First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“I must be right,” he thought. Yet, try his best, he could not locate any of the trees he had blazed a short while before.
Any other lad might have become frightened at the prospect, but Chet was used to being alone, and he simply resolved to move forward with increased caution.
“If the worst comes, I can fire three shots in succession. Andy will know what that means,” he reasoned. On previous trips to the woods the boys had arranged that three shots meant, “I am lost. Where are you?” A single shot was to be the answer – repeated, of course, as often as necessary.
Another hundred feet were covered, and Chet was looking vainly for one of the blazed trees, when an unexpected sound broke upon his ears.
It was an unusual and uncanny noise, and he stopped short to listen. It came from a clump of spruces to his left.
“Now, what can that be?” he asked himself. “I never heard a noise like that before.”
He listened, and presently the sound was repeated. To him it seemed as if some unseen giant were in deep distress.
Chet was not superstitious, or he might have thought he heard a ghost. He knew there must be some rational reason for the unusual noise, and he resolved to investigate.
“Anybody there?” he cried, as he raised his gun in front of him, and tried to peer through the snow-laden air.
There was no answer, nor was the peculiar sound repeated. With cautious steps he advanced toward the clump of spruces. Underneath all was now as dark as night could make it.
Again he paused, something warning him to be extra cautious. His nerves were now at a high tension, for he felt something unusual was coming.
An instant later it came. Through the snow and darkness Chet caught a momentary gleam of a pair of eyes shining like two balls of fire. Then a bulky form shot out of the darkness, and bumped up against him, hurling him flat. Ere he could arise, the form leaped over him, and went limping off, puffing and snorting as it did so.
“A moose!” gasped Chet, as he felt in the snow for his gun. “And wounded! It must be the one Mr. Dawson tried to get!”
He thought the big beast was retreating, but soon found out otherwise. The moose was badly wounded, and ugly in the extreme. Around he wheeled, and then came straight for Chet. The lad could not locate his gun, and, feeling his peril, darted for the nearest tree and leaped high up among the branches.
CHAPTER VII – CHET AND THE MOOSE
“Phew! that was a narrow escape!”
Such were Chet’s words as he drew himself higher up into the tree. The big beast below had come up, and struck the tree a blow that made it shiver from top to bottom. Had he not been holding on tightly the boy would have been hurled down, and at the very feet of the moose.
The animal was full-grown, powerful, and with wide and heavy antlers. He had been wounded in one of the forelegs, but was still able to stand. Now he stood under the spruce, on three legs, gazing up at Chet speculatively.
“Like to smash me, wouldn’t you?” murmured the youth.“Well, I guess not – not if I know it!”
Chet wished with all his heart that he had his gun. But the weapon was out of sight under the snow, and the moose was standing over the spot.
What to do next, the lad did not know. The moose did not show any inclination to leave. He breathed heavily, as if his wound hurt him, but Chet was certain that there was still a good deal of fight in the creature.
“Perhaps he’ll keep me here all night,” thought the boy, dismally.
Presently an idea came to him to call for help. Andy might hear him, and come up with his gun.
“That shelter is a long way off, but it won’t do any harm to try it,” Chet reasoned, and expanding his chest, he let out a yell at the top of his lung power. He repeated the cry several times, and then listened with strained ears. No answer came back but the gentle sighing of the rising wind, as it swept through the woods.
“Huddled inside the shelter, I suppose, to keep warm,” Chet murmured, dismally. “I might yell my head off and it wouldn’t do a bit of good. I’ll have to try something else.”
What that something else was to be was not clear. He moved from one branch to another to investigate, then a thought struck him, and he resolved to act upon it.
With caution, so as not to attract the attention of the moose, he climbed far out on a branch of the spruce, and thus gained a grip on the wide-spreading limb of another tree. He swung himself to this, and crawling along and past the trunk of the second tree, moved to the end of a branch on the opposite side.
He was now a good twenty-five feet from where the moose was standing. Would it be wise to drop down in the snow and make a dash for liberty?
“If he catches me, he’ll kill me – he’s so ugly from that wound,” Chet told himself. “If it wasn’t so awful cold, I’d stay here till morning.”
Cautiously he lowered himself toward the snow below. He was on the point of dropping when he heard the moose move. The animal came on the rush, and in drawing up into the tree again, Chet had one foot scraped by the moose’s antlers.
“No escape that way,” he told himself, and lost no time in pulling himself still higher into the tree.
Thus far he had managed to keep warm, but now, as he sat down to rest, and to study the situation, he became colder and colder. Occasionally the wind drove in some of the snow, to add to his discomfort.
Presently Chet thought of another idea, and wondered why it had not occurred to him before. He knew that all wild animals dread fire. He resolved to make himself a torch, and try that on the moose.
Making sure that he had his matches, he got out his jackknife and cut off the driest branch that he could find. Then, holding it with care, he struck a match, shielding it from the wind as best he could, and lit the end of the branch. At first it did not ignite very well, but he “nursed” the tiny flame, and soon it blazed up into quite a torch.
“Now we’ll see how you like this,” Chet muttered, and started to climb to the lower branch once more.
With eyes that still blazed, the moose had watched the flaring up of the light. At first he was all curiosity, but as the flame grew larger he gave a snort of fear. Far back in the past he had felt the effects of a forest fire, and now he thought he saw another such conflagration starting up. As Chet swung down he turned and limped off, moving faster at every step.
“Hurrah! that did the trick!” cried the boy, in deep satisfaction, and then, as he saw the moose plowing off through the deepening snow, he jumped to the ground and rushed off to where he had dropped his gun. Perhaps he could lay the beast low after all.
As luck would have it, Chet did not have to look long for the firearm. The moose had kicked the snow from part of the barrel, and the glare of the torch lit upon this. In a trice the youth had the gun in his hand. The moose was disappearing in the snow and darkness, but taking hasty aim, he fired.
The animal went on, but Chet felt certain his shot had gone true. Hastily reloading, so that he might have both barrels ready in case he wanted them, he set off after the game as fast as the now heavy fall of snow would allow. He was a true sportsman, and made up his mind that now he had his firearm once again, the moose should not escape him.
As is well known, although a moose is one of the swiftest of wild animals on clear ground, or even on the rocks and in the woods, the creature is at a disadvantage in soft snow, because of its small legs and hoofs. Its weight causes it to sink to the very bottom of every hollow.
Chet had advanced less than two hundred feet when he saw the moose floundering in the snow behind some bushes over which it had leaped.
“Now I’ve got you!” cried the boy, and advancing fearlessly, he took careful aim and blazed away. The animal went down, thrashed around, sending the snow in all directions, and then lay still.
Not to be caught in any trap, Chet reloaded once more, and then came up with caution. But the big creature was dead, and the heart of the young hunter bounded with delight. It was an event to lay low such a monarch of the forest as this.
“As big a moose as I’ve seen brought in from these parts,” he mused. “Won’t Andy be surprised when he sees the game! But Mr. Dawson deserves some of the credit – he hit the moose first.”
What to do with his prize Chet did not know. To haul it to the temporary camp alone, and through such deep snow, was impossible. And if he left it where it was, some wolves or other wild beasts might get at it.
“I’ll kick the snow over it, and let it go at that,” he finally decided. “It’s time I got back. It’s so dark it won’t be long before I can’t see a thing.”
Sticking his torch in the snow, he made a mound over the game, and on top stuck a stick with his handkerchief tied to it. Then he retraced his steps to the clump of spruces, and searched once again for the blazes he had made on the trees.
At last, just as he was about to shoot off his gun as a signal of distress, he found one of the blazes, and a minute later discovered another. He now had the proper direction in mind, and set off as rapidly as his weary limbs and the ever-increasing depth of snow would permit.
“Hullo, Chet! Where are you?”
It was a call from Andy, sounding out just as the young hunter came in sight of the campfire. Andy was growing anxious, and had come forth from the shelter several times in an endeavor to locate his chum.
“Here I am,” was the answer. “Christopher, but I’m tired!”
“A little. How are those for wild turkeys?”
“Fine! Now we’ll have a good breakfast, anyway.”
“How is Mr. Dawson?”
“He says he feels pretty easy. But his ankle is badly swollen. Say, he’s a splendid man, and one of the greatest hunters you ever heard of, Chet. And he’s rich, too – he owns a ranch out West and a bungalow down on the Jersey coast, and a yacht, and I don’t know what all.”
“You can tell him I brought down the moose he wounded.”
“What!” And Andy’s eyes showed his astonishment.
“It’s true. The moose almost laid me low first, but I got the best of him after all.”
“Where is the animal?”
“About a quarter of a mile from here. I covered him with snow, and put a stick and my handkerchief over the spot.”
“Did he attack you?”
“He certainly did,” answered Chet.
Both boys entered the temporary shelter. Barwell Dawson was awake, and he and Andy listened with keen attention to the story Chet had to tell.
“It must have been the moose I hit,” said Barwell Dawson. “But I think he’s your game anyway, Chet.”
“Well, we can divide up,” answered the young hunter, modestly.
The tramp in the snow, and the excitement, had made Chet weary, and he was glad enough to lie down and go to sleep. During his absence, Andy had cut more pine boughs and piled them around the sides and on top of the shelter, so it was now fairly cozy, although not nearly as good as a cabin would have been.
In the morning Andy was the first to stir. He found the entrance to the shelter blocked by snow, and the campfire was all but out. The snow had stopped coming down, but the air seemed to be still full of it.
“We’ve got to get out of here, or we’ll be snowed in for certain,” he told Chet, and then kicked the snow aside and started up the fire, and commenced to get breakfast. They cooked one of the wild turkeys, and it proved delicious eating to the lads, although Mr. Dawson thought the meat a trifle strong.
The man who had had the tumble over the cliff declared that he felt quite like himself, aside from his ankle, which still pained him. The swelling of the member had gone down some, which was a good sign.
“I guess your uncle will wonder what has become of you,” said Chet to Andy. “I suppose he’ll hunt all over the village for you.”
“Let him hunt, Chet. I am not going back until I find out about that timber land, and about what sort of man that Hopton is. The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that Mr. A. Q. Hopton is a swindler and is trying to swindle both Uncle Si and myself.”
“Well, it’s no credit to your uncle to stand in with him.”
“Of course it isn’t – and I’ll give Uncle Si a piece of my mind when I get the chance.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get to Lodgeport today.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter much. I don’t think there is any great hurry about this business. The matter has rested ever since father died.”
This talk took place outside the shelter, so Barwell Dawson did not hear it. Inside, the man dressed his ankle, while the boys cleared away the remains of the morning meal, and started the fire afresh with more pine sticks.
“We really ought to try to get out of here,” said Andy, after an hour had passed. “I think it will snow again by night, and it would be rough to be snow-bound in such a place as this.”
“I’d like to get out myself, but I am afraid I can’t walk,” said Barwell Dawson, with a sigh. “A bruised ankle is worse than a broken arm – when it comes to traveling,” he added, with a grim smile.
“Supposing we took turns at carrying you?” suggested Chet. “I think we could do it.”
“Well, we might try for a cabin that is about three-quarters of a mile from here. We’d be far more comfortable at the cabin than here, – and maybe you could get some liniment for your bruises.”
“Well, I’m willing to try it if you are,” answered Mr. Dawson, who did not like the temporary shelter any better than did the boys.
Preparations were accordingly made, and half an hour later the party of three set off. It was agreed that Chet should first do the carrying of the hurt one, and Andy brought up the rear with the guns, game bags, and other things.
CHAPTER VIII – A TALK OF IMPORTANCE
The cabin for which the little party was headed was one owned by a man named Upham Jeffer. This man was something of a hermit and scientist, and rarely showed himself in the settlements of that vicinity. But on two occasions Chet had done Professor Jeffer a good turn, and he was, therefore, hoping they would get a cordial reception.
But just now, the main question was, Could they reach the Jeffer place? The boys had the way fairly well fixed in their heads, but walking was hard and treacherous. On the level, the snow was at least a foot deep, while they ran the risk of going down in deep hollows filled by the wind.
“Anyway, I’m glad the wind is on our backs,” said Andy, as they trudged along. “If it was in our faces it would be awful.”
“You must take frequent rests,” came from Barwell Dawson. “There is no use in exhausting yourselves by hurrying.”
When about one-quarter of the distance had been covered, they rested, and then Chet and Andy exchanged loads. They had now some rough ground to cover, and of a sudden Andy went down in a hollow, taking the man he was carrying with him.
“Be careful!” cried Chet, in alarm.
Andy and Mr. Dawson rolled over and over, and landed in snow up to their necks. Fortunately the fall was a soft one, or both might have been seriously injured.
Chet threw down his load, and aided the pair to get out of the hollow. Andy came out with a neck full of snow, and his coat half off his back.
“Say, I don’t want any more of that!” he panted, digging the snow from one ear.
In a few minutes they went on again, Chet with the outfit taking the lead. Progress was slow, and all were glad to rest when the top of a small rise was gained.
“There is the Jeffer cabin,” said Chet, pointing it out.
“I don’t see any smoke,” added Andy. “What shall we do if Professor Jeffer isn’t at home?”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s away,” answered his chum. “But even so, I guess he’ll let us use the place – in such a snow as this.”
“We can pay him for the accommodations,” put in Barwell Dawson. “I’ll take care of that.”
It was nearly noon when they gained the cabin, rather a large structure, set in a grove of pines, and on the edge of a brook that was now covered with snow and ice. Chet, who was in advance, knocked loudly on the door.
At first there was no answer. Then a low voice asked who was there.
“It is I, Chet Greene, Professor.”
“Oh! Come in – if you can get the door open.”
Chet tried the door – to find it bolted. Then he heard a movement within, and the barrier was opened.
“Oh, I thought you were alone,” said the man within. He was tall and thin, and wore a heavy beard and big spectacles.
“No, Professor Jeffer. This is my friend, Andy Graham, and this is a gentleman who fell over Moose Ridge cliff and got hurt. Can we bring him in?”
“Why, yes, certainly, of course!” cried Upham Jeffer. “Hurt, eh? Where?”
“He has a bruised ankle, and some cuts on his head.”
“I see. Well, bring him in, and what remedies I have on hand shall be at his service. I’m a bit sick myself – been making some experiments with nitrogen that didn’t agree with me. You see, I reasoned out that if nitrogen could be dissolved by means of – ”
“Where can I place the gentleman?” broke in Chet, who knew Upham Jeffer’s weakness for going off into scientific discussions.
“Oh, yes, of course, I forgot. Why, place him anywhere. Make yourselves at home.” The old scientist looked around rather helplessly. “There is my medicine closet. Use whatever you can find there.”
He was really a fine old man, but so wrapped up in his scientific experiments that he paid little attention to the world at large, or what was going on around him. He was very learned, but apt to be forgetful to the last degree. He lived alone, and it was reported that he had a goodly sum in the bank. Certainly he never seemed to want for funds, although his mode of living was far from extravagant.
Barwell Dawson was placed in an easy-chair in the living apartment, and the professor busied himself in getting out some medicine and a liniment which he said would do much good.
“Shall I start up the fire?” asked Andy, who saw that the blaze had been allowed to die down.
“Why, yes, of course! I forgot all about the fire,” answered Upham Jeffer. “You see, when I get interested in my experiments, I usually – ” And then he stopped talking, being busy measuring some medicine in a glass.
Andy stirred up the fire, and brought in some wood from a pile in a near-by shed. In the meantime Chet introduced Barwell Dawson to the old scientist.
“Why, I know you, sir!” cried Mr. Dawson, as he looked closely at the professor. “Weren’t you once up north – with the Welber Exploring Expedition?”
“Why, yes, of course!” answered Professor Jeffer. “And you – it seems to me your face looks familiar. Why, yes, I have it now! You were up there at the same time, on a hunting trip.”
“You’ve struck it. I am glad to meet you again, Professor Jeffer.”
“I have forgotten your name, Mr. – ”
“Dawson – Barwell Dawson.”
“Ah, yes, of course! I remember it well now! Strange how I should forget. But you know I am so wrapped up in my experiments that I – but let us stop talking and attend to this ankle of yours. We’ll wash it well with hot water, and pour on this liniment, and the swelling will soon go down. You see, the curative qualities of witch hazel, when combined with wintergreen and – ” And then the professor stopped and went to work.
Inside of half an hour Barwell Dawson’s hurts had all been attended to, and he felt much better. The cuts on his head had stopped bleeding, and he insisted upon having the bandages removed.
“I’m not such a baby as you think,” he said. “I’ll be all right by tomorrow, watch and see. All I want is a good smoke to cure me,” and he lit his briar-root pipe.
“I’ll be glad to hear it,” answered Andy.
“Nevertheless, don’t imagine that I don’t appreciate what you two lads have done for me,” went on Mr. Dawson, earnestly. “It was a fine thing to do, and I’ll not forget it in a hurry.”
It had begun to snow again, and all three were glad that they had exchanged the temporary shelter in the woods for the large and comfortable cabin of the old professor. The cabin was well furnished, and on the walls hung horns and skins of various wild animals. There were a good-sized table and some chairs, and in one corner stood a bookcase with a hundred volumes or more. Opening out of the living room were a kitchen and two bedrooms. It was in the kitchen that Professor Jeffer had been conducting the experiments which had made him ill. A powerful odor filled the air of the apartment, and to get rid of it, Chet opened a window for a while.
“I should have had something open when I tried the experiment,” said the professor. “But I became so interested that I forgot. If you hadn’t come when you did, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“You want to be careful in the future, Professor,” said Barwell Dawson. “Science cannot afford to lose a man like you.” And this latter remark tickled the old scientist very much. He was really quite learned, and he was glad to have it known.
“If this snow keeps on, we’ll have to stay here all night,” said Andy to Chet.
“You are welcome to remain as long as the storm lasts,” answered Professor Jeffer, who overheard the remark. “I have a well-filled larder, and with what you have brought we can get along very well.”
“We have a moose about a mile from here – if only we could bring him here,” said Chet.
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî