A few moments later, she was flung upon the sand in a dying state by a large wave.
This had taken place the night before, just before dawn—that is to say, about two or three o’clock in the morning. Kalumah had then been seventy hours at sea since she embarked!
The young native had no idea where she had been thrown, whether on the continent or on the floating island, which she had so bravely sought, but she hoped the latter. Yes, hoped that she had reached her friends, although she knew that the wind and current had driven them into the open sea, and not towards the coast!
The thought revived her, and, shattered as she was, she struggled to her feet, and tried to follow the coast.
She had, in fact, been providentially thrown on that portion of Victoria Island which was formerly the upper corner of Walruses’ Bay. But, worn away as it was by the waves, she did not recognise the land with which she had once been familiar.
She tottered on, stopped, and again struggled to advance; the beach before her appeared endless, she had so often to go round where the sea had encroached upon the sand. And so dragging herself along, stumbling and scrambling up again, she at last approached the little wood where Mrs. Barnett and Madge had halted that very morning. We know that the two women found the footprints left by Kalumah in the snow not far from this very spot, and it was at a short distance farther on that the poor girl fell for the last time. Exhausted by fatigue and hunger, she still managed to creep along on hands and knees for a few minutes longer.
A great hope kept her from despair, for she had at last recognised Cape Esquimaux, at the foot of which she and her people had encamped the year before. She knew now that she was but eight miles from the factory, and that she had only to follow the path she had so often traversed when she went to visit her friends at Fort Hope.
Yes, this hope sustained her, but she had scarcely reached the beach when her forces entirely failed her, and she again lost all consciousness. But for Mrs Barnett she would have died.
“But, dear lady,” she added, “I knew that you would come to my rescue, and that God would save me by your means.”
We know the rest. We know the providential instinct which led Mrs Barnett and Madge to explore this part of the coast on this very day, and the presentiment which made them visit Cape Esquimaux after they had rested, and before returning to Fort Hope. We know too—as Mrs Barnett related to Kalumah— how the piece of ice had floated away, and how the bear had acted under the circumstances.
“And after all,” added Mrs Barnett with a smile, “it was not I who saved you, but the good creature without whose aid you would never have come back to us, and if ever we see him again we will treat him with the respect due to your preserver.”
During this long conversation Kalumah was rested and refreshed, and Mrs Barnett proposed that they should return to the fort at once, as she had already been too long away. The young girl immediately rose ready to start.
Mrs Barnett was indeed most anxious to tell the Lieutenant of all that had happened during the night of the storm, when the wandering island had neared the American continent, but she urged Kalumah to keep her adventures secret, and to say nothing about the situation of the island. She would naturally be supposed to have come along the coast, in fulfilment of the promise she had made to visit her friends in the fine season. Her arrival would tend only to strengthen the belief of the colonists that no changes had taken place in the country around Cape Bathurst, and to set at rest the doubts any of them might have entertained.
It was about three o’clock when Madge and Mrs Barnett, with Kalumah hanging on her arm, set out towards the east, and before five o’clock in the afternoon they all arrived at the postern of the fort.
THE KAMTCHATKA CURRENT.
We can readily imagine the reception given to Kalumah by all at the fort. It seemed to them that the communication with the outer world was reopened.