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Crusoes of the Frozen North

Gordon Stables

  Produced by Julie Barkley, Andrea Ball and the Online DistributedProofreading Team.


  The Crusoes OfThe Frozen North

  From the Well-known Story byDr. Gordon Stables


  "I'm sure of one thing," said Aralia to her little sister Pansy, as theysat together one lovely summer afternoon on the garden seat, and gazedaway and away far over the North Sea. "I'm quite sure of one thing.Nobody ever could have so good an uncle as our uncle. Now, could anybody,Pansy?"

  "Oh no!" answered Pansy, shaking her pretty head. Pansy was hardly eightyears old, and always agreed with her older sister, who was nearlyeleven.

  "How I wish he were home again from his old ship," sighed Aralia, "andTom with him!"

  "Well, Ara, we can sit here hours and hours every day and watch the sea,can't we?"

  "Yes, and we shall easily know the ship. As she goes by, shell set allher flags a-flying, and, if Father isn't at home, Mother will send up ourgreat red flag on the garden pole. Oh dear! I could nearly cry for joy tothink of it!"

  "And me too!" said Pansy.

  "And me too!" Veevee seemed to say, as he gave a short bark, and, jumpingdown from the seat, ran round the garden, looking like a fluffy whiteball.

  The sea was very blue, only patched with green wherever a cloud-shadowfell on it. Down beneath the cliff on which the cottage stood, the wavesbroke lazily in long white lines of foam. On the sea itself were vesselsof almost every kind, from the little fishing craft with brown sails togreat ships sailing away to distant lands.

  Aralia knew what class of vessel each was by its rig; her best of uncleshad taught her. And well could she use the spy-glass too, which she nowheld to her right eye. It had been hard at first to keep the left closed,but she could manage it now quite easily without asking Pansy to clap ahand over it.

  Soon she began to talk in little gasps:

  "Oh, Pansy--I think--Oh, I'm nearly sure--yes--yes--it must be! it _is_Uncle's ship! I can see the flags all a-flying--Hurrah! Come and look!"

  Pansy sat on her sister's knee and peeped through the glass. Then boththe children started up and waved their arms in the air at the far-offship. They were just about to rush off to tell Mother, when their cousinFrank came up. He was a lad of about thirteen or fourteen, but he was sotall and manly that he looked older.

  Frank came into the garden with a rush and a run when he heard the girlscall out. A fishing basket was slung over his back, from which the tailsof fish stuck out, showing what good sport he had had.

  "Hillo, Ara! Hillo, Pansy! What are you dancing and 'hoo-laying' about?Been stung by a wasp, my little Pansy Blossom?"

  "Oh, Frank," cried the elder girl, "look through the glass! Uncle'scoming! Look at the ship, and all the flags."

  The boy was almost as excited now as the girls themselves, and presentlythey were all running in a string through the pretty garden towards thecottage with the news, Veevee bringing up the rear and barking bravely.

  * * * * *

  Rat-tat-tat at the door next afternoon, and little Pansy ran to open it,expecting to see the postman, but the knocking was only a bit of Tom'sfun. Frank had left for Hull the evening before to meet him, and here wasTom the sailor, tall and bonny and dark. Pansy jumped into his arms likea baby, Aralia rushed to meet him, and his mother came out, though alittle more slowly. When the bustle was all over, and Tom had answerednearly a hundred questions, they all went in to tea.

  "Yes, Aralia, Uncle is coming up from Hull with Father and Cousin Frank,and we shall stop here three whole days before we go back to clear shipand pay off"

  "And," added Tom, "Uncle has something so strange and nice to tell you!"

  "What is it, Tom?" said his two sisters, both in a breath as it were.

  "I can't, won't, and sha'n't tell you, girls," cried Tom, laughing,"because that would spoil the fun when Uncle comes."

  So all, even Veevee, who would not get off Tom's knees for a minute, hadto be as patient as they could. But the time passed so quickly, listeningto all this hearty young sailor had to tell of his voyage to the farnorth, that before anyone was aware it was nearly seven o'clock.

  And now down jumps Veevee and runs towards the door, barking aloud as ifhe were a very big dog.

  "They're coming! They're coming! Veevee knows!" And coming they wereindeed.

  Tom had had a hearty welcome when he arrived, but when this best ofuncles at last managed to sit down on the sofa: "Shiver my timbers,sister," he said to Mrs. Dunlop, "if it isn't worth while going all theway to the back of the North Pole just to get such a welcome home asthis."

  Jack Staysail was a sailor every inch of him. He had roughed it so muchin the Greenland seas, and been out in so many storms, that his face wasas red as a boiled beet; but his eyes were as full of fun and merrimentas a boy's.

  "We're not all here yet," he said. "I have asked my friend, ProfessorPeterkin, the Swede, to come in to-night with his mastiff." When theiruncle mentioned the mastiff, Aralia and Pansy began to tremble forVeevee, but Tom only laughed.

  "Why," he said, "although Briton--that's his name--is big enough totackle a bear, he wouldn't injure a mouse."

  It was nearly nine o'clock when the professor arrived. Briton marched infirst, and a bigger and more noble-looking fellow was never seen. Veeveesaid he couldn't stand another dog in the place. So he started up,barking loudly, and offering to fight the mastiff to the death on thespot. But Briton stepped gingerly over the little dog, and went and layquietly down on the rug.

  Then in bustled the professor himself, very droll, very small,clean-shaven, merry-eyed, and with as much hair on his great head aswould have stuffed a cushion. He bowed and smiled to all, patted thechildren, and at last sat down to supper.

  All made a very hearty supper, though it was long past the children'sbed-time. Only Uncle didn't come home every night, you know.

  When they had finished, Briton had a huge dish of scraps; Veevee satwatching him eat, and the children were very much surprised to seeBriton shove one of the biggest and best morsels towards him. The tinydog picked up the titbit and wagged his tail. After he had eaten it,he went and lay down beside Briton on the hearth-rug.

  The "something nice" that Uncle had to tell was soon told now.Captain Staysail cleared his throat before he began: "Ahem! Oh,you're all waiting, are you, to hear what I've got to say? Well,then--ahem!--Professor Peterkin--"

  "Pete--Pete--Pete--Pete!" cried the droll, wee man, stopping him, andone would have thought he was calling a dog. "I'm not going to be calledProfessor, and I won't Peterkin. Just Pete, as I was on board ship, as Iam to everybody, and must be to you.

  "But just look here, Staysail, you're a sailor, and you can't make aspeech. Let me speak." And speak he did without waiting for a reply.

  "It's all in a nutshell, dear Mr. and Mrs. Dunlop, and I'll tell you intwo or three sentences what your worthy sailor-brother would have keptyou up all night to hear. Now listen! Briton, you lie down! Good again!Now I, Dan Peterkin, am a man who has been used to study hard, and thinkhard. You follow me so far? Good again!

  "Well, there is one thing has taken me years to work out, and that is,where in this world gold and coal are to be found. And I've done it. Ican go right to the spots. One of them lies on an island right away up inthe Frozen North. And we're going there. Your brother, Mrs. Dunlop, isgoing to take me.

  "Well, we may have some hardships. Paff! What do we care? We shall winsuch wealth as has never been seen before. You follow still? Good again!Well, I go to a town in the north last spring, when the seal ships areall there, and I look for an honest face. I find Staysail. I say to hi
m:'You give me a passage to Greenland, my friend.' He say: 'What for I giveyou passage?' I smile. I take him by one button, and pull him all the wayinto a private room of the hotel. Briton follows. We all dine well--weall come out smiling--Briton too. And now, my friends, all is arranged.We sail away and away and away next spring for the seas of ice and theislands of gold.

  "That is all. You have followed me? Good again!" And once more theprofessor sat down, and the big arm-chair seemed to swallow him up.

  * * * * *

  Ara and Pansy lay awake a long time that night thinking of what Pete hadsaid. But the next day they went about their duties as usual. They didnot go to school, as they had a governess, of whom they were both veryfond. Nearly half their day would be spent out-of-doors with her andVeevee. In spring and summer they would gather flowers inland, but whatthey liked best was to play about on the sands, to go out boating with anold seaman they knew, or climb the rocks and get into very steep andgiddy places.

  Poor Frank Dunlop was an orphan, and was now the adopted son of Ara'sfather. As for Tom, who was a year or two older, his father had wantedhim to go into business at home in England, but nothing would satisfy thelad but going to sea, so he had been sent to rough it with his uncle inthe stormy seas of the Frozen North. The cruise now ended was his second,and Tom wasn't tired of the sea yet.

  Frank went back to school, and appeared no more at the cottage untilChristmas came round. Then not only Uncle, but Pete and Briton came tospend a whole fortnight with the Dunlop family, and to make their finalplans for the spring. And I should say that no fortnight seemed to passso quickly to the children as did the two weeks when their visitorsstayed with them.

  At last, one day in early spring, there left Hull on a trial trip one ofthe handsomest little steamers, and, for her size, one of the strongestthat ever put to sea from that port. She was Captain Staysail's new ship,the _Valhalla_. Everything on board, both on deck and between decks, andin the saloon, was as clean and beautiful as if she had been a royalyacht. The decks were as white as ivory, the polished wood shone in thesun, and the brass-work looked like gold. The saloon itself, with itscurtains, its mirrors, tables pillars, and piano, was really fit for afairy princess to live in. Everything had been prepared under the eye ofProfessor Peterkin himself, so everything was perfect in its way.

  Pansy, who was on board, and had been peeping in some of the rooms, saidto Aralia at last: "Oh, Aralia, what a dear little doll's house of acabin; I should like to live in it always!"

  Neither of the children was sea-sick when the _Valhalla_ went out understeam, and they had such fun with the sailors and the two dogs that theywere quite sorry when the ship once more steamed into port.

  And didn't everybody sleep soundly that night in the hotel! I should sayso!