First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
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“When we get to the coast, if the vessel is not in sight, we’ll fire some signals,” said Barwell Dawson. “The captain will be sure to answer them.”
Two days more passed, and they came to something of an open bay, dotted here and there with floating ice. At the sight, the boys set up a cheer:
“The sea! The sea!”
It was indeed the sea – or, rather, the upper entrance to Smith Sound. The party had traveled too far to the eastward, and had now to turn southward, skirting the coast. Here the going was very rough, and the very next morning one of the sledges went down in a crack of the ice, and was smashed completely.
“Thank goodness we do not need it any longer,” was Barwell Dawson’s comment. What stores the sledge had contained were hauled up from the crack and loaded on the remaining turnouts.
Another day passed, and now all kept on the lookout for a sign of the ship. But though they climbed to the top of a high hill, skirting the coast, no sign of a vessel was to be seen anywhere.
Again they resumed their journey, and thus two days passed. Then Andy, who was in the lead with Olalola, set up a cry:
“I see the hut and the storehouse!”
He was right; they had at last arrived at the spot where they had embarked from the Ice King. The place was deserted, and they could easily see where the steamer had pushed through the floating ice, and made her way to the broad lead beyond.
“We’ll hoist our flag, and fire a signal,” said Barwell Dawson, and without delay a pole was nailed to the top of the storehouse, and Old Glory was swung to the breeze. Then one of the shotguns was fired off three times in succession. All waited long for some answer to the reports, but none came.
“He must have gone off for some reason or other,” said Barwell Dawson. “All we can do is to wait for his return.”
“Perhaps the steamer was hit by an iceberg and sunk,” suggested Professor Jeffer.
“Let us hope no such calamity has befallen us,” answered the explorer, gravely.
It sobered all of the party a good deal to find themselves alone at the spot where they had so confidently thought to find the Ice King. They knew that there was great danger of a “squeeze” in the floating ice, and wondered what they should do if the craft had gone to the bottom of the polar sea. They might possibly get down to a point opposite Etah, but it would be a hard journey, and after it was made there was no telling if they could cross the water to that settlement.
Three days went by, and the hearts of the party sank lower and lower. A few went out hunting, for the larder was again getting low. But for the most part all remained in the vicinity of the shore, awaiting eagerly some sign of the missing steamer.
At last, early one morning, Andy made out a cloud of smoke far off on the water. He drew Chet’s attention to it, and then called Olalola. The three watched the cloud draw nearer, and at last the Esquimau began to smile.
“Ship,” he said.“Ship with fire!” – meaning thereby a steam vessel.
The word was soon passed that a ship was in sight, and all gathered to watch the approach of the craft. As it came closer, they saw that it was the Ice King, and on the deck stood Captain Williamson and his crew waving them a welcome. The captain had seen them with his spyglass.
“Hurrah for the Ice King!” cried Chet, and the cheer was given with a will.
“This ends our troubles here,” added Andy. “Now to get aboard and start for home!”
CHAPTER XXX – HOME AGAIN
It was no easy matter for the Ice King to push, her way through the ice and reach the shore, but at last this was accomplished, and a gangplank was put out, so that our friends could go aboard.
“Did you reach the Pole?” were Captain Williamson’s words.
“We did,” answered Barwell Dawson. “But it was a hard journey, I can tell you!”
“Good! I mean, I’m glad to know you got to the Pole,” went on the captain. He looked over the party. “Look well, too.”
“We look better than we did a few weeks ago,” said Andy. “Then you might have taken us for a lot of starved cats.”
“Have you been on a trip?” questioned Chet. He saw that the commander of the Ice King was looking at him rather curiously.
“Yes, I left here eight days ago, after I had heard of a whaler that had gone to pieces in the ice. Some Esquimaux brought the word, and said that a crew of five white men and one negro were on the shore to the northwestward.”
“And did you find them?” asked Chet, eagerly.
“I did, lad, and I’ve got news for you.”
“About my father?”
“Was it the Betsey Andrews that went down? Is my father among the men?”
“Yes, it was the Betsey Andrews that was caught in the ice. She drifted for months before she got a squeeze that finished her. Then the crew went ashore, and did what they could to save themselves.”
“But my father – is he – alive?”
“Yes, – or he was, the last that was heard of him.”
“He isn’t with the men you found?”
“No, they are on board, and you can listen to their story later. After the whaler went to pieces, another vessel came along – a small ship bound for Nova Scotia, the Evans, and she took six of the crew with her, and among those was your father.”
“The Evans? What port was she bound for?”
“And was my father all right when the Evans sailed?”
“Yes, although he had suffered somewhat from exposure, as had all of the crew.”
The fact that word had at last been obtained of his parent filled Chet’s heart with joy. He lost no time in introducing himself to the sailors who had been rescued by Captain Williamson, and from them obtained a full account of the ill-fated trip of the Betsey Andrews.
The ship had been all over the whaling grounds, and had had almost a full supply of oil and whalebone, when the commander, against the wishes of the mate and many of the crew, had decided to turn northward in quest of another whale or two. The captain had acted queerly, as if out of his mind, and had run the ship into a situation among the icebergs from which it was impossible to escape.
Many months of anxiety had been passed on the whaler, and the climax had come when the awful squeeze crushed her as if she had been an eggshell. In that calamity the captain and two of the men had lost their lives.
After the disaster the mate had taken charge, and the men had transferred their supplies to the shore and gone to living there. They had had more than enough oil to burn, and during the winter had kept a beacon light going, hoping it might bring some one to their assistance. Several had proved themselves good hunters, so they did not suffer for something to eat, although their diet was a limited one.
At last the Evans put in an appearance, and lots were drawn as to who should go aboard. Tolney Greene was one of the lucky ones, and the Evans had left, promising to leave word regarding the others at Upernivik and other ports.
“Oh, I am so thankful to know that father is alive!” said Chet to Andy.
“I am glad, too, Chet,” answered his chum. “I hope you meet him as soon as we get back.”
“So do I. But it’s a long sail, Andy!” And Chet heaved a sigh.
One day was spent in getting the things aboard the Ice King, and then the bow of the steamer was turned southward, and the long trip homeward was begun.
It was a slow and tedious journey, with many perils from icebergs and fogs, and during that time Captain Williamson had more trouble with Pep Loggermore. As a result, the sailor was put in irons. At Upernivik he was allowed to go ashore, and that was the last seen of him.
“If he has deserted, I am glad of it,” said the captain, and Andy and Chet said the same.
At Upernivik the Esquimaux were paid off, and Barwell Dawson rewarded Olalola as he had promised. The native shook hands warmly with the boys.
“Nice boys,” he said. “Olalola wish he had boys like you!”
“Take good care of yourself, Olalola,” said Andy.
“And if you ever visit the States, come and see us,” added Chet.
“No come to States,” said the Esquimau. “Too big sun, fry Olalola like fat!” And this quaint remark made the lads laugh.
At Upernivik the Ice King took on a fresh supply of coal, and then without delay continued on her journey southward. Chet had had a long talk with Barwell Dawson, and the explorer had promised to stop at Halifax to learn what had become of the Evans and Mr. Greene.
“And I will do all in my power to see that your father gets a square deal,” added Mr. Dawson. “Of course, if he is guilty, I can do nothing for him, but if he is innocent, then we’ll do what we can to bring the guilty parties to justice.”
“I know he is innocent,” answered Chet, stubbornly.
“I trust that you prove to be right, Chet,” was all the explorer could say.
As the steamer drew southward the weather became milder, until it was a real pleasure to be on deck. The boys discarded their furs, which they hung up as relics of the great trip.
“Looking back, it seems like a dream, doesn’t it?” said Andy.
“A good deal that way,” responded his chum.
“I suppose by this time the whole country is talking about what Dr. Cook and Commander Peary have done.”
“More than likely.”
At last they reached Halifax, and all in a quiver of excitement Chet made inquiries regarding his father. He learned that Mr. Greene had had a chance to ship for Portland, Maine, and had done so, eight days previously.
“I’ll meet him there!” cried Chet.
“So you will,” answered Andy. “For we are going to Portland instead of Rathley.”
The run to Portland was made without special incident, and as soon as the Ice King had tied up, Chet went ashore, with Andy, to hunt up the Evans.
He found that the craft lay at a dock three blocks away and soon covered the distance. She had come in the day before, and was busy unloading her cargo.
“So you are Tolney Greene’s son, eh?” said the captain to Chet. “I’ve heard of you, for your father spoke of you several times.”
“And where is he?”
“Started for home yesterday – to find you, he said, and to catch a rascal named Hopton, who had gotten him into trouble.”
“Hopton!” ejaculated Andy, who was present. “Do you mean a man named A. Q. Hopton?”
“That’s the fellow. Mr. Greene had it in for him good and proper. He committed some kind of a crime, and then fixed it on Mr. Greene, but Greene had the evidence against him – picked it up somewheres, just after signing to go on the Betsey Andrews.”
This was all the captain of the Evans could say, but it was enough, and without delay Chet arranged to go to Pine Run, and Andy said he would go along. Barwell Dawson agreed to meet them later, and insisted upon giving each youth a small roll of bankbills, for expenses.
It was midsummer, and hot, – a big contrast to the weather which the lads had so recently experienced. As the train rolled toward their home they discussed Mr. Greene’s affairs, and wondered how Mr. A. Q. Hopton had gotten him into trouble.
“But he is equal to it,” said Andy. “I know that by the way he tried to treat me, and how he tried to pull the wool over Uncle Si’s eyes.”
“Where do you suppose your Uncle Si is now?”
“Hanging around, most likely, waiting for something to turn up,” replied Andy.
“I hope you’re not going to let him have any of that money Mr. Dawson gave you.”
“Not a cent. If he wants any money, he’ll have to go to work and earn it.”
At last the two youths reached Pine Run, and both walked to the general store, that being the center for information as well as supplies. The storekeeper looked at them in surprise.
“Back again, eh?” he cried.
“Have you seen my father?” questioned Chet.
“Yes, he was here this morning, Chet. He was full of business.”
“Where did he go?”
“Up to your cabin. He was very much put out that you had gone away.”
“Do you know anything of my Uncle Si?” asked Andy.
“Well, rather.” The storekeeper laughed outright. “Richest thing ever was!” he chuckled.
“The way the men around here treated him. They got tired of his laziness and habit of borrowing money, and told him he must go to work. He wouldn’t do it at first, and they hauled him out of bed one night, and said they were going to tar and feather him. Then he got scared to death, and promised to go to work, and he’s been at work ever since – over at Larrington’s sawmill. He came in last Saturday and paid his bill in full, and bought some groceries for spot cash. I reckon he’s turned over a new leaf.”
“I’ll be thankful if he has,” said Andy.
“By the way,” continued the storekeeper, “he was talking of some property that is coming to you.”
“Yes, – some timber land in Michigan. I believe you had the papers and lost ’em. Well, one day some hunters found the papers in the woods – pretty well soaked, but all there – and they brought ’em to your Uncle Si. He’s got ’em now, and he’s waiting to hear from you. He told me a real estate fellow named Hopton wanted ’em, but he was going to hold on to ’em until he heard from you.”
“Good for Uncle Si!” cried Andy. “He is coming to his senses at last! I am glad the papers have been found. I must see him at once!”
CHAPTER XXXI – GOOD NEWS – CONCLUSION
To get to his own place, Chet had to pass the cabin belonging to Andy, and so the chums left the village together, in a carriage they hired with some of the money Barwell Dawson had given them.
The thoughts of each youth were busy, so but little was said by them during the journey. As they came in sight of Andy’s home, they saw smoke curling from the chimney.
“Uncle Si must have gotten back from work,” said Andy. “Most likely he’s cooking supper. Chet, will you stop?”
“Well, I’d rather see my father first,” was the answer.
“I don’t blame you. Well, come over tomorrow, unless – Hello, there is a stranger!”
Andy pointed to a man who had come to the cabin door, he having heard the sound of the carriage wheels. Chet stared hard at the individual. Then he took a flying leap to the ground and ran forward.
The man started, and then flung out his hands.
“If it isn’t Chet – my own son Chet!” he burst out, joyfully. “I was just wishing with all my heart that I knew where you were.” And he shook hands over and over again.
“And I’ve been hurrying to you as fast as I could for weeks,” answered Chet, with a glad look in his eyes. “I heard you were at our cabin, and was going there.”
“I was there, and came here to ask Mr. Graham about you,” answered Tolney Greene.
Josiah Graham had come to the door, holding in his hand a frying pan containing bacon. He gave one look at the newcomers.
“Andy!” he burst out, and in his amazement let the frying pan clatter to the doorstep, scattering the strips of bacon in all directions. “Is it really you, or your ghost?”
“No ghost about me, Uncle Si,” answered the boy. “They tell me you have gone to work.”
“Why, er – ye-as, I have a job at the sawmill.”
“I am glad to know it.”
“I – er – I got over my sickness, an’ so I’m a-goin’ to work stiddy after this,” went on Josiah Graham, lamely.
“That’s the best news I’ve heard in a year.”
“Where have you been, Andy?”
“Oh, on a little trip, to the North Pole and elsewhere,” was the cool reply.
“You’re joking me! But have your fun, – it ain’t none o’ my affair. But I want to tell yer somethin’,” went on the old man, impressively. “I got them papers back.”
“So I heard. I hope you’ll not give them to that A. Q. Hopton.”
“Not much! Hopton is a swindler – I found thet out in Portland, when I was there.”
“What about Hopton?” demanded Mr. Greene, who had been in earnest conversation with Chet. “Do you mean the real estate dealer?”
“I do,” answered Josiah Graham.
“Where is he now? He is the man who caused me all my trouble. Just let me get at him! He covered up his tracks pretty well, but I’ve now got the evidence against him.”
“I don’t know where Hopton is now, but I guess I kin find out,” answered Josiah Graham.
All entered the cabin, and there each told his story in detail. The men listened to the boys in open-mouthed wonder.
“And to think you came north, and was so close to me!” said Mr. Greene to his son.
He said he had been half crazy when he signed articles for the trip on the Betsey Andrews. Then he had gotten word about A. Q. Hopton, and had discovered that the real estate man was guilty of the crimes of which he himself was accused. He had gone to the captain of the whaler to get his release, but the captain had refused to let him go, and had locked him up aboard the ship until the voyage was well begun.
“He was a strange man, that captain,” said Mr. Greene. “And it is no wonder that he lost his ship and his life in the frozen north.”
“And you have the evidence to prove your innocence, and prove this A. Q. Hopton guilty?” asked Chet.
“Yes, my son, I can prove that Hopton was guilty, and nobody else.”
“Oh, how glad I am of it!” murmured Chet.
A substantial supper was prepared for all, – Andy assisting his uncle in getting it ready.
“Uncle Si isn’t a bit like his old self,” whispered Andy to Chet, when they sat down. “Going to work has waked him up and made another man of him.”
“Hope he sticks to it,” answered Chet.
That evening, after all the stories had been told in detail, Josiah Graham brought out the papers Andy had lost in the woods. As the storekeeper had said, they had been well soaked by the snow and rain, but they were still decipherable.
“I am going to tell Mr. Dawson about them, and then turn them over to some first-class lawyer,” said Andy. “If they are really worth anything, I want to know it.”
On the following day the two boys and Mr. Greene returned to Portland. Chet’s father conferred with the police, and as a consequence Mr. A. Q. Hopton was located, some days later, in Augusta, and placed in custody. He was subjected to a close examination, and finally broke down, and confessed his guilt. He said that Tolney Greene had had nothing to do with the crimes, and Chet’s father was completely exonerated. He also told about the timber land in Michigan, and through a firm of good lawyers Andy’s claim to a substantial interest was established, – an interest said to be worth fifteen thousand dollars.
“With all that money, you won’t have to work no more,” said Josiah Graham to the boy.
“But I am going to work, just the same,” answered Andy. “And you are going to work with me, Uncle Si. Some day, we’ll have a big lumber camp of our own.”
“And what is thet Greene boy goin’ to do?”
“He is going into partnership with me – when we are old enough,” answered Andy.
“Do you think it’s wuth it, to work so hard when you’ve got so much money?” asked Uncle Si, wistfully.
“Certainly I do. It’s the best thing for me – and for you, too. I shouldn’t want to be idle, even if I was a millionaire.”
“Well, jest as you say, Andy.” The old man heaved a long sigh. “I suppose you are right – anyway, it’s your money.” And then he went to work again, and said no more on the subject.
As soon as his name was cleared, Tolney Greene looked around for work. Through Andy’s influence, he obtained the position of superintendent at the lumber tract in Michigan, and Chet went to work with him.
“And what are you going to do?” asked Chet of Andy, one day.
“I am going to rest for a month or so,” was the answer. “Then Mr. Dawson, who has been appointed my guardian, is going to send me to a first-class boarding school.”
“And after that, Andy?”
“I am going into the lumber business – and you are going with me, Chet.”
“But I haven’t any money.”
“Never mind, when I go in for myself you are going to have an interest,” replied Andy, and his tone showed that he meant what he said.
The report that the Barwell Dawson expedition had reached the North Pole created a great stir. Many would not believe it, and the explorer and Professor Jeffer were called upon to submit proofs. This they did willingly. Then Barwell Dawson was asked to lecture, but declined. But Professor Jeffer took to the platform, and made a great deal of money thereby, and from the book he issued later.
“It was a grand trip – a truly marvelous trip,” the professor was wont to say. “But – but I do not think I desire to go again.”
“You are right,” answered Barwell Dawson. “Once is sufficient. After this I shall devote my time to hunting and exploring in localities not quite so cold.”
“And where there is plenty of food,” put in Andy.
“Yes, don’t forget the food,” said Chet. “As long as I live I never want to get so close to starving again!”
And all the others agreed with him.
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