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Liquor gaming and racing victoriaThe FurCountry by Jules Verne The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Fur Country, by Jules Verne 31 in our series by Jules Verne Copyright laws are changing all over the world.
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The translation is by N.
Other translations of this work are by Henry Frith George Routledge, 1879 and Edward Baxter New Canada Press, 1987.
A listing of the illustrations in the original editions is provided as well as a table of contents for each part.
The illustrations are assigned numbers which refer to the part of the book, chapter, and order a,b,c etc.
This redaction is by N.
On the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave a fête at Fort Reliance.
Our readers must not at once imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a musical soirée with a fine orchestra.
In fact, under the auspices of Corporal Joliffe, the large room on the ground-floor was completely transformed.
The rough walls, constructed of roughly-hewn trunks of trees piled up horizontally, were still visible, it is true, but their nakedness was disguised by arms and armour, borrowed from the arsenal of the fort, and by an English tent at each corner of the room.
Two lamps suspended by chains, like chandeliers, and provided with tin reflectors, relieved the gloomy appearance of the blackened beams of the ceiling, and liquor gaming and racing victoria illuminated the misty atmosphere of the room.
The narrow windows, some of them mere loop-holes, were so encrusted with hoar-frost, that it was impossible to look through them; but two or three pieces of red bunting, tastily arranged about them, challenged the admiration of all who entered.
The floor, of rough joists of wood laid parallel with each other, had been carefully swept by Corporal Joliffe.
No sofas, chairs, or other modern furniture, impeded the free circulation of the guests.
Wooden benches half fixed against the walls, huge blocks of wood cut with the axe, and two tables with clumsy legs, were all the appliances of luxury the saloon could boast of.
But the partition wall, with a narrow door leading into the next room, was decorated in a style alike costly and picturesque.
From the beams hung magnificent furs admirably arranged, the equal of which could not be seen in the more favoured regions of Regent Street or the Perspective-Newski.
It seemed as if the whole fauna of the ice-bound North were here represented by their finest skins.
This stove contained a roaring fire constantly fed with fresh shovelfuls of coal by the stoker, an old soldier specially appointed to the service.
Now and then a gust of wind drove back a volume of smoke into the room, dimming the brightness of the lamps, and adding fresh blackness to the beams of the ceiling, whilst tongues of flame shot forth from the stove.
But the guests of Fort Reliance thought little of this slight inconvenience; the stove warmed them, and they could not pay too dearly for its cheering heat, so terribly cold was it outside in the cutting north wind.
The storm could be heard raging without, the snow fell fast, becoming rapidly solid and coating the already frosted window panes with fresh ice.
The whistling wind made its way through the cranks and chinks of the doors and windows, and occasionally the rattling noise drowned every other sound.
Presently an awful silence ensued.
Nature seemed to be taking breath; but suddenly the squall recommenced with terrific fury.
The house was shaken to its foundations, the planks cracked, the beams groaned.
A stranger less accustomed than the habitués of the fort to the war of the elements, would have asked if the end of the world were come.
The neighbouring forts also furnished their contingent of guests, for in these remote lands people look upon each other as neighbours although their homes may be a hundred miles apart.
A good many employés or traders came from Fort Providence or Fort Resolution, of the Great Slave Lake district, and even from Fort Chippeway and Fort Liard further south.
They were not, however, accompanied by their wives, the luckless squaws being still looked upon as little better than slaves.
They are mostly Chippeway Indians, well grown men with hardy constitutions.
Their complexions are of the peculiar reddish black colour always ascribed in Europe to the evil spirits of fairyland.
Such was the company to whom the Captain was doing the honours of Fort Reliance.
The eggs, milk, and citron prescribed in recipe books were, it is true, wanting, but their absence was atoned for by its huge proportions.
Mrs Joliffe served out slice after slice with liberal hands, yet there remained enough and to spare.
Piles of sandwiches also figured on the table, in which ship biscuits took the place of thin slices of English bread and butter, and dainty morsels of corned beef that of the ham and stuffed veal of the old world.
The sharp teeth of the Chippeway Indians made short work of the tough biscuits; and for drink there was plenty of whisky and gin handed round in little pewter pots, not to speak of a great bowl of punch which was to close the entertainment, and of which the Indians talked long afterwards in their wigwams.
Endless were the compliments paid to the Joliffes that evening, but they deserved them; how zealously they waited on the guests, with what easy grace they distributed the refreshments!
They did not need prompting, they anticipated the wishes of each one.
The sandwiches were succeeded by slices of the inexhaustible pudding, the pudding by glasses of gin or whisky.
The quantities of food and drink consumed were really enormous.
The hubbub of conversation increased.
The soldiery and employés became excited.
Here the talk was of hunting, there of trade.
What plans were laid for next season!
The entire fauna of the Arctic regions would scarcely supply game enough for these enterprising hunters.
They already saw bears, foxes, and musk oxen, falling beneath their bullets, and pole-cats by hundreds caught in their traps.
Their imagination pictured the costly furs piled up in the magazines of the Company, which was this year to realise hitherto unheard of profits.
Too proud to show admiration, too cautious to make promises, the taciturn chiefs listened gravely and silently to the babel of voices around them.
Some of those employed in the garrison and civil service of Fort Reliance must here receive a few words of special notice, for they were presently to go through experiences of a most terrible nature, which no human perspicacity could possibly have foreseen.
Jaspar Hobson was a man of forty years of age.
He was short and slight, with little muscular power; but a force of will which carried him successfully through all trials, and enabled him to rise superior to adverse circumstances.
There Jaspar Hobson was born.
His childhood and youth were spent at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
His father brought him up strictly, and he became a man liquor gaming and racing victoria self-control and courage whilst yet a boy in years.
Jaspar Hobson was no mere hunter, but a soldier, a brave and intelligent officer.
His well-known merit led to his appointment to the command of an expedition to the north, the aim of which was to explore the northern shores of the Great Bear Lake, and to found a fort on the confines of the American continent.
Jaspar Hobson was to set out on his journey early in April.
If the lieutenant was the type of a good officer, Sergeant Long was that of a good soldier.
He was a man of fifty years of age, with a rough beard that looked as if it were made of cocoa-nut fibre.
Constitutionally brave, and disposed to obey rather than to command.
He had no ambition but to obey the orders he received never questioning them, however strange they might appear, never reasoning for himself when on duty for the Company-a true machine in uniform; but a perfect machine, never wearing out; ever on the march, yet never showing signs of fatigue.
Perhaps Sergeant Long was rather hard upon his men, as he was upon himself.
He would not tolerate the slightest infraction of discipline, and mercilessly ordered men into confinement for the slightest neglect, whilst he himself had never been reprimanded.
In a word, he was a man born to obey, and this self-annihilation suited his passive temperament.
Men such as he are the materials of which a formidable army is formed.
They are the arms of the service, obeying a single head.
Is not this the only really powerful organisation?
The two types of fabulous mythology, Briareus with a hundred arms and Hydra with a hundred heads, well represent the two kinds of armies; and in a conflict between them, which would be victorious?
Briareus without a doubt!
We have already made acquaintance with Corporal Joliffe.
He was the busy bee of the party, but it was pleasant to hear him humming.
He would have made a better major-domo than a soldier; and he was himself aware of this.
They were both about forty years old, and one of them well deserved to take first rank amongst celebrated female travellers.
The name of Paulina Barnett, the rival of the Pfeiffers, Tinnis, and Haimaires of Hull, has been several times honourably mentioned at the meetings of the Royal Geographical Society.
In her journeys up the Brahmaputra, as far as the mountains of Thibet, across an unknown corner of New Holland, from Swan Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Paulina Barnett had given proof of the qualities of a great traveller.
She had been a widow for fifteen years, and her passion for travelling led her constantly to explore new lands.
She was tall, and her face, framed in long braids of hair, already touched with white, was full of energy.
She was near-sighted, and a double eye-glass rested upon her long straight nose, with its mobile nostrils.
We must confess that her walk was somewhat masculine, and her whole appearance was suggestive of moral power, rather than of female grace.
She was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire, possessed of some fortune, the greater part of which was expended in adventurous expeditions, and some new scheme of exploration had now brought her to Fort Reliance.
Having crossed the equinoctial regions, she Street, alice and the enchanted mirror slot machine skjuter doubtless anxious to penetrate to the extreme limits of the hyperborean.
Her presence at the fort was an event.
The governor of the Company had given her a special letter of recommendation to Captain Craventy, according to which the latter was to do all in his power to forward the design of the celebrated traveller to reach the borders of the Arctic Ocean.
To follow in the steps of Hearne, Mackenzie, Rae, Franklin, and others.
What fatigues, what trials, what dangers would have to be gone through in the conflict with the terrible elements of the Polar climate!
How could a woman dare to venture where so many explorers have drawn back or perished?
But the stranger now shut up in Fort Reliance was no ordinary woman; she was Paulina Barnett, a laureate of the Royal Society.
We must add that the celebrated traveller was accompanied by a servant named Madge.
This faithful creature was not merely a servant, but a devoted and courageous friend, who lived only for her mistress.
A Scotchwoman of the old type, whom a Caleb might have married without loss of dignity.
Madge was about five years older than Mrs Barnett, and was tall and strongly built.
The two were on the most intimate terms; Paulina looked upon Madge as an elder sister, and Madge treated Paulina as her daughter.
It was in honour of Paulina Barnett that Captain Craventy was this evening treating his employés and the Chippeway Indians.
In fact, the lady traveller was to join the expedition of Jaspar Hobson for the exploration of the north.
It was for Paulina Barnett that the large saloon of the factory resounded with joyful hurrahs.
Do you mean that he will go beyond the Twenty-fourth parallel?
They were talking together near the stove, whilst the guests were passing backwards and forwards between the eating and drinking tables.
The Company has charged him to explore the north of their possessions, and to establish a factory as near as possible to the confines of the American continent, and he will establish it.
But what induces the Company to construct a fort on the shores of the Arctic Ocean?
At no very distant date, Russia will probably cede her American possessions to the Government of the United States.
If the enterprise succeed, this point will become an important factory, the centre of the northern fur trade.
The transport of furs across the Indian territories involves a vast expenditure of time and money, whereas, if the new route be available, steamers will take them from the new fort to the Pacific Ocean in a few days.
But I must beg of you to allow me to explain to you in a few words how the present state of things came about, how it is in fact that the very source of the trade of this once flourishing Company is in danger of destruction.
In the earliest times men employed the skins and furs of animals as clothing.
The fur trade is therefore of very great antiquity.
Luxury in dress increased to such an extent, that sumptuary laws were enacted to control too great extravagance, especially in furs, for which there was a positive passion.
Vair and the furs of Siberian squirrels were prohibited at the middle of the 12th century.
In 1553 Russia founded several establishments in the northern steppes, and England lost no time in following her example.
The trade in sables, ermines, and beavers, was carried on through the agency of the Samoiedes; but during the reign of Elizabeth, a royal decree restricted the use of costly furs to such an extent, that for several years this branch of industry was completely paralysed.
Its capital was then only £8420.
Private companies were formidable rivals to its success; and French agents, making Canada their headquarters, ventured on hazardous but most lucrative expeditions.
The active competition of these bold hunters threatened the very existence of the infant Company.
The conquest of Canada, however, somewhat lessened the danger of its position.
Three years after the taking of Quebec, 1776, the fur trade received a new impulse.
English traders became familiar with the difficulties of trade of this kind; they learned the customs of the country, the ways of the Indians and their system of exchange of goods, but for all this the Company as yet made no profits whatever.
Moreover, towards 1784 some merchants of Montreal combined to explore the fur country, and founded that powerful North-west Company, which soon became the centre of the fur trade.
We must add, that the North-west Company shrank from no act, however iniquitous, if its interests were at stake.
Its agents imposed on their own employés, speculated on the misery of the Indians, robbed them when they had themselves made them drunk, setting at defiance the Act of Parliament forbidding the sale of spirituous liquors on Indian territory; and consequently realising immense profits, in spite of the competition of the various Russian and American companies which had sprung up—the American Fur Company amongst others, founded in 1809, with a capital of a million of dollars, which was carrying on operations on the west of the Rocky Mountains.
Fort York, commanding the course of the river Nelson, is the headquarters of the Company, and contains its principal fur depôt.
Moreover, in 1842 it took a lease of all the Russian establishments in North America at an annual rent of £40,000, so that it is now working on its own account the vast tracts of country between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean.
In that year the number of furs exported was 2,350,000, but since then the trade has gradually declined, and this number is now reduced by one-half at least.
The game was trapped and killed without mercy.
These massacres were conducted in the most reckless and short-sighted fashion.
Even females with young and their little ones did not escape.
The consequence is, that the animals whose fur is valuable have become extremely rare.
The otter has almost entirely disappeared, and is only to be found near the islands of the North Pacific.
Small colonies of beavers have taken refuge on the shores of the most distant rivers.
It is the same with many other animals, compelled to flee before the invasion of the hunters.
The traps, once crowded with game, are now empty.
The price of skins is rising just when a great demand exists for furs.
Hunters have gone away in disgust, leaving none but the most intrepid and indefatigable, who now penetrate to the very confines of the American continent.
In a word, the interests of the Company and those of civilisation are antagonistic.
It is to the interest of the Company to keep the territory belonging to it in a wild uncultivated condition.
All questions not immediately relating to their own particular trade, were relentlessly put aside by the governors of the association.
It was this despotic, and, in a certain sense, immoral system, which provoked the measures taken by Parliament, and, in 1837, a commission appointed by the Colonial Secretary decided that it was necessary to annex to Canada all the territories suitable for cultivation, such as the Red River and Saskatchewan districts, and to leave to the Company only that portion of its land which appeared to be incapable of future civilisation.
The next year the Company lost the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, which it held direct from the Colonial Office, and you will now understand, madam, how the agents of the Company, having lost their power over their old territories, are determined before giving up their trade to try to work the little known countries of the north, and so open a communication with the Pacific by means of the North-west passage.
Captain Craventy had given her a graphic sketch of the situation, and it is probable he would have entered into further details, had not an incident cut short his harangue.
This news was received as it deserved.
The bowl—or rather, the basin—was filled with the precious liquid.
It contained no less than ten pints of coarse rum.
Sugar, measured out by Mrs Joliffe, was piled up at the bottom, and on the top floated slices of lemon shrivelled with age.
Nothing remained to be done but to light this alcoholic lake, and the Corporal, match in hand, awaited the order of his Captain, as if he were about to spring a mine.
The light was applied to the bowl, and in a moment the punch was in flames, whilst the guests applauded and clapped their hands.
Ten minutes afterwards, full glasses of the delightful beverage were circulating amongst the guests, fresh bidders for them coming forward in endless succession, like speculators on the Stock Exchange.
A cheer for the Captain.
Silence immediately fell upon the company assembled.
Sergeant Long hastened to the narrow passage from which opened the outer door of the fort, and heard the cries redoubled, and combined with violent blows on the postern gate, surrounded by high walls, which gave access to the court.
The Sergeant pushed open the door, and plunging into the snow, already a foot deep; he waded through it, although half-blinded by the cutting sleet, and nipped by the terrible cold.
At last the door swung open, and the Sergeant was almost upset by a sledge, drawn by six dogs, which dashed past him like a here of lightning.
Worthy Sergeant Long only just escaped being crushed, but he got up without a murmur, closed the gate, and returned to the house at his ordinary pace, that is to say, at the rate of seventy-five strides a minute.
But Captain Craventy, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, and Corporal Joliffe were already outside, braving the intense cold, and staring at the sledge, white with snow, which had just drawn up in front of them.
And what does he want?
He was laid upon a bed, and the Captain took his hand.
It was literally frozen.
The wrappers and furred mantles, in which Thomas Black was rolled up like a parcel requiring care, were removed, and revealed a man of about fifty.
He was short and stout, his hair was already touched with grey, his beard was untrimmed, his eyes were closed, and his lips pressed together as if glued to one another.
If he breathed at all, it was so slightly that the frost-work on the windows would not have been affected by it.
Very happily for Thomas Black, however, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson had another idea.
The body of the unfortunate man was covered with white frost-bitten patches.
It was urgently necessary to restore the circulation of the blood in the affected portions.
This result Jaspar Hobson hoped to obtain by vigorous friction with the snow.
We know that this is the means generally employed in the polar countries to set going afresh the circulation of the blood arrested by the intense cold, even as the rivers are arrested in their courses by the icy touch of winter.
Sergeant Loin soon returned, and he and Joliffe gave the new arrival such a rubbing as he had probably never before received.
It was no soft and agreeable friction, but a vigorous shampooing most lustily performed, more like the scratching of a curry-comb than the caresses of a human hand.
And during the operation the loquacious Corporal continued to exhort the unconscious traveller.
What do you mean by getting frozen like this.
At the end of half an hour the rubbers began to despair, and were about to discontinue their exhausting efforts, when the poor man sighed several times.
After having warmed the outside of his body, Corporal Joliffe hurried to do the same for the inside, and hastily fetched a few glasses of the punch.
The traveller really felt much revived by them; the colour returned to his cheeks, expression to his eyes, and words to his lips, so that Captain Craventy began to hope that he should have an explanation from Thomas Black himself of his strange arrival at the fort in such a terrible condition.
But may I inquire what brings you to Fort Reliance?
Half an hour later the fête was at an end, and the guests had regained their respective homes, either in the different rooms of the fort, or the scattered houses outside the enceinte.
The next day Thomas Black was rather better.
His vigorous constitution had thrown off the effects of the terrible chill he had had.
Any one else would have died from it; but he was not like other men.
And now who was this astronomer?
Where did he come from?
Why had he undertaken this journey across the territories of the Company in the depth of winter?
The moon could be seen anywhere; there was no need to come to the hyperborean regions to look at it!
Thomas Black was an astronomer attached to the Greenwich Observatory, so brilliantly presided over by Professor Airy.
Mr Black was no theorist, but a sagacious and intelligent observer; and in the twenty years during which he had devoted himself to astronomy, he had rendered great services to the science of ouranography.
He could talk of nothing but stars and constellations.
He ought to have lived in a telescope.
As an observer be had not his rival; his patience was inexhaustible; he could watch for months for a cosmical phenomenon.
He had a specialty of his own, too; he had studied luminous meteors and shooting stars, and his discoveries in this branch of astronomical science were considerable.
When ever minute observations or exact measurements and definitions were required, Thomas Black was chosen for the service; for his clearness of sight was something remarkable.
The power of observation is not given to everyone, and it will not therefore be surprising that the Greenwich astronomer should have been chosen for the mission we are about to describe, which involved results so interesting for selenographic science.
We know that during a total eclipse of the sun the moon is surrounded by a luminous corona.
But what is the origin of this corona?
Is it a real substance?
This is a question which science has hitherto been unable to answer.
As early as 1706 this luminous halo was scientifically described.
Yet the solution of the question is of such vast importance to selenographic science that no price would be too great to pay for it.
A fresh opportunity was now about to occur to study the much-discussed corona.
A total eclipse of the sun—total, at least, for the extreme north of America, for Spain and North Africa—was to take place on July 18th, 1860.
It was arranged between the astronomers of different countries that simultaneous observations should be taken at the various points of the zone where the eclipse would be total.
Thomas Black was chosen for the expedition to North America, and was now much in the same situation as the English astronomers who were transported to Norway and Sweden on the occasion of the eclipse of 1851.
It will readily be imagined that Thomas Black seized with avidity the opportunity offered him of studying this luminous halo.
He was also to examine into the nature of the red prominences which appear on different parts of the edge of the terrestrial satellite when the totality of the eclipse has commenced; and should he be able satisfactorily to establish their origin, he would be entitled to the applause of the learned men of all Europe.
Thomas Black eagerly prepared for his journey.
He ascertained that an expedition was to go to the extreme north of the continent to found a new fort.
It was an opportunity not to be lost; so he set out, crossed the Atlantic, landed at New York, traversed the lakes to the Red River settlement, and pressed on from fort to fort in a sledge, under the escort of a courier of the Company; in spite of the severity of the winter, braving all the dangers of a journey across the Arctic regions, and arriving at Fort Reliance on the 19th March in the condition we have described.
Such was the explanation given by the astronomer to Captain Craventy.
The surrounding districts slope down to it, and it completely fills a vast natural hollow.
The position of the lake in the very centre of the hunting districts.
The Great Slave Lake is dotted with little islands, the granite and gneiss of which they are formed jutting up in several places.
The large ruminants of the polar districts—the buffaloes or bisons, the flesh of which forms almost the only food of the Canadian and native hunters—seldom go further north than the Great Slave Lake.
The trees on the northern shores of the lake form magnificent forests.
We need not be astonished at meeting with such fine vegetation in this remote district.
The Great Slave Lake is not really in a higher latitude than Stockholm or Christiania.
We have only to remember that the isothermal lines, or belts of equal heat, along which heat is distributed in equal quantities, do not follow the terrestrial parallels, and that with the same latitude, America is ever so much colder than Europe.
In April the streets of New York are still white with snow, yet the latitude of New York is nearly the same as that of the Azores.
The nature of a country, its position with regard to the oceans, and even the conformation of its soil, all influence its climate.
In summer Fort Reliance was surrounded with masses of verdure, refreshing to the sight after the long dreary winter.
Timber was plentiful in these forests, which consisted almost entirely of poplar, pine, and birch.
The islets on the lake produced very fine willows.
Game was abundant in the underwood, even during the bad season.
Further south the hunters from the fort successfully pursued bisons, elks, and Canadian porcupines, the flesh of which is excellent.
The waters of the Slave Lake were full of fish; trout in them attained to an immense size, their weight often exceeding forty pounds.
Nature provided for all their wants; and clothed in the skins of foxes, martens, bears, and other Arctic animals, they were able to brave the rigour of the winter.
The fort, properly so called, consisted of a wooden house with a ground-floor and one upper storey.
In it lived the commandant and his officers.
The barracks for the soldiers, the magazines of the Company, and the offices where exchanges were made, surrounded this house.
A little chapel, which wanted nothing but a clergyman, and a powder-magazine, completed the buildings of the settlement.
The whole was surrounded by palisades twenty-five feet high, defended by a small bastion with a pointed roof at each of the four corners of the parallelogram formed by the enceinte.
The fort was thus protected from surprise, a necessary precaution in the days when the Indians, instead of being the purveyors of the Company, fought for the independence of their native land, and when the agents and soldiers of rival associations disputed the possession of the rich fur country.
It held supreme authority over them, an authority which could even inflict death.
The governors of the factories could regulate salaries, and arbitrarily fix the price of provisions and furs; and as a result of this irresponsible power, they often realised a profit of no less than three hundred per cent.
Bison-furs are now the medium of trade.
When an Indian presents himself at the fort, the agents of the Company give him as many pieces of wood as he brings skins, and he exchanges these pieces of wood for manufactured articles on the premises; and as the Company fix the price of the articles they buy and sell, they cannot fail to realise large profits.
Such was the mode of proceeding in Fort Reliance and other factories; so that Mrs Paulina Barnett was able to watch the working of the system during her stay, which extended until the 16th April.
Many a long talk did she have with Lieutenant Hobson, many were the projects they formed, and firmly were they both determined to allow no obstacle to check their advance.
As for Thomas Black, he never opened his lips except when his own special mission was discussed.
He was wrapped up in the subject of the luminous corona and red prominences of the moon; he lived but to solve the problem, and in the end made Mrs Paulina Barnett nearly as enthusiastic as himself.
How eager the two were to cross the Arctic Circle, and how far off the 18th July 1860 appeared to both, but especially to the impatient Greenwich astronomer, can easily be imagined.
The preparations for departure could not be commenced until the middle of March, and a month passed before they were completed.
In fact, it was a formidable undertaking to organise such an expedition for crossing the Polar regions.
Everything had to betaken with them-food, clothes, tools, arms, ammunition, and a nondescript collection of various requisites.
The troops, under the command of Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, were one chief and two subordinate officers, with ten soldiers, three of whom took their wives with them.
They were all picked men, chosen by Captain Craventy on account of their energy and resolution.
We append a list of the whole party:— 1.
In all, nineteen persons to be transported several hundreds of miles through a desert and imperfectly-known country.
With this project in view, however, the Company had collected everything necessary for the expedition.
A dozen sledges, with their teams of dogs, were in readiness.
These primitive vehicles consisted of strong but light planks joined together by transverse bands.
A piece of curved wood, turning up at the end like a skate, was fixed beneath the sledge, enabling it to cleave the snow without sinking deeply into it.
Six swift and intelligent dogs, yoked two and two, and controlled by the long thong brandished by the driver, drew the sledges, and could go at a rate of fifteen miles an hour.
The wardrobe of the travellers consisted of garments made of reindeer-skins, lined throughout with thick furs.
All wore linen next the skin as a protection against the sudden changes of temperature frequent in these latitudes.
Each one, officer or soldier, male or female, wore seal-skin boots sewn with twine, in the manufacture of which the natives excel.
These boots are absolutely impervious, and are so flexible that they are admirably adapted for walking.
Pine-wood snow-shoes, two or three feet long, capable of supporting the weight of a man on the most brittle snow, and enabling him to pass over it with the rapidity of a skater on ice, can be fastened to the soles of the seal-skin boots.
Fur caps and deer-skin belts completed the costumes.
For arms, Lieutenant Hobson had the regulation musketoons provided by the Company, pistols, ordnance sabres, and plenty of ammunition; for tools : axes, saws, adzes, and other instruments required in carpentering.
The party might have relied for provisions on the hunters amongst them.
Some of the soldiers were skilful trackers of game, and there were plenty of reindeer in the Polar regions.
Whole tribes of Indians, or Esquimaux, deprived of bread and all other nourishment, subsist entirely on this venison, which is both abundant and palatable.
But as delays and difficulties had to be allowed for, a certain quantity of provisions was taken with them.
The flesh of the bison, elk, and deer, amassed in the large battues on the south of the lake; corned beef, which will keep for any length of time; and some Indian preparations, in which the flesh of animals, ground to powder, retains its nutritive properties in a very small bulk, requiring no cooking, and forming a very nourishing diet, were amongst the stores provided in case of need.
Lieutenant Hobson likewise took several casks of rum and whisky; but he was firmly resolved to economise these spirits, so injurious to the health in cold latitudes, as much as possible.
The Company had placed at his disposal a little portable medicine-chest, containing formidable quantities of lime-juice, lemons, and other simple remedies necessary to check, or if possible to prevent, the scorbutic affections which take such a terrible form in these regions.
All the men had been chosen with great care; none were too stout or too thin, and all had for years been accustomed to the severity of the climate, and could therefore more easily endure the fatigues of an expedition to the Polar Sea.
They were all brave, high-spirited fellows, who had taken service of their own accord.
Double pay had been promised them during their stay at the confines of the American continent, should they succeed in making a settlement beyond the seventieth parallel.
The sledge provided for Mrs Barnett and her faithful Madge was rather more comfortable than the others.
She did not wish to be treated better than her travelling companions, but yielded to the urgent request of Captain Craventy, who was but carrying out the wishes of the Company.
The vehicle which brought Thomas Black to Fort Reliance also conveyed him and his scientific apparatus from it.
A few astronomical instruments, of which there were not many in those days-a telescope for his selenographic observations, a sextant for taking the latitude, a chronometer for determining the longitudes, a few maps, a few books, were all stored away in this sledge, and Thomas Black relied upon his faithful dogs to lose nothing by the way.
Of course the food for the various teams was not forgotten.
There were altogether no less than seventy-two dogs, quite a herd to provide for by the way, and it was the business of the hunters to cater for them.
These strong intelligent animals were bought of the Chippeway Indians, who know well how to train them for their arduous calling.
The little company was most skilfully organised.
The zeal of Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson was beyond all praise.
Proud of his mission, and devoted to his task; he neglected nothing which could insure success.
Corporal Joliffe, always a busybody, exerted himself without producing any very tangible results; but his wife was most useful and devoted; and Mrs Paulina Barnett had already struck up a great friendship with the brisk little Canadian woman, whose fair hair and large soft eyes were so pleasant to look at.
We need scarcely add that Captain Craventy did all in his power to further the enterprise.
The instructions he had received from the Company showed what great importance they attached to the success of the expedition, and the establishment of a new factory beyond the seventieth parallel.
We may therefore safely affirm that every human effort likely to insure success which could be made was made; but who could tell what insurmountable difficulties nature might place in the path of the brave Lieutenant I who could tell what awaited him and his devoted little band.
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.
The first fine days came at last.
The green carpet of the hills began to appear here and there where the snow had melted.
The poplars, birches, and willows began to bud, and the redheaded ducks, of which there are so many species in North America, to skim the surface of the numerous pools formed by the melted snow.
Guillemots, puffins, and eider ducks sought colder latitudes; and little shrews no bigger than a hazel-nut ventured from their holes, tracing strange figures on the ground with their tiny-pointed tails.
It was intoxicating once more to breathe the fresh air of spring, and to bask in the sunbeams.
Nature awoke once more from her heavy sleep in the long winter night, and smiled as she opened her eyes.
The renovation of creation in spring is perhaps more impressive in the Arctic regions than in any other portion of the globe, on account of the greater contrast with what has gone before.
The thaw was not, however, complete.
The thermometer, it is true, marked 41° Fahrenheit above zero; but the mean temperature of the nights kept the surface of the snowy plains solid—a good thing for the passage of sledges, of which Jaspar Hobson meant to avail himself before the thaw became complete.
The ice of the lake was still unbroken.
During the last month several successful hunting expeditions had been made across the vast smooth plains, which were already frequented by game.
Mrs Barnett was astonished at the skill with which the men used their snow-shoes, scudding along at the pace of a horse in full gallop.
During the last few days several bands of Indians had arrived plug and play casino games the fort to exchange the spoils of the winter chase for manufactured goods.
The season had been bad.
There were a good many polecats and sables; but the furs of beavers, otters, lynxes, ermines, and foxes were scarce.
It was therefore a wise step for the Company to endeavour to explore a new country, where the wild animals had hitherto escaped the rapacity of man.
On the morning of the 16th April Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson and his party were ready to start.
The route across the known districts, between the Slave Lake and that of the Great Bear beyond the Arctic Circle, was already determined.
Jaspar Hobson was to make for Fort Confidence, on the northern extremity of the latter lake; and he was to revictual at Fort Enterprise, a station two hundred miles further to the north-west, on the shores of the Snare Lake, By travelling at the rate of fifteen miles a day the Lieutenant hoped to halt there about the beginning of May.
From this point the expedition was to take the shortest route to Cape Bathurst, on the North American coast.
This plan was a guarantee against any adverse circumstances, and left a means of communication with their fellow-creatures open to the Lieutenant and his voluntary companions in exile.
On the 16th April dogs and sledges were awaiting the travellers at the postern gate.
Captain Craventy called the men of the party together and said a few kind words to them.
He urged them above all things to stand by one another in the perils they might be called upon to meet; reminded them that the enterprise upon which they were about to enter required self-denial and devotion, and that submission to their officers was an indispensable condition of success.
Jaspar Hobson and Sergeant Long went first; then Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge, the latter dexterously wielding the long Esquimaux whip, terminating in a stiff thong.
Thomas Black and one of the soldiers, the Canadian, Petersen, occupied the third sledge ;and the others followed, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe bringing up the rear.
According to the orders of Lieutenant Hobson, each driver kept as nearly as possible at the same distance from the preceding sledge, so as to avoid all confusion—a necessary precaution, as a collision between two sledges going at full speed, might have had disastrous results.
On leaving Fort Reliance, Jaspar Hobson at once directed his course towards the north-west.
The first thing to be done was to cross the large river connecting Lakes Slave and Wolmsley, which was, however, still frozen so hard as to be undistinguishable from the vast white plains around.
A uniform carpet of snow covered the whole country, and the liquor gaming and racing victoria, drawn by their swift teams, sped rapidly over the firm smooth surface.
The weather was fine, but still very cold.
The sun, scarce above the horizon, described a lengthened curve; and its rays, reflected on the snow, gave more light than heat.
Fortunately not a breath of air stirred, and this lessened the severity of the cold, although the rapid pace of the sledges through the keen atmosphere must have been trying to any one not inured to the rigour of a Polar climate.
The sky is cloudless; the temperature propitious, our equipages shoot along like express trains, and as long as this fine weather lasts we shall get on capitally.
What do you think, Sergeant Long?
Would that all our men understood as you do the importance of our mission, and would devote themselves body and soul to the interests of the Company!
Suppose now I ordered you to go to the North Pole?
During this colloquy between Lieutenant Hobson and his Sergeant a slight ascent compelled the sledges to slacken speed, and Mrs Barnett and Madge also exchanged a few sentences.
These two intrepid women, in their otter-skin caps and white bear-skin mantles, gazed in astonishment upon the rugged scenery around them, and at the white outlines of the huge glaciers standing out against the horizon.
They had already left behind them the hills of the northern banks of the Slave Lake, with their summits crowned with the gaunt skeletons of trees.
The vast plains stretched before them in apparently endless succession.
The rapid flight and cries of a few birds of passage alone broke the monotony of the scene.
Now and then a troop of swans, with plumage so white that the keenest sight could not distinguish them from the snow when they settled on the ground, rose into view in the clear blue atmosphere and pursued their journey to the north.
You remember, Madge, how we suffered from the heat on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria—you remember the cloudless sky and the parching sunbeams?
You retain your impressions, I forget mine.
You have no recollection of our agonies when water failed us in the desert, when the pitiless sun scorched us to the bone, when even the night brought us no relief from our sufferings!
How could I now recollect the sufferings to which you allude—the heat, the agonies of thirst—when we are surrounded on every side by ice, and I have but to stretch my arm out of this sledge to pick up a handful of snow?
You talk to me of heat, when we are freezing beneath our bearskins; you recall the broiling rays of the sun when its April beams cannot melt the icicles on our lips!
She could see nothing but beauty in these deserted regions, with their rigorous climate.
Her enthusiasm got the better for the time of her judgment.
Her sympathy with nature enabled her to read the touching poetry of the ice-bound north-the poetry embodied in the Sagas, and sung by the bards of the time of Ossian.
But Madge, more matter of fact than her mistress, disguised from herself neither the dangers of an expedition to the Arctic Ocean, nor the sufferings involved in wintering only thirty degrees at the most from the North Pole.
And indeed the most robust had sometimes succumbed to the fatigues, privations, and mental and bodily agonies endured in this severe climate.
But after once crossing the Arctic Circle, there is little variation in the temperature; it does not increase in coldness in proportion to the elevation reached.
Granted that Jaspar Hobson did not think of going beyond the seventieth parallel, we must still remember that Franklin and his unfortunate companions died of cold and hunger before they had penetrated beyond 68° N.
Very different was the talk in the sledge occupied by Mr and Mrs Joliffe.
Perhaps the gallant Corporal had too often drunk to the success of the expedition on starting; for, strange to say, he was disputing with his little wife.
Yes, he was actually contradicting her, which never happened except under extraordinary circumstances!
You are in front of the whole caravan now, and I hear Lieutenant Hobson calling out to you to resume your proper place behind.
The ascent was, in fact, pretty steep; the sledge dashed along at a reckless pace, and was already considerably in advance of the rest of the party.
Mr and Mrs Joliffe bumped up and down every instant, the surface of the snow became more and more uneven, and the pair, flung first to one side and then to the other, knocked against each other and the sledge, and were horribly bruised and shaken.
But the Corporal would listen neither to the advice of his wife nor to the shouts of Lieutenant Hobson.
The latter, seeing the danger of this reckless course, urged on his own animals, and the rest of the caravan followed at a rapid pace.
But the Corporal became more and more excited-the speed of his equipage delighted him.
He shouted, he gesticulated, and flourished his long whip like an accomplished sportsman.
I am going to try.
The fifth dog on the right is misbehaving himself.
I will correct him a little!
At this moment the dogs flung themselves and bingo was his name new one side, the sledge was overturned, and the pair were flung into the snow.
Fortunately it was thick and soft, so that they escaped unhurt.
But what a disgrace for the Corporal!
The sledge was picked up, but it was decided that henceforth the reins of the dogs, like those of the household, were to be in the hands of Mrs Joliffe.
The crest-fallen Corporal was obliged to submit, and the interrupted journey was resumed.
No incident worth mentioning occurred during the next fifteen days.
The weather continued favourable, the cold was not too severe, and on the 1st May the expedition arrived at Fort Enterprise.
Two hundred miles had been traversed since the expedition left Fort Reliance.
The travellers, taking advantage of the long twilight, pressed on day and night, and were literally overcome with fatigue when they reached Fort Enterprise, near the shores of Lake Snare.
It served as a resting-place for the men taking the convoys of furs from the Great Bear Lake, some three hundred miles further to the north-west.
About a dozen soldiers formed the garrison.
The fort consisted of a wooden house surrounded by palisades.
The gentle influence of the Arctic spring was beginning to be felt.
Here and there the snow had melted, and the temperature of the nights was no longer below freezing point.
A few delicate mosses and slender grasses clothed the rugged ground with their soft verdure; and from between the stones peeped the moist calices of tiny, almost colourless, flowers.
These faint signs of reawakening vegetation, after the long night of winter, were refreshing to eyes weary of the monotonous whiteness of the snow; and the scattered specimens of the Flora of the Arctic regions were welcomed with delight.
Mrs Paulina Barnett and Jaspar Hobson availed themselves of this leisure time to visit the shores of the little lake.
They were both students and enthusiastic lovers of nature.
Together they wandered amongst the ice masses, already beginning to break up, and the waterfalls created by the action of the rays of the sun.
The surface itself of Lake Snare was still intact, not a crack denoted the approaching thaw; but it was strewn with the ruins of mighty icebergs, which assumed all manner of picturesque forms, and the beauty of which was heightened when the light, diffracted by the sharp edges of the ice, touched them with all manner of colours.
One might have fancied that a rainbow, crushed in a powerful hand, bad been flung upon the ground, its fragments crossing each other as they fell.
Does it not seem as if we were bending over the opening of an immense kaleidoscope, or are you already weary of a sight so new and interesting to me?
But if your enthusiasm is so great when you see this scenery with the sun shining upon it, what will it be when you are privileged to behold the terrible grandeur of the winter?
To own the truth, I think the sun, so much thought of in temperate latitudes, spoils my Arctic home.
You then see their peculiar characteristics to advantage.
The sun is a star of the torrid and temperate zones, and is out of place thirty degrees from the North Pole.
The true sky of this country is the pure frigid sky of winter, bright with constellations, and sometimes flushed with the glory of the Aurora Borealis.
This land is the land of the night, not of the day; and you have yet to make acquaintance with the delights and marvels of the long Polar night.
But I returned home with fresh love and enthusiasm for my native land.
Cold is my element, and no merit is due to me for braving it.
It has no power over me; and, like the Esquimaux.
I can live for months together in a snow hut.
I hope to prove myself worthy to be your companion, and wherever you venture, we will venture together.
If so, God helping us, we shall indeed advance far.
All these changes, madam, due to the influence of the solar rays, will cause delays, fatigue, and dangers, the casino and gambling card games least of which will be the breaking of the brittle snow beneath our feet, or the falling of the avalanches from the summits of the icebergs.
For all this we have to thank the gradual rise of the sun higher and higher above the horizon.
Bear this in mind, madam: of the four elements of the old creation, only one is necessary to us here, the air; the other three, fire, earth, and water, are de trop in the Arctic regions.
Yet Jaspar Hobson was right when he said the sun would cause difficulties.
This was seen when the party set out again on the 4th May, three days later.
The thermometer, even in the coldest part of the night, marked more than 32° Fahrenheit.
A complete thaw set in, the vast white sheet of snow resolved itself into water.
The irregularities of the rocky soil caused constant jolting of the sledges, and the passengers were roughly shaken.
The roads were so heavy that the dogs had to go at a slow trot, and the reins were therefore liquor gaming and racing victoria entrusted to the hands of the imprudent Corporal Joliffe.
Neither shouts nor flourishings of the whip had the slightest effect on the jaded animals.
From time to time the travellers lightened the sledges by walking little way.
This mode of locomotion suited the hunters, who were now gradually approaching the best districts for game in the whole of English America.
Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge took a great interest in the chase, whilst Thomas Black professed absolute indifference to all athletic exercise.
He had not come all this distance to hunt the polecat or the ermine, but merely to look at the moon at the moment when her disc should cover that of the sun.
Their skill was wonderful; and the cleverest Indians would not have surpassed them in keenness of sight, precision of aim, or manual address.
No artifice was unknown to them, and Captain Craventy had shown his wisdom in choosing two such intelligent men to accompany the little troop.
Whilst on the march however, Marbre and Sabine had no time for setting traps.
They could not separate from the others for more than an hour or two at a time, and were obliged to be content with the game which passed within range of their rifles.
Still they were fortunate enough to kill two of the large American ruminants, seldom met with in such elevated latitudes.
On the morning of the 15th May the hunters asked permission to follow some fresh traces they had found, and the Lieutenant not only granted it, but himself accompanied them with Mrs Paulina Barnett, and they went several miles out of their route towards the east.
The impressions were evidently the result of the passage of about half-a-dozen large deer.
There could be no mistake about it; Marbre and Sabine were positive on that point, and could even have named the species to which the animals belonged.
We generally hunt them at the south of the Slave Lake, where they feed upon the shoots of please click for source and poplars, and certain wild roses to which they are very partial.
These traces were left by deer, the deer we hunters call red deer, and the natives wapitis.
Once at the top of the hill, the adventurers looked eagerly towards the east.
The undulating plains were still white with snow, but its dazzling surface was here and there relieved with patches of stunted light green vegetation.
A few gaunt shrubs stretched forth their bare and shrivelled branches, and huge icebergs with precipitous sides stood out against the grey background of the sky.
These graceful creatures have slender legs and brown skins with patches of red hair, the colour of which becomes darker in the warmer season.
The fierce males are easily distinguished from the females by their fine white antlers, the latter being entirely without these ornaments.
So that although the wapiti thrives in a cold country, Lieutenant Hobson was right in saying that it seldom penetrates beyond 57° N.
The wapitis were so engrossed in their desperate struggle that they were unconscious of the approach of the hunters; but they would probably not have ceased fighting, had they been aware of it.
Marbre and Sabine, aware of their peculiarity in this respect, might therefore have advanced fearlessly upon them, and have taken aim at leisure.
Lieutenant Hobson suggested that they should do so.
These beasts are engaged in a war to the death, and we shall arrive in plenty of time to pick up the vanquished.
By rubbing this skin with the fat and brains of the animal itself, it is rendered flexible, and neither damp nor dryness injures it.
The Indians are therefore always eager to procure the skins of the wapitis.
It is tough, and does not taste very nice; the fat becomes hard directly it is taken from the fire, and sticks to the teeth.
It is certainly inferior as an article of food to the flesh of other deer; but when meat is scarce we are glad enough to eat it, and it supports life as well as anything else.
Was their rage satiated?
Whatever the cause, all but two fine creatures fled a towards the east With incredible speed; in a few instants they were out of sight, and the swiftest horse could not have caught them up.
Meanwhile, however, two magnificent specimens remained on the field of battle.
Like two wrestlers struggling for a prize which neither will yield, they would not separate, but whirled round and round together on their front legs as if riveted to one another.
I have no doubt they are fighting out an old quarrel.
They will not stir from where they are when we are three steps from them, the rifles at our shoulders, and our fingers on the triggers!
The wapitis had not moved.
They were pushing at each other like a couple of rams, and seemed to be inseparably glued together.
In fact, in the heat of the combat the antlers of the two creatures had become entangled together to such an extent that they could no longer separate without breaking them.
This often happens in the hunting districts.
It is not at all uncommon to find antlers thus connected lying on the ground; the poor encumbered animals soon die of hunger, or they become an easy prey to wild beasts.
Two bullets put an end to the fight between the wapitis; and Marbre and Sabine taking immediate possession, carried off their skins to be subsequently prepared, leaving their bleeding carcasses to be devoured by wolves and bears.
The expedition continued to advance towards the north-west; but the great inequalities of the ground made it hard work for the dogs to get along, and the poor creatures, who could hardly be held in when they started, were now quiet enough.
Eight or ten miles a day were as much as they could accomplish, although Lieutenant Hobson urged them on to the utmost.
He was anxious to get to Fort Confidence, on the further side of the Great Bear Lake, where he hoped to obtain some useful information.
Had the Indians frequenting the northern banks of the lake been able to cross the districts on the shores of the sea?
These were grave questions, the reply to which would decide the fate of the new factory.
The country through which the little troop was now passing was intersected by numerous streams, mostly tributaries of the two large rivers, the Mackenzie and Coppermine, which flow from the south to the north, and empty themselves into the Arctic Ocean.
Lakes, lagoons, and numerous pools are formed between these two principal arteries; and as they were no longer frozen over, the sledges could not venture upon them, and were compelled to go around them, which caused considerable delay.
Lieutenant Hobson was certainly right in saying that winter is the time to visit the hyperborean regions, for monopoly slots and tricks are then far easier to traverse.
Mrs Paulina Barnett had reason to own the justice of this assertion than once.
It has been estimated that there is but one inhabitant to every ten square miles.
Besides the scattered natives, there are some few thousand agents or soldiers of the different fur-trading companies; but they mostly congregate in the southern districts and about the various factories.
No human footprints gladdened the eyes of the travellers, the only traces on the sandy soil were those of ruminants and rodents.
Here, then, the travellers entered the true Arctic region, the northern Frigid Zone.
The latitude had been very carefully obtained by means of most accurate instruments, which were handled with equal skill by the astronomer and by Lieutenant Hobson.
Mrs Barnett was present at the operation, and had the satisfaction of hearing that she was at last about to cross the Arctic Circle.
It was with a feeling of just pride that she received the intelligence.
Few explorers have ventured into such totally different regions.
Some, so to speak, have a specialty for hot countries, and choose Africa or Australia as the field for their investigations.
Others, on the contrary, have a passion for the Arctic regions, still so little known.
Although we have not to dread the fevers of the unhealthy torrid regions, or the attacks of the fierce black races, in this Frigid Zone, the cold is a no less formidable enemy; and I suspect that the white bears we are liable to meet with here will give us quite as warm a reception as would the tiers of Thibet or the lions of Africa.
In Torrid and Frigid Zones alike there are vast unexplored tracts which will long defy the efforts of the boldest adventurers.
The natives are the chief obstacle in tropical regions, and I am well aware how many travellers have fallen victims to savages.
But civilisation will necessarily subdue the wild races sooner or later; whereas in the Arctic and Antarctic Zones it is not the inhabitants who arrest the progress of the explorer, but Nature herself who repels those who approach her, and paralyses their energies with the bitter cold!
We are, therefore, nearer to geographical knowledge of the equatorial countries than of the Polar districts.
But I think other means must be tried of reaching this point, where all the meridians of the globe cross each other, than those hitherto adopted by travellers.
We hear of the open sea, of which certain explorers are said to have caught a glimpse.
But if such a sea, free from ice, really exist, it is very difficult to get at, and no one can say positively whether it extends to the North Pole.
For my part, I think an open sea would increase rather than lessen the difficulties of explorers.
As for me, I would rather count upon firm footing, whether on ice or rock, all the way.
Then I would organise successive expeditions, establishing depôts of provisions and fuel nearer and nearer to the Pole; and so, with plenty of time, plenty of money, and perhaps the sacrifice of a good many lives, I should in the end solve the great scientific problem.
I should, I think, at last reach the hitherto inaccessible goal!
But that is not our present object.
Besides, should the fur-yielding animals, too zealously hunted, take refuge at the Pole, we should have to follow them.
If a purely geographical question called you to the Pole, I feel sure you would not hesitate to go.
We have but just reached the verge of the Arctic Circle, but I hope we may cross it without any very great difficulty.
Look at the uniformly grey hue of the heavens.
That mist will presently resolve itself into snow; and if the wind should rise ever so little, we shall have to battle with a fearful storm.
I wish we were at the Great Bear Lake!
Had he been alone, or accompanied by a few men as energetic as himself, he would have pressed on day and night; but he was obliged to make allowance for the fatigue of others, although he never spared himself.
He therefore granted a few hours of rest to his little party, and it was not until three in the afternoon that they again set out.
Jaspar Hobson was not mistaken in prophesying a change in the weather.
It came very soon.
During the afternoon of the same day the mist became thicker, and assumed a yellowish and threatening hue.
The Lieutenant, although very uneasy, allowed none of his anxiety to appear, but had a long consultation with Sergeant Long whilst the dogs of his sledge were laboriously preparing to start.
Unfortunately, the district now to be traversed was very unsuitable for sledges.
The ground was very uneven; ravines were of frequent occurrence; and masses of granite or half-thawed icebergs blocked up the road, causing constant delay.
And so the Lieutenant and his men were often obliged to walk to rest the exhausted animals, to push the sledges, or even sometimes to lift them when the roughness of the ground threatened to upset them.
The incessant fatigue was, however, borne by all without a murmur.
Thomas Black alone, absorbed in his one idea, never got out of his sledge, and indeed be was so corpulent that all exertion was disagreeable to him.
The nature of the soil changed from the moment of entering the Arctic Circle.
Some geological convulsion had evidently upheaved the enormous blocks strewn upon the surface.
The vegetation, too, was of a more distinctive character.
Wherever they were sheltered from the keen north winds, the flanks of the hills were clothed not only with shrubs, but with large trees, all of the same species — pines, willows, and firs — proving by their presence that a continue reading amount of vegetative force is retained even in the Frigid Zone.
Jaspar Hobson hoped to find such specimens of the Arctic Flora even on the verge of the Polar Sea; for these trees would supply him with wood to build his fort, and fuel to warm its inhabitants.
The same thought passed through the minds of his companions, and they could not help wondering at the contrast between this comparatively fertile region, and the long white plains stretching between the Great Slave Lake and Fort Enterprise.
At night the yellow mist became more opaque; the wind rose, the snow began to fall in large flakes, and the ground was soon covered with a thick white carpet.
In less than an hour the snow was a foot deep, and as it did not freeze but remained in a liquid state, the sledges could only advance with extreme difficulty; the curved fronts stuck in the soft substance, and the dogs were obliged to stop again and again.
The snow, driven before it, was flung upon the ground or whirled in the air, forming one huge whirlpool.
The dogs, beaten back by the squall and blinded with snow, could advance no further.
The party was then in a narrow gorge between huge icebergs, over which the storm raged with fearful fury.
Pieces of ice, broken off by the hurricane, were hurled into the pass; partial avalanches, any one of which could have crushed the sledges and their inmates, added to its dangers, and to press on became impossible.
The Lieutenant no longer insisted, and after consulting with Sergeant Long, gave the order to halt.
It was now necessary to find a shelter from the snow-drift; but this was no difficult matter to men accustomed to Polar expeditions.
Jaspar Hobson and his men knew well what they had to do under the circumstances.
It was not the first time they had been surprised by a tempest some hundred miles from the forts of the Company, without so much as an Esquimaux hut or Indian hovel in which to lay their heads.
Every one understood what he meant.
Snow houses were to be hollowed out of the frozen masses, or rather holes were to be dug, in which each person could cower until the storm was over.
Knives and hatchets were soon at work on the brittle masses of ice, and in three-quarters of an hour some ten dens had been scooped out large enough to contain two or three persons each.
The dogs were left to themselves, their own instinct leading them to find sufficient shelter under the snow.
Mrs Barnett, Madge, and Lieutenant Hobson occupied one hut, Thomas Black and Sergeant Long another, and so on.
These retreats were warm, if not comfortable; and the Esquimaux and Indians have no other refuge even in the bitterest cold.
The adventurers could therefore fearlessly await the end of the storm as long as they took care not to let the openings of their holes become blocked up with the snow, which they had to shovel away every half hour.
So violent was the storm that even the Lieutenant and his soldiers could scarcely set foot outside.
Fortunately, all were provided with sufficient food, and were able to endure their beaver-like existence without suffering from cold or hunger For forty-eight hours the fury of the tempest continued to increase.
The wind roared in the narrow pass, and tore off the tops of the icebergs.
Loud reports, repeated twenty times by the echoes, gave notice of the fall of avalanches, and Jaspar Hobson began to fear that his further progress would be barred by the masses of debris accumulated between the mountains.
Other sounds mingled with these reports, which Lieutenant Hobson knew too well, and he did not disguise from Mrs Barnett that bears were prowling about the pass.
But fortunately these terrible animals were too much occupied with their own concerns to discover the retreat of the travellers; neither the dogs nor the sledges, buried in the snow, attracted their attention, and they passed on without doing any harm.
The last night, that of the 25th or 26th May, was even more terrible.
So great was the fury of the hurricane that a general overthrow of icebergs appeared imminent.
A fearful death would then have awaited the unfortunate travellers beneath the ruins of the broken masses.
The blocks of ice cracked with an awful noise, and certain oscillations gave warning that breaches had been made threatening their solidity.
However, no great crash occurred, the huge mountains remained intact, and towards the end of the night one of those sudden changes so frequent in the Arctic regions took place; the tempest ceased suddenly beneath the influence of intense cold, and with the first dawn of day peace was restored.
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE.
This sudden increase of cold was most fortunate.
Even in temperate climes there are generally three or four bitter days in May; and they were most serviceable now in consolidating the freshly-fallen snow, and making it practicable for sledges.
Lieutenant Hobson, therefore, lost no time in resuming his journey, urging on the dogs to their utmost speed.
The route was, however, slightly changed.
Instead of bearing due north, the expedition advanced towards the west, following, so to speak, the curve of the Arctic Circle.
The Lieutenant was most anxious to reach Fort Confidence, built on the northern extremity of the Great Bear Lake.
These few cold days were of the greatest service to him; he advanced rapidly, no obstacle was encountered, and his little troop arrived at the factory on the 30th May.
At this time Forts Confidence and Good Hope were the most advanced posts of the Company in the north.
Fort Confidence was a most important position, built on the northern extremity of the lake, close to its waters, which being frozen over in winter, and navigable in summer, afforded easy access to Fort Franklin, on the southern shores, and promoted the coming and going of the Indian hunters with their daily spoils.
Many were the hunting and fishing expeditions which started from Forts Confidence and Good Hope, especially from the former.
The Great Bear Lake is quite a Mediterranean Sea, extending over several degrees of latitude and longitude.
Its shape is very irregular : two promontories jut into it towards the centre, and the upper portion forms a triangle; its appearance, as a whole, much resembling the extended skin of a ruminant without the head.
Fort Confidence, as a whole, much resembled other factories further south.
It consisted of a house for the officers, barracks for the soldiers, and magazines for the furs - all of wood, surrounded by palisades.
The captain in command was then absent.
He had gone towards the east on a hunting expedition with a few Indians and soldiers.
The last season had not been good, costly furs had been scarce; but to make up for this the lake had supplied plenty of otter-skins.
The stock of them had, however, just been sent to the central factories in the south, so that the magazines of Fort Confidence were empty on the arrival of our party.
In the absence of the Captain a Sergeant did the honours of the fort to Jaspar Hobson and his companions.
This second officer, Felton by name was a brother-in-law of Sergeant Long.
He showed the greatest readiness to assist the views of the Lieutenant, who being anxious to rest his party, decided on remaining two or three days at Fort Confidence.
In the absence of the little garrison there was plenty of room, and dogs and men were soon comfortably installed.
The best room in the largest house was of course given to Mrs Paulina Barnett, who was delighted with the politeness of Sergeant Felton.
Should the site be favourable, I propose constructing our new fort somewhere about there.
We will place a cutter and a boatman at your service, and in a few hours you will be in the Indian settlement.
But now to tell how the rest of this first day was passed.
Mrs Barnett, Hobson, two or three soldiers, Madge, Mrs Mac-Nab, and Joliffe explored the shores of the lake under the guidance of Felton.
The neighbourhood was by no means barren of vegetation; the hills, now free from snow, were crowned by resinous trees of the Scotch pine species.
These trees, which attain a height of some forty feet, supply the inhabitants of the forts with plenty of fuel through the long winter.
Their thick trunks and dark gloomy branches form a striking feature of the landscape; but the regular clumps of equal height, sloping down to the very edge of the water, are somewhat monotonous.
Between the groups of trees the soil was clothed with a sort of whitish weed, which perfumed the air with a sweet thymy odour.
Some hundred steps from the fort the party came to a little natural harbour shut in by high granite rocks, which formed an admirable protection from the heavy surf.
Here was anchored the fleet of Fort Confidence, consisting of a single fishing-boat—the very one which was to take Mrs Barnett and Hobson to the Indian encampment the next day.
From this harbour an extensive view was obtained of the lake; its waters slightly agitated by the wind, with its irregular shores broken by jagged capes and intersected by creeks.
The wooded heights beyond, with here and there the rugged outline of a floating iceberg standing out against the clear blue air, formed the background on the north; whilst on the south a regular sea horizon, a circular line clearly cutting sky and water, and at this moment glittering in the sunbeams, bounded the sight.
The whole scene was rich in animal and vegetable life.
The surface of the water, the shores strewn with flints and blocks of granite, the slopes with their tapestry of herbs, the tree-crowned hill-tops, were all alike frequented by various specimens of the feathered tribe.
Hundreds of puffins and guillemots with outspread wings darted about in every direction, and beneath the trees strutted ospreys two feet high-a kind of hawk with a grey body, blue beak and claws, and orange-coloured eyes, which build their huge nests of marine plants in the forked branches of trees.
The hunter Sabine managed to bring down a couple of these gigantic ospreys, which measured nearly six feet from tip to tip of their wings, and were therefore magnificent specimens of these migratory birds, who feed entirely on fish, and take refuge on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico when winter sets in, only visiting the higher latitudes of North America during the short summer.
But the most interesting event of the day was the capture of an otter, the skin of which was worth several hundred roubles.
The furs of these valuable amphibious creatures were once much sought after in China; and although the demand for them has considerably decreased in the Celestial Empire, they still command very high prices in the Russian market.
Russian traders, ready to buy up sea-otter skins, travel all along the coasts of New Cornwall as far as the Arctic Ocean; and of course, thus hunted, the animal is becoming very rare.
It has taken refuge further and further north, and the trackers have now to pursue it on the shores of the Kamtchatka Sea, and in the islands of the Behring Archipelago.
The creature measured three feet from the muzzle to the end of its tail; it had webbed feet, short legs, and its fur, darker on the upper than on the under part of its body, was long and silky.
But much time is wasted in watching these animals, who swim and dive with marvellous rapidity.
We generally hunt them at night, as they very seldom venture from their homes in the trunks of trees or the holes of rocks in the daytime, and even expert hunters find it very difficult to discover their retreats.
All the hunters try to obtain its fur, and the Americans in particular are formidable rivals to us.
Did you not meet any American agents on your journey up, Lieutenant?
Let us press on as long as we have firm ground beneath our feet, and God be with us!
Sergeant Long did the honours of the table, and after a little pleasant conversation, all retired to rest to forget their fatigues in a healthy and refreshing sleep.
The next day, May 31st, Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson were on foot at five A.
The Lieutenant intended to devote this day to visiting the Indian encampment, and obtaining as much useful information as possible.
He asked Thomas Black to go with him, but the astronomer preferred to remain on terra firma.
The two travellers were accompanied by Sergeant Long as far as the little harbour, where they found old Norman ready to embark.
Their little vessel was but an open fishing-boat, six feet long, rigged like a cutter, which one man could easily manage The weather was beautiful, and the slight breeze blowing from the north-east was favourable to the crossing.
Sergeant Felton took leave of his guests with many apologies for being unable to accompany them in the absence of his chief.
The boat was let loose from its moorings, and tacking to starboard, shot across the clear waters of the lake.
The little trip passed pleasantly enough.
The taciturn old sailor sat silent in the stern of the boat with the tiller tucked under his arm.
Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson, seated opposite to each other, examined with interest the scenery spread out before them.
From this side the district north of the lake appeared perfectly flat, and the horizon receded to a considerable distance.
The whole of this coast contrasted strongly with the sharp angle, at the extremity of which rose Fort Confidence, framed in green pines.
The flag of the Company was still visible floating from the tower of the fort.
The oblique rays of the sun lit up the surface of the water, and striking on the floating icebergs, seemed to convert them into molten silver of dazzling brightness.
No trace remained of the solid ice-mountains of the winter but these moving relies, which the solar rays could scarcely dissolve, and which seemed, as it were, to protest against the brilliant but not very powerful Polar sun, now describing a diurnal arc of considerable length.
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant, as was their custom, communicated to each other the thoughts suggested by the strange scenes through which they were passing.
They laid up a store of pleasant recollections for the future whilst the beat floated rapidly along upon the peaceful waves.
The party started at six in the morning, and at nine they neared the point on the northern bank at which they were to land.
The Indian encampment was situated at the north-west angle of the Great Bear Lake.
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant landed at once.
Two or three Indians, with their chief, wearing gorgeous plumes, hastened to meet them, and addressed them in fairly intelligible English.
These Hare Indians, like the Copper and Beaver Indians, all belong to the Chippeway race, and differ but little in customs and costumes from their fellow-tribes.
They bring the spoils of the chase to the forts, and there exchange them for the necessaries of life, which they no longer provide for themselves.
They are in the pay of the Company, they live upon it, and it is not surprising that they have lost all originality.
To find a native race as yet uninfluenced by contact with Europeans we must go to still higher latitudes, to the ice-bound regions frequented by the Esquimaux, who, like the Greenlanders, are the true children of Arctic lands.
Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson accompanied the Indians to their camp, about half a mile from the shore, and found some thirty natives there, men, women, and children, who supported themselves by hunting and fishing on the borders of the lake.
These Indians had just come from the northernmost districts of the American continent, and were able to give the Lieutenant some valuable, although necessarily incomplete, information on the actual state of the sea-coast near the seventieth parallel.
The Lieutenant heard with considerable satisfaction that a party of Americans or Europeans had been seen oil the confines of the Polar Sea, and that it was open at this time of year.
About Cape Bathurst, properly so called, the point for which he intended to make, the Hare Indians could tell him nothing.
Their chief said, however, that the district between the Great Bear Lake and Cape Bathurst was very difficult to cross, being hilly and intersected by streams, at this season of the year free from ice.
He advised the Lieutenant to go down the Coppermine river, from the north-east of the lake, which would take him to the coast by the shortest route.
Once at the Arctic Ocean, it would be easy to skirt along its shores and to choose the best spot at Which to halt.
Lieutenant Hobson thanked the Indian chief, and took leave after giving him a few presents.
A STORM ON THE LAKE.
The old sailor was impatiently awaiting the return of the travellers; for during the last hour the weather had changed, and the appearance of the sky was calculated to render any one accustomed to read the signs of the clouds uneasy.
The sun was obscured by a thick mist, the wind had fallen, but - an ominous moaning was heard from the south of the lake.
These symptoms of an approaching change of temperature were developed with all the rapidity peculiar to these elevated latitudes.
There are terrible signs in the air!
The hurricane rages as if upon the open Atlantic Ocean.
This sudden fog bodes us no good; but the tempest may hold back for three or four hours, and by that time we shall be at Fort Confidence.
Had he been alone he would not have hesitated to start, but as Mrs Barnett was with him caution was necessary.
The lady at once saw and understood his hesitation.
Let us start immediatelyas our brave guide suggests.
The sail, scarcely filled by the fitful breeze, Castle craps and roulette in deadwood songs against the mast.
The fog became thicker.
The waves began to rise and the boat to rock considerably; for the approaching hurricane affected the water sooner than the atmosphere itself.
The two travellers sat still and silent, whilst the old sailor peered into the darkness with bloodshot eyes.
Prepared for all contingencies, he awaited the shock of the wind, ready to pay out rapidly should the attack be very violent.
A few gusts of wind from the shore drove them out of their course, and the dense fog rendered it impossible for them to make out the coast-line.
Should the wind settle in the north it would probably go hard with the light boat, which, unable to hold its own course, would be drifted out into the lake no one knew where.
This is a magnificent lake, well worth exploring from north to south.
I suppose, Norman, one might get back even from Fort Franklin?
Do the best you can under the circumstances, and if you think it would be prudent, go back to the north.
But look, the wind seems likely to settle against us.
The shrill whistling of the wind was heard far above their heads, but the state of the atmosphere prevented it from as yet descending upon the lake; this was, however, only delayed for a brief space of time.
The cries of frightened birds flying through the fog mingled with the noise of the wind.
Suddenly the mist was torn open, and revealed low jagged masses of rain-cloud chased towards the south.
The fears of the old sailor were realised.
The wind blew from the north, and it was not long before the travellers learned the meaning of a squall upon the lake.
It caught the boat upon the flank, and it was turned over on its side; but recovering itself, it was flung upon the crest of a wave.
The billows surged as if upon an open sea.
The waters of the lake not being very deep, struck against the bottom and rebounded to an immense height.
Mrs Barnett and Hobson endeavoured to come to his assistance, but without success, for they knew noticing of the management of a boat.
Norman, unable to leave the helm, and the halliards being entangled at the top of the mast, could not take in the sail.
Every moment the boat threatened to capsize, and heavy seas broke over its sides.
The sky became blacker and blacker, cold rain mingled with snow fell in torrents, whilst the squall redoubled its fury, lashing the crests of the waves into foam.
Norman, totally unable to make head against the wind, now resolved to tack about for the south, dangerous as it would be to have the boat before the wind, pursued by waves advancing at double its speed.
Yes, to tack, although this course would probably bring them all to the southern shores of the lake, far away from their destination.
The Lieutenant and his brave companion were well aware of the danger which threatened them.
The frail boat could not long resist the blows of the waves, it would either be crushed or capsized; the lives of those within it were in the hands of God.
But neither yielded to despair; clinging to the sides of the boat, wet to the skin, chilled to the bone by the cutting blast, they strove to gaze through the thick mist and fog.
But the violence of the squall became such that the boat could not long maintain this course.
The waves which struck its bow would soon have inevitably crushed it; the front planks were already beginning to separate, and when its whole weight was flung into the hollows of the waves it seemed as if it could rise no more.
And pushing the tiller and paying out sail, he turned the head of the boat to the south.
The sail, stretched to the utmost, brought the boat round with giddy rapidity, and the immense waves, chased by the wind, threatened to engulf the little bark.
This was the great danger of shifting with the wind right aft.
The billows hurled themselves in rapid succession upon the boat, which could not evade them.
As they got nearer and nearer to the middle of the lake the waves became rougher.
Nothing there broke the fury of the wind; no clumps of trees, no hills, checked for a moment the headlong course of the hurricane.
Now and then momentary glimpses were obtained through the fog of icebergs dancing like buoys upon the waves, and driven towards the south of the lake.
It was half-past five.
Neither Norman nor the Lieutenant had any idea of where they were, or whither they were going.
They had lost http://allcasinoincards.top/and/slots-and-bingo-games.html control over the boat, and were at the mercy of the winds and waves.
And now at about a hundred feet behind the boat a huge wave upreared its foam-crowned crest, whilst in front a black whirlpool was formed by the sudden sinking of the water.
All surface agitation, crushed by the wind, had disappeared around this awful gulf, which, growing deeper and blacker every moment, drew the devoted little vessel towards its fatal embrace.
Ever nearer came the mighty wave, all lesser billows sinking into insignificance before it.
It gained upon the boat, another moment and it would crush it to atoms.
Norman, looking round, saw its approach; and Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant, with eyes fixed and staring, awaited in fearful suspense the blow from which there was no escape.
The wave broke over them with the noise of thunder; it enveloped the stern of the boat in foam, a fearful crash was heard, and a cry burst from the lips of the Lieutenant and his companion, smothered beneath the liquid mass.
They thought that all was over, and that the boat had sunk; but no, it rose once more, although more than half filled with water.
The Lieutenant uttered a cry of despair.
The poor old sailor had disappeared!
Mrs Paulina Barnett looked inquiringly at Hobson.
But they could see and hear nothing.
No cry for help broke upon their ears.
No dead body floated in the white foam.
The old sailor had met his death in the element he loved so well.
Mrs Barnett and Hobson sank back upon their seats.
They were now alone, and must see to their own safety; but neither of them knew anything of the management of a boat, and even an experienced hand could scarcely have controlled it now.
They were at the mercy of the waves, and the bark, with distended sail, swept along in mad career.
What could the Lieutenant do to check or direct its course?
What a terrible situation for our travellers, to be thus overtaken by a tempest in a frail bark which they could not manage!
Heaven helps those who help themselves!
The first thing to be done was to get rid of the water which weighed down the boat.
Another wave shipped would have filled it in a moment, and it must have sunk at once.
The vessel lightened, it would have a better chance of rising on the waves; and the two set to work to bale out the water.
This was no easy task; for fresh waves constantly broke over them, and the scoop could not be laid aside for an instant.
Mrs Barnett was indefatigable, and the Lieutenant, leaving the baling to her, took the helm himself, and did the best he could to guide the boat with the wind right aft.
To add to the danger, night, or rather darkness, for in these latitudes night only lasts a few hours at this time of year, fell upon them.
Scarce a ray of light penetrated through the heavy clouds and fog.
They could not see two see more before them, and the boat must have been dashed to pieces had it struck a floating iceberg.
This danger was indeed imminent, for the loose ice-masses advance with such rapidity that it is impossible to get out of their way.
As she spoke a loud rippling sound was heard.
The sail, torn away by the wind, disappeared like a white cloud.
The boat sped rapidly along for a few instants, and then stopped suddenly, the waves buffeting it about like an abandoned wreck.
Mrs Barnett and Hobson, flung to the bottom of the boat, bruised, shaken, and torn, felt that all was lost.
Not a shred of canvas was left to aid in navigating the craft; and what with the spray, the snow, and the rain, they could scarcely see each other, whilst the uproar drowned their voices.
Expecting every moment to perish, they remained for an hour in painful suspense, commending themselves to God, who alone could save them.
Neither of them could have said how long they waited when they were aroused by a violent shock.
The boat had just struck an enormous iceberg, a floating block with rugged, slippery sides, to which it would be impossible to cling.
At this sudden blow, which could not have been parried, the bow of the boat was split open, and the water poured into it in torrents.
The boat was settling down; the water had already reached the seats.
I will not leave you!
But he had scarcely pronounced this word when the boat, struck by another wave, filled and sank.
Both were drawn under water by the eddy caused by the sudden settling down of the boat, but in a few instants they rose to the surface.
Hobson was a strong swimmer, and struck out with one arm, supporting his companion with the other.
But it was evident that he could not long sustain a conflict with the furious waves, and that he must perish with her he wished to save.
At this moment a strange sound attracted his attention.
It was not the cry of a frightened bird, but the shout of a human voice!
By one supreme effort Hobson raised himself above the waves and looked around him.
But he could distinguish nothing in the thick fog.
And yet he again beard cries, this time nearer to him.
Some bold men were coming to his succour!
Encumbered by his clothes, the Lieutenant felt himself sinking with the unfortunate lady, whose head he could scarcely keep above the water.
With a last despairing effort he uttered a heartrending cry and disappeared beneath the waves.
It was, however, no mistake-he had heard voices.
Three men, wandering about by the lake, had seen the boat in danger, and put off to its rescue.
They were Esquimaux, the only men who could have hoped to weather such a storm, for theirs are the only boats constructed to escape destruction in these fearful tempests.
The Esquimaux boat or kayak is a long pirogue raised at each end, made of a light framework of wood, covered with stretched seal-skins strongly stitched with the sinews of the Walrus.
In the upper part of the boat; also covered with skins, is an opening in which the Esquimaux takes his place, fastening his waterproof jacket to the back of his seat; so that he is actually joined to his bark, which riot a drop of water can penetrate.
This light, easily-managed kayak, floating as it does, on the crests of the waves, can never be submerged; and if it be sometimes capsized, a blow of the paddle rights it again directly; so that it is able to live and make way in seas in which any other boat would certainly be dashed to pieces.
Hobson and Mrs Barnett, already half drowned, felt themselves drawn up by powerful hands; but in the darkness they were unable to discover who were their deliverers.
One of the men took the Lieutenant and laid him across his own boat, another did the sane for Mrs Barnett, and the three kayaks, skilfully managed with the paddles, six feet long, sped rapidly over the white foam.
Half an hour afterwards, the shipwrecked travellers were lying on the sandy beach three miles above Fort Providence.
The old sailor alone was missing!
Great was the joy on seeing them, for they had been given up for lost; but this joy was turned to mourning at the news of the death of Norman.
The brave fellow had been beloved by all, and his loss was sincerely mourned.
The intrepid and devoted Esquimaux received phlegmatically the earnest expressions of gratitude of those they had saved, and could riot be persuaded to come to the fort.
What they had done seemed to them only natural, and these were not the first persons they had rescued; so they quietly returned to their wild life of adventure on the lake, where they hunted the otters and water-birds day and night.
For the next three nights the party rested.
Hobson always intended to set out on June 2d; and on that day, all having recovered from their fatigues and the storm having abated, the order was given to start.
Sergeant Felton had done all in his power to make his guests comfortable and to aid their enterprise; some of the jaded dogs were replaced by fresh animals, and now the Lieutenant found all his sledges drawn up in good order at the door of the enceinte, and awaiting the travellers.
The adieux were soon over.
Each one thanked Sergeant Felton for his hospitality, and Mrs Paulina Barnett was most profuse in her expressions of gratitude.
A hearty shake of the hand between the Sergeant and his brother-in-law, Long, completed the leave-taking, Each pair got into the sledge assigned to them; but this time Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant shared one vehicle, Madge and Sergeant Long following them.
According to the advice of the Indian chief, Hobson determined to get to the coast by the shortest route, and to take a north-easterly direction.
After consulting, his map, which merely gave a rough outline of the configuration of the country, it seemed best to him to descend the valley of the Coppermine, a large river which flows into Coronation Gulf.
The distance between Fort Confidence and the mouth of this river is only a degree and a half-that is to say, about eighty-five or ninety miles.
The deep hollow formed by the gulf is bounded on the north by Cape Krusenstein, and from it the coast juts out towards the north-west, ending in Cape Bathurst, which is above the seventieth parallel.
The Lieutenant, therefore, now changed the route he had hitherto followed, directing his course to the east, so as to reach the river in a few hours.
In the afternoon of the next day, June 3d, the river was gained.
It was now free from ice, and its clear and rapid waters flowed through a vast valley, intersected by numerous but easily fordable streams.
The sledges advanced pretty rapidly, and as they went along, Hobson gave his companion some account of the country through which they were passing.
A sincere friendship founded on mutual esteem, had sprung up between these two.
Mrs Paulina Barnett was an earnest student with a special gift for discovery, and was therefore always glad to converse with travellers and explorers.
Hobson, who knew his beloved North America by heart, was able to answer all her inquiries fully.
But as always happens in scientific matters, in seeking one thing, another was found.
Columbus was trying to find Asia, and discovered America.
The famous North-West Passage?
It is even said that in 1741 a certain Christopher Middleton, sent to explore these latitudes, was publicly charged with receiving a bribe of £500 from the Company to say that there was not, and could not be, a sea passage between the oceans.
In that year two intrepid explorers, William Moor and Francis Smith, penetrated as far as Repulse Bay in the hope of discovering the much-longed-for passage.
But they were unsuccessful, and returned to England after an absence of a year and a half.
Samuel Hearne, the agent, only went to reconnoitre the position of a copper-mine which native miners had reported.
He pressed boldly on to the north-west; but the excessive cold and the exhaustion of his provisions compelled him to return without accomplishing anything.
Fortunately he was not easily discouraged, and on February 23d of the next year he set out again, this time taking some Indians with him.
Great hardships were endured in this second journey.
The fish and game on which Hearne had relied often failed him; and he had once nothing to eat for seven days but wild fruit, bits of old leather, and burnt bones.
He was again compelled to return to the fort a disappointed man.
But he did not even yet despair, and started a third time, December 7th, 1770; and after a struggle of nineteen months, he discovered the Coppermine river, July 13th, 1772, the course of which he followed to its mouth.
According to his own account, he saw the open sea, and in any case he was the first to penetrate to the northern coast of America.
This expedition endured great fatigue and hardships; provisions often completely failed, and two Canadians were assassinated and eaten by their comrades.
But in spite of all his sufferings, Captain Franklin explored no less than five thousand five hundred and fifty miles of the hitherto unknown coast of North America!
It has now been proved, however, that all his companions did not perish with him.
Many are doubtless still wandering about on the vast ice-fields.
I cannot think of their awful condition without a shudder.
Yes, your pc and on play android windows apps games idea has occurred to me more than once, as it has to you; and my heart beats high when I think that fellow countrymen of my own-Englishmen-are awaiting succour.
Gradually its factories are advancing further and further north, following the retreat of the fur-yielding animals; and one day a fort will be erected on the Pole itself, that mathematical point where meet all the meridians of the globe.
She spoke of all she had done, and of all she hoped still to accomplish; so that the long hours, lightened by pleasant conversation, passed rapidly away.
Meanwhile the dogs advanced at full gallop towards the north.
The Coppermine valley widened sensibly as they neared the Arctic Ocean.
The hills on either side sank lower and lower, and only scattered clumps of resinous trees broke the monotony of the landscape.
A few blocks of ice, drifted down by the river, still resisted the action of the sun; but each day their number decreased, liquor gaming and racing victoria a canoe, or even a good-sized boat, might easily have descended the stream, the course of which was unimpeded by any natural barrier or aggregation of rocks.
The bed of the Coppermine was both deep and wide; its waters were very clear, and being fed by the melted snow, flowed on at a considerable pace, never, however, forming dangerous rapids.
Its course, at first very sinuous, became gradually less and less winding, and at last stretched along in a straight line for several miles.
Its banks, composed of fine firm sand, and clothed in part with short dry herbage, were wide and level, so that the long train of sledges sped rapidly over them.
The expedition travelled day and night-if we can speak of the night, when the sun, describing an almost horizontal circle, scarcely disappeared at all.
The true night only lasted two hours, and the dawn succeeded the twilight almost immediately.
The weather was fine; the sky clear, although somewhat misty on the horizon; and everything combined to favour the travellers.
For two days they kept along the river-banks without meeting with any difficulties.
They saw but few fur-bearing animals; but there were plenty of birds, which might have been counted by thousands.
Hobson knew that he would have to penetrate a good deal further north, and that part only of his journey would be accomplished when he got to the mouth of the Coppermine river.
They were drawn onwards by an indefinable attraction; the glory of the unknown dazzled their sight.
Probably real hardships would commence when they did arrive at the much-desired coast.
But no matter, they longed to battle with difficulties, and to press straight onwards to their aim.
The district they were now traversing could have no direct interest for them; the real exploration would only commence on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
Each one, then, would gladly hail the arrival in the elevated western districts for which they were bound, cut across though they were by the seventieth parallel of north latitude.
On the 5th June, four days after leaving Fort Confidence the river widened considerably.
The western banks, curving slightly, ran almost due north; whilst the eastern rounded off into the coastline, stretching away as far as the eye could reach.
Lieutenant Hobson paused, and waving his hand to his companions, pointed to the boundless ocean.
Coronation Gulf, the large estuary dotted with the islands forming the Duke of York Archipelago, which the party had now reached, was a sheet of water with irregular banks, let in, as it were, into the North American continent.
At its western angle opened the mouth of the Coppermine; and on the east a long narrow creek called Bathurst Inlet ran into the mainland, from which stretched the jagged broken coast with its pointed capes and rugged promontories, ending in that confusion of straits, sounds, and channels which gives such a strange appearance to the maps of North America.
On the other side the coast turned abruptly to the north beyond the mouth of the Coppermine River, and ended in Cape Krusenstern.
The exploration, properly so called, which was to enable the Lieutenant to fix upon a suitable site for the establishment of a fort, was now really about to begin.
The Company had advised him to keep as much as possible above the seventieth parallel, and on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
To obey his orders Hobson was obliged to keep to the west; for on the east—with the exception, perhaps, of the land of Boothia, crossed by the seventieth parallel—the whole country belongs rather to the Arctic Circle, and the geographical conformation of Boothia is as yet but imperfectly known.
After carefully ascertaining the latitude and longitude, and verifying his position by the map, the Lieutenant found that he was a hundred miles below the seventieth degree.
But beyond Cape Krusenstern, the coast-line, running in a north-easterly direction, abruptly crosses the seventieth parallel at a sharp angle near the one hundred and thirtieth meridian, and at about the same elevation as Cape Bathurst, the spot named as a rendezvous by Captain Craventy.
He must therefore make for that point, and should the site appear suitable the new fort would be erected there.
There the sea, open for a great part of the year, will allow the vessels from Behring Strait to come right up to the fort, bringing us fresh provisions and taking away our commodities.
The second part of the journey would naturally be very different from the first.
The rules with regard to the sledges keeping their rank need no longer be enforced, and each couple drove as it pleased them.
Only short distances were traversed at a time; halts were made at every angle of the coast, and the party often walked.
At night they all encamped in tents.
The weather continued very fine and the temperature moderate, maintaining a mean height of 59° Fahrenheit above zero.
Two or three times sudden snowstorms came on; but they did not last long, and exercised no sensible influence upon the temperature.
The whole of the American coast between Capes Krusenstern and Parry, comprising an extent of more than two hundred and fifty miles, was examined with the greatest care between the 6th and 20th of June.
Geographical observations were accurately taken, and Hobson, most effectively aided by Thomas Black, was able to rectify certain errors in previous marine surveys; whilst the primary object of the expedition—the examination into the quality and quantity of the game in the surrounding districts-was not neglected.
Were these lands well stocked with game?
Could they count with certainty not only on a good supply of furs, but also of meat?
Would the resources of the country provide a fort with provisions in the summer months at least?
Such were the grave questions which Lieutenant Hobson had to solve, and which called for immediate attention.
We give a summary of the conclusions at which he arrived.
Game, properly so called, of the kind for which Corporal Joliffe amongst others had a special predilection, was not abundant.
There were plenty of birds of the duck tribe; but only a few Polar hares, difficult of approach, poorly represented the rodents of the north.
There seemed, however, to be a good many bears about.
Marbre and Sabine had come upon the fresh traces of several.
Some were even seen and tracked; but, as a rule, they kept at a respectful distance.
In the winter, however, driven by famine from higher latitudes, there would probably be more than enough of these ravenous beasts prowling about the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
It was no use counting slot tricks and tips the bears to provision their fort.
Fortunately traces were presently found of herds of a far more useful animal, the flesh of which is the principal food of the Indians and Esquimaux.
We allude to the reindeer; and Corporal Joliffe announced with the greatest satisfaction that there were plenty of these ruminants on this coast.
The ground was covered with the lichen to which they are so partial, and which they cleverly dig out from under the snow.
There could be no mistake as to the footprints left by the reindeer, as, like the camel, they have a small nail-like hoof with a convex surface.
Large herds, sometimes numbering several thousand animals, are seen running wild in certain parts of America.
Being easily domesticated, they are employed to draw sledges; and they also supply the factories with excellent milk, more nourishing than that of cows.
Their dead bodies are not less useful.
Their thick skin provides clothes, their hair makes very good thread, and their flesh is palatable; so that they are really the most valuable animals to be found in these latitudes, and Hobson, being assured of their presence, was relieved from half his anxiety.
As he advanced he had also reason to be satisfied with regard to the fur-bearing animals.
By the little streams rose many beaver lodges and musk-rat tunnels.
They had thus far come to no trace of the presence of man, and the animals had chosen their refuge well.
Footprints were also found of the fine blue and silver foxes, which are becoming more and more rare, and the fur of which is worth its weight in gold.
Sabine and Mac-Nab might many a time have shot a very valuable animal on this excursion, but the Lieutenant had wisely forbidden all hunting of the kind.
He did not wish to alarm the animals before the approaching season-that is to say, before the winter months, when their furs become thicker and more beautiful.
It was also desirable not to overload the sledges.
The hunters saw the force of his reasoning; but for all that, their fingers itched when they came within shot-range of a sable or some valuable fox.
Polar bears and birds were, therefore, all that the hunters had to practise upon in this second stage of their journey.
The former, however, not yet rendered bold by hunger, soon scampered off, and no serious struggle with them ensued.
The poor birds suffered for the enforced immunity of the quadrupeds.
These birds haunt the high latitudes by millions, and it would -be impossible to form an accurate estimate of their number on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
Their flesh formed a very pleasant addition to the daily rations of biscuit and corned beef, and we can understand that the hunters laid up a good stock of them in the fifteen days during which they were debarred from attacking more valuable game.
There would then be no lack of animal food; the magazines of the Company would be well stocked with game, and its offices filled with furs and traders; but something more was wanted to insure success to the undertaking.
Would it be possible to obtain a sufficient more info of fuel to contend with the rigour of an Arctic winter at so elevated a latitude?
Most fortunately the coast, was well wooded; the hills which sloped down towards the sea were crowned with green trees, amongst which the pine predominated.
Some of the woods might even be called forests, and would constitute an admirable reserve of timber for the fort.
Here and there Hobson noticed isolated groups of willows, poplars, dwarf birch-trees, and numerous thickets of arbutus.
At this time of the warm season all these trees were covered with verdure, and were an unexpected and refreshing sight to eyes so long accustomed to the rugged, barren polar landscape.
The ground at the foot of the hills was carpeted with a short herbage devoured with avidity by the reindeer, and forming their only sustenance in winter.
On the whole, then, the Lieutenant had reason to congratulate himself on having chosen the north-west of the American continent for the foundation of a new settlement.
We have said that these territories, so rich in animals, were apparently deserted by men.
And indeed in these remote latitudes hunters may be overtaken by storms, or be suddenly surprised by winter, and cut off from all communication with their fellow-creatures.
We can easily imagine that Lieutenant Hobson was by no means sorry not to meet any rival explorers.
What he wanted was an unoccupied country, a deserted land, suitable as a refuge for the fur-bearing animals; and in this matter he had the full sympathy of Mrs Barnett, who, as the guest of the Company, naturally took a great interest in the success of its schemes.
Fancy, then, the disappointment of the Lieutenant, when on the morning of the 20th June he came to an encampment but recently abandoned.
It was situated at the end of a narrow creek called Darnley Bay, of which Cape Parry is the westernmost point.
There at the foot of a little hill were the stakes which had served to mark the limits of the camp, and heaps of cinders, the extinct embers of the fires.
The whole party met at this encampment, and all understood how great a disappointment it involved for Lieutenant Hobson.
I should think tribes of such a different origin, and of such dissimilar customs, would not encamp in the same manner.
Jaspar Hobson and others set to work, carefully examining every trace, every object left behind, every mark on the ground; but in vain, there was nothing to guide them to a decided opinion.
The bones of some animals scattered about told them nothing, and the Lieutenant, much annoyed, was about to abandon the useless search, when he heard an exclamation from Mrs Joliffe, who had wandered a little way to the left.
All hurried towards the young Canadian, who remained fixed to the spot, looking attentively at the ground before her.
These might reveal something; for the feet of the Indians and Esquimaux, as well as their boots, are totally different from each other.
But what chiefly struck Lieutenant Hobson was the strange arrangement of these impressions.
They were evidently made by a human foot, a shod foot; but, strange to say, the ball alone appeared to have touched the ground!
The marks were very numerous, close together, often crossing one another, but confined to a very small circle.
Jaspar Hobson called the attention of the rest of the party to this singular circumstance.
They were the marks left by a dancer, and a dancer engaged in some light and graceful exercise, for they were neither clumsy nor deep.
But who could the light-hearted individual be who had been impelled to dance in this sprightly fashion some degrees above the Arctic Circle?
And all agreed that none but a Frenchman could have been capable of dancing on such a spot.
That there had been dancing no one could deny, but that the dancer was a Frenchman, however probable, could not be considered proved.
However, the Lieutenant shared the opinion of his subordinate, which did not appear too positive to any of the party, who all agreed in feeling sure that some travellers, with at least one compatriot of Vestris amongst them, had recently encamped on this spot.
Of course Lieutenant Hobson was by no means pleased at this he was afraid of having been preceded by rivals in the north-western districts of English America; and secret as the Company had kept its scheme, it had doubtless been divulged in the commercial centres of Canada and the United States.
The Lieutenant resumed his interrupted march; but he was full of care and anxiety, although he would not now have dreamed of retracing his steps.
These men are in fact our most formidable rivals.
During the ninety-four years of French supremacy in Canada, French agents always proved themselves superior to ours.
We must be just even to our rivals.
At that time French hunters, starting from Montreal, their headquarters, pressed on to the north with greater hardihood than any others.
They lived for years with the Indian tribes, sometimes intermarrying with them.
They were bold, clever fellows, expert at navigating streams, light-hearted and merry, adapting themselves to circumstances with the easy flexibility of their race, and always ready to sing or dance.
But as we cannot possibly stop them, we must make haste to begin our own operations, and compete boldly with all rivals.
The expedition now descended towards the south for some twenty miles, in order the more easily to pass round Franklin Bay.
The country was still covered with verdure, and the quadrupeds and birds already enumerated were as plentiful as ever; so that they could reasonably hope that the whole of the north-western coasts of the American continent were populated in the same manner.
The ocean which bathed these shores stretched away as far as the eye could reach Recent atlases give no land beyond the north American coast-line, and it is only the icebergs which impede the free navigation of the open sea from Behring Strait to the Pole itself.
On the 4th July the travellers skirted round another deep bay called Washburn Bay, and reached the furthest point of a little lake, until then imperfectly known, covering but a small extent of territory, scarcely two square miles-in fact it was rather a lagoon, or large pond of sweet water, than a lake.
The sledges went on easily and rapidly, and the appearance of the country was most encouraging to the explorers.
It seemed that the extremity of Cape Bathurst would be a most favourable site for the new fort, as with this lagoon behind them, and the sea open for four or five months in the warm season, and giving access to the great highway of Behring Strait, before them, it would be easy for the exiles to lay in fresh provisions and to export their commodities.
It remained to ascertain the exact position of this cape, which the maps place above the seventieth parallel.
It was, however, impossible to rely upon the marine surveys of the coast, as they had never yet been made with exactitude.
Jaspar Hobson decided to wait and ascertain the latitude and longitude.
The Lieutenant and some of his companions went to the very edge of the cape, and found that towards the west the coast-line formed a lengthened curve, beyond which icebergs of a considerable height shut out the view.
The water of the lagoon, instead of being brackish as they expected from its close vicinity to the sea, was perfectly sweet; but had it not been so, drinkable water would not have failed the little colony, as a fresh and limpid stream ran a few yards to the south-east of Cape Bathurst, and emptied itself into the Arctic Ocean through a narrow inlet, which, protected by a singular accumulation of sand and earth instead of by rocks, would have afforded a refuge to several vessels from the winds of the offing, and might be turned to account for the liquor gaming and racing victoria of the ships which it was hoped would come to the new settlement from Behring Strait.
Out of compliment to the lady of the party, and much to her delight, Lieutenant Hobson named the stream Paulina river, and the little harbour Port Barnett.
By building the fort a little behind the actual cape, the principal house and the magazines would be quite sheltered from the coldest winds.
The elevation of the cape would help to protect them from the snow-drifts, which sometimes completely bury large buildings beneath their heavy avalanches in a few hours.
There was plenty of room between the foot of the promontory and the bank of the lagoon for all the constructions necessary to a fort.
It could even be surrounded by palisades, which would break the shock of the icebergs; and the cape itself might be surrounded with a fortified redoubt, if the vicinity of rivals should render such a purely defensive erection necessary; and the Lieutenant, although with no idea of commencing anything of the kind as yet, naturally rejoiced at having met with an easily defensible position.
The weather remained fine, and it was quite warm enough.
There was not a cloud upon the sky; but, of course, the clear blue air of temperate and torrid zones could not be expected here, and the atmosphere was generally charged with a light mist.
What would Cape Bathurst be like in the long winter night of four months when the ice-mountains became fixed and rigid, and the hoarse north wind swept down upon the icebergs in all its fury?
None of the party gave a thought to that time now; for the weather was beautiful, the verdant landscape smiled, and the waves sparkled in the sunbeams, whilst the temperature remained warm and pleasant.
A provisional camp, the sledges forming its only material, was arranged for the night on the banks of the lagoon; and towards evening Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, and even Thomas Black, explored the surrounding district in order to ascertain its resources.
It appeared to be in every respect suitable; and Hobson was eager for the next day, that he might determine the exact situations, and find out if it fulfilled the conditions imposed by the Company.
Double pay beyond the seventieth parallel!
So that the phenomenon will not be visible for more than a year!
You are now quite sure not to miss your eclipse.
I own that our journey from Fort Reliance has been accomplished under exceptionally favourable circumstances.
We have had little fatigue and few delays.
To tell you the truth, I did not expect to get to this part of the coast until the middle of August; and if the eclipse had been expected this year, instead of next; you really might have been too late.
Moreover, we do not yet know if we are beyond the seventieth parallel.
The fair Phœbe, I fancy, is a sufficiently grand lady to be waited for.
The sun shone clearly enough for them to take the outlines exactly.
At this season of the year, too, it had reached its maximum height above the horizon; and consequently its culmination, on its transit across the meridian, would facilitate the work of the two observers.
Already the night before, and the same morning, by raking different altitudes, and by means of a calculation of right ascensions, the Lieutenant and the astronomer had ascertained the longitude with great accuracy.
But it was about the latitude that Hobson was most anxious; for what would the meridian of Cape Bathurst matter to him should it not be situated beyond the seventieth parallel?
The men of the expedition gathered round the observers with their sextants ready in their hands.
The brave fellows awaited the result of the observation with an impatience which will be readily understood.
It was now to be decided whether they had come to the end of their journey, or whether they must search still further for a spot fulfilling the conditions imposed by the Company.
Probably no good result would have followed upon further explorations, According to the maps of North America-imperfect, it is true-the western coast beyond Cape Bathurst sloped down below the seventieth parallel, not again rising above it until it entered Russian America, where the English had as yet no right to settle; so that Hobson had shown considerable judgment in directing his course to Cape Bathurst after a thorough examination of the maps of these northern regions.
This promontory is, in fact, the only one which juts out beyond the seventieth parallel along the whole of the North American continent, properly so called-that is to say, in English America.
It remained to be proved that it really occupied the position assigned to it in maps.
At this moment the sun was approaching the culminating-point of its course, and the two observers pointed the telescopes of their sextants upon it.
By means of inclined mirrors attached to the instruments, the sun ought apparently to go back to the horizon itself; and the moment when it seemed to touch it with the lower side of its disc would be precisely that at which it would occupy the highest point of the diurnal arc, and consequently the exact moment when it would pass the meridian-in other words, it would be noon at the place where the observation was taken.
All watched in anxious silence.
The telescopes were immediately lowered.
The Lieutenant and Thomas Black read on the graduated limbs the value of the angles they had just obtained, and at once proceeded to note down their observations.
Cape Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood were in very truth above the seventieth degree of north latitude.
We give the result of these simultaneous observations, which agreed to a second.
And that very evening these hardy pioneers, encamped so far from the inhabited world, watched the mighty luminary of day touch the edges of the western horizon without dipping beneath it.
For the first time they saw the shining of the midnight sun.
The site of the new fort was now finally determined on.
It would be impossible to find a better situation than on the level ground behind Cape Bathurst, on the eastern bank of the lagoon Hobson determined to commence the construction of the principal house at once.
Meanwhile all must accommodate themselves as best they could; and the sledges were ingeniously utilised to form a provisional encampment.
His men being very skilful, the Lieutenant hoped to have the principal house ready in a month.
It was to be large enough to accommodate for a time the nineteen persons of the party.
Later, and before the excessive cold set in, if there should be time, the barracks for the soldiers and the magazines for the furs and skins were to be built.
There was not much chance of getting it all done before the end of September; and after that date, the winter, with its first bitter frosts and long nights, would arrest all further progress.
Of the ten soldiers chosen by Captain Craventy, two-Marbre and Sabine-were skilful hunters; the other eight handled the hatchet with as much address as the musket.
Like sailors, they could turn their hands to anything, and were now to be treated more like workmen than soldiers, for they were to build a fort which there was as yet no enemy to attack.
Petersen, Belcher, Rae, Garry, Pond, Hope, and Kellet formed a body of clever, zealous carpenters, under the able superintendence of lilac-Nab, a Scotchman from Stirling, who had had considerable experience in the building both of houses and boats.
They had no mason in the party; but none was wanted, as all the buildings of the factories in the north are of wood.
Fortunately there were plenty of trees about Cape Bathurst, although as Hobson had already remarked to Mrs Barnett, there was not a rock, a stone, not even a flint or a pebble, to be seen.
The shore was strewn with innumerable quantities of bivalve shells broken by the surf, and with seaweed or zoophytes, mostly sea-urchins and asteriadæ; but the soil consisted entirely of earth and sand, without a morsel of silica or broken granite; and the cape itself was but an accumulation of soft earth, the particles of which were scarcely held together by the vegetation with which it was clothed.
In the afternoon of the same day, July 6th Hobson and Mac-Nab the carpenter went to choose the site of the principal house on the plateau at the foot of Cape Bathurst.
From this point the view embraced the lagoon and the western districts to a distance of ten or twelve miles.
On the right, about four miles off, towered icebergs of a considerable height.
The spot chosen, Hobson and Mac-Nab set out the outer walls of the house with the line.
This outline formed a rectangle measuring sixty feet on the larger side, and thirty on the smaller.
The façade of the house would therefore have a length of sixty feet it was to have a door and three windows on the side of the promontory, where the inner court was to be situated, and four windows on the side of the lagoon.
The door was to open at the left corner, instead of in the middle, of the back of the house, for the sake of warmth.
This arrangement would impede the entrance of the outer air to the further rooms, and add considerably to the comfort of the inmates of the fort.
According to the simple plan agreed upon by the Lieutenant and his master-carpenter, there were to be four compartments in the house: the first to be an antechamber with a double door to keep out the wind; the second to serve as a kitchen, that the cooking which would generate damp, might be all done quite away from the living-rooms; the third, a large hall, where the daily meals were to be served in common; and the fourth, to be divided into several cabins, like the state-rooms on board ship.
The soldiers were to occupy the dining-hall provisionally, and a kind of camp-bed was arranged for them at the end of the room.
The Lieutenant, Mrs Barnett, Thomas Black, Madge, Mrs Joliffe, Mrs Mac-Nab, and Mrs Rae were to lodge in the cabins of the fourth compartment.
They would certainly be packed pretty closely; but it was only a temporary state of things, and when the barracks were constructed, the principal house would be reserved to the officer in command, his sergeant, Thomas Black, Mrs Barnett, and her faithful Madge, who never left her.
Then the fourth compartment might perhaps be divided into three cabins, instead of and quizzes games broadway for to avoid corners as much as possible is a rule which should never be forgotten by those who winter in high latitudes Nooks and corners are, in fact, so many receptacles of ice.
The partitions impede the ventilation; and the moisture, generated in the air, freezes readily, and makes the atmosphere of the rooms unhealthy causing grave maladies to those who sleep in them.
On this account many navigators who have to winter in the midst of ice have one large room in the centre of their vessel, which is shared by officers and sailors in common.
For obvious reasons, however, Hobson could not adopt this plan.
From the preceding description we shall have seen that the future house was to consist merely of a ground-floor.
The roof was to be high, and its sides to slope considerably, so that water could easily run off them.
The snow would, however, settle upon them; and when once they were covered with it, the house would be, so to speak, hermetically closed, and the inside temperature would be kept at the same mean height.
Snow is, in fact, a very bad conductor of beat: it prevents it from entering, it is true; but, what is more important in an Arctic winter, it also keeps it from getting out.
The carpenter was to build two chimneys-one above the kitchen, the other in connection with the stove of the large dining-room, which was to heat it and the compartment containing the cabins.
The architectural effect of the whole would certainly be poor; but the house would be as comfortable as possible, and what more could any one desire?
Certainly an artist who had once seen it would not soon forget this winter residence, set down in the gloomy Arctic twilight in the midst of snow-drifts, half hidden by icicles, draped in white from roof to foundation, its walls encrusted with snow, and the smoke from its fires assuming strangely-contorted forms in the wind.
But now to tell of the actual construction of this house, as yet existing only in imagination.
This, of course, was the business of Mac-Nab and his men; and while the carpenters were at work, the foraging party to whom the commissariat was entrusted would not be idle.
There was plenty for every one to do.
The first step was to choose suitable timber, and a species of Scotch fir was decided on, which grew conveniently upon the neighbouring hills, and seemed altogether well adapted to the multifarious uses to which it would be put.
For in the rough and ready style of habitation which they were planning, there could be no variety of material; and every part of the house-outside and inside walls, flooring, ceiling, partitions, rafters, ridges, framework, and tiling-would have to be contrived of planks, beams, and timbers.
As may readily be supposed, finished workmanship was riot necessary for such a description of liquor gaming and racing victoria, and Mac-Nab was able to proceed very rapidly without endangering the safety of the building.
About a hundred of these firs were chosen and felled-they were neither barked nor squared-and formed so many timbers, averaging some twenty feet in length.
The axe and the chisel did not touch them except at the ends, in order to form the tenons and mortises by which they were to be secured to one another.
Very few days sufficed to complete this part of the work, and the timbers were brought down by the dogs to the site fixed on for the principal building.
To start with, the Bite had been carefully levelled.
The soil, a mixture of fine earth and sand, had been beaten and consolidated with heavy blows.
The brushwood with which it was originally covered was burnt, and the thick layer of ashes thus produced would prevent the damp from penetrating the floors.
A clean and dry foundation having been thus secured on which to lay the first joists, upright posts were fixed at each corner of the site, and at the extremities of the inside walls, to form the skeleton of the building.
The posts were sunk to a depth of some feet in the ground, after their ends had been hardened in the fire; and were slightly hollowed at each side to receive the crossbeams of the outer wall, between which the openings for the doors and windows had been arranged for.
These posts were held together at the top by horizontal beams well let into the mortises, and consolidating the whole building.
On these horizontal beams, which represented the architraves of the two fronts, rested the high trusses of the roof, which overhung the walls like the eaves of a chalet.
Above this squared architrave were laid the joists of the ceiling, and those of the floor upon the layer of ashes.
The timbers, both in the inside and outside walls, were only laid side by side.
To insure their being properly joined, Rae the blacksmith drove strong iron bolts through them at intervals; and when even this contrivance proved insufficient to close the interstices as hermetically as was necessary, Mac-Nab had recourse to calking, a process which seamen find invaluable in rendering vessels water-tight; only as a substitute for tow he used a sort of dry moss, with which the eastern side of the cape was covered, driving it into the crevices with calking- irons and a hammer, filling up each hollow with layers of hot tar, obtained without difficulty from the pine-trees, and thus making the walls and boarding impervious to the rain and damp of the winter season.
The door and windows in the two fronts were roughly but strongly built, and the small panes of the latter glazed with isinglass, which, though rough, yellow, and almost opaque, was yet the best substitute for glass which the resources of the country afforded; and its imperfections really mattered little, as the windows were sure to be always open in fine weather; while during, the long night of the Arctic winter they would be useless, and have to be kept closed and defended by heavy shutters with strong bolts against the violence of the gales.
Meanwhile the house was being quickly fitted up inside.
By means of a double door between the outer and inner halls a too sudden change of temperature was avoided, and the wind was prevented from blowing with unbroken force into the rooms.
The air-pumps, brought from Fort Reliance, were so fixed as to let in fresh air whenever excessive cold prevented the opening of doors or windows -one being made to eject the impure air from within, the other to renew the supply; for the Lieutenant had given his whole mind to this important matter.
The principal cooking utensil was a large iron furnace, which had been brought piecemeal from Fort Reliance, and which the carpenter put up without any difficulty.
The chimneys for the kitchen and ball, however, seemed likely to tax the ingenuity of the workmen to the utmost, as no material within their reach was strong enough for the purpose, and stone, as we have said before, was nowhere to be found in the country around Cape Bathurst.
The difficulty appeared insurmountable, when the invincible Lieutenant suggested that they should utilise the shells with which the shore was strewed.
A furnace was constructed for the decomposition of the carbonate which is so large an ingredient of these shells, and thus the lime required was obtained in the space of a few hours.
It would perhaps be too much to say that the substance thus made was as entirely satisfactory as if it had gone through all the usual processes; but it answered its purpose, and strong conical chimneys soon adorned the roof, to the great satisfaction of Mrs Paulina Barnett, who congratulated the originator of the scheme warmly on its success, only adding laughingly, that she hoped the chimneys would riot smoke.
In the meantime they prepared the way for future sport, contenting themselves for the present with the capture of a few couples of reindeer, which they intended to domesticate for the sake of their milk and their young.
They were kept in a paddock about fifty yards from the house, and entrusted to the care of Mac-Nabs wife, an Indian woman, well qualified to take charge of them.
After sport and betting the country within a radius of several miles, the Lieutenant notified, as the result of his observations, that the territory on which they had established themselves, and to which he gave the name of Victoria Land, was a large peninsula about one hundred and fifty square miles in extent, with very clearly-defined boundaries, connected with the American continent by an isthmus, extending from the lower end of Washburn Bay on the east, as fair as the corresponding slope on the opposite coast.
The Lieutenant next proceeded to ascertain what were the resources of the lake and river, and found great reason to be satisfied with the result of his examination.
The shallow waters of the lake teemed with trout, pike, and other available fresh-water fish; and the little river was a favourite resort of salmon and shoals of white bait and smelts.
The supply of sea-fish was not so good; and though many a grampus and whale passed by in the offing, the latter probably flying from the harpoons of the Behring Strait fishermen there were no means of capturing them unless one by chance happened to get stranded on the coast; nor would Hobson allow any of the seals which abounded on the western shore to be taken until a satisfactory conclusion should be arrived at as to how to use them to the best advantage.
The colonists now considered themselves fairly installed stalled in their new abode, and after due deliberation unanimously agreed to bestow upon the settlement the name of Just click for source Good Hope.
The undertaking, begun so bravely and with such prospects of success, was destined never to be carried out, and another disaster would have to be added to the long list of failures in Arctic enterprise.
It did not take long to furnish the new abode.
A camp-bed was set up in the hall, and the carpenter Mac-Nab constructed a most substantial table, around which were ranged fixed benches.
A few movable seats and two enormous presses completed the furniture of this apartment.
The inner room, which was also ready, was divided by solid partitions into six dormitories, the two end ones alone being lighted by windows looking to the front and back.
The only furniture was a bed and a table.
Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge were installed in one which looked immediately out upon the lake.
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The place could have been a little cleaner but otherwise things were great! VictoriaJanuary 2018. The host canceled this reservation 5 days before arrival.
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