“I should like to read some of the articles.”
“Would you? Well, you shall judge for yourself.”
“What! can you repeat them from memory?”
“No; but you had Parry’s Voyages on board the Porpoise, and I can read you his own narrative if you like.”
This proposition was so eagerly welcomed that the Doctor fetched the book forthwith, and soon found the passage in question.
“Here is a letter,” he said, “addressed to the editor.”
“ ‘Your proposition to establish a journal has been received by us with the greatest satisfaction. I am convinced that, under your direction, it will be a great source of amusement, and go a long way to lighten our hundred days of darkness.
“ ‘The interest I take in the matter myself has led me to study the effect of your announcement on my comrades, and I can testify, to use reporter’s language, that the thing has produced an immense sensation.
“ ‘The day after your prospectus appeared, there was an unusual and unprecedented demand for ink among us, and our green tablecloth was deluged with snippings and parings of quill-pens, to the injury of one of our servants, who got a piece driven right under his nail. I know for a fact that Sergeant Martin had no less than nine pen-knives to sharpen.
“ ‘It was quite a novel sight to see all the writing-desks brought out, which had not made their appearance for a couple of months, and judging by the reams of paper visible, more than one visit must have been made to the depths of the hold.
“ ‘I must not forget to tell you, that I believe attempts will be made to slip into your box sundry articles which are not altogether original, as they have been published already. I can declare that, no later than last night, I saw an author bending over his desk, holding a volume of the “Spectator” open with one hand, and thawing the frozen ink in his pen at the lamp with the other. I need not warn you to be on your guard against such tricks, for it would never do for us to have articles in our “Winter Chronicle” which our great-grandfathers read over their breakfast-tables a century ago.’ “
“Well, well,” said Altamont, “there is a good deal of clever humour in that writer. He must have been a sharp fellow.”
“You’re right. Here is an amusing catalogue of Arctic tribulations:—
“ ‘To go out in the morning for a walk, and the moment you put your foot outside the ship, find yourself immersed in the cook’s water-hole.
“ ‘To go out hunting, and fall in with a splendid reindeer, take aim, and find your gun has gone off with a flash in the pan, owing to damp powder.
“ ‘To set out on a march with a good supply of soft new bread in your pocket, and discover, when you want to eat, that it has frozen so hard that you would break your teeth if you attempted to bite it through.
“ ‘To rush from the table when it is reported that a wolf is in sight, and on coming back to find the cat has eaten your dinner.
“ ‘To be returning quietly home from a walk, absorbed in profitable meditation, and suddenly find yourself in the embrace of a bear.’
“We might supplement this list ourselves,” said the Doctor, “to almost any amount, for there is a sort of pleasure in enumerating troubles when one has got the better of them.”
“I declare,” said Altamont, “this ‘Winter Journal’ is an amusing affair. I wish we could subscribe to it.”
“Suppose we start one,” said Johnson.
“For us five!” exclaimed Clawbonny; “we might do for editors, but there would not be readers enough.”
“No, nor spectators enough, if we tried to get up a comedy,” added Altamont.
“Tell us some more about Captain Parry’s theatre,” said Johnson; “did they play new pieces?”
“Certainly. At first two volumes on board the ‘Hecla’ were gone through, but as there was a performance once a fortnight, this repertoire was soon exhausted. Then they had to improvise fresh plays; Parry himself composed one which had immense success. It was called ‘The North-West Passage, or the End of the Voyage.’ “
“A famous title,” said Altamont; “but I must confess, if I had chosen such a subject, I should have been at a loss for the dénouement.”
“You are right,” said Bell; “who can say what the end will be?”
“What does that matter?” replied Mr.