Crusoes of the Frozen North/chapter9
"Come along, Professor! Come along, Mate! The children are there somewhere, over in that strange island. Ha! here is a bridge of rocks! Thank goodness for that! And look! here, too, are tracks!"
It was Uncle Staysail who spoke, and behind him was 'Fessor Pete himself, and at least a dozen well-armed sailors.
"Listen!" cried the captain. "What is that?"
"Wolves, I think," said the professor. "And hark! surely that was a rifle-shot. Pray Heaven we may be in time, Staysail!"
"Hurry up, men! Hurry up!" cried the captain; and the men dashed onwards.
Tom had revived a little, and he and Frank were fighting harder than ever to hold the gate, as bold
"Horatius kept the bridge In the brave days of old"
But it was already giving way, and the beasts without seemed to know it.
Briton was on his legs ready, and all seemed to be lost, when suddenly a rattling volley of rifle fire was heard from beneath, with shouts of men.
Volley followed volley, and in less time than it takes me to tell it, the wild wolf-foxes were seeking safety in flight.
"Tell us all your story again," said Tom to his uncle, as the children sat round the stove that same evening in the cosy cabin of the Valhalla.
They were all washed and clean by this time, and the girls were beautifully dressed.
"Ah! well, you see," said Uncle as he relit his pipe, "the professor here made a dart for the vessel when the storm came on. He wanted a stronger crew.
"He caught us just in time, for though the gale was a furious one we could steam up to it, and were doing so, when suddenly there was a loud explosion; one of the boilers had burst, and the engines were smashed and useless.
"We were now at the mercy of the sea, the waves, and the icebergs too, and before another day we were blown far away to sea.
"Even then we had hope. But in a week's time we were frozen into the main pack, and there we have had to winter, and it is hardly a week since we got clear by cutting a canal with our great ice-saws. Oh! it has been a dreary time for us, but must have been more so to you, poor darlings! and well and bravely you have borne it all!
"I am sure," he added, "that even Pansy has grown, and her mother will hardly know her again when we all get home."
"We are going now, aren't we, 'Fessor Pete?" said Pansy, who was sitting on his knee.
"Yes, my dear, yes. It is no use staying here when we have no steam, so the ship is now making for England's sunny shores. And we'll get there in the rosy month of June. Won't it be nice?"
Pansy was jumping with joy.
Aralia clapped her hands and cried: "Just too jolly for anything!"
By and by Aralia sat down to the piano, and Pete brought out his fiddle, and a very happy evening indeed was spent in the Valhalla.
The men were keeping it up forward too, around the galley fire, singing songs and spinning yarns, for the ship was "homeward bound".
"Oh, by the by," said Tom one day to the professor, "I forgot to tell you that in the cave where poor Veevee got lost I picked up this curious stone!"
The professor put his spectacles on his nose and gazed at it for a moment.
"Why, my dear Tom, this is solid gold, in the centre of a coating of quartz! You're in luck, lad; and it is just as I said; that is the Island of Gold. We shall return another year, and you will be one of the richest men in the kingdom."
My story is finished, or almost.
'Fessor Pete and Tom, with Uncle Staysail, to say nothing of the mastiff Briton, are out there in the Frozen North this very summer, and I do hope they will have luck.
But Aralia and Pansy, with sometimes Frank and always Veevee, may be seen any day playing on the sands not far from their mother's home, and Flossy too.
Flossy is wondrously tame, and spends an hour or two almost every day in the sea, or on the beach, to the great delight of all who see her. But Aralia has a whistle, and no matter how far away in the water this strange pet may be, whenever the call is sounded she comes ploughing back to the beach, and after she has shaken her bonny coat in the sunshine, goes waddling home with her little friend Veevee and the Crusoes of the Frozen North.