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Seven Frozen Sailors

George Manville Fenn

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Seven Frozen Sailors, by George Manville Fenn.


  ________________________________________________________________________SEVEN FROZEN SAILORS, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



  "But what are we going for?"

  If he had not been so much of a gentleman, I should have said that thehalf-closing of his left eye and its rapid reopening had been a wink; asit was, we will say it was not. The next moment, he had thrown himselfback in his chair, smiled, and said, quietly. "Not yet, captain--notyet. I'll tell you by-and-by. At present it is my secret. Waiter,fill these glasses again!"

  "But look here," I said, as soon as the waiter had done his duty, "youcan't sail right up into the Arctic circle without a crew."

  "No," he said, shaking his head; "but _you_ will go?"

  "Well--yes," I said; "I don't mind. She's a smart steamer, and wellfound. I'll take her."

  He rose solemnly from his chair, crossed to my side, and shook hands,before wabbling back and sitting down, filling the old-fashioned Windsorarmchair so very full, that I wondered it didn't come to pieces.

  I don't want to be personal, but he certainly was the fattest man I eversaw, and the most active. The Claimant was nothing to him. He lookedperfectly stupid, as he sat there with a great wattle under his chin,which came all over his white neckerchief and clean-frilled shirt; andas he talked to you, he kept spinning round the great bunch of goldseals at the end of a watered silk ribbon, that hung over his glossyblack trousers, while the huge flaps of his black bob-tail coat hungover the sides of the chair.

  "You'll be my captain, then?" he said.

  "Yes, sir, I'm ready," I replied; "but about the crew. Their firstquestion will be, `is it whale or seal?'"

  "Tell them--tell them," he said, musing,--"tell them _seal_, and we'lldo a bit of sealing on the voyage; but, my dear Captain Cookson, thereal object of our trip is at present _under_ seal. You understand?"

  I nodded.

  "Then get a good staunch, picked crew, and don't spare for expense.You'll want good first and second mates. Shall I engage them?"

  "Oh, no, thanky, sir," I said hastily; "I--"

  "Captain Cookson here?" said a voice I knew, and Abram Bostock thrusthis head just inside the door. "Oh, beg pardon, sir!"

  "Come in, Abram!" I said, eagerly.

  "Begging the gentleman's pardon," he said, wiping a little brown juiceout of each corner of his mouth; "I only wanted a word with you,skipper. Binny Scudds is outside."

  "Bring him in, then!" I said, quickly.

  Abram looked from one to the other, rubbed his hollow, sallow cheeks,upon which there was not a particle of hair, and then his body swayedabout as if, being so thin, the draught of the door was blowinghim,--"Bring him in?" he said.

  "To be sure!" I exclaimed.

  Tall, thin, Abram Bostock stared at my companion for a moment, and thenbacked out, to return directly with my old bos'en, Abinadab Scudds, halfleading, half dragging him; and no sooner was the mahogany-faced oldsalt inside the door, and caught sight of the stranger, than he slewedround, and was half outside before Abram growled out, "Avast there!"collared him, and bringing him back, closed the door; when Scuddsgrowled out something that seemed to come from somewhere below hiswaistband, and then, thoroughly captured, he stood, rolling his one eyefrom one to the other, and began to rub his shaggy head, ending by anold habit of his--namely, taking out a piece of rope, and beginning tounlay it.

  "Begging the gentleman's pardon," said Abram, as he feasted on hisgoodly proportions, "I come to tell you, skipper, as they wants a cap'nand mates for the Gladiator."

  "But you have not engaged?" I said, anxiously.

  Scudds growled, bear-fashion, and shook his head.

  "Because here's a chance for you, my lads!" I said. "I have engagedwith Doctor--Doctor--"

  "Curley," said my stout friend.

  "With Doctor Curley, to command that smart steamer lying in theGreenland Dock, and we go up north. Will you come?"

  "What arter?" growled Scudds, tearing at his piece of rope.

  "Seal," I said, with a look at the doctor. "What do you say, Bostock?"

  "Oh, I'm game, if you're going, skipper!" he said, staring at thedoctor.

  "And you, Scudds?"

  "Same as Abram," growled Abinadab--Binny we called him, for short.

  "This is lucky, doctor!" I said; "for our two friends here will soonget a good crew together. Plenty of men will be glad to join the vesselthey sail in!"

  "Don't you believe him, sir!" said Abram, polishing away at his cheek."It's acause the skipper there, Capen Cookson's going, as they'd come!"

  "Ah! Well, never mind about that," said the doctor, smiling. "So longas I've a good crew going with me, I don't care what induces them."

  "But you ain't a-going, sir?" says Abram, looking harder than ever atour owner.

  "Indeed, but I am, my man!" replied the doctor. "Why not?"

  "Oh, nothing, sir!" says Abram, looking as confused as a great girl,while he stared harder than ever at the doctor.

  "Now, what on earth are you thinking about?" said the doctor, making aneffort to cross his legs, but failing, on account of the tight fit inthe chair.

  "Well, sir," says Abram Bostock, slowly, "meaning no offence, I wasa-wishing I were as fat as you are!"

  "Oh, lor'!" groaned Scudds. And his one eye rolled tremendously.

  "My good friend," exclaimed the doctor, starting up a little way, butsubsiding again, for he had raised the chair with him, as if he had beena hermit-crab and it was his shell,--"my good friend, I'd give fivethousand pounds to be as thin as you!"

  "Hor--hor--hor--hor!" roared Scudds, bursting into a tremendous laugh."I say, skipper, what a wunner he'd be if we took to the boats!"

  "Hush!" I exclaimed.

  "What does he mean?" cried the doctor; "that I should sink the boat?"

  "No," growled Scudds. "Long pork!"

  "Long pork!" said the doctor.

  And Abram clapped his hands over his mouth, to stay his laughter.

  "Yes," growled Scudds, grinning, and showing a wonderfully white set ofteeth; "long pork--long pig--human! Don't you see? You'd keep a boat'screw for a fortnit, if they were hard up and starvin'. Hor--hor--hor--hor!"

  "My good man," cried the doctor, shuddering, "that's a very good joke,no doubt, and very funny, only don't make it about me again; try it onsomebody else! Such a dreadfully anthropophagistic idea!"

  "Which?" growled Scudds.

  "Well, then, cannibal idea," said the doctor, shuddering again.

  "Lor', sir, I meant no harm," said Scudds holding out his great, heavypaw, which the doctor shook. "I've often made it about long, thin,Abram Borstick, there; only when I makes it about him, I allers puts itt'other way, and says he'd _starve_ a boat's crew for a fortnit. Don'tyou see?"

  "Oh, yes, I see!" said the doctor, nodding.

  "And it's the only joke he ever does make, sir," says Abram.

  "Right," growled Scudds.

  "I didn't mean no offence, sir, about your going, neither," said Abram,respectfully. "Of course it'll be a great advantage to have a doctor onboard. You air a doctor, sir?"

  "Yes," said our stout employer, laughing till his cheeks wabbled. "Ican cure anything from a frost-bite to a flea-bite; but I'm not an M.D."

  "No; of course not, sir," says Abram, nodding his head sagely.

  "I mean, sir, not a doctor of medicine."

  "Good job, too," growled Scudds. "Yah! I hates physic!" and he lookedabout for somewhere to spit, ending by openi
ng the room door, anddisposing of his tobacco-juice on the mat.

  "Well, then, sir," I said, rising, "here are our first and second mates,and I'll get together a crew of sixteen men in a few days, and meet youevery morning on board."

  "My sarvice to you, sir," said Abram, touching his forehead.

  "And mine," growled Scudds.

  I was close beside the doctor now, and held the chair as he rose,otherwise he would have lifted it with him. Then we took our leave, andI walked down Hull Street with my two old shipmates.

  "Where did you pick up the skipper?" growled Scudds.

  "Well," I said, "he's been dodging me about for a week, and been mightycivil, so much so, that I thought he wanted to try the confidence dodgeon me, of trusting one another with money; but it's all right, my lads,we've found a good ship and owner, and the pay's good, so we'll sign thearticles to-morrow, and get to work."

  I needn't tell you all that took place during the next mouth; how we gotcoal on board, and stores, and casks for oil, or whatever we might get;had her cabins lined to keep them warm; fitted up stoves; had plenty ofextra canvas and spars, ice-anchors, a couple of sledges; plenty ofammunition, and provisions enough for two years. Last of all came onboard a whole lot of strange-looking mahogany cases, which the doctorhad brought very carefully under his own superintendence, and then, onefine morning in June, we steamed out of the Humber, and away we went tothe North, with the doctor going about the deck like an active tub,rubbing his hands, and smiling at every body.

  Everything was soon ship-shape; boats ready for work, fur coats andboots served out to the men against they were wanted, and I was verybusy one morning getting some of the tackle a little better stowed, whenthe doctor waddled up to me, and tapped me on the shoulder.

  I turned round, and he led the way into the cabin, sat down, and pointedto a seat.

  "Now, Captain Cookson," he said, "I think it's time to tell you about myplans."

  "If you please, sir," I said, "that is if it suits you."

  "Well," he said, "you are now sailing to the North."

  "Yes, sir, according to your orders, right away for Spitzbergen."

  "And do you know what for?"

  "Discovery of some kind, sir, I suppose."

  "You are right, Captain; I mean to discover the North Pole."

  "With all my heart, sir," I said.

  "At least," he said, "I mean to try. If I fail, I shall still be ableto make a good many scientific discoveries, so that the voyage won't befor nothing."

  "No, sir," I said.

  "It has been one of the dreams of my life to go upon a scientific voyageup in the North; but the Admiralty wouldn't listen to me. They had thenotion that I was not a suitable man for the expedition; when all thewhile Nature has expressly designed me for the purpose. See how she hasclothed me with adipose tissue."

  "With what, sir?"

  "Fat, man--fat! like she does the bears, and whales, and Eskimo. Whileyou men will be shivering in your fur coats, I shall be quite warmwithout. Well, what we have to do is to take advantage of every openchannel when we reach the ice, and push forward due North. If the menget discontented, we will keep promising them extra pay, and--What's thematter?"

  "Skipper, sir!" growled Scudds, who had just thrust his head in at thecabin door. "Wanted on deck, sir--reg'lar mutinee. Tom Brown's come upfrom below, and says as there's a ghost in the hold!"

  "Where--where?" cried the doctor, excitedly, as he waddled out of thecabin, thoroughly earning the nickname the men had bestowed upon him ofThe Penguin. "Captain, get one of the casks ready for a specimen. Ihave never seen a ghost!"

  "Ain't he a rum beggar, skipper?" whispered Scudds, as we followed himon deck, where a knot of the crew were standing round one of theforemast-men, Tom Brown, whose face was covered with perspiration, hishair being plastered down upon his forehead.

  "Well, where's the ghost, my man?" said the doctor.

  "Down in the hold, sir. You can hear him a-groaning!"

  The doctor led the way down the open hatch; and I followed, to give hima push down, if he stuck fast, finding that there was something in theman's alarm, for from out of the darkness came, every now and then, adeep, sighing groan.

  "Why, there's some one there!" cried the doctor.

  "Here, quick, half a dozen of you!" I shouted, for an idea had juststruck me; and, getting a lantern, I crept over some of the stores towhere stood a row of casks, to one of which I traced the voice.

  "Hallo!" I cried, tapping the cask; when there came a rustling noisefrom inside, and a tap or two seemed given by a hand.

  "Found anything?" said the doctor, who had stuck fast between the storesand the deck.

  "It's a stowaway, I think," I answered; and, creeping back, with thegroans becoming more frequent, I gave orders, had some of the hatchestaken off farther along the deck, and just over where the cask lay; andthen, by means of some strong tackle, we hauled the cask out on deck, tofind it only partly headed, and from out of it half slipped, halfcrawled, a pale, thin, ghastly looking young fellow, of about four orfive-and-twenty.

  "Why, it's Smith!" exclaimed the doctor.

  "Water--food!" gasped the poor wretch, lying prostrate on his side.

  These were given him, and the doctor added some spirit, with the effectthat the poor fellow began to revive, and at last sat up on the deck.

  "And how did you get here?" I said.

  "Got on board at night!" he gasped. "Crept into the cask--meant to getout--but packed in!"

  "Did I not refuse you permission to come, sir?" cried the doctor,shaking his fist.

  "Yes, uncle!" gasped the stowaway; "but Fanny said, if I didn't come andtake care of you, she--she would never--speak to me--any more! Oh,dear! please stop the ship! I feel so poorly!"

  "It's a wonder you were not starved to death," said the doctor.

  "Or smothered," I said.

  "Ye-yes," stammered the poor fellow. "I was all right till they packedthings all round me, and then I couldn't get out!"

  "Shall we put the ghost specimen in the spirit cask, doctor?" I said.

  "Well, no," he replied. "I think we'll let him go down to the cabin.But you'd no business to come, Alfred, for you'll only be in the way."

  "Oh, no, uncle," he said, rapidly getting better, between the qualmsproduced by the rolling of the steamer; "I shall be a great help to you,uncle. I've brought my Alpenstock, a two-jointed one like afishing-rod; and--and my ice-boots that I wore in Switzerland."

  "Bah!" said the doctor.

  "And a climbing-rope."

  "Pish!" exclaimed the doctor again.

  "And--a pair of snow-shoes."

  "Did you bring your skates, sir?"

  "No, uncle; Fanny wanted me to, because she said I skated sobeautifully; but I knew you had come on business, so I left thembehind."

  The doctor gave me a fat smile, and I turned round to check Scudds, forfear he should laugh outright; and lucky I did, for he was just gettingready for a tremendous roar, while Abram Bostock held his hands over hismouth.

  "Well, get below," said the doctor; "and the sooner you find yoursea-legs the better."

  So our new member of the exploring expedition crawled below, and we setto and trimmed sails, for the weather was changing, steam being reservedtill we wanted it to go through the ice.

  We did not get along very fast, for the doctor was always stopping thevessel for something, and the men soon fell in with his whims, and beganto enjoy helping him. One day, they would be busy bucketing up water,for him to fill bottles with specimens of whales' food; another time, wetried after a whale with a small gun and a harpoon fired from it, to thegreat delight of the men. Then we came in sight of the first iceberg,slowly sailing south, like a fairy castle on a fairy rock, that hadbroken away from its land in the North, and taken to the sea. The sunwas shining upon it, and it was like one grand mass of turrets andspires, glistening with silver, gold, and gems of every colour. Hereand there, it was split int
o great openings, with arches over them likebridges; and near the sea were more archways, leading like into caves,and all these places were of the most deep sapphire blue. All was sobeautiful, that even the old salts like Abram and Scudds said they hadnever seen anything like it up North.

  Of course, the doctor couldn't pass it without landing; and as therewere some seals and a few birds sitting on the farther side, I ran thesteamer close in, till, in the still water on the lee, we were able tobring her close alongside of what was just like a natural wharf of ice;when Scudds and four more got on the berg, a couple of ice-anchors werepassed over to them, and soon after we were made fast, and the doctortook a gun, his nephew followed, and we had a good climb along thewonderful sides of the iceberg.

  "If we could only get on the top I wouldn't mind," said the doctor,after making half a dozen tries; but every one was a failure, for it wasfor all the world like climbing the side of a slippery board.

  "Suppose you did get up, sir--what then?" I said.

  "What then, Captain Cookson? Why, I could take observations; notice thestructure of the ice; chip off specimens; but I suppose I must bedisappointed."

  But he was not, for when toward evening we were sitting on deck, I saidto him, "I suppose we may cast loose now, doctor, and get on?" theresuddenly came a strange scraping noise, and a peculiar motion of theship.

  "Cut away those ice-cables!" I roared, running to get an axe, for Iscented the danger.

  But I was too late, and stopped paralysed, holding on by one of theshrouds! for I suddenly woke to the fact that in going close in to thevisible part of the iceberg, we had sailed in over a part of it that wasunder water, and now the huge mass of ice having grown top-heavy, it wasslowly rolling over, but fortunately away from us, though the resultseemed to threaten destruction.

  Almost before I knew where I was, the steamer began to sway over tostarboard; then I saw that we were lifted out of the water; and as themen gave a cry of horror, we rose higher, and higher, and higher, as thegreat berg rolled slowly over till we were quite a couple of hundredfeet in the air, perched on almost an even keel in a narrow V-markedvalley, with the ice rising as high as the main yard on either side, andthe little valley we were in running steeply down to the sea.

  We all remained speechless, clinging to that which was nearest, and themotion made the doctor's nephew exceedingly ill; but as for the doctor,he was standing note-book in hand, exclaiming, "Wonderful! Magnificent!Captain, I would not have missed such a phenomenon for the world!"

  "Other world, you mean, sir!" I said, with a gasp of horror. "We shallnever reach home again!"

  "Nonsense, man," he said. "Why, this ice will melt in less than amonth, and let us down."

  "Or turn over the other way, and finish us off, sir!" I said, gloomily.

  "Meanwhile, captain, I am up on the top of the iceberg, and can make mymeteorological observations. Alfred, bring me the glaceoscope. Hangthe fellow, he's always poorly when I want him. Captain, will youoblige?"

  I stood staring at him for a few moments, astonished at his coolness.

  "The long brass instrument," he said, "out of the case numbered four, inthe cabin."

  I went and fetched the instrument, the men looking as much astounded asI was myself to see the doctor going coolly to work examining thestructure of the ice, with its curious water-worn face. Then he seemedto be making measurements, and he ended by coming to us, rubbing hishands.

  "Curious position, isn't it!" he said, laughing. "By the way, captain,I should cast off those ice-anchors, in case the iceberg should makeanother turn. They might be the cause of mischief."

  "Cause of mischief! Hark at him!" said Abram. "When we're perched twohundred foot up here in the air! Come on, lads."

  The ice-anchors were taken out of the holes that had been cut for them,and were got on board as we settled down for the night, no man feelingdisposed to sleep; and all this while we were drifting slowly with thestream farther and farther south.

  This went on for four days, and then, one night, I remember thinking, asI lay on deck, that could we be sure of the ice melting slowly at thetop, and letting us down, we should be safe; but I knew that the bottommelted faster in the warm water, then the top grew heavier, and over itwent again.

  I tried very hard to keep awake in case of danger; but it was of no use,for I was worn out with watching, and at last I went off soundly tosleep, dreaming that I was drowned, and living in an ice cave, fishfashion, at the bottom of the sea, when I was awakened by Scudds, whoshook me, crying, "Wake up, skipper! she's a-going to launch herself!"

  I jumped to my feet, to find the doctor on deck, lecturing his nephewabout the launching of ships, and pointing out the gradual slope down ofthe ice valley in which we lay.

  "She's shifted two foot!" said Scudds. "I felt her move!"

  "Batten down the hatches!" I roared, seeing what was coming; and assoon as this was done, and the ship made water-tight, I gave freshorders for every man to lash himself fast to the shrouds andbelaying-pins, while I myself secured the doctor and his nephew, neitherof them seeing the slightest danger in what was to come.

  Hardly had I done this, than there was a strange creaking, scratchingnoise, as of iron passing over ice; and then we felt that the vessel wasin motion, gilding down the horrible precipice toward the sea.

  At first she moved very slowly, but gathering speed, she glided fasterand faster, till, with a rush like an avalanche, she darted down thegreat ice slide, stem first, till, at the bottom, where the icebergended abruptly in a precipice forty or fifty feet high, she shot rightoff, plunging her bowsprit the next instant in the water, and then allwas darkness.

  The sensation of the slide down was not unpleasant; the rush through theair was even agreeable; but to dart down into the depths of the oceanlike some mighty whale, was awful. There was a strange roaring andsinging in the ears; a feeling of oppression, as if miles of water wereover one's head; a sense of going down, down, down into the depths thatwere like ink; and then, by degrees, all grew lighter and lighter, till,with a dart like a diving-bird, the stout iron steamer sprang to thesurface, rolled for a minute or two with the water streaming from herscuppers, and then floated easily on the sea, with the iceberg half amile astern.

  "Bravo!--bravo, captain! Capitally done!" cried the doctor. "As fine abit of seamanship as ever I saw; but you need not have made us so wet!"

  "Thanky, sir!" I said, for I was so taken aback and surprised that Ididn't know what to say, the more so that Abram Bostock, Scudds, and therest of them took their tone from the doctor, nodded their heads, andsaid, "Very well done, indeed!"

  I didn't believe it at first, till I had had the pump well sounded; butthe ship was quite right, and as sound as ever, so that half an hourafter we had made sail, and were leaving the iceberg far behind.

  It was some time before I could feel sure that it wasn't all a dream;but the cool way in which the doctor took it all served to satisfy me,and I soon had enough to take up my attention in the management of theship.

  For the next fortnight we were sailing or steaming on past floating ice,with the greatest care needed to avoid collision or being run down.Then we had foul weather, rain, and fog, and snowstorm, and the seasonseeming to get colder and colder for quite another fortnight, when itsuddenly changed, and we had bright skies, constant sunshine night andday, and steamed slowly on through the pack ice.

  The doctor grew more confidential as we got on, telling me of thejealousy with which he had watched the discoveries of other men, andhow, for years, he had determined that Curley and Pole should be linkedtogether. He said that there was no doubt about the open Polar Sea, andthat if we could once get through the pack ice into it, the rest of thetask was easy.

  "But suppose, when we've got up there, we get frozen in, doctor?" Isaid.

  "Well, what then?" he answered. "We can wait, till we are thawed out."

  "Perhaps all dead," I said.

  "Pooh, my dear sir! No such thing.
Freezing merely means a suspensionof the faculties. I will give you an example soon."

  "Well, Binny," said Abram slowly, after overhearing these words, "Idon't want my faculties suspended; that's all I've got to say!"

  The next day we were working our way through great canals of clearwater, that meandered among the pack ice. There were great headlands oneach side, covered with ice and snow, and the solitude seemed to growawful, but the doctor kept us all busy. Now it was a seal hunt; then wewere all off after a bear. Once or twice we had a reindeer hunt, andsupplied the ship with fresh meat. Bird shooting, too, and fishing hadtheir turn, so that it was quite a pleasure trip when the difficultiesof the navigation left us free.

  Eighty degrees had long been passed, and still our progress was notstayed. We often had a bit of a nip from the ice closing in, and overand over again we had to turn back; but we soon found open water again,after steaming gently along the edge of the track, and thence northwardonce more, till one day the doctor and I took observations, and we foundthat we were eighty-five degrees north, somewhere about a hundred milesfarther than any one had been before.

  "We shall do it, Cookson!" cried the doctor, rubbing his hands. "Onlyfive more degrees, my lad, and we have made our fame! Cookson, my boy,you'll be knighted!"

  "I hope not, sir!" I said, shuddering, as I thought of the Cityaldermen. "I would rather be mourned!"

  "That's a bad habit, trying to make jokes," he said, gravely. "Fancy,my good fellow, making a pun in eighty-five degrees north latitude! butI'm not surprised. There is no latitude observed now, since burlesqueshave come into fashion. Where are you going, Cookson!"

  "Up in the crow's-nest, sir," I said. "I don't like the look of thehummocky ice out nor'ard."

  I climbed up, spy-glass in hand, when, to my horror, the doctor began tofollow me.

  "That there crow's-nest won't abear you, sir!" cried Scudds, coming tothe rescue.

  "Think not, my man?" said the doctor.

  "Sure on't!" said Scudds.

  "Ah, well, I'm with you in spirit, Cookson!" he exclaimed.

  And I finished my climb, and well swept the horizon line with my glass.

  There was no mistaking it: ice, ice, ice on every side. The littlecanal through which we were steaming came to an end a mile farther on;and that night we were frozen in fast, and knew that there was not achance of being set free till the next year.

  The crew was divided into two parties at once, and without loss of timeI got one set at work lowering yards, striking masts, and covering inthe ship, while the others were busied with the preparation of thesledges.

  Two days after, a party of ten of us, with plenty of provisions on oursledge, and a tent, started under the doctor's guidance for the Pole.

  It was very cold, but the sun shone brightly, and we trudged on, thedoctor showing the value of his natural covering, though he was lesscoated with furs than we were.

  He pointed out to me the shape of the land, and which was frozen sea;and at the end of two days, when we were in a wild place, all mightymasses of ice, he declared his conviction that there was, after all, noopen Polar sea, only ice to the end.

  We had had a bitter cold night, and had risen the next morning cold andcheerless; but a good hot cup of coffee set us right, and we werethinking of starting, when Scudds, who was with us, Abram being left incommand, kicked at a piece of ice, saying, "That's rum-looking stuff!"

  "There's something in it," said the doctor's nephew, who was always inthe way.

  "Let me see," said the doctor, putting on his spectacles. "To be sure--yes! Axes, quick!"

  He took one himself, gave the block of ice a sharp blow, split it inhalves, and, to our utter astonishment, a strange-looking animal like awoolly dog lay before us, frozen, of course, perfectly hard.

  "A prize!" said the doctor; and we, under his orders, made a good-sizedfire, laid the perfectly preserved animal by it, and at the end of acouple of hours had the satisfaction of seeing it move one leg, thenanother, and, at last, it rose slowly on all fours, raised one of itshind legs, scratched itself in the most natural way in the world, andthen seemed to sink down all of a heap, and melt quite away, leavingsome loose wool on the snow.

  "Well," said Scudds, rolling his one eye, "if I hadn't ha' seen that'ere, I wouldn't ha' believed it!"

  "Only a case of suspended animation, my man," said the doctor, calmly."We shall make more discoveries yet."

  The doctor was right; for this set all the men hunting about, he givingthem every encouragement, so that at the end of an hour we had foundanother dog; but in dislodging the block of ice in which it was frozen,the head was broken off, so that the only good to be obtained by thawingit was the rough wool and some of the teeth, which the doctor carefullypreserved.

  "Isn't it much colder here, doctor?" I said, for the wind seemed to gothrough me like a knife.

  "Hush!" he whispered; "don't let the men hear, or they'll bediscouraged. It's perfectly frightful; the thermometers are stopped!"

  "Stopped?" I said.

  "Yes; the cold's far below anything they can show. They are perfectlyuseless now. Let's get on?"

  I stood staring at him, feeling a strange stupor coming over me. It wasnot unpleasant, being something like the minutes before one goes tosleep; but I was startled into life by the doctor flying at me, andhitting me right in my chest. The next moment he had a man on each sidepumping my arms up and down, as they forced me to run for quite aquarter of an hour, when I stopped, panting, and the doctor laid hishand upon my heart.

  "He'll do now!" he said, quietly. "Don't you get trying any of thosegames again, captain."

  "What games?" I said, indignantly.

  "Getting yourself frozen. Now, then, get on, my lads--we must goahead!"

  For the next nine days we trudged on, dragging our sledge through thewonderful wilderness of ice and snow. At night we camped in the broadsunshine, and somehow the air seemed to be much warmer. But on thetenth day, when we had reached the edge of a great, crater-likedepression in the ice, which seemed to extend as far as the eye couldreach, the intensity of the cold was frightful, and I spoke of it to thedoctor, as soon as we had set up our little canvas and skin tent.

  "Yes, it is cold!" he said. "I'd give something to know how low it is!But let's make our observations."

  We did, and the doctor triumphantly announced that we were within onedegree of the Pole.

  We were interrupted by an outcry among the men, and, on going to thetent, it was to find them staring at the spirit-lamp, over which weheated our coffee. The flame, instead of fluttering about, and sendingout warmth, had turned quite solid, and was like a great tongue ofbright, bluish-yellow metal, which rang like a bell, on being touchedwith a spoon.

  "Never mind, my men!" says the doctor coolly. "It is only one of thephenomena of the place. Captain, give the men a piece of brandy each."

  "A little brandy apiece, you mean, sir."

  "No," he said coolly; "I mean a piece of brandy each."

  He was quite right: the brandy was one solid mass, like a greatcairngorm pebble, and we had to break it with an axe; and very deliciousthe bits were to suck, but as to strength, it seemed to have none.

  We had an accident that evening, and broke one of the doctor'sthermometers, the ball of quicksilver falling heavily on the ice, and,when I picked it up, it was like a leaden bullet, quite hard, so that wefired it at a bear, which came near us; but it only quickened his steps.

  In spite of the tremendous cold, we none of us seemed much the worse,and joined the doctor in his hunt for curiosities. There was land hereas well as ice, although it was covered; for there was on one side ofthe hollow quite a hill, and the doctor pointed out to me the trace ofwhat he said had been a river, evidently emptying itself into the greatcrater; but when he pulled out the compass to see in which direction theriver must have run, the needle pointed all sorts of ways, ending bydipping down, and remaining motionless.

  We were not long in fin
ding that animal life had at one time existedhere; for, on hunting among the blocks of ice, we found several in whichwe could trace curious-looking beasts, frozen in like fossils.

  We had set up our tent under the lee of a great rock of ice, on the edgeof the crater, which looked so smooth and so easy of ascent, that it waswith the greatest difficulty that we could keep the doctor's nephew fromtrying a slide down. He had, in fact, got hold of a smooth piece of iceto use as a sledge, when the doctor stopped him, and put an end to hisenthusiasm by pointing down and asking him what was below in thedistance, where the hollow grew deep and dark, and a strange mist hungover it like a cloud.

  "If you go down, Alfred, my boy, you will never get back. Think of mymisery in such a case, knowing that you have, perhaps, penetrated themystery of the North Pole, and that it will never be known!"

  The young fellow sighed at this arrest of his project.

  Just then we were roused by a shout from Scudds, whom we could see inthe distance, standing like a bear on its hind legs, and moving hishands.

  We all set off to him, under the impression that he had found the Pole;but he was only standing pointing to a great slab of transparent ice,out of which stuck about ten inches of the tail of something, the icehaving melted from it; while, on closer examination, we could see,farther in through the clear, glassy ice, the hind-quarters of somemighty beast.

  "A mammoth--_Elephas Primigenius_!" cried the doctor, excitedly. "Wemust have him out."

  We stared at one another, while the doctor wabbled round to the otherside of the great mass, where he set up a shout; and, on going to him,there he was, pointing to what looked like a couple of pegs about sevenfeet apart, sticking out of the face of the ice.

  "What's them, sir?" says one of the men.

  "Tusks!" cried the doctor, delightedly. "My men, this is as good asdiscovering the North Pole. If we could get that huge beast out, andrestore his animation, what a triumph. Why, he must have been," hesaid, pacing the length of the block, and calculating its height, "atleast--dear me, yes--forty feet long, and twenty feet high."

  "What a whopper!" growled Scudds. "Well, I found him."

  "We must have him out, my men," said the doctor again, but he said itdubiously, for it seemed a task beyond us, for fire would not burn, andthere was no means of getting heat to melt the vast mass; so at last wereturned to the camp, and made ourselves snug for the night.

  In the morning, the doctor had another inspection of the mammoth, andleft it with a sigh; but in the course of the day we found traces ofdozens of the great beasts, besides the remains of other great creaturesthat must have been frozen-in hundreds or thousands of years before; andthe place being so wonderfully interesting, the doctor determined tostay there for a few days.

  The first thing, under the circumstances, was to clear the snow away,bank it up round us, and set up the tent in the clear place under theshelter of the big mammoth block.

  We all went at it heartily, and as we scraped the snow off, it was tofind the ice beneath as clear as glass.

  "Ah!" said the doctor, sitting down and looking on, after feeling themammoth's tail, knife in hand, as if longing to cut it off, "it's awonderful privilege, my lads, to come up here into a part of the earthwhere the foot of man has never trod before!--Eh! what is it?" he cried,for his nephew suddenly gave a howl of dread, dropped the scraper he hadbeen using, jumped over the snow heap, and ran off.

  "What's he found?" said Scudds, crossing to the place where the youngman had been busy scraping, and staring down into the ice. "Any onewould think--Oh, lor'!"

  He jumped up, and ran away, too, and so did another sailor; when thedoctor and I went up to the spot, looked down, and were very nearlyfollowing the example set us, for there, only a few inches from us, asif lying in a glass coffin, was a man on his back, with every featureperfect, and eyes wide open, staring straight at us!

  "Wonderful!" exclaimed the doctor.

  "Then some one has been here before?" I said.

  "The ice must have drifted up," said the doctor. "We are the only menwho have penetrated so far. Quick, my lads; we must have him out!"

  The boys didn't like the task, and Scudds was almost mutinous; but thedoctor soon had us at work, cutting a groove all round the figure; and,after about five hours' chipping, we got out the great block with thefigure inside perfect, and laid it down in the sun, which now exercisedsuch power in the middle of the day that the ice began to thaw, just aswe awoke to the fact that the cold was nothing like so intense, for thespirit-lamp on being tried burned freely, and the brandy, instead ofbeing like rock, showed signs of melting.

  At first the men held aloof from the operation; but after a few wordsfrom the doctor, Scudds suddenly exclaimed, "No one shall say as I'mafraid of him!"--and he rolled his eye wonderfully as he helped to pourhot water over the figure, which, far from being ghastly as the ice grewthinner, looked for all the world like one of our own men lying down.

  In about twelve hours we had got all the ice clear away, and the furclothes in which the body was wrapped were quite soft. We were then sotired, that, it being night, the doctor had the figure well wrapped upin a couple of buffalo robes, and, in spite of a good deal ofopposition, placed beside him in the tent, and we lay down to rest.

  I don't know how long we'd been asleep, for, with the sun shining nightand day, it bothers you, but I was awoke by somebody sneezing.

  "Uncle's got a fine cold!" said young Smith, who was next to me.

  "So it seems!" I said; and then there was another sneeze, and another,and another; and when I looked, there was the doctor, sitting up andstaring at the figure by his side, which kept on sneezing again andagain. Then, to our horror, it sat up and yawned, and threw its armsabout.

  Every fellow in the little tent was about to get up and run away, whenthe frozen sailor said, in a sleepy fashion, "Why, it's as cold asever!"

  I tried to speak, but couldn't. The doctor answered him, though, bysaying, "How did you get here?"

  "Well," said the figure, drowsily, "that means a yarn; and if I warn'tso plaguey sleepy, I'd--Heigho!--ha!--hum!--Well, here goes!"

  We sat quite awe-stricken, not a man stirring more than to put a bit ofpigtail in his mouth, while the English sailor thus spun his yarn:--