Read CHAPTER TWO - TO NORRARD. of Steve Young , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on

Steve Young, who was walking first, suddenly stooped down and took up a handful of sand, which was so hot, fine, and dry that it began to trickle between his fingers like that in the kitchen egg-boiler at home, as he trotted softly to the edge of the wharf and looked over, to find exactly what he expected:  the boat made fast to one of the cross timbers, with a big swarthy man in a blue jersey asleep in the stern, and a rough-looking, shock-headed boy also asleep in the bows, the hot sunshine having a soporific effect on both.

As Steve reached the edge he looked sharply back and saw that the Norwegian captain had returned, and Captain Marsham and the doctor had turned to see what he wanted.  That was Steve’s opportunity, and going down on one knee he reached over where the shock-headed boy lay with the side of his head resting upon the boat’s gunwale ten feet below, and one ear turned up as if listening while its owner slept.

Steve Young calculated pretty well in trying to get his hand exactly over that ear, and then let a little sand trickle down.  It fell right into the ear, for there was not a breath of wind; but the boy slept on.  Steve let a little more go down, and this time there was a tiny stone as well, which struck the open organ and made it twitch, just as a dog’s ear does when it is tickled.  But the boy slept on, and Steve tried again, letting more sand fall.  This time the boy raised his hand and gave his ear a vicious rub.  Then the hand dropped, and he slept again.  More sand, and a stone or two about half the size of peas, one of which dropped right into the opening of the ear, and resulted in the boy making a rapid dash with his hand past his head, as if striking at something.  He subsided once more with a grunt, and more sand fell in company with tiny pebbles.  This time the boy made three or four savage blows in the air, but without raising his head or opening his eyes.  “Bother the flees!” he muttered, and Steve waited.  Then down went the trickling sand.  “Bother the flees, I say!” cried the boy, opening his eyes now, and making a few more angry strokes with his hand.  Again he closed his eyes, and, practice making perfect, Steve dropped a tiny pebble right into the boy’s ear, and drew back out of sight; for this time the lad sprang up and looked sharply round.  Then, seeing nothing on the wharf overhead, he turned to the man in the stern, and said sharply: 

“That you, Hahmeesh?”

“Eh?” came in a drowsy tone.

“That you flecking stanes in my lug?”

“Na.  Flees.”

“No.  Stanes and sahnd.”

“Flees, I tell you.  Be quiet.”

The boy grunted, looked round, and settled down again to sleep, for he was still drowsy.

Steve listened till all was still, glanced over his right shoulder, saw that Captain Marsham was still talking to the Norwegian, and then quietly peered over the edge of the granite wharf again, to find the boy apparently fast asleep.  Then down went a tiny pebble with splendid aim.

“Bother the flees!” roared the boy, springing up and sending his arms about like a windmill.  But this time Steve stood fast, laughing; while the boy stopped short, looking up fiercely, and then grinned.

“I see you all the time hiding ahint the stanes!” he cried.

“Come, jump up; here’s the captain.”

The effect of those words was magical, for the man, a big, good-humoured-looking Scot, also sprang up and stepped to his place on the thwart forward, and cried to the boy: 

“Naw, Watty, handy there with that hitcher!”

The boy caught up the boat-hook, drew the boat close to where the painter was fastened, and then hauled her along, after casting off, to where a rough wooden ladder was clamped to the side of the wharf.

Both moved smartly, for, short as the time had been that they had served on board the Hvalross, Captain Marsham had drilled the men into something like the same habits as those of his old crew when he commanded a sloop in the Royal Navy, before he retired from the service and settled down at Dartmouth.  Since then he had amused himself with his yacht, till, hearing of the non-return of his old friend Captain Young, he determined to fit out the Hvalross and make an expedition to the north, taking with him his ward, Stephen Young, who had long been importuning him to arrange for his going to sea.

The boat was waiting as Captain Marsham came to the edge of the little granite wharf, and they had just stepped in when a strange sound came floating through the silence of the soft, dreamy summer air, followed directly by a long-drawn, plaintive howl that was almost terrible in its despairing tone.

“What ever is that?” cried the doctor, starting up from his seat and shading his eyes to gaze at the anchored vessel.

“It’s Skene-dhu!” cried Steve.  “What’s he howling at?  Because we’re ashore?”

“Pipes,” said the man, who was now pulling steadily at one oar, while the boy tugged at the other.

“Pipes?” cried the captain.  “What pipes?  They surely don’t play the bagpipes in Norway?”

“No, sir.  It’s Andra McByle brought his fra Oban.”

“There, pull, my lads!” said the captain, frowning.  “We shall have plenty to depress us going north without winds of this description, eh, Steve?”

“Yes, it’s horrid,” said that young gentleman; and the boy who was rowing looked up at him sharply with a frown on his heavy brows.

And all the while the wild, weird strain grew louder, and the howling more piteous, till the boat reached the vessel’s side, when the drone and squeal of the pipes ceased on the instant, and the dog’s howl was changed to a loud, joyous bark, as his handsome head appeared at the gangway, the eyes flashing in the sunlight, ears cocked, and the thick mass of hair about the neck ruffled up.

“Back, Skeny!  Stop there, boy!” shouted Steve; and his words checked the dog just as he was about to leap down.

At that moment a frank-looking, middle-aged man came to the side, and looked down at them.  “Any good, sir?” he said; “or are we too late for them?”

“All right, Lowe,” said the captain.  “Four of the best men in port promised.”

“Old Hendal promise them, sir?”


“Then it is all right,” said the new comer on the scene, to wit, Mr James Lowe, the chief officer, an experienced sailor in the Northern Seas, who had applied to Captain Marsham for a post on the vessel while it was fitting out at Birkenhead, joined it at Oban, and proved himself a thoroughly good navigator in bringing them round by the many islands and fast currents of the west coast of Scotland, and then across to Norway and up through the fiords to Nordoe.

A couple of hours later, as the occupants of the Hvalross lounged about enjoying the delicious sunshine of the short northern summer, and those fresh to the coast gazed admiringly at the towering cliffs, snow-capped mountains, and thundering waterfalls which plunged headlong into the pure waters of the fiord, which reflected all like a mirror, a heavy boat pushed off from the wharf, and Captain Hendal climbed on deck.  He was followed by four sturdy-looking descendants of the Vikings, clear-eyed, fair-haired, massive-headed men, who looked ready and willing to go through any danger, and who one and all declared themselves eager to start, on one condition ­that they should not be expected to stoke the engine fire.  This was conceded instantly.  A few questions were then asked by Captain Hendal as to the stores and materiel on board the vessel; and it being found that everything likely to be wanted had been thought of and provided, and that every possible place beside the bunkers was crammed with coal, the Norwegian captain took his leave with the new recruits.

That evening the men were back on board with their kits; quite a crowd of people were about the wharf, consequent upon the new interest for them which the vessel possessed, and an hour later, steam being up, the anchor was raised, and the sturdy-looking grey vessel glided away through the calm waters of the fiord amidst a loud burst of cheers.

Northward ho! for the region of the midnight sun.