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CHAPTER II. PLANS ARE MADE.
With this the sailor arose, touched his cap, and started for the door. But Frank, who had listened with the most intense interest, said:

“Wait! do not go yet, Jack. I may want to ask you some questions.”

“At your service, skipper.”

“Well,” said Randall, triumphantly, “what do you think of it now, Frank?”

“I own that I am much interested.” replied the young inventor. “It is a remarkable tale, and a valuable discovery.”

“So I believe,” cried Randall. “Here is evidence of the existence of a new and undiscovered continent. What better field could a man want?”

“How is it, Wendel?” asked the young inventor, turning to the sailor, “could my Electric Scorcher travel easily through that region?”

“Ay, sir, I believe it could, after ye left the ice behind,” replied the sailor.

Frank knit his brows.

“How great a distance would we have to travel over the ice fields?” he asked.

“Not over one hundred miles.”

“I have a plan,” said the young inventor. “I can attach my new skate shoes with the ice-crank to the wheels. That would enable us to cross the ice, and we can remove them when we strike land.”

An ecstatic cry escaped Randall’s lips.

“Oh, then you really think of going?” he cried. “That is splendid, Frank. It will be a wonderful experience.”

“Ah, but I have not promised absolutely,” said the young inventor, quickly. “But I will say this, that I will think the matter over seriously.”

“Only think of the glory of the thing!”

“That is true, but the feasibility of the enterprise must be strongly considered. You have tried it——”

“And failed. But you see, Frank, I had not the resources which you have—the fertile brain for devising expedients, and the Electric Scorcher.”

Frank turned and pressed a small call-bell. The door opened and a negro, black as soot, appeared.

“Pomp,” said Frank, “where is Barney?”

“Dat I’shman, sah? He am jes’ outside, sah,” replied the coon, with a duck of the head.

“Call him in. I want to see both of you.”

“All right, sah.”

A moment later a shock-headed native of the Emerald Isle appeared with the darky. These two men were Frank Reade, Jr.’s most faithful colleagues and companions in many a wonderful voyage.

“Wud yez loike to see me, sor?” asked Barney, with a scrape.

“I want to ask you if you have put the supplies aboard the Scorcher yet?”

Both bowed.

“Shure an’ we have, sor.”

“It am all ready, Marse Frank.”

“Good enough,” said Frank, in a pleased tone. “I have news for you. Mr. Randall and his friend have told me of a wonderful country beyond the Antarctic Circle which I think of paying a visit to. In that case it will not be long before we shall leave Readestown upon a new and wonderful voyage.”

Barney gave a cry of delight and turned a flip-flap. Pomp cut a pigeon wing.

“Golly, golly, dat am jes’ fine!”

“Bejabers, I’m glad of it!”

“Now, be off, both of you,” commanded Frank, “and get the machine all ready for the start.”

Away scurried the two jokers, and Frank turned to his companions, with a smile.

“They will leave nothing undone,” he said. “We are practically all ready to start at once.”

“That is good!” cried Randall. “Frank, you are a rusher!”

“Of course, you will be one of our party?” asked Frank.

“Delighted, and ——” Randall looked toward Wendel.

“Of course, we shall have to include your friend, if he will consent to go.”

Wendel pulled his foretop, and replied:

“At your service, skipper. I didn’t think I’d ever ship for that latitude again, but I’m with ye.”

All shook hands.

The compact was made.

They were about to undertake what seemed a herculean task, namely, the paying of a visit to an unexplored and comparatively inaccessible part of the world. What chances there were against them could easily be enumerated.

There was the possibility of never emerging from the deadly ice-floes, where the temperature was so fearfully low as to mitigate against human life. Wild beasts and wilder inhabitants were only a few of the perils.

But Frank Reade, Jr., was not the one to take backward steps once he assumed an undertaking.

“Now,” he said, briskly, “let us get down to business. We must first consider the means of getting to the Antarctic with the Scorcher.”

“Very good,” said Randall. “Can you suggest a plan?”

Wendel here pulled his foretop and said, respectfully:

“With respect to my superiors, sir, I think I can give ye a trick at the proper course.”

Frank and Randall turned.

“Very well,” said Frank, pleasantly. “We will be glad to hear it.”

“I have a friend—a former shipmate,” said Wendel, “who owns a staunch brig—just such a vessel as can stand the rough winds and the ice. His ship lies in New Bedford harbor now. His name is Captain Isaac Ward, and the name of his ship is the Black Pearl. He would, I think, undertake the voyage without any doubt.”

“Good!” cried Frank, with alacrity. “How soon can we see him, and where?”

“I will wire him now!” said Randall, excitedly. “If we can charter his brig we shall be all right.”

A few moments later, a telegraph message was speeding on its way to New Bedford. An hour later an answer came:

“Frank Reade, Jr.: My brig is in commission and ready for a cruise. I will agree to reasonable terms and will be in Readestown to-morrow.
“Isaac Ward.”

All that the adventurers could now do was to wait for the coming of Captain Ward. Frank arose from the desk, and said:

“Would not you gentlemen like to take a look at the Scorcher?”

“Delighted,” was Randall’s reply, and Wendel nodded eagerly. So they left the office with that purpose in view.

When Barney and Pomp went forth they were in hilarious spirits. They crossed the yard with a hop, skip and jump, and approached the heavy iron doors of a high, truss-roofed structure.

“Ki yi!” cried Pomp, clicking his heels together. “I jes’ ’lot on seein’ dem icebergs. Huh! dat be a berry good place fo’ yo’, I’sh.”

“Phwat do yez mane, naygur?” interrogated Barney.

“Bekase it am so cold.”

“Phwat has that to do wid me, yez grinning misfit av an ape?”

“Hi, hi, hi! Don’ yo’ know? Ice am a’right fo’ to preserve green fings.”

Barney made a biff at Pomp.

“Be me sowl, it’ll make yez more conspicuous fer yer color, naygur!” he cried. “Shure, ye’ll froighten the whole counthry.”

“Huh! reckon dere am brack men in all pahts ob de worl’.”

“Divil a wan will yez foind on the old sod.”

“Dat am a berry unfortunate fing fo’ de island,” retorted Pomp. “Ki, dar, look out fo’ dat big snaik!”

The darky simulated terror and pointed to the Celt’s feet. Of course, there was no snake there, but the exclamation caused Barney to leap and yell with terror.

When he saw how he had been sold he made an angry biff at Pomp.

“Begorra, I’ll have yer skhin fer that!” he yelled.

But Pomp put out his foot and tripped the Celt up. However, Barney caught the darky’s ankle and brought him down, too.

Then there followed a mix-up. For a time it was hard to tell which had the best of it.

But suddenly approaching footsteps and voices were heard.

“Whisht!” cried Barney. “That’s Misther Frank. Be off wid yez.”

And they scurried away just in time. Frank, with his visitors, came up and opened the big doors. There upon a small platform stood the new invention.

The Electric Scorcher was built for speed, and with an idea to economy of space and lightness. It weighed hardly a thousand pounds, but on its pneumatic tired wheels ran apparently as light as an ordinary bicycle.

The symmetry of its build and the grace of its contour were remarkable. In these was seen the master hand of the builders and the mechanics.

The body of the Scorcher was made of bullet-proof plates of steel. It rested upon light but strong running gear. There were four plate-glass windows upon each side and one in the rear.

Above the desk rose a structure of steel netting—a sort of cage in which the voyagers could remain with unimpeded view in all directions. In this cage there were loopholes for firing upon a foe, if such a thing as defense should become necessary.

Over this cage was a small deck, and upon it was mounted a long, light steel cylinder. This was Frank Reade, Jr.’s most wonderful invention—the pneumatic dynamite electric gun.

This was a very deadly weapon, capable of throwing a dynamite shell two miles with frightful effect.

Just forward of this cage was the pilot-house, with heavy, plate-glass windows. The rear of the Scorcher was graced with a steel hood—much like the top of a chaise. In this there were kept the dynamos and electric engines.

In the pilot-house there was a keyboard by which the machine could be regulated and operated. Over the pilot-house was a powerful searchlight, with a wide range.

The equipments and furnishings of the machine throughout were of the best, and there were stores aboard sufficient for a year’s journey. Nothing had been left undone.

The Electric Scorcher was quite ready for the trip.

The two visitors looked the machine over with wonderment and delight. Then they went back to the office, where final arrangements were made.

And thus was undertaken the remarkable feat of making a voyage to an undiscovered continent.

It was an arduous and perilous undertaking, but our adventurers were pledged to it, and what their success was we shall see.


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