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day. But that during his absence, the children scarcely thought of anything else, or spoke of anything else, than their unfortunate friends, need scarcely be said. They dreamed the whole night of them, and in sympathy felt all the tortures of the unhappy men, because they took the liveliest interest in their dreadful fate. "If only one of them had remained behind," said Maria, "then could he have taken means to rescue his friends."
Gus. It must have been the old pilot,
JULIA. He would have met with difficulties.
MAX. To be sure he would. How could he remove the flat rock; where could he have got a tree, a ladder, or a rope?
Gus. That, I do not indeed know, but the pilot would have set his wits to work for it. How did our neighbour do, when, a year since, his house was on fire below him? He let himself down by contriving to make a rope of linen cloth.
MARIA. Yes, but where could the pilot get this?
Gus. I think there were some lying in the captain's chest.
MARIA. If the poor men who had tumbled down only had a light!
Gus. And something to keep them alive. But why do we puzzle our heads about the matter! Our father will take good care that the three poor men will come to light again.
Finally, after four long days, their father, so much desired, came back. With pleasant greetings, the children hastened to meet him; they were the more confident as they could give him proof that they had been obedient and industrious while he was gone.
With the greatest longing, they looked forward to the time in which their father, according to his custom, took his seat with them, and by his stories was used to shorten the long winter evenings. To-day, the children were even comparatively indifferent for a description of his journey, important as at other times even so little an event as such a journey was to them. The account of the three friends was more important to them than anything else.
The supper was taken, and at the usual place already stood their father's chair. Maria and Julia sat with their knitting
near their mother, while Max and Gustavus were occupied in covering their books. All were silent, and waited earnestly for their father to begin his story. Finally, the time appeared to the quick Gustavus somewhat too long.
"We have very often thought of Spitzbergen," he began.
JULIA. And the three poor imprisoned
MARIA. I have dreamed of them, and in my dream have suffered with them their deathlike anguish.
MAX. We have also debated whether the poor men were saved, and how.
FATHER. And all this is to help me to keep in mind of it? Is it not so, you wish the continuation of this story?
ALL. Oh, yes, father, pray do tell us more !
That the father willingly yielded to the wish of his good children no assurance can be needed. "Very well, then, let us go on. We left our three friends in our story-"
Gus. Thrown down, and shut up in the vault.
FATHER. True. Now we will go on, and relate further how it fared with them. The situation of these unfortunate men was the most frightful which can be conceived. The perils which they had undergone in shipwreck, or the fight with the wild bears, was nothing in comparison to it. Surrounded by the veriest darkness of night, they lay in a swoon, resembling death. The pains which the pilot felt, and his bruised body, from his fall on the pointed and hard stones, brought him back to life, and convinced him that he was not dreaming. Now he recovered himself; he remembered the horrible occurrence, and called loudly the name of his friends. The echo of his voice sounded in the empty vault, but no human voice answered. He called yet once more, -all remained still as in the grave. The poor man heard nothing but the rolling out of a stone into the bottomless depth. Almighty God!" prayed he, in this dreadful moment, "have pity on me and my unfortunate friends! We cannot help ourselves!"
Then he heard, not far from himself, a groaning and gasping, as if it was the last sigh of a dying man. He called out
once more, but received no answer. distress rose with every beating of his pulse; but his courage, his trust in God, did not wholly forsake him. With the greatest caution, he crept along on the rugged surface, over the sharp pointed stones, at every step feeling before him with his hands, and examining the dangerous bottom, on which he had carefully crept forth. Then all at once, his hand touched a fearful monster, grown over with strong bristles and hair, which moved itself under his trembling hand.
JULIA. Why, father, how you frighten us! Do tell us what it could be.
FATHER. The old pilot-and you know that he did not belong to the fearful sort -was so greatly frightened, that he trembled, and the hair rose upon his head; a cold sweat of anguish stood on his brow, and some minutes passed before he could recover himself again.
MARIA. And now ?
did not think of the knapsack. Now the young man was recovered; it was to him, as if he had awaked from a heavy dream, and he could with difficulty collect his thoughts. The pilot's first question was after Gregory; but Ivan knew nothing respecting him.
"If we only had a light!" said the pilot. "I have a tinder-box," was Ivan's answer. "But what good will that do, as the lamp has fallen out of my hand?" Only give me the tinder-box," answered the pilot, "I will strike a light; probably it will help us to see to find the lamp again."
The spark gave merely a momentary and a more blinding than a brightened light; but it was still clear enough for the quicksighted Ivan to notice the lamp lying close by him. It was a still more fortunate circumstance that it was not broken, and that the bear's fat, used instead of oil, had not fallen out with the wick.
JULIA. Thank God! What could the poor creatures have done, caught there in that pitch-dark hole?
FATHER. Certainly, they must have all three miserably perished. Now they kindled the lamp; a great part of their terror left them; the hearts of the unfortunates became lighter, and new hopes rose up in their souls. They could now avoid many dangers, which they had not observed in the darkness.
MARIA. But, father, where then was Gregory?
FATHER. There was no trace to be discovered of this unfortunate man, and in vain Ivan called out his name. To seek for him, both of them went down by the glimmer of the lamp, burning more obscurely in the heavy air; and finally found the missing one, stunned by affright and his fall, sitting with a bloody face behind a piece of rock. With a loud cry of joy, but also of horror, Ivan caught hold of his unfortunate friend, who could not for a long time recover himself. The care of the pilot, who washed the wounded man's face with the contents of the bottle of brandy, finally brought him back to life. He had heard nothing of the conversation of his two friends, and even the kindling of the lamp had not been noticed by him, so much had be been stunned by the hard fall. Now he came to himself.
MOTHER. And would you have reproached him in that dreadful condition? Gregory was, it is true, to blame for this misfortune; but had he done it with the purpose of making himself and his friends so unhappy? The joy of finding him again would not allow of reproaches.
FATHER. Very true. In such times, a man easily forgets and forgives. Now when Gregory was fully restored, they immediately thought of what was the most necessary of all-to find a way out of the hole. All three of them were rejoiced that not one of them had received any peculiar injury; for the little punishment which Gregory had met with, a bruise on his forehead and a slight bleeding at the nose, did not amount to much, and might also be a warning to him for the future. Instead of any reproaches, which would here have been useless, they therefore only thought of deliverance, heartily glad that not one of them had broken an arm or a leg. What would they have done in the case of such a misfortune? Now they looked on their frightful abode in its full terrors. Think of a rugged, rocky declivity covered with loose rolling stones, and separated from an abyss, the depth of which could not be measured by the feeble glimmer of the light; think of all this, being surrounded by the thickest, blackest darkness, in which the three poor wanderers helplessly sought deliverance from the dangers of this place, of which they had not the slightest knowledge, and you have a picture of the situation of our unfortunate friends. The first thing which they now did was to mount up again on the height, in order to make an effort to raise up the flat stone which shut up the entrance of the hole: but this was labour in vain. The ground on which they stood was too loose; they could not plant so firm a footstep on the stones lying loose, as was required in order to lift up such a load.
Now, when all their attempts were useless, their distress rose to the highest degree: they saw a certain death before them. The heavy air of the vault, and
MARIA. Was he right in the matter? FATHER. Strictly speaking, he was not. Some person might have been here and have perished without finding a way out. The pilot also was, probably, himself not fully convinced, and he said it only in order to keep up in the hearts of his friends hope and presence of mind, or he wished to render them the more observing of everything.
By a fortunate accident, the pilot also found his lamp again; so that they had two lights burning, the flame of which was kept up by the bear's grease taken by Ivan. "And now let us go forward in God's name," said the pilot; upon which all three of them slowly and carefully went forward on the rough slope beneath the frightful overhanging cliffs.
They might have gone on some hundred paces in this way, sometimes with more and sometimes with less danger, when they noticed that the bottom or floor changed to a smooth even surface, and that instead of the deep subterranean abyss, rocks and cliffs showed themselves, which were
formed on both sides into wondrous shapes. The bottom was sandy, and in this sand could clearly be seen the prints of human footsteps. The observing pilot first noticed this. A treasure of millions of money would not have caused him so much joy as here did the print of a man's footstep in the sand. All three of them felt the value of this new hope, and with brighter hearts they proceeded into the passage which led directly through the rocks, when all at once they heard the rippling of water dropping down, and at the same time felt a hardly perceptible draught of air on their faces.
Gus. Was this, then, of any consequence?
FATHER. It was everything in the situation in which the poor men placed. Already the fact that, instead o the heavy damp air of the vault, which only increased their pain, an enlivening fresh air blew on them, was of great value to them; but still more the hope which it raised in them that here they would find a way out, must have been most quickening to the poor men. They went on more composedly in the path, and to their inexpressible joy the footprints became more and more easily to be recognised and plainer. Then they came all at once to a spring of water, clear as crystal, which fell plashing over the margin of the basin, and lost itself in a fissure in the rock. "Thanks to thee, Almighty, for this blessing!" cried out the pilot. "We have now indeed found what was the most needful of all to us-fresh spring water." In full draughts the thirsty wanderers refreshed themselves with the precious drink; they felt themselves pervaded by a new power. and the way out of this hole became the more certain to them, as they clearly saw that the hand of man had dammed in the spring with stones and moss, and had cut out for the water which ran over, a channel in a rocky bottom. Thus they proceeded on their way revived, and all at once they came up to a coarsely wrought-out wooden door. It appeared to be fast bolted, and it was with the greatest exertion only that they succeeded in opening it. A high heap of sand which lay on the opposite side before the door had rendered the opening of it so difficult. But how astonished were our friends!
Gus. Did they see another gray-headed man who put them in such terror?
FATHER. No; their astonishment was of a more joyful kind. The place in which they found themselves had a wellknown look to them. They must already have been here, and finally-who can portray their delight? they recognised that they were in one of the divisions of their hut, at first hastily examined. Tears of joy burst from their eyes; they fell into each other's arms, and felicitated each other in seeing themselves thus rescued. Their safety appeared to them like a miracle, and they could only ascribe it to the compassion of God.
MOTHER: And justly too. Without God's extraordinary protection their recovery would have been impossible. You, my dear children, in your riper years will find many speaking proofs of this Divine favour.
FATHER. No man felt this more than our good pilot. He stood there with clasped hands, and tears of the most thankful joy. It seems to me like a frightful dream to have been so near to the grave," said he. "I have often in storms and sea-fights looked death in the face but I have never felt the anguish which I have experienced there under the earth."
"Friends!" said he to Ivan and Gregory, "you are both young persons, who have experienced as yet few sufferings and trials; you have been educated and have grown up rather in comfort and superfluity. I have borne more and lived longer than you have, and my experience has taught me that a person can only with a pious heart be composed and comforted in any misfortune. We have been nigh a horrible death; God has saved us. Let us not belong to the class of the unthankful, who forget his blessings."
MARIA. That was not to be feared from Ivan and Gregory?
FATHER. No, certainly. Their parents were pious and upright persons, who had educated their children to every good work, and could not have failed in giving them warnings and examples. So it was very natural that Ivan and Gregory too, notwithstanding his levity of character, should have been thoroughly imbued with the best principles. They, therefore, received with joy the proposition of the pilot-that this day every week should be set apart as their Sunday, by laying aside all work in it; and they should engage in some mode of worshipping God. They were on this day to sing one or two of the most enlivening hymns, read some of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible, and always with thankful hearts call to reap-membrance their wondrous preservation.
MARIA. And did they really do this? FATHER. Certainly! How could we expect anything else from such good men? Besides, the storm and the tempestuous weather continually raged without. In the cavern itself, they had perceived nothing of it; but so much did they the more in the hut, which had become somewhat decayed, and the walls of which could not keep out the cold draught of the air. Ivan opened the single window. The wind howled fearfully, immense masses of snow fell and threatened to cover over the whole valley; impenetrable darkness encompassed everything. Affrighted the young man came down-" Why should we not go," said he, "into one of the caverns? There we shall find shelter from the storm
and weather. Here no one can stay in the cutting blast of air!" All three of
MARIA. How, dear father? Would not, then, his distress be greater in a storm or in a sea-fight when a man looks death full in the face?
FATHER. Probably these dangers peared the more unimportant to the pilot, the more familiar and acquainted he was with them. Probably, too, on this account-because in a storm or in an engagement by sea, he had so much occupation and labour that he had not time to think of the danger. Here in the cavern it was wholly different. The perfect stillness of death, which reigned all around, the distress of his two companions, the thick darkness which covered everything, the entire ignorance of the dangers which were here found, and which were magnified by fear, the complete want of means of help for his deliverance, and, too, the heavy air-all these must have contributed to raise his anguish to an intolerable degree.
In his thankful joy the pilot brought out the hymn-book and Bible, which, as
you know, he found in the chest of the Dutch captain.