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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Abandoned Country » CHAPTER IX. ON AN ISLAND.
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“You are right,” agreed Randall, “and it will not do to tempt fate.”

“What shall we do?”

“We must leave here.”

“Where shall we go?”

“Back to the mountains. From there I believe we can watch the whole wonderful phenomenon.”

“All right,” agreed Frank, with alacrity. “It shall be as you say; but one thing puzzles me.”


“What has become of the people who abandoned this doomed country?”

“It is easy enough to guess. Doubtless they have made their way to other parts of the Antarctic, as yet undiscovered by any one.”

“Before I leave this land of wonders I must find them,” declared Frank. “I must have a look at them.”

“I don’t see why we cannot accomplish that,” declared Randall. “Then we will return to the other end of the valley, will we?”

“By all means.”

In a few moments more Frank and Randall were aboard the Scorcher.

They said nothing to the others of the subject uppermost in their minds. But Frank started the machine at once back up the valley.

Scarcely twenty miles had been made, however, when a strange, grayish bank of clouds began to rise upward toward the zenith.

Thus far our adventurers had not experienced a storm of any violence. There had been only some slight rains.

But the moment Frank saw the strangely tinted clouds he became alarmed.

“On my word, Randall,” he said, “I believe we are going to have a rough storm.”

The geologist’s face was grave. He studied the sky a moment. Then he swept the landscape.

“Which is the highest point of land near here?” he asked.

“I think it is yonder hill,” said Frank, pointing to an elevation about five miles distant.

“How far is it over there?”

“Five miles.”

“Well, I think we had better make for it. If there should come a cloudburst or even a heavy fall of rain in these lowlands we might get swamped.”

“I believe you are right,” agreed Frank. “We will do that.”

He changed the course of the Scorcher at once. Five miles was quickly covered, and they reached the hill.

The great, angry cloud had swept up to the zenith. A blackness most intense was settling down over the landscape.

“Ugh!” exclaimed Wendel, “we’re going to have a bit of a blow, mates.”

“Bejabers, av that’s so, I’m afther thinkin’ we’re on high enough land to git the whole benifit av it.”

“That’s true, Barney,” said Frank, “but it’s better than getting drowned.”

“Phwat’s that, sor?” asked the Celt in surprise. “Shure, there’s no chance av that, is there?”

Frank saw that he had put his foot into it, to speak metaphorically, and was decided now to make a clean breast of the matter.

So he called Randall up, and said:

“I think it would be wisest to explain our situation and our fears in full to the others.”

“Well,” agreed Randall, “I guess you are right.”

With this, Frank called the others up and told them the truth. It caused them some surprise, but Wendel said:

“Well, mates, all of our family were seafaring men, and all have found a grave in the sea but mo. I don’t expect to be an exception.”

“Bejabers, the naygur an’ mesilf are good swimmers! Eh, naygur!”

“Yo, kin bet we is, I’sh!”

“Very good!” said Frank, with a laugh. “Then we need fear nothing. Yet I believe we had better turn the machine head on to the wind and trig the wheels well.”

This was done. And now all awaited, with some apprehension and eagerness, the coming of the storm.

As is usual with tempests, it was not long in coming. Over the volcano it swept, bringing down into the valley a vortex of ashes and soot.

The approach of the storm was like the bellowing of a thousand wild lions. In the utter darkness its coming could only be felt, not seen.

It struck the Scorcher with terrific force. For a few moments it seemed as if the machine was in the clutches of destroying fiends.

Then the wind passed as quickly as it came, and the rain followed.

Torrents of water surged about the machine and over the deck. It seemed as if it would be engulfed.

For hours the storm raged.

Then, in a lull, Frank went on deck and turned on the searchlight. The sight revealed was startling.

The electric light fell glaringly bright upon flashing waters. All about the Scorcher, as far as the light could penetrate, was a mass of water—an inland sea.

Randall clutched Frank’s arm.

“It has come!” he said. “My hypothesis was correct.”

“Eh!” exclaimed Frank, in dismay. “Then we’re in a fine trap.”

“That is, if the waters rise higher.”

“Yes, or if not.”


“We are imprisoned on an island made by the top of this hill. The waters may not subside for a year. Nobody knows how long!”

This was the certain truth. The situation was certainly a most appalling one.

But there was one source of comfort left. The rain was beginning to subside.

In a short while the sky began to grow lighter, and soon the blackness passed away. The valley became quite light.

Then the true position they were in was seen by the voyagers. Almost the entire valley was one vast lake.

Only the higher land was exposed. In some places the water must have been of considerable depth.

One thing was certain. It was impossible for the machine to travel through it. The adventurers were anchored to the hilltop isle.

What was to be done?

Frank knew well that the water was rising all the while. It was a desperate situation.

In the hold of the Scorcher there was stored a portable rubber boat. In this all could doubtless have made their way to the higher land and escaped.

But they would have been compelled to leave the Scorcher.

This would have been equivalent to signing a death warrant, and they knew it well. So Frank did not accept the chance.

He stepped down from the Scorcher’s deck and walked about the hilltop. At one end was a clump of giant pines.

And, as his eyes fell upon these mighty trees, a sudden, swift plan suggested itself to him. He saw one forlorn chance.

But Frank Reade, Jr., was never the one to yield to despair. Scant as the chance was, he decided to adopt it.

He went hurriedly back to the Scorcher.

“Come here, all of you!” he cried. “I have hit upon a plan.”

This was enough.

With alacrity all came forward. And now Frank unfolded his plan.

“Do you see those big pines?” he said. “Well, in them lies our chance. If we can hew down enough of them to make a raft to float the Scorcher I believe there is a chance for us!”

For a moment there was silence.

Then all gave a loud cheer.

“We’ll do it!” cried Randall. “Give us some axes. Come, boys! It is for our lives we are working!”

Barney and Pomp ran to get axes. Wendel and Randall and even Frank himself selected a tree.

The axes rang merrily in the soft wood, and steadily all worked, each man at a tree.

In a comparatively short space of time five of the trees were down. Then each set to work upon another.

But now that the trees were down the hardest part of the work began. This was to trim the huge logs and bind them together for a raft.

But this was finally accomplished. The logs were firmly bound, two tiers deep. This was reckoned sufficient to float the machine.

Then the Scorcher was run upon it. There was little time to spare.

The rise of the inland sea was so fast that already the water was up to their knees as they worked. The Scorcher was secured to the raft.

Then all waited for the water to cover the top of the hill and float the raft.

They had not long to wait.

It was already skimming over the highest point. The raft began to rise.

The voyagers had provided themselves with long poles to push the raft off and propel it with. Soon it was afloat.

It required several hours of hard work to propel it to the upper end of the lake or the slope of the volcano.

Here, however, a landing place was found, and the Scorcher was run off the raft upon terra firma.

A position was selected above the high water mark on the slope of the volcano. The eruption, somewhat singularly, had ceased altogether.

The reason for this was not apparent, but it was possible that the rising of the waters had extinguished the internal fires.

The voyagers were engaged in watching the slow rising of the inland sea, when suddenly a great cry came from Barney.

“Be me sowl, there’s a lot av the spalpeens up there among the rocks,” he cried. “Shure, have an eye out fer thim, or they’ll be afther comin’’ down onto us!”

“Where are they?” cried Frank, springing to Barney’s side.

“Up there, sor!”

Frank was just in time to see that the Celt was right. A number of forms were scrambling over a heap of bowlders far up on the crater’s side.

This was the first sign of human beings other than themselves in the abandoned country. It is needless to say that all were excited.


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