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Title: Courage, True Hearts - Sailing in Search of Fortune
Author: Stables, Gordon, 1840-1910
Language: English
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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 "Courage, True Hearts - Sailing in Search of Fortune" ***

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[Illustration: Cover]



[Illustration: WITH IT FELL CONAL!  _Page_ 162]



                          Courage, True Hearts

                      Sailing in Search of Fortune



                                   BY

                             GORDON STABLES

           Author of "The Naval Cadet" "For Life and Liberty"
                    "To Greenland and the Pole" &c.



                "I’ve wandered east, I’ve wandered west,
                        Through many a weary way;
                      But never, never can forget
                      The love of life’s young day."

                         BLACKIE & SON LIMITED

                           LONDON AND GLASGOW



                            The Peak Library

                         _Books in this Series_

Overdue.  Harry Collingwood.
The Dampier Boys.  E. M. Green.
The King’s Knight.  G. I. Whitham.
Their London Cousins.  Lady Middleton.
The White Witch of Rosel.  E. E. Cowper.
Freda’s Great Adventure.  Alice Massie.
Courage, True Hearts!  Gordon Stables.
Stephen goes to Sea.  A. O. Cooke.
Under the Chilian Flag.  Harry Collingwood.
The Islanders.  Theodora Wilson Wilson.
Margery finds Herself.  Doris A. Pocock.
Cousins in Camp.  Theodora Wilson Wilson.
Far the sake of his Chum.  Walter C. Rhoades.
An Ocean Outlaw.  Hugh St. Leger.
Boys of the Priory School.  F. Coombe.
Jane in Command.  E. E. Cowper.
Adventures of Two.  May Wynne.
The Secret of the Old House.  E. Everett Green.


_Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_



                               CONTENTS.

                                BOOK I.

                 IN SCOTTISH WILDS AND LONDON STREETS.

CHAP.

      I. Hope told a Flattering Tale
     II. Hurrah for "Merrie England"!
    III. The Boys’ Life in London
     IV. Wild Sports on Moorland and Ice
      V. A Highland Blizzard--The Lost Sheep and Shepherd
     VI. "The breath of God was over all the land"
    VII. The Parting comes at last

                                BOOK II.

                   THE CRUISE OF THE _FLORA M’VAYNE_.

      I. The Terrors of the Ocean
     II. A Fearful Experience
    III. Bound for Southern Seas of Ice
     IV. On the Wings of the Wind
      V. Johnnie Shingles and Old Mr. Pen
     VI. "Back water all!  For life, boys, for life!"
    VII. "Here’s to the loved ones at home"
   VIII. Captain Talbot spins a Yarn
     IX. Tongues of Lurid Fire--Blue, Green, and Deepest Crimson
      X. So poor Conal must Perish!
     XI. Thus Hand in Hand the Brothers Sleep
    XII. Winter Life in an Antarctic Pack
   XIII. A Chaos of Rolling and Dashing Ice
    XIV. "Heave, and she goes!  Hurrah!"
     XV. The Isles of Desolation

                               BOOK III.

                 IN THE LAND OF THE NUGGET AND DIAMOND.

      I. Shipwreck on a Lonely Isle
     II. A Weary Time
    III. Children of the Sky
     IV. Treasure-hunters.  The Forest
      V. Fighting the Gorillas
     VI. An Invading Army--Victory!
    VII. The Mysterious Stone
   VIII. The Battle at the Ford
     IX. The very Identical Bird
      X. The Welcome Home



                                 BOOK I

                  IN SCOTTISH WILDS AND LONDON STREETS



CHAPTER I--HOPE TOLD A FLATTERING TALE


Had you been in the beautiful and wild forest of Glenvoie on that bright
and blue-skied September morning--on one of its hills, let us say--and
heard the music of those two boys’ voices swelling up towards you,
nothing that I know of could have prevented you from joining in.  So
joyous, so full of hope were they withal, that the very tune itself, to
say nothing of the words, would have sent sorrow right straight away
from your heart, if there had been any to send.

    "Cheer, boys, cheer, no more of idle sorrow,
      Courage, true hearts, shall bear us on our way;
    Hope flies before, and points the bright to-morrow,
      Let us forget the dangers of to-day."


There was a pause just here, and from your elevated situation on that
rocky pap, looking down, you would have rested your eyes on one of the
prettiest rolling woodland scenes in all broad Scotland.

It was a great waving ocean of foliage, and the sunset of autumn was
over it all, lying here and there in patches of crimson, brown, and
yellow, which the solemn black of pine-trees, and the funereal green of
dark spruces only served to intensify.

Flap-flap-flap! huge wood-pigeons arise in the air and go sailing over
the woods.  They are frightened, as well they may be, for a moment
afterwards two guns ring out almost simultaneously, and so still is the
air that you can hear the dull thud of fallen game.

"Hurrah, Conal!  Why, that was a splendid shot! I saw you take aim."

"No, Duncan, no; the bird is yours.  You fired first."

"Only at random, brother.  But come, let us look at him.  What a
splendid creature!  Do you know, Conal, I could almost cry for having
killed him."

"Oh! so could I, Duncan, for that matter, but the capercailzie[1] is
game, mind, and won’t father be pleased. Why do they call it a wild
turkey?"


[1] The letter "z" not pronounced in Scotch.


"Because it isn’t a turkey.  That is quite sufficient reason for a
gamekeeper.  The capercailzie is the biggest grouse there is, you know,
and sometimes weighs very many pounds."

"And didn’t we find the nest of one in a spruce tree last spring."

"Ay, and six eggs that we didn’t touch; and I’ve never put any faith
again in that ignoramus of a book, that would have us believe the birds
always build on the bare ground."

"Written by an Englishman, no doubt, Duncan, who had never placed a foot
on our native heath.  But now let us get back to breakfast.  I wonder
where our little sister Flora is."

"I heard her gun about ten minutes ago; she can’t be far off.  Besides
Viking is with her, so she is safe enough.  Give the curlew’s scream and
she’ll soon appear."

    "Like the wild scream of the curlew,
    From crag to crag the signal flew."


Duncan threw down his gun beside the dead game, and, placing his fingers
in his mouth, gave a perfect imitation of this strange bird’s cry:

"Who-o-o-eet, who-o-o-eet (these in long-drawn notes, then quicker and
quicker), who-eet, who-eet, wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet, who-ee!"

The boys did not have long to wait for an answer. For Duncan, the elder,
who was about sixteen, with a stalwart well-knit frame, and even a
budding moustachelet, had hardly finished, when far down in a dark
spruce thicket sounded the barking of a dog, which could only belong to
one of a very large breed.

He entered the glade in which the brothers stood not many seconds after.
He entered with a joyous bound and bark, his great shaggy coat, black as
the raven’s wing, afloat on his shoulders and back; his white teeth
flashing; and a yard or two, more or less, of a red ribbon of a tongue
hanging out of his mouth.

Need I say he was a noble Newfoundland.

He stopped short and looked at the ’cailzie, then snuffed at it, and
immediately after licked his master’s cheek.  To do so he had to put a
paw on each of Duncan’s shoulders, and his weight nearly bore him to the
ground.

But see, here comes little Flora herself--she is only twelve; her
brothers are both dressed in the kilt of hill tartan, and Flora’s frock
is but a short one, showing to advantage a pair of batten legs encased
in galligaskins; fair hair, streaming like a shower of gold over her
shoulders; blue eyes, and a lively very pretty face.  But across that
independent wee nose of hers is quite a bridge of freckles, which
extends half-way across her cheeks.

Now a child of her tender years would, in many parts of England, be
treated quite as a child.  It was quite the reverse at Glenvoie.  Flora
was in reality a little model of wisdom, and many a bit of good advice
she gave her brothers--not that they bothered taking it, though both
loved her dearly.

Flora carried a little gun--a present from her father, who was very
proud of her exploits and worldly wisdom, and across her shoulders was
slung a bag, which appeared to be well filled.

"Hillo, Siss!" cried Duncan.  "Any cheer?"

"Oh, yes, three wild pigeons!  But what a lovely great wild turkey!  I’m
sure, Duncan, it was a pity to kill him!"

"Sport, Sissie, sport!" said Duncan.

Yet as he looked at the splendidly plumaged bird which his gun had laid
low in death, he smothered a sigh.  He half repented now having killed
the ’cailzie.

Homeward next, for all were hungry, and in the old-fashioned hall of the
house of Glenvoie breakfast would be waiting for them.  Through the
forest dark and deep, across a wide and clear brown stream by
stepping-stones, a stream that in England would be called a river, then
on to a broad heathy moorland, with here and there a cottage and little
croft.

Poor enough these were in all conscience, but they afforded meal and
milk to the owners and their children. Chubby-cheeked hardy little chaps
these were.  They ran to gate or doorway to greet our young heroes with
cheers shrill and many, and Flora smiled her sweetest on them.  Neither
stockings nor shoes nor caps had they, winter or summer, and when they
grew up many of them would join the army, and be first in every bayonet
charge where tartans would wave and bonnets nod.

Laird M’Vayne himself came to the porch to meet his children.  These
were all he had, and their mother was an invalid.

An excellent specimen of the Highland laird was this Chief M’Vayne.  As
sturdy and strong in limb as a Hercules, broad in shoulder, and though
sixty years and over, as straight as an arrow.  His was a fearless face,
but handsome withal, and he never looked better than when he smiled.
Smiling was natural to him, and came straight from the heart, lighting
up his whole face as morning sunshine lights the sea.

"Better late than never, boys.  What ho! a capercailzie!"

Then he placed his hand so kindly on Duncan’s shoulder.

"It was a good shot, I can see," he said, "and now we won’t kill any
more of these splendid birds.  I want the woods to swarm with them."

"No, father," said Duncan, "this is the last, and I shall send to
Glasgow for eyes, and stuff and set him up myself."

Then the Laird hoisted Flora, gun, game-bag and all, right on top of his
broad left shoulder and carried her inside, while Viking, enjoying the
fun, made house and "hallan" ring with his gladsome barking.

Ever see or partake of a real Highland breakfast, reader?  A pleasure
you have before you, I trust. And had you been at Glenvoie House on this
particular morning, the very sight of that meal would have given you an
appetite, while partaking of it would have made you feel a man.

That was real porridge to begin with, a little lake of butter in the
centre of each plate and creamy milk to flank it.  Different indeed from
the clammy, saltless saucers of poultice Englishmen shiver over of a
morning at hotels, making themselves believe they are partaking of
Scotia’s own _own_ dish.

All did justice to the porridge, and Viking had a double allowance.
There was beautiful mountain trout to follow, cold game, and fresh
herrings with potatoes.  Marmalade and honey with real oat-cakes
finished the banquet.

About this time, gazing across the lawn from the great window, Duncan
could see the runner bringing the post-bag.  Runner he might well be
called.  He had come twenty miles that morning with the mails, trotting
all the way.

Duncan threw open the window, and with a smile and order for postie to
go round to the kitchen for a "piece" and a "drink", he received the
bag.

The arrival of the runner was always one of the chief events of the day,
for the Laird "let" his shootings every season, and had friends in every
part of the kingdom.

So had the boys.

"Ah!" said their father, opening a letter which he had reserved to the
last.  "Here is one from our distant relative, Colonel Trelawney."

"Oh! do read it out," cried Flora impulsively.

Her father obeyed, as all dutiful fathers do when they receive a command
from juvenile daughters.


"_Maida Vale, London._

"_My dear 42nd cousin,--I think that is about our relationship.  Well, I
was never good at counting kin, so we must let it stand at that.
Heigho!  That is my 42nd sigh since breakfast time, and it isn’t the
luncheon hour yet.  But I couldn’t quite tell you what I am sighing for;
I think it must be for the Highland moors around you, on which I enjoyed
so glorious a time in August.  Heigho!  (43rd).  Your hills must still
be clad in the crimson and purple glory of heath and heather whence
scattered coveys or whirring wings spring skywards (Poetry!)._

"_Well now, I’ve got something to propose.  Since his poor mother died,
my boy Frank--fifteen next birthday, you know--has not seemed to thrive
well.  He is a capital scholar, and is of a very inventive turn of mind.
He delights in the country, and when he and I bike away down into the
greenery of fields and woods he always looks better and happier.  But at
home he has nothing to look at that is natural--a few misshapen trees
only, a shaven lawn, evergreens, and twittering sparrows._

"_He is lively enough, and plays the fiddle charmingly.  He is only a
London lad after all, and his pale face bears witness to the fact._

"_Well, cousin, fair exchange is no robbery.  Send me your two boys up
here to spend the winter, and then I’ll send the whole three down to you
to put in the spring and summer.  Expected results?  Is that what you
ask, cousin mine?  Well, they are these.  A little insight into London
life will assist in toning down the fiery Highland exuberance of your
brave lads, and will help to make them young men of the world.  While a
spell among your Highland hills shall put more life-blood into my boy,
and make him stronger, braver, and heartier._"


"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Duncan.  "He is going to civilize us, is he, daddy
dear?  We’ll have to wear frock-coats, long hats and long faces, and
carry umbrellas.  What do you think of that, Conal?"

"Why," said Conal disdainfully, "umbrellas are only for old wives and
Sassenachs.  The plaid for me."

"And me!"

"Well, but listen," said the Laird laughing.


"_Your boys,_" says the colonel, "_must come to us dressed in their
hill-tartan kilts, and have dress tartans to wear at evening parties.
The English are fond of chaffing the Scot, but, mind you, they love him
all the same, and can quite appreciate all the deeds of derring-do he
accomplishes on the field of battle, as well as his
long-business-headedness on the Stock Exchange.  Heigho! (sigh the
44th), had I been a Scot I’d have been a richer man to-day instead of
having to maintain a constant fight to keep the wolf from the door.  But
you, dear cousin, must be fairly wealthy._"


It was Laird M’Vayne’s turn to sigh now, for alas! he was far indeed
from rich, and, young as they were, both his boys knew it.  And between
you and me and the binnacle, reader, the lads used to pray every night,
that Heaven might enable them when they came to man’s estate, or even
before, to do something for the parents who had been so good to them.


"_Well,_" the letter ran on, "_I sha’n’t say any more, only you will let
the laddies (that is Scotch, isn’t it?) come, won’t you, cousin? and if
we can only find out the time of the boat’s arrival, Frank and I shall
be at the dock waiting for them._"


"Hurrah!" cried Duncan,

"Hurrah!" cried Conal.

"And you won’t be sorry to leave me and the old home, will you?" said
M’Vayne.

"Oh, indeed, indeed we will, daddy," cried Duncan, "and we’ll think
about you all and pray for you too, every day and night.  Won’t we,
Conal?"

"Of course we will."

Then the younger lad went and threw his arms round his father’s neck,
leaned his cheek against his breast, in truly Celtic fashion, and there
were tears in his eyes.

"Besides," said Duncan, "the change will do us such a heap of good, and
by all we read London must be the grandest place in the whole wide
world."

"Streets paved with gold, eh?  Houses tiled with sheets of solid silver
that glitter daily in the noonday sun.  No poverty, no vice, no crime in
London.  Is that your notion of London, my son?"

"Well," replied Duncan laughing, "it may not be quite so bright as all
that, daddy, but I am sure of one thing."

"Yes?"

"If the streets are not paved with gold, nor the houses tiled with
silver, there is money to be made in the city by any honest business
Scot who cares to work and wants to win."

"Bravo, Duncan!

    "In the lexicon of youth which fate reserves
    For a bright manhood, there is no such word as Fail."

                                  ――――

For the next two or three weeks, although the boys with their plucky
little sister went every day either to the hill or woods to shoot, or to
the burn to fish, there was very little talked about except the coming
excursion to the great city of London.

Mrs. M’Vayne was at present confined to her room, and, being nervous,
the thought of losing her boys even for a short four or five months made
her heart feel sad indeed, and it took them all their time to reassure
her.

"No, no, lads," she would cry almost petulantly; "I cannot be happy
until I see you in the glen once more, safe and sound!"

Two weeks passed--oh, ever so quickly--away, and the last week was to be
devoted wholly and solely to the packing of trunks, a very pleasurable
and hopeful employment indeed.

Duncan was _facile princeps_ at this work, and he kept a note-book
always near, so that whenever he thought about anything he might need,
he wrote it down--just as if it had not been possible to get every
article he might require in great London, from a needle to an anchor.

Only, as he told his brother Conal, "It is far better to be sure than
sorry."

Well, the last day--the last sad day--came round at last and farewells
had to be said on both sides.

Mrs. M’Vayne kept up as well as she could, and so did the boys.
_Noblesse oblige_, you know, for although their father was but a
Highland laird, and poor at that, he was connected by blood with the
chiefs of the best clans in Scotland.

Poor honest Viking had watched the packing with the very greatest of
interest, and so sad did he appear that Duncan and Conal made up their
minds to take him with them.  And when they told him so, there really
was not a much happier dog in all the British islands.  For Viking was
wise beyond compare, and there was very little, indeed, that he did not
understand.

But Florie’s grief at the loss of her brothers was beyond control, and
she made no attempt to hide her tears.

Yes, the laird himself journeyed with his boys as far as Leith, and saw
them safe on board.

When the good ship steamed away at last, he waved them a silent adieu,
then turned and walked quickly away.



CHAPTER II.--HURRAH FOR "MERRIE ENGLAND"!


Neither Duncan nor Conal was a bad sailor, for, their father’s estate
being near the western sea, many a long summer’s day they spent in open
boats, and they sometimes went out with the herring-fishers and were
heard of no more for clays.

But this was to be a voyage of more than ordinary rigours, for, as bad
luck would have it, a gale of wind arose, with tremendous seas, soon
after they passed Berwick.

The waves made a clean breach over the unfortunate ship, and at
midnight, when the storm was at its worst, the boys were suddenly
awakened by the strange rolling motion of the steamer, and they knew at
once that some terrible accident had happened.

The engines had stopped, for the shaft was broken; and high over the
roaring of the terrible wind they could hear the captain shouting:

"All hands on deck!"

"Hands make sail!"

It was but little sail she could carry, indeed, and that only
fore-and-afters, jib and stay-sails.

The boys had a cabin all to themselves, and the companionship of honest
Viking, the Newfoundland. The poor dog did not know what to make of his
situation.  If he thought at all, and no doubt dogs do think, he must
have wondered why his masters should have forsaken their beautiful home,
their wanderings over the hills still clad in crimson heather, or
through the forests deep and dark, for a life like this; but to the
lower animals the ways of mankind are inscrutable, just as those of a
higher power are to us.  We are gods to the pets we cherish, and they
are content to believe in and trust us, never doubting that all is for
the best.  Alas! we ourselves hardly put the same trust in the good God
who made us, and cares for us, as our innocent dogs do in those who own
them.

"Well, Conal," said Duncan, "this is, indeed, a wild night.  I wonder if
we are going to Davie Jones’s locker, as sailors call it?"

"I don’t think so.  The captain is a long-headed fellow.  I guess he
knows what he is up to."

"I shall light the candles anyhow.  I don’t like to lie awake in the
dark.  Do you?"

"Not much.  If I was to be drowned I think I would like it to come off
in good daylight."

After a scramble, during which he was pitched three times on the deck,
once right on top of the dog, Duncan succeeded in lighting the candles.

These were hung in gimbals, so that the motion of the ship did not
affect them.

It was more cheerful now; so, having little desire to go to sleep,
knowing that the ship must really be in danger, they lay and talked to
each other.  Talked of home, of course, but more about the great and
wondrous city of London, which, if God spared the ship, they soon should
see.

Presently a bigger wave than any that had come before it struck the
ship, and seemed to heel her over right on her beam-ends, so that Duncan
almost tumbled out of his berth.

A deep silence followed, broken only by the rush of water into the boys’
cabin.

Viking sprang right into Conal’s berth, and crouched, shaking and
quivering in terror, at his feet.

There was half a foot of water on the cabin deck.

The worst seemed to be over, however, for presently sail was got on her,
and though the wind continued to rave and howl through the rigging, she
was on a more even keel and much steadier.

Presently the captain himself had a peep into the lads’ state-room.

He had a bronzed but cheerful face, and was clad in oil-skins from his
sou’-wester hat to his boots.

"Not afraid, are you, boys?  No?  Well, that’s right. We have broken
down, and it will be many days before we get into London; but we’ll
manage all right, and I think the wind is just a little easier already."

"So we won’t go to Davie Jones’s to-night, will we, captain?"

"Not if I know it, lad.  Now, my advice is this: go to sleep,
and--er--well, there can be no harm if you say your prayers before you
do drop off."

The boys took his advice, and were soon fast in the arms of Morpheus.
So, too, was honest Viking.  He was one of those dogs who know when they
are well off, so he preferred remaining in Conal’s bunk to descending to
the wet deck again.  To show his sympathy, he gave the boy one of his
huge paws to hold, and so hand-in-hand they fell asleep.

The wind was still blowing when they sat down to breakfast with the
captain and first mate, for there was not another passenger on board
save themselves. The old saying, "The more the merrier", does not apply
to coasting steamers in early winter.  The fewer the easier--that is
more truthful.

The gale was a gale no longer, but a steady breeze. The ship was given a
good offing, for the wind blew from the north-east, and to be too close
to a lee shore is at all times dangerous.

But how very snug and cosy the saloon looked, when they were all
gathered around the brightly-burning stove that night.

The skipper could tell many a good story, and the first mate also could
spin a yarn or two, for they had both been far away at sea in distant
climes, and both hoped to get ocean-going ships again.

So there they sat and chatted--ship-master and man, with their tumblers
of hot grog on the top of the stove--till six bells in the middle watch.

Then the boys and Viking retired.

"I say, Conal," said Duncan that evening, just before turning in, "I
think I should like to be a sailor."

"Well," replied Conal, "I should like to visit far-away countries, where
hardly anybody had ever been before, and try to make some money just to
be able to help father in his difficulties."

"Poor father, yes.  Well, young fellows have made money before now."

"Ay," said Conal, who was wise beyond his years; "but, brother, they had
a nest-egg to begin with. Now, we have nothing."

"Nonsense, Conal; we have clear heads, we have a good education, and we
have a pair of willing hands each.  That makes a good outfit, Conal, and
many a one has conquered fate with far less."

The voyage to London was a long and tedious one, for they had to
struggle for days against head-winds, and tack and half tack isn’t the
quickest way to a port.

But long before they reached the mouth of the Thames, and were taken in
tow by a tug-boat, the boys had cemented quite a friendship with Captain
Talbot and his mate Morgan.  They promised to correspond, and the honest
skipper told them that he had a great project on, and that if it came to
a head, he would be willing to take them both to sea with him as
apprentices, if their father would let them go. This was real good news
for our young heroes, and they parted from Talbot happy and hopeful.

Morgan, the mate, put them up to the ropes as to getting to Colonel
Trelawney’s residence, and a good thing it was that he did so, else
assuredly they would have lost themselves.  A bargain was made with a
cabman, and he agreed for a certain sum to drive them all the way.

It was a damp and miserable day, the streets were inches deep in slimy
mud, the houses all gray and dismal.

No wonder that the hearts of these two boys, accustomed to the green
grandeur of forests and crimson-clad Highland hills, sank within them,
as they gazed from the windows of their cab.

Was this the beautiful London they had heard tell of and expected to
see?  Nothing but discomfort and misery met their eyes at first, and
when the conveyance stopped now and then, blocked by carts and wagons,
they found they could scarcely understand a word of the jargon that fell
on their ears from every side.

"Moaning piper!" cried a ragged urchin, shoving a newspaper right under
Duncan’s nose.

Duncan bought this morning paper.

"Did you notice what he said, Conal?"

"Yes; he said ’Moaning piper’.  There must be something about a battle
in it, and a Scotch piper must have been wounded.  No wonder he moaned
if he was shot through the chest or legs--eh, Duncan?"

"No indeed, that would make anybody moan."

But much to the boys’ disgust there was nothing about a battle in the
paper, nor about pipers, nor even about soldiers at all.  So the
newspaper was thrown down, and they contented themselves by looking from
the windows at the crowds of people that were hurrying along the
pavement, everyone intent only on his own business, and taking not the
slightest notice of his neighbour.  They had now got into a better part
of the town.  There were fewer guttersnipes and badly-dressed men and
women here, less apparent poverty, in fact, with the exception of the
poor, white-faced, hungry-looking girls and women who were selling
flowers.  During a block one of these came to the window near which
Duncan sat, and he made the lassie happy by buying two button-holes, and
giving her sixpence for them.

The ’buses were objects of curiosity for our heroes.

The drivers were ideal in their own way, and of a class not to be met
with anywhere out of London.

The boys criticised them unmercifully.

"Oh, Duncan, did ever you see such faces, or such slow-looking men!"

"Faces just like hams, Conal--and, why, they seem to be wearing about
twenty coats!  So solemn too--I wonder if ever those fellows smiled
except over a pint of beer!"

"And look at those huge wooden umbrellas!"

"Yes, that is for fear a drop of rain should fall upon John Guttle, and
he should catch cold."

"Shouldn’t I like to see one of these John Guttles trudging over a
moor!"

"He wouldn’t trudge far, Conal; he would tumble down and gasp like an
over-fed ox."

"I say, Duncan, I haven’t seen anybody with a plaid yet."

"No, and you won’t.  Top-coats--nothing else--and tobacco-pipes.  No
wonder most of those male creatures on the tops of the ’buses are
watery-nebbit or red-nosed."

Now, however, private carriages began to mingle with the traffic, and
the boys had more to wonder at. But inside these they caught glimpses of
fashionable ladies, some young, charmingly dressed, and of a cast of
beauty truly English and refined.  What astonished Duncan and his
brother most was the coachman and flunkeys on the dickey, so severely
and stupidly aristocratic did they look.

"Oh, Duncan," cried Conal laughing, "did ever you see such frights! and
they’ve got on ladies’ fur tippets!"

"Yes, that is to keep their poor shivery bodies warm, Conal."

"And they look just as if they owned all London, don’t they?"

"Yes, that is one of the peculiarities of the flunkey tribe.  What’s the
odds, Conal, so long as they are happy?"

The cab seemed to have reached the suburbs at last. Here were many a
pleasant villa, and many a lordly mansion too, with splendid balconies,
which were in reality gardens in the sky.  There were trees, too, though
now almost bare, and green lawns and bushes and flowers.

But none of these latter appealed to our young heroes because they were
all so artificial.

Hillo! the cab stops; and the driver, radiant in the expectation of a
tip, throws open the door.

"’Ere we are at last, young gents.  ’Appy to drink yer ’ealth.  Thousand
thanks!  Hain’t seen a ’alf-crown before for a month.  Nobuddy needn’t
say to me as the Scots ain’t liberal."

One of the handsomest villas the boys had yet seen, and in the porch
thereof stood Colonel Trelawney himself to welcome his guests.

"Right welcome to the Limes," he cried heartily. "Frank is out, but
he’ll be home to luncheon.  Why, what tall hardy chaps you are, to be
sure, and I’m right glad you came in your native dress.  I wonder how my
boy would look in the kilt.  It’s a matter of legs, I believe."

"Oh, sir," said Duncan, "he’ll soon get legs when he comes to the
Highlands, and climbs the hills and walks the moors for a few months."

"Well, come in, boys.  James, here, will show you your room.  We’ve put
you both in the same, as I know young fellows like to talk before
turning in."

The room was plainly, yet comfortably, furnished, and the window gave a
pleasant view of gardens, shrubberies, and a cloudland of trees to which
the autumn foliage still was clinging.

"’Ot watah, young gents."

"Thank you, James."

Duncan and Conal made haste to wash and dress.

James had opened their boxes, and was acting as valet to them in every
way.  But they were not used to this, and so they told James.  God had
given them hands and arms, and so they liked to make use of them.

Hark! footsteps on the stairs.  Hurried ones, too; two steps, one
stride!

Next moment the door was thrown open, and Frank himself stood before
them, with both hands extended to bid them welcome.



CHAPTER III.--THE BOYS’ LIFE IN LONDON.


"Cousin Frank!"

"That’s me.  And how are you, cousins Conal and Duncan?  We’re only
far-off cousins, but that doesn’t matter, does it?  I’m jolly glad to
see you, anyhow.  You’ll bring some life into this dull old hole; and
I’ll find some fun for you, you bet."

"Did you ask if we betted?" said Duncan, smiling, but serious.  "We
wouldn’t be allowed to."

"No, no.  ’You bet’ is just an expression; for, mind you, everybody
speaks slang nowadays in town.  Oh, I don’t bet--as a rule, though I did
have a pony on the Oxford and Cambridge last race."

"And did the pony win?" asked Conal, naïvely.

"Eh?  What?  Ha, ha, ha!  Why, it’s a boat race, and a pony is a fiver.
I’d saved the cash for a year, and like a fool I blewed it at last."

Well, if Frank Trelawney was not very much to look at as regards body,
he was frank and open, with a handsome English face, all too pale,
however, and he seemed to have more worldly wisdom in his noddle than
Duncan, Conal, and Viking all put together.

After talking a little longer to our Highland heroes Frank knelt down
and threw his arms around the great dog’s neck, and Viking condescended
to lick his cheek.

"I’m so glad that old Vike takes to you, Frank," said Duncan.  "It isn’t
everybody he likes."

"Of course," said Frank, "’old’ is merely a term of endearment, as
father would say."

"That’s it.  He is only a year and six months old, but already there is
nothing scarcely that he does not know, in country life, I mean, though
I suppose he will be rather strange in town for a time."

"Sure to be.  But here comes James.  Luncheon served, James, eh?"

"Luncheon all ready, Master Frank."

They found the Colonel walking up and down the well-lighted hall smoking
a cigarette.  He was really a most inveterate smoker.  He smoked before
breakfast, after breakfast, all the forenoon, and all day long. Rolled
his own cigarettes, too, so that his fore and middle fingers were
indelibly stained yellow with the tobacco.

"Horrid habit!" he always told boys, "but I’ve become a slave to it.
Don’t you ever smoke."

Though some years over sixty, Trelawney was as straight as a telephone
pole, handsome, and soldierly in face and bearing.  The only thing that
detracted from his facial appearance was a slight degree of bagginess
betwixt the lower eyelids and the cheek bones.  This was brought on, his
doctor had told him often and often, by weakness of the heart caused by
tobacco and wine.  But Trelawney would not punish himself by leaving
either off.

The boys took to Mrs. Trelawney from the very first.  She must have been
fully twenty years younger than the Colonel, and had a sweet, even
beautiful, face, and was altogether winning.

Well, that was a luncheon of what might be called elegant kickshaws,
artistically cooked and served, but eminently unsatisfactory from a
Scotch point of view.

The dinner in the evening was much the same, and really when these
Highland lads got up from the table they almost longed for the honest,
"sonsy" fleshpots of Glenvoie.

Walnuts and wine for dessert!  But they did not drink wine, and would
have preferred a cocoa-nut or two to the walnuts.  There would have been
some satisfaction in that.

A private box for the theatre!

"Oh," cried Duncan, "that will be nice!"

"You have often been at the theatre, dear, haven’t you?"

This from Mrs. Trelawney, as she placed her very much be-ringed fingers
on Conal’s shoulder.

"No, auntie," replied Conal; "only just once, with Duncan there.  It was
in Glasgow.  They were playing ’Rob Roy’, and I shall never forget it.
Never, never, never!"

But to-night it was a play of quite a different class, a kind of musical
comedy.  Plenty of action and go in it, plenty of the most ordinary and
musicless singing, which pleased the gallery immensely, and frequent
spells of idiotic dancing.  There were no serious situations at all,
however, and no thread of narrative woven into the play.

Moreover, both Scotch boys were placed at a disadvantage owing to their
inability to follow the English patois, which on the whole was
thoroughly Cockney, the letter "R" being dead and buried, and the "H"
being silent after a "W", so that the lads did not enjoy themselves
quite as much as they had expected to.

Every now and then the colonel excused himself. He told our heroes he
was going to see a man.  That really meant lounging into the buffet to
smoke a cigarette, and moisten a constitutionally dry throat.

A few days after this, however, the colonel, who, by some means or other
known only to himself, was behind the scenes (virtually speaking) of all
the best theatres, managed to get a box for the Lyceum.

That truly great tragedian, Irving, was playing in "The Bells", and the
young M’Vaynes were struck dumb with astonishment; they were thrilled
and awed with the terrible realism of the grand actor, and when the
curtain fell at last both boys thanked the colonel most heartily.

"That is real acting, a real play!" cried Duncan enthusiastically.  "I’m
sure neither Conal nor I want to sit and listen to Cockney buffoonery
after that."

Dear Mrs. Trelawney, as both boys called her, had evidently made up her
mind to give the lads as pleasant a time as possible.  Every fine day,
and there were now many, she took them all for a drive.

"We sha’n’t be back for luncheon, Tree," she always told her husband.
"You must eat in solitary state and grandeur for one day."

"Indeed," she smilingly informed Duncan, "I don’t care much to lunch at
home.  I like to be free, and not have extreme gentility and servants
pottering about behind your chair, and listening to every word you say.
I hate the proprieties."

Duncan and Conal both smiled.  They felt just that way themselves.

After a drive in the park, Mrs. Trelawney would go shopping, and those
two brown-faced, brown-kneed Highland boys created a good deal of
sensation, though they seemed quite unaware of the fact.

Ah! but after the shopping came luncheon.  And the colonel’s wife knew
where to go to.  A charming hotel, not a million of miles from the
Thames embankment.  And that was a luncheon, too, or, as Frank called
it, a spread!

It was a square meal at all events, and Mrs. Trelawney seemed delighted
at seeing the boys thoroughly enjoying it.

"Now you lads must eat, you know, because you’ve got to grow many, many
inches yet.  And this is liberty hall anyhow.  Isn’t it delightfully
free and easy?"

It was.  This the boys admitted.

The more they were with Mrs. Trelawney the more they liked her.  And the
young M’Vaynes might have said the same of Frank.  He was a charming
companion.  Moreover, he had many accomplishments that his 42nd cousins
could not boast of. He could sing with a sweet girl-voice, and he played
the violin charmingly, his mother accompanying him on the piano.

She, too, could sing, and in the evenings she often electrified her
guests by her renderings of dramatic pieces.  Everybody who visited at
the Trelawneys’ house knew that the colonel had married a young and
beautiful actress, and that here she was--far more a woman of the world,
and a more perfect lady than anyone at her table.

And the boys were a great attraction.  They were so outspoken, yet so
innocent, that conversation with them was full of amusement.  They
always donned their belts and dress tartans for dinner, and were a good
deal admired.  Moreover, they soon got to be asked frequently out to
dinners, or to dances.  These they very much enjoyed.

Well, a whole month passed away, and Duncan and his brother were now
able to endure London and London life, though they never could love it.

Many a long walk did Frank take them.  The carriage would drive them as
far as the Strand, then the journey was continued on foot citywards.

Everything here was new--I can’t say fresh, for there is precious little
freshness about London streets--to the Scotch lads.  They could have
wished, however, that the pavements had been less crowded, that the
people had been less lazy-looking, and that the vendors of penny wares
had not thrust their unsavoury hands so often right under their noses.

Frank seemed determined to show his 42nd cousins every phase of London
life.  He even took them into a corner drink-palace, and there ordered
lemonade, just that they might see a little of the dark side of city
life.

They were horrified to behold those gin-sodden men and women, many
leaning almost helplessly against the counter; the patched and
semi-dropsical faces of the females, the maudlin idiotic looks of the
males, Duncan thought he never could forget.

He shuddered, and felt relieved when out once more in the crowded
streets.

One day Frank thought he would give his cousins a special treat, so he
took them to the Zoo.

Both were much interested in beholding the larger wild beasts, the lions
of Africa, the splendid tigers of India, the sulky hippopotami, and
ill-natured-looking rhinoceroses.  But it was a sad sight after all, for
these half-starved-looking beasts were deprived of the freedom of forest
and plains, and confined here in filthy dens, all for the pleasure of a
gaping crowd of ignorant Cockneys.

But when they came upon the birds of prey, and their eyes caught sight
of a poor puny specimen of the Scottish eagle, chained to a post, and
almost destitute of feathers, Duncan’s heart melted with shame and
sorrow, and he turned hurriedly away.

As far as the Zoo was concerned, Frank’s best intentions had failed to
give his guests pleasure.  But they were too polite to say so.

                                  ――――

Duncan and Conal had now been two months in London, and could understand
even what the street boys said.  On the whole they had enjoyed the
wonderful sights of this wonderful city, for these really seemed
unending.

Then came Christmas.

Christmas and the pantomime.

They enjoyed Drury Lane far more even than the parties or even the
dances they were invited to.  The scenery and scenes were exquisitely
lovely.  No dream of fairyland ever equalled these.

The boys gave themselves wholly up to amusement throughout all the
festive season.  But to their credit be it said, they did not gorge on
goose, turkey, or pudding as everybody else did.

"No wonder," thought Duncan, "that the Englishman is called John Guttle
in many parts of Scotland."  For he had never seen such eating or
drinking in his life before.

Then after the festivities of the festive week came dulness and
dreariness extreme.  The people had spent all their money, and
wretchedness abounded on every pavement of the sleet-swept streets of
the city. Yes, and the misery even overflowed into the west-end suburbs.

It was about this time that Duncan made a discovery.

Frank had told him, frankly enough, that his father was not over-well
off, but it was evident to him now that Colonel Trelawney was simply
struggling to keep up appearances, and that, in all probability, he was
deeply in debt.

Mrs. Trelawney, or "dear Auntie", as the Scotch lads called her, was
ever the same.  Nothing seemed to trouble or worry her.

But the colonel at breakfast used to take up his letters, one by one,
and eye them with some degree of suspicion before opening them.

The waste-paper basket was close to him, and was wonderfully handy.

"The first application," he would say with a smile as he tore up a bill
and summarily disposed of the fragments.

"Second application"--that too was torn up.

Letter from a friend--put aside to be read at leisure.

A long blue letter--suspicious--disposed of without reading.

"Ha!  Amy, love, here is Sweater & Co.’s fourth letter.  Threatens us
with--ah, you know."

"Well, dear," says Mrs. Trelawney with her sweetest smile, "just let
them sweat!"

"Give ’em a bill, I suppose," the colonel says, as if speaking to
himself.

And the letter is put aside.

So one way or another Trelawney got through his pile at last, and
settled down to serious eating, that is, he made a hearty meal from a
Londoner’s point of view.  Then he lit a cigarette.

Well the month of January was raw and disagreeable, and seldom was there
a day without a fog either white or yellow.

Is it any wonder that, brought up in a clear transparent atmosphere
among breezes that blew over heathy hills, and were laden with the
balsamic odour of the pine-trees, Duncan and Conal began to languish and
long for home.

With great candour they told "Auntie" they wanted to get home to enjoy
skating, tobogganing, and white-hare shooting; and she promised to speak
to the colonel.

"We will be so sorry to leave you, auntie, for you’ve been so good to
us."

"And I shall miss you, boys, sadly."

"Yes, I hope so.  It will give Conal and me pleasure to think that you
like us.  And of course Frank comes with us."

"I fear it is too cold for Frank."

"Oh no, auntie dear.  One never feels cold in Scotland, the air is so
bracing, you know."

So that very day it was all arranged, and Laird M’Vayne had a letter to
that effect.

The parting was somewhat sorrowful, but the boys did not say "Farewell!"
only "_Au revoir_", because both hoped to return, and by that time they
declared that Frank would be as hardy as--as--well, as hardy as
Highlanders usually are.

The last things that the boys bought in London were skates.  Of course
they could have got those in Edinburgh, but not so cheaply, and for this
reason: there did not seem to be the ghost of a chance of any skating
for the Londoners this season, and so they got the skates for an old
song.

They went by sea to Edinburgh.  The _Queen_ was at present all but a
cargo-boat, and besides the three lads and Vike, there was only one
other passenger, an old minister of the Church of Scotland.

The same skipper and the same mate, and delighted they were to see the
boys again, and they gave Frank a right hearty welcome on their account.

But Frank had that with him which secured him a welcome wherever he
went--his fiddle, and when after dinner he played them some sad and
plaintive old Scottish airs, all were delighted, and the minister got up
from his chair, and, grasping the boy’s hand, thanked him most
effusively.

"Dear lad," he said, "you have brought the moisture to my eyes, although
I had thought my fountain of tears had dried up many and many a long
year ago."

Now here is something strange; although, when once fairly out of the
Thames’ mouth and at sea, it was blowing a head wind, with waves houses
high, Frank was not even squeamish.  I have seen many cases like this,
though I must confess they are somewhat rare.

Nor was the minister ill; but then, like the Scotch boys, he was
sea-fast, having done quite a deal of coasting.

"How goes the project you have in view?" asked Duncan that evening of
the skipper.

"Well," was the reply, "it is not what the French call a _fait accompli_
just yet, but it is bound to be so before very long."

"Well, my 42nd cousin Frank here would like to go to sea also.  Could
you do with the three of us?"

"Yes.  You must be prepared to rough it a bit, and we’ll be rather
cramped for room, but we shall manage. Eh, mate?"

"I’m sure we shall, and this young gentleman must take his fiddle."

"And I’ll take the bagpipes," said Duncan, laughing.

"Hurrah!" cried the mate.  "Won’t we astonish the king of the Cannibal
Islands?  Eh?"

It was Frank’s turn to cry "Hurrah!"

"But," he added, "will there be real live cannibals, sir?"

"Certainly.  What good would dead ones be?"

"And is there a chance of being caught and killed and eaten, and all the
like of that?"

"Ay, though it isn’t pleasant to look forward to. Only mind this: I may
tell you for your comfort that although, after being knocked on the head
with a nullah, your Highland cousin would be trussed at once and hung up
in front of a clear fire until done to a turn, you yourself would be
kept alive for weeks. Penned up, you know, like a chicken."

"But why?"

"Oh, they always do that with London boys, because they are generally
too lean for decent cooking, and need too much basting.  You would be
penned up and fattened with rice and bananas."

"Humph!" said Frank, and after a pause of thoughtfulness, "Well, I
suppose there is some consolation in being kept alive a bit; but bother
it all, I don’t half like the idea of being a side dish."

The weather was more favourable during this voyage, and though bitterly
cold, all the boys took plenty of exercise on the quarter-deck, and so
kept warm. So, too, did the old minister, who was really a jolly fellow,
and did not preach at them nor dilate on the follies of youth.
Moreover, this son of the Auld Kirk enjoyed a hearty glass of toddy
before turning in.

Leith at last!

And yonder, waiting anxiously on the quay, was Laird M’Vayne himself.

His broad smile grew broader when his boys waved their hands to him, and
soon they were united once again.



CHAPTER IV.--WILD SPORTS ON MOORLAND AND ICE.


Pretty little Flora M’Vayne was half afraid of the London boy at first.
The violin won her heart, however, and before retiring for the night,
when shaking hands with Frank, she nodded seriously as she told him:

"I’m not sure I sha’n’t love you soon; Viking likes you, so you must be
good."

Well, Frank was an impressionable boy, and he was very much struck by
the child’s innocent ways and beauty.

"I’m not sure," he said in reply, "that we won’t be sweethearts before I
leave.  How would you like that?"

She shook her head.  "No, no," she said, "you are very nice, but you are
only an English boy.  Good-night!"

"Good-night!"

I do not think that any two boys were ever more glad to find themselves
back once more, safely under the parental roof-tree, than Duncan and
Conal.  They had made many friends in London, it is true, and spent many
a happy evening therein, and these they could look back to with pleasure
and with a sigh; but the city and town itself, with all its strange
ways, the ignorance of its lower classes, its murdered twangy English,
its filth and its festering iniquities--they positively shuddered when
they thought of.

God seemed nowhere in London.  Here in this wild and beautiful land He
appeared to be everywhere.

The pure and virgin snow that clad the moors and mountains was a carpet
on which angels might tread; the tiny budlets already appearing on the
trees were scattered there by His own hand; yea, and the very wind that
sighed and moaned through the forest was the breath of heaven.

And when the sun had gone down behind the waves of the western ocean did
not

    "The moon take up the wondrous tale
    And nightly to the listening earth
    Repeat the story of her birth,
    While all the stars that round her burn,
    And all the planets in their turn
    Confirm the story as they roll,
    And spread the truth from pole to pole".

Yes, in wild and silent lands, God seems very near.  It was in a country
like this that the immortal poet Lord Byron wrote much of his best
poetry.  And no bolder song did he ever pen than Loch-na-garr.  Near
here many of his ancestors--the Gordons--were laid to rest after the
fatal field of Culloden.  In one verse he says--

    "Ill-starred, though brave, did no vision foreboding
      Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?
    Ah! were ye then destined to die at Culloden,
      Though victory crown’d not your fall with applause.
    Still were ye happy in death’s earthly slumbers,
      You rest with your clan in the caves of Braemar,
    The pibroch resounds to the piper’s loud numbers
      Your deeds to the echoes of wild Loch-na-garr."

No wonder that, wandering amidst such soul-enthralling scenery, arrayed
in the tartan of his clan, or thinking of the happy days of his boyhood,
years and years afterwards he said as he sighed--

    "England, thy beauties are tame and domestic
      To one who has roam’d on the mountains afar!
    Oh! for the crags that are wild and majestic,
      The steep frowning glories of dark Loch-na-garr."


But Frank Trelawney was a guest at Glenvoie, and, imbued with that
spirit of hospitality for which Highlanders are so famous, the boys
M’Vayne would have bitten their tongue through and through rather than
say one disparaging word about England.

Nor was there any need, for tame and domestic though its scenery is, the
whole history of the country, even before the Union, teems with deeds of
derring-do, done by her brave sons, on many and many a blood-drenched
field of battle.

As for Frank himself, he seemed not only to settle down to his life in
the wilds in less than a week, but to become quite enthusiastic over
"Scotland’s hills and Scotland’s dells"; and he was not slow in
reminding his 42nd cousins that he too had a drop of real Highland blood
in his veins.

"We’ll soon make a man of you, dear boy," said the Laird one evening.
"Now, myself, and my lads, with Vike and a setter, are going after the
white hares to-morrow, and if you think yourself strong enough, we shall
take you."

"Oh, I feel strong enough now for anything," replied Frank laughing.

"Mind it is terribly hard work; but there is a little snow on the
ground, and we’ll be able to track the hares easily."

"I don’t think that Frank should go, Ronald," put in Mrs. M’Vayne; "the
boy is far indeed from hardy, and it may exhaust him quite.  You’ll stay
at home with me, won’t you, Frank?"

"Yes, aunt, if you bid me, but--"  He hesitated.

"Oh!" cried Duncan, "that ’but’ turns the scale, mother.  Don’t you ask
him to stay, mother.  All Englishmen have pluck if they haven’t all
strength. So Frank is coming."

The morning was very bright and beautiful, with just a slight "scriffen"
of snow on the ground, and the sun rose over the eastern hills in a
blue-gray haze, like a ball of crimson fire, and intimated his intention
of shining all day long.

Duncan and Conal were up betimes, and had got everything in readiness
long before Frank came down.

A sturdy keeper would carry the bags and the luncheon they should
partake of on the hill.

But the young Englishman was full of life and go. After a hearty
breakfast they started; Flora standing in the porch waving her hand to
them, but with tears of sorrow in her eyes because she too was not
allowed to go.

Viking was daft with joy, feathering round and round in wide circles,
and now and then turning Dash, the Gordon setter, over on his back in
the snow.

They passed the forest, now leafless and bare, and taking to the right,
the ground soon began to rise.

The sheep under the charge of a plaided shepherd and his dog, were busy
scratching away the snow to feed on grass and succulent mosses--a cold
kind of breakfast, to say the least of it.

The ground rose and rose.

The dogs were kept well to heel, for indeed their services were but
little needed.

Ha! here are hare-tracks!

"Take the front, Frank," said the laird; "you are the guest, and must
have the first blood."

Frank’s heart beat high with excitement, and he carried the gun low with
a finger on the trigger.

"Hurrah! there she tips!"

Bang! and a white hare that had essayed crossing from one broom-bush to
another, was tumbled; then off darted Viking and brought her in.

"Capital shot!" said Duncan.  "Now we’ll spread, and it will be every
one for himself, and Viking and Dash for us all."

They lay out in skirmishing order, and marched on and up.

But soon they had to force their way through heather that came up even
to the laird’s and the tall keeper’s waists, and all but buried little
Frank.

He held his gun aloft, however, and struggled bravely on.

In about a quarter of an hour they had emerged, and the boys were
shaking the snow from their kilts.

On and up.  Why, it was always on and up.

They marched all that forenoon, sometimes around rocky spurs and paps of
the mountains, sometimes along bare and barren glens, sometimes along
the edges of fearful precipices, where a single slip or false step would
have meant a terrible accident.

By the time they had reached the cliffy shelter of a very high hill,
they had bagged eight white hares in all.

And now it was noon, and though the frost was fairly hard, the exercise
had warmed their life-blood, and they felt no cold.

Hunger, though?  Ah! yes, but that could speedily be appeased.

Plaids were spread on the ground, and down they all sat, the dogs not
far off, and I’m sure that the keeper, sturdy chiel though he was, felt
glad to be lightened of his load.

What a jolly meal that was to be sure!  With her own lady fingers the
laird’s wife had made that splendid pie.  Pie for five and almost enough
for fifty. But then, of course, there were the honest dogs to be
considered, and they easily disposed of all that was left.

Bread--that is, real oatcakes--cheese, and butter followed.

The boys washed all down with a flagon of milk, but in the interests of
truth, I must add that the laird and his keeper had a modest glass or
two of Highland whisky.

And now, after yarning for about half an hour, sport was resumed.

Farther up the hillsides they still went, and so on and on for two whole
hours.

It had been a grand day, but as the sun was now declining towards the
blue blue ocean, the laird called a halt.

"I think, boys," he said, "we’ve done enough, and as we are nearly ten
miles from home we had better be retracing our steps.  Donald has as
many hares as he can carry.  Haven’t you, Donald?"

"Och! well, it’s nothing," was the reply.  "And it’s all down-hill now
you’ll mind, sir."

"Yes.  Well, lead the way, Donald."

Donald did.

For one of the party, and that was Frank, the journey was a terrible
one.  On the upward march there was all the excitement of the sport to
keep him up. But now he had no such stimulant to stir his English blood.

When still three miles from Glenvoie mansion-house, Duncan observed that
he was very pale and limped most painfully.  In fact the poor boy’s
ankles were swollen, and his toes felt like whitlows; but although so
tired that he could hardly carry his gun, that indomitable English
courage of his kept him from complaining.

He confessed, however, feeling just a little tired, so the laird poured
a small quantity of whisky into a measure, mixed it with snow, and made
him swallow it.

After this he felt better.

When they arrived at the top of the very lower-most and lost hill, the
house being but half a mile distant, they sat down for a short time to
rest and gaze across the sea.

The sun’s lower limb had just touched the wester-most wave, and red and
fiery gleamed his beams ’twixt horizon and shore.  It was a beautiful
sight.

Many flocks of rooks were winging their way northwards to the shelter of
the great forest, and now and then a string of wild ducks were seen in
full flight towards the tall reeds that bordered an ice-bound lake.

Slowly sank the sun, the waves seemed to wash up across its blood-red
surface, and gradually, so gradually, engulfed the whole.

    "And the sun’s last rosy rays did fade
      Into twilight soft and dim."

                                  ――――

Frank Trelawney was indeed glad when he found himself once more in his
own room.  The man brought water, and with Highland courtesy insisted on
bathing his feet.

He next hurried away for a cup of delicious coffee, after swallowing
which Frank felt like a giant refreshed, and soon went down into the
drawing-room.

He was still pale, however, for the terrible fatigue had temporarily
affected the heart.

Little Flora was not slow to note this.

"Oh, cousin," she said, "how white and tired-looking you are!  You
shouldn’t have gone.  You’re only a poor little English boy, you know."

Frank liked the child’s sympathy, but he certainly did not feel
flattered by the last sentence.

"That’s all," he mustered courage to say.  "I’m only a poor Cockney lad,
and I think, Flora, I’ve had enough white-hare shooting to last me for a
very long time. When next your father and brothers go after game of this
sort, I’ll stay at home and make love to you."

Frank, however, was as well as could be next day, and after a cold bath
went hungrily down to breakfast.

The day was as still and bright as ever, and it was to be spent upon the
loch.

Curling--which might be called a kind of gigantic game of billiards on
the ice--was to be engaged in. A party was coming from a neighbouring
parish, and a strong club was to meet them.

At this most splendid "roaring" game there is no class distinction; lord
and laird, parson and peasant, all play side by side, all are equal, and
all feed together, ay, and partake of Highland usquebaugh together also.

Well, the laird’s party were victorious, and all were invited up to
Glenvoie house, to partake of an excellent dinner, laid out in the barn.

But the barn was beautifully clean, and along its wall, among
evergreens, was placed many a bright cluster of candles.

The silver and crystal sparkled on the snow-white table-cloth, and that
huge joint of hot corn-beef and carrots--the curlers’ dinner _par
excellence_--was partaken of with great gusto.

Bread and cheese and whisky followed this, then the minister returned
thanks, and this was followed by more whisky, with song after song.

    "Roof and rafters a’ did dirl."


It was not till near to the "wee short ’oor ayont the twal" that the
party broke up, and all departed for their distant homes, on horseback
or in traps.

Did I say "all departed"?  What an awkward thing it is to be possessed
of a conscience!  I have one which, whenever I deviate in the slightest
degree from the straight lines of truth, brings me up with a round turn.

Well, _all_ did not depart, for the corn-beef--let us say--had flown to
the legs and to the heads of half a dozen jolly fellows at least, and
they determined that they wouldn’t go home till morning.

So they had some more toddy, sang "Auld Lang Syne", and then retreating
to the rear of the barn, curled up amongst the straw and were soon fast
asleep.

So ended the great curling match of Glenvoie.



CHAPTER V.--A HIGHLAND BLIZZARD--THE LOST SHEEP AND SHEPHERD.


It must not be supposed for a single moment that although the boys
M’Vayne liked fun and adventure in their own wild land, just as you or I
or any other boys do, reader, their education was neglected. Quite the
reverse, in fact.  For at the time our tale commences, both had just
returned from the High School of Edinburgh, where they had studied with
honour, and carried off many prizes.

One of Duncan’s pet studies had been and still was--navigation.  Not
only of a theoretical kind, but thoroughly practical.

He had long since made up his mind to become a sailor, and he had left
no stone unturned to learn the noble art of seamanship.

For this purpose he had prevailed upon his father to let him take
several cruises in a barque plying between Leith and Hull.  So earnest
was Duncan, and so willing was both skipper and mate of this craft to
teach him, that in a very short time he was not only up to every rope
and stay, but could take both the latitude and longitude as well as
could be desired.

He did all he could to put his brother up to the ropes also.

They were very fond of each other, these two lads, and it was the
earnest desire of both that they should not be parted.

Well, all the stories they read were of the "ocean wild and wide", and
all the poetry they loved had the sound of the sea in it.

Such poetry and such tales Duncan would often read to his brother and
winsome wee Florie sitting high on a hilltop, perhaps, on some fine
summer’s day with the great Atlantic spreading away and away from the
shore beneath them to the distant horizon.

Dibdin’s splendid and racy songs, redolent as they are of the brine and
the breeze, were great favourites.

But I do think there is a thread of romance in the life of every sailor.
Nay, more, I believe that it is this very romance that first induces
young fellows to tempt the billows, although they are but little likely
to find a life on the ocean wave quite all that their fancy painted.
Talking personally, I am of opinion that it was _Tom Cringle’s Log_ that
first gave me an idea of going to sea.  Well, I do not regret it.

Byron’s _Corsair_ was a great favourite with the boys.  Indeed, I rather
think that they both would have liked to become corsairs or dashing
pirates. And little Flora would gladly have gone with them.

"Heigho!" she sighed one day when Duncan had closed the book.  "Heigho!
I wish I had been a boy. I think it was very foolish of the Good Man to
make me a girl, when he knew well enough I wanted to be a boy."

The poor child did not know how irreverent was such talk.

Honest Vike used to lie by Duncan’s side while he was reading, with one
huge heavy paw placed over the boy’s knee.

But it must have been monotonous for him; and often his head fell on the
extended foot, and he went off to sleep outright.

No sooner was the reading ended, however, than Vike awoke, as full of
life as a spring-born kitten. Then his game began.  He used to loosen a
huge boulder and send it rolling down the hill.  As it gained force, it
split up into twenty pieces or more, and bombarded everything it came
across.  Vike just stood and barked.  But once, when a flying piece of
the boulder killed a hare, the noble Newfoundland dashed down the hill
at tremendous speed, and seized his quarry.

He came slowly up with it, and laid it solemnly down at Duncan’s feet.

This was all very well; but one day, when the boys and Flora sat down
about half-way up a hill, Viking, tired of the reading, found his way to
the hilltop, and, as usual, loosened a boulder, and started it.

Thump, thump, rattle, rattle, rush!  Fully a dozen great stones came
down on our heroes in a cloud of dust, and with the force of an
avalanche.  The danger was certainly great, but it was all over before
they could fully realize it.

Duncan hastily drew his whistle, and at its call the innocent dog
instantly ceased working at another boulder he was busily engaged
loosening, and came galloping down the hill.

Poor fellow!  I dare say he deserved a scolding, but so full of life and
happiness was he, that Duncan had not the heart to speak harshly to him.
Only care was taken after this that Vike never got higher up the hill
than the reading party.

Frank had been nearly three weeks at Glenvoie, before he became
initiated into the mysteries of a real Highland snow-storm.  Many of my
readers have doubtless been out in such a blizzard, but the majority
have not, and can have but little idea of the fierceness and danger of
it.

The morning of the 10th of February, 18--, was mild and beautiful.  Both
Duncan and his brother had been early astir, and had taken their bath
long before sunrise.

They went downstairs on tiptoe, as they had no desire to awake their
guest.

"English boys need a lot of sleep," said Conal. "They’re not like you or
me, Duncan."

"N-no," said his brother; "but I could have done with another hour
myself to-day.  But we are Scotsmen, and must show an example.  Noblesse
oblige. Well," he added, "we’ll have time to run up the hill anyhow, and
see the sun rise."

So off they went, Vike making all the rocks and braes resound with his
barking.

It was, indeed, a glorious and beautiful morning, and from their
elevated situation they could see all the wild and romantic country on
every side of them, for daylight was already broadening in the east.  To
the west the gray Atlantic ocean, the horizon buried in mist, away to
the south woods and forests.  Forests to the north also, while behind
them hills on hills successive rose.

But the eastern sky was already aglow with clouds of crimson fire and
gold.  What artist could paint, what poet describe, such glory?

Then low towards a wood shines forth a brighter, more fiery gleam than
all, and even at this distance the boys can see the branches, aye, and
even the twigs, of the trees silhouetted against it.

And that is the sun itself struggling up behind the radiant clouds.

They stayed but little longer, for by this time breakfast would be
ready, and Frank himself getting up.

After this meal was discussed, as a light breeze, sufficient to ripple
the stream, had sprung up, the young folks determined to go fishing.

They took luncheon with them, and spent the whole forenoon on the banks
of the bonnie wimpling burn.

But so well engaged were they that they did not at first observe that
the sky was becoming rapidly overcast, and that the wind had begun to
wail and moan in the trees of the adjoining forest.  It had turned
terribly cold too.

Duncan became fully alive to his danger now, however, especially when
the tiny millet-seed snow began to fall.

"Our nearest way is through the wood," said the boy.  Duncan was always
pioneer in every danger and in every pleasure.

"And there is no time to lose," he added.  "Florie, I wish you hadn’t
come.  I suppose Conal and I will have to carry you."

"I won’t be carried," replied the stout-hearted little Scots maiden.  "I
daresay you think I’m a child."

Fishing-tackle was by this time made up, and off they started.

It was terribly dark and gloomy under the great black-foliaged
pine-trees, but Duncan knew every foot of the way.

They got through the forest, and out on to the wide moorland, just as
the snow began to fall in earnest.

This moor was for the most part covered with heather, with broom and
with whins, but dotted over with Scottish pine-trees.  These last had
been planted, or rather sown, by the rooks, for the black corbies turn
many a heathery upland in Scotland into waving woods or forests.  They
bear the cones away to pick the seeds therefrom on the quiet moors.
Some of these seeds are dropped, and in a short time trees spring up.

Duncan now took from his pocket a small compass, and studied it for a
moment.

"We sha’n’t be able to see the length of a fishing-rod before us soon,"
he said.  "Now, I propose steering due south till we strike the old turf
dike[1] that leads across the mountains.  By following this downwards we
will be guided straight to the pine-wood rookery behind our house."


[] Dike (_Scottice_), a low fence of stone or turf.


They commenced to struggle on now in earnest--I might almost say for
dear life’s sake--for wilder and wilder blew the blizzard, increasing in
force every minute, and thicker fell the snow.  But I was wrong in
saying it fell, for it was carried horizontally along on the wings of
the wind.  Not a flake would lie on the hills or bare slopes, but every
dingle and dell and gully, and every rock-side facing westward, was
filled and blocked.

Duncan held Flora firmly by the hand, for if she got out of sight in
this choking drift, even for a few seconds, her fate would, in all
probability, be that of sweet Lucy Gray--she might ne’er be seen alive
again.

Frank and Conal were arm-in-arm, their heads well down as they struggled
on and on.

"Let us keep well together, boys," cried Duncan, as he looked at his
little compass once again.  "Cheerily does it, as sailors say."

Now and then they stopped for breath when they came to a clump of pines.

Here the noise of the wind overhead was terrific. At its lightest it was
precisely like the roar of a great waterfall.  But ever and anon it
would come on in furious squalls, that had in them all the force of a
hurricane, which swept the tree-tops straight out to one side and bent
their giant stems as if they had been but fishing-rods.  At every gust
such as this the flakes were broken into ice-dust, with a suffocating
snow fog that, had they not buried their faces in their plaids, would
have choked the party one and all.

Many of these pines were carried away by the board, snapped near to the
ground, and hurled earthwards with the force of the blast.

Long before they reached the fence of turf, called in Scotland, as I
have said, a dike, Flora was completely exhausted, and had to submit to
be carried on Duncan’s sturdy back.

Frank was but little better off, but he would not give in.

At last they reached the dike.

"Heaven be praised!" cried Duncan.  "And now we shall rest just a short
time and then start on and down.  Cheer up, lads, we will manage now."

Flora descended from her brother’s back, and he sat down on the turf,
and took her on his knee.

But where was Vike?

Surely he had not deserted them!

No, for a dog of this breed is faithful unto death.

But now a strange kind of somnolence began to take possession of the
boys.

Duncan himself could not resist its power, far less his companions.

"Let us be going, lads," he cried more than once, but he did not move.

He seemed to be unable to lift a limb, and at last he heard the howling
of the wind only like sunlit waves breaking on a far-off sandy beach.

He nodded--his chin fell on his breast--he was dreaming.

Ah! but it is from a sleep like this that men, overtaken in a
snow-storm, never, never arise.  They simply

    "Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
    Morn of toil, nor night of waking".


In a few minutes, however, Duncan starts.  The sound of a dog’s voice
falls on his ear.  Ah! there is no bark in all broad Scotland so
sonorous and so sincere as that of honest Vike.

Wowff!  Wowff!  Wowff!!

There is joy in it, too, for he has found the boys--ah! more than that,
he has brought relief, and here are the sturdy kilted keeper and two
farm hands, ready to help them safely home.  The keeper has a flask, and
all must taste--even Florie, who is hardly yet awake.

How pleasant looked the fire in the fine old dining-hall when, after
dressing, the boys came below.

And Glenvoie himself was laughing now, and as he shook Frank’s hand, he
could not help saying:

"Well, my lad, and how do you like a Highland snow-storm?"

"Ah!" said Frank, laughing in turn, "a little of it goes a long way.  I
don’t want any more Highland snow-storm, thank you--not for Frank!"

The gale seemed to be increasing rather than abating, and it kept on all
that night, and for two nights and two days more.

Then it fell calm.

"I trust in Heaven," said M’Vayne, "that Sandie, our shepherd, has
reached the shelter of some hut, but I fear the worst.  The sheep may be
buried, but they will survive; but without food poor Sandie cannot have
withstood the brunt of that awful blizzard.

"Boys," he continued, "I shall start at once on a search, and the keeper
will come with me."

"And we too."

"Wowff! wowff!" barked Vike, as much as to say, "You’d be poorly off
without my assistance."

It was a lovely forenoon now, with a clear sky, but not as much wind as
would suffice to lift one feathery flake.

They meant to find the shepherd, but it was his hard-frozen corpse they
expected to dig out of a snow-drift.



CHAPTER VI.--"THE BREATH OF GOD WAS OVER ALL THE LAND."


There were two huts on the moorland, one in the open, another close
against a ridge of rocks, and in one or other poor Sandie would surely
have found shelter.

So to the first they bent their footsteps.  It stood with its back to
the east, and on the west it was entirely covered with great banks of
snow, some of them shaped like waves on the sea-shore, that are just on
the eve of breaking.

It took the keeper and two men nearly an hour to break through the
barrier and find the doorway.

They could see nothing when they opened it, for all were partially
snow-blind.

But they groped around, and called the shepherd by name; then convinced
that he was not there, dead or alive, they came sadly away, and joined
the group outside.

There was still the other hut to be examined, and this was a good mile
higher up the hill.

Thither, therefore, the party now wended their way, but so completely
covered up did they find it, that another long hour of hard work was
spent in reaching the doorway.

Like the last which they had explored, it was cold, dark, and deserted.

No one had any hope now of finding Sandie alive, but after a hurried
luncheon they spread themselves out across the hill and moor somewhat
after the fashion of skirmishers, and the ground was thoroughly
searched.

But all in vain.

No frozen corpse was found.

They were about to return now sorrowfully homewards, when high up the
hill and at the foot of a semi-lunar patch of rocks--an upheaval that
had taken place probably millions of years ago--Vike was noticed, and
his movements attracted the attention of all.

He was yap-yapping as if in great grief, tearing up the snow at the foot
of a mighty drift and casting it behind him and over him.

A pure white dog was the Newfoundland at present, so laden was his coat
with the powdery drift.

"Come on, men, come on," cried Glenvoie, "there yet is hope!  The good
dog scents something in spite or the snow.  It may only be sheep, and
yet poor dead frozen Sandie may be amongst them."

It took them but a few minutes to reach the cliff and the huge snowdrift
that covered its western side. It was then that Duncan remembered
something about these rocks.

"Why, father," he said, "now that I think of it, this is Prince
Charlie’s cave."

"You are right, lad, and my hopes are certainly in the ascendant."

"Conal and I have often been inside, and there is room enough inside to
shelter a flock of sheep, or a regiment of soldiers."

"Now then, lads," cried the laird, "work away with a will.  I’ll take
care you don’t lose by it."

He handed them his flask as he spoke, and thus refreshed by the wine of
their native land, they did work, and with a will too.

But hard work it was, from the fact that the snow was loose and powdery.

But at long, long last they reached the mouth of the cave.

And now a curious spectacle was witnessed, for to the number of at least
a hundred, and headed by a huge curly-horned ram, with a chorus of
baa-a-ing, out rushed the imprisoned sheep, kicking and leaping with joy
to see once more the light of day.

Behind them came the shepherd’s bawsont-faced collie Korran.  But after
licking Vike’s ear he rushed back once more into the cave, and the
rescuers quickly lighting a fire with some withered grass, found the
body of the shepherd with Korran standing over it. Was he dead?

That had yet to be seen.  They carried him out, and placing him on
plaids, began to rub his face with snow and chafe his cold, hard hands.

In less than ten minutes Sandie opened his wondering eyes.

He could swallow now, and a restorative was administered.

I need scarcely say that this restorative was Highland whisky.

After about half an hour Sandie was able not only to eat and talk but to
walk.

His story was a very brief one.  He had, with the assistance of Korran,
driven the sheep into the cave, and never dreaming that he would be
snowed up, and remained with them for a time.  Alas! it was a long time
for the poor fellow and his faithful dog!

Two days and two nights without food and only snow to keep body and soul
together.  And the cold--oh, so intense!

"How did you feel?" asked Frank.

The shepherd hadn’t "a much English", as he phrased it, but he answered
as best he could.

"Och, and och! then, my laddie, she was glad the koorich (sheep) was
safe, and she didna thinkit a much aboot hersel.  But she prayed and she
prayed, and then she joost fell asleep, and the Lord of Hosts tookit a
care of her."

Well, this honest shepherd was certainly imbued with the sincere and
beautiful faith of the early Covenanters, but, after all, who shall dare
to say that there is no efficacy in real prayer.  Not in the prayers
that are said, but in the prayers that are prayed.

                                  ――――

Well, spring returned at last.  Soft blew the winds from off the western
sea; all the hills were clad in green; the woods burst into bud and
leaf; in their darkest thickets the wild doves’ croodle was heard,
droning a kind of bass to the mad, merry lilt of the chaffie, the daft
song of the mavis, or low sweet fluting of the mellow-voiced blackbird.

But abroad on the moors the orange-scented thorny whins, resplendent,
hugged the ground, and here the rose-linnets built and sang, while high
above, fluttering against some fleecy cloudlet, laverocks (larks)
innumerable could be heard and dimly seen.

Oh it was a beautiful time, and the breath of God seemed over all the
land.

Frank Trelawney had adopted, not only all the methods of life of his
Scots 42nd cousins, but even their diet.

Almost from the date of his arrival he had taken a shower-bath or
sponge-bath before breakfast, and this breakfast was for the most part
good oatmeal porridge, with the sweetest of butter and freshest of milk.

Now that spring had really come, he went every morning with Duncan and
Conal to a big brown pool in the woodland stream.  So deep was it that
they could take headers without the slightest danger of knocking a hole
in the gravel bottom of the "pot". Having towelled down and dressed
rapidly, they ran all the way home.

This new and healthful plan of living soon told for good on the
constitution of the London lad.  His muscles grew harder and stronger,
roses came on his cheeks, and he was as happy and gay as Viking himself,
and that is saying a deal.

Many a long ramble did he and little Flora now take together through the
woods and wilds, for he did not care to go boating or sea-fishing with
the others every day.

Vike always accompanied the two.  This certainly was not because he
disliked the sea.  On the contrary, he loved it.  Whenever the boat came
within a quarter of a mile of the beach he always sprang overboard and
swam the rest of the way.

Arrived on shore he shook gallons of water out of his coat.  If you had
been standing between the dog and the sun, you would have seen him
enveloped in bright little rainbows, which were very pretty; but if
anywhere alongside of him, then you would have required to go straight
home and change your clothing, for Viking would have drenched you to the
skin if not quite through it.

But I suppose that this grand and wise Newfoundland thought the London
boy and little Flo had more need of his protection.

Ah! many and many a day and night after this, when far away at sea or
wandering in wild lands, did Frank think of these delightful rambles
with his little companion.  Think of them, ay, and dream of them too.

Often they were protracted till--

    ... "The moonbeams were bright
    O’er river and forest, o’er mountain and lea".


Some poet of olden times--I forget his name--tells us that "pity is akin
to love".  Well, Flora began by pitying this "poor little London boy",
as she always called him, even to his face, but quite sympathizingly,
and she ended, ere yet the summer was in its prime, by liking him very
much indeed.  To say that she loved him would, of course, be a phrase
misapplied, for Flora was only a child.

                                  ――――

With June, and all its floral and sylvan joys, came shoals of herring
from the far north, and busy indeed were the boatmen catching them.

Glenvoie lay some distance back from a great sweep of a bay, at each end
of which was a bold and rocky headland.

Few of the herring boats really belonged to this bay, but they all used
often to run in here, and after arranging their nets, they set sail for
their mighty draughts of fishes.

Duncan and Conal were always welcome, because they assisted right
willingly and merrily at the work.

The boats were very large, and all open in the centre--the well, this
space was called--and with a cuddy, or small living and cooking room,
both fore and aft.

It used to be rough work, this herring fishing, and not over cleanly,
but the boys always put on the oldest clothes they had, with waterproof
leggings, oil-skin hats, and sou’westers.

They would be out sometimes for two days and nights.

The beauty of the scenery, looking towards the land at the sunset hour,
it would be impossible for pen or pencil to do justice to.  The smooth
sea, with its patches of crimson, opal, or orange, the white sands of
the bay, the dark, frowning headlands, the dark greenery of the shaggy
woods and forests, and the rugged hills towering high against the
eastern horizon; the whole made a picture that a Turner only could have
conveyed to canvas.

The dolphin is--from a poet’s point of view--a very interesting animal,
with an air of romance about him. Dolphins are said to be of a very
joyous temperament. Well, perhaps; but they are, nevertheless, about the
worst enemies those hardy, northern, herring-fishery men have to
encounter.

They come in shoals after the herrings, and go "slick" through the nets,
carrying great pieces away on their ungainly bodies.  And the boatmen
can do nothing to protect their silvery harvest.

Once, while our young heroes were on board one of the largest and best
of the boats, it came on to blow off the land--not simply a gale of
wind, but something near akin to a hurricane.  They were driven out to
sea about sundown, and Duncan and Conal could never forget the
sufferings of that fearful night.

After trying in vain to beat to windward, they put up the helm--narrowly
escaping broaching-to--and ran before it.

But all through the darkness, and until the gray and uncertain light of
day broke slowly over the storm-tossed ocean, the seas were continually
breaking over the sturdy boat, and everyone was drenched to the skin.
It might have been said, with truth, that she was swamped, so full of
water was the well.

The great waves were now visible enough, each with its yellow sides and
its foaming mane.  It seemed, indeed, that the ocean was stirred up to
its very bottom, and when down in the trough of the seas, with those
"combers" threatening far above, with truth might it have been said that
the waves were mountains high.

All the nets were lost, but no lives.

About noon the wind veered round to the west, and all sail was set, and
the boat steered for land; but so far into the Atlantic had they been
driven that it was sunrise next morning before they succeeded in
reaching the bay.

And there sad news awaited them.

There would be mourning widows and weeping children, for two bonnie
boats had perished with all their brave crews.

Well, there is danger in every calling, but far more, I think, in that
of the northern fisherman than in any other.

But how doubly dear to him is life on shore, when he reaches his little
white-washed cottage, after a successful run, and meets his smiling wife
and happy children, who run to greet their daddy home from sea.

                                  ――――

Summer was already on the wane, and July nights were getting longer.
Frank must soon seek once more his London home.

But he was healthier, stronger, happier now, by far and away, than when
he first arrived at Glenvoie.

Ah! but the parting with everyone, but especially with bonnie young
Flora, would be sad and sad indeed.

One morning, about a week before Frank was to leave for the south,
Duncan came into his room.

"You and I and Conal are going up the hill to-day," he said, "all by
ourselves, and I have something to propose which I feel sure you will be
glad to approve of."

"All right!" said Frank.

So after breakfast the three boys slipped away to the hills, without
telling anyone what they were after.

A council was to be held.



CHAPTER VII.--THE PARTING COMES AT LAST.


If Duncan M’Vayne were a mere imaginary hero, I should not take credit
for any virtue that in him lay, but I don’t mind telling you, reader,
that very few of the heroes of my stories are altogether creations of my
fairly fertile brain.  Like most sailor-men who have seen a vast deal of
the world, I have so much truth to tell that it would be downright
foolish to fall back upon fiction for some time yet.

And so I am not ashamed to say that Duncan was one of those _rara
aves_--boys who think.  I do not care to study the characters of boys
who are not just a little bit out of the common run.  Ordinary boys are
as common as sand-martins in an old gravel-pit, and they are not worth
writing about.

Well brought up as he had been, so far away in the lonesome wilds of the
Scottish Highlands, and having few companions save his brother and
parents, it is but little wonder that he dearly loved his father and
mother.  To tell the whole truth, the affection felt by Scottish boys
towards their parents is very real and sincere indeed.  It is a love
that most assuredly passes the knowledge of southerners, and in saying
so I am most sincere.

Well, neither he, Duncan, nor Conal either could help knowing that of
late years circumstances connected with the estate of Glenvoie had
become rather straitened, and although obliged to keep up a good show,
as I may term it, his father was far indeed from being wealthy at the
present time.  The estate was not a large one certainly, but it would
have been big enough to live well upon, had the shootings let as well as
they did long ago.

Is it any wonder that talking together about their future, as they
frequently did before going to sleep, Duncan and Conal used often to ask
each other the question, "How best can we be of some use to Daddy?"  And
it was indeed a difficult one to answer.

Both lads had already all the "schooling" they needed to enable them to
make a sturdy fight with or against the world, but the idea of going as
clerks or shopmen to a city like Glasgow or even Edinburgh was utterly
repulsive to their feelings.

They were sons of a proud Highland chief, although a poor one.  Alas!
how often poverty and pride are to be seen, arm in arm, in bonnie
Scotland.  But anyhow, they were M’Vaynes.  Besides, the wild country in
which they had spent most of their lives until now, had imbued them with
romance.

Is that to be wondered at?  Did not romance dwell everywhere around
them?  Did they not breathe it in the very air that blew from off the
mountains, and over the heathery moorlands?  Did it not live in the dark
waving pine forests, and in the very cliffs that overhung the leaden
lakes, cliffs whereon the eagle had his eyry?  Was it not heard in the
roar of the cataract, and seen in the foaming rapids of streams that
chafed its every boulder obstructing their passage to yonder ocean wild
and wide?  Yes, and Duncan was proud of that romance, and proud too,
with a pride that is unknown in England of the grand story of his
never-conquered country.

And so we cannot be astonished to find the three lads sitting together,
in solemn conclave, on a bright summer’s forenoon, far away on a green
brae that overlooked Glenvoie.

Indeed, they had come here seriously to discuss their future.

Viking was lying close to Duncan with his great loving lump of a head on
the boy’s lap.

"You see," Duncan was saying, "it is precious hard for lads like us, who
haven’t any money to get a kind of a start in the world.  If we could
only get a beginning, I feel certain we should need no more.  But our
father is poor, Frank!"

"Heigho!" sighed Frank, "and so, alas! is mine."

"I know," continued Duncan, "that he would scrape the needful together
somehow if we asked him.  He could not sell any portion of the estate,
because it is entailed, but I know that father would try hard to raise
enough money to send Conal and me to sea as apprentices."

"And you really think you’ll go to sea?" said Frank.

"As certain as sunrise, Frank.  Mind I don’t expect to find things quite
so rosy as books paint them, but to sea I go for all that, and so will
Conal."

"And so will I," cried Frank determinedly.  "For my father is poorer far
than yours.  But I won’t go before the mast, as I think you mean to."

"No?"

"No! because I have an uncle who has already promised to give me a
little lift in life, and I haven’t got so much Highland pride as you, so
I’ll ask him to apprentice me.

"I wonder," he added, "if dear old Captain Talbot would have me?"

"Oh," cried Duncan, "I had entirely forgotten.  I have a letter from
Talbot.  He has given up the coasting trade, and is now in the
Mediterranean, sailing betwixt London and Italy, a merchant ship, and
I’m sure he will be glad to take you.  He’ll be back at the port of
London in September.  Why, Frank, old man, you’re in luck.

"And as for Conal and I, we shall go before the mast."

"I’m sorry for you, boys."

"But you needn’t be.  Not the slightest wee bit. Many an officer in the
merchant service, ay, and in the Royal Navy as well, has entered through
the hawsehole."

"That means risen from the ranks, doesn’t it?"

"Something very like it."

"Well," said Conal, "is it all arranged?"

"I think so," replied Duncan.  "And the sooner we set about putting our
resolves into force the better, I think."

Then he sighed as he bent down and gave poor Vike’s honest head a good
hug, and I’m not sure there wasn’t a tear in his eye as he said:

"Poor Vike! your master is going away where he can’t take you.  But
you’ll be good, won’t you, till we come back again, and look well after
your little mistress, Flora.  I know you will, doggie."

If ever grief was depicted in a dog’s looks, and we know it often is,
you might have seen it in Viking’s now.  I do not mean to say that he
knew all his master said.  He was too young for that, but he could tell
from the mere intonation of Duncan’s voice that grief was in store for
all.

                                  ――――

Chief M’Vayne was much averse at first to his sons becoming mere boys
before the mast, but Duncan and Conal were determined, and so he came
round at last and gave his consent.

I am going to say just as little as I can about the parting.  Partings
are painful to write about.

Not only the boys but M’Vayne himself were heroic. It does not do for
clansmen to show weakness, but the mother’s tears fell thick and fast,
and poor Flora was to be pitied.

It was the first cloud of sorrow that had fallen upon her young life,
and she felt desolate in the extreme. She believed she would never
survive it.  She would have no pleasure or joy now in wandering over the
hills and through the forests dark and wild.

"I will pray for you both."  These were about the last words she said.

"And for me too, Florie," said Frank sadly.

"Oh, yes, and for you."

Then he kissed her.

For the first time--wondering to himself, if it would be the last.

He had gotten a pretty little ring for her, with blue stones and an
anchor on it.  And of this she was very proud.

"Mind," he said, "you’re a sailor’s sweetheart now."

Then they mounted the trap that was to drive them to the nearest
station, and away they went, waving hands and handkerchiefs, of course,
until a bend in the road and a few pine-trees shut the dear old home
from their view.

                                BOOK II.

                   THE CRUISE OF THE _FLORA M’VAYNE._



CHAPTER I.--THE TERRORS OF THE OCEAN.


Long months have passed away since that sad parting at Glenvoie; a
parting that seemed to raise our young heroes at once from the careless
happiness of boyhood to the serious earnestness of man’s estate.

They had stayed in town until Captain Talbot arrived.  He was just the
same brave and jolly sailor that Duncan had first known.

Would he take Frank as his apprentice?

Why, he would be glad to have the whole three. They were so bold and
bright, there was not the least fear of their not getting on.

Wouldn’t they come?  His present ship was not so large as he would like
it to be, but he would make shift somehow.

But Duncan, while he thanked him, was firm.

"Well," said Talbot, "I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you, for somehow I
have acquired a liking for you all Frank here, then, shall come with me,
not as an apprentice belonging to the owners, but as a friend who wishes
to get well up in seamanship and eventually pass even for
master-mariner.  You see, Frank, you will be rated as apprentice to me,
and not to the company, else they would hold you to the same ship for
years.  And my reason is this: in about a year or a little over, I
shall, please God, have a ship of my own. It is to be a great project,
but I am promised assistance, and many of the savants in London say the
project is well worthy of the greatest success.  I shall voyage first to
the Antarctic regions, and come home with a paying voyage of oil and
skins of the sea-elephants, and this shall smooth my way to exploring
further south than any ship has yet reached.

"So you see, Duncan, as you and your brother will not be bound to any
tie as regards apprenticeship, you can both sail with me to the South
Pole, and who knows but you may yet become the Nansens of the
Antarctic."

"Too good to be true," said Duncan laughing; "but I’m just determined to
do my best, and no one can do more."

"Bravo, lad!" cried the colonel, laying his hand on Duncan’s shoulder.
"And you remember what the poet says:

    "’’T is not in mortals to command success,
    But we’ll do more...; we’ll deserve it’"


"Brave words, Colonel Trelawney," cried Talbot. "Why, sir, scraps of
heroic verse have helped me along all through life.  I’m a ship-master
now, with a bit in bank.  But my first voyage was to the Arctic and I
had hardly clothes enough to keep out the terrible weather.  My mother
was a poor widow in Dundee, and I--being determined to go to sea--became
a stowaway.  I hid in a coal-bunker, and it came on to blow, so that I
was very nearly killed with the shifting coals that cannonaded against
my ribs.

"Luckily the storm did not last long, but when they hauled me out at
last I was as black as a chimney-sweep and covered with blood.

"I was too ill to be lifted and landed at Lerwick. The doctor said I was
dying.  The first mate, who was never sober, said, ’Serve the young
beggar right!’  But, boys, I knew better.  Dundee boys don’t die worth
shucks, and so I was on deck in ten days’ time. There were two dogs on
board, and my duty was to feed and look after them, and also to assist
the cook.

"I roughed it, I can tell you, lads; but, Lord bless you, it did me a
power of good.  We were out for six months, and by that time I was as
strong as a young mule.  How old was I?  Oh, not more than sixteen. But
I felt a man.  And I could reef and steer now, and splice a rope, and do
all sorts of things.  For the bo’s’n had taken me in hand, and right
kind he was.

"Ah! but that rascally mate!  A long black, red-cheeked chap he was, and
not a bit like a sailor, but he kept up his spite against me, and, when
half-seas over--which he always was when not completely drunk--he would
let fly at me with a belaying-pin, a marling-spike, or anything else he
could lay his hands on.

"’Why don’t you land him one," said the bo’s’n one day, ’right from the
shoulder?’

"’That would be mutiny, wouldn’t it?’ said I.

"’Nonsense, lad, the skipper likes you, and he wouldn’t log you for it.’

"I determined to take the bo’s’n’s advice next time the drunken mate hit
me.

"Well, I hadn’t long to wait.  You see I had come to really love the
dogs under my charge.  So one day the mate kicked one of them rather
roughly out of his way.

"’Don’t you dare kick that dog,’ I cried; ’they are both in my charge.’

"How well do I remember that forenoon.  We were on the return voyage,
running before a light breeze, with every scrap of canvas set, low and
aloft, and the sun shining bonnie and warm.

"But the mate grew purple with rage when I checked him.  He could hardly
speak.  He could only stutter.

"’You, you beggar’s brat,’ he shouted, ’I’ll give you a lesson.’

"He rushed to pull out a belaying-pin.

"I tossed off my jacket and threw it on the top of the capstan.

"I twisted the belaying-pin out of his hands before you could have said
’knife’.

"’Fight fair, you drunken scamp!’ I cried.

"Pistols and rifles lay ready loaded in boxes at the top of the cabin
companion, and he made a stride or two as if to take one out.

"’Mutiny!’ he muttered, ’rank mutiny!’

"I sprang between him and the box, and dealt him a square left-hander
that made him reel.  I followed this up with a rib-starter, then with
one on the nose.

"Down he went, and he actually prayed for mercy.

"That bulbous nose of his was well tapped, and there was no fear of him
taking apoplexy for a while anyhow.

"But when I let him up he seemed to lose control of his senses, for the
demon drink was now in the ascendant.  He faced me no longer, however,
but rushed for poor, faithful Collie, and before I could prevent it, had
seized and pitched him overboard.

"The men, untold, rushed to haul the foreyard aback and to lower a boat.

"But he checked them.

"’What! lower a boat for a dog?’ he cried.

"’Lower a boat for a man then,’ I shouted, ’and just as I was I leapt
upon the bulwark and dived off it. Next minute I was alongside Collie.
Ay, lads, and alongside something else.  A huge shark sailed past us,
and passed us so near I could almost have touched him.  He must have
been fully fifteen feet long.[1]  I knew that nothing but splashing and
shouting could keep him at bay, and I did both as well as I knew how
to.’"


[1] The _Scymnus borealis_, or Greenland shark, is often eighteen to
twenty feet in length.


"But the boat came quickly to our rescue, and we were soon safe on
board.  The skipper liked me, and did not log my mutinous conduct.  In
fact he became my friend, and I was apprenticed to his very ship. So I
had many and many a voyage to the Sea of Ice after this.

"There is a glamour about this weird and wonderful frozen ocean, boys,
that none can resist who have ever been under its bewitching spell.  It
is on me now, and this it is which has determined me to seek soon for
adventures in the Antarctic, which very few have ever sought to explore.

"Now, Duncan and Conal, I’ll tell you what I shall do with you.  There
is a big Australian ship to sail from Southampton in about a month.  The
captain is a personal friend of mine, and will do anything for you.  I
shall give you a letter.

"Mind this, he is strict service, and if you do your duty, as I’m sure
you will, you’ll soon have a friend on the quarter-deck."

Captain Talbot--or Master-mariner Talbot as he liked best to be
called--had been as good as his word, and now our young heroes were far
away at sea.

The _Ocean’s Pride_ was a full-rigged Aberdeen clipper-built vessel, and
could show a pair of clean heels to almost any other ship in the trade.
The skipper and his two mates were all thorough sailors, and gentlemen
at heart.  The skipper, whose name was Wilson, soon began to take an
interest in Duncan and Conal, and knowing that they were studying in
their idle moments, invited them to come daily to his own cabin, and
there for a whole hour he used to teach them all he could.

Duncan could soon be trusted to take sights, and even "lunars", and gave
every evidence of possessing the steadiness and grit that goes so far to
make a thorough British sailor.

They touched at the Cape in due time, and Conal acted as clerk or
"tally-boy" while cargo was being landed and fresh stock taken on board.

The boys found time to have a look at the town. They went with one of
the mates who had been often here before.

Well, the hills all around, clad in their summer coats of dazzling
heaths and geraniums, were quite a sight to see.  But the town itself
they voted dismally slow, and so I myself have found it, there being so
many heavy-headed Dutchmen therein.

They were not a bit sorry, therefore, when they found themselves once
more on the heaving billows.

And the billows around the Cape of Good Hope do heave too with a
vengeance.

Such mountain waves Duncan could not have believed existed anywhere.
Tall and raking though she was, the _Ocean’s Pride_ was all but buried
when down in the trough of the waves.

There was but a six-knot breeze when they started to stretch away and
away across that seemingly illimitable ocean betwixt the Cape and
Australia.  Oh such a lonesome sea it is, reader!  Six thousand miles of
water, water, water, and often never a sign of life in the sky above or
in the sea below.

There was, as I have said, but a light wind to begin with, and it was
dead astern, so that stunsails were set, and the great ship looked like
some wonderful bird of the main, as she sailed, with her wings
out-spread, eastward and eastward ho!

But before noon the sky in the west began to darken, and great
rock-shaped or castellated clouds rolled up from the horizon.
Snow-white were they on top, where the sun’s rays struck them, but dark
and black below.

"Snug ship!" was the order now.

In came the stunsails, the men working right merrily, and singing as
they worked.  In came royals and top-gallant sails, and close-reefed
were the topsails. The captain was no coward, but right well he knew
that the storm coming quickly up astern would be no child’s play.

Nor was it.

A vivid flash of lightning and great-gun thunder first indicated the
approach of the gale.

Then away in the west a long line of foam was seen approaching.  In an
inconceivably short space of time it struck the ship with fearful
violence, and though she sprung forward like a frightened deer and
dipped her prow into a huge wave, she seemed engulfed in raging seas.
The skipper had battened down, but so much water had been taken on board
that the good clipper could not for a time shake herself clear. Perhaps
the shivered bulwarks helped to save the ship.

In a few minutes she was rushing before the wind at a good twelve knots
an hour.

"What a blessing it is," said Captain Wilson, "that we got snug in
time!"

"Yes, sir," said the mate, "and it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.
Why, this gale is all in our favour, and will help us along."

Our heroes had far from a pleasant time, however, for the next few days.
Then wind and sea went down, and peace reigned once more on the decks,
and in the rigging of the good ship _Ocean’s Pride_.

The splendid cities they visited when the vessel at last arrived in
Australia quite dazzled our boys.  And as the English language was
spoken everywhere they felt quite at home.

Captain Wilson seemed to take a pride in having Duncan and Conal with
him, and he introduced them as friends wherever he went.

Both lads were handsome, and in the city of Melbourne a rumour got
abroad that they were of noble birth, and were serving before the mast
for the mere romance of the thing.  Well, even the Earl of Aberdeen was
once found in the guise of an ordinary seaman; but there was something
more than romance in our heroes’ situation.  However, the report, which
they always contradicted, did them no harm, and they were invited to
more houses than one, being asked, moreover, to come in their sailor’s
clothes.

The boys obeyed.  In fact they had none other, but they had a kind of
best suit, and very well the broad blue collar and black
sailor’s-knotted handkerchief became their handsome young faces.

I don’t think I am far wrong in saying that some of the Australian
ladies fell in love with them.

But that is a mere detail.

Now, having reached Australia, Duncan had about half a mind, more or
less, to try his luck at the gold diggings.

He broached the subject to Captain Wilson.

"Well," replied the skipper, "mind, though I should be grieved to part
with you, I would rather put another spoke in your wheel than hinder
you, if I thought there was the ghost of a chance of your making your
fortune.  But I don’t think there is."

"Then we shall be advised by you," said Duncan.

So after a very pleasant time spent in Australia the _Ocean’s Pride_
spread her wings once more to the breeze and sailed for distant Japan.

Thence homewards round stormy Cape Horn.  It took them six weeks to
weather the Cape, so close was the ice.

But worse was to befall them, alas! than this.

They were now bearing up for home.  Right cheerily too, for they had
caught the trades, and finally fell into the doldrums in crossing the
equator.

Here they tumbled about for no less than three weeks, not a breath of
wind blowing all this time to help them along.

But it came at last, and they were free.



CHAPTER II.--A FEARFUL EXPERIENCE.


Once more the _Ocean’s Pride_ was spanking along before a delightful
breeze with the dark blue sea sparkling in the sunlight around her, and
Mother Carey’s chickens, as sailors call the stormy petrels, flitting
past and re-past her stern.

Seamen say these birds are always the forerunners of storm and tempest.
This is not so, but in this case the prophecy turned out to be a correct
one.  A fearful hurricane or tornado struck the ship, and raged for days
and days.

There was no such thing as battling against it.  So it ended in their
being driven far away to the west into unknown or little frequented
seas.  I am wrong in saying it ended.  For the end was of a far more
terrible nature than anything I ever heard of before, or ever
experienced.

On the fourth day the tempest seemed almost played out, and the sky was
brightening somewhat in the east.

The skipper was rubbing his hands and saying to his mate:

"I think we shall be able to shake a reef out before long."

"So do I," was the cheery answer.

Both the young fellows M’Vayne were below at present, and the vessel was
battened down.

"Oh, look, look!" cried the mate, seizing the skipper by the arm and
pointing fearfully towards the east.

"Good Lord preserve us!" said Captain Wilson in terror.

And well he might be so, for yonder, quite blotting out the clear strip
of sky, a huge wave or bore had arisen.  It was of semi-lunar shape, and
must have been fifty feet high at the very least.  The top all along was
one mass of foam.

Nearer and nearer it came!

The sailor men crouched in fear, or hastened to make themselves fast by
ropes’ ends to rigging or shroud.

And now the fine vessel is struck--is wallowing in the midst of that
hurricane-tossed turmoil of waters--is on her beam-ends, without any
apparent hope of recovery.

But recover she did after a time, and the ocean wave swept on.

What a wreck!  The half-drowned men, or those who were left alive,
gasped for breath as they stared wildly around.  Two masts gone by the
boards, only the pitiful foremast left standing; every boat staved and
washed away, bulwarks gaping like sheep hurdles, and the poop crushed
in.

And the officers where were they?  Gone!

Yes--and my story is told from the life and the death--not only bold
Captain Wilson himself but both his mates had been swept overboard and
drowned.

Five men were missing; nor had all escaped down below.  The cook was
severely injured, and but for the presence of mind and speed of two
ordinary seamen, the ship would have caught fire, for the blazing coals
had been dashed out of the range and ignited ropes and twine that lay
not far off.

And poor Duncan!  He had been dashed to leeward and so stunned that his
brother and a sailor who had picked him up, believed him to be dead.

For three days he lay unconscious, but in two more days he was to all
appearance himself again.

Although suffering from a bad scalp wound, he was able to go on deck.

And sad indeed was the sight he now beheld.  With the binnacle washed
away, without an officer to guide or direct the vessel; and the men, in
almost hourly expectation of death should the wind spring up again once
more, had allowed the ship to drift with the current.  They were
helpless, ay, and hopeless.

And I am sorry to add that many of them had found their way to the
spirit room, and were lying on deck drunk and asleep.

Duncan now proved himself the right man--or boy, for he was but little
over seventeen--in the right place.

He called the hands aft.

"Men," he said, "we cannot continue in this state; some effort must be
made to save our lives and the valuable cargo."

"Ah! young sir," said the bo’s’n sadly, "all our officers are dead.
There is no one to guide or navigate the ship.  We must drift on till we
strike reef or rock and so go to pieces.

"Never fear, sir, we’ll die like true-born Britons."

"But," cried Duncan, "there need be no dying about it.  I myself can
navigate the ship, if sextant and chronometer still are safe."

They crowded round this brave though youthful navigator and shook him by
the hand, while tears of joy streamed down many a sea-browned
weather-beaten cheek.

"Can you, sir?  Oh, can you?  Then take charge and we will obey."

Luckily the rudder and wheel were uninjured, and as soon as he had taken
sights and found out where he was, he had a jib and new foresails set,
the helm was put up, and slowly the _Ocean’s Pride_ began to sail for
the nearest land.

This was one of the Azores.  Very far away indeed, but still Duncan
hoped to reach it ere long and in safety.

The young fellow’s orders followed each other quickly enough, and were
obeyed with great alacrity.

The spirit-room was locked, and an armed sentry placed over it.  He was
to bludgeon any man who should dare to approach it with intent.

Several of the worst cases of drunkards he put in irons.

Then all hands were told off to temporarily repair the ship.

The poop was mended and made water-tight, and the bulwarks roughly seen
to.  This occupied a whole day, and as soon as daylight succeeded
darkness the busy crew were at work once more.

There were several spare spars on board, and the men now set about
rigging a couple of jury-masts, which, though only carrying fore-and-aft
sails, would greatly add to the good ship’s speed.

But more than this had to be done, for she had shipped quite a deal of
water, and the donkey-engine had to be repaired and rigged to get clear
of it.

While work was going on cheerily enough a poor drink-demented wretch,
who had escaped from below, rushed wildly up, and sprang with a shriek,
that none who heard it ever forgot, right into the sea.

There was not a boat to lower, and small use would it have been anyhow,
for those who looked fearfully over the bulwarks saw but a red circle on
the waves, and rising bubbles.  It was the poor man’s blood and breath,
for he had been torn down by a shark.

The other cases recovered, and begged of Duncan not to log them.

The young acting-commander promised he would not, and they returned to
duty.

It was a long and a tedious voyage to the Azores, but every one was for
the most part happy now, although still sad when they thought of the
awful catastrophe which had caused such loss of life.

At the town where the _Ocean’s Pride_ at last lay at anchor, additional
repairs were made, and in due time Duncan sailed with a fair wind for
England’s shore.

It was the month of July when the ship was once more lying alongside the
quay, and hearing of her terrible adventures the people crowded down in
hundreds, and would have crowded on board, too, had not Duncan given
strict orders that no one should cross the gangway, except on business.

This did not prevent reporters from getting over the side, however, and
although Duncan was very reticent, the whole town was soon ringing with
his praise.

But the owners were still more delighted.  The cargo was valued at fully
five-and-twenty thousand pounds, and the young navigator had saved it
all.

A meeting was held at which it was unanimously agreed to present Duncan
with the very handsome sum of one thousand, and his brother, who had
been but little less active than himself, with five hundred.

Duncan was indeed a happy young fellow now. But his good luck did not
end here, for on the fourth day of the arrival of the _Ocean’s Pride_,
who should step on board but jolly Captain Talbot himself, and, neatly
dressed in the uniform of a ship’s apprentice, Frank walked alongside of
him--on his port beam in fact.

That was a real happy meeting, as a Yankee would say.

Surely Frank never looked better nor more manly. He had lost all the
looks of the "tender-foot", and was well coloured and hardy.

And Talbot himself was as usual bronzed and jolly. The honest grip that
he gave Duncan’s hand showed, too, that he was hearty and strong as
ever.  It was not a few fingers that this bold sailor presented to a
friend, but the whole hand.

"And how are you, my brick of a boy?  But I needn’t ask when I look into
those bright eyes of yours.  Ay, and I’ve heard of your clever doings
too. Do you see the papers?"

"I haven’t much time just at present," replied Duncan, "nor has Conal
here either."

"Ah, Conal, right glad to see you!  But do you know that your brother is
a hero?  Why, all the newspapers from Land’s End to John o’ Groats are
singing his praises!"

"It won’t make a bit of difference to Duncan, sir," said Conal, somewhat
proudly.

"But really, Captain Talbot"--this from Duncan himself--"I don’t know
what I should have done without Conal.  But come into the saloon, sir,
such as it is, for we were terribly knocked about."

"Yes, and it surprises me that you have got things so ship-shape again
as you have.  You’ve heard from your daddy?"

"Ay, and Florie too, and I’m going to run down for a spell as soon as I
can get paid off."

"And I’ll go with you, and Frank here as well. Won’t you, lad?"

"Like a hundredweight of gunpowder, sir, with a spark put to it."

"And now, sir, sit down; I have half an hour to spare.  Steward, bring
the wine and biscuits.  And how goes the project, Captain Talbot?"

"Getting on splendidly.  I’ve formed a company, and nearly all the
shares are sold, but really ’twixt you and me and the binnacle, boys,
I’ve kept the most myself."

"Well," cried Conal laughing, "I and my brother are men of vast wealth
now--ahem!--we shall have all that is left."

"No, you mustn’t part with all your doubloons. Just half.  The other
shall be put in a bank as a kind of nest-egg, don’t you see?"

"Very well," said Duncan, "we always did take your advice, and so we
will now."

"That’s right!  Old Ben Talbot never gave a boy bad counsel yet."

"And the ship, sir?"

"Well, the ship’s a barque, and a beauty she is. About eight hundred
tons, and although not quite a clipper, she’ll make up in strength what
she’ll lack in speed.

"A whaler she was," he continued, "but we have given her a rare
cleaning.  She’s as sweet now as a nut.  Double-skinned is she, and the
bows all between the bends are solid teak, shod in front with iron.  But
you shall see her as soon as we haul out of dock."

"I’m taking two mates; both have passed and own certificates.  You,
Duncan, shall be acting third mate, and Conal I’ll rate as auxiliary.
You haven’t neglected your studies, have you?"

"No, sir, and both myself and Conal mean to go in for our first exam, as
soon as we get to London."

"Bravo!  But I won’t hinder you longer.  Frank shall stay on with you a
bit, and I expect you all to come and dine with me to-night at my hotel.
Can you?"

"All but me," said Conal.  This wasn’t quite grammatical, but it was
truth.  "One of us must be ship-keeper."

"That’s right.  Never shirk your duty for anyone or anything.  Do you
remember the eulogy on Tom Bowling--when stark and stiff?"

And the pure and manly voice in which Talbot sang a verse of Dibdin’s
celebrated song, proved that, though this true sailor was over fifty, he
was as hale and strong and hearty as many young fellows of twenty.  Ay,
and ten times more so, for at the present time thousands of lads ruin
their health at schools--_and not from study either_.

    "His form was of the manliest beauty;
      His heart was kind and soft;
    Faithful below he did his duty,
      And now he’s gone aloft."


Talbot was going, and Duncan was seeing him across the gangway.

"Oh, by the by," he said, still retaining his old friend’s hand, "I’m a
perfect fool."

"No, no, Duncan; there are other folks’ opinions to be taken on that
subject."

"But I was actually going to let you away without even asking the name
of your ship."

"Say our ship, my lad."

"Well, our ship."

"And you’d never guess her name, but your dear wee tot of a sister
christened her, and the barque’s name is the _Flora M’Vayne_."

"Well, I am pleased."

"To-night, then; six o’clock to a tick."

And away went the jolly skipper.



CHAPTER III.--BOUND FOR SOUTHERN SEAS OF ICE.


Frank and Duncan spent a very happy evening indeed with their friend
Talbot.

Without the aid of wine either, which no one with youth on his side
should require to make him gay. But I do not mind telling you that the
old skipper himself had a drop of the "rosy" as he called it.  And the
"rosy" meant rum, aromatic, and of great age.

Well, there was quite a deal to talk about; they told each other their
adventures, and they spoke also of their future prospects, and the
cruise of the _Flora M’Vayne_.

"She will be furnished and fitted complete," the captain said.  "We
shall make sure enough of the sea elephants, but I’m going to tap a
whale or two also, if I don’t find elephants enough.  And, bother me,
Conal," he added, "I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t write a book
about our cruise."

It was long past ten before the merry little meeting broke up.  This
isn’t late for land-lubbers, but with sailors it is different.  "Early
to bed when on shore" is their motto.

                                  ――――

It was early in August--only the first week, in fact--when the boys and
their captain found themselves back once more at Glenvoie.  The colonel
had expressed a wish to run down with them, but he had to defer it,
owing to the surly way in which his liver asserted itself.

They found everything very much in the same state as when they left it,
only Florie was now fourteen, and far more demure.

It is Burns who says:

    "In Heaven itself I’ll ask nae mair,
    Than just a Highland welcome".


And a true Highland welcome they had.  There were no tears shed except
some of joy, which trickled over the somewhat pale cheeks of Mrs.
M’Vayne herself when she noted how manly her boys had grown.

Frank hadn’t grown an inch.  Nor did he want to. You do not require very
tall or leggy men as sailors. But the young fellow’s heart was in the
right place, and he was even more full of genuine fun and humour than
ever.

But if we talk about a Highland welcome, what shall I term that which
poor Vike accorded to Duncan and Conal, and in a lesser degree to Frank.
Lucky it was that the meeting took place out-of-doors.

Had it been inside, this splendid Newfoundland would undoubtedly have
knocked down tables, and demolished crockery in his mad glee.

As it was, he contented himself with knocking first Duncan and then
Conal down, and licking their faces and hair as they lay, helpless, on
their backs.

Then, laughing down both sides, as it seemed, with white teeth flashing
and hair afloat behind him, he set out for a circular spin by way of
getting rid of his superfluous feelings.  For the time being indeed he
had really resolved himself into a kind of hairy hurricane or tornado.
But he gradually became calmer, and when he entered the house at last,
where dinner was already laid, he threw himself down by Duncan’s side
with a sort of sixty-pounder sigh, as much as to say:

"I’m the happiest dog in Scotland, for I thought I’d never, never see my
master again.  And now that I have got him I mean to stick to him."

And he kept to that determination too, for nowhere would he sleep that
night except in the boys’ room.

                                  ――――

All the dear old rambles over moorland and mountain and through the dark
depths of the forest, were resumed next day, and kept up for over a
week.  I do not mean to describe these happy days, for soon indeed must
we sail far, far away to wilder scenes, and our adventures will be more
exciting than any that ever our heroes had in the romantic Highlands.

Florie was still Frank’s innocent little sweetheart. So he told her, at
all events, as he made her a present of a lovely locket with his own
portrait in it and a copy also of hers.

Not that Frank was proud of his phiz.  Oh, no; for in fact no one would
have called him a real beauty, nor say his features were altogether
regular.

But he had eyes that sparkled with the radiance of health, and his face
changed in expression with almost every sentence he uttered.

He would have made an excellent actor.  He had been told so more than
once, and his answer was: "Well, I shall turn an actor when all the seas
run dry".

And now having bidden farewell to Glenvoie, our heroes had to lie at
Dundee for a whole week finishing the fitting-out of the good ship
_Flora M’Vayne_.  It was really a tiresome time, for the constant
arrivals of visitors to see the ship and the crew that were about to
embark on so long and so perilous a voyage was incessant all day long.

Nobody, therefore, was sorry to hear the last cheer that arose from an
assembled multitude, although it was a right kindly one, and though
prayers and blessings followed the barque.

That same evening they were far away from the eastern coast, for this
was a lee shore, and they were wise to have a good offing before making
direct for the south.

The barque might have been called somewhat clumsy, but nevertheless she
carried a splendid spread of canvas, and sailed remarkably close to the
wind.

Captain Talbot had told Duncan that he had made the _Flora M’Vayne_ as
sweet as a nut, and certainly he had done so.  No one to walk her decks
could ever have guessed she had been a greasy, grimy blubber-hunter not
so long ago.

Why, everything on deck looked as bright and as clean as a brand-new
sovereign.  The quarter-deck was as white as wheaten straw, the binnacle
was an ornament, that would have looked excellently well in the best of
drawing-rooms.  The brass and hard-wood work were as bright as silver,
every rope’s end was coiled on deck, as if the barque had been an
old-fashioned man-o’-war, and the men were all suitably dressed and
tidy.  The bo’s’n was a most particular man, and, although some men
chewed tobacco, to have expectorated anywhere on deck, would have been
an offence for which a rope’s-ending would be well merited.

The galley was of the newest type; so, too, was the donkey engine, and
this would be used at sea when very far from land for the purpose of
condensing water.

All told, the mustered crew were eight-and-thirty. The men forward had
been picked by Talbot himself, and every one of them had been to the
Arctic regions more than once.

They were therefore good ice-men, and neither frost nor cold was likely
to have any terrors for them.  Nor the great green waves of far southern
lands, that somehow always sing in the frosty air as they sweep past a
vessel’s sides.

But there was something else on board which I should draw especial
attention to, and this was nothing less than a huge balloon.  It was not
filled, of course, but the means to inflate it were all on board, and
having reached the great Antarctic ice-wall or barrier, the captain
meant to make an aërial voyage of discovery, farther to the south than
any traveller had ever been before.

There is nothing I love better than acts of daring and wild adventure,
and Talbot was certainly to be commended on this score.

His balloon was certainly not anything like the size of Andrée’s, yet it
was capable of rising and floating for an indefinite period with three
men, and provisions for as many months.

A special house had been built for this great uninflated balloon between
the fore and main masts, and on each side, bottom upwards, lay the
whalers, or boats with bows at each end, and steered by an oar only.
These were to be used in the fishery.

The ship’s ballast was water-filled tanks, and tanks laden with coals.
But Talbot hoped to return to Scottish or English shores with ballast of
quite a different sort, and better paying--oil, to wit.

The _Flora M’Vayne_ was to touch nowhere on her voyage out until she
reached the Cape.  That at least was the good skipper’s intention, but
circumstances alter cases, as will presently be seen.

They had fine weather all the way till far past the dreaded Bay of
Biscay.  On this occasion two boys in a dinghy might have crossed it.
But it is not to be supposed that they could go on for a very long time
without encountering what Jack calls dirty weather. And so when, in
about the latitude of Lisbon, and to the east of the Azores, it came on
to blow, no one was a bit surprised.

"We’ll have a gale, mate," said the captain; "but though abeam, or
rather on the bow, we have plenty of sea-room; and on the whole I
sha’n’t be sorry, for I really want to see how the _Flora_ behaves."

The wind, even as he spoke, began to roar more wildly through the
rigging, but in gusts or squalls, that at times rose for a few minutes
to almost hurricane pitch.

Before the storm had come on many beautiful gulls had been screaming
around the barque and diving for morsels of food that Frank was throwing
to them, but now they disappeared.  Back they flew to the rocks that
frown over the waters of their sea-girt homes.  Little dark chips of
stormy petrels, however, continued to dash from wave-top to wave-top,
and for once in a way, they brought tempest.

But the ship was now eased, for the lurid sun was setting, and a dark
and moonless night must follow. The men were hardly down from aloft when
the storm seemed to increase, but it blew more steadily, so she was kept
away a point or two, and now went dancing over the heavy seas as if she
imagined she was the best clipper ever built.

A little heavy-headed she proved, however, so that she shipped a good
deal of water over the bows, otherwise the thumping, thudding, buffeting
waves seemed to make not the slightest impression on her.

The chief cabin or dining-saloon was down below, there being no poop,
but a flush-deck all along.  Both Frank and Duncan were off duty, and,
seated in this small but comfortable saloon, the former could not help
remarking on the strange feeling and sound of each heavy wave that
struck the ship abeam.  She appeared to be hit by a huge, soft
boxing-glove, about a thousand times as large as any we ever use.

Immediately after there was the whishing sound of water on the deck, but
although the vessel was heeled over somewhat by every awful blow, she
took no other notice.

"Batter away, old Neptune," the barque seemed to say; "it amuses you,
and it doesn’t hurt me in the slightest."

About two bells in the first watch, Talbot came below, and supper was
ordered.

His face was radiant, but shining with wet.  The steward, however,
assisted him out of his oil-skins and sou’wester, then, having wiped his
face with his pocket-handkerchief, he sat down.

"Well," said Duncan, "Frank and I are waiting to hear the verdict."

"Why, it is this," said the skipper.  "The barque is a duck, and well
deserves the name of _Flora M’Vayne_. I don’t believe a hurricane could
hurt her, and she’ll chuck the small icebergs on one side of her as I
should chuck a cricket-ball.  And ain’t I hungry just. Sit in, boys.
It’s all night in with you lads, isn’t it?"

"Not quite," said Duncan.  "I kept the last dog-watch, and don’t go on
again till four."

Viking got up and seated himself by his well-beloved master’s side.

He licked Duncan’s hand, as much as to say, "When you go on deck so
shall I."

But his master seemed to divine his thoughts.

"No, my good dog," he said, "you must stay below to-night, else the seas
would sweep you off, and what should I do then?"

After supper Frank got out his fiddle and played for fully half an hour,
then he and Duncan, who both occupied the same state-room, retired.

As a sailor always sleeps most soundly when the wind blows high, and he
is really "rock’d in the cradle of the deep", it is almost unnecessary
to say that these lads dropped soundly off almost as soon as their heads
touched the pillows.

Nor did they awake until eight bells at the end of the darksome middle
watch, when Conal came down to call them.

"Oil-skins, Conal?"

"Ay, Duncan, and you’ll need them too.  Better lock Vike in your cabin."

"That is what I mean to do."

Poor Viking did not half like it though.  There is no dog in the world
makes a better sailor’s companion when far away at sea than a
Newfoundland, and I speak from experience.  But such dogs do not
appreciate danger sufficiently high, nor have they good enough sea-legs
to face a storm and walk the deck of a heaving ship.  Therefore they
often get washed into the lee scuppers.

On the present occasion Vike made up his mind to be as naughty a dog as
he could.

"I shall wake the skipper," he told Duncan, speaking through the
key-hole as it were.  "Wowff!" he barked.  "Wowff! wowff!  What do you
think of that?"

Well, the sound could certainly be heard high over the roaring of the
wind and the dash of angry waves.

The captain heard it in his dreams; but it takes more than the barking
of a dog to awake a sailor born. So Talbot just hitched himself round,
and went off to sleep on the other tack.

By breakfast time both wind and sea had gone down, and there was every
expectation of fine weather once again.

"No damage done is there, mate?" said Talbot to Morgan.

"No, sir, nothing worth speaking about.  Some of the coal tanks got a
drop o’ water in them, that’s all."

"Well, that will make them last the longer.  But, mind you, Morgan, I’m
rather pleased than otherwise that we’ve had that blow."

"So am I."

"It just shows what the barque can do."

"That’s it.  If she is as good against the ice as she is against a
sea-way, then, by my song, sir, she’ll take us safely to the Antarctic,
and just as safely back home again.  Pass the sugar, sir."



CHAPTER IV.--ON THE WINGS OF THE WIND.


"Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching."  So runs a line of the old
Yankee war-song.

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys (Duncan and Frank) were treading the deck
that forenoon, talking, as sailors do, about anything or everything that
suggested itself. And two subjects that always came to the front on such
occasions were home life and their life on the ocean wave.

"So you thoroughly like the sea?" said Duncan.

"Well, Duncan, I never thoroughly liked anything, you know, but I think
I love a sea-life better than most sorts of existence, with the
exception, of course, of wandering over the hills of old Glenvoie;
bird-nesting in the forests, or fishing in its beautiful streams. Only
the sea has its drawbacks."

"Yes."

"Yes, for I do think it a nuisance to have to get up at all hours of the
night to keep watch--blowing or calm.  I always feel I should be willing
to give five years of my life for another two hours’ sleep, when the
fellow shakes me by the shoulder and says, ’Eight bells, sir, if you
please’.  Just as if it would not be eight bells whether I pleased or
not.  Then, neither the tommy nor tack is quite up to shore standard,
and one could do well enough without cockroaches about a foot and a half
long--more or less--between his sheets, weevils in his biscuits, and
spiders roasted and ground up with his coffee.  The tea is always
sea-sick too, and hens’ milk[1] isn’t the best, especially if the eggs
be old and decrepit.  But I won’t grumble, Duncan."

[1] An egg or two beaten up with water.  Used at sea when no milk is to
be had.

"No, I wouldn’t, if I were you.  Sailors never do."

"And now you’re laughing at me."

"That’s nothing, Frank; one may live a long time after being laughed
at."

"Well, come along below, and I’ll play you something that will make the
tear-drops trickle down that old-fashioned Scotch nose of yours."

"Wouldn’t you rather hear the wild and martial strains of the bagpipes,
my little Cockney cousin?"

"Oh, yes," answered Frank punnily, but standing well beyond the reach of
Duncan’s swinger of an arm. "I dearly love the bagpipes when--"

He hesitated.

"When what?" cried Duncan.

"When they’re o’er the hills and far awa’."

Then Frank made a bolt for the companion-ladder.

It was high time, too.

Well, when Frank Trelawney had that fiddle of his under his bit of a
Cockney chin, all his troubles, if, indeed, he had any that could be
called real, were forgotten, including weevils, hard tack, cockroaches,
and all.  For the time being, indeed, there was no one else in the world
save he himself and the violin.  And what worlds of romance and love and
beauty were thus conjured up before him!

But even at the risk of differing from Frank, I think a sailor’s
pleasures, if he is one who calls at many and different ports, far
outbalance any grievances he may have to growl about--short of
shipwreck. What though the biscuit be hard, and one’s bed like the
biscuit!  The wholesome healthy appetite one possesses, both for biscuit
and sleep, makes up for all that; and one ought to be happy if he isn’t.

But one chief enjoyment in a sailor’s existence lies in visiting so many
different lands, and seeing life in every form and shape.  He cannot
help being an anthropologist, and studying mankind.  Not, mind you, that
he lays himself out for that sort of thing; for sailors, especially
young fellows, take the world as it comes, the rough with the smooth, or
rather alternately, only always forgetting the rough while they revel in
the smooth.  But there must always be an element of comedy in Jack’s
delights, and when he goes on shore, take my word for it, "Jack’s alive,
and full of fun".

I am happy to say that drinking is much in the decrease both in the
royal navy and merchant service. Why, even since I myself can
remember--and I’m not a very aged individual--our blue-jackets were like
babies, and if not in charge of an officer when on shore, would forget
themselves, and come on board limp enough, with black eyes and broken
heads, and garments drenched in gore.

Jack in those days really paid for his pint in more ways than one, for
if he escaped the dangers of the shore, riot and wretchedness, the
thieves and the female harpies who lay in wait to cheat and rob him, the
day after coming off was for him a day of sadness and mourning.

If able to stand, he had to go on duty.  Perhaps he had no more brains
than a frozen turnip; perhaps his head felt so big that he borrowed a
shoe-horn to put on his hat, nevertheless he was drilled on deck just
all the same, and it took him four days probably to recover his appetite
and equilibrium.

                                  ――――

There was every appearance now that the _Flora M’Vayne_ would have a
pleasant voyage.

Talbot was kind to his fellows, and a rattling good crew they made.  So,
although they passed Madeira and the Canary Islands to the west, they
looked in at Santiago, one of the largest in the group of Cape de Verde
Islands.

Three days were spent here, and they managed to secure some really good
water.  It was only the distilled they used at sea, and this, to say the
least of it, is always somewhat vapourish.

The men had leave, and behaved fairly well, returning sober and with
many curios, which they hoped to take home to their sweethearts and
wives, and also laden with fruit of many kinds, all of which is good for
the health of the sailor.

Plenty of fruit was also secured for the saloon, so they put to sea
again in capital heart and spirits.

One little incident is perhaps worth noting.  A huge bunch of bananas
was hung up to ripen against the saloon bulkhead.  That was right
enough; but when a venomous little snake--slender in form and about the
colour of hedge-sparrow’s egg--popped out his head and neck, and
whispered angrily at Conal, then Conal called his comrades, and a court
of inquiry was held.  It was believed to be the best plan to take the
bunch of bananas on deck by means of a blacksmith’s tongs, and shake it
over the sea.

But that beautiful green demon of the jungle thought perhaps that he did
not merit the honour of a sailor’s grave, so he popped out and skipped
gaily into Duncan’s cabin.

"Here’s a pretty go," said Conal; "and I should be sorry to sleep in
that state-room until the reptile is found."

So a search was instituted instanter, and a dangerous one it was.  But
wherever it had taken refuge that snake could not be found.

The young fellows took rugs on deck that night, and slept on the planks.

Theirs was the forenoon watch, and when turning out to keep it, lo! that
little green demon glided quietly out from Conal’s very bosom, and went
leaping and rolling along the deck, aft, finally tumbling down the
skylight and on to the table where the captain was lingering over his
breakfast.

For more than a week that snake--known to be one of the most poisonous
there is--was the terror of the ship.  He was in entire command fore and
aft, and the skipper was nowhere.  The awful, though lovely thing,
appeared in so many places, moreover, that it was believed to be
ubiquitous.  Sometimes it would glide out of a sea-boot or a sou’wester
hat.  It was twice found in the sleeve of an oilskin-jacket, once it
curled up for the night with Viking, and once in the pocket of the man
at the wheel.

This sailor had dived his hand into the outside pocket of his coat to
find his "baccy", when, instead of this, he felt the cold
wriggling-wriggling thing; he gave a whoop like a Somali Indian with six
inches of square-0 gin in his stomach!  The scream started the snake
from his lair, and he went girdling along the deck and disappeared below
as usual.

But he was smashed at last and heaved far into the sea.

Strange to say, Mr. Snakey, as he was called, appeared again all alive
and beautiful next morning.

"He’s the d--l for sartin," said a blue-jacket. "Dead one day and
squirming around the next.  Yes, Bill--what else can he be but the d--l,
and maybe just the same bloomin’ old snake as tempted Mother Heve in the
Garding of Heden!"

But this snake was killed next, and there was no more trouble after
this.

Captain Talbot, however, issued an order that before bananas were again
brought on board the bunches were to be well examined.  Or, in doctor’s
parlance, when taken, they must be well shaken.

                                  ――――

Ascension was their next place of call.  It is generally called a rock
in mid-ocean.  It is somewhat more than that, being over seven miles in
length and fully six broad.  It is hilly, its chief peak being about
three thousand feet in height.

Well, the _Flora M’Vayne_ was enabled to get coals here anyhow, and they
found the place what I might call semi-garrisoned.  Moreover a gun-boat
lay here. The officers of the _Flora_ visited her, and were hospitably
received, and invited to dinner, everyone both afloat and on shore being
anxious to receive news from England, while the papers the _Flora_ had
brought were a sort of godsend.

The beautiful island of St. Helena did not lie in their direct route,
but Tristan d’Acunha--more than a thousand miles directly south--did,
and here they determined to cast anchor for a spell, and give the
islanders a treat.

(I have given the ordinary name to this lonesome isle of the ocean, but
correctly, I believe it should be Tristan Da Cunha--pronounced Coon’ya.
It is really a group of three, the chief being about twenty-one miles in
circumference, and having in its centre a very lofty mountain peak more
nearly 8000 feet than 7000 in height.)

They found about one hundred souls living on this isle.  The settlement,
or glen in which they have their habitat, is fairly fertile, and the
ubiquitous Scot is so much in evidence here that the village is called
New Edinburgh.

It is in reality a republic, and the oldest man is chief or governor.
The cattle and sheep number about two thousand, and belong, of course,
all in common.  Well, they are happy enough, and crime is unknown, the
chief reason of this being perhaps that drink is also unknown.

There were some really very pretty girls here, but when they were
assembled an evening or two after the _Flora’s_ arrival in a barn to
listen to the strains of Frank’s fiddle, recitations, and songs, those
girls looked laughably quaint in their strange old-fashioned dresses.

The concert was a great success, and really the skirl of Duncan’s
Highland bagpipe as he strode back and fore on the rude stage, quite
brought down the house, to use theatrical parlance.  It almost brought
down the barn too, so thrilling and loud was it. Never mind, Duncan
received no less than three hearty encores, and surely that was enough
to please anyone.

"What a lonely life to lead!" said Conal next day at breakfast.

"Yes," said Morgan, "and I shouldn’t care to get spliced and settle down
here all my life, pretty and all as the girls are."

"Well, you would live long and be healthy anyhow if you did," said
Captain Talbot.

The mate laughed as he helped himself to another huge slice of
barracouta.

"Never mind that, sir.  I wouldn’t marry and live in Tristan if they
gave me three wives."

"But aren’t these girls shy?" said Frank.  "Why, I asked one innocently
enough to give me a kiss, and she blushed like a blood orange."

"Did she give you the kiss?" asked Morgan mischievously.

"No, that she didn’t, but--I took it."

The _Flora M’Vayne_ lay here for a whole week, fishing and curing each
catch.

This was a rare holiday for the islanders, who were the gayest of the
gay all the time.

One morning a sailor of the crew sought an interview with Captain Talbot
on the quarter-deck.

"Well, my man?"

"Well, sir, it’s like this.  I’ve fallen in love here with the
slickest-lookin’ bit of a lass I ever clapped eyes upon ’twix’ here,
sir, and San Domingo; and if you please, capting, I wants to stay here
and marry her right away, and live happy hever arterwards."

The captain laughed.

"My good fellow," he said, "I am truly sorry to disappoint you; but you
signed articles for all the cruise, you know, and I fear I can’t let you
go.  I’d be one hand short, you see."

"That you would not, sir, for there is Billy Ibsen, as good a seaman, I
believe, as ever ’auled taut a lee main brace, and he’ll be ’appy to
exchange."

"Well then, Smith, if that’s the case, and the substitute is suitable, I
mustn’t throw any obstacles in your way."

And so all ended well.  Ibsen proved fit, and Smith went on shore.  When
the _Flora_ sailed away he was the last man visible, standing on an
eminence waving a red bandanna, with the girl of his choice standing
modestly by his side.

Little did this island lassie think when the ship hove in sight that it
was bringing her a lover and a husband.

But although rare at Tristan Da Cunha, the young ladies of that solitary
rock, in the midst of the Atlantic broad and wild, do sometimes count
upon the possibility of such an event, and may be heard singing:

    "He’s coming from the north that will marry me,
    He’s coming from the north, and oh happy I will be,
    With a broad-sword by his side and a buckle on his knee,
    And I know it, oh, I know it, that he’ll marry me".


But the Tristan Da Cunha people are moral and good, and although they
have no parson on board they have services on Sunday.  As to
marriage--well, the governor does the splicing, and it is considered
quite as binding as if the ceremony had been performed by the Archbishop
of Canterbury.

Southward now they sailed away in a delightful breeze, and when the sun
was slowly sinking towards the western sea, the weird wee island of
Tristan appeared but as a hazy cloud far away on the northern horizon.

So strange a place our young heroes had never visited before, and for
many days it seemed but an island of dreamland.

But that island, readers, is still there amidst its waste of waters, and
it is within the kaleidoscope of events, that some of you may yet visit
its iron-bound and surf-beaten shores.

Who knows?



CHAPTER V.--JOHNNIE SHINGLES AND OLD MR. PEN.


South, straight south.  South as the bird flies.  And with a fair and
spanking breeze too.  As for birds--once past the rocky and volcanic
island of Diego Alvarez, few indeed bore them company.  I believe
anybody might have this rocky place who had a mind to.  They found it to
be the home of myriads--clouds, in fact--of gulls of every sort,
including the well-known Cape pigeon, the puffin, the penguin, and
albatross, to say nothing of the cormorant, and that strange, strange
creature on its wondrous wings, that lives in the sky most of its time,
and even goes to sleep as it soars high above the clouds--the
frigate-bird.

They went near enough to the island to witness one of the strangest
sights in nature--the bird-laden rocks. There was little chance of
landing on the island itself, owing to the terrible surf that beats for
ever and aye around the cliffs; but Ibsen, who turned out to be a real
handy fellow, had been here before, and pointed out to the captain some
rocks in the lee of which a boat could land, and--this being spring in
these regions--soon find enough eggs to keep the crew in food for a
month.  His knowledge was taken advantage of, and a boat under his
guidance called away.

In it went Duncan and Frank.

What a scene!  It beats imagination.  Tier after tier on the rocky
cliffs sat those birds watching their nests and eggs.

They found a little cove in the tiny islet, and at the head of this the
boat was beached on the dark sand. The ground was everywhere so crowded
with nests that it was with difficulty they could walk amongst them
without doing damage.

How beautiful they were too!  Of every shade of blue and green, with the
strangest of jet-black markings, were most of them.

But the king penguins did not cohabit with any of the gull families.
They thought themselves far too aristocratic for this, and here, as on
other lonely isles of the great southern ocean, they dwelt in a colony
all by themselves, which must have numbered about one thousand all told.
This colony had footpaths leading down to the shallowest parts of the
shore, whence these droll birds could easily take to the water.

They are really droll, whether walking, standing, running, or swimming.
They stand quite erect on their sturdy legs, so that a line dropped from
their beaks would almost fall between their broad webbed feet. Wings
they have none, a pair of broad flappers doing duty for these, which
seems to aid considerably their progress in running.  But these flappers
are really paddles or oars in the water, and I know of few birds that
can swim so fast or turn so quickly in the sea.

On the arrival of the boat’s crew there was a general panic among this
community.  As regards the male birds, tall as they were, they did not
show a very great amount of courage.

_Sauve qui peut_ was their motto, and let the females take care of
themselves.  Like the pigs in New Testament times, when the cast-out
devils got leave to go into them, they ran headlong down a steep place
into the sea.  Their motions as they waddled and scurried along,
oftentimes tumbling over a stone or a tussock heap, were grotesque in
the extreme, and everyone roared with laughter.

With the exception of little Johnnie Shingles.  I’m sure I cannot tell
you how he came to be called Johnnie Shingles, for pet names grow on
board ship just as they do on shore.  Johnnie was picked up somewhere
abroad, and was looked upon as part and parcel of the good barque _Flora
M’Vayne_.  He was a nigger of purest, blackest breed, probably four feet
four inches high, and in age something between nine and nineteen. Nobody
knew and nobody cared.  Johnnie Shingles was just Johnnie Shingles, no
more and no less.  Well, he couldn’t have been much less.  He was very
funny, however, and consequently a favourite with everybody on board,
from Mate Morgan to the monkey.  His duty on board was really to be at
the beck and call of all hands, and to clean and feed the pets,
including Viking, the red-tailed gray parrot, and Jim the ape.

Well, you see, Johnnie was never allowed to land from the boat like any
of the crew, but as soon as he came within reasonable distance of the
shore he was simply thrown overboard, and left to struggle in through
the surf as best he could.

But Johnnie didn’t mind the surf much, and he didn’t mind the sharks.
Nor do I think the sharks minded Johnnie.  In fact, my knowledge of
sharks generally causes me to come to the conclusion, that they are
somewhat particular in their tastes, and much prefer a white man to a
black.

Well, at this islet, Johnnie Shingles was as usual pitched ceremoniously
into the water, when about seventy yards from the landing-place.  But as
ill-luck would have it he met the whole shoal of male penguins putting
out to sea.  These birds are extremely bold and audacious in the water.

"Hillo!" one of the foremost shouted or seemed to shout, "here goes
another o’ them.  Let us all pitch into him!"

And suiting the action to the word they seized poor Johnnie by the seat
of his white ducks and dived with him under the water.  Johnnie got up,
but only to be seized by another, while half a dozen at least dabbed and
pecked at him, till, had he been a white boy, he would have been black
and blue.

I believe that if, in answer to his shrieks the boat had not put back,
and laid those penguins dead with their oars right and left, poor
Johnnie Shingles would have lost the number of his mess.  Even after the
angry king penguins had been routed nothing could for a time be seen of
the little nigger boy.  But presently up popped a penguin, and close
behind it up popped Johnnie.

He came up smiling, as prize-fighters say, but he had got that penguin
by the hind-leg all the same, and kick as it would Johnnie held fast
till he and it were landed all alive in the boat.

Now, I do not know whether that king penguin had a wife and a family of
eggs or not, but if he had he very soon forgot them and settled down to
ship life as if he had been to the manner born.  In fact, he became a
general favourite on board owing to his grave and peculiar gait.

Old Pen, as he was called, became specially attached to Johnnie
Shingles, and stuck to him as Johnnie had clung to him before they were
hauled into the boat.

As to the penguin’s eggs: they lay but two, a big and a bigger.  They
are good to eat--scrambled.  But I am unable to say whether the king
bird or cock comes out of the big shell, and the hen out of the smaller,
or _vice versâ_.

This particular king had very intelligent eyes, with which he would
stare at one fixedly for a minute at a time with his head on one side.
Indeed, he was always, to all appearance, seeking for information
everywhere, and there was not much on deck that he did not examine.

The coiled ropes were a source of great amusement to him, and after
unravelling one end he would seize it, and walk straight off with it as
men do with a hawser.  When the men were washing down decks, before the
weather got very cold he was never tired examining their naked toes.  He
used to straddle quietly up and separate them with his beak as a
starling would.

If the men jumped and cried "Oh-h!" Old Pen held back his head and
chuckled quietly to himself.

"I only wanted to know if you were web-footed," he appeared to say.

Well, if old Pen was grotesque and amusing when dressed only in his own
feathers, he was infinitely more droll when the men dressed him up as a
funny old girl with a black bonnet, a short dark skirt, a shawl, a pair
of frilled white trousers, and a gingham umbrella.

Old Pen didn’t care.  If everyone else laughed he only nodded his head
and seemed all the prouder.

I don’t know whether Johnnie or he was the taller, only the grinning wee
nigger used to give the singular old lady an arm, and together they used
to walk up and down the deck in the most comical way imaginable.

But this was not all, for Johnnie taught her to waltz.

On board the _Flora_ was a man who could play the clarionet, while
another could bring very sweet music indeed from the guitar.  This
really was all the band, with, of course, Frank’s fiddle.  But very far
indeed was it from bad, and dressed in their Sunday’s best, the sailors
used to be invited aft, and during that long, long voyage to the
southern fields and floes of ice, many an evening concert beguiled the
time.

But if the sailor musicians went aft, Frank often went forward, and it
was on these occasions that old Mrs. Pen, as she was often called, was
trotted out by the curly-polled nigger-boy.  It is a misappropriation of
a term to say "trotted out", for certainly there was very little trot
about the quaint old dame.  But waltzing just suited her flat feet.
Yes, and there is no doubt that she liked it too.  She might be down
below half-asleep before the galley fire, when the fiddle and guitar
began getting into tune with the clarionet; but she now pricked up her
ears at once and presently prepared to negotiate the broad companion
steps or stairs that led to the upper deck. This was always a very
serious matter for the great king penguin.  Sometimes he tried to stride
from one step to another, a foot at a time.  But this plan was
invariably a failure, so he found it more convenient on the whole to
hop, and his lower limbs were wondrously strong.

Arrived on deck, Johnnie Shingles was there to meet him, and dress him
as Susie.  Then the _he_ became a _she_.

But the men would be at it by this time, dancing the daftest and wildest
of hornpipes.  No chance of their catching cold when so engaged, nor
after, for as soon as they had finished a spell that

    "Put life and mettle in their heels",

they threw on their heavy jumpers and walked around defiant, enjoying
the daft capers of their shipmates.

Then Susie and Shingles would appear on the scene arm in arm, the boy
with his round face, his laughing eyes, and his two rows of alabaster
teeth, looking a picture of radiant fun and good humour.

"Now, Massa Frank," he might cry, "gib me and my ole mudder a nice
d’eamy valtz."

"A dreamy waltz, eh?  Well, you must have it."

"I must foh shuah, sah.  My mudder hab got a soft co’n, and rheumatiz,
and all sorts ob tings."

There was no laughing about Susie.  She took everything in grim earnest,
but, with her chin resting on black Johnnie’s shoulder, she evidently
enjoyed both the movement and the melody, sometimes even closing her
eyes.

Her partner, like herself, was barefooted even in the coldest of
weather; but when once he tramped on Susie’s toes, the old lady rewarded
him with a dig on the cheek that made Johnnie howl, and taught him
caution for all time to come.

Well, what with laughing and dancing, an evening thus spent sped away
very quickly, and was worth a whole bushel of doctor’s stuff.  There was
no surgeon on board, I may mention parenthetically.  The law does not
require such an officer to be carried when the crew, all told, is under
forty men.

It is really somewhat marvellous that a bird like this big king penguin,
should have taken so soon and so kindly to the company and customs of
human beings; but then the poor bird was exceedingly well-treated, and
whenever fish was served out, Pen was always in the front rank.  Ah,
well, it is only one more proof of the truth that _amor vincit
omnia_--love conquers all things.

Pen was not always dressed as Mother Gamp.  No, for he had a really good
outfit, to which the neater-fisted seamen were always adding.  So
sometimes he would appear on the quarter-deck as a man-o’-war sailor, at
others as a smart and elegantly-attired artilleryman, with his cap stuck
provokingly on one side, and a little cane under his left arm.

He was at times dressed as Paul Pry.  And on these occasions, as he
stretched his head and neck curiously out in front of him, he really
seemed to say: "I hope I don’t intrude".

Pen was a grand actor.  Mr. Toole himself would have been nowhere in it
with Pen.

Viking at first must have thought the bird something "no canny".  He
would start up with a wild "wowff" if Pen came anywhere near him, and
quietly retire.

The monkey or ape, on the other hand, tried to get up a friendship with
Pen.  He would approach him with a peace-offering, crying "Ha! hah!
hah!" which, being interpreted, signifieth, "Take that, old Pen, and eat
it.  It will taste in your mouth like butter and honey."  As the
peace-offering invariably consisted of a gigantic cockroach about three
inches long, I think it may be doubted whether it tasted as well as the
monkey would have had Pen believe.  However, the presentation was kindly
meant.

This huge monkey’s mouth was always crammed with cockroaches.  One side
at all events, and that one side stuck out as if he were suffering from
a huge gum-boil.

The men were somewhat sorry, I think, that they could not teach old Pen
to chew ’baccy, but old Pen drew the line at this.  I must, out of
respect for the truth, state, however, that the bird could not be called
a total abstainer, for he dearly loved a piece of "plum-duff" steeped in
rum, and on this questionable delicacy I think he used at times to get
about half seas over. Then he would commence wagging his head and neck
very much from side to side, and indulge in a little song to himself.

Old Pen was not much of a singer, however, and never could have composed
an opera.  In fact his song was partly grunt, partly squeak, and partly
squawk. But it pleased Pen, and that was enough.

After singing for a short time he would pinch a favourite seaman’s leg.
"Kack!" he would say, opening his mouth.  This meant "Chuck us another
sop, matie".

After receiving it he would be off, and take his usual stand near the
galley fire, and begin to wink and wink, and nod and nod, till finally
the lower eyelids would ascend over the beautiful irises, and Pen be
wafted away into dreamland.  He wasn’t aboard ship any longer.  He was
back once more on his own little rocky sea-girt isle, with the gulls and
the cormorants screaming high in the air around.  Near him stood Mrs.
Pen, his wife, and near her, and in front, his two youngsters--fluffy,
downy, droll brats, gaping their red mouths to be fed.

On the whole, I think Pen was a curious bird, and eminently suited for a
sailor’s pet.



CHAPTER VI.--"BACK WATER ALL!  FOR LIFE, BOYS, FOR LIFE!"


It was summer--strange, weird, and silent summer in the Antarctic Ocean.

November was wearing to a close.  The days were long and sunny; so long,
indeed, that the sun did not trouble himself to go down at all.  At
midnight he just made a feint of doing so, and lowered himself towards
the horizon, but thought better of it, and was speedily mounting higher
and higher again every minute.

A great, cold-looking sun it was, however, a bright and almost rayless
disc of whitest light, that you could look at and even count the spots
thereon.

The good barque _Flora M’Vayne_ was still ploughing her way through the
dark waters of that southern ocean, and the great glacial barrier was
still far away. They could have told this even by the paucity of bird
life around them.  A long-winged frigate-bird went swiftly across the
hawse now and then, and soared away and away towards the few fleecy
clouds that hovered high in air like puffs of gunpowder smoke.

That mighty eagle of the sea--the albatross--was also a constant
visitor.  What a wondrous flight is his!  At one moment beating up to
windward, tack and half-tack, yet with a speed almost as great as that
of a swallow, till one can scarcely see him, so far and far away is he;
then, wheeling next moment, down he flashes on the breeze, but more
quickly than any ordinary breeze e’er blew.  Not straight before the
wind, however, but with a kind of sidelong rush which brings into full
view the vast outspread of his wondrous wings.

They were still in the "roaring forties", as that part of the ocean
’twixt the latitude of the Cape and the fifties is called.  But what a
wide expanse of ocean is all around them!  I have stood spell-bound on
the fore or main-top, not admiring so much as adoring this mighty work
of a mightier Creator: a turmoil of water, water, water in every
direction one can look.  And it is not so much the height of the waves
one wonders at--though that is indeed vast--but their tremendous
breadth, the sweep, as it were, between one curling comber and another.
High and of fearful force are the seas in, for example, the Bay of
Biscay during a gale, but they are mere channel chops to these.  And
wide though the expanse of these latter, they race each other round the
world with an earnestness, and even fury, that causes one to stand
aghast.

I wish I had space to describe some of the sunsets our heroes beheld
shortly after leaving the last land. No wonder that Duncan more than
once grasped Frank by the arm, and pointed northward and west at
eventide.

"Look!  Oh, look!"

It was all he could say.  Yet the salt tears almost blinded him as he
spoke.

"Oh, to be an artist!" exclaimed Frank once.

"An artist!" cried Duncan, almost scornfully. "What artist would dare to
paint the golden gray and crimson splendour that unites both sea and sky
into one living gorgeous whole?  Oh, Frank, even Turner himself, were he
here, would throw down his brush, and confess that he was a mere
caricaturist."

But in a few weeks’ time the sunsets were nil, and all, all was day.

Nor did it blow so high now.

Sometimes, indeed, the sea was as calm as a mill-pond, except where
rippled in patches by huge shoals of the fry of certain kinds of fish
that inhabit these seas.

And these were invariably followed by denizens of the deep that preyed
upon them--dancing, leaping, cooing dolphins, for example.

Some of these latter were harpooned, and their dark red flesh made an
excellent change of diet from the somewhat salt provisions, eggs, or
penguin flesh.

Once or twice, while the weather was calm and the surface of the sea
smooth and glassy, they came upon patches of yellow--banks they were, in
fact, over which they were drifting.

Men were now kept constantly in the chains, and sometimes the danger was
so great that the anchors were let go to wait for even the lightest
breeze.

This might have delayed the voyage somewhat, but nevertheless it was not
time wholly misspent, for where the bottom is near to the surface fish
are always found in abundance.  So boats would be lowered, and real good
hand-line sport enjoyed.

In this old Pen participated.  But the first day he started fishing he
swam so fast and so far away, that those in the boat imagined they would
never see him more.

Then little Johnnie began to weep.

"Oh, poll deah Pen!  Oh, my ole mudder Sue," he cried.  "He done gone
away foh ebbermoh."

But Johnnie’s "weeps" were quite a useless expenditure of lachrymal
fluid.  This was evident enough when Pen came racing back again with a
great silvery fish held proudly aloft.  He delivered this, and went back
for another.  And this again and again, till a breath of wind springing
up, it was deemed advisable to return to the _Flora_, who was "titting"
at her anchor as if eager to be on the wing again.

That Pen loved the darkie was evident enough, for one day, when bent on
to his line and hauling away with all his might, a huge bonito pulled
the little lad right overboard, the strange bird went grunting and
squawking round him in terrible distress.

Johnnie’s position just then was not an enviable one, for although he
could swim like a herring, there was many a monster shark hovering near
that would have been pleased indeed to make a meal of the boy.

These sharks were sometimes caught, and although their flesh had no
great flavour, parts of it served sometimes to eke out breakfast or
supper.

There are dangers innumerable in those Antarctic seas, and one of the
most terrible is that of striking on a sand-bank or running foul of a
sunken rock. These not being on the chart, the navigator has to sail
along literally with his life in his hand, trusting all to blind chance.
A bank does give some evidence before the ship gets on if there is an
outlook in the foretop, and the cry of, "Below there! shoal water
ahead!" is all too common.  Next comes the shout of, "Ready about!
Stand by tacks and sheets!"

But the rock hides its awful head and gives no sign.  The ship strikes,
then backward reels, and mayhap sinks before there is time to provision,
water, arm, man, and lower the boats.

Ice at last.

But the Antarctic sea was wonderfully open this season, and the ice
loose.

It lay in streams of small pieces at first, athwart the world, as Jack
termed it; athwart the ship’s course, at all events, so these they had
to sail through. The good _Flora_ was strong enough to negotiate them,
but the battering and thumping along the vessel’s sides, as heard below,
was tremendous.

These ice streams became more and more numerous, and the pieces, or
"berglets", got bigger and bigger, and, of course, more fraught with
danger to the ship’s vitality.

It grew appreciably colder too, but so slowly had they come into these
regions of perpetual snow, that the change in temperature had no
detrimental effect upon the health of either the officers or men.

It certainly had none on old Pen.  In fact, the colder it got the more
he seemed to like it.  And now when waltzing with Johnnie, he used to
sing in his own droll and dismal way.

Viking also believed in the cold, and the races and gambols he had up
and down the deck, when he could induce anyone to throw a belaying-pin
for him were wild in the extreme.

Moreover, he had a football, which Duncan had presented him with, and he
got no end of fun out of this.  He threw it in front of him, he hurled
it along in front of him, and swung it about, and one day, when he
fairly tossed it overboard, he made no bother about the matter, but
rushing astern, jumped right overboard after it, quite regardless of the
fact that the ship was going on at the rate of eight knots an hour.

As quickly as possible she was hove to and a whaler lowered.

Vike was found quite a quarter of a mile astern--but he had stuck to his
ball.

He dearly loved it, and, strangely enough, he put it to bed every night
as children do their dolls, covering it carefully up with a corner of
the rug on which he slept.

                                  ――――

Icebergs at last.  A good thing it was for the _Flora_, that there was
but little wind, for to strike against one of these huge bergs--bigger
many of them were than St. Paul’s Cathedral--would have meant certain
destruction.

Yet although the wind was often but light, a current seemed to run
rapidly enough, and the huge unbroken waves towered high above them, and
more than once they narrowly escaped disaster from a huge berg being
hurled down upon the vessel as if by Titanic force, as she wallowed in
the trough of the sea.

Even sailing past to leeward of such ice as this took the wind for a
time clean out of the sails.

Strangely enough, they reached the Antarctic Circle on Christmas day.

This was a sort of double event.  Either would have been celebrated, but
now both events must be rolled into one.

One would hardly imagine that King Christmas would venture into these
lonely regions, but the old fellow is good-hearted, and where’er on
earth a Briton goes there goes Christmas also.

Well, with the exception of Johnnie Shingles and the monkey--who, by the
way, had been furnished with a brand-new scarlet flannel jacket to keep
him cosy--there was not a soul on board who had not before leaving home
been presented with a bunch of gay ribbons, by sweetheart or wife, to
help to deck a great garland that was made, and hoisted high aloft and
abaft on this auspicious morning.

Of course there were no turkeys!

Alas! there were no geese.

As for cooking an albatross--well, that has been tried before, and a
more unsatisfactory dish I have never tasted.  Fishy, oily, and as for
downright toughness the wife of Beith with her iron teeth could make but
a poor show in front of it.

But some splendid corn-beef took the place of more civilized dishes both
fore and aft.

Then there was the pudding.  Ah! that indeed!

And a splendid success this, or these, were.  The cook went in that day
for beating all previous records. And it was universally admitted that
he did.

The _Flora M’Vayne_ was an almost temperate ship, that is, the men had
to content themselves with one glass of rum each _per diem_, man-o’-war
fashion.  But on this bright Christmas day there was but little limit or
stint.  Only, to everyone’s credit be it said, there was no excess.

The evening, up till two bells (9 o’clock), was spent in games, in
yarning, in dancing, and fun.

Both Vike and old Pen had dined right heartily, and were in rare form.

One of the chief dances to-night was the Scots strathspey and reel, and
Duncan had got his bagpipes in order for the occasion, and as he played
the fun grew fast and furious.

So excited did both Vike and Pen become at last that they must too chime
in, the dog with a high falsetto howl, the bird with double grunt and
squawk, so that Duncan’s melody was somewhat interfered with.

This, however, did not discourage the Scotch portion of the crew.  They
only cracked their thumbs, danced the nimbler, and hooched the wilder,
till with the frantic merriment the very sails did shiver.

It was indeed a joyous night.  Vike and Pen, although they had a truly
excellent feed, did not give way to excess, but the monkey being only
one remove from a human being, ate so much pudding and so many nuts and
cockroaches, that he suffered next morning from a violent headache.  He
was seen squatting on the capstan, clasping his brow with his left hand,
and looking the very picture of Simian misery.

Frank took pity on him.

"I know what will cure you," he said.  "I know what a Christmas headache
is; I’ve been there myself."

So he bound up the poor beastie’s head with a handkerchief wrung out of
ice-cold water, and the monkey felt really better, and was grateful in
consequence.

For some natural reason or another, they now came into a sea of open
water, and much to the delight and excitement of all hands, sighted a
school of Right whales.

The main-yard was instantly hauled aback, and all preparations speedily
made to attack one at least of this great shoal.

I do not suppose that these leviathans of southern polar seas had ever
had their gambols so rudely broken in upon before.

Three boats were sent against them, each with one experienced harpooner.
The captain commanded one, Morgan another, and the third whaler was
given in charge of brave young Duncan.  To tell the truth, he had really
no experience of such "fishing", but the spectioneer that sat beside him
had.

Surely it was a pity to disturb the enjoyment of those great ungainly
monsters on so glorious a day. Thus thought Conal at all events, for
without doubt the whales had assembled for a real frolic.

It was a sort of whales’ ball.

Sometimes nothing was seen but the white spray or foam they raised, at
other times their enormous bodies were seen shining silvery in the
summer sun, for in their glee they actively leapt over each other’s
backs.

But the noise they made is indescribable, as they lashed the water with
flippers and tails.

In the captain’s boat only was the harpoon gun, and he alone would fire
it.  When a much younger man he had been whaling in the far-off Arctic,
and knew a Right whale from a finner or sperm.

Yet his was not the newest-fashioned mode of whaling.  He used no
explosive shells or bullets, which he looked upon as cruel in the
extreme.  I should be sorry indeed to argue the point either pro or con,
for there is cruelty on both sides, but probably less with the shell,
which may cause almost instantaneous death.

Was Captain Talbot going to attack that school of whales during their
extraordinary gambols?  He knew better.  Were a whales’ ball to take
place in the midst of even a fleet of men-o’-war I should be sorry for
some of the ships.

But see yonder, ploughing slowly along towards the herd, comes a huge
and solitary leviathan.

Talbot hastily signals to the mate and to Duncan. The latter takes the
steering oar, and, bidding him be cautious, the spectioneer, his great
whale lance in his hand, goes cautiously forward to the bows, and the
boat is kept on a line parallel to the great beast’s course.

Nearer and nearer creeps the captain’s boat.  The excitement is intense.
Will the whale dive before he gets close enough, the men are wondering?

Nearer and still more near.

Everyone holds his breath.

"Lie on your oars, men!  Still and quiet!"

The boat drifts a little way further, but the gun is trained.

Bang!

The echoes reverberate from every berg, or far or near.  The line all
neatly coiled in the bows is whirling out, till the gunwale begins to
fire.  But it as speedily stops.

Grand shot!  The monster is struck, and for a few seconds seems stunned,
and lies still on the top of the water.

The school has dived and disappeared, to come up somewhere again miles
and miles away.

And now the wounded whale recovers from the shot, and headlong dives,
the line rushing out once again as before.  Under way once again is the
boat, but the leviathan now reappears as suddenly as he had sunk.  Some
instinct--whether of scent or hearing I cannot tell--causes him to take
the same course as his fellows.

Mercy on us, how he rips and tears through the black-green water!  But
ever and anon he dives, and it is evident his exertions weary him a
little.

And now the line is all run out, and the boat is taken in charge.  The
gunwale is cooled with hastily-drawn buckets of water, and forward she
dashes, so quickly too that a wall of water stands up on each side of
the bows.

The poor monster is in torment.  The chief danger to the boat itself
would lie in the beast swerving aside and diving under a berg, which
would dash the brave whaler to pieces, and kill or drown every man on
board.  But he holds his course till, weary at last, he dives once more,
and there remains for fully twenty minutes.

When he again appears the water around is red with his blood, but he
moves along very slowly now, and the other boats with their lancemen get
abreast and bear up to head him.

Duncan’s is the first to get near enough, and now comes the tug of war.
The whale is sick and weak.

The harpooner holds up a warning hand.

"Be all ready to back astern, boys!"

"Way enough!"

The lance is driven in full many and many a foot, and with one decisive
twist a great and vital artery is severed.

"Back water all!  For life, boys, for life!"

For life?  Yes, but the men are as cool as if rowing in a regatta on the
Thames.

"All speed astern!"

None too soon.

The blood spouts high as if from a fire-hose, but in awful jets, with
every throb of the giant’s heart. There is life in him yet, and while
the red-drenched seamen pull well out of the way, he lashes the ocean’s
surface with his tremendous tail, one blow from which would stave in a
torpedo-boat.

The sound would be heard miles and miles away, were there anyone to
listen to it in these lonesome seas, and--so dies the leviathan.

The ship gets alongside and bends on her hooks in good time, and while
the body is still hot and steaming, blubber and skin are hoisted up and
up towards the yard-arms, till with its weight the vessel lists and
lists, and it seems as if she would be on her beam-ends.

Long before the crew is done taking on board all that is valuable, the
sharks have assembled, and are fighting and splashing as they gorge on
their awful feast.

And when the decks are all clean once more, and the sails again filled,
supper is had fore and aft, and then, but not till then, does Skipper
Talbot order the steward to splice the main-brace.



CHAPTER VII.--"HERE’S TO THE LOVED ONES AT HOME."


Captain Talbot was a brave man, but the ice for the present looked far
too dangerous to venture in through.  So he kept "dodging" along the
great barrier-edge or cruising eastwards, and away towards what is known
as Enderby Land.

Sometimes he encountered a storm, brief but terrible, and dangerous in
the extreme.  They saw around them great bergs coming into collision,
their green, towering, wall-like sides dashed together by the force of
wind and waves; heard the thunder of the encounter, and witnessed the
mist and foam as they fell to pieces in a chaos of boiling surf.

At times dense fog would envelop the whole sea, and then sail had to be
taken in, for the icebergs went floating past and past like mysterious
ghosts.

But clearer weather prevailed at last, and two more monster whales were
captured.

Three great leviathans!  Nearly a voyage in itself. No wonder that the
spirits of the men rose higher and higher, as they thought of those who
would press them to their hearts on their return home from this
adventuresome cruise.  And--happiest thought of all!--they would have
plenty of money to spend on fathers or mothers, wives or children.  For
my experience is that so long as they are unallured by the drink demon,
British sailors are not really improvident.

But the good luck of the _Flora_ did not continue. Talbot had expected
to find sea-elephants in great evidence in these regions.

They are so called, it will do you no harm to know, reader, first on
account of their immense size and unwieldiness, many of the males
attaining a length of twenty feet or over, and from the fact that they
have a kind of proboscis which, when alarmed or angry, they inflate till
it looks almost like the trunk of an elephant.  They are dangerous then,
and, though as a rule peaceable, can give a good account of anyone
daring enough to attempt an attack upon them, armed with the spiked
seal-club alone.

They usually, however, go further north during the spring or pupping
season, but now having returned, they ought to have been about
somewhere.  But they had evidently chosen fresh ground, and Captain
Talbot was unable to find a trace of them.

He was not easily cast down, however, and taking advantage of a splendid
westerly and north-westerly wind, he daringly set every inch of
canvas--remember it was the long Antarctic day--and flew eastwards on
its wings.

But his object was not only to get a paying voyage, but to do some good
also to science and to geographical knowledge as well.

It was the duty of Duncan himself, and of Frank as well, not only to
keep a log, but to enter therein, along with the ship’s sailings,
adventures, &c., the temperature of air and water twice a day.

The vessel again appeared to imagine herself a clipper-built yacht and
to fly along, and by good luck she not only had a fair wind, but a clear
sea, having only now and then to steer away from floating icebergs.

But now and then a boat was lowered to pick up some unusual form of
seal, that might be observed floating along on a morsel of snow-clad
ice.  So tame were these that they only gazed open-mouthed at the
advancing boat, and thus fell an easy prey to the gunner.

Very few more Right whales were seen, and none captured.

For a time the course held was about east with a bit of northerly in it,
then on reaching the sixties they bowled along in fine style, and in the
first week in February they were daringly--far too daringly as it turned
out--steering almost directly south through a comparatively open sea
towards the great southern ice-barrier in the seventies, which lies east
of a mighty volcanic hill well-named Erebus.

It was autumn now--early autumn in these regions, but still a delightful
time.

Do not imagine that this distant ocean was uninhabited.  Far from it.
There were still millions on millions of birds about, that later on
would fly far away to nor’land lands and islands.  Petrels of many
sorts, especially the snow-white species, Cape pigeons, the smaller
penguins on point ends of land, and gulls of such beauty and rarity that
it would have puzzled cleverer men than our heroes to classify them.

Many of these were carefully shot and made skins of, to be set up when
they reached once more their dear native land, if God in his mercy
should spare them.

                                  ――――

Mount Sabine itself is passed, and soon after, to the east of that
mountain, they lie for a day or two at Coulman Island.  Strangely
enough, though floating icebergs are heaving about all around, this
rocky and storm-tossed isle is bare, and they can land.

The captain, with Frank and Conal, go off on a lichen hunt inland.  They
take their rifles with them, but no wild creature is here that can hurt
them.

They find beautiful mosses, however, and strangely beautiful lichens.
Indeed, some parts of the rising ground are crimson or orange with these
latter, and the green of the mosses stand out in lovely and striking
contrast.

They continued their journey far inland, and although the rocks and the
sea all about the shore was alive with birds, here it was solemn and
still enough.  The scene was indeed impressive and beautiful, and with
the blue of the sky above and the bright blue of the ocean beyond,
dotted over with green and lofty snow-capped ice-blocks, the whole
seemed a little world fresh from the hands of the great Creator of all.

Captain Talbot took specimens not only of the flora--if so I may call
the scanty vegetation of this island--but of its rocks as well, and the
height of its chief hills, with many soundings around it, to say nothing
of collecting marine algæ.

All the way southwards, as far as the great ice-barrier to the eastward
of the land wherein was Mount Terror, he was at the pains of surveying
and charting out for the benefit of future generations, for as laid down
in the charts that he possessed the coast was very indolently described
indeed.

                                  ――――

He was a very ambitious mariner, this skipper of the _Flora M’Vayne_,
and at the same time a bold, daring, true-blue sailor.

Now would be the time, therefore, to make his great aërial journey still
farther to the southward. But could such a thing be successfully
accomplished? That was the question that he and he alone had to answer
for himself.  There was no one to consult.

And he took a whole long day to consider it, keeping himself very much
alone in his state-room that he might come quietly to a correct
conclusion.

Thus far to the south had he come with the intention of penetrating
still farther by balloon.  But he had calculated on getting here much
sooner.

He had no intention of doing anything foolishly rash.  Had he reached
75° south latitude when the summer was still in its prime he might have
reckoned on perpetual sunshine and constant shifting of wind, but now
the breeze blew mostly from the south, and although by rising into the
higher regions he might get a fair wind if he descended one hundred
miles nearer to the Antarctic Pole, was there any certainty that he
should ever return?  Indeed, it was the reverse.  It seemed as though
there was not the ghost of a chance of his ever seeing his ship again.

Life is sweet, and so at long last he gave up all thoughts of his aërial
voyage for the present season.

He communicated this resolve to his mates and youngsters that day at
dinner.

But the sun had already begun to set to the south’ard, though so brief
was the night that scarce a star was even visible.

"We shall now," he told them, "bear up for the north and the west once
more, and if we reach the lone isles of Kerguelen in time, we may yet
fall among old sea-elephants enough to pay us handsomely.  For though I
have never been there, I am told that they make that lone region a
habitat throughout the greater part of the year."

"And then we shall be homeward-bound, sha’n’t we, sir?" said Frank.

"Yes," was the reply.  "But I say, young fellow, you are not tired of a
sailor’s life, are you?"

"Oh no!  I would like to see all--all the world first, and then return
and dream of my wild adventures, and fight my battles with the stormy
main o’er and o’er and o’er again."

"Bravo! lad, though you are just a little effusive. Well, you are pretty
strong in wind and limb, Frank, aren’t you?"

"Fairly, sir.  I haven’t got real Highland legs like Duncan there, but
they’ve always served me well on a pinch."

"Well, as soon as we get into the neighbourhood of Mount Terror again I
mean to make an ascent, and I shall want the assistance of all you young
fellows, and a hand or two besides.  There are scientific instruments to
take along, besides plenty of food, drink, and sleeping-bags, for I
guess it will take us the greater part of three days to accomplish the
journey to the top and back.

"What is the height, sir?"

"It is said to be nearly eleven thousand feet high, and it is volcanic."

"Don’t you think," said Morgan the mate, "that the adventure is almost
foolhardy?"

"It is risky enough, I daresay; but really, Morgan, my dear fellow, I
hate the idea of going back home without having accomplished something
out of the common."

And so, after some further conversation of an after-dinner style, the
ascent was determined on.

This was Saturday night, and as usual wives and sweethearts were
toasted, for Captain Talbot was a man who dearly loved to keep up old
customs.

So after a hearty supper of sea-pie the men got up a dance, Frank and
the man who played the clarionet forming, as usual, the chief portion of
the band.

Old Pen was in grand form to-night, and his antics, as he danced and
whirled around with little Johnnie Shingles, were laughable in the
extreme.  It would be impossible to say that Pen tripped it--

    "On the light fantastic toe".

For his feet were about as broad and flat as a couple of kippered
herrings, but he made the best use of them he could, and no one could
have done more.

After the dance the chief yarn-spinners assembled in a wide circle
around the galley fire.  Frank and Conal made two of the party, with
noble Vike in the rear.

It hardly would have needed the rum that the cabin steward dealt out to
make these good fellows happy to-night or to cause them to spin short
yarns and sing, so jolly were they to know the ship was homeward bound--

    "Across the foaming billows, boys,
      Across the roaring sea,
    "We’ll all forget our hardships, lads,
      With England on the lee".

But the crew of the brave _Flora M’Vayne_ took their cue from the
skipper, and never a Saturday night passed without many a song and many
a toast, and always an original yarn of some adventure afloat or ashore.
Sings Dibdin:--

    "The moon on the ocean was dimmed by a ripple,
      Affording a chequered delight;
    The gay jolly tars passed the word for the tipple
      And the _toast_--for ’twas Saturday night,
    Some sweetheart or wife that he lov’d as his life,
      Each drank, while he wished he could hail her,
    But the standing toast that pleased the most was--
    Here’s the wind that blows and the ship that goes,
      And the lass that loves a sailor!"

So thoroughly old-fashioned was Captain Talbot that on some Saturday
nights he did not think it a bit beneath him to join his men around the
fire, and they loved him all the better for it too.

Well, no matter how crowded the men might be of a night like this, there
was always room left in the inner circle for Viking, old Pen, and Jim
the monkey.

Jim, with his red jacket on, used to sit by Viking, looking very serious
and very old, and combing the dog’s coat with his long slender black
fingers.

This was a kind of shampoo that invariably sent Vike off to sleep.

Then Jim would lie down alongside him, draw one great paw over his body,
and go off to sleep also.

But old Pen would be very solemn indeed.  He was troubled with cold
feet, and it was really laughable enough to see him standing there on
one leg while he held up and exposed his other great webbed pedal
apparatus to the welcome glow emitted by the fire.

Sometimes yarns were at a discount, though songs never were, and no
matter how simple, they were always welcome, even if told without any
straining for effect and in ordinary conversational English, if they had
truth in them.

On this particular Saturday night Captain Talbot came forward and took a
seat in a corner to smoke his long pipe, while the steward brewed him a
tumbler of punch with some cinnamon and butter in it, for the skipper
had a cold.

"It’s long since we’ve had a yarn from you, sir," remarked the
carpenter.

The skipper took a drink, and then let his eyes follow the curling smoke
from his pipe for a few seconds before replying.

"Well, Peters," he said, "I’ve had so many adventures in my time that I
hardly ever know which to tell first.  Once upon a time I served in a
Royal Navy ship on the coast of Africa, and it is just the odour of the
’baccy, boys, that brings this little yarn to my mind."

"Out with it, sir," cried one.

"Yes, out with it, Captain.  We’ll listen as if it were a sermon, and we
were old wives."

"First and foremost," said Talbot, "let me give you a toast--Here’s to
the loved ones at home!"

"The loved ones at home!"  And every glass was raised, and really that
toast was like a prayer.



CHAPTER VIII.--CAPTAIN TALBOT SPINS A YARN.


"Why, boys, and you youngsters," said Captain Talbot, "when I look back
to those dear old times I feel old myself, and that’s a fact.  As I said
before, we were cruising about the East African coast, making it just as
hot for the slaver Arabs as we knew how to.  We had a bit of a fight now
and then, too, both on shore and afloat.

"Well, your man-o’-war’s-man likes that, simple and all though he seems
to be.  Simplicity, indeed, is one of the chief traits in the character
of the true British sailor.  I’m not sure that it might not be said with
some degree of truth, that no one who wasn’t a little simple to begin
with, would ever become a sailor at all.  Nobody, not even a landsman,
grumbles and growls more at existence afloat than does Jack himself,
whether he be Jack in epaulets or Jack in a jumper, Jack walking the
weather-side of the quarter-deck or Jack mending a main-sail.  But for
all that, when Jack has a spell on shore, especially if it be of a few
months’ duration, he forgets all the asperities of the old sea life, and
remembers only its jollities and pleasantnesses, and the queer
adventures he had--of which, probably, he boasts in a mitigated kind of
way--and by and by he gets tired of the dull shore, and maybe sings with
Proctor:

    ’I never was on the dull, tame shore,
    But I loved the great sea more and more’.

And then he goes back again.  Another proof of Jack’s simplicity.

"Well, but some of the very bravest men or officers I have met with
were, or are, as simple in their natures as little children--simple but
brave.

"Gallant and good--how well the two adjectives sound together when
applied to a sailor.  Did not our Nelson himself apply them in one of
his despatches to Captain Riou, mentioned by Thomas Campbell in his
grand old song ’The Battle of the Baltic’:

      ’Brave hearts! to Britain’s pride
        Once so faithful and so true,
      On the deck of fame that died
        With the gallant, good Riou,
    Soft sigh the winds of heaven o’er their grave!
      While the billow mournful rolls,
      And the mermaid’s song condoles--
      Singing glory to the souls
          Of the brave!’


"There never was a more simple-looking sailor than Assistant-Paymaster
Mair (let us call him Mair).  He was round-faced, fat, and somewhat
pale, but always merry, and on good terms with himself and everybody
else.  He had the least bit in the world of a squint in his starboard
eye.  This ocular aberration was more apparent, when he sat down and
commenced playing an asthmatical old flute he possessed.  I don’t think
anybody liked this flute except Mair himself, and no wonder it was
asthmatical, for we were constantly playing tricks on it.  We have
tarred it and feathered it ere now, and once we filled it with boiling
lard, and left it on Mair’s desk to cool.  But Mair didn’t care; our
practical joking found him in employment, so he was happy.

"Mair had never been in an engagement, though some members of our mess
had; and, when talking of their sensations when under fire, Mair used
frankly to confess himself ’the funkiest fellow out’.

"It came to pass that the old _T----_ had to engage a fort, and
preparations were made for a hot morning. The captain was full of spirit
and go--one of those sort of men who, when both legs are shot away,
fight on their stumps.

"Mair had his orders the night before, given verbally, in an easy,
off-hand kind of way.  He was to stand by the captain on the bridge or
quarter-deck, and take notes during the engagement or battle.  Poor
Mair! he didn’t sleep much, and didn’t eat much breakfast. We met just
outside the ward-room door, Mair and I. We were both going to duty, only
Mair was going up, while I was bound for the orlop deck.  With the noise
of hammering, and stamping, and shouting, I couldn’t catch what Mair
said, but it was something like--’Lucky dog, you’.

"Though stationed below--safe, except from the danger of smothering in
horrid smoke--I soon had evidence enough we were getting badly hammered.
I wasn’t sorry when "Cease firing" sounded, and I could crawl up and
breathe.

"But how about simple Mair?  Why, this only--he had done his duty nobly,
coolly, manfully; he had gained admiration from his fire-eating captain,
and got specially mentioned in a despatch.  Mair looked red and excited
all the afternoon, but the flute never sounded half so cheerily before
as it did that same evening after dinner.

"Talking about simplicity brings poor Nat Wildman of ours before my
mind’s eye.

"There wasn’t a pluckier sailor in the service than Nat, nor a greater
favourite with his mess-mates, nor a simpler-souled or kindlier-hearted.
He was very tall and powerful--quite an athlete in fact.  Once when a
company or two of marines and blue-jackets were sent to enact punishment
of some native tribes on the West African coast, for the murder of a
white merchant, and for having fired on Her Majesty’s boats, they
encountered a strongly-palisaded village.  Our fellows had no ladders
nor axes, and the dark-skins were firing through.  The village must be
carried, and reduced to terms--and ashes; so the men hoisted each other
over.  Nat worked hard at this pitch-and-toss warfare; indeed, he could
have thrown the whole ship’s company over.  But, lo! he found himself
the last man--left out in the cold--for there was no one to help him
across.  When the row was over, Nat was found--simple fellow that he
was--sitting on the ground crying with vexation, or, as one of his
mess-mates phrased it, ’blubbering like a big baby’.

"I often think, boys, that it must be very hard to have to die at sea,
especially if homeward bound; all the bustle and stir of ship’s work
going on around you; the songs of the men, the joking and laughing, and
the din--for silence can seldom be long maintained.

"Jack Wright of ours--captain of the main-top--might have been called a
tar of the real Tom Bowling type.  He, too, like Nat Wildman, whom I
mentioned above, was a very great favourite with his mess-mates. He was
always kind and merry, but ever good, obedient, and brave.  We were
coming home in the old _T----_.  Dirty weather began shortly after we
left Madeira, and while assisting in taking in sail one forenoon, poor
Jack fell from aloft.  His injuries were of so serious a nature that his
life was despaired of from the first.  He lost much blood, and never
rallied.

"This sailor had a young wife, who was to have met him at Plymouth.  She
was in his thoughts in his last hours.  I was assisting the doctor just
at that time of my life, a kind of loblolly-boy, and I heard the man
say, as he looked wistfully in the surgeon’s face: ’It seems a kind o’
hard, doctor, but I’ve always done my duty--I’ve always obeyed orders
without asking questions.  I’m ready when the Great Captain calls,
though--yes, it do seem a kind o’ hard.’

"He appeared to doze off, and I sat still for an hour.  It was well on
in the middle watch, and the ship was under easy sail; there was now and
then a word of command, but no trampling overhead, for even the officers
liked and respected Jack.  I sat still for an hour, then took his wrist
in my hand. There was no pulse there.  He was gone.

"I covered him up and went on deck, for something was rising and choking
me.  It was a heavenly night--bright stars shining, and a round silvery
moon, with the waves all sparkling to leeward of us.

"’It does seem hard,’ I couldn’t help muttering.

"As the beautiful burial service was being read over poor Jack Wright,
and his body dropped into the sea, many a tear fell that those who shed
them needn’t have taken much pains to hide.

"At Plymouth we were in quarantine for some time, and no one was allowed
on board, but there were boats enough with friends and relations in them
hanging around.  In one of them was a beautiful young woman and an
elderly dame, probably her mother. The whisper--it was nothing
else--soon passed round: ’Yonder is poor Jack’s wife.’

"Long before she came on board she was in tears; her sailor lad was not
even at a port to wave a handkerchief.  ’He must be ill,’ she would have
thought.

"’The doctor wishes to speak to you in his cabin,’ a midshipman said,
when she appeared on deck.

She came tottering in, supported by the old dame.

"’Jack’s ill!’ she cried.

"The doctor did not reply.

"’Jack is dead!’ she moaned.  ’My Jack!’

"We did not answer.  How could we?

"Heigho!  I’ve seen grief many times since, but I never witnessed
anything to equal that of poor Jack Wright’s young wife.

"But I’m saddening you, boys.  Here, steward, if there is a dram more
punch left, just send it round.

"And now, lads, I’ll tell you one more true yarn, and I think I may just
call it:

                   "AN ADVENTURE IN SEARCH OF A QUID,


"For, from the very time Dawson and I shoved off in the dinghy boat
until we set foot on Her Majesty’s quarter-deck with the ’baccy, it was
all adventure together.  Our ship was the saucy _Seamew_, only a
gun-boat, to be sure, but a most bewitching little thing all over; lay
like a duck in the water, and, on a wind, nothing could touch her.  Our
cruising-ground was the east coast of Africa, well north, where the
fighting dhows floated in the water, and the savage Somalis on shore
speared each other when they hadn’t any white men to practise on.  We
never provoked a fight, but when we did show our teeth, and that wasn’t
seldom, we peppered away in good earnest I assure you.  Now, in such a
ship in such a climate we might have been as happy as the day was long,
but we had just one drawback to general jollity.  Our skipper was the
devil.  That’s putting it plain and straight, but I’ve no other English
for it.  He was one of your sea lawyers, and lawed it and lorded it over
his officers.  No matter whether a thing was done rightly or wrongly,
you got growled at all the same.  There wasn’t an officer he hadn’t been
at loggerheads with, and walked to windward of, too; and there wasn’t a
man forward he had not punished during the cruise.  We had a regular
flogging Friday, a most unlucky day for many a poor fellow on board the
_Seamew_.  There was, therefore, no love lost between the ward-room and
the after-cabin, where the skipper lived in solitary grandeur; and the
men would have given him to the sharks, if chance had thrown him in
their way, and if the sharks were hungry. I remember once, at Johanna, a
happy thought struck the skipper and a few of the petty officers at one
and the same time: they thought they would treat themselves to a few
fowls by way of change from the junk.  The latter, therefore, asked
permission of the former to make the purchase.  ’Certainly not,’ was the
curt reply, ’unless you bring them dead on board.’  Now, dead they
wouldn’t keep a day, so they were not bought; but the skipper’s poultry
were brought on board the same evening, and two nicely-filled hen-coops
they were.  Well, about the middle of the morning-watch, when the
skipper slumbered peacefully in his cot, two figures might have been
seen stealthily approaching those hen-coops.  ’Softly does it,’ said
one.

’Right you are, Bill,’ replied the other.  Then something dark and
square rose slowly over the bulwarks, and dropped with a dull splash
into the sea; and this happened twice.  And next morning when the
skipper arose, happy in the prospect of ’spatch cock for breakfast,
behold! there wasn’t cock nor hen on board to spatch.  But I should tire
you were I to tell a tithe of the dirty tricks the skipper of the
_Seamew_ played his men and officers, so I will content myself with
relating the one that bears reference to my story. Once, then, we were
in terrible straits for grog and tobacco; we hadn’t a drop of the one or
a quid of the other on board--at least not in our mess--and hadn’t had
for over a month.  Now, nobody liked a glass of rum better than the
skipper, though he didn’t smoke; so, as long as his own spirits held
out, he didn’t care anything for the dearth in the ward-room. But one
day he rejoiced us all by informing us he would run down to Zanzibar and
take in stores.  Well, anyhow, he took us in nicely, for no sooner had
we dropped anchor before the long white town, than he called away his
gig and landed on the sands.  He was back again in two hours with the
important intelligence, which we had received, that a three-masted
slave-ship was then cruising in the neighbourhood of the little island
of Chak-Chak.  There wasn’t a moment to be lost--it was, ’All hands on
deck, up anchor and off.’  There wasn’t a moment to be lost; but, mark
you this, that beggarly skipper, who drank but did not smoke, came off
with his gig laden to the gunwale with dainties, spirits included, but
not a morsel of the ’baccy our souls were longing to sniff. We never saw
the three-masted slave-ship either.

"Well, as you doubtless know, there is a town on the east coast, pretty
nigh on the equator, called Lamoo, a half, or, rather, wholly savage
kind of place, ruled over by an Arab sultan.  It lies not close to the
sea, but about ten miles up a broad-bosomed river.  Like all African
rivers, it is belted off from the sea by a sand-bar, on which the water
is shallow, and the green breakers tumble over it houses high.  We had
been up this river only once before, but the little _Seamew_ got such a
terrible bumping on the bar that our skipper had resolved never to try
the same experiment again. But, one beautiful, clear-skied, moonlight
night, we found ourselves just outside this bar once more, and, rather
to our astonishment, the order was given to heave the ship to until
morning.  Of course we were delighted, thinking that boats might be sent
up stream for fruit, and we might get a chance of the coveted quid; but
we were doomed to disappointment, for the whole of next day was spent in
taking soundings, and in the evening we were told that next morning we
should complete the survey, and then cruise away north once more.  So
the ship was hove-to on the second evening.  Dawson and I were at the
time on the sick-list, not that there was anything the matter with us,
but the skipper had been bullying us, and this was the method, with the
assistance of the friendly surgeon, which we took to avenge ourselves.
At this time the tobacco mania was at its worst.  Our
assistant-paymaster had been heard to mutter that, if the devil tempted
him, he would be inclined to sell his soul for a bundle of whiffs, and
Dawson had openly asserted that he would give ten years of his life for
the sight of a snuff-box.  But Dawson looked terribly like a
conspirator, when he came stealthily into the ward-room on the evening
of the first day’s surveying.

"’Hush! messmates, hush!’ he whispered mysteriously, and we all crowded
round him.  ’I have it,’ he continued.  ’My friend and I are on the
list.  We cannot be missed.’

"’Yes, yes; go on,’ we cried in a breath.

"’While _he_ dines, we will take a boat and steal up the river to Lamoo,
and bring down ’bacca and grogs.’

"The skipper didn’t know the meaning of that ’Hurrah!’ that shook the
_Seamew_ from stem to stern. No wilder shout ever rang out as we boarded
a dhow ’mid smoke and blood.

"By seven o’clock the skipper was just mixing his third tumbler.  By
seven o’clock everything was in readiness: the oars were muffled and the
rudder so shipped that it wouldn’t unship by the under-kick of a breaker
on the bar.  Then, from well-greased blocks the boat was lowered, and
silently, but swiftly, glided shorewards to the dreaded bar.  We took
with us but two trusty men, and two trusty sacks.  Soon the white crests
of the breakers were in view, and we could hear their vicious, sullen
boom.  Not easy work this crossing of bars, as you are aware.  Presently
we were heading for the only dark gate in this ocean of breakers, I
steering, Dawson with one helping hand on each of the oars.  Now we have
entered the gate.  "Steady now, men!"  A wave catches us up behind and
hurls our tiny boat first heavenward, then, with inconceivable speed,
onwards, through a swirl of surf, and, a few moments afterwards we are
in smooth water, wet but safe.

"’Well done,’ said Dawson; ’but if we had capsized, the sharks would
have been dining on us at this present moment."

"’Beggin’ yer pardons, gentlemen,’ said one of the rowers, ’but I’d
rather be three days and three nights in the belly of a shark, like
Jonah was, than one whole blessed month athout tobaccer.’

"’That were a whale, Jim,’ said his mate.  ’I don’t care a dime,’ said
the first speaker; ’I knows I likes my pipe, and I likes a quid.  Now,
in a night like this, for instance, what a blessing it would be to light
up, and--and--why, it won’t abear thinkin’ on, hanged if it will.’

"’Now lay on your oars, men,’ I said.  ’I want to see what is inside a
little bottle of medical comforts the doctor stowed away under here.’

"It was a bottle of sick-mess sherry, which we all shared, and
pronounced the best ever we had tasted, and the doctor ’a brick’.

"Onwards now we sped, as fast as oars could pull us, Dawson and I
occasionally relieving the men and taking a spell at the oars.  It was
moonlight, I said, and until we were fairly in the river this was in
favour of us; now, however, it was all against us.  None hate the
English more than does your fighting Arab of slave proclivities.  At any
moment we might fall in with a slave dhow, and the crew thereof would
certainly not miss such a favourable opportunity of paying off old
scores.  We had lots of arms on board, and so we meant, if attacked, to
peg away at the beggars to the bitter end.  However, discretion is the
better part of valour, so we kept right in the centre of the stream,
where we could be least seen.  This was slow work, but safe.

"It must have been past ten o’clock, and we were well up the river,
when, on rounding a point, we came suddenly in sight of a large-armed
dhow, slowly going down stream.  My first intention was to alter our
course.  ’No, no,’ said Dawson, who is no end of a clever fellow, ’that
will only create suspicion.  Let me hail her;’ and he did so in good
Arabic.  If suspicion was excited on board the strange dhow, it was, I
feel sure, lulled again when Dawson began, in stentorian tones, to sing
a well-known Arab boating chant.  The song, I feel sure, saved us, and
so we kept it up nearly all the way to Lamoo.

"About a mile from the town we crept inshore and hid our boat in the
bush, leaving one man in her. Now there is but one or two European
merchants in the town, and one of these we knew, but the way to his
house we were ignorant of; but we knew where Comoro Jack lived in the
outskirts.  He had been our guide before, so thither we went, and
happily found Jack at home: a tall young savage, arrayed only in a waist
belt, and an enormous (42nd Highlander’s) busby on, and a tall spear in
one hand.

"’Well, you blessed Englishmen, what you want wid Jack?’  Such was our
greeting.  We hastily told him, and the amount, and--

"’Comoro Jack will go like a shot,’ said the savage. The sandy streets
were well-nigh deserted, and Comoro Jack, as he strode on beside us,
thought himself no end of a fine fellow.

"’London is one ver’ good place,’ he informed us, ’as big as Lamoo, and
streets better pave, and girls better dress.  You see it was like this:
the French they take Myotta; poor king ob de island he go to London to
see de British Queen of England, and I go too among de body-guard.  But
when the poor king come to de palace, ’Will you fight for me de dam
French?’ he say.  ’Very sorry,’ said the British Queen of England, ’but
I cannot fight de dam French."

"’And who’, we asked, ’gave you the bonnet and plumes?’

"’De British Queen ob England,’ said Comoro Jack. ’She soon spot me out
among de niggers, and she put it on my head.  ’Here, poor chile,’ she
say, ’you not catch cold wid that."

"The house Comoro Jack led us to was that of a French merchant, and his
hospitality was unbounded; but we refused all refreshment until we had
first smoked a pipe.  Oh, didn’t that pipe make men of us. We spent a
very pleasant half-hour with the merchant; then we filled our sacks and
returned to our boat happier, surely, than Joseph’s brethren could have
been coming up, corn-laden, from the land of the Pharaohs. We had one or
two little escapades going down stream, caught it wet and nasty on the
bar, but got safely and quietly on board the _Seamew_ one hour before
sunrise, and to witness the joy on our mess-mates’ faces when we cracked
a bottle of rum and opened a box of Havanas, more than repaid us for all
we had come through.

"Next morning, to his intense disgust, the skipper found us all smoking,
and looking funny and jolly. But he never knew where we found the
’baccy."



CHAPTER IX.--TONGUES OF LURID FIRE, BLUE, GREEN, AND DEEPEST CRIMSON.


Very little was talked of during the next few days except the coming
ascent of Mount Terror.  In the saloon mess non-success was not even
dreamt of. It was only forward about the galley fire that doubts were
mooted.

"Our skipper is just about as plucky as they make them nowadays," said
old Jack Forbes, taking his short pipe from his mouth, "but, bless ye,
boys, look what’s before ’em."

"True for you, Jack," said a mate of his, "they’ll be all frozen to
death, and that’ll be the way of it.  Hope they won’t ask me to go and
help to carry things."

"Nor me," said another.

Nearer and nearer to the western land drew the bonnie barque, and in the
beautiful sunshine she anchored at last in a bay close under the shadow
of the mountain they were to attempt to scale.

Captain Talbot made all preparations at once. There was indeed but
little time to lose now, for ere long the frosts would set in, and if
not clear of the southern ice ere then, hard indeed might be their lot.

When going upon a dangerous expedition it is the duty of every brave man
to do all in his power to guard against failure.  Talbot, therefore,
left not a stone unturned to ensure success; whether he secured it or
not, he seemed determined to merit it.

Alpen-stocks were made for the purpose, and so, too, were ice-axes,
though these latter were necessarily primitive.

Very little ammunition and few arms were to be taken.  In the lone
recesses of the hills and in that wild mountain, they had nothing to
fear from savage man or beast.  The land in here was as desolate and
barren of everything but snow and ice as that worn-out world, the moon
itself.

Ropes were also to be taken, they might come in handy in many ways.  The
skipper was an old Alpine-club man, and well did he know his way about.

Provisions for a whole week, and just a little rum in case of illness or
over-exertion, for in the bitter cold of upper regions like those they
were about to visit, exhaustion may often come on soon and sudden.

The captain himself made choice of three brave sturdy fellows to
accompany the expedition and carry the necessaries as well as
instruments of observation.

"And now, youngsters," said Talbot one evening, "which two of the three
of you are to be of the party."

"I think," he added, "you better toss for it.  I daresay you are all
burning to come."

Duncan and Conal smiled and nodded, but Frank shook his head.

"I expect," he said, "there will be precious little burning high up
yonder unless you happen to take a header into the crater.  I’m not
going to get frozen, I can assure you.  I want to stick to all my toes,
so toss away if you like, sir.  Perhaps an Irishman or two might suit
you best."

"Why, Frank?" said Duncan.

"Why?  Because they’re all fond of a drop of the crater (crayture),
don’t you see?"

"How could you make so vile a pun, old Frank?"

Vike seemed to know that an expedition of some kind was being got up.
He put one great paw on Duncan’s knee and looked appealingly up into his
face.

"You might want my assistance," he seemed to say.

"No, doggie, no, not this journey," said Duncan, smoothing his bonnie
head.

So Vike lay down before the fire, heaving a deep sigh as he did so.

Although all dogs sigh more or less--their intimate association with
mankind being the usual cause--still sighing seems to be an especial
characteristic of the noble breed we term Newfoundland.

                                  ――――

Everything was ready and packed, including, of course, a long plank and
a light but strong rope-ladder many fathoms in length.

It was a very bright and beautiful morning when the little expedition
started; the crew manning the rigging and giving three times three of
those ringing British cheers that are heard wherever our ensign--red,
blue, or navy-white--flutters out on the breeze.

It was but little past sunrise.  The oriel windows of the glorious S.E.
were still painted in colours rare and radiant, but hardly a breath of
air blew across the untrodden fields of snow that now stretched out and
away to the westward--a good ten miles, until bounded at last by the
great rising hills.

Silence now as deep as death.

They were deserted even by the birds.

But in a great snow-clad wilderness like this, with unseen, unheard-of
dangers, mayhap, ahead, what a comfort it is to know that He who made
the universe is ever near to all those who call upon Him even in
thought, if in spirit and in truth.

The ship was out of sight now, hidden by bluffy ice-covered rocks; and
Talbot was acting as guide to the party, taking the direction which he
believed would lead him to the side of the mountain which appeared to be
most accessible.

For more than a mile the "road" was rugged indeed.

"There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip," says the old adage.
But here was many a slip ’tween the toes and the lip and many a stumble
also.  Soon, however, they came to a wide and level plain of snow.

"Cheerily does it now, lads," cried the skipper. "Who is going to give
us some music?"

A stirring old song was soon rising high on the morning air, and
everyone joined in the chorus.

But when the last notes had died away, Duncan produced his great
Highland bagpipes and began to get them into position across his broad
right shoulder.

The skipper laughed.

"I declare," he said, "there is no end to the enthusiasm and patriotic
feelings of you Scots.  But tune up, lad."

Duncan strutted on in front and soon started the Gordon Highlanders’
march.

The bold and beautiful notes put life and spirit into every heart.

Then he played all kinds of airs, not forgetting either the pibroch or
quick-step.  But not the coronach.  That wild wail is--

    "A lilt o’ dool (grief) and sorrow ",

and all must now be brave and cheerful

                                  ――――

Twelve miles as the crow flies they marched.  And now they were at the
foot of the wondrous mountain, and a halt was called for breakfast.
Water was boiled with methylated spirits, and savoury coffee with bread
and meat galore soon made all hands forget their fatigue.

Then the men and the skipper himself lit their pipes, and lay down to
rest for half an hour on the top if the sunlit snow.  They would need
all their strength and courage now without a doubt.

"Now, my brave fellows"--it was Talbot’s voice that broke the intensity
of silence, and a cheery one it was--"now, my lads, our motto must be
that of the youth who passed in such a hurry through the Alpine village
while shades of night were falling fast--_Excelsior_!"

"Onwards and upwards!"

"That’s it, Duncan.  As to the bold youth with his bold banner, I think
he must have been somewhat foolish to start after sunset.  Well, that
was his lookout.  Anyhow, we have a twenty hours’ long day before us, so
I must now give the word--March!"

And on they went.

On and on, and up and up.

No thoughts of singing now, however.  The ascent was steep, and scarce
had anyone breath enough to spend in talking.

But the brave young mountaineer Duncan, alpenstock in hand, was first,
with Captain Talbot by his side, and a little farther down struggled
Conal encouraging the men, and now and then helping to carry their
loads.

These, however, were not very heavy.  But the lightest burden seems a
great weight when one is climbing a mountain.

It was one o’clock before they had succeeded in reaching an altitude of
four thousand feet, and the worst was all before them.

Everyone was tired enough by this time.  Tired and hungry too.

But while coffee was being warmed and provision tins opened, those not
actually engaged at the work lay down to rest, Conal and Duncan, with
the captain and the other carrier, among the rest.

The sun had, of course, crossed the meridian, but though still brightly
shining, his rays were far indeed from warm or inspiring.

Moreover, although there was no wind on the great snow-plains below,
here a breeze was blowing, and it needed not only food but the hottest
of coffee to enable them to stand the cold.

They had now a much longer rest than before, and more than one man fell
so soundly asleep that his pipe dropped out of his mouth.

"Now, lads," said the skipper at last, "let us put another thousand feet
in it.  Never say die, boys. Excelsior, you know!"

He did not speak loud.  No need to; for the slightest whisper could have
been heard in the silence around them, even a hundred yards away.

The silence, indeed, was solemn, awesome; a silence that could be felt;
a silence that seemed to creep round the heart and senses, and which no
one cared to break. Not even the light breeze made murmur, or even
whisper, as it swept over the plateau on which they now sat.

But from their elevated situation the scene spread out before them was
wondrous in the extreme.  To the north they could gaze away and away
over the far-off blue ocean, and to the east all was ice.

It was towards the south, however, that Talbot’s telescope was turned,
with so many longing, lingering looks, before he resumed the upward
journey.

The Norsemen have a legend that around the North Polar regions-at the
Pole itself, indeed--there is a great open sea; that green luxuriant
islands dot its blue surface, and that thereon dwell a people who have
never committed sin, but are still in a pristine state of innocence,
just as God made them--"but a little lower than the angels".

Was Talbot expecting to gaze upon just such another open sea as this, I
wonder?  If so, he was disappointed.  So he shut up the great telescope
with a sigh.  Higher up he would see further, however.

So the march was resumed.

And now for many miles, although the hill-gradient was not so steep,
walking was infinitely more arduous, and every here and there they came
upon a crevasse in the ice, which had to be bridged over at its very
narrowest part by the plank.  This was fearsome and truly dangerous
work, for that plank was but narrow, and, moreover, it was impossible to
keep it from being slippery here and there.

Talbot was ever the first to walk across that terrible bridge; but he
was secured to those on the other side by the long rope; and so handy
did this bridge turn out that they gained an elevation that day of six
thousand feet above the level of the sea.

                                  ――――

At this point they reached a perpendicular ice-cliff that rose sheer up
from a narrow plateau to a height of probably five hundred feet.

It was found impossible to scale it, so they had to wend their way
around to the west side of this mountain, so well named Mount Terror.

The day was now far spent, and so Talbot determined to order a halt, and
after supper to rest till another day should break.

Except when cliffs intervened, they had hitherto been quite in sight of
the ship, and could even make out her signals.  But now a shoulder of
the mount itself intervened, and for a time they should see the _Flora
M’Vayne_ no more.

But now a new surprise awaited them.  For just here, on this side of the
hill, they found a stream, or spring of water, trickling down the
mountain side, and forming in its way a clear and wonderfully-shaped icy
cascade.

It was caused by the melting of the snow, certainly not by the sun’s
heat, but by the eternal volcanic fires that were pent up in the
mountain itself.

What could be more marvellous!

Strangely beautiful, too, were these frozen cascades, for therein could
be seen every colour of the rainbow, all of radiant light.  Beauties
certainly never designed to please man’s eye.

Alas! what poor selfish mortals we human beings are!  Everything made
for our use, indeed!  The very idea makes one who has travelled, and who
has seen Nature in all its shows and forms, smile.  It is a doctrine
that only your poor stay-at-home mortals can possibly put faith in.

Another surprise--a cave.

They venture fearfully into it, feeling their way with their
alpen-stocks.

They have not gone far ere a low, half-stifled roar, from far beneath
apparently, falls upon their ears.  It is like the first angry growling
of a lion ere he springs upon his prey.

They pause and listen.  The sound is repeated, and they will venture no
farther for the present.

But here, in this vast cavern, which, when lighted up by torches which
have been brought on purpose--for Talbot had expected to meet with
caves--its beauty is of so extraordinary a character that it cannot be
described.

A great galaxy of shining pillars that are found to be some strange form
of stalactite, emitting on every side more than the light and colour and
glory of a billion of diamonds!

By torch-light they ventured somewhat farther on, until an awful
crevasse interrupted their progress.  So dark, so deep and awesome it
seemed, that all hands drew back, almost in a sweat of cold terror.  But
it was apparently from the bottom of this fearful gully that the
muttering noises proceeded now and then, and holding each other as they
gazed far down the dark abyss, they could see tongues of lurid fire,
blue, green, and deepest crimson, playing about.  Yet no suffocating
odour arose therefrom.  Hence Captain Talbot concluded that some other
outlet and current of air carried these away.

Retreating some distance towards the entrance, Duncan found a piece of
rock, and hurled it towards the crevasse.  The result was wonderful.
The hurtling thunder was deafening, and the echoes came rumbling from
every portion of the cave, and continued for many minutes.  But whence,
or why the sound of explosions, as if cannonading were going on in every
direction?  Not even Captain Talbot himself, scientist though he was,
could give a sufficient answer to a question like this.

But this cave must be their camping ground to-night.  So once more the
big spirit-stove was lit, and they prepared to enjoy their well-earned
supper.

Then they sat and smoked and yarned for quite a long time.

Nor did Talbot forget to splice the main-brace, and surely no men were
ever more deserving of a dram, as Duncan and Conal called it, than the
three brave fellows who had struggled so far up the mountainside with
their heavy loads.

"This is not Saturday night, men," said the skipper, raising his mug of
coffee with a suspicion of whisky therein, "but nevertheless I must
propose once more the dear old toast: ’Sweethearts and wives’, and may
the Lord be near them."

"Sweethearts and wives!" cried all the group.  Then caps were raised,
and cups were speedily drained.

"And the Lord be near us too, this night," said one of the men.  "Ah!
little does our people at home know where we are, sir."

"Well, the Lord is everywhere near to those who call on him," replied
the skipper.

"I’m sayin’, sorr," said Ted Noolan, a light-hearted Paddy whom no kind
of danger could ever daunt; "saints be praised the Lord is near, but
troth it’s meself that’s believin’ the d--l--bad scran to him!--can’t be
far away either, for lookin’ down that awful gulch, ’Ted,’ says I to
meself, ’if that ain’t the back-door to the bad place, it’s nowhere else
on earth.’"

But his superstition did not prevent Paddy from curling up on his rugs
when the others did, and going soundly off to sleep.

Nor did the far-off muttering thunders of the dread abyss keep anybody
from enjoying a real good night’s rest.



CHAPTER X.--SO POOR CONAL MUST PERISH!


Duncan was first to the fore in the morning.  He touched Captain Talbot
lightly on the shoulder, and he awoke at once.

It took a whole series of shakings, however, to arouse Conal.  He had
been dreaming of his far-off Highland home, and when he did at last sit
up and rub his eyes, it took him fully a minute to know where he was in
particular.

Well, while the men prepared a simple breakfast of coffee, sardines,
butter, and soft tack, the skipper and the boys left the cave and went
in for as thorough ablution as was in their power at the snow-water
rill. They felt infinitely refreshed thereafter; a large box of
sardines, placed for discussion before each, disappeared almost
magically, for bracing indeed was the breeze that blew high up on this
dreary mountain.

And now, the sun being well up, climbing was resumed.

Only about two thousand feet more remained to be discussed, but this
formed the toughest climb of all. For not only was the breeze now high
and the gradient steep, but the cold was intense, while breathing was
far from easy.

Indeed, although an ascent of ten to twelve thousand feet may not be
considered a tall record for accomplished club-men in the Alpine regions
of Europe, it would be a terrible undertaking for even those among the
perpetual snows of the Antarctic.

It needed not only all the strength, but even all the courage that our
heroes were possessed of, to finally succeed.  For in many parts a
single slip might have precipitated three of them at least into chasms
or over precipices that were too fearful even to think of.

Indeed, several such slips did occur, but luckily the ropes held, and
the foremost men, planting their feet firmly against the mountain-side,
succeeded in preventing an accident.

The danger was quite as great, when steps had to be hewn on the sides of
ice-rocks, and the labour in such cases five times as fatiguing, and
happy they felt, on every such occasion, when they found themselves on a
plateau.

"Whatever a man dares he can do!"

The grand old motto of, I believe, the clan Cameron; but many a man of a
different clan has felt the force and the truth of these brave words.
Both Duncan and his brother seemed to do so, when they stood at long
last with their comrades on the very summit of Mount Terror, and on the
brink of its terrible, though partially extinct, crater.

Who would venture to peep over into the awful gulf, which, by the way,
Ted Noolan believed to be really an opening into the nether regions--the
regions of despair?

Duncan was the first to volunteer.  The others followed suit with one
exception.

What a gulf!  It must have been acres in extent, and fully one thousand
feet in depth.  The precipices that formed its sides were at times even
black and sheer; in some places overhanging, and in others sloping so
that one might have tobogganed down into the regions of perpetual fire.
Not everywhere down yonder, however, were flames visible.  It was more a
collection of boiling, bubbling cauldrons, emitting jets of sulphurous
smoke, the surface of the molten lava being continually crossed by
flickering tongues of flame, transcendently beautiful.

Right in the centre was an irregular gaping mouth, and from this smoke
now and then arose, accompanied by hurtling horrible thunders that made
our strong-hearted heroes quiver.  Not with fear, I shall not go so far
as that, but no one could tell at what moment an eruption might take
place.

To Duncan’s waist the rope had been made fast, else he never would have
ventured to lean over that awful crater.

It was the captain’s turn next.  Then came Conal’s and the men’s.

All but Ted.

"Is it me myself?" he said, drawing back, when asked to do as the others
had done.  "Fegs! no.  It is faint I would entoirely, and faint and fall
over. Bedad!  I’ve no raison to go to such a place as that before my
time."

Captain Talbot now proceeded to take his observations. His aneroid told
him, to begin with, that the mountain was more nearly twelve than eleven
thousand feet above the sea-level.  Piercingly cold though it was, he
took time to make a note of everything. But I should not have used the
word "cold".  This is far from descriptive of the lowness of temperature
experienced, for the spirit thermometer stood at 40° below zero.

It was now four o’clock in the afternoon, and all hands were almost
exhausted from fatigue.  But Talbot was not so foolish as to give them
stimulants. This would only have resulted in a sleepy or partially
comatose state of the brain, and an accident would assuredly have
followed.

"Now, men, we have seen all there is to see, and I’ve taken my
observations, so it is time we were getting down again to our sheltering
cave, in which we shall pass one night more.  But we can say that we
have been the first to ascend this mighty mountain, and human feet have
never before traversed the ground on which you now are standing.

"See here," he continued, suiting the action to the word, "I place this
little flag--the British ensign--and though storms may rend it, this
mountain, and all the land and country around, shall evermore belong to
us."

He handed the still-extended telescope to Duncan as he spoke and pointed
to the south.

No open sea there!  But the roughest, wildest kind of snow-clad country
anyone could well imagine.  Yet, far far away, the jagged peaks of many
a mountain rose high on the horizon.

And now "God save the Queen", was sung, and the very crater itself
seemed to echo back the wild cheers that rose high on the evening air.

Solemn and serious all must be now however, for although the descent
would not occupy so much time, it was quite as fraught with peril as the
coming up had been, and even more so.

The rope was constantly kept taut, however, on every extra dangerous
position, with the happy result that they reached the cave in good time,
all tired, but all safe.

The cold was not nearly so intense here, however, and in the strange and
beautiful--nay, but fairy-like cave--it was almost _nil_.

Never did brave and weary travellers enjoy a supper more.  So sure were
they of reaching their ship next day, that they gave themselves some
extra indulgences, and tins of mock-turtle soup were warmed and eaten
with the greatest of relish.

                                  ――――

They sat long together to-night talking of home in the "olde countrie",
and many a droll yarn was told and many a story of adventure by sea and
land.

Bed at last, if one may call it a bed, with only the hard rock to lie
upon, and a rug wherein to wrap one’s-self, curled up like a ferret to
retain all the warmth of the body.  For sleeping-bags had been left
behind after all.

What though subterranean thunders roared far beneath them many times and
oft during the night, they heard them not, so doubly soundly did they
sleep.

There is always one thing to be said concerning adventures of a very
dangerous character, namely, that though kept up by excitement, we may
not be sorry to enter into them, and go through with them, too, like
Britons bold and true, still we are rather glad than otherwise when they
are over.

Our heroes awoke next morning, therefore, betimes, and squatted down to
breakfast, hungry and happy enough.  Would they not soon be back once
more on their brave barque, to tell their comrades of all their strange
experiences?

It is doubtless a good thing for us that we are not prescient, else
thinking of troubles to come would cast a gloom over everyone’s life
that nothing could banish.

Little did these officers and men of the _Flora M’Vayne_, as they
resumed their downward journey, know of the trouble before them.

They had reached the very last crevasse, and were in full view of the
ship, although at least five thousand feet above it, when an accident
occurred of a very startling nature indeed.

The plank was just thrown across and Conal had stepped on to it, roped,
of course, to his fellows, when, to their horror, it slipped, and was
precipitated into the chasm.

And with it fell Conal!

The skipper and Duncan had held the rope taut, but it snapped as if it
had been made of straw.

Luckily, although the wretched boy fell sheer down only a distance of
about fifty feet, the rest he slid on loose pieces of ice and snow.

On referring to the log-book of Captain Talbot, which lies on my table
before me, the abyss or ice-crevasse is stated to have been about two
hundred feet in depth.  And there was no outlet.

Nor any apparent means of saving the poor fellow, for although his
companions would gladly have hurried to the ship for assistance they
could not cross that ice-ravine, nor could they retreat for want of a
plank.

So, poor Conal must perish!

                                  ――――

It was about two bells in the first watch, and Frank with faithful Vike
was walking to and fro on the quarter-deck.

He had a telescope under his arm, and every now and then he directed it
to the far-off mountain, adown which he had observed his shipmates
streaming since ever they had arrived on the easternmost side of Mount
Terror.

How well named!

So good was the glass that he could count them as he came, and even make
out their forms.  Duncan’s was stalwart and easily seen, Conal’s lither
far than Captain Talbot’s, and the men were bearing their packages.

He watched them as they approached the last dread crevasse.

With some anxiety, he could not tell why, he saw the plank raised and
lowered across the abyss, and noticed that it was Conal’s light form
that first began to cross.

Suddenly he uttered a bitter cry of anguish and despair.

"Mate, mate!" he shouted.  "Oh, come, come!  There has been a fearful
accident, and Conal is killed."

As if hoping against hope, both he and the mate counted the number on
the small ice plateau over and over again.

There had been six in all.

Now there were but five!

And these seemed now to be signalling for assistance.

There was but one thing to be done, however hopeless it might seem, and
that was to get up and despatch a party to the rescue as soon as day
should once more break.

Had they been ready they should have started at once.  But Frank had a
good head on his shoulders for one so young, and in a matter of life and
death like this he was right in considering well what had best be done.

Of course he consulted with the mate, and he immediately suggested a
rope of many, many fathoms in length.

"Doubtless," he said, "poor Conal is dead, or if stunned he will
speedily freeze to death, but we would be all unwilling to sail away and
leave the poor bruised body in the terrible crevasse."

"Have we rope enough on board to be of real service?" asked Frank in a
voice broken with emotion.

"Bless you, yes, my boy, fifty fathoms of manilla, light, but strong
enough to bear an ox’s weight."

"Thank God!" cried Frank fervidly.

There was little thought of rest now till long past sunset.

A plank of extra breadth was got ready, and the rope was coiled so that
several hands could assist in bearing it along.

Provisions were also packed, and so all was ready for the forlorn hope.

The relief party now lay down to snatch a few hours of rest, but, soon
after the crimson and orange glory of the sky heralded the approach of
the sun, they were aroused from their slumbers.

Breakfast was speedily discussed, and now they were ready.

There was no hesitation about Frank Trelawney, the Cockney boy, now.  He
was British all over, and brave because he was British.  His dearest
friend, Conal, lay stark and stiff in that fearful ice-gap; he would be
one of the first to help the poor bruised body to bank, ay, and bedew it
with tears which it would be impossible to restrain.

                                  ――――

It had been an anxious and sad night for those on the hill.  They could
until sunset see the wretched Conal in that darksome crevasse, and they
did all they could do, for they made up a bundle of rugs with plenty of
provisions enclosed and hurled it down.

Strangely enough, he could talk to those on the hillside, and they to
him, without elevating their voices.

They bade him be of good cheer, for signals from the _Flora_ told them
that preparations for rescue were already being made.

Frank’s march across the great snow plains was a forced one, but an
hour’s rest and a good meal was indispensable before the ascent could be
attempted.

Perhaps no mountain was ever climbed more speedily by men in any
country.  They had the trail of the captain and his party to guide them,
but nevertheless the work was arduous in the extreme.

Should they be in time?

Or was Conal dead?

These were the questions that they asked each other over and over again.

They hoped against hope, however, as brave men ever do.



CHAPTER XI.--THUS HAND IN HAND THE BROTHERS SLEEP.


They arrived at the plateau in the afternoon, and cautiously, yet
quickly was the plank placed over.

Frank did not wait to attach the rope to his waist, so eager was he.
The yawning green gulf beneath him might have tried the nerve of
Blondin.  He paused not to think, however, but went over almost with the
speed of a bird upon the wing, and more slowly the others followed.

They brought with them the end of the coils of rope, and these were
speedily hauled across.

For a few moments Frank and Duncan stood silently clasping each other’s
hands; and the Cockney lad could tell by the look of anguish in his
Highland cousin’s face that the worst had occurred.

"Too late! too late!" Duncan managed to say at last, and he turned
quickly away to hide the blinding tears.

"Poor Conal," explained the captain, "is lying down yonder--that black
object is he enveloped in rugs, but he has made no sign for hours, and
doubtless is frozen hard enough ere now."

"Come," cried Frank, "be of good cheer, my dear Duncan, till we are
certain.  Perhaps he does but sleep."

"Yes, he sleeps," said Duncan mournfully, "and death is the only door
which leads from the sleep that cold and frost bring in their train."

"Come, men," cried Frank, now taking command, for he was full of life
and energy, "uncoil the rope most carefully.  I am light, Captain
Talbot, so I myself will make the descent.  I shall at once send poor
Conal to bank, or as soon as I can get him bent on.  Haul up when I
shout."

When all the rope was got loose and made into one great coil, the end
was thrown over into the crevice to make sure it would reach.

It did reach, with many fathoms to spare; so it was quickly hauled up
and recoiled again.

A bight was now made at one end, and into this brave Frank quickly, and
with sailor-like precision, hitched himself.

"Lower away now, men.  Gently does it.  Draw most carefully up as soon
as I shout.  When poor Conal is drawn to bank, lower again for me."

Next minute Frank had disappeared over the brink of the abyss, and was
quickly and safely landed beneath.

He approached the bundle of rugs with a heart that never before felt so
brimful of anguish and doubt.

And now he carefully draws aside the coverings. A pale face, white and
hard, half-open eyes, and a pained look about the lowered brows and
drawn lips.

Is there hope?

Frank will not permit himself even to ask the question.

But speedily he forms a strong hammock with one of the rugs.  Not a
sailor’s knot ever made that this boy is not well acquainted with.  And
now, after making sure that all is secure, he signals, and five minutes
after this the body is got to bank without a single hitch.

Then while two men, with Captain Talbot and Duncan, commence operations
on the stiff and apparently frozen body, the others lower away again,
and presently after Frank’s young and earnest face is seen above the
snow-rift.

He is helped up, and proceeds at once to lend assistance.

Conal had been a favourite with all the men, and now they work in
relays, the one relay relieving the other every five minutes, chafing
and rubbing hands, arms, legs, and chest with spirits.

Duncan can do nothing.

He seems stupefied with grief.

After nearly half an hour of hard rubbing and kneading, to the skipper’s
intense joy the flesh of the arms begins to get softer.  Presently a
blue knot appears on one, and he knows there is a slight flicker of life
reviving in the apparently lifeless body.

The lamp may flicker with a dying glare, and Talbot knows this well, so
he refrains from communicating his hopes to disconsolate Duncan.

But he endeavours now to restore respiration, by slowly and repeatedly
pressing the arms against the chest, and alternately raising them above
the head.

The rubbing goes on.

Soon the eyelids quiver!

There seems to be a struggle, for the poor boy’s face turns red--nay,
almost blue.  Then there is a deep convulsive sigh.

Just such a sigh as this might be his last on earth, or it might be the
first sign of returning life.

Talbot puts his hand on Conal’s cold wrist.  The pulse flickers so he
scarce can feel it; but it is there.

Operations are redoubled.  Sigh after sigh is emitted, and soon--

"Heaven be praised!" cries Captain Talbot, for of his own accord Conal
opens his eyes.

He even murmurs something, and shuts them once more, as if in utter
weariness he fain would go to sleep.

But that sleep might end in death.  No, he must be revived.

The circulation increases.

The life so dear to all is saved, for now Conal can swallow a little
brandy.

Duncan’s head has fallen on his knee and open palms as he crouches
shivering on the snow, and the tears that have welled through his
fingers lie in frozen drops on his clothing.

Gently, so gently, steals Talbot up behind him. Gently, so gently, he
lays one hand on his shoulder.

"Duncan, can you bear the news?"

"Yes, yes, for the bitterness of death is past."

"But it is not death, dear lad, but--life."

"Life!  I cannot believe it!  Have you saved him?

"Then," he added, "my Father, who art in heaven, receive Thou the
praise!

"And you, friend Talbot," he continued, pressing his captain’s hand,
"the thanks."

                                  ――――

Conal was got safely back over the crevasse, and in his extempore
hammock borne tenderly down the mountain-side until the plain below was
reached.

But by this time he is able to raise his eyes and speak to his now
joyful brother.

He even tries to smile.

"A narrow squeak, wasn’t it?" he says.

His brother scarce can answer, so nervous does he feel after the
terrible shock to the system.

The men, however, are thoroughly exhausted, and so under the shelter of
a rock a camp is formed once more, and supper cooked.

Coffee and condensed milk seem greatly to restore the invalid, and once
more he feels drowsy.

Soon the sun sets, and it being considered not unsafe now to permit
Conal to sleep, the best couch possible is made for him, and a tin flask
of hot water being laid near to his heart, his skin becomes warm, and he
is soon afterwards sleeping and breathing as gently and freely as a
child of tender years.

There is a little darkness to-night; but a moon is shining some short
distance up in the sky and casting long dark shadows from the boulders
across that dazzling field of snow.

Diamond stars are in the sky.

Yes, and there seems to be a diamond in every snowflake.

Duncan will not sleep, however, till he has seen his brother’s face once
more and heard him breathe. "For what," he asks himself, "if his
recovery be but a dream from which I shall presently awake?"

His own rugs are laid close to his brother’s, and he gently removes a
corner of the latter, and lets the moon-rays fall on Conal’s face.

The boy opens his eyes.

"Is it you, Duncan?"

"It is me, my brother."

"Then hold my hand and I shall sleep."

Duncan did as he was told.

"Duncan!"

"Yes, Conal."

"I feel as if I were a child again once more, but oh! how foolishly, how
stupidly nervous."

"We are both so.  Yet, blessed be Heaven, you will recover, Conal, and I
shall also."

"When I was really a child, Duncan, my mother, our mother, used to croon
over my cradle verses from that sweet old hymn of Isaac Watts.  Do you
remember it?"

"Ay, Conal, lad, and the music too."

"It is so sweet and plaintive.  Sing it, Duncan. That is, just a verse
or two; for sleep, it seems to me, is already beginning to steal down on
the moonbeams to seal my aching eyes."

Duncan had a beautiful voice; but he could modulate it, so that no one
could hear it many yards away. This does he now.

Singing to Conal as mother used to sing it.  Singing to Conal and to
Conal only.

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


Sleep does steal down on the moonbeams ere long, and seals the eyes of
both.

Thus hand in hand the brothers sleep.



CHAPTER XII.--WINTER LIFE IN AN ANTARCTIC PACK.


Changes in temperature take place soon and sudden in those far-off
Antarctic regions, and on the very night succeeding the return of our
heroes from the dangers of that daring but terrible ascent of Mount
Terror, it came on to blow high and hard from the south.

It was a snow-laden wind too, with the lowest temperature that had yet
been logged.

So dense was the snow-mist that it was impossible to see the jibboom
when standing close by the bowsprit.  The drift blew suffocatingly along
the upper deck of the _Flora_, and it was covered with an ice-glaze
that, owing to the motion of the vessel, made walking a business of the
greatest difficulty.

The vessel was driven northwards till she found herself close to an
immense ice-floe, and to this they determined to make fast.

Anchors were at once got out, therefore, and landed and secured.

The motion was somewhat less after that.

What was most to be dreaded was a squeeze, for if any of those huge
crystalline bergs were to rush them alongside, poor indeed would be
their hopes of being saved.  Indeed the vessel, strong as she was, would
be crushed, as one may crush an egg-shell.

All hands were now called to endeavour, if possible, to make her more
secure.

By and by the wind lulled somewhat, and the atmosphere cleared.

It would only be temporary, however, and well Captain Talbot knew it.

But they had now a chance of noting their position, and a dangerous one
it was.  The open water was getting narrower and narrower, so it was
determined to seek for the safest ice.  This was some pancake that lay
to the north of them, so, just sufficient sail was got up to enable the
ship to reach it.

This she did with safety so far, but the storm came on again with all
its force, and with such fury, that it was found impossible to dock her.

To work in so choking and suffocating a cloud of ice-dust would have
taken the heart out of anyone, save a true-blue British sailor.
Moreover, as mittened cats cannot easily catch mice, so was it difficult
for the men to work with heavy gloves on, and the order was, not on any
account to take them off.

One poor fellow who, in a moment of thoughtlessness, pulled off his
mittens, had both hands so badly-frost-bitten that he was incapable of
duty for many many months.

They were now, however, in a comparatively safe position, for bay or
pancake ice is a protection for a ship, if she has the misfortune to be
frozen up in a pack like this.

In fate, or rather in Providence, they must put their trust; but
whenever the weather cleared for a spell many an anxious eye was turned
towards two mountainous blocks of green ice that lay only about a
hundred yards to the south of the ship’s position. They must have been
about ninety feet out of the water and eight times as much beneath.
Should the wind act with sufficient force on their green glittering
sides it would go hard with the _Flora M’Vayne_.

This storm lasted not a day only, but over a week, and during all this
time the limit of their vision was bounded but by a few yards.

Well for all was it that the _Flora_ was strong, for on three separate
occasions the good ship was nipped. This was undoubtedly owing to the
pressure of the big bergs on the pancake ice.

But the pancake alongside was piled up by this pressure against the
_Flora’s_ sides, like a pack of cards.  The noise at such times was
indescribable.  It was a medley of roaring, shrieking, and caterwauling,
with now and then a loud report, and now and then a dull and startling
thud.

Moreover, the ice had got under the vessel’s bows, and had heaved her up
so high forward, that walking as far as the fo’c’s’le was like climbing
a slippery hill.

Viking, I verily believe, went now and then as far as the bowsprit, just
that he might have the pleasure of sliding down again.  But the great
penguin and the monkey, who seemed to have sworn eternal friendship,
preferred remaining below.  Moreover, they seemed to think that a seat
in front of the saloon fire was far more comfortable than the galley;
and there they were, a most comical couple indeed, for as old Pen stood
there on his tail, warming first one foot and then another at the stove,
the kind-hearted ape sat close beside him with one arm placed lovingly
around the great bird’s shoulder.

One morning Conal and Frank went on deck as usual.

The sunrise clouds were still radiantly beautiful in orange, mauve, and
crimson, but the wind was gone, and the storm fled to the back of the
north pole or elsewhere.

They could see around them, therefore.

"Why, Frank," cried Conal, scratching his head in astonishment, "where
on earth have they shifted Mount Terror to?"

Sure enough, the great volcanic mountain on which the young fellow had
so nearly lost his life was a very long way astern indeed, and seemed
endeavouring to hide its diminished head in a cloud of gray-blue mist.

"The explanation is simple enough, I think," replied Frank.
"They--whoever ’they’ may mean--haven’t shifted the mountain, but we’ve
been driven far to the nor’ard with the force of the gale."

"Oh!" said Conal, laughing, "I know better than that.  We’ve never
moved, Frank.  There is the same ice about us still, and our big
neighbours, the icebergs, are yonder also."

"Well," answered Frank, "we’ve been like the Irishman on the steamboat,
we’ve been standing stock-still, yet all the while we’ve been moving."

"That’s it," said Captain Talbot, who happened to come up at this
moment.  "That’s it, Conal; Frank’s right, and all this vast plain of
snow-clad ice has been in motion northwards, and it has taken us with
it."

"Wonders will never cease!" said Conal.

"Not in this world, nor the next either.  But breakfast will soon be
ready--earlier this morning, because we’re going to work."

"Oh, by the way, sir, are you going on a balloon voyage now?"

"Alas!" said Talbot, almost sadly, "that, I fear, will have to be
abandoned for the present cruise.  My intentions were excellent, but

    "’The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
      Gang aft a-gley,
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain,
      For promised joy’.

Another day and another voyage will be needed for the balloon
adventures.

"Well," he added, more cheerily, "our cruise has not been in vain, you
know.  I have taken many meteorological observations.  We have scaled
the heights of mighty Mount Terror, and we have proved that Right whales
do abound in these seas; so that we have really re-opened a long-lost
industry."

"We sailed in search of fortune," said Frank; "we have got some, haven’t
we, sir?"

"If we manage to get clear of this somewhat dangerous pack and to reach
Kerguelen Island, I think we’ll lay in enough sea-elephant skins and
blubber to make up a rich and splendid cargo.

"But," he added, looking towards the monster icebergs, "I do wish these
fellows were farther off."

"I suppose we couldn’t blow them up, could we?" said innocent Conal.

Talbot laughed.

"My dear boy," he answered, "if we could blow these blocks up, we might
try our skill on the rock of Gibraltar next."

Although the autumn was already far advanced and dreary winter on ahead,
still Talbot did not despair of getting clear before it came on.

This forenoon all hands were set at work to clear the ice from under the
bows.

Hard work indeed, but it was finished eventually with the aid of good
gunpowder.  Small cases of this were placed under the packs of pancake
by means of a long pole, and fired with waterproof fuses.  The
smashed-up pieces were thrust in under the main pack, and so in time the
_Flora M’Vayne_ found herself on an even keel.

The officers and crew could breathe more freely now, and sat down to
dinner with that hearty appetite which hard work, if interesting, never
fails to call up.

A whole month passed away.

There was no change, and seldom even a breath of wind, but the nights
were now very long indeed, and soon, very soon, it would be all night.

Another month went slowly by.

It was now far on in May, and June in these latitudes means the dead
depth of winter.

"There isn’t the ghost of a chance, Morgan," said Talbot one morning
while breakfasting by lamp-light; "there isn’t the slightest chance of
our getting clear away from here, till spring winds break up the ice and
carry us north and away."

Morgan did not answer directly.

He was thinking.

"How about provisions, sir?" he asked at last.

"Well, we ought to have enough of every sort to last for a year, and by
that time, please Heaven, we shall be safe in Cape Town harbour.

"But," he added, "I was going to talk to you on this very subject."

"Well, sir."

"Well, mate, I think it would be as well to take an inventory.  Have a
thorough overhaul, you know, and see what condition everything is in."

The motion was carried.

But it took them three days--if we can call them days--to complete the
survey and restore everything, in a ship-shape condition, to its place
again.

The stores were all not only abundant but excellent, with the exception
of some casks of greens that they put much store on.  They would now
have to depend upon a daily supply of lime-juice to prevent hands
getting down with the scourge of these seas, namely, scurvy.

On the very night the survey was ended came another half-gale of wind
from the south.  There were the same terrible noises all around them,
and as far as they could make out, the sea of ice was a perfect chaos.

No one could shout loud enough for his nearest companion to hear him,
and the crew lived in constant terror of the ship being crushed.

When at long last the storm ceased, they discovered by the starlight,
and very much to their delight, that the terrible neighbours, those
monster bergs, had shifted their site during the gale.

They had, in fact, driven past the vessel’s bows--what a mercy they came
not near!--and were now fully seventy yards down to leeward.

The wind had fallen quite, and all had become still again.

"We have reason to be thankful to God for our marvellous escape," said
Talbot.

"But may not the bergs drift back, or be blown down upon us?" said
Frank, who was of a very inquiring turn of mind.

"Wherever they drift, Frank, we too shall drift, but the send of the
current or sea beneath us is, I believe, northward now; and if the wind
blows in winter as it must in spring, it will bear us towards the
north-west.  So one danger is removed or minimized."

"Hurrah!" cried Frank, who was nothing if not impulsive, "hurrah!"

"No chance, I suppose, sir," he said, "of getting any letters from
home?"

"Not for a day or two, Frank," said Talbot, smiling.

"Well, but it is a good thing we have books to read, isn’t it, Conal?"

"And pens and ink?"

"Yes, pens and ink, and my fiddle."

"And my bagpipes," said Duncan emphatically.

"Oh, Duncan, we hadn’t forgotten that or these."

"When I get them over my shoulder," said Duncan, "and put my drones in
order, I don’t think there will be much chance of your forgetting them."

Now wild winter had come in earnest,

    "To rule the varied year".

It did not seem, however, that there was going to be a great deal of
variety about it.

The wind was gone entirely for the time being, and the strange stars and
Southern Cross shone down on the snowy and radiant plain, with a
brilliancy that is quite unknown in more northern climes.

Great care was taken to keep the correct time, and to take observations
three times a day.

A big ice-hole was made a few yards to the port side of the ship, and
although the frost was now very severe indeed, they made a point of
keeping this clear. This hole was about six feet in width, and, later
on, it sufficed not only to draw water from for various purposes, but to
afford some sport, as we shall presently see.

It had another and more scientific use.  For the temperature of the
water could here be taken, not only on the surface but many measured
fathoms below it, and it told also the trend of the currents and their
strength as well.

The self-same hours for breakfast, dinner, and supper were adhered to,
but the men now had an additional allowance of tea served out to them,
which, on the whole, they preferred to grog.

Grog, they knew from experience, did not keep up the animal heat, though
it seemed to for a brief spell. Then shivering succeeded.

As the spectioneer told Duncan, in a climate like this one doesn’t quite
appreciate buckets of cold water running down his back.

Tea time was a happy hour in the saloon.  The duties of the day were
practically over, and light though these may have been, each had its
correct time, and nothing was neglected.

But now the talk was chiefly about home; all thoughts of making fortunes
were banished as not in keeping with the calmness of the hour.

Cowper’s cosy lines come to my memory as I write, and they are in some
measure applicable to the tea-time hour and situation--

    "Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast;
    Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
    And while the bubbling and loudly hissing urn
    Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
    That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
    Let us welcome peaceful evening in".


Johnnie Shingles it was who assisted the steward in serving out the tea,
and Johnnie looked out for his own share in the pantry when all the rest
were done.



CHAPTER XIII.--A CHAOS OF ROLLING AND DASHING ICE.


Being myself, reader, an "ice man" of some considerable experience, the
manner in which the officers and crew of the beleaguered craft _Flora
M’Vayne_ whiled away the time during their long winter imprisonment may
be said to be painted from the life.

At first it was supposed that the want of light would be a drawback to
enjoyment, but the steward was one of those men who can turn their hands
to anything, and he proposed making purser’s dips from the spare fat.

He had to manufacture the wicks from cotton refuse, but, this
accomplished, the rest was simple enough.

Petroleum was burned only in the saloon, and it was stored in a hold
right beneath this for greater safety.

They had to be saving in the use thereof, however, and as they could
talk as well, if not better, by the flickering light of the fire, the
lamp was always turned out when no one cared to read.  But around the
galley fire those purser’s dips were a great comfort to the men when not
yarning.  For then one man was told off to read while the others sat
around to smoke and listen.

And thus passed many a quiet and peaceful evening away.

The men, I am happy to say, did not seem to hanker after grog, and it
was finally agreed by all hands that it would be better to keep it for
what they were pleased to call the spring fishery, or as a stand-by in
case of illness.

They had plenty of tea and coffee, however, and a daily allowance of
lime-juice.

Then Saturday nights were kept up in quite the old-fashioned and
pleasant way, and the main-brace was invariably spliced.

Song succeeded song on these happy occasions, and many a toast was drunk
to the health of the dear ones far away on Britain’s shore.

Nor was dancing neglected, the consequence being that fiddle, guitar,
and clarionet were in great request. As usual, little Johnnie Shingles
and that droll penguin, dressed as a merry old lady, or sometimes as a
modest wee maiden of sweet sixteen, convulsed the onlookers with their
droll antics as they sailed around in the mazy dance.

But the monkey one evening did not see why he should not also have a
waltz with Madam Pen.

"Yah--yah--yah!" he cried, as he approached her most coaxingly.

This was much as to say: "It is our dance, I believe, miss."

He attempted to take hold of Pen’s flippers in the meanwhile, and was
rewarded with a dig between the eyes that sent him reeling back, and so
Jim made no more offers to trip it on the light fantastic toe with Madam
Pen, on this evening or any other.  In fact, he used to content himself
with lying in front of the fire with one of Vike’s huge paws round his
neck.

When Pen pecked the monkey he made an ugly scar, but poor kind-hearted
Vike licked it every day several times with his soft warm tongue, and so
it soon healed up.

                                  ――――

Frank was by no means a very ambitious boy; he had not very much of the
Scottish dash and go about him, and would at any time have preferred not
doing to-day what could be just as easily done to-morrow, but he was
clever for all that.

He it was who first attempted fishing in the ice-hole.  But the ship had
been imprisoned for well-nigh six weeks before he thought of it.  The
fact is, that by this time many of the men began to ail, and a peculiar
kind of lassitude, dulness, and lowness of spirits were the first
symptoms they complained of. Spots then appeared on the skin, every
muscle ached when they moved.  They suffered greatly from cold, and even
their countenances grew worn and dusky.

The awful truth soon flashed upon Talbot’s mind: these men were attacked
by scurvy.

No less than three grew rapidly worse, and died one after the other--in
spite of all that could be done for them.  It was sad to listen to their
last ravings and hear them speaking as if to friends at home; to a wife,
a sister, or mayhap a sweetheart.  Ah! but this was only when they were
very near to the end.

A hammock had soon to be requisitioned after this, and the poor fellows
were laid to rest many yards distant from the ship in a cold, icy grave.

Prayers were said over each, and there they will sleep probably for ever
and for aye.  For those buried thus never know decay till the ice around
them may melt millions of years hence.

No medicine on board had any effect, and five in all were buried before
the plague was stayed.  It had been brought on, without doubt, from the
want of fresh provisions, so Frank’s idea of fishing adown the ice-hole
was really a happy thought.  For a whole day, however, like the apostle
of old, he fished, but caught nothing.  But on the day after he hooked a
ray, and then a bonito.

From that very time fishing became a sport in which all the boys took
part--and the plague soon left the ship.

Sorrowful indeed was Talbot at the loss of his men, still, grief is but
transient on board ship.  In a case like the present it would not do for
it to be otherwise, for nothing is more depressing.

Moreover, the captain came now to the conclusion that the men had not
enough exercise, so he proceeded at once to put into execution a plan
that would meet the requirements of the case.

He instituted games on the ice.

Games in the dark!  Is that your remark, reader?

But it was very far indeed from being dark.  There was at the present
time a moon, though it was at no great height above the horizon.  Well,
moonlight does not last long anyhow, but the bright beams from the
star-studded heavens were far better than the moon at its best, and
almost dimmed its splendour.

The sky was wondrously clear, and the stars seemed very large.  So close
aboard, too, did they appear to be that you might have thought it
possible to touch them with a fishing-rod.

There are probably no games so invigorating as those called Scottish, or
more properly Highland. They tend to the expansion of the chest and to
the bracing and strengthening of every muscle in the body.

So hammer-throwing, weight-putting, leaping, and tossing the caber soon
became the rule every forenoon. Then in the afternoon, and before tea,
Highland dancing was the rage.

This is dancing in every sense of the word.  Quadrilles are only fit for
old folks, and waltzing--well, it is nice enough in a brilliantly-lit
hall, with soft dreamy music and a brilliant partner, but, after all, it
is only just wiping your feet and whirling round.

A broad sheet of wood was spread on the ice near the ship for Highland
dancing, quite a large platform in fact.

And Duncan, like Auld Nick in Burns’s masterpiece, _Tam o’ Shanter_,

    "Screwed his pipes and gart them skirl
    Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl."
      *   *   *   *   *
    Nae cotillion brent new frae France,
    But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
    Put life and mettle in their heels."


But these were not the only amusements the crew went in for, on the
snow-clad ice, for while Conal and Frank were one day visiting those
great bergs, the inventive genius of the latter was once more shown.

They found that a great portion of one side of the biggest berg was
quite on the slope, and covered with frozen snow.

"Hurrah!" cried Frank, "I’ve got another."

"Another what?"

"Why, another idea.  This iceberg is just suited for tobogganing."

"Now," he added, "we sha’n’t say a word to anybody till we try it
ourselves first."

They, however, took the carpenter into their confidence, and he made
them tiny sledges to sit upon. The slide was on a pretty gradual slope
and altogether was about a hundred yards long from the top.  Steps were
cut at one side to make the getting up easy, and Frank himself was the
first to make the descent.

"It is simply glorious!"  This was his report.

"Flying," he added, "isn’t in it."

And Conal himself confirmed this statement as soon as he himself had
gone rushing down.

After this the great toboggan slide was in daily request, and the sound
that came from the big berg was like the roaring of stones on a Scottish
curling pond.

But high above the rushing noise, came the shouting and laughter of the
merry-makers.

Poor Viking could not understand it, and I suppose he came to the
conclusion that his human friends had all lost hold of the tiny supply
of common-sense, which human beings can boast of.

But what with these games and dances, and then fun on board, the health
of the crew continued excellent, though ever around the galley-fire at
night (I mean before bed-time or at the tea hour) the men talked of
home.

I myself, like most seafarers,--well, call us sailors if that sounds
better,--dearly love

    "A life on the ocean wave
      And a home on the rolling deep,
    Where the scattered waters rave
      And the winds their revels keep".

Yet wherever in this world I have been there always seemed to be a
magnetic needle in my heart, and it always pointed to Home.

    "Where’er we roam, whatever lands we see
    Our hearts untramelled fondly turn to thee
      *   *   *   *   *
    Such is the patriot’s boast; where’er we roam,
    Our first, best country, ever is at home."


On the whole, during their long imprisonment, the officers and crew of
the good barque _Flora M’Vayne_ kept up their hearts.

At long last the sun came nearer and nearer the northern horizon.  For
days before he rose there was a twilight of about two hours.  Then a
galaxy of the loveliest clouds were lit up, but still no sun.

Before noon on the day after, however, Frank and Conal, who seemed now
to be inseparable, climbed to the top of the tobogganing berg, and soon
after caught a glimpse of the glorious sun.

Neither could speak for a time, and indeed tears were trickling down
Frank’s face, which he took no trouble to hide.  For, as we have seen
before, he was a very impressionable lad.

"Oh, the sun! the sun!"  That was all he said, but next minute both were
waving their hats to those on board and shouting:

"The sun! the sun!"

And such a cheer uprose from that long-imprisoned ship, as never before
probably was heard in these southern regions of perpetual snow and ice.

High above all, the boys could hear the barking of noble Vike.

Yes, but a moment after, and high above even that, across the
intervening ice came the wild skirl of Duncan’s Highland bagpipe.

Duncan was playing the March of the Cameron Men as he walked boldly up
and down in the waist of the ship, while Frank and Conal on the
ice-block could not help chiming in with just one verse of that brave
old song, which has thrilled so many a heart on bank or brae or
battlefield:

    "Ah! proudly they march, though each Cameron knows
      He may tread on the heather no more,
    Yet boldly he follows his chief to the field
      Where his laurels were gathered before".


"Yes, Frank, but we shall tread the heather again, sha’n’t we, friend?"

"I hope so, and I mean to have a good try anyhow," was Frank’s hearty
reply.

                                  ――――

Their dangers, however, were not all over yet. Not by a deal.  In a
still ice-pack like that in which they had lain so long, there is not
very much to be feared except the danger of a nip or jam.  But when the
ice begins to open and the wind begins to blow, ah! then toil and
trouble commence in earnest.

From observations, Captain Talbot now discovered that the immense field
of ice on which they had been lying, had been gradually forcing its way
on the current almost directly north, and that even Mount Sabine and the
Admiralty Mountains were now a long way astern to the west.

And soon now the wind began to blow and howl; almost half a gale from
the south-east by east.  The noise, as it roared through the rigging and
bare poles, was almost deafening, but this did not prevent these brave
mariners from hearing every now and then the loud explosions on the
ice-pack that heralded the breaking up of the whole, and that had been
but a day or two ago a vast plain strong enough to have reviewed all the
artillery in the world upon, would soon be but a chaos of rolling,
dashing ice.  The storm continued for more than a week, and all that
time--every hour, in fact--the _Flora M’Vayne_ had been in peril and
danger.

Gallant ship!  How well she stood the squeezing, the cannonading, the
battering!  A vessel less strong in every timber, or one built of teak
instead of Scottish oak would have collapsed and gone down in a few
minutes, carrying the crew with her, or leaving them almost naked,
hungry, and helpless on the pack, to die a death ten times more cruel
than drowning.

She got perilously near to the shore at last, however. It must have been
somewhere close to Yule or Robertson Bay, for Cape Adare had been left a
long way astern.

They were close enough to see that certain destruction awaited them if
unable to change their position. The pancake and bay ice was piled along
the rugged shore, hills high, one piece above another, by the terrible
force of wind and current.

When soundings were taken, and it was found that there was but little
depth of water to spare, and that even this was gradually lessening,
then both Morgan and the skipper became alarmed.

"We must set sail," said the latter, "and try to bring her up a few
points, or, depend upon it, our risky voyage will come to a sudden end."

All hands were called.



CHAPTER XIV.--"HEAVE, AND SHE GOES!  HURRAH!"


"All hands on deck!  Tumble up, my lads!  Tumble up!"

The men needed no second bidding.  They did tumble up, every man Jack of
them, as merrily as if marriage-bells had called them.

"All hands unship rudder!"

That was the next order.  For there was great danger of this being
dashed to pieces by the cruel ice.

The rudder was about the only vulnerable portion of the ship indeed.

Two whole hours were spent at this work, for the men, unlike those who
sail to Arctic regions, had never been drilled to such work.

The short day had almost worn to a close before the job was finished.

But sail was now got on her, and by means of long poles, twenty men
overboard on the ice managed not only to clear the way for her by
shoving the pieces to one side, but also to steer the vessel, by keeping
her head in the right direction.

Frank was sent to the foretop-gallant masthead to see if he could, by
aid of the telescope, descry water to the nor’ards.

The sun was almost setting in the north-west, and there was plenty of
light, but no water was visible, only the great white ocean of snow-clad
ice, all in motion.

The scene was indeed a strange and impressive one, and after shouting
down that there was no open water anywhere in sight, Frank stayed in the
cross-trees for quite a long time, hardly ever feeling the cold, so
interested was he in all he saw around him.

One thing, however, was evident, namely, that the huge iceberg on which
they had spent so many merry hours tobogganing was fast aground down to
leeward of them.

The ship passed it slowly.

"Good-bye, old chap," Frank could not help saying. "Sorry we can’t take
you to England with us, but can’t see our way.  By, by!  See you later
on, perhaps."

Then slowly he came below to the deck.

He was happy that it was just tea-time.  The ship was now considered out
of present danger, but watch after watch must remain on the ice to pole
and guide, perhaps for days to come.

"I want," the skipper said, "to make a good offing, for I don’t half
like the look of the land in there, and should prefer to show it a pair
of clean heels, and, please God, we shall before long."

The tea was very comforting, and in spite of the noise above of high
winds and flapping sails, the saloon was very jolly and cosy indeed, and
Frank was in no hurry to go on deck again.

"Hullo! what is that?" said Talbot, "someone tumbled down the
companion?"

"Yes," said Conal laughing, "but it is only Old Pen. He finds that the
most expeditious way of getting below now.  He just throws himself on
his back, head down, and toboggans down the steps."

And a second or two after, Pen appeared in the doorway, and looked
wonderingly at the group assembled round the fire.

"You all look very snug here," he seemed to say. "Is there room for poor
Old Pen among you?"

"Come along, Pen," said Conal, "we can always make room for you.  Sit
there on your tail beside Vike, and warm your soles."

"Yah--yah--yah!" cried the monkey, offering Pen a cockroach in quite a
friendly way.  But delicious as this might be, the bird preferred a bit
of tinned salmon.

"Pen," said Duncan, "knows on what side his bread is buttered."

The bird eyed him knowingly, as, leaning on his tail, he held one broad
foot up to the blaze.

"Pen", he seemed to say, "prefers his bread buttered on both sides."

It was comparatively late to-night before anyone thought of retiring.
Moreover, it was Frank’s "all night in", but I do not think he slept a
great deal. There was noise enough on deck, aloft, and around the bows
on the ice to have awakened Rip Van Winkle himself, but slumber he did
at last, though only to revisit in dreams his native land, and the wild
and lonesome grandeur of romantic Scotland.

Nay, but I ought not to say lonesome, for how could he feel lonesome
with his sweetheart Flora walking by his side, or darting off every now
and then to chase a butterfly, or cull some rare and beautiful flower.

Ah! he could not help thinking, even in his dreams, if life were ever
ever like this.  Late in the middle watch he was awakened in a very
unceremonious way indeed.  In fact he was well-nigh pitched clean and
clear out of his bunk.  He wondered what was up, for there was a more
sea-like motion about the ship. But, sailor-like, he just turned upon
his back and went off to sleep again.

The explanation was simple.  The ship had struck a very wide lane of
open water.  Open to a great extent that is, for many a dangerous and
nasty piece of green ice battered the sides of the vessel as, glad to be
free, she went dashing through the open water under all sail that could
be safely carried.  Boats, also under sail, were ahead of her to keep
her in the right course.

But at daybreak the captain himself went aloft, and noticing that the
open water was visible at least a dozen miles ahead, and that the lane
grew wider towards the north, he had the main-yard hauled aback. The
boats were then hoisted, and all the crew bore a hand in shipping the
rudder once more.

The breeze still held, and a splendid day’s record was made nor was
there at night any reason to fear danger.

The pieces of ice, however, lay about in all directions, and sometimes
three or four appeared ahead, suddenly too.  As these could not always
be avoided, the plan was to select the largest and steer straight
stem-on to that.  It is better to do so than to be struck on the
broadside by a heavy piece.

But as she sailed through streams of smaller pieces the noise of the
cannonading, as heard down below, was sometimes quite deafening.

It would have been very nice for all on board had this lane of water
conducted the ship right out into the open northern ocean.

It did not, however, for by and by the wind fell, and slowly, but
surely, the sides of the great natural canal came closer and closer
together, and finally the good ship _Flora M’Vayne_ was again completely
beset, with no signs of water even from the mast-head.

Only all around was the white and dazzling pack. For a whole fortnight,
or over, the frost continued, and never a cloud was seen.

One day, however, the active and busy little Frank Trelawney discovered,
from the crow’s-nest--a barrel high up on the main truck--a cloud no
bigger than a man’s hand, away down on the southern horizon.

It slowly increased, and before many hours was a huge and rolling mass
of cumulus.

Other clouds also were rolling up, and it was evident they were bringing
the wind with them.

About the same time the temperature rose, but the glass fell
considerably, so that the skipper and Morgan shook their heads
ominously.

"We’re going to have a big blow, sir," said the latter.

"That is so, mate, and we are not in a very enviable situation."

"Listen, sir!"

The mate held up his finger.

There was a succession of loud reports almost alongside, and the
screeching and caterwauling sounds that followed, showed that the ship
was being nipped.

"We’re in for it, mate; but she has a nicely-rounded bottom, and will
rise twenty feet rather than be staved in.

"But," he added, "we can’t afford to lose our rudder, so we’ll have that
unshipped once more."

This was done, and probably only in time, for the pressure increased
every hour.

It was evident now the ship would rise if the ice did not go clean
through her.

She did rise, and that too with a vengeance, for by next morning she was
lying almost on her beam-ends on the adjoining floe.

The yard-arms had been hauled fore-and-aft, else they would have touched
the snow.

To live on board now was impossible for days and days to come.

But boats and provisions were landed, and every preparation made to
journey northward over the great ice-pack, should the ship go down after
again righting herself.

The wind was bitterly cold, even in the poor ship’s lee, but they
managed to light fires and to cook, though it was indeed a wretched
time.

Enveloped in rugs, the boys, with Viking, huddled together at night, but
for a long time after lying down sleep was impossible.  And when slumber
did at last seal their eyes, the dreams they dreamt were far indeed from
pleasant.

But now came a warm and almost pleasant wind from the north-north-west,
and the ice began to open.

Captain Talbot’s anxiety was now at its greatest, for there was water on
the starboard side of the ship and the berg or floe on which she lay.

Ropes were therefore attached to her masts, and all hands upon the ice
bent on to these, pulling slowly with a long pull and a strong pull.

For more than an hour they made no impression on the vessel, and it was
evident the cargo had shifted somewhat.

Talbot gave the steward an order to splice the mainbrace.

He countermanded this almost immediately after, however, for it was now
evident the vessel was doing her best to get righted.

"Pull now, lads!  Pull steadily all!  Heave-oh and she comes!"

Every hand is laid on the ropes; every nerve is braced, and the veins
start on the men’s perspiring foreheads as they keep up the strain.

Viking barks as if to encourage them.

It is all the poor dog can do.

"Heave and she goes!  Heave and she rips!  Hurrah! lads, hurrah!"

"She is coming, boys!  Heave-oh, again!  Another pull does it!  Easy!
Slack off!  Hurrah!"

A wild cheer rent the air as the brave and sturdy barque slid downwards
off the floe and took the water like a duck or a penguin.

The men and officers paused now to wipe their faces.

Then all hands got on board and manned the pumps.

No, she was safe.  Not a drop of extra water had she made, or was
making.

What a relief!

The sun was already sinking low on the horizon, and his last beams lit
up the great snow plain ’twixt the ship and sky, as if a canal of
crimson blood was there.

Talbot was happy now.  The recovery of the ship from her serious
position was like a good omen, so, as soon as everything was got on
board, he thought it high time to splice the main-brace.

And so did the men also.

                                  ――――

All hands were as merry that night as the winning team after a football
match.

The wind had gone down, but the weather continued fairly mild, and there
was not a sound to be heard on the pack.

On board, however, there were plenty of sounds--sounds of mirth and
music in the galley.  For Frank had gone forward with his fiddle, and a
dance was the natural consequence.

Johnnie Shingles, and old mother Pen, were once more in glorious form,
and their dancing brought down the house, and elicited rounds and rounds
of applause.

Then dancing became general.

But the fatigues of the day had been very great, so that it is no wonder
pipes were soon got out, and a wide and cheerful circle formed about the
fire.  Songs and yarns were now to be the order of the evening, and
although it was not Saturday night it bore a very strong resemblance to
it.

Just one song--written and sung by Frank himself, was to-night twice
encored.  As to its composition I say nothing, except that everything
pleases the true-born British sailor that has got the ring of the sea
about it.

    FRANK’S SONG.

    And now, my boys, sit round the fire,
      And pass the glasses round;
    Our troubles all we’ll soon forget
      When we are homeward bound.

    Ah! many a danger we’ve defied,
      We’ve weathered many a gale,
    Nor stormiest seas, nor grinding ice,
      Have ever made us quail!

    Though bergs are still about us, boys,
      Far north the billows sound,
    And we’ll welcome every breeze that blows,
      When we are homeward bound.

    Why should we mourn for pals we’ve lost,
      Or let the tear-drops fall,
    They sleep in peace, their sorrows o’er,
      Beneath the snow’s soft pall.

    So crowd around the fire, dear lads,
      And pass the glasses round;
    Our friends are moored on heavenly shores--
      And we are homeward bound.



CHAPTER XV.--THE ISLES OF DESOLATION.


If to be sailing northwards and east with a spanking breeze, and the
great sea of southern ice in which, and on which, so many adventures had
been had, was being homeward bound--then were our heroes homeward bound.

It is a nice thing to sing about anyhow of an evening around a cheerful
fire; but ah! as I’ve said before there is many a slip ’twixt the cup
and the lip, and there is nothing certain at sea save the unexpected.

However, bold Captain Talbot had no intentions of returning to England
with what he called only half a voyage.

"I’m going to do my level best," he told the boys about a fortnight
after they had got clear and away, "to have a bumper ship, that shall
recoup us all for our outlay, to say nothing of our sufferings."

"And now we’re bearing up for Kerguelen, aren’t we?" said Conal.

"That’s the place, lad; and I’m a Dutchman if we don’t find the
elephant-seals there in countless thousands."

"And when we fill up, what then?"

"O, that question I was considering last night in bed, and I’ve
concluded we had better leave our cargo at the Cape.  We can sell well
there at present, for oil is much needed.  Then we shall clean ship
thoroughly, and sail northwards by the Indian Ocean, picking up a cargo
at the Cape, at Zanzibar, and wherever else we can find it.  We can’t go
wrong."

"And back home through the Suez Canal.  Is that your idea, sir?" said
the mate.

"You’ve hit it completely, Morgan."

"You must remember," he continued after a pause, during which he had
been watching the smoke that curled from his lips towards the roof of
the saloon, "that I look upon this only as an experimental voyage, and
as such it hasn’t proved altogether a failure.  We shall clear our feet
and pay our way, boys; and our adventures will be the theme of many a
lecture when at last we reach the old country.

"And not that only, for our success will enable us to float a good
company for sealing and steam-whaling in the Antarctic seas.  You see,
boys, I’ve been north and south.  I’ve been what you well may term from
pole to pole.  Well, my opinion is, that although the Arctic lies
handier to our own doors than the Antarctic, still it is almost played
out.  They have been going it among the baby seals a trifle too fast,
and have given them no close season, so though I don’t say they’ve
killed them nearly all off, still they have scared them pretty
considerably, and the modern Arctic seal isn’t the innocent confiding
creature he was in the days of my boyhood.  No, he has got far more
wary, and so packs of them are more difficult to find than formerly.

"And as for Right whales, well, they are far wiser than we have any idea
of.  Their kingdom is a boundless one.  It is the ocean wild and wide,
and if they cannot have peace to gather in schools, and enjoy their
little parties in the north, why, they are free to come to the
Antarctic.  And that is just what they have done.

"Well, lads, we shall do something in it, be assured. But we’ve got to
have steam.  Strong screw steamers with all appliances to repair damages
of every kind; and steam ice-hammers as well.  You’ve thrown in your lot
with me, boys, and my name isn’t Talbot if I don’t help you to make a
good thing of it."

"The Antarctic is very far away from England," said Frank thoughtfully.

"There you’re right, lad.  You are thinking of the expense?"

"Yes."

"Ah! but our company will not bring their ships home to Britain.  No,
they will cruise from the Antarctic to the very nearest markets--in
Australia, for instance.  And so it will pay.  For should we lose a ship
or two, well, the insurance companies must pay that, and they are well
able to.

"So that is my scheme, boys, and, on the whole, I don’t think it is a
bad one.  There are so few ways of making fortunes nowadays that when
one gets the ball at his foot, he is a fool if he does not hit it as
hard as he knows how to."

                                  ――――

The voyage to the Kerguelen islands was a very propitious one, and every
one on board the sturdy _Flora M’Vayne_ was as happy as the day was
long. Vike seemed to have got a new lease of life, and wallowed in the
sunshine.

"It is such a change, you know," he told Conal, "and I believe we’ll
soon be back once more in bonnie Scotland, and won’t I tear around the
hills just!"

The monkey was less melancholy now, and the cough which troubled him so
much while in the ice, appeared to have quite gone.

And old Pen seemed to be almost beside himself with delight.  He used to
go tearing along the decks, flapping his wings and shrieking as if
possessed, and even in his calmer moods he would sometimes leap up
suddenly and practise waltzing all alone.

There was a delightful breeze nearly all the time. If not astern it was
a beam wind, and so the _Flora_ went ripping through the dark-blue seas,
every wave of which sparkled in the sunshine.

Many whales were seen, but as Talbot depended most on getting among the
elephants now, boats were never lowered to go whaling.

Frank spent much of his time in the crow’s-nest.

He was not afraid to swing through the sky at that giddy height,
although the first time he clambered up he believed that the crew would
have to lower him down with block-and-tackle, he was so thoroughly
frightened.

"On deck there!" rang the young fellow’s voice one forenoon from the
nest.

"Ay, ay, lad," from the skipper.

"Land in sight!"

"Where away?"

"On the starboard bow."

"And what does it look like?"

"I can only raise some mountain cones.  They seem volcanic, and their
sides are covered with snow."

"Bravo!  Come down and I’ll get up myself."

Frank was soon on deck.

"Well done, Frank," said Talbot laughing.  "I promised a pair of canvas
trousers to the man who should first sight land, and you shall have
them."

"Yes, thank you, and I shall wear them too."

Away went the skipper up to the crow’s-nest, and before long came an
order to alter the course a point or two.

Close to the Islands of Desolation, as Kerguelen is called, it was fully
a week before the _Flora M’Vayne_ was able to reach and enter one of the
friths or creeks.  For on the very day on which land was sighted a
fearful hurricane swept down on the ship, and so suddenly, too, that
before sails could be taken in many were rent into ribbons, that cracked
and rattled with a sound like the independent firing of troops in
action.  There was no standing against wind of this awful violence, and
it was necessary to run for it under what is termed "bare poles", that
is, the smallest amount of sail that can be carried with steering power.

But Kerguelen is the region of hurricanes, and few ships that visit
these wild shores escape with impunity.

The coast of the chief islands was found to be iron-bound, high, barren,
and rocky, but when they entered and sailed along one of the creeks,
scenery of quite a different kind was met with.

It would be difficult indeed to exaggerate the strange, wild, but
solitary beauty of this scenery. Solitary, that is, as regards sight or
sign of human being.

But bird life was in evidence everywhere; in fact, Kerguelen might be
called the home of the sea-birds. They have seen but little of man,
however, and know nothing of his evil or demoniacal ways.  They look
upon him only as a curious kind of biped, of the penguin species, but
without feathers.

Well, when Duncan or Frank went on shore for a walk with the skipper,
the gulls, the petrels, the penguins, the albatrosses, and cormorants
flew around them in thousands, and the din they made was almost
deafening.

Nor were our heroes free altogether from their attentions, which
sometimes were rather of an objectionable character, especially when
students of nature in the shape of huge yellow-cheeked penguins waddled
up to the place where they were sitting, and began examining their
jackets with the greatest curiosity. Pecking holes in them, too, and
pulling at them.

When rudely thrust off they would retire but a little way, and stand
watching the boys with great interest.

"Well, I never!" they seemed to say, looking at them from one side of
their heads.

"Well, I’m gee-whizzled!" gazing at them with the other.

"Penguins, aren’t you?  But the ugliest lot ever we saw.  We really
wonder your mothers allow you go about like that!"

To-day Captain Talbot and his boys went exploring, but a man was with
them to carry the game they killed, and these consisted chiefly of ducks
and rabbits. The former showed no fear, but the latter scurried away at
once.

They journeyed far inland, and made many interesting discoveries, which
proved that these islands are not so utterly useless as they are
supposed to be. Indeed, they could be worked profitably both for coals
and oil.

And Talbot made a general survey of the regions traversed and took ample
notes.

"This would make an excellent centre for our great Antarctic whaling and
sealing expedition," he said. "And you and I, boys, might build
ourselves a house just under the shelter of these green lichen-clad
rocks yonder."

"Oh, it would be awfully nice!" cried Frank.

"And couldn’t we have a garden?"

"Yes, and plant and grow crops."

"And trees?"

"Yes, again, and if we are spared to come back here we shall bring with
us a few hundreds of young pine-trees--Scotch, and spruce--and plenty of
seed."

"How delightful!  I should like so much to be a Crusoe.  But listen!
Surely that was a dog barking high up the hill yonder."

And so it was, for next moment down came Vike with a rabbit in his
mouth.

"Why, Vike," cried Duncan, "we left you on board."

"Very likely," said Vike, speaking with his tail and eyes as he lay
there panting from his exertions, with about two yards--more or less--of
pink tongue hanging out over his alabaster teeth.  "Very likely, but
five hundred yards of a swim isn’t much to a dog like me.  And what is
more.  Wowff, wowff! you had no business to bolt away without me.
Wowff! Don’t do it again!"

"Well, now," said Talbot to his mate next day at breakfast, "what do you
say to stay here till we lay in a real good cargo, for outside the
elephants are in thousands, and the poor things have young beside them
too."

"The idea is excellent, sir," said Morgan, "and I have another."

"Out with it, mate.  We can’t have too many ideas in this world, if we
mean to be successful.  These ideas of ours don’t all hold water; but
then we can go over them at our leisure and pick out the best."

"That’s it, sir.  Well, why not get all the skins we can procure, and
then make off the oil.  Coals are plentiful on shore, and we have
cauldrons, you know."

"Bravo!  Morgan.  That is just what we shall do."

So after breakfast boats were called away, and returned in the evening
laden to the gunwales.

So the vessel was shifted nearer to the open sea, and thus the whalers
could go and return twice or even thrice in one day with their hauls.

It was no easy work, you may well believe, when I tell you that the skin
and blubber of one of these huge sea-elephants sometimes weighed eight
hundred-weight.

Poor, great, innocent brutes, it did seem a shame to kill their young
before their eyes!  The sight of the blood made mothers and fathers
frantic, and they rushed on shore as if bent on revenge, but only to
fall victims to the rifles of the gunners.

It was a bloody and terrible scene, and I have no desire to describe it.
Indeed, were I to tell the reader one quarter of the cruelties I have
seen enacted by sealers, I should so harrow his feelings that his dreams
would not be pleasant for one night afterwards.

Not merely for a fortnight, but for more than three weeks did the
_Flora_ lie at Kerguelen, but in a sheltered cove, so that the
hurricanes, that on four or five different occasions swept down from the
mountains with terrific violence, had but little effect on her. By this
time they had boiled down all their oil, salted all their skins and
tanked them, and were in reality a bumper ship.

I must not forget one little incident that took place about a week after
their arrival.

One day that extremely wise and wondrous bird, Old Pen, went hopping
down the starboard gangway and leapt into the sea.

Vike, who had been observing him, sprang right off the bulwark and tried
most energetically to head him off.

The bird and dog met face to face, and it really seemed as if a
conversation somewhat as follows took place.

Old Pen: "Hullo, what’s your game?"

Viking: "I’m going to rush you back to your ship."

O. P.: "Your grandmother!  I won’t be rushed.  I can swim better than
you, and dive like a fish-hawk. So don’t let us quarrel.  In spring, you
know, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.  I’ve got
an appointment on shore here.  Ta, ta!  Be as good’s ye can."

Vike: "But I say, Old Pen--"

Old Pen had dived and was out of sight, and so Vike swam sadly back to
the ship once more.

Just a few hours, however, before the anchor was got up, and while the
crew were busy shaking out the sails before departing for the far west,
something between a squawk and a squeal was heard alongside, and, sure
enough, there was Old Pen come back again.

He was assisted on board, and shook himself as unconcernedly as if
nothing unusual had happened.

But Viking’s delight knew no bounds, nor did that of little Johnnie
Shingles.  The former went tearing round and round the deck, like a
hairy hurricane.

"If I don’t allay my feelings thus," cried Vike, "I shall go clean off
my chump."

Now it happened that Frank was on deck with his fiddle, ready to play to
the men as they got up the anchor.

But, seeing how matters stood, he instantly struck up a lively
schottische.

"Squawk--s--squaw--awk!" cried Old Pen, waving his flippers.

"Hurray!" cried Johnnie, and next moment he and his strange partner were
whirling round and round on the quarter-deck, in one of the maddest,
merriest dances that surely ever yet was seen.

And I don’t believe there was a soul on board who was not rejoiced that
Old Pen had returned once again.

That evening they were far away on the quiet and lonesome sea, and,
standing by the fire in the saloon warming his flat feet, one by one, as
usual, was Old Pen, while near him, sound asleep, lay Vike.

"Awfully good of the bird to come off in time, wasn’t it, boys?" said
the skipper, relighting his pipe. "If he hadn’t come back I should have
believed I was about to be deserted by all my good fortune.

"We are glad to see you, Pen, and hope you’ll never leave us again.  But
what put it into your silly noddle to go away at all, Pen?"

Pen made two hops of the space between him and the captain.  Then
leaning his head on his knee he looked up drolly with one eye--which
being half-closed gave him the appearance of winking.

"I did think of getting spliced, you know," he seemed to say, "and more
than one lovely Lady Pen asked me to fly with her to a foreign shore.
Nary a fly," says I, "not if Pen knows it.  Marriage is a precarious
kind of experiment, so after flirting around for a bit I remembered my
old friends and just floated off again."

                                  ――――

Fine weather all the way to the Cape, with stunsails set ’low and aloft
most of the time.

Ah, reader, there isn’t much to beat the life a sailor leads after all!

In foul weather?  Yes, foul or fine, and it isn’t always blowing big
guns at sea.

And Jack has no undergrowth of care to curl round the very roots of his
life, and try to swamp him.

If he does his duty--and what real sailor doesn’t?--he may be as happy
and jolly as the Prince of Wales, only a vast deal more so.

Besides, what Jack afloat is there, who has not some loved one to think
of when far away at sea; someone that he knows right well is thinking,
ay, and praying, for him.  So even in storm and in danger Jack may sing:

    "Blow high, blow low, let tempests tear
      The main-mast by the board;
    My heart with thoughts of thee, my dear,
      And love well stored,
        Shall brave all danger, scorn all fear.
          The roaring winds, the raging sea,
            In hopes on shore,
            To be once more,
          Safe moor’d with thee."

                                  ――――

The crow’s-nest had been taken down, but stride-legs on the
foretop-gallant cross-trees sat Frank one sunny forenoon.  Gently to and
fro swings the ship, the top-masts forming the arc of a great circle.
But Frank minds not the motion.

He is an ancient mariner now.

Or he thinks he is.

"On deck there!"

It is a shout which is half hysterical with joy.

"Land on the lee-bow.  The Cape, sir!  The Cape!"

Then a cheer rises up from far below that makes the very sails shiver.

Vike starts up and barks, and taking this for an invitation to dance,
Old Pen with a squawk and a squeal springs up, and next minute Johnnie
Shingles and he are wheeling round in fine style on the quarter-deck.

"Land!  Land!  Land!"  And, for a time at least, the dangers of the deep
are past.

                               BOOK III.

                 IN THE LAND OF THE NUGGET AND DIAMOND.



CHAPTER I.--SHIPWRECK ON A LONELY ISLE.


This book opens amidst scenery far different indeed from that which I
had to describe in my last.

I should like the reader to bear in mind that my youthful heroes were
very far indeed from being mercenary, and were just at that age, when
wild adventure appeals to the heart of a young fellow who has any spark
of manhood in his composition.

Certainly they had sailed in search of fortune, but it was not on their
own account they were seeking for wealth, as I have endeavoured to show.

Well, even already, they had been fairly fortunate. They had not buried
their talents in the earth, nor in the ocean either, and at the Cape of
Good Hope their cargo brought them in so much, that the fortunes of all
who had a share in the ship was not only doubled but tripled.

They had, immediately after clearing out, employed a gang of heathens,
as Morgan always called people with dark skins, to thoroughly scour and
disinfect the ship.  They had been employed for days at the work, under
the lash of a ganger, the ganger himself being under the watchful eye of
Morgan the first mate.

And so the work was perfectly done.

Then fresh and cleanly cargo was laid in, which would doubtless fetch a
big price in the London market.  This consisted of wool, firmly bound
and packed into small compass; ostrich feathers, and wine, to say
nothing of curios.  They did not quite fill up, however, hoping to make
even better bargains up the coast.

And so they did, especially as regards ostrich feathers, gum copal,
pepper, nutmegs and arrow-root.

They called at Zanzibar, one of the strangest cities on earth, and here,
while the _Flora M’Vayne_ lay quietly at anchor in the beautiful open
roadstead, where floated ships bearing the ensigns of at least half a
dozen different nations, the boys went on shore, taking Vike with them,
and enjoyed most thoroughly not only rambles through the crowded
streets, but out in the beautiful bush, where they could revel in the
rarest and most delicious fruits the world can grow.

I need but mention mangoes, guavas, and cocoa-nuts, to say nothing of
huge pine-apples, with the tropical sun-tints on their rough but shining
rinds, and perfume as sweet even as their luscious taste and flavour.

But here were no wild adventures, so that the lads were not sorry when
the anchor was once more weighed, and the ship far away on the heaving
sea.

It was the captain’s intention to be towed through the canal, but lo!
and alas! from the very first day of their leaving Zanzibar misfortune
attended them.

One of these terrible circular storms, all too common in the Indian
Ocean, and called typhoons, came roaring down upon them with scarcely a
minute’s warning.

The higher sails were blown into ribbons, the topgallant masts carried
away, and the gallant ship thrown so much on her beam-ends, that the
water came over the lee rails.

She righted again, it is true.  And speedily too; and now like some
living frightened creature she literally flew before the fearful storm.

As speedily as possible the sails that were not split were taken in.
This was a very dangerous employment, and one poor fellow was blown off
the yardarm.

Nicholson was his name, and he was a powerful swimmer, but useful though
this art of swimming is, what could it avail him in a sea like that!

For just a moment or two his brave and handsome face was seen among the
surf in the wake.

He waved his hand once, as if bidding his comrades all adieu, then sank
to rise no more.

As a rule, circular storms do not last for a very long time, and a good
sailor like Talbot knows how to manoeuvre his ship so as to get clear as
speedily as possible; but this typhoon ended in a gale, which in force
was quite a hurricane.

And this kept on for several days.

The last night was the worst.  About six o’clock in the evening the sun
went down in a brassy haze, behind the foam-crested turmoil of waves;
and the wind seemed still on the increase.

Not a star to-night.

It was pitchy dark, for the horizon was close aboard of the
storm-tormented ship, and the clouds may have been half a mile in depth.
There were two men at the wheel, and those who had to keep watch were
fain to lash themselves to rigging or shrouds.

But keeping watch is here but a figure of speech. What watch could be
kept in a dark so dark?  There was no thunder that could be heard, but
the occasional flashes of lightning that dazzled the eyes one moment
only rendered the darkness more intense the next.

It must have been about four bells in the first watch, and those in the
saloon were trying to obtain a kind of scrambling supper.  Old Pen had
come aft, and Vike was here too.  Both knew that to-night there was
danger on the deep.

Suddenly there came a shout from those on deck, this was followed by a
crashing sound like the splintering of masts, a loud grating noise, and
then all motion ceased.

"We are doomed, boys, but we must still continue to have faith in our
heavenly Father."

"Do you think, sir," faltered Frank, "that--that we are wrecked?"

"We are driven on shore, lad, but where, it is impossible to say."

The ship was already battened down, so that, although the seas were
making a clean breach over her, there was no immediate danger.

The mate found his way below.

His oil-skins were glittering with water, and his red face dripping too.

He shook the drops from his brown beard and sat down, with a strange
uneasy kind of smile on his face.

"Not much to be done, is there, Morgan?"

"Nothing," replied the mate.  "Seems to me we’ve just got to sit here
and wait for death."

"Is that the view you take?"

A terrible wave at that moment dashed over the vessel, shaking her from
stern to stem.

"Hark, sir!  Isn’t that the view you take?"

"While there is life there is hope, my friend."

The mate laughed half scornfully.

"There won’t be much of either half an hour after this," he said
solemnly.

The captain now essayed to go on deck.  He ventured forward only a step
or two.  To have come farther would have been sheer madness.

Morgan was right.  They had only to wait for death.

Wait and pray, however.

Ah, yes! for God the Lord is everywhere, on sea as well as on the dry
land, and prayer is never denied us.

Morgan’s half-hour was past, and another to that; still the sturdy ship
gave no signs of breaking up.

On the contrary, the wind had gone down considerably, and the seas as
well.

"Mate," said Talbot.

"Yes, sir."

"Are the men below?"

"Three, I think, were washed away; the rest are all in the galley or
half-deck."

"It is very dreadful.  But we have hope now.  An hour ago I should not
have ventured to serve out grog, lest in despair some might have broken
into the spirit-hold.  Come with me now, mate, and we will splice the
main-brace.  Come, steward, you know what is wanted."

It was very difficult even yet to get forward, so covered was the deck
with wreckage.  But they succeeded at last.

Sad, indeed, was the sight that dawn revealed.

The mizzen-mast alone was left standing, the fore and main having gone
by the board.

The ship herself had been carried by a huge tidal wave, right in between
two high volcanic-looking rocks, and there so jammed that at low tide it
was perfectly possible to walk under keel.

Jibboom and bowsprit were also smashed, and a single glance at the ship
would have told even a landsman that she was doomed.

Nor would it be safe even to remain on board, for at any time she might
slide backwards and lie on the shingle beneath, broadside up.

Talbot was no pessimist.

"Thank God, boys," he said, "that our lives have been spared."

"Amen!" was said by all around, and that, too, with both reverence and
fervour.

But the wind had fallen almost to a dead calm, and there was not a sound
to be heard except the rustle of the shingle as it was hurled upon the
beach by each advancing wavelet, and sucked back by the next.

"Now, men," cried the captain, "we’ll go to breakfast at once, and then
make all speed to land the cargo and stores.  This island is evidently
uninhabited, and it may be many a long day, indeed, before we are
discovered and able to get away."

On the shore side, and between the rocks, was a green bank, and into
this the shattered bowsprit had been thrust.  So that to make a rough
bridge from the fo’c’s’le to the shore was a very simple matter.

There were still thirty men left as crew all told of the unfortunate
_Flora_, not to mention Johnnie Shingles, Viking, and Old Pen, neither
of whose names were borne on the ship’s books.

But with such hearty good-will did the men work that before sunset, not
only had they erected a huge marquee with spare spars, the wreck of the
masts and sails, but had got a very large quantity of the most valuable
stores on shore.

It was a strange island indeed, and evidently of volcanic origin.  Not
very large, probably not six miles in circumference altogether.  It was
well wooded, though the trees were by no means high, and in the centre
was a beautiful circular lake, in which a lovely little island-grove
seemed to float or to hang.

Work was resumed next day, and the men now set themselves to build two
strong, substantial, living huts, a big and a smaller, with a rough but
dry shed for the stores and cargo, not forgetting the balloon and the
varied apparatus for inflating it.

It took them a whole week and a day to get everything snug and
comfortable; and all this time it continued calm.

But never a boat nor dhow was to be seen from the outlook.  The last was
simply a spare spar of considerable height, with rigging thereto.  It
was, moreover, a flagstaff by day and a beacon by night.  But I may
state at once that this uninhabited isle being fully two hundred miles
from the mainland shore, and quite out of the way of any kind of
commerce, licit or illicit, there was but small chance of any signal
being seen.

What made the situation more desperate was the fact that not a boat had
been left, all were smashed and washed away; three having gone before
the vessel struck.

But the greatest misfortune of all was the almost complete destruction
of the donkey-engine, so that it would be impossible to distil water.

They managed to save enough, however, to last for fully three weeks with
economy, and as Talbot said, there was no saying what might not occur
before then.

This water was carefully stored in casks, placed in sheltered corners,
and raised on stones to defend them against the ravages of the terrible
white ant.

A more terrible scourge than these _Termitidæ_ constitute, it would be
difficult to conceive.  What makes it more serious, is that they work
completely concealed--in galleries, that is.  And so thin is the outer
shell of wood which they leave that their presence is not suspected
until the whole of some structure--and this may be of any size, from a
wine-box to a building,--suddenly gives way.

These white ants once, to my knowledge, attacked a library of books
which had not been used for some time.  They were evidently fonder of
reading than the townspeople.  We talk of devouring a favourite author.
Well, in the case in point these terrible _Termitidæ_ devoured their
authors in a far more literal sense, and fairly ate them up, but they
left the bindings all intact, so that when a volume was pulled out one
day it turned Dead Sea fruit, and fell to dust in the librarian’s hands.
Then, and not till then, was the whole extent of the mischief
discovered.

Our little shipwrecked colony now settled down to wait and watch.

There was but little else to do.

They lived in hope, however, and day after day many a straining eye was
turned seawards, to seek for the sail that never appeared, and the last
thing at night which Talbot or the boys did was to walk around the edges
of the cliffs, in the expectation of seeing some mast-head light.

A fire was ready at a moment’s notice to light as a signal, but alas! it
was not required.

They had yet to find out, however, what these ants were capable of.

It was the water they dreaded most to lose. Without this they must soon
sink and perish.

Just one fearful accident I must here record, though I have no intention
to pile up horrors.

But in the expectation of rain one night a huge piece of waterproof
canvas was spread, or rather hung, by the four corners between as many
trees, hammock fashion.

The rain did come.

Water from the casks was at this time served out only in small
quantities, so that the poor mariners were already suffering greatly
from thirst.  They were overjoyed, therefore, to find their great
hammock almost full next morning.

They drank greedily of the apparently pure liquid, although some averred
that it tasted bitter.

Alas! it was poisoned!

For in about half an hour afterwards the men were suffering the most
excruciating agony.

Luckily, none of the officers had partaken of this water, which must
have been poisoned by the copper or some other chemical, with which the
canvas had been treated, to render it waterproof.

Before night, although Talbot gave everyone emetics of strong mustard
and water, treating them afterwards with wine and spirits, no fewer than
four poor fellows were dead.  The others got better, but continued weak
and ill for weeks.



CHAPTER II.--A WEARY TIME.


Yes, it was indeed a weary time that succeeded the alarming news brought
one morning to Captain Talbot.  For when the steward went to draw water
from a cask, he found the wooden tap leaking, and naturally endeavoured
to send it home a little.  At the very moment he did so the whole
collapsed, and the remains of the ant-eaten staves floated away in dust
or little else.

All the other casks were found to be in the same condition, so that the
mariners had nothing now to fall back upon except a kind of artificial
rain-water well, which they had found on the surface of a rock, and this
was most carefully covered over to prevent its evaporation by the rays
of the sun.

What a terrible outlook!  And no signs were there of further rain, not
even the tiniest cloud.

Well might they pray for rain now as did the prophet of old, for if it
fell not soon, sad indeed must be the fate of all.

The captain and first mate now held a consultation, and that night it
was decided that they should endeavour to build a boat of some kind, and
therein sail for the distant mainland.

Pity it was they had not thought of this sooner, for in two hours after
the decision had been arrived at, another circular storm arose.  Such
storms in the Indian Ocean are not infrequent, and terrible they are
while they rage.

Rain fell at first and at the latter part of it, otherwise it was a
burning hot wind, that caused one to choke and gasp for breath.
Nostrils and lips became dry, the mouth parched, and the eyes were like
coals of fire beneath their lids.

On this occasion the sea rose higher than it had done before.

A huge ocean bore, that could be seen even in the uncertain light of the
stars, came roaring on towards the rocks, and the spray dashed high over
the camp.

Next morning not a timber of the unfortunate _Flora M’Vayne_ was to be
seen.  She had been sucked backwards with that great tidal wave, and was
engulfed in the deeper water farther out.

As ill-luck would have it, most of the carpenter’s tools had been left
on board, for until the storm came on--when they had to rush on shore
for dear life’s sake--the men had been busy cutting out pieces of plank
with which to fashion a boat.

There was not the slightest chance of building such a thing now, and the
water grew scarcer and scarcer.

A raft was then thought of, but in the weakened condition of the men for
want of water it would take a long time to build.

    "There passed a weary time.  Each throat
      Was parched, and glazed each eye.
    A weary time!  A weary time!
      How glazed each weary eye!"


Once more fell rain.  Once more the little rocky tank, which was always
left exposed at night, was filled, and once again the men’s eyes
brightened.

During the gale of wind that had resulted in the wreck of the _Flora
M’Vayne_, the poor monkey had been washed overboard, but old Pen was
still here, and so, too, was honest Vike.

They had suffered as much from the want of water as anyone, but to the
credit of our heroes be it told, they received their daily water ration.

Old Pen used to waltz with joy when he had taken a drink, but Vike was
less demonstrative, only he never failed to lick the hand with loving
tongue that served the water out.

But hope rose higher now.  That water would last for weeks--would last,
perhaps, till water came again. Hope rose to a pitch of excitement that
no one who has never known shipwreck, or never known what it is to float
a mere hulk upon a breezeless sea, can form any conception of, when,
just as the sun leapt red and fiery above the main next morning, a
steamer was observed but a few miles away in the west.  God! how the men
rushed to the cliff edge, and how wildly they waved their arms, their
coats, and shouted. Shouted and shouted until every tongue

        "Seemed withered at the root;
    And they could not speak, no more than if
      They had been choked with soot".


But all in vain!

The ship passed on.

"They cannot have seen us!  They cannot have seen us!  Lower the flag to
half-mast.  Light the fire; they will see the smoke."

All this was done.

All this was done in vain.  There was not breeze enough to float the
flag.

The fire, too, was a failure.  No smoke arose, for the flames licked it
up.

No wonder the men gazed after the retreating vessel with weary, weary
eyes.

Oh, cruel, cruel, to desert us so!

This was all anyone could say.

And now Duncan bethought him of the balloon.

Surely there was some hope left in that.

As they sat under the shade of some dwarf and straggling trees, our
three younger heroes, with Captain Talbot and Morgan, they seriously
reviewed the whole question of their situation.  Not only Duncan, but
even Conal and Frank had become somewhat more earnest in their manner of
late.  Their sufferings had sobered them.

"Boats, and even a raft, are denied us," said Duncan, "and ships do not
come."

"No," answered Talbot; "and yet some British cruiser, or even an Arab
dhow, is bound to come this way before very long."

"It is just that which I greatly doubt, sir," said Morgan.  "We seem to
be landed at the back of the north wind, and out of the way of
everything."

"But the balloon," continued Duncan.  "I and Conal--"

"And I," interrupted the Cockney boy.

"Well, and you if the balloon is strong enough."

"It would carry you all, and a horse besides," said the skipper with
just the ghost of a smile.

"Well, we should ascend until we found a wind to carry us towards the
mainland, where we could descend and find assistance."

"It is a forlorn hope, Duncan."

"Seems to me, though, that it is our last chance," said Morgan.  "The
water can’t last long.  What if it rains no more for months.  All that
could ever be found of us in that case would be our skeletons bleaching
in the sun."

"Not so pessimistic, please, Morgan.  I still have hope in God.  If it
be His will to help us we shall be rescued.  If not, it is our duty to
submit."

Truly a brave man was Talbot.

And the merchant-service has many a thousand such, who, without doubt,
will be of infinite service to their country in our day of direst
need--when wild war comes,

    "In a fostering power, while Jack puts his trust
      As fortune comes--smiling he’ll hail her,
    Resign’d still, and manly, since what must be must;
      And this is the mind of a sailor."

                                  ――――

Talbot arose at last.

"I cannot go," he said, almost solemnly, after gazing for over a minute
at the blue above and the blue below, the sky without a cloud, the sea
without a ripple.  "For weal or for woe, boys, I must stay with my men.
Now am I resigned.  I will pray for you, lads, and so shall we all."

"But," he added, "serve out some water and a modicum of wine.  God bless
our poor fellows yonder, for their conduct and discipline have been
splendid. Many men in their hopeless condition would have broken into
the spirit stores and died maudlin drunk, or murderously mad."

The men quickly came to the call of "All hands!" and just as quickly
Talbot explained the position, and told them what the three youngsters
proposed doing. The cheer that followed his words was not a lusty one,
but it was very sincere.

And now, though with no nervous haste, the work of arranging and
inflating the balloon was commenced and for some days steadily proceeded
with.

On the third day dark clouds came sweeping down, and a thunder-storm
broke over the island.  What a God-send!  Somewhat unusual, too, for the
time of year.  Not only was the rocky tank filled with water and
rapidly-melting hail, but many hollows elsewhere, and every drop was
precious.

Compared with Andrée’s great Arctic balloon, the _Hope_, as Talbot’s had
been named, was quite a baby, but it was strong enough for anything, and
could have supported and carried far more than they needed for weeks
together.

Long before this, Talbot had instructed his youngsters in the art of
managing a balloon, and now there was little more for them to learn on
this score.

The inflation was completed at last.  The net, a very strong one, was in
its place.  The car attached, and the splendid ball dragged impatiently
at her moorings, as if longing to soar away into freedom.

Food, arms, ammunition, wine, and water--everything was in its place,
everything secure, yet handy.

Then the last night came.

It was clear and starry, with a bright scimitar of a new moon in the
west.

Duncan slept but little.  His mind was in a whirl of anxiety.  There
were so many things to think about, and they came cropping up in his
mind all in a bunch, as it were, all demanding explanation at once.

One thing which would grieve him very much was parting with Vike.
Animals have died of grief many times and oft ere now, and somehow he
felt that he would never see his favourite dog again.

But lo! about the first news he got next morning after getting up was
that Viking was missing.  He had evidently wandered away, it was
thought, and tumbled over a cliff.

When the boys went to bathe for the last time that morning they were
almost dumb with grief.

But while returning to camp they met Johnnie Shingles and Old Pen.

Both were capering with joy.

"Vike he all right, sah, foh true.  Golly, I’se shaking wid joy all
ober."

"And where is he?"

"In the sky-car, sah.  O ees, he dere shuah enuff."

It was true.  Vike evidently knew all about it, and had taken his seat
already.  Booked in advance!

He could not be coaxed out.  But he took his breakfast when handed to
him, and a drop of water afterwards.

"Boys," said Talbot, "you must take him.  It seems very strange, but it
also seems fate."

"Fate be it, then," said Duncan.

And indeed the poor fellow’s mind was greatly relieved.

                                  ――――

That very forenoon the great balloon was cast off, and with blessings
and farewells on both sides. Upward she soared into the clear blue sky,
and was soon seen by those below only as a tiny dark speck, no larger
than a lark.



CHAPTER III.--CHILDREN OF THE SKY.


I have been down in a diving-bell, and have traversed or been led
through the dark and seemingly interminable seams of a coal-mine, and
felt no very exaggerated sense of exhilaration in either situation, but
the glad free feeling one has when afloat in a balloon, and after the
first nervous shudder of trepidation has passed off, is well worth
risking life and limb to experience, and is, moreover, in my opinion, a
proof that man was made and meant for better things than grovelling on
earth like a stranded tadpole thrown out of its pond by the hands of
some idle school-boy.

It is always the unknown that strikes the greatest amount of terror into
man’s soul.  Therefore I claim for my young heroes the possession of an
amount of courage and pluck, that you shall seldom find in any other
hearts save those of British-born boys.

The balloon ascended with inconceivable rapidity at first, swaying just
a little from side to side, and causing the inmates to grasp the sides
of the car with some degree of nervous terror.  When, however, they
found that to fall out would be the most unlikely thing that could
happen, they took heart of grace, and began to laugh and talk.

"Isn’t it just too awfully lovely for anything," said Frank.  "I say,
you know, Conal, I’m a sort of sorry I didn’t bring my fiddle."

"It’s a fine sensation," said Conal.  "It must be just like going to
heaven."

"Yes"--from Duncan--"but we should have somebody to meet us when we got
on shore there.  But we don’t know where this aërial tour may end."

"Well, we’re going high enough anyhow," said Frank.  "And," he added,
"I’m not half so funky as I thought I’d be.  I’ve often thought, mind
you, that I’d like the going up in a balloon, ’cause there is plenty of
sky-room, and nothing to knock your head against. It was the thoughts of
alighting on earth again that always had terrors for me, hitting against
poplar-trees and steeples and such, or spiked on the weather-cock of a
town-hall and left to kick.  But this is glorious, and I suppose we’ll
get down all straight."

Duncan held down his hand to Viking, and the honest dog licked it with
his soft tongue.

"It is so good of you to take me, master," he seemed to say.  "I don’t
know where in all the world you’re off to, but you’re here, and that’s
good enough for old Vike."

"I say, Duncan," said Conal, "aren’t we taking an easterly direction?"

Duncan was rated "captain of the car", so all questions were referred to
him.

"It really looks a little like it," was the reply, "unless the island
down yonder, with our dear friends on it, has broken adrift, and is
bound for the mainland."

They could talk lightly, almost joyously now, so bracing was the air,
and so delicious the sensation of floating through space.

"I say, captain," said Frank, "hadn’t we better put another man to the
wheel, and tack and half tack for a time.  Or suppose we lie to, eh?"

"Providence is at the wheel, Frank, but we’re at the mercy of every
breeze that may blow."

They were evidently being driven out to sea, but there was no help for
it.

And so easterwards, ever easterwards, they drifted for many hours.  The
island itself was now but a little dark dot on the blue, and several
other islets had come into view, and latterly, oh, joy! a steamer.

Evidently on her way to China or Japan!

Could they communicate?

In case of meeting a ship, several tin flagons had been prepared and
ballasted, with letters in them.

The balloon was drifting but slowly now, and seemed to be on the turn.

Signals were accordingly made, while Conal, with the telescope, kept the
ship’s quarter-deck well under observation.

"Ha!" he cried, "they see us, and are signalling back."

Overboard now were thrown not one flask only, but three, and each would
tell the same story of the ship-wrecked mariners, dying slowly for want
of water on the lonely island far to the west.  The latitude and
longitude of this was given also.

It was evident that the flasks fell near the ship, for presently they
could see a boat lowered, as if to pick them up.  It soon returned to
the ship and was hauled up.

But for a long time those in the balloon waited in vain for a signal.
It came at last.  A flag--bright red--was hoisted to the peak and
rapidly lowered again.

Then the ship held on its course.

"Gracious heavens!" cried Duncan excitedly, "they are leaving our poor
friends to their fate."

"I do not believe it possible," said Frank.

"No, it cannot be.  See, see, they have stopped ship."

This was true.  And it was evident also that a consultation was being
held on board, as to whether they should really alter their course, and
seek for the uninhabited island and perishing mariners or not.

"I know how it is," said Duncan.  "It is, as usual, a question of money,
like everything else in the world. That is no doubt a mail steamer, and
the loss of time means a heavy fine, even though they might prove they
had been on an errand of mercy."

But to their infinite joy our heroes saw at last the ship’s prow turned
westwards.

Night fell now, down on the sea that is.  For at the great altitude
which they had attained the sun was still visible.

The very last thing they noted was that the captain of that steamer had
apparently changed his mind once more, and that the vessel was stopped.
There she lay without or breath or motion

    "As idle as a painted ship
      Upon a painted ocean".


"Cruel! cruel!" cried Frank.

"We must not judge," said Duncan.  "Down there it is now almost dark,
and in mercy let us believe they are merely dodging to await the
moonrise.

When day returned, the brave balloonists found themselves not over the
sea any longer, but over a dense dark forest of Africa’s mainland.

During the darkness a strange kind of stupor had weighed their eyelids
down, and every one had slept.

But the balloon had changed its course, and was now driving inland on
the wings of an easterly wind.

By aid of the telescope they could just perceive a long line of blue
’twixt the sky and the greenery of the woods.

But this itself soon disappeared as the balloon kept floating westwards
and away.

The last thing they had done was to throw over the car at intervals, as
they swept on, no less than six tell-tale flasks, and each had a little
white flag over it.

But now came the question--what was to be done? Would it not be better
at once to attempt a descent, and make their way eastwards through the
forests and across the streams, which they could see here and there like
silver strips among the woods and hills.

It was a question that needed some little consideration.

To alight in a forest did not seem feasible.  Here, to say nothing of
the danger of such a descent, they could find no natives to help them,
and they should be exposed to the attacks of wild beasts and venomous
reptiles.

They could see mountains far ahead, and among these there would
doubtless be many an inhabited glen; so they agreed to keep on for a few
hours longer.

"Besides," said Duncan, "there is a chance of a change of wind, which
will blow us coastwards far more quickly than we could ever get on
foot."

All hands were hungry, so breakfast would be a most enjoyable pastime.

Something more than a pastime, however.  They settled down to it
seriously, poor Viking standing up to receive his share.

Breakfast in a balloon--how strange it seems!

What did they have to eat?  Enough and to spare, but, saving the
biscuits--a considerable percentage of which was weevils fresh and
alive--all else was tinned meat.

They made a hearty meal nevertheless, washing it down with a modicum of
wine and water.

They were now ready for further adventures, but of course had no idea
what was in store for them.

Well, the forest was soon left far behind, and, much to their
astonishment, they perceived mountains ahead of them so high that snow
lay white on their conical summits.

In an hour or two they were over a charming valley, and so low down that
they could see the black natives running about in a great state of
excitement, having evidently caught sight of the aeronauts.

"Fortune favours the brave," cried Duncan exultantly. "Here shall we
descend, and make assurance doubly sure, and the safety of our friends
certain."

With a little manipulation of the valves, a descent was made far more
easily than any one could have imagined.  Anchors were let go, and soon
it was possible for all hands, including even Vike, to get out of the
car.

An innovation awaiting them which they had little expected.  Here were
at least a thousand spear-armed warriors assembled, and as they came
towards them, all threw themselves on their faces, or bent themselves in
attitudes of worship.

"Here’s a wind-up to a windy day," cried Frank laughing.  "Why, these
chaps evidently take us for gods!"

"It would seem so," said Duncan, "but I for one don’t feel quite up to
that form."

One of the savages was held aloft in a kind of sedan-chair, and was
evidently the chief or king.  He was the most hideous-looking savage it
is possible to imagine; extremely corpulent, with a cruel, cut-throat
expression of face; small deep-set eyes, and cheeks covered with
parallel scars about an inch long.  His hair in front hung straight down
in tiny ringlets over a retreating forehead.

One should never show fear before savages.  Duncan knew this, and
walking boldly up to the huge travelling throne he saluted him in an
off-hand way, and addressed him in English.

His majesty only shook his hideous head, but pointed with his spear
towards his army.

Every one sprang up and stood erect, but silent as the grave.

"C’rambo!" said the king.

And C’rambo advanced smiling.

Very different was this tall, lithe, and supple-looking savage to any
about him.  His skin was yellow instead of black.  His smile was a
forbidding, sarcastic leer, and although our heroes knew nothing of
African savages, any coasting sailor could have told them this man was a
Somali.

In his right hand he carried three ugly spears, one of which was
attached by a cord to his wrist, while on his left forearm was a small
round shield--such as are worn by the tribes on the eastern coast north
of the line.

This fellow first salaamed to the chief, addressing him in a harsh and
guttural jangle of words.  Then he turned haughtily towards our heroes.

"Who am you, and whe’ you comes from?"

"First and foremost," replied Duncan, quite as haughtily, "who are you?
Whose country are we in, and how far from the coast are we?"

"Humph!  You feels dam bold, eh?  Suppose I holds up my leetle white
finger, King Slaleema’s men den cut all your troats plenty much quick."

In spite of a feeling of doubt and fear that dwelt at his heart, Duncan
burst out laughing.

"Your little white finger, my friend, is as yellow as a duck’s foot.

"You see this little revolver?" he added.  "Your life and five more of
your beastly lot, including your pig of a king, lie in these chambers.
Have you any particular longing to be stretched?  If not, civility will
pay you.  Now, will you answer?"

Both Frank and Conal, following their captain’s lead, had laid their
hands on their pistol-butts.

"Pay?" said the fellow.  "S’pose you gift me, I do most anything.  Wot
you wants foh to know?"

"We will give you gifts.  What would you like?"

"English food, tools, a lifel (rifle).  Money no good."

"You’re modest, but we are liberal.  How far are we from the coast?"

"Foh one Englishmans six week.  Foh one gentleman Somali, plaps one."

"How many miles?"

"I not count, free undled, plaps.  Plaps mo’.  Plenty savage, plenty
folest (forest), lion, tiger, and ’gators in de ribbers.  Pletty soon de
gobble up poo’ little Englishmans."

"Where did you learn your English?"

"At de court ob de Sultan ob Zanzibar.  But I cut de troats ob two tree
men and den fly in one canoe. I now King Slaleema’s plime minister."

"And a bonnie ticket you are," said Duncan.  "Now, listen; if you will
carry a letter to Lamoo and bring an answer you shall have a gun on your
return with the reply.  The letter shall be for the Sultan.  Are you
agreed?"

The fellow seized Duncan’s hand and pressed it to his brow.

"De bargain am made," he cried.  "I’se ready.  All de way I run.
Carrambo hab de good legs."

"Who called you Carrambo?"

"De dam Portugee.  I cut tree, four troats all de same."

The recollection caused him to laugh.  But he now spat viciously on the
ground.

"De Portugee all fools.  Pah!" he cried in disgust.

"Now," he added, "I ver goot man.  I not cheatee you.  I come back
plenty twick (quick).  Bling de answer all same too.  But take care."

"Care of what?"

"Ob you’ dam troats.  Dese savage tink you come flom ’eaben (heaven).  I
tell ’em, dis quite tlue. S’pose dey not b’lieve, den dey kill and eat
you."

"Hah!  Cannibals, are they?  How very comforting!"

"Eberyone cannibals heah.  De dog, dey tink, am de debbil.  Again I say
to Slaleema, all tlue."

"Well, Carrambo, perhaps you are a much more honest fellow than you
look.  And you don’t look a saint."

"All beesiness, sah.  You gib me one gun and plenty ’munition, den I
selve (serve) you.  S’pose a Portugee say I gib you tree gun, cut all
der troats; I cut all your troats plenty much quick, and King Slaleema
he gobble you up foh tlue."

"You’re an honest, faithful fellow, Carrambo," said Duncan
sarcastically.

"Beesiness, sah, beesiness," replied the prime minister.  "Wot dis wo’ld
be widout beesiness, tell me dat?"

Carrambo held his head a little to one side and both open palms out in
front of him.

As, however, the question was too philosophical in its nature, Duncan
made no reply.

"’Scuse me one moment, sah."

He hurried away, and presently afterwards reappeared from behind a hut,
dragging a poor little naked girl by one hand.

"You take lifel and s’oot de chile," he said.  "She foh de king’s
dinner.  Dis will make one good implession on dese pore ignolant
savages."

This might have been true, but Duncan nevertheless did not see his way
to become the king’s executioner.

He shot a fowl, however, and at the flash and report the savages, who
had never seen white men before, and never heard the sound of a gun,
screamed wildly, and rushed off with such precipitation, that they
seemed to be all a mist of long black scraggy legs and arms.

But Carrambo’s voice recalled them, and they returned awed and
terror-struck.

The dead fowl, moreover, was evidence of the terrible power possessed by
these great "children of the air".

What might they not do next?

These innocent wretches trembled to think.  I call them innocent simply
because they knew not sin.

"If then," says the apostle, "knowing these things, happy are ye if ye
do them."

For knowledge brings with it responsibility, and this neglected is
accounted to us as sin.

This night our young heroes spent in the car of the balloon, and honest
Viking went on guard.  But even if the savages--for savages they were of
the most demoniacal type--possessed any longing to do them to death,
fear, natural and supernatural, deterred them.

Next morning early, Carrambo, the king’s prime minister, departed upon
his long and dangerous mission, taking two young warriors with him, and
promising faithfully to return in two weeks at the farthest.

"S’pose you not see me den," he added sententiously, "den I gone deaded
foh tlue."

The place seemed more lonesome now that Carrambo had gone, for,
scoundrel though he undoubtedly was, he was someone to speak to.

They now began seriously to consider their situation and prospects.

In their heart of hearts they believed that they had been the means of
sending succour to their marooned shipmates, on that lonely isle of the
ocean.  Their minds were easy enough on that score, for if even the
steamer they had hailed had resumed her course without making any
attempt to find the isle and rescue the mariners, the Sultan of Lamoo,
Duncan fully understood, had always been friendly with the British, and
would immediately despatch assistance in some shape or other.

Duncan, before doing anything else, got out his instruments of
observation, and as well as could be made out, the glen in which they
were virtually imprisoned was between two and three hundred miles off
the coast, and some degrees south of the line.

He was puzzled at first as to why the place had never been discovered by
British explorers.

But there are hundreds of such tribe-lands that have never yet been
trodden by the foot of Christian men.

There was one clue to the mystery, however, and this was probably the
true one, but they did not find it out just then.

"Now," said Duncan, "for a visit of ceremony to that fat old pig of
king.  And we must take him some presents, too."

Duncan had not forgotten that there were on board the _Flora_ many large
and beautiful strings of beads, which had been intended for bartering
with any natives they might meet, and he had stowed away many such in
the balloon car.

"Come, Conal, or Frank," he said, "I don’t care which.  But one of you
with Vike must stay by the car and stand by your guns, in case the
cupidity of these cut-throat natives gets the better of their fear."

"I’ll stay," cried the Cockney boy, as pluckily as ever Englishman
spoke.

So down the hill towards the village, revolvers in their belts and
rifles cocked, marched Duncan and Conal.

They found the king sitting cross-legged outside his kraal or great
grass hut, and being assiduously fanned by his wives.

These were no beauties, but Duncan lifted his cap and salaamed to the
king first and then to them.

They seemed both pleased and tickled, and giggled inordinately, until
the king rounded on them, scowling and drawing his fore-finger across
his throat in a most significant manner.

The young Britons, as they approached his majesty, tried not to look at
the awful remains of his last night’s feast, but the sickening sight
obtruded itself upon them in spite of all they could do.

Besides the beads, they had brought with them a four-pound tin of
preserved beef.

They had expected his majesty to take a little of this, but were not a
little surprised when he seized the tin and began digging out and
swallowing huge lumps of it, with a guttural ejaculation of delight
between each mouthful.

"Goo--goo--goo!" he exclaimed, as with about a yard of hideous tongue he
finished off by licking out the tin.

"Nothing more horrible have I ever seen!" said Duncan.

"That is true," said Conal.

The king threw down the empty tin--he couldn’t swallow that--smiled,
nodded, and pointed towards the clouds.

"Goo--goo--goo--" he cried interrogatively.

Duncan nodded and smiled in turn, although he had wished the brute had
choked himself.

But the horror of the brothers is not to be described when, at a call
from the king, accompanied by a string of words that consisted mostly of
vowels, two slaves came forward and offered them the roasted forearms of
a child--no doubt those of the girl which Carrambo had asked them to
shoot the day before.

They turned away, and shook their heads, but fearing to give offence,
immediately presented his majesty with a string of beautiful beads.

His delight was childish-like and unbounded, and he immediately called
for his sedan-chair of bamboo cane, and was trotted through the village
of huts that his subjects might admire him.

That same forenoon Duncan, accompanied only by Viking, went on a voyage
of discovery as he called it. He wanted to find out the lay of the land.

Two natives, impelled by curiosity, followed him, and when he beckoned
to them and gave each a bead, they readily accompanied him as escort.

Vike kept aloof.

He didn’t like the looks of these savages.

But after climbing a conical hill, Duncan found out the true reason for
the isolation of these savages. Their country was at least a thousand
feet above the level of the land.  And this last, except on one side
where the mountains hid their snow-capped heads in the clouds,
everywhere were dark and seemingly impenetrable forests.



CHAPTER IV.--TREASURE-HUNTERS.  THE FOREST.


The exact topography of Cannibal Glen, as the boys had named this
blood-reeking territory, was, however, not the only discovery made
to-day.

The other was singular in the extreme.  It was nothing less than that of
a ruined fort, at no great distance from the place where the balloon was
anchored, but high up on the side of a hill and surrounded by a clump of
trees.

The fort was built of stone, and still of considerable strength, and so
constructed that it could be defended, if occasion demanded, by two
resolute young men against four score savages.

Duncan thought it somewhat strange, that there was no footpath leading
towards it, and that it seemed to be avoided by the natives.

They found out afterwards that the place had been the scene of a cruel
massacre of white men--Portuguese without a doubt--and that it was now
supposed to be the abode of evil spirits.

All the better for our young adventurers.  And they made up their minds
to take possession of the old fort the very next day.

That afternoon, however, they removed everything from the car of the
balloon, and camped just a little way therefrom.

They had lit a fire really more for the sake of light than heat, and
for, many hours after the sun’s last glow tipped the snowy summits of
the mountains with pink and blue, and the stars had come out, they sat
here talking of home.  But not of home only, but of their future
prospects.

"From several strange cavities I have observed in my rambles to-day,"
said Duncan, "I have come to the conclusion that the white men who built
that fort were also miners.  Everything points to this fact, and also,
alas! to that of their murderous extermination by fire and by the spears
of these fiendish savages."

"Yes, Conal, it may have been many long years ago, centuries perhaps,
but who can say what discoveries we may not make next.  There may be
buried treasure!"

Both Conal and Frank opened their eyes wider now.

"What!" cried Frank, "you think--"

"I don’t think, Frank, my boy, I am reasoning from analogy, as it were.
First and foremost, it is not for nought the glaud whistles."

"I don’t hitch on," said the Cockney boy.

"The glaud," said Conal by way of explanation, "is a wild Scottish hawk,
that always whistles aloud before darting on his prey."

"The glaud in this case," said Duncan, "is the Portuguese, who never go
into any savage country except for the sake of treasure or plunder.

"Secondly," he continued, "if the band were all massacred, they
doubtless had hidden their dust, and it is evidently there still.
Thirdly, these cannibal outcasts care nothing for gold, and would at any
time give a large and valuable diamond for a coloured bead."

"I do declare," cried Frank, "I sha’n’t sleep a wink to-night for
thinking of all this.  Duncan, you are clever!"

"Have you only just found that out?" said Conal, laughing.  Conal was
proud of his brother.

"And now," said Duncan, "shall we, after a few days of exploration, get
into the balloon once more, and try to find our way to the sea-shore."

"Before I could answer that question myself," he added, "I would like to
think it all out, and so I move that we curl up."

Wrapped in their warm rugs--for, at this elevation, though in
mid-Africa, a rug is almost a necessity at night--the boys were soon
asleep beside the fire, and no one was left on guard except dear old
Vike.

He slept with one eye open, or one ear at all events, and was likely to
give a good account of any savage who might come prowling around the
camp.

But, by way of making assurance doubly sure, the adventurers slept with
loaded revolvers close beside them.

They slept heavily.

And that, too, despite the roaring of lions far down in the plains
below, and the unearthly shrieks of goodness knows what, that came, ever
and again, from the dark depths of the forest.

The sun was just rising over the distant green and hazy horizon when
Duncan sat up.

He rubbed his eyes, and gazed around him almost wildly.

"Conal, Frank," he cried them, "awake! awake! Where is the balloon?"

Had there been any echo it might well have answered "Where?"

The balloon was gone!

The explanation was not difficult.  For, relieved of its load, it had
quietly slipped its moorings during the darkness and gone on a voyage on
its own account, goodness only knows where.  And our heroes would never
see it more.

To say that they were not deeply grieved would be far short of the
truth.  The loss seemed to cut them off entirely from the outer world.

But their hearts were young and buoyant, and so they did not mourn long.

After breakfast, indeed Duncan, who was the recognized leader, laughed
lightly, saying as he did so:

"Come, you fellows, don’t look so blue.  Perhaps the loss of the balloon
is a blessing in disguise."

"I don’t quite see it," said Frank.

"No, you don’t see the balloon.  You’ve looked your very last on that;
but listen to logic: We might have journeyed away in that balloon and
been carried into regions from which we never could have got free
again."

"True enough!" said Conal.

Indeed everything his brother said was right in Conal’s eyes.

"Well," said Frank after a pause, "I’m not going to bother about it.
The Pope was correct in saying, ’What is, is right.’"

"It wasn’t the Pope, Frank, but Pope the poet."

"Ah, well, it doesn’t matter; only I had such grand dreams last night."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, indeed.  I was wandering through the diamond mines of Golconda,
with Aladdin’s lamp in one hand and a horse’s nose-bag in the other.
And I filled that nose-bag too, you bet."

"Well, Aladdin, or not Aladdin, I move now that we move up the hillside
and take formal possession of the Portuguese old fort."

"I second the moving motion," said Conal.

So Duncan and Conal became the carriers; Frank, with Vike, remaining
below on guard until everything was taken up.

It took them the whole of that day, and the next as well, to settle down
in their new quarters, and to make everything snug and comfortable.

To their great delight, at the foot of a rock not far off they found a
small well with a spring of the coldest water, bubbling up through the
rocks.

It was partly no doubt on account of this very well, that the former
inhabitants of the fort had chosen this spot as their habitat.

One room, and one only, of the ruin was roofed, and this they commenced
to overhaul and thoroughly clear and clean.

They shuddered somewhat, however, when they came across human bones, and
these had been charred by fire, and so told a terrible tale.

But Duncan and his comrades were not to be daunted, and determined to
make this their living-room, for no matter how hard the rain might fall,
their stores would be dry and safe.

Besides the door, there was one opening which had been a window.

It was at first proposed to barricade it up, but this would have
prevented ventilation, and shown fear also.

"I have it!" cried Frank.

"Well?"

"Erect two skulls.  There they are all ready to hand."

This was done.

The terrible relics were fastened to short poles, and one was stuck at
each side of the window outside.

                                  ――――

For a time, at all events, the boys might well consider themselves safe,
for superstition is far more deep and rife in heathen lands than it is
in Christian, and that is saying a good deal.

"I do think all this is rather jolly than otherwise," said Frank a
morning or two after they had got nicely settled, as he termed it, "and
I wouldn’t mind living here for some time."

"I’m afraid we’ll have to, Frank," said Duncan, laughing.

"Bar the vicinity of that ugly king, and his crowd," Conal put in.

"But you must admit, captain, that there is a spice of romance in this
mode of life, and I wouldn’t mind much what happened to me, if there was
a ground-work of romance in it."

Frank was reminded of these remarks by his fellows some time after this,
and after a thrilling adventure, in which he happened to be
first-person-singular.

"But I say," he added, "what shall we call ourselves? Crusoes?  Eh?"

"I think," said Conal, "that a Crusoe must live on an island."

"Hermits, then."

"No.  You can’t have a plurality of hermit.  A hermit is a hermit, and
he is all by himself.  If a lot of people come and live in the same
place he is a hermit no longer."

"Solitaires," suggested Duncan.

Conal laughed aloud.

"Why," he cried, "you stupid old Duncan, a solitaire is a sleeve-link or
collar-stud or something."

"Foresters, then."

"Fiddlesticks!  The forest is miles away."

"Treasure-hunters?"

"That’s better.  And we’d best leave it at that."

"Well, having made everything snug, suppose we go and see the fat king
again."

"Good! and then go and fish.  There is a nice little stream down here,
and we might even have a peep into the forest."

"Happy thought!" said Frank.

Frank’s mind, by the way, was partially built upon happy thoughts, and
there was always one or two ready to bob up on the surface.

"What now, Frank?"

"We’ve lots of wine, and we won’t drink it.  Suppose we take King Pig a
bottle."

They did so, and also some more beads.

They marched--that is, Frank and Duncan, Conal being left at home to
keep house--straight to the king’s kraal.

They sang as they entered the village, seeming to know by instinct what
I had to learn from experience, that a happy, independent, and careless
manner goes a long way to impress savages with one’s superiority.

The cannibal king was just getting up.  He had eaten too much the night
before, and overslept himself.  But he seemed glad to see our heroes,
smiled, and poked his black, fat fingers funnily towards them.

His hut was a big one, but something in it immediately caught Frank’s
eye.  It was a huge, black, and horribly ugly doll.  The king’s god,
without a doubt.  It was as black as the ace of clubs, with red lips and
white tusks.  The eyes seemed to glare at the intruders, but the
intruders didn’t mind.

Frank drew nearer to it, for something in this wooden god’s head shone
with a light that was perfectly dazzling.  Anyone could have seen it was
a diamond of the purest water.

How could he secure it? that was the question. Why, that stone was a
fortune in itself.  Robbing a cannibal king might not be much of a
crime, but the treasure-hunters recoiled from the idea.

Barter!  Ha! that indeed.  Finance is a fine thing!

Frank held out a handful of beautiful beads, and pointed to the god’s
grinning head.

But the king looked frightened, and shook his head.

Frank replaced the beads in his pocket.

The king looked wofully sad.

"The wine," said Frank, and Duncan produced it. He poured some out into
a little tin cup and drank, then corked the bottle.

"Goo--goo--goo!" exclaimed the king, excitedly.

"Why, the old rogue," said Duncan, "knows what it is.  Let him smell the
bottle."

"Confound him, no!  He’d seize and drink the lot."

But he handed him some in a cocoa-nut shell, and having gulped that
down, he handed the shell back to be refilled.

Frank laughed, but shook his head.

He now offered the beads and the bottle for the diamond, and at once the
cannibal yielded.

He waddled over towards the god, and digging out the glorious gem with
the point of an ugly crease--which doubtless had slit many an innocent
throat--he handed it to the financier, Frank Trelawney.

Frank first put it carefully in his pocket, then he proceeded to insert
three beautiful and large beads in the hole in the god’s forehead, left
empty by the abstraction of the gem.

"Goo--goo--goo!" cried the king.

"Don’t be a big baby!  You’ll have the wine in a brace of shakes".

Determined to be honest, Frank not only placed a string of beads about
the neck of the idol, but a larger and more handsome one over the king’s
broad brisket. Then he gave him nutful after nutful of sherry till there
wasn’t a drop left in the bottle.

The king thought he would sing now.

His song was like the snoring of an Indian frog. But the king was happy.

So was Frank.

"I say, Duncan," he said, "a knowledge of finance is an excellent thing.
And honesty is the best policy, isn’t it?  Well, we’ve made one man
happy this morning.  It is very soothing to one’s conscience, and
really, Duncan, I wouldn’t mind making a few more cannibals happy--"

"At the same price?"

"That’s it," said Frank.

The king slept, and, leaving his wives to fan him, the boys slipped
away.

They now went back "home", as they called the haunted fort, then
arranged for a day’s sport.

The stream they soon reached was close to the forest, and seemed alive
with fish.  The tackle which they used was simple but effective.  Not
original either, for country boys in Scotland constantly use it, and
though the marvellously-dressed and fully-equipped Englishman may fish
all day and catch nothing, the ragged urchin not far off is making a
string of dozens--a string that the Cockney eventually purchases and
palms off as the result of his own prowess.

Such is life!  But the tackle?  Oh, yes, the tackle! Well, it was a bent
pin, a short string and rod, with a morsel of an insect for bait.

But Duncan and Frank made a discovery to-day that was alarming.

After catching sufficient fish to suffice for more than one hearty meal,
they hid their rods and tackle in the bush, and ventured to march
towards the forest.

It was terribly darksome and gloomy, with very little undergrowth, and
as they knew there were lions about they ventured forward with great
caution, keeping close together, treading lightly, and keeping a good
look-out on every side.

They had not gone far before they found that this great woodland was the
abode of creatures, probably quite as much to be dreaded even as lions.

The first part they traversed, however, was apparently a land of
delight, just as it was a land of the most brilliant flowering trees and
shrubs, among which thousands of bright-winged birds chattered and sang,
while parrots by the score mimicked them.

"Surely," said Frank, "we have come to paradise at last!  Did ever you
see such glorious fruit?  Oh, we must indulge, Duncan, and carry back
some guavas and mangoes to poor lonely Conal and Viking."

They did indulge, and that too without stint.

But this paradise soon drew to an end.

"Anyhow, Duncan," said Frank, cheerfully, "we shall know now where to
find both fish and fruit."

"Hark!"

Well might he say hark.

The sounds that now broke harsh and terrible upon their ears would have
appalled older and stouter hearts than theirs.



CHAPTER V.--FIGHTING THE GORILLAS.


Frank and Duncan had undoubtedly been rash. They had penetrated for
fully a mile into the gloomy depths of this dark, primeval forest.  The
sun-life of beautiful birds and luscious fruits--Frank’s paradise--they
had left far behind.  Here was nothing that could be called inviting:
slimy, rotting leaves on the bare ground, with here and there a huge and
ugly toadstool; and the branchless trunks of mighty trees covered with
white and yellow mildew or flour-like fungi.  And these trees towered
skywards, forming a dark green canopy overhead, that no sunlight could
ever penetrate, nor moonlight or star-rays at night.

The silence for some time had been both cold and irksome.  I cannot
otherwise describe it.

But now that dread silence was broken, and not only high overhead, but
far away in front, the forest suddenly awoke into a sylvan pandemonium.

What yells, what shrieks, what hoarse and fearful cries!

The boys instinctively drew closer together, and stood ready to shoot.

But nothing appeared, though the awful noises increased rather than
diminished.

Frank saw Duncan’s lips moving, but he could hear nothing.

Surely they were in a demon-haunted forest.

They looked at each other, then at once commenced a speedy retreat.

They ran as fast as ever they had done at school, and up behind them
came the roar of the demons.  But they could see no creature as yet,
though they often glanced furtively behind them.

The enemy, however, seeing that they were but little more than a hundred
yards from the sunlight, mustered up courage for the attack.

And down from the trees they leapt--a score, at least, of hideous,
long-armed, hairy gorillas.

If they did not possess the courage, they at all events had far more
than the strength of ordinary men.

As they advanced they beat their breasts furiously, uttering savage
cries.

"A clear head now!" shouted Duncan.

Both young fellows leaned their rifles against trees to make sure of
their aim.

Br-rang!  Br-rang!

The sound awakened the echoes of the ugly forest, and two gorillas fell
dead.

There was a silence of fully fifteen seconds, and the boys went hurrying
on again.

Then came wailings and howlings, as of grief, but these were quickly
changed to yells of anger, and on they came once more.  They soon
overtook our two heroes, who, after firing with good effect, drew their
revolvers and made a running battle of it.

Luckily they never once allowed these fiendish monsters to get into
grips, else speedily indeed would they have been throttled to death.

Out into the sunshine, the glorious life-giving sunshine at last.  And
now they were safe.  They crawled rather than walked as far as a little
stream that trickled from a rock, and threw themselves down exhausted.

But youth soon recovers from exertion, and terror too, and so they
finally found themselves back at the ruined fort loaded with both fruit
and fish.

Happy indeed was Conal to see them, for, far away from the fort though
the forest was, he had listened appalled to the awful medley of yells
and shrieks, and made sure they were being murdered.

"Hillo!" cried Frank, cheerful once again--and hungry also--and it seems
to me Frank was always hungry--"Hillo!  Why, you have actually dinner
ready?"

"Yes," said Conal, laughing.  "Vike and I found some sweet-potatoes and
we cooked these."

"But that splendid fish you are broiling?"

"Ah! isn’t she a beauty?  But you should have seen the little girl who
brought it, carrying it on a little grass rope.  She was a beauty too.
And we had quite a little flirtation."

"Conal!  I’m--"

"Oh, are you, indeed? but I don’t mind.  I gave Umtomie--that’s her
pretty name--two lovely beads, and she sat there and sang to me, so
sweetly!  Then she brought me a calabash full of water, and, smiling
over teeth quite as white and even as a pointer puppy’s, she waved her
hand, her lily hand--no, her raven hand--"

"That’s more truthful, Con."

"And off she trotted once again."

"Then, I suppose," said Frank, "the sunshine went all out of your life,
eh?"

"Well, there did seem to be a partial eclipse or something.  But down
you sit to chow-chow."

Down they did sit, and a right hearty meal they made.

It was Conal’s turn to go sporting the next day. But he and Duncan gave
the forest a wide berth, and so nothing very wild in the shape of
adventure fell to their lot.

                                  ――――

Much time was spent every day now in prospecting.

Duncan couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that the hands that built that
strong fort had not dug for and found both gold and diamonds.

And he determined, if possible, to find some also.

Unluckily they had no mining-tools, neither spade, shovel, nor pick-axe.

But Frank was a boy of infinite resources.

"Why not make miners’ tools?" he said.  "We have chisels and hammers and
what not, and there is a tree growing yonder that is as hard as iron!"

"What!  Another happy thought, Frank?"

"Yes, Duncan, my brave old captain, and I haven’t got half-way to the
bottom of my mine of happy thought yet."

Well, picks and spades were now actually fashioned, partly by tools,
partly by fire.  And then the boys set to work with a will to open the
old mines.

They had worked for a whole week, but without success, when one evening
a loud and awful trumpeting told them that elephants had arrived on the
plains below, or were passing through the country of the cannibals for
pastures new.

"What a splendid chance for sport!" cried Frank.

"Yes," said Conal.  "Fancy bagging a few elephants. Tuskers, don’t they
call them, brother?"

"Yes, in India the males are so named, but here in Africa both sexes
have tusks, though those on the he ones are bigger, and are said to be
better ivory."

It was determined, therefore, to march against the elephants next day,
and neither Conal nor Frank could sleep very well for thinking of it.

Now, though I have no desire to be hard upon my heroes, I must say that
I am not sorry for what happened, because elephants--next to our friend
the dog--are probably the wisest and most innocent animals in the world.

When, therefore, Duncan next forenoon killed a lady elephant and Conal
wounded a bull, the lady being his wife, it was no wonder he should lose
his temper and charge right down on the lad.

To fly was impossible.  There was no refuge anywhere.  But Conal did
attempt to retreat.  He stumbled and fell, however, and next moment the
awful foe was upon him.  A less brave boy would have fainted, but there
was no such weakness about Conal, though he felt his hour was come, and
Duncan, who was fully eighty yards away, could not assist him.  He put
his hands to his eyes to avoid being a witness to the dreadful death of
his brother, which now seemed inevitable.

The wounded monster had dashed forward trumpeting, but, once alongside,
though blood was jerking from a wound through one of his eyes, he
attacked immediately.  He knelt beside the boy’s prostrate form and
attempted to tusk him.  The terrible snorting, blood-streaming head was
close over him.  But, with the quickness and cuteness of a professional
footballer, Conal rolled himself between his legs, and now the brute
attempted to squash him to death with his knees, and Conal managed,
strange to say, to avoid each stroke.

It was really a tussle for life, and, unable to bear the sight any
longer, Duncan came rushing on now towards the scene of conflict,
apparently determined to die with Conal if he could not rescue him.

The boy seemed to be dead, and was almost under the elephant.  But
Duncan took steady aim, and the bullet put out the poor beast’s other
eye.  He staggered to his feet now, and, stumbling and trumpeting as he
went, made directly back to the herd.

Conal was bruised and sore, as well he might be, but otherwise intact,
and the two hunters now made for higher ground.

Now I do not know the reason for what followed. I can but guess it, and
give the reader facts.  Only, when the great bull regained the herd,
which, by the way, numbered only about a score, he fell, or rather threw
himself down in front of his companions.

"Kill me now," he seemed to plead.  "My mate is dead, and I am blind and
in pain.  Put me out of my misery."

Next moment the killing had commenced.  The bull never winced nor moved,
and his companions trode him to death before the eyes of their human
persecutors.

"Let us go back to the fort," said Duncan sadly. "A more heartrending
sight I never have seen. Conal, I have shot my first and my last
elephant."

When they told Frank all the sad story, he, too, agreed that
elephant-shooting is not sport, but the cowardly murder of one of the
most noble animals ever God placed on earth.

                                  ――――

Strange to say, every day that Conal was left at the fort to do the
watching and the cooking, little Lilywhite, as he now called the wee
savage lassie, came to pay him a visit, her eyes all a-sparkle, her two
rows alabaster teeth flashing snow-white in the sunshine.

Nor did she ever come without a fish, which she herself had caught.  So
tame did she become, that he could trust her to attend to the fire, for
which she gathered wood, turn the fish with a wooden fork, and gather
and cook the sweet-potatoes or yams.

Of course Frank chaffed Conal unmercifully about this lady-love,
Lilywhite, of his.

But Conal cared nothing for that.

"You can’t do less than marry her, you know," he said one day.  "It
would be cruel to trifle with the young lady’s affections."

"I shouldn’t think of doing less than leading her to the altar," said
Conal.  "I should hate a breach of promise case."

They still paid many visits to the king, but though he frequently asked
for "goo-goo" (wine), no goo-goo was given him for the present.

At last, oh joy! news came from the far-off outer world.  For Carrambo
returned.

A little thinner he looked, but maintained the same nonchalant air.

He handed Duncan a letter, and as it was written in a bold English hand
he tore it nervously open.

"Flom de skipper of de _Pen-Gun_," said Carrambo. "When I see de
gun-boat lie in de ribber of Lamoo, I say to myse’f, ’No good bother wid
the Sultan.’  Den I go on board.  All boo’ful white deck; all shiny
blass, and black big gun; and de men all dress in sca’let and blue.  Oh,
dam fine, I ’ssure you.  De skipper he take me below and give me
biscocoes and vine till I not can dlink mo’.

"He read the letter.  He den write anoder and soon I go again."

"Ten thousand thanks, Carrambo.  You have earned your rifle.  My brother
and I shall teach you to shoot, and if when we make an attempt to leave
this wild land, you will come with us to be our guide to Lamoo many
another present you shall receive besides."

Lieutenant-commanding H.M.S. _Pen-Gun_ wrote most cheerfully and
hopefully to Duncan, assuring him that he himself would steam at once
eastwards, and if he was successful in finding the unhappy mariners,
they should be immediately taken off, tenderly cared for, and landed at
Zanzibar, to wait under the charge of the British consul until a ship
should arrive and take them back to England.

"Thank God for all his mercies," exclaimed Duncan piously, after he had
twice read the letter aloud to his comrades.

Then all hands shook Carrambo’s hard fist, and noting that there was
something more than usual on the tapis, Vike must jump up and go dancing
all round the fort.  But he made his way to the water to finish up with,
for racing in Africa is hot work.

Carrambo received his rifle, and that very evening received also his
first lessons in the use thereof.

Carrambo was indeed a proud man now.

He held his head erect and said to Duncan:

"We’n King Slaleema he want some piccaniny kill fo’ to eat, I bling dat
piccaniny down wid one lifel bullet plenty twick."

Then Duncan lost his temper.

He was a strong young Scot and athlete, and Carrambo, tough savage
though he was, had no show after Duncan got hold of that rifle.

He wrenched it from his hand before anyone could have said "knife".

"You yellow-skinned scoundrel!" he cried, "you do not touch the rifle
again till you promise me on your honour--though I don’t suppose that
weighs much--that you will never attempt to shoot, even at the king’s
bidding, any child he wishes to destroy."

Carrambo glanced one moment at Duncan, then, turning on his heel, walked
off.

The boys thought he was gone for good; but presently he returned,
holding in his hand a long thin root.

This he cut in two with his knife.

He placed one half in his bosom, and gave the other to Duncan.

"Carrambo plomise.  Suppose Carrambo bleak dat plomise, den de debbil he
cut Carrambo’s heart in two, and take he away to de ver bad place."

This was an oath, though of a curious sort, but Duncan knew that this
strange being would keep it, and so the rifle was restored.

The Somali now went off to see the king, but he first and foremost
delivered the rifle into Conal’s keeping.

Presently he returned laughing.

"De king--ha, ha!--he want to see you, foh tlue."

"Yes?"

"And he vant to see you vely mooch dilectly."

"Well?"

"Well, ha, ha, ha!"  Carrambo evidently couldn’t contain himself, "he
wants one bottle of goo-goo."

The royal command was obeyed by Frank and Duncan, Carrambo accompanying
them to carry the goo-goo.

The king laughed like one possessed when he saw the bottle, and made
various signals for a drink, holding out the same old nutshell.

It was three times filled, and Carrambo himself was also presented with
a nutful.

Then the king waxed communicative, and, after calling upon two of his
wives to fan him, and two more to cool Duncan and Frank down, he said he
would tell them the story of the fort, and Carrambo himself stood by to
translate.

The story was certainly a sort of a "freezer", as Frank termed it, but
Carrambo, I have no doubt, gave a very literal translation thereof.

Let me carry it on to the next chapter please.



CHAPTER VI.--AN INVADING ARMY--VICTORY!


"Goo-goo!" said the king.

Duncan shook his head as he sat on a block of wood near to him, and just
where he could get a good look of his sable countenance.

"He say," Carrambo interpreted, "no goo-goo, no stoly."

But Duncan was firm.  Savages are very like children in some of their
ways, and Duncan knew it.  He shifted the bottle farther back therefore.

"No story, no goo-goo.  Tell him that, Carrambo."

The fat king grinned, slapped one of his wives, grinned again, and began
to talk.

As translated by the Somali, the story ran somewhat as follows:--

"I king now.  My fadder he king once.  My fadder fadder he king befo’;
my fadder fadder fadder he king too.  ’Twas when fadder fadder fadder
king.  De boys all in de bush one day, make much fine spolt. Shoot de
monkey fo’ eat; shoot de lion and de spot-cat (leopard) all wid bow and
arrow.  Some dey kill wid spear.

"Plesantly, all as soon as nuffin, plenty much noise and shout in de
bush.  Den fire-sticks flash and plenty thunder, and one, two, tlee,
nine, ten (the king was counting on his fingers and could go no further)
ob my fadder’s fadder’s fadder’s poor people lie down and bleed red, and
die.  But dis not all.  De king’s people fight, and many mo’ all kill
and bleeding, and so de king make peace.

"De white men dey take many wives away, den take de country, and de king
he king no mo’.  All de same he not conquer.  Plaps he take revenge one
day.  You see plenty soon.

"Well, de white men wid de thunder-sticks, they build big big
house--big, big, stlong, stlong, all de same as you young gemmans lib in
now.  So dey settle down and lib heah.

"Dey go spolt plenty in de bush, and kill much wild beast.  Sometimes de
wild beast--ha, ha!--kill dey, and chew up foh tlue.

"But all de same de white folks stay one two year. Dey gadder much glass
stone--"

"These," said Duncan, "were evidently diamonds."

"Were they like these?" said Frank, taking the splendid diamond from his
pocket and holding it up.

"All same, all same, de king say," cried Carrambo.

"Dey go heah and dere all ober de mountain to seek fo’ de glass stone,
and many dey find and buly."

"Bury," cried Duncan, showing some little excitement.  "Ask him,
Carrambo, where the glass was buried.  Wait a minute though," he added.
"Frank, give him another nutful of goo-goo."

Frank did as he was told.  Carrambo put the question, and the king’s
eyes sparked.

"What does he say, Carrambo?"

"He says de debbil guard the glass stones, and if he tell any white man
where they lie, den de debbil take he plenty quick."

The king was offered a whole bottle of goo-goo if he would only divulge
the secret, but he was obdurate.

"No, no, no," said Carrambo.  "He say de debbil no catchee he foh many
many long year yet."

Then his majesty proceeded with the story.

"De white men now begin to dig holes in the earf. Dey want to make hole
for bad men to come up throo, and cut all de throats of my fadder’s
fadder’s fadder’s pore people.

"De ole ole king he fink, ’I no can stand dis no mo’." "Den one night in
de dark folest he gadder his people togedder.

"He ’splain to dem all ’bout de big hole.  ’Plaps,’ he say, ’eben
to-mollow de bad white debbils come up out ob de hole, and catchee us
foh tlue.’

"And de ole king’s people shake wid anger.

"’Kill, kill, kill, and eat the fire-stick men!’ dey cly.

"Dey shake moh and moh wid anger, den de ole king say, ’Vely well, all
kill’.

"Dat night, out on de plain de moon he shine.  De moon hab one big led
(red) face.  He look down, he smile and laugh.  ’Kill, kill!’ he seem to
say.  ’Kill de white debbils and dair wives, kill de white piccaninnies
too.  Make much fine bobbery, much fine kill. I not tell.’

"But de white men dat night say, ’O, de black cannibal not come dis
night.  Too much moon!’  So dey dlink goo-goo, and moh and moh goo-goo.
Den dey sing--ha, ha!--den dey sleep.

"De moon he smile all de same.  And the black man wid plenty spear and
knife lie quiet in de bush.

"But the king cly now, and all at once de savage jump up.

"Plenty much branch ob tree dey cut.

"Plenty much fire.

"Den wid gleat stones de door fly all bloken, and de white men come out
to fight.

"But too much goo-goo--he, he, he!--and dey fall and fall all in one big
heap.  Much blood.  Much kick and scream!

"Not one alibe now, only de white women and de piccaninnies.

"Ha, ha, ha, how de king do laugh.  My fadder, fadder, fadder, dat is.

"But now all de women am drag out, and all de piccaninny.  Der troats--"

"Horrible!" cried Duncan.  "We will have no more. Give the old pig of a
king more goo-goo and let him go and sleep it off.  I have never heard,
Frank, of a more diabolical massacre in my life."

Said Carrambo now: "What foh you open again de old debbil pits?  Some
night dey people rise and murder you tree pooh souls all same as dey
kill and eat de odder white folks long, long ago.  Carrambo know well.
Dese sabages not hab de debbil pits open. Oh, no!"

"There is much truth," said Duncan, "in what Carrambo says.  It would be
a pity to leave this land of gold and diamonds without knowing for
certain whether the mines are worth working; but I move that we leave
the devil pits alone for a time until we try to reclaim these savages
just a little."

"I should reclaim them off the face of the earth," said Frank.

"That is impossible, and were it not, we should only be reducing
ourselves to their level.  That is not the doctrine of Jesus Christ."

So the "debbil pits", much to the joy of the king, were partially
refilled.  But just as they were shovelling in the earth, brave
broad-shouldered Duncan struck something with his wooden spade.

"Hillo!" he cried, "what have we here?"

Frank and Conal rushed up to see.

"Why, a nugget.  And, boys, it is six pounds weight if an ounce."

The excitement of the three young fellows now knew no bounds.  They
shook each other by the hand; they shouted aloud for joy, and then,
while honest Viking capered around them, they raised their voices in
song, Duncan leading in an old song, sung by the gold-diggers of
California in days long, long gone by.

But a right cheery one it was.

      "Pull away, cheerily,
      Not slow and wearily,
    Rocking the cradle,[1] boys, swift to and fro.
      Working the hand about,
      Sifting the sand about,
    Looking for treasures that lie in below."

[1] The machine used for washing the "pay-dirt".


"Hurrah!  Hurrah!"

Another and a truly British cheer.  The savages far down below heard it
and trembled.

"Plaps," said Carrambo, "dey tink all de debbils was let loose now foh
tlue."

"Here, Carrambo, hurry down with a bottle of goo-goo to the old king,
and tell him we are his friends now, and if an enemy comes we will help
to fight him."

Carrambo came back the same evening rejoicing, but laughing his wildest.

"Plenty much fun!" he cried.  "De fat king he dlunk, ebber so much
dlunk.  He do nuffin’ now. Jus’ lie on him back and sing.  Ha! ha! ha!"

The boys went back to their fort to dine.  Carrambo would be their
friend, though to the savages he pretended not to be so.  He was even
entrusted with a revolver, and thus a right happy man was he.

Well, when Duncan talked about the invasion of an enemy he might have
been speaking for speaking sake; but one evening a runner brought the
alarming intelligence that a rich neighbouring tribe were preparing to
fall upon and extirpate the inhabitants of these glens and hills.

"And a jolly good job too," said Frank.  "We’ll stand by and look on,
won’t we, Duncan?"

But Duncan shook his head.

"A promise even to a savage is sacred, Frank, and we must fight."

The Umbaloomi, as the invading tribe was called, did not keep the tribe
long waiting.

They came in force on the very next day.  The king himself marched along
with his warriors, mounted on a huge elephant, while behind him, on
another, rode his two favourite wives.  The Umbaloomi potentate had
promised them a great treat, and many heads with which to decorate their
huts.

Now Duncan had determined that Goo-goo, as the fat king had come to be
called, should attack the invaders first.  If he failed to conquer, then
Duncan, with Frank, Conal, and Carrambo, meant to give them a startler,
and something like a surprise.

This was all as it should be, and the fight, as seen from the bush where
our heroes lay _perdu_, was a fearful one.

What a horrible melée!  What a murderous massacre! No wonder that the
wild birds rose in screaming clouds, or that the echoes of the forest
were awakened by the bedlam shrieks and howlings of the gorillas!

"Now for it, lads!" cried Duncan, as he noticed that Goo-Goo’s side was
losing.  "Steady aim.  Give ’em fits, but don’t fire until I tell you."

Nearer and nearer to the foe they crept under cover of the mimosa
bushes.

"Fire!"

At the word a rattling volley was poured into the very midst of the foe.

Another and another, for the rifles were repeaters.

"Hurrah!" shouted Carrambo, "the fire-debbils have come!"

Whether the enemy understood him or not I cannot say, but they were
staggered, and backward now they reeled in a confusion which is
indescribable.

The elephants waxed wild, and, instead of flying, charged right towards
the Goo-Goo tribe.

And the invading king, with both his wives, were instantly slain.

That completed the victory.

But after victory came the rout, the slaughter, and utter extermination
of the invaders.

With the details of the fearful feast that followed, I should be sorry,
indeed, to sully my pages.

So the curtain drops on a sadder scene than ever I trust any of my
readers shall ever behold.

There was another feast, however, of a somewhat less terrible kind.  For
on the slain that night the beasts of the forest held high revel.

And thus ended the invasion of King Goo-Goo’s land.



CHAPTER VII.--THE MYSTERIOUS STONE.


For the first time since their arrival Goo-Goo paid the boys a visit of
ceremony, on the day after the battle.

Carrambo had apprised them of the honour they were about to be the
recipients of, and they stayed at home in consequence.

Goo-Goo was very pompous--and precious little else.

He was elated with his victory, but did not hesitate to admit that
Duncan and his comrades had contributed a little to the turn of the tide
of battle.

Goo-Goo was even boastful

Goo-Goo was also very thirsty.

So Duncan invited him to come inside.

He refused.  Not even a whole bottle of his favourite sherry would have
tempted him to cross the threshold of the fort, because--as he explained
through Carrambo--"plenty much debbil lib (live) in one hole below de
floor".

But he made very small work of a nut-shell of goo-goo that Duncan
presented to him with his own hand.

Then he explained why he had come.  It was to offer to our heroes the
two tame elephants that had been captured in battle.

Duncan nodded to his fellows, and the gift was accepted unconditionally,
and that very day the great wise beasts were taken over.

A huge compound was erected for them in a bit of jungle not far off; the
king’s men building it with their own hands.

Moreover, two men were told off to feed and care for the noble brutes,
who soon became very great pets indeed, with all hands.

The larger of the two might well have been called immense or colossal.
He seemed especially fond of Frank, and there wasn’t a titbit Frank
could think of that he did not bring to Ju-ju of a morning.

Ju-ju was certainly grateful.  He had one very curious method of showing
his gratitude, namely, by encircling the boy with his trunk and swaying
him up and down, and to and fro.

"Gently, Ju-ju," Frank would say sometimes; "gently, Ju, old man."

Then Ju would set him quietly down and trumpet with delight.

                                  ――――

But as soon as it was dark, all was generally peaceful enough about the
fort, for after a residence of some months in king Goo-Goo’s country
they had got quite used to the cry of wild beasts, and even the roar of
lions did not disturb their slumbers.

But the nugget and the diamond--oh! these indeed. Duncan’s eyes used to
sparkle with delight as they were placed upon the table of an evening.

What possibilities did they not point to!  What joy for the future
seemed to scintillate from the diamond! One night something that the
king had said during his visit to the fort suddenly flashed across
Frank’s memory.

He almost startled both Conal and Duncan by the eagerness with which he
almost shouted:

"Cousins!" he cried, "I have the happiest thought that ever I had.  Do
you not remember that the king refused to come into the fort because
devils dwelt in a hole beneath the floor!"

"Yes, yes, he did say so."

"Duncan, those devils are diamonds, and, it may be, gold nuggets as
well."

His comrades were thunder-struck apparently, but they admitted that in
all likelihood Frank’s surmise was correct.

"Then, boys," said Frank, "we shall open a devil hole right here where
we sit."

This proposal was agreed to, and the work would have commenced the very
next day had not a strange adventure happened to Frank.

It may be observed that mostly all the terrible adventures did happen to
Frank.  Some people are born unlucky, you know.

But next forenoon Duncan and he had gone towards the forest for the
purpose of shooting hyenas, no great or very exalted sport, it is true,
but they had become numerous and bold of late, and needed scattering.

Duncan had followed a wounded monster some distance for the sake of
giving him his _congé_, when he came back---- lo! Frank was gone.

For hours and hours Duncan searched all that portion of the forest that
he dared to enter, but in vain.

But he found his comrade’s gun, and at some little distance his cap.

So he went sorrowfully home.

Further search was made next day, some of the bravest of Goo-Goo’s
native soldiers assisting.

But no more trace of the lost Frank could be found.

A whole fortnight went past, and he was mourned for as one dead, and
even Carrambo gave up hopes.

Frank, he told them, must have been throttled by the gorillas and hung
up in a tree.

But lo! and behold, one forenoon who should appear again _in propria
persona_, but the laughing little Cockney boy himself.

By the hand he led a little long-armed hairy gorilla, that clung to him
in terror when Viking began to growl.

Jeannie, as she was called, sprang trembling into Frank’s arms, but he
gently soothed her, and after having a cup of coffee he told his
marvellous story.[2] It was briefly as follows:--


[1] This is no sailor’s yarn, but founded on fact.


He had been captured by the awful gorillas, having been first stunned by
a blow from a club.  Then carried deep into the forest and up into a
very high tree.  There he found a shelter, quite a hut in fact, and far
from being unkind to him, the gorillas fed and tended him every day,
only guarding him at night.

"And this is my little pupil," he added.  "Jeannie was given me to
educate, I suppose; but early this morning the gorillas went off to do
battle with some neighbouring tribe, and Jeannie and I slipped down the
tree and ran for it.

"So here I am!"

"Heaven be praised!" cried Duncan with tears in his eyes.  "You come to
us as one risen from the dead."

"And what are you going to do with Jeannie?" asked Conal.

"Oh!" said Frank, "Jeannie is a sweet child.  She shall go with us
wherever we go."

"I hope," said Conal, "her parents won’t come for her.  It might be
rather inconvenient."

                                  ――――

Two long months passed away, and our heroes were almost weary of this
lonesome and wild land.

But they had not been idle all the time of their sojourn here.  On the
contrary, they had commenced to dig in the fort itself for buried
treasure.

There was plenty of excitement about this, but for many a weary week no
luck attended their excavations.

The excitement, however, was somewhat like that of gambling, and once
begun they felt they could not give it up until they came to something.

So they dug and dug.

But all in vain.

They still spent much of their time in fishing and shooting, however.
These were necessary sports.  Food they must have.

A rather gloomy time arrived later on, when they had finally abandoned
all hopes of finding any buried treasure.  Tremendously heavy banks of
clouds had rolled up from the horizon and overspread the heavens.

Then with terrible thundering and vivid lightning a short rainy season
was ushered in.  The stream became flooded, so that fishing was now out
of the question.

But Conal’s little Lilywhite visited the fort every day, and--though I
cannot say where she found them--never came without a fish, while just
as often as not she brought the boys a present of delightful fruit.

The rain-clouds were scattered at last, and soon the country all around
was greener and more lovely than ever the wanderers had seen it, while
the most gorgeous of flowers seemed to spring into existence in the
short space of twenty-four hours.

Sport began again once more.

They still paid visits to the king, but these were not so welcome now to
his sable majesty, for the goo-goo was all finished, and he cared for
little else--with, of course, the exception of human flesh.

Conal was exceedingly well developed, and under certain conditions he
would not have objected being reminded of this.

But when the king one day felt his arm and said something which Carrambo
translated: "Ah, num-num! you plenty good to eat," Conal hardly relished
the verdict.

But the great elephants became a source of much pleasure to everyone.
They were so perfectly tractable and manageable that the boys often went
across country with them.

This was practice, and Duncan had a meaning for it.

Well, one day as Frank was entering the living-room of the fort, his
eyes fell upon a curious mark upon a stone, which proved to be an arrow
bent partly upwards.  He followed its direction with his eye and on
another stone found another arrow, then two or three more, and finally
there was a square stone above the window with a cross over it, thus
(cross symbol).

There were no more arrows.

Frank rushed out half frantic with joy.

"Duncan!  Conal!" he shouted.

They were coming quietly up the hill.

"Come quick, boys, I’ve made a discovery!"

Then he led them in and pointed the arrows, and the stone marked with
the (cross symbol).

"The diamonds are there," he said excitedly.

                                  ――――

The stone, however, was so firmly cemented in that it defied any
ordinary methods to get it out.

So they determined to dine first, and go to work on it afterwards.

But no one could think or speak of anything else except their hopes of
finding the treasure.

The boys had made cocoa-nut-oil lamps, and by the little flicker of
light these gave, they now set about attacking the flint-hard cement in
earnest.  They chipped it out bit by bit, and hard, tedious work they
found it.

But they succeeded at last, and stood silent and with a kind of awesome
delight.  For there before them was the glad sparkle of diamonds--a
sparkle that seemed to dim the light of their poor oil lamp.

"Boys," cried Duncan, "our fortune is made!"

The diamonds, however, were but few--eight in all--but of great size,
and apparently of high value, although the boys were no judges.

The hole where they had lain was carefully cemented all round, and
besides the diamonds they found here two or three nuggets of gold, and a
tiny brick of cement about six inches by four by three.

Just one word was engraved thereon.

That word was evidently Spanish, though partly obliterated--ABRIR--

They hoped to find diamonds inside.

They did not, however; only a piece of parchment, on which many words
were written which they could not understand.

They were just putting in the stone again, after carefully storing away
the diamonds and parchment, when Viking sprang up fiercely barking, and
with his hair erect all along his spine.

At the same moment they perceived a terrible face at the open window.

It was that of a savage in his war-paint--the lips were painted red,
great red rings were around each eye, and cheeks and brow were daubed
with spots of white.

"Idle curiosity, I suppose," said Duncan, "or a trick to frighten us.
For now that the goo-goo is all exhausted, I believe the king would like
to see the very last of us."

When Carrambo came next day they told him about the terrible face at the
window.

Carrambo considered for a moment, then shook his head.

"Dat no good," he said.  "You close all de debbil pit?"

"Yes," said Duncan.

"Dat bad sabage see somefing, sah!  He go tell de king.  King make
bobbery soon.  Plaps cut all you troats, like he kill pore leetle
Lilywhite to-mollow."

"What!" cried Conal, "kill Lilywhite!  If he dares, I’ll put a bullet
through his fat and ugly phiz."

"Poh Lilywhite!" continued Carrambo, as if speaking to himself.  "But,"
he added, "s’pose you come to-night, I take you to de hut.  Lily come
back heah; den not die."

Conal at once agreed, and Carrambo came for him some hours after sunset.

The butchering hut was at a considerable distance from the main village,
and, strange to say, unguarded. But they crept in and found Lily bound
hand and foot.

She was speedily rescued, and in an hour’s time they were all back at
the fort.

But Conal had seen something that night which seriously alarmed both him
and his companions.

The savages were squatted out-of-doors around fires, and all in
war-paint.

They looked fierce and terrible.

Very busy, too, were they, sharpening horrid knives and spears.

This was fearful intelligence to bring back, and Carrambo, being asked
what it all meant, did not hesitate a moment in replying.

"It mean dis," he said; "dey tink dat you open de debbil hole again.
To-mollow dey come plenty twick and cut all you troats, foh shuah."

"Carrambo," said Duncan after a pause, "can you guide us towards Lamoo?"

"Ees, sah, I guide you foh tlue!"

"Without having to go through that gorilla-haunted forest?"

"Ees, sah, ees," was the quick reply.  "I myse’f not go t’loo de
folast."

"Well, Carrambo, send for the men who attend to the elephants, and we
shall start this very night."

The two elephant attendants were very sincere, and when Duncan promised
them clothes and beads and many fine gifts, they readily consented to go
with them to the coast.

So packing was commenced without a moment’s delay.

And none too soon, as things turned out.



CHAPTER VIII.--THE BATTLE AT THE FORD.


Even Viking seemed to understand the seriousness of the situation, for
while he watched with great earnestness, not to say joy, the hurried
preparations for departure, he never once barked.

All was ready at last, and just a little before midnight a start was
made.

Nothing had been forgotten, and luckily the two men who had charge of
the elephants knew how to load these.  On the first, a very large
animal, was a low but strong howdah, in which were packed the
instruments, spare arms, and ammunition, food, cooking utensils, rugs
and wraps, &c.  It was built low and of wattle, not only for lightness’
sake, but that it might not catch against any trees they might have to
get under, during their long and dangerous march towards the coast.

But a strange and curious band they formed, had anyone been there to
behold them.  Let us count and see how many souls they numbered.  Six
men in all, Lilywhite and Jeannie, Viking, and the two elephants. Eleven
all told.

Why, I do believe I have given a soul to each.  But just listen, boys,
while I, the author of this book, make a confession.  The generality of
us poor upstarts have an idea we are immensely superior to the beings we
are all so fond of calling "the lower animals". We imagine--the majority
of us, I mean--that these were all made for our use, and they are badly
used accordingly.  What utter rot, and what a shame! There is no great
gulf fixed between us and them. Their minds differ but in degree, not in
kind, from our own, and if we have a future existence, be sure and
certain that your pet dog or cat that died not long ago--and whom you
cannot forget--will live again also.  Nothing good ever dies--only sin!

So I certainly should not think of withholding a soul from those two
marvellously-wise elephants, and of course Viking was more wise and far
higher in the scale of intellect than many and many a drink-besotted
Englishman or Scotsman, whom I see making heavy weather and steering
badly as he marches homewards of a Saturday night.

Well, Lilywhite and Jeannie occupied the other howdah, and I’m sure I
should not be mean enough to deny the possession of a soul to either.

Pray, love the lower animals, boys, for, mind you, the same God who made
you made them.

    "Oh happy living things! no tongue
      Their beauty may declare;
    If springs of love gush from your heart
      You bless them unaware."


Well, this good Somali, Carrambo, was to be depended upon.  That was
evident.  He was indeed a strange being in many ways, and held every
life but his own very cheap indeed, but he was going to be faithful to
his employers.  He had a certain code of morality which he considered
binding on him, else he could have robbed our heroes and delivered them
into Goo-goo’s hands very easily indeed.  But he had no such thought.

He now walked in front, as the elephants felt their way with cautious
steps adown the hill towards a ford in the stream, an attendant close by
the head of each.

Carrambo did not mean to take his party through that demon-haunted
forest, but by a more circuitous and safer route.

Well was it for all that they had abandoned the fort and the hill at the
time they did; for the savages had worked themselves up into a kind of
murderous frenzy, and determined to attack and slay the whites long
before daybreak.

On looking behind them while still some distance from the ford, our boys
could hear their bloodthirsty and maniacal howls, and knew they had
reached the fort and found it empty.

And then they knew they were being pursued!

The full moon had now arisen, and its pure silvery light was bathing
hill and glen and forest.  Even the distant snow-clad mountain-peaks
could be seen sparkling like koh-i-noors in its radiance.

But here is the ford, and it is quickly negotiated. None too quickly,
however, for hardly are they on the other bank ere the savages had
reached the stream.

A battle was now unavoidable.

So all wheeled.

Spears were thrown in a cloud from the other side, but each one missed
its mark.

"Steady now, men!" cried Duncan.  "Be cautious!  Fire!"

It was a rattling and a most destructive volley they poured into that
savage mob.  The terrible shrieking increased, but it was now mingled
with howls of pain and impotent rage.

Five more volleys were fired, and as the natives were crowded close
together the effect was fearful.

They reeled, they turned, and were about to seek safety in flight when
one painted wretch, more brave than his fellows, waving his spear aloft,
dashed into the river and commenced to cross.

More than one were following, and had they succeeded in getting over,
the fight would doubtless have had a sad and speedy ending.

But now something happened that at once turned the tide of battle.

Vike had hitherto been only a very interested spectator of the fight,
but now, seeing that savage half-way across, with a howl and a roar he
leapt into the river, and quickly ploughed his way towards him.

All the courage that the cannibal possessed deserted him at once, when
he saw what he thought was an evil spirit coming towards him.  With a
yell that quite demoralized his companions behind, he dropped his spear
and tried to rush back.

A man cannot walk in deepish water so quickly as a dog can swim, and so
Viking seized him before he had gone many yards.

Do savages faint, I wonder?  I never have seen one "go off", as old
wives call it, and require smelling-salts and burned feathers.
Nevertheless this fellow became insensible when Vike proceeded to shake
him out of his skin.

So the dog towed him in.

Carrambo drew his knife, and would have killed him at once but for
Duncan’s interference.

"No, no," he shouted, "spare his life, Carrambo!"

Firing had never slackened, and now as the enemy gave way it was more
rapid and deadly than ever. But in a few minutes’ time there was not a
savage left on the opposite bank.  Only the dead, only the wounded
tossing and writhing in agony in the moonlight.

There was still a chance, however, of the attack being renewed.  For
this reason: King Goo-goo had adopted a plan of his own for punishing
those who were defeated in battle, and invariably the first half-dozen
men who returned were clubbed to death. Goo-goo was rather partial to
brain fritters, and cared very little whose brains contributed to this
little _entrée_.

And now the march was resumed.

Sometimes the little band was so close to the forest that they could
hear the howling and din of the gorillas, at other times they were
stretching over arid tracts of a kind of prairie land.  Nor were these
silent and uninhabited.  Beasts of the desert were leopards and even
lions.

The former fled on sight, the latter did not dare to attack.

Yet when one leapt up almost close to the foremost elephants, and began
slowly to retreat with head and tail erect and growling like loudest
thunder, bold Carrambo levelled and fired.  The bullet must have pierced
the splendid beast’s heart, for he at once dropped dead in his tracks.

Carrambo was indeed a proud man now, and although the boys knew the shot
was only a fluke, he was patted on the back and permitted to wear the
laurels he had won.

Yes, but Carrambo had the skin as well as the laurels.  And this, after
rubbing the inside well with a kind of earth he found near by, and which
is often used as a preservative, he stowed it away in one of the
howdahs.

On and on they marched all that night, often having to cross small
rivers and streams, or journey long distances by the banks of larger
ones, which proved unfordable, till at daylight they found themselves on
a tree-covered little hill, and here Duncan called a halt for
refreshment and for rest.

All were tired, except little Lilywhite.  For with the child-gorilla in
her arms she had slept most of the way.

She was helped down.  Both the shes in fact, and Jeannie soon jumped
into Frank’s arms, caressing him in the most affectionate manner.

"Behold how she loves her father!" said the boy laughing.

"Well," he added, "I would rather have one little hairy gorilla who
loved me, than a thousand hairless bipeds of men who didn’t give shucks
for me."

To a stream close by ran Lily, and in a surprisingly quick time returned
with fish enough for all hands.

And these, one of the men having lit a fire, she speedily cooked.

Lily was, indeed, a jewel in her own way--though a black one.

After a hearty breakfast, of which fruit formed a not unimportant
portion, rugs were spread in the shade, and leaving Carrambo on
guard--his time for rest would come afterwards--all lay down to snatch a
few hours’ sleep.

Lily squatted at Conal’s head, fanning him with a broad leaf, till
finally he slept.

Jeannie curled up beside Frank, and Viking with Duncan.  So everyone was
contented and happy.

I do not think the boys ever slept more soundly than they did under the
cool green shadow of those trees, and when the sun had gone a certain
distance round, and Carrambo, acting on his instructions, awoke them,
they felt as fresh as meadow larks, and quite fit to resume the journey.

"I hope we won’t have any more fighting, boys," said Duncan.

"Why not?" said Frank the Cockney.  "I think fighting is good fun.

"Especially," he added, "when you win."

"That’s just it, Frank; but the bother is, that if we are hard pressed,
the other fellows will win next time, because our cartridges would soon
be all expended."

"Let us hope for the best," said Conal.  "We have plenty of ammunition
for our revolvers."

"True, Conal; but when you are near enough to shoot a savage with a
revolver, he is near enough to scupper you with his spear."

They encamped that night close to the banks of a sandy-bottomed river,
which Duncan said looked as if it contained gold.  And once more
Lilywhite assumed the responsibility of cooking.

Then, keeping the fire still alight to keep wild beasts at bay, the boys
left Vike on watch and curled up.

In spite of the warm attentions of scores of very musical mosquitoes
they slept long and soundly, and daylight was almost breaking before
they awoke.

On and on they journeyed day by day, and many and strange were their
adventures among wild beasts and wilder men.  But although our heroes
always showed a bold front when trouble seemed rising, they found it
safest and best, if possible, to make friends with the different tribes
they came into contact with.

The beads they still possessed went a long way to cement friendship.

They had been on the road for over a month, for they did not hurry,
knowing the advantage of harbouring their strength in case of having to
fight for dear life itself.

One day about this time, after crossing a high and desert upland, they
descended a hill and found themselves among a very strange people
indeed, and in a strangely beautiful country.

As the inhabitants were friendly, Duncan resolved to stay with them for
a time, that all might recruit their health, and that Conal might regain
his.

The poor lad, in a skirmish with some savages that had taken place
farther inland, had been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and although he
appeared to have recovered, the wound had broken out afresh, and he was
now in so low a condition, that he had to be carried on a bed of grass
made for him in one of the howdahs.

A cool grass hut was set apart for the poor white boy, as the natives
called him, and Lily was a most attentive nurse to him.  But indeed all
the people near by were unremitting in their attentions, not only to
Conal, but to everyone in the camp.

This was a country of villages, scattered here and there wherever the
water was most plentiful for themselves and the cattle they owned.  But
scattered though these were, and but sparsely inhabited, yet if the
tocsin of war sounded, they speedily flocked to one standard to repel an
invading foe.  It was a real republic, owning no king or chief, and
placing the law in the hands of their elders in virtue of their age and
wisdom.

As there was perfect peace and good understanding between these simple
pastoral natives and Duncan’s little band, the latter were very happy
indeed.

Conal got slowly well, but all hands had to remain in this happy land
for nearly six weeks before the journey could be renewed.

And poor little Lilywhite stayed here for better or for worse.

Here is how it happened.  Shortly before Duncan was about to resume the
march towards the big river and city of Lamoo, Carrambo one day came
forward, leading a tall and rather ungainly young savage, and addressed
Conal as follows:--

"Dis dam young rascal he say you all de same’s one fadder to Lily.  He
want to mally Lily.  He gib tree goat foh Lily."

Here he struck the suitor under the chin.

"Hol’ you head up, Choo-ka!" he cried.  "De white man no eat de likes ob
you!"

Choo-ka would have blushed if he hadn’t been black.

"Is Lily willing?" said Conal, laughing.

"Oh ees, sah, she plenty willin’ ’nuff."

"Well, consider it all arranged."

So Conal lost his nurse, and Choo-ka gained a bride. As, however, the
girl had taken a great fancy for Jeannie, Frank gave the gorilla to her
as a wedding gift, and Duncan presented her with a string of beautiful
beads.

And so they were married, and no doubt lived, or will live, for my story
does not date back any very extraordinary number of years, happy ever
after.

The journey was now resumed, and with the exception of some adventures
with pythons and alligators, they reached the river without much further
trouble, and in a few days after this struck the outlying huts of the
large Arab city of Lamoo, and were received in the most hospitable way,
not only by the Portuguese, but by the Arabs, and even by the sultan
himself.

A question now arose as to what they should do with the elephants.  It
would be impossible to take these to sea with them.

But a very wealthy Arab merchant offered to buy them, and after a
considerable deal of haggling he became the purchaser, and the boys were
paid in gold.

                                  ――――

They had half expected to find a gun-boat here, but were disappointed.

So after waiting for a whole week, they paid poor Carrambo off, after
telling him that they meant to revisit his country another day and open
the "debbil pits" in spite of old Goo-goo, then took passage in a large
Arab dhow for Zanzibar, with all their goods and chattels, their gold
and diamonds.

Two weeks after this there landed on the white sandy beach of that
place, three as jolly and as happy boys as anyone ever shook hands with.



CHAPTER IX.--THE VERY IDENTICAL BIRD.


Zanzibar!  The spotless sand, on which the blue waves broke lazily into
foam, sparkled like silver in the rays of the noonday sun.  Higher up
were the walls of many a palatial-looking building, consulates, most of
them, and each one flying the flag of its country, and with, here and
there, gigantic cocoa-palms waving their dark-green foliage between.

Conspicuous above all, the palace of the Sultan, with above it the
blood-red Arab flag.

There were many ships in the roadstead; some men-o’-war too, but none
belonging to Her Majesty the Queen.

This was slightly disappointing, for our heroes had been told that the
little gun-boat was here, and they longed with an indescribable longing
to know if their dear friends had been rescued alive from the
uninhabited island.

During their voyage from Lamoo--the town lies about fifteen miles
inland, and on the banks of the river, and is navigable to vessels of
light draught all the way up--the Arab skipper had been both courteous
and kind to the young fellows, and when, after the landing of their
chattels, they bade him good-bye, they felt truly sorry to part with
him.

There were plenty of willing hands on the beach to carry their goods to
the hotel.  Indeed, they would have carried the boys themselves, and
Viking too, had a few pice been offered them as a reward.

But here is the hotel.  It has not been a long walk, albeit the narrow
streets have been--as they always are--crowded to excess with Arabs,
Parsees, Hindoos, Portuguese, Indians, and niggers of every size and
shade.  Through this crowd they had to jostle their way with many a
shout of "Sameela!  Sameela!"  For neither the streets themselves nor
those who fill them have the sweet savour of--

    "A primrose by the river’s brim".


Yes, here is the hotel, and though the street in front is fairly wide,
the hostelry itself is not over-inviting. But the landlord, who happens
to be a Frenchman, gives them a right hearty welcome, and asks them
immediately what they will have for "deenir".

"Oh," said Duncan, "what can we have?"

"Eberytings, gentlemans; soup, feesh, entree, curry."

"Ah! let us have some real curry.  No, not any soup; we want solids.
And as soon as you are ready, we are."

"Sartainly, gentlemans."

"And now," continued Duncan, "we would like to see our bedrooms."

"I have put your luggash all in one big, big room. Three beds it have,
’cause I know young officers like to talk much togedder."

"Very thoughtful of you indeed!"

"And dare is a bat’room just off it."

"How luxurious!" cried Frank.  "Why, boys, we are back once more into
civilization!"

They certainly enjoyed their bath, as well as a change of raiment.

"Now, if we had some coffee," said Frank "we--"

He had no time to complete the sentence, for just as he was talking, the
landlord re-entered the room smiling.

He bore, on a level with his forehead, a tray with a pot of the most
fragrant coffee, flanked by cups.

Besides this, there was a huge basin of goat’s milk.

"For your beautiful dog, sir officer."

Duncan thanked him most heartily, and Viking seemed most grateful also.

"I sincerely love all de animiles in de world," said the Frenchman.
"One gentleman stay here now.  Hab been stay many mont’s, with one
leetle blackamoor servant.  He possess one very curious bird.  Ha, ha!
’Scuse me laugh.  But ven I play on my little flute, den the bird and de
boy dance.  It is all so funny!"

The boys exchanged glances.

"Can it be possible?" said Duncan.

"I declare," cried Frank, "I feel fidgety all over."

"And I," said Conal, "am cramful of nerves."

"Landlord, can you introduce us to the bird and the boy?"

"Sartainly, gentlemans.  Follow, if you will be so kind."

He led them down and down a flight of stone stairs that seemed to have
no end.

Then the young fellows followed him into a large room.

"Gol-a-mussy, gemmans, has you risen again flom de grabe?"

It was little Johnnie Shingles, and none but he.

"Grunt, grunt! squeak, squawk, and squawl!"  Up rushed Pen himself.

Yes, the very identical bird!

"Wowff!" cried Vike, entering fully into the excitement.

"Wowff, wowff, wonders will never cease."

Then out came Monsieur T.’s flute.

And Monsieur struck up a merry lilt.

Up went the great bird’s flappers, stretched out were Johnnie’s arms,
and next moment they were whirling together round and round that
stone-floored room, in surely as daft a dance as ever yet was seen.

It was just at this moment, and while all three boys were convulsed with
laughter, that a third person put in an appearance, and now for a time
everything else paled before the pleasure of once more meeting, and
grasping the hand of brave Master-mariner Talbot himself.

                                  ――――

What anyone said for the matter of a minute or two is not worth
recording, consisting, as it did, chiefly of ejaculations, and little
brief sentences of wonder and pleasure.

"Of course, you will dine with us, captain," said Duncan at last, "for
we have much to tell you, and your story will all be perfectly new to
us."

"Another plate, landlord."

"Sartainly, sah."

To say that this was a happy meeting would be to print a mere
commonplace.

It was more than happy, but it was agreed that they should not tell each
other the story of their adventures, till dinner had been discussed.

Their anxiety, I may tell you at once, reader, did not prevent our
heroes doing ample justice to the delightful little meal that the
Frenchman had set before them.

He waited upon them himself, too, and presently informed them that
dessert was laid upstairs. Duncan opened his eyes wonderingly.

"What!" he cried, "do you serve dessert in the bedrooms?"

Talbot laughed.

"No," he said, "not in the bedroom, but on the upper deck.  Follow me,
and see for yourself."



CHAPTER X.--THE WELCOME HOME.


Up and up and up!  They were getting heavenwards, and presently found
themselves in quite an aërial paradise.

On the roof, but covered with awning it was. From this place they could
see all over the city and catch glimpses of the blue ocean itself, to
say nothing of the greenery of the far-off woods.

But here were splendid palms in pots, flowers of every hue, orange and
lemon trees, whose cool green foliage refreshed the eyes that gazed upon
them. Settees or lounges also, mild cigarettes on the tiny tables, iced
sherbet, mangoes, pine-apples, guavas, and great purple grapes.

And presently a waiter brought cups of black coffee, of far better taste
and flavour than any they had ever drank on British soil.

"What a treat after our hard and terrible life in the land of the
gorilla!"  This from Conal.

"But, my dear boy," said Frank, "the gorilla is really a gentleman
compared to the cannibal king Goo-goo.  But now, Captain, we are all
anxious to hear your story."

Captain Talbot did not reply at once.  He simply smiled and smoked,
leaning well back in his rocking chair with his eyes on the curling
wreaths, just as he used to do of an evening on the deck of the dear old
_Flora M’Vayne_.

"I am sorry to disappoint you, my brave lads, but the real truth is that
I’ve got no story to tell.

"You know," he continued, "what our sufferings were before you left."

"Alas! yes," said Duncan.

"They grew worse instead of better after you sailed away.  More men
died.  Died, I think, of fever brought on by thirst.  I, too, should
have died but for that child Johnnie.  I do believe he brought me a
portion, and a large one too, of his own allowance of water.

"Then it seemed to be all darkness, all night, and when I opened my eyes
at last I was no longer on the little island but at sea.

"I was lying under an awning on the quarter-deck of a tiny British
man-o’-war called the _Pen-Gun_."

"But," said Duncan, "soon after we left you we sighted and communicated
with a big steamer, and as far as we could make out she started off to
your rescue."

"Well, she came not near us.  But as long as I live I shall never forget
the unremitting kindness and attention bestowed upon us by the officers
of the _Pen-Gun_."

"And Morgan the mate?"

"Morgan has gone to England with the remainder of my crew, but after
hearing from you through the captain of the bold _Pen-Gun_ I determined
to wait and wait, and had you not put in an appearance in another week’s
time, I was about to undertake an expedition into your charming King
Goo-goo’s land and effect your rescue by hook or by crook.

"That is all my little story; and now for yours."

                                  ――――

It was late that night before Talbot and his boys parted, for the tale
of their adventures took a much longer time to tell.

Every word of that story was of the greatest interest to the listener,
but when they told him about the gold and the diamonds, and showed him
their specimens, he must needs jump up from the chair and once more
shake hands all round.

"Boys," he said, "you have made your fortunes.  I do not mean to say
that it is here, but there are more diamonds and there is more gold
where these came from.

"Leave it to me, lads, but you may give yourselves the credit of being
brave pioneers to a country bound, in the not far distant future, to be
one of the richest and greatest in the world.

"As soon as we get back once more," he continued, "to the shores of
Britain, we shall set about forming a great company, and this will
speedily open up a road to your Goo-goo land, and open up the "debbil
pits" also, in spite of all that wretched king shall urge against it."

"But we shall not call it Goo-goo Land," said Frank.

"No?  Well, I shall leave the naming of it to you."

Then something very faint in the shape of a blush suffused the young
fellow’s cheeks for a moment.

"You know, Captain Talbot," he said, "my dear cousins know also how fond
of little Flora I am!"

"Oh! she won’t be so little by the time we get home," said Conal,
laughing.

"Well, anyhow, when she grows bigger and grows a little older, she shall
be my wife.

"Oh! you needn’t smile; she has promised, and so after her I am going to
call our newly-discovered El Dorado--Floriana."

                                  ――――

We are back again in bonnie Scotland, and it was Conal himself who
exclaimed, when bonnie Glenvoie, for the first time since coming home,
and as he was nearing it, spread itself out before him:

    "O Caledonia! stern and wild,
    Meet nurse for a poetic child!
    Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
    Land of the mountain and the flood,
    Land of my sires! what mortal hand
    Can e’er untie the filial band
    That knits me to thy rugged strand!"


They had driven a great part of the way to Glenvoie, but had been seen
while still a long way off coming down the glen, and not only the
stalwart chief himself, but Frank’s father, with about half a dozen
dogs, came out to meet them.

Many of the dogs were old hill-mates of Viking’s, so that was all right,
and a glorious gambol they had.

But just as the principal actors and most of the company crowd the stage
before the curtain falls, so they do at the end of a story.

If I tell you that the reunion was a happy one, I can do but little
more.

Poor to some considerable extent both Colonel Trelawney and the laird
were, but I speak the honest truth when I say that had their brave boys
returned penniless and hatless, they would have been sure of a hearty
Highland welcome under the old roof-tree.

Yes, Flora had grown very much too, but she had also grown more
beautiful--I do not like the word "pretty"--and as she bade her brothers
and her cousin welcome home, the tears were quivering on her eyelids and
a flush of joy suffused her face.

And soon our young fellows settled down, and all the old wild life of
wandering on the hills and of sport began again.  For indeed the boys
needed a rest.

Little Johnnie Shingles and that droll Old Pen took up their abode in
the servants’ hall, but were often invited into the drawing-room of an
evening, when, to the music of Frank’s fiddle, the boy and Mother Pen
brought down the house, so to speak, by their inimitable waltzing.  This
was fun to everybody else, and even to Johnnie himself.  But while
whirling around in the mazy dance, with his head leant lovingly on the
nigger-boy’s shoulder, Pen never looked more serious in his life.

A great ball was given shortly after the return of our heroes, and
Glenvoie House looked very gay indeed.

While dancing that night with Flora, Frank took occasion to say to his
partner, in language that was certainly more outspoken than romantic:

"Mind, Flo, you and I are going to get hitched when we’re a bit older."

"Hitched, Frank?"

"Well, spliced then.  You know what I mean."

    "She looked down to blush, she looked up to sigh,
    "With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye."


I throw in these two lines of poetry just because they look pretty, and
I sha’n’t charge my publisher a penny for them either.  But, to tell the
truth--a thing I always do except when--but never mind--Flora neither
blushed nor sighed.

"That means getting married, doesn’t it?" she said. "Well, we’ll see;
but do keep step, Frank!"

And this was all the wooing.

But years have fled away since then.  Five, six, nearly seven of them.

The company was started.  The parchment the boys had found in the old
fort gave the clue to the situation.  The "debbil pits" were opened, and
are, even as I write, being worked with success.

The boys are men!

Boys will be men, you know!

They are fairly wealthy, and happy also.  Not that wealth makes people
happy, only it helps.

Frank is spliced.

And where do you think Flora and he spent their long, long honeymoon?
Yes, you are right.  In Floriana, in the country of gold and diamonds.
The land of the great Goo-goo.





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