The Waif of the "Cynthia"
André Laurie and Jules Verne
THE WAIF OF THE "CYNTHIA."
MR. MALARIUS' FRIEND.
There is probably neither in Europe nor anywhere else a scholar whose
face is more universally known than that of Dr. Schwaryencrona, of
Stockholm. His portrait appears on the millions of bottles with green
seals, which are sent to the confines of the globe.
Truth compels us to state that these bottles only contain cod liver oil,
a good and useful medicine; which is sold to the inhabitants of Norway
for a "couronnes," which is worth one franc and thirty-nine centimes.
Formerly this oil was made by the fishermen, but now the process is a
more scientific one, and the prince of this special industry is the
celebrated Dr. Schwaryencrona.
There is no one who has not seen his pointed beard, his spectacles, his
hooked nose, and his cap of otter skin. The engraving, perhaps, is not
very fine, but it is certainly a striking likeness. A proof of this is
what happened one day in a primary school in Noroe, on the western coast
of Norway, a few leagues from Bergen.
Two o'clock had struck. The pupils were in their classes in the large,
sanded hall--the girls on the left and the boys on the right--occupied
in following the demonstration which their teacher, Mr. Malarius, was
making on the black-board. Suddenly the door opened, and a fur coat, fur
boots, fur gloves, and a cap of otter, made their appearance on the
The pupils immediately rose respectfully, as is usual when a stranger
visits the class-room. None of them had ever seen the new arrival
before, but they all whispered when they saw him, "Doctor
Schwaryencrona," so much did the picture engraved on the bottles
resemble the doctor.
We must say that the pupils of Mr. Malarius had the bottles continually
before their eyes, for one of the principal manufactories of the doctor
was at Noroe. But for many years the learned man had not visited that
place, and none of the children consequently could have beheld him in
the flesh. In imagination it was another matter, for they often spoke of
him in Noroe, and his ears must have often tingled, if the popular
belief has any foundation. Be this as it may, his recognition was
unanimous, and a triumph for the unknown artist who had drawn his
portrait--a triumph of which this modest artist might justly be proud,
and of which more than one photographer in the world might well be
But what astonished and disappointed the pupils a little was to discover
that the doctor was a man below the ordinary height, and not the giant
which they had imagined him to be. How could such an illustrious man be
satisfied with a height of only five feet three inches? His gray head
hardly reached the shoulder of Mr. Malarius, and he was already stooping
with age. He was also much thinner than the doctor, which made him
appear twice as tall. His large brown overcoat, to which long use had
given a greenish tint, hung loosely around him; he wore short breeches
and shoes with buckles, and from beneath his black silk cap a few gray
locks had made their escape. His rosy cheeks and smiling countenance
gave an expression of great sweetness to his face. He also wore
spectacles, through which he did not cast piercing glances like the
doctor, but through them his blue eyes shone with inexhaustible
In the memory of his pupils Mr. Malarius had never punished a scholar.
But, nevertheless, they all respected him, and loved him. He had a brave
soul, and all the world knew it very well. They were not ignorant of the
fact that in his youth he had passed brilliant examinations, and that he
had been offered a professorship in a great university, where he might
have attained to honor and wealth. But he had a sister, poor Kristina,
who was always ill and suffering. She would not have left her native
village for the world, for she felt sure that she would die if they
removed to the city. So Mr. Malarius had submitted gently to her wishes,
and sacrificed his own prospects. He had accepted the humble duty of the
village school-master, and when twenty years afterward Kristina had
died, blessing him, he had become accustomed to his obscure and retired
life, and did not care to change it. He was absorbed in his work, and
forgot the world. He found a supreme pleasure in becoming a model
instructor, and in having the best-conducted school in his country.
Above all, he liked to instruct his best pupils in the higher branches,
to initiate them into scientific studies, and in ancient and modern
literature, and give them the information which is usually the portion
of the higher classes, and not bestowed upon the children of fishermen
"What is good for one class, is good for the other," he argued. "If the
poor have not as many comforts, that is no reason why they should be
denied an acquaintance with Homer and Shakespeare; the names of the
stars which guide them across the ocean, or of the plants which grow on
the earth. They will soon see them laid low by their ploughs, but in
their infancy at least they will have drunk from pure sources, and
participated in the common patrimony of mankind." In more than one
country this system would have been thought imprudent, and calculated to
disgust the lowly with their humble lot in life, and lead them to wander
away in search of adventures. But in Norway nobody thinks of these
things. The patriarchal sweetness of their dispositions, the distance
between the villages, and the laborious habits of the people, seem to
remove all danger of this kind. This higher instruction is more frequent
than a stranger would believe to be possible. Nowhere is education more
generally diffused, and nowhere is it carried so high; as well in the
poorest rural schools, as in the colleges.
Therefore the Scandinavian Peninsula may flatter herself, that she has
produced more learned and distinguished men in proportion to her
population, than any other region of Europe. The traveler is constantly
astonished by the contrast between the wild and savage aspect of nature,
and the manufactures, and works of art, which represent the most refined
But perhaps it is time for us to return to Noroe, and Dr.
Schwaryencrona, whom we have left on the threshold of the school. If the
pupils had been quick to recognize him, although they had never seen him
before, it had been different with the instructor, whose acquaintance
with him dated further back.
"Ah! good-day, my dear Malarius!" said the visitor cordially, advancing
with outstretched hands toward the school-master.
"Sir! you are very welcome," answered the latter, a little surprised,
and somewhat timidly, as is customary with all men who have lived
secluded lives; and are interrupted in the midst of their duties. "But
excuse me if I ask whom I have the honor of--"
"What! Have I changed so much since we ran together over the snow, and
smoked our long pipes at Christiania; have you forgotten our Krauss
boarding-house, and must I name your comrade and friend?"
"Schwaryencrona!" cried Mr. Malarius. "Is it possible.--Is it really
you.--Is it the doctor?"
"Oh! I beg of you, omit all ceremony. I am your old friend Roff, and you
are my brave Olaf, the best, the dearest friend of my youth. Yes, I know
you well. We have both changed a little in thirty years; but our hearts
are still young, and we have always kept a little corner in them for
those whom we learned to love, when we were students, and eat our dry
bread side by side."
The doctor laughed, and squeezed the hands of Mr. Malarius, whose eyes
"My dear friend, my good excellent doctor, you must not stay here," said
he; "I will give all these youngsters a holiday, for which they will not
be sorry, I assure you, and then you must go home with me."
"Not at all!" declared the doctor, turning toward the pupils who were
watching this scene with lively interest. "I must neither interfere with
your work, nor the studies of these youths. If you wish to give me great
pleasure, you will permit me to sit here near you, while you resume your
"I would willingly do so," answered Mr. Malarius, "but to tell you the
truth, I have no longer any heart for geometry; besides, having
mentioned a holiday, I do not like to disappoint the children. There is
one way of arranging the matter however. If Doctor Schwaryencrona would
deign to do my pupils the honor of questioning them about their studies,
and then I will dismiss them for the rest of the day."
"An excellent idea. I shall be only too happy to do so. I will become
Then taking the master's seat, he addressed the school:
"Tell me," asked the doctor, "who is the best pupil?"
"Erik Hersebom!" answered fifty youthful voices unhesitatingly.
"Ah! Erik Hersebom. Well, Erik, will you come here?"
A young boy, about twelve years of age, who was seated on the front row
of benches, approached his chair. He was a grave, serious-looking child,
whose pensive cast of countenance, and large deep set eyes, would have
attracted attention anywhere, and he was the more remarkable, because of
the blonde heads by which he was surrounded. While all his companions of
both sexes had hair the color of flax, rosy complexions, and blue eyes,
his hair was of deep chestnut color, like his eyes, and his skin was
brown. He had not the prominent cheek bones, the short nose, and the
stout frame of these Scandinavian children. In a word, by his physical
characteristics so plainly marked, it was evident that he did not belong
to the race by whom he was surrounded.
He was clothed like them in the coarse cloth of the country, made in the
style common among the peasantry of Bergen; but the delicacy of his
limbs, the smallness of his head, the easy elegance of his poise, and
the natural gracefulness of his movements and attitudes, all seemed to
denote a foreign origin.
No physiologist could have helped being struck at once by these
peculiarities, and such was the case with Dr. Schwaryencrona.
However, he had no motive for calling attention to these facts, and he
simply proceeded to fulfill the duty which he had undertaken.
"Where shall we begin--with grammar?" he asked the young lad.
"I am at the command of the doctor," answered Erik, modestly.
The doctor then gave him two or three simple questions, but was
astonished to hear him answer them, not only in the Swedish language,
but also in French and English. It was the usual custom of Mr. Malarius,
who contended that it was as easy to learn three languages at once as it
was to learn only one.
"You teach them French and English then?" said the doctor, turning
toward his friend.
"Why not? also the elements of Greek and Latin. I do not see what harm
it can do them."
"Nor I," said the doctor, laughing, and Erik Hersebom translated several
sentences very correctly.
In one of the sentences, reference was made to the hemlock drunk by
Socrates, and Mr. Malarius asked the doctor to question him as to the
family which this plant belonged to.
Erik answered without hesitation "that it was one of the family of
umbelliferous plants," and described them in detail.
From botany they passed to geometry, and Erik demonstrated clearly a
theorem relative to the sum of the angles of a triangle.
The doctor became every moment more and more surprised.
"Let us have a little talk about geography," he said. "What sea is it
which bounds Scandinavia, Russia and Siberia on the north?"
"It is the Arctic Ocean."
"And what waters does this ocean communicate with?"
"The Atlantic on the west, and the Pacific on the east."
"Can you name two or three of the most important seaports on the
"I can mention Yokohama, in Japan; Melbourne, in Australia; San
Francisco, in the State of California."
"Well, since the Arctic Ocean communicates on one side with the
Atlantic, and on the other with the Pacific, do you not think that the
shortest route to Yokohama or San Francisco would be through this Arctic
"Assuredly," answered Erik, "it would be the shortest way, if it were
practicable, but all navigators who have attempted to follow it have
been prevented by ice, and been compelled to renounce the enterprise,
when they have escaped death."
"Have they often attempted to discover the north-east passage?"
"At least fifty times during the last three centuries, but without
"Could you mention a few of the expeditions?"
"The first was organized in 1523, under the direction of Franois
Sebastian Cabot. It consisted of three vessels under the command of the
unfortunate Sir Hugh Willoughby, who perished in Lapland, with all his
crew. One of his lieutenants, Chancellor, was at first successful, and
opened a direct route through the Polar Sea. But he also, while making a
second attempt, was shipwrecked, and perished. A captain, Stephen
Borough, who was sent in search of him, succeeded in making his way
through the strait which separates Nova Zembla from the Island of
Waigate and in penetrating into the Sea of Kara. But the fog and ice
prevented him from going any further.
"Two expeditions which were sent out in 1580 were equally unsuccessful.
The project was nevertheless revived by the Hollanders about fifteen
years later, and they fitted out, successively, three expeditions, under
the command of Barentz.
"In 1596, Barentz also perished, in the ice of Nova Zembla.
"Ten years later Henry Hudson was sent out, but also failed.
"The Danes were not more successful in 1653.
"In 1676, Captain John Wood was also shipwrecked. Since that period the
north-east passage has been considered impracticable, and abandoned by
the maritime powers."
"Has it never been attempted since that epoch?"
"It has been by Russia, to whom it would be of immense advantage, as
well as to all the northern nations, to find a direct route between her
shores and Siberia. She has sent out during a century no less than
eighteen expeditions to explore the coasts of Nova Zembla, the Sea of
Kara, and the eastern and western coasts of Siberia. But, although these
expeditions have made these places better known, they have also
demonstrated the impossibility of forcing a passage through the Arctic
Ocean. The academician Van Baer, who made the last attempt in 1837,
after Admiral Lutke and Pachtusow, declared emphatically that this ocean
is simply a glacier, as impracticable for vessels as it would be if it
were a continent."
"Must we, then, renounce all hopes of discovering a north-east passage?"
"That seems to be the conclusion which we must arrive at, from the
failure of these numerous attempts. It is said, however, that a great
navigator, named Nordenskiold, wishes to make another attempt, after he
has prepared himself by first exploring portions of this polar sea. If
he then considers it practicable, he may get up another expedition."
Dr. Schwaryencrona was a warm admirer of Nordenskiold, and this is why
he had asked these questions about the north-east passage. He was
charmed with the clearness of these answers.
He fixed his eyes on Erik Hersebom, with an expression of the deepest
"Where did you learn all this, my dear child?" he demanded, after a
"Here, sir," answered Erik, surprised at the question.
"You have never studied in any other school?"
"Mr. Malarius may be proud of you, then," said the doctor, turning
toward the master.
"I am very well satisfied with Erik," said the latter.
"He has been my pupil for eight years. When I first took him he was very
young, and he has always been at the head of his section."
The doctor became silent. His piercing eyes were fixed upon Erik, with a
singular intensity. He seemed to be considering some problem, which it
would not be wise to mention.
"He could not have answered my question better and I think it useless to
continue the examination," he said at last. "I will no longer delay your
holiday, my children, and since Mr. Malarius desires it, we will stop
At these words, the master clapped his hands. All the pupils rose at
once, collected their books, and arranged themselves in four lines, in
the empty spaces between the benches.
Mr. Malarias clapped his hands a second time. The column started, and
marched out, keeping step with military precision.
At a third signal they broke their ranks, and took to flight with joyous
In a few seconds they were scattered around the blue waters of the
fiord, where might be seen also the turf roofs of the village of Noroe.
THE HOME OF A FISHERMAN IN NOROE.
The house of Mr. Hersebom was, like all others in Noroe, covered by a
turf roof, and built of enormous timbers of fir-trees, in the
Scandinavian fashion. The two large rooms were separated by a hall in
the center, which led to the boat-house where the canoes were kept. Here
were also to be seen the fishing-tackle and the codfish, which they dry
and sell. These two rooms were used both as living-rooms and bedrooms.
They had a sort of wooden drawer let into the wall, with its mattress
and skins, which serve for beds, and are only to be seen at night. This
arrangement for sleeping, with the bright panels, and the large open
fire-place, where a blazing fire of wood was always kept burning, gave
to the interior of the most humble homes an appearance of neatness and
domestic luxury unknown to the peasantry of Southern Europe.
This evening all the family were gathered round the fire-place, where a
huge kettle was boiling, containing "sillsallat," or smoked herring,
salmon and potatoes.
Mr. Hersebom, seated in a high wooden chair, was making a net, which was
his usual occupation when he was not on the sea, or drying his fish. He
was a hardy fisherman, whose skin had been bronzed by exposure to the
arctic breezes, and his hair was gray, although he was still in the
prime of life. His son Otto, a great boy, fourteen years old, who bore a
strong resemblance to him, and who was destined to also become famous as
a fisherman, sat near him. At present he was occupied in solving the
mysteries of the rule of three, covering a little slate with figures,
although his large hands looked as if they would be much more at home
handling the oars.
Erik, seated before the dining-table, was absorbed in a Volume of
history that Mr. Malarius had lent him. Katrina, Hersebom, the goodwife,
was occupied peacefully with her spinning-wheel, while little Vanda, a
blonde of ten years, was seated on a stool, knitting a large stocking
with red wool.
At their feet a large dog of a yellowish-white color, with wool as thick
as that of a sheep, lay curled up sound asleep.
For more than one hour the silence had been unbroken, and the copper
lamp suspended over their heads, and filled with fish oil, lighted
softly this tranquil interior.
To tell the truth, the silence became oppressive to Dame Katrina, who
for some moments had betrayed the desire of unloosing her tongue.
At last she could keep quiet no longer.
"You have worked long enough for to-night," she said, "it is time to lay
the cloth for supper."
Without a word of expostulation. Erik lifted his large book, and seated
himself nearer the fire-place, whilst Vanda laid aside her knitting, and
going to the buffet brought out the plates and spoons.
"Did you say, Otto," asked the little girl, "that our Erik answered the
doctor very well?"
"Very well, indeed," said Otto enthusiastically, "he talked like a book
in fact. I do not know where he learned it all. The more questions the
doctor asked the more he had to answer. The words came and came. Mr.
Malarius was well satisfied with him."
"I am also," said Vanda, gravely.
"Oh, we were all well pleased. If you could have seen, mother, how the
children all listened, with their mouths open. We were only afraid that
our turn would come. But Erik was not afraid, and answered the doctor as
he would have answered the master."
"Stop. Mr. Malarius is as good as the doctor, and quite as learned,"
cried Erik, whom their praises seemed to annoy.
The old fisherman gave him an approving smile.
"You are right, little boy," he said; "Mr. Malarius, if he chose, could
be the superior of all the doctors in the town, and besides he does not
make use of his scientific knowledge to ruin poor people."
"Has Doctor Schwaryencrona ruined any one?" asked Erik with curiosity.
"Well--if he has not done so, it has not been his fault. Do you think
that I have taken any pleasure in the erection of his factory, which is
sending forth its smoke on the borders of our fiord? Your mother can
tell you that formerly we manufactured our own oil, and that we sold it
easily in Bergen for a hundred and fifty to two hundred kroners a year.
But that is all ended now--nobody will buy the brown oil, or, if they
do, they pay so little for it, that it is not worth while to take the
journey. We must be satisfied with selling the livers to the factory,
and God only knows how this tiresome doctor has managed to get them for
such a low price. I hardly realize forty-five kroners now, and I have to
take twice as much trouble as formerly. Ah, well. I say it is not just,
and the doctor would do better to look after his patients in Stockholm,
instead of coming here to take away our trade by which we earn our
After these bitter words they were all silent. They heard nothing for
some minutes except the clicking of the plates, as Vanda arranged them,
whilst her mother emptied the contents of the pot into a large dish.
Erik reflected deeply upon what Mr. Hersebom had said. Numerous
objections presented themselves to his mind, and as he was candor
itself--he could not help speaking.
"It seems to me that you have a right to regret your former profits,
father," he said, "but is it just to accuse Doctor Schwaryencrona of
having diminished them? Is not his oil worth more than the home-made
"Ah! it is clearer, that is all. It does not taste as strong as ours,
they say; and that is the reason why all the fine ladies in the town
prefer it, no doubt; but it does not do any more good to the lungs of
sick people than our oil."
"But for some reason or other they buy it in preference; and since it is
a very useful medicine it is essential that the public should experience
as little disgust as possible in taking it. Therefore, if a doctor finds
out a method of making it more palatable, is it not his duty to make use
of his discovery?"
Master Hersebom scratched his ear.
"Doubtless," he said, reluctantly, "it is his duty as a doctor, but that
is no reason why he should prevent poor fishermen from getting their
"I believe the doctor's factory gives employment to three hundred,
whilst there were only twenty in Noroe at the time of which you speak,"
objected Erik, timidly.
"You are right, and that is why the business is no longer worth
anything," said Hersebom.
"Come, supper is ready. Seat yourselves at the table," said Dame
Katrina, who saw that the discussion was in danger of becoming
Erik understood that further opposition on his part would be out of
place, and he did not answer the last argument of his father, but took
his habitual seat beside Vanda.
"Were the doctor and Mr. Malarius friends in childhood?" he asked, in
order to give a turn to the conversation.
"Yes," answered the fisherman, as he seated himself at the table. "They
were both born in Noroe, and I can remember when they played around the
school-house, although they are both ten years older than I am. Mr.
Malarius was the son of the physician, and Doctor Schwaryencrona only
the son of a simple fisherman. But he has risen in the world, and they
say that he is now worth millions, and that his residence in Stockholm
is a perfect palace. Oh, learning is a fine thing."
After uttering this aphorism the brave man took a spoon to help the
smoking fish and potatoes, when a knock at the door made him pause.
"May I come in, Master Hersebom?" said a deep-toned voice. And without
waiting for permission the person who had spoken entered, bringing with
him a great blast of icy air.
"Doctor Schwaryencrona!" cried the three children, while the father and
mother rose quickly.
"My dear Hersebom," said the doctor, taking the fisherman's hand, "we
have not seen each other for many years, but I have not forgotten your
excellent father, and thought I might call and see a friend of my
The worthy man felt a little ashamed of the accusations which he had so
recently made against his visitor, and he did not know what to say. He
contented himself, therefore, with returning the doctor's shake of the
hand cordially, and smiling a welcome, whilst his good wife was more
"Quick, Otto, Erik, help the doctor to take off his overcoat, and you,
Vanda, prepare another place at the table," she said, for, like all
Norwegian housekeepers, she was very hospitable.
"Will you do us the honor, doctor, of eating a morsel with us?"
"Indeed I would not refuse, you may be sure, if I had the least
appetite; for I see you have a very tempting dish before you. But it is
not an hour since I took supper with Mr. Malarius, and I certainly would
not have called so early if I had thought you would be at the table. It
would give me great pleasure if you would resume your seats and eat your
"Oh, doctor!" implored the good wife, "at least you will not refuse some
'snorgas' and a cup of tea?"
"I will gladly take a cup of tea, but on condition that, you eat your
supper first," answered the doctor, seating himself in the large
Vanda immediately placed the tea-kettle on the fire, and disappeared in
the neighboring room. The rest of the family understanding with native
courtesy that it would annoy their guest if they did not do as he
wished, began to eat their supper.
In two minutes the doctor was quite at his ease. He stirred the fire,
and warmed his legs in the blaze of the dry wood that Katrina had thrown
on before going to supper. He talked about old times, and old friends;
those who had disappeared, and those who remained, about the changes
that had taken place even in Bergen.
He made himself quite at home, and, what was more remarkable, he
succeeded in making Mr. Hersebom eat his supper.
Vanda now entered carrying a large wooden dish, upon which was a saucer,
which she offered so graciously to the doctor that he could not refuse
it. It was the famous "snorgas" of Norway, slices of smoked reindeer,
and shreds of herring, and red pepper, minced up and laid between slices
of black bread, spiced cheese, and other condiments; which they eat at
any hour to produce an appetite.
It succeeded so well in the doctor's case, that although he only took it
out of politeness, he was soon able to do honor to some preserved
mulberries which were Dame Katrina's special pride, and so thirsty that
he drank seven or eight cups of tea.
Mr. Hersebom brought out a bottle of "schiedam," which he had bought of
Then supper being ended, the doctor accepted an enormous pipe which his
host offered him, and smoked away to their general satisfaction.
By this time all feeling of constraint had passed away, and it seemed as
if the doctor had always been a member of the family. They joked and
laughed, and were the best of friends in the world, until the old clock
of varnished wood struck ten.
"My good friends, it is growing late," said the doctor.
"If you will send the children to bed, we will talk about more serious
Upon a sign from Dame Katrina, Otto, Erik, and Vanda bade them
good-night and left the room.
"You wonder why I have come," said the doctor, after a moments' silence,
fixing his penetrating glance upon the fisherman.
"My guests are always welcome," answered the fisherman, sententiously.
"Yes! I know that Noroe is famous for hospitality. But you must
certainly have asked yourself what motive could have induced me to leave
the society of my old friend Malarius and come to you. I am sure that
Dame Hersebom has some suspicion of my motive."
"We shall know when you tell us," replied the good woman,
"Well," said the doctor, with a sigh, "since you will not help me, I
must face it alone. Your son, Erik, Master Hersebom, is a most
"I do not complain of him," answered the fisherman.
"He is singularly intelligent, and well informed for his age," continued
the doctor. "I questioned him to-day, in school, and I was very much
surprised by the extraordinary ability which his answers displayed. I
was also astonished, when I learned his name, to see that he bore no
resemblance to you, nor indeed to any of the natives of this country."
The fisherman and his wife remained silent and motionless.
"To be brief," continued the doctor, with visible impatience, "this
child not only interests me--he puzzles me. I have talked with Malarius,
who told me that he was not your son, but that he had been cast on your
shore by a shipwreck, and that you took him in and adopted him, bringing
him up as your own, and bestowing your name upon him. This is true, is
"Yes, doctor," answered Hersebom, gravely.
"If he is not our son by birth, he is in love and affection," said
Katrina, with moist eyes and trembling hands. "Between him, and Otto,
and Vanda, we have made no difference--we have never thought of him only
as our own child."
"These sentiments do you both honor," said the doctor, moved by the
emotion of the brave woman. "But I beg of you, my friends, relate to me
the history of this child. I have come to hear it, and I assure you that
I wish him well."
The fisherman appeared to hesitate a moment. Then seeing that the doctor
was waiting impatiently for him to speak, he concluded to gratify him.
"You have been told the truth," he said, regretfully; "the child is not
our son. Twelve years ago I was fishing near the island at the entrance
of the fiord, near the open sea. You know it is surrounded by a sand
bank, and that cod-fish are plentiful there. After a good day's work, I
drew in my lines, and was going to hoist my sail, when something white
moving upon the water, about a mile off, attracted my attention. The sea
was calm, and there was nothing pressing to hurry me home, so I had the
curiosity to go and see what this white object was. In ten minutes I had
reached it. It was a little wicker cradle, enveloped in a woolen cloth,
and strongly tied to a buoy. I drew it toward me; an emotion which I
could not understand seized me; I beheld a sleeping infant, about seven
or eight months old, whose little fists were tightly clinched. He looked
a little pale and cold, but did not appear to have suffered much from
his adventurous voyage, if one might judge by his lusty screams when he
awoke, as he did immediately, when he no longer felt himself rocked by
the waves. Our little Otto was over two years old, and I knew how to
manage such little rogues. I rolled up a bit of rag, dipped it in some
eau de vie and water that I had with me, and gave it to him to suck.
This quieted him at once, and he seemed to enjoy the cordial. But I knew
that he would not be quiet long, therefore I made all haste to return to
Noroe. I had untied the cradle and placed it in the boat at my feet; and
while I attended to my sail, I watched the poor little one, and asked
myself where it could possibly have come from. Doubtless from some
shipwrecked vessel. A fierce tempest had been raging during the night,
and there had been many disasters. But by what means had this infant
escaped the fate of those who had had the charge of him? How had they
thought of tying him to the buoy? How many hours had he been floating on
the waves? Where were his father and mother, those who loved him? But
all these questions had to remain unanswered, the poor baby was unable
to give us any information. In half an hour I was at home, and gave my
new possession to Katrina. We had a cow then, and she was immediately
pressed into service as a nurse for the infant. He was so pretty, so
smiling, so rosy, when he had been fed and warmed before the fire, that
we fell in love with him at once; just the same as if he had been our
own. And then, you see, we took care of him; we brought him up, and we
have never made any difference between him and our own two children. Is
it not true, wife?" added Mr. Hersebom, turning toward Katrina.
"Very true, the poor little one," answered the good dame, drying her
eyes, which this recital had filled with tears. "And he is our child
now, for we have adopted him. I do not know why Mr. Malarius should say
anything to the contrary."
"It is true," said Hersebom, and I do not see that it concerns any one
"That is so," said the doctor, in a conciliatory tone, "but you must
not accuse Mr. Malarius of being indiscreet. I was struck with the
physiognomy of the child, and I begged my friend confidentially to
relate his history. He told me that Erik believed himself to be your
son, and that every one in Noroe had forgotten how he had become
yours. Therefore, you see, I took care not to speak until the children
had been sent to bed. You say that he was about seven or eight months
old when you found him?"
"About that; he had already four teeth, the little brigand, and I assure
you that it was not long before he began to use them," said Hersebom,
"Oh, he was a superb child," said Katrinn, eagerly. "He was so white,
and strong, and plump; and such arms and legs. You should have seen
"How was he dressed?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona.
Hersebom did not answer, but his wife was less discreet.
"Like a little prince," she answered. "Imagine a robe of piquè, trimmed
all over with lace, a pelisse of quilted satin, a cloak of white velvet,
and a little cap; the son of a king could not have more. Everything he
had was beautiful. But you can see for yourself, for I have kept them
all just as they were. You may be sure that we did not dress the baby in
them. Oh, no; I put Otto's little garments on him, which I had laid
away, and which also served, later on, for Vanda. But his outfit is
here, and I will show it to you."
While she was speaking, the worthy woman knelt down before a large oaken
chest, with an antique lock, and after lifting the lid, began searching
She drew out, one by one, all the garments of which she had spoken, and
displayed them with pride before the eyes of the doctor. She also showed
the linen, which was exquisitely fine, a little quilt of silk, and a
pair of white merino boots. All the articles were marked with the
initials "E.D.," elegantly embroidered, as the doctor saw at a glance.
"'E.D.;' is that why you named the child Erik?" he asked.
"Precisely," answered Katrina, who it was evident enjoyed this
exhibition, while her husband's face grew more gloomy. "See," she said,
"this is the most beautiful of all. He wore it around his neck."
And she drew from its box a rattle of coral and gold, suspended from a
The initials "E.D." were here surrounded by a Latin motto, "Semper
"We thought at first it was the baby's name, but Mr. Malarius told us it
meant 'always the same,'" she continued, seeing that the doctor was
trying to decipher the motto.
"Mr. Malarius told you the truth," said the doctor. "It is evident the
child belonged to a rich and distinguished family," he added, while
Katrina replaced the babe's outfit in the oaken chest.
"Have you any idea what country he came from?"
"How could we know anything about it, since I found him on the sea?"
"Yes, but the cradle was attached to a buoy, you said, and it is
customary on all vessels to write on the buoy the name of the ship to
which it belongs," answered the doctor, fixing his penetrating eyes upon
those of the fisherman.
"Doubtless," said the latter, hanging his head.
"Well, this buoy, what name did it bear?"
"Doctor, I am not a savant. I can read my own language a little, but
as for foreign tongues--and then it was so long ago."
"However, you ought to be able to remember something about it--and
doubtless you showed it to Mr. Malarius, with the rest of the
articles--make a little effort, Mr. Hersebom. Was not this name
inscribed on the buoy, 'Cynthia'?"
"I believe it was something like that," answered the fisherman vaguely.
"It is a strange name. To what country does it belong in your judgment,
"How should I know? Have I ever been beyond the shores of Noroe and
Bergen, except once or twice to fish off the coast of Greenland and
Iceland?" answered the good man, in a tone which grew more and more
"I think it is either an English or a German name," said the doctor,
taking no notice of his crossness. "It would be easy to decide on
account of the shape of the letters, if I could see the buoy. Have you
"By my faith no. It was burnt up ages ago," answered Hersebom,
"As near as Mr. Malarius could remember, the letters were Roman," said
the doctor, as if he were talking to himself--"and the letters on the
linen certainly are. It is therefore probable that the 'Cynthia' was not
a German vessel. I think it was an English one. Is not this your
opinion, Mr. Hersebom?"
"Well, I have thought little about it," replied the fisherman. "Whether
it was English, German, or Russian, makes no difference to me. For many
years according to all appearances, they have lain beneath the sea,
which alone could tell the secret."
"But you have doubtless made some effort to discover the family to whom
the child belonged?" said the doctor, whose glasses seemed to shine with
irony. "You doubtless wrote to the Governor of Bergen, and had him
insert an advertisement in the journals?"
"I!" cried the fisherman, "I did nothing of the kind. God knows where
the baby came from; why should I trouble myself about it? Can I afford
to spend money to find his people, who perhaps care little for him? Put
yourself in my place, doctor. I am not a millionaire, and you may be
sure if we had spent all we had, we should have discovered nothing. I
have done the best I could; we have raised the little one as our own
son, we have loved him and taken care of him."
"Even more than the two others, if it were possible," interrupted
Katrina, drying her eyes on the corner of her apron. "If we have
anything to reproach ourselves for, it is for bestowing upon him too
large a share of our tenderness."
"Dame Hersebom, you must not do me the injustice to suppose that your
kindness to the little shipwrecked child inspires me with any other
feeling than the greatest admiration," said the doctor.
"No, you must not think such a thing. But if you wish me to speak
frankly--I must say that this tenderness has blinded you to your duty.
You should have endeavored to discover the family of the infant, as far
as your means permitted."
There was perfect silence for a few minutes.
"It is possible that we have done wrong," said Mr. Hersebom, who had
hung his head under this reproach. "But what is done can not be altered.
Erik belongs to us now, and I do not wish any one to speak to him about
these old reminiscences."
"You need have no fear, I will not betray your confidence," answered the
"I must leave you, my good friends, and I wish you good-night--a night
free from remorse," he added, gravely.
Then he put on his fur cloak, and shook hands cordially with his hosts,
and being conducted to the door by Hersebom, he took the road toward his
The fisherman stood for a moment on the threshold, watching his
retreating figure in the moonlight.
"What a devil of a man!" he murmured, as at last he closed his door.
MR. HERSEBOM'S REFLECTIONS.
The next morning Dr. Schwaryencrona had just finished breakfast with his
overseer, after having made a thorough inspection of his factory when he
saw a person enter whom he did not at first recognize as Mr. Hersebom.
He was clothed in his holiday suit: his embroidered waistcoat, his
furred riding coat, and his high hat, and the fisherman looked very
different to what he did in his working clothes. But what made the
change more apparent, was the deep sadness and humility portrayed in his
countenance. His eyes were red, and looked as if he had had no sleep all
This was in fact the case. Mr. Hersebom who up to this time had never
felt his conscience trouble him, had passed hours of sad remorse, on his
mattress of skins.
Toward morning he had exchanged confidences with Dame Katrina, who had
also been unable to close her eyes.
"Wife, I have been thinking of what the doctor said to us," he said,
after several hours of wakefulness.
"I have been thinking of it also, ever since he left us," answered his
"It is my opinion that there is some truth in what he said, and that we
have perhaps acted more egotistically than we should have done. Who
knows but that the child may have a right to some great fortune, of
which he is deprived by our negligence? Who knows if his family have not
mourned for him these twelve years, and they could justly accuse us of
having made no attempt to restore him to them?"
"This is precisely what I have been saying to myself," answered Katrina,
sighing. "If his mother is living what frightful anguish the poor woman
must have endured, in believing that her infant was drowned. I put
myself in her place, and imagine that we had lost Otto in this manner.
We would never have been consoled."
"It is not thoughts of his mother that trouble me, for according to all
appearances, she is dead," said Hersebom, after a silence broken only by
"How can we suppose that an infant of that age would travel without her,
or that it would have been tied to a buoy and left to take its chances
on the ocean, if she had been living?"
"That is true; but what do we know about it, after all. Perhaps she also
has had a miraculous escape."
"Perhaps some one has taken her infant from her--this idea has often
occurred to me," answered Hersebom. "Some one might be interested in his
disappearance. To expose so young a child to such a hazardous proceeding
is so extraordinary that such conjectures are possible, and in this case
we have become accomplices of a crime--we have contributed to its
success. Is it not horrible to think of?"
"And we thought we were doing such a good and charitable work in
adopting the poor little one."
"Oh, it is evident that we had no malicious intentions. We nourished it,
and brought it up as well as we were able, but that does not prevent me
from seeing that we have acted rashly, and the little one will have a
right to reproach us some of these days."
"We need not be afraid of that, I am sure. But it is too bad that we
should feel at this late day that we have done anything for which we
must reproach ourselves."
"How strange it is that the same action regarded from a different point
of view, can be judged so differently. I never would have thought of
such a thing. And yet a few words from the doctor seems to have turned
Thus these good people talked during the night.
The result of their nocturnal conversation was that Mr. Hersebom
resolved to call upon the doctor, and ask him what they could do to make
amends for the error of which they had been guilty.
Dr. Schwaryencrona did not revert to the conversation which had taken
place the previous evening. He appeared to regard the visit of the
fisherman as simply an act of politeness, and received him cordially,
and began talking about the weather and the price of fish.
Mr. Hersebom tried to lead the conversation toward the subject which
occupied his mind. He spoke of Mr. Malarius' school, and at last said
plainly: "Doctor, my wife and I have been thinking all night about what
you said to us last evening about the boy. We never thought that we were
doing him a wrong in educating him as our son. But you have changed our
opinion, and we want to know what you would advise us to do, in order to
repair our fault. Do you think that we still ought to seek to find
"It is never too late to do our duty," said the doctor, "although the
task is certainly much more difficult now than it would have been at
"Will you interest yourself in the matter?"
"I will, with pleasure," answered the doctor; "and I promise you to use
every exertion to fulfill it, upon one condition: that is, that you let
me take the boy to Stockholm."
If Mr. Hersebom had been struck on the head with a club, he would not
have been more astonished than he was by this proposal.
"Intrust Erik to you! Send him to Stockholm! Why should I do this,
doctor?" he asked, in an altered voice.
"I will tell you. My attention was drawn to the child, not only on
account of his physical appearance, which was so different to that of
his companions, but by his great intelligence and his evident taste
for study. Before knowing the circumstances which had brought him to
Noroe, I said to myself that it was a shame to leave a boy so gifted
in a village school--even under such a master as Malarius; for here
there is nothing to assist in the development of his exceptionally
great faculties. There are no museums, nor scientific collections, nor
libraries, nor competitors who are worthy of him. I felt a strong
desire to give him the advantages of a complete education. You can
understand that, after the confidence which you have bestowed upon me,
I am more anxious to do so than before. You can see, Mr. Hersebom,
that your adopted son belongs to some rich and distinguished family.
If I succeed in finding them, would you wish to restore to them a
child educated in a village, and deprived of this education, without
which he will feel out of place among his kindred? It is not
reasonable; and you are too sensible not to understand it."
Mr. Hersebom hung his head: without his being aware of it, two large
tears rolled down his cheeks.
"But then," he said, "this would be an entire separation. Before we
ever know whether the child will find his relations, he must be taken
from his home. It is asking too much, doctor--asking too much of my
wife. The child is happy with us. Why can he not be left alone, at
least until he is sure of a better one?"
"Happy. How do you know that he will be so when he grows older? How
can you tell whether he may not regret having been saved? Intelligent
and superior as he will be, perhaps he would be stifled with the life
which you would offer him in Noroe."
"But, doctor, this life which you disdain, is good enough for us. Why is
it not good enough for him?"
"I do not disdain it," said the doctor. "Nobody admires and honors those
who work more than I do. Do you believe, Mr. Hersebom, that I forget my
birth? My father and grandfather were fishermen like yourself, and it is
just because they were so far-seeing as to educate me, that I appreciate
the value of it, and I would assure it to a child who merits it. It is
his interest alone which guides me, I beg of you to believe."
"Ah--what do I know about it? Erik will be almost grown up when you have
made a gentleman of him, and he will not know how to use his arms. Then
if you do not find his family, which is more than possible, since twelve
years have passed since I found him, what a beautiful future we are
preparing for him! Do you not see, doctor, that a fisherman's life is a
brave one--better than any other: with a good boat under his feet and
four or five dozen of cod-fish at the end of his lines, a Norwegian
fisherman need have no fear, nor be indebted to any one. You say that
Erik would not be happy leading such a life. Permit me to believe the
contrary. I know the child well, he loves his books, but, above all, he
loves the sea. It also almost seems as if he felt that he had been
rocked upon it, and all the museums in the world would not console him
for the loss of it."
"But we have the sea around us also at Stockholm," said the doctor,
smiling--touched in spite of himself by this affectionate resistance.
"Well," said the fisherman, crossing his arms, "what do you wish to do?
what do you propose, doctor?"
"There, you see, after all, the necessity of doing something. Well this
is my proposition--Erik is twelve years old, nearly thirteen, and he
appears to be highly gifted. We will say nothing about his origin--he is
worthy of being supplied with the means of developing and utilizing his
faculties; that is all we need trouble ourselves about at present. I am
rich, and I have no children. I will undertake to furnish the means, and
give him the best masters, and all possible facilities for profiting by
their instructions. I will do this for two years. During this time I
will make inquiries, insert advertisements in the newspapers; make every
possible exertion, move heaven and earth to discover his parents. If I
do not find them in two years, we shall never do it. If his relatives
are found, they will naturally decide his future career in life. If we
do not find them, I will send Erik back to you. He will then be fifteen
years old--he will have seen something of the world. The hour will have
arrived to tell him the truth about his birth. Then aided by our advice,
and the opinions of his teachers, he can choose what path he would
prefer to follow. If he wishes to become a fisherman, I will not oppose
it. If he wishes to continue his studies, I engage to furnish the means
for him to follow any profession that he may choose. Does this seem a
reasonable proposition to you?"
"More than reasonable. It is wisdom itself issuing from your lips,
doctor," said Mr. Hersebom, overcome in spite of himself. "See what it
is to have an education!" he continued, shaking his head. "The
difficulty will be to repeat all you have said to my wife. When will you
take the child away?"
"To-morrow. I can not delay my return to Stockholm any longer."
Mr. Hersebom heaved a deep sigh, which was almost a sob.
"To-morrow! So soon!" he said. "Well, what must be, must be. I will go
and talk to my wife about it."
"Yes, do so, and consult Mr. Malarius also; you will find that he is of
"I do not doubt it," answered the fisherman, with a sad smile.
He shook the hand which Dr. Schwaryencrona held out to him, and went
away looking very thoughtful.
That evening before dinner the doctor again directed his steps toward
the dwelling of Mr. Hersebom. He found the family assembled round the
hearth, as they were the evening before, but not wearing the same
appearance of peaceful happiness. The father was seated the furthest
from the fire, silent, and with idle hands. Katrina, with tears in her
eyes, held Erik's hands between her own, whose cheeks were reddened by
the hope of the new destiny which seemed opening before him, but who
looked sad at leaving all whom he loved, and who did not know what
feeling he ought to yield to.
Little Vanda's face was hidden in her father's knees, and nothing could
be seen except her long braids of golden hair. Otto, also greatly
troubled at this proposed separation, sat motionless beside his brother.
"How sad and disconsolate you look!" said the doctor, stopping on the
threshold. "If Erik were about to set out on a distant and most perilous
expedition you could not show more grief. He is not going to do anything
of the kind, I assure you, my good friends. Stockholm is not at the
antipodes, and the child is not going away forever. He can write to you,
and I do not doubt that he will do so often. He is only going away to
school, like so many other boys. In two years he will return tall, and
well-informed, and accomplished, I hope. Is this anything to feel sad
about? Seriously, it is not reasonable."
Katrina arose with the natural dignity of the peasant of the North.
"Doctor," she said, "God is my witness that I am profoundly grateful to
you for what you propose to do for Erik--but we can not help feeling sad
because of his departure. Mr. Hersebom has explained to me that it is
necessary, and I submit. Do not think that I shall feel no regret."
"Mother," said Erik, "I will not go, if it causes you such pain."
"No, child," answered the worthy woman, taking him in her arms.
"Education is a benefit which we have no right to refuse you. Go, my
son, and thank the doctor who has provided it for you, and prove to him
by constant application to your studies that you appreciate his
"There, there," said the doctor, whose glasses were dimmed by a singular
cloudiness, "let us rather speak of practical matters, that will be
better. You know, do you not, that we must set out to-morrow very early,
and that you must have everything ready. We will go by sleigh to Bergen,
and thence by railroad. Erik only needs a change of linen, I will
procure everything else that is necessary at Stockholm."
"Everything shall be ready," answered Dame Hersebom.
"Vanda," she added, with Norwegian hospitality, "the doctor is still
The little girl hurriedly pushed a large arm-chair toward him.
"I can not stay," said the doctor. "I promised my friend Malarius to
dine with him, and he is waiting for me. Little girl," he said, laying
his hand gently upon Vanda's blonde head, "I hope you do not wish me any
harm because I am taking your brother away from you?"
"No, doctor," she answered gravely. "Erik will be happier with you--he
was not intended to live in a village."
"And you, little one, will you be very unhappy without him?"
"The shore will seem deserted," she answered; "the seagulls will look
for him without finding him, the little waves will be astonished because
they no longer see him, and the house will seem empty, but Erik will be
contented, because he will have plenty of books, and he will become a
"And his little sister will rejoice in his happiness--is it not so, my
child?" said the doctor, kissing the forehead of the little girl. "And
she will be proud of him when he returns--see we have arranged the whole
matter--but I must hurry away. Good-bye until to-morrow."
"Doctor," murmured Vanda, timidly, "I wish to ask a favor of you!"
"You are going in a sleigh, you said. I wish with my papa's and mamma's
permission to drive you to the first relay."
"Ah, ah! but I have already arranged that. Reguild, the daughter of my
overseer, should do this."
"Yes, I know it, but she is willing that I should take her place, if you
will authorize me to do so."
"Well, in that case you have only to obtain the permission of your
father and mother."
"I have done so."
"Then you have mine also, dear child," said the doctor, and he took his
The next morning when the sleigh stopped before the door of Mr. Hersebom
little Vanda held the reins according to her desire, seated upon the
She was going to drive them to the next village, where the doctor would
procure another horse and sleigh, and thus procure relays until he
reached Bergen. This new kind of coachman always astonishes a stranger,
but it is the custom in Norway and Sweden. The men would think it a loss
of time to pursue such a calling, and it is not rare to see children of
ten or twelve years of age managing heavy equipages with perfect ease.
The doctor was already installed in the back of the sleigh, nearly
hidden by his furs. Erik took his seat beside Vanda, after having
tenderly embraced his father and brother, who contented themselves by
showing by their mute sadness the sorrow which his departure caused
them; but the good Katrina was more open in the expression of her
"Adieu, my son!" she said, in the midst of her tears. "Never forget what
you have learned from your poor parents--be honest, and brave, and never
tell a lie. Work as hard as you can--always protect those who are weaker
than yourself--and if you do not find the happiness you merit come back
and seek it with us."
Vanda touched the horse which set out at a trot, and made the bells
ring. The air was cold, and the road as hard as glass. Just above the
horizon a pale sun began to throw his golden beams upon the snowy
landscape. In a few minutes Noroe was out of sight behind them.
Doctor Schwaryencrona lived in a magnificent house in Stockholm. It was
in the oldest and most aristocratic quarter of the charming capital,
which is one of the most pleasant and agreeable in Europe. Strangers
would visit it much more frequently if it were better known and more
fashionable. But tourists, unfortunately for themselves, plan their
journeys much upon the same principle as they purchase their hats.
Situated between Lake Melar and the Baltic, it is built upon eight small
islands, connected by innumerable bridges, and bordered by splendid
quays, enlivened by numerous steam-boats, which fulfill the duties of
omnibuses. The population are hardworking, gay, and contented. They are
the most hospitable, the most polite, and the best educated of any
nation in Europe. Stockholm, with its libraries, its museums, its
scientific establishments, is in fact the Athens of the North, as well
as a very important commercial center.
Erik, however, had not recovered from the sadness incident upon parting
from Vanda, who had left them at the first relay. Their parting had been
more sorrowful than would have been expected at their age, but they had
not been able to conceal their emotion.
When the carriage stopped before a large brick house, whose double
windows shone resplendently with gaslight, Erik was fairly dazzled. The
copper knocker of the door appeared to him to be of fine gold. The
vestibule, paved with marble and ornamented with statues, bronze
torches, and large Chinese-vases, completed his amazement.
A footman in livery removed his master's furs, and inquired after his
health with the affectionate cordiality which is habitual with Swedish
servants. Erik looked around him with amazement.
The sound of voices attracted his attention toward the broad oaken
staircase, covered with heavy carpet. He turned, and saw two persons
whose costumes appeared to him the height of elegance.
One was a lady with gray hair, and of medium height, who wore a dress of
black cloth, short enough to show her red stockings with yellow
clock-work, and her buckled shoes. An enormous bunch of keys attached to
a steel chain hung at her side. She carried her head high, and looked
about her with piercing eyes. This was "Fru," or Madame Greta--Maria,
the lady in charge of the doctor's house, and who was the undisputed
autocrat of the mansion in everything that pertained to the culinary or
domestic affairs. Behind her came a little girl, eleven or twelve years
old, who appeared to Erik like a fairy princess. Instead of the national
costume, the only one which he had ever seen worn by a child of that
age, she had on a dress of deep blue velvet, over which her yellow hair
was allowed to fall loosely. She wore black stockings and satin shoes; a
knot of cherry-colored ribbon was poised in her hair like a butterfly,
and gave a little color to her pale cheeks, while her large eyes shone
with a phosphorescent light.
"How delightful, uncle, to have you back again! Have you had a pleasant
journey?" she cried, clasping the doctor around the neck. She hardly
deigned to cast a glance at Erik, who stood modestly aside.
The doctor returned her caresses, and shook hands with his housekeeper,
then he made a sign for Erik to advance.
"Kajsa, and Dame Greta, I ask your friendship for Erik Hersebom, whom I
have brought from Norway with me!" he said, "and you, my boy, do not be
afraid," he said kindly. "Dame Greta is not as severe as she looks, and
you and my niece Kajsa, will soon be the best of friends, is it not so,
little girl?" he added, pinching gently the cheek of the little fairy.
Kajsa only responded by making a disdainful face.
As for the housekeeper, she did not appear very enthusiastic over the
new recruit thus presented to her notice.
"If you please, doctor," she said, with a severe air, as they ascended
the staircase, "may I ask who this child is?"
"Certainly, Dame Greta; I will tell you all about it before long. Do not
be afraid; but now, if you please, give us something to eat."
In the "matsal," or dining-room, the table was beautifully laid with
damask and crystal, and the "snorgas" was ready.
Poor Erik had never seen a table covered with a white cloth, for they
are unknown to the peasants of Norway, who hardly use plates, as they
have only recently been introduced, and many of them still eat their
fish on rounds of black bread, and find it very good. Therefore the
doctor had to repeat his invitation several times before the boy took
his seat at the table, and the awkwardness of his movements caused
"Froken," or Miss Kajsa, to cast upon him more than one ironical glance
during the repast. However, his journey had sharpened his appetite, and
this was of great assistance to him.
The "snorgas" was followed by a dinner that would have frightened a
Frenchman by its massive solidity, and would have sufficed to appease
the appetites of a battalion of infantry after a long march. Soup, fish,
home-made bread, goose stuffed with chestnuts, boiled beef, flanked with
a mountain of vegetables, a pyramid of potatoes, hard-boiled eggs by the
dozen, and a raisin pudding; all these were gallantly attacked and
This plentiful repast being ended, almost without a word having been
spoken, they passed into the parlor, a large wainscoted room, with six
windows draped with heavy curtains, large enough to have sufficed a
Parisian artist with hangings for the whole apartment. The doctor seated
himself in a corner by the fire, in a large leather arm-chair, Kajsa
took her place at his feet upon a footstool, whilst Erik, intimidated
and ill at ease, approached one of the windows, and would have gladly
hidden himself in its deep embrasure.
But the doctor did not leave him alone long.
"Come and warm yourself, my boy!" he said, in his sonorous voice; "and
tell us what you think of Stockholm."
"The streets are very black and very narrow, and the houses are very
high," said Erik.
"Yes, a little higher than they are in Norway," answered the doctor,
"They prevent one from seeing the stars!" said the young boy.
"Because we are in the quarter where the nobility live," said Kajsa,
piqued by his criticisms. "When you pass the bridges the streets are
"I saw that as we rode along; but the best of them are not as wide as
that which borders the fiord of Noroe," answered Erik.
"Ah, ah!" said the doctor, "are you home-sick already?"
"No," answered Erik, resolutely. "I am too much obliged to you, dear
doctor, for having brought me. But you asked me what I thought of
Stockholm, and I had to answer."
"Noroe must be a frightful little hole," said Kajsa.
"A frightful little hole!" repeated Erik, indignantly. "Those who say
that must be without eyes. If you could only see our rocks of granite,
our mountains, our glaciers, and our forests of pine, looking so black
against the pale sky! And besides all this, the great sea; sometimes
tumultuous and terrible, and sometimes so calm as scarcely to rock one;
and then the flight of the sea-gulls, which are lost in infinitude, and
then return, to fan you with their wings. Oh, it is beautiful! Yes, far
more beautiful than a town."
"I was not speaking of the country but of the houses," said Kajsa, "they
are only peasants' cabins--are they not, uncle?"
"In these peasants' cabins, your father and grandfather as well as
myself were born, my child," answered the doctor, gravely.
Kajsa blushed and remained silent.
"They are only wooden houses, but they answer as well as any," said
"Often in the evening while my father mends his nets, and my mother is
busy with her spinning-wheel, we three sit on a little bench, Otto,
Vanda, and I, and we repeat together the old sagas, while we watch the
shadows that play upon the ceiling; and when the wind blows outside, and
all the fishermen are safe at home, it does one good to gather around
the blazing fire. We are just as happy as if we were in a beautiful room
"This is not the best room," said Kajsa proudly. "I must show you the
grand drawing-room, it is worth seeing!"
"But there are so many books in this one," said Erik, "are there as many
in the drawing-room?"
"Books--who cares for them? There are velvet armchairs, and sofas, lace
curtains, a splendid French clock, and carpets from Turkey!"
Erik did not appear to be fascinated by this description, but cast
envious glances toward the large oaken bookcase, which filled one side
of the parlor!
"You can go and examine the books, and take any you like," said the
doctor. Erik did not wait for him to repeat this permission. He chose a
volume at once, and seating himself in a corner where there was a good
light, he was soon completely absorbed in his reading. He hardly noticed
the successive entrance of two old gentlemen, who were intimate friends
of Dr. Schwaryencrona, and who came almost every evening to play a game
of whist with him.
The first who arrived was Professor Hochstedt, a large man with cold and
stately manners, who expressed in polished terms the pleasure which he
felt at the doctor's safe return. He was scarcely seated in the
arm-chair which had long borne the name of the "professor's seat," when
a sharp ring was heard.
"It is Bredejord," exclaimed the two friends simultaneously.
The door soon opened to admit a thin sprightly little man, who entered
like a gust of wind, seized both the doctor's hands, kissed Kajsa on the
forehead affectionately, greeted the professor, and cast a glance as
keen as that of a mouse around the room.
It was the Advocate Bredejord, one of the most illustrious lawyers of
"Ha! Who is this?" said he, suddenly, as he beheld Erik.
The doctor tried to explain in as few words as possible.
"What--a young fisherman, or rather a boy from Bergen--and who reads
Gibbon in English?" he asked. For he saw at a glance what the book was
which so absorbed the little peasant.
"Does that interest you, my boy?" he asked.
"Yes, sir, it is a work that I have wanted to read for a long time, the
first volume of the 'Fall of the Roman Empire,'" answered Erik, simply.
"Upon my word," exclaimed the lawyer, "it appears that the peasants of
Bergen are fond of serious reading. But are you from Bergen?" he asked.
"I am from Noroe, which is not far from there," answered Erik.
"Ah, have they usually eyes and hair as brown as yours at Noroe?"
"No, sir; my brother and sister, and all the others, are blondes like
Miss Kajsa. But they are not dressed like her," he added, laughing;
"therefore they do not look much like her."
"No; I have no doubt of it," said Mr. Bredejord. "Miss Kajsa is a
product of civilization. And what are you going to do at Stockholm, my
boy, if I am not too curious?"
"The doctor has been kind enough to offer to send me to school," said
"Ah, ah!" said Mr. Bredejord, tapping his snuff-box with the ends of his
His glance seemed to question the doctor about this living problem; but
the latter made a sign to him, which was almost imperceptible, not to
pursue his investigations, and he changed the conversation. They then
talked about court affairs, the city news, and all that had taken place
since the departure of the doctor. Then Dame Greta came, and opened the
card-table, and laid out the cards. Soon silence reigned, while the
three friends were absorbed in the mysteries of whist.
The doctor made pretension to being a great player, and had no mercy for
the mistakes of his partners. He exulted loudly when their errors caused
him to win, and scolded when they made him lose. After every rubber he
took pleasure in showing the delinquent where he had erred; what card he
should have led, and which he should have held back. It is generally the
habit of whist-players, but it is not always conducive to amiability,
particularly when the victims are the same every evening.
Happily for him, the doctor's two friends never lost their temper. The
professor was habitually cool, and the lawyer severely skeptical.
"You are right," the first would say gravely, in answer to the most
"My dear Schwaryencrona, you know very well you are only losing your
time lecturing me," Mr. Bredejord would say, laughing. "All my life I
have made the greatest blunders whenever I play whist, and the worst of
it is, I do not improve." What could any one do with two such hardened
The doctor was compelled to discontinue his criticisms, but it was only
to renew them a quarter of an hour later, for he was incorrigible.
It happened, however, that this evening he lost every game, and his
consequent ill-humor made his criticisms very severe upon his two
companions, and even upon the "dummy."
But the professor coolly acknowledged his faults, and the lawyer
answered his most bitter reproaches by jokes.
"Why should I alter my play, when I win by playing badly, and you lose
by following your correct rules?" he said to the doctor.
They played until ten o'clock. Then Kajsa made the tea in a magnificent
"samovar," and served it with pretty gracefulness; then she discreetly
disappeared. Soon Dame Greta appeared, and, calling Erik, she conducted
him to the apartment which had been prepared for him. It was a pretty
little room, clean and well furnished, on the second floor.
The three friends were now left alone.
"Now, at last, you can tell us who this young fisherman from Noroe is,
who reads Gibbon in the original text?" said Mr. Bredejord, as he put
some sugar into his second cup of tea. "Or is it a forbidden subject,
which it is indiscreet for me to mention?"
"There is nothing mysterious about the matter, and I will willingly tell
you Erik's history, for I know that I can rely upon your discretion,"
answered Dr. Schwaryencrona.
"Ah! I knew that he had a history," said the lawyer, seating himself
comfortably in his arm-chair. "We will listen, dear doctor. I assure you
that your confidence will not be misplaced. I confess this youth arouses
my curiosity like a problem."
"He is, indeed, a living problem," answered the doctor, flattered by the
curiosity of his friend. "A problem which I hope to be able to solve.
But I must tell you all about it, and see if you think as I do."
The doctor settled himself comfortably, and began by telling them that
he had been struck by Erik's appearance in the school at Noroe, and by
his unusual intelligence. He had made inquiries about him, and he
related all that Mr. Malarius and Mr. Hersebom had told. He omitted none
of the details. He spoke of the buoy, of the name of "Cynthia," of the
little garments which Dame Katrina had shown him, of the coral ornament,
of the device upon it, and of the character of the letters.
"You are now in possession of all the facts as far as I have been able
to learn them," he said. "And you must bear in mind that the
extraordinary ability of the child is only a secondary phenomenon, and
largely due to the interest with which Mr. Malarius has always regarded
him, and of which he has made the best use. It was his unusual
acquirements which first drew my attention to him and led me to make
inquiries about him. But in reality this has little connection with the
questions which now occupy me, which are: where did this child come
from, and what course would it be best for me to take in order to
discover his family? We have only two facts to guide us in this search.
First: The physical indications of the race to which the child belongs.
Second: The name 'Cynthia,' which was engraved on the buoy.
"As to the first fact, there can be no doubt; the child belongs to the
Celtic race. He presents the type of a Celt in all its beauty and
"Let us pass to the second fact:
"'Cynthia' is certainly the name of the vessel to which the buoy
belonged. This name might have belonged to a German vessel, as well as
to an English one; but it was written in the Roman characters.
Therefore, the vessel was an English one--or we will say Anglo-Saxon to
be more precise. Besides, everything confirms the hypothesis, for more
than one English vessel going and coming from Inverness, or the Orkneys,
have been driven on the coast of Norway by a tempest; and you must not
forget that the little living waif could not have been floating for a
long while, since he had resisted hunger, and all the dangers of his
perilous journey. Well, now you know all, and what is your conclusion my
Neither the professor nor the lawyer thought it prudent to utter a word.
"You have not been able to arrive at any conclusion," said the doctor,
in a tone which betrayed a secret triumph. "Perhaps you even think there
is a contradiction between the two facts--a child of the Celtic race--an
English Vessel. But this is simply because you have failed to bear in
mind the existence on the coast of Great Britain of a people of the
Celtic race, on her sister island, Ireland. I did not think of it at
first myself, and it prevented me from solving the problem. But when it
occurred to me, I said to myself: the child is Irish. Is this your
If there was anything in the world the professor disliked, it was to
give a positive opinion upon any subject. It must also be confessed that
to give such an opinion in this case would have been premature. He
therefore contented himself with nodding his head, and saying:
"It is an incontestable fact that the Irish belong to the Celtic branch
of the Arian race."
This was a sufficiently safe aphorism, but Doctor Schwaryencrona asked
nothing more, and only saw in it the entire confirmation of his theory.
"You think so, yourself," he said eagerly. "The Irish were Celts, and
the child has all the characteristics of the race. The 'Cynthia' having
been an English vessel, it appears to me that we are in possession of
the necessary links, in order to find the family of the poor child. It
is in Great Britain that we must look for them. Some advertisements in
the 'Times' will probably be sufficient to put us on their tracks."
The doctor continued to enlarge upon his plan of proceeding, when he
remarked the obstinate silence of the lawyer and the slightly ironical
expression with which he listened to his conclusions.
"If you are not of my opinion, Bredejord, I wish you would say so. You
know that I do not fear to discuss the matter," he said, stopping short.
"I have nothing to say," answered Mr. Bredejord. "Hochstedt can bear
witness that I have said nothing."
"No. But I see very well that you do not share my opinion; and I am
curious to know why," said the doctor.
"Is Cynthia an English name?" he asked, with vehemence. "Yes! it was
written in Roman characters--it could not have been German. You have
heard our eminent friend, Hochstedt, affirm that the Irish are Celts.
Has the child all the characteristics of the Celtic race? You can judge
for yourself. You were struck by his appearance before I opened my mouth
about the subject. I conclude, therefore, that it is a want of
friendship for you to refuse to agree with me, and recognize the fact
that the boy belongs to an Irish family."
"Want of friendship is a strong charge," answered Mr. Bredejord, "if you
apply it to me. I can only say that I have not, as yet, expressed the
"No; but I see that you do not spare mine."
"Have I not a right?"
"But give some facts to support your theory."
"I have not said that I have formed any."
"Then it is a systematic opposition, just for the sake of contradicting
me, as you do in whist."
"Nothing is further from my thoughts, I assure you. Your reasoning
appeared to me to be too peremptory, that is all."
"In what way, if you please, I am curious to know?"
"It would take too long to tell you. Eleven o'clock is striking. I will
content myself with offering you a bet. Your copy of Pliny against my
Quintilian, that you have not judged rightly, and that the child is not
"You know that I do not like to bet," said the doctor, softened by his
unconquerable good humor. "But I shall take so much pleasure in your
discomfiture that I accept your offer."
"Well, then it is a settled affair. How much time do you expect to take
for your researches?"
"A few months will suffice, I hope, but I have said two years to
Hersebom, in order to be sure that no efforts were wanting."
"Ah! well--I give you two years. Hochstedt shall be our witness; and
there is no ill-feeling, I hope?"
"Assuredly not, but I see your Quintilian in great danger of coming to
keep company with my Pliny," answered the doctor.
Then, after shaking hands with his two friends, he accompanied them to
THE THIRTEEN DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.
The next day Erik began his new life at school.
Dr. Schwaryencrona first took him to his tailors, and fitted him out
with some new suits of clothes; then he introduced him to the principal
of one of the best schools in town. It was called in Swedish "Hogre
In this school were taught the ancient and modern languages, the
elementary sciences, and all that it was necessary to learn before
entering college. As in Germany and Italy, the students did not board in
the college. They lived with their families in the town, with the
professors, or wherever they could obtain comfortable accommodations.
The charges are very moderate; in fact, they have been reduced almost to
nothing. Large gymnasiums are attached to each of the higher classes,
and physical culture is as carefully attended to as the intellectual.
Erik at once gained the head of his division. He learned everything with
such extreme facility that he had a great deal of time to himself. The
doctor therefore thought that it would be better for him to utilize his
evenings by taking a course at the "Slodjskolan," the great industrial
school of Stockholm. It was an establishment especially devoted to the
practice of the sciences, particularly to making experiments in physics
and chemistry, and to geometrical constructions which are only taught
theoretically in the schools.
Doctor Schwaryencrona judged rightly that the teachings of this school,
which was one of the wonders of Stockholm, would give a new impetus to
the rapid progress which Erik was making, and he hoped for great results
from this double training.
His young protégé, proved worthy of the advantages which he procured
for him. He penetrated the depths of the fundamental sciences, and
instead of vague and superficial ideas, the ordinary lot of so many
pupils, he stored up a provision of just, precise, and definite facts.
The future development of these excellent principles could only be a
question of time.
Hereafter he would be able to learn without difficulty the more elevated
branches of these studies which would be required in college; in fact it
would be only play to him.
The same service which Mr. Malarius had rendered him, in teaching him
languages, history, and botany, the "Slodjskolan" now did for him by
inculcating the A, B, C, of the industrial arts; without which the best
teaching so often remains a dead letter.
Far from fatiguing Erik's brain, the multiplicity and variety of his
studies strengthened it much more than a special course of instruction
could have done.
Besides, the gymnasium was always open to him to recruit his body when
his studies were over; and here as well as in the school Erik stood
first. On holidays he never failed to pay a visit to the sea which he
loved with filial tenderness. He talked with the sailors and fishermen,
and often brought home a fine fish, which was well received by Dame
This good woman had conceived a great affection for this new member of
the household. Erik was so gentle, and naturally so courteous and
obliging, so studious and so brave, that it was impossible to know him
and not to like him. In eight days he had become a favorite with Mr.
Bredejord and Mr. Hochstedt, as he was already with Doctor
The only person who treated him with coldness was Kajsa. Whether the
little fairy thought that her hitherto undisputed sovereignty in the
house was in danger, or whether she bore Erik a grudge, because of the
sarcasms which her aristocratic air toward him inspired in the doctor,
nobody knew. However, she persisted in treating him with a disdainful
coldness, which no courtesy or politeness on his part could overcome.
Her opportunities of displaying her disdain were fortunately rare, for
Erik was always either out-of-doors, or else busy in his own little
Time passed in the most peaceful manner, and without any notable
We will pass with our reader without further comment over the two years
which Erik spent at school and return to Noroe.
Christmas had returned for the second time since Erik's departure. It is
in all Central and Northern Europe the great annual festival; because it
is coincident with the dull season in nearly all industries. In Norway
especially, they prolong the festival for thirteen days.--"Tretten yule
dage" (the thirteen days of Christmas), and they make it a season of
great rejoicings. It is a time for family reunions, for dinners, and
even for weddings.
Provisions are abundant, even in the poorest dwellings. Everywhere the
greatest hospitality is the order of the day.
The "Yule ol," or Christmas beer, is drunk freely. Every visitor is
offered a bumper in a wooden cup, mounted in gold, silver, or copper,
which the poorest families possess, and which cups have been transmitted
to them from time immemorial. The visitor must empty this cup, and
exchange with his hosts the joyful wishes of the season, and for a happy
It is also at Christmas that the servants receive their new clothes;
which are often the best part of their wages--that the cows, and sheep,
and even the birds of the air, receive a double ration, which is
exceptionally large. They say in Norway of a "poor man," that he is so
poor that he can not even give the sparrows their dinner at Christmas.
Of these thirteen traditional days, Christmas-eve is the gayest. It is
the custom for the young girls and boys to go around in bands on their
"schnee-schuhe," or snow-shoes, and stop before the houses, and sing in
chorus the old national melodies. The clear voices suddenly sounding
through the fresh night air, in the lonely valleys, with their wintery
surroundings, have an odd and charming effect. The doors are immediately
opened, the singers are invited to enter, and they offer them cake,
dried apples, and ale; and often make them dance. After this frugal
supper the joyous band depart, like a flock of gulls, to perform the
same ceremony further away. Distances are regarded as nothing, for on
their "schnee-schuhe," which are attached to their feet by leather
straps, they glide over several miles with marvelous rapidity. The
peasants of Norway also use, with these show-shoes, a strong stick, to
balance themselves, and help them along. This year the festival would be
a joyous one for the Herseboms. They were expecting Erik.
A letter from Stockholm had announced that he would arrive that evening.
Therefore Otto and Vanda could not sit still. Every moment they ran to
the door, to see if he was coming. Dame Katrina, although she reproved
them for their impatience, felt in the same way herself. Mr. Hersebom
smoked his pipe silently, and was divided in his mind between a longing
to see his adopted son, and the fear that he would not be able to keep
him with them very long.
For the fiftieth time, perhaps, Otto had gone to the door, when he gave
a shout and cried out:
"Mother! Vanda! I believe it is he!"
They all rushed to the door. In the distance, on the road which led from
Bergen, they saw a black object. It grew larger rapidly, and soon took
the shape of a young man, clothed in gray cloth, wearing a fur cap, and
carrying merrily over his shoulders a knapsack of green leather. He had
on snow-shoes, and would soon be near enough to recognize.
The traveler perceived those who were watching before the door, and
taking off his cap, he waved it around his head.
Two minutes later Erick was in the arms of Katrina, Otto, Vanda, and
even Mr. Hersebom, who had left his arm-chair and advanced to the door.
They hugged him, and almost stifled him with caresses. They went into
ecstasies over his improved appearance. Dame Katrina among them all
could not get accustomed to it.
"What--is this the dear babe that I nursed on my knees?" she cried.
"This great boy, with such a frank and resolute air, with these strong
shoulders, this elegant form, and on whose lip I can already see signs
of a mustache. Is it possible?"
The brave woman was conscious of feeling a sort of respect for her
former nursling. She was proud of him, above all for the tears of joy
which she saw in his eyes. For he also was deeply affected.
"Mother, is it really you," he exclaimed. "I can hardly believe that I
am with you all again. The two years have seemed so long to me. I have
missed you all, as I know you have missed me."
"Yes," said Mr. Hersebom, gravely. "Not a day has passed without our
having spoken of you. Morning and evening, and at meal times, it was
your name that was constantly on our lips. But you, my boy, you have not
forgotten us in the grand city? You are contented to return and see the
old country and the old house?"
"I am sure that you do not doubt it," said Erik, as he embraced them
all. "You were always in my thoughts. But above all when the wind blew a
gale. I thought of you, father. I said to myself, Where is he? Has he
returned home in safety? And in the evening I used to read the
meteorological bulletin in the doctor's newspaper, to see what kind of
weather you had had on the coast of Norway; if it was the same as on the
coast of Sweden?--and I found that you have severe storms more often
than we have in Stockholm, which come from America, and beat on our
mountains. Ah! how often I have wished that I could be with you in your
little boat to help you with the sail, and overcome all difficulties.
And on the other hand when the weather was fine it seemed to me as if I
was in prison in that great city, between the tall three-story houses.
Yes! I would have given all the world to be on the sea for one hour, and
to feel as formerly free, and joyfully exhilarated by the fresh air!"
A smile brightened the weather-beaten face of the fisherman.
"His books have not spoiled him," he said. "A joyful season and a happy
New-Year to you, my child!" he added. "Come, let us go to the table.
Dinner is only waiting for you."
When he was once more seated in his old place on the right hand of
Katrina, Erik was able to look around him, and mark the changes that two
years had made in the family. Otto was now a large, robust boy of
sixteen years of age, and who looked twenty. As for Vanda, two years had
added wonderfully to her size and beauty. Her countenance had become
more refined. Her magnificent blonde hair, which lay in heavy braids
upon her shoulders, formed around her forehead a light silvery cloud.
Modest and sweet as usual, she busied herself, almost unconsciously,
with seeing that no one wanted for anything.
"Vanda has grown to be a great girl!" said her mother, proudly. "And if
you knew, Erik, how learned she has become, how hard she has worked and
studied since you left us! She is the best scholar in the school now,
and Mr. Malarius says she is his only consolation for no longer having
you among his pupils."
"Dear Mr. Malarius! how glad I shall be to see him again," said Erik.
"So our Vanda has become so learned, has she?" he replied with interest,
while the young girl blushed up to the roots of her hair at these
"She has learned to play the organ also, and Mr. Malarius says that she
has the sweetest voice of all the choir?"
"Oh, decidedly, it is a very accomplished young person whom I find on my
return," Erik said, laughing, to relieve the embarrassment of his
sister. "We must make her display all her talents to-morrow."
And without affectation he began to talk about all the good people of
Noroe, asking questions about each one; inquiring for his old
school-mates, and about all that had happened since he went away. He
asked about their fishing adventures, and all the details of their daily
life. Then on his part, he satisfied the curiosity of his family, by
giving an account of his mode of life in Stockholm; he told them about
Dame Greta, about Kajsa, and the doctor.
"That reminds me that I have a letter for you, father," he said, drawing
it out of the inside pocket of his vest. "I do not know what it
contains, but the doctor told me to take good care of it, for it was
Mr. Hersebom took the letter, and laid it on the table by his side.
"Well!" said Erik, "are you not going to read it?"
"No," answered the fisherman, laconically.
"But, since it concerns me?" persisted the young man.
"It is addressed to me," said Mr. Hersebom, holding the letter before
his eyes. "Yes, I will read it at my leisure." Filial obedience is the
basis of family government in Norway.
Erik bowed his head in acquiescence.
When they rose from the table, the three children seated themselves on
their little bench in the chimney-corner, as they had so often done
before, and began one of those confidential conversations, where each
one relates what the other is curious to know, and where they tell the
same things a hundred times.
Katrina busied herself about the room, putting everything in order;
insisting that Vanda should for once "play the lady," as she said, and
not trouble herself about household matters.
As for Mr. Hersebom, he had seated himself in his favorite arm-chair,
and was smoking his pipe in silence. It was only after he had finished
this important operation that he decided to open the doctor's letter.
He read it through without saying a single word; then he folded it up,
put it in his pocket, and smoked a second pipe, like the first, without
uttering a sound. He seemed to be absorbed in his own reflections.
Although he was never a talkative man, his silence appeared singular to
Dame Katrina. After she had finished her work, she went and seated
herself beside him, and made two or three attempts to draw him into
conversation, but she only received the most brief replies. Being thus
repulsed, she became melancholy, and the children themselves, after
talking breathlessly for some time, began to be affected by the evident
sadness of their parents.
Twenty youthful voices singing in chorus before the door suddenly
greeted their ears, and made a happy diversion. It was a merry band of
Erik's old classmates, who had conceived the pleasant idea of coming to
give him a cordial welcome home.
They hastened to invite them into the house, and offered them the
customary feast, whilst they eagerly pressed around their old friend to
express the great pleasure which they felt in seeing him again. Erik was
touched by the unexpected visit of the friends of his childhood, and was
anxious to go with them on their Christmas journey, and Vanda and Otto
also were, naturally, eager to be of the party. Dame Katrina charged
them not to go too far, but to bring their brother back early, as he
needed rest after his journey.
The door was hardly closed upon them, when she resumed her seat beside
"Well, has the doctor discovered anything?" she asked, anxiously.
Instead of answering, Mr. Hersebom took the letter from his pocket, and
read it aloud, but not without hesitating over some words which were
strange to him:
"MY DEAR HERSEBOM," wrote the doctor, "it is now two years since
you intrusted your dear child to my care, and every day I have had
renewed pleasure in watching his progress in all the studies that
he has undertaken. His intelligence is as remarkable as his heart
is generous. Erik is truly one of nature's nobleman, and the
parents who have lost such a son, if they knew the extent of their
misfortune, would be objects of pity. But it is very doubtful
whether his parents are still living. As we agreed, I have spared
no efforts to discover them. I have written to several persons in
England who have an agency for making special researches. I have
had advertisements inserted in twenty different newspapers,
English, Irish, and Scotch. Not the least ray of light has been
thrown upon this mystery, and I have to confess that all the
information which I have succeeded in procuring has rather tended
to deepen the mystery.
"The name 'Cynthia,' I find in very common use in the English navy.
From Lloyd's office, they inform me, that there are seventeen
ships, of different tonnage, bearing this name. Some of these ships
belong to English ports, and some to Scotland and Ireland. My
supposition concerning the nationality of the child is therefore
confirmed, and it becomes more and more evident to me that Erik is
of Irish parentage. I do not know whether you agree with me on this
point, but I have already mentioned it to two of my most intimate
friends in Stockholm, and everything seems to confirm it.
"Whether this Irish family are all dead, or whether they have some
interest in remaining unknown, I have not been able to discover any
trace of them.
"Another singular circumstance, and which I also think looks still
more suspicious, is the fact that no shipwreck registered at
Lloyd's, or at any of the marine insurance companies, corresponds
with the date of the infant's arrival on your coast. Two vessels
named 'Cynthia' have been lost, it is true, during this century;
but one was in the Indian Ocean, thirty-two years ago, and the
other was in sight of Portsmouth eighteen years ago.
"We are therefore obliged to conclude that the infant was not the
victim of a shipwreck.
"Doubtless he was intentionally exposed to the mercy of the waves.
This would explain why all my inquiries have been fruitless.
"Be this as it may, after having questioned successively all the
proprietors of the vessels bearing the name of 'Cynthia,' without
obtaining any information, and after exhausting all known means of
pursuing my investigations, I have been compelled to conclude that
there is no hope of discovering Erik's family.
"The question that arises for us to decide, my dear Hersebom, and
particularly for you, is what we ought to say to the boy, and what
we ought to do for him.
"If I were in your place, I should now tell him all the facts about
himself which affect him so nearly, and leave him free to choose
his own path in life. You know we agreed to adopt this course if my
efforts should prove unsuccessful. The time has come for you to
keep your word. I have wished to leave it to you to relate all this
to Erik. He is returning to Noroe still ignorant that he is not
your son, and he does not know whether he is to return to Stockholm
or remain with you. It is for you to tell him.
"Remember, if you refuse to fulfill this duty, Erik would have the
right some day, perhaps, to be astonished at you. Recall to mind
also that he is a boy of too remarkable abilities to be condemned
to an obscure and illiterate life. Such a sentence would have been
unmerited two years ago, and now, after his brilliant career at
Stockholm, it would be positively unjustifiable.
"I therefore renew my offer: let him return to me and finish his
studies, and take at Upsal the degree of Doctor of Medicine. I will
continue to provide for him as if he were my own son, and he has
only to go on and win honors and a fortune.
"I know that, in addressing you and the excellent adopted mother of
Erik, I leave his future in good hands. No personal consideration,
I am sure, will prevent you from accepting my offer. Take Mr.
Malarius' advice in this matter.
"While awaiting your reply, Mr. Hersebom, I greet you
affectionately, and I beg you to remember me most kindly to your
worthy wife and children.
"R.W. SCHWARYENCRONA, M.D."
When the fisherman had finished reading this letter, Dame Katrina, who
had been silently weeping while she listened to it, asked him what he
intended to do.
"My duty is very clear," he said. "I shall tell the boy everything."
"That is my opinion also; it must be done, or we should never have
another peaceful moment," she murmured, as she dried her eyes.
Then they both relapsed into silence.
It was past midnight when the three children returned from their
expedition. Their cheeks were rosy, and their eyes shone with pleasure
from their walk in the fresh air. They seated themselves around the fire
to finish gayly their Christmas-eve by eating a last cake before the
enormous log which looked like a burning cavern.
The next day the fisherman called Erik to him, and in the presence of
Katrina, Otto, and Vanda, spoke to him as follows:
"Erik, the letter of Doctor Schwaryencrona was about you. He writes that
you have given entire satisfaction to your teachers, and the doctor
offers to pay all the expenses of your education, if you wish to
continue your studies. But this letter also requires you to decide for
yourself, whether you will accept this offer, or remain with us at
Noroe, which we would like so much to have you do, as you no doubt know.
But before you make up your mind, I must tell you a great secret, a
secret that my wife and I would have preferred to keep to ourselves."
At this moment Dame Katrina could not restrain her tears, and, sobbing,
she took the hand of Erik and pressed it to her heart, as if protesting
against the information which the young man was now to hear.
"This secret," continued Mr. Hersebom, in a strangely altered voice, "is
that you are our son only by adoption. I found you on the sea, my child,
and brought you home when you were only eight or nine months old. God is
my witness that we never intended to tell you this, and neither my wife
nor myself have ever made the least difference between you, and Otto,
and Vanda. But Doctor Schwaryencrona requires us to do so. Therefore, I
wish you to read what he has written to me."
Erik had suddenly become deadly pale. Otto and Vanda, surprised at what
they had heard, both uttered a cry of astonishment. Then they put their
arms around Erik, and clung closely to him, one on the right, and the
other on the left.
Then Erik took the doctor's letter, and without trying to conceal his
emotion, he read what he had written to Mr. Hersebom.
The fisherman then told him all the facts about himself. He explained
how Dr. Schwaryencrona had undertaken to try and discover the family to
which he belonged; and, also, that he had been unsuccessful. How, that
but for his advice and suggestions, they would never have thought of
doing so. Then Dame Katrina arose, and going to the oaken chest, brought
out the garments that the baby had worn, and showed him also the coral
which had been fastened around his neck. The story was naturally so full
of dramatic interest to the children, that they forgot for a time, at
least, how sad it was. They looked with wonder at the lace, and velvet,
the golden setting of the coral, and the inscription. It almost seemed
to them as if they were taking part in some fairy tale. The
impossibility of obtaining any information, as reported by the doctor,
only made them regard these articles as almost sacred.
Erik looked at them as if he were in a dream, and his thoughts flew to
the unknown mother, who, without doubt, had herself dressed him in these
little garments, and more than once shook the coral before the eyes of
the baby to make him smile. It seemed to him when he touched them as if
he held direct communion with her through time and space.
But where was this mother? Was she still living, or had she perished?
Was she weeping for her lost son, or must the son, on the contrary,
think of her as forever lost to him?
He remained for some minutes absorbed in these reflections, with his
head bent, but a word from Dame Katrina recalled him to himself.
"Erik, you are always our child," she cried, disturbed by his silence.
The eyes of the young man as he looked around him fell on all their
loving countenances--the maternal look of the loving wife, the honest
face of Mr. Hersebom, that of Otto even more affectionate than usual,
and that of Vanda, serious and troubled. As he read the tenderness and
disquietude displayed on all their faces, Erik felt as if his heart was
melting within him. In a moment he realized his situation, and saw
vividly the scene which his father had described. The cradle abandoned
to the mercy of the waves, rescued by the hardy fisherman, and carried
to his wife; and these people, humble and poor as they were, had not
hesitated to take care of the little stranger, to adopt and cherish him
as their own son. They had not spoken of the matter for fourteen years,
and now they were hanging on his words as if they were a matter of life
and death to them.
All this touched him so deeply that suddenly his tears came. An
irresistible feeling of love and gratitude overwhelmed him. He felt
eager on his part to repay by some devotion the tenderness which they
had shown to him. He resolved to stay with them at Noroe forever, and
content himself with their humble lot, while he endeavored to do
everything in his power to repay them.
"Mother," said he, throwing himself into Katrina's arms, "do you think
that I can hesitate, now that I know all? We will write to the doctor,
and thank him for his kind offer, and tell him that I have chosen to
remain with you. I will be a fisherman, like you, father, and like Otto.
Since you have given me a place at your fireside, I would prefer to
retain it. Since you have nourished me by the labor of your hands, I ask
to be allowed to repay you in your old age for your generosity toward me
when I was a helpless infant."
"God be praised!" cried Dame Katrina, pressing Erik to her heart in a
transport of joy and tenderness.
"I knew that the child would prefer the sea to all their books," said
Mr. Hersebom, not understanding the sacrifice that Erik's decision would
be to him.
"Come, the matter is settled. We will not talk about it any more, but
only try to enjoy this good festival of Christmas!"
They all embraced each other, with eyes humid with happiness, and vowed
they would never be separated.
When Erik was alone he could not help a stifled sigh, as he thought
about all his former dreams of work, and of the career which he had
renounced. But still he experienced at the same time a joy which he
believed would repay him for the sacrifice.
"Since it is the wish of my adopted parents," he said to himself, "the
rest does not signify. I ought to be willing to work for them in the
sphere and condition where their devotion has placed me. If I have
sometimes felt ambitious to take a higher position in the world, was it
not that I might be able to assist them? Since it makes them happy to
have me with them, and as they desire nothing better than their present
life, I must try to be contented, and endeavor by good conduct and hard
work to give them satisfaction. Adieu, then, to my books."
Thus he mused, and soon his thoughts returned to the time when the
fisherman had found him floating in his little cradle on the waves. What
country did he belong to? Who were his parents? Were they still alive?
Had he in some foreign country brothers and sisters whom he would never
Christmas had also been in Dr. Schwaryencrona's house in Stockholm a
season of great festivity. It was at this time, as the reader doubtless
remembers, that they had agreed to decide the bet between him and Mr.
Bredejord, and that Professor Hochstedt was to be the umpire.
For two years not a word had been said by either of them about this bet.
The doctor had been patiently pursuing his researches in England,
writing to the maritime agencies, and multiplying his advertisements in
the newspapers; but he had taken care not to confess that his efforts
had been fruitless.
As for Mr. Bredejord, he had had the good taste to avoid all allusion to
the subject, and contented himself with occasionally admiring the
beautiful binding of the Pliny which was displayed in the doctor's
But when he struck his snuff-box sharply with the ends
of his fingers, while he looked at the book, the doctor correctly
interpreted the pantomime, which was a shock to his nerves, and said to
"Oh, yes; he is thinking how well the Pliny will look beside his elegant
editions of Quintilian and Horace."
On these evenings he was more merciless than ever, if his unfortunate
partner made any mistakes at whist.
But time had taken its flight, and he was now obliged to submit the
question to the impartial arbitration of Professor Hochstedt.
Dr. Schwaryencrona approached the subject frankly. Kajsa had hardly left
him alone with his two friends when he confessed to them, as he had
confessed in his letter to Mr. Hersebom, that his investigations had
been without result. Nothing had occurred to throw any light on the
mystery which surrounded Erik's origin, and the doctor in all sincerity
declared that the problem was thought by him to be insolvable.
"But," he continued, "I should be doing myself an injustice if I did not
declare with equal sincerity that I do not believe that I have lost my
bet. I have not discovered Erik's family, it is true, but all the
information that I have been able to obtain corroborates the conclusion
which I had arrived at. The 'Cynthia' was, no doubt, an English vessel,
for there are at least seventeen ships bearing this name registered at
Lloyd's. As for ethnographical characteristics, they are clearly Celtic.
My hypothesis, therefore, as to the nationality of Erik is victoriously
confirmed. I am more than ever certain that he is of Irish extraction as
I at first surmised. But I can not compel his family to come forward and
acknowledge him, if they have any reasons of their own for wishing him
to continue lost to them. This is all I have to say, my dear Hochstedt;
and now you must be the judge as to whether the Quintilian of our friend
Bredejord should not legitimately be transferred to my book-case!"
At these words, which seemed to occasion a strong inclination to laugh,
the lawyer fell back in his arm-chair, raised his hands as if in
protestation, then he fixed his brilliant eyes upon Professor Hochstedt
to see how he would regard the matter. The professor did not betray the
embarrassment which might have been expected. He would have certainly
felt miserable if the doctor had urged any incontrovertible argument,
which would have compelled him to decide in favor of one or the other.
His prudent character led him to speak in indefinite terms. He excelled
in presenting, one after the other, both sides of a question, and he
reveled in his vagaries, like a fish in water. Therefore, this evening
he felt quite equal to the situation.
"The fact is incontestable," he said, shaking his head, "that there are
seventeen English vessels bearing the name of 'Cynthia,' and this seems
to favor the conclusion arrived at by our eminent friend. The
characteristic traits also have assuredly great weight, and I do not
hesitate to say that they appear to me to be quite conclusive. I do not
hesitate to confess that if I were called upon to give an opinion as to
Erik's nationality, I should say that he was Irish. But to decide the
bet in question we require something more than probabilities; we must
have facts to guide us. The chances so far greatly favor the opinion of
Dr. Schwaryencrona, but Bredejord can allege that nothing has actually
been proved. I see, therefore, no sufficient reason for declaring that
the Quintilian has been won by the doctor; neither can I say that the
professor has lost his Pliny. In my opinion, as the question remains
undecided, it ought to be annulled, which is the best thing to do in
such a case."
The doctor's face clearly betrayed his dissatisfaction. As for Mr.
Bredejord he leaped to his feet, saying:
"Your argument is a beautiful one, my dear Hochstedt, but I think you
are hasty in your conclusions. Schwaryencrona, you say, has not verified
his opinions sufficiently for you to say positively that he has won the
bet, although you think that all the probabilities are in his favor.
What will you say then, if I prove to you immediately that the 'Cynthia'
was not an English vessel at all?"
"What would I say?" said the professor, somewhat troubled by this sudden
attack. "Upon my word I do not know. I would have to consider the
question in a different aspect."
"Examine it then at your leisure," answered the advocate, thrusting his
hand into the inner pocket of his coat, and taking out a case from which
he selected a letter inclosed in one of those yellow envelopes, which
betray at the first glance their American origin.
"This is a document which you can not controvert," he added, placing the
letter before the doctor's eyes, who read aloud:
"To Mr. Bredejord, Stockholm.
"NEW YORK, October 27th.
"SIR,--In reply to your letter of the 5th instant, I hasten to
write you the following facts:--
"1st.--A vessel named 'Cynthia,' commanded by Captain Barton, and
the property of the Canadian General Transportation Company, was
lost, with her cargo and all on board, just fourteen years ago, in
the neighborhood of the Faroe Islands.
"2d.--This vessel was insured in the General Steam Navigation
Company of New York for the sum of eight hundred thousand dollars.
"3d.--The disappearance of the 'Cynthia' having remained
unexplained, and the causes of the sad accident never having been
clearly proved to the satisfaction of the insurance company, a
lawsuit ensued, which was lost by the proprietors of the said
"4th.--The loss of this lawsuit occasioned the dissolution of the
Canadian General Transportation Company, which has ceased to exist
for the last eleven years, having gone into liquidation. While
waiting to hear from you again, I beg of you, sir, to accept our
"JEREMIAH SMITH, WALKER & CO.,
"Well, what do you say to that?" asked Mr. Bredejord, when the doctor
had finished reading the letter. "It is a document of some value, I
think. Do you agree with me?"
"I quite agree with you," answered the doctor. "How did you procure it?"
"In the simplest way in the world. That evening when you spoke to me
about the 'Cynthia' being necessarily an English vessel, I thought that
you were taking too limited a field for your researches, and that the
vessel might be an American one. When time passed, and you received no
intelligence, for you would have told us if you had, the idea occurred
to me of writing to New York. The third letter brought the result which
you have before you. The affair is no longer a complicated one. Do you
not think that it assures to me beyond contest the possession of your
"It appears to me to be rather a forced conclusion," replied the doctor,
taking the letter and reading it over again, to see if he could find any
new arguments to support his theory.
"How forced?" cried the advocate.
"I have proved to you that the vessel was an American one, and that she
was lost off the Faroe Islands, that is to say, near the coast of
Norway, precisely at the time which corresponds to the arrival of the
infant, and still you are not convinced of your error."
"Not in the least, my dear friend. I do not dispute the value or your
document. You have discovered what I have found it impossible to do--the
true 'Cynthia,' which was lost at a little distance from our coast, and
at a specified epoch; but permit me to say, that this only confirms
precisely my theory, for the vessel was a Canadian one, or in other
words, English, and the Irish element is very strong in some parts of
Canada, and I have therefore more reason than ever for being sure that
the child is of Irish origin."
"Ah, is that what you find in my letter?" said Mr. Bredejord, more vexed
than he was willing to appear to be. "Then without doubt you persist in
believing that you have not lost your Pliny?"
"Perhaps you think you have a right to my Quintilian?"
"I hope in any case to be able to prove my right, thanks to your
discovery, if you will only give me time by renewing the bet."
"I am willing. I ask nothing better. How much time do you want?"
"Let us take two more years, and wait until the second Christmas after
"It is agreed," answered Mr. Bredejord. "But be assured, doctor, that
you will finally see me in possession of your Pliny!"
"By my faith no. It will make a fine appearance in my book-case beside
In the beginning, Erik burning with zeal at the sacrifice which he had
made, devoted all his energies to a fisherman's life, and tried to
forget that he had ever known any other. He was always the first to rise
and prepare the boat for his adopted father, who found every morning all
the arrangements completed, and he had only to step on board. If the
wind failed, then Erik took the heavy oars, and rowed with all his
strength, seeming to choose the hardest and most fatiguing duties.
Nothing discouraged him, neither the long waiting for the fish to seize
the bait, nor the various preparations to which the captive was
subjected--first, the removal of the tongue, which is a most delicate
morsel; then the head, then the bones, before placing them in the
reservoir, where they receive their first salting. Whatever their work
was, Erik did his part not only conscientiously, but eagerly. He
astonished the placid Otto by his extreme application to the smallest
details of their business.
"How you must have suffered, when you were shut up in the town," said
the lad to him, naively. "You only seem to be in your element when you
are on the borders of the fiord or on the open sea."
When their conversation took this turn, Erik always remained silent.
Sometimes, however, he would revert to the subject himself, and try to
prove to Otto, or rather to himself, that there was no better state of
existence than their own.
"It is what I have always heard," the other would answer with his calm
And poor Erik would turn away and stifle a sigh.
The truth is that he suffered cruelly after renouncing his studies and
seeing himself condemned to a life of manual labor. When these thoughts
came to him he fought against them with all his might. He did not wish
any one to suspect that he felt in this way, and in hiding them within
his own breast he suffered all the more.
A catastrophe which occurred at the beginning of the spring, only served
to increase his discouragement.
One day, as there was a great deal of work to do at home in piling
together the salted fish, Mr. Hersebom had intrusted it to Erik and to
Otto, and had gone out to fish alone. The weather was stormy, and the
sky very cloudy for the time of the year. The two young men, although
they worked actively, could not help noticing that it was exceptionally
dull, and they felt the atmosphere very heavy.
"It is singular!" said Erik, "but I feel a roaring in my ears as if I
were some distance above the earth in a balloon."
Almost immediately his nose began to bleed. Otto had a similar
sensation, although not quite so severe.
"I think the barometer must be very low," said Erik. "If I had time I
would run to Mr. Malarius' and see."
"You have plenty of time," said Otto. "Our work is nearly done, and even
if you were delayed I could easily finish it alone."
"Then I will go," replied Erik. "I do not know why the state of the
atmosphere should trouble me so much. I wish father was home."
As he walked toward the school, he met Mr. Malarius on the road.
"Is it you, Erik?" said the teacher. "I am glad to see you, and make
sure that you are not on the sea. I was just going to inquire. The
barometer has fallen with such rapidity during the last half hour. I
have never seen anything like it. We are surely going to have a change
Mr. Malarius had hardly finished speaking, when a distant grumbling,
followed by a lugubrious roaring, fell upon their ears. The sky became
covered with a cloud as black as ink, which spread rapidly in all
directions, and obscured every object with great swiftness. Then
suddenly, after an interval of complete silence, the leaves of the
trees, the bits of straw, the sand, and even the stones, were swept away
by a sudden gust of wind.
The hurricane had begun.
It raged with unheard-of violence. The chimneys, the window shutters,
and in some places even the roofs of the houses were blown down; and the
boat-houses without exception were carried away and destroyed by the
wind. In the fiord, which was usually as calm as a well in a court-yard,
the most terrible tempest raged; the waves were enormous and came and
went, breaking against the shore with a deafening noise.
The cyclone raged for an hour, then arrested in its course by the
heights of Norway, it moved toward the south, and swept over continental
Europe. It is noted in meteorological annals as one of the most
extraordinary and disastrous that ever was known upon the Atlantic
coast. These great changes of the atmosphere are now generally announced
beforehand by the telegraph. Most of the European sea-ports forewarned
of the danger have time to warn vessels and seamen of the threatened
tempest, and they seek a safe anchorage. By this means many disasters
But on the distant and less frequented coasts, in the fishing-hamlets,
the number of shipwrecks was beyond computation.
In one office, that of "Veritas" in France, there were registered not
less than 730.
The first thought of all the members of the Hersebom family, as well as
of all the other families of fishermen, was naturally for those who were
on the sea on this disastrous day. Mr. Hersebom went most often to the
western coast of a large island which was about two miles distant,
beyond the entrance to the fiord. It was the spot where he had first
seen Erik. They hoped that during the tempest he had been able to find
shelter by running his boat upon the low and sandy shore. But Erik and
Otto felt so anxious that they could not wait until evening to see if
this hope was well founded.
The fiord had hardly resumed its ordinary placidity, after the passage
of the hurricane, when they borrowed a boat of one of their neighbors,
in order to go in search of him. Mr. Malarius insisted upon accompanying
the young men upon their expedition, and they all three set out,
anxiously watched by Katrina and her daughter.
On the fiord the wind had nearly gone down, but it blew from the west,
and to reach the entrance to the harbor they were obliged to use their
oars. This took them more than an hour.
When they reached the entrance an unexpected obstacle presented itself.
The tempest was still raging on the ocean, and the waves dashed against
the island which, formed the entrance to the fiord of Noroe, forming two
currents, which came and went with such violence in the narrow pass that
it was impossible to gain the open sea. A steamboat could not have
ventured through it, and a weak boat could not have resisted it for a
The only thing they could do, therefore, was to return to Noroe, and
wait as patiently as they could.
The hour when he habitually came home passed without bringing Mr.
Hersebom, but none of the other fishermen returned; so they hoped that
they were all detained by the impassable state of the entrance to the
fiord, and would not believe that he had personally met with any
disaster. That evening was a very sad one at all the firesides where a
member was missing. As the night passed without any of the absent men
making their appearance, the anxieties of their families increased. In
Mr. Hersebom's house nobody went to bed. They passed the long hours of
waiting seated in a circle around the fire, silent and anxious.
Dawn is late in these high latitudes in March, but when at last it grew
light it was bright and clear. The wind was calm, and they hoped they
would be able to get through the pass. A regular fleet of boats,
composed of every one who could get away from Noroe, was ready to go in
search of the absent men. Just at this moment several vessels hove in
sight, and soon reached the village. They were the fishermen who had
gone out the day before, not expecting such a cyclone; but Mr. Hersebom
was not among them.
Nobody could give any account of him, and the fact of his not returning
with the others increased their anxiety as all the men had been in great
peril. Some had been surprised by the cyclone and dashed upon the shore,
others had time to shelter themselves in a secure place of anchorage. A
few had reached the land just in time to save themselves.
It was decided that the flotilla should go in search of those who were
missing. Mr. Malarius who still wished to take part in the expedition
accompanied Erik and Otto. A large yellow dog begged so earnestly to go
with them, that at length they yielded. It was Kaas, the Greenland dog
that Mr. Hersebom had brought back with him, after a voyage to Cape
After issuing from the pass the boats separated, some going to the
right, and others to the left, to explore the shores of the innumerable
islands which lie scattered near the entrance to the fiord of Noroe, as
well as all along the coast of Norway.
When they met at midday at a given point, which had been agreed upon
before separating, no trace of Mr. Hersebom had been discovered. As the
search had apparently been well conducted, everyone was of the opinion
that they had nothing more to do but to go home.
But Erik was not willing to own himself defeated, and give up all hope
so easily. He declared that having visited all the islands which lay
toward the south, he now wished to explore those which were in the
north. Mr. Malarius and Otto supported him; and seeing this they granted
This persistence deserved some recompense. Toward two o'clock as they
approached a large island, Kaas began suddenly to bark furiously; then
before they could prevent him he threw himself into the water, and swam
to the shore.
Erik and Otto rowed with all their strength in the same direction. Soon
they saw the dog reach the island, and bound, while he uttered loud
howls, toward what appeared to be a human form lying extended upon the
sand. They made all possible haste, and soon saw beyond a doubt that it
was a man who was lying there, and this man was Mr. Hersebom; bloody,
pale, cold, inanimate--dead, perhaps. Kaas was licking his hands, and
uttering mournful cries.
Erik's first action was to drop on his knees beside the cold body, and
apply his ear to his heart.
"He is alive, I feel it beat," he cried.
Mr. Malarias had taken one of Mr. Hersebom's hand's, and was feeling his
pulse and he shook his head, sadly and doubtfully; but he would not
neglect any of the means which are usually tried in such cases. After
taking off a large woolen girdle which he wore around his waist, he tore
it in three pieces, and giving one to each of the young men, they rubbed
vigorously the body, the arms, and the legs of the fisherman.
It was soon manifest that this simple treatment had produced the effect
of restoring the circulation. The beating of the heart grew stronger,
the chest rose, and a feeble respiration escaped through the lips. In a
little while Mr. Hersebom was partially restored to consciousness, for
he distinctly moaned.
Mr. Malarias, and the two young men lifted him from the ground, and
carried him to the boat, where they hastily arranged a bed for him of
sails. As they laid him in the bottom of the boat he opened his eyes.
"A drink!" he said in a weak voice.
Erik held a flask of brandy to his lips. He swallowed a mouthful and
appeared to be conscious of their arrival, for he tried to give them an
affectionate and grateful smile. But fatigue overcame him almost
immediately, and he fell into a heavy sleep which resembled a complete
lethargy. Thinking justly that the best thing they could do was to get
him home as speedily as possible, they took their oars and rowed
vigorously; and in a very short time they reached Noroe.
Mr. Hersebom was carried to his bed, and his wounds were dressed with
arnica. He was fed with broth, and given a glass of beer, and in a short
time he recovered consciousness. His injuries were not of a very grave
nature. One of his arms was fractured, and his body was covered with
wound and bruises. But Mr. Malarius insisted that he should remain quiet
and rest, and not fatigue himself by attempting to talk. He was soon
It was not until the next day that they permitted him to speak and
explain in a few words what had happened to him.
He had been overtaken by the cyclone just as he had hoisted his sail to
return to Noroe. He had been dashed against the rocks of the island and
his boat had been broken into a thousand pieces and carried away by the
waves. He had thrown himself into the sea to escape the frightful shock,
when she struck, but in spite of all his efforts, he had been dashed by
the waves upon the rocks and terribly wounded; he had only been able to
drag himself beyond the reach of the waves.
Exhausted by fatigue, one arm broken, and his whole body covered with
wounds, he had lain in an unconscious state, unable to move. He could
give no account of the manner in which he had passed the twenty hours;
doubtless he had either been delirious or unconscious.
Now that he was saved, he began to lament for the loss of his boat, and
because of his broken arm, which was now in splints. What would become
of him, even admitting that he might be able to use his arm again after
eight or ten weeks? The boat was the only capital possessed by the
family, and the boat had been broken to pieces by the wind.
It would be very hard for a man of his age to be compelled to work for
others. Besides, could he find work? It was very doubtful, for nobody in
Noroe employed any assistant, and the factory even had lately reduced
Such were the bitter reflections of Mr. Hersebom, while he lay upon his
bed of pain; and he felt still worse when he was able to get up, and
occupy his accustomed seat in his arm-chair.
While waiting for his complete recovery, the family lived upon such
provisions as they had in the house, and by the sale of the salt
cod-fish which still remained. But the future looked very dark, and
nobody could see how it was to be lightened.
This imminent distress had given a new turn to Erik's thoughts. For two
or three days he reflected that it was by his good fortune that Mr.
Hersebom had been discovered. How could he help feeling proud, when he
saw Dame Katrina and Vanda look at him with intense gratitude, as they
said: "Dear Erik, our father saved you from the waves, and now, in your
turn, you have snatched him from death."
Certainly it was the highest recompense that he could desire for the
self-abnegation of which he had given such a noble proof, in condemning
himself to a fisherman's life. To feel that he had been able to render
his adopted family such an inestimable benefit was to him a thought full
of sweetness and strength. This family, who had so generously shared
with him all that they possessed, were now in trouble, and in want of
food. But, could he remain to be a burden to them? Was it not rather his
duty to try and do something to assist them?
Erik did not doubt his obligation to do this. He only hesitated as to
the best way for him to do it. Should he go to Bergen and become a
sailor? or was there some better occupation open to him, where he could
be immediately useful to them. He resolved to consult Mr. Malarius, who
listened to his reasons, and approved of them, but did not think well of
his project of becoming a sailor.
"I understood, but I deplored your decision when you were resigned to
remain here and share the life of your adopted parents; but I can not
understand why you should condemn yourself to the life of a sailor,
which would take you far away from them, when Doctor Schwaryencrona
offers you every advantage to pursue a more congenial career," said Mr.
Malarius. "Reflect, my dear child, before you make such a decision."
Mr. Malarius did not tell him that he had already written to Stockholm
to inform the doctor of the sad state of their affairs, and the change
which the cyclone of the 3d of March had made in the circumstances of
Erik's family. He was not surprised, when three days after his
conversation with Erik, he received the following letter, which he lost
no time in carrying to the house of Mr. Hersebom.
The letter read as follows:
"STOCKHOLM, March 17th.
"MY DEAR MR. MALARIUS,--I thank you cordially for informing me of
the disastrous consequences of the cyclone of the 3d of March to
the worthy Mr. Hersebom. I am proud and happy to learn that Erik
acted in these circumstances, as always before, like a brave boy
and a devoted son. You will find a check in this letter for 500
kroners; and I beg you to give them to him from me. Tell him if it
is not enough to buy at Bergen a first-class boat, he must let me
know without delay. He must name this boat 'Cynthia,' and then
present it to Mr. Hersebom as a souvenir of filial love. That done,
if Erik wishes to please me he will return to Stockholm and resume
his studies. His place is always ready for him at my fireside, and
if he needs a motive to assist in this decision, I add that I have
at length obtained some information, and hope yet to be able to
solve the mystery enshrouding his birth.
"Believe me, my dear Malarius, your sincere and devoted friend,
"R.W. SCHWARYENCRONA, M.D."
You may imagine with what joy this letter was received. The doctor, by
sending this gift to Erik, showed that he understood the character of
the old fisherman. If he had offered it directly to him, it is hardly
probable that Mr. Hersebom would have accepted it. But he could not
refuse the boat from Erik's hand, and bearing the name of "Cynthia,"
which recalled how Erik had become a member of the family. Their only
grief now, which already began to sadden all their countenances, was the
thought that he must soon leave them again. Nobody dared to speak about
it, although it was constantly in their thoughts. Erik himself, with his
head bowed, was divided between the desire of satisfying the doctor, and
realizing the secret wishes of his own heart, and the no less natural
wish of giving no offense to his adopted parents.
It was Vanda who first broke the reserve, and spoke upon the subject.
"Erik," she said, in her sweet grave voice, "you can not say 'No' to the
doctor after receiving such a letter. You can not do it, because it
would be treating him most ungratefully, and sinning against yourself.
Your place is among scholars, and not among fishermen. I have thought so
for a long time. Nobody has dared to tell you, therefore I tell you."
"Vanda is right," said Mr. Malarius, with a smile.
"Vanda is right," repeated Dame Katrina, drying her eyes.
And in this manner, for the second time, Erik's departure was decided.
The information which Dr. Schwaryencrona had received was not very
important, but it sufficed to start his inquiries in a new direction.
He had learned the name of the ex-director of the Canadian
Transportation Company, it was Mr. Joshua Churchill. But they did not
know what had become of this gentleman since the dissolution of the
company. If they could succeed in finding him, he might be able to give
them some information about the old records of the company; perhaps
there might have been a list of the passengers by the "Cynthia," and the
baby might have been registered with his family or with the persons who
had charge of him. But their investigations proved very unsatisfactory.
The solicitor who had formerly had the books in his possession as the
receiver of the company about ten years before; did not know what had
become of Mr. Churchill. For a moment Dr. Schwaryencrona consoled
himself with a false hope. He remembered that the American newspapers
usually published a list of the passengers embarking for Europe, and he
sent for a number of old gazettes to see if he could find the
"Cynthia's" list; but he was soon convinced that this was a fruitless
effort. He discovered that the practice of publishing the names of
passengers on European steamships was of comparatively recent date. But
the old gazettes were of one use to him, they gave the exact date of
sailing of the "Cynthia," which had left on the 3d of November, not from
a Canadian port as they had at first supposed, but from New York, to go
It was therefore in New York that the doctor must first make his
investigations, and, if unsuccessful, then in other parts of the United
At Hamburg all his inquiries proved to be useless. The consignee of the
Canadian Transportation Company knew nothing about the passengers of the
"Cynthia," and could only give them information about the freight, which
they had already obtained.
Erik had been in Stockholm six months when they learned that the
ex-director, Mr. Joshua Churchill, had died several years before, in an
hospital, without leaving any known heirs, or probably any money. As for
the registers of the company, they had probably been sold long before as
These long researches led to nothing, except to provoke the sarcasms of
Mr. Bredejord, which were wounding, to the doctor's self-love, who,
however, did not as yet give way to despair.
Erik's history was now well known in the doctor's household. They no
longer forbore to speak openly about it, and the results of their
researches were talked of both in the dining-room and the parlor.
Perhaps the doctor had acted more discreetly during the first two years
of Erik's sojourn with him, when he had kept his affairs a secret. Now
they furnished food for the gossiping of Kajsa and Dame Greta, and even
occupied the thoughts of Erik himself; and his reflections were often
Not to know whether his parents were still living, to reflect that he
might never be able to discover the secret of his birth, was in itself a
sad thought to him; but it was still more sad to be ignorant of the land
of his birth.
"The poorest child in the streets, the most miserable peasant, knew at
least what his country was, and to what branch of the great human family
he belonged," he would sometimes say to himself, as he thought of those
things. "But I am ignorant of all this. I am cast on the globe like a
waif, like a grain of dust tossed by the winds, and nobody knows where I
came from. I have no tradition--no past. The spot where my mother was
born, and where her ashes now rest, is perhaps profaned and trodden
under foot, and I am powerless to defend and protect it."
These thoughts saddened Erik. Sometimes he would tell himself that he
had a mother in Dame Katrina, and a home at Mr. Hersebom's, and that
Noroe was his country. He vowed that he would repay their kindness to
him fourfold, and would always be a devoted son to Norway, but still he
felt himself in an exceptional position.
Sometimes when he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror, he could
observe the physical difference between himself and those surrounding
him. The color of his eyes and his skin often occasioned him gloomy
reflections. Sometimes he would ask himself which country he would
prefer to be a native of if he had a choice, and he studied history and
geography that he might become better acquainted with the civilization
of different countries, and with the habits of their inhabitants. It was
a sort of consolation to him to believe that he belonged to the Celtic
race, and he sought in books a confirmation of the theory of the doctor.
But when the learned man repeated that in his opinion he was certainly
Irish, Erik felt depressed. Why among all the Celtic race should he
belong to the people who were the most oppressed? If he had felt
absolutely sure of this, he would have loved this unfortunate country.
But all proof being wanting, why might he not rather believe that he was
French? There were certainly Celts in France, and it was a country that
he would have been proud to claim as his own, with her glorious
traditions, her dramatic history, and her fruitful principles, which she
had disseminated all over the world. Oh! he could have passionately
loved, and served with devotion, such a country. He would have felt a
filial interest in studying her glorious annals, in reading the works of
her great authors, and in studying her poets. But alas! all these
delicate emotions were denied him, and he felt that the problem of his
origin would never be solved, since after so many years spent in making
inquiries they had learned nothing.
However, it seemed to Erik that if he could pursue these inquiries
himself, and follow up the information already obtained, that he might
discover something which might lead to some result, and his activity and
zeal might succeed where money had failed. Would he not work with an
ardor which must overcome all difficulties?
This idea took possession of his mind, and insensibly had a marked
effect in his studies, giving them a special direction; although he was
not aware of this fact himself. As he had made up his mind to travel, he
commenced to study cosmography and nautical matters; in fact, everything
that was taught in the school for marines.
"Some day," he said to himself, "I will pass my examination as a
captain, and then I shall go to New York in my own vessel, and pursue my
inquiries with regard to the 'Cynthia.'"
As a natural consequence, this project of personally investigating the
matter of his birth soon became known, for he was candor itself.
Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord and Professor Hochstedt ended by
becoming interested, and finally adopted his views as their own. The
question of Erik's birth, which had at first only been an interesting
problem in their eyes, engrossed them more and more. They saw how much
Erik took it to heart, and as they were sincerely attached to him, they
realized how important it was to him, and they were disposed to do
everything in their power to cast some light upon the mystery.
One fine evening, just as the vacation was approaching, it occurred to
them that it would be a good idea to make an excursion to New York
together, and see if they could, obtain any further news about the
Who first conceived this idea was a disputed point among them, and gave
rise to many discussions between the doctor and Mr. Bredejord, each
claiming a priority. Doubtless it occurred to them both simultaneously;
but be this as it may, the proposal was adopted unanimously, and in the
month of September the three friends, accompanied by Erik, embarked at
Christiana for New York. Ten days later they had reached that city, and
opened communication with the house of Jeremiah Smith, Walker & Company,
from whom they had received the first intelligence.
And now a new agent appeared on the scene, whose assistance they had had
little suspicion of, and this was Erik himself. In New York he only saw
what would assist him in his search. He was up at daybreak visiting the
wharves, accosting the sailors, whom he might chance to meet, working
with indefatigable activity to collect the most minute intelligence.
"Do you know anything about the Canadian Transportation Company? Could
you tell me of any officer, or passenger, or sailor, who had sailed on
the 'Cynthia'?" he asked everywhere.
Thanks to his perfect knowledge of the English language, his sweet and
serious countenance, and his familiarity with everything pertaining to
the sea, he was well received everywhere. They mentioned to him
successively several old officers, sailors, and employs, of the
Canadian Transportation Company. Sometimes he was able to find them.
Sometimes all traces of them were lost. But none of them could give him
any useful information about the last voyage of the "Cynthia." It took
fifteen days of walking, and searching incessantly, to obtain one little
bit of information which might prove valuable, among all the confused
and contradictory accounts which were poured into poor Erik's willing
This one little truth however seemed to be worth its weight in gold.
They assured him that a sailor named Patrick O'Donoghan, had survived
the shipwreck of the "Cynthia," and had even returned to New York
several times since that eventful voyage. This Patrick O'Donoghan had
been on the "Cynthia," on her last voyage, and had been a special
attendant of the captain. In all probability he would know the
first-class passengers, who always eat at the captain's table. They
judged by the fineness of the infant's clothing that he belonged to this
class. It was now a matter of the greatest importance to find this
This was the conclusion of Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord, when
Erik informed them of his discovery, when he returned to the Fifth
Avenue Hotel to dinner.
As usual it led to a discussion, since the doctor tried to draw from
this discovery a confirmation of his favorite theory.
"If ever there was an Irish name," he cried, "Patrick O'Donoghan is one.
Did I not always say that I was sure that Erik was of Irish birth?"
"Does this discovery prove it?" asked Mr. Bredejord laughing. "An Irish
cabin-boy does not prove much. It would be difficult, I fancy, to find
an American vessel without one or two natives of Erin among her crew."
They discussed the matter for two or three hours, neither of them
willing to give way to the other.
From that day Erik devoted all his energies to the task of finding
He was not successful it is true, but by force of seeking, and
questioning, he discovered a sailor who had known this man, and who was
able to give him some information. Patrick O'Donoghan was a native of
the County Cork. He was between thirty-three and thirty-four years old,
of medium height, with red hair, black eyes, and a nose which had been
broken by some accident.
"A boy one would remember among a thousand," said the sailor. "I
recollect him very well, although I have not seen him for seven or eight
"Is it in New York you usually meet him?" asked Erik.
"Yes, in New York, and in other places; but the last time was in New
"Do you know any one who could give me any information about him, so
that I could find out what has become of him?"
"No, unless it is the proprietor of the hotel called the Red Anchor, in
Brooklyn. Patrick O'Donoghan lodges there when he is in New York. The
name of the hotel-keeper is Mr. Bowles, and he is an old sailor. If he
does not know, I do not know of any one else who can tell you anything
Erik hurried on board one of the ferry-boats that cross the East River,
and ten minutes later he was in Brooklyn.
At the door-way of the Red Anchor he saw an old woman, who was neatly
dressed, and busily occupied in peeling potatoes.
"Is Mr. Bowles at home?" he said, saluting her politely, after the
custom of his adopted country.
"He is at home, but he is taking a nap," answered the good woman,
looking with curiosity at her questioner. "If you have any message for
him, you can give it to me. I am Mrs. Bowles."
"Oh, madam, you can no doubt give me the information I desire as well as
Mr. Bowles," answered Erik. "I wish to know whether you are acquainted
with a sailor named Patrick O'Donoghan, and whether he is now with you,
or if you can tell me where I can find him?"
"Patrick O'Donoghan: yes, I know him, but it is five or six years since
he has been here, and I am unable to say where he is now."
Erik's countenance displayed such great disappointment that the old
woman was touched.
"Are you so anxious to find Patrick O'Donoghan that you are disappointed
in not finding him here?" she asked.
"Yes, indeed," he answered. "He alone can solve a mystery that I shall
seek all my life to make clear."
During the three weeks that Erik had been running everywhere in search
of information, he gained a certain amount of experience in human
nature. He saw that the curiosity of Mrs. Bowles was aroused by his
questions, he therefore entered the hotel and asked for a glass of
The low room in which he found himself was furnished with green tables,
and wooden chairs, but it was empty. This circumstance emboldened Erik
to enter into conversation with Mrs. Bowles, when she handed him the
bottle of soda-water which he had ordered.
"You are doubtless wondering, madam, what I can want with Patrick
O'Donoghan, and I will tell you," said he, with a smile.
"An American vessel called the 'Cynthia' was lost about seventeen years
ago on the coast of Norway; Patrick O'Donoghan was employed on board. I
was picked up by a Norwegian fisherman when I was about nine months old.
I was floating in a cradle attached to a buoy of the 'Cynthia.' I am
seeking O'Donoghan to see if he can give me any information about my
family, or at least about my country."
Mrs. Bowles uttered a cry that put a stop to Erik's explanation.
"To a buoy, do you say? You were tied to a buoy?"
But without waiting for any reply she ran to the stairway. "Bowles!
Bowles! come down quickly," she cried, in a piercing voice.
"On a buoy! you are the child who was tied to the buoy! Who ever would
have expected such a thing to happen?" she said, as she returned to
Erik, who had turned pale from surprise.
Was he going to learn the secret which he was so anxious to make out.
A heavy footstep was heard on the stairs, and soon an old man, fat and
rosy, clothed in a complete suit of blue cloth, and with gold rings in
his ears, appeared on the threshold.
"What is the matter?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"Here is somebody who wants you," said Mrs. Bowles; "sit down and listen
to the gentleman, who will repeat what he has told me."
Mr. Bowles obeyed without any protestation; Erik did the same. He
repeated in as few words as he could what he had told the old woman.
As he listened, the countenance of Mr. Bowles dilated like a full moon,
his lips parted in a broad smile, and he looked at his wife, and rubbed
his hands. She on her side appeared equally well pleased.
"Must I suppose that you are already acquainted with my story?" asked
Erik, with a beating heart.
Mr. Bowles made an affirmative sign, and scratching his ear, made up his
mind to speak:
"I know it without your telling me," he said, at length, "and my wife
knows it as well as I do. We have often talked about it without
Erik, pale and with tightly compressed lips, hung upon his words,
expecting some revelation, but this he had to wait for. Mr. Bowles had
not the gift of either eloquence or clearness, and perhaps his ideas
were still clouded with sleep, and in order to recover his faculties he
took two or three glasses of a liquor called "pick me up," which greatly
After his wife had placed the bottle and two glasses before him, and he
had sufficiently fortified himself, he began to speak.
His story was so confused, and mingled with so many useless details,
that it was impossible to draw any conclusions from it, but Erik
listened attentively to all he said, and by questioning and insisting,
and aided by Mrs. Bowles, he ended by gathering some facts about
IN WHICH A REWARD OF FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS STERLING IS OFFERED.
Patrick O'Donoghan, as far as Erik could make out through Mr. Bowles'
rambling account of him, was not a model of virtue. The proprietor of
the Red Anchor had known him as a cabin-boy and sailor, both before and
after the loss of the "Cynthia." Up to that time Patrick O'Donoghan had
been poor, as all sailors are. After the shipwreck he had returned from
Europe with a large bundle of bank-notes, pretending to have inherited
some money in Ireland, which seemed likely enough.
Mr. Bowles, however, had never believed in this inheritance. He thought
that this sudden accession of wealth was connected in some way with the
loss of the "Cynthia," and that Patrick O'Donoghan was afraid to say so;
for it was evident that contrary to the usual habit of seamen in such
cases, he carefully avoided speaking about the sad occurrence. He would
always turn the conversation if any one alluded to it before him, and he
was very anxious to start on a long voyage before the lawsuit brought by
the company to recover the insurance due on the "Cynthia" should take
place. He did not wish to be summoned as a witness. This conduct
appeared very suspicious, as he was the sole known survivor from the
shipwreck. Mr. Bowles and his wife had always suspected him, but they
had kept their own counsel.
What looked still more suspicious was the fact that when Patrick
O'Donoghan was in New York he was never short of money. He brought back
very little with him after a voyage, but a few days after his return he
always had gold and bank-notes; and when he was tipsy, which frequently
happened, he would boast of being in possession of a secret which was
worth a fortune to him. The words which most frequently escaped from his
lips were, "the baby tied to the buoy!"
"The baby tied to the buoy," he would say, striking the table with his
fist, "The baby tied to the buoy is worth its weight in gold."
Then he would laugh, as if well satisfied with himself. But they could
never draw out of him any explanation of these words, and for many years
the Bowles household were lost in conjectures as to what they could
This accounted for Mrs. Bowles' excitement, when Erik suddenly announced
to her that he was the famous baby who had been tied to a buoy.
Patrick O'Donoghan, who had been in the habit of lodging at the Red
Anchor, whenever he was in New York, for more than fifteen years, had
not been seen there now for more than four years. There had also been
something mysterious about his last departure. He had received a visit
from a man who had been closeted with him for more than an hour. After
this visit Patrick O'Donoghan, who had seemed worried and troubled, had
paid his board bill, taken his carpet bag, and left in a hurry.
They had never seen him since that day.
Mr. and Mrs. Bowles were naturally ignorant of the cause of his sudden
departure, but they had always thought that it had some connection with
the loss of the "Cynthia." In their opinion the visitor had come to warn
Patrick O'Donoghan of some danger which threatened him, and the Irishman
had thought it prudent to leave New York immediately. Mrs. Bowles did
not think he had ever returned. If he had done so, they would have been
sure to hear of him through other seamen who frequented their house, and
who would have been astonished if Patrick O'Donoghan had boarded
anywhere else, and would have been sure to ask questions as to the
reasons for his doing so.
This was the substance of the story related to Erik, and he hastened to
communicate it to his friends.
His report was naturally received with all the interest which it
merited. For the first time, after so many years, they were on the track
of a man who had made reiterated allusions to the baby tied to a buoy.
It was true they did not know where this man was, but they hoped to find
him some day. It was the most important piece of news which they had as
yet obtained. They resolved to telegraph to Mrs. Bowles, and beg her to
prepare a dinner for six persons. Mr. Bredejord had suggested this idea,
as a good means of drawing the worthy couple out; for while they talked
during the dinner, they might be able to glean some new facts.
Erik had little hopes of obtaining any further information. He thought
that he already knew Mr. and Mrs. Bowles well enough to be convinced
that they had told him all that they knew. But he did not take into
account Mr. Bredejord's skill in questioning witnesses, and in drawing
from them information which they themselves were scarcely aware of.
Mrs. Bowles had surpassed herself in preparing the dinner. She had laid
the table in the best room on the first floor. She felt very much
flattered at being invited to partake of it, in the society of such
distinguished guests, and answered willingly all of Mr. Bredejord's
They gathered from this conversation a certain number of facts which
were not unimportant.
One was that Patrick O'Donoghan had said at the time, of the lawsuit
against the insurance company, that he was going away to avoid being
summoned as a witness. This was evident proof that he did not wish to
explain the circumstances under which the shipwreck had occurred, and
his subsequent conduct confirmed this theory. It was also evident that
in New York or its environs he received the suspicious revenue which
seemed to be connected with his secret. For when he arrived he was
always without money, but after he had been about for a short time he
always returned with his pockets full of gold. They could not doubt that
his secret was connected with the infant tied to the buoy, for he had
frequently affirmed that such was the case.
The evening before his sudden departure Patrick O'Donoghan had said that
he was tired of a sea-faring life, and that he thought he should give up
making voyages, and settle in New York for the remainder of his life.
Lastly, the individual who had called to see Patrick O'Donoghan was
interested in his departure, for he had called the next day and asked
for the Irishman who was boarding at the Red Anchor, and had seemed
pleased to hear that he was no longer there. Mr. Bowles felt sure that
he would recognize this man if he saw him again. By his conversation and
actions he had believed him to be a detective, or some agent of the
Mr. Bredejord concluded from these facts that Patrick O'Donoghan had
been systematically frightened by the person from whom he drew the
money, and that this man had been sent to make him fear that criminal
proceedings were about to be taken against him. This would explain his
precipitate flight, and why he had never returned to New York.
It was important to find this detective, as well as Patrick O'Donoghan.
Mr. and Mrs. Bowles, by referring to their books, were able to give the
exact date of the Irishman's departure, which was four years, lacking
three months; although they had previously believed that it was four or
five years ago.
Dr. Schwaryencrona was immediately struck by the fact that the date of
his departure, and consequently of the visit of the detective,
corresponded precisely with the date of the first advertisements which
he had caused to be made in Great Britain for the survivors of the
"Cynthia." This coincidence was so striking that it was impossible not
to believe that there was some connection between them.
They began to understand the mystery a little better. The abandonment of
Erik on the buoy had been the result of some crime--a crime of which the
cabin-boy O'Donoghan had been a witness or an accomplice. He knew the
authors of this crime, who lived in New York or its environs, and he had
for a long time enjoyed the reward of his secrecy. Then a day had come
when the excessive demands of the Irishman had become burdensome, and
the announcement in the newspapers by advertisement had been made use of
to frighten Patrick, and cause his hurried departure.
In any case, even if these deductions were not correct in every point,
they had obtained sufficient information to entitle them to demand a
Erik and his friends therefore left the Red Anchor full of hope that
they would soon obtain some favorable intelligence.
The next day Mr. Bredejord was introduced by the Swedish consul to the
chief of police of New York, and he made him acquainted with the facts
which had become known to him. At the same time he entered into
conversation with the officers of the insurance company who had refused
to pay the claims due on the "Cynthia," and read the old documents
relative to this matter, which had lain undisturbed so many years. But
the examination of these papers did not afford him any important
intelligence. The matter had been decided upon technical points,
relating to an excess of insurance far above the value of the vessel and
cargo. Neither side had been able to produce any person who had been a
witness of the shipwreck. The owners of the "Cynthia" had not been able
to prove their good faith, or to explain how the shipwreck had taken
place, and the Court had decided in favor of their adversaries. Their
defense had been weak, and their opponents had triumphed.
The insurance company, however, had been compelled to pay several claims
on the lives of the passengers to their heirs. But, in all these law
proceedings, there was no trace of any infant nine months old.
These examinations had occupied several days. Finally, the chief of
police informed Mr. Bredejord that he had been unable to obtain any
intelligence about the matter. Nobody in New York knew any detective who
answered to Mr. Bowles' description. Nobody could tell who the
individual was who was interested in the departure of Patrick
O'Donoghan. As for this sailor, he did not appear to have set his foot
in the United States for at least four years. All they could do was to
keep the address of the place where he was born, which might prove
useful some time. But the chief of police told Mr. Bredejord, without
any dissimulation, that the affair had happened so long ago--now nearly
twenty years--that even if Patrick O'Donoghan ever returned to New York,
it was at least doubtful if the authorities would be willing to
investigate the matter.
At the moment when Erik believed that he was about to obtain a solution
of the mystery which clouded his life, all their investigations came to
a sudden end, and without producing the slightest result. The only thing
that remained to be done was to pass through Ireland as they returned to
Sweden, to see if perchance Patrick O'Donoghan had returned there to
pass the remainder of his days planting cabbages.
Dr. Schwaryencrona and his friends, after taking leave of Mr. and Mrs.
Bowles, resolved to pursue this route. The steamers between New York and
Liverpool touch at Cork, and this was only a few miles from Innishannon,
the place where Patrick was born. There they learned that Patrick
O'Donoghan had never returned to his native place since he left it at
the age of twelve years, and that they had never heard from him.
"Where shall we look for him now?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona, as they
embarked for England, on the way to Stockholm.
"At the seaport towns evidently, and clearly at those which are not
American," answered Mr. Bredejord. "For note this point, a sailor, a
sea-faring man, does not renounce his profession at the age of
thirty-five. It is the only one he knows. Patrick is doubtless still on
the sea. And all vessels have some port or other for their destination,
and it is only there that we can hope to find this man. What do you
"Your reasoning seems to be just, although not altogether indisputable,"
answered the professor, with his customary prudence.
"Admit that it is right," continued Mr. Bredejord. "We know that Patrick
O'Donoghan was frightened away and would be in dread of pursuit, perhaps
of being extradited. In that case, he would avoid his old companions,
and seek in preference ports where he was not likely to meet any of
them. I know that my ideas can be contradicted, but let us suppose they
are well founded. The number of ports which are not frequented by
American vessels is not very large. I think we might begin by seeking in
these places news of Patrick O'Donoghan."
"Why not have recourse to advertisements?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona.
"Because Patrick O'Donoghan would not answer them if he is trying to
hide himself; even supposing that a sailor would be likely to see your
"But you could word your advertisement so as to assure him that you
intended to do him no injury, but rather that it would be greatly to his
advantage to communicate with you."
"You are right, but still I am afraid that an ordinary seaman would not
be likely to see such an advertisement."
"Well, you might try offering a reward to Patrick O'Donoghan, or to any
one who would give you information as to where he might be found. What
do you think about it, Erik?"
"It seems to me that such an advertisement to produce any result would
have to be continued for a long time, and in a great many different
papers. That would cost a great deal, and might only frighten Patrick
O'Donoghan, no matter how well worded the advertisement might be,
provided it is to his interest to remain concealed. Would it not be
better to employ some one to visit personally those seaports which this
man would be likely to frequent?"
"But where could we find a trusty man who would be willing to undertake
such a task?"
"I can furnish one, if you wish it," answered Erik. "I would go myself."
"You, my dear child--and what would become of your studies?"
"My studies need not suffer. There is nothing to prevent me from
pursuing them, even during my travels. And another thing, doctor, I must
confess to you, that I have already secured the means of doing so
without costing me anything."
"How is that possible," asked Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord, and
Professor Hochstedt, simultaneously.
"I have simply been preparing myself for a sea-faring life. I can pass
the examination to-day if necessary. Once in possession of my diploma,
it would be easy for me to obtain a position as a lieutenant in any
"And you have done all this without saying a word to me?" said the
doctor, half grieved, while the lawyer and the professor both laughed
"Well," said Erik, "I do not think that I have committed any great
crime. I have only made inquiries as to the requisite amount of
knowledge, and I have mastered it. I should not have made any use of it
without asking your permission, and I now solicit it."
"And I shall grant it, wicked boy," said the doctor, "But to let you set
out all alone now is another matter--we will wait until you have
attained your majority."
Erik submitted to this decision willingly and gratefully.
However, the doctor was not willing to give up his own ideas. To search
the sea-ports personally he regarded as a last expedient. An
advertisement on the other hand would go everywhere. If Patrick
O'Donoghan was not hiding away, they might possibly find him by this
means. If he was hiding, some one might see it and betray him. He
therefore had this advertisement written in seven or eight different
languages, and dispatched to the four quarters of the globe in a hundred
of the most widely circulated newspapers.
"Patrick O'Donoghan, a sailor, has been absent from New York for
four years. A reward of one hundred pounds sterling will be paid to
any one who can give me news of him. Five hundred pounds sterling
will be given to the said Patrick O'Donoghan if he will communicate
with the advertiser. He need fear nothing, as no advantage will be
taken of him.
By the 20th of October, the doctor and his companions had returned to
The next day the advertisement was sent to the advertising agency in
Stockholm, and three days afterward it had made its appearance in
several newspapers. Erik could not repress a sigh and a presentiment
that it would be unsuccessful as he read it.
As for Mr. Bredejord, he declared openly that it was the greatest folly
in the world, and that for the future he considered the affair a
But Erik and Mr. Bredejord were deceived, as events afterward proved.
TUDOR BROWN, ESQUIRE.
One morning in May the doctor was in his office, when his servant
brought him a visitor's card. This card, which was small as is usual in
America, had the name of "Mr. Tudor Brown, on board the 'Albatross'"
printed upon it.
"Mr. Tudor Brown," said the doctor, trying to remember whom he had ever
known who bore this name.
"This gentleman asked to see the doctor," said the servant.
"Can he not come at my office-hour?" asked the doctor.
"He said his business was about a personal matter."
"Show him in, then," said the doctor, with a sigh.
He lifted his head as the door opened again, and was surprised when he
beheld the singular person who answered to the feudal name of Tudor, and
the plebeian name of Brown.
He was a man about fifty years of age, his forehead was covered with a
profusion of little ringlets, of a carroty color, while the most
superficial examination betrayed that they were made of curled silk; his
nose was hooked, and surmounted with an enormous pair of gold
spectacles; his teeth were as long as those of a horse, his cheeks were
smooth, but under his chin he wore a little red beard. This odd head,
covered by a high hat which he did not pretend to remove, surmounted a
thin angular body, clothed from head to foot in a woolen suit. In his
cravat he wore a pin, containing a diamond as large as a walnut; also a
large gold chain, and his vest buttons were amethysts. He had a dozen
rings on his fingers, which were as knotty as those of a chimpanzee.
Altogether he was the most pretentious and grotesque-looking man that it
was possible to behold. This person entered the doctor's office as if he
had been entering a railway station, without even bowing. He stopped to
say, in a voice that resembled that of Punch, its tone was so nasal and
"Are you Doctor Schwaryencrona?"
"I am," answered the doctor, very much astonished at his manners.
He was debating in his mind whether he should ring for his servant to
conduct this offensive person to the door, when a word put a stop to his
"I saw your advertisement about Patrick O'Donoghan," said the stranger,
"and I thought you would like to know that I can tell you something
"Take a seat, sir," answered the doctor.
But he perceived that the stranger had not waited to be asked.
After selecting the most comfortable arm-chair, he drew it toward the
doctor, then he seated himself with his hands in his pockets, lifted his
feet and placed his heels on the window-sill, and looked at the doctor
with the most self-satisfied air in the world.
"I thought," he said, "that you would listen to these details with
pleasure, since you offer five hundred pounds for them. That is why I
have called upon you."
The doctor bowed without saying a word.
"Doubtless," continued the other, in his nasal voice, "you are wondering
who I am. I am going to tell you. My card has informed you as to my
name, and I am a British subject."
"Irish perhaps?" asked the doctor with interest.
The Granger, evidently surprised, hesitated a moment, and then said:
"No, Scotch. Oh, I know I do not look like a Scotchman, they take me
very often for a Yankee--but that is nothing--I am Scotch."
As he gave this piece of information, he looked at Dr. Schwaryencrona as
much as to say:
"You can believe what you please, it is a matter of indifference to me."
"From Inverness, perhaps?" suggested the doctor, still clinging to his
The stranger again hesitated for a moment.
"No, from Edinburgh," he answered. "But that is of no importance after
all, and has nothing to do with the matter in hand. I have an
independent fortune and owe nothing to anybody. If I tell you who I am,
it is because it gives me pleasure to do so, for I am not obliged to do
"Permit me to observe that I did not ask you," said the doctor, smiling.
"No, but do not interrupt me, or we shall never reach the end of this
matter. You published an advertisement to find out what became of
Patrick O'Donoghan, did you not?--you therefore have some interest in
knowing. I know what has become of him."
"You know?" asked the doctor, drawing his seat closer to that of the
"I know, but before I tell you, I want to ask you what interest you have
in finding him?"
"That is only just," answered the doctor.
In as few words as possible, he related Erik's history, to which his
visitor listened with profound attention.
"And this boy is still living?" asked Tudor Brown.
"Assuredly he is living. He is in good health, and in October next he
will begin his studies in the Medical University at Upsal."
"Ah! ah!" answered the stranger, who seemed lost in reflection. "Tell
me," he said at length, "have you no other means of solving this mystery
of his birth except by finding Patrick O'Donoghan?"
"I know of no other," replied the doctor. "After years of searching I
only found out that this O'Donoghan was in possession of the secret,
that he alone could reveal it to me, and that is why I have advertised
for him in the papers. I must confess that I had no great hopes of
finding him by this means."
"How is that?"
"Because I had reasons for believing that this O'Donoghan has grave
motives for remaining unknown, consequently it was not likely that he
would respond to my advertisement. I had the intention of resorting to
other means. I have a description of him. I know what ports he would be
likely to frequent, and I propose to employ special agents to be on the
lookout for him."
Dr. Schwaryencrona did not say this lightly. He spoke with the intention
of seeing what effect these words would produce on the man before him.
And as he watched him intently, he saw that in spite of the affected
coolness of the stranger his eyelids fell and the muscles of his month
contracted. But almost immediately Tudor Brown recovered his
self-possession, and said:
"Well, doctor, if you have no other means of solving this mystery,
except by discovering Patrick O'Donoghan, I am afraid that you will
never find it out. Patrick O'Donoghan is dead."
The doctor was too much taken aback by this disappointing announcement
to say a word, and only looked at his visitor, who continued:
"Dead and buried, three hundred fathoms beneath the sea. This man, whose
past life always appeared to me to have been mysterious, was employed
three years on board my yacht, the 'Albatross.' I must tell you that my
yacht is a stanch vessel, in which I often cruise for seven or eight
months at a time. Nearly three years ago we were passing through the
Straits of Madeira, when Patrick O'Donoghan fell overboard. I had the
vessel stopped, and some boats lowered, and after a diligent search we
recovered him; but though we spared no pains to restore him to life, our
efforts were in vain. Patrick O'Donoghan was dead. We were compelled to
return to the sea the prey which we had snatched from it. The accident
was put down on the ship's log, and recorded in the notary's office at
the nearest place we reached. Thinking that this act might be useful to
you, I have brought you a certified copy of it."
As he said this, Mr. Tudor Brown took out his pocket-book and presented
the doctor with a paper stamped with a notarial seal.
The latter read it quickly. It was a record of the death of Patrick
O'Donoghan, while passing through the Straits of Madeira, duly signed
and sworn to, before two witnesses, as being an exact copy of the
original--it was also registered in London, at Somerset House, by the
commissioners of her Britannic Majesty.
This instrument was evidently authentic. But the manner in which he had
received it was so strange that the doctor could not conceal his
astonishment. He took it, however, with his habitual courtesy.
"Permit me to ask one question, sir," he said to his visitor.
"How is it that you have this document in your pocket duly prepared and
certified? And why have you brought it to me?"
"If I can count, you have asked two questions," said Tudor Brown. "I will
answer them, however--I had this paper in my pocket, because I read your
advertisement two months ago, and wishing to furnish you with the
information which you asked for, I thought it better to give it to you,
in the most complete and definite form that lay in my power. I have
brought it to you personally, because I happened to be cruising in these
waters; and I wished at the same time to gratify your curiosity and my
There was nothing to answer to this reasoning--this was the only
conclusion the doctor could draw.
"Yon are here, then, with the 'Albatross'?" he asked, eagerly.
"And you have still on board some sailors who have known Patrick
"Would you permit me to see them?"
"As many as you please. Will you accompany me on board now?"
"If you have no objection."
"I have none," said the stranger, as he arose.
Dr. Schwaryencrona touched his bell, and they brought him his fur
pelisse, his hat, and his cane, and he departed with Mr. Tudor Brown.
Fifteen minutes later they were on board the "Albatross."
They were received by an old gray-headed seaman, with a rubicund face,
whose open countenance betrayed only truth and loyalty.
"Mr. Ward, this gentleman wishes to make some inquiries about the fate
of Patrick O'Donoghan," said Mr. Tudor Brown.
"Patrick O'Donoghan," answered the old sailor, "God rest his soul. He
gave us trouble enough to pick him up the day he was drowned in the
Straits of Madeira. What is the use of inquiries now that he has gone to
feed the fishes?"
"Had you known him for a long time?" asked the doctor.
"The rascal--no--for a year or two perhaps. I believe that it was at
Zanzibar that we took him on board--am I right, Tommy Duff?"
"Is any one hailing me?" asked a young sailor, who was busily employed
in polishing a copper bowl.
"Come here," said the other--"Was it at Zanzibar that we recruited
"Patrick O'Donoghan," repeated the young sailor, as if his remembrance
of the man was not very good. "Oh yes, I remember him. The man who fell
overboard in the Straits of Maderia. Yes, Mr. Ward, it was at Zanzibar
that he came on board."
Dr. Schwaryencrona made him describe Patrick O'Donoghan, and was
convinced that it was the same man whom he was seeking. Both these men
seemed honest and sincere. They had honest and open countenances. The
uniformity of their answers seemed a little strange, and almost
preconcerted; but after all it might be only the natural consequence of
relating facts. Having known Patrick O'Donoghan only a year at the most,
they would have but little to say about him, except the fact of his
Besides the "Albatross" was a yacht of such large proportions, that if
she had been furnished with some cannon she might easily have passed for
a man-of-war. The most rigorous cleanliness was observed on board. The
sailors were in good condition, well clothed, and under perfect
discipline. The general appearance of the vessel insensiby acted upon
the doctor, and carried conviction of the truth of the statement which
he had just heard. He therefore declared himself perfectly satisfied,
and could not leave without inviting Mr. Tudor Brown to dine with him.
But Mr. Tudor Brown did not think it best to accept this invitation. He
declined it in these courteous terms:
"No--I can not--I never dine in town."
It now only remained for Dr. Schwaryencrona to retire. This he did
without having obtained even the slightest bow from this strange
The doctor's first thought was to go and relate his adventure to Mr.
Bredejord, who listened to him without saying a word, only promising
himself to institute counter inquiries.
But he, with Erik, who had been told the whole story upon his return
from school, repaired to the vessel to see if they could elicit any
further information, but the "Albatross" had left Stockholm, without
leaving word where she was going, and they could not, therefore, obtain
even the address of Mr. Tudor Brown.
All that resulted from this affair was the possession of the document,
which legally proved the death of Patrick O'Donoghan.
Was this paper of any value? This was the question that Mr. Bredejord
could not help doubting, in spite of the evidence of the British consul
at Stockholm, whom he questioned, and who declared that the signatures
and stamp were perfectly authentic. He also caused inquiries to be made
at Edinburgh, but nobody knew Mr. Tudor Brown, which he thought looked
But it was an undeniable fact that they obtained no further intelligence
of Patrick O'Donoghan, and all their advertisements were ineffectual.
If Patrick O'Donoghan had disappeared for good, they had no hope of
penetrating the mystery that surrounded Erik's birth. He himself saw
this, and was obliged to recognize the fact that, for the future, the
inquiries would have to be based upon some other theory. He therefore
made no opposition about commencing his medical studies the following
autumn at the university at Upsal, according to the doctor's wishes. He
only desired, first, to pass his examination as a captain, but this
sufficed to show that he had not renounced his project of traveling.
Besides, he had another trouble which lay heavy at his heart, and for
which he saw no other remedy but absence.
Erik wished to find some pretext for leaving the doctor's house as soon
as his studies were completed; but he wished to do this without exciting
any suspicion. The only pretext which he could think of was this plan of
traveling. He desired to do this because of the aversion of Kajsa, the
doctor's niece. She lost no occasion of showing her dislike; but he
would not at any price have had the excellent man suspect this state of
affairs between them. His relations toward the young girl had always
been most singular. In the eyes of Erik during these seven years as well
as on the first day of his arrival at Stockholm, the pretty little fairy
had always been a model of elegance and all earthly perfections. He had
bestowed on her his unreserved admiration, and had made heroic efforts
to overcome her dislike, and become her friend.
But Kajsa could not make up her mind calmly to see this "intruder," as
she called Erik, take his place in the doctor's home, be treated as an
adopted son, and become a favorite of her uncle and his friends. The
scholastic success of Erik, his goodness and his gentleness, far from
making him pleasing in her eyes, were only new motives of jealousy.
In her heart Kajsa could not pardon the young man for being only a
fisherman and a peasant. It seemed to her that he brought discredit upon
the doctor's household and on herself, who, she liked to believe,
occupied a very high position in the social scale.
But it was worse when she learned that Erik was even less than a
peasant, only a child that had been picked up. That appeared to her
monstrous and dishonorable. She thought that such a child had a lower
place in society than a cat or a dog; she manifested these sentiments by
the most disdainful looks, the most mortifying silence, and the most
cruel insults. If Erik was invited with her to any little social
gathering at the house of a friend, she would positively refuse to dance
with him. At the table she would not answer anything he said, nor pay
any attention to him. She tried on all occasions, and in every possible
way, to humiliate him.
Poor Erik had divined the cause of this uncharitable conduct, but he
could not understand how ignorance of his family, and of the land of his
birth, could be regarded by her as such a heinous crime. He tried one
day to reason with Kajsa, and to make her understand the injustice and
cruelty of such a prejudice, but she would not even deign to listen to
him. Then as they both grew older, the abyss which separated them seemed
to widen. At eighteen Kajsa made her début in society. She was
flattered and noticed as the rich heiress, and this homage only
confirmed her in the opinion that she was superior to common mortals.
Erik, who was at first greatly afflicted by her disdain, ended by
becoming indignant, and vowing to triumph over it. This feeling of
humiliation had a great share in producing the passionate ardor with
which he pursued his studies. He dreamed of raising himself so high in
public esteem, by the force of his own industry, that every one would
bow before him. But he also vowed that he would go away on the first
opportunity, and that he would not remain under a roof where every day
he was exposed to some secret humiliation.
Only the good doctor must be kept in ignorance of the cause of his
departure. He must attribute it solely to a passion for traveling. And
Erik therefore frequently spoke of his desire, when his studies were
completed, of engaging in some scientific expedition. While pursuing his
studies at Upsal, he prepared himself by work, and the most severe
exercise, for the life of fatigue and danger which is the lot of great
In the month of December, 1878, Erik had attained the age of twenty, and
passed his first examination for his doctor's degree. The learned men of
Sweden were greatly excited about the proposed arctic expedition of the
navigator Nordenskiold, and their enthusiasm was shared by a large
proportion of the population. After preparing himself for the
undertaking by several voyages to the polar regions, and after studying
the problem in all its aspects, Nordenskiold intended to attempt once
more to discover the north-east passage from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, which for three centuries had defied the efforts of all the
The programme for the expedition had been defined by the Swedish
navigator, and he announced the reasons which led him to believe that
the north-east passage was practicable in summer, and the means by which
he hoped to realize this geographical desideratum. The intelligent
liberality of two Scandinavian gentlemen, and the assistance of the
Swedish government, enabled him to organize his expedition upon a plan
which he believed would insure its success.
It was on the 21st of July, 1878, that Nordenskiold quitted From-sae, on
board of the "Vega," to attempt to reach Behring's Strait by passing to
the north of Russia and Siberia. Lieutenant Palanders, of the Swedish
navy, was in command of the vessel, with the instigator of the voyage,
and they had also a staff of botanists, geologists, and astronomical
The "Vega," which had been especially prepared for the expedition under
the surveillance of Nordenskiold, was a vessel of five hundred tons,
which had been recently built at Bremen, and carried an engine of
sixty-horse power. Three ships were to accompany her to successive
points on the Siberian coast, which had been previously determined upon.
They were all provisioned for a cruise of two years, in case it might be
necessary for them to winter in those arctic regions. But Nordenskiold
did not conceal his hope of being able to reach Behring's Strait before
autumn, on account of his careful arrangements, and all Sweden shared
They started from the most northerly point of Norway, and the "Vega"
reached Nova Zembla on the 29th of July, on the 1st of August the Sea of
Kara, and on the 6th of August the mouth of the Gulf Yenisei. On the 9th
of August she doubled Cape Schelynshin, or Cape North-East, the extreme
point of the continent, which no vessel had hitherto been able to reach.
On the 7th of September she cast anchor at the mouth of the Lena, and
separated from the third of the vessels which had accompanied her thus
far. On the 16th of October a telegraphic dispatch from Irkutsk
announced to the world that the expedition had been successful up to
We can imagine the impatience with which the friends of the Swedish
navigator waited for the details of the expedition. These details did
not reach them until the 1st of December. For if electricity flies over
space with the rapidity of thought, it is not the same with the Siberian
post. The letters from the "Vega," although deposited in the post-office
at Irkutsk, at the same time that the telegraphic message was
dispatched, did not reach Sweden until six weeks afterward. But they
arrived at last; and on the 5th of December one of the principal
newspapers of Sweden published an account of the first part of the
expedition, which had been written by a young medical doctor attached to
That same day, at breakfast, Mr. Bredejord was occupied in reading with
great interest the details of the voyage, given in four columns, when
his eyes fell upon a paragraph which almost upset him. He re-read it
attentively, and then read it again; then he arose, and seizing his hat
and coat, he rushed to the house of Dr. Schwaryencrona.
"Have you read the correspondence of the 'Vega'?" he cried, as he rushed
like a hurricane into the dining-room where the doctor and Kajsa were
taking their breakfast.
"I have just commenced it," replied the doctor, "and was intending to
finish reading it after breakfast, while I smoked my pipe."
"Then you have not seen!" exclaimed Mr. Bredejord, out of breath. "You
do not know what this correspondence contains?"
"No," replied Doctor Schwaryencrona, with perfect calmness.
"Well, listen to this," continued Mr. Bredejord, approaching the window.
"It is the journal of one of your brethren, the aid of the naturalist of
"'30th and 31st of July, we entered the strait of Jugor, and cast anchor
before a Samoyede village called Chabarova. We landed, and I questioned
some of the natives to discover, by Holmgren's method, the extent of
their perception of colors. I found that this sense was normally
developed among them. Bought of a Samoyede fisherman two magnificent
"Pardon me," interrupted the doctor; "but is this a charade you are
reading to me. I confess I do not see how these details can interest
"Ah! they do not interest you?" said Mr. Bredejord, in a triumphant
tone. "Well, wait a moment and you will see:
"'Bought of a Samoyede fisherman two magnificent salmon, which I have
preserved in alcohol, notwithstanding the protestations of our cook.
This fisherman fell into the water as he was quitting the ship. They
pulled him out half suffocated and stiffened by the cold, so that he
resembled a bar of iron, and he, also, had a serious cut on his head. We
were just under way, and they carried him to the infirmary of the
"Vega," while still unconscious, undressed him, and put him to bed. They
then discovered that this fisherman was an European. He had red hair;
his nose had been broken by some accident, and on his chest, on a level
with his heart, these words were tattooed: "Patrick
Here Dr. Schwaryencrona uttered a cry of surprise.
"Wait! listen to the rest of it," said Mr. Bredejord; and he continued
"'Being subjected to an energetic massage treatment, he was soon
restored to life. But as it was impossible for him to leave us in that
condition, we were compelled to take care of him. A fever set in and he
became delirious. Our experiment of the appreciation of colors among the
Samoyedes, therefore, was frustrated.--3d of August. The fisherman of
Chabarova has recovered from the effects of his bath. He appeared to be
surprised to find himself on board the "Vega," and en route for Cape
Tahelyuskin, but soon became reconciled to his fate. His knowledge of
the Ganwyede language may be useful to, us, and we have determined to
take him with us on the coast of Siberia. He speaks English with a nasal
accent like a Yankee, but pretends to be Scotch, and calls himself Tommy
Bowles. He came from Nova Zembla with some fishermen, and he has lived
on these shores for the last twelve years. The name tattooed upon his
chest he says, 'is that of one of the friends of his infancy who has
been dead for a long time.'"
"It is evidently our man," cried the doctor, with great emotion.
"Yes, there can be no doubt of it," answered the lawyer. "The name, the
vessel, the description, all prove it; even this choice of a pseudonym
Johnny Bowles, and his declaring that Patrick O'Donoghan was dead, these
are superabundant proofs!"
They were both silent, reflecting upon the possible consequences of this
"How can we go so far in search of him?" said the doctor, at length.
"It will be very difficult, evidently," replied Mr. Bredejord. "But it
is something to know that he is alive, and the part of the world where
he can be found. And, besides, who can tell what the future may have in
store? He may even return to Stockholm in the 'Vega,' and explain all
that we wish to find out. If he does not do this, perhaps we may, sooner
or later, find an opportunity to communicate with him. Voyages to Nova
Zembla will become more frequent, on account of this expedition of the
'Vega.' Ship-owners are already talking about sending every year some
vessels to the mouth of the Yenisei."
The discussion of this topic was inexhaustible, and the two friends were
still talking about the matter, when Erik arrived from Upsal, at two
o'clock. He also had read this great piece of news, and had taken the
train for home without losing a moment. But it was a singular fact that
he was not joyful, but rather disturbed by this new intelligence.
"Do you know what I am afraid of?" said he to the doctor and Mr.
Bredejord. "I fear that some misfortune has happened to the 'Vega.' You
know it is now the 5th of December, and you know the leaders of the
expedition counted upon arriving at Behring's Strait before October. If
this expectation had been realized, we should have heard from her by
this time; for she would have reached Japan, or at least Petropaulosk,
in the Aleutian Islands, or some station in the Pacific, from which we
should have received news of her. The dispatches and letters here came
by the way of Irkutsk, and are dated the 7th of September, so that for
three entire months we have heard nothing from the 'Vega.' So we must
conclude that they did not reach Behring's Strait as soon as they
expected, and that she has succumbed to the common fate of all
expeditious which for the last three centuries have attempted to
discover the north-east passage. This is the deplorable conclusion which
I have been compelled to arrive at."
"The 'Vega' might have been obliged to encounter in the Polar regions a
great deal which was unforeseen, and she might have been unprovided for
such a contingency," replied Dr. Schwaryencrona.
"Evidently; but this is the most favorable hypothesis; and a winter in
that region is surrounded by so many dangers that it is equivalent to a
shipwreck. In any case, it is an indisputable fact that if we ever have
any news of the 'Vega' it will not be possible to do so before next
"Why, how is that?"
"Because, if the 'Vega' has not perished she is inclosed in the ice, and
she will not be able, at the best, to extricate herself before June or
"That is true," answered Mr. Bredejord.
"What conclusion do you draw from this reasoning?" asked the doctor,
disturbed by the sad tone of Erik's voice as he made the announcement.
"The conclusion that it is impossible to wait so long before solving a
question which is of such great importance to me."
"What do you want to do? We must submit to what is inevitable."
"Perhaps it only appears to be so," answered Erik. "The letters which
have reached us have come across the Arctic Ocean by the way of Irkutsk.
Why could I not follow the same route? I would keep close to the coast
of Siberia. I would endeavor to communicate with the people of that
country, and find out whether any foreign vessel had been shipwrecked,
or was held prisoner among the icebergs. Perhaps I might succeed in
finding Nordenskiold, and Patrick O'Donoghan. It is an enterprise worth
"In the middle of winter?"
"Why not? It is the most favorable season for traveling in sleighs in
"Yes; but you forget that you are not there yet, and that it will be
spring before you could get there."
"That is true," said Erik, who was compelled to recognize the force of
this argument. He sat with his eyes fixed on the floor, absorbed in
"No, matter," said he suddenly; "Nordenskiold must be found, and with
him Patrick O'Donoghan. They shall be, or it will not be my fault."
Erik's plan was a very simple one. He proposed to write an anonymous
letter to the leading newspapers of Stockholm, and thus proclaim his
fears as to the fate of the "Vega." Had she been shipwrecked, or was she
held a prisoner by icebergs, and he concluded his communication by
representing how important it was that some vessel should be sent to her
assistance in the latter case.
The truth of his reasoning was so apparent, and the interest in the
expedition so general, that the young student of Upsal was certain that
the question would be warmly discussed in scientific circles.
But the effect of his letter was beyond his highest expectations. All
the newspapers without exception expressed their approval of his
proposition while commenting upon his communication.
Public opinion was unanimously in favor of fitting out a relief
expedition. Commercial men, manufacturers, the members of schools and
colleges, the judicial corps--in fact, all classes voluntarily
contributed to the enterprise. A rich ship-owner offered to equip a
vessel at his own expense, to go to the relief of the "Vega;" and he
named it the "Nordenskiold."
The enthusiasm increased as days passed without bringing any
intelligence of the "Vega." By the end of December, the subscription had
reached a considerable sum. Dr. Sehwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord had
headed the list with a subscription of ten thousand kroners each. They
were members of the committee who had chosen Erik for their secretary.
The latter was in fact the soul of the undertaking. His ardor, his
modesty, his evident ability with regard to all questions relative to
the expedition, which he studied untiringly, soon acquired for him a
most decided influence. From the first he did not conceal the fact that
it was his dream to take part in the enterprise, if only as a simple
sailor, and that he had a supreme and personal interest in the matter.
This only gave the greater weight to the excellent suggestions which he
made to the originators of the expedition, and he personally directed
all the preparatory labors.
It was agreed that a second vessel should accompany the "Nordenskiold,"
and that it should be like the "Vega," a steamship. Nordenskiold himself
had demonstrated that the principal cause of the failure of previous
attempts had been the employment of sailing vessels. Arctic navigators,
especially when on an exploring expedition, must not be dependent upon
the wind, but must be able to force their way speedily through a
difficult or perilous pass--and above all, always be able to take the
open sea, which it was often impossible to do with a sailing vessel.
This fundamental point having been established, it was decided also to
cover the vessel with a lining of green oak, six inches thick, and to
divide it into compartments, so that it would be better able to resist a
blow from the ice. They were also desirous that she should not draw too
much water, and that all her arrangements should be so made as to enable
her to carry a full supply of coal. Among the offers which were made to
the committee, was a vessel of one hundred and forty tons, which had
been recently built at Bremen, and which had a crew of eighteen men, who
could easily maneuver her. She was a schooner, but while she carried her
masts, she also was furnished with an engine of eighty horse-power. One
of her boilers was so arranged that it could burn oil or fat, which was
easily procurable in the arctic regions, in case their coal should fail.
The schooner protected by its lining of oak, was further strengthened by
transverse beams, so as to offer the greatest possible resistance to the
pressure of the ice. Lastly, the front of it was armed with a spur of
steel, to enable it to break its way through a thick field of ice. The
vessel when placed on the stocks, was named the "Alaska," on account of
the direction which she was destined to take. It had been decided that
while the "Nordenskiold" should pursue the same route which the "Vega"
had followed, that the second vessel should take an opposite direction
around the world, and gain the Siberian Ocean, by the island of Alaska
and Behring's Straits. The chances of meeting the Swedish expedition, or
of discovering traces of her if she had perished would thus, they
thought, be double, for while one vessel followed on her track, the
other would, as it were, precede her.
Erik, who had been the originator of this plan, had often asked himself
which of the vessels he had better join, and he had finally concluded to
attach himself to the second.
The "Nordenskiold," he said to himself, would follow the same course as
the "Vega." It was therefore necessary that she should be equally
successful in making the first part of the voyage, and double Cape
Tchelynskin, but they might not be able to do this, since it had only
been accomplished once. Besides, the last news which they had received
from the "Vega," she was only two or three hundred leagues from
Behring's Straits; therefore they would have a better chance of meeting
her. The "Nordenskiold" might follow her for many months without
overtaking her. But the other vessel could hardly fail to meet her, if
she was still in existence.
The principal thing in Erik's eyes was to reach the "Vega" as quickly as
possible, in order to meet Patrick O'Donoghan without delay.
The doctor and Mr. Bredejord warmly approved of his motives when he
explained them to them.
The work of preparing the "Alaska" was pushed on as rapidly as possible.
Her provisions, equipments, and the clothing, were all carefully chosen,
for they profited by the experience of former Arctic explorers. Her crew
were all experienced seamen, who had been inured to cold by frequent
fishing voyages to Iceland and Greenland. Lastly, the captain chosen by
the committee, was an officer of the Swedish marines, then in the
employment of a maritime company, and well known on account of his
voyages to the Arctic Ocean; his name was Lieutenant Marsilas. He chose
for his first lieutenant Erik himself, who seemed designed for the
position by the energy he had displayed in the service of the
expedition, and who was also qualified by his diploma. The second and
third officers were tried seamen, Mr. Bosewitz and Mr. Kjellguist.
The "Alaska" carried some explosive material in order to break the ice,
if it should be necessary, and abundant provisions of an anti-scorbutic
character, in order to preserve the officers and crew from the common
Arctic maladies. The vessel was furnished with a heater, in order to
preserve an even temperature, and also with a portable observatory
called a "raven's nest," which they could hoist to the top of the
highest mast, in those regions where they meet with floating ice, to
signal the approach of icebergs.
By Erik's proposal this observatory contained a powerful electric light,
which at night could illuminate the route of the "Alaska." Seven small
boats, of which two were whale-boats, a steam-cutter, six sledges,
snow-shoes for each of the crew, four Gatling cannons and thirty guns,
with the necessary ammunition, were stored away on board. These
preparations were approaching an end, when Mr. Hersebom and his son Otto
arrived from Noroe with their large dog Kaas, and solicited the favor of
being employed as seamen on board of the "Alaska." They knew from a
letter of Erik's the strong personal interest which he had in this
voyage, and they wished to share its dangers with him.
Mr. Hersebom spoke of the value of his experience as a fisherman on the
coast of Greenland, and of the usefulness of his dog Kaas, who could be
used as a leader of the dogs which would be necessary to draw the
sledges. Otto had only his good health, his herculean strength, and his
devotion to the cause to recommend him. Thanks to the influence of the
doctor and Mr. Bredejord, they were all three engaged by the committee.
By the beginning of February, 1879, all was ready. The "Alaska" had
therefore five months before the first of June to reach Behring's
Straits, which was accounted the most favorable season for the
exploration. They intended also to take the most direct route, that is
to say, through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, and
the China Seas, stopping successively to take in coal at Gibraltar,
Aden, Colombo in Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Yokohama, and
From all these stations the "Alaska" was to telegraph to Stockholm, and
it was also agreed that, if in the meantime any news was received of the
"Vega," they should not fail to send information.
The voyage of the "Alaska," although intended primarily for an arctic
exploration, would begin by a voyage through tropical seas, and along
the continents most favored by the sun. The programme had not, however,
been arranged to give them pleasure; it was the result of an imperative
necessity, since they must reach Behring's Straits by the shortest route
and remain in telegraphic communication with Stockholm up to the last
moment. But a serious difficulty threatened to retard the expedition.
They had spent so much in equipping the vessel that the funds which were
indispensable for the success of the enterprise, began to run short.
They would require considerable to purchase coal, and for other
A new appeal for money became necessary. As soon as it was issued the
committee received two letters simultaneously.
One was from Mr. Malarius, the public teacher of Noroe, and laureate of
the Botanical Society. It contained a check for one hundred kroners, and
begged that he might be attached to the expedition as the assistant
naturalist of the "Alaska."
The other contained a check for twenty-five thousand kroners, with this
"For the voyage of the 'Alaska,' from Mr. Tudor Brown, on condition
that he is received as a passenger."
The request of Mr. Malarius could only be received with gratitude by the
committee. It was therefore passed enthusiastically, and the worthy
teacher, whose reputation as a botanist was greater than he himself
suspected, was appointed assistant naturalist of the expedition.
As for the condition upon which Tudor Brown bestowed his donation of
twenty-five thousand kroners, both Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord
were strongly inclined to refuse to grant it. But if called upon to give
some motive for their repugnance, they had to confess that they would
not know what to say. What sufficient reason could they give the
committee if they asked them to refuse such a large subscription? They
really had no valid one. Tudor Brown had called upon Dr. Schwaryencrona,
and brought him a certified account of the death of Patrick O'Donoghan;
and now Patrick O'Donoghan appeared to be living. But they could not
prove that Tudor Brown had willfully deceived them in this matter, and
the committee would require some sufficient cause before rejecting so
large a sum. Tudor Brown could easily declare that he had been truthful.
His present attitude seemed to prove it. Perhaps he intended to go
himself, only to find out how Patrick O'Donoghan, whom he believed to
have been drowned in the Straits of Madeira, could now be living on the
shores of Siberia. But even supposing that Tudor Brown had other
projects, it would be to their interest to find them out, and keep him
in their hands. For, one of two facts was certain: either Tudor Brown
had no interest in the search which had occupied Erik's friends for so
long a time, and in that case it would be useless to treat him as an
enemy; or he had some slight personal interest in the matter, and then
it would be better to watch his plans, and overthrow them.
The doctor and Mr. Bredejord therefore concluded that they would not
oppose his becoming a passenger. Then they gradually were filled with a
desire to study this singular man, and find out why he wished to take
passage on the "Alaska." But how could they do this without sailing with
him. It would not be such an absurd thing to do after all. The course
which the "Alaska" was to take was a very attractive one, at least the
first part of it. To be brief, Dr. Schwaryencrona, who was a great
traveler, asked to be taken as a passenger, to accompany the expedition
as far as the China seas, by paying such a price as the committee might
This example immediately acted with irresistible force upon Mr.
Bredejord, who had dreamed for a long time about an excursion to the
land of the Sun. He also solicited a cabin under the same conditions.
Every one in Stockholm now believed that Mr. Hochstedt would do the
same, partly out of scientific curiosity, and partly from terror at the
thought of passing so many months without the society of his friends.
But all Stockholm was deceived. The professor was strongly tempted to
go, and he reviewed all the arguments for and against it, and found it
almost impossible to arrive at any decision, but fate ordained that he
should stay at home.
The time of their departure was irrevocably fixed for the 10th of
February. On the 9th Erik went to meet Mr. Malarius, and was agreeably
surprised to see Dame Hersebom, and Vanda, who had come to bid him
farewell. They were modestly intending to go to a hotel in the town, but
the doctor insisted that they should come and stay with him, to the
great displeasure of Kajsa, who did not think that they were
Vanda was now a tall girl, whose beauty fulfilled its early promise. She
had passed successfully a very difficult examination at Bergen which
entitled her to take a professor's chair, in a superior school. But she
preferred to remain at Noroe with her mother, and she was going to fill
Mr. Malarius' place during his absence: always serious and gentle, she
found in teaching a strange and inexplicable charm, but it had not
changed the simplicity of her home life. This beautiful girl, in her
quaint Norwegian costume, was able to give tranquilly her opinion on the
deepest scientific subjects, or seat herself at the piano, and play with
consummate skill a sonata of Beethoven. But her greatest charm was the
absence of all pretension, and her perfectly natural manners. She no
more thought of being vain of her talents, or of making any display of
them, than she did of blushing on account of her rural costume. She
bloomed like some wild flower, that, growing beside the fiord, had been
transplanted by her old master, and cultivated and cherished in his
little garden behind the school.
In the evening all Erik's adopted family were assembled in the parlor of
Dr. Schwaryencrona; Mr. Bredejord and the doctor were about to play a
last game of whist with Mr. Hochstedt. They discovered that Mr. Malarius
was also an authority in this noble game, which would enable them to
while away many leisure hours on board the "Alaska." Unfortunately the
worthy instructor also told them, at the same time, that he was always a
victim of sea-sickness, and nearly always confined to his bed as soon as
he set foot upon a vessel. Only his affection for Erik had induced him
to join the expedition, added to the ambition, long fondly cherished, of
being able to add some more varieties to his catalogue of botanical
After which they had a little music: Kajsa, with a disdainful air,
played a fashionable waltz; Vanda sung an old Scandinavian melody with a
sweetness that surprised them all. The tea was served, and a large bowl
of punch, which they drunk to the success of the expedition, followed.
Erik noticed that Kajsa avoided touching his glass.
"Will you not wish me a happy voyage?" he said to her, in a low tone.
"What is the use of wishing for what we do not expect to see granted?"
The next morning, at day-break, every one went on board, except Tudor
Since the receipt of his letter containing the check they had not heard
a word from him.
The time of departure had been fixed for ten o'clock. At the first
stroke, the commander, Mr. Marsilas, had the anchor hoisted, and rang
the bell to warn all visitors to leave the ship.
"Adieu, Erik!" cried Vanda, throwing her arms around his neck.
"Adieu, my son!" said Katrina, pressing the young lieutenant to her
"And you, Kajsa, have you nothing to say to me?" he asked, as he walked
toward her as if to embrace her also.
"I hope that you will not get your nose frozen, and that you will
discover that you are a prince in disguise!" said she, laughing
"If that should happen, then at least I might hope to win a little of
your affection?" he said, trying to smile, to hide his feelings, for her
sarcasm had cut him to the heart.
"Do you doubt it?" answered Kajsa, as she turned toward her uncle, to
show that her adieu to him was finished.
The time of departure had indeed come. The warning bell rang
The crowd of visitors descended the stairs to the boats which were
waiting for them.
In the midst of this confusion every one noticed the arrival of a tardy
passenger, who mounted to the deck with his valise in his hand.
The tardy one was Tudor Brown. He presented himself to the captain, and
claimed his cabin, to which he was immediately shown.
A moment later, after two or three prolonged whistles, the engine began
to work, and a sea of foam whitening the waters behind her, the "Alaska"
glided majestically over the green waters of the Baltic, and soon left
Stockholm behind her, followed by the acclamations of the crowd who were
waving their hats and handkerchiefs.
Erik, on the bridge, directed the maneuvers of the vessel, while Mr.
Bredejord and the doctor waved a last farewell to Vanda from the deck.
Mr. Malarius, already frightfully seasick, had retired to his bed. They
were all so occupied with saying farewell that not one of them had
noticed the arrival of Tudor Brown.
Therefore the doctor could not repress a start of surprise when as he
turned around, he saw him ascending from the depths of the vessel, and
marching straight toward him, with his hands in his pockets, clothed as
he had been at their first interview, and with his hat always seemingly
glued to his head.
"Fine weather!" said Tudor Brown, by way of salutation and introduction.
The doctor was stupefied by his effrontery. He waited for some moments
to see if this strange man would make any excuse, or give any
explanation of his conduct.
Seeing that he did not intend to say anything, he opened the subject
"Well, sir, it appears that Patrick O'Donoghan is not dead, as we
supposed!" he said, with his customary vivacity.
"That is precisely what I want to find out, and it is on that account I
have undertaken this voyage."
After saying this, Tudor Brown turned away, and began to walk up and
down the deck, whistling his favorite air, appearing to think that his
explanation was perfectly satisfactory.
Erik and Mr. Bredejord listened to this conversation with a natural
curiosity. They had never seen Tudor Brown before, and they studied him
attentively, even more so than Dr. Schwaryencrona. It seemed to them
that the man, although he affected indifference, cast a furtive glance
at them from time to time, to see what impression he made upon them.
Perceiving this, they also immediately feigned to take no notice of him,
and did not address a word to him. But as soon as they descended to the
saloon, upon which their cabins opened, they took counsel together.
"What could have been Tudor Brown's motive in trying to make them
believe that Patrick O'Donoghan was dead? And what was his purpose in
taking this voyage upon the 'Alaska'? It was impossible for them to say.
But it was difficult not to believe that it had some connection with the
shipwreck of the 'Cynthia,' and the infant tied to the buoy. The only
interest which Patrick O'Donoghan had for Erik and his friends, was the
fact of his supposed knowledge of the affair, and this was their only
reason for seeking for him. Now they had before them a man who was
uninvited, and who had come to them, and declared that Patrick
O'Donoghan was dead. And this man had forced his society upon the
members of the expedition, as soon as his assertion in the most
unexpected manner had been proved to be false. They were therefore
obliged to conclude that he had some personal interest in the matter,
and the fact of his seeking out Doctor Schwaryencrona indicated the
connection between his interests, and the inquiries instituted by the
All these facts therefore seemed to indicate that Tudor Brown was in
this problem a factor quite as important as Patrick O'Donoghan himself.
Who could tell whether he was not already in possession of the secret
which they were trying to elucidate? If this was the case, was it a
happy thing for them that they had him on board, or should they rather
be disturbed by his presence?
Mr. Bredejord inclined to the latter opinion, and did not consider his
appearance among them as at all reassuring. The doctor, on the other
side, argued that Tudor Brown might have acted in good faith, and also
that he might be honest at heart, notwithstanding his unattractive
"If he knows anything," said he, "we can hope that the familiarity which
a long voyage necessarily produces may induce him to speak out; in that
case it would be a stroke of good luck to have had him with us. At least
we shall see what he can have to do with O'Donoghan, if we ever find the
As for Erik, he did not even dare to express the sentiments which the
sight of this man awakened in him. It was more than repulsion, it was
positive hatred, and an instinctive desire to rush upon him and throw
him into the sea. He was convinced that this man had had some share in
the misfortune of his life, but he would have blushed to abandon himself
to such a conviction, or even to speak of it. He contented himself with
saying that he would never have allowed Tudor Brown to come on board if
he had had any voice in the matter.
How should they treat him?
On this point also they were divided. The doctor declared that it would
be politic to treat Tudor Brown with at least outward courtesy, in the
hope of inducing him to speak out. Mr. Bredejord, as well as Erik, felt
a great repugnance to act out such a comedy, and it was by no means
certain that Dr. Schwaryencrona himself would be able to conform to his
own programme. They determined to leave the matter to be decided by
circumstances, and the behavior of Tudor Brown himself.
They did not have to wait long. Precisely at midday the bell rang for
dinner. Mr. Bredejord and the doctor, went to the table of the
commander. There they found Tudor Brown already seated, with his hat on
his head, and he did not manifest the least inclination to enter into
any relations with his neighbors. The man proved to be so rude and
coarse that he disarmed indignation. He seemed to be ignorant of the
simplest rules of politeness. He helped himself first, chose the best
portions, and ate and drank like an ogre. Two or three times the
commander, and Dr. Schwaryencrona addressed a few words to him. He did
not even deign to speak, but answered them by gestures.
That did not prevent him however, when he had finished his repast, and
armed himself with an enormous tooth-pick, from throwing himself back in
his seat, and saying to Mr. Marsilas:
"What day shall we reach Gibraltar?"
"About the nineteenth or twentieth I think," answered the captain.
Tudor Brown drew a book from his pocket, and examined his calendar.
"That will bring us to Malta on the twenty-second, to Alexandria on the
twenty-fifth, and to Aden at the end of the month," said he, as if
speaking to himself.
Then he got up, and going on deck again, began to pace up and down.
"A pleasant traveling companion truly," Mr. Marsilas could not help
Mr. Bredejord was about to answer, when a frightful noise at the head of
the staircase prevented him. They heard cries, and barking, and a
confusion of voices. Everybody arose and ran on deck.
The tumult had been caused by Kaas, Mr. Hersebom's Greenland dog. It
seemed that he did not approve of Mr. Tudor Brown, for after evincing
his displeasure by low growls every time he passed and repassed him, he
finished by seizing him by the legs. Tudor Brown had drawn his revolver
from his pocket, and was about to use it when Otto appeared on the scene
and prevented him from doing so, and then sent Kaas away to his kennel.
A stormy discussion then took place. Tudor Brown, white with rage and
terror, insisted that the dog's brains should be blown out. Mr.
Hersebom, who had come to the rescue, protested warmly against such a
The commander arriving at this moment, settled the matter by desiring
Tudor Brown to put away his revolver, and decreeing that henceforth Kaas
must be kept chained.
This ridiculous incident was the only one that varied the monotony of
their first days of voyaging. Every one became accustomed to the silence
and strange manners of Tudor Brown. At the captain's table they at
length took no more notice of him than if he had not been in existence.
Everybody pursued their own avocations.
Mr. Malarius, after passing two days in bed, was able to crawl upon
deck, he commenced to eat, and was soon able to take his place at the
innumerable whist parties of the doctor and Mr. Bredejord.
Erik, very much occupied with his business as lieutenant, spent every
spare moment in reading.
On the eleventh they passed the island of Oland, on the thirteenth they
reached Shayer Rock, passed through the sound, signaled Heligoland on
the fourteenth, and on the sixteenth they doubled Cape Hogue.
On the following night Erik was sleeping in his cabin when he was
awakened by a sudden silence, and perceived that he no longer felt the
vibrations of the engine. He was not however alarmed, for he knew that
Mr. Kjellguist was in charge of the vessel; but out of curiosity he
arose and went on deck to see what had happened.
He was told by the chief engineer that the engine had broken down, and
that they would be compelled to extinguish the fires. They could
proceed, however, under sail, with alight breeze from the south-west.
A careful inspection threw no light on the cause of the damage, and the
engineer asked permission to repair to the nearest port to repair the
Commander Marsilas, after a personal examination, was of the same
opinion. They found that they were thirty miles from Brest, and the
order was given to steer for the great French port.
The next day the "Alaska" entered the harbor of Brest. The damage which
she had sustained was fortunately not important. An engineer who was
applied to immediately promised that her injuries should be repaired in
three days. It was therefore not a very serious delay, and they could
make up for it in a measure by taking in coal. They would therefore not
be obliged to stop at Gibraltar for this purpose, as they had at first
intended. Their next stopping-place was to be at Malta, which they hoped
to reach twenty-four hours earlier than they had at first expected, and
thus would reduce the time of their delay in reality to two days. They
therefore had nothing to worry themselves about, and everyone felt
disposed to view the accident in the most philosophical manner.
It soon became evident that their mischance was going to be turned into
a festival. In a few hours the arrival of the "Alaska" became known
through the town, and as the newspapers made known the object of the
expedition, the commander of the Swedish vessel soon found himself the
recipient of the most flattering attentions. The admiral and Mayor of
Brest, the commander of the port, and the captains of the vessels which
were lying at anchor, all came to pay an official visit to Captain
Marsilas. A dinner and a ball were tendered to the hardy explorers, who
were to take part in the search for the "Nordenskiold." Although the
doctor and Mr. Malarius cared little for such gatherings, they were
obliged to take their places at the table which was prepared for them.
As for Mr. Bredejord, he was in his true element.
Among the friends invited by the admiral, was a grand-looking old man
with a refined but sad countenance. He soon attracted Erik's attention,
who felt a sympathy for him which he could hardly explain. It was Mr.
Durrien, Honorary Consul-general, and an active member of the
Geographical Society, who was well known on account of his travels and
researches in Asia Minor and the Soudan.
Erik had read his works with very great interest, and he mentioned that
he had done so, when he had been presented to the French savant, who
experienced a feeling of satisfaction as he listened to the enthusiastic
It is often the fate of travelers, when their adventures make a stir in
the world, to receive the loud admiration of the crowd; but to find that
their labors are appreciated, by those who are well informed and capable
of judging, does not occur so frequently. Therefore the respectful
curiosity of Erik went straight to the heart of the old geographer, and
brought a smile to his pale lips.
"I have never attached any great merit to my discoveries," he said, in
reply to a few words from Erik, regarding the fortunate excavations
which had recently been made. "I went ahead seeking, to forget my own
cruel misfortunes, and not caring so much for the results as I did for
prosecuting a work which was in entire accordance with my tastes. Chance
has done the rest."
Seeing Erik and Mr. Durrien so friendly, the admiral took care to seat
them together at table, so that they could continue their conversation
As they were taking their coffee, the young lieutenant of the "Alaska"
was accosted by a little bald-headed man, who had been introduced to him
as Dr. Kergaridec, who asked him without any preamble to what country he
belonged. A little surprised at first by the question, Erik answered
that he was from Sweden, or, to be more exact, from Norway, and that his
family lived in the province of Bergen. Then he inquired his motive for
asking the question.
"My motive is a very simple one," answered his interlocutor. "For an
hour I have been studying your face across the table, while we were at
dinner, and I have never seen anywhere such a perfect type of the Celt
as I behold in you! I must tell you that I am devoted to Celtic studies,
and it is the first time that I have met with this type among the
Scandinavians. Perhaps this is a precious indication for science, and we
may be able to place Norway among the regions visited by our Gaelic
Erik was about to explain to the worthy savant the reasons which would
invalidate this hypothesis, when Dr. Kergaridec turned away to pay his
respects to a lady who had just entered the room, and their conversation
was not resumed.
The young lieutenant of the "Alaska" would probably never have thought
of this incident again, but the next day as they were passing through a
street near the market, Dr. Schwaryencrona said suddenly to him:
"My dear child, if I have ever had a doubt as to your Celtic origin, I
should have lost it here. See how you resemble these Bretons. They have
the same brown eyes, black hair, bony neck, colored skin and general
appearance. Bredejord may say what he likes, but you are a pure-blooded
Celt--you may depend upon it." Erik then told him what old Dr.
Kergaridec had said to him, and Dr. Schwaryencrona was so delighted that
he could not talk of anything else all the day.
With the other passengers of the "Alaska," Tudor Brown had received and
accepted an invitation from the prefect. They thought up to the last
moment that he would go in his accustomed dress, for he had made his
appearance in it just as they were all going ashore to the dinner. But
doubtless the necessity of removing his precious hat appeared too hard
to him, for they saw him no more that evening.
When he returned after the ball, Erik learned from Mr. Hersebom that
Tudor Brown had returned at seven o'clock and dined alone. After that,
he had entered the captain's room to consult a marine chart; then he had
returned to the town in the same small boat which had brought him on
This was the last news which they received of him.
The next evening at five o'clock Tudor Brown had not made his
appearance. He knew, however, that the machinery of the "Alaska" would
be repaired by that time, and her fires kindled, after which it would be
impossible to defer her departure. The captain had been careful to
notify every one. He gave the order to hoist the anchor.
The vessel had been loosened from her moorings when a small boat was
signaled making all speed toward them. Every one believed that it
carried Tudor Brown, but they soon saw that it was only a letter which
had been sent on board. It occasion general surprise when it was
discovered that this letter was directed to Erik.
When he opened it, Erik found that it simply contained the card of Mr.
Durrien, the Honorary Consul-general, and member of the Geographical
Society, with these words written in pencil:
"A good voyage--a speedy return."
We can not explain Erik's feelings.
This attention from an amiable and distinguished savant brought tears
to his eyes. In leaving this hospitable shore where he had remained
three days, it seemed to him as if he was leaving his own country. He
placed Mr. Durrien's card in his memorandum book, and said to himself
that this adieu from an old man could not fail to bring him good luck.
It was now the 20th of February. The weather was fine. The sun had sunk
below the horizon, leaving a sky as cloudless as that of summer.
Erik had the watch during the first quarter, and he walked the
quarter-deck with a light step. It seemed to him that, with the
departure of Tudor Brown, the evil genius of the expedition had
"Provided that he does not intend to rejoin us at Malta or Suez," he
said to himself.
It was possible--indeed, even probable--if Tudor Brown wished to spare
himself the long voyage which the "Alaska" would make before reaching
Egypt. While the vessel was going around the coasts of France and Spain,
he could, if it so pleased him, stay for a week in Paris, or at any
other place, and then take the mail packet either to Alexandria or Suez,
and rejoin the "Alaska" at either of those places; or he could even
defer doing so until they reached Singapore or Yokohama.
But this was only a possibility. The fact was that he was no longer on
board, and that he could not cast a damper upon the spirits of the
Their dinner, also, which they took at six o'clock, as usual, was the
gayest which they had yet sat down to. At dessert they drank to the
success of the expedition, and every one, in his heart, associated it,
more or less, with the absence of Tudor Brown. Then they went on deck
and smoked their cigars.
It was a dark night, but in the distance toward the north they could see
the light of Cape Saint Matthew. They soon signaled, also, the little
light on the shore at Bec-du-Raze, which proved that they were in their
right course. A good breeze from the north-east accelerated the speed of
the vessel, which rolled very little, although the sea was quite rough.
As the dinner-party reached the deck, one of the sailors approached the
captain, and said: "Six knots and a quarter."
"In that case we shall not want any more coal until we arrive at
Behring's Straits," answered the captain. After saying these words, he
left the doctor and went down to his room. There he selected a large
chart, which he spread out before him under a brilliant light, which was
suspended from the ceiling. It was a map of the British Admiralty, and
indicated all the details of the course which the "Alaska" intended to
take. The shores, the islands, the sand-banks, the light-houses,
revolving lights, and the most minute details were all clearly marked
out. With such a chart and a compass it seemed as if even a child might
be able to guide the largest ship through these perilous passes; and
yet, a distinguished officer of the French Navy, Lieutenant Mage, who
had explored the Niger, had been lost in these waters, with all his
companions, and his vessel, the "Magician."
It had happened that Captain Marsilas had never before navigated in
these waters. In fact, it was only the necessity of stopping at Brest
which had brought him here now, otherwise he would have passed a long
distance from shore. Therefore he was careful to study his chart
attentively, in order to keep his proper course. It seemed a very easy
matter, keeping on his left the Pointe-du-Van, the Bec-du-Raze, and the
Island of Sein, the legendary abode of the nine Druidesses, and which
was nearly always veiled by the spray of the roaring waters; he had only
to run straight to the west and to the south to reach the open sea. The
light on the island indicated clearly his position, and according to the
chart, the island ended in rocky heights, bordered by the open sea,
whose depth reached one hundred meters. The light on the island was a
useful guide on a dark night, and he resolved to keep closer to it than
he would have done in broad daylight. He therefore ascended to the deck,
and told Erik to sail twenty-five degrees toward the southwest.
This order appeared to surprise the young lieutenant.
"To the south-west, did you say?" he asked in a respectful manner,
believing that he had been mistaken.
"Yes, I said to the south-west!" repeated the commander, dryly: "Do you
not like this route?"
"Since you ask me the question, captain, I must confess that I do not. I
should have preferred running west for some time."
"To what purpose? we should only lose another night."
The commander spoke in a tone that did not permit of any contradiction,
and Erik gave the order which he had received. After all the captain was
an experienced seaman in whom they might have perfect confidence.
Slight as was the change in her course, it sufficed to modify sensibly
the sailing of the vessel. The "Alaska" commenced to roll a great deal,
and to dip her prow in the waves. The log indicated fourteen knots, and
as the wind was increasing, Erik thought it prudent to take a couple of
The doctor and Mr. Bredejord both became a prey to seasickness, and
descended to their cabins. The captain, who had for some time been
pacing up and down the deck, soon followed their example.
He had hardly entered his own apartment when Erik stood before him.
"Captain," said the young man, "I have heard suspicious noises, like
waves breaking over rocks. I feel conscientiously bound to tell you that
in my opinion we are following a dangerous route."
"Certainly, sir, you are gifted with tenaciousness," cried the captain.
"What danger can you fear when we have this light at least three good
miles, if not four, distant from us?"
And he impatiently with his finger pointed out their position upon the
chart, which he had kept spread out upon his table.
Erik followed the direction of his finger, and he saw clearly that the
island was surrounded by very deep waters. Nothing could be more
decisive and reassuring, in the eyes of a mariner. But still he felt
sure that it was not an illusion, those noises which he had heard, and
which certainly were made by waves breaking upon a rocky shore very
close to them.
It was a strange case, and Erik hardly liked to acknowledge it to
himself, but it did not seem to him that he could recognize in this
profile of the coast which lay spread out before his eyes the dangerous
spot which he remembered in the same geographical studies which he had
pursued. But could he venture to oppose his dim impressions and vague
remembrances against a chart of the British Admiralty? Erik dared not do
it. These charts are made expressly to guard navigators against errors
or any illusions of their memory. He therefore bowed respectfully to his
chief and returned to his position on deck.
He had scarcely reached it when he heard this cry resounding through the
vessel, "Breakers on the starboard!" followed almost immediately by a
second shout of "Breakers on the larboard!"
There was a loud whistle and a clattering of many feet followed by a
series of effective maneuvers. The "Alaska" slackened her course, and
tried to back out. The captain made a rush up the stairs.
At this moment he heard a grating noise, then suddenly a terrible shock
which shook the vessel from prow to stern. Then all was silent, and the
"Alaska" remained motionless.
She was wedged in between two submarine rocks.
Commander Marsilas, his head bleeding from a fall, mounted the deck,
where the greatest confusion reigned. The dismayed sailors made a rush
for the boats. The waves dashed furiously over the rocks upon which the
vessel had been shipwrecked. The distant light-houses, with their fixed
lights, seemed to reproach the "Alaska" for having thrown herself into
the dangers which it was their duty to point out. Erik tried vainly to
penetrate through the gloom and discover the extent of the damage which
the vessel had sustained.
"What is the matter?" cried the captain, still half-stunned by his fall.
"By sailing south-west, sir, according to your orders, we have run upon
breakers," replied Erik.
Commander Marsilas did not say a word. What could he answer? He turned
on his heel, and walked toward the staircase again.
Their situation was a tragical one, although they did not appear to be
in any immediate peril. The vessel remained motionless between the rocks
which seemed to hold her firmly, and their adventure appeared to be more
sad than frightful. Erik had only one thought--the expedition was
brought to a full stop--his hope of finding Patrick O'Donoghan was lost.
He had scarcely made his somewhat hasty reply to the captain, which had
been dictated by this bitter disappointment, than he regretted having
done so. He therefore left the deck to go in search of his superior
officer with the generous intention of comforting him, if it were
possible to do so. But the captain had disappeared, and three minutes
had not elapsed when a detonation was heard.
Erik ran to his room. The door was fastened on the inside. He forced it
open with a blow of his fist.
Commander Marsilas lay stretched out upon the carpet, with a revolver in
his right hand, and a bullet wound in his forehead.
Seeing that the vessel was shipwrecked by his fault, he had blown his
brains out. Death had been instantaneous. The doctor and Mr. Bredejord,
who had run in after the young lieutenant, could only verify the sad
But there was no time for vain regrets. Erik left to his two friends the
care of lifting the body and laying it upon the couch. His duty
compelled him to return to the deck, and attend to the safety of the
crew and passengers.
As he passed the door of Mr. Malarius, the excellent man, who had been
awakened by the stopping of the vessel, and also by the report of the
pistol, opened his door and put out his white head, covered by his black
silk night-cap. He had been sleeping ever since they left Brest, and was
therefore ignorant of all that had occurred.
"Ah, well, what is it? Has anything happened?" he asked quietly.
"What has happened?" replied Erik. "My dear master, the 'Alaska' has
been cast upon breakers, and the captain has killed himself!"
"Oh!" said Mr. Malarius, overcome with surprise. "Then, my dear child,
adieu to our expedition!"
"That is another affair," said Erik. "I am not dead, and as long as a
spark of life remains in me, I shall say, 'Go forward!'"
ON THE ROCKS.
The "Alaska" had been thrown upon the rocks with such violence that she
remained perfectly motionless, and the situation did not appear to be
immediately dangerous for her crew and passengers. The waves,
encountering this unusual obstacle, beat over the deck, and covered
everything with their spray; but the sea was not rough enough to make
this state of affairs dangerous. If the weather did not change, day
would break without any further disaster. Erik saw this at a glance. He
had naturally taken command of the vessel, as he was the first officer.
Having given orders to close the port-holes and scuttles carefully, and
to throw tarred cloths over all openings, in case the sea should become
rougher, he descended to the bottom of the hold, in company with the
master carpenter. There he saw with great satisfaction that no water had
entered. The exterior covering of the "Alaska" had protected her, and
the precaution which they had taken against polar icebergs had proved
very efficacious against the rocky coast; in fact the engine had stopped
at once, being disarranged by the frightful shock, but it had produced
no explosion, and they had, therefore, no vital damage to deplore. Erik
resolved to wait for daybreak, and then disembark his passengers if it
should prove necessary.
He, therefore, contented himself with firing a cannon to ask aid from
the inhabitants of the Island of Sein, and with dispatching his small
steam launch to L'Orient.
He said to himself, that at no place would they find the means of
repairing their damages so promptly and well as at this great maritime
arsenal of Western France.
Thus in this glooming hour when every one on board believed that their
chances were irretrievably lost, he already began to feel hopeful, or
rather he was one of those courageous souls who know no discouragement
and never confess themselves vanquished.
"If we can only get the 'Alaska' off these rocks, everything may yet go
well with us," he said.
But he was careful not to express this hope to the others, who would
doubtless have considered it chimerical. He only told them when he
returned from his visit to the hold that they were in no danger at
present, and that there was plenty of time for them to receive aid.
Then he ordered a distribution of tea and rum to all the crew.
This sufficed to put these children of a larger growth in a good humor,
and their little steam-boat was speedily launched.
Some rockets from the light-house of Sein soon announced that aid was
coming to the assistance of the shipwrecked vessel. Red lights now
became visible, and voices hailed them. They answered that they had been
shipwrecked upon the rocks surrounding Sein.
It was a full hour before the boat could reach them. The breakers were
so strong that the attempt was perilous. But at length six men succeeded
in seizing a small cable, and hoisting themselves on board of the
They were six rude fishermen of Sein--strong, intrepid fellows--and it
was not the first time they had gone to the assistance of shipwrecked
mariners. They fully approved of the idea of sending to L'Orient for
assistance, for their little port could not offer the necessary
resources. It was agreed that two of them should depart in the little
steamer with Mr. Hersebom and Otto, as soon as the moon arose above the
horizon. While they were waiting for it to do so, they gave some account
of the place where they were shipwrecked.
The rocks extend in a westerly direction for nine miles beyond the
Island of Sein. They are divided into two parts, which are called the
Pont du Sein and the Basse Froid.
The Pont du Sein is about four miles long, and a mile and a half wide.
It is composed of a succession of high rocks, which form a chain above
the waters. The Basse Froid extends beyond the Pont du Sein for five
miles, and is two thirds of a mile wide; it consist of a great number of
rocks of about an equal height, which can be seen at a great distance.
The principal rocks are the Cornengen, Schomeur, Cornoc-ar-Goulet-Bas-ven,
Madiou and Ar-men. These are the least dangerous, because they can be
seen. The number and irregularity of their points under the water are
not fully known, for the sea beats over them with extreme violence, the
force of the current is very strong, and they are the scene of many
shipwrecks. Light-houses have been erected on the Island of Sein and at
Bec-du-Raze, so that these rocks can be seen and avoided by vessels
coming from the west, but they are very dangerous for vessels coming
from the south. Unfortunately there is no rock or small island at the
extreme end where a signal could be placed, and the turbulence of the
waters will not permit a floating one to be placed there. Therefore it
was resolved to build a light-house on the rock Ar-men, which is three
miles from the extreme point. This work is so extremely difficult that
although it was commenced in 1867, twelve years later, in 1879, it was
only half built. They say that during the latter year it was only
possible to work for eight hours, although the workmen were always
ready to seize a favorable moment. The light-house therefore was not
yet completed at the time when the "Alaska" met with her disaster. But
this did not suffice to explain how, after leaving Brest, they had been
run into such peril. Erik promised himself that he would solve this
difficulty as soon as the little steam-boat had been dispatched for
aid. This departure was easily effected, the moon having soon made its
appearance. The young captain then appointed the night watch, and sent
the rest of the crew to bed, then he descended to the captain's room.
Mr. Bredejord, Mr. Malarius, and the doctor were keeping watch beside
the corpse. They arose as soon as they saw Erik.
"My poor child, what is the cause of this sad state of things? How did
it happen?" asked the doctor.
"It is inexplicable," answered the young man, looking at the chart which
lay open upon the table. "I felt instinctively that we were out of our
route, and I said so; but in my estimation we are at least three miles
from the light-house; and all the seamen agree with me," he added,
designating a spot with his finger on the map--and you see no danger is
indicated--no sand-banks or rocks. This coloring indicates deep water.
It is inconceivable how the mistake can have occurred. We can not
suppose that a chart of the British Admiralty can be at fault, for it is
a region well known to mariners, as it has been minutely explored for
"Is it not possible to make a mistake as to our position? Could not one
light be mistaken for another?" asked Mr. Bredejord.
"That is scarcely possible in a voyage as short as ours has been since
we left Brest," said Erik. "Remember that we have not lost, sight of
land for a moment, and that we have been passing from one point to
another. We can only suppose that one of the lights indicated on the
chart has not been lighted or that some supplementary light has been
added--in a word, we must imagine what is highly improbable. Our course
has been so regular, the soundings have been so carefully made, that it
seems impossible that we could have mistaken our route, and yet the fact
remains that we are on the rocks, when we ought to have been some
distance out to sea."
"But how is it going to end? That is what I want to know," cried the
"We shall soon see," answered Erik, "if the maritime authorities show
any eagerness to come to our assistance. For the present the best thing
that every one can do is to go quietly to bed, since we are as secure as
if we were at anchor in some quiet bay."
The young commander did not add that it was his intention to keep watch
while his friends slept.
Nevertheless this is what he did for the remainder of the night,
sometimes promenading the deck and encouraging the men, sometimes
descending for a few minutes to the saloon.
As day commenced to dawn he had the satisfaction of perceiving that the
waves visibly receded, and if they continued to do so the "Alaska" would
be left almost on dry rocks. This gave him hope of being able speedily
to determine the extent of the damage which the vessel had received,
and, in fact, toward seven o'clock they were able to proceed with this
They found that three points of the rocks had pierced the "Alaska," and
held her firmly on her rocky bed. The direction in which she lay,
slightly inclined to the north, which was contrary to her course, showed
that the commands given by Erik to back the vessel had saved her, and
also rendered the shock, when she struck, less severe. The engine had
been reversed some seconds before she touched, and she had been carried
on the reef by the remainder of her previous speed, and by the force of
the current. Doubtless but for this she would have gone to pieces.
Besides, the waves having continued to break against her all night in
the same direction, had helped to keep her in her place instead of
fixing her more firmly on the rocks, which would have happened if the
wind had changed. So, after all, there was a favorable view to take of
the disaster. The question now was how to get the vessel off before the
wind should change, and reverse these favorable conditions.
Erik resolved not to lose a moment. Immediately after breakfast he set
all his men to work. He hoped that when the tow-boat should arrive,
which he had sent for from L'Orient, it might be possible at high tide
to disengage the "Alaska."
We can therefore imagine that the young captain waited impatiently for
the first trace of smoke upon the horizon.
All turned out as he desired. The water remained calm and peaceful.
Toward noon the boat arrived.
Erik, with his staff, received the mariners with due honors.
"But explain to me," said the captain of the tow-boat, "how you came to
cast your vessel on these rocks after leaving Brest?"
"This chart will explain it," said Erik. "It does not point out any such
The French officer examined the chart with curiosity at first, and then
he looked stupefied.
"In fact the Basse-Froide is not marked down, nor the point of Sein," he
cried. "What unparalleled negligence. Why, even the position of the
light-house is not correctly marked. I am more and more surprised. This
is a chart of the British Admiralty. I should say that some one has
taken pleasure in making it as deceitful and perfidious as possible.
Navigators of olden times frequently played such tricks upon their
rivals. I should never have believed such traditions would be imitated
"Are you sure that this is an English chart?" asked Mr. Bredejord. "For
myself I suspect that the chart is the work of a rascal, and has been
placed with criminal intentions among the charts of the 'Alaska.'"
"By Tudor Brown!" cried Erik, impetuously. "That evening when we dined
with the authorities at Brest he entered the captain's room upon the
pretense of examining the charts. Oh, the infamous wretch! This then is
the reason that he did not come on board again!"
"It appears to be only too evident that he is the culprit," said Dr.
Schwaryencrona. "But such a dastardly action betrays such an abyss of
iniquity. What motive could he have for committing such a crime?"
"What was his motive in coming to Stockholm, expressly to tell you that
Patrick O'Donoghan was dead?" answered Mr. Bredejord. "For what purpose
did he subscribe twenty thousand kroners for the voyage of the 'Alaska,'
when it was doubtful if she would ever make the journey? Why did he
embark with us to leave us at Brest? I think we must be blind indeed if
we do not see in these facts a chain of evidence as logical as it is
frightful. What interest has Tudor Brown in all this? I do not know. But
this interest must be very strong, very powerful, to induce him to have
recourse to such means to prevent our journey; for I am convinced now
that it was he who caused the accident which detained us at Brest, and
it was he who led us upon these rocks, where he expected we would all
lose our lives."
"It seems difficult, however, to believe that he could have foreseen the
route that Captain Marsilas would choose!" objected Mr. Malarias. "Why
did he not indicate this route by altering the chart? After delaying us
for three days, he felt certain that the captain would take the shortest
way. The latter, believing that the waters were safe around Sein, was
thrown upon the rocks."
"It is true," said Erik; "but the proof that the result of his maneuvers
was uncertain lies in the fact that I insisted, before Captain Marsilas,
that we ought still to keep to the west."
"But who knows whether he has not prepared other charts to lead us
astray, in case this one failed to do so?" said Mr. Bredejord.
"That is easily determined," answered Erik, who went and brought all the
charts and maps that were in the case.
The first one which they opened was that of Corunna, and at a glance the
French officer pointed out two or three grave errors. The second was
that of Cape Vincent. It was the same.
The third was that of Gibraltar. Here the errors were apparent to every
eye. A more thorough examination would have been superfluous, as it was
impossible to doubt any longer. If the "Alaska" had not been shipwrecked
on the Island of Sein, this fate would surely have awaited her before
she could have reached Malta.
A careful examination of the charts revealed the means which had been
employed to effect these changes. They were undoubtedly English charts,
but they had been partly effaced by some chemical process, and then
retouched so as to indicate false routes among the true ones. They had
been recolored so skillfully that only a very slight difference in the
tints could be perceived after the most careful scrutiny.
But there was one circumstance which betrayed the criminal intentions
with which they had been placed on board the "Alaska." All the charts
belonging to the vessel bore the seal of the secretary of the Swedish
navy. The forger had foreseen that they would not be examined too
minutely, and had hoped that by following them they would all come to a
These successive discoveries had produced consternation in the breasts
of all who were present.
Erik was the first to break the silence which had succeeded the
"Poor Captain Marsilas!" he said, in a trembling voice, "he has suffered
for us all. But since we have escaped almost by a miracle the fate which
was prepared for us, let us run no more risks. The tide is rising, and
it may be possible to draw the 'Alaska' off the rocks. If you are
willing, gentlemen, we will go and commence operations without delay."
He spoke with simple authority and a modest dignity, with which the
feeling of responsibility had already inspired him.
To see a young man of his age invested with the command of a ship under
such circumstances, and for such a hazardous expedition, was certainly
an unforeseen occurrence. But he felt that he was equal to the
performance of all his duties. He knew that he could rely upon himself
and upon his crew, and these thoughts transfigured him. The youth of
yesterday was a man to-day. The spirit of a hero burned in his eyes. He
rose superior to the calamity which had befallen them. His ability
impressed all who approached him. Even the doctor and Mr. Bredejord
submitted to him like the others.
The operation of preparing for their morning's work proved easier than
they had hoped.
Lifted by the rising waters, the vessel only required a slight force to
take her off the rocks. A few hours of hard work were sufficient to
accomplish this, and the "Alaska" was once more afloat, strained indeed,
and weighed down by the water which made its way into some of her
compartments, and with her engine silent, but manageable.
All the crew, who were assembled on the deck, watched anxiously the
result of these efforts, and a loud hurrah greeted the deliverance of
The Frenchmen replied to this joyful cry with similar acclamations. It
was now three o'clock in the afternoon. Above the horizon the beautiful
February sun inundated the calm sparkling sea with floods of sunshine,
which fell also on the rocks of the Basse-Froide, as if to efface all
remembrance of the drama which had been enacted there the previous
That same evening the "Alaska" had been safely towed into the harbor of
The next day the French maritime authorities, with the utmost courtesy,
authorized the necessary repairs to be made without delay. The damage
which the vessel had sustained was not serious, but that of the
machinery was more complicated, although not irremediable. Necessarily
it would take some time to render her seaworthy, but nowhere in the
world, as Erik had foreseen, could this be accomplished so speedily as
at this port, which possessed such immense resources for naval
construction. The house of Gainard, Norris & Co., undertook to make the
repairs in three weeks. It was now the 23d of February; on the 16th of
March they would be able to resume their voyage, and this time with good
That would leave three months and a half for them to reach Behring's
Strait by the end of June. It was not impossible to do this, although
the time was very limited. Erik would not hear of abandoning the
enterprise. He feared only one thing, and that was being compelled to do
so. Therefore he refused to send to Stockholm a report of the shipwreck,
and he would not make a formal complaint against the presumed author of
the attempt to shipwreck them for fear of being delayed by legal
proceedings, yet he had his fears that this might encourage Tudor Brown
to throw some new obstacle in the way of the "Alaska." This is what Dr.
Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord asked each other as they were playing
at whist with Mr. Malarius, in the little sitting-room of the hotel to
which they had gone after arriving at L'Orient.
As for Mr. Bredejord, he had no doubts about the matter.
A rascal like Tudor Brown, if he knew of the failure of his scheme--and
how could any one doubt that he was acquainted with this fact?--would
not hesitate to renew the attempt.
To believe that they would ever succeed in reaching Behring's Strait was
therefore more than self-delusion--it was foolishness. Mr. Bredejord did
not know what steps Tudor Brown would take to prevent this, but he felt
certain that he would find some means of doing so. Dr. Schwaryencrona
was inclined to the same opinion, and even Mr. Malarius could not think
of anything very reassuring to say. The games of whist were therefore
not very lively, and the long strolls that the three friends took were
not very gay.
Their principal occupation was to watch the erection of the mausoleum
which they were building for poor Captain Marsilas, whose funeral
obsequies had been attended by the entire population of L'Orient.
The sight of this funeral monument was not calculated to raise the
spirits of the survivors of the "Alaska."
But when they joined Erik again their hopes revived. His resolution was
unshakable, his activity untiring, he was so bent upon overcoming all
obstacles, so certain of success, that it was impossible for them to
express, or even to preserve, less heroic sentiments.
They had a new proof of the malignity of Tudor Brown, and that he still
was pursuing them.
On the 14th of March, Erik saw that the work upon the machinery was
almost finished. They only had to adjust the pumps, and that was to be
done the next day.
But in the night, between the 14th and 15th, the body of the pump
disappeared from the workshop of the Messrs. Gainard, Norris & Co.
It was impossible to find it.
How had it been taken away--who had done it?
After investigation they were unable to discover.
However, it would take ten days more to replace it, and that would make
it the 25th of March before the "Alaska" could leave L'Orient.
It was a singular fact, but this incident affected Erik's spirits more
than the shipwreck had done. He saw in it a sure sign of a persistent
desire to prevent the voyage of the "Alaska."
But these efforts only redoubled his ardor, and he determined that
nothing should be wanting on his part to bring the expedition to a
These ten days of delay were almost exclusively occupied by him in
considering the question in all its aspects. The more he studied, the
more he became convinced that he could not reach Behring's Straits in
three months, for they had suffered a detention of forty days since they
had left Stockholm, and to persist would only be to court failure and
perhaps some irremediable disaster.
This conclusion did not stop him, but it only led him to think that some
modification of their original plans was indispensable.
He took care, however, to say nothing, rightly judging that secrecy was
the first condition of victory. He contented himself with watching more
closely than ever the work of repairing the vessel.
But his companions thought that they perceived that he was less eager to
They therefore concluded that he saw that the enterprise was
impracticable, which they had also believed for some time.
But they were mistaken.
On the 25th of March, at midday, the repairs of the "Alaska" were
completed, and she was once more afloat in the harbor of L'Orient.
THE SHORTEST ROUTE.
Night was closing in when Erik summoned his three friends and counselors
to hold a serious consultation.
"I have reflected a great deal," he said to them, "upon the
circumstances which have made our voyage memorable since we left
Stockholm. I have been forced to arrive at one conclusion, which is that
we must expect to meet with obstacles or accidents during our voyage.
Perhaps they may befall us at Gibraltar or at Malta. If we are not
destroyed, it appears to me certain that we shall be delayed. In that
case we can not reach Behring's Straits during the summer, which is the
only season when it is practicable to navigate the polar sea!"
"That is also the conclusion which I formed some time ago," declared Mr.
Bredejord: "but I kept it to myself, as I did not wish to dampen your
hopes, my dear boy. But I am sure that we must give up the idea of
reaching Behring's Strait in three months!"
"That is also my opinion," said the doctor.
Mr. Malarius on his part indicated by a motion of his head that he
agreed with them all.
"Well!" said Erik, "having settled that point, what line of conduct now
remains for us to adopt?"
"There is one right course which it is our duty to take," answered Mr.
Bredejord, "it is to renounce an enterprise which we see clearly is
impracticable and return to Stockholm. You understand this fact, my
child, and I congratulate you upon being able to look the situation
calmly in the face!"
"You pay me a compliment which I can not accept," said Erik smiling,
"for I do not merit it. No--I have no thoughts of abandoning the
expedition, for I am far from regarding it as impracticable. I only
think that it is best for us all to baffle the machinations of that
scoundrel who is lying in wait for us, and the first thing to do is to
change our route."
"Such a change would only complicate our difficulties," replied the
doctor, "since we have adopted the shortest one. If it would be
difficult to reach Behring's Straits by the Mediterranean and the Suez
Canal, it would be impossible by the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape Horn,
for either of these routes would necessarily take five or six months."
"There is another way which would shorten our voyage, instead of
lengthening it, and where we would be sure not to meet Tudor Brown,"
"Another way?" answered Dr. Schwaryencrona; "upon my word I do not know
of any unless you are thinking of the way of Panama. But it is not yet
practicable for vessels, and it will not be yet for several years."
"I am not thinking of Panama, nor of Cape Horn, nor of the Cape of Good
Hope," answered the young captain of the "Alaska." "The route I propose
is the only one by which we can reach Behring's Strait in three months:
it is to go by way of the Arctic Ocean, the north-west passage."
Then seeing that his friends were stupefied by this unexpected
announcement, Erik proceeded to develop his plans.
"The north-west passage now is no longer what it was formerly, frightful
to navigators--it is intermittent, since it is only open for eight or
ten weeks every year, but it is now well known, marked out upon
excellent charts, and frequented by hundreds of whaling-vessels. It is
rarely taken by any vessel going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,
I must admit. Most of them who enter it from either side only traverse
it partially. It might even happen, if circumstances were not favorable,
that we might find the passage closed, or that it might not be open at
the precise time when we desired to enter it. It is a risk that one must
take. But I think there are many reasons to make us hopeful of success
if we take this route, whilst as far as I can see there is none, if we
take any of the others. This being the state of affairs, I think it is
our duty--a duty which we owe to those who have fitted out the
expedition--to take the shortest way of reaching Behring's Strait. An
ordinary vessel equipped for navigating tropical waters might hesitate
before deciding upon such a course, but with a vessel like the 'Alaska'
fitted out especially for polar navigation, we need not hesitate. For my
part I declare that I will not return to Stockholm before having
attempted to find Nordenskiold."
Erik's reasoning was so sound that nobody tried to contradict it.
What objections could the doctor, Mr. Bredejord, and Mr. Malarius raise?
They saw the difficulties which beset the new plan. But it was possible
that these difficulties might not prove insurmountable, whilst, if they
pursued any other course, they must abandon all hopes of success.
Besides, they did not hesitate to agree with Erik that it would be more
glorious, in any case, to make the attempt, than to return to Stockholm
and acknowledge themselves conquered.
"I see but one serious objection, for my part," said Dr. Schwaryencrona,
after he had remained for a few moments lost in reflection. "It is the
difficulty of procuring coal in the arctic regions. For without coal,
adieu to the possibility of making the north-west passage, and of
profiting by the time, often very short, during which it is
"I have foreseen this difficulty, which is in fact the only one,"
answered Erik, "and I do not think it is insurmountable. In place of
going to Malta or Gibraltar, where we might doubtless expect new
machinations on the part of Tudor Brown, I propose that we go to London;
from there I can send, by transatlantic cable, a dispatch to a house in
Montreal, to send without delay a boat loaded with coal to wait for us
in Baffin's Bay, and to a house in San Francisco to send to Behring's
Strait. We have the necessary funds at our disposal, and, besides, we
will not require as much as we would have done if we had gone by the way
of Asia, for our new route is a much shorter one. It is useless for us
to reach Baffin's Bay before the end of May, and we can not hope to
reach Behring's Strait before the end of June. Our correspondents in
Montreal and San Francisco will therefore have plenty of time to execute
our orders, which will be covered by funds deposited with bankers in
London. This accomplished, we shall only have to find out whether the
north-west passage is practicable, and that evidently depends upon
ourselves. But, if we find the passage closed, at least we shall have
the consolation of knowing that we have neglected nothing that could
have insured our success."
"It is evident!" said Mr. Malarius, "that your arguments are
"Gently, gently," said Mr. Bredejord. "Do not let us go too fast. I have
another objection. Do you think, my dear Erik, that the 'Alaska' can
pass unnoticed through these waters? No, it is not possible. The
newspapers would mention our arrival. The telegraph companies would make
it known. Tudor Brown would know it. He would know that we had changed
our plans. What would prevent him from altering his? Do you think, for
example, that it would be very difficult to prevent our boat with coals
from reaching us?--and without it we could do nothing!"
"That is true," answered Erik, "and it proves that we must think of
everything. We must not go to London. We must put into Lisbon as if we
were en route to Gibraltar and Suez. Then one of us must go
incognito to Madrid, and without explaining why, or for whom it is
intended, must open telegraphic communications with Montreal and San
Francisco, to order the supply of coal. The crews of these boats must
not know for whom the coal is destined, but remain at designated points
at the disposition of a captain who will carry an order to them
previously agreed upon!"
"A perfect arrangement. It will be almost impossible for Tudor Brown to
"You mean to track me, for I hope that you do not think of accompanying
me to these arctic regions," said Erik.
"Indeed that is my intention!" answered the doctor. "It shall not be
said that that rascal, Tudor Brown, made me turn back!"
"Nor me either," cried Mr. Bredejord and Mr. Malarius together.
The young captain tried to combat this resolution, and explained to his
friends the dangers and monotony of the voyage which they proposed to
take with him. But he could not alter their decision. The perils which
they had already encountered, made them feel it a duty to keep together;
for the only way of rendering such a voyage acceptable to them all was
not to separate. Every precaution had been taken to protect the persons
on board the "Alaska" from suffering unduly from cold; and neither
Swedes nor Norwegians fear frost.
Erik was obliged to yield to their wishes, only stipulating that their
change of route should not be made known to the crew of the vessel.
The first part of their voyage was quickly accomplished.
On the 2d of April the "Alaska" reached Lisbon. Before the newspapers
had given notice of their arrival, Mr. Bredejord had gone to Madrid, and
by means of a banking-house opened communications with two large firms,
one in Montreal and one in San Francisco.
He had arranged to have two boat-loads of coal sent to two designated
points, and had given the sign by which Erik was to make himself known.
This sign was the words found upon him when he was discovered floating,
tied to the buoy of the "Cynthia," "Semper idem."
Finally these arrangements having all been happily concluded, on the 9th
of April Mr. Bredejord returned to Lisbon, and the "Alaska" resumed her
On the twenty-fifth of the same month, having crossed the Atlantic and
reached Montreal, where they took in coal, and Erik was assured that his
orders had been punctually fulfilled, they left the waters of the St.
Lawrence and Straits of Belle Isle, which separate Labrador from
Newfoundland. On the 10th of May they reached the coast of Greenland and
found the vessel with their coal, it having arrived before them.
Erik knew very well that at this early date it would be useless to
attempt to force his way through the Arctic Ocean, which was still
firmly frozen over the largest part of his route. But he counted upon
obtaining on these shores, which were much frequented by
whaling-vessels, precise information as to the best charts, and he was
not mistaken. He was also able to buy, although at a high price, a dozen
dogs, who with Kaas could draw their sledges if necessary.
Among the Danish stations on the coast of Greenland, he found Godhaven,
which is only a poor village, and is used as a depot by dealers in oil
and the furs of the country. At this time of the year the cold is not
more severe than at Stockholm or Noroe. But Erik and his friends beheld
with surprise the great difference between the two countries, both
situated at the same distance from the pole. Godhaven is in precisely
the same latitude as Bergen. But whilst the southern port of Norway is
in April covered with green forests and fruit trees, and even cultivated
vines trained upon trellises above green meadows, Greenland is still in
May covered with ice and snow, without a tree to enliven the monotony.
The shape of the Norwegian coast, deeply indented by forests and
sheltered by chains of islands, which contribute almost as much as the
warmth of the Gulf Stream to raise the temperature of the country.
Greenland, on the contrary, has a low regular coast and receives the
full shock of the cold blasts from the pole, consequently she is
enveloped almost to the middle of the island by fields of ice several
feet in thickness.
They spent fifteen days in the harbor and then the "Alaska" mounted
Davis' Straits, and keeping along the coast of Greenland, gained the
On the 28th of May for the first time they encountered floating ice in
70 15' of north latitude, with a temperature two degrees below zero.
These first icebergs, it is true, were in a crumbling condition, rapidly
breaking up into small fragments. But soon they became more dense, and
frequently they had to break their way through them. Navigation,
although difficult, was not as yet dangerous. By a thousand signs they
perceived, however, that they were in a new world. All objects at a
little distance appeared to be colorless, and almost without form; the
eye could find no place to repose in this perpetually changing horizon,
which every minute assumed a new aspect.
"Who can describe," says an eye-witness, "these melancholy surroundings,
the roaring of the waves beating beneath the floating ice, the singular
noise made by the snow as it falls suddenly into the abyss of waters?
Who can imagine the beauty of the cascades which gush out on all sides,
the sea of foam produced by their fall, the fright of the sea-birds who,
having fallen asleep on a pyramid of ice, suddenly find their
resting-place overturned and themselves obliged to fly to some other
spot? And in the morning, when the sun bursts through the fog, at first
only a little of the blue sky is visible, but it gradually widens, until
the view is only limited by the horizon."
These spectacles, presented by the polar sea, Erik and his friends were
able to contemplate at their leisure as they left the coast of
Greenland, to which they had kept close until they had reached
Uppernavik. Then they sailed westward across Baffin's Bay. Here
navigation became more difficult, for this sea is the ordinary course of
the polar icebergs which are drawn in by the innumerable currents which
traverse it. Sometimes they found their course checked by insurmountable
barriers of ice, which it was impossible to break, and therefore they
were compelled to turn aside. The "Alaska" was obliged continually to
break her way through immense fields of ice. Sometimes a tempest of snow
assailed them which covered the deck and the masts with a thick coat.
Sometimes they were assailed by ice dashed over them by the wind, which
threatened to sink the vessel by its weight. Sometimes they found
themselves in a sort of lake, surrounded on all sides by fields of ice
apparently firm and impassable, and from which they had great difficulty
to extricate themselves and gain the open sea. Then they had to exercise
great vigilance to escape some enormous iceberg sailing down from the
north with incredible swiftness, a frightful mass, which could have
crushed the "Alaska" like a walnut. But a greater danger still was the
submarine ice, which could injure her and act like a battering-ram.
The "Alaska" lost her two large boats. One must experience the dangers
which polar navigation presents at every moment to have any just
appreciation of them.
After one or two weeks of such experience the most intrepid crew become
exhausted, and repose is necessary for them.
Sometimes, although surrounded by all these dangers, they made rapid
progress; at others they made scarcely any; but at length, on the 11th
of June, they came in sight of land again, and cast anchor at the
entrance to Lancaster Sound.
Erik had expected to be obliged to wait some days before being able to
enter the sound; but, to his surprise and joy, he found it open, at
least at the entrance. He entered resolutely, but only to find the next
day his passage impeded by ice, which held them prisoners for three
days; but, thanks to the violent currents which sweep through this
Arctic canal, he at last was able to free his vessel and continue his
route as the whalers of Godhaven had told him he would be able to do.
On the seventeenth he arrived at Barrow's Straits, and made all the
speed he could; but on the nineteenth, as he was about to enter Melville
Sound, he was again blocked in by the ice.
At first he patiently accepted the situation, waiting for it to break
up; but day succeeded to day and still this did not happen.
There were, however, many sources of amusement open to the voyagers.
They were near the coast and supplied with everything that could render
their life comfortable in that latitude. They could take sleigh-rides
and see in the distance the whales enjoying their diversions. The summer
solstice was approaching. Since the fifteenth the occupants of the
"Alaska" had beheld a new and astonishing spectacle, even for Norwegians
and the natives of southern Sweden; it was the sun at midnight touching
the horizon without disappearing and then mounting again in the sky. In
these high latitudes and desolate coasts the star of day describes in
twenty-four hours a complete circle in space. The light, it is true, is
pale and languishing, objects lose their perfect shape, and all nature
has a shadowy appearance. One realizes profoundly how far he is removed
from the world, and how near he is to the pole. The cold, however, was
not extreme. The temperature did not fall more than four or five degrees
below zero, and the air was sometimes so mild that they could hardly
believe that they were in the center of the arctic zone.
But those novel surrounding were not sufficient to satisfy Erik, or make
him lose sight of the supreme object which had brought them there. He
had not come to herbalize like Mr. Malarius, who returned every evening
more and more delighted with his explorations, both of the country and
of its unknown plants, which he added to his collection; nor to enjoy
with Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord the novelty of the sights
which nature offered to them in these polar regions. He wanted to find
Nordenskiold and Patrick O'Donoghan--to fulfill a sacred duty while he
discovered, perhaps, the secret of his birth. This was why he sought
untiringly to break the circle of ice which hemmed them in. He made
excursions with his sleigh and on his snow-shoes, reconnoitered in every
direction for ten days, but it was all in vain. At the west, as well as
the north and east, the banks of ice remained firm.
It was the 20th of June, and they were still far from the Siberian Sea.
Must he confess himself vanquished? Erik could not make up his mind to
do this. Repeated soundings had revealed that under the ice there was a
swift current running toward Franklin's Strait, that is to say toward
the south; he told himself that some effort might suffice to break up
the ice, and he resolved to attempt it.
For the length of seven marine miles he had hollowed in the ice a series
of chambers, and in each of them was placed a kilogramme of dynamite.
These were connected by a copper wire inclosed in gutta percha.
On the 30th of June, at eight o'clock in the morning, Erik from the deck
of the "Alaska" pressed the button of the electrical machine, and a
formidable explosion took place. The field of ice shook and trembled,
and clouds of frightened sea-birds hovered around uttering discordant
cries. When silence was restored, a long black train cut into
innumerable fissures met their anxious gaze. The explosion of the
terrible agent had broken up the ice field. There was, so to speak, a
moment of hesitation, and then the ice acted as if it had only been
waiting for some signal to move. Cracking in all parts it yielded to the
action of the current, and they beheld here and there whole continents,
as it were, gradually moving away from them. Some portions, however,
were more slow to move; they seemed to be protesting against such
violence. The next day the passage was clear, and the "Alaska" rekindled
Erik and his dynamite had done what it would probably have taken the
pale arctic sun a month longer to accomplish.
On the 2d of July, the expedition arrived at Banks' Straits; on the
fourth, she issued from the Arctic Sea properly speaking. From this time
the route was open notwithstanding icebergs, fogs, and snow-storms. On
the twelfth, the "Alaska" doubled Ice Cape; on the thirteenth, Cape
Lisburne, and on the fourteenth she entered the Gulf of Kotzebue to the
north of Behring's Straits and found there, according to instructions,
the boat loaded with coal which had been sent from San Francisco.
Thus in two months and sixteen days they had accomplished the programme
arranged by Erik before they left the coast of France.
The "Alaska" had hardly ceased to move, when Erik rushed into a small
boat and hurried off to accost the officer who had charge of the boat
loaded with coal.
"Semper idem!" said he, as he approached.
"Lisbon!" answered the Yankee.
"How long have you been waiting here for me?"
"Five weeks--we left San Francisco one month after the arrival of your
"Have you heard any news of Nordenskiold?"
"At San Francisco they had not received any reliable information about
him. But since I have been here I have spoken to several captains of
whaling-vessels, who said that they had heard from the natives of
Serdze-Kamen that an European vessel had been frozen in by the ice for
nine or ten months; they thought it was the 'Vega.'"
"Indeed!" said Erik, with a joy which we can easily understand. "And do
you believe that it has not yet succeeded in getting through the
"I am sure of it--not a vessel has passed us for the last five weeks,
which I have not seen and spoken to."
"God be praised--our troubles will not be without recompense, if we
succeed in finding Nordenskiold."
"You will not be the first who has done so!" said the Yankee, with an
ironical smile--"an American yacht has preceded you. It passed here
three days ago, and like you was inquiring for Nordenskiold."
"An American yacht?" repeated Erik, half stupefied.
"Yes--the 'Albatross,' Captain Tudor Brown, from Vancouver's Island. I
told him what I had heard, and he immediately started for Cape
FROM SERDZE-KAMEN TO LJAKOW.
Tudor Brown had evidently heard of the change in the route of the
"Alaska." He had reached Behring's Straits before them. But by what
means? It seemed almost supernatural, but still the fact remained that
he had done so.
Erik was greatly depressed by this information, but he concealed his
feelings from his friends. He hurried on the work of transporting the
coal, and set out again without losing a moment.
Serdze-Kamen is a long Asiatic-promontory situated nearly a hundred
miles to the west of Behring's Straits, and whaling-vessels from the
Pacific visit it every year.
The "Alaska" reached there after a voyage of twenty-four hours, and soon
in the bay of Koljutschin behind a wall of ice, they discovered the
masts of the "Vega," which had been frozen in for nine months.
The barrier which held Nordenskiold captive was not more than ten
kilometers in size. After passing around it, the "Alaska" came to anchor
in a little creek, where she would be sheltered from the northerly
winds. Then Erik with his three friends made their way overland to the
establishment which the "Vega" had made upon the Siberian coast to pass
this long winter, and which a column of smoke pointed out to them.
This coast of the Bay of Koljutschin consists of a low and slightly
undulating plain. There are no trees, only some dwarf willows, marine
grasses and lichens. Summer had already brought forth some plants, which
Mr. Malarius recognized as a species which was very common in Norway.
The encampment of the "Vega" consisted of a large store-house for their
eatables, which had been made by the orders of Nordenskiold, in case the
pressure of the ice should destroy his ship, which so frequently happens
on these dangerous coasts. It was a touching fact that the poor
population, although always half starved, and to whom this depot
represented incalculable wealth in the shape of food, had respected it,
although it was but poorly guarded. The huts of skin of these
Tschoutskes were grouped here and there around the station. The most
imposing structure was the "Tintinjaranga," or ice-house, which they had
especially arranged to use for a magnetic observatory, and where all the
necessary apparatus had been placed. It had been built of blocks of ice
delicately tinted and cemented together with snow; the roof of planks
was covered with cloth.
The voyagers of the "Alaska" were cordially welcomed by the young
astronomer, whom they found at the time of their arrival holding a
consultation with the man in charge of the store-house. He offered
with hearty goodwill to take them on board the "Vega" by the path
which had been cut in the ice in order to keep open the means of
communication between the vessel and the land, and a rope attached to
stones served as a guide on dark nights. As they walked, he related to
them their adventures since they had been unable to send home any
After leaving the mouth of the Lena, Nordenskiold had directed his
course toward the islands of New Siberia, which he wished to explore,
but finding it almost impossible to approach them, on account of the
ice which surrounded them, and the shallowness of the water in that
vicinity, he abandoned the idea, and resumed his course toward the
east. The "Vega" encountered no great difficulties until the 10th of
September, but about that time a continuance of fogs, and freezing
nights, compelled her to slacken her speed, besides the darkness
necessitated frequented stoppages. It was therefore the 27th of
September before she reached Cape Serdze-Kamen. They cast her anchor
on a bank of ice, hoping to be able the next day to make the few miles
which separated her from Behring's Straits and the free waters of the
Pacific. But a north wind set in during the night, and heaped around
the vessel great masses of ice. The "Vega" found herself a prisoner
for the winter at the time when she had almost accomplished her work.
"It was a great disappointment to us, as you can imagine!" said the
young astronomer, "but we soon rallied our forces, and determined to
profit by the delay as much as possible, by making scientific
investigations. We made the acquaintance of the 'Tschoutskes' of the
neighborhood, whom no traveler has hitherto known well, and we have
made a vocabulary of their language, and also gathered together a
collection of their arms and utensils. The naturalists of the 'Vega'
have also been diligent, and added many new arctic plants to their
collection. Lastly, the end of the expedition has been accomplished,
since we have doubled Cape Tchelynskin, and traversed the distance
between it and the mouth of the Yenisei and of the Lena. Henceforth
the north-east passage must become a recognized fact. It would have
been more agreeable for us, if we could have effected it in two
months, as we so nearly succeeded in doing. But provided we are not
blocked in much longer, as the present indications lead us to hope, we
will not have much to complain of, and we shall be able to return with
the satisfaction of knowing that we have accomplished a useful work."
While listening to their guide with deep interest, the travelers were
pursuing their way. They were now near enough to the "Vega" to see
that her deck was covered over with a large canvas, and that her sides
were protected by lofty masses of snow, and that her smoke-stacks had
been carefully preserved from contact with the ice.
The immediate approach to the vessel was still more strange; she was
not, as one would have expected, completely incrusted in a bed of ice,
but she was suspended, as it were, in a labyrinth of lakes, islands,
and canals, between which they had been obliged to throw bridges
formed of planks.
"The explanation is very simple," said the young astronomer, in reply to
a question from Erik. "All vessels that pass some months surrounded by
ice form around them a bed of refuse, consisting principally of coal
ashes. This is heavier than snow, and when a thaw begins, the bed around
the vessel assumes the aspect which you behold."
The crew of the "Vega," in arctic clothing, with two or three officers,
had already seen the visitors whom the astronomer was bringing with him.
Their joy was great when they saluted them in Swedish, and when they
beheld among them the well-known and popular physiognomy of Dr.
Neither Nordenskiold nor Captain Palender were on board. They had gone
upon a geological excursion into the interior of the country, and
expected to be absent five or six days. This was a disappointment to the
travelers, who had naturally hoped when they found the "Vega" to present
their congratulations to the great explorer.
But this was not their only disappointment.
[Footnote 1: They returned sooner, for on the 18th of July the ice broke
up, and after 264 days of captivity the "Vega" resumed her voyage. On
the 20th of July she issued from Behring's Straits and set out for
They had hardly entered the officer's room, when Erik and his friends
were informed that three days before the "Vega" had been visited by an
American yacht, or rather by its owner, Mr. Tudor Brown. This gentleman
had brought them news of the world beyond their settlement, which was
very acceptable, they being confined to the limited neighborhood of the
Bay of Koljutschin. He told them what had happened in Europe since their
departure--the anxiety that Sweden and indeed all civilized nations felt
about their fate, and that the "Alaska" had been sent to search for
them. Mr. Tudor Brown came from Vancouver's Island, in the Pacific, and
his yacht had been waiting there for him for three months.
"But," exclaimed a young doctor, attached to the expedition, "he told us
that he had at first embarked with you, and only left you at Brest,
because he doubted whether you would be able to bring the enterprise to
a successful termination!"
"He had excellent reasons for doubting it," replied Erik, coolly, but
not without a secret tremor.
"His yacht was at Valparaiso and he telegraphed for her to wait for him
at Victoria, on the coast of Vancouver," continued the doctor; "then he
took the steamer from Liverpool to New York, and the railroad to the
Pacific. This explains how he was able to reach here before you."
"Did he tell you why he came?" asked Mr. Bredejord.
"He came to help us, if we stood in need of assistance, and also to
inquire about a strange enough personage, whom I had incidentally
mentioned in my correspondence, and in whom Mr. Tudor Brown seemed to
take a great interest."
The four visitors exchanged glances.
"Patrick O'Donoghan--was not that the name?" asked Erik.
"Precisely--or at least it is the name which is tattooed on his body,
although he pretends it is not his own, but that of a friend. He calls
himself Johnny Bowles."
"May I ask if this man is still here?"
"He left us ten months ago. We had at first believed that he might
prove useful to us by acting as interpreter between us and the natives
of this coast, on account of his apparent knowledge of their language;
but we soon discovered that his acquaintance with it was very
superficial--confined, in fact, to a few words. Besides, until we came
here, we were unable to hold any communications with the natives. This
Johnny Bowles, or Patrick O'Donoghan, was lazy, drunken, and undisciplined.
His presence on board would only have occasioned trouble for us. We
therefore acceded without regret to his request to be landed on the
large Island of Ljakow, as we were following the southern coast."
"What! did he go there? But this island is uninhabited!" cried Erik.
"Entirely; but what attracted the man appeared to be the fact that its
shores are literally covered by bones, and consequently by fossil ivory.
He had conceived the plan of establishing himself there, and of
collecting, during the summer months, all the ivory that he could find;
then when, in winter, the arm of the sea which connects Ljakow with the
continent should be frozen over, to transport in a sleigh this treasure
to the Siberian coast, in order to sell it to the Russian traders, who
come every year in search of the products of the country."
"Did you tell these facts to Mr. Tudor Brown?" asked Erik.
"Assuredly, he came far enough to seek for them," replied the young
doctor, unaware of the deep personal interest that the commander of the
"Alaska" took in the answers to the questions which he addressed to him.
The conversation then became more general. They spoke of the comparative
facility with which Nordenskiold had carried out his programme. He had
not met with any serious difficulties, and consequently the discovery of
the new route would be an advantage to the commerce of the world. "Not,"
said the officer of the "Vega," "that this path was ever destined to be
much frequented, but the voyage of the 'Vega' would prove to the
maritime nations of the Atlantic and Pacific that it was possible to
hold direct communication with Siberia by water. And nowhere would these
nations, notwithstanding the vulgar opinions, find a field as vast and
"Is it not strange," observed Mr. Bredejord, "that they have failed
completely during the last three centuries in this attempt that you have
now accomplished without difficulty?"
"The singularity is only apparent," answered one of the officers. "We
have profited by the experience of our predecessors, an experience often
only acquired at the cost of their lives. Professor Nordenskiold has
been preparing himself for this supreme effort during the last twenty
years, in which he has made eight arctic expeditions. He has patiently
studied the problem in all its aspects, and finally succeeded in solving
it. Then we have had what our predecessors lacked, a steam vessel
especially equipped for this voyage. This has enabled us to accomplish
in two months a voyage that it would have taken a sailing vessel two
years to do. We have also constantly been able not only to choose, but
also to seek out, the most accessible route. We have fled from floating
ice and been able to profit by the winds and tides. And still we have
been overtaken by winter. How much more difficult it would have been for
a mariner who was compelled to wait for favorable winds, and see the
summer passing in the meantime."
In such conversation they passed the afternoon, and after accepting
their invitation and dining on board the "Vega," they carried back with
them to supper on board the "Alaska" all the officers who could be
spared from duty. They mutually gave each other all the information and
news in their power. Erik took care to inform himself exactly of the
route followed by the "Vega," in order to utilize it for his own profit.
After exchanging many good wishes and with the heartfelt desire that
they would all soon return in safety to their country, they separated.
The next day at dawn Erik had the "Alaska" steering for the island of
Ljakow. As for the "Vega" she had to wait until the breaking up of the
ice would permit her to reach the Pacific.
The first part of Erik's task was now accomplished. He had found
Nordenskiold. The second still remained to be fulfilled: to find Patrick
O'Donoghan, and see if he could persuade him to disclose his secret.
That this secret was an important one they were now all willing to
admit, or Tudor Brown would never have committed such a dastardly crime
to prevent them from becoming acquainted with it.
Would they be able to reach the Island of Ljakow before him?
It was hardly probable, for he was three days in advance of them: never
mind--he would make the attempt.
The "Albatross" might lose her way, or meet with some unforeseen
obstacles. As long as there was even a probability of success Erik
determined to take the chances.
The weather was now mild and agreeable. Light fogs indicated an open
sea, and a speedy breaking of the ice along the Siberian coast where the
"Vega" had been held prisoner so long. Summer was advancing, and the
"Alaska" could reasonably count upon at least ten weeks of favorable
weather. The experience which they had acquired amongst the American ice
had its value and would render this new enterprise comparatively easy.
Lastly the north-east passage was the most direct way to return to
Sweden, and besides the deep personal interest which induced Erik to
take it, he had a truly scientific desire to accomplish in a reverse
route the task which Nordenskiold had fulfilled. If he had succeeded,
why should he not be able to do so?--this would be proving practically
the experiment of the great navigator.
The wind favored the "Alaska." For ten days it blew almost constantly
from the south-east, and enabled them to make from nine to ten knots at
least without burning any coal. This was a precious advantage, and
besides the wind drove the floating ice toward the north and rendered
navigation much less difficult. During these ten days they met with very
little floating ice.
On the eleventh day, it is true they had a tempestuous snow storm
followed by dense fogs which sensibly retarded the progress of the
"Alaska." But on the 29th of July the sun appeared in all its
brilliancy, and on the morning of the 2d of August they came in sight of
the Island of Ljakow.
Erik gave orders immediately to sail around it in order to see if the
"Albatross" was not hidden in some of its creeks. Having done this they
cast anchor in a sandy bottom about three miles from the southern shore.
Then he embarked in his boat accompanied by his three friends and six of
his sailors. Half an hour later they had reached the island.
Erik had not chosen the southern coast of the island to anchor his
vessel without a reason. He had said to himself that Patrick O'Donoghan
might have told the truth when he had stated that his object was to
collect ivory; but if it was his intention to leave the island at the
first opportunity which afforded, he would be sure to establish himself
upon a spot where he would have a good view of the sea. He would
undoubtedly choose some elevated place, and one as near as possible to
the Siberian coast. Besides the necessity of sheltering himself against
the polar winds would lead him to establish himself upon the southern
coast of the island.
Erik did not pretend that his conclusions were necessarily
incontrovertible, but he thought that, in any case, they would suffer no
inconvenience from adopting them as the basis of a systematic
exploration of the place. The results fully justified his expectations.
The travelers had not walked along the shore for an hour, when they
perceived on a height, perfectly sheltered by a chain of hills, facing
the south, an object which could only be a human habitation. To their
extreme surprise this little cottage, which was of a cubical form, was
perfectly white, as if it had been covered with plaster. It only lacked
green shutters to perfectly resemble a country home near Marseilles, or
an American cottage.
After they had climbed the height and approached near to it, they
discovered a solution of the mystery. The cottage was not plastered, it
was simply built of enormous bones skillfully arranged, which gave it
its white color. Strange as the materials were, they were forced to
admit that the idea of utilizing them was a natural one; besides there
was nothing else available on the island where vegetation was most
meagre; but the whole place, even the neighboring hills were covered
with bones, which Dr. Schwaryencrona recognized as the remains of wild
The door of the cottage was open. The visitors entered, and saw at a
glance that the single room of which it consisted was empty, although it
had been recently occupied. Upon the hearth, which was built of three
large stones, lay some extinguished embers upon which the light ashes
still lingered, although the lightest breeze would have been sufficient
to carry them away. The bed, consisting of a wooden frame, from which
was suspended a sailor's hammock, still bore the impress of a human
This hammock, that Erik examined immediately, bore the stamp of the
"Vega." On a sort of table formed from the shoulder-blade of some animal
and supported by four thigh bones, lay some crumbs of ship's biscuit, a
pewter goblet, and a wooden spoon of Swedish workmanship.
They could not doubt that they were in the dwelling-place of Patrick
O'Donoghan, and according to all appearances he had only left it a short
time ago. Had he quitted the island, or had he only gone to take a walk?
The only thing they could do was to make a thorough exploration of the
Around the habitation excavations bore witness to the fact that a great
amount of hard work had been done; on a sort of plateau that formed the
summit of the hill, a great quantity of ivory had been piled up, and
indicated the nature of the work. The voyagers perceived that all the
skeletons of elephants and other animals had been despoiled of their
ivory, and they arrived at the conclusion that the natives of the
Siberian coast had been aware, long before the visit of Patrick
O'Donoghan, of the treasure which was to be found upon the island, and
had come and carried off large quantities of it. The Irishman,
therefore, had not found the quantity of ivory upon the surface of the
ground which he had expected, and had been compelled to make excavations
and exhume it. The quality of this ivory, which had been buried probably
for a long time, appeared to the travelers to be of a very inferior
Now the young doctor of the "Vega" had told them, as had the proprietor
of the Red Anchor, in Brooklyn, that laziness was one of the
distinguishing characteristics of Patrick O'Donoghan. It therefore
seemed to them very improbable that he would be resigned to follow such
a laborious and unremunerative life. They therefore felt sure that he
would embrace the first opportunity to leave the Island of Ljakow. The
only hope that still remained of finding him there was that which the
examination of his cabin had furnished them.
A path descended to the shore, opposite to that by which our explorers
had climbed up. They followed it, and soon reached the bottom, where the
melting snows had formed a sort of little lake, separated from the sea
by a wall of rocks. The path followed the shores of this quiet water,
and going around the cliff they found a natural harbor.
They saw a sleigh abandoned on the land, and also traces of a recent
fire; Erik examined the shore carefully, but could find no traces of any
recent embarkation. He was returning to his companions, when he
perceived at the foot of a shrub a red object, which he picked up
immediately. It was one of those tin boxes painted outside with carmine
which had contained that preserved beef commonly called "endaubage," and
which all vessels carry among their provisions. It was not so great a
prize, since the captain of the "Vega" had supplied Patrick O'Donoghan
with food. But what struck Erik as significant, was the fact that there
was printed on the empty box the name of Martinez Domingo, Valparaiso.
"Tudor Brown has been here," he cried. "They told us on board the 'Vega'
that his vessel was at Valparaiso when he telegraphed them to wait for
him at Vancouver. Besides, this box from Chili could not have been
brought here by the 'Vega,' for it is evidently quite fresh. It can not
be three days, perhaps not twenty-four hours since it has been opened!"
Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord shook their heads, as if they
hesitated to accept Erik's conclusions, when turning the box in his
hands, he descried written in pencil the word "Albatross," which had
doubtless been done by the person who had furnished the vessel with the
beef. He pointed it out to his friends.
"Tudor Brown has been here," he repeated, "and why should he come except
to carry off Patrick O'Donoghan. Let us go, it is evident they embarked
at this creek. His men, while they were waiting for him, have taken
breakfast around this fire. He has carried off the Irishman, either
willingly or unwillingly. I am as certain of it as if I saw them
Notwithstanding this firm belief, Erik carefully explored the
neighborhood, to assure himself that Patrick O'Donoghan was no longer
there. An hour's walk convinced him that the island was uninhabited.
There was no trace of a path, nor the least vestige of a human being. On
all sides valleys extended as far as his sight could reach, without even
a bird to animate its solitude. And above all, the gigantic bones which
they beheld lying around in every direction, gave them a feeling of
disgust; it seemed as if an army of animals had taken refuge in this
solitary island only to die there.
"Let us go!" said Dr. Schwaryencrona. "There is no use in making a more
complete search of the island; we have seen sufficient to assure us that
Patrick O'Donoghan would not require much urging to induce him to leave
Four hours later they were again on board of the "Alaska," and
continuing their journey.
Erik did not hide the fact that his hopes had received a severe check.
Tudor Brown had been ahead of him, he had succeeded in reaching the
island first, and doubtless had carried off Patrick O'Donoghan. It was
therefore hardly probable that they would succeed in finding him again.
A man capable of displaying such ability in his fiendish attack upon the
"Alaska," and who could adopt such energetic measures to carry off the
Irishman from such a place, would assuredly exert himself to the utmost
to prevent them from ever coming in contact with him. The world is
large, and its waters were open to the "Albatross." Who could tell to
what point of the compass Patrick O'Donoghan and his secret would be
This is what the captain of the "Alaska" said to himself, as he walked
the deck of his vessel, after giving orders to steer to the westward.
And to these doleful thoughts was added a feeling of remorse that he had
permitted his friends to share the dangers and fatigue of his useless
expedition. It was doubly useless, since Tudor Brown had found
Nordenskiold before the "Alaska," and also preceded them to the Island
of Ljakow. They must then return to Stockholm, if they ever succeeded in
reaching it, without having accomplished one of the objects of the
expedition. It was indeed a great disappointment. But at least their
returning in a contrary direction to the "Vega" would prove the
feasibility of the northeast passage. At any risk he must reach Cape
Tchelynskin, and double it from east to west. At any risk he must return
to Sweden by way of the Sea of Kara. It was this redoubtable Cape
Tchelynskin, formerly considered impassable, that the "Alaska" crowded
on steam to reach. They did not follow the exact route of the "Vega,"
for Erik had no occasion to descend the Siberian coast.
Leaving to starboard the islands of Stolbovvi and Semenoffski, which
they sighted on the 4th of August, they sailed due west, following
closely the 76th degree of latitude, and made such good speed that in
eight days they had made 35 degrees of longitude, from the 140th to the
105th degree east of Greenwich. It is true that they had to burn a great
deal of coal to accomplish this, for the "Alaska" had had contrary winds
almost all the time. But Erik thought rightly that everything was
subordinate to the necessity of making their way out of these dangerous
passes as speedily as possible. If they could once reach the mouth of
the Yenisei, they could always procure the necessary fuel.
On the 14th of August, at midday they were unable to make a solar
observation on account of a thick fog, which covered the whole sky. But
they knew that they were approaching a great Asiatic promontory,
therefore Erik advanced with extreme caution, while at the same time he
had the speed of the vessel slackened.
Toward night he gave orders to have the vessel stopped. These
precautions were not useless. The following morning at daylight they
made soundings and found that they were in only thirty fathoms of water,
and an hour afterward they came in sight of land; and the "Alaska" soon
reached a bay in which she could cast anchor. They resolved to wait
until the fog dispersed before going on land, but as the 15th and 16th
of August passed without bringing about this desired result, Erik
determined to start accompanied by Mr. Bredejord, Mr. Malarius, and the
doctor. A short examination showed them that the "Alaska" was at the
extreme north of the two points of Cape Tchelynskin; on two sides the
land lay low toward the sea, but it rose gradually toward the south, and
they perceived that it was about two or three hundred feet in height. No
snow or ice was to be seen in any direction, except along the borders of
the sea where there was a little band, such as is commonly seen in all
arctic regions. The clayey soil was covered with abundant vegetation,
consisting of mossy grasses and lichens. The coast was enlivened by
great numbers of wild geese and walruses. A white bear displayed himself
on top of a rock. If it had not been for the fog which cast a gray
mantle over everything, the general aspect of this famous Cape
Tchelynskin was not particularly disagreeable; certainly there was
nothing to justify the name of Cape Severe, which it had borne for three
As they advanced to the extreme point at the west of the bay, the
travelers perceived a sort of monument that crowned a height, and
naturally pressed forward to visit it. They saw, as they approached,
that it was a sort of "cairn," or mass of stones supporting a wooden
column made out of a post. This column bore two inscriptions; the first
read as follows:
"On the 19th of August, 1878, the 'Vega' left the Atlantic to
double Cape Tchelynskin, en route for Behring's Straits."
The second read:
"On the 12th of August, 1879, the 'Albatross,' coming from
Behring's Straits, doubled Cape Tchelynskin, en route for the
Once again Tudor Brown had preceded the "Alaska." It was now the 16th of
He had written this inscription only four days previously.
In Erik's eyes it appeared cruel and ironical; it seemed to him to say:
"I will defeat you at every turn. All your efforts will be useless.
Nordenskiold has solved the problem. Tudor Brown, the counter proof."
As for himself he would return humiliated and ashamed, without having
demonstrated, found or proved anything. He was going without adding a
single word to the inscriptions on the column. But Dr. Schwaryencrona
would not listen to him, and taking out his knife from his pocket he
wrote on the bottom of the post these words:
"On the 16th of August, 1879, the 'Alaska' left Stockholm, and came
here across the Atlantic and the Siberian Sea, and has doubled Cape
Tchelynskin, en route to accomplish the first circumpolar
There is a strange power in words. This simple phrase recalled to Erik
what a geographical feat he was in hopes of accomplishing, and without
his being conscious of it restored him to good humor. It was true, after
all, that the "Alaska" would be the first vessel to accomplish this
voyage. Other navigators before him had sailed through the
arctic-American seas, and accomplished the northwest passage.
Nordenskiold and Tudor Brown had doubled Cape Tchelynskin; but no person
had as yet gone from one to the other, completely around the pole,
completing the three hundred and sixty degrees.
This prospect restored every one's ardor, and they were eager to depart.
Erik thought it best, however, to wait until the next day and see if the
fog would lift; but fogs appeared to be the chronic malady of Cape
Tchelynskin, and when next morning the sun rose without dissipating it,
he gave orders to hoist the anchor.
Leaving to the south the Gulf of Taymis--which is also the name of the
great Siberian peninsula of which Cape Tchelynskin forms the extreme
point--the "Alaska," directing her course westward, sailed
uninterruptedly during the day and night of the 17th of August.
On the eighteenth, at day-break, the fog disappeared at last and the
atmosphere was pure and enlivened by the sunshine. By midday they had
rounded the point, and immediately descried a distant sail to the
The presence of a sailing-vessel in these unfrequented seas was too
extraordinary a phenomenon not to attract special attention. Erik, with
his glass in his hand, ascended to the lookout and examined the vessel
carefully for a long time. It appeared to lie low in the water, was
rigged like a schooner and had a smoke-stack, although he could not
perceive any smoke. When he descended from the bridge the young captain
said to the doctor:
"It looks exactly like the 'Albatross!'" Then he gave orders to put on
all steam possible. In less than a quarter of an hour he saw that they
were gaining on the vessel, whose appointments they were now able to
discern with the naked eye. They could see that the breeze had
slackened, and that her course was at right angles with that of the
But suddenly a change took place in the distant vessel; Clouds of smoke
issued from her smoke-stack, and formed behind her a long black cloud.
She was now going by steam and in the same direction as the "Alaska."
"There is now no doubt of it. It is the 'Albatross,'" said Erik.
He gave orders to the engineer to increase the speed of the "Alaska," if
possible. They were then making fourteen knots, and in a quarter of an
hour they were making sixteen knots. The vessel that they were pursuing
had not been able to attain a like rate of speed, for the "Alaska"
continued to gain upon her. In thirty minutes they were near enough to
her to distinguish all her men who were maneuvering her. At last they
could see the moldings and letters forming her name, "Albatross."
Erik gave orders to hoist the Swedish flag. The "Albatross" immediately
hoisted the stars and stripes of the United States of America.
In a few minutes the two vessels were only separated by a few hundred
yards. Then the captain of the "Alaska" took his speaking-trumpet and
hailed the vessel in English:
"Ship ahoy! I wish to speak with your captain!"
In a few moments some one made his appearance on the bridge of the
"Albatross." It was Tudor Brown.
"I am the proprietor and captain of this yacht," he said. "What do you
"I wish to know whether Patrick O'Donoghan is on board!'"
"Patrick O'Donoghan is on board and can speak for himself," answered
He made a sign, and a man joined him on the bridge.
"This is Patrick O'Donoghan," said Tudor Brown. "What do you want with
Erik was desirous of this interview so long, he had come so far in
search of this man, that when he found himself unexpectedly in his
presence and recognized him by his red hair and broken nose, he was at
first taken aback and scarcely knew what to say to him. But gathering
his ideas together, he at last made an attempt.
"I have been wishing to talk to you confidentially for several years,"
he said. "I have been seeking for you, and it was to find you that I
came into these seas. Will you come on board of my vessel?"
"I do not know you, and I am very well satisfied to stay where I am,"
answered the man.
"But I know you. I have heard through Mr. Bowles that you were on board
when the 'Cynthia' was wrecked, and that you had spoken to him about the
infant who was tied to a buoy. I am that infant, and it is about this
matter that I wish you to give me all the information in your power."
"You must question somebody else, for I am not in the humor to give
"Do you wish me to suppose that the information is not to your credit?"
"You can think what you like; it is a matter of perfect indifference to
me," said the man.
Erik resolved to betray no irritation.
"It would be better for you to tell me what I wish to know of your own
free will than to be compelled to do so before a court of justice," he
"A court of justice! They will have to catch me first," answered the
Here Tudor Brown interposed.
"You see it is not my fault if you have not obtained the information
that you desired," said he to Erik. "The best thing is now for us both
to resume our course and go where we desire."
"Why should we each go our way?" answered the young captain. "Would it
not be better for us to keep together until we reach some civilized
country where we can settle these matters."
"I have no business with you, and do not want any one's company,"
answered Tudor Brown, moving as if he was about to leave the bridge.
Erik stopped him by a sign.
"Proprietor of the 'Albatross,'" he said, "I bear a regular commission
from my government, and am besides an officer of the maritime police. I
therefore ask you to show me your papers immediately!"
Tudor Brown did not make the slightest answer, but descended the bridge
with the man whom he had called. Erik waited a couple of minutes, and
then he spoke again:
"Commander of the 'Albatross,' I accuse you of having attempted to
shipwreck my vessel on the rocks of Sein, and I now summon you to come
and answer this accusation before a marine tribunal. If you refuse to
answer this summons it will be my duty to compel you to do so!"
"Try it if you like," cried Tudor Brown, and gave orders to resume his
During this colloquy his vessel had insensibly tacked, and now stood at
right angles with the "Alaska." Suddenly the wheel commenced to revolve
and beat the water which boiled and foamed around it. A prolonged
whistle was heard, and the "Albatross" carrying all the steam she could
raise sped over the waters in the direction of the North Pole.
Two minutes later, the "Alaska" was rushing after her.
At the same time that he gave orders to pursue the "Albatross," Erik
also desired his men to get the cannon in readiness. The operation took
some time, and when they had everything in order the enemy was beyond
their reach. Doubtless they had taken advantage of the time occupied by
their stoppage to increase their fires, and they were two or three miles
ahead. This was not too great a distance for a Gatling gun to carry, but
the rolling and speed of the two vessels made it probable that they
would miss her; and they thought it better to wait, hoping that the
"Alaska" would gain upon the enemy. It soon became evident, however,
that the two vessels were equally matched, for the distance between them
remained about the same for several hours.
They were obliged to burn an enormous amount of coal--an article which
was becoming very scarce on board the "Alaska"--and this would be a
heavy loss if they could not succeed in overtaking the "Albatross"
before night set in. Erik did not think it right to do this without
consulting his crew. He therefore mounted the bridge, and frankly
explained to them the position in which he was placed.
"My friends," he said, "you know that I am anxious to seize and deliver
up to justice this rascal who attempted to shipwreck our vessel on the
rocks of Sein. But we have hardly coal enough left to last us for six
days. Any deviation from our route will compel us to finish our voyage
under sail, which may make it very long and toilsome for all of us, and
may even cause us to fail in our undertaking. On the other hand, the
'Albatross' counts upon being able to get away from us during the night.
To prevent this we must not slacken our speed for a moment, and we must
keep her within the range of our electric light. I feel sure, however,
that we will eventually overtake her, but it may take us some time to do
so. I did not feel willing to continue this pursuit without laying the
facts plainly before you, and asking you if you were willing to risk the
dangers which may arise for us."
The men consulted together in a low tone, and then commissioned Mr.
Hersebom to speak for them:
"We are of opinion that it is the duty of the 'Alaska' to capture this
rascal at any sacrifice!" he said, quietly.
"Very well, then, we will do our best to accomplish it," answered Erik.
When he found that he had the confidence of his crew, he did not spare
fuel, and in spite of the desperate efforts of Tudor Brown, he could not
increase the distance between them. The sun had scarcely set when the
electric light of the "Alaska" was brought to bear unpityingly upon the
"Albatross," and continued in this position during the night. At
day-break the distance between them was still the same, and they were
flying toward the pole. At midday they made a solar observation, and
found that they were in 78, 21', 14" of latitude north, by 90 of
Floating ice, which they had not encountered for ten or fifteen days,
now became very frequent. It was necessary to ward it off, as they had
been compelled to do in Baffin's Bay. Erik, feeling sure that they would
soon reach fields of ice, was careful to steer obliquely to the right of
the "Albatross" so as to bar the way toward the east if she should
attempt to change her course, finding her path toward the north
obstructed. His foresight was soon rewarded, for in two hours a lofty
barrier of ice casts its profile on the horizon. The American yacht
immediately steered toward the west, leaving the ice two or three miles
on its starboard. The "Alaska" immediately imitated this maneuver, but
so obliquely to the left of the "Albatross" as to cut her off if she
attempted to sail to the south.
The chase became very exciting. Feeling sure of the course which the
"Albatross" would be compelled to take, the "Alaska" tried to push her
more toward the ice. The yacht's course becomes more and more wavering,
every moment they made some change, at one time steering north at
another west. Erik, mounted aloft, watched every movement she made, and
thwarted her attempts to escape by appropriate maneuvers. Suddenly she
stopped short, swung round and faced the "Alaska." A long white line
which was apparent extending westward told the reason of this change.
The "Albatross" found herself so close to the ice-banks that she had no
recourse but to turn and face them.
The young captain of the "Alaska" had scarcely time to descend, before
some missile whistled past his head. The "Albatross" was armed, and
relied upon being able to defend herself.
"I prefer that it should be so, and that he should fire the first shot,"
said Erik, as he gave orders to return it.
His first attack was not more successful than that of Tudor Brown--for
it fell short two or three hundred yards. But the combat was now begun,
and the firing became regular. An American projectile cut the large sail
yards of the "Alaska," and it fell upon the deck killing two men. A
small bomb from the Swedish vessel fell upon the bridge of the
"Albatross," and must have made great havoc. Then other projectiles
skillfully thrown lodged in various parts of the vessel.
They had been constantly approaching each other, when suddenly a distant
rumbling mingled with the roar of artillery, and the crews raising their
heads saw that the sky was very black in the east.
Was a storm with its accompanying fog and blinding snow, coming to
interpose between the "Albatross" and the "Alaska," to permit Tudor
Brown to escape?
This Erik wished to prevent at any price. He resolved to attempt to
board her. Arming his men with sabers, cutlasses, and hatchets, he
crowded on all the steam the vessel could carry and rushed toward the
Tudor Brown tried to prevent this. He retreated toward the banks of ice,
firing a shot from his cannon every five minutes. But his field of
action had now become too limited; between the ice and the "Alaska" he
saw that he was lost unless he made a bold attempt to regain the open
sea. He attempted this after a few feigned maneuvers to deceive his
Erik let him do it. Then at the precise moment when the "Albatross"
tried to pass the "Alaska," she made a gaping hole in the side of the
yacht which stopped her instantly, and rendered her almost unmanageable;
then she fell quickly behind and prepared to renew the assault. But the
weather, which had become more and more menacing, did not give him time
to do this.
The tempest was upon them. A fierce wind from the south-east,
accompanied by blinding clouds of snow, which not only raised the waves
to a prodigious height, but dashed against the two vessels immense
masses of floating ice. It seemed as if they were attacked at all points
at once. Erik realized his situation, and saw that he had not a minute
to lose in escaping, unless he wished to be hemmed in perhaps
permanently. He steered due east, struggling against the wind, the snow,
and the dashing ice.
But he was soon obliged to confess that his efforts were fruitless. The
tempest raged with such violence that neither the engine of the "Alaska"
nor her steel buttress were of much use. Not only did the vessel advance
very slowly, but at times she seemed to be fairly driven backward. The
snow was so thick that it obscured the sky, blinded the crew, and
covered the bridge a foot in depth. The ice driven against the "Alaska"
by the fierce wind increased and barred their progress, so that at
length they were glad to retreat toward the banks, in the hope of
finding some little haven where they could remain until the storm passed
The American yacht had disappeared, and after the blow it had received
from the "Alaska" they almost doubted if it would be able to resist the
Their own situation was so perilous that they could only think of their
own safety, for every moment it grew worse.
There is nothing more frightful than those arctic tempests, in which all
the primitive forces of nature seem to be awakened in order to give the
navigator a specimen of the cataclysms of the glacial period. The
darkness was profound although it was only five o'clock in the
afternoon. The engine had stopped, and they were unable to light their
electric light. To the raging of the storm was added the roars of
thunder and the tumult made by the floating blocks of ice dashing
against each other. The ice-banks were continually breaking with a noise
like the roar of a cannon.
The "Alaska" was soon surrounded by ice. The little harbor in which she
had taken refuge was soon completely filled with it, and it commenced to
press upon and dash against her sides until she began to crack, and they
feared every moment that she would go to pieces.
Erik resolved not to succumb to the storm without a combat with it, and
he set the crew to work arranging heavy beams around the vessel so as to
weaken the pressure as much as possible, and distribute it over a wider
surface. But, although this protected the vessel, it led to an
unforeseen result which threatened to be fatal.
The vessel, instead of being suddenly crushed, was lifted out of the
water by every movement of the ice, and then fell back again on it with
the force of a trip-hammer. At any moment after one of these frightful
falls they might be broken up, crushed, buried. To ward off this danger
there was only one resource, and this was to re-enforce their barrier by
heaping up the drift ice and snow around the vessel to protect her as
well as they could.
Everybody set to work with ardor. It was a touching spectacle to see
this little handful of men taxing their pygmy muscles to resist the
forces of nature--trying with anchors, chains, and planks to fill up the
fissures made in the ice and to cover them with snow, so that there
might be a uniformity of motion among the mass. After four or five hours
of almost superhuman exertions, and when their strength was exhausted,
they were in no less danger, for the storm had increased.
Erik held a consultation with his officers, and it was decided that they
should make a depot on the ice-field for their food and ammunition in
case the "Alaska" should be unable to resist the powerful shocks to
which she was being subjected. At the first moment of danger every man
had received provisions enough for eight days, with precise instructions
in case of disaster, besides being ordered to keep his gun in his belt
even while he was working. The operation of transporting twenty tons of
provisions was not easy of accomplishment, but at last it was done and
the food was placed about two hundred yards from the ship under a
covering of tarred canvas, which was soon covered by the snow with a
thick white mantle.
This precaution, having been taken, everybody felt more comfortable as
to the result of a shipwreck, and the crew assembled to recruit their
strength with a supper supplemented with tea and rum.
Suddenly, in the midst of supper, a more violent shock than any that had
as yet agitated the vessel, split the bed of ice and snow around the
"Alaska." She was lifted up in the stern with a terrible noise, and then
it appeared as if she were plunging head-foremost into an abyss. There
was a panic, and every one rushed on deck. Some of the men thought that
the moment had come to take refuge on the ice, and without waiting for
the signal of the officers they commenced clambering over the bulwarks.
Four or five of these unfortunate ones managed to leap on a snow-bank.
Two others were caught between the masses of floating ice and the beams
of the starboard, as the "Alaska" righted herself.
Their cries of pain and the noise of their crushed bones were lost in
the storm. There was a lull, and the vessel remained motionless. The
lesson which the sailors had been taught was a tragical one. Erik made
use of it to enforce on the crew the necessity of each man's retaining
his presence of mind, and of waiting for positive orders on all
"You must understand," he said to his men, "that to leave the ship is a
supreme measure, to which we must have recourse only at the last
extremity. All our efforts ought to be directed toward saving the
'Alaska.' Deprived of her, our situation will be a very precarious one
on the ice. It is only in case of our vessel becoming uninhabitable that
we must desert it. In any case such a movement should be made in an
orderly manner to avoid disasters. I therefore expect that you will
return quietly to your supper, and leave to your superior officers the
task of determining what is best to do!"
The firmness with which he spoke had the effect of reassuring the most
timid, and they all descended again. Erik then called Mr. Hersebom and
asked him to untie his good dog Kaas, and follow him without making any
"We will go on the field of ice," he said, "and seek for the fugitives
and make them return to their duty, which will be better for them than
The poor devils were huddled together on the ice, ashamed of their
escapade, and at the first summons were only too glad to take the path
toward the "Alaska."
Erik and Mr. Hersebom having seen them safely on board, walked as far as
their depot of provisions, thinking that another sailor might have taken
refuge there. They went all around it but saw no one.
"I have been asking myself the last few moments," said Erik, "if it
would not be better to prevent another panic by landing part of the
"It might be better perhaps," answered the fisherman. "But would not the
men who remained on board feel jealous and become demoralized by this
"That is true," said Erik. "It would be wiser to occupy them up to the
last moment in struggling against the tempest, and it is in fact the
only chance we have of saving the ship. But since we are on the ice we
may as well take advantage of it, and explore it a little. I confess all
these crackings and detonations inspire me with some doubt as to its
Erik and his adopted father had not gone more than three hundred feet
from their depot of provisions before they were stopped short by a
gigantic crevasse which lay open at their feet. To cross it would have
required long poles, with which they had neglected to supply themselves.
They were therefore compelled to walk beside it obliquely toward the
west, in order to see how far it reached.
They found that this crevasse extended for a long distance, so long that
after they had walked for half an hour they could not see the end of it.
Feeling more secure about the extent of this field of ice upon which
they had established their depot of provisions, they turned to retreat
After they had walked over about half of the distance a new vibration
occurred, followed by detonations and tumultuous heavings of ice. They
were not greatly disturbed by this, but increased their speed, being
anxious to discover whether this shock had had done the "Alaska" any
The depot was soon reached, then the little haven that sheltered the
Erik and Mr. Hersebom rubbed their eyes, and asked each other whether
they were dreaming, for the "Alaska" was no longer there.
Their first thought was that she had been swallowed up by the waters. It
was only too natural that they should think this after such an evening
as they had just passed.
But immediately they were struck by the fact that no débris was
visible, and that the little harbor had assumed a new aspect since their
departure. The drift ice which the tempest had piled up around the
"Alaska" had been broken up, and much of it had drifted away. At the
same time Mr. Hersebom mentioned a fact which had not struck him while
they were hurrying along, and this was that the wind had changed and was
now blowing from the west.
Was it not possible that the storm had carried away the floating ice in
which the "Alaska" had become embedded. Yes, evidently it was possible;
but it remained for them to discover whether this supposition was true.
Without delaying a moment, Erik proceeded to reconnoiter, followed by
They walked for a long time. Everywhere the drift was floating freely,
the waves came and went, but the whole aspect of things around them
looked strange and different.
At length Erik stopped. Now he understood what had befallen them. He
took Mr. Hersebom's hand and pressed it with both his own.
"Father," said he, in a grave voice, "you are one of those to whom I can
only speak the truth. Well, the fact is that this ice-field has split;
it has broken away from that which surrounded the 'Alaska,' and we are
on an island of ice hundreds of yards long, and carried along by the
waters, and at the mercy of the storm."
About two o'clock in the morning Erik and Mr. Hersebom, exhausted with
fatigue, laid down side by side between two casks, under the canvas that
protected their provisions. Kaas, also, was close to them and kept them
warm with his thick fur. They were not long in falling asleep. When they
awoke the sun was already high in the heavens, the sky was blue and the
sea calm. The immense bank of ice upon which they were floating appeared
to be motionless, its movement was so gentle and regular. But along the
two edges of it which were nearest to them enormous icebergs were being
carried along with frightful rapidity. These gigantic crystals reflected
like a prism the solar rays, and they were the most marvelous that Erik
had ever beheld.
Mr. Hersebom also, although but little inclined in general, and
especially in his present situation, to admire the splendor of Nature in
the arctic regions, could not help being impressed with them.
"How beautiful this would look were we on a good ship!" he said,
"Bah!" answered Erik, with his usual good humor. "On board a ship one
must be thinking only how to avoid the icebergs so as not to be crushed
to pieces, whilst on this island of ice we have none of these miseries
to worry us."
As this was evidently the view of an optimist, Mr. Hersebom answered
with a sad smile. But Erik was determined to take a cheerful view of
"Is it not an extraordinary piece of good luck that we have this depot
of provisions?" he said. "Our case would, indeed, be a desperate one if
we were deprived of everything; but, with twenty casks of biscuits,
preserved meats, and, above all, our guns and cartridges, what have we
to fear? At the most, we will only have to remain some weeks without
seeing any land that we can reach. You see, dear father, that we have
happened upon this adventure in the same manner as the crew of the
"Of the 'Hansa'?" asked Mr. Hersebom, with curiosity.
"Yes, a vessel that set out in 1869 for the arctic seas. Part of her
crew were left, as we are, on a floating field of ice, while they were
occupied in transporting some provisions and coal. The brave men
accommodated themselves as well as they could to this new life, and
after floating for six mouths and a half over a distance of several
thousand leagues, ended by landing in the arctic regions of North
"May we be as fortunate!" said Mr. Hersebom, with a sigh. "But it would
be well I think for us to eat something."
"That is also my opinion!" said Erik. "A biscuit and a slice of beef
would be very acceptable."
Mr. Hersebom opened two casks to take out what they required for their
breakfast, and as soon as his arrangements were completed they did ample
justice to the provisions.
"Was the raft of the crew of the 'Hansa' as large as ours?" asked the
old fisherman, after ten minutes conscientiously devoted to repairing
"I think not--ours is considerably larger. The 'Hansa's' became
gradually much smaller, so that the unfortunate shipwrecked men were at
last compelled to abandon it, for the waves began to dash over them.
Fortunately they had a large boat which enabled them, when their island
was no longer habitable, to reach another. They did this several times
before they at last reached the main-land."
"Ah, I see!" said Mr. Hersebom, "they had a boat--but we have not.
Unless we embark in an empty hogshead I do not see how we can ever leave
this island of ice."
"We shall see about it when the time comes!" answered Erik. "At the
present moment I think the best thing that we can do is to make a
thorough exploration of our domain."
He arose, as did Mr. Hersebom, and they commenced climbing a hill of ice
and snow--a hummock is the technical name--in order to obtain a general
idea of their island.
They found it from one end to the other lying and floating insensibly
upon the polar ocean. But it was very difficult to form a correct
estimate either of its size or shape; for a great number of hummocks
intercepted their view on all sides. They resolved, however, to walk to
the extremity of it. As far as they could judge from the position of the
sun, that end of the island which extended toward the west had been
detached from the mass of which it had formerly been a part, and was now
turning to the north. They therefore supposed that their ice raft was
being carried toward the south by the influence of the tide and breeze,
and the fact that they no longer saw any trace of the long barriers of
ice, which are very extensive in the 78, fully corroborated this
Their island was entirely covered with snow, and upon this snow they saw
distinctly here and there at a distance some black spots, which Mr.
Hersebom immediately recognized as "ongionks," that is to say, a species
of walrus of great size. These walruses doubtless inhabited the caverns
and crevasses in the ice, and believing themselves perfectly secure from
any attack, were basking in the sunshine.
It took Erik and Mr. Hersebom more than an hour to walk to the extreme
end of their island. They had followed closely the eastern side, because
that permitted them to explore at the same time both their raft and the
sea. Suddenly Kaas, who ran ahead of them, put to flight some of the
walruses which they had seen in the distance. They ran toward the border
of the field of ice in order to throw themselves into the water. Nothing
would have been more easy than to have killed a number of them. But what
would have been the use of their doing so, since they could not make a
fire to roast their delicate flesh? Erik was occupied about other
matters. He carefully examined the ice-field, and found that it was far
from being homogeneous. Numerous crevasses and fissures, which seemed to
extend in many cases for a long distance, made him fear that a slight
shock might divide it into several fragments. It was true that these
fragments might in all probability be of considerable size; but the
possibility of such an accident made them realize the necessity of
keeping as close as possible to their depot of provisions, unless they
wished to be deprived of them. Erik resolved to examine carefully their
whole domain, and to make his abode on the most massive portion; the one
that seemed capable of offering the greatest resistance. He also
determined to transport to this spot their depot of provisions.
It was with this resolve that Mr. Hersebom and Erik continued their
exploration of the western coast, after resting a few minutes at the
northerly point. They were now following that portion of the ice-field
where they had attacked the American yacht.
Kaas ran on before them, seeming to enjoy the freshness of the air, and
being in his true element on this carpet of snow, which doubtless
reminded him of the plains of Greenland.
Suddenly Erik saw him sniff the air and then dart forward like an arrow,
and stop barking beside some dark object, which was partially hidden by
a mass of ice.
"Another walrus, I suppose!" he said, hurrying forward.
It was not a walrus which lay extended on the snow, and which had so
excited Kaas. It was a man, insensible, and covered with blood, whose
clothing of skins was assuredly not the dress worn by any seamen of the
"Alaska." It reminded Erik of the clothing worn by the man who had
passed the winter on the "Vega." He raised the head of the man; it was
covered with thick red hair, and it was remarkable that his nose was
crushed in like that of a negro.
Erik asked himself whether he was the sport of some illusion.
He opened the man's waistcoat, and bared his chest. It was perhaps as
much to ascertain whether his heart still beat as to seek for his name.
He found his name tattooed in blue, on a rudely designed escutcheon.
"Patrick O'Donoghan, 'Cynthia,'" and his heart still beat. The man was
not dead. He had a large wound in his head, another in his shoulder, and
on his chest a contusion, which greatly interfered with his respiration.
"He must be carried to our place of shelter, and restored to life," said
Erik, to Mr. Hersebom.
And then he added in a low tone as if he was afraid of being overheard.
"It is he, father, whom we have been seeking for such a long time
without being able to find him--Patrick O'Donoghan--and see he is almost
unable to breathe."
The thought that the secret of his life was known to this bloody object
upon which death already appeared to have set his seal, kindled a gloomy
flame in Erik's eyes. His adopted father divined his thoughts, and could
not help shrugging his shoulders--he seemed to say:
"Of what use would it be to discover it now. The knowledge of all the
secrets in the world would be useless to us."
He, however, took the body by the limbs, while Erik lifted him under the
arms, and loaded with this burden they resumed their walk.
The motion made the wounded man open his eyes. Soon the pain caused by
his wounds was so great that he began to moan and utter confused cries,
among which they distinguished the English word "drink!"
They were still some distance from their depot of provisions. Erik,
however, stopped and propped the unfortunate man against a hummock, and
then put his leathern bottle to his lips.
It was nearly empty, but the mouthful of strong liquor that Patrick
O'Donoghan swallowed seemed to restore him to life. He looked around
him, heaved a deep sigh and then said:
"Where is Mr. Jones?"
"We found you alone on the ice," answered Erik. "Had you been there
"I do not know!" answered the wounded man, with difficulty. "Give me
something more to drink." He swallowed a second mouthful and then he
recovered sufficiently to be able to speak.
"When the tempest overtook us the yacht sunk," he explained. "Some of
the crew had time to throw themselves into the boats, the rest perished.
At the first moment of peril Mr. Jones made a sign for me to go with him
into a life-boat, which was suspended in the stern of the yacht and that
every one else disdained on account of its small dimensions, but which
proved to be safe, as it was impossible to sink it. It is the only one
which reached the ice island--all the others were upset before they
reached it. We were terribly wounded by the drift ice which the waves
threw into our boat, but at length we were able to draw ourselves beyond
their reach and wait for the dawn of day. This morning Mr. Jones left me
to go and see if he could kill a walrus, or some sea-bird, in order that
we might have something to eat. I have not seen him since!"
"Is Mr. Jones one of the officers of the 'Albatross'?" asked Erik.
"He is the owner and captain of her!" answered O'Donoghan, in a tone
which seemed to express surprise at the question.
"Then Mr. Tudor Brown is not the captain of the 'Albatross'?"
"I don't know," said the wounded man, hesitatingly, seeming to ask
himself whether he had been too confidential in speaking as freely as he
Erik did not think it wise to insist on this point. He had too many
other questions to ask.
"You see," he said to the Irishman, as he seated himself on the snow
beside him, "you refused the other day to come on board of my ship and
talk with me, and your refusal has occasioned many disasters. But now
that we have met again, let us profit by this opportunity to talk
seriously and like rational men. You see you are here on a floating
ice-bank, without food, and seriously wounded, incapable by your own
efforts of escaping the most cruel death. My adopted father and myself
have all that you need, food, fire-arms, and brandy. We will share with
you, and take care of you until you are well again. In return for our
care, we only ask you to treat us with a little confidence!"
The Irishman gave Erik an irresolute look in which gratitude seemed to
mingle with fear--a look of fearful indecision.
"That depends on the kind of confidence that you ask for?" he said,
"Oh, you know very well," answered Erik, making an effort to smile, and
taking in his hands those of the wounded man. "I told you the other day;
you know what I want to find out and what I have come so far to
discover. Now, Patrick O'Donoghan, make a little effort and disclose to
me this secret which is of so much importance to me, tell me what you
know about the infant tied to the buoy. Give me the faintest indication
of who I am, so that I may find my family. What do you fear? What danger
do you run in satisfying me?"
O'Donoghan did not answer, but seemed to be turning over in his obtuse
brain the arguments that Erik had used.
"But," he said at last, with an effort, "if we succeed in getting away
from here, and we reach some country where there are judges and courts,
you could do me some harm?"
"No, I swear that I would not. I swear it by all that is sacred," said
Erik, hotly. "Whatever may be the injuries you have inflicted upon me or
upon others, I guarantee that you shall not suffer for them in any way.
Besides, there is one fact of which you seem to be ignorant, it is that
there is a limit to such matters. When such events have taken place more
than twenty years ago, human justice has no longer the right to demand
an accounting for them."
"Is that true?" asked Patrick O'Donoghan, distrustfully. "Mr. Jones told
me that the 'Alaska' had been sent by the police, and you yourself spoke
of a tribunal."
"That was about recent events--an accident that happened to us at the
beginning of our journey. You may be sure that Mr. Jones was mocking
you, Patrick. Doubtless he has some interest of his own for wishing you
not to tell."
"You may be sure of that," said the Irishman, earnestly. "But how did
you discover that I was acquainted with this secret?"
"Through Mr. and Mrs. Bowles of the Red Anchor in Brooklyn, who had
often heard you speak of the infant tied to the buoy."
"That is true," said the Irishman. He reflected again. "Then you are
sure that you were not sent by the police?" he said, at length.
"No--what an absurd idea. I came of my own accord on account of my
ardent desire, my thirst, to discover the land of my birth and to find
out who my parents were, that is all."
O'Donoghan smiled, proudly:
"Ah, that is what you want to know," he said. "Well, it is true that I
can tell you. It is true that I know."
"Tell me--tell me!" cried Erik, seeing that he hesitated. "Tell me and I
promise you pardon for all the evil that you have done, and my
everlasting gratitude if I am ever in a position to show it!"
The Irishman gave a covetous look at the leathern bottle.
"It makes my throat dry to talk so much," he said, in a faint tone. "I
will drink a little more if you are willing to give it to me."
"There is no more here, but we can get some at our depot of provisions.
We have two large cases of brandy there," answered Erik, handing the
bottle to Mr. Hersebom.
The latter immediately walked away, followed by Kaas.
"They will not be gone long," said the young man, turning toward his
companion. "Now, my brave fellow, do not make merchandise of your
confidence. Put yourself in my place. Suppose that during all your life
you had been ignorant of the name of your country, and that of your
mother, and that at last you found yourself in the presence of a man who
knew all about it, and who refused the information which was of such
inestimable value to you, and that at the very time when you had saved
him, restored him to consciousness and life. I do not ask you to do
anything impossible. I do not ask you to criminate yourself if you have
anything to reproach yourself with. Give me only an indication, the very
slightest. Put me on the track, so that I can find my family; and that
is all that I shall ask of you."
"By my faith, I will do you this favor!" said Patrick, evidently moved.
"You know that I was a cabin-boy on board the 'Cynthia'?"
He stopped short.
Erik hung upon his words. Was he at last going to find out the truth?
Was he going to solve this enigma and discover the name of his family,
the land of his birth? Truly the scene appeared to him almost
chimerical. He fastened his eyes upon the wounded man, ready to drink in
his words with avidity. For nothing in the world would he have
interfered with his recital, neither by interruption nor gesture. He did
not even observe that a shadow had appeared behind him. It was the sight
of this shadow which had stopped the story of Patrick O'Donoghan.
"Mr. Jones!" he said, in the tone of a school-boy detected in some
Erik turned and saw Tudor Brown coming around a neighboring hummock,
where until this moment he had been hidden from their sight.
The exclamation of the Irishman confirmed the suspicion which during the
last hour had presented itself to his mind.
Mr. Jones and Tudor Brown were one and the same person.
He had hardly time to make this reflection before two shots were heard.
Tudor Brown raised his gun and shot Patrick O'Donoghan through the
heart, who fell backward.
Then before he had time to lower his rifle, Tudor Brown received a
bullet in his forehead, and fell forward on his face.
"I did well to come back when I saw suspicious footprints in the snow,"
said Mr. Hersebom, coming forward, his gun still smoking in his hands.
THE END OF THE VOYAGE.
Erik gave a cry and threw himself on his knees beside Patrick
O'Donoghan, seeking for some sign of life, a ray of hope. But the
Irishman was certainly dead this time, and that without revealing his
As for Tudor Brown, one convulsion shook his body, his gun fell from his
hands, in which he had tightly held it at the moment of his fall, and he
expired without a word.
"Father, what have you done?" cried Erik, bitterly. "Why have you
deprived me of the last chance that was left to me of discovering the
secret of my birth? Would it not have been better for us to throw
ourselves upon this man and take him prisoner?"
"And do you believe that he would have allowed us to do so?" answered
Mr. Hersebom. "His second shot was intended for you, you may be sure. I
have avenged the murder of this unfortunate man, punished the criminal
who attempted to shipwreck us, and who is guilty perhaps of other
crimes. Whatever may be the result, I do not regret having done so.
Besides of what consequence is the mystery surrounding your birth, my
child, to men in our situation? The secret of your birth before long,
without doubt, will be revealed to us by God."
He had hardly finished speaking, when the firing of a cannon was heard,
and it was re-echoed by the icebergs. It seemed like a reply to the
discouraging words of the old fisherman. It was doubtless a response to
the two gunshots which had been fired on their island of ice.
"The cannon of the 'Alaska!' We are saved!" cried Erik, jumping up and
climbing a hummock to get a better view of the sea that surrounded them.
He saw nothing at first but the icebergs, driven by the wind and
sparkling in the sunshine. But Mr. Hersebom, who had immediately
reloaded his gun, fired into the air, and a second discharge from the
cannon answered him almost immediately.
Then Erik discovered a thin streak of black smoke toward the west,
clearly defined against the blue sky. Gunshots, answered by the cannon,
were repeated at intervals of a few minutes, and soon the "Alaska"
steamed around an iceberg and made all speed toward the north of the
Erik and Mr. Hersebom, weeping for joy, threw themselves into each
other's arms. They waved their handkerchiefs and threw their caps into
the air, seeking by all means to attract the attention of their friends.
At length the "Alaska" stopped, a boat was lowered, and in twenty
minutes it reached their island.
Who can describe the unbounded joy of Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord,
Mr. Malarius, and Otto when they found them well and safe; for through
the long hours of that sad night they had mourned them as lost.
They related all that had befallen them--their fears and despair during
the night, their vain appeals, their useless anger. The "Alaska" had
been found in the morning to be almost entirely clear of the ice, and
they had dislodged what remained with the assistance of their gunpowder.
Mr. Bosewitz had taken command, being the second-officer, and had
immediately started in search of the floating island, taking the
direction in which the wind would carry it. This navigation amidst
floating icebergs was the most perilous which the "Alaska" had as yet
attempted; but thanks to the excellent training to which the young
captain had accustomed his crew, and to the experience which they had
acquired in maneuvering the vessel, they passed safely among these
moving masses of ice without being crushed by them. The "Alaska" had had
the advantage of being able to travel more swiftly than the icebergs,
and she had been able to benefit by this circumstance. Kind Providence
had willed that her search should not prove fruitless. At nine o'clock
in the morning the island had been sighted. They recognized it by its
shape, and then the two shots from the guns made them hopeful of finding
their two shipwrecked friends.
All their other troubles now appeared to them as insignificant. They had
a long and dangerous voyage before them, which they must accomplish
under sail, for their coal was exhausted.
"No," said Erik, "we will not make it under sail. I have another plan.
We will permit the ice island to tow us along, as long as she goes
toward the south or west. That will spare us incessantly fighting with
the icebergs, for our island will chase them ahead of her. Then we can
collect here all the combustibles that we will require in order to
finish the voyage, when we are ready to resume it."
"What are you talking about?" asked the doctor, laughing. "Is there an
oil-well on this island?"
"Not exactly an oil-well," answered Erik, "but what will answer our
purpose nearly as well, multitudes of fat walruses. I wish to try an
experiment, since we have one furnace especially adapted for burning
They began their labors by performing the last rites of the two dead
men. They tied weights to their feet and lowered them into the sea. Then
the "Alaska" made fast to the ice bank in such a manner as to follow its
movements without sustaining any injury to herself. They were able, with
care, to carry on board again the provisions which they had landed, and
which it was important for them not to lose. That operation
accomplished, they devoted all their energies to the pursuit of the
Two or three times a day, parties armed with guns and harpoons and
accompanied by all their Greenland dogs landed on the ice bank, and
surrounded the sleeping monsters at the mouth of their holes. They
killed them by firing a ball into their ears, then they cut them up, and
placed the lard with which they were filled in their sleighs, and the
dogs drew it to the "Alaska." Their hunting was so easy and so
productive, that in eight days they had all the lard that they could
carry. The "Alaska," still towed by the floating island, was now in the
seventy-fourth degree; that is to say, she had passed Nova Zembla.
The ice island was now reduced at least one-half, and cracked by the sun
was full of fissures, more or less extensive, evidently ready to go to
pieces. Erik resolved not to wait until this happened, and ordering
their anchor to be lifted, he sailed away westward.
The lard was immediately utilized in the fire of the "Alaska," and
proved an excellent combustible. The only fault was that it choked up
the chimney, which necessitated a daily cleaning. As for its odor, that
would doubtless have been very disagreeable to southern passengers, but
to a crew composed of Swedes and Norwegians, it was only a secondary
Thanks to this supply, the "Alaska" was able to keep up steam during the
whole of the remainder of her voyage. She proceeded rapidly, in spite of
contrary winds, and arrived on the 5th of September in sight of Cape
North or Norway. They pursued their route with all possible speed,
turned the Scandinavian Peninsula, repassed Skager-Rack, and reached the
spot from which they had taken their departure.
On the 14th of September they cast anchor before Stockholm, which they
had left on the tenth of the preceding February.
Thus, in seven months and four days, the first circumpolar periplus had
been accomplished by a navigator of only twenty-two years of age.
This geographical feat, which so promptly completed the great expedition
of Nordenskiold, would soon make a prodigious commotion in the world.
But the journals and reviews had not as yet had time to expatiate upon
it. The uninitiated were hardly prepared to understand it, and one
person, at least, reviewed it with suspicion--this was Kajsa. The
supercilious smile with which she listened to the story of their
adventures was indescribable.
"Was it sensible to expose yourself to such dangers?" was her only
But the first opportunity that presented itself she did not fail to say
"I suppose that now you will do nothing more about this tiresome matter,
since the Irishman is dead."
What a difference there was between these cold criticisms and the
letters full of sympathy and tenderness that Erik soon received from
Vanda told him in what a state of anxiety she and her mother had passed
these long months, how the travelers had been ever present in their
thoughts, and how happy they were when they heard of their safe return.
If the expedition had not accomplished all that Erik hoped, they begged
him not to worry himself too much about it. He must know that if he
never succeeded in finding his own family he had one in the poor
Norwegian village, where he would be tenderly cared for like one of
themselves. Would he not soon come and see them, could he not stay with
them one little month. It was the sincere desire of his adopted mother
and of his little sister Vanda, etc., etc.
The envelope also contained three pretty flowers, gathered on the
borders of the fiord, and their perfume seemed to bring back vividly to
Erik his gay and careless childhood. Ah, how sweet these loving words
were to his poor disappointed heart, and they enabled him to fulfill
more easily the concluding duties appertaining to the expedition. He
hoped soon to be able to go and tell them all he felt. The voyage of the
"Alaska" had equaled in grandeur that of the "Vega." The name of Erik
was everywhere associated with the glorious name of Nordenskiold. The
journals had a great deal to say about the new periplus. The ships of
all nations anchored at Stockholm united in doing honor to this national
victor. The learned societies came in a body to congratulate the
commander and crew of the "Alaska." The public authorities proposed a
national recompense for them.
All these praises were painful to Erik. His conscience told him that the
principal motive of this expedition on his part had been purely a
personal one, and he felt scrupulous about accepting honors which
appeared to him greatly exaggerated. He therefore availed himself of the
first opportunity to state frankly that he had gone to the polar seas to
discover if possible the secret of his birth, and of the shipwreck of
the "Cynthia," that he had been unsuccessful in doing so.
The occasion was offered by a reporter of one of the principal
newspapers of Stockholm, who presented himself on board of the "Alaska"
and solicited the favor of a private interview with the young captain.
The object of this intelligent gazeteer, let us state briefly, was to
extract from his victim the outlines of a biography which would cover
one hundred lines. He could not have fallen on a subject more willing to
submit to vivisection. Erik had been eager to tell the truth, and to
proclaim to the world that he did not deserve to be regarded as a second
Christopher Columbus. He therefore related unreservedly his story,
explaining how he had been picked up at sea by a poor fisherman of
Noroe, educated by Mr. Malarius, taken to Stockholm by Dr.
Schwaryencrona; how they had found out that Patrick O'Donoghan probably
held the key to the mystery that surrounded him. They discovered that he
was on board of the "Vega;" they had gone in search of him. He related
the accident which had induced them to change their route. Erik told all
this to convince the world that he was no hero. He told it because he
felt ashamed of being so overwhelmed with praises for a performance that
only seemed to him natural and right.
During this time the pen of the delighted reporter, Mr. Squirrelius,
flew over the paper with stenographic rapidity. The dates, the names,
the least details were noted with avidity. Mr. Squirrelius told himself
with a beating heart that he had obtained matter not only for one
hundred lines, but that he could make five or six hundred out of it. And
what a story it would be--more interesting than a novel!
The next day Erik's revelations filled the columns of the most largely
circulated newspaper in Stockholm, and indeed in all Sweden. As is
usually the case, Erik's sincerity, instead of diminishing his
popularity, only increased it, on account of his modesty, and the
romantic interest attached to his history. The press and the public
seized upon it with avidity. These biographical details were soon
translated into all languages, and made the tour of Europe. In this way
they reached Paris, and penetrated in the form of a French newspaper
into a modest drawing-room on Varennes Street.
There were two persons in this room. One was a lady dressed in black,
with white hair, although she still appeared to be young, but her whole
appearance betrayed profound sorrow. Seated under a lighted lamp she
worked mechanically at some embroidery, which at times fell from her
thin fingers, while her eyes, fixed on vacancy, seemed to be thinking of
some overwhelming calamity.
On the other side of the table sat a fine-looking old gentleman, who
took the newspaper abstractedly which his servant brought in.
It was Mr. Durrien, the honorary consul-general of the geographical
society, the same person who had been at Brest when the "Alaska" reached
This was doubtless the reason why Erik's name attracted his notice, but
while reading the article carefully which contained the biography or the
young Swedish navigator, he was startled. Then he read it again
carefully, and little by little an intense pallor spread over his face,
which was always pale. His hands trembled nervously, and his uneasiness
became so evident that his companion noticed it.
"Father, are you suffering?" she asked with solicitude.
"I believe it is too warm here--I will go to the library and get some
fresh air. It is nothing; it will pass off," answered Mr. Durrien,
rising and walking into the adjoining room.
As if by accident, he carried the paper with him.
If his daughter could have read his thoughts, she would have known that
amidst the tumults of hopes and fears that so agitated him was also a
determination not to let her eyes rest upon that paper.
A moment later she thought of following him into the library, but she
imagined that he wished to be alone, and discreetly yielded to his
desire. Besides she was soon reassured by hearing him moving about and
opening and closing the window.
At the end of an hour, she decided to look in, and see what Mr. Durrien
was doing. She found that he was seated before his desk writing a
letter. But she did not see that us he wrote his eyes filled with tears.
A LETTER FROM PARIS.
Since his return to Stockholm, Erik had received every day from all
parts of Europe a voluminous correspondence. Some learned society wished
for information on some point, or wrote to congratulate him; foreign
governments wished to bestow upon him some honor or recompense;
ship-owners, or traders, solicited some favor which would serve their
Therefore he was not surprised when he received one morning two letters
bearing the Paris postmark.
The first that he opened was an invitation from the Geographical Society
of France, asking him and his companions to come and receive a handsome
medal, which had been voted in a solemn conclave "to the navigators of
the first circumpolar periplus of the arctic seas."
The second envelope made Erik start, he looked at it. On the box which
closed it was a medallion upon which the letters "E.D." were engraved,
surrounded by the motto "Semper idem."
These initials and devices were also stamped in the corner of the letter
enclosed in the envelope, which was that from Mr. Durrien.
The letter read as follows:
"My dear child,--Let me call you this in any case. I have just read
in a French newspaper a biography translated from the Swedish
language, which has overcome me more than I can tell you. It was
your account of yourself. You state that you were picked up at sea
about twenty-two years ago by a Norwegian fisherman in the
neighborhood of Bergen; that you were tied to a buoy, bearing the
name of 'Cynthia;' that the especial motive of your arctic voyage
was to find a survivor of the vessel of that name--ship wrecked in
October, 1858; and then you state that you have returned from the
voyage without having been able to gain any information about the
"If all this is true (oh, what would I not give if it is true!), I
ask you not to lose a moment in running to the telegraph office and
letting me know it. In that case, my child, you can understand my
impatience, my anxiety, and my joy. In that case you are my
grandson, for whom I have mourned so many years, whom I believed
lost to me forever, as did also my daughter, my poor daughter, who,
broken-hearted at the tragedy of the 'Cynthia,' still mourns every
day for her only child--the joy and consolation at first of her
widowhood, but afterward the cause of her despair.
"But we shall see you again alive, covered with glory. Such
happiness is too great, too wonderful. I dare not believe it until
a word from you authorizes me to do so. But now it seems so
probable, the details and dates agree so perfectly, your
countenance and manners recall so vividly those of my unfortunate
son-in-law. Upon the only occasion when chance led me into your
society, I felt myself mysteriously drawn toward you by a deep and
sudden sympathy. It seems impossible that there should be no reason
"One word, telegraph me one word. I do not know how to exist until
I hear from you. Will it be the response that I wait for so
impatiently? Can you bring such happiness to my poor daughter and
myself as will cause us to forget our past years of tears and
"E. DURRIEN, Honorary Consul-general,
"104 Rue de Varennes, Paris."
To this letter was added one of explanation, that Erik devoured eagerly.
It was also in Mr. Durrien's handwriting, and read as follows:
"I was the French consul at New Orleans when my only daughter,
Catherine, married a young Frenchman, Mr. George Durrien, a distant
connection, and, like ourselves, of Breton origin. Mr. George
Durrien was a mining engineer. He had come to the United States to
explore the recently discovered mines of petroleum and intended to
remain several years. I received him into my family--he being the
son of a dear friend--and when he asked for my daughter's hand, I
gave her to him with joy. Shortly after their marriage I was
appointed consul to Riga; and my son-in-law being detained by
business interests in the United States, I was obliged to leave my
daughter. She became a mother, and to her son was given my
Christian name, united to that of his father--Emile Henry Georges.
"Six months afterward my son-in-law was killed by an accident in
the mines. As soon as she could settle up his affairs, my poor
daughter, only twenty years of age, embarked at New York on the
'Cynthia' for Hamburg, to join me by the most direct route.
"On the 7th of October, 1858, the 'Cynthia' was shipwrecked off the
Faroe Islands. The circumstances of the shipwreck were suspicious,
and have never been explained.
"At the moment of the disaster, when the passengers were taking
their places one by one in the boat, my little grandson, seven
months old--whom his mother had tied to a buoy for safety--slipped
or was pushed into the sea, and was carried away by the storm and
disappeared. His mother, crazed by this frightful spectacle, tried
to throw herself into the sea. She was prevented by main force and
placed in a fainting condition in one of the boats, in which were
three other persons, and who had alone escaped from the shipwrecked
vessel. In forty-nine hours this boat reached one of the Faroe
Islands. From there my daughter returned to me after a dangerous
illness which lasted seven weeks, thanks to the devoted attentions
of the sailor who saved her and who brought her to me. This brave
man, John Denman, died in my service in Asia Minor.
"We had but little hope that the baby had survived the shipwreck. I,
however, sought for him among the Faroe and Shetland Islands, and
upon the Norwegian coast north of Bergen. The idea of his cradle
floating any further seemed impossible, but I did not give up my
search for three years; and Noroe must be a very retired spot, or
surely some inquiries would have been made there. When I had given
up all hope I devoted myself exclusively to my daughter, whose
physical and moral health required great attention. I succeeded in
being sent to the Orient, and I sought, by traveling and scientific
enterprises, to draw off her thoughts from her affliction. She has
been my inseparable companion sharing all my labors, but I have
never been able to lighten her incurable grief. We returned to
France, and we now live in Paris in an old house which I own.
"Will it be my happiness to receive there my grandson, for whom we
have mourned so many years? This hope fills me with too much joy,
and I dare not speak of it to my daughter, until I am assured of
its truth; for, if it should prove false, the disappointment would
be too cruel.
"To-day is Monday: they tell me at the post-office that by next
Saturday I can receive your answer."
Erik had hardly been able to read this, for the tears would obscure his
sight. He also felt afraid to yield too quickly to the hope which had
been so suddenly restored to him. He told himself that every detail
coincided--the dates agreed; all the events down to the most minute
particulars. He hardly dared to believe, however, that it could be true.
It was too much happiness to recover in a moment his family, his own
mother, his country. And such a country--the one that he could have
chosen above all because she possessed the grandeur, the graces, the
supreme gifts of humanity--because she had fostered genius, and the
civilization of antiquity, and the discoveries and inventions of modern
He was afraid that he was only dreaming. His hopes had been so often
disappointed. Perhaps the doctor would say something to dispel his
illusions. Before he did anything he would submit these facts to his
The doctor read the documents attentively which he carried to him, but
not without exclamations of joy and surprise.
"You need not feel the slightest doubt!" he said, when he had finished.
"All the details agree perfectly, even those that your correspondent
omits to mention, the initials on the linen, the device engraved on the
locket, which are the same as those on the letter. My dear child, you
have found your family this time. You must telegraph immediately to your
"But what shall I tell him?" asked Erik, pale with joy.
"Tell him that to-morrow you will set out by express, to go and embrace
him and your mother!"
The young captain only took time to press the hands of this excellent
man, and he ran and jumped into a cab to hasten to the telegraph office.
He left Stockholm that same day, took the railroad to Malmo on the
north-west coast of Sweden, crossed the strait in twenty minutes,
reached Copenhagen, took the express train through to Holland and
Belgium, and at Brussels the train for Paris.
On Saturday, at seven o'clock in the evening, exactly six days after Mr.
Durrien had posted his letter, he had the joy of waiting for his
grandson at the depot.
As soon as the train stopped they fell into each other's arms. They had
thought so much about each other during these last few days that they
both felt already well acquainted.
"My mother?" asked Erik.
"I have not dared to tell her, much as I was tempted to do so!" answered
"And she knows nothing yet?"
"She suspects something, she fears, she hopes. Since your dispatch I
have done my best to prepare her for the unheard-of joy that awaits her.
I told her of a track upon which I had been placed by a young Swedish
officer, the one whom I had met at Brest, and of whom I had often spoken
to her. She does not know, she hesitates to hope for any good news, but
this morning at breakfast I could see her watching me, and two or three
times I felt afraid that she was going to question me. One can not tell,
something might have happened to you, some other misfortune, some sudden
mischance. So I did not dine with her to-night, I made an excuse to
escape from a situation intolerable to me."
Without waiting for his baggage, they departed in the coup that Mr.
Durrien had brought.
Mme. Durrien, alone in the parlor in Varennes Street, awaited
impatiently the return of her father. She had had her suspicions
aroused, and was only waiting until the dinner hour arrived to ask for
For several days she had been disturbed by his strange behavior, by the
dispatches which were continually arriving, and by the double meaning
which she thought she detected beneath all he said. Accustomed to talk
with him about his lightest thoughts and impressions, she could not
understand why he should seek to conceal anything from her. Several
times she had been on the point of demanding a solution of the enigma,
but she had kept silence, out of respect for the evident wishes of her
"He is trying to prepare me for some surprise, doubtless," she said to
herself. "He is sure to tell me if anything pleasant has occurred."
But for the last two or three days, especially that morning, she had
been impressed with a sort of eagerness which Mr. Durrien displayed in
all his manner, as well as the happy air with which he regarded her,
insisting in hearing over and over again from her lips, all the details
of the disaster of the "Cynthia," which he had avoided speaking of for a
long time. As she mused over his strange behavior a sort of revelation
came to her. She felt sure that her father must have received some
favorable intelligence which had revived the hope of finding her child.
But without the least idea that he had already done so, she determined
not to retire that night until she had questioned him closely.
Mme. Durrien had never definitely renounced the idea that her son was
living. She had never seen him dead before her eyes, and she clung
mother-like to the hope that he was not altogether lost to her. She said
that the proofs were insufficient, and she nourished the possibility of
his sudden return. She might be said to pass her days waiting for him.
Thousands of women, mothers of soldiers and sailors, pass their lives
under this touching delusion. Mrs. Durrien had a greater right than they
had to preserve her faith in his existence. In truth the tragical scene
enacted twenty-two years ago was always before her eyes. She beheld the
"Cynthia" filling with water and ready to sink. She saw herself tying
her infant to a large buoy while the passengers and sailors were rushing
for the boats. They left her behind, she saw herself imploring,
beseeching that they would at least take her baby. A man took her
precious burden, and threw it into one of the boats, a heavy sea dashed
over it, and to her horror she saw the buoy floating away on the crest
of the waves. She gave a dispairing cry and tried to jump after him,
then came unconsciousness. When she awoke she was a prey to despair, to
fever, to delirium. To this succeeded increasing grief. Yes, the poor
woman recalled all this. Her whole being had in fact received a shock
from which she had never recovered. It was now nearly a quarter of a
century since this had happened, and Mrs. Durrien still wept for her son
as on the first day. Her maternal heart so full of grief was slowly
consuming her life. She sometimes pictured to herself her son passing
through the successive phases of infancy, youth, and manhood. From year
to year she represented to herself how he would have looked, how he was
looking, for she obstinately clung to her belief of the possibility of
This vain hope nothing had as yet had the power to shake--neither
travels, nor useless researches, nor the passage of time.
This is why this evening she awaited her father with the firm resolution
of knowing all that he had to tell.
Mr. Darrien entered. He was followed by a young gentleman, whom he
presented to her in the following words:
"My daughter, this is Mr. Erik Hersebom, of whom I have often spoken to
you, and who has just arrived at Paris. The Geographical Society wish to
bestow upon him a grand medal, and he has done me the honor to accept
She had arisen from her arm-chair, and was looking kindly at him.
Suddenly her eyes dilated, her lips trembled, and she stretched out her
hands toward him.
"My son! you are my son!" she cried.
Then she advanced a step toward Erik.
"Yes, you are my child," she said. "Your father lives over again in
When Erik, bursting into tears, fell on his knees before her, the poor
woman took his head in her hands, and fainted from joy and happiness as
she tried to press a kiss on his forehead.
A month later at Val-Féray, an old homestead of the family, situated
half a league from Brest, Erik's adopted family were assembled, together
with his mother and grandfather. Mrs. Durrien had, with the delicacy of
feeling habitual to her, desired that the good, simple-hearted beings
who had saved her son's life should share her profound and inexpressible
joy. She had insisted that Dame Katrina, and Vanda, Mr. Hersebom, and
Otto should accompany Doctor Schwaryencrona, Kajsa, Mr. Bredejord, and
Mr. Malarius, and they held a great festival together.
Amidst the rugged natural scenery of Breton and near the sea, her
Norwegian guests felt more at their ease than they could have done in
Varennes Street. They took long walks in the woods together, and told
each other all they knew about Erik's still somewhat obscure history,
and little by little many hitherto inexplicable points became clear.
Their long talks and discussions cast light upon many obscure
The first question they asked each other was, Who was Tudor Brown? What
great interest did he have in preventing Patrick O'Donoghan from telling
who Erik's relations were? The words of that unfortunate man had
established one fact, viz., that Tudor Brown's real name was Jones, as
it was the only one that the Irishman had known him by. Now, a Mr. Noah
Jones had been associated with Erik's father in working a petroleum
mine, that the young engineer had discovered in Pennsylvania. The simple
announcement of this fact gave a sinister aspect to many events which
had so long appeared mysterious: the suspicious wreck of the "Cynthia,"
the fall of the infant into the sea, perhaps the death of Erik's father.
A document that Mr. Durrien found among his papers elucidated many of
these perplexing questions.
"Several months before his marriage," he said to Erik's friends, "my
son-in-law had discovered, near Harrisburg, a petroleum well. He lacked
the capital necessary to purchase it, and he saw that he was in danger
of losing all the advantages which the possession of it would secure to
him. Chance made him acquainted with Mr. Noah Jones, who represented
himself as a cattle dealer from the far West. But in reality, as he
found out afterward, he was a slave-trader.
"This individual agreed to advance the sum necessary to purchase and work
the petroleum mine, which was called the Vandalia. He made my son-in-law
sign, in exchange for this assistance, an agreement which was very
profitable to himself. I was ignorant of the terms of this contract at
the time of his marriage to my daughter, and according to all
appearances he thought but little of it. Unusually gifted, and
understanding chemistry and mechanics, yet he was entirely ignorant of
business matters, and already had to pay dearly for his inexperience. No
doubt he had trusted all the arrangements to Noah Jones, according to
his usual habit. Probably he signed with closed eyes the contract which
was laid before him. These are the principle articles agreed upon:
"Art. III. The Vandalia shall remain the sole property of Mr.
George Durrien, the discoverer, and Mr. Noah Jones, his silent
"Art. IV. Mr. Noah Jones will take charge of moneys, and pay out
what is necessary for the exploration of the mine, he will also
sell the product, take charge of the receipts, and have a
settlement with his partner every year, when they will divide the
"Art. V. If either of the partners should wish to sell his share,
the other would have the first right to purchase it, and he
should have three months in which to make arrangements to do so. He
might then become sole proprietor by paying the capital and three
per cent. on the net revenue, according to what it had been proved
to be at the last inventory.
"Art. VI. Only the children of the two partners could become
inheritors of these rights. In case one of the partners should die
childless, or his children should not live until they were
twenty-one years of age, the entire property to revert to the
survivor, to the exclusion of all other heirs of the dead partner.
"N.B. The last article is on account of the different nationalities
of the two partners, and because of the complications that could
not fail to arise in case of the death of either of them without
"Such," continued Mr. Durrien, "was the contract which my future
son-in-law had signed at the time, when he had no thought of marrying,
and when everybody, except, perhaps, Mr. Noah Jones, was ignorant of
what immense value the Vandalia mine would become in the course of time.
They had then hardly commenced operations, and they met with the usual
discouragements incident to all new undertakings. Perhaps Noah Jones
hoped that his associate would become disgusted with the whole business
and retire, leaving him sole proprietor. The marriage of George with my
daughter, the birth of his son, and the well becoming suddenly
prodigiously fruitful, must have modified his plans by degrees. He could
no longer hope to purchase for a trifling sum this splendid property;
but before it came into the possession of Noah Jones, first George
himself, and then his only child, must disappear from the world. Two
years after his marriage and six months after the birth of my grandson,
George was found dead near one of the wells--asphyxiated, the doctors
said, by gas. I had left the United States upon my nomination as consul
to Riga. The business relating to the partnership was left to an
attorney to settle. Noah Jones behaved vert well, and agreed to
all the arrangements that were made for the benefit of my daughter. He
agreed to continue the work, and pay every six months into the Central
Bank of New York that part of the net profits which belonged to the infant.
Alas! he never made the first payment. My daughter took passage in the
'Cynthia' in order to join me. The 'Cynthia' was lost with her crew and
freight under such suspicious circumstances that the insurance company
refused to pay; and in this shipwreck the sole heir of my son-in-law
"Noah Jones remained the sole proprietor of the Vandalia, which has
yielded him at the least since that event an annual income of one
hundred and eighty thousand dollars a year."
"Did you never suspect that he had had some hand in these successive
catastrophies?" asked Mr. Bredejord.
"I have certainly suspected him; it was only too natural. Such an
accumulation of misfortunes, and all tending to his private enrichment,
seemed to point him out as the author only too clearly. But how could I
prove my suspicions, particularly in a court of justice? They were only
vague, and I knew too well that they would have but little weight in an
international contest. And then, besides I had my daughter to console,
or at least to try and draw away her thoughts from this tragedy, and a
lawsuit would only have revived her grief. Briefly I resigned myself to
silence. Did I do wrong? Is it to be regretted?"
"I think not, for I feel convinced that it would have produced no
results. You see how difficult it is even today, after we have related
all the facts in our possession, to arrive at any definite conclusion!"
"But how can you explain the part which Patrick O'Donoghan has taken in
this matter?" asked Dr. Schwaryencrona.
"On this point, as on many others, we are reduced to conjectures, but it
seems to me that there is one which is plausible enough. This O'Donoghan
was cabin-boy on board of the 'Cynthia,' in the personal service of the
captain, and consequently in constant communication with the first-class
passengers, who always eat at the captain's table. He therefore
certainly knew the name of my daughter, and her French origin, and he
could easily have found her again.
"Had he been commissioned by Noah Jones to perform some dark mission?
Had he a hand in causing the shipwreck of the 'Cynthia,' or simply in
pushing the infant into the sea? this they could never know for a
certainty since he was dead. One thing was evident, he was aware how
important the knowledge of this fact was for Noah Jones. But did this
lazy drunken man know that the infant was living? Had he any hand in
saving it? Had he rescued it from the sea to leave it floating near
"This was a doubtful point. In any case he must have assured Noah Jones
that the infant had survived. He was doubtless proud of knowing the
country which had received him, and he had probably taken precautions to
know all about the child, so that if any misfortune happened to
him--O'Donoghan--Noah Jones would be obliged to pay him well for his
silence. He was doubtless the person from whom he received money every
time he landed in New York."
"All this appears to me to be very probable," said Mr. Bredejord, "and I
think that subsequent events confirm it. The first advertisements of
Doctor Schwaryencrona disturbed Noah Jones, and he believed it to be an
imperative necessity to get rid of Patrick O'Donoghan, but he was
obliged to act prudently. He therefore contented himself with
frightening the Irishman, by making him believe that he would be brought
before a criminal court. The result of this we know from Mr. and Mrs.
Bowles, of the Red Anchor, who told us of the haste with which Patrick
O'Donoghan had taken flight. He evidently believed that he was in danger
of being arrested, or he would not have gone so far, to live among the
Samoyedes, and under an assumed name, which Noah Jones had doubtless
advised him to do.
"But the announcement in the newspapers about Patrick O'Donoghan must
have been a severe blow to him. He had made a journey to Stockholm
expressly to assure us that the Irishman was dead, and doubtless to
discover if possible how far we had pushed our inquiries. The
publication of the correspondence of the 'Vega, and the departure of the
'Alaska,' must have made Noah Jones, or Tudor Brown, as he called
himself, feel that he was in imminent peril, for his confidence in
Patrick O'Donoghan could be only very limited, and he would have
revealed his secret to any one who would have assured him that he would
not be punished. Happily as affairs have turned out, we may congratulate
ourselves upon having escaped pretty well."
"Who knows?" said the doctor, "perhaps all the danger we have
encountered has only helped to bring us to the knowledge of the truth.
But for running on the rocks of the Basse-Froide, we would probably have
pursued the route through the Suez Canal, and then we should have
reached Behring's Strait too late to meet the 'Vega.' It is at least
doubtful whether we would have undertaken the voyage to the Island of
Ljakow, and more doubtful still whether we would have been able to
extract any information from Patrick O'Donoghan if we had met him in
company with Tudor Brown.
"So, although our entire voyage has been marked by tragical events, it
is due to the fact of our having accomplished the periplus in the
'Alaska, and the consequent celebrity which has been the result for
Erik, that he has at last found his family."
"Yes," said Mrs. Durrien, laying her hand proudly on the head of her
son, "it is his glory which has restored him to me."
And immediately she added:
"It was a crime that deprived me of you, but your own goodness which has
restored you to me!"
"And the rascality of Noah Jones has resulted in making our Erik one of
the richest men in America," cried Mr. Bredejord.
Every one looked at him with surprise.
"Doubtless," answered the eminent lawyer. "Erik is his father's heir,
and has a share in the income, derived from the Vandalia mine. Has he
not been unjustly deprived of this for the last twenty-two years?
"We have only to give proofs of his identity, and we have plenty of
witnesses, Mr. Hersebom, Dame Katrina and Mr. Malarius, besides
ourselves. If Noah Jones has left any children, they are responsible for
the enormous arrears which will probably consume all their share of the
"If the rascal has left no children, by the terms of the contract which
Mr. Durrien has just read, Erik is the sole inheritor of the entire
property; and according to all accounts he ought to have in Pennsylvania
an income of one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand dollars a
"Ah, ah," said the doctor, laughing. "Behold the little fisherman of
Noroe become an eligible parti! Laureate of the Geographical Society,
author of the first circumpolar periplus, and afflicted with the modest
income of two hundred thousand dollars. There are not many such husbands
to be met with in Stockholm. What do you say Kajsa?"
The young girl blushed painfully at being thus addressed, but her uncle
had no suspicion that he had made a cruel speech.
Kajsa had felt that she had not acted wisely in treating Erik as she had
done, and she resolved for the future to show him more attention.
But it was a singular fact that Erik no longer cared for her, since he
felt himself elevated above her unjust disdain. Perhaps it was absence,
or the lonely hours which he had spent walking the deck at night, which
had revealed to him the poverty of Kajsa's heart; or it might be the
satisfaction he felt that she could no longer regard him as "a waif"; he
only treated her now with the most perfect courtesy, to which she was
entitled as a young lady and Dr. Schwaryencrona's niece.
All his preference now was for Vanda, who indeed grew every day more and
more charming, and was losing all her little village awkwardness under
the roof of an amiable and cultivated lady. Her exquisite goodness, her
native grace, and perfect simplicity, made her beloved by all who
approached her. She had not been eight days at Val-Fray, when Mrs.
Durrien declared positively that it would be impossible for her ever to
part with her.
Erik undertook to arrange with Mr. Hersebom and Dame Katrina that they
should leave Vanda behind them, with the express condition that he would
bring her himself every year to see them. He had tried to keep all his
adopted family with him, even offering to transport from Noroe the house
with all its furniture where he had passed his infancy. But this project
of emigration was generally regarded as impracticable. Mr. Hersebom and
Katrina were too old to change their habits. They would not have been
perfectly happy in a country of whose language and habits they were
ignorant. He was obliged, therefore, to permit them to depart, but not
before making such provision for them as would enable them to spend the
remainder of their days in ease and comfort, which, notwithstanding
their honest, laborious lives, they had been unable to accomplish.
Erik would have liked to have kept Otto at least, but he preferred his
fiord, and thought that there was no life preferable to that of a
fisherman. It must also be confessed that the golden-haired and
blue-eyed daughter of the overseer of the oil-works had something to do
with the attractions which Noroe had for him. At least we must conclude
so, since it was soon made known that he expected to marry her at the
next "Yule," or Christmas.
Mr. Malarius counted upon educating their children as he had educated
Erik and Vanda. He modestly resumed his position in the village school,
after sharing in the honor of the decorations bestowed by the
Geographical Society of France upon the captain of the "Alaska." He was
also busily occupied in correcting the proofs of his magnificent work on
the "Flora of the Arctic Regions." As for Dr. Schwaryencrona, he has not
quite finished his "Treatise on Iconography," which will transmit his
name to posterity.
The latest legal business of Mr. Bredejord has been to establish Erik's
claim as sole proprietor of the Vandalia mine. He gained his case in the
first instance, and also on appeal, which was no small success.
Erik took advantage of this, and of the enormous fortune thus accruing
to him, to purchase the "Alaska," which he converted into a pleasure
yacht. He uses it every year to go to Noroe in company with Mme. Durrien
and Vanda, to visit his adopted family. Although his civil rights have
been accorded to him, and his legal name is Emile Durrien, he has added
that of Hersebom, and among his relatives he is still called only Erik.
The secret desire of his mother is to see him some day married to Vanda,
whom she already loves as a daughter, and, as Erik evidently shares this
desire, we may suppose that it will be realized one of these days.
Kajsa still remains single, with the knowledge that she has lost her
Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord, and Professor Hochstedt still play
innumerable games of whist.
One evening the doctor, having played worse than usual, Mr. Bredejord,
as he tapped his snuff-box, had the pleasure of recalling to his mind a
circumstance which had too long been forgotten.
"When do you intend to send me your Pliny?" he asked, with a wicked
gleam in his eye. "Certainly you can no longer think that Erik is of
The doctor was thunder-struck for a moment by this speech, but he soon
"Bah! an ex-president of the French Republic was a direct descendant of
one of the Irish kings," he said, seriously. "I should not be at all
surprised if Mr. Durrien belongs to the same family!"
"Evidently," replied Mr. Bredejord. "In fact it is so extremely probable
that out of sport I will send you my Quintilian!"