More strange still! the man and the woman have crossed the solitudes during a terrific storm! Black pines, the growth of centuries, pointing their bent heads in different parts of the solitude like crosses in a churchyard, have been uprooted, rent, and hurled aside by the blasts!
Yet the two travellers face this furious tempest, which has plucked up trees, and pounded the frozen masses into splinters, with the roar of thunder.
They face it, without for one single instant deviating from the straight line hitherto followed by them.
Who then are these two beings who advance thus calmly amidst the storms and convulsions of nature?
Is it by chance, or design, or destiny, that the seven nails in the sole of the man’s shoe form a cross—thus:
* * *
Everywhere he leaves this impress behind him.
On the smooth and polished snow, these footmarks seem imprinted by a foot of brass on a marble floor.
Night without twilight has soon succeeded day—a night of foreboding gloom.
The brilliant reflection of the snow renders the white steppes still visible beneath the azure darkness of the sky; and the pale stars glimmer on the obscure and frozen dome.
Solemn silence reigns.
But, towards the Straits, a faint light appears.
At first, a gentle, bluish light, such as precedes moonrise; it increases in brightness, and assumes a ruddy hue.
Darkness thickens in every other direction; the white wilds of the desert are now scarcely visible under the black vault of the firmament.
Strange and confused noises are heard amidst this obscurity.
They sound like the flight of large night—birds—now flapping now-heavily skimming over the steppes-now descending.
But no cry is heard.
This silent terror heralds the approach of one of those imposing phenomena that awe alike the most ferocious and the most harmless, of animated beings. An Aurora Borealis (magnificent sight!) common in the polar regions, suddenly beams forth.
A half circle of dazzling whiteness becomes visible in the horizon. Immense columns of light stream forth from this dazzling centre, rising to a great height, illuminating earth, sea, and sky. Then a brilliant reflection, like the blaze of a conflagration, steals over the snow of the desert, purples the summits of the mountains of ice, and imparts a dark red hue to the black rocks of both continents.
After attaining this magnificent brilliancy, the Northern Lights fade away gradually, and their vivid glow is lost in a luminous fog.
Just then, by a wondrous mirage an effect very common in high latitudes, the American Coast, though separated from Siberia by a broad arm of the sea, loomed so close that a bridge might seemingly be thrown from one world to other.
Then human forms appeared in the transparent azure haze overspreading both forelands.