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César Cascabel Verne, Jules, 1828-1905 1890

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Array    
THE LIBRARY
THE UNIVERSITY OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA  Caesar Cascabel. CAESAR   CASCABEL
BY
JULES   VERNE
AUTHOR OF "TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA,"
!' FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON," ETC.,  ETC.
NEW AND CHEAPER EDITION
LONDON
SAMPSON   LOW,   MARSTON   &  COMPANY
Limited House
Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, B.C. 
LONDON -
PRINTED  BY  GILBERT  AND RlVINGTON,   LD.,
ST.   JOHN'S   HOUSE,   CLERKENWELL   ROAD, CONTENTS.
$art 5.
CHAPTER I. i'agb
The Fortune is Made i
CHAPTER II.
The "Famille Cascabel" 10
CHAPTER III.
The Sierra Nevada 18
CHAPTER IV.
The Grand Resolve 28
CHAPTER V.
On the Road ,  .   .     38
CHAPTER VI.
The Journey continued • 47
CHAPTER VII.
Across the Cariboo       .    54
CHAPTER VIII.
The. Village of Coquins 60 CONTENTS.
CHAPTER IX. page
No Passage 67
CHAPTER X.
Kayette      76
. CHAPTER XI.
Sitka ............     87
CHAPTER XII.
From Sitka to Fort Yukon 99
CHAPTER XIII.
Cornelia's Idea 108
CHAPTER XIV.
From Fort Yukon to Port Clarence      ....   120
CHAPTER XV.
Port Clarence 130
CHAPTER XVI.
Farewell to the New Continent 141
CHAPTER I.
Behring Strait ,      .      .   150
CHAPTER II.
Between two Currents 162
CHAPTER III.
Adrift    175
CHAPTER IV.
From November i6th to December 2nd   ....   184 CONTENTS. VJl
CHAPTER V. page
The Liakhoff Islands 197
CHAPTER VI.
Winter Quarters \      .      .      .210
CHAPTER VII.
One for Cascabel 220
CHAPTER VIII.   .
The Country of the Iakouts    .      .      .      .      .      .231
CHAPTER IX.
To the Obi 243
CHAPTER X.
From the Obi to the Urals 252
CHAPTER XI.
The Ural Mountains ,      .      .265
CHAPTER XII.
The last stage to Perm       .275
CHAPTER XIII.
A Morning's Work 287
CHAPTER XIV.
A Denouement much applauded by the Spectators   .   297
CHAPTER XV.
Conclusion       . 30g  CESAR CASCABEL.
part ^
CHAPTER I.
THE FORTUNE IS  MADE.
I Has any one else any money ? Now then, children,
look about you !"
I Here, father !" said the little girl. And she took
out of her pocket a square of greenish paper, crumpled
and creased, bearing the almost illegible words, | United
States Fractional Currency/' surrounding the venerable
head of a gentleman who wore an overcoat. It had the
number 10 repeated six times, showing that its value was
ten cents, or about ten sous in French money.
" And how did you get that ? " asked her mother.
" It is what was left out of the last collection," answered
Napoleone.
1 And you, Sandre, have nothing else ? "
" No, father."
"Nor you, Jean?"
" Nor I."
" How much is it you want, C&ar ?" asked Cornelia of
her husband.
I We want two cents to make up a round sum," replied
Cascabel. CESAR CASCABEL.
I Here they are, sir," said Clou, tossing up a copper
coin he had just extracted from the depths of his capacious
pocket.
" Bravo, Clou ! | exclaimed the girl.
| Good! There it is!" exclaimed Cascabel. And
| there it was," to use the words of this honest showman.
The total amounted to two thousand dollars, say ten
thousand francs.
Ten thousand francs ! Is not that a fortune, when one
has been able to extract the money by one's talents from
the generosity of the public ?
Cornelia kissed her husband, and her children came to
kiss her one after the other.
I Now," said Cascabel, " we must buy a box, a good
strong box, in which we can lock up our fortune."
I Is that really necessary ?" asked Madame Cascabel,
rather alarmed at the expenditure.
I Cornelia, it is indispensable !"
I Would not a casket do ?"
| Just like the women !" exclaimed Cascabel. | A casket
is for jewels! A chest, or rather a strong box, is for
money, and as we have a long journey to take with our
ten thousand francs—"
"Then go and buy your strong box," said Cornelia,
I but get it cheap."
The head of the family opened the door of the
" magnificent and important" vehicle which served him
for a travelling carriage, descended the iron steps which
were fixed to the shafts, and took his way through the
streets which converge towards the centre of Sacramento.
In the month of February it is cold in California, for
California is situated in the same latitude as Spain. But
buttoned up in his good overcoat of imitation marten,
Cascabel did not trouble himself about the temperature,
and stepped along briskly. A strong box ! To be the
owner of a strong box had been the dream of his life, and
the dream was to be realized at last!
It was just at the beginning of the year 1867. Nineteen
years before, the site of Sacramento was a vast and desert THE FORTUNE IS MADE.
plain. In the centre was a fortress, a sort of blockhouse,
built by the settlers^ the first traders, with the object of
protecting their camps against the Indians of the West.
But since that time, after the Americans had taken
California from the Mexicans, who were incapable of
defending it, the aspect of the country had undergone a
great change. The fortress had given place to a town—
now one of the most important in the United States,
although fires and floods had several times destroyed it as
it rose.
In this year 1867, Cascabel had nothing to fear from
the incursions of Indian tribes, nor from the aggressions of
those gangs of cosmopolitan bandits who invaded the
province in 1849, at the time of the discovery of the gold-
fields situated a little to the north-east on the plateau of
Grass Valley, and the celebrated bed of Allison Ranch, of
which the quartz produces a franc per kilogram of precious
metal.
Yes ! those times of unprecedented fortunes, of terrible
ruin, and nameless miseries were over. There were no
more gold-seekers ; not even in that part of British-
Columbia, the Cariboo, to the north of Washington
Territory, to which thousands of miners swarmed in 1863.
Cascabel ran no risk of having his little savings, gained it
may be said by his own hard work, and which he carried
in his great-coat pocket, stolen from him on his road. In
reality the acquisition of a strong box was not so indispensable as he pretended for keeping his fortune in safety ;
but he considered it to be so under the circumstances of a
long journey across the territories of the Far West, which
are not under such control as California— a journey which
would bring him back to Europe.
And so Cascabel walked without uneasiness along the
wide clean streets, passing every now and then magnificent
squares, shaded with trees that were still leafless, hotels
and private houses that were built as much for elegance as
comfort, public buildings of Anglo-Saxon architecture, and
the many monumental churches which give so grand a
look to this capital of California.   Everywhere were busy •Mm
CESAR CASCABEL.
men, merchants, shipowners, manufacturers; some expecting the arrival of the vessels which ascend or descend
the river, whose waters flow into the Pacific; others
crowding to the Folson railroad, which bears the trains
into the interior of the Confederation.
It was towards High Street that Cascabel went whistling
a French fanfare. In that street he had noticed the
establishment of a rival of Fichet and Huret, the
celebrated Parisian makers of strong boxes. There,
William J. Morlan sold good things and not dear ones—
that is relatively, considering the excessive prices of every
thing in the United States of America.
William J. Morlan was in his shop when Cascabel
presented himself.
| Mr. Morlan," said he, " I wish to buy a strong box."
William J. Morlan knew Cdsar Cascabel; and who did
not know him in Sacramento ? For three weeks had he
not been the delight of the population ? And so the
worthy manufacturer answered him,—
" A strong box, Mr, Cascabel ? Accept my congratulations, I pray—"
I And why ? "
| Because the purchase of a strong box shows that you
have a few bags of dollars to put into it."
| Just so, Mr. Morlan."
| Well, take this one," said he, pointing to an enormous
chest worthy of a place in the offices of Rothschild
Brothers, or other bankers who are generally in comfortable
circumstances.
"Oh! Oh! Easy there!" said Cascabel," I could put
all my family in that! Quite a treasure, I admit, but for
the moment it is not my family I wish to put under lock
and key. H'm ! Mr. Morlan, and what might that large
chest hold ? "
" Several millions—in gold."
"Several millions? Then—I will leave it till later on,
when I have them. No! I want a small box, very
strongly made, which I can carry in my arms and put in
my carriage when I am on my travels." THE  FORTUNE IS  MADE.
" I have the very thing, Mr. Cascabel."
And he brought out a box with a safety lock. It did
not weigh more than about twenty pounds, and was fitted
inside like the cash-boxes or deed-boxes used in banks.
" And, in addition, it is fireproof," said Morlan ; " and the
workmanship is guaranteed."
" Capital! Capital !" said Cascabel, " that will do, if you
can answer for the lock."
" Combination lock," said Morlan. " Four letters—a
word of four letters, to be chosen out of four alphabets, that
gives more than four hundred thousand combinations.
While the thief is finding them out there will be time to
hang him a million times."
"A million times ! Mr. Morlan. That is really marvellous ! But the price ? You see a strong box is too dear
when it costs-more than you can put in it! "
"Just so, Mr. Cascabel. For that box I will charge you
only six and a half dollars."
| Six and a half dollars ! " said Cascabel, " I don't care
to pay six and a half dollars ! See here, Mr. Morlan, round
sums are best in business. Can we manage it at five
dollars ?"
I Well, Mr. Cascabel, as it is for you, yes."
The bargain was concluded, the price paid, and William
J. Morlan offered to send the box to the showman's
travelling carriage, not wishing to trouble him with the
burden.
" Come, Mr. Morlan ! A man like your servant, who can
juggle with a forty-pound weight!"
I Eh ! Eh ! And What may your forty-pound weight
exactly weigh ?" asked Morlan with a laugh.
I Exactly fifteen pounds, but do not tell anybody,"
replied Cascabel.
And thereupon he and Morlan separated, enchanted one
with the other.
Half an hour afterwards the happy possessor of the
strong box arrived at the caravan, and in it deposited, not
without a proud feeling of satisfaction, the " Chest of the
House of Cascabel." m
CESAR CASCABEL.
Ah! how in that little world did they admire this chest!
And how happy and proud the family were to have it! It
had to be opened, and it had to be shut. Young Sandre
would have liked to have got inside—for the fun of the
thing. But that was impossible ; it was not large enough
to hold Sandre.
. As for Clou, he had never seen anything so beautiful—
not even in a dream.
I That ought to be difficult to open," he said ; " at least,
it will not be easy if it is badly shut/"
" You never said anything truer/' said Cascabel.
Then in that voice of command, which admitted of no
reply, and with one of his significant gestures, which admitted of no hesitation,—
"Be off, children, by the shortest way," he said, "and
bring back something for lunch. There is a dollar for you.
It is I who treat you ! "
The worthy fellow ! As if he did not " treat | them every
day of their life ! But the joke pleased him, and he laughed
as he said it.
In a moment Jean, Sandre and Napoleone had left, in
company with Clou, carrying a large straw basket for the
transport of the provisions.
I And now that we are alone, Cornelia, let us have a,
talk."
I About what, Cesar ? "
I About what ? Why, of the word we have to choose for
the lock of the strong box. It is not that I mistrust my
children, nor even that imbecile Clou, who is honesty
personified ; but it is necessary that these words should be
secret."
I Take any word you like," said Cornelia, " I leave it to
you."
" You have no preference ? "
I No."
" Well! I would rather have it a proper name."
" Yes ! Well, there's your own, C6sar."
" Impossible ! It is too long ! The name must only have
four letters." THE FORTUNE IS MADE. 7
"Then take away a letter of your name ! You can write
Cesar without an ' r'; we can do as we please, I suppose ! "
" Bravo, Cornelia ! That is an idea—one of those ideas
you often have, my dear wife! But if we decide to take
away one letter from a name I would rather take away four,
and that from yours ! "
" From my name ? "
"Yes! Let us take the end—e-l-i-a. I think that is
much more distinguished."
"Ah! Cesar!"
" It will please you, will it not, to have your name on
the lock of our strong box ?"
" Yes, for it is already in your heart! " replied Cornelia,
with no less emphasis than tenderness.
And then, in her joy, she vigorously kissed her husband.
And thus it was, on account of the combination, that he
who did not know this word Elia could never open the
strong box of the " Famille Cascabel."
In half an hour the children had returned with the provisions—ham and salt beef cut in appetizing slices, and
some of those surprising vegetables which Californian
vegetation produces, arborescent cabbages, potatoes as
large as melons, and carrots half a yard long—"and," as
Cascabel said, " which are only equalled by those we pull
out of the ground without having troubled to cultivate
them." As for drinks, there was the usual embarrassment
of choice among the varieties which nature and art offer to
American throats. This time, to say nothing of a jug of
foaming beer, there was a bottle of sherry for each to share
in at dessert.
In a turn of the hand, Cornelia, aided by Clou, her
usual assistant, had prepared the meal. The table was
laid in the second apartment of the caravan, called the
parlour, in which the temperature was maintained at a
comfortable height by the kitchen stove in the neighbouring room. If on this occasion, as on other occasions
as well, the father, mother and children ate with remarkable appetite, that was only too well justified by the
conditions.
_J CESAR CASCABEL.
The meal being finished, Cascabel, assuming the sterner
tone with which he spoke his patter in public, expressed
himself in these terms I
I To-morrow, children, we shall leave Sacramento, this
noble town and its noble inhabitants who—red or black,
or white—have had nothing for us but praise. But Sacramento is in California, and California is in America, and
America is not in Europe. Now home is home, and Europe
is France, and it will not be long before France sees us return
within these walls after an absence that has been prolonged
over many years. Have we made our fortunes ? Properly
speaking, No ! Nevertheless, we possess a certain quantity
of dollars, which will make a good figure in our strong box
when we have changed them into French gold and silver.
A part of the money we will spend to cross the Atlantic
on the swift vessels flying our tri-colour, which Napoleon
is now bearing from capital to capital. Your health,
Cornelia! |
Madame Cascabel bowed at this testimony of esteem,
which her husband often gave her ; then he continued :
" I drink also to a pleasant voyage ! May favouring
gales fill our sails ! "
He stopped to pour out for each a last glass of his
excellent sherry.
" But, Clou, you will perhaps tell me that once we have
paid for our passage, there will be nothing left in our
strong box ?"
" No, sir, not unless the cost of the steamer, added to the
cost of the railroads—"
" Railroads ! " exclaimed Cascabel. | But, to be frank and
brief, we will have nothing to do with them ! I reckon
on saving the expenses of transport from Sacramento to
New York by travelling in a house on wheels. A few
hundred leagues will not, I suppose, frighten the Famille
Cascabel^ which has been accustomed to ramble about the
world at its ease ! "
" Certainly not," said Jean.
§ And what joy it will be for us to see France again 1"
exclaimed Madame Cascabel. THE FORTUNE IS  MADE. 9
I Our France, which you, my children," said Cascabel,
I do not know, for you were born in America ; our beautiful France, which you will see at last! Ah ! Cornelia,
what joy that will be for you, a Provencale, and for me, a
Norman, after twenty years of absence !"
" Yes, Cesar, yes !"
"Look you, Cornelia, if they were to offer me an engagement, even at Barnum's, I should refuse it! Delay
our return ? Never ! I would rather go on my hands. It
is homesickness which has seized on us, and to cure that we
must go home.    I know no other remedy ! "
Cascabel spoke truly. He and his wife had but one
thought—to return to France; and great was their satisfaction at being able to do it, now that they had the means.
" We will start to-morrow," said Cascabel.
"And that will perhaps be our last journey," said
Cornelia.
" Cornelia," replied her husband with dignity, 11 know
but one last voyage, that for which the Almighty does not
give us a return ticket!"
I Just so, Cesar; but before that, shall we not have a rest
when we have made our fortune ? "
I Rest, Cornelia ? Never! I do not want fortune if fortune is to lead us to idleness. Think you, then, you have
the right to leave unused the talents with which Nature
has so largely endowed you ? Do you imagine J could
live with folded arms at the risk of injuring the play of
my muscles and joints. Could you see Jean abandon his
juggling, Napoleone no longer dancing on the rope with
or without a pole, Sandre no longer figuring at the
summit of the human pyramid, and Clou no longer
pocketing half a dozen slaps a minute for the greater enjoyment of the public ? No, Cornelia ! Tell me that the
sun will be put out by the rain, that the sea will be drunk
by the fishes, but tell me not that the hour of repose will
ever strike for the Famille Cascabel!"
And now there was nothing more to do than to complete the preparations to start in the morning as soon
as the sun rose on the horizon of Sacramento.   And this
B 10
Cesar cascabel.
was done during the afternoon. Needless to say that the
famous strong box was stowed away in a safe place in the
inner compartment of the caravan.
I In this way," said Cascabel, " we shall be able to keep
guard on it night and day."
| Precisely so, Cesar; I think it is an excellent idea, and
I do not regret the money it cost."
I Perhaps it is rather small, wife, but we will buy a larger
one—when our savings grow larger."
CHAPTER II.
THE "FAMILLE CASCABEL.'
Cascabel ! A name celebrated, and even illustrious in
the five quarters of the globe " and other places," as was
proudly said by him who bore it with so much honour.
Cesar Cascabel, a native of Pontorson, in broad
Normandy, had grown up in a knowledge of all the dodges
and mystifications of the Norman country ; but knowing,
and wide-awake as he was, he had remained an honest man,
and was not to be confounded with the too often suspicious
members of the mountebank fraternity. As the head of a
family, he atoned by his private virtues for the humbleness
of his origin and the irregularities of his profession.
At this period he quite looked every year of his age—
forty-five, no more and no less. A child of the bundle in
every acceptation of the word; his cradle had been the
bundle which his father carried on his shoulders as he did
the round of the fairs and markets of Normandy. His
mother having died shortly after his birth, he had been
received into a travelling troupe, and a few years afterwards had lost his father. His childhood had been passed
amid summersaults, contortions and perilous leaps, his
head being mostly where his feet should have been,    Be«
*W53 THE "FAMILLE CASCABEL.
II
in turns clown, gymnast, acrobat, and circus
Hercules, he had reached his present position as father and
manager of the little family, for whom he was indebted
to Madame Cascabel, formerly Cornelia Vadarasse of
Martigues in Provence.
Intelligent and ingenious, if his strength was remarkable
and his skill above the ordinary, his moral qualities were
in no way inferior to his physical gifts. No doubt the
rolling stone gathers no moss, but, at least, it is rubbed
down by the roughness of the road ; it is polished, loses its
angles, and becomes round and shining. And during the
forty-five years he had been rolling, Cesar Cascabel had
become so thoroughly rubbed and polished and rounded
that he knew all that could be known of life, and was
astonished at nothing. In his journeyings from fair to
fair in Europe, in having acclimatized himself in America,
in the Dutch as well as in the Spanish colonies, he had
become acquainted with most languages, and could speak
more or less well" even those he did not know," as he said,
for he was never at a loss to express himself by gesture
when words failed him.
He was a little above the average height, strong in the
body, supple in the limbs, with a face in which the lower
jaw slightly projected—a sign of energy—a powerful head
bristling with a tangled mass of coarse hair, and tanned by
exposure to sun and storm ; he had a pointless moustache
under his prominent nose, two small whiskers on his
pimply cheeks, blue eyes, alert and piercing, with a good
outlook, and a mouth which would have held thirty-three
teeth if it had been possible to put one in. In public he
was a Frederic Lemaitre, with his grand gestures, fantastic
attitudes and declamatory phrases ; but in private he was
very quiet and natural, and adoring his family.
Of unassailable health, although his age now prevented
his performing as an acrobat, he was remarkable in feats
of strength requiring a large amount of biceps ; and in
addition to this he possessed extraordinary talent in
ventriloquism, the science of engastrymism, which dates
from the far past, for, according to Bishop Eustache, the
B 2 CESAR CASCABEL.
pythoness of Endor was only a ventriloquist. Could he
have sung a duet by himself? There was no reason why
he should have been afraid to try.
To finish his portrait, let us note that C^sar Cascabel had
a weakness for great conquerors—Napoleon above all.
Yes ! He loved the hero of the First Empire as much as he
detested his executioners, those sons of Hudson Lowe,
those abominable John Bulls. Napoleon was his man !
Never would he perform before the Queen of England,
"although she sent her major domo to ask him" ; and he
had said this so often that he had ended by believing it.
But Cascabel was not the director of a circus, a
Franconi, a Rancy or a Loyal at the head of a troupe of
horsemen, horsewomen, clowns and jugglers. No! Merely
a travelling showman, exhibiting in the open air in fine
weather and under a tent when it rained. At this trade,
the risks of which he had run for a quarter of a century,
he had gained, as we know, the little round sum that was
now secured under the combination lock.
And what did that represent in hard work, fatigue,
occasional misery ? Now the worst was over. The
Cascabel family were preparing to return to Europe. After
crossing the United States they would take their passages
on a French or American steamer—on an English one,
never!
There was nothing that could embarrass C^sar Cascabel.
Obstacles did not exist for him. Difficulties there were
none. To get out of them, to clear himself from them was
his business. He would willingly have repeated, after the
Duke of Dantzic, one of his great man's marshals,—
I Cut me a hole and I will get through it." And he
had in truth been through a good many holes.
I Madame Cascabel, formerly Cornelia Vadarasse, a
Provencale of pure blood, the incomparable clairvoyante,
the queen of electric women, ornamented with all the
graces of her sex, adorned with all the virtues which do
honour to a mother of a family, emerged victorious from
the great female competition to which Chicago invited the
first athletes of the world I"
mm '■t
THE "FAMILLE CASCABEL."
15
It was in these terms that Cascabel invariably introduced
the companion of his life. Twenty years before, he had
married her. Had he consulted his father about the
marriage ? No ! For in the first place his father had not
consulted him about his, as he said, and in the next because the worthy man was no longer in the world. And
' it had been brought about very simply, as may be believed,
without any of the preliminary formalities which in old
Europe so vexatiously retard the union of two hearts that
may have been made for each other. -
One evening at Barnum's Show in Broadway, where he
was. present as a spectator, Cascabel was struck with
wonder at the elegance, suppleness, and strength displayed
by a young French acrobat "on the horizontal bar. This
was Mademoiselle Cornelia Vadarasse. To associate his
talents with those of this gracious personage, to make but
one of two existences, was the thought of a moment to the
honest mountebank. To rush behind the scenes during a
wait; to make himself known to Cornelia Vadarasse ; to
make the proper proposals with a view to a marriage between a Frenchman and Frenchwoman; to inform a
reverend clergyman who was in the building ; to drag him
into the lobby, to ask him to bless so well-assorted a union,
—that was how the matter was managed in the happy land
of the United States of America. And are these marriages
by steam any the worse for that ? Anyhow, that of Cesar
Cascabel and Cornelia Vadarasse was one of the best ever
celebrated in this world below.
When this story begins, Madame Cascabel was forty.
She was of good height, a little stout, perhaps, with black
hair, black eyes, smiling mouth, and all her teeth, like her
husband. Her exceptional strength can be judged from
the memorable competition at Chicago, in which she
gained a % chignon of honour." It should be mentioned
that Cornelia loved her husband, as she had done from the
first, having unalterable confidence and absolute faith in
the genius of that extraordinary man, one of the most
remarkable examples that Normandy has produced.
The first-born of this marriage was Jean, then aged nine- 14
CESAR CASCABEL.
teen. If he did not inherit the family talent for feats of
strength and address as gymnast, clown, or acrobat, he
proved his descent by the remarkable cleverness with his
hands and sureness of eye, which made him a graceful
juggler, whom success did not make inordinately self-
conceited. He was a gentle, thoughtful fellow, brown
featured like his mother, and with blue eyes. Studious
and reserved, he tried to educate himself wherever and
whenever he could. Although he was not ashamed of his
parents' trade, yet he understood that there was something
better to be done in life than to be a public performer, and
he had made up his mind to leave the profession as soon
as he reached France. But being very fond of his father
and mother, he maintained a strict reserve on this subject ; and, besides, how was he likely to get anything else
to do?
The second son was the contortionist of the troupe. He
was the truly logical offspring of the Cascabela Twelve
years old, active as a cat, clever as an ape, quick as an eel,
a little clown of three feet six, coming into the world with
a perilous leap—if his father was to be believed; a regular
urchin in his frolics and fooleries, prompt at repartee, but
good-natured, deserving many a thump and laughing when
he got one—for he was never really wicked.
It will be noticed that Cascabel's eldest one was named
Jean. And why this name ? It was because his mother
had insisted on it in memory of one of his great uncles,
Jean Vadarasse, a sailor of Marseilles, who had been eaten
by Caribs—a fact of which she was very proud. Doubtless the father, who had the opportunity of naming a Cesar,
would have preferred another name more historical, more
in accordance with his secret admiration for great warriors.
But he had no wish to oppose his wife at the birth of their
first child, and had accepted the name of Jean, intending
to have his own way if he had another opportunity. And
when this occurred he named his second son Alexandre—
after failing to get his wife's consent to call him Amilcar,
Attila, or Hannibal—and by familiar abbreviation
Alexandre had come to be called Sandre. Clou and Napoleone.  THE "FAMTLLE CASCABEL."
IS
After the first and second son the family was increased
by a girl, and this girl, whom Madame Cascabel had wished
to be called Hersilla, was named Napoleone, in honour of
the martyr of St. Helena.
Napoleone was then eight years of age. She was an
amiable child, who promised to be very pretty, and in fact
bore out the promise. Fair and rosy, with a lively, intelligent face, very graceful and clever, walking the tightrope had no secrets for her ; her little feet trod the metallic
thread, and glided and danced on it as if the slender little
body had wings to keep it aloft.
Naturally Napoleone was the spoilt child of the family.
All adored her, and she was adorable. Her mother nursed
the thought that one day she would make some grand
marriage. Was not that one of the inevitable contingencies of a professional's wandering life ? Why should not
Napoleone, become a handsome girl, meet with a prince to
fall in love with her and marry her ?
" As in the fairy tales ? " said Cascabel.
"No, Cesar, as in reality."
"Alas, Cornelia, the time is past for kings to wed
shepherdesses; and, besides, T am not sure that to-day
shepherdesses would consent to marry kings."
Such was the " Famille Cascabel,"—a father, a mother,
and three children. It would perhaps have been better
had it been increased by a fourth offspring, with a view to
the human pyramid in which the performers stand on one
another's shoulders in scaffold fashion. But the fourth did
not come.
Fortunately, Clou was there, evidently intended to lend
his aid in any extraordinary performance. He appropriately completed the Famille Cascabel. The troupe was
his family. He was part of it in every way, although he
was an American by birth. One of those poor miserables,
with no known parents, born they know not where—and
they are hardly likely to know of themselves ; brought up
by charity, reared by chance ; turning out well when they
have a good disposition, and an inborn morality which will
enable them to shun the bad examples and bad counsels of CESAR CASCABEL.
misery. And should there not be some pity for these
people, if, as most often, they are led away into evil, and
end in ruin ?
This was not the case with Ned Harley, to whom it had
pleased Cascabel to give the name of Clou-de-Girofle or
Clove. And why ? First, because he was as slender as a
clove ; second, because he was engaged to receive more
bunches of cloves, that is, slaps with five fingers, than ever
grew in a year, on no matter what representative of the
caryophyllacea;.
. Two years before, when Cascabel had come across this
unhappy creature in a trip through the United States,
Ned Harley was nearly dead of starvation. The troupe of
acrobats, to which he had belonged, had just been scattered.
after the flight of their leader. They were strolling minstrels. Not much of a trade, even when it pays ! To
blacken one's face with burnt cork, to niggerfy as they call
it, to put on a black coat and trousers, and a white waistcoat and cravat, and sing grotesque songs while scraping
a ridiculous violin in company with four or five other
pariahs of like species—what a function in the social order !
Well, this function had just failed Ned Harley, and he was
fortunate enough to meet Providence on the road in the
person of Cascabel.
Cascabel had just sent about his business the merry
andrew who had performed the clown's duties in the show.
Will it be believed ? This clown who called himself an
American was of English extraction ! A John Bull in the
travelling show ! A compatriot of those executioners who
—you know the old story. One day by chance Cascabel
discovered the intruder's nationality.
" Mr. Waldurton," he said, " if you are English you will
be off immediately, or-I will bring my boot into contact
with your rear—clown though you may be."
And clown as he was, Mr. Waldurton would have received the boot on the spot indicated if he had not made
haste to depart.
Clou took his place. The ex-minstrel was engaged as
general  utility, to   perform   in   the  show, to see to  the ■fe.
THE "FAMILLE CASCABEL."
animals, to assist in the cooking.    Of course he spoke
French, but with a most American accent.
He was a simple-minded sort of fellow, although he was
thirty-five years of age; as lively when he amused the
public by his fooleries as he was melancholy in private
life. He looked upon things rather on their mournful
side, and, frankly, that was not to be wondered at, for it
would have been difficult to count him among the happy
ones of the world. His pointed head, his long-drawn face,
his yellow hair, his round baby eyes, his nose disproportionately long, on which he could place half a dozen pairs
of spectacles—provoking much laughter—his large ears,
his craning neck, his meagre body supported by the skeleton
legs, all combined to make him a strange-looking being.
And he never complained; at least—that was the way in
which he generally corrected himself—at least when some
accident made him complain of himself. Since he had
joined the Cascabels he had become much attached to
them, and on their part the family could not think of
parting with him.
■ Such was the human element of the travelling troupe.
The animal element was represented by two good dogs—
a spaniel, valuable in the chase and trustworthy as the
guard of the caravan ; and a poodle, learned and intelligent,
destined to become a member of the Institute, when
the day comes for an Institute for the canine race.
After the two dogs, it is fitting to present to the public
a little monkey, which in the matter of grimaces could
compete successfully with Clou himself, and frequently
the spectators were much embarrassed to know to which to
adjudge the prize. Then there was a parrot, Jako, a native
of Java, who talked, screamed, sang and chattered ten
hours out of the twelve, thanks to the lessons of his friend
Sandre. Then there were two horses,—two good old horses
—to drag the travelling carriage, whose legs, a little stiffened
by age, had giown longer and longer along the miles and
miles of roads they had dragged it.
You wish to know the names of these excellent brutes ?
One, then,   was   called  Vermout, after M.   Delamarre's CESAR CASCABEL.
victor; the other, Gladiator, after Comte de Lagrange's
great horse. Yes ! They bore names as illustrious as any
on the French turf, and yet had never aspired to be entered
for the Grand Prix de Paris !
As to the dogs, the spaniel's name was
Wagram,
the
poodle's Marengo; and one can easily imagine to whom
they were indebted for names so famous in history.
The monkey he had named John Bull—simply because
he was so ugly.
What would you have ? You must overlook in
Cascabel this mania, which had its source after all in very
pardonable patriotism—even at a period when such feelings
hardly exist.
I What! I he often said, " Not adore the man who
shouted under a rain of bullets, \ Follow my white plume,
you will find it always, &c, &c.' ? "
And when people remarked that it was Henry the
Fourth who had uttered these fine words,—
" Possibly," Cascabel would reply. " But Napoleon was
quite capable of saying them."
CHAPTER III.
THE SIERRA NEVADA.
There are people who have occasionally dreamt of a
journey in a caravan in gipsy fashion. To have nothing
to trouble oneself about with regard to hotels, or inns, or
uncertain beds, or still more uncertain cooking, when
crossing a country of scattered hamlets or villages!
As rich men have their yachts, with all the advantages of a
moving home, it is not much of a step to a vehicle for a
similar purpose. And is not the vehicle a moving house ?
Why are showmen the only people to know the pleasures
of navigation on dry land ? THE SIERRA NEVADA.
The caravan of the travelling showman is a complete
furnished house, a home on wheels ; and Cesar Cascabel's
answered all the requirements of his nomad existence.
The Belle Roulotte—so she was called, as if she were
some Norman schooner; and rest assured that she deserved the name after her many peregrinations in the
United States. Bought three years before, with the first
savings of the troupe, she had replaced the old van, covered
merely with a tilt and quite destitute of springs, which had
for so long been used by the family. As Cascabel had
been twenty years roaming about America, it is needless to
say that the caravan was of American build.
The Belle Roulotte stood on four wheels. She had good
steel springs, and was light as well as strong. Being carefully kept, and constantly soaped, rubbed and washed, she
was resplendent in her gaudily-coloured panels, where
golden yellow was agreeably blended with cochineal red,
and displayed to view the name of the now celebrated
troupe,—I Famille Cdsar Cascabel." In length she
rivalled the chariots which then traversed the prairies of
the Far West, where the Great Trunk, the railway from
New York to San Francisco, had not yet extended its
ramifications. Evidently two horses could only draw this
heavy vehicle at a walk. In truth, the burden was great.
To say nothing of her occupants, the Belle Roulotte carried
on her roof the tent with pegs and ropes, and between the
wheels a swinging tarpaulin, containing sundry objects
such as the big drum and other musical instruments and
accessories, which form the trade tools of an itinerant
showman. Let us also note the costumes of a celebrated
pantomime, the " Brigands of the Black Forest," which
figured in the repertoire of the Famille Cascabel.
The arrangements inside were of the compactest and of
quite Dutch cleanliness, thanks to Cornelia, who was not
to be trifled with in that matter.
In front, closed by a sliding glass door, was the first
apartment, warmed by the kitchen stove ; then came the
sitting or dining-room ; then the first bedroom, with bunks
one over the other as in a ship's cabin, where separated
I g^:k5s^&^^^;s^'^-:-'1kJ
JJS8Ssg&€S8S»S
CESAR CASCABEL.
by a curtain there slept the two brothers on the right hand
with their little sister on the left; then came the bedroom
of Monsieur and Madame Cascabel, with a bed having a
thick mattress and many-coloured counterpane, and near
it the famous strong box. In every corner were shelves,
which could be fixed up or down to form tables, and
narrow cupboards, in which were kept the costumes, wigs,
and theatrical properties. Two paraffin lamps lighted the
interior, regular rolling lamps, which hung upright whenever the vehicle journeyed along badly-levelled roads ;
and to allow the light of day to penetrate the different
apartments there were half a dozen small windows in lead
frames, to which curtains of light muslin with coloured
bands gave the Belle Roulotte the look of the cabin of a
Dutch galliot.
Clou, being not over particular, slept in the first apartment in a hammock, which was hung at night between the
outer walls and was stowed away at daybreak.
The two dogs, Wagram and Marengo, in their position as
guardians, slept in the tarpaulin under the vehicle, where
they tolerated the presence of the monkey, John Bull,
notwithstanding his petulance and weakness for practical
joking; and the parrot, Jako, was kept in a cage hung in
the second apartment. The two horses, Gladiator and
Vermout,  were free to graze round the Belle Roulotte
without  being hobbled : and after
feeding
on the pas
turage of the vast prairies where the table was always
spread, as was also the bed, they.had only to lie down on the
ground which had fed them. When night came the Belle
Roulotte afforded complete security, with the guns and
revolvers of its inhabitants—and its two dogs.
Such was the family coach. What miles and miles had
it travelled during the three years throughout the Union,
from New York to Albany, from Niagara to Buffalo, to
St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, down the
Mississippi to New Orleans, along the Great Trunk to the
Rocky Mountains, to the Mormon country, and even into
the depths of California ! Healthy travelling it had been,
for not one of the little troupe had ever been ill—except THE SIERRA NEVADA.
2T
John Bull, whose attacks of indigestion were frequent, so
well did his instinct enable him to satisfy his inconceivable
gormandizing.
And the Belle Roulotte ; what joy it would be to take
her to Europe, along the roads of the old continent ! what
sympathetic curiosity she would excite as she traversed
the land of France and the fields of Normandy ! Ah !
to see France once more, to see his Normandy once again,
as in the celebrated song of Berat: it was to that that tended
all the thoughts and aspirations of Cesar Cascabel!
Once at New York the caravan would be taken off its
wheels, packed, and embarked on board a steamboat bound
to Havre, and there it could resume its wheels and take
the road to the capital.
How eager were Cascabel, his wife and his children to
be off, and eager also were their companions, whom we
may call their four-footed friends. And, consequently, it
was at daybreak on the 15th of February that they left
Sacramento, some on foot, and some in the caravan—each
according to his fancy.
The weather was still cold, but fine. It need not be
said that they did not startwithout biscuits—in other words,
without a good stock of preserved meats and vegetables.
They could re-victual in the towns and villages. And as
for game, bison, deer, hares, partridges, was there not abundance in these territories ? And could not Jean take his
gun and make good use of it, the pursuit of game not
being forbidden nor permission required on the vast
prairies of the Far West ? For Jean was a capital marksman, and the spaniel Wagram, and failing him the poodle
Marengo, were distinguished by retrieving qualities of the
first order.
Leaving Sacramento the Belle Roulotte went off in a
north-easterly direction: the object was to reach the
frontier by the shortest road, and cross the Sierra Nevada
at a height of about two hundred kilometres by the pass
of Sonora, which gives access to the interminable plains
to the eastward.
This was not the Far West properly so called, where
I <4$faQfril$>t
<smmi9^^msmfe^mm^ms^ss^
22
CESAR CASCABEL.
villages are only met with at long intervals; it was not
the Prairie with its remote horizon, its huge desert tracts,
its nomad Indians, whom civilization is driving further
and further into the less-frequented regions of North
America.
As soon as the caravan left Sacramento the country
began to rise. It was already climbing the ramifications
of the Sierra, which encloses old California in a magnificent border of mountain scenery, covered with black
pines, and dominated here and there by high peaks rising
to five thousand metres—a frontier of verdure which
Nature has given the land in which she had poured out
the gold that had now been swept away by human
rapacity. On the road taken by the Belle Roulotte there
were several important towns—Jackson, Mocquelenne,
Placerville, celebrated outposts of the Eldorado of
Calaveras. But Cascabel only stopped to make a few
purchases, or when he wished to have a quiet night. He
was eager to clear the ranges of Nevada, the Salt Lake
country, the enormous rampart of the Rocky Mountains,
where his team would have a good deal of collar-work -to
get through. Thence onwards, to the Erie and Ontario
country, the caravan would have to follow the beaten road
across the Prairie.
But travelling is not rapid in mountainous countries.
The road is lengthened by its inevitable circuitousness.
And, besides, although the country is covered by the
thirty-eighth parallel, which in Europe is that of Sicily
and Spain, the final frosts of winter retained all their
severity. It is well known that it is owing to the curving-
off of the Gulf Stream, that current of warm water which
emerges from the Gulf of Mexico and flows away obliquely
towards Europe, that the climate of North America is
colder in the same latitude than that of the ancient world.
But in a few weeks California would again become one of
the most bountiful countries of the globe, a fertile sea in
which cereals multiply a hundredfold and the products of
the most diverse tropical and temperate zones mingle in
profusion, the sugar-cane, rice, tobacco,  oranges, olives, tarn
THE SIERRA NEVADA.
23
citrons, pine-apples, bananas. It is not gold which has
made the soil of California so rich, but the extraordinary
wealth of vegetation that it yields.
" We shall regret this country," said Cornelia, who was
not indifferent to the good things of the table.
I Gourmande !" said Cascabel.
" Oh, not for myself, but for the children."
Many days were spent in journeyings along the skirt of
the forests across the green pastures. So numerous were
these that the ruminants feeding on them were unable to
exhaust the carpet of grass which Nature unceasingly
renewed. We cannot dwell too much on the vegetable
wealth of this Californian territory, to which no other can
be compared. It is the granary of the Pacific, and the
fleets of commerce which export its products cannot
exhaust it.
The Belle Roulotte went along at its usual rate of from
six to seven leagues a day—not more. At that rate it
had taken its passengers through the States where the
name of Cascabel was favourably known from the mouths
of the Mississippi to New England. It is true that
Cascabel had then stopped at every town to make a
collection. Now in the journey from west to east there
was no thought of astonishing the natives. It was not a
professional tour this time, but a return to old Europe with
the Norman farms on the horizon.
There was plenty of fun on the road, and many a
stationary house would have envied the gaiety that existed
in the caravan. They laughed, they sang, they joked, and
occasionally the cornet, on which Sandre performed, set
flight to the birds who were no less happy than this happy
family.
This was all very well, but days of travel need not be
entirely days of holiday-making.
£ Children," said Cascabel, " it will not do to get rusty."
And during the halts, although the horses rested, the
troupe did not rest. More than once the Indians crowded
round to see Jean practising his juggling, Napolebne rope-
walking, Sandre  twisting himself about as if made   of
c CESAR CASCABEL.
indiarubber, Madame Cascabel keeping her hand in at
feats of strength, and Cascabel himself ventriloquizing,
not to forget Jako chattering in his cage, the dogs doing
tricks, and John Bull expanding his face in grimaces.
And notice also that Jean did not neglect his studies
on the road. He read and re-read the few books forming
the little library of the Belle Roulotte, a little geography
and arithmetic and several books of travels ; he also kept
a log-book in which he recorded in a pleasant way the
incidents of the journey.
" You will know too much," his father often said. " But
it is your taste, I suppose."
And Cascabel took care not to run counter to the instincts of his first-born. At heart he and his wife were
very proud at having a learned man in the family.
On the afternoon of the 27th of February the Belle Roulotte arrived at the foot of the gorges of the Sierra Nevada;
For four or five days the rugged road over the ridge would
be the cause of great fatigue. It would be as wearisome-
for the travellers as for the animals to ascend the mountain
side. It would be necessary to put their shoulders to the
wheel in the narrow windings of the road round the flanks
of the barrier. Although the weather continued to improve with the early influences of the Californian spring,
the climate would still be inclement at certain altitudes.
There was every reason to fear heavy rains, alarming
snowdrifts, and storms at the mouths of the gorges in
which the wind was ingulfed as in a funnel. Besides the
higher passes rise above the snow-line, and there were at
least two thousand metres to be travelled before the
descent would begin into the Mormon country.
Cascabel intended to do what he had done before and
hire extra horses from the farms and villages, with Indians
or Americans to look after them. This was to increase
the expenses, of course, but it was necessary if he did not
wish to risk the loss of his own team.
On the evening of the 27th, the entry to the Sonora
pass was reached. The valleys followed up to these had
not been distinguished by any gradients of importance, MM
THE SIERRA NEVADA.
25
and Vermout and Gladiator had got along without much
difficulty, but they could not go much further even with
the aid of the whole troupe.
A halt was made a short distance from a hamlet in the
gorges of the Sierra. There were only a few houses, and
two gunshots away was a farm at which Cascabel resolved
to call in order to secure horses for the morrow. And to
begin with, preparations were made to pass the night on the
spot.
As soon as the camp had been pitched in the usual way,
he entered into communication with the people of the
village to furnish fresh provisions for the family and forage
for the animals.
There was no question that night of rehearsing a performance. All were tired out. It had been a hard day's
work, for a great portion of it had been done on foot in
order to spare the horses. Cascabel ordered complete
rest, which was to be the rule during the crossing of the
Sierra.
After a general look round the camp to see that all was
in order, Cascabel left the Belle Roulotte in charge of his
wife, and, accompanied by Clou, set off to the farmhouse,
the smoke from the chimneys of which was rising above
the trees.
The farm was occupied by a Californian and his family,
who gave the showman a warm welcome. The farmer
undertook to furnish him with three horses and two drivers
to take the Belle Roulotte up to the ridge where the slope
descended to the eastward, and then return. The price
asked was a high one.
Cascabel, not being desirous of throwing his money out
of window, talked over the terms with the man and finally
agreed to accept his offer for a reasonable sum.
In the morning, at six o'clock, the two men arrived, and
the three horses were harnessed on in front of Vermout and
Gladiator. The Belle Roulotte set off up the narrow
gorge which was well wooded on both flanks. By eight
o'clock, at one of the turnings of the defile, the wonderful
lands of California, which the family did not leave without
C 2 26
CESAR CASCABEL.
a good deal of regret, had entirely disappeared behind the
mass of the Sierra.
The farmer's three horses were strong brutes on whom
dependence could be placed. But was this so with their
drivers ? It seemed rather doubtful. They were both
powerful men, half-breeds, half Indian and half English.
Ah ! if Cascabel had only known, how soon would he have
dismissed them !
Cornelia did not like their looks at all. Jean held the
same opinion as his mother, and Clou thought the same.
Cascabel did not seem to have been so fortunate. After
all there were but two of them, and they would have to do
with a well-armed troupe if they attempted mischief.
Dangerous adventures in the Sierra were not to be
anticipated. The road in those days had become quite
safe. The time had passed when Californian miners,
calling themselves loafers and rowdies, joined with scoundrels from every corner of the world to molest honest
travellers.    Lynch law had put an end to that.
But, like a prudent man, Cascabel resolved to be on his
guard. The men were certainly skilful drivers, the day went
by without accident, and this was something to be satisfied
with. A broken wheel, or a broken axletree, and the crew
of the Belle Roulotte, far from all habitations, with no
means of repairing damages, would have been in considerable difficulty.
The pass was in the wildest of scenery. Nothing but
black pines and the mosses that covered the ground for
vegetation. Here and there great heaps of rocks multiplied the turnings along one of the affluents of the
Walkner flowing from the lake of that name and falling
tumultuously down the precipices. In the distance, lost
among the snows, was Castle Peak dominating the other
summits picturesquely extending along the chain of the
Nevada.
About five o'clock in the evening, when the darkness was
already rising from the depths of the narrow gorge, there
was a rugged turn in the road to get over. The ascent
was very sharp at the spot, and it became necessary to un-
SP fcl—l
THE SIERRA NEVADA.
27
load a part of the caravan and leave behind for a time the
tarpaulin and most of the things on the roof.
All set to work at this, and it must be admitted that the
drivers worked as hard as any. Cascabel and his people
were inclined to think a little better of these men than at
first; and after all in two more days the highest point of
the defile would be reached and the horses returned to the
farm.
When the halting-place had been chosen, while the men
attended to their horses Cascabel, with his two sons and
Clou, returned for the things that had been left behind
at the foot of the slope. A capital supper ended the day,
and all thought of nothing but a good night's rest.
Cascabel offered the men a shelter in the caravan, but
they declined, assuring him that the shelter of the trees
was enough. There, well wrapped up, they could keep
better watch over their master's horses. A few minutes
afterwards the camp was plunged in profound sleep.
Next morning every one was awake at dawn. Cascabel,
Jean and Clou descended the steps of the Belle Roulotte,
and went off to where Gladiator and Vermout had been
turned out the night before.
Both were there, but the farmer's three horses had
disappeared.
As they could not be far off Jean went to give orders
to the men to go in search of them. The two men could
not be found.
I Where are they ? " he said.
"They are off after the horses, of course," said
Cascabel.
" Ahoy ! Ahoy ! " shouted Clou in a shrill voice which
could be heard at a great distance.
There was no reply.
Shouts were also raised by Cascabel and Jean who then
returned.
The men did not appear.
I Can it be that we were not mistaken in their looks ?"
asked Cascabel.
"Why should these men leave us?" asked Jean. 28
CESAR CASCABEL,
1 Because they have done us some ill turn."
" And what ?"
I What ?    Wait! we will see ! "
And, followed by Jean and Clou, he ran to the caravan.
To clear the step, dash open the door, rush through
the apartment, hurl himself into the room in which he
had put the precious strong box, was the work of a
moment.    And Cascabel returned exclaiming,—
§ Stolen !"
| The strong box ?" said Cornelia.
I Yes, stolen by those scoundrels !"
CHAPTER IV.
the grand resolve.
Scoundrels !
That was certainly the most suitable name for such
people. But none the less the Cascabels had been
robbed.
Every evening Cascabel had been accustomed to make
sure that the strong box was in its proper place ; but that
evening he remembered that, overcome with the fatigues of
the day, he had fallen asleep without the usual verification. Evidently while he and Jean and Clou had gone
back for the things left at the turn of the road, the men
must have got unperceived into the inner apartment,
seized the box and hidden it under some brushwood by
the side of the camp. That was why they refused to sleep
inside the caravan. They had waited till the family were
asleep and had then fled with the farmer's horses.
Of all the savings oi the little troupe nothing remained
but the. few dollars Cascabel had in his pocket. And very
lucky it was that the scoundrels had not taken Vermout
and Gladiator. The dogs during the day had become
accustomed to the men's presence, and had not given the
m THE GRAND EESOLVE.
20
alarm, so that the crime was accomplished without
difficulty.
Where were the thieves to be found now that they had
cleared off across the Sierra ? How could the money be
got back ? And how, without the money, could the
Cascabels cross the Atlantic ?
The despair found expression in tears by some, in fury
by the others. Cascabel was seized with a paroxysm of
rage and his wife. and children had some difficulty in
calming him. But after giving way to anger he became
master of himself, like a man who lost no time in vain
recriminations.
" That wretched strong box ! " Cornelia could not help
saying amid her tears.
"Itis certain," said Jean, "that if we had not had the
box our money—|
I Yes ! A fine idea it was that urged me to buy that
confounded box," exclaimed Cascabel. " Certainly when
one has a strong box it is best to put nothing in it. It is all
very well to be fireproof, as the man told me, but what is
the use of that if it is not thief-proof ? "
It must be admitted it was a serious blow for the family,
and one -cannot be surprised at their being overwhelmed
at it. Robbed of two thousand dollars gained by so much
hard work!
" What is to be done ? " asked Jean.
I What is to be done ?" said Cascabel, whose serried
teeth seemed to be chewing the words. " It is very simple !
Singularly simple! Without extra horses we cannot get up
the pass ! Well, I propose to return to the farm. The
rascals may be there—"
"At least if they have gone back," interrupted Clou.
As indeed was probable. But, as Cascabel said, all that
could be done was to retreat now that advance was impossible.
And thereupon Vermout and Gladiator were harnessed
and the caravan began the descent of the defile of the
Sierra.
That was only too easy, alas!   They went quickly when |s%^^SA'rViWv:"^'«r^«»^'W'i-
30
CESAR CASCABEL.
all they had to do was to descend the hill; but they
journeyed in silence, broken every now and then by a volley
of oaths from Cascabel. At noon the Belle Roulotte stopped
at the farm. The thieves had not come back. In learning what had happened, great was the farmer's anger, not
so much at what had happened to the family, but at his
having lost his horses. In their flight the scoundrels had
probably taken them over the pass. Off, then, in pursuit!
And the farmer, in his fury, talked of holding Cascabel
responsible for the theft of the brutes.
" That is rather stiff," said Cascabel. " Why do you keep
such rascals in your service, and why do you hire them
out to honest men ?"
" How did I know anything about them ?" replied the
farmer. " I never had occasion to complain of them! They
came from British Columbia—"
I They were English ? "
"Of course."
"In that case you should have told people, sir; you
should have told people."
Anyhow the robbery had been committed and the
position was very serious.
But if Madame Cascabel could not easily get over it,
her husband, with the fund of professional philosophy
with which he was blessed, eventually recovered his
coolness.
And when they were gathered together again within the
Belle Roulotte, a conversation was begun between all the
members of the family—a conversation of the highest
importance, ending in "a grand resolve," as Cascabel
said.
" Children, there are circumstances in life in which a
man of resolution has to come to a decision. I have observed that the circumstances are generally disagreeable.
Such are these in which we find ourselves by the act of
these scoundrels—these Englishmen ! There is no use in
talking about going by four roads when there are not four
roads. There is but one, and that one we will take immediately ! I THE GRAND RESOLVE.
31
I Which is that ?" asked Sandre.
" I will tell you at once what has just occurred to me,"
said Cascabel. " But to know if it can be done, Jean must
bring us the machine with the maps in it."
I My atlas ? " said Jean.
I Yes, your atlas. You ought to be strong in geography.
Go and get your atlas."
" At once, father."
And when the atlas was laid on the table, Cascabel
continued in these terms:—
I It is understood, my children, that although these
rascals of Englishmen—why did I not suspect they were
English?—have stolen our strong box—why had I a notion
to buy a strong box ?—it is understood, I say, that we do
not give up our intention of returning to Europe—"
I Give it up!   Never !" exclaimed Madame Cascabel.
I Bravely' said, Cornelia ! We intended to go back to
Europe, and we will go back. We wished to see France
once more, and we will see it. It is not because these
scoundrels have robbed us, that—as for me I must get
back to my native air, where I will die—"
1 And I will not have you die, Cesar! We have started
for Europe—and in spite of all we will reach there—"
"And in what way?" asked Jean. "Yes! In what
way ? "
"Yes, in what way ?" said Cascabel, knitting his brows.
" Certainly, by giving performances on the road we might
earn enough from day to day to take the Belle Roulotte
to New York. But when we got there, we should want
the sum for the passage across! There would be no
steamer, and without the steamer it is not possible to cross
the sea, except by swimming it! It seems to me that
would be difficult—"
" Very difficult, sir," answered Clou, "at least, without
corks."
I Have you any corks ?"
" I do not think so."
" Well, be silent and listen !"
Then, addressing himself to his son, he continued:— 'MQ.Vt'.lili'atll-B.Ytl-lllWI
SS^W?^fS^i*P?*^1^':
32
CESAR CASCABEL.
I Jean, open your atlas, and show us on the map where
we are just now."
Jean turned to the map of North America and placed it
in front of his father, while he pointed out with his finger
the Sierra Nevada, a little east of Sacramento.
I That is the place," he said.
" Good ! I said Cascabel. I Now, once we were on the
other side of the mountains we should have to traverse the
whole territory of the United States to New York ?"
I Yes, father."
I And how many leagues is that ?"
I About thirteen hundred."
I Good !    Then we should have to cross the ocean ? "
"Of course."
I How many leagues is that ocean ? "
" Nearly nine hundred to Europe."
§ And once arrived in France, suppose we say we are in
our Normandy—? "
I Suppose we say ! |
I And all this was over—? "
I Two thousand two hundred leagues !" said the little
Napoleone, counting on her fingers.
I Look at the rogue ! " said Cascabel, " she knows her
arithmetic already
leagues ?"
"About that,  father,"  answered   Jean
measured it right."
"Well, my children, that trail would be nothing for the
Belle Roulotte if there were no sea between America and
Europe, that abominable sea which bars the road ! And
this sea we cannot cross without money, that is to say,
without a steamer—"
I Or without corks ! " said Clou.
I Certainly, that is agreed," said Cascabel, shrugging his
shoulders.
I Then it is evident," said Jean, " we cannot go by the
east."
" It is impossible, as you say, my son, absolutely impossible 1   But—perhaps by the west ?"
We said two thousand two hundred
"I    think   I
mm  ^^^fm^^&m'i^m!m^^^ gy^M
THE GRAND  RESOLVE.
33
| By the west! " exclaimed Jean, looking at his father.
I Yes ! Look at that for a little; show me how we should
have to go if we went by the west."
"We should have to cross California, Oregon, and
Washington territory, up to the northern territory of the
United States."
"And then?"
| Then !    We should be in British Columbia."
" Pouah !" said Cascabel. "And is there no way of avoiding this Columbia ?"
1 No, father."
I Well, let it pass.    What next ? |
| Once we reached the northern frontier of Columbia, we
should find ouselves in the province of Alaska."
I Which is English ? "
| No, Russian—at least, just now, for there is a question
of annexing it."
"To England?"
" No !    To the United States."
I Bravo !    And after Alaska, what is there ? "
I There is Behring Strait, which separates the two continents, America and Asia."
I And how far is it to the Strait ? "
" Eleven hundred leagues."
"Remember that, Napoleone, you will have another
addition sum in a minute."
" And I ? " said Sandre.
"You shall have one, too."
I Now, your strait, Jean, is it a large one ? "
| Twenty leagues, father."
| Oh ! " said Madame Cascabel, "twenty leagues!"
a A mere rivulet, Cornelia, merely a rivulet!"
§ What!    A rivulet ? "
| Yes! Besides, Jean, does not your strait freeze in
the winter ?"
' Yes, father! During four or five months it is completely blocked—"
I Bravo, and you can then cross it on the ice ?"
" It can be done and it has been done." 34
CESAR CASCABEL.
,: Ah !    Most excellent strait ! "
| But then ? " asked Cornelia, 1 is there no more sea to
cross ? I
I No !   There is the  Asiatic continent extending into
Russia in Europe."
I Show me that, Jean."
And Jean looked out the general map of Asia, which
Cascabel examined attentively.
| Eh ! that is just what we want," he said, " if there are
not too many savages in your Asia."
I Not too many, father."
" And where is Europe ? "
"There,"  said   Jean, putting his  finger on. the   Ural
frontier.
I And what distance is it from this strait
rivulet—to Russia in Europe ?"
" Seventeen hundred leagues."
" And to France ? "
| Nearly six hundred more."
I And how much does that make from Sacramento ? "
"Three thousand three hundred and twenty leagues,"
said Sandre and Napoleone together.
" A good mark for each!" said Cascabel.    "And now
by the east it is two thousand two hundred leagues ? "
I Yes, father."
"And   by  the west,   three   thousand   three   hundred
this Behring
" Yes, eleven hundred leagues difference."
" Difference to the west," said Cascabel, § but there is no
sea that way. Now, children, if we cannot go one way
we must go the other, and that is what I intend to do."
"An advance backwards," said Sandy.
1 No, not backwards! a journey in an opposite
direction ! "
| Very well, father," said Jean. "All I have to say is,
that, owing to the length of the road, we shall not reach
France this year if we go west."
I And why not ? "
" Because there are eleven hundred more leagues.   And THE GRAND RESOLVE.
35
that   is   something   for   the   Belle   Roulotte   and   her
team."
i Well, children, if we are not in Europe this year we
shall be there next! And I think, when we are crossing
Russia, where there are the fairs of Perm, Kazan, and
Nijni, of which I have often heard, and at which we can
pitch, the Famille Cascabel will make a good figure, and
a profitable one into the bargain."
What objections can you make to a -man when he
answers them all ?
In truth, it is with the mind as with iron. Under repeated blows it contracts, it is forged, it becomes more
resisting. And that was precisely the effect produced
on these travelling mountebanks. During their life of
struggle, in which they had had to put up with so many
trials and troubles, never had they been in such sad circumstances as now—with all their savings gone, and the
return to their country by the ordinary road rendered impossible. But the last stroke of the hammer had dealt them
so rude a blow of ill-luck, that they felt strong enough to
brave anything in the future.
Madame Cascabel, her two sons and her daughter
applauded in chorus the father's resolve. It might be
madness, or it might be that he was simply deranged in his
desire to return to Europe ; but what, after all, was there in
this crossing of Western America and Asiatic Siberia on
the road to France?
" Bravo !    Bravo!" shouted Napoleone.
" Encore ! Encore !" added Sandre, at a loss for more
significant words in which to express his approval.
"Tell me, father," asked Napoleone, " shall we see the
Emperor of Russia ? "
I Certainly ! If his Majesty the Czar is in the habit of
amusing himself at the Nijni fair."
1 And shall we perform before him ? "
I Yes!    If it would do him the least pleasure."
I Ah ! I should like to kiss him on both cheeks ! "
I Better be satisfied with one," said Cascabel. " And if
you do kiss him, take care you do not knock off his crown," 36
CESAR CASCABEL
Clou was simply speechless with admiration at the
genius of his manager and master.
And thus, the route being decided upon, the Belle
Roulotte would roll through California, Oregon and Washington territory, up to the Anglo-American frontier.
There remained some fifty dollars pocket money which
had not been lost with the strong box, but as so small a
sum would not be enough for the daily expenses of the
journey, it was agreed that performances should be given
in the towns and villages, but beyond the delays
occasioned by these halts there was nothing else to delay
them. Would they not have to wait till the strait was
frozen over so as to give a passage for the caravan ? but
for that they would have to wait seven or eight months.
| And it will be bad," said Cascabel in conclusion," if we
do not get something worth having before we reach the
end of America."
In the upper regions of Alaska, the making of money
among the tribes of wandering Indians seemed rather
problematical; but up to the western frontier of the Union,
in that portion of the States not yet visited by the
Famille Cascabel, there was little doubt but that the public
would welcome them as they deserved.
Beyond, it is true, there was British Columbia, and
although the towns there were numerous, never, no never
would Cascabel lower himself to perform for shillings and
pence. It was enough, it was more than enough, that the
Belle Roulotte and her crew would have to traverse more
than two hundred leagues of the soil of a British colony.
As for Asiatic Siberia, with its long desert steppes, they
might certainly meet with a few Samoyeds or Tchoutkis,
who rarely left the coast regions, and there the receipts
were in perspective, of course; but they would see when
they got there.
All being arranged, Cascabel decided to make a start
next morning. Meanwhile there was supper to see to, and
this Cornelia took in hand with her usual vigour, and while
she was making the stew aided by Clou,—
1 That is a famous idea of Monsieur Cascabel's," she said. THE GRAND RESOLVE.
37
" Yes, madame, a famous idea, like all those that cook in
his saucepan—I mean trot i<n his brain."
"And then, Clou, there is no sea to cross that way, and
no sea-sickness."
. " At least, unless the ice rolls in that strait! "
I Enough, Clou, no evil anticipations ! "
Meanwhile Sandre was executing a few daring flights
to the enchantment of his father; and, on her part,
Napoleone was dancing gracefully with the two dogs in
attendance.
Suddenly Sandre exclaimed,—
I And the animals, we did not consult them about our
long journey!"
Running up to Vermout he whispered,—
" Well, old nag, there is something for you, a nice little
trot of three thousand leagues."
Then, addressing Gladiator, he continued,—
" What will your poor old legs say ? "
The two horses neighed together as if giving their consent.
Returning to the two dogs, he said,—
I And you, Wagram, and you, Marengo, are you going
to treat yourselves to a few fine frolics ? "
There was a joyous barking, accompanied by a few
significant leaps. Evidently Wagram and Marengo would
make the tour of the world at a sign from their master, who
then turned to the monkey.
1 Look here, John Bull," said Sandre, "just shake off that
discontented look. You are going to see the country, my
boy ? And if you are cold we will put a jacket on you !
And your grimaces ? I hope you have not forgotten your
grimaces ?"
No ; John Bull had not forgotten them ; and they were
so comic as to provoke general hilarity.
The parrot remained.
Sandre made him get out of the cage, and the bird
walked along, nodding his head and balancing himself on
his feet.
" Well,  Jako," asked Sandre, " won't you answer me t
D 38
CESAR CASCABEL.
Have you lost your tongue ? We are going on a long
journey !    Do you approve of it, Jako ?"
Jako gave forth from the bottom of his throat a series
of articulate sounds, in which the r's were rolled as if from
the powerful larynx of Cascabel.
I Bravo!" exclaimed Sandre. " Jako is satisfied !
Jako approves !    Jako says yes !"
And the boy, with his hands on the ground and his feet
in the air, commenced a run of somersaults and contortions which won the paternal applause.
At this moment Cornelia appeared.
1 Come in ! " she shouted.
A few minutes later the family were seated in the dining-
room, and the repast was soon entirely consumed. It
seemed as though everything had been forgotten, when
Clou brought back the conversation to the famous box by
saying,—
" It seems to me, sir, that those two scoundrels have
been taken in."
" And why ? " asked Jean.
I Because if they do not know the word they can never
open the box ! "
" Then I have no doubt they will bring it back," said
Cascabel, with a loud laugh.
And this extraordinary man, in thinking of his new
scheme, had already forgotten the theft and the thieves.
CHAPTER V.
ON  THE ROAD.
Yes ! on the road to Europe, but this time following an
itinerary not generally adopted, and not to be recommended to travellers who are in a hurry. mm
ON THE ROAD.
39
| And at the same time," said Cascabel, " we are above
all things short of cash."
The departure took place on the morning of the 2nd of
March: At daybreak Vermout and Gladiator were harnessed to the Belle Roulotte. Madame Cascabel took her
place inside with Napoleone, leaving her husband and two
sons to walk, while Clou held the reins. John Bull was
perched aloft, and the two dogs were already in advance.
The weather was fine. Spring was filling the early
buds of the trees with sap and heralding all the magnificence which it displays in profusion in California. The
birds were singing under the verdure of the evergreens,
the green oaks, the white oaks, the pines whose slender
stems rose above the thickets. Here and there were
dwarf chestnut trees, and a few specimens of those trees
of which the apple, under the name of mazanilla, is used
in the fabrication of Indian cider.
It was Jean's duty to lay down the course on the map and
see it followed, and besides this he did not forget that it
was more particularly his duty to provide the larder with
fresh meat Marengo would not let him forget this. A
good hunter and a good dog are made to understand each
other. Never did they find more game. It was seldom
that Madame Cascabel was not treated to a hare, a crested
partridge, a grouse, or a brace of mountain quail with
elegant aigrettes, whose perfumed flesh constitutes such
excellent food. On their way to Behring Strait, if the
chase continued to be as productive across the plains of
Alaska, the family would not be at much expense for their
daily food. On the Asiatic Continent the supply might
be more uncertain, but when the Belle Roulotte was among
the interminable steppes of the Tchouktchi country, there
would be time enough to consider this.
Everything went well. Cascabel was not the man to
neglect thefavourable conditions in which he found himself.
The progress was as rapid as the team could manage along
the roads which the summer rains would render impracticable a few months later. The average day's work
was from seven to eight leagues, with a halt at noon for a
D 2 40
CESAR CASCABEL.
meal and a rest, and a halt at six o'clock to camp for the
night. The country was not uninhabited, as might be
supposed. The work of the fields already occupied the
farmers, to whom the rich and generous soil yielded a comfortable subsistence such as would be envied in every other
part of the world. Often they passed by farms, villages
and towns, particularly when the Belle Roulotte followed
the left bank of the Sacramento, across the region which
was the land of gold more than any other, and to which
there still clings the significant name of Eldorado.
The troupe, according to its leader's programme, gave a
few performances whenever occasion offered. They were
not yet known in this portion of California, and are there
not everywhere people who wish to be amused ? At
Placerville, at Aubury, at Marysville, at Tehama, and
other cities of more or less importance, which were a little
overdone with the eternal American circus that visited
them from time to time, the Famille Cascabel received
as many bravos as the cents which totalled up into many
dozens of dollars. The grace and daring of Mademoiselle
Napoleone, the extraordinary suppleness of Monsieur
Sandre, and marvellous cleverness of Monsieur Jean, and
the fooleries and fatuities of Monsieur Clou-de-Girofle, were
appreciated as they deserved by the knowing ones. The
two dogs and John Bull did wonders together. And
Monsieur and Madame Cascabel showed themselves worthy
of their renown, one in feats of strength and the other in
sparring competitions, in which she easily knocked over
the amateurs who stood up to her.
On the 12th of March the Belle Roulotte had arrived at
the little village of Shasta, near which rises the mountain
of that name, fourteen thousand feet high. To the west
is the confused outline of the Coast Ranges, which luckily
it was not necessary to cross to reach the Oregon frontier.
But the country was very uneven ; the roads curved round
many a capricious ramification which the mountain took
to the east; and along these bye-tracks, which were
chosen as being in the general direction, the caravan did
not advance very quicklyc    The villages were now getting ON THE ROAD.
4T
scarcer. It would have been better to have traversed the
coast-districts, but to do that the Coast Ranges would
have had to be crossed, and the passes would be impracticable under the circumstances. It was deemed wiser,
therefore, to keep on towards the north and not attempt to
cross them till they reached the Oregon boundary. Such
was the advice of Jean, the geographer of the troupe, and
it was thought best to conform to it.
On the 19th of March, after passing Fort Jones, the
Belle Roulotte stopped at the village of Yrika. There
the troupe met with a grand reception, resulting in the
capture of several dollars. It was the first appearance of
a French troupe in these parts. In these distant countries
of America they love the children of France! They
receive them always with open arms !
In this village Cascabel managed to hire, on moderate
terms, a few horses to relieve Vermout and Gladiator. The
caravan would cross the ridge at its northern point, and
this time without being robbed by its guides.
" To be sure," said Cascabel, " they are not English now
that I know of."
If the journey was not exempt from difficulties or delays,
it continued free from accidents, thanks to the measures of
prudence which were taken. At last, on the 27th March,
after travelling some four hundred kilometres from the
Sierra Nevada, the caravan crossed into Oregon territory.
The plain was bounded on the east by Mount Pitt, which
rises from it like the style of a sundial.
Horses and men had worked hard ; and a little rest was
taken at Jacksonville. Crossing the river Roques, the
road would skirt the winding shore which stretched out
of view to the northward.
A rich country, but still mountainous, and well fitted for
agriculture. On every hand were fields and woods; in
fact, the continuation of the Californian region. Occasionally there were bands of Saste or Umpaqua Indians
wandering about, but nothing was to be feared from
them.
It was then that Jean, who read assiduously in the books 42
CESAR CASCABEL.
of travels in the little library—for he wished to turn his
reading to account—thought it well to utter a caution.
They were a few leagues to the north of Jacksonville, in
a country covered with vast forests, defended by Fort Lane,
which is built on a hill two thousand feet high.
" You must be careful," said Jean, " for snakes swarm in
these parts."
I Snakes !" exclaimed Napoleone with a cry of terror.
" Snakes!    Let us get away !"
" Be quiet, child!" said Cascabel, " we can take
precautions."
" Are the dreadful things dangerous ? | asked Cornelia.
" Very dangerous, mother," answered Jean. " They are
rattlesnakes, the most venomous of all. If you avoid
them they will not attack you, but if you touch them, if
you hurt them accidentally, they rise and strike and bite,
and their bite is always mortal."
" And where are they to be found ?" asked Sandre.
| Under the dry leaves, where it is not easy to see them.
However, as they make a rattling noise with the rings of
their tail, you have time to get out of their way."
I Well!" said Cascabel, " mind where you tread and
keep your ears open."
Jean was right in what he said, snakes being very
numerous in Western America, and not only do rattlesnakes abound but also tarantulas, which are almost as
dangerous.
Needless to say great attention was paid to the path
traversed, and a watch was kept on the horses and other
animals of the troupe, who were as much exposed as their
masters to the attacks of insects and reptiles.
Jean had reason to believe that these snakes and
tarantulas have the deplorable habit of introducing themselves into the houses, and of course were not likely to
respect caravans; so that it was to be expected that the
Belle Roulotte would receive a visit.
When evening came a careful search was made under the
beds and the furniture, and in all the corners. Napoleone
screamed shrilly when she thought she saw one of these
mm Crossing the River Roques. Wm^mmm^Smm?^WmW^ ON THE ROAD.
43
dreadful creatures; she took for a rattlesnake the end
of a rope, which, however, did not possess a triangular head.
And the terrors she experienced when, half asleep, she
thought she heard a rattle in the corner! And Cornelia
was but little less excited than her daughter.
" To the deuce!" exclaimed her impatient husband one
day, | to the deuce with the snakes which frighten the
women, and the women who are frightened at the snakes !
Mother Eve was braver and even talked willingly with
them !"
" Oh! but that was in Paradise ! % said the girl.
" And she might have done better!" added Madame
Cascabel.
Clou was also busy during the halt at night. He had
the notion that by lighting large fires, for which the forest
furnished the needful.fuel, he could keep the snakes away ;
but Jean pointed out that if the light of the fire would
scare away the snakes, it might also attract the tarantulas.
In short, the family was only at ease when in some of
the villages where the caravan passed the night; then the
danger was greatly diminished.
These villages were not very far from each other. At
Canonville on Cow Creek, Roseburg, Rochester and
Youcalla, Cascabel did good business. In fact, not only
did he receive more than he spent, but the prairie gave
him forage for his horses, the woods gave him game for
his larder, the rivers gave him excellent fish ; and at that
rate the journey would cost him nothing. And the little
hoard went on increasing. But alas! it was far from the
two thousand dollars of which he had been robbed in the
passes of the Sierra Nevada.
But if the little troupe escaped the bite of the rattlesnake
and the tarantula, it was to be tormented in another
fashion. This happened a few days later, so liberally has
generous Nature provided means for tormenting poor
mortals in this world below.
The caravan, still crossing Oregon, had just passed
Eugene City. The name had given Cascabel great
pleasure, for it showed a French origin.    Cascabel would
JpJ 44
CESAR CASCABEL.
who
have found out this compatriot, this Eugene, wno was
without doubt one of the founders of the little town. He
ought to be a good fellow, and if his name did not figure
among the modern names of the Kings of France, such as
Charles, Louis, Francis, Henri, Philippe—and Napoleon
—it was none the less French and very French.
After a halt at the towns of Harrisburg, Albany, and
Jefferson, the Belle Roulotte dropped anchor at Salem, a
city of some importance, the capital of Oregon, built on
one of the banks of the Villamette.
This was on the 3rd of April.
There Cascabel gave a day's rest to his horses, but not to
his artistes, for whom the public place served as a theatre,
and whom a good collection recompensed for their efforts.
Jean and Sandre, having learnt that the river was full ot
fish, went off to catch some. But the following night,
father, mother, and children felt such itching all over their
bodies, that they asked themselves if they had not been
the victims of some practical joke. And great was their
surprise when they looked at themselves next morning.
11 am as red as an Indian of the Far West!" exclaimed
Cornelia.
I And I am puffed up like goldbeater's skin !" said
Napoleone.
I And I am covered with buttons from head to feet,"
said Clou.
" What does it mean ? " asked Cascabel; " is the plague
in this country ? "
" I know what it is," said Jean, examining his striped
arms and red blotches.
I And what is it then ? "
I We have caught the yedre, as the Americans say."
I May the deuce fly away with the yedre ! Tell us what
it means."
I The yedre, father, is a plant which it is enough to
smell, to touch, even to look at, it seems, to be subject to
its powers.    It poisons you at a distance."
I What!" exclaimed Cornelia, " We are poisoned ?
Poisoned ? " BKSfifl
ON THE ROAD.
45
" Oh! don't be afraid, mother," said Jean. | We shall
get rid of it with a little itching and perhaps a slight
fever."
The explanation was correct. The yedre is a noxious
plant extremely poisonous. When the wind is loaded with
the almost impalpable seed of the shrub, if the skin only
just catches the breeze it becomes blotchy and covered
with pimples, and striped with efflorescence. Probably
while the caravan was approaching Salem, it had been
caught in a current of yedre. The eruption, from which
all suffered, only lasted the day, during which there was
such an amount of scratching as to excite the envy of John
Bull, who gave himself over without ceasing to this essentially simian operation.
On the 5 th of April the Belle Roulotte left Salem, taking
with her a smarting remembrance of the hours passed in
the forests of the Villamette—a beautiful name for a river,
besides one that sounded well in French ears.
On the 7th of April, by Fairfield, Canemah, Oregon City,
and Portland, already important towns, the caravan had
reached without accident the banks of the Columbia on
the boundary of Oregon, which state had been traversed
for a distance of one hundred and fifteen leagues.
To the north stretched Washington Territory, which is
mountainous in the eastern part, in the neighbourhood of
the road taken by the caravan to Behring Strait. In it
are the ramifications of the chain known as the Cascade
Ranges, with peaks like those of St. Helena, 9700 feet
high, and Mount Baker and Mount Baines, each of 11,000
feet. It would seem as though Nature had not exerted
herself in the long plains that stretched from the Atlantic
shore, but had reserved all her elevatory strength for the
uplift of the mountains which guard the west of
the continent. Supposing the territory were a sea, you
would say that the sea was calm and apparently asleep on
one side, and on the other was tumultuous with the crests
of the waves answering to the crests of the mountains.
Jean made this comparison, and it pleased his father very
much. 46
CESAR CASCABEL.
I That is it! " he said, | that is it! After the calm the
storm. Bah! our Belle Roulotte, is strong ! She will
not be wrecked!    Embark, my children, embark!"
And they embarked, and the vessel continued the navigation of these stormy seas. Indeed—to continue the
comparison—the sea began to calm, and, thanks to the
efforts of the team, the ark of the Cascabels went through
the passes unharmed. If occasionally it had to moderate
its speed, it at least steered clear of the reef.
Then there was always a hearty and sympathetic welcome
in the villages, at Kalmera, at Monticello, and in the
forts, which one would hardly take for military stations.
There, without any walls, with barely a palisade, are stationed the little garrisons which keep in order the Indians
who wander about the country.
The caravan was not menaced by either Chinooks or
Nesquallys when it crossed the Walla-Walla country. In
the evening the Indians would gather round the camp, but
betray no evil intentions. They were most surprised at
John Bull, whose grimaces excited their hilarity. They
had never seen a monkey, and probably they took this one
for a member of the Famille Cascabel.
" Yes ! it is my little brother! " Sandre told them, provoking an indignant protest from Cornelia.
At length they reached Olympia, the capital of Washington Territory, and then by general request was given the
last performance of the troupe in the United States. Not
far away lay the extreme frontier of the Union in North-
West America.
The road now lay along the Pacific shore, or rather
along the numerous sounds, those capricious and numerous
inlets ofthe coast which shelter Vancouver andQueen Charlotte's Islands. In passing Steklakoom, it was necessary
to go round Paget Sound so as to gain Fort Bellingham,
which is situated near the strait, separating the islands
from the mainland. Then came the station of Whatcome,
with Mount Baker rising from the clouds on the horizon,
and then Srimialimoo, at the mouth of Georgia Strait.
At last, on the 27th of April, after a journey of nearly THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.
47
three hundred and fifty leagues from Sacramento, the Belle
Roulotte arrived on the frontier adopted by the treaty of
1847, and which is still the boundary of British Columbia.
CHAPTER VI.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.
FOR the first time Cascabel, the natural and indomitable
enemy of England, was about to set foot on English ground.
For the first time his shoe was to tread British soil and be
soiled with Anglo-Saxon dust! The reader must pardon
this emphatic mode of expression ; but, as a fact, it was the
rather ridiculous form under which the thought occurred
to the showman's brain, so tenacious was he of patriotic
hatred which has no longer a reason for its existence.
But Columbia was not in Europe. It did not belong to
the group which as England, Scotland, and Ireland form
Great Britain. But it was none the less English by the
same right as India, Australia, New Zealand, and as such
it was objectionable to Cesar Cascabel.
British Columbia forms part of New Britain, one of the
most important trans-oceahic colonies of the United Kingdom, including as it does Nova Scotia, the Dominion
formed of Upper and Lower Canada, as well as the
immense territories ceded by the Hudson Bay Company.
In width it extends from one ocean to the other, from
the shores of the Pacific to those of the Atlantic. On
the south it is bounded by the frontier of the United
States, extending from Washington Territory to the State
of Maine.
It was certainly British ground, and the necessities of his
route did not permit Cascabel to avoid it. Altogether
th;re were only about two hundred leagues to travel before 48
CESAR CASCABEL.
I
reaching the southern point of Alaska, that is to say, the
Russian possessions in Western America. Nevertheless,
two hundred leagues on " this detested ground," although
it was a mere promenade to the Belle Roulotte, accustomed
to such long peregrinations, were two hundred times too
many, and Cascabel proposed to get over them in the
least time possible.
Henceforth there would be no halts except during the
hours of repose. No balancing or gymnastic feats, no
dances, no matches. This Anglo-Saxon public would be
passed by unnoticed. The Famille Cascabel felt nothing
but contempt for the money with the Queen's effigy.
Better a paper dollar than a silver crown or a gold
sovereign.
Under these circumstances, let it be understood, the
Belle Roulotte was kept away from the towns and villages.
If the chase would suffice for the feeding of her crew, this
would dispense with the necessity of buying any of the
products of this abominable country.
Do not let it be supposed this was merely theatrical
attitudinizing on Cascabel's part. No, it was natural to
him, and the philosopher who had so bravely taken his
misfortunes, and whose good humour had revived even
after the robbery in the Sierra Nevada, became gloomy
and morose as soon as he crossed the British frontier,
with head low, and frowning look, and hat down to his
ears, and casting savage looks on the inoffensive travellers
who crossed his path. He was not even in a mood to
laugh, as was evident when Sandre received anything but
a compliment for an unseasonable pleasantry.
This very day, in fact, the rascal took it into his head to
walk backwards in front of the caravan for a quarter of a
mile, making grimaces and contortions as he did so, and
when his father asked him for the reason of this mode of
progression, " It is an advance backwards we are engaged
in !" he answered with a wink, and the others burst into
laughter at the repartee—even Clou, who thought the
reply very amusing, at least if it was not absolutely
stupid.
sa ■*
THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.
49
"Sandre," said Cascabel in an awkward voice and
assuming his grand air, "if you attempt jokes of that
kind when we are not in the humour for joking, I will pull
your ears for you, and stretch them down to your heels."
" But, father—"
" Silence in the ranks ! No laughing allowed on English
ground!"
And the family did not dream of showing their teeth in
the presence of their terrible chief, although they did not
share his anti-Saxon ideas to such an extreme.
This part of British Columbia bordering on the Pacific
is very hilly. Shut in on the east by the Rocky Mountains, which are continuous up to the borders of the polar
territory, it has on the west the deeply indented coast of
Bute, cut up into numerous fiords like the coast of Norway,
and picturesquely commanded by a line of lofty peaks such
as have no equals in Europe, even in the centre of the
Alpine region, and glaciers which exceed in depth and
width the most important ones of Switzerland. Such are
Mount Hooker, with an altitude of five thousand eight
hundred metres—a thousand metres more than the loftiest
plateau of Mont Blanc—and Mount Brun, which is higher
than this giant of the Alps.
The road taken by the Belle Roulotte lay between these
eastern and western chains through a wide fertile valley
with open plains and superb forests. Down this valley
flowed that important river, the Frazer, which after flowing from south to north for a hundred leagues would soon
join a narrow arm of the sea bounded by the coast of
Bute, Vancouver Island, and the archipelago of islands it
commands.
This Vancouver Island is two hundred and fifty geographical miles long, and seventy-three wide. Bought by
the Portuguese, it was captured from them and passed into
Spanish hands in 1789. Three times it was discovered by
Vancouver, while still called Nootka, and it then took the
double name of the English navigator and Captain Quadra.
At the end of the eighteenth century it was finally taken
possession of by Great Britain. 5o
CESAR CASCABEL.
Its capital is Victoria, and Nanaimo is its chief town.
Its rich beds of coal, worked at first by the agents of the
Hudson Bay Company, form one of its most active branches
of trade with San Francisco and the different ports of the
western coast.
A little north of Vancouver Island the shore is defended
by Queen Charlotte Island, the most important of the
archipelago of that name which completes the British
possessions in these parts of the Pacific.
As may be imagined, Cascabel no more dreamt of
visiting the capital than he would of visiting Adelaide or
Melbourne in Australia, or Madras or Calcutta in India.
All his endeavours were made to journey up the Frazer
Valley as quickly as his team permitted, and avoiding all
its inhabitants except those of the indigenous race.
On its way through the valley the little troupe easily
found enough spoils of the chase for daily subsistence. .
Deer, hares, partridges abounded, and "At least," said
Cascabel, " this game which my eldest son shoots so well
serves as food for honest people. It has no drop of Anglo-
Saxon blood in its veins, and a Frenchman can eat it without remorse.'"
After passing Fort Langley, the caravan became more
closely shut in by the Frazer Valley, and vainly would a
carriage road have been sought for in those solitudes.
Along the right bank of the river were wide meadows,
bounded by the forest on the west, and shut in by lofty
mountains the summits of which stood out against a background of grey sky.
It should be mentioned that near New Westminster are
other principal towns on the coast of Bute, situated near
the mouth of the Frazer. Jean had taken care to cross the
river in the ferry-boat, an excellent precaution, as after
ascending the river to its sources, the Belle Roulotte would
only have to turn to the westward. This was the shortest
way, and the easiest one of reaching that point of Alaska
which runs down into the Columbian frontier.
Besides, Cascabel, being well served by chance, had met
with an Indian who  had offered himself as guide to the THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.
51
Russian possessions, and he had no reason to regret having
trusted to this honest native. Of course this meant an increase in the expenses, but it was well worth a few dollars
to assure the safety of the travellers and shorten the
journey.
The guide's name was Ro-No. He belonged to one of
the tribes whose "tyhis," otherwise their chiefs, have
frequent transactions with the Europeans. These Indians
differ essentially from the Tchilicottes, a crafty, cunning,
cruel, savage race to whom it is as well to give a wide berth
in North-Western America. A few years before, in 1864,
these rascals had taken part in the massacreof the expeditior
sent to construct a road on the coast of Bute, and to them,
was due the death of Wadington, the engineer, whose death
was so much regretted by the whole colony. It had even
been said that the Tchilicottes had torn the heart out of one
of their victims and devoured it as if they had been
Australian cannibals.
Jean had read the story of this terrible massacre in the
journey of Frederic Whymper across North America, and
had thought fit to warn his father of the danger of a meeting
with the Tchilicottes, but, be it understood, he had not
spoken of it to the rest of the family, whom there was no
need to frighten. Besides, after this regrettable occurrence
these redskins had prudently kept themselves out of the
way, being overawed by the hanging of a few of those who
were directly implicated in this affair.
This was confirmed by Ro-No, who assured the travellers
that they had nothing to fear while crossing British
Columbia.
The weather continued fine. Already the heat began to be appreciable between noon and two o'clock.
The buds were opening along the branches swollen with
sap ; leaves and flowers would not delay in blending their
spring colours.
The country appeared under the aspect peculiar to the
countries of the north. The valley of the Frazer was
surrounded with forests, amid which were the northern
species of cedars, firs, and Douglas pines, of which some 52
CESAR CASCABEL.
having a girth at the base of the trunk of fifteen metres, lift
their summits to more than a hundred feet from the
ground. Game abounded in the woods and in the plain,
and without going far afield Jean could easily supply the
daily wants of the larder.
To conclude, there was nothing of a desert look about
this region. Here and there were villages where the
natives seemed to live on a good understanding with the
agents of the British Administration. On the river were
flotillas of cedar wood canoes floating down with the
stream or ascending it by means of paddles and
sails.
Often they met with bands of redskins travelling southwards, wrapped in their mantles of white wool. These would
exchange two or three words with Cascabel, who could
just manage to understand them owing to their using that
singular idiom—the Chinook—in which French and English
are mixed up with the native dialect.
I Good ! I he would exclaim. " Now I know Chinook !
Yet another language I can speak without even having
learnt it."
Chinook, as Ro-No said, is the name given to that
language of Western America which is used by the
different tribes occupying the Alaskan provinces.
By this time, owing to the earliness of the warm season,
the winter snows had entirely disappeared, although they
occasionally linger on till the last days of April. The
journey was thus continued on the most favourable conditions. Without overdoing it, Cascabel urged on his team
as fast as prudence permitted, so eager was he- to get
beyond the Columbian frontier. The temperature rose
gradually, as was soon made evident by the appearance of
mosquitoes, who soon made themselves almost insupportable. It was difficult to keep them out of the Belle
Roulotte, even though the light was dispensed with after
dark.
"Wretched brutes!" said Cascabel one day, after a
prolonged and ineffectual struggle against these tormenting
insects. mmmmmmm
mm
THE JOURNEY CONTINUED.
53
"I should like to know what is the use of these
miserable flies ?" said Sandre.
" They are of use—to devour us," said Clou.
" And above all to devour the English of Columbia ! "
added Cascabel. "And so, my friends, I forbid you to kill
a single one of them! There can never be too many for
the English, and it is that which consoles me."
During this part of the journey the shooting was extremely good. There were large numbers of deer coming
out of the woods on to the plain to drink in the river.
Always accompanied by Wagram, Jean was able to bring
down several without having to wander off and thus give
anxiety to his mother. Sometimes Sandre would go
shooting with him, happy to make his first acquaintance
with weapons under the direction of his big brother ; and
it would be difficult to say which was the swiftest and most
active in the chase, the young hunter or his spaniel.
Jean had only to his credit a few deer, when one day he
was lucky enough to bring down a buffalo. Then it was
he ran a real danger, for the beast, only wounded by the
first shot, turned on him, and a second shot in the
head was only just in time to stop the rush and save him
from being knocked down, trodden on, and ripped up. As
may be imagined he did not go into much detail over this
affair. But the exploit was accomplished a few hundred
paces from the bank of the Frazer, and the horses of the
caravan were used to drag in the huge animal which, with
its thick mane, looked like a lion.
We know how useful is this ruminant to the Indian of
the prairies, who does not hesitate to attack it with his
spear and arrow. The skin is the bed of the wigwam, the
covering of the family, the robes which sell at twenty
piastres. The natives dry the. flesh in the sun, cutting it
into long strips, a valuable resource in the days of
dearth.
As a rule Europeans only eat the tongue of the buffalo
—and a very delicate morsel it is ; but the Cascabel troupe
were more easily pleased. There was nothing these young
stomachs   would   despise, and   with   the meat   grilled,
E 2 54
CESAR CASCABEL.
roasted, boiled, Cornelia produced such agreeable dishes,
that the buffalo was declared excellent, and lasted over
many meals. Of the tongue each could only have a small
piece, but of this the general opinion was that they had
never eaten anything better.
During the first fortnight of the journey across Columbia
no adventure occurred worth recording. The weather improved, and the time was approaching when heavy rains
would hinder and delay the advance northwards.
There was also the fear that the Frazer would then overflow its banks, and the flood would certainly seriously embarrass the Belle Roulotte, if it did not put her into serious
danger.
Fortunately, when the rains fell, if the river did not swell
rapidly it would only rise to the level of its banks. The
plains would thus escape the inundation which would have
submerged them up to the skirt of the woods on the first
slopes of the valley. The caravan would probably advance
but slowly, owing to the sinking of the wheels in the muddy
soil, but beneath its staunch and solid roof the Cascabels
would find the comfortable shelter which it had already
yielded in many a storm.
CHAPTER VII.
ACROSS THE CARIBOO.
HONEST Cascabel, why did you not come a few yeais
before to this region of British Columbia ? Why did not
the chances of your showman's life bring you here when
gold covered the ground and all you had to do was to
stoop and pick it up ? Why was the story that Jean told
his father of this extraordinary period the story of the
past and not of the present ? ACROSS THE CARIBOO.
55
| Here is the Cariboo, father," said Jean that day; " but
perhaps you do not know what the Cariboo is ? "
11 know nothing about it," said Cascabel. " Is it an
animal with two or four legs ? "
I An animal ?" exclaimed Napoleone. " Is it big ? Is
it naughty ?   Will it bite us ?"
I It is not an animal at all," said Jean, "it is simply a
district which bears this name, a country of gold—the Eldorado of Columbia. What riches it contained and what
people it enriched—"
"At the same time as it impoverished others, I suppose ?" said Cascabel.
I Quite so, father, and those the greater number. But
there were companies of miners who made as much as a
hundred pounds a day. In a certain valley of the Cariboo,
the valley of William Creek, they picked up the gold in
handfuls !"
But great as was the yield of this valley, there were too
many came to share it, and by the accumulation of gold-
seekers and the miscellaneous crowd that followed them,
living soon became extremely difficult, to say nothing of
the prodigious rise in the prices of everything. Food was
almost priceless, bread being a dollar a pound. Contagious
diseases spread amid these unhealthy surroundings and
finally misery or death was the fate of the majority of
those who came to the Cariboo. Was it not the same a
few years before in Australia and California ?
" Father," said Napol6one, " would it not be nice if we
were to find a big piece of gold as we go !"
" And what would you do with it, little one ?"
I What would she do with it ? " asked Cornelia. " She
would give it to her little mother, who would know how to
change it quickly enough into good money !"
" Well," said Clou, " let us look about, and we shall end
in finding something, unless—"
" Unless we do not. Is that what you were going to
say? "replied Jean; "and that is precisely what will
happen, my poor Clou, for the box is empty."
I Good I good !" said Sandre, " we shall soon see !" 56
CESAR CASCABEL.
" Halt! " said Cascabel in his most emphatic voice. " I
forbid you to enrich yourselves in this way! Gold
gathered on English ground ! Fie then ! Let us pass,
quickly, without stopping, without stooping to pick up
a nugget, be it as big as Clou's head ! And when we
reach the frontier, even if we do not see a placard ' Wipe
your feet, if you please !' we will wipe them, my children,
in order that we may not carry away a single speck of this
Columbian soil!"
Always the same, Cascabel! But be calm ! It is probable that none of you will have the chance of picking up
even the smallest of nuggets !
Nevertheless, during the journey, and notwithstanding
Cascabel's prohibition, many searching glances were directed to the surface of the ground. Every pebble seemed
to Napoleone and Sandre to be worth its weight in gold.
And why not ? In order of auriferous wealth does not
North America come first ? Do not Australia, Russia,
Venezuela, and China rank after it ?
And now the rainy season began. Every day heavy
showers fell, and travelling became more difficult.
The Indian guide urged on the horses. He feared that
the creeks running into the Frazer, which were then nearly
dry, would become choked with sudden floods. How
could they pass them if they were not fordable ? The
Belle Roulotte might have to remain in some place of
danger until the wet season had terminated ; and hence
the necessity of leaving the Frazer valley as soon as
possible.
There was nothing to be feared from the natives of the
country, owing to the Tchilicottes having been driven off
to the eastward. But there were certain wild beasts—
bears amongst others—dangerous to meet with. And it
happened that Sandre had an experience of this in which
he might have had to pay dearly for disobeying his
father.
It was in the afternoon of the 17th of May. The caravan had halted about fifty yards from a creek which the
team had crossed dry-shod.    This creek, which had very mm
ACROSS THE CARIBOO.
57
steep banks, would have been impassable if a flood had
suddenly transformed it into a torrent.
The halt was to last a couple of hours. Jean was to go
out in search of game, while Sandre, who was told not to
ramble far from the caravan, crossed the creek without
being seen, and returned along the road with only a cord
about a dozen feet long wound round his waist.
The boy had an idea of his own. He had noticed a
bird of brilliant, many-coloured plumage. He would
follow it to discover its nest, and by means of the cord he
would climb any tree to secure it.
To wander off in this way was all the more imprudent
owing to the threatening weather. A heavy storm 'was
rapidly rising overhead. But try and stop a boy who is
running after a bird !
It follows that Sandre was soon in the thick of the woods
skirting the left of the creek ; the bird, jumping from
bough to bough, seemed to take pleasure in leading him
on.
Sandre, in his pursuit, forgot that the Belle Roulotte was
to start in two hours, and twenty minutes after he had left
the camp he was a good half league in the woods, where
there were no roads, and nothing but narrow footpaths
choked with thickets at the foot of the cedars and firs.
The bird, uttering joyous notes, sprang from tree to
tree, while Sandre ran and jumped like a young wild cat.
Nevertheless, all his efforts were useless, and finally the
bird disappeared in the thickets.
I Confound it, now ! " said Sandre, pulling up much vexed
at his failure.
It was then that, through the foliage, he saw the sky
covered with thick clouds ; and there were already flashes
above the dark verdure, which were soon followed by
prolonged thunders
"There is only just time for return, and what will father
say ? " thought the boy.
At this moment his attention was attracted by a strange
object, a pebble of peculiar shape, about as big as a pine
cone, and dotted over with metallic points. 58
CESAR CASCABEL.
At once our boy imagined that it was a nugget which
had been forgotten in this corner of Cariboo ! and with a
cry of joy he picked it up, weighed it in his hand, put it
in his pocket, and resolved to say nothing about it to any
one.
" We will see what they say later on when I have
changed it into good gold money."
He had only just pocketed his precious pebble when the
storm burst forth with a violent clap of thunder. The last
echoes were dying away in space when he heard a growl
close to him.
Twenty yards in front, coming out of a thicket, there
stood an enormous bear, of the species known as grizzly.
Sandre was brave, but off he went-as hard as he could
run for the bank of the creek. And the bear followed in
pursuit
If Sandre could reach the watercourse, cross it, and
take refuge in the camp, he was safe. But the rain was
falling in sheets, the lightning was frequent, the sky was
full of the roar of the thunder. Sandre, wet to the skin,
hindered in his flight by his wet clothes, ran the risk of
falling at every step, and a fall would have put him at the
mercy of the bear. But he managed not to lose groundj
and in less than a quarter of an hour he was on the border
of the creek.
But he could not cross it. The creek, changed into a
torrent, was rolling down stones, and tree-trunks, and
stumps torn out by the violence of the flood. The water
was almost level with the banks. To throw himself amid
the whirlpools was to lose himself without any chance of
safety. He dare not return. He felt the bear at his heels
ready to hug him. And it was impossible to announce his
presence to the Belle Roulotte which was only just visible
under the trees.
Instinct almost without reflection could alone save
him.
There was a tree there, about four yards away, a cedar
with the lower branches stretching over the creek.
To run for the tree, to clasp it in his arms, and, aided by wnmm
■^&^P\tf
■^aaaj-
There stood an enormous bear.  ACROSS THE CARIBOO.
59
the roughness of the bark, climb to the fork and slip along
the upper branches was easily done. A monkey could not
have been quicker or more supple. There was nothing to
be astonished at in that for-the little clown ; and he might
well believe he was safe.
But unfortunately, he did not think so for long. In fact,
the bear, who had taken up his position at the foot of the
tree, began to climb the trunk ; and it would be difficult
to escape even if he took refuge in the highest branches.
Sandre did not lose his presence of mind. Was he not
the worthy son of the famous Cascabel, accustomed to
emerge safe and sound from the worst predicaments ?
It was obvious he must leave the tree, but how ? He
must cross the torrent, but in what way? The flood
caused by the torrents of rain had begun to overflow the
banks and spread out over the right bank on the side of
the camp.
Should he call for help ? It was impossible for his cries
to be heard above the furious storm. Besides, if Cascabel,
Jean, or Clou were to go out in search of the absent one,
they would try in front instead of behind the caravan.
How were they to suppose that Sandre had crossed the
creek ?
However, the bear was climbing—slowly, but he was
climbing—and he would soon reach the fork of the cedar,
while Sandre was trying to reach the top.
Then it was the boy had an idea. Seeing that some
of the branches stretched a dozen feet over the creek,
he unwound the cord from his waist, made a noose in it,
threw it over the end of one of the branches, and drew
back the end of the branch towards him till its position
was vertical.
All this he did neatly and quickly and with much coolness.
There was no time to lose; the bear was clambering
over the fork and beginning to climb among the branches.
But at this moment Sandre was clinging to the end of
the branch he had hauled back, and letting himself go as
if from a spring, he was shot across the creek  like  a CESAR CASCABEL.
stone from a catapult, and throwing a somersault or two
he landed on the right bank, greatly to the astonishment of
the bear.
I Ah ! the scamp! "
It was with this compliment that Cascabel welcomed the
return of the young scapegrace at the moment he, with
Jean and Clou, had arrived at the creek after a vain
search around the camp.
I Scamp!" he continued, " what anxiety you have
caused us!"
I Well, father, pull my ears ! " said Sandre, " I deserve
it L"
But instead of seizing him by the ears, Cascabel could
not help kissing him on both cheeks, saying,—
" Do not do that again.    This time—"
" You will embrace me again ! " said Sandre, giving his
father a sounding kiss.
Then he exclaimed,—
" Hallo! Did you catch him, my dear bear ? Does he
look as though he were fool enough ? "
Jean would have shot the animal, which had begun to
retreat, but pursuit was not to be thought of. The flood
was increasing, the sooner they were out of danger of the
inundations the better ; and the four returned to the Belle
Roulotte.
CHAPTER VIII.
THE  VILLAGE OF COQUINS.
EIGHT days afterwards, on the 26th May, the caravan
reached the sources of the Frazer. Night and day the rain
had.been incessant, but, according to the guide, the bad
weather was unlikely to last much longer
After working THE VILLAGE OF COQUINS.
61
round the sources of the river in a tolerably mountainous region the Belle Roulotte followed a direct course
to the westward. A few days more, and Cascabel would
be on the frontier of Alaska.
During the week neither town nor village had been met
with on the road taken by Ro-No. And the Indian was
well worthy of praise, for he knew the road perfectly.
During this day he informed Cascabel, if he thought it
worth while, he could halt at a village a little distance off,
where a rest of twenty-four hours would not be without
advantage to the over-tired horses.
" What is this village ?" asked Cascabel, always suspicious regarding the Columbian population.
I The village of Coquins," said the guide.
| The village of Coquins !" exclaimed Cascabel.
"Yes," said Jean, "that is the name it bears on the
map, but it is the name of an Indian tribe, the Coquins—"
I Good ! good! Not so many explanations," said
Cascabel. "It is well named if it is inhabited by English,
even if there were only half-a-dozen of them."
In the evening the Belle Roulotte halted at the entrance
to this village. It would take three days or more to reach
the geographical frontier which separates Alaska from
Columbia. When that occurred, Cascabel would recover
his habitual good humour, which had been under a cloud
while he was in the territory of her Britannic Majesty.
The village of Coquins was occupied by an Indian
population, but it also contained a certain number of
English people, hunters by profession or amateur sportsmen, who only stayed there during the hunting season.
Among the officers of the garrison of Victoria who
were there, was a certain baronet, Sir Edward Turner, a
haughty, brutal, insolent man, thinking a great deal too
much of his nationality—one of those gentlemen who
think they can do anything they like because they are
Englishmen. It need not be said that he detested the
French as much as Cascabel detested the English. We
shall see that they were made to understand each other.
That very evening, while Jean, Sandre, and Clou had
■i'M !■
62
CESAR CASCABEL.
gone off in search of provisions, it happened that the
baronet's dogs in the neighbourhood of the Belle Roulotte
met with Wagram and Marengo, who evidently shared in
the national antipathy of their master.
Hence a disagreement between the spaniel and poodle
on the one part, and the pointers on the other, then a
disturbance, gnashing of teeth, battle, and finally intervention of the owners.
Sir Edward Turner having heard the noise, came out of
the house he occupied at the entrance of the village, and
began to threaten Cascabel's two dogs with the whip.
Immediately Cascabel threw himself before the baronet
and took the part of his dogs.
Sir Edward Turner—who expressed himself in French
with much correctness—at once saw with whom he had to
do, and without attempting to put the least reserve on his
insolence, began to give the mountebank in particular, and
his compatriots in general a bit of his mind.
One can easily imagine what Cascabel's feelings were
at this state of things. But he did not wish to get into
trouble—particularly on British ground—and had no
desire to delay his journey; he restrained himself, and
replied in a tone which no one could find fault with,—
" It was your dogs, sir, that began to attack mine!"
"Your dogs!"  replied  the   baronet,   "a   play-actor's,
dogs !    They are only fit to be whipped ! "
" I would have you observe," said Cascabel, becoming
excited notwithstanding his resolve to be calm, " that it is
not worthy of a gentleman to say that."
" But it is the only answer a man of your sort deserves ! "
" Sir, I am a courteous man—and you are only a blackguard—"
" Ah! Take care! Do you dare stand up to Sir
Edward Turner, Baronet ?"
Anger seized on Cascabel, and with pale face and
blazing eyes and threatening fists he was striding towards
the baronet when Napoleone ran up.
" Father ! Come here ! " she said, | Mamma wants
you !"
mm THE VILLAGE OF COQUINS.
63
Cornelia had sent the child so as to get Cascabel back
into the Belle Roulotte.
" Immediately," said he. " Tell your mother to wait till
I have finished with this gentleman, Napoleone ! "
At this name the Baronet burst into a most annoying
shout of laughter.
I Napole'one !" he said, " Napoleone, that little rascal ?
The name of the monster who—"
This was more than Cascabel could stand. He
advanced with crossed arms so as to touch the baronet.
I You insult me ! " he said.
" I insult you—you ?"
" Yes, me ! And you insult the great man who would
have made but a mouthful of your island, if he had landed
there—"
" Indeed !"
"He would have swallowed it like an oyster ! "
I Miserable fool! | exclaimed the baronet.
And he stepped back on the defensive in the attitude of
a boxer.
" Yes! you insult me, Monsieur le Baronet, and you
shall give me satisfaction ! "
" Satisfaction to a mountebank!"
" By insulting me you have made me your equal. And
we will fight with the sword, the pistol, the sabre, whichever you like—even with fists !"
"Why not with a bladder ?" asked the baronet, "as you
do on your trestles ?"
" Defend yourself."
" Have I to fight a circus clown ?"
I Yes !" exclaimed Cascabel, mad with rage. " You
have to fightj and I will make you fight—"
And without a thought that his adversary would probably have the advantage, he was about to hurl himself on
him when Cornelia personally intervened.
At the same moment there ran up several officers of Sir
Edward Turner's regiment, his companions in the chase,
who were determined not to allow him to commit himself
with " such people," and overwhelmed the Cascabels with 64
CESAR CASCABEL,
invectives. These invectives had no effect on the imposing
Cornelia—at least in appearance. She contented herself
with giving Sir Edward Turner a look which was not very
encouraging for the insulter of her husband.
Jean, Clou and Sandre had also just arrived, and the
dispute was about to degenerate into a fight, when Cornelia said,—
| Come, Ce'sar, and you also, children. Come! come
along !    All to the Roulotte, and as quickly as you can !"
And this was said in so imperious a tone that no one
dared to disobey.
What an evening Cascabel passed! He remained as
angry as ever. Touched in his honour, touched in the
person of his hero! Insulted by an Englishman! He
would seek him out! He would fight him ; fight all his
companions, fight all the coquins of this village of Coquins!
And his children asked nothing but to accompany him.
Even Clou talked of nothing less than eating the Englishman's nose—at least, if he did not eat his ear.
Cornelia had enough to do in keeping them quiet. She
saw clearly enough that all the fault was Sir Edward
Turner's ; she could not deny that her husband, to begin
with, and then all the family, had been treated as they
should not have been treated, even if they had been
mountebanks of the worst description.
But as she did not wish to make matters worse, she
would not give in; she withstood the storm, and to the
wish expressed by her husband to give the baronet one of
those thrashings which— she answered,—
11 forbid you to do anything of the sort, Cesar! "
And Cascabel, champing his bit, had to submit to his
wife's orders.
What haste did Cornelia make to get away from this
cursed village in the morning ! She would have no rest
until her whole family were several miles away to the
north. And to make sure that no one went out during
the night, not only did she carefully close the door of the
Belle Roulotte, but she remained on guard outside.
Next morning, that of the 27th of May, at three o'clock THE VILLAGE OF COQUINS.
in the morning Cornelia awoke her people. For greater
security she wished to be off before the dawn, while all,
Indians or English, were asleep. That was the best way
of avoiding a recommencement of the battle. And even
at that time it is worth noting that the worthy lady was in
a curious hurry to strike the camp. Much agitated, with
anxious look and eager eye, looking to the right, to the
left, she harassed, scolded, lectured her husband, her sons
and Clou, who did not bestir himself as much as she
liked.
" In how many days shall we cross the frontier ? " she
asked the guide.
" In three days," said Ro-No, " if we are not delayed on
the road."
1 Then start," said Cornelia; "and be sure no one sees us
go."
But do not let it be imagined that Cascabel had digested
the insults of the evening before. To leave the village
without paying his debt to the baronet was hard indeed to
a Norman who was as French as he was patriotic.
| That is what comes," he said, | of putting one's foot
into John Bull's country."
But if he had any desire to make the round of the
village in the hope of meeting Sir Edward Turner, if he
cast more than one glance at the closed shutters of the
house in which that gentleman lived, he dared not go far
away from the terrible Cornelia. She would not allow him
out of her sight for a moment.
| Where are you going, C^sar ? Stop here ! I forbid
you to go away, Cesar!''
Cascabel heard but that. Never had he found himself
so much under the domination of the excellent and imperious companion of his life.
Fortunately, owing to the reiterated injunctions, the
preparations were quickly completed, and the horses
harnessed in the shafts. At four o'clock in the morning,
dogs, monkey, parrot, husband, sons and daughter were
all installed in the apartments of the Belle Roulotte, in
front of which sat Cornelia.   Then, as soon as Clou and 66
CESAR CASCABEL.
long
the guide had taken their places at the horses' heads, the
signal of departure was given.
A quarter of an hour afterwards the village of Coquins
had vanished behind the curtain of large trees which
surrounded it. Day had only just begun to break. All
was silent. Not. a creature was to be seen on the
plain which extended away towards the north.
And, at last, when she saw that the departure had been
effected without having attracted the attention of any one
in the village, when she saw that neither Indians nor
English would attempt to stop the way, then Cornelia
heaved a long sigh of satisfaction, at which her husband
was perhapsjust a little bit hurt.
"You are afraid of those people, then, Cornelia ?" said
he.
| Much afraid !" she contented herself with answering.
The three days which followed went by without incident,
and as the guide had said, the caravan reached the
frontier. And having crossed it, the Belle Roulotte could
halt.
Once there a reckoning had to take place with the
Indian, who had shown himself as zealous as he was
faithful, and he had to be thanked for his services. Then
Ro-No said farewell to the family, after indicating the
shortest road to Sitka, the capital of the Russian
possessions.
Now that he was no longer on English ground, it
might be supposed that Cascabel would have breathed
more at his ease. But no ! At the end of the three days
he still remembered the scene which had passed at the
village of Coquins. It was always in his mind. And he
could not help saying to Cornelia,—
I You should have let me go back to settle my account
with my lord—"
I That has been done, C^sar! " said Madame Cascabel
simply.
Yes !    Done, and well done !
During the night, while every one had been asleep at fhe
camp,  Cornelia  had been
round the baronet's NO PASSAGE.
67
house, and had caught sight of him as he came out into
the shrubbery, had followed him for a few hundred yards,
and as soon as he was in the wood the " first prize of the
Chicago meeting " had administered to him one of those
thrashings which leave a man helpless on the ground—Sir
Edward Turner, half murdered, had not got up till next
day, and for a long time would bear the marks of his
encounter with this amiable lady.
IO Cornelia! Cornelia! " exclaimed her husband,
clasping her in his arms. " You have avenged my honour
—you are worthy to be a Cascabel! "
CHAPTER IX.
NO PASSAGE.
Alaska is that part of the north-west of North America
comprised between the fifty-second and seventy-second
degree of latitude. It is cut transversely by the line of
the Polar circle which runs across Behring Strait.
Look at the map attentively, and you will recognize
rather distinctly that the coast is in the shape of a Jew's
face. The forehead develops between Cape Lisbon and
Point Barrow; the orbit of the eye is Kotzebue Gulf; the
nose is Prince of Wales Cape; the mouth is Norton Bayv
and the traditional beard is the peninsula of Alaska, continued by the cluster of Aleutian Islands, which project
into the Pacific Ocean. The head ends with the prolongation of the chain of the Ranges, the last slopes of which
die out in the Glacial Sea.
Such is the country which the Belle Roulotte was about
to cross obliquely for a distance of six hundred leagues.
It need not be mentioned that Jean had carefully studied
the map, the mountains, the water-courses, the sinuosities I
68
CESAR CASCABEL.
of the coast, and the road it was best to follow. He had
even delivered a short lecture on the subject, to which the
family had listened with the most lively interest.
Thanks to him, all, even Clou, knew that this country,
which is situated in the extreme north-west of the American
continent, had been visited first by the Russians, then by
the Frenchman La Perouseand the Englishman Vancouver,
and then by MacClure during his expedition in search of
Sir John Franklin.
The region was already well known—in part only—
owing to the voyages of Frederic Whymper and Colonel
Bulkley in 1865, when there was a question of establishing
a submarine cable between the old and new worlds by way
of Behring Strait. But up to that period the interior of
the Alaskan province had hardly been touched by the representatives of the commercial houses engaged in the fur
trade.
It was then that there reappeared, in international
politics, the celebrated Monroe doctrine, according to which
America ought to belong exclusively to the Americans.
If the British Colonies, Columbia and the Dominion would
only change their nationality in a future more or less
remote, perhaps Russia would consent to cede Alaska to
the Union—that is to say, forty-five thousand square miles
of territory. And that is why serious overtures were made
in this sense to the Muscovite Government.
At first, in the United States, a good deal of fun was
made of Mr. Stewart, the Secretary of State, when he
announced his intention of acquiring this Walrussia, these
dands of seals, with which it seemed the Republic had
nothing to do. Nevertheless, Mr. Stewart persisted with
an obstinacy quite American, and in 1867 matters were
very advanced; and if the convention had not yet been
signed between America and Russia, it might be signed
any day.
It was on the evening of the 30th of May that the Famille
Cascabel halted on the frontier at the foot of a clump of
big trees. In this position the Belle Roulotte was on
Alaskan territory, on Russian ground, and no longer on said  Cascabel.
breathe-better
NO PASSAGE.
the soil of British Columbia.    Of that Cascabel
quite sure.
His good humour had returned to him, and in so communicative a way that all his people shared in it. Now to
reach the frontier of European Russia they need not quit
Muscovite territory. The Alaskan province and Asiatic
Siberia—were not these vast countries under the rule of the
Czar?
There was a jolly supper.   Jean had killed a large, fat
hare, which Wagram had put up among
true Russian hare, if you please !
I And we will drink a good bottle,"
I Good heavens ! It seems as though we
beyond that frontier 1 Here we have American air mixed
with Russian. Breathe it with full lungs, my children. It
will not hurt you. There is enough for all—even for
Clou, whose nose is as long as an ell! Ouf! Five weeks
have I been nearly suffocated in crossing that cursed
Columbia!"
When the supper was over, and the last drop of the good
bottle had been absorbed, the family retired to their
apartments and their beds. The night passed in the
greatest quiet, and was not troubled by the approach of
any objectionable animals, or nomad Indians. In the
morning the horses and dogs had completely recovered
from their fatigues.
The camp was struck at dawn, and the guests of " welcoming Russia, this sister of France," as Cascabel said,
made their preparations for departure; this did not take
long. A little before six o'clock the Belle Roulotte was
off to the north-westward, so as to reach Simpson River,
which it would be easy to cross in the ferry-boat.
This point, which Alaska detaches towards the south, is a
narrow slip known under the general name of Thlin-
kithen, bordered on the west by a certain number of
islands or archipelagoes such as 'those of the Prince of
Wales, Croozer, Kuju, Baranow, Sitka, &c. It is in this
last island that is situated the capital of Russian America,
which also   bears   the name   of   New  Archangel.     As TO
CESAR CASCABEL,
soon as the Belle Roulotte arrived at Sitka, Cascabel intended to halt for several days ; in the first place as a
rest, and in the next in order to prepare for the first part
of his journey which would take him to Behring Strait.
The road obliged him to follow a band of territory,
capriciously cut into by the coastal range of hills.
Cascabel then set out, but he did not go far. An
obstacle stopped him, and it seemed as though the obstacle
was insurmountable.
The welcoming Russia, the sister of France, did not
appear disposed to receive with hospitality the French
brothers who constituted the Famille Cascabel.
In fact, Russia presented herself in the form of three
frontier guards, strongly built, heavily bearded, with huge
heads and turned-up noses, and Kalmuck in character,
clothed in a dark Muscovite uniform, and wearing the flat
cap which inspires such salutary respect among so many
millions of men.
At a gesture from the chief of the guards the Belle
Roulotte suspended its march, and Clou, who was driving,
appealed to his master.
Cascabel appeared at the door of the first apartment,
accompanied by his sons and his wife. Then they all got
out, being rather uneasy at the sight of these uniforms.
I Your passports ?" asked  the guard in the   Russian
language, a language which Cascabel understood only too
well under the circumstances.
" Passports ?" he asked.
" Yes !    The Czar's possessions are not to be entered
without passports."
" But we have none, my dear sir," said Cascabel politely.
I Then you shall not pass."
This was clear and significant, like a door shut in the
face of a beggar.
Cascabel made a grimace. He knew how strict were
the proceedings of the Muscovite administration, and it was
doubtful if he could do anything in the matter. In fact, it
was most unfortunate that he should have met these men
just as the Belle Roulotte had crossed the frontier.  H H! NO PASSAGE.
71
Cornelia and Jean awaited in great anxiety the result
of this colloquy, on which depended the accomplishment of
the journey.
"Brave Muscovites!" said Cascabel, developing his
voice and his gestures so as to give more relief to his
customary showman's patter, "we are French people
who travel for our own pleasure, and I may say, for that of
others, and in particular of noble boyars, when they deign
to honour us with their presence. We were led to suppose
that papers were unnecessary when we entered the territory of his majesty the Czar, Emperor of all the Russias—"
"To enter on his territory without special permission
was never heard of—"
"Could it not take place once? just a little once?"
said Cascabel, in a tone particularly insinuating.
1 No," said the man sharply and decisively. " And so
go back, and without delay!"
I But," said Cascabel," where can we procure these
passports ?"
I That is your business !"
I Let us get to Sitka, and then by the intercession of
the Consul of France—"
I There is no Consul of France at Sitka! And, besides
where do you come from ? "
I From Sacramento."
"Well, you should have procured your passports at
Sacramento !    It is useless to argue—"
§ On the contrary," said Cascabel, " it is useful, for we
are now on our way back to Europe—"
" To Europe ? In what way ? "
Cascabel saw that his reply might render him particularly suspicious, for to return to Europe by his road was
rather extraordinary.
I Yes," added he, " certain circumstances have obliged
us to make this detour—"
I It does not matter," said the Russian, " you cannot
cross Russian territory without a passport."
I If it is only a question of paying duties," said Cascabel,
"you might perhaps listen to us ? " 72
CESAK CASCABEL
And as he spoke he winked his eye significantly. But
an understanding seemed impossible even on these conditions.
1 Brave Muscovites," said Cascabel in despair, " Can it
be that you have never heard of the Famille Cascabel ?"
And he said the words as if the Famille Cascabel was
the equal of the Famille Romanoff.
It did no good. He had to turn bridle and retreat.
The guards persevered in their implacable way, and even
accompanied the Belle Roulotte beyond the frontier, with
a formal warning for the Cascabels not to attempt to
recross it. And thus Cascabel found himself, to his disgust,
again in British Columbia.
This was, it must be admitted, a disagreeable position,
and at the same time a most disquieting one. All the
plans were upset; the itinerary adopted with so much
enthusiasm would have to be given up. The journey to
the westward, the return to Europe by Asiatic Siberia, had
become impossible without a passport. To regain New
York, across the Far West, was evidently possible under
the usual conditions, but how could the Atlantic be crossed
without a steamer, and how could a passage be taken on
a steamer without any money to pay the fare ?
There was no hope of making enough money on the
road to pay for the cost of such voyage. Besides, how
long would it take ? The Famille Cascabel—why not
confess it?—had become stale in the United States.
During the twenty years there was hardly a town or a
village along the line of the Great Trunk in which they
had not appeared, and now they did not draw as many
cents as they used to do dollars. No ! To journey eastward was to meet with endless delays, and years perhaps
would elapse before they could start for Europe. At all
risks, some combination must be found which would allow
of the Belle Roulotte reaching Sitka ; and that is what was
thought and said by the members of this interesting family
when the three frontier guards had left them to their painful reflections.
" We are at a fine pass !" said Cornelia, shaking her head. mm
NO PASSAGE.
7S
| It is not even a pass," said Cascabel, " it is a no-pass.
It is a hole ! "
And now, old wrestler, wrestler in public arenas, are the
means to fail you of triumphing over this ill fortune ?
Are you going to allow yourself to be overwhelmed by
mischance ? Is it you, an acrobat, accomplished in every
dodge, who is to give in defeated ? Is your bag of tricks
empty ? Is your imagination, so fertile in expedients, to
be at a loss now ?
1 Cesar!" said Cornelia, " suppose we were to address
ourselves to the chief of these men who have stopped us
on the frontier—"
I Their chief!" exclaimed Cascabel. " But their chief
is the Governor of Alaska, some Russian Colonel as
intractable as his men, and who would see us at the deuce."
I Besides," said Jean, " he ought to live at Sitka, and it
is to Sitka that they prevent us from going."
I Perhaps," said Clou judiciously, " the policemen might
not refuse to take one of us to the governor."
| Eh ! Clou is right! 1 said Cascabel, " that is an excellent idea."
| At least it is not a bad one," said Clou with his usual
correction.
| It should be tried before we start on the return
journey," said Jean ; " and if you like, father, I will go."
| No, it would be better for me to go," said Cascabel.
| Is it far from the frontier to Sitka ?"
| A hundred leagues," said Jean.
I Well, in twelve days I ought to be back here. Wait
till to-morrow, and we will attempt the adventure."
Next morning at sunrise Cascabel was off in search of
the frontier guards. There was no difficulty in finding
them, as they had remained in the neighbourhood watching
the Belle Roulotte.
| You, again! " they exclaimed in a threatening tone.
" Yes! again !" said Cascabel, with his most agreeable
smile.
And with all sorts of compliments to the efficiency of
Russian administration, he made known his desire to be 1
74
CESAR CASCABEL.
conducted to his Excellency the Governor of Alaska. He
offered to pay the expenses of the journey of the honourable functionary who would consent to accompany him, and
even afforded a glimpse of a perspective, in which there was
a pleasant token of esteem in the shape of a cash gratuity to
the generous and devoted man who—
The proposition failed. The perspective was unappreciated. Probably the guards, with the obstinacy of
Custom House officers, began to be suspicious of this persistent attempt to cross the Alaskan frontier. One of
them ordered Cascabel to be off instantly, and added :
"If we find you again on Russian territory it is not to
Sitka we will take you, but to the fort close by. And when
you are once in there, there is no knowing how or when
you will get out."
Cascabel, not without some hustling, was sent to the
right-about to the Belle Roulotte, where his lugubrious
countenance made it apparent that he had failed.
Was the travelling abode of the Cascabels to become a
sedentary house? Was the barque which bore the
mountebank and his fortunes to be wrecked on the
Columbo-Alaskan frontier, like a ship which the sea in retiring leaves upon the rocks ?    It was to be feared so.
It was sad that the day should end under such conditions,
and also the days that were to follow while the family were
coming to a decision in the matter.
Fortunately there were plenty of provisions; there
remained a sufficient quantity of preserves, of which they
intended to fill up the store once they got to Sitka. Besides, game was astonishingly abundant in the neighbourhood ; only Jean and Wagram had to take care not to
leave Columbian territory, for he would not get off without
the confiscation of his gun, and a fine to the profit of the
Muscovite treasury.
Cascabel and his people were, however, seriously affected
with dismay at the turn things had taken, and it even
seemed as though the animals shared in this feeling. Jako
chattered less than usual. The dogs, with tails hanging
down, barked loudly and long with anxiety,   John Bull NO PASSAGE.
75
no longer amused himself with contortions and grimaces.
Vermout and Gladiator, alone, appeared to accept the
position cheerfully, having nothing to do except graze
peacefully on the fresh green grass of the surrounding
plain.
I But we must do something," said Cascabel, crossing
his arms.
Evidently. But what ? what ? The most embarrassing
thing about it was that there was no choice. As he could
not advance, he must retreat. Finish the westerly journey
on which he had so resolutely entered ? Return to this
cursed soil of British Columbia, and cross the prairies of
the far west so as to reach the Atlantic coast ? Once at
New York what would he do ? Would some charitable
souls start a subscription to help him take his family
home ? What a humiliation for these good people, who
had always lived by their work, and who had never held
out a hand for the receipt of alms. Ah! the miserable
scoundrels who had stolen their little fortune in the passes
of the Sierra Nevada !
" If they are not hanged in America, or garotted in
Spain, or guillotined in France, or empaled in Turkey,"
said Cascabel, " there is no longer justice in this world
below."
At last he decided.
I We will be off to-morrow," he said, on the evening of
the 4th of June. " We will return to Sacramento, and
then—"
He did not finish the sentence. At Sacramento they
would see. All was ready for the start. They had only
to harness up and turn the horses' heads to the south.
This last evening on the Alaskan frontier was more
miserable than ever : each one stayed in his corner without speaking. The darkness was profound. Heavy disordered clouds furrowed the sky, and seemed like drifting
ice-floes a strong breeze was chasing towards the east.
The eye could not pick out a single star, and the crescent of
the new moon had sunk behind the high mountains on the
horizon. 1
IS
76
CESAR CASCABEL.
of Washington
It was about nine o'clock when Cascabel gave orders to
go to bed. In the morning they would be off at daybreak.
The Belle Roulotte would return along the road on which
it had travelled from Sacramento, and even without the aid
of a guide it would not be difficult to keep to it. Once the
sources of the Frazer were reached, all that had to be done
was to descend the river to the frontier
Territory.
Consequently, Clou was about to shut the door of the
first apartment, after bidding the dogs good-night, when
there was a report of firearms a short distance off.
IA gun-shot! " exclaimed Cascabel.
" Yes—some one has fired," said Jean.
I A hunter, probably," said Cornelia.
"A hunter on this dark night?" said Jean, "that is
hardly likely."
And then there was a second shot, and shouts were
heard.
CHAPTER X
KAYETTE.
At these shouts Cascabel, Jean, Sandre, and Clou rushed
out of the carriage.
" It is over there," said Jean, pointing to the edge of the
forest which extended along the frontier.
" Listen ! " said Cascabel.
It was useless. There was no other shot; no other
report followed the two reports they had just heard.
I Is it an accident ? " asked Sandre.
I Anyhow," said Jean, " it is certain the shouts were
cries of distress, and that there is some one in danger."
" We must go to his help," said Cornelia. KAYETTE.
17
" Yes, children, let us go," said Cascabel. " And let us
go well armed."
After all, it was possible that it was not an accident.
Some traveller might have fallen a victim to an attempt
on the frontier, and it was only prudent to be prepared to
defend oneself as to defend another.
Almost immediately, Cascabel and Jean each armed
with a gun, and Sandre and Clou each armed with a
revolver, left the Belle Roulotte, which Cornelia and the
dogs would guard till their return.
For five or six minutes they followed the edge of the
wood, stopping from time to time to listen, but no sound
troubled the calm of the forest. They were sure, however,
that the shouts had come from this direction, and from not
so very far off.
I At least, unless we have been the sport of an illusion,"
observed Cascabel.
I No, father," said Jean, | that is not possible. Ah!
Listen!"
This time it was really a call—no longer a call by a
man's voice, as at first, but by the voice of a woman or
child.
The night was very dark, and under the shade of the
trees they could only see a few metres. Clou had proposed to take one of the lamps of the caravan, but
Cascabel had objected through motives of prudence, and
it was certainly better for them to reach the wood unobserved.
The calls were repeated, and had become so distinct
that it was easy to make towards them. It even seemed
as though it would not be necessary to enter the depths
of the forest.
In fact, five minutes afterwards, Cascabel, Jean, Sandre,
and Clou had arrived at the entrance of a small clearing.
There two men were lying on the ground. A woman
knelt near one of the two and held his head in her arms.
It was the woman whose cry had been heard in the last
place, and in the Chinook language, which Cascabel understood a little, she said,— 78
CESAR CASCABEL.
" Come ! come! they have killed them."
Jean approached the frightened woman, who was covered
with blood flowing from the chest of the unhappy man she
was trying to restore to life.
I This one still breathes," said Jean.
| And the other ? " asked Cascabel.
I The other—I do not know," said Sandre.
Cascabel listened if the beating of the heart and the
breath on the lips showed that life still remained.
I He is dead !" he said.
And in fact he had been shot through the temples by a
bullet.
Now, who was this woman whose language indicated an
Indian origin ? Was she young or old ? That they could
not see in the dark under the hood which covered her
head. But they would learn later. She would tell them
where she came from, and also how the double murder
had been committed. The immediate thing to do was to
carry to the camp the man who still breathed, and to give
such attention as might save his life. As for his dead
companion they could return in the morning and give it
the last duty.
Cascabel, helped by Jean, lifted the wounded man by
the shoulders, while Sandre and Clou took him by the
feet.   Then turning to the woman,—
1 Follow us," they said.
And this she did without hesitation, walking by the
side of the body, and staunching with a piece of rag the
blood which constantly flowed from the chest.
They could not go very quickly. The man was heavy,
and they had to guard against jolts. It was a living man
Cascabel wished to take to the Belle Roulotte, and not a
dead one.
In about twenty minutes they had arrived1 without any
mishap.
Cornelia and little Napoleone, thinking they might have
been attacked, awaited them in great anxiety,
I Quick, Cornelia," said Cascabel; " water, lint, and
anything that can stop a haemorrhage, or this unfortunate
fellow will go off in syncope I" T TrtM
KAYETTE.
79
" Good ! good !" said Cornelia, " you know I understand, Cesar.   Not too many words, and leave me alone."
Cornelia did understand, having had many a wound to
dress in the exercise of her profession.
Clou put down a mattress in the first apartment on
which the body was gently placed, the head being raised
by a bolster. By the light of the lamp they could then
see a face discoloured by the pallor of approaching death,
and at the same time the face of the Indian woman who
knelt close by. She was a girl, apparently about fifteen
or sixteen years old.
" Who is this child ?" asked Cornelia.
" The one whose cries we heard," said Jean, " and whom
we found by the side of the wounded man."
He was a man about forty-five, with beard and hair
slightly grey, body strongly built, rather above the average
height, good-natured looking, and whose energetic character was apparent notwithstanding the paleness of his
face, and that nothing could be seen of his eyes under
their closed lids. From time to time a sigh escaped his
lips, but he did not utter a word to enable any one to say
to what nationality he belonged.
When his chest was bared, Cornelia found that he had
been stabbed with a dagger between the third and fourth
rib. Was the wound mortal ? Only a doctor could say ;
but there could be no doubt it was very serious.
As no doctor was procurable under the circumstances,
dependence had to be placed on what Cornelia could do,
and on the small stock of remedies in the medicine
chest.
The first thing to be done was to stop the loss of blood,
which would soon have ended in death. It could be seen
later on if in such a state of absolute prostration the man
could bear carrying to the nearest village. And this time
Cascabel did not trouble himself if it was an Anglo-Columbian one or not.
After carefully washing the wound with cold water,
Cornelia applied to it compresses soaked in arnica. This
bathing sufficed to stop the flow of blood, of which the
wounded man had lost so much. I
8o
CESAR CASCABEL.
"And now, Cornelia," asked Cascabel, "what can we
do?"
I We are going to put the poor man into our bed," said
Cornelia, | and I will watch over him so as to renew the
compresses when necessary."
"We will all watch over him," said Jean. "How can
any of us sleep ? And besides, we must keep our eyes
open ; there are murderers about."
Cascabel, Jean, and Clou lifted the man and placed
him on the bed in the inner room; and while Cornelia remained at the pillow waiting for a word which did not
come, the young Indian, for whose Chinook dialect Cascabel
served as interpreter, related her history.
She was of the indigenous race, of one of the autochthonous races of Alaska. In this province to the north
and south of the great river Yukon, which waters it from
cast to west, there are many tribes of Indians, nomadic or
sedentary, amongst others being the Co Yukons, who are
perhaps the principal and the most savage, then the
Newicargouts, the Tananas, the Kotcho-a-Koutchins, and
also, especially about the mouth of the river, the Pastoliks,
the Haveacks, the Primskes, the Melomutes and the
Indgeletes.
It was to this last tribe that the young Indian, whose
name was Kayette, belonged.
Kayette had no father or mother, and no family relative :
and not only are there families which thus disappear in
this Alaskan territory, but whole tribes also vanish without
a trace. Such were the People of the Centre, who formerly
resided north of the Yukon.
Kayette, having lost all her friends, had started for the
south through the district she knew well, owing to her
having traversed it frequently before with wandering
Indians. Her plan was to reach Sitka, the capital, where
she reckoned on entering the service of some Russian
functionary, and had she applied for a situation she would
assuredly have been engaged on the strength of her honest,
gentle, prepossessing face. She was very pretty, her skin
being just a little brown, her dark eyes having long lashes,
ii
w*m .id 'i Hi WMwM   w^sRiij 'ifffl
Kayette had started for the South. 1! KAYETTE.
her brown hair being abundant, and arranged under a fur
cap which covered her head. She was of medium height,
and although she wore a cloak, seemed to be graceful and
lithe.
As is well known the boys and girls among these Indian
races of North America soon reach maturity. At ten
years old the boys can skilfully use the gun and axe ; at
fifteen the girls marry, and, young as they may be, make
excellent mothers. Kayette was thus more serious and
more resolute than her age would lead one to think, and
the long journey on which she had entered testified to the
energy of her character. For a month she had been on
the road coming down towards the south-west of Alaska,
and had reached this narrow strip, bordered with
islands, in which is situated the capital, when, as she was
passing along the skirt of the forest, she had heard two
gunshots and the shouts of despair a few yards off.
These were the same shouts which had reached the
camp of the Belle Roulotte.
Immediately Kayette had courageously rushed into the
wood, and doubtless her approach had given the alarm,
for she had just caught sight of two men running off
through the thickets. But evidently the scoundrels had
soon perceived that they were running away from a mere
child, for they were already returning to the clearing to
rob their victims when the arrival of Cascabel and his
party frightened them away, this time for good.
In the presence of these two men on the ground, one
dead, the other with the heart still beating, Kayette had
shouted for help, and we know what happened. The first
shouts heard by Cascabel were those of the travellers, the
second were those of the young Indian.
The night passed. The Belle Roulotte had no attack to
repulse, and doubtless the murderers had fled from the
scene of their crime.
In the morning Cornelia could report no change in the
condition of the patient, which still seemed serious.
Under the circumstances Kayette made herself useful by
gathering certain herbs with whose antiseptic qualities she 82
CESAR CASCABEL.
was acquainted. Of these she made an infusion, and
new compresses soaked in it were applied to the wound,
which had now stopped bleeding.
During the morning the man began to breathe more
easily, but only sighs—not even vague half-uttered words
—escaped from his lips. So it was impossible to ascertain
who he was, whence he came, whither he was going, or what
he did on the Alaskan frontier, under the circumstances
in which they had been attacked, and who were their
aggressors.
In any case, if the attempt had been for the sake of
plunder, the scoundrels, who had been in such a hurry to run
away on the young Indian's arrival, had failed in a stroke
of fortune for which it would not be easy to find a substitute in these rarely visited regions.
Of this there could be no doubt, for Cascabel, in taking
off the patient's clothes, had found a leather belt close to
the skin containing a quantity of American and Russian
gold pieces, the whole mounting up to fifteen thousand
francs. This money was put by in safety to be restored as
soon as opportunity offered. There were no papers beyond
a pocket-book in which were a few notes, some in Russian
and some in French, but nothing that could establish the
unknown's identity.
In the morning, about nine o'clock, Jean said, " Father,
we have a duty to fulfil towards the body which remains
unburied."
I You are right, Jean. Let us go. Perhaps we may find
on him some writing which will tell us something. You
will come with us,"said he to Clou ; "bring a pickaxe and
a spade."
Carrying these tools, the three left the Belle Roulotte,
not unarmed, and went off along by the woods as they
had done the night before.
In a few minutes they were at the spot where the murder
had been committed.
There seemed to be no doubt that the men had halted to
pass the night'at the place. There were traces of a halt, and
the remains of a fire, the embers of which were still smok-
•""= KAYETTE.
83
ing. At the foot of a tall pine there was a pile of herbage
which the travellers could scatter, and perhaps were sleeping on when they were attacked.
The dead man was now a rigid corpse. By his costume,
his face, his coarse hands, it was easy to see that this man,
aged about thirty, was the other man's servant.
Jean rummaged his pockets. He found no papers and
no money. In his belt was a revolver of American make,
loaded with six bullets, of which the unfortunate man had
had no time to make use.
Evidently the attack had been sudden, unforeseen, and
the two victims had fallen at the same time.
Now the forest around was deserted. After a short exploration Jean returned without seeing anyone. Evidently
the murderers had not come back, for they would have
robbed the body, and at least taken the revolver which was
still in the belt.
Clou had set to work and dug a grave deep enough to
put the corpse beyond the reach of wild beasts. In it the
dead man was laid, and Jean repeated a prayer when the
earth was thrown back into the grave.
Then Cascabel, Jean, and Clou returned to the camp.
There, while Kayette remained with the patient, Jean and
his father and mother held conference together.
I There can be no doubt," said Cascabel, " that if we go
back along the road to California our man will not arrive
there alive. There are hundreds and hundreds of leagues
to travel. The best thing would be to get to Sitka, which
we might reach in three or four days if those cursed
policemen did not forbid our setting foot on their territory."
I It is to Sitka we must go," said Cornelia resolutely ;
I and to Sitka we will go."
I But how ? We should not move a league without
being stopped."
I Never mind, Cesar! We must be off at once. If we
meet the guards, we will tell them what has happened, and
it is possible that they will not refuse this unfortunate man
what they have refused us."
Cascabel shook his head dubiously. 84
CESAR CASCABEL.
I My mother is right," said Jean. " Let us try to reach
Sitka, even without attempting to obtain from the guards
an authority they would not give. That would be to lose
time. Besides, it is probable that they think we are off to
Sacramento and have moved away. We have seen nothing
of them for twenty-four hours. They were not even
attracted by the gun-shots yesterday evening.'''
" That is true," said Cascabel, " and I should not be
surprised if they had moved off."
I At least-—" said Clou, who had come to take part in
the conversation.
" Yes, at least—that is understood," said Cascabel.
Jean's remark was reasonable, and probably there was
nothing better to be done than to take the road to Sitka.
A quarter of an hour went by. Vermout and Gladiator
were harnessed up. Well rested by this prolonged halt on
the frontier, they could put in some solid work during the
first day's march. The Belle Roulotte departed, and it
was with ill-disguised satisfaction that Cascabel abandoned
Columbian territory.
I Children," he said, " keep your eyes open ! and, Jean,
keep that gun silent! There is no need to give notice of
our presence."
I And besides, the kitchen has plenty to do as yet,"
said Madame Cascabel.
The country to the north of Columbia, although rather
hilly, is traversed by easy roads, even by the side of the
numerous channels which separate the archipelagoes.
Occasionally, but very rarely, there was an isolated farm,
which the family would take especial care not to go near.
After carefully studying the map, Jean made it all clear
to himself, and hoped to get to Sitka without a guide.
But what was of the utmost importance was not to meet
with any of the frontier or internal guards, and at the
start the Belle Roulotte seemed to be allowed to roll
onward as she pleased.
There was something even surprising in this, but Cascabel was no less gratified than surprised.
Cornelia considered it providential, and  her husband
1^ mtmm
MB
KAYETTE.
85
was not far from thinking with her. Jean though! that
something had happened to change the routine of Muscovite
administration.
Things went on in this way during the 6th and 7th of
June. The Belle Roulotte was nearing Sitka. The speed
might perhaps have been greater, had not Cornelia thought
of the jolting affecting the wounded man, whom she and
Kayette continued to nurse as if they were his mother and
daughter. There was always a danger that he would not
see the end of the journey, for, although he got no worse,
yet it could not be said that he showed any signs of
mending. The modest resources of the medicine chest,
the little that the women could do for an injury serious
even for a doctor to deal with, were hardly likely to be sufficient. Care must replace science unfortunately, and never
did sisters of charity show themselves more devoted;
and everyone could not help thinking much of the zeal
and intelligence of the young Indian. She seemed to be
already one of the family, and in a way was a second
daughter sent by Heaven to Madame Cascabel.
In the afternoon of the 7th the Belle'Roulotte crossed
the Stekin River by the ford. This is a small watercourse running into one of the narrow inlets between the
mainland and Baranow Island, only a few leagues from
Sitka.
In the evening the wounded man was heard to speak
the following words,—
I My father—over there—to see him again
mured.
As these words were in Russian, Cascabel understood
them very well.
He also frequently repeated a name,—
I Ivan ! Ivan !"
No doubt that was the name of the unfortunate servant killed at his master's side.
It was most likely that both were of Russian birth.
In any case, if the wounded man began to recover his
speech with his memory, the Cascabcls would soon know
his history.
!" he mur- CESAR CASCABEL.
During the day the Belle Roulotte reached the bank of
the narrow channel it was necessary to cross to get to
Baranow Island, and consequently now was the time to
appeal to the boatmen who work these numerous inlets.
But Cascabel could hardly hope to conceal his nationality
if he entered into communication with the people of the
country. That" annoying question of passports might
again be raised.
I Well," said he, "our Russian will at least reach Sitka.
If the police send us back to the frontier, they will keep
one of their own countrymen, and as we have begun by
saving him, perhaps they will end by curing him."
This was reasonable enough, but it left the Cascabels
anxious as to their reception. If they once reached Sitka,
it would be cruel to have to go back to New York.
While the caravan waited by the water, Jean went off to
hire a boat and boatmen, who proceeded to take it on
board.
At this moment Kayette came to tell Cascabel that his
wife wanted him, and he went to her at once.
" The wounded man has certainly recovered all his consciousness," said Cornelia. " He speaks, Cesar, and you
must try to understand what he says."
In fact the Russian had opened his eyes and looked
around him, as if interrogating the people he saw for
the first time in his life. At intervals a few incoherent
words escaped from his lips.
And then, in a voice so weak that they could hardly
hear it, he called his servant Ivan.
" Sir," said Cascabel, " your servant is not here, but we
are—"
To these words, spoken in French, the wounded man
replied in the same language.
| Where am I ?"
| Among people who have taken care of you, sir."
I But in what country ?"
"It is a country in which you have nothing to fear if
you are a Russian—|
" Russian—    Yes ' Russian !" "No ! an American possession."  iferiHM
SITKA. 87
" Well, you are in the province of Alaska, a few leagues
from the capital."
" Alaska!" murmured the patient, and it seemed as
though a feeling of terror was revealed in his look.
IA Russian possession ! " he said.
I No ; an American possession !"
Jean had entered, and he it was who spoke, and
through the little window of the Belle Roulotte they
could see the American flag floating from one of the posts
on the shore.
The province of Alaska had not been Russian for three
days. Three days before there had been signed the treaty
of annexation, which ceded it to the United States.
Henceforth the Cascabeis had nothing to fear from the
Russian police.    They were on American ground!
CHAPTER XL
SITKA.
SlTKA, or New Archangel, situated on Baranow Island
amid the archipelagoes of the western coast, is not only
the capital of the island but the capital of the whole
of the province that had just been ceded to the Federal
Government. There is no other important city in this
region, where one only meets with a few towns or simple"
villages at great distances apart. It would even be more
correct to call these villages posts or factories. For the
most part they belong to American companies, though
some belong to the British Hudson Bay Company. It
will be understood from this that communication between
these ports is very difficult, particularly during the bad
season, when they are subject to all the torments of an
Alaskan winter,
A few years before Sitka was nothing but an occasion- 88
CESAR CASCABEL.
ill
ally visited commercial centre where the Russian American
Company had fixed its headquarters for furs and skins ;
but owing to the discoveries which had'been made in the
province, the coast of which bounds certain of the polar
regions, Sitka had undergone considerable development,
and under the new administration it would become a
wealthy city worthy of the new State of the Confederation.
Even at this epoch Sitka possessed all the buildings
which constitute what one calls a town; a Lutheran
temple, very simple, the architecture of which was not
wanting in majesty; a Greek church, with one of those
cupolas which hardly suit a sky of fogs, so different from
the skies of the East; a club ; the club-gardens, a sort of
Tivoli, where the townsman and the traveller found
restaurants, cafes, bars, and games of different sorts ; a
club-house whose doors only opened for bachelors ; a
school, a hospital, and houses, villas, cottages, picturesquely
grouped on the surrounding hills. As the horizon to all
this was a vast forest of resinous trees forming a frame of
perpetual verdure, and beyond was a line of high mountains, with summits lost in the mists, which tower over
Crouze Island to the north of Baranow Island, among
them Mount Edgcumbe rising to a height of eight
thousand feet above sea level.
If the climate of Sitka were not very rigorous, if the
thermometer did not fall below seven or eight centigrade
—although the town is crossed by the fifty-sixth parallel
—it would pre-eminently deserve to be called the water
town. In fact on Baranow Island it always rains, except
when it snows. And there was nothing to be astonished
at in the Belle Roulotte making its entry into Sitka amid
torrents of rain. And Cascabel had after all very little to
complain of, for he had arrived on the very day when he
could go anywhere without a passport.
" I have had many lucky chances in my life," said he,
"but never one like this. We were at the gate without
being able to enter, and behold! the gate opens in front
of us." SITKA.
89
The treaty of the cession of Alaska had been signed just
in time to allow the Belle Roulotte to cross the frontier.
And on this land just become American, there would be no
more intractable functionaries, no more of those formalities in which the Russian administration had shown itself
so exacting.
And now he had to consider whether he would take the
Russian to the Sitka hospital, in which he would receive
every attention, or to a hotel where a doctor could visit
him. However, when Cascabel spoke of the matter to the
invalid,
11 feel better, my friend," he said, " and if I do not inconvenience you—"
I Inconvenience us! " exclaimed Cornelia. " And what
may 3'ou mean by inconveniencing us ?"
I You are at home here," said Cascabel, " and if you
think—"
" Well, I think it will be better for me not to leave those
who have welcomed me—who are so devoted—"
" That is nothing, sir, that is nothing," said Cascabel.
I But it is necessary that a doctor should see you at
once."
" Can he not come here ? "
" Nothing easier; and I will go myself and bring the
best in the town."
The Belle Roulotte had halted at the entrance into Sitka,
at the end of a promenade planted with trees, which
extended into the forest. There Doctor Harry, to whom
Cascabel had been referred, came to visit the Russian.
Having made a careful examination of the wound, the
doctor declared that there were no very serious symptoms ;
the dagger had been turned aside by a rib. Nothing of
importance had been touched, and owing to the compresses
and the juice of the herbs collected by the young Indian,
cicatrization had already begun, and would soon be
sufficiently advanced for the patient to leave his bed.
Everything was going as well as possible, and the patient
could take nourishment; but assuredly, if Kayette had not
arrived, and, if the flow of blood had not been stopped by 90
CESAR CASCABEL.
the care of Madame Cascabel, he would have been dead
in a few hours after the attempt on his life.
According to Doctor Harry, the attempted murder was
probably the work of certain confederates of the Karnof
band, or of Karnof himself, whose presence had been reported in the east of the province. This Karno f was a rascal
of Russian or rather Siberian birth, having under his orders
a gang of deserters whom he had met with in the Russian
possessions of Asia and America. In vain had rewards
been offered for the capture of the gang; the scoundrels
had hitherto escaped, and frequent crimes, robberies, and
murders had been spreading terror in the southern part of
the province. The safety of travellers, merchants, and
agents of the fur companies was no longer assured, and
this attempted murder was only one crime the more to be
charged to Karnof's confederates.
Doctor Harry left the family very much relieved as to
the state of their guest.
In going to Sitka, Cascabel's intentions had always been
to rest there for a few days—a rest due to his troupe after
a journey of nearly seven hundred leagues from the Sierra
Nevada. And in addition to this he reckoned on the
receipts from two or three performances to swell his little
purse.
" Children !" he said, 1 we are no longer in England; we
are in America, and we are allowed to perform before
Americans."
Cascabel did not doubt that the renown of his family had
already extended to the Alaskan population, and that it
would be said at Sitka,—
1 The Cascabels are within our walls."
However, after a conversation which took place two days
later between Cascabel and the Russian, these plans were
slightly modified, except as regarding the rest of a few
days necessitated by the fatigues of the journey.
This Russian—who in Cornelia's estimation was a prince
at least—now knew that the people who had saved his life
were poor foreign mountebanks touring through America.
All the Cascabels had been introduced to him, as well as
Hi STTKA
9*
the young Indian to whom he owed his escape from death.
And one evening, when the whole of the family were
together, he told them his history, or rather as much of it
as he thought they should know. He spoke French with
great facility, as if the language were his own, although he
did not roll his r much—a practice which gives to Russian
a sweet and energetic tone, in which the ear finds a peculiar charm. What he said was extremely simple; there
was nothing very adventurous or romantic about it.
His name was Serge Wassiliowitch—and from this day,
with his permission, they spoke of him among the Cascabels only as Monsieur Serge. His only surviving
relative was his father, who lived on an estate in the
Government of Perm, not very far from the town of that
name. Monsieur Serge, thanks to his traveller's instinct,
and his taste for discoveries and geographical researches,
had left Russia three years before. After visiting the
territories of Hudson's Bay, he was about to undertake an
exploration of Alaska, along the course of the Yukon up
to the Arctic Sea, when he was attacked.
His domestic, Ivan, and himself had pitched their camp
on the frontier on the 4th of June, when a sudden assault
had surprised them in their first sleep. Two men had
thrown themselves upon them. They woke and sprang
up, and would have defended themselves. It was useless,
and almost instantly the unfortunate Ivan died, shot
through the head.
" He was a brave, honest servant," said Monsieur Serge.
I Ten years had we lived together. He was deeply devoted
to me, and I regret him as if he were a friend."
In saying this Monsieur Serge took no pains to hide his
emotion ; and whenever he spoke of Ivan his moistened
eyes showed that his grief was sincere.
He added that, having been stabbed, and lost consciousness, he knew no more of what had passed up to the
moment of his returning to life, when; without the power of
thanking them for their care, he understood that he was
among charitable people.
When Cascabel told him that the attack had been attri-
H 92
CESAR CASCABEL
buted to Karnof or some of his accomplices, Monsieur Serge
did not appear surprised, as he had already heard that the
gang was on the frontier.
| You see," he said in conclusion, " there is nothing
curious in my history ; yours is doubtless much more so.
My campaign was to terminate by the exploration of
Alaska. Then I was going back to Russia to see my
father, and never more leave the paternal roof. Now tell
me about yourselves, and why, I would like to know, do I
find Frenchmen in this part of America, so far from their
home ? I
"Are not travelling showmen found everywhere,
Monsieur Serge ? " asked Cascabel,
1 Quite so, but I am surprised to see you so far from
France."
" Jean," said Cascabel addressing his elder son, " tell
Monsieur Serge why we are here, and in what way we are
returning to Europe."
Jean related the many vicissitudes experienced by the
crew of the Belle Roulotte since their departure from
Sacramento, and as he wished to be understood by Kayette,
he spoke in English, which Monsieur Serge translated into
Chinook.
The young Indian listened with the keenest attention.
In this way she learnt who were the Famille Cascabel to
whom she had become so closely attached. She knew
that the mountebanks had been robbed of all their
savings at the time they were crossing the defile of the
Sierra Nevada to regain the Atlantic coast, and that in
default of money and forced to change their plans, they
had resolved to do by the west what they could not do by
the east. They had turned towards the setting sun the
front of their house on wheels, and traversing the State
of California, Oregon, Washington Territory, and British
Columbia, had reached the frontier of Alaska. Then the
formal injunctions of the Russian administration had made
it impossible for them to pass—a fortunate circumstance
inasmuch as it enabled them to help Monsieur Serge.
And that was why French performers, and even Normans SITKA.
93
through the head of the family, were found at Sitka, owing
to the annexation of Alaska to the United States having
opened the door to the new American possession.
Monsieur Serge heard the young man's recital with the
greatest interest, and when he learnt that Cascabel proposed to get back to Europe by way of Siberia, he made
a slight gesture of surprise, the meaning of which no one
could understand.
| And so, my friends," said he, when Jean had finished
his story, " your intention in leaving Sitka is to steer towards Behring Strait ?"
" Yes," said Jean, " and to cross it when the ice
permits."
I It is a long and troublesome journey you have started
on, Monsieur Cascabel !"
I Long, yes, Monsieur Serge ! troublesome perhaps.
What would you have ? We had no choice. And
besides, we showmen don't think much of trouble, we are
used to trotting about the world."
II suppose you do not expect to reach Russia this
year ?"
I No," said Jean, " for the strait will not be passable
before October."
" In any case," said Monsieur Serge, " it is at least a
bold and adventurous project."
| Possibly," said Cascabel, " but there was no other way.
We are homesick, Monsieur Serge. We wish to go back
to France, and we will go. And if we pass through Perm
and Nijni at the- time of the fairs—well, we will show
them that the Famille Cascabel are worth looking at."
I Quite so; but what are your resources ?"
I The cash we have taken as we have come along, which
I hope to increase by two or three representations at
Sitka. The town is in holiday mood on account of the
annexation, and I fancy the public would be interested in
the show of the Famille Cascabel."
I My friends," said Monsieur Serge, " I should have
had great pleasure in sharing my purse with you if I had
not been robbed—"
H 2 y
94
CESAR CASCABEL,
% You have not been ! " said Cornelia.
" Not of a demi-rouble ! " said Cascabel, and he brought
in the belt, in which the money was found untouched.
I Then, my friends, you will accept—"
I Nothing at all, Monsieur Serge," said Cascabel.
I You refuse to share it with me ?"
" Absolutely."
| Ah ! These French !" said Monsieur Serge, holding
out his hand.
" Vive la Russie ! " said young Sandre.
" And Vive la France!" said Monsieur Serge.
It was the first time, probably, that this double cry had'
been exchanged in these distant territories of America.
I Now you have talked enough, Monsieur Serge," said
Cornelia. | The doctor advised quiet and rest, and sick
people should always obey their doctor."
" And I will obey you, Madame Cascabel," answered
Monsieur Serge, " but I have a question to ask or rather
a demand to make."
I As you please, Monsieur Serge."
I It is even a favour I ask of you."
I A favour ? "
I As you are going to Behring Strait, will you allow me
to accompany you there ? "
" To accompany us ? "
" Yes ! The journey would complete my exploration of
Alaska in the west."
" And   we  answer:   With   much    pleasure, Monsieur
exclaimed Cascabel.
" On one condition," added Cornelia.
" What is that ? "
"That you do all you can to get well without delay."
" On one condition, also, and that is if I accompany you
I contribute to the expenses of the journey."
" That shall be as you please, Monsieur Serge ! * said
Cascabel.
Things were thus arranged to the satisfaction of all
parties. But the head of the family did not think it worth
while to renounce his plan of giving a few representations
Serge! SITKA.
95
in the centre of Sitka—which would at the same time increase his glory and his profit. All the province was in
gala trim in consequence of the annexation, and the Belle
Roulotte could not have arrived more opportunely for the
public merry-making. It need not be said that Cascabel
had made his declaration relating to the attack on Monsieur Serge, and that orders were given to be more active in
the pursuit of the Karnof gang on the Alaskan frontier.
On the 17th of June Monsieur Serge was able to come
out for the first time. He was much better, and his wound
had become closed under Doctor Harry's care.
He then made acquaintance with the other artistes of
the troupe; the two dogs, who rubbed themselves gently
against his legs ; Jako, who saluted him with the "Very
well, Monsieur Serge !" taught him by Sandre ; and then
John Bull, who favoured him with the best grimaces. We
must not forget the two old horses, Gladiator and Vermout,
who neighed cheerfully when he gratified them with a
piece of sugar. Henceforth Monsieur Serge was one of the
family, as was also the young Kayette. He had already
remarked the seriousness of character, the thoughtful
mind, the tendencies above his condition which distinguished
the elder son. Sandre and Napoleone charmed him by
their grace and vivacity. Clou amused him by his healthy,
good-natured foolery. None the less did he appreciate
the domestic virtues of Monsieur and Madame Cascabel.
Evidently he had become associated with honest, good-
hearted people.
Preparations for the approaching departure were actively
engaged in. It was important that nothing should be
neglected to assure the success of this journey of five
hundred leagues from Sitka to Behring Strait. This almost
unknown land did not offer great dangers, it is true,
neither on the part of wild beasts nor on the part of
nomad or sedentary Indians, and it would be permissible
to halt at the different factories occupied by the four
companies. The chief thing was to provide for the daily
wants of life through a country in which the "resources
other than those of the chase, were nothing at all. 96
CESAR CASCABEL.
The family had to discuss these matters with Monsieur
Serge.
" In the first place," said Cascabel, " we must remember
that we shall not have to travel during the bad season."
" That is fortunate," said Monsieur Serge, 1 for the
winters of Alaska on the boundary of the Polar circle are
simply cruel."
"And we shall not go like the blind," added Jean.
" Monsieur Serge must be a learned geographer."
| Oh ! " said Monsieur Serge, | a geographer in unknown
lands is often much embarrassed to find his way. But with
his maps my friend Jean has done well hitherto, and I hope
we two will do as well together. Besides I have an idea
of which I will talk to you later on."
If Monsieur Serge had an idea, it could not well be other
than a good one, and he was left all the time he wanted to
mature it and put it in execution.
Money not being wanting Cascabel replenished his
stock of flour, butter, rice, tobacco, and above all of tea,
which is freely consumed in Alaska. He bought hams,
corned beef, biscuits, and a certain amount of potted
ptarmigan at the Russo-American Company's establishment. There would be no want of water on the road by
the affluents of the Yukon, but it would be none the
worse with the addition of a little sugar, brandy or rather
"vodka," which is much appreciated by the Russians.
As combustibles, notwithstanding that the forests would
furnish plenty, the Belle Roulotte carried a ton of
excellent Vancouver coal; only a ton, for it would not do
to overload.
Meanwhile the second compartment had been arranged
so as to receive a supplementary bunk, with which Monsieur Serge would have to content himself, and which was
furnished with excellent bedding. A stock was also laid
in of blankets and hare furs, which are so largely used by
the Indians during the winter. And in case it was necessary to buy anything on the road, Monsieur Serge provided
some glass and cotton articles, and cheap knives and scissors,
which serve as currency between the traders and natives. SITKA.
97
As they could reckon on the chase—big game, such as
deer and reindeer, small game like hares, ptarmigan, geese,
and partridges, abounding in the territory—powder and shot
were bought in convenient quantities. Monsieur Serge
even bought two guns and a carbine, which completed
the arsenal of the Belle Roulotte. He was a capital shot,
and took much pleasure in accompanying his friend Jean
on his expeditions.
It would not do to forget that the Karnof gang were
perhaps prowling about the country near Sitka, and that
an attack from these malefactors was to be guarded against
so as to give them a fitting reception when they came.
| And," said Cascabel, " to the questions that might be
put to us by those people I know of no better reply than a
bullet in the chest."
I At least, if not in the head !" observed Clou judiciously.
In short, thanks to the trade which Alaska carried on
with the different towns of Columbia and the Pacific,
Monsieur Serge and his companions were enabled to obtain
at not too extravagant a rate the necessary objects for a
journey through a desert country.
These arrangements were not finished until the last week
but one of June, and the departure was definitely fixed for
the 26th. As there could be no thought of crossing
Behring Strait before it was entirely covered with ice, there
was plenty of time to spare. Nevertheless they had to
allow for delays and unforeseen obstacles, and it was better
to arrive too soon than too late. At Port Clarence, which
is on the shore of the strait, they could remain waiting for
the favourable moment to cross to the Asiatic coast.
And during this time what was the young Indian doing ?
She was very intelligently assisting Madame Cascabel in
the different preparations for the journey. That excellent
woman had conceived a mother's affection for her ; she
loved her as much as she loved Napoldone, and became
more attached every day to her new child. Everyone liked
Kayette, and evidently the poor girl was blessed with a goodness of disposition which would never have been discovered 98
CESAR CASCABEL.
would make !
circus !
under an Indian tent. It was with great sadness that they
saw the moment approach when Kayette would be separated from the family. But now alone in the world, she
would have to remain at Sitka, where she could go into
service, and as a servant probably earn her living in a
miserable way.
| And yet," said Cascabel sometimes, " if the gentle
Kayette—I prefer to call her my little quail—if my little
quail had a taste for the dance, we might suggest something, eh ? What a charming dancer she
And a good rider if she chose to come out in
I am sure she would sit a horse like a centaur ! "
Cascabel believed that centaurs were horsewomen, and
it was useless to contradict him on the subject.
And seeing Jean shake his head when he spoke in this
way, Monsieur Serge saw clearly enough that this grave and
reserved young man was far from sharing the paternal
ideas concerning acrobatic and other such performances.
They troubled much about Kayette, about what would
'become of her, about the life which awaited her at Sitka,
and they were very sad when the day before the start
Monsieur Serge, taking her by the hand, led her out before
the company.
1 My friends," he said, " I had no daughter, but I have
one now—an adopted daughter—and she is Kayette, who
is going to look upon me as her father, and for her I ask
a place in the Belle Roulotte."
What shouts of joy came in answer, and what caresses
were  showered  on  the " little  quail "!     And  Cascabel
could not help saying to his
guest
not without emotion,
I What a splendid fellow you are
" And why, my friend ? " said Monsieur Serge. " Could
you forget that Kayette was made for me ? Is it not natural that she should become my child since she saved my
life?"
"Well! Let us share her!" said Cascabel. " If you
are her father, I will be her uncle!" A series of narrow channels.
urn  FROM SITKA. TO FORT YUKON.
99
CHAPTER XII.
FROM SITKA TO FORT YUKON.
At daybreak on the 26th of June " the Cascabel car
weighed anchor," according to one of the metaphorical expressions familiar to its commander. It left the Alaskan
capital amid a thousand good wishes which noisily accompanied its departure—those of the numerous friends from
whom the family had received both bravos and roubles
during the few days passed at the gates of Sitka.
The word " gates " is more appropriate than it would
seem. In fact the town is surrounded by a palisade, strongly
built, and only giving admission through a few openings,
which it is not easy to get through without permission.
The Russian authorities were forced to take these
measures as a defence against the Kaluche Indians, who
had come to take up their quarters between the rivers
Stekine and Tchilcot in the environs of New Archangel.
Frequently their huts would be met with there ; huts
of very rudimentary construction. A low door gives access
to a circular chamber, often divided into two apartments,
both lighted by a hole above, which permits the smoke
to escape. The group of these huts forms a sort of suburb
to Sitka. After sundown no Indian is allowed to be in the
town; a justifiable prohibition, necessitated by the disquieting relations that often exist between the redskins and
the whites.
Beyond Sitka the Belle Roulotte had at first to traverse
a series of narrow channels by means of ferries, and eventually reach the end of a sinuous gulf terminating in a point
called the Lyan canal.
From that point the caravan was on the mainland.
The plan of the journey, or rather the itinerary, had been
carefully studied by Monsieur Serge and Jean on the large
scale maps, which it had been easy to procure from the
Gardens Club. Kayette knew the country well, and had
been asked for her advice in the matter     Her lively intel- IOO
CESAR CASCABEL.
ligence enabled her to understand at once the indications
of the map placed before her. She expressed herself in a
language half Indian, half Russian, and her observations
were of value in the discussion. It was advisable to take,
if not the shortest, at least the nearest way to Port Clarence.
It was thus agreed that the Belle Roulotte should make
direct for the Yukon River, at the fort which has taken its
name from that important stream. This was about halfway on the road, or about two hundred and fifty leagues
from Sitka. By taking this road, the difficulties that
marked the way along the rugged broken coast would be
avoided. The valley of the Yukon opens out between the
complicated chains of the west and the Rocky Mountains,
which separate Alaska from the valley of the Mackenzie
and the territory of New Britain. Hence it was that a few
days after their departure, the Famille Cascabel saw disappear to the south-west the varied outline of the coast,
above which rose the lofty peaks of Mount Fairweather and
Mount Elias.
The distribution of the hours of travel and rest was
arranged with care, and rigorously adhered to. There was
no hurry to reach Behring Strait, and it was better to go
piano to go sano. The important thing was to manage
the, two horses, which could only be replaced by reindeer if
anything happened to them, an eventuality it was desirable to avoid at all cost. Every morning a start was made
at six o'clock; there was a halt for two hours at noon,
and then a resumption of the advance till six o'clock in the
evening to rest for the whole of the night. In this way
an average of from five to six leagues a day was attained.
If it had been needful to journey during the night,
nothing could be easier, for, as Cascabel said, the sun of
Alaska did not oversleep himself!
" He has hardly gone to bed before he
said he. " Twenty-three hours of daylight ;
pay too dearly for that."
At this period of the year, about the time of the summer
solstice, in this high latitude the sun disappears at
seventeen minutes past eleven, and reappears at forty-nine
is up again !
and we cannot FROM SITKA TO FORT YUKON.
IOI
minutes past—that is a disappearance below the horizon
of thirty-two minutes only. And the twilight lasts until
the dawn begins, so that there is no interruption to the
light.
The temperature was warm and occasionally suffocating,
and it was but prudent to halt during the scorching hours
of noon. The men and animals suffered a good deal from
the excessive heat. Who would believe that in the
Arctic circle the thermometer occasionally stands at thirty
degrees centigrade above zero ? And yet nothing can be
more true.
The journey was being safely accomplished without
much difficulty, but Cornelia was much tired by the heat,
and complained, not without some reason.
" You will soon regret what now seems too painful to
put up with ! " said Monsieur Serge to her one day.
" Such heat as this ? Never! " she exclaimed.
" You will suffer very differently from the cold, mother,
beyond Behring Strait, when we are crossing the steppes of
Siberia," said Jean.
" Agreed, Monsieur Serge," said Cascabel, " but if we
can defend ourselves against the heat, at least with the
aid of a fire it is possible to fight the cold."
" Yes, certainly, my friend," replied Monsieur Serge,
| and that is what you will have to do in a few months, for
the cold will be terrible—do not forget!"
On the 3rd of July, after having passed through
canyons, narrow gorges capriciously cut through hills of
moderate height, there was nothing in front of the Belle
Roulotte but long plains between a few scattered forests.
The Cascabels were then skirting a small lake, Lake Dease,
from which there escaped the River Lewis, one of the chief
tributaries of the lower Yukon.
Kayette recognized it, and said, " Yes, that is the car-
gout which flows into our great river ! "
And she told Jean that, in Alaskan, the word " cargout"
means a " little river."
During all this journeying, without obstacle or fatigue,
the troupe did not neglect their   rehearsals   nor their
111!!! 102
CESAR CASCABEL.
practice to keep in condition the strength of their
muscles, the suppleness of their limbs. Whenever the heat
permitted, the camp was in the evening transformed into
an arena, with Monsieur Serge and Kayette as the only
spectators. Both of them admired the accomplishments
of this wonderful family—the young Indian not without
astonishment, and Monsieur Serge with every good
wish.
In turns, Cascabel and his wife would lift the weights at
arm's length, and go through the dumb-bell exercises.
Sandre kept himself in condition with the dislocations and
contortions in which he excelled. Napolebne balanced
herself on the rope stretched between two trestles, and displayed her graces as a dancer, while Clou paraded before
an imaginary public.
Jean would have preferred not to leave his books, nor
his instructive conversation with Monsieur Serge, nor
Kayette, who under his care was making great progress
in French; but his father wished him to lose none of his
cleverness as a juggler, and in consequence his glasses,
rings, balls, knives and wands performed wonders in the
air, while he, poor fellow, was thinking of something very
different.
Besides—and this gave him great satisfaction—Cascabel
had given up the idea of making Kayette a member of
the profession. Now that the girl had been adopted by
Monsieur Serge, a rich man, a learned man, belonging to a
different sphere of society, her future was assured, and
under the most honourable conditions. Yes! that gave
Jean much pleasure, although he felt really sorry that
Kayette would leave them when they reached Behring
Strait: And he would not have had this to regret had she
become a member of the troupe.
But Jean felt too much real friendship for her not to
rejoice at her being adopted by Monsieur Serge. Had
not he himself often experienced an ardent desire to
change his position in life ? Obedient to his more
refined instincts, did he not feel that he was unfit for
this   mountebank   existence ?     How many times, when. FROM SITKA TO FORT YUKON.
T03
before the public, had  he not felt ashamed at the cheers
which his marvellous dexterity fully deserved !
One evening, when walking with Monsieur Serge, he
spoke to him without reserve, of his aspirations and
regrets. He told him what he would like to be, what he
believed to be a legitimate ambition for him. Perhaps by
strolling about the world, exhibiting at fairs and such
like, continuing in the profession of gymnasts and
acrobats, surrounding themselves with clowns and jugglers,
his parents might eventually secure a small fortune,
but it would then be too late to engage in a more honourable career.
" I am not ashamed of my father and mother, Monsieur
Serge. No ! I should be ungrateful! As far as they
could they have omitted nothing! They have been
very good to their children! But nevertheless I feel
that I can become a man, and that I am not destined to
remain a poor mountebank."
" My friend," said Monsieur Serge, " I understand you
But allow me to say that the trade does not matter, provided you follow it honestly.    Do you know honester
people than your father and mother ? "
I No, Monsieur Serge!"
"Well, continue to esteem them as I myself esteem them.
In wishing to raise yourself you are showing ' a noble
tendency. Who knows what the future may have in store
for you ? Take courage, my boy, and count on my support.
I shall never forget what your family has done for me,
never !   And one day if I can—"
And as he spoke Jean noticed that his forehead clouded,
and his voice faltered. He seemed to regard the future
with anxiety. There was a moment of silence, when Jean
interrupted him, saying:— .
"When we reach Port Clarence, Monsieur Serge, why
will you not continue your journey with us ? If you wish
to return to Russia, to your father—"
I That is impossible, Jean. I have not yet finished the
exploration I have undertaken in these territories of
Western America." 104
CESAR CASCABEL.
Serge heard
" Will Kayette remain with you ? " asked Jean.    And he
asked in so mournful a voice that Monsieur
him with deep emotion.
" Must she not accompany me, now I have taken upon
me the responsibility of her future ? "
" She shall not leave you, Monsieur Serge, and in your
country—"
" My boy," said Monsieur Serge, " my plans are not
definitely fixed. That is all I can say now. When I
am at Port Clarence we will see. Perhaps I may then
make a proposal to your father, and his reply will
depend—"
Jean noticed the renewal of the hesitation we have
already remarked in what Monsieur Serge said. This
time he was silent, understanding that extreme reserve
was required of him. But during this interview a close
sympathy had sprung up between them. Monsieur Serge
had recognized all that was good and true and aspiring in
this frank straightforward youth, and he occupied himself in teaching him, in directing him in the studies for
which he showed a taste. As for Monsieur and Madame
Cascabel, they could not but congratulate themselves on
what Monsieur Serge was doing for their son.
Meanwhile Jean in no way neglected his duty as hunter.
Monsieur Serge was passionately fond of shooting, and
often accompanied him, and between them what wonders
they performed! The plains were rich in game. Of
hares, alone, there were enough to victual a regiment.
And it was not only in a culinary point of view that they
were of use.
I There are not only hashes and stews running about,"
said Cascabel, " but mantles, and boas, and muffs, and
quilts !"
" In fact, my friend," said Monsieur Serge, " when they
have figured in the larder under one form, they will
figure in your wardrobe no less advantageously. You
cannot prepare too much against the rigours of a Siberian
climate."
And that is why they laid in a stock of skins, and eco- FROM SITKA TO FORT YUKON.
105
nomized the preserved meats, against the time when winter
put the game to flight in these polar countries.
When the hunters brought in neither partridges nor
hares, Cornelia did not disdain to put in the pot-au-feu a
crow or a jackdaw, dressed in Indian fashion, and the soup
was none the less excellent.
It happened that from time to time Monsieur Serge and
Jean would take out of their game-bags a magnificent
grouse, and one can imagine how this was welcomed at the
table. '
The Belle Roulotte had thus nothing to fear on the
score of hunger, although it is true the Cascabels were
as yet engaged in the easiest part of their adventure.
An annoyance, and a painful one, was the importunities
of the mosquitoes. Now that Cascabel was no longer on
English ground he found them very disagreeable. And
doubtless their swarms would have exceeded all experience had not the swallows eaten them in extraordinary
numbers. But the swallows would not delay in migrating to the south, for the sojourn they make on the frontier
of the Arctic Circle is a short one.
On the 9th of July the Belle Roulotte arrived at the
junction of two water courses, the one a tributary of the
other. This was the Lewis River, which joined the Yukon
through a large opening on the left bank. As Kayette
pointed out, this river in its upper portion also bears the
name of the Polly River. From the mouth of the Lewis
it strikes boldly north-west, before bending to the west to
pour its waters into a large estuary in Behring Sea.
At the junction of the Lewis stands a fort, Fort Selkirk,
less important than Fort Yukon, which is situated about a
hundred leagues up the river on the right bank.
Since leaving Sitka, Kayette had rendered valuable
service in guiding the little troupe. In her. nomad life
she had wandered over the plains watered by the great
Alaskan river. Asked by Monsieur Serge as to the way in
which she had passed her infancy, she had told him all
about her miserable life, where the Indgelete tribes moved
from point to point of the Yukon valley, and then about w6
CESAR CASCABEL.
\he dispersion of the tribe, and the dispersion of her family.
And then being left without friends, she had been reduced
to seek a situation as a servant in the family of some
functionary at Sitka. More than once Jean had made her
tell him her sad story, which always deeply moved him.
It was in the environs of Fort Selkirk that they met a
few of the Indians who live on the banks of the Yukon,
particularly of the Birch tribe. And, in fact, there are a
large number of trees of this species amid the pines, Douglas
pines and maples that are sparsely distributed in the interior of the Alaskan province.
Fort Selkirk, occupied by a few of the staff of the Russo-
Am'erican Company, is only a depot of skins and furs, to
which the traders of the coast come to make their
purchases at certain seasons.
The people were glad of an arrival which broke the
monotony of their existence, and warmly welcomed the
crew of the Belle Roulotte. And Cascabel decided to stop
a day there.
It was also decided that the caravan should cross the
Yukon River in this place, for the stream increases in width
and swiftness as it approaches the west. This was the
advice of Monsieur Serge after he had studied the map of
the Yukon River, which crossed the route of the expedition
at two hundred leagues from Port Clarence. So a ferry
boat took across the Belle Roulotte to the right bank, with
the aid of the garrison of the fort and the Indians of the
neighbourhood, who live by fishing in the well-stocked
stream.
On the other hand, the arrival of the Famille Cascabel
was not useless to them, and in exchange for their
services one was rendered, all the importance of which they
appreciated.
The chief of the tribe was then seriously ill, at least,
people thought so. For remedies and medicine he had only
the traditional magician and the magic preparations in use
among the indigenous tribes. For some time the chief had
been in bed in the centre of the village, and a large fire was
kept burning night and day. FROM SITKA
The Indians assembled around him, chanted a chorus of
invocation to the Great Manitou, while the magician did
his best to chase away the evil spirit that dwelt in the
sick man's body. And the better to succeed in this he
endeavoured to introduce the said spirit into his own
person; but the spirit was stubborn and showed no intention to quit.
Fortunately Monsieur Serge, who had some slight
knowledge of medicine, was to give the chief something to
relieve him.
When the Russian examined him, he diagnosed, without
difficulty, what was the matter, and from the small medicine chest of the caravan he made up an emetic, which all
the incantations of the magician could not affect.
The truth was, the chief was suffering from violent
indigestion, and the pints of tea he consumed were doing
him anything but good.
He did not die, much to the satisfaction of his tribe,
and this deprived the Famille Cascabel of assisting at the
ceremonies which accompany the interment of a chief.
But the word " interment" is hardly the right one in speaking of the ceremony, for it is in the air that the body is
hung, a few feet from the ground.
There, at the bottom of his coffin, and as if for his use in
another world, are placed his pipe, his bow, his arrows, his
snowshoes, and the more or less precious furs he wore
during the winter. Then, like a child in the cradle, he
swings in the breeze during his eternal sleep.
The Famille Cascabel spent but twenty-four hours at
Fort Selkirk; they took leave of the Indians and the
traders, and bore away a pleasant remembrance of their
stay by the banks of the river. And on the 27th of July
seventeen days afterwards, the Belle Roulotte arrived at
Fort Yukon.
I 2 io8
CESAR CASCABEL.
CHAPTER XIII.
CORNELIA S IDEA.
It was by the right bank of the river that the Belle
Roulotte had traversed that part of the journey between
Fort Selkirk and Fort Yukon. By keeping at a variable
distance from the bank, the windings of the stream were
avoided, and these were numerous and occasionally formed
impracticable lagoons. On the other side a few hills of
moderate height bordered the valley, and extended towards
the north-west. It might not have been easy to cross certain affluents of the Yukon, among others the Stewart, over
which there is no ferry, if at this warm season it were not
possible to ford them. Again, Cascabel and his people
would have been much embarrassed without the presence
of Kayette, who knew the valley well, and could point out
the track.
It was indeed lucky that they had this Indian for guide,
and she was so happy to be among her new friends, and
receive those maternal caresses of which she thought she
had been for ever deprived.
The country was still occasionally wooded, with little
knolls breaking the flat every now and again ; but it did
not resemble the environs of Sitka.
In fact, the rigour of a climate, subject to eight months
of an Arctic winter, scarcely permitted the development
of vegetation. The species that usually thrive in such
latitudes were absent, with the exception of a few poplars
with bent summits, and a few pines and birch trees,
besides an occasional clump of those mournful willows,
which soon lose their leaves in the bitter breeze from the
Arctic Sea.
During the journey from Fort Selkirk to Fort Yukon
the guns had been so productive that it had never been
necessary to touch on the reserves for daily food. In
truth, the ordinary fare was varied with roast geese and
wild duck, without counting the eggs of the birds which CORNELIA'S IDEA.
109
Sandre and Napole'one cleverly discovered in the nests.
And Cornelia knew so many ways of cooking eggs that
there was always something fresh.
" This is certainly a country where you can live well,"
said Clou one day, as he finished picking the huge carcase of a goose. " It is a pity it is not situated in the centre
of Europe or America."
" Being situated in the centre of inhabited countries,"
said Monsieur Serge, " it is probable that the game would
not be so plentiful—"
1 At least—" said Clou.
A look from Cascabel made him stop, and spared him
the absurdity he would certainly have uttered.
If there was plenty of game on the plain, it should also
be said that the creeks and rivulets and tributaries of the
Yukon furnished excellent fish, which Sandre and Clou
caught with a line—and above all, the pike were magnificent. Anyone with a taste for fishing had only to
give himself the trouble, or the pleasure, without spending
either a sou or a cent.
But the expense was no object to young Sandre ! Was
not the future of the Cascabels, thanks to him, assured ?
Did he not possess his famous nugget? Had he not
hidden in a corner of the vehicle, which he alone knew, the
famous pebble he had found in the valley of the Cariboo ?
Yes ! And up to the present the young rascal had been
sufficiently master of himself to say nothing about it, waiting patiently for the day when he could transform his
nugget into gold pieces ! Then what joy he would have
in spreading out his wealth. Not that he intended to
keep it all for himself. It was for his father, his mother
it was intended; and it was a fortune which would to a
• great extent make good the theft in the passes of the
Sierra Nevada.
When the Belle Roulotte reached Fort Yukon, after a
series of very hot days, all the crew were much fatigued,
and it was decided to halt for a week in this place.
I You cannot do better," said Monsieur Serge. " The
fort is not more than  two hundred  leagues  from   Port i:o
CESAR CASCABEL.
Clarence. To-day is the 27th of July, and not before two
months, or perhaps three months, will it be possible to
cross the strait on the ice."
" Agreed !" said Cascabel. " And as we have the time
—halt!"
This was received with as much satisfaction by the
two-footed members of the crew as by the four-footed
ones.
Fort Yukon was originally founded in 1847. It is the
most westerly of the posts of the Hudson Bay Company,
and is situated almost on the Arctic Circle. But as it is
in Alaskan Territory, the Company has to pay an annual
indemnity to its rival the Russo-American Company.
The existing buildings were begun in 1864. They are
surrounded by a palisade, and had only just been finished
when the Cascabels arrived with the intention of staying
for a few days.
The agents willingly invited them to take up their
quarters inside the fort; but Cascabel pompously thanked
them for their courtesy, and informed them that he never
left his comfortable caravan.
The garrison comprised about twenty agents, Americans
for the most part, with a few Indians in their service, but
there were hundreds of natives on the banks of the Yukon.
Being in the centre of Alaska, it is the most frequented
market for furs. The different tribes of the province, the
Kotch-a-Koutchins, the An-Koutchins, theTatanchoks, the
Tananas, and more especially, the most important tribe of
the country, the Co-Yukons, gather round the fort in great
numbers. The position of the fort is most advantageous
for the exchange of goods, as it is just at the angle formed
by the confluence of the Yukon and the Porcupine. The
river divides into five channels, allowing the traders to
easily penetrate into the interior and even reach the
Esquimaux by way of the Mackenzie.
This network of waterways is crowded with boats of all
sorts, ascending or descending, particularly "baidarres,"
light skiffs of oiled skins with their joints greased to render
them more staunch.   In these fragile craft the Indians CORNELIA'S IDEA.
accomplish considerable voyages, carrying the boats on
their shoulders when the navigation is interfered with by
rapids or other obstacles.
The boats cannot be used for more than three months;
during the rest of the year the waters are imprisoned
under a thick carapace of ice. Then the baidarre changes
its name and becomes a " traineau " or sledge. To it are
fixed runners of moose skin, and drawn by dogs or
reindeer it moves along rapidly. The travellers with their
long snow shoes attain even greater speed.
Always lucky, Cesar Cascabel! He had arrived just in
time at Fort Yukon, where the fur market was in full
activity. Many hundred Indians were encamped around
the factory.
" We will make something out of this ! " he said. " It is
a regular fair, and we must not forget we are in the show
line. Now is the time to let them see that we know what
we are about. You see nothing inconvenient in that,
Monsieur Serge ?"
" Nothing at all," said Monsieur Serge, " but I do not
think you will take much money."
" Bah ! It will cover our expenses, for we have not got
any."
I True," said Monsieur Serge; " but I should like to know
how these people are to pay for their seats, as they have
neither American money nor Russian money—"
i Well! they will pay with skins of the muskrat, with
beaver skins, in fact with what they can ! Anyhow, a
performance will exercise our muscles, and I am always
afraid that our joints will lose their suppleness. As we
have our reputation to sustain at Perm, at Nijni, I do not
want to expose my troupe to a fiasco when we return to
our native land. I should not survive it, Monsieur Serge.
No !   I should not survive it!"
Fort Yukon is the most important post in this region,
and occupies an extensive site on the right bank of the
river. It is a sort of oblong quadrilateral, with square
towers as buttresses at each angle, somewhat like the
windmills  on  pivots  met with  in the north of Europe. 112
CESAR CASCABEL.
Inside were different buildings, reserved for the lodging's of
those employed by the company and their families, and also
two large closed sheds, where skins and furs of martens,
beavers, black foxes, silver foxes, and others of less value
formed a considerable stock.
A monotonous and hard life was that of these men.
Sometimes reindeer flesh, but more usually that of the
moose, grilled, boiled and roast, was their only food.
Other provisions had to come from York Factory in the
Hudson Bay region, six or seven hundred leagues away;
and such arrivals were rare.
In the afternoon, when he had pitched his camp,
Cascabel and his family went to visit the natives between
the Yukon and the Porcupine.
Great was the diversity in the temporary habitations,
according to the tribe to which they belonged ; huts of
bark and skins, supported by stakes and covered with
foliage, tents made of cotton of Indian make, shanties of
planks, taken up or down, according to the needs of the
moment. And what an amusing medley of customers
among these Indians ! Some clothed in skins, some in
cottoi ; all with their heads garlanded with foliage as a
protection from the bite of the mosquitoes. The women,
wearing full skirts, had their faces ornamented with shells.
The men wore pins, which they use in the winter time to
fasten their long robes of moose skin, the fur of which is
inside. Both sexes made a great show of fringes of false
pearls, which are of value in proportion to their size.
Among the tribes there were distinguishable the Tananas,
with their faces painted in striking colours, feathers in
their head-dress, their plumes tipped with red clay, their
leather vests, their reindeer trousers, their long flint-lock
guns, and their delicately-carved powder flasks.
In the way of money these Indians use the shells of
Dentalium ; they suspend them from the cartilage of their
nose, and take them out when they wish to pay for anything.
" That is a cheap purse," said Cornelia ; " and you are
sure not to lose it—" ■ ^ ■iiiiiiiiiniiw wmu ju.. .tm
CORNELIA'S IDEA.
"At least, unless your nose falls off," said Clou judiciously.
| Which might happen in the very cold winter,'
Cascabel.
In short, this assembly of natives was a remarkable
sight.
It will be understood that Cascabel entered into con-
versation-with many of these Indians, whose Chinook dialect
he imperfectly understood, while Monsieur Serge questioned
them and answered them in Russian.
In several trades a brisk trade went on between the
Indian traders and the representative of the company;
but the Cascabels gave no public performance. All the
same, the Indians soon learnt that the Cascabels were of
French origin and enjoyed a great reputation for strength
and jugglery. Every evening they came in great numbers
to admire the Belle Roulotte. Never had they seen such
a gaily-painted vehicle. What they liked most about it
was that it could be moved about easily—an interesting
point for nomadic people. And, perhaps, in the future
there will be nothing to be surprised at in Indian huts
mounted on wheels. After moving houses, there will be
moving villages.
Under these circumstances it was inevitable that an
extraordinary effort should be imposed on the new comers:
a performance " by general request of the Indians of Fort
Yukon."
Among the natives with whom Cascabel had made
acquaintance was a " tyhi," that is to say a chief of the
tribe. A fine man, aged about fifty ; he seemed to be very
intelligent, and well to do. He had often visited the
Belle Roulotte, and explained how happy the Indians
would be to patronize the family's entertainment. This
tyhi was generally accompanied by an Indian, aged about
thirty, named Fir-Fu, a man of pleasant and refined
address, who was the magician of the tribe, a remarkable
juggler well known throughout the province of the Yukon.
" He is a brother-in-arms, then ! " said Cascabel, when
the tyhi was introduced to him for the first time. 114
CESAR CASCABEL.
If        '
And the three having taken a drink, smoked the pipe of
peace together.
As the result of these interviews it was arranged that
Cascabel should give a performance on the 3rd of August.
It was agreed that the Indians should assist in the performance, they being very desirous that they should not show
themselves inferior to Europeans in strength, skill, and
activity. In this there is nothing surprising; in the far
west, as in Alaska, the Indians are great admirers of these
gymnastic and acrobatic performances, which they alternate
with the farces and masquerades in which they excel.
On this occasion, when a numerous audience was available, there was to be seen half a dozen men with their
faces covered with large wooden masks of incomparable
hideousness. In these huge heads the mouth and eyes
could be put in movement by means of strings, and in this
way the illusion of life was given to these horrible faces,
and such grimaces accomplished as could teach something
even to the monkey John Bull.
Cascabel and his wife, and Jean, Sandre, Napoleone and
Clou were all in full dress for the occasion.
The place chosen was a wide prairie surrounded with
trees, in which the Belle Roulotte occupied the end, as if
forming part of the scenery of a theatre. In front were
the staff of Fort Yukon, with their wives and children ; at
the sides were several hundred Indians, forming a half
circle and smoking until the performance began. The
natives with the masks who were going to take part in the
performance, kept a little apart.
The time having come, Clou appeared on the platform
of the caravan and made his usual speech.
" Now then, ladies and gentlemen, Indian and otherwise,
you will see what you will see. &c, &c."
But as he did not speak Chinook, it is probable that his
fantastic tirades were not thoroughly appreciated by the
spectators.
At the same time it should be understood that he received all the traditional slaps liberally administered to
him by his master, and was favoured with the usual con- m&
CORNELIA'S IDEA.
115
tingent of kicks which he took with the resignation of
one specially engaged for the purpose.
When this prologue had ended—
" Now for the animals !" said Cascabel, after bowing to
the assembly.
The dogs Wagram and Marengo were brought out to
the space in front of the Belle Roulotte, and astonished
the natives, who were unaccustomed to performances
which brought out the intelligence of animals.
Then John Bull went through his great leaping act on
the backs of the poodle and spaniel, and did it with such
suppleness and drollness of attitude as completely upset the
gravity of the Indians.
And meanwhile Sandre did not cease to play on the
cornet with all his might, while Cornelia played the
tambourine and Clou banged thebig drum. If after that
the Alaskans were not edified at the powerful effect
obtainable from a European orchestra, they were certainly
wanting in artistic feeling.
Up to then the masked group had made no movement,
evidently thinking that the time had not come for them to
appear on the scene.   They were reserving themselves.
" Mademoiselle Napoleone, dancer on the tight rope! "
shouted Clou through a speaking trumpet.
And the girl, introduced by her father, made her entry
before the public.
At first she danced with a grace that gained much
applause, given not in shouts or clapping of the hands, but
in simple nods of the head none the less significant. She
was similarly applauded when she mounted the rope
stretched between two trestles, and walked, and ran, and
skipped along it with an ease that was particularly
admired by the Indians.
" Now it is my turn," said Sandre, and he came forward,
saluting by slapping the nape of his neck, and threw himself about, wriggled, and writhed, and indulged in such
postures and falls as made his arms his legs, and his legs
his arms, now a lizard, now a frog, and finished his
performance by a perilous double summersault. Il6
CESAR CASCABEL.
Once again he met with his customary success. But
scarcely had he thanked the audience, by bending his head
down to his feet, than an Indian of about his age came
forward from the group, and introduced himself by raising
his mask.
And all that Sandre had just done this young Indian
did with a suppleness and certainty of movement that left
nothing to be desired in acrobatic art. That he was less
graceful than young Cascabel was not to be wondered at;
but that was all, and among the natives he was greeted
with the most enthusiastic noddings of the head.
We may be certain the crew of the Belle Roulotte had
the good taste to add its applause to that of the public.
But not to be left behind, Cascabel made a sign to Jean
to begin his juggling tricks, in which he believed he was
without an equal.
Jean felt that he had to sustain the honour of the
family. Encouraged by a gesture from Monsieur Serge
and a smile from Kayette, he took in turn his bottles,
plates, balls, knives, discs, sticks; and it can be taken for
granted that he surpassed himself in these exercises.
Cascabel could not resist giving the Indians a glance of
satisfaction in which there was a sort of defiance.
" Well! you other fellows, just do that!"
This was* not lost upon the audience, for at a gesture
from the tyhi, another Indian unmasked and came out of
the group.
This was the magician, Fir-Fu ; he also had his reputation to sustain for the honour of the native race.
And then, seizing one after the other the things which
Jean had used, he performed one after the other the feats
of his rival, crossing knives, and bottles, and discs, and
rings, and balls, and wands, and that, it must be confessed,
with an elegance of attitude and a sureness of hand quite
equal to Jean Cascabel's.
Clou, accustomed to admire only his master and the
family, was absolutely astounded, opening his eyes like
shutters and shaking his ears like bats'.
This time Cascabel applauded only politely, and used
but the ends of his fingers. CORNELIA'S IDEA.
nr
"Confound it!" he murmured, "these Redskins are
getting on well. Do you see that ? People without
education, too! Well, we must show them something
else."
He was really very much upset at finding competitors
when he expected only admirers. And what competitors!
Simple natives of Alaska, mere savages so to speak ! His
self-esteem as an artist was much shaken. One is a
mounteback or one is not!
"Come, children," he said in a loud voice, "for the
human pyramid!"
And they all ran towards him as to an assault. He set
himself firmly, his legs apart, his body largely developed.
On his right shoulder Jean quickly placed himself, giving
a hand to Clou, who stood upright on the left shoulder.
Then Sandre placed himself upright on his head, and
Napoleone crowned the edifice, bending her two arms to
throw kisses to the crowd.
The French pyramid was hardly built when another,
the native pyramid, rose in front of it. Without taking off
their masks, the group arranged themselves, and overtopped
by one storey that of the Famille Cascabel—pyramid
against pyramid.
And this time shouts and cheers arose from the Indians
in honour of their tribesmen. Old Europe was beaten by
young America—and what an America ! That of the Co-
Yukons, the Tananas, and the Tatanchoks. Cascabel,
ashamed and confused, could not restrain a false movement which brought his pyramid to the ground.
" Ah! it is like that, is it ? " said he, after extricating
himself from his human burden.
" Be calm, my friend," said Monsieur Serge, " that is not
worth the trouble of—"
" Not worth the trouble ! One can see you are not an
artiste, Monsieur Serge."
Then, turning to his wife—
" Come ! Cornelia," he said, " the sparring match. Let
us see if these savages dare measure themselves with the
conqueror of Chicago 1"
Madame Cascabt.1 did not move. n8
CESAR CASCABEL.
"Well, Cornelia?"
"No, Cesar!"
" You will not contest with these monkeys and regain
the honour of the family ? "
" I will regain it!" said Cornelia. " Leave me alone, I
have an idea."
And when this astonishing person had an idea, it was
better to put it into execution than object to it. She was
as much humiliated as her husband at the success of the
Indians, and it was probable she was preparing something
special for them.
In fact, Cornelia had returned to the Belle Roulotte,
leaving her husband uneasy, notwithstanding the confidence
he had in her intelligence and imagination.
Two minutes afterwards she reappeared, and placed
herself in front of a group of Indians who gathered around
her.
Then addressing the head man of the fort, she begged
him to repeat to the natives what she was about to
say.
And this, word for word, is what was translated into the
pure language of Alaska :—
" Indians, you have shown in these performances both
strength and dexterity, talents which deserve a recompense;
and this recompense I offer you—"
There was general silence, and the assembly were most
attentive.
" You see my hands ?" said Cornelia, " they have been
clasped by the most august personages of the Old World.
You see my cheeks ? They have received the kisses of
the most powerful sovereigns of Europe ! Well! these
hands, these cheeks, belong to you ! Indians of America,
come and kiss them, come and take them ! "
The Indians did not want much pressing. Never had
they had such an opportunity of embracing the hands of so
superb a woman.
One of them, a fine young Tanana, advanced and grasped
the hand that Cornelia held out to him.
What a cry  escaped  him, immediately  succeeding a ■fc
CORNELIAS IDEA, 119
shock, which sent him writhing in a thousand contortions !
I Ah ! Cornelia!" exclaimed Cascabel, " Cornelia, I
understand thee, and I admire thee! "
At the same time Monsieur Serge, Jean, Sandre, Napoleone, and Clou were laughing at the good turn this
extraordinary woman was giving the natives.
" Another! " she said, holding out her arms to the crowd.
I Another!"
Now the Indians hesitated, believing in some supernatural phenomenon.
However, the tyhi made up his mind, and stepped
slowly towards Cornelia. He stopped a couple of yards
from this imposing personage, whom he looked at suspiciously.
I Come, my old man !" shouted Cascabel. " A little
courage ! Embrace madame! it is not very difficult, and
it is rather agreeable."
The tyhi, stretching out his hand, was content to touch
the fingers of the fair European.
Another shock ; yells of the tyhi, who fell backwards, to
the profound surprise of the audience. If that was the
result of touching the hand of Madame Cascabel, what
would be the result of kissing this prodigious woman,
"whose cheeks had received the kisses of the most powerful
sovereigns of Europe " ?
Well! there was a bold man who would risk it. This
was the magician Fir-Fu. He might believe himself safe
from all malign influences. And he went up to Cornelia ;
and having walked round her, encouraged by the natives,
he took her in his arms, and gave her a formidable kiss on
her face.
This time a series of summersaults followed. At a
stroke the juggler became an acrobat. After two turns, as
perilous as involuntary, he fell back among the terrified
group.
And to produce this effect on the magician, as on the
others, Cornelia had only to press the button of a little
pile she carried in her pocket.   Yes! a little portable
II 120
CESAR CASCABEL.
pile she used when she appeared as " the electric
woman."
" Ah ! wife ! wife ! " exclaimed her husband, clasping
her unhurt in his arms before the stupefied Indians. " Is
she malicious enough ?    Is she—"
I As malicious as she is electric!" said Monsieur
Serge.
In truth, what were the Indians to think of a woman
who disposed of the thunder in this way ? Nothing touched
her hand but what was struck as by lightning! Surely
she must be some companion of the Great Spirit, who had
deigned to descend to earth to marry, as her second husband, Monsieur Cascabel!
CHAPTER XIV.
FROM FORT YUKON TO PORT CLARENCE.
In the evening of this memorable representation, in an
interview at which all the family assisted, it was decided
that the departure should take place in the morning.
Evidently, and this was the object of the judicious
reflections of Monsieur Cascabel—if he wished to recruit
his troupe he would find plenty to choose from among
the natives of Alaska. Although his self-esteem might
suffer he could not but admit that the Indians had
a wonderful talent for acrobatic exercises. As gymnasts,
gymnasiarchs, clowns, equilibrists, and jugglers, they might
secure great success in no matter what country. Certainly
work had a good deal to do with it, but Nature had done
more in making them vigorous, supple, and clever. To
deny that they had shown themselves the equals of the
Cascabels would be unjust. Fortunately the last word had
remained with the family, thanks to the presence of mind of
" the queen of electric women." ItfltfMMMi
FROM FORT YUKON TO PORT CLARENCE. 121
It is true that the people at the fort—very ignorant
people for the most part—had been as much surprised as
the natives at what had passed before them, but it was
agreed not to reveal the secret of this phenomenon, so as
to leave Cornelia all her aureole; and when they came in
the morning to make a call, as usual, they dare not
approach too near the lightning personage, who received
them with her most charming smile. It was only with
visible hesitation they would touch her hand. It was
the same with the tyhi and the magician, who would have
liked to discover the mystery, out of which they would
have made much, as adding to their prestige among the
Indian tribes.
The preparations for departure being complete, Cascabel
and his people took leave of their hosts on the morning of
the 6th of August, and the team, thoroughly rested,
followed the road to the west along the right bank of the
river.
Monsieur Serge and Jean had carefully studied the map,
profiting by the special indications of the young Indian.
Kayette knew most of the villages they had to pass
through, and if she were to be believed there was no stream
to hinder the progress of the Belle Roulotte.
There was no present question of abandoning the valley
of the Yukon ; they would keep along the right bank to
the fort of Nelu, they would pass through the village of
Nuclakayette, and from Nuclakayette to Fort Moulto
there would be eighty leagues to travel. The caravan
would then abandon the Yukon and strike due west.
The season continued favourable, the days were warm,
although during the night there was a considerable fall in
the temperature. Unless he had to contend with unexpected delays, Cascabel would reach Port Clarence before
the winter threw insurmountable objects in his way.
It may be wondered at that such a voyage should be
accomplished under conditions relatively so easy. But
is it not the same in the country of the plains, where the
fine season, the length of the day and the mildness of the
climate, are much to the traveller's advantage ?   So it would
K 122
CESAR CASCABEL.
be no longer beyond Behring Strait, when the Siberian
steppes extended to the horizon, when the winter snows
hid everything, and the tempests raged across them.
One evening, while they were speaking of these things,
"Eh!" exclaimed the confident Cascabel, "we shall get
through somehow."
11 hope so," said Monsieur Serge. " But when you
have set foot in Siberia, I advise you to make for the
south-west, in order to gain the more southerly territories,
where the Belle Roulotte will be less tried by the cold."
" That is what we intend to do," said Jean.
| And you are right, my friends. The Siberians are
nothing to be afraid of, at least, as Clou says, if you do
not venture among the tribes of the northern coast. In
fact, your great enemy will be the cold."
" We are forewarned," said Cascabel, " and we will take
the right road, regretting only, Monsieur Serge, that you
will not continue the journey with us."
I Yes," added Jean, " regretting it very much."
Monsieur Serge felt how much this family were attached
to him, and how much he was attached to them. As the
days rolled by the affection that bound them together increased. Separation would be painful; would ever the
chances of life bring them together again ? And Monsieur
Serge would take Kayette with him ; and he had already
noticed Jean's affection for the young Indian. Had
Cascabel already noticed this feeling growing up in his
son's heart ? Monsieur Serge could not say. As Cornelia
never spoke on the subject, he thought it well to maintain
the same reserve. What use would an explanation be ?
The adopted daughter of Monsieur Serge had a very
different future in store for her, and poor Jean would have
to abandon himself to hopes that never could be realized.
And so the journey went on, without any considerable
obstacles or fatigue. Port Clarence would be reached before winter had frozen Behring Strait, and there they
would have to wait for some time, so that there was no
need to hurry on the crew or the team.
They were always at the mercy of a possible accident. FROM FORT YUKON TO PORT CLARENCE. 123
A horse injured or sick, a broken wheel, would put the
Belle Roulotte into difficulties, and the greatest prudence
was necessary.
For the first three days the road followed the course of
the river to the westward ; but when the Yukon began to
bend towards the south it was deemed advisable to continue along the seventy-fifth parallel, the latitude of
Trondhjem in Norway.
In this part the river was very winding, and the valley
was shut in by a series of hills of moderate height, called on
the map | ramparts," on account of their bastioned appearance. The way out of this labyrinth was not easy,
and every precaution was taken to guard against accident
to the caravan. In very steep places it was thought best
to partially unload it, and push it along from behind, the
more so, as Cascabel observed, | as wheelwrights seem
very uncommon in this country."
There were also a few creeks to cross ; among others
the Nocolocargout, the Shetehaut, the Klakencot. Fortunately, in this season, these watercourses were not deep,
and there was no difficulty in finding practicable fords.
Indians are very few in this part of the province, which
was formerly overrun by the tribes belonging to the Gens
du Milieu, now nearly extinct. From time to time a family
would pass, on their way to the south-west coast for fishing
during the autumn.
Occasionally, too, a few traders would be met, coming
from the north of the Yukon on their road to the different
posts of the Russo-American Company. With much surprise they gazed at the brightly-coloured vehicle and its
crew ; and then wishing them a pleasant voyage, they
continued their easterly route.
On the 13th of August the Belle Roulotte reached the
village of Nuclakayette, one hundred and twenty leagues
from Fort Yukon. This is merely a factory for the purposes of the fur trade, and is tenanted almost entirely by
Russians. Parties from different parts of Asiatic Russia
and the Alaskan coast come there to meet the buyers
employed by the Hudson Bay Company.    Nuclakayette
K 2 if i
1} I
T24
CESAR CASCABEL.
is also a centre for the Indians, who there bring in the furs
they have collected during the winter.
After leaving the river so as to avoid the numerous
windings, Cascabel met with it again at the village, which
is pleasantly situated amid not very high hills, agreeably
covered with trees. A few wooden huts were grouped
around the palisade which protected the fort. A few
brooks rippled across the grassy plain. Two or three boats
were stationed near the bank of the Yukon. And the
whole scene was pleasing to the eye, and looked just the
place for a rest. The Indians in the neighbourhood were
Tananas of the finest race of Northern Alaska. Although
the place was so pleasant the Belle Roulotte stayed there
but one day. This was considered long enough for the
horses, who had been well looked after. Cascabel's intention was to make a longer stay at Noulato, a fort of
more importance and better provisioned, where he could
make a few purchases in view of his journey across
Siberia.
We need not say that Monsieur Serge and Jean, often
accompanied by young Sandre, did not neglect their shooting as they went along. There was always some big
game, such as moose and reindeer, crossing the plains and
seeking the shelter of the forests, or rather the patches of
trees which diversified the landscape. In the marshes
geese, pintail, snipe, and wild duck furnished capital sport,
and the hunters were even able to secure a few brace of
herons, which are not thought much of as food as a rule,
but according to Kayette, the heron is much esteemed by
the Indians. The first attempt at cooking heron was
made on the 13th of August, for breakfast, but in spite of
all the talent of Cornelia—and we know what a capital
cook she was—the flesh was hard and tough. It was only
accepted without protest by Wagram and Marengo, who
cleared it up to the very last bone.
In times of famine the natives content themselves with
owls, falcons, and even martens, but that is because they
are forced to do so. •
On the I4.th of August the Belle Roulotte had to pass 'The engineers were four-footed ones."  FROM FORT YUKON TO  PORT CLARENCE.
125
through the windings of a narrow gorge, between precipitous cliffs, through which the river flowed. This time the
pass was so steep, so full of obstacles, as if it had been the
bed of a torrent, that an accident happened. Fortunately
it was not one of the wheels that broke, but one of the
shafts. The repairs consequently did not take long; a
few pieces of cord soon put matters'right.
When they had passed the village of Suquongilla on one
side of the river, and that of Newicargout on the other,
the road improved considerably. There were no more
hills. A wide plain extended as far as the eye could reach.
Three or four rivers crossed it, but their beds were dry at
this season, when rains are rare. In time of storm and
snow it would have been impossible to have continued in
this direction.
In crossing one of the creeks, the Milocargout, in which
there was barely a foot of water, Cascabel observed that
it was obstructed by a causeway.
I Well!" said he, " they have made a causeway across
this creek ; they had much better have made a bridge ! That
would have been more useful during the floods."
" Doubtless, father," said Jean, " but the engineers who
built this causeway were not capable of building a
bridge."
" Why not ? "
" Because the engineers were four-footed ones. They
were beavers."
Jean was not mistaken, and he had an opportunity of
admiring the work of these industrious animals, who had
built their dam with due precaution as to the stream, and,
at the same time, as to the low-water mark of the creek,
the slope being such as to give the best resistance to the
force of the water.
I And yet," said Sandre, " these beavers never went to
school to learn—"
" There was no need for them to go to school," said
Monsieur Serge ; " what is the good of science, which is
often mistaken, when one has instinct, which is never
wrong ?  This dam, my boy, the beavers made, as the ants I
126
CESAR CASCABEL.
make their hills, as the spiders make their webs, as the
bees make their combs, and as the trees and shrubs yield
their fruit and flowers. There are no experiments on their
part, and there is no progress. The beaver of to-day
builds with as much perfection as did the first beaver that
appeared on the face of the globe. The improvable is not
within the powers of the animals, it belongs to man alone,
and he alone can raise himself by progress in the arts, the
industries, and the sciences. So let us admire, without
reserve, this marvellous instinct of the animals, which allows
them to make such things as these. But do not consider
these things but as the works of Nature! "
"That is so, Monsieur Serge," said Jean, "and I quite
understand what you say. There lies the difference
between instinct and reason ; in short, reason is superior to
instinct, although it may make mistakes."
I Undoubtedly, my friend," said Monsieur Serge ; " and
these mistakes, acknowledged and amended, are but the
steps on the road of progress."
" Anyhow," said Sandre, " I stick to what I said. These
brutes had no need to go to school."
" Agreed," said Monsieur Serge. 1 But men are but
brutes when they do not go ! "
" Well! Well!" said Cornelia, always practical, " are
these beavers good to eat ? "
" Certainly," said Kayette.
" I have even read," added Jean, " that the animal's tail
is excellent."
That could not be verified, as there were no beavers in
the creek, or if there were they could not be seen.
After leaving the bed of the Milocargout the Belle Roulotte passed through the village of Sacherteloutain, in the
territory of the Co-Yukon. Indians. At Kayette's advice,
certain precautious were taken in communicating with these
Indians, who are much inclined to theft. When they surrounded the vehicle a watch was kept that they did not
come inside. Pretty glass beads were given freely to the
principal chiefs of the tribe, and this produced a salutary
effect, so that no unpleasantness occurred. FROM FORT YUKON TO PORT CLARENCE. 127
The route now became more difficult along the base of
the ramparts ; but it was impossible to avoid this without
striking into a more mountainous region. The rapidity of
the journey began to make itself felt, but it would not do
to slacken at all. The temperature began to freshen, if not
during the day, at least during the night—the usual state
of things in this region, which is only a few degrees below.
the polar circle.
The Cascabels had come to a place where the river
makes a sharp bend to the north. They had to ascend it
to the junction of the Co-Yukon, which pours in its
waters through two tortuous branches. It took nearly a
day to find the ford, which Kayette only recognized with
difficulty, owing to the water havingalready risen. When
this tributary was crossed the Belle Roulotte resumed the
southerly course, and passed through a hilly country down
to Fort Noulato.
This post, which is of great commercial importance,
belongs to the Russo-American Company. It is the most
northerly factory in Western America, for, according to
the observations of Frederick Whymper, it is situated in
64° 32' latitude and 155° 36' longitude.
In this part of Alaska it was difficult to believe they were
in so high a latitude. The soil is undoubtedly more fertile
than that near Fort Yukon. Everywhere are well-grown
trees, everywhere are fields carpeted with verdant grasses,
and extensive plains which the farmer could till with profit,
for a thick humus covers a clay soil. The country is well
watered by the River Noulato, which flows towards the
south-west, and by a network of creeks or " cargouts,"
which extend towards the north-east.
The arrangement of Fort Noulato is as follows:
around the buildings is a circuit of palisades, defended by
two towers, which Indians are not allowed to enter during
the night, and only in small numbers during the day.
Inside are huts, and sheds, and wooden stores, with windows
glazed with seal bladder. Nothing can be more rudimentary than these posts in remote North America.
The Cascabels received a cordial welcome. 128
CESAR CASCABEL.
In these places, out of the way of all regular communications, is not the arrival of visitors always a real subject of
rejoicing, and are they not always welcome for the news
they bring from afar ?
Fort Noulato was inhabited by a staff of about twenty
Russians or Americans, who made it their business to
furnish the Cascabels with all they required. Regularly re-
victualled by the Company, they add to their stores in the
fine season by shooting the moose and reindeer, and fishing
in the waters of the Yukon. In that river fish abound,
more especially the " Nalima," generally reserved for the
food of the dogs, but with a liver which is much appreciated by those who are accustomed to it.
The inhabitants of Noulato were rather surprised when
they saw the Belle Roulotte approach, and they were
more surprised when Cascabel told them of his intention to
return to Europe by way of Siberia. In truth, these Frenchmen had quite self-confidence enough! As to the first
part of the journey, that to Port Clarence, there was no
difficulty, and it would be accomplished without obstacles
and before the plains of Alaska were in the grip of the first
frosts.
Monsieur Serge advised Cascabel to purchase a few
things needful for crossing the steppes. Above everything, he ought to get several pairs of those spectacles
which are indispensable in crossing large fields of snow.
For a few glass beads the Indians consented to part with
a dozen pairs. They were but wooden spectacles, without
glasses or rather blinkers, covering the eye, with just a
narrow opening to look through. That was enough, however, for the purpose, and prevented ophthalmia, which
would inevitably be caused by the glare of the snow were
the eyes left unprotected.
Having settled this matter of preserving the sight, the
next thing was the proper gear for the feet, for one does
not walk in thin boots or shoes across the steppes during
a Siberian winter.
The stores at Noulato provided several pairs of seal-skin
boots, such as are best suited for long voyages over frozen FROM FORT YUKON TO PORT CLARENCE.
129
ground, and which are rendered impermeable by a coat of
grease.
This led Cascabel to make the following judicious observation,—
"There is always an advantage in clothing ourselves
like the animals of the countries through which we pass.
Siberia is the country of the seals—let us dress ourselves
like seals!"
" Seals with spectacles!" said Sandre ; and the reply
received the paternal approbation.
The family remained two days at Fort Noulato, two
days which were enough to give its team a rest. The
sooner they were at Port Clarence the better. The Belle
Roulotte resumed the journey on the 21st of August
at sunrise, and finally left the right bank of the great
river.
The Yukon curved away boldly to the south-west to flow
into Norton Gulf. By still following its course the journey
would be lengthened without advantage, the mouth being
below Behring Strait. From there they would have had to
journey to Port Clarence along a coast cut up by fjords
and creeks, when Gladiator and Vermout would have been
tired out uselessly.
Already the cold was making itself more keenly felt. If
the sun's rays, now very oblique, gave a good deal of
light, they gave but little heat. Thick clouds, forming a
greyish mass, looked as though they would dissolve into
snow. Small game became rare, and the migratory birds
began to leave for the south in search of milder winter
quarters.
Cascabel and his crew had as yet never been over-
fatigued by the journey. Their constitutions seemed to
be of iron ; and this was evidently due to their wandering
life, their habit of making the best of all climates, and the
solidity given by bodily exercises. There was every reason
to hope they would arrive safe and sound at Port Clarence;
and such was the case on the 5th of September, after a
-fiye-hundred league stretch from Sitka, and. almost an
eleven-hundred league one from Sacramento.   In seven 13°
CESAR CASCABEL.
months they had travelled seventeen hundred leagues in
Western America.
CHAPTER XV.
PORT CLARENCE.
Port Clarence is the most north-westerly port on Behring
Strait. Situated on the south of Prince of Wales Cape, it
forms an inlet in that part of the coast where the nose
comes in the face which the outline of Alaska resembles.
It has an excellent anchorage, much appreciated by navigators, and more particularly by whalers, whose ships come
in search of fortune into the Arctic seas.
The Belle Roulotte came to an anchor near the inner
bank of the harbour, close to the mouth of a small river on
a rocky headland crowned with a clump of poor beeches.
The longest halt of the voyage was to take place at this
spot; the troupe were to rest here, compelled to rest by the
state of the strait, which was not frozen over at this season
of the year.
It need not be said that the caravan could not cross on
board any of the Port Clarence vessels, which are merely
fishing boats of small tonnage. All that could be done
was to adhere to the original plan of gaining the Asiatic
coast when the sea had become an immense icefield.
This long halt was not to be regretted before undertaking
the second part of this voyage, in which they would begin
the physical difficulties, the struggle against cold and snow,
until the Belle Roulotte reached southern Siberia. Till
then there would be several weeks, perhaps several months,
of very great difficulties, and it was most fortunate that
time was obtainable in which to complete the preparations
for so arduous a journey. Certain things had been bought
of the Indians at Fort Noulato, but others were required, and %mm%
PORT CLARENCE.
131
these Cascabel intended to obtain of either the merchants
or natives of Port Clarence.
There was genuine satisfaction among the crew when
they heard the familiar words of command,—
I Halt!    Stand at ease ! "
And this command, always favourably received during
the march, was immediately followed by another given by
Sandre in a loud voice,—
"Break off!"
As may be imagined, the arrival of the Belle Roulotte at
Port Clarence did not take place unobserved.. Never had
such a contrivance ventured so far, for it had reached the
very end of North America. For the first time the
wondering eyes of the natives gazed on French mountebanks.
There were then at Port Clarence, besides the usual
population of Esquimaux and traders, a certain number of
Russian functionaries, who had received orders after the
cession of Alaska to the United States to cross the straits
to the peninsula of Tchouktchis, on the Asiatic side, or to
Petropavlovsk, the capital of Kamtschatka. These joined
the resident population in welcoming the Cascabels, and it
should be stated that the welcome accorded the caravan
by the Esquimaux was of a particularly cordial character.
It was these same Esquimaux whom a dozen years later
the celebrated navigator Nordenskjold met in these parts
during that bold campaign in which he discovered the
north-east passage. At that time a few of these natives
were armed with revolvers and repeating rifles, the first
gifts of American civilization.
As the summer season was hardly over the natives of
Port Clarence had not yet established themselves in their
winter dwellings. They were living in little tents,
elegantly decorated, made of thick cotton cloth with bright
coloured stripes ; and in the interior many of the utensils
vere made of cocoa-nuts.
When Clou saw these for the first time he exclaimed :
"WJjat! Do cocoa-nut trees grow in the forests of
Esquimaux land ? " \i
132
CESAR CASCABEL.
" At least," said Monsieur Serge, " unless the nuts have
been brought from the Pacific Islands and exchanged by
the whalers at Port Clarence."
And Monsieur Serge was right. Intercourse between
the Americans and the natives was much encouraged
at this period, and a fusion was taking place, much
to the advantage of the development of the Esquimaux
race.
And here we may remark, as will be seen later on, that
there is no conformity in type or manners between the
Esquimaux of America and the natives of Siberia. The
Alaskan tribes do not even understand the language spoken
on the western shore of Behring Strait, but their dialect
contains a large number of English and Russian words,
and it is not very difficult to converse with them. .
On this account, from the very first, the Cascabels had no
difficulty in entering into communication with the natives
settled around Port Clarence. Having been hospitably
received in the tents of these good people, the Cascabels
did not hesitate to open to them the doors of the Belle
Roulotte, and they had no reason to repent of it.
These Esquimaux are much more civilized than is
generally supposed. People imagine them to be a sort of
talking seals, amphibians with a human face, to judge by
the clothes they wear, particularly during the winter season.
But at Port Clarence the representatives of the Esquimaux
race are neither repugnant to look at nor disagreeable to
meet. A few of them dress in European fashion. Most
of them indulge in a certain costume which admits of a
garment of reindeer skin or sealskin, the " pask," of marmot fur, and the tattooing of the face, that is to say, a few
light touches of a pattern on the chin. The men have
short straggling beards; at the corner of the lips three
holes carefully pierced allow them to hang on little rings
of carved bone, and the cartilage of their nose receives
several ornaments of the same kind.
In short, the Esquimaux who came to pay their respects
to the Cascabels were not unpleasant-looking, like the
Samoyeds and other natives of the Asiatic coast.   The  w PORT CLARENCE.
133
girls had strings of pearls in their ears, and on their arms
were finely-worked bracelets of iron or copper.
It should also be noted that they were honest people,
keeping faith in their transactions, although the prices they
asked were excessive ; but to reproach the natives of these
arctic regions with that failing would be to show oneself
rather severe.
The most perfect equality reigns among them. They
have not even any chiefs of a clan. Their religion is
paganism. They worship as divinities posts with carved
figures and painted in red, representing different sorts of
birds, whose wings are largely used as fans. Their morals
are pure, the family sentiment is well developed, as are
respect for fathers and mothers, love for children, and
veneration for the dead, whose corpses are exposed in the
open air, clothed in holiday garb with their weapons and
kayak close by.
The Cascabels were much pleased with the daily walks
they took in the neighbourhood of Port Clarence.
Occasionally they went to visit an ancient oil factory of
American origin, which was still working at this
period.
The country is not entirely bare of trees, nor the ground
of vegetation, and has a very different aspect to the
peninsula of Tchouktchis on the other side of the strait.
This is due to the fact that along the coast of the new
continent there runs a warm current, coming from the hot
regions of the Pacific, while along the Siberian coast
descends a cold current coming from the Arctic Ocean.
We need hardly say that Cascabel had no intention of
giving a performance to the natives of Port Clarence. He
was afraid to do so, and he had good reason. What would
he do if he found among them acrobats, jugglers, and
clowns as remarkable as among the Indians of Fort
Yukon ? Better not to risk the reputation of the family a
second time.
Meanwhile the days rolled by, and many more than
were necessary for the recuperation of the little troupe.
Assuredly after a week's halt at Port Clarence, they were
L 1.34
CESAR CASCABEL.
all in a state to face the fatigues of a voyage in Siberian
territory.
But the strait was closed to the Belle Roulotte. At the
end of September, and in this latitude, if the mean temperature is below the centigrade zero, the arm of the sea
separating Asia from America is still unfrozen. Many
ice-floes pass, formed on the boundaries of the Behring
basin, and drifting to the north in the Pacific current.
But Cascabel had to wait till these ice-floes were solidified
and packed together to form an immense ice-field, immovable and passable for carriages between the two continents.
It was evident that on a bed of ice, strong enough to
bear a troop of artillery, the Belle Roulotte would run no
risk. It was only a passage of twenty leagues in the
narrowest part, between Prince of Wales Cape, a little above
Port Clarence and the little Port of Numana on the
Siberian side.
" What a pity it is," said Cascabel, one day, " that the
Americans have not built a bridge."
" A bridge twenty leagues long ! " said Sandre.
" And why not ? " said Jean. " They could rest it in
the middle of the straits on Diomed Island."
" It would not be impossible," said Monsieur Serge,
" and we may believe it will be done some day, like everything else that man's intelligence is capable of."
" They are going to build a bridge across the Straits of
Dover," said Jean.
" You are right," said Monsieur Serge, " but the Behring
Strait bridge would not be so much used as that. Positively it would not pay its tolls."
| If it was not of much use to travellers in general," said
Cornelia, " it would be of use to us, unless—"
"Eh? So I think!" said Cascabel. "But for two-
thirds of the year there exists our bridge, a bridge of ice, as
solid as any of iron or stone. Dame Nature builds it
every year after the thaw, and she asks for no tolls !"
Cascabel spoke truly, according to his habit of looking
at things on their best side.    Why have a bridge that would cost millions when it was enough to wait for a
favourable moment for the passage to be free for foot
passengers as well as for vehicles ?
It would not be much longer. All that was wanted was
a little patience.
About the 7th of October it became evident that winter
had definitely set in in this latitude. It snowed frequently.
All trace of vegetation had disappeared. The few trees
on the coast had lost their last leaves and were laden with
rime. There were to be seen none of those weakly plants,
the species of which are allied to those of Scandinavia;
nor any of those toadflaxes of which the greater part of
the arctic flora consists.
Although the -ice-floes still drifted with the current
through the straits, they were now larger and thicker.
As it requires great heat to weld metals, so it requires
great cold to weld the fragments of an ice-field.
But if the Cascabels were impatient for the strait to be
practicable, so as to permit them to set foot on the old
continent, their joy was seasoned with bitterness. It
would be the hour of separation. They would abandon
Alaska, undoubtedly, but Monsieur Serge would remain
behind, for he had said nothing of going further west And
after the winter he would resume his excursions across
this part of America, which he wished to explore, by visiting
the territories to the north of the Yukon and beyond the
mountains.
It would be a cruel separation for all; for all were bound
together not only by sympathy, but also by close friend -
ship.
The saddest, we may guess, was Jean. Could he forget
that Monsieur Serge would take Kayette with him ? And
was not this the best thing for her to do, now her future
had been placed in the hands of her new father ? To whom
could she be better trusted than to Monsieur Serge ? He
had made her his adopted daughter, he would take her with
him to Europe, he would educate her, he would put her in
a position she could never hope to reach in a family of
mountebanks.    In the presence of such advantages could
L 2 13^
CESAR CASCABEL.
he hesitate? No! Assuredly. And Jean was the first to
recognize the fact. But in spite of all that he none the
less became aware of an increasing sadness of heart.
How could he muster strength enough to overcome it ? To
separate himself from Kayette, to see her no more, never
to see her again when she would be so far away from him,
when she would have taken her place in Monsieur Serge's
family, to lose the sweet custom they had fallen into of
talking together, working together, and being always near
each other; it was enough to drive him to despair.
On the other hand, if Jean was very unhappy, his father,
mother, brother and sister, who were deeply attached to
Kayette, could not bear the idea of separating from her, nor
from Monsieur Serge. They would give a good deal, as
Cascabel said, if Monsieur Serge would agree to accompany
them to their journey's end. That would make a few
months more to spend with him, and then—they would
see—.
It has been said that the inhabitants of Port Clarence
had taken a great fancy to this family. They could not
see, without apprehension, the moment approach in which
they were to risk their lives across the steppes exposed to
very real dangers. But if they showed sympathy to these
French people, come from so far and going so far, there
were a few Russians recently arrived who regarded
the troupe, and particularly Monsieur Serge, very
differently.
It will not have been forgotten that there were then at
Port Clarence a number of those functionaries, whom the
annexation of Alaska obliged to return to Siberia.
Among them were two who had been entrusted with a
special mission in the American territories under Russian
rule. This was to watch the refugees to whom New
Britain gave shelter, and who attempted to cross the
Alaskan frontier. Now this Russian who had become the
guest of a family of mountebanks, this Monsieur Serge
who had stopped exactly on the frontier of the Empire
of the Czar, appeared to them to be rather suspicious;
and so they never allowed him to get out of their sight, PORT CLARENCE.
137
although  they were prudent enough  not   to   let   their
manoeuvres be seen.
But Monsieur Serge had no idea that he was an object
of suspicion. He also was troubled at the approaching
separation. Was he hesitating between the idea of resuming his journey across Western America and that of
giving it up altogether to follow his new friends to Europe ?
It would be difficult to say. However, seeing that he was
not at ease, Cascabel resolved to have an explanation on
the subject.
One evening, that of the I ith of October, after supper,
addressing Monsieur Serge, Cascabel said, as if it had just
occurred to him. " By-the-bye, Monsieur Serge, you know
we are soon going to start for your country ? "
"Certainly, my friends—that is understood."
I Yes! we are going to Russia—and we shall pass Perm,
where your father lives, unless I am mistaken—"
" It is not without a good deal of regret that I see you
leaving me."
" Monsieur Serge," said  Cornelia,    "do you intend to
remain long in America ?"
" Long ? I hardly know—|
" And when you return to Europe, which way will you
take?"
" The road through the far west. My exploration will
necessarily take me to New York, and then I will take
ship—with Kayette—"
" With Kayette !" murmured Jean, looking at the young
Indian, who bowed her head.
There were a few moments of silence. Then Cascabel
resumed in a hesitating voice, "Look here, Monsieur
Serge, I am going to allow myself to make you a proposal.
Oh ! I know it will be painful work crossing this horrible
Siberia, but with courage and goodwill—"
I My friend! " said Monsieur Serge," believe me, neither
dangers nor fatigues alarm me, and I would willingly share
them with you if—"
" Why," said Cornelia, " should we not finish the journey
together ?"
i I
138
CESAR CASCABEL.
" That would be splendid!" said Sandre.
" And I would kiss you if you were to say yes ! " said
Napoleone.
Jean and Kayette had not uttered a single word, but
their hearts beat violently.
" My dear Cascabel," said Monsieur Serge after a few
moments' reflection. " I should like to have some private
conversation with you and your wife."
" When you like:   now, if you like."
" No, to-morrow," said Monsieur Serge.
And thereupon they retired to bed, very anxious and
very much puzzled at the same time. For what reason
did Monsieur Serge ask for this interview ? Had he
decided to change his plans, or did he wish to put the
family in a better position for resuming the journey by
making them accept some money ?
Next morning the interview took place. Not through
mistrust of the children, but through fear of being overheard by natives or others, Monsieur Serge asked Cascabel
and his wife to go with him some distance from the camp.
Doubtless what he was going to say was important, and it
was advisable to keep it secret.
The three went along the beach towards the oil factory,
and this is how the conversation began,—
"My friends," said Monsieur Serge, "listen to me, and
think well over your reply to the proposal I am about to
make to you. I do not doubt your sincerity, and you
have proved how far your self-sacrifice can extend. But
when you are about to come to a final understanding, it is
as well that you should know who I am—"
" Who you are ?" said Cascabel. " You are a good
fellow.    I know that! "
" Be it so—a good fellow! " said Monsieur Serge; " but a
good fellow who does not wish to add his presence to the
dangers of your Siberian voyage."
"Your presence—a danger—Monsieur Serge?" asked
Cornelia.
"Yes, for I am Count Serge Narkine. I am a political
refugee.' mZm
PORT CLARENCE. 139
And   tlien   Monsieur   Serge   briefly   told   them   his
history.
Count Serge Narkine belonged to a rich family in the
Government of Perm. As we have said, he was passionately devoted to the sciences and geographical discovery,
and it was in voyages to all parts of the world that he
spent his youth.
Unfortunately he did not confine himself to these expeditions, which would have earned him celebrity. He
took a good deal of interest in politics, and in 1857 he became connected with a secret society. The members of
the society were-arrested, prosecuted with all the peculiar
energy of the Muscovite administration, and most of them
were sentenced to perpetual exile in Siberia.
Amongst them was Count Serge Narkine. He had to
set out for Yakutsk, the place of detention to which he
had been assigned, and leave the only relative he had, his
father, Prince Wassili Narkine, now an octogenarian, living
on his estate at Walska near Perm.
After spending five years at Yakutsk, the prisoner
escaped and reached Okhotsk, on the shores of the sea of
that name. There he took passage on board a ship and
reached one of the ports of California. Thus it came
about that Count Serge Narkine had lived for seven years
either in the United States, or in New England, endeavouring all the time to reach Alaska, which he intended to
enter as soon as it became American. Yes! his secret
hope was to return to Europe through Siberia—just the
same idea, in fact, as Cascabel's. Judge, then, what were his
feelings when he learnt that this family, to whom he
owed his life, was endeavouring to reach Behring Strait,
with a view to cross it into Asia !
His greatest wish, as we can easily understand, was to
accompany them. But could he expose them to the
reprisals of the Russian government ? If the government
discovered they had assisted in the return to the Russian
Empire of a political convict, what would happen ? But
at the same time his father was very old, and he would
like to see him again—
-J CESAR CASCABEL.
I Come with us, Monsieur Serge," said Cornelia, " come
with us."
'• You are risking your liberty, my friends; perhaps you
risk your lives, if they discover—"
" And what does it matter, Monsieur Serge ? | said
Cascabel, " we all have an account above, have we not ?
Well, let us do as many good actions as we can, so as to
balance the bad ones ! "
" My dear Cascabel, think well—"
" Besides, they will never recognize you, Monsieur Serge.
We are a sly lot, we are, and may the wolf gobble me up
if we do not give a lesson to all the police in Russia."
| But," said Monsieur Serge.
" See here—if it is necessary—you can wear our
professional costume—at least, if you are not ashamed of
it—"
I Oh !    My friend ! g
" And who would ever suspect that Count Narkine was
one of the Famille Cascabel ? "
" Be it so; I accept your offer, my friends ! Yes, I
accept it, and I thank you for it—"
" Good ! Good ! " said Cascabel. " Thanks, indeed ! Do
you think we have nothing to thank you for ? And so
Monsieur Count Narkine—"
"Do not call me Count Narkine ! I am nothing but
Monsieur Serge to all the world! Even to your
children—"
" You are right! There would be no use in their knowing ! It is understood that we take you with us, Monsieur
Serge!"
" And I, C^sar Cascabel, will guide you to Perm, where
I shall lose my name—which will be, you will admit, an
irreparable loss to the arts !"
As to the welcome which Monsieur Serge received on
his return when Jean, Kayette, Sandre, Napoldone, and
Clou learnt that he was to accompany them to Europe, it
can be imagined without there being any need to dwell on
it. £l
FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT. 141
CHAPTER XVI.
FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT.
Nothing now remained to be done but to carry out the
plan of continuing the journey to Europe.
On consideration, the plan offered many chances of
success. As the chances of their wandering life would take?"
the Cascabels across Russia and through the Government
of Perm Count Serge Narkine could hardly do better than
join them for the rest of the journey. Who would suspect
that a political prisoner, escaped from Yakutsk, was to be
found among a troupe of professional acrobats ? If no mistake were made success was assured, and arriving at Perm,
he could see his father again, and then do his best for his
own interests. If he could cross Asia without leaving behind any trace on which the police could fasten, he could
shape his future course according to circumstances.
If, in defiance of all probability, he was recognized in
his passage through Siberia, it might have terrible consequences for himself and the Cascabels. But neither
Cascabel nor his wife would give a thought to the danger,
and if they had consulted their children on the subject,
their decision would simply have been approved. But
Count Narkine's secret would be faithfully kept, and it
would be merely as Monsieur Serge that he would continue to be their travelling companion.
Later on, Count Narkine would certainly make some
recognition of the self-sacrifice of these worthy French
people, although Cascabel thought of no other recompense
than the pleasure of having obliged him by outwitting
the Russian police.
Unfortunately, their plan was seriously in danger at the
very beginning, little as they thought about it. When
they landed on the other shore they would be in danger
of arrest by the Russian agents in Siberia.
The very morning after the scheme had been resolved 142
CESAR CASCABEL.
on two men were in conversation at the end of the harbour, where no one could overhear them. These were the
two we have mentioned, whose presence among the
visitors to the Belle Roulotte had surprised and puzzled
Monsieur Serge.
They had been stationed at Sitka for several years,
engaged in watching the province from a political point of
view, observing the proceedings of the refugees in the
neighbourhood of the Columbian frontier, and reporting
them to the Governor of Alaska, and arresting those who
attempted to cross it. And it was a serious matter that
although they did not know Count Narkine personally;
they possessed his description, which had been given them
at the time the prisoner had escaped from the citadel of
Yakutsk. On the arrival of the Cascabels at Port
Clarence they had been much astonished at the sight of
this Russian, who had neither the look nor the manners of
a travelling mountebank. Why was he with the troupe
which had come from Sacramento, and was following so
strange a road into Europe ?
Once their suspicions were awakened, they inquired,
they watched in such a way as not to attract attention,
and by comparing Monsieur Serge with the description of
Count Narkine their doubts were changed to certainty.
" Yes, it is really Count Narkine !" said one of the men.
" Evidently he was prowling about the Alaskan frontier
till the annexation was complete, when he met this family
of jugglers, who assisted him, and now he is going to cross
Siberia in their company ! "
Nothing could be more correct, and if Monsieur Serge
did not first intend to venture beyond Port Clarence, the
two men felt no surprise when they heard he had decided
to follow the Belle Roulotte to Siberia.
| That is a good chance for us ! " said the second man.
| The Count might have stopped here on American soil,
and we should have no right to arrest him."
" While," said the other, " as soon as he sets foot on the
other side of the strait, he will be on Russian territory, and
he cannot escape us, for we will be there to receive him."  If FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT.
143
" It is an arrest which will give us honour and profit,"
said the second man. " What a master-stroke it will be for
our return !    But how shall we take him ?"
" Nothing can be simpler. The Cascabels will soon
start, and as they will go the shortest way, they will
make for Numana. We can arrive before or with Count
Narkine, and have nothing more to do than to put our
hand on his shoulder."
" Quite so, but I would rather get to Numana first, so
as to warn the coast police, who could lend us the strong
arm if necessary."
" That we can do, unless anything unexpected happens.
These mountebanks will have to wait until the ice is
strong enough to bear their vehicle, while we can easily get
in front of them. Let us remain at Port Clarence and
continue to observe Count Narkine, without his suspecting
anything. If he suspects the Russians who are leaving
Alaska for Europe, he will not suppose that we have
recognized him. He will start: we will arrest him at
Numana, and have nothing more to do than to take him
under escort to Petropavlovsk or Yakutsk—"
I And if these jugglers attempt to defend him ?" said
the second man.
I It will cost them dear to have helped in the return of
a Russian political refugee."
This plan, a very simple one, gave every promise of
success, for Count Narkine did not know that he had been
recognized, and the Cascabels did not know they were
being specially watched ; so that the voyage, so happily
commenced, threatened to finish badly for Monsieur Serge
and his companions.
And while this plot was weaving, all were full of the
thought that they were not to leave each other, and that
. they would go to Russia together ; and great was the joy,
particularly of Jean and Kayette.
It need not be said that the two detectives had kept the
secret to themselves, so that no one at Port Clarence
imagined that among the crew of the Belle Roulotte there
was a personage of the importance of Count Serge Narkine.
11 1 144
CESAR CASCABEL.
It was still difficult to fix the day of departure. With
extreme impatience they followed the modifications of a
truly abnormal temperature, particularly when, as Cascabel
declared, he had never in his life so much desired a frost
that would split the very stones.
Besides, it was important to be on the other side of the
strait before winter had definitely taken possession. If it
did not come on in all its rigour until the early weeks of
November, the Belle Roulotte would have time to reach
the southern districts of Siberia. There they could wait
in some village for a favourable season in which to resume
their journey to the Ural mountains.
In that way Vermout and Gladiator could, without excessive fatigue, cross the steppes. The Cascabels would
arrive in time to take part in the fair at Perm, that is to say,
in the July of the next year.
But the ice-floes continued to drift to the north, carried
by the warm Pacific current; and a flotilla of icebergs
drifted about the strait instead of a motionless and solid
ice-field.
On the 13th of October it was noticed that the drifting
was much slower. In the north a pack had probably accumulated to bar the way. On the horizon a continuous
line of white summits showed that the arctic sea was
frozen in, and the pale reverberation of the ice-field filled the
air, so that complete solidification was nigh.
Meanwhile Monsieur Serge and Jean consulted the
fishermen of Port Clarence. Often had they thought that
the passage might be attempted, but each time the sailors,
who knew the strait, advised them to wait.
"Do not be in a hurry," they said, " leave the cold alone.
It  is not yet keen enough to form the ice-field.    Even
when the sea is frozen on this side it does not follow it is
frozen on the other, particularly about Diomed Island."
And the advice was good.
" Winter is not early this year !" said Monsieur Serge to
an old fisherman.
" Yes, it is behindhand," said the man ; " all the more/'
reason for not venturing till you are sure the passage jgfe
■■& FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT.
145
possible. Besides, your vehicle is heavier than a foot passenger, and it requires thicker ice. Wait till a good bed of
snow covers the floes, and then you can roll along as if on
the highway ; you will soon make up for lost time, without exposing yourselves to remain in distress in the middle
of the strait."
These reasons, coming from practical people, had to be
respected; and Monsieur Serge had to do his best to
quiet his friend Cascabel, who was the most impatient of the
whole troupe. It was, above all things, important not to
imperil the journey by too much haste.
IA little patience," he would say. " Your Belle Roulotte
is not a boat; if she were caught where the ice broke, she
would go straight to the bottom. The Famille Cascabel
does not wish to increase its celebrity by being swallowed
up in Behring Strait"
I But would it be swallowed up ?" asked the glorious
Cesar with a smile.
And then Cornelia intervened, andsaid that~-she would
not hear of any imprudence being committed.
I But it is for your sake we are in a hurry, Monsieur
Serge !" said Cascabel.
I But I am not for yours! " Count Narkine replied.
Notwithstanding the general impatience, Jean and
Kayette did not find the days too long. He had continued
to teach her, and already she could understand and speak
French with facility. Between them there would be no
more difficulties to contend with. And Kayette felt so
happy among the family, and so happy near Jean, who
took so much care of her.
Assuredly Cascabel and his Wife would have been blind
not to see the feeling which she had evoked in their son,
and they began to get anxious. They knew who
Monsieur Serge was, and what Kayette would one day be.
She was no more the poor Indian, coming to Sitka in search
of a situation as servant, but the adopted daughter of Count
Narkine. And Jean was preparing for himself a great
sorrow for the future.
" After all," said Cascabel, "Monsieur Serge has eyes 146
CESAR CASCABEL.
a
will
good
my
to see with, and if he says nothing, Cornelia, we have
nothing to say ! "
One evening Jean asked Kayette,—
" Do you like going to Europe ? "
" To Europe! Yes ! " she replied ; " but I should like it
better if I were going to France."
1 You are right! It is a fine country, miss, and
country. If it should ever become yours, you
pleased with it—"
" I am pleased wherever your people are, Jean, and
great wish is never to leave you."
I Dear little Kayette."
"Is it very far to France ?''
1 Very far, Kayette, particularly when you are in a hurry
to get there.   But we shall get there—too soon, perhaps— "
"Why, Jean?"
" Because you will remain in Russia with Monsieur
Serge! If we do not separate here, we shall have to
separate there! Monsieur Serge will take care of you, my
little Kayette." He will make a fine young lady of you—
and we shall see you no more."
| Why do you say that, Jean ? Monsieur Serge is good
and grateful. It was not I who saved him but you, really
you. If you had not been there, what could I have done
for him ? If he lives, it is to your mother, to you all, that
he owes his life ! Do you think that Monsieur Serge can
forget that ? Why do you wish, Jean, if we leave each
other, that we should leave each other for ever ? "
" Little Kayette—I do not wish it! " said Jean, who
could not restrain his emotion. " But, I am afraid. Not
to see you again, Kayette! If you knew how miserable
I shall be. But it is not only to see you that I wish. Ah !
Why is not my family enough for you, as you have no
relatives ?    My father and my mother love you so much—"
" Not more than I love them, Jean \"
" And also my brother and sister. I hoped they would
be a brother and sister to you."
" They will be—always.    And you, Jean ? "
" I! Yes, I also—a brother—but more devoted—more
loving—" FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT. 147
And Jean went no further than that. He took Kayette's
hand, he pressed it—and then he fled, without saying anything more. Kayette, much agitated, felt her heart beat
furiously, and a tear escaped from her eyes.
On the 15th of October the sailors at Port Clarence
warned Monsieur Serge that he might prepare to start.
The cold had been much greater during the last few days ;
now the mean temperature did not rise above ten degrees
centigrade below zero. The ice-field appeared quite immovable ; no longer was there heard that significant
cracking which takes place when the solidification is incomplete.
It was probable that they would soon see some of those
Asiatic natives, who cross the strait in winter time and
carry on a certain amount of trade between Numana and
Port Clarence. Occasionally the route is much frequented.
It is not a rare thing to see sledges, drawn by dogs or
reindeer, going from one continent to the other, accomplishing in two or three days the twenty leagues which
separate the shores of the strait. There is thus a natural
passage, which opens at the commencement of winter and
continues till its close ; that is to say, it lasts about six
months. Only the start must be made neither too soon
nor too late, so as to avoid the frightful catastrophe of the
breaking-up of the ice-field.
In preparation for the voyage across Siberian territory
until the Belle Roulotte stopped for the winter, Monsieur
Serge had bought at Port Clarence several indispensable
things for a journey in times of great cold ; among others,
several pairs of snow-shoes, which the natives use like
skates, and which enable them to rapidly pass over large
stretches of ice.
The sons of an acrobat did not require much practice at
that sort of thing. In a few days Jean and Sandre had
become quite clever in their use on the frozen inlets along
the shore.
Monsieur Serge had also completed the assortment of
furs bought at Fort Yukon. It was not only to preserve
the body from cold by wearing them as clothes that these
M 148
CESAR CASCABEL.
.furs were bought, but to ornament the inside of the caravan,
covering the beds, the walls and floor, so as to maintain the
heat developed by the cooking stove. Besides, and we
cannot repeat it too often, once the strait was crossed,
Cascabel intended to pass the worst months of the winter
in one of those towns of which there are many in the
south of Siberia.
At last the departure was fixed for the 21st of October.
For forty-eight hours the clouds had been very thick,
and they had just dissolved in snow. A vast white bed
made the wide ice-field a level plain; the fishermen of
Port Clarence affirmed that the solidification extended from
one bank to the other.
Any doubt about this was soon removed. A few traders
arrived from Numana, and their journey had been without
obstacles or dangers.
On the 19th, Monsieur Serge learnt that the two
Russians at Port Clarence had not cared to wait any
longer, and had started that very morning, with the
intention of halting on Diomed Island, and completing the
passagemext day.
When Cascabel heard this he remarked, " Two fellows—
in a greater hurry than we are! They had much better
have waited, and we could have crossed together."
Doubtless he thought the Russians feared they would be
delayed in accompanying the Belle Roulotte, which could
not move so rapidly across the snow. In fact, although
Vermout and Gladiator had been rough-shod, the heavy
vehicle would take several days to reach the opposite
shore, taking into account the rest they would require on
Diomed Island.
In reality, the two men had preferred to cross before
Count Narkine, with a view of taking all necessary
measures for his arrest.
The hour of departure was fixed at sun-rise. It was as
well to take advantage of the few hours of daylight the
sun still gave. In six weeks, at the approach of the
solstice of the 21st of December, continuous night would
envelop the countries traversed by the Polar Circle. FAREWELL TO THE NEW CONTINENT, I49
On the eve of departure a " tea " was given by Monsieur
and Madame Cascabel, in a shed specially prepared for the
occasion, to the notables of Port Clarence, the functionaries
and fishermen, and many of the heads of the Esquimaux
families who had taken an interest in the travellers.
The gathering went off very pleasantly, Clou causing considerable amusement by some of the drollest bits in his
repertory. Cornelia had brewed a scalding punch, in which,
if she had economized with the sugar, she certainly
had not with the brandy. This drink was all the more
appreciated, as the guests on returning home experienced
an extreme degree of cold during the night—one of those
visitations of cold which in certain winter nights appear to
come from the furthest limits of space. The Americans
drank to France, the French to America: and then
they separated, after many a hearty shake of the hand with
.the Famille Cascabel.
In the morning the two horses were harnessed at eight
o'clock. The monkey, John Bull, took his place in the
tarpaulin, where he hid himself up to the muzzle in furs,
while Wagram and Marengo gambolled round the caravan.
Inside Cornelia, Napole'one and Kayette shut themselves in
to attend to their usual occupations ; Monsieur Serge,
Cascabel, Jean, Sandre, and Clou, some at the head of the
team, some marching as scouts, were to watch over the
security of the vehicle and choose the best road.
At length the signal for departure was given, and at the
same moment the population of Port Clarence gave a
round of cheers.
An instant after, the wheels of the Belle Roulotte ground
into the snowy bed of the ice-field. Monsieur Serge and
the Famille Cascabel had finally quitted the shores of
America I
END OF THE FIRST PART. 1
M,~
part *$♦
CHAPTER I.
BEHRING STRAIT.
The Strait of Behring, by which the sea of that name
communicates with the Arctic Ocean, is very narrow.
Situated like the Straits of Dover between the English
Channel and the North Sea it has the same general direction, and is three times as wide. Between Cape Gris
Nez on the French side, to the South Foreland on the
English side, there are from six to seven leagues ; between
Numana and Port Clarence there are about twenty
leagues.
On leaving her last halting-place in America, the Belle
Roulotte made straight towards this port of Numana, which
is the nearest point of the Asiatic shore.
Doubtless a route which cut obliquely across Behring
Sea would have permitted Cascabel to have journeyed in
a lower latitude, and even below the Polar circle ; in that
case his direction would have been south-west, towards the
island of Saint Lawrence—a somewhat important island
inhabited by numerous tribes of Esquimaux, who are no
less hospitable than the natives of Port Clarence; then,
below the Gulf of Anadyr, the little troupe would have
reached Cape Navarin, to venture across the territories of
Southern Siberia. But that would have been to have
lengthened the part of the journey across the sea, or rather
across the ice-field, and consequently to exposure to the
dangers of such travelling for a longer period.    We can BEHRING STRAIT.
T<I
understand the Cascabels being anxious to get on to firm
ground, particularly as to do so they had only to adhere
to their original plan of making for Numana, and resting
at Diomed Island, which is situated in the middle of the
strait—an island as firm as its rocky base, which belongs
to whichever continent you please.
If Monsieur Serge had had a ship on which to put the
caravan and its contents, he would have taken a different
course.
On leaving Port Clarence the vessel would have sailed
more to the south, to Behring Island—a wintering place,
much frequented by seals and other marine mammifers ;
thence he would have gained one of the Kamtschatkan
ports, probably Petropavlovsk, the capital of the Government. But in the absence of a ship he took the shortest
road to Asia.
Behring Strait is not very deep. From geological elevations since the glacial period, it has been made clear
that at a not very distant future there will be a junction
between the continents at this point. We shall then have
the bridge dreamt of by Cascabel, or rather a road practicable for travellers. But useful as it will be to them, it
will be extremely injurious to sailors, and especially to
whalers, for it will cut them off from access to the Arctic
Seas. It will in that case require another Lesseps to cut
through the isthmus and restore things to their primitive
state ; the heirs of our great-great-grandsons will have to
take this matter up.
From the soundings in different parts of the strait, hy-
drographers have discovered that the channel is deepest
near the peninsula of Tchouktchis, on the Asiatic side.
There, a cold current descends from the north, while a
warm current ascends along the American side.
It was in the north of this peninsula, near the island of
Kolioutchin, the bay of that name, that twelve years later
Nordenskjold's ship, the Vega, after he had discovered
the North-East Passage, was held immovable in the ice for
nine months, from the 26th of September, 1878, to the 15th
oi July, 1879.
Ill I 152
CESAR CASCABEL.
The Cascabels thus left on the 21st of October, under
fairly good conditions. The cold was keen and dry.
The snowstorm had ceased, the wind had moderated, and
was now blowing from the northward. The sky was of a
flat uniform grey. The sun was scarcely perceptible
behind the veil of mist, which its rays, much enfeebled by
their obliquity, could not pierce. At noon, at its maximum of culmination, the sun was not more than three or
four degrees above the southern horizon.
A very wise measure had been taken before the departure from Port Clarence—and that was not to travel in
the dark. Occasionally there were large crevasses in the
ice-field, and as it would be impossible to avoid them if
they were not seen, there might have been a disaster. It
was agreed that as soon as the field of view was limited to
a hundred yards, the Belle Roulotte would halt. Better
be a fortnight travelling the twenty leagues than venture
on like blind men when light was insufficient.
The snow, which had not ceased to fall during the whole
day, had formed a thick carpet, and was crystallized under
the action of the cold, and rendered locomotion less painful on the surface of the ice-field. If it snowed no more,
the crossing of the strait would be easy. It was however
to be feared that from the meeting of the two currents,,
cold and warm, which each took different channels, the
ice-floes, which had ground against each other as they
drifted, would have accumulated in heaps, and that being
so, the way would be lengthened by its not being possible
to keep straight on.
Cornelia, Kayette, and Napoleone were, as we have
said, in the caravan ; to lighten it as much as possible the
men were to cross on foot. According to the order of
march, Jean was the scout; it was his business to reconnoitre the state of the ice-field ; he could be trusted. He
carried a compass, and although it was Impossible to steer
exactly to any one point, he kept westward with sufficient
precision.
At the head of the team was Clou, ready to hold up or
pull back Vermout and Gladiator if they made a false step ;
!*. P#9SP9S
Hfl
Tne two dogs put up thousands of ptarmigan, guillemot, and other birds. V ma
BEHRING STRATT.
153
footing
was  assured by their
but the firmness of their
roughened shoes.
Near the vehicle Monsieur Serge and Cesar Cascabel,
with spectacles in position and warm caps on their heads,
like their companions, walked and talked.
As to young Sandre, it would have been difficult to
assign him a place in which he would keep. He went and
came, and ran and jumped about like the dogs, and even
gave himself the pleasure of long slides. His father would
not allow him to wear the Esquimaux snow-shoes, and this
annoyed him.
" With those skates," he said, " we might cross the strait
in a few hours."
" What is the good of that," asked Cascabel, " when our
horses cannot skate ? "
" They might learn," said the young rascal, turning a
summersault.
Meanwhile Cornelia, Kayette and Napoleone were busy
cooking; a thin smoke, of good augury, arose from the
little chimney. If they did not suffer from cold inside the
well-closed doors, they had to think of those who were
without; and this they did by keeping always ready a
few hot cups of tea, seasoned with a little of that Russian
brandy, vodka, which would revive a corpse !
As food for the horses there were the trusses of dry
grass furnished by the Esquimaux of Port Clarence, which
would suffice for the passage of the strait. Wagram and
Marengo had abundance of moose-flesh, with which they
seemed quite satisfied.
But the icefield was not as bare of game as might be
supposed. As they ran the two dogs put up thousands of
ptarmigan, guillemot, and other birds that are found in the
Arctic regions. These birds, prepared with care and deprived of their oily taste, yield fairly acceptable food ; but
as no good would have been done by shooting them, owing
to Cornelia's larder being amply furnished,"it was decided to
give the guns a rest during the journey from Port Clarence
to Numana.
Of the amphibians, seals and other marine congeners, 1
154
CESAR CASCABEL.
which are very numerous in these parts, they did not see
one during the first day of the voyage.
Cascabel and his companions were cheerful enough when
they started, but they could not resist an indefinable
feeling of sadness which stole over them on these plains
without an horizon, these white sheets which extended
beyond their vision. By eleven o'clock they could see
only the high rocks at Port Clarence, and not even Prince
of Wales Cape, which had vanished in a cloud of distant
mist. Nothing could be seen at a distance of half-a-league,
and consequently it would be a long time before they
caught sight of the high ground of the eastern cape of the
Tchouktchis peninsula. These heights would be an excellent landmark to the travellers.
Diomed Island in the middle of the strait is dominated
only by a low rocky hillock. As its mass hardly rises
above the level of the sea they would scarcely recognize it
until the wheels crunched on its pebbly soil, as they drove
through the bed of snow. Compass in hand, Jean steered
the Belle Roulotte without difficulty, and if the speed was
not great, the advance was, at least, safe.
As they went along Monsieur Serge and Cascabel
talked much of their present position. This crossing of
the strait, which appeared such a simple thing before they
started, which would appear no less simple after their
arrival, seemed dangerous enough now they were engaged
on it.
" I suppose it is all as trying as this B " said Cascabel.
" Probably," replied Monsieur Serge. "To cross Behring Strait with a heavy vehicle is an idea which does not
occur to everybody. *
11 believe you, Monsieur Serge ! But what would you
have ? When you have made up your mind to get into a
country there is nothing will stop you. Ah! If all we'
had to do was to traverse the hundreds of leagues through
the Far West or Siberia I should not worry myself. We
should march on solid ground with no risk of its opening
under our feet. But twenty leagues of ice with a team,
with goods and all that!    I wish it was over !    We should BEHRING STRAIT.
■'55
have ended with the most difficult, or rather, the most
dangerous part of the voyage."
" Just so, my dear Cascabel, particularly if once we are
across the strait we quickly reach Southern Siberia. To
endeavour to follow the coast during the depth of winter
would be very unwise. As soon as we are at Numana
we shall have to strike south-west, so as to get into good
winter quarters in one of the towns on the road."
" That is our plan! But do you know the country,
Monsieur Serge ? "
" I only know the region between Yakutsk and Okhotsk,
which I crossed during my escape. As to the route from
Europe to Yakutsk, all I remember are the frightful
fatigues with which the prisoners are overwhelmed night
and day—such sufferings I would not wish to even my
mortal enemy."
| Monsieur Serge, have you lost all hope of returning to
your country, I mean at liberty and permitted to do so by
the government ?"
I It would be necessary for that," said Monsieur Serge,
I for the Czar to proclaim an amnesty, extending to Count
Narkine as well as to all the patriots condemned with him.
Would political considerations present themselves that
would render such a determination possible ? Who knows,
my dear Cascabel ? "
I But it must be miserable to live in exile! It seems like
being turned out of your own house."
"Yes; far from all you love! And my father now so
old—and I should like to see him again—"
I You will see him, Monsieur Serge! Believe an old
stager, who has often predicted the future by promising
good luck! You will make your entry into Perm with us.
Are you not one of the Cascabel troupe ? You ought to
learn some thimble-rigging, or something—anything will
do—to say nothing of what we may have to do to play
pranks with the police when you are passing under their
noses."
And C6sar Cascabel could not help laughing. Fancy
Count Narkine, a great Russian nobleman, holding up the 156
CESAR CASCABEL.
weights, juggling with the bottles, chaffing with the clowns
—and going round with the hat!
About three o'clock in the afternoon the Belle Roulotte
stopped. Although it was not night, a thick mist shut
in the field of view. Jean had come back to the caravan
and advised a halt; an advance in such a state of things
would be risky.
Besides, as Monsieur Serge had seen, the current in this
part of the strait had piled up the floes so that the surface
of the ice was irregular. The caravan was jolting a good
deal; the horses were stumbling at every step, and half a
day of such work would seriously fatigue them. In short, the
first stage of the caravan was rather more than two leagues.
As soon as the team stopped, Cornelia and Napoleone
came out—carefully muffled up from head to foot, on account of the sudden transition from an interior temperature
of ten degrees above zero to an exterior temperature of
ten below zero. As to Kayette, she was accustomed to the
asperities of an Alaskan winter, and had hardly cared to
put on her warm furs.
" You must cover yourself up better than that, Kayette! "
said Jean, " you run the risk of catching cold."
" Oh ! " she said, " I am not afraid of the cold. We are
accustomed to it in the Yukon Valley."
" That does not matter, Kayette! "
" Jean is right," said Cascabel, intervening. " Go and
put on something else, my little quail. If you catch cold
I shall have to cure you, and that will be terrible. I
might have to cut your head off to prevent your sneezing."
After such a threat the young Indian could but obey,
and she did so.
Then each one set to work. The camp was of the
simplest. There was no wood to cut in the forest, for there
was no forest; there was no fire to light, for there was
nothing to burn, there was not even grass to gather for the
animals. The Belle Roulotte was there offering its usual
comfort, its good temperature, its beds ready, its table laid,
its permanent hospitality.
It was only necessary to provide a meal for Vermout BEHRING STRAIT. 157
and Gladiator out of a portion of the forage brought from
Port Clarence. That done, the horses were wrapped in thick
coverings, and they had nothing more to do than rest till
the morning. The parrot in the cage, the monkey in the
tarpaulin were not forgotten, nor were the two dogs, eager
for the dry flesh they ate so greedily.
Having seen to the animals, Monsieur Serge and his
companions went into supper, or rather at that early hour,
dinner.
"Eh !"Eh ! " exclaimed Cascabel, "I should think this
was the first time a Frenchman had as good a dinner in
the middle of Behring Strait!"
1 Very likely," said Monsieur Serge, " but in three or
four days I hope we shall find ourselves at table on solid
ground."
" At Numana ?" asked Cornelia.
" No, on Diomed Island, where we shall have to rest a
day or two. Our horses go so slowly that it will take us a
week to reach the Asiatic shore."
Although it was only five o'clock when the meal was
over, no one declined to go to bed. The chance of spending a long night on a good bed, well wrapped up, was not
to be despised after a laborious march across an ice-field.
Cascabel did not even think it was necessary to keep a
watch over the camp. There was nobody to be afraid of
in such a desert. The dogs would do well enough to
announce the approach of any prowlers round the Belle
Roulotte.
Two or three times Monsieur Serge got up to observe
the state of the ice-field, which a sudden change of temperature might always affect; his anxiety was certainly
great Nothing had changed in the appearance of the
weather, and a gentle north-east breeze swept over the
surface of the strait.
Next day the journey was continued under similar conditions. Properly speaking, there were no difficulties and
no fatigue. Three leagues were accomplished before the
halt, and then the same arrangements were made as for
the night before. 158
CESAR CASCABEL.
Next day, the 25th of October, it was not possible to
start before nine o'clock, and even then it was scarcely
daylight.
Monsieur Serge noticed that the cold was not so great.
A few clouds accumulated in disorder in the south-east.
The thermometer showed a tendency to rise, and the
atmospheric pressure decreased.
11 do not like this, Jean," said Monsieur Serge. " While
we are on the ice-field the colder it becomes the better.
Unfortunately, the barometer is going down with the wind,
which is shifting to the west. What we have to fear is a
rise in temperature. Watch the state of the icefield, Jean ;
don't miss the least sign, and come back at once and warn
us."
I You may depend upon me, Monsieur Serge."
From the coming month up to the middle of April the
modifications dreaded by Monsieur Serge could not
happen, for the winter then would be firmly established.
But it had been late this year ; its beginning had been
marked by alternations of cold and thaw, which might bring
about a partial breaking-up of the ice-field. Yes ! It
would be better if they had to submit to twenty-five or
thirty degrees below zero during the crossing of the
strait.
The start took place in half daylight. The feeble rays
of the sun shot forth very obliquely, and could not pierce
the thick mantle of mist. The sky began to be streaked
to the zenith with long low clouds, which the wind drove
rapidly towards the north.
Jean, on ahead, carefully noted the* bed of snow which
was rather softer than it had been the day before, and gave
at every step of the horses. Nevertheless, an advance of
about two leagues was accomplished, and the night was
marked by no incident.
Next day, the 27th, they started at ten o'clock. Much
to Monsieur Serge's uneasiness, he found that the temperature was still rising—a phenomenon which was quite
abnormal at this season of the year, and in this latitude.
The cold being less intense, Cornelia, Napoleone, and BEHRING STRAIT.
159
Kayette came out to follow on foot. In their Esquimaux
boots they walked fairly well. They had protected their
eyes with pairs of Indian spectacles, and looked out
through the narrow slits. That rascal Sandre enjoyed the
fun immensely, and jumped about like a young kid.
The caravan did not get along very fast; its wheels
sank deeply into the snow, and this made it a heavy load
to draw. When their felloes jolted over the mounds and
rugged ridges of the ice-floes, violent shocks were unavoidable. Occasionally, enormous blocks piled one on
the other barred the way, and caused the line of advance
to take many a curve. But that was only a lengthening
of the road, and all would be well if the obstacles were
only tumescences instead of crevasses. At least, the
solidity of the ice-field would not be endangered.
Meanwhile, the thermometer continued to rise, and the
barometer to fall slowly but regularly. Monsieur Serge
became more and more uneasy. A little before noon, the
women returned into the vehicle. The snow was beginning
to fall heavily in little transparent flakes, as if it was on
the point of dissolving into water. It seemed as though a
shower of soft white feathers had been shaken into space
by thousands of birds.
Cascabel suggested that Monsieur Serge should take
shelter in the caravan, but the offer was declined. What
his companions bore could not he bear ? This fall of half-
melting snow gave him the utmost anxiety; by melting,
it would bring about the breaking-up of the ice-field. The
sooner they were in safety on Diomed Island the better.
And yet prudence would not allow them to advance
without extreme caution. And Monsieur Serge went on
to Jean a hundred yards ahead, while Cascabel and Clou
remained with the horses, which were frequently losing
their footing. If an accident happened to the vehicle
there would be no alternative but to abandon it on the
ice-field—and that would be an irreparable loss.
Whilst he walked with Jean, Monsieur Serge with his
glasses tried to pierce the horizon to the west, which was
thick with eddies of mist; the circle of vision was very i6o
CESAR CASCABEL.
'.   !!|il'M
limited. The advance was now merely by guess-wrork, and
Monsieur Serge would have given the word to halt if the
solidity of the ice-field had not appeared to be seriously in
danger.
I Cost what it may," he said, "we must reach Diomed-
Island to-day, and wait there till the cold begins again."
| How far do you think we are from it ? " asked Jean.
| About a league and a half. We have left about two
hours of daylight, or rather of this half light, which enables
us to keep moving; we must make every effort until it
gets quite dark."
" Shall I go on ahead and reconnoitre the position of
the island ? "
" No, Jean, no. You run the danger of being lost in the
storm, and that would be another trouble. Keep the
course by the compass ; if we pass Diomed Island to the
north or south, I do not know what will become of us.-"
I Do you hear that, Monsieur Serge ? " said Jean, who
had just stooped down.
Monsieur Serge stooped, too, and heard a dull cracking,
like that of broken glass, passing across the ice-field. Was
it a sign of a general breaking-up or of a partial disintegration ? There was no fissure along the surface as far as
they could see.
The position had become highly dangerous. To pass
the night under such circumstances was for the travellers
to risk being the victims of a catastrophe. Diomed Island
was the only refuge that offered, and to reach it they must
make every endeavour. How deeply did Monsieur Serge
regret that he had not waited a few days longer at Port
Clarence!
He and Jean returned to the horses, and told Cascabel
how matters stood. There was no need to tell the women,
who would have been frightened to no purpose. It was
decided to leave them in the caravan, and set to work to
push at the wheels so as to relieve the worn-out horses,
whose coats shone with perspiration in the storm.
About two o'clock the fall of snow sensibly diminished.
It was now a few scattered flakes, which the breeze whirled BEHRING STRAIT.
l6t
in the air. It became easier to keep a straight course.
The horses tugged away vigorously. Monsieur Serge
resolved to make no stoppage until the Belle Roulotte
rested safely on the rocks of Diomed Island.
By his calculations the island could not now be more
than half-a-league to the westward, and by putting in a
good spell of collar-work they ought to be on the beach
in an hour.
Unfortunately the light, already so feeble, grew feebler,
and was nearly reduced to a vague reflection. Were they
or were they not on the right road ? How could they be
sure of it ?
At this instant the two dogs began to bark loudly.
Was this a signal of danger ? Had they scented some
band of Esquimaux or Tchouktchis on their way across
the strait ? In that case Monsieur Serge would not hesitate
to claim the help of these natives, or at least make sure of
the exact position of the island.
At the same time one of the little windows of the caravan
opened, and Cornelia asked why Wagram and Marengo
were barking in that way.
The reply was that the cause was as yet unknown, but
that there was no danger.
I Can we come out ?" she added.
| No, Cornelia ! " said Cascabel, " you are better where
you are.    Stay there! "
I But if the dogs have scented some animal—a bear, for
example ? "
I Well, they will tell us. You can get the guns ready,
but you must stay where you are."
I Shut your window, Madame Cascabel," said Monsieur
Serge. " There is not a moment to lose ! We must move
on at once!"
The horses had stopped at the barking ot the dogs, and
now resumed their toilsome progress.
For half-an-hour the Belle Roulotte advanced more
quickly, owing to the surface of the ice-field being smoother.
The horses, overtired, with their heads hanging down,
dragged with all their strength.    All felt it was a last
N
I* 162
CESAR CASCABEL.
effort, and that they would break down if the effort was to
be prolonged.
Daylight had almost gone. What remained of the light
diffused through space seemed to come rather from the
surface of the field than from the upper zones of the
sky.
And the two dogs continued barking, running on in
front with their noses in the air and their tails stiff and
motionless, and then returning to the horses.
| There is something extraordinary," said Cascabel.
I It is Diomed Island ! " said Jean. And he pointed to
a confused mass of rocks rising a few hundred yards to the
west.
And in proof that Jean was not mistaken the mass was
dotted with black points, the column of which stood out
sharply against the white snow.
I That ought to be the island," said Monsieur Serge.
" Do not I see those black points moving ?"
"Moving?"
| Yes."
"Then they are probably several thousand seals that
have taken refuge on the island."
I Several thousand seals !" exclaimed Cascabel.
I Ah !" exclaimed Clou, " what a stroke of fortune if
we could only catch them and show them at the fair !"
" And if they said ' Papa ' ! " added Sandre.
CHAPTER ll.
BETWEEN  TWO CURRENTS.
The Belle Roulotte was at last on solid ground, no longer
in danger from a melting ice-field. It can easily be
imagined how greatly the Cascabels appreciated the
advantage of feeling immovable rock beneath their feet. BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS. 163
Darkness came on. The. same arrangements for the
camp were made as before, only this time the site was five
or six hundred yards up the beach of Diomed Island.
First the horses were looked to, and then the other
animals, and then the "thinking folks," to use one of
Cascabel's expressions.
It could hardly be said to be cold. The thermometric
column indicated but four degrees below zero. But it
mattered little. During the halt there was nothing to feai
from a rise in temperature. The caravan could wait until
a lower temperature had definitely solidified the ice-field.
Winter would soon set in in all its rigour.
It being night, Monsieur Serge put off the exploration
of the island until the morning. In the first place, the best
was done for the wearied horses, to whom good food and
rest were indispensable ; then the supper was served, at
which each did their duty; and then all retired to bed,
after such a hard day's work.
The Belle Roulotte was soon plunged in sleep, and that
night Cornelia neither dreamt of collapses, nor abysses,
nor swallowings-up of her travelling home.
Next day, the 25th of October, .as soon as the daylight permitted, Monsieur Serge and Cascabel, with his
two sons, went out to reconnoitre the state of the island.
What surprised them at the outset was the incredible
number of the seals—fur seals—that had taken refuge on
it. In fact it is in this part of Behring Sea, bounded on
the south by the 50th degree of north latitude, that these
animals are met with in perhaps the largest numbers.
On examining the map one cannot fail to be struck by
the configuration of the American and Asiatic coasts, and
their resemblance. Both have practically the same outline ; Prince of Wales Land answers to the Tchouktchis
Peninsula ; the Gulf of Norton to the Gulf of Anadyr ; the
end of the Alaskan Peninsula curves similarly to that of the
Kamtschatkan, and the whole is shut in by the chaplet of
Aleutian Islands. One cannot conclude, however, that
America has been abruptly separated from Asia by a
convulsion in prehistoric times, for there are no projecting
N   2 CESAR CASCABEL,
angles on one side to fit into retreating angles on the
other.
Islands are plentiful in these parts. There are St.
Lawrence, already mentioned, Nounivak on the American
coast, Karaghniski on the Asiatic coast; not far from the
Kamtschatkan coast is Behring Island, close to which is
the small Cuvier Island, and at a little distance from the
Alaskan coast are the Pribyloff Islands. The resemblance
between the coasts is thus completed by the similar
arrangement of the Archipelagoes.
These Pribyloff Islands and Behring Island are the
special haunts of the colonies of seals which inhabit these
seas. There they are in millions which no one can count;
and the islands are in consequence the rendezvous of seal
hunters and sea-otters, the latter very numerous less than
a century ago, but now greatly thinned by a war of extermination.
The Otarian seals—a generic name, which includes the
sea-lions, sea-cows, and sea-bears—collect in innumerable
herds, and the race never seems in danger of extinction.
In the warm season what a hunting of these seals there is !
Without mercy or cessation the hunters attack them in the
rookeries, as the parks are called, in which the families
gather. It is the adult seals which are s o pitilessly
slaughtered, and were it not for their extraordinary
fecundity the race would disappear.
It has been calculated that between 1867 and 1880 three
hundred and eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and
eighty-two seals have been destroyed on Behring Island
alone. On the Pribyloff Islands during the century a
stock of three million four hundred thousand skins have
been taken by the Alaskan hunters, and not less than a
hundred thousand are still taken annually.
And how many remain on the other islands of Behring
Sea! Monsieur Serge and his companions could judge
after what they saw on Diomed Island. The entire beach
was covered with a swarm of seals, massed one close to the
other, and completely hiding the carpet of snow on which
they reposed. BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS.
165
As Monsieur Serge and his companions looked at the
seals they saw that the seals were in turn looking at them.
Motionless, uneasy, perhaps angry at this intrusion into
their domain, they made no attempt to escape, and
occasionally emitted a sort of prolonged bellowing, in which
a certain angry tone was noticeable. Then, raising themselves, they wagged their paws, or rather their flippers,
which they stretched out like fans.
If, as young Sandre had wished, these thousands of seals
possessed the gift of speech, what thunders of " papas "
would have come from their moustachioed lips.
It need not be said that neither Monsieiir Serge nor Jean
thought of hunting this army of amphibians. They might
offer a fortune of "furs on foot," as Cascabel said, but a
massacre would have been useless, and even dangerous.
These animals, formidable in their numbers, might have
rendered the position of the Belle Roulotte a very
dangerous one ; and so Monsieur Serge advised extreme
care.
But did not the presence of these seals on the island
afford an indication, which it was not wise to neglect ?
Was there not room to ask why these animals had taken
refuge on this heap of rocks, which yielded them no
food ?
This was a subject of very serious discussion, in which
Monsieur Serge, C6sar Cascabel and his elder son took
part. They had walked towards the central part of the
island, while the women occupied themselves with their
household duties, leaving Clou and Sandre to look after
the animals.
It was Monsieur Serge who began the discussion by
remarking,—
" My friends, we ought to settle if it would not be better
to abandon Diomed Island as soon as the horses are rested,
instead of prolonging our halt."
11 do not think," said Cascabel, " that we need stop to
play Swiss Family Robinson on this rock. I confess I am
in a hurry to feel a bit of Siberia under my heel."
11 understand that, father," said Jean, " but it will not n
CESAR CASCABEL.
[onsieur Serge.
if   the
That
do to expose ourselves again to danger in crossing the
strait. Without this island what would have become of
us ?   There are still twelve leagues to Numana."
" Well, Jean, could we not do that in two or three
stages by an effort ?"
I That would   be difficult," said Jean,   " even
state of the ice-field permitted."
II think Jean is right," said
we are in a hurry to cross the strait is true ; but as the
temperature has risen so unexpectedly, it appears to me it
would be scarcely prudent to leave solid ground. We
started too soon from Port Clarence, let us not start too
soon from Diomed Island. It is certain that the strait is
not frozen over throughout."
"And hence the cracking we heard yesterday," said
Jean. 1 That was evidently due to an insufficient aggregation of the ice—"
I Yes," said Monsieur Serge, " that is one proof; but
there is another."
I What is that?" asked Jean.
" One that appears to me quite as strong—that is the
presence of these thousands of seals, whose instinct has
driven them to invade DiomeJ Island. Doubtless, after
leaving the more northerly parts of the sea, these animals
were making for Behring Island or the Aleutian Islands,
when they scented some future trouble. They felt they
could not remain on the ice-field. Was the dislocation
due to the influence of the temperature, or was it produced
by some submarine phenomenon ? I do not know. But
if we are in a hurry to reach Siberia, the seals are in none
the less of a hurry to reach their rookeries on Behring
Island and the Pribyloff Islands, and if they have stopped
at Diomed Island, it is because they have very good reasons
for it."
" Then, what is your advice, Monsieur Serge ? V asked
Cascabel.
I My advice is to remain here until the seals have given
us the signal to go by going themselves."
" That is a nice look-out ! " said Cascabel. BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS.
167
I It is not very serious, father," said Jean, " and let us
hope we may never know a worse."
" Besides" said Monsieur Serge, " this state of things
cannot last. Late as the winter may be this year, we are
now at the end of October, and although the thermometer
is only at zero, it may fall twenty degrees in a day. If the
wind shifts to the north, the ice-field will be as solid as a
continent. And so my advice, and I have thought a good
deal about it, is to wait if nothing compels us to leave."
It was, at least, the most prudent thing to do. And so
it was decided that the Belle Roulotte should remain on
Diomed Island as long as the passage of the strait was not
made completely safe by intense cold.
During the day, Monsieur Serge and Jean explored the
granitic base, which assured them their safety. The island
measured three kilometres in circumference. Even in
summer it is absolutely barren. A pile of rocks, and nothing more ! Nevertheless it will do to receive the piers of
the famous Behring Bridge, suggested by Cascabel, if ever
the American and Russian engineers think of uniting the
two continents—the very opposite to what has been done
by Lesseps.
As they walked, the visitors took good care not to
frighten the seals. It was evident that the presence of
human beings kept these animals in a state of excitement,
which at least was peculiar. This was particularly the
case with the big bulls, who freely used their husky voices
and gathered their families around them ; very numerous
these, for the most part, for seals are polygamous, and
forty or fifty adults will have but one father.
This Unfriendly conduct set Monsieur Serge thinking,
particularly when he remarked a tendency of the amphibians
to move towards the caravan. Singly there was nothing
to be afraid of from them, but it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to withstand such masses, if it suited them
to give chase to the intruders who had come to dispute
with them the possession of Diomed Island. Jean was
also much struck by this movement, and he and Monsieur
Serge returned in some alarm. 168
CESAR CASCABEL.
The day ended without incident, except that the breeze,
which blew from the south-east, freshened considerably.
Manifestly a storm was brewing, perhaps one of those
Arctic gales which lasts for days. There was a sudden fall of
the barometer, which fell to seventy-two centimetres.
Night came on threateningly; and as soon as the travellers had taken their places in the Belle Roulotte,
a tumult of bellowings, of the nature of which there could
be no mistake, came to increase the noise of the gusts of
wind. The seals had reached the side of the vehicle, and
were beginning to swarm round it. The horses neighed,
fearing to be attacked by these bands, against which Wagram and Marengo barked in useless anger. It was necessary to go out and bring Vermout and Gladiator to where
they could be watched over. Revolvers and guns were
loaded, although Monsieur Serge advised that they should
not be used except in the last extremity.
The night was pitch dark : as nothing could be seen in
such darkness the lamps were lighted. Far as their rays
could penetrate there were seen to be thousands of seals
surrounding the Belle Roulotte, and waiting only for daylight to begin their attack.
| If they attack us," said Monsieur Serge, " resistance
will be impossible, and we risk being overwhelmed."
" But what is to be done ?" said Jean.
" We must be off! "
" When ? " asked Cascabel.
" Now," said Monsieur Serge.
In face of this very serious danger was Monsieur
Serge right in wishing to leave the island ? Yes ; and it
was the only thing to do. Most likely the seals wished
only to drive away the beings who had taken refuge on
their domain, and would not be so enraged as to pursue
them across the ice-field. To try and disperse them by
force would have been more than imprudent. What
could a few guns and revolvers do against these
thousands ?
The horses were harnessed in, the women shut themselves   up   in  the  caravan,  and  the men, ready f$>r the Waiting only for daylight to begin their attack.  BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS.
169
defensive, placed themselves on each side of the vehicle,
which began to retreat towards the west.
The night was so thick that the lamps could scarcely
light the road twenty paces ahead ; at the same time the
squalls were frequent in full fury. It did not snow, and
the flakes which floated in the air were those torn by the
wind from the surface of the ice-field.
But if the solidification had been complete! It was
nothing of the sort. The travellers felt the floes opening,
and heard the cracking of the ice; and there were long
fissures through which the sea water was thrown up like a
fountain.
Monsieur Serge and his companions journeyed thus for
an hour, fearing each instant that the ice-field would
break up under their feet. To follow an exact course became impossible, although Jean did his best with the compass. Fortunately marching towards the west was not
like making for Diomed Island, which they might have
passed on the north or south without recognizing it. The
Siberian coast was ten leagues away, extending over three
quarters of the horizon, and they could not well miss it.
But they must reach it; and to do this the first condition
was that the Belle Roulotte should not be swallowed up in
the depths of Behring Sea. .
But if this was the greatest danger to be feared, it was
not the only one. Every moment the south-east gale
caught the caravan broadside on, and threatened to overturn
it. To avoid any risk Cornelia, Napoleone, and Kayette
had to get out; and the men-folks were every now and
then forced to hang on to the windward wheels to keep
the vehicle firm. Under such circumstances, with the
horses feeling the ground shaking under their feet, the distance covered was, it will be understood, very small.
About half-past five in the morning, that of the 26th of
October, amid darkness as deep as that which bathes the
interstellar spaces, a halt was found inevitable ; the horses
could go no further. The surface of the ice-field was like
the waves of the sea as it was lifted by the billows, the
storm was driving from the south of Behring" Sea. 170
CESAR CASCABEL.
" How are we to get out of this ?" asked Jean.
| We must return to the island," said Cornelia, who
could not pacify the fears of little Napoleone.
| That is no longer possible," said Monsieur Serge.
" And why ?" said Cascabel. " I would rather fight
seals than—"
11 repeat we cannot return to the island," said Monsieur Serge. " We should have to travel against the storm,
and the caravan could not do it. It will be demolished if
it is not kept before the wind."
" Provided we are not obliged to abandon it!" said
Jean.
" Abandon it! " exclaimed Cascabel; " and what would
become of us without our Belle Roulotte ? "
" We will do everything to avoid that," said Monsieur
Serge. " Yes, this caravan is our safety, and we must try
and save it at all costs."
I And is it not possible to go back ? " asked Cascabel.
" No !    we   must   go    on!"    said
" Courage   and   nerve,  and  we   shall  end  by
Numana."
All felt encouraged at these words. It was too evident
that the violence of the wind would hinder a return to
Diomed Island. It blew from the south-east with such impetuosity that nothing could make head against it. The
Belie Roulotte could not remain stationary. If she only
stood up against the wind she would be blown to bits.
A sort of half day-light came on about ten o'clock—a
dull, misty day. Clouds, low and straggly, seemed to drag
the strips of vapour across the strait, which they swept
furiously. In the whirlwinds of snow little pieces of ice
flew about like showers of hailstones. Under such painful
circumstances only a half-league was accomplished in an
hour and a half, for they had to avoid the pools of water
and the floes accumulating on the field. Underneath was
the rolling sea, causing a corresponding rolling of the ice
with continual cracking.
Suddenly, about a quarter to one, there was a violent
shock ; a network of fissures starred the ice-field, radiating
Monsieur    Serge,
reaching BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS. 171
around the caravan. A crevasse, measuring thirty feet
across, opened under the horses' feet.
At a shout from Monsieur Serge his companions stopped
a few paces from the opening.
a Our horses ! our horses ! " shouted Jean. 1 Father,
save our horses !"
It was too late: the ice had given way, and the unfortunate pair had gone. If the pole had not broken as well
as the traces the Belle Roulotte would have been dragged
into the depths of the sea.
I Our poor horses ! " said Cascabel in despair.
Yes! the mountebank's old friends, who had travelled
the world over with him, the faithful companions who had
shared his wandering life for so long, had been engulfed.
Big tears rolled down the cheeks of Cascabel and his
wife and children.
I Back! back !" shouted Monsieur Serge.
And bringing their weight to bear on the caravan, they
pushed it back a little distance from the crevasse, which
was being enlarged by the oscillations of the ice-field. In
this way it was moved about twenty feet beyond the circle
of dislocation.
What was to be done ? Abandon the Belle Roulotte in
the middle of the strait, and return with a team of reindeer
from Numana ?
It seemed as though nothing else could be done.
All at once Jean began to shout,—
" Monsieur Serge! Monsieur Serge ! Look ! We are
adrift!"
"Adrift!"
It was too true.
There was little doubt that a general break-up had put
the ice in motion in the strait. The violence of the storm,
added to the increase of temperature, had broken up the
field, which had been insufficiently united in its central
portion. Large gaps had been opened towards the north
by the movement of the floes, some of which had been
driven on to the field and some underneath it; this permitted the floating island which carried the vehicle to drift 172
CESAR CASCABEL.
before the storm. A few icebergs, which remained
stationary, enabled Monsieur Serge to make out the
direction of the drift.
The position of affairs, which was disquieting enough
after the loss of the horses, was now much worse. It was
no longer possible to reach Numana even by abandoning
the caravan. It was no longer crevasses they had to get
round, but numerous gaps they had no means to clear,
and the position of which was changing with every caprice
of the sea. And then, this floe which carried the Belle
Roulotte, how long would it resist the shock of the waves
which were breaking it away round the edge ?
No! There was nothing to be done ! To attempt a
passage to the coast was beyond human powers. The
block would drift until some obstacle stopped it, and who
knew if this obstacle might not be the ice-field in the
extreme limits of the Polar Sea !
About two o'clock in the afternoon, amid the gloom of
the fog, the light was so bad that nothing was visible beyond a very short range. In shelter, on the north side,
Monsieur Serge and his companions stood in silence.
What could they say when there was nothing they could
do ? Cornelia, Kayette and Napoleone, wrapped in their
furs, huddled close together. Young Sandre, more
surprised than uneasy, was whistling a tune. Clou was
busy in putting in order the things disturbed by the shock
inside the caravan. Monsieur Serge and Jean were
collected enough, but it was not so with Cascabel, who was
in a fury with himself for having brought them all on such
an adventure.
But it was necessary to thoroughly understand the
position. There are two currents in Behring Strait; one
descends to the south, the other flows to the north. The
first is the Kamtschatkan current, the second is the
Behring Strait current. If the floe bearing the Belle
Roulotte and her crew had been seized by the first, it would
inevitably be brought back, and there was a chance it
might ground on the Siberian coast. If, on the contrary, it
had fallen within the attraction of the second, it would be Interminable hours were thus passed.
„^ams^  BETWEEN TWO CURRENTS. 173
carried up into the Polar Sea, where there was neither a
continent nor a group of islands to stop it.
Unfortunately the storm, which increased in violence,
blew from the south. Into the throat of the strait the.
wind was rushing with unimaginable violence, and gradually
shifting from its first direction. This was noted by
Monsieur Serge and Jean. They also saw that their only
chance lay in their being seized by the Kamtschatkan
current. According to the compass they were going north- -
wards. Could they hope that the floe would be borne
close to Prince of Wales peninsula on the Alaskan coast,
in sight of Port Clarence ? That would be a truly
providential ending to the adventures on this floe. But the
strait opens at such a wide angle between Cape Oriental
and Cape Prince of Wales that it would have been unwise
to abandon themselves to this hope.
Their position on the floe became almost untenable, and
no one could remain standing in the fury of the storm.
Jean, who wished to observe the state of the sea to windward, was blown down, and had not Monsieur Serge
caught hold of him he would have been hurled into the
waves.
What a night was passed by these unhappy people, who
were as if they had been shipwrecked. What constant
terrors ! Icebergs of huge size would jostle against their
floating island with such crashes and jolts as threatened to
break it in pieces. Heavy waves swept its surface, and
submerged it as if it was sinking in the abyss. Everyone
was benumbed by these cold douches, which the wind
pulverized above them. They might have avoided them
by going inside the caravan, but it shook at each gust of
the storm, and neither Monsieur Serge nor Cascabel dared
to advise anyone to seek refuge within it.
Interminable hours were thus passed ; but the gaps
became wider, the floe drifted along with fewer and fewer
shocks. Had it, then, become detached from the ice in
the strait, which opened up a few leagues away into the
Glacial Sea ? Had they crossed the Arctic Circle ? Had
the Behring current in fact got the better of the Kamts-
o 174
CESAR CASCABEL.
chatkan current ? In that case, if the coast of America
did not stop them, was it not to be feared that they would
be carried off to the foot of the Polar ice-cap ?
How slow the daylight was in coming ! the daylight
which would enable them, perhaps, to ascertain their true
position. The poor women prayed; their safety could
only come from Heaven.
The day at last appeared—27th of October. It brought
no appeasement of the atmospheric troubles. It seemed
even as though the fury of the tempest had redoubled with
the rising of the sun.
Monsieur Serge and Jean, compass in hand, interrogated
the horizon. In vain they strove to discover some high
ground to the east or west of them.
The floe, it was only too certain, had drifted towards
the north in the Behring current.
>fc sie sic * sfc *
As may be imagined, this storm gave the inhabitants of
Port Clarence the liveliest anxiety as to the fate of the
Famille Cascabel. But how could they go to their rescue
when the break-up of the ice cut off all communication
between the banks of the strait ?
It was the same at the port of Numana, where the two
Russian police, who had crossed two days before, had
announced the departure of the Belle Roulotte. If they
experienced any anxiety for those who accompanied the
caravan, it was not out of sympathy for them. They were
waiting for Count Narkine on the Siberian coast, where
they reckoned on arresting him—and it was probable that
Count Narkine had perished in this disaster with all the
Famille Cascabel.
And three days afterwards no room for doubt on the
point was left, when the current left two dead horses in
one of the creeks on the coast—these were Vermout and
Gladiator, the whole of the mountebank's team.
" My word ! " said one of the police, " we did well to
cross the strait before our man."
" Yes," answered the other, " but it is a pity we spoilt
such a real good thing! " We know what was the position of the shipwrecked troupe
on the 27th of October. Could there be any illusion as to
their fate to encourage the frailest hope ? Adrift in
Behring Strait, their last chance would have been to be
caught by the southerly current, and borne to the Asiatic
shore; but it was the northerly current, which was taking
them out into the open sea !
Once they had crossed the Polar Sea what would
become of this floe if it did not dissolve, if it did not break
up in collision ? Would it lose itself on some Arctic beach ?
Driven by the easterly wind, which then held the mastery,
would it be cast on the reefs of Spitzbergen or of Nova
Zembla ? In that case, even at the cost of the most
terrible trials, would Cascabel and his people regain the
continent ?
It was of the consequences of this last hypothesis that
Monsieur Serge was thinking. He talked of it to Cascabel
and Jean as he scanned the horizon, which was still clouded
with mist.
I My friends," he said, "we are unmistakably in great
danger. The floe may break up at any moment, and it
is impossible for us to leave it."
I Is that the greatest danger which menaces us ? " asked
Cascabel.
'' For the moment, yes ! " replied Monsieur Serge; " but
with the resumption of the cold the danger will diminish,
and even disappear. At this period, and in these latitudes,
it is impossible for the rise in temperature to continue
many days."
"You are right, Monsieur Serge," said Jean, "but if the
floe remains, where will it go ? "
I In my opinion, it will not go very far, and it will not
be long before it is frozen up in some ice-field.   Then as
O  2 176
CESAR CASCABEL.
soon as the sea is definitely frozen we will try to reach
the continent so as to resume our old route."
| And how can we replace our horses ?" said Cascabel.
I Ah ! my poor beasts ! my poor beasts! Monsieur Serge,
those noble servants were part of my family, and it was
my fault—''
Cascabel was inconsolable. His grief broke out afresh.
He accused himself of having been the cause of the
catastrophe. Horses crossing a sea ! Had that ever been
seen before ? And he thought more of that perhaps than
of the trouble which their disappearance had caused.
I Yes! It is an irreparable misfortune under the circumstances in which the catastrophe has placed us," said
Monsieur Serge. "We men may, however, bear the
privations and fatigues resulting from the loss; but
Madame Cascabel, Kayette, Napoleone, almost children,
how will it be with them when we abandon the Belle
Roulotte ?"
I Abandon it! " exclaimed Cascabel.
I We shall have to, father."
" Indeed !" said Cascabel, making a threatening gesture
with his finger. " It will be tempting Providence to
undertake such a voyage! To follow such a route to
Europe!"
" Do not be cast down, my friend," interrupted Monsieur
Serge. " Face the danger without weakness! That is
the best way to surmount it."
" See, father," said Jean, " what is done is done, and we
all had something to do with it. Do not accuse yourself
of having been too reckless; and recall your former
energy!"
But it spite of these encouragements Cascabel was
overwhelmed, and his confidence in himself, his usual
philosophy, had received a rude shock.
Meanwhile, Monsieur Serge strove, with all the means at
his disposal, by consulting his compass and seeking some
known landmark, to make out the direction of the current.
It was in these observations that he spent the whole of the
few hours of the day that lighted up the' horizon. ADRIFT.
The work was not easy, for the marks he chose were
continually changing; but beyond the strait the sea
appeared to be clear over a wide extent. He could see
that, with this abnormal temperature, the Arctic ice-field
had never been completely formed. If it had seemed to be
so for some days, it was because the floes, which descended
from the north or ascended from the south, under the
influence of the two currents, had joined one to the other
in that portion of the narrow sea between the two continents.
As the result of these numerous observations, Monsieur
Serge thought he could affirm that the direction of the
drift was towards the north-west. That showed, undoubtedly, that the Behring current, curving towards the
Siberian coast, after forcing back the Kamtschatkan
current, rounded at the exit from the strait into a curve
subtending the latitude of the Polar Circle.
At the same time he found that the wind, which continued boisterous, blew from the south-east; if it had come
for a time from the south, it was because the position of
the coasts had modified its general direction, which it
recovered in the open sea.
As soon as he had arrived at these results Monsieur
Serge rejoined Cascabel, and explained that nothing but
the best could happen under such circumstances. The
good news brought a little calm to the head of the
family.
" Yes," said he, " it is something to be going straight for
the coast we want. But what a roundabout way we have
been!"
They then all set to work to make their quarters as
comfortable as possible, as if their stay on the floe was to
be a long one. Above everything, it was decided that
they would continue in the Belle Roulotte, which was now
less likely to capsize owing to its moving before the
wind.
Cornelia, Kayette, and Napoleone could resume their
places inside, and occupy themselves with the cooking
which had been absolutely neglected for a whole day i78
CESAR CASCABEL.
The meal was soon ready, and the family sat down to
table, and if the usual cheerful conversation did not season
the dinner, at least the diners were comforted, after their
terrible experiences since leaving Diomed Island.
The day finished in this way. The gale still blew with
fearful violence. The air was alive with great flocks of
birds, petrels, ptarmigan, and others, justly named the
birds of the storm.
The next day, and the following days, the 28th, 29th,
30th, and 31st, of October, brought no change. The wind,
keeping in its old quarter, in no way modified the state of
the atmosphere.
Monsieur Serge had carefully examined the form and
size of the floe. It was a sort of irregular trapezium, from
three hundred and fifty to four hundred feet long, and
about a hundred wide. This trapezium was a good yard
above the water, and gently rose towards the centre.
There was no crack on its surface, although dull crackings
were occasionally heard in its mass. It thus appeared
that its solidity had not suffered much from the attacks of
the waves and wind.
Not without great efforts had the Belle Roulotte been
moved into the centre. There cords and tent-pegs, such as
were used at the professional performances, stayed it so
strongly that there was no risk of its being damaged by
the wind.
What was more alarming were the shocks due to sudden
collisions with enormous icebergs, moving at irregular
speed, according as they followed the current or swung
round in the eddies. A few, measuring from fifteen to
twenty feet high, threatened to fall on to the floe. They
could be seen from afar, they could be seen coming, and
how could collision be avoided ? Some of them turned
over with much noise when the displacement of their centre
of gravity modified their equilibrium ; but when they
struck the floe the collisions were extremely formidable.
The shock was often so violent, that had not precautions
been taken, everything inside the caravan would have
been  broken.    The   menace of a sudden   collapse   was ADRIFT.
179
always present. As soon as the approach of one of these
bergs was signalled, Monsieur Serge and his companions
would gather round the Belle Roulotte and cling to one
another. Jean strove to be always near Kayette. Of all
dangers the most awful would be to see themselves drifted
away separately on broken fragments of the floe. Besides,
it was not so safe at the edges as in the centre, where the
thickness was greater.
During the night, Monsieur Serge and Cascabel, Jean
and Clou, took it in turns to watch. Their chief care was
to keep a good look-out amid the deep gloom, haunted by
huge white forms, which moved like phantoms. Although
the air was filled with the mists driven by the interminable
storm, the moon low on the horizon impregnated it with a
little pale light, and the icebergs could be seen a certain
distance away. At the shout of the watchers every one
was afoot, awaiting the result of the shock. Often the
direction of the iceberg would change, and it would pass
by on a contrary tack ; but often it would come straight
on, and the shock would break the ropes and tear out the
pegs that held the Belle Roulotte.
And the temperature continued to be abnormal! And
the sea had continued open since the first week of November ; and it was still navigable in those few degrees above
the Arctic circle ! It was indeed unfortunate. But if
some belated whaler passed in view, they could make
signals to him; they could attract his attention by firing
guns ! If he took them on board, he could take them to
one of the ports on the American coast, to Victoria, San
Francisco, San Diego, or to one on the Siberian coast,
to Petropavlovsk, or Okhotsk! But no! not a ship.
Nothing but icebergs in motion. Nothing but the wide
deserted sea, bounded on the north by the impassable icefield.
Fortunately there would be no difficulty about food
even if the drifting lasted for several weeks. In preparation for a long journey across Asia, when there would be
difficulties in obtaining victuals, ample provision had been
laid in of tinned meats, flour -rice, etc.    There was now, i8o
CESAR CASCABEL.
alas ! no trouble in providing fodder for the horses! But
if Vermout and Gladiator had survived the breaking-up,
how would it have been possible to minister to their
wants ?
During the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th of November
there was nothing new, except that the wind showed a
tendency to moderate, and veer a little to the northward.
The day hardly lasted two hours, and this added to the
horrors of the situation. In spite of the incessant observations of Monsieur Serge it became very difficult to make
out the course taken, and as they could not mark it on the
map they no longer knew where they were.
However, on the 7th, a landmark was found, recognized,
and its position fixed with some exactitude.
About eleven o'clock on that day, when the vague rays
of daylight were diffused in the air, Monsieur Serge and
Jean, accompanied by Kayette, went to the front of the
floe. There was among the property of the caravan a
fairly good telescope, which was used by Clou when he
showed simpletons the Equator, made by a thread stretched
across the object glass, and the inhabitants of the
moon represented by insects introduced into the tube.
Jean had carefully cleaned up this telescope, and brought
it out to see if there was no land in sight in the offing.
He had been examining the horizon for a few minutes
the north, said,
Is  that  not a
when Kayette, stretching out her hand to
" I think I see something over there,
mountain ?"
" A mountain ? " said Jean. " No, it is not likely to be
anything but an iceberg." And he levelled the telescope
in the direction pointed out.
" Kayette is right," he said almost immediately.
And he gave the instrument to Monsieur Serge, who
directed it to the same spot.
" Yes," said he, " that is a mountain, and a
Kayette is not mistaken."
After another observation it was estimated that
was land to the northward within five or six leagues.
That was a fact of extreme importance.
high
one
there ADRIFT.
I For a land to be dominated by so high a mountain,'
said Jean, " it ought to be of considerable extent."
" That is true, Jean," said Monsieur Serge, " and when
we get back into the Belle Roulotte we will try and find
out what it can be. That will enable us to fix our position
exactly."
" Jean, it looks as though there was smoke coming out
of that mountain," said Kayette.
" Then it should be a volcano," said Monsieur Serge.
| Yes, yes ! " said Jean, looking through the telescope,
" you can see the smoke clearly."
But already the daylight had begun to fade, and even
with the enlarging of the eye-piece, the lineaments of the
mountain were gradually effaced.
An hour later, when the darkness was almost complete,
vivid streaks of light appeared in the direction which had
been noted by a line traced on the snow.
I Let us go in and look at the map," said Monsieur
Serge.    And all then went into the caravan.
Jean looked out in the atlas the map representing the
northern regions above Behring Strait, and this is what he
found.
Monsieur Serge had already discovered that the current,
after running to the north, curved to the north-west about
fifty leagues beyond the strait, and also that the floe had
followed this direction for several days. What, therefore,
they had to look for was land in sight to the north-west.
Exactly twenty leagues from the continent the map showed
a large island, called by geographers Wrangel Island, the
coast line of which is determined only on the southern
side. It was probable that the floe would not touch it if
the current continued to take it across the large arm of the
sea which separates the island from Siberia.
Monsieur Serge had no doubt as to the identification of
Wrangel Island. In fact, between the two capes projecting
to the south, Cape Hawan and Cape Thomas, it is dominated by an active volcano marked on the recent maps.
This could but be the volcano seen by Kayette, the light
of which had become distinct at the fall of day. 182
CESAR CASCABEL.
The route of the floe from Behring Strait could thus
be traced. It had doubled Cape Serdtse-Kamen, Koliout-
chin Bay, the promontory of Wankarem, the North Cape,
and then gone down Long Channel, which separates
Wrangel Island from the province of Tchouktchis.
Where would the floe be carried when it was clear of
Long Channel ? It was impossible to foresee. What
Monsieur Serge was thinking about was that to the north
the map showed no land except this island. There was
nothing but the Polar ice-field, with the Pole as its centre.
The only chance of safety seemed to be that the sea
would freeze entirely under the action of greater cold, as it
should have done several weeks earlier : the drifting would
thus be stopped on the edge of the ice-field, and by striking
southwards, Siberia could be reached. Necessity would
compel them to abandon the Belle Roulotte for want of a
team, but how then could they accomplish so long a
journey ?
The wind, continuing in the east, was still very rough,
although no longer a gale. But in these horrible regions
the long waves came rolling up noisily, and breaking on the
edge of the floe, dashed up their waters over it with a
shock that shook the ice to its centre. It threatened to
break up suddenly under their blows, and besides this, the
masses of water hurled round the Belle Roulotte would
nearly sweep away anyone who was outside at the time.
At Monsieur Serge's advice some precautions were taken
against this. Abundant snow had fallen during the first
week of November, and it was easy to make a sort of dyke,
at the rear of the floe, to protect it from the waves which
usually came from that side. Everyone set to work at this,
and when the snow was properly heaped up and patted
down, and was hard for a height and thickness of some four
or five feet, it presented an obstacle to the blows of the sea
which stopped all but the spray from coming over. It was
like a netting round the poop of a disabled ship.
While this was being made, Sandre and Napoleone did
not fail to throw a few snowballs at each other, and at the
back of Clou-di-Girofle; but as it  was only for amuse- ADRIFT.
183
ment Cascabel did not scold them very severely, except
one day when a ball went wrong and dropped on Monsieur
Serge's hat.
" Who is that clumsy creature ? " asked Cascabel.
" I did it, father," replied little Napoleone, very much out
of countenance.
" Then you are clumsy !" continued Cascabel. " You
will excuse, Monsieur Serge—this imp—"
"Leave her alone, friend Cascabel. Let her come and
kiss me and say no more about it."
Which was done.
Not only was the dyke built at the back of the floe, but
soon the Belle Roulotte was surrounded by a kind of
rampart, so as to protect it more efficaciously, while the
wheels, with the snow up to the axle-trees, made it quite immovable. The rampart was as high as the upper gallery,
with a narrow foot-path giving a means of getting round
it. It looked like a ship in winter quarters amid the icebergs, with the hull defended by a shelter of snow against
the cold and storm. If the floe did not founder, there
would be nothing to fear from the blows of the sea, and
under such circumstances it might be possible to await
the moment when the Arctic winter should have definitely
taken possession.
And when this moment came, it would be necessary to set
out and make for the continent; to leave the moving house,
which had brought its crew right across the New World ;
to leave this firm and safe family shelter; to abandon it
amid the ice of the Polar Sea, and leave it to disappear in
the break-up when the warm season came.
And when Cascabel thought of that he, so philosophical, so inclined to take things on their best side, would
lift his hands to the sky, and curse his ill luck, and accuse
himself of all this disaster, forgetting that it was due to the
scoundrels who had stolen the box in the gorges of the
Sierra Nevada.
In vain Cornelia tried to draw him from his sombre
thoughts, at first by kind words, at last by violent objurgations.    In vain his children claimed their shares in the
Wfi Ill
184
CESAR CASCABEL,
consequences of the regrettable decision, and repeated that
the project of the voyage had had the approval of all the
family. In vain Monsieur Serge, in vain the " little quail "
strove to console the inconsolable Cdsar. He refused to
listen to them.
" You are no longer a man ! " said Cornelia one day,
giving him a shake.
" Neither are you ! " said he, regaining his equilibrium,
which had not been seriously interfered with by this conjugal admonition!
In reality, Cornelia was full of anxiety about the future,
but she felt the need of some reaction against the collapse
of her husband, who had formerly been so tough against
the blows of ill fortune.
Monsieur Serge began to concern himself about the
question of food. The food must last till it was possible
to start across the ice-field, or till the Belle Roulotte reached
the Siberian coast. It was useless to trust to the guns at a
time when the flocks of sea birds were passing but seldom
amid the mists. Prudence, too, required that the crew should
be rationed in preparation for a journey which might last
long.
It was under these circumstances that the floe, still drifting in the current, arrived in the latitude of the Anjou
Island, situated off the northern coast of Asia,
CHAPTER IV.
FROM NOVEMBER 16TH TO DECEMBER 2ND,
It was by estimate that Monsieur Serge was led to
believe he had reached the latitude of these islands. As
much as possible in his daily observations he took account
of the drift, which he set down as averaging some fifteen
leagues for every twenty-four hours.
»Uh. FROM NOVEMBER  l6TH TO DECEMBER 2ND.      185
The archipelago, which was invisible, is situated
according to the map in 150° east longitude and 750 north
latitude, about a hundred leagues from the continent.
Monsieur Serge was not mistaken. On the 16th of
November the floe was south of the Anjou Islands. But at
what distance ? Even with the instruments in ordinary
use amongst sailors it was only discoverable approximately. With the sun showing its disk but a few minutes
through the mists of the horizon the observation would have
yielded no result. The long night of the polar regions
had practically begun.
The weather was now detestable, although the cold
showed a tendency to increase. The thermometric
column oscillated a little above the centigrade zero.
But this temperature was not yet low enough to bring
about the freezing together of the bergs adrift in the
Arctic sea, and consequently no obstacle stopped the
floe on its way.
But among the indentations of the coast it was already
forming partial solidifications, to which those who winter in
these parts give the name of bay-ice, when it begins at the
bottom of the narrow creeks. Monsieur Serge, aided by
Jean, kept a close watch on these formations, which would
rapidly extend to the whole surface of the sea. The glacial
period would then be at its height, and the situation of the
caravan's crew would then be modified for the better—at
least it was to be hoped so.
During the last fortnight of November the snow fell without cessation, and in extraordinary abundance. Driven
about by the storm, it accumulated in thick masses on the
rampart built around the Belle Roulotte, which it had
raised considerably.
As this agglomeration presented no danger, and even
afforded a better protection against cold, the Cascabels
found it of advantage. Cornelia was able to economize
the petroleum, and keep it entirely for cooking purposes.
This was a matter of serious consideration ; when the .
mineral liquid was exhausted how could it be replaced ?
It was thus a fortunate circumstance that the temperature
i 186
CESAR CASCABEL.
remained supportable inside the caravan—being three or
four degrees above zero. It even rose when the Belle
Roulotte was buried in the mass of snow. In these conditions it was not heat which threatened to fail, but rather
air, to which all access was prevented. The snow had th"in
to be cleared away, and everyone took part in this fatiguing
task.
Monsieur Serge began by clearing out the passage which
had been reserved within the rampart. Then a passage
was cut so as to assure a free passage outside. Care was
taken that the axis of this passage lay towards the west.
Without this precaution it would have been obstructed by
snow-drifts from the east. They were not, however, out
of danger, as was very soon shown.
They did not now leave the Belle Roulotte either by
day or night. They were there in shelter from the storm
and from the cold which continued to increase, as shown by
the gradual descent of the thermometer. Nevertheless,
Monsieur Serge and Jean did not neglect their daily observations, at the moment when the faint streaks of
light illuminated the horizon, down to which the sun continued to sink, until the solstice of the 21st of December. And all the time there remained the hope of sighting some whalers wintering in these regions, or seeking to
gain a port in Behring Strait. And every day the disappointed hope of seeing the floe frozen to some ice-field,
uniting it with the Siberian coast. Then they would go
back into the caravan, and mark on the map the presumed direction of their drift.
The guns, as has been said, ceased to furnish fresh meat
to the Belle Roulotte's larder after the departure from
Port Clarence. What could Cornelia do with the sea
birds, whose oily taste it is so difficult to get rid of? In
spite of her culinary talents, ptarmigan and petrel had
not been well received by those she catered for ; and so
Jean refrained from wasting his powder and shot on
the arctic avifauna.
At the same time he always carried his gun when he
went out, and one day, on the afternoon of the 26th of FROM NOVEMBER  l6TH TO DECEMBER 2ND.      187
November, he had an opportunity of using it. The report
was heard inside the caravan, and immediately afterwards
Jean's voice was heard calling some one to help him.
This caused a certain amount of surprise, mingled with
uneasiness. Monsieur Serge, Cascabel, Sandre and Clou,
followed by the two dogs, rushed outside.
" Come here ! come here ! " shouted Jean. And at the
same time he jumped about as if to cut off the retreat of
some animal.
I What is the matter ?" asked Cascabel.
" I have wounded a seal, and he will escape us if we let
him reach the sea ! "
It was an amphibian of large size, wounded in the
chest, which was reddening the snow with its blood ; and
without doubt it would have succeeded in escaping had it
not been for the arrival of Monsieur Serge and his companions. Clou threw himself gallantly on the animal,
which had upset Sandre with a blow of its tail. The seal
was overpowered, not without trouble, and Jean applying
the barrel of the gun to its head blew out its brains.
This was not much of a contribution to Cornelia's
larder, but it was an important reserve of meat for
Wagram and Marengo. If the two dogs had possessed the
gift of speech, they would have thanked Jean for having
procured them such a windfall.
" And why do not animals talk ? " asked Cascabel, when
all were seated at dinner.
" For the very simple reason," said Monsieur Serge,
" that they are not intelligent enough to do so."
" Do you think, then," said Jean, 1 that the want of
speech is due to a want of intelligence ? "
" Certainly, Jean, at least among the superior animals.
As the dog possesses a larynx, identical with that of man,
he ought to be able to speak if his intelligence were sufficiently developed to enable him to express his impressions
in words."
A somewhat contentious thesis this, but one that has
the support of many modern physiologists.
Gradually