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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Abandoned Country » CHAPTER XII. WHICH IS THE END.
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As they did so both nearly fell into the cavity. They clung to the edges desperately.

Then, recovering, they saw that a dark hole yawned beneath them. How deep it was they could only conjecture.

But Frank shouted:

“Hello! Are you down there, Barney?”

Again and again the hail went down. Then something like a gasp and a sob came up.

A voice muttered:

“Phwere the divil am I? Shure, it’s kilt I am, an’ this is purgatory!”

“No, it isn’t!” shouted Frank. “It’s only a hole in the ice. Lively now, old fellow. How is the other fellow?”

“Misther Frank?” shouted Barney.

“Yes, it’s me!”

“Shure, what’s the matter?”

“Oh, you fell into a hole in the ice, that’s all!”

“Och, shure; I remember now. An’ the other feller—Mither of Moses! I belave he’s dead!”

“Wait and I’ll lower a rope to you,” cried Frank. “Tie it around him and we’ll haul him up!”

“All roight, sor!”

Frank had provided himself with a hundred feet of stout line before leaving the Scorcher. This now came into play.

He lowered it quickly into the pit. In a very few moments Barney gave an answering tug.

“All roight, sor! I have it fast!”

Then another voice was heard below. It was evident that Mains had also recovered his consciousness.

“It’s a hard v’yage, shipmates!” mumbled the sailor. “Fell clean from the maintop into the waist of the ship. Ugh! my back is broken!”

“Be off wid yez!” cried Barney. “Ye’re wuth tin dead min already! Put this line undther yez arms.”

“All right?” asked Frank.

“Yis, sor. Pull away wid yez!”

Frank and Randall gave way at the line. Up from the depths came the limp form of Mains.

He was quite seriously shaken up and unable as yet to stand on his feet. But the air revived him.

Frank and Randall placed Mains on the ice at one side and then drew Barney up.

The Celt came up as lively as a cricket.

“Shure, it’s hard to spile a bad egg, or to kill an Oirishman!” he cried. “It’s sorry I am fer the other man. Phwat will we do wid him, Misther Frank?”

Frank hardly knew what to say to this question. But Mains answered it himself.

“Don’t worry about me, mates! Go on up to the summit, an’ I’ll wait here till ye come back.”

“Will yez?” cried Barney.

“I will: only keep an eye out for ice-holes. I hope ye’ll sight the ship, for it’s sick to death I am of this region.”

“Same here, bejabers!” cried the Celt.

So it was arranged that Mains should remain where he was until the others should return.

He was fixed in a comfortable position, and the trio went on up the steep incline. No further mishap befell them.

They stood upon the highest pinnacle. With his night-glass Frank scanned the ice fields.

Suddenly he gave a sharp exclamation.

“There she is!” he cried.

“I see her!” shouted Randall, at the same moment.

“She stands up well.”

“She is not nipped yet.”

“No—and—by Jove, she is in open water. The bay has not filled in yet, Frank.”

This was seen to be the truth. It was a gratifying fact.

Frank’s face wore a relieved expression.

“Then there is a chance for us,” he cried. “We will do the best we can.”

“Back to the Scorcher!” cried Randall. “We must lose no time. There is snow in the air, and if it comes down before we reach the ship it may spoil all our plans.”

“You are right,” agreed Frank. “Back to the Scorcher!”

Down the slippery ice hummocks they went. They found Mains where they had left him.

The sailor was upon his feet, but he was not deemed strong enough to walk back to the Scorcher.

So Barney and Randall carried him between them, while Frank went ahead with the penstock to pick the way.

They were not long in descending to the level below. Those on board the Scorcher saw them coming and shouted joyfully.

It was good news which they learned when the three explorers went aboard. There was certainly a chance for them.

In the cabin of the Scorcher an elaborate discussion was held. The ship was in sight and it would be easy to reach her on foot.

But what of the Scorcher?

How could they hope to get the machine over that mighty ice barrier? It was a sheer impossibility.

The matter finally resolved itself into two alternatives.

One was to remain aboard the Scorcher until spring, and the ice barrier should fall, and then trust to luck in getting aboard the Pearl before the northward current should take her.

Or, they might accept the “dernier ressort,” and abandon the machine.

Frank considered the matter for some while. He realized that the Scorcher had seen its best uses.

The destruction of its forward gear had shaken it up greatly, and it was hardly likely that it could be repaired to be of much further service.

The electric engines were valuable, but he could easily reproduce them. Frank did not like the idea of leaving his pet invention in the Antarctic, but on the other hand he could not see any ready way to avoid it.

What should he do?

There were many valuable effects aboard. These could in the main be transported to the ship.

“Gentlemen,” he said, finally, “I have thought the matter over seriously. I believe it is a question of life or death with us.

“Life if we get away on that ship before the rigorous winter sets in. Death if we have to remain here nearly nine months until the northern channels open again.

“We are not bred to this climate. We could not stand the rigorous cold. We would perish. It is only the question of the Scorcher, and I have decided what to do.

“We will abandon the machine.”

There was a profound silence. Then Frank resumed:

“Life is of paramount importance. We will transport such of the Scorcher’s effects us we can, and start at once for the Pearl.”

Instantly a wild cheer went up. The sailors ran forward and embraced Frank as their deliverer.

No time was lost.

It was decided to take the electric gun, the searchlight, and one of the smaller dynamos.

None of these were heavy. Also a case of the dynamite shells was taken. Other articles of necessity were carried away.

But all the stores, the rich equipment and luxuries of the Scorcher were left behind with it. They were never seen again.

To many, Frank’s course might have seemed heroic, but it was at least justifiable.

The long Antarctic winter is against human life. As Frank had predicted, few of the party would have lived to see the spring.

But the serious part of the undertaking was not over yet, by any means.

To climb the ice barrier with all their effects was no light task. Four trips were made over it.

But at length they were enabled to set out for the ship. Fortunately the weather yet held moderate.

But at any moment the grim old tyrant of winter was apt to descend with pitiless, blasting breath and lock up every channel and basin of open water.

So our voyagers journeyed on without rest.

Luck was with them. They reached the ship and got aboard. The Pearl was anchored in the middle of the basin.

But the boat in which Captain Ward had come off was yet in a cleft in the ice. In it all were safely transported to the ship’s deck.

The Pearl was found in good, seaworthy condition, and there was no reason so far as that went why she should not sail north at once.

But there was another reason.

The channel by which she had entered the basin was closed. Great ice-blocks had wedged in and closed it.

Here was a dilemma.

It was fifty miles to the open sea. Doubtless the channel was open in places, but there were sufficient obstructions to hold the vessel back.

What was to be done?

The crew all looked dismayed.

It looked as if the Pearl must stay in the Antarctic after all. But at the last moment Frank Reade, Jr., came to the rescue.

He had not as yet, by any means, overtaxed his resources.

He gave quick and sharp orders.

“Bring the pneumatic gun forward,” he commanded.

Two men brought the cylinder of steel and its pivotal carriage forward. It was quickly mounted in the bow.

The connections were made with the pneumatic chambers and the dynamos.

Then Frank placed a projectile in the breech. He trained the gun upon the blocked channel.

One moment he drew the sights, then he pressed the electric button. The effect was thrilling.

The shell struck fair in the midst of the ice-blocks. There was a terrible crash—a sullen, thunderous roar.

Up into the air one hundred feet went a column of water and ice fragments. It was a marvelous spectacle.

The ship pitched and rocked violently. Then Frank sent another shell into the heap.

The ice-jam gave way. For fully five hundred yards the channel was open. A northward current moved the crushed ice rapidly away and in an hour’s time the channel was clear as far as the eye could reach.

The Pearl sailed out into the channel amid the cheers of the crew.

In the fifty miles of circuitous sailing among the ice fields the electric gun did valiant service.

In due time the Pearl emerged into the open sea. She met fearful weather for the first week.

But she steadily and stanchly fought her way northward, inch by inch it seemed, until at length she was in Cape Horn seas.

The rest was easy.

A week later she was in Montevideo harbor. Here a fresh crew was shipped and a new captain procured.

Then she proceeded to Rio and took on a cargo of coffee, so that her homeward cruise might not be unprofitable.

In due time she reached New York. Captain Ward’s wife was inconsolable over his loss. The ship was sold and the sum given to her.

Frank also paid to her again the sum of the charter, which was a provision against want, and some recompense for her terrible loss. But nobody could deny but that Ward himself was solely to blame.

The seamen survivors of the party scattered when New York was reached. Jack Wendel returned to his seashore home, and Randall went on to Readestown with Frank and Barney and Pomp.

Needless to say they were glad to get home.

In a large measure the trip had been a success.

They had accomplished the feat of discovering the abandoned country, but neither Frank nor Randall were satisfied.

“I shall have another try at that game some day,” declared the young inventor. “I want to explore the rest of that strange land.”

“By all means take me with you,” said Randall, eagerly.

“We will talk it over,” replied Frank.

And full of the idea he went back to his work. Whether he ever carried out his project or not we will wait for the future to tell, and with this announcement bring our story to

The End


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