You may remain the extraordinary calculator which you are, give yourself up entirely to the immense work to which your friends and yourself will devote their existence. I will be the woman in the case and bring to it my pecuniary assistance."
"And we will owe you an eternal gratitude," answered Mr. Maston.
Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt blushed deliciously, for she felt, according to report, a singular sympathy for J.T. Maston. Besides, is not the heart of a woman an unfathomable gulf?
It was really an immense undertaking to which this rich American widow had resolved to devote large sums of money.
The scheme and its expected results, briefly outlined, were as follows:
The Arctic regions, accurately expressed, include according to Maltebrun, Roclus, Saint-Martin and other high authorities on geography:
1st. The northern Devon, including the ice-covered islands of Baffin's Sea and Lancaster Sound.
2d. The northern Georgia, made up of banks and numerous islands, such as the islands of Sabine, Byam-Martin, Griffith, Cornwallis, and Bathurst.
3d. The archipelago of Baffin-Parry, including different parts of the circumpolar continent, embracing Cumberland, Southampton, James-Sommerset, Boothia-Felix, Melville, and other parts nearly unknown. Of this great area, crossed by the 78th parallel, there are over 1,400,000 square miles of land and over 700,000 square miles of water.
Within this area intrepid modern discoverers have advanced to the 84th-degree of latitude, reaching seacoasts lost behind the high chain of icebergs which may be called the Arctic Highlands, given names to capes, to mountains, to gulfs, to bays, etc. But beyond this 84th degree is mystery. It is the terra incognita of the chart-makers, and nobody knows as yet whether behind is hidden land or water for a distance of 6 degrees over impassable heaps of ice to the North Pole.
It was in the year 189- that the Government of the United States conceived the idea of putting the as yet undiscovered countries around the North Pole up at auction sale, and an American society had just been formed with the plan of purchasing this Arctic area and has asked the concession.
For several years, it is true, the Conference at Berlin had formulated a special plan for the guidance of such of the great powers as might wish to appropriate rights under the claim of colonization or the opening of commercial markets. This code was not acceptable to all, and the Polar region had remained without inhabitants. As that which belongs to none belongs to every one, the new Society did not wish merely to occupy it, but to purchase it outright, and so avoid further claims.
There never is in the United States any project so bold as not to find people to regard it as practical and back it with large amounts of money. This was well shown a few years ago when the Gun Club of Baltimore tried to send a projectile to the moon, hoping to obtain a direct communication with our satellite. Was it not enterprising Americans who furnished funds for this undertaking? Large amounts were necessary for this interesting trial and were promptly found. And, had it been realized, would we not have to thank the members of that club who had dared to take the risk of this super-human experience?
Should a Lesseps propose to dig a channel across Europe to Asia, from the banks of the Atlantic to the waters of China; should a well-sinker offer to bore from the curb-stones to reach the beds of molten silicates, to bring a supply to your fireplaces; should an enterprising electrician want to unite the scattered currents over the surface of the globe into one inexhaustible spring of heat and light; should a bold engineer conceive the idea of putting the excess of Summer temperature into large reservoirs for use during the Winter in our then frigid zones; should an anonymous society be founded to do any of a hundred different similar things, there would be found Americans ready to head the subscription lists and a regular stream of dollars would pour into the company safes as freely as the rivers of America flow into the ocean.