“Must we, then, renounce all hopes of discovering a north-east passage?”
“That seems to be the conclusion which we must arrive at, from the failure of these numerous attempts. It is said, however, that a great navigator, named Nordenskiold, wishes to make another attempt, after he has prepared himself by first exploring portions of this polar sea. If he then considers it practicable, he may get up another expedition.”
Dr. Schwaryencrona was a warm admirer of Nordenskiold, and this is why he had asked these questions about the north-east passage. He was charmed with the clearness of these answers.
He fixed his eyes on Erik Hersebom, with an expression of the deepest interest.
“Where did you learn all this, my dear child?” he demanded, after a short silence.
“Here, sir,” answered Erik, surprised at the question.
“You have never studied in any other school?”
“Mr. Malarius may be proud of you, then,” said the doctor, turning toward the master.
“I am very well satisfied with Erik,” said the latter.
“He has been my pupil for eight years. When I first took him he was very young, and he has always been at the head of his section.”
The doctor became silent. His piercing eyes were fixed upon Erik, with a singular intensity. He seemed to be considering some problem, which it would not be wise to mention.
“He could not have answered my question better and I think it useless to continue the examination,” he said at last. “I will no longer delay your holiday, my children, and since Mr. Malarius desires it, we will stop for to-day.”
At these words, the master clapped his hands. All the pupils rose at once, collected their books, and arranged themselves in four lines, in the empty spaces between the benches.
Mr. Malarias clapped his hands a second time. The column started, and marched out, keeping step with military precision.
At a third signal they broke their ranks, and took to flight with joyous cries.
In a few seconds they were scattered around the blue waters of the fiord, where might be seen also the turf roofs of the village of Noroe.
The home of A fisherman in Noroe.
The house of Mr. Hersebom was, like all others in Noroe, covered by a turf roof, and built of enormous timbers of fir-trees, in the Scandinavian fashion. The two large rooms were separated by a hall in the center, which led to the boat-house where the canoes were kept. Here were also to be seen the fishing-tackle and the codfish, which they dry and sell. These two rooms were used both as living-rooms and bedrooms. They had a sort of wooden drawer let into the wall, with its mattress and skins, which serve for beds, and are only to be seen at night. This arrangement for sleeping, with the bright panels, and the large open fire-place, where a blazing fire of wood was always kept burning, gave to the interior of the most humble homes an appearance of neatness and domestic luxury unknown to the peasantry of Southern Europe.