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datatime: 2022-09-30 18:27:35 Author:uJlTPQTM

And you're going to live there, make your home there-after sixty-nine years in another country?

Every twenty minutes I changed position with Jackstraw and so the long hours of the night dragged by as the cold deepened and the stars and the moon wheeled across the black vault of the sky. And then came moonset, the blackness of the arctic night rushed across the ice-cap, I slowed the Citroen gratefully to a stop and the silence, breathless and hushed and infinitely sweet, came flooding in to take the place of the nightlong clamour of the deafening roar of the big engine, the metallic clanking of the treads.

You two get what sleep or rest you can-I'm liable to need you very much later on. Perhaps you, Mr Mahler?

You two get what sleep or rest you can-I'm liable to need you very much later on. Perhaps you, Mr Mahler?

And you're going to live there, make your home there-after sixty-nine years in another country?

We've been cold before, Dr Mason. Me first. He slid the magnetic compass off its brackets, started to unreel a cable from a spool under the dashboard, then jumped out, still unwinding the cable, while I followed to help. Despite the fact that the magnetic north pole is nowhere near the north pole-at that time it was almost a thousand miles south of it and lay more to the west than north of us-a magnetic compass, when proper variation allowances are made, is still useful in high latitudes: but because of the counter-acting magnetic effects of a large mass of metal, it was quite useless when mounted on the tractor itself. Our plan, therefore, was that someone should He with the compass on the dog-sled, fifty feet behind the tractor, and, by means of a switch which operated red and green lights in the tractor dashboard, guide the driver to left or right. It wasn't our original idea, it wasn't even a recent idea: it had been used in the Antarctic a quarter century previously but, as far as I knew, had not been improved upon yet.

The first twenty miles were easy. On the way up from the coast, over four months previously, we had planted big marker flags at intervals of half a mile. On a night such as this, with the moonlight flooding the ice-cap, these trail flags, a bright luminous orange in colour and mounted on aluminium poles stuck in snow beacons, were visible at a great distance, with never less than two and sometimes three in sight at the same time, the long glistening frost feathers stretching out from the poles sometimes twice the length of the flags themselves. We counted twenty-eight of these flags altogether-about a dozen were missing-then, after a sudden dip in the land, completely lost them: whether they had blown away or just drifted under it was impossible to say.

Well, there it is, Jackstraw, I said resignedly.This is where one of us starts getting cold. Really cold.

Every twenty minutes I changed position with Jackstraw and so the long hours of the night dragged by as the cold deepened and the stars and the moon wheeled across the black vault of the sky. And then came moonset, the blackness of the arctic night rushed across the ice-cap, I slowed the Citroen gratefully to a stop and the silence, breathless and hushed and infinitely sweet, came flooding in to take the place of the nightlong clamour of the deafening roar of the big engine, the metallic clanking of the treads.

Not Europe, Dr Mason. I could hear the machine-gun-like chatter of his teeth.Israel.

Both Zagero and Corazzini volunteered almost in the same breath, but I shook my head.

Theodore Mahler, strangely enough, proved only too anxious to talk-and keep on talking. It was so completely out of keeping with the idea I had formed of his character that I was more than surprised. Loneliness, perhaps, I thought, or trying to forget the situation, or trying to divert my thoughts and suspicions: how wrong I was on all three counts I wasn't to find out until later.

You-you're going to start a new life there, Mr Mahler?

Not Europe, Dr Mason. I could hear the machine-gun-like chatter of his teeth.Israel.

Theodore Mahler, strangely enough, proved only too anxious to talk-and keep on talking. It was so completely out of keeping with the idea I had formed of his character that I was more than surprised. Loneliness, perhaps, I thought, or trying to forget the situation, or trying to divert my thoughts and suspicions: how wrong I was on all three counts I wasn't to find out until later.

Not Europe, Dr Mason. I could hear the machine-gun-like chatter of his teeth.Israel.

Behind the heavy transport sled was towed the empty dog-sled, with the dogs on loose traces running astern of it, all except Balto who always ran free, coursing tirelessly backwards and forwards all night long, one moment far ahead of us, the next ranging out to one side, the next dropping astern, like some destroyer circling a straggling convoy by night. When the last of the dogs had passed by him, Jackstraw would run forward to overtake the tractor and jump in alongside me once more. He was as tireless, as immune to fatigue, as Balto himself.

The first twenty miles were easy. On the way up from the coast, over four months previously, we had planted big marker flags at intervals of half a mile. On a night such as this, with the moonlight flooding the ice-cap, these trail flags, a bright luminous orange in colour and mounted on aluminium poles stuck in snow beacons, were visible at a great distance, with never less than two and sometimes three in sight at the same time, the long glistening frost feathers stretching out from the poles sometimes twice the length of the flags themselves. We counted twenty-eight of these flags altogether-about a dozen were missing-then, after a sudden dip in the land, completely lost them: whether they had blown away or just drifted under it was impossible to say.

Well, Mr Mahler, it looks as if the itinerary of your European trip is going to be upset a bit. I had almost to shout to make my words heard above the roar of the tractor.

With Jackstraw established on the sledge, I walked back to the tractor and pushed aside the canvas screen at the back of the wooden body. What with the faces of the passengers, drawn and pinched and weirdly pale in the light of the tiny overhead bulb, the constant shivering, the chattering of teeth and the frozen breath drifting upwards to condense and freeze on the wooden roof, it was a picture of utter and abject misery: but I was in no mood to be moved at that moment.

Behind the heavy transport sled was towed the empty dog-sled, with the dogs on loose traces running astern of it, all except Balto who always ran free, coursing tirelessly backwards and forwards all night long, one moment far ahead of us, the next ranging out to one side, the next dropping astern, like some destroyer circling a straggling convoy by night. When the last of the dogs had passed by him, Jackstraw would run forward to overtake the tractor and jump in alongside me once more. He was as tireless, as immune to fatigue, as Balto himself.

I wouldn't put either of you at the very foot, I said shortly. I waited till Mahler had climbed down then dropped the canvas and walked round to the driver's seat.

You two get what sleep or rest you can-I'm liable to need you very much later on. Perhaps you, Mr Mahler?

And then he told me his story-a story of refugee oppression that I'd heard a hundred times, with a hundred variations. He was a Russian Jew, he said, one of the millions of the largest Jewry in the world that had been 'frozen' for over a century in the notorious Pale of Settlement, and in 1905 had been forced to flee with his father-leaving mother and two brothers behind-to escape the ruthless massacres carried out by the 'Black Hundreds' at the behest of the last of the Romanoff Tzars who was seeking scapegoats for his crushing defeat by the Japanese. His mother, he learned later, had just disappeared, while his two brothers had survived only to die in agony long years afterwards, one in the rising in the Bialystok ghetto, the other in the Treblinka gas chambers. He himself had found work in the clothing industry in New York, studied in night school, worked for an oil company, married and with the death of his wife that spring had set about fulfilling the agelong ambition of his race, the return to their holy land.

I wondered, too, what right I had in exposing Jackstraw to the dangers which must lie ahead. He was sitting beside me as I drove, but as I looked at him covertly in the moonlight, at that strong lean face that, but for the rather broad cheekbones, might have been that of any Scandinavian sea-rover, I knew I was wasting my time wondering. Although nominally under my command, he had only been lent me, as other Greenlanders had been lent as an act of courtesy by the Danish Government to several IGY stations, as a scientific officer-he had a geology degree from the University of Copenhagen and had forgotten more about the ice-cap than I would ever know-and in times of emergency, especially where his own pride, and he had plenty of that, was concerned would be extremely liable to do what he thought best, regardless of what I thought or said. I knew he wouldn't have remained behind even if I had ordered him to- and, if I were honest with myself, I was only too damned glad to have him along, as a friend, as an ally, and as insurance policy against the disaster that can so easily overtake the careless or the inexperienced on the ice-cap. But even so, even though I quieted my conscience as best I could, it was difficult to push from my mind the picture of his dark vivacious young schoolteacher wife and little daughter, the red and white brick house in which I'd lived for two weeks as a guest in the summer. What Jackstraw thought was impossible to say. He sat immobile as if carved from stone, only his eyes alive, constantly moving, constantly shifting, as he probed for sudden dips in the ice-cap, for differences in the structure of the snow, for anything that might spell trouble. It was purely automatic, purely instinctive: the crevasse country lay, as yet, two hundred and fifty miles away, where the ice-cap started to slope sharply to the sea, and Jackstraw himself maintained that Balto, his big lead dog, had a surer instinct for crevasses than any human alive.

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