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route the task which Nordenskiold had fulfilled. If he had succeeded,
why should he not be able to do so? - this would be proving practically
the experiment of the great navigator.

The wind favored the "Alaska." For ten days it blew almost constantly
from the south-east, and enabled them to make from nine to ten knots at
least without burning any coal. This was a precious advantage, and
besides the wind drove the floating ice toward the north and rendered
navigation much less difficult. During these ten days they met with very
little floating ice.

On the eleventh day, it is true they had a tempestuous snow storm
followed by dense fogs which sensibly retarded the progress of the
"Alaska." But on the 29th of July the sun appeared in all its
brilliancy, and on the morning of the 2d of August they came in sight of
the Island of Ljakow.

Erik gave orders immediately to sail around it in order to see if the
"Albatross" was not hidden in some of its creeks. Having done this they
cast anchor in a sandy bottom about three miles from the southern shore.
Then he embarked in his boat accompanied by his three friends and six of
his sailors. Half an hour later they had reached the island.

Erik had not chosen the southern coast of the island to anchor his
vessel without a reason. He had said to himself that Patrick O'Donoghan
might have told the truth when he had stated that his object was to
collect ivory; but if it was his intention to leave the island at the
first opportunity which afforded, he would be sure to establish himself
upon a spot where he would have a good view of the sea. He would
undoubtedly choose some elevated place, and one as near as possible to
the Siberian coast. Besides the necessity of sheltering himself against
the polar winds would lead him to establish himself upon the southern
coast of the island.

Erik did not pretend that his conclusions were necessarily
incontrovertible, but he thought that, in any case, they would suffer no
inconvenience from adopting them as the basis of a systematic
exploration of the place. The results fully justified his expectations.
The travelers had not walked along the shore for an hour, when they
perceived on a height, perfectly sheltered by a chain of hills, facing
the south, an object which could only be a human habitation. To their
extreme surprise this little cottage, which was of a cubical form, was
perfectly white, as if it had been covered with plaster. It only lacked
green shutters to perfectly resemble a country home near Marseilles, or
an American cottage.

After they had climbed the height and approached near to it, they
discovered a solution of the mystery. The cottage was not plastered, it
was simply built of enormous bones skillfully arranged, which gave it
its white color. Strange as the materials were, they were forced to
admit that the idea of utilizing them was a natural one; besides there
was nothing else available on the island where vegetation was most
meagre; but the whole place, even the neighboring hills were covered
with bones, which Dr. Schwaryencrona recognized as the remains of wild



The door of the cottage was open. The visitors entered, and saw at a
glance that the single room of which it consisted was empty, although it
had been recently occupied. Upon the hearth, which was built of three
large stones, lay some extinguished embers upon which the light ashes
still lingered, although the lightest breeze would have been sufficient
to carry them away. The bed, consisting of a wooden frame, from which
was suspended a sailor's hammock, still bore the impress of a human

This hammock, that Erik examined immediately, bore the stamp of the
"Vega." On a sort of table formed from the shoulder-blade of some animal
and supported by four thigh bones, lay some crumbs of ship's biscuit, a
pewter goblet, and a wooden spoon of Swedish workmanship.

They could not doubt that they were in the dwelling-place of Patrick
O'Donoghan, and according to all appearances he had only left it a short
time ago. Had he quitted the island, or had he only gone to take a walk?
The only thing they could do was to make a thorough exploration of the

Around the habitation excavations bore witness to the fact that a great
amount of hard work had been done; on a sort of plateau that formed the
summit of the hill, a great quantity of ivory had been piled up, and
indicated the nature of the work. The voyagers perceived that all the
skeletons of elephants and other animals had been despoiled of their
ivory, and they arrived at the conclusion that the natives of the
Siberian coast had been aware, long before the visit of Patrick
O'Donoghan, of the treasure which was to be found upon the island, and
had come and carried off large quantities of it. The Irishman,
therefore, had not found the quantity of ivory upon the surface of the
ground which he had expected, and had been compelled to make excavations
and exhume it. The quality of this ivory, which had been buried probably
for a long time, appeared to the travelers to be of a very inferior

Now the young doctor of the "Vega" had told them, as had the proprietor
of the Red Anchor, in Brooklyn, that laziness was one of the
distinguishing characteristics of Patrick O'Donoghan. It therefore
seemed to them very improbable that he would be resigned to follow such
a laborious and unremunerative life. They therefore felt sure that he
would embrace the first opportunity to leave the Island of Ljakow. The
only hope that still remained of finding him there was that which the
examination of his cabin had furnished them.

A path descended to the shore, opposite to that by which our explorers
had climbed up. They followed it, and soon reached the bottom, where the
melting snows had formed a sort of little lake, separated from the sea
by a wall of rocks. The path followed the shores of this quiet water,
and going around the cliff they found a natural harbor.

They saw a sleigh abandoned on the land, and also traces of a recent
fire; Erik examined the shore carefully, but could find no traces of any
recent embarkation. He was returning to his companions, when he
perceived at the foot of a shrub a red object, which he picked up
immediately. It was one of those tin boxes painted outside with carmine
which had contained that preserved beef commonly called "endaubage," and
which all vessels carry among their provisions. It was not so great a
prize, since the captain of the "Vega" had supplied Patrick O'Donoghan
with food. But what struck Erik as significant, was the fact that there
was printed on the empty box the name of Martinez Domingo, Valparaiso.

"Tudor Brown has been here," he cried. "They told us on board the 'Vega'
that his vessel was at Valparaiso when he telegraphed them to wait for
him at Vancouver. Besides, this box from Chili could not have been
brought here by the 'Vega,' for it is evidently quite fresh. It can not
be three days, perhaps not twenty-four hours since it has been opened!"

Dr. Schwaryencrona and Mr. Bredejord shook their heads, as if they
hesitated to accept Erik's conclusions, when turning the box in his
hands, he descried written in pencil the word "Albatross," which had
doubtless been done by the person who had furnished the vessel with the
beef. He pointed it out to his friends.

"Tudor Brown has been here," he repeated, "and why should he come except
to carry off Patrick O'Donoghan. Let us go, it is evident they embarked
at this creek. His men, while they were waiting for him, have taken
breakfast around this fire. He has carried off the Irishman, either
willingly or unwillingly. I am as certain of it as if I saw them

Notwithstanding this firm belief, Erik carefully explored the
neighborhood, to assure himself that Patrick O'Donoghan was no longer
there. An hour's walk convinced him that the island was uninhabited.
There was no trace of a path, nor the least vestige of a human being. On
all sides valleys extended as far as his sight could reach, without even
a bird to animate its solitude. And above all, the gigantic bones which
they beheld lying around in every direction, gave them a feeling of
disgust; it seemed as if an army of animals had taken refuge in this
solitary island only to die there.

"Let us go!" said Dr. Schwaryencrona. "There is no use in making a more
complete search of the island; we have seen sufficient to assure us that
Patrick O'Donoghan would not require much urging to induce him to leave
this place!"

Four hours later they were again on board of the "Alaska," and
continuing their journey.

Erik did not hide the fact that his hopes had received a severe check.
Tudor Brown had been ahead of him, he had succeeded in reaching the
island first, and doubtless had carried off Patrick O'Donoghan. It was
therefore hardly probable that they would succeed in finding him again.
A man capable of displaying such ability in his fiendish attack upon the
"Alaska," and who could adopt such energetic measures to carry off the
Irishman from such a place, would assuredly exert himself to the utmost
to prevent them from ever coming in contact with him. The world is
large, and its waters were open to the "Albatross." Who could tell to
what point of the compass Patrick O'Donoghan and his secret would be

This is what the captain of the "Alaska" said to himself, as he walked
the deck of his vessel, after giving orders to steer to the westward.
And to these doleful thoughts was added a feeling of remorse that he had
permitted his friends to share the dangers and fatigue of his useless
expedition. It was doubly useless, since Tudor Brown had found
Nordenskiold before the "Alaska," and also preceded them to the Island
of Ljakow. They must then return to Stockholm, if they ever succeeded in
reaching it, without having accomplished one of the objects of the
expedition. It was indeed a great disappointment. But at least their
returning in a contrary direction to the "Vega" would prove the
feasibility of the northeast passage. At any risk he must reach Cape
Tchelynskin, and double it from east to west. At any risk he must return
to Sweden by way of the Sea of Kara. It was this redoubtable Cape
Tchelynskin, formerly considered impassable, that the "Alaska" crowded
on steam to reach. They did not follow the exact route of the "Vega,"
for Erik had no occasion to descend the Siberian coast.

Leaving to starboard the islands of Stolbovvi and Semenoffski, which
they sighted on the 4th of August, they sailed due west, following
closely the 76th degree of latitude, and made such good speed that in
eight days they had made 35 degrees of longitude, from the 140th to the
105th degree east of Greenwich. It is true that they had to burn a great
deal of coal to accomplish this, for the "Alaska" had had contrary winds
almost all the time. But Erik thought rightly that everything was
subordinate to the necessity of making their way out of these dangerous
passes as speedily as possible. If they could once reach the mouth of
the Yenisei, they could always procure the necessary fuel.

On the 14th of August, at midday they were unable to make a solar
observation on account of a thick fog, which covered the whole sky. But
they knew that they were approaching a great Asiatic promontory,
therefore Erik advanced with extreme caution, while at the same time he
had the speed of the vessel slackened.

Toward night he gave orders to have the vessel stopped. These
precautions were not useless. The following morning at daylight they
made soundings and found that they were in only thirty fathoms of water,
and an hour afterward they came in sight of land; and the "Alaska" soon
reached a bay in which she could cast anchor. They resolved to wait
until the fog dispersed before going on land, but as the 15th and 16th
of August passed without bringing about this desired result, Erik
determined to start accompanied by Mr. Bredejord, Mr. Malarius, and the
doctor. A short examination showed them that the "Alaska" was at the
extreme north of the two points of Cape Tchelynskin; on two sides the
land lay low toward the sea, but it rose gradually toward the south, and
they perceived that it was about two or three hundred feet in height. No
snow or ice was to be seen in any direction, except along the borders of
the sea where there was a little band, such as is commonly seen in all
arctic regions. The clayey soil was covered with abundant vegetation,
consisting of mossy grasses and lichens. The coast was enlivened by
great numbers of wild geese and walruses. A white bear displayed himself
on top of a rock. If it had not been for the fog which cast a gray
mantle over everything, the general aspect of this famous Cape
Tchelynskin was not particularly disagreeable; certainly there was
nothing to justify the name of Cape Severe, which it had borne for three

As they advanced to the extreme point at the west of the bay, the
travelers perceived a sort of monument that crowned a height, and
naturally pressed forward to visit it. They saw, as they approached,
that it was a sort of "cairn," or mass of stones supporting a wooden
column made out of a post. This column bore two inscriptions; the first
read as follows:

"On the 19th of August, 1878, the 'Vega' left the Atlantic to
double Cape Tchelynskin, _en route_ for Behring's Straits."

The second read:

"On the 12th of August, 1879, the 'Albatross,' coming from
Behring's Straits, doubled Cape Tchelynskin, _en route_ for the

Once again Tudor Brown had preceded the "Alaska." It was now the 16th of

He had written this inscription only four days previously.

In Erik's eyes it appeared cruel and ironical; it seemed to him to say:
"I will defeat you at every turn. All your efforts will be useless.
Nordenskiold has solved the problem. Tudor Brown, the counter proof."

As for himself he would return humiliated and ashamed, without having
demonstrated, found or proved anything. He was going without adding a
single word to the inscriptions on the column. But Dr. Schwaryencrona
would not listen to him, and taking out his knife from his pocket he
wrote on the bottom of the post these words:

"On the 16th of August, 1879, the 'Alaska' left Stockholm, and came
here across the Atlantic and the Siberian Sea, and has doubled Cape
Tchelynskin, _en route_ to accomplish the first circumpolar

There is a strange power in words. This simple phrase recalled to Erik
what a geographical feat he was in hopes of accomplishing, and without
his being conscious of it restored him to good humor. It was true, after
all, that the "Alaska" would be the first vessel to accomplish this
voyage. Other navigators before him had sailed through the
arctic-American seas, and accomplished the northwest passage.
Nordenskiold and Tudor Brown had doubled Cape Tchelynskin; but no person
had as yet gone from one to the other, completely around the pole,
completing the three hundred and sixty degrees.

This prospect restored every one's ardor, and they were eager to depart.
Erik thought it best, however, to wait until the next day and see if the
fog would lift; but fogs appeared to be the chronic malady of Cape
Tchelynskin, and when next morning the sun rose without dissipating it,
he gave orders to hoist the anchor.

Leaving to the south the Gulf of Taymis - which is also the name of the
great Siberian peninsula of which Cape Tchelynskin forms the extreme
point - the "Alaska," directing her course westward, sailed
uninterruptedly during the day and night of the 17th of August.

On the eighteenth, at day-break, the fog disappeared at last and the
atmosphere was pure and enlivened by the sunshine. By midday they had
rounded the point, and immediately descried a distant sail to the

The presence of a sailing-vessel in these unfrequented seas was too
extraordinary a phenomenon not to attract special attention. Erik, with
his glass in his hand, ascended to the lookout and examined the vessel
carefully for a long time. It appeared to lie low in the water, was
rigged like a schooner and had a smoke-stack, although he could not
perceive any smoke. When he descended from the bridge the young captain
said to the doctor:

"It looks exactly like the 'Albatross!'" Then he gave orders to put on
all steam possible. In less than a quarter of an hour he saw that they
were gaining on the vessel, whose appointments they were now able to
discern with the naked eye. They could see that the breeze had
slackened, and that her course was at right angles with that of the

But suddenly a change took place in the distant vessel; Clouds of smoke
issued from her smoke-stack, and formed behind her a long black cloud.
She was now going by steam and in the same direction as the "Alaska."

"There is now no doubt of it. It is the 'Albatross,'" said Erik.

He gave orders to the engineer to increase the speed of the "Alaska," if
possible. They were then making fourteen knots, and in a quarter of an
hour they were making sixteen knots. The vessel that they were pursuing
had not been able to attain a like rate of speed, for the "Alaska"
continued to gain upon her. In thirty minutes they were near enough to
her to distinguish all her men who were maneuvering her. At last they
could see the moldings and letters forming her name, "Albatross."

Erik gave orders to hoist the Swedish flag. The "Albatross" immediately
hoisted the stars and stripes of the United States of America.

In a few minutes the two vessels were only separated by a few hundred
yards. Then the captain of the "Alaska" took his speaking-trumpet and
hailed the vessel in English:

"Ship ahoy! I wish to speak with your captain!"

In a few moments some one made his appearance on the bridge of the
"Albatross." It was Tudor Brown.

"I am the proprietor and captain of this yacht," he said. "What do you

"I wish to know whether Patrick O'Donoghan is on board!'"

"Patrick O'Donoghan is on board and can speak for himself," answered
Tudor Brown.

He made a sign, and a man joined him on the bridge.

"This is Patrick O'Donoghan," said Tudor Brown. "What do you want with

Erik was desirous of this interview so long, he had come so far in
search of this man, that when he found himself unexpectedly in his
presence and recognized him by his red hair and broken nose, he was at
first taken aback and scarcely knew what to say to him. But gathering
his ideas together, he at last made an attempt.

"I have been wishing to talk to you confidentially for several years,"
he said. "I have been seeking for you, and it was to find you that I
came into these seas. Will you come on board of my vessel?"

"I do not know you, and I am very well satisfied to stay where I am,"
answered the man.

"But I know you. I have heard through Mr. Bowles that you were on board
when the 'Cynthia' was wrecked, and that you had spoken to him about the
infant who was tied to a buoy. I am that infant, and it is about this
matter that I wish you to give me all the information in your power."

"You must question somebody else, for I am not in the humor to give

"Do you wish me to suppose that the information is not to your credit?"

"You can think what you like; it is a matter of perfect indifference to
me," said the man.

Erik resolved to betray no irritation.

"It would be better for you to tell me what I wish to know of your own
free will than to be compelled to do so before a court of justice," he
said, coolly.

"A court of justice! They will have to catch me first," answered the
other, mockingly.

Here Tudor Brown interposed.

"You see it is not my fault if you have not obtained the information
that you desired," said he to Erik. "The best thing is now for us both
to resume our course and go where we desire."

"Why should we each go our way?" answered the young captain. "Would it
not be better for us to keep together until we reach some civilized
country where we can settle these matters."

"I have no business with you, and do not want any one's company,"
answered Tudor Brown, moving as if he was about to leave the bridge.

Erik stopped him by a sign.

"Proprietor of the 'Albatross,'" he said, "I bear a regular commission
from my government, and am besides an officer of the maritime police. I
therefore ask you to show me your papers immediately!"

Tudor Brown did not make the slightest answer, but descended the bridge
with the man whom he had called. Erik waited a couple of minutes, and
then he spoke again:

"Commander of the 'Albatross,' I accuse you of having attempted to
shipwreck my vessel on the rocks of Sein, and I now summon you to come
and answer this accusation before a marine tribunal. If you refuse to
answer this summons it will be my duty to compel you to do so!"

"Try it if you like," cried Tudor Brown, and gave orders to resume his

During this colloquy his vessel had insensibly tacked, and now stood at
right angles with the "Alaska." Suddenly the wheel commenced to revolve
and beat the water which boiled and foamed around it. A prolonged
whistle was heard, and the "Albatross" carrying all the steam she could
raise sped over the waters in the direction of the North Pole.

Two minutes later, the "Alaska" was rushing after her.



At the same time that he gave orders to pursue the "Albatross," Erik
also desired his men to get the cannon in readiness. The operation took
some time, and when they had everything in order the enemy was beyond
their reach. Doubtless they had taken advantage of the time occupied by
their stoppage to increase their fires, and they were two or three miles
ahead. This was not too great a distance for a Gatling gun to carry, but
the rolling and speed of the two vessels made it probable that they
would miss her; and they thought it better to wait, hoping that the
"Alaska" would gain upon the enemy. It soon became evident, however,
that the two vessels were equally matched, for the distance between them
remained about the same for several hours.

They were obliged to burn an enormous amount of coal - an article which
was becoming very scarce on board the "Alaska" - and this would be a
heavy loss if they could not succeed in overtaking the "Albatross"
before night set in. Erik did not think it right to do this without
consulting his crew. He therefore mounted the bridge, and frankly
explained to them the position in which he was placed.

"My friends," he said, "you know that I am anxious to seize and deliver
up to justice this rascal who attempted to shipwreck our vessel on the
rocks of Sein. But we have hardly coal enough left to last us for six
days. Any deviation from our route will compel us to finish our voyage
under sail, which may make it very long and toilsome for all of us, and
may even cause us to fail in our undertaking. On the other hand, the
'Albatross' counts upon being able to get away from us during the night.
To prevent this we must not slacken our speed for a moment, and we must
keep her within the range of our electric light. I feel sure, however,
that we will eventually overtake her, but it may take us some time to do
so. I did not feel willing to continue this pursuit without laying the
facts plainly before you, and asking you if you were willing to risk the
dangers which may arise for us."

The men consulted together in a low tone, and then commissioned Mr.
Hersebom to speak for them:

"We are of opinion that it is the duty of the 'Alaska' to capture this
rascal at any sacrifice!" he said, quietly.

"Very well, then, we will do our best to accomplish it," answered Erik.

When he found that he had the confidence of his crew, he did not spare
fuel, and in spite of the desperate efforts of Tudor Brown, he could not
increase the distance between them. The sun had scarcely set when the
electric light of the "Alaska" was brought to bear unpityingly upon the
"Albatross," and continued in this position during the night. At
day-break the distance between them was still the same, and they were
flying toward the pole. At midday they made a solar observation, and
found that they were in 78, 21', 14" of latitude north, by 90 of
longitude east.

Floating ice, which they had not encountered for ten or fifteen days,
now became very frequent. It was necessary to ward it off, as they had
been compelled to do in Baffin's Bay. Erik, feeling sure that they would

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Online LibraryAndré LaurieThe Waif of the Cynthia → online text (page 13 of 17)