“It’s the great North pack!” he exclaimed. “It’s the Arctic pack! If I can get on that I’ll be safe from drowning, anyhow, for a few days! It’s stronger than this, and it’ll stand some good blows.”
To quench his thirst he clipped particles of ice with his snow knife and sucked them, while he ran up and down to keep warm. And, as night approached, he built a new night shelter from snow blocks, near the center of his floe, and, very hungry and despondent, crawled into it to lie long and think of Abel Zachariah and Mrs. Abel, and the lost happiness in the cabin which was his home; and of Skipper Ed and Jimmy, and of the old days that were now gone forever, when he and Jimmy had played together with never a thought of the terrible fate that awaited them; and of the adventure on the cliff, and the hundred other scrapes into which they had got and from which they had somehow always escaped unharmed; and even of the lonely grave on Itigailit Island, and the cairn of stones he had built upon it.
“A tragedy brought me into the country,” he said to himself, “and a tragedy has taken me out of it, and the end of my life will be a tragedy.”
And then, after long thought:
“Skipper Ed says our destiny is God’s will. But God always has a purpose in His will. I wonder if I’ve fulfilled my destiny, and what the purpose of it was. Maybe it was just to be a son to Father and Mother.”
He mused upon this for a long time, and then his thoughts ran to Skipper Ed and Jimmy:
“I wonder what there is in Skipper Ed’s life that he’s never told us,” he pondered. “He’s always said he was a wandering sailor-man, who stopped on the coast because he liked it. He never was a common sailor, I’m sure. I never thought of that before! Sailors aren’t educated, and he is! And whenever Jimmy or I asked him to tell about his own life before he came here he always put us off with something else.”
And then he fell asleep to dream that he and Skipper Ed were walking under strange trees, with flowers, the like of which he had never seen, blooming all about them and making the air sweet with their perfume.
A STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE
It was fortunate that Bobby had selected the center of the floe for his night shelter, for when he awoke in the morning and crawled out of his snow cavern he discovered that the unstable shore ice of which the floe was composed had been gradually breaking up during the night into separate pans, and that he was now upon a comparatively small floe, little more indeed than a large pan, which had originally been the center of the great floe upon which he went adrift.
Surrounding him was a mass of loose pans, rising and falling on the swell, and grinding and crunching against one another with a voice of ominous warning. With quick appreciation he was aware that his position was now indeed a perilous one, for it was obvious that his small remnant of floe was rapidly going to pieces.