and his Esquimau bride returned to live happily during
the remainder of their lives in England, or took up their permanent
abode with Blunderbore. But it is not our province to criticise; we
merely chronicle events as they occurred.
The entertainments were to conclude with a hornpipe from Mivins; but
just as that elastic individual had completed the first of a series of
complicated evolutions, and was about to commence the second, a
vociferous barking of the dogs was heard outside, accompanied by the
sound of human voices. The benches were deserted in a moment, and the
men rushed upon deck, catching up muskets and cutlasses, which always
stood in readiness, as they went. The sounds proceeded from a party of
about twenty Esquimaux who had been sent from the camp with the stolen
property, and with a humble request that the offence might be forgiven,
and their chief and his wife returned to them. They were all unarmed;
and the sincerity of their repentance was further attested by the fact
that they brought back, not only the hatchet and telescope, but a large
assortment of minor articles that had not been missed.
Of course the apology was accepted; and, after speeches were delivered,
and protestations of undying friendship made on both sides, the party
were presented with a few trinkets and a plug of tobacco each, and sent
back in a state of supreme happiness to their village, where for a week
Awatok kept the men of his tribe, and Aninga the women, in a state of
intense amazement by their minute descriptions of the remarkable doings
of the white strangers.
The friendship thus begun between the Esquimaux and the _Dolphin's_ crew
was never once interrupted by any unpleasant collision during the months
that they afterwards travelled and hunted in company. Strength of muscle
and promptitude in action are qualities which all nations in a savage
state understand and respect, and the sailors proved that they possessed
these qualities in a higher degree than themselves during the hardships
and dangers incident to Arctic life, while at the same time their
seemingly endless resources and contrivances impressed the simple
natives with the belief that white men could accomplish anything they
chose to attempt.
_Expeditions on foot--Effects of darkness on dogs and men--The first
death--Caught in a trap--The Esquimau camp._
"I don't know how it is, an' I can't tell wot it is, but so it is,"
remarked Buzzby to Grim, a week after the first night of the
theatricals, "that that 'ere actin' has done us all a sight o' good.
Here we are as merry as crickets every one, although we're short o'
fresh meat, and symptoms o' scurvy are beginning to show on some of us."
"It's the mind havin' occupation, an' bein' prewented from broodin' over
its misfortins," replied Grim, with the air of a philosopher.
Grim did not put this remark in turned commas, although he ought to have
done so, seeing that it was quoted from a speech made by the captain to
Singleton the day before.
"You see," continued Grim, "we've been actin' every night for a week
past. Well, if we hadn't been actin', we should ha' been thinkin' an'
sleepin'; too much of which, you see, ain't good for us, Buzzby, and
would never pay."
Buzzby was not quite sure of this, but contented himself by saying,
"Well, mayhap ye're right. I'm sorry it's to come to an end so soon; but
there is no doubt that fresh meat is ondispensable. An' that reminds me,
messmate, that I've not cleaned my musket for two days, an' it wouldn't
do to go on a hunt with a foul piece, nohow. We start at ten o'clock,
A.M., don't we?"
Grim admitted that they did--remarking that it might just as well be ten
P.M. for all the difference the _sun_ would make in it--and went below
In the cabin active preparations were making for an extended
hunting-expedition, which the empty state of the larder rendered
absolutely necessary. For a week past the only fresh provisions they had
procured were a white fox and a rabbit, notwithstanding the exertions of
Meetuck, Fred, and the doctor, who with three separate parties had
scoured the country for miles round the ship. Scurvy was now beginning
to appear among them, and Captain Guy felt that although they had enough
of salt provisions to last them the greater part of the winter, if used
with economy, they could not possibly subsist on these alone. An
extended expedition in search of seals and walruses was therefore
It was determined that this should consist of two parties, the one to
proceed north, the other to travel south in the tracks of the Esquimaux,
who had left their temporary village in search of walruses, they also
being reduced almost to a state of starvation.
The plan of the expedition was as follows:--
One party, consisting of ten men, under Bolton, the first mate, was to
take the largest sledge, and the whole team of dogs, on which, with
twelve days' provisions and their sleeping-bags, they were to proceed
northward along the coast as far as possible; and, in the event of being
unsuccessful, they were to turn homeward on the eighth day, and make the
best of their way back on short allowance.
The other party, consisting of fifteen men, under Saunders, the second
mate, was to set off to the southward on foot, dragging a smaller sledge
behind them, and endeavour to find the Esquimaux, who, it was supposed,
could not be far off, and would probably have fresh meat in their camp.
It was a clear, cold, and beautiful star-light day when the two parties
started simultaneously on their separate journeys. The coruscations of
the aurora were more than usually vivid, and the snow gave forth that
sharp, dry, _crunching_ sound, under the heels of the men as they moved
about, that denotes intense frost.
"Mind that you hug the land, Mr. Bolton," said the captain at parting;
"don't get farther out on the floes than you can help. To meet with a
gale on the ice is no joke in these latitudes."
The first mate promised obedience; and the second mate having been also
cautioned to hug the land, and not to use their small supply of spirits
for any other purpose than that of lighting the lamp, except in cases of
the most urgent need, they set off with three hearty cheers, which were
returned by Captain Guy and those who remained with him in the ship.
All the able and effective men were sent on these expeditions; those who
remained behind were all more or less affected with scurvy, except the
captain himself, whose energetic nature seemed invulnerable, and whose
flow of spirits never failed. Indeed, it is probable that to this hearty
and vigorous temperament, under God, he owed his immunity from disease;
for, since provisions began to fail, he along with all his officers had
fared precisely like the men--the few delicacies they possessed having
been reserved for the sick.
Unfortunately, their stock of lime-juice was now getting low, and the
crew had to be put on short allowance. As this acid is an excellent
anti-scorbutic, or preventive of scurvy, as well as a cure, its rapid
diminution was viewed with much concern by all on board. The
long-continued absence of the sun, too, now began to tell more severely
than ever on men and dogs. On the very day the expeditions took their
departure one of the latter, which had been left behind on account of
illness, was attacked with a strange disease, of which several of the
team eventually died before the winter came to an end. It was seized
with spasms, and, after a few wild paroxysms, lapsed into a lethargic
state. In this condition the animal functions went on apparently as well
as usual, the appetite continued not only good but voracious. The
disease was clearly mental. It barked furiously at nothing, and walked
in straight or curved lines perseveringly; or, at other times, it
remained for hours in moody silence, and then started off howling as if
pursued. In thirty-six hours after the first attack the poor animal
died, and was buried in the snow on Store Island.
This was the first death that had occurred on board, and although it was
only a dog, and not one of the favourites, its loss cast a gloom over
the crew for several days. It was the first blow of the fell destroyer
in the midst of their little community, which could ill spare the life
even of one of the lower animals, and they felt as if the point of the
wedge had now been entered, and might be driven farther home ere long.
The expressive delight of the poor dogs on being admitted to the light
of the cabin showed how ardently they longed for the return of the sun.
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