Meanwhile, the entire surface of the sea, in every direction as far as their eyes could reach, seemed as if covered with a coating of frosted silver; and, all around the ship, at the water-line, there appeared a brilliant illumination, as if from a row of gas jets or like the footlights in front of the stage of a theatre. Where the sea, too, was broken into foam by the slight motion of the ship, it also gave out the same appearance; and the faint wake astern was as bright as the track usually lit up by the moon or rising sun across the ocean, resembling a pathway of light yellow gold.
When Fritz first saw the reflection, on looking over the side of the ship, he thought that something had happened down below, and that the appearance he noticed was caused by different lights, streaming through the portholes and scuttles.
"What are they doing with all those lanterns in the hold?" he asked Eric in surprise.
The sailor lad laughed.
"No ship lanterns," said he, "are at work here. They say that this queer look of the sea is occasioned by thousands of little insects that float on the surface and which are like the fireflies of the tropics. Don't you recollect reading about them?"
"But then, this light is so continuous," replied Fritz. "It is bright as far away as we can see."
"Yes, I suppose the shoal of insects stretches onward for miles; still, it is only when it is dark like this, with the sky overcast, that you can see them. At least, that is what I've been told, for I never saw such a display before."
"You're 'bout right, my lad," observed Captain Brown, who had come over to leeward, where the brothers were. "I forgit what they call the durned things; but, they're as thick as muskitters on the Florida coast. You'll see 'em all clear away as soon as the moon shows a streak, though. They can't stand her candlelight, you bet!"
It was as the skipper said. Although the illumination of the sea was so vivid that it lit up the ship's sails with flashes as the water was stirred, it died away when the moon shone out. Then, too, the sky lightened all round and the clouds cleared away before the approaching wind which had thus apparently heralded its coming.
Nothing occurred after this to break the monotony of the voyage, beyond a school of whales being noticed blowing in the distance away to the windward one day, about a week after the change of wind.
"There she spouts!" called out a man who was up in the fore cross-trees, overhauling some of the running gear; but the hail only occasioned a little temporary excitement, for the animals were much too far off for pursuit and, besides, Captain Brown wished to land the brothers and clear his ship of all cargo before going whaling on his own account.
This consummation, however, was not long distant; for some sixteen days or so after they had turned their backs on the South American coast, the skipper told Fritz he hoped to be at Tristan on the morrow. This was when he and the captain were having their usual quarter-deck walk in the first watch, the evening of the same day on which they passed the school of whales.
"Yes, sirree," he said, "we've run down to 36 degrees South latitude, I guess, an' wer 'bout 13 degrees West when I took the sun at noon; so I kalkerlate, if the wind don't fail an' the shep keeps on goin' as she is, which is bootiful, I reckon, why we'll fetch Tristan nigh on breakfus-time to-morrow,—yes, sir!"
"Indeed!" exclaimed Fritz. He did not think they were anywhere near the place yet; for, although it was more than two months since they had left Narraganset Bay, the ship appeared to sail so sluggishly and the voyage to be so tedious, that he would not have been surprised to hear some day from the captain that they would not reach their destination until somewhere about Christmas time!
"Ya-as, really, I guess so, mister. No doubt you're a bit flustered at gettin' thaar so soon; but the Pilot's Bride's sich a powerful clipper thet we've kinder raced here, an' arrove afore we wer due, I reckon!"
The skipper innocently took Fritz's expression of surprise to be a compliment to the ship's sailing powers; and so Fritz would not undeceive him by telling him his real opinion about the vessel. It would have been cruel to try and weaken his belief in the lubberly old whaler, every piece of timber in whose hull he loved with a fatherly affection almost equal to that with which he regarded his daughter Celia.
Fritz therefore limited himself to an expression of delight at the speedy termination of their voyage, without hazarding any comment on the Pilot's Bride's progress; by which means he avoided either hurting the old skipper's feelings or telling an untruth, which he would otherwise have had to do.
He was undoubtedly glad to have advanced so far in their undertaking; for, once arrived at Tristan d'Acunha, a few more days would see them landed on Inaccessible Island, when, he and Eric would really begin their crusoe life of seal-catching and "making the best" of it, in solitary state.
Wasn't he up on deck early next morning, turning out of his bunk as soon as he heard the first mate calling the captain at four bells—although, when he got there, he found Eric had preceded him, he having charge of the morning watch and having been up two hours before himself!
However, neither of the brothers had much the advantage of the other; for, up to breakfast time, Tristan had not been sighted.
But, about noon, "a change came o'er the spirit of their dream!"
Captain Brown had just gone below to his cabin to get his sextant in order to take the sun, while Fritz, to quiet his impatience, had sat down on the top of the cuddy skylight with a book in his hand, which he was pretending to read so as to cheat himself, as it were; when, suddenly, there came a shout from a man whom the skipper had ordered to be placed on the look-out forward—a shout that rang through the ship.
Fritz dropped his book on to the deck at once and Eric sprang up into the mizzen rigging, hurriedly scrambling up the ratlins to the masthead, whence he would have a better point of observation; the skipper meanwhile racing up the companion way with his sextant in his hand.
"Land—where away?" he sang out, hailing the man on the fore cross- trees.
"Dead away to leeward, two points off the beam," was the answer at once returned by the man on the look-out, who happened, strangely enough, to be Fritz's whilom acquaintance, the "deck hand!"
"Are you sure?" hailed the captain again to make certain.
"As sure as there's claws on a Rocky Mountain b'ar," replied the man in a tone of voice that showed he was a bit nettled at his judgment being questioned; for he next added, quite loud enough for all to hear, "I guess I oughter know land when I see it. I ain't a child put out to dry nurse, I ain't!"
"There, thet'll do; stow thet palaver!" said Captain Brown sharply, "else you'll find thet if Rocky Mountain b'ars hev claws, they ken use 'em, an' hug with a prutty good grip of their own too, when they mean bizness, I guess, Nat Slater; so, you'd better quiet down an' keep thet sass o' yourn for some un else!"
This stopped the fellow's grumbling at once; and Captain Brown, after proceeding aloft to have a look for himself and see how far the island was off, gave directions for having the ship's course altered, letting her fall off a point or two from the wind.
"I guess I wer standin' a bit too much to the northward," he said to Fritz, who was waiting on the poop, longing to ask him a thousand questions as to when they would get in, and where they would land, and so on; "but thet don't matter much, as we are well to win'ard, an' ken fetch the land as we like."
The island, which at first appeared like a sort of low-lying cloud on the horizon, was now plainly perceptible, a faint mountain peak being noticeable, just rising in the centre of the dark patch of haze.
"Is it far off?" asked Fritz.
"'Bout fifty mile or so, I sh'u'd think, mister," answered the skipper—"thet is more or less, as the air down below the line is clearer than it is north, so folks ken see further, I guess. I don't kinder think it's more'n fifty mile, though, sou'-sou'-west o' whar the shep is now."
"Fifty miles!" repeated Fritz, somewhat disconcerted by the announcement; for, he would not have thought the object, which all could now see from the deck, more than half that distance away. "Why, we'll never get there to-day!"
"Won't we?" said the skipper. "Thet's all you know 'bout it, mister. The Pilot's Bride 'll walk over thet little bit o' water like a race hoss, an' 'ill arrive at Tristan 'fore dinner time, you bet!"
The skipper's prognostication as to the time of their arrival did not turn out quite correct, but Fritz's anxiety was allayed by their reaching the place the same night; for, the mountain peak, which had been noticed above the haze that hung over the lower part of the island, began to rise higher and higher as the ship approached, until its sharp ridges could be plainly seen beneath a covering of snow that enveloped the upper cone and which changed its colour from glistening white to a bright pink hue as it became lit up by the rays of the setting sun—the latter dipping beneath the western horizon at the same instant that the Pilot's Bride cast anchor in a shallow bay some little distance off the land, close to Herald Point, where the English settlement on the island lies.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.
AN OCEAN COLONY.
Fritz and Eric wished to go ashore the moment the anchor plunged into the water and the chain cable grated through the hawse hole; but, darkness setting in almost immediately after sunset, as is usual in such southerly latitudes, their landing had to be postponed until the next morning, when the skipper told them they would have plenty of time to inspect the little ocean colony of Tristan d'Acunha—that is, should not a westerly-wind set in, bringing with it a heavy swell, as it invariably did; for, this would cause them "to cut and run from their anchorage in a jiffy," if they did not desire to lay the ship's bones on the rocks by Herald Point, which he, "for one," he said, had no intention of doing.
However, the wind still remained in the same quarter, blowing steadily from the south-east, which made it calm where the Pilot's Bride was lying—Captain Brown from previous experience knowing the safest berth to take up—so she did not have to shift her berth. When morning broke, too, the brothers had a better view of the place than on the evening before; for then, only a hasty peep at it could be obtained before it was hidden by night.
The small bay in which the ship was moored opened to the westward; and, on the right, a slope of rough pasture land, about a quarter of a mile in width, ran up from the beach to an almost precipitous wall of rock, a thousand feet or more in height—although a sort of misty vapour hung over it, which prevented Fritz from gauging its right altitude. On the left-hand side, the wall of rock came sheer down into the sea, leaving only a few yards of narrow shingle, on which the surf noisily broke. A stream leaped down from the high ground, nearly opposite the vessel, and the low fall with which it tumbled into the bay at this point indicated that there would be found the best landing-place, an opinion which Captain Brown confirmed as soon as he came on deck.
"I guess, though," said the skipper, pointing out a red flag which Fritz could notice just being hoisted on one of the cottage chimneys in the distance, "we needn't hurry 'bout launchin' a boat, fur some o' them islanders are comin' off to pay us a visit an' will take you ashore. Thet's their signal for communicatin' with any vessel thet calls in here. Run up our ensign, Mr Dort," he added to Eric, who stood at his station on the lee side of the mizzen mast; "an' tell 'em to fire the gun forrud, jest to give 'em a kinder sort o' salute, you know. Uncle Sam likes to do the civil, the same as other men-o'-war when they goes to foreign ports!"
These orders were obeyed; and no sooner were the "Stars and Stripes" run up to the masthead and the report of the little gun on the topgallant fo'c's'le heard reverberating through the distant mountain tops—the sound of the discharge being caught up and echoed between the narrow arms of the bay—than a smart whale-boat, pulled by eight men and with a white-bearded, venerable-looking individual seated in the stern-sheets, was seen coming out from the very spot which Fritz had determined to be the landing-place.
They were soon alongside the Pilot's Bride; when the old man—who introduced himself as Green, the oldest inhabitant of the island and with whom Captain Brown had already had an acquaintance of some years' duration—cordially invited Fritz to land, the skipper having explained that he wished to see the place and hear all about it. He told the brothers aside, however, that perhaps they'd better not mention their intention of settling on Inaccessible Island, for the inhabitants of Tristan, who sent expeditions every year on sealing excursions there, might not like to hear this news.
While on their way to the shore with the old man and four of the islanders—the other Tristaners remaining on board the ship to select certain articles they required from her stores and arrange for the barter of fresh meat and potatoes with Captain Brown in exchange—Fritz observed that, some distance out from the land, there was a sort of natural breakwater, composed of the long, flat leaves of a giant species of seaweed which grew up from the bottom, where its roots extended to the depth of fifteen fathoms. This, old Green pointed out, prevented the rollers, when the wind was from the westward, from breaking too violently on the shore, between which and the floating weed was a belt of calm water, as undisturbed as the surface of a mountain tarn.
The landing-place was of fine black sand, showing the volcanic character of the mountain peak above, which Green said was over eight thousand feet high and had an extinct crater on the top; and, when Fritz and his brother had jumped out of the boat, they proceeded up to the little settlement of the islanders, which was called "Edinburgh" out of compliment to his Royal Highness Prince Alfred, who had visited the place when cruising in HMS Galatea, just four years before their landing.
The village consisted of some dozen cottages or so, roughly built of square blocks of hewn stone dovetailed into each other, without mortar, and thatched with tussock-grass. The houses were scattered about, each in its own little garden, enclosed by walls of loosely piled stones about four feet high; but, as it was now the early spring of Tristan, these had very little growing in them. One of the enclosures, Fritz noticed, had a lot of marigolds in flower, another, several dwarf strawberry plants just budding, while a third was filled with young onions; but the majority displayed only the same coarse, long tussock- grass with which the cottages were thatched.
When the brothers came to examine the houses more closely, they were particularly struck with the neatness with which they were constructed and the extreme labour that must have been expended on them.
Apart from the difficulty of procuring wood, which they could only get from stray whaling ships, the islanders are obliged to build their dwellings of stone, in order to prevent their being demolished by the fierce and frequent hurricanes that assail the isolated little spot, exposed as it is to all the rude blustering blasts that career over the expanse of the Atlantic. The cottages are, therefore, put together with a dark-brown, soft sort of stone, which is hewn out in great blocks from the cliffs above the settlement and afterwards shaped with great accuracy and care with the axe. Many of these masses of stone are upwards of a ton in weight; but, still, they are cut so as to lock into one another in a double row to form the main wall, which is some eighteen inches thick, with smaller pieces of stone, selected with equal care as to their fitting, placed in between. There is no lime on the island, so that the blocks are put together on the cyclopean plan, without cement. They are also raised into their places in the same primitive fashion, strong spars being used for inclined planes, up which these monoliths are pushed by manual labour in a similar way to that described in the old hieroglyphics of the Nineveh marbles. With all these precautions as to strength, however, the sou'-westers blow with such fierceness into the little bay where the colony is situated, that many of these massive buildings, Green said, were constantly blown down, the huge blocks being tumbled about like pieces of cork!
The roofs were thatched with the long grass that Fritz had seen growing in the gardens and with which he had later on a closer and more painful acquaintance, the tussock fibres being fastened inside to light poles that were attached to rafters placed horizontally, while the ridges outside were covered with bands of green turf, firmly fixed on.
As for the colony, which numbered some eighty souls in all, it consisted of fifteen families, who possessed from five to six hundred head of cattle and about an equal supply of sheep, with lots of pigs and poultry, each family having its own stock in the same way that each cultivated its own garden; but, there was a common grazing ground, where also large quantities of potatoes were raised—the trade of the island being principally with the American whalers, who take supplies of fresh meat and vegetables, for which they barter manufactured goods, household stuffs, and "notions."
During their visit, Fritz and Eric were hospitably entertained by the old man Green at his cottage, which had three large rooms and was the best in the place; and the roast pig which furnished the main dish of the banquet was all the more toothsome, by reason of the long time the brothers had been at sea and so deprived of fresh meat and those good things of the land, to which they had grown somewhat accustomed during their stay at the comfortable shanty on Narraganset Bay under Mrs Brown's auspices.
Indirectly, too, Fritz found out a great deal about Inaccessible Island; and, the more he heard, the more firmly rooted became his determination to settle there. The seals, old Green said, were numerous enough; but, he added that the islanders were only able to pay a short visit in December every year, and so lost considerable chances of taking more of them.
"Aha," thought Fritz, "we'll be there altogether, and so will have opportunities for taking them all the year round. Tristaners, my good people, look out for your sealskins and oil in future; we, crusoes, are going into the business wholesale!"
When the brothers were rowed back to the ship in the evening—having spent the entire day on the island in noticing what would be most useful to themselves subsequently for the new life they were about to adopt— the other Tristaners who had remained on board choosing goods returned to the shore, promising to send the value of the articles they had selected in beef and potatoes on the following morning. Before turning in for the night, however, Captain Brown gave Fritz to read a newspaper extract which he had posted into his logbook. This detailed the early history of the little colony, and the gist of it was as follows:—
Although discovered as early as the year 1506 by d'Acunha, the first comparatively modern navigator who visited the island was the captain of an American ship—the Industry, a whaler sailing from Philadelphia— who remained at Tristan from August, 1790, to April, 1791, his people pitching their tents on almost the precise spot now occupied by the settlement. At the time of this vessel's visit, it was mentioned that there was plenty of wood of a small growth excellent for firewood; but this Fritz noticed was not the case when he inspected the place during the day, hardly anything but slight brush being apparent beyond the tussock-grass. The American captain also stated that the amount of sea animals of all kinds on the island—whales, seals, and penguins—was almost inexhaustible, his party having procured over six thousand sealskins during their stay of seven months, besides killing more whales than they could find room for the oil from them in their ship! This, too, had become altered during the years which had elapsed, the seals getting scarcer at Tristan now, through the wholesale war carried on against them by the islanders, who latterly, with the exception of the visits they paid to Inaccessible Island and Nightingale Islet—according to old Green's account—had almost abandoned the pursuit for sheer want of sport.
The next mention of Tristan d'Acunha, as related in the printed chronicle Fritz read, was in the year after the American captain's sojourn there, when two British ships of war, the Lion and Hindostan, which were probably East Indiamen, with the English embassy to China on board, anchored off the north side of the island under the cliff of the mountain peak; but, a sudden squall coming on, these vessels had to leave without investigating the place thoroughly, although their commanders described it as being uninhabited at that time.
Nine years later, the captain of another ship that called there found three Americans settled on the island, preparing sealskins and boiling down oil. Goats and pigs had been set adrift by some of the earlier visitors, as well as vegetables planted, and these colonists appeared to be in a very flourishing condition, declaring themselves perfectly contented to pass their lives there. One of the men, indeed, had drawn up a proclamation, stating that he was the king of the country, a title which the others acknowledged; and the three, the monarch and his two subjects, had cleared about fifty acres of land, which they had sown with various things, including coffee-trees and sugar-canes; but, whether this plantation turned out unsuccessful, or from some other notion, the "king" and his colleagues abandoned the settlement—the place remaining deserted until the year 1817, when, during Napoleon Buonaparte's captivity at Saint Helena, the island was formally taken possession of by the English Government, a guard of soldiers being especially drafted thither for its protection, selected from the Cape of Good Hope garrison.
This was, undoubtedly, the foundation of the present colony; for, although the military picket was withdrawn in the following year, a corporal of artillery with his wife and two brother soldiers, who expressed a desire to remain on the island, stayed behind. Since then, Tristan has always been inhabited—the original little colony of four souls having formed the nucleus of the present settlement of over eighty, men joining it at various times from passing whalers, while women were imported from the Cape when wives were wanted. From the fact of these latter being mostly Hottentots, the complexion of the younger men, Fritz noticed, was somewhat darker than that of Europeans. This explained what the skipper meant, on first telling him about the island, when he said the inhabitants were "mulattoes"; although Fritz thought them only of a brunette tinge, for they were of much lighter hue than many Spaniards and Italians whom he had met on the Continent.
Glass, the ex-artilleryman and original founder of the English settlement, was a Scotchman, born at Kelso. He seems to have been a man of great principle and energy, these qualities gaining for him the complete confidence of the little community over which his authority was quite of a patriarchal character. For thirty-seven years he maintained his position as leader, representing the colony in all its transactions with passing ships and showing himself just and honest in his dealings. The islanders had always been English-speaking, and having strong British sympathies, "Governor Glass," as he was styled, received permission from one of the naval officers visiting the island to hoist the red ensign, as a signal to vessels going by. This slight official recognition was all the notice that the settlement has received from England ever since its establishment—that is, beyond the sending out of a chaplain there by the "Religious Tract Society," who remained for five years and when leaving spoke of the members of the little settlement as being so highly moral that they did not require any spiritual ministration, "there not being a vice in the colony to contend with!"
To this latter statement, Fritz found the skipper had appended an eccentric footnote:— "'Cos why, there ain't no rum handier than the Cape, the little to be got from the whalers visiting the spot—an' they have little enough from me, you bet!—being speedily guzzled down by the old birds, an' the young uns never gettin' a taste o' the pizen!"
On Glass's death, he was succeeded in the leadership of the colony by Green, the next oldest man, who now lived in the house of the late founder of the settlement and hoisted the English ensign in his turn. Green was a venerable-looking man, with a long white beard, and seemed, from what Fritz could gather in his different conversations with the islanders, to have successfully followed in his predecessor's footsteps.
Since the Duke of Edinburgh's visit in the Galatea, many other stray men-of-war have occasionally called to see how the islanders were getting on; but the principal trading communication they have has always been with American whalers, some round dozen of which call at Tristan yearly for the purposes of barter.
"An' I guess it's a downright shame," said Captain Brown, when mentioning this latter fact to Fritz, "thet they don't fly the star- spangled banner instead o' thet there rag of a British ensign! If it weren't for us whalers, they'd starve fur want of wood to warm themselves in winter; an', who'd buy their beef an' mutton an' fixins, if we didn't call in, hey?"
"That's a conundrum, and I give it up," answered Fritz with a laugh.
"Ah, you're a sly coon," said the skipper, sailing away to his cabin. "I guess it's 'bout time to bunk in, mister, so I'm off. Good-night!"
"Good-night!" returned Fritz, shutting up the log book and going his way likewise to the small state room set apart for the use of himself and his brother, where he found Eric asleep and snoring away soundly, the tramping about ashore having completely tired out the lad.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.
The next morning, when Fritz got on deck, he found the ship diving and courtesying to her anchor, while an ominous swell came rolling in past her from the westward towards the beach. The surf, too, was breaking against the boulders of the high rocky ramparts that came down sheer from the cliff on the left-hand side of the bay, which was now to the right of where Fritz was standing at the stern of the Pilot's Bride, she having swung round during the night and now laying head to sea.
There was no wind to speak of, although there was evidently a change brewing; still, any one with half an eye could see that the skipper was quite prepared for any emergency, for the headsails of the vessel, instead of being furled up, now hung loose, the gaskets being cast-off and the bunts dropped. The men, also, were forward, heaving away at the windlass and getting up the cable, of which a considerable length had been paid out, the ship riding in over forty fathoms of water.
"Hullo, mister," exclaimed Captain Brown, when he noticed Fritz looking about him, as if perplexed as to what these signs meant,—"I told you we might hev to cut an' run any moment!"
"Why?" said Fritz.
"Can't you see, man," retorted the other. "I thought you'd hev been half a sailor by this time, judgin' by your smart lad of a brother! Why, the wind is jest choppin' round to the west'ard, I reckon; an', as I don't kinder like to let the ship go to pieces on them thaar cliffs to loo'a'd, I guess we're goin' to make tracks into the offin' an' give the land a wide berth."
"Are you going to start soon?" asked Fritz.
"Waall, there ain't no 'mediate hurry, mister; but I allers like to be on the safe side, an' when them islanders bring their second boatload o' taters an' t'other grub, I reckon we'll be off. They've brought one lot already, in return for the dry goods an' bread-stuffs I've let 'em hev; an' when they bring the second, I guess the barg'in'll be toted up!"
Not long afterwards, Fritz saw the islanders' boat coming off from the landing-place. It was pretty well laden, and the swell had increased so greatly that it sometimes was lost to sight in the trough between the heavy rollers that undulated towards the shore. The Tristaners, however, being accustomed to the water and experienced boatmen, did not make much of the waves; but, pulling a good steady stroke, were soon alongside—the bowman catching a rope which was hove from the chains and holding on, while the various contents of the cargo brought were handed on board. This operation had to be performed most dexterously; for, one moment, the little craft would be almost on a level with the ship's bulwarks, while the next she would be thirty feet below, as the billowy surface of the sea sank below her keel.
Eric was beside the skipper, checking the quantities of provisions which had been accurately calculated beforehand, for the Tristaners showed a keen eye to business and weighed everything they bartered for the whaler's goods, when one of the men hailed him. This was the identical young fellow of whom he had spoken to Fritz when first expounding his projected scheme for going sealing to Inaccessible Island, and who, he mentioned besides, had told him all about the place. Indeed, he had actually suggested his going there. Eric had wondered much at not having come across this young man on the previous day when they had visited the settlement, although he looked about for him, so he was doubly pleased to see him now.
"Hullo!" cried out this Tristaner to the young German. "So you are back again, eh?"
"Yes," said Eric. "Come aboard a moment; I want to speak to you."
"All right," exclaimed the other, who was a fine, stalwart young fellow, with jet-black hair and a bronzed face that appeared to be more tanned by the weather than owing its hue to coloured blood; when, in a jiffy, he had swung himself into the chains by the rope attached to the boat's bows and was by Eric's side on the deck of the Pilot's Bride, his face all over smiles.
"You're the very chap I was wanting to see," said Eric, shaking hands with him cordially. "I was puzzled to know what had become of you yesterday. I did not see you anywhere."
"I was away up the mountain, gathering grass," replied the young fellow. "So, you've returned here, as you said you would, early in the year?"
"You told me such fine accounts of the fishing," retorted Eric with a laugh, "that, really, I couldn't stop away. I want to talk to you about it again now. This is my brother," he added, introducing Fritz.
"Glad to know him," said the Tristaner, bowing politely—indeed, the manners of all the islanders struck Fritz as being more polished than what he had observed in so-called civilised society. "Is he going to join you in settling on Inaccessible Island?"
"Yes," replied Eric. "He and I have determined to start sealing there. We have come from America on purpose. Is there anything more you can tell us about it?"
"Have you got provisions to last you a year at the least? You must calculate to hold out so long, for no ship may be able to visit you earlier and you cannot count on procuring much food on the island."
"Oh, yes; we've got plenty of grub," said Eric, using the sailor's term for food.
"And the things besides that I told you would be necessary?"
"You may be certain of that," replied Eric. "The only thing I see that we'll have any difficulty about will be in rigging up a house. I'm sure that Fritz and I will never be able to build a substantial shanty like one of those you have here in your island."
"No, perhaps not," said the young fellow, smiling. "You see, when we are going to run up a house, we all join together and lend a hand, which makes it easy work for us. It would be impossible for one or two men— or many more, indeed. I'll tell you what I'll do for you, though. If the captain of your ship here will promise to bring me back again to Tristan, I will go over there with you for a couple of days or so, to see you comfortably fixed up, as you Americans say, at Inaccessible Island, before you and your brother are left to yourselves."
"Agreed!" exclaimed Eric joyfully. "I will ask the skipper at once."
To dart across the deck to where Captain Brown was now standing by the open hatchway, overseeing the provisions being passed down into the ship's hold, was, for the sailor lad, but the work of a moment!
"Oh, Captain Brown,"—commenced Eric breathlessly, his excitement almost stopping his speech for a second.
"Waall, what's all the muss about?" said the old skipper, turning round and scanning the lad's eager face. "Do you an' your brother want to back out o' the venture naow? I saw you talkin' to thet Tristaner you met here with me in the spring."
"Back out of the project?" repeated Eric very indignantly. "Give up my pet plan, when everything is turning more and more in favour of it, captain? I should think not, indeed!"
"Then, what's the matter?" asked the skipper.
"I want you to grant me a favour," said Eric, hesitating a bit as the other looked at him steadfastly, a half-smile, half-grin on his weather- beaten countenance.
"Thought sunthin' wer up!" ejaculated the skipper. "Waall, what's this durned favour o' your'n?" he added in his good-natured way. "Spit it out, sonny, an' don't make sich a mealy mouth of it!"
"This Tristaner—young Glass, you recollect him, don't you, captain?" said Eric, proceeding with his request—"says he'll come with us and help to build our cabin for us at Inaccessible Island, and settle us—"
"Show you the ropes, in fact, hey?" interrupted the skipper.
"Yes," continued Eric. "He agrees to stop a day or two with us, till we feel at home, so to speak, if you will undertake to bring him back again and land him at Tristan before you go on to the Cape."
"Oh!" exclaimed the skipper, giving expression to a long, low whistle from between his closed teeth. "Thet's the ticket, is it? Waall, I guess I don't mind doin' it to oblige you an' your brother, though it'll take me a main heap out o' my way coastin' up haar ag'in!"
"Thank you; oh, thank you, captain," said Eric, quite delighted with this promise; and he rushed back across the deck to tell the others the good news.
While the young Tristaner was explaining matters to his comrades in the boat—from which all the stores had now been removed that had been brought off from the island and a few extra articles put in, which Captain Brown had made them a present of, as "boot" to the bargain of barter—the wind began to spring up in gusts, causing the ship's sails to flap ominously against the masts.
"Guess you'd better be off," cried the skipper, coming to the side, where the two brothers and the young Tristaner who was going to accompany them stood leaning over, having a parting palaver with those in the boat below. "The breeze is risin', an' if you don't kinder care 'bout startin', I reckon we must. Shove off thaar!"
"All right," sang out one of the islanders, casting off the rope which attached them still to the ship. "Good-bye, and mind you bring our countryman back safe."
"You bet," shouted the skipper. "I'll take care o' him as if he wer my own kin. Now, Eric," he added, "you've got to tend your duties to the last aboard, you know; away aft with you an' see to the mizzen sheets. All hands make sail!"
The topsails were dropped at the same moment and sheeted home, while the jib was hoisted; and the ship, paying off, forged slowly up to her anchor.
"Now, men," sang out Captain Brown sharply. "Put your heart into thet windlass thaar, an' git the cable in! It's comin' on to blow hard, an' if you don't look smart we'll never git out of this durned bay in time!"
Clink, clank, went round the unwieldy machine, as the crew heaved with a will, their movements quickened by the urgency of getting under weigh without delay, and each man exerting the strength of two.
"Heave away, men!" chorussed the mate, standing over them and lending his voice to their harmonious chant. "Heave! Yo ho, heave!"
A few hearty and long pulls, and then the anchor showed its stock.
"Hook cat!" shouted the mate; whereupon, the fall being stretched along the deck, all hands laid hold.
"Hurrah, up with her now, altogether!" came the next cry; and then, the anchor was bowsed up to the cathead to the lively chorus that rang through the ship, the men walking away with the fall as if it had no weight attached to it. The yards were now braced round and the Pilot's Bride began to beat out of the bay against the head wind, which was now blowing right on to the shore.
"Guess we aren't a bit too soon," said the skipper, when the vessel, after her second tack to starboard, just cleared Herald Point. "If we'd stopped much longer, we'd been forced to stop altogether, I reckon!"
"Was there any danger?" asked Fritz innocently.
"Yes, mister; there's allers danger to a shep with a gale comin' on an' a nasty shore under her lee. There's nothin' like the open sea for safety! When you can't come to an anchor in a safe harbour, the best thing is to up cable an' cut and run, say I!"
Inaccessible Island was only about eighteen miles distant from Tristan; but, as it lay to the south-west of that island and the wind blew strongly from almost the same quarter, the Pilot's Bride had to make a couple of long tacks before she could approach sufficiently near for Fritz to see the spot where he and his brother had elected to pass so many weary months of solitary exile.
As the ship beat to windward, passing the island twice on either tack, he was able to notice what a bare, inhospitable-looking place it was.
Its structure seemed pretty much the same as that of Tristan, with the exception that the snow-white cone projecting into the clouds, which was the most noticeable feature in the latter island, was here wanting; but, a wall of volcanic rocks, about the same height as the cliff of Tristan d'Acunha, entirely surrounded the desolate spot, falling for the most part sheer into the sea and only sloping, as far as could be seen from the distance the ship was off, sufficiently on one side to allow of any access to the top. Against this impenetrable, adamantine barrier, on the west, the heavy rolling sea that had travelled all the way from Cape Horn was breaking with a loud din, sending columns of spray flying over almost the highest peaks and making the scene grand but awesome at the same time.
"Well might it be called Inaccessible Island!" exclaimed Fritz, gazing intently at the threatening cliffs and cruel surge.
"Yes, sirree, it kinder skearts one to look at it, don't it now, hey?"
"I should think it more dangerous to approach than Tristan?" said Fritz presently.
"I rayther guess so, mister," replied the skipper. "I rec'lect readin', when I was a b'y, of the wreck of a big East Indyman here bound fur Bombay. She wer called the Blenden Hall, an' I ken call to mind, though it must be nigh fifty year ago, the hull yarn as to how she wer lost."
"Do you?" said Fritz. "I should like to hear about it."
"Waall, here goes, I reckon. You see as how there wer several ladies aboard, an' it wer the plight they wer put in thet made me 'member it all. It wer in the month of July thet it happen'd, an' the vessel, as I said afore, wer bound to Bombay. The weather bein' thick an' the master funky about his latitudes, findin' himself by observation near these islands, he detarmined to look for 'em, in order to get a sight of 'em an' correct his reck'nin'. I guess he hed too much of a sight soon; fur, a thick fog shortly shut out everythin' from gaze, an' lookin' over the side he found the vessel in the midst of a lot o' floatin' weed. The helm wer put down, but by reason of light winds and a heavy swell settin' in to the shore, the same as you just now saw at Tristan, the shep's head couldn't be got to come round. Breakers were now heard ahead, so the jolly-boat wer lowered with a tow-line to heave the bows round; but it wer of no use, as the wind hed failed entirely an' the swell was a-drivin' the shep on to the rocks. An anchor wer then let go, but the depth of water didn't allow it to take hold, so, they lowered the cutter to help tow the shep's head round, along with the jolly-boat, when all of a sudden she struck. The fog wer so thick by then, thet those on board couldn't see the boats alongside, much less the shore. Howsomedever, they cut away the masts, to ease the vessel an' stop her grindin' on the rocks. Soon arter this, the fog lifted when those on board were frit by seein' right over their heads apparently, those very terrific-lookin' cliffs you see in front, just thaar—only thet they wer close into 'em, not more nor half a cable's length off, an' the heavy seas, sich as you ken now see runnin' up the face of the rocky wall thaar, wer breaking boldly right over the shep—"
"And," interrupted Fritz, "what happened then?"
"What could you expect?" replied the skipper. "I guess she wer beaten into matchwood in five minutes; although, won'erful to say, the hull of the passengers, ladies an' all, wer got ashore safely, only one man bein' drowned—an' it sarved him right, as he was one of the crew who tried to escape when the shep first struck, an' leave all the rest to perish! They wer all got to land by a hawser rigged from a peak of projectin' rock to a bit of the wreck; an' the ladies, I read, mister, an' all o' them, lived from July to November on penguins an' seal flesh, which they cooked in part of an iron buoy that they sawed in half fur a kittle, shelterin' themselves from the cold in tents thet they made out of the vessel's sails. I reckon, mister, you'll be kinder better provided fur an' lodged, hey?"
"Yes, thanks to your kindness," said Fritz; "but the island seems completely encompassed by this rocky wall. I don't see where and how we're going to land and get our things on shore!"
"Don't you?" chuckled the skipper. "I guess you'll soon see how we'll fix it."
Presently, Fritz's doubts were solved.
When the Pilot's Bride had worked her way well to windward of the island, the captain fetched down towards the eastern side, where, on rounding a point, a narrow bay lay right before the ship, quite sheltered from the rough swell and wind that reigned paramount on the other side of the coast, storming and beating against the wall-like cliffs in blind fury!
Here, it was as calm as a mill pond; so, the ship was brought to an anchor right in front of a pretty little waterfall that leaped its way by a series of cascades from the cliff above to a level plateau at the base, where a narrow belt of low ground extended for about a mile in front of the bay, its seaweed face being bordered by a broad sandy beach of black sand.
"Oh, that is pretty!" exclaimed Fritz and Eric, almost together in one breath. "It is like the falls of the Staubbach at home in dear Germany."
"I don't know nary anythin' 'bout thet," said the skipper laconically, for the brothers spoke for the moment in their native tongue, carried away by old associations; "but I guess we'll hev to see 'bout gettin' your fixins ashore pretty sharp, fur the wind may change agin, an' then I'd hev to cut an' leave you."
"All right, captain, we're quite at your service," said Fritz; and, a boat being lowered, the various packages containing the brothers' personal belongings, as well as the supply of provisions furnished by the skipper from the ship's stores for their use, were put on board, after which the two then jumped in accompanied by Captain Brown and the young Tristaner, the little party being rowed ashore by four seamen whom the skipper had ordered to assist.
As soon as they landed, the things were carried up the beach; when, the seamen bearing a hand,—directed by Captain Brown, who seemed quite used to the sort of work,—all devoted their efforts towards building a rough sort of house, which would serve the adventurous brothers for a temporary habitation until they could make themselves more comfortable.
Young Glass selected the best site for the building; and the skipper having caused a lot of timber to be placed in the boat, a makeshift cottage was hastily run up, the walls being of blocks of stone without and of wood inside. The islander then thatched this neatly with tussock-grass, which grew all up the face of the cliff, where, as he showed the brothers, it could be utilised as a sort of ladder to gain the plateau on top—on which, he also told Fritz and Eric, they would find droves of wild hogs and a flock of goats that would come in handy for food when their provisions failed.
The Tristaner had promised to remain with them as long as Captain Brown would stay with the Pilot's Bride, that is, for a week or so, if the weather was favourable. However, quite unexpectedly, towards afternoon on the next day—when the cottage was completed, it is true, but they had not as yet had time to explore the island in company with young Glass, in order to be familiarised as to the best spots for sealing, planting their potatoes and vegetable seeds, and so on—the wind shifted again round to the south-east; and no sooner was this change apparent than the skipper had to weigh anchor without a moment's delay, when of course the Tristaner had to embark, or else submit to share the young crusoes' exile.
Captain Brown had remained on shore with them all the time from their landing, and he appeared now very loth to leave them at the last. Really, as they went down with him to the whale-boat in which they had come ashore, there were tears in the old man's eyes, which he tried vainly to hide.
"Pooh!" he exclaimed, stamping his foot vigorously. "It's all them dratted 'skeaters or flies, or sunthin's got inter my durned old optics as I can't see! Hail the ship, Eric my lad, an' tell 'em to send a boat to take us off, will you, sonny?"
"But the whale-boat that we landed in is here, captain," said Eric, thinking the skipper had forgotten all about it.
"Nary you mind thet, my lad," shouted the good-hearted old man; "I'm goin' to leave thet with you fur a present, b'ys, in case you sh'u'd get tired an' want ter shift your quarters to Tristan some day. It's allers best to be purvided with the means of escape, you know, in case of the worst, for the Pilot's Bride might get wracked down 'mongst the islands Kerguelen way, an' no shep might ever call to take you off."
"Oh, captain, how can we thank you!" exclaimed Fritz, overcome with emotion at the skipper's thoughtfulness. "Still, you will come and look us up next year should all be well with you, eh?"
"You bet on thet," replied the worthy old man. "I guess you'll see me next fall, if I'm in the land o' the livin'!"
"And you'll call to see if there are any letters for us at the Cape of Good Hope, won't you? I told our people at home to write there, on the chance of their communications being forwarded on."
"I'll bring 'em sure, if there's any," replied the skipper; and, by this time, a second boat having been sent off from the ship, in which the seamen who had pulled the first whale-boat ashore now took their places, along with the Tristan islander, it only remained for the kind old captain to embark—and then, the brothers would be crusoes indeed!
"Good-bye, an' God bless you, my b'ys," he said, wringing first the hand of Fritz and then that of Eric, in a grip that almost crushed every feeling in those respective members. "Good-bye, my lads; but keep a stiff upper lip an' you'll do! Trust in providence, too, an' look arter the seals, so as to be ready with a good cargo when I come back next fall!"
"Good-bye, good old friend," repeated Fritz, wringing his honest hand again on the old man stepping into the boat, the crew of which raised a parting cheer as it glided away to the ship, leaving the young crusoes behind on the beach!
They watched with eager eyes the sails being dropped and the anchor weighed, the Pilot's Bride soon after spreading her canvas and making way out of the little bay.
Then, when she got into the offing, the skipper, as a final adieu, backed the vessel's main-topsail and dipped her colours three times, firing the bow gun at the same time.
It was a nautical farewell from their whilom comrades: and then the brothers were left alone!
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
TAKING AN INVENTORY.
The westerly wind being, of course, fair for the Pilot's Bride in her run back to Tristan d'Acunha, she soon disappeared in the distance—the snow-capped cone of the larger island being presently the only object to be seen on the horizon, looking in the distance like a faint white cloud against the sky. The evening haze shut out everything else from their gaze: the lower outlines of the land they had so recently left: the vessel that had conveyed them to their solitary home.
Nothing was to be seen but the rolling tumid sea that stretched around them everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, heaving and swelling and with the breeze flecking off the tops of the billows into foam as its resistless impetus impelled them onwards, away, away!
"Well," exclaimed Eric, after a long pause, during which neither of the brothers had spoken, both being anxiously watching the Pilot's Bride— until, first, her hull and then her gleaming sails, lit up for awhile by the rays of the setting sun, had sunk out of sight—"well, here we are at last!"
"Yes, here we are," said Fritz, "and we've now got to make the best of our little kingdom with only our own companionship."
"We won't quarrel, at all events, brother," replied Eric, laughing in his old fashion at the possibility of such a thing. The lad was quite overwrought with emotion at parting with the old skipper as well as his late companions in the ship; and, tears and mirth being closely allied, he would have felt inclined to laugh at anything then—just because he couldn't cry!
"I don't suppose we will," said the other—"that is, not intentionally. But, brother, we will have to guard our tempers with a strong hand; for, when two persons are thrown together in such close association as we shall be during the next ensuing months—with no one else to speak to and no authority to control us, save our own consciences and the knowledge of the all-seeing Eye above, weighing and considering our actions—it will require a good deal of mutual forbearance and kindly feeling on the part of one towards the other to prevent us from falling out sometimes, if only for a short while. Even brothers like us, Eric, who love each other dearly, may possibly fall out under such trying circumstances!"
"Aye, but we mustn't," said Eric. "Instead of falling out, we'll fall into each other's arms whenever we agree to differ, as old nurse Lorischen would have said!" and he gave his brother an enthusiastic hug as he spoke, putting his words into action with a suddenness that almost threw Fritz off his feet.
"Hullo!" exclaimed the latter good-humouredly, smiling as he disengaged himself from Eric's bear-like embrace. "Gently lad. Your affectionate plan, I'm afraid, would sometimes interfere with the progress of our work; but talking of that, as the vessel has now disappeared, there's no use in our standing here any longer looking at the sea. Suppose we begin to make ourselves at home and arrange our things in the snug little cottage which our good friends have built for us?"
"Right you are!" responded Eric, starting off towards the cliff, under the lee of which the Tristaner had directed the hut to be built, so that it might be sheltered from the strong winds of the winter, which would soon have blown it down had it been erected in a more exposed situation.
Fritz followed more leisurely to the level plateau by the waterfall, where stood their cottage.
Here, arresting his footsteps, he remained a moment surveying the little domain before joining his brother, who had already rushed within the building.
That boy was all impulse: always eager to be doing something!
The territory of the young crusoes was of limited dimensions. Extending about a mile laterally, it was bounded on either side by lofty headlands that projected into the sea, enclosing the narrow strip of beach that lay between in their twin arms. The depth of the valley inwards was even more confined by a steep cliff, down whose abrupt face slipped and hopped through a gorge, or gully, a little rivulet. This stream, on its progress being arrested by a shelf in front of the rocky escarpment, tumbled over the obstacle in a sheet of cloud-like spray, being thus converted into a typical "waterfall" that resembled somewhat that of Staubbach, as the brothers had noticed when making their first observations from the ship. The rivulet, collecting its scattered fragments below, made its way to the beach in a meandering course, passing by in its passage the slight hollow in the plateau at the base of the furthermost crag, close by where the cottage was situated.
The "location," as Captain Brown would have termed the sloping ground between the cliff and the sea, was certainly not an extensive one; for, in the event of their wishing to expand their little settlement, in the fashion of squatters out West, by "borrowing" land from adjacent lots, the inexorable wall of volcanic rock to the rear of the plateau and on its right and left flank forbade the carrying out of any such scheme; still, the place was big enough for their house, besides affording room for a tidy-sized garden—that is, when the two had time to dig up the soil and plant the potatoes and other seed which the skipper had provided them with, so that they might have a supply of vegetables anon.
At first sight, there did not appear to be any means of exit from this little valley; for, the steep cliffs that hedged in its sides and back lifted themselves skywards to the height of nearly a thousand feet, while their fronts were generally so smooth and perpendicular that it would have been impossible even for a monkey to have climbed them—much less human beings, albeit one was a sailor and pretty well accustomed to saltatory feats! But, on their inspecting the apparently insurmountable breastwork a little closer, Fritz noticed, as the young Tristaner had pointed out to them, that, by the side of the gorge through which the waterfall made its erratic descent to the lower level, the face of the cliff was more strongly indented; so that, by using the tussock-grass, which grew there in great abundance, as a sort of scaling ladder, and taking advantage of the niches in the rock to step upon where this failed, the summit could be thus easily gained. The top, however, was so far away from the beach and the foothold so insecure that the work of ascending the crag would be a most hazardous proceeding at the best of times, to the elder brother at all events.
While Fritz was thus cogitating, and diligently studying the features of the scene around, Eric was waiting for him impatiently at the door of the rough-looking hut which the sailors had built for them under the superintendence of Captain Brown and the Tristaner.
The young sailor was too restless to remain quiet very long.
"Do come along, brother!" he called out after a while. "What a time you are, to be sure; we'll never be able to unpack our things before it's dark, unless you look sharp!"
"All right, I'm coming," replied the other; and he was soon by the side of Eric, who had already begun to overhaul the various articles that had been brought up from the boat by the sailors and piled up in a corner of the hut.
"What a lot of things!" exclaimed the lad. "Why, there are ever so many more parcels than I thought there were!"
"Yes," said his brother; "it is all that good Captain Brown's doing, I suppose. When we were parting, he told me that he had left me a few 'notions,' besides our own traps."
"He has too, brother. Just look here at this barrel of beef; you didn't pay him for that, eh?"
"No," said Fritz; "I only bought some pork and ship's biscuits, besides flour and a few groceries."
"Then he has thought of much that we forgot," remarked Eric with considerable satisfaction. "I don't think our groceries included preserved peaches and tinned oysters, Fritz; yet, here they are!"
"You don't say so—the kind old fellow!" exclaimed Fritz; and then he, too, set to work examining the stores as eagerly as his brother.
Before leaving Providence, the two had purchased a couple of spades and shovels, an American axe, a pick, a rake, a wheelbarrow, and a hoe for agricultural purposes—the skipper having told them that the soil would be fertile enough in the summer at Inaccessible Island for them to plant most sorts of kitchen produce, which they would find of great help in eking out the salted provisions they took from the ship, besides being better for their health; while, to give emphasis to his advice, he presented them with a plentiful stock of potatoes to put into the ground, besides garden seed.
For cooking, the brothers were provided with a large kettle and frying pan, a couple of saucepans, several knives and forks, some crockery, and, in addition, a large iron cauldron for melting down seal blubber; for hunting purposes, to complete the list of their gear, they had two harpoons, a supply of fishing hooks and a grapnel, two Remington rifles—besides Fritz's needle-gun which he had used in the first part of the Franco-German war, before he became an officer and was entitled to carry a sword—a supply of cartridges, five pounds of loose powder, lead for making bullets, and a mould.
Among their weapons, also, was an old muzzle-loading fowling piece for which shot had been taken, Fritz thinking that it might come in handy for shooting birds—although, as he subsequently found out, all of the feathered tribe they saw were penguins, and these did not require any expenditure of powder and shot on their behalf, being easily knocked down with a stick.
Nor did they forget to bring with them three or four strong sheath knives, for skinning the seals and any other use for which they were applicable; and, to add to their stock of cutlery implements, the skipper had presented Fritz with a serviceable bowie knife, whose broad double-dagger-like blade was powerful enough to cut down a tree on an emergency or make mince-meat of an enemy!
Fritz had likewise purchased in Rhode Island a good stock of winter clothing for himself and Eric, a couple of thick blanket rugs, and two empty bed-tick covers—to be afterwards filled with the down they should procure from the sea birds. He bought, too, a strong lamp, with a supply of paraffin oil, and several dozen boxes of matches; so that he and Eric should not have to adopt the tinder and flint business, or be obliged to rub two pieces of dry stick together, in the primitive fashion of the Australian aborigines, when they wanted a light.
So much for their equipment.
For their internal use, Fritz had selected from the ship's stores a barrel of salt pork, two hundred-weight of rice, one hundred pounds of hard biscuit, two hundred-weight of flour, twenty pounds of tea and thirty of coffee, and a barrel of sugar; besides which, in the way of condiments and luxuries, their stores included three pounds of table salt, some pepper, a gallon of vinegar, a jar of pickles, a bottle of brandy and some Epsom salts in the view of possible medical contingencies. The skipper also advised their taking a barrel of coarse salt to cure their sealskins with, as well as empty casks to contain what oil they managed to boil down.
These were their own stores; but, imagine the surprise of Fritz and his brother, when they found that Captain Brown had added to their stock the welcome present of a barrel of salt beef and a couple of hams, a good- sized cheese, and some boxes of sardines, besides the preserved fruits and pickled oysters which Eric had already discovered.
Nor did the skipper's kindness stop here. He had packed up with their things a couple of extra blankets, which they subsequently found of great comfort in the cold weather, in addition to their rugs; a wide piece of tarpaulin to cover their hut with; a few short spars and spare timber; and, lastly, a clock—not to speak of the valuable whale-boat which he had thought of just as he was going away and had presented to them all standing, with oars, mast and sails in complete trim.
"I declare," said Fritz, "he has been better than a father to us all through. I never heard of such good nature in my life!"
"Nor I," responded Eric, equally full of gratitude. "Celia, too, before I left Providence, gave me a nice little housewife, wherewith I shall mend all our things when they want repairing, besides which, she made ma a present of quite a little library of books."
"And I've brought all mine as well," said Fritz, unrolling a large package as he spoke.
"We'll not be hard up for reading, at any rate," remarked Eric, laughing joyously. "Food for the mind as well as food for the body, eh?"
"Yes," said Fritz; "plenty of both."
"But, how on earth shall we ever be able to get through all this lot of grub?"
"Ah, we won't find it a bit too much," said Fritz.
"What, for only us two, brother?" exclaimed Eric in astonishment.
"You forget it has got to last us more than a year, for certain; while, should the Pilot's Bride not visit us again next autumn, it will be all we may have to depend on for twice that length of time."
"Oh, I forgot that."
"If you could see the pile of rations which one regiment alone of men manages to consume in a week, the same as I have, Eric, you would not wonder so much at the amount of our supplies."
"But think, brother, a regiment is very different to two fellows like us!"
"Just calculate, laddie," answered the other, "the food so many men would require for only one day; and then for us two, say, for seven hundred days—where's the difference?"
"Ah, I see," said Eric, reflecting for a moment. "Perhaps there won't be too much, after all, eh?"
"Wait till this time next year, and see what we shall have left then, laddie!"
"But, remember the goats and pigs on the top of the mountain which the Tristaner spoke to us about. We'll have those for food as well, won't we?"
"Wait till we catch them," remarked Fritz dryly; adding shortly afterwards, "We'd better stop talking now, however, and see about getting our bed things ready for turning in for the night. Recollect, we'll have a busy day of it to-morrow."
"Ah, I shall go up and explore the mountain top, brother, the first thing in the morning," said Eric impulsively. "I'm dying to see what it's like!"
"We have more important things to do, before satisfying our curiosity," observed the other. "Don't you recollect the garden?"
"I declare I forgot it, brother, for the moment, although there's no need for us to hurry about that."
"The sooner we plant the seed, the sooner it will grow up," said Fritz gravely. "Remember, old fellow, it is late in the spring now here; and, unless the things are put into the ground without further delay, Captain Brown said we need not hope to have any return from them this year."
"All right, Fritz," replied Eric cheerfully, the name of the skipper having the talismanic effect of making him curb his own wishes anent the immediate exploration of the island, which he had planned out for the next day's programme. "We'll do the garden first, brother, if you like."
"I think that will be wisest," said Fritz. "But now let us arrange our bunks and have a bit of something to eat from the little basket the steward put up for us before coming ashore. After that, we must go to roost like the penguins outside, for it is nearly dark."
"Aye, aye, sir," responded Eric, touching his cap with mock deference.
"You just do that again!" said Fritz, threatening him in a joking way.
"Or, what?" asked the other, jumping out of his reach in make-believe terror.
"I'll eat your share of this nice supper as well as mine."
"Oh, a truce then," cried Eric, laughing and coming back to his brother's side; when the two, sitting down in the hut, whose interior now looked very comfortable with the lamp lit, they proceeded to demolish the roast fowl and piece of salt pork which Captain Brown had directed the steward to put into a basket for them, so that they should be saved the trouble of cooking for themselves the first day of their sojourn on the island, as well as enjoy a savoury little repast in their early experience of solitude.
"I say," remarked Eric, with his mouth full. "This is jolly, ain't it!"
"Yes, pretty well for a first start at our new life," replied Fritz, eating away with equal gusto. "I only hope that we'll get on as favourably later on."
"I hope so, too, brother," responded the other. "There's no harm in wishing that, is there?"
"No," said Fritz. "But, remember, the garden to-morrow."
"I shan't forget again, old fellow, with you to jog my memory!"
"Ah, I'll not omit my part of it, then," retorted Fritz, joining in Eric's laughter. Then, the brothers, having finished their meal, turned out their lamp; and, throwing themselves down on a heap of rugs and blankets which they had piled together in a corner of the hut, they were soon asleep, completely tired out with all the fatigues and exertions of the eventful day.
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
GARDENING UNDER DIFFICULTIES.
If the brothers thought that they were going to hold undisputed sway over the island and be monarchs of all they surveyed, they were speedily undeceived next morning!
When they landed from the ship on the day before, in company with the captain and boat's crew, all had noticed the numbers of penguins and rock petrels proceeding to and from the sea—the point from whence they started and the goal they invariably arrived at being a tangled mass of brushwood and tussock-grass on the right of the bay, about a mile or so distant from the waterfall on the extreme left of the hut.
The birds had kept up an endless chatter, croaking, or rather barking, just like a number of dogs quarrelling, in all manner of keys, as they bustled in and out of the "rookery" they had established in the arm of the cliff; and Fritz and Eric had been much diverted by their movements, particularly when the feathered colonists came out of the water from their fishing excursions and proceeded towards their nests.
The penguins, especially, seemed to possess the diving capabilities of the piscine tribe, for they were able to remain so long under the surface that they approached the beach without giving any warning that they were in the neighbourhood. Looking out to sea, as the little party of observers watched them, not a penguin was to be seen. Really, it would have been supposed that all of them were on shore, particularly as those there made such a din that it sounded as if myriads were gathered together in their hidden retreat; but, all at once, the surface of the water, some hundred yards or so from the beach, would be seen disturbed, as if from a catspaw of a breeze, although what wind there was blew from the opposite quarter, and then, a ripple appeared moving in towards the land, a dark-red beak and sometimes a pair of owlish eyes showing for a second and then disappearing again. The ripple came onwards quickly, and the lookers-on could notice that it was wedge-shaped, in the same fashion as wild geese wing their way through the air. A moment later, a band of perhaps from three to four hundred penguins would scramble out on to the stones with great rapidity, at once exchanging the vigorous and graceful movements for which they were so remarkable while in the water for the most ludicrous and ungainly ones possible now that they were on terra firma; for, they tumbled about on the shingle and apparently with difficulty assumed the normal position which is their habit when on land—that of standing upright on their feet. These latter are set too far back for their bodies to hang horizontally; so, with their fin-like wings hanging down helplessly by their sides, they look ashore, as Fritz said to Eric, "just the very image of a parcel of rough recruits" going through their first drill in the "awkward squad!"
When the penguins got fairly out of the water, beyond reach of the surf—which broke with a monotonous motion on the beach in a sullen sort of way, as if it was curbed by a higher law for the present, but would revenge itself bye-and-bye when it had free play—they would stand together in a cluster, drying and dressing themselves, talking together the while in their gruff barking voice, as if congratulating each other on their safe landing; and then, again, all at once, as if by preconcerted order, they would start scrambling off in a body over the stony causeway that lay between the beach and their rookery in the scrub, many falling down by the way and picking themselves up again by their flappers, their bodies being apparently too weighty for their legs. The whole lot thus waddled and rolled along, like a number of old gentlemen with gouty feet, until they reached one particular road into the tussock-grass thicket, which their repeated passage had worn smooth; and, along this they passed in single file in the funniest fashion imaginable. The performance altogether more resembled a scene in a pantomime than anything else!
This was not all, either.
The onlookers had only seen half the play; for, no sooner had this party of excursionists returned home than another band of equal numbers appeared coming out of the rookery from a second path, almost parallel with the first but distinctly separated by a hedge of brushwood—so as to prevent the birds going to and from the sea from interfering with each other's movements.
These new—comers, when they got out of the grass on to the beach—which they reached in a similar sprawling way to that in which the others had before traversed the intervening space, "jest as if they were all drunk, every mother's son of 'em!" as the skipper had said—stopped, similarly, to have a chat, telling each other probably their various plans for fishing; and then, after three or four minutes of noisy conversation, in which they barked and growled as if quarrelling vehemently, they would scuttle down with one consent in a group over the stones into the water.
From this spot, once they had dived in, a long line of ripples, radiating outwards towards the open sea, like that caused by a pebble flung into a pond, was the only indication, as far as could be seen, that the penguins were below the surface, not a head or beak showing.
Such was the ordinary procedure of the penguins, according to what Fritz and the others noticed on the first day of the brothers' landing on the island.
A cursory glance was also given to the movements of the curious little rock hoppers and petrels. These made burrows in the ground under the basaltic debris at the foot of the cliffs, just like rabbits, popping in and out of their subterranean retreats in the same way as people travelling in the American backwoods have noticed the "prairie dogs" do; but, both the brothers, as well as the men from the Pilot's Bride, were too busy getting the hut finished while daylight lasted and carrying up the stores from the beach to the little building afterwards, to devote much time to anything else.
When, too, the captain and seamen returned on board and the ship sailed, leaving Fritz and Eric alone, they had quite enough to occupy all their time with unpacking their things and preparing for the night, without thinking of the penguins; although they could hear their confused barking noise in the distance, long after nightfall, above the singing of the wind overhead through the waterfall gully and the dull roar of the surf breaking against the western side of the coast. The brothers, however, were too tired to keep awake long, soon sinking into a heavy sleep that was undisturbed till the early morning.
But, when day broke, the penguins would not allow their existence to be any longer forgotten, the brothers being soon made aware of their neighbourhood.
Eric, the sailor lad, accustomed to early calls at sea when on watch duty, was the first to awake.
"Himmel!" he exclaimed, stretching his arms out and giving a mighty kick out with his legs so as to thoroughly rouse himself. He fancied that he heard the mate's voice calling down the hatchway, while summoning the crew on deck with the customary cry for all hands. "What's all the row about—is the vessel taken aback, a mutiny broken loose, or what?"
"Eh?" said Fritz sleepily, opening his eyes with difficulty and staring round in a puzzled way, unable at first to make out where he was, the place seemed so strange.
"Why, whatever is the matter?" repeated Eric, springing up from amongst the rugs and blankets, which had made them a very comfortable bed. "I thought I was on board the Pilot's Bride still, instead of here! Listen to that noise going on outside, Fritz? It sounds as if there were a lot of people fighting—I wonder if there are any other people here beside ourselves?"
"Nonsense!" said his brother, turning out too, now thoroughly awake. "There's no chance of a ship coming in during the night; still, there certainly is a most awful row going on!—What can it be?"
"We'll soon see!" ejaculated Eric, unfastening a rude door, which they had made with some broken spars, so as to shut up the entrance to the hut, and rolling away the barrels that had been piled against it, to withstand any shock of the wind from without. The brothers did not fear any other intruder save some blustering south-easter bursting in upon them unexpectedly.
"Well!" sang out Fritz, as soon as the lad had peered without—"do you see anybody?"
"No," replied Eric, "not a soul! I don't notice, either anything moving about but some penguins down on the beach. They are waddling about there in droves."
"Ah, those are the noisy gentlemen you hear," responded the other, coming to the doorway and looking around. "Don't you catch the sound more fully now?"
"I would rather think I did," said Eric. "I would be deaf otherwise!"
There was no doubt of the noise the birds made being audible enough!
The barking, grunting, yelping cries came in a regular chorus from the brushwood thicket in the distance, sometimes fainter and then again with increased force, as if fresh voices joined in the discordant refrain.
The noise of the birds was exactly like that laughing sort of grating cry which a flock of geese make on being frightened, by some passer-by on a common, say, when they run screaming away with outstretched wings, standing on the tips of their webbed feet as if dancing—the appearance of the penguins rushing in and out of the tussock clump where their rookery was, bearing out the parallel.
"They are nice shipmates, that's all I can say!" remarked Eric presently, after gazing at the movements of the birds for some little time and listening to the deafening din they made. "They seem to be all at loggerheads."
"I dare say if we understood their language," said Fritz, "we would know that each of their different cries has a peculiar signification of its own. Perhaps, they are talking together sociably about all sorts of things."
"Just like a pack of gabbling old women, you mean!" exclaimed Eric. "I should like to wring all their necks for waking us up so early!"
"Not a bit too soon," observed Fritz. "See, the sun is just rising over the sea there; and, as we turned in early last night, there is all the better reason for our being up betimes this morning, considering all there is for us to do before we can settle down regularly to the business that brought us here. What a lovely sunrise!"
"Yes, pretty fairish to look at from the land," replied the other, giving but a half-assent to his brother's exclamation of admiration. "I've seen finer when I was with Captain Brown last voyage down below the Cape near Kerguelen. There, the sun used to light up all the icebergs. Himmel, Fritz, it was like fairyland!"
"That might have been so," responded the elder of the two, in his grave German way when his thoughts ran deep; "but, this is beautiful enough for me."
And so it might have been, as he said—beautiful enough for any one!
The moon had risen late on the previous night, and when Fritz and Eric turned out it was still shining brightly, with the stars peeping out here and there from the blue vault above; while, the wind having died away, all the shimmering expanse of sea that stretched away to the eastwards out of the bay shone like silver, appearing to be lazily wrapped in slumber, and only giving vent to an occasional long hum like a deeply drawn breath. But, all in a moment, the scene was changed—as if by the wave of an enchanter's wand.
First, a rosy tinge appeared, creeping up from below the horizon imperceptibly and spreading gradually over the whole arc of sky, melting presently into a bright, glowing madder hue that changed to purple, which faded again into a greenish neutral tint that blended with the faint ultramarine blue of the zenith above. The bright moonlight now waning, was replaced for an instant or two only—the transition was so short—by a hazy, misty chiaro-oscuro, which, in another second, was dissolved by the ready effulgence of the solar rays, that darted here, there, and everywhere through it, piercing the curtain of mist to the core as it annihilated it.
Then, the sun rose.
But no, it did not rise in the ordinary sense of the expression; it literally jumped up at once from the sea, appearing several degrees above the horizon the same instant almost that Fritz and Eric caught sight of it and before they could realise its presence, albeit their eyes were intently fixed all the while on the point where it heralded its coming by the glowing vapours sent before.
"Ah!" exclaimed Fritz, drawing a deep breath when this transformation of nature was complete, the light touching up the projecting peaks of the cliff and making a glittering pathway right into the bay. "This sight is enough to inspire any one. It ought to make us set to our work with a good heart!"
"Right you are," responded Eric, who was equally impressed with the magic scene—in spite of his disclaimer about having seen a better sunrise in antarctic seas. "As soon as we've had breakfast, for I confess I feel peckish again—it's on account of going to bed so early, I suppose!—I'm ready to bear a hand as your assistant and help you with the garden. But, who shall be cook? One of the two of us had better take that office permanently, I think; eh, Fritz?"
"You can be, if you like," said the other. "I fancy you have got a slight leaning that way, from what I recollect of you at home."
"When I used to bother poor old Lorischen's life out of her, by running into the kitchen, eh?"
"Yes, I remember it well."
"Ah, that was when I was young," said Eric, laughing. "I wouldn't do it now, when I am grown up and know better!"
"Grown up, indeed! you're a fine fellow to talk of being of age with your seventeen years, laddie!"
"Never mind that," retorted Eric; "I mayn't be as old as you are; but, at all events, I flatter myself I know better how to cook than a sub- lieutenant of the Hanoverian Tirailleurs!"
So saying, the lad proceeded to make a fire and put the kettle on in such a dexterous manner that it showed he was to the manner born, so to speak; Fritz helping to aid the progress of the breakfast by fetching water from a pool which the cascade had hollowed out for itself at the point where it finally leapt to level ground and betook itself to the sea in rivulet fashion.
The brothers only trenched on their stores to the extent of getting out some coffee and sugar, the remains of their supper being ample to provide them with their morning meal; and, after partaking of this, armed with their wheelbarrow and other agricultural implements, besides a bag of potatoes and some seed for planting, they sallied forth from the hut in the direction of the penguin colony.
Here, the Tristaner told them, they would find the best spot for a garden, the soil being not only richer and easier to cultivate but it was the only place that was free from rock, and not overrun by the luxuriant tussock-grass which spread over the rest of the land that was not thicket.
Proceeding to the right-hand side of the cliff under which their hut was built, they descended the somewhat sloping and broken ground that led in the direction of the penguin colony, the noise from which grew louder and louder as they advanced, until it culminated in a regular ear- deafening chorus.
When they had reached the distance of about a quarter of a mile, they came to a closely grown thicket, principally composed of a species of buckthorn tree that grew to the height of some thirty feet although of very slender trunk, underneath which was a mass of tangled grass and the same sort of debris from the cliff as that whereon their hut stood. The place was overgrown with moss and beautiful ferns, while several thrushes were to be seen amongst the branches of the trees just like those at home, although the brothers did not think they sang as sweetly: they whistled more in the way of the blackbird. The ground here, too, was quite honeycombed with the burrows of the little petrels, and into these their footsteps broke every moment. It was odd to hear the muffled chirp and feel the struggling birds beneath their feet as they stepped over the grass-grown soil. The ground had not the slightest appearance of being undermined by the mole-like petrels, its hollowness being only proved when it gave way to the tread; although, after the first surprise of the two young fellows at thus disturbing the tenants of the burrows, they walked as "gingerly" as they could, so as to avoid hurting the little creatures. The birds, however, seemed too busy with their domestic concerns to take any notice of them.
After passing through the strip of wood, which was not of very extensive dimensions, Fritz and Eric found the ground on the other side level and pretty free from vegetation. This open land was just at the angle between the cliffs, occupying a space of perhaps a couple of acres, exactly as the Tristaner had told them; so, here they began at once their operations for laying out their projected garden, which was to be the first task they had to accomplish before settling down, now that they had been saved the trouble of building a house to live in.
Eric, impetuous as usual, wanted to dig up and plant the entire lot; but Fritz was more practical, thinking it the wisest plan not to attempt too much at once.
"No," said he, "we had better begin with a small portion at first; and then, when we have planted that, we can easily take in more land. It won't be such easy work as you think, laddie!"
Accordingly, they marked out a space of about twenty yards square; and then, the brothers, taking off their coats, commenced digging at this with considerable energy for some length of time. But, Eric soon discovered that, easy as the thing looked, it was a much tougher job than he had expected, the ground being very hard from the fact of its never having had a spade put into it before; besides which, the exercise was one to which the lad was unaccustomed.
"Really, I must rest," he exclaimed after a bit, his hands being then blistered, while he was bathed in perspiration from head to foot. He did not wish to give in so long as he saw Fritz plodding on laboriously, especially as he had made light of the matter when they began; but now he really had to confess to being beaten. "I declare," he panted out, half-breathlessly—"my back feels broken, and I couldn't dig another spadeful to save my life!"
"You went at it too hard at first," said his brother. "Slow and sure is the best in the long run, you know! Why, I haven't tired myself half as much as you; and, see, I have turned over twice the distance of hard ground that you have."
"Ah, you are used to it," replied Eric. "I'm more accustomed to ploughing the sea than turning up land! But, I say, Fritz; while you go on digging—that is if you're not tired—I've just thought of something else I can do, so as not to be idle."
"What is that—look on at me working, eh?"
"No," said the lad, laughing at the other's somewhat ironical question; "I mean doing something really—something that will be helping you and be of service to the garden."
"Well, tell me," replied Fritz, industriously going on using his spade with the most praiseworthy assiduity, not pausing for a moment even while he was speaking; for, he was anxious to have the ground finished as soon as he could.
"I thought that some of the guano from the place where the penguins make their nests would be fine stuff to manure our garden with before we put in the seeds, eh?"
"The very thing," said Fritz. "It's a capital idea of yours; and I am glad you thought of it, as it never occurred to me. I recollect now, that the Tristaner said they used it for the little gardens we saw at their settlement. It will make our potatoes and cabbages grow finely."
"All right then; shall I get some?"
"By all means," responded Fritz; "and, while you are collecting it, I will go on preparing the ground ready for it; I've nearly done half now, so, by the time you get back with the guano I shall have dug up the whole plot."
"Here goes then!" cried Eric; and, away he went, trundling the wheelbarrow along, with a shovel inside it for scraping up the bird refuse and loading the little vehicle—disappearing soon from his brother's gaze behind the tussock-grass thicket that skirted the extreme end of the garden patch, close to the cliff on the right-hand side of the bay, and exactly opposite to the site of their cottage, this being the place where, as already mentioned, the penguins had established their breeding-place, or "rookery."
Prior to Eric's departure, the birds had been noisy enough, keeping up such a continual croaking and barking that the brothers could hardly hear each other's voice; but now, no sooner had the lad invaded what they seemed to look upon as their own particular domain, than the din proceeding from thence became terrific, causing Fritz to drop his spade for the first time since handling it and look up from his work, wondering what was happening in the distance.
He could, however, see nothing of Eric, the tussock-grass growing so high as to conceal his movements; so, he was just about resuming digging, fancying that his brother would shortly be back with his wheelbarrow full of guano manure and that then the uproar would be over, when, suddenly, he distinguished, above all the growling and barking of the penguins, the sound of the lad's voice calling to him for aid.
"Help, Fritz, help!" cried Eric, almost in a shriek, as if in great pain. "Help, Fritz, help!"
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.
To throw down his spade a second time and rush off in the direction from whence his brother's cries for assistance proceeded was but the work of an instant for Fritz; and when he had succeeded in pushing his way through the tangled tussock-grass, which grew matted as thick as a cane- brake, he found the lad in a terrible plight.
At first, the strong ammoniacal smell of the guano was so overpowering, combined with the fearful noise the penguins made—all screaming and chattering together, as if the denizens of the monkey house at the Zoological Gardens, which Fritz had once visited when in London, had been suddenly let loose amongst the parrots in the same establishment— that his senses were too confused to distinguish anything, especially as the thicket was enveloped in semi-darkness from the overhanging stems of the long grass which shut out the sunlight; but, after a brief interval, Fritz was able to comprehend the situation and see his brother. Poor Eric was lying face downwards, half-suffocated amidst the mass of bird refuse, with the wheelbarrow, which had got turned over in some mysterious way or other, lying over him and preventing him from rising. Really, but for Fritz's speedy arrival, the lad might have lost his life in so strange a fashion, for he was quite speechless and his breath gone when his brother lifted him up.
Nor was this the worst either.
The penguins had made such a determined onslaught on Eric with their heavy beaks and flapping wings, and possibly too with their webbed feet when he was down struggling amongst them, that his clothes were all torn to rags; while his legs and body were bleeding profusely from the bites and scratches he had received. His face alone escaped injury, from the fact of its being buried in the guano debris.
Fritz took hold of him, after pulling away the wheelbarrow, and lugged him outside the penguin colony; when the lad, recovering presently, was able to tell the incidents of the adventure, laughing subsequently at its ridiculous aspect. It seemed funny, he explained, that he, a sailor who had battled with the storms of the ocean and feared nothing, should be ignominiously beaten back by a flock of birds that were more stupid than geese!
He had thought it easy enough to get the guano for the garden, he said, but he had overrated his ability or rather, underrated the obstacles in his way; for, no sooner had he left the level ground which they had selected for their little clearing, than he found that the tussock- grass, which appeared as light and graceful in the distance as waving corn, grew into a nearly-impenetrable jungle.
The root-clumps, or "tussocks" of the grass—whence its name—were two or three feet in width, and grew into a mound about a foot high, the spaces intervening between, which the penguins utilised for their nests, averaging about eighteen inches apart, as if the grass had been almost planted in mathematical order.
It would have been hard enough to wheel in the wheelbarrow between the clumps, Eric remarked, if all else had been plain sailing; but since, as he pointed out and as Fritz indeed could see for himself, the stems of the thick grass raised themselves up to the height of seven or eight feet from the roots, besides interweaving their blades with those of adjoining clumps, the difficulty of passing through the thicket was increased tenfold. He had, he said, to bend himself double in stooping so as to push along the wheelbarrow into the birds' breeding-place, which he did, thinking his path would become more open the farther he got in.
So, not to be daunted, Eric trundled along the little vehicle right into the heart of the birds' colony, beating down the grass as he advanced and crushing hundreds of eggs in his progress, as well as wheeling over those birds that could not, or stupidly would not, get out of his way; when, as he was beginning to load up the wheelbarrow with a mass of the finer sort of guano which he had scraped up, the penguins, which had been all the while grumbling terribly at the intruder who was thus desolating their domain—waiting to "get up steam," as the lad expressed it—made a concerted rush upon him all together, just in the same manner as they appeared always to enter and leave the water.
"In a moment," Eric said, "the wheelbarrow got bowsed over, when I managed, worse luck, to fall underneath; and then, finding I couldn't get up again, I hailed you, brother."
"I came at once," interposed Fritz, "the moment I heard you call out."
"Well, I suppose you did, old fellow," said Eric; "but whether you did or didn't, in another five minutes I believe it would have been all up with me, for I felt as if I were strangled, lying down there on my face in that beastly stuff. It seemed to have a sort of take-away-your- breath feeling, like smelling-salts; and, besides, the penguins kicked up such a hideous row all the while that I thought I would go mad. I never heard such a racket in my life anywhere before, I declare!"
"But they've bitten you, too, awfully," remarked Fritz sympathisingly. "Look, your poor legs are all bleeding."
"Oh, hang my legs, brother!" replied the other. "They'll soon come right, never fear, when they have had a good wash in salt water. It was the noise of the blessed birds that bothered me more than all their pecking; and, I can say truly of them, as of an old dog, that their bark is worse than their bite!"
So chuckling, the lad appeared to think no more of it; albeit he had not escaped scathless, and had been really in imminent peril a moment before. "The penguins do bark, don't they, Fritz?" he presently asked when he had stopped laughing.
"Yes," said his brother, "I don't think we can describe the sounds they make as anything else than barking. Talking of dogs, I wish I had my old Gelert here; he would soon have made a diversion in your favour and routed the penguins!"
"Would he?" exclaimed Eric in a doubting tone, still rather sore in his mind at having been forced to beat a retreat before his feathered assailants. "I fancy the best dog in the world would have been cowed by those vicious brutes; for, if he didn't turn tail, he would be pecked to death in a minute!"
Eric was not far wrong, as a fine setter, belonging to one of the officers of HMS Challenger, when that vessel was engaged in surveying the islands of the South Atlantic, during her scientific voyage in 1874, was torn to pieces by the penguins in the same way that Eric was assailed, before it could be rescued.
"Never mind," said Fritz, "I wish dear old Gelert were here all the same."
"So do I," chorussed Eric, jumping up on his legs and shaking himself, to see whether his bones might not have received some damage in the affray. "We should have rare fun setting him at the penguins and interrupting their triumphant marches up and down the beach!" And he raised his fist threateningly at his late foes.