TWO MAIDENS 499
At last they all went to work. The Maidens rode—that is, they were put in a wheelbarrow, ancj^ that was a distinction ; but still they were called ' hand-rammers '.
1 Mai------! ' they said, as they were bumped upon the
pavement. ■' Mai------! ' and they were very nearly pronouncing the whole word ' maiden ' ; but they broke off short, and swallowed the last syllable ; for they considered it beneath their dignity to protest. But they always called each other ' maiden ', and praised the good old days in which everything had been called by its right name, and those who were maidens were called maidens. And they remained as they were ; for the pile-driver really broke off his engagement with the younger one, for he would have nothing to do with a rammer.
IN THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE SEA
Some great ships had been sent up towards the North Pole, to explore the most distant coasts, and to try how far men might penetrate up there. For more than a year they had already been pushing their way among ice and mist, and had endured many hardships ; and now the winter was begun, and the sun had disappeared. For many many weeks there would now be a long night. All around was a single field of ice ; the ships had been made fast to it, and the snow had piled itself up in great masses, and out of these, huts had been built in the form of beehives, some of them large as our old grave-mounds, others only containing room enough for two or four men. But it was not dark, for the Northern Lights flamed red and blue, like great continual fireworks ; and the snow glistened, so that the night here was one long, flaming twilight hour. When the gleam was brightest, the natives came in crowds, wonderful to behold in their hairy fur dresses ; and they rode in sledges formed of blocks of ice, and brought with them furs in great bundles, so that the snow houses were furnished with warm carpets ; and, in turn, the furs also served for coverlets when the sailors went to bed under