It was easy to grill small pieces of seal meat over this, but the problem of melting ice for water was a puzzling one. Finally this, too, was solved, by improvising another bowl from sealskin and suspending over it a piece of ice. This bowl he held as near as possible to the flame without putting it in danger of scorching the skin. The ice, suspended by a thong directly above the bowl and a little on one side of the flame, began at once to drip water into the bowl. The water resulting was very oily and unclean, but Bobby in his position had neither a discriminating taste nor a discriminating appetite.
“Well,” said Bobby that evening when he had settled himself comfortably after a good meal of grilled meat, “this isn’t as comfortable as home, but it’s away ahead of raw meat and ice, and no igloo at all. And it’s safe for a while, anyhow.”
And so our young adventurer took up his lonely life upon the shifting ice, and day after day he watched the baby seals grow, and wondered at it, for each morning they were visibly larger than they had been the previous night. And he wondered, too, that each mother should know her own little one, by merely sniffing about, for the babies, or “white coats” as he called them, were as like as peas.
Thus he had lived ten lonely days, and sometimes he believed God had forgotten him, when one morning a black streak appeared in the sky and then another and another, and something wonderful happened, for God had not forgotten Bobby and was guiding his destiny.
THE SHIPS THAT CAME DOWN TO THE ICE
Closer and closer came the three black streaks, and presently the masts, then the funnels, and finally the hulls of three ships appeared, first one, then another, then the third. Bobby watched them with awe and wonder. He even forgot for a time that a way was opening for his escape.
The three ships were streaming directly toward the ice, and in the course of an hour after he had first sighted them the advance ship came to, half a mile or so from the floe, and not above a mile to the southward of him. Boats were lowered before the steamer had fully stopped, and immediately men swarmed over her sides and into them, and in a moment the boats put off for the ice, the men climbed out upon it and presently were running everywhere, beating to the right and to the left with clubs.
Then the boats returned to the ship to fetch more men, and still more, until there were more men upon the ice than Bobby had ever seen before, and all beating about them with their clubs. So it was with the other ships as they came up; they, too, sent scores upon scores of men to the ice in boats.
Bobby was astonished beyond measure at what he saw, and at first he was afraid, and watched from a distance. But at last he recalled that he had heard of this thing before. These were the seal hunters from Newfoundland, and with bats they were slaying the young white-coat seals, and such of the old seals, also, as did not slip away from them into the water.