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   Chapter 19 A WONDERFUL EXHIBITION

Among the Esquimaux; or, Adventures under the Arctic Circle By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 8032

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Unto no one, excepting him who journeys far into the Northland, is given it to view such an amazing picture as was now spread out before the enraptured gaze of Rob Carrol and Fred Warburton. In Northern Siberia, the Scandinavian Peninsula, the upper portion of the American Continent, and the Arctic Sea, the traveler learns in all its wonderful fullness of glory the meaning of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

The boys had had partial glimpses of the scene on their voyage through the Greenland Sea, and there were flickerings of light which caught their eye on the trip from the iceberg to the mainland, and the short walk to Docak's hut, but it was during their short stay in the rude dwelling that the mysterious scene-shifters of the skies unfolded their magnificent panorama in all its overwhelming grandeur.

Radiating from a huge nucleus, which seemed to be the North Pole itself, shot the streamers of light, so vast in extent that their extremities struck the zenith, withdrawing with lightning-like quickness, and succeeded by others with the same celerity and displaying all the vivid hues of the rainbow.

At times these dartings resembled immense spears, and then they changed to bands of light, turning again into ribbons which shivered and hovered in the sky, with bewildering variation, turning and doubling upon themselves, spreading apart like an immense fan, and then trembling on the very verge of the horizon, as if about to vanish in the darkness of night.

At the moment the spectators held their breath, fearing that the celestial display was ended; the streamers, spears, bands of violet, indigo, blue, orange, red, green, and yellow, with the innumerable shades, combinations, and mingling of colors, shot out and spread over the sky like the myriad rays of the setting sun.

This continued for several minutes, marked by irregular degrees of intensity, so impressive in its splendor that neither lad spoke, for he could make no comment upon the exhibition, the like of which is seen nowhere else in nature.

But once both gave a sigh of amazed delight when a ribbon, combining several vivid colors, quivered, danced, and streamed far beyond the zenith, with a wary appearance that suggested that some giant, standing upon the extreme northern point of the earth, had suddenly unrolled this marvelous ribbon and was waving it in the eyes of an awestruck world.

One of the most striking features of those mysterious electrical phenomena known as the Northern Lights is the absolute silence which accompanies them. The genius of man can never approach in the smallest degree the beauties of the picture without some noise, but here nature performs her most wonderful feat in utter stillness. The panorama may unfold, roll together, spread apart again with dazzling brilliancy and suddenness, but the strained ear catches no sound, unless dissociated altogether from the phenomenon itself, such as the soft sighing of the Arctic wind over the wastes of snow, or through the grove of solemn pines.

There were moments when the effulgence spread over the earth, like the rays of the midnight sun, and the lads, standing in front of the primitive dwelling of the Esquimau, resembled a couple of figures stamped in ink in the radiant field.

For nearly an hour the rapt spectators stood near the entrance to the native dwelling, insensible to the extreme cold, and too profoundly impressed to speak or stir; but the heavens had given too great a wealth of splendor, brilliancy, color, and celestial scene-shifting to continue it long. The subtle exchange of electrical conditions must have reached something like an equipoise, and the overwhelming beauty and grandeur exhausted itself.

The ribbons and streamers that had been darting to and beyond the zenith, shortened their lightning excursions into space, leaping forth at longer intervals and to a decreasing distance, until they ceased altogether, displaying a few flickerings in the horizon, as though eager t

o bound forth again, but restrained by a superior hand with the command, "Enough for this time."

Fred drew a deep sigh.

"I never dreamed that anywhere in the world one could see such a sight as that."

"It is worth a voyage from home a hundred times over, and I don't regret our stay on the iceberg, for we would have been denied it otherwise."

"If there are any people living near the North Pole, it must be like dwelling in another world. I don't see how they stand it."

"I believe that the Northern Lights have their origin between here and the Pole," said Fred; "though I am not sure of that."

"The magnetic pole, which must be the source of the display, is south of the earth's pole, and I suppose that's the reason for the belief you mention. But it is enough to fill one with awe, when he gazes on the scene and reflects that the world is one great reservoir of electricity, which, if left free for a moment by its Author, would shiver the globe into nothingness, and leave only an empty void where the earth swung before."

"I pity the man who says, 'There is no God,' or who can look unmoved to the very depths of his soul by such displays of infinite power."

"There are no such persons," exclaimed Rob, impatiently; "they may repeat the words, because they think it brave and smart before their companions, but they don't believe themselves. It is impossible."

"Why didn't we think to tell Jack and Docak, that they might have enjoyed the scene with us?"

"The native Esquimaux see it too often to care about it. It is hard to understand how any one can become accustomed to it, but we know it is so. As for Jack, he must have looked upon it many times before, when he was in this latitude. Gracious! but it has become cold," added Rob, with a shiver.

"It isn't any colder than it has been all the evening, but we forgot about it while the exhibition was going on."

The boys turned about, and, ducking their heads, made their way along the long entry, quickly debouching into the warmth and glow of the living room, where Docak and the sailor, having laid away their pipes, were talking like a couple of old friends who had not seen each other for years and were exchanging experiences. Crestana had finished her work in the kitchen and joined them. She was sitting on the shorter bench, and, like a thrifty housewife, was engaged in repairing some of her husband's bulky garments, with big needles and coarse thread.

She looked up with her pleasant smile, as the boys entered, their bodies shivering and their teeth chattering from the extreme cold.

"You chaps must have found it mighty pleasant out-doors," remarked the sailor.

"Ah! Jack, if you had been with us, you would have seen a sight worth a journey around the world."

"What was it? Another polar bear, or two of them?"

"The Northern Lights, and O-"

"The Northern Lights," interrupted their friend, with a sniff of disgust; "is that all?"

The boys looked at him, too horrified to speak.

"I'll own that they are rather purty, and the first two or three times a chap looks onto 'em he is apt to hold his breath, and rub his eyes, but, when you've seed 'em as often as me, it'll get to be an old story. Besides Docak and me had more important bus'ness to talk about."

"What was that?"

"This hunting trip; it's all fixed."

"When do we start?"

"To-morrow morning. There's no saying how long we'll be gone, and I've told him that it doesn't make any difference to us, so we get back some time this year."

"Can we travel without snow-shoes?"

"Luckily we can, for Docak has only two pair. This fog and a little rain we've had have formed a crust on the snow hard enough to bear a reindeer, so that we can travel over it as easy as if it were solid ice. The only thing to be feared is another deep fall of snow afore we can get back. That would make hard traveling, but then a hunter must take some risk and who cares? We may see sights and meet fun that will last us a lifetime."

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