First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
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“I don’t know – tell Mr. Dawson, I suppose.”
“But I don’t want to get him into trouble.”
“Do you think it will do that?”
“It might – and he might tell me it would be best for me to stay behind,” answered Andy, gloomily. “And I’m not going to stay behind!” he cried, desperately.
“Then I know what you can do!” exclaimed Chet, struck by a sudden idea.
“Play a trick on your Uncle Si. But it will cost you a five-dollar bill.”
“That’s cheap – if only I can get rid of the old curmudgeon.”
“Then come with me, to the writing-room of the hotel.”
Andy did as requested, and there Chet unfolded his plan. Andy agreed to it at once, and without loss of time the following letter was penned:
Andy had in his pocket an envelope postmarked Pine Run, and addressed to himself. With care he erased the name “Andrew” and substituted “Josiah,” and then he changed the address. He knew where his uncle was stopping, a cheap lodging house.
“I guess that will set him off the trail,” said Chet, with a grin, after the envelope had been sealed with care. “And we haven’t told him any falsehood, either.”
The boys laid their plans with care, and hired a youth employed around the lodging house to hand the letter to Josiah Graham, but without stating where it came from. Then Andy and Chet set watch.
In the middle of the afternoon they saw Josiah Graham enter the lodging house. They waited impatiently, and half an hour later saw him emerge, carrying his faded grip in his hand. He headed directly for the depot.
“I guess the plan is going to work,” whispered Chet. “Let us follow him.”
“He mustn’t see me – or it would spoil everything.”
They followed on behind the man, and saw him enter a police station. He came forth five minutes later, looking flushed and humiliated.
“I’ll wager he has withdrawn his charge against you,” said Chet, and his surmise was correct.
From the station house Josiah Graham hurried to the depot. It was three o’clock, and a train for Pine Run was due in fifteen minutes.
“Pine Run ticket,” Chet heard him demand, at the window, and it was handed to him. Then he came out on the platform, and sank down on a bench, with his grip at his feet.
“You are rid of him, Andy,” cried Chet, gayly.
“It was fine of you to think of the trick,” responded Andy, gratefully.
“Say, I’ve got a good mind to have some fun with the old man,” went on Chet.
“Fun? I hope you don’t mean to knock him down?”
“No, for he might have me arrested, and that would keep me from going on the trip.I’ll just quiz him a little.”
“Better be careful.”
“Don’t worry – I know what I am doing.”
While Andy still kept out of sight, Chet sauntered slowly across the depot platform, as if looking for somebody. Josiah Graham stared at him and leaped to his feet.
“Wot you a-doin’ here?” demanded the lazy man.
“Oh!” cried Chet, in well-assumed surprise. “Is Andy with you?” he questioned, anxiously.
“No, he ain’t,” snapped Josiah Graham.
“Do you know where he has gone?”
“Don’t you know?”
“He was at our hotel yesterday, but he isn’t there now.”
“Mebbe he’s on thet ship,” sniffed Josiah Graham.
“No, he isn’t on that ship, either.”
“Wasn’t he a-goin’ to sail with you?”
“So he said, but – ” Chet paused. “Then you really don’t know where he is?”
“If I do, I ain’t a-goin’ to tell you, Chet Greene.”
“Don’t be hard on me, Mr. Graham, now I am down on my luck.”
“Humph! It’s your own fault you ain’t got no work. Why didn’t you stay around Pine Run?”
At this question Chet only sighed. He took on a very forlorn look.
“Would you – er – would you – ”
“I hate to ask it, but would you mind lending me the price of a ticket for Pine Run?” he said, falteringly.
“Me?” shrilled Josiah Graham. “Not much I won’t! You go an’ earn your money, young man. Serves you right if you are out o’ pocket an’ ain’t got a cent.”
“Then you won’t – er – even give me the price of a – er – a dinner?”
“Not a cent! You don’t deserve it. I see how it is,” went on Josiah Graham, craftily. “Thet man who owns the ship has got sick o’ you an’ Andy, too, an’ don’t want nuthin’ more to do with yer! Well, I don’t blame him. Now ye can both go back to Pine Run an’ go to work.”
“How can a fellow get back if he hasn’t the price of a ticket?” asked Chet, in a hopeless fashion, although he could scarcely keep from laughing.
“Go to work an’ earn money, I tell yer! I have to do it, an’ you ain’t no better nor I be.”
“Have you been working?”
“O’ course I’ve been working.”
“Then you won’t even give me ten cents for some bread and coffee?”
“No. Go to work – it will do yer good.”
“Will you tell me about Andy?”
“Well, if ye want to know so awful bad, Andy has gone back to Pine Run. He has found out the errors o’ his ways, an’ has sent fer me to take care o’ him. I don’t think he’ll be a-runnin’ away ag’in very soon.”
“Too bad! too bad!” And the mischievous Chet placed a handkerchief to his eyes.
“It’s wot a boy gits when he won’t mind his uncle,” went on Josiah Graham, stiffly. “After this I guess he’ll toe the mark! It’s a pity you ain’t got nobuddy to bring you to your senses.”
“Maybe you’d like to take me under your care?” suggested Chet, with a most woe-begone look on his face.
“No – I got my hands full with Andy. Here is my train, so I can’t talk to yer no longer. Go to work an’ earn somethin’ to eat, an’ the price o’ a railroad ticket.” And then Josiah Graham swung himself aboard the train, which pulled out from the station a moment later.
“Oh, Chet, how could you do it!” roared Andy, when the chums were alone. “I thought I’d split, listening to the talk!”
“Wouldn’t even give a fellow the price of a meal,” returned Chet, coolly. “Well, I rather think he’ll be surprised when he gets back to your cabin and finds everything locked up.” And then he, too, laughed heartily over the trick that had been played on Andy’s shiftless relative.
CHAPTER XVII – AN ENCOUNTER WITH ICEBERGS
“Off at last, Chet!”
“Yes, and your Uncle Si didn’t stop you, either!” responded Chet, with a broad grin.
“If only we could have seen him when he got to the cabin!” exclaimed Andy. “I’ll wager he was mad!”
“Well, boys, it will be a long while before you see the United States again,” remarked Barwell Dawson as he came up. “So use your eyes for all they are worth.”
“Just what we are doing,” answered Andy.
The Ice King had cast off her lines quarter of an hour before, and a steam tug had headed her out of the harbor of Rathley. Now, under the steam of her own powerful engines, she was heading straight out into the Atlantic Ocean.
It was an ideal day, and the boys were in the best of spirits, even though they were leaving their native land for the first time. Chet was full of the hope that in some manner he would hear something about the missing whaler and his father.
The Ice King was loaded “to the brim,” as Andy expressed it. Below, every available space was filled with provisions and other necessities, and coal, and on deck many bags of coal were piled up amidships.
“To get through the ice, the ship must have a good head of steam on,” said Mr. Dawson. “And to have that, we’ve got to have coal, or oil.”
“How soon do you suppose we’ll strike ice?” questioned Chet.
“Oh, any time after we round the coast of Nova Scotia.”
At the last moment some extra supplies had come on board, and these were still awaiting proper distribution. The boys watched land slowly disappear in the blue haze of distance, and then set to work to assist in making everything ship-shape.
“It will seem queer to live on a ship, I’m thinking,” said Chet.
“I hope we don’t get sick,” answered his chum.
“Oh, I don’t think we shall.”
“Don’t be too sure.”
The boys had already become acquainted with the other members of the party, Dr. John Slade, a quiet but friendly gentleman, who had once spent two years in lower Greenland, and Mr. Samuel Camdal, an old hunter, who had shot with Barwell Dawson in the far West and in Africa. Mr. Camdal could tell some famous stories, – of hunting, and of narrow escapes from wild animals, – and the lads felt that he would make good company during the days when there was not much to do.
It was a real pleasure for the lads to put their stateroom in order. Although the room was small, it had a homelike air about it that was pleasing. Neither lad was burdened with excess baggage, so they were not as crowded as they might otherwise have been.
The course of the Ice King was to be up the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and then into Davis Strait, to Baffin Bay. The boys had studied the chart thoroughly, for a sea trip was altogether a novelty to them.
“Shall we stop anywhere along the coast of Greenland?” asked Chet, of Barwell Dawson.
“Yes, I have arranged to stop at Upernivik, for an extra supply of coal which a collier from the lower coast is to bring up for us.”
“How long do you suppose we’ll be at Upernivik?”
“Two or three days at least – perhaps a week.”
“And can Andy and I go ashore?”
“Certainly. But it is only a small settlement, and you won’t find much of interest.”
“I wanted to make inquiries about the Betsey Andrews.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll help you, Chet. But don’t be too sanguine. You may not hear a word of the whaler.”
“I want to do all I can to hear from my father.”
“I don’t blame you. I’d be that way myself, if my father were missing.”
In a few hours the Ice King was out on the broad Atlantic. The long swells made the steamer roll a good deal, and soon the two boys felt this in their legs, and then in their stomachs. Each looked at the other in a woe-begone manner.
“What’s the matter?” asked Andy.
“Nothing,” returned Chet, manfully striving to overcome a feeling he could not subdue. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing much, only – I – I feel sort of crawly inside.”
“You’re seasick, Andy!”
“How about yourself?” retorted Andy, and he made a movement toward the side of the steamer.
“I guess I – I am – with – you!” gasped Chet, and also ran for the rail.
After that, the two chums lost all interest in living for several hours. They felt as miserable as a person with a dose of seasickness can feel. They remained on deck for a while, and then sought the seclusion of their stateroom. Here Dr. Slade came to their assistance.
“Two more down, eh?” said the physician, with a little smile. “Well, I’ll do what I can to fix you up,” and he brought forth his medicine case.
“Wh – who else is sick?” asked Andy. In seasickness, “misery loves company” every time.
“Mr. Camdal and Ben Haven, the first mate.”
“The first mate?” queried Chet, between his groans. “Do sailors get sick?”
“Some of them do. I know the captain of an ocean liner who has crossed the Atlantic forty or fifty times. He told me confidentially that he is sick about every third or fourth voyage. It’s just the condition his stomach happens to be in.”
“Then it isn’t so – so babyish after all,” said Chet, and that gave him a grain of comfort.
The doctor did what little he could for the two lads, and by noon the next day they felt quite like themselves. Let me add, that during the remainder of the voyage they were not seasick again.
Although well weighted by her heavy cargo, and by the extra planking on her sides, and extra bracings inside, the Ice King made good time on her trip. It was summer, yet as the vessel turned northward it became colder daily, and soon the boys were glad enough to take Barwell Dawson’s advice and don heavier underwear. Then, as it grew still colder, they put on thicker outer garments also.
“I think we’ll see some icebergs soon,” announced Captain Williamson, one evening. “I can feel ’em in the air,” and he threw back his head to take in a deep breath. Many old sailors who have been in northern waters affirm that they can often “smell” icebergs before the bergs can be seen.
The boys retired as usual that night, and slept soundly until about five o’clock in the morning, when a tremendous thump on the vessel’s side aroused them and threw Chet sprawling on the floor.
“For goodness’ sake! what’s that!” gasped the lad, as he scrambled up.
Before Andy could speak there came another tremendous thump, which added to their alarm. A series of smaller thumps followed. On deck they heard Captain Williamson giving a series of rapid-fire orders.
“I think I know what’s up!” cried Andy, at last, as he donned his clothing with all possible speed. “We’ve struck some floating ice.”
“That must be it,” answered Chet, and he, too, began to dress with dispatch.
When the youths reached the deck, a cry of astonishment burst from their lips. It seemed as if during the night the Ice King had entered another world. On all sides were large and small cakes of floating ice, and in the distance half a dozen big icebergs loomed up.
“Looks as if we were getting to the North Pole fast,” remarked Andy, grimly.
“Phew! but it’s cold!” added Chet, as he buttoned his clothing tightly about him.
“Well, boys, how do you like this?” sang out Barwell Dawson, as he noticed them.
“Got into it kind of sudden like, didn’t we?” asked Chet.
“I think so, although the captain said last night to expect it.”
“Shall we have this all the way up now?” asked Andy.
“Hardly. I think, and so does Captain Williamson, that there is clear water beyond.”
The captain was on deck with his glass, scanning the ocean ahead anxiously. Several large icebergs appeared to be drifting directly toward the steamer, and he gave orders that the course be changed slightly.
“The Ice King won’t mind the small ice,” said he, “but there is no sense in trying the big bergs, yet. We’ll get all we want of that later.”
“Right you are, sir,” responded Barwell Dawson. “Don’t take any chances when they are not necessary.”
After watching the ice for a while the boys went below for breakfast. At the table they sat down with Professor Jeffer and Dr. Slade.
“I am going to try to get some photographs of the icebergs,” said the professor. “I trust we get close enough to them to get some good views.”
“They ought to make good pictures,” responded the doctor.
All the while the boys were eating, the small cakes of ice thumped against the sides of the steamer. But this did no damage, although, as the professor explained, there was danger of some ice getting caught in the propeller.
“And we can’t afford to have that damaged,” he added.
When the boys came on deck again, they saw that the Ice King was much closer to several of the large icebergs. In fact, the steamer appeared to be picking her way through a veritable field of floating ice.
“It is much thicker than the captain expected,” said Barwell Dawson, gravely.
“Is there any danger?” asked Andy, quickly.
“There is always danger when so much ice is floating about. But we hope to get through all right.”
The lads could readily see that not only Mr. Dawson, but also the captain, mate, and sailors were much concerned. Captain Williamson still had his glass in use, and was scanning the sea ahead.
“I think we can make it,” he said to Mr. Dawson. “But it is going to be a tight squeeze.”
“Well, we don’t want such a tight squeeze that we get our ribs stove in,” answered the explorer.
“Are we going to pass between the icebergs yonder?” asked Chet.
“We’ll have to – to reach the clear sea beyond,” answered the captain.
The speed of the steamer had been reduced, and the course again changed. They were pushing away from one of the big bergs that seemed to tower up into the sky like some giant of the polar regions.
“If that iceberg hit us, it would knock us to flinders,” was Chet’s comment, as he viewed the oncoming mass.
On one side of the ship were the icebergs, and on the other the floating cakes, the latter growing thicker every minute. The Ice King was turned into the floating cakes, which thumped and bumped loudly on the bow and sides. Then came an unexpected crashing from the stern.
“What’s that?” cried the mate, who was at the wheel, steering under Captain Williamson’s directions.
“Ice in the propeller!” answered a sailor.
As he spoke the engine stopped, and in a twinkling the steamer swung around until her bow pointed directly toward the big iceberg.
“Look! look!” yelled Andy. “We are going to be hit, sure!”
“If we are, we are doomed!” echoed Chet.
Before anything could be done the big iceberg came drifting on them, slowly and majestically, a very mountain of crystal-like whiteness. So terrible was it that it fascinated the boys, who could do nothing but stare in commingled wonder and horror. An upper mass of the iceberg hung over the top, as if ready to fall and crush the steamer beneath it.
A moment passed – to the lads it seemed an eternity, – and then the big iceberg scraped the side. There was a strange grinding and crashing, and some pieces of ice came showering on the deck. Then the steamer began to rock, and some of the shrouds became entangled in the mass that overhung the deck. The Ice King commenced to move backward.
“We are being carried along by the iceberg!” cried Barwell Dawson, and his words told the truth of the awful situation.
CHAPTER XVIII – SHOOTING WILD GEESE
It was certainly a time of extreme peril, and the boys realized it fully as well as did the men. The steamer was caught in the grip of the big iceberg, and the deck was directly beneath an overhanging portion that might at any time break off and crush the vessel and all on board.
Captain Williamson had run aft to learn what could be done with the propeller, and he had already told the mate to get the sailors out with fenders to save the ship as much as possible from chafing on the side of the berg.
“The loose ice on the other side helps to keep us against the big berg,” said Barwell Dawson.
“I have tried to get some pictures, but the big iceberg is too close,” came from Professor Jeffer, who was as cool as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
“Well, we’re going to get away from it mighty quick, – if we can,” answered Mr. Camdal, pointedly. The close quarters did not suit him any better than it suited Mr. Dawson and the boys.
To clear the propeller a man had to be hoisted over the stern in a sling. He carried with him a pickpole, and with this dug out the cake which had become caught in the blades of the propeller.
This work had hardly been accomplished when another grinding sound came from the big iceberg, and a shower of small ice came down on the forecastle, knocking out several lights of glass. Andy was struck on the head and hurled flat.
“Oh, Andy, are you hurt?” cried Chet, in alarm, as he rushed to his chum’s assistance.
“Not much, but that was a pretty good crack,” was Andy’s reply, as he felt his head where a lump was rapidly rising.
“You boys had better go below,” said Barwell Dawson. “You can’t do anything up here, and you may get a worse dose next time.”
But the lads were loath to retire, and so lingered on the deck, but took good care to keep out of the way of the ice that fell a little later.
Finding that the propeller would now work, Captain Williamson gave orders for full speed astern. As soon as the engines started there was more crashing of ice, the small stuff being ground down under the ship, and the ice of the pinnacle breaking off along the shrouds. Everybody on deck had to get out of the way, for the deck took on the appearance of “an ice-house upset,” as Chet put it, big chunks of the frozen material lying in all directions.
“Hurrah! we are leaving the big iceberg behind!” cried Andy, a few minutes later, and his words proved true.
“I can see clear water ahead!” called out Professor Jeffer, shortly afterwards, and then he turned, to get the photographs he wanted of the big iceberg.
The report concerning open water was correct, and, having left the vicinity of the big iceberg, Captain Williamson had the steamer steered in something of a big circle. Thus they avoided all but the small ice. The latter, however, thumped and bumped on the bow and sides as strongly as ever, and once there came a shock that threw everybody on the deck headlong.
“I hope that doesn’t damage us any,” observed Andy, when this new scare was over.
“It may start some of the seams,” answered Barwell Dawson, “although the vessel was re?nforced to withstand just such knocks.”
Inside of an hour the Ice King had passed all the big icebergs and a large portion of the floating cakes. Clear blue water was ahead, for which all on board were thankful.
“I didn’t expect this, so far south,” said Captain Williamson, after making a tour of the ship, and having had the deck cleaned up. “It is unusual.”
“I know it,” answered Barwell Dawson. “I am thankful we didn’t run into the big iceberg at night.”
“Yes, darkness would have made the situation much worse.”
“Have we started any of the ship’s seams?” asked Dr. Slade.
“Not as far as I have been able to discover.”
The boys went to the forecastle to see what damage had been done there, and found the ship’s carpenter putting in some new lights of glass. One sailor had received a black eye from a chunk of falling ice, but otherwise little bodily harm had resulted.
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