Read CHAPTER FORTY ONE - “NEVER SAY DIE.” of Steve Young , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on ReadCentral.com.

Three days passed, during which Mr Handscombe and Steve worked hard watching by turns over their sick; and in spite of the boy’s desire to evade the task, the doctor forced him to come out for a tramp in the snow by the light of the moon.  The Norsemen, who bore the winter better than the rest, had begun to lose hope, and declined to leave the fire, while the cook always pleaded for excuse ­want of time.

It would have been very beautiful out there; but the state of the crew, and his own want of energy, made the fiord look like a cold, dark, cruel, icy prison, and Steve was always glad to get back into the shelter of the ship.

Then came a morning when the doctor complained of being unwell, and asked Steve to go alone to attend to the men.

With a feeling of horror that he could not conceal, the boy slowly left the doctor’s cabin.

“He’ll lie now as the others are lying,” said Steve to himself; and the boy’s first thought now was that he ought to go to his own cot and give up, for there was nothing more to be done.

“Never say die,” he muttered, though; “never say die;” and, setting his teeth, he went on with the duty the doctor had inaugurated, and visited man after man, praying, exhorting, and bullying them into partaking of food instead of lying there, dying, as it were, by inches.

One by one the Norsemen gave up, till only Johannes made the least effort, and that only when Steve stood by.  Then came the day when he, too, resigned himself to his fate; and on going, after leaving him lying in the engine-room, to the galley, Steve found that the cook was seated listless and weary, his chin upon his hands, his elbows on his knees, gazing at the dying fire in his stove.

“What!” cried Steve, “you are not going to give up?”

The man looked at him sadly for a few moments without speaking, and then shook his head.

“The cold stuns them, the cold stuns them!” said the boy aloud in his despair and horror as he turned back to the cabin.  “Mr Handscombe,” he cried, “what shall I give them?  I can do no more.”

There was no reply, and with a thrill of horror running through him Steve fled back to the deck, where the black darkness horrified him still more, for the lamps had gone out for want of attention, the boiler fire was nearly extinct, and even the outer cold seemed preferable to that gloomy icy vault, so full of horror.  He literally staggered to the ice-covered canvas door of the awning, and in his fearful loneliness strove to get the frozen fastenings undone, so that he might at least have the stars of heaven for company.  And then he felt that he was not alone, for there was a sharp bark, the dog sprang to his side, and the boy dropped upon his knees and flung his arms about his faithful companion’s neck.

“Skeny, old lad!” he cried with a sob, “and I thought I was quite left.”

A sharp bark was the response, and in his delight the dog butted at him, seized his arm in his teeth, and playfully worried it.

The next minute Steve rose to his feet, and, hardly knowing what he was doing, dragged the canvas doorway open, and staggered out of the darkness and down the snow steps into what looked once more a world of silvery light; for the moon was at the full, and it seemed nearly as light as day.  In his delight the dog threw himself on his side to force a way through the snow, and then turned over to repeat the performance, and leap and race round his master, who stood shading his eyes from the light, and staring before him at something misty and spectral-looking in the distance.  Finally the dog burst into a joyous peal of barking at the objects which had struck his master, and there came the sharp report of a gun, followed by a rolling volley of echoes.

“Is this dreaming?  Am I getting worse?” thought Steve; and at that moment there came a loud “Ahoy!”

“Some one there! ­there in that terrible solitude!  Then it must be help.”

The excitement and reaction were too much.  Steve strove to shout again; but the words failed him, and he only uttered a hoarse cry.  But the dog responded bravely and loudly it seemed to the boy at first, then faintly and more faintly, while the moonlight was dim, and then all dark, for he had sunk insensible upon the snow.

When he opened his eyes Skene was standing with his fore paws upon his chest, and nearly a dozen men in heavy furs stood about him, while one white-haired, burly-looking personage, who was supporting him, said: 

“Come, my lad, better?  Where are your friends? in the ship?”

“Uncle!” was all that Steve could pant out, for he recognised the voice that he had not heard for a couple of years.