Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/386

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deep and stuck fast in the snow. We had to pass three times heavily laden, and twice empty, over every bit of the road, and half our number were scarcely able to move a sledge or boat. After the exertion of some days, raw wounds appeared on the shoulders of several, and, to add to our trials, we suffered intensely from thirst. Nine men were sent back to the ship to bring away the jolly-boat and more stores, and it took just three hours to do the distance which it had cost the advance party eight days to accomplish. On our return to the boats, we found their crews were sitting up, and looking out like young birds in a nest, to see what we had brought from the ship. . . . Happy the man who has any tobacco; happy he who after smoking his pipe does not fall into a faint; happy, too, the man who finds a fragment of a newspaper in some corner or other, even if there should be nothing contained in it but the money-market intelligence, or, perhaps, directions to be followed in the preparation of pease-sausage. Enviable is he who discovers a hole in his fur coat which he can mend; but happiest of all are those who can sleep day and night. Of these latter, tome have stowed themselves away under rowing-seats, and above them reposes a second layer of sleepers; but nothing is visible of either party but the soles of their feet. . . . The end of the Franklin Expedition, and the history of the two skeletons which were found in the boat, is told again for the twentieth time a story which never fails to produce a harrowing effect, and to rouse the firm and resolute to yet greater efforts and self-command. . . . One solace is left us—the solace of smoking. Some, indeed, have exhausted their whole stock of tobacco. He who has half a pouch of it at his disposal is the object of general respect, and the man who can invite his neighbor to a pipe of tobacco and a pot of water is considered to do an act of profuse liberality. Tobacco becomes a medium of exchange among us, and provisions are bought and paid for with it, its value rising every day. There is no difference between day and night, and Sundays are only distinguished by dressing the boat with flags. In this enforced idleness passed away the days between the 9th and 15th of June, save that on the 14th we changed our place by three hundred yards, in order to select a more convenient spot for seal-hunting, and to keep up the appearance of traveling."

The unparalleled hardships of this struggle may be inferred from Lieutenant Payer's remark, page 364, that, "after the lapse of two months of indescribable efforts, the distance between us and the ship was not more than nine English miles."

But the open sea was at length reached, and on the 15th of August the boats were dressed with flags, ballasted, the sledges left behind, and the expedition put off. The party had passed ninety-six days in the open air after leaving the Tegetthoff, when a small boat was deseried, with two men in it, apparently engaged in bird-catching; and, upon turning the corner of a rock, two ships were discovered, within a few hundred yards. They were Russian vessels, engaged in salmon-fishing; and the strangers were received on board with mingled feelings of wonder and sympathy. Lieutenant Payer remarks:

"No grandees could have been received with more dignity than we were. At the sight of the two ukases which we had received from St. Petersburg, and which required all inhabitants of the Russian Empire to furnish us with all the help we needed, these humble seamen bared their heads and bowed themselves to the earth. We had an example before us to show how orders are obeyed by the subjects of that empire a thousand miles from the place where they were issued. But we were received not only in this reverential manner, but were welcomed with the greatest heartiness, and the best of everything on board was spread before us—salmon, reindeer-flesh, eider-geese, eggs, tea, bread, butler, brandy. The second skipper then came on board, and invited us to visit him—the first of a series of invitations. Dr. Kepes was very pressingly invited, for he had a sick man on board his vessel, and our doctor returned with an honorarium of tobacco in his hand. These simple Russian seamen of the arctic seas freely produced their little stock of good things to give us pleasure; and one of them, after observing me for a long time, and thinking that I did not express myself sufficiently strongly for a happy man, persuaded himself that something was the matter with me, and that I wanted something. Forthwith he went to his chest, and brought me all the white bread he had, and the whole remaining stock of his tobacco. Though I did not understand a word he said, his address was full of unmistakable heartiness, and so far needed no interpreter."

We have preferred to let the author of this work speak for himself rather than to attempt any description of it, which would certainly be unsatisfactory within our narrow limits. But we may add that it is a volume of great scientific interest. For half a century arctic adventure has been inspired by a sentiment of rivalry to reach the pole, although more and more it has been recognized that its real object should be the extension of our knowledge of Nature under its remarkable arctic aspects. Lieutenant Payer has entered fully into this view; and his volume is not only charming as a narrative, but contains a great deal of important scientific information.