He, too, was evidently affected by the mysterious fear which had tamed all the wild animals on the island.
Mrs Barnett was soon bending over the body stretched about the snow.
A cry of astonishment burst from her lips:
“Madge, Madge, come!” she exclaimed.
Madge approached and looked long and fixedly at the inanimate body. It was the young Esquimaux girl Kalumah!
Kalumah on the floating island, two hundred miles from the American coast. It was almost incredible!
The first thing to be ascertained was whether the poor creature still breathed. Was it possible to restore her to life? Mrs Barnett loosened her clothes, and found that her body was not yet quite cold. Her heart beat very feebly, but it did beat. The blood they had seen came from a slight wound in her hand; Madge bound it up with her handkerchief, and the bleeding soon ceased.
At the same time Mrs Barnett raised the poor girl’s head, and managed to pour a few drops of rum between her parted lips. She then bathed her forehead and temples with cold water, and waited.
A few minutes passed by, and neither of the watchers were able to utter a word, so anxious were they lest the faint spark of life remaining to the young Esquimaux should be quenched.
But at last Kalumah’s breast heaved with a faint sigh, her hands moved feebly, and presently she opened her eyes, and recognising her preserver she murmured—
“Mrs Barnett! Mrs Barnett!”
The lady was not a little surprised at hearing her own name. Had Kalumah voluntarily sought the floating island, and did she expect to find her old European friends on it? If so, how had she come to know it, and how had she managed to reach the island, two hundred miles from the mainland? How could she have guessed that the ice-field as bearing Mrs Barnett and all the occupants of Fort Hope away from the American coast? Really it all seemed quite inexplicable.
“She lives—she will recover!” exclaimed Madge, who felt the vital heat and pulsation returning to the poor bruised body.
“Poor child, poor child’“ said Mrs Barnett, much affected; “she murmured my name when she was at the point of death.”
But now Kalumah again half opened her eyes, and looked about her with a dreamy unsatisfied expression, presently, however, seeing Mrs Barnett, her face brightened, the same name again burst from her lips, and painfully raising her hand she let it fall on that of her friend.
The anxious care of the two women soon revived Kalumah, whose extreme exhaustion arose not only from fatigue but also from hunger. She had eaten nothing for forty-eight hours. Some pieces of cold venison and a little rum refreshed her, and she soon felt able to accompany her newly-found friends to the fort.
Before starting, however, Kalumah, seated on the sand between Mrs Barnett and Madge, overwhelmed them with thanks and expressions of attachment. Then she told her story: she had not forgotten the Europeans of Fort Hope, and the thought of Mrs Paulina Barnett had been ever present with her. It was not by chance, as we shall see, that she had come to Victoria Island.
The following is a brief summary of what Kalumah related to Mrs Barnett:—
Our readers will remember the young Esquimaux’s promise to come and see her friends at Fort Hope again in the fine season of the next year. The long Polar night being over, and the month of May having come round, Kalumah set out to fulfil her pledge. She left Russian America, where she had wintered, and accompanied by one of her brothers-in-law, started for the peninsula of Victoria.
Six weeks later, towards the middle of June, she got to that part of British America which is near Cape Bathurst. She at once recognised the volcanic mountains shutting in Liverpool Bay, and twenty miles farther east she came to Walruses’ Bay, where her people had so often hunted morses and seals.
But beyond the bay on the north, there was nothing to be seen. The coast suddenly sank to the south-east in an almost straight line. Cape Esquimaux and Cape Bathurst had alike disappeared.