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   Chapter 2 A MYSTERIOUS ROBBERY.

The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic By John Henry Goldfrap Characters: 9642

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Their inspection of the Southern Cross completed, the delighted boys accompanied Captain Hazzard back to the main cabin, where he unfolded before them a huge chart of the polar regions.

The chart was traced over in many places with tiny red lines which made zig-zags and curves over the blankness of the region south of the eightieth parallel.

"These lines mark the points reached by different explorers," explained the captain. "See, here is Scott's furthest south, and here the most recent advance into south polar regions, that of Sir Ernest Shackleton. In my opinion Shackleton might have reached his goal if he had used a motor sledge, capable of carrying heavy weights, and not placed his sole dependence on ponies."

The boys nodded; Frank had read the explorer's narrative and realized that what Captain Hazzard said was in all probability correct.

"It remains for your expedition to carry the Stars and Stripes further to the southward yet," exclaimed Frank, enthusiastically, as Captain Hazzard rolled up the map.

"Not only for us," smiled the captain; "we have a rival in the field."

"A rival expedition?" exclaimed Frank.

"Exactly. Some time this month a Japanese expedition under Lieutenant

Saki is to set out from Yokahama for Wilkes Land.

"They are to be towed by a man-of-war until they are in the polar regions so as to save the supply of coal on the small steamer they are using," went on the captain. "Everything has been conducted with the utmost secrecy and it is their intention to beat us there if possible-hence all this haste."

"How did our government get wind of the fact that the Japs are getting ready another expedition?" inquired Frank, somewhat puzzled.

"By means of our secret service men. I don't doubt that the Japanese secret service men in this country have also notified their government of our expedition. England also is in the race but the Scott expedition will not be ready for some time yet."

"You think, then, that the Japs have secret agents keeping track of us?" was Frank's next question.

The captain's reply was cut short by a loud crash. They all started up at the interruption. So intent had they been in their conversation that they had not noticed the Jap steward standing close behind them and his soft slippers had prevented them hearing his approach. The crash had been caused by a metal tray he had let drop. He now stood with as much vexation on his impassive countenance as it ever was possible for it to betray.

"What on earth are you doing, Oyama?" sharply questioned Captain

Hazzard.

"I was but about to inquire if the cap-it-an and the boys would not have some refreshments," rejoined the Jap.

"Not now, we are busy," replied Captain Hazzard, with what was for him some show of irritation. "Be off to your pantry now. I will ring if I want you."

With an obsequious bow the Jap withdrew; but if they could have seen his face as he turned into his small pantry, a cubby-hole for dishes and glasses, they would have noticed that it bore a most singular expression.

"It seems curious that while we were talking of Jap secret service men that your man should have been right behind us," commented Frank. "I don't know that I ought to ask such a question-but can you trust him?"

The captain laughed.

"Oh, implicitly," he said easily, "Oyama was with me in the Philippines, and has always been a model of all that a good servant should be."

Soon after this the conference broke up, the boys having promised to have their aeroplane on board early the next day. Frank explained that the machine was all ready and in shape for shipping and all that remained to do was to "knock it down," encase it in its boxes and get a wagon to haul it to the pier.

"Say, Harry," said Frank earnestly, as the boys, having bade their leave of Captain Hazzard, who remained on board owing to press of business on the ship, made their way along the maze of wharves and toward a street car.

"Say it," responded Harry cheerfully, his spirits at the tip-top of excitement at the idea of an almost immediate start for the polar regions.

"Well, it's about that Jap."

"Oh that yellow-faced bit of soft-footed putty-well, what about him?"

"Well, that 'yellow-faced bit of putty,' as you call him, is not so easily dismissed from my mind as all that. I'm pretty sure that he had some stronger reason than the one he gave for coming up behind us as silently as a cat while we were talking."

"But Captain Hazzard says that he has had him for years. That he can trust him implicitly," protested Harry.

"Just the same I can't get it out of my mind that there is something wrong about the fellow. I wish he hadn't seen that map and the proposed route of our expedition."

"Oh bosh, you are thinking of what Captai

n Hazzard said about the Jap secret service. Our friend Oyama is much too thick to be a secret service man."

"He simply looks unimpressive," rejoined Frank. "For that reason alone he would make a good man for any such purpose."

"Well, here comes a car," interrupted Harry, "so let's board it and forget our Japanese friend. Depend upon it you'll find out that he is all O. K. long before we sight an iceberg."

"I hope so, I'm sure," agreed Frank; but there was a troubled look on his face as he spoke.

However, not later than the next morning, as they were screwing up the last of the big blue cases that contained the various parts of the Golden Eagle, Billy Barnes, the young reporter who had accompanied the two boys in all of their expeditions, including the one to Nicaragua, where, with their aeroplane they helped make Central American history, as related in The Boy Aviators in Nicaragua; or, Leagued with the Insurgents,-Billy Barnes, the irrepressible, bounced into the garage which they used as a workshop, and which was situated in the rear of their house on Madison Avenue, with what proved to be important news of the Jap.

"Aha, my young Scotts and Shackletons, I behold you on the verge of your departure for the land of perpetual ice, polar bears and Esquimaux," exclaimed the reporter, striking an attitude like that assumed by Commander Peary in some of his pictures.

"Hullo, Billy Barnes," exclaimed both boys, continuing their work, as they were pretty well used to the young reporter's unceremonious calls, "What brings you out so early?"

"Oh, a little story to cover in the Yorkville Court and I thought as I was up this way I'd drop off and pay my respects. Say, bring me back a polar bear skin, will you?"

"A polar bear skin?" laughed Frank, "why there aren't any polar bears at the South Pole."

"No polar bears," repeated Billy lugubriously, "what's the good of a pole without polar bears. Me for the frozen north then. I suppose you'll tell me next there are no natives at the South Pole either."

"Well, there are not," rejoined Frank.

"But there are sea-elephants and ice-leopards and-" began Harry.

"And sea-cats, I suppose," interrupted Billy.

"No," exclaimed Harry, rather nettled at the young reporter's joking tone, "but there is the ship of Olaf-"

Frank was up like a shot.

"Didn't we give our word to the Captain not to mention a word about that?" he demanded.

"That's so," assented Harry, abashed, "but I just wanted to show this young person here that he can't treat our expedition with levity."

"The ship of Olaf, eh?" mused the young reporter, "sounds like a story. Who was Olaf, if I may ask?"

"You may not ask," was Frank's rejoinder. "As you know, Billy, we have been frank with you, of course under the pledge of secrecy which we know you too well to dream of your breaking. You know we are bound for the South Polar regions. You know also that the object of Captain Hazzard is to discover the pole, if possible; in any event to bring back scientific data of inestimable value; but there's one thing you don't know and of which we ourselves know very little, and that is the thing that Harry let slip."

"All right, Frank," said the young reporter, readily, "I won't say any more about it, only it did sound as if it had possibilities. Hullo! ten o'clock; I've got to be jogging along."

"What are you going to court about?" inquired Frank.

"Oh, a small case. Doesn't look as if it would amount to a row of pins. A Jap who was arrested last night, more for safe-keeping than anything else, I guess. He was found near the consulate of his country and appeared to be under the influence of some drug. Anyhow, he couldn't look after himself, so a policeman took him to a station-house. Of course, there might be a story back of it and that's why I'm on the job."

"A Jap, eh?" mused Frank curiously.

"Yes; do you number any among your acquaintance?" inquired Billy.

"Well, we do number one; don't we, Harry?" laughed Frank.

At that moment the telephone bell rang sharply in the booth erected in the workshop in order to keep out noise when anyone was conversing over the wire.

"Wait a second, I'll see what that call is," exclaimed Frank, bolting into the booth. He was in it several seconds and when he came out his face was flushed and he seemed excited.

"What's the matter-trouble?" inquired Billy, noting his apparent perturbation.

"Yes, it is trouble in a way," assented Frank, "I guess we'll take a run to court with you and look over this Jap of yours, Billy."

"Think you know him?"

"That's just what I want to see."

"You seem very anxious about it. Anything wrong?"

"Yes, very wrong. That was Captain Hazzard on the wire, and a mysterious theft has occurred on the Southern Cross."

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