His vigorous constitution triumphed, and he was even able to lend a helping hand in the unlading of the ship. He was a true type of the American, a shrewd, intelligent man, full of energy and resolution, enterprising, bold, and ready for anything. He was a native of New York, he informed his companions, and had been a sailor from his boyhood.
The Porpoise had been equipped and sent out by a company of wealthy merchants belonging to the States, at the head of which was the famous Grinnell.
There were many points of resemblance between Altamont and Hatteras, but no affinities. Indeed, any similarity that there was between them, tended rather to create discord than to make the men friends. With a greater show of frankness, he was in reality far more deep and crafty than Hatteras. He was more free and easy, but not so true-hearted, and somehow his apparent openness did not inspire such confidence as the Englishman’s gloomy reserve.
The Doctor was in constant dread of a collision between the rival captains, and yet one must command inevitably, and which should it be! Hatteras had the men, but Altamont had the ship, and it was hard to say whose was the better right.
It required all the Doctor’s tact to keep things smooth, for the simplest conversation threatened to lead to strife.
At last, in spite of all his endeavours, an outbreak occurred on the occasion of a grand banquet by way of “house-warming,” when the new habitation was completed.
This banquet was Dr Clawbonny’s idea. He was head-cook, and distinguished himself by the concoction of a wonderful pudding, which would positively have done no dishonour to the cuisine of the Lord Chancellor of England.
Bell most opportunely chanced to shoot a white hare and several ptarmigans, which made an agreeable variety from the pemmican and salt meat.
Clawbonny was master of the ceremonies, and brought in his pudding, adorning himself with the insignia of his office—a big apron, and a knife dangling at his belt.
As Altamont did not conform to the teetotal régime of his English companions, gin and brandy were set on the table after dinner, and the others, by the Doctor’s orders, joined him in a glass for once, that the festive occasion might be duly honoured. When the different toasts were being drunk, one was given to the United States, to which Hatteras made no response.
This important business over, the Doctor introduced an interesting subject of conversation by saying—
“My friends, it is not enough to have come thus far in spite of so many difficulties; we have something more yet to do. I propose we should bestow a name on this continent, where we have found friendly shelter and rest, and not only on the continent, but on the several bays, peaks, and promontories that we meet with. This has been invariably done by navigators and is a most necessary proceeding.”
“Quite right,” said Johnson, “when once a place is named, it takes away the feeling of being castaways on an unknown shore.”
“Yes,” added Bell, “and we might be going on some expedition and obliged to separate, or go out hunting, and it would make it much easier to find one another if each locality had a definite name.”
“Very well; then,” said the Doctor, “since we are all agreed, let us go steadily to work.”
Hatteras had taken no part in the conversation as yet, but seeing all eyes fixed on him, he rose at last, and said—
“If no one objects, I think the most suitable name we can give our house is that of its skilful architect, the best man among us. Let us call it ‘Doctor’s House.’ “
“Just the thing!” said Bell.
“First rate!” exclaimed Johnson, “ ‘Doctor’s House!’ “
“We cannot do better,” chimed in Altamont. “Hurrah for Doctor Clawbonny.”
Three hearty cheers were given, in which Duk joined lustily, barking his loudest.
“It is agreed then,” said Hatteras, “that this house is to be called ‘Doctor’s House.’ “
The Doctor, almost overcome by his feelings, modestly protested against the honour; but he was obliged to yield to the wishes of his friends, and the new habitation was formally named “Doctor’s House.”
“Now, then,” said the Doctor, “let us go onto name the most important of our discoveries.”
“There is that immense sea which surrounds us, unfurrowed as yet by a single ship.”
“A single ship!” repeated Altamont.