“He is a man, every inch as much as yourself, Hatteras.”

“And like me, he shall have part in the glory that awaits us.”

“The glory of reaching the North Pole?” asked Altamont.

“Yes,” replied Hatteras, proudly.

“I guessed right, then,” said Altamont.

“And you have actually dared to conceive such a project? Oh! it is grand; I tell you it is sublime even to think of it?”

“But tell me,” said Hatteras in a hurried manner; “you were not bound for the Pole then yourself?”

Altamont hesitated.

“Come, speak out, man,” urged the Doctor.

“Well, to tell the truth, I was not, and the truth is better than self-love. No, I had no such grand purpose in view. I was trying to clear the North-West Passage, and that was all.”

“Altamont,” said Hatteras, holding out his hand; “be our companion to glory, come with us and find the North Pole.”

The two men clasped hands in a warm, hearty grasp, and the bond of friendship between them was sealed.

When they turned to look for the Doctor they found him in tears.

“Ah! friends,” he said, wiping his eyes; “you have made me so happy, it is almost more than I can bear’ You have sacrificed this miserable nationality for the sake of the common cause. You have said, ‘What does it matter if only the Pole is discovered, whether it is by an Englishman or an American?’ Why should we brag of being American or English, when we can boast that we are men?”

The good little man was beside himself with joy He hugged the reconciled enemies to his bosom, and cemented their friendship by his own affection to both.

At last he grew calm after at least a twentieth embrace, and said—

“It is time I went to work now. Since I am no hunter, I must use my talents in another direction”

And he began to cut up the oxen so skilfully, that he seemed like a surgeon making a delicate autopsy.

His two companions looked on smiling. In a few minutes the adroit operator had cut off more than a hundred pounds of flesh. This he divided into three parts. Each man took one, and they retraced their steps to Fort Providence.

At ten o’clock they arrived at Doctor’s House, where Johnson and Bell had a good supper prepared for them.

But before sitting down to enjoy it, the Doctor exclaimed in a jubilant tone, and pointing to his two companions—

“My dear old Johnson, I took out an American and an Englishman with me, didn’t I?”

“Yes, Mr. Clawbonny.”

“Well, I bring back two brothers.”

This was joyous news to the sailors, and they shook hands warmly with Altamont; while the Doctor recounted all that had passed, and how the American captain had saved the English captain’s life. That night no five happier men could have been found than those that lay sleeping in the little snow house.



Next day the weather changed, the cold returned. Snow, and rain, and tempest came in quick succession for several days.

Bell had completed the sloop, and done his work well, for the little vessel was admirably adapted for the purpose contemplated, being high at the sides and partly decked so as to be able to stand a heavy sea, and yet light enough to be drawn on the sledge without overburdening the dogs.

At last a change of the greatest importance took place. The ice began to tremble in the centre of the bay, and the highest masses became loosened at their base ready to form icebergs, and drift away before the first gale; but Hatteras would not wait for the ice-fields to break up before he started. Since the journey must be made on land, he did not care whether the sea was open or not; and the day of departure was fixed for the 25th of June—Johnson and Bell undertaking the necessary repairs of the sledge.

On the 20th, finding there was space enough between the broken ice to allow the sloop to get through, it was determined to take her a trial trip to Cape Washington.

[Illustration: ]

The sea was not quite open but it would have been impossible to go across on foot.

This short sail of six hours sufficiently tested the powers of the sloop, and proved her excellent qualities.

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The Field of Ice Page 46

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Jules Verne

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