Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: In the Land of the Great Snow Bear - A Tale of Love and Heroism
Author: Stables, Gordon, 1840-1910
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 "In the Land of the Great Snow Bear - A Tale of Love and Heroism" ***

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



In the Land of the Great Snow Bear
A Tale of Love and Heroism
By Gordon Stables
Illustrations by Gordon Browne
Published by Sunday School Union, 56 Old Bailey, London.

In the Land of the Great Snow Bear, by Gordon Stables.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
IN THE LAND OF THE GREAT SNOW BEAR, BY GORDON STABLES.

CHAPTER ONE.

DUNALLAN TOWERS.

Even in the days of his boyhood--I had almost said infancy--there seems
to have been much in the character and habits of Claude Alwyn that is
unusual in children so young.

Some people tell us that the qualities of mind, developed by the
individual, depend entirely on the nature of his associates and
associations in early youth.  I am not prepared to deny that there is a
great deal of truth in this statement.  But the facts therein do not
account for everything, for individuality is stamped on a child from his
very birth, and the power for good or for evil of the accidental
association of after life may mould in a great measure, but cannot alter
this.

"Many men many minds."

A true though trite old saying is that, and there were, no doubt, a
great many different opinions concerning young Claude among those who
dwelt in, or were in the habit of visiting at, Dunallan Towers.

From an old journal or diary, which has been handed to me by its writer,
with full permission to make whatever use I choose of it, I have gleaned
much information bearing on the boy's character and peculiarities.

Dunallan Towers, now so gloomy and desolate, was once the happiest and
the homeliest, and at the same time the gayest and brightest of all the
many beautiful mansions that grace the banks of the winding Nith.  This
was shortly after the marriage of Lord Alwyn to the only daughter of an
English baronet.

There were those, however, about the country-side who did not hesitate
to say that Alwyn might have been content to take for himself a bride
from among the many fair and high-born dames of the shire in which he
lived.

"The goshawk should never mate wi' the ringdove," said one stern old
Scottish lady, "nor the owl perch low in the nightingale's bower.  Our
cauld Highland hills will hardly suit the dainty limbs of Alwyn's bonnie
English bride.  Our wild forests are no' like scented southern groves,
and the roaring Nith is no' the placid Thames.  A'thing will be strange
to her, everything foreign, wild, and queer.  She'll no' stay lang.
You'll see! you'll see! you'll see."

But if this proud and ancient dame really meant to give herself out as a
prophetess, she proved to be a false one; only, to her credit be it
said, she was the very first to call on the Lady of the Towers, as
people named the bride of Lord Alwyn--the first to call, and the first
to become one of her best and firmest friends.

As a bachelor hall, the Towers had been somewhat of a failure; all that
was altered after Alwyn brought home his young wife--she looked so
young, and in years, indeed, was little more than a girl.

But her easy, pleasant manner captivated every one; and, whether it were
winter, with the snow on lawns and park, and ice on the river's edge, or
summer, with the roses all in bloom, and the wind sighing softly through
the birch-clad glens, bright and happy faces never failed to encircle
the dinner-table of our winsome Lady of the Towers.

There was great rejoicing throughout all the parish on the birth of Lord
Alwyn's heir.  Village bells were rung, and a huge bonfire was lighted
on the very top of the highest hill: a bonfire that could be seen from
house and hut for leagues and leagues around.

The bonfire was kept burning all night long.  Meanwhile the village lads
and lasses had assembled in a barn gaily bedecked with evergreens and
flowers of every hue, and had made quite a ball-room of it.  So the fire
burned all the livelong night, and as long as the fire burned, the lads
and lasses danced, till at last the grey dawn of a summer morning made
fire and dancing both seem out of place.

But Alwyn's heir did not cease to be a wonder and a subject for talk for
the traditional nine days at least, during which time there was not a
living soul in or about Dunallan Towers who had not been honoured with a
peep at his little full moon of a face.

His nurse was so proud of her charge that she had even brought him as
far as the top of the great hall-stair for Peter, the cow-boy, to have
just one glimpse at.

Peter--the diary informs me--had left his boots on the mat; and when he
reached the stair-top, and the snowy-white wraps were down-folded from
the child's face, the good-hearted cow-boy, thinking he was in duty
bound to say something very complimentary in return for the high honour
bestowed upon him, lifted both hands and eyes ceiling-wards, and
ejaculated--

"My goodness!  What a bonnie, bonnie bairn!  I never saw the like o'
that before in a' my born days!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I pause for a moment here, reader, and raise my head from the table at
which I have been writing with the diary mentioned lying open before me.
I look up because some one has just glided silently into the room.  It
is Janet--Janet who wrote the diary; Janet who had been Claude's nurse.
She is very old now, her hair is as white as wreaths of drifted snow,
but her face is still pleasant, and her eyes are bright, nor has the
weight of years succeeded in bending her form.

She stands by my side, erect.  She places one hand--how thin it is!--on
the pages of the journal.

"You will not find everything there," she says, "about my dear boy
Claude."

"Sit down, Janet," I say to her kindly.  "I like to have you near me.
Take the book on your lap.  Read to me, or talk to me, or do both; I
shall listen and presently I shall write."

The apartment in which I am seated is what is called the red parlour of
Dunallan Towers.  It is in one of the many gables of the old mansion
that abuts upon a green lawn, or brae, sloping somewhat steeply down to
the river's bank.

It is a lovely evening in early autumn.  Behind the purple hills in the
west yonder, the sun has just set in a golden haze, and high up in the
sky's blue there are a few feather-like clouds of brightest crimson.
By-and-by these will change to grey, then shadows of night will creep up
from glen and dell, the rooks will cease to caw, and we shall hear only
the murmur of the river over its pebbly bed, and the wind moaning
through the topmost branches and the crisp leaves of those tall swaying
trees.

Janet's voice falls upon my ear in sad but pleasant monotone.  It is
like the voice of one chanting some old-world ballad.  I do not think
her eyes are turned on me as she speaks--mine are looking outwards into
the twilight; and she is gazing back, as it were, to the far-distant
past.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Why, it is dark!  Janet must have been talking for hours and hours, and
has glided away as silently as she came.

I awake from the reverie into which I had fallen and step out through
the casement.  How fresh the air is!  How pleasant the wind's soft
whisper and the river's song!  The stars are out, and the round yellow
moon is struggling up through a bank of clouds on the horizon.  Now and
then a bat flits past; now and then an owl hoots mournfully from some
turret or chimney, round which the darkling ivy creeps.  Not a light in
any window.  Silence broods over Dunallan Towers.

  "The harp that once thro' Tara's halls
  The soul of music shed,
  Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
  As if that soul were fled.

  "So sleeps the pride of former days,
  So glory's thrill is o'er,
  And hearts that once beat high for praise
  Now feel that pulse no more."

The night air is keen.  I re-enter the red parlour, close the casement,
and light my reading-lamp.

And now I write once more.  No need for the journal's assistance any
longer, though.  Every word that old Janet said has sunk deep into my
mind and rooted itself in my memory, and will never be effaced while I
and time have any connection.

CHAPTER TWO.

CLAUDE ALWYN'S BOYHOOD.

On the very day after the birth of Alwyn's heir something strange
occurred: a large flight of curious seagulls alighted in the park around
Dunallan Towers.  No one had ever remembered seeing such weird-looking
birds there before, and Janet had averred that their arrival betokened
no good.  She was not wrong, for that same night it came on to blow from
the north, oh, such a fearful gale!  Many of the tallest and sturdiest
trees were torn up by the roots, and even tossed about, and the Towers
shook and trembled as if the very earth were quaking.  It was eerisome
to hear, at the dark midnight hour, the shriek of frightened wild birds
around the house, high above the fitful roaring of the wind.

The Nith, too, came down "in spate;" they could see its white flashing
waters, nearly close up to the window of the red parlour in which I now
am sitting at work.  It brought along with it from the mountains, fallen
trees, bushes, heather-clad turf, and boulders of solid rock, tons and
tons in weight.

All that night the storm raged, and though the wind went down about
sunrise, the terrible rain still fell, and the river continued in raging
spate.  Great was the damage done to the lower-lying lands seawards;
huts and even houses were laid low, sheep and cattle were drowned and
borne away, so great is the fury and strength of a Highland river like
the Nith when it "comes down," as the people phrase it.

But the sun shone forth at length, and the clouds went driving
southwards, leaving lovely rifts of blue between them, and the rain
ceased, and the poor people of the glens came forth to view the work of
devastation and to mourn their losses.

One of these, while walking in the park and not far from the mansion
house, found, crouching under the gnarled root of an old tree, and
gazing up at him with its bright crimson eye, or rather first with one
eye then with the other, a snow-white gull of most graceful form.  [Note
1.]

He caught it--one wing was injured--and brought it round to the kitchen,
where it was much admired and tenderly cared for.  In little over a week
it seemed as well and strong as it must have been before the storm.  Yet
it was in no hurry to leave.

It stayed on and on and on, and became as tame as a dove, and most
affectionate to all it knew.  But to Janet in particular it attached
itself.  One day it followed her into the room where Alwyn's heir lay in
his little crib.  Janet showed him the bird.  He smiled and stretched
out his arms with a fond cry, and next moment the snow-bird was nestling
quietly on his breast.

There was no keeping the gull out of Claude's room after this, so it
came to be called "baby's bird."

When Claude Alwyn was about three years of age, an event happened down
the glen that cast that gloom on Dunallan Towers that never yet has left
it: Lord Alwyn was thrown from his horse and killed on the spot.  Her
ladyship left the glen after this, and went south, and Claude,
childlike, would insist on taking his pet along with him.

Years flew by, summers passed and winters passed, but smoke was hardly
ever seen to hover over the Towers.  Then one day the old steward came
down to the village all a-quiver with excitement.  He wanted tradesmen
of all kinds to come forthwith to the mansion house.  Lady Alwyn and
young Claude--now grown a great lad, the steward felt sure of this--were
to return in less than a month.

Smoke enough now began to curl high over turret and tree; even the rooks
seemed to feel the importance of the coming occasion, and positively
crowed themselves hoarse.

At the appointed time the family carriage, a very stately and gigantic
kind of a concern, rattled up the long avenue through the park, and soon
after the widow of Lord Alwyn was once more Lady of the Towers.  She was
greatly altered.  Though still young and youthful in appearance, sorrow
had stamped itself on her brow and saddened her eye.  It was said that
she seldom smiled.

But she was even kinder to the poor of the district than she had been in
the days of yore, and, wet day or dry day, she was never missed from the
pew in church of a Sunday.  And beside her always sat a sturdy
bright-faced boy of about thirteen, with blue eyes, and short
irrepressible locks of soft fair hair, that nothing on earth except
scissors could have kept from tumbling over his brow.  He was always
dressed in the Highland garb as Highland lads ought to be, but his
jacket was of black velvet and his kilt of the sombrest coloured tartan.

He was the favourite of every one on the estate, and so was his bird.
Wherever young Claude--he was seldom called Lord Claude, because he did
not like to be--wherever he went his snow-bird went as well.

And Claude was quite as fond of his pet as his pet was of him, and that
was the secret of his success in taming this wild and strangely
beautiful creature.

Only those who have seen the snow-bird in its own country, sailing
around great icebergs or glittering glaciers, its plumage rivalling the
snow in the purity of its whiteness, its shape more graceful than that
of a swallow, can have any idea of the extreme loveliness of the
creature.  No wonder that the humble people of the glens, deeply imbued
as they were with that superstition peculiar to the Highland peasantry,
often looked upon young Claude and his matchless bird with something
akin to awe.

"It is his good angel and nothing else," one old crone used to remark,
"his good angel, Heaven bless the bonnie boy."

Yes, and a bonnie boy he looked at all times.  Had you seen him
standing, alpenstock in hand, dressed in Highland garb, on the brow of a
hill, well defined against the sky, up to which his face was turned, and
in which the snow-bird kept sailing and sailing, following every motion
of Claude's upstretched, waving arm, you could not have helped admiring
him.

Claude spent much of his time fishing or shooting, but more particularly
the former.  Little he recked if the fish did not bite.  He would then
throw himself on his back among the ferns and flowers on the banks of
the stream and pull out his "Burns" or his "Scott."  Meanwhile the
snow-bird would perch upon a mossy boulder, or water-washed stone, and
watch for the tiny troutlets, which sought for shelter and sunshine in
the shallower water.

Young lord though he was, Claude was a "people's boy."  It would be an
exaggeration of speech to say that any of the villagers would have died
for him; but it is true that Claude brightened every doorstep he
crossed.  And this too, all and only, by means of his own handsome face,
sunny smile, and kindly words.  Not that he did not bring the poor folks
gifts, for he was often sent on errands of mercy by his mother, and he
brought them also of his own accord many a goodly string of trout.

In a wild country like that in which our young hero dwelt and wandered,
there are many dangers to life and limb, and Claude did not always
escape quite scot-free.  But when, on rushing down a lofty hillside
once, he missed his foothold and fell over a crag full fifty feet high,
he did not lose his presence of mind, but simply jumped up from the soft
turf on which he had alighted, as if on a feather bed, and looked around
for his bonnet, which he never saw again.  The old shepherd who
witnessed the involuntary exploit, told of it all over the parish, and
the wise women alleged it was the bird that had saved him.  When
Claude's gun burst in his hand and he escaped without a scratch, that
too was in some way owing to the bird's protecting care.  When a branch
on which he was leaning snapped beneath his weight and precipitated
Claude into the roaring, foaming torrent beneath, where any one save a
Webb would have been drowned, and when bleeding and cut he safely
scrambled out, who but the bird, averred the wise old women, helped him
out?

Claude rather encouraged than otherwise the belief in the supernatural
powers of this wonderful snow-bird of his.  Rather mischievous of him,
it must be confessed, but then he was only a boy.

"My bird tells me I must do this or that," he would often say; or, "I
must consult my bird on that subject."

Then he would pretend to hold communication with it, and the creature
looked as though it understood every word he said.  During the winter,
Claude used to be at a distant school.  Then his bird stayed at the
Towers; but, although it suffered itself to be fed and petted by Lady
Alwyn and by Janet, it did little else but mope until spring returned,
and with it Claude.

The library at Dunallan Towers was a very large one, and Claude had the
choosing of his own summer reading after forenoon lessons were over, and
the books he took with him afield were always those of adventure, or
some of the poets.  It was often remarked that he never invited any of
his tutors to accompany him in his rambles--only the bird.

"Mother," said Claude one evening, "I'm going to be a sailor."

"Dear boy," replied his mother, "what has put such a notion in your
head?"

"My bird, perhaps, mother," said the boy, smiling.

"No, Claude, but those books you pore over.  Dear boy, hardly half of
what you read bears any resemblance to the truth."

"Oh, mother," cried the boy, "if only one _half_ is true I must go and
see that half I'm a good sailor already; you know how I enjoyed that
voyage down the Mediterranean.  I dream of all I saw even till this day.
Mother, I must go to sea.

"Mother," he said again, after a long pause, during which Lady Alwyn was
musing, and very sad and gloomy were her thoughts--"mother, do you know
where my bird came from?"

"It came from the wild mysterious region around the Pole."

"Yes, I have been reading about that too, reading about it until I seem
to have spent years and years of my life in the country.  I have but to
shut my eyes, any time I wish, and such pictures rise up before me as
few but sailors ever see the reality of."

Young Claude placed one hand across his eyes as he spoke.

"Here it is again, mother, a vast and lonely trackless waste of snow;
great glaciers, against whose sides mountain waves for ever dash and
foam; icebergs whose pinnacled heads taper upwards into a sky of
cloudless blue.  Fields of ice on which white bears roam; dark, inky
seas where the walrus plays and tumbles, and through which the
solitude-loving narwhal pursues his finny prey; and crystalline caves
where sea-bears roar.  But the scene is changed: it is night--the long,
long, Polar night.  Oh, how bright and beautiful the Aurora, with its
ever-changing tints of crimson, green, and blue; and the stars, how near
they seem; and the silence, how deep, how awful!  But see, a storm is
coming across the pack, and clouds are banking up and hiding the
glorious Aurora; now it is on us, and higher than the stars rise the
clouds of whirling, drifting snow.  Hark! how the wind howls!  There is
danger on its wings; there is--"

"Stop, boy, stop?" cried Lady Alwyn, laying her hand on his arm.  "Speak
not thus; you frighten me."

There were tears in her eyes.  Claude made haste to soothe her.

"Dear mother, forgive me!" he cried.  "I am so thoughtless; but I will
not transgress so again.  Forgive and forget it."

"You are all I have on earth to care for," she said, drawing him gently
towards her; "but, Claude, your happiness has always been, and ever will
be, my first, my chief care.  Yes, I will forgive your heedless words.
You did not mean to hurt me; but, Claude,"--here she smiled, but it was
a very sad smile--"I will not quite forget them.  You love the sea."

Lady Alwyn retired early to her room that evening, but it was long past
midnight ere she slept.  Her last thoughts ere slumber sealed her
eyelids were these--

"And so my boy, even my boy, will be taken away from me.  He will be a
sailor; it is his bent, and why should I do aught that would mar his
happiness?  Heaven give me strength to bear my every trial here below,
nor forget that on earth I have `no continuing city.'"

Lady Alwyn was rich, though not surpassingly so.  She could afford her
boy a yacht, in which he made many a cruise as owner--not as master--
round the British islands and as far north as the Shetlands; indeed more
than once they ventured over to Norway.

And so Claude grew up a sailor, so to speak.  The smaller yacht gave
place to a larger, and still a larger; and in a few years, when young
Lord Alwyn had reached his twentieth year, he commanded, as well as
owned, his ship himself.

About this time an event occurred that in a great measure altered the
old tenor of Claude's life, and that of his mother too, and on this
event our story hinges.

In none of his cruises did his snow-bird accompany its master.  Lady
Alwyn was glad of this.  "So long," she thought, "as the bird stays with
me, my boy will return safely from sea."

It will be seen that even Lady Alwyn was slightly superstitious.

And Claude's cruises were ever northwards.  He had been several times to
Iceland itself, and one day he meant to make a far longer and much more
adventurous voyage.  In the words of the old Norse song, it appeared as
though--

  "Nought around howe'er so bright
  Could win his stay or stop his flight
  From where he saw the Pole-star's light
              Shine o'er the north."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Probably the arctic tern or snow-bird, which is hardly ever
seen below the latitude of Iceland.

CHAPTER THREE.

AMONG ICELAND WILDS.

It was early morning.  So early, indeed, that although it was sweet
summer-time--and summer can he as sweet in Iceland as in any other part
of the world--the birds had hardly yet uttered a note.  Only the robin
shook the dew from his wings [the American, not the English robin], and
uttered a peevish twitter; and far away up among those wild hills, with
their strange jagged peaks, you might have heard an occasional plaintive
whistle or scream, the cry of the golden plover.  Yet, early though it
was, though the stars had not yet all fled from the west, sea-fowl were
gracefully circling round--the gull, the tern, and the thievish skua.
There was no wind, not a breath, but the dew lay heavy on the moss, on
the green heather and stunted shrubs, and draggled the snow-white plumes
of the lovely cotton grass.  The wild flowers had not yet opened their
beautiful petals when poor Claude Alwyn opened his eyes.  Languidly, yet
painfully, he raised himself on his elbow, and gazed dreamily around
him.  Where was he?  How had he come here?  These were questions that he
asked himself.  What is that on a stone yonder?  A snow-bird gazing at
him with one beautiful eye, and seeming to pity him.  A snow-bird?  His
snow-bird?

"Alba!  Alba!" he calls it; but the bird flies away.  He was not at
home, then, in bonnie Scotland, by the green banks of the Nith, as he
had almost thought he was.

No, no; for look, yonder is his horse at the foot of the cliff--dead.

Dead?  Surely not dead.  He tries to crawl towards it.  The movement
gives him intense agony.  He himself is wounded.  And now he remembers
all.  How he left his yacht at Reykjavik a week ago; how he had been
travelling ever since in search of incident and adventure, making
sketches, gathering wild flowers, and enjoying the scenery of this
strange, weird island; and how he was belated the evening before, and
fell headlong over a cliff.  That was all, but a dreadful all.  He
closes his eyes again and tries to think.  Must he lie here and die?  He
shudders with cold and dread, starts up, and, despite the pain, staggers
to his feet.  He slowly passes the poor horse.  Yes, there is death in
that glazed eye, death in the drooping neck and stiffened limbs.

It takes Claude nearly an hour to drag himself to a neighbouring knoll,
for one limb is smashed, and he has lost blood.  He throws himself down
now, or rather he falls, and when next he becomes conscious the sun is
shining down warm on him from a bright blue sky; birds are singing near,
and the wild flowers are open and nodding to a gentle breeze.

And yonder--oh, joy!--down there in the hollow, there is smoke curling
up from an Icelandic farm.  He shouts till hoarse, but no one appears.

Wearily he leans back, and once again his eyes are closed, and he is
back once more in his own room at Dunallan Towers.  No pain now, for his
sad-eyed but beautiful mother is bending over him, and soothing him.

Is it so?  Not quite.

"Jarl! jarl!  Wake, jarl, wake?"

The jarl wakes.  The jarl looks up.

Over him is bending a huge male figure, dressed in a long-sleeved
waistcoat and lofty nightcap.  Pained though he is, Claude cannot help
thinking he is the ugliest man he ever saw.  He is a giant in stature.
He kneels beside young Alwyn, and there is a kindness visible in his
little grey eyes, as he strokes Claude's face, just as if he had been a
colt.  Byarnie, for such is this giant's name, soon finds out how
matters stand, and gently he lifts Claude in his arms and places him on
his shoulder, and then marches off.

Preposterous and humorous thoughts will often pass through the mind,
even when the body is in agony; and now, Claude could not help recalling
the story of Jack the Giant-killer, and fancied himself Jack being
carried away on the shoulders of Blunderbore.  But not to a castle with
a lawn littered with skulls and bones was Claude borne.

He had probably fainted with pain, and when he again became sensible he
was no longer on Byarnie's back, but in a comfortable warm bed in an
antique but well-furnished room, and being attended to by a couple of
old dames, both dressed alike, in gowns of dark rustling silk, and
elevated steeple-like skull-caps of white net.  And both, too, were
alike wrinkled and ugly.  They had almost finished dressing his leg.

"Thou must not speak, dear; thou must lie still and sleep."

Good enough English, but spoken in a strange monotone--no rising or
falling of the voice.

In a few minutes the work was done, and poor Claude found infinite
relief.  Then they brought him coffee and milk, and made him drink, and
a little dram of schnapps which he also had to swallow.  They evidently
thought him a child, and stroked his face as Byarnie had done.  One left
the room, and the other took her seat beside the bed, and, still gently
passing her hand downwards over Claude's face, began to "croon" over
that beautiful English lullaby--

  "Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber,
      Holy angels guard thy bed;
  Countless blessings without number,
      Gently falling on thy head."

The voice was quavering, but the music was sweet.  How soft the pillows
felt--they were eider-down.  How light the quilt--that also was of the
same.  Under such circumstances it is little wonder that Claude soon
forgot everything and fell into a deep and childlike slumber.

The scenes, it seemed to Claude, were continually shifting.  He did not
_feel_ that he had slept, only that he had just closed his eyes and
opened them again, when lo! the crones were gone, the sunlight was no
longer shimmering in through the crimson and yellow flowers in the
little window as he had last seen it.  The room was lighted by a lofty
lamp that stood on an ancient high-backed oaken piano, throwing a flood
of light over all the apartment.  A great grey cat was singing herself
to sleep on the piano stool, a fire was burning on the low hearth--a
fire of peat and wood, that looked very cheerful--and above the window,
in a tiny wicker cage, hung a tiny and miserable-looking snow-flea.

Claude took all this in at a glance.  But none of these things
interested him.  His eyes were riveted on the only figure now in the
room.  A beautiful young girl, almost spirit-like she looked.  So
thought Claude.  She stood leaning against the piano reading a tiny
gilt-edged book.  She was dressed in a long flowing robe of crimson
adorned with snow-white fur.  Her fair hair floated free over her
shoulders, and her sweet face seemed very sad as she read, all
unconscious of Claude's wondering gaze.  But presently she became aware
of it.  A slight tint of crimson suffused her face, but next moment she
advanced boldly towards the bed, and laid her hand--such a tiny hand--on
his brow.

Claude would have spoken, but she lifted a finger and beckoned him to
lie silent.

Lie silent?  Yes.  Claude would not have disobeyed the behests of so
sweet a nurse whatever they might have been.

There was food to be partaken of; he took it.  Nauseous brown medicine
also; he quaffed it.

Presently, however, there was a change of nurses.  One of the droll old
ladies came back, and remained an hour.  Claude thought it ten, and felt
in the third heaven when his young nurse again returned.

She seated herself at a little table facing Claude, and without even
knocking at the door, Byarnie the giant stepped in, and placed a zither
in front of her.  It was a strange household, but, altogether, Iceland
is a strange place.

She was going to play to soothe her patient.  And sweetly she played
too.  Old-world airs, but how delicate the touch, how tasteful the
fingering.  And now she sings.  "_Who_," thought Claude, "can have
taught her that wild sad song?  Can a girl so young as she have loved
and lost?"

  "She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,
      And lovers around her are sighing;
  But coldly she turns to his grave and weeps,
      For her heart with her hero is lying."

But Claude's sorrow was to come.  Inflammation was succeeded by high
fever, and for days he lay in a state of delirium--dreamful, racking,
burning delirium.

Then came peace and calmness.

CHAPTER FOUR.

IDYLLIC LIFE IN ICELAND.

Iceland! land of flowers and sunshine?  Ah no; but Iceland! land of
storms; land of the thunder-cloud; land of lordly hills, whose strange,
jagged peaks pierce the clouds by day, and at night seem to nod to stars
or moon; land of rugged shores, around which for ever toss and roll the
arctic billows; land of glorious sunsets; land of the Aurora; land of
romance too, a romance of the olden time, for do not ancient Vikings
slumber on its shores in their wave-rocked graves?  Iceland! land of
peace and innocence?  Yes.  Iceland! land of love?  Yes, land of love--
of love as pure and true, if not so passionate, as ever budded and
bloomed beneath the sunny skies of fair Italia.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was the evening of the eighth day since poor Claude's accident.  The
fever had all gone and left him.  He lay there pale and weak and thin,
as quiet and as obedient as a child.

It was very still in that ancient room; the purring of the great grey
cat seemed very loud, so did the gentle twitter of the snow-flea in his
wee wicker cage, and when an old raven, perched on a stool near the
fire, rustled his feathers, the noise sounded harsh and startling.

It was near sunset, for the window was in the west, and the sun
shimmered in through the red and green and yellow of the flowers.

"Dear nursie, what is your name?"

The words appeared to fall unconsciously from the lips of our stricken
hero.

In his fever dreams, he just dimly remembered hearing it, but he was not
quite certain.  Anyhow, he wished to hear it from the girl herself.

"Dear nursie, what is your name?"

"My name is Meta?"--this from the maiden, with a blush and a smile.

There was a pause.  He would have liked her to have asked, "And what is
yours?"

But she did not.  She only sat silently there, with the book on her lap,
as she had been sitting for the last half-hour.

"Mine is Claude," he said at last.  "May I call you Meta?"

"Ye-es," with modest hesitation.

"Do call me Claude?"

"Claude," said the girl, advancing towards him with a very serious
countenance, and laying a tiny hand on his pulse, "I think you are going
to die.  Oh!  I trust not.  But there is a strange glitter in your eyes
to-night--a look I like not, and your pulse flickers feebly.  I will
call aunt."

She was hurrying away.

"Meta!"

She came back.

"Meta, I will not die if--"

He paused hesitatingly.

"If what?"

"If you--if you will stay and nurse me."

"I will; but now sleep.  You are very weak, and, see, twilight is
creeping up from the fiord.  Close your eyes, and I will play to you."

"Meta," said Claude next day.

"Yes, Claude."

Claude felt happy to be called Claude.  Remember, he was very weak and
ill, and in this condition even men grow childish.

"Tell me something about yourself.  You were not always in this island.
You even talk sweetly beautiful English."

"I am Norwegian.  My father was a sailor, the captain of a barque.  He
always took mother and me everywhere.  We were all he had.  Thus I
learned English.  We often traded to Reykjavik.  My two aunts used to
live there."

"Yes, Meta; and your parents?"

"Alas! we were wrecked on this wild coast; both were drowned.  My dear
mother lies buried in the little graveyard yonder.  My poor father was--
never--found."

Her face was hurriedly buried in her hands, and tears welled through her
fingers.

Tears filled Claude's eyes too, but he spoke not.  He knew well how
sacred grief and tears like hers are.

But soon she lifted her tearful face.

"They are both in heaven, Claude," she said.

Claude hastened, with good tact, to change the subject.  When he told
her of his father's sad death and of his mother's perpetual sorrow, then
even Meta felt that something had suddenly grown up in their hearts to
draw them together in friendship.

We will be brother and sister, she thought; but, alas! he will go, and I
shall see him never more again.

After this, though Meta still played, sung, and read to her patient as
before, patient and nurse talked more together.

Meta told Claude of her early life, and Claude exchanged confidences.

"I would dearly like to see your great lady mother," said Meta one day,
about two weeks after their first earnest conversation.

"You may one day," said Claude, thoughtfully.

"What? she may come here?--here in your ship?  Is she very, _very_
proud?  She might not deign to speak to a sailor's daughter," she added.

"Oh yes, dear Meta," exclaimed Claude, with enthusiasm; "she would speak
to you.  She would thank you--she would bless you for having saved the
life of her only son."

"My aunts did that; not I," said innocent Meta.

"No, Meta, no; but you, and you alone, saved my worthless life--
worthless to all but my mother."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

There is a joy in returning health and strength that only those who have
been really and dangerously ill can understand.  It was still the sweet
summer time when Claude was able to go out once more.  Very feebly went
be at first, but in the keen, fresh, mountain air, vigour came fast.  He
was soon able to take long rambles, then longer rides.  How delightful
these rides were; how glorious, but sometimes how terrible and awesome,
was the scenery!

They rode on ponies, Meta and Claude, while the great, unwieldy Byarnie
trotted along by their side, or ran on ahead; for often there were
rivers to ford, and gorges to descend, without e'er a path except that
found, extempore, by this honest, but ghoul-like groom.

Many and many a day after, when imprisoned in the icy North without hope
of deliverance, except through the valley of death, did Claude Alwyn
look back with joy and pleasure to these excursions.  He remembered
every feature of the scenery--the frowning cliffs, the towering
mountains, the broad, shallow rivers, the deep ravines and glens, the
cliffs and rocks, the great boulders that seemed about to topple over
and hurry them to destruction, the wild birds, the green, green sward,
the beautiful mosses, and the still more lovely wild flowers.  But,
above all, he remembered the innocent, childlike face of Meta, that used
to look into his so trustingly as she called him "brother Claude."

Sometimes they would seat themselves together by the banks of a stream
where Byarnie would be fishing, and Meta would tell her brother such
wondrous tales--mostly Icelandic and Norse fairy stories, about which
there is so great a charm.  Claude loved to hear her talk; there was
such an earnestness about her while she related tales of folk-lore, as
if she really believed them all herself.  But when she came to speak of
the ancient Vikings, and their deeds of valour and prowess, then the
maiden's eyes sparkled, and there came a brighter glow in her cheeks,
that told of a bold heart that beat within her breast, a heart that
could not only love but _dare_.

So weeks sped on, so even months passed by, and surely Paul and Virginia
led no more idyllic life than did Claude and Meta during this time.

They sat near a geyser one lovely day in July.  There was no great
eruption that day, no startling and awful upthrow of boiling water, only
now and then a bubbling, rumbling sound, which made a rude bass to the
song of the birds that hovered near.

Giant Byarnie had boiled some eggs in a spring.  Byarnie always provided
luncheon for the party of one kind or another.  He had placed the eggs
in the sun, and had gone away to a distance to milk a cow.  I am really
afraid that Byarnie was not particular whose cow it was.  Cows are often
public property in Iceland.  Anyhow he found a cow, two of them for that
matter, so he went to pull some of the sweetest grass to lay before one
to keep her quiet while he filled his pannikin.

Meanwhile Meta and brother Claude sat on a bank near the spring.  The
sunshine was very soft and warm, and the air was filled with the odour
of wild thyme.

Meta was silent and sad, for to-morrow Claude was going away--never,
never, she thought to return again.  She could not speak much.  Very
little would have made her cry, and she felt determined not to do that.

Claude was silent also.

And Byarnie, away down in the valley yonder, went on milking his cow--or
rather somebody else's cow--and singing in Norse to himself.  Presently
Claude put out his hand and took that of Meta.  It was very cold.

"Dear sister Meta," he said.

She felt she wanted to cry more than ever now.

"I am going away to-morrow--south to my mother, dear; south to my own
bonnie land.  I am going away--"

Oh, how the tears rained now!  There was no keeping them back.  She
threw herself on the grass and sobbed as if her heart would really
burst.

Claude could say nothing for a moment or two.

"Meta!  Meta!" he cried at last, "look up--speak to me.  Listen, dear; I
am going south to tell my mother I will never many any one except you,
dear Meta.  Do not speak; I know you love me as I love you.  I will not
be long away.  You will long for my return, even as my dear mother is
longing now.  My mother will be your mother, Meta; my home and country
will be yours."

Meta was smiling now through her tears.  What more was said, if
anything, may never be known, but when Byarnie came floundering back
with his pannikin of milk, he found his mistress and master, as he
called them, both happy and gay, and wondered at this very much, because
he had left them both sad and quiet.

A little Norse maiden knelt in prayer that night beside her
dimity-curtained bed, and thanked the kind Father for the hope and joy
of pure love, the hope that as she had a mother in heaven, she yet might
have one on earth as well.

And Claude's yacht spread her wings to the breeze, and south and south
she flew.  Past the Westmann Isles, past lonely Stramoe, past the rugged
Faroes, past the Shetlands, past the Hebrides themselves.

And now Claude slackens sail His men notice that he is no longer so
buoyant and happy.  He treads the deck with a quicker step, as if to
keep time with those thoughts.

"Oh?" he was saying to himself, "what will mother say?  How will mother
take it?  How will the proud Lady Alwyn look, when I tell her I am
betrothed to a simple Iceland maiden?"

CHAPTER FIVE.

"WILL HE NEVER COME AGAIN?"

Not since the bright old days before the death of Claude's father had
Dunallan Towers looked so cheerful as it did the week before the arrival
of the wanderer himself in Glasgow waters.

"I believe my boy will come to-day," Lady Alwyn would remark to her
maid.

"Something tells me, too, he won't be long," Janet would reply; "and do
you know, my lady, that Alba seems to know it also?  He cried, `Claude!
Claude!  Claude!' last night quite distinctly in his sleep, and the
sound thrilled every nerve in my body.  Oh!  I hope nothing has happened
to him, my lady."

"Hush! hush!" replied her ladyship; "you are superstitious, Janet; but
you mustn't try to make me so."

Even as they spoke there came a patter of tiny feet along the passage,
like the rattle of hail on a summer-house roof, and the next moment Alba
himself appeared.  He flew up, and on to the back of a quaint old chair,
and gazed first at Janet and then at her mistress with his garnet eyes.

Lady Alwyn smoothed the graceful creature, and it bent low on its perch,
as if enjoying the gentle caress.

"Do you not notice," said the lady, "how white and snowy its plumage has
become of late?  It is always thus before my boy arrives."

"Dear Lady Alwyn, I did not like to tell you before; but all the three
days you were at Dumfries Alba was lost, and I never thought to see him
again.  He was whiter when he came back than the snows on the
mountains."

"How strange!" said Lady Alwyn, meditatively.

"Claude, Claude!" cried Alba.

There is nothing strange in hearing a seagull talking, and Alba's
vocabulary was not a small one.

Lady Alwyn held out her hand; the bird perched on it, and presently was
nestling fondly on her breast.  This did not altogether please Fingal,
Claude's favourite deerhound.  He must needs get up from the skin on
which he had been reclining, and lean his noble head on the lady's lap.
And she could spare a hand to fondle the head.

Yes, everything was bright and pleasant.  What though the early winter
winds were raving through the leafless trees without, where swayed the
rooks near their cheerless nests? what though the blasts were biting and
cold in the uplands, and the Nith--brown and swollen--roared angrily
over its rocky bed?  Bright fires burned in every grate, and were
reflected in patches of crimson from the massive mahogany furniture.

And Lady Alwyn's face was cheerful too.  Resigned and calm though she
always appeared, to-day there was a sparkle in her eyes, that made her
look almost young.

Rat-tat!  It was a double knock at the front hall door which resounded
through all the house.

Lady Alwyn started from her seat, and stood eager and expectant.  She
even went to meet the liveried servant, who presently entered with the
telegram.

"Yes, yes!" she joyfully exclaimed in answer to Janet's inquiring look.
"My boy is coming to-day.  I knew he would be.  Alba, your master is
coming."

She embraced the bird again.  Fingal, sure that something more than
usual was on the _tapis_, began to scamper round the room, jumping over
the chairs--a way he had when excited.  He jumped all round the room
twice, then he playfully snatched the telegram from Lady Alwyn's hand
and went jumping round again with that.

How much or how little of the truth Fingal guessed I cannot pretend to
say.  It was but a telegram.  Had it been a _letter_ written by his
loved master's hand, Fingal would have known it, even had the wanderer
been years away.

So when Claude stepped briskly out of the train at the little station of
P--, there, sure enough, was the great stately old carriage, with its
two splendid dark bays, in their silvered harness, waiting to receive
him.

His mother was not there; but Fingal was, and almost pulled his master
down in the exuberance of his joy.

It was a long five-mile drive from the station to Dunallan.  Charming
enough, in all conscience, during the spring and summer months, and even
when autumn tints were on the trees, but cold-looking and dreary now.
All the more so that night was coming on apace, the little of lurid
light which the sun had left in the west getting quickly absorbed in the
heavy banks of rising cloud.

Claude's spirits fell lower now than they had yet fallen.  There was
something even in the sombre grandeur of the family carriage that
brought dark clouds around his heart.

Not one thought except those of love for the fair and innocent maiden
far away mingled with these.  But his mother?  His proud, good, gentle
mother?

How would the Lady Alwyn, the Lady of the Towers, herself of ancient
family, like the idea of her only son marrying a poor Iceland orphan
unblessed with a pedigree?

And he--a lord--Lord Alwyn!  Yes, Lord Alwyn.  He could not deny it,
though he hated the title, hated it now more than ever for the sake of
Meta.

There was some relief from his present gloom and doubts and fears in
placing his arm round great Fingal--seated so lovingly by his side,--and
breathing into his ears the strange story of his love.

Fingal could listen and sympathise, even if he did not know one whit
what it was all about.

Fingal was a wise old dog, so he wisely held his peace, and offered no
advice on the matter either way.  He gave his master one lick on the
cheek, however, as much as to say--

"Whatever you think, dear master, must be right, and whatever you do
can't be wrong in my eyes, so there?"

Mother and son had much to talk of that night.  Lady Alwyn's life since
the _Alba_, her son's ship, bore away for the far North, had been
uneventful enough; but _he_ had had adventures numerous indeed--
although, mind you, he did not speak of them as such.  Hardly ever is a
rover off the stage heard making use of the word "adventures."  Modesty
is one of the leading characteristics of your true hero.

There were times on this first evening when Claude would suddenly lapse
into silence, almost into moodiness.  He might be looking at his mother
or not, but his mind was evidently abstracted, preoccupied, and his eyes
had a far-away look in them.  This did not escape his mother's notice.

"Could he have any grief?" she thought.  "Could he be ill and not know
it?"

"You are sure," she said once, "my dear Claude, that you have quite
recovered from your terrible accident?"

"What, mother?  Accident?  Oh yes; indeed I had almost forgotten."

"And your nurses, your kindly nurses, Claude: you must never forget
them, dear."

"I'm not likely to," he said, with on emphasis which she thought almost
strange.  "Never while I live."

He gazed into the fire.

"Would not this be the right time," he was thinking, "to tell her all:
to tell her I had three nurses instead of only two?"

But no; he dared not just yet.  He would not run the risk of bringing a
care to her now happy face.  He thought himself thus justified in
putting the evil day--if evil day it were to be--further off.

Claude was no coward, as I believe the sequel of my story will show, but
still he dreaded--oh, how he dreaded!--the effect which the intelligence
he was bound soon to give her would have upon her.

Claude slept but little that night, and slept but ill.  More than once
he started from some frightful dream, in which his mother was strangely
mixed up, and not his mother only, but his Meta.

It was about five o'clock, though it would not be daylight for a long
while yet.  Claude was lying partially asleep: I say partially, because
he seemed listening to the wind roaring through the leafless boughs of
the trees, and every now and then causing the twiglets to tap and creak
against the panes; but he thought he was at sea, and that the rushing
sound was the rushing of waves, the creaking the yielding of the ship's
timbers to the force of the seas.

Suddenly he sprang half up in bed and listened intently, painfully.

He had distinctly heard some one in the room calling him.  He could not
be mistaken, and the voice seemed Meta's.

"Claude!  Claude!" cried the voice again, and his heart almost stood
still for a moment as he saw a figure, which his imagination magnified a
hundredfold, near the bed.  "Claude?"

Next moment Alba, the snow-bird, alighted on his breast.

He slept soundly soon after this, but still when he appeared at
breakfast he was so jaded looking and restless as to cause his mother
considerable anxiety.  He stoutly refused to see a medical man, however.

"It is nothing," he laughed.  "Nothing, dear mother, only slight
fatigue.  A sailor like myself thinks little of travelling a thousand
miles by sea, yet dreads the rolling, jolting train."

There was plenty to do and think about all day, well calculated to
banish care.  The villagers, the tenants, and neighbours all round were
delighted to see the manly face and handsome figure of young Claude
Alwyn once more among them, still accompanied by his pet--his
spirit-bird, as the older cottagers had come to call it.

Then, although grouse were wild, there were hares in plenty, and fish in
the river ready to be wooed by the gentle art of so true a fisherman as
Claude Alwyn.  And the walking exercise, through the heather hills, the
fresh air, and the balmy breath of pine trees, never failed to refresh
and invigorate him both in mind and body, so that he always returned to
dinner buoyant and hopeful.  But ever at the breakfast-table there was
that weary look of carking care in his face.

He would go no further, however, in explaining it than confessing he did
not sleep very well at night.

"It is the change," he remarked, smiling, "from a hard mattress to one
far too soft and luxuriant for a sailor.  Besides, mother, I dare say I
miss the motion of the ship."

His mother only sighed softly.

There came to Claude one night a dream as vivid as any reality.  He was
back again in Iceland.  He was gazing on the face and form of her whom
he loved, though she did not seem to see him.  She was seated on a
hill-top, a favourite spot, where beside her he had often sat, when the
fields beneath were green, the far-off sea an azure blue, when wild
birds sang above and around them, and the perfume of wild flowers filled
the summer air.

But snow was all over the landscape now, save where dark rocks jutted
through the white, and the ocean, foam-flecked, dashed high over the
beetling cliffs.  Yes, there sat Meta, but oh! the sad, sad look in
those beautiful eyes!  She opened her lips and spoke at last.

"No, no, no!" she murmured; "he will never come again."

He thought he sprang towards her, but she faded away like the mist from
a geyser, and he was alone on the snow.

He slept no more that night.  But he formed a resolve.

"No," he said to himself, "I am not a man; not a drop of proud Alwyn's
blood runs through my veins if I hesitate longer.  It is a duty I owe to
my mother and to her to speak my mind.  Yes, Meta, I will come back
again."

Were I an artist, I should delight in painting only beauty and peace:
the fairest, holiest faces should be transferred to my canvas; the most
smiling summer landscapes, the sunniest seas.  But, alas!  I am but an
author, and no pen-and-ink depiction of life would be complete without
the shade and shadow of sorrow.

I will not needlessly dwell on the interview that took place in the very
room in which I am sitting writing now, between the proud Lady Alwyn and
her son.  Indeed, the interview was brief in itself: I have thus some
excuse for being brevity personified in my description.

Pass we over, then, Claude's introduction, his passionate declaration of
love for Meta, his glowing panegyrics on her person and mind, and even
the statement that only his regard for his mother and fear of hurting
her feelings caused him to conceal the truth so long from her, and then
we come to the _denouement_.

"But, dearest mother, I now know and feel that your constant desire to
do everything for my happiness will cause you to receive my Meta when I
bring her home as my bride."

If she had been silent till now, it was because she seemed as if
thunder-struck.

"My boy," she cried at last, "you are bewitched, or I am dreaming some
hideous dream.  Tell me it is all but an ill-timed joke.  You are but a
child--"

"I am a man."

"You have been deceived, put upon, tempted by a designing--"

"Hold, mother, hold!  Though the few words you have uttered sound like
the death-knell to hopes I have fondly cherished, go no further: forget
not yourself so far as to speak one word against my bride-elect, lest I
forget I am your son."

"My son?  _My son_?" exclaimed the proud Lady of the Towers almost
tragically.  "Oh! would I could forget it, or that your ship had sunk in
the blackest depths of ocean, rather than you had lived to bring this
disgrace on the noble house of Alwyn."

"Enough, mother; I will hear no more.  You have thwarted me in the
dearest wish of my heart, you whose love for a son ought to have
conquered family pride.  You have thrust me from the halls of my
ancestors.  I go forth into the world of adventure.  I will seek in
ambition, in ceaseless change, the only possible balm for the sorrow I
have in parting from you."

He turned on his heel as he spoke.  He strode down the hall and through
the avenue; he looked neither to right nor left, and never once behind
him.  His mother watched him with clasped hands, with anxious eyes, and
with prayers on her pale and quivering lips.

"Would he turn?  Surely, surely he would turn."  But nay; the trees soon
hid him from view--hid him, and lastly Fingal, who with tail and head
bent low, as if he knew that sorrow had come, followed at young Claude's
heels.

"Widowed and childless!"  These were her words as she sank apparently
lifeless on the floor.

Janet, her maid, found her thus and lifted her gently on to the couch.
But when memory came back, no words her maid could utter could give
comfort.

"I forgive him, Janet," she said, "as he will forgive me.  It is fate.
He _may_ write, but he'll _never_ return: too well do I know the pride
of the Highland Alwyns.  But, but, dear Janet,"--here all the woman's
nature gushed out in tears--"Janet," she sobbed, "poor Fingal--too--
has--gone."

Sorrow had fallen like a dark cloud on Dunallan Towers, a cloud that was
deepened in its darkness when one morning Alba, the snow-bird, was
missing.  It was last seen flying listlessly around the great elm trees,
then straight as lightning bearing northwards.  It was Janet who saw it,
and it seemed to say--

  "I hear a voice you cannot hear,
  That bids me not to stay;
  I see a hand you cannot see,
  That beckons me away."

CHAPTER SIX.

"GRIEF IS THE PARENT OF FAME."

Claude was miles away from home ere he noticed faithful Fingal trotting
near him.

His first thought was to order him back, but this poor dog, as if
reading his mind, crouched low at his feet, looking beseechingly up.

"_This_ is my home," he appeared to plead.

Claude's next thought was to _take_ him back; his mother might even ere
now have relented.  But that Highland pride, which has been at once the
glory and the curse of Auld Scotland, stepped in and forbade.

Young Claude went on.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Grief," says one of England's greatest novelists--Lord Lytton--"is the
parent of fame."

This is so true!  Many and many a grief-stricken, sorrow-laden man and
woman in this world would faint and fail and die, did they not fall back
upon work to support them.  This is the tonic that sustains tens of
thousands of sorely stricken ones, until Time, the great healer, has
assuaged the floods of their sorrow.

Young though Claude was--but little more than twenty-one--he had already
obtained some fame in the fields of literature.  He had been a rover,
and to some extent an explorer--more especially among those wild and
lonely islands in the Norland Ocean.  Nor had he been content to merely
cruise around these, watching only the ever-changing hues of the ocean,
or the play of sunshine and shade on bold bluff crags and terraced
cliffs.  No, for he was as much on shore as afloat, mingling among their
peoples when peoples there were, mingling among the birds if they were
the only inhabitants, studying flora, studying fauna, reading even the
great book of the rocks, that told him so much, but never yet had caused
him to waver in his belief in a Supreme Being, who made the sea and all
that is in it, the land and all it contains.

He was a sportsman and naturalist; in fact, "a man of the world," in the
only true and dignified sense of the term.

His was an original mind, and a deep-thinking one, so that the sketches
of his life and travels which he had been in the habit of sending from
time to time to the organs of higher-class literature were sure to be
welcome both to editors and readers.

He was, moreover, a student of Norse lore, and a speculator in the
theories--many of them vague enough--concerning the mysterious regions
that lie around the Arctic Pole.  And it was his writings on these
countries that first brought him into real notoriety among a class of
very worthy _savants_ who, though seldom too willing to venture into
extreme danger themselves, are, to their credit be it said, never averse
to spend money in fitting out ships of research.

On the very day of his rejoining his vessel at Glasgow, a letter was
handed to him by his chief mate, inviting him to London on important
business in connection with discovery in the Arctic regions.

Two hours afterwards Claude was seated in a flying train, whirling
rapidly on towards the borders.  In nine hours more he was in town.
Another half-hour brought him to a shipping office in Leadenhall Street.

"You are Captain Lord Alwyn?" said the grey-haired clerk, looking at him
over the rims of a pair of golden spectacles.

"The same, at your service," returned Claude.

"We did not expect you quite so soon.  But if you did come, I was told
to hand you this note."

It was simply an invitation to dine with Professor Hodson and a few
friends next evening at Richmond.

When Claude got there, the first person to greet him when announced was
the learned professor himself, and a very bustling, dignified little man
he was.

"Ha! ha!" he laughed, as he shook Claude warmly by the hand.  "I
couldn't have believed it.  Really, it is strange!"

"Believe what?" said Claude, bluntly.

"Why, that you were so young a man.  Should have thought from your
writings you must be forty if a day."

It was Claude's turn to laugh.

"But there, never mind.  Authors are always taken to be older men than
they are.  No, I don't think that youth will be an insuperable
objection.  Besides, youth has courage, youth has fire and health, to
say nothing of a recuperative power of rising again even after being
floored by a thousand misfortunes."

"Difficulties, I dare say," said Claude, "were made to be overcome."

"To be sure.  Well, then, having heard and read a good deal about your
doings up North, we thought we would send for you, and instead of having
a learned day discussion round a green baize-covered table, to invite
you to join us at dinner--quite a quiet affair--and just to chat matters
over."

It must be confessed that poor Claude did not feel altogether at home
among those extremely learned men.

The conversation was all about previous voyages of scientific discovery.
Had those gentlemen been more practical and less theoretical, Claude
would have been all with them; but it was evident from the way they
spoke that not one of them had ever been on blue water, much less on the
stormy seas of the Far North.

When, by way of encouraging him to talk more, in the course of the
evening they asked Claude's advice concerning the practicability of the
plans they had in view, then young Claude spoke out like a man of
business and a sailor.

Cool and collected to a degree, boldly banishing all theories, he hung
on to facts.  He did not ignore dangers and difficulties; he did not
despise them, but professed himself willing to meet them, without for a
moment holding out any promise of ultimate success in the adventurous
undertaking.  How dared he, he said, expect to do more than abler and
better and braver men who had gone on the same track before him?  If he
did presume to hope to even a little more, it was because he should have
all their bygone experiences to help him.  If they entrusted the command
of an exploring ship to him, there was but one thing he could boldly
promise, and that was to do his best.  He said much more to the same
effect, and even enlarged upon the necessary equipment, victualling, and
armament of a ship of the kind they proposed sending out, and when he at
length concluded--

"Spoken like a man and a sailor," said the professor, and a murmur of
assent passed round the table:

The _savants_ retired to another room to consult.  When they came back,
Professor Hodson advanced and shook hands with Claude.

"We are unanimous in thinking, Lord Alwyn," he said, "that you are just
the man we want.  The vessel you are to command already lies in
Southampton waters.  There are doubtless a thousand alterations to be
made: these you, with your experience, will be able to see to.  Do not
spare expense.  Draw upon us.  We want you to feel that it will be no
fault of ours if the expedition be not crowned with success; and I have
the support of my colleagues in adding that we sincerely believe it will
be no fault of yours.  Other details," added the bold professor, "can be
gone into whenever you please."

It was a quiet little hotel that Claude occupied that night, but one
which he meant to make his home while in London.  And why?  Smile if you
like, reader, but the reason is this: the landlord did not object to the
presence of noble Fingal in his house.

Claude sat long in his sitting-room before retiring.  The state of his
feelings may be more easily imagined than described.  His mind was by
turns here, there, everywhere--back in his boyhood's home, afloat on the
sea, with his mother at Dunallan Towers, then away in the Far North with
Meta.  His mind reverted to the past, and went forward again to the
future.  He was sad and hopeful by turns.  But he had crossed the
Rubicon; he could not now draw back from anything he had done or
promised to do.

Before he retired, he knelt and asked guidance from Him in whose hands
are all our ways, and he slept more soundly that night than he had done
for weeks.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

A PLEASURE SAIL.

"Oh, mamma, I do hope the weather will be fine!" said pretty Miss
Hodson.

"Well, my dear Clara, isn't it fine?  Why, a more delightful day could
not well be imagined."

"Yes, now, mamma; but I mean all along on this adventuresome voyage that
we are about to take."

"Don't you bother your little head, my mouse," said her father, fondling
one of her little hands in his.  "I know enough about the weather to
give a forecast a week beforehand, and a good deal about the sea, too,
though I confess I've never been on it much.  Ahem!"

The speakers were seated in a cab that was rattling along the quay of
Aberdeen on a lovely morning in April.  There were monster boxes on top,
another cab filled with luggage only came up behind, and still another
containing three gentlemen.

Very distinguished men these were, indeed, though oddly ill-matched in
appearance.  Number 1, let me call him, was a true type of a middle-aged
John Bull--tall, whiskered, stout, strong, yet calm and thoughtful
withal.  Number 2 might have been a Boston editor or an Edinburgh genius
of the old school.  He was medium in height, lanky rather, high in
cheek-bone, deep in eye.  He wore no beard, but had a bushy moustache
and very long grey hair.  Number 3 was evidently a fat Frenchman, rotund
to a degree, black as to hair, which was cropped as short as a
convict's, and moustache, but _so_ fat!  You could best describe his
outline by letters, thus--take a big O and a little o and two letters l.
Now stick the little o on the top of the big O and you have his head
and body.  Then clap on the two l's to represent his legs, and you have
his lines complete.  He was so stout that when he stuck out his little
white hands, with their palms upwards, as Frenchmen have a habit of
doing in argument, the finger-tips did not project an inch beyond him in
front.  But Number 1 was no less an individual than Sir Thomas Merino;
Number 2 was the Baron de Bamber; and Number 3, Count Koskowiskey
himself.

The little boys in Aberdeen had never before seen such a strange
procession of cabs, nor such a strange crew inside, so that they felt
constrained to run alongside and wave their ragged bonnets and shout
themselves hoarse.

The _savants_, for such they were, thought to purchase peace with a
shower of coppers.  This only increased the crowd, and no beggars in
Cairo ever yelled for backsheesh as did those boys for "bawbees."

But things do not last for ever, and at length the cabs drew up, one by
one, at a gangway that stretched from the shore to the quarter-deck of
the good ship _Icebear_.  The gangway was covered with scarlet cloth, a
neatly dressed sailor stood at each side of the shore end to steady it,
and Captain Claude Alwyn stood at the other ready to receive his guests.

He looked very handsome did our Claude, in his peaked cap,
reefing-jacket of simple blue, and gilt buttons.

He doffed his cap as he handed the ladies on board, and was rewarded by
a smile from Mrs Hodson, and a blushet--let me coin a word--from Clara,
her daughter.

Now, it was evident that Professor Hodson was the head of the party; for
no sooner had every one of them taken a good look round the gallant ship
than he remarked, "Now, gentlemen, what do you say--shall we have an
early dinner and then sail, or sail first and have a more comfortable
one out at sea!  I propose the latter plan."

"Professor," said his wife, sternly, "I propose the former; and ladies,
I think, should carry the sway."

"They generally do," sighed the professor, who looked subdued and
henpecked, as distinguished _savants_ are apt to be.

"Your proposal is best, madam," put in Claude, smiling.  "It is best to
have it over.  You can sup afterwards; that is," he added mysteriously,
"if any of you will care to."

"Oh, we shall all sup," said the professor.  "The ocean always gives me
an appetite."  (N.B.--He had been three times from London to Ramsgate by
steamer.)

"Most sartainlee, capitaine," said the French _savant_.

To have seen the way the gentlemen, and--pardon me, my lady readers--the
ladies also, enjoyed that excellent dinner, one would have said there
would be little need for supper.

The saloon was long and comfortable, though there was nothing of the
boudoir about it.  Claude himself had seen to everything personally.  It
was a very brilliant and select little party that assembled on deck
about an hour afterwards.  The _elite_, or rather the literary _elite_,
of the city had come to wish the _Icebear_ "God-speed?"

"What am I to do with all these flowers, sir?" the steward asked that
same afternoon, when he got a word with the captain.

"Keep the choicest for the saloon," was the reply, "and distribute the
rest impartially for'ard."

The _Icebear_ was a lovely vessel, both fore and aft.  She had been
originally intended for a man-of-war to add to the navy of a far-off
foreign potentate; but as the potentate in question did not, or could
not, pay at the right moment, after waiting a goodly time the builder
very properly put her in the market, and she was knocked down at a
reasonable figure to our _savant_ friends.  About 1500 tons burden she
was, low in bulwarks, flush in deck, with no great breadth of beam,
though with more than the coffin-ships they often send poor Jack to sea
in--things with no breadth at all to speak of, and that go over and down
in a breeze, and in sea-way that a Peterhead herring-boat would laugh
at.  The _Icebear_ was sturdy and strong all over, had good engines,
good shaft and screw--she carried a spare one.  Forward, the bows were
of triple strength, moderately sharp, and shod with iron, to aid in
boring through the ice.

She had three respectable masts, not heavy enough to weigh her over on
her beam-ends if a squall struck her broadside, nor light enough to snap
like pea-sticks if a puff came.  When under sail the screw could be
hoisted up into a kind of covered well, and the advantage of this will
be found when the ship gets farther north.

Not a yard of canvas, not a fathom of cordage, that had not been
examined and tested by Claude himself.

So much for the exterior.  "Downstairs," as landsmen would say, she was
fitted up with a view to the utmost comfort.  The men's sleeping-berths
forward and amidships were bunks and hammocks.  The crew all told was
ninety men, or would be when the vessel lay in at Kirkwall to ship
additional hands.

Remember, there was no lumber of any kind on the upper deck.  No
unsightly cabins or rooms, only forward was the winch and then the
steerage cabin, the capstan, the midship companion; and aft the saloon
and cabin skylights and companions, the wheel-house and binnacle.  I
hope I am not talking Greek to my readers, who are probably not all
nautical; but I wish it to be understood that the _Icebear's_ decks were
most roomy, nothing at all unnecessary being built or even lying
thereon--a deck on which you could waltz with delight, or fight without
discomfort.  The captain's quarters, or rather his private room,
occupied the after-part of the ship under the wheel-house, and was
charmingly furnished, with a splendid stove, warm, soft carpets, a
lounge, easy-chairs, a swing-cot, a library of choice books, and two
ports that looked out over the sea.  There, then I what more would you
have in a private room afloat? and, mind you, it was the whole width of
the ship.  It had a private staircase.  But the wardroom, or principal
saloon, which lay under the quarter-deck, had cabins off it for the
officers of the expedition, whose acquaintance we will make in good
time.

It may be asked what were two ladies and four learned landsmen doing on
board a ship bound for the icy North?  It was a proposal of Mrs Hodson,
to which her husband knew he dared not say nay, that the party we now
see on board should accompany the vessel as far as Kirkwall, for what
she called "the pleasure of a sail."

Well, the pleasure of the sail really commenced before they were beyond
the pier-head of Aberdeen.  The long granite breakwater, which they were
steaming past, was crowded with people, and, greatly to Mrs Hodson's
delight, a lusty shore-porter sprang up to the top of a parapet and,
commanding silence by a wave of his arm, proposed "Three cheers for the
two gallant ladies, who were sailing away to the North Pole never to
return."

And the cheers were given too--not three, but three times three; and
when Mrs Hodson smilingly bowed her acknowledgments, and pretty Clara
waved a handkerchief, which the crowd firmly believed to be wet with
tears, then the cheering was redoubled, and kept up till the ship was
over the bar.  Next, guns were fired from the fort; and when this salute
was returned from the _Icebear_, and the flag dipped and hoisted again,
the voyage had commenced in earnest.

All the way to Peterhead it was most enjoyable, but as night stole over
the ocean, and the sun dipped towards the sea, and just as Professor
Hodson was proposing to go down to supper, the wind sprang up; then--let
me say it in my own queer way--all on board that were sailors, _were_
sailors, and those on board who were not, were very much the reverse.
Surely this is better than saying that certain folks were sea-sick.

But it was a pity that the cruel wind should blow so high, and that the
waves should not have respected the _savants_ a single bit, nor Mrs
Hodson either, nor even the pretty Clara.

It was not only a pity, but it was excessively annoying; for Professor
Hodson, who had once written a treatise on the physical geography of the
sea, had meant to give a scientific lecture in the forenoon; while Sir
Thomas, the bold Saxon, was to have lectured on astronomy under the
stars, the dredging machine was to have been set to work, and the
mysteries of the ocean depths revealed to the wondering gaze of poor
Jack; while Mrs Hodson had pictured to herself the pleasure she would
have in presiding at the head of the table, and lecturing, not only her
husband, but everybody else; and Clara--she, too, had had her dreams.
There could be no harm, Clara had thought, in looking her best, and
dressing her best, and even engaging in the delicatest of flirtations
with the handsome Lord Claude.  She had had a lovely sailor costume
made, but, oh dear!--my heart bleeds to mention it--it was never worn,
and the only miserable consolation left to her was to remember, that
this nautical rig would do for Henley Regatta.  Ugh!

But oh! the cruel, cruel ocean, and oh! the merciless waves, not one of
all those dreamers left his or her cabin till the _Icebear_ lay safe and
sound in Kirkwall.

Thus ended the pleasure sail from which so much joy had been expected.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

"TILL FROZEN SEAS DO MEET."

"Mr Lloyd," said Claude to his first mate, the morning after the
_Icebear_ sailed away from the Orkneys on the wings of a favouring
breeze, "I am not going to call my men together and make a speech.  That
style of thing is far too stagey.  We have picked our crew, and I
believe they will be good men and true, every one of them.  Well, I will
try to be a kind and considerate captain; and I'll tell you now what I
should like.  I want, then, in a word, all the discipline and
cleanliness of a man-o'-war, with a good deal of the cheerfulness and
light-heartedness you find on a well-appointed yacht or best class of
merchantmen.  Let them sing below if they like, or even on deck for'ard
during smoking hours: I won't object to a little music.  You
understand?"

"Perfectly, my lord."

Claude held up a finger.

"My lord is too formal for a ship's quarter-deck," he said.

"Beg pardon, sir.  I really had forgotten for the moment."

The captain and mate were on the quarter-deck, the latter taking his
orders for the day.

As shrewd and sturdy a sailor as ever faced the billows was Lloyd.  And
not only a sailor, but a thorough iceman.  He had been going "back and
fore," as he phrased it, to Greenland ever since he was a boy of ten,
and he was now nearly thirty.  He had come through every peril that one
can think of; he had been cast away as often as he had fingers on his
left hand--there were only four, one had been shot off--his ship had
been burned at sea, and he had drifted for weeks on an iceberg, with
nothing to eat at last except boot leather; he had once even been
dragged under water by a shark, and was saved by his sea-boot coming
off--one of the best pairs of boots he ever had, he used to tell his
mates;--but, for all the dangers he had come through, he dearly loved
the regions round the Pole.

"Greenland has been like a mother to me," he had been heard to say; "and
I hope to die there, and be frozen up in an iceberg, where I'll keep
fresh till the crack of doom."  [Note 1.]

That first day at sea--for these hardy mariners had not considered
themselves afloat till now--was a very busy one.  It was a very
beautiful one too, for the matter of that, when one had time to look
around him.

When any one did, it was when the breeze slackened a bit, or blew
stiffer, or changed its course a point or two, or did any one of the
score of things that the wind that wafts a ship along is constantly
doing.

The captain walked all round the ship about eight bells, and found
everything taut and trim and clear, and no complaints.

The second and third officers had been with Claude before for many
voyages.  The surgeon was a man of over forty, and as grey as a badger.
It was not years alone that had changed the colour of his hair, however,
but a lifetime of abstruse study.  His studies had been of a very mixed
nature--better call him a scientist at once and be done with it; but he
was a musician and poet also.  By the way, every naturalist is a poet,
whether he writes or not; for true poetry consists, not in writing
verses, but in being and in feeling yourself part and parcel of all the
life and loveliness around you, of loving all things and all creatures,
and thus, unwittingly it may be, worshipping in the truest Way the great
Being who made them.

But the surgeon's character will come out as we go on in our story;
suffice it to say here that although Claude had known him but a very few
months, he already liked and respected him very much.

Claude felt happy and contented in having so good a crew, and officers
he could trust by night or day.  For though I may have seemed in my last
chapter to be sneering at good Professor Hodson and his brother
_savants_, they really were men who had the interests of science at
heart, and this ship was going on no insignificant errand to the land of
the snow bear.

The sea got up towards evening, and sail was taken in; and as the breeze
still freshened, still more sail, and she was practically made snug for
the night.

Before leaving Aberdeen--some days indeed--Claude had written to his
mother, filially and affectionately bidding her good-bye.  Thus far he
had bent his pride; yes, and had she asked him to come home for a day--
well, perhaps he would have thrown all his pride to the winds and
obeyed.

But the time flew by, and there came no reply of any kind, and Claude
was sad About an hour before he sailed, a telegram was put into his
hand.  It was brief, thus--

"Lady Alwyn wishes her son well."

So far the proud Lady of the Towers had melted.  Claude put the telegram
in his Bible.  It was something precious, for he could read between the
words.  So he was happy.

But he would not write again.

The ship was steered for the nor'-nor'-west; and as it neared Iceland,
Claude grew more and more impatient.  How would Meta look when she heard
the news?--for in the few letters he had written--there were few mails
to Iceland--he had not told her _all_ the truth.

When at length the _Icebear_ cast anchor before the quaint,
old-fashioned town of Reykjavik, after what had appeared to Claude an
interminable time, they found their store-ship in waiting.  Claude
boarded her; and finding that everything had gone all right, directed
his men to pull him on shore.

Burning with impatience though he was to get away from the town--the
reader will guess whither--it was hours before he could leave old
friends, so warmly did they welcome him.

Free at last!  Free and away, and fleet was the sturdy pony that carried
him.  Only an Iceland horse could have done so, for even in summer the
country is dangerous.  Summer had not yet come, and the hills still wore
the garb of winter, and the higher paths were often slippery with
melting ice.

He sees the strange old cottage at last, and faster still he rides, for
it is nearly night.  He sees Byarnie.  Byarnie sees him, and, after one
wave of the arm to bid him welcome, rushes indoors.  Poor, innocent,
beautiful Meta had had no thought of his coming that night, but, strange
to say, she was dressed exactly as he had first seen her.  But now the
love-light was in her eyes, and tear-drops quivered on their long
lashes.

"I thought," she said, "you would never, never come again."

Claude remembered his dream.

The quaint old room when it was lit up looked cosier than ever, with the
great fire of turf and wood burning on the hearth, the raven nodding on
a log, the great cat on a stool, the snow-flea in its cage, the table
laid for supper, the aunts--still witch-like and ugly--one sitting
spinning like Fate in a picture, the other with book and spectacles in a
high-backed chair, and great, awkward Byarnie laying supper.

It was all like a vision of happiness to Claude.  He thought he should
like to stay here all his life.

Perhaps Meta could read his thoughts in his eyes.  I do not myself
believe in thought-reading; but if there be such a faculty, it surely is
the gift of true lovers.

"Oh! stay with us for ever," she whispered.

"Would I could," he answered.  "Would that I could."

"But you will for months?"

"Nay, but for one short week."

The bright face fell, and tears again bedimmed the eyes.

"Dearest Meta," he murmured--

  "`I could not love thee half so much
  Loved I not honour more.'"

Next day, when alone with her, he bravely told her all.  She was
convulsed with grief.  He knew she would be so.  He let her weep on for
a time.  Tears bring such relief.

"I love you just the same, and will marry you on my return."

She turned to him, her face very pale and wet with tears, but calmness
and heroic determination in her eyes.

"Lord Alwyn," she said.  Then she noticed the pain the words gave him.
"Claude, then," she continued, "I will never marry you without the
consent of your mother.  That consent will not be given.  So I will
never marry you--_never_."

There was a mournful cadence in her voice that rang through his heart.

"Then," he said, "you do not, you cannot lo--"

"Stay!" she interrupted; "stay, Claude, stay!"  She put her little hand
on his as she spoke, and looked into his face with that holy truthful
gaze of hers.  "I love you.  I will never love another.  I will love you
till frozen seas do meet."

The earnestness of her voice and manner held poor Claude spellbound for
a time--spellbound and speechless.  He could only gaze entranced on her
lovely face, and never had it seemed to him more lovely than now.

"Sit down, dear Meta," he said at last; "we still are lovers."

"Yes," in a low, sad voice.

"Tell me, Meta, what did you mean by the strange words, `Till frozen
seas do meet'?"

"There is a legend," she replied, "that long, long ago there dwelt among
the rocks of the hills hereby an ancient but good man.  He was called
the hermit; he never courted the acquaintance of any one, never left the
fastnesses where he dwelt; but people often went to seek advice from
him, and brought him gifts of roots and milk.  He taught them many
things, and many believed him supernatural.  _I_ do not think he was so,
because his teachings were not all from the Good Book.  He told them
that the world was very old, but would be ages and ages older yet; that
there lay at the South Pole an ocean of ice just as at the North; that
the world was cooling down by imperceptibly slow degrees; that these
frozen seas were creeping nearer, advancing south and north; that they
would encroach on Southern Africa and on Europe; that the torrid zone
would become temperate; that nearer and nearer the oceans of ice would
creep, till at last they would all but meet on the equator; that ships
would then cease to float; that men would even degenerate, and finally
live for warmth in caves in the earth; and then _the frozen seas would
meet_, and this world would be all one shining ball of ice-clad snow.
But he said that a day would soon afterwards come when the elements
would melt--the lost, the final day.  That is the legend of the strange
words I used.  And,"--here she turned once more towards him, for she had
been talking hitherto like one in a dream--"and I will love you, Claude,
_till frozen seas do_ meet."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Bodies have been found frozen, and in perfect condition, after
a lapse of nearly half a century.

CHAPTER NINE.

THE PARTING.

Among the Northern nations, especially the Norse, you meet types of men
and women as utterly different from those of Southern climes as if they
belonged to another sphere.  The same blessed religion nevertheless
binds us all with its golden chain.  Natures like those of Meta and
honest Byarnie--who, be it remembered, are not creatures of the
imagination, but true examples of a class--I have never met elsewhere.

The nearest approach to them in manners and ways of thinking, I have
found in my own dear Highlands of Scotland.

Very many, both of the Norse, such as those met with in Shetland and
Iceland, as well as our Highlanders, are very deeply imbued with the
spirit and true sentiment of religion.  It is part and parcel of their
everyday existence.  Religion is the weft in the beautiful web of such
lives as these.

When women like Meta love it is very pure love, for the very reason I
have stated, for Meta was not ashamed to go on her knees with her love.
A very peculiar girl, you say?  Would to Heaven there were millions like
her in this fair land of ours.

On the very evening of their reunion, Claude left his bride-elect, and
went thundering away through the moonlight along the stony path on his
sure-footed pony.

He would come again, next day or next, he told her, but duty was duty,
and must be obeyed.

He was more happy than might be expected--happy because hopeful.

He found everything well on board, just as he had expected he would.

"I've engaged a few more hands, sir," the mate told him.  "The right
metal I like a mixture of nationalities, and yet I don't.  Bother the
foreign scum that they man British ships with nowadays, sir, leaving
honest English Jack on shore to starve.--But give me a crew like what we
now have, sir--a crew mostly Scotch and English; then I say one or two
Norwegians or Danes don't do much harm."

"Right, Mr Lloyd.  And now I must tell you I am going to engage an
extra hand.  Can you make room?"

"Put him in a bunk, sir."

"A bunk, Mr Lloyd?  He'd never be able to get in, and if he did he
couldn't stick his legs out.  He is seven feet high and over, and broad
in proportion."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the mate.  "But I have it, sir; I've got a hammock big
enough to hold an elephant."

"That'll do.  Good night, then."

As he took down his Book to read before retiring, out dropped the
telegram.

He read it again and again with conflicting feelings.  Would his mother
relent?  His own fate, as far as Meta was concerned, he determined
should not be altered.  She might never marry him, but he himself, in
that case, would have but one bride for ever and ay--the sea.  Still, as
he closed the Bible that night and restored the telegram, he allowed
himself to build just one castle in the air.  In the cosy drawing-room
of this castle his mother was seated, and Meta and he were there, and
all were happy.

He slept and dreamt about this.

Duty kept him at Reykjavik next day and the day after, but Meta, lonely
and weary through waiting, heard the well-known click-click of the
pony's hoofs on the succeeding evening, and ran to the door to meet
Claude.

It was raining, but Byarnie took his cloak and the pony, and in he went,
looking rosy, fresh, and beaming with joy.

"Have you got good news?" was Meta's first question.

She answered it herself before he got time to speak.

"Yes, you have," she said; "I see it in your eyes.  What is it?  A
letter from your dear mamma?"

Claude's face fell just a little.

"I wish it were," he replied.  "No, Meta, nothing so good as that, but
something I received before I left Aberdeen, and, strange to say, forgot
to say a word to you about.  A telegram."

They went and sat down to read it.

"I don't like it," she said.  "Why didn't she say more?  Why does she
use such a funny bit of paper?  Why so formal?  And how funnily she
writes!"

Claude laughed, and explained all about telegrams, telling Meta that
people could not say all they wanted to in a semi-public document, but
that generally a good deal was left to be inferred, that the receiver
must often read between the lines.

Innocent Meta held the telegram up between her and the evening sunshine.

Claude laughed again, and caught her hand.

"I don't mean in that way, silly child," he said.  "There; we will read
between the words in the way I mean."

Then he told her a good deal of his own history, and how much he knew
his mother loved him, and how he believed she really was sorry he had
gone away, but that pride forbade her saying so, though she doubtless
wanted him to be happy, and not to depart with a sore heart--and a deal
more I need not note.

"Don't you see, Meta?"

"Dark and dim, as through a glass," said Meta, musing.  "Telegrams are
queer things, Claude, and I have never seen one before, but you must be
right, because you look happy."

"Well, I am, because I feel she will relent."

"I wonder what she is doing now?"

And Meta's question leads me to say a word or two about the Lady of the
Towers.

I lay down my pen and ring for old Janet.  I am still writing in the old
red parlour at Dunallan Towers.  I write by fits and starts, but I have
been steady at it all day, because it has been raining in down-pouring
torrents.  I pity the very rooks on the swaying trees.  Surely on a day
like this they must envy the owl in his shelter in the turret, though
they roar at him and laugh at him on sunshiny days, and call him
"Diogenes?"  But here comes Janet at last.

"Just one question, Janet, and I'll let you go.  How did Lady Alwyn feel
when Claude went away?"

"Oh, sir," says Janet, "she was far too proud to express her feelings to
me in that way.  You know, sir, when glad she always told me, but her
sorrow she invariably kept to herself."

"So, as she said nothing, you inferred she was unhappy?"

"For that reason I knew she was.  Did I put in the diary, sir, that our
poor boy, Claude, told me about his dream--consulted me ere he had that
terrible interview with her ladyship?"

"Yes, yes, Janet, that is here."

"Well, sir, it was first Fingal's going away, trotting so sad-like after
his master, and _he_ never once looking back, and then the snow-bird
going next.  That, I think, nearly broke her heart.  But oh, she was
proud, sir."

"She never owned her grief, then?"

"No, sir; but I've caught her often in tears, though she tried to hide
them.  She grew far more active than ever after that.  She seemed to
hate the very sight of indoors, and, wet day or dry day, she would be
always out."

"Doing good, doubtless?"

"Visiting the sick, sir; ay, and often sitting down sewing in a sick
person's room.  The neighbours noticed her grief.  They all loved her,
they all pitied her.  But it was at night, I think, she suffered most.
Her room was next to mine, and it is often, often I've heard her pacing
up and down the floor till nearly morning.  On stormy nights, sir, when
the wind was roaring round the old turrets, and howling in the trees
then she would send for me.

"`Janet,' she would say, with her sad, beautiful smile, `I cannot sleep
to-night.  You must read to me.'"

As Janet is now feeling in her pocket for her handkerchief, and tears
are choking her utterance, I gently dismiss her, and go on writing.

"Yes, Meta," replied Claude, "and I often wonder too; but there is one
thing that does give me joy, and that is this: she _knows_ I love her
and am not really unfilial."

Claude found Meta much more hopeful next day, and more happy.  Sometimes
she was almost gay.

"By-the-by, Claude," she said, "I've something to show you.  You must
promise to believe all I say."

"Implicitly."

"And not laugh at me?"

"Never a smile."

"Well, follow me."

Claude did.

She led him round to the back of the cottage, and there in a big
aviary--evidently the work of Byarnie's hands--were seven great
sea-birds.

"Now you're going to laugh," cried Meta, with a warning finger.

"Well, no wonder.  Such queer pets, Meta!"

"But they're not pets, Claude, though I love them.  They are all going
with you."

"All going with me!  Those funny old things!  Ha! ha! ha!  Forgive me,
darling, I can't help it."

"Well, I do forgive you.  And when I tell you that this particular
seagull makes the best carrier in the world, far before any pigeon,
because it can fly ten times as far, and never get lost at sea--"

"I reared those from the shell," interrupted honest Byarnie, his big
face all smiles.  "And I've reared many such."

"Byarnie," said Claude, "you'll come with me, and look after these
birds, eh?"

Byarnie jumped and laughed, clapped his hand upon his leg, and jumped
and laughed again, and then went skipping round with all the grace of an
infant elephant, till Claude and Meta also laughed to see his uncouth
exuberance.

"My brother will come here, and my sister too, and look after the house
and farm," he cried.  "He! he! ho! ho!  Byarnie's the happiest man
'tween Reykjavik and Christiansund."

Day after day went by, but still Claude was at the little capital of
Iceland, or with Meta.  He was waiting the arrival of the mail: she had
broken a shaft or something, and eager and able though he was to get
away to the land of the Northern Lights and the sea of ice, he did not
begrudge himself the respite.

The mail was sighted and signalled at last, however, and came puffing
and blowing in.

Claude had letters from his employers and from many a friend, but none
from his mother.

But Janet's letter must in some measure have made up for this, else he
would not have ridden right away out to Meta's dwelling.

Ah, well, it was their last day together anyhow!

There they were together now whom seas would soon sunder--two warm,
loving, hoping hearts.  Would they ever meet again?

CHAPTER TEN.

IN NORLAND SEAS.

"I shouldn't wonder if we get it from out yonder," said Dr Barrett,
pointing away south and by west, the very direction in which the
_Icebear_ was steaming.

There was a great billowy heave on the blue sea, blue everywhere, except
where the light shadow of some white fleecy cloud made a patch of
fleeting grey or grey-green.  There was not a breath of wind "to swear
by," as Jack Scott unpoetically put it, so the long rolling swell was as
smooth as glass.  This swell was meeting them too, and the ship rose and
fell on it with a gentle dipping motion; only now and then, when a
taller wave than usual dipped in under bows and keel, she gave a quick
plunge forward.

Along the horizon ahead was a bank of rock-and-castle clouds, while far
away astern the jagged snowcapped peaks of Iceland were just visible
above the rolling seas.

Flocks of malleys, shrill-screaming kittywakes, and different kinds of
seagulls were tacking and half-tacking round the vessel, afar off, and
the dark and ominous-like skua waited his chance to rob the malleys of
whatever they might happen to pick up.

"Yes," the surgeon said; "I think we'll have it out of yonder."

"Seems so to me, too," said Claude.  "We are all ready for a blow, Mr
Lloyd?"

Mr Lloyd gave one glance forward and smiled.

"Ay, sir," he replied, "all ready for a buster; and many is the sneezer,
sir, I've come through in these latitudes, and higher up North too."

These officers were on the bridge.

This latter was not the great elevated deck you see on passenger
steamers right amidships.  No, the _Icebear's_ bridge was but a plank,
comparatively speaking.  Not more than three feet wide, with a rope
railing at one side, and a brass one at the other, with a step-ladder
leading up to it from the quarter-deck, for it was between the bulwarks
near the mizzen mast.

The glass was going down, and the day was far spent.  Already the sun's
rays were beginning to fall aslant the waves.

"Had we started sooner," remarked the doctor, "we would have been
farther off the land ere now."

"True, my good Dr Barrett, true," replied Claude; "but _could_ we have
done so?"

"It would certainly have been difficult I admit; but if anything short
of a hurricane comes along we can face it, and the night is short."

No, it had not been easy getting away from Reykjavik indeed.  It so
happens that the good people of that town are exceedingly hospitable,
and it is a hospitality that comes straight away from the heart.  So
there had been a kind of farewell _levee_ on board Claude's ship, and as
there happened to lie in the roadstead a French merchantman and a Danish
man-of-war, and the officers from both attended it and talked much, this
made matters worse--or better.

But down went the sun, and ugly and angry were his parting gleams.  He
sank in a coppery haze, which lit up all the sea between.  He seemed to
squint and to leer at our heroes as much as to say, "You'll catch it
before long; something's brewing.  Good night; I'm off to bed, for bed
is the best place."

Down went the sun and up rose the wind.  Twilight is very long in these
regions, and before it had quite given place to night, the sea from
being rippled got rough.  The breeze seemed uncertain at first where to
come from, and went puffing about from three to four points of the
compass.  Then it appeared to say to itself, "First thoughts are best;
I'll follow the swell; I'll soon blow that down."  So it came roaring
out of the north-west.  Long before it did blow "a stiffener," as the
mate called it, looking up ahead through the gloaming air, you could
have seen mysterious-looking great grey blankets of clouds, drifting
fast and furiously towards the south-east.  They might have been a few
miles high, but soon the stream of clouds was lowered and thickened and
darkened, till the horizon was hardly three cables' length away all
round.  Then it was night--night with an ever-increasing breeze and a
choppy, frothy sea.

The wind _did_ blow the swell pretty flat, but substituted in its place
genuine waves, as ragged and jagged as the mountain peaks of Iceland.

And the good ship by-and-by creaked and groaned in every timber, and
thick darkness fell, and Claude had to trust to Providence, to steam,
and the compass.  There were two men at the wheel at midnight, and at
that time probably the gale was at its worst, for on heaving the log it
was found she was barely making one knot an hour.  The seas--whole
water--were coming in over the bows by tons, and sweeping right aft like
a miniature Niagara; but the hatches had been battened down early in the
evening, and the boats secured, so there was little injury done, though
the load of water sadly hampered the vessel's motion: it was not able to
get away fast enough.

About two bells in the middle watch the _Icebear_ struck.

Struck?  But what or where?  I know not; I cannot tell; it was no
island, no rock.  It may have been the carcase of some floating monster
of the deep; or--who knows?--some wretched derelict or a portion of a
wreck.  It was a mystery.  But she struck with a dull thud that quite
stopped her way, and for a time made every heart beat with fear for her
safety.  She must have struck not only on the bows, but gone over
something; all along her keel was the quivering grating felt, as if of a
substance underneath.

For a while, too, the rudder and screw were hampered and the vessel's
way all but stopped.

As it was she staggered and began to broach to.  It was a moment of the
greatest danger, but only a moment.  Then it was over, and the _Icebear_
was struggling once more with the stormy head wind and raging sea.

By morning light, though the wind still held, it was less furious, and
the seas but broke in froth and spray against the descending bows, and
went singing aft on each side, their tops twisting and curling in the
gale.

Down in the darkened wardroom at breakfast that morning the talk was
naturally about the storm.  Although Claude retained his own quarters
abaft, still he preferred taking all his meals with his officers.

"What was it we struck, do I think?" said the doctor in answer to a
question put by Lloyd.  "Some unhappy fishing-boat or walrus-hunter on
his way to the east shores of Greenland."

"Heaven forbid!" said Claude, with a slight shudder.  "Would we not have
heard a scream or yell?"

"Never a scream or yell in that roaring gale," replied Dr Barrett,
coolly.  "Bless you, sir, I've run them down before.  Steward, another
cup of coffee, please."

"You've been often to these regions, doctor?"

"I've been often everywhere.  I'm the veriest old son of a gun of a
sea-dog of a doctor."

"It's as well no one else said that about you."

"I wouldn't mind.  My skin is as hard as tortoise-shell.  I've been
married so often, you know."

"Have you really now?" said the second mate, a merry-eyed little dark
man.  "Are all your wives dead?"

"What a question!" said Claude.

"Ah! never mind," quoth the surgeon; "I'll answer him, if he'll only cut
me another slice of that delicious corn-beef.  Mind, it isn't for a
lady, so you may cut it as thick as you please."

"But about your wives?"

"Oh yes, the wives.  I don't think many of them are dead."

"Doctor!" cried Claude, "you dreadful man!"

"Well, you see," said the doctor, tapping the edge of his cup with the
spoon as if counting, "I've been married just exactly fifty-nine times.
My ships, messmates, are my wives."

"Well, you've had many a honeymoon," said Lloyd.

"Ay," replied Dr Barrett; "and many more I hope to have."

An able seaman popped his head in past the door curtain at this moment,
and drew it out again.

"Don't duck your head out and in like an old turtle, man," cried the
doctor; "come right in.  Anybody sick?"

"Which I didn't know, sir, the cap'n was 'ere.  Nobody sick, but knew ye
liked curios, doctor, sir."

"Well?"

"Well, beggin' yer parding, sir, likus the cap'n's, but there be a bird
wot our cook calls a sea-swallow a-perchin' on the main yard.  Shall one
of us go up and fetch him?  He's mighty sea-sick I knows, and couldn't
fly to save his life."  [Note 1.]

"Certainly, bring it down."

The officers went on with breakfast, and had forgotten all about Tom
Scott and his sea-swallow, when suddenly the man appeared again, bearing
under one arm a beautiful snow-bird.

It escaped almost at once, and fluttering upwards alighted on the
compass that depended from the skylight.

All eyes were fixed on it.  It did not seem a bit frightened, but looked
downwards with one crimson saucy eye at the table.

"It looks like a spirit," said Lloyd, half afraid, for, like most
sailors, he was superstitious.

"It's a spirit that will bring us luck.  They always do," said the
second mate.

"Are you ill, sir?" exclaimed the doctor, addressing the captain.

One might have thought so.  His face was pale, mouth a little open,
brows lowered, and eyes riveted on the bird.

"Were such a thing possible," he muttered, "I'd believe that was my
snow-bird Alba."

To the amazement of every one, no sooner were the words uttered, than
with one quick glance of recognition, down flew the bird and nestled, as
it was wont to do, on its master's hand, held close up on his breast.

Yes, every one was astonished, but poor McDonald, the third mate, was
frightened; and when, after receiving a few caresses, Alba jumped on to
the table and began pattering around and saying, "Poor Alba wants his
breakfast; Alba wants a sop of food," McDonald could stand it no longer:
he left the table and hurried on deck.

"It's no canny," he said to the steward; "it's no canny, and if I could
steal a boat I'd leave the ship and brave the stormy ocean."

"Lord Alwyn--I mean _sir_," said the mate, "a hundred years ago you'd
have been burned for a witch."

"Or a wizard," remarked the doctor, laughing.  "But I am not astonished.
The captain has already told me the story of his snow-bird.  The
wonderful power of sight, scent, and probably hearing in gulls is
scarcely yet known to naturalists; and the same may be said about nearly
all sea-birds.  They either have an instinct that we possess not, or the
faculties they possess, in common with other animals, are most
marvellously developed.  [Note 2.]  Just look at that lovely bird now,
and listen to its marvellous prattle."

Pattering round the table went Alba, in a very excited condition, only
every now and then flying off to Claude's breast as if he could hardly
believe in his own happiness.  He jumbled up his sentences, too, as most
talking birds do when excited.

"Alba wants--Alba wants--Alba wants Fingal's Claude--Fingal's--Fingal--
Claude--Alba wants his breakfast."

"That's better, Alba," said Dr Barrett, lifting the cover from a dish
of fish.

Next moment Alba was in the third heaven.

"You've made that bird your friend for life, doctor," said Claude.

Fingal, the deerhound, got up from under the table and laid his great
head on his master's knee.

"Of course I won't forget you, you silly old Fingal, because Alba has
come.  I have room in my heart for both."

Towards sunset that day the weather cleared, the wind having gone round
to the nor'-east-and-by-east.  The sea too went down with the sun,
though it still ran high; a morsel of canvas was got up to steady her,
and leaning over to it away she went, cutting merrily through the water
as if she had been a veritable living thing.  The stars shone that night
_so_ brilliantly; it was as though you could have stretched out your
hand and touched them, so large, lustrous, and near-like were they.  A
broad white gleam of auroral light was in the north, above it the sky
was of a strange sea-green hue.  But a whisper had gone around the ship
that a spirit had come on board, and an anxious group was seated round
the galley fire to discuss the situation.

"If it's a spirit," said Tom Scott at last, "it's a good one.  It has
brought us good weather.  Hurrah, lads! give us a song somebody."

The good ship _Icebear_ had no more adventures for nearly a fortnight,
by which time she had rounded Cape Farewell and reached the
north-eastern ice.

  "And now there came both mist and snow,
      And it grew wondrous cold,
  And ice, mast-high, came floating by
      As green as emerald."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Sea-birds are usually unable to fly after they alight.  A Cape
pigeon, for example, gets giddy and frightened at once when put on deck.

Note 2.  The author could adduce very many instances in proof of the
good surgeon's statement.

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

SUMMER ON THE GREENLAND OCEAN.

There was not an officer nor able seaman on board the good ship
_Icebear_, who had not been in the Arctic regions before.

Mostly Englishmen they were, with just a sprinkling of Scotch--"the
leaven that leavened the lump," that is how Rab McDonald, the third
officer, expressed it, and it is needless to say that Rab himself was a
Scot.

Onward went the _Icebear_, sometimes in a clear sea, though far into
Baffin's Bay--for this was what is called an exceptional year--but at
other times she had literally to plough her way through the heavy ice.

When the weather was fine there was but little danger, unless, indeed, a
swell rolled in, playing and toying with the monster pieces as
schoolboys would with balls.

But when a breeze sprang up, even if only half a gale, then indeed the
scene was changed.  Then--

  "Through the drifts the snowy clifts
      Did send a dismal sheen:
  Nor shapes of man nor beasts they ken--
      The ice was all between.

  "The ice was here, the ice was there,
      The ice was all around;
  It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
      Like noises in a swound."

During calm weather and in the open water Dr Barrett was busy indeed,
taking soundings, deep or otherwise, and dredging for living objects at
the sea's bottom.

Very lovely and interesting indeed was the collection that soon grew up
in his cabinet, under his magic spell.  What could be in that tangled
mass of mud and weed and sand, one would have asked, that was hauled on
board, the sea-water dripping and trickling out of the bag?

To Dr Barrett--and to the _savants_ at home--treasures more valuable
than gold itself.

And after he had secured a haul, washed them, put them up, perhaps on
cards of jet to show their beauties off, the clever surgeon would have
handed you his great glass and bade you look.  It was like gazing at
creatures from fairyland.  All shapes and colours, but all so minute
that they could not well be seen with the naked eye.  Here is a little
fairy fish--no bigger is it than this letter `f.'  Take that glass,
please.  Now look.  No wonder an expression of amazement steals over
your face!  It is a perfect fish, yet, strange to say, transparent and
colourless--that is, there is no fixed colour any more than there is in
the Arctic aurora, but greens dance and crimsons flit and play around
it; and, stranger still, with a stronger glass, you can see its internal
anatomy, see its heart beat and its pulses move!  Could anything be more
wonderful?  And here are shells that, lying on this morsel of black
cardboard, are no bigger than the letters "a," or "e," or "c."  Look at
these.  No wonder you smile with delight; they, too, are faultless in
shape and curious in form; they, too, are transparent as glass; they,
too, display all the colours of the finest pearl.

Put this one--it is no bigger than a comma to the naked eye--under the
microscope in a drop of water.  Lo! that drop of water is to it a small
ocean, and round and round it crawls, legs all out and its shell high up
on its shoulders, and of a bright translucent blue.  I could sit here
all the livelong night and write, sheet of foolscap after sheet of
foolscap should flutter from my desk and fall upon the floor, and yet
when the grey dawn of morning crept in through the casement of this red
parlour, I should not have told you of one-half the mysterious and
beautiful beings that this man of science dredged up from the dark
depths of that mysterious sea.

I pause here and listen.  There was not a sound in the house when I
penned the last sentence, only a mouse nibbling the crumbs that I placed
for it in the corner, but now there comes from an adjoining room the
voice of some one singing.  It is only poor old Janet.  She does so
every night before retiring; and, old though she be, I know she is very
happy--happy with a happiness that can never be taken from her.  But
to-night the words she sings are so _en rapport_ with my own spirit
while writing, that I cannot but give a line or two--

  "God moves in a mysterious way,
      His wonders to perform;
  He plants His footsteps on the sea,
      And rides upon the storm."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

As much as it was practicable to do so, the _Icebear_ hugged the western
shores of Greenland, but here the ice was heaviest.  As the summer
advanced, however, the land became bare of snow; it was then that
delightful excursions were made inland, up through the long, deep fiords
that everywhere indent this coast.  I do not like the word "indent,"
though I use it; for an indentation means fork-like incision, widest at
the mouth--a bay, for example,--but these Arctic fiords are, many of
them, narrow at the inlet, then spread out as they go inland.

There are thousands and thousands of them yet unexplored, and which
never will be explored as long as the world lasts.

Not altogether for the sake of pleasure were these excursions made, but
for the purpose of scientific discovery.

I am sitting here to tell a story, and not to describe scenery, the
yachting, the fishing, hunting, and all the pleasures that make a
holiday in Greenland north, during the short summer-time, so
enthrallingly delightful--a something that once enjoyed can never be
forgotten, while the life-blood circulates in our veins.

Claude himself was a lover of nature.  In his soul he had all the poetry
of a Wordsworth, though there it remained, for he never wrote verses.
He could love and admire every tiny flower, every moss or lichen or
tender and beautiful saxifrage that clad the rocky uplands.  Neither
could he classify them.

Dr Barrett both admired and classified.  He was ever on the outlook for
new species, and I verily believe he dreamed about them by night.  So
his cabinet, of the rare and lovely specimens found on shore, grew even
bigger than did his deep-sea collection.

Cold?  No, it was not cold--these regions at this season.  Cool
sometimes, but never cold.

The _Icebear_ would be cautiously steered up some of those fiords and
the anchor let go, in an inland sea or harbour in which all the navies
in the world, both mercantile and man-o'-war, could easily have ridden.

While the doctor and his assistants would be prospecting among the
hills, leaving the ship in charge of the mate, and, accompanied only by
the faithful Fingal and giant Byarnie, Claude would start in a small
boat, a kind of elegant dingy, which he had had made on purpose, and go
off up the fiords for miles with gun and fishing-rod.

The snow-bird, strange to say, always remained on board.  What truth
there may be in the statement I do not know, but they say that a
snow-bird, or tern, that has once been domesticated by mankind dare not
return to its kindred birds under pain of death.

Claude used to enjoy those excursions on the fiords very much.  Here is
how he generally spent the day: First, Byarnie would pull him slowly
about close to the rocks, where the fish were most numerous.  A few
dozen were speedily caught and thrown in the bottom of the boat.  Fingal
used to take them in charge, apparently delighting in doing so, for his
wise eyes never left them, and if one flopped Fingal held it down with
an air of seriousness on his rough hairy face that was highly amusing.

But Claude soon got tired of fishing, and put up the rod.  Then he told
Byarnie to pull him away out into the centre of the fiord, and let the
boat float as she liked in the sweet sunshine.  Claude would have a
book, perhaps, and very often, when his eyes were riveted on it, it was
upside down, which showed where his thoughts were.

Just for fun then he would say to Fingal, "Speak, Fingal."

Fingal would speak with a vengeance, till every hill and every rock
re-echoed his bow-wow-wows.  But the sound was sure to bring up a great
head or two with goggle eyes out of the water, sea-lions, walruses, or
saddle-back or bladder-nose seals, for they are all most inquisitive.

Lying very still sometimes, with the oars in, one single seal would pop
his head out of the sun-glazed water and have a look at the boat.

"Sit still, Byarnie; don't move," Claude would say.

The seal would come nearer and have another look; then down he would go,
tail first, and in three minutes more the sea all around would be black
with great heads and sweet, soft, wondering eyes.

"Well," they would seem to say, "we can't make it out.  Never mind, let
us have a romp; the sunshine is so delightful.  Hurrah!"

Then a scene of diving, and chasing, and splashing, such as it is
impossible to describe, would ensue; it was, in fact, a seals' ball.  If
Byarnie would suddenly explode with a loud "Ho! ho! ho!" of merriment,
or if Fingal barked, then, hey! presto, every head would sink as if by
magic, and in a few minutes the sea would be as smooth as usual, with
only the gulls, divers, or grebes floating lazily on it.

Next, Claude would make Byarnie tell him some wild old Norse story--he
was full of them--with Sagas, or Vikings, or fairies in it, and then
sing.  Oh!  Byarnie could sing well, but a strange, monotonous kind of
lilt it was--very pleasant, nevertheless, for it _never_ once failed to
put Claude to sleep.  So sure, indeed, was Claude of falling asleep when
Byarnie began to sing, that he used to lie down in the stern-sheets with
a cushion beneath his head.

Sometimes he awoke with such a happy, happy half-dazed look on his
handsome face, and say, "Oh!  Byarnie, I've had such a pleasant dream!"

Next they would land, and Claude would now read in earnest, while poor
Byarnie cooked the dinner in gipsy fashion.

Very often after this Claude would keep his companion talking about
Iceland, with Meta always the centre figure, for hours, till, when near
sundown, they would probably hear the report of a rifle at some distance
off.  This was Dr Barrett signalling to his men, and not long after the
whaler would come sweeping up, and the boats would return together,
often enjoying the fun and frolic of a good race, for Byarnie was a
splendid oarsman; his skiff was light, and he, if not a feather, had the
strength of three ordinary seamen.

Thus pleasantly passed the summer days on that lonesome Greenland ocean.

CHAPTER TWELVE.

AMONG ARCTIC FIORDS--A STRANGE DISCOVERY.

If the reader happens to possess a map of the polar regions, or even a
good map of the world, and will take a glance or two at the discovered
lands and seas beyond the Arctic circle, he will be struck at once by
their nomenclature.  It would be interesting to know the why and the
wherefore of many of these names, which I do not believe have, in any
single instance, been given at random.  The origin of some of them is
evident enough--"Lady Franklin's Sound," for example, or "Hayes' Inlet,"
or "Peabody Bay."

But I do not wish to be told of the exact reasons that determined these
names.  Knowing what I do about the Polar regions, I would rather let my
imagination have a little play.

A little to the south of Spitzbergen lies Hope Isle, or Sea Horse
Island; I happen to know that many walruses, sometimes called
sea-horses, frequent the ice or the icy land there; but why called
_Hope_ Island?  Some ship, perhaps, had been long imprisoned, north of
this place, provisions exhausted, and the chances of ever getting clear
small indeed; but, behold! the ice opens as if by magic, and by sawing
and blasting they struggle as far south as this lone isle, where, though
locked up once more in the icy embrace of King Winter, they live in
hope, and are eventually rewarded.

Down the east coast of Greenland proper there is a point with an ugly
name, "Cape Discord."  Was it mutiny or only mutiny threatened? did men
struggle on slippery blood-bespattered decks, or was the discord
confined to muttered threats, to black and angry looks and round-robins?
[Note 1.]

"Cape Farewell" again--the southernmost point in Greenland.  The ship
has been wintered in Baffin's Bay, and the men have undergone cold,
misery, and privation; but hurrah! the last land is left behind, the
blue open sea is all before them, cheerily sings the wind through the
rigging, the sails are full, and the men's hearts are also so full that
if they did not sing they would go mad.  So "farewell, old Greenland;
our dear wives and sweethearts are waiting us at home in merry England.
Farewell, farewell."

But round that point is Cape Desolation.  Look at those bluff, bare
crags that overhang the sea, the home of hardly even a wild bird; see
afar off the tree-lands covered with snow, leaden clouds athwart the
sky, billows dashing in foam against the black rocks, and the cold wind
blowing.  Ugh! let us leave it.  It is pleasant to find a Prince Albert
Land and a Victoria Land up in the Arctic ocean, side by side; and a
North Lincoln and North Devon, separated only by Jones's Sound.  We have
been told that when the North Pole is eventually discovered a Scotchman
will be found at the top of it.  I should not wonder, for the most
northerly land, if my memory serves me aright, is called Grant's Land,
and everybody knows that Grant is the name of a brave old Scottish clan.

Obeying instructions from his employers, Claude worked his ship north
and north along the western shores of Greenland, exploring every creek
and fiord; the doctor being meanwhile very busy, as we have seen in the
last chapter, taking scientific notes and collecting specimens.

In their voyage out, the _Icebear_ had only once spoken the _Kittywake_.
She was a schooner commanded by the ex-skipper of a Dundee whaler, a
man who knew the country well, and though but a small craft she was
strong, and eminently suited for the work she had to perform, namely, to
follow the _Icebear_ with stores.  She had received instructions to hug
the western land, and, if a flagstaff was seen at the entrance to any
creek, there to lay-to until the _Icebear_ came out.

But the _Kittywake's_ powers of sailing were only of a very limited
character, and steam she had none.  So, after spoken, she was not seen
again for a time.

Very few of these wonderful fiords, as I have already mentioned, are
even known.  Now, it had occurred to our learned _savants_ at home that
it would pay, not in one way, but in two, to explore the largest of
them.  Untold wealth lies buried in Greenland.  Scientific wealth, and
the dross called gold, mayhap even diamonds, mayhap precious stones of a
kind not yet known to the world.  For why?  Was not Greenland--that vast
country which a single glance at the map tells you is as large in
extent, as long and as wide as Africa itself--was it not at one time,
ages ago, they argued, an inhabited continent as free from ice as our
fair England is at the present day?  They believed that the mountains
which now shoot their jagged peaks, covered with perpetual snow, up into
the blue-green sky were once purple and crimson with gorgeous heath;
that green valleys and lovely glens lay below, with placid lakes and
rolling rivers, and cascades of sparkling water; that gigantic forest
lands covered the greater part of the country, forests in which the
bison and wild deer roamed and fed; that, in a word, Greenland was once
upon a time--while the torrid zone was but a fiery belt, uncrossable,
uninhabitable--a fertile land of beauty, a land of mountain, forest, and
stream.

They even went farther.  Might not man himself, they said, have dwelt in
this beautiful country--primeval man--and might not his remains be found
even yet?  There is, indeed, no length to which some learned _savants_
will not go, if they once give the reins to their imaginative power.

While not for a moment feeling half so sanguine as his employers,
Claude, having undertaken a task, meant to do his duty, his best; and
who can do more?

As long as the summer lasted, and before the mists began to rise, Claude
continued his explorations.  He came at last to a vast wall of solid
rock, darkly frowning over the deep.  He would have passed along it,
never dreaming there could be any opening in there, had he not seen some
bears swimming in the water.  They disappeared on being followed by a
boat, and the officer in charge, on returning, reported having
discovered the inlet to a vast fiord.  The _Icebear_ was headed for the
rock, and found the opening just soon enough to enter with safety.

It was a bright, clear day, with little wind and hardly a cloud in the
sky, with every indication that fine weather would continue for a time
at least.

All hands were on deck as the _Icebear_ was turned shorewards and headed
straight for the rocks.  The boat that had gone in pursuit of the bears
was ahead, guiding.  To go steaming stem on to that adamantine wall
seemed courting destruction, but lo! after a progress of a few hundred
yards, the cliffs opened up as if by magic, showing a long channel of
deep blue water.  It got wider inland, but the cliffs were higher;
gradually, however, they receded from the water's edge, and got lower
and lower.

The ship was now stopped, and a party sent on shore to climb the highest
peak adjoining the sea, and plant thereon the flagstaff that should
signal to the _Kittywake_ the whereabouts of her consort.

Slowly on and on steamed the _Icebear_, two men taking soundings from
the chains, lest the water should suddenly shoal, but the beach at each
side still continued rocky, though no longer high.

"What do you think of this?" asked Claude of Dr Barrett, who stood near
him on the bridge.

"I am rejoiced beyond measure at our discovery," was the reply.  "Why,
this _would_ please Professor Hodson, for no slowly descending glaciers
ever made this wonderful cutting--it is volcanic entirely.  Behold the
rocks, Captain Alwyn."

"You are right, doctor, beyond a doubt."

"And I should not be surprised now what we came to."

"Nor I."

"I wish," said Mr Lloyd, "I could see things with the eyes you seem to
possess, doctor.  How delightful it must be to be quite at-home-like
with everything you see around you!  You are a learned man, doctor."

"Nay, nay," cried the surgeon, laughing.  "I am but a student--a baby
student.  Were I to live for ten thousand years I should still be only
reading in the first book of Nature."

"You are modest, at all events," Claude said; "and I believe that is a
sign of genius."

"One cannot help feeling both modest and humble, Captain Alwyn, when
standing face to face with the first facts of science, and knowing that
the little knowledge he has acquired is to the vast unknown but as the
light of a candle to the noonday sun."

For days the _Icebear_ followed the course of this estuary.  Sometimes
it narrowed to a mere deep cutting or canal, anon it would widen out
into a broad oblong lake.  At length it ended in an inland gulf or sea,
some thirty or forty miles square.

In latitude this mysterious sheet of water was fully a degree and a half
south of the inlet.

Dr Barrett spent days in dredging, and in roaming over the hills,
studying botany and geology.

There were high mountains all around, and it was a strange sight for
those on the deck of the _Icebear_, which was anchored at some little
distance from the shore, to witness mighty cataracts tumbling sheer over
the very summits of these hills, and coming roaring and foaming down
their sides.  The men looked upon this as magical, but it is easily
explained: there were other hills behind these--much higher ones--that
were invisible from the ship's deck, and it was from these the waters
poured down.

As might have been supposed, they found the waters of this inland sea
less salt than the ocean itself, though by no means brackish.

"I think, sir," said Dr Barrett, when he came off one evening, "that we
need hardly proceed farther north.  We can hardly expect to find another
such lake as this."

"Here, then, we shall winter," replied Claude.

"Here, I believe, we ought, too.  For look what I have dredged up."

"Coal!"

"It is coal.  I found it close in shore, and there is more of it.
Depend upon it, we have discovered a country rich in mineral wealth;
and, if I am any judge, there is gold in abundance here, too.  Look at
this.  There are specimens for you."

He handed him a few pieces of rock as he spoke.

"Pretty morsels of stone enough," said Claude, as he bandied and weighed
them in his palm.  "Would make nice ornaments for a mantelpiece.  But do
they really represent anything of value?"

"Well, I will tell you.  You see I have numbered all these morsels of
stone.  Here is Number 1."  (Number 1 was a piece of dark brown stone
mingled with patches of the darkest blue, in which little stars sparkled
and shone.) "That," said Dr Barrett, "is carbonate of copper ore.
Number 2, you perceive, is black with streaks of green; that also is a
copper ore of some value.  Number 3--take hold of it, Mr McDonald,"
continued the doctor, addressing the third mate.  "What would you call
it?"

"I should call it a chucky-stone," was the Scotchman's reply.

"Yes; well, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but that
rough red-brown-black-spangled chucky-stone of yours is an argentiferous
carbonate of lead.  Number 3 is very heavy, and not unlike a piece of
blacklead, only it shines more.  That would give seventy ounces of solid
silver from the ton of ore.  Here is Number 4, a piece of quartz mixed
with dark grey, and streaked with sea-green.  That also is silver ore."

"And this Number 5," said McDonald, "looks to me like a bit of very bad
coal.  Is it worth a doit?"

"It is worth many doits.  It will assay three hundred ounces or more of
solid silver to the ton.  Number 6 looks like a lump of petrified
rhubarb root.  Number 7 is somewhat similar, but mixed with quartz and a
reddish brown material.  Both are auriferous; the last will yield 300
pounds from each ton of ore."

Claude shook Dr Barrett by the hand.

"You have indeed made important discoveries," he said.

Dr Barrett smiled pleasantly.

"My conscience!" cried McDonald.  "We'll be a' millionaires thegither,
every mither's son o' us.  Wha could hae thocht it, and a' own to a
wheen chucky-stones that I wadna hae gi'en a button for!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  A round-robin is a complaint or request, or even threat to the
captain, from the men forward; the names to it being signed in a circle,
so that no one can be marked as the instigator, though there must be a
ringleader.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE LONG DEAD ARCTIC NIGHT--THE BATTLE OF THE SNOW-SQUALLS.

The scene was changed.  Summer had fled from the shores and from the
braelands around the inland sea, where our travellers have taken up
their abode.

  "Away hath passed the heather-bell
  That bloomed so rich on Needpath fell."

Thus sweetly sang the Scottish bard.  But here no heather-bell bloomed
to vanish.  But the lovely little stonecrops, white or yellow, the
crimson ranunculus, the dark-tufted grasses, the wild dwarf poppies, and
even the mosses and the hardy shrubs that blossomed for a time in the
sloping rays of the sun--all have gone or lie deeply buried under the
snow; they will appear no more till June again melts their covering and
awakens them to sunshine and life.

Claude and his crew have not been idle.  Every preparation is already
made to mitigate the rigours of a winter that is even now commenced.
Boats had been despatched to the inlet of the creek, to land and bury
ship's stores in a sheltered nook not far from the sea.  This was done
with all despatch.  Captain Watson's men of the _Kittywake_ working with
a will born of the knowledge that, as soon as their labours were over,
they would once more embark and bear up for their own dear home in
England.

They had the good luck to find a cave large enough to contain all the
provisions and ammunition on board the store-ship.  There was
accordingly no digging to be done, except the quarrying from the
hillsides of great stones to build up the entrance to the cave.  This
done, it but remained for Mr Lloyd, who was in charge of the working
party, to take his bearings, in order to easily find the place again,
and deliver to Captain Watson his written orders to return south.

Lloyd's boats towed the _Kittywake_ out to sea, or, rather, steered her,
for the tide was running rapidly out.  He remained on board the
store-ship until the turn of the tide, then there were farewells said,
and ringing cheers were re-echoed from the hills and from tall floating
icebergs, and, sail being set, away went the _Kittywake_ southward ho!
the crew as merry as schoolboys at play.

They were to bear tidings to the _savants_ in London of the successful
voyage made by the _Icebear_, the strange discovery of the inland sea,
and the prospects Claude and Dr Barrett entertained of the perfect
success of the expedition.

It may be as well to state here, and state it once for all, that the
_Kittywake_ was never more heard of, never more seen by mortal eye.

Whether she had sprung a leak in a gale, and foundered; been caught
a-back in a squall, and thrown on her beam-ends, never to recover; or
been crushed like a nut between some awful bergs, will never be known
until--

"The sea gives up its dead."

Had our heroes known aught of the disaster to the store-ship, it would
have cast a gloom over them that nothing could have dispelled.

As it was they had nothing in their hearts but hope--hope that, when the
long, dreary winter wore away, having more than accomplished the object
of their cruise, the ice would break up, their imprisonment would be
over, and, laden with riches and crowned with honour, they would bid
farewell to the land of the aurora, and reach England in peace and
safety.

They could, therefore, mark with complacency the ever-shortening days,
and the oncoming mists, and mists succeeded by stormy winds, and curling
clouds of drifting snow.  The sooner winter came the sooner it would be
over.

There came a day when these intrepid travellers were to look their last
upon the sun for months to come.  It was towards the end of October, but
not severely frosty.  Indeed, the sky was altogether overcast, with the
exception of a space on the southern horizon It was here that the sun
last showed.  Red, large, and angry looking, he but deigned to cast a
glance or two across the dreary landscape, then slowly sank to rest, but
for two hours after he had gone down, a long stripe of bare, lurid,
orange sky remained over the spot.  It gradually assumed the appearance
of the reflection of some great fire or burning mountain.  The clouds
above were purple red, mingled with leaden grey, but all this soon
faded.  There was neither moon nor stars, and the blackness of darkness
was over the land.  About noon every day for nearly a week there was a
kind of twilight.  It was even more than this, for when the sky was
partially clear there was all the appearance of coming sunrise, the
cloudlets grew crimson, and even the tall mountains were tipped with
rosy red, and all between the glens were of a strange blue colour.

But even this mid-day twilight ceased at last, then all was night.

All the way north Meta's gulls had been kept on deck in an aviary built
for the purpose, and two had already been despatched with little
messages in sealed quills, fastened to their legs.  Only one of these
reached Iceland.  The other probably preferred his freedom.

Claude seldom doubted but that the gulls he sent off would eventually
find Meta's home.

Even before the daylight had entirely gone, and the long dead Arctic
night had descended upon the land, the birds and beasts migrated
southwards, the malleys, and gulls, and terns, and skuas going first;
then the guillemot the eider ducks, grebes, and divers.  Next went the
bears, the wild oxen, and the foxes; finally even the inland sea itself
seemed deserted.  The walrus and seal no longer popped their whiskered
faces above the water, nor courted the sun's rays on the rocky shore,
and the lonesome unicorn was seen no more ploughing through the waves.

The blackness of desolation and a silence deep as death was over all the
scene.

Think not, reader, that the beautiful stars were always shining, or that
even when a full moon was in the sky there was somewhat of light and
cheerfulness.  No, for there were days--ay, and weeks--when neither
moon, stars, nor aurora were visible for the dark clouds and whirling
drift and snow.

At other times, perhaps, after a fall of silent snow, without as much
wind as would serve to move one downy fleck, the clouds would disperse,
and the stars would glitter like a million diamonds, when suddenly a
murmuring roar would be heard among the mountains, and on looking in
that direction from the ship's deck, or from the huts on shore, a sight
would be presented to the wondering gaze of Claude and his crew that my
poor feeble pen would struggle in vain to describe.  It seemed as if a
wind from every point of the compass had marched forth to meet and do
battle with each other among the hills, and that each wind was
accompanied by a ghostly storm spirit.  High as the stars were those
whirling sheeted ghosts; if they crossed the moon's disc they looked
unearthly and fearful; but see! they meet in fury, and all is a
bewildering chaos.  Describe to me the foam of Atlantic billows dashing
high in the air after striking a black, bare rock in the sea; describe
to me in words the smoky spray of a geyser, and I will try to paint to
you the battle of the snow-squalls.  But, behold! while we yet look,
half awed at the rage of elements among the jagged mountain peaks, the
chaotic tempest comes nearer and nearer, other ghosts arise and whirl
along on the plains, and a moaning sound as if nature were in pain falls
upon the ear.  This may be but momentary, and ere you can dive below,
the tempest is on the vessel, the war of elements is raging around it.
The very masts bend and crack and yield, and high above the roar of the
wind is heard wild shrieks and yells and groans, as if demons really
danced and fought on every side.  These latter sounds are emitted by the
ice rubbing against the ship's hull.

Then, even while one is expecting every moment that some jagged edge of
ice will penetrate through the vessel's timbers--lo! all becomes hushed
and silent.  You creep on deck as quickly as the drifted snow will
permit you, and look around.  The stars are all out again, the moon's
rays throwing shadows from the mountain peaks, and all is still.  And
such a stillness!  It is the silence of space--the silence of a dead and
buried universe.  You can almost fancy the stars are near enough to
whisper to; that the flickering aurora borealis will presently emit some
sound.  If you talk aloud your own voice seems harsh, and you find
yourself talking in a strangely subdued tone, as if Nature were asleep--
as, indeed, she seems--and you dreaded to wake her.  At all times in
Greenland, when no wind is blowing, the silence is fearfully impressive;
but it is after a snow-squall such as I have endeavoured to depict that
it is most so.

"Do you think," said Claude to Dr Barrett one day--"do you think,
doctor, I might venture to send off another seagull?"

"I think," was the reply, "that the bird will be far more likely to fly
southward now--to seek the sun--than it would in summer."

So a little fond note was attached as usual to a seagull's thigh.

"Go!" whispered Claude, pressing his lips to the soft, warm head for a
moment.

  "Go, beautiful and gentle bird,
  Oh! southwards quickly go;
  Though moon and stars shine bright above.
  How sad is all below!

  "No longer drooping here, confined
  In this cold prison, dwell;
  Go, free to sunshine and to wind,
  Sweet bird, go forth--farewell!

  "Oh! beautiful and gentle bird,
  Thy welcome sweet will be.
  And yonder thou shalt hear the voice
  Of Love's fond melody."

I trust my hero may be forgiven for slightly altering the words of the
gentle poet Bowles.

The graceful bird went tacking and tacking for a time around the ship as
if he could not quite believe he had obtained his freedom, or were loath
to leave his quarters; then, as if memories of a sunnier south had
suddenly awakened in his breast, away he darted, and was lost in the
darkness.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

IN WINTER QUARTERS--FOOTBALL AMONG THE SNOW.

One portion of the cargo of the unfortunate _Kittywake_--and a very
important one it proved to be--was a pack of Yack or Eskimo sledge dogs.
Uncouth-looking rascals they are at the best of times, much given to
quarrelling and fighting among themselves, and by no means inclined to
be over-friendly to mankind.

With them came two native keepers, who professed to, and I dare say did,
know something about their uncouth pets, although their rule of the road
proved to be a rough one, as far as the dogs were concerned.

Fingal was at first inclined to regard these animals with extreme
distrust.  He asked Claude, in his own way of speaking, whether he
mightn't begin the fun by charging the pack.

"I am sure, master," said Fingal, "I would soon make short work with one
or two of them."

"No," said Claude, holding up a warning finger; "you must never attempt
to molest them, Fingal; you will come to love them yet."

"I don't believe _that_," Fingal seemed to reply.

The dogs were taken on shore at once, and though the _Icebear_ was
anchored some little distance from the land, giving her plenty of room
to swing round, the row these animals made the first night seemed
unearthly.  The men could not sleep, and roundly rated the new-comers.
Had the noise been a continuous one it would not have been so bad, but
it was not so.  The deep, deep silence of the Arctic regions would be
allowed to remain unbroken for, say, the space of fifteen minutes, then
all at once such a chorus of barking, howling, and screaming arose as
only the pen of a Dante could describe adequately.  This would continue
for five minutes, mingled with the cracking of the keepers' whips and
their wild shouting, then gradually the unearthly Babel of sounds would
die away, the men and officers on board would give sighs of relief and
go to sleep once more, only to be disturbed again in the same fashion
ere slumber had well sealed their eyelids.

"Frightful!" said Claude, next morning, at the breakfast-table; "I'll
put a stop to it."

"You'll be very clever if you do," said the surgeon.

"Don't go meddling near them with a whip, captain," Lloyd remarked.
"Poor Sanderson of ours got drunk one night, and went on shore with a
rope's end to settle, as he thought, a rumpus like what those beggars
made last night.  He was never seen again."

"They killed him?"

"Yes, sir, and ate him afterwards, every bone of him.  We never found a
vestige of him, except the soles of his sea-boots, and we couldn't bury
those in a Christian way, you know, so we were saved the trouble of a
funeral."

"Call the carpenter, steward," cried Claude.  "Carpenter Jones," he
continued, when that worthy appeared, "build comfortable kennels for
those dogs half a mile from the spot where our shore quarters are going
to stand."

"Ay, ay, sir."

"To the lee of a rock, you know."

"Yes, sir."

And so the pack was soon disposed of, to the great satisfaction of every
one.

By the time, then, that the sun had set for the last time, and the long,
icy, Arctic winter had fairly commenced, the _Icebear_ and her gallant
crew were fairly settled in their winter quarters, and everybody felt as
happy and jolly as possible under the circumstances.  Nor was their lot
to be despised, after all.  Had they not every creature comfort that
heart could wish?  Had not clever Dr Barrett found coals enough to keep
fires burning constantly--fires big enough to roast a whole bear or a
small ox, were they so inclined?  Had he not also discovered a gold and
silver mine?  Not that much had yet been taken out of it, to be sure.
But it gave them hope.  Well, they had never a care, although it must
not be supposed they did not often think of home, for ah! the sailor
does.

To crown all, was there not a kind Providence above them whose eyes
could penetrate the darkness of even this dreary land, and watch over
them?

One thing, I believe, that contributed greatly to their happiness was
this, everybody seemed determined to do the best he could, not for
himself only, but for his shipmates as well.

They had built a house of general entertainment on shore.  Also a store
for extra provision and other things, in case the ship might be
destroyed.

In the storehouse one or other of the Indian keepers always slept as
sentry, or rather on guard.  Not that there was much fear of an attack
on the stores by bears, for most of them had gone south, and the others
were curled up asleep in caves and corners among the rocks.  But Bruin
does _not_--in my poor judgment and experience--sleep all the winter
through.  When the weather is milder, even to a few degrees, he awakes,
yawns, out-stretches himself, and goes for a turn round in the moonlight
and on the snow.  He is but the ghost of his former self; like the ghost
of a bear revisiting scenes of a former existence.  He stalks about,
shaking his mighty head, and looking as melancholy as a barn owl.

"How changed is everything!" he appears to soliloquise.  "How dead and
drear!  How hungry I am too.  Shouldn't I like just one pawful out of
the back of a fine fat seal now.  [Note 1.]  Ah!  I would eat a whole
seal, even the flippers, though there's not much on those, to be sure.
But, mercy on me, how cold it is!  Bed's the best place, after all."
And away he trots.

But Mr Lloyd knew right well from experience what a hungry rascal like
this could do even in a single night.

"It isn't what they eat so much," he explained to Claude, "as what they
destroy.  A bear will stave in the head of half a dozen casks of flour,
perhaps, before he comes to a barrow of beef.  And that doesn't satisfy
him, for he argues that there may be something better in the other
casks, and goes clawing away like an evil spirit."

"Talking about spirits," put in the second mate, "he is a strict
teetotaller; he won't touch rum."

"Tins of _soupe-en-bouilli_, I suppose," said Claude, "would also defy
him."

"Not if he gets a tooth in one," replied Warren; "and as for sardines--
my conscience! sir, he _is_ fond of them; if once he tastes them he'll
swallow the boxes at a single bite."

"Boxes and all?" inquired Claude, laughing.

"Well, I never saw the empty boxes left about anywhere."

"Must be a capital tonic, anyhow!" said Dr Barrett; "but a rather
indigestible one."

There had been wood enough brought on purpose to build huts on shore--
simply rough planks.  The house of amusement was a famous one.  Built
with stone as to its chimney, and with wood, filled in with dry moss, as
to its walls.  There was a capital fireplace, too, in it.

The general routine of the day was somewhat as follows--that is, when
there was any kind of bright star, or moonlight, or aurora gleams;
though these last were very intermittent, and, like some of our electric
lights, would go out without a moment's warning.  There was breakfast at
eight; muster to prayers afterwards, on the upper deck, which was almost
entirely covered over.

Prayers are seldom more impressive than when repeated away out in the
middle of the boundless ocean, but there is even more solemnity in them
when heard amid the eternal silence of Greenland wilds.  I don't think
there was one poor soul on board the _Icebear_ who would have missed
those morning prayers for anything.

Jack-the-Sailor is a rough stick, I must confess, and, as a rule, a very
jolly stick.  Yet, nevertheless, he has his solemn moments, as well as
you, reader, who, maybe, never were afloat on blue water, have.

"I feels some sentences o' them prayers, that the captain reads, go kind
o' round my heart," said Chips one day down in the half-deck mess.
"That bit, for instance, `_O God, at whose command the wind blows, and
lifts up the waves of the sea and stills the raging thereof_.'"

"You hain't got the words what you might say altogether correct," said
Bos'n Bowman; "but, howsomedever, you've got the main thing, and that's
the sense."

"Well, Pipes," replied Chips, "you're more of a scollard than me."

"And," put in Spectioneer Wray, "there's that bit, you know, `_When we
gave up all for lost, our ship, our goods, our lives, Thou didst
mercifully look upon us, and wonderfully command a deliverance_.'"

"I've often found the truth of that," said Pipes.  "So 'as most on us,"
said Chips, solemnly.  "But," continued Pipes, "there's these words:
`_That we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land_.'
Don't they bring old England up before your mind, with her green valleys
and flowery fields, and all that kind of thing, eh, maties?"

"Ay, and there's those as follows," said Chips, who was a married man
and hailed from Rotherhithe, "`_Enjoy the fruits of our labours_,' which
means, o' course, take the missus and the children to Margate for a
whole month."

After prayers, till "pipe for dinner," there were the various duties of
the ship to be carried on, and there was not an officer or man, from
Claude himself to little saucy Boy Bounce, who emptied the cook's ashes,
helped to clean the coppers, and attended to the aviary and the wants of
Fingal, who did not find something to do.  Dinner and smoking done, if
the weather permitted, a pleasure party for the shore would be told off.

The doctor and his merry men could do but little exploring now, and his
mines lay some distance in the interior among the wild hills, and, from
its colour, the ore could not easily be worked by lamplight.

Sometimes for whole weeks the darkness would be intense [Note 2], then
the _Icebear's_ crew had to seek their pleasures indoors or on board the
ship.  That house on shore was an incalculable boon to these forlorn
adventurers.  It was devoted, not to games--these could be played on
board--but to music, dancing, acting, and to lectures.  The musicians
were several, and therefore a by no means bad ship's band was formed.
Those, therefore, who could not play could listen; moreover, many of
those who could not play, could spin a yarn, dance, or sing.

The lectures were given by good Dr Barrett, whose gentleness and
thoughtfulness of the men had rendered him a very great favourite.

These lectures of his, although often on such abstract subjects as
chemistry, botany, geology, or astronomy, were always simple and always
interesting, and often amusing.

But there were games on the snow-covered ice--frolics we might call
them--invented by the men themselves, but none the less exhilarating on
that account.  The sea about them might be as deep as the hills around
were high, but no fear could be entertained of any one falling through--
a band of elephants might have frolicked and floundered on it without
the least danger.

The snow in some places had been swept off the ice by the wind, leaving
it but a few inches deep.  These were just the spots for a right roaring
game of genuine football.  But there was another game, invented by Paddy
O'Connell, who was the life and soul of his mess, if not of the whole
ship.  It was carried on among _deep_ snow, and was very amusing and
exciting.

Paddy called it "football."  Well, it was "Irish football," for the only
man in the ship who could kick the thing a yard was gigantic Byarnie.
"It was as large as the biggest pumpkin ever you saw, and quite as big
as the largest," so said Paddy.  You had to throw it to begin with, and
when you got it you had to run with it, and you did not run many yards
before you fell with half a dozen on top of you.  But the cream of the
game lay in the fact that, however much light there might be, before you
had played many minutes you could not tell who was your opponent and who
not, everybody being as white as the dustiest of millers.  When you were
struggling for the ball, it was just as likely as not that you were
trying to trip up a friend Besides, often when you got it, and could
have a fair shy, then, as you could not see well, what with the
uncertain light, and what with the powdery snow, you perhaps threw it
the wrong way.  It was a rare game, and oh! did it not make you hungry!

No wonder that on returning on board you could eat a hot supper with all
the appetite of a Highland drover.

"Paddy," said Dr Barrett once, as he patted him on the back, "you're a
genius!"

"Thrue for you, sorr," says Paddy, "and it's just that same me mother
towld me.  `Paddy,' says she, `you're a born ganious, and there ain't
the likes o' ye 'twixt Killarney and Cork.'"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The shoulder of the seal is the bear's favourite tit-bit, and I
have seldom seen him eat more of Miss Phoca, when sport was good and
provisions (seal) plentiful--G.S.

Note 2.  There are winters _and_ winters in Greenland.  Sometimes for
two or even three months together the darkness is deep and depressing,
the whole country shrouded in a night that seems never-ending.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

PADDY'S ADVENTURE WITH THE BEAR--FUN ON THE ICE--THE LITTLE PURPLE
CLOUD.

Tobogganing?  A strange word, is it not?  We are indebted to the
Americans for it, as we are for many other handy, but hardly elegant,
additions to our vocabulary.  Those who are fond of hunting for the
origins of words, and who cannot live happily unless they find out how
_this_ is _that_, tell us that the sport--and fine fun it is--was first
suggested to mankind by the beavers.  They say that these busy-brained
active animals, by way of keeping their blood-heat up in winter-time, go
in a crowd to some snow-clad hill, scurry up to the top of it with their
broad flat tails behind them, and go sliding down all in a row, rushing
up again as soon as they find themselves at the bottom, and joining the
other end of the procession, and that they keep "the pot arboiling" for
hours with the highest glee imaginable.  Well, perhaps the beavers do,
but in one form or other the sport is as old, probably, as the days of
Noah.

Canada is perhaps the home of tobogganing, for there the frost is severe
and lasts long.  Now, the scenery all round the "Sea of Dunallan," for
thus had the waters in which our heroes lay been named by them, was very
wild indeed.  The hills close beside the beach were high and rounded;
beyond these they were higher still, many of them rising into peaks that
seemed to have their homes among the stars.

It occurred to Paddy O'Connell, who seemed to be the inventive genius of
the crew, and foremost wherever fun was to be had, that a species of
tobogganing might be got up from which some "rale diversion" could be
had.

So one fine moonlight night, with the stars all shining as well as they
could, for the tails and ribbons of brilliant aurora that were hanging
in the sky, Paddy went prospecting.

"Shall I come with you, Paddy?" said Byarnie, who was the best of
friends with the "Oirlander."

"Not to-night, me bhoy," replied Paddy.  "It's after a bit av diversion
I'm going, and I think best when I'm all alone by me swate little self."

"Well, you might take a gun with you," suggested Byarnie, "for there may
be bears about, you know."

"Bad cess to them.  No.  There's never a fear of Paddy."

Byarnie watched him disappear round the brow of a high knoll, about a
quarter of a mile from the _Icebear_; then went quietly below.

The weather had been fine for weeks, and no snow had fallen.  It was
just the season when the sun might soon be expected.  Already, indeed,
there was twilight at noon, so all hearts were gay and hopeful.

Paddy was in search of a hill, and he was very particular as to both its
shape, its height, and its condition.  At last his prospecting cruise
was crowned with success.

"C'dn't have been better," said Paddy, talking to himself, half aloud,
as he had a habit of doing; "c'dn't have been better if me own mother
had made it."

The one drawback was that it was fully a mile and a half from the ship;
but, after all, that was a small matter.  So Paddy started to go back.

It had been tedious work, and hours of it, and, feeling tired, he began
to think of his pipe.  To think was to act with this son of Green Erin.
He stuck his alpenstock in the snow, and forthwith scratched a match and
lit up.

"That's comforting, anyhow," he said, after a few whiffs.  "Now, if I
could only find a stone to sit upon.  Troth, I might as well look for a
stone in the midst av the say, or the big bay of Tralore, as--Hullo!
what's yonder, anyhow?"

Paddy was on the bare brow of a steep hill; but on rounding a hummock
and looking back, he found one side of it was dark and free from snow.
He returned, and gave the darkness a poke with his stick, and the stick
struck--nothing.  It was the entrance to a cave.

"I'll just light a match and have a look," says Paddy.

The feeble glimmer revealed only a portion of what seemed a great vault.

"I'll creep in for a moment, out av the cowld," says Paddy, "and stand
in a corner; sure there can't be any crayture worse than meself in the
cave."

It was an eerisome situation enough, but our gallant Irishman did not
mind it a bit.

For fully five minutes he smoked, when he thought, or fancied he
thought, he heard a sigh.

"It's draining I am entoirely; who could be there; at all?"

Presently the sigh--a heavy, long-drawn one--was repeated.  There could
be no mistake about it this time.

"Ghost of Saint Patrick!" thinks Paddy; "is it in the cave av an evil
spirit I am?  But never moind, it's sleeping he is, anyhow.  I'll have a
look, and chance it."

Taking half a dozen hearty puffs to give him courage, Paddy quietly
advanced.  He had not gone three paces when--behold, curled up at his
feet, a gigantic yellow bear!

"Is it there you are, me darlint?"  Paddy whispers to himself.  "But
troth, I just remember it's toime I was going, so good night, me dear,
and bad drames to ye."

Now Bruin has excellent scent, and Paddy's tobacco was good and strong,
so no wonder he awoke.  He rose to his forepaws, opening a great red
mouth that would have sheltered a coal-scuttle, and giving vent as he
did so to a yawning roar that appeared to shake the very cave.

Paddy threw the almost extinct match into the gulf and fled, with Bruin
at his heels.

Byarnie was very fond of Paddy O'Connell, and when his friend stayed so
long away, naturally grew anxious, and finally started off to look for
him.  He would not take a rifle, "because," he argued, "if Paddy wasn't
afraid, sure I'm not."  But he armed himself with that most deadly
weapon, a seal club, and away he strode.  On and on went the giant over
the snowy hills; but Paddy's track, that he tried for a time to follow,
was as devious as a rabbit's.  When he was just about to give up in
despair, who should he see but his friend himself coming round the brow
of the hill--it could be nobody else.

But when Paddy disappeared suddenly from view as effectually as if he
had sunk into the bowels of the earth, then no wonder big Byarnie rubbed
his eyes and stared in astonishment.

Byarnie was superstitious.

"'Twas his ghost," he thought; "poor Paddy is dead, and that was his
spirit!"

And down there on his knees, under the flickering aurora, knelt big
Byarnie to pray.  While thus devotionally engaged, he was startled by a
roar that made him feel as if the earth was going to open and swallow
him, and yonder behold poor Paddy running towards him more quickly than
he had ever run before, and followed by something large and yellow.

Byarnie spat on his hands, and threw away his cap.

Well, I do not wonder, mind you, at Bruin's wrath.  How would any one
like to be wakened from sweet dreamland, and have the fiery end of a
lucifer match pitched down his throat?

"Come on, Paddy," roared Byarnie.

"Sure ain't I coming as fast as I can?" cried poor innocent Paddy.

As the bear went floundering past, Byarnie struck at him with terrible
force.

The steel point of the club entered his neck, but held there, and both
Byarnie and Bruin rolled together on the ground, the former undermost,
and the blood flew spattering over the snow.

Paddy was back in a moment.  He had all his wits about him, and his
first act was to free the seal club.

His next act was one which only a brave, merry-hearted Irishman would
have thought of.  He thrust the alpenstock into Bruin's mouth as if it
had been a horse's bit, and, mounting the brute's back, pinned him by
seizing the staff close to the side of each jaw.

"I've got him," he cried.

Crack went the alpenstock, and down went Paddy; but Byarnie was up, and
in a second he had felled his terrible antagonist.

There lay the dead bear on his side, his tongue lolling out, his dead
eyes turned to the sky, and there stood Byarnie and Paddy, both puffing.

"Did you ever see the loikes?" says Paddy.

"No," Byarnie replied; "but, thank Heaven, you are safe.  Let us go
home."

But Paddy carried out his tobogganing scheme all the same.

It was a very simple one, but afforded no end of capital exercise and
genuine fun.  Carpenter Jones, _alias_ "Chips," manufactured the
tobogganing sledges.  Chips said he was glad of the job--anything to
keep his hands in.  With the help of his assistants he made a score of
them in a single day.  Very simple they were, in shape somewhat similar
to those used by the Canadians, only these seated four abreast, so there
was, so Paddy said, four times the fun.

The tobogganing hill was high and round, but not very steep; the top of
it was a tableland; at the foot was an enormous bank of drifted snow,
and here the fun came in again, as you will presently see.

But let us go with the tobogganing party for just once in a way.

It is eleven o'clock in the forenoon.  There is a shimmer of yellowish
white light in the east.  There is a moon also.  Fancy moonlight at
mid-day!  What with these two lights, the aurora, which has been dancing
so merrily for many hours, looks slightly pale, though the colours
displayed are more glorious than any pantomimic transformation scene
your mind could imagine.  Alongside the _Icebear_ are two huge sledges;
one is laden with the tobogganing boards and a few merry sailors, the
other with men and officers, and such a row there is and such a din!
What with the wild shouts of Jack and Joe, the Eskimos; the cracking of
whips; the snarling, barking, and yelping of the dogs, the noise is
deafening and indescribable.

But they are off at last.

The men have breakfasted well, and, although it is very cold--ten
degrees below zero--they are happy, nay, even boisterously merry.  Paddy
starts a song and all join in the chorus.  Claude is there; he knows
that Paddy is a favourite, and lets him do pretty much as he pleases.
The doctor is there also in case of an accident, and he sings and laughs
like the rest, for he is quite a boy, although an old and very learned
one.

Mercy on us! how those dogs do fly over the ground to be sure.  They are
as fleet as the reindeer.  Now and then one falls and is dragged a
little way, but always manages to scramble up again.

"Hoorup, Hooreeup, Hooree--e?" screams Joe.  Crack, crack, crack goes
the whip.

Higher and wilder rises Paddy's song and chorus.  Never before were the
echoes of the mountains awakened by such boisterous mirth.  Even bears
asleep in their dens and caves hear and arouse themselves to listen.

"Hoorup, Hooreeup, Hooree--ee--e?"

The sledge goes over a rough bank, and Tom Tatters tumbles out.  Boy
Bounce waves his cap and laughs at him, but on goes the sledge, over the
hills and round the hills and across some frozen streams, and at last
straight up the side of the tobogganing hill, and two more men fall out
here, and all the rest are thrown on their backs with their heels in the
air--what sailors call catching crabs.

"We--e, wee--e, woh--ip!"

The sledge comes to a standstill on the flat top of the mountain, and
the dogs stand still also, their tongues lolling out, and panting.

The other sledge is coming up fast and furious, and soon is on the
ground.

Then the fun begins.

Four men seat themselves on a tobogganing sledge, and others start
them,--with a will too.  Down they shoot, the others watching.

The sensation is like that of descending from a balloon with a sense of
pleasure substituted for that of danger.  The moon and stars are hardly
seen by those bold tobogganers.  Faster and faster, they can hardly
believe they have fairly started till they are at the bottom, and--
buried in the wreath of snow.

They are completely buried.  Those above for some moments cannot see
them at all.

Paddy O'Connell was in the first lot, and he declared that "the dacint
burial at the foot av the hill was the best av it entoirely."

The fun has fairly commenced, and sledge follows sledge down the
mountain-side, sometimes three abreast.  Even Claude himself and the
doctor embark at last, both in the same boat, and find the sensation so
delightful that they keep it up.

The dogs have exercise at this game too, for they have to gallop along
the plateau to haul the sledges up again.

It is a mad scene and a merry one.

But lo! while the fun is at its fastest, "Look! look!" cried Dr
Barrett, pointing skywards; and every eye is turned upwards.

A little purple cloud!

It was twelve o'clock and almost daylight.

What a shout rent the air then!

The sun would rise to-morrow.

Claude and Dr Barrett shook hands, but neither spoke; their hearts were
too full.  Perhaps both were at that moment breathing a prayer of
thankfulness to the kind Father who had hitherto protected them from
every danger and from sickness itself.

There were great doings that night in the _Icebear_ and in the
_Icebear's_ snow-house.  A supper on board, a concert on shore!

Paddy's Irish jig was pronounced to be "a caution out and out," so the
men phrased it.

Boy Bounce's "break-down" almost outstripped it.

Even Byarnie must take the floor to dance all by himself a wild Norse
"hoolichan."

If you can imagine a rhinoceros tripping it on the light fantastic toe,
then you see honest Byarnie.  If you cannot, then I have only to confess
that figures of speech fail me.

The doctor played a selection of airs on his violin, that the engineer,
who, like most good engineers, was a Scotchman, declared made him "laugh
and greet (cry) by turns."

Why were those mariners--far away in the desolate regions of the Pole--
so happy, so gay?

Because they were hopeful.  The purple cloud had done it all.  The sun
was returning.  The long Arctic night had received notice to quit, and
in two or three months at most summer would be with them; they would
accomplish the object of their adventurous voyage, and bear up for home.

Home!  What a charm it has for a sailor's heart!

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE SUN'S RETURN--HOPES AND FEARS.

Both Claude and the doctor were on a high hill-top next day to watch for
the coming of the sun.  Nor were they disappointed.  About noon the sun
duly put in an appearance, looking fiery-fierce and angry through a kind
of blue-grey haze that lay along the horizon.

The doctor was ready prepared to take sights, and did so coolly enough,
despite the sun's angry glare--coolly in more ways than one, for as he
could only work with bare hands, whenever his fingers came in contact
with the brass parts of his instruments they seemed to freeze thereto,
and the sensation was that of touching red-hot metal.

I do not know how it was, but after the sun had once more sunk, and
twilight had commenced to deepen into night, the scenery of the bleak
world around them--the rugged mountains, the rocks and cliffs that
looked like bergs of ice, the wide expanse of snow-clad sea, with their
vessel lying so cold and comfortless-looking--had a very saddening
effect both on Claude and the doctor.

"It is like going back into the grave," said Claude.

"Well," the doctor replied, "we must not forget that the sun will--rise
again to-morrow and stay a little longer with us, and so on, longer and
longer, until he rises not to set again."

"While we are here?"

"Yes, while we are here.  I pray it may be so, for we ought to be out
into blue open water by the beginning of August, and homeward bound."

"Happy thought!" said Claude, after a pause; "I'll send off another
bird."

"I would certainly do so; and say in your message the sun has come, that
all is well and happy; give latitude and longitude exactly."

"Do you really think these birds ever reach home?"

"Now," said Dr Barrett, "that is a question that many would ask.  Many
doubt the capabilities of flight or home instincts of sea-birds.  I am
as firmly convinced that a seagull, which has been reared in captivity
from an egg procured from the parent nest and hatched under a duck or
fowl, can be made the best of carriers of messages over sea and land, as
I am that the sun we have just seen will rise again to-morrow."

"It is not that I altogether doubt it," said Claude; "but you know the
story I have confided to you about my love for Meta and my quarrel with
my mother--alas! that I should have to give it so harsh a name.  Well,
although I do not doubt, I sometimes fear."

"I can fully appreciate your feelings, my dear sir," was the reply.
"Rough old sea-dog though I be, I, too, have had my little romance in
life.  Yes, let the poor bird fly; it will reach in safety."

But it may be as well to say at once here that the good doctor was
rather sanguine, for of all the six sea-birds that had been, or would
be, let fly, only two reached Iceland safely.  One of these had been
thrown up near Desolation Point; it was that bird which reached home.

"Ought I to communicate the safety of her son to the proud Lady Alwyn?"
had been Meta's thought on receiving the welcome intelligence.  She
dreaded doing so; she feared to put harder feelings in the lady's heart
against poor Claude than she already possessed.  "Besides," argued Meta,
"the _Kittywake_ will soon return and bring her the news that I do not
doubt she is pining to hear, if she only loves him half as much as I
do."

The other bird that made its haven in Iceland, though I ought not to
anticipate, was one of the last sent up.  Of it I shall have more to say
anon.

As soon as the day was an hour long, with about an hour of twilight on
each side to back it up, Dr Barrett recommenced his explorations in
earnest.

The ground all round the inland sea was of adamant; nor pick nor spade
could dare on that.  But to continue the mine begun the previous summer
was far more feasible, for the snow that had filled it had kept out the
frost.

Here, then, work was begun.  It would keep the men at earnest exercise,
at all events, the doctor said, and prevent sickness.

The mine was soon so far advanced as to be a perfect shelter for the
workers, even daring the worst of weather.

When little morsels of nuggets of gold and silver came to be found the
excitement grew intense.  Even the hands who did not strictly belong to
the surgeon's party prayed the captain to permit them to "have a dig,"
as they called it, in their spare moments.

And Claude did not refuse.

Rab McDonald, the third officer, was the first to make a lucky find.  It
was a nugget of pure gold as big as his thumb, and that was by no means
a small one.

"Man! look!" he cried exultingly, showing it round to his fellows.
"I'll soon be as rich as Rothschild."

His face fell somewhat when the doctor quietly told him that all the
precious ore found belonged by rights to the company who had sent them
out.

A good many more faces fell also, but when Claude explained that he
would make such representations as would ensure a goodly percentage of
the gold or silver dug out being given to the finders, the enthusiasm
was restored, and all hands went to work with a will.  For months the
gold fever raged among the _Icebear's_ crew, from February till nearly
the end of May, and even sports would have been forgotten in the
excitement; but about twice a week Claude ordered all hands to play, if
the weather was at all propitious.  Then football was resumed, and
Paddy's wild game of tobogganing also, to say nothing of fishing.
Fishing? you may repeat, in some surprise.  Yes, dear reader.  It was
done so: a hole was made in the ice, and baited hooks were lowered
through.  But Jack and Joe despised such cultivated plans of proceeding
to business, and, if the truth must be told, they were quite as
successful, if not more so, than the British sailors.  The tackle these
Indians used and their method of using it were of the most primitive
description.  Each had his own ice-hole, each had a short gut line with
a strong strangely shaped bone hook.  This was lowered into the water,
and if fish even snapped at it--and many did, for the fish are hungry in
Greenland during winter--out they came, and they never got back.

The days got longer and longer now, and the weather got sensibly less
cold, till lo, and behold! about the middle of April the sun rose one
morning and announced his intention of not going to bed again for three
months and more to come.  At all events, he did _not_ set that night.
He only made pretence he would.  He went so low on the northern horizon
that our heroes fancied he meant disappearing altogether, then he began
slowly climbing round again.

Do not imagine, however, that it was all sunshine even now.  Far from
it.  There were terrible gales of wind now, and whirling, drifting snow
that seemed to rise as high as the highest mountain peaks.

Some of these hills were evidently extinct volcanoes, but how long ago
it might have been since fire and smoke belched from their lofty
summits, even Dr Barrett himself would hardly have dared to guess.  But
working down in their mine one day, about the end of April, the men were
startled at hearing a hollow, rumbling sound apparently far down beneath
them; it was like the noise of waggon wheels rattling over a rough road,
only muffled.

The surgeon and Claude were both in the mine at the time.

"Don't be alarmed, men," said the former; "you may safely go on with
your work.  It is the noise of steam you hear, or rather of water and
steam combined.  That sound was sent to tell us summer is coming.  It is
a way the earth has in Greenland."

"You have heard something similar before?" asked Claude.

"I have, only not in Greenland proper, but in caves among the hills in
Spitzbergen."

Now, giant cataracts began to tumble down from the cliffs of the
mountains, and roaring rivers and torrents appeared where rivers had not
been suspected before.  Water overflowed the inland sea all around the
_Icebear_, making the snow slush, and rendering the passage to and from
the shore not only difficult but even dangerous.

And this state of things increased, the sky being meanwhile thickly
covered over with dark rolling cumulus, drifting onwards on the wings of
a southern breeze.  But in a day or two the wind fell flat, the clouds
were lifted like a veil from east to west; in half an hour's time there
was not a cloud in the sky, and the sun shone down cold and clear.
Strange adjectives to use when speaking of the sun, but none other could
express my meaning, for this silver shield of a sun seemed shorn of its
rays; you could look at it without pain or inconvenience, just as,
raising my eyes, I now gaze upon the flame of the oil lamp by which I am
writing.

At eight bells next morning, everybody both fore and aft having
breakfasted once, and the boy Bounce twice at least, all hands were on
deck waiting orders for the day.  Presently the captain and surgeon came
up, and took a turn or two up and down the quarter-deck, laughing and
talking.

Then came the order, "Hands, lay aft."

Claude himself addressed them, laughingly.  He did not often say much
face to face thus to his men.

"Men," he said, "we're going to have a forenoon on the ice."

"Hurrah!" was the shout.

Round the ship, dear reader, and for no one knows how far out seaward,
the water had been frozen into one smooth sheet of ice.  Who could
resist it?

All the skates in the ship were had up, and, although there were hardly
enough, those who went without could slide.  While the men waited the
next order, there was a scream of terror sounded forward.  The mate ran
towards the fo'c'sle: there lay poor boy Bounce, bleeding; and standing
over him, Datchet, the only black sheep in the ship.

"What do you want with skates, hey?" he was saying.

He had robbed boy Bounce.

When Mr Lloyd ordered Datchet below for the day, the look--nay, scowl--
the man gave the mate was not easily forgotten.

But boy Bounce had the skates, his brow was bandaged, and when the order
was given, "All hands over the side!" boy Bounce was first to jump,
and was the merriest of all the mad and merry crew on that
never-to-be-forgotten morning.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

WILD SPORTS OF THE FAR NORTH--AN ARCTIC STORM--BREAKING UP OF THE SEA OF
ICE.

It was a matter of no small wonderment to the men of the _Icebear_ why
Dr Barrett should now, in a great measure, forsake the mine, where it
seemed that wealth could be accumulated, slow though it might be in
coming.

But the worthy surgeon "ken't his ain ken," as the Scotch say; in other
words, he knew what he was about.  He was not a gold-digger nor a
silver-miner: he was sent out for the purpose of scientific discovery;
not to load the _Icebear_ with the spoils of this frozen wilderness, but
to spy out the richness of the land.

Was it not possible, he argued with himself, that at some future day an
expedition might be sent out, and a company formed to work mines here.
It would give him, Dr Barrett, the greatest pleasure to be in charge of
it Meanwhile he was very busy indeed.

Dr Barrett's character and habits were such as might well be imitated
by the youth of the rising generation, both male and female.  Let me
give one or two examples of it.

ONE.  He was never idle unless taking wholesome healthful recreation.

TWO.  He considered the strict performance of duty as a part and parcel
of his religion, and its neglect a grievous and _cowardly_ sin.

THREE.  He was always ahead of the work he had to perform, and therefore
always easy in his mind.

FOUR.  He had method and exactness in carrying on his work.

FIVE.  Having done his duty he trusted all else to that kind Providence
who guides and rules everything here below.

Yes, the doctor was busy and kept his men busy.

As long as the snow lay on the ground sledging expeditions were made
every day, if it did not blow too high, or if the drifting snow was not
blinding.

Very pleasant and delightful, sometimes, were those sledging trips, very
dangerous at others.  The sledges were large and strong; they had been
built specially for the purpose, and were furnished, not only with
plenty of provisions, but with all that would be necessary in an
extended tour of, say, a week, though three days was generally about the
limit the doctor gave himself.  He was hardy himself, and cared little
for fatigue; he was, in fact, an enthusiast, but he hesitated to expose
his men too much.  Besides, he had sick patients on board, and an
accident might happen at any time.

There was plenty of capital sport to be got in these rambles.  The
animals that had returned to this country, however, were not yet very
numerous.  Bears there were, but they could certainly as yet have but
little to eat.  They growled about among the rocks, and wandered by the
side of ice-water swollen streams.  Probably they caught fish, perhaps
they lived on love; but there they were, lean, long, and hungry looking,
their great shaggy coats alone preventing them from having the
appearance of downright starvation.

But precisely in the ratio of their hunger was their ferocity.  The very
sight of a man made them howl with anger.

"Come on!" they seemed to cry.  "I won't run away; I'm not afraid of
such as you.  Come on, and be eaten up."

There were two "hands" in the ship who took great delight in these
pleasure parties; one was Paddy, the other the boy Bounce, and both
constituted themselves Dr Barrett's special attendants and body-guard.
Paddy, of course, carried a rifle; and, after some preliminary training,
boy Bounce was permitted to do so likewise.  And right proud was the lad
to march at his master's heels with his gun and his shot-belts.

His master was terribly absent-minded.

Boy Bounce used to relate of an evening, to his special friend--on
board--the cook, how many times a day he saved his master's life.

"Blowed if he wouldn't walk right into the river sometimes!" said boy
Bounce, "if I didn't holler at 'im; or over a cliff, if I didn't pull
'im back by the coat-tails."

One fine sunny day the doctor was sitting sketching a pretty snow
scene--ice, mountain, glen, and waterfall, and the boy Bounce was lying
not far from his feet, facing him.

"Ahem!" began the boy.  "I say, sir."

"Well, well, well?" cried the doctor, impatiently.

"It's a dee-licious morning--ain't it, sir?"

The surgeon made no reply, but went on sketching.

"Think the frost'll hold, sir?"

The doctor looked up now--he knew boy Bounce's ways.

"What else have you to say, boy, eh?  Out with it."

"Oh, nothing sir, only there's been a bear a-squatting yonder, and
a-lookin' at ye for the last five minutes, and maybe he's going to
spring."

Dr Barrett sprang first though.  The monster was within thirty yards of
him.  He seized boy Bounce's rifle, and next moment Bruin rolled over
the ledge dead at their feet.

"Why didn't you hit him, you young goose?"

"Cause as 'ow, sir," said boy Bounce, coolly, "you told me never to do
nought 'athout first consulting you."

"Is it a bear?" said Paddy, rushing to the scene of action.

"Well," replied the doctor, smiling as he resumed his work, "it is
something very like it, Paddy."

"Sure and it's meself ought to have killed him, and not that young
spalpeen Bounce."

Boy Bounce smiled and took all the credit, and Paddy at once set about
taking Bruin out of his jacket, singing to himself some wild Irish lilt
as he did so.

There was one other individual who attached himself to these sleighing
expeditions, who had really no business there, namely, the noble
deerhound Fingal.

I have no idea what induced him to do so, unless it was to constitute
himself captain over the two teams of dogs, and to enjoy good sport
among the Arctic foxes, to say nothing of the grand galloping he had.

Fingal used to fly along at the head of the foremost team, keeping well
beyond reach, however, of the leader's fangs and of the driver's
cracking thong.  He used to hunt the foxes on his own account all day,
and spent his whole night in keeping them off the camp.

There is no end to the impudence these little animals possess,
especially when snow is on the ground.  They are then mostly white.  I
have an idea that, like Scotch hares, they change their colour with the
season of the year; at all events, in summer they are of many different
hues, and they then keep farther away from the habitations of men.

At night, in snow time, they are singularly annoying.  They yelp and
yap, and howl and fight, and unless you are very tired indeed, sleep is
all but impossible.  If you fire at one and wound it, the chances are he
will not run off if he could.  You march up to club him, and he grins
and whines and fawns at you in the most ridiculous manner; in fact, he
_argues with you_.  Well, what _can_ you do with a wounded animal who
argues with you?  You cannot brain him.  No, you simply retire, feeling
mightily ashamed of yourself for having fired at him.

Wounded monkeys have this same trick, and several other animals I could
name.

Camping out by the River Thames in the sweet summer-time, and camping in
the shelter of a rock on the snowfields of the far north, are two very
different things.  The members of Dr Barrett's sledging parties and the
doctor himself slept in the sledges; slept with their bodies in warm
flannel-lined bags, with rags over this, and rags right over their
heads.  Even then it was bitterly, oppressively cold.

The men of the _Icebear_ used to envy Jack and Joe, the Eskimo Indians,
who slept on the snow near their dogs with no other covering except the
clothes they had worn during the day.

Fingal, poor fellow, never rested by night--if night I dare call it,
with the sun ablaze in the sky--he was constantly roaming round the camp
doing sentry duty, and keeping off the gangs of foxes.  Often a horrid
yelling would awaken all hands, and, on looking up, Fingal would be seen
shaking a fox as Sarah Jane shakes a mat or a carpet skin.

One evening in May, when the sun was declining, or taking his dip
towards the lower part of the northern sky, clouds began to bank rapidly
up from the south-west.  It had been clear and frosty before this.

It soon grew quite dusk.  The clouds were very dense and very black--in
great rolling masses that certainly threatened something most unusual.

Dr Barrett gazed with some uneasiness at the gathering storm.

In less than half an hour the sky was entirely obscured, and the wind,
which had blown at first as if to place the clouds in position, fell
dead.  So for a time matters remained, the clouds still in shapeless
masses rolling around among each other without any apparent cause.
Gradually, however, they lost shape, and the whole firmament merged into
one unbroken vault of darkest grey.  Then pellets of snow, not bigger
than millet seeds, began to fall, faster and faster and faster.

Dr Barrett gave orders for the camp to be made up at once, and supper
to be cooked.

The snow-pellets merged into great flakes larger than crown pieces, and
it grew darker and darker.

Then there was a thunder-clap that appeared to shake the very earth.

Darker still.  What with the gloom of this abnormal night, and the
falling snow, the men could hardly see each other's faces.  The thunder
was now loud, awful, incessant; the lightning spread all round among the
still fast-descending snow.  It was lightning of a sort you never see
except in Greenland.  You are enveloped in the blaze; it is around and
above you everywhere--a white, dazzling bath of flame.

Poor Byarnie knelt beside the sledge, and buried his head in his hands.
The giant was praying, Paddy crossed himself, and boy Bounce began to
cry.  Meanwhile the doctor sat on a bundle of bags, stolidly smoking,
and Fingal crouched close to his feet; and ever, in the intervals of the
thunder-claps and their awful reverberation among the mountains, was
heard the melancholy howling of the sledge dogs.

"D'ye think, sorr," said Paddy O'Connell, touching the doctor gently on
the sleeve,--"d'ye think there's any danger at all, at all?"

"The danger is this, Paddy," replied the doctor: "the snow is very soft
and powdery.  We are thirty miles from the ship; and if it comes on to
blow, we will never reach her alive."

"Then, the Lord help me mother and me poor sister Biddy," said Paddy,
piously.

But some time after midnight the thunderstorm retired, growling over the
distant hills, and with it went every cloud.

Then oh! to see the beauty of the newly fallen snow, its purity, its
whiteness, its stars of many shapes and ever-changing colours of light
and radiance.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

After two days of a wind that blew steadily from the south, the silence
of that great inland sea was suddenly broken.

You might have imagined you were on some great battle-field, there was a
constant series of rifle-like reports in all directions, with now and
then a louder report, as if a piece of artillery had been discharged.
And amid these ominous sounds you could hear, as it were, the shrieks of
the wounded and the groans of the dying.

It was the breaking up of the inland sea of ice, and the noise continued
for a whole day, and still the soft wind blew from the south.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

"SUMMER COMES WITH ONE GLAD BOUND"--FIRE!

Spring or early summer is to all a season of hope and joy, but no one
who has never lived in the drear cold regions around the Pole in winter
could understand or appreciate the glad feeling that is born in the
heart when the sun once more ascends his throne and rules triumphant in
all the land.

Some reason or other may be ascribed for all religions and forms of
worship, even the most heathenish; and I have never been astonished to
see a pious Eskimo Indian with his family kneel or throw himself on his
face before the god of day, though I have felt sorry for him and for
them.

  "But yonder comes the powerful king of day,
  Rejoicing in the east.  The lessening cloud,
  The kindling azure, and the mountains' brow
  Illumed with fluid gold, his near approach
  Betoken glad.
  He looks in boundless majesty abroad
  And sheds the shining day, that burnished play,
  On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering streams
  High-gleaming from afar."

Summer seemed to come to the rocks and hills around the sea of Dunallan
with one glad bound.  There were some few days of fog or mist, so dense
that it was impossible even to see the point of the jibboom.  This fog
was, as it were, the curtain of Nature's great theatre, dropped for a
time while the grand transformation scene was being put on the stage
behind it.

Then it was withdrawn--lifted, and behold summer on the hills, summer in
the glens.  Glad streams and cataracts sparkling in the sunshine, the
mountain-tops capped in silvery snow, streaks of silver running down
their brown, white-flecked sides, but the ground all carpeted with
green, which in a few days burst forth into the most charming variety of
colours.

The sea itself was scarcely rippled by the gentle breeze that blew
steadily from the west; the air was so fresh and balmy that it was a
pleasure to breathe it.  Everything seemed to feel the touch of the
newly come summer, and to rejoice.  Flocks of birds of innumerable
varieties went wheeling and circling round the ship, or floated on the
water; there was music even in their wild glad shrieks.

Many a black head, too, popped up out of the water, some tusked and
bearded, some as awful as a nightmare.  And seals basked on the sunny
side of the rocks, or on the sandy beach; while bears by the dozen and
score prowled round, warily watching their chance to spring upon and
make prey of these innocents.  The bears seemed now to have no fear of
man.  Nor did they appear anxious to attack any one; they were no longer
an-hungered.

The snow awnings were now taken down from the decks, a general spring
cleaning was instituted, and, after this, even winter garments were put
aside, and the men looked gay and felt happy in consequence.  But for
all this, the temperature was seldom a degree above 45 degrees; and if
ever it reached 50 degrees, the men thought it uncomfortably hot.

Alba, the snow-bird, had pined a great deal during the long, dark winter
day, and seldom cared to leave the cabin; but now she went screaming and
flying all round the ship as if mad with joy, and hardly could Claude
tell her from the other birds of the same genus, only she usually came
when called.

Fingal, when not on the war-path, used to lie on the snow-white deck and
gasp, with about a quarter of a yard of crimson tongue lolling
indolently out of his mouth.

The doctor continued busy as ever, only the sledges were put away, and
all expeditions had now to be undertaken on foot.

Very much to Claude's surprise, they came one day in their wanderings,
while a very long way from the ship, on a herd of tiny horned bisons
quietly browsing on the sweet mosses in a wild glen.

The strange creatures lifted their heads and sniffed the air as Claude
and Paddy O'Connell approached, but it was surprise, not fear, they
exhibited.

Claude waited till the doctor and his party came up.

"What are they, in the name of mystery?" asked Claude.

"They are musk oxen, without a doubt," was the reply; "but I never saw
such small ones before.  They are dwarfs of their species.  Truly this
is a land of wonders.  There is certainly," he continued, "no geological
reason why these animals should not be here, only--"

"Look here, doctor," cried Claude, "while you are preaching to Paddy
there, I'll have a shot."

"By all means, let us have a specimen."

"And troth," said Paddy, "we'll have a specimen for the cook's coppers,
doctor dear, as well as for the good of science."

At the very first rifle shot, one of their number bit the dust; but,
strange to say, the others fled not.  They looked wild and startled, and
in dread terror they sniffed at the blood of their dead companion, but
they stood still.

Another was shot, and another; then at last there was a wild stampede,
not from, but down _towards_ our sportsmen.

Were they charging to take revenge on the murderers of their companions?

Claude thought so.  The surgeon knew better.

"Stand aside quickly!" he cried.

Hardly had they rushed a little way up the bank ere the whole herd
rolled past.

Paddy had a parting shot, but missed, and looked very foolish.

Fingal could scarcely be restrained from going in pursuit.  He thought
he could easily pull at least one down, seeing they were but little
bigger than Newfoundland dogs.

Deer there were now among the hills in abundance, hares, and a strange
kind of rabbit, that even Dr Barrett had never seen before.

On the great lake itself, sport was to be had in abundance.  Jack and
Joe astonished every one by their marvellous dexterity in harpooning the
huge and ferocious bladder-nose seal (_Stemmatopus Crisatus_), the sea
bear (_Ursus Marinus_), the little _Atak_, and the walrus himself.

Not from the boats of the _Icebear_, however, did these wonderful
Indians work.  No, for they built themselves kayaks, or light canoes,
made principally of hide, and so light you could lift one with a single
hand or wear it as a hat.  In these frail skiffs they would venture for
miles out to sea, and they seldom came back without an animal of some
kind.

But once Jack came home without Joe.

"Where is Joe?" asked Claude.

"Joe?  You asked for my brooder?"

"Yes, your brother," replied Claude.

"Oh!" said Jack, indifferently, "he toomble up plenty quick.  No can
turn hims kayak again.  P'r'aps he go drown, ha! ha?"

It had never occurred to Jack to go to his brother's assistance.  When
taxed with his callousness--

"What for I go?" he replied.  "No plenty good.  P'r'aps Jack he catchee
my kayak, and den we bof on us toomble.  No, no, not plenty good
enough."

"Call away the whalers," bawled Claude.

"Call both away, Mr Lloyd."

There was a trampling of feet, and a rattling of blocks and tackle, and
in two minutes both took the water with a plash.

"A guinea to the first boat that reaches the kayak," cried Claude.

There was a race on then--a very exciting one, though only to save the
life of a poor Eskimo Indian.

The kayak could be distinctly seen from the masthead, with poor deserted
Joe clinging to it.

Claude went himself to the crow's-nest, to guide the boats by means of
the long fan used for such purpose by Greenland-going ships.

The poor fellow was at length rescued, very much exhausted.

By the time he had reached the ship, however, what with the warm
sunshine and a stimulant the Spectioneer had administered to him, Joe
was all right and smiling.

But his brother Jack, as soon as Joe came on board, pointed at him a
stern finger of reproof.

"I 'shamed o' you," he said.  "I 'shamed o' you proper.  You not can
turn your kayak, ha! ha!  You no true Indian.  Suppose one shark snap
your two legs off, dat do you plenty mooch good.  Bah!"

The summer passed away only too quickly; it passed, but not in vain, for
Dr Barrett had done much good for the cause of science; and, reader,
science always does or always should bring us nearer to Him who made all
things and rules over them by unchangeable laws that He knows are good,
whatever we finite beings may dare to imagine.

The summer passed; Claude and all his crew had enjoyed splendid sport.
I wish I had space to tell of the adventures they had, some of them wild
enough in all conscience.  But while enjoying themselves there had been
no neglect of duty, with one sad, solitary exception presently to be
mentioned.

"I am very glad to say," remarked Dr Barrett, one evening at dinner,
"that I have succeeded in doing about all I believe that our learned
friends in England wanted me to do, thanks to your good judgment,
Captain Alwyn, in steering us to this wondrous country."

"And so am I glad also," replied Claude.  He was thinking of home just
then.  "Let me see," continued the doctor, musingly, "I have collected
quite a museum of specimens of Arctic flora and even fauna.  To the
lichen world I have, I think, added not a few species hitherto unknown.
I have taken observations of every conceivable kind; there is a record
of them in my notes.  I have, or, pardon me for my egotism, we have
discovered coal--that is of little use, perhaps; iron--that exists
everywhere; tin--that is more to the purpose; silver and gold, and these
are better still.  We have also," he went on, "found the bones of
extinct mammals, and the evidences on all sides that at one time the
hills around us, or hills like them, were covered with forest and fern,
and inhabited by a race of animals that we human beings too often, I
think, call inferior.  We have, moreover--"

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the steward.  "May I speak to you half a
minute?"

The doctor followed him into the steerage.

He soon returned, looking serious and vexed.

"Beast!" he muttered.

"I hope," said Claude, "there is no one in this ship deserves that
title, doctor."

"Will you come and see for yourself, sir?"

"I will."

Claude followed the doctor out to the steerage and into the dispensary.
There he pointed to an almost empty bottle of brandy.

He said nothing.

"Do you mean me to infer," said Claude, "that one of my crew has been
guilty of a theft so vile?"

The doctor nodded.

"And who?"

"Who but Datchet?"

"Mr Lloyd," shouted Alwyn, "bring Datchet before me to-morrow morning."

Datchet was duly punished, Dr Barrett, however, begging mitigation of
sentence on the plea that he had left temptation in the man's way.

Time went on, and everything was got ready for a start.  In a few more
days the order would be, "Up anchor, and hey for Merrie England!"

All hands were happy.  Small wonder at that.  It was Friday night.  The
_Icebear_ would sail on the Monday, the stores having still to be got on
board from the house on shore.

Friday night is, in many northern ships, held somewhat _en gala_, as the
day is a salt-fish day, so to-night there was a huge sea-pie cooked for
the half-deck officers, and several such for the men forward.

Everything seemed propitious as regards the weather, for though dense
fogs had prevailed for a week or two--it was early in August--the sky
was now clear and the glass slowly but steadily rising.  So the men were
right merry.  Paddy O'Connell had never appeared to such advantage.  The
boy Bounce was even allowed to tell a story and sing a London street
ballad; while big Byarnie sat in a corner, beaming over with gigantic
smiles.

But by ten o'clock sounds were hushed, and all hands in bed fore and
aft.  There was not now a sound to break the stillness, for the solitary
sentry had gone below to smoke by the galley fire.

An hour passed away; then a solitary figure might have been seen
creeping aft on hands and knees.

Two hours.  The captain is sleeping sound; his hand is over the
coverlet.  Into this hand a cold wet nose is thrust.

"Go away and sleep, Fingal," he mutters.

But the dog whines, and finally barks, and then Claude starts up, fully
awake now.

See, across the cabin yonder is the reflection of a strange light in the
glass!

He springs to the deck and rushes to the door, which is open.

There is fire in the store-closet between his cabin and the wardroom.

Fire in the spirit-store!

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, went the bell two strokes to the
second.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, and in a minute the whole ship is alive.

CHAPTER NINETEEN.

THE BURNING OF THE "ICEBEAR."

All hands worked steadily, willingly, and well.  There was not a sound
to be heard, except the roar of the flames, the tramping of feet, an
occasional word of command, and the steady clank, clank of the little
pumping engine.  No noise, no bustle, no confusion on board the burning
ship.

The flames had soon gained mastery over the captain's cabin, and over
the wardroom as well, for the fire seemed to spread on both sides.

Claude was walking slowly up and down the deck, 'twixt main and
foremast, quietly superintending everything.  That he was here, and here
only, showed the perfect confidence he had in his men and officers to
carry out the terrible duties now imposed upon them.

Smoke and flames were pouring up through the companions aft, and it was
evident that that portion of the ship was doomed.

Claude was hoping against hope.  Were the cabin and wardroom only
destroyed and the fire here checked, the hull and the fore-part of the
ship would be but little injured, and the voyage home be, after all,
made in safety.

The greatest danger of all rested in the fact that the magazine,
containing a very considerable quantity of gunpowder and gun-cotton, lay
close to--almost _in_--the seat of fire, and so quickly had the flames
spread that it had been found impossible to remove the stores without
the almost certainty of exploding the whole.

So among the first orders given was for a volunteer to carry the end of
the hose along the lower deck and flood the magazine.

Boy Bounce was the first to spring forward.

"Can we trust him, Mr Lloyd?"

"Certainly, sir."

"And I'm so small, you know; I can walk where a big 'un would 'ave to
creep, sir."

The boy seemed a long time gone, but he crawled back at last, and fell
senseless at Lloyd's feet.  He was badly burned about the hands and even
face, but as soon as he came to himself he went on working with the
rest.

Hours flew by, one, two, three; still the fire raged; still the men
worked steadily on.

All seemed going well, when suddenly the wind shifted, and almost at the
same time the smoke and flames came roaring forward, and one mast caught
fire.  The crew were driven from the pumps, and for the first time
something like a panic spread fore and aft.

It was evident now that the ship could not be saved.  All further
attempts at pumping were abandoned, and all hands set to work to remove
stores.

Unfortunately, two of the boats that hung on davits aft were lost, so
that only two remained.

One of these boats was commanded by McDonald, the other by Dr Barrett,
Claude and Lloyd determining to remain on board till the bitter end.

How bitter that end was to be no one could have guessed.

All the stores that could, with apparent safety, be got out were landed;
the boats were returning to the ship.  Claude had calculated that hours
must elapse before the vessel blew up, or that she might sink without an
explosion.

Orders had just been issued for the men to stand by to embark in the
boats with regularity and quietness, when suddenly the after-part of the
ship was blown up with fearful violence; masts, spars, deck, rigging,
and bulwarks flew skywards, in a fountain of crimson flame.

The sea was covered with the wreckage, and the _Icebear_ began rapidly
to sink stern foremost.

"Give way, men," shouted Dr Barrett.  "Give way with a will to the
rescue."

Let the curtain drop over the terrible scene.  Suffice it to say that
everything that man can do, or heroes accomplish, was done and dared by
those in the boats to save their friends and messmates from drowning,
and from worse--from being devoured by sharks; but out of all that crew
of men, who, only a few short hours before, had been peacefully
slumbering, and dreaming, perchance, of home and happiness, only thirty
answered to their names that morning in the shore-house.

Some of these, too, were badly wounded, and nearly all exhausted.

Poor Lloyd was among the drowned, so was Warren, the second mate, and
both Pipes and Chips had gone to their account.

Big Byarnie had been sent ashore with one of the first boats.  He was a
giant to work, and did about three men's duty in unloading.  He had
taken the sea-birds with him.

Fingal had, dog-like, stayed with his master, and swam all the way to
the shore with him after the explosion.  Boy Bounce came floating on
shore stride-legs on a spar, propelling himself with half an oar, which
he had managed to pick up somehow or other.

There was so much life and enthusiasm about Paddy O'Connell, that it is
almost needless to say he got ashore.

"Somehow," said Paddy; but how, he couldn't remember at all.

A great fire was made in the shore-house, and the men who had been taken
out of the water rendered as comfortable as circumstances would permit.

When breakfast had been served and discussed--there was no ceremony now,
no distinction between officers and men, those poor mariners in their
terrible plight having formed themselves into a little republic--Claude
and Dr Barrett went out together.

They walked for a time in silence up and down the beach, Claude hardly
daring to cast a glance seawards where the wreckage still was floating.

The doctor was the first to speak.

"This is a sad ending to all our hopes," he said slowly.

"I cannot as yet realise it," replied Claude.  "My poor men! my poor
men!"

There were tears in his eyes as he spoke, tears of which he had no
reason to be ashamed.

Dr Barrett pressed his hand.

"I am older than you," he said; "let me beseech you not to repine.  It
is almost cheering for me to think that the bitterness of death is past
for those dear brave hearts who, remember, Captain Alwyn, died doing
their duty nobly and manfully."

"True, true, Dr Barrett; theirs must be a merciful judgment: but the
drunken brute who caused this terrible accident!"

"Stay, sir, stay; he too is in God's hand.  We cannot, dare not, set
bounds or limits to His mercy.  Let us turn our thoughts to Him, then,"
continued the doctor.  "We have to submit to whatever is before us.  We
_must_ pray, `Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'"

"Yes," replied Claude, "but that portion of the beautiful prayer our
Saviour taught has always seemed to me more difficult than any other to
utter from the heart while in grief or expecting grief."

"I know it, Captain Claude Alwyn, I know it.  There are few kinds of
grief in this world I have not tasted the bitterness of.  But come," he
went on, "you and I are still the chiefs of this expedition.  Let us,
even now, bravely face the situation.  Let us see how we stand."

"We are imprisoned in a living grave."

"Not quite so bad as that, my friend."

"Well, Dr Barrett, what do you propose?"

"Shortly this.  We have still stores on shore here, but we must
supplement them Despatch one boat at once; if she returns before the
snow falls, well and good.  Send her back for a further supply; if the
snow falls ere she returns, do not wait, but despatch the sledges across
country.  As we are about one hundred miles south of the inlet, the
sledges will take the short cut, and reach the cave stores in shorter
time than the boat can."

"Good.  I will lose no time, and as soon as our poor fellows are
buried--"

He paused and glanced seawards.  "My dear Captain Alwyn," said the
doctor, "our poor fellows are already buried; that water swarms with
sharks."  [Note 1.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Claude himself went in charge of the boat to visit the _Kittywake_
stores.  There would be, he reasoned with himself, about three hundred
miles of water to row or sail over.  The tide, however, that swept up
and down the long creek which joined the ocean to the inland sea, had
all the force of a mill-stream.  He determined, therefore, to take
advantage of that, and on his voyage out to anchor alongside the banks
during the flow, and rush onward when the tide was ebbing.

He returned to the camp far sooner than he had expected.

He returned empty.

A bridge of ice and snow had been encountered which, no doubt, extended
all the way to the sea.

"And so, even if my poor vessel had not been doomed to destruction, it
would have been impossible to get clear this year."  So spoke Claude.

"True, true," said Dr Barrett, "and now we must depend upon the sledges
to bring us supplies from the stores.  But," he added, "it is only right
I should tell you what I think, Captain Alwyn--"

"And that is?"

"That they, too, will return empty."

This melancholy surmise of Dr Barrett turned out far too true.

They waited till the snow fell.  Then, in charge of the spectioneer, who
had been among the saved, and Mr McDonald, third mate, the sledges set
out.  As usual, Fingal trotted off with the rest.

Even to those in the sledges, the time seemed long.  Their adventures
were many, the whole journey a toilsome and perilous one.  But the goal
was gained at last.  There was the signal pole on the cliff top that had
been raised to guide the _Kittywake_ towards the creek, but where was
the creek itself?

_Nowhere to be seen_.

It had been frozen over in the winter, and the ravine, at the bottom of
which it lay, filled entirely and completely level with snow.

To find or even to guess at the whereabouts of the cave where the stores
were buried under such circumstances was quite out of the question.  A
thousand men could hardly have found and rescued them.

If the time seemed long for those who went on this expedition, it was
doubly tedious for those who waited their return.

At last, one evening, about sunset, amid thickly falling snow, Fingal
came bounding into camp.  Claude knew the sledges could not be far away.
All rushed out to meet them.  Alas! and alas! for hope seemed to die
even in Dr Barrett's heart at the dire news.

They brought two bears, and these were cut in pieces and stored.

"What is to be done now?" said Claude.  "Are we to die like rats in a
hole?"

"Not, I think," was the reply, "without making one last effort to save
ourselves.  Were it the summer, we could live at all events as long as
ammunition lasted, but we have hardly food enough to serve us to
spring-time.  So I propose that we get ready at once, that we provision
the sledges, and make an attempt to reach the semi-Eskimo, semi-Danish
settlement of Sturmstadt."

"It will be a terrible journey."

"It will, indeed, but both Jack and Joe know the way.  I have talked to
them.  Their people have come on the hunting-path within a hundred miles
of this place."

"_For_ myself, I care not," said Claude; "but I grieve to think of my
poor fellows, perhaps sinking and dying by the way.  Would it not be
almost better to rough it here through another winter, then, when the
snow is gone, to walk the journey?  Every day would then be bringing us
into a warmer and better climate."

"No, captain, it would not, and for this one of many reasons.  If we
take the journey now we can go in almost a straight line, for the creeks
and streams will be frozen over in a few days.  In summer we know not
what _detours_ we might not have to make, what streams or rivers to ford
or even swim."

"I will be guided by your experience," said Claude.

Early next morning, outside the wooden tent, Paddy O'Connell and boy
Bounce were heard talking together loudly and excitedly.

"Is it true what you're telling me, and sorra a word av a lie in it?"

"Which I walked all the way over, and ran all the way back to see," was
the boy's reply.

"Och! bladderips!" roared Paddy; "och! the thieving spalpeens!  Bad cess
to them evermore.  Sure if I had them I'd break every bone in their
durty bodies.  I'd murder every mother's son or the two o' them."

He entered the tent as he spoke.

"I know what you've come to say, Paddy," said Claude: "the Eskimos have
taken the sledges and deserted us."

"True for you, sorr," said Paddy.  "It's all up wid us now, sorr.  Sure
I could tear me hair and cry; and it isn't for meself either, sorr, I'd
be after crying, but for me poor mother and Biddy."

"This is, indeed, terrible news, doctor," said Claude.

The doctor whistled a few bars of an operatic air thoughtfully before he
made reply.

"It may be all for the best, you know.  Hope, sir, hope, _hope_, _hope_.

  "`Hope is a better companion than fear;
  Providence, ever benignant and kind,
  Gives with a smile what you take with a tear.
  All will be right; Let us look to the light.
  Morning is ever the daughter of night.
  Cheerily, cheerily, then, cheer up!'"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The _Scymnus Borealis_.  Some of these monsters obtain a length
of nearly twenty feet, and at certain seasons of the year the sea in
some places swarms with them.  They are gregarious, and never fail to
appear when men are drowning or seals being killed.  They are terribly
fierce and voracious.

CHAPTER TWENTY.

SORROWS NEVER COME SINGLY.

However cheerful Dr Barrett might try to appear, he was far from
feeling easy at heart.

Hopeless he was not.  He had seen too much of the world--the wide world,
I mean--he had faced too many dangers not to know that there is seldom
or never real reason to throw up one's arms in despair.

But it behoved him to assume an air of cheerfulness, even under the
distressing circumstances in which he and his companions were now
plunged.  The survivors of the unhappy _Icebear_ were all his patients,
all his charge and care, and he well knew the depressing effects of
despondency, so he determined to do his duty, and keep up their hearts
if possible.

"Give the men something to do," he said to Claude on the same morning
the news of the desertion of the Eskimos had been brought to camp by
busy boy Bounce.

"I'll overhaul stores to begin with."

"Good?" said the doctor.  "And during the time yen are working I'll get
on the top of the bench and play the fiddle to them."

It may seem a menial kind of duty for a surgeon to fiddle to a ship's
crew; nevertheless, duty it was, and the doctor did it.

And the men were pleased; the gloomy shadows left their brows; their
eyes grew brighter; they even laughed and joked a little as they worked,
and I'm quite sure they got through the task in half the time.

A good dinner followed.  The cook, poor fellow, had been drowned, but he
found a worthy successor in busy boy Bounce.

Boy Bounce to-day had made some excellent pea-soup.  It was a good thing
for these unfortunate sailors that this house and camp had been built on
shore, and that it contained all the necessaries for cooking, etc, that
they were likely to want.  After the soup came preserved potatoes and
pork, to say nothing of a delightful frizzly relish of young seal's
liver.  Then all felt happier and more hopeful.

There would be at least a whole month of daylight yet, though every day
would be much shorter than its predecessor.  Then light would leave
them, and merge into the long, long Polar night.

As long as there was anything like a day, the men were employed fishing
and hunting.  The bears had not yet left, and sometimes a deer was met
with.  Why some of these animals should occasionally be left behind the
migrating flock is a great puzzle.  Are they too delicate for the
journey south, or are they left behind for punishment?

The bears that meant remaining were already seeking holes and caves.

The doctor knew their tricks and their manners, and had every likely
hole and corner searched, often by torchlight, and several fine
specimens were thus unearthed.

The brutes always showed fight, and some fierce hand to hand encounters
(if I may so name them) were the consequence.

But the days grew shorter, and, despite all that Dr Barrett could do, a
gloom settled down on the minds of the men that nothing seemed able to
dispel.  Even Paddy O'Connell himself lost heart.

"Och! sure," he said one day, "it is our graves we are in already, and
it's little use there is in trying to prolong our existence."

Dr Barrett took him aside.

"Paddy," he said, "you must help me to keep up the men's spirits.  I
depend upon you.  I am doing _my_ best.  Help me.  Will you?"

The tears rushed to the good fellow's eyes.

"Doctor dear," he exclaimed, "I'd lay down my life to plaze ye, and it's
the truth I'm telling you."

"Well, my good honest fellow, there needn't be any laying down of lives,
only just you keep up _your_ heart, and I'll lay a wager the men will be
merry enough, and that is half the battle.  I will not conceal from you,
Paddy," continued the doctor, "that there is a hard struggle before us,
a struggle perhaps for bare existence, but with God's help we'll get
through it and conquer."

"'Deed, then, and well try, sorr."

"Yes, Paddy; and if the worst comes to the worst, we have but once to
die, you know."

"True for ye, sorr.  I never heard of any one dying twice, sorr."

"No, Paddy.  And now you are my assistant--aren't you?"

He extended his hand as he spoke, and Paddy grasped it with the grip of
a vice.

But Paddy did not speak, because there was a big lump in his throat.
Only from that moment the doctor and he understood each other.

Another faithful fellow whom the doctor greatly depended on was Giant
Byarnie.

So now, virtually, the four heads of the expedition were Claude, the
doctor, Paddy, and Byarnie.

They used to hold little meetings by themselves, apart from the others,
and talk together of their prospects.

"If everything goes fairly well," said Dr Barrett one day, "what with
rigid economy and no waste, we will manage to weather the winter, be it
ever so hard."

"What say you to bear-steak, Captain Alwyn?"

"Delicious, I'm sure, with hunger as sweet sauce."

"Well, we can have that in abundance, and we have, or can have, fish all
the weary winter.  The biscuit is scarce, but we have peas, and--"

"And tobacco, sorr," put in Paddy.

"Right you are, Paddy.  For that we ought to be thankful indeed.--What I
lament most," continued the doctor, "is that our casks of cabbage have
gone bad, and that we have saved no lime-juice from the burning ship.
However," he added more cheerfully, "let us keep our minds easy, and
hope for the best.  How are the birds, Byarnie?"

"In fine wing, sir, the two that are left, for one died, you know, sir.
But these are the strongest two, and were Miss Meta's favourites."

It was determined to start them both--both to bear the self-same
message.

Claude would not willingly have brought a tear to Meta's eyes to own a
throne, but it was agreed between the doctor and him that the best plan
was to tell the whole truth, to hide nothing of the terrible extremities
to which they were reduced.

And Claude took his advice, and with that message of love which those
strong-winged birds bore away south with them, was something like a
farewell, a long farewell, and a fear that, on earth, he--Claude--would
never meet his love again.

"I think I can face death more bravely now," said Claude.

"And I too," was the reply.

It will be seen that even Dr Barrett lacked the complete hope of being
able to fight against the fearful odds before them.

The men were set to work at the mines, but they did so with very little
heart indeed.

What is the good, they said, of slaving here like coal-heavers, for gold
that can never benefit either ourselves or our families?

Faddy came to Claude as spokesman.

Claude himself went personally to the men.  He assured them that every
nugget of gold they found would be their own; that they were now
shipwrecked mariners; that they were to some extent, therefore, free
agents, and could, if they chose, throw over allegiance to him, their
former captain.

"No, sir," the men cried, "we will never do that.  We have lived
together happily and cheerily enough, let us die together."

"Who talks of dying?" cried Paddy O'Connell.  "Sure we'll never die at
all, at all.  Is it because the winter is with us, and darkness all
around us, that we'd go and cry like a choild that has been sent to bed
widout a light?  Troth, men, it's meself that's ashamed av ye entoirely.
Won't the sun come back and shine down on us wid de blessing o' Heaven
in a few or three months?  Then won't we take our guns under our arms
and go marching thro' the country as bould as Inniskilling Dragoons?
And won't there be such sport and such fun all the way south, as you
never had the loikes of before?  And sure, won't we reach the say at
last, and go off in some ship or another to England and Oirland?  And
och! won't our wives and sweethearts, if we've got any, be glad to see
us just--the darlints that they thought they'd never see in loife again,
because the big whales av Greenland had eaten them up?  And sure, won't
me own dear mother, and Biddy my sister, and the pig, the crayture, go
wild wid the joy that'll be on to them when they see their Patrick march
in at the door again!  Hooch! hurrah! it's myself that's as happy as a
king wid the thoughts av it all."

Paddy's speech had even greater effect in keeping up the men's spirits
than had Claude's.  They resumed their work more cheerfully, and Paddy
constantly led them with song or with joke.

Lectures and concerts were resumed in the wooden tent, now their sole
abode.  But the singing lacked spirit, and the dancing was _nil_.

They say that sorrows seldom come singly.  It appeared even now, in
December, that the proverb would hold good in the case of those forlorn
mariners.  For the winter turned out to be one of awful gloom and
darkness.

The aurora, that shone with such radiance the winter before, now showed
only occasionally, and that only as a faint white glimmer among the
clouds.  No moon or stars were ever seen.

Sometimes, for a week at a time, the snow fell and the wind raged with
such fearful and bitter force as to preclude the possibility of any one
ever putting his head beyond the threshold of the door on pain of
instant suffocation.

At such times it taxed all the energies of Claude and the doctor, and
even of Paddy himself, to keep the men from sinking into utter
despondency.

Even Fingal, and Alba the snow-bird, seemed to partake of a portion of
the general gloom.  Fingal lying quietly in his corner, dreaming,
perhaps, of the bonnie heather hills of Scotland; and Alba, with
drooping wings--her head under one--perched over Claude's couch.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

A TERRIBLE TIME--THE DOCTOR'S DREAM--THE WONDROUS MIRAGE.

It was the month of mid-winter.  Sickness had come at last; the sickness
that is born of privation and absence of vegetable food.  The younger
and more weakly of the men were first to succumb.  They lost heart, felt
weary, tired, depressed.  They refused to work.  Even Dr Barrett could
not find it in his heart to force them.  They grew pale and thin, even
to emaciation, and their dilated pupils glittered on their sunken
eyeballs.

Their stronger companions tried to cheer them, ay, and many a time went
without food themselves to give it to them.

One dropped dead, and was carried away and buried in the ice-hole.
"Buried by the light of glaring torches," buried at sea you may call
it,--a sailor's funeral, but what a sad one!

It was Magnus Jansen, a fair-haired Shetland lad, who had been a great
favourite with his messmates, owing to his kind and gentle nature and
his ever willingness to oblige.

"We commit his body to the deep," read Claude, "looking for the
resurrection, when the sea shall give up her dead;" and more than one
horny hand was raised to brush away a tear, as with deep and sullen
plash the body sank into the sea.

Two more died in a week--died apparently of utter despondency and
weariness.

"I shall soon see the light," were the last words of one of these.  He
just smiled faintly, and passed away.

Three more in a fortnight.

They nearly all seemed to go in the same way, of utter debility and
hopelessness.

Byarnie was nurse-in-chief.  He was always with them to the last; the
great giant kneeling down beside their pallets, and breathing in their
dying ears words that it is to be hoped often deprived even death of its
victory.

More than one died leaning against Byarnie's broad breast.  I have
already said that Byarnie's big fat face was far from handsome.  Ah! but
it was _so_ honest; and had you seen him there by the bedsides of those
dying sailors, you would have said that his face shone at times with
almost a heavenly light.

Another, and still another, was borne slowly away to the ice-hole.

Then it seemed as if Death was for a time satiated, and had claimed
victims enough.

For almost the first time this winter, the sky cleared, the stars shone
like emeralds through the frosty glow, the moon put in an appearance,
casting long shadows across the snowfields, from those who walked out.

There was the aurora, too, a brighter display than any one ever
remembered witnessing.  Away in the north, and overhead, the
ever-changing colours shimmered and danced in a way that was magical,
marvellous, and it seemed at times that you had but to put up your hand
and touch the broad fringes of light that danced and flickered before
your eyes.

The sight of the sky evidently gave the men some heart, some hope.

But after a week the stars and aurora disappeared, and the darkness of a
Polar night once more descended on the scene.

With so many ill, with so many dead, it would have been but a mockery
now to venture on anything approaching to gaiety or merriment.  Even
Paddy felt that; and though, like boy Bounce, ever earnest, and
energetic, and kind, he went about his work quieter and more subdued
than probably he had ever been in his life before.

Instead of lecturing, Dr Barrett used in the evenings now to read books
to his people; often books of a religious character, though not of the
gloomy kind, but rather those that spoke of a Father's love, and carried
the thoughts away and away to that bright land where there shall be no
more sorrow or crying.

One morning in March, Dr Barrett appeared more than usually cheerful.

There were now so many sick that hardly could those in comparative
health attend to their wants.

"I've had a dream," the doctor explained.  "No," he added, smiling, "I
shall not tell you what it is.  You will know by-and-by, for my dream
may not come true.  Byarnie," he said, "I'm going mining after
breakfast.  The morning is still and fine, and there are a lot of stars
out.  Bring tools and a few men with you."

"Going mining?" said Claude, in some surprise.

"Yes, mining, captain; but not for gold this time, but for what is ten
times more precious--for health.  Get ready, Byarnie, and we'll want
torches, as well as a bucket."

"You excite my curiosity," said Claude.  "May I go along with you?"

"You'll do me pleasure."

Straight along the south coast of the inland sea went Dr Barrett,
Byarnie following up with his men.  For more than half a mile he trudged
on without looking either to the right or left.  Then he stopped just
under a cliff, or rather a rounded braeland.

"Now, men, clear away the snow from the ice close to the edge."

"I think it was here I saw them in my dream," he added, turning to
Claude.

"I'm all in a fog," said Claude.

The snow was not very deep, and the ice was soon cleared.

"Now light up your torches, and you other men smash the ice and clear a
big hole.  No fear of drowning; the tide is well back."

This was a more difficult task, but it was accomplished at last, all the
more easily because there was no water beneath.

"See anything down there?" the doctor asked of a man who had just lifted
up a huge piece of ice.

"Only a thickish kind of seaweed, sir."

"All right," cried the doctor, quite jubilant now.  "Fill this bucket
with it."

This was done, and soon the whole party reached camp again.

"I am to be blamed," said Dr Barrett, "for not thinking of this
marvellous seaweed before.  It contains potash in abundance, and while
mosses of all kinds are frozen to death on the hillsides, this, you see,
survives.  Our poor fellows, now almost dead of the scurvy, may yet
revive."

Not only those who were sick, but all hands partook of the esculent
weed.  The sick revived, those in health grew brighter, calmer, and
happier.

"If our food holds out, I think we may now weather the winter," said Dr
Barrett.

"I sincerely trust so," said Claude, "and that we may all be well to
commence the march."

It seemed, however, that fate had still further affliction in store for
them, for one day Byarnie came to the doctor, and very sad he looked.

No less than two casks of meat were found almost putrid, and the store
of bears' flesh had also gone bad.

This was indeed terrible news.

When the third and last cask was opened it was found like the others,
unfit even for the food of starving men!

Tinned meat was all they now had to depend upon, and there was very
little of that; so they must go on short allowance at once.

The men were far less cheerful after this, and the summer, that but
yesterday had appeared so near at hand, was now apparently an
illimitable distance away.

Another expedition was made to the caves among the hills, in the
endeavour to find another bear.

All in vain.

Hope now sunk in every heart.  Even the doctor himself, who had
struggled so long, began to feel that the time was not far distant when
he too must succumb, must lie down and--die.

It was April, another month, another long, long four weeks--and early
summer and sunshine would come and bring back with them the birds--the
grebe, the auk, the wild duck and guillemot.

Two more had been added to the list of the dead.

The boy Bounce fell ill.

"We are not going to let the boy die," said one of the men.  "It is food
he wants.  Let us make a subscription."

The subscription was made.  Everybody gave a morsel of something for the
poor boy, and his allowance came to be double instead of half Big
Byarnie even gave up his blanket, and just slept a little closer to the
fire and hugged Fingal.

Poor boy Bounce lived, and began cooking again, though in this matter,
unfortunately, his labour was not now very arduous.

Claude was looking very pallid and worn; he did not speak much, he
suffered in silence.  The men would have fain had their captain to live
better than they did, but he would not hear of such a thing.  Besides,
he gave away a goodly portion of his meagre allowance to poor Fingal.

For Fingal was ill.

Indeed, Claude knew that Fingal was dying, and the faithful old fellow
appeared to know it himself.  One day the hound was very much weaker,
very much worse, and Claude knew the end was very near.  He was sitting
by the couch on which the dog lay.  Alba, the snow-bird, jealous perhaps
of her master's attentions to Fingal, came and perched upon his
shoulder.

Claude took the bird in his hands and slowly rose to his feet.

"For once, Alba," he said, "I must send you off."  Then he handed her to
one of the men.  "Take her to the aviary."

This was all he said.  But he went back and knelt by Fingal's bed.

Why did he put the bird away?  Those of my readers who love dogs will
understand and appreciate his reasons: there was always a slight rivalry
between the bird and the dog, and Claude would have grieved to let
Fingal in his last moments feel that aught stood between his master's
heart and his.

As Claude returned, Fingal recognised him.  He attempted to rise, tried
even to crawl towards him, and in doing so fell.  Claude raised him--how
light he was!--and replaced him in the softest part of his couch.  Then
he sat beside his dying favourite with one arm over his shoulder.

Fingal knew he was there.  He fell quietly and gently asleep.

It was that sleep from which nor dogs nor men ever awaken.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The time rolled drearily on, and at length the sun rose, and the days
got rapidly longer and longer; but starvation had done its work.

Not that more died, but several were down with sheer debility, all were
weak and poor, Claude could no longer stand.

Paddy O'Connell held out, so did Byarnie and the doctor, but the latter
was quieter far than of yore.  "The sooner," said Claude, one day, "the
sooner, doctor, it is all over the better."

One day from the hill-top, Byarnie saw a sight which suddenly struck him
with fear and trembling, and sent him on his knees to pray.

Away in the southern sky, some distance above the horizon, was a
wondrous vision.

It faded away at last, and then Byarnie hurried off to the camp, his
clothes wet with the sweat of fear, to report the matter to the doctor.

"It is all over with us," he said, "for I have seen a wonderful vision,
even as Ezekiel did in the days of the olden time."

"Have you been dreaming?" said Dr Barrett.

"I have not even been asleep," replied Byarnie.  "I was there on the
mountain-top alone, when suddenly in the sky there appeared before my
sight this vision, as of men and sledges and dogs moving rapidly across
the sky, among the very clouds."

"Were they all head-down?"

"They were all head-down," said Byarnie, "which makes the awful vision
still more wondrous strange."

"Bless you, Byarnie, for this news," cried the doctor.  "Hurrah!
Byarnie, we are saved! we are saved!  Be they Indians, be they savages,
they are coming, and we are saved.  What you saw, my faithful fellow,
was a mirage."

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

META'S STRANGE ADVENTURES.

We are back once again in Meta's cottage in Iceland.  There is but
little change here since the day Claude bade his betrothed a long
farewell.

It is evening.  Yonder by the fire sits one of Meta's aunts, working
away at her "rock and her reel," as she seemed always working, spinning,
spinning, spinning.

Meta near her, with her zither.  She had been playing, but her fingers
now lay listlessly on her strings, only now and then some sweet wailing
notes and chords were brought out as if the hands were _en rapport_ with
her heart.

"And you really say you saw him in your dreams, dear auntie?"

_Whirr--whirr--whirr_, went the wheel.

"I saw him," replied the kindly but ancient dame.  "I saw him.  I can
see him now as I saw him in my dream.  He is lying on the ground, and
his face hardly less pale than the snow."  Whirr--whirr--it--it.  "Oh,
auntie, don't frighten me, dear!"

"But kindly men are kneeling by him.  They raise him.  He revives.  The
blood returns to his cheeks.  He will live!"

"Bless you, auntie, bless you!"  Whirr--whirr went the wheel.  The
snow-flea in his cage twittered fondly.  The raven on his log, which he
seemed never to leave, stretched himself a leg at a time, then both
wings at once.  He was very old, that raven, and Poe's looked not more
weird, and--

  "His mate long dead, his nestlings flown,
  The moss had o'er his eyrie grown,
  While all the scenes his youth had known
          Were changed and old."

Meta plays now; she is more happy.  Her aunt has given her hope.

But somehow she does not play long; she is easily tired now, so she
rises and lays aside the instrument, then stands by the window to watch
the snowy mountain peaks changing to pink and to purple in the sun's
parting rays.

Summer has fled from the Norland hills.  The songbirds have gone--the
martin, and woodlark, and robin; the wild flowers have faded--the blue
geraniums, the pink-eyed diapensias, the daisies, and the purple wild
thyme; only the green of the creeping saxifrage bedecks the rocks, and
hardy sea-pinks and ferns still grow in the glades and by the
brook-sides.  But autumn winds sigh mournfully through the leafless
birch trees and drooping willows, and rustle the withered leaves of the
wild myrtle on the braesides.

With a sigh Meta turns away from the window.

Almost at the same time there is a knock at the door, and Guielmyun,
brother to Byarnie, and, like himself, a giant, rushed in.

"The bird, the bird?" he cried, "he is--"

But Meta heard no more.  Next minute she was standing by the cage.

Panting, ragged, and wretched-looking and dripping wet was the messenger
that had flown so far; but oh, bless it! it bore the little quill that
contained the missive of sadness and love.

There was no more weariness in Meta's looks now, but stern, firm
resolve.

"I'll save him if I can," she said.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"A young lady in the study wants to see _me_?" said Professor Hodson to
his neat-handed waiting-maid.  "Bless my heart, what a strange thing!"

But stranger still, five minutes after this the good old professor was
sitting opposite this young lady, and had given orders that no one
should come near the door till he rang the bell.

"Dear me, my dear, _de-ar_ me!" he was saying; "and you really tell me
that a sea-bird carried this message all the way from the icy north?
But there, there, I see, it is his own handwriting.  And yours is a
strange, not to say a sad story.  But it will all come right in the
end--perhaps, you know."

"Oh, sir!" cried Meta, "you will make some effort to save him?  You will
not let him die in those terrible regions of gloom and desolation?"

"Gloom and desolation, dear?  Yes, yes, to be sure, you're quite right;
they must be somewhat gloomy and desolate.  No morning paper, no morning
rolls or hot toast.  Well, well, we will see in a day or two what can be
done.  The _Kittywake_, too, she has been posted long ago a lost ship
and the insurance paid.  But even she might turn up, you know.  I only
say she might.  Stranger things have happened."

Meta took the professor's soft white hand as she bade him good-bye in
the doorway, and touched it reverently with her lips.

"Good-bye, my dear, good night.  You've got nice lodgings?  Yes, I think
you said you had.  Good night, good night.  God bless you."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The _savants_ are assembled in the largest room in the professor's
house--a room where lectures are often given and wonderful experiments
made, but a cosy room for all that, with two great fires burning in it,
and a soft crimson light diffused throughout it from the great
candelabra.

There is a stranger here to-night--a stranger to us, I mean--a man about
fifty, a sailor evidently, from his build and bronze.  He is very
pleasant in manner and voice; his face is handsome, and his smile
strikes you as coming directly from the heart.

They had been dining; the walnuts and wine were now on the table, and
conversation was at its best.

"Well, gentlemen, I shall call the young lady, and you shall hear the
marvellous tale from her own lips."

Somewhat abashed at first to find herself in such august company, and in
a room more beautiful than anything she could ever have dreamed about,
Meta was soon reassured by the professor's kindly voice.  He sat beside
her, and held one hand in his.

Then she told her story, as she had told it to Professor Hodson in his
study.  She hid nothing, kept nothing back, told _all_ the truth, even
about her love and betrothal to Claude, talking low but earnestly, as
innocently as a child repeating its prayer by its mother's knee.

There was no more eager listener than Captain Jahnsen, the sailor I have
mentioned.  As long as she spoke his eyes were riveted on her face,
sometimes he even changed colour in his seeming excitement.  When she
had finished, he stood up.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have been all my life a man of action, not of
words; and now what I have to say must be said briefly indeed.  For the
last many years I have been a sailor and adventurer combined.  I have
dug gold, ploughed the sea, and searched for diamonds; not
unsuccessfully, as you are all aware.  For years and years previous to
that I was a Greenland sailor, not hailing from any British port; not
sailing in beautiful barques or full-rigged ships, but in an open boat
from Lapland.  What made me so?  Fate.  I once commanded as splendid a
little craft as ever sailed the sea.  I had on board my wife and my
child-daughter.  I was wrecked--a sailor's luck, you say, but mine was a
sadder one than falls to the lot of most sailors.  My dear wife--ah!
gentlemen, the memory of that terrible night almost unmans me even yet--
was killed in my arms by a falling spar; my daughter was swept away.
Two sailors and I alone were saved by a Lapland walrus boat.  We lay-to
for hours.  No sign of life was visible; again I dropped insensible; I
was ill, mad, raving for weeks.  Yet calmness and peace came at last.
But never more dared I go near that awful coast.  To me the very memory
of it and of that night has ever been like a nightmare."

"Where were you wrecked?" asks Professor Hodson.

"On the Icelandic coast, north of Reykjavik."

Meta has turned suddenly pale, and her eyes fill with tears.

She timidly advances.  "Father," she murmurs.

There is no wild excitement; no melodrama.  Captain Jahnsen stoops and
kisses his daughter's brow.

"I'm sure, dear Meta," he said, "we'll love each other very much."

Yet, though lacking melodramatic effect, the scene was touching in the
extreme.

Poor Professor Hodson! he was fain to wipe his eyes.

"Dear me, dear me, dear me!" he said, in his quick, sharp way of
speaking, "I never thought that I would shed tears again in my life.
Dear me, dear me!"

"Now, my child," said the professor to Meta next morning, "I'm going to
ran down to Dunallan Towers, and see her ladyship.  No, as you wish me
not to, I shall never breathe your name.  Good-bye; keep up your heart.
I'll do the best I can."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yes, Lady Alwyn was at home, and would see Professor Hodson.

And presently she enters.

Very handsome yet, very stately, very sad withal.  She beckons the
professor to a seat.  "You may not guess what I have come about?"

"Yes, I can," she says.  "You bring no news of my son, but you think of
sending a search-party out?"

"That was mooted between my colleagues and me."

"Professor Hodson, I fear--indeed, I know--I shall never see my son
alive or dead again.  I live but to mourn for him.  I live but to repent
the harsh words that drove him from my door--from our door--my boy's and
mine.  To see his poor pet dog following him with downcast head; to see
even the bird fly away; I--Oh, Professor Hodson!"

Here, woman-like, the poor lady burst into tears, and the tender-hearted
professor feels very much inclined to follow suit.

"We may find him yet?"

"Oh! is there a hope, a chance?"

"There is, and we can but try.  We have thought of fitting out a yacht."

"There is _his_ yacht--his own yacht.  Take it, and welcome.  If not
strong enough, do everything for her.  And, professor, all the expense
_must_ be mine.  And I, too, will sail in her in search of my boy."

"Your ladyship, I--"

"Deny me not.  I will not be denied."

"Your ladyship little knows the danger--"

"Talk not of danger.  I'll be happy every day to think I am braving the
dangers my boy has braved before me.  Professor Hodson," she says, after
a long pause, during which the _savant_ has been musing on many matters,
all of which revolve round Meta--"Professor Hodson, I feel younger,
happier since you have come."

"Your ladyship, then, must not be gainsaid.  Well, I will accept the
terms you so generously propose.  We will at once fit up the _Alba_.
All things promise well.  We have in Captain Jahnsen a thorough
gentleman, a sailor, and one who knows Greenland well.  He has a
daughter, too, who has been to sea.  Might she not--"

"Oh yes, yes, if she would but come.  She would be a companion to me and
I to her."

"Well, well, well.  We will consider it all arranged."

The professor rubs his hands, and laughs a joyous laugh; and the lady,
rising, smilingly leads the way to the room where they lunch together.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The _Alba_ is at sea.  It is a lovely day in the first week of April.
Well off the last of the Shetland Isles is she, and bearing west with a
bit of northerly in it.  Not steaming, though she has been fitted with
engines, and can boast of a funnel elegant and pretty enough for any one
to admire.

No, not steaming, for there is a ten-knot beam-wind blowing, and her
sails are outfurled to it.  White they are, and whiter still they look
in the spring sunshine.

The decks are white also, and the very ropes, so neatly coiled thereon,
are swirls of snowy-white.  Everything about this natty yacht is neat
and trim.  The capstan is of polished mahogany, the binnacle is fit to
be a drawing-room ornament.  Whatever ought to be black about her is
like polished ebony, and the brasswork shines like burnished gold.

On the deck sit two ladies.  One, the elder, leans languidly back in her
cane chair; the other--it is Meta--is sitting on a footstool at her
knee, reading aloud.

A sailor would say the _Alba_ is a trifle down by the head; only a
sailor could notice it.  The _Alba_ is heavily fortified with wood and
iron around and between the bows.  But all water and stores will first
be used from the foremost tanks, then she will ride the waves like a
sea-bird.

How delightful the breeze! how pleasant the sunshine! and the _Alba_
herself appears to feel the importance of the charge she has on board of
her, and is proud in consequence.  She nods and curtsies to each passing
wave, kisses some, turns coyly away from others, and altogether behaves
as if she really were the thing of life the sailors on board half
imagine she is.

  "So gaily goes the ship,
  When the wind blows free."

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

AN ADVENTUROUS VOYAGE--"THEY'RE COMING!  THEY'RE COMING!"

From the very day on which Lady Alwyn stepped on board the _Alba_, and
joined the search for her lost son, and for tidings, however meagre, of
the good ship _Kittywake_, a new life seemed to spring up within her.
She seemed at once to have lost what she did not hesitate to call her
narrow-mindedness.

She began to see that all the world were brothers and sisters, and
dependent upon each other, not only for comfort, but for happiness
itself.  She herself in her pride and exclusiveness had never really
known what happiness was before, because she had never been free.
Accustomed to exact and to receive homage from almost every one around
her, she had been living in a kind of fool's paradise, imagining that
she was not as other people, that because she had, not riches, but birth
and high pedigree, she was made of different material than the
"_plebs_," the common herd, could boast of.

Now the scales seemed falling from her eyes.  She could see arightly;
she could even notice and learn that the world in general was
independent of her, but that she was dependent on the world.

Those hardy seamen, who went merrily about at their work, talking,
laughing, often singing, appeared not to know nor care that she, Lady
Alwyn, was in existence.  If Jack at his duty came on the quarter-deck,
and she were in the way, politely but firmly Jack would tell her, "I'll
trouble you to shift for a moment, ma'am."

Some of the politest of these offered an arm, and the proud Lady Alwyn
was surprised at herself for accepting the kindly offered assistance.

She was surprised at herself, too, for positively feeling lost, unless
she had some one to talk to, and to find herself often conversing with
Captain Jahnsen as if he had been a brother, or with Meta as if she were
a sister.

The latter, indeed, became indispensable to Lady Alwyn even before the
ship had reached the longitude of Cape Farewell.

Before another fortnight had passed I think she really loved Meta; for
Meta had been so unremittingly kind and attentive to her.  She had
calmed her fears when the winds or seas were raging and the storm
roaring through the rigging, and when the poor little yacht was
surrounded with floating icebergs so tall and so terrible in their
tallness and quiet but awful strength, that the vessel looked beside
them like a tiny fly on a crystal epergne.

Meta used to read to her, play to her, sing to her, and tell her tales;
but she never told her _the_ tale--she never told her the tale of her
love.

One day the book drooped listlessly in Meta's lap, and there came such a
sad far-away look in her eyes, that--they were alone in the cabin--Lady
Alwyn took her gently by the hand.

"What are you thinking about, dear child?" said the lady.  "You have
something on your mind--some grief, some sadness."

For answer Meta burst into tears.

Had she dared she would have told her ladyship everything now; for Meta
could not get over the idea that she was playing a double part, and
night and day the thought troubled and vexed her.  But dare she tell
her?  No, she feared her pride too much.

She consoled herself by remembering her vow, that she would never, never
marry Claude without his mother's consent--not unless she joined her
hands and blessed them.

But then Claude--might he not even now be lying cold in death?  No
wonder that Meta wept.

The _Alba_ sailed on and on, or steamed on and on, encountering all the
dangers usual to a passage out in these seas.

But every danger was bravely faced by the ladies, every trial was
cheerfully met, and but served to bind their hearts closer together in
the bonds of friendship.

Then one day, towards the latter end of April, the sun went down in a
yellow haze, through which he glared red and angrily.  There was ice
about everywhere, bergs of every conceivable shape and size, some so big
that the _Alba_ took long minutes to steam past them, others with
pinnacled top so tall that they caught the sun's rays long after he had
dipped down behind the western waves.  There was a look of such unwonted
anxiety on good Captain Jahnsen's face that Meta must go and embrace
him, and ask him if there was any danger.

"A little, dear," he replied.  "You're a sailor's daughter, you know, so
comfort poor Lady Alwyn if it comes on to blow much, and keep up her
heart."

Meta promised she would.

The glass got suddenly hollow at top, and began to sink at an
aggravatingly rapid rate.

The night would not be a very long one, but it would be pitchy dark.  A
heavy swell, too, was coming in from the south, that showed a storm had
been raging far out in the broad Atlantic.

Again and again the captain went to the glass, tapping it uneasily.  It
fell, and fell, and fell.

A bit of sail was got ready, only a morsel to steady her, and the
fore-hatches were battened down none too soon.

The storm came on, accompanied by blinding snow.  Lady Alwyn could not
sleep, though Meta sang and played to her.

Music below, sweet, soft, and plaintive; on deck the roaring, whistling,
and howling of the wind through the cordage; orders being almost
incessantly given to the man at the wheel, and the ship's course thus
altered a few points every minute.  This was to avoid the clashing ice.

Bump, bump, bump, continually against smaller pieces that could not be
avoided.

The ship was proceeding very slowly, and the captain was forward
transmitting his orders aft through the trumpet, when suddenly there
came a terrible crash, and the shouting and screaming after this was so
dreadful that Lady Alwyn was fain to put her fingers in her ears.

The ship had been struck, her planks splintered and staved in right
abaft the starboard bow.

It was "two watches to the pumps" now, while the mate and a few hands
endeavoured to stem the leak by placing blankets overboard against the
hole and over it.  In vain; the wind was too high, the waves too
merciless.  With frozen fingers, the mate and his men had to desist.

Short though the night was, it was a terrible one to the ladies below.
They had quite prepared to meet death.  But oh! death like this is death
in a dreadful form.

After what seemed an interminable time, the daylight shimmered in
through the dead light on the deck of the ladies' cabin, and up and down
across the glass in the scuttle the green seas could be seen washing and
lap--lap--lapping.

By-and-by they heard the captain's voice in the saloon, and immediately
after he sent to tell them that the danger was over, and the storm had
blown itself out.

By noon next day the sea had gone so far down that temporary repairs
were effected, and in a day or two more, in a calm blue sea, the ship
was heeled over, and these repairs made good and substantial.

Then the _Alba_ went on her adventurous voyage--adventurous, I mean, for
so small a yacht--and the ladies took heart and came on deck to gaze and
wonder at the marvels everywhere visible around them.

Into every creek went the _Alba_ searching for tidings of the lost
_Kittywake_.

In very few of these did they find inhabitants, and when they did, they
had no news, or only sadly confusing news to give.

One day Captain Jahnsen came off from a little Yack village with a
countenance beaming with hope and joy.

"I think," he told Lady Alwyn, "I have got news of your son.  Bad news
partly."

"Oh!" she cried, "it cannot be bad if he but lives."

"Some months ago he was alive.  I have met two Indians, who frankly
confess they basely deserted the party after the ship had been burned,
and a dearth of provisions followed.  They are willing to be bribed to
conduct us to the spot."

The reader already knows who these Indians were.  No time was now lost
in getting ready, provisioning, and equipping a sufficient number of
strong and ice-worthy sledges.

Captain Jahnsen made every endeavour to persuade Lady Alwyn from joining
the toilsome and hazardous expedition, but in vain.

The snows yet lay thick on hill and vale, though the sun had risen for
the day--the long Arctic day.

The ice on rivers and creeks was firm and safe, so that the course the
sledge party took was a straight one.  As they had travelled the road
before, Jack and Joe could not now mistake it.  Fast and well galloped
the dogs, and wonderful was each day's work that they put behind them;
yet to Lady Alwyn's mind and to Meta's they could hardly go quickly
enough.

The camping out at night, or during the hours that should have been
night, was terribly trying to poor Lady Alwyn.  How much she must have
loved her son, how much she must have repented her false pride, ere she
could have exposed herself to hardships such as these.

But the journey is nearly at an end, they have passed unscathed through
every danger hitherto, and there is but a short fifty miles between them
and the inland sea, when suddenly the sky began to darken over and a
snow-wind to moan across the dreary wilderness.  For days and days they
sheltered in a cave.

How trying to nerves and temper!  Would the storm never abate?  Would
the wind never cease to howl and rave?  It did at length, and joyfully
the journey was resumed.

As soon as they were visible, Byarnie, who had been watching on an icy
cliff top, must needs take off his jacket to wave it--a cap would not
have met the requirements of the situation; then, still waving his
jacket aloft and shouting, he rushed down to the camp like a maniac
giant.

"They're coming! they're coming! they're coming!" he cried.

Boy Bounce ran out waving his ladle aloft; Dr Barrett himself ran to
meet and welcome the expedition; the men rushed to the tent door, the
hale supporting those who were maimed and sick, even Claude being among
the number.

But Paddy O'Connell--why, nothing less than dancing a jig could satisfy
Paddy O'Connell, or keep his feelings of joy in anything like control.

"Bedad!" he told a messmate many months afterwards, "if it hadn't been
for that jig I'd have bursted entoirely, and it's the truth I'm telling
ye, and never a word av a lie in it aither."

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

"IT IS ALL LIKE A DREAM."

The journey back from the inland sea to the Yack village had been full
of adventure and toil, but all happy; and there is hardly anything a
person will not do or encounter when buoyed up with hope and joy.

They had stayed for two weeks at the village, that the invalids might
recruit their health and strength; and then, with her sails outspread to
a favouring breeze, southward she sped, literally on the wings of the
wind.

"It is all like a dream," said Claude, as he sat by Meta's side on the
quarter-deck of the yacht _Alba_, one beautiful summer's day just two
months after the events related in the last chapter.  "All like a dream,
Meta."  The vessel was coasting along the western shores of Scotland,
many miles off the point of Ardnamurchan.

There was hardly a breath of air; just a little swell on, and a gentle
ripple on each round heaving wave, with the sunshine weaving threads of
brightest silver all through, and making rainbows in the spray and
bubbles that floated away astern in the ship's wake.

The _Alba_ and her happy crew were returning to their native land, and
if nothing occurred they would cast anchor by next morning, at the tail
of the bank.

"Yes, dear," replied Meta, "it is all like a dream--a long, long dismal
dream."

"I'm not sorry it all occurred, though, Meta; it has tried your faith
and mine as well; and perhaps, you know, if things had not turned out as
they have done, my mother would never have consented to our union."

"Oh, I love your mother so, _so_ much!" exclaimed Meta,
enthusiastically.  "I loved her before we were a week together in the
ship; but then--"

"Then what, dearest?"

"I was not happy, because, you must know, I thought I was deceiving her,
that I was playing a double part, that I ought to have told her at once
who I was."

"Do you know, Meta," said Claude, after a pause, "I do not think I shall
ever doubt the goodness of Providence again.  Oh! you cannot tell,
love," he continued, "how dark my heart felt, how sad and gloomy, and
how full of despair when poor Paddy reported the desertion of Jack and
Joe, the Eskimo Indians.  And yet, Meta, had they not deserted, your
father would not have met them in the Yack village, and the probability
is you would not have found us, or found us dead."

Poor Meta shuddered, and the tears rose to her eyes.  Claude hastened to
change the subject.

"Do you think, dear," he said, "you will like our country?"

Meta had not been enough in society to be anything else but candid.

"I'm sure I shall not at first," she replied; "only--"

She paused.

"I will be with you," said Claude, beaming.

"Yes.  And after a time I dare say I shall get used to--to Scotland; but
oh! never to England."

"We will keep this yacht, Meta."

"That will be delightful."

"And when tired of one place, we will go to another.  I have a home in
the wildest part of the Highlands of Ross; we will live much there.  And
we will sometimes cruise away north to Norway, and to your dear
Icelandic home."

Meta was too happy to reply.

Claude's thoughts were also very pleasant, so the lovers relapsed into
silence.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are, to my way of thinking, few events more sad than the breaking
up of a ship's company, on her return after a long voyage.

At sea we have been a little community--nay, more, a family almost.  We
have learned each other's ways.  We have learned to love our messmates,
or at all events to regard them with friendship.  We know their
peculiarities, their habits, even their weak points and faults.  We have
been, indeed, more than a community; we have been a little world afloat,
knowing as little for the time being of any other people as the
inhabitants of one planet do about those of another.

But now with the paying-off of the ship's crew all is over; from the
moment the ship sails into the harbour all is changed, and every tie is
ruthlessly snapped asunder.

Everything is now bustle, stir, and excitement.  The very ship herself
begins to look unkempt and untidy.  She seems to become reckless and
regardless of her personal appearance--ropes anyhow, rigging awry, dirty
foot-prints on a deck that erst was snowy-white, tarnished brass and
soiled mahogany.  Strangers, too, crowd on board--landsmen with long
hats and umbrellas; lands-women who care less for a ship than they do
for a barn.  You feel the vessel is no longer your home, and you long to
get away out of her.

The crew is broken up; and on shore, if you meet some of the seamen you
sailed with, you will hardly know them, for Jack himself seems to have
degenerated, and your smartest and tidiest sailor on board may, on
shore, look a veritable rake or lubber.

No; my ship never looks well in dock.  Let me have her leagues and
leagues away out on the silent sea; be the water rough or smooth--be it
blue, green, grey, or foam-flecked, I can love her then and be quietly,
serenely happy.

So the men of the _Alba_ and the survivors of the unfortunate _Icebear_
were scattered far and near, the yacht being left in charge of McDonald
and two hands.

Meta and Claude parted for a time--Meta going home to her father's
beautiful villa at R--, on the banks of the romantic Clyde.  Byarnie
went with his mistress.  Dr Barrett became the guest of the Lady of the
Towers and of Claude.  The boy Bounce was here also.  He took up his
abode in the kitchen, and settled down to serious eating, by way,
perhaps, of making up for what he had lost in the Arctic regions.  And
Paddy O'Connell went home to "ould Oirland" to visit his mother and his
sister Biddy--"and the pig, the crayture."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

My little heroine--the bonnie, winsome, lovesome Meta--had seen many
changes even in her short lifetime.  And now she is home for a time at
her father's house.  Though a very beautiful and tastefully furnished
mansion, Captain Jahnsen's home was by no means a palace, but compared
to Meta's cottage in Iceland, surrounded by wild, bleak, and rugged
scenery--scenery nearly as silent as the grave or Greenland--her
father's domains were almost a paradise.

But Meta was one of those girls that, however humble their early
surroundings, if transplanted to a higher sphere, grace it Meta, in her
Norland home, dressed in hodden grey or simple wincey, was a lady.
Meta, arrayed in the costliest and neatest garments a fashionable
costumier could devise, and, through her father's fondness, "bedecked in
jewels rare," was nothing more.  She was artless, straightforward,
innocent, and candid.  What else can you wish for in a lady, young or
old?

And by-and-by Meta would be the lady of Dunallan Towers, and Claude's
mother the dowager; and none to see her now could doubt she would fit
and fill the proud position gracefully and well.

After a few weeks at home, during which, however, he had made many a
little run to Captain Jahnsen's house, going with all a lover's joyful
ardour, returning with all a lover's sad, sweet reluctance, our hero ran
his vessel down the Clyde.

It mattered but very little to Claude where the beautiful yacht _Alba_
lay while being altered and refitted, so she was moored not far from
Captain Jahnsen's house.  Refitted?  Yes, because there were tons of
iron and wood to come off her bows, and changes were to be made in her
saloon and interior generally.  She would sail no longer to the icy
regions of the far north, but by way of change--and such a change!--to
sunny lands beyond the torrid zone.

There was a deal to be done to the interior of the _Alba_.  Fewer hands
would be needed now, and therefore a new saloon for the officers, with
cabins off it, was built in the fore-part of the ship.  It was by no
means capacious, this room, but Claude spared no expense in making it
both elegant and comfortable.

The after-part of the ship was to contain Claude's private apartments,
and here taste vied with elegance to make a suite of ship-rooms that
nothing that is beautiful on board the finest liner could surpass.

What a pleasure it was to Claude, this refitting of what for many months
was to be the ocean home of his bonnie bride!

When the last clang of hammer was hushed on board, when every artisan
had left the ship, then, and not till then, did Claude invite Captain
Jahnsen and his daughter to inspect the _Alba_.

Is it necessary to say that Meta wondered at and admired everything;
asked a great many questions, and felt somewhat like a maiden under the
spell of an enchanter?

But honest Captain Jahnsen viewed all in silence.  It was certainly the
silence of admiration for Claude's cleverness--nay, almost genius--in
the art of turning a yacht into a lady's boudoir.  But, after all,
Jahnsen was a very practical sailor, so no doubt he thought, although he
said nothing, that he would just as soon sail in a less costly fitted
barque.

But then Captain Jansen was _not_ going in the _Alba_.  His sailing days
were over, unless, as he said, something wonderful turned up to cause
him to go to sea again.

Well, the _Alba_ being completely fitted, it is only necessary to add
that as many of Claude's Arctic messmates as he could find were easily
prevailed upon to join the ship.

Among these I need only name boy Bounce, who was rated wardroom steward;
Paddy O'Connell, second officer--he was a good sailor, and true, as we
already know; giant Byarnie, head steward and general superintendent;
and last, but not least, Dr Barrett, surgeon, of course.  His duties
were bound to be very light, and he was rejoiced to have an opportunity
to get that rest in southern climes which his adventures in the Arctic
regions rendered a necessity.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was gay and happy company that sat down to breakfast on that
beautiful autumn day on which Claude and Meta were married; and perhaps
the happiest, the most calmly, serenely happy face at that festive board
was that of the Dowager Lady Alwyn.

And Claude, with his bride, went away to sea.

But one thing is worthy of note in this place.  Before bidding his
mother good-bye, he took the snow-bird from his shoulder and whispered
some words in its ear.  I do not for a moment wish any one to believe
that the bird knew what was said, but one thing is certain: when Claude
placed Alba in his mother's arms, it nestled there, and it never
afterwards left Dunallan Towers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Seated on a mossy bank, in a wooded ravine, I have been writing this
last chapter, dear reader mine, while the Nith goes wimpling through the
glen close beneath me.

Summer winds are sighing and whispering among the silver birch trees,
and their drooping branches, nodding, kiss the murmuring stream.  There
is a wealth of wild flowers everywhere--great banks of brambles starred
over with pink-white blooms, and great banks of green and feathery
breckans, up through which tower the crimson-belled stalks of the
beautiful foxglove.

Musing on the story I have just completed, lulled by the river's lisping
song, and mournful croodle of the wild pigeons in the dark spruce
thicket, I have almost dropped into dreamland.  But I start as a hand is
laid on my shoulder.  I start and stand up.

No need to be frightened.  It is only Janet who confronts me--Janet,
with her silvery hair, her mild eyes, and chastened face.

"Janet," I say, "I have finished my story--your story."

"The story of our boy," says Janet, musingly, almost sadly.  "And," she
adds, "you have told all about the death of my dear Dowager Lady, and
how Claude never cares now to visit Dunallan Towers?  Have you told how
weeds now grow in the great old garden, and dark, dank nettles where the
roses bloomed?  How owls usurp the place of the pigeons in the ivied
battlements?  How on the drear, dark days of autumn the raven flaps--"

"Stay, Janet, stay," I cry; "no trace of melancholy or gloom must tinge
my last pages.  Look, Janet, look up.  What does yonder sky forebode,
evil or good?"

It was the parting rays of the setting sun I pointed to, gleaming red
upon a lovely reach of water far down the strath, and lighting up the
dark pine trees and the hills that o'ertopped them with a glory not
their own.  It lighted up old Janet's face, too, and her locks of
silvery-grey, until her face shone--radiant.

"Ah!" she murmured, "that sky bodes a bright to-morrow."

So, too, shall the sunset of your life and of mine be, dear reader, if
our lives are spent in the discharge of duty--be it high, be it low--and
if our hearts are ever brightened with a hope that is not of this world,
but lies in--the Far Beyond.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Land of the Great Snow Bear - A Tale of Love and Heroism" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home