The Ramsgate’s first officer looked incredulous. His eyes narrowed. “No disrespect intended, Sir Arthur, but to me, that sounds rather far-fetched. Price may well have picked up some Inuit myths and remembered them in his demented state, but I’m loathed to believe in the existence of these tupilaks of yours.’
His tone was not contemptuous. Broke was simply a firm believer in the modern age and dismissive of anything that struck him as implausible.
I refrained from mentioning that my research had furnished me with ample proof of the existence of spirits in our world. The work of the Parapsychology Society was often questioned and even derided.
No, Broke didn’t laugh, but I could tell that he regarded me as an elderly crank. He was surveying the mountainside nearby, where a narrow ravine wound between two peaks. As far as I could see, this was the only point along this stretch of coast at which one could gain access to the interior of the island. “Our best plan will be to widen the search tomorrow,” said Broke. “I shall request reinforcements from the ship.”
The weather in these latitudes could change with incredible speed, I knew.
Dark gray clouds were scudding along before the wind, so low that they grazed the mountaintops. “I don’t like the look of this,” I said. “We ought to turn back.”
Until a few moments ago, we had been able to discern the outlines of the Ramsgate lying offshore. Now, the daylight had given way to a diffuse gray that swathed the sea and the island like a veil. At first, only isolated snowflakes came drifting down, though of a size such as I had never before seen in any of the many parts of the world I had visited. Within a minute, however, they were falling as thickly as if they were being shoveled straight out of the clouds. Land and sky merged into an amorphous white shroud.
I did my best to remain close behind my companion. My sense of direction completely deserted me, and I almost felt I was floating. I sincerely hoped that Broke had headed in the right direction.
The wind grew stronger, propelling the snow at us with such force that we could see only a yard ahead.
Broke halted so abruptly, I bumped into him from behind. He was holding a compass up to his face and shielding it with both hands to be able to see anything at all.
We tried to advance in a straight line but discovered on several occasions that we had gone astray and were compelled to correct our course.
Although we hadn’t gone very far from the station, we would have inevitably lost our way without the compass, and that could have had fatal results.
I lost sight of Broke for a moment and fought the wind with arms outstretched until I suddenly felt the material of his parka once more.
“We must keep further to the left,” he called. The wind plastered the snow to our bodies until our clothing was the same color as our surroundings.