DAY-PERPLEXITIES ABOUT BED-TIME-
CONFUSION OF MIND
The scene is changed. We are
on board the Snowflake and out once more among
the thousands of islands off the coast far beyond the
Arctic Circle now.
This is the region where the sun does
not set night or day for several weeks in summer,
and where he never rises night or day during several
weeks in winter. But Fred Temple has not gained
his point yet. He is behind time. Had
he arrived at this latitude a week sooner, he would
have seen the sun sweep an entire circle in the sky.
But calms have delayed him, and now the sun just
dips below the horizon at midnight. A good stiff,
southerly breeze of a few hours would take him far
enough north; but he cannot command the winds to blow,
although Bob Bowie, the steward, evidently thinks
he can make it blow by whistling! The sea is
like a sheet of glass. Meanwhile, Fred and his
friends are enjoying all the delight of daylight which
is perpetual. Every thoughtful reader will at
once perceive that where the sun only sets for a few
minutes there can be no diminution of the light worth
speaking of nothing approaching even to
twilight. The night before the arrival of the
yacht at this place the sun set a little after midnight,
and in twenty minutes afterwards it rose again to
pursue its brilliant course through the northern sky.
It is scarcely possible for a Christian
to look on such a scene without recalling those striking
passages in God’s Word, which, in describing
heaven, tell us that “there shall be no night
there,” and speaks of a “sea of glass
like unto crystal,” before the throne of God.
Well may the heart of man in such a scene exclaim
with the Psalmist, “O Lord, how manifold are
Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all:
the earth is full of Thy riches.”
The islands in this particular place
were positively uncountable. They lay scattered
over the calm sea in hundreds. Some were no bigger
than a boat others were towering jagged
mountains of more than four thousand feet high.
Most of them were barren, and over the smaller islets,
as well as round the cliffs of the larger ones, myriads
of gulls and other sea-birds flew with clamorous cries.
But for this, the scene would have been one of deep
solitude as well as intense calmness. The sea-birds,
however, filled the air with life, ay, and with melody,
for the plaintive cry of wild-fowl when mellowed by
distance is inexpressibly sweet and agreeable.
One thing that puzzled our voyagers
very much was the deceptive appearance of land, so
that they found it extremely difficult to judge correctly
of distance. On one occasion, when sailing towards
one of the large islands, Fred went up to Bob Bowie,
who was leaning over the side watching the ripples
caused by the Snowflake, and meditating, as
he himself said, “on things in gin’ral,
and nothin’ in particular.” It may
be remarked in passing that this was not an uncommon
state of mind with Bob Bowie.
“Well, Bob,” said Temple,
“we’re going along nicely with this breeze.
I expect we shall pass that island before many hours
“How far d’ye think it’s off, sir?”
inquired the steward.
“About three miles,” said Fred.
“Three miles, sir, w’y, it’s not
more than one mile if it’s that.”
“What say you, Captain?” asked Fred.
“Ye better try,” suggested McNab, with
a quiet grin.
“So I will, ho! stand by to
heave the log there. Now, Captain, steer straight
as the crow flies for the island.”
The yacht’s course was altered,
the log was hove, and, observing the moment of starting,
they awaited the result. Bob thought it was a
smallish island with little bushes on it. The
time they took in drawing near to it first led him
to doubt the correctness of his own opinion.
But when the bushes began to turn into trees, and the
cliffs to tower into the sky above his head, and throw
a dark shadow over the vessel, he was obliged to give
in. The distance which he had imagined was not
more than one mile turned out to be five.
On another occasion a similar case
of the deceptive appearance of distance occurred.
They were sailing up a certain fiord, which most of
the people on board supposed was only about a mile
broad. One of the sailors, Bill by name, insisted
that it could not be more than three-quarters of a
mile; and thereupon an animated discussion, amounting
almost to a dispute, began. But Bill was not
to be put down. “He was an old salt. He
wasn’t to be taken in by these molehills, not
he!” He had sailed round the world, according
to his own account had been shipwrecked half a dozen
times, and drowned once or twice, besides being murdered
occasionally; so he thought himself a weighty authority,
and entitled to great respect!
Well, to settle this point the yacht
was sailed straight across the fiord, and the breadth,
measured by the log, was found, as in the former case,
to be about five miles.
The calms, although frequent in this
latitude, did not last long. Light breezes sprang
up now and then, and for several days carried our
travellers to the north. But not fast enough,
for the sun still kept ahead of them. During
this period, they saw great variety of wonderful scenery,
had several small adventures, and enjoyed themselves
Fred Temple usually began each calm
day by jumping out of bed, rushing upon deck and going
over the side, head-foremost into the water.
He was generally followed by Sam Sorrel; but Sam was
inclined to be lazy, and did not always follow his
friend’s lead. Grant never followed it.
He was inveterately lazy in the morning, although
at all other times he was as active as a mountain
Our Highlander was particularly successful
about this time with his gun. The number of birds
that he shot and stuffed was enormous. Whenever
a calm prevailed, he took the light little Norse boat
that had been purchased at Bergen, and went off to
the nearest island with his gun. On these occasions
he was usually accompanied by Sam, whose love for
sketching was quite equal to that of his companion
for bird-shooting and stuffing. Fred, of course
went to keep them company, and was wont to carry with
him a rod, as well as a gun, for he was passionately
fond of fishing. On these occasions, too, they
took Hans Ericsson with them, to assist in rowing,
and to pilot them when they felt inclined to leave
the yacht out of sight behind.
One day they were out on an excursion
of this kind, and had rowed towards the mainland,
and up a fiord. Fred and Sam were reclining in
the stern of the boat; the former smoking a meerschaum
pipe, the latter making a drawing of a range of hills
which were so rugged that the tops appeared like the
teeth of a saw. Grant and Hans were rowing.
“Do you know what o’clock
it was when we left the yacht?” inquired Fred.
echoed Sam; “no; well, let me see. We went
to bed last night at five o’clock this morning.”
“You mean that we turned in
for our night’s rest at five this morning,
I suppose,” said Temple.
“My dear Fred,” retorted
Sam, “never mind what I mean; only attend to
what I say. Don’t be too particular.
It’s a bad habit being too particular.
I once had a friend who was too particular in his
attentions to a young lady, and the result was that
he was obliged to marry her.”
“Then, Sam,” returned
Temple, “I should say that the habit of being
too particular is a good one, if it leads to such
a good thing as marriage. But to return to the
point, what time of day or night do you think it is
“Have not the least idea,”
said Sam; “I think it’s some time or other
in the evening, but this perpetual daylight confuses
me. You know that when you and Grant were away
last week after the gulls, I went to bed on Thursday
forenoon at ten o’clock by mistake, thinking
it was ten at night. How I ever came to do it
I can’t tell, but I suppose that I had sat so
long stuffing that great eagle for Grant that my brains
had got obfuscated. It was cloudy, too (not
unlike what it is just now), so that I could not see
the sun. Whatever was the cause, there is no
doubt of the fact that I lost a day somehow, and my
ideas have got such a twist that I fear they will
never recover it.”
“A most unfortunate state of
things, truly,” said Fred, laughing. “Perhaps
you’ll recover when we return to low latitudes.
If not, there are plenty lunatic asylums. But
we must not spend more than a few hours longer on
this excursion, for I’ve a notion that we are
somewhere about Saturday just now, and you know it’s
against our rules to run the risk of shooting or fishing
“Very true,” replied Sam,
as he continued his sketch. “I say, Grant,
do you happen to have your watch with you?”
“Not I,” cried Grant from
the bow of the boat. “Since day and night
took to being the same I let it run down. I have
no regard for time now.”
“D’ye know what day it is?”
“Humph, it’s lucky that
we can depend upon the Captain for keeping us right
in regard to Sunday. Well, let’s go ashore
and try the mouth of yonder stream. I’ll
warrant me there are sea-trout there, perhaps salmon,
and the ground hereabouts seems a likely place for
grouse and ptarmigan. Pull hard, Hans, thou
son of Eric, and shove the boat into yonder creek.”
Hans Ericsson bent his strong back,
and a bright smile crossed his sunburnt face as the
head of the boat flew round.
“Hallo, Hans! steady, my lad!”
cried Grant, giving his oar a pull that sent the head
of the boat spinning round in the opposite direction.
Then the sturdy Norseman and the stalwart Scot gave
a pull together with all their might, and sent the
boat like an arrow into the creek, where, in a few
seconds, her keel grated on the shore.
For several hours after that the three
friends were busy with their favourite pursuits.
Grant soon bagged several brace of grouse. Fred
caught a basket of splendid sea-trout, some of which
were over three pounds’ weight, and a small
salmon of about ten pounds; while Sam Sorrel sat down
on a rock and painted an elaborate picture of the scenery.
Of course their different occupations separated them
from each other, but Hans kept close to Fred’s
elbow for he had not only conceived a strong
friendship for the young Englishman, but he was immensely
delighted with fly-fishing, which he had never before
witnessed. The astonishment of Hans was great
when he beheld heavy trout landed by means of a slender
rod and an almost invisible line. But when Fred
hooked the salmon the excitement of the Norseman knew
no bounds. After nearly half an hour’s
playing of the fish, Fred drew it close to the bank,
and told Hans to strike the gaff-hook into it, and
lift it out of the water. Hans in his excitement
missed his aim, and the terrified fish darted away.
But Fred was prepared for this, and let out line.
Soon he brought his fish once more to the side, exhausted
and rolling over. Hans made a second attempt
and was successful in landing the silvery salmon on
When they returned to the schooner
after that excursion, Captain McNab was leaning over
the side with a grim smile on his wooden countenance.
Bob Bowie was beside him with a beaming smile on his
jolly red face.
“Good-day, Captain,” cried
Fred, as the boat drew near. “Well, Bowie,
we’re desperately hungry, I hope you’ve
got supper ready for us.”
“I’ve got breakfast, sir,” replied
“Eh? ah! well, call it what
you like, only let us have it soon.” (They
clambered up the side.) “Why, Captain, what day
is it, and what time of day?”
“It’s Friday mornin’, sir, and eight
Fred opened his eyes in astonishment.
“Why, then, comrades, it seems
that we have been shooting, sketching, and fishing
all night by daylight, and the sun has set and risen
again without our being aware of the fact! So
much for perpetual day and a cloudy sky. Come,
Bob Bowie, look alive with break , ah! supper,
I mean, for whatever it may be to you, it is supper
to us. Meanwhile, I’ll have a bathe to
So our hardy adventurers bathed that
morning, over the side, then they supped, after which
they turned in and slept all day, and rose again at
six o’clock in the evening to breakfast!