First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
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“And that I’m going to get out of those painters,” he went on, doggedly. “If they don’t pay up, I’ll have ’em arrested for gross carelessness.” It may be said here that in the end the painters had to pay for the repairs, although they did so unwillingly.
A telegram was sent to Mr. Dawson, and he came from Boston on the first train. He was much disturbed, and roundly berated the painter who had caused the conflagration. The man had been smoking, and the hunter gave orders that in the future they were to smoke on deck only, and use no matches whatever while below.
The repairs made necessary by the fire were made within ten days, and then the task of getting the Ice King ready for her long trip to the Arctic regions went forward as rapidly as ever. Mr. Dawson was a busy man, for he superintended the buying of everything, from fur clothing to pemmican.
“Pemmican is the great thing in the Arctic regions,” he explained one day, when Andy asked about the food. “It is nothing but the round of beef, cut into strips and dried, and then mixed with beef tallow and currants. It will keep for a long time, and is highly nutritious.”
“Is it appetizing?” asked Andy, with a grin.
“It is when you are good and hungry, Andy. Besides, it is comparatively light, and easily carried. I don’t know what explorers would do without it. Of course, as long as we can get fresh meat, we’ll eat that. But we’ll have to fall back on pemmican more or less. You’ll find it more appetizing than seal blubber, such as the Esquimaux eat.”
The hunter purchased for the lads some silk underwear that was extra warm, and some stout boots, and outer garments of wool and of fur, and also some oilskins for wet weather. Then he took them to a gun shop in Portland and fitted them out with pistols, repeating rifles, and stout hunting knives. He also purchased for them water-tight match safes, and colored goggles of the automobile variety – the latter to ward off headache and snow-blindness.
“You need not wear the goggles all the time up north,” he explained. “But as soon as your eyes hurt the least bit, put them on.”
“You are very kind to get us all these things,” said Chet. The new repeating rifle made his eyes sparkle with pleasure.
“Indeed you are kind!” cried Andy. “We didn’t expect half so much.”
“I want you to go away completely equipped,” answered Barwell Dawson. “Half of the failures of exploring expeditions is due to the lack of proper equipment. It’s like going hunting with a gun that won’t shoot straight. Sometimes you hit your game, but more times you don’t.”
The hunter and explorer also went over the scientific instruments with Professor Jeffer, to see that nothing should be lacking to take all manner of observations and measurements. Some linen notebooks were also provided, which could not be torn easily, and likewise fountain pens, and ink made of liquids that would not readily freeze. Mr. Dawson also procured a number of cameras for taking pictures, and films that would not be affected by the intense cold.
“You’ve got to think about the cold every time you buy anything,” observed Andy.“Wonder what about a jack-knife? I was going to buy a new one, and I don’t want to ask Mr. Dawson about it – he has bought enough already.”
“I guess you can get any kind you want,” answered his chum. “But don’t use it when it’s too cold, or the steel will stick to your skin.”
“Oh, I know that. I once put my tongue on some cold iron, and I had a terrible time getting it off again.”
The boys were in Portland, and set off to buy some trifles, having still a few dollars of their own. Andy purchased the knife at a hardware store, and they were just coming from the place when Chet caught him by the arm.
“What is it, Chet?”
“Look at the man across the way! It is your Uncle Si!”
“Uncle Si!” cried Andy. “So it is! And he has seen me!”
Andy’s first impulse was to run, but he did nothing of the sort. He stood his ground, and gazed at his uncle coldly as the latter shuffled up. Josiah Graham looked anything but tidy and prosperous, and Andy rightly imagined that his relative had been going through some hard times.
“Humph! So here you be!” were Josiah Graham’s first words. “I was a-wonderin’ what had become of yer.”
“What are you doing here, Uncle Si?” asked Andy, as calmly as possible.
“Me? Wot’s thet to you, I’d like to know?”
“Oh, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I’m a-lookin’ fer work. Be you workin’ now?”
“Not just at present.”
“How did you git here?”
“Came on the train.”
“Humph! Needn’t be so pert! Maybe you had an offer o’ work here?”
“We haven’t got to look for a job,” said Chet. “We’ve got something better to look forward to.”
“Better, eh? Wot is it?” And Josiah Graham’s small eyes gazed shrewdly at the youths.
“Never mind what it is,” broke in Andy, hastily, with a warning look at his chum.
“Ah, I know!” cried the man, with a leer. “You came down to sell thet land claim! Goin’ to do it without my knowledge an’ consent!”
“No, I didn’t come for that.”
“You can’t tell me, Andy Graham! I know better, I do!” the old man shrilled. “But you remember I’m your guardeen, an’ you can’t sell nuthin’ without me!”
“You are not my guardian, Uncle Si. You went away of your own free will, and now I want you to let me alone.”
“Did you sell them papers yet?”
“Then you better give ’em to me. You was a big fool to run away as you did. I was a-goin’ to make a good bargain fer yer.”
“Uncle Si, if you had sold those papers to that Mr. A. Q. Hopton, I could have had you arrested,” said Andy, quietly but firmly.
At these words the face of the shiftless man changed color, and his jaw dropped.
“Me? Arrested?” he stammered.
“Yes, arrested. I have had advice on the subject. You had no right to do a thing without the consent of the court.”
“Humph! so you have been to a lawyer, eh? Pretty way to do – not to trust your uncle, who allers did so well by yer. Has thet lawyer got them papers now?”
“I won’t tell you a word about the papers.”
“Humph! You ain’t got no right to run away like this.”
“I am not running away. I have a right to go where I please – and do as I please.”
“Who told you thet?”
“Never mind who told me.”
“You’re a-gettin’ too high-toned fer your boots, Andy Graham! How much money have you got?”
“That is my business.”
“Ain’t you a-goin’ to tell me?”
“Where be you a-stopping?”
“That is my business, too.”
“Don’t git sassy.”
“I am not ‘sassy,’ as you call it. I intend, in the future, to mind my own business, and I want you to mind yours.”
“You had better leave Andy alone,” put in Chet, who saw that the shiftless man was working himself up into the worst possible humor. “You never helped him, and he doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
“Say, this ain’t none o’ your business, Chet Greene.”
“Andy is my friend.”
“Humph! he better not be!” snarled Josiah Graham. “You ain’t no fit boy fer nobuddy to go with – you the son o’ a thief, an’ mebbe wuss. I want you – Oh!”
What Josiah Graham wanted next was never made known, for just then he landed flat on his back in the gutter, where a well-directed blow from Chet’s fist had sent him.
CHAPTER XV – THE START OF THE COOK EXPEDITION
If ever a man was surprised, that man was Josiah Graham. Even Andy was astonished, for he had not dreamed that Chet could be so quick-tempered.
“Oh, Chet, that was a hard blow!”
“He deserved it,” was Chet’s answer. His voice was strained, and his face pale. “I’ll allow nobody to talk that way to me.”
“Yo – you young villain!” spluttered Josiah Graham, as he rolled over in the dirt of the gutter and picked himself up. “I’ll – I’ll – ”
“After this you keep a civil tongue in your head!” interrupted Chet. He still had his fists clenched.
“You – you – ”
“If you call me any more names, I’ll knock you down again.”
Chet’s manner was so aggressive that Josiah Graham retreated several feet. A few persons had witnessed his fall, and a crowd began to collect.
“What’s the trouble?”
“Is it a fight?”
“Do you want a policeman?”
“No, we don’t want any policeman,” said Andy in alarm. “Chet, we had better get out of this,” he whispered. “If we don’t, we’ll all be taken to the station house!”
“Your uncle is the meanest man I ever met! He ought to have a sound thrashing!” answered Chet, recklessly.
“I know, but we don’t want to have the police come down on us.”
“I’ve a good mind to have the law on yer!” howled the man who had been knocked down.
“Do so – and I’ll have the law on you,” retorted Chet. “You can’t slander me for nothing, – and you can’t try to rob Andy, either.”
The last shot told, and Josiah Graham backed still further away.
“We’ll settle this some other time!” he muttered, and then turning, he disappeared into the crowd and hurried away much faster than was his usual speed.
Not to be questioned by those who had gathered, Andy and Chet pushed through the crowd in the opposite direction. Soon they were a couple of blocks from where the encounter had taken place, and then they slackened their pace.
“The miserable hound!” muttered Chet. He was still completely upset.
“Don’t take it so hard, Chet,” answered Andy, soothingly. “It’s just Uncle Si’s mean way, that’s all.”
“I suppose he tells everybody what he thinks I am!”
“Oh, I don’t think that. He was riled up, and wanted to say something extra mean. And it was mean – as mean as dirt!” added Andy.
He continued to talk soothingly to his chum, and presently Chet cooled down somewhat. But he still said he wished he had stayed and given Josiah Graham the thrashing of his life.
“He thinks I have the lost papers,” said Andy, later on.
“And I’d let him continue to think so,” answered his chum. “If you say they are lost, your uncle may tell that fellow, Hopton, and the real estate man may fix it up to do you out of that claim anyway. I’d keep them in complete ignorance of the truth.”
Andy thought this a good idea, and resolved to follow the suggestion. He wondered if his uncle would make another move against him. He was soon to learn how really mean Josiah Graham could be.
For the two boys, waiting for the steamer to sail on her momentous voyage, the days passed slowly. After their outfits had been purchased and stowed away aboard the Ice King, there was little for them to do. They read some books on polar exploration, and spent hours in poring over the maps of the Arctic regions which Barwell Dawson and the professor possessed. They traced out the routes of Kane, De Long, Greely, Peary, and others, and wondered what route Mr. Dawson would pursue.
“He is going up the west coast of Greenland anyway,” said Chet. “And that suits me, for that is where the Betsey Andrews was last heard of.” No matter what was going on, thoughts of his missing parent continually drifted across his mind. Would he ever see his father again, and would his parent be able to clear himself of the accusations brought against him?
“Do you suppose there are any other exploring expeditions north just now?” asked Andy of Professor Jeffer, at the breakfast table one morning. All were now stopping at a hotel in Rathley.
“But very few, I believe. I understand Robert Peary is about to try it again this coming summer, just as we are going to do, and Mr. Dawson tells me that a noted hunter and explorer from Brooklyn, Dr. Frederick A. Cook, is now somewhere up north. This Dr. Cook went up north to hunt walrus and polar bears, but he is quite an explorer, and he may take it into his head to strike out for the Pole, especially as he had for his captain Robert Bartlett, who commanded Peary’s ship, the Roosevelt, during Peary’s wonderful trip in 1905 and 1906.”
“Do you think we’ll meet any of those other parties up there!” asked Chet.
“It is possible, but not probable, for the country is so large. But we shall probably hear of Dr. Cook’s party through the Esquimaux as soon as we arrive. Those men of the frozen north make good messengers, and news travels for hundreds of miles in an incredible space of time, considering the ice and snow.”
What Professor Jeffer had to say about Dr. Frederick A. Cook was true, and as the name of this famous hunter and explorer was soon to be on everybody’s tongue, it will be well to give more details concerning him and his party.
Dr. Cook was born in Hortonville, New York State. He was of German descent, and his family originally spelt the name Koch. His father was a physician, and so was his grandfather, so it was but natural that the lad should take up the study of medicine.
In his younger life he had to work hard. The family moved to Port Jervis, N. Y., and there Frederick entered High School. Then the family moved again, this time to the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn, N. Y. While studying, the boy did his best to earn some money, working with a produce dealer in Fulton Market, and also as a printer. Then he purchased a milk route, and having gotten ahead a little financially, entered a Medical School, from which, in due course of time, he received his diploma. While in college he was married, but his wife died shortly after the wedding.
The young doctor was looking around for an opening, when he heard that Commander Peary was fitting out an expedition for polar exploration. This was the first Peary expedition, and a competition was opened for the position of surgeon with the party. Dr. Cook won in the contest, and thus took his first trip to the far north, in the ship, Kite, in 1891. The north-western coast of Greenland was explored, the party reaching a north latitude of 82°, and Dr. Cook received a splendid training for future work in that territory.
Returning home, he married again, and for a short time settled down to the practice of a physician. But the wish for hunting and for exploration was in his heart, and in 1893 he went north again, and took a third trip the year following. Then came a voyage on an ill-fated ship, the Miranda, and the explorer came close to going to the bottom of the ocean. The ship collided with an iceberg off the coast of Labrador, and also hit some reefs off the coast of south Greenland. A transfer was made to another vessel, and the Miranda was left at sea, a hopeless derelict.
In 1897 Dr. Cook joined the Belgica Arctic Expedition, as surgeon and anthropologist, and spent nearly two years in that service. Then he went north in another ship, the Erie, carrying supplies for the Peary party, then again in the polar regions.
After that a trip was made to Alaska, and the intrepid explorer tried the ascent of Mount McKinley, said to be 20,300 feet high – the tallest mountain in America. At first he failed, but another year he came back and made the grand ascent, a truly great achievement. He wrote a book on the subject, and also another volume relating his experiences while a surgeon and explorer in the frozen north.
Dr. Cook had a great friend in Mr. John R. Bradley, a man of means, who was a well-known traveler and hunter. The two talked the matter over, and decided to fit out a vessel and make a trip as far north as possible. In the main, the project was kept secret, and neither boasted of what they were about to attempt to do. At Gloucester, Mass., they found a ship that suited their purpose, and she was thoroughly overhauled and renamed the John R. Bradley. Suitable provisions for a long trip were taken on board, and the vessel left Gloucester harbor July 3, 1907. It did not look at all like a “North Pole” expedition, and its departure excited very little comment. It was thought that Mr. Bradley and Dr. Cook had merely gone off on a hunting trip after bears and walrus.
It took until the end of August for the Bradley to reach the upper end of Smith Sound, in Baffin Bay. Here was located the port of Etah, and not many miles away another port called Annootok. All of the provisions and other supplies were landed at the latter port, and then the vessel sailed back to the United States, leaving Dr. Cook and his party to hunt and explore to their hearts’ content. The vessel’s return created some surprise, and then the word gradually spread that it was possible Dr. Cook would try to reach the North Pole. Mr. Bradley was at once besieged with questions, but gave no definite information.
At Annootok Dr. Cook found many Esquimaux assembled, all ready for a great bear hunt. As he could speak their language, he talked to them, and engaged a number of them, with their dogs and sledges, to serve him.
Work was at once begun to make Annootok a regular base of supplies. A small house was erected, and also a storehouse and a workshop. All the provisions brought along were packed away, and the explorer obtained from the native hunters large quantities of polar bear meat and other game.
And so he set off on his memorable trip northward, and what this brought forth we shall learn later.
CHAPTER XVI – A TRICK, AND WHAT FOLLOWED
“Day after tomorrow we shall set off on our trip to the frozen north.”
It was Barwell Dawson who made the announcement to the boys and Professor Jeffer, after a long consultation with Captain Williamson.
“Good!” shouted Andy, swinging his cap in the air.
“Suits me,” added Chet. “I’ve been on pins and needles to go for a month and more.”
“You mustn’t be impatient,” replied Mr. Dawson, with a smile. “Even as it is, we’ll be getting away nearly a month before I originally planned to go. But I am ready, and so is Captain Williamson, so there is no use in delaying.”
“What about Mr. Wilson?” asked Andy, referring to a man who had signed for the trip.
“He is sick, and cannot go. But Dr. Slade will be on hand, and likewise Mr. Camdal. They sent me a telegram last night.”
“I suppose all the crew are here?” questioned Professor Jeffer.
“To a man – and all as anxious as we are to start.”
“Do they know we are going to try for the Pole?”
“Not exactly, but I’ve told them – and so has the captain – that we intended to stay in the polar regions for at least two years.”
Winter had passed, and now it was the middle of Spring. The weather was warm and pleasant, just the sort for a cruise, as Andy declared.
The boys had had but little to bother them outside of another meeting Andy had with his Uncle Si, who had followed him to Rathley. Josiah Graham had tried to “bulldoze” the youth, and had wanted Andy to give him ten dollars, but the boy had refused, and walked away, leaving his uncle in a more bitter frame of mind than ever.
“I don’t know how he manages to live,” Andy told Chet. “He doesn’t seem to work.”
“If he isn’t willing to work, he ought to starve,” answered Chet. He had no tender feelings for the man who had called him the son of a thief.
“I am sorry he came to Rathley. I don’t understand how he found out we were here.”
“Oh, he’d take more trouble to find you than to hunt up a job,” answered Chet.
On the day previous to that set for the Ice King to sail, Chet was walking down one of the docks, when he saw two men in earnest conversation. One man was pointing his long forefinger toward the vessel that was bound north, and drawing closer, Chet recognized Josiah Graham.
“Now what can he be up to?” the youth asked himself. “He seems to be quite excited.”
The men were standing near a high board fence that separated one dock from another. Chet ran back through a warehouse, and scaled the fence, coming up quickly on the other side. Through a knothole he could see the two men, and hear all that was being said.
At first he could not catch the drift of the talk, but presently discovered that the stranger was some sort of officer of the law. The two were talking about Andy, and at last Josiah Graham said:
“I don’t want him to run away from me. It’s up to you to stop him, an’ I want for you to do it.”
“Are you his guardian?”
“O’ course I be – I’m his only livin’ relative. He’s got property, but he’ll go to the dogs if he ain’t looked after. I want him brung ashore when thet ship sails, an’ I understand she’s a-goin’ to sail to-morrer.”
“Well, I’ll see what can be done,” answered the stranger. “Will you come to the office and make some sort of a complaint?”
“Have I got to do that?” questioned Josiah Graham, anxiously.
“It would be best.”
“All right then, I’ll do it. It’s fer his own good,” answered the shiftless one. “We’ll catch him when he leaves the hotel to go to the ship.” Then the two men walked away towards the center of the town.
“The mean rascal – to try to keep Andy from going on this trip!” murmured Chet to himself. “I’ll soon put a spoke in his wheel!”
He started on a hunt for Andy, who had gone uptown to make a small purchase. He looked into several stores, and at last located his chum in a barber shop.
“Last haircut for some time to come,” announced Andy. “After this, I guess I’ll let my hair grow – it will be warmer.”
“I’ve got something to tell you,” returned Chet. “Hurry up.”
“Can’t hurry, when I’m getting my hair cut, Chet.”
Nevertheless, Andy told the barber not to waste time, and ten minutes later both boys were on the street. There Chet related what he had overheard, Andy listening in wonder.
“He certainly is the limit, Chet. Now, what do you suppose I had best do?”
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