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´╗┐Title: John Whopper - The Newsboy
Author: Clark, Thomas M. (Thomas March), 1812-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Whopper - The Newsboy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

  [Illustration: JOHN WHOPPER IN CHINA, By the _Air-Line_ Route.]






  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by


  In the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.

  Stereotyped and Printed by
  Boston, Mass.



Two years ago last February, I think it was on a Tuesday morning, I
started as usual very early to distribute my papers. I had a large
bundle to dispose of that day, and thought that if I took a short cut
across the fields, instead of following the road from Roxbury to Jamaica
Plain, I could go my rounds in much less time. I do not care to tell
precisely where it was that I jumped over the fence; but it is a rough,
barren kind of spot, which nobody has ever done any thing to improve.

After walking about a third of a mile, I began to think that I had
better have kept to the turnpike; for I found that I was obliged to
clamber over an uneven, rocky place, among trees and bushes and shrubs,
that grew just thick enough to bother me, so that I hardly knew where to
put my feet. All at once I lost my balance, and felt that I was sliding
down the side of a smooth, steep rock; while underneath, to my horror, I
saw what looked like a circular cave, or well, some five or six feet in
diameter. I tried to grasp the rock with my hands, and ground my heels
as hard as I could against the surface, but it was of no use; down I
slipped, faster and faster, until at last I plunged, feet foremost, into
the dark hole below. For a moment I held my breath, expecting to be
dashed to pieces; and oh, how many things I thought of in that short
minute! It seemed as if every thing that I had ever done came back to
me, especially all the _bad_ things; and how I wished then that I had
lived a better life! I thought, too, of my poor mother and my little
brother and sister at home, and how they would wait breakfast for me
that morning; and how they would keep on waiting and waiting, hour after
hour and day after day; and how the neighbors would all turn out and
search for me; and how I should never be found, and nobody would ever
know what had become of me. And then I wondered whether Mr. Simpson,
who employed me to distribute the papers, would suppose that I had run
away somewhere, to sell them on my own account; and so I went on
thinking and wondering, until it seemed as if there was no end to the
time. And yet I didn't strike the bottom of the cave, but just went on
falling and falling, faster and faster, in the darkness, and sometimes
just grazing the sides, and still not so as to hurt me much. My great
trouble was to breathe; when it occurred to me to lay the sleeve of my
coat across my mouth: and then I found that I could breathe through the
cloth with tolerable ease. After a while, I recovered my senses; and
though I continued to fall on still faster and faster, I experienced no
great inconvenience. How long this continued, I cannot tell; it
appeared to be an age; and I must have been falling for several hours,
when I began to feel as though I was not sinking as fast as I had been;
and after a while, it seemed as if I were rising up, rather than
tumbling down. As I was now able to breathe much more freely than I had
done, I began to think calmly about my condition; and then the thought
flashed across my mind, that perhaps I had passed the centre of the
earth, and was gradually rising to the surface on the other side. This
gave me hope; and when I found that I continued to move slower and
slower, I tried to collect my faculties, so that I might know just what
it would be best to do, if I should be so fortunate as to reach the
other end of the hole into which I had tumbled. At last, looking down,
I saw a little speck of light, like a very faint star; and then, I tell
you, my heart bounded with joy. At this moment it suddenly occurred to
me that it would not do to come out of the hole _feet foremost_; and, by
a tremendous effort, I managed to turn a complete summersault,--what the
boys always called a _somerset_,--which, of course, brought me into the
right position. How thankful I felt that I had been taught to practise
gymnastic exercises at the school in Roxbury! In my present attitude I
couldn't see the bright spot any longer: but, before long, I perceived
that it was growing lighter around me; and I was confident that the time
of my release drew near. I had determined exactly what I would do when
I reached the surface of the earth again; and, accordingly, on the
instant that my head came out of the hole, I grasped the edge with all
my might, and, by another terrible effort, swung myself up into the air,
and leaped upon the ground.

It is impossible to describe the strange thrill that passed over me when
I thus found myself standing on what I knew must be the eastern side of
the globe. As soon as I had fairly recovered the use of my reason, I
began to speculate as to the region of the country into which I emerged.
If I had come directly through the centre of the earth, I knew, of
course, just where I ought to be; but this hardly seemed possible,
considering how short a time it had required for my journey. It then
occurred to me that I was really unable to form any accurate idea of
the number of hours that had elapsed since I left the soil of
Massachusetts; for, before I had fallen a hundred feet, a whole age
appeared to have passed. I knew that it was about six o'clock in the
morning when I started; and, on looking at my watch, I found that it had
stopped at 6.45, owing, as I afterwards ascertained, to the influence of
magnetic currents upon the hair-spring.

The country around was in a high state of cultivation, except in the
immediate vicinity of the spot where I stood. This was rough and barren,
and so situated that the small cavity in the earth from which I had just
been released, would be very likely to escape observation. Thinking that
it might be important for me to be able hereafter to identify the
locality, I took a careful observation of its general bearings, and
twisted together a few of the twigs that grew near the hole, but in such
a manner as would not be likely to arrest attention.

Striking off now at random, I soon found myself in a low, marshy region,
covered with a species of grain unlike any thing I had ever seen before,
but which I concluded must be rice; and then the thought came to me,
that very probably I was in China. After walking for an hour or two, I
reached a rising ground, and saw in the distance an immense city on the
water's edge; which from its position, and resemblance to certain
pictures that I had once seen in Boston, I believed to be Canton.
Refreshing myself with some fruit that grew by the wayside, I started
off in haste, in order, if possible, to reach the city before nightfall.
Just as the sun was setting, I entered what appeared to be one of the
main streets; when, tired and hungry and footsore, I began to think
seriously what I should do to procure food and lodging. Here I was,--a
poor boy in a strange land, unable to address a word to the people
around me, and with only a few cents and two or three bits of paper
currency in my pocket, that could be of no value in that country. _What
was I to do?_ Just then I came to a large and respectable-looking
building; and over the door there was this sign, in good plain


Tears of joy filled my eyes. In an instant, I said to myself, "Your
fortune is made, old fellow! Here you have thirty or forty Boston
newspapers, not twenty-four hours old, strapped around your neck; and I
rather think they will be in some demand in Canton."

With a light heart I now entered the office of the hotel, and threw down
my bundle, with a good, black-leather covering around the papers, so
that it looked like an ordinary piece of luggage, which gave me the
appearance of a regular traveller; then called for a room, and ordered
supper. It was true that I had very little money in my possession,--not
enough, certainly, to pay my bill at the hotel; but no questions were
asked, and I gave myself little concern as to the future. I had a
first-rate appetite, and ate voraciously.

After supper was over, I took my bundle in my hand, and strolled
leisurely into a pleasant and spacious room, where a number of
gentlemen--English and American--were sitting around in groups, some
chatting together, and others reading the London and New York and Boston
papers. Among them I recognized the face of a merchant whom I had seen
several times in State Street; and slinging the strap over my shoulder
in a careless, every-day sort of tone, just as any newsboy would have
done at home, I went up to him and said, "Have the morning papers,
Mister?--'morning papers?'--'Advertiser,' 'Journal,' 'Post,' 'Herald,'
last edition,--published this morning, _only five dollars_!" Everybody
in the room looked up, for I managed, as newsboys generally do, to speak
loud enough to drown every other sound; but no one uttered a word. It
was evident that they thought I was crazy, or something worse; and so I
just cried out again, "Have the morning paper, sir?" at the same time
thrusting a copy of "The Advertiser" into his hand. He looked like an
"Advertiser" kind of man,--well dressed and highly respectable.

Involuntarily his eye glanced at the date,--"Tuesday, Feb. 16, 1867";
and then, in an excited, quivering tone, he said, "Let me look at your
other papers." There was a long table in the centre of the room, which I
approached; and, slowly unfolding my bundle, I laid a few of the papers
wide open in front of the gentlemen, who crowded around in the highest
state of excitement. Still there was dead silence; when one of them
suddenly burst out with the exclamation, "Good heavens! Here is a notice
of the arrival of 'The Golconda' at New York, with a full account of the
cargo, and every thing else correct. Why, this must be genuine!"

One after another followed with a cry of surprise at some news which
they had found; until, in a few minutes, every gentleman in the room was
absorbed in reading the papers, appearing to have entirely forgotten all
about me, and not caring to ask how it was that I had brought them to
China in less than twenty-four hours. After I had stood there whistling
carelessly as long as I thought worth while, I spoke up in a loud
voice, and said, "Well, gentlemen, you seem to be enjoying the news
pretty well. I hope you don't mean to forget to pay for the
papers,--_only five dollars a copy_!"

At this speech every one of them looked at me with a strange expression,
as if they hardly knew whether I was a real human boy or something else;
when the Boston gentleman said, "How on earth did you get these papers
here?" To which I answered very carelessly, "I didn't get them here _on_

"What do you mean?"

"I will tell you what I mean, and answer your questions, after you have
paid me _five dollars each; and cheap at that, considering_."

"Indeed it is, for me at least," said one of the gentlemen. "What I have
learned from this paper is worth to me, in a business way, thousands of
dollars"; and with that he came forward and put a hundred into my hand,
in the good, solid form of gold-pieces. His example had its effect upon
the others. Instead of the two hundred which I had hoped to receive for
my forty newspapers, I was actually in possession of not less
than--well, I don't care to tell exactly how much, on account of the

"Come, now," said the gentlemen, almost in one breath, "tell us how
these papers came to China."

"I brought them myself."

"When did you leave America?"

"The morning when these papers were printed: but how long ago that was,
I really don't know, as my watch stopped while I was on my voyage; only
I thought it was just as well to call out, as I always used to do at
home, 'Morning paper!' although, perhaps, for all I can tell, they may
be two or perhaps three days old; anyhow, I guess you find them a good
deal fresher than the rest you have got on hand."

Having delivered myself of this somewhat protracted speech, I began
moving towards the door with the air of one who had said every thing
that could reasonably be expected, in reply to the curious inquiries of
my liberal patrons, when the Boston merchant motioned for me to stop,
saying with some severity, "Did you not promise that you would inform
the company how these papers came from America to China in such an
incredibly short period of time, whenever you should have received your
pay for the same?"

"Yes, sir; and I just told you that I brought them over--not exactly
_over_--but--in short, I brought them here."

"You say, 'not exactly _over_'; do you mean by that phrase to be
understood to say that you did not come over land?"

"Your honor has hit my meaning precisely."

"You don't pretend to say that you came by water?"

"Far from it, sir."

"How then, _under the heavens_, did you come?"

"I didn't come under the heavens at all."

"I don't believe," said the irritated gentleman, turning to his
companions, "that the fellow came at all; he must be lying."

All the answer that he received was the rustling of forty newspapers,
bearing the imprint, "February 16, 1867, Boston." There was no getting
over this.

After a pause of several minutes, during which a bright idea entered my
mind, I came forward into the circle, and said, "Well, gentlemen, I want
to see if I can make a good bargain with you; and when that is settled,
I will tell you how I came over--I mean, I will tell you how I got here;
that is, I will tell you _the route_ that I took. If I can arrange for
the delivery in Canton of the New York and Boston daily papers, within
thirty-six hours of the time when they are issued in those cities, will
you all promise to give me your generous patronage?"

"Of course we will," they cried all together.

"Very well; then I pledge myself to appear again in this place one week
from this day, ready to carry out my part of the bargain. And now, in
bidding you good-night, allow me to inform you that I came from America
to China by the _air-line_."

With this I retired at once to my room, and was soon sleeping soundly.

I knew that I should be watched so closely the next day as to make it
impossible for me to escape without detection; and accordingly I got up
an hour or two before daylight; and, having laid upon the table in my
room an amount of money which I supposed would be considered a fair
compensation for my supper and lodging, I tied the sheets together, and
lowered myself down into the then silent and deserted street. It was not
long before I found myself once more in the open country; and looking
carefully for the twisted twigs that I had tied together the afternoon
before, I soon discovered the chasm through which I had made my
remarkable trip to the eastern hemisphere. Taking the precaution to tie
a handkerchief over my mouth in order that I might economize my breath,
I summoned all my courage, and leaped into the hole. My experiences were
precisely the same as they had been in the previous journey; and in
course of a few hours, I found myself standing once more in the
familiar outskirts of Roxbury, and gazing tenderly upon the solemn dome
of Boston State House. As fast as my legs would take me, I rushed to my
poor mother's humble abode, longing to relieve the bitter agony to which
I knew she and my brother and sister must have been subjected during my
absence. It is not worth while for me to describe at length the scene
that ensued when I stood once more in the family circle, with my
mother's arms around my neck, and the young folks bellowing with joy. To
the frantic inquiries that were showered upon me as to what had
happened,--where I had been,--had I had any thing to eat? I coolly
replied that I had not had much to eat; and, if they would give me a
good, substantial supper, I would endeavor to relieve their minds.

"Supper, indeed!" cried my good mother; "why, it's just after sunrise!
You haven't lost your senses, I hope."

"I beg your pardon; but it was about sunrise hours and hours ago, when
I--when I"--and here I faltered, not caring just then to let the whole
family into my secret.

"When you what?" said my mother, looking very anxious.

"Why, when I left Canton," I now answered, very promptly.

"You don't say that you have been to Canton?" she replied, but without
any such show of astonishment as might have been expected.

"Yes, I have, mother. It occurred to me that I could sell my papers to
better advantage there than I could about here; and, indeed, I did, as
you may see." Whereupon I laid in her good old hand such a sum of money
as she had not clasped for many a day.

"Did you get all this money by selling papers in Canton?"

"I did, and a great deal more; which I am going to deposit by and by in
the Savings Bank to your credit."

"There must be an awful demand for papers in Canton."

"There is, mother; and they pay such high prices there, that I am
thinking of setting up a news establishment in the place."

"And did you _walk_ all the way to Canton day before yesterday, my

"Then it was day before yesterday morning when I left home? I thought it
was longer ago than that."

"Longer ago! Oh, dear, dear! you are not out of your head, my son?"

"My good mother, I am as sound as you are. Only you know that sometimes,
when we are very much occupied, the time passes quickly; and I have been
quite busy since I left you."

"And did you say that you walked to Canton?"

"No, mother, I didn't walk a step."

"Then you took the Providence cars?"

"Well, mother, it was a kind of a providence car."

[John's statement at once relieved the old lady's mind; but those of our
readers who are not intimately acquainted with the geography of
Massachusetts, may be somewhat puzzled at this. For the information of
foreigners and uneducated people in general, we must mention that there
is a thriving village on the Boston and Providence railroad, about ten
miles from Roxbury, which rejoices in the name of Canton.

It may here be observed, that the young man's mind had got into a kind
of chronological muddle, and the days and nights were mixed up together
in the most miscellaneous manner. We, who are competent to solve any
ordinary problem, furnish our young readers with this explanation. John
left our American soil on Tuesday morning, at or about six o'clock. He
is twelve hours--there or thereabouts--passing through the earth. This
brings him to China also in the morning, as every thing is topsy-turvy
on the other side of the globe. His walk to Canton fills up most of the
day,--_Tuesday night here_. He sleeps in Canton one night. _Wednesday
here_; leaves Canton, _via_ Air-Line, the next morning,--_Wednesday
night here_; and arrives at Jamaica Plain on Thursday morning. Absent
from home forty-eight hours; twenty-four consumed in travelling _via_
Air-Line; twelve in pedestrian excursion through the Kwangtung country
in China; and twelve in pecuniary negotiations and sleep at the British
and American Coffee-House, Canton. This makes every thing clear and
consistent. We would simply remark, that, when John first told us his
singular tale of adventure, we remarked that he seemed to have had a
very small allowance of food, as he ate but one good meal in the whole
forty-eight hours. To which he replied in a rather lofty manner, which
repressed all further comment on our part, that, when the mind was
filled with great thoughts, it didn't require much to sustain the body.
We should like to take John as a boarder. But he is now on his feet
again, and we let him speak for himself.]

"As soon as I found myself alone with my young brother Bob,--a bright
fellow he was, and quick at a bargain,--I told him in strict confidence
the whole story of my adventures, and then laid before him my plans for
the future, in carrying out which plans I should need his co-operation.

"I am now going," said I, "to Mr. Simpson's office, and shall pay him
handsomely for the papers I have sold. I then propose to contract with
him for the New York and Boston daily papers, paying for six months in
advance, to be delivered to you every morning at half-past five o'clock
precisely. At six o'clock you will drop the bundle, carefully made up
and nicely secured, as I shall direct Mr. Simpson, right through the
centre of the hole, to which I will direct you by and by,--always being
very careful to let it fall from your hand at a height of four feet
above the surface of the earth; in which case it will, of course, rise
just four feet _above_ the surface on the other side, and I shall be
able to secure it without difficulty. I will pay you fifteen per cent on
the net profits of the enterprise for the first six months, which ought
to be regarded as a liberal compensation for the small amount of time
that you will be obliged to give to the work.

"Now, Bob, listen to what I am about to say with strict attention. On
every Saturday morning you must delay dropping your bundle for half an
hour; and between six and half-past six o'clock, be on the careful
lookout for a bundle _which I shall send to you_ from the other side.
This will contain my remittance for the week, which I wish you to
deposit to mother's credit in three places, the names of which I give
you on paper. She can then draw from time to time such sums as she may

"I shall remain at home for a few days and arrange to be in China next
Monday evening. On Tuesday morning you will forward the bundle of

"Are you going to tell mother and sister all about this?" said Bob.

"No: it would only worry them. I shall merely say that I have a great
opening for making money, and shall be obliged to be absent from home
for several months."

"I think," said Bob, chuckling,--Bob labored under the delusion that he
was a wag,--"that it _is_ a great opening, or rather, I might say, a
_lengthy_ opening."

Every thing was duly arranged according to the programme; and, on the
following Monday, I bade adieu for a while to the sweet light of day,--I
don't mean that I said exactly these words as I stood on the edge of the
hole--but that is the way in which it would be expressed in a
book,--and jumped boldly into the dark abyss. In due time I arrived
safely in China, and took lodgings in a small country inn about two
miles off, as I did not care to show myself at the Canton Coffee-House
until I had the papers in my possession.

It was with a somewhat anxious heart that I went to my Air-Line Station,
as I had taken a fancy to call it, on Tuesday evening.



It was Tuesday evening in good old Massachusetts, but not far from the
break of day in China. In order that I might be more sure to catch the
bundle of papers on its arrival, I had woven a net-work with my strong
twine, and securely fastened it to a stout wooden hoop. This I then
attached to a pole about six feet in length, and stood ready to swing
the net under the package as soon as it came within reach. The hour at
which I had calculated that the bundle ought to come in sight, provided
Bob had been prompt to the time that I had prescribed, had now passed,
and I began to feel excited and uneasy. "What if Bob had forgotten to
hold the package high enough from the surface when he dropped it, and so
the momentum had not proved sufficient to drive it _clear through_ the
hole? What if it had struck against the sides of the cavity, and so the
friction had stopped it on the way? What if the velocity with which it
must have fallen during the first few thousand miles had torn the
package in pieces, and the papers had been left floating about in the
centre of the earth? What if Bob had been taken ill?"--just at this
moment my fears and speculations were arrested by the sight of a small
white object, looking like a flake of snow, away down the hole,
hundreds of feet away, as it seemed to me. My heart almost ceased to
beat; the white object was coming nearer and nearer, and looking larger
and larger every second. But it is moving slower and slower all the
time, as if it was nearly tired out! Perhaps it will not come _quite_
within reach after all? What an awful disappointment that would be! No!
it doesn't quite stop--_up_ it comes--ten feet more and I will have it;
five feet more--hurra! underneath goes the stout net, and the precious
bundle is clasped safely in my arms.

I was so exhausted by anxiety and excitement, that I had to sit down for
a while, that I might recover my strength. I really do not think that I
was half so much overcome when I first came out of the hole myself.

And now for the city, to keep my appointment with the gentlemen at the
Coffee-House. I had hired a pony to carry me to Canton, and had fastened
it to a tree near by; and very soon I was galloping off like lightning.
About ten o'clock, I reached the hotel; and, after stopping for a glass
of water at the office to clear my throat, I entered the room where I
knew my patrons would be assembled, and threw my bundle down upon the

Every man there started to his feet; but such was their surprise at my
appearance,--for not a soul amongst them ever dreamed that I would keep
my appointment,--that for one or two minutes, as before, not a word was
spoken. While they all stood around staring at me as if I had just
dropped from the clouds, I proceeded very leisurely to untie the
strings of the package; when, with a simultaneous movement, my eager
customers rushed towards the table, reaching out their hands frantically
for the papers.

"Gentlemen," said I, in a clear, collected voice, "before proceeding to
distribute the mail, allow me to offer a few brief remarks." I had
written out this speech, and committed it to memory. "It is very natural
that you should have great curiosity to know by what means I have
managed to redeem the pledge that I gave you a short time ago. In the
presence of gentlemen so enlightened as you are, I hardly need to say
that the speedy communication which I have been enabled to make with the
Western world is effected by no supernatural agency, but by a wonderful
discovery in the realms of nature, the precise character of which I do
not at present consider it expedient to disclose. Let it suffice, that I
am able to furnish you, at reasonable rates, with the latest
intelligence from the United States of America; and I wish it to be
distinctly understood, that if I ever have reason to suspect that my
movements are watched, or that any efforts are made to detect my secret,
from that time my contract with you is at an end. I also desire to
stipulate that no statement of my transactions with you shall be allowed
to find its way into the public prints, either in China or America. Let
the whole matter remain a profound secret between us; your own interest
will be consulted by this as well as mine. If, indeed, it should so
happen that you should ever see any remarkable and novel movement in
the heavens, of course I cannot hinder you from forming your own
impressions, and making your own deductions from the phenomena.

"And now, gentlemen, every morning between ten and eleven o'clock, I
propose to be here with the papers; _price one dollar per copy, cash on

The bundle, containing one hundred papers, was immediately disposed of;
some gentlemen taking two or three, and others half a dozen.

The tongues of my patrons were now unloosed, and they all acceded
unhesitatingly to the terms which I had proposed. An elderly Englishman,
with a very white waistcoat, and a very large watch-chain, came up to
me, and, patting my shoulder, said, "Why, my son, you have done better
than you promised; you have given us the newspapers in much less than
thirty-six hours after their issue at home."

"Yes, sir," I replied; "I intended to get them here in about _sixteen_
hours; but I thought it more prudent to say thirty-six,
because--because"--I hardly knew what reason to give, without betraying
myself--"because, sir, I wasn't certain how the magnetic currents might

"Ah-hah-ah, I begin to see. Magnetic currents in the heavens, in the

"Yes, sir," I answered promptly, "in the _atmosphere_."

This was true enough; but I could not say in the _heavens_, without
telling an untruth; and this I always regarded as a great sin.

"Don't you think," continued my English friend, "that, when you bring
the American papers over, you could just stop on the way, and get a copy
or two of 'The London Times'?"

"I do not go for the papers myself."

"You don't mean to say that they come entirely by themselves?" he
replied, looking more perplexed and astounded than I can describe.

"Of course not," I said, breaking into a hearty laugh. "I have a partner
on the other side, who will forward them to me every morning."

"Then they do come of themselves, after they are once started?"

"Why, yes," I said, feeling a little embarrassed, and very much afraid
that I might commit myself, "after the proper impulse and direction are
given, they do come of themselves."

"But how, in the name of all that is marvellous, after the package gets
into the right magnetic current, does it manage to alight in this

"That is easily explained by the laws of gravity."

The attention of all present was arrested by this conversation, and I
began to feel that I was getting upon dangerous ground.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," I said, taking hold of the handle of the door,
"from answering any more questions at this time. My mind is getting a
little confused; and, what is more, I am very hungry." Upon which I
retired to the dining-room.

Every thing went on successfully during the remainder of the week; all
the packages arrived safely and in good order, and on Friday evening I
was ready to remit several hundred dollars to my brother. At the same
time, I thought that it was proper for me to write a few lines to my
good mother; and accordingly I sat down and made out quite a long
letter, which I enclosed in the same bundle with the money.

On Saturday evening, the papers arrived half an hour later than usual,
as I had arranged with Bob; and on the wrapper I was delighted to read,
in great, scrawling letters, "_All right: money and letters received._"

On Sunday, as I was lying in my hammock, and thinking of home, it came
to my mind that my dear mother had probably expected me to pass the day
with her; and then for the first time it flashed across me, that, when I
wrote her on Friday, I entirely forgot that she supposed me all the
while to have been in the little town of Canton, on the Boston and
Providence Railroad. "What on earth," I said to myself, "will she
imagine when she reads my letter? I certainly must have betrayed myself.
I don't remember exactly what it was that I wrote; but there must have
been some things in the letter that will lead the poor old lady to
suppose that I am crazy. Well, perhaps I shall know more about it when
the next bundle comes; and I will try to be patient until then."

The next morning I awaited the usual arrival with great anxiety; and, as
soon as the package came into my hands, I tore off the outer covering,
and, to my great relief, found a letter in my mother's handwriting,


     It read as follows:--

     ROXBURY, March, 1867.

     MY DEAREST JOHN,--I was very much disappointed that you did not
     come home to pass the Sabbath. I had a nice dinner all ready for
     you; and your little sister cried hard when she found that you were
     not to sit down with us. We were all very glad, however, to get
     your letter; and I am thankful that you have been so prospered in
     your business. I had no idea that you would be able to make so much
     money by selling papers in Canton: they must be a great reading
     community. I hope, my dear son, that all is made honestly. There
     are some things in your letter which have puzzled me a little, and
     I do not know that I exactly understand all that you say. You also
     speak of visiting the Joss-house once or twice. I never knew any
     family of that name: only I happen to remember, that, up in
     Manchester, there were quite a large number of people by the name
     of Josslyn; and sometimes the boys used to call them, in sport,
     "the Josses." It is not a good habit to give nicknames to other
     persons, especially where you visit the family. You also speak of
     their burning a great deal of colored paper, and a great many
     scented sticks before an image. I asked Bob what he thought this
     meant: but he jumped right behind the closet-door, and made the
     most extraordinary noises with his mouth that I ever heard; and
     when he came out again his eyes were full of tears, and he looked
     as if he had had a fit. "Bob," said I, "what is the matter?" "I
     have had a high-strike,"--he should have said high-sterick,--"I do
     have 'em sometimes." "Robert," I said very seriously, "what do you
     think your brother means?"

     "Well," said he, "I shouldn't wonder if the Josses had a bust of
     Daniel Webster or Henry Clay in their parlor, and perhaps they burn
     things round it to keep off the flies." Then he began to laugh
     again, and I could not tell whether he was in earnest or not. I am
     not very much pleased to hear you say that you go out in the
     afternoon to fly kites with a parcel of old mandarins. I think that
     you might find some better use for your time; and I am afraid from
     the way in which you speak of them, that these old mandarins are
     not very respectable characters. Your brother says that kite-flying
     means speculating, and that the mandarins are probably brokers. I
     trust, my dear boy, that you are not making any of your money in
     this way. Who is this Chim-jung-tsee, who is to be your teacher? It
     is a very strange name for a Christian to be called by, and I don't
     like the sound of it. And what do you mean, when you say you want
     to learn the language so that you may be able to talk with the
     natives? I never stopped in Canton but once, and that was when the
     axle-tree of the engine, or something else, broke down. There were
     a good many people from the village came up to the depot then; and
     I heard them talk for more than an hour, and I understood every
     word they said. I am almost afraid that your application to
     business, and selling your papers at such a profit, is turning your
     brain. You must not work too hard, and you must be careful about
     your diet. I shall try and send you a bundle of doughnuts next
     week, when I fry. There is something in your letter about eating
     rats and birds'-nests, and other horrible things. I suppose that
     you intend that for a joke. I wish that you would tell me where you
     pass your evenings, and what kind of books you are reading, and how
     many meeting-houses there are in Canton, and where you go to
     meeting. Whenever you have to stay there over the Sabbath, I would
     like to have you write out a full account of the sermons that you
     hear. We all hope that you will come to see us next Saturday
     night. Bob says that you are so busy that you will not be able to
     leave; and that you have to sit up all night, and then sleep in the
     day-time. Bob and Mamie send their best love. I will send a pair of
     socks with the doughnuts. Your little sister says, "Tell brother
     that I want him to bring me something pretty from Canton." I don't
     know but she thinks you are away off in the great city of Canton,
     in China. Write as often as you can to

     Your very affectionate mother,


I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I had read the letter, and
so I did a little of both. I could not bear to think that my mother
should be so deceived, and so bewildered; but it would distress her
sadly if she really knew where I had gone, and how I got there. I had
some doubts, too, whether she would be able to keep the secret long, for
they worm every thing out of her at the Dorcas Society. So I concluded
that I would write her another letter, at the end of the week, which
wouldn't give her any trouble. Week after week passed by without any
interruption of my business; and I devoted three hours every day to the
study of the Chinese language, under the direction of Chim-jung-tsee, a
young Chinaman who spoke pigeon-English very well, and had been highly
recommended by one of the waiters at the hotel. He was a very sleek,
smooth-spoken fellow: the top of his shaved head shone like a billiard
ball, and his tail hung four feet and a half from his shoulders. I
didn't altogether like the expression of his eyes; for although they
were usually turned up at the outside corners, like other Chinese eyes,
sometimes I would catch him with one of them turned down at the corner,
and then he seemed to be looking at me with one eye, and looking out of
the window with the other. His nails were longer than any I had seen in
Canton; and he usually wore stout leather cots on the ends of his
fingers, to protect them from injury. I never knew him to lose his
temper but once; and that was when, just for the fun of the thing, I
managed to snip off an inch or two from one of his nails with my
pen-knife. From that moment, I have reason to believe that he became my
deadly foe. He couldn't have made more of an outcry, had he lost his

One day, as I entered my room, I found the young man carefully studying
a copy of "The New-York Times," which, contrary to my custom, I had
thoughtlessly left exposed on the desk. After the hours of study were
over, he asked, in an off-hand kind of way, how far New York was from
Canton. I thought it likely that the fellow knew already, and therefore
I did not hesitate to tell him. He then took up the New York paper
again, and, looking with great care at the date, began to count his
fingers, mumbling something to himself in Chinese which I could not
understand. Nothing more passed between us on the subject; but I felt
from that day that I had a spy upon me. I did not like to discharge him
from my service, because that would only excite him to greater
mischief, and I never thought for a moment of taking him into my

One Friday morning, just as I had finished dressing, there was a loud
knock at the door of my room; and three Chinese officials entered, who,
having first tied my arms behind my back, and fastened a short chain to
my ankles, proceeded to search every nook and corner of the premises.

The evening before, I had fortunately converted all the money that I had
on hand into a bill of exchange, and this was concealed about my person.
The great object of their search appeared to be newspapers; and, after
rifling my boxes and desk of every thing in this form, I was marched
off into the street, without a word being said by my captors. To all my
remonstrances, the only reply that I got was the holding up before my
face of a piece of yellow paper, with a huge green seal in the corner.
Without being subjected to any form of trial, I was taken at once to
prison. I found myself the occupant of a cell about ten feet square,
with one window secured by an iron grating. The furniture of the cell
consisted of a bamboo chair, a small table, and a low bedstead. I was
glad to find that every thing looked neat and clean. I remained in this
place for several days in utter solitude, except when my meals were
brought to me; and then all that I could get out of my attendant was,
"Me no talkee." I had not the slightest doubt who it was that had
caused me to be imprisoned; and I determined, that, if Chim-jung-tsee
ever came within my reach again, I would cut off every one of his
atrocious finger-nails. As I lay there thinking over all my wonderful
experiences, I could not but feel sad at what I knew must be Bob's
disappointment, when, after waiting hour by hour for my package to
arrive on Saturday morning, nothing appeared. Anticipating that I might
have trouble in China, I had directed, in case my remittance did not
reach him, that he should send no more papers through the hole, so that
no loss would occur on this score; and I knew that he was shrewd enough
to keep my mother and sister from having any undue anxiety. Then I fell
to wondering whether my friends at the coffee-house had all forgotten
me, and how they managed to get along without their papers. I soon found
out that they had _not_ quite forgotten me; although, for obvious
reasons, it would not do for them to interfere with the authorities in
my behalf.

One afternoon, as I stood looking out from my window upon an open
square, where hundreds of people, young and old, high and low, were
amusing themselves by flying kites, I observed, among the monsters that
filled the air,--dragons, griffins, cormorants, sharks, and numberless
other fantastic shapes,--one kite that arrested my eye and fixed my
attention. It was in the form of an American eagle, with red and white
stripes on the wings, and brilliant stars all over the body. From the
peculiar movements of this kite, I was led to believe that it was an
omen of hope for me, and that whoever held the string intended to do me
a service. In the course of half an hour, the kite was floated directly
across my window, and I saw that there was a paper pinned on the back.
As soon as it came within reach, I thrust my hands through the bars, and
in an instant tore the paper off. Unfolding it, I found in the inside
three steel-spring saws, and read these words: "As soon as you have
sawed away the bars, tie a white rag on the grating. On the first
evening after this, when the wind is favorable, a kite will be flown to
the window. Pull in the string very carefully, and you will come to a
larger cord. Keep pulling until a rope-ladder reaches you. Fasten this
securely to the window, and follow the ladder down over the wall. You
will there find your old pony fastened to a tree: jump on and be off.
Strapped on his back you will see a can of condensed food and a jar of
water, enough to supply you for some days. Success to you!" This paper I
at once tore into small pieces, and, as soon as it was dark, threw the
fragments out of the window. I now went to work with a light heart to
saw away the iron bars, preserving the filings, which I moulded up with
a bit of bread, to fill the gaps that I made with my saws in the
grating, in order to avoid detection in case the room should be
examined. In the course of about a week, I had cut through the iron so
far that I knew it would be easy with one good wrench to tear away the
grating; and then, with a throbbing pulse, in the afternoon I tied a
piece of white cloth on the sash, as I had been directed. That night
there was not a breath of wind, and I knew that I had no hope of rescue
at present. I tried to sleep, but found myself constantly rising up and
listening for the breeze. The next day the kites were flying merrily;
and among them I saw the good old eagle, with a large round white spot
on his back, which I interpreted to mean that my signal had been
discovered. It seemed to me that the sun would never set that evening,
and I was in mortal fear that when it did the wind would also go down.
At last, the shadows of night descended upon the earth, and still the
breeze blew finely. I waited at the window, and watched with all my eyes
until near midnight, when, to my delight, I saw the shadow of a kite
coming between me and the stars. With one quick, strong pull I wrenched
the grating out, and stood with my head projecting from the hole, ready
to catch the kite. As soon as I got hold of it, I found that there were
two strings attached; and I was careful to cut only one, as the other
was probably intended to remove the kite, and pull it to the ground
again. After hauling in the twine and the stronger cords fastened to it,
I found the rope-ladder in my grasp; and in a very short time it was
fastened to the iron bars below the grating that I had removed. At the
same moment, I felt that some one at the other end was hauling the
ladder in tight, and no doubt securing it below. Five minutes later and
I was free! Not a human being was in sight as I stood once more on the
earth: my confederate, whoever he was,--now that every thing was
accomplished that he could do,--probably thinking it was safer for him
to be out of the way. But there stood my beloved pony, who had carried
me so often from the Air-Line Station to Canton; and, before many
seconds had passed, he was making the sparks fly under his feet as we
headed for the old familiar spot in the country. It was not necessary
for me to guide him; dark as it was, the pony knew the way well enough;
and I soon reached the cavity, through which I hoped to visit "my own,
my native land," where people are not arrested without knowing what is
the crime with which they are charged. Removing the jar of water and the
can of food from my pony's back, without stopping to think why I did it,
but following a sort of instinct which afterwards saved me from
perishing, I fastened these articles on my shoulders and around my
waist; then, sobbing, threw my arms around poor pony's neck, and with a
pang bade him good-by. He flew snorting away to his stable, where I have
no doubt he soon found comfort in a quart or two of rice and a peck of

And now, strange to say, although I had accomplished the journey through
the earth three times with entire safety, I shrank with dread from the
thought of jumping once more in the dark hole beneath. I suppose the
trials which I had just endured had unstrung my nerves, and that the
solemn hour of the night made the leap seem all the more fearful. And
yet _through I must go_. China was not the place for me to remain in any
longer; and so I stepped down some two or three feet into the cavity,
and stood upon a little projection of rock, feeling that it would
require less effort to drop from this place downward than to leap from
the surface. Seizing the projecting rock with my hands, I then let go,
and down I went. It was a relief to find that I was now fairly under
way; and when, after the lapse of a few hours, I began to see daylight
brightening around me, I thought that all my cares were about to end.
Brighter and brighter it grew, and I had almost reached the edge of the
hole, when, to my horror, I found that the motion of my body was ceasing
altogether. Could it be that I had made a fatal mistake in dropping from
that inner ledge on the other side, instead of jumping boldly from the
surface? It must be so. Oh, what a fool I was! I might have known that
the projectile power would not be sufficient to take me clear through!
What will become of me? For, at this moment, I felt myself beginning to
sink back again into the bowels of the earth. And there through the
long, long hours, I swung backwards and forwards like an enormous
pendulum,--every time that I rose and fell, with a shorter and shorter
range,--until I stopped in equilibrium at the centre of the earth. The
sensation of absolute rest was more terrible than motion. There I was
alive, buried deeper than any other being ever was before. Was there any
possible way in which I could extricate myself? I now made a great
effort to collect my thoughts, and give to this question careful
consideration. At last, a bright idea came into my mind.



The idea that came to me was at first very vague and indefinite; neither
was it at all certain that my plan could be carried out. It had been
suggested by a peculiar sound which fell upon my ear as soon as I became
stationary, and which had continued to reverberate through the darkness
all the while. As I had been obliged, while in China, to be about so
much at night, I had provided myself with one of those compact lanterns,
which can be folded up, and carried in the pocket, with a good supply
of best wax matches. The first thing to be done was to strike a light,
and see what sort of a place I was floating in. The sensation of
floating in equilibrium was delightful and soothing; and yet I felt that
it would be a relief to touch something solid. As soon as my candle
lighted up the cavity, I saw that the walls of my strange abode were
perforated in various places by holes, some of which were large enough
to admit my body. Taking my cap from my head, I found that by waving it
in the air I could readily waft my body in whatever direction I chose;
and, in less than a minute, I found myself comfortably seated in the
largest and most convenient of these cavities. I now felt the need of
food and drink; and, before proceeding to do any thing else, I opened
one of the cans of concentrated meat, and with a glass of water from the
jar which I had so fortunately brought with me, I made quite a nice
meal. With all the burden that weighed upon my mind, I could not help
smiling when I thought that I was the only person that had ever dined in
that particular locality. After dinner, I stretched myself out, and took
a good long sleep. At last I awoke as bright as a lark, and began to
explore the surrounding region. The point that I wished particularly to
determine was this: What is the cause of the low, grinding sound that I
continually hear? and from what locality does it proceed? Upon the
answer to these questions depended all my hopes of escape. Strapping
the jar and cans securely about me, I thought that I would try to
penetrate the orifice which I had entered; but, as soon as I got upon my
feet, the slight muscular effort that I made in walking lifted me again
into the air, and I found myself once more in equilibrium. At first this
discouraged and perplexed me; but observing that I could propel myself
with the greatest ease by just fanning the air, as before, with my cap,
I concluded that this was a very easy as well as rapid mode of
locomotion. As I advanced farther and farther into the cavity, I found
that the grating noise, to which I have alluded, grew louder and more
distinct; and after moving along, perhaps about two miles, I came in
sight of an immense cylinder, the size of which it was impossible for
me to estimate, as I could see only a small section of the surface.
Floating on, I laid myself alongside of the great tube, and, taking my
knife from my pocket, tapped the cylinder several times, and found that
it was composed of some very hard and resonant metal, entirely unlike
any thing that I had ever seen before. It was of a bright vermilion
color, highly polished in certain places, and somewhat rough and
honey-combed in others. From the vibration that came when I struck it
with my knife, I inferred that it must be hollow. I only needed to try
one further experiment, in order to be satisfied that my suspicions and
hopes as to the nature of this cylinder, and the cause of the peculiar
sound that I had heard, and which now reverberated loudly on every
side, were correct. Observing that, at a point not far off, the cylinder
came almost in contact with the wall that surrounded it, I approached
the spot, and stuck two red wafers, one on the cylinder, and the other
directly opposite to it on the wall, with a distance of not more than an
inch between them. I would here observe, in explanation of my happening
to have these wafers about me, that they still continued to be used in
China, and I generally carried half a dozen or more about me in a stiff
envelope. Now came the crisis of my destiny! If the relative position of
the wafers remained for an hour unchanged, there was no hope for poor
John Whopper. With my watch--which, by the way, I had protected against
the disturbance of the magnetic currents by a compensation balance--in
my hand, I gazed earnestly and anxiously upon the two wafers. Fifteen
minutes passed. In this time, the earth had revolved one ninety-sixth
part of its daily course, and the inhabitants on the surface had
travelled two hundred and fifty miles. If my hopes are well founded, it
is hardly time yet for me to perceive any change in the two red spots
upon which my gaze is fixed. A half hour slowly passes. I do believe
that the wafers are not directly opposite to each other! let me wait a
little while longer, that I may be certain. There is no mistake about
it,--the right edge of one wafer just touches the left edge of the
other. Eureka! Hurrah! I am right. I am right. This big cylinder is
_the axis of the earth_, fixed and immovable; and these huge walls are
revolving round it. There's a discovery to make a man immortal! What
fools the old geographers were that used to say,--"the axis is an
_imaginary line_, running through," etc., etc. The name of Whopper will
now be heralded to all coming generations with the names of Bacon and
Newton and La Place and Humboldt, and all the rest of them! Fame, with
her great silver trumpet--

"Stop, my boy," I imagine the impatient reader is now saying. "You had
better get out into daylight before you crow so loud; we don't see how
your great discovery is going to help you to do that." I presume not;
but you _will_ see, if you are only patient.

I now reasoned thus with myself: "If the axis of the earth is
hollow,--about which I have no doubt,--and open at both ends,--inasmuch
as it is winter at the south pole when it is summer at the north, and
_vice versa_,--there must always be a strong current of air passing
through it,--the cold air of one extreme rushing into the warmer region
at the opposite pole. I have, then, only to find some way of introducing
my body into the interior of this axis; and, by taking advantage of the
current, I shall soon be able to see daylight again."

The next thing, therefore, to be done was to find out whether it would
be possible for me to get inside the cylinder. I had observed, that in
some places the metal of which it was composed, showed the appearance
of being honey-combed; and this gave me some encouragement. I now
crawled, or rather swam, about the surface of this cylindrical mass of
metal, and soon found an orifice large enough for me to thrust in my
hand and arm up to the elbow. True enough, there _was_ a strong draught
in there, so strong that it seemed as if my arm would be wrenched from
the socket. Every doubt and difficulty were now removed, if I could only
find a hole in the cylinder three feet in diameter; and after an hour's
search, I lighted upon just what I wanted,--a good smooth opening, and
somewhat larger than was actually needed to pass my body through. This,
however, was fortunate, because I must have space enough to project
myself with some force from the orifice, or I might strike the side of
the cylinder, and be dashed into fragments.

Every thing was now ready: nerving my whole system for the terrible
effort and the frightful risk, I sprang with all my might into the axis
of the earth. After what I had experienced when I put my arm into the
cylinder, I expected, of course, as soon as my whole body was thrown in
there, that I should undergo the terrible sensation of being whirled
upward by a tornado. Instead of this, to my astonishment, the moment
that I had cleared the orifice through which I jumped I felt as though I
were floating stationary in the air. Could it be that I was deceived in
regard to the existence of the current? This could hardly be: it was not
possible that I was stationary, for the hole through which I leaped had
vanished in a flash. It then for the first time occurred to me, that
being in the current, and as it were _a part_ of the current, moving in
it and _with_ it without any resistance, it was impossible for me to
tell whether I was advancing or not; and then I remembered how men that
went up in balloons, after they had lost sight of the earth, could not
perceive whether they were in motion or at rest; and how our teacher at
the Roxbury school used to explain the fact that we were not conscious
of the rotation of the globe on which we stood, upon the same principle.
When I thought of all this, I broke into a loud laugh, and for a long
time I could hear the echoes thundering through the cylinder.

I cannot say how glad I felt that my journey through the axis of the
earth occurred at that period of the year when the current set from the
south to the north. The prospect of safety if I were to be discharged
from the south pole, would be slight indeed; but familiarity with the
writings of various explorers in the Arctic regions gave me the very
natural feeling that I should be in a measure at home in that part of
the world.

The absence of any sense of motion, with the quietness and darkness that
surrounded me, began to induce a feeling of weariness; and I thought
that I should like to see how it looked where I was; so I lighted my
lantern, which I had extinguished when I leaped into the axis, when the
most dazzling and marvellous sight burst upon my view. I found that I
was not very far from the side of the cylinder, which was
polished--probably by the constant friction of the swift current passing
through it--so that it glistened like a diamond, only it was of one
uniform vermilion hue. Reflected, as in a fiery mirror, I caught an
occasional glimpse of myself, magnified to a gigantic size by the
concave form of the cylinder, and elongated in the most remarkable
manner by the rapidity with which I shot by the surface; and, after
this, I had no further doubts as to whether I was moving on or standing
still. I next amused myself by making all sorts of uproarious sounds,
which were repeated up and down, and back and forth, from the metallic
walls, until I was somewhat frightened at the cries I made; for it
seemed as if fifty wild demons were shouting and yelling around me.
There are some of my readers who will remember the old chemical chimney
in Roxbury, and what strange sounds were heard there when the boys stood
below, laughing and talking. What I now heard recalled most vividly all
those experiences. To soothe my mind a little, I then took a jews-harp
from my pocket and played the "Star-spangled Banner." The effect was
beautiful and almost magical, and I sank at once into a delicious

But, as the time drew near when I supposed that I might expect to emerge
from my present position, I began to feel anxious as to what would
become of me when I came out. I anticipated, of course, that, moving at
such a fearful rate, I must expect to shoot up rather high in the air;
and the question was, where I should probably land. If, as is generally
supposed, it is a clear, open sea at the pole, I shall not _land_ at
all, but come down into the water. In this case, I am inevitably lost:
but still my faith was not shaken; after all that I had endured, it did
not seem likely that I should be left to perish in the sea. I could do
nothing but trust and wait.

In process of time the light began to steal in upon the darkness, and I
knew that another crisis was approaching,--the most trying and
formidable that I had been called to encounter. And, shortly, out I
went, high up in the air,--higher--higher,--until I thought that I
should never come down again. But, after a time, I felt that I was
descending; and the fear came upon me that I might tumble back once more
into the axis of the earth. If I had reflected a moment, I might have
perceived that this would be impossible; for, as soon as I had sunk from
my elevation down to a point not more than a hundred feet from the end
of the pole, I met the swift current of air rushing out, and was once
more hoisted up in the clouds. This was repeated several times over; and
I found myself in the condition of a cork ball, sustained in the air by
a stream of water from a fountain. It is a little odd, that at this time
there came to my mind a vivid recollection of such a cork ball that I
used to see tossing about in front of the hotel that formerly stood at
the corner of Tremont and Boylston streets, in Boston. At last it
occurred to me, that if at the time when I had nearly reached the
highest point of my ascent, and therefore must be moving very slowly, I
should fan the air with my cap, as I did before, it might waft me out of
the line of the north pole; and that I might as well come down into the
sea and be drowned, as to keep on bobbing up and down in this way
forever. The experiment was successful; and the next time that I
descended, I came gently, not into the water, but into a soft yielding
drift of snow, which entirely broke the force of my fall.

I felt sure now that all was right; and, scrambling out of the snow, I
looked about to see where I was. All around, in every direction, there
was an open sea extending to the horizon; and it was evident that I had
lighted upon an iceberg, which had floated northward from a more
southern region. After I had refreshed myself with a little food, I
proceeded to explore the frozen island, of which I had so unexpectedly
become the sole proprietor.

I am afraid that some of my readers may think that there is a tone of
exaggeration in my story as I proceed to narrate what I found there.
Thus far, it must be allowed by all that I have kept within range of
_possibility_, if not of probability; I have been careful to explain
minutely and scientifically just how every thing came about; and if it
should ever become as familiar a thing to travel _through_ the earth as
it is now to shoot over its surface on railroads, and send messages
instantaneously from one end of the world to the other, this narrative
will not sound so very strange after all. But in telling what I found on
the iceberg, and what happened to me there, I may have to tax somewhat
the credulity of my readers.



I shall now give the general result of an exploration of the iceberg,
which occupied me for several days. I use the word _day_ in the ordinary
sense, as indicating a period of twenty-four hours; although, during my
stay in the arctic region, the daylight was perpetual. This frozen
island, which was to be for a time my habitation, extended, so far as I
could judge, over an area of about five hundred acres; but there were
certain marks about the surface and cleavages on the sides, which
indicated that it was originally of much greater size. It was also very
evident that it had assumed its form, and been detached from the shore,
at some point on the coast many degrees remote from its present
position, and had then been driven towards the pole by some
extraordinary current into which it had happened to fall. At some former
period, this iceberg must have floated, or been stationary, in a region
where game abounded and birds were plenty; where vessels sailed, and
where vessels were wrecked; and, when it was launched from the shore, it
carried off with it not less than an acre of good, rich loam,--the
effect, probably, of a land-slide in the vicinity. It will, I think, be
seen that it is only upon this general supposition, that we can account
for what I found there. I may here observe, before proceeding further,
that, while on three sides the walls of the berg rose almost
perpendicularly out of the sea, yet on the remaining side there was
quite an easy and gradual slope down to the water; and this may also
serve to explain how some of the things that I found on the island were
thrown or lifted there.

The food that I had brought with me from Canton was soon exhausted; and
the first great want that I experienced was the means of keeping my soul
in my body. In the deep crevices of the ice, I found places where I
could manage in a measure to shelter my body from the cold while I
slept; but what reasonable prospect had I of finding food in this
forlorn spot? I now began to feel the pangs of hunger; but, instead of
yielding to despair, with a stout heart I determined to search the
region thoroughly, and see if a kind Providence had not made some
provision for my wants. After roaming about for a while, my foot struck
upon a little keg, partially embedded in the ice; and, to my joy, I read
the mark on the top, "Bent's Hard Crackers, Milton, Mass." It took me
hardly a minute to kick it open; and there the crackers lay, as sound
and sweet as when they were first packed. I do not know exactly how many
I ate, but I should say not much over fifteen. The keg was then put in a
safe place, where I should be certain to find it by and by. In the
course of the forenoon, I came upon a frozen bear; and I also found, in
the same vicinity, plenty of old barrel-staves, and broken hoops, and
other pieces of wood, great and small, which I laid in a heap upon the
earth. "Now," said I, "we will have a bit of roast meat for dinner, with
a few toasted crackers for dessert." Before two o'clock, I had a bright
fire burning, and a delicate slice of the bear roasting before it.

The next thing to be done was to strip the bear of his skin; but this I
found to be a difficult task. It had been a tough job to cut out with my
jack-knife the frozen slice of meat upon which I had just dined; and it
was impossible to strip off the skin without tearing it in pieces. A
bright thought now occurred to me, and I proceeded to kindle a fire all
around the animal; and when the heat had become strong enough just to
loosen the hide from the carcass, I went to work, and, in an hour or
two, had a nice warm robe to wrap myself in at night. At the same time I
extinguished the fire, as I did not care to cook the entire bear all at

My jar of water gave out the day that I was dropped upon the berg; and
at first I thought that I could quench my thirst by eating small bits of
ice, but I soon found that this only increased the difficulty. I then
remembered to have read in a magazine, that the amount of caloric taken
out of the system in order to melt the ice in one's mouth was so great
as to only increase the feeling of thirst. All anxiety, however, on this
point was soon at an end; for the sun was now hot enough, for an hour
or two at noon, to melt a sufficient quantity of the loose snow in
certain localities to furnish all the water that I needed.

With my bear-meat and Bent's crackers for food, and my bearskin for a
blanket, I might now be considered for the present as above the reach of
absolute want; and still it is not to be supposed that I was in a very
contented and happy frame of mind. I was very thankful for all the
mercies that I had received; and, when I looked back upon all the
wonderful deliverances that I had experienced, I could not help feeling
confident that all would go well with me hereafter.[1]

But the great want that I felt was _a home_, or at least
something,--some hut or hovel, or hole in the ground,--to which I might
retire when my labor was over, where I could eat my frugal meals, and
lie down to slumber at night. I longed for a place in which I could feel
that I was _localized_, around which domestic associations might
gradually entwine themselves, and where I might sing in the twilight the
songs of my childhood.[2]

The fifth day of my sojourn on the iceberg was the great day of
discovery. I determined, that morning, that I would now make a thorough
survey of the whole island. I knew that it would be rough work, and
somewhat dangerous; for, in some places, there were cavities fifty feet
deep, and I should have to climb over some very steep ice, where it was
as smooth as glass. Before starting, I pulled several nails out of the
hoops that lay around, and drove them into the soles of my boots; and I
was fortunate enough to find a good stout stick, into the end of which I
also fastened one of the nails. Filling my pockets with crackers, and
slinging a slice of cooked bear's meat over my shoulder, I started off,
having been careful first to pile up several loose blocks of ice in the
form of a pillar, so that I might be able to find the place again. I
then struck--as it afterwards turned out most fortunately--for that side
of the berg where the surface shelved off gradually to the water. About
eleven o'clock, I found myself standing on quite a lofty peak of ice;
and, looking down, my eyes fell upon a sight that almost took away my
breath. Spread out before me on a level plain, there lay a large black
patch, which looked as though it must be earth; and on the farther side,
just where the berg began to slope towards the sea, I thought that I
saw something that looked like a building! Could it be that the island
was inhabited? Running, sliding, slipping down, as fast as I could go,
in a short time I found that I was not mistaken in supposing that it
was earth: for there lay, stretched out before me, an acre or so of
ground, almost as smooth and level as a garden; and, at the farther
end of the plot, there stood,--not an ordinary house, not a barn, not
an Esquimaux hut, not a country store, not a railroad depot, not a
meeting-house,--but, what do you imagine? I will tell you as soon as I
get there. Rushing like mad across the ground,--oh, how pleasant it was
to feel the soft soil under my cold feet!--I came to what looked like a
dismasted ship, embedded clear up to the gunwale[3] in the ice. There
lay the whole deck of a three-masted vessel, unbroken and undisturbed;
but, as I soon ascertained, there was no hull underneath, for the deck
had evidently been broken off from the lower parts of the ship, and
thrown up the smooth, inclined plane of ice to the spot where I found
it, and then been frozen in there. What a discovery this was! I did not
know how to contain or how to express my delight; and, before beginning
to explore the premises, the very first thing that I did was to rush up
to the bell, that hung near the bows, and ring it with all my might. You
can't tell how strange it sounded, up there in that solitary, silent,
arctic sea, to hear the loud clang of the old bell sounding out over the
waters, as I tugged and tugged away at the rope. It would have done the
hearts of "Hooper & Son, Boston, Mass.,"--whose name I saw printed on
it,--it would have done the whole firm good, to have heard it. After I
had ceased ringing, and slowly tolled the bell for a few minutes, so
that I might make it seem as if I were going to meeting in Roxbury, I
sat down on the capstan to think matters over. Nothing had happened yet
that excited me like this. Jumping through the earth, and then getting
stuck in the centre; being blown through the axis, and lighting on an
iceberg at the north pole, and all that sort of thing,--I looked back
upon rather as a matter of course. But to find myself sitting here on
the deck of a three-master, with the cabins and offices at the stern all
in good order, and the caboose-house in the centre, with the little
funnel sticking out of the top, and a big boat close by it, covered with
canvas, and a huge anchor at the bows, and spare rigging and spare masts
lying all along the sides, and a _real bell_ to ring,--this was a
little too much, even for John Whopper.

What was I to find in the cabins, and the offices, and the pantries, and
the caboose-house? The caboose-house reminded me that I was getting
hungry, and that it was near dinner-time. I had expected to make my meal
of dry crackers and cold bear-meat; but it occurred to me, that, on such
an occasion as the present, a luxurious repast would be more
appropriate, as well as more agreeable, and that very possibly I might
find in the caboose-house the materials for gratifying my appetite. I
did not as yet feel quite prepared to visit the cabins at the stern, for
I knew that I must become very much excited at what would be found
there, and a good dinner would serve to strengthen my nerves, and set me
up. I went, therefore, at once to the caboose, and slid back the door,
which required considerable effort; and, sure enough, there was every
thing at hand that I expected, and a great deal more. The accident which
lifted the deck from the hull of the ship must have happened about the
middle of the forenoon; for there was the fire all ready to be lighted
in the cooking-stove,--shavings, kindlings, and coal in place; and there
lay the cooking utensils quite convenient. This was not all; the
materials for the dinner had been brought up,--a great deal more than I
could consume in a week. Immediately I took a match from my
pocket,--there was a box of matches hanging on the wall, but I did not
feel sure that they would be in working order,--and lighted the fire.
The next thing that I did was to go and select a lump of clean, clear
ice, to be melted in the kettle, that I might be ready to wash up my
dishes properly after dinner. I tell you that I gave a big shout when I
saw the smoke curling out of the funnel. I now proceeded, very
deliberately, to select from the cans and bottles and jars, that were
piled up in the corner, the various items of which I would make my
dinner. The first thing that I settled upon was a dish of "_Parker's
ox-tail soup_," which I remembered to have eaten some time ago at the
house of a benevolent gentleman in Washington Street, when he gave the
newsboys a lunch. My second course should consist of a potted
partridge, with tomato sauce, desiccated turnips (I didn't know what
_desiccated_ meant, but I took it for granted that it was all right),
and one or two of Lewis's pickles. I would then close with part of a jar
of preserved peaches. I did not need to do much cooking in getting up
this dinner; but I had hot soup, hot tomatoes, and warm turnips, which
got a little smoked, and didn't taste very good,--perhaps, however, that
was because it was desiccated. I enjoyed the dinner tremendously; and
after it was over, and my dishes were all washed and put away, my eye
lighted upon a box, half full of cigars, on the shelf. My first thought
was, "Now I will have a cigar, as the gentlemen do that you see at the
steps of the Tremont House in the afternoon, and that will make it seem
more like home." But, upon second thought, it occurred to me that this
would probably make me so sick for the remainder of the day, that I
should be unable to do any thing, and that I couldn't spare the time. So
I decided not to smoke until I had leisure enough to be ill for a while.

And now, with a throbbing heart, I turned my steps towards the
cabin-door, and entered the gangway. There were two or three doors on
the sides of the narrow passage, which I did not care to open at
present; and so I passed on to the central door that led into the main
room. I had feared that I might be startled by the sight of dead bodies
or skeletons here; but there was nothing repulsive to be seen, nothing
that looked like disorder or confusion. There stood the centre-table,
with a few books and pamphlets lying on it, and two or three chairs
drawn around, and a large lamp suspended above. There was the grate,
containing a few half-consumed embers; there was the compass, swinging
between the stern-windows. A nice Brussels carpet was under my feet; and
there were three doors on either side of the cabin, opening into the
staterooms. The vessel appeared to have been a first-class merchantman,
fitted to carry half a dozen passengers; and how such a vessel as this
ever found its way into these northern seas was a mystery. I just
glanced for a moment into these rooms, and saw there trunks and valises,
and all the usual articles of the toilet, mirrors, beds, and bedding,
and all other things expected in a respectable apartment. Then I visited
the captain's room and the mate's; the pantry, store-room, etc.; and all
the supplies and utensils seemed to be abundant and of the best quality.
I tried to find the log-book, but that was missing; and from this I
inferred that the captain had made his escape in safety, taking it with
him. This thought gave me pleasure.

No danger now of my suffering for want of the comforts or luxuries of
life; I could dress elegantly, sleep magnificently, and fare
sumptuously. I selected the captain's room for my private apartment; and
having no luggage to transport, it required but little time for me to
take possession.

The sun had now sunk as near the horizon as it ever did in that region
during the month of July, and what we called evening at home drew near.
I prepared my cup of tea in the cabin, and spread my supper on the
centre-table; then went out to take a little stroll on the deck. I
closed the door of the caboose-house, and, for the sake of appearances,
fastened it; then went up to the bell, and struck the hour, just to
gratify a sentimental feeling that I had. Then I retired to the cabin
for the night; and in order to make it seem snug and cosey, I dropped
the curtains over the windows, and lighted the hanging lamp. Kindling a
fire in the grate, I sat down at the table and tried to read. But
situated as I was, I found it impossible to fix my mind upon the book;
and so I threw myself down upon the lounge to think over what had
happened, and speculate as to the probabilities of the future. It may
seem strange to some persons; but, with all my comforts about me, I felt
more homesick than I did when I was lying on the ice in my bearskin, or
when I was poking about in the bowels of the earth, trying to see how I
could get out. There was nothing to occupy my body; and that, I suppose,
was one reason why my mind worked as it did. At about ten o'clock, I
went to bed, and, after tossing about uneasily for an hour or two,
managed to fall asleep.

When I awoke in the morning, it took me some time to remember where I
was. I thought, at first, that I was at home, and could hear the birds
singing by the window; and I believe that I called out "Bob!" once or
twice before I was fairly roused. But soon the real state of the case
came back to me; and, going into the staterooms, I hunted round until I
found a suit of good clean clothes that would fit me, and dressed myself
for the day. The clothes that I had worn were now so dirty and torn that
I was very glad to get rid of them. After breakfasting heartily,--and an
excellent cup of hot coffee I had that morning,--I began to think what I
should do with myself during the day. I had no longer to go tramping
about in search of food; and so I thought that I would take a little
stroll over my farm,--as I called the acre of loam that lay by the side
of my abode,--and see how the crops were looking. I must confess that
the vegetation was not much advanced; and yet I could see, here and
there, little green shoots springing out of the earth, indicating that
the summer sun was beginning to have its effect upon the soil. It then
occurred to me how pleasant it would be to look out upon a greensward in
that icy spot; and remembering to have seen in the store-room a canvas
bag marked "grass-seed," and a rake standing there, I went for them, and
passed the forenoon in agricultural pursuits. In a few hours, I had
quite a patch of ground nicely raked over, and sown for grass. In less
than a fortnight, it had sprouted beautifully, and I began to be quite
proud of my arctic lawn.

All the time, however, I was wondering how I should find my way back to
the abodes of man, and how soon I might expect to start for home. I had
presumed, that, as the season advanced, I should begin to drift
southward; and I hoped, that, before the winter closed in again, I might
reach those parts of the sea which are frequented by vessels, and so
find rescue. But whether I was moving or not, it was impossible as yet
to tell, as there was no fixed object in sight by which a movement could
be measured. I felt very certain that the iceberg was not grounded,
because there would be, occasionally, a quivering of the whole mass,
which showed that it was floating on the water. It was also growing
warmer and warmer every day, which was a favorable symptom. If I had
known how to use the sextant or quadrant, I could have settled the
matter at once.

Before long, I was satisfied, from the change in the appearance of the
ocean and of the sun, that I was indeed moving rapidly away from the
north pole; and the fact that I was afloat was settled conclusively by a
very alarming circumstance. I had observed for a day or two, that the
hanging-lamp did not appear to be entirely perpendicular; and, in
walking the deck, I had the sensation that I was not treading on a
perfectly level surface. Searching the mate's room, I found a
spirit-level, and laid it on the floor. There was no doubt of the fact:
the berg was undoubtedly tilting on one side. I then remembered, that,
not unfrequently, these mountains of ice rolled over, and made a
complete somerset. This was now, sooner or later, going to happen. What
could I do? I found that the ice, on the side that was beginning to
incline towards the sea, was much higher than elsewhere, and that this
superior weight was gradually destroying the equilibrium of the berg. I
also observed, that, between this elevation and the more level region,
there was a narrow, deep fissure, extending almost entirely across the
line of the lofty projection of ice.

A great thought now flashed upon me. I remembered to have seen on the
deck, the day after my arrival, two or three casks, labelled "Dangerous!
Handle very carefully!! Nitro-glycerine!!!" These casks I at once
removed to a safe distance, marking with an upright stick the place
where they were deposited. Nitro-glycerine!--I said to myself. It was
that that blew up the "The European" at Panama. I remember it because I
sold three hundred and nine papers by crying "Great Explosion." A
newsboy knows something. And nitro-glycerine will go off if you hit it
hard enough.

In the captain's room, there were several large, metallic flasks, made
very broad and flat, as I suppose for the purpose of better stowage in
his room. What they had formerly contained, I could only judge by the
smell; but they were empty now. This, then, was the experiment that I
would try,--filling these flasks with nitro-glycerine, I would lower
them into a crevice in the ice. Then, if I could, I must make a block
of ice fall on them.

In two or three hours, my preparations were concluded. The flasks were
just large enough to fit snugly in the chasm. Above them, the precipice
hung over a little. Half-hidden by the bulwarks of the ship, I fired
three bullets from the captain's gun into the projecting mass. Nothing
fell. I loaded her again,--fired again, and a great block of ice keeled
over and slid down. As fast did I leap down stairs into the cabin, as if
I should be safe there. As I landed, I felt the great iceberg tremble;
then came a sharp, quick, terrible crash, as if forty thunders had
broken all together right over my head, and the great hill of ice sank
grandly and slowly into the ocean below. For a minute or two, I could
hear the roar of the waters as they opened to receive the huge mass, and
the berg rocked as if in a great storm; then all was still again. I
rushed back to my cabin, laid the spirit-level on the floor, and the
little bubble stopped right in the middle of the tube. The danger was

Another week passed; and there was no longer any room to doubt that I
_was_ moving, and in the right direction. At the pole, there was never a
breath of wind; but now it blew quite strong. The compass began to show
signs of vitality; and, at midnight, I could see some of the brightest
of the stars. The sun dropped nearer and nearer the horizon every
evening, and it was growing uncomfortably warm at mid-day. As I was now
getting some information from the sun as to the points of the compass,
I set up a vane on the deck, in order to find out, from day to day, the
direction of the wind. This put another idea into my head. Couldn't I do
something to help the old berg along? Why couldn't the spare masts and
sails, that lay along the sides of the deck, be put to some use? The
foremast of the ship was broken off about fifteen feet from the level of
the deck, and I went to work to splice on a jury-mast. It was slow and
pretty hard work. I had to arrange the blocks and tackles in the most
scientific manner, in order to lift the heavy timber to its place; and
it required a great deal of strength to bring the ropes around the fore
and jury-mast, so as to bind them securely together. I then managed to
rig a yard to the mast, and, in the course of another day, had quite a
respectable sail set. The day after, I got up a jib, and then crowned
the whole by hoisting the American flag to the top of the mast. I did
not keep this flying all the time, but reserved it for great occasions.

Here then, was a novel sight,--a great iceberg _under sail_, and
protected by the stars and stripes. Whether it helped us along or not, I
am unable to say: but it was a satisfaction for me to feel that I had
done what I could; and it gave me pleasure to go off a little distance,
and look at the extraordinary spectacle. I could not help laughing to
think what the old salts would say, when I got down amongst the whalers
and explorers, at the sight of _an iceberg under sail_!

I have nothing more to tell of my adventures in the arctic seas. About
the middle of September, I had reached the more frequented parts of the
ocean, and every day was on the lookout for some friendly barque, to
liberate me from my dreary solitude. For months I had not heard the
sound of a human voice, and I began to long for the society of my
fellow-men. Every morning I posted myself, with a spy-glass, on the
highest peak of the berg, searching the horizon for a sail. My situation
on the deck was becoming every hour more and more precarious. The
melting of the ice underneath had already caused the stern to incline
very decidedly towards the inclined plane that led down to the ocean;
and I felt that the slightest jar might, at any time, precipitate the
whole concern, myself included, into the sea. I suppose, indeed, that
nothing but the counteracting influence of the sails, which filled in
the opposite direction, had prevented this catastrophe.

At last, after many a long and weary watch, I descried, in the far-off
distance, a sail; but the vessel moved off towards the horizon, and was
soon lost to sight. It was a bitter disappointment; and still I thought
that wherever _one_ ship was sailing, others would be likely to come in
sight before long. I kept the flag flying now all the time, and hardly
ventured to sleep at all, lest some vessel might pass by unnoticed. On
the twenty-fifth of September, as I woke from a short and broken
slumber, I descried, not more than two miles off, a ship, heading
directly for the berg. As soon as she was near enough for the signal to
be observed, I lowered and hoisted my flag five or six times in quick
succession; and, to my joy, I saw the signal answered. It was all right
now: the only question to be solved was, as to the manner in which I
would get on board the vessel. I anticipated that they would not venture
to bring the ship alongside of the berg, but would probably put out a
long-boat for my rescue. As soon as that came within hailing distance, I
would establish communication with the crew; and, between us all, I did
not doubt but some way would be found for me to escape. In a short
time, as I had foreseen, the ship lay to; and the boat came off, and was
rowed to the foot of the inclined plane. I never saw a more astonished
set of men in my life. They were staring at me and my extraordinary
craft, as if their eyes would start from the sockets; and the coxswain
rose and shouted,--

"Ahoy, up there! who are you?"

"John Whopper," I replied, "eldest son of the Widow Whopper, now
residing in Roxbury, Mass., U. S. of America."

"Gracious me!" cried one of the men, "I know Widow Whopper."

"I hope you left her well?"

"Much as usual," the sailor replied.

I was very glad to hear it.

"Where are you from?" shouted the coxswain again; "and where did you
get your rigging?"

"I will tell you when I get aboard."

"Come aboard, then."

"I don't exactly see how to manage it."

"Come down the plane, and we will catch you."

It was too steep and slippery for me to do that; but, on the instant,
another bright thought arose. "Pull off a hundred feet or so," I cried,
"and I will be along."

As soon as I saw that they had rowed to a safe distance, I went to the
mast, and suddenly let the sail go. In an instant, I felt the deck
quiver; and it began to move, very slowly at first, and then with a
tremendous rush, right down the inclined plane. I grasped a rope with
all my might, and steadied myself for the shock that must come when my
craft plunged into the sea. But there was no shock at all; gently as a
ship slides on her cradle, when launched into the water, the old deck
glided off upon the waves, and in five minutes I found myself safely on
board the long-boat. No sooner, however, had I left the strange craft,
than it began to sink slowly into the depths; and the last thing that I
saw was the American flag floating on the bosom of the deep.

What was said to me when I reached the ship, and what I said, I have not
time to relate; only I didn't tell every thing.

The vessel proved to be a whaler, bound for New Bedford; where I
arrived in good condition, and took the cars for Roxbury, via the Boston
and Providence Road, _passing through Canton_.

I found all well at home, and very much relieved by my arrival.


[1] It will probably occur to the reader, that some one of Johnny's
adult friends has touched up the style a little along here. J. W. says
that this is true.

[2] John informs the editor that he never wrote a word of the last
lines, and that he thinks it about time for him to take the bellows

[3] Pronounced _gunnell_: "The uppermost bend which finishes the upper
works of the hull, and from which the upper guns, if the vessel carry
any, are pointed."

                               THE END.

  |                                                              |
  | Transcriber's note:--                                        |
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  | Italics are represented in this text version by underscores. |
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