On the 20th of January most of the
crew had not the strength to leave their beds.
Each, independently of his woollen coverings, had
a buffalo-skin to protect him against the cold; but
as soon as he put his arms outside the clothes, he
felt a pain which obliged him quickly to cover them
Meanwhile, Louis having lit the stove
fire, Penellan, Misonne, and Andre Vasling left their
beds and crouched around it. Penellan prepared
some boiling coffee, which gave them some strength,
as well as Marie, who joined them in partaking of it.
Louis Cornbutte approached his father’s
bedside; the old man was almost motionless, and his
limbs were helpless from disease. He muttered
some disconnected words, which carried grief to his
“Louis,” said he, “I
am dying. O, how I suffer! Save me!”
Louis took a decisive resolution.
He went up to the mate, and, controlling himself with
“Do you know where the lemons are, Vasling?”
“In the steward’s room,
I suppose,” returned the mate, without stirring.
“You know they are not there,
as you have stolen them!”
“You are master, Louis Cornbutte,
and may say and do anything.”
“For pity’s sake, Andre
Vasling, my father is dying! You can save him, answer!”
“I have nothing to answer,” replied Andre
“Wretch!” cried Penellan,
throwing himself, cutlass in hand, on the mate.
“Help, friends!” shouted Vasling, retreating.
Aupic and the two Norwegian sailors
jumped from their beds and placed themselves behind
him. Turquiette, Penellan, and Louis prepared
to defend themselves. Pierre Nouquet and Gradlin,
though suffering much, rose to second them.
“You are still too strong for
us,” said Vasling. “We do not wish
to fight on an uncertainty.”
The sailors were so weak that they
dared not attack the four rebels, for, had they failed,
they would have been lost.
“Andre Vasling!” said
Louis Cornbutte, in a gloomy tone, “if my father
dies, you will have murdered him; and I will kill you
like a dog!”
Vasling and his confederates retired
to the other end of the cabin, and did not reply.
It was then necessary to renew the
supply of wood, and, in spite of the cold, Louis went
on deck and began to cut away a part of the barricading,
but was obliged to retreat in a quarter of an hour,
for he was in danger of falling, overcome by the freezing
air. As he passed, he cast a glance at the thermometer
left outside, and saw that the mercury was frozen.
The cold, then, exceeded forty-two degrees below zero.
The weather was dry, and the wind blew from the north.
On the 26th the wind changed to the
north-east, and the thermometer outside stood at thirty-five
degrees. Jean Cornbutte was in agony, and his
son had searched in vain for some remedy with which
to relieve his pain. On this day, however, throwing
himself suddenly on Vasling, he managed to snatch a
lemon from him which he was about to suck.
Vasling made no attempt to recover
it. He seemed to be awaiting an opportunity to
accomplish his wicked designs.
The lemon-juice somewhat relieved
old Cornbutte, but it was necessary to continue the
remedy. Marie begged Vasling on her knees to
produce the lemons, but he did not reply, and soon
Penellan heard the wretch say to his accomplices,
“The old fellow is dying.
Gervique, Gradlin, and Nouquet are not much better.
The others are daily losing their strength. The
time is near when their lives will belong to us!”
It was then resolved by Louis Cornbutte
and his adherents not to wait, and to profit by the
little strength which still remained to them.
They determined to act the next night, and to kill
these wretches, so as not to be killed by them.
The temperature rose a little.
Louis Cornbutte ventured to go out with his gun in
search of some game.
He proceeded some three miles from
the ship, and often, deceived by the effects of the
mirage and refraction, he went farther away than he
intended. It was imprudent, for recent tracts
of ferocious animals were to be seen. He did
not wish, however, to return without some fresh meat,
and continued on his route; but he then experienced
a strange feeling, which turned his head. It
was what is called “white vertigo.”
The reflection of the ice hillocks
and fields affected him from head to foot, and it
seemed to him that the dazzling colour penetrated
him and caused an irresistible nausea. His eye
was attacked. His sight became uncertain.
He thought he should go mad with the glare. Without
fully understanding this terrible effect, he advanced
on his way, and soon put up a ptarmigan, which he
eagerly pursued. The bird soon fell, and in order
to reach it Louis leaped from an ice-block and fell
heavily; for the leap was at least ten feet, and the
refraction made him think it was only two. The
vertigo then seized him, and, without knowing why,
he began to call for help, though he had not been
injured by the fall. The cold began to take him,
and he rose with pain, urged by the sense of self-preservation.
Suddenly, without being able to account
for it, he smelt an odour of boiling fat. As
the ship was between him and the wind, he supposed
that this odour proceeded from her, and could not
imagine why they should be cooking fat, this being
a dangerous thing to do, as it was likely to attract
the white bears.
Louis returned towards the ship, absorbed
in reflections which soon inspired his excited mind
with terror. It seemed to him as if colossal
masses were moving on the horizon, and he asked himself
if there was not another ice-quake. Several of
these masses interposed themselves between him and
the ship, and appeared to rise about its sides.
He stopped to gaze at them more attentively, when
to his horror he recognized a herd of gigantic bears.
These animals had been attracted by
the odour of grease which had surprised Lonis.
He sheltered himself behind a hillock, and counted
three, which were scaling the blocks on which the
“Jeune-Hardie” was resting.
Nothing led him to suppose that this
danger was known in the interior of the ship, and
a terrible anguish oppressed his heart. How resist
these redoubtable enemies? Would Andre Vasling
and his confederates unite with the rest on board
in the common peril? Could Penellan and the others,
half starved, benumbed with cold, resist these formidable
animals, made wild by unassuaged hunger? Would
they not be surprised by an unlooked-for attack?
Louis made these reflections rapidly.
The bears had crossed the blocks, and were mounting
to the assault of the ship. He might then quit
the block which protected him; he went nearer, clinging
to the ice, and could soon see the enormous animals
tearing the tent with their paws, and leaping on the
deck. He thought of firing his gun to give his
comrades notice; but if these came up without arms,
they would inevitably be torn in pieces, and nothing
showed as yet that they were even aware of their new