As this was evidently the view of an optimist, Mr. Hersebom answered with a sad smile. But Erik was determined to take a cheerful view of things.
“Is it not an extraordinary piece of good luck that we have this depot of provisions?” he said. “Our case would, indeed, be a desperate one if we were deprived of everything; but, with twenty casks of biscuits, preserved meats, and, above all, our guns and cartridges, what have we to fear? At the most, we will only have to remain some weeks without seeing any land that we can reach. You see, dear father, that we have happened upon this adventure in the same manner as the crew of the ‘Hansa.’”
“Of the ’Hansa’?” asked Mr. Hersebom, with curiosity.
“Yes, a vessel that set out in 1869 for the arctic seas. Part of her crew were left, as we are, on a floating field of ice, while they were occupied in transporting some provisions and coal. The brave men accommodated themselves as well as they could to this new life, and after floating for six mouths and a half over a distance of several thousand leagues, ended by landing in the arctic regions of North America.”
“May we be as fortunate!” said Mr. Hersebom, with a sigh. “But it would be well I think for us to eat something.”
“That is also my opinion!” said Erik. “A biscuit and a slice of beef would be very acceptable.”
Mr. Hersebom opened two casks to take out what they required for their breakfast, and as soon as his arrangements were completed they did ample justice to the provisions.
“Was the raft of the crew of the ‘Hansa’ as large as ours?” asked the old fisherman, after ten minutes conscientiously devoted to repairing his strength.
“I think not—ours is considerably larger. The ‘Hansa’s’ became gradually much smaller, so that the unfortunate shipwrecked men were at last compelled to abandon it, for the waves began to dash over them. Fortunately they had a large boat which enabled them, when their island was no longer habitable, to reach another. They did this several times before they at last reached the main-land.”
“Ah, I see!” said Mr. Hersebom, “they had a boat—but we have not. Unless we embark in an empty hogshead I do not see how we can ever leave this island of ice.”
“We shall see about it when the time comes!” answered Erik. “At the present moment I think the best thing that we can do is to make a thorough exploration of our domain.”
He arose, as did Mr. Hersebom, and they commenced climbing a hill of ice and snow—a hummock is the technical name—in order to obtain a general idea of their island.