BELIEF AND UNBELIEFThe doctor was here interrupted by Featherstone, who, with a
yawn, informed him that it was eleven o'clock, and that human
endurance had its limits. Upon this the doctor rolled up the
manuscript and put it aside for the night, after which supper was
"Well," said Featherstone, "what do you think of this last?"
"It contains some very remarkable statements," said the
"There are certainly monsters enough in it," said Melick—
"'Gorgons, and hydras, and chimeras dire.'"
"Well, why not?" said the doctor.
"It seems to me," said Melick, "that the writer of this has
peopled his world with creatures that resemble the fossil animals
more than anything else."
"The so-called fossil animals," said the doctor, "may not be
extinct. There are fossil specimens of animals that still have
living representatives. There is no reason why many of those
supposed to be extinct may not be alive now. It is well known that
many very remarkable animals have become extinct within a
comparatively recent period. These great birds, of which More
speaks, seem to me to belong to these classes. The dodo was in
existence fifty years ago, the moa about a hundred years ago. These
great birds, together with others, such as the epiornis and
palapteryx, have disappeared, not through the ordinary course of
nature, but by the hand of man. Even in our hemisphere they may yet
be found. Who can tell but that the moa or the dodo may yet be
lurking somewhere here in the interior of Madagascar, of Borneo, or
"Can you make out anything about those great birds?" asked
Featherstone. "Do they resemble anything that exists now, or has
"Well, yes, I think so," said the doctor. "Unfortunately, More
is not at all close or accurate in his descriptions; he has a
decidedly unscientific mind, and so one cannot feel sure; yet from
his general statements I think I can decide pretty nearly upon the
nature and the scientific name of each one of his birds and
animals. It is quite evident to me that most of these animals
belong to races that no longer exist among us, and that this world
at the South Pole has many characteristics which are like those of
what is known as the Coal Period. I allude in particular to the
vast forests of fern, of gigantic grasses and reeds. At the same
time the general climate and the atmosphere seem like what we may
find in the tropics at present. It is evident that in More's world
various epochs are represented, and that animals of different ages
are living side by side."
"What do you think of the opkuk?" asked Featherstone, with a
"Well, I hardly know."
"Why, it must be a dodo, of course," said Melick, "only
"That," said the doctor, gravely, "is a thought that naturally
suggests itself; but then the opkuk is certainly far larger than
"Oh, More put on his magnifying-glasses just then."
"The dodo," continued the doctor, taking no notice of this, "in
other respects corresponds with More's description of the opkuk.
Clusius and Bontius give good descriptions and there is a
well-known picture of one in the British Museum. It is a massive,
clumsy bird, ungraceful in its form with heavy movements, wings too
short for flight, little or no tail, and down rather than feathers.
The body, according to Bontius, is as big as that of the African
ostrich, but the legs are very short. It has a large head, great
black eyes, long bluish-white bill, ending in a beak like that of a
vulture, yellow legs, thick and short, four toes on each foot
solid, long, and armed with sharp black claws. The flesh
particularly on the breast, is fat and esculent. Now, all this
corresponds with More's account, except as to the size of the two,
for the opkuks are as large as oxen."
"Oh, that's nothing," said Melick; "I'm determined to stand up
for the dodo." With this he burst forth singing—
"Oh, the dodo once lived, but he doesn't live now; Yet why
should a cloud overshadow our brow? The loss of that bird ne'er
should trouble our brains, For though he is gone, still our claret
remains. Sing do-do—jolly do-do! Hurrah! in his name let our cups
"As for your definition, doctor," continued Melick, "I'll give
you one worth a dozen of yours:
"'Twas a mighty bird; those strong, short legs were never known
to fail, And he felt a glory of pride while thinking of that little
tail, And his beak was marked with vigor, curving like a wondrous
hook; Thick and ugly was his body—such a form as made one
"Melick," said Featherstone, "you're a volatile youth. You
mustn't mind him, doctor. He's a professional cynic, sceptic, and
scoffer. Oxenden and I, however, are open to conviction, and want
to know more about those birds and beasts. Can you make anything
out of the opmahera?"
The doctor swallowed a glass of wine, and replied:
"Oh yes; there are many birds, each of which may be the
opmahera. There's the fossil bird of Massachusetts, of which
nothing is left but the footprints; but some of these are eighteen
inches in length, and show a stride of two yards. The bird belonged
to the order of the Grallae, and may have been ten or twelve feet
in height. Then there is the Gastornis parisiensis, which was as
tall as an ostrich, as big as an ox, and belongs to the same order
as the other. Then there is the Palapteryx, of which remains have
been found in New Zealand, which was seven or eight feet in height.
But the one which to my mind is the real counterpart of the
opmahera is the Dinornis gigantea, whose remains are also found in
New Zealand. It is the largest bird known, with long legs, a long
neck, and short wings, useless for flight. One specimen that has
been found is upward of thirteen feet in height. There is no reason
why some should not have been much taller. More compares its height
to that of a giraffe. The Maoris call this bird the Moa, and their
legends and traditions are full of mention of it. When they first
came to the island, six or seven hundred years ago, they found
these vast birds everywhere, and hunted them for food. To my mind
the dinornis is the opmahera of More. As to riding on them, that is
likely enough; for ostriches are used for this purpose, and the
dinornis must have been far stronger and fleeter than the ostrich.
It is possible that some of these birds may still be living in the
remoter parts of our hemisphere."
"What about those monsters," asked Featherstone, "that More
speaks of in the sacred hunt?"
"I think," said the doctor, "that I understand pretty well what
they were, and can identify them all. As the galley passed the
estuary of that great river, you remember that he mentions seeing
them on the shore. One may have been the Ichthyosaurus. This, as
the name implies, is a fish-lizard. It has the head of a lizard,
the snout of a dolphin, the teeth of an alligator, enormous eyes,
whose membrane is strengthened by a bony frame, the vertebrae of
fishes, sternum and shoulder-bones like those of the lizard, and
the fins of a whale. Bayle calls it the whale of the saurians.
Another may have been the Cheirotherium. On account of the
hand-shaped marks made by its paws, Owen thinks that it was akin to
the frogs; but it was a formidable monster, with head and jaws of a
crocodile. Another may have been the Teleosaurus, which resembled
our alligators. It was thirty-five feet in length. Then there was
the Hylaeosaurus, a monster twenty-five feet in length, with a
cuirass of bony plates."
"But none of these correspond with More's description of the
monster that fought with the galley."
"No," said the doctor, "I am coming to that now. That monster
could have been no other than the Plesiosaurus, one of the most
wonderful animals that has ever existed. Imagine a thing with the
head of a lizard, the teeth of a crocodile, the neck of a swan, the
trunk and tail of a quadruped, and the fins of a whale. Imagine a
whale with its head and neck consisting of a serpent, with the
strength of the former and the malignant fury of the latter, and
then you will have the plesiosaurus. It was an aquatic animal, yet
it had to remain near or on the surface of the water, while its
long, serpent-like neck enabled it to reach its prey above or below
with swift, far-reaching darts. Yet it had no armor, and could not
have been at all a match for the ichthyosaurus. More's account
shows, however, that it was a fearful enemy for man to
"He seems to have been less formidable than that beast which
they encountered in the swamp. Have you any idea what that
"I think it can have been no other than the Iguanodon," said the
doctor. "The remains of this animal show that it must have been the
most gigantic of all primeval saurians. Judging from existing
remains its length was not less than sixty feet, and larger ones
may have existed. It stood high on its legs; the hind ones were
larger than the fore. The feet were massive and armed with
tremendous claws. It lived on the land and fed on herbage. It had a
horny, spiky ridge all along its back. Its tail was nearly as long
as its body. Its head was short, its jaws enormous, furnished with
teeth of a very elaborate structure, and on its muzzle it carried a
curved horn. Such a beast as this might well have caused all that
destruction of life on the part of his desperate assailants of
which More speaks.
"Then there was another animal," continued the doctor, who was
evidently discoursing upon a favorite topic. "It was the one that
came suddenly upon More while he was resting with Almah after his
flight with the run-away bird. That I take to be the Megalosaurus.
This animal was a monster of tremendous size and strength. Cuvier
thought that it might have been seventy feet in length. It was
carnivorous, and therefore more ferocious than the iguanodon, and
more ready to attack. Its head was like that of a crocodile, its
body massive like that of an elephant, yet larger; its tail was
small, and it stood high on its legs, so that it could run with
great speed. It was not covered with bony armor, but had probably a
hide thick enough to serve the purpose of shell or bone. Its teeth
were constructed so as to cut with their edges, and the movement of
the jaws produced the combined effect of knife and saw, while their
inward curve rendered impossible the escape of prey that had once
been caught. It probably frequented the river banks, where it fed
upon reptiles of smaller size which inhabited the same places.
"More," continued the doctor, "is too general in his
descriptions. He has not a scientific mind, and he gives but few
data; yet I can bring before myself very easily all the scenes
which he describes, particularly that one in which the megalosaurus
approaches, and he rushes to mount the dinoris so as to escape. I
see that river, with its trees and shrubs, all unknown now except
in museums—the vegetation of the Coal Period—the lepidodendron, the
lepidostrobus, the pecopteris, the neuropteris, the lonchopteris,
the odontopteris, the sphenopteris, the cyclopteris, the sigellaria
veniformis, the sphenophyllium, the calamites—"
Melick started to his feet.
"There, there!" he cried, "hold hard, doctor. Talking of
calamities, what greater calamity can there be than such a torrent
of unknown words? Talk English, doctor, and we shall be able to
appreciate you; but to make your jokes, your conundrums, and your
brilliant witticisms in a foreign language isn't fair to us, and
does no credit either to your head or your heart."
The doctor elevated his eyebrows, and took no notice of Melick's
"All these stories of strange animals," said Oxenden, "may be
very interesting, doctor, but I must say that I am far more struck
by the account of the people themselves. I wonder whether they are
an aboriginal race, or descendants of the same stock from which we
"I should say," remarked the doctor, confidently, "that they
are, beyond a doubt, an aboriginal and autochthonous race."
"I differ from you altogether," said Oxenden, calmly.
"Oh," said the doctor, "there can be no doubt about it. Their
complexion, small stature, and peculiar eyes—their love of
darkness, their singular characteristics, both physical and moral,
all go to show that they can have no connection with the races in
our part of the earth."
"Their peculiar eyes," said Oxenden, "are no doubt produced by
dwelling in caves for many generations."
"On the contrary," said the doctor, "it is their peculiarity of
eye that makes them dwell in caves."
"You are mistaking the cause for the effect, doctor."
"Not at all; it is you who are making that mistake."
"It's the old debate," said Melick. "As the poet has it:
"'Which was first, the egg or the hen? Tell me, I pray, ye
"There are the eyeless fishes of the great cave of Kentucky,"
said Oxenden, "whose eyes have become extinct from living in the
"No," cried the doctor; "the fish that have arisen in that lake
have never needed eyes, and have never had them."
"Well," said he, "I'll discuss the question with you on
different grounds altogether, and I will show clearly that these
men, these bearded men, must belong to a stock that is nearly
related to our own, or, at least, that they belong to a race of men
with whom we are all very familiar."
"I should like very much to have you try it," said the
"Very well," said Oxenden. "In the first place, I take their
"Yes. More has given us very many words in their language. Now
he himself says that these words had an Arabic sound. He was
slightly acquainted with that language. What will you say if I tell
you that these words are still more like Hebrew?"
"Hebrew!" exclaimed the doctor, in amazement.
"Yes, Hebrew," said Oxenden. "They are all very much like Hebrew
words, and the difference is not greater than that which exists
between the words of any two languages of the Aryan family."
"Oh, if you come to philology I'll throw up the sponge," said
the doctor. "Yet I should like to hear what you have to say on that
"The languages of the Aryan family," said Oxenden, "have the
same general characteristics, and in all of them the differences
that exist in their most common words are subject to the action of
a regular law. The action of the law is best seen in the changes
which take place in the mutes. These changes are indicated in a
summary and comprehensive way by means of what is called 'Grimm's
Law.' Take Latin and English, for instance. 'Grimm's Law' tells us,
among other things, that in Latin and in that part of English which
is of Teutonic origin, a large number of words are essentially the
same, and differ merely in certain phonetic changes. Take the word
'father.' In Latin, as also in Greek, it is 'pater.' Now the Latin
'p' in English becomes 'f;' that is, the thin mute becomes the
aspirated mute. The same change may be seen in the Latin 'piscis,'
which in English is 'fish,' and the Greek '[pi upsilon rho]' which
in English is 'fire.' Again, if the Latin or Greek word begins with
an aspirate, the English word begins with a medial; thus the Latin
'f' is found responsive to the English 'b,' as in Latin 'fagus,'
English 'beech,' Latin 'fero,' English 'bear.' Again, if the Latin
or Greek has the medial, the English has the thin, as in Latin
'duo,' English 'two,' Latin 'genu,' English 'knee.' Now, I find
that in many of the words which More mentions this same 'Grimm's
Law' will apply; and I am inclined to think that if they were
spelled with perfect accuracy they would show the same relation
between the Kosekin language and the Hebrew that there is between
the Saxon English and the Latin."
The doctor gave a heavy sigh.
"You're out of my depth, Oxenden," said he. "I'm nothing of a
"By Jove!" said Featherstone, "I like this. This is equal to
your list of the plants of the Coal Period, doctor. But I say,
Oxenden, while you are about it, why don't you give us a little
dose of Anglo-Saxon and Sanscrit? By Jove! the fellow has Bopp by
heart, and yet he expects us to argue with him."
"I have it!" cried Melick. "The Kosekin are the lost Ten Tribes.
Oxenden is feeling his way to that. He is going to make them out to
be all Hebrew; and then, of course, the only conclusion will be
that they are the Ten Tribes, who after a life of strange
vicissitudes have pulled up at the South Pole. It's a wonder More
didn't think of that—or the writer of this yarn, whoever he may be.
Well, for my part, I always took a deep interest in the lost Ten
Tribes, and thought them a fine body of men."
"Don't think they've got much of the Jew about them," said
Featherstone, languidly. "They hate riches and all that, you know.
Break a Jew's heart to hear of all that property wasted, and money
going a-begging. Not a bad idea, though, that of theirs about
money. Too much money's a howwid baw, by Jove!"
"Well," continued Oxenden, calmly resuming, and taking no notice
of these interruptions, "I can give you word after word that More
has mentioned which corresponds to a kindred Hebrew word in
accordance with 'Grimm's Law.' For instance, Kosekin 'Op,' Hebrew
'Oph;' Kosekin 'Athon,' Hebrew 'Adon;' Kosekin 'Salon,' Hebrew
'Shalom.' They are more like Hebrew than Arabic, just as
Anglo-Saxon words are more like Latin or Greek than Sanscrit."
"Hurrah!" cried Melick, "we've got him to Sanscrit at last! Now,
Oxenden, my boy, trot out the 'Hitopadesa,' the 'Megha Dhuta,' the
'Rig Veda.' Quote 'Beowulf' and Caedmon. Gives us a little Zeno,
and wind up with 'Lalla Rookh' in modern Persian."
"So I conclude," said Oxenden, calmly, ignoring Melick, "that
the Kosekin are a Semitic people. Their complexion and their beards
show them to be akin to the Caucasian race, and their language
proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that they belong to the Semitic
branch of that race. It is impossible for an autochthonous people
to have such a language."
"But how," cried the doctor—"how in the name of wonder did they
get to the South Pole?"
"Easily enough," interrupted Melick—"Shem landed there from
Noah's ark, and left some of his children to colonize the country.
That's as plain as a pikestaff. I think, on the whole, that this
idea is better than the other one about the Ten Tribes. At any rate
they are both mine, and I warn all present to keep their hands off
them, for on my return I intend to take out a copyright."
"There's another thing," continued Oxenden, "which is of immense
importance, and that is their habit of cave-dwelling. I am inclined
to think that they resorted to cave-dwelling at first from some
hereditary instinct or other, and that their eyes and their whole
morals have become affected by this mode of life. Now, as to
ornamented caverns, we have many examples—caverns adorned with a
splendor fully equal to anything among the Kosekin. There are in
India the great Behar caves, the splendid Karli temple with its
magnificent sculptures and imposing architecture, and the
cavern-temples of Elephanta; there are the subterranean works in
Egypt, the temple of Dendera in particular; in Petra we have the
case of an entire city excavated from the rocky mountains; yet,
after all, these do not bear upon the point in question, for they
are isolated cases; and even Petra, though it contained a city, did
not contain a nation. But there is a case, and one which is well
known, that bears directly upon this question, and gives us the
connecting link between the Kosekin and their Semitic brethren in
the northern hemisphere."
"What is that?" asked the doctor.
"The Troglodytes," said Oxenden, with impressive solemnity.
"Well, and what do you make out of the Troglodytes?"
"I will explain," said Oxenden. "The name Trolodytes is given to
various tribes of men, but those best known and celebrated under
this name once inhabited the shores of the Red Sea, both on the
Arabian and the Egyptian side. They belonged to the Arabian race,
and were consequently a Semitic people. Mark that, for it is a
point of the utmost importance. Now, these Troglodytes all lived in
caverns, which were formed partly by art and partly by nature,
although art must have had most to do with the construction of such
vast subterranean works. They lived in great communities in
caverns, and they had long tunnels passing from one community to
another. Here also they kept their cattle. Some of these people
have survived even to our own age; for Bruce, the Abyssinian
traveller, saw them in Nubia.
"The earliest writer who mentions the Troglodytes was
Agatharcides, of Cnidos. According to him they were chiefly
herdsmen. Their food was the flesh of cattle, and their drink a
mixture of milk and blood. They dressed in the skins of cattle;
they tattooed their bodies. They were very swift of foot, and were
able to run down wild beasts in the hunt. They were also greatly
given to robbery, and caravans passing to and fro had to guard
"One feature in their character has to my mind a strange
significance, and that is their feelings with regard to death. It
was not the Kosekin love of death, yet it was something which must
certainly be considered as approximating to it. For Agatharcides
says that in their burials they were accustomed to fasten the
corpse to a stake, and then gathering round, to pelt it with stones
amid shouts of laughter and wild merriment. They also used to
strangle the old and infirm, so as to deliver them from the evils
of life. These Troglodytes, then, were a nation of cave-dwellers,
loving the dark—not exactly loving death, yet at any rate regarding
it with merriment and pleasure; and so I cannot help seeing a
connection between them and the Kosekin."
"Yes," said the doctor, "but how did they get to the South
"That," said Oxenden, "is a question which I do not feel bound
"Oh, it is easy enough to answer that," said Melick. "They, of
course, dug through the earth."
Oxenden gave a groan.
"I think I'll turn in for the night," said he, rising. Upon this
the others rose also and followed his example.
On the following morning the calm still continued. None of the
party rose until very late, and then over the breakfast-table they
discussed the manuscript once more, each from his own point of
view, Melick still asserting a contemptuous scepticism—Oxenden and
the doctor giving reasons for their faith, and Featherstone
listening without saying much on either side.
At length it was proposed to resume the reading of the
manuscript, which task would now devolve upon Oxenden. They
adjourned to the deck, where all disposed themselves in easy
attitudes to listen to the continuation of More's narrative.