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From The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit.
Start of Story
"Polar bears and Arctic wolves, of course I mean," she said, for she did
not want George to think her stupid again.
There was a great hedge at the end of this field, all covered with snow
and icicles; but the children found a place where there was a hole, and
as no bears or wolves seemed to be just in that part of the hedge, they
crept through and scrambled out of the frozen ditch on the other side.
And then they stood still and held their breath with wonder.
For in front of them, running straight and smooth right away to the
Northern Lights, lay a great wide road of pure dark ice, and on each
side were tall trees all sparkling with white frost, and from the boughs
of the trees hung strings of stars threaded on fine moonbeams, and
shining so brightly that it was like a beautiful fairy daylight. Jane
said so; but George said it was like the electric lights at the Earl's
The rows of trees went as straight as ruled lines away--away and
away--and at the other end of them shone the Aurora Borealis.
There was a signpost of silvery snow, and on it in letters of pure ice
the children read: THIS WAY TO THE NORTH POLE.
Then George said: "Way or no way, I know a slide when I see one--so here
goes." And he took a run on the frozen snow, and Jane took a run when
she saw him do it, and the next moment they were sliding away, each with
feet half a yard apart, along the great slide that leads to the North
This great slide is made for the convenience of the Polar bears, who,
during the winter months, get their food from the Army and Navy
Stores--and it is the most perfect slide in the world. If you have never
come across it, it is because you have never let off fireworks on the
eleventh of December, and have never been thoroughly naughty and
disobedient. But do not be these things in the hope of finding the great
slide--because you might find something quite different, and then you
will be sorry.
The great slide is like common slides in that when once you have started
you have to go on to the end--unless you fall down--and then it hurts
just as much as the smaller kind on ponds. The great slide runs
downhill all the way, so that you keep on going faster and faster and
faster. George and Jane went so fast that they had not time to notice
the scenery. They only saw the long lines of frosted trees and the
starry lamps, and on each side, rushing back as they slid on, a very
broad, white world and a very large, black night; and overhead as well
as in the trees the stars were bright like silver lamps, and far ahead
shone and trembled and sparkled the line of fairy spears. Jane said
that, and George said: "I can see the Northern Lights quite plain."
It is very pleasant to slide and slide and slide on clear, dark
ice--especially if you feel you are really going somewhere, and more
especially if that somewhere is the North Pole. The children's feet made
no noise on the ice, and they went on and on in a beautiful white
silence. But suddenly the silence was shattered and a cry rang out over
"Hey! You there! Stop!"
"Tumble for your life!" cried George, and he fell down at once, because
it is the only way to stop. Jane fell on top of him--and then they
crawled on hands and knees to the snow at the edge of the slide--and
there was a sportsman, dressed in a peaked cap and a frozen moustache,
like the one you see in the pictures about Ice-Peter, and he had a gun
in his hand.
"You don't happen to have any bullets about you?" said he.
"No," George said, truthfully. "I had five of father's revolver
cartridges, but they were taken away the day Nurse turned out my pockets
to see if I had taken the knob of the bathroom door by mistake."
"Quite so," said the sportsman, "these accidents will occur. You don't
carry firearms, then, I presume?"
"I haven't any fire_arms_," said George, "but I have a fire_work_. It's
only a squib one of the boys gave me, if that's any good." And he began
to feel among the string and peppermints, and buttons and tops and nibs
and chalk and foreign postage stamps in his knickerbocker pockets.
"One could but try," the sportsman replied, and he held out his hand.
But Jane pulled at her brother's jacket-tail and whispered, "Ask him
what he wants it for."
So then the sportsman had to confess that he wanted the firework to kill
the white grouse with; and, when they came to look, there was the white
grouse himself, sitting in the snow, looking quite pale and careworn,
and waiting anxiously for the matter to be decided one way or the other.
George put all the things back in his pockets, and said, "No, I shan't.
The reason for shooting him stopped yesterday--I heard Father say so--so
it wouldn't be fair, anyhow. I'm very sorry; but I can't--so there!"
The sportsman said nothing, only he shook his fist at Jane, and then he
got on the slide and tried to go toward the Crystal Palace--which was
not easy, because that way is uphill. So they left him trying, and went
Before they started, the white grouse thanked them in a few pleasant,
well-chosen words, and then they took a sideways slanting run and
started off again on the great slide, and so away toward the North Pole
and the twinkling, beautiful lights.
The great slide went on and on, and the lights did not seem to come much
nearer, and the white silence wrapped around them as they slid along the
wide, icy path. Then once again the silence was broken to bits by
someone calling: "Hey! You there! Stop!"
"Tumble for your life!" cried George, and tumbled as before, stopping in
the only possible way, and Jane stopped on top of him, and they crawled
to the edge and came suddenly on a butterfly collector, who was looking
for specimens with a pair of blue glasses and a blue net and a blue book
with colored plates.
"Excuse me," said the collector, "but have you such a thing as a needle
about you--a very long needle?"
"I have a needle _book_," replied Jane, politely, "but there aren't any
needles in it now. George took them all to do the things with pieces of
cork--in the 'Boy's Own Scientific Experimenter' and 'The Young
Mechanic.' He did not do the things, but he did for the needles."
"Curiously enough," said the collector, "I too wish to use the needle in
connection with cork."
"I have a hatpin in my hood," said Jane. "I fastened the fur with it
when it caught in the nail on the greenhouse door. It is very long and
sharp--would that do?"
"One could but try," said the collector, and Jane began to feel for the
pin. But George pinched her arm and whispered, "Ask what he wants it
for." Then the collector had to own that he wanted the pin to stick
through the great Arctic moth, "a magnificent specimen," he added,
"which I am most anxious to preserve."
And there, sure enough, in the collector's butterfly net sat the great
Arctic moth, listening attentively to the conversation.