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   Chapter 31 ANOTHER SOUND

Among the Esquimaux; or, Adventures under the Arctic Circle By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 8042

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The little party were overwhelmed with dismay. The very man on whom they had relied from the beginning, the one who had conducted them thus far, and the one who, under heaven, could alone guide them to safety, had thrown up his hands and yielded the struggle. He lay on the snow limp, helpless, and despairing.

The new fall of snow had almost obliterated their trail, but enough remained to identify it beyond mistake. The cavity which Docak had scooped out, and in which they slept, was recognized on the first glance. The whole day, from the moment of starting, had been wasted, in laboring to their utmost strength, in getting back to the very point from which they set out, and which itself was twenty miles from the sea-coast.

The tendency that every one shows to travel in a circle, when lost, has been explained in various ways. It is probably due to the fact that one side of every person is more developed than the other. A right-handed individual gradually veers to the left, a left-handed one to the right, while a really ambidextrous one ought to keep straight ahead.

Jack and the boys remained silent for a moment. They looked down on the prostrate figure, and finally Fred asked:

"What's the matter, Docak?"

"Gib up-no use-we die-neber see home 'gin."

The words were uttered with all the dejection that it is possible to conceive, and the native did not move. He acted as if the power to do so had gone from him.

Suddenly, to the astonishment of the others, Jack Cosgrove gave him a thumping kick.

"Get up!" he commanded; "if you're such a lubber as all this, I'll take you by the neck and boot you all the way across Greenland."

And as a guarantee of his good faith he yanked Docak to his feet, and made ready for a still harder kick, when the fellow moved nimbly out of the way.

"If you are too big a calf to go on, I'll take the lead, and when I flop it'll be after all the rest of you've gone down."

The breezy style in which the sailor took hold of matters produced an inspiriting effect on the others. Despite the grim solemnity of the moments, both Rob and Fred laughed, as much at the quickness with which Docak responded as anything else.

"Since we are here at the same old spot," said Rob, "and it is growing dark, we might as well go into camp."

"That's the fact, as we won't have to scoop out a new place to sleep in. I suppose, Docak, you're able to sleep, aint you?"

The native made no answer, and the party silently placed themselves in position for another night's rest, Docak not refusing to huddle in among them. But there was little talking done. No one could say anything to comfort the others, and each was busy with his own thoughts.

It need not be said that, despite the fearful gloom and these forebodings, they were ravenously hungry. Their bodies were in need of sustenance, and the probability that they could not get it for an indefinite time to come was enough to deepen the despair that was stealing into every heart.

It was unto Fred Warburton that something in the nature of a revelation came in the darkness of that awful night. His senses remained with him for some time after the others were asleep, as he knew from their deep, regular breathing.

The snowfall had almost ceased, and he sat wondering whether, after all, the end was at hand, and he was asking himself whether, such seeming of a surety to be the fact, it was worth while to rise from their present position and try to press on further. If die they must, why not stay where they were and perish together?

These thoughts were stirring his mind, with many other solemn meditations, which crowd upon every person who, in his right senses, sees himself approaching the Dark River, when it seemed to him that there was sounding, at intervals, an almost inaudible roar, so faint and dull that for awhile he paid no heed to it, deeming it some insignificant aural disturbance, such as causes a buzzing or ringing at times in the head.

But it obtruded so cont

inually that he began to suspect it was a reality and from some point outside of himself.

It was a low, almost inaudible murmur, sometimes so faint that he could not hear it, and again swelling out just enough to make it certain it had an actuality.

Suddenly the heart of the lad almost stood still.

"It's the ocean!" he whispered; "the air has become so still that I can hear it. The plain is open, there has been a big storm, and the distance is not too great for it to reach us. But, no, it is from the wrong direction; it can't be the sea."

The next moment he laughed at himself. Having fixed in his mind the course to the home of Docak, and, hearing the roar from another point of the compass, it did not at once occur to him that he himself might be mistaken.

"If Docak, with all his experience could not keep himself from going astray, what wonder that I should drift from my moorings? Yes, that is the sound of the distant ocean or that part known as Davis' Strait and Baffin's Bay. We can now tell which course to take to get out of this accursed country."

He wished to awake his friends, and in view of their hungry condition, urge that they should set out at once; but they were so wearied that the rest would be grateful, and it was needed. And so, while not exactly clear as to what should be done, he fell asleep and did not open his eyes until morning.

Docak was the first to rouse himself. He found that the snow was falling again, with the prospect worse than ever.

Fred sprang to his feet and quickly told what he had discovered the evening before.

"It was the ocean," he added, with a shake of his head: "I have heard it too often to make a mistake-listen!"

All were silent, but the strained ear could catch no sound like the hollow roar which reached the youth a few hours before.

"I don't care; I was not mistaken," he insisted.

"Why don't we hear it now?" asked Rob, anxious to believe what he said, but unable fully to do so.

"There was no snow falling at the time; the air was clearer then, and what little wind there was must have been in the right direction."

"Where did sound come from?" asked the Esquimau, looking earnestly at Fred and showing deep interest in his words.

"From off yonder," replied the lad, pointing in the proper direction.

"He right-dat so-he hear sea," said Docak, who, to prove the truth of his words, pointed down at the dimly marked trail. It led in the precise course indicated by Fred. In other words, when the Esquimau resumed the journey on the preceding morning, at which time his bearings were correct, he went of a verity directly toward his own home, which was the route now pointed by Fred Warburton.

The others saw the point, and admitted that the declaration of the lad had been proven to be correct beyond question.

And yet, while all this was interesting in its way, and for the time encouraged the others, of what possible import was it? The conditions were precisely the same as twenty-four hours before, except they were less favorable, for the comrades in distress were hungrier and weaker.

But they could not hear the ocean, the snow was falling, and there was no way of guiding themselves.

They could only struggle on as before, hoping that possibly before wandering too far astray they might be able to catch the roar that would be an infallible guide to them in their despairing groping for home.

The three looked at Docak, expecting him to take the lead, as he had done from the start. It may be said that Jack Cosgrove had kicked the Esquimau into his proper place and he was prepared to stay there as long as he could.

But the native, instead of moving off, stood with his head bent and his ears bared in the attitude of intense attention.

They judged that he was striving to catch a sound of the ocean. But he was not.

Truth to tell, Docak had detected another sound of a totally different character, but far more important than the hollow roar of the far-away Arctic Sea.

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