First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
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“I’d like to get a moose myself, Chet.”
“Oh, so would I. If you see one, kindly point him out to me.” And Chet’s usually serious face showed a grin.
“I will – after I have brought him down with my gun,” answered Andy, and then both laughed.
Less than fifteen minutes later they came on the trail of a deer. The marks were so fresh, both boys could not resist the temptation to go after the game. They plunged through some bushes, and Andy went headlong into a hollow.
“Wuow!” he spluttered, as the snow got into his ears and down his neck. “What a tumble!”
“Maybe you’re training for a circus,” cried Chet.
“Not out here – and in this cold. Help me up, will you?”
Chet gave his chum a hand, and slowly Andy came out of the hollow. He had dropped his firearm, but this was easily recovered from the snowdrift.
“I don’t want another such tumble,” said the unfortunate one, as he tried to get the snow out of his coat collar. “I’m cold enough already.”
Once more they went on, after the deer, but the game had evidently heard their voices and taken fright, for when they came to a long, open stretch, no living creature was in sight.
Another mile was covered in the direction of Lodgeport, and then they reached one end of the rock elevation locally termed Moose Ridge. Here there was a good-sized cliff, with smaller cliffs branching off in various directions.
“There used to be some good hunting around here,” said Chet, as, having climbed a small rise, they paused to catch their breath. “I once brought down a dandy buck over yonder.”
He had scarcely spoken, when from a distance ahead there sounded out the crack of a rifle, followed, a few moments later, by a second report.
“Somebody is out!” cried Andy. “Wonder if he hit what he was aiming at.”
“Maybe we’ll see. Come ahead.”
“I hope he isn’t shooting this way.”
“The reports came from the top of the big cliff.”
The two boys moved on, keeping their eyes on the alert for the possible appearance of the hunter who had fired the two shots.
“Look! look!” cried Andy, suddenly, and pointing over the top of a small tree that stood between them and the big cliff ahead.
“What did you see?”
“Maybe I was mistaken, but I thought I saw a man tumble off the cliff!”
“A man? Perhaps it was a deer, or a moose.”
“No, it looked like a man to me. Come on! If he fell to the bottom he may be killed!”
Andy set off as rapidly as the depth of the snow permitted, and Chet followed in his footsteps. Soon they rounded half a dozen trees and came in full view of the big cliff. Both uttered cries of horror, and with good reason.
Halfway down the edge of the cliff was a narrow ledge, and on this rested the body of a man, – a hunter, as was shown by his gun and game bag. He had tumbled from the top of the cliff, and the fall had rendered him unconscious. He lay half over the edge of the ledge, and was in imminent danger of falling still further and killing himself.
CHAPTER V – THE MAN ON THE LEDGE
“Is he dead?” questioned Chet, in a strained voice.
“I don’t know – but I don’t think so,” answered Andy.“He has certainly had a nasty tumble.”
“It looks to me as if he was going to tumble the rest of the way, unless he holds on.”
“Let us see if we can’t help him.”
Both youths stood their guns against a tree, and made their way to the bottom of the cliff. As they did this, they saw the man’s body shift slightly, and then came a low moan.
“He’s alive!” cried Andy. “Hi, there!” he shouted. “Look out for yourself, or you’ll get another tumble!”
To this, the man on the ledge did not answer. But the boys, listening intently, heard him moan again.
“I wonder if we can get at him?” mused Chet. “I don’t see any way up the cliff from here, do you?”
“Oh, we must find a way to get to him!” cried Andy.
“Maybe we can catch him if he falls. If we – Look out!”
Andy leaped to one side, and the next instant the man’s gun dropped down on the rocks and fell in the snow. The game bag followed. They now saw the man in his unconscious state turn partly over.
“He’ll fall sure, unless we help him,” said Chet. “But I don’t know what to do.”
“I have it,” returned his chum. “Come on.”
“I’ll show you.”
Wondering what his friend had in mind to do, Chet followed Andy to where was located an ash sapling of fair size. It had been broken off about two feet above the ground – how, they could not tell.
“We can put that against the cliff, and use it as a ladder,” said Andy.
“Provided we can get it over, Andy.”
Both began to tug at the sapling, and at last got it free from the stump end. Then they fairly rushed with it to the bottom of the cliff.
“You hold the end, and I’ll raise it up,” said Chet, who was a little the stronger of the two. “We can put the top right against the man, and that will keep him from rolling down.”
“If it will reach that far.”
“I think it will.”
Their experience as lumbermen stood them in good stead, and while Andy kept the bottom of the ash sapling from slipping in the snow, his chum raised it slowly but steadily, until it stood upright. Then Chet let it go over against the cliff with care, so that the man might not be further injured. The little tree reached several feet above the man’s head.
“I’ll go up and see what I can do for him,” said Andy, throwing off his overcoat. “You steady the tree, Chet.”
“All right. But be careful.”
From early boyhood days Andy had been a good climber, and he went up the ash sapling with ease. The young tree was strong, so there was no danger of its breaking beneath his weight. Soon his feet touched the ledge, and he knelt down beside the hurt man.
“Why, I know him!” he called down to his chum. “He’s the man I told you about – the one who asked me about the road to Moose Ridge.”
“Pull him back, before he has a chance to slip,” ordered Chet, and this Andy did. The movement made the man groan, and presently he opened his eyes for an instant.
“Oh, what a fall!” he murmured, and then relapsed into unconsciousness again.
“We’ll have to get him down from here and try to do something for him,” announced Andy. “He has a bad cut behind his left ear. I can’t do anything for him up here – it’s too slippery.”
“Can’t you climb down the tree with him? I’ll hold it steady.”
“I’ll try it.”
Andy made his preparations with care, for what he proposed to attempt was difficult and dangerous. A tumble to the rocks at the foot of the cliff might mean broken limbs, if not worse.
With care he raised the unconscious form up and placed it over his shoulder. Then he turned around, and, inch by inch, felt his way out on the sapling.
“I’m coming!” he called. “Hold it, Chet, or we’ll both come down!”
“I’ll hold it,” was the confident reply.
Gripping the knees of the man with his left hand, Andy held on to the sapling with his right. Stepping and sliding, he came down slowly. The young tree bent and threatened once to slip to one side, but Chet braced it with all his strength. In a minute more Andy was down, and had stretched the man out on the snow. The boy was panting from his exertions.
“I suppose we ought to have a doctor for him,” said Chet, as he made an examination of the unfortunate one’s wounds. “But I don’t know of any around here.”
“Nor do I. We can’t leave him here, – he’ll freeze to death. Where do you suppose we ought to take him?”
“I don’t know of a single place within a mile, – and I don’t suppose we ought to carry him as far as that. He may be hurt inside, and if he is, it won’t do to move him too much.”
Much perplexed by the situation which confronted them, the two boys talked the matter over. It was so cold at the foot of the cliff that to remain there was out of the question. At last Chet suggested moving to a clump of pine trees, where they might fix up some sort of temporary shelter and build a fire. They picked up their guns and the belongings of the man, and Chet took the unfortunate over his shoulder. He groaned several times, but did not speak or open his eyes.
“He is certainly hurt quite seriously,” said Andy. “I hope he doesn’t die on our hands.”
“Do you know his name, or where he comes from?”
“No, but I guess we can find that out by looking in his pockets. He must have cards or a notebook, or something.”
“He looks as if he was well off. That gun is an A No. 1 piece.”
“Yes, and look at the fine clothing he is wearing.”
It was a hard walk, and they had to take turns in carrying the unconscious man. To add to the gloom of the situation, it now commenced to snow again.
Presently they reached a spot that looked good to them. There were a series of rocks to the northward, backed up by a thick growth of pines. At the foot of the rocks grew some brushwood.
Chet had calculated to spend some time hunting, and had with him a hatchet, with which to cut firewood. In a very few minutes he had cut out some of the brushwood, leaving a cleared space about eight feet square. Over the top of the cleared space he threw some saplings and pine branches, and then “wove in” pine branches around the sides. By this means he soon had a shelter ready, which, while it was by no means air-tight, was a great deal better than nothing. On the floor of the shelter he placed other pine branches, and there he and Andy made the suffering man as comfortable as possible. As soon as they had reached the spot, Andy had started up a fire, right in front of the opening, and this now gave out a warmth that was much appreciated.
With some warm water made from melted snow, the lads washed the wounds of the man, and then bound them up with strips torn from their shirts. They used other water for making coffee, and poured some of this down the man’s throat. They also rubbed his hands and wrists, doing what they could think of to revive him.
In the meantime the snow continued to come down, lightly at first, and then so thickly that the entire landscape around the shelter was blotted out.
“It’s going to be a corker of a storm,” announced Chet, as he gazed out.
“I can’t see a thing anywhere,” was Andy’s answer. “Wonder how long it will last.”
“Several hours, maybe.”
“I don’t see how we are going to get a doctor to come here while it is like this.”
“Better not try to find one. If you go out, you may lose your way.”
They replenished the fire, and cut a good stock of wood, and then sat down to watch the man. In one of his pockets they found a card-case.
“His name is Barwell Dawson,” announced Andy, “and he comes from Brooklyn.”
“What business is he in?”
“It doesn’t say.”
That the stranger was rich was quite evident. He wore a fine gold watch and chain, and an elegant diamond ring. In one pocket he had a wallet filled with bills of large denomination.
“He is one of your high-toned sportsmen,” announced Chet. “Some of ’em come up to Maine every fall to hunt.”
“It’s a wonder he didn’t have a guide, Chet.”
“Oh, some of ’em think they can do better without one.”
Suddenly the man opened his eyes wide, stared around for a moment, and then sat up. The change was so unexpected that the boys were amazed.
“Where – Who are you?” he stammered.
“You’ve had a bad fall – came down over the cliff,” answered Andy.
“What? Oh, yes, so I did. I – I – ” The man felt of his head. “Why, I’m all bandaged up!”
“You got cut pretty badly,” said Chet. “We’re wondering if you broke any bones.”
“Yes?” The man gave a little groan. “I’m hurt, that’s sure. Oh!” And then he put his hand to his side.
“You had better keep quiet for a while,” said Andy, gently. “It won’t do you any good to stir around. We’d get a doctor, only it’s snowing so we’re afraid we might miss the trail.”
“Snowing? It wasn’t snowing when I fell.”
“That was nearly two hours ago.”
“And I’ve been knocked out all that time?” The man fell back on the pine boughs. “No wonder I feel so broken up.”
He closed his eyes, and the boys thought he was going to faint. Chet got some more coffee.
“Here, drink this, it will do you good,” he said, and placed the tin cup to the sufferer’s lips. The man gulped down the beverage, and it seemed to give him a little strength. Presently he sat up again.
“Did you two see me take the tumble?” he questioned, with a weak attempt at a smile.
“I saw you,” answered Andy. “You didn’t come all the way over the cliff. You struck a ledge and hung there, and we got you down and brought you here.”
“We were afraid some of your bones were broken,” put in Chet. “Are they?”
“I don’t know.” Slowly the man moved his arms and his legs. He winced a little.
“All right but my left ankle,” he announced. “I reckon that got a bad twist. Beats the Dutch, doesn’t it?” he added, with another attempt at a smile.
“It’s too bad,” returned Andy.
“No, you don’t understand. I mean my coming to Maine to do a little quiet hunting, and then to get knocked out like this. Why, I’ve hunted all over this globe, – the West, India, Africa, and even in the Arctic regions – and hardly got a scratch. I didn’t think anything could happen to me on a quiet little trip like this.”
CHAPTER VI – A WORLD-WIDE HUNTER
The two boys listened to the man’s words with keen interest. He had hunted in the wild West, in India, Africa, and even in the Arctic regions! Surely he was a sportsman out of the ordinary.
“You’re like old Tom Casey,” said Andy. “He fought the forest fires here for years, and never got singed, and then went home one day and burnt his arm on a red-hot stove. I hope the ankle isn’t bad.”
“I can’t tell about that until I stand on it. Give me a lift, will you?”
Both boys helped the man to his feet. He took a couple of steps, and was then glad enough to return to the pine couch.
“It’s no use – I can’t walk, yet,” he murmured.
“Do you think you need a doctor?” asked Chet.
“Hardly – although I’d call him in if he was handy. I’m pretty tough, although I may not look it. Who are you?”
“My name is Chet Greene, and this is a friend of mine, Andy Graham.”
“I am glad to know you, and very thankful for what you have done for me. I’ll make it right with you when I’m able to get around. My name is Dawson – Barwell Dawson. I’m a traveler and hunter, and occasionally I write articles for the magazines – hunting articles mostly.”
“Oh, are you the man who once wrote a little book about bears – how they really live and what they do, and all that?” cried Andy.
“Yes, I’m the same fellow.”
“I’ve got that book at home – you once gave it to my father, when I was about eight years old.”
“Is that so? I don’t remember it.”
“My father was up on the Penobscot, lumbering. He went out with you into the woods and you found a honey tree. You gave him the book for his little boy – that was me.”
“Oh, yes, I remember it now!” cried Barwell Dawson. “So that was your father. How is he?”
“My father is dead,” answered Andy, and his voice dropped a little.
“Indeed! I am sorry to hear it. And your mother?”
“She is dead, too.”
“Then you are alone in the world? Do you live near?”
“I live two miles from Pine Run, with an uncle. It was I who told you how to get to Moose Ridge, when you were driving on the wrong road.”
“Oh, yes, I thought I had seen you somewhere.”
Here the conversation lapsed, for Barwell Dawson was still weak. He lay back and closed his eyes, and the boys did not disturb him.
It continued to snow, until the fresh fall covered the old to the depth of several inches. The boys kept the campfire going, and cooked such game as they had brought along.
“We are booked to stay here for a while, that’s certain,” observed Chet. “No Lodgeport today.”
After a while Barwell Dawson sat up again, and gladly partook of the food offered to him. His injuries consisted of a hard shaking up, a bruised ankle, and several cuts on his head.
“I am thankful that no bones are broken, and that I did not get killed,” he said, and then he requested them to give the details of the rescue from the ledge. The boys related their story, to which he listened closely.
“It was fine of you to get me down,” he declared. “Fine! I’ll have to reward you.”
“I don’t want any reward,” answered Andy, promptly.
“Nor do I,” added Chet.
“Well, you ought to let me do something for you,” persisted the one who had been rescued.
“You might tell us of some of your hunting adventures,” said Andy, with a smile. “I’d like to hear about hunting in the far West and other places.”
“So would I,” added Chet. “If I had the money, I’d like to do like you have done, travel all over the world and hunt.” And his eyes glistened with anticipation.
“What do you do now?”
“Nothing at present. We can’t get an opening at any of the lumber camps.”
“I understand business is very dull this season.”
After that Barwell Dawson asked for more particulars concerning the boys, and they told him how they were situated. He was surprised to learn that Chet was practically alone in the world.
“It is certainly hard luck,” he said, kindly. “You must let me do something for you.”
Then, after his ankle had been bathed in hot water, and bound up, the hunter and traveler told them of his trips to various portions of the globe, and how he had hunted deer and moose in one place, bears and mountain lions in another, and tigers and other wild beasts elsewhere. He had two very interested listeners.
“It must be great!” murmured Chet. “Oh, that would suit me down to the ground – to go out that way!”
“I have made one trip to the north,” continued Barwell Dawson, “and I am soon going to make another.”
“You mean to Canada?” queried Andy.
“Not exactly. I am going to Greenland, and then into the polar regions. I want to hunt seals, polar bears, and musk oxen.”
“You’ll be frozen to death!”
“Hardly,” answered the hunter. “On my previous trip I stood the cold very well, and this time I shall go much better prepared. Somehow, I like hunting in the Arctic Circle better than hunting anywhere else. Besides, I wish to – But never mind that now,” and Barwell Dawson broke off rather abruptly. Then he told a story of a hunt after polar bears that made Chet’s eyes water.
“That’s the stuff!” whispered Chet to Andy. “That beats a deer hunt all hollow!”
“Yes, provided the polar bear doesn’t eat you up.”
“Huh! I’d not be afraid. I don’t believe a polar bear is any more dangerous than a moose.”
“I saw a moose just before I had the tumble,” said Barwell Dawson. “I climbed up the cliff after him, but I couldn’t get very close. I took two shots at him, but he got away.”
“If we are going to be snowed up here we ought to try for some game,” said Chet. “Maybe I can stir up some rabbits, or something.”
It was decided that he should go out, leaving Andy to look after Mr. Dawson and the campfire.
“But don’t go far,” cautioned Andy. “The snow is coming down so thick that you may get lost.”
“Oh, I’ll take care of myself,” answered Chet.
He knew it would be a bad move to go out into the open, so he kept to the timber, blazing a tree here and there as he went along. He knew very little game would be stirring.
“If I get anything it will be more accident than anything else,” he reasoned. “No animal is going to stir out in this storm.”
He was just passing under a big spruce tree when, chancing to glance up, he saw a sight that quickened his pulse. On a limb close at hand were several wild turkeys, huddled together to keep warm.
With great caution he moved to one side, to get a good aim. Then, raising his gun, he blazed away. There was a whirr and a flutter, and two of the turkeys came down, one dead and the other wounded. Rushing forward, Chet caught the wounded bird by the neck, and soon put it out of its misery.
“That’s a good start,” he told himself, with much satisfaction. “I hope my luck continues.”
Placing the game in his bag, he went forward again, looking for more signs of birds, and also for signs of squirrels and rabbits.
It was growing dark, and Chet began to think it was time to turn back, when he saw some rabbits in a thick clump of bushes. He sprang in after them, and they leaped out into the snow and across a small opening. Then, before he could fire, they were out of sight again.
“You shan’t get away from me as easily as that,” the youth muttered to himself, and ran out into the opening. Here the snow was so thick he could see but little, yet he kept on, and soon reached more brushwood. He saw some branches close to the snow move, and blazed away in the dark.
His aim proved true, for when he came up he found one rabbit dead. Another had been wounded, as the blood on the snow showed. In all haste he made after the limping game. But the rabbit had considerable life left in it, and dove deep into the brushwood. But at last it had to give up, and Chet secured the additional game without much trouble.
It had grown dark rapidly, and in some anxiety the young hunter turned back, in an endeavor to retrace his steps. This was no easy matter, for the snow was coming down as thickly as ever, and he could scarcely see two yards ahead of him.
“It won’t do for me to get lost out here,” he reasoned. “If I don’t get back, Andy will be worried to death.”
Bending to meet the snow – for the wind was now blowing briskly, Chet pushed forward until another clump of trees was gained. Walking was becoming irksome, and he panted for breath. Under the trees he paused to get his bearings.
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