For obvious reasons, however, Hobson could not adopt this plan.
From the preceding description we shall have seen that the future house was to consist merely of a ground-floor. The roof was to be high, and its sides to slope considerably, so that water could easily run off them. The snow would, however, settle upon them; and when once they were covered with it, the house would be, so to speak, hermetically closed, and the inside temperature would be kept at the same mean height. Snow is, in fact, a very bad conductor of beat: it prevents it from entering, it is true; but, what is more important in an Arctic winter, it also keeps it from getting out.
The carpenter was to build two chimneys-one above the kitchen, the other in connection with the stove of the large dining-room, which was to heat it and the compartment containing the cabins. The architectural effect of the whole would certainly be poor; but the house would be as comfortable as possible, and what more could any one desire?
Certainly an artist who had once seen it would not soon forget this winter residence, set down in the gloomy Arctic twilight in the midst of snow-drifts, half hidden by icicles, draped in white from roof to foundation, its walls encrusted with snow, and the smoke from its fires assuming strangely-contorted forms in the wind.
But now to tell of the actual construction of this house, as yet existing only in imagination. This, of course, was the business of Mac-Nab and his men; and while the carpenters were at work, the foraging party to whom the commissariat was entrusted would not be idle. There was plenty for every one to do.
The first step was to choose suitable timber, and a species of Scotch fir was decided on, which grew conveniently upon the neighbouring hills, and seemed altogether well adapted to the multifarious uses to which it would be put. For in the rough and ready style of habitation which they were planning, there could be no variety of material; and every part of the house-outside and inside walls, flooring, ceiling, partitions, rafters, ridges, framework, and tiling-would have to be contrived of planks, beams, and timbers. As may readily be supposed, finished workmanship was riot necessary for such a description of building, and Mac-Nab was able to proceed very rapidly without endangering the safety of the building. About a hundred of these firs were chosen and felled-they were neither barked nor squared-and formed so many timbers, averaging some twenty feet in length. The axe and the chisel did not touch them except at the ends, in order to form the tenons and mortises by which they were to be secured to one another. Very few days sufficed to complete this part of the work, and the timbers were brought down by the dogs to the site fixed on for the principal building. To start with, the Bite had been carefully levelled. The soil, a mixture of fine earth and sand, had been beaten and consolidated with heavy blows. The brushwood with which it was originally covered was burnt, and the thick layer of ashes thus produced would prevent the damp from penetrating the floors. A clean and dry foundation having been thus secured on which to lay the first joists, upright posts were fixed at each corner of the site, and at the extremities of the inside walls, to form the skeleton of the building. The posts were sunk to a depth of some feet in the ground, after their ends had been hardened in the fire; and were slightly hollowed at each side to receive the crossbeams of the outer wall, between which the openings for the doors and windows had been arranged for. These posts were held together at the top by horizontal beams well let into the mortises, and consolidating the whole building. On these horizontal beams, which represented the architraves of the two fronts, rested the high trusses of the roof, which overhung the walls like the eaves of a chalet. Above this squared architrave were laid the joists of the ceiling, and those of the floor upon the layer of ashes.
The timbers, both in the inside and outside walls, were only laid side by side.