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THE WAIF OF THE "CYNTHIA."


By

Jules Verne and André Laurie



NO. 659 DOUBLE NUMBER
PRICE 20 CENTS

The Seaside Library, Pocket Edition,
Issued Tri-weekly.
By subscription
$50 per annum.

Copyrighted 1885 by George Munro -
Entered at the Post Office at New York
at second class rates -
Jan. 6, 1886

Rand McNally edition, published Feb. 1888
325 pages printed on fine paper beautifully illustrated
with handsome illuminated and embossed covers.




THE WAIF OF THE "CYNTHIA."




CHAPTER I.

MR. MALARIUS' FRIEND.


There is probably neither in Europe nor anywhere else a scholar whose
face is more universally known than that of Dr. Schwaryencrona, of
Stockholm. His portrait appears on the millions of bottles with green
seals, which are sent to the confines of the globe.

Truth compels us to state that these bottles only contain cod liver oil,
a good and useful medicine; which is sold to the inhabitants of Norway
for a "couronnes," which is worth one franc and thirty-nine centimes.

Formerly this oil was made by the fishermen, but now the process is a
more scientific one, and the prince of this special industry is the
celebrated Dr. Schwaryencrona.

There is no one who has not seen his pointed beard, his spectacles, his
hooked nose, and his cap of otter skin. The engraving, perhaps, is not
very fine, but it is certainly a striking likeness. A proof of this is
what happened one day in a primary school in Noroe, on the western coast
of Norway, a few leagues from Bergen.

Two o'clock had struck. The pupils were in their classes in the large,
sanded hall - the girls on the left and the boys on the right - occupied
in following the demonstration which their teacher, Mr. Malarius, was
making on the black-board. Suddenly the door opened, and a fur coat, fur
boots, fur gloves, and a cap of otter, made their appearance on the
threshold.

The pupils immediately rose respectfully, as is usual when a stranger
visits the class-room. None of them had ever seen the new arrival
before, but they all whispered when they saw him, "Doctor
Schwaryencrona," so much did the picture engraved on the bottles
resemble the doctor.

We must say that the pupils of Mr. Malarius had the bottles continually
before their eyes, for one of the principal manufactories of the doctor
was at Noroe. But for many years the learned man had not visited that
place, and none of the children consequently could have beheld him in
the flesh. In imagination it was another matter, for they often spoke of
him in Noroe, and his ears must have often tingled, if the popular
belief has any foundation. Be this as it may, his recognition was
unanimous, and a triumph for the unknown artist who had drawn his
portrait - a triumph of which this modest artist might justly be proud,
and of which more than one photographer in the world might well be
jealous.

But what astonished and disappointed the pupils a little was to discover
that the doctor was a man below the ordinary height, and not the giant
which they had imagined him to be. How could such an illustrious man be
satisfied with a height of only five feet three inches? His gray head
hardly reached the shoulder of Mr. Malarius, and he was already stooping
with age. He was also much thinner than the doctor, which made him
appear twice as tall. His large brown overcoat, to which long use had
given a greenish tint, hung loosely around him; he wore short breeches
and shoes with buckles, and from beneath his black silk cap a few gray
locks had made their escape. His rosy cheeks and smiling countenance
gave an expression of great sweetness to his face. He also wore
spectacles, through which he did not cast piercing glances like the
doctor, but through them his blue eyes shone with inexhaustible
benevolence.

In the memory of his pupils Mr. Malarius had never punished a scholar.
But, nevertheless, they all respected him, and loved him. He had a brave
soul, and all the world knew it very well. They were not ignorant of the
fact that in his youth he had passed brilliant examinations, and that he
had been offered a professorship in a great university, where he might
have attained to honor and wealth. But he had a sister, poor Kristina,
who was always ill and suffering. She would not have left her native
village for the world, for she felt sure that she would die if they
removed to the city. So Mr. Malarius had submitted gently to her wishes,
and sacrificed his own prospects. He had accepted the humble duty of the
village school-master, and when twenty years afterward Kristina had
died, blessing him, he had become accustomed to his obscure and retired
life, and did not care to change it. He was absorbed in his work, and
forgot the world. He found a supreme pleasure in becoming a model
instructor, and in having the best-conducted school in his country.
Above all, he liked to instruct his best pupils in the higher branches,
to initiate them into scientific studies, and in ancient and modern
literature, and give them the information which is usually the portion
of the higher classes, and not bestowed upon the children of fishermen
and peasants.

"What is good for one class, is good for the other," he argued. "If the
poor have not as many comforts, that is no reason why they should be
denied an acquaintance with Homer and Shakespeare; the names of the
stars which guide them across the ocean, or of the plants which grow on
the earth. They will soon see them laid low by their ploughs, but in
their infancy at least they will have drunk from pure sources, and
participated in the common patrimony of mankind." In more than one
country this system would have been thought imprudent, and calculated to
disgust the lowly with their humble lot in life, and lead them to wander
away in search of adventures. But in Norway nobody thinks of these
things. The patriarchal sweetness of their dispositions, the distance
between the villages, and the laborious habits of the people, seem to
remove all danger of this kind. This higher instruction is more frequent
than a stranger would believe to be possible. Nowhere is education more
generally diffused, and nowhere is it carried so high; as well in the
poorest rural schools, as in the colleges.

Therefore the Scandinavian Peninsula may flatter herself, that she has
produced more learned and distinguished men in proportion to her
population, than any other region of Europe. The traveler is constantly
astonished by the contrast between the wild and savage aspect of nature,
and the manufactures, and works of art, which represent the most refined
civilization.

But perhaps it is time for us to return to Noroe, and Dr.
Schwaryencrona, whom we have left on the threshold of the school. If the
pupils had been quick to recognize him, although they had never seen him
before, it had been different with the instructor, whose acquaintance
with him dated further back.

"Ah! good-day, my dear Malarius!" said the visitor cordially, advancing
with outstretched hands toward the school-master.

"Sir! you are very welcome," answered the latter, a little surprised,
and somewhat timidly, as is customary with all men who have lived
secluded lives; and are interrupted in the midst of their duties. "But
excuse me if I ask whom I have the honor of - "

"What! Have I changed so much since we ran together over the snow, and
smoked our long pipes at Christiania; have you forgotten our Krauss
boarding-house, and must I name your comrade and friend?"

"Schwaryencrona!" cried Mr. Malarius. "Is it possible. - Is it really
you. - Is it the doctor?"

"Oh! I beg of you, omit all ceremony. I am your old friend Roff, and you
are my brave Olaf, the best, the dearest friend of my youth. Yes, I know
you well. We have both changed a little in thirty years; but our hearts
are still young, and we have always kept a little corner in them for
those whom we learned to love, when we were students, and eat our dry
bread side by side."

The doctor laughed, and squeezed the hands of Mr. Malarius, whose eyes
were moist.

"My dear friend, my good excellent doctor, you must not stay here," said
he; "I will give all these youngsters a holiday, for which they will not
be sorry, I assure you, and then you must go home with me."

"Not at all!" declared the doctor, turning toward the pupils who were
watching this scene with lively interest. "I must neither interfere with
your work, nor the studies of these youths. If you wish to give me great
pleasure, you will permit me to sit here near you, while you resume your
teaching."

"I would willingly do so," answered Mr. Malarius, "but to tell you the
truth, I have no longer any heart for geometry; besides, having
mentioned a holiday, I do not like to disappoint the children. There is
one way of arranging the matter however. If Doctor Schwaryencrona would
deign to do my pupils the honor of questioning them about their studies,
and then I will dismiss them for the rest of the day."

"An excellent idea. I shall be only too happy to do so. I will become
their examiner."

Then taking the master's seat, he addressed the school:

"Tell me," asked the doctor, "who is the best pupil?"

"Erik Hersebom!" answered fifty youthful voices unhesitatingly.

"Ah! Erik Hersebom. Well, Erik, will you come here?"

A young boy, about twelve years of age, who was seated on the front row
of benches, approached his chair. He was a grave, serious-looking child,
whose pensive cast of countenance, and large deep set eyes, would have
attracted attention anywhere, and he was the more remarkable, because of
the blonde heads by which he was surrounded. While all his companions of
both sexes had hair the color of flax, rosy complexions, and blue eyes,
his hair was of deep chestnut color, like his eyes, and his skin was
brown. He had not the prominent cheek bones, the short nose, and the
stout frame of these Scandinavian children. In a word, by his physical
characteristics so plainly marked, it was evident that he did not belong
to the race by whom he was surrounded.

He was clothed like them in the coarse cloth of the country, made in the
style common among the peasantry of Bergen; but the delicacy of his
limbs, the smallness of his head, the easy elegance of his poise, and
the natural gracefulness of his movements and attitudes, all seemed to
denote a foreign origin.

No physiologist could have helped being struck at once by these
peculiarities, and such was the case with Dr. Schwaryencrona.

However, he had no motive for calling attention to these facts, and he
simply proceeded to fulfill the duty which he had undertaken.

"Where shall we begin - with grammar?" he asked the young lad.

"I am at the command of the doctor," answered Erik, modestly.

The doctor then gave him two or three simple questions, but was
astonished to hear him answer them, not only in the Swedish language,
but also in French and English. It was the usual custom of Mr. Malarius,
who contended that it was as easy to learn three languages at once as it
was to learn only one.

"You teach them French and English then?" said the doctor, turning
toward his friend.

"Why not? also the elements of Greek and Latin. I do not see what harm
it can do them."

"Nor I," said the doctor, laughing, and Erik Hersebom translated several
sentences very correctly.

In one of the sentences, reference was made to the hemlock drunk by
Socrates, and Mr. Malarius asked the doctor to question him as to the
family which this plant belonged to.

Erik answered without hesitation "that it was one of the family of
umbelliferous plants," and described them in detail.

From botany they passed to geometry, and Erik demonstrated clearly a
theorem relative to the sum of the angles of a triangle.

The doctor became every moment more and more surprised.

"Let us have a little talk about geography," he said. "What sea is it
which bounds Scandinavia, Russia and Siberia on the north?"

"It is the Arctic Ocean."

"And what waters does this ocean communicate with?"

"The Atlantic on the west, and the Pacific on the east."

"Can you name two or three of the most important seaports on the
Pacific?"

"I can mention Yokohama, in Japan; Melbourne, in Australia; San
Francisco, in the State of California."

"Well, since the Arctic Ocean communicates on one side with the
Atlantic, and on the other with the Pacific, do you not think that the
shortest route to Yokohama or San Francisco would be through this Arctic
Ocean?"

"Assuredly," answered Erik, "it would be the shortest way, if it were
practicable, but all navigators who have attempted to follow it have
been prevented by ice, and been compelled to renounce the enterprise,
when they have escaped death."

"Have they often attempted to discover the north-east passage?"

"At least fifty times during the last three centuries, but without
success."

"Could you mention a few of the expeditions?"

"The first was organized in 1523, under the direction of Franois
Sebastian Cabot. It consisted of three vessels under the command of the
unfortunate Sir Hugh Willoughby, who perished in Lapland, with all his
crew. One of his lieutenants, Chancellor, was at first successful, and
opened a direct route through the Polar Sea. But he also, while making a
second attempt, was shipwrecked, and perished. A captain, Stephen
Borough, who was sent in search of him, succeeded in making his way
through the strait which separates Nova Zembla from the Island of
Waigate and in penetrating into the Sea of Kara. But the fog and ice
prevented him from going any further.

"Two expeditions which were sent out in 1580 were equally unsuccessful.
The project was nevertheless revived by the Hollanders about fifteen
years later, and they fitted out, successively, three expeditions, under
the command of Barentz.

"In 1596, Barentz also perished, in the ice of Nova Zembla.

"Ten years later Henry Hudson was sent out, but also failed.

"The Danes were not more successful in 1653.

"In 1676, Captain John Wood was also shipwrecked. Since that period the
north-east passage has been considered impracticable, and abandoned by
the maritime powers."

"Has it never been attempted since that epoch?"

"It has been by Russia, to whom it would be of immense advantage, as
well as to all the northern nations, to find a direct route between her
shores and Siberia. She has sent out during a century no less than
eighteen expeditions to explore the coasts of Nova Zembla, the Sea of
Kara, and the eastern and western coasts of Siberia. But, although these
expeditions have made these places better known, they have also
demonstrated the impossibility of forcing a passage through the Arctic
Ocean. The academician Van Baer, who made the last attempt in 1837,
after Admiral Lutke and Pachtusow, declared emphatically that this ocean
is simply a glacier, as impracticable for vessels as it would be if it
were a continent."

"Must we, then, renounce all hopes of discovering a north-east passage?"

"That seems to be the conclusion which we must arrive at, from the
failure of these numerous attempts. It is said, however, that a great
navigator, named Nordenskiold, wishes to make another attempt, after he
has prepared himself by first exploring portions of this polar sea. If
he then considers it practicable, he may get up another expedition."

Dr. Schwaryencrona was a warm admirer of Nordenskiold, and this is why
he had asked these questions about the north-east passage. He was
charmed with the clearness of these answers.

He fixed his eyes on Erik Hersebom, with an expression of the deepest
interest.

"Where did you learn all this, my dear child?" he demanded, after a
short silence.

"Here, sir," answered Erik, surprised at the question.

"You have never studied in any other school?"

"Certainly not."

"Mr. Malarius may be proud of you, then," said the doctor, turning
toward the master.

"I am very well satisfied with Erik," said the latter.

"He has been my pupil for eight years. When I first took him he was very
young, and he has always been at the head of his section."

The doctor became silent. His piercing eyes were fixed upon Erik, with a
singular intensity. He seemed to be considering some problem, which it
would not be wise to mention.

"He could not have answered my question better and I think it useless to
continue the examination," he said at last. "I will no longer delay your
holiday, my children, and since Mr. Malarius desires it, we will stop
for to-day."

At these words, the master clapped his hands. All the pupils rose at
once, collected their books, and arranged themselves in four lines, in
the empty spaces between the benches.

Mr. Malarias clapped his hands a second time. The column started, and
marched out, keeping step with military precision.

At a third signal they broke their ranks, and took to flight with joyous
cries.

In a few seconds they were scattered around the blue waters of the
fiord, where might be seen also the turf roofs of the village of Noroe.




CHAPTER II.

THE HOME OF A FISHERMAN IN NOROE.


The house of Mr. Hersebom was, like all others in Noroe, covered by a
turf roof, and built of enormous timbers of fir-trees, in the
Scandinavian fashion. The two large rooms were separated by a hall in
the center, which led to the boat-house where the canoes were kept. Here
were also to be seen the fishing-tackle and the codfish, which they dry
and sell. These two rooms were used both as living-rooms and bedrooms.
They had a sort of wooden drawer let into the wall, with its mattress
and skins, which serve for beds, and are only to be seen at night. This
arrangement for sleeping, with the bright panels, and the large open
fire-place, where a blazing fire of wood was always kept burning, gave
to the interior of the most humble homes an appearance of neatness and
domestic luxury unknown to the peasantry of Southern Europe.

This evening all the family were gathered round the fire-place, where a
huge kettle was boiling, containing "sillsallat," or smoked herring,
salmon and potatoes.

Mr. Hersebom, seated in a high wooden chair, was making a net, which was
his usual occupation when he was not on the sea, or drying his fish. He
was a hardy fisherman, whose skin had been bronzed by exposure to the
arctic breezes, and his hair was gray, although he was still in the
prime of life. His son Otto, a great boy, fourteen years old, who bore a
strong resemblance to him, and who was destined to also become famous as
a fisherman, sat near him. At present he was occupied in solving the
mysteries of the rule of three, covering a little slate with figures,
although his large hands looked as if they would be much more at home
handling the oars.

Erik, seated before the dining-table, was absorbed in a Volume of
history that Mr. Malarius had lent him. Katrina, Hersebom, the goodwife,
was occupied peacefully with her spinning-wheel, while little Vanda, a
blonde of ten years, was seated on a stool, knitting a large stocking
with red wool.

At their feet a large dog of a yellowish-white color, with wool as thick
as that of a sheep, lay curled up sound asleep.

For more than one hour the silence had been unbroken, and the copper
lamp suspended over their heads, and filled with fish oil, lighted
softly this tranquil interior.

To tell the truth, the silence became oppressive to Dame Katrina, who
for some moments had betrayed the desire of unloosing her tongue.

At last she could keep quiet no longer.

"You have worked long enough for to-night," she said, "it is time to lay
the cloth for supper."

Without a word of expostulation. Erik lifted his large book, and seated
himself nearer the fire-place, whilst Vanda laid aside her knitting, and
going to the buffet brought out the plates and spoons.

"Did you say, Otto," asked the little girl, "that our Erik answered the
doctor very well?"

"Very well, indeed," said Otto enthusiastically, "he talked like a book
in fact. I do not know where he learned it all. The more questions the
doctor asked the more he had to answer. The words came and came. Mr.
Malarius was well satisfied with him."

"I am also," said Vanda, gravely.

"Oh, we were all well pleased. If you could have seen, mother, how the
children all listened, with their mouths open. We were only afraid that
our turn would come. But Erik was not afraid, and answered the doctor as
he would have answered the master."

"Stop. Mr. Malarius is as good as the doctor, and quite as learned,"
cried Erik, whom their praises seemed to annoy.

The old fisherman gave him an approving smile.

"You are right, little boy," he said; "Mr. Malarius, if he chose, could
be the superior of all the doctors in the town, and besides he does not
make use of his scientific knowledge to ruin poor people."

"Has Doctor Schwaryencrona ruined any one?" asked Erik with curiosity.

"Well - if he has not done so, it has not been his fault. Do you think
that I have taken any pleasure in the erection of his factory, which is
sending forth its smoke on the borders of our fiord? Your mother can
tell you that formerly we manufactured our own oil, and that we sold it
easily in Bergen for a hundred and fifty to two hundred kroners a year.
But that is all ended now - nobody will buy the brown oil, or, if they
do, they pay so little for it, that it is not worth while to take the
journey. We must be satisfied with selling the livers to the factory,
and God only knows how this tiresome doctor has managed to get them for
such a low price. I hardly realize forty-five kroners now, and I have to
take twice as much trouble as formerly. Ah, well. I say it is not just,
and the doctor would do better to look after his patients in Stockholm,
instead of coming here to take away our trade by which we earn our
bread."

After these bitter words they were all silent. They heard nothing for
some minutes except the clicking of the plates, as Vanda arranged them,
whilst her mother emptied the contents of the pot into a large dish.

Erik reflected deeply upon what Mr. Hersebom had said. Numerous
objections presented themselves to his mind, and as he was candor
itself - he could not help speaking.

"It seems to me that you have a right to regret your former profits,
father," he said, "but is it just to accuse Doctor Schwaryencrona of
having diminished them? Is not his oil worth more than the home-made
article?"

"Ah! it is clearer, that is all. It does not taste as strong as ours,
they say; and that is the reason why all the fine ladies in the town
prefer it, no doubt; but it does not do any more good to the lungs of
sick people than our oil."

"But for some reason or other they buy it in preference; and since it is
a very useful medicine it is essential that the public should experience
as little disgust as possible in taking it. Therefore, if a doctor finds
out a method of making it more palatable, is it not his duty to make use
of his discovery?"

Master Hersebom scratched his ear.

"Doubtless," he said, reluctantly, "it is his duty as a doctor, but that
is no reason why he should prevent poor fishermen from getting their
living."

"I believe the doctor's factory gives employment to three hundred,
whilst there were only twenty in Noroe at the time of which you speak,"
objected Erik, timidly.

"You are right, and that is why the business is no longer worth
anything," said Hersebom.

"Come, supper is ready. Seat yourselves at the table," said Dame
Katrina, who saw that the discussion was in danger of becoming
unpleasantly warm.

Erik understood that further opposition on his part would be out of
place, and he did not answer the last argument of his father, but took
his habitual seat beside Vanda.

"Were the doctor and Mr. Malarius friends in childhood?" he asked, in
order to give a turn to the conversation.

"Yes," answered the fisherman, as he seated himself at the table. "They
were both born in Noroe, and I can remember when they played around the
school-house, although they are both ten years older than I am. Mr.
Malarius was the son of the physician, and Doctor Schwaryencrona only
the son of a simple fisherman. But he has risen in the world, and they
say that he is now worth millions, and that his residence in Stockholm
is a perfect palace. Oh, learning is a fine thing."

After uttering this aphorism the brave man took a spoon to help the
smoking fish and potatoes, when a knock at the door made him pause.


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