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climate, would certainly have killed them; and they thankfully decided to make the best of them. Accordingly, the smaller of the two huts was given up to Augusta and the boy Dick, while Mr. Meeson and the sailors took possession of the large one. Their next task was to move up their scanty belongings (the boat having first been carefully beached), and to clean out the huts and make them as habitable as possible by stretching the sails of the boat over the damp floors and covering up the holes in the roof as best they could with stones and bits of board from the bottom of the boat. The weather was, fortunately, dry, and as they all (with the exception of Mr. Meeson, who seemed to be quite prostrated) worked with a will, not excepting Master Dick—who toddled backwards and forwards after Augusta in high glee at finding himself on terra firma-by mid-day everything that could be done was done. Then they made a fire of some drift-wood-for, fortunately, they had a few matches - and Augusta cooked the two fowls they had recovered from the floating hen-coop, as well as circumstances would allow -which, as a matter of fact, was not very well—and they had dinner, of which they all stood sadly in need.
After dinner they reckoned up their resources. Of water there was an ample supply, for not far from the huts a stream ran down into the fjord. For food they had the best part of a bag of biscuits weighing about a hundred pounds. Also there was the cask of rum, Mr. Meeson's Will,
which the men moved into their own hut. But that was not all, for there were plenty of shellfish about if they could find means to cook them, and the rocks around were covered with hundreds of penguins, including specimens of the great "King penguin,” which
“ only required to be knocked on the head. There was, therefore, little fear of their perishing of starvation, as sometimes happens to shipwrecked people. Indeed, immediately after dinner, the two sailors went out and returned with as many birds' eggs-mostly penguin-as they could carry in their hats. Scarcely had they got in, however, when the rain, which is the prevailing characteristic of these latitudes, came on in the most pitiless fashion; and soon the great mountains with which they were surrounded were wrapped in dense veils of fleecy vapour.
Hour after hour the rain fell without ceasing, penetrating through their miserable roofs, and falling-drop, drip, drop,—upon the sodden floor. Augusta sat by herself in the smaller hut, doing what she could to amuse little Dick by telling him stories. Nobody knows how hard she found it to have to invent stories when she was thus overwhelmed with misfortune; but it was the only way of keeping the poor child from crying, as the sense of cold and misery forced itself into his little heart. So she told him about Robinson Crusoe, and then she told him that they were playing at being Robinson Crusoe, to which the child very sensibly replied that he did not at all like the game, and wanted his mamma.
And meanwhile it grew darker and colder and damper hour by hour, till at length the light went out of the sky and left her with nothing to keep her company but the moaning wind, the falling rain, and the wild cries of the sea-birds when something disturbed them from their rest. The child was asleep at last, wrapped up in a blanket and one of the smaller sails; and Augusta, feeling quite worn out with solitude and the pressure of heavy thoughts, began to think that the best thing she could do would be to try to follow his example, when suddenly there came a knock at the boards which served as a door to the shanty.
“Who is it?" she cried, with a start.
“Me—Mr. Meeson,” answered a voice. “Can I come in?”
“Yes; if you like," said Augusta sharply, though in her heart she was really glad to see him, or rather, to hear him, for it was too dark to see anything. It is wonderful how, under the pressure of great calamity, we forget our quarrels and our spites, and are ready to jump at the prospect of the human companionship of our deadliest enemy.
And “the moral of that is,” as the White Queen says, that as we are all night and day face to face with the last dread calamity-Death-we should throughout our lives behave as though we saw the present shadow of his hand. But that will rarely happen in the world while human nature is human nature—and when will it become anything else? “Put up the door again," said Augusta, when, from
a rather rawer rush of air than usual, she gathered that her visitor was within the hut.
Mr. Meeson obeyed, groaning audibly. “Those two brutes are getting drunk,” he said, “swallowing down rum by the gallon. I have come because I could not stop with them any longer -- and I am so ill, Miss Smithers, so ill! I believe that I am going to die. Sometimes I feel as though all the marrow in my
bones were ice, and-and--at others just as if somebody were shoving a red-hot wire up them. Can't you do anything for me?"
“I don't see what is to be done,” answered Augusta gently, for the man's misery touched her in spite of her dislike of him. “You had better lie down and try to go to sleep.”
“To sleep!” he moaned; "how can I sleep? My blanket is wringing wet and my clothes are damp,” and he fairly broke down and began to groan and sob.
“Try and go to sleep,” urged Augusta again.
He made no answer, but by degrees grew quieter, overwhelmed, perhaps, by the solemn presence of the darkness. Augusta laid her head against the biscuitbag, and at last sank into blissful oblivion; for to the young, sleep is a constant friend. Once or twice she woke, but only to drop off again: and when she finally opened her eyes it was quite light and the rain had ceased.
Her first care was for little Dick, who had slept soundly throughout the night and appeared to be none
the worse. She took him outside the hut and washed his face and hands in the stream, and then sat down to a breakfast of biscuit. As she returned she met the two sailors, who, although they were now fairly sober,
their faces the marks of a fearful debauch. Evidently they had been drinking heavily. She drew herself up and looked at them, and they slunk past her in silence.
Then she returned to the hut. Mr. Meeson was sitting up when she entered, and the bright light from the open door fell" full upon his face. His appearance fairly shocked her. The heavy cheeks had fallen in, there were great purple rings round the hollow eyes, and his whole aspect was that of a man in the last stage of illness.
“I have had such a night!” he said. “Oh, Heaven! such a night! I don't believe that I shall live through another.”
“Nonsense!” said Augusta, “eat some biscuit and you will feel better."
He took a piece of the biscuit which she gave him, and attempted to swallow it, but could not.
“It is of no use," he said; “I am a dying man. Sitting in those wet clothes in the boat has finished me."
And Augusta, looking at his face, could not but believe him.