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   Chapter 15 THE SOUND OF A VOICE

Among the Esquimaux; or, Adventures under the Arctic Circle By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 8005

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


For hours the fog showed no signs of lifting. The three remained seated near the carcass of the polar bear, discussing the one question that had already been discussed so long, until there really seemed nothing left to say.

Not long after the collision between the icebergs a singular thing took place. It was evident that the two were acted upon each by a diverse current, but the preponderating bulk of the greater was not disturbed by the smaller. The latter, however, as if anxious to break away from its master, began slowly grinding along the face, until, after awhile, it swung clear and gradually drifted out of sight in the misty vapor.

"She will know better than to tackle one bigger than herself," was the remark of Rob Carrol, "which reminds me that if there should happen to be a bigger iceberg than this floating around loose we sha'n't be in any danger."

"And why not?"

"Because being so big it will be under the influence of the same current as this and going in the same direction, so there won't be much chance of our coming together."

"Unless the big one should overtake us," suggested Fred.

"Even then it would find it hard to run over us, so there isn't much to be feared from that; what I do dread is that we shall strike some shallow place in the sea that will make this thing turn a somersault."

"It would be a terrible thing," said Fred, unable to drive it from his thoughts.

"Is it possible for the berg to strike something like that and stick fast, without shifting its centre of gravity?"

The question was addressed to Jack Cosgrove, but he did not attempt to answer until the last clause was explained to him.

"Oh! yes; that has been seen many times. A berg will ground itself just like a boat, and stay for days and weeks until a storm breaks it up, or it shakes itself loose. I don't believe if we do strike bottom again that there's much danger of capsizing."

"Why didn't you tell us that before?" asked Rob, reprovingly; "we might have been saved all this worry."

"It's only guesswork, any way, so you may as well keep on worrying, for, somehow or other, you seem to enjoy it."

"I think there is a thinning of the fog," remarked Fred, some time later.

"A little, but not much; it's growing colder, too; we'll run into keen weather afore reaching the Pole."

"I shouldn't wonder if it came pretty soon. Hello!" added Rob, looking at his watch; "it is past noon."

"Do you want your dinner?" asked Jack, with a grin.

Both lads gave an expression of disgust, the elder replying:

"I can stand it for twenty-four hours before hankering for another slice of bear steak, and I shouldn't be surprised if Fred feels the same way."

"You are correct, my friend."

"Ah, you chaps can get used to anything!" was the self-complacent remark of the sailor, as he assumed a comfortable attitude on the ice.

While the boys talked thus, Jack was carefully noting the weather. He saw with pleasure that the fog was steadily clearing, and that, before night, the atmosphere was likely to be wholly clear again. That fact might avail them nothing, but it was a thousand-fold better than the mist, in which they might drift within a hundred feet of friends without either party suspecting it.

From what has been told, it will be understood that no one of the three built any hope of a rescue by the "Nautilus." The violent gale had driven her miles away, and a search on her part for this particular iceberg would be like the hunt of one exploring party for another that had been lost years before.

But it was not to be supposed that Captain McAlpine would quietly dismiss all care concerning the lads from his mind. One of them was a son of a leading director of the Hudson Bay Company, and the other was a favorite of the son and his father. For the skipper to return to London at the end of several months with the report that he had left them on an iceberg in the Greenland Sea would be likely to subject him to unpleasant

consequences.

The most natural course of the captain, as it seemed to the sailor, after making the best search he could, was to put into some of the towns along the coast, and organize several parties to go out in search of them.

"He is no fool," thought Jack, as he turned the subject over in his mind without speaking, "and he must have took the bearings of the ship and the berg as I did. He won't be able to keep track of us, but he will know better than to sail exactly in the wrong direction, as most other folks would do. Yes," he remarked to his friends, as he looked off over the sea, "the weather is clearing and the fog will be all gone before night."

This was gratifying information, though neither youth could tell precisely why it should give them special ground for hope.

You will understand one of the trials of the boys when adrift on the iceberg. The latter was moving slowly, and, though in a direction different from the surface current, yet it was barely perceptible. No other objects were in sight than the berg itself, which gave the impression to the passengers that it was motionless on the vasty deep. You know how much harder it is to wait in a train at a station than it is in one in motion. If they could have realized that the berg was actually moving, no matter in what direction, the relief would have been great. As it was, they felt as though they were simply waiting, waiting for they knew not what.

The afternoon was more than two-thirds gone when the last vestige of the fog vanished. The sun shone out, and, looking off to sea, the power of the eye itself was the only limit to the vision.

Without explaining the meaning of his action, Jack Cosgrove made his way down the path to the place where they had spent most of the preceding night, and climbing upon a slight elevation, stood for a full minute looking fixedly off over the sea. He shaded his eyes carefully with his hand, and stood as motionless as a stone statue.

"He either sees or expects to see something," said Rob, who, like his companion, was watching him with much interest.

"He is so accustomed to the ocean that his eyes are better than ours," said Fred.

"I can't make out anything."

Suddenly Jack struck his thigh with his right hand and wheeled about, showing a face aglow with feeling.

"By the great horned spoon, I knowed it."

"What have you discovered, Jack?"

"You chaps just come this way," he said, crooking his stubby forefinger toward them, "and put yourself alongside of me and take the sharpest squint you can right over yonder."

Doing as directed, they finally agreed, after some hard looking, that they saw what seemed to be a long, low, white cloud in the horizon.

"That's Greenland," was the astonishing reply; "I don't know what part, but it's solid airth with snow on it."

This was interesting, indeed, though it was still difficult to understand what special hope the fact held out to them.

It seemed to grow slightly more distinct as the afternoon advanced. Since it was hardly to be supposed that the iceberg was approaching land, this was undoubtedly caused by the contour of the coast.

When night began closing in the party fired their guns repeatedly, thinking possibly the reports might attract notice from some of the natives fishing in the vicinity. The chance, however, was so exceedingly slight that they made preparations for spending the night as before-that is, huddled together against the projecting ice. There was hardly a breath of air stirring, though the temperature continued falling.

"I hear it!" exclaimed Fred, starting to his feet, within five minutes after seating themselves as described.

"What's that?" asked the amazed Rob; "are you crazy?"

"Listen!"

They did so. There was no mistake about it. They caught the sound of a vigorously moved paddle, and, had any doubt remained, it was dissipated by the loud call in a peculiar voice, and with an odd accent:

"Holloa! holloa! holloa!"

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