He was again compelled to return to the fort a disappointed man. But he did not even yet despair, and started a third time, December 7th, 1770; and after a struggle of nineteen months, he discovered the Coppermine river, July 13th, 1772, the course of which he followed to its mouth. According to his own account, he saw the open sea, and in any case he was the first to penetrate to the northern coast of America.”

“But the North-West Passage-that is to say, the direct communication by sea between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—was not then discovered?”

“Oh no, madam,” replied the Lieutenant; “and what countless adventurous sailors have since gone to seek it! Phipps in 1773, James Cook and Clerke in 1776 to 1779, Kotzebue in 1815 to 1818, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and others have attempted this difficult task; but it was reserved to M’Clure in our own day to pass from one ocean to the other across the Polar Sea.”

“Well, Lieutenant, that was a geographical discovery of which we English may well be proud. But do tell me if the Hudson’s Bay Company did not adopt more generous views, and send out some other explorer after the return of Hearne.”

“It did, madam; and it was thanks to it that Captain Franklin was able to accomplish his voyage of 1819 to 1822 between the river discovered by Hearne and Cape Turnagain. This expedition endured great fatigue and hardships; provisions often completely failed, and two Canadians were assassinated and eaten by their comrades. But in spite of all his sufferings, Captain Franklin explored no less than five thousand five hundred and fifty miles of the hitherto unknown coast of North America!”

“He was indeed a man of energy,” added Mrs Barnett; “and he gave proof of his great qualities in starting on a fresh Polar expedition after all he had gone through.”

“Yes,” replied the Lieutenant; “and he met a terrible death in the land his own intrepidity had discovered. It has now been proved, however, that all his companions did not perish with him. Many are doubtless still wandering about on the vast ice-fields. I cannot think of their awful condition without a shudder. One day,” be added earnestly, and with strange emotion—” one day I will search the unknown lands where the dreadful catastrophe took place, and— “

“And,” exclaimed Mrs Barnett, pressing his hand, “I will accompany you. Yes, this idea has occurred to me more than once, as it has to you; and my heart beats high when I think that fellow countrymen of my own-Englishmen-are awaiting succour.”

“Which will come too late for most of them, madam,” said the Lieutenant; “but rest assured some will even yet be saved.”

“God grant it, Lieutenant!” replied Mrs Barnett; “and it appears to me that the agents of the Company, living as they do close to the coast, are better fitted than any one else to fulfil this duty of humanity.”

“I agree with you, madam; they are, as they have often proved, inured to the rigours of the Arctic climate. Was it not they who aided Captain Back in his voyage in 1834, when he discovered King William’s Land, where Franklin met his fate? Was it not two of us, Dease and Simpson, who were sent by the Governor of Hudson’s Bay to explore the shores of the Polar Sea in 1838, and whose courageous efforts first discovered Victoria Land? It is my opinion that the future reserves for the Hudson’s Bay Company the final conquest of the Arctic regions. Gradually its factories are advancing further and further north, following the retreat of the fur-yielding animals; and one day a fort will be erected on the Pole itself, that mathematical point where meet all the meridians of the globe.”

During this and the succeeding journeys Jaspar Hobson related his own adventures since he entered the service of the Company his struggles with the agents of rival associations, and his efforts to explore the unknown districts of the north or west; and Mrs Barnett, on her side, told of her travels in the tropics. She spoke of all she had done, and of all she hoped still to accomplish; so that the long hours, lightened by pleasant conversation, passed rapidly away.

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