The World of Ice
Robert Michael Ballantyne
Part 5 out of 5
fire they sank the blackened hull, leaving the two crowded boats
floating in darkness on the bosom of the ice-laden sea.
_Escape to Upernavik--Letter from home--Meetuck's grandmother--Dumps and
For three long weeks the shipwrecked mariners were buffeted by winds and
waves in open boats, but at last they were guided in safety through all
their dangers and vicissitudes to the colony of Upernavik. Here they
found several vessels on the point of setting out for Europe, one of
which was bound for England, and in this vessel the crew of the
_Dolphin_ resolved to ship.
Nothing of particular interest occurred at this solitary settlement
except _one_ thing, but that one thing was a great event, and deserves
very special notice. It was nothing less than the receipt of a letter by
Fred from his cousin Isobel! Fred and Isobel, having been brought up for
several years together, felt towards each other like brother and sister.
Fred received the letter from the pastor of the settlement shortly after
landing, while his father and the captain were on board the English brig
making arrangements for their passage home. He could scarcely believe
his eyes when he beheld the well-known hand; but having at last come to
realize the fact that he actually held a real letter in his hand, he
darted behind one of the curious, primitive cottages to read it. Here he
was met by a squad of inquisitive natives, so with a gesture of
impatience he rushed to another spot; but he was observed and followed
by half-a-dozen Esquimau boys, and in despair he sought refuge in the
small church near which he chanced to be. He had not been there a
second, however, when two old women came in, and, approaching him, began
to scan him with critical eyes. This was too much, so Fred thrust the
letter into his bosom, darted out, and was instantly surrounded by a
band of natives, who began to question him in an unknown tongue. Seeing
that there was no other resource, Fred turned round and fled towards the
mountains at a pace that defied pursuit, and, coming to a halt in the
midst of a rocky gorge that might have served as an illustration of what
chaos was, he sat down behind a big rock to peruse Isobel's letter.
Having read it, he re-read it; having re-read it, he read it over again.
Having read it over again, he meditated a little, exclaiming several
times emphatically, "My _darling_ Isobel," and then he read bits of it
here and there; having done which, he read the _other_ bits, and so got
through it again. As the letter was a pretty long one, it took him a
considerable time to do all this. Then it suddenly occurred to him that
he had been thus selfishly keeping it all to himself instead of sharing
it with his father; so he started up and hastened back to the village,
where he found Captain Ellice in earnest confabulation with the pastor
of the place. Seizing his parent by the arm, Fred led him into a room in
the pastor's house, and, looking round to make sure that it was empty,
he sought to bolt the door. But the door was a primitive one and had no
bolt, so Fred placed a huge old-fashioned chair against it, and sitting
down therein, while his father took a seat opposite, he unfolded the
letter, and yet once again read it through.
The letter was about twelve months old, and ran thus:--
GRAYTON, _25th July._
MY DARLING FRED,--It is now two months since you left us, and it seems
to me two years. Oh, how I _do_ wish that you were back! When I think of
the terrible dangers that you may be exposed to amongst the ice my heart
sinks, and I sometimes fear that we shall never see you or your dear
father again. But you are in the hands of our Father in heaven, dear
Fred, and I never cease to pray that you may be successful and return to
us in safety. Dear, good old Mr. Singleton told me yesterday that he had
an opportunity of sending to the Danish settlements in Greenland, so I
resolved to write, though I very much doubt whether this will ever find
you in such a wild far-off land.
Oh, when I think of where you are, all the romantic stories I have ever
read of Polar Regions spring up before me, and _you_ seem to be the hero
of them all. But I must not waste my paper thus; I know you will be
anxious for news. I have very little to give you, however. Good old Mr.
Singleton has been _very_ kind to us since you went away. He comes
constantly to see us, and comforts dear mamma very much. Your friend,
Dr. Singleton, will be glad to hear that he is well and strong. Tell my
friend Buzzby that his wife sends her 'compliments!' I laugh while I
write the word. Yes, she actually sends her 'compliments' to her
husband. She is a very stern but a really excellent woman. Mamma and I
visit her frequently when we chance to be in the village. Her two boys
are the finest little fellows I ever saw. They are both so like each
other that we cannot tell which is which when they are apart, and both
are so like their father that we can almost fancy we see him when
looking at either of them.
"The last day we were there, however, they were in disgrace, for Johnny
had pushed Freddy into the washing-tub, and Freddy, in revenge, had
poured a jug of treacle over Johnny's head! I am quite sure that Mrs.
Buzzby is tired of being a widow--as she calls herself--and will be very
glad when her husband comes back. But I must reserve chit-chat to the
end of my letter, and first give you a minute account of all your
Here followed six pages of closely-written quarto, which, however
interesting they might be to those concerned, cannot be expected to
afford much entertainment to our readers, so we will cut Isobel's
letter short at this point.
"Cap'n's ready to go aboord, sir," said O'Riley, touching his cap to
Captain Ellice while he was yet engaged in discussing the letter with
"An', plaze sir, av ye'll take the throuble to look in at Mrs. Meetuck
in passin', it'll do yer heart good, it will."
"Very well, we'll look in," replied the captain as he quitted the house
of the worthy pastor.
The personage whom O'Riley chose to style Mrs. Meetuck was Meetuck's
grandmother. That old lady was an Esquimau, whose age might be
algebraically expressed as an _unknown quantity_. She lived in a boat
turned upside down, with a small window in the bottom of it, and a hole
in the side for a door. When Captain Ellice and Fred looked in, the old
woman, who was a mere mass of bones and wrinkles, was seated on a heap
of moss beside a fire, the only chimney to which was a hole in the
bottom of the boat. In front of her sat her grandson Meetuck, and on a
cloth spread out at her feet were displayed all the presents with which
that good hunter had been loaded by his comrades of the _Dolphin_.
Meetuck's mother had died many years before, and all the affection in
his naturally warm heart was transferred to, and centred upon, his old
grandmother. Meetuck's chief delight in the gifts he received was in
sharing them, as far as possible, with the old woman. We say _as far as
possible_, because some things could not be shared with her, such as a
splendid new rifle and a silver-mounted hunting-knife and powder-horn,
all of which had been presented to him by Captain Guy over and above his
wages, as a reward for his valuable services. But the trinkets of every
kind which had been given to him by the men were laid at the feet of the
old woman, who looked at everything in blank amazement, yet with a smile
on her wrinkled visage that betokened much satisfaction. Meetuck's oily
countenance beamed with delight as he sat puffing his pipe in his
grandmother's face. This little attention, we may remark, was paid
designedly, for the old woman liked it, and the youth knew that.
"They have enough to make them happy for the winter," said Captain
Ellice, as he turned to leave the hut.
"Faix they have. There's only two things wantin' to make it complate."
"What are they?" inquired Fred.
"Murphies and a pig, sure. That's all they need."
"Wot's come o' Dumps and Poker?" inquired Buzzby, as they reached the
"Oh, I quite forgot them!" cried Fred. "Stay a minute, I'll run up and
find them. They can't be far off."
For some time Fred searched in vain. At last he bethought him of
Meetuck's hut as being a likely spot in which to find them. On entering
he found the couple as he had left them, the only difference being that
the poor old woman seemed to be growing sleepy over her joys.
"Have you seen Dumps or Poker anywhere?" inquired Fred.
Meetuck nodded, and pointed to a corner, where, comfortably rolled up on
a mound of dry moss, lay Dumps; Poker, as usual, making use of him as a
"Thems is go bed," said Meetuck.
"Thems must get up then and come aboard," cried Fred, whistling.
At first the dogs, being sleepy, seemed indisposed to move; but at last
they consented, and following Fred to the beach, were soon conveyed
aboard the ship.
Next day Captain Guy and his men bade Meetuck and the kind, hospitable
people of Upernavik farewell, and spreading their canvas to a fair
breeze, set sail for England.
_The return--The surprise--Buzzby's sayings and doings--The
narrative--Fighting battles o'er again--Conclusion._
Once again we are on the end of the quay at Grayton. As Fred stands
there, all that has occurred during the past year seems to him but a
Captain Guy is there, and Captain Ellice, and Buzzby, and Mrs. Buzzby
too, and the two little Buzzbys also, and Mrs. Bright, and Isobel, and
Tom Singleton, and old Mr. Singleton, and the crew of the wrecked
_Dolphin_, and, in short, the "whole world"--of that part of the
It was a great day for Grayton that. It was a wonderful day--quite an
indescribable day; but there were also some things about it that made
Captain Ellice feel, somehow, that it was a mysterious day, for, while
there were hearty congratulations, and much sobbing for joy, on the part
of Mrs. Bright, there were also whisperings which puzzled him a good
"Come with me, brother," said Mrs. Bright, at length, taking him by the
arm, "I have to tell you something."
Isobel, who was on the watch, joined them, and Fred also went with them
towards the cottage.
"Dear brother," said Mrs. Bright, "I--I--O Isobel, tell him. _I_
"What means all this mystery?" said the captain in an earnest tone, for
he felt that they had something serious to communicate.
"Dear uncle," said Isobel, "you remember the time when the pirates
She paused, for her uncle's look frightened her.
"Go on, Isobel," he said quickly.
"Your dear wife, uncle, _was not lost at that time_--"
Captain Ellice turned pale. "What mean you, girl? How came you to know
this?" Then a thought flashed across him. Seizing Isobel by the shoulder
he gasped, rather than said, "Speak quick--is--is she alive?"
"Yes, dear uncle, she--"
The captain heard no more. He would have fallen to the ground had not
Fred, who was almost as much overpowered as his father, supported him.
In a few minutes he recovered, and he was told that Alice was alive--in
England--_in the cottage_. This was said as they approached the door.
Alice was aware of her husband's arrival. In another moment husband and
wife and son were reunited.
Scenes of intense joy cannot be adequately described, and there are
meetings in this world which ought not to be too closely touched upon.
Such was the present. We will therefore leave Captain Ellice and his
wife and son to pour out the deep feelings of their hearts to each
other, and follow the footsteps of honest John Buzzby, as he sailed down
the village with his wife and children, and a host of admiring friends
Buzzby's feelings had been rather powerfully stirred up by the joy of
all around, and a tear _would_ occasionally tumble over his
weather-beaten cheek, and hang at the point of his sunburnt and oft
frost-bitten nose, despite his utmost efforts to subdue such outrageous
"Sit down, John dear," said Mrs. Buzzby in kind but commanding tones,
when she got her husband fairly into his cottage, the little parlour of
which was instantly crowded to excess. "Sit down, John dear, and tell us
all about it."
"Wot! begin to spin the whole yarn o' the Voyage afore I've had time to
say, 'How d'ye do?'" exclaimed Buzzby, at the same time grasping his two
uproarious sons, who had, the instant he sat down, rushed at his legs
like two miniature midshipmen, climbed up them as if they had been two
masts, and settled on his knees as if they had been their own favourite
"No, John, not the yarn of the voyage," replied his wife, while she
spread the board before him with bread and cheese and beer, "but tell us
how you found old Captain Ellice and where, and what's comed of the
"Werry good! then here goes."
Buzzby was a man of action. He screwed up his weather-eye (the one next
his wife, _of course_, that being the quarter from which squalls might
be expected). and began a yarn which lasted the better part of two
It is not to be supposed that Buzzby spun it off without interruption.
Besides the questions that broke in upon him from all quarters, the two
Buzzbys junior scrambled, as far as was possible, into his pockets,
pulled his whiskers as if they had been hoisting a main-sail therewith,
and, generally, behaved in such an obstreperous manner as to render
coherent discourse all but impracticable. He got through with it,
however; and then Mrs. Buzzby intimated her wish, pretty strongly, that
the neighbours should vacate the premises, which they did laughingly,
pronouncing Buzzby to be "a trump," and his better half "a true blue."
"Good day, old chap," said the last who made his exit; "tiller's fixed
agin--nailed amid-ships, eh?"
"Hard and fast," replied Buzzby, with a broad grin, as he shut the door
and returned to the bosom of his family.
Two days later a grand feast was given at Mrs. Bright's cottage, to
which all the friends of the family were invited to meet with Captain
Ellice and those who had returned from their long and perilous voyage.
It was a joyful gathering that, and glad and grateful hearts were there.
Two days later still, and another feast was given. On this occasion
Buzzby was the host, and Buzzby's cottage was the scene. It was a joyful
meeting, too, and a jolly one to boot, for O'Riley was there, and Peter
Grim, and Amos Parr, and David Mizzle, and Mivins--in short, the entire
crew of the lost _Dolphin_--captain, mates, surgeon, and all. Fred and
his father were also there, and old Mr. Singleton, and a number of other
friends, so that all the rooms in the house had to be thrown open, and
even then Mrs. Buzzby had barely room to move. It was on this occasion
that Buzzby related to his shipmates how Mrs. Ellice had escaped from
drowning on the night they were attacked by pirates on board the West
Indiaman. He took occasion to relate the circumstances just before the
"people from the house" arrived, and as the reader may perhaps prefer
Buzzby's account to ours, we give it as it was delivered.
"You see, it happened this way," began Buzzby.
"Hand us a coal, Buzzby, to light my pipe, before ye begin," said Peter
"Ah! then, howld yer tongue, Blunderbore," cried O'Riley, handing the
glowing coal demanded, with as much nonchalance as if his fingers were
made of cast-iron.
"Well, ye see," resumed Buzzby, "when poor Mrs. Ellice wos pitched
overboard, as I seed her with my own two eyes--"
"Stop, Buzzby," said Mivins; "'ow was 'er 'ead at the time?"
"Shut up, Mivins," cried several of the men; "go on, Buzzby."
"Well, I think her '_ead_ wos sou'-west, if it warn't nor'-east. Anyhow
it wos pintin' somewhere or other round the compass. But, as I wos
sayin', when Mrs. Ellice struck the water (an' she told me all about it
herself, ye must know) she sank, and then she comed up, and didn't know
how it wos, but she caught hold of an oar that wos floatin' close beside
her, and screamed for help; but no help came, for it wos dark, and the
ship had disappeared, so she gave herself up for lost. But in a little
the oar struck agin a big piece o' the wreck o' the pirate's boat, and
she managed to clamber upon it, and lay there, a'most dead with cold,
till mornin'. The first thing she saw when day broke forth wos a big
ship, bearin' right down on her, and she wos jist about run down when
one o' the men observed her from the bow.
"'Hard a-port!' roared the man.
"'Port it is,' cried the man at the wheel, an' round went the ship like
a duck, jist missin' the bit of wreck as she passed. A boat wos lowered,
and Mrs. Ellice wos took aboard. Well, she found that the ship wos bound
for the Sandwich Islands, and as they didn't mean to touch at any port
in passin', Mrs. Ellice had to go on with her. Misfortins don't come
single, howsiver. The ship wos wrecked on a coral reef, and the crew had
to take to their boats, which they did, an' got safe to land; but the
land they got to wos an out-o'-the-way island among the Feejees, and a
spot where ships never come, so they had to make up their minds to stop
"I thought," said Amos Parr, "that the Feejees were cannibals, and that
whoever was wrecked or cast ashore on their coasts was killed and
roasted, and eat up at once."
"So ye're right," rejoined Buzzby; "but Providence sent the crew to one
o' the islands that had bin visited by a native Christian missionary
from one o' the other islands, and the people had gin up some o' their
worst practices, and wos thinkin' o' turnin' over a new leaf altogether.
So the crew wos spared, and took to livin' among the natives, quite
comfortable like. But they soon got tired and took to their boats agin,
and left. Mrs. Ellice, however, determined to remain and help the native
Christians, till a ship should pass that way. For three years nothin'
but canoes hove in sight o' that lonesome island; then, at last, a brig
came, and cast anchor off shore. It wos an Australian trader that had
been blown out o' her course on her way to England, so they took poor
Mrs. Ellice aboard, and brought her home--and that's how it wos."
Buzzby's outline, although meagre, is so comprehensive that we do not
think it necessary to add a word. Soon after he had concluded, the
guests of the evening came in, and the conversation became general.
"Buzzby's jollification," as it was called in the village, was long
remembered as one of the most interesting events that had occurred for
many years. One of the chief amusements of the evening was the spinning
of long yarns about the incidents of the late voyage, by men who could
spin them well.
Their battles in the Polar Seas were all fought over again. The
wondering listeners were told how Esquimaux were chased and captured;
how walruses were lanced and harpooned; how bears were speared and shot;
how long and weary journeys were undertaken on foot over immeasurable
fields of ice and snow; how icebergs had crashed around their ship, and
chains had been snapped asunder, and tough anchors had been torn from
the ground or lost; how schools had been set agoing and a theatre got
up; and how, provisions having failed, rats were eaten--and eaten, too,
with gusto. All this and a great deal more was told on that celebrated
night--sometimes by one, sometimes by another, and sometimes, to the
confusion of the audience, by two or three at once, and, not
unfrequently, to the still greater confusion of story-tellers and
audience alike, the whole proceedings were interrupted by the outrageous
yells and turmoil of the two indomitable young Buzzbys, as they romped
in reckless joviality with Dumps and Poker. But at length the morning
light broke up the party, and stories of the World of Ice came to an
* * * * *
And now, reader, our tale is told. But we cannot close without a parting
word in regard to those with whom we have held intercourse so long.
It must not be supposed that from this date everything in the affairs of
our various friends flowed on in a tranquil, uninterrupted course. This
world is a battle-field, on which no warrior finds rest until he dies;
and yet, to the Christian warrior on that field, the hour of death is
the hour of victory. "Change" is written in broad letters on everything
connected with Time; and he who would do his duty well, and enjoy the
greatest possible amount of happiness here, must seek to prepare himself
for _every_ change. Men cannot escape the general law. The current of
their particular stream may long run smooth, but sooner or later the
rugged channel and the precipice will come. Some streams run quietly for
many a league, and only at the last are troubled. Others burst from
their very birth on rocks of difficulty, and rush, throughout their
course, in tortuous, broken channels.
So was it with the actors in our story. Our hero's course was smooth.
Having fallen in love with his friend Tom Singleton's profession, he
studied medicine and surgery, became an M.D., and returned to practise
in Grayton, which was a flourishing sea-port, and, during the course of
Fred's career, extended considerably. Fred also fell in love with a
pretty young girl in a neighbouring town, and married her. Tom Singleton
also took up his abode in Grayton, there being, as he said, "room for
two." Ever since Tom had seen Isobel on the end of the quay, on the day
when the _Dolphin_ set sail for the Polar Regions, his heart had been
taken prisoner. Isobel refused to give it back unless he, Tom, should
return the heart which he had stolen from her. This he could not do, so
it was agreed that the two hearts should be tied together, and they two
should be constituted joint guardians of both. In short, they were
married, and took Mrs. Bright to live with them, not far from the
residence of old Mr. Singleton, who was the fattest and jolliest old
gentleman in the place, and the very idol of dogs and boys, who loved
him to distraction.
Captain Ellice, having had, as he said, "more than his share of the
sea," resolved to live on shore, and, being possessed of a moderately
comfortable income, he purchased Mrs. Bright's cottage on the green hill
that overlooked the harbour and the sea. Here he became celebrated for
his benevolence, and for the energy with which he entered into all the
schemes that were devised for the benefit of the town of Grayton. Like
Tom Singleton and Fred, he became deeply interested in the condition of
the poor, and had a special weakness for _poor old women,_ which he
exhibited by searching up, and doing good to, every poor old woman in
the parish. Captain Ellice was also celebrated for his garden, which was
a remarkably fine one; for his flagstaff, which was a remarkably tall
and magnificent one; and for his telescope, which constantly protruded
from his drawingroom window, and pointed in the direction of the sea.
As for the others--Captain Guy continued his career at sea as commander
of an East Indiaman. He remained stout and true-hearted to the last,
like one of the oak timbers of his own good ship.
Bolton, Saunders, Mivins, Peter Grim, Amos Parr, and the rest of them,
were scattered in a few years, as sailors usually are, to the four
quarters of the globe. O'Riley alone was heard of again. He wrote to
Buzzby "by manes of the ritin' he had larn'd aboord the _Dolfin_,"
informing him that he had forsaken the "say" and become a small farmer
near Cork. He had plenty of murphies and also a pig--the latter "bein'"
he said, "so like the wan that belonged to his owld grandmother, that he
thought it must be the same wan corned alive agin, or its darter."
And Buzzby--poor Buzzby--he also gave up the sea, much against his will,
by command of his wife, and took to miscellaneous work, of which there
was plenty for an active man in a sea-port like Grayton. His rudder,
poor man, was again (and this time permanently) lashed amid-ships, and
whatever breeze Mrs. Buzzby chanced to blow, his business was to sail
_right before it._ The two little Buzzbys were the joy of their father's
heart. They were genuine little true-blues, both of them, and went to
sea the moment their legs were long enough, and came home, voyage after
voyage, with gifts of curiosities and gifts of money to their worthy
Dumps resided during the remainder of his days with Captain Ellice, and
Poker dwelt with Buzzby. These truly remarkable dogs kept up their
attachment to each other to the end. Indeed, as time passed by, they
drew closer and closer together, for Poker became more sedate, and,
consequently, a more suitable companion for his ancient friend. The dogs
formed a connecting link between the Buzzby and Ellice families--constantly
reminding each of the other's existence by the daily interchange of visits.
Fred and Tom soon came to be known as the best doctors with which that
part of the country had ever been blessed. And the secret of their
success lay in this, that while they ministered to the diseased bodies
of men, they also ministered to their diseased souls. With skilful hands
they sought to arrest the progress of decay; but when all their remedies
failed, they did not merely cease their efforts and retire--they turned
to the pages of divine truth, and directed the gaze of the dying
sufferers to Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of souls. When death had
done its work, they did not quit the mourning household as if they were
needed there no longer, but kneeling down with the bereaved, they prayed
to Him who alone can bind up the broken heart, and besought the Holy
Spirit to comfort the stricken ones in their deep affliction.
Thus Fred and his friend went hand in hand together, respected and
blessed by all who knew them--each year as it passed cementing closer
and closer that undying friendship which had first started into being in
the gay season of boyhood, and had bloomed and ripened amid the
adventures, dangers, and vicissitudes of the World of Ice.
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