Deep Sea Hunters in the Frozen Seas by Verrill, A. Hyatt (Alpheus Hyatt)
DEEP SEA HUNTERS IN THE FROZEN SEAS
_By A. HYATT VERRILL_
THE RADIO DETECTIVES THE RADIO DETECTIVES UNDER THE SEA THE RADIO DETECTIVES SOUTHWARD BOUND THE RADIO DETECTIVES IN THE JUNGLE THE DEEP SEA HUNTERS THE DEEP SEA HUNTERS IN FROZEN SEAS THE BOOK OF THE MOTOR BOAT ISLES OF SPICE AND PALM THE REAL STORY OF THE WHALER THE REAL STORY OF THE PIRATE
[Illustration: “SEAL OVER TO WIND’ARD!” HE SHOUTED.]
DEEP SEA HUNTERS IN THE FROZEN SEAS
BY A. HYATT VERRILL
AUTHOR OF “THE DEEP SEA HUNTERS,” “THE RADIO DETECTIVES,” “THE BOOK OF THE MOTOR BOAT,” ETC.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK :: 1923 :: LONDON
COPYRIGHT, 1923, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I. THE NARWHAL 1
II. THE BOYS SPRING A SURPRISE 12
III. ON THE BANKS 27
IV. A CLOSE SHAVE 43
V. ON THE ICEBERG 56
VI. THE BATTLE 70
VII. THE GLACIER 82
VIII. WHALES AND WHALES 103
IX. THE WALRUS HUNT 120
X. UNAVIK SPINS A YARN 137
XI. THE BOYS CATCH A TARTAR 155
XII. FROZEN IN 171
XIII. UNAVIK TO THE RESCUE 189
XIV. AN ARCTIC CHRISTMAS 204
XV. FRIENDS IN NEED 222
XVI. SOUTHWARD HO! 249
DEEP SEA HUNTERS IN THE FROZEN SEAS
Old Cap’n Pem was seated on the stringpiece of the wharf, his short black pipe gripped firmly in his mouth, and his wooden leg stretched stiffly before him like the stubby bowsprit of a coasting sloop. Beside him was his crony, Mike, another wooden-legged old mariner, for since a cruise the two had made to the Antarctic on the bark _Hector_, they had become inseparable companions.
Although they were fast friends, they were ever chaffing each other and made it a point never to agree upon anything.
As Mike said, “Phwhat’s the use av talkin’ if yez don’t be afther arguin’? Shure an’ if yez agrees there’s not a bit more to be said.”
So, as usual, the two ancient mariners were in the midst of a discussion regarding a weather-beaten, disreputable, unkempt craft which was being towed across New Bedford harbor by a fussy little tug.
“Looks like they wuz a-comin’ to berth her here,” remarked Old Pem. “Reckon Dixon mus’ calc’late to fit the ol’ _Narwhal_ out fer a cruise.”
Mike snorted. “B’gorra thin ’twill be a cruise to Davy Jones she’ll be afther takin’!” he exclaimed. “Shure, ’tis l’ave o’ yer sinses ye’re takin’, ye ol’ walrus! ’Tis to junk the schooner they do be towin’ av her here.”
“Walrus yerself!” retorted Cap’n Pem. “Ye’re a Irish lan’lubber if ye think the ol’ _Narwhal’s_ only fit for junk. That there ol’ hooker’s a-goin’ for to fit out, I bet ye. An’, by heck! if she do, I’ll be blowed if I don’t ask Dixon to ship me erlong.”
Mike guffawed. “Glory be!” he cried. “An’ do yez be afther thinkin’ as Dixon’ll be fittin’ out av a floatin’ horspittle, ye ol’ cripple?”
Pem bristled. “Dern yer hide!” he roared. “If he was I’ll be sunk if he wouldn’t grab ye fust, ye peg-legged Harp. I’d——”
Cap’n Pem’s sentence was interrupted by a shout and Jim Lathrop and Tom Chester, who had been with the old whalemen on the _Hector_ in the Antarctic, came racing towards them.
“Hurrah!” cried Tom. “That tug’s coming in here with that old brig. Say, Cap’n Pem, what do you suppose they’re going to do with her?”
“Bless ye, that ain’t no brig,” responded the old man. “That’s a torpsa’l schooner—the ol’ _Narwhal_. Ain’t seed her afloat fer years. Reckon Dixon’s goin’ fer to fit her out fer a cruise.”
“Cruise!” cried Jim. “Gee, you don’t mean to say any one would be crazy enough to go to sea on her! Why, the old _Hector_ was bad enough, but she was new compared to that tub, and was big enough to hoist this boat up to her davits.”
Mike chuckled. “Glory be!” he exclaimed. “Even the b’ys is afther knowin’ ’tis no cruise she’ll be takin’. Shure, me laddies, Oi wuz just afther tellin’ Pem ’twas a-junkin’ av her they’ll be. But b’gorra, he’ll be havin’ av it his own way an’, phwat’s more, the ol’ idjit’s a-sayin’ as he’ll be afther a-tryin’ to ship along av her.”
The boys laughed. “I thought you were never going to sea again, Cap’n Pem,” cried Tom. “You said you were going to settle down ashore and buy a farm with your share of the _Hector’s_ catch.”
“And you said only an old fool like Mr. Nye would ship a wooden-legged mate,” put in Jim. “Isn’t Mike going too to keep you company?”
“Divvil a bit!” declared Mike positively. “’Tis solid land Oi do be afther wantin’ to feel ben’ath me two feet—an’ me havin’ but wan.”
“Waall, I’ll bet ye she’s a-goin’ fer a cruise annyways,” rumbled Cap’n Pem, “an’ we’ll soon fin’ out.”
Rising, the old whaleman stumped across the dock to where the ancient craft was being moored. At his heels followed the two boys and Mike.
“Hey there, Ben!” shouted the old sailor to the captain of the tug. “What in tarnation ye bringin’ the _Narwhal_ over here fer?”
The tug’s skipper stuck his head from the pilot house, twirled the big wheel with one hand, and jerked the bell pull with the other. “Goin’ for a cruise,” he shouted back. “Heard Dixon’s aimin’ to send her to the Arctic.”
Cap’n Pem turned triumphantly to Mike. “There ye be, ye ol’ derelic’,” he cried. “Didn’t I tell ye?”
“Faith an’ yez did thot,” admitted Mike good-naturedly. “An’ by the same token, ’tis goin’ along av her ye’ll be jus’ fer to be afther provin’ yez was right altogether.”
“Well, I’m ready to believe anything now,” declared Tom. “You remember I thought you were fooling about the _Hector_ when you said she was fitting out, and I never dreamed we’d go on her. And she _was_ a fine old ship! Gosh, do you remember the way she went through that blow in the south Atlantic, Jim?”
“Do I!” replied Jim enthusiastically. “And say, I shouldn’t wonder if this old _Narwhal’s_ just as staunch a ship too, after she’s fixed up.”
“Bet ye she will be!” exclaimed Cap’n Pem. “I tol’ ye whaleships wuz built to las’ forever, and this here _Narwhal_ ain’t so drefful ol’. Why, I can recollec’ when she wuz new. Le’s see, reckon I must ha’ been ’bout the size o’ ye, an’ she warn’t more’n twenty year ol’ then. Yep, I’ll bet she ain’t much older’n I be.”
“B’gorra, an’ that’s a-plenty,” chuckled Mike. “An’ faith, ’tis a foine pair yez do be afther makin’! Shure yes, Pem, for the love o’ Hivvin be afther shippin’ on her—’tis comp’ny yez’ll be for wan another.”
“And the captain of the tug said she was going to the Arctic!” cried Jim, paying no heed to Mike’s interruption. “Do you suppose they’re going after whales, Cap’n Pem?”
“Dunno,” replied the whaleman. “Reckon they’re goin’ fer mos’ anythin’ what they gets. Seals, walrus, furs, ile an’ bone.”
“Furs!” exclaimed Tom inquiringly. “What kind of furs do you mean?”
“Different kinds,” replied Pem. “White b’ar, fox, musk ox, reindeer, anythin’ what the Eskimos bring in or the hands on the schooner kin shoot.”
“Gosh, wouldn’t it be fun to go!” shouted Jim. “Say, Tom, I’m going to ask Dad if I can go. That is, if Cap’n Pem goes. Now we’ve been on the _Hector_ and everything came out so well I’ll bet he’ll let me.”
“Me too!” declared Tom. “Say, that will be bully!”
“’Tis daffy yez all do be afther gettin’!” declared Mike shaking his grizzled head sadly. “Furrst ’tis ol’ timber-lig here an’ thin ’tis yez b’ys—goin’ to look afther him Oi’m thinkin’, an’ ’tis meself’ll have to be afther goin’ along to be lookin’ afther the three of yez.”
“Oh, you old fox!” cried Tom. “You know you’re just as crazy to go on another trip as any of us. You said yourself that voyage on the _Hector_ made a man of you. And you’d never be happy ashore without Cap’n Pem.”
“Shure, Oi dunno but phwat it’s the truth yez do be afther sp’akin’, Master Tom,” agreed the Irishman grinning. “But b’gorra ’tis wan thing to be talkin’ av goin’ an’ another to be aboarrd. Shure ’tis no knowin’ as Misther Dixon’ll be afther takin’ anny av us, at all, at all.”
“Well, we’re going to find out if we can go first—before we ask him,” said Jim. “And if we can, I’ll bet we can get Mr. Dixon to take you and Cap’n Pem. Mr. Nye and Captain Edwards can put in a good word for you, and besides, everybody in New Bedford knows you’re the two best whalemen here, and real whalemen are scarce nowadays.”
“Well, ’tis havin’ av me doots Oi do be, as the Scotchman sez,” declared Mike. “Cruisin’ to the Ar’tic’s not a bit the same as cruisin’ south—phwat wid the oice an’ all.”
“Fiddlesticks!” snorted Cap’n Pem. “What do ye know erbout it? Ye ain’t no whaleman. Bet ye he’ll be right glad fer to git us. ’Tain’t so all-fired easy to git navergators these times. An’ I’ve been in the ice—why, durn it, wuzn’t I ice pilot fer the ol’ _Petrel_?”
“Well, I hope he will take you—both,” said Tom. “Our folks will be more likely to let us go if you two are along. When do you think the schooner’ll be ready to sail? And say, I never saw a schooner like her. She’s got yards on her foremast like a brigantine.”
“Course she has,” replied Cap’n Pem. “Thet’s what makes her a torps’l schooner. Didn’t ye never seed one afore? But shucks, ’course ye didn’t. Ain’t many on ’em knockin’ erbout nowadays. Time wuz when they wuz thicker’n rats on a lime juicer. Yessir, an’ mighty handy craf’ in the ice, I tell ye. Thet’s why Dixon’s a-fittin’ o’ the _Narwhal_ out I ’spect. Ye see a or’nary fore-an’-aft schooner’s all right fer a-sailin’ on the wind, or when the win’s on the quarter or abeam, but she ain’t no use dead afore it, an’ ye can’t back her. An’ by glory! I’m a-tellin’ ye that when ye’re a-handlin’ of a ship in the ice, with bergs fore-an’-aft an’ to po’t an’ sta’board, an’ jes leads in the floes, ye wants a ship what kin back an’ fill an’ make steerageway st’arn fummust. Yessir, an’ the torps’l schooner’s the hooker what fills the bill. An’ as fer gettin’ ready, how can I tell? Reckon if there ain’t too pesky much to be did, she’ll be gettin’ away long ’bout the fust o’ June. Have ter fetch Hudson Straits by fust o’ August to git through safe an’ soun’.”
“Hurrah! that makes it all the better,” cried Tom. “School will be pretty near over and we could miss a few days—at the last. There’s just a lot of graduation exercises and such things. Come on, Jim, let’s go and see what our folks say.”
But the boys’ parents frowned upon the scheme at once. “That cruise in the _Hector_ should be enough to last you boys for a lifetime,” declared Mr. Lathrop. “And a cruise to the Arctic is a very different matter. The _Narwhal’s_ a very old and small ship, and she’ll spend the winter there probably, freeze in and take chances of being crushed. And you’d find it far from a picnic. Why, just imagine being locked hard and fast in the ice for six or eight months with the temperature fifty or sixty below zero, and shut up in the ship with a crowd of greasy whalers and Eskimos. No, Jim, there’s far too much risk.”
“Oh, hang it all!” cried Jim bitterly. “You said there’d be danger on the _Hector_ and everything was all right, and I’d love to be in the ice all winter and see Eskimos and hunt polar bears and walrus and everything. Say, if Cap’n Pem and Mike go, can’t I go too?”
Mr. Lathrop shook his head decisively. “If the entire crew of the _Hector_ went along, I’d not consent,” he declared. “But I’ll ask Tom’s father and see if he agrees with me.”
Mr. Chester, however, was as much against the idea as Jim’s parent. “No, Tom,” he said, after Tom had explained matters. “It would mean a year from school at least, and while I realize the knowledge you boys would obtain would be of real value, still it’s too risky a trip. You’d be frozen in for six months or more, the ship might be stove—in which case you might be killed or might be marooned in the Arctic for months or years—or she might strike a berg or a floe and founder. Arctic whaling’s dangerous, and I don’t feel sure the _Narwhal_ is seaworthy. Besides, I don’t know who Dixon is sending as ice pilot. It’s been years since a New Bedford whaler went to the Arctic and it takes men experienced in the ice to bring the ships through safely.”
“But Cap’n Pem was an ice pilot—on the _Petrel_,” argued Tom. “And you have faith in him.”
Mr. Chester laughed. “Yes, as far as looking after you boys to the best of his ability and being a good whaleman is concerned. But don’t for a moment think that Dixon will ship him or Mike. In the Arctic they need able-bodied young men—half the work is done ashore and there are long tramps over ice and snow. No, Tom, Cap’n Pem won’t go, that’s certain.”
“You said that about the _Hector_,” Tom reminded him. “And yet he went. Oh, Dad, if Cap’n Pem and Mike go, can’t I?”
“I suppose you want me to make another bargain,” chuckled his father, “and make a condition that seems impossible but may be fulfilled. No, Tom, even if Cap’n Pem went I would hesitate to consent. But I’ll tell you what. If the owners of the _Narwhal_ invite you to go—remember you’re not to ask them—and if they guarantee that they’ll be personally responsible for your safety, then I’ll consent.”
“Well that’s poor comfort!” exclaimed the disappointed boy. “Just as if the owners are going to invite us without even knowing we want to go, and as if they’d be responsible for us! Gee, they’d have to double their insurance, I guess.”
“One’s as likely as the other, I admit,” laughed Mr. Chester. “But don’t be so disappointed, Tom. Maybe there’ll be a ship going to the West Indies or the Atlantic this summer that you can go on—some short cruise.”
“Bother the West Indies!” cried Tom petulantly. “I want to go to the Arctic, and maybe Mr. Dixon may take Cap’n Edwards and maybe he or Cap’n Pem or some one may tell him we can navigate, and if he wants mates perhaps he will ask us.”
“Well, if he does you can go—that is, of course, if Jim goes too,” smiled Tom’s father. “But remember you’re neither to ask, nor hint about it. And I don’t think you’ll need to get out your winter things this June.”
THE BOYS SPRING A SURPRISE
The following day the two boys wandered to the wharf with disconsolate faces.
“Reckon yer folks didn’t take to the idee, hey?” ventured Cap’n Pem, as he turned from watching a gang of men working on the old _Narwhal_.
“No, they wouldn’t listen to us,” replied Tom. “Not even if you and Mike went. Dad said if the owners invited us—and we didn’t ask—and that if you and Mike went too, he’d let us, but there’s a swell chance of that.”
“H-m-m!” muttered the old whaleman. “Waall, I dunno as I’d be so everlastin’ly cut up about it. I don’t reckon ye’d have went annyhow without me, an’ there ain’t one chance in a million o’ that. Mike was up to see Dixon and the ol’ grampus jes laffed at him. Asked what he thought the _Narwhal_ wuz—a floatin’ old sailors’ home?”
“The mean old thing!” cried Jim. “Say, I’ll bet he won’t get a man that’s as good a sailor as you or Mike.”
“Is he the owner?” asked Tom.
“Wall, not perzactly,” replied the old man. “He’s the agent. The _Narwhal’s_ owned by a comp’ny—an’ I reckon they ain’t none too conf’dent o’ the cruise a-bein’ so everlastin’ly profit’ble. Mike says he saw Cap’n Edwards an’ ol’ Nye, a-tryin’ fer to get ’em to put in a word fer us, an’ Nye says as how they’s a lot o’ shares—or stock or whatever ye calls it—what ain’t been took up yit. He’s thinkin’ o’ buyin’ on it hisself if he kin git a good skipper like Edwards.”
Tom let out a yell like an Indian, threw his hat in the air and danced.
“Hurrah!” he fairly screamed. “We _can_ go! I’ve a scheme! Oh, Jim! Oh, Cap’n Pem! It’s bully! Oh gosh, we’ll put one over on Dad again!”
“Whatever be ye talkin’ on?” demanded the old whaleman. “’Pears like ye’ve gone plumb crazy.”
“Listen!” cried Tom, as he quieted down. And in earnest tones he explained his scheme to old Pem and to Jim.
“Gee!” commented Jim, “that _will_ work. Tom, you’re a wonder.”
“Derned if ’twont,” agreed the old whaleman. “I’ll be swabbed if I don’ reckon we’ll all be a-goin’ erlong o’ the _Narwhal_ arter all.”
A few moments later the boys were speeding towards New Bedford on a trolley car. Alighting near the water front they hurried to Mr. Nye’s office.
There was a long conference with the genial shipowner. Then another visit, with Mr. Nye accompanying them, to a broker’s and to a law office. Several hours later two grinning, jubilant boys made their way back to Fair Haven and entered Mr. Chester’s home.
“Well, Dad, they’ve invited us!” exclaimed Tom, as his father turned at their entrance.
“What?” cried Mr. Chester incredulously. “You mean to say the _Narwhal’s_ owners have asked you to go on a cruise—without your mentioning it to them?”
Tom grinned and Jim chuckled. “They sure did,” declared Tom. “And they’re going to take Cap’n Pem and Cap’n Edwards and Mike—and Ned if they can find him—and all the others that were on the _Hector_ that can be hired.”
“But how—how on earth did they know you wanted to go?” demanded Tom’s father, “and why are they going to take that crew of cripples? There’s a mystery here, boys; what is it?”
The two boys were thoroughly enjoying themselves. “And that’s not all, Dad,” went on Tom. “The owners said that if Jim and I couldn’t go, the _Narwhal’s_ cruise would be given up—they wouldn’t even fit her out.”
“What _is_ all this nonsense?” exclaimed Mr. Chester. “The owners must be crazy—talking about giving up a cruise if you two kids don’t go along! Who _are_ the owners of the old ship anyway?”
“Well, you see it’s a company,” explained Tom, scarcely able to control himself, “and the members who own the most shares are managing owners and have the say about everything.”
“Yes, yes, I understand all that,” interrupted Mr. Chester impatiently, “but who _are_ the managing owners?”
Jim could contain himself no longer. “We are!” he shouted. “Tom and I!”
Mr. Chester was speechless. “What?” he gasped presently. “You two boys are the ship’s owners?”
“I’ll say we are!” cried Tom. “We took the money we got for our lays of the ambergris and bought up the controlling shares to-day. Mr. Nye said it was a good investment. And so we invited ourselves, and we won’t let the _Narwhal_ sail unless we go, and we’re going to hire all the old _Hector’s_ crew.”
“Well I’ll be——” began Mr. Chester, and then, a smile broadening on his face, he turned to the telephone.
“Hello!” he exclaimed presently. “That you, Lathrop? Well, the boys have put one over on us two old fogies again! Yes, owners invited them all right. Say the ship won’t sail without them too. Yes. Guess we’ll have to let them go. Oh, Edwards. Yes, both Mike and Pem. Oh, yes, I forgot—Tom and Jim bought up the controlling interest—managing owners themselves. Ha, ha! Yes, they’ve won out!”
“Then we can go!” cried Tom, as his father hung up the receiver.
“I always stick to a bargain,” replied Mr. Chester, “and Jim’s father says he does too. So you might as well hire your crew and get the old _Narwhal_ fitted out.”
Cap’n Pem and Mike were as tickled as two children over the boys’ ruse and its success. Both the old sailors having been engaged, they set to work, Cap’n Pem looking after the details of reconditioning the schooner, while Mike haunted New Bedford’s water front and lodging houses, searching out the former crew of the _Hector_.
The next few weeks were very busy ones for the two boys, who had invested their little fortune in the _Narwhal_, and now found themselves the principal owners of a real whaling vessel. The details of the business, as well as the financial arrangements, repairs, and outfitting were turned over to Mr. Dixon and to Mr. Nye, for the latter had bought considerable stock in the _Narwhal_ also. And work proceeded rapidly aboard the ship.
There seemed to be an endless number of things to be done. The old ship’s timbers were in good shape and little of her planking had to be replaced, but she had to be caulked and pitched and painted and ice sheathing was put on. Her spars were worthless and her rigging had to be entirely stripped from her, and new rigging rove. Much of her decks were also badly rotted and, as Tom said, when on one occasion he looked ruefully at the almost empty hulk, minus masts and rigging, “By the time they get through she’ll be a new ship.”
But old Cap’n Pem did not agree with him. “Hanged if she will!” he exclaimed, “why, Lor’ love ye, ’tain’t a ship’s spars an’ riggin’ what makes the ship. It’s the timbers an’ hull. Bless my soul! If ev’ry time a ship got dismasted an’ had ter have a new set o’ spars, it made a new ship of her, thar wouldn’t be nary an ol’ ship lef’. Shucks! Ye wouldn’t say yer Dad built a new house jes ’cause he put a new chimbly or a new verandy on it, would ye?”
Tom laughed. “No,” he admitted, “but if Dad took out all the inside of the house, and then took off the boards and just left the old cellar, I’d call it pretty near a new house, and that’s what we’re doing with the _Narwhal_.”
“Not by a long shot!” burst out the old whaleman, to whom an old hull was almost sacred. “Ye’d find a purty diff’runce in what ye’d have to pay if ye wuz to build a new schooner ’stead o’ refittin’ this here hooker.”
Then, when at last the hull and decks were done and it came to rigging, dissension arose as to how the _Narwhal_ should be rigged. Mr. Dixon, who was of the new school, wanted a three-masted schooner and some of the other owners, a two-master, while one old fellow insisted a bark was the only rig. But the boys stoutly insisted that their ship, as they called her, must be rigged as she was originally and they were sustained by Mr. Nye, while old Cap’n Pem vowed he’d not take the place as ice pilot unless she was a square topsail schooner.
“If you take my advice,” said Mr. Chester, when on one occasion he was discussing the matter with the boys and Mr. Nye, “you’ll put a motor in her. I suppose it will be little less than heresy to suggest it to the whalemen, but a motor will be a godsend in the ice.”
“You’re right,” assented Mr. Nye. “Whale-ships have had auxiliary power before now and the _Narwhal_ can stand a motor. Yes, I think there’s no question that a motor will prove a most valuable asset. Why, even in towage it’ll save its own cost.”
But when Cap’n Pem heard of this he almost exploded. “Consarn sech rattletrap contraptions!” he exclaimed. “Ain’t sails an’ the win’ God gave us good enough fer to take this here ship where we aim fer to go? Motor! By cricky! do ye want fer to make a ottymobil out o’ the ol’ _Narwhal_.”
“Shure thin’ an’ ’twill be a shofure yez’ll be afther wantin’,” put in Mike. “An’ b’ the same token, ’tis a foine motorneer Oi am meself. B’gorra ’tis a shame to be a-turnin’ o’ the ould schooner into a power boat, but handy ’twill be Oi do be thinkin’ manny the toime.”
But despite Pem’s protests and contempt and sarcastic remarks, the motor was installed and Mike, who really had had experience in handling motors in the navy, was rated as engineer.
In regard to the rigging, Cap’n Pem and the boys had their way. Captain Edwards had agreed with the old whaleman that a topsail schooner was the handiest vessel to navigate in the ice; also he had pointed out that, having been originally rigged as such, it was cheaper and easier to re-rig the _Narwhal_ in the same way.
So the tall and tapering spars were set up, the long and beautifully proportioned cross yards for the foremast were slung, the standing rigging was bowsed taut, served, and tarred; the huge blocks and the maze of halyards, lifts, braces, sheets, lines and ropes were rigged, and, resplendent in a coat of new paint, the rejuvenated _Narwhal’s_ motor was started and she chugged slowly across the harbor to the New Bedford dock.
“Now what do you think of her?” asked Tom of old Mike as the staunch, trim schooner was warped alongside the dock, and her lofty, golden-tinted spars loomed high above the water-front buildings.
“Waall, b’gorra, ’tis not the same ship at all, at all,” declared the Irishman. “Shure ’tis loike the sailor’s knoife she do be—the same ould knoife, barrin’ new blades an’ a new handle.”
“Gid out!” cried old Pem. “By heck, if ye got a new timber leg I ’spec’ ye’d be a dod gasted new man, eh?”
“No!” responded the Irishman. “But shure an’ if Oi foun’ me a foine new hidpiece an’ a new body an’ a new pair o’ han’s, the wooden lig o’ me remainin’ would niver be afther makin’ ould Moike out o’ the broth of a b’y Oi’d be.”
“Well, I don’t care what you say, it’s the same old _Narwhal_,” insisted Tom, “just as much as the _Hector_ was the same old _Hector_.”
“Yis, yis, so she do be,” agreed Mike. “An’ ’tis a foine cruise we’ll be takin’ in her—an’ foine luck we’ll be havin’ Oi’m thinkin’—phwat wid the same ould crew o’ the _Hector_. An’ thanks be to Hivvin there’ll be no bo’sun burrds for to be a-perchin’ on the yarrds an’ a-scarin’ the loife out of us all.”
Even when the ship was reconditioned there was much to be done. The boys had thought that the old _Hector_ had carried vast quantities of stores, but when they saw the mountain of barrels, shooks, boxes, cases and casks that were piled on the wharf, and the steady stream of trucks and drays that kept adding their loads to the accumulation, they declared that the _Narwhal_ would sink at the wharf if all the supplies were stowed aboard her.
“Don’t ye fergit we’re a-goin’ for a long v’yage,” Cap’n Pem reminded them. “Lord knows when the ol’ _Narwhal_’ll be a-pokin’ of her jib boom pas’ New Bedford light ag’in. An’ there ain’t no delic’tessen ’roun’ the corner in the Ar’tic, by gum!”
“But what do they want all that salt for?” asked Jim, who had been watching barrel after barrel of coarse Turks’ Island salt being slung aboard.
“Curin’ skins,” replied the old whaleman. “’Spect we’ll be a-gittin’ a purty good cargo o’ seals. Ain’t been hunted much fer a spell an’ pelts is purty high. Yessir, better’n ile now’days.”
“And what do we need lumber for?” queried Tom. “Any one would think we were going to build a house up there.”
“So we be,” declared Pem. “Come winter an’ she freezes in, we’ll be a-makin’ on her shipshape an’ comfy for six months o’ everlastin’ night. House the ol’ hooker in—didn’t ’spec’ ye could spen’ the winter in that there mite of a cabin an’ the fo’c’s’le, did ye?”
“Well, I see we’ve a lot to learn yet,” laughed Tom. “What about guns and things for shooting the seals and bears?”
Cap’n Pem guffawed. “Lor’ love ye!” he exclaimed. “They don’t scarcely never shoot seals—jes knock ’em over the head same as we did them there sea el’phunts. But they’ll be guns aboard fer huntin’ musk ox an’ reindeer an’ b’ars, an’ a lot o’ ol’ muskets fer to trade to the Eskimos.”
“Well, we’re taking our own rifles,” said Jim, “but I don’t see any heavy clothes or overcoats in the stores.”
“Ain’t none,” declared the old whaleman. “Plenty o’ warm woolens an’ mitts an’ sea boots an’ sou’westers though. Don’ never take no overcoats along. Jes git fur clothes from the Eskimos. They’re a heap sight warmer an’ cheaper.”
So, with the boys constantly plying the old sailor with questions, and daily learning more and more about the outfitting and the coming cruise, the work of loading and storing the pile of supplies went on, until at last, to the boys’ amazement, the stevedores and sailors managed to find a place for everything.
Finally the final package was aboard. The _Narwhal’s_ deck was littered, the cabin was choked with boxes, half the galley was filled with coal, and even the spare boats were filled with stores. Still the _Narwhal_ showed plenty of freeboard and rode buoyantly on the water.
Then came trucks carrying huge rolls of new white canvas, a crowd of men swarmed up the rigging and over the yards, the great sails were bent on and stretched. The _Narwhal_ was ready to start on her long cruise to the frozen north.
It only remained to get the crew together, and when the two boys finally stepped on to the schooner’s decks on the day of leaving, they felt as if they were once more aboard the old _Hector_. There was Cap’n Edwards, with his merry blue eyes, white hair and leatherlike face. Cap’ Pem stumped back and forth with a frown on his face and his old cap at a rakish angle on his grizzled head. Mike was bawling orders and punctuating quaint commands with his Irish wit, and Mr. Kemp, longer and lankier than ever, grinned at the boys with his mouth twisted by the ghastly scar received when his ship was sunk by a German U-boat. From the galley door, the ebony-faced cook bobbed his woolly head in greeting, and, with a mallet in one hand and wooden wedges in the other, the dried-up, chin-whiskered Irish carpenter was busy battening down hatches with the help of big, raw-boned Ole Swanson, the cooper. Even one-eyed Ned and deaf-and-dumb Pete were there, and so the only faces the boys missed from the _Hector’s_ crew were those of the pop-eyed boy and the big gorilla-like black sailor.
“Why, you got all the old men back!” cried Tom delightedly, as he recognized one after the other. “Even Pete!”
Cap’n Pem grinned. “Yep,” he replied, “that there old fool Mike jes’ nat’rally did like ye told of him. But, arter all, they ain’t sech an all-fired bad lot o’ han’s, an’ they knows me and the skipper an’ Mr. Kemp, an’ ol’ shipmates is ol’ shipmates—spite o’ their bein’ mos’ly derelic’s. An’ I reckon Pete’ll be a sort o’ mascot—Eskimos is so dumb they allers thinks dummies is big med’cine an’ is supe’stitious ’bout ’em. ’Sides, we had sech everlastin’ luck las’ v’yage, mebbe we’ll be lucky ’long o’ this, seein’s we’ve got the hull crowd ag’in.”
As Cap’n Pem was speaking, the hawsers had been cast off, Mike had started the motor and the screw churned the water. The crowd gathered on the dock, shouted farewells and good lucks and the boys sprang to the taffrail, and waved and yelled good-by to their parents. The _Narwhal_, gay with bunting, her big sails hanging loosely in the buntlines and brails, slipped into the stream, swung slowly about, and under her own power was headed towards the harbor mouth.
Once more to the boys’ ears came the rousing chantey as the men piled aloft, scrambled out on yards, and manned the halyards and hoists.
The ship she’s a-sailing out over the bar, Away Rio! Away Rio! The ship she’s a-sailing out over the bar, We’re bound for the Rio Grande!
Thus sang the men as the sails rose slowly, with many a rattle and purl of blocks, and the _Narwhal’s_ white wings gleamed in the bright June sunshine. The boys thrilled with pride and delight as they glanced aloft at the tapering spars and taut rigging and at the sheen of sails. As they felt the gentle motion of the deck, Tom and Jim realized that they were once more starting forth on adventures—and this time in their own ship.
ON THE BANKS
Once past the lighthouse, and with a fair wind, the _Narwhal’s_ motor was stopped, sheets and braces were trimmed, and, heeling gently to her immense square foretop and foretopgallant sails and the vast expanse of her fore and mainsails the schooner plunged eastward.
“Golly, isn’t she a fine old ship!” cried Tom, as he stepped to the lee rail and watched the hissing froth speed past. “Why, she’s going like a yacht and there’s not much wind either!”
“Used to was the fastest hooker ’round the Cape,” rumbled Cap’n Pem.
“And spreads enough canvas to drive a clipper ship,” added Captain Edwards, glancing at the straining spars and rigging. “Pem, you’ll have to keep a weather eye liftin’ an’ be ready to shorten sail at the first sign of a blow.”
“Yes, sir,” agreed the other, “that there’s the wust o’ these here torpsa’l schooners—too derned much canvas aloft. It’ll drive ’em like blazes in a light win’, but keeps the crew everlastin’ly on the jump a-reefin’ and short’nin’ sail. Reckon soon’s ever we get no’thard o’ the Banks, we’d be a leedle mite snugger if we housed that there to’gallant sail.”
“Yes, better do that,” agreed the skipper, “we won’t need it in the ice.”
Now that the boys had a chance to look about, they noticed for the first time that there were no swarthy-faced Portuguese among the crew.
“Never take ’em to the Arctic,” Mr. Kemp told them in reply to their question. “Ain’t no good there—just shiver and freeze like a lot of frozen turnips.”
“Is it really as cold as that?” asked Jim.
“Cold!” exclaimed the lanky second officer. “Cold! Well, let me tell you a fellow doesn’t know what cold is ’til he’s spent a winter froze in up ’round the North Pole.”
“Have you ever been there?” asked Tom.
Mr. Kemp looked at Tom in surprise. “_Of_ course,” he declared. “Wish I had as many dollars as I’ve put in days in the ice.”
“And did you ever shoot white bears, and walrus, and musk oxen, and see Eskimos?” cried Jim.
“Did I?” grinned the officer. “Didn’t do much else durin’ the winter ’cept have shenannigans with the Eskimos aboard.”
“Do they talk English?” asked Tom. “Or do you have to know how to speak Eskimo?”
“Well, some of ’em talk what they _call_ English,” said Mr. Kemp. “Those are the fellows that’s been whalin’ long of Yankee and Scotch ships, but the most of ’em just palaver in their own lingo—and I can talk that. I was brung up with a Eskimo kid, and learnt it from him.”
“Why, how was that?” asked Jim, “I thought you came from right here on Cape Cod.”
“Nope, Noank, back in Connecticut,” said the other. “And there was a Eskimo there—Eskimo Joe they called him—what had a kid ’bout my age. We went to school together and was reg’lar chums.”
“I didn’t know there were any Eskimos in Connecticut,” exclaimed Tom. “I thought they always died when they came down here.”
“Joe didn’t,” the other assured him. “And say, he could have told you a bully good yarn. I don’t know as I can spin the whole of it for you, but he an’ his squaw come down on a cake of ice. That is, they come most o’ the way.”
“Oh, tell us about it!” cried Tom. “How did he happen to be on a cake of ice and how could he come down on it?”
“Well, there don’t seem to be much to do right now, so I expect I _can_ spare a couple o’ minutes to tell you,” agreed Mr. Kemp. “Especially,” he added with a grin, “as long as the owners is tellin’ me to.”
“You see,” he began, seating himself on a coil of rope and lighting his pipe, “Eskimo Joe was one o’ the hunters an’ pilots on the old _Polaris_—a ship what was up huntin’ for the North Pole long afore my time—back in 1871 ’twas. Well, the _Polaris_ got froze in hard an’ fast, and the crew, thinkin’ she might get stove, put most of the stuff on the ice and was gettin’ ready for a bust up. But it come afore they expected of it. Ice broke up and left some of the folks on the ice ’longside the ship and the rest of ’em on a big piece of floe adrift in the water. Eskimo Joe was with that crowd along with his squaw and Captain Tyson of the _Polaris_ and a bunch o’ men—twenty there was all told—and nary a mite of food.
“Just as soon as the ice got adrift it commenced to travel in a current, and there they was, driftin’ about on an ice island that might go to bits or capsize any minute. Times was when they pretty near starved, but they caught gulls and murres and auks and other birds, and Joe fixed up a fishin’ tackle and got fish now and then. Sometimes, too, a seal would come aboard the cake and Joe’d get him; and once a white bear clumb on to the ice and Joe nailed him, too. I don’t guess bear’s any too good meat, but it sure was welcome to those folks. Well, to make a long story short, they was driftin’ on that ice cake for six months, yes, sir and the cake gettin’ smaller all the time as it drifted along south. Then, along in April ’72 a sealin’ ship—steamer, _Tigress_, o’ St. John’s, Newfoundland ’twas—hove in sight and picked ’em up, and every man jack o’ the twenty-one safe and hearty.”
“Why, I thought you said there were only twenty!” exclaimed Tom.
Mr. Kemp grinned. “So I did and so there was,” he declared, “when they went adrift. But you see, while they was navigatin’ ’round on their ice island, Joe’s squaw had a baby an’ that was the kid I used to be chums with.”
“Gee, I hope we don’t get adrift like that!” exclaimed Jim. “But it must have been some adventure!”
“Well, you can’t never tell,” remarked Mr. Kemp as he rose and hurried off. “But I guess after bein’ sunk by a sub, driftin’ on a ice floe wouldn’t be so bad as it might be.”
The Elizabeth Islands were now close ahead, and the _Narwhal_ was soon passing through the narrow channel between Naushon and Woods Hole and, to the south, Martha’s Vineyard was in plain sight. With every stitch of canvas set, the schooner sped on across Nantucket Sound towards distant Monomoy Light.
It was a perfect June day, warm and bright, and with a steady northwest wind on the _Narwhal’s_ quarter. Captain Edwards declared that if the breeze held throughout the day and night, they would pass George’s Banks before noon the following day. Before dark, long, low Monomoy Point was sighted and with the last of the land astern, Cap’n Pem roared out orders and the willing crew raced to sheets and braces.
Oh, whisky is the life of man, Whisky! Johnny! It always was since time began, Oh, whisky for my Johnny!
Lustily the men roared out the old chantey as the fore and mainsail sheets were hauled in, and the big foretopsail yard swung to the heave of the braces. Then, as the _Narwhal_ turned towards the north and the freshening wind abeam buried her lee rails under the tumbling suds-like froth, the crew swarmed aloft. Presently the foretopgallant sail was thrashing and snapping like a battery of rapid-fire guns, as the men furled the canvas to the rousing chantey:
Around Cape Horn, where wild gales blow, To me way-hay, hay-yah! Around Cape Horn through sleet and snow, A long time ago——!
The schooner headed across the broad Atlantic, and darkness fell upon the sea. Monomoy Light was but a tiny twinkling star astern, and the boys felt their cruise had really begun.
The next morning was fair but almost calm. As the boys came on deck, they were surprised to see a score and more of trim schooners riding easily on the long ocean swell under light canvas.
“It must be a yacht club!” exclaimed Tom, “but I didn’t know they came so far to sea.”
“Fishing fleet from Gloucester,” said Captain Edwards, who heard Tom’s remark. “We’re passing George’s Banks. Don’t you see the dories yonder?”
“Oh yes, I do now,” declared Tom. “But why do they call it a Bank? I don’t see any land.”
“Waall, I swan!” cried Cap’n Pem. “To think o’ ye young scallawags a-bein’ navigators an’ owners o’ a torps’l schooner, and a-havin’ v’y’ged to the Sou’ Shetland’s, an’ not a-knowin’ on a fishin’ smack when ye sees ’em, nor a-knowin’ nothin’ ’bout the Banks. Lor’ love ye, there beint no lan’ here ’bouts ’ceptin’ straight down. Ye see the Banks is ’bout a hundred fathom deep, an’ that’s plumb shaller fer mid-ocean, so they calls on ’em Banks. Ain’t no ’cause to be skeert o’ runnin’ the ol’ _Narwhal_ agroun’!”
“Well, I suppose we _are_ awfully green,” laughed Tom, “but they never told us that in school when we learned about the ocean and the coast in physical geography, and I thought fishing schooners were dirty old boats.”
“Finest little ships afloat,” declared the skipper. “And just as fast as they can be built. Have to be to get the catch to market—price depends on the first to make port. Look there! There goes one of ’em now. She’s got a full catch an’s beatin’ it for Boston.”
As he spoke, he pointed to one of the schooners that had run a flag to her maintopmast head. As the boys looked, the schooner blossomed into a perfect cloud of snowy canvas.
“Gosh, look at her go!” cried Jim delightedly, as the trim black schooner heeled towards them until they could see the full sweep of her deck. With a mountain of foam about her bows, she fairly raced through the oily sea.
“And hardly enough wind to fill our sails,” added Tom. “Say, I wish the _Narwhal_ could go like that!”
“And there goes another and another!” cried Jim. “Golly, it’s like a race.”
“So ’tis a race,” chuckled the captain. “With thousands of dollars to the winner.”
“Jiminy, I’d like to sail on those boats,” declared Tom as the schooners swept by with a hiss and roar. “It must be exciting.”
“Pesky hard work if ye asks me,” declared Cap’n Pem. “An’ no fun, come winter, I tell ye. By gum, I’d ruther be froze up in the Ar’tic.”
“And plenty of danger too,” added the skipper. “Hardly a week passes that fishermen are not lost on the Banks—though it’s on the Grand Banks more than here.”
“I don’t see what’s dangerous about it,” said Tom as they turned to go to breakfast. “Just coming out here in a fine schooner and fishing.”
“There’s not—on a day like this,” agreed Captain Edwards, “but in fog, the schooners or dories are often run down by steamers; the dories get parted from their ships and are lost, and in winter storms they are often swamped or driven to sea by gales. I tell you, boys, if you want to read exciting stories of heroism and hardship, just get the Gloucester papers and read ’em. Why, it’s worse than whalin’—almost.”
By the time breakfast was over, the fishing fleet was a mere group of flashing white specks astern, and the boats which had raced to port were out of sight.
Presently Cap’n Pem called Mr. Kemp and suggested that it was a good day to break in the green hands. For several hours the boys were amused by watching the frightened men, who had never before been to sea, as they were compelled to go aloft. It was a familiar sight to them for they had seen it day after day on the _Hector_ but they could not help being sorry for the fellows, as the two whalemen forced the men into the rigging.
There was no actual brutality—although, judging from the words and looks of Cap’n Pem and the second mate, the men might well have thought they were ready to do murder if they were not obeyed. After a bit, the green hands were allowed to come down, the big yards were swung, the schooner was hove to, and for several hours the “greenies” were put through a grilling boat practice. This they thoroughly enjoyed, and they chaffed and jollied one another whenever they caught a crab with the huge ash oars, or made some similar breaks that brought down a fiery string of comments from the officers. But there was not a great deal of this drilling and breaking in, for the _Narwhal’s_ crew was small and only a very few of the men were raw hands, the captain explaining that the bulk of the work on the “grounds” would be done by the Eskimos who could be taken aboard at Labrador or Greenland.
“Gee, it sounds funny to be talking about going to Greenland!” laughed Tom. “I can’t really believe it yet. How long should it take us to get there, Captain Edwards?”
“Impossible to say,” replied the skipper. “Depends on wind and fog and how much ice we find when we get to the Straits.”
“Oh, there—there she blows!” shouted Jim. “Off the port bow!”
Instantly all eyes were turned in the direction Jim indicated, and Mr. Kemp raced up the rigging. The next moment a dozen little fountains of spray rose above the green surface of the sea, and a number of the huge black bodies rolled sluggishly into view.
“Blackfish!” shouted Mr. Kemp.
“So they be!” echoed Cap’n Pem. “Don’t ye youngsters know whales yit?”
“Aren’t they whales?” demanded Tom. “They look like ’em to me.”
“No, blackfish-grampus,” declared the skipper. “But after all, they _are_ a kind of whale.” Then, after a moment, he exclaimed. “Pem, let’s lower away and go after ’em. Good practice for the men, an’ blackfish ile’s worth takin’. There ain’t no wind an’ we won’t lose ’nough time to count.”
“Stan’ by to lower away the sta’board boats,” roared the old whaleman.
Then, as the yards were swung and the schooner came to a standstill, the boats were lowered, the men tumbled in, and to the pull of the six long ash oars in each, they went racing towards the school of blackfish.
To the boys’ delight, they were allowed to go after the grampus, for they had always longed to go in one of the boats as it dashed across the waves after a whale. To be sure “going on” the blackfish was not the same as attacking a monster cetacean. But it was the nearest thing to it, and both Tom and Jim thrilled with excitement as the ash oars bent to the brawny muscles of the men, and the keen-stemmed boat fairly leaped through the water.
Cap’n Pem was as excited as if he were after a real whale. Standing at the huge steering oar, with his hair flying, he shouted to the straining crew.
“Lift her, lads!” he cried. “Get in on the pesky critters! Don’t let that there swab o’ a secon’ mate git fust! Git arter ’em, ye lubbers!”
Forward the harpoonier or boat-steerer laid aside his oar and unsheathed a keen-pointed harpoon or “iron,” a lighter weapon than the one the boys had seen used for sperm whales. Bracing his knee in the clumsy cleat, he stood ready to strike the blackfish that were now but a few hundred feet distant.
Close behind came Mr. Kemp’s boat, his crew striving their utmost to reach the grampus in time to make a strike before the fish were frightened. Almost side by side the two boats swept upon the unsuspecting creatures.
Nearer and nearer the boat crept. The boat steerer raised his weapon, braced himself, every muscle taut, and was on the point of heaving the iron at a huge grampus a few yards ahead when Tom let out a terrified yell.
Within a few feet of the boat a huge, triangular fin had cut through the water and the next instant an immense body hurled itself into the air and, with a sweep of its stupendous tail, struck the water with a blow like a bursting shell, drenching the occupants of the boat.
“Thrasher!” shouted Cap’n Pem.
The harpoonier picked himself up from where he had stumbled, as the deluge of water almost drowned him. He poised his iron and glanced about. Not a grampus was in sight.
“Dern his everlastin’ hide!” yelled Cap’n Pem. “Look out! There, he’s a-comin’! Strike him, Nat!”
As the old whaleman spoke, the big fin again ripped through the sea and with a grunt the boat-steerer heaved his long weapon. The next second the water was lashed into foam, the heavy manilla whale line was rushing through the chocks like a streak of light, and the heavy boat was tearing through the sea at express-train speed.
“Fast!” screamed Cap’n Pem, as he tugged and strained at his big oar.
Then, “Breachin’!” he cried, as once more the immense creature flung itself clear of the water. The boys, dazed, frightened, and gasping, saw that it was a gigantic shark with an enormously long tail.
Hardly had the thrasher struck the water again when the line ran out a few feet. Suddenly it grew slack and the boat came to a standstill.
“Drew!” exclaimed Cap’n Pem. “Consarn it, reckon we might’s well go back. Nary mite o’ use a-tryin’ fer them blackfish now.”
Crestfallen, the men took to the oars and started to pull back to the ship.
“What _is_ a thrasher?” asked Tom, now that the excitement was over.
“Kind o’ shark,” replied Cap’n Pem. “Biggest nuisance ever was. Jes rush in an’ thresh about and kill a lot o’ fish, and then gobbles of ’em up. That there consarn rascal was after them blackfish, though.”
“Whew, do they kill—Oh, look, Mr. Kemp’s boat’s fast!”
Sure enough, the second mate’s boat was rushing through the sea evidently towed by some creature, and a few moments later the boys saw the officer stand erect in the bow, poise his lance and lunge forward with it.
“Reckon we might jes as well pull over thataway an’ mebbe get a chanct to strike,” remarked Cap’n Pem, swinging the boat’s head as he spoke.
In a few minutes they were within hailing distance of the second mate’s boat.
“Did you get one?” yelled Tom.
“I’ll say so,” shouted back Mr. Kemp. “Come over here and bear a hand to tow this critter to the schooner.”
“Waall I’ll be sunk!” cried Cap’n Pem. “What’s the matter with thet there crew o’ yourn? Ain’t they got beef ’nough for to tow in a consarned leedle blackfish?”
The boats were now close together and the boys saw a huge black body rolling in the swell beyond the second mate’s boat.
“Blackfish?” yelled Mr. Kemp. “You’re a fine whaleman! What’s the matter with your eyes, Pem?”
But the old whaleman had now caught sight of the other boat’s kill and the expression that came over his weather-beaten old face was so ludicrous that the boys roared. His eyes seemed popping from their sockets, his mouth gaped and he looked as if he had seen a ghost.
“By the great red herrin’!” he ejaculated at last. “I’ll be everlastin’ly keelauled if ’tain’t a whale! An’ sparm at thet!”
A CLOSE SHAVE
“I told you they were whales!” exclaimed Tom triumphantly, as the two boats drew side by side, and the men busied themselves getting tow lines fast to the dead whale.
“They wasn’t,” declared Cap’n Pem, “jes or’nary blackfish.”
“But this is a whale,” argued Tom.
“Jes dumb luck o’ Mr. Kemp,” replied the old whaleman. “Jes happened to be ’long o’ them there grampuses. An’ ’tain’t much o’ a whale neither—jes a baby.”
“Well it’s just our luck to be in the boat that didn’t get the whale,” lamented Jim. “Did you have much of a tussle, Mr. Kemp?”
“Nothin’ worth while,” responded the second officer. “Towed us a bit and died with nary a flurry.”
“I didn’t know they had sperm whales ’way up here,” said Tom, as the crews bent to their oars with the whale in tow.
“Don’t, so everlastin’ly often,” Cap’n Pem told him. “Come warm weather, they swims in by the Banks now an’ ag’in—that is, sparm do—an’ times gone there used to was a powerful lot o’ Biscay whales ’roun’ about the New Englan’ coast. Yes, sir, I recollec’ when a ship could v’yage out o’ New Bedford or Nantucket an’ fill up with Biscay ile an’ bone inside o’ six weeks.”
The schooner had now caught a light wind and was bearing down upon the boats. A few moments later, the whale was alongside and the two boats had been hoisted to the davits. Then followed the dirty, busy work of cutting in and boiling, with all of which the boys were familiar from their cruise in the Antarctic. But the whale, as Cap’n Pem had said, was scarcely more than a baby. The work was all over before midnight, with twenty barrels of oil stowed in the schooner’s hold.
“Pretty good beginning—for three days out of port,” chuckled Captain Edwards. “I reckon you boys—ahem, owners—must be mascots. Just hope the luck holds all through.”
“Well, there won’t be any bo’sun birds to bring bad luck, anyway,” laughed Jim. “Although I suppose there must be some bad omen even up here or sailors wouldn’t be satisfied.”
“Plenty on ’em,” declared Cap’n Pem. “But don’t go to talkin’ an’ a-bringin’ o’ it on. Ain’t it bad ’nough to have that there black cat aboard—an’ nary a dod-gasted soul a-knowin’ where she come from?”
The boys roared. “I knew you’d find something,” cried Tom. “Why, I thought the cat belonged to the crew. Why don’t you kill her or something if she’s such bad luck?”
“Kill her!” exclaimed the old man. “By the eternal, don’t ye know no more’n thet? Ye mought jes as well kill a Mother Cary’s chicken or a bo’sun bird. No sirree! Let good enough alone’s my motter.”
“Well, you _are_ the most superstitious old whaleman I ever saw,” laughed Tom. “I’ll bet the cat’s what brought the good luck.”
Cap’n Pem snorted. “Ye mark my words,” he muttered as he strode aft. “We’ll be gittin’ inter some sort o’ mess long o’ that there cat yit.”
But for the next three or four days none on the _Narwhal_ could have asked for better weather. The breeze, though light, was fair and steady. The sea ran in long, easy swells and the schooner, curtseying gently and with every stitch of canvas set, pressed steadily on her course.
Then one night the boys were awakened by the tolling of a bell and the ear-splitting screech of a horn. Hastily throwing on a few clothes, they hurried on deck.
At the first glance about they realized what the trouble was. The man at the wheel was barely visible, although less than a dozen feet distant. The faint light of the binnacle was a mere glow and the sails, spars, and forward part of the vessel melted into nothingness. The _Narwhal_ was enveloped in a dense fog.
From the unseen bows of the ship came the monotonous tolling of the bell. At intervals the raucous horn screeched from the blanket of gray mist. Borne in strangely ghostly fashion from the blackness, came the voices of men.
Tom glanced at his watch and found that it was nearly sunrise but nowhere was there a hint of light or of dawn.
“Gosh, but it’s thick!” exclaimed Tom. “I wonder where we are.”
“Where I wish we wasn’t,” replied a voice so close to the boys that they jumped. “Right plumb on the Grand Banks,” continued the invisible speaker, whom the boys now recognized as Captain Edwards.
“What’s wrong with the Banks?” asked Tom.
“Nothing wrong with them,” replied the skipper who now stepped from the curtain of fog and stood near the boys. “But Lord alone knows when we may be a-knockin’ into a fishin’ smack, or a-bearin’ down on a dory, or gettin’ run down by a liner. I wish to heaven this condemned fog would lift.”
Hardly had he ceased speaking when there was a hoarse shout from forward, a tearing, grating sound, and a vast dark mass loomed alongside as the _Narwhal_ scraped past a fishing schooner, snapping off the smack’s jib boom. A moment later the stranger was lost in the fog and only faint, angry cries told of her whereabouts.
“Sarved the lubbers right!” exploded Cap’n Pem, as he came hurrying aft to see if the _Narwhal_ had been injured. “Never a-blowin’ o’ nary a horn, nor a-ringin’ o’ their bell!”
“Did it hurt us any?” asked Tom excitedly.
“Carried away a couple of backstays,” replied the skipper. “Lucky we was both headed the same way.”
By now the fog was getting lighter with the rising sun. The boys could see the lower portions of the sails, the lower masts, the ship’s deck as far forward as the forerigging, and the dull gray-green sea for a few hundred feet about the schooner. Beyond that, all was a solid wall of gray through which the _Narwhal_ forged slowly ahead, horn and bell constantly sounding warnings, and with men aloft striving to peer into the impenetrable murk.
“I should think they’d stop and anchor, or heave to until it lifts,” remarked Jim.
“Better to keep movin’,” declared Mr. Kemp, who was peering first to one side and then the other. “Long as we’ve steerage way on, we’ve a chance to dodge another ship—if we see ’em in time.”
Presently, from the starboard, came the sound of a bell. Then from ahead came the muffled roar of a horn, and soon, from all directions, there were warnings issuing from the fog.
“Golly, there are boats all around us!” cried Tom. “Look! See there, Jim.”
Jim turned in time to see a ghostly phantomlike shape appear as if by magic—a schooner with all sails set, and seemingly within a dozen yards of the _Narwhal_. But almost before he could grasp the fact that it was a vessel, it had vanished as weirdly as it had appeared.
For an hour or more the schooner picked her way through the fog, often swinging sharply to port or starboard at the skipper’s hoarsely bellowed orders, a dozen times avoiding collision with a smack by a few feet and twice swerving just in time to avoid running down the tiny bobbing dories.
At last the bells and horns grew faint. The captain breathed more freely and declared he must have left the fleet astern. As the fog began to lift and a wider expanse of sea and the upper sails became visible, the boys decided all danger was over and prepared to go to the cabin and dress properly.
Then, from the lookout, a frightened yell rang out. A shrieking bellow roared from the fog ahead. With a bound Captain Edwards leaped to the wheel. “Hard aport!” he screamed, as he grasped the spokes and strained with the steersman at the helm. Startled, realizing that imminent unknown peril threatened, confused by the shouts, orders and rush of men, the boys stood gazing helplessly about.
Then once more that ear-splitting, terrific bellow thundered from the fog. As the _Narwhal’s_ head swung slowly to starboard, a vast, towering, mountainous shape came tearing, rushing, through the fog. Dimly through the opaque gray mist, the terror-stricken boys saw the tremendous fabric bearing down upon them. Far above the schooner’s crosstrees reared the lofty stem of a gigantic steamship. Within a cable’s length of the _Narwhal_, the billowing mass of foam about the keen steel stem roared with the sound of surf. Each second the boys expected to hear the crashing blow, to feel the splintering, terrific impact that would spell their doom. Paralyzed with fright, they stood motionless and speechless. Nothing, they felt, could save them. The great, shearing prow of the steamer seemed to overhang their heads. Their staring eyes glimpsed dim, tiny figures leaning over the rails far above, shouting, gesticulating, life rings in hand.
And then, with a hissing roar like a passing train, the huge liner swept by. Endless rows of port holes filled with white faces rushed past the terror-stricken boys. The next second the _Narwhal_ was bobbing and jumping like a cork on the tumbling heaving wake, with only the pall of smoke and the churning foam to mark the liner’s passage.
Leaping upon the schooner’s wildly tossing taffrail, Captain Edwards shook his fist at the spot where the liner had disappeared in the fog. Cap’n Pem, unable to stand on the rail, seized a belaying pin, hurled it after the liner and, throwing his cap on the deck, fairly danced with rage.
“Consarn their everlastin’ hides!” he screamed. “A-tearin’ ’crost these here Banks like a house afire, an’ fog thicker’n cheese. Blasted murderers! A-riskin’ lives o’ honest sailor men jes fer to make time an’ save a few dirty, blasted dollars! I’d like to git at ’em!”
Despite the narrow escape, the seriousness of the situation, and the old whaleman’s earnestness, the boys could not suppress a grin at the old fellow’s towering and thoroughly justified rage at the reckless officers of the liner.
Then, as if the steamship’s passage had been the signal, the fog lifted rapidly. A fresh breeze came up and presently the _Narwhal_ was speeding over a wide clear sea with only a few wisps of whitish vapor to mark the fog which had so nearly brought an end to the schooner and those upon her.
“Didn’t I tell ye that there black cat would a be bringin’ o’ bad luck!” cried Cap’n Pem, as his temper cooled down and the fog disappeared.
“Nonsense!” laughed Tom. “She brought good luck three times now—first the whale, then escaping from that schooner, and then being saved from the steamer. And I shouldn’t wonder if she made the fog lift, too.”
“Humph!” snorted the old man. “’Course ye’ll have it your way, but if she didn’t bring that there fog an’ that consarned pesky liner, what did?”
“And if she didn’t save us and make the fog clear, what did?” responded Jim.
Cap’n Pem pursed his mouth, jerked his cap down over his eyes and stumped off. “No use argufyin’,” he declared. “But ye’ll see! Mark my words.”
Three days after their narrow escape from the liner, the boys saw Cape Breton light. Tacking in long reaches, the _Narwhal_ worked across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and with the thrill of seeing strange lands, Tom and Jim stared through their glasses at the forbidding shores of Newfoundland and at bleak Anticosti.
It was slow, hard work beating against tides, currents and head winds. Late in the season though it was, masses of ice still lingered in the coves of the shores. Once, as they watched the dirty white masses of ice, Tom cried out in delight as he saw a number of sleek brown creatures scramble into the sea when the schooner approached.
“Hurrah, those were seals!” he cried.
“Yep, harbor seal,” said Captain Edwards. “Not worth much. But you’ll see a-plenty of real seals after a bit. Shouldn’t wonder if we’d get some hides up round Belle Isle. Never did see so pesky much ice in the Gulf this time o’ year.”
At last the Straits of Belle Isle were reached, the wind shifted and once more sailing free, the _Narwhal_ made good time through the narrow waterway between Newfoundland and Labrador.
As they passed the lonely, wave-washed Belle Isle, men were sent aloft on the lookout for seals. Nothing but a few herds of the little harbor seals were seen, however, and these were so wary that Captain Edwards vowed it would be a waste of time to attempt to hunt them.
Then, swinging past Cape St. Lewis, the schooner was headed up the coast of Labrador for Hebron where she was to put in for Eskimos.
Two days after passing the Cape, the boys were scanning the ugly green sea with their glasses when a faint, shimmering, cloud-like shape rose upon the horizon.
“Oh, there’s a ship!” exclaimed Jim. “And a big one.”
Mr. Kemp looked up, shaded his eyes with his hand and stared in the direction Jim indicated. “Ship!” he exclaimed. “That’s a berg.”
“A berg!” cried Tom. “You mean an iceberg?”
“Sure,” replied the second mate. “Pretty sizeable one too.”
“Oh, let’s sail over and see it!” exclaimed Jim.
“Less we see of ’em the better it’ll suit me,” said the skipper who had been studying the berg. “But you’ll have a chance to see it all right. We’ll have to go out of our course if we don’t want to bump plumb into it.”
Rapidly the berg rose before the schooner, a massive mountain of ice, its summit carved and melted into spires, pinnacles and huge, overhanging shelves, steep precipitous sides rising from the wide hummocky base just above the waves and gleaming and shimmering with every color of the rainbow.
“Gee, isn’t it pretty!” cried Jim. “I never knew ice was so many colors. And look at those big caves in the sides.”
“And look—oh look, Jim!” exclaimed Tom. “There’s some one on it! See, right in front of that big green cave!”
“What in tarnation ye talkin’ of?” demanded Cap’n Pem. “Here, gimme them glasses.”
Adjusting the glasses, the old whaleman stared fixedly for a moment at the distant iceberg. “Some one on it!” he exclaimed. “Waal, I’ll be blowed if there beint—but ’tain’t no human critter. That there’s a whoppin’ big b’ar!”
“A bear?” cried Tom. “Hurrah! that’s all the better. Oh say, Captain Edwards, can’t we go over and shoot him?”
“Hmm,” muttered the skipper, “I dunno, but I reckon you can. Pem, soon’s ever we get ’bout half a mile from the berg, have the yards swung an’ lower the sta’board quarter boat. White bear skins is worth takin’ and it’ll give the boys—I mean owners—a chance to try their hands. Better let Mr. Kemp go along with ’em.” Then, turning to the boys, he continued. “Now mind you do just as Mr. Kemp tells you. Bergs is mighty pesky things, an’ a gun shot’s li’ble to start a break or a slide or topple the dumb thing clean over. Better to lose the bear than get kilt.”
The boys scarcely heard what he said. Filled with excitement at thoughts of visiting the berg and shooting a polar bear, they dashed to their cabin, hastily got out their rifles and, stuffing their pockets with cartridges, rushed back on deck.
ON THE ICEBERG
Within half a mile of the berg, the _Narwhal_ was hove to and lay resting motionless, gently rising and falling to the swell. Towering like a mountain peak, the mass of ice shimmered and scintillated like a gigantic gem against the sky.
Rapidly the boat sped towards the ice; and the boys shivered and buttoned their coats and turned up their collars as they drew near the immense ice mountain that chilled the air for a mile or more.
The bear still squatted upon a hummock in front of the deep green cavern in the side of the berg. As they drew close and the men rowed more slowly, the two boys crept to the bow of the boat and loaded their rifles. Nearer and nearer they came. The air was like the interior of a refrigerator. Still the huge white bear sat motionless, as if awaiting the boat, and wondering why he was to receive visitors on his drifting ice home.
Now a scant one hundred yards of open water lay between the boat and the berg. In low tones, Mr. Kemp ordered the men to cease rowing and as the boat lost headway, he spoke to the excited boys. “Aim for his breast and shoot,” he said. “He’s a fair mark and you ought to get him first crack.”
Kneeling in the bow of the boat, Tom and Jim rested their rifles on the gunwale, took steady aim, and pulled triggers. At the dual report a shower of ice splinters flew up from beside the bear. The big creature reared up on his hind legs, roared out a growl that echoed from the cavern behind him, pawed wildly at the air and toppled backwards out of sight.
“Got him,” shouted Mr. Kemp. “Give way, lads!”
“Hurrah!” yelled Jim. “Gee, won’t he make a fine skin for a trophy. Say, I wonder which of us hit him.”
“We can tell when we get him,” replied Tom. “One of us missed and hit the ice; but your rifle’s a .30-.30 and mine’s a .45 so we can tell by the bullet hole in him.”
A moment later the boat grated on the shelving ice. The boys leaped on to the berg, and Jim, being the first to land, rushed up the rough hummocky ice towards where the bear had fallen.
As he reached the spot where the bear had stood, he uttered a terrified yell, leaped back, slipped on the ice and came rolling and tumbling down the slope towards Tom. Rearing gigantic at the summit of the ridge was the bear, his lips drawn back over his huge white teeth, blood dribbling from his mouth, his long neck stretched out, and his wicked-looking head swaying from side to side.
Instantly Tom threw his rifle to his shoulder and took hasty aim at the bear’s breast.
“Hey, look out!” yelled Mr. Kemp. “Don’t——”
But his warning was too late. The roar of the rifle cut his words short. There was a stunning, rending, thunderous crash, the solid ice reeled and tossed like the deck of a ship in a heavy sea, and the boys and Mr. Kemp staggered drunkenly and fell sprawling.
“Wha—what happened?” cried Jim picking himself up with a dazed expression on his face.
“Berg’s goin’ to pieces!” yelled the second officer. “Come on back to the boat! That shot started the darned ice to slippin’! It’s rotten as punk. Come on, the whole blamed thing’s likely to go any minute!”
“But, but, where’s the bear?” gasped Tom, still unable to fully grasp what had occurred.
“Blast the bear!” ejaculated the second mate. “Get a move on!”
Urging the boys forward, Mr. Kemp rushed down the slope. As the boat drew in to the edge of the ice, the three scrambled aboard.
“Lift her, lads!” cried the excited officer as the boat shoved off, and the men bent to the long ash oars with a will. Hardly had they cleared the berg when there was a terrific, ripping, splintering roar. The overhanging summit of the berg moved bodily forward, hesitated an instant and then, with the deafening roar of thunder, came plunging, crashing down upon the spot where the three had been but a few moments before.
“Gosh!” exclaimed Tom. “Gosh! I’m glad we got away.”
“Gee Whitaker! yes,” cried Jim. “That old bear must be squashed flat as a pancake.”
Everywhere about the berg, huge detached masses of ice were floating, bobbing and turning and twisting about. Constantly more and more of the ice mountain was crashing down to the berg’s base, falling with prodigious splashes into the sea. Once started by the reverberations of Tom’s shot, the berg, softened, full of holes, and rotten, was going to pieces before the boys’ wondering eyes. It was a marvelous, fascinating, awe-inspiring sight to see the huge avalanches of gleaming ice, the jewel-tinted spires, the needlelike pinnacles, and the great overhanging precipices rending and tumbling. And as each mass dashed itself to pieces upon the base of the berg, or plunged into the waves, sending great mountains of spray into the air, the vibrations and shock of the blow loosened other masses. Then, as those in the boat gazed upon the dissolution of the mighty berg, Tom uttered an excited cry.
“Look!” he yelled. “The berg’s moving!”
It was true. The towering summit of the iceberg was swaying. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it swung to one side. More and more it leaned and then, with a sudden rush, the mountain of ice toppled over. Vast billows of green sea rose high and, with the noise of a mighty cataract, the berg capsized. Where the sharp, sky-piercing berg had loomed, only a low hummocky stretch of ice tossed and heaved upon the waves.
The boys, overwhelmed with the wondrous spectacle, clung to the boat’s gunwales as the tiny craft bobbed and rocked on the great combers from the berg’s final plunge.
“Whew!” cried Jim when at last the seas subsided and the men pulled towards the schooner. “Wasn’t that a sight though? Say, that _was_ worth seeing.”
“You bet!” agreed Tom. “But just the same I’m mighty sorry we lost that bear.”
Mr. Kemp grinned. “You ought to be glad you didn’t lose your own hides,” he declared. “I never seen a berg so plumb rotten or go to pieces so blessed fast.”
“Jiminy, I’d hate to be drifting south on one the way Eskimo Joe did,” said Tom, “if that’s the way they act.”
“’Twouldn’t be no picnic,” agreed Mr. Kemp, “but even a berg’s a heap better’n nothin’.”
“Thank Heaven you’re all safe!” cried Captain Edwards as the boat reached the _Narwhal’s_ side. “When I saw that first slip, I thought ’twas all over with you.”
“Waall, I reckon a miss’s good as a mile,” commented Cap’n Pem. “But I swan, if you two young scallawags ain’t everlastin’ly gittin’ inter more close shaves than ever I heerd of afore.”
Tom winked at the skipper. “I suppose the black cat started that!” he remarked.
“Drat that there cat!” cried the old whaleman petulantly. “Jes the same I wish t’ blazes she was a-settin’ over to that there berg ’stead o’ on this here ship.”
For several days after the boys’ adventure on the iceberg the _Narwhal_ bore steadily on. Several times she passed tiny rocky islets over which were clouds of screaming sea birds, and through their glasses the boys could make out the thousands and thousands of black and white birds that covered the rocks from sea to summit. There were great white gannets, big gray-and-white gulls, shining black cormorants, acres of swallow-tailed terns, row after row of closely packed auks, puffins, and guillemots. Even though the schooner was a mile or more from the rookeries, the harsh cries and screams of the countless birds came to the boys’ ears in raucous chorus.
“Say, I thought there were a lot of birds down at Tristan da Cunha,” said Jim. “But they weren’t a patch on these.”
“Why, there must be millions of them!” agreed Tom. “Wouldn’t it be fun to climb up there among ’em?”
Constantly in the schooner’s wake also were flocks of birds and many of these were strange to the boys. Some—big gray fellows with pearly white breasts and enormously long wings—Mr. Kemp told them were shearwaters. Others, that seemed constantly attacking the gulls and terns, and that looked like swift-winged hawks with spiked tails, they learned were jaegers and the captain told the boys these lived by robbing the other birds, and a few snowy white creatures that Tom thought were sheathbills were fulmar petrels, he was told.
By now the weather was cold, cheerless, and chilly and the boys were glad to don their winter clothes. Though the sun shone brightly, the wind was raw and had winter’s bite and sting to it and the spray felt like ice water as it dashed into the boys’ faces.
“Whew, but it’s cold!” cried Tom as he came on deck one morning, and buttoned his reefer and oilskins tighter. “Feels like midwinter. I wonder—oh, say, Jim! Look here!”
Fascinated, the two boys gazed about. On every hand, some within a few hundred yards, others a mile or two distant, still others mere ghostly forms upon the horizon, were scores of gleaming, shimmering, rainbow-tinted icebergs.
“Reckon there’s enough bergs to suit you!” exclaimed Captain Edwards. “I never seen so pesky many of ’em so far south this time o’ year. Must ha’ been a mighty cold winter up this way.”
“Is that what makes it so cold?” asked Jim.
“Yes,” replied the skipper, “a sailor can feel ice long before he sees it, and there’s enough ’round us to keep all the whales in the sea in cold storage for a million years.”
All through the day the _Narwhal_ navigated slowly through the berg-filled sea. Throughout the night the boys were constantly aroused by shouts, the creaking of tackle, and the rushing feet of the crew as the schooner turned, and tacked, and picked her perilous course among the mountains of ice. But the next morning only a few distant bergs and scattered masses of honeycombed floe ice were visible, and before noon the gray shores of Labrador were sighted, with the little port of Hebron straight ahead.
To the boys it was a wonderfully novel experience to gaze shoreward at this out-of-the-world village in the Arctic. They cried out in delight when tiny, sharp-ended kayaks came dancing towards the _Narwhal_, with their Eskimo occupants paddling furiously. But as the tiny, skin-covered craft drew near, the boys were disappointed.
“Oh pshaw!” cried Tom, “they don’t look like Eskimos. They’re not dressed in furs, but are wearing dirty overalls and caps. They look like Chinese dressed up like whalemen.”
“Shure ’tis that they do!” agreed Mike, who stood near. “B’glory they do be wan an’ the same specie with the haythen Chinee, I do be thinkin’.”
“Ye’ll be seein’ plenty on ’em in hides an’ furs afore ye’re done,” declared Cap’n Pem. “These here boys is whalin’ han’s, an’ is sort o’ civ’lized. But ye don’t expect ’em to be a-wearin’ o’ a everlastin’ lot o’ furs in this hot weather, do ye?”
“Hot weather!” cried Jim. “_I_ call it cold.”
The old whaleman chuckled. “Waall, by cricky, ye don’t know what’s a-comin’ to ye, then!” he declared. “This here’s midsummer; but come ’long an’ meet these Eskimo lads.”
The kayaks were now alongside and the Eskimos were clambering over the schooner’s rails. They were a happy, good-natured-looking lot, with broad yellow faces, flat noses, little slant, beady black eyes, wide mouths, made still wider by a constant grin, and lank, stiff black hair hanging to their shoulders. All looked so much alike that the boys could not understand how any one could tell one from another, and all were identical in the matter of dirtiness.
“Whew, but they _are_ dirty!” exclaimed Jim. “I’ll bet they haven’t ever taken a bath!”
“And aren’t they little!” added Tom. “Why, they’re no bigger than boys.”
But if the two boys were interested in the Eskimos, the latter were simply fascinated with the boys, and gathered about them talking and laughing and jabbering in their own tongue.
Mr. Kemp, Cap’n Pem and the skipper were also busy conversing with two of the Eskimos who appeared to be leaders or chiefs. When the second officer addressed one of them in his own dialect, the filthy little fellow fairly beamed with pleasure.
Presently one of the men approached Tom and held out a greasy, soot-blackened paw. “H’lo!” he exclaimed with a broad grin. “Me Unavik, plenty good whaler feller, betcher life!”
Tom laughed and shook hands gingerly. “Glad to know you, Unavik. My name’s Tom. This is Jim, my cousin. You going along with us?”
Unavik shook hands very cordially with Jim—far too cordially to suit him in fact—and rolled his tiny eyes as he looked over the schooner. “Betcher life!” he announced. “Gimme chew t’bac. How much feller you want?”
“Oh, Mr. Kemp, get us some tobacco,” cried Tom, “this boy wants some.”
“Boy!” exclaimed Mr. Kemp, as he tossed over some plugs of tobacco. “He’s an old man—great-grandfather, I expect.”
Unavik bit off a huge chunk of the plug, passed it to his companions, and nodded his big head. “You betcher!” he mumbled. “Me ol’ feller. Got fif’y year mebbe.”
Then the other Eskimos began talking, telling their names—which the boys could not remember or pronounce—jabbering away with their quaint broken English, and surrounding the boys, so that they were thankful when Captain Skinner broke up the party by inviting them to go ashore.
Accompanied by the flotilla of kayaks, the boat pulled to the beach. To the boys’ surprise they found that there were a number of white people in the settlement; which contained several good buildings, a tiny church, a little mission school, a post office, and a police station.
There was also a low, rambling trading-post, presided over by a red-faced, white-whiskered old Scotchman and this proved the most interesting spot to the boys.
Here was exactly the sort of place they had read about in stories—the low-ceiled, big room with shelves piled with blankets, sacks of meal, axes and knives, guns and ammunition, and great bales of furs. Antlers and heads decorated the walls. There was a huge open hearth, snowshoes and dog sledges were stacked in corners, polar bear skins covered the floor and the stocky Eskimos, and even a few tall, grave-faced Indians, were lounging about or dickering over a trade with the clerk.
Here Captain Edwards secured a number of fur garments as well as other supplies. Then with the boys he strolled about the village. The boys had never stopped to realize that Eskimos did not dwell in ice igloos all the time and they were greatly surprised to find them occupying roughly built huts and much-patched tents of old canvas and skin. They saw drying racks covered with thousands of salmon and other fish which the Eskimo women—even more unkempt and dirty than the men—were cleaning and splitting and suspending on the racks. They visited the church and talked with the good-natured, rotund priest. They looked at the school and watched the bright-eyed, broad-faced Eskimo kiddies striving to master the rudiments of English and arithmetic. They even stopped for a chat with the straight, clean-featured, bronzed-faced, military-looking representative of the law.
“Gosh, I never saw so many dogs!” exclaimed Tom as they walked back toward the boat. “They simply swarm here.”
Captain Edwards laughed and the police officer, who was with them, smiled.
“And I’ll warrant you never saw such pure bred mongrels!” he chuckled.
“But they’re mighty useful to the natives—they hunt with them, use them for teams and, if they’re hard up, eat them.”
“Well, they look as if there’d be mighty little to eat on them,” declared Jim.
Taken altogether, there was not much to be seen, while the overpowering smell of fish which filled the entire village almost nauseated the boys, and they were mighty glad to be once more aboard the _Narwhal_.
In the afternoon the boat again went ashore and returned packed with Eskimo hands who had been signed on. The bundles of garments and other things were hoisted aboard, and with the Eskimos helping the crew at the capstan, the _Narwhal’s_ anchor was hoisted, the sails were spread, and Hebron was left astern.
Steadily, day after day, the _Narwhal_ continued on her way northward. From morning until night—throughout the short night as well—bergs or floe ice were constantly in sight; but the boys had become accustomed to such things and scarcely gave the ice mountains a second glance. They had spent hours searching each berg or ice cake they passed, in the hopes of seeing another bear but, aside from an occasional seal or flocks of birds, not a living creature was seen.
The Eskimos, much to the boys’ surprise, proved splendid sailors. Always at the mastheads men were on the lookout for whales. At times the schooner wallowed slowly through the cold green seas, with barely enough wind to enable the captain to steer clear of jagged cakes or towering bergs. At other times, she tore storming through the tremendous waves under shortened sails, rushing between giant bergs, crashing into masses of drift ice hidden in the foam of breaking waves. Again she would rest motionless, becalmed, shrouded in dense fogs, while resounding through the impenetrable mist came the roar of surf on bergs, the crashing of falling ice masses, and the shrill screams of sea birds. Then every man was on the alert, peering with straining eyes into the blanket of fog. A dozen times the boys’ hearts seemed to skip a beat, as, close at hand, a vast white phantom loomed suddenly from the fog, and the _Narwhal_ rocked and rolled to the backwash of the giant seas breaking upon ice. Again and again, too, the schooner drifted so dangerously close to a berg that boats were lowered and, straining at the oars, the men towed the heavy vessel clear.
“Funny thing, that,” remarked Mr. Kemp, as the _Narwhal_ was thus being dragged from a towering berg. “Put two ships, or a berg and a ship, in the middle of the sea and the blamed things’ll drif’ together—jes as if they loved comp’ny.”
“That is funny, though I never thought of it before,” said Tom. “Don’t you suppose it’s currents or something?”
“Nope,” declared the second officer, “just chuck a couple of matches into a basin of water an’ leave ’em be, an’ you’ll see they’re boun’ to git side of each other.”
“Say, I have noticed that!” exclaimed Jim. “What’s the reason?”
“Give her up,” replied Mr. Kemp. “Mystery to me, but then there’s a heap of mysteries at sea.”
The boys had been greatly surprised too to find that they could see throughout the night, that there was no darkness, and that the sun set like a dull yellow ball, hung at the rim of the sea for a space, and almost before it disappeared, popped up again.
“Gosh, I never realized we were where the sun never sets,” cried Tom the first time he noticed this. “Somehow I can’t believe we’re way up here in the Arctic.”
The boys were vastly interested and fascinated in the Northern Lights, although compared with the midnight sun, they were faint and pale. Captain Edwards told them they would see the sight of their lives when winter came, and the Aurora blazed in all its glory.
But all these things grew tedious, and the boys longed for a whale to be seen, or for some exciting thing to happen. Then one day the shout so long expected rang from the masthead, and at the cry, “She blows!” all was excitement. Leaping into the shrouds, the two boys ran up the rigging. As Captain Edwards’ shout of, “Where away?” was answered by, “Three points off the lee bow!” the boys stared in that direction to see two little fountains of spray rise above the waves, and two immense rounded black objects break the water.
“Hurrah! there’re two of them,” cried Tom. “Oh, Captain Edwards, can’t we go after them?”
“Not a bit of it!” snapped the skipper. “I ain’t riskin’ your lives goin’ on whales!”
“Well, suppose the owners order you to take us?” demanded Jim.
Captain Edwards scowled and tried to look savage. “Have to ’bey orders, I guess.”
“Well, then you’re ordered!” yelled the boys in chorus, and without waiting to hear the skipper’s comment, they raced toward Cap’n Pem’s boat and leaped into it with the men.
“Here, what the tarnation ye doin’ in here?” demanded Cap’n Pem as he saw the two boys. “This here boat ain’t no place fer youngsters.”
“Owners’ orders,” grinned Tom, “come on, Cap’n Pem, or Mr. Kemp’ll get those whales ahead of you.”
“Waall, I’ll be blowed!” exclaimed the old whaleman, as he entered the boat. “Annyhow, mind ye keep still an’ don’t go a-screechin’ or a-talkin’. Bowheads has derned sharp ears.”
“All right, we’ll be as still as mice,” promised Jim.
To the boys’ surprise, the men did not take to their oars, but set up the short mast and spritsail in the boat. With Cap’n Pem at the rudder, they went speeding before the wind toward the two whales.
Mr. Kemp’s boat was also sailing swiftly toward the huge creatures and neck and neck the two little craft danced over the long green seas. Then, shifting the helm slightly, Cap’n Pem swung around and held his course directly towards the heads of the monsters.
“Gee, that’s funny,” whispered Tom. “When they rowed after those whales on the _Hector_ they always went at them towards the tail. They’ll see the boat coming this way, sure.”
A minute later Cap’n Pem raised his hand and the men silently and quickly furled the sail and unshipped the mast. Pulling noiselessly on the oars, the crew drove the boat closer and closer to their quarry. The two whales were swimming slowly along, now and then sinking below the surface until they were almost invisible, and then rising high and blowing. The boys noticed that the little columns of vapor rose from the middle of the creatures’ heads instead of from the tip of the noses as was the case with the sperm whales they had seen.
Tom nudged Jim. “That’s one thing I’ve learned,” he whispered. “You can tell a bowhead whale from a sperm by the blow.”
“Ssh!” muttered Jim. “Cap’n Pem’s scowling at us.”
The boat steerer had now unsheathed his harpoon and was standing in the bow and the boys, glancing towards the other boat, saw that Mr. Kemp’s boat steerer had done the same. Evidently both men would strike at almost the same moment and the boys hardly knew whether to keep their eyes fixed on their own harpoonier or the other. Nearer and nearer to the great black creatures the boat crept. The boys could see the huge curved upper jaws, the gray fringed masses of whalebone in the animals’ mouths and even the rough growth of great barnacles on the whales’ noses. Then, when it seemed as though the boat would bump into the nearest monster, the craft was deftly swung to one side. It slipped past the enormous head and, before the surprised whale could dive or dodge, the harpoonier lurched forward with a grunt, and the immense, heavy, barbed iron struck the whale with a sickening thud. Instantly the men backed water furiously and not a second too soon. With a crash that almost stunned the boys, the whale’s stupendous flukes struck the water within a yard of the frail boat, sending a deluge of water over the occupants, and the next instant the boat was being hurtled through the sea at a terrific pace as the stricken whale strove to escape the stinging iron in its side. White-faced, gripping the gunwale tightly, the boys stole a hurried glance towards Mr. Kemp’s boat and saw that he too was fast. But unlike their own craft, which was being towed at express-train speed, the second mate’s boat was being whirled in circles as the whale milled.
Hardly had the two boys noticed this, when their craft tipped perilously. Green water poured over the rail as the whale altered his course. There was a warning shout from Cap’n Pem and the boys saw that they were headed directly towards Mr. Kemp’s boat.
“Git ready to cut loose!” yelled Cap’n Pem. “Dod gast the critter, we’ll foul Kemp!”
At his cry, one of the men started forward to seize the hatchet. But as he raised it, the whale again turned, the boat almost capsized and the man, in his frantic effort to prevent himself from being thrown overboard, dropped the hatchet which flashed into the sea.
Before he could whip out his sheath knife, the whale had dashed across the line fast to the second mate’s boat. The two crafts careened, rocked, zigzagged wildly and crashed together with a bump that tumbled the occupants from their seats. Then, before the dazed and struggling men could act, the two boats were dashing through the sea with rails together and with the two whales tearing at topmost speed side by side as though having a race.
“Let ’em go, dod gast ’em!” screamed Cap’n Pem. “Never seed nothin’ like it afore. Stand ready to cut loose ef they mill or soun’!”
Onwards the two creatures sped. The schooner was miles astern and then, so suddenly that the skilled steersmen could not swerve their craft one of the whales checked his onward rush and sounded. The next instant he rose within a dozen rods of the terrified boys, and, with thunderous, crashing, terrific blows of his huge tail, strove to demolish the boat and his enemies.
Speechless with deadly fear, the boys cowered in the boat, while seemingly over their heads the great black mass of flukes waved and whipped, striking down to right, to left, in front of the frail cockleshell of a boat, half filling it with water churned up by the fearful, irresistible blows. The men strained and shouted and pulled frantically, grim-faced, wild-eyed and with superhuman efforts dodging the lashing, death-dealing flukes by a hair’s breadth.
To the boys it seemed hours that they were within that awful danger zone. Each second they expected to be tossed high in air, bruised, battered, crushed amid the shattered planks and timbers of the boat.
Then there was a sickening crash as Mr. Kemp’s boat banged into them. For a moment the two craft were locked tight and then the second mate’s boat leaped ahead, dragging Pem’s boat with it. Scarcely had it moved a yard, when the great trip-hammer tail struck a fearful blow where it had been an instant before, and, as the boat sprang into the air on the upflung wave, the second mate’s boat drew free and flew off after the whale to which it was fast.
“Go in!” yelled Cap’n Pem excitedly. “We’ll git him!”
At his words, he dropped the steering oar, scrambled forward and, as the boat steerer reached the stern and seized the big oar, the grizzled old whaleman braced his wooden leg against the knee chock and seized a bomb lance. Then he tossed the weapon down, unsheathed the long, keen-bladed hand lance, and poised it ready to strike. Bobbing on the water, still being churned up by the furious creature’s tail, the boat crept close. The boys’ hearts seemed to cease beating as they saw the great mountain of black skin almost within arm’s length. Now but a few feet separated the boat from the maddened whale. Cap’n Pem gathered himself for the death stroke; the boat’s bows seemed almost to touch the whale’s side, when, without warning, the great body sank beneath the sea and, drawn by the swirling suction of the whale submerging, the boat leaped forwards directly over the creature’s back. But the gray-headed old veteran of a hundred battles with giant whales was not to be cheated of his prey. As the boat lurched forward into the eddying froth above the whale, Cap’n Pem leaned over the boat’s bow, and with a shout drove the long lance straight down.
The next instant the boat was flung high. It careened dizzily, oars were wrenched from the men’s hands and, as the mortally wounded whale flung himself up, the craft slid like a toboggan from his back, buried its bow beneath a wave, rose sluggishly, and swung around broadside to the thrashing, rolling mass of pain-crazed flesh and blood and bone.
So close was the boat to the whale’s side that the men struggled to fend it off by their oars. With wild yells and shouts, Cap’n Pem warned them to keep close; for all around them the awful tail was striking, crashing, whipping, as the dying whale lashed the water into a maelstrom of foam and, only by keeping the boat so close to the monster that his tail could not reach them, could their lives be saved.
That they could escape seemed impossible. They were in the very center of a cyclone of mortal peril, a circle of death, and even the tough, fearless, experienced whalemen grew white-faced. Their jaws were hard set and they knew that any second might spell their doom.
Then, with one stupendous effort, the whale reared its head high. The flukes swept above the boat, a crimson column spurted from the monster’s head and, with a whistling sigh like escaping steam, the whale rolled upon its side, dead.
“Fin up!” screamed Cap’n Pem. “By Moses, that there was the closest shave I ever seen. Jes dumb luck, nothin’ more!”
At this instant a strange sound issued from the bottom of the whaleboat. Cap’n Pem’s jaw fell. The men stared at one another wonderingly.
“What’s thet?” gasped the old whaleman.
Tom leaned forward, reached into a locker and drew out—the black cat!
Cap’n Pem’s eyes seemed about to burst from their sockets. “Waall, I’ll be——” he began and then stood staring absolutely bereft of speech as Tom dragged out the canvas bucket and disclosed four blinking-eyed kittens.
“Now what about bad luck!” he cried triumphantly.
Cap’n Pem scratched his head, frowned and spat over the boat’s side. “I calc’late them kittens must ha’ changed the luck,” he declared. “I don’t recollec’ ever hearin’ o’ sech a thing afore. But jes the same, I’ll bet ye if that there cat hadn’t been ’long of us, we’d never ha’ had all this here fracas. Wussedest fight I ever seed.”
Now that the excitement was over and the boys had a chance to look about, they searched the sea for Mr. Kemp. But nowhere was he to be seen. Then their glance turned towards the schooner, and Tom uttered a frightened cry.
“The _Narwhal_’s gone!”
Cap’n Pem turned from where he was directing the men as they labored to get a fluke chain about the dead whale’s tail, shaded his eyes and swept a swift glance around the horizon. “Reckon she are,” he remarked quite undisturbed. “Get a waif up, Nate,” he continued, addressing the boat steerer. “Swan if I know whar she be. An’ looks like Kemp’s hull down, too.”
“But what will we do?” cried Jim. “How can we get to the _Narwhal_?”
“Won’t,” replied the old whaleman, once more bending to his work. “Let the schooner come to us. Reckon the skipper hain’t los’ track o’ us.”
“Ye see,” explained the boat steerer as he fastened a red flag to the mast and, with two of the men to help him, stepped the spar, “folks ’board the schooner can see us a heap farther than we kin see them. They’ll be havin’ a lookout to the to’gallan’ crosstrees an’ keep track o’ where we be.”
“Oh, I understand,” said Tom. “But say, Nate, why did you go for the head of that whale? When we were on the _Hector_ they were always careful to go on them from the tail end.”
“Them was sparm whales,” replied the boat steerer. “A sparm whale kin see for’rard but not aft, an’ a right whale or bowhead kin see aft an’ not for’rard. ’Sides, a sparm fights mos’ly with his jaw an’ a right or a bowhead fights with his flukes. ‘Bewar’ o’ a sparm’s jaws an’ a right whale’s flukes,’ is a ol’ whalin’ motter.”
“But what’s become of Mr. Kemp, do you suppose?” queried Jim. “Do you think anything’s happened to him?”
“Naw, I guess he’s jus’ been towed out o’ sight,” declared Nate. “Anyhow it’s every man for hisself a-goin’ arter whales. Reckon the Old Man kin see him.”
The fluke chain was now fast about the whale’s “small,” as the portion of the creature’s body near the tail is called, and the boat, fastened to it by the stout hemp line, rode as steadily and as easily as though moored to an island. The immense carcass formed a lee, and the oil oozing from his wounds, smoothed the water, making a broad “slick.”
“Purty good-sized critter,” commented Cap’n Pem, as he seated himself and lit his pipe. “Bet ye he’ll turn a hundred bar’ls, an’ nigh half a ton o’ bone. Put up a right smart fight though—blowed if he didn’t. Waall, boys, how did ye like the fun?”
“Fine, now it’s over,” laughed Jim. “But I admit I wished I was on the _Narwhal_ a good many times while that old whale was thrashing around with his flukes.”
“Gosh, but he did come near smashing us!” cried Tom. “Just the same, I’m glad we were here, and that the first time we went in on a whale he was a fighter. Say, won’t the boys back home open their eyes when we tell them about this?”
“Oh, there’s the _Narwhal_!” exclaimed Jim, who had stood up and was gazing about. “And not a bit where I expected her to be.”
“Waall, if ye could ha’ kep’ track o’ which way was which, ye’d ’a been a heap sight better’n I be at keepin’ my bearin’s,” chuckled Cap’n Pem. “By heck, fer a spell I actooaly did think that there ol’ whale was a-goin’ fer to git the best on us.”
“Would have if ye hadn’t a-fetched him as we run over his back,” declared one of the men. “By glory, Cap’n, that was some stunt ye pulled off. But say, it mos’ made me split, a-seein’ of ye a-diggin’ that lance into the water like as if ye was a-spearin’ eels.”
“Shucks, that weren’t nothin’,” declared Cap’n Pem. “I don’ calc’late to miss a chanct even if the dumb critter do sound jes when I’m a-gettin’ ready fer to lance him.”
“But he almost wrecked us!” exclaimed Tom. “If he’d come up a second sooner, he would have capsized the boat and we’d all have been drowned or smashed by his flukes.”
The old whaleman chuckled. “Waall, I reckon we mought ha’ been,” he admitted. “But we wasn’t. ’Sides, no whaleman never thinks o’ sech things. We wuz out fer to git this here whale, and it’s git him or git stove.”
“But why didn’t you use the bomb lance?” asked Jim. “You had a good chance.”
“Look here, son,” said the old man petulantly. “I was brung up along with a reg’lar iron an’ a reg’lar lance. These here new-fangled contraptions may be all right fer them as likes ’em, but give me the old fashion’ weepons every time. By gum, I want ter see whar I’m a-drivin’ o’ the lance at. ’Sides, any dumb-foozled lan’lubber could git whales by a settin’ off an’ a-shootin’ of ’em. They ain’t no sport in it.”
By now the _Narwhal_ was within a quarter of a mile of the boat. As her yards were swung and she was hove to, the men picked up their oars and headed for the schooner. As they drew alongside, Cap’n Pem shouted up to Captain Edwards and asked if they had seen the second officer’s boat.
“No, he was towed hull down,” replied the skipper. “But we can fetch him all right. Just stick a waif in that whale, get your boat aboard and we’ll run down to him.”
One of the men scrambled on to the whale’s body, and drove a sharp pointed iron bar bearing a flag at the end into the carcass. Then, casting loose the line to the fluke chain, the crew clambered on to the schooner and hoisted the boat to its davits.
“Well, boys, how did you like it?” asked Captain Edwards as Tom and Jim reached the deck. “Had a right pretty tussle—I was watchin’ you from aloft.”
“Fine!” declared Tom. “But we _were_ scared some of the time, and oh, we had a great joke on Cap’n Pem! The cat was in the boat and she had four kittens.”
The skipper roared. “Well, that must have broken the spell!” he exclaimed. “What did Pem say?”
“Same thing,” replied Jim, “but he added that if it hadn’t been for the cat we wouldn’t have had so much trouble.”
“Waall, I bet ye that’s so!” burst out the old whaleman. “An’ there’ll be other bad luck a-comin’ from the dumb critter.”
“B’ the powers!” exclaimed Mike who stood near. “’Tis a ol’ fool yez be. Shure, didn’t yez know a cat bein’ afther havin’ kits aboorrd a ship do be the foinest luck in the world? B’gorra ’tis four av thim yez is afther sayin’? Thin ’tis four whales yez should be afther gettin’.”
Instantly, as usual, the two one-legged old sailors began to argue, and the boys and the captain turned away to let them have it out. Presently, from the masthead, came a shout that the missing boat was sighted. Soon it was visible from the deck. But the boys, even with their glasses, could not distinguish a whale fast to Mr. Kemp’s boat.
“I wonder if they lost it,” said Jim. “Say, if they did, Cap’n Pem will swear it was the cat.”
But a moment later, Tom’s sharp eyes spied a tiny rag fluttering above the waves some distance from the second mate’s boat. “There’s the whale!” he shouted. “See, it’s got a waif on it.”
“You’re right,” agreed Jim. And then a moment later, “Gosh, Tom, is that another waif—over there to the west of the boat?”
Tom looked steadily for a moment. “Golly, it is!” he cried. “Oh, Captain Edwards, they’ve got two whales!”
“What?” cried the skipper hurrying to the boys and taking Tom’s glasses. “By the great red herring, you’re right!”
“Why in tarnation ain’t he fas’ to ’em?” cried Captain Pem, who had stopped his discussion with Mike at the boys’ announcement.
“Expect he was pullin’ for the ship and couldn’t tow ’em,” said the skipper.
A few minutes later they were within hailing distance. Then the schooner was hove to, and the boat drew alongside.
“See you had good luck, Mr. Kemp!” cried the Captain heartily. “Pem got a big bull too—put up purtiest tussle I ever seen—and that’s three bowheads in a afternoon! Guess Mike’s right about those kittens, boys! Only need one more whale to make the four!”
Mr. Kemp grinned. “If you’ll jus’ run down to the east’ard a couple o’ miles, you’ll find t’other one,” he announced.
“What in thunder ye talkin’ ’bout?” cried Cap’n Pem, staring at the second mate as though he thought he had gone mad. “Ye don’t mean to stan’ there an’ say—oh, ’tain’t nat’ral!”
“True jus’ the same,” grinned Mr. Kemp. “I beat ye by two bowheads, Pem.”
“Shure, Oi knowed it,” commented Mike. “B’gorra, ’tis hopin’ the blessed cat’ll be afther havin’ o’ kittens iviry day, b’jabbers.”
Every one aboard the schooner was in high spirits over the phenomenal luck of getting four whales in one day, and as one after the other of the big carcasses were picked up and made fast by stout hemp lines, the men sang and laughed. Nate, the harpoonier, roared out the quaint song:
My father’s a hedger and ditcher, My mother does nothing but spin, While I hunt whales for my living, Good Lord, how the money comes in!
And lustily all joined in the chorus, for thousands of dollars had been won in the past few hours, and every member of the _Narwhal’s_ crew would share in the prize. Even old Captain Pem grudgingly agreed that he could find no fault with the ship’s luck, and admitted the black cat’s spell must have been broken. “But don’t fergit weather’s allers ca’mest jes afore a squall,” he said as a parting shot.
Mr. Kemp’s three bowheads were soon alongside, but that taken by Cap’n Pem’s boat was several miles distant, and the schooner could make no progress with the light wind with the three huge carcasses in tow.
“Now aren’t you glad we had that motor put in?” asked Tom of Cap’n Pem, as Mike started the motor and, with the staccato reports of the exhaust echoing over the Arctic sea, the _Narwhal_ slowly pushed through the long swells, with the dead whales like a string of deeply laden barges trailing astern.
“Waall, I reckon I got ter admit ’tis a bit handy,” replied the old whaleman. “An’ I ain’t so all-fired ol’ fashioned I can’t admit it, neither. An’ time we gits inter the ice pack, I reckon it’ll come in mighty useful, too. But jes the same I ain’t got no use fer bumb lances nor dartin’ guns, nor such new-fangled contraptions. No, siree, my father and my granther used good, hand-wrought irons, an’ what was good ernough fer them’s good ernough for me, by cricky.”
With the four whales alongside, cutting in and boiling began in earnest, and so anxious was the crew to get the oil and bone stowed and start after more whales, that they worked almost without cessation, cutting their periods or watches of rest to half the usual time.
“Mighty glad we took them Eskimos aboard over to Hebron,” remarked Mr. Kemp, as he paused a moment from his labors and watched the busy brown men, who had stripped to the waist and were scrambling about, jabbering incessantly, reminding the boys of a group of big monkeys. “And that ‘boy’ as you called him, Unavik, is a corker. Guess we’ll make him boss of the Eskimo bunch.”
A little later Unavik approached the two boys, grinning from ear to ear, covered with grease and soot, and gnawing at a strip of raw blubber. “H’lo!” he exclaimed. “Plenty work me tell. Suppose you no got chew t’bac?”
“No, but I’ll get you some,” said Tom, and hurrying to the cabin he returned with a plug.
The Eskimo bit a huge piece from the tobacco, tore off a mouthful of the blubber and industriously chewing both together smacked his lips.
“Gosh, but that must be _some_ combination!” exclaimed Jim.
“I suppose it’s a regular treat to him,” said Tom. “But it makes me sick just to think of eating that oily blubber, not to mention the tobacco.”
“All right, me go work, you betcher!” ejaculated Unavik as soon as he could talk. “You good frien’. Bimeby me go ’long hunt bear ’side you feller.” Stuffing the tobacco in his grease-soaked trousers, the Eskimo hurried back to the cutting stage.
All through the night, with the Aurora flickering above the northern horizon, and with the dull orange sun just visible upon the southern rim of the sea, the men toiled on. All through the following day the dripping strips of blubber were hauled on deck, the mincing knives thudded through the greasy mass upon the horse, the try works belched thick columns of black smoke, the cooper’s hatchet rang incessantly as casks were headed up, the tackles groaned and whined as the filled barrels were lowered into the hold, great masses of the whalebone were piled on deck and carcass after carcass, having been stripped of its precious covering of blubber, was cut loose and drifted slowly away from the ship.
Screaming, screeching, and squawking, a vast flock of sea birds had gathered about, swooping fearlessly among the men to tear bits of flesh and blubber from the whales. The birds rested by hundreds upon the grease-slicked water, sweeping back and forth above the decks, and hovering in clouds above the discarded, floating bodies. Never had the boys seen so many birds. They spent hours watching them as they sailed and wheeled and fought over the scraps and offal. Then at last the fourth carcass was cast adrift, the final pieces of blubber were boiled, the smoke from the try works dwindled and died out, the casks were stowed, and with over three hundred barrels of oil and more than two tons of choice bone in her hold, the schooner’s sails were hoisted. The men cleaned and swabbed the decks, and onward into the north and east the _Narwhal_ held her course.
For two days the schooner sailed steadily on, but no whale, no tiny puff of spray, broke the even surface of the sea. On the third morning, the boys glanced ahead to see soft gray mountains looming against the sky.
“Greenland!” announced Mr. Kemp who was on watch.
“Gosh, it doesn’t seem possible,” exclaimed Tom, gazing fixedly at the distant land. “Now we really _are_ in the Arctic. Will we have a chance to go ashore, Mr. Kemp?”
“Guess you will,” replied the second officer. “The skipper’s goin’ to get some more Eskimos yonder—puttin’ into Disko Bay. Shouldn’t wonder if he did some sealin’ or walrus huntin’ too.”
“Hurrah! won’t it be great to say we’ve really been in Greenland?” cried Jim. “Golly, I never realized there were mountains there though.”
Rapidly the land grew more distinct. The boys could see deep bays—which Captain Edwards told them were fiords—great clefts cut far into the cliffs and marvelously colored with soft purples, mauves and blue. Here and there a valley between the hills gleamed green as an emerald, while vast, glistening, white masses of ice and snow zigzagged through narrow defiles. Stretching seaward from the shores was a broad white plain that rose and fell and moved like a restless white sea.
“What _is_ that white?” asked Tom who could not make it out.
“Shore ice, pan ice,” replied the captain. “Tide and wind sets it inshore, but it’s all pretty mushy now. Look, there’s a bit of it ahead.”
Bobbing up and down upon the waves, gleaming like silver in the sunshine, the boys saw several acres of drifting ice. As the schooner slipped by it, they exclaimed in delight at the wonderful beauty of the vivid green and blue of the submerged parts of the ice.
“Why, the water’s as clear as in the West Indies!” exclaimed Jim. “And almost as blue. Say, I always thought this place was dull and gray and covered with ice and snow, and it’s as fresh and lovely as anything. Now I know why it’s called Greenland.”
“Oh, what’s that big white wall there?” cried Tom.
“It looks like a great white cliff.”
The skipper glanced shoreward. “That’s a glacier,” he replied. “River of ice, like. They’re what make icebergs.”
“How on earth can they make icebergs?” asked Jim, studying the precipitous face of the glacier.
“Water cuts under ’em and they break off, and the pieces are the bergs,” explained the captain. “That’s what we call calving.”
“Well, it’s the prettiest colored thing I’ve ever seen,” declared Jim. “It’s for all the world like a giant opal and constantly changing. Gosh, it doesn’t look like any ice I ever saw.”
The _Narwhal_ was now sailing close to the outer edge of the pack ice and a sharp lookout was kept for seals or whales. Then, rounding a jutting cape, the boys saw a deep blue fiord with a stupendous glacier leading down a great valley to the rocky beach. The mouth of the fiord was clear of ice, and so the _Narwhal’s_ course was shifted, and she slipped into the dark shadows of the towering cliffs. The water, calm as a millpond, was deepest indigo, and upon it the rocky heights and the great glacier were reflected as in a burnished mirror. Fascinated, the boys were gazing at the beautiful picture when the lookout’s hail reached the deck. “_Pod_ o’ seal over to wind’ard,” he shouted. “Close in shore!”
Captain Edwards sprang into the rigging, gazed in the direction indicated and leaped back to the deck. “Harps!” he announced. “We’ll have a try for ’em. Stand by to lower away the port boat. Mr. Kemp, you take charge, you’ve had more experience with them critters than any one else.”
“Can we go?” asked Tom.
“Guess you can,” responded the captain, “no danger sealin’.”
In a few moments the boat was in the water, the sealing clubs, with guns and rifles, were placed in readiness, and with a will the crew pulled toward the dark specks that marked the dozing, unsuspecting seals.
As they drew near shore, the mountains seemed to overhang the boat, and the face of the glacier loomed enormous against the background of the hills. Here and there, grounded on bars or shoals, were small bergs and one enormous one, with lofty pinnacles like the many spires of a great cathedral, was floating majestically near the head of the fiord. From the cliffs, where they stood in endless rows, the auks, guillemots, puffins, and cormorants gazed down and protested in raucous cries. Presently the boys could distinguish the seals—great brownish yellow creatures with dark harp-shaped markings on their backs—a hundred or more, drawn far up on the shore among the rotting cakes of ice and sleeping soundly in the warm summer sunshine.
Silently the boat crept nearer. Without a sound, it grated against the shore. Armed with their clubs and one or two firearms, the men leaped towards the herd. Instantly the seals were awake, their heads were thrown up, their big lustrous eyes turned wonderingly. Then in terror at the onrushing horde of men, with short sharp barks and yelps of fear, they commenced scrambling towards the sea and safety. But the men, led by the Eskimos, had spread in a half circle. They were between the seals and the water. As the first panic-stricken creatures reached the shouting, yelling crew, the heavy clubs rose and fell with dull, sickening thuds. The seals dropped dying in their tracks and the others, turning, strove blindly to get away from these new enemies.
“Gosh, it makes me sick!” exclaimed Tom as he saw the slaughter of the poor helpless creatures. “It’s worse than killing sea elephants. No more sealing for me!”
“Nor me either,” declared Jim, “it’s just murder. And aren’t they pretty things!”
In a few moments it was all over. The beach and ice were strewn with the dead seals—not a single one had escaped—and the men, flushed and perspiring with exertion, and shouting triumphantly, tossed aside their bludgeons and commenced stripping the hides from the dead seals.
The two boys shouldered their rifles and started along the beach towards the glacier, now and then stopping to pick up some odd shell or bright-colored pebble. Once they came to a tiny brook brawling over the stones and followed it into a little valley, rich green with grass and brilliant with scarlet poppies and bright golden yellow flowers. From almost under Tom’s feet, a ptarmigan whirred up and stopping, the boys discovered the nest filled to overflowing with the heavily spotted brown eggs. A moment later Jim had his turn as he flushed a black and white snow bunting and found its cleverly hidden nest and spotted green eggs in their bed of fur and down. All about, from waving weeds stalks and jutting bowlders, buntings and longspurs, gray sparrows and dainty horned larks twittered and sang. From far up in the blue sky came a sweet rollicking song as a lark soared and bubbled over with joy. The boys, seating themselves on a ledge of rock, looked silently about, enjoying the peaceful scene and unable to believe that this warm sun, these bright flowers, these trilling birds were in far-off Greenland, a land they had always pictured as barren, desolate, and cold. Then, as they retraced their steps towards the beach, Jim jumped as a big Arctic hare leaped from its resting place and went bounding off among the rocks.
“Whew, he _was_ a whopper!” cried Tom. “Why didn’t you shoot him, Jim? He’d have tasted fine for a change from canned meat.”
Jim laughed. “I was so startled I forgot I had a gun,” he admitted, “and say, I’m rather glad I did. Somehow I’d hate to shoot anything here, it’s so pretty and happy.”
“Well, I guess we can struggle along without stewed rabbit for a while yet,” said Tom. “It does seem kind of a shame to kill anything here.”
“The men aren’t half through yet,” announced Jim as the two boys reached the beach once more. “Say, Tom, let’s walk over to the glacier.”
“All right,” agreed Tom readily, “it isn’t far and it will be fine to see it close to. Say, doesn’t the _Narwhal_ look like a speck off there—with all these big hills round!”
“Yes,” assented Jim, “and just think of how she looked when we first saw her being towed into Fair Haven. Say, Tom, it’s almost weird, looking at her off there and with us here and thinking she’s that same old tub we saw, and that we came clear up here on her.”
“Yep, and that we’re her principal owners,” chuckled Tom.
So, talking and chatting, the two drew closer and closer to the towering face of the great glacier. Presently they stopped to admire the play of colors in the mighty mass of ice and, to get a clearer view, they clambered up the steep slope of the rocky hillside. They were standing there, gazing at the gigantic face of the glacier, when there was a splintering, awful roar, the whole end of the glacier plunged forward like a falling mountain and, as the crash of its fall echoed and reverberated from the hills, a mighty, foaming, surging wave came hissing and roaring up the beach. Never had the boys seen such a huge comber. Green and irresistible, it raced straight towards them, the mighty swell raised by the plunge of the stupendous mass of ice. The boys, already startled and frightened half out of their wits by the deafening crash of the falling ice, stood breathless and wide-eyed, watching the oncoming wave that threatened to engulf them.
But they were just beyond its reach. With the upflung spray drenching them to the skin, the wave dashed itself against the rocks at their feet and then, with a sullen growl, drew back. Again and again the big waves came tearing in, but each was smaller than the preceding, and soon the beach stretched smooth and clear to the gently lapping ripples.
“Whew! it was lucky we climbed up here!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, it wouldn’t have been any fun to have been down on the beach.”
“Or alongside that glacier,” added Tom. “Jiminy, look at that berg! We _are_ lucky! We’ve seen a glacier calving!”
“And it’s _some_ calf!” cried Jim, as he gazed at the enormous berg which but a few moments before had been a portion of the glacier.
“And look at the _Narwhal_!” exclaimed Tom.
The schooner was tossing and bobbing as if beset by a tempest, the masts cutting great arcs against the sky, the bow shipping green water, white froth pouring from the scuppers.
“Golly, that berg _did_ set a sea going!” ejaculated Jim. “I’ll bet Cap’n Pem’ll swear it was all due to the cat.”
“Well, it’s no bad luck anyhow, unless—Say! Jim, how about the men? Gosh! perhaps they were drowned or smashed by the waves. Come on, let’s beat it!”
WHALES AND WHALES
Shouts assured the boys that the men were still there long before they rounded a point and came in sight of the scene of the killing. They had not escaped unscathed. The rending crash of the falling ice had warned them and, knowing what would follow, they had raced up the beach beyond reach of the waves. But the boat, lifted on the tremendous sea, had been left high and dry, wedged among the rocks and ice, hopelessly shattered. The bodies of the seals had been scattered far and wide. Some were floating far from shore, others had been cast high on the beach. The skins which had already been stripped from the creatures were rolled and tossed among the rocks for a hundred yards up and down the shore. The men searched out the pelts and proceeded to skin the remaining seals. A waif had been raised on the boat’s mast to attract attention of those on the schooner, and as the boys arrived at the spot another boat was speeding across the bay towards them.
“Hello!” cried Mr. Kemp as he caught sight of the boys. “I was just about settin’ off to look for you. Feared you might ha’ been catched in that wave or somethin’. Where was you?”
“We were on the way to the glacier,” said Tom, “and got up on a rock to see it better when it calved.”
“Darned lucky you wasn’t ’longside of it,” declared the second officer. “Don’t never go foolin’ ’round a glacier this time of year. Never can tell when they’re goin’ to bust loose. Stove our boat too, darn it.”
By the time the second boat arrived, the last of the seals was skinned. Piling the hides and the contents of the stove boat into the other craft, and dragging the shattered boat to the water, the party set out for the _Narwhal_, towing the injured craft.
“By gum, didn’t I tell ye thet cat was a-goin’ fer to bring bad luck?” exclaimed old Pem as the boys and Mr. Kemp climbed over the rail, and the old whaleman saw the boat with its shattered planking.
“Oh, dry up!” burst out the second officer. “Don’t care if you are mate, you’re an old croaker. Ain’t nothin’ to do with the puss. You know’s well as any one glaciers is always calving in summer.”
Cap’n Pem’s eyes opened in wonder and he stared speechless at Mr. Kemp. Twice he opened his mouth as if about to speak, but both times he failed. At last, shaking his grizzled head dolefully, he turned and walked away.
Soon the schooner was again under way, chugging out of the fiord under her own power. Once more in the open sea, she heeled to the wind and bore northward for Disko Bay. As she came in sight of Disko Island, passing close to the many islets at the bay’s mouth, the boys were enthusiastic over the beauty of the scene. Presently they caught sight of a little cluster of huts and tents before which a row of kayaks were drawn upon the beach.
Before the _Narwhal’s_ anchor plunged overboard the schooner was surrounded by the little bobbing skin canoes. To the boys’ joy they saw that these Eskimos were clad in skins and were exactly like the pictures they had always seen of these people. The Eskimo hands on the schooner greeted them with yells and chattered rapidly with them. Presently the newcomers were scrambling on to the _Narwhal’s_ deck. But at close quarters these Greenland Eskimos proved as greasy and filthy as those the boys had seen at Hebron.
“I never saw such dirty people!” exclaimed Tom as he edged away from the ill-smelling crowd.
“Don’t be expectin’ of ’em to be nothin’ else, do ye?” said Cap’n Pem. “How the Sam Hill they goin’ fer to keep clean? Reckon ye’d be a mite dirty if all the fresh water ye had fer to bathe in wuz melted snow.”
“But I should think they’d all be sick and die,” said Jim. “Why, they must live exactly like pigs.”
“Shure thin’, ain’t pigs the hilthiest av’ cr’atures!” exclaimed Mike.
But later, when, the boys went ashore, they found much of interest, despite the odors and the dirty inhabitants. They saw fat-faced Eskimo women, their hair done up in big greasy topknots, industriously chewing skins to cure them. They saw others carrying their bright-eyed little kiddies in the pouchlike hoods on their backs. They peered into the smoky reindeer skin tents and saw the soapstone lamps with their wicks of moss floating in oil. They saw the men carving walrus tusks into weapons and utensils, and they watched a couple of boys as they broke a dog team to harness. The Eskimos seemed very friendly and good-natured, and when Tom uttered an exclamation of surprise as a boy lashed out with his rawhide whip and deftly flipped the ear of a surly dog a dozen feet distant, the young Eskimo grinned broadly and said something in his own tongue.
“Says if you’ll give him a coin he’ll show you something,” interpreted Mr. Kemp who stood near.
Tom tossed the boy a quarter which the youngster examined critically, and bit with his firm white teeth. Apparently satisfied, he walked a short distance away and placed the coin upon the top of a little bowlder. Retracing his steps until fully twenty feet from the coin, he swung his whip about his head, suddenly lurched forward and with a crack like a pistol the snakelike lash struck the coin and sent it spinning high in the air. Dashing forward the boy caught it dexterously as it fell.
“Gosh, that _was_ fine!” cried Tom. “Whew! he _can_ handle a whip!”
Instantly the two boys were surrounded by the Eskimo lads, all clamoring for a chance to exhibit their skill and for some time the two boys were busy handing out their loose change and watching the Eskimos flip them from resting places with whips or hit them with their arrows as the coins were tossed into the air.
Not until the boys’ money was exhausted did they stop. Then, followed by the troop of young Eskimos, Tom and Jim continued on their round of the village.
“I never knew Eskimos lived in tents,” said Jim as Mr. Kemp stopped to bargain with a wrinkled old man for some carved ivory curios. “I thought they lived in igloos.”
The second mate laughed. “Funny, most all folks get that idea,” he replied. “Wonder how they think these lads is goin’ to build snow houses in summer.”
“Well you see we never realized it was summer—that is, warm—up here,” said Tom. “Somehow we always thought of the Arctic as cold and covered with ice all the year round.”
“Won’t we have a lot to tell the fellows at home?” said Jim. “How these women chew the skins to tan them, and how they live in wigwams just like Indians and say—what’s that man doing? Look, he’s splitting up a match.”
Sure enough, the Eskimo they were watching was very carefully splitting a sulphur match into tiny shavings with his knife while holding it over a bit of dry moss.
“He’s getting a light for his pipe or a lamp,” replied Mr. Kemp. “Matches are scarce and the Eskimos ain’t folks to waste nothing. When they want to use a match, they split it same’s he’s doin’, and bimeby one of the pieces’ll light and he’ll have his fire, and ’stead of havin’ a match less he’ll have a dozen more. Look, there she goes!”
“Well that _is_ funny!” cried Tom. “But those tiny slivers can’t be used. They’d break just as soon as he tried to scratch them.”
“Trust the Eskimos to look after that,” chuckled the second mate. “When he wants to use one of them slivers, he’ll tie it on to a bit of bone afore he scratches it.”
“Gee, but they _are_ clever!” declared Jim. “Talk about thrift!”
“I’ll tell you another thing,” went on Mr. Kemp. “Tobaccer’s scarce too, so, after they’ve smoked a pipe for a spell, they cut up the wooden stem and smoke that along with the tobaccer. Jus’ as good flavor, I reckon, and goes a blamed long ways towards savin’. Yes, sir, they’re a thrifty bunch. Even a Scotchman’d have blamed hard work to teach ’em much. And say, don’t throw away them brass shells from your rifles. Over to Hudson Bay you can trade ’em for good pelts. Yes, sir, get good fox skins for a shell each.”
“Oh, you’re kidding us!” cried Tom. “They can’t be such fools as all that.”
“Honest Injun, I ain’t,” protested the mate. “And they ain’t fools to do it. What a thing’s worth depends on how much you want it. And them Eskimos want brass shells a heap more’n they want fox skins. They can go out and get foxes most any old time, but they can’t dig up brass or shoot it.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s so,” said Jim thoughtfully. “Sorry we threw away those shells we fired at the bear, but I guess we’ll have plenty more before we’re through.”
Although the boys were anxious to get some of the beautiful skins they saw, Mr. Kemp advised them to wait, assuring them that they’d be able to get all they wanted from the Eskimos about Hudson Bay, where the _Narwhal_ would winter, even if they did not succeed in killing the creatures themselves. But they could not resist the temptation to buy a complete fur suit each. Tom chose a costume of white baby bear trimmed with blue fox, while Jim secured a suit of sheeny, silvery seal elaborately ornamented with intricate designs worked in strips of reindeer skin and with a fringe of white fox fur about the hood and collar.
Both boys roared with laughter as they tried on the suits while the Eskimos gathered about and joined in the merriment.
“Gosh, if you wear that and any one sees you, they’ll take you for a bear and shoot you,” declared Jim.
“And if they see you they’ll think you’re a new kind of walrus,” retorted Tom.
“Hello, been getting outfits, eh?” exclaimed Captain Edwards who now appeared. “But come along, we’re getting off within the hour.”
A dozen Eskimos had been obtained at the village, and in addition, the skipper had secured several bales of valuable furs, nearly two hundred pounds of walrus ivory, and a quantity of whalebone.
“Guess you’ll have a chance to hunt walrus, boys,” remarked Captain Edwards as the boat pulled towards the _Narwhal_. “We’ll run across to Baffin Island. These Eskimos tell me there’s a herd of walrus over about Cape Hewitt. Then we’re off for Hudson Bay, after dropping these chaps here again.”
“Well, if hunting walrus isn’t any more sport than sealing, I’ll not care for it,” announced Tom.
“You’ll find it very different,” the skipper assured him. “No knocking walrus over the head. Not a bit of it—they’re tough propositions and show fight. You’ll have all the excitement you’re looking for.”
A number of the Eskimos had come off to the schooner in their kayaks, some of which were large boats with double apertures in their skin-covered decks to accommodate two men. These were all hoisted on to the _Narwhal’s_ deck, Mr. Kemp explaining to the boys that much of the walrus hunting was done by the Eskimos in their frail boats.
Once more under way, the _Narwhal_ headed westward across Baffin Bay. As usual the lookouts were constantly searching the sea for whales. Tom and Jim, anxious to test their skill and having nothing else to amuse them, also went aloft and relieved the men, for Captain Edwards had already had a demonstration of the boys’ keen vision when on the _Hector_ in the Antarctic. For a long time the two boys swept the broad expanse of sparkling water in vain. Here and there floating ice broke the blue-green surface, rafts of big eider ducks floated lightly on the waves, cormorants, gulls, and other birds sailed and wheeled about and occasionally a round black head, which the boys recognized as a seal, would break through the surface, stare curiously at the schooner and with a splash and a flirt of the back flippers, disappear in the depths. But no great, shiny, black expanse of glistening skin, no tiny fountain of spray, rose above the rippling water and the boys drowsed at their posts.
Then, Jim’s sleepy eyes noted a curious looking object upon the sea half a mile or so to the north. At first he took it for a soggy cake of ice, but it seemed to be moving as though carried in a swift current. Then he decided it was a water-logged spar, and yet it did not look just right for that either. Puzzled, he stared and then gave a shout. Clearly from the grayish white object a little puff of steamlike vapor had risen.
“Blows!” he yelled almost unconsciously, and then, half ashamed of his involuntary cry and realizing it was no whale he saw, he cried out, “Come up and take a look, Mr. Kemp.”
The second mate ran nimbly up the rigging, glanced about, gazed fixedly in the direction Jim indicated, and cupping his hands yelled down, “Beluga! ’Bout four p’ints off the starboard bow—school of ’em.”
“Beluga?” exclaimed Jim as the officer started down the shrouds. “What’s that?”
“White whale!” replied Mr. Kemp, as he rapidly descended to the deck.
“Well, that’s a new one on me,” declared Jim, yelling across to Tom. “I thought all whales were black. Oh look, Tom! There _is_ a school of the things and—Gosh! I thought they were ice!”
Already the boats were being swung, and by the time the boys reached the deck, two craft were being lowered over the side and the men and Eskimos were tumbling into them. Without waiting to ask permission, the boys leaped into one of the boats and a moment later were speeding towards the odd whitish creatures swimming slowly along and all unconscious of danger.
As the boats drew near the whales, they spread out, the harpooniers laid aside their oars and stood in the bows with irons in hand, and in a moment more were within striking distance of the creatures. Almost at the same instant the various harpoons darted forward, and as the keen points of the irons buried themselves in the animals’ sides, the belugas leaped half from the water, looking to the boys’ wondering eyes far more like gigantic white seals than whales. Then, with a rush, the creatures started off, towing the boats at a terrific rate through the water, turning and twisting, sounding and milling, sometimes leaping high in air, at other times rolling over and over, and striving by a hundred unexpected moves to rid themselves of the stinging weapons in their sides. As Tom said afterwards, it was like playing enormous trout, for the men alternately hauled in or let out the line; they laughed and shouted and yelled as if thoroughly enjoying the sport and there was none of the tense strained attitude that the boys had seen when attacking the bowheads.
But the fight did not last long. Within fifteen minutes from being struck the white whale was tired out. He rested almost motionless, blowing frequently; and, hauling in the line hand over hand, as the crew urged the boat forward, the men drew the craft close to the big, dirty-white creature. An instant later the long, keen-bladed lance flashed, the stricken whale threw its head high in air, thrashed madly with its tail, and rolled slowly over on its side in the reddening water.
“That wasn’t much of a fight!” exclaimed Tom as the boat was run alongside the dead beluga and the fluke chain was made fast.
“Never do give much of a tussle,” said Mr. Kemp, “they ain’t much more’n second-rate whales anyhow. No bigger’n blackfish.”
Towing the dead whale, the boat pulled toward the schooner and a few minutes later the other three boats came in, each with his white, twenty-foot carcass bobbing along behind it. Then for the first time, the boys saw that the Eskimos were also out in their big kayaks and were paddling furiously over the waves in pursuit of the remaining belugas. Running into the rigging the boys watched the Eskimos through their glasses. They saw the foremost paddler in the nearest kayak urge his skin craft among the speeding whales; the man in the forward seat raised his arm, there was a flash as a harpoon sped through the air, and the next moment a huge, dark-colored, balloon-shaped object was bobbing up and down, dashing this way and that where the beluga had been, while the kayak paddled off in another direction.
“Gee, he missed him!” cried Tom. “And say, what on earth is that thing on the water?”
“Search me!” replied Jim. “Golly, there’s three more of ’em. And not a single kayak is fast to a whale. Let’s ask about it.”
Hurrying to the deck the boys approached Captain Edwards. “Oh, Captain,” cried Tom, “what are those big round things out there by the Eskimos’ kayaks? And how is it not a single kayak is fast to a whale? Those fellows must be dubs not to get fast when they’re right among the whales.”
The skipper roared with laughter. “Dubs!” he exclaimed. “Why, my boys, I’ll warrant not a Eskimo missed gettin’ fast. But of course you don’t understand. Them things you see a-bobbin’ about yonder are floats—skin bladders, and fast to the Eskimos’ irons in the whales. They don’t risk their kayaks a-gettin’ fas’, but jus’ let the whales tire ’emselves out a-towin’ the buoys ’round and meantime go after other critters. They’ll bring ’em all in, don’t you worry.”
“Well, we _have_ got a lot to learn,” remarked Jim turning away. “Look, Tom, there comes a kayak now, and—yes, they’re towing two whales.”
Interestedly the two boys watched the approaching Eskimos, and one after another, the kayaks came paddling alongside, each towing one or more belugas. By the time all were alongside the schooner, twelve white whales were floating under the vessel’s lee and the crew were working like beavers cutting in the dull white creatures. The work was easy and rapid compared with cutting in the bowheads or a sperm whale, for the belugas were tiny creatures compared with the other monsters the boys had seen.
Within twenty-four hours after first sighting the school, the last of the catch had been cast adrift, and the _Narwhal_ was again sailing westward toward Baffin Island and the walrus grounds.
Elated at their success in sighting the white whales, the two boys ran up the rigging to their places on the crosstrees. Scarcely had Tom glanced about when his shout of, “She blows!” rang out. Barely a mile ahead a sparkling jet of vapor had risen above the sea, and an instant later a stupendous body had broken the surface, gleaming like polished metal in the sun. Cataracts of water poured from it. Tom fairly gasped at the size of the creature, and his voice was shaking with excitement as he yelled back, “a point off the port bow, about a mile away,” in response to the Captain’s call of, “Where away?”
“It’s the biggest whale ever!” he cried excitedly to the officers as he reached the deck. “Say, we _will_ have a fight with him!”
Captain Edwards chuckled. “I’ll bet we would—if we gave him a chance,” he replied. “But we ain’t a-goin’ to meddle with that critter.”
“You mean you’re not going after him?” cried Tom in wondering tones. “Why, why, he’d give over a hundred barrels!”
“Don’t doubt it,” smiled the skipper, “but he can keep it under his blamed old hide for all of us.”
“Do you mean you’re afraid to tackle him?” demanded the puzzled boy.
Mr. Kemp and Cap’n Pem burst into a roar of laughter. “Yes and no,” declared the second officer, “that’s a finback.”
“Finback!” exclaimed Jim. “What’s that?”
“Consarndest critters there be,” declared Cap’n Pem. “Ef ye wanter git stove or kilt or towed ter kingdom come, jes go in on a finback. ’Course I ain’t skeered o’ doin’ of it—never seed a whale yit thet skeered me, but shucks, what’s the use? Derned critters’ll tow ye nigh fifty mile ’fore ye kin lance ’em an’ fight like Sam Hill. An’ arter ye’ve druv home the lance, ef yer boat ain’t smashed ter kindlin’ wood, an’ ye ain’t kilt, the consarned critter’s jes mean an onderhanded enough fer to sink.”
“Then you don’t touch them!” exclaimed Tom. “Gosh, it seems a shame to let such big fellows go. Aren’t they ever killed?”
“Steam whalers—Scotch and Skowhegians take ’em,” replied Mr. Kemp. “But you got to have harpoon guns and bomb lances and three inch cables and steam winches to get ’em.”
By now the whale which had been the subject of the conversation was within plain view from the deck, and the boys fairly gasped as they noted its enormous size. An instant later it had caught sight of the schooner and in a swirl of foam sounded and disappeared.
“Well, we’re still learning,” laughed Tom. “I always thought whales were whales, but I know now that there are whales _and_ whales.”
THE WALRUS HUNT
Hour after hour the _Narwhal_ sailed steadily on, and ever as she proceeded, the floating ice and lofty drifting bergs grew larger and more numerous. When the shores of Baffin Island at last rose above the sea, the water was only visible as narrow lanes of green amid the wide stretch of rough ice. How the schooner could ever get through the vast field with its bobbing close-packed cakes and its towering bergs, was a mystery to the boys. They watched intently as old Cap’n Pem, now in charge as ice pilot, bawled out quick, sharp orders, and at his commands, the helm was shifted, yards were swung and sails trimmed instantly as the _Narwhal_ tacked and turned and twisted and threaded her devious way through the narrow leads. Often after the schooner’s passage, the ice, disturbed by her wake, would drift across the channels, and soon the boys, looking astern, could see nothing but the vast field of ice showing no sign of the open water by which they had entered.
Here, too, the boys saw why the topsail schooner was such a favorite with Arctic whalemen. To be sure, Cap’n Pem had already explained it to them when they had first discussed the _Narwhal’s_ rig, but until they actually saw it demonstrated they did not fully realize how handy the rig was amid the ice. Often, as the vessel plunged forward along a narrow lead, the passage would end in an impenetrable barrier, and the boys held their breaths as the schooner seemed about to dash into the mass of ice. But each time the old whaleman’s voice would roar out an order. The men, ready at sheets and braces, would bend to the ropes and, as the huge topsail yard swung about, the _Narwhal_ would slow down, hesitate, and at the very instant the boys expected to hear the splintering of ice and the crashing of shivered planking, the schooner would begin to move backward. But at last the leads became so narrow, so tortuous and so choked with ice that Cap’n Pem declared they could go no farther.
“Reckon we’d better be gettin’ out ice anchors, an’ lyin’ here till she opens up,” he declared, addressing Captain Edwards. “Soon’s wind or tide changes, the derned ice’ll begin ter move.”
“Humph, and take us with it, like as not,” responded the skipper. “Never did see such a lot of ice ’long here this time o’ year. And time’s flyin’. If she don’t open up mighty quick, we’ll have to put about and make for the Straits or we won’t be a-gettin’ into the Bay this season.”
“Can’t you run in with the motor?” asked Tom. “Seems to me that’s easier to handle than sails.”
“By glory! I must be gettin’ old,” cried the captain. “Say, Pem, what sort of a’ ice pilot are you that you didn’t think of that?”
“How in tarnation’d I think o’ thet there contraption?” demanded the old whaleman. “Fust time I ever wuz shipmates long o’ one.”
In a few minutes the motor’s exhaust was ringing loudly across the ice pack, and under half speed, the schooner was cautiously feeling her way through the zigzagging, winding lanes of water; bumping into floating cakes, grating against the solid masses on either side, but each moment getting farther and farther into the vast field and nearer to the gray rocky coast. Presently, from the lookout came the shout of “Open water ahead!” An hour later the _Narwhal_ was resting at anchor in a broad expanse of open sea with only isolated grounded bergs and drifting floes upon the surface. Seaward, the white barrier through which she had passed stretched to the horizon to north and south.
Hardly had the schooner come to rest before the Eskimos were launching their kayaks, and in a few minutes were darting away in various directions.
“Where are they going?” asked Tom as he and Jim watched the skin boats leave the vessel’s side.
“Lookin’ for walrus,” replied the captain. “When they sight a herd they’ll come back and report and like as not get a few to bring along as samples.”
“I’d love to be with them,” declared Jim. “I’m going to ask Unavik to take us in a kayak some day.”
“Better start with a real boat,” advised the captain. “If you see a big bull walrus rearin’ up his head and glarin’ at you with them red eyes of his, and roarin’ and bellowin’ and heavin’ his tusks up and down, and rushin’ at you like he’s gone crazy, you’ll be mighty glad you’re in a whaleboat ’stead of a skin kayak.”
“Whew, are they like that?” cried Tom. “They look so big and clumsy in the pictures and when they’re stuffed, that I didn’t suppose they could really do much harm.”
“Wussedest critters I know,” declared Cap’n Pem, “and ye wouldn’t git me fer to hunt ’em in them there cockleshells o’ kayaks, not fer nothin’. With a good musket an’ a whaleboat ’tain’t so bad, but a bull walrus ain’t to be sneezed at, lemme tell ye!”
“All the more excitement,” laughed Tom. “I’m just crazy to go after them!”
“Guess ye mus’ be crazy to wanter,” muttered old Pem. “But long’s ye’re out fer to git adventure an’ own the consarned ol’ ship, there ain’t a mite o’ use my tellin’ ye not to.”
Jim laughed. “You know perfectly well you wouldn’t let us go and neither would Captain Edwards, if there was any real danger,” he said.
“There’s always danger on a whaler in the Arctic,” said the skipper, “but you two boys know how to shoot and ain’t reckless, and Kemp’s an old hand, and there ain’t any likelihood of your gettin’ hurt, in a good boat.”
“But there’s that there cat——” began Pem.
“Oh nonsense!” interrupted Tom. “If we go, we’re going to take that cat with us as a mascot.”
“Waall, fools _will_ rush in, ye knows,” muttered the old whaleman as he stumped aft.
While waiting for the Eskimos to return with word as to the whereabouts of the walrus herd, the boats were lowered, the masts stepped, guns and other appliances and weapons stowed, and all prepared in readiness for the hunt. At last, after several hours wait, the boys spied the kayaks returning. As they drew near, Tom and Jim saw that the two leading craft were towing some huge object. Grasping the glasses, Tom ran up the rigging. “They’ve found them!” he cried out an instant later. “They’re bringing in the ‘sample’ just as the captain said.”
“How they can get a walrus and tow him in with those kyaks gets me,” declared Jim.
“Trust those boys to do it though,” said Mr. Kemp. “Why, they even get big bowheads in kayaks. They can handle them canoes to beat all. I’ve seen ’em flop clean over and come up a smilin’ t’other side.”
Tom laughed. “You must think we’re greener than we are, to swallow that,” he declared.
The second officer grinned. “All right, I’ll prove it,” he announced, and calling to a young Eskimo who stood near, he said something to him in the fellow’s own language.
With a broad grin the Eskimo slipped over the schooner’s rail, settled himself in the tiny craft, pulled the string of the lacing to the circular opening about his body, and with a few strokes of his paddle drew away from the _Narwhal_.
“Now watch him!” exclaimed Mr. Kemp.
Glancing up at the watching boys, the Eskimo waved his hand, gave a sudden lurch to one side, and to the boys’ utter amazement, the kayak capsized. The next instant they could see only the smooth rounded bottom of the canoe.
“Oh, he’ll be drowned!” cried Tom. “He’s laced in and can’t——”
Before he could finish the sentence, the kayak had rotated, and scarcely believing their eyes, the boys saw the craft bob right side up with its swarthy occupant still grinning.
“Well, that _is_ a stunt!” cried Jim.
“Yes, I take it all back,” said Tom. “I’ll believe any yarn you tell us after that.”
Over and over again the Eskimo performed the feat for the boys’ benefit, and then, the walrus hunters approaching, he darted off and joined them.
As the kayaks came alongside, the boys looked with wonder at the enormous creature they had in tow—a huge bull walrus, partly supported by air-filled skin floats, and with gleaming white tusks nearly two feet in length.
Swarming on to the schooner, the Eskimos all began chattering at once in a mixture of broken English, Danish, and their own tongue, until Captain Edwards threw up his hands in despair. “Here, Mr. Kemp,” he called, “come and get this. I can savvy a bit o’ the lingo, but this is too much for me. They’re worse nor a flock o’ poll-parrots!”
The second officer pushed his way through the group, uttered a few sharp words in the Eskimos’ dialect, and instantly all ceased talking. Then, turning to a man who appeared to be a leader, he asked him a question. Rapidly and with sparkling eyes the fellow replied, and Mr. Kemp turned to the skipper. “Says there’s a whoppin’ big herd of walrus over to Lewis’ Inlet,” he announced. “’Cordin’ to him, must be pretty nigh two hundred of the critters. Leastwise, he says ‘twenty pair of hands of ’em’ and that’s all the same as two hundred. Says they’re well up on land and easy to cut off from water. They picked the bull up outside on a cake of ice.”
“All right,” replied the captain. “Man the boats and get started. Guess you’ll need pretty near all hands. Swanson’s been after walrus afore, he tells me, and I guess Pem and Mike and two or three of the men can take care of the ship. I’ll go along in one boat, you take another, Swanson can take the third and—hmm, Mr. Chester, you’re to take the fourth boat!”
For a moment Tom did not realize that the captain was addressing him, and then, as it dawned upon him, “Wha—what’s that?” he stammered. “You don’t mean——”
“That you’re in charge of the port after-boat,” interrupted the skipper with a twinkle in his eye. “You can take Mr. Lathrop as mate if you wish. Might as well learn how to handle a boat now as ever.”
“Gee Whitaker!” exclaimed the dazed boy as he and Jim dashed to their cabin for their rifles. “I’m as nervous as a cat! Of course I can steer the boat—with the rudder and under sail; but I don’t know what to do when we get to the walrus.”
“Oh, just do like the others do,” advised Jim. “Gosh, I’d like to have your chance! Say, you’ll be a regular boat steerer next! Besides, Captain Edwards will probably tell you what to do when we get near.”
But despite Jim’s encouraging words, Tom’s knees were shaky as he took his place in the boat assigned him, slipped the rudder in place, and sat waiting the captain’s order to cast off.
“When you get near the herd, spread out,” directed Captain Edwards, “and go in as near the same time as you can. Pick the biggest bulls and aim for the ear or neck close to the head. Take them that’s near the water first, and if one of ’em comes for you, keep off and shoot him. Don’t take no chances—a bull walrus can stave a boat’s easy as a egg shell.”
A moment later the boats were cast off, sails were trimmed, and the little fleet went dancing across the calm sea, each boat towing several kayaks with their Eskimo occupants behind it.
Nearer and nearer they approached the shore. The schooner was a mere speck in the distance, and the captain’s boat, guided by a wrinkled old Eskimo, swung more towards the south. Presently they passed a jutting, rocky cape, about whose shores the drift ice was piled high, and entered a tiny bottle-shaped bay. And at the sight which greeted them, the boys exclaimed in wonder.
Everywhere upon the shingle and the grounded cakes of ice were the bulky, dull-brown, clumsy-looking walrus. There were scores—hundreds of the creatures. Giant bulls with enormous, wrinkled, warty-skinned necks and gleaming ivory tusks; smaller, light-colored cows, and little seal-like pups. The pups and cows were some distance from the water’s edge, the younger bulls were scattered in groups near by and along the shore. Resting on rocks or ice cakes with their tiny heads raised high, were the old veterans of a thousand fights, the giant, scarred, elephantine bulls.
Instantly, as with one accord, sails were lowered, the kayaks were cast off and, under oars and paddles, the fleet of boats and canoes swept upon the herd. For a moment the bulls stared wonderingly at the unexpected visitors. Then a low, growling, barking roar echoed across the bay. The great creatures wheeled about to face the intruders and, shaking their tusked heads threateningly, prepared to defend the cows and their young.
The next instant, rifles and muskets roared. The boys glimpsed several big bulls as they swayed and sank lifeless. They heard the shouts of the excited men, the shriller cries of the Eskimos, and then forgot all else as their boat approached a gigantic bull walrus who had dragged himself to the very verge of an ice cake, and was on the point of diving into the sea. Taking careful aim, Jim fired; but at the very instant he pulled the trigger, the boat lurched, his rifle wavered, and the bull with a roar plunged with a tremendous splash into the water.
“Gosh, I missed!” cried Jim.
“There’s another!” screamed Tom. “Get him!”
Once more Jim’s rifle crashed out and a smaller bull sagged like an empty sack upon the shingle.
“Hurrah!” cried Tom, and then his glad shout died on his lips and he screamed a warning filled with terror. Within two feet of the boat—so close he could have touched it with his outstretched hand—a great, ferocious-looking head had burst from the water, the tiny, wicked eyes gleaming like those of an enraged elephant, the stiff, horny whiskers bristling, the two-foot yellow tusks dripping blood from a deep gash across the forehead where Jim’s bullet had cut its way.
Wounded, mad with fury, the walrus reared its massive neck above the water and hurled itself at the boat. Frantically Tom yelled. The men seized the oars and struggled desperately to swing the boat. Jim hastily reloaded and strove to shoot. But the boat was swaying and tipping to the men’s efforts and Jim could not aim. Almost before they realized their peril, the boys saw the maddened creature’s head raised above the edge of the boat. With a tremendous blow, the long tusks came crashing down, splintering the thwart, breaking the stout oak rail and bearing the boat down to the water’s edge.
Instantly the men threw themselves to the opposite side of the craft. With oars, clubs and whatever they could grasp they rained a shower of blows upon the animal’s head, but they might as well have struck at a helmet of steel. With blood pouring from the wounds, but not affected by them in the least, the bull walrus lashed the water into a maelstrom of froth, wrenched his head back and forth, bellowed with rage, and swung the heavy thirty-foot boat from side to side and up and down as though it were a thing of paper. Excited, rattled, terror-stricken, Tom was paralyzed with fear, and neither he nor any of his men realized that their antagonist was striving with might and main to tear free his tusks wedged in the splintered wood; that, with his head thus held as in a trap, he could not lift himself high enough to withdraw his tusks, and that he was in reality almost as terrorized as the occupants of the boat. Owing to some mistake, none of the old hands were in Tom’s boat. Not a member of his crew had ever before seen a live walrus, much less an infuriated wounded one. They were so thoroughly frightened by the creature’s sudden and savage onslaught, that they completely lost their heads.
Then, suddenly and with a wild shout, one-eyed Ned leaped forward, seized a boat spade and, yelling like a fiend and holding the weapon as though it were a bayonet, he plunged the keen-edged spade time after time into the thick, wrinkled neck of the walrus. The sea turned crimson, the walrus lashed the water into scarlet foam. Gradually his struggles ceased, his eyes closed, and he lay dead, with his tusks still locked over the boat’s rail.
But the danger was not over. The inert, heavy body tipped the craft until every wave lapped over the side, and while several men struggled and heaved and tugged to lift the creature’s head free, the others bailed for their lives, but seemingly to no purpose. Not only was the buoyancy of the boat pressing upwards against the weight of the walrus, but the tusks were driven so firmly through the thwart that they were locked as though in a vise. Each second it seemed as if the boat would fill and all would be struggling in the icy water.
Their shouts and cries had attracted the attention of the other boats and Swanson, who was nearest, had come racing to Tom’s aid. Before his boat was alongside, the battle was over, however, and seeing the trouble, the cooper and several of his men leaped into Tom’s boat and with their weight on the upper side, the water ceased to come in. Then Tom, suddenly remembering his responsibility, recovered his scattered wits. “Here!” he shouted. “Get the handle of an oar under his head and pry him loose!” But even with the stout handle of the heavy ash oar as a lever, the walrus’ head could not be budged.
“Get the hatchet and cut away the thwart!” ordered Tom. As the keen-edged little ax cut through the splintered wood, the men heaved up on the oar, and with a splash the animal’s head slipped over the rail into the sea.
Swanson stood up, pulled at his huge mustache, drew his pipe from his pocket and commenced to fill it with a blunt, blackened forefinger. “Ay tank you bane have close shave,” he remarked, as he glanced about. “By yiminy, you bane pretty near cut das fellow head off.”
“I’ll say we had a close shave!” exclaimed Tom. “And if it hadn’t been for Ned we’d all have been drowned or killed. Gee, I’d have hated to be overboard with that beast. Ned was the only one who kept his head.”
The big Swede nodded approvingly, squinted his pale blue eyes and turned his gaze curiously on the ex-soldier.
“Ay tank mebbe das glass eye he got more better as two some fellers got. He bane gude fellow, Ned,” he declared gravely.
“Aw, forget it!” exclaimed the one-eyed veteran flushing. “I didn’t do nothin’. The bloomin’ beast’s face was so darned like that of a Hun what stuck his ugly mug into my dugout over there, that I plumb forgot myself an’ went at him with a bay’net same’s if he was a Heinie.”
“Well, if that was a sample of the way you went after the Germans, I’m sorry for them!” laughed Tom.
“Vell, Ay tank Ay bane goin’ back,” remarked Swanson as he scrambled into his own boat. “Yumpin yiminy! Das bane vun big bull you get!”
Now that the excitement was over, the boys glanced about. No more walruses were to be seen ashore. The rocks and ice were deserted save for a half dozen dead bulls and a couple of badly wounded ones. A few cows could be seen swimming some distance away. The other boats’ crews were busy working at the kill. The Eskimos, however, were paddling furiously about and the interested boys saw the forward man in the nearest kayak lunge forward with his harpoon as a bull walrus broke water.
“Golly, if that fellow goes for ’em they’ll be sunk!” exclaimed Jim.
But the Eskimos gave the stricken and angry creature no chance. As with a snort of rage he broke the surface and charged the kayak, the tiny craft whirled as on a pivot, dodged the oncoming creature and, as it passed by him, the Eskimo in the bow leaned over and drove a long lance into the animal’s neck. Over and over again the maneuver was repeated. Fascinated the boys and men watched this battle between the wounded, infuriated bull walrus and the frail craft of skin, with its Eskimo occupants armed with their primitive weapons. But, as always, brains and intelligence triumphed, and presently the grinning natives were paddling toward shore, towing the carcass of their victim behind them.
UNAVIK SPINS A YARN
Many days had passed since the boys’ first walrus hunt. They had learned much by experience and had killed many of the enormous ugly creatures without mishap. They had retained the skull of that first huge bull as a trophy, and no walrus taken since had approached it in the length and beauty of the perfectly matched and pointed tusks. Tom, to his unspeakable delight, had been made boat steerer and had been assigned to the same craft in which they had battled with the walrus and Jim, not to be outdone, had bent every energy to acquiring skill in using the harpoon and lance.
In this Cap’n Pem had played an important part, and finding the regular irons far too heavy for the boy, he had had the blacksmith fashion some special lighter weapons for Jim’s private use. Jim was as proud as a peacock of these and kept them, sharpened to a razor edge and carefully sheathed and greased, in the bow of the boat. And when, one day, two white whales were sighted and Tom’s boat drew into one of the creatures, and Jim had his first chance to test his skill, he was trembling with excitement.
Standing in the bow, bracing himself in the knee cleat, the boy raised his iron, and as the huge beluga broke water close by, he heaved the iron with all his strength. A roar of approval came booming across the waves from Cap’n Pem as the weapon struck fair and buried itself in the white whale’s back. All by themselves the boys and their crew played the stricken creature and by Tom’s orders the men worked as the line was hauled or slackened. When at last the white whale lay tired upon the sea, the boat drew close, and Jim killed the beluga with a single stroke of his lance. Then indeed, the two boys felt that they were full-fledged whalemen and they longed for the time when they could go on a real whale, a bowhead, and fight the thrilling, exciting, dangerous battle with a monster of the deep and bring him “fin up” unaided.
But no bowheads were seen, and the boys were forced to content themselves with lesser game. They had learned to handle the kayaks, and under Unavik’s tutelage they had become quite expert with the ticklish skin-covered craft. Often they had paddled ashore and, armed with rifle and shotgun, had gone hunting in the rocky hills or over the tundra, but they had seen neither bear, musk ox, reindeer, or other large game. But they invariably returned with full bags, for ducks, plover, geese and swan, as well as the big Arctic hares, were everywhere, and those on the _Narwhal_ never suffered for lack of fresh meat. Once too, Jim had spied a grayish shape skulking along a hollow several hundred yards away and taking careful aim had brought it down at his first shot.
“Gee, I guess it’s some Eskimo’s dog!” he exclaimed when the two boys reached the creature and saw a gaunt, pale, grayish yellow, doglike animal lying among the rocks and sparse grass.
“Well it’s got a good hide anyway,” said Tom. “We’ll skin it and take it along. It’ll make a nice rug when we get home.”
But when, on reaching the schooner, they exhibited the skin, and Mr. Kemp told them they had killed a huge wolf, the boys fairly gasped with astonishment and then danced and yelled with delight.
Another time, Tom had killed a beautiful blue fox as the creature raced away from a half-devoured young Canada goose, and in a pen on the forward deck, they had a miniature menagerie of young ducks, geese, swans, gulls, and other birds.
It was now late summer and the young birds of the year were able to take care of themselves, but when the boys had first gone ashore on their hunts, ducks, geese, and other wild fowl were nesting by thousands in every hollow and swale.
It was on their first trip that Jim had an amusing experience, and for months afterwards Tom and the ship’s officers never ceased teasing him about it. The two boys were strolling across a little vale, a spot carpeted with deep reindeer moss and stunted bushes, when, from almost under Jim’s feet, a duck fluttered away apparently unable to take wing. Leaping forward to grasp it Jim’s foot tripped and he plunged headlong into the bushes. There was a crunching crash beneath him and, as he regained his feet, Tom fairly doubled up with uncontrollable laughter. From chest to waist Jim was drenched with a sticky yellow mass dotted with broken and crushed bluish egg shells. He had fallen squarely upon the duck’s nest!
“Oh you _are_ a sight!” choked Tom. “Gosh, you certainly did find that nest, Jim!”
Jim looked ruefully at the dripping mess and without a smile exclaimed: “Gee, I like eggs, but I don’t like ’em scrambled that way!”
The story was too good to keep, and whenever eggs were served thereafter some one would invariably ask Jim if he’d have his scrambled.
At last the signs of approaching autumn warned Captain Edwards that they must leave the shores of Baffin Island and speed southward to Hudson Straits and winter quarters in Hudson Bay. Long strings of swans and great V-shaped flocks of geese passed daily across the sky, headed south. The vast rafts of ducks became uneasy. The Old Squaws whistled querulously, the eiders swam restlessly about, buffle heads and teal winged swiftly back and forth, and the blackheads darkened the sky with their veering, ever-turning flocks. The plover lost their black waistcoats and took on silvery white ones; the snow bunting became gray and white; the ptarmigan were dotted with white feathers among their soft brown plumage and the Arctic hares grew paler and paler as they gradually assumed their winter coats to match the spotless snow. The days grew shorter, the sun disappeared below the horizon, and the Aurora glowed and flashed and scintillated in tongues and bands of lambent hues across the zenith. The wind was chill with the feel of frost and ice as it swept across the land which now showed hardly a tint of green or a speck of the scarlet, blue and yellow that had formerly decked the hillsides.
So, with many casks of oils, great piles of walrus hides, bundles of sealskins, sacks stuffed full of eider feathers, and many hundred pounds of walrus ivory in her hold, the _Narwhal_ picked and felt her way out through the leads among the ice pack and into the broad waters of Baffin Bay. To the strong and biting wind her sails were spread, and across the short sharp waves with their spiteful hissing caps of foam, the schooner plunged towards Disko Bay. Here the Eskimos were landed laden with axes, powder and lead, cloth, brass, and gee-gaws as their wages. Then with yards braced sharp up and sheets close hauled, the _Narwhal_ buried her blunt nose deep in the tumbling foam, and with lee rail awash sped southward for the entrance to Hudson Straits.
Twice bowheads were sighted and boats lowered; but to the boys’ chagrin and disappointment, Captain Edwards absolutely refused to let them go in on the giant creatures without an experienced man in charge, for the weather was squally, swirling flakes of snow fell now and then, the sea was rough and time was precious.
At last, the entrance to the Straits was reached. Passing Resolution Island close to windward and with a fair wind, the _Narwhal_ sped through. Slipping swiftly past Coats Island and through the narrow Fisher Strait with big Southampton Island on the north, she headed for Rowe’s Welcome, where Captain Edwards planned to pass the long and dreary Arctic winter.
“Gosh!” exclaimed Tom as the boys gazed across the vast expanse of the bay. “This is like the ocean. I thought Hudson Bay was just like a big lake.”
Captain Edwards chuckled. “Mighty big lake!” he laughed. “About six hundred miles wide and a thousand miles long—big enough to drop all New England into it and just make a little island about the size of Southampton yonder. And did you know we could go on sailing and come out over north’ard of Alaska—that is, if the ice’d let us?”
“No, I never did,” admitted Tom. “I wish geographies taught us all these things. We learn that Lake Superior is awfully big but they never say much about these out-of-the-way places.”
“Well, Superior’s a pretty sizable pond,” declared the skipper. “But it’s just a puddle ’longside this bay. Why, from James Bay to the north’ard point of Melville Peninsula’s as far as acrost the Atlantic at the mouth of the St. Lawrence; and from Nottingham Island at the end of the Straits to the Seal River, t’other side of the bay, it’s as far as from New York to Chicago.”
“Whew, I guess I’ll have to remember that and tell the boys at home,” said Jim. “Are there whales in here?”
“Whales!” exclaimed the skipper. “One of the best grounds I know. If this weather holds out we’ll get a heap of ile afore ice begins to make.”
Cap’n Pem who stood near shook his head dolefully. “Too consarned good fer to las’,” he declared. “Li’ble to come down a rip-snortin’ mos’ anny minnet. Storm breeder’s what I calls it. Yes, sir. Feels like summer now, but I’ll bet ye we ketch it afore we git to the Welcome.”
It was, as the old whaleman said, “too good to last”—a soft, warm day with a blue sky, a calm sea barely ruffled by the light southerly wind, and altogether like an Indian Summer day in New England. But to the experienced eye of the old whaleman there were many signs that the weather would not last and that something was wrong. The ducks, that had been winging southward, huddled together, raised their heads uneasily and gabbled ceaselessly. The V-shaped flocks of geese were mere specks in the sky, and their hoarse honks came faintly through the air. The gulls uttered raucous cries and wheeled and screamed. Little knots of auks and guillemots kept rising from the waves, heading on rapidly moving wings for the craggy shores. The sun had a pale, hazy appearance while about it was a huge ring of light, like the ghost of a rainbow.
Lighter and lighter became the wind. It fell to a flat calm, the water was smooth as oil and the _Narwhal_ drifted idly. Then the boys noticed that the vast bulk of Southampton Island seemed to be fading away, the farther shores of the bay were becoming faint and blue. Almost before they realized what it meant, the air grew suddenly chill, a cold wind whipped against their faces and, like a gray blanket, the fog descended swiftly, unheralded, and wrapped schooner and bay in its dense gray folds.
“Knowed sutthin’ wuz a-comin’ out o’ this,” declared Cap’n Pem. “Bust it all, why couldn’t she ’a’ held off ’til we got inter the Welcome?”
“What on earth _is_ this ‘Welcome’ you’re always speaking of?” asked Tom.
“Shucks, ’course ye don’t know,” replied the old whaleman. “Why, a Welcome’s a sort o’ harbor-bay like, where a ship kin put in an’ be snug an’ safe from ice jams an’ win’s.”
“Well, it’s a good name for such places,” laughed Tom. “I suppose the first people who found them called them that because they were so welcome.”
“Yep, I reckon so,” assented Pem. “But this here blasted fog ain’t welcome, an’ like as not it’ll come on cold and blow harder’n blazes fer a week arter it lifts. I knowed that there cat’d play the everlastin’ fumdiddles with us.”
The fog was now so dense that only a few feet of the deck and bulwarks were visible about the spot where one stood. The water although so near was completely hidden and looking down into the greenish gray vapor, the ship seemed floating in air. From every side came the whimpering cries of gulls, the querulous chatter of ducks, the honk of geese, and the shrill notes of other birds. Presently Unavik loomed silently close to the boys and leaning upon the rail peered into the fog.
“H’lo!” he greeted the two. “Plenty fog, me say. Me t’ink Ukla bus’ dis day.”
“What _are_ you talking about?” queried Jim. “What’s ‘Ukla,’ and what do you mean by its busting?’”
The Eskimo grinned. “Gimme t’bac, me say you,” he replied.
So accustomed had the boys become to Unavik’s inevitable requests for tobacco, that they always carried a plug or two in their pockets, and so, at the Eskimo’s request, Jim handed him the coveted weed.
“Reckon he’s goin’ to spin a Eskimo yarn,” remarked Mr. Kemp, who stepped like a phantom from the surrounding mist. “These boys is full of stories—have one to account for blamed near everything. Some of ’em mighty good, too.”
Unavik grinned, tore a huge mouthful of tobacco from the plug with his strong white teeth and, having masticated it for a moment, began to speak. It was not difficult for the boys to understand him, for they had become familiar with his bizarre English. They listened intently to his tale which, without Unavik’s dialect, was as follows:
“Many, many winters ago,” commenced the Eskimo, “there was one great white bear named Ukla. He and his wife lived many days’ travel towards the west in a great skin house on a rocky plain, and all about the house were the skulls of men and women, for Ukla and his wife ate people’s flesh, and every night he traveled across the land to the Eskimo villages. Then he would kill any one he found outside the huts, and if he could not do this, he would steal the bodies of the dead and fastening a thong about their feet, would drag them to his home.
“Sometimes he was seen by the Eskimos, but oftener the people saw only his giant footmarks in the snow, or found the graves opened and the dead gone. For many years old Ukla did this, and although the Eskimos held medicine feasts and asked the Great Spirit to help them, no help came.
“Many times also the people lay in wait and tried to kill Ukla, the giant bear, with their spears and arrows, but Ukla was a great _anticoot_ (magician) and the weapons fell from his shaggy skin bent or broken. Then one day a stranger came to the Eskimos—a tall fair man, and said:
“‘Take heart, for I will destroy Ukla.’
“Then the Eskimos danced and beat their drums and were happy, and the stranger said to them: ‘To-morrow I will pretend to be dead, and you must wrap me in skins and bury me among the stones; and when Ukla comes let him take me away in peace.’
“Then the people were sad, but the stranger said: ‘Weep not, for I will return and never again will Ukla rob the graves or kill the people.’
“So the Eskimos did as the stranger told them, and wrapping him in skins placed him among the stones and went to their homes, crying loudly as if he had died. In the night came the great bear who had heard the Eskimos’ wails across the hills, and seeing the body of the stranger, he fastened a thong about the man’s ankles and started for his home. But the man spread out his arms and grasped at stones and bushes, and although Ukla pulled and tugged he could not travel fast, and every few miles he had to stop and rest. Then as he looked at the man’s body lying quiet on the ground he would shake his head in wonder.
“‘Ah,’ he would mutter to himself, ‘who would think such a small man would weigh so much; but he must be very fat and fine indeed! What a fine supper he will make!’ Then, thinking of the fine feast he would have, Ukla would start on again. At last, very tired, he reached his hut, and dragging the man inside, the bear pushed him into a corner, and too tired to eat he crawled into his sleeping bag, telling his wife they would feast in the morning.
“After a time the stranger opened his eyes to look about, but Ukla’s wife, who was trimming the lamp, saw him and cried out to her husband: ‘This man is not dead—he is looking about!’
“But Ukla was very weary and said sleepily: ‘Oh, man dead, man frozen stiff.’
“Then the man kept very still, and when the bear’s wife turned away, he seized Ukla’s knife, and leaping up, killed her. As she fell dead Ukla awoke, but the man, throwing down the knife, dashed out of the door and across the plain with the big bear at his heels, panting and growling and snapping his teeth.
“At last, no matter how fast he ran, the man found Ukla was getting nearer and nearer and would soon overtake him. But the man was a great _anticoot_, and as he ran he made a great hill rise between himself and Ukla. So as the bear climbed slowly up one side, the man raced swiftly down the other. But when Ukla reached the top he curled up in a ball and rolled so quickly down the hill that he almost caught the man.
“Then the stranger made a big river flow between himself and the bear, and weary with running he seated himself on a stone to rest. When Ukla came to the river he roared and growled in anger and in a great voice called out: ‘How, O man did _you_ cross the river?’
“And the man laughed and answered, ‘I drank my way across.’
“When Ukla heard this, he plunged into the water and drank and drank until at last he made a dry path across the river, and crawled slowly up the other bank towards the man. But his long hair was wet and heavy and his body was swollen with the water he had drunk, so that the man had no fear of him and taunted him. Then Ukla grew very angry and with growls like icebergs clashing in a storm he roared: ‘Ugh! even though I cannot overtake you, yet you shall not escape me!’ and giving himself a mighty shake he burst, and the water which he had swallowed flew in all directions and made a thick fog over the land.
“Now the man was greatly troubled, for the hills and plains could not be seen and he was lost. But he skinned Ukla, and taking the shaggy hide in his hands, he waved it many times about his head. This made a great wind which drove away the fog and the man walked safely to the Eskimo village. Then there was great rejoicing and the men did not work or hunt for three days, and the women did not comb their hair for three days and three nights, but all danced and beat drums and feasted.
“For many years the stranger dwelt among the people and taught them many things, and so that the people would always remember him, he told them that Ukla’s spirit would roam the plains, and would burst from time to time, and that then, as the fog came, they must give offerings and hold medicine dances, and that then he would know they had not forgotten and would wave Ukla’s skin and drive away the fog.”
“That is a good yarn!” cried Tom as Unavik ended. “And say, hurrah, the fog’s lifting!”
Unavik grinned. “Man, he hear plenty drum. You no hear? Me say he please an’ wave um skin.”
“Gee, I do hear drums!” declared Tom. “From over to the west.”
“Sure Mike!” exclaimed Unavik. “Me say all same. Fog go.”
Tom laughed. “Do you believe that yarn, Unavik?” he asked.
The Eskimo stared at Tom with a puzzled expression. “Sure,” he declared, “me see hill, me see river, me see fog. All time fog come Eskimo make-um plenty dance, plenty drum, fog go, all same now.”
As if further argument was useless in the face of such evidence, Unavik waddled off towards the bows.
Presently the water was rippling against the vessel’s sides. The fog had thinned until the entire schooner was visible from where the boys stood. In wisps and shreds the vapor was scudding by, while out of the west came a strong, cold wind.
As the last of the fog swept by, there was a hoarse frightened bellow from forward. Quick sharp orders were roared out and the boys, racing to the lee side of the schooner, fairly gasped. Almost under the bows was a jagged reef of sharp black rocks! For a brief instant the boys stood petrified. The schooner seemed doomed. Before her sails could be trimmed, before she would have steerageway upon her she would be on the rocks. Each second she was drifting, slipping nearer to the reef. The boys listened with bated breath, expecting to hear the rending crash, the awful jar that would mean the _Narwhal’s_ end.
All about orders were flying thick and fast. Cap’n Pem was roaring from the break of the poop. Captain Edwards had leaped to the wheel and was shouting commands. Mr. Kemp in the main shrouds was cursing the men for their slowness. Back and forth to braces, sheets and halyards the men were rushing and hauling in a vain effort to save the ship. Then, from under the boys’ feet came rapid pistol-like reports; above the cries of the men, drowning the creak and squeal of block and sheave, barked the exhaust of the motor; the _Narwhal_ forged ahead, she swung slowly to her rudder and, with not five feet to spare, slid by the threatening reefs to safety.
With blank faces boys and men gazed at one another. Who had saved the ship? It was not Mike, he was stumping hurriedly aft as puzzled as any one.
“B’ Saint Pathrick!” he cried. “’Tis a sphirit Oi’m thinkin’!”
With the boys by his side he hurried through the cabin towards the tiny engine room where the motor was still throbbing steadily.
“Glory be!” he exclaimed, as he caught sight of the figure bending over the motor. “Glory be, ’tis thot dummy av a blacksmith!”
“Gosh, it is!” cried Tom. “The deaf-and-dumb man!”
“B’jabbers thin ’tis no dummy in his brains he do be, at thot!” roared Mike. “B’ the powers, ’tis lucky we do be, thot Oi tould him to be afther doin’ a bit o’ worruk on the injine.”
The deaf mute straightened up and stared blankly at the three. Then, moving his fingers in an attempt to explain matters, he shut off the motor, picked up his kit of tools and walked forward.
“Gee, I’d like to know how it happened,” declared Tom. “He couldn’t have heard the orders or excitement. I’m going to ask Swanson.”
A broad grin overspread the big Swede’s features as, in response to Tom’s questions, he interrogated the deaf mute and watched the fellow’s fingers communicating his reply.
“He say he bane fix das machine an’ he bane want to try him out. Ay tank, by yiminy, it bane lucky he try him yust den.”
THE BOYS CATCH A TARTAR
It was indeed a lucky thing for the _Narwhal_ and all upon her that the deaf-mute had been tinkering with the motor and had started the machine at exactly the right instant. Scarcely had the schooner cleared the reef when, to the north, the bay was blotted from sight by a white wall, a roar like a cataract came booming across the water and sea birds flew screaming past with wings aslant.
One glance Cap’n Pem gave and then, at the top of his leathern lungs, he bellowed orders fast and furiously. The men, yet at their posts, leaped to his bidding. Captain Edwards who was still at the wheel tugged desperately at the spokes. Mr. Kemp himself led the willing crew aloft and, working like demons, the men stripped the vessel of her lighter sails. And not an instant too soon. Before the first reef cringle was knotted in the foresail, the squall was upon them. With a maniacal shriek the gale tore through the rigging, the water dashed in bucketfuls of icy spray across the decks, and at the sudden irresistible pressure the _Narwhal_ heeled until half her decks were awash, and a raging blizzard blotted out sea and land.
Farther and farther the staunch old schooner heeled to the wind. Clinging to shrouds, backstays, and rigging, the men and boys waited, expecting each second that the schooner would actually capsize. The sleet beat upon them, stinging like needles, and the blinding snow swirled and eddied and piled in drifts upon the deck.
Cap’n Pem’s mouth opened and shut. Mr. Kemp cupped his hands to his lips, but not a word could be heard above the terrific din of the howling wind, the rattle of hail, the roaring of the gale in the sails, the whipping of loose rigging, the creak and groans of straining spars and the lashing thunder of the rapidly rising seas. Then slowly, inch by inch, the _Narwhal_ swung around. Gradually she righted, the water poured in cataracts from her scuppers and, shaking herself like an impatient horse, she leaped forward and tore madly through the foaming water towards the south.
Onward she sped through the blizzard, before the howling gale. With jaws hard set and eyes straining, the three men at the wheel panted and strained and threw their weight upon the spokes in a mighty effort to hold her to her course. Forward, Mr. Kemp and two men huddled in the lee of the winch and peered ahead, striving to pierce the eddying, whirling wall of white. The two boys, awed, frightened, and shivering, crouched beside the deck house, too fascinated, too thrilled to go below for warmer garments. Twice great dim shapes loomed ahead. Each time the frenzied shout of the lookout came in time and the _Narwhal_ sped past the bergs in safety. Again and again a thundering crash shook the schooner from stem to stern as her plunging bow sheared through floating cakes of ice. Once a dark mass of rocks loomed for an instant within a hundred yards and the next second was gone, swallowed up in the all-enveloping white.
But luck was with those on the _Narwhal_. By a miracle she escaped the bergs; no large pan ice lay in her course; jagged reefs and rock-bound islets were safely passed, and an hour after she had first started on her mad rush before the gale, the squall ceased as suddenly as it had commenced. The wind dropped to a steady blow, the snow ceased to fall, blue sky showed overhead, and, ten minutes later, the decks were streaming with water and there was a steady downpour from aloft as the sun melted the tons of ice and snow that had accumulated during the brief but terrific blizzard.
“Didn’t I tell ye it’d blow a rip-snorter?” exclaimed Cap’n Pem triumphantly, as, with sails once more spread, the _Narwhal_ turned back on her course. “I knowed it,” he continued, “drat that there cat!”
“B’gorra thin we’ll be afther havin’ foine luck fer the rist av the cruise,” declared Mike. “Shure, the poor puss is gone entoirely. Didn’t Oi see her with me own eyes—washed clane overboarrd whin the old schooner wuz afther thyrin’ for to do the lay-me-down-to-slape stunt back there.”
“Oh, that’s too bad!” cried Tom. “Couldn’t you save her?”
“Save her, is it!” exclaimed Mike. “Shure yez wuz there and ’tis well yez arre afther knowin’ ’twas a-savin’ av our own souls we wuz thinkin’ av—and divvil a bit av the cat’s.”
“Derned ef I ain’t glad,” declared Pem. “Mebbe we’ll be gittin’ on a mite better now.”
Mike grinned, winked an eye at the boys and, as he turned away, remarked, “Shure, ye ould croaker, Oi’d not be afther countin’ av me chickens afore they do be hatched, thin. ’Tis noine loives a cat does be afther havin’ and b’gorra by the same token she’ll be a-comin’ back and be a-drowndin’ eight toimes yit, loike as not.”
“Shet up, ye dumb fool!” shouted the old whaleman. “We’re consarned well rid o’ her.”
“Well, we’ve still four cats aboard,” Jim reminded him teasingly. “And two of them are black.”
Cap’n Pem glared at the boy and stumped off without another word.
Slowly the _Narwhal_ beat back to the northward. Two days later she entered Rowe’s Welcome and came to anchor in the sheltered bay within a short distance of the shore. Close to the spot, near the mouth of a river, were a score or more of Eskimo skin tents, and upon the shingle at the river’s mouth were drawn dozens of kayaks. Before the _Narwhal’s_ chains roaring from the hawse holes had roused the echoes of the hills, the Eskimos were paddling towards the schooner. At their first glance the boys saw that here at last were the Eskimos they had always pictured. Clad in garments of skin and fur they came scrambling over the _Narwhal’s_ rail, laughing and grinning, copper-faced and slant-eyed, but far cleaner than those at Hebron or Disko, and with something about them which at once marked them as true primitive people untouched by civilization. Their spears, harpoons, and arrows were tipped with ivory or bone, their faces were tattooed and their garments were highly decorated with beads and skin embroidery.
Presently, from the waist of the ship, came roars of laughter and good-natured shouts. The boys, glancing up, saw a number of the crew leaning over the bulwarks while others were hurrying to join the group.
“What’n tarnation’s up now?” exclaimed Cap’n Pem as with the boys by his side he hurried forward.
As they reached the crowd of men, Swanson straightened up from the rail over which he was leaning, took his pipe from his mouth and grinned under his big yellow mustache. With a humorous twinkle in his deep-set blue eyes he remarked, “Ay tank das cat bane come back.”
As the old whaleman peered over the ship’s side, his eyes seemed about to pop from his head, his jaw dropped and he stared down at the kayaks below as if he had seen a ghost. Perched on the rounded skin deck of one of the canoes was the black cat!
“Well, I’ll be everlastin’ly keelhauled!” ejaculated the old man and, as a roar of laughter rose from the men’s throats, he jammed his cap over his eyes and stumped aft.
But even the superstitious old whaleman could find nothing in the way of ill luck with which to blame the cat during the next few days. The Eskimos had quantities of walrus ivory, many fine skins and pelts and a goodly amount of whalebone on hand, and this was soon in the _Narwhal’s_ hold while the natives were richer in calico, knives, iron, beads and matches than they had ever dreamed of being.
Old Pem fairly beamed, and he rubbed his calloused hands gleefully as he saw the bales, packages, and bundles being stowed. “Purty nice little nest egg,” he chuckled. “Nigh two thousand dollars wuth o’ stuff I reckon. Swan, if this keeps on if we don’t go sailin’ inter New Bedford full up.”
The boys were far more interested in the Eskimos and their village than in the skins and bone. They spent most of their time ashore, and with Mr. Kemp or Unavik as interpreters they learned much of the Eskimos’ life and ways. They watched them fish in the river, made friends with the Eskimo boys, played with the roly-poly children, and spent hours in the tents watching the women as they chewed the hides to cure them and deftly fashioned the skins and furs into garments.
“Gee, they use bone needles!” exclaimed Jim the first time he saw one of the women sewing a pair of moccasins, “and thimbles made of raw hide and threads of sinew. Say, I wonder how they’d like real needles and thread.”
The next time they went ashore they carried a supply of needles, thread, thimbles and other sewing material and presented them to the women. Instantly the crude bone and rawhide utensils were cast aside and with beaming faces and ejaculations of delight, the women chattered and laughed as they experimented with the bright steel needles and shiny thimbles. As Tom said, they were like children with new toys and when in return—for even the least gift calls for a return present with the Eskimos—the women loaded the boys down with exquisitely worked moccasins, shirts of eider skins, blouse-like coats of fox and seal and robes of wolf and musk ox skins, the two lads were as pleased and excited as the women had been.
“Say, we’ve got to learn to talk Eskimo,” declared Tom. “It’ll be lots more fun if we can talk to these people.”
So, with Mr. Kemp’s help, the two boys set diligently to work to learn the Eskimos’ language and progressed rapidly. At first they found it a most difficult task to pronounce the odd, clucking gutturals, but once they mastered the rudiments they got on famously. Within a short time they were able to ask questions and understand the replies, and they had acquired quite a vocabulary of names and words.
In the meantime, the crew of the ship had not been idle. The schooner had been stripped of sails, topmasts and yards were sent down, and preparations made for the coming winter. Daily the whale boats had been manned, and under their spritsails had gone dancing off across the bay in search of whales. Sometimes they were gone for several days and returned empty handed, but often they would come sailing back in a long line and towing the carcasses of one or two huge bowheads. Then every one worked like beavers, cutting in and boiling until the oil and bone were safely under hatches.
At first the boys were crazy to go out on these hunts, but after one or two experiences, they decided there was far more of interest about the village and the shores, and devoted their time to hunting and paddling about the Welcome in a kayak which they had secured for themselves.
Near the village there was little game, for the Eskimos’ dogs roamed about, picking up every stray hare, ptarmigan, or other live thing, and so the boys went farther and farther afield on their excursions. The weather still held warm and pleasant, although the nights were cold and the little ponds and lakes between the hills were coated with ice. A few miles from the village the boys found game in abundance. One spot in particular was a favorite hunting ground—a little island in the broad estuary of the Welcome where the Wager River emptied into the bay. Here there were always ducks in the coves, hares nibbled the stunted shrubs among the rocks, ptarmigan gathered in flocks on the southern sides of the hills, and twice the boys had secured seals which they had surprised basking on the shore. One of these was a magnificent silver seal; the other a half-grown hooded seal. The two handsome hides had been cured and made into garments by the boys’ Eskimo women friends.
One day as the two boys were paddling their kayak around the island keeping a sharp lookout for game, Jim muttered a low exclamation and pointed towards the open water of the estuary. Tom peered intently as he ceased paddling, but for a moment could see nothing. Then, a few hundred yards away, something broke the surface of the water and a tiny column of spray rose in the air.
“Golly, it’s a whale!” cried Tom in subdued tones. “Say, let’s go for him!”
“All right,” assented Jim, “it’s a little fellow—a white whale, I guess. Say, won’t it be fine if we can get him all by ourselves?”
Swinging the kayak, Tom drove his paddle into the water while Jim, laying aside his rifle, got out the harpoon and placed the lance ready for use.
Apparently totally unaware that enemies were near, the creature remained almost stationary, now and then rolling lazily at the surface, sometimes raising its tail and bringing it down with a resounding splash as if in play, and constantly blowing. Rapidly the kayak approached. Jim grasped the harpoon firmly, saw that the line was clear and, shaking with excitement, he prepared to strike. Then, as the frail craft slipped within a dozen feet of the cetacean and Jim raised his arm, he realized that it was no white whale, but a strange, dull-colored, bluish creature with the skin covered with irregular blackish spots. But, whatever it was, the animal was within striking range and, summoning all his strength, Jim hurled the iron into the spotted animal’s back just as it rose above the surface to blow.
The next instant a volcano seemed to have burst into eruption beneath the waves. The water boiled and frothed; a broad tail flashed and struck and swung to right and left, the kayak danced and careened and bobbed upon the heaving surface. Then as Jim, frightened half out of his wits by the actions of the strange beast, was about to cut the line, the creature hurled itself forward and raced off like a cyclone. With a terrific jerk the kayak swung about, tipped until it almost capsized, and went tearing after the stricken animal. This was something the boys had not counted on. They had watched the Eskimos when they struck white whales and had intended to follow the native method of throwing overboard the float of skin. They had no intention of being towed in a cranky kayak by a maddened whale. But the line had kinked and had fouled. Jim, despite his frantic efforts, could not free it while it was under the terrific strain, and so it was a case of either being towed and trusting to luck to escape being capsized and drowned, or cutting the line.
“Don’t cut it!” screamed Tom as he saw Jim raise his heavy hunting knife. “Wait till we see we’re in danger!”
Breathing hard, thrilled with the excitement and yet filled with terror, Jim waited, knife in hand, while the whale sped this way and that, sounded and milled; but to the boys’ surprise, never breached. But as the bouyant kayak continued right side up and nothing happened, the boys gained confidence and each time the creature slackened its pace Jim hauled in line until the kayak was almost within striking distance of the whale. Then, so suddenly that Tom could not check the kayak’s motion, the creature halted in its rush and the next instant dashed straight towards the canoe.
Jim gave a terrified scream of warning. Tom dug his paddle into the water and as the kayak responded to the effort and swung slightly, the spotted creature dashed by within a foot of the craft.
Jim, who had been expecting to kill the animal an instant before, still held the lance in his hand. As the cetacean rushed past him, he lunged forward and scarcely knowing what he did, plunged the weapon into the creature’s side. At the blow, the animal threw itself from the water, the lance was wrenched from Jim’s grip and the boys’ eyes grew wide in wonder. In the brief instant that the whale was out of water they had seen that a long, gleaming shaft projected from its head!
But before they could utter a cry, before they realized what had happened, the big spotted body crashed back into the water, bloody froth spouted from its blow hole and with a convulsive flip of its tail it rolled over on its side against the kayak, stone dead.
“Whew!” cried Jim, as he wiped the perspiration from his face and blinked his eyes. “We did catch a tartar that time!”
“You bet we did!” agreed Tom heartily. “But we got him just the same. Gosh, but that _was_ a dandy stroke of yours—getting him on the wing that way. And did you see his head—he’s been struck before and the lance or iron’s sticking in his nose. I wonder what the dickens he is anyway.”
“Gee Christopher!” cried Jim who had been examining their catch. “That’s not a lance in his nose—it belongs there—it’s a sort of horn. Look, it’s like ivory and twisted.”
“Hurrah!” shouted Tom. “I know what ’tis—we’ve killed the schooner’s namesake. It’s a narwhal!”
“Golly, you’re right!” cried Jim. “Won’t Cap’n Pem and the others be surprised! But say—I’d never have dared touch him if I’d known. Remember how Mr. Kemp told us about these fellows driving their tusks right through a whaleboat and sinking it?”
“I’ll say I do,” replied Tom. “I know what they’ll say—‘fools rush in,’ you know.”
“Well, fools or not, we won,” declared Jim, “and this old fellow’s horn’ll make _some_ trophy up in our room.”
Elated at their unexpected capture, the boys forgot all about their hunt and, fastening a line about the narwhal’s tail, they started to tow him to the schooner. It was slow, backbreaking work, but when at last they reached their vessel and showed their catch to those on board, they felt amply rewarded for their labors.
“By the love av hivvin!” cried Mike, who was the first to see the dead creature. “Shure and ’tis a unicorn yez do be afther killin’!”
“I’ll be swizzled!” exclaimed Cap’n Pem. “Ye everlastin’ young scallawags, what ye mean by a-goin’ in on one o’ them critters? Ye’re lucky he didn’t sink ye. Jes like ye though—fools allers——”
“I know it!” laughed Tom. “I told Jimmy you’d say that. But we got him and didn’t get hurt, even if the cat did come back!”
“Jes dumb luck,” declared the old whaleman. Then, as Captain Edwards appeared, he shouted, “Look a-here, didn’t I tell ye these here boys wuz born to be whalers? Jes take a squint ’longside an’ see what the young scallawags been a-doin’.”
“I’ll be——” ejaculated the skipper. “Reckon you’re proud of yourselves. Whoppin’ big fellow, too. Give you a tussle, didn’t he?”
“Oh, not so much,” replied Tom nonchalantly. “But he had us scared. The line fouled and he towed us every which way and then went for us. And say, you ought to have seen Jim get him! Lanced him as he went scooting by the kayak full speed.”
“Darned lucky he did!” declared Mr. Kemp who had joined the group. “If he hadn’t the blamed critter’d have turned and drove his horn through that kayak and through you too, like as not.”
“Well, we didn’t know,” laughed Jim, “or we wouldn’t have tackled him. But I’m not sorry now. Just the same, we’ll know better next time. I’m not a bit anxious to catch another narwhal.”
“I don’t know as we really did, this time,” said Tom. “Seems to me the narwhal caught us and we didn’t have much to say about it.”
“H’lo!” exclaimed Unavik strolling up. “Ugh! me say bimeby you feller be big hunter. Gimme t’bac!”
On the morning after their capture of the narwhal, the boys came on deck to find the weather completely changed. Above stretched a dull gray sky, great flakes of snow were drifting down, the land was already hidden under a thin coat of white and, at the first touch of the biting wind, the two dodged back to their cabin to reappear clad from head to foot in their Eskimo garments.
Mr. Kemp laughed heartily as he saw them. “All ready for the winter, eh?” he cried. “What you goin’ to wear when it’s really cold?”
“You can’t say anything,” retorted Tom, “you’ve got on a sweater and a reefer and oilskins yourself.”
“’Tis a bit sharp, I’ll admit,” replied the second officer. “Looks like summer’s about over. Them Eskimos know it. If this keeps up, they’ll be a-setting up their igloos to-morrow.”
“Why, the water’s freezing!” exclaimed Jim who had peered over the schooner’s side. “Hurrah, we’ll be able to walk ashore now!”
“Walk ashore!” exclaimed Mr. Kemp. “Why, bless you, if the weather keeps on as it oughta, you could run a train acrost the bay inside a week.”
Already thin ice had formed on the surface of the water and, although each swell coming into the Welcome broke the newly formed ice with a curious crackling sound, fresh ice formed almost as rapidly as it was destroyed, and the upended little cakes were congealing in a jagged, hummocky surface that bade fair to imprison the waves very soon and lock them fast for many months.
The rigging was white with snow and a couple of inches of the soft feathery blanket lay on the decks. The crew, clad in oilskins and sweaters, with caps pulled over ears and mittens on hands, were busy hammering and pounding as they put the finishing touches to the long, shedlike structure that they had erected extending from the poop to the foremast. Ashore, the Eskimos were dragging their kayaks far from the water’s edge and were placing them upside down on racks of whale’s ribs. The women were piling stones upon the edges of their skin dwellings and the boys were yelling shrilly and cracking their long whips as they gathered the dogs together.
Hourly the cold increased. The snowflakes became finer and fell faster and faster; the wind came in fitful gusts and whirled the snow into drifts. When the pale light faded soon after noon and the boys knew that the sun had set, land, sea, and ship were covered deep with snow.
Day after day the storm continued. The Eskimos’ tents were buried halfway to their peaked tops in the drifts; the rough plank house upon the schooner was like a huge snowbank, and even the tough and hardened old whalemen had donned suits of skins and furs. Then one day came a muffled hail through the blinding snow, and looking over the _Narwhal’s_ side, the surprised boys saw two of the Eskimos standing upon the snow-covered ice beneath them.
“Hurrah, they can walk on it!” cried Tom and, followed by Jim, he clambered over the schooner’s rails and leaped on to the ice.
“Gee, we’re frozen in!” yelled Jim. “It’s really winter. Come on, let’s go and see what the Eskimos are doing.”
“Look out, ye young scallawags,” roared Cap’n Pem. “Ye’ll git lost.”
“No danger,” called back Tom. “We’ll get one of the Eskimos to go with us.”
Turning, he spoke to the fur-clad men in their own tongue and accompanied by one of them, the two boys pushed their way through the snow towards shore.
“Oh, they’re building igloos!” exclaimed Jim as they came in sight of the Eskimos. “And on the ice too.”
Interestedly the two boys watched the natives as they labored at their winter homes. With long-bladed snow knives carved from walrus tusks the men cut the blocks of frozen snow and piled them in a circle, tier on tier, each a little smaller than the one preceding. Rapidly the low-domed huts grew and took on form and soon the first one was completed. With yells of delight Tom and Jim crawled into the tunnel-like entrance and found themselves within the igloo.
“Say, isn’t this jolly!” cried Tom. “Come on, Jim, let’s make one for ourselves. It’ll be great sport having an igloo with the Eskimos.”
Enthusiastically the two set to work, borrowing snow knives from their Eskimo friends, but they soon found that building an igloo was an art and they joined heartily in the Eskimos’ merriment when the wall tumbled in and all their work came to nothing. They were not discouraged, and presently one of the Eskimo boys came to their aid. With his help the boys soon got the knack of the work and before it was time to return to the schooner for dinner their igloo was completed.
The night was almost as bright as day with the Northern Lights reflected from the vast stretch of spotless white. By midnight the storm was over; stars twinkled brilliantly in the deep purple sky, the little group of igloos rose above the flat, white plain of ice-like, snow-covered bee hives. The wind was so bitingly, intensely cold that the boys were glad indeed to seek shelter in the deck house with its cheery red-hot stove.
Then followed days filled with constant novelty, interest, and delight for the two boys. They went with the Eskimos on hunts for seal, and learned to find the blow holes in the ice through which the creatures came up to breathe. With their snow knives they cut great rectangular slabs of frozen snow and placed them upright near the holes as windbreaks, and with rifles grasped in their fur-gloved hands, and warm as toast in their eider skin undergarments and sealskin costumes, they lay upon the surface of the frozen bay and watched the holes while the wind swept downward from the North Pole, and the thermometer dropped to many degrees below zero. Often their vigil would gain them nothing. But many times a big hooded seal, a sheeny silversides, or a magnificent harp seal would fall a victim to their rifles. Much of their time too they spent in their igloo which they had fitted up exactly like those of their Eskimo neighbors, with skins and furs covering the bench of ice around the sides, a soapstone lamp filled with whale oil, with a moss wick to give light and heat, and with their weapons and trophies scattered about. From one of the natives they had purchased a team of dogs. Unavik had made them a sledge, and after many trials, unending merriment, countless upsets, and getting hopelessly tangled, the two boys had learned to drive their huskies fairly well. There was nothing they loved better than to go sledding over the frozen snow, yelling at their dogs, cracking their long whips, and now and then leaping on to the vehicle and traveling like the wind through the frosty stinging air lit by the pale winter sun or the gorgeous Aurora.
Much time also they spent in the Eskimos’ igloos and, their first squeamishness at the dirt and filth of the people being overcome, they found them very pleasant and good company. Sometimes, as a blizzard howled outside, and the dogs cowered whimpering at the mouth of the entrance tunnel, the Eskimos would while away the hours telling stories. Some of these were very quaint, others were humorous and still others were almost poems with their vivid descriptive phrases and beautiful sentiments.
But the boys’ favorites were the folklore tales about the birds and animals they knew so well. Usually some chance remark or question of the boys would start the story and all would listen attentively while the gray-haired, wrinkled, old _ananating_ (grandmother) would tell in story form why certain things were so. Once, for example, Jim was examining a reindeer skin and called Tom’s attention to the white rump and the stubby little tail. Amaluk, who was making a snow knife, glanced up. “Perhaps,” he said in the dialect the boys now understood perfectly, “Nepaluka will tell you how the reindeer lost their tails.”
“Do,” begged Tom, “tell us the story, _Ananating_.”
The old woman was busily mending a skin shirt, her near-sighted eyes close to her work, her clawlike fingers moving deftly as she plied the bone needle—for she alone of all the women still preferred the Eskimo needles to those of the white men.
“Ai ai!” she exclaimed. “The clothes are mended and my eyes are weary and perchance it may be well to tell of Amook and the reindeer.”
Laying aside the carefully mended shirt she leaned back among the thick bearskins and began.
“Many ages ago,” she said in her droning voice, “before the Eskimos first came to the land, all the reindeer were brown from head to foot and all wore bushy tails like the foxes. In those times lived a great _anticoot_ (magician) named Amook and to him belonged all the animals and birds. And all the creatures roamed at will except the reindeer, for these Amook kept hidden in a great hole in the earth.
“Every day Amook would come from the hole and, after pulling a big stone over the entrance to his home, he would travel far and wide caring for his creatures. In those days the birds and animals were all one color, and when winter came and snow fell upon the land their brown bodies were plain to be seen and the creatures saw one another afar, so it was easy indeed for the owls and hawks to see the ptarmigan and kill them, and for the foxes and wolves to see the hares and devour them. At last so many were killed that Amook grew afraid that his live things would all be destroyed, and he would be left without food to eat or furs to make his clothes. So, being a magician, he made many spells, until at last, by touching the fur of an animal or the feathers of a bird, he could change the brown to white. Then, when the winter came, Amook would go forth and call the birds and the beasts together, and as they came at his call, he would stroke them with his hands, and they would go forth white and spotless. But soon Amook was again troubled, for when spring came and the snow melted and the rocks and moss were bare, the white creatures were like spots of snow upon the brown land and fell easy prey to their enemies. Then from far and near the birds and beasts flocked to their master and begged him to make them brown once more. So Amook made another spell in his hole under the earth, and when he came forth and touched the birds and the beasts, behold! they were changed from white to brown as before.
“So, as each winter came, Amook would change the brown creatures to white and when the winter had passed and the geese came to the northland, he would again change the white to brown.
“But some of the creatures were wary and would not come to their master’s bidding and Amook had hard work to capture them. It was thus with the great bear for he loved his white coat that helped him to hide on the bergs and floes, and try as Amook might, he never caught him to change his coat to brown, and so the bear to this day is always white and changes not to brown in the spring. So too, the white owl in his white coat could perch motionless on a rock and all creatures would take him for a harmless bit of ice and would approach so near that he could pounce upon them easily. Time and again Amook crept close to catch the owl, but never did he grasp him, although the tips of his fingers touched the owl’s feathers as he flew off and to this day you may see the round brown finger marks left by Amook on the feathers of the owl. The weasel too, timid and suspicious, but too cowardly to disobey his master, crept sneaking from the rocks and crouched snarling to the earth as Amook passed his hand over his back, and the tip of his tail, which was hidden in the rocks, is always black and his belly that was pressed upon the earth remains ever white. Many other things—the geese and ducks, the snipes and hawks—flew southward before Amook came forth to change their colors and so, throughout the year, their coats remain the same. But the hare and the fox and the ptarmigan came always at Amook’s call and grew cunning and hid safely from their enemies.
“Through all this time the reindeer, deep in their hole, remained brown, for under the earth there was neither winter nor summer. One day as Amook came back to his hole the raven, flying by, saw him step out of sight. Always curious, the raven wondered what Amook had hidden in the earth and pondering on the matter he flew to his friend the fox. ‘Ai, ai!’ he exclaimed. ‘Tell me, O brother, what your master keeps in his home beneath the earth. You whom he fondles and strokes to white or brown must know.’
“But the fox knew not and said so to the raven. This made the black bird more curious yet and he asked, ‘Why have you never found out? Have you never wondered, O brother, where this Amook gets his power to turn brown to white and white to brown? Think you how fine it would be to know the secret of his power. With it in thy paws thou couldst change color at will and like the owl pose as a bit of ice in summer or like a bare rock in winter. Truly, O little friend, you would find hunting easy.’
“Now the fox was a born thief and most cunning, and the words of the raven set him thinking. At last he spoke. ‘With thy help, black brother, I may find out. We will hide close to the hole of Amook and when he comes forth thou wilt fly high in the air and croak loudly, and when Amook looks up I will place a bit of rock beneath the cover of the hole so it will not close tightly. Then, when Amook has passed, we will enter his dwelling and steal the charm.’
“So it came about that when Amook again went forth, the cunning fox lurked near, and, in the air above, the raven croaked hoarsely. Just as the two had planned, Amook looked up at the sound and the fox slyly slipped a bit of stone under the edge of the door to Amook’s house, and when he shoved the door in place a small opening was left which he did not see.
“Then, when Amook had gone, the raven flew down, and with his friend the fox entered Amook’s home. After a long time they came to a great valley and there, feeding on rich green moss, was a great herd of reindeer all brown and with bushy tails. The fox and the raven were filled with wonder at this sight of the strange creatures with the branching horns, and the deer, who had never seen another living thing save Amook, were also filled with wonder, and with fear as well, at sight of the fox and his friend.
“But the raven with his flattery and the fox with his cunning soon overcame the reindeer’s fears and talked with them. The deer knew nothing of Amook’s spell, for they had never been changed to white; and the fox and raven, finding the deer dull and stupid, began to tell them of the wonders of the outside world. At last the simple deer were interested, and longed to go forth and gladly followed the raven and the fox to the opening in the rocks.
“One after the other they squeezed through and just as the last one had come forth Amook came home. When he saw that the deer had escaped, he rushed forward and with outstretched hands tried to push the deer back into the hole. But the deer, pleased at the outside world, struck at him with their feet and where Amook’s hands had touched their foreheads broad white marks appeared, for Amook had been forth to turn all creatures white for the coming winter and the charm was still upon his hands.
“Then Amook, running about, seized the deer by their tails and strove to pull them into the hole. The deer struggled and tugged and all at once their tails broke off in Amook’s hands and the magician, tumbling head over heels, rolled into the opening beneath the stone.
“Then the deer pushed the bit of rock from beneath the stone door which fell into place and shut Amook up forever. But as the deer’s leader closed the rock door, one of the prongs of his antlers was caught between the stones and in drawing it free it was bent and twisted in front of the deer’s face.
“And so, to this day, every reindeer has a twisted part to his horns before his face and a stubby tail, and where Amook grasped their tails and touched their rumps and pushed on their foreheads, the white patches still remain.”
“Bully!” cried Tom, quite forgetting the old woman did not understand English, and then thanking her in her own tongue and telling her what a fine story it was, the boys started to leave.
At that instant a tousled black head appeared in the entrance tunnel, a broad face grinned up, and Unavik crawled into the igloo.
“H’lo!” he exclaimed in his invariable greeting. “Me feller see plenty reindeer. Sure Mike, much plenty! Mebbe you like for shootum?”
“Would we!” yelled the two boys in unison. “Come on, Unavik. You bet we’d like to shootum.”
Outside the igloo, Unavik’s sledge stood waiting. Stopping only to get their guns the two boys piled on to the sledge, Unavik cracked his whip, shouted to the shaggy dogs and they were off. Over the snow-clad land, through the still, intensely cold air they sped, swinging along frozen water courses, toiling up steep hills, dashing with dizzying speed down the slopes for mile after mile. Then, with a low command, Unavik halted his team, and signaling to the boys for caution, he unhitched his dogs and led the way up a low knoll. Crouching on the snow beside the Eskimo, Tom and Jim peered over the ridge. Below was a small swale or valley and there, quietly feeding on the gray moss scraped free from snow with their broad hoofs, was a herd of fully fifty big reindeer.
But they were far out of range; there was no cover by which the boys could stalk them, and it seemed as if their trip would be fruitless. As the boys, disappointed, drew back, Unavik was rapidly freeing his dogs from their rawhide harness, and with a low word of command he led them to the hill top and turned them loose.
With low growls the animals leaped forward and tore down the slope towards the deer, yelping and barking, teeth bared and hair bristling. Instantly, at sight of the dogs, the reindeer gathered together in a close packed bunch, tails in center and threatening antlers in a defensive ring. For a moment the dogs hesitated, and circled about, uttering short savage snarls, but knowing well the deadly peril that lurked in those sharp, lowered prongs and knife-edged hoofs. Then one big husky, more courageous than his fellows, sprang forward with a yelp, and the next second was tossed howling and bleeding for a dozen feet in the air.
Unavik touched the boys’ arms and beckoned for them to follow. Down the hill he led them, across the end of the little valley and up a frozen mound of drifted snow. Intent on the dogs, the deer gave no heed to the fur clad figures sneaking across the snow, if indeed they saw them, and in a few moments the three were within a few hundred feet of the herd. Taking careful aim at the two largest deer, the boys fired. As the reports rang out across the frozen land, the reindeer threw up their heads and, forgetting the dogs in their new terror, raced down the valley leaving two of their number dead upon the trampled snow. Now was the dogs’ chance, and yelping, snapping, barking, they raced after the deer, nipping at their heels, biting savagely at their flanks like the half-wolves they were. Now and then a deer would turn and strike viciously with his big hoofs at his tormentors and presently the herd again formed in a circle with lowered heads and menacing hoofs. Already they had forgotten the gun shots in the face of this greater peril of the wolfish dogs, and the boys once more raised their rifles to shoot.
“We don’t need more than one more,” whispered Jim. “You kill him, Tom. Your gun’s better at that range.”
Once more, as the report roared out, a deer fell and the herd, now thoroughly terrified, fled at top speed towards the east with the savage dogs at their heels. The dogs followed only a short distance. There in the valley were the fallen deer and the scent of blood and, snarling and baying, they came tearing back and dashed ravenously upon the body of the last deer killed. Before they could tear the skin or bury their sharp white teeth in the carcass, Unavik was among them, lashing out with his cruel whip, shouting shrill orders and striking cutting blows right and left. Growling sullenly, the dogs drew back, crouching, whimpering, cringing with tails between legs and ears laid back. Paying no heed to the threatening bared teeth and updrawn lips, the Eskimo stepped among them, rapidly secured the thongs about their necks together and then, with a word to the boys, drove his huskies over the knoll before him.
In a few moments he was back with the sledge, and with the boys’ help the deer’s body was lifted upon it and lashed securely in place. But one deer was all the sled could carry, and Unavik told the boys they would have to carry the first deer to the village and return with the sledge and more dogs for the others.
“But won’t something eat them while we’re gone?” asked Tom.
“Sure Mike, mebbe,” replied the Eskimo who, proud of his fragmentary English, never spoke to the boys in his own tongue if he could avoid it. “Me say plenty wolf, plenty bear, mebbe eatum.”
“Hurrah!” cried Jim as a sudden idea came to him. “Say, Tom, we’ll stay here and watch while Unavik goes to the village. Then if wolves or bears come we can shoot them.”
“That’s a bully scheme,” agreed Tom. “Go ahead, Unavik, we’ll wait here.”
For a moment the Eskimo hesitated. He knew the boys had no idea as to where they were and he was responsible for their safety. But the sky was clear, there was no danger of a blizzard and as long as they remained within sight of the dead deer there seemed no danger.
“A’right,” he agreed presently. “No try walk. You feller make get los’ die plenty quick, me say; sure Mike!”
“We’ll stay right here,” declared Tom. “No fear of our wandering off.”
Satisfied that the boys were all right, Unavik shouted to his dogs, cracked his whip, shoved on the handles of his sled to start it, and the next minute was speeding away towards the village.
UNAVIK TO THE RESCUE
Returning to the spot from which they had first shot the deer, the two boys hollowed a little cavity in the frozen snow within easy range of the dead reindeer and cuddled down cozily to await Unavik’s return or the appearance of any wild beast that might be attracted by the scent of blood. At first the land, stretching in undulating white hills to the horizon, seemed deserted, absolutely devoid of life, a desolate, barren waste. But presently the boys discovered that all about were living creatures.
A subdued twitter drew their attention to a sheltered spot under a projecting ledge. Peering intently at it, the boys saw a little flock of snow buntings and longspurs hopping about. On a low snow ridge a few rods away, a bit of the white surface moved, and a big Arctic hare rose from its hiding place and looked suspiciously about before leaping off.
Suddenly there was a frightened cry from behind them. As the boys wheeled, a great broad-winged white gyrfalcon swooped like a meteor, struck deep into the snow and, with a cloud of dazzling, glistening crystals like diamond dust swirling from his powerful wings, rose slowly with a ptarmigan grasped in his talons.
Presently from far up in the blue sky came a hoarse raucous croak. Glancing up the boys saw two tiny black specks that rapidly increased in size as two great ravens came flapping downwards. Perching upon the antlers of the dead deer they eyed the carcass suspiciously and, cocking their heads on one side, they peered in the boys’ direction as though they knew human beings were there—as no doubt they did.
“Say, if those birds start in they’ll ruin the deer,” whispered Tom.
“No, they won’t,” replied Jim. “The bodies must be frozen stiff by now. Don’t you remember Unavik told us ravens wait for some animal to tear the hide and meat and scatter bits of it about before they can eat?”
“That’s so,” agreed Tom. “Hello, look there!”
Close to the deer a shadow seemed to slip across the snow. The boys glanced up, expecting to see some big hawk or a snowy owl sailing above the valley. But the sky was unbroken by any bird. Curiously Tom and Jim stared through the narrow slits of their snow spectacles at the slowly moving, indistinct shadow. Closer and closer the thing drew to the dead deer. It seemed to have no definite outline, to be merely a faint, bluish, shapeless haze against the snow—a ghostlike thing so unreal that the boys began to think the dazzling snow had affected their eyes. Then, with a sudden motion, the shadow sprang across the snow and a little ball of white appeared upon the dark surface of the deer’s body as if by magic.
“It’s a fox!” whispered Jim. “A white fox. I’m going to shoot him.”
“Aim for his head,” cautioned Tom in a whisper, “or you’ll spoil the skin.”
Resting his rifle on the frozen ridge before him, Jim glanced through the sights. But the fox’s head was turned and he hesitated, waiting until he had a fair shot, for he knew that his soft-nosed bullet, striking the beautiful snowy body, would tear it to bits and ruin the pelt. Second after second passed and still the fox kept his head turned away from the boys as he gnawed ravenously at the edges of the bullet wound in the deer’s side, while the two ravens croaked at him in protest and cautiously hopped nearer and nearer, in the hopes of stealing a stray morsel from under the fluffy white creature’s nose.
Tom chuckled softly. “There’s the raven asking brother fox where Amook keeps his magic,” he whispered. “I can almost imagine I can understand the black rascal’s words.”
But Jim did not reply. The fox had suddenly stiffened. His head was raised. His ears were pricked forward as if listening. The ravens flapped back to their perch on the antlers. Jim’s finger pressed against the trigger. If the fox raised his head an inch higher, he would send the bullet true between the ears. And then, just as the sights were lined fair upon the round white head, the fox leaped away. There was a sound of crunching snow from the hillside and Jim, glancing around, uttered a suppressed, startled exclamation. Within fifty feet of where the boys crouched, a huge white bear was moving towards the dead deer!
“Gosh!” whispered Tom. “What luck!”
“Let’s both shoot together,” whispered Jim, his voice trembling with excitement. “We can’t miss. Aim back of the fore shoulder and when I count three, fire.”
Instantly both rifles were swung towards the big, yellowish white creature, and as for a moment he halted and his long neck moved back and forth, and his black nose sniffed the air, Jim counted; “One, two, three!” and the two guns roared out as one.
With startled hoarse croaks the raven took wing. The huge shaggy bear reared on its hind legs, pawed frantically at the air, growled, snapped his long white teeth savagely, and then lurched forward and slid a dozen feet down the hillside.
“Hurrah! we got him!” yelled Jim and leaping up the boys raced towards the fallen bear without stopping to reload their rifles.
Like a miniature mountain of shaggy white fur he lay there, a broad red splotch upon his side. The two elated boys, whooping and yelling, hurried forward. They were within a dozen feet of the enormous creature when to their horror and amazement the bear scrambled to his feet and with open jaws and savage growls sprang at them.
Uttering one wild yell of terror, the boys turned and fled up the hill for their lives. Behind them they could hear the low, menacing, awful growls and the sound of crunching snow. As they gained the summit of the ridge they turned, threw up their rifles, took quick aim and pulled the triggers.
But the hammers clicked harmlessly upon the empty shells. There was no time even to throw fresh cartridges into the chambers of their rifles. Less than twenty feet separated them from the infuriated, wounded monster. Again, yelling, they took to their heels. Then, to Tom’s brain, came a sudden remembrance, the story of Ukla and the fog which Unavik had told them, and in panting, gasping words he shouted to Jim:
“Don’t run down hill! Run along the side and then up again!”
Scarcely knowing why he did so, Jim obeyed, and winded, almost ready to drop, the boys again gained the summit of the ridge. Once more they glanced back. Tom’s ruse had worked. The bear, heavy and cumbersome, had been unable to check his own momentum as he topped the ridge and had half slid, half rolled for fifty yards down the slippery slope. But he had now turned and was once more lumbering towards them. With shaking, trembling hands they reloaded their rifles, took aim at the bear’s breast and fired.
Their shots went wild. Bits of fur flew from the bear’s back. He jerked his head to one side as a bullet nicked his cheek and then, with redoubled roars of rage and increased speed, he fairly hurled his great body up the slope.
“Gee, I wish we were magicians!” gasped Tom. “Come on—run down the hill a way and then up again. It’s our only chance!”
Once more the two exhausted boys raced down the hillside and then, quickly turning, ran to the top. But this time the bear did not follow. He was no fool and had learned a lesson. Galloping along the ridge top he was almost upon the boys before they knew it. As they glanced back and saw his drooling red mouth and great yellow fangs within arm’s reach they screamed in terror, dropped their rifles, and thinking only of escape, tore straight down the hill.
A roar behind them caused them to look back. The bear was standing upon the hill, reared upon his haunches and striking terrific sweeping blows at the rifles. Maddened with pain, all his savagery aroused, the creature was venting his anger on the guns and the boys, almost exhausted, drenched with perspiration, encumbered by their heavy fur garments, won a breathing space by the reckless abandonment of their weapons.
“We mus—must hu—hurry!” panted Jim. “May—maybe if we—if we can keep up a wh—while longer he’ll get ex—exhausted from loss of blood. C—come on, Tom. Gosh, I w—wish Unavik would come!”
Before them rose the steeper hill bordering the valley to the west and up this the boys hurried as fast as their wearied limbs would permit.
“Golly, wh—why isn’t there a ri—river he can drink up?” panted Tom whose sense of humor could not be downed even in the face of such danger. “Say, wouldn’t _he_ ma—make a fog if he burst!”
Barely had they gained the hill top when the bear, his fury spent upon the rifles, was once more sliding and slipping down the opposite hill and the boys knew that it was only a question of minutes before he would be upon them. Near by, a ledge of rock jutted above the snow with its steep sides sheathed in ice. The boys, too utterly exhausted to run, saw in this their only hope.
“If we can get up there, perhaps he can’t reach us,” suggested Tom. “Come on, Jim. It’s our last chance.”
“But we can’t get up,” objected Jim.
“Yes, we can,” declared Tom as they hurried towards the rock. “I can climb up on your shoulders and then reach down and pull you up.”
With their last strength, the boys gained the rock. Tom clambered on Jim’s shoulders, drew himself on to the flat summit and with a desperate effort reached down and drew his companion up beside him.
And not an instant too soon. Before Jim’s feet were over the edge the bear had gained the base of the rock. He reared up, made a terrific swipe with his fore paws at Jim’s dangling feet, and the boy escaped death by an inch. Even as it was, one of the beast’s swordlike claws ripped through Jim’s moccasin and he howled with terror.
They were not yet safe. The bear, standing on his hind legs, could actually reach the edge of the rock’s summit and again and again he strove to draw himself up; growling horribly, cutting great grooves in the ice on the sides of the rock as he dug his hind claws into it. The boys huddled close and yelled each time one of the great, shaggy feet, with its three-inch claws, appeared over the edge of their refuge. Presently something of courage and confidence returned to them. Unless the bear found a grip, a crevice or a roughness on the rock for his hind feet, he could not reach them. Wounded as he was, his strength was unequal to the task of lifting his enormous weight by his front feet alone. Still, those fearful claws brought mortal terror to the boys each time they appeared. Then an idea came to Jim. Whipping out his heavy knife, he reached forward and each time a paw appeared he rapped it and slashed at it with the heavy steel blade.
Roaring until the air trembled, the bear drew back his feet and hurled himself bodily at the rock. At his second onslaught the boys’ faces grew white, their hearts seemed to stop beating. The rock moved! There was not a question of it. Instead of a solid, upjutting ledge as they had thought, it was merely a big upstanding bowlder, a loose stone frozen to the hilltop. At any moment it might crash over and throw them, injured and helpless, into the grip of the bear!
Sick with deadly fear, speechless, scarcely breathing, the boys cowered on their narrow refuge, while with each blow of the bear, the stone swayed and rocked. Each time the boys expected to feel it toppling to crash down into the snow.
Never in all their lives had such utter terror filled their hearts. They were absolutely at the bear’s mercy. The hope that his wounds might tell and that his strength would give out were groundless. He seemed as fresh, as strong and more maddened than ever. The boys felt that only their mangled bleeding bodies would remain to tell of their fate when Unavik arrived. It was awful to be killed this way—ripped and slashed and torn by the infuriated bear. Bitterly the boys regretted having remained behind to guard the bodies of the slain deer.
“I—I guess it’s all up with us,” stammered Tom, trying to choke back the lump in his throat.
“Yes, I—I only hope we—we get stunned when we fall,” replied Jim, his voice breaking. “The—then we won’t suffer so much.”
Scarcely had he spoken when the bear again threw himself at the rock. With a crackling of ice the bowlder gave and swayed perilously. The boys clutched wildly at the ice-filled crevices. They knew that one more such effort on the part of the bear would send the rock crashing over.
And then a new light came into their eyes, their hearts beat faster. From beyond the next ridge had come the sound of yelping dogs, the shrill shout of an Eskimo.
The bear, despite his rage, had heard it too. With lowered head and swaying neck he stood listening. The next instant the galloping dogs swung over the ridge. Behind them came the sledge with a fur-clad figure shouting and brandishing the long whip. At the top of their lungs the boys screamed, shouted and yelled. Forgetting their precarious position, they leaped to their feet and waved their arms. Unavik’s sharp eyes had taken in the situation at a glance. Midway in its mad career, he overturned the sledge and swung it sidewise. The dogs, suddenly arrested in their race, tumbled head over heels, and the next second, Unavik was among them, slashing through the thongs and traces and shouting commands.
Already the scent of the bear had reached the dogs’ nostrils. With stiff hairs bristling on their shoulders they hurled themselves forward. Like a pack of great, tawny wolves they came plunging towards the bear. At their heels came Unavik, his old musket in his hands. As the bear turned to face the snapping, snarling, savage ring of big dogs, the Eskimo approached within a dozen feet, raised his heavy 50-caliber Remington and fired at the bear’s broad chest.
With a gurgling roar the great beast lurched forward, struck wildly with his paws at the dogs and sank lifeless on the snow.
“Gee Christopher!” cried Tom, as the two boys scrambled from their perch. “It was lucky you came, Unavik. Another minute and we’d have been killed.”
The Eskimo grinned. “Sure Mike!” he replied. “How you feller likeum hunt bear?”
“We didn’t,” declared Jim. “He hunted us. My, but isn’t he a whopper!”
“Mos’ big all same Ukla, me say,” agreed Unavik. “Why you no killum?”
“That’s what gets me,” said Tom. “We hit him all right. Look, there back of the shoulder.”
But when the boys stooped and examined the wound they knew instantly why the bear had not died from their shots and why he had not become exhausted from the wounds. Their bullets had struck the edge of the massive shoulder blade and had glanced, tearing a great strip of hide and flesh away, splintering the edge of the bone, but inflicting no mortal injury, and not even disabling the leg. No wonder the bear had been able to chase the boys, although the shock of the bullets had temporarily knocked him out.
Hardly had the boys satisfied themselves of this when the second sledge arrived. The Eskimos gathered about, chattering and exclaiming. All agreed that it was the biggest bear they had ever seen. To carry the huge carcass to the village was impossible and so, as one of the men went with the boys to the dead reindeer, Unavik and the other Eskimo set to work to skin the bear. After having cut a haunch from the beast, and with its skin and the deer loaded on the sledge, the party started on their return to the village.
Now that it was all over and their excitement had subsided, the two boys felt weak and shaky and found it impossible to trudge through the snow. For a while they gamely stuck it out, but at last they were obliged to give in. Throwing themselves upon the sleds they lay almost as helpless and motionless as the dead animals beside them.
Great was the rejoicing in the village that night, for the death of a bear is always celebrated. The rest of the beast’s carcass had been brought in and the Eskimos gorged themselves on the meat. Throughout the night the drums throbbed, the Eskimos’ voices rose and fell in discordant chants and, grotesque in their fur garments, they danced and pranced while the dogs howled in unison.
“I’ll bet this is when the men don’t work or the women comb their hair for three days,” laughed Tom as, fully recovered from their exciting afternoon, they watched the merrymaking.
But there was a fly in the boys’ ointment, so to speak. When they had told their story to the captain he had grown serious and had told the boys that hereafter they were not to go any distance from the village alone under any circumstances.
“I’d feel nice going home and telling your folks a bear or a wolf had eaten you up, wouldn’t I?” said the skipper. “You may be owners, but I’m responsible for you, and hereafter you take one of the Eskimos and a pack of dogs with you if you stir from the village. I know you came through safely this time, but you might not be so lucky next time. And don’t you dare stay alone out there. If your Eskimo goes anywhere, you go too. Now, that’s final.”
“All right,” agreed the boys, “we’ll be careful.”
While they knew the captain was looking after their safety, it galled the two boys to think that their sled trips must be chaperoned by a native and that they were being treated like “tenderfeet,” as Tom put it. But as they looked at the enormous shaggy skin—twelve feet from nose to tail—and thought how it would look upon the polished floor of the house in Fair Haven, all else was forgotten in their pride at having secured such a trophy, and their hearts beat more quickly as vivid memories of their narrow escape from such a terrible death came to them.
AN ARCTIC CHRISTMAS
Although the boys’ fathers had painted a picture of long and dreary months in the Arctic with the ship frozen in, and only the whalemen and Eskimos for company, the boys found it far from dull.
To be sure there were many days when snowstorms raged and the wind howled, and no one stirred from the long house on the deck. But even then there were things to amuse and interest the boys. A number of the native Eskimos were usually there, as well as those from Hebron, and the two lots of tribesmen were never tired of holding competitions of skill or strength. Gathered in a circle about the contestants, the whalemen and the boys would clap and applaud, shout encouragement and roar with laughter as the stocky natives struggled and strained in friendly, good-natured contests. Often a prize of tobacco, knives, clothes, or hatchets would be offered to the winner.
Many of the contests were wonderfully novel and amusing and sometimes the two boys would try their hands at them, much to the merriment of the assembled men.
One game which was a favorite with the Eskimos was a sort of tug of war. Kneeling on the deck with heads close together, the competitors would have their friends tie their necks together by a rope or thong, and then, at a signal, would strain and tug and heave, each trying his utmost to drag the other over a chalk line on the deck. Evidently there was a knack in it, aside from strength of neck muscles; for very often the smaller and weaker man would win. The boys after one or two trials decided this was too strenuous a contest.
Another game consisted of two Eskimos locking arms and legs together while perched on a third man’s back, and then trying to see who could dismount the other. Hard bumps and thumps always resulted, but the men’s heads were well padded with their mops of coarse black hair, and they always rose grinning and as good-natured as ever.
The greatest sport was to see the Eskimos attempt to box. The whalemen were always boxing, and after watching the white men for some time, the Eskimos wanted to try their skill. At their antics as they struck blindly at each other, dodged blows, ki-yied and shouted, twisted and turned, and often fell sprawling, the boys and the assembled whalemen roared until they almost choked.
But the Eskimos were apt imitators, they had unlimited perseverance, and gradually several of them began to develop skill in the use of the gloves and before long there were acknowledged champions among them. The sport-loving whalemen matched them up as lightweights, welterweights, and featherweights; for not a native could be found who, by any stretch of imagination, could be classed as a heavyweight. So interested did the crew become that several of the whalemen took to training their favorites; arguments over their respective merits grew heated, and the men bet recklessly on the results of the bouts. They even nicknamed the Eskimos, and Tom and Jim roared until their sides ached as Cap’n Pem would get excited and leaping up would pound his wooden leg on the deck and shout, “Wallop him, Dempsey! That’s a good one!” while Mike, whose favorite was a bull-necked, fat-faced, bow-legged man from Hebron whom he called Sullivan, would shout derogatory remarks about “Dempsey” and would dance wildly about the improvised ring, urging his man to the utmost.
While such things served to pass the time in bad weather and at night, the boys found far more pleasure with their dogs and their Eskimo friends ashore. Day after day they went hunting, always accompanied by Unavik or some other Eskimo. They were woefully disappointed in not finding musk oxen or another bear, but they often secured reindeer; and the pile of fox, wolf and seal skins which they reserved for themselves increased rapidly. The crew, too, went hunting, each man accompanied by an Eskimo, and each week the _Narwhal’s_ cargo increased in value by many hundreds of dollars. Very often also the men had better luck than the boys, and several fine bearskins were brought in which spurred the boys to still greater efforts and longer trips. At last they were rewarded. They had traveled much farther than they had ever been before, following the valley of the river, and had reached a district of low, sharp hills, narrow ravines and small, rock-strewn valleys. Suddenly Unavik, who was with them, halted his dogs, peered intently at the snow, and pointed to a trampled trail leading across the valley.
“Musk ox!” he exclaimed. “Me say him feller near. Mebbe shootum.”
“Gosh, do you think we can?” cried Tom.
“Sure, Mike, mebbe,” replied the Eskimo as he unharnessed his dogs.
Cautioning the boys to be silent, Unavik crept to the top of the nearest ridge and peered about. No living thing was in sight. Then, with eyes on the tracks of the animals, he descended the ridge while the dogs, sniffing and whimpering, strained at their thongs, and the boys, thrilled with excitement, followed at the Eskimo’s heels. Along the little defile the trail led, over another ridge, through another valley, and up a third hill. “Him feller near,” declared Unavik, pointing to bare patches of rock and moss where the animals had scraped away the snow.
Very cautiously the three crawled among the ice-covered bowlders up the hill. The boys could scarcely restrain a cry of delight as they peered between the rocks and saw a dozen big, shaggy beasts pawing in the snow and nuzzling in the moss beneath.
Jim was about to raise his rifle, for the musk oxen were within easy range, when Unavik stopped him with a gesture and rapidly slipped the thongs that bound the dogs together. The next instant the huskies were bounding towards the surprised musk oxen who threw up their heads, armed with huge broad horns, snorted, and with one accord tore off up the valley.
“Gee, now we’ve lost them!” exclaimed Tom in disgust. “Why didn’t you let us shoot, Unavik?”
The Eskimo grinned but said nothing. Beckoning to the boys he turned and ran rapidly along the ridge in the direction the animals had gone. Presently, to the boys’ ears, came the barks, yelps, and growls of the dogs. Rounding a rocky hillock they came in sight of the pack, nipping and snapping at the musk oxen who had formed in a close ring with lowered threatening horns towards their enemies.
With their long, shaggy, black hair, their wild, reddened eyes and great recurved needle-pointed horns, the creatures looked very savage indeed and the dogs knew full well that death lurked in that ring of broad heads and sharp horns. These were no timid reindeer and, though the wolflike huskies now and then took chances and dashed at the snorting, stamping creatures before them, none dared approach too closely.
Suddenly one of the oxen uttered a low bellow, plunged forward and, before the dogs could retreat, the wicked horns swung to right and left, and a howling husky was tossed high in air to fall dead and bleeding on the snow.
“Golly, they’re _some_ fighters!” exclaimed Jim in a low voice. “Come on, Tom, let’s shoot!”
But before the boys could fire, the musk oxen had scented them. Forgetting the dogs in their greater fear of human beings, they dashed off in a close-packed bunch with the huskies at their heels. Once more Unavik and the boys raced after them, and once more the dogs brought the animals to bay. This time Unavik led the way behind bowlders and snowdrifts down the wind. All unsuspected by the wild cattle, the three approached within easy range and picking out two of the biggest bulls, the boys fired.
At the double report the musk oxen again dashed off and, confused by the dogs, they came galloping, plunging, directly towards the three hunters. Before the astonished boys realized what had occurred, the great shaggy beasts were upon them. There was no time to reload and fire, no time to rise and run. Like an avalanche the stampeded creatures bore down upon the frightened boys. With lowered heads, rolling eyes, steaming nostrils and swinging horns they came. With terrified yells the boys threw themselves to one side, rolled among the rocks, and buried their heads, faces down, in the snow. All about them pounded the galloping hoofs. Tom screamed as he was struck a terrific blow and hurled aside. Over them they heard the panting breaths, the loud snorts and the low bellows of the creatures. Each second they expected to feel the sharp hooked horns ripping through their garments and their flesh.
But in an instant it was over. The musk oxen had passed; the boys were unhurt, and slowly, and with wondering expressions, they cautiously raised themselves as the pack of dogs raced by.
“Jiminy crickets!” exclaimed Jim, “I thought we _were_ goners that time.”
“Gosh, yes!” assented Tom. “One of ’em stepped on me, but I guess these furs saved me. Say, what’s the matter with us? We didn’t kill a single one.”
“Search me,” replied Jim, “I don’t see how we missed.”
“Me say hitum, sure Mike!” cried Unavik who was searching the trampled snow where the beasts had passed.
The boys hurried to his side and glancing down, saw big splashes of crimson on the snow. Evidently they had not missed. Racing after the Eskimo they hurried as fast as they could travel towards the distant barking of the dogs. As they leaped the crest of a hummock, Unavik uttered a sharp cry, and the boys shouted with delight as they saw a big black bull lying half buried in a snow drift where he had fallen.
“We got one anyway!” cried Tom as they hurried on. “Say, we _are_ in luck!”
Once again they found the oxen at bay and, this time when they fired, two of the creatures were left behind when the herd galloped off.
“Gee, that’s enough!” declared Jim, as panting and utterly exhausted the boys seated themselves on one of the dead oxen. “I’m all in. These clothes were never made for sprinting.”
“Get the dogs, Unavik,” said Tom. “No use in killing more. We can’t even get these three in to the village. We’ll wait here for you.”
The Eskimo started off, but there was no need for him to recall his pack. The musk oxen were thoroughly frightened and demoralized and had fled over hill and dale into the vast white waste, and the dogs, realizing that the creatures could not be brought to bay again with the scent of blood behind them, came trotting back towards the dead oxen.
It was, as Tom said, impossible to carry the three creatures to the village and so, having regained their breaths, the two boys and Unavik set to work skinning the two oxen. It was a hard slow job, but at last it was done and the boys straightened their aching backs and eased their cramped muscles.
“Well, that’s over!” exclaimed Jim. “But how on earth can we carry those skins and heads back? They weigh pretty near a ton, I’ll bet.”
Unavik grinned. “Me say plenty easy,” he remarked and rolling the skins in a bundle with the hair inside he lashed them firmly with the tough sinews from the creatures’ legs, attached his dogs to the whole and with a sharp command sent the huskies galloping over the snow with the bundle of skins sliding like a sled behind them.
“Golly, that’s easy!” cried Tom. “But I’d never have thought of it.”
With the musk ox trail to guide them, the three had no difficulty in locating the sledge and having harnessed the dogs they drove the team back to the first ox they had killed. This Unavik dressed and, after a deal of hard work, the body was loaded on the sled and the triumphant and elated boys turned towards the distant village. It was a long, hard tramp, the boys were tired, and except when traveling down a steep slope, they could not rest by leaping on to the sledge, for the dogs had all they could do to haul the vehicle with its load. But the boys did not complain. With three musk oxen to their credit they could well afford to undergo some hardship; but over and over again they were forced to halt and rest. As a result, it was nearly midnight when they at last saw the rounded igloos and the ghostly outline of the schooner in the flickering light of the aurora, and with heartfelt thanks, they reached the end of their journey.
“Where’n tarnation ye been?” demanded Cap’n Pem, who was the first to see them. “I swan, ye’ll have us all plumb crazy worryin’ over ye.”
“You needn’t have worried,” declared Tom, “Unavik was with us.”
“Shucks, he’s jes’ as bad as ye be,” declared the old whaleman. “H’ain’t got no sense ’tall. What——”
“Hello!” cried Captain Edwards, interrupting the old whaleman. “You boys are late. Just beginning to think we’d have t’ start out to search for you. Have any luck?”
“Three musk oxen,” replied Jim. “We’re pretty near starved.”
“I’ll bet ye be,” cried Cap’n Pem. “Blow me if ye ain’t reg’lar hunters. Fetched in three o’ the critters, eh? Waall, I’ll be sunk!”
As the half-famished boys ate ravenously, they told their story of the hunt to the men and officers and then, having been unanimously acclaimed the champion hunters of the ship, they crawled into their bunks, snuggled among their furs, and were instantly sound asleep.
So rapidly had the time passed that the boys could scarcely believe that half the winter was over. As Tom, on the morning after their musk ox hunt, started to write down the events of the preceding day in his diary, he uttered a surprised ejaculation.
“Gosh, Jim, it’s only two weeks till Christmas!”
“No!” exclaimed Jim. “Gee, I didn’t realize it. We’ll have to have a celebration. I wonder what they do up here.”
“Of course we celebrate,” the captain assured them when they spoke to him about the holidays. “Reckon we’d better be gettin’ ready pretty quick.”
So for the next ten days every one aboard the _Narwhal_ was busy. There was the same delightful mystery in the air as at home; preparations for the Christmas festivities proceeded rapidly; and the boys were amazed to discover what resources the men and the schooner possessed. Mike and the carpenter worked early and late at building a miniature whaling ship to serve in place of a Christmas tree. The grinning black cook labored from morning until night—or rather from breakfast until bedtime—baking cakes and pies, making mysterious dishes, and boiling great kettles of molasses for candy, and from dinner until nearly midnight, the boys and men had glorious fun pulling the molasses candy, roasting quarts and pecks of peanuts, and popping hundreds of ears of corn. Half shyly the rough whalemen brought out clumsily wrapped packages and placed them on the pile of gifts on the chart table. Even the Eskimos seemed to catch the spirit of Christmas, and grinned and clucked and chuckled as they saw the preparations going on, for they had seen Christmas celebrations before and knew what a fine time was in store.
Two days before the great day, the completed model of the ship was set up in the deck house, and all hands busied themselves stringing the pop corn in its rigging, hanging the presents to the yards and masts, piling candy wrapped in bright-colored paper on the decks, and attaching colored candles along the bulwarks, up the shrouds, and along the yards.
“Say,” cried Jim, as the boys surveyed the completed substitute for a tree with approval. “Every one’ll have to hang up his stocking. Look at that heap of presents!”
At first the men demurred, trying to laugh off their embarrassment, but the boys insisted, the captain seconded them, Mr. Kemp added his pleas, and old Pem chuckled.
“’Spec’ I’m a ol’ fool!” he exclaimed. “But I rec’on we kin all ’ford to be kids, come Christmas. I’m a-goin’ fer to hang my stockin’!”
Stumping to his cabin, the old whaleman returned carrying a huge rabbit skin under-boot. “On’y stockin’ I got,” he declared as all burst out laughing.
“Well, b’gorra, ’tis lucky for ould Santa that yez have but wan lig thin!” cried Mike. “Faith an’ wid two av thim there’d not be a prisint for the rist av us.”
Now that Cap’n Pem had started the fun, the men quickly caught the spirit. Shouts of merriment, roars of laughter and good-natured chaffing floated over the frozen wastes from the schooner as the whalemen brought out socks, fur boots and heavy woolen stockings, and hung them in a long row along one side of the deck house, while the captain and the boys hurried back and forth filling them with bundles and packages.
Christmas day dawned clear and cold. Not a breath of wind stirred the frost filled air. The thermometer registered 45° below zero and the boys noted that the sun rose above the frozen plain of the bay at 9.30. Jumping from their bunk, the two boys ran hither and thither, wishing a “Merry Christmas” to every one. Presently the men came trooping in and seated themselves at the long table loaded with the Christmas breakfast.
The meal over, the Eskimos began to arrive, for all had been invited to spend the day aboard the schooner. Soon the deck house was packed with the grinning men and laughing girls and women all decked out in their richest furs and most elaborate costumes, every one carrying some bundle of fur or skin.
Then peanuts and pop corn were passed around, which the Eskimos munched and enjoyed hugely. Presently the captain jumped upon a chair and announced that there would be a dance. Swanson appeared with a much battered concertina, the carpenter brought out a wheezy fiddle, the ebony-skinned cook arrived with a banjo, and, to complete the orchestra, Nate produced a mouth organ.
Whatever the tune was—if tune it could be called—the boys never knew, but the men cared not a jot and seemed perfectly satisfied. Presently the deck was covered with couples, each dancing a different step, all laughing and all as happy as a crowd of youngsters. Tom and Jim roared with merriment as old Cap’n Pem seized a stout Eskimo woman and started to waltz with her. Mike took the center of the deck and executed a weird hornpipe which brought down thunderous applause, and Mr. Kemp, with blackened face and with a strip of gaudy calico wrapped about his long legs and a gay bandanna on his head, pranced up and down in a cakewalk.
Then the Eskimos had their turn. The skin drums throbbed and boomed, a man with a curious tambourinelike instrument, like a thin drum filled with pebbles, added to the din, and the natives pranced around and around, chanting a weird song, stepping high, twisting and turning and moving in intricate figures.
Then came games, followed by boxing matches, and the fun waxed fast and furious. Finally there was a tug of war, Eskimos against whalemen, and when, with wild shouts and yells, the Eskimos had pulled their rivals an inch over the chalk line and were declared the victors, Captain Edwards announced that the presents would be given out.
As he ceased speaking, there was a shout from the companionway and every one turned and gaped in astonishment, for there, pushing his way through the narrow entrance was Santa Claus! Even the boys were surprised, for Santa had been kept a profound secret. Clad in a suit of brown wolfskin with ermine trimming, and with big sealskin boots on his feet, the fat little fellow beamed upon all through his voluminous white whiskers of bearskin, and entering the deck house, tossed down his heavily loaded pack and brushed the snow from his sleeves and shoulders.
At first no one recognized him, but at his first words a roar of merriment burst from every one’s lips. “Had a everlastin’ tough time a-gettin’ to ye, clean up here!” he cried, striving ludicrously to disguise his voice. “But I reckon I brung presents fer all.”
“B’ the saints, ’tis the fursst toime Oi iver see a wan-ligged Santa!” chuckled Mike. “But sure ’tis a foine wan he do be afther makin’ at that.”
Rapidly the presents were distributed. There were comfort bags for each member of the crew, every bag containing buttons, thread, wax, combs salve, thimbles, pins and a small mirror. Every Eskimo woman received a bundle of bright-colored cloth and a little package of beads. The girls were given bead necklaces and gold plated rings. Each native boy got a shiny new jackknife, and every Eskimo man received a file and a plug of tobacco. Then the presents piled around the ship were distributed, and finally the men, sheepishly and flushing like children, received their well filled stockings and giggled and snickered like schoolgirls as they unwrapped the packages.
The Eskimos had done their part also. The men and boys were fairly loaded down with moccasins, fur boots, carved ivory curios, selected skins and similar things, while the natives were mad with delight over the powder and lead, the matches, the hatchets and knives, and the brass and iron they received.
Then came dinner, and such a dinner! There was a roast haunch of reindeer, bear chops, musk ox steaks, roast ptarmigan and potted hare. Even the cranberry sauce was there, with mince and pumpkin pies, and to cap the climax, a great steaming plum pudding which the grinning cook brought triumphantly in with its brandy sauce ablaze.
And the Eskimos at their table also had a feast. The dainties so appreciated by the white men held no attractions for the natives, and so their feast consisted of canned fruits, thick tinned milk, and, to their minds best of all, vast quantities of lard and oleomargarine. Not until midnight did the celebration end. When the last Eskimo had departed and eight bells pealed through the night, all vowed that this Christmas in the Arctic was the jolliest one they had ever known.
FRIENDS IN NEED
One morning Tom came on deck, glanced ashore and rubbed his eyes. He could hardly believe what he saw. Beyond the igloos, several of the Eskimos were busily putting up a skin tent on the shore.
“Golly, Jim!” he cried to his cousin. “Look, there—they must know that spring’s coming. They’re putting up their skin tents.”
“Cricky, so they are!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, I didn’t know spring came so early.”
“Won’t be here for some spell yet,” laughed Mr. Kemp who had overheard the boys. “You’re rushing the season. Getting tired of winter?”
“Not a bit of it,” declared Tom. “We’re having a bully time and I wouldn’t mind being frozen in here for six months more. But if spring’s not near, why are they moving ashore and putting up the skin tents?”
“Going to mend some clothes,” replied the second officer.
“Oh, say, you must think we’re easy,” laughed Jim. “They could mend clothes in the igloos, couldn’t they? What’s the joke?”
“No joke,” Mr. Kemp assured him. “And of course they _could_ mend clothes in the igloos—only they don’t think so. That is, some kinds. You see, these Eskimos believe there’s a water god and a land god—sorta spirit I reckon—and each one’s boss of the critters where he reigns. So they think if they mend clothes made of sea critters’ skins on shore, the water spirit’ll be peeved, and if they mend things made of land animals’ hides on the ice, t’other god’ll be vexed. I’ll bet, if you was over to that tent, you’d find the old lady sewin’ at a shirt or somethin’ made of bear or reindeer or fox, or some other land thing’s hide.”
“Well, that is the funniest thing yet,” declared Tom. “Come on, Jim, let’s go and see.”
They found that it was exactly as Mr. Kemp had said. Inside the tent, two of the Eskimo women were busily mending some garments which the boys at once saw were made of wolf and deer skins. This discovery aroused their interest and all of their spare time was spent questioning the Eskimos about beliefs and habits. The two boys learned a great number of most interesting things. All of these they recorded in their notebooks, and once, as Tom was busily writing down a folklore story, Newilic, who had been watching him, asked what he was doing. Tom explained as best he could and the Eskimo grinned. Then, asking Tom to let him take the book, the Iwilic grasped the pencil in his fist, screwed up his mouth, bent his eyes close to the paper, and commenced to draw several pictures. Presently he handed the book back to Tom and as the boys saw what the Eskimo had drawn they roared with laughter. There, unmistakable and indescribably quaint and funny, were the birds and animals of the story with a stiff-jointed, woodeny Eskimo among them.
From that time on the boys had Newilic illustrate all the stories they recorded, and the result was a collection of the most fascinating pictures they had ever seen. Both boys declared they would have them bound and the stories printed with them as soon as they reached home.
Of course the two boys never lost their interest in hunting and one day, when out for meat for the schooner’s table, Jim killed an Arctic hare, and picking him up, was amazed to see that he was speckled with brown.
“Hurrah!” he shouted to Tom. “Now I know spring’s coming. The hares are getting brown.”
“Perhaps Amook forgot to rub his hands all over him,” laughed Tom. “You know one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I don’t believe one hare with brown spots makes a spring. Let’s get another one and see if he’s the same way.”
But oddly enough, now that the boys wanted a hare, there were none to be found. Finally, tiring of searching for them, the two turned back. As they crossed a little swale, a pair of ptarmigan fluttered up and Tom bagged them.
“Gosh, I guess you’re right,” he cried as he picked up the birds. “These fellows have got brown feathers on them.”
“Yep, ain’t no doubt of it,” declared Cap’n Pem when the boys returned to the schooner and showed the brown feathers and hairs to the old whaleman. “Can’t fool these here critters, by gum! I’ll bet ye, ye’ll see the geese a-honkin’ back afore long.”
Despite the fact that the hare and the ptarmigan, as well as many other creatures the boys brought in, were all assuming their summer coats of gray and brown, there was no let up in the biting wind. Snow storms came and piled the drifts higher, and the thermometer hovered around the thirty or forty mark below zero.
Then one day the boys came on deck to find a soft wind blowing from the south, water was dripping from the icicles on the _Narwhal’s_ rigging, the sky was clear and blue, and there was an unmistakable feel of spring in the air. Day after day the south wind blew, and the sky was cloudless and though the nights were cold, the ice and snow thawed rapidly during the short days. One morning a faint, faraway sound caused the boys to look up, and they saw a little V-shaped string of black specks winging swiftly across the sky.
“There are the geese!” cried Tom. “I guess spring really is here.”
Evidently the Eskimos were of the same mind, for they were all busy, erecting skin tents and moving their household belongings from the igloos to their new homes. Before long the low, rounded houses of ice were deserted.
“Looks like the ice might break up pretty soon,” remarked Captain Edwards. “That is, if this weather holds. What do you think, Pem?”
The old whaleman squinted at the sky, sniffed the wind and scratched his head. “I reckon ’twill,” he replied at last. “But I’ll be sunk if I hanker arter a early thaw. Mos’ gin’rally there’s a’ all-fired, dod-gasted freeze arterwards an’ the ice buckles an’ raises Sam Hill. I’ve seen many a good ship stove an’ sent to Davy Jones by a freeze arter the ice breaks. No, sir, gimme a late spring an’ no danger of it a-freezin’ solid arterwards.”
“Hmm,” muttered the skipper. “Yep, I know that, Pem, but if the ice breaks we’ll clear it away about the schooner and then she’d ought to stand it. Clear water’ll freeze smooth black ice and won’t do any harm.”
“Mebbe ye will, an’ mebbe ye won’t,” grumbled the old man. “Course I ain’t a-lookin’ fer trouble but I’ll bet ye we git it.”
A few days after this conversation the boys were wakened by a report like a cannon and started up. “What’s that?” cried Tom.
“Ice breakin’ up,” called back Mr. Kemp from the next berth. “Reckon she’ll be a-goin’ good by to-morrow.”
Throughout the rest of the night the crackling reports, dull crashes and sharp detonations woke the boys a score of times, and when they reached the deck the next morning, they gazed with amazement at the vast plain of white that marked the bay. Where yesterday it had been solid ice—rough, hummocky and rugged—it was now broken, and cracked in every direction. Narrow strips of dark water could be seen here and there, and the mass rose and fell in undulations like the swell of the ocean.
“Hurrah! it’s broken!” cried Tom. “Now we’ll soon be getting away.”
It did indeed look as though the bay would soon be cleared of ice, for the tide or current and the wind were slowly but surely moving the ice away from the land. Already a stretch of fifty feet of water separated the igloos from the shore, and along the beach tiny waves were lapping at the shingle. For the first time in many months, the boys felt the schooner gently rising and falling beneath their feet. But Tom and Jim did not know the treacherous Arctic weather. Two nights later they were aroused by shouts and cries, the sound of hurrying feet, and crashing shivering blows that shook the schooner from stem to stern. At first they thought the _Narwhal_ had gone adrift and was on the rocks. Hurrying into their garments they rushed on deck to gaze upon a terrific, wild and magnificent sight. The wind had shifted and was blowing half a gale from the east and the broken ice, that had been drifting out of the bay for the past three days, was now being driven back.
Tossing on the waves, the great masses of gleaming ice came in, grinding together, crashing like thunder as one collided with another, bumping and roaring as they lifted and fell upon the seas. In a vast solid rampart, the upended jagged cakes were approaching the _Narwhal_, and already she was surrounded by scores of the cakes—huge, sharp-edged bits of floe twenty feet or more in thickness, and hurled like battering rams by wind and waves.
Instantly, the boys realized the peril the schooner was in. Each time a great cake was flung against the stout ice sheathing of her hull, the _Narwhal_ shivered and trembled. It seemed impossible that any vessel could withstand the steady buffeting, the constant impacts, of the tossing cakes.
Shouting, and yelling, the men and the Eskimos labored, striving to ward off the ice with poles, by lowering great rope fenders over the sides, and by paying out cable, but their puny efforts made no impression on the irresistible oncoming ice. Presently, however, the boys noticed that there were fewer shocks, that the blows seemed less severe and then they saw the reason. The first cakes of ice had reached the shore, others had piled upon them, back of these the oncoming ice was checked and, unable to move farther, the countless thousands of heaving, crashing, grinding cakes were jammed together and the schooner was locked fast in their embrace.
“Gosh! that _was_ a narrow escape!” cried Jim. “But I guess we’re all right now.”
“All right!” burst out Mr. Kemp. “Here’s where we’re a-goin’ to get it good an’ plenty. If the _Narwhal_ ain’t stove it’ll be nothin’ short of a miracle.”
For a moment the boys could not see where the danger lurked and every one was too busy to answer the questions they longed to ask. But presently they understood. The gale, the heavy seas outside the bay and the tide were all pushing with terrific force against that vast mass of millions of tons of ice, and the schooner was gripped within it as in the jaws of a titanic vise. Only her hull of oak and pine, a mere egg shell in that stupendous field of ice, lay between the cakes, and no fabric built by human hands could withstand that awful pressure.
With sickening creaks the timbers and planks began to give. With horrified eyes the boys saw the stout sides and bulwarks bending and buckling inwards. The heavy oak rail parted, splintered and ripped like a match stick. With a report like a gunshot the decks sprang into the air and rose in a steep hill-like ridge above the shattered bulwarks.
“Gosh, Jim, it’s all over with the old _Narwhal_!” cried Tom, scarcely able to realize that the stout old schooner had met her fate at last. “Now what _will_ we do?”
Even as he spoke the boys were thrown headlong on to the ripped deck and with a terrific lurch the schooner’s stern reared high in air. She careened terribly, and a moment later was lying almost on her beam ends on the top of the floe which had forced its way beneath her keel. Captain Edwards, old Pem and Mr. Kemp were shouting and yelling orders while the Eskimos who had seen their plight from the shore came hurrying over the ice to help. Soon every one was laboring like mad, unloading the cargo, getting out stores and supplies and preparing to desert the schooner, for all knew, that should the wind shift and the ice go out, the _Narwhal_ would plunge to the bottom like a lump of lead.
Rapidly the casks of oil, the bales of whalebone, the bundles of skins, and the sacks of walrus ivory were lowered over the schooner’s sides. In a constant stream the Eskimos’ sledges went back and forth between the stove schooner and the shore, carrying the salvaged goods which were piled in a great mound well back from the beach.
At last everything movable had been saved. The spars and sails, the chains and cables, the blocks and tackle and the running rigging were stripped from the _Narwhal_ and with lumber hastily torn from the long deck house a shed was built over the pile of valuables and supplies.
“Gee, we’re marooned here now,” cried Jim when the last sledge had come from the schooner and her sorrowing crew had tramped over the hummocky ice and stood gazing at the pitiful-looking ship which had served them so well.
“Reckon we won’t have to stay here long,” said Captain Edwards. “The _Ruby_’s up to Nepic Inlet and, if we can make her, we’ll be all right.”
“The _Ruby_?” queried Tom. “What’s she?”
“Little brigantine out o’ Nova Scotia,” replied the skipper. “Bluenose sealer. Guess her skipper’ll be willin’ to come in here an’ pick up this stuff of ourn an’ give us a lift to port.”
“But how can we get to her?” asked Jim.
“Sleds,” replied the captain. “’Tain’t over a hundred miles by land to the inlet an’ we can make it all right. Snow’s still good enough for sleddin’.”
Since another warm spell and a thaw might arrive at any moment, and make it impossible to travel over the slushy snow, no time was to be lost. Within two hours from the time the crew had come ashore, all were on their way across the snow-covered land toward Nepic Inlet and the _Ruby_.
Leading the party was Amaluk, with his sledge laden with necessities, the men’s personal belongings, food, and supplies. Behind him came team after team and the schooner’s men and officers. In the rear were the two boys with their own dog team, their sledge laden with their trophies, and with Unavik a few paces ahead of them.
Although the snow had been softened by the warm spell, the change in wind and temperature had frozen a hard crust upon it, and sledding was easy and rapid. But the heavily loaded sledges broke through here and there and the boys, bringing up the rear, found that they could travel far easier by swinging to one side on to the unbroken crust. Often, for several miles, they were out of sight of the others, for they made detours around hills and deep drifts and once or twice stopped to shoot game. They had no fear of going astray for the shrill shouts of the Eskimos, the cracking of whips, and the yelps of the dogs were borne plainly to them on the strong easterly wind.
They had traveled in this way for several hours when Tom, who was running ahead, halted and signaled the dogs to stop. “Look here, Jim,” he cried, “there are reindeer near. See, here’s where they’ve been scraping away the snow and feeding.”
“Golly, that’s so,” assented Jim as he saw the bits of moss on the white surface and the bare spots where the animals had pawed away the snow from a deep bed of moss.
“Let’s go after them!” suggested Tom. “They may be near, and Captain Edwards said to get meat if we could, to help out the provisions.”
“Better not,” cautioned Jim. “You know he told us not to go off alone.”
“But that was different,” argued Tom. “He meant not to go off on long trips. There’s no danger in this. We can’t get lost. It’ll be dead easy to find the others’ trail, or follow our own back. See, it’s plain as can be.”
“No, I guess there’s no danger of that,” admitted Jim. “All right, come on, but if we don’t find the deer soon, we’ll have to come back.”
Urging their dogs forward, the boys followed the deer’s trail and presently, by the dogs’ yelps and growls and the way they strained at their traces, the boys knew they were on a fresh scent, and that the deer could not be far away. The trail led up a narrow circuitous valley, and as the marks of the reindeer’s hoofs became more and more distinct, and the bits of moss where the animals had stopped to feed were fresher, the boys knew they were nearing the herd, and halted their dogs.
“Let’s look over that ridge before we go farther,” suggested Tom. “They may be in the next hollow.”
Crawling up the low ridge, the boys peered over and to their joy saw a dozen reindeer lying down and resting. Hurrying to the dogs, the boys unharnessed them, looped the neck thongs together and led the pack to near the summit of the hill. Then, unleashing them, they let them go. With loud barks and growls the dogs rushed down at the surprised deer.
Leaping to their feet the reindeer, as always, formed a defensive ring, and while they were busy keeping off the snapping dogs, the boys slipped around the hill to get within easy range. So intent were the deer upon their four-footed enemies that the boys crept within fifty yards and brought down two of the creatures. It was almost as simple and as little sport as killing domestic cattle but the boys were out after meat and not for sport and, having all they needed, they ran towards the herd, yelling and shouting.
Instantly the survivors turned and fled, and the dogs, after chasing them a short distance, came loping back to the dead deer.
“We can’t carry both these, as they are,” said Tom. “And we can’t afford to waste them. Let’s dress them and leave the heads and horns. We have better ones than these and the meat’s what we want most.”
“Guess we’ll have to,” agreed Jim, and at once the two set to work.
Although the boys had assisted Unavik and the other Eskimos in dressing deer and musk oxen, they had never before tried it alone and they soon found that it was a hard and difficult undertaking. The deer were heavy, the boys were no expert butchers and the time passed more rapidly than they imagined.
As they finished the first deer and with grunts of satisfaction stood up and looked about, they noticed for the first time that the sky was overcast, that heavy dun-gray clouds were scudding low overhead, and that the wind had increased.
“Gee, I guess it’s going to storm!” exclaimed Jim. “Don’t you think we’d better leave the other deer?”
“Why?” asked Tom. “If it does storm, it won’t make any difference. We’re not two miles from the trail, and we can make it in a few minutes. Come on, let’s get busy on this other fellow. If it storms it will be all the easier to catch up with the other sledges. They’re slower than we are and may have to stop.”
Once more the boys bent over the deer, cutting and dressing the big carcass, and they had almost finished when a few big snowflakes dropped upon the animal’s hide.
“Golly, it’s snowing!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, we’ve got to hurry!”
The snow was falling thick and fast by the time the deer was dressed. Bending to the force of the wind, the boys called to their dogs and started for the sledge.
And then they realized that they had made a fatal blunder. All intent upon dressing the deer they had forgotten to knot the dogs’ thongs together, the animals had been eating their fill of the offal from the deer, and instinctively knowing a storm was approaching, they were running nervously about, sniffing the air and whining.
At Tom’s call, two of the dogs, old huskies who had been long trained to obedience, came trotting to him, but the others kept their distance.
“Come on, we’ll have to get them,” cried Jim, as the boys knotted the thongs of the two together. “Gosh, we _were_ boobs not to have fastened them!”
But as soon as the boys started towards the dogs, the animals turned, dashed away with tails between their legs and growled savagely.
“Confound them!” cried Tom, and yelling a command in Eskimo he made a rush at the nearest dog.
With a sharp bark, and baring his teeth, the creature leaped away and then, lifting his head in air, he uttered a long wolflike howl and galloped off over the hill with the pack at his heels.
The boys looked at each other with real fear upon their features.
“They’ve gone!” exclaimed Tom. “Now we _are_ in a fix.”
“We’ll have to leave the deer and the sledge and hike it,” declared Jim. “Maybe these two dogs can lead us to the trail.”
It was their one chance and urging the dogs on, the boys started back over the trail of their sledge. But presently they were again at a loss. The rapidly falling snow had now covered the runner marks, the dogs seemed confused and ranged back and forth, and the boys grew more and more frightened. Then one of the dogs gave a glad yelp and with noses to the snow they strained at the leading thongs.
“It’s all right!” shouted Tom. “The dogs have picked up the trail!”
“Well, they’re going in exactly the opposite direction I think they should have gone,” declared Jim. “But I suppose they know.”
Over low hills and through valleys the dogs led the boys while the blizzard raged. To the frightened and nervous lads it seemed as if they had covered twice the distance they had come when the dogs barked loudly, sniffed the air and tugged harder than ever at the leash.
“Guess the others are near now!” panted Tom, striving to keep pace with the dogs. “They smell something.”
The next instant the dogs cringed back, the hair rose upon their necks and with tails drawn in they whimpered as if in fear.
“Gosh, I wonder what’s up now!” exclaimed Tom.
“Maybe a bear or wolf ahead,” suggested Jim, cocking his rifle.
Anxiously the boys peered into the misty white ahead and saw a low, irregular mound of snow with a dark object projecting from it.
“Say, what’s that ahead?” queried Jim in low tones.
“Looks like a sled covered with snow,” replied Tom. “We’ll soon see.”
Approaching cautiously, while the dogs struggled to keep back, the boys neared the little white mound, and the next instant Jim uttered a piercing, frightened cry and leaped back. Sticking stiffly up from the snow was a human arm!
“Gee, it’s a man!” exclaimed Tom. “What are you afraid of? Maybe he’s got lost or injured and is not dead yet. Come on, let’s see.”
With fast beating hearts the boys, overcoming their fears and nervousness, stepped close to the ominous pile of snow. Tom grasped the outstretched fur-clad arm.
But the next instant he let go, yelled, and jumped away with a white face. The arm was frozen stiff. It was the arm of a corpse!
“He—he’s dead!” stammered Tom.
Jim had now recovered himself. “Well, he won’t hurt us if he is,” he reminded Tom. “It’s awful I know, but we must find out who he is. It may be one of our men.”
“Ugh, I hate to go near it!” declared Tom.
“So do I, but we’ve got to,” said Jim. “Come on, Tom, we’re no babies or silly nervous girls. Brace up.”
Striving to control their nervous fears, the boys grasped the furs encasing that gruesome stiff arm and tugged. Presently, with a horrible, terrifying motion, the arm moved, the snow broke loose and the boys involuntarily screamed and jumped away as the body rolled over free from snow.
With wide eyes the two gazed upon the corpse and backed still farther off. The body, clad in furs, was that of a short, heavily built man, but the face, swarthy, black-bearded and black-browed, was frightful with the expression of fear and awful agony stamped upon it. At the first glance the boys saw with inexpressible horror that the whole side of the skull was crushed in and the scalp ripped off.
“Wha—wha—what killed him, I wo—wonder!” stammered Tom, his teeth chattering.
Jim, summoning all his courage, took a step nearer. “A bear!” he exclaimed, as he caught sight of a row of great gashes in the man’s neck and the ripped and torn back of the fur coat.
“Well, le—let’s get away from here,” stuttered Tom. “We ca—can’t do anything.”
Without replying Jim turned and with boyish terror of death gripping their hearts, and all their courage flown, the two raced away from the body.
Not until they had topped the next rise did they stop. Then, as they halted to regain their breaths, they noticed that the snow had almost ceased, the wind had gone down and they could see for a long distance across the white landscape.
A moment later Tom gave a glad cry. “Look Jim! Look!” he yelled. “We’re all right! see, over on that second hill! There’s some of the men!”
“Hurrah! you’re right!” yelled Tom as he too caught sight of two sledges just topping a distant ridge. “Come on!”
Yelling and shouting, the boys raced forward as fast as the newly fallen snow would permit. As they gained the summit of the second hill, they waved their arms wildly. But they were already seen. The dogs wheeled, the sleds swung around, and with the two drivers riding the runners, they came racing towards the boys.
As they came near Tom and Jim looked at each other in surprise. The dogs, they knew, were not the Eskimos’. One team was made up of huge black and white Newfoundlands, the other of shaggy-haired, magnificent, cream-colored huskies. At the boys’ first glance they were sure the men were utter strangers.
“Hello!” cried the foremost man as his sledge, drawn by the Newfoundlands, came to a halt close to the boys. “What you kids doing out here?”
“We got separated from our party and lost,” explained Tom. “Our dogs broke away and cleared out. You’re from the _Ruby_ aren’t you?”
That any other white men should be here had never occurred to the boys, and yet the men did not look like whalemen or sailors. One was clad in a gay Mackinaw, the other in furs; both were large, powerfully built fellows and both had an alert, erect, peculiar bearing that was very different from any whalemen the boys had even seen. The man in the Mackinaw was lean-jawed, with keen gray eyes and wore a close-cropped mustache, while the other was smooth-faced. Although both were as red as Indians from wind and weather and had a week’s stubble of beard upon their faces, they wore an indefinable stamp of authority about them.
The boys remembered that Captain Edwards had said the _Ruby_ was a Nova Scotia ship, and as they had never seen Nova Scotia seamen, they thought the men before them might be the officers of the brigantine.
But at Tom’s words the man with the mustache laughed pleasantly.
“Well, hardly!” he replied. “I’ve been taken for most everything, but never for a sealer before. No, we’re just ordinary Northwest Police. I’m Sergeant Manley and this chap”—jerking his head towards his comrade—“is Private Campbell. We’re from Fort Churchill. Been mushing it for two weeks. Looking for the darkest-dyed rascal that ever disgraced the Dominion. Fellow named Pierre Jacquet—Chippewa half-breed. Wanted for murder and with a thousand dollars reward for him, dead or alive. Haven’t seen anything of him, have you?”
Tom shook his head. “No,” he replied. “But say, Sergeant, we found a dead man back there. He’d been killed by a bear or something. He was awful! His head smashed in and torn to pieces! Gee, it makes me feel sick to think of him.”
“Dead man!” snapped the Sergeant. “What did he look like?”
“He was short and stout with a black beard and bushy, black eyebrows,” replied Tom, “and had on a suit of harp seal trimmed with blue fox.”
The Sergeant whistled. “Boys,” he cried, slapping Tom on the back. “You’re lucky kids! Not many can get lost and make a thousand dollars by doing it!”
“Why, what do you mean?” asked Tom puzzled.
“Mean!” cried Sergeant Manley. “Why, that dead man’s Jacquet. You’ve won a thousand dollars by finding him. Come on, lead us to him.”
Now that the snow had ceased to fall it was easy to retrace their footsteps, and in a few minutes the party was once more approaching the dead man.
“It’s Pierre all right!” declared the Sergeant, as he glanced at the dead man.
“Aye, there’s nae doot o’ it,” agreed Campbell. “Mon, but ’tis a fit endin’ he met.”
“Can’t take him back to the Fort,” commented the Sergeant, half to himself. “Can’t bury him. Guess we’ll have to leave him. Campbell, search his clothes for anything that will identify him.”
Rapidly the private went through the pockets of the dead outlaw, turning the body over as nonchalantly as though it were a log, and presently he straightened up.
“Aye, here’s his dirk an’ a wee bit o’ siller,” he announced as he handed the Sergeant a long-bladed hunting knife reddened with blood and a buckskin bag of money.
“Must have shot at the bear and wounded him, and had a hand-to-hand fight,” remarked Manley. “Used his knife evidently, but the bear got in the finishing blow. Hmm, there must be papers or jewelry or a watch or something on him.”
Stooping, the Sergeant again examined the body, stripping aside the furs, and presently rose with a satisfied grunt. “Guess this is all we need,” he said as he showed a heavy, old-fashioned silver watch, a bundle of letters and small book. “Nothing more to do here,” he continued. “We’ll see you to the _Ruby_ now.”
“But we can’t leave our sledge,” objected Tom. “It’s got all our things on it.”
Sergeant Manley stroked his mustache and bit his lip as he hesitated. “All right,” he assented at last. “Guess we can find it. You saved us a lot of hard work by finding Jacquet, so we can afford to do our bit.”
With keen, trained eyes the officers followed the boys’ trail, half hidden though it was, and long before Tom and Jim realized that they were near it, private Campbell sighted the abandoned sled covered deep with snow.
“Might as well take your meat, too,” said the Sergeant. “These Newfoundlands can manage one deer and we can load the other on your sled and hitch your two huskies on with Campbell’s dogs to haul it.”
In a few minutes the deer were lashed to the sledges, the boys’ dogs had been harnessed to Campbell’s team, and with the boys riding, the dogs raced forwards over the soft fresh snow.
“Have to give us your address so that reward can be sent you,” said the Sergeant as they dashed down a long slope.
“I don’t want it,” declared Tom. “It belongs to you and private Campbell, doesn’t it, Jim?”
“Of course,” agreed Jim. “I wouldn’t think of taking it. Why, we just stumbled on the body by chance and you’d have found it if we hadn’t.”
“That’s being too generous,” declared the Sergeant. “It belongs to you. We might have passed by and never found the body.”
“Well, we want you to have it—even if you call it a present—or to show our gratitude for finding you and getting saved,” insisted Tom.
“I can’t thank you—only to say thanks awfully,” declared Manley, “and I’ll tell the wife what a couple of fine kids you are when I get back to the Fort.”
“Aye!” shouted the private. “Yon bit o’ siller’ll come muckle handy i’ celebratin’ o’ a weddin’ wi’ a bonny lass awaitin’ me i’ yon Fort.”
Then as the boys sped on, they talked with the two stalwart guardians of His Majesty’s law in the frozen wastes, and told them all about their trip, their hunts, and the staving of the _Narwhal_, and even of their former cruise in the _Hector_, to the Antarctic.
To all of this Campbell and his Sergeant listened attentively, laughing gaily over Cap’n Pem and Mike, now and then asking a question, uttering surprised ejaculations as the boys told of their adventures, and now and again glancing at each other and raising their eyebrows as Tom and Jim told of the rich catch of furs, hides, and ivory the _Narwhal_ had made. Rapidly the time passed. Untiringly the powerful dogs raced on, until at last, Sergeant Manley raised his fur-mittened hand and pointed ahead.
“Tinavik Cape,” he said. “See that conical hill? Guess you’ll see your people when you get to the ridge there.”
Down into a deep, wide valley the sledges sped; across a broad frozen river, and up the farther slope, and gaining the top of the sharp, high ridge the dogs came to a standstill, panting and winded.
“Hurrah! We’re there!” shouted Tom as the boys looked down from the hilltop. “There’s the brigantine!”
For a moment the little group paused on the summit of the ridge, and gazed down at the inlet with the brig floating amid the great cakes of ice.
“Gosh, we weren’t far off after all!” exclaimed Jim.
Sergeant Manley smiled. “You don’t have to be far off to get lost up here,” he said, “and I’m blessin’ the day we met you. Best of luck all around. Saved you boys, saved us the Lord alone knows how many weeks of mushing it, and ended the hunt for Jacquet.”
“Aye, an’ nae forgettin’ the tidy bit o’ siller comin’ to our pockets,” put in the practical Campbell.
“Say, what _are_ they doing on the shore?” cried Tom who had been studying the scene intently. “Look, they’ve got tents and I can see a lot of the men there. Why aren’t they on the brig?”
Sergeant Manley whipped out his glasses and focused them on the shore of the inlet.
“Something queer!” he exclaimed. “Wonder if the _Ruby’s_ stove too. Let’s go.”
The next moment the powerful Newfoundlands were tearing down the slope with the lighter, cream-colored Eskimo dogs in the rear, and with the two stalwart policemen riding the runners and “yip-yiing” at the teams. Like the wind the sleds raced down the steep hillside, and the two boys bent their heads as the cold wind whistled across their faces.
Out on to the flat they dashed, and leaping off, the two officers brought their teams to a sudden halt within a dozen yards of the first tent.
“Wall, I’ll be squeegeed!” cried Cap’n Pem as he turned at the sound of the party’s arrival. “Where’n——” Then, catching sight of the boys’ companions he leaped forward with a hop and a skip.
“By the etarnal, I’m glad to see ye!” he cried. “Nor’west perlice, ain’t ye? Where’n Sam Hill’d these youngsters pick ye up?”
“Any trouble?” demanded Sergeant Manley without stopping to reply to the old whaleman’s queries.
“Trouble!” exploded old Pem. “Mut’ny! Them there critters has seized the _Ruby_ an’ won’t let nary a man aboard, dod gast their hides!”
“Where’s the captain?” snapped out the sergeant as he slipped his carbine from its sheath and Campbell did the same.
“Here he comes,” said Tom. “What started the mutiny, Cap’n Pem?”
“Them there gutter snipes!” replied the old whaleman. “Said this here was a salvage job an’ wouldn’t stir hand nor foot lessen we give ’em half the valer o’ the _Narwhal’s_ cargo. I swan, I never heered o’ sech a thing. Never knowed a whaleman t’ talk o’ salvage. That’s what comes o’ these here unions an’ new-fangled idees.”
“Hello!” cried Captain Edwards, who now joined the group with Mike and the other members of the _Narwhal’s_ company behind him. “See you’ve brought reënforcements, boys. Glad you’re here, officers.”
“Understand you’ve a mutiny aboard,” said the Sergeant.
“Not my ship,” replied the captain, “that’s the trouble. We could rush ’em but they’ve got their skipper an’ mates there and she’s a British ship and I don’t know how far we Yankees could go.”
“Got any guns?” snapped out Manley.
“’Bout a dozen,” Captain Edwards assured him.
“Plenty!” declared the Sergeant. “Get your best men together, give them the guns, and I’ll take charge. Campbell, get the kayaks ready.”
Throwing off his mackinaw, Sergeant Manley strode forward, uttered sharp, crisp orders and with twelve of the _Narwhal’s_ crew, including Nate, one-eyed Ned, Swanson, and Mr. Kemp, he marched to the waiting kayaks, ordering the men to shoot and shoot to kill if he gave the word. With ready carbine he stepped into a canoe. Behind him came the little flotilla. Instantly all was excitement on the decks of the brigantine. Men ran here and there. One or two leaped into the rigging, and the watching boys saw the flash of steel, and the glint of gun barrels.
“Golly, they’re going to fight!” exclaimed Jim.
“B’jabbers thin ’twill be a sorry day for thim!” declared Mike. “’Tis the King’s constabulary they do be afther resistin’, bad cess to thim.”
But the battle the boys expected never took place. No sooner did the mutineers recognize the police officers than all ideas of resistance were cast aside. Clambering on to the rail a man waved a white rag frantically in token of surrender. An instant later the kayaks were alongside, and Sergeant Manley and Campbell leaped over the bulwarks.
Cowed, with all the braggadocio gone from them, the _Ruby’s_ crew backed away and stood muttering together near the foremast.
“Where’s the captain and mate?” snapped out the Sergeant, keeping the men covered with his weapon.
“Aft, in the cabin,” replied one of the men.
“Search that crowd, Campbell!” ordered the Sergeant, “and hold ’em.”
A minute later he reappeared accompanied by the skipper and his chief officer.
“Those are the ringleaders,” declared the captain, pointing to a big, bull-necked, low-browed fellow and a weasel-faced, shifty-eyed creature. “They started the trouble. Jones there’s the one killed the bo’sun.”
“That’s a lie!” roared the heavy man. “S’help me——”
“Silence!” roared Sergeant Manley. “Here, Campbell——”
With a quick motion, the bull-necked fellow whipped out a revolver. There was a sharp report and the mutineer plunged forward upon the deck and his gun clattered upon the planking. Campbell nonchalantly threw out the empty shell and snapped another into his carbine.
Terrified at the death of their leader, the mutineers, already frightened at the realization of their position, drew back with blanched faces while the rat-faced ringleader fell on his knees and pleaded for mercy.
“Get up!” ordered the Sergeant, and as the fellow rose a pair of handcuffs snapped upon his wrists.
“We’ll take him along with us,” announced Sergeant Manley. “Any others you want to lose, Captain?”
“I’d jolly well like to lose the whole bally lot,” replied the skipper earnestly, “but I can’t. Got to handle the ship you know.”
“Don’t think they’ll give you further trouble,” declared the Sergeant. “Have ’em searched. Keep ’em workin’ an’ carry a gun—each of you. Don’t forget you’re on a British ship and labor unions don’t go under that flag. You’re boss and let ’em know it. Expect those Yankees’ll be glad to lend you a hand with this crowd.”
Presently Captain Edwards and old Pem, with the remaining members of the _Narwhal’s_ crew, came aboard; the few belongings of the shipwrecked whalemen were stowed and preparations were made for departure.
“Think I’ll go along with you to Rowe’s Welcome,” said Sergeant Manley as the whale boats were lowered and the repentant crew prepared to tow the _Ruby_ out of the worst of the ice. “Have to report the loss of the _Narwhal_, and I’d like to see you safe on your way. Campbell, take the dogs and go overland.”
Then, as the brigantine moved slowly from the inlet, bumping her blunt bows into the floating ice and grinding between the cakes which went bobbing astern, the boys had their first chance to tell the story of their adventures.
“Thank heaven, this cruise is over—or near it!” cried Captain Edwards. “I’d be a nervous wreck if I had you boys to look after much longer, even if you do always come out smilin’ as a clam.”
“I’ll be b’iled if ye can’t git into more consarned scrapes’n a passel o’ monkeys!” declared Cap’n Pem. “Fast as ye’re outen one ye’re into a wusser.”
Mr. Kemp spat reflectively into the sea. “Some kids,” he remarked tersely.
At last the brigantine was clear of the shore ice, ahead stretched patches and lanes of open water, and under a light wind the _Ruby_ went bumping and crashing on her way towards Rowe’s Welcome and the stove _Narwhal_.
“I suppose you men have a heap of queer adventures,” remarked Mr. Kemp as Sergeant Manley stopped for a chat. “I was mate with a chap what was in the force once, when I was on the destroyer.”
The Sergeant smiled. “Yes, we get our share,” he replied, “but most of ’em pretty much alike—runnin’ down renegades and outlaws. If any one wants plenty of exercise and out-doors air, I’ll recommend the force. To-day’s job’s the queerest I ever had yet, though. A Northwest policeman’s supposed to do most anything that turns up, but I’d never have dreamed of bein’ called on to board a ship and put down a mutiny.”
The next day the _Ruby_ worked her way past Southampton Island into the Welcome. Eagerly the boys peered ahead for the first glimpse of the _Narwhal_ and the village of their Eskimo friends.
“It’s been a fine cruise,” declared Jim, “but it makes me feel almost sick to think of leaving the old _Narwhal_ here.”
“Humph!” snorted Cap’n Pem. “Ships has got ter go sometimes—same’s folks. Reckon the Welcome’s as good a place’s any ter let her ol’ bones rest. ’Sides, ye won’t lose nothin’, Dixon had her insured ter the limit.”
“That’s not it,” said Tom. “It’s like losing an old friend. Why, you know how we’d feel if we left you or any of the others up here, Cap’n Pem.”
The old whaleman turned his head, blew his nose loudly on his red cotton handkerchief and cleared his throat. “Derned if I don’t know jes how ye feel,” he replied. “Hate fer to see a ol’ ship go myself. Wall, there ain’t no help fer it. Everlastin’ lucky we salvaged all the cargo.”
“And luckier yet the _Ruby_ was up here,” added Captain Edwards.
“Seems to me the whole trip’s been lucky—no matter what happened,” said Tom.
“Even with the cat,” laughed Jim.
“Gosh, where is she?” cried Tom. “I’d forgotten all about her and her kittens.”
“Lef’ her an’ t’others behin’,” said Cap’n Pem. “Ye didn’t think we could be a-totin’ a passel o’ cats ’long o’ us on that there sledge trip, did ye? Jes the same, I reckon I got ter take back what I said erbout her. Mebbe times has changed an’ cats is lucky now’days, what with injines an’ bumb lances an’ perlice a-puttin’ down mut’nies an’ all sech new-fangled contraptions.”
“Hurrah, you do admit it!” cried Jim. “If we keep on we’ll knock all your superstitions to pieces.”
But Cap’n Pem had not waited to hear.
A few minutes later, the _Ruby_ rounded a jutting cape and there, before them, was the well-known cove with the _Narwhal_, forsaken and deserted, looming above the cakes of ice.
“Why, why—Gosh! She’s afloat!” cried Tom, hardly able to believe his eyes.
“Holy mackerel, she is!” agreed Mr. Kemp.
“I’ll be blowed!” exclaimed Captain Edwards. “By glory, we may go home in her yet!”
With wondering eyes the crew of the _Narwhal_ gazed upon their schooner, for the ship they had left with her deck bulging above the bulwarks from the terrific pressure of the ice; the vessel whose stern had been raised high in air and that they were positive would sink to the bottom of the bay when the ice broke up, was now floating on an even keel, low in the water to be sure, but apparently sound and unhurt.
Scarcely had the _Ruby’s_ anchor dropped over before Captain Edwards, Pem, Mr. Kemp, and the boys tumbled into a boat and were pulled rapidly to the _Narwhal_. Grasping the main chains, Tom leaped on to the deck and as he did so a ball of black fur sprang from a coil of rope and with a friendly “meow” the ship’s cat rubbed herself against the boy’s legs.
“Hurrah!” he shouted as the others jumped on to the deck. “It’s all right, here’s the cat!”
“Waall, I’ll be everlastin’ly swizzled!” cried Cap’n Pem as he looked about. “The ol’ deck’s dropped inter place. I’ll be b’iled if I think there’s a mite the matter with her!”
“Five feet of water in the hold,” announced Mr. Kemp who had been sounding the well.
“Course there is,” replied the captain. “May have sprung a leak, but if she did, it’s stopped now. If it hadn’t she’d have sunk. Reckon she dove off the ice too an’ shipped some down the for’ard hatch. Men, what do you say? Shall we take the chance and sail in the old _Narwhal_?”
“Aye! aye!” responded the men in chorus. “No lime juicers for us, long’s the schooner’s a-floatin’.”
“But how—how could she be squeezed all together as she was and be all right now?” asked Tom. “Why, her deck was like a hill and her bulwarks were bent in.”
Cap’n Pem chuckled and rubbed his hands together in glee. “Didn’t I tell ye whaleships was built to las’ forever?” he cried. “Bless yer souls! what’s a mite o’ squeezin’ to a ol’ hooker like the _Narwhal_. I bet ye she’s a-sailin’ an’ a-crusin’ an’ a-gettin’ jammed in the ice arter you an’ me and the rest ’re dead an’ gone. Yes, sir, nothin’ like a Yankee whaleship!”
All having agreed that they would sail home in the _Narwhal_, the crew were transferred from the _Ruby_. Then Sergeant Manley bade them all good luck and a quick voyage, and joining Campbell, who had arrived the day previously, he sped swiftly into the southwest towards distant Fort Churchill with his rat-faced mutineer prisoner.
With doleful shakes of his head the skipper of the _Ruby_ said farewell, muttering something about “Yankees taking chances where no sane man would,” and hoisting sail, he headed his tubby old craft for the open sea.
Working steadily, toiling for hour after hour, the men pumped the water from the _Narwhal_. They labored with light hearts, for steadily they gained and when at last the pumps sucked, and the following day the sounding rod showed less than a foot of water, all knew that the schooner was tight and safe. Rapidly the long deck house was dismantled, the big foretopmast yard was sent up to the words of a rousing chantey, sails were bent on and running rigging rove. Then, like beavers, the men and the Eskimos toiled, bringing the casks of oils, the bales of whalebone, the great bundles of skins and hides, the sacks of ivory, and the countless other valuables, as well as stores and supplies, from the shore.
At last all was done. The last of the cargo was stowed. The standing rigging was taut and well tarred. The carpenter had patched the cracked rails and bulwarks, and had relaid some of the deck planks. The motor had been overhauled and tested. The sails hung loosely in their brails and the boats were at their davits. All this had taken much time to accomplish, and the Arctic spring had come swiftly to the land. The hills and valleys showed gray and bare. The black rocks loomed above the patches of sodden snow. The ice, rotten and spongy, had almost disappeared from the bay. The Eskimos’ igloos had long since gone, and the natives were living in their skin tents once more. Far overhead in the blue sky, the long files of geese and swans winged northward; great flocks of eiders gathered on the bay; curlew and snipe filled the night air with their plaintive whistling, and the snowbirds twittered from rocks and last year’s weeds.
For the last time the boys paddled ashore in their kayak and bade farewell to Nepaluka, to Newilic, to Kemiplu, the wrinkled old story teller, and to all their Eskimo friends whom they had grown to love and respect.
Then the clank of the windlass and the rousing chantey of the men warned them it was time to leave, and swiftly they paddled to the schooner, gave a farewell wave of their hands to the crowd of Eskimos ashore, and saw their little kayak hoisted to the deck.
Oh first came the herring, the king o’ the sea, Windy weather! Stormy weather! He jumped on the poop. “I’ll be capt’n,” says he! Blow ye winds westerly, gentle sou’westerly Blow ye winds westerly—steady she goes!
Loudly the chantey rang over the bay. Loudly the Eskimos shouted and yelled as the dripping chain came in link by link, and the great anchor rose from the mud that had held it fast for half a year. Up the rigging the men sped. Quickly the huge sails were spread and sheeted home. Braces were manned, and the _Narwhal_ slowly gathered way and the short seas splashed in spray from her forefoot. Out towards the vast reaches of the bay she sailed. Behind her, the land grew dim and faint. To a fair, stiff breeze she heeled, with every sail drawing, headed southward.
Battered by countless storms, scarred by ice, the veteran of a thousand battles with hurricanes and tempest, with crushing floes and grinding bergs, still staunch and sound, the gallant old schooner lifted her bow and plunged through the hissing green seas.
Safe within her old hold were the hard won treasures of the Arctic; yard long icicles and masses of frozen spray draped her bobstays, her rails, and her chains. But shaking the icy brine from her decks as she reared on the crests of the waves, sliding into the great hollows, crushing ice cakes with her shearing bows, she tore onward, while at braces and halyards and sheets the men roared out that most welcome and glorious of whaleman’s songs:
Did you ever join in with those heart-ringing cheers, With your face turned to Heaven’s blue dome, As laden with riches you purchased so dear You hoisted your topsails—bound home?
 See _The Deep Sea Hunters_.
 The Arctic Fox is the one referred to in this story.
 The tribe of Eskimos inhabiting the vicinity of Rowe’s Welcome.