During these preparations for going into winter-quarters, Altamont
had entirely recovered his health and strength; he was
even able to aid in unloading the ship. His vigorous constitution
at last carried the
day, and his pallor soon
gave way before the
vigor of his blood.
They saw in him a
sanguine, robust citizen
of the United
States, an intelligent,
energetic man with a
resolute character, a
bold, hardy American
ready for everything;
he was originally from
New York, and had
been a sailor from infancy,
as he told his
companions; his ship,
the Porpoise, had been
equipped and sent out
by a society of wealthy American merchants, at the head of whom
was the famous Mr. Grinnell.
There was a certain similarity between his disposition and that
of Hatteras, but their sympathies were different. This similarity
did not incline them to become friends; indeed, it had the opposite
effect. A close observer would have detected serious discordances
between them; and this, although they were very frank
with one another. Altamont was less so, however, than
Hatteras; with greater ease of manner, he was less loyal; his open
character did not inspire as much confidence as did the captain's
gloomy temperament. Hatteras would say what he had to say,
and then he held his peace. The other would talk a great deal,
but say very little.
Such was the doctor's reading of the American's
character, and he was right in his presentiment of a future
disagreement, if not hatred, between the captains of the Porpoise
and the Forward.
And yet only one could command. To be sure, Hatteras had
all the right of commanding, by virtue of anterior right and
superior force. But if one was at the head of his own men,
the other was on board of his own ship. And that was generally
Either from policy or instinctively, Altamont was at first
attracted towards the doctor; it was to him he owed his life, but
it was sympathy rather than gratitude which moved him. This
was the invariable effect of Clawbonny's nature; friends grew
about him like wheat under the summer sun. Every one has
heard of people who rise at five o'clock in the morning to make
enemies; the doctor could have got up at four without doing it.
Nevertheless, he resolved to profit by Altamont's friendship to
the extent of learning the real reason of his presence in the polar
seas. But with all his wordiness the American answered without
answering, and kept repeating what he had to say about the
Northwest Passage.
The doctor suspected that there was some
other motive for the expedition, the same, namely, that Hatteras
suspected. Hence he resolved not to let the two adversaries
discuss the subject; but he did not always succeed. The simplest
conversations threatened to wander to that point, and any
word might kindle a blaze of controversy.
It happened soon.
When the house was finished, the doctor resolved to celebrate
the fact, by a splendid feast; this was a good idea of Olawbonny's,
who wanted to introduce in this continent the habits and pleasures
of European life. Bell had just shot some ptarmigans and
a white rabbit, the first harbinger of spring.
This feast took
place April 14, how Sunday, on a very pleasant day; the cold
could not enter the house, and if it had, the roaring stoves would
have soon conquered it.
The dinner was good; the fresh meat
made an agreeable variety after the pemmican and salt meat; a
wonderful pudding, made by the doctor's own hand, was much
admired; every one asked for another supply; the bead cook
himself, with an
apron about his
waist and a knife
hanging by his side,
would not have disgraced
the kitchen
of the Lord High
Chancellor of England.
At dessert,
liquors appeared;
the American was
not a teetotaler;
hence there was no
reason for his depriving
himself of
a glass of gin or
brandy; the other
guests, who were
never in any way
intemperate, could
permit themselves this infraction of their rule; so, by the doctor's
command, each one was able to drain a glass at the end
of the merry meal. When a toast was drunk to the United
States, Hatteras was simply silent.
It was then that the doctor
brought forward an interesting subject.
“My friends,” he said, “it is not enough that we have crossed
the waters and ice and have come so far; there is one thing left
for us to do. Hence I propose that we should give names to
this hospitable land where we have found safety and rest; that
is the course pursued by all navigators, and there is not one who
has neglected it; therefore we ought to carry back with us not
only a map of the shores, but also the names of the capes, bays,
points, and promontories which we find. That is absolutely
“Good!” cried Johnson; “besides, when one can give all these
lands their own names, it looks like genuine work, and we can't
consider ourselves as cast away on an unknown shore.”
“Besides,” added Bell, “that simplifies instructions and facilitates
the execution of orders; we may be compelled to separate
during some expedition or in hunting, and the best way for finding
our way back is to know the names of the places.”
“Well,” said the doctor, “since we are all agreed, let us try to
settle on some names without forgetting our country and friends.”
“You are right, Doctor,” answered the American, “and you
give what you say additional value by your warmth.”
“Well,” continued the doctor, “let us go on in order.”
Hatteras had not taken part in the conversation; he was
thinking. Still the eyes of his companions were fastened on
him; he rose and said,—
“If you are all willing, and I don't think any one will dissent,”—at
those words Hatteras looked at Altamont,—“it
seems to me proper to name this house after its skilful architect,
and to call it ‘Doctor's House’.”
“That's true,” said Bell.
“Good!” shouted Johnson; “Doctor's House!”
“Could n't be better,” added Altamont. “Hurrah for Dr. Clawbonny!”
Three cheers were then given, to which Duke added an approving
“So,” resumed Hatteras, “let this house bear that name until
some new land is discovered to bear the name of our friend.”
“Ah!” said Johnson, “if the earthly Paradise were to be
named over again, the name of Clawbonny would suit it to a
The doctor, much moved, wanted to defend himself by modesty,
but he was unable. It was then formally agreed that the
feast had been eaten in the grand dining-hall of Doctor's House,
after being cooked in the kitchen of Doctor's House, and that they
would go comfortably to bed in the chamber of Doctor's House.
“Now,” said the doctor, “let us take the more important
points of our discoveries.”
“There is,” said Hatteras, “this immense sea which surrounds
us, and in which no ship has ever floated.”
“No ship!” interrupted Altamont; “it seems to me the Porpoise
should not be forgotten, unless indeed it came by land,” he
added jestingly.
“One might think it had,” retorted Hatteras, “to see the rocks
on which it is now resting.”
“Indeed, Hatteras,” answered Altamont with some vexation;
“but, on the whole, is n't even that better than blowing up as
the Forward did!”
Hatteras was about to make some angry reply, when the doctor
interrupted him.
“My friends,” he said, “we are not talking about ships, but
about the new sea—”
“It is not new,” interrupted Altamont. “It already bears a
name on all the charts of the Pole. It is the Arctic Ocean, and
I don't see any reason for changing its name; if we should find
out in the future that it is only a sound or gulf, we can see what
is to be done.”
“Very well,” said Hatteras.
“Agreed,” said the doctor, regretting that he had aroused a
discussion between rival nationalities.
“Let us come to the land which we are now in,” resumed Hatteras.
“I am not aware that it bears any name on the most
recent maps.”
At these words he turned to Altamont, who did not lower his
eyes, but answered,—
“You may be mistaken again, Hatteras.”
“Mistaken! this unknown land, this new country—”
“Has a name already,” answered the American, quietly.
Hatteras was silent. His lips trembled.
“And what is its name?” asked the doctor, a little surprised
at the American's statement.
“My dear Clawbonny,” answered Altamont, “it is the custom,
not to say the habit, of every explorer to give a name to the
continent which he has discovered. It seems to me that on
this occasion it was in my power and that it was my duty to
use this indisputable right—”
“Still—” said Johnson, whom Altamont's coolness annoyed.
“It seems to me hard to pretend,” the American resumed,
“that the Porpoise did not discover this coast, and even on the
supposition that it came by land,” he added, glancing at Hatteras,
“there can't be any question.”
“That is a claim I can't admit,” answered Hatteras, gravely,
forcibly restraining himself. “To give a name, one should be
the discoverer, and that I fancy you were not. Without us,
besides, where would you be, sir, you who presume to impose
conditions upon us? Twenty feet under the snow!”
“And without me, sir,” replied the American, “without my
ship, where would you be at this moment? Dead of cold and
“My friends,” said the doctor, intervening for the best, “come,
a little calm, it can all settle itself. Listen to me!”
“That gentleman,” continued Altamont, pointing to the captain,
“can give a name to all the lands he discovers, if he discovers
any; but this continent belongs to me! I cannot admit of
its bearing two names, like Grinnell Land and Prince Albert's
Land, because an Englishman and American happened to find it
at the same time. Here it's different. My rights of precedence
are beyond dispute! No ship has ever touched this shore before
mine. No human being before me has ever set foot upon it;
now, I have given it its name, and it shall keep it.”
“And what is its name?” asked the doctor.
“New America,” answered Altamont.
Hatteras clinched his fists on the table. But with a violent
effort he controlled himself.
“Can you prove to me,” Altamont went on, “that any Englishman
has ever set foot on this soil before me?”
Johnson and Bell were silent, although they were no less angry
than the captain at the haughty coolness of their opponent. But
there was nothing to be said. The doctor began again after a
few moments of painful silence.
“My friends,” he said, “the first law of humanity is justice; it
embraces all the rest. Let us then be just, and not give way to
evil feelings. Altamont's priority appears to me incontestable.
There is no question about it; we shall have our revenge later,
and England will have a good share in future discoveries. Let
us leave to this land, then, the name of New America. But Altamont,
in giving it this name, has not, I imagine, disposed of the
bays, capes, points, and promontories which it encloses, and I
don't see anything to prevent our calling it Victoria Bay.”
“None at all,” answered Altamont, “provided that the cape
jutting into the sea over there is named Cape Washington.”
“You might have chosen, sir,” cried Hatteras, beside himself,
“a name less offensive to an English ear.”
“But none dearer to an American ear,” answered Altamont,
with much pride.
“Come, come,” continued the doctor, who found it hard to
keep the peace in this little world, “no discussion about that!
Let an American be proud of his great men! Let us honor genius
wherever it is found, and since Altamont has made his choice, let
us now speak for ourselves and our friends. Let our captain—”
“Doctor,” answered Hatteras, “since this is an American land,
I don't care to have my name figure here.”
“Is that opinion unchangeable?” asked the doctor.
“It is,” answered Hatteras.
The doctor did not insist any further.
“Well, then, it's our turn,” he said, addressing the old sailor
and the carpenter; “let us leave a trace of our passage here. I
propose that we call that island about three miles from here
Johnson Island, in honor of our boatswain.”
“0,” said the latter, a little embarassed, “O doctor!”
“As to the mountain which we have seen in the west, we shall
call it Bell Mountain, if our carpenter is willing.”
“It's too much honor for me,” answered Bell.
“It's only fair,” said the doctor.
“Nothing better,” said Altamont.
“Then we have only to name our fort,” resumed the doctor;
“there need be no discussion about that; it's neither to Her
Royal Highness Queen Victoria nor to Washington that we owe
our protection in it at this moment, but to God, who brought us
together and saved us all. Let it be called Fort Providence!”
“A capital plan!” answered Altamont.
“Fort Providence,” added Johnson, “that sounds well! So,
then, in returning from our excursions in the north, we shall
start from Cape Washington to reach Victoria Bay, and from
there to Fort Providence, where we shall find rest and plenty in
Doctor's House.”
“Then that's settled,” answered the doctor; “later, as we
make discoveries, we shall have other names to give, which I
hope will not give rise to discussion; for, my friends, we ought
to stand by one another and love one another; we represent
humanity on this distant shore; let us not give ourselves up to
the detestable passions which infest society; let us rather remain
unattackable by adversity. Who can say what dangers Heaven
has in store for us, what sufferings we may not have to support
before we return to our own country? Let us five be like one
man, and leave on one side the rivalry which is wrong anywhere,
and especially here. You understand me, Altamont? And you,
The two men made no reply, but the doctor did not seem to
notice their silence. Then they talked about other things; about
hunting, so as to get a supply of fresh meat; with the spring,
hares, partridges, even foxes, would return, as well as bears; they
resolved accordingly not to let a favorable day pass without exploring
the land of New America.




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