Doctor Molke: A Sketch From Life

AS my own fancy led me into the Greenland seas, so chance sent me into a Greenland port. It was a choice little harbor, a good way north of the Arctic Circle, — fairly within the realm of hyperborean barrenness, — very near the northernmost border of civilized settlement. But civilization was exhibited there by unmistakable evidences ; — a very dilute civilization, it is true, yet, such as it was, outwardly recognizable ; for Christian habitations and Christian beings were in sight from the vessel’s deck, — at least some of the human beings who appeared upon the beach were dressed like Christians, and veritable smoke curled gracefully upward into the bright air above the roofs of houses from veritable chimneys.

We had been fighting the Arctic ice and the Arctic storms for so long a time, that it was truly refreshing to get into this good harbor. The little craft which had borne us thither seemed positively to enjoy her repose, as she lay quietly to her anchors on the still waters, in the calm air and the blazing sunshine of the Arctic noonday. As for myself, I was simply wondering what I should find ashore. A slender fringe of European custom bordering native barbarism and dirt was what I anticipated ; for, as I looked upon the naked rocks, — which there, as in other Greenland ports, afforded room for a few straggling huts of native fishermen and hunters, with only now and then a more pretentious white man’s lodge, — I could hardly imagine that much would be found seductive to the fancy or inviting to the eye. A country where there is no soil to yield any part of man’s subsistence seemed to offer such a slender chance for man in the battle of life, that I could well imagine it to be repulsive rather than attractive ; yet I was eager to see how poor men might be, and live.

While thus looking forward to a novel experience, I was unconsciously preparing myself for a great surprise. Whatever there might be of poverty in the condition of the few dozens of human beings who there forced a scanty subsistence from the sea, I was to discover one person in the place who did in no way share it,—who, born as it might seem to different destinies, yet, voluntarily choosing wild Nature for companionship, and rising superior to the forbidding climate and the general desolation, rejoiced here in his own strong manhood, and lived seemingly contented as well with himself as with the great world of which he heard from afar but the faint murmurs.

The anchors had been down about an hour, and the bustle and confusion necessarily attending an entrance into port had subsided. The sails were stowed, the decks were cleared up, and the ropes were coiled. A port watch was set. The crew had received their “ liberty,” and there was much wondering among them whether Esquimau eyes could speak a tender welcome. Nor had the Danish flag been forgotten. That swallow-tailed emblem of a gallant nationality — which, according to song and tradition, has the enviable distinction of having

“ Come from heaven down, my boys,
Ay, come from heaven down ” —

was fluttering from a white flag-staff at the front of the government-house, and we had answered its display by running up our own Danish colors at the fore, and saluting them with our signal-gun in all due form and courtesy.

Soon after reaching the anchorage I had despatched an officer to look up the chief ruler of the place, and to assure him of the great pleasure I should have in calling upon him, if he would name an hour convenient to himself; and I was awaiting my messenger's return with some impatience, when suddenly I heard the thump of his heavy sea boots on the deck above. In a few moments he entered the cabin, and reported that the governor was absent, but that his office was temporarily filled by a gentleman who had been good enough to accompany him on board, —the surgeon of the settlement, Doctor Molke ; and then stepping aside, Doctor Molke passed through the narrow doorway and stood before me, bowing. I bowed in return, and bade him welcome, saying, I suppose, just what any other person would have said under like circumstances, (not, however, supposing for a moment that I was understood,) and then, turning to the officer, I signified my wish that he should act as interpreter. But that was needless. My Greenland visitor answered me, in pure, unbroken English, with as little hesitation as if he had spoken no other language all his life ; and in conclusion he said : " I come to invite you to my poor house, and to offer you my service. I can give you but a feeble welcome in this outlandish place, but such as I have is yours ; and if you will accompany me ashore, I shall be much delighted.”

The delight was mutual ; and it was not many minutes before, seated in the stern sheets of a whale-boat, we were pulling towards the land.

My new-found friend interested me at once. The surprise at finding myself addressed in English was increased when I discovered that this Greenland official bore every mark of refinement, culture, and high breeding. His manner was wholly free from restraint; and it struck me as something odd that all the self-possession and ease of a thorough man of the world should be exhibited in this desert place. He did not seem to be at all aware that there was anything incongruous in either his dress or manner and his present situation ; yet this man, who sat with me in the stern sheets of a battered whaleboat, pulling across a Greenland harbor to a Greenland settlement, might, with the simple addition of a pair of suitable gloves, have stepped as he was into a ball-room without giving rise to any other remark than would be excited by his bearing.

His graceful figure was well set off by a neatly fitting and closely buttoned blue frock-coat, ornamented with gilt buttons, and embroidered cuffs, and heavily braided shoulder-knots. A decoration on his breast told that he was a favorite with his king. His finely shaped head was covered by a blue cloth cap, having a gilt band and the royal emblems. Over his shoulders was thrown a cloak of mottled sealskins, lined with the warm and beautiful fur of the Arctic fox. His cleanly shaven face was finely formed and full of force, while a soft blue eye spoke of gentleness and good-nature, and with fair hair completed the evidences of Scandinavian birth.

My curiosity became much excited. "How,” thought I, “in the name of everything mysterious, has it happened that such a man should have turned up in such a place?” From curiosity I passed to amazement, as his mind unfolded itself, and his tastes were manifested. I was prepared to be received by a fur-clad hunter, a coppery-faced Esquimau, or a meek and pious missionary, upon whose face privation and penance had set their seal; but for this high-spirited, high-bred, graceful, and evidently accomplished gentleman, I was not prepared.

I could not refrain from one leading observation. " I suppose, Doctor Molke,” said I, " that you have not been here long enough to have yet whollyexhausted the novelty of these noble hills !"

"Eleven years, one would think,” replied he, “ ought to pretty well exhaust anything; and yet I cannot say that these hills, upon which my eyes rest continually, have grown to be wearisome companions, even if they may appear something forbidding.”

Eleven years among these barren hills ! Eleven years in Greenland ! ! Surely, thought I, this is something “passing strange.”

The scene around us as we crossed the bay was indeed imposing, and, though desolate enough, was certainly not without its bright and cheerful side. Behind us rose a majestic line of cliffs, climbing up into the clouds in giant steps, picturesque yet solid, — a great massive pedestal, as it were, supporting mountain piled on mountain, with caps of snow whitening their summits, and great glaciers hanging on their sides. Before us lay the town, —built upon a gnarled spur of primitive rock, which seemed to have crept from underneath the lofty cliffs, as a serpent from its hiding-place, and, after wriggling through the sea, to have stopped at length, when it had almost completely enclosed a beautiful sheet of water about a mile long by half a mile broad, leaving but one narrow, winding entrance to it. Through this entrance the swell of the sea could never come to disturb the silent bay, which lay there, nestling among the dark rocks beneath the mountain shadows, as calmly as a Swiss lake in an Alpine valley.

But the rocky spur which supported on its rough back what there was of the town wore a most woe-begone and distressed aspect. A few little patches of grass and moss were visible, but generally there was nothing to be seen but the cold gray-red naked rocks, broken and twisted into knots and knobs, and cut across with deep and ugly cracks. I could but wonder that on such a dreary spot man should ever think of seeking a dwelling-place ; and my companion must have interpreted my thoughts, for he pointed to the shore, and said playfully, “Ah! it is true, you behold at last the fruits of wisdom and instruction, — a city founded on a rock.” And then, after a moment’s pause, he added: “ Let me point out to you the great features of this new wonder. First, to the right there, underneath that little, low, black, peaked roof, dwells the royal cook, — a Dane who came out here a long time ago, married a native of the country, and rejoices in a brood of half-breeds, among whom are four girls, rather dusky, but not ill-favored. Next in order is the government-house, — that pitch-coated structure near the flag-staff. This is the only building, you observe, that can boast of a double tier of windows. Next, a little higher up, you see, is my own lodge, bedaubed with pitch, like the other, to protect it against the assaults of the weather, and to stop the little cracks. Down by the beach, a little farther on, that largest building of all is the store-house, &c., where the Governor keeps all sorts of traps for trade with the natives, and where the shops are in which the cooper fixes up the oil-barrels, and where other like industrial pursuits are carried on. A little farther on you observe a low structure where the oil is stored. On the ledge above the shop you see another pitchy building. This furnishes quarters for the half-dozen Danish employees,— fellows who, not having married native wives, hunt and fish for the glory of Denmark. Near the den of these worthies you observe another, — a duplicate of that in which lives the cook. There lives the royal cooper; and not far from it are two others, not quite so pretentious, where dwell the carpenter and blacksmith, — all of whom have followed the worthy example of the cook, and have dusky sons and daughters to console their declining years. You may perhaps be able to distinguish a few moss-covered hovels dotted about here and there, — perhaps there may be twenty of them in all, though there are but few of them in sight. These are the huts of native hunters. At present they are not occupied, for, being without roofs that will turn water, the people are compelled to abandon them when the snow begins to melt in the spring, and betake themselves to seal-skin tents, some of which you observe scattered here and there among the rocks. And now I 've shown you everything, — just in time, too, for here we are at the landing.”

We had drawn in close to the end of a narrow pier, run out into the water on slender piles, and, quickly ascending some steps, the Doctor led the way up to his house. The whole settlement had turned out to meet us, men, women, children, and dogs, — which latter, about two hundred in number, “ little dogs and all,” set up an earsplitting cry, wild and strangely in keeping with every other part of the scene, and like nothing so much as the dismal evening concert of a pack of wolves. The children, on the other hand, kept quiet, and clung to their mothers, as all children do in exciting times; the mothers grinned and laughed and chattered, “as becomes the gentler sex ” in the savage state ; while the men, all smoking short clay pipes, (one of their customs borrowed from civilization,) looked on with that air of stolid indifference peculiar to the male barbarian. They were mostly dressed in suits of seal-skins, but some of them wore greasy Guernsey frocks and other European clothing. Many of the women carried cunning-looking babies strapped upon their backs in seal-skin pouches. The heads of men and women alike were for the most part capless ; but every one of the dark, beardless faces was surmounted by a heavy mass of straight, uncombed, and tangled jet-black hair. There were some half-breed girls standing in little groups upon the rocks, who, adding something of taste to the simple need of an artificial covering for the body, were attired in dresses, which, although of the Esquimau fashion, were quite neatly ornamented. While passing through this curious crowd, the eye could not but find pleasure in the novel scene, the more especially as the delight of these half-barbarous people was excited to the highest pitch by the strange being who had come among them.

But if what the eye drank in gave delight, less fortunate the nose ; for from about the store-house and the native huts, and, indeed, from almost everywhere, welled up that horrid odor of decomposing oil and fish and flesh peculiar to a fishing-town. On this account, if on no other, I was not sorry when we reached our destination.

“ You like not this Greenland odor ? ” said my conductor. “ Luckily it does not reach me here, or I should seek a still higher perch to roost on” ;—-saying which, he opened the door and led the way inside, first through a little vestibule into a square hall, where we deposited our fur coats, and then to the right, into a small room furnished with a table, an old pine bench, a single chair, a case with glass doors containing white jars and glass bottles having Latin labels, and smelling dreadfully of doctor’s stuffs.

“ I always come through here,” said my host, “ after passing the town. It gives the olfactories a new sensation. This, you observe, is the place where I physic the people.”

“ Have you many patients, Doctor ? ” I inquired.

“Not very many; but, considering that I go sometimes a hundred miles or so to see the suffering sinners, I have quite enough to satisfy me. Not much competition, you know. But come, we have some lunch waiting for us in the next room, and Sophy will be growing impatient.”

A lady, eh ?

The room into which the Doctor ushered me was neatly furnished. On the walls were hung some prints and paintings of fruits and animals and flowers, and in the centre stood a small round table covered with dishes carefully placed on a snowy cloth.

All very nice, but who’s Sophy ?

The Doctor tinkled a little bell, the tones of which told that it was silver; and then, all radiant with smiles and beaming with good-nature, Sophy entered. A strange apparition.

“ This is my housekeeper,” said the Doctor, in explanation ; “ speak to the American, Sophy.”

And, without embarrassment or pausing for an instant, she advanced and bade me welcome, addressing me in fair English, and extending at the same time a delicate little hand, which peeped out from cuffs of eider-down.

"I am glad,” said she, “ to see the American. I have been looking through the window at him ever since he left the ship.”

"Now, Sophy,” said the Doctor, “let us see what you have got us for lunch.”

"O, I have n’t anything at all, Doctor Molke,” answered Sophy; “but I hope the American will excuse me until dinner, when I have some nice trout and venison.”

“ ' Pot-luck,’ as I told you,” exclaimed my host. “ But never mind, Sophy, let 's have it, be it what it may.” And Sophy tripped lightly out of the room to do her master’s bidding.

A right good girl that,” said the Doctor, when the door was closed. "Takes capital care of me.”

Strange Sophy ! A pretty face of dusky hue, and a fine figure attired in native costume, neatly ornamented and arranged with cultivated taste. Pantaloons of mottled seal-skin, and of silvery lustre, tapered down into long white boots, which enclosed the neatest of ankles and the daintiest of feet. A little jacket of Scotch plaid, with a collar and border of fur, covered the body to the waist, while from beneath the collar peeped up a pure white cambric handkerchief, covering the throat ; and heavy masses of glossy black hair were intertwined with ribbons of gay red. Marvellous Sophy ! Dusky daughter of a Danish father and a native mother. From her mother she had her rich brunette complexion and raven hair; from her father, Saxon features, and light blue Saxon eyes.

If the housekeeper attracted my attention, so did the dishes which she set before me. Smoked salmon of exquisite delicacy, reindeer sausages, reindeer tongues nicely dried and thinly sliced, and fine fresh Danish bread, made up a style of “ pot-luck ” calculated to cause a hungry man from the high seas and sailors’ “ prog ” to wish for the same style of luck for the remainder of his days. But when all this came to be washed down with the contents of sundry bottles with which Sophy dotted the clean white cloth, the “ luck ” was perfect, and there was nothing further to desire.

“ Ah ! here we are,” said my entertainer. " Sophy wishes to make amends for the dryness of her fare. This is a choice Margaux, and I can recommend it. But, Sophy, here, you have n’t warmed this quite enough. Ah ! my dear sir, you experience the trouble of a Greenland life. One can never get his wines properly tempered.”

One cannot get his wines properly tempered ! — and this is the trouble of a Greenland life!! " Surely,” thought I, “ one might find something worse than this.”

“ Here,” picking up the next bottle, “ we have some Johannisberg, very fine as I can assure you ; but I have little fancy even for the best of these Rhenish wines. Too much like a pretty woman without soul. They never warm the imagination. There’s something better to build upon there close beside your elbow. Since the claret 's forbidden us for the present, I ’ll drink you welcome in that rich Madeira. Why, do you know, sir,” rattled on the Doctor, as I passed the bottle, seemingly rejoiced in his very heart at having some one to talk to, — “ do you know, sir, that I have kept that by me here these ten years past ? My good old father sent it to me as a mark of special favor. Why, sir, it has a pedigree as long as one of Locksley’s cloth-yard shafts. But the pedigree will keep : let’s prove it,” — and he filled up two dainty French straw-stem glasses, and pledged me in the good old Danish style. Then, when the claret came back, this time all rightly tempered, the Doctor filled the glasses, and hoped that, when I “left this place, the girls would pull lustily on the towropes.”

Hunger and thirst were soon appeased. “ And now,” said the Doctor, when this was done, ‘' I know you are dying for the want of something fresh and green. You have probably tasted nothing that grew out of dear old Mother Earth since leaving home”;—and he tinkled his silver bell again, and Sophy of the silver seal-skin pantaloons and dainty boots tripped softly through the door.

“ Sophy, have n’t you a surprise for the American ? ”

Sophy smiled knowingly, and said, “ Yes,” as she retreated. In a moment she came back, carrying a little silver dish, with a little green pyramid upon it. Out from the green peeped little round red globes, — radishes, as I lived ! — round red radishes ! — ten round red radishes !

"What! radishes in Greenland ! ” I exclaimed involuntarily.

“ Yes, and raised on my own farm, too ; you shall see it by and by.” The Doctor was enjoying my surprise, and Sophy looked on with undisguised satisfaction. Meanwhile I lost no time in tumbling the pyramid to pieces, and crunching the delicious bulbs. They disappeared in a twinkling. Their rich and luscious juices seemed to pour at once into the very blood, and to tingle at the very finger-tips. I never knew before the full enjoyment of the fresh growth of the soil. After so long a deprivation it was indeed a strange, as it will remain a lasting sensation. Never to my dying day shall I forget the ten radishes of Greenland.

“ You see that I was right,” exclaimed my host, after the vigorous assault was ended. “ And now,” continued he, addressing Sophy, “ bring the other things.”

The “ other things ” proved to be a plate of fine lettuce, a bit of Stilton cheese, and coffee in transparent little china cups, and sugar in a silver bowl, and then cigars, — everything of the best and purest ; and as we passed from one thing to another, I became at length persuaded that the Arctic Circle was a myth, that my cruise among the icebergs was a dream, and that Greenland was set down wrongly on the maps. Long before this I had been convinced that Doctor Molke was a most mysterious character, and wholly unaccountable.

After we had finished this sumptuous lunch and chatted for a while, the Doctor surprised me again by asking if I would like a game of billiards. (Billiards in Greenland, as well as radishes !) “ But first,” said he, “ let us try

this sunny Burgundy. Ah ! these red wines are the only truly generous wines. They monopolize all the sensuous glories and associations of the fruit. With these red wines one drinks in the very soul and sentiment of the lands which grow the grapes that breed them.”

“ Even if drank in Greenland ? ”

“Yes, or at the very Pole. Geographical lines may confine our bodies; but nature is an untamed wild, where the spirit roams at will. If I am here hemmed in by barren hills, and live in a desert waste, yet, as one of your sweetest poets has put it, my

‘ Fancy, like the finger of a clock,
Runs the great circuit and is still at home ’ ;

and truly, I believe that I have in this retreat about as much enjoyment of life as they who taste of it more freely ; for while I can here feel all the world’s warm pulsations, I am freed from its annoyances : if the sweet is less sweet, the bitter is less bitter. But— Well, let’s have the billiards.”

My host now led the way into the billiard-room, which was tastefully ornamented with everything needful to harmonize with a handsome table standing in its centre, upon which we were soon knocking the balls about in an ill-matched game, for he beat me sadly. I was much surprised at the skilfulness of his play, and remarked that I thought it something singular that he “should there find any one to keep him so well in hand.”

“ Ah ! my dear sir,” said he, “ you have yet much to learn. This country is not so bad as you think for. Sophy — native-born Sophy — is my antagonist, and she beats me three times out of five.” Wonderful Sophy !

The game finished, my host next led the way into his study. A charming retreat as ever human wit and ingenuity devised. It was indeed rather a parlor than a study. The room was quite large, and was literally filled with odd bits of furniture, elegant and well kept. Heavy crimson curtains were draped about the windows, a rich crimson carpet covered the floor, and there were lounges and chairs of various patterns, adapted for every temper of mind or mood of body, — all of the same pleasing color. Odd étagères, hanging and standing, and a large solid walnut case, were all well filled with books, and other books were carefully arranged on a table in the centre of the room. Among them my eye quickly detected the works of various English authors, conspicuous among which were Shakespeare, Byron, Scott, Dickens, Cooper, and Washington Irving. Sam Slick had a place there, and close beside him was the renowned Lemuel Gulliver ; and in science there were, beside many others, Brewster, Murchison, and Lyell. The books all showed that they were well used, and they embraced the principal classical stores of the French and German tongues, beside the English and his own native Danish. In short, the collection was precisely such as one would expect to find in any civilized place, where means were not wanting, the disposition to read a habit and a pleasure, and the books themselves boon companions.

A charming feature of the room was the air of refreshing négligé with which sundry robes of bear and fox skins were tossed about upon the chairs and lounges and floor; while the blank spaces of the walls were broken by numerous pictures, some of them apparently family relics, and on little brackets were various souvenirs of art and travel.

“ I call this my study,” said the Doctor; “but in truth there is the real shop” ; —and he led me into a little room adjoining, in which there was but one window, one table, one chair, no shelves, a great number of books, lying about in every direction, and great quantities of paper. On the wall hung about two dozen pipes of various shapes and sizes, and a fine assortment of guns and rifles and all the paraphernalia of a practised sportsman. It was easy to see that there was one place where the native-born Sophy did not come.

The chamber of this singular Greenland recluse was in keeping with his study. The walls were painted light blue, a blue carpet adorned the floor, blue curtains softened the light which stole through the windows, and blue hangings cast a pleasant hue over a snowy pillow. Although small, there was indeed nothing wanting, not even a well-arranged bath-room, — nothing that the most fastidious taste could covet or desire.

“ And now,” said my entertainer, when we had got seated in the study, “ does this present attractions sufficient to tempt you from your narrow bunk on shipboard ? You are most heartily welcome to that blue den which you admire so much, and which I am heartily sick of, while I can make for myself a capital ‘shake-down’ here, or vice versa. If neither of these will suit you, then cast your eyes out of the window, and you will observe snow enough to build a more truly Arctic lodging.”

I stepped to the Window, and there, sure enough, piled up beneath it and against the house, was a great bank of snow, which the summer’s sun had not yet dissolved ; and as I saw this, and then looked beyond it over the wretched little village, and the desolate waste of rocks on which it stood, and then on up the craggy steeps to the great white-topped mountains, I could but wonder what strange occurrence had sent this luxury-loving man, with books only for companions, into such a howling wilderness. Was it his own fancy ? or was it some cruel necessity ? In truth, the surprise was so great that I found myself suddenly turning from the scene outside to that within, not indeed without an impulse that the whole thing might have vanished in the interval, as the palace of Aladdin in the Arabian tale.

My host was watching me attentively, no doubt reading my thoughts, for as I turned round he asked if I “ liked the contrast.” To be quite candid, I was forced to own myself greatly wondering “ that a den so well fitted for the latitude of Paris should be stumbled upon away up here so near the Pole.”

“ Hardly in keeping with ‘ the eternal fitness of things,' eh ? ”

“ Precisely so."

“You think, then, because a fellow chooses to live in barbarous Greenland, he must needs turn barbarian ?"

“ Not exactly that, but we are in the habit of associating the appreciation of comfort and luxury with the desire for social intercourse, — certainly not with banishment like this.’"

“ Then you would be inclined to think there is something unnatural, in short, mysterious, in my being here, — tastes, fancies, inclinations, and all?”

“ I confess it would so strike me, if I took the liberty to speculate upon it.”

“Very far from the truth, I do assure you. I am not obliged to be here any more than you are. I came from pure choice, and am at liberty to return when I please. In truth, I do go home with the ship to Copenhagen, once in three or four years, and spend a winter there, living the while in a den much like what you here see ; but I am always glad enough to get back again. The salary which I receive from the government does not support me as I live, so you see that is not a motive. But I am perfectly independent, have capital health, lots of adventure, hardship enough (for you must know that, if I do sleep under a skyblue canopy, I am esteemed one of the most hardy men in all Greenland) to satisfy the most insatiate appetite and perverse disposition.”

“ Sufficient reason, I should say, for a year or so, but hardly, one would think, for a lifetime.”

“ Why not ? ”

“Because the novelty of adventure wears off in a little time. Good health never gives us satisfaction, for we do not give it thought until we lose it, so that can never be an impelling motive ; and as for independence, what is that, when one can never be freed from himself? In short, I should say one so circumstanced as you are would die of ennui; that his mind, constantly thrown back upon itself, must, sooner or later, result in a weariness even worse than death itself. However, I am only curious, not critical."

“ But you forget these shelves. Those books are my friends ; of them I never grow weary, they never grow weary of me ; we understand each other perfectly,—they talk to me when I would listen, they sing to me when I would be charmed, they play for me when I would be amused. Ah ! my dear sir, this country is great as all countries are great, each in its way ; and this is a great country to read books in. Upon my word, I wonder everybody don’t fill ships with books and come up here, burn the ships, as did the great Spaniard, and each spend the remainder of his days in devouring his ship-load of books.”

“ A pretty picture of the country, truly ; but let me ask how often do books reach you ? "

“Once a year, — when the Danish ship comes out to bring us bread, sugar, coffee, coal, and such-like things, and to take home the few little trifles, such as furs, oil, and fish, which the natives have picked up in the interval.”

“ Books to the contrary, I should say the ship would not return more than once without me, were I in your situation."

“ So you would think me a sensible fellow, no doubt, if I would pick up this box and carry it off to Paris, or may be to New York ? ”

“ That 's exactly what I was thinking ; or rather it would certainly have appeared to me more reasonable if you had built it there in the first instance.”

“ Quite the contrary, I do assure you, — quite the contrary. Indeed, I can prove to your entire satisfaction that I am a very sensible man ; but wait until I have shown you all my possessions. Will you look at my farm ? ”

Farm ! — well, this was, after all, exhibiting some claims of the country to the consideration of a civilized man. A farm in Greenland was something I was hardly prepared for.

The Doctor now rose and led the way to the rear of the house, into a yard about eighty feet square, enclosed by a high board fence.

“ This is my farm,” said the Doctor.

“ Where ? ”

“ Here, look. It is n't a large one.” And he pointed to a patch of earth about thirty feet long by four wide, enclosed with boards and covered over with glass. Under the glass were growing lettuce, radishes, and pepper-grass, all looking as bright and fresh and green and well contented as if they, like the man for whose benefit they grew, cared little where they sprouted, so only they grew. The ten round red radishes of the recent luncheon were accounted for.

“ So you see,” exclaimed the Doctor, “ something besides a lover of books can take root in this country. Are you not growing reconciled to it? To be sure they are fed on pap from home; but so does the farmer who cultivates them get his books from the same quarter.”

“ How is that ? Do you mean to say you bring the earth they grow in from home ? ”

“ Even so. This is good rich Jutland earth, brought in barrels by ship from Copenhagen.”

An imported farm ! One more novelty.

“ Now you shall see my barn ” ; — and we passed over to a little tightly made building in the opposite corner, where the first thing that greeted my ears was the bleating of goats and the grunting of pigs ; and as the door was opened, I heard the cackling and flutter of chickens. Twenty chickens, two pigs, and three goats !

“ All brought from Copenhagen with the farm ” ; — and the Doctor began to talk to them in a very familiar manner in the Danish tongue. They all recognized the kindly voice of their master, and flocked round him to be fed ; and while this was being done I observed that he had provided for the safety of his brood by securing in the centre of their bouse a large stove, which was now cold, but which in the winter must give them abundant heat. And so the Doctor, besides his round red radishes and his nice fresh butter, had pork and milk and eggs of native growth.

The next object of interest to attract attention was the Doctor’s “smokehouse,” then in full operation. This was simply a large hogshead, with one head pierced with holes and the other head knocked out. The end without a head was set upon a circle of stones, which supported it about a foot above the ground, and inside of this circle a great volume of smoke was being generated, and which came puffing out through the holes in the head above. Inside of this simple contrivance were suspended a number of fine salmon, the delicate flesh of which was being dried by the heat, and penetrated by the sweet aroma of the smoke, which came puffing through the holes. The smoke arose from a smouldering fire of the leaves and branches of the Andromeda (Andromeda tetrigona), the heather of Greenland, — a trailing plant with a pretty purple blossom, which grows in sheltered places in great abundance. Besides moss, this is the only vegetable production of North Greenland that will burn, and it is sometimes used by the natives for fuel, after it is dried by the sun, for which purpose it is torn up and spread over the rocks. The perfume of the smoke is truly delicious, which accounts for the excellent flavor of the salmon which the Doctor had given me for lunch. Nothing, indeed, could exceed the delicacy of the fish thus prepared.

The inspection of the Doctor’s garden, or “ farm,” as he facetiously called it, occupied us during the remainder of the afternoon ; and so novel was everything to me, from the Doctor down to his vegetables and perfumed fish, that the time passed away unnoticed, and I was quite astonished when Sophy came to announce “ dinner.”

We were soon seated at the table where we had been before, and Sophy served the dinner. Her soup was excellent, the trout were of fine quality and well cooked, the haunch was done to a turn, the wines were this time rightly tempered, the champagne needed not to be iced, more of the round red radishes appeared in season, and then followed lettuce and cheese and coffee, and then we found ourselves at another game of billiards, and at length were settled for the evening in the Doctor’s study, one on either side of a table, on which stood all the ingredients for an arrack punch, and a bundle of cigars.

Our conversation naturally enough ran upon the affairs of the big world on the other side of the Arctic Circle, — upon its politics and literature and science and art, passing lightly from one to the other, lingering now and then over some book which we had mutually fancied. I found my companion perfectly posted up to within a year, and inquired how he managed so well. “ Ah ! you must know,” answered he, “ that is a clever little illusion of mine. I ‘m always precisely one year behind the rest of the world. The Danish ship brings me a file of papers for the past twelve months, the principal reviews and periodicals, the latest maps, such books as I have sent for the year previous, and, beside this, the bookseller and my other home friends make me up an assortment of what they think will please me. Now, you see, in devouring this, I pursue an absolute method. The books, of course, I take up as the fancy pleases me ; but the reviews, periodicals, and newspapers I turn over to Sophy, and the faithful creature places on my breakfast-table every morning exactly what was published that day one year before. Clever, is n’t it ? You see I get every day the news, and go through the drama of the year with perhaps quite as much satisfaction as they who live the passing days in the midst of the occurring events. Each day’s paper opens a new act in the play, and what matters it that the ‘news’ is one year old? It is none the less news to me ; and, besides, are not Gibbon, Shakespeare, and Mother Goose still more ancient ? ”

I could but smile at this ingenious device; and the Doctor, seeing plainly that I was deeply interested in his novel mode of life, loosened a tongue which, in truth, needed little encouragement, and rattled away over the rough and smooth of his Greenland experiences, with an enjoyment on his part perhaps scarcely less than mine ; for it was easy to see that his love of wild adventure kept pace with his love of comfort, and that he heartily enjoyed the exposures of his career and the reputation which his hardihood had acquired for him. I perceived, too, that he possessed a warm and vivid imagination, and that, clothing everything he saw and everything he did with a fitting sentiment of strength or beauty, he had blended wild nature and his own strange life into a romantic scheme which completely filled his fancy, — apparently, at least, leaving nothing unsupplied, — and this he enjoyed to the very bottom of his soul.

The hours glided swiftly away as we sat sipping our punch and smoking our cigars in that quaint study of the Doctor’s, chatting of this and of that; and a novel feature of the evening was, that, as we talked on and on, the light grew not dim with the passing hours; for when the hand of a Danish clock which ticked above the mantel told nine, and ten, and eleven o’clock, it was still broad day ; and then in the full blaze of sunshine the clock rang out the “ witching hour” of midnight. The sun, low down upon the northern horizon, poured his bright rays over the hills and sea, throwing the dark shadow of the mountains over the town, but illuminating everything to right and left with that soft and pleasant light which we so often see at home in the early morning of the spring.

After the clock had struck twelve, we threw our fur cloaks over our shoulders, and strolled out into this strange midnight. Passing through the town, I remarked the quiet which everywhere prevailed, and how all nature seemed to have caught the inspiration of the hour. Not a soul was stirring abroad ; the dogs, crouching in clusters, were all asleep ; and it seemed as if my little vessel lay under the shadows of the cliffs with a consciousness that midnight is a solemn thing even in sunshine ; and never did the sun shine more brightly, or a more brilliantly illuminated landscape give stronger evidence of day. But wearied nature had sought repose, even though no "sable cloud with silver lining” turned upon the world its darkening shadow, — for the hour of rest was come. Walking on over the rough rocks, we came at length upon the sea, and I noticed that the very birds which were wont to paddle about in great flocks upon the waters, or fly gayly through the air, had crawled upon the shore, and, tucking their heads beneath their wings, had gone to sleep. Even the little flowers and blades of grass seemed to droop, as if wearied with the long hours of the day, and, defying the restless sun to rob them of their natural repose, had fallen to sleep with the beasts and birds. The very sea itself seemed to have caught the infection of the hour, dissolving in its blue depths the golden clouds of day.

The night was far from cold, and, selecting the most tempting and sunny spot, we sat down upon a rock close beside the sea, watching the gentle wavelets playing on the sand, and the changing light as the sun rolled on, glistening upon the hills and upon the icebergs, which, in countless numbers, lay upon the watery plain before us, like great monoliths of Parian marble, waiting but for the sculptor’s chisel to stand forth in fluted pillar and solid architrave,—floating Parthenons and Pantheons and Temples of the Sun.

The scene was favorable to the conversation which had been broken off when we left the study, and the Doctor came back to it of his own accord. I was much absorbed with the grandeur of this midnight scene, and had remained for some time quiet. My companion, breaking in abruptly, said : “ I think I promised to prove to you that I am the most sensible fellow alive. Now let me tell you, to begin with, that I would not exchange this view for any other I have ever seen. It is one of which I am very foncl; for at this hour the repose which you here see is frequently repeated; and, to compare big things with little, it might be likened to some huge lion sleeping over his prey, which he is not yet prepared to eat, quick to catch the first sound of movement. There is something truly terrible in this untamed nature. Man’s struggle here gives him something to rejoice in ; and I would not barter it for the effeminate life to which I should be destined at home, on any account whatever. Perhaps, if I should there be compelled absolutely to earn my daily bread, the case might be different, for enforced occupation is quite too sober an affair to give time for much reflection ; but I should most likely lead an idle sort of life there, and should simply live without — so far as I can see — a motive. I should encounter few perils, have few sorrows, fewer disappointments, and want for nothing, — nothing, indeed, but temptation to exert myself, or prove my own manhood in its strength, or enjoy the luxury of risking the precious breath of life, which is so little worth, and which is so easily knocked away. You have seen one side of me,— how I live. Well, I enjoy life and make the most of it, after my own fashion, as everybody should do. If it is a luxurious fashion, as you are pleased to say, it but gives me a keener relish for the opposite ; and that it does not unfit me for encountering the hardships of the field is proved by the reputation for endurance which I have among the natives. If I sleep between well-aired sheets one night, I can coil myself up among my dogs on the ice-fields the next, and sleep there as well,— I care not if it’s as cold as the frigid circle of Lucifer. If I have a penchant for Burgundy, and like to drink it out of French glass, I can drink train-oil out of a tin cup when I am cold and hungry, and never murmur. I like well-fitting clothes, but rough furs suit me just as well in season. Why, it would make you laugh fit to kill yourself to see these Danish workingmen, —the laborers, you know, with whom I sometimes travel, — fellows that can't read nor write, poor mechanics, rough sailors, ‘ hewers of wood and drawers of water' generally for this poor settlement — who never tasted Burgundy in all their lives, and would rather have one keg of corn brandy than a tun of it, and who never took their frugal fare off anything more tempting than tin. Do you think that these people can, under any circumstances, be induced to strengthen their limbs with eating blubber or drinking train-oil ? Not a bit of it. Do you think they can be induced to sleep outside of their own not overly elegant lodgings, without groaning, and everlastingly desiring to get back again ? Not they.”

I could not help asking the Doctor what impelled him to exposure, of which he had grown so fond.

"The motives are various. I have done a good deal of exploring, have reached many of the glaciers, have dabbled in natural history, meteorology, magnetism, &c., &c., besides making many photographs and geographical surveys, and have sent home to various societies and museums many curiosities and much information. My name, as you know, stands well enough among the dons of science. But apart from this, my duties require me to travel about at all times and all seasons. You must know that everybody in this country lives upon the shore, and therefore the settlements are reached only by the sea. In the winter I travel over the ice with my dog sledge, and in the summer, when the ice has broken up, I go from place to place in that little fiveton yacht which you saw lying in the harbor. Sometimes I go from choice, stopping at the villages, and exhibiting my professional abilities upon Dane or native, as the case may be. Often I am sent for. The Greenlanders don’t like to die any better than other people, and they all have an impression that, if Dr. Molke only looks upon them, they are safe. So if an old woman but gets the belly-ache, away goes her son or husband for the Doctor. Perhaps it is in summer, and the distance may be a hundred miles or more. No matter, he gets into his kayak and paddles through all sorts of weather, and, at the rate of seven knots an hour, comes for me. Glad of the excuse for a change, to say nothing (and the less perhaps any of us say on that score the better) of the claims of humanity, I send Sophy after Adam (a converted native), and directly along comes Adam with his son Carl ; and my medicine and instrument cases, my gun and rifle, and a plentiful supply of ammunition, a tent, and some fur bedding, a lamp, and other camp fixtures, and a little simple food, are put into the boat, and off we go. Perhaps a gale springs up, and we are forced to make a harbor in some little island; or perhaps it falls calm, and we crawl into one, under oars. It is sure to be alive with ducks and geese and snipe. The shooting is superb. Happen what may, come storm or calm or fine weather, though often wet and cold, and frequently in danger, yet I have a grand time of it. I may be back in a day, two days, a week, or I may be gone a month. Then the winter comes back, and I have again to answer another summons. The same traps are put on the sledge, to which are harnessed the twelve finest dogs in the town,—my own team,—and, at the wildest pace with which this wolfish herd can rush along, Adam guides me to my destination. Perhaps it may be early in the winter, and the ice is in places thin. We very likely break through, and get wet, and are in danger of freezing. Perhaps we reach a crack which we cannot pass, and have to hold on, possibly in a hut of snow, waiting for the frost to build a bridge for us to pass. This is the wildest and most dangerous of my experiences, — this dog-sledging it from place to place in the early or late winter,— and I have had many wild adventures. In the middle of the winter, when it is dark pretty much all the time, and the snow is hard and crisp, and the clear, cold bracing air makes the blood run freely through the veins, is the best time for travelling; for then we may start a bear, and be pretty sure of catching him before he gets on rotten ice or across a crack defying us in the pursuit.”

By this time the sun had begun to climb above the hills, and the shadow of the cliffs had passed over the town, so we stole back again to the Doctor's house. The Doctor insisted that I should not sleep on board, so we returned to the study, where I was soon wrapt in a sound sleep on the Doctor's “ shake-down,” from which I never once awoke until there came a loud tapping on the door.

“ Who’s there ? ”

" Sophy.”

“ What’s Sophy want ? ”

“ Breakfast.”

Breakfast indeed ! It was hard to believe that I was to come back to the experiences of life under such a summons, for I had dreamed that I was on a visit to the Man in the Moon, and was enjoying a genuine surprise at finding him happy and well contented, seated in the centre of an extinct volcano, with all the riches of the great satellite gathered round him, hanging in tempting clusters on its horns.

But my eyes at length were opened wide enough to see, near by, the very terrestrial ruins of our evening’s pastime; and if these had left any doubts upon my mind as to the reality of my present situation, those doubts would certainly have been removed by the cheerful voice of the Doctor ; for a loud “ Good morning! ” came from out the painted chamber, and from beneath the skyblue canopy a graceful query of the night. “ What of the night, sleeper ? — what of the night ? ” Then I was quickly out upon the floor, and dressed, and in the cosey little room where the fruits and flowers were hanging on the wall, and where the bright face of Sophy, and aromatic coffee, and a charming little breakfast, were awaiting us with a kindly welcome.

Breakfast over, I left the Doctor to expend his skill and knowledge on a patient who had sent to claim his services, and strolled out over the rocks behind the town, — wondering all the while at the strangeness of the human fancy and its power on the will ; and I reflected, too, and remembered that, in the explanation of the satisfying character of the life which, my newfound friend was leading, there had been no clew given to the first great motive which had destined such a finely organized and altogether splendid man to such a career. Was he exempt from the lot of other mortals, or must he too own, like all the rest of us, when we own the truth, that every firm step we ever made in those days of our early lives when steps were critical, was made to please a woman, to win her slightest praise, to heal a wound or drown a sorrow of her making ? I would have given much to have the question answered, for then a thing now mysterious would have become as plain as day; but there was no one there to heed the question, or to give the answer, and I could only wander on over the rough rocks, wondering more and more.