Aurora Australis/An Ancient Manuscript

2151578Aurora Australis — An Ancient ManuscriptShellback


Now it is written in the 21st chapter of the 2nd book of the chronicles of the Great King, how that he did in the first year of his reign, and six moons after the Good Queen his Mother had been taken to her fathers, send forth the ship which was called Discovery;

And did say unto the captain, who was a captain of one of the King’s own ships, even a fighting ship;

Go thou unto the uttermost ends of the Earth, to that place where no man has yet trod, and which the wise men of the land do call Antarctica, and spy it out, and come back to me with tidings thereof.

And also it is written that the captain whose name was called Scott, did go with his ship and a goodly company of officers and men, and did diligently seek for that land until he found it.

And all the great works they did accomplish, and the trials and tribulations which did beset them, are they not also inscribed therein, and it is not of these things I would speak unto you.

¶ Now it came to pass that one of the ofiicers of the ship, who was possessed of a spirit which did make him restless, so that he soon did weary of abiding in one place;

And who had wandered over nearly the whole face of the Earth, both on land and on the sea, in small ships and in great, did commune with himself in this wise.

Lo! this many years have I been like unto an outcast, and have spent my substance in travel; now will I take unto myself a wife, and abide henceforth in the land of my fathers.

¶ But! Behold! the spirit which did possess him was not yet dead, but only scotched, which is to say being interpreted, spiflicated, and at the end of the third year it did again awaken, and began to bestir itself forthwith, saying unto the man whose name was Shackleton;

Lo! much of the land which ye went forth to spy out in the ship Discovery is yet undiscovered, and has not therefore been added to the dominions of the Great King.

Now I say unto ye, great shall be the benefit to the people of thy country, when the way to this land has been opened up, and the ships of the King shall be able to travel in safety thereto, and trade with the peoples who dwell therein.

Also, do not the wise men say unto us, that in that land there is set up a great pole of value, which all the nations of the Earth do strive to possess.

Go thou therefore, dwell in this land, travel over the face of the same, tear out its secrets, and should it also be that thy hand shall uproot the great pole which the wise men do call the South Pole; then do I say unto thee that it shall not be forgotten of thee in the years which are to come.

¶ And it came to pass that these words did sink deep into the heart of him who was called Shackleton, so that he did say unto the wife of his bosom;

Behold! though it grieveth me sore to leave thee, yet am I about to gather together my goods and my chattels, and sell them for monies, so that I may buy me a ship, and with men whom I shall myself choose, go again to that land of ice and snow, and of burning mountains;

And there sojourn until I come to the place where is set up that pole which the wise men call the South Pole, and with that and many other things of value in my ship, will I return to the land of my fathers, and great will be the joy of the Great King and of his people.

¶ And because that his wife did see that his heart was set on this thing, she sayeth unto him;

My Lord, not because I would see thee gone from me, but because I would fain see thee accomplish this thing for which thy soul yearneth, I say unto thee; go and sell thy house and thy cattle and all that is thine and take also the gold and silver that is in my privy purse and do with it what thou wilt.

¶ Thus was made light the heart of the man Shackleton, but many were to be his sorrows;

For when he had gathered in all the monies for which he had sold his lands and all his goods, he did yet require many talents of gold wherewith to furnish his ship, which was not yet bought.

Then in his trouble did he say, Lo! are there not many men in the country of the Great King who possess many thousands of talents of gold and of silver, now will I betake myself unto them, and they will gladly give me of their shekels.

¶ Nevertheless it was not so, for one who owned many million pieces of gold did say unto him,

Nay, for I know naught of the land of which ye speak, nor of the pole of value which ye say is set up therein.

And another who did own vast tracts of land and many herds of cattle, answered him thus; Owing to possible territorial changes in the laws of the land do I stand in fear of losing all my possessions, therefore must I say thee nay.

Yet another did speak long and loudly of the many pieces of gold which he did give to the poor, and to the sick and needy, and then did press into the hand of the man who would go exploring, three rolled pieces of dried leaves, which the people of the land do burn in their mouths, in order that they may be comforted.

¶ And it came to pass that the shoes of Shackleton did wear thin on his feet with his wanderings, when he did come to one who had of his stores of wealth given unto the people of the land many thousands of books of great price, so that the people who did receive them became sadly in want by spending their money in keeping them in order, and to him he did say;

Give unto me I pray thee, a little of thy gold that I may fulfil my labours. But the rich man answered him saying, Nay, for in this thing have I no interest.

And one there was who scoffed saying, Go to, what is there in this thing in the which I can make more gold.

And one who was called a broker, which being interpreted meaneth gambler, answered, A business man cannot afford to be sentimental; for which saying no interpretation can be found.

¶ And the heart of Shackleton was heavy, and was sunk even unto his shoes, when there arose a great and mighty man who did build ships for the Great King, and who wrought cunningly in iron, with which he made the ships so strong that they could not be broken, and he did speak in this wise saying;

My son, though my house in which I do dwell, lieth a long journey to the north of the chief city of the Great King, even the city of London, yet hath it come to my ears of the work which ye would perform, and it seemeth good in mine eyes.

It hath also been told unto me that because thy purse is not too heavy, thy way is not clear before thee.

Behold! I have here great stores of gold and of silver, and because thy design hath found favour with me, take of my wealth suflicient for thy needs.

¶ Then indeed was Shackleton a happy man, and he straightway cast about him for a ship which should be strong enough for his needs.

And a certain man rose up and spake unto him saying, Behold! I have a ship which is so strongly built that no tempest can do it any hurt, neither can it be crushed by ice.

Give unto me six thousand pieces of gold, and I will deliver the ship unto thee, with all things in good order and ready for thee to start on thy journey.

And because he was in great haste, Shackleton bought the ship which he had not seen, for it was in a far country, but when it had been delivered unto him, he found that many shekels were needed to make the ship fit to go forth.

¶ Now it will of a surety be seen by all men of understanding, that no man could of himself do everything in this great work; so Shackleton took unto himself a portion of one of the great houses in the city, in the street which is called Regent;

And there did he work for many days assisted by his steward, a man who had had much dealings with food and with raiment, and all such things as would be needed.

Now this house was occupied at the lower part by people who sell food and drink, and above by some who did anoint the hair of those inhabitants of the city who could afford to pay a certain sum of money, so that it would grow strong and it might not be said to them as to the prophet of old, Go up thou baldhead.

¶ And it came to pass that Shackleton, having got together his ship and men to work the ship, and his steward to gather stores of food and raiment, did look round for men tried and trusted whom he might take with him to dwell in that distant land of snow and of darkness.

First did he choose one who was skilled in the arts of reading signs and portents in the clouds and in the stars, and of steering his way on land, or on the waters by means of a wondrous piece of metal marked with divers figures.

Then took he one who had studied at the seats of learning and had knowledge of all kinds of sickness, and who could join together bones which were broken asunder.

And because that they had been in the ship Discovery, and knew of the land and the people and the beasts that dwelt therein, he did take two from the ships of the Great King.

Also one cunning in the art of making pictures in many colours and pleasing to the eye.

And another who was of few years but of great wisdom, in that he could by looking at a stone or a handful of earth, tell whether the land round about had been peopled by man, beast, or creeping things, and could say also if gold, silver, or precious stones might be found, and in how great quantity.

Then was there one who had contrived a chariot of fearsome design, which would travel over the land without horses, even up steep hills and over rocky places, and could also make great noises and noisome stenches to frighten the wild beasts.

Also did he take one greatly skilled in skinning and preserving birds and beasts, and in the art of making dishes to tickle the palate, which he had learned and practised in many lands.

Also chose he one, who though yet a youth was large of muscle and had gained honour at the seats of wisdom, by reason of his knowledge in the art of fisticuffs.

¶ Now! Behold! when all things were made ready, there came unto Shackleton a messenger from the palace of the King, yea even from the Great King himself, saying unto him;

Lo! The King, may he live for ever, hath heard from his Councillors of the noble work which thou wouldest do, and he would have thee take thy ship Nimrod to the city of Cowes, and there abide for a space till he may come to thee.

¶ Straightway therefore, did Shackleton bestir himself, and with all haste betook his ship and his company to the city aforesaid.

And in due time, amid the clang of mock battle and the flaring of trumpets, came on board the Great King, and also did he bring with him the Queen, and the Royal Princes and Princesses his children.

And after that he had surveyed the ship, the King did bestow upon Shackleton a mark of honour, and the Queen did with her own hand graciously entrust unto him a banner of the country, and spake kind words to him and his company, so that their hearts did swell within them.

¶ Now it was even so that the ship Nimrod, although made so strong, did not possess great speed; Shackleton did therefore bid the captain whom he had chosen, to take the ship to that portion of the dominions of the Great King which is called New Zealand, and did also send in the ship two men who were to dwell with him in the strange land.

One of these was of the number of wise men, who did know all things about the fish that swim in the sea, and the beasts and creeping things which do abound therein;

And the other was also a healer of the sick and a mender of sundered bones.

And Shackleton and the rest of the company did abide yet a few days more with their own people, and then departed in large and swift ships to the land of New Zealand.

¶ Now it is well known of all men that many thousands of miles south of the rising of the Sun, there lieth a vast continent which is also part of the dominions of the Great King, and is called Australia.

And it is also known that ships which go to the country of New Zealand, do often call at the ports of this land on their journey thither.

And it came to pass that the ship in which was Shackleton did stop at some of these ports and there abide a space.

And when the people of the country did learn he was there, even in their own cities, then were they rejoiced and made exceeding glad, for the knowledge of the work he would perform had spread unto every country.

¶ Then did the great men of the land and the wise men, gather together and commune amongst themselves, saying;

Behold! the task which Shackleton hath set himself to perform is great, and the good which shall come from it, will it not also be unto us, as unto the country of the Great King.

Let us therefore of our plenty, give unto him five thousand pieces of gold and thus give him a leg up, which being interpreted is to say, help him over the stile. And they all with one consent did exclaim,

Yea! let it be even so.

¶ Now amongst the wise men of the land was one whose fame was noised abroad over the whole earth, for he had travelled from his youth up in every country in pursuit of knowledge and the furtherance thereof, and whose name was called after that of one of the mightiest kings of old time, even David.

And though his years were not few and his hair was whitened unto the likeness of hoar frost, yet was his blood still full of fire and did flow swiftly through his veins;

And his body was lusty and strong as that of a young man, for could he not with one bit which is to say, sallikatowzer, of his clenched hand, totally flummax, or in the modern tongue, put to sleep, a fullgrown and stalwart man.

And he approached Shackleton, saying, Many things have I heard of this land to which thou art journeying, and fain would I see with my own eyes the mountains of fire which are reared up amidst the snow and ice, and all the wonders of this strange country.

Let me therefore bid farewell to my wife and to my children, and come with thee; and Shackleton bade him be of good cheer and come.

Also from this land of Australia took he two more; one of whom was a man learned in many arts and sciences, and who did bid fair to become known amongst the wise men; he was also of great length of limb and appetite.

The other was dark of hair, and short of stature, and had fought in the armies of the Great, King; also was he a mighty hunter.

In the fulness of time came Shackleton and all his people to New Zealand, where his ship Nimrod did await him, and for the space of fourteen days did he abide there.

And the people of the country, both great and lowly, did make him welcome, and did give him and his people many blowouts, which is to say being interpreted, banquets.

And so that they also might assist him in his labours, did they give unto him one thousand pieces of gold, and did lend unto him a great ship built of iron, to help his ship Nimrod through the water.

¶ And it came to pass that on the first day of the year, that all was in readiness, and Shackleton with all his people went into the ship;

And after the High Priest had blessed the ship and the company, they did sail away, and all the inhabitants of the country did come to bid them farewell;

Many thousands of them going on the sea in ships, to see that they went the right way, and had in very truth departed, and the noise of their shouting reached up to the heavens.

¶ Now on the second day there arose a mighty tempest of wind and sea, so that many of the people on the ship were sore afraid, and did yearn for the land.

And it came to pass that the storm did rage for seven days and seven nights without abating, and the waters did rush with great fury over the ship Nimrod and the ship that was with them.

And many of the timbers of the ship were broken by the strength of the waters, and the horses and the dogs which were on the ship were in sore distress.

But behold on the eighth day there came a calm and the waters were stilled, and the winds did cease their raging.

And the wise men did again begin to take sustenance, which they had not done for many days, by reason of their interiors being disturbed by the tossing of the ship.

Yet were they not healed, for when the sun had set, another storm arose, so that many and oft were their journeyings from Oyster Alley where they did live, to that side of the ship which the sailors call the lee.

¶ Now after many days of sore travail and danger, for oft times the ship was threatened by mighty islands of floating ice;

They did come to that great high wall of ice which is there set up, and which is called the Great Ice Barrier.

And there did they diligently search for a certain haven in which to place the ship, and in which the ship Discovery had rested beforetime, but lo! it was not.

Then turned they the ship towards the rising of the sun, and would have gone to that land which has been called King Edward VII Land, in honour of the Great King;

But they could not, for their way was barred by mountains and plains of ice, which were broken up and scattered abroad over the whole face of the waters, in such quantity that no ship fashioned by the hand of man could force its way through, or withstand the pressure thereof.

Many of the great leviathans of the deep did they see, like unto the one which the traveller Jonah of old time did explore, and also vast numbers of the fierce beasts of the sea that do abound in this strange country.

¶ And it came to pass that after many more troublous and weary days, they came to that mountain of fire and smoke which is called Erebus.

And near unto the foot of this burning mountain did they build them a house, and for the space of nineteen days they did lustily labour until they had taken out of the ship sufficient food and raiment and all their goods and chattels, their horses and dogs, and everything that was needed;

Then did the ship Nimrod return to the land of sunshine, where women and men do dwell, leaving Shackleton and his people to sojourn and to labour in the land of darkness.

And the rest of the acts of Shackleton and his people, and the dangers and tribulations that did beset them, will ye find in the next book of these chronicles, which are not yet completed.