The first sound that broke the
silence came from the inner apartment.
An officer lifted the canvas
screen in the hut of the _Sea-mew_
and entered the main room. Cold
and privation had badly thinned
the ranks. The commander of the
ship--Captain Ebsworth--was dangerously
ill. The first lieutenant was
dead. An officer of the _Wanderer_
filled their places for the time,
with Captain Helding's permission.
The officer so employed was--Lieutenant
He approached the man at the
fireside, and awakened him.
"Jump up, Bateson!
It's your turn to be relieved."
The relief appeared, rising
from a heap of old sails at the
back of the hut. Bateson vanished,
yawning, to his bed. Lieutenant
Crayford walked backward and
forward briskly, trying what
exercise would do toward warming
The pestle and mortar on the
cask attracted his attention.
He stopped and looked up at the
man in the hammock.
"I must rouse the cook," he
said to himself, with a smile. "That
fellow little thinks how useful
he is in keeping up my spirits.
The most inveterate croaker and
grumbler in the world--and yet,
according to his own account,
the only cheerful man in the
whole ship's company. John Want!
John Want! Rouse up, there!"
A head rose slowly out of the
bedclothes, covered with a red
night-cap. A melancholy nose
rested itself on the edge of
the hammock. A voice, worthy
of the nose, expressed its opinion
of the Arctic climate, in these
here's all my breath on my
if you please, sir, all round
my mouth and all over my blanket.
Every time I have snored, I've
frozen something. When a man
gets the cold into him to that
extent that he ices his own bed,
it can't last much longer. Never
mind! _I_ don't grumble."
Crayford tapped the saucepan
of bones impatiently. John Want
lowered himself to the floor--grumbling
all the way--by a rope attached
to the rafters at his bed head.
Instead of approaching his superior
officer and his saucepan, he
hobbled, shivering, to the fire-place,
and held his chin as close as
he possibly could over the fire.
Crayford looked after him.
are you doing there?"
directly, and set to work on
John Want remained immovably
attached to the fire-place, holding
something else over the fire.
Crayford began to lose his temper.
"What the devil
are you about now?"
watch, sir. It's been under
my pillow all night,
and the cold has stopped it.
Cheerful, wholesome, bracing
sort of climate to live in; isn't
it, sir? Never mind! _I_ don't
"No, we all
know that. Look here! Are these
John Want suddenly approached
the lieutenant, and looked at
him with an appearance of the
"You'll excuse me, sir," he
said; "how very hollow your voice
sounds this morning!"
my voice. The bones! the bones!"
bones. They'll take a trifle
I'll do my best with them, sir,
for your sake."
"What do you
John Want shook his head, and
looked at Crayford with a dreary
"I don't think
I shall have the honor of making
bone soup for you, sir. Do you
think yourself you'll last long,
sir? I don't, saving your presence.
I think about another week or
ten days will do for us all.
Never mind! _I_ don't grumble."
He poured the bones into the
mortar, and began to pound them--under
protest. At the same moment a
sailor appeared, entering from
the inner hut.
from Captain Ebsworth, sir."
is worse than ever with his
sir. He wants to see you immediately."
"I will go
at once. Rouse the doctor."
Answering in those terms, Crayford
returned to the inner hut, followed
by the sailor. John Want shook
his head again, and smiled more
drearily than ever.
"Rouse the doctor?" he repeated. "Suppose
the doctor should be frozen?
He hadn't a ha'porth of warmth
in him last night, and his voice
sounded like a whisper in a speaking-trumpet.
Will the bones do now? Yes, the
bones will do now. Into the saucepan
with you," cried John Want, suiting
the action to the word, "and
flavor the hot water if you can!
When I remember that I was once
an apprentice at a pastry-cook's--when
I think of the gallons of turtle-soup
that this hand has stirred up
in a jolly hot kitchen--and when
I find myself mixing bones and
hot water for soup, and turning
into ice as fast as I can; if
I wasn't of a cheerful disposition
I should feel inclined to grumble.
John Want! John Want! whatever
had you done with your natural
senses when you made up your
mind to go to sea?"
A new voice hailed the cook,
speaking from one of the bed-places
in the side of the hut. It was
the voice of Francis Aldersley.
croaking over the fire?"
"Croaking?" repeated John Want,
with the air of a man who considered
himself the object of a gratuitous
insult. "Croaking? You don't
find your own voice at all altered
for the worse--do you, Mr. Frank?
I don't give _him_," John proceeded,
speaking confidentially to himself, "more
than six hours to last. He's
one of your grumblers."
"What are you doing there?" asked
bone soup, sir, and wondering
why I ever went
why did you go to sea?"
"I'm not certain,
Mr. Frank. Sometimes I think
it was natural
perversity; sometimes I think
it was false pride at getting
over sea-sickness; sometimes
I think it was reading 'Robinson
Crusoe,' and books warning of
me _not_ to go to sea."
Frank laughed. "You're
an odd fellow. What do you
mean by false
pride at getting over sea-sickness?
Did you get over sea-sickness
in some new way?"
John Want's dismal face brightened
in spite of himself. Frank had
recalled to the cook's memory
one of the noteworthy passages
in the cook's life.
"That's it, sir!" he said. "If
ever a man cured sea-sickness
in a new way yet, I am that man--I
got over it, Mr. Frank, by dint
of hard eating. I was a passenger
on board a packet-boat, sir,
when first I saw blue water.
A nasty lopp of a sea came on
at dinner-time, and I began to
feel queer the moment the soup
was put on the table. 'Sick?'
says the captain. 'Rather, sir,'
says I. 'Will you try my cure?'
says the captain. 'Certainly,
sir,' says I. 'Is your heart
in your mouth yet?' says the
captain. 'Not quite, sir,' says
I. 'Mock-turtle soup?' says the
captain, and helps me. I swallow
a couple of spoonfuls, and turn
as white as a sheet. The captain
cocks his eye at me. 'Go on deck,
sir,' says he; 'get rid of the
soup, and then come back to the
cabin.' I got rid of the soup,
and came back to the cabin. 'Cod's
head-and-shoulders,' says the
captain, and helps me. 'I can't
stand it, sir,' says I. 'You
must,' says the captain, 'because
it's the cure.' I crammed down
a mouthful, and turned paler
than ever. 'Go on deck,' says
the captain. 'Get rid of the
cod's head, and come back to
the cabin.' Off I go, and back
I come. 'Boiled leg of mutton
and trimmings,' says the captain,
and helps me. 'No fat, sir,'
says I. 'Fat's the cure,' says
the captain, and makes me eat
it. 'Lean's the cure,' says the
captain, and makes me eat it.
'Steady?' says the captain. 'Sick,'
says I. 'Go on deck,' says the
captain; 'get rid of the boiled
leg of mutton and trimmings and
come back to the cabin.' Off
I go, staggering--back I come,
more dead than alive. 'Deviled
kidneys,' says the captain. I
shut my eyes, and got 'em down.
'Cure's beginning,' says the
captain. 'Mutton-chop and pickles.'
I shut my eyes, and got _them_
down. 'Broiled ham and cayenne
pepper,' says the captain. 'Glass
of stout and cranberry tart.
Want to go on deck again?' 'No,
sir,' says I. 'Cure's done,'
says the captain. 'Never you
give in to your stomach, and
your stomach will end in giving
in to you.'"
Having stated the moral purpose
of his story in those unanswerable
words, John Want took himself
and his saucepan into the kitchen.
A moment later, Crayford returned
to the hut and astonished Frank
Aldersley by an unexpected question.
"Have you anything
in your berth, Frank, that
you set a
"Nothing that I set the smallest
value on--when I am out of it," he
replied. "What does your question
"We are almost as short of
fuel as we are of provisions," Crayford
proceeded. "Your berth will make
good firing. I have directed
Bateson to be here in ten minutes
with his ax."
"Very attentive and considerate
on your part," said Frank. "What
is to become of me, if you please,
when Bateson has chopped my bed
the cold has stupefied me.
The riddle is beyond my reading.
Suppose you give me a hint?"
There will be beds to spare
soon--there is to be
a change at last in our wretched
lives here. Do you see it now?"
Frank's eyes sparkled. He sprang
out of his berth, and waved his
fur cap in triumph.
"See it?" he exclaimed; "of
course I do! The exploring party
is to start at last. Do I go
with the expedition?"
"It is not very long since
you were in the doctor's hands,
Frank," said Crayford, kindly. "I
doubt if you are strong enough
yet to make one of the exploring
"Strong enough or not," returned
Frank, "any risk is better than
pining and perishing here. Put
me down, Crayford, among those
who volunteer to go."
"Volunteers will not be accepted,
in this case," said Crayford. "Captain
Helding and Captain Ebsworth
see serious objections, as we
are situated, to that method
"Do they mean to keep the appointments
in their own hands?" asked Frank. "I
for one object to that."
"Wait a little," said Crayford. "You
were playing backgammon the other
day with one of the officers.
Does the board belong to him
or to you?"
to me. I have got it in my
locker here. What do
you want with it?"
"I want the
dice and the box for casting
lots. The captains
have arranged--most wisely, as
I think--that Chance shall decide
among us who goes with the expedition
and who stays behind in the huts.
The officers and crew of the
_Wanderer_ will be here in a
few minutes to cast the lots.
Neither you nor any one can object
to that way of deciding among
us. Officers and men alike take
their chance together. Nobody
"I am quite satisfied," said
Frank. "But I know of one man
among the officers who is sure
to make objections."
"Who is the
"You know him
well enough, too. The 'Bear
of the Expeditions'
you have a bad habit of letting
run away with you. Don't repeat
that stupid nickname when you
talk of my good friend, Richard
friend? Crayford! your liking
for that man amazes
Crayford laid his hand kindly
on Frank's shoulder. Of all the
officers of the _Sea-mew_, Crayford's
favorite was Frank.
"Why should it amaze you?" he
asked. "What opportunities have
you had of judging? You and Wardour
have always belonged to different
ships. I have never seen you
in Wardour's society for five
minutes together. How can _you_
form a fair estimate of his character?"
"I take the general estimate
of his character," Frank answered. "He
has got his nickname because
he is the most unpopular man
in his ship. Nobody likes him--there
must be some reason for that."
"There is only one reason for
it," Crayford rejoined. "Nobody
understands Richard Wardour.
I am not talking at random. Remember,
I sailed from England with him
in the _Wanderer_; and I was
only transferred to the _Sea-mew_
long after we were locked up
in the ice. I was Richard Wardour's
companion on board ship for months,
and I learned there to do him
justice. Under all his outward
defects, I tell you, there beats
a great and generous heart. Suspend
your opinion, my lad, until you
know my friend as well as I do.
No more of this now. Give me
the dice and the box."
his locker. At the same moment
the silence of
the snowy waste outside was broken
by a shouting of voices hailing
the hut--"_Sea-mew_, ahoy!"