“The wind is carrying us right to it,” said Altamont. “But I don’t see an inch of land to set our foot upon.”
“It seems so at this distance,” said Johnson; “but we shall be sure to find some place to run in our boat at, and that is all we want.”
“Let us go on, then,” said Clawbonny, dejectedly.
He had no heart now for anything. The North Pole was indeed before his eyes, but not the man who had discovered it.
As they got nearer the island, which was not more than eight or ten miles in circumference, the navigators noticed a tiny fiord, just large enough to harbour their boat, and made towards it immediately. They feared their captain’s dead body would meet their eyes on the coast, and yet it seemed difficult for a corpse to lie on it, for there was no shore, and the sea broke on steep rocks, which were covered with cinders above watermark.
At last the little sloop glided gently into the narrow opening between two sandbanks just visible above the water, where she would be safe from the violence of the breakers; but before she could be moored, Duk began howling and barking again in the most piteous manner, as if calling on the cruel sea and stony rocks to yield up his lost master. The Doctor tried to calm him by caresses, but in vain. The faithful beast, as if he would represent the captain, sprang on shore with a tremendous bound, sending a cloud of cinders after him.
“Duk! Duk!” called Clawbonny.
But Duk had already disappeared.
After the sloop was made fast, they all got out and went after him. Altamont was just going to climb to the top of a pile of stones, when the Doctor exclaimed, “Listen!”
Duk was barking vehemently some distance off, but his bark seemed full of grief rather than fury.
“Has he come on the track of some animal, do you think? “ asked Johnson.
“No, no!” said Clawbonny, shuddering. “His bark is too sorrowful; it is the dog’s tear. He has found the body of Hatteras.”
They all four rushed forward, in spite of the blinding cinder-dust, and came to the far-end of a fiord, where they discovered the dog barking round a corpse wrapped in the British flag!
“Hatteras! Hatteras!” cried the Doctor, throwing himself on the body of his friend. But next minute he started up with an indescribable cry, and shouted, “Alive! alive!”
“Yes!” said a feeble voice; “yes, alive at the North Pole, on Queen’s Island.”
“Hurrah for England!” shouted all with one accord.
“And for America!” added Clawbonny, holding out one hand to Hatteras and the other to Altamont.
Duk was not behind with his hurrah, which was worth quite as much as the others.
For a few minutes the joy of recovery of their captain filled all their hearts, and the poor fellows could not restrain their tears.
The Doctor found, on examination, that he was not seriously hurt. The wind threw him on the coast where landing was perilous work, but, after being driven back more than once into the sea, the hardy sailor had managed to scramble on to a rock, and gradually to hoist himself above the waves.
Then he must have become insensible, for he remembered nothing more except rolling himself in his flag. He only awoke to consciousness with the loud barking and caresses of his faithful Duk.
After a little, Hatteras was able to stand up supported by the Doctor, and tried to get back to the sloop.
He kept exclaiming, “The Pole! the North Pole!”
“You are happy now?” said his friend.
“Yes, happy! And are not you? Isn’t it joy to find yourself here! The ground we tread is round the Pole! The air we breathe is the air that blows round the Pole! The sea we have crossed is the sea which washes the Pole! Oh! the North Pole! the North Pole!”
He had become quite delirious with excitement, and fever burned in his veins. His eyes shone with unnatural brilliancy, and his brain seemed on fire. Perfect rest was what he most needed, for the Doctor found it impossible to quiet him.
A place of encampment must therefore be fixed upon immediately.
[Illustration: Altamont speedily discovered a grotto composed of rocks.—P.234]
Altamont speedily discovered a grotto composed of rocks, which had so fallen as to form a sort of cave.