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Title: Bobby Blake in the Frozen North - The Old Eskimo's Last Message
Author: Warner, Frank A.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: With a roar, the beast sprang forward.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    BOBBY BLAKE IN THE FROZEN NORTH


                     THE OLD ESKIMO’S LAST MESSAGE

                           BY FRANK A. WARNER

      Author of “Bobby Blake at Rockledge School,” “Bobby Blake on
         the School Nine,” “Bobby Blake on a Plantation,” etc.

                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                            WALTER S. ROGERS

                               PUBLISHERS
                              BARSE & CO.
                  NEW YORK, N. Y.        NEWARK, N. J.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    Copyright, 1923, by Barse & Co.

                    Bobby Blake in the Frozen North

                          Made in the U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                I Caught in the Act
               II At Close Quarters
              III A Modest Hero
               IV Whizzing It Over
                V The Winning Hit
               VI Circus Thrills
              VII A Sudden Shock
             VIII Against Heavy Odds
               IX Shanghaied!
                X In the Depths
               XI A Gleam of Light
              XII The Lure of Gold
             XIII Suspicion
              XIV The Midnight Conference
               XV Stealthy as Shadows
              XVI The Secret Token
             XVII Great Risks
            XVIII Death Takes a Hand
              XIX On Angry Waters
               XX The Hail from the Shore
              XXI In The Eskimo Hut
             XXII The Frozen North
            XXIII Balked of Their Prey
             XXIV A Terrible Enemy
              XXV The Blinding Blizzard
             XXVI Mooloo, the Guide
            XXVII Finding the Treasure
           XXVIII In Imminent Danger
             XXIX A Clever Expedient
              XXX Homeward Bound

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    Bobby Blake in the Frozen North



                               CHAPTER I

                           CAUGHT IN THE ACT


“Gee whiz, but that was a hot one!” exclaimed Fred Martin, as he wrung
his hands after throwing back the ball with which he and his chum, Bobby
Blake, were having a little pitching practice on the Rockledge School
campus.

“Had pepper on it, did it?” laughed Bobby, as he gripped the ball in
readiness for another throw.

“It fairly smoked,” commented Sparrow Bangs, who was stretched lazily on
the ground near by. “Bobby, you’ve got speed to burn this season.”

“If he pitches that way against Belden it will be all over except the
shouting,” remarked Mouser Pryde, who was the second baseman of the
Rockledge team.

“Bobby’ll need all he’s got when we tackle those fellows, if what I hear
is true,” put in Billy Bassett. “A fellow was telling me the other day
that they have a couple of new batters on their team who can fairly kill
the ball, while the rest are pretty handy with the stick.”

“I’ll back Bobby against the bunch,” said Howell Purdy loyally. “He’s
beaten them before and he can beat them again.”

“Don’t be too sure,” laughed Bobby. “There’s nothing certain in
baseball, and they’re a pretty husky bunch to stack up against. Whenever
we’ve beaten them we’ve known at least that we’ve been in a fight.”

“We sure have,” agreed Perry Wise, a fat boy who had been nicknamed “Pee
Wee” in sarcastic reference to his size.

“We,” repeated Jimmy Ailshine, in derision. “Where do you get that ‘we’
stuff? You never caught a ball or hit one in your life.”

“Haven’t I always rooted for the team to beat the band?” asked Pee Wee,
in an injured tone. “What would the nine do without somebody to root for
it when the pinch comes? As a rooter, I’m a wonder.”

“Sure,” said Mouser soothingly. “And Shiner is wrong when he says you
never caught a ball. I saw you catch one last winter—a snowball, right
on the end of your nose.”

The boys laughed and Pee Wee glared.

“You fellows stop picking on Pee Wee,” said Billy Bassett. “With all
your kidding, there are some things in which he’s away ahead of you
boobs.”

“Name them,” demanded Fred.

“For instance,” remarked Sparrow incredulously.

“Well,” replied Billy, “he’s more polite than any of you, for one
thing.”

Pee Wee began to look interested, though a little puzzled. Although his
manners were fairly good, as boys go, he had never thought that
politeness was one of his outstanding virtues, nor had any one else
called this fact to his attention.

“How do you make that out?” asked Howell Purdy.

“Prove it,” challenged Mouser.

“All right,” responded Billy. “Here’s the proof. When any of you are
seated in a crowded car where there are ladies standing, what do you
do?”

“Stand up and let a lady sit down,” replied Mouser, while the rest
nodded approval.

“Exactly,” replied Billy. “You stand up and let a lady sit down. And
that’s where Pee Wee has it all over you in politeness. He stands up and
lets three ladies sit down.”

There was a moment of silence while this sank in, and then the boys
broke into a roar of laughter, while Pee Wee looked around for something
to throw at his tormentor, who adroitly skipped behind a tree.

Just at this moment, Mr. Carrier, one of the teachers, came along. He
greeted the boys pleasantly and they responded heartily, for he was a
prime favorite with all of them. The athletic games of the school came
under his special supervision, and he had the gift of imparting his own
vim and enthusiasm to the players. He had been a star himself both in
football and baseball in his college days, and his thorough knowledge of
both great games made him a first-class coach for the Rockledge boys.
Under his tutelage, winning teams had been turned out in the previous
year, and he was eager that his teams should repeat their triumph this
season.

“Practicing up, I see,” he said, with a smile, as he nodded to Bobby.

“Just enough to keep my arm limber,” Bobby replied. “I want to be in
shape for our next big game.”

“And that comes off in less than two weeks now,” rejoined Mr. Carrier.
“I hear that the Belden nine is going great guns in practice and that
the victory they won over Somerset the other day has given them
confidence. They figure, too, that since we’ve had the championship for
some years the time is just about due for them to have their turn. But
we don’t agree with them, do we?” he added, with a twinkle in his eyes.

“No, sir!” agreed Bobby. “They’re not going to carry off the Monatook
League pennant if we can help it.”

“It does look pretty good on the Rockledge grounds, doesn’t it?”
remarked Mr. Carrier, as he cast his eyes up on the flagstaff where the
beautiful banner fluttered in the breeze. “I’m depending on you boys to
keep it there. Don’t forget the practice game to-morrow between the
first and second nines.”

He passed on, and the boys looked after him with respect and admiration.

“He’s a dandy,” commented Sparrow.

“I’ll tell the world he is,” affirmed Mouser. “He’s more like a pal than
a teacher, though he’s a mighty good teacher, at that.”

“Oh, I say, fellows,” called out Billy, slipping out from behind his
tree, though still keeping a wary eye on Pee Wee, “there was a man
downtown this morning putting up posters for a big circus that’s coming
over to Ridgefield in a week or two. From what it said on the posters,
it’s going to be a humdinger.”

“Trying to get us on a string again?” asked Sparrow suspiciously.

“No, honest I ain’t,” asseverated Billy, forgetting his grammar in his
eagerness. “This is straight goods. It’s going to be in Ridgefield a
week from next Friday. Gee, how I’d like to go!”

“Who wouldn’t?” remarked Fred. “But what good does it do us to have it
in Ridgefield? That’s twenty miles away, and you know the doctor won’t
let us go.”

“Maybe it’ll come to Rockledge, too,” put in Howell hopefully.

“No chance,” declared Billy. “I asked the man who was putting up the
posters, and he said that this town wasn’t on the list.”

“That’s too bad,” said Bobby regretfully. “I haven’t been to a circus
for a long time and I sure would like to see it.”

“Like’s no name for it,” chimed in Shiner. “I’m just crazy to see it.
Just think, fellows, the tightrope walkers and the bareback riders, the
acrobats turning somersaults over the elephants, the fellows swinging on
the trapeze and the horizontal bars—”

“And the clowns,” added Billy, as Shiner paused for breath.

“Billy likes the clowns because he can steal all their old chestnuts and
pass them off on us,” was Pee Wee’s vengeful dig.

“But there’s something new in this,” went on Billy, not deigning to
notice Pee Wee’s fling. “They show a real Eskimo band, headed by a chief
named Takyak who has a trained walrus that can do all kinds of stunts. I
never saw anything like that in any circus I’ve ever been to.”

“What’s a walrus?” asked Shiner, who was not very strong on the subject
of natural history. “Something like a shark?”

“No, you silly,” returned Billy, who, fresh from his study of the
posters, had the advantage over his mates. “It looks something like a
seal, only it’s bigger and fatter—oh, it’s as fat as Pee Wee—” Here the
latter gave an indignant snort—“and it’s got big tusks and as much
whiskers as those fellows over in Russia—you know the ones I mean, those
Bolsheviks—and it’s sure the kind of thing I wouldn’t like to meet up an
alley on a dark night, and they say it can do anything but talk, and the
Eskimos had a big fight when they captured it, but now they’ve got it so
tame that it eats out of their hands, and it lives on fish, and it’s got
a bellow that you can hear for a mile and—”

“For the love of Pete, somebody stop him,” cried Fred. “He’s getting
black in the face. You’d think he was a barker for the circus.”

But Billy was not to be stopped altogether, though the current of his
eloquence was changed by a thought that had come to him while he was
talking.

“Say, fellows!” he exclaimed eagerly, “what I said about the Russians
reminded me of a joke!”

“What have we done that we should be punished like this!” moaned Shiner.

“Men have been killed for less crimes than Billy’s,” asserted Mouser.

“But this is a good one,” Billy declared. “It made me laugh when I heard
it, and I know a good joke when I hear one.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Sparrow. “If you’ve ever heard a good one
you’ve never passed it on to us.”

“Billy’s jokes are so poor that they wear rags,” proclaimed Howell.

“Or so old that they’ve got false teeth,” added Fred.

But Billy, undaunted by the general chorus, persisted.

“I’ve got a dime in my pocket,” he began.

“I’ll bet it’s plugged,” put in Pee Wee.

“I have a dime in my pocket,” repeated Billy with dignity, “and I’ll
give it to the fellow that can guess my joke before I can count twenty.
That shows how good I think it is.”

As Billy had calculated, this secured the instant attention of the boys,
for it was nearing the end of the term, pocket money was running low,
and a dime—well, a dime was a dime.

“Let’s see it,” said Sparrow cautiously.

Billy promptly produced it.

“There it is,” he said. “Take a good look at it, for that’s the nearest
any of you will ever get to it. You couldn’t guess this joke in twenty
years let alone twenty seconds.”

“All right,” said Fred impatiently. “Go ahead! Shoot!”

Billy leaned forward impressively.

“What’s the quickest change of nationality on record?” he asked.

Shiner scratched his head in perplexity.

“Come again,” he said. “I don’t get you.”

Billy looked at him in patronizing scorn.

“Why, you poor fish,” he explained, “a change of nationality is when a
man stops being a citizen of one country and becomes a citizen of
another. It’s as if a Frenchman went to England and took the oath of
allegiance to the English king. Instead of being any longer a Frenchman
he’d then be an English subject. Or a Swede might come to this country
and be naturalized here. He’d no longer be a Swede but an American. In
other words, he’d have changed his nationality.”

“Cut it short, Billy,” interrupted Fred. “I want that dime.”

“You won’t get it,” retorted Billy. “Now I’ll put it to you again. To
change a man’s nationality usually takes considerable time. What’s the
shortest time it’s ever been done in? Now I’ll start to count.
One—two—three——”

“I know,” shouted Pee Wee.

Billy, in some alarm, hurried on with his counting.

“Four, five, six, seven,” he rushed along.

“It’s this way,” sputtered Pee Wee, also in a hurry. “It was a man
climbing a greased pole. He went up a Pole and he came down a rushin’.”

Billy, who despite his frantic haste had been able to get up only to
seventeen in the count, turned scarlet.

“That’s right,” he admitted reluctantly. “How did you guess it?”

“Oh, I heard that ages ago,” returned Pee Wee airily. “That joke was old
when Noah went into the Ark. He used to tell it to Ham and Shem and
Japhet when he wanted to put them to sleep.”

Billy was crestfallen, but he was game and brought out the dime, which
Pee Wee promptly stowed away in his pocket.

“Gee,” murmured Shiner, “I don’t see why climbing a pole and coming down
in a hurry makes a man change his nationality.”

At this a roar of laughter went up. Finally it was Pee Wee, elated with
his victory, who explained.

“You silly,” he said, “the man went up a Pole—you know what a Pole
is—and came down a capital R-u-s-s-i-a-n, Russian. Now do you see?”

“Oh,” answered Shiner, crestfallen.

“Got any more jokes, Billy?” Pee Wee asked politely. “If you have, bring
them out and I’ll guess them at the same price.”

Billy tried to think of a suitable retort, but the financial calamity
that had come upon him had paralyzed, for the moment, his gift of
repartee.

“Never mind, Billy,” laughed Bobby, clapping him on the shoulder. “You
can’t always put it over. And, anyway, Pee Wee’s going to spend that
dime to treat the bunch and you’ll have your share of the doughnuts.”

“Sure thing,” said Pee Wee generously. “I can get ten doughnuts for a
dime, and I can’t eat more than eight of them. The other two you fellows
can divide up among yourselves.”

“Don’t give things away so recklessly, or I can see where you’ll be
going to the poorhouse in your old age,” chaffed Fred.

“He’ll never live to be old,” put in Shiner. “He’ll die early from
enlargement of the heart.”

“Maybe he’ll strain a point and give us three,” suggested Mouser
hopefully. “But, anyway, let’s go down to the store and get them now
while Pee Wee still has the dime.”

“It’s a pretty long walk,” objected Pee Wee. “And what with that stone
bruise on my foot and the way I’ve been working—”

“That’s right!” observed Sparrow. “We forgot all about that stone
bruise. It isn’t fair to make poor Pee Wee go all that way. He can give
us the dime and we’ll go down and get the doughnuts and bring him back
his share.”

This appealed to all but Pee Wee, who had well-grounded fears that they
would bring back his share inside of them.

“I guess I can make it,” he said, getting heavily to his feet. “But
let’s take our time. There’s no use going at it as if we were running a
Marathon.”

He led the way with the air of a monarch followed by his retainers, and
not one of them stayed behind, for the lure of the doughnut was too
strong to be resisted.

“Let’s take the short cut down the school lane,” suggested Fred, and as
this met with general approval they turned off into a lane that led down
past the private orchard of Dr. Raymond, the head of the school.

They had not gone more than a hundred yards when Bobby gave an
exclamation.

“Look at that big touring car at the side of the road,” he ejaculated,
indicating a powerful looking automobile that was standing under the
shadow of some trees close to the fence that skirted the orchard.

“What’s it doing there, I wonder,” remarked Fred. “This isn’t a public
road, and I never before saw an automobile in it, except the doctor’s
own car.”

“Maybe it belongs to some friends who have come to call upon him,”
hazarded Shiner.

“Or somebody who switched off into the lane by mistake,” guessed
Sparrow.

As the chums drew nearer they could see that the car was empty with the
exception of the driver. He was a rough-looking fellow with a coarse,
mottled face, shifty eyes and generally uncouth appearance. His cap was
drawn down over his low forehead and a half-smoked cigarette dangled
loosely from his lips.

“Looks like a tough customer, doesn’t he?” murmured Fred, in a low voice
to Mouser, who was next to him.

“He sure does,” returned the latter. “No friends of the doctor would
have a fellow like that to drive for them.”

Bobby had given one quick glance at the driver and then his eyes roved
over to the orchard. What he saw gave him a start.

“Look, fellows!” he cried. “Those fellows are robbing the doctor’s
orchard! And they’ve tackled that prize thousand-dollar tree with the
early apples!”

He made a rush for the fence with his comrades close behind him.



                               CHAPTER II

                           AT CLOSE QUARTERS


The fellow in the driver’s seat of the big automobile dropped his
cigarette and half started from his seat as he heard Bobby’s words and
saw him making for the fence.

“Hey, youse!” he shouted, “what are youse buttin’ in for? Keep out of
this. Get right along an’ mind your own business.”

“Nobody asked for your advice,” shouted Bobby, as he scaled the fence
and dropped on the other side. “Come along, fellows, and come quick.”

At a little distance from the fence stood a tree that the doctor, who
was an enthusiast on fruit growing, prized above all his other
possessions. It bore an exceedingly rare species of apple that matured
early in the season, had a delicious flavor and was highly valued by
experts. It was a new variety, and it was understood that the doctor had
paid as much as a thousand dollars for it with a view to developing in
time a whole orchard of the same species. The boys had often heard him
talk about it, and they knew how much he valued it. One of Billy’s stock
jokes was to refer to it as the “apple of his eye.”

Beneath this special tree were standing four youths of the same type as
the one in the car, while in the tree itself was another. The apples
were still green, of course, but this did not deter the marauders.

They were considerably larger and older than the Rockledge boys, but the
latter were so full of indignation as they ran toward them that they
took little account of size or age.

“What are you fellows doing?” cried Bobby, as he came within earshot of
the intruders. “Leave those apples alone.”

The strangers looked up in some surprise at the interruption and then
conferred together hastily.

“What have you got to say about it?” blurted out the one who seemed to
be the leader of the party. “They ain’t your apples, are they?”

“No, but they belong to the head of our school,” replied Bobby. “And
he’d have you arrested for stealing them if he knew about it.”

“Well, what he don’t know ain’t a-goin’ to hurt him,” sneered the
fellow. “An’ if they ain’t your apples you ain’t got no license to
interfere. You git along now an’ beat it while the goin’s good.”

“Give him a clip in the jaw, Hen, an’ take some of the freshness out of
him,” growled one of the fruit thieves.

“You can’t bluff us with any of that kind of talk,” declared Bobby
stoutly. “I’ve got the number of that car, and you fellows will be
tracked down and arrested if you don’t get away from here quick.”

An ugly look came into the bully’s eyes as he clenched his fist.

And while, with his heart beating fast but his courage unshaken, Bobby
waited for the expected rush, it may be well, for the benefit of those
who have not read the earlier volumes of this series, to tell who Bobby
and his chums are.

Bobby Blake was now about thirteen years old, and had been born in a
little town called Clinton. He was the only child of a business man of
that place, whose affairs frequently called him away from home.

Mr. and Mrs. Blake had gone to South America on a protracted trip a few
years before our present story opens, and had been fortunate in finding
an excellent private school for Bobby near home, in the Rockledge
School. His first year there and adventures are related in “Bobby Blake
at Rockledge School.”

His special friend was Fred Martin, the son of a merchant of Clinton.
Fred had received the nickname of “Ginger” because of his fiery red
hair. It is also a fact that Fred had the hot temper that is popularly
supposed to go with hair of that color. It did not take much to get him
angry. Still he was generous and straight as a string, and he and Bobby
got on famously together. Bobby often had his hands full in getting Fred
out of the scrapes into which the red-headed boy’s quick temper led him,
and sometimes he did not succeed. But the boys formed a perfect team,
and where one was the other was quite sure not to be far away.

They made some good friends at the school and when vacation came they
were invited to visit one of them, Perry Wise, the fat boy called “Pee
Wee,” at the home of his parents on the coast. Here the boys had a great
time fishing, boating, and swimming and found themselves with an
exciting adventure on their hands in hunting for a missing boat. These
and other adventures of the school chums are related in other volumes of
the “Bobby Blake Series.”

And now to return to Bobby where he stood tense and undaunted, awaiting
the onslaught of the bully whom he had discovered with his gang robbing
Dr. Raymond’s orchard.

“So you got the number of the car, did you?” snarled the leader of the
gang, Hen Lemming. “Well, now let me tell you, bo, that I’ve got your
number too, and it’s number twenty-three. Do you get me? Twenty-three.
That’s a mighty unlucky number, too, as you’ll find out, for I’m going
to change the map of that face of yours for buttin’ in.”

As he spoke he made a rush at Bobby with his fist upraised.

Quick as a flash, Bobby grabbed for his legs, as he had often done when
tackling an opponent on a football field. It was a perfect tackle, and
the bully went down with a crash, so hard, indeed, that he lay sprawling
on the ground, stunned for the moment.

In an instant Bobby was on his feet again. “One of you hold that fellow
down!” he cried, assuming command of the situation. “Here, Pee Wee, you
sit on him.”

Pee Wee instantly obeyed, and his ponderous weight settled on Lemming’s
back, keeping him flat to the ground despite the desperate attempts of
the reviving bully to throw him off.

“Now,” said Bobby, facing the rest of the intruders, who had stood for a
moment paralyzed by the sudden downfall of their leader, “who’s the next
one that wants to start something?”

They faced him, growling and storming, but irresolute. The fellow in the
tree had now dropped down and joined his companions.

“We’re going to smash you for this,” he threatened, as he rolled up his
sleeves.

Fred and the rest of the boys had gathered about Bobby ready to pitch in
if need be, and the hostile groups faced each other frowningly. Fred
suddenly set up a loud whistle, the well-known Rockledge call for aid.

“Look out, Bobby!” suddenly cried Pee Wee.

Bobby wheeled at the cry and saw the driver of the car, who had climbed
the fence and was running to the help of his companions, holding a large
stone in his hand.

He was not more than ten yards away and he raised the stone to hurl it
at Bobby’s head.

But Bobby was too quick for him. In his pocket was the baseball with
which he and Fred had been practicing. Like lightning he drew it out and
threw it at the driver with all his strength.

The ball caught the fellow right below the breastbone and he doubled up
like a jackknife. The stone dropped from his hand, and he sat down
suddenly on the grass, trying to recover the breath that had been
knocked out of him.

“Get the ball, Fred,” commanded Bobby, and like a flash Fred retrieved
it and put it in Bobby’s hand. Then Fred gave another loud whistle for
aid.

“Now,” said Bobby, as he whirled about and faced the group of enemies,
who were fairly gasping with astonishment, “that takes care of two of
you fellows. Want any more of our game?”

It was very evident that they did not. What they had seen of Bobby’s
quickness and resource had been quite enough. And that baseball at such
close quarters looked like a mighty powerful weapon. Besides, they could
hear the shouts of other schoolboys not far away. All the easy victory
the gang had promised itself over these younger and slighter opponents
vanished like smoke.

There was no answer except mutterings and growls, and the fellow who had
dropped from the tree slowly put on his coat.

“You boys have got the edge on us just now,” he snarled. “But don’t
think for a minute that you’re through with us. We’ll get you some time,
and what we’ll do to you will be a-plenty. Ain’t that so, Lemming?” he
asked of the fellow who had been sat upon.

“We’ll take a chance on you,” replied Bobby heatedly.

The toughs started to go away from the tree, but one of them picked up
the bag of apples they had gathered to take along.

“No, you don’t!” exclaimed Bobby. “Drop that.”

The fellow glared at him, but evidently thought it best to obey.

“Ain’t you going to let him up?” asked one of them, pointing to his
prostrate leader. “Going to keep him there all night?”

“He’ll get up when you get on the other side of that fence,” replied
Bobby.

They picked up the driver on the way and Bobby waited until they had all
climbed into the car.

“Now, Pee Wee,” he said, “let that fellow up.”

Pee Wee, much gratified at the prominent part his weight had permitted
him to take in the contest, got off his prostrate victim and Lemming
struggled to his feet, his face livid and his whole body shaking with
rage at his humiliation and defeat. For a moment it seemed as if he
would rush at Bobby like a mad bull, but a glance at the faces of the
boys and at the baseball that Bobby held ready for action convinced him
for the present that discretion was the better part of valor.

“You ain’t heard the last of this,” he snapped. “I’ll get even with you.
And when I once get hold of you away from your gang I’ll make you wish
you had never been born.”

“Your pals are waiting for you,” was all the response that Bobby
vouchsafed, while he watched his enemy with the eye of a hawk.

With muttered imprecations, Lemming slouched sullenly away and climbed
the fence. Before he got into the car he turned and shook his fist
vengefully and shouted out a torrent of threats. But Bobby simply
laughed, and with a honking of the horn that was in itself a promise of
vengeance the car started up and rolled away.

They watched it until it had passed from sight and then turned and
looked at each other. Other boys now came running up, having heard
Fred’s whistle for help.

“Bobby, you’re a trump,” cried Fred, in admiration as he clapped his
friend on the shoulder.

All crowded round their leader and showered him with praise until Bobby
blushed to the ears.

“Lay off, you fellows,” he cried in some confusion. “The chance simply
came my way and I took it. It simply shows that football and baseball
tactics are good for something besides games.”

“I thought sure it was coming to a regular fist fight and I was bracing
myself for it,” put in Skeets. “But, thanks to Bobby, none of us got a
scratch.”

“They’d have had a good chance of getting away with it, too,” affirmed
Billy. “They were big husky fellows, almost men, and they’d probably
have been too heavy for our bunch. It simply shows that brains and
muscle combined are a good sight better than muscle alone.”

“Weight isn’t such a bad thing either,” remarked Pee Wee.

“Right you are, old boy,” laughed Fred. “It would have taken three of us
to hold that fellow down as well as you did. You sure did yourself
proud.”

“I’d hate to be the driver of that car,” grinned Skeets. “You doubled
him up good and plenty, Bobby. He went down as though he had been shot.”

“One strike and out,” laughed Fred. “Bobby’s eyesight was good. He put
the ball right over the plate.”

There was more excited talk, then one of the boys who had come running
to help their comrades but who had arrived too late said to those who
had come with him:

“Well, come on, fellows. Let’s go about our business. This bunch is all
right now.” With these words he turned and went off, his especial
friends going with him.



                              CHAPTER III

                             A MODEST HERO


“You’ve got to look out for those fellows, especially for that Lemming,
Bobby,” warned Mouser. “Those eyes of his were like a rattlesnake’s when
he got up from the ground. You humbled him before his gang and made him
look like thirty cents, and he isn’t likely to forget it.”

“Oh, I’m not worrying much about him,” returned Bobby carelessly. “He
probably got enough to last him for a while. Then, too, he knows that we
have the number of his car and could get the police after him if we
wanted to.”

“I don’t know but what we ought to do that anyway,” suggested Shiner.
“It’s a tough gang and perhaps it’s already done something that the
police are interested in finding out about.”

“I guess we’d better let well enough alone,” replied Bobby. “Besides, I
doubt whether the doctor would care to have the school mixed up in the
matter. But now let’s get along after those doughnuts of Pee Wee. If we
wait till to-morrow he’ll have spent the money, and this scrap has given
me an appetite.”

“What are we going to do with these apples?” asked Fred. “There’s quite
a bunch of them in this bag.”

“We’ll drop in at the Hall and leave them with the housekeeper,” Bobby
decided.

“Don’t you think the doctor himself ought to be told about these fellows
so that he can keep a closer watch on the orchard?” asked Skeets.

“I suppose he ought,” agreed Bobby. “But I hate to speak to him about it
for fear he’ll think we’re looking for praise for getting rid of the
rascals. But come along anyway, and we’ll get these apples off our
hands.”

As luck would have it, their modesty was not to be spared, for as they
went through the front door of the school the first person they
encountered was Dr. Raymond himself, who was emerging from one of the
classrooms.

The doctor was a tall spare man with an intellectual, finely cut face
and a pair of eyes that could look right through one if he were guilty
of any violation of rules but that more frequently had a twinkle in them
that bespoke a kindly nature and the possession of a sense of humor. He
was a strict disciplinarian and an excellent administrator, and had
raised the school to a position of such high repute that he had been
forced to establish a waiting list. Although the boys knew that he was
not to be trifled with, they liked him because he was uniformly just and
fair in his dealings with them.

He glanced at them with an expression of some surprise as he noted the
bag of apples that Fred carried in his hand.

“They’re apples from your thousand-dollar tree,” volunteered Fred,
forestalling the question that he saw in the doctor’s eyes.

“What!” exclaimed Dr. Raymond with a start, as a look of sternness began
to steal over his features.

For that tree was his special pride, and he valued it almost as much as
the rest of his orchard put together.

“We weren’t the ones that picked the apples,” broke in Mouser. “We found
a gang of thieves down there helping themselves and we drove them off.
Bobby did the most of it, though. He sure can think quickly.”

“Come in here and tell me all about it,” directed the doctor, leading
the way into the room from which he had just come.

“Now, Blake,” he said after they were seated, “from what Pryde said, I
fancy you are the one to tell me the story.”

Bobby fidgeted a little uncomfortably. It was hard to tell the facts
without dwelling on the part he had played in it, and he hated to find
himself in the limelight.

“Why, Doctor Raymond,” he said, “there isn’t much to tell. We were
walking down the lane when we saw an auto drawn up at the side of the
road and then we saw five fellows gathering apples from that tree. We
knew how much you thought of it, so we went into the orchard and made
them go away.”

“Were they boys about your own size?” asked the doctor. “Anybody you
know about here or in the town?”

“No, sir,” replied Bobby. “They were big fellows, almost men. None of us
ever saw them before. They had a big car and they probably came from a
distance.”

“How did you get them to stop?” asked the doctor, with some interest.
“Persuade them?”

“Well, no, sir,” answered Bobby slowly. “You couldn’t exactly say that
we persuaded them. We—we had to use a little force.”

The doctor’s keen eyes twinkled.

“This grows interesting,” he remarked. “I am really curious to know what
kind of force you boys used to drive away nearly half a dozen robbers
who were almost the size of men.”

“If you please, doctor,” ventured Fred, who had been growing restive at
what he regarded as the undue modesty of his chum, “any of the other
boys can tell you about it better than Bobby, because he’s the one that
about did the whole thing and he doesn’t like to say so.”

Bobby blushed and the doctor laughed.

“I suspected as much,” he said. “Well, then, Martin, suppose you go
ahead and tell me all the facts.”

“Well, sir,” replied Fred, “we saw the fellows robbing the tree and we
climbed over the fence and went over to them and Bobby told them to
stop. The man who seemed to be the leader made a rush, and Bobby dived
for his legs and tumbled him to the ground. Then Bobby told Pee Wee—I
mean Wise—to sit on him and hold him down and Pee Wee—I mean Wise—did
it. Then the man who had been driving the auto came for Bobby with a
rock in his hand, and Bobby took the baseball we’d been practicing with
out of his pocket and let him have it right in the bread basket—I mean
in the stomach—and the man went down. Then Bobby got back the ball and
told the other four to beat it—I mean told them to go away—or he’d
soak—I mean hit—them in the same way. They saw that their goose was
cooked—I mean they saw it was no use—and they flew the coop—I mean they
went away. But they shook their fists and told Bobby a whole lot of
things they were going to do to him if they ever got hold of him.”

The doctor sat back in his chair and laughed heartily.

“Well, well,” he remarked, while Bobby got red to his ears, “that’s the
best story I’ve heard for many a long day. And it seems to have Bobby
scattered all through it.”

“I guess those toughs heard some of the other fellows coming to our
help, doctor,” interposed Bobby. “They did come, you know, but they got
there too late—the fruit thieves had gone away by that time.”

“But really, Blake, even at that, you did wonderfully well, both in
quick thinking and effective acting,” replied Dr. Raymond. “You are an
honor to the school and I’m proud of you. And I want to thank all you
boys, for I know that you were standing loyally by, ready to back Blake
up if the necessity arose. But I’m glad that the matter was settled the
way it was, for otherwise some of you might have been injured in a row
with those who were so much bigger and older than yourselves. For the
future I will keep a closer watch upon the orchard, though I don’t
imagine,” he added with a smile, “that that particular gang will be
eager to try again at the same place where they met with such a
reception.”

“Bobby took the number of their car so that you could follow the matter
up if you wanted to,” said Fred.

“Still, Bobby,” smiled the doctor, “trust him not to overlook anything.
But I hardly think that I care to press the matter any further. I guess
the rascals have been punished enough. Still, I’ll note down the number
just as a matter of precaution in case they should try to carry out
their threats of getting even. That’s hardly likely, but it’s possible.
By the way, Blake, I’d be especially careful for a while, and if you see
any of the gang hanging around be sure and let me know.”

He jotted down the license number and then, with repeated thanks,
dismissed the boys, while he himself sought out Mr. Leith and Mr.
Carrier, to whom with many chuckles he narrated the events of the
afternoon. Even the stately Mr. Leith unbent, while Mr. Carrier was
frankly delighted.

Martin was at that very moment chiding Bobby for having hung back and
left it to his friends to tell of his exploits.

“Why didn’t you speak up for yourself, Bobby?” he asked, “instead of
leaving it to me to give the doctor an earful—there I go again—instead
of leaving it to me to tell the doctor all about it. Any one would think
that you were ashamed instead of being proud of what you’ve done.”

“Oh, it wasn’t so much,” deprecated Bobby. “Just a tackle and a baseball
throw. Any one could have done it.”

“Great Scott!” snorted Shiner, as he glanced at his watch. “It’s too
late now for us to get down to the baker’s for those doughnuts and get
back in time for supper.”

There was a chorus of groans from all but Pee Wee, who looked somewhat
relieved.

“We’ll have to put it off till some other time,” he remarked. “That
stone bruise of mine is hurting me anyway, and then, too, I’ve been
working pretty hard this afternoon. Holding that bully down was no
cinch.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Skeets unbelievingly. “All you had to do was to
sit still, and that’s the easiest thing you do. He couldn’t move any
more than if he’d had one of the Pyramids resting on him.”

Pee Wee treated this slighting reference to his really great
achievements with the silent scorn it deserved.

“Oh, well,” observed Sparrow, “the doughnuts will keep till some other
time.”

“But when that time comes will Pee Wee have the dime?” questioned Shiner
incredulously.

“I will,” pledged Pee Wee. And then rising to unusual heights he added:
“I promised you fellows two doughnuts to divide among you. I’ll double
that. I’ll make it four.”



                               CHAPTER IV

                            WHIZZING IT OVER


The last weeks previous to the beginning of the summer vacation were
busy ones for the boys. They had to prepare for final examinations, and
for those who had shirked their work through the term this was a period
of grief and lamentation.

Bobby and Fred had done good work in their studies right along, and the
coming tests had no terrors for them.

But there was another interest that held the attention of the boys to a
degree greater, it is to be feared, than their studies.

The baseball fight that season between the teams composing the Monatook
Lake League had been fiercer than ever before. All of the teams were
comparatively strong, considering the age of the players, and the
contests had been close and exciting. But in the end it had narrowed
down to a contest between Rockledge and Belden, each of which had won
and lost the same number of games. The crucial game was to be played by
these two hot rivals on the Belden grounds, and feeling was at fever
heat in each school.

While in fielding ability there was very little to choose between them,
it was generally admitted that Belden had the “edge” on Rockledge in the
matter of batting. This had been shown by the scores of the games that
had already been played. The Belden tallies were much in excess of those
rolled up by the Rockledge boys, and the former had a formidable list of
three-baggers and homers. The Rockledge victories on the other hand were
marked by small scores, and had mostly been won by the good pitching of
Bobby in the box.

So the forthcoming contest had resolved itself in the minds of the boys
into a struggle between heavy batting and good pitching. Which of the
two would prevail?

The Belden boys thought that they could give the answer. They had never
before felt so confident, and they were jubilant at the fine showing
made by their team with the bat. It was freely predicted that Bobby
would be sent to the bench before the game was half over. And with him
out of the game, the Belden boys felt that they could simply romp in,
for Howell Purdy, the other Rockledge pitcher, while fairly good, was
admittedly not in the same class as Bobby.

But on the other hand, the Rockledge boys had seen Bobby too often “come
through” to feel depressed at the prospect. They knew that he would have
to face a fiercer attack than usual.

“But,” said Fred, “we are sure that before long Bobby will have those
redoubtable sluggers eating out of his hand. The bigger they are the
harder they fall.” And this fairly expressed the feeling prevalent among
his mates.

Bobby himself said little, but worked away like a beaver to perfect his
curves and slants and develop his speed. He had never felt in better
trim, and in his secret heart had little doubt that he would pull out
the victory. But he refrained from predictions, and to the questions
that were showered upon him by his comrades merely replied that he was
going to do his best.

The great day came at last and was marked by brilliant sunshine. This
was a slight disadvantage for Bobby, because a cloudy day is reckoned as
an asset to a pitcher, as it makes it harder for the batsman to gauge
the ball. Of course this affected the Belden pitcher, too, but not to
such an extent, as the Belden boys were not placing as much reliance on
the pitching as Rockledge was forced to do.

The fact, too, that the game was to be played on the Belden grounds was,
of course, an advantage to that school. The grounds themselves were more
familiar to their nine, and they would have the greater number of
rooters to cheer on the home team and rattle their opponents.

Still it was all in the game, and the Rockledge boys were in high
spirits as they cavorted around the diamond in practice.

The stands were full of interested spectators and there was a great wall
of “fans” surrounding the playing field. The Rockledge boys had come
over in a body to encourage their team. Dr. Raymond himself had a
foremost seat in the grandstand as a guest of the head of Belden school.
The two men were the best of friends and laughed and chaffed each other
on the merits of the respective teams.

Both nines showed up well in practice, making stops and throws and
catches which showed that each team was at the top of its form. It was
evident that the game was to be a hotly contested one, and when the bell
rang the spectators settled down in their seats with the anticipation of
a treat.

Rockledge, as the visiting team, was first at bat. The first man up went
out on strikes and a chorus of cheers arose from the partisans of
Belden. Fred, who came next, whipped a sharp liner to left. If it had
been smartly fielded, it would have gone for a single, but the left
fielder fumbled it for a moment and Fred by great running reached
second. Then it was the turn of Rockledge to cheer. The hit availed
nothing, however, for Barry went out on a pop fly to the pitcher and
Sparrow sent a towering fly to right which was gathered in after a long
run. The inning had ended without a score, and Belden came in for its
half.

That proved short and sweet. Bobby whiffed the first batter that faced
him on three successive strikes. The second man dribbled an easy one to
the box that Bobby had no trouble in getting to first in plenty of time.
The next batsman fouled off two in succession, and then Bobby struck him
out with a fast high one that cut the center of the plate. No one had
got to first, and the Rockledge rooters cheered Bobby lustily as he came
in to the bench.

They felt still better when Mouser caught the ball on the end of his bat
for a ripping three-bagger to center. The cheers turned to groans,
however, when Mouser took a chance and tried to steal home. It was a
rash play at that stage of the game, for no one was out, and even a
sacrifice would probably have brought him home. As it was, the ball was
waiting for him when he slid into the plate and he looked rather
sheepish as he rose and brushed the dust from his uniform. Sheets laid
down a clever bunt, on which by good running he reached first. Shiner
followed with a daisy cutter between first and second that carried
Sheets to third, though Shiner himself could get no further than the
initial bag. The inning ended when Billy Bassett hit into a double play.

“That was an awful bonehead play of mine,” said Mouser regretfully, as
he and Bobby walked out from the bench to take their places in the
field.

“Don’t let it worry you, Mouser,” Bobby consoled him. “That was a whale
of a three-bagger that you knocked out, anyway. Any one of us is liable
to make a mistake.”

The second inning resulted in another blank for Belden. The first one up
went out by the strikeout route. The next one proved a little more
difficult, for he refused to bite at the balls that Bobby put over until
the count stood at three balls and no strikes.

“Wait him out,” shouted Ormsby, the Belden captain. “He’s getting wild.”

The next ball split the plate for a perfect strike, but the batsman,
obeying his captain’s command, let it go by. He refused to offer also at
the next one, which also went for a strike. The count now stood
three-two, and if Bobby was in a hole the batter was also.

Cool as an icicle, Bobby wound up and put all he had on a high fast one
that fairly smoked as it went over the plate. The batter made a wild
lunge at it but missed, and the ball sank with a thud in the catcher’s
glove.

“You’re out,” called the umpire.

“That’s going some, Bobby,” cried Fred from short. “Keep it right up.
They can’t hit you.”

This was a little premature, for the next man connected with the first
ball pitched and sent it whistling over Bobby’s head. It had all the
earmarks of a single, but Mouser redeemed his previous error of judgment
by leaping into the air and making a superb catch that brought the crowd
in the stands to their feet. The Rockledge rooters were jubilant, while
the Beldenites were correspondingly depressed.

The next two innings passed without a score for either side. Both
pitchers were doing excellent work, and while the Belden boxman, Erlich,
was hit rather freely, the ball seemed to find a fielder in the way
every time. Twice the Rockledge boys had men on bases, once by an error
and the other time from a passed ball, but were unable to bring them
around.

In the fifth inning, Rockledge broke the ice. Skeets led off with a
rattling single to right. Shiner sacrificed him neatly to second. Billy
sent a hot one between short and third that looked as though it would be
good enough to bring Skeets home, but the ball was retrieved so smartly
and thrown into home by the Belden left fielder that Skeets, who had
rounded third and started on his homeward journey, saw that he could not
make it, and had all he could do to scramble back to third. In the
meantime Billy had reached second.

With one man out, Bobby came to the bat. The first was too high and he
let it go by. The second was waist high and right in the groove, and
Bobby swung at it with all his might. There was a sharp crack as the bat
met the ball, and then the latter sped out almost in a line between
right and center. Bobby dropped his bat and was off like a flash, while
Skeets and Billy came galloping home.

As Bobby rounded first, he saw that the right and center fielders were
still chasing the ball. By the time he had reached second the right
fielder had picked it up and was steadying himself for the throw to
third. The chances of the ball and batter getting there at the same time
were about even. But two runs were in anyway, and Bobby knew that he
could afford to take the chance. He put on extra speed and slid into the
bag just a fraction of a second before the third baseman clapped the
ball on him.

“Safe!” cried the umpire, and the Rockledge crowd went wild.

Erlich stiffened up then and let the next batsman down on strikes.
Spentz, who came next, hit the ball hard, but it was gobbled up by the
center fielder, and the inning was over with Bobby left on third.

Twenty-three times. But at any rate two runs had tallied, and the way
the game was going those two runs seemed big enough to win.



                               CHAPTER V

                            THE WINNING HIT


The Belden boys came in for their half, fuming at the lead that
Rockledge had gained but not a bit discouraged. Ormsby gathered them
about him and urged them on, and their rooters broke out into vociferous
cheers.

Weston, one of their heaviest batters and the head of their batting
order, came to the plate swinging his bat in a menacing way. He glared
at Bobby, who only laughed and sent over a fadeaway for the first
strike.

The second ball was a hop and Weston caught it on the under side and
sent it high in the air out toward center. It should have been an easy
catch, for Devlin had plenty of time to get under it before it came
down. But it was the very ease of the catch that was his undoing, for he
let it go through his fingers.

Weston, like the good ballplayer that he was, had kept on running at
full speed, even though he expected the ball to be caught, so that by
the time the muff was actually made he had rounded first and was well on
his way to second.

Devlin was rattled by his error and threw wild to the second bag. The
ball went over Mouser’s head, and by the time it was retrieved Weston
was roosting safely on third amid the jubilant yells of the Belden
partisans.

Romney, the next one up, laid down what was intended to be a sacrifice
bunt between short and third. Fred and Sparrow both went for it with
such eagerness that they collided and were knocked head over heels. By
the time Bobby had run over and recovered the ball Weston had easily
made the plate and Romney had got to second.

These two “flivvers” in succession were likely to rattle any team, and
in order to give his mates time to recover their self-possession, Bobby
bent down and fumbled with his shoe laces until the umpire ordered him
to play ball.

Then Bobby put on steam and fanned the next batter in three straight
strikes.

He made the next one knock an easy bounder toward short. Fred was all
set to grab it when the ball struck a stone and took a high bound over
his head, rolling out to left field, while Romney made the dust fly as
he legged his way to third and the batter reached first.

Howell Purdy, the substitute pitcher, who was playing left field, ran in
for the ball. He saw that he could not get Romney at third, and threw to
Mouser at second to catch the batter, who was making for that bag. But
the ball was ten feet wide of the base and went into the field, while
both Romney and his mate scored, making the score 3 to 2 in Belden’s
favor.

The Belden boys fairly went crazy. There was a din of horn-blowing and
catcalls exceeding anything so far in the game. Their coachers got out
on the coaching lines and began a line of chatter designed to rattle
their opponents still further.

But no matter how the rest of the team were shaken, Bobby absolutely
declined to lose his nerve. He knew that until this inning was over at
any rate the only thing left for him was to strike his opponents out.
Any ball hit, no matter how easily it ought to be fielded, was liable to
be fumbled or booted. So he summoned up all his courage and skill and
made the next two fan in succession.

Many a pitcher would have been grumpy and sore at such support. He had
not yielded a single hit or passed a man to first, and yet his opponents
had made three runs and taken the lead. Yet Bobby’s face was as serene
as a summer sky when he drew off his glove and went in to the bench.

Devlin and Howell were bitterly angry at themselves because of their
errors, and Fred and Sparrow were limping from the effects of their
collision, while the rest of the team were more or less upset by the
sudden change in affairs.

“Never mind, fellows,” cried Bobby encouragingly. “Those fellows have
certainly had the breaks of the game so far. That collision was an
accident and we didn’t know that that stone in the infield would give
that bad bound to the ball. But those things generally even up, and they
may have their turn of bad luck next. Anyway, they’re only one run ahead
and we have time to overcome that. Just let’s brace and we’ll beat them
yet.”

But if they were to beat them it was not to be done in the sixth or
seventh inning, for those chances passed without Rockledge scoring. Once
they got a man as far as third, but there he stayed for want of the
necessary hit to bring him in.

Belden was equally unable to score. Bobby was pitching like a demon and
his opponents were swinging at the air. Four out of the six who faced
him in those two innings went out on strikes, while a foul and a pop fly
disposed of the others.

In the eighth inning the skies began to brighten for Rockledge. Erlich,
who had pitched good ball up to that time, began to weaken. His fast
ones no longer had their usual zip to them, nor were his curves so
deceptive. Two hits in succession, followed by a base on balls, filled
the bases, and then a wild pitch by Erlich permitted the man on third to
score, thus making the game a tie. Belden braced then, and aided by a
snappy double play prevented further scoring.

Try as they would, however, they could make no impression on Bobby’s
pitching in their half, and the ninth inning opened with the score still
a tie.

“Now for a grand rally, fellows,” urged Bobby. “We’ve got Erlich going.
Keep up the good work of the last inning and the pennant is ours.”

“We’ll do it,” declared Fred. “He’s got nothing on the ball now but a
prayer and a glove. Let’s go in and knock him out of the box.”

They started in as though they were going to do it. Sheets poled out a
stinging single to right. Shiner followed with a screamer over
shortstop’s head that carried Skeets to third while he himself pulled up
at second. A shout went up when Billy met the ball full on the seam, but
it died away in a groan when the second baseman made a splendid catch of
the liner and returned it in time to double up Skeets as he slid into
the plate.

Tumultuous cheers greeted Bobby, as he came to the bat.

“Win your own game, Bobby,” sang out Pee Wee, who had abandoned his
usual laziness and all through the game had been rooting like a madman.

“Give the ball a ride!”

“Kill it!”

“Hit it a mile!”

“Show them where you live!”

Erlich looked him over carefully and then tempted him with an out drop.
Bobby refused to bite.

The next came straight for his head and would have knocked him out had
not Bobby dropped to the ground like a flash.

“He’s trying to bean him,” came in angry shouts from the Rockledge part
of the stand.

Erlich, however, who, to do him justice, had no such intention, offered
an apology which Bobby accepted without question, as he dug his toes
into the ground and waited for the next offering.

It came in the form of a wide outcurve which failed to cut the plate and
went for a ball.

Bobby now was on “easy street,” for there were three balls and no
strikes, and his opponent had to put them over.

The next ball was to Bobby’s liking, half way between the knee and
waist. He swung at it, caught it full and fair, and the ball started off
toward right.

Down to first Bobby ran with the speed of a frightened jack-rabbit. He
had rounded the bag before he dared to look for the ball. There it was,
soaring along like a bird, while both the right and center fielders had
turned their backs and were racing after it. He knew it was a sure
three-bagger. Could he stretch it into a homer?

He rounded second and kept on toward third. How he ran! The wind
whistled in his ears. The stands were a blur of shouting figures who had
risen to their feet and were yelling like maniacs.

He touched third and saw out of the corner of his eye that the right
fielder had got the ball and was steadying himself for the throw. It was
to be a race between him and the ball. Then he straightened himself out
for home, and now indeed his feet had wings.

On and on he went like an arrow. But the ball was coming, too. He knew
it by the way the catcher threw aside his mask and settled himself for
the catch. He knew it by the frantic yells of his comrades urging him
on.

Twenty feet from the bag he launched himself into the air and slid into
the plate in a cloud of dust. At the same instant he heard the thud of
the ball in the catcher’s glove. But the ball was a fraction of a second
too late.

“Safe!” cried the umpire, and Bobby rose to his feet, panting but
smiling, to have what little breath was left knocked out of him by the
hugging and mauling of his exulting mates.

Shiner had preceded him to the plate. The next batter struck out, and
the score was now 5 to 3 in favor of Rockledge.

And there it remained, for Bobby simply refused to be cheated out of the
victory and fanned the Belden boys in a row as fast as they came to the
plate.

Then when the last batsman had thrown down the stick in disgust, the
rejoicing Rockledge crowds surged down over the field and despite
Bobby’s laughing protestations hoisted him on their shoulders and
carried him about the field, dancing and yelling until their throats
were hoarse.

“You were the whole cheese, Bobby,” declared Fred with his usual lack of
elegance of speech.

“You had the Indian sign on them,” chortled Pee Wee.

“You tamed them good and proper,” jubilated Mouser.

“Where, oh, where is Belden now?” chanted Billy.

“Don’t forget that they played a good game,” put in Bobby generously.

“Sure they did,” agreed Pee Wee. “But we played a better.”

Dr. Raymond, who was feeling almost as delighted as the boys themselves,
congratulated the team heartily, reserving especially warm praise for
Bobby.

Mr. Carrier, too, took both of Bobby’s hands in his.

“You played wonderful ball to-day, Blake,” he said. “It was the hardest
fight we’ve had yet, but you came through it nobly. You kept your nerve
in situations that would have tested a veteran, and we’re all proud of
you.”

“I’m afraid you make too much of it, Mr. Carrier,” replied Bobby. “The
main thing is that the pennant is safe for another year at Rockledge
School.”



                               CHAPTER VI

                             CIRCUS THRILLS


There was a great celebration on the Rockledge campus that night in
honor of the victory. Rules were relaxed and the boys were allowed to do
just about as they chose. A great heap of boxes and barrels had been
piled up to a height of a dozen feet or more, saturated with oil and set
on fire, while the jubilant Rockledge boys did a snake dance around the
blazing pile. Even Pee Wee danced, and when that animated mountain so
far forgot his natural laziness as to indulge in dancing it was positive
proof that the occasion was worth it.

Bobby had been accorded the honor of setting the torch to the pile in
recognition of the part he had played in the winning of the pennant, but
when in addition he was called on for a speech he, blushing furiously,
took refuge behind his comrades, and Billy, who had no scruples against
being in the limelight, took his place and regaled the crowd with some
of his choicest jokes.

It was late when the flames at last died down and the tired but happy
boys agreed to call it a day and sought the beds that beckoned them.

The baseball game had practically marked the ending of the school term,
though one or two of the final examinations still remained. These,
however, had no terror for Bobby and Fred, who came through them with
flying colors. Then nothing remained but to pack up and make ready for
home and the long glorious summer vacation to which they had been
looking forward for so long.

It was a hilarious crowd that finally bade farewell to Rockledge School.
Skeets, Shiner, Mouser and Billy were to accompany Bobby and Fred for a
part of the way, though the first two were to separate from their
comrades at a junction a little way down the line.

If a dark shadow, dangerous and menacing, was hanging over some of the
party, they were blissfully unconscious of it. Life ran strong in their
veins and the future seemed to be made up of sunshine and roses. They
laughed, wrestled and frolicked, as full of vim and spirit as so many
young colts turned out to pasture.

Almost before they knew it, the junction was reached and they got off on
the platform. The train that Skeets and Shiner were to take was already
waiting, and they had barely time to scramble aboard with shouted
farewells to their comrades.

When Fred and Bobby consulted the station agent they learned that there
had been a change in the schedule and that the train they had expected
to take had left an hour before. There would not be another one on that
branch until nearly dark. This was somewhat disconcerting, as they had
counted on being home in time for supper and now found themselves faced
by the prospect of having to spend the long summer afternoon at this
forlorn little junction, where there was absolutely nothing that
promised amusement.

As they came out of the station to impart this information to their
friends, they found Mouser and Billy standing spellbound before some
gorgeous circus posters that had been plastered on the side of an old
barn at the far end of the platform.

There was the usual “unparalleled aggregation of matchless, magnificent
marvels, gathered together at vast expense from all quarters of the
habitable globe,” the wonderful trapezists and acrobats in their
“stupendous, death-defying leaps,” the “peerless queen of bareback
riders on her milk-white Arabian steed,” the glorious procession of
daring knights and fair ladies in the tournament of love and beauty and
all the other features that maintain their thrall and witchery for the
young.

Though duly impressed by these spectacular features, the boys had seen
similar ones before. What especially fastened their attention was the
picture of an Eskimo chief with his trained walrus. This was a novelty,
and as such had a special and instant appeal.

“Gee!” said Billy wistfully, “how I wish we could see them. This is the
same circus I was telling you fellows about a few days ago.”

“Where is it showing?” asked Bobby, as a thought struck him.

“Bayport,” replied Fred, reading from the bottom of the poster. “They’re
to be in that town to-day. Where is Bayport?”

Bobby rushed into the station.

“Can you tell me where Bayport is?” he asked the station agent.

“Sure,” replied the latter. “It’s about fifteen miles from here on a
branch line. Want to go there? A train will be along in about fifteen
minutes.”

“If we go there, can we get back this afternoon in time for the Clinton
train?” Bobby inquired.

“That depends on how long you want to stay there,” the agent answered.
“There’s a train leaves there about five that would bring you back here
in plenty of time.”

Bobby thought for a moment. The circus performance began at two. It
would probably be over by half past four. That would give them plenty of
time to catch the five o’clock train back.

He ran out to his friends.

“Say, fellows,” he shouted, “what do you say to taking in the circus?
I’ve just found out that we can go there and get back in time for our
train.”

What did they say? They fairly jumped at the proposal.

In a few minutes the train came along, and after having left their
suitcases in the charge of the good-hearted station agent they piled on
board, helter-skelter, and were off.

It took only about half an hour to reach their destination. They were
surprised to find that Bayport was a large shipping town. A multitude of
vessels of all sizes and descriptions were in the harbor, and the wharfs
were piled high with merchandise. It was a scene of busy life and
bustle, and the boys would have lingered to watch it had it not been for
the much greater fascination of the circus. Two o’clock was fast
approaching, and they hurried along so as to be in time for good seats.
Besides, they wanted to take in some of the side shows if possible
before the main performance began.

They heard the music of the band before they came in sight of the
grounds, and it still further stimulated their eagerness.

They turned a corner and there before them were the white circus tents
with a crowd already wandering about the grounds, the sideshows with the
bearded lady, the snake-charmer, the ossified man, the human-pincushion,
the fat woman, the midgets, the strong man and other freaks, the array
of elephants trumpeting and tossing their trunks, the small boys
carrying water for the animals and thus earning free admission to the
show, the peanut and lemonade booths, all pervaded by the unforgettable,
pungent smell inseparable from the city of tents.

They were walking about and taking in all the sights with the keenest
interest when Bobby put his hand suddenly on Fred’s arm.

“Look at those two fellows over there,” he cried, indicating a spot near
the ticket taker’s wagon.

Fred looked in that direction, but the crowd was constantly changing and
he saw nothing that explained Bobby’s exclamation.

“What is it?” he asked in wonderment.

“I thought I saw a couple of the bullies that we drove away from Dr.
Raymond’s apple tree,” replied Bobby, straining his eyes as he searched
the crowd.

“It might have been only a resemblance,” suggested Fred.

“Perhaps,” said Bobby dubiously. “But I was certain that one of them was
that Lemming, the leader of the gang. And the other looked like the
fellow that I doubled up with the baseball.”

“Well, even if it was, that wouldn’t be so surprising” rejoined Fred.
“This circus is drawing people from towns for many miles around and
those fellows are as likely to come as any one else. Do you think they
saw you?”

“They weren’t looking our way when I caught sight of them,” answered
Bobby. “As you say, it might have been only a resemblance. And, anyway,
they couldn’t put anything over on us in such a crowd as this.”

And in the multitude of things to see and hear the incident passed
entirely out of his mind.

“I say, fellows,” exclaimed Billy, “I’ll bet that fellow standing over
there is the Eskimo chief, the one they call Takyak on the circus
poster. He looks just like the pictures of the Eskimos I’ve seen.”

The man in question was a stocky Eskimo with the broad flat features
that proclaimed his race. He was standing rather moodily in the shadow
of one of the tents with a distant look in his eyes as though his
thoughts were far away.

He glanced carelessly at the boys as they drew near him, and then
something about them seemed to awaken his liking, for his face took on a
friendly smile.

They smiled in answer, and in response to a question that Bobby rather
timidly addressed to him he surprised them by answering in English. It
was broken and imperfect but easily understandable. They learned
afterward that he had picked it up from the traders who came to his
country for seals and fur, and of course his trip with the circus had
added considerably to his knowledge of the language.

The boys’ evident interest seemed to please him and he unbent a good
deal from the habitual reticence common with his people. They learned
from him that he was homesick and longing to be back in his native land.

“Too hot here,” he told them among other things. “Want snow. Plenty ice
up Baffin Land. Ice houses. Everything ice. That good for Eskimo.”

“Ice and snow,” murmured Fred. “I wonder—”

“Look out!” suddenly yelled Bobby. And then he made a quick move toward
the Eskimo and pushed him back.

Bobby had seen a tent pole swaying. Some guy ropes had broken and the
big pole was coming down directly where the Eskimo stood. It struck the
ground with a thud, missing Chief Takyak by a few inches.

“Great Caesar!” cried Billy. “Look at that, will you!”

“A close call for Takyak,” remarked Fred.

Some circus men came running forward, to ascertain if anybody had been
hurt, and to hoist the pole into place again. The Eskimo chief was
startled but speedily regained his composure.

“Boy push me just in time,” he said, with a queer little smile. “No push
out of way, big pole maybe kill old Takyak.”

“I’m glad I saw it coming,” answered Bobby. He was a good deal upset
himself—indeed they all were. They moved to another spot and the old
Eskimo put his hand on Bobby’s shoulder.

“Takyak thank you,” he said simply, and his manner showed that he was
deeply grateful.

“Oh, that’s all right,” answered Bobby, not knowing what else to say.

Now the boys felt better acquainted with the old chief and began to ask
him a number of questions.

When they asked him why he stayed in this country if he wanted so much
to go back to his own his brow clouded.

“Must stay,” he said. “Circus man give me money—make contract. He tell
me no go home. But I no want money. Heaps of money up North—yellow
money—gold. Old ship there. Men drown. Plenty m——”

But here he seemed to think he was talking too much and drew back into
his shell.

“Must go now,” he muttered, and vanished behind the curtain of the tent.

The boys gazed after the Eskimo in wonder.

“Gee, did you hear what he said?” declared Fred. “Heaps of money up
North. What did he mean?”

“I give up,” answered Bobby. “But come on. We came here to see the
show.”



                              CHAPTER VII

                             A SUDDEN SHOCK


The billboards advertising this particular circus had not been of a very
modest or retiring description, but for once the show almost came up to
the lurid praises sung so enthusiastically by the press agent.

There was not such a wide variety of acts as the biggest circuses
present, but all the acts there were seemed to be of the best quality.
The acrobats performed marvelously on their dizzy, swinging trapezes,
the clowns evoked the usual laughter, and the trained animal acts were
good. Among the cleverest of these was the act of the old Eskimo with
his trained walrus. This animal seemed gifted with almost human
intelligence. It balanced itself on rolling barrels, juggled canes, and
went through the whole performance as though it thoroughly enjoyed the
doing of it, which it probably did. After each successful trick the old
Eskimo would throw the walrus a small fish, which it would catch in
mid-air and swallow in one gulp, and then go on to the next act with
renewed enthusiasm.

When the act was over the audience applauded vigorously as the walrus
flopped in its clumsy way back into its cage.

“Gee,” laughed Bobby, “one of those fellows would make a fine pet, if
only he were a little more lively on his feet. I’ll bet you could teach
him to do almost anything.”

“He seems to have a lot more brains than some people I know,” observed
Billy Bassett. “I’m not naming any names, of course, but if that remark
happens to apply to any of you fellows, I can’t help that.”

“Well, it’s pretty certain that walrus never tried to make up a joke in
his life, and that proves that he’s got more sense than you,” retorted
Bobby.

“That’s a true word, Bobby,” observed Fred, grinning, while Billy cast
desperately about for a suitable retort. “Give me a walrus rather than a
jokesmith any day in the year.”

“Yes, the walrus seems so intelligent,” said Bobby wickedly.

“Say, lay off, you fellows,” said Billy. “I was just thinking up a fine
joke about a walrus when you started in with that nonsense and drove it
out of my head.”

“And a good thing we did,” said Fred. “Every joke you forget is just
that much gained for us. But now keep quiet and look at the show. Those
clowns are working off some jokes that are the real thing, not mere
amateur attempts.”

“Aw, I could think up better ones any day,” scoffed Billy. “Those
fellows are nothing wonderful.”

“Yes, I’ll bet you’d make a first-class clown,” conceded Fred, with a
wink at Bobby. “You seem to be specially fitted for that job, some way.”

“Just wait until we get outside,” threatened Billy. “I’ll bribe the
keeper to feed you to the lions, see if I don’t.”

“Huh! Lions don’t bother me,” boasted Fred. “If they put me in the same
cage with the lions, you’d see a wild mix-up for a few minutes, and then
the poor beasts would come shooting out through the bars looking for
some place of safety. There’s nothing I like better than throwing lions
around.”

“It isn’t right to treat the poor animals that way,” said Bobby,
pretending to take his friend seriously. “It’s much better to treat them
kindly—pat them on the head and speak soothing words to them. That’s the
way I do when I’m training wild tigers just out of the jungle.”

“Humph!” snorted Fred, with pretended contempt, and there the matter
dropped.

All followed intently the further progress of the performance. At the
last came the exciting chariot race, and the show was over.

The boys filed out with the crowd, and made the round of the stands and
booths that were scattered about the circus lot. Pink lemonade and hot
peanuts were to be had in riotous abundance, and they indulged in both
these luxuries. Billy suggested that now would be a good time for his
friends to exhibit their prowess with the lions and tigers, but as they
were strangely reluctant, this project was dropped, but not without a
few sarcastic remarks from Billy.

“Why, say, Billy, you know well enough we haven’t time for fooling
around just now,” expostulated Fred. “We’ve got to get a train pretty
soon, and here you are pestering us to go in and rough up a few poor
animals that can’t help themselves.”

“That’s right,” said Bobby, in a tone of gentle reproof. “You ought to
know better, Billy. Besides, the management wouldn’t stand for it,
anyway. Those animals cost them a lot of money, and they wouldn’t like
to have to buy new ones.”

“Huh! the management wouldn’t mind,” snorted Billy. “It would save them
buying supper for the animals this evening. But you fellows are better
at thinking up excuses than I am at thinking up jokes, so I suppose
there’s no use talking to you any further.”

“Not a bit,” Bobby assured him cheerfully. “But speaking of Eskimos,
isn’t that the old chief himself over there?”

The others followed the direction of his nod, and sure enough, there was
Chief Takyak talking with a heavy, red-faced person, who carried himself
like one who followed the sea for a livelihood.

The two were talking earnestly together, and as the boys watched them
the seaman drew a notebook from his breast pocket and jotted down
something in it. Then he and the old chief shook hands. The latter
started for his tent while the seaman went off with the rolling stride
that comes of walking on the heaving decks of ships.

“Wonder what they were talking about?” speculated Bobby.

“Maybe it had something to do with that ‘fortune’ that old Takyak hinted
about to us,” replied Fred. “Maybe there’s something in it, after all.”

“Possibly,” said Bobby, seriously. “But we haven’t much time to talk
about it right now. Our train is scheduled to leave in about half an
hour, and I vote we get to the station as soon as we can. It’s better to
wait a few minutes than to lose the train.”

The others agreed to this, and they set off at a rapid pace. They had
not gone far when they turned at the sound of running feet behind them
and a breathless small boy came panting up to them.

“Well, young fellow, what seems to be your trouble?” asked Fred. “You
look as though you were in a hurry.”

“So I am,” said the youngster aggrievedly. “Youse fellers walk so fast I
has to run my legs off to catch youse.”

“But what did you want to catch us for?” queried Bobby.

“Dere’s some friends o’ yours wants to speak wid youse,” said the
urchin. “They told me to ast youse to visit dem.”

“Friends!” repeated Bobby, perplexed. “I’m sure I don’t know anybody in
Bayport. Have any of you fellows got any friends or relatives in this
town?”

None had, and they gazed questioningly at one another and then tried to
elicit further information from the boy. But he could do little to
enlighten them, and they decided to investigate.

“Lead on, kid, show us the way and be quick about it,” said Bobby, and
they all followed in the wake of their small guide. He led them several
blocks, then up a narrow street and around an abrupt corner into an
alleyway. The boys’ mystification was suddenly dispelled, for from a
doorway stepped Hen Lemming, followed by the members of his gang!



                              CHAPTER VIII

                           AGAINST HEAVY ODDS


The face of the bully wore an ugly scowl, and Bobby and his friends
realized that they were in for trouble. However, it was not of their
seeking, and there was no way out except flight, which did not even
occur to them.

“You fellers are certainly easy,” sneered Lemming. “You came to make us
a nice little visit, didn’t you? Well, now that you’re here, we’ll try
to give you the kind of welcome you deserve after chasing us away from
Doc Raymond’s apple tree.”

“That was your own fault, and there’s no use holding a grudge against us
for it,” answered Bobby.

“Don’t argue with him, Hen,” growled one ugly-looking member of the
gang. “Let’s give ’em the lickin’ that’s comin’ to them, an’ git it over
with.”

“If it comes to lickings, maybe it will be the other way around,” said
Fred, his quick temper rapidly rising to the boiling point. “It’s a poor
game that two can’t play at.”

The bullies made no answer to this, but began to close in on the boys.
Opposing the toughs were Bobby, Fred, Mouser, and Billy. They were
outnumbered by Hen’s gang, which consisted of four besides himself. They
were so much larger and heavier than the boys they confronted that they
seemed to think they had “soft pickings” ahead of them.

But in this they reckoned without their host. The boys’ blood was up,
and even in a hopeless battle they were not going to be beaten without a
struggle. The bullies made a concerted rush at Bobby and his friends,
and by mere weight made them give ground for a moment. But they were
right back at their foes and struck out gallantly with all their force.
They were strong and athletic for their age, and the school sports had
kept them in fine condition, while the bullies, though older, were soft
and dissipated. Bobby lashed out and caught Lemming with a well-directed
punch in the jaw while the other boys fought like young wildcats.

The fight waxed fast and furious in the narrow alleyway. Mouser was
knocked down, but Bobby and Fred stood over him and beat his assailants
off until their comrade could struggle to his feet.

Fierce wrath was in the hearts of the trapped boys and the light of
battle gleamed in their eyes.

Their unexpectedly strong resistance daunted the gang opposed to them,
and there was still a chance that the boys might win when three other
toughs dashed out of the hallway and joined the gang. This accession of
force was too much, and Bobby and his chums were overborne. Then their
hands were tied and they were carried into one of the mean and
dirty-looking houses.

Once inside the house the bullies went through their pockets and took
their money, watches and everything else of value. The rascals then
withdrew to one corner of the room and held a lengthy whispered
conversation which the boys could not hear. It was not hard to deduce
that they were the subjects of the discussion, however, and the boys
waited with what patience they could muster for the next move.

Nor had they long to wait. The conference in the corner came to an end,
and Hen Lemming approached them.

“You fellers will be sorry that you ever interfered with me before I get
through with you,” he blustered. “It will be a long time before you get
back home. I’ll show you that it doesn’t pay to butt in on my affairs.”

“We don’t ask any pay; it’s a pleasure,” said Billy, with an attempt at
a grin, but Hen’s scowl only grew deeper.

“You’ll be laughing out of the other side of your face pretty soon,” he
threatened. “Take them down to the cellar, boys, and be sure you lock
the door after you when you come up. I don’t want to take any chances of
their getting away.”

Resistance in their present predicament was out of the question, and the
four boys were hustled down a dark flight of steps and into a damp and
moldy cellar, without a ray of light in it except the few feeble gleams
that percolated down from the door at the top of the stairs. Even this
was soon shut off, and they heard the door slam and the sound of a key
being turned in the lock.

Bobby was the first to speak.

“We seem to be out of luck, fellows,” he said, with an extremely rueful
laugh. “I never thought that big bully would ever get the best of us,
but it looks as though he had at last.”

“It’s his turn now, all right, but ours will come,” said Fred. “I wonder
if there isn’t any way out of this black hole.”

“You wouldn’t be able to see it, if there were,” said Bobby. “Let’s feel
around the walls and see if we can discover anything.”

This they did, but without success. The damp walls seemed unbroken by
any opening save that place where the stairs led down from the floor
above. Time and again they felt painstakingly about the clammy place,
but the last trip was no more profitable than the first.

“I guess we’re up against it,” said Mouser, at last. “About the only
thing left to do is sit down and wait for the next move on the part of
the jailers. They’ve got us dead to rights, and I suppose there’s no use
squealing.”

“Not a bit in the world,” agreed Bobby. “Likely enough they’re only
trying to scare us, anyway. Maybe when they think we’ve been down here
long enough, they’ll let us go.”

“Well, I’d like to get a wallop or two at Lemming before I go,” remarked
Fred, grimly. “That was a beaut that you handed him at the beginning of
the scrimmage, Bobby.”

“I landed him the best I knew how, anyway,” acknowledged his friend. “I
guess he knew something had hit him.”

The boys did their best to keep up their spirits and remain cheerful,
but as the hours dragged themselves along and no sound came from their
captors, their misgivings grew stronger and stronger. What had Hen
Lemming meant when he had said that it would be a long time before they
saw home again? Was this mere idle talk on the part of the bully, or was
there a sinister intention behind it? These and many other speculations
occupied their minds in the endless hours that they spent in the moldy
cellar, and it was with sensations of relief that they at last heard the
key grate in the lock at the head of the stairs.

“Come up here one by one, you fellows, and be quick about it,” ordered
the harsh voice of the leader of the bullies, and the boys had no choice
but to obey.

Bobby was the first to ascend the stairs, and as he reached the top he
was seized, a gag thrust into his mouth, and something smothering and
muffling descended over his head. He struggled fiercely, but he had no
chance against the superior numbers of his captors. A heavy sack was
drawn down over his head and shoulders until it reached his feet, and
then the open end was gathered together and he found himself as helpless
as a prisoner well could be. What had happened to his companions he did
not know, and was almost afraid to imagine.

He was dropped none too gently to the floor, where he lay for quite a
while. He could hear his captors moving about the room and talking in
low voices, but could not make out what was said. After a long time he
heard the voice of Lemming, apparently giving some order, and shortly
afterward he was lifted to the shoulders of two of the gang. These men
descended a different flight of steps from those leading into the cellar
where the boys had originally been confined, and near the bottom they
set Bobby down and seemed to be fumbling with something.

In reality, one of them was undoing a padlock that secured a door set
into a stone wall, and after considerable difficulty he yanked the door
open and the two men picked up their helpless burden again and proceeded
through a narrow and damp tunnel. The passage was scarcely five feet
high, and many times Bobby was bumped and scraped against the roof as
the two men carried him along.

At length the narrow passage broadened out, and they set Bobby down with
grunts of relief. After resting a few minutes they carried him up a
slippery ladder to an old wharf. Alongside this floated a small rowboat,
and into this Bobby was thrown in no gentle manner. Then each of the two
men picked up a pair of oars, and Bobby could hear the regular beat of
the oars in the rowlocks and the lap and murmur of water under the
boards on which he lay.



                               CHAPTER IX

                              SHANGHAIED!


The two men rowed steadily for ten or fifteen minutes, conversing at
intervals in a conversation plentifully besprinkled with rude jests. At
the end of that time the rowing suddenly ceased, and the steady ripple
of water at the bow died down until Bobby knew that they must just be
drifting. Whatever was in store for him, he hoped it would come soon and
end the nerve-racking suspense.

The men soon resorted to their oars once more, but this time they rowed
very slowly and cautiously, stopping at frequent intervals. They were
approaching a big schooner lying at anchor in the bay, and as they
neared it Bobby could hear the rattle of cranes and winches and the
puffing of donkey engines.

For a long time the rowboat in which he lay remained stationary, but
then, at a word from one of the two men, it moved forward under the
impulse of the oars, and shortly afterward Bobby felt a bump as the bow
struck against something.

A moment later he was seized and thrown on top of a heap of boxes and
bags. “Guess that’ll fix him,” said one of the men. “And we’ll square up
with Cap Garrish for his meanness. Now let’s get away from here before
anybody gets wise to us,” and Bobby could hear the rapid beat of oars
going away from him.

He did his best to struggle and cry out, but he had been so securely
bound and gagged that he could hardly move and found it absolutely
impossible to make any outcry. He was still endeavoring to free himself
when he suddenly felt himself lifted bodily into the air, together with
the boxes and bags on which the two ruffians had landed him. He was
lifted rapidly upward, there was a rattle of blocks and the creak of
cables, and he felt a sinking sensation as he was dropped swiftly
downward. This lasted only a second or two, and then he brought up with
a crash as bags and boxes tumbled all about him.

Though Bobby himself could not know just what was taking place, the
schooner was loading from a lighter floating alongside, taking the cargo
aboard in a net made of ropes, which with its contents was lifted by a
crane and swung into the hold. When it landed the net was unfastened and
the contents dumped out into the hold. The two rascals had watched their
chance, and when the derrick was momentarily idle they had thrown Bobby
into the net where, wrapped in the sack, he looked like any article of
cargo.

When the winch resumed operations he was swung over into the ship’s
hold, where it was only by a miracle that he escaped death or serious
injury from the heavy bags and boxes that rolled all about him.
Fortunately, the ship was almost through loading, and Bobby had not been
in the hold very long before the rattle of the winch ceased, the hatches
were clamped down, and momentary silence reigned in the dark hold.
Evidently the trimming of this portion of the cargo was to take place
later.

The air was hot and close, with a strong flavor of bilge water, and
Bobby knew that if he did not soon get out of the stifling sack he would
suffocate. He worked desperately at his bonds, straining every muscle in
an effort to win freedom. For an hour he struggled sturdily, until he
could feel a little looseness in the rope that bound his hands together.
Little by little he wormed his hand out, bruising and lacerating it in
the process, but caring nothing for that if he could only succeed.

At last with a desperate effort Bobby got his right hand clear, and then
the rest was comparatively easy. He tore away the gag that was slowly
stifling the life out of him, and then tore at the sack until he had
made a rent in it. He got his feet free, and at last wriggled out of the
sack, exhausted by his strenuous efforts, but with the will to live
strong within him.

Then he had time to wonder what had become of his companions. Had they
by any chance been brought to this same place? As the thought struck him
he shouted their names. He thought he heard a muffled answer at the
other side of the hold. He groped his way along toward the sound,
stumbling over innumerable articles that encumbered the place, but
getting steadily nearer the muffled voice that he was sure must belong
to one of his friends. He would have given anything he possessed for a
light, but the darkness was absolute. At length, however, he located the
sound, and after feeling around discovered a sack that moved and gave
forth sounds of protest when he stumbled over it. In a twinkling he had
ripped it open, and with a joyful heart found good old Ginger within. It
did not take long to free Fred of his bonds, and the two slapped each
other joyously on the back in the relief at finding each other still
alive, even though they were in desperate straits.

“There’s Mouser and Billy still to be accounted for, though,” said
Bobby. “They’re probably in this place somewhere, but I haven’t heard
anybody but you since I’ve been here.”

“You wouldn’t have heard me either, if I hadn’t managed to get that gag
out of my mouth,” said Fred. “I only hope I get hold of the bunch that’s
responsible for putting it there,” he added, and there was a grim
determination in his voice that boded ill for Hen Lemming and his
friends.

The two friends set about hunting for the others, but in that black hold
it seemed an almost hopeless undertaking. But as it turned out, their
aid was not needed, for before they had been hunting very long both
Billy and Mouser succeeded in freeing themselves, and, guided by each
other’s voices, the four friends came together.

“We’re in a fine pickle still, but just the same we’re all alive and no
bones broken, and that’s half the battle,” said Bobby. “I’m not just
sure where we are, but I think I have a pretty good idea.”

“That’s more than I have,” said Billy.

“I think we’re on board a ship,” went on Bobby. “If we are, it’s up to
us to get off again as soon as possible. It may be bound for China for
all we know, and I don’t hanker after taking any voyage like that
without our folks knowing anything about it. They’ll think we’ve been
killed when we don’t show up.”

“That’s right,” agreed Fred, gravely. “I agree with you that we ought to
get ashore, Bobby. But have you any idea how we’re going to do it?”

“Our only chance seems to be to set up a big enough racket to draw
attention,” replied Bobby. “I don’t believe the crew know anything about
our being here, and if we can once make our presence known we’ll
probably be sent ashore soon enough. Let’s bang on the walls and yell
and see if that gets any results.”

They did both these things, but to all appearances they might as well
have saved themselves the trouble. No answering sound came to show that
they were heard, and in the midst of their efforts a new thing happened.
A slow shudder ran through the ship, it trembled and vibrated, and then
a rhythmic pulse began beating somewhere in the huge fabric.

The boys ceased their shouting and hammering, as the meaning of this
sank in upon them. Under the power of the auxiliary engine the ship was
moving, and they, prisoners on board, were being taken to a destination
that for all they knew, might be on the other side of the world!



                               CHAPTER X

                             IN THE DEPTHS


Billy was the first to break the portentous silence. “We don’t know
where we’re going, but we’re on our way,” he chanted lugubriously. “It
looks to me as though we are in a regular mess.”

“It’s wonderful the way you catch on to things right away without any
one having to tell you,” said Fred sarcastically. “How in the world did
you ever find it out, Billy?”

“You fellows had better cut out the humor and set your wits to work at
some plan to get us out of this,” said Bobby, impatiently. “We’ve got to
attract attention some way, there’s no two ways about it.”

They shouted and hammered at the bulkheads until both their throats and
muscles were sore, but with no better success than before. They realized
the futility of the attempt after a time and held a council.

“We’re here, and so we might as well make the best of it,” observed
Bobby. “There’s no telling when we’ll be discovered here—possibly not
until the ship makes port. The first thing to do is to try to find
something among all this mess of cargo that’s fit to eat. I don’t know
about you fellows, but I feel as though a little grub might not go so
bad.”

“I guess we all feel that way,” said Fred. “Even if there’s food in this
place, though, it’s going to be an awfully hard thing to find it in such
black darkness.”

“Darkness or no darkness, we’ll get it if it’s here,” replied Bobby,
grimly. “Feel around and see if you can find anything that will break
these boxes open. We’ll just have to keep at it until we do find some
grub.”

The boys stumbled about in the pitchy darkness, but for a long time
could not find a suitable tool. At length Mouser succeeded in
discovering a loose top on a crate, and by all pulling together they
managed to pry this loose. This gave them a lever with which they could
lift the covers off other crates, and soon they were busily at work,
although the pitch darkness and close air of the hold were great
handicaps. The first two crates they opened yielded nothing that would
be of service to them, but the third one proved more valuable.

“There’s cans of something in this one!” cried Fred, excitedly. “I only
hope there’s something inside that’s fit to eat.”

“More likely it’s filled with white lead,” said Mouser, pessimistically.

“It doesn’t feel quite heavy enough for that,” replied Fred. “But now
the question is, how are we going to get them open? Those crooks didn’t
even leave me my jackknife, worse luck to them.”

“There’s some big nails in the cover of one of these crates,” said
Bobby. “I’m going to have a try at the can with that,” and he forthwith
fell to work with an energy that was ably assisted by a growing
appetite. In a short time he had hacked an edge of the cover loose, and
then gave a whoop of delight.

“It’s corn, fellows, or I don’t know anything,” he shouted. “Dig out a
can apiece and go to it.”

They all “went to it” with a will, and they were soon eating their fill.
Never had corn tasted so good before, and they each cleaned out a can
without the least difficulty. There were dozens more in the crate, and
they had little doubt that where there was one box full there would be
others. Further exploration proved this to be the case, and they had
soon unearthed several varieties of foodstuffs, so that they knew they
would not have to fear starvation, no matter how long the voyage proved
to be. They found some cans of tomatoes, which served to relieve their
thirst.

“We seem to be provisioned for a cruise around the world,” remarked
Billy. “If only it wasn’t so confoundedly dark, this wouldn’t be half
bad. I feel like lying down and having a good long nap.”

“I guess nobody will stop you,” said Fred. “There doesn’t seem to be
much else to do, as far as I know.”

Billy stretched himself out in the most comfortable corner he could
find, but sleep was not as easy as he had imagined. The ship was getting
out to sea and was beginning to roll with a long, deliberate motion,
that was most unsettling to a landsman. In addition to this, various
loose boxes began to shift about, and the boys were in imminent danger
of being struck by one of these. In the darkness it was impossible to
dodge, and they had simply to trust to luck to escape injury. Evidently
the ship was sailing in a hurry, before the cargo could be properly
stowed away.

After a while the cargo settled down somewhat, and the danger lessened,
but still there were occasional small landslides whenever the ship gave
an unusually violent roll.

Bobby had been doing some thinking, and now he gave voice to his
conclusions.

“It seems to me there must be an electric light in this place
somewhere,” he said. “Probably there’s a switch somewhere if we could
only find it. I’m going to look for one, anyway, and it wouldn’t do any
harm if you fellows did the same thing, although I hate to disturb
Billy’s beauty sleep.”

“Sleep nothing!” exclaimed Billy. “How do you think I can sleep when
this old tub is skipping around like one of the clowns in the circus?
Anybody that could sleep in this place would have to be pretty tired, it
seems to me.”

“Well, if you can’t sleep, get on the job, then, and try to locate a
switch somewhere,” said Bobby. “The only thing to do is to feel around
the walls and trust to luck that we’ll find one. If we don’t, we won’t
be any worse off.”

The boys started out on their quest, more for the sake of having
something to do than with any idea of actually finding a switch. But
they had hardly started when Mouser gave a cry of triumph, there was a
sharp click, and the place was illuminated by two electric bulbs high up
under the decks. The light was far from bright, but it was infinitely
better than no light, and the boys shouted delightedly at this stroke of
luck.

“Bobby, you’re right there with the inspirations!” exclaimed Fred,
slapping him on the back.

“Try again and see if you can’t think us up on deck. I wouldn’t put it
beyond you.”

“While you’re about it, you might as well think us home and sitting out
on the front porch,” said Billy. “It wouldn’t be so much harder.”

“Maybe if you’d do a little more thinking, I wouldn’t have to do so
much,” said Bobby.

“Thinking!” echoed Billy, in an aggrieved tone.

“Don’t I think up all the jokes for this crowd? If I don’t, who does,
I’d like to know.”

“Oh, well, that’s worse than no thinking,” declared Fred. “That doesn’t
really come under the head of thought at all, as Mr. Carrier would say.”

“What is it, then?” demanded his friend.

“It’s just bum humor, neither more nor less,” retorted Fred. “I’ll leave
it to the others if I’m not right.”

“No, I don’t think you are,” said Mouser, seriously. “I don’t think it’s
humor at all, bum or otherwise. It’s just something that makes me feel
sad, something like having a stomachache, for instance.”

“Oh, you go chase yourself!” exclaimed Billy, disgustedly. “I’m not
going to waste any more time on you ungrateful knockers. Now that we’ve
got light, I’m going to fix myself up a bunk where even this dizzy ship
can’t shake me loose, and then I’m going to sleep until we reach China
and they take the hatches off.”

“Well, pleasant dreams,” said Fred, grinning. “We’ll wake you up in time
to go and tell your troubles to the Chinks.”

“We ought to be able to get our laundry cleaned cheap,” said Billy, with
a feeble attempt at a joke. “Where there are so many Chinamen, the
competition in the laundry business must be fierce.”

“There’s just a bare possibility that we’ll get out of here before we
get that far,” said Bobby. “Don’t give up hope so easily, Billy.”

“Hope and I are strangers just at present,” answered Billy,
lugubriously. “Be sure you have my bawth waiting for me when I wake up,
James.”

“The only bath you’ll get will be if this tub springs a leak, and then
you may get more than you’re looking for,” Fred assured him.

“Well, don’t let me be disturbed, no matter what happens,” said Billy.
“Just take something and mop it up, and don’t bother me about it. Good
night, fellow Argonauts.”

“Oh, go to sleep and don’t call us names,” said Mouser, and Billy obeyed
orders to the letter.

The boys had no means of keeping track of the time, and the hours
followed each other in an endless procession. They had plenty to eat,
but when four days had passed they would have given anything they owned
to be out of that stifling hold and up on the clean, windswept decks.
They had almost given up hope of this, when suddenly there was the sound
of footsteps on the deck far above their heads and the scraping sound of
a hatch being removed.



                               CHAPTER XI

                            A GLEAM OF LIGHT


A broad ray of sunshine came streaming into the hold and the four boys
gave a shout of joy at the sight. Bobby made for the ladder that led up
toward the hatchway, and the others followed close at his heels.

“What in thunder’s going on here? Stowaways, and four of them, or I’ll
be blowed!” exclaimed a hoarse voice, as the boys tumbled out on deck.
“How in the name of all that’s good did you fellows get into that hold?
Ain’t been stowing cargo, have you?”

The voice was that of the second mate, and his astonishment was
ludicrous to behold. Behind him were two or three seamen, who also
regarded the boys in open-mouthed wonder. They had been coming down to
make everything shipshape in the hold.

“We’re not stowaways,” said Bobby, indignantly. “We were shanghaied on
board this ship by a bunch of thugs. You can bet we’re not here because
we want to be!”

“Well, I guess you’d better tell that to the captain and see what he
says about it,” replied the second mate. “I’m thinkin’ he won’t be
particularly overjoyed to see you on board his vessel, but then he’ll
probably be able to find plenty for you to do. We’re short-handed.”

“What he wants us to do and what we do may be different things,”
retorted Fred, his quick temper getting the better of his diplomacy.

The sailors snickered, and the second mate glared at them and then at
Fred. No suitable retort occurring to him, however, he merely grunted
and strode forward until they reached the bridge.

“Here’s a flock of stowaways we found down in the forward hold, Mr.
Garrish,” he said. “They claim that they were shanghaied aboard. But, of
course, that’s what they all say.”

“It’s the truth in this case though,” said Bobby, flushing at this slur
on his honesty. “I wouldn’t say that, if it weren’t true.”

“How did you get aboard!” asked Captain Garrish, and then Bobby gave him
a brief account of how they had been attacked by the bullies and carried
out to the ship. The captain listened attentively, and seemed more
inclined to accept his account than had the second mate.

“If what you tell me is true, I suppose I can’t blame you for it,” he
said, eying them moodily. “But I certainly don’t need four passengers on
this trip.”

“We don’t have to be passengers, exactly,” answered Bobby. “We’ll help
earn our keep in one way or another. But wouldn’t it be possible for you
to put us on board some vessel bound back to the United States? That
would probably suit you better, and it certainly would us.”

“Well, well. I’ll do the best I can,” said the captain. “It was a lucky
thing you found those crates of canned goods in the hold. Probably,
though, you’d all relish a meal of hot food by this time. How about it?”

“We’re not the ones to say no to that,” admitted Bobby, and in a short
time the boys were seated about a table in the cabin and were enjoying
the first hot meal for four days. The cook on that vessel was not noted
for his skill, but the boys thought that never in their lives had they
tasted better food. They cleaned their plates more than once, and won
the whole-souled admiration of the mess boy who waited on them. The
latter was a negro, and prided himself on his own ability to consume
food, but he was forced to admit that the boys were his superiors.

“You white boys sho’ mus’ hold cards in de platter-polishers’ union,” he
declared, with a grin that seemed to split his ebony countenance from
ear to ear. “Doan ’member when Ah ever seen nobody relish dere food so
thorough as you does.”

“Maybe if you’d lived on cold canned tomatoes and corn for a few days,
you’d be able to work up an appetite, Mose,” remarked Billy.

“Ah doan nebber have to work up an appetite, nohow,” declared the darky,
with a grin. “Seems lak it done come natchel to me, somehow. But you
white boys is about two skips an’ a hop ahead o’ me.”

“We’ll slow down after we’ve had a few square meals,” said Bobby. “But
tell me, Mose, where is this ship bound for?”

“Fo’ de No’th Pole,” declared the darky solemnly, with a shake of his
woolly head.

“The North Pole!” echoed Billy, while the others sat agape. “Are you
trying to kid us, Mose?”

“Well, ef it ain’t de No’th Pole it’s some place dat ain’t fur from it,”
declared the negro. “Dis mawnin’ Ah heered de captain say dat we’d be
seein’ de No’the’n Lights pretty soon, an’ Ah reckons dem lights ain’t
fur from de No’th Pole, is dey?”

“Good-night!” exclaimed, Billy, in a comical tone of dismay. “This is
getting worse and worse. I was prepared to learn Chinese, but now it
seems we’re going to pay a visit to the Eskimos, and I haven’t got my
English-Eskimo dictionary with me. I must have left it lying around the
house when I left.”

“Eskimo!” exclaimed the darky. “Dat’s de name ob de feller de captain’s
got aboard wid him. Dat’s his name, sure enough.”

The boys looked at each other, and then Billy gave a laugh.

“That’s a new name on me,” he said. “I guess you mean he’s got _an_
Eskimo with him, don’t you!”

“Mebbe so. Ah ain’t quite shuah. But he’s a strange-lookin’ critter,
anyhow, and furdermo’, it’s a funny kind ob animal he brought aboard wid
him jest befo’ we pulled up de anchor,” said Mose.

“What kind of animal?” asked Bobby, quickly. “It wasn’t a walrus, was
it?”

“Ah cain’t say about dat,” said the other. “Doan know whut is de name ob
de outlandish critter. But jest de same Ah doan like his looks. Floppin’
aroun’ in a tank, wid big teeth an whiskers lak a cat. Ah dares to
goodness, it doan seem as dough de Lord could hab made sech a critter,
deed it don’t.”

But the boys paid little heed to the negro’s outraged sense of
propriety. Many ideas and questions flashed through their minds, and it
did not take them long to reach the same conclusion.

“I’ll bet any money it’s old Chief Takyak and his trained walrus!”
exclaimed Bobby, excitedly, and the others nodded their heads. “What in
the world do you suppose is the big idea?”

“It may be that Takyak’s given up the circus, just as he told us he’d
like to do, and is on his way home to the frozen North,” suggested
Mouser. “I don’t see where there’s anything about it to get you all
excited.”

“Yes, but if your memory is so good, perhaps you can recall that old
Takyak was hinting around about some kind of a treasure when we were
interrupted,” said Bobby. “Do you remember that after the circus we saw
him talking to a man who looked like a sea captain—Say!” he exclaimed,
as another idea struck him. “Haven’t any of you fellows any memory at
all?”

“What do you mean?” asked Billy, in an injured tone. “If I didn’t have a
better memory than you, I’d jump over the side and end my misery.”

But Bobby was too excited to take any notice of this remark.

“The man we saw talking to Takyak that day is Captain Garrish, the
master of this vessel!” he said, and sat back to allow this statement to
soak into the others.

Fred was just about to say something in reply, when the negro, who had
been out to the galley during this conversation, returned, and the boys
kept their own counsel for the rest of the meal. When it was finished
they went up on deck and picked out a quiet corner where they could talk
without being overheard.

“Bobby, I believe you’ve got the right idea,” said Fred, excitedly. “It
looks to me as though we were maybe embarked on a treasure hunt. Maybe
Hen Lemming and his gang did us a favor, after all.”

“It may be so. But still I’ve got to be shown,” said Mouser. “I still
think that you’re getting excited over nothing. Maybe Takyak was just
talking to the captain about taking passage home when we saw them
together on the circus grounds.”

“Huh!” exclaimed Fred, contemptuously. “I suppose you think the captains
of ocean-going ships go round drumming up passengers like the chauffeur
of a sightseeing bus, don’t you? Maybe you think that Takyak got him to
come to the circus to talk over the first cabin accommodations for
walruses!”

“Oh, lay off,” returned Mouser. “Maybe you’re right, but a fellow has a
right to his own opinion, hasn’t he?”

“Not when it’s such a foolish one,” said Fred, but Bobby interposed with
a laugh.

“Possibly Mouser’s right, and we’re wrong,” he said. “We haven’t much to
go on, that’s a fact. Let’s keep our suspicions to ourselves and keep
our eyes and ears open. Maybe we can find out something from Takyak
without letting him know what we’re driving at.”

This seemed about the only thing to do under the circumstances, but, as
it happened, they were enlightened even sooner than they had hoped.



                              CHAPTER XII

                            THE LURE OF GOLD


The boys lost no time in hunting up the old Eskimo chief. He remembered
them immediately and seemed glad to see them. He made the walrus do
tricks for them and talked freely enough of his life and experiences
with the circus. But when the boys approached the subject of
treasure-hunting he became wary at once, and they could extract little
information from him. They were afraid to persist, lest they arouse his
suspicions. This was the last thing in the world they wanted to happen,
for the idea of sunken treasure had now taken possession of their minds,
and if Takyak really knew where any was located, they were full of hope
to get a share of it.

The prospects did not appear very bright, however, and more than once
Mouser took the opportunity to crow over the other three and remind them
that he had “told them so.”

“Such a thing as sunken gold and pieces of eight and all that sort of
thing would never happen to me,” he said one day. “If it rained soup,
I’d be caught out with nothing but a fork. Besides, what would a
treasure ship be doing up around the North Pole? It doesn’t sound
plausible.”

“I don’t suppose any treasure ship ever came very far north on purpose,”
said Fred, sarcastically. “There’s always a chance that it might have
been blown up in a storm, though. Stranger things than that have
happened.”

“Yes, but not often,” retorted his gloomy friend. “I’d give my share in
the loot to be sitting back on the old porch at home, eating real
honest-to-goodness crullers and enjoying life, instead of staggering
around the north Atlantic in this forsaken apology for a ship.”

“Oh, you’ll feel mighty different when you get your pockets full of
nice, chinking, yellow gold,” grinned Bobby. “You won’t wish then that
you hadn’t been let in for this involuntary ocean voyage. Look at the
bright side of it, and maybe you’ll feel less doleful. You go around
looking as though you’d lost your last friend.”

But Bobby was far from feeling as much confidence as he professed to
have. So far they had little to go on save guesswork and the few chance
words of the old Eskimo, which might have been little more than a
product of his imagination. It might be as Mouser said, that the ship
was only going North on a trading cruise, and the old Eskimo, homesick
for his own country, had taken passage because it happened to be the
first vessel that he could get passage on. But if that were the case,
why should the old Eskimo look so suspicious when they mentioned
treasure to him, and refuse to say a word on the subject? And what had
he and Captain Garish talked about so earnestly that day at the circus?

These and many other questions and surmises sufficed to keep him on the
anxious seat. And in addition to this, was the thought of those at home
who would have not the slightest knowledge of what had happened to their
boys and must have given them up for lost by this time.

They had already learned that the schooner was not equipped with
wireless and that they were sailing out of the beaten track of
ocean-going vessels. Occasionally a sail was sighted, but so far away
that signaling was practically out of the question.

“Guess the captain doesn’t want to signal anyway,” said Fred moodily.
“He is short of hands, you know, and we’ll fit in very nicely.”

“And maybe without pay,” added Mouser.

All these things combined to make the boys unhappy, and in spite of many
amusing and exciting happenings on board ship, they could not be said to
enjoy the cruise much.

The weather was uniformly good, and the boys were on deck most of the
time. They struck up an acquaintance with various members of the crew,
and many were the yarns they listened to in the off watches while the
men sat about on hatch covers and coils of rope, mending or scrubbing
their clothes, or perhaps just idly drawing at blackened old pipes. They
had a good deal of fun, too, with Mose, the black mess boy, who was
always in good spirits and who never grew seasick, no matter how rough
the ocean became.

“Ah’s a salty niggah, white boys, an’ dey ain’t no sea ebber rolled dat
could make me sick,” he used to boast. “De on’y thing whut it does to me
is to give me an appetite. Yessuh, Ah nebber eats quite so heartily as
when de old ship is standin’ on her beam ends an’ doin’ her best to dive
down to Davy Jones’ locker. Mos’ times Ah kin do justice to mah meals,
but it’s den dat Ah really comes out strong an’ packs away de victuals.”

He would come from the galley with a load of dishes on each arm,
balancing himself on the heaving deck with all the skill and precision
of a tightrope walker, and for a long time the boys never saw him meet
with an accident.

But one day there was a heavy cross swell running. The ship rolled and
pitched and apparently did everything except actually roll over. By this
time the boys had gotten their sea legs, however, and they were seated
about the table in the cabin, waiting for breakfast. A steep flight of
steps led down to it from the deck, and in due course of time the boys
saw the negro’s ungainly flat feet start down the ladder. On one arm he
carried a big dish of oatmeal and on the other a pile of plates. This
was no more than his usual load, with which he had made the descent many
times before without mishap. But this morning luck was against him. He
had hardly gotten down three steps, when the ship gave an unusually
heavy roll, which suddenly changed to a pitch as the bows slanted
steeply downward.

Mose struggled manfully to keep his balance, but it was of no use. He
felt himself going, but it was impossible for him to catch hold of
anything without dropping the dishes he was carrying. For a few seconds
he gyrated wildly, while the boys held their breath. Then down he came
flat on the deck, while the big dish of oatmeal went flying through the
air and landed against the bulkhead with a crash.

Soft, clinging oatmeal seemed to fill the air for a few seconds, and
everything in the cabin, including the boys, was liberally sprinkled.
The pile of dishes smashed into a thousand fragments, and the havoc
wrought was terrible to see.

At first the boys were afraid that the negro was seriously injured, but
before they could get to him he was on his feet, looking very sheepish
but apparently none the worse for the accident. When the boys saw that
he was not hurt they broke into roars of laughter.

“Wow!” cried Billy, with tears running down his cheeks. “I thought you
were so salty that nothing could ever knock you off your feet, Mose.
Guess you’d better go easy with that stuff after this.”

“De ole boat sho’ slipped one ober on me dat time. But it cain’t nebber
do it no mo,” declared Mose. “Hopes de captain doan come down befo’ Ah
has a chance to clean up dis mess. If he ketches me, dis niggah’ll sho’
be out o’ luck.”

He set desperately to work, and in an incredibly short time had scraped
the oatmeal off the floor and furniture and had the cabin tidied up.
Then he went to get some more food, and this time met with better
success.

Such incidents as this lightened the monotony of the voyage but still
the days seemed very long to the boys, and more than once they longed
for the time when they could get even with Hen Lemming for playing them
such a sorry trick.

They often helped the sailors, but were not considered as regular hands.
They had a long talk with Captain Garrish and promised to pay him well
if he could only put them on some ship bound for home. But so far no
such vessel had come their way.

“That captain’s a queer stick,” said Fred to Bobby, one morning. “And
he’s got something on his mind, too.”

“Well, maybe we’ll find out what it is some day,” replied Bobby.

And he did find out, and the finding out changed the whole course of
Captain Garrish’s conduct toward the Rockledge chums.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                               SUSPICION


Bobby had wandered up into the bow one day and had seated himself on the
deck, with his back resting against a huge coil of rope. The motion of
the vessel had almost lulled him to sleep when he was abruptly brought
back to consciousness by voices near him. They belonged to Captain
Garrish and to Takyak, who were deep in a heated debate.

“You’ve got to give me the map, I tell you!” exclaimed the former, in an
angry voice. “At least, you’ve got to let me look at it and give me a
chance to get my bearings. I’ve steered the course you gave me long
enough in the dark, and now I want proof that I’m not on a wild-goose
chase.”

The Eskimo spoke a broken kind of English that it was almost impossible
for any one not acquainted with him to understand. But Bobby caught the
drift of his garbled talk well enough. He admitted that he had a chart
of some kind, and Bobby made out the words “gold” and “wreck.” But it
seemed that the old fellow did not have any too much confidence in
Captain Garrish, and refused to let him see the map until they were
among his own people. He clung stubbornly to this idea, and all the
captain could say seemed to have no effect on him. At length Captain
Garrish seemed to give up the argument for the time being.

“Well, I suppose there’s no use talking to you any more!” he exclaimed
viciously. “It seems impossible to change that mule’s head of yours, so
I suppose I’ll have to await your convenience. But if you’ve been
deceiving me about this treasure ship, look out for yourself when I find
it out, that’s all.”

Takyak protested vehemently that he was telling the truth, and at length
seemed to convince the captain.

“Well, well, have it your own way,” Captain Garrish exclaimed
impatiently. “I’m going to have a look at that new anchor while I’m
here,” and he brushed past the Eskimo and the next moment had discovered
Bobby.

His face darkened with sudden suspicion and anger, and Bobby leaped to
his feet, believing that the captain was about to attack him.

“Were you spying on us, Bobby Blake?” he inquired in a hard voice. “I
know you were!” he exclaimed, before Bobby could say a word in his own
defense. “How much did you hear? Come now, out with it!”

“Well, I heard about everything you said,” admitted Bobby, with no
attempt to wriggle out of his unpleasant position. “I heard you talking
about some kind of a treasure ship. But that’s no more than Takyak
hinted to us himself a long time ago. I wasn’t spying on you, anyway. I
was dozing here, and your voices woke me up. How could I know that you
two would be talking over a secret in this part of the ship?”

The captain seemed half convinced, but he still regarded Bobby with a
look of sullen suspicion.

“The damage is done, now, and there’s no use crying over it,” he said at
length. “How much of this do your friends suspect?”

“Pretty near the whole thing,” said Bobby, frankly. “Although, of
course, it’s only been guesswork up to now,” he added.

“Well, I don’t want a word of this to get to the crew,” went on the
captain. “If they once got the idea in their heads that we were after
treasure, there’s no telling what they might do. Tell your friends to
keep their own counsel, and see that you do the same. If word of it gets
about, I’ll know where to place the blame.”

“You can be sure we won’t say anything about it,” answered Bobby. “Don’t
forget we’re not on this boat because we want to be. We’d be only too
happy if you’d put us on some homeward-bound vessel.”

“Well, maybe I will,” said Captain Garrish, but in his heart he had now
no such intention. He had meant to before, as he was anxious to have the
boys off his vessel, but now he resolved to keep them aboard at all
costs. If he let them go, they might tell others of the treasure, and he
knew how quickly such news flies about. When Bobby learned the secret,
the last chance that he and his friends had of getting back home
disappeared, although neither he nor they realized it at the time.

The old Eskimo, now that they had learned something of his secret,
became more friendly and even gave them details of the information that
he claimed to possess. He told them that there was a vessel stranded on
the shore of his northland country and that from it his people got gold
for ornaments and for use at the trading stations.

They had no idea of its real value, however, nor had he had until he
ventured into the land of the white man. Here he had come to learn the
immense value of the gold that lay practically useless in his far
northern homeland, and he had conceived the idea of getting up an
expedition and going in search of it.

In some way Takyak had become acquainted with Captain Garrish, and
eventually had interested him in the quest, although he very wisely
refused to give the exact location of the wreck, having a shrewd
suspicion that the captain might help himself to the treasure if he
could. So now they were bound in quest of it.

But of more than of the treasure itself was the old Eskimo in quest of.
He was desirous of seeing his home country once more. To the boys the
barren northland wastes seemed to present little attraction, but with
the Eskimo it was different, and his eyes held a faraway, wistful look
when he spoke in his queer jargon of home and people. From him the boys
learned that the treasure ship was very old and had been lying on the
sand before the memory of the oldest man in the tribe.

The boys became excited as he described the wealth that lay within the
weather-beaten hulk, but even should the expedition be successful, they
saw little chance of obtaining any of the gold for themselves, and their
longing to be home increased day by day. They resolved many wild schemes
of escape in their minds and resolved to be on the lookout for any
opportunity for getting away that might present itself.

This feeling was lashed almost into a passion by the roughness that
Captain Garrish began to manifest toward them soon after he knew that
they possessed his secret. He grew increasingly burly and ugly, and soon
drove them to tasks far beyond their strength. Blows had not come yet,
but there was no telling when they, too, might be added to the burdens
the lads were bearing.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                        THE MIDNIGHT CONFERENCE


The situation grew worse, and it finally reached the place where the
four boys were given almost no chance to talk together. As Captain
Garrish had said, it was true that the ship was desperately short of
hands, and the boys were kept busy day and night—with short intervals
for rest, of course—at unaccustomed tasks that wore blisters on their
hands and severely tested their patience and nerve.

“You boys are too much together—you waste too much time in talking,”
snarled the captain one day. “You’ll keep apart after this.”

He had them separated when they turned in also, giving them berths that
were far apart in the forecastle. Evidently, in his strange way, he was
growing more suspicious of them and of Chief Takyak every day. Possibly
he imagined the chief was telling them more than was desirable
concerning the quest for treasure.

Fred it was who chafed most under the restraint, and Bobby was
continually worried for fear he would do or say something that would
rouse the captain’s slumbering wrath. Their only chance, so thought
Bobby, was, by a show of meekness and docility, to fool the captain into
thinking there was no longer any need for watching them closely.

Then, when the captain’s attention was temporarily elsewhere, they would
make a break for freedom.

It was with this end in view that Bobby finally managed to get a word
alone with Fred. It was about twelve o’clock on a dark and stormy night
when Bobby crept like a shadow along the rail, holding fast to this
support to keep from being thrown to the deck by the swaying, heaving
motion of the ship.

That morning he had whispered to Fred when they happened to pass close
to each other on the deck. At that moment the captain’s back had been
turned to them, although he was in sight.

“Twelve o’clock—port side—near the stern,” was all that Bobby had had
time to whisper, but by a slight nod of his head Fred had shown that he
understood.

That night, when both were supposed to be fast asleep in their hammocks,
they would slip out noiselessly, trusting to luck that no one would see
them and that they might be able to get in a few words together without
discovery.

They must not be discovered. That, each knew without argument. For
discovery would mean that Captain Garrish would be put still more upon
his guard. They would be separated for good, perhaps flung into prison,
perhaps— But Bobby did not think any further than that. He only knew
that they must not be discovered.

So now, silently and cautiously, two figures crept along the deck to
meet at “the stern of the ship, port side.”

Once Bobby thought he saw a darker shadow detach itself from the shadows
about the pilot house, and he stopped still, his heart hammering loudly,
scarcely daring to breathe.

When nothing startling happened, however, he decided he must have been
mistaken and moved on again, more cautiously than before.

Then, still clinging to the rail, he descried another figure coming
toward him, and the height and bulk of it and something in the walk told
him it was Fred.

He was close to it. He reached out his hand and touched another hand. It
was Fred, all right—no mistaking that hearty squeeze.

“We may only have a minute or two before somebody comes along,” said
Bobby hurriedly, forced to raise his voice a little to make it heard
above the roaring of the wind. “So let’s get down to brass tacks.”

“Righto!” agreed Fred, crowding close to him against the rail. “You’ve
got a plan, Bobby! I thought I read it in your eye this morning.”

For the moment, forgetting the danger of their position, Bobby grinned
in the darkness. Same old Fred, he thought, light-hearted even in such
circumstances!

“Listen,” he said quickly. “I haven’t any plan—not yet. But I will have
soon,” he added, as a sound of dismay broke from Fred. “What I wanted to
do was to get word to you and the other fellows that the best thing we
can do just now is to lie low and pretend to be as meek as Moses.
Captain Garrish—”

“Bad luck to him!” growled Fred, and Bobby saw his fist clench on the
rail.

“Is watching us—”

“So I’ve noticed,” again interrupted Fred.

“Say!” came from Bobby impatiently, “if you know what’s good for you,
you’ll let me say what I have to say so that we can get back to our
bunks before somebody smells us out.”

“Oh, all right, all right,” said Fred contritely. “Go ahead, Bobby.”

Bobby wasted no time, but went ahead, glancing about him meanwhile
apprehensively. Any moment he expected to see Captain Garrish walk out
from the shadows and nab them.

“If we can make the captain think we’re harmless,” he said to Fred, “he
may stop watching us so closely and we’ll have our chance. I don’t know
yet how we’re going to manage it, but we’re going to escape from this
old tub somehow! We’ve got to! Our folks must be crazy with fright.”

“All right, I get you,” returned Fred. “You’re afraid my red-headed
temper will start a row somewhere and spoil our chances to get away. But
you needn’t worry, I’ll keep the lid on tight.”

“Fine,” gasped Bobby, as a sudden lunge of the ship picked up a huge
wave and both of them were covered with icy spray. “We’ll have to find
some way to pass the tip on to Billy and Mouser. They’re apt to go off
the handle any time when the captain gets rough.”

“We’ll manage somehow,” said Fred between chattering teeth. “Say, but
that old ocean is getting chilly. Hate to be thrown overboard into that
ice water. Where do you suppose we are, Bobby?”

“Don’t know,” said Bobby, finding that he also was shivering. “Getting
pretty far up north, I guess. Shouldn’t wonder but we’ll run across some
icebergs if we don’t get out of this mess pretty soon.”

“Always wanted to see icebergs,” said Fred.

“Funny I don’t seem to care much about ’em any more.”

“It would be funnier if you did,” retorted Bobby, and then another sharp
twist of the ship threatened their balance and drenched them through
with icy water.

When they had once more regained their footing on the slippery, rolling
deck, Bobby pressed close to Fred, grasping his arm urgently.

“We’ve got to get back now,” he chattered. “But let’s meet the same way
to-morrow night. We’ll try to slip the hint to Billy and Mouser and have
them here, too. If we’ve gotten away with it to-night, we may be able to
again.”

“Righto!” agreed Fred.

“And in the meantime,” added Bobby hurriedly, “we’ll do our best to
think up some way of escape. If we get too far into the Frozen North it
will be mighty hard to get back to civilization. It looks impossible to
get free, with nothing but this water about us, but impossible things
have happened more than once. We’ve got to find a way!”

“I’ve got my thinking cap on,” announced Fred. “We’ll think up some way,
sure enough.” With this they parted, returning as silently as they had
come, and regained the safety of their hammocks without meeting with
accident.

As Bobby, wet clothes and all—he did not dare take them off for fear of
waking the other men—got into the hammock and drew the rough blanket up
over him, he felt strangely happy and elated.

They had succeeded in eluding the captain’s vigilant eye this once,
perhaps they could do it again. At any rate he had enlisted Fred’s help
in his plan of throwing Captain Garrish off his guard, and that was the
first big step toward their escape.

Some day they would give Captain Garrish and his muttering crew the slip
for good and all. If he could only think of a way—if he could only think
of a way—and with the words saying themselves over and over in his mind
he finally fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

It seemed to him that he had not been sleeping five minutes, though in
reality it had been that many hours, when he was roused rudely from his
slumbers and hustled out on deck.

Sleepy-eyed, he stared about him.

It was a gray day; the storm clouds that had pursued them all the day
before had not yet lifted and a fog hung low over the seething water.

Bobby forgot his temporary elation of the night before, when he had
succeeded in talking to Fred. It was all very well to talk of getting
away, he thought, as the coarse rope slipped through his roughened
fingers. Talk was all very well. But how were they going to do it?

His gloomy mood was not lightened any by the fact that Captain Garrish
watched him and the other boys more closely than usual and Bobby even
thought he caught a hint of suspicion in the captain’s hard eyes.

Could it be, thought Bobby, that in some way the skipper had got wind of
that secret meeting the night before? There had seemed to be no one
about, but then, in the darkness of the night, how had it been possible
to make sure of that? The night, especially on shipboard, seems
possessed of a thousand eyes.

Could it be, and the thought made him pause for a moment in his work, at
which the captain barked a rough command at him, that the shadow he had
seen close to the pilot house was no shadow at all, but a man, perhaps
Captain Garrish himself, spying upon him?

He stole a glance at the latter and found the skipper’s fierce eyes
fixed on him with that same suspicious glare. Bobby’s own eyes dropped
to the deck, but his hands clenched angrily.

“I’ll show him—” he thought fiercely, as he fought for a firmer footing
on the slippery deck. “I’ll show him whether he can look at me like that
and get away with it!”



                               CHAPTER XV

                          STEALTHY AS SHADOWS


As the morning wore on, Bobby realized that his fear of discovery by
Captain Garrish was unfounded. The man continued to watch the boys
closely, but if he had known of that secret meeting between him and
Fred, the captain would have done more than watch—of that Bobby was
certain.

This certainty once more served to raise Bobby’s spirits and made him
hope that they might succeed in outwitting the grim old skipper after
all.

He watched Fred and saw that the lad was doing his best to live up to
the promise he had given the night before. Several times, beneath the
gibe of a sailor or a sharp command from the captain, Fred’s face turned
the color of a beet and he opened his mouth to speak. But he closed it
again with a sharp click that showed he remembered his promise just in
the nick of time.

Every time this happened, Bobby felt like clapping his hands. It was a
great thing for Fred to do, he knew, and he was more than ever thankful
for that brief talk the night before.

Once, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Fred mumble something to
Mouser, sidling up to him cautiously in the course of his work, and he
saw Mouser’s quick glance of surprise and interest.

“Good old Fred,” thought Bobby. “He’s wasting no time in passing on the
good word. Now, if we can only manage in some way to put Billy wise, all
may be well. Just a few meetings of the four of us at that secret
rendezvous, and we ought to be able to think up some plan of action.”

But how to pass the word on to Billy—that was the question. How to do it
when Captain Garrish kept an eye on him, Bobby, almost every minute that
he was on deck?

And when the captain himself was not on deck, there was always his
faithful henchman, Rogers, the second mate, to take over the task of
watching him.

“They seem to pick on me especially,” thought Bobby gloomily, after his
third attempt to speak to Billy had met with no success. In fact, this
last effort had been almost disastrous, for Mr. Rogers, the second mate,
had very nearly caught him in the act.

“I don’t know why they should think I need special watching,” Bobby went
on with his thoughts. “I certainly haven’t given them any trouble yet.
Not yet!” he added, with a sudden gleam in his eye. “But soon!”

It would have to be soon, he reflected, as he gazed out over the great
waste of waters. The ocean had begun to take on a glassy look; here and
there a block of half-formed ice slithered sluggishly past them.

Bobby had read enough about the Frozen North, that great stretch of
forbidding country, to know that, even if they did escape into it, they
might be marooned in its ice-covered wastes indefinitely. It might be
months before they could return to their own country. And meantime their
folks would perhaps mourn them as dead.

Lashed on by the harsh voice of Mr. Rogers, Bobby once more fell to work
at his uncongenial tasks.

On the last watch that afternoon when he had just about given up hope of
getting a word with Billy, Bobby’s chance came suddenly and
unexpectedly.

He found himself close to Billy and a quick glance about the deck showed
him that at that moment neither the captain nor Mr. Rogers was on deck.

He leaned over and whispered, his voice hoarse with excitement and
triumph!

“Twelve o’clock, stern, port,” and Billy flashed him a swift look that
showed that he understood. He would have spoken too, but Bobby raised
his hand in a gesture of warning.

“The captain,” he whispered, and then proceeded to put as much of the
deck between him and Billy as he could before the captain’s grim gaze
fastened on him again.

“Well, it’s done,” thought Bobby. “The four of us will meet to-night for
a council of war, even though it be the last one we’ll ever have.”

They must take a chance of discovery. They had come to a point where
desperate measures were necessary if they were to escape at all. They
could never hope to get anywhere unless they took a chance.

If they could only escape that night! Bobby’s face tingled with the hot
blood that rushed to it at the very thought. That night! But how?

There were the longboats. They might manage—the four of them—to get one
free, lower it into the blackness of the night to the restless ocean.
That they might do. But what then?

They had not the slightest idea where they were. They had no compass,
nothing to guide them. And if they had had such an instrument, they
would not know whether to head north, south, east or west, for they had
no knowledge of the direction in which lay the nearest land.

And there was the problem of provisions and warmth. They must eat and
keep warm. They could not set themselves adrift in an unprovisioned boat
without suitable clothing and expect to live.

They might be picked up by some northern-bound steamer, that is true,
but in this latitude and longitude such ships were rare. They could not
afford to trust to luck.

But all during the endless hours Bobby could not drive the thought of
the longboat from his mind. If they could provision it, find out in some
way the location of the nearest shore. But how—how?

And then suddenly the answer was given him in a way that he could never
have anticipated.

There were two Eskimos among the ship’s crew, and although at first the
boys had studied them with natural curiosity, they had soon become
accustomed to these black-haired, black-eyed, round-faced people of the
North.

They were silent men and seldom joined in the wild songs and capering of
the white men of the crew, but their silence was not morose. They seemed
even friendly in a queer way, and Bobby had thought more than once that
he had surprised in their dull, emotionless stare a look of real
interest and sympathy.

This evening as, worn out by the hours of hard toil he had put in, Bobby
was making his way slowly along the spray-washed deck, he was not
altogether surprised to hear himself addressed by one of the Eskimos.

The man spoke guardedly and it was the tone he used, more than what he
said, that startled Bobby.

“Come with me,” said the guttural voice close to his ear. “I have a
message for you.”

In that minute Bobby did some rapid thinking. What if this man were
leading him into some sort of a trap? Nothing, however, could be much
worse than the present state of affairs. And it was barely possible that
the man was friendly—that he would tell him something to his
advantage—perhaps help him to escape.

He nodded and, turning, followed the man down the steep steps of the
companionway.

To his surprise, he was not led aft to the quarters of the men, but
forward in the general direction of the captain’s quarters.

Was it a trap, after all, then? He still had time to turn, to get out of
it. But where could he go on this ship, he thought, where the captain
could not find him and do what he would with him?

All this time they had been making their way swiftly forward, the Eskimo
moving with surprising swiftness, considering his girth.

Once they heard steps coming toward them, and with a guttural
exclamation the Eskimo motioned Bobby into the shadow of a doorway.
There they both waited till the man went by.

The latter was tall and grizzled and there was a scowl on his face as
though he were engrossed in none-too-pleasant thought. He passed so near
that Bobby, by reaching out his hand, might have touched him. With an
audible intake of breath, Bobby recognized the captain.

So his errand was not with the captain, after all.

More puzzled than ever and beginning to feel a tremendous excitement, he
left his hiding place and once more followed the Eskimo.

They came to a door which the Eskimo opened without knocking, and the
latter motioned Bobby into the room. It was a cabin, and rather a
spacious one at that, possessed of all the necessary furnishings.

But only one article of furniture caught Bobby’s eye, and that was the
bed. On the bed reposed a form that lay so still that Bobby at first
thought it was dead. The next moment he saw that he was mistaken.

The Eskimo, going swiftly over to the bed, muttered something and the
quiet figure moved suddenly, struggling to a sitting posture. The Eskimo
put a hand beneath his shoulders, supporting him.

“Come here,” said the man in the bed to Bobby, and then, and only then,
did Bobby recognize the Eskimo chief, Takyak.

As the lad obeyed the summons he was shocked at the change in the man.
He was gray and emaciated and the hand he held out to Bobby shook.

“What’s the matter? What’s happened?” cried Bobby. “You look sick, Chief
Takyak.”

Takyak nodded simply.

“I am dying,” he said.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                            THE SECRET TOKEN


The Eskimo who had led Bobby to the cabin made the sick man as
comfortable as possible with pillows propped behind his back, then, at a
sign from the latter, he turned and left the room.

Chief Takyak motioned Bobby to his side.

“Sit here, on the bed,” he commanded in his queer English. “I want you
close. I have much to say and I must save my strength. I must hurry.” He
said the last words in a chattering whisper and glanced fearfully at the
closed door.

Bobby watched him with a mixture of pity, curiosity and excitement. He
liked the old Eskimo and he also felt sure that it was through no desire
of Takyak’s that he and his friends were treated so harshly on the ship.

“Any minute we may be interrupted,” went on the sick man, pressing a
hand to his side as though suffering intolerably. “And I may die, too,
and take my secret with me. Instead, I hope to give it to you.”

He drew in his breath sharply and Bobby saw a spasm of pain cross his
white face.

“Take your time,” he urged. “If it hurts you to talk—”

“It is nothing,” the man interrupted in a husky voice, feebly waving an
impatient hand. “It is my heart that makes the pain. Soon it will have a
good long rest. It will stop forever. That’s why I must hurry.
Listen”—he leaned closer and Bobby was conscious of a thrill of
excitement as the old man’s face became tense—“you must save the
treasure from the wrecked ship. You must keep it from Captain Garrish.”
He paused, smothered a groan as another spasm of pain swept him.

“The treasure?” repeated Bobby excitedly. “You want me to save the
treasure. But how?”

“Hush, hush. Do not raise your voice. They will hear you.”

The Eskimo was in a panic of fear, and despite his wild excitement and
curiosity Bobby did his best to quiet him.

“Listen quietly. We have no time to lose,” cried Takyak, when he had
become a little calmer. “That captain, that Garrish, has ears in the
back of his head—yes, and in the front too, as well as at the sides.
Hark! What was that?”

There was intense silence in the cabin while they listened, holding
their breath. No sound came, and Bobby finally tiptoed over to the door,
opening it gently.

The corridor was empty. The sick man was overwrought, had imagined he
heard something.

Bobby hurried back to Chief Takyak, who motioned to him impatiently. His
face was of a peculiar ashen hue and when he spoke his breath came in
labored gasps.

“To-morrow,” he whispered, drawing the lad close to him, “at eleven
o’clock, if all goes well, we shall be close to Baffin Land.” Takyak
began to talk in gasps. “Get away—from boat—some way.” He paused and
Bobby waited impatiently, eagerly, his eyes on the ghastly grayish face
of the Eskimo.

The man seemed to struggle a moment with the pain, then, regaining a
little strength, went on feverishly.

“Get provisions, steal longboat some way, turn bow of boat nor-east,
right angles—ship—compass—have compass somewhere.”

He strove to lift himself, and Bobby, with an arm beneath the gaunt
shoulders, helped him while he fumbled beneath his pillow.

He brought it forth triumphantly at last, an old compass, battered as to
case, but in good working order.

“No lose it,” he cautioned, as Bobby slipped the precious instrument
into his pocket.

“Now let me get this straight,” said Bobby quickly, speaking in a low
tone. “You mean that if we boys can manage to get hold of a boat,
provision her, and get clear of the ship at eleven o’clock to-morrow
night, by keeping the bow headed steadily northeast we can reach land?”
The old Eskimo nodded eagerly.

“Yes, yes,” he whispered. “It is not dangerous, except in a storm.”

“Never mind the danger,” answered Bobby. “You spoke of a treasure. After
we reach shore—if we do—what do we do then?”

“Find the natives—ask them for Mooloo—they will know—will take you to
him—” Again Takyak stopped short, his hand pressed hard against his
side.

“You shouldn’t talk,” Bobby protested pityingly. “Rest now.”

But Takyak again shook his head, his brows knitting as though in anger.

“I have no time to rest—yet,” he gasped. “Mooloo is a guide. He knows
me—is faithful to me. If you tell him— Wait, I will give you this.” Then
Bobby noticed for the first time that this strange old man wore a thin
gold chain about his neck. From the end of this he now detached a
peculiar looking object resembling a tooth, which, as it proved, was
exactly what it was—the tooth of an animal, peculiarly marked.

Takyak’s trembling hand sought Bobby’s, dropping the token in the palm
of it.

“Walrus tooth,” he explained haltingly. “Mooloo will know it—will know
you are friend of mine—will lead you to the wreck.”

“Yes?” cried Bobby, unable longer to restrain his eagerness. “The wreck
where the treasure was hidden?”

Takyak regarded the boy for a moment, his eyes, still piercing in spite
of the shadows of suffering in them, gazing directly into Bobby’s.

“Ah,” he said, “so you did overhear our talk about the treasure. I was
sure of it. So was Captain Garrish—the rascal! The wretch!” His anger
seemed to banish pain for a moment, and his face glowed with wrath.

“He tried to—to steal from me,” he cried, his trembling hand waving
violently above his head. “He would have the treasure for himself! He
would take my share, mine! And, but for me, Chief Takyak, he would never
have known there was a treasure. The treasure is mine, mine! I alone
know how to get it and I give the secret to you. You boys have all been
kind to me. You are honest boys. And you saved my life when the circus
pole fell. You must find the treasure and Garrish must not have it. You
hear—none of it!”

 “You needn’t worry,” said Bobby, with a bitter memory of harsh
treatment at the hands of Captain Garrish. “You can bet I’d never be the
one to give him anything.”

Then he looked at Takyak in alarm. After his fit of temper the man had
collapsed, he seemed utterly exhausted. His gaunt form relaxed against
the pillows and he panted for breath.

“Is there anything I can do?” cried Bobby, feeling helpless in the face
of this emergency. “Shall I get somebody?”

Takyak shook his head, and with a faint motion of his hand indicated
that he wanted Bobby to remain where he was. After a moment, during
which he struggled with his breath, the old chief went on again.

“Mooloo will—take you to—the wrecked ship,” he said, his voice halting
and sounding very weak and far away. “After that you will have to work
alone.”

“Doesn’t Mooloo know anything about the treasure?” asked Bobby, and
Takyak wearily shook his head. He seemed very weak, and for a moment
leaned back among his pillows, apparently gathering strength for a last
effort. Meanwhile Bobby’s thoughts were whirling madly. Sympathy for the
stricken Takyak was mingled with a wild longing to be away from the
cabin, to get by himself where he might think up plans for the great
adventure before him and his chums.

He came out of his reverie to hear Takyak speaking again.

“You wonder why I tell you all this,” said the Eskimo, and Bobby nodded.
“I have no family— I am alone. I like you and your friends,” Takyak went
on. “And, besides, there is no one else on the ship that I trust.
Garrish—you must never let Garrish know!”

At mention of the captain’s name it seemed as though both Takyak and
Bobby were struck with the same thought.

The chief caught at his coat sleeve, tugging at it, nervously.

“You must go now,” he ordered, in a panicky whisper. “You must not be
discovered here. Go—and may you—find the fortune and—live long to—enjoy
it.”

The last words were uttered in a gasping whisper and at the conclusion
of them Takyak sank back, weak and trembling and waved a shaking hand
toward the door.

“Go,” he whispered urgently. “Go quickly.” Bobby started to obey, then
came back again. He bent over Chief Takyak and firmly gripped the sick
man’s hand.

“I’ll find the treasure if it’s possible,” he promised sturdily, adding,
in a tone he tried to make encouraging: “But I’m betting that you will
be a well man soon and ready to take your share of it.” To this Takyak
only shook his head and waved his hand once more imperatively toward the
door.

“No, no,” he whispered. “I am dying. I know it. Good-by—and—luck.”

With a mingling of emotions Bobby cautiously opened the cabin door and
peered into the corridor. There was no one in sight and, realizing the
danger of lingering even for a moment in that neighborhood, he ran at
top speed toward the sailors’ quarters.

He could hardly credit the amazing thing that had just happened to him.
He might even have thought he had dreamed it all if his hand, thrust
into his pocket, had not felt the compass, the little instrument that
was going to give him and his companions freedom, and the token.

“Easy there, Bobby, old boy,” he cautioned himself. “We’re a long way
from being free yet.”



                              CHAPTER XVII

                              GREAT RISKS


Once back in his own quarters, Bobby tried to quiet his racing thoughts
and think out some plan of action. If only he might talk to Fred and the
other boys!

Then he thought of that night and their secret rendezvous and his heart
leaped with joy.

“Say, make believe I won’t have something to tell them! They’ll probably
think I have been dreaming or am crazy,” he thought excitedly.

He had to caution himself again not to let his imagination run away with
him. He had to be careful also not to let his excitement be seen by his
mates. It seemed to him that they were already regarding him
suspiciously.

He must be cool and calm if he and his chums were to stand any real
chance of escape. “Steal a longboat,” Takyak had ordered. All very well,
but how was such a thing to be done without being discovered?

“Provision it,” Takyak had said again. All very well, but how were they
going to provision it without any provisions?

Well, that was his problem and his chums’, and they must find a way to
solve it. And the solution must come very quickly, within the next
twenty-four hours. At eleven o’clock on the next evening, Takyak had
said.

What was the name of the place he had said they would be near? Baffin
Land! He had heard of it, and he knew enough about its location to know
that they were no longer approaching the Frozen North, but that they
were actually in it.

Suppose Takyak’s information had been wrong? Suppose they should not
pass close to Baffin Land on the following evening? Suppose—always
supposing that they had been able to procure the longboat and provision
it—suppose upon casting themselves adrift on the ocean they were to find
that, after all, they were too far from land to reach it before being
overtaken by any one of the terrible dangers that menaced them there in
that unknown land?

Suppose—but with an impatient movement Bobby shook off the unwelcome
thoughts that crowded his mind. If they were to embark on the adventure
at all he must put all such doubts behind him.

There would be danger, of course, plenty of it, but not much more than
if they remained here on this ship under the ugly eye of a suspicious
captain.

Some way or other Bobby managed to get through the hours that had to
pass before he could hope to meet his chums. When the time came at last
he hurried, as fast as caution would permit, to the rendezvous.

He found two figures there before him. Fred and Mouser had evidently
been more impatient than he.

When he saw Bobby, Fred opened his mouth to shout a greeting, but
thought better of it just in the nick of time.

“I’ll spill the beans yet,” he said, in a sheepish whisper, and at that
moment another silent figure approached them through the shadows.

It was Billy, excited and eager, and their number was complete.

“Now let’s get down to business, Bobby, and tell these fellows why we
called a meeting,” suggested Fred.

“You’d better not talk so loud or we’ll be telling our story to Captain
Garrish,” cautioned Bobby, and the boys glanced about them uneasily.

“I passed somebody on my way up here,” said Billy, in a whisper that
could barely be heard.

“I don’t know who it was, but I had a notion that he followed me for
some little way.”

“Then we haven’t any time to lose,” cried Bobby, and for the first time
the boys noticed the suppressed excitement in his voice.

They crowded close to him, trying to see his face in the deep shadows of
the northern night. There were plenty of questions they wanted to ask,
but Bobby would give them no chance.

Rapidly, he told them what had happened in Chief Takyak’s cabin that
afternoon, and they listened, open-mouthed, with wonder, hardly able to
believe what he was telling them.

Then, when they really gathered what it meant, they wanted to toss their
cape aloft and give vent to their glee.

It was Bobby who restrained their enthusiasm. “No use getting excited
yet,” he said. “We haven’t escaped from this old vessel yet, you know.”

“We’ll have to now,” said Mouser, suddenly sobered. “It’s up to us to
give old Garrish the slip to-morrow night.”

“It won’t be so hard to get the boat,” Fred observed. “We ought to be
able to do that. But it’s getting the provisions that worries me. We’ve
got to have food!”

“Tell us something we don’t know,” grumbled Mouser. “It’s easy to say
we’ve got to get it—”

“And we will get it too,” Bobby interrupted decidedly. “I tell you,
fellows,” he added excitedly, “what would be the matter with our getting
busy now?”

“Great, if you’ll tell us what to do,” agreed Billy.

“Speedy action suits me down to the ground,” added Mouser, eagerly.
“When do we start, Bobby?”

“Right now,” answered Bobby, his words tumbling over one another in his
excitement. “See?” he added, lowering his voice still more and pointing
over his shoulder toward the stern of the ship. “We’ll take that
longboat over there when the time comes. Our job to-night will be to see
that she’s provisioned. We’ll take enough food on board to last us a
week if we need it.”

“Provision her,” Fred echoed excitedly. “I get you, Bobby. We can break
into the hold and get what we need from those boxes—”

“But wait a minute,” Mouser broke in quickly. “If we provision the
longboat now, what’s to prevent the food being discovered to-morrow?”

“I’ve thought of that,” said Bobby shortly. He was impatient of every
moment’s delay. “But we’ll have to take our chance. We can stow most of
the stuff away where it won’t be seen and we can cover the rest with the
old tarpaulin I saw in the boat when I passed it to-day. What say? Are
you coming or do you want to stand there all night arguing?”

Their answer was to follow Bobby’s lead as he crept silently along the
deck to a hatchway they knew they could open.

It was a risky business, taking provisions from the hold at night, and
the boys fully realized the risk they were running. But excitement made
them forget danger.

They were in the midst of the adventure now and their blood answered to
the thrill of it.

They worked swiftly, talking little. Not for nothing had they been kept
prisoners in that hold, forced to live for days out of food taken from
the boxes.

For the first time since they had been thrown into the place the boys
began to be thankful for their experience. It certainly stood them in
good stead now.

Scarcely need even for a light, though Bobby struck a match now and then
when they couldn’t remember the exact location of something they wanted.

“What are we going to carry them all in?” asked Fred, coming close to
Bobby. “I’ve got more than I can manage.”

“Here! Take this,” ordered Bobby briskly, and thrust something rough
into his hands. “It’s an empty sack,” he explained. “Dump everything
into it and we’ll sort the things out later.” In an amazingly short
space of time the feat had been accomplished, the longboat was fully
provisioned with ship’s biscuit, fresh water, and enough canned goods to
keep them going for a long time if they were careful.

“Pretty neat, I call it,” whispered Billy exultantly. “Got by the watch
without half trying. Say! What’s that?”

Some one was approaching slowly but steadily along the deck. They knew
by his peculiar stride that it was the second mate.

The boys did not linger to greet him. A moment later they had
disappeared, as completely as though the deck had opened and let them
through.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                           DEATH TAKES A HAND


It is safe to say that Bobby and his chums did not get very much sleep
that night. The thought that they had a real chance of escape from the
ship where they had been held prisoners meant more to them just then
than the possibility of finding Takyak’s treasure trove.

As for Bobby, he hardly closed his eyes at all.

He wondered if they had not been foolish to provision the longboat that
night. It would be just their luck to have the provisions discovered the
next day, and then their chance would be gone.

They would be robbed of what little liberty they had enjoyed so far,
and, once more prisoners, would have no hope of escape.

And even if they were successful in getting away from the ship, what
then?

Tossing in his hammock, Bobby could hear the blocks of ice gritting
against the sides of the vessel, hungrily, like some beast of prey
waiting for its victim.

Even though, as Takyak had said, they would be near enough to shore on
the following night to gain it in a few hours, what were their chances
of getting through that ice-blocked water?

Even that day they had seen one or two large icebergs looming against
the skyline.

Of course, the danger from these monsters of the sea would be very much
less in the daytime than at night. For, in the darkness, how could they
tell of the approach of one of these until it was almost upon them, too
late, then, for them to get out of the way?

From these troubled thoughts Bobby’s mind went to Takyak, the dying
Eskimo chief. Wasn’t it possible, he thought, that Takyak thought he was
worse off than he actually was?

Suppose he should recover and repent of his confidence?

“Well,” thought Bobby, “in that case he shall have his treasure and we,
at least, will try for liberty.” He hoped the Eskimo would recover. He
was kind-hearted and had tried to put in a good word for them with
Captain Garrish.

Garrish! At the name Bobby felt the same fierce rush of anger he had
felt the day before when the captain had regarded him with that bullying
look of suspicion.

How much did the captain suspect?

Well, if they had any sort of luck at all, they would soon put so much
distance between themselves and the surly captain that what he thought
or did not think would make no difference at all.

If they only had some warm clothing! They had been given top coats from
the ship’s locker, but they were far too big for them. Rushed as they
had been with work on deck, they had not been so conscious of the bitter
cold. But in an open boat, with nothing to shield them from the fierce
winds, they might be frozen to death.

Bobby shivered and thought of the snug fur coats worn by the Eskimo
members of the crew. That was the only thing that could keep out the
biting cold of the Northland—fur, and plenty of it.

“Oh, well, we’ll have to take our chance of freezing to death. That,
after all, may be pleasanter than running into an iceberg,” he muttered,
with a sigh.

And so, still listening to the grating of the ice against the sides of
the ship, Bobby at last fell into a doze from which he was rudely roused
a half hour later.

Once more he stumbled blindly to the deck, still more than half asleep
and shivering with the cold.

Another gray day. Angry snow clouds scudded across the leaden sky, the
wind whistled through the mastheads with a threatening sound, heavy ice
blocked the sea, becoming thicker and thicker as they plowed further and
further into the north.

Breakfast cheered Bobby a bit, and he was suddenly seized with an almost
overwhelming curiosity to see if their secret of the longboat had been
discovered yet.

It was some time before he found the chance to make his way to the spot
unobserved, but when he finally got there he found to his intense relief
that everything seemed just as it had the night before when they had
fled before the approach of the second mate.

The extra tarpaulin, which he had replaced with careful carelessness in
the bottom of the boat, looked just the same as it had the day before,
when it had not hid their hope of escape.

Bobby went to work with renewed hope. The hours that stretched between
him and dark seemed an endless procession, but he knew that the best way
to make them pass quickly was to throw himself into the work at hand
with all his heart.

This he did, to the apparent gratification of Captain Garrish. It seemed
to Bobby that there was less suspicion in the eyes of the skipper when
they turned his way.

Perhaps, he thought, with an inward grin, their quiet attitude of the
last few days, as if they had become resigned to a hard fate, was having
its effect at last. Captain Garrish was beginning to think them
harmless.

The second mate watched them less intently too, and the boys took
advantage of the fact to send wireless messages back and forth.

They were so full of excitement and eagerness to start on their
adventure that Bobby wondered how the keen eyes of Captain Garrish could
fail to notice it.

For one thing, and this Bobby did not know, the skipper had more
important things to think about than the behavior of four boys on board
his ship.

Takyak, upon whom he had depended to guide him to the scene of the
wrecked ship and to use his influence with the natives in the business
of recovering the treasure, was dying in his bed and, worse than that,
he was dying with some of the most important details of the adventure
still unknown to Captain Garrish.

Vainly the skipper had tried to cajole, and finally to force, the
information from the lips of the dying man. The chief had refused to
tell anything, and now he had fallen into a coma from which there was no
rousing him.

No wonder Captain Garrish wore a dark and angry frown and failed to
watch the boys as he had done. Lucky for the boys that on that day, of
all days, the bullying captain had something besides themselves to think
about.

All day Bobby’s thoughts were full of Takyak, wondering if the old
fellow’s prophecy would prove true or if he were getting better.

It was not till near nightfall that he and the other boys learned the
truth, and then in a peculiar way.

Shivering with cold and excitement they were descending the ladder to
take a hard-earned rest when a roar that sounded like that of a mad bull
let loose in a field of red flags reached their ears and made them stand
still, gazing, bewildered, in the direction of the noise.

A moment later a door was pushed open as though with the tremendous
impact of some heavy body behind it and Captain Garrish charged out, his
face purple, his very beard bristling with rage.

As the boys still stood rooted to the spot they saw some one running
toward the enraged captain and in a moment recognized Mr. Campbell, an
aged man who acted as the ship’s doctor.

At sight of the latter the captain’s fury seemed to increase until he
became a madman.

He sprang at the aged doctor, caught him by the throat and shook him as
a terrier does a rat.

“You confounded rogue!” he bellowed. “What do you mean by
double-crossing me? I told you if you let that greasy Eskimo die, it
would be your last act on earth! Say your prayers, you—you—”

The unfortunate doctor was struggling against the huge hairy hands that
were locked like an iron band about his throat, but his face was purple
and his eyes bulged from his head.

The boys started forward, but at that moment the first and second mates,
hearing the captain’s bellow of rage, had come running, and now they
leaped upon him, forcing his hands loose of their hold upon Dr.
Campbell.

In his rage he would have turned upon them, but they were both strong
men and they held on grimly till he abandoned his struggles.

“You’re mad, Captain,” said the mate. “Let up.”

“I’ll fix him!” bellowed the captain, making another lunge at the
unfortunate doctor, who was feeling gingerly of his injured throat. “Let
me at him! Let me—”

But at this point, seeing that the two mates were amply able to handle
the enraged captain and thinking that it was about time they left the
scene, the boys crept away unnoticed.

Most of the men having run to see what was going on, the boys found
themselves temporarily alone.

“Gee,” said Fred, his face a mixture of emotions. “Well, it’s all over
with poor old Takyak.”

“Yes, and it was pretty near over with Doctor Campbell,” added Billy.
“I’ll say that fellow had a close call.”

“I’m sorry for poor Takyak,” said Mouser thoughtfully. “But, just the
same, it’s lucky for us this happened. It will keep the skipper’s
attention from us for a little while, anyway.”

“Yes, but only for a little while,” Bobby reminded him. “As soon as he
gets over raving about Takyak, he’ll begin to think of us and wonder if
we know any more about the treasure than he does.”

“And when he does,” said Fred ruefully, “something tells me it will be
all up with us.”

“The only thing we can do,” said Bobby hurriedly, for they could hear
the heavy tramping of the sailors who were returning, “is to take a
chance and start as soon after dark as we can. A few hours from now this
old boat will be getting a little more unhealthy for us than it already
is.”

“Righto,” agreed Fred cheerfully, and then they separated, but only
until the welcome darkness gave them the secrecy they must have.

All about him Bobby heard the men talking about the captain’s outbreak,
laughing hoarsely and cracking rough jokes at the skipper’s expense.

“Didn’t think the old man loved Takyak like that,” said one of them, in
a mock-sentimental tone. “It’s enough to make a bloke cry ’is eyes out,
so it is.”

And still later another man, a big rough fellow with a week’s growth of
beard and smoldering, deep-set eyes, turned to glower at Bobby.

“If I wuz you, me lad—” he said, as he took a dirty-looking old pipe
from his pocket—“if I wuz you, I’d cut loose from this outfit, so I
would, at our first port. The skipper’s got it in for you good an’
plenty an’ the skipper’s a powerful mean man when he’s roused.”

“So,” retorted Bobby dryly, “I’ve noticed!” And then, with a thrill of
excitement, he glanced out of a porthole and saw that it was dark.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                            ON ANGRY WATERS


Ten o’clock that night, and the boys were stealing silently to the spot
where the longboat swung on creaking davits, rising and falling with the
rise and fall of the ship.

At last they were together, teeth chattering with mingled excitement and
cold, coat collars turned far up about their ears and caps pulled down
to meet them. They had appropriated all the warm clothing they could
find in the ship’s lockers.

They had learned in the course of their work on deck how to lower the
boats and raise them, and, with scarcely a word uttered between them,
they set to work.

In spite of the pressing need for haste and the biting cold that seemed
to search out their very marrow, they accomplished the feat neatly, the
boat landing with scarcely a splash in the water.

Once voices sounded close to them and they crouched close in the shadows
of the deck-house till the voices passed on.

Then, recognizing more than ever the need for haste, they slid, with as
little noise as possible, into the boat and cast her loose from the
schooner.

As they moved away, out into the darkness, adrift at last, they heard a
sudden exclamation, a quick call, and knew that the absence of the
longboat had been discovered.

“Didn’t get away any too soon,” said Fred, trying hard to keep his teeth
from chattering.

“We haven’t got away yet,” returned Bobby grimly. “Better not count our
chickens till they’re hatched.”

“Do you think they’ll chase us?” asked Mouser.

“No telling,” returned Bobby. “But whether they do or not, the thing for
us to do just now is to keep still and work.”

They did as he said, bending to the oars, grateful for work that would
keep the blood circulating in their veins.

Bobby, precious compass at hand, directed their course, occasionally
lighting a match to make sure they were keeping true to it.

And after a while, how long a time they had no way of knowing, they
became sure they were safe from pursuit. There was no human sound in the
dark, grim wastes about them, only the doleful rise and fall of the wind
and the brittle scraping of the ice against the sides of their little
boat.

“Well, I guess, fellows,” it was Bobby who broke the silence at last,
“that we’ve done it all right. We’re free again, anyway.”

“Free!” repeated Fred. “Say, make believe that word doesn’t sound good
to me!”

“I’ll say so,” agreed Mouser and Billy together, and for the moment all
doubt of the future was forgotten in a wild feeling of elation.

Free, free! What did anything matter, now that they had broken away from
Captain Garrish and his ship? They were free!

“All we have to do now,” cried Mouser jubilantly, “is to think about
getting home.” Strangely enough, instead of cheering them, this thought
put a sudden damper on their enthusiasm. Home! How unattainable and far
away it seemed! What would any one of them give to be sitting now in a
familiar room, before a glowing fire, with familiar faces surrounding
him?

Their imaginations dwelt longest on the fire. “Say, just think of it! A
crackling, joyful, leaping fire, in exchange for this deadly cold that
threatens to freeze our very bones!” exclaimed Fred.

For a long time after this remark the boys were silent, working hard to
fight off the feeling of drowsiness that was creeping upon them, blowing
upon their gloved hands now and then to drive the numbness from them.

“Home was never like this,” said Billy at last, in a tone he tried hard
to make cheerful.

“I never knew it could be so cold,” said Mouser. “I’ve read enough about
it,” said Fred, adding, with an attempt to stretch his stiff mouth into
a grin: “But it has to be seen to be appreciated.”

“Say,” said Bobby, putting out a match after another look at the
compass, “what’s the matter with you, Billy? Can’t you give us a joke or
something?”

“The last time I tried,” said Billy, wondering if his feet were still at
the end of his legs—he could not tell, for there seemed to be no feeling
in them whatever—“perhaps you remember that I was greeted with laughter
and ridicule—a large amount of it.”

“That’s all right, Billy; you’re perfectly safe now,” said Fred. “Nobody
could laugh at your rottenest attempt now. It can’t be done. I
know—because I’ve tried.”

“Well, if you’re sure you want to hear one—” began Billy, and for once,
as he hesitated, the other boys answered an enthusiastic affirmative.
Bad as Billy’s jokes usually were, they would be welcome now—anything to
make them forget, if even for a moment, how deadly cold they were.

“We-ell,” began Billy, between teeth that persisted in chattering, “a
young poet—at least he thought he was a poet—paid a compliment to a girl
with red hair one day when they were out walking together. She said she
thought his poems were fine, but asked him if he knew the difference
between them and her hair. He said he didn’t, but he’d like to. What do
you suppose her answer was?”

“Don’t know,” said Mouser.

“Too c-cold to think,” chattered Fred.

“Go ahead—shoot,” ordered Bobby.

“Well,” said the proud and almost happy Billy, “she said, ‘the
difference is that my hair’s red.’”

It took a minute for the pun to sink home, and then the boys groaned in
unison.

“It’s cruel,” protested Fred. “And on a night like this, too!”

“I’d pitch him overboard,” said Mouser, “only I’m too tender-hearted.
Say,” with a shiver, “doesn’t that water look cold?”

“It isn’t as cold as I am, I’ll bet,” said Billy, adding anxiously:
“Say, Bobby, isn’t it about time we were getting to shore?”

“Not for a little while yet, I guess,” said Bobby, looking once more at
the compass. “We’re keeping in the right direction, and if Takyak knew
what he was talking about we ought to reach there before long.”

“If we last long enough,” added Fred dolefully.

In parts of their bodies they had absolutely no feeling, and again and
again they were forced to fight off that insidious drowsiness that crept
upon them like a thief in the dark.

They knew, for they had read enough about persons dying from exposure,
that once they succumbed to the desire for sleep it would be all over
for them.

They must keep going, keep their muscles active and the blood
circulating in their veins. Some way they must keep their heavy eyes
open.

And then suddenly it seemed to them as though things had changed, the
waves, the very air seemed different, charged with a new menace.

As though driven by a common thought they looked upward at the sky—and
felt snow flakes on their faces!

Snowing! They were running headfirst into a storm—one of those terrific
arctic blizzards, perhaps. It was not imagination, either, that made
them think the waves were higher, that the wind was rising.

One incoming, ice-laden comber struck the side of their boat, listing it
crazily to starboard. There was a sharp cry from Bobby—a cry of such
utter surprise and dismay that it made the hearts of his hearers stand
still.

“The compass!” shouted Bobby, above the rising wind. “I’ve lost it
overboard! It’s gone!”



                               CHAPTER XX

                        THE HAIL FROM THE SHORE


This last dire calamity struck the boys speechless.

The compass—their one sure guide on that sinister waste of waters, the
one hand reached out to draw them to safety—the compass was gone!

At first they refused to believe it. The others besieged Bobby with
questions, begging him to look—couldn’t it, perhaps, have fallen in the
bottom of the boat? Oh, look! Look!

And Bobby looked, even though he knew the search was hopeless, looked
just to satisfy his chums.

For, at that sudden sharp lurch of the boat, he had felt the instrument
slip past his hands, had heard the splash of it as it reached the water.

That was a fine trick he and his carelessness had played upon his
comrades, he thought miserably, as, recklessly lighting match after
match from their slender store, he pretended to search the bottom of the
boat. Through his carelessness they might all lose their lives.

It was his fault—his! He would be a murderer! But suddenly he drew
himself up short and once more took command of the situation.

“It’s gone, fellows,” he said quietly. “There’s not a doubt in the world
about that. Now, the question is, are we going to take our chance and go
ahead without it, or are we going to lie down and say we’re beaten?”

“You know we aren’t going to do that, Bobby,” answered Fred sturdily.
But the next moment he asked with an anxiety that showed the state of
his mind: “You’re dead sure, are you, that you heard it go overboard,
Bobby?”

But Bobby was too intently trying to think how they would meet this new
and appalling difficulty even to hear the question. As for Mouser and
Billy, they seemed stunned into silence.

“I tell you what we’ll have to do,” said Bobby at last. “We know now
that we’re heading in the right direction, and we’ll have to keep that
course as nearly as we can—and have to leave the rest to luck.”

“Luck’s been with us, so far,” said Fred, stoutly. “Maybe she’ll go with
us the rest of the way.”

“We might have had a chance,” said Billy, as though thinking aloud, “if
this storm hadn’t happened along. Say, how I love the sight of that
snow!”

“Cheer up,” said Mouser. “The Eskimos like the snow, you know. Say it’s
nice and w-warm. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.”

“Pretty good disguise, I call it,” grumbled Fred, and the boys tried to
laugh and couldn’t. Their faces seemed frozen into expressionless masks.

They kept on without very much hope in their hearts, while the sea
became more agitated, the wind rose higher and grew more menacing, while
the snow, falling heavily, seemed to enclose them in a heavy white
blanket. They felt cut off from all the world and utterly lost.

At last they came to the point where they knew if they did not have help
soon, it would not be very long before they would have no need of it.

“Let’s try shouting,” said Bobby, in desperation. “There’s probably
nobody within several hundred miles to hear us, but it’s about our last
chance, I guess.”

He let out a yell that jerked the other boys from the lassitude that
held them in its grip. Mechanically they shouted, too, with all the
strength that was left them.

Then, as though the sound of their voices had revived some small hope,
they shouted again and again, shouted until they were hoarse and their
throats ached with the strain.

And still nothing but the pounding of the waves that threatened every
moment to upset their boat, pitching them into the icy water! No sound
but the moaning of the wind! Nothing but that driving curtain of snow
that beat into their frozen faces, blinding them!

“Let’s try again,” croaked Bobby. “Once more, fellows. It’s a forlorn
hope. But, come on. All together!”

Listlessly they went through the motion of a shout, queer noises coming
from their cracked lips. And then—

“Listen!” cried Bobby, with a fierce joy in his voice. “Listen!”

From afar, piercing that curtain of snow, there came a sound, the
faintest kind of sound, but one that started their hearts to bounding
madly. It was a faint halloo—an answer to their frantic shouts.

And did they reply? Did they? Indeed, they did!

A moment before they had thought it was impossible for them to make
another sound, but it did not take them long to find out their mistake.
Frantically they yelled, growing more and more excited as that answering
cry rang out again and again. Not so faint now and growing louder with
each frenzied second.

Then they saw it! A dreamlike, slender craft, penetrating the curtain of
snow, having as her crew two fur-garbed figures who stared at them
stolidly!

They came as close to the longboat as the restless sea allowed, but
although Bobby shouted at the top of his lungs it was evident that they
could not understand him.

However, they pointed through the snow curtain and made motions which
the joy-frenzied boys in the longboat perfectly understood.

They were motioning to them to follow—to follow that slender, unstable
craft to the safety of the shore. For they knew that the shore could not
be far off or the natives would not have come abroad to answer their
desperate cries for help.

It was in a surprisingly short space of time—the boys learned afterward
that they had been near land for some time, but had been going parallel
with it—that their boat, reaching shallow water, stuck upon the sea bed,
refusing to go farther.

There was nothing to do but brave the icy water and wade to shore. But
the boys did not mind. They did not care for anything but the fact that
they saw land. And, besides, as by that time they were about as cold as
they could be, they thought the icy water could make little difference.

What bothered them most was the difficulty they found in walking. Their
feet, numbed by the cold and the lack of use, refused at first to
support them.

Forcing themselves by sheer will power to stand, they stumbled along
through the icy water, feeling as though their feet were overstuffed pin
cushions.

Bobby and Fred were the only ones who had had presence of mind enough in
this moment of rescue to catch hold of the rope attached to the longboat
and tug the latter along toward the shore.

One of the natives, seeing what hard work this was for them, caught hold
of the rope and with a couple of good hard pulls drew it up to safety on
the snow and ice-encrusted ground.

Bobby tried to thank him, but found he was shivering so with the cold
that he could not force the words through his chattering teeth.

The Eskimo seemed to understand his intention, however, and with a jerky
nod of his fur-capped head and a grunt, indicated that the half-frozen
lads were to follow him.

The latter, not yet quite realizing the greatness of their good fortune,
stumbled through the blinding snow, their numbed feet still torturing
them.

Where were the natives leading them? Perhaps to a fire and comfort,
perhaps to captivity and new hardships. At any rate, wherever they were
bound seemed a terribly long distance away.

But at last they came to a white object, looming solidly against the
background of the densely falling snow. On approaching more closely to
it the boys found it was a wall, apparently built of snow, about five
feet high and circular in shape.

They wondered if this were some sort of a snow prison. Then they had
reached a narrow opening in the snow wall, just large enough to permit
them to squeeze through it.

They had tramped along but a few feet when they came upon the most
peculiar looking structure they had ever seen in their lives.

It was an igloo, a snow hut of the type that is so common among the far
reaches of the Northern country. To the surprised eyes of the boys it
looked enormous, and the gleaming white sides of it made it look like a
fairy dwelling.

Then one of the natives who preceded them pushed aside a huge skin which
covered the entrance of this queer dwelling and the boys found
themselves in a room whose snug warmth enwrapped them deliciously.

Never before had they reveled in anything as they did in that moment of
physical comfort. For the space of a few seconds it was all they could
think of. They just stood there, basking in it.

Then they realized that it was not only unbelievably warm and
comfortable in that place, but there was a most delicious smell in the
air, the aroma of stew, bubbling over a fire.

They sniffed longingly, and then, as though roused from a trance, they
looked about them. The walls of the snow house were covered with skins
which, while serving to make the place still more snug, served also to
give it a more cozy, homelike appearance.

There were rude pieces of furniture scattered about on which also were
skins, and before the oil stove at one side of the room crouched a
woman, stirring the stew which bubbled over the fire.

And, seeing that the boys were staring at her, this guardian of the
feast opened her mouth to favor them with a wide, good-natured grin.

“Come close to the fire,” she invited. “You cold—maybe you hungry, too.
Stew very good—very hot.”



                              CHAPTER XXI

                           IN THE ESKIMO HUT


Never would the boys forget the music of those words—or the taste of
that stew.

While they flung off the snow-covered great coats taken from the locker
of Captain Garrish’s ship, the Eskimo woman ladled up great bowls full
of the steaming stew and the two natives who had led them to the place
brought low stools up to the fire and joined them in their feast.

And what a feast it was! The boys came back for a third helping of stew,
and still there seemed to be an unlimited supply in the great black pot.

And delicious! Never before had they tasted anything quite to compare
with it.

They asked what it was made of and the Eskimos with broad grins of
delight at their enjoyment replied in broken English that it was made of
the flesh of the polar bear.

“Polar bear!” cried Fred, pausing with a spoon filled to overflowing
with stew, half raised to his mouth. “Great Scott! do you have many of
them around here?”

One of the Eskimos shook his head sadly.

“Not so many we like,” he said. “They go furder an’ furder north all
time.”

Fred looked disappointed.

“Tough luck,” he said. “I was hoping we might have a friendly little row
with one of them while we were in this neighborhood.”

“Cheer up,” said Bobby, happily digging into his third dish of stew.
“After the luck we had to-night anything good may happen to us.”

“Well,” broke in Billy, with a comical look of alarm, “if you call
coming to grips with a polar bear good luck, I’d like to know your idea
of bad luck!”

“Listen at him!” mourned Mouser.

“And after he knows what good stew they make, too,” added Fred.

“Oh, I’ve nothing against the stew—” began Billy, at which Bobby broke
in with a grin: “We’ve noticed that.” He then turned to the Eskimo who
sat nearest him. “We’re looking for a man named Mooloo,” he said
eagerly. “Do you know him?”

The Eskimo grunted and nodded his head. He was feeling too comfortable
and full of stew to be loquacious.

“I know heem,” he said. “Heem good feller.”

Bobby felt like clapping the stolid native joyfully on the back at this
unexpected good fortune. But with a great effort he stifled his
enthusiasm, seeing that Billy and Fred and Mouser were also trying to
conceal their eagerness.

During the course of the conversation, carried on very brokenly by the
Eskimos, the boys found out that they had learned English at a trading
station many miles away—a station at which ships occasionally stopped
for furs and for live specimens of seals and polar bears.

It would never do to let the natives guess at the boys’ real reason for
wanting to find Mooloo. They might be thoroughly good fellows, but it
was very doubtful whether they could be trusted with news of the
treasure.

At thought of it Bobby felt still more exhilarated, triumphant. They had
successfully accomplished the first and, probably, the most difficult
stage of their adventure.

Their escape from the ship had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Now, if they proceeded carefully there was no reason why they should not
succeed in the second phase of the adventure—the finding of Chief
Takyak’s treasure.

He wanted to question the Eskimo and try to find out, if he could, if
he, as well as the guide Mooloo, knew the location of the wrecked
treasure ship.

But caution made him hold his tongue, merely getting from the Eskimo his
promise to lead him to Mooloo on the following day.

“If the storm do not keep us here,” the native had added, with a sage
wag of his head. “Blizzard maybe. No can leave igloo four, five
days—maybe longer.”

At his words the boys looked at each other in dismay. Delay was what
they wanted least. Up to that moment they had not thought of the storm
as possibly delaying their treasure hunt for days, perhaps indefinitely.

And, then, there was the thought of those at home who had no means of
knowing what had become of their boys. If they could not get word south
very soon their people would be forced to give them up as lost.

This consideration kept them silent and thoughtful until the Eskimos
rose sluggishly to their feet and began moving about the place as though
they were preparing to leave.

This brought home to the boys the fact that they also had no place to
spend the night and they also got to their feet, looking rather
questioningly and dubiously at the natives.

It was the woman who came to their rescue with her friendly wide-mouthed
grin.

“You no go out in blizzard,” she said, with a wave of her pudgy hand
toward the out-of-doors. “You die. You stay here in igloo—safe, warm,
eh?”

“But you? How about you?” stammered Bobby. “Where will you go?”

The woman shrugged her fat shoulders as she wrapped herself in a heavy
fur coat and pulled a seal hood down over her ears so that only her eyes
and nose and mouth were visible.

“You no worry ’bout us,” she said comfortably. “We all right. We got
other igloo—two or three. We no die in snow.”

And with another friendly grin she turned and left the snow house,
followed by the two men, who merely grunted their good-byes.

“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” cried Fred explosively. “Who says the Eskimo
is an unfriendly beggar, I’d like to know! From this time on, if anybody
says anything to me against an Eskimo, I’ll show him where he gets off,
all right.”

“Giving us our dinner for nothing and then giving up their house for the
night to a bunch of strangers!” marveled Mouser. “Well, I’ll say they’re
regular sports, all right.”

“You bet,” said Billy. “How do they know we’re not a bunch of crooks?”

“Mouser, I’m surprised at you,” said Fred gravely. “All they have to do
is look at us to tell we’re honest. Where are you going, Bobby?”

For Bobby had turned toward the door and brushed away the skins that
covered it.

“Going to have a look at that blizzard,” he answered, “to see what our
prospects are for to-morrow.”

The other boys followed him, but they were met by a driving gust of wind
and snow that drove them back to the shelter of the igloo again.

“Some storm!” whistled Bobby, as they instinctively moved over to the
stove where the fire was still hot. “Hate to be adrift in it without a
home to-night, fellows.”

“But that’s just where we were only a few hours ago,” Mouser reminded
him soberly. “We couldn’t have lasted much longer in that open boat.”

“Forget it, can’t you?” protested Fred uncomfortably. “Just the memory
of it makes me cold. Say, this fire feels good.”

“Wonder what dear old Captain Garrish is doing just now,” said Bobby
dreamily, as they toasted their feet and hands over the grateful warmth
of the stove.

“Better wonder what he’s saying,” chuckled Billy. “I bet he hasn’t any
vocabulary left.”

“We sure left just in the nick of time, too,” remarked Fred
thoughtfully. “I bet he was cooking up a way of making us tell what we
knew.”

“Shouldn’t wonder,” said Bobby, and then told them what the hairy-faced
giant on the ship had advised him to do.

The boys were intensely interested.

“Even the men knew Garrish had it in for us,” Bobby continued, adding
with a chuckle: “But I bet this particular man didn’t expect us to take
his advice and ‘beat it’ quite so quickly.”

“We’d probably be in prison now in the hold, eating hardtack out of the
boxes to keep from starving,” said Mouser, and they looked at him
reproachfully.

“Why remind us of such unpleasant things?” protested Billy, but Bobby
came to Mouser’s defense.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “I don’t mind a bit thinking about
where we might be now. It makes this place seem even better by
comparison. Say, fellows, did you ever dream a house made of snow could
be so comfortable?”

“It sure beats me,” agreed Fred, beginning to wander about the room,
examining the skins that hung on the walls. He drew one or two of them
aside, disclosing the solid white wall of snow. “All the comforts of
home!” exclaimed Bobby.



                              CHAPTER XXII

                            THE FROZEN NORTH


Suddenly finding themselves tired of exploring their novel quarters and
realizing that they were exhausted, the boys gathered skins together and
laid them upon the floor of the snow hut, reserving one apiece for
covering.

Then they lay down on what seemed to them the most comfortable beds they
had ever known.

It was not till they were delightfully snug and comfortable that Billy
had the disquieting idea that somebody really ought to get up and put
out the lights. These consisted of three oil lamps that threw a mellow
and not unpleasant light about the room.

Billy’s suggestion was received with a storm of uncomplimentary remarks.

“But we can’t leave ’em burning all night,” persisted Billy, when the
riot had somewhat subsided.

“Do it yourself then,” said Fred drowsily; he was already more than half
asleep.

“And for the love of Pete, stop making so much noise,” added Mouser
pathetically. “I’ve got to sleep.”

“Suppose you do it, Sleepyhead,” retorted Billy, turning so that the
light from the lamp nearest him would not shine in his eyes. “You’re
nearest them—”

With a sigh Bobby threw off his fur blanket and got up.

“I suppose I’m the goat, as usual,” he complained. “If I didn’t start
something, you fellows would still be arguing to-morrow morning.”

And then, when all the lights were out and the blessed dark enveloped
them, some one said they ought to have some ventilation.

“Say,” said Fred, raising himself belligerently on one elbow, “if
anybody wants more air in this shebang he can go dig in the snow
himself. I’m going to sleep.”

“Who says we need more air?” Bobby demanded sleepily. “Didn’t you see
that four-inch hole in the roof of the igloo? That’s supposed to let in
all the fresh air we need. Now, if anybody says another word, I’m going
to pitch him out into the snow and let the polar bears get him.
Goodnight!”

It is to be supposed that this threat silenced the boys. At any rate, no
more suggestions of any sort were heard from them that night.

However, with the first feeble rays of daylight filtering through the
ice that served as windows they were awake, feeling enormously refreshed
by their good night’s sleep and healthily ready for anything that might
happen.

“I feel as if I could tackle a polar bear right now,” boasted Fred,
holding out his good right arm and feeling proudly of his muscle. “Boy,
what I wouldn’t do to him!”

“Boy, what I wouldn’t do with his carcass,” added Billy, sniffing the
air hungrily. “I wonder if there’s any of that stew left?”

He went over to the pot and peered in, giving a whoop of joy.

“Lots of it,” he cried. “Who’s with me?”

“Better wait a while,” Bobby counseled. “Maybe Mrs. Eskimo wants the
stew for dinner. Anyway, I had enough last night. I’d like a change of
diet this morning.”

“My, listen to him!” exclaimed Fred, grinning. “Ain’t he fussy? Say,
what do you think this is, Bobby? A hotel or something?”

“Maybe our friends won’t come back at all,” ventured Mouser. “And then I
bet we’d be pretty glad to eat stew.”

But he had hardly finished speaking when the Eskimo woman arrived.

She came in attired just as she had left the night before, and the boys
wondered if she had slept that way all night.

She grinned good-naturedly and went about the business of preparing
breakfast as though she were used to having four strange boys as
visitors every day of the week.

The boys watched her admiringly as she prepared meal and cut bread in
thick slabs for the table. They hung about her eager to help, and her
perpetual grin widened as she gave them various small chores to do. She
had on hand some provisions brought from the trading station.

When the breakfast was almost ready the two Eskimo men came in,
completing the party. They brought with them many things from the
longboat.

When the boys, having satisfied their ravenous appetites, tried to thank
the Eskimos for their timely help, the latter looked so painfully
embarrassed and ill at ease that the boys had to stop.

However, despite the natural backwardness of the natives to speak about
themselves, Bobby, by careful questioning, managed to find out something
about these people who had befriended them.

The two male Eskimos were father and son and the woman of the wide,
good-natured grin, was none other than the wife and mother of the
household.

It was the older Eskimo who had spoken to Bobby the night before and
promised to take them to see the guide Mooloo. The younger native seemed
even more taciturn and uncommunicative than his father; so quiet was he,
in fact, that the boys often forgot that he was around.

The name of the older man, as near as they could get it, was Kapje, but
they never found out what the other two members of the family were
called.

Breakfast over, Kapje became communicative to the point of saying that
although the snowstorm had not developed into the blizzard he had
expected, it was still snowing so heavily that it would be unwise to try
to find the guide Mooloo that day.

“To-morrow,” he said heavily. “Maybe next day. No can tell. Snow, she
stop—we go!”

And despite all their arguing and pleading, the boys could not move him
a step from that resolution.

“Might as well try to move that five-foot snow wall outside,” Billy had
muttered to Bobby in an aside, and Bobby had nodded understanding.

Although he was sensible enough to believe that Kapje knew his business,
the delay was hard to bear. If he had had only himself to consider it is
probable he would have decided to take his chance in the storm, but they
could do nothing without the Eskimo’s help.

Of course, they might seek out some of the other natives, but they would
probably think the same as Kapje about starting out in a threatened
blizzard. And, anyway, Bobby knew that he and the other boys owed more
than they could ever hope to pay to the Eskimo and his son and he did
not want to anger them.

After breakfast the boys determined they’d like to have a look around
them, but when they started to put on the coats they had worn the night
before, Kapje grunted a protest and pointed to a pile of fur clothing
which the boys had not noticed till that moment.

“Clothes no good—no keep cold out,” said the Eskimo scornfully. “I bring
you fur. See! This way you wear ’em.”

While the boys, voicelessly grateful for the Eskimo’s kindness, looked
on with interest, Kapje held up the clothing he had brought for them.

“See,” he explained. “This your undershirt.” It was a garment made of
fawn skin and designed to be worn with the hair in, next the body. “You
put that on first, you see. Then this pants and coat made of caribou
skins, and these boots, they keep the legs warm. Seal skin, you
know—maybe? An’ these stockings, also of the seal skin, yes? Fur keep
you warm always. Wool, never.”

Then, as though embarrassed at this, for him, remarkably long speech,
the Eskimo turned and left the place before the boys could thank him.

Eagerly the boys examined the strange fur garments. There was a complete
outfit, one for each of them, even including mittens of caribou or seal.

Their inspection was interrupted by the woman who led the way to one end
of the igloo and pushed aside a heavy skin, revealing a low arched
doorway, the existence of which the boys had never suspected up to this
moment.

The woman motioned them inside, showing again her friendly grin.

“Put on fur,” she said. “An’ you never be cold again. Fur very warm—like
fire.”

“Oh, boy!” cried Fred, as he hurriedly flung off his own clothing and
stepped into the undergarment of fawn skin. “I’ll say this is the life.
Some good old scout, our friend Kapje!”

“You bet he is!” exclaimed Bobby, warmly. “I only wish we had some way
to pay him for all he is doing for us.”

“Oh, we’ll pay him all right,” cried Billy exuberantly. “When we get the
treasure we’ll divide up fifty-fifty.”

“Say, not so loud, not so loud,” cried Fred, scornfully. “What’s the
matter with you, you old stewed prune? Do you want to give our secret
away?”

“Oh, say! I forgot,” cried Billy penitently. “Honest I did, fellows. I
wonder if anybody heard it.”

“We’ll hope not,” said Bobby, adding, as he pulled on the caribou pants:
“But seriously, fellows, we’d better be pretty careful what we say. If
we can once get what we’re after, we can be generous. But until then,
the least said, soonest mended.”

And when, attired in fur from head to foot, the boys stepped out into
the bitter world of ice and snow that surrounded the igloo, they
realized how true had been Kapje’s statement that fur was the only
sensible or practical clothing for a climate where the thermometer often
fell to sixty degrees below zero.

The cold, which would have found its way irresistibly through porous
woolen clothing, no matter how heavy it might be, attacked in vain their
impenetrable suits of fur.

It was a glorious feeling. To know, by the way your nose felt and by
your watering eyes how bitterly cold it was and yet not to suffer any
actual discomfort.

They felt as though that grim North which had swallowed up so many
adventurous travelers from warmer places had suddenly turned friendly to
them. They loved even the snow that fell thickly and heavily, powdering
them in no time with a thick covering of white.

“We look like Santa Claus,” chuckled Bobby. “No wonder the dear old boy
is supposed to make his home up this way. I feel as if we ought to come
across him any minute with his reindeer and sleigh.”

“I wish we would,” said Billy. “Maybe he’d take us to see Mooloo. Look,”
he added. “Isn’t that our old college chum Kapje coming toward us?”

Clearing their eyes of the snow that blinded them, they peered ahead and
found that it was Kapje looking like a white grizzly bear in his
snow-covered furs.

He was heading for the igloo the boys had just left, and when Bobby
called out to him he halted in evident impatience.

“No can wait,” he called through the brittle air. “Fin’ big walrus.
Walrus no wait Eskimo.” With which peculiar words he disappeared inside
the igloo.

“Say, fellows,” cried Billy, his eyes as big as saucers, “I’ll bet he’s
going to hunt walrus.”

“Well, if he is,” said Bobby joyfully, “you can just bet we’re going,
too!”



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                          BALKED OF THEIR PREY


When Kapje returned he was accompanied by a number of other Eskimos who
carried spears and a couple of queer looking boats which the boys
afterward learned were made of animal skin.

These boats, staunch in the water and capable of holding two or three
men apiece, were yet light enough to be carried easily on shore.

As the jabbering natives approached, Bobby made a dive for Kapje and
asked to be allowed to go along on the expedition. The latter grunted
assent, giving each of them one of the sharp-pointed, long, heavy
spears.

They tramped on through the loose, light snow till they came to the
waterfront. There they stopped, the Eskimos still jabbering in
excitement, and pointing oceanwards.

The boys strained their eyes to see, through the curtain of falling
snow, what it was the natives were getting so worked up about.

Bobby was the first to see it, and he grabbed Fred, who was nearest him,
pointing out toward the water.

“Look!” he cried. “That large ice floe! It’s covered with something!
Seals! Or walruses, I guess. That’s what Kapje said!”

The water was filled with floating blocks of ice, varying in size, some
of them—and these were farther out from the shore—large enough to build
a small igloo on.

As Bobby had said, one of these large ice floes was so covered with
animals of some kind that it was weighted down to the surface of the
water.

Breathlessly the boys looked from this to the gesticulating natives. It
seemed that they were to witness first hand a native walrus hunt—or seal
hunt. The ice floe was not near enough yet for them to determine just
what kind of animals crowded so closely upon it.

“Look!” cried Fred, under his breath. “Kapje’s getting ready for
business.”

The Eskimo had deftly slipped one of the queer canoes into the water and
had jumped into it, spear in hand, while two more of the natives
followed him.

“Say,” cried Billy excitedly, as the second boat seemed in process of
being launched, “I wonder if we couldn’t get in on this party?”

But although they were all wild to go along and take a hand in the fun,
they soon saw that there was no hope of it. There were only two
boats—not enough to carry all the native hunters, so of course there
would be no room for them, who were strangers to these children of the
North, and, in their eyes, rank amateurs.

“Wonder why they don’t get a couple of more boats, so they can all go,”
whispered Mouser, and Bobby answered, getting the idea from a story he
had once read.

“They are afraid of frightening the animals, I guess. They have to steal
up on them quietly, and if too many went they wouldn’t have any chance
of surprising them.”

In this Bobby had put his finger on the fundamental idea in the science
of seal and walrus hunting.

The animals, sluggish and slow when not in the water, friendly and
unsuspicious by nature, will, if not frightened, allow their pursuers to
approach quite close to them.

Then it is the aim of the hunters to kill the animals nearest to the
water—whether on the ice or ashore—so that the bodies of the slain
animals surround, prison-like, those of their live companions, cutting
off the retreat of the latter.

So the boys watched, fascinated, while the two slender canoes crept out
upon the water, the natives paddling gently so as not to alarm their
intended victims on the ice floe.

Nearer and nearer they came, the first canoe bearing Kapje, circling
cautiously about the animals, bringing up on the opposite side of the
floe from the other boat.

“Surrounding them!” cried Bobby, beginning to feel a sort of sick
sympathy for the animals at bay. They did not seem to have a chance,
surrounded like that.

Then suddenly the incredible thing happened. The animals on the ice—the
boys had gathered from the mutterings of the Eskimos that they were not
walruses, but were seals—as though finally deciding that the men in the
approaching boats were not friendly to them, began to move slowly,
sluggishly, the ones nearest the edge slipping off into the water with a
dull splash.

The men in the canoes, as though maddened at sight of their escaping
prey, rushed toward the floe and the animals that still remained upon
it.

They were too late. Before they had reached near enough to the ice for
the throwing of a spear, the last seal had deserted its resting place,
the huge drifting block of ice was empty.

“Zowie, that’s the time they got fooled!” cried Fred excitedly. “Old Mr.
Seal sure gave them the slip!”

“Not yet!” cried Mouser excitedly. “Look! They’re looking for them in
the water.”

“Not much chance,” said Bobby, wondering at the queer relief he felt.
“Seals are mighty slow on land, but they make up for it in the water.
Besides, I’ve read that they’re pretty fierce when they’re attacked in
the water.”

In this Bobby proved himself right. The men in the boats, after
encircling the ice floe several times in the pursuit of the escaping
seals, finally gave it up and returned, disgruntled enough, to the
shore.

“Well,” said Fred suddenly, “I can’t say I’m sorry. The seal’s a
friendly sort of old boy—just see what faithful intelligent pets they
make, almost as good as a dog—and it seems a shame to kill ’em off just
for the sake of what you can get from them.”

“Lucky for you the natives can’t understand much of what you’re saying,”
laughed Bobby, glad that Fred felt the same way he did about it.
“Hunting seals is their chief outdoor sport, you know.”

“Well, they can have it, for all I care,” retorted Fred.

“It isn’t the Eskimos that are killing the seals off,” remarked Billy
wisely. “They’re leaving that to us, who live farther south and don’t
need the fur or anything about ’em, really. The Eskimos do need to kill
’em or starve and freeze themselves.”

Although the boys were eager to find Mooloo, they by no means wasted the
rest of that day.

They wandered about the strange, fascinating, snow-covered land,
regarding the dome-shaped igloos with an interest that never grew less,
stumbling at last into an old stone hut which showed its deserted state
in every dejected nook and cranny of it.

“Wonder why there’s no one living here,” said Mouser, as the lads
wandered about the place. “You see plenty of snow houses around, but I
should think a place like this would be lots more comfortable.”

They put this question to Kapje some time later when, driven by the
pangs of hunger and a desire to thaw out their noses, they returned to
the igloo.

The man, seemingly disgruntled at the failure of the hunt that morning,
was sitting before the fire, a frown on his heavily creased face.

His wife, who was again stirring a delectable smelling mixture over the
oil stove, gave them her broad grin.

In answer to Bobby’s question of why the Eskimos built snow igloos when
there were perfectly good stone houses going to waste, the native merely
grunted and shrugged his shoulders.

“Eskimo like igloo best,” he answered. “Time come move along, leave snow
house, build another. No move stone house.

“Up there,” he added, after a short silence, waving his hand in a
generally northern direction, “Eskimo use stone house. Down here he like
igloo.”

At that moment, the son of the household entering, Mrs. Eskimo, as Billy
called her, served the lunch and there was no more conversation in that
particular igloo for several minutes to come.

Then Kapje, as though still smarting from his failure of the morning,
turned to the boys, a deeper frown wrinkling his forehead.

“You see them seal this morning?” he asked, and the boys nodded.

“That way, lots of time,” went on the Eskimo, as though it were a relief
to tell his grievance to someone. “Seal, he scared. You get spear ready
for him an’—poof—he gone, like that. Too much hunt. Other time, kill ’em
easy. Now, see you come too quick. Seal hunt no like old days.” And here
the man shook his head and looked so mournful the boys had all they
could do to keep from laughing.

After lunch they noticed with delight that the snow had stopped and the
sun was attempting to smile weakly through the heavy storm clouds.

At the sight Bobby charged back into the igloo to tell Kapje the good
news and urge him to start with them right away to find Mooloo. Still
the Eskimo shook his head.

“In the morning we start,” he said and something in his tone convinced
Bobby that there would be no changing his mind on this point. “Then we
reach Mooloo before dark. Start now—no can do.”

So, burning with impatience, the boys were forced to spend another night
in the igloo.

First thing in the morning they were up, garbed once more in their snug
fur clothing, ready to start on the journey.

After a hearty breakfast, they shook hands warmly with Mrs. Eskimo, who
beamed broadly upon them and wished them good luck.

Then they were out in the keen, brisk air, with the sun smiling down on
them and Kapje and his son waiting for them to start.

“All right,” cried Bobby joyfully. “Let’s go.”



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                            A TERRIBLE ENEMY


Never as long as they lived would the boys forget that all-day trip. The
intense cold nipped at their faces, trying to reach its icy fingers
through the fur that covered them.

Their outfit consisted of two canoes, one of which was managed by Kapje
and the other by his son. They were amply provided with spears in case
they should meet with any seals or walrus on the journey. There were
also a couple of old-fashioned rifles, which had roused intense interest
in the boys.

In response to Bobby’s question as to why the firearms were necessary,
Kapje had given his characteristic shrug.

“Meet bear, maybe,” he had said, as if such an event was of everyday
occurrence and not necessary to worry about. “Gun healthy have along.”

“Whoopee!” Fred had shouted irrepressibly. “Had a notion all along we
were going to have a polar bear fight. Here’s hoping we have another
bear stew before long.”

At that, Kapje, the Eskimo, had looked at Fred with the nearest to a
twinkle that the boys had seen in his eye and said, slowly:

“White boy make stew for bear, mebbe. How that be, eh?”

“Not so good, not so good,” Fred had returned uncomfortably, while his
companions roared with glee. “That isn’t in my program at all, now let
me tell you.”

The boys had chuckled about it all the way down to the water’s edge. But
after the boat had pushed off from shore and Kapje was guiding it
skillfully among the crowding ice floes Bobby’s expression became more
sober.

“Are polar bears thick around here? Do they find many of them?” he asked
of the Eskimo. He and Fred were in Kapje’s boat while Billy and Mouser
were with the younger Eskimo.

Kapje shook his head.

“No so much,” he replied in his funny English. “White bear—most never
see him. Yellow bear—once a while. He fierce—fight bad—shoot.”

“What do you mean, yellow bear?” Fred asked curiously. “Aren’t all polar
bears white?”

The Eskimo grunted as though in scorn of this lack of knowledge.

“White bear,” he proceeded to explain laboriously, “he not so fierce. He
run. Yellow white bear or yellow bear—he dangerous. He no run; he fight.
Shoot.”

“Well,” sighed Fred, resignedly, “yellow bear or white, I only hope we
get a squint at him before we finish the trip.”

They made good time that morning, although toward noon the boys noticed
that the water was becoming more and more thickly blocked with ice so
that in some places it seemed nothing short of a miracle that they were
able to get through at all.

Again and again they thanked the lucky stars that had given them the
experienced and friendly old Eskimo as their guide.

When they finally stopped to rest and eat from the generous lunch
Kapje’s wife had put up for them, they could see by the Eskimo’s placid
expression that he was well-pleased with the progress they were making.

As Kapje and his son talked together in their own language, the boys
wandered off a little by themselves, in order to talk over what was
uppermost in their minds—the treasure.

“We ought to find it pretty soon, now,” Billy said in low, excited
tones.

“If we find this Mooloo, we may,” said Mouser. “But by the time we reach
his igloo he may have gone. You know what Kapje said, when an Eskimo
gets tired of one place, he trots on a bit and makes a new snow palace.”

“Down with the gloom hound!” cried Fred, indignantly. “What’s the use of
looking for trouble?”

“Kapje’s been mighty white to us,” said Bobby thoughtfully. “If we ever
do find the treasure you can bet he and his family are going to be
mighty glad of it.”

At the mention of the Eskimo they realized that they had wandered away
further than they had intended and turned to go back. They hastened
their steps, thinking they might have kept their guides waiting.

As they reached the clearing where they had left the two men, some
instinct, some feeling, warned them of danger, cautioning them to
proceed quietly.

Although they were hardly aware of this warning, they obeyed it
instantly, their careful footsteps entirely muffled in the thick carpet
of snow as they approached the clearing.

Perhaps one thing that had warned them was the fact that they could no
longer hear the voices of Kapje and his son. Their low, guttural
jabbering had ceased, and in its place reigned an uncanny silence.

Bobby, his hair fairly rising on his head, was the first to reach the
clearing and, still keeping himself partially concealed, he peered forth
cautiously toward the spot where he had last seen the Eskimos.

At the sight that met his eyes it is small wonder that the blood
congealed in his veins. It seemed as though his whole body had turned to
ice.

With a slight motion of his hand he warned his comrades to be quiet. But
in spite of the warning they crept close to him, peering over his
shoulder at the tableau that held him spellbound.

Then slowly they also seemed turned to ice, frozen to the spot,
horror-stricken, unable to move.

For there, a few feet from the water’s edge where they had left them,
lay the two Eskimos motionless, apparently dead. And above them,
sniffing at them curiously, patting them tentatively now and then with a
great clumsy paw, stood a sinister, yellowish shape.

“A bear,” thought Bobby, in horror.

The bear was a lean, half-grown brute, half-starved by the look of him,
his coat a dirty yellow white—by Kapje’s own admission the most vicious
and formidable of his kind.

Bobby heard a gasp behind him and knew that Fred was about to rush into
the open, with nobody knew what mad hope of rescuing the two men from
their horrible fate.

Bobby grasped his friend’s arm, holding on fiercely.

“Keep still,” he uttered in a strangled whisper. “I have a plan.”

Bobby measured the distance between him and that rifle that lay so
useless in the snow. If the bear withdrew only a little way, he would
seize his chance, make a dash for the rifle, and shoot the ugly brute
before it could reach him.

It was a mad chance—an almost impossible chance. Bobby knew that, but he
also knew that it was the only chance they had.

Still holding fast to Fred’s arm, which the latter strove to wrench
free, he centered his attention upon the great bear that still loomed
uncertainly above the prostrate men.

If he should attack—then Bobby knew what he would do. Trusting to
surprise he would make a dash for that rifle in the mad hope that he
might reach it before the brute reached him.

Ah, what was the beast doing? Puzzled, was he? Undecided whether to
begin his feast then or wait to make sure that his victims were dead.

For a moment it seemed as though he would fall upon the two men lying so
helpless there, and with one sweep of his powerful, sharp-clawed paw
rend the life from them.

Bobby’s muscles grew tense; he was ready to spring. Then, with a sharp
intake of breath that was almost audible, he relaxed again.

The bear had changed its mind. There was plenty of time. He would sit
down and think it over for a while. With a slow, leisurely movement the
animal moved off a few paces, then turned and sat down, yellow eyes
fixed watchfully on its victims. The slightest movement, the slightest
change in the position of those two men—

Bobby shuddered and wondered how they could lie so quiet under the
watchfulness of that sinister glare.

He felt Fred’s arm jerk from his grasp and knew he could no longer be
restrained. Bobby knew that the moment for action had come and he
gathered himself to meet it.

Shouting wildly, waving his arms above his head, he dashed out into the
open, seeing one thing, and one thing only—that rifle lying in the snow.

The bear, bewildered, shrank back, staring. Only a moment, but that
moment was enough for Bobby. As, with a roar, the beast sprang forward,
Bobby straightened himself, rifle in hand.

A charging roar—a shot—the beast towering above him, staggering—another
shot—another—and a dirty yellow beast writhing in the snow! Then quiet
and a stain upon the snow that spread and spread, turning it to red.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                         THE BLINDING BLIZZARD


The whole thing had happened so suddenly that Fred and Billy and Mouser
did not move from the spot where Bobby himself had been but a moment
before.

Now they stared dumbly at him, looking with white faces from Bobby to
the beast that lay so still on the snow at his feet.

The Eskimos were the first to stir, and they got to their feet slowly,
dazedly, as though waking from a hideous nightmare, not quite sure yet
that they were actually alive and unhurt.

As though the movement of these two broke the spell the boys were under,
they rushed forward, bombarding Bobby with questions and clapping him on
the back, while they fairly wrung his hand off.

But the natives, a new expression replacing the wonder in their eyes,
shoved the boys aside, holding out their great, fur-mittened hands.

The son of Kapje shook hands with him first, pumping his arm up and down
solemnly.

“You save life of Eskimo—he thank you,” was all he said, but there was a
look of doglike devotion in his eyes.

Kapje came next, and his grip was even stronger than his son’s.

“Eskimo bad enemy—good friend—very good,” he said simply. “You save him
life—he no forget.”

That was all, but it was enough to make Bobby understand that he had
made two friends who would serve him faithfully and willingly for as
long as he needed them.

He looked from the smoking rifle in his hand to the body of the great
bear and laughed a little shakily.

“I don’t know how I did it myself,” he admitted, adding with interest:
“How did the bear manage to slip up on you like that, with your guns
several yards away from you?”

The younger Eskimo turned away and Kapje dropped his eyes to the ground
as though sorely embarrassed.

“We think we see walrus,” he explained reluctantly. “We drop our guns—go
look. When we turn back—see bear. Drop in snow—make believe dead. Fool
bear—little while. Then you come. Lucky for fool Eskimo you come.”

With this last sentence the old fellow turned away as though the
incident were definitely closed and followed his son down to the water
where the latter was preparing to shove one of the canoes into the
water.

“Well, we got our bear, all right,” said Fred ruefully, as he gingerly
touched the dingy yellow coat of the beast with his foot. “I wonder what
we’re going to do with it?”

When they put this question to Kapje he shrugged his shoulders.

“Leave him,” he said, laconically. “No take him along now. No time. More
snow soon. Maybe we get bear by an’ by.”

At his words the boys noticed for the first time that the sun, shining
but a few moments ago so brilliantly, was now behind heavy clouds that
certainly seemed to presage more snow.

“Gee, it wouldn’t be much fun to be caught in another blizzard before we
can reach Mooloo,” said Billy, looking anxiously at the threatening sky.

“I’ll say not,” said Fred, adding as he passed a hand over his face: “My
face feels like a chunk of ice. I’d give a lot for the inside of an
igloo just now and a good hot fire.”

“Choke him, somebody! Think of speaking of a good hot fire when the
thermometer’s sixty below! Cruelty to animals, I call it,” complained
Mouser, as, in answer to imperative gesturing on the part of Kapje, they
reluctantly left the bear to its fate and climbed into the canoes.

“Glad you know what you are, anyway,” grinned Billy and Mouser’s fervent
desire to “get at him” came near to upsetting the canoe.

At the Eskimo’s sharp cry of warning they settled down, however, and
made themselves as comfortable as possible for the last stage of the
journey before them.

It was almost two hours before the storm overtook them. But then it
seemed intent on making up for lost time. It came not in a gentle fall
of feathery flakes, but in a driving sheet of sleet that beat into their
faces mercilessly, blinding them.

They said nothing, just ducking their heads to avoid the worst of the
storm’s fury, wondering if Kapje would dare to go on in the face of it.

That question was answered sooner than they expected.

They had been making what progress they could in the teeth of the gale
for some fifteen or twenty minutes when the older Eskimo swung in
sharply toward the blurred outline of the shore.

The second canoe followed, and in a moment more they were staggering,
half-blinded and half-frozen, up the slippery, snowy bank.

Kapje was shouting something above the noise of the wind, and the boys
came close to him to hear what he was saying.

They finally made out that he had decided to spend the night there. It
was impossible to make any headway against the raging storm.

In this last statement the boys heartily agreed with him, but they were
dismayed, nevertheless, at the thought of spending the night in that
wild, uninhabitable spot.

It was not long, however, before they learned something of the genius of
the Eskimo when it comes to the making of an igloo.

Without wasting further breath on speech, the natives set to work
fashioning the snow into large blocks, packing them down in such a way
that, when they were through, each block seemed as heavy and durable as
rock.

It was not long before the boys caught the idea and threw themselves
into the work with a will. Not only was the work itself fascinating to
them, but they were glad to do anything to ward off the intense cold.

When they decided that they had enough blocks to start building with—and
the Eskimos worked with remarkable rapidity—they began the actual work
of construction.

It was then the boys marveled, their respect for these simple children
of the North growing by leaps and bounds as they saw the skill with
which they set about the erection of this snow shelter.

Standing within the magically growing igloo they fitted block upon
block. The sides and bottom of each block had been hollowed out in a
shallow groove, so that they fitted closely, and the blocks were piled
in such a way that they formed a solid strong wall.

With his left hand Kapje held the blocks, cutting and fitting with his
right hand, his son helping in this work while the boys, under the
instruction of the older Eskimo, filled in the chinks from the outside
with handfuls of loose snow.

When the work was completed they found themselves the proud possessors
of an igloo about twelve feet square and about seven feet high.

Then they set to work to make snow beds which, while not the warmest in
the world, were soft, and, within the shelter of the snow walls, would
ward off actual discomfort.

“What gets me,” said Bobby wonderingly, staring up at the arched ceiling
of the igloo, “is how you manage to make a roof of snow like that
without anything to support it.”

“Roof very strong,” said Kapje, not without a certain pride in the work.
“All of us get up on roof, sit there—it no come down. Roof very strong.”

Later the boys helped the natives carry the canoes up close to the igloo
where they would be sheltered from the worst of the storm.

Then they carried the contents of the little craft into the snow house.

They found to their delight that Kapje, with the foresight of his race,
or, possibly, thinking that they would probably run into just such a
storm as they had encountered, had provided for the emergency.

There were canned goods enough to keep them in comfort for several days
and a tiny oil stove for their cooking. And when a fire had been made in
the little stove and the contents of a can of pork and beans was sending
out its tempting aroma, the boys felt that their contentment was
complete.

The snow fell steadily all the rest of that afternoon and all night, but
in the morning the storm had abated. It was clear, but bitterly cold. It
did not take the boys long to realize that the thermometer had dropped
several degrees during the hours they had been asleep.

However, refreshed by a good hot breakfast and feeling that they were at
last close upon the trail of the guide Mooloo, they set off in high
spirits, which even the bitter cold could not discourage.

They traveled steadily for several hours without meeting with further
accident, and at last Kapje volunteered the information that they were
nearing the little Eskimo settlement where Mooloo lived in his igloo
with his wife and two small children.

The boys, half frozen as they were, felt their old eagerness reviving at
this information, and when Kapje finally turned in toward the shore they
had all they could do to keep from jumping into the icy water and
beating the canoe to a landing.

Once on shore, it was only a short distance to the igloo of Mooloo, the
guide, and soon they found themselves at the door of the snow house.

Then they followed Kapje and his son into the warmth of its interior.



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                           MOOLOO, THE GUIDE


Mooloo, who seemed a surly fellow and not at all like Kapje and his son,
looked up at their entrance with a frown. He had been doing something
mysterious to a sealskin, but now he thrust this behind him with a
suspicions movement.

At sight of the two Eskimos his face cleared a little, but he still
regarded the boys warily.

“Looks as if he thought we’d bite,” whispered Fred to Bobby, and the
latter nudged him in the ribs as a signal to keep quiet.

Kapje said a few words in the native tongue—probably introducing them,
the boys thought—and then he turned, holding out his hand to Bobby.

“Take you to Mooloo,” he said. “I go now. Goo’-by.”

As he turned to go Bobby tried to stop him, to thank him for all he had
done for him and his chums, but Kapje would have none of it.

“You no thank me,” he said. “You save lives of Eskimo. Eskimo never
forget. Goo’-by.”

The younger Eskimo grunted something that the boys took to be farewell,
and in another moment father and son had disappeared.

A strange misgiving beset the boys. They hated to see these two natives,
who had proved themselves so friendly, go. Here they were now, really at
the mercy of the surly Mooloo.

Maybe he was better than he looked. Anyway, they must say something.
They could not stand there foolishly staring at each other all day. And
it was quite plain that the Eskimo had no notion of breaking the
silence.

It was Bobby, as usual, who spoke first.

“Are you Mooloo?” he asked.

The Eskimo nodded, his eyes suspicious.

“We’ve come a long way to see you,” said Bobby. Then suddenly
remembering the walrus tooth token which, for safer keeping he had kept
on a string ever since Chief Takyak had given it to him, he put a hand
inside his fur clothing and drew it forth, breaking the string as he did
so.

He approached the Eskimo, holding the walrus tooth in his hand.

“Chief Takyak told me to bring this to you,” he said. “He said you would
know it and would know that we were friends of his.”

The Eskimo, who had never once changed his position and who was now
staring up at Bobby with unblinking, beadlike black eyes, shifted his
squat form with a surly grunt and let his glance drop to the token Bobby
held out to him.

The change that came over him was startling. He took the walrus tooth
from Bobby, his eyes lighted up strangely and when he looked up at the
lad again it was evident that he was greatly impressed.

“What you want?” he asked, and though the words were abrupt, the tone in
which he uttered them was almost servile.

Bobby had done some quick thinking in the last few seconds. He had
already decided to say nothing that might lead the guide to suspect the
real object of their mission. But since seeing the latter he had made up
his mind to be even more careful.

The fellow was surly naturally. There was a shifty look in his eyes. If
he should once get wind of the treasure, there was no knowing what he
might do. Bobby knew instinctively that this particular Eskimo could not
be trusted. So now he told the fellow just enough to satisfy his
curiosity—no more.

They wanted some papers and books they believed to be in the battered
hulk of the ship that had been wrecked a way down the coast. Did he
remember it?

By a slight nod and a grunt the Eskimo let him understand that he did.

Well, if they could find the papers and books and get them safely home,
the Eskimo would be well paid. Would he help them?

The Eskimo not only agreed, but seemed eager to be off. The ship—or,
rather, the battered hulk of what had once been a ship—was not very far
from there, it seemed, only two or three hours journey.

Delighted at the change in the manner of the Eskimo and only too glad
not to delay longer the search for the treasure, the boys agreed to
start as soon as they had something to eat and had warmed themselves
before the fire.

Mooloo’s wife and his two roly-poly, big-eyed children joined them for
lunch; although the children, shy at sight of the strangers, did their
best to hide behind their mother until hunger and the sight of tempting
food lured them forth.

Refreshed and filled with a wild excitement now that the treasure seemed
almost in sight, the boys, with Mooloo, the guide, set forth eagerly for
the treasure ship.

Unlike Kapje, Mooloo did not use a canoe. His was a flat-bottomed boat,
shaped more like a rowboat, but which he propelled by means of a paddle.

The boys noticed that he slipped several spears into the bottom of the
boat and also an oilskin-covered package which they guessed contained
provisions. Evidently the Eskimos took no chance of going without their
meals.

They had not journeyed very far when the boys noticed that, as on the
previous afternoon, the sky was clouding over. A few moments later a
handful of snowflakes showered softly down upon them.

“This old country,” cried Fred, brushing the flakes off protestingly,
“has got the habit of snowing, all right.”

“Maybe it’s only a flurry this time,” said Bobby hopefully. “Look! It’s
stopping already.”

But alas for Bobby’s hopes. In half an hour’s time the boys saw that the
snow was not stopping. As a matter of fact, it was coming down with a
steady insistence that gave it all the appearance of a genuine
long-continuing snow storm.

“Well, if that isn’t the limit,” said Billy disgustedly. “I guess the
weather’s just been practicing a bit so far. Now it’s ready to give us a
taste of the real thing.”

“What’s the matter, Mooloo?” asked Bobby, noticing that the Eskimo was
grumbling to himself. “Anything wrong?”

“Maybe no, maybe yes,” replied the Eskimo, with a return to his surly
manner. “We lost.”



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                          FINDING THE TREASURE


For a moment the boys thought they must have misunderstood him. Lost—on
an ocean filled with menacing blocks of ice! Lost—in a storm like this!

To the chorus of frantic questions flung at him the Eskimo merely
replied over and over again with stoic patience:

“We lost. Maybe find way again—maybe not. Bad storm. No can tell.”

Seeing that there was nothing to be gotten from their guide, the boys
finally relapsed into an anxious silence, their eyes straining to pierce
the curtain of snow that fell so thickly about them.

“Well, I’ve had enough snow in the last few days to last me the rest of
my life,” said Mouser, breaking a gloomy silence. “I’ll say this is the
limit!”

No one contradicted him and again they fell into a miserable silence.

The snow continued to fall, heavy, thick, smothering. The boys noticed,
too, that the ice that blocked the water was becoming more formidable.

They met with larger masses, and sometimes sinister shapes of baby
icebergs slipped by them, looming bulkily through the falling snow.

Once they became so tightly wedged between blocks of ice that it was
only by all working together with the spears, pushing at the surrounding
ice with all their might, that they succeeded in dragging the sturdy
little craft free of her prison, out into the more open waters.

Suddenly a guttural cry from the Eskimo warned them of danger. At the
same time the guide gave a sharp stroke of his paddle which turned the
boat quickly—but not an instant too quickly—to avoid the huge ice floe
that was bearing down upon them.

As it was, they scraped the side of it with a sharp, rending noise, and
then they saw, with a quickening of heartbeats, the animal on the floe.

A walrus! The boys recognized it at once, though this was not like any
walrus they had ever seen before. He was full thirteen feet long, huge
of tusk and fierce-eyed. He must have been very old, for his great body
was almost naked and marked all over with jagged scars of battle.

A walrus is, as a rule, a peaceful animal and is content to leave alone
the strange man creature as long as the man creature is content to leave
him alone. But when the walrus is startled or attacked suddenly, he is
remarkably ferocious and his great ivory tusks make him a formidable
enemy.

Now, this walrus had been surprised, and at sight of the spears which
the boys still held in their hands, his whole enormous bulk became
suddenly a wicked, charging fury.

Beside them and a little above their frail boat drifted the ice floe,
and upon it was that infuriated beast, roaring out its frightful
challenge.

No time to get away, no time even to think. Time only to act.

As the beast lumbered heavily toward them, the boys raised the spears,
which they still held, and lunged with all their might. At the same time
Mooloo, with a yell of rage, hurled his spear with all the force of his
body behind it.

The walrus stopped in its advance, gave one terrific bellow, and wavered
for an instant, its flappers turned in. Then slowly it fell to its side
and slid into the water with a terrific splash that nearly drowned them
in icy spray.

A moment more, and they had drifted past the ice floe, which was almost
immediately lost to sight in the whirling snowflakes.

“Whew!” gasped Bobby. “That was one close call, all right. Never knew a
walrus had that much fight in him.”

“Good thing he didn’t fall into the boat,” remarked Billy. “If he had,
there wouldn’t have been a square inch of us left to tell the tale.”

“Not bad sign—meet walrus,” said Mooloo suddenly, and the boys looked at
him quickly. It was the first time their guide had spoken since he had
told them they were lost and they thought they detected a more hopeful
note in his voice.

“Not a bad sign—what do you mean?” asked Bobby, his heart leaping with
hope.

“Walrus no go far from shore,” Mooloo explained. “We near shore—near
ship, maybe. We see.”

Although the boys tried not to hope too much from this encouragement,
they were encouraged, just the same. They knew that the Eskimo would
have said nothing if he had not been pretty sure of himself.

And then suddenly there arose, directly in front of them, another grim
shape and, thinking they had met with a real iceberg this time, they
called out to Mooloo to turn aside.

For answer the Eskimo gave a triumphant grunt and—kept right on.

Then the boys saw that it was not an iceberg after all, but the shadowy
hull of a ship—a wrecked ship—undoubtedly the treasure ship.

They felt a wild desire to shout aloud with joy, but somehow they
managed to sit quiet, keeping a tight grip upon themselves. To show too
much enthusiasm would be fatal. Mooloo might guess at their real
business there. If he did, what then?

As they came nearer the boys saw that it must be indeed their ship, the
ship which, wrecked on the treacherous shallows, had been left there to
rot by the indifferent natives. If they had known what treasure lurked
in that dilapidated hulk!

But right there doubt took hold of the boys. Suppose there was no
treasure after all? Suppose they had come on a wild-goose chase? Well,
they would at least know whether they had or not pretty soon. That
thought in itself was a thrill.

The vague outline of the ship, seen through the heavily falling snow,
looked enormous. One of the masts was gone entirely, but the other two
stood intact, rising gauntly, like skeleton fingers pointing toward the
sky.

Desolate, forsaken, coated with ice and snow, listing crazily to one
side, it was a forlorn enough object, but to the boys it was the most
beautiful and welcome sight they had ever seen. For, within that
battered derelict, what riches might be hidden, what promise of
adventure!

The boat scraped along the side of the wrecked ship, and with a loop of
rope Mooloo fastened the two together.

Lucky then for the boys that their muscles had been trained in outdoor
sports at Rockledge. If they had not been just as agile and strong as
they were, they would never have been able to scramble aboard the
ice-coated, slanting deck of the wrecked ship.

They finally managed it, however, and Mooloo, who had tied a rope about
the oilskin-covered package in the bow of the small boat, shouted to
them to hoist it aloft.

This they did and, seeing that Mooloo was about to join them, set to
work with their sharp-pointed spears to hack away the ice and snow that
covered the hatches.

It was hard work, and in the process the boys forgot that they had ever
been cold and by the time one of the ancient hatches was disclosed they
were perspiring with the effort.

Even harder work it was to pry loose the cover. But when this was at
last accomplished and they peered down into the dark interior of the
ship, something in the look of it made them draw back. Suddenly they
were not quite so anxious as they had been to descend into that yawning
hole.

But the voice of Mooloo roused them to the need for action.

“Snow harder all time,” said the Eskimo. “No stop to-night—maybe not
to-morrow. Inside ship, snow no get us. Let’s go! Hump yourselves!”

At this unexpected bit of slang the boys had all they could do to keep
their faces straight. Probably picked it up from the expressive
vocabulary of some stray trader or other and was proud to show his
knowledge of the English language!

“Right—let’s go,” agreed Bobby and, feeling with his feet for the
companionway steps, slowly let himself through the opening.

It was as dark as pitch, and although Bobby struck a match, the feeble
ray did little to dispel the darkness.

At last he felt firm ground beneath his feet and called out to the boys
to come ahead. They obeyed, and a moment later all of them, including
Mooloo, were gathered at the foot of the steps.

Mooloo directed Bobby to strike a match and throw its light on the
oilskin-covered package which he had never allowed to get out of his
sight, and after a moment of fumbling with the cord that bound it, the
Eskimo drew forth an oil lamp.

It took him only a moment to fill it and light it, and when this was
accomplished and the rays of the lamp illuminated their faces, the boys
thought that never had light looked so good to them before.

“Where are you going?” Fred asked of Bobby, as the latter began climbing
the companionway steps toward the open hatch.

“Going to put the lid on,” Bobby explained cheerfully. “When that’s done
we’ll be as snug as bugs in a rug.”

“Still snowing?” queried Billy, as Bobby once more joined them.

“Snowing!” repeated the latter. “I should say so. Looks as if it didn’t
intend to stop for the next year.”

“Well,” said Mouser, “if that’s the case, I’ll say we were lucky to find
this old boat all right.”

“Lucky!” cried Bobby, not able altogether to keep the jubilation from
his tone. “I’ll say lucky is no name for it.”

Feeling their way along, the light from the lantern, once out of its
circle of illumination, seeming only to make the darkness more
impenetrable, stumbling over rotting wood and other debris, the boys
finally found a cabin that seemed to be in pretty fair condition. Here
they decided to spend the night.

By the light of the lamp and with the help of a small oil stove—also
extracted from Mooloo’s store—they managed to make out a dinner. And,
after they had eaten, they were seized by an almost uncontrollable
desire to search for the treasure at once. Further delay seemed out of
the question.

And yet they knew that to show too much eagerness would be the surest
way to arouse Mooloo’s suspicion. Then, too, it was getting late and, if
the Eskimo’s prediction were right and there was a possibility of being
snowed in for several days, there was no real hurry about the search.

It was rather an uncanny business, staying in that derelict ship during
the wee small hours of the night, and the boys, keyed up with excitement
as they were, thought they would not be able to sleep a wink.

But, worn out with the thrilling adventures of the day, they were soon
unconscious of time and place and slept heavily until morning.

It was lucky for them that they soon found the opportunity they were
impatiently watching for, when they might search for the treasure
without being accompanied by Mooloo.

The latter settled the question himself by saying that, since the storm
was letting up a little, he would search the waters about the ship while
the boys attended to their business aboard the wreck. He said that seals
and walruses had been seen quite often and sometimes in considerable
numbers in the vicinity of the wrecked ship, and he would like to get
one, if possible.

“He can have his old walrus,” cried Bobby joyfully, when they were at
last alone, the great moment at hand. “Come on, fellows, we’ll make hay
while the sun shines. If there’s any treasure to be found, it will be a
good idea to find it before that old boy gets back.”

They did not waste any time. By the light of the lantern—the ice that
encoated the ship made it as dark in the light of morning as it was at
twelve o ’clock midnight—they made their way through the vessel,
searching cabins as they went, hacking away with an ax they found in one
of them at rotting debris that barred their way.

As the moments flew by and they had still found nothing, the boys began
to work with almost feverish eagerness. The fact that they must make the
most of Mooloo’s absence, drove them on to greater effort. They searched
beneath rotting mattresses, through chests of drawers, whose wood fairly
fell away beneath their hands.

In a cabin that had evidently belonged to one of the mates of the vessel
they found an iron-bound chest, and for a moment thought they had
discovered the treasure. But on forcing the lid of the chest they found
only rotting clothing, personal effects of the dead man who had once
occupied that cabin.

It was uncanny, this breaking into the secrets of the dead ship, and the
boys often found themselves listening nervously or glancing over their
shoulders into the mystery-filled shadows about them.

They came to the quarters of the men and it did not take them long to
make sure there was nothing there. Then on to the hold, where they found
nothing but empty boxes or barrels, or barrels containing cans of food
rusty and dingy with age.

They were about to give up the search in despair when Bobby spoke
suddenly out of the darkness.

“Fellows, I’m going back to the cabin we searched first. There was
something queer about it.”

The boys protested that they had searched that cabin thoroughly, that
there was nothing there, but Bobby was not listening to them. Carrying
the lantern, he was already making his way forward, and they had no
choice but to follow him.

Reaching the cabin, they stood around gloomily while Bobby picked up the
hatchet and went carefully about the place, tapping the walls as he did
so.

“It’s all off, I guess,” said Mouser, as the other boys followed Bobby’s
queer actions with little interest. “Takyak fooled us; or maybe he was
fooled himself. But—”

A sharp exclamation from Bobby cut him short.

“It’s hollow! The wall’s hollow here,” cried the latter, his voice low
and tense with excitement. “Hold the lantern close here, somebody!
That’s the way. Now, then!”

While the boys watched with an interest that revived in spite of
themselves, Bobby hacked madly at the wall of the cabin.

Three blows, four, and the rotten wood gave way. Bobby, putting all his
weight behind the blow, nearly pitched head first into the gaping hole
disclosed by the ruined wall.

There was a gasp of surprise from those behind him. Then a wild shout of
triumph. For at the same moment that Bobby saw it, they saw it, too.

A great chest, inclosed in the very body of the ship itself—a chest with
heavy brass hinges, an enormous padlock adorning the face of it.

Hardly knowing what they did, half mad with excitement, they tore at the
cover with their bare hands at imminent danger of losing a finger or
two, for Bobby was still wildly wielding the ax.

Then the cover fell away and what was left of the boy’s sanity fell away
with it. Before their unbelieving eyes lay a treasure of gold and silver
coins that glittered in the yellow lamp-light.

The next moment the boys were down on their knees before the chest,
shouting wildly, incoherently, to one another, burying their hands,
their arms in the glittering treasure.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII

                           IN IMMINENT DANGER


For a time the boys were almost out of their heads with delight. Here
was more wealth than they had ever seen or ever dreamed would be at
their disposal. They were inclined to pinch themselves to find out if it
was really true that they were awake and gazing on real money—money that
had such power and yet had been lying here useless for no one knew how
many years.

But there it was staring at them with its yellow eyes, gold of different
coinages and of many countries, amassed no doubt by some thrifty trader
who had sailed the seven seas and at last, extending his ventures to the
North for its rich seal fur, had come to grief on this remote and
inhospitable coast. Probably there had been no survivor of the wreck and
the ship had simply been recorded in the shipping lists as missing and
had practically passed from human memory.

For a time the boys were lost to every other thought but that of the
treasure, and they took it up in handfuls and let it fall in a
glittering stream beneath the rays of their lamp.

“How much do you think there is?” asked Bobby, in an awed tone.

“Thousands and thousands of dollars,” replied Fred, as he took up
another handful. “Maybe it won’t be fun counting it!”

“Let’s do it now,” suggested Mouser. “I’m crazy to know how much there
is.”

“Not now,” objected Bobby, as prudence which had vanished for a time
returned to him. “You fellows mustn’t forget that the finding of this
treasure has put us in a mighty lot of danger. It may mean the death of
all of us if we don’t watch our step.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Billy, the ecstatic expression on his
face giving way to one of soberness.

“Just this,” returned Bobby: “If Mooloo should once know that we had
found it, the lives of all of us wouldn’t perhaps be worth a plugged
nickel.”

“You don’t think he’d murder us?” asked Mouser, in awed tones.

“Who can tell?” returned Bobby. “There are thousands of men among people
that we call civilized that would kill us as readily as they would a fly
to get this money away from us. How safe do you think we’d be in New
York or any large city if thugs or gunmen knew that we had this with us?
And if that is true there where they’d have to take chances with the
law, how much more easily might it happen here. We haven’t any way to
defend ourselves, and Mooloo with his spears could kill us easily. There
wouldn’t have to be any explaining. He’d simply say, if he said anything
at all, that we’d been lost in a blizzard, and the Eskimos would grunt,
and that’s all there’d be to it. He’d slip our bodies into the sea and
they’d never be found.”

The boys shuddered at the thought.

“Do you think that Mooloo is that kind of a fellow?” asked Billy.

“Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t,” replied Bobby. “But many a bad man
becomes a murderer at the sight of gold, and it won’t do to take any
chances. They say opportunity often makes the thief, and I suppose the
same thing is true of other crimes. And certainly there couldn’t be any
easier kind of opportunity than Mooloo would have if he wanted to take
it.”

“But how on earth are we to get the money away from here without Mooloo
knowing about it?” asked Fred, in great perplexity.

“That’s something we’ve got to figure out,” answered Bobby. “But just
now the thing we’ve got to do is to board up this place again and do it
quickly. Billy, you go up on deck and keep a lookout for Mooloo. Give us
the tip if you see him coming, and we’ll hustle into some other part of
the ship. Lively now, boys.”

They took another long look at the treasure and then reluctantly closed
the chest. Then they set to work to repair the battered wall as well as
they could. It was not a very workmanlike job, but the walls were so
seamed and cracked anyway that by the time they had finished the
repaired part did not differ greatly from the rest, and they trusted
that it would escape detection.

Then they abandoned that particular cabin and took up their quarters in
another as far removed as possible from the treasure trove. Here they
got out their food and prepared a rough meal while awaiting Mooloo’s
return.

It was not long before he came trudging back, dragging behind him a seal
which had fallen a victim to his spear. His success had made him so well
content with himself that he was less gruff and surly than usual, and
even unbent so far as to tell them something of his morning’s
adventures. The boys laid themselves out to be enthusiastic about his
skill as a hunter. The more they could keep his mind on himself the less
likely he was to be inquisitive about them.

The Eskimo was hungry after his hunt and fairly gorged himself at his
meal. Then with a grunt of satisfaction he rolled himself in skins and
stretched out on the floor, and the boys knew that he would be dead to
the world for several hours.

Nothing could have pleased them better, and they took advantage of his
slumber to make a thorough search of other parts of the ship, taking
care to give a wide berth to the cabin in which they had found the
treasure.

What they found, however, was of no value. The remorseless hand of Time
had worked its will on the ship. Everything was covered with mold and
mildew and rust. The sailors’ chests had long ago been broken open and
everything of value removed. They came across fragments of letters, some
in foreign tongues and most of them illegible from age. Even if they
could have read them, the boys would have shrunk from doing so, as it
appeared too much like trenching on the privacy of the dead.

One or two gold pieces that had escaped the prying eyes of the Eskimos
were gathered up as the boys went through piles of debris.

“This explains why the Eskimos got the idea that this was a treasure
ship, I suppose,” remarked Bobby. “Doubtless there were a lot of gold
pieces in the sailors’ chests that represented their wages or savings.
Different parties came back with these from time to time, and the story
spread that where there was so much there must have been more. And it’s
barely possible that old Takyak made the same discovery that we did of
the treasure chest and meant some time to get it away either in driblets
or at some time in a mass. Maybe there was some superstition of his that
prevented his taking it before.”

In one of the cabins they came across a number of large books. Some of
them were scattered volumes of an encyclopedia. Others were huge ledgers
with brass clasps in which the trader’s accounts had evidently been
kept. Still others were bound volumes of old magazines designed no doubt
to relieve the tedium of the nights of the Arctic winter.

“Quite a library here,” commented Fred, as he handled one of them. “Why
is it that they used to make books so big and thick that it was hard to
lift them!”

Bobby was glancing over one of them when suddenly an idea struck him
with such force that he fairly jumped.

“I’ve found it! I’ve found it!” he exclaimed jubilantly.



                              CHAPTER XXIX

                           A CLEVER EXPEDIENT


“You see these books,” said Bobby, Billy and Fred and Mouser clustering
round him eagerly while he spoke in a low voice. “Well, there’ll be no
trouble getting them away from here, because Mooloo already thinks
that’s what we came for. He’ll take it as a matter of course that we’ve
found them, and he won’t make any difficulty about our taking them
back.”

“But who wants to take them back?” broke in Mouser. “They’re as heavy as
lead and they’re not worth house room to anybody.”

“Just hold your horses,” counseled Bobby. “As far as Mooloo is
concerned, they’ll be simply books that we’re taking back. But they
won’t really be books. They’ll be the treasure.”

The others looked at Bobby as though he were crazy.

“Come again,” said Fred, as he scratched his head in perplexity. “I
don’t get you.”

“When I was at home during the Christmas holidays,” went on Bobby, “my
father was reading aloud from the paper about some of the tricks that
are used in smuggling. One of them is to take a big book, scoop out the
pages in the center and fill the space with diamonds. Now what those
fellows did with the diamonds we’ll do with the money.”

A shout arose that was instantly repressed for fear that Mooloo would
hear.

“Bobby, that headpiece of yours is a wonder!” exclaimed Fred
enthusiastically.

“It’s a dandy scheme,” chuckled Billy.

“It’ll sure put it over,” declared Mouser.

“Now, the first thing to do,” continued Bobby, “is to lug a lot of these
books into the cabin where Mooloo’s sleeping. When he wakes up, we’ll
show them to him and turn over the pages so that he’ll see they’re all
there. Ten to one he won’t do more than grunt and think we’re dippy for
taking any interest in such things. But we’ll keep on until he’s got the
idea fairly planted in his head that the books consist of nothing but
leaves, for which he doesn’t care a rap. Then he’ll have no further
curiosity, and will probably never look at them again.

“That’ll be the first step. Then the next time he goes out hunting we’ll
get busy and cut big hollows in the center of the books. We’ll pack
these with as much gold as they will hold, and by the time we get
through we’ll have disposed of the whole thing. Then we’ll bind each
book around with thongs so as to hold the covers securely together. And
those books won’t be unbound until we’re safe and sound again at home.”

“But how about the money to pay Mooloo and the other Eskimos for their
trouble?” objected Billy.

“I’ve thought of that,” replied Bobby. “We’ll save some out loose in our
clothes so that we won’t have to unfasten any of the books. They won’t
know but that we had that money with us when we came North. And we’ll
pay them so handsomely that they’ll be tickled to death and think we’re
regular fellows. I want especially to see that Kapje and his family get
plenty for being so kind to us. And as for Mooloo, he’ll get enough to
make him a high muck-a-muck among the Eskimos.”

The boys lost no time in carrying out their plan. They lugged a dozen of
the ponderous volumes into their living quarters, and when Mooloo awoke
he found them poring over them with a great appearance of interest. He
jumped at once to the conclusion that these were the documents that they
had come to find.

“Find um-huh?” he inquired.

“Just what we wanted,” replied Bobby with perfect truth, taking the book
he was busied with and turning over the pages before Mooloo’s eyes.

The latter glanced at them with dull indifference. If he had any
pronounced feeling at all, it was one of disgust that these queer
strangers should be interested in such trivial things when there were
seals and bears and walruses to be hunted.

Bobby kept on turning the pages of one book after another until Mooloo
yawned and turned away his eyes. Still Bobby persisted, until with an
impatient grunt the Eskimo pushed the book away and fell to mending one
of his spears.

This was just what Bobby had hoped for. It was safe to say that only
main force could make Mooloo look again at one of the books for which he
had conceived a profound contempt.

The snow still persisted, and for this the boys were intensely grateful.
They had never thought that they would be thankful for being snowbound
on that bleak Arctic coast. But now they needed time above everything
else, for the work they had in hand must be done with exceeding care to
avoid any possibility of a slip.

The rest of that day was lost for the purpose, for Mooloo had done all
the hunting he cared for, and he had plenty of work on hand in skinning
the seal. But the next morning he again went out to try his luck, and
then the boys worked with feverish energy to carry out their plan.

Before the guide returned, this time in a bad humor because his efforts
had been fruitless, they had made notable progress. Mooloo was getting
restless and wanted to return to his home, but he knew that it would be
unwise under present weather conditions. But he gruffly announced his
belief that on the second day from then the storm would have so far
abated that they might make the return trip in safety.

The delay was to the boys what a reprieve would be to a condemned man,
and they so well employed the next day that when Mooloo returned in the
evening with two seal carcasses and in high feather their work was done.
The snow had stopped falling and it was arranged that they should set
out bright and early on the following morning.

The day broke clear but terribly cold. Still, by this time, the boys had
become partly used to the climate and they were sustained by an internal
fire that made them flout the cold.

While Mooloo got the boat ready and bestowed in it his hunting weapons
and other belongings, the boys lugged out the books and put them in the
boat. The books were now much heavier than they had been with their
former paper contents, and the boys wanted nobody to handle them but
themselves. They did not have to fight for this privilege, for Mooloo
was only too content to let them handle their burdens alone, and he gave
them an occasional glance that had in it something of amused contempt at
the store they set on such worthless things.

Still, if these queer people wanted to indulge in such things it was no
affair of his as long as he got paid for his trouble. And it may have
been the desire to have his pay that made him put especial force in the
strokes with which he drove his craft along. Of course he may also have
had a desire to see again as soon as possible Mrs. Mooloo and the little
Mooloos, but Mooloo was not sentimental.

The boys had arranged with Mooloo to keep right on with them to the
little settlement where the simple-hearted Kapje lived. For this they
had a double reason. It was nearer the coast and further south where
trading vessels would be more likely to touch, and then, too, they felt
much safer with Kapje than they did with Mooloo.

The latter had at first hesitated at the proposition, but Bobby removed
his objections by promising him double pay.

It was a long trip and a perilous one, for the sea was rough, the ice
floes were churning and grinding, and icebergs were numerous. But Mooloo
seemed to have a sixth sense that carried him through all dangers and at
last they sighted the little settlement that was their destination. They
approached it just as Kapje and his son, after a day’s fishing and
hunting, were drawing their boat up on the shore.

The latter greeted the lads with as much emotion as Eskimos ever permit
themselves to show, and cordially invited them to make their igloo their
home as long as they chose. The boys accepted this invitation, the more
readily now because they knew that they were in a position to reward
their benefactors for all they had done for them.

It seemed almost like home again to be in the simple igloo which had so
many associations attached to it as the place where they had been
welcomed to safety after that memorable night on the icy seas.

The Eskimo woman greeted them just as warmly as had her husband and son,
and soon had set before them a steaming savory meal which they ate with
the appetites of famished wolves.

Mooloo, too, took part in the meal and stayed overnight, as it was then
too late to think of returning to his own igloo. In the morning, Bobby
drew from his pocket some gold pieces and delighted the guide by giving
to him three times what he had promised.

As he was preparing to go, a thought struck Bobby.

“That walrus tooth!” he said to Mooloo. That token Takyak sent! Where is
it?

“Mooloo got it here,” replied the guide, touching his breast. “Big
totem. Good medicine. Bring luck. Mooloo keep it.”

“It brought us luck sure enough,” Bobby thought to himself, “and I’d
like to keep it all my life.” Aloud he said: “You want to sell?”

Mooloo’s eyes glistened.

“Mebbe,” he said. “How much?”

Bobby took out three gold pieces.

“More,” said Mooloo.

Bobby made it five.

“More,” said Mooloo.

Bobby shook his head and was about to put the money back in his pocket,
but Mooloo grabbed his arm.

“All right,” he said, and the token changed hands.

The first stage of their journey had been accomplished and they had
avoided the greatest peril—that of Mooloo’s avarice. They had the books
containing the treasure tucked away under a pile of furs in Kapje’s
dwelling where they had received only a passing glance and provoked no
inquiry.

Now, however, they were faced with the great problem of how to get back
home. They were in a perfect fever of impatience. The thought of the
misery their families must be enduring was a dagger in their hearts. In
the hard work and excitement of their ship-journey and their later
adventures they had been able to keep this at bay to some extent. But
now they had nothing to do but wait, and the torment was insistent.

So it was with immense relief and rejoicing that a few days later they
learned from Kapje that a trading vessel had arrived at a little
settlement a few miles further down the coast where it expected to stay
a week or so while the captain dickered with the natives. They besieged
Kapje with earnest pleas to guide them there.

“All right,” agreed Kapje. “I take to-morrow.”



                              CHAPTER XXX

                             HOMEWARD BOUND


The delight of the boys knew no bounds. They were up bright and early
the following morning, and after warm thanks and farewells to their
Eskimo hostess and her son, set off on their journey.

Before they started, Bobby, on behalf of himself and his mates, tried to
force some money on Kapje, but the good fellow would have none of it.

“You save my life,” he said simply. “Eskimo not forget. Don’t want
money.”

And despite all their urgings, he stuck to his resolution. But the boys
were not to be altogether balked, and Bobby took an opportunity when no
one was looking to shove a handful of gold pieces in one of the simple
utensils of the household where he knew they would not be overlooked for
long.

In a little while they arrived at the seacoast settlement, where the
first thing that met their sight was a medium-sized schooner riding at
anchor a little way off shore. She was a dingy and battered affair, with
patched sails and bearing traces of hard usage, but to the hungry eyes
of the boys she was more beautiful than the most palatial yacht that
ever sailed the seas. For she meant deliverance and civilization and
home.

Her skipper, with some of his crew, was on shore trading with a group of
natives. He looked up in surprise as he saw approaching the group of
boys who, despite their native Eskimo dress, were unquestionably
Americans.

“Well, I’ll be hornswoggled!” he exclaimed, as he looked them over,
“what have we got here? How did you youngsters ever get up in this
forsaken part of the world?”

He was a tall, lanky man who had lost one eye, but the other eye had in
it a kindliness and good humor that warmed the boys’ hearts at once.
Here evidently was one captain who was not like Captain Garrish.

Bobby, acting as spokesman, told him a little of how they had been put
on Captain Garrish’s schooner and frankly how they had left the ship
because of the captain’s tyranny and had, almost by a miracle, been
rescued by the natives. The captain listened with wonder, wagging his
head at different points of the narrative.

“A passel o’ hot-headed youngsters,” he commented, when Bobby had
finished. “You had fool’s luck or you wouldn’t have been alive to-day.
And now I suppose you want me to take you home?”

“If you only will, Captain,” Bobby pleaded. “We have money enough to pay
our fare.”

“Oh, for that matter I’d take you whether you had money or not,” replied
the captain. “I’ve got a kid o’ my own at home just about your size.
Well, get your duds aboard just as soon as you like, though it will be
two or three days before I sail. I’ve got a sort o’ storeroom that can
be cleared out so that you can all bunk in it together. Of course I
can’t take you all the way home. I hail from Canada and my port is St.
John’s, Newfoundland. But from there you can get a steamer that’ll take
you down to the States where I bet your folks will be glad to see you.”

It would be difficult to describe the gratitude and rapture of the boys.
They thanked the captain with all their hearts, and then set about
getting their belongings on the schooner. At a direction from the
captain, two of the crew cleared out the old storeroom sufficiently to
give them room enough to bestow their goods. There were several rough
bunks built along the wall, and while the quarters were very crude they
seemed to the boys like heaven.

Some days later the schooner lifted anchor and bore out to sea. It was a
happy group of boys that stood on the deck and watched the shore sink
below the horizon. Now they were homeward bound, and with every mile
that the schooner made in the cold northern seas they were that much
nearer to parents and friends and all that made life worth living.

The early days of the voyage were stormy, but the boys by this time were
seasoned sailors and stood the tossing as well as the veteran members of
the crew. Later the gale abated and became a following wind, before
which the vessel made good time, arriving safely at St. John’s sooner
than the skipper had expected.

With the heartiest thanks to the good-hearted captain and ample
compensation for what they had cost him, the boys went with their
belongings to the leading hotel of the town. Then they rushed to the
nearest telegraph office and sent messages winging over the wires to
their parents.

Bobby telegraphed:

    “Safe and well at St. John’s, Newfoundland. Will be home by
    first steamer. Best love.

                                                         Bobby.”

The other boys sent similar messages to their parents. What joy, what
rapture, those messages caused can be imagined. In a little while came
the return messages, almost incoherent, almost sobbing, even over the
wire, full of frantic joy and terms of endearment and thanksgiving to
God.

Then a little later came telegraphic money orders, for of course the
parents of the boys did not know but what they might be stranded and
destitute. The money was really unnecessary, but Bobby and his friends
were glad to get it just the same, for though gold is always gold and
good all over the world, some of the coins were so old, and many of them
foreign, as to excite curiosity and remark, and this was the thing above
all that the boys wanted to avoid until they should have their treasure
safe at home.

They bought new outfits, carefully stowing away the Eskimo suits which
they expected to keep as precious souvenirs for the rest of their lives.
Then they waited with what patience they could muster for several days
before the next steamer sailed for the United States.

The trip was quickly and safely made, and in a few days the boys readied
home and were folded in their parents arms.

What occurred in the Blake home was duplicated in all the others. Mrs.
Blake cried. Bobby cried. Mr. Blake cried. Meena, the Swedish servant
girl, cried. Michael, the Blakes’ old coachman, cried. Everybody cried.
They could not help it. There are some joys so deep that only tears can
express them.

When at last some semblance of sanity was restored to the household and
Bobby for the twentieth time had gone over his adventures in answer to
their eager questions, he learned in turn the events that had followed
the disappearance of the boys. Investigation had traced them to the
railroad junction where they had left their suitcases. The agent had
told of their having gone to Bayport to see the circus performance. But
at Bayport the clue rested for a while, until the finding of Bobby’s and
Fred’s watches in a pawnshop led to the arrest of Lemming and some of
his gang on the charge of robbery.

Lemming, on being put through the “third degree,” had wilted and
confessed how the boys had been shanghaied and put on Captain Garrish’s
schooner. This had relieved some of the agony of the boys’ parents as
showing that the boys were probably still alive, though of course they
did not know but what they had perished in the hold of starvation.
Captain Garrish had not yet returned from his voyage, and the telegrams
from St. John’s were the first inklings that the parents had that the
boys had survived their perilous adventure.

The treasure which amounted to many thousands of dollars was duly
divided and placed in the bank to be at the disposal of the boys when
they should reach the age of twenty-one.

A few days after their return, Bobby and Fred were together, and Bobby
took from his pocket the walrus tooth that had served as a token.

“Poor old Takyak!” he murmured.

“He was a good old scout,” said Fred.

“Wonder if we’ll ever have any more adventures as stirring as those up
north,” mused Bobby.

“I doubt it,” replied Fred.

But many stirring adventures were still to come, and what some of them
were will be related in the next volume, to be called: “Bobby Blake on
Mystery Mountain; or, The Treasure Chest of Black Rock.”

The boys gazed long at the token, their minds busy with the memories
that thronged upon them.

“What would you sell it for?” asked Fred,

“Not for its weight in gold,” replied Bobby.

                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         THE BOBBY BLAKE SERIES
                           BY FRANK A. WARNER
             BOOKS FOR BOYS FROM EIGHT TO TWELVE YEARS OLD

True stories of life at a modern American boarding school. Bobby attends
this institution of learning with his particular chum and the boys have
no end of good times. The tales of outdoor life, especially the exciting
times they have when engaged in sports against rival schools, are
written in a manner so true, so realistic, that the reader, too, is
bound to share with these boys their thrills and pleasures.

                   BOBBY BLAKE AT ROCKLEDGE SCHOOL.
                   BOBBY BLAKE AT BASS COVE.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON A CRUISE.
                   BOBBY BLAKE AND HIS SCHOOL CHUMS.
                   BOBBY BLAKE AT SNOWTOP CAMP.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON THE SCHOOL NINE.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON A RANCH.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON AN AUTO TOUR.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON THE SCHOOL ELEVEN.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON A PLANTATION.
                   BOBBY BLAKE IN THE FROZEN NORTH.
                   BOBBY BLAKE ON MYSTERY MOUNTAIN.

                               PUBLISHERS
                              BARSE & CO.
                    NEW YORK, N. Y.    NEWARK, N. J.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       THE BOY SCOUT LIFE SERIES
                     Published with the approval of
                       The Boy Scouts of America

In the boys’ world of story books, none better than those about boy
scouts attract and grip attention. In a most alluring way, the stories
in the BOY SCOUT LIFE SERIES tell of the glorious good times and
wonderful adventures of the boy scouts.

All the books were written by authors possessed of an intimate knowledge
of this greatest of all movements organized for the welfare of boys, and
are published with the approval of the National Headquarters of the Boy
Scouts of America.

The Chief Scout Librarian, Mr. P. K. Mathiews, writes concerning them:
“It is a bully bunch of books. I hope you will sell 100,000 copies of
each one, for these stories are the sort that will help instead of hurt
our movement.”

             THE BOY SCOUT FIRE FIGHTERS—CRUMP
             THE BOY SCOUTS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE TROOP—McCLANE
             THE BOY SCOUT TRAIL BLAZERS—CHELEY
             THE BOY SCOUT TREASURE HUNTERS—LERRIGO
             BOY SCOUTS AFLOAT—WALDEN
             BOY SCOUTS COURAGEOUS—MATHIEWS
             BOY SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE—LERRIGO
             BOY SCOUTS ON THE TRAIL—GARTH
             THE BOY SCOUTS IN AFRICA—CORCORAN
             THE BOY SCOUTS OF ROUND TABLE PATROL—LERRIGO

                               Publishers
                              BARSE & CO.
                    New York, N. Y.    Newark, N. J.





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