小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Deep Sea Hunters in the Frozen Seas » CHAPTER XV FRIENDS IN NEED
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
 One morning Tom came on deck, glanced ashore and rubbed his eyes. He could hardly believe what he saw. Beyond the igloos, several of the Eskimos were busily putting up a skin tent on the shore.
“Golly, Jim!” he cried to his cousin. “Look, there—they must know that spring’s coming. They’re putting up their skin tents.”
“Cricky, so they are!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, I didn’t know spring came so early.”
“Won’t be here for some spell yet,” laughed Mr. Kemp who had overheard the boys. “You’re rushing the season. Getting tired of winter?”
“Not a bit of it,” declared Tom. “We’re having a bully time and I wouldn’t mind being frozen in here for six months more. But if spring’s not near, why are they moving ashore and putting up the skin tents?”
“Going to mend some clothes,” replied the second officer.
“Oh, say, you must think we’re easy,” laughed Jim. “They could mend clothes in the igloos, couldn’t they? What’s the joke?”
“No joke,” Mr. Kemp assured him. “And of course they could mend clothes in the igloos—only they don’t think so. That is, some kinds. You see, these Eskimos believe there’s a water god and a land god—sorta spirit I reckon—and each one’s boss of the critters where he reigns. So they think if they mend clothes made of sea critters’ skins on shore, the water spirit’ll be peeved, and if they mend things made of land animals’ hides on the ice, t’other god’ll be vexed. I’ll bet, if you was over to that tent, you’d find the old lady sewin’ at a shirt or somethin’ made of bear or reindeer or fox, or some other land thing’s hide.”
“Well, that is the funniest thing yet,” declared Tom. “Come on, Jim, let’s go and see.”
They found that it was exactly as Mr. Kemp had said. Inside the tent, two of the Eskimo women were busily mending some garments which the boys at once saw were made of wolf and deer skins. This discovery aroused their interest and all of their spare time was spent questioning the Eskimos about beliefs[224] and habits. The two boys learned a great number of most interesting things. All of these they recorded in their notebooks, and once, as Tom was busily writing down a folklore story, Newilic, who had been watching him, asked what he was doing. Tom explained as best he could and the Eskimo grinned. Then, asking Tom to let him take the book, the Iwilic[3] grasped the pencil in his fist, screwed up his mouth, bent his eyes close to the paper, and commenced to draw several pictures. Presently he handed the book back to Tom and as the boys saw what the Eskimo had drawn they roared with laughter. There, unmistakable and indescribably quaint and funny, were the birds and animals of the story with a stiff-jointed, woodeny Eskimo among them.
From that time on the boys had Newilic illustrate all the stories they recorded, and the result was a collection of the most fascinating pictures they had ever seen. Both boys declared they would have them bound and the stories printed with them as soon as they reached home.
Of course the two boys never lost their interest in hunting and one day, when out for meat for the schooner’s table, Jim killed an Arctic hare, and picking[225] him up, was amazed to see that he was speckled with brown.
“Hurrah!” he shouted to Tom. “Now I know spring’s coming. The hares are getting brown.”
“Perhaps Amook forgot to rub his hands all over him,” laughed Tom. “You know one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I don’t believe one hare with brown spots makes a spring. Let’s get another one and see if he’s the same way.”
But oddly enough, now that the boys wanted a hare, there were none to be found. Finally, tiring of searching for them, the two turned back. As they crossed a little swale, a pair of ptarmigan fluttered up and Tom bagged them.
“Gosh, I guess you’re right,” he cried as he picked up the birds. “These fellows have got brown feathers on them.”
“Yep, ain’t no doubt of it,” declared Cap’n Pem when the boys returned to the schooner and showed the brown feathers and hairs to the old whaleman. “Can’t fool these here critters, by gum! I’ll bet ye, ye’ll see the geese a-honkin’ back afore long.”
Despite the fact that the hare and the ptarmigan, as well as many other creatures the boys brought in, were all assuming their summer coats of gray and brown, there was no let up in the biting wind. Snow[226] storms came and piled the drifts higher, and the thermometer hovered around the thirty or forty mark below zero.
Then one day the boys came on deck to find a soft wind blowing from the south, water was dripping from the icicles on the Narwhal’s rigging, the sky was clear and blue, and there was an unmistakable feel of spring in the air. Day after day the south wind blew, and the sky was cloudless and though the nights were cold, the ice and snow thawed rapidly during the short days. One morning a faint, faraway sound caused the boys to look up, and they saw a little V-shaped string of black specks winging swiftly across the sky.
“There are the geese!” cried Tom. “I guess spring really is here.”
Evidently the Eskimos were of the same mind, for they were all busy, erecting skin tents and moving their household belongings from the igloos to their new homes. Before long the low, rounded houses of ice were deserted.
“Looks like the ice might break up pretty soon,” remarked Captain Edwards. “That is, if this weather holds. What do you think, Pem?”
The old whaleman squinted at the sky, sniffed the wind and scratched his head. “I reckon ’twill,” he[227] replied at last. “But I’ll be sunk if I hanker arter a early thaw. Mos’ gin’rally there’s a’ all-fired, dod-gasted freeze arterwards an’ the ice buckles an’ raises Sam Hill. I’ve seen many a good ship stove an’ sent to Davy Jones by a freeze arter the ice breaks. No, sir, gimme a late spring an’ no danger of it a-freezin’ solid arterwards.”
“Hmm,” muttered the skipper. “Yep, I know that, Pem, but if the ice breaks we’ll clear it away about the schooner and then she’d ought to stand it. Clear water’ll freeze smooth black ice and won’t do any harm.”
“Mebbe ye will, an’ mebbe ye won’t,” grumbled the old man. “Course I ain’t a-lookin’ fer trouble but I’ll bet ye we git it.”
A few days after this conversation the boys were wakened by a report like a cannon and started up. “What’s that?” cried Tom.
“Ice breakin’ up,” called back Mr. Kemp from the next berth. “Reckon she’ll be a-goin’ good by to-morrow.”
Throughout the rest of the night the crackling reports, dull crashes and sharp detonations woke the boys a score of times, and when they reached the deck the next morning, they gazed with amazement at the vast plain of white that marked the bay. Where[228] yesterday it had been solid ice—rough, hummocky and rugged—it was now broken, and cracked in every direction. Narrow strips of dark water could be seen here and there, and the mass rose and fell in undulations like the swell of the ocean.
“Hurrah! it’s broken!” cried Tom. “Now we’ll soon be getting away.”
It did indeed look as though the bay would soon be cleared of ice, for the tide or current and the wind were slowly but surely moving the ice away from the land. Already a stretch of fifty feet of water separated the igloos from the shore, and along the beach tiny waves were lapping at the shingle. For the first time in many months, the boys felt the schooner gently rising and falling beneath their feet. But Tom and Jim did not know the treacherous Arctic weather. Two nights later they were aroused by shouts and cries, the sound of hurrying feet, and crashing shivering blows that shook the schooner from stem to stern. At first they thought the Narwhal had gone adrift and was on the rocks. Hurrying into their garments they rushed on deck to gaze upon a terrific, wild and magnificent sight. The wind had shifted and was blowing half a gale from the east and the broken ice, that had been drifting out of the bay for the past three days, was now being driven back.
Tossing on the waves, the great masses of gleaming ice came in, grinding together, crashing like thunder as one collided with another, bumping and roaring as they lifted and fell upon the seas. In a vast solid rampart, the upended jagged cakes were approaching the Narwhal, and already she was surrounded by scores of the cakes—huge, sharp-edged bits of floe twenty feet or more in thickness, and hurled like battering rams by wind and waves.
Instantly, the boys realized the peril the schooner was in. Each time a great cake was flung against the stout ice sheathing of her hull, the Narwhal shivered and trembled. It seemed impossible that any vessel could withstand the steady buffeting, the constant impacts, of the tossing cakes.
Shouting, and yelling, the men and the Eskimos labored, striving to ward off the ice with poles, by lowering great rope fenders over the sides, and by paying out cable, but their puny efforts made no impression on the irresistible oncoming ice. Presently, however, the boys noticed that there were fewer shocks, that the blows seemed less severe and then they saw the reason. The first cakes of ice had reached the shore, others had piled upon them, back of these the oncoming ice was checked and, unable to move farther, the countless thousands of heaving,[230] crashing, grinding cakes were jammed together and the schooner was locked fast in their embrace.
“Gosh! that was a narrow escape!” cried Jim. “But I guess we’re all right now.”
“All right!” burst out Mr. Kemp. “Here’s where we’re a-goin’ to get it good an’ plenty. If the Narwhal ain’t stove it’ll be nothin’ short of a miracle.”
For a moment the boys could not see where the danger lurked and every one was too busy to answer the questions they longed to ask. But presently they understood. The gale, the heavy seas outside the bay and the tide were all pushing with terrific force against that vast mass of millions of tons of ice, and the schooner was gripped within it as in the jaws of a titanic vise. Only her hull of oak and pine, a mere egg shell in that stupendous field of ice, lay between the cakes, and no fabric built by human hands could withstand that awful pressure.
With sickening creaks the timbers and planks began to give. With horrified eyes the boys saw the stout sides and bulwarks bending and buckling inwards. The heavy oak rail parted, splintered and ripped like a match stick. With a report like a gunshot the decks sprang into the air and rose in a steep hill-like ridge above the shattered bulwarks.
“Gosh, Jim, it’s all over with the old Narwhal!”[231] cried Tom, scarcely able to realize that the stout old schooner had met her fate at last. “Now what will we do?”
Even as he spoke the boys were thrown headlong on to the ripped deck and with a terrific lurch the schooner’s stern reared high in air. She careened terribly, and a moment later was lying almost on her beam ends on the top of the floe which had forced its way beneath her keel. Captain Edwards, old Pem and Mr. Kemp were shouting and yelling orders while the Eskimos who had seen their plight from the shore came hurrying over the ice to help. Soon every one was laboring like mad, unloading the cargo, getting out stores and supplies and preparing to desert the schooner, for all knew, that should the wind shift and the ice go out, the Narwhal would plunge to the bottom like a lump of lead.
Rapidly the casks of oil, the bales of whalebone, the bundles of skins, and the sacks of walrus ivory were lowered over the schooner’s sides. In a constant stream the Eskimos’ sledges went back and forth between the stove schooner and the shore, carrying the salvaged goods which were piled in a great mound well back from the beach.
At last everything movable had been saved. The spars and sails, the chains and cables, the blocks and[232] tackle and the running rigging were stripped from the Narwhal and with lumber hastily torn from the long deck house a shed was built over the pile of valuables and supplies.
“Gee, we’re marooned here now,” cried Jim when the last sledge had come from the schooner and her sorrowing crew had tramped over the hummocky ice and stood gazing at the pitiful-looking ship which had served them so well.
“Reckon we won’t have to stay here long,” said Captain Edwards. “The Ruby’s up to Nepic Inlet and, if we can make her, we’ll be all right.”
“The Ruby?” queried Tom. “What’s she?”
“Little brigantine out o’ Nova Scotia,” replied the skipper. “Bluenose sealer. Guess her skipper’ll be willin’ to come in here an’ pick up this stuff of ourn an’ give us a lift to port.”
“But how can we get to her?” asked Jim.
“Sleds,” replied the captain. “’Tain’t over a hundred miles by land to the inlet an’ we can make it all right. Snow’s still good enough for sleddin’.”
Since another warm spell and a thaw might arrive at any moment, and make it impossible to travel over the slushy snow, no time was to be lost. Within two hours from the time the crew had come ashore,[233] all were on their way across the snow-covered land toward Nepic Inlet and the Ruby.
Leading the party was Amaluk, with his sledge laden with necessities, the men’s personal belongings, food, and supplies. Behind him came team after team and the schooner’s men and officers. In the rear were the two boys with their own dog team, their sledge laden with their trophies, and with Unavik a few paces ahead of them.
Although the snow had been softened by the warm spell, the change in wind and temperature had frozen a hard crust upon it, and sledding was easy and rapid. But the heavily loaded sledges broke through here and there and the boys, bringing up the rear, found that they could travel far easier by swinging to one side on to the unbroken crust. Often, for several miles, they were out of sight of the others, for they made detours around hills and deep drifts and once or twice stopped to shoot game. They had no fear of going astray for the shrill shouts of the Eskimos, the cracking of whips, and the yelps of the dogs were borne plainly to them on the strong easterly wind.
They had traveled in this way for several hours when Tom, who was running ahead, halted and signaled the dogs to stop. “Look here, Jim,” he cried,[234] “there are reindeer near. See, here’s where they’ve been scraping away the snow and feeding.”
“Golly, that’s so,” assented Jim as he saw the bits of moss on the white surface and the bare spots where the animals had pawed away the snow from a deep bed of moss.
“Let’s go after them!” suggested Tom. “They may be near, and Captain Edwards said to get meat if we could, to help out the provisions.”
“Better not,” cautioned Jim. “You know he told us not to go off alone.”
“But that was different,” argued Tom. “He meant not to go off on long trips. There’s no danger in this. We can’t get lost. It’ll be dead easy to find the others’ trail, or follow our own back. See, it’s plain as can be.”
“No, I guess there’s no danger of that,” admitted Jim. “All right, come on, but if we don’t find the deer soon, we’ll have to come back.”
Urging their dogs forward, the boys followed the deer’s trail and presently, by the dogs’ yelps and growls and the way they strained at their traces, the boys knew they were on a fresh scent, and that the deer could not be far away. The trail led up a narrow circuitous valley, and as the marks of the reindeer’s hoofs became more and more distinct, and the[235] bits of moss where the animals had stopped to feed were fresher, the boys knew they were nearing the herd, and halted their dogs.
“Let’s look over that ridge before we go farther,” suggested Tom. “They may be in the next hollow.”
Crawling up the low ridge, the boys peered over and to their joy saw a dozen reindeer lying down and resting. Hurrying to the dogs, the boys unharnessed them, looped the neck thongs together and led the pack to near the summit of the hill. Then, unleashing them, they let them go. With loud barks and growls the dogs rushed down at the surprised deer.
Leaping to their feet the reindeer, as always, formed a defensive ring, and while they were busy keeping off the snapping dogs, the boys slipped around the hill to get within easy range. So intent were the deer upon their four-footed enemies that the boys crept within fifty yards and brought down two of the creatures. It was almost as simple and as little sport as killing domestic cattle but the boys were out after meat and not for sport and, having all they needed, they ran towards the herd, yelling and shouting.
Instantly the survivors turned and fled, and the[236] dogs, after chasing them a short distance, came loping back to the dead deer.
“We can’t carry both these, as they are,” said Tom. “And we can’t afford to waste them. Let’s dress them and leave the heads and horns. We have better ones than these and the meat’s what we want most.”
“Guess we’ll have to,” agreed Jim, and at once the two set to work.
Although the boys had assisted Unavik and the other Eskimos in dressing deer and musk oxen, they had never before tried it alone and they soon found that it was a hard and difficult undertaking. The deer were heavy, the boys were no expert butchers and the time passed more rapidly than they imagined.
As they finished the first deer and with grunts of satisfaction stood up and looked about, they noticed for the first time that the sky was overcast, that heavy dun-gray clouds were scudding low overhead, and that the wind had increased.
“Gee, I guess it’s going to storm!” exclaimed Jim. “Don’t you think we’d better leave the other deer?”
“Why?” asked Tom. “If it does storm, it won’t make any difference. We’re not two miles from the trail, and we can make it in a few minutes. Come on, let’s get busy on this other fellow. If it storms[237] it will be all the easier to catch up with the other sledges. They’re slower than we are and may have to stop.”
Once more the boys bent over the deer, cutting and dressing the big carcass, and they had almost finished when a few big snowflakes dropped upon the animal’s hide.
“Golly, it’s snowing!” exclaimed Jim. “Say, we’ve got to hurry!”
The snow was falling thick and fast by the time the deer was dressed. Bending to the force of the wind, the boys called to their dogs and started for the sledge.
And then they realized that they had made a fatal blunder. All intent upon dressing the deer they had forgotten to knot the dogs’ thongs together, the animals had been eating their fill of the offal from the deer, and instinctively knowing a storm was approaching, they were running nervously about, sniffing the air and whining.
At Tom’s call, two of the dogs, old huskies who had been long trained to obedience, came trotting to him, but the others kept their distance.
“Come on, we’ll have to get them,” cried Jim, as the boys knotted the thongs of the two together. “Gosh, we were boobs not to have fastened them!”
But as soon as the boys started towards the dogs, the animals turned, dashed away with tails between their legs and growled savagely.
“Confound them!” cried Tom, and yelling a command in Eskimo he made a rush at the nearest dog.
With a sharp bark, and baring his teeth, the creature leaped away and then, lifting his head in air, he uttered a long wolflike howl and galloped off over the hill with the pack at his heels.
The boys looked at each other with real fear upon their features.
“They’ve gone!” exclaimed Tom. “Now we are in a fix.”
“We’ll have to leave the deer and the sledge and hike it,” declared Jim. “Maybe these two dogs can lead us to the trail.”
It was their one chance and urging the dogs on, the boys started back over the trail of their sledge. But presently they were again at a loss. The rapidly falling snow had now covered the runner marks, the dogs seemed confused and ranged back and forth, and the boys grew more and more frightened. Then one of the dogs gave a glad yelp and with noses to the snow they strained at the leading thongs.
“It’s all right!” shouted Tom. “The dogs have picked up the trail!”
“Well, they’re going in exactly the opposite direction I think they should have gone,” declared Jim. “But I suppose they know.”
Over low hills and through valleys the dogs led the boys while the blizzard raged. To the frightened and nervous lads it seemed as if they had covered twice the distance they had come when the dogs barked loudly, sniffed the air and tugged harder than ever at the leash.
“Guess the others are near now!” panted Tom, striving to keep pace with the dogs. “They smell something.”
The next instant the dogs cringed back, the hair rose upon their necks and with tails drawn in they whimpered as if in fear.
“Gosh, I wonder what’s up now!” exclaimed Tom.
“Maybe a bear or wolf ahead,” suggested Jim, cocking his rifle.
Anxiously the boys peered into the misty white ahead and saw a low, irregular mound of snow with a dark object projecting from it.
“Say, what’s that ahead?” queried Jim in low tones.
“Looks like a sled covered with snow,” replied Tom. “We’ll soon see.”
Approaching cautiously, while the dogs struggled[240] to keep back, the boys neared the little white mound, and the next instant Jim uttered a piercing, frightened cry and leaped back. Sticking stiffly up from the snow was a human arm!
“Gee, it’s a man!” exclaimed Tom. “What are you afraid of? Maybe he’s got lost or injured and is not dead yet. Come on, let’s see.”
With fast beating hearts the boys, overcoming their fears and nervousness, stepped close to the ominous pile of snow. Tom grasped the outstretched fur-clad arm.
But the next instant he let go, yelled, and jumped away with a white face. The arm was frozen stiff. It was the arm of a corpse!
“He—he’s dead!” stammered Tom.
Jim had now recovered himself. “Well, he won’t hurt us if he is,” he reminded Tom. “It’s awful I know, but we must find out who he is. It may be one of our men.”
“Ugh, I hate to go near it!” declared Tom.
“So do I, but we’ve got to,” said Jim. “Come on, Tom, we’re no babies or silly nervous girls. Brace up.”
Striving to control their nervous fears, the boys grasped the furs encasing that gruesome stiff arm and tugged. Presently, with a horrible, terrifying motion,[241] the arm moved, the snow broke loose and the boys involuntarily screamed and jumped away as the body rolled over free from snow.
With wide eyes the two gazed upon the corpse and backed still farther off. The body, clad in furs, was that of a short, heavily built man, but the face, swarthy, black-bearded and black-browed, was frightful with the expression of fear and awful agony stamped upon it. At the first glance the boys saw with inexpressible horror that the whole side of the skull was crushed in and the scalp ripped off.
“Wha—wha—what killed him, I wo—wonder!” stammered Tom, his teeth chattering.
Jim, summoning all his courage, took a step nearer. “A bear!” he exclaimed, as he caught sight of a row of great gashes in the man’s neck and the ripped and torn back of the fur coat.
“Well, le—let’s get away from here,” stuttered Tom. “We ca—can’t do anything.”
Without replying Jim turned and with boyish terror of death gripping their hearts, and all their courage flown, the two raced away from the body.
Not until they had topped the next rise did they stop. Then, as they halted to regain their breaths, they noticed that the snow had almost ceased, the[242] wind had gone down and they could see for a long distance across the white landscape.
A moment later Tom gave a glad cry. “Look Jim! Look!” he yelled. “We’re all right! see, over on that second hill! There’s some of the men!”
“Hurrah! you’re right!” yelled Tom as he too caught sight of two sledges just topping a distant ridge. “Come on!”
Yelling and shouting, the boys raced forward as fast as the newly fallen snow would permit. As they gained the summit of the second hill, they waved their arms wildly. But they were already seen. The dogs wheeled, the sleds swung around, and with the two drivers riding the runners, they came racing towards the boys.
As they came near Tom and Jim looked at each other in surprise. The dogs, they knew, were not the Eskimos’. One team was made up of huge black and white Newfoundlands, the other of shaggy-haired, magnificent, cream-colored huskies. At the boys’ first glance they were sure the men were utter strangers.
“Hello!” cried the foremost man as his sledge, drawn by the Newfoundlands, came to a halt close to the boys. “What you kids doing out here?”
“We got separated from our party and lost,” explained[243] Tom. “Our dogs broke away and cleared out. You’re from the Ruby aren’t you?”
That any other white men should be here had never occurred to the boys, and yet the men did not look like whalemen or sailors. One was clad in a gay Mackinaw, the other in furs; both were large, powerfully built fellows and both had an alert, erect, peculiar bearing that was very different from any whalemen the boys had even seen. The man in the Mackinaw was lean-jawed, with keen gray eyes and wore a close-cropped mustache, while the other was smooth-faced. Although both were as red as Indians from wind and weather and had a week’s stubble of beard upon their faces, they wore an indefinable stamp of authority about them.
The boys remembered that Captain Edwards had said the Ruby was a Nova Scotia ship, and as they had never seen Nova Scotia seamen, they thought the men before them might be the officers of the brigantine.
But at Tom’s words the man with the mustache laughed pleasantly.
“Well, hardly!” he replied. “I’ve been taken for most everything, but never for a sealer before. No, we’re just ordinary Northwest Police. I’m Sergeant Manley and this chap”—jerking his head towards his[244] comrade—“is Private Campbell. We’re from Fort Churchill. Been mushing it for two weeks. Looking for the darkest-dyed rascal that ever disgraced the Dominion. Fellow named Pierre Jacquet—Chippewa half-breed. Wanted for murder and with a thousand dollars reward for him, dead or alive. Haven’t seen anything of him, have you?”
Tom shook his head. “No,” he replied. “But say, Sergeant, we found a dead man back there. He’d been killed by a bear or something. He was awful! His head smashed in and torn to pieces! Gee, it makes me feel sick to think of him.”
“Dead man!” snapped the Sergeant. “What did he look like?”
“He was short and stout with a black beard and bushy, black eyebrows,” replied Tom, “and had on a suit of harp seal trimmed with blue fox.”
The Sergeant whistled. “Boys,” he cried, slapping Tom on the back. “You’re lucky kids! Not many can get lost and make a thousand dollars by doing it!”
“Why, what do you mean?” asked Tom puzzled.
“Mean!” cried Sergeant Manley. “Why, that dead man’s Jacquet. You’ve won a thousand dollars by finding him. Come on, lead us to him.”
Now that the snow had ceased to fall it was easy[245] to retrace their footsteps, and in a few minutes the party was once more approaching the dead man.
“It’s Pierre all right!” declared the Sergeant, as he glanced at the dead man.
“Aye, there’s nae doot o’ it,” agreed Campbell. “Mon, but ’tis a fit endin’ he met.”
“Can’t take him back to the Fort,” commented the Sergeant, half to himself. “Can’t bury him. Guess we’ll have to leave him. Campbell, search his clothes for anything that will identify him.”
Rapidly the private went through the pockets of the dead outlaw, turning the body over as nonchalantly as though it were a log, and presently he straightened up.
“Aye, here’s his dirk an’ a wee bit o’ siller,” he announced as he handed the Sergeant a long-bladed hunting knife reddened with blood and a buckskin bag of money.
“Must have shot at the bear and wounded him, and had a hand-to-hand fight,” remarked Manley. “Used his knife evidently, but the bear got in the finishing blow. Hmm, there must be papers or jewelry or a watch or something on him.”
Stooping, the Sergeant again examined the body, stripping aside the furs, and presently rose with a satisfied grunt. “Guess this is all we need,” he said[246] as he showed a heavy, old-fashioned silver watch, a bundle of letters and small book. “Nothing more to do here,” he continued. “We’ll see you to the Ruby now.”
“But we can’t leave our sledge,” objected Tom. “It’s got all our things on it.”
Sergeant Manley stroked his mustache and bit his lip as he hesitated. “All right,” he assented at last. “Guess we can find it. You saved us a lot of hard work by finding Jacquet, so we can afford to do our bit.”
With keen, trained eyes the officers followed the boys’ trail, half hidden though it was, and long before Tom and Jim realized that they were near it, private Campbell sighted the abandoned sled covered deep with snow.
“Might as well take your meat, too,” said the Sergeant. “These Newfoundlands can manage one deer and we can load the other on your sled and hitch your two huskies on with Campbell’s dogs to haul it.”
In a few minutes the deer were lashed to the sledges, the boys’ dogs had been harnessed to Campbell’s team, and with the boys riding, the dogs raced forwards over the soft fresh snow.
“Have to give us your address so that reward can[247] be sent you,” said the Sergeant as they dashed down a long slope.
“I don’t want it,” declared Tom. “It belongs to you and private Campbell, doesn’t it, Jim?”
“Of course,” agreed Jim. “I wouldn’t think of taking it. Why, we just stumbled on the body by chance and you’d have found it if we hadn’t.”
“That’s being too generous,” declared the Sergeant. “It belongs to you. We might have passed by and never found the body.”
“Well, we want you to have it—even if you call it a present—or to show our gratitude for finding you and getting saved,” insisted Tom.
“I can’t thank you—only to say thanks awfully,” declared Manley, “and I’ll tell the wife what a couple of fine kids you are when I get back to the Fort.”
“Aye!” shouted the private. “Yon bit o’ siller’ll come muckle handy i’ celebratin’ o’ a weddin’ wi’ a bonny lass awaitin’ me i’ yon Fort.”
Then as the boys sped on, they talked with the two stalwart guardians of His Majesty’s law in the frozen wastes, and told them all about their trip, their hunts, and the staving of the Narwhal, and even of their former cruise in the Hector, to the Antarctic.
To all of this Campbell and his Sergeant listened attentively, laughing gaily over Cap’n Pem and Mike,[248] now and then asking a question, uttering surprised ejaculations as the boys told of their adventures, and now and again glancing at each other and raising their eyebrows as Tom and Jim told of the rich catch of furs, hides, and ivory the Narwhal had made. Rapidly the time passed. Untiringly the powerful dogs raced on, until at last, Sergeant Manley raised his fur-mittened hand and pointed ahead.
“Tinavik Cape,” he said. “See that conical hill? Guess you’ll see your people when you get to the ridge there.”
Down into a deep, wide valley the sledges sped; across a broad frozen river, and up the farther slope, and gaining the top of the sharp, high ridge the dogs came to a standstill, panting and winded.
“Hurrah! We’re there!” shouted Tom as the boys looked down from the hilltop. “There’s the brigantine!”


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533