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Daggett now remained silent for some time, though his lips moved, most
probably in prayer. It was a melancholy sight to see a man in the vigour
of his manhood, whose voice was strong, and whose heart was still beating
with vigour and vitality, standing, as it were, on the brink of a
precipice, down which all knew he was to be so speedily hurled. But the
decree had gone forth, and no human skill could arrest it. Shortly after
the confession and lamentation we have recorded, the decay reached the
vitals, and the machine of clay stopped. To avoid the unpleasant
consequences of keeping the body in so warm a place, it was buried in the
snow at a short distance from the house, within an hour after it had
ceased to breathe.
When Roswell Gardiner saw this man, who had so long adhered to him, like a
leech, in the pursuit of gold, laid a senseless corpse among the frozen
flakes of the antarctic seas, he felt that a lively admonition of the
vanity of the world was administered to himself. How little had he been
able to foresee all that had happened, and how mistaken had been his own
calculations and hopes! What, then, was that intellect of which he had
been so proud, and what reason had he to rely on himself in those matters
that lay equally beyond the cradle and the grave--that incomprehensible
past, and the unforeseen future, towards which all those in existence were
hastening! Roswell had received many lessons in humility, the most useful
of all the lessons that man can receive in connection with the relation
that really exists between the Deity and himself. Often had he wondered,
while reading the Bible Mary Pratt had put into his hand, at the stubborn
manner in which the chosen people of God had returned to their "idols,"
and their "groves," and their "high places;" but he was now made to
understand that others still erred in this great particular, and that of
all the idols men worship, that of self was perhaps the most
objectionable.
Chapter XXVIII.
Page 240
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"Long swoln in drenching rains, seeds, germs, and buds
Start at the touch of vivifying beams.
Moved by their secret force, the vital lymph
Diffusive runs, and spreads o'er wood and field
A flood of verdure."
Wilcox.
At length it came to be rumoured among the sealers that the fires must be
permitted to go out, or that the materials used for making the berths, and
various other fixtures of the house, must be taken to supply the stove. It
was when it got to be known that the party was reduced to this sad
dilemma, that Roswell broke through the bank of snow that almost covered
the house, and got so far into the open air as to be able to form some
estimate of the probable continuance of the present cold weather. The
thermometer, within the bank of snow, but outside of the building, then
stood at twenty below zero; but it was much colder in the unobstructed
currents of as keen and biting a south wind as ever came howling across
the vast fields of ice that covered the polar basin. The snow had long
ceased, but not until an immense quantity had fallen; nearly twice as
much, Roswell and Hazard thought, as they had seen on the rocks at any
time that winter.
"I see no signs of a change, Mr. Hazard," Roswell remarked, shivering with
the intensity of the cold. "We had better go back into the house before we
get chilled, for we have no fire now to go to, to warm ourselves. It is
much warmer within doors, than it is in the open air, fire or no fire."
"There are many reasons for that, Captain Gar'ner," answered the mate.
"So many bodies in so small a space, the shelter from the wind and outer
air, and the snow banks, all help us. I think we shall find the
thermometer indoors at a pretty comfortable figure this morning."
On examining it, it was found to stand at only fifteen below zero, making
a difference of five degrees in favour of the house, as compared with the
sort of covered gallery under the tent, and probably of five more, as
compared with the open air.
On a consultation, it was decided that all hands should eat a hearty meal,
remove most of their clothes, and get within the coverings of their
berths, to see if it would not be possible to wear out the cold spell, in
some tolerable comfort, beneath rugs and blankets. On the whole, it was
thought that the berths might be made more serviceable by this expedient,
than by putting their materials into the stoves. Accordingly, within an
hour after Roswell and his mate had returned from their brief out-door
excursion, the whole party was snugly bestowed under piles of rugs,
clothes, sails, and whatever else might be used to retain the animal heat [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]