Hatteras and the doctor went back to the house.
“You know,” said the captain, “that the polar bears chase
seals, which are their principal food. They watch for days at
their breathing holes, and seize them the moment they come upon
the ice. So a bear will not be afraid of a seal; far from it.”
“I understand your plan,” said the doctor, “but it's dangerous.”
“But there is a chance of success,” answered the captain,
“and we must try it. I am going to put on the sealskin and
crawl over the ice. Let us lose no time. Load the gun and give
it to me.”
The doctor had nothing to say; he would himself have done
what his companion was about to try; he left the house, carrying
two axes, one for Johnson, the other for himself; then, accompanied
by Hatteras, he went to the sledge.
There Hatteras put on the sealskin, which very nearly covered
him. Meanwhile, Hatteras loaded the gun with the last charge
of powder, and dropped in it the quicksilver bullet, which was as
hard as steel and as heavy as lead. Then he handed Hatteras
the gun, which he hid beneath the sealskin. Then he said to
the doctor,---
“You go and join Johnson; I shall wait a few moments to puzzle
the enemy.”
“Courage, Hatteras!” said the doctor.
“Don't be uneasy, and above all don't show yourselves before
you hear my gun.”
The doctor soon reached the hummock which concealed Johnson.
“Well?” the latter asked.
“Well, we must wait. Hatteras is doing all this to save us.”
The doctor was agitated; he looked at the bear, which had grown
excited, as if he had become conscious of the danger which threatened
him. A quarter of an hour later the seal was crawling over
the ice; he made a circuit of a quarter of a mile to baffle the
bear; then he found himself within three hundred feet of him.
The bear then saw him, and settled down as if he were trying to
hide. Hatteras imitated skillfully the movements of a seal, and
if he had not known, the doctor would certainly have taken him
for one.
“That's true!” whispered Johnson.
The seal, as he approached the bear, did not appear to see him;
he seemed to be seeking some hole through which to reach the
water. The bear advanced towards him over the ice with the
utmost caution; his eager eyes betrayed his excitement; for one
or perhaps two months he had been fasting, and fortune was now
throwing a sure prey before him. The seal had come within ten
feet of his enemy: the bear hastened towards him, made a long
leap, and stood stupefied three paces from Hatteras, who, casting
aside the sealskin, with one knee resting on the ground, was aiming
at the bear's heart.
The report was sounded, and the bear rolled over on the ice.
“Forward!” shouted the doctor. And, followed by Johnson,
he hastened to the scene of combat. The huge beast rose, and
beat the air with one paw while with the other he tore up a
handful of snow to stanch the wound. Hatteras did not stir, but
waited, knife in hand. But his aim had been accurate, and his
bullet had hit its mark; before the arrival of his friends he had
plunged his knife into the beast's throat, and it fell, never to rise.
“Victory!” shouted Johnson.
“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” cried the doctor.
Hatteras, with folded arms, was gazing calmly at the corpse of
his foe.
“It's now my turn,” said Johnson; “it's very well to have
killed it, but there is no need of waiting till it's frozen as hard as
a stone, when teeth and knife will be useless for attacking it.”
Johnson began by skinning the bear, which was nearly as large
as an ox; it was nine feet long and six feet in circumference;
two huge tusks, three inches long, issued from his mouth. On
opening him, nothing was found in his stomach but water; the
bear had evidently eaten nothing for a long time; nevertheless,
he was very fat, and he weighed more than fifteen hundred
pounds; he was divided into four quarters, each one of which
gave two hundred pounds of meat, and the hunters carried this
flesh back to the snow-house, without forgetting the animal's
heart, which went on beating for three hours.
The others wanted to eat the meat raw, but the doctor made
them wait until it should be roasted. On entering the house he
was struck by the great cold within it; he went up to the stove
and found the fire out; the occupations as well as the excitement
of the morning had made Johnson forget his customary duty.
The doctor tried to rekindle the fire, hut there was not even a
spark lingering amid the cold ashes.
“Well, we must have patience!” he said to himself. He then
went to the sledge to get some tinder, and asked Johnson for his
steel, telling him that the fire had gone out. Johnson answered
that it was his fault, and he put his hand in his pocket, where he
usually kept it; he was surprised not to find it there. He felt in
his other pockets with the same success; he went into the snow-house
and examined carefully the covering under which he had
slept in the previous night, but he could not find it.
“Well?” shouted the doctor.
Johnson came back, and stared at his companions.
“And haven't you got the steel, Dr. Clawbonny?” he asked.
“No, Johnson.”
“Nor you, Captain?”
“No,” answered Hatteras.
“You have always carried it,” said the doctor.
“Well, I haven't got it now---” murmured the old sailor,
growing pale.
“Not got it!” shouted the doctor, who could not help trembling.
There was no other steel, and the loss of this might bring
with it terrible consequences.
“Hunt again!” said the doctor.
Johnson ran to the piece of ice behind which he had watched
the bear, then to the place of combat, where he had cut him up;
but he could not find anything. He returned in despair. Hatteras
looked at him without a word of reproach.
“This is serious,” he said to the doctor.
“Yes,” the latter answered.
“We have not even an instrument, a glass from which we
might take the lens, to get fire by means of it!”
“I know it,” answered the doctor; “and that is a great pity,
because the rays of the sun are strong enough to kindle tinder.”
“Well,” answered Hatteras, “we must satisfy our hunger with
this raw meat; then we shall resume our march and we shall try
to reach the ship.”
“Yes,” said the doctor, buried in reflection; “yes, we could do
that if we had to. Why not? We might try---”
“What are you thinking of?” asked Hatteras.
“An idea which has just occurred to me---”
“An idea,” said Johnson: “one of your ideas! Then we are
“It's a question,” answered the doctor, “whether it will succeed.”
“What is your plan?” said Hatteras.
“We have no lens; well, we will make one.”
“How?” asked Johnson.
“With a piece of ice which we shall cut out.”
“Why, do you think---”
“Why not? We want to make the sun's rays converge to a
common focus, and ice will do as much good as crystal.”
“Is it possible?” asked Johnson.
“Yes, only I should prefer fresh to salt water; it is more
transparent, and harder.”
“But, if I am not mistaken,” said Johnson, pointing to a hummock
a hundred paces distant, “that dark green block shows---”
“You are right; come, my friends; bring your hatchet, Johnson.”
The three men went towards the block which, as they supposed,
was formed of fresh water.
The doctor had a piece, a foot in diameter, cut through, and
he began to smooth it with the hatchet; then he equalized the
surface still further with his knife; then he polished it with his
hand, and he obtained soon a lens as transparent as if it had been
made of the most magnificent crystal. Then he returned to the
snow-house, where he took a piece of tinder and began his experiment.
The sun was shining brightly; the doctor held the lens
so that the rays should be focused on the tinder, which took fire
in a few seconds.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” cried Johnson, who could hardly trust his
“O Doctor, Doctor!”
The old sailor could not restrain his joy; he was coming and
going like a madman. The doctor had returned to the house; a
few minutes later the stove was roaring, and soon a delicious odor
of cooking aroused Bell from his torpor. It may be easily imagined
how the feast was enjoyed; still the doctor advised his
friends to partake in moderation; he set an example, and while
eating he again began to talk.
“To-day is a lucky day,” he said; “we have food enough for
our journey. But we mustn't fall asleep in the delights of
Capua, and we'd better start out again.”
“We can't be more than forty-eight hours from the Porpoise,”
said Altamont, who could now begin to speak once more.
“I hope,” said the doctor, smiling, “that we shall find material
for a fire there.”
“Yes,” said the American.
“For, if my ice lens is good,” continued the doctor, “there
would still be something desired on cloudy days, and there are
many of them less than four degrees from the Pole.”
“True!” said Altamont with a sigh, “less than four degrees!
My ship has gone nearer than any yet has been!”
“Forward!” said Hatteras, quickly.
“Forward!” repeated the doctor, gazing uneasily at the two
The strength of the travellers soon returned; the dogs had
eaten freely of the bear's flesh, and they continued their journey
northward. During their walk the doctor tried to draw from
Altamont the object of his expedition, but the American gave
only evasive answers.
“There are two men to be watched,” he whispered to the boatswain.
“Yes,” answered Johnson.
“Hatteras never says a word to the American, and the American
seems to show very little gratitude. Fortunately I am here.”
“Dr. Clawbonny,” answered Johnson, “since this Yankee has
returned to life, I don't like his face much.”
“Either I'm mistaken,” answered the doctor, “or he suspects
Hatteras's plans.”
“Do you think that the stranger has the same plans?”
“Who can tell? The Americans are bold; an American may
well try what an Englishman tries!”
“You think that Altamont---”
“I don't think anything about it,” answered the doctor; “but
the situation of this ship on the way to the Pole gives one material
for thought.”
“But Altamont said he had drifted there.”
“He said so! Yes, but he was smiling in a very strange way.”
“The devil, Dr. Clawbonny; it would be unfortunate if there
should be any rivalry between two such men.”
“Heaven grant that I may be mistaken, Johnson, for this
misfortune might produce serious complications, if not some
“I hope Altamont will not forget that we saved his life.”
“But isn't he going to save us? I confess that without us he
would not be alive; but what would become of us without him,
without his ship, without its resources?”
“Well, Doctor, you are here, and I hope with your aid all will
“I hope so, Johnson.”
The voyage went on without incident; there was no lack of
bear's flesh, and they made copious meals of it; there was a certain
good-humor in the little band, thanks to the jests of the
doctor and his pleasant philosophy; this worthy man always had
some scrap of information to give to his companions. His health
continued good; he had not grown very thin, in spite of his
fatigues and privations; his friends at Liverpool would have
recognized him without difficulty; especially would they have recognized
his unaltered good-humor.
During the morning of Saturday the appearance of the plain
of ice changed materially; the perturbed fragments, the frequent
packs, the hummocks, showed that the ice-field was enduring some
severe pressure; evidently some unknown continent, some new
island, might have caused this by narrowing the passes. Blocks
of fresh water, more frequent and larger, indicated the coast to
be near. Hence, there was near them a new land, and the doctor
yearned with a desire to add to the charts of the northern regions.
Great is the pleasure of ascertaining the line of these unknown
coasts, and of tracing it with a pencil; that was the doctor's aim,
while that of Hatteras was merely to place his foot upon the
Pole, and he took pleasure in advance in thinking of the names
he was going to give to the seas, straits, bays, and slightest promontories
in these new continents; certainly he would not forget
the names of his companions, his friends, nor her Gracious
Majesty, nor the royal family; and he foresaw a certain “Cape
Clawbonny” with great satisfaction.
These thoughts kept him busy all day; that evening they
encamped as usual, and each one took his turn at watching near
these unknown lands. The next day, Sunday, after a heavy
breakfast of bear's paws, which were very good, the travellers
pushed on to the north, inclining a little to the west; the road
grew difficult, but yet they advanced rapidly. Altamont, from
the top of the sledge, scanned the horizon with feverish attention;
his companions were the victims of involuntary uneasiness. The
last solar observations gave them latitude 83°35', and longitude
120°15'; that was the place where the American ship was said
to be lying; the question of life and death was to be solved that
day. At last, at about half past two in the afternoon, Altamont
stood straight, stopped the little band by a loud cry, and, pointing
with his hand to a white mass, which all the rest had taken
for an iceberg, he cried with a loud voice,---
“The Porpoise!”




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