MoboReader> Literature > The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic


The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic By John Henry Goldfrap Characters: 12297

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The court-room was crowded as the boys entered it, but armed with Billy's police card they soon made their way through a rail that separated the main body of the place from the space within which the magistrate was seated. On the way over Frank had related his conversation over the wire with Captain Hazzard. It appeared that Oyama, the Jap, was missing and that several papers bearing on the objects of the expedition which were,-except in a general way,-a mystery to the boys themselves, had been stolen.

Putting two and two together, Frank had made up his mind that the Jap whose case Billy had been assigned to investigate was none other than Oyama himself, and as they entered the space described above his eyes eagerly swept the row of prisoners seated in the "Pen."

"I was sure of it," the boy exclaimed as his eyes encountered an abject, huddled-up figure seated next a ragged, besotted-looking tramp.

"Sure of what?" demanded Harry.

"Why, that Oyama was the man who stole the papers from the Southern



"Well, there he is now."

Frank indicated the abject object in the corner who at the same moment raised a yellow face and bloodshot eyes and gazed blearily at him. There was no sign of recognition in the face, however. In fact the Jap appeared to be in a stupor of some sort.

"Is that little Jap known to you?"

Frank turned: a gray moustached man with a red face and keen eyes was regarding him and had put the question.

"He is-yes," replied the boy, "but--"

"Oh, you need not hesitate to talk to me," replied the stranger, "I am Dr. McGuire, the prison surgeon, and I take a professional interest in his case. The man is stupefied with opium or some drug that seems to have numbed his senses."

"Do you think it was self-administered?" asked the boy.

"Oh, undoubtedly. Those fellows go on regular opium debauches sometimes. In this case perhaps it is very fortunate for some one that he was imprudent enough to take such heavy doses of the drug that the policeman picked him up, for a lot of papers were found on him. They are meaningless to me, but perhaps you can throw some light on them."

"The papers, we believe, are the property of Captain Hazzard, the head of the government's South Polar expedition," exclaimed Frank, whose suspicions had rapidly become convictions at the sight of the Jap. "We have no right to examine into their contents, but I suppose there would be no harm in our looking at them to make sure. I can then notify the Captain."

"You are friends of his?"

"We are attached to the expedition," replied Frank, "but I must ask you not to mention it, as I do not know but we are breaking our promise of secrecy even in such an important matter as this."

"You can depend that I shall not violate your confidence," promised

Dr. McGuire.

It was the matter of few moments only to secure the papers from the court clerk. There was quite a bundle of them, some of them sealed. Apparently the thief, elated over his success in stealing them, had indulged himself in his beloved drug before he had even taken the trouble to examine fully into his finds. One paper, however, had been opened and seemed to be, as Frank could not help noticing, a sort of document containing "General Orders" to the expedition.

It consisted of several closely typewritten pages, and on the first

one Frank lit on the magic words,-"-AND CONCERNING THE SHIP OF OLAF,




Though the boy would have given a good deal to do so he felt that he could not honorably read more. He resolutely, therefore, closed the paper and restored it to its place in the mass of other documents. There was, of course, no question that the papers were the property of Captain Hazzard, and that the Jap had stolen them. The latter was therefore sentenced to spend the next six weeks on Blackwell's Island, by the expiration of which time the Southern Cross would be well on her voyage toward The Great Barrier.

As the boys left the court, having been told that Captain Hazzard's papers would be sealed and restored him when he called for them and made a formal demand for their delivery, they were deep in excited talk.

"Well, if this doesn't beat all," exclaimed Frank, "we always seem to be getting snarled up with those chaps. You remember what a tussle they gave us in the Everglades."

"Not likely to forget it," was the brief rejoinder from Harry.

"I'll never forget winging that submarine of Captain Bellman's," put in Billy.

"Well, boys, exciting as our experiences were down there, I think that we are on the verge of adventures and perils that will make them look insignificant," exclaimed Frank.

"Don't," groaned Billy.

"Don't what?"

"Don't talk that way. Here am I a contented reporter working hard and hoping that some day my opportunity will come and I shall be a great writer or statesman or something and then you throw me off my base by talking about adventure," was the indignant response.

"Upon my word, Billy Barnes, I think you are hinting that you would like to come along."

"Well, would that be so very curious. Oh cracky! If I only could get a chance."

"You think you could get a leave of absence?"

"Two of 'em. But what's the use," Billy broke off with a groan, "Captain Hazzard wouldn't have me and that's all there is to it. No, I'll be stuck here in New York while you fellows are shooting Polar bears-oh, I forgot, there aren't any,-well, anyhow, while you're having a fine time,-just my luck."

"If you aren't the most contrary chap," laughed Frank. "Here a short time ago you never even dreamed of coming and now you talk as if you'd been expecting to go right along, and had been meanly deprived of your rights."

"I wonder if the Captain--," hesitated Harry.

"Would take Billy along?" Frank finished for him, "well, we will do this much. We have got to go over to the Erie Basin now and tell Captain Hazzard about the recovery of his papers.

Billy can come along if he wants and we will state his case for him, it will take three boys to manage that sledge anyway," went on Frank, warming up to the new plan. "I think we can promise you to fix it somehow, Billy."

"You think you can," burst out the delighted reporter, "oh, Frank, if you do, I'll-I'll make you famous. I'll write you up as the discoverer of the ship of Olaf and-"

"That's enough," suddenly interrupted Frank, "if you want to do me a favor, Billy, never mention any more about that till Captain Hazzard himself decides to tell us about it. We only let what we know of the secret slip out by accident and we have no right to speculate on what Captain Hazzard evidently wishes kept a mystery till the time comes to reveal it."

"I'm sorry, Frank," contritely said Billy, "I won't speak any more about it; but," he added to himself, "you can't keep me from thinking about it."

As Frank had anticipated, Captain Hazzard agreed to ship Billy Barnes as a member of the expedition. He was to be a sort of general secretary and assist the boys with the aeroplane and motor sledge when the time came. The reporter's face, when after a brief conference it was announced to him that he might consider himself one of the Southern Cross's ship's company, was a study. It was all he could do to keep from shouting at the top of his voice. The contrast between the dignity he felt he ought to assume before Captain Hazzard and the desire he felt to skip about and express his feelings in some active way produced such a ludicrous mixture of emotions on Billy's face that both the boys and the captain himself had to burst into uncontrollable laughter at it. Laughter in which the good natured Billy, without exactly understanding its cause, heartily joined.

A week later the final good-byes were said and the Southern Cross was ready for sea. She was to meet a coal-ship at Monte Video in the Argentine Republic which would tow her as far as the Great Barrier. This was to conserve her own coal supply. The other vessel would then discharge her cargo of coal,-thus leaving the adventurers a plentiful supply of fuel in case the worst came to worst, and they were frozen in for a second winter.

In case nothing was heard of them by the following fall a relief ship was to be despatched which would reach them roughly about the beginning of December, when the Antarctic summer is beginning to draw to a close. The commander of the Southern Cross expected to reach the great southern ice-barrier in about the beginning of February, when the winter, which reaches its climax in August, would be just closing in. The winter months were to be devoted to establishing a camp, from which in the following spring-answering to our fall-the expedition would be sent out.

"Hurray! a winter in the Polar ice," shouted the boys as the program was explained to them.

"And a dash for the pole to cap it off," shouted the usually unemotional Frank, his face shining at the prospect.

As has been said, the Southern Cross was an old whaler. Built rather for staunchness than beauty, she was no ideal of a mariner's dream as she unobtrusively cleared from her wharf one gray, chilly morning which held a promise of snow in its leaden sky. There were few but the stevedores, who always hang about "the Basin," and some idlers, to watch her as she cast off her lines and a tug pulled her head round till she pointed for the opening of the berth in which she had lain so long. Of these onlookers not one had any more than a hazy idea of where the vessel was bound and why.

As the Southern Cross steamed steadily on down the bay, past the bleak hills of Staten Island, on by Sandy Hook, reaching out its long, desolate finger as if pointing ships out to the ocean beyond, the three boys stood together in a delighted group in the lee of a pile of steel drums, each containing twenty gallons of gasolene.

"Well, old fellow, we're off at last," cried Frank, his eye kindling as the Southern Cross altered her course a bit and stood due south down the Jersey coast.

"That's it," cried Billy, with a wave of his soft cap, "off at last; we're the three luckiest boys on this globe, I say."

"Same here," was Harry's rejoinder.

The blunt bows of the Southern Cross began to lift to the long heave of the ever restless Atlantic. She slid over the shoulder of one big wave and into the trough of another with a steady rhythmic glide that spoke well for her seaworthy qualities. Frank, snugly out of the nipping wind in the shelter of the gasolene drums, was silent for several minutes musing over the adventurous voyage on which they were setting out. Thus he had not noticed a change coming over Harry and Billy. Suddenly a groan fell on his ear. Startled, the boy looked round.

On the edge of the hatch sat Billy and beside him, his head sunk in his hands, was Harry.

"What's the matter with you fellows?" demanded Frank.

At that instant an unusually large breaker came rolling towards the Southern Cross and caught her fair and square on the side of the bow. Deep laden as she was it broke over her and a wall of green water came tumbling and sweeping along the decks. Frank avoided it by leaping upward and seizing a stanchion used to secure the framework holding down the deck load.

But neither Harry nor Billy moved, except a few minutes later when another heavy roll sent them sliding into the scuppers.

"Come, you fellows, you'd better get up, and turn in aft," said Frank.

"Oh, leave me alone," groaned Billy.

"I'm going to die, I think," moaned Harry.

At this moment the new steward, a raw boy from Vermont, who had been at sea for several years, came up to where the two boys were suffering.

"Breakfast's ready," he announced, "there's some nice fat bacon and fried eggs and jam and--"

It was too much. With what strength they had left Billy and Harry tumbled to their feet and aimed simultaneous blows at him.

It was a final effort and as the Southern Cross plunged onward toward her mysterious goal she carried with her two of the most sea-sick boys ever recorded on a ship's manifest.

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