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me, that looks like a proof that our belief has a solid foun
dation."

Roswell did not reply. He was aware that it would not
be just to hold any creed responsible for the manner in
which a person like Stimson defended it. Still, he was
struck with both of this man's facts. The last, he had often
met in books ; but the first was new to him. Of the two,
this novel idea of the improbability of the apostles' invent
ing that which would seem to be opposed to all men's no
tions and prejudices, struck him more forcibly than the
argument adduced from the acquiescence of the Redeemer
in his own divinity. The last might be subject to verbal
criticism, and could possibly be explained away, as he
imagined ; but the first appeared to be intimately incor
porated with the entire history of Christ's ministrations on
earth. These were the declarations of John the Baptist,
the simple and unpretending histories of the Gospels, the
commentaries of St. Paul, and the venerable teachings of
the church through so many centuries of varying degrees
of faith and contention, each and all going to corroborate
a doctrine that, in his eyes, had appeared to be so repug
nant to philosophy and reason. Wishing to be alone, Ros
well gave an order to Stimson to execute some duty that
fell to his share, and continued walking up and down the
terrace alone for quite an hour longer.

The night was coming in cold and still. It was one of
those last efforts of winter in which all the terrible force
of the season was concentrated : and it really appeared as
if nature, wearied with its struggle to return to a more
genial temperature, yielded in despair, and was literally
returning backwards through the coldest of her months.
The moon was young, but the stars gave forth a brightness



358 THE SEA LIONS.

that is rarely seen, except in the clear cold nights of a high
latitude. Each and all of these sublime emblems of the
power of God were twinkling like bright torches glowing
in space; and the mind had only to endow each with its
probable or known dimensions, its conjectural and reason
able uses, to form a picture of the truest sublimity in which
man is made to occupy his real position. In this world,
where, in a certain sense, he is master, where all things
are apparently under his influence, if not absolutely subject
to his control ; where little that is distinctly visible is to be
met with that does seem to be created to meet his wants,
or to be wholly at his disposal, one gets a mistaken and
frequently a fatal notion of his true place in the scale of
the beings who are intended to throng around the footstool
of the Almighty. As the animalcule of the atmospheric
air bear a proportion to things visible, so would this throng
seem to bear a proportion to our vague estimates of the
spiritual hosts. All this Roswell was very capable of feel
ing, and in some measure of appreciating ; and never be
fore had he been made so conscious of his own insignifi
cance, as he became while looking on the firmament that
night, glowing with its bright worlds and suns, doubtless
the centres of other systems in which distance swallowed
up the lesser orbs.

Almost every one has heard or read of that collection
of stars which goes by the name of the Southern Cross.
The resemblance to the tree on which Christ suffered is
not particularly striking, though all who navigate the
southern hemisphere know it, and recognize it by its im
puted appellation. It now attracted Roswell's gaze ; and
coming as it did after so much reading, so many conversa
tions with Stephen, and addressing itself to one whose heart
was softened by the fearful circumstances that had so long
environed the sealers, it is not surprising that it brought
our young master to meditate seriously on his true condi
tion in connection with the atonement that he was willing
to admit had been made for him, in common with all of
earth, at the very moment he hesitated to believe that the
sufferer was, in any other than a metaphorical sense, the
Son of God.

It is not our intention to describe more of the religious



THE SEA MONS. 359

feelings of Mary and her suitor, or to enter farther into
any disquisition on subjects of this nature, than may be
absolutely necessary to elucidate the facts of our history
In order to do the last distinctly, however, we shall endea
vour to make a very brief analysis of the process of reason
ing, and we may add of feeling too, that was at work in
Roswell Gardiner's mind and heart, as he paced the terrace
that night, after Stimson had left him.

We suppose that a sense of humility is the first healthful
symptom that shows itself in every man's moral regenera
tion. A meek appreciation of his own station and character
disposes him to receive revelation with respect, and to have
faith in things that are not seen. Perhaps no one over
whom the sword of fate was not actually suspended by a
hair, was ever better placed to admit the lessons of humility
than was Roswell Gardiner at that very moment. Modest
he always was, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, and
this without professions or grimaces; but he had a high
idea of the human understanding, and revolted at believing
that which did violence to all his experience and precon
ceived opinions. This was the weak spot in his character,
which time, with an increasing knowledge of men and
things, or some merciful teaching of Divine Providence,
could alone remove.

Roswell certainly did not converse with Stimson in the
expectation of being much instructed ; but the humble and
uneducated boat-steerer had been at a school that raises
the dullest intellect far above all the inferences of philoso
phy. He had faith, without which no man is truly wise;
no man learned, in the highest interest of his being. Under
the guidance of this leader, Stephen occasionally threw out
an idea that struck the mind of his officer by its simplicity
and force, and helped to complete that change for which
circumstances, reading, and reflection had now been many
months preparing the way. The day preceding this walk
on the terrace, Roswell observed to Stimson that he had
difficulty in believing in a Deity he could not comprehend;
meaning merely that his reason must be satisfied in a doc
trine like that of the incarnation.

" Well, sir, that's not my feelin'," answered Stephen,
earnestly. "A Deity I could understand would be no God
31



360 THE SEA LIONS.

for me. Where there is the same knowledge, there is too
much companionship, like, for worship and reverence."

" But we are told that man was created after the image
of God."

"In his likeness, Captain Gar'ner with some of the
Divine Spirit, but not with all. That makes him different
from the brutes, and immortal. I have convarsed with a
clergyman who thinks that the angels, and archangels, and
other heavenly beings, are far before even the Saints in
Heaven, such as have been only men on 'arth."

The idea of not having a Deity that he could not
comprehend had long been one of Roswell Gardiner's
favourite rules of faith. He did not understand by this
pretending dogma, that he was, in any respect, of capacity
equal to comprehend with that of the Divine Being, but
simply that he was not to be expected or required to be
lieve in any theory which manifestly conflicted with his
knowledge and experience, as both were controlled by the
powers of induction he had derived directly from his
Creator. In a word, his exception was one of the most
obvious of the suggestions of the pride of reason, and just
so much in direct opposition to the great law of regenera
tion, which has its very gist in the converse of this feeling
Faith.

As our young master paced the terrace alone, that idea
of the necessity of the Creator's being incomprehensible to
the created, recurred to him. The hour that succeeded
was probably the most important in Roswell Gardiner's
life. So intense were his feelings, so active the workings
of his mind, that he was quite insensible to the intensity
of the cold ; and his body keeping equal motion with his
thoughts, if one may so express it, his frame actually set at
defiance a temperature that might otherwise have chilled it,
warmly and carefully as it was clad.

Truly there were many causes existing at that time and
place, to bring any man to a just sense of his real position
in the scale of created beings. The vault above Roswell
was sparkling with orbs floating in space, most of them far
more vast than this earth, and each of them doubtless
having its present or destined use. What was that light,
so brilliant and pervading throughout space, that converted



THE SEA LIONS. 361

each of those masses of dark matter into globes clothed
with a glorious brightness? Roswell had seen chemical
experiments that produced wonderful illuminations; but
faint, indeed, were the most glowing of those artificial
torches, to the floods of light that came streaming out of
the void, on missions of millions and millions of miles.
Who, and what was the Dread Being dread in his Majesty
and Justice, but inexhaustible in Love and Mercy who
used these exceeding means as mere instruments of his
pleasure? and what was he himself, that he should presume
to set up his miserable pride of reason, in opposition to a
revelation supported by miracles that must be admitted to
come through men inspired by the Deity, or rejected alto
gether ?

In this frame of mind Roswell was made to see that
Christianity admitted of no half-way belief; it was all true,
or it was wholly false.

And why should not Christ be the Son of God, as the
Fathers of the Church had perseveringly, but so simply
proclaimed, and as that church had continued to teach for
eighteen centuries? Roswell believed himself to have been
created in the image of God ; and his much-prized reason
told him that he could perpetuate himself in successors;
and that which the Creator had given him the power to
achieve, could he not in his own person perform ? For
the first time, an inference to the contrary seemed to be
illogical.

Then the necessity for the great expiation occurred to
his mind. This had always been a stumbling-block to
Roswell's faith. He could not see it ; and that which he
could not see he was indisposed to believe. Here was the
besetting weakness of his character ; a weakness which did
not suffer him to perceive that could he comprehend so
profound a mystery, he would be raised far above that very
nature in which he took so much pride. As he reflected
on this branch of the subject, a thousand mysteries, physi
cal and moral, floated before his mind; and he became
aware of the little probability that he should have been
endowed with the faculties to comprehend this, the greatest
of them all. Had not science gradually discovered the
chemical processes by which gases could be concentrated



362 THE SEA LIONS,

and disengaged, the formation of one of those gfittenng
orbs above his head would have been quite as unintelligible
a mystery to him, as the incarnation of the Saviour. The
fact was, that phenomena that were just as mysterious to
the human mind as any that the dogmas of Christianity
required to be believed, exist hourly before our eyes with
out awakening skepticism, or exciting discussion: finding
their impunity in their familiarity. Many of these pheno
mena were strictly incomprehensible to human understand
ings, which could reason up to a fountain-head in each
case; and there it was obliged to abandon the inductive
process, purely for the want of power to grapple with the
premises which control the whole demonstration.

Could Mary Pratt have known what was going on in
Roswell Gardiner's soul that night, her happiness would
have been as boundless as her gratitude to God. She would
have seen the barrier that had so long interposed itself to
her wishes broken down ; not by any rude hand, but by the
influence of those whisperings of the Divine Spirit, which
open the way to men to fit themselves for the presence of
God.



CHAPTER XXYI.

"Let winter come! let polar spirits sweep
The darkening world, and tempest-troubled deep!"

CAMPBILL.

WHILE the bosom of Roswell was thus warming with
the new-born faith, of which the germ was just opening in
his heart, Stimson came out upon the terrace to see what
had become of his officer. It was much past the hour when
the men got beneath the coverings of their mettresses; and
the honest boat-steerer, who had performed the duty ou
which he had been sent, was anxious about Roswell's re
maining so long in the open air, on this positively the se
verest night of the whole season.

"You stand the cold well, Captain Gar'ner," said Ste-



THE SEA LIONS. 363

phen, as he joined his officer; "but it might be prudent,
now, to get under cover."

" I do not feel it cold, Stephen" returned Roswell
v< on the contrary, I'm in a pleasant glow. My mind has
been busy, while my frame has kept in motion. When such
are the facts, the body seldom suffers. But, hearken does
it not seem that some one is calling to us from the direction
of the wreck 1"

The great distance to which sounds are conveyed in in
tensely cold and clear weather, is a fact known to most
persons. Conversations in the ordinary tone had been
heard by the sealers when the speakers were nearly a mile
off; and, on several occasions, attempts had been made to
hold communications, by means of the voice, between the
wreck and the hut. Certain words had been understood ;
but it was found impossible to hold anything that could be
termed conversation. Still, the voice had been often heard,
and a fancy had come over the mind of Roswell that he
heard a cry like a call for assistance, just as Stimson join
ed him.

" It is so late, sir, that I should hardly think any of the
Vineyarders would be up," observed the boat-steerer, after
listening some little time in the desire to catch the sound
mentioned. " Then it is so cold, that most men would like
to get beneath their blankets as soon as they could."

" I do not find it so very cold, Stephen. Have you looked
at the thermometer lately?"

" I gave it a look in coming out, sir ; and it tells a terri
ble story to-night ! The marcury is all down in the ball,
which is like givin' the matter up, I do suppose, Captain
Gar'ner."

" 'Tis strange ! I do not feel it so very cold ! The wind
seems to be getting round to north-east, too ; give us enough
of that, and we shall have a thaw. Hark ! there is the cry
again."

This time there could be no mistake. A human voice
had certainly been raised amid the stillness of that almost
polar night, clearly appealing to human ears, for succour.
The only word heard or comprehended was that of " help;"
one well enough adapted to carry the sound far and dis
tinctly. There was a strain of agony in the cry, as if he
31*



364 THE SEA LIONS.

who made it uttered it in despair. Roswell's blood seemed
to flow back to his heart ; never had he before felt so ap
palling a sense of the dependence of man on a Divine Pro
vidence, as at that moment.

"You heard it?" he said, inquiringly, to Stephen, after
an instant of silent attention, to make sure that no more
was to reach his ears just then.

" Sartain, sir no man could mistake that. It was the
voice of the nigger, Joe; him that Captain Daggett has for
a cook."

" Think you so, Stephen ? The fellow has good lungs,
and they may have set him to call upon us in their distress.
What can be the nature of the assistance they ask 1"

"I've been thinking of that, Captain Gar'ner; and a
difficult p'int it is to answer. Food they must have still;
and was they in want of their rations, hands would have
been sent across to get 'em. They may have let their fire
go out, and be without the means to re-light it. I can
think of nothing else that is likely to happen to men so
sarcumstanced."

The last suggestion struck Roswell as possible. From
the instant he felt certain that he was called on for aid, he
had determined to proceed to the wreck, notwithstanding
the lateness of the hour, and the intense severity of the
weather. As he had intimated to Stephen, he was not at
all conscious how very cold it was; exercise and the active
workings of his mind having brought him to an excellent
condition to resist the sternness of the season. The appeal
had been so sudden and unexpected, however, that he was
at first somewhat at a loss how to proceed. This matter
was now discussed between him and Stimson, when the
following plan was adopted :

The mates were to be called, and made acquainted with
what had occurred, and put on their guard as to what might
possibly be required of them. It was not thought necessary
to call any of the rest of the men. There was always one
hand on the watch in the house, whose duty it was to look
to the fires, for the double purpose of security against a
conflagration, and to prevent the warmth within from sink
ing too near to the cold without. It had often occurred to
Roswell's mind that a conflagration would prove quick de-



THE SEA LIONS. 365

struction to his party. In the first place, most of the pro
visions would be lost ; and it was certain that, without a
covering and the means of keeping warm within it, the
men could not resist the climate eight-and-forty hours.
The burning of the hut would be certain death.

Roswell took no one with him but Stimson. Two were
as good as a hundred, if all that was asked were merely
the means to re-light the fire. These means were provided,
and a loaded pistol was taken also, to enable a signal-shot
to be fired, should circumstances seem to require further
aid. One or two modes of communicating leading facts
were concerted, when our hero and his companion set forth
on their momentous journey.

Taking the hour, the weather, and the object before him
into the account, Roswell Gardiner felt that he was now
enlisted in the most important undertaking of his whole
life, as he and Stephen shook hands with the two mates,
and left the point. The drifts rendered a somewhat cir
cuitous path necessary at first ; but the moon and stars shed
so much of their radiance on the frozen covering of the
earth, that the night was quite as light as many a London
day. Excitement and motion kept the blood of our two
adventurers in a brisk circulation, and prevented their be
coming immediately conscious of the chill intensity of the
cold to which they were exposed.

" It is good to think of Almighty God, and of his many
marcies," said Stephen, when a short distance from the
house, " as a body goes forth on an expedition as serious
as this. We may not live to reach the wrack, for it seems
to me to grow colder and colder !"

" I wonder we hear no more of the cries," remarked
Roswell, who was thinking of the distress he was bent on
relieving. " One would think that a man who could call
so stoutly would give us another cry."

"A body can never calcilate on a nigger," answered
Stephen, who had the popular American prejudice against
the caste that has so long been held in servitude in the
land. " They call out easily, and shut up oncommon quick,
if there's nothin' gained by yelling. Black blood won't
stand cold like white blood, Captain Gar'ner, any more
than white blood will stand heat like black blood."



3'J) THE SEA LIONS.

" 1 have heard this before, Stephen ; and it has surprised
me that Captain Daggett's cook should be the only one of
that party who seems to have had any voice to-night."

Stimson had a good deal to say now, as the two picked
their way across the field of snow, always walking on the
crust, which in most places would have upheld a loaded
vehicle ; the subject of his remarks being the difference
between the two races as respects their ability to endure
hardships. The worthy boat-steerer had several tales to
relate of cases in which he had known negroes freeze
when whites have escaped. As the fact is one pretty well
established, Roswell listened complacently enough, being
much too earnest in pressing forward toward his object, to
debate any of his companion's theories just then. It was
while thus employed that Roswell fancied he heard one
more cry, resembling those which had brought him on this
dangerous undertaking, on a night so fearful. This time,
however, the cry was quite faint; and what was not so
easily explained, it did not appear to come from the precise
direction in which the wreck was known to lie, but from
one that diverged considerably from that particular quarter.
Of course, the officer mentioned this circumstance to the
boat-steerer ; and the extraordinary part of the information
caused some particular discussion between them.

" To me that last call seemed to come from up yonder,
nearer to the cliffs than the place where we are, and not at
all from down there, near to the sea, where the wrack is,"
said Stimson, in the course of his remarks. " So sartain
am I of this, that I feel anxious to change our course a
little, to see if it be not possible that one of the Vineyarders
has got into some difficulty in trying to come across to us.'*

Roswell had the same desire, for he had made the same
conjecture; though he did not believe the black would be
the person chosen to be the messenger on such an occa
sion.

" I think Captain Daggett would have come himself, or
have sent one of his best men," he observed, " in prefer
ence to trusting a negro with a duty so important."

" We do not know, sir, that it was the nigger we heard.
Misery makes much the same cries, whether it comes from
the throat of white or black. Let us work upward, neare



THE SEA LIONS. 367

to the cliffs, sir ; I see something dark on the snow, here
away, as it might be on our larboard bow."

Roswell caught a glimpse of the same object, and thither
our adventurers now bent their steps, walking on the crust
without any difficulty, so long as they kept out of the drifts.
One does not find it as easy to make any physical effort in
an intensely cold atmosphere, as he does when the weather
is more moderate. This prevented Roswell and his com
panion from moving as fast as they otherwise might have
done ; but they got along with sufficient rapidity to reach
the dark spot on the snow in less than five minutes after
they had changed their course.

" You are right, Stephen," said Gardiner, as he came
up to this speck, amid the immensity of the white mantle
that covered both sea and land, far as the eye could reach ;
" it is the cook ! The poor fellow has given out here, about
half-way between the two stations."

"There must be life in him yet, sir nigger as he is.
It 's not yet twenty minutes since he gave that last cry.
Help me to turn him over, Captain Gar'ner, and we will
rub him, and give him a swallow of brandy. A little hot
coffee, now, might bring the life back to his heart."

Roswell complied, first firing his pistol as a signal to
those left behind. The negro was not dead, but so near it,
that a very few more minutes would have sealed his fate.
The applications and frictions used by Gardiner and the
boat-steerer had an effect. A swallow of the brandy pro
bably saved the poor fellow's life. While working on his
patient, Captain Gardiner found a piece of frozen pork,
which, on examination, he ascertained had never been
cooked. It at once explained the nature of the calamity
that had befallen the crew of the wreck.

So intent were the two on their benevolent duty, that a
party arrived from the house in obedience to the signal, in
much less time than they could have hoped for. It was led
by the mate, and came provided with a lamp burning be
neath a tin vessel filled with sweetened coffee. This hot
drink answered an excellent purpose with both well and
sick. After a swallow or two, aided by a vigorous friction,
and closely surrounded by so many human bodies, the black
began to revive ; and the sort of drowsy stupor which is



368 THE SEA LIONS.

known to precede death in those who die by freezing,
having been in a degree shaken off, he was enabled to
stand alone, and by means of assistance to walk. The hot
coffee was of the greatest service, every swallow that he
got down appearing to set the engine of life into new mo
tion. The compelled exercise contributed its part ; and by
the time the mate, to use his own expression, " had run the
nigger into dock," which meant when he had got him safe
within the hut, his senses and faculties had so far revived
as to enable him to think and to speak. As Gardiner and
Stimson returned with him, everybody was up and listen
ing, when the b.ack told his story.

It would seem that, during the terrible month which had



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 32) → online text (page 33 of 39)