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The pity for the living fly was continued to its remains. Nature had composed its limbs in placid repose, and a suitable site being found in which to deposit the dust, it was suitably interred. There was as much propriety in the mourners as is displayed by needy relatives when some rich man dies.
Why should strong men have natures like this? There are pepole who account for such displays of gentleness on patriotic grounds. The fly was their fellow-country mortal! Others that it was on pure ethnological principles easily settled. Was it not the last of its race ? Could it have been for its individuality that it was esteemed precious, as a rare coin is hoarded, or a musty tome? Did they believe in metempsychosis, and regard the fly with awe, hoping, in doing their duty by it, they were honouring their grandmother!
After all, it was only a fly. It is sometimes said at the decease of a little one, “It was only a child." But what does the mother think? It was only a fly; and what did the fly think? If the fly thought about it at all, had it noted the gradual disappearance of its companions ? Had it no forebodings of its coming fate, no regrets for the past ? Had it no consciousness of the kindness of those on board the schooner ? Could it understand the solicitude shown for it in the selec
tion of its dainties? Had it a longing desire to quit so rigorous a region, hoping, perchance, to awaken in the spirit land of flies, where an ever-shining sun brings a paradise for them to sport in ? Or was it smitten by that human love of life which makes so many of us hang on earthly existence, with all its cares?
None of these could satisfy us. We set it all down to the cold, and the lack of exciting incidents at that stage of our journey.
The incident was not without its effect upon the men. They had done a kindness, and had received the reward, and yet the loss of their little protégé was not without its gloom. Up in that strange, still cheerless realm of frost, so far from dear friends and home, how knew they but that, like the flies, they might one by one yield up life there, till the last man, without the consolation of sympathy, would leave this unburied corpse“ where friends come not.”
We continued to wage successful sport with the seals all day, and at five in the following morning, at a council of war, we decided that, as our object was not so much to fill our ship with blubber as to get on with our sounding observations, which really was the object of our journey north, it was better to put an end to our sealing, as the time and weather was precious to
us, and there were symptoms of a change for the worse in this respect; but there is much fortitude required when the game abounds and the chase exciting, to draw off when it seems at its best. Nevertheless we have to return again to the somewhat dry demands of scientific inquiry. Many a cup of coffee did we sip that night as we sat over our pipe without the least sense of weariness or fatigue, in the fine bracing air of the far north. Coffee is a far more acceptable beverage than wine or brandy of any kind in these regions. In the warm latitudes spirits seem essential at such a time, but here the system seems to reject the stimulant, and tea or cocoa are more highly prized.
Our ambition is to reach some point to the north of Spitzbergen, as the ice is about to open, where we may complete our work commenced last year. Besides there is the ground-seal to be found on the coast of Spitzbergen, and the prospect of other game to console us for the seeming loss we are about to endure as we leave these teeming hunting-grounds.
Getting away to the eastward is by no means easy work, and another scrape on our false keel signals us from below that the shocks we occasionally encounter in our course have not been without effect upon the tough schooner's sides. Next day we take it easy, and the 29th is a perfect day of rest on board ; the men sleep off the effects of yesterday's rough toil.
The men are satisfied that our seemingly new plan of sealing (by sailing our ship itself in their direction) is far preferable to the one in general use-in foggy weather especially. If silence can be secured on board, the ship slips through the thick atmosphere, and she may easily be mistaken for a harmless iceberg. Gliding along the sea, just out of reach of the long tongues of ice, but still near enough to shoot the basking seals. The small icebergs are often muddy and discoloured near the water's edge, and black blocks of ice are not uncommon. In this way their resemblance to a ship is not so difficult to comprehend. The men inspect their weapons and spin yarns as they give themselves up to a few hours of idle enjoyment. Next day, the 30th of June, the sun shines out upon the silver sea, whose surface is without a ripple. No one has as yet described the loveliness of an Arctic summer's day, and we shall not be betrayed into the attempt. All nature enjoys the calm, and the little roaches (mergulus) in large flocks, forgetful of their constant employment in the search of food, give themselves up to long hours of enjoyment; they come whirring past the bows of the schooner, and wheeling in their rapid flight, they rush with a surprising sound
of wings past the stern. A great whale in the far distance comes up to blow, and after watching his morements for some time, we are compelled to forego the chase, as he is far beyond the bounds we would be justified in venturing after him.
Next morning as Byers is on watch, a whale appears This time there is no difficulty in the way, and as everything depends upon the steady action of the crew, he gets his men quickly and quietly together and leaves the ship. So orderly had been his plans we did not know what had occurred until after he was well away in the pursuit.
“So forth they rowed, and that ferryman
With his suff oares did brush the sea so strong
We ran on deck and saw the whale on the surface of the sea, spirting up the expressed air from his lungs like jets of water, but in reality it is a fine vapour cloud which easily condenses in this cold air, and looks, at a little distance, like water. In the far distance the land (some forty miles away) fills in the view, like the frame to a picture. The mountains, lit up with the various effects of light and shade, seem only fifteen miles away ; but the vast height of the distant peaks, seen through the clear air,