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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Abandoned Country » CHAPTER XI. A SERIOUS ACCIDENT.
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Frank now began to make more accurate calculations as to their exact position.

The result was that the party was soon scrambling down the mountain side and rapidly approaching the Scorcher, for the firing every moment grew more distinct.

Suddenly a dull glow was seen through the mist. Frank gave a cry of joy.

“That is the searchlight,” he cried. “We shall soon be there!”

And his prediction was verified. After a hard scramble the Scorcher was reached.

All were glad of this.

The expedition around the range had been a failure. The fate of Captain Ward and his men remained unsolved.

But it was safe to assume that they had perished in the waters of the inland sea. All were agreed upon this point.

Frank examined the barometer with some alarm.

“I’m afraid,” he said, “that if we do not make a move very quickly to return to the Pearl that we will never get there.”

“That’s correct, mate,” declared Wendel. “I agree with ye. The winter storms will block the fiord. If the ship stands the nipping the spring thaw will carry her into the northward current and we shall never see her again.”

“Enough!” cried Randall. “Why do we delay here, then?”

“I fear to start out in this deadly mist,” replied Frank.

“We must risk it!”

A long and earnest consultation was held.

Of course, there was no telling how long the mist would last. It might disappear in a few hours: it might not do so for a week.

However, it was finally decided to make the attempt.

The searchlight was trimmed to its fullest power, and the Scorcher began to feel its way down the mountain side.

Mains and the three sailors rode on the deck, for there was not room for all in the cabin comfortably.

For hours the Scorcher made its uncertain way down the mountain to the plain, and the pass which would take them into the fiord.

It was not an easy matter to thus fumble along in the darkness. There were innumerable perils.

But Frank kept the machine on its course as well as he could, and exercised all due caution.

At length the pass was reached.

Here the mist lessened and it was easier to see the way. The machine threaded its way through the defile with greater ease.

And when its end was reached the plain and river extending to the ice-belt lay clear of mist or cloud.

The storm was peculiar to the volcanic region alone. Frank was even enabled to dispense with the searchlight.

A chill wind blew from the north, and the voyagers were obliged to wrap themselves up warmly. The machine ran along the banks of the river.

The spirits of all began to rise. Even the seamen on the Scorcher’s deck were much lighter of spirit.

“If we only find the ship unharmed,” cried Frank, “we will be able to find our way home yet.”


The word seemed to have a magic charm to each one in the party. It was true that it had been a long time since they had seen it.

Indeed, it had seemed at times as if they were doomed to spend their lives in this place. That it was to become their tomb.

But there was a chance of liberation, and all looked forward hopefully.

Camp was made on the river banks. Barney and Pomp improved the opportunity to try fishing.

There were delicious trout in the clear waters, and they rose readily to the fly.

They returned with a goodly mess, and it was an agreeable change from the stale food which they had been eating.

Down the river’s course the Scorcher went until patches of ice and snow began to appear.

Soon they crossed the belt and were in the ice region.

It became necessary now to don their fur suits and prepare for the chill winds. Frost formed on the pilot-house windows exceedingly thick.

The four seamen were ensconced in cramped quarters in the cabin, for they could not have existed outside. All preparations were made for a rough trip.

And this was what they had, as events will prove.

Soon they were in the heart of the fiord and upon the surface of the river.

Here the first mishap befell them.

It happened this way:

Barney was at the wheel and the Scorcher was gliding between two huge bergs of ice, when there was a crash and a sullen roar and one of them fell.

It struck the forward trucks of the machine. There was a ripping, rending sound, and then the machine pitched forward heavily.

Not a man but was thrown upon his face and all realized that the machine had met with a serious mishap.

Luckily no one was injured.

Frank sprung out of the cabin door. He gave a cry of dismay at the sight before him.

There lay a heap of crushed material, the trucks and forward running gear of the machine. They were fearfully mixed up with the ice.

Here was a catastrophe of no mild sort. Pallid and nerveless he was joined by the others.

“Gee whiz!” exclaimed Randall, in dismay, “we’re done for, Frank!”

“Begorra, the masheen is spoilt, intoirely!” wailed Barney.

For a moment Frank seemed utterly unable to act.

Then he walked slowly about the Scorcher. He examined the broken gear long and slowly.

Then he said:

“Barney and Pomp, bring out tools and help me clear away this debris.”

The two jokers hastily obeyed.

Frank proceeded to disentangle the wreck. All went silently to work to help him.

The forward part of the Scorcher was set upon a support, while Frank endeavored to repair the wheels. But presently he said:

“My friends, I’m afraid we are badly stuck. These wheels can never do service again.”

It was an ominous statement.

A groan went up simultaneously.

“Confound the luck!” cried Randall. “The fiends are after us! What is the next best thing we can do, Frank?”

“There is, fortunately a way out of the difficulty,” said the young inventor.

At this the faces of all brightened.

“As we are upon snow,” continued Frank, “wheels are not a prime necessity. I think we can rig up a temporary sledge to go under the forward part of the machine and yet go ahead.”

A cheer arose at this.

It was fortunate that the power of the Scorcher was connected with the hind wheels, where the driving cogs were placed. Therefore, the loss of the forward trucks did not interfere with the machinery or driving power.

Frank now set to work to rig up a sledge.

This it was not difficult to do with the remnants of the truck. In a few hours the machine was provided with sledge runners.

These worked clumsily and very seriously impeded the speed of the Scorcher. But they were better than nothing.

This accident was a bad one for the chances of the voyagers and all felt secretly discouraged.

It seemed almost a certainty that the ship would be nipped before they could get to her. But Frank said:

“Don’t give up yet. We have a good chance and we’ll hang onto it.”

Slowly the Scorcher now made its way down the fiord.

The days passed into weeks before finally the great headlands were seen, and all craned their necks for a sight of the ship.

But an immense barrier of ice had risen just off shore. It was fully two hundred feet high.

This showed that beyond a doubt the pack had been at work. There must have been terrific crowding and crushing to have raised this barrier.

What, then, might be the fate of the ship?

Was she lying on her beam ends, a crushed and worthless wreck? Or had she gone to the bottom?

It could hardly be believed that she had altogether escaped mishap. The adventurers were in a fever of anxiety.

It was frightfully cold. Nothing like it had ever been experienced by any one in the party.

No one dared to remain out on deck for long. He would have been converted into an icicle.

The machine was brought to a halt by the great wall of ice. The Scorcher could not surmount it, nor did there seem any pass to go through.

What was to be done?

The party was intensely anxious to get a look at the ship. There seemed but one way.

This was to leave the Scorcher and go forward on foot. This plan was discussed.

The cold, by good fortune, now began to moderate. It brought signs of snow, but it enabled the voyagers to go forth without the extreme peril of freezing to death.

A party was quickly made up to scale the icy heights. These were Randall, Frank Reade, Jr., Barney and Mains. They wrapped up as warmly as possible and set forth.

It was no light undertaking.

To climb that immense barrier, with its treacherous surface, with its hundreds of chasms and pitfalls, was a feat.

But they armed themselves with steel-tipped poles and set forth. Soon they were clambering over the ice.

It was a rough and dangerous ascent. Before they had made half it, a startling thing happened.

Mains and Barney were in the lead. Suddenly and without warning they vanished.

There was a slight upheaval of the blocks of ice. Then they disappeared from view most effectually.

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Randall, “did you see that, Frank?”

“I did,” replied the young inventor.

“What does it mean?”

“It means that if we don’t go to the aid of those chaps instantly we may never see them again.”

They clambered furiously up to the spot where the two men had been, but not a trace of them could be found.

There were a few marks of the penstocks on the ice, but this was all. There was no visible pitfall or cavity.

What did it mean?

Of course, they must have fallen into something of the sort. Their disappearance could be explained in no other way.

Frank placed his penstock under a corner of the huge block of ice. He was not able to lift it, but the penstock slipped down into a certain cavity beneath.

“Give me a hand, Randall,” he said.

Together they tried to lift the block of ice, but it would not budge. Their strength was not adequate.

Frank was in a quandary.

He knew that his two colleagues were somewhere beneath that immovable block of ice which had fallen into just the position to close the cavity into which they had fallen.

How deep the pitfall was he had no means of guessing. He placed his ear to the crack and listened. No sound came up.

Various horrible possibilities occurred to Frank.

Suppose the cavity was so deep that it extended all the way down to the water, or was really in itself an air-hole? They would certainly go to the bottom of the sea.

In such a case they were beyond earthly aid. But Frank did not believe yet that such was the case.

He hoped to find both alive, though possibly unconscious, at the bottom of the pit. But first of all it must be opened.

So he drew his hatchet from his belt and began work. Randall did the same.

Their purpose was, if possible, to split the big cake of ice and thus open up the trap. They worked hard and fast.

With rapid blows Frank quickly cut a deep channel into the ice block. Deeper it grew, and Randall advanced to meet him.

Then one united blow cracked the ice-block. They put their shoulders to it and hurled it down the slope.


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