Cast-Away at the Pole can be found in






THE ARGOSY. Vol. XLIV. No. 4. MARCH, 1904.

The amazing adventures of two explorers who found the Pole after they had ceased to look for it.

CAST AWAY AT THE POLE.

BY WILLIAM WALLACE COOK.

(Complete in This issue.)

CHAPTER I.
HURLED INTO SPACE.

OUR situation was not only hopeless, but demoralizing as well. I realized this when 1 caught the professor looking at me with hard and hungry eyes.

"What ails you, Prebble?" I asked, straightening out the sleeping-bag with my numb fingers.

"My body craves nutrition," he answered huskily; "I must eat. Have you forgotten that we divided the last ounce of pemmican yesterday?"

"How could I forget it," I replied, "with this dreadful gnawing at my stomach to serve as a constant reminder?"

"Something must be done!" my companion declared with convulsive energy.

"But what?" I returned. "Here we are, lost on the ice cap, abandoned by our Eskimo guides, sled gone, dogs gone, compass broken, and nothing to eat but our sealskin clothes. Something must be done, you sav, and I agree with you fully. You joined this expedition to solve problems. Solve this one."

That should have floored Prebble. But it did not.

"I have already solved this one—to my own satisfaction," said he.

And again that hard and hungry look was turned on me.

"What are you thinking of?" I demanded angrily.

He gave a cackling, ill-timed laugh, a laugh that irritated me beyond words.

"The old law of the survival of the fittest will apply here," he said. "In your dash for the pole, captain, you have attained the farthest north, and I have demonstrated the truth of the meteoric theory of the aurora borealis. If I go back I can tell what you have done; but you, if you returned to civilization without me, could no more tell of my discovery than discourse in Attic Creek. Ergo, I return."

I knew what he meant well enough. But I was not ready to serve as a diet for the professor, even at the command of science; and as for eking out my own miserable existence with a ragout a la Prebble, I would as soon have thought of bolting the rule of three.

"You're crazy," I said shiveringly.

Consistent, my dear fellow."

"See here," I went on, "somewhere behind us is the ship and the ship's crew. When the Eskimo guides get back without us, searching parties will be sent out and we'll be found."

"But suppose the Eskimo guides don't get back?"

"I choose to think that they will," I responded firmly. "I'm not going to yield up my life to you and your meteoric theory of the aurora. That's flat."

Haven't you a thought beyond your own selfish aims and ambitions?" Prebble returned indignantly.

"Possibly I have," I flung back at him tartly, "but I refuse to throw myself away on a little old professor with a bee in his bonnet."

That was a shot that went home. The professor sank into a morbid silence.

"Besides," I proceeded, "the farthest north doesn't satisfy me. I shall attain the only point on this earth where the compass has but three cardinal points, east, west, and south."

"The North Pole!" he exclaimed, "Madman!"

"I shall attain it," I repeated, a warm glow of enthusiasm pulsing through my hungry body; "I shall plant my country's flag at the apex of the earth."

"What good will it do your country, or any other country?" he asked.

"You talk strangely, professor," I said frigidly.

"How will the discovery of the North Pole benefit mankind or advance civilization a single inch?"

"Consider the luster of the achievement, sir."

"Luster of the achievement! Mirabile dietu!"

"Not only that," I went on, waving my mittened hand in a direction I believed to be south, "but somewhere behind us is that execrable Griffyn, F. R. G. S.—an Englishman, sir, who has sworn to beat me to the Pole. Have you no pride, no patriotism?"

"I have both," said Prebblc plaintively. "But I am hungry."

"Hungry!"

The insolence of this professor filled me with wrath unutterable. I towered above him and gave him a look that sent him crouching to his knees. He lifted his hands appealingly.

"Your nose, sir," said he, "is very white."

I left off glaring at him, picked up a handful of snow, and began rubbing my nose. Bv the time circulation was restored, I found the professor had crawled into the sleeping-bag; so I crawled in beside him, thankful he had warmed it up.

This particular bag was a three-man bag; that is, capable of holding three adults. It was shaped like an envelope, opening from end to end; was made of reindeer skin, and had an outer covering of oil-tanned sealskin, the latter keeping out the water and keeping in the animal heat.

I fastened the flap over the opening. Then Prebble bade me an ironical "good-night."

The professor's "good-night" may have been ironical because of one of two things: either because of his resentment toward me, or because at that time of the year in the Arctics continual day reigned and there was no night.

"Which is the greater achievement, Prebble," I asked, "finding the Pole or demonstrating the truth of a meteoric theory?"

"There is no comparison, Captain Salis. Finding the North Pole is simply a matter of brute endurance; but demonstrating the truth of that theory, sir, involves ratiocination—calls forth all the best powers of the mind."

"Bah, sir!" I cried.

"Bah to you!" he retorted.

Thereupon he rolled to one side of the bag and I rolled to the other. There was a coldness between us.

Strange how little things conspire to shape our destinies here below. But for the space which mutual intolerance placed between the professor and myself in that three man sleeping-bag, one or both of us would have been sacrificed, and our sleep would have been a sleep of death.

1 remember reflecting bitterly on our hapless lot and dozing off by degrees, the professor's snores fading on my ears and at last dying away utterly. How long I slept I have no means of knowing; but suddenly I was awakened by such a tremendous shock as I never expect to experience again and live.

The ends of the frozen bag were bent towards each other with a great crackling, so that instead of lying prostrate I was in a sitting position. I thrust one hand toward Prebble's side of the bag, only to encounter a partition of deerskin.

What had happened? The sleeping hag had suddenly acquired motion—not over the rough surface of the ice cap, but apparently through the air.

T had a thought which chilled my blood. Had the bag slipped over a precipice at the edge of the ice cup? And were we falling, falling——?

Hut no, this could not be. There was no precipice at the edge of the ice cap, and the theory was untenable.

Besides, if we had been falling, we would have struck something long since.

"Have you noticed, captain, that we have a concentric and a lateral as well as a forward motion?"

"Prebble!" I exclaimed. "Are you alive?"

"Keenly, sir. This is a most astounding phenomenon."

I now discovered that the partition of reindeer hide separating the professor from myself consisted of a fold of the sleeping bag pushed inward as by some hard substance.

"What do you think is going on?" I asked.

"Our gyratory motion suggests a hurricane," he answered. "It may be that we have been caught off the top of the ice cap by an Arctic whirlwind. Can you open the flap, captain?"

I could and did after some little trouble. The lengthwise slit was in front of us, and.we were able to look through it without a change of position.

The view was not satisfactory, for a great white cloud enveloped us and made it impossible to see very far in any direction. We were suspended in gray space and moving with frightful rapidity.

As we gazed out into the void a blade object came rushing from overhead, grazed the side of the sleeping bag, and vanished below. It was over in a flash; so quickly, in fact, that neither I nor my companion could determine what manner of thing the object was.

"Merciful powers!" I gasped.

"We are bounding upward," mused Prebble; "upward as well as onward."

"Can yon imagine what that thing was?" I queried.

"Possibly a missile of meteoric origin. You are more athletic than I am, captain, and don't you think you could get an upward look without falling from the bag?"

I craned my neck outside. The next instant an exclamation escaped my lips.

"What do you see?" asked Prebble eagerly.

"A rope!"

"Suspended from what?"

"I can't see. The object it hangs from is lost in the clouds. By the mizzentruck of the Great Harry!"

"What now?"

I had made a discovery that almost caused my hair to stand on end.

"This sleeping bag is caught on the fluke of an anchor——"

"I see, I see!"

"The sleeping bag was scooped up bodily, the fluke catching it in the center. Your weight on one side and my weight on the other balances the bag."

"Beautiful, beautiful! Some aeronaut is making for the Pole by balloon —his drag rope swept the ice cap—the anchor caught us. The object that, darted downward a moment ago was a sandbag, thrown from the balloon to offset our added weight. Most remarkable!"

Prebble was chuckling, rubbing his mittened hands together and thoroughly enjoying the situation.

"Some scamp is trying to get ahead of Griffyn and me," said I crossly.

"Do yon observe that the cold is abating?" inquired my companion.

"The sleeping-bag does seem to be thawing out."

"Exactly! And I am in a profuse perspiration."

Prebble divested himself of his mittens and parka. Then from somewhere about his person he produced his steel-rimmed spectacles and adjusted them to his nose.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, peering at me sharply. "It is a joy to use one's glasses and have them keep clear of the frost. Do you realize what a rising thermometer means, captain?"

"It means wanner weather," said I. divesting myself of a few of my furs.

"Also that we are sailing southward at a great rate."

I was startled, for I had not thought of the rising temperature in that way. My hope of reaching the Pole, on that expedition, was to be only a hope and nothing more!

The field was being left clear for my rival, Griffyn, the man who had followed me like a shadow ever since leaving the coast of Labrador. My bitterness of soul may be imagined but not described.

In the gloom of the moment I forgot my hunger, forgot that the professor and I were balanced on the iron horn of a dilemma that might easily prove our undoing—forgot everything, in fact, but that I had weathered that long Arctic night and borne innumerable hardships all to no purpose.

Hours passed; then, suddenly, my companion reached over the partition and touched my shoulder.

"The cloud is vanishing," he said. "Lean out and look upward, captain."

I obeyed. High above us was the huge bulk of a balloon, and visible over the rim of the wickerwork car, suspended beneath, were the faces of two men whom I knew only too well.

I was speechless for a moment. Then a cry of rage escaped me.

"Salis, bv Jupiter!" boomed a voice from overhead.

"Griffyn!" I shouted.

What an irony of fate! My enemy and his secretary were the aeronauts, and it was their anchor that had hooked into our sleeping-bag.

Prebble clasped his bony hands convulsively.

"I didn't know that Griffyn had a balloon," he muttered hoarsely. "For heaven's sake, captain, be amiable! Be——"

"Silence!" I commanded.

"You have taken an underhand advantage of me, Captain Salis," my enemy called down. "You have attached yourself to my anchor, sirrah, with never so much as a ' by your leave.' Your conduct is unprofessional, and I shall make it known to the members of the Arctic Club. If I had wanted to take you with me. I should have invited you."

Being a sailor, I had a supply of language for just such an emergency us this. Before I could release the torrent of words, however, Griffyn, F. R. G. S.—to his lasting infamy be it said— had reached his hand from the basket and had severed the drag-rope with a keen knife.

Down we dropped through the depths of space; down, down, the wind shrieking in our ears and our brains reeling. Then a shock, a roar as of a hundred Niagaras, and after that—oblivion.

CHAPTER II.
DANGERS MANIFOLD.

"WHERE are we?"

That was my first question. It fell instinctively from my lips and was addressed to no one in particular.

I was a very much bewildered man. As I reclined on the ground and made use of my startled eyes to my right, 1 saw a pond, circular in form and perhaps fifty yards in diameter.

This pond was edged with blocks of white stone. Knee deep in the center of it stood a graven figure of colossal proportions, a jet of water spouting from its uplifted hands.

Rose bushes in full bloom bordered the lake; and back of the rose bushes, separated by a stretch of white sand, grew palm trees tossing their fronded tops in the balmy air.

Birds sang in the depths of the grove, and a genial heat pervaded the atmosphere.

I rubbed my forehead, water flying from the sleeves of my soaked coat as I raised my hands.

"Where are we?" I asked again, this time in louder key.

"Marvelous!" crooned a familiar voice behind me. "A is the balloon, b is ourselves, c is the lake, and x the way we got out; b divided from a goes into c——"

T looked around, and there knelt that blessed old professor, wet as a rat. tracing algebraic symbols in the sand with his finger.

And behind him—good heavens! What I saw behind the professor, stealing upon him with deadly intent, was a figure such as I had never before encountered outside of a hideous nightmare.

Seven feet the figure stood, if it stood an inch. It walked upright, and bore a striking resemblance to man, having two arms, two legs, a head, and features more or less human.

But it was covered from top to toe with a fine reddish hair, the hair of the scalp long and flowing about the shoulders. Save for a bearskin twisted around its middle the monster was entirely nude.

How its eyes snapped and glowed in the furry recesses of its face! And as it stole toward the professor with catlike tread it raised a long spear with a shimmering point, poising the weapon deftly.

I tried to shout a warning, but my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth. I tried again, and this time I managed to gurgle incoherently.

The professor peered in my direction. I fluttered a hand toward the impending danger, and he turned around.

"Ha," he gasped; "the Missing Link!"

Speech returned to me. With it came the thought that unless I put the professor's peril into terms he could instantly comprehend, he was lost.

"A is the Missing Link," I cried, "b is the spear, and c is yourself. A divides itself from b, b goes into c, and x is what becomes of Prebble!"

He gave a yell of horror and fell flat. Chug! As he dropped, the spear flashed through the air above his head and buried its point in the sand.

In a twinkling I sprang for the spear, jerked it from the ground and balanced it in my hand as I faced the hairy demon.

"Don't kill him, captain, don't!" cried Prebble excitedly. "Really, he's a most remarkable specimen, and we must take him back with us."

The Thing crouched in front of us, eyes burning like twin coals and muscles working with an itch to spring.

"It's a gigantic gorilla!" I declared.

"Nonsense!" returned Prebble. "It's as much above the gorilla as it is below man. It thinks we're pagan gods, and was simply bent on testing our invulnerability. Careful what you do, captain! It completes the Darwinian chain——"

"Darwinian fiddlesticks!" I cut in, out of patience.

"Calm yourself, sir. Fortune favored us when we were cut loose from the balloon. We fell into that lake, and this creature must have pulled us out. If it had wanted to slay us, why didn't it do so while we were unconscious and entirely at its mercy? Observe, captain."

Prebble got up and looked the hairy monster in the eye.

"Hungry," he said, making motions with his hands and jaws as though eating, "famished."

"What kind of a pagan god do you imagine it will think you if it finds you are hungry?" I demanded.

"That's so," said the professor. "Your lucubrations, captain, occasionally evolve something that is particularly apt."

Just then the monster roared aloud. The mighty sound went echoing through the grove, and was answered in kind from a dozen different points.

"We are undone!" I groaned as a whole pack of the fiends appeared and raced toward us in full cry from every quarter.

I was not blind to the incongruity of the situation. Although no judge of art, I knew full well that the colossus in the center of the lake was beyond the craft of these half naked creatures whose facial angles were small improvement on those of the orang-outang.

Granted that these man brutes were subjects of a ruling race, where were the real lords of the country, or some one in authority to whom we could make appeal?

Prebble and I were face to face with death in a most horrible form. The red demons were rushing upon us, snarling and yelping like so many bloodhounds, their spears leveled and ready to impale us.

We could not take to trees, for the attacking force wras between us and the grove. Nor could we retreat, for the lake lav behind us.

Our doom was sealed. I felt it in every fiber, yet I would not shame the glorious traditions of the American sailor by standing supinely and allowing myself to be speared.

The last ditch for me! Gripping the haft of my seven-foot lance, I held it at attention.

Considering that the world was to lose an exhaustive paper on the meteoric theory of the Aurora and a thesis on the Missing Link, Prebble carried himself admirably.

"Thirty seconds of life, captain," said he. "They are getting ready to throw."

"Only one of them is to throw," said I. "Look! That hulking imp with the rings in his ears is to have the first cast. See him rise on one foot—he throws himself back—he lets the spear fly——"

I watched, every faculty whetted to abnormal keenness. The weapon darted toward us, its bright point cleaving the air like a jet of fire.

I struck at it wildly. Fate was kind, and I countered the shaft, swerving it sideways and sending it hissing into the waters of the lake.

The fatal moment was postponed, that was all. Clenching my teeth, I waited for the next enemy to step to the front and make a trial.

"Captain," quavered the professor, clutching my arm convulsively, "I have this! I had forgotten about it."

A revolver! Prebble was holding it out to me in his shaking hand.

A shout escaped me. Flinging down the spear, I clutched the firearm, and before a second savage could launch a shaft I had fired.

The effect of that shot was tremendous. The bullet did not find a mark —my nerves were not steady enough for accurate shooting—but the report was all sufficient.

Every one of the uncanny creatures fell face downward and lay groveling on the earth.

"Now. Prebble," I cried sharply, "run for your life! The woods, the woods!"

We started, and had almost gained the shelter of the trees when a second detachment of the enemy appeared before us. I presented the revolver and pulled the trigger, but only an ominous click followed.

Again and again I tried, but without success—the cylinder was empty!

"Die like a man, Prebble," I gasped; "that's all we can do now."

Another moment and we should have fallen, pierced by half a dozen spears; but the unexpected happened.

Out from the shadows of the palm trees glided a form in white, halted between us and the threatening spear points, and raised one hand commandingly.

Instantly every spear point dropped, and the form in white turned slowly and surveyed us.

CHAPTER III.
ASTONISHING DISCLOSURES.

OUR protector was a woman. Her delicate features, the shell-like tint of her cheeks, her long sunny hair, her graceful form, all testified to that.

She was clad in a clinging robe of white, edged with gold galloon; buskins of white and gold covered her small feet, and around her brows was a gold ribbon. She wore no head-covering, and her wealth of yellow tresses flowed about her like a veil, even to her waist.

Never had I beheld such rare loveliness, and twenty years of sea had not blunted my appreciation of the divine in woman. An exclamation of astonishment and admiration fell from my lips.

Nor was the astonishment all on our part. Surprise and wonder were mirrored in the woman's wide blue eyes.

Although thankful for her timely intervention, I would have had my meeting with her occur under happier auspices. A young man—I was but thirty-five—should be particular how he comes under the eye of beauty, and my water-soaked clothes and disheveled appearance made my position most embarrassing.

Prebble did not seem to mind it. He was smirking and rubbing his hands and pushing himself forward in a way that irritated me.

"Thank you kindly," said he, bobbing his head and flashing his bald pate in her eyes. "Are you the owner of these beautiful grounds, madam?"

Our language was not hers. She stared at the professor blankly, and then shifted her gaze to me.

She smiled. Small wonder she smiled, with my learned companion ogling and ducking and making a display of himself.

"Hungry," whimpered the professor, conveying imaginary things to his mouth and working his jaws, "famished."

He turned to me with an unwonted luster in his eyes.

"We can't deceive her into thinking we are pagan gods," he imparted. This is paradise, captain, and she is one of the peri."

"Stop your tomfoolery," said I petulantly. "Your spectacles are hanging from one of your ears, one of your muclucs is gone, and you look as though you had been through a cyclone. She's laughing at you!"

"At us," he tittered; "both of your muclucs are gone, captain, and——"

I did not hear the rest. Looking down, I discovered to my horror that my feet were bare, and never before had they seemed so large or so out of place.

I reddened to the roots of my hair. A sailor and a gentleman may be excused, I trust.

She spoke to us, her voice like a flowing rill, rippling, musical. But her words! They were as much beyond us as ours were beyond her.

When she ceased speaking there was silence. I looked, perhaps, what I could not say, for she vouchsafed another smile, turned to the hairy ones behind her, and addressed them imperiously.

She vanished then, vanished whither she had come. I gazed after her with eyes that spoke what my lips dared not utter if they could.

The fiends stole up to us fawningly, making signs indicative of good will as well as suggesting that we go with them. We heeded the mute request and were led off through the grove in the direction taken by the lady, Our Lady of Hope and Deliverance.

Behind us trooped the other detachment of Missing Links, equally harmless and equally desirous of showing the amicable turn their feelings had taken.

"Where are we, professor?" I asked for the third time.

"We have fallen," said he, "upon some uncharted isle in the tropics. You are Telemachus, I am Mentor, the maid is Circe. Beware, captain!"

"Folly!" I retorted. "Do you mean to say that we were carried, on the anchor of Griffyn's balloon, from above the Arctic Circle to below the Tropic of Cancer?"

"How else do you account for the flowers, the palms, the balmy atmosphere? We are castaways, captain, and our lines, it seems, have fallen in pleasant places."

I marveled. Yet how else could we explain the surroundings in which we found ourselves?

Presently we came upon a vista which seemed cut bodily from the "Thousand and One Nights."

A palace arose before us; a palace with domes and towers of purest white outlined against the blue sky.

A great flight of marble steps led upward to the façade of the building. On either side of the first step stood two stalwart warriors on guard.

"Such a magnificent building," murmured Prebble. "There must be something to eat inside of it, captain."

"That is my hope," said I, "and the quicker we fall to, the better. I am growing weak in the knees."

At the foot of the grand stairway a man appeared as if by magic. Evidently he had been informed of our coming and was expecting us.

He was of normal height and wore a white tunic edged with silver. His head was uncovered, and his forehead and short yellow hair were spanned with a silver ribbon.

His face was high-browed and almost of Grecian contour. His eyes were blue, as were those of the young woman, and as they rested on me a peculiar sensation sped along every nerve.

Mentality was the key-note of the man's eves. The powers of his mind were extraordinary and were reflected in his glance in a manner most strange and incomprehensible.

Not being versed in psychology, I could not explain this visual force. I merely realized that the eyes of this startling individual usurped the office of lips and tongue, speaking a language and compelling obedience.

The reader will please make a note of this weird power. We afterwards found that the ruling race in this wondrous country all possessed it in greater or less degree.

Without a spoken word the man turned on the hairy creatures who had conducted us to the palace. They quailed under his look, shivered, and slunk away.

Then he flashed an order to us. The next moment he was ascending the steps, Prebble and I at his heels.

Whether it was the hypnotism of the man's eyes, or a weakness caused by hunger, yet my brain grow dizzy, I staggered rather than walked, and had but faint recollection of events for some time.

We were in a large room, it seemed, and more of the uncouth slaves were at work over us. In due course we left this room and came out into another, where there were strange plants and blossoms and couches covered with finest skins.

We reclined. Slaves hovered about us, giving us food out of silver dishes.

What we ate I do not know; but the food, whatever it was, was piquant and delicious. With hunger finally appeased, I dropped away into refreshing slumber.

I was awakened by a touch on the shoulder. Starting up from the couch, I encountered the eyes of the man who had met us at the palace steps.

The eyes bade me get up. I obeyed, and caught a glimpse of the professor, in a tunic of white and silver with a silver ribbon snugly encircling his bald spot.

At this I laughed immoderately, but ceased when the face of our unknown friend turned on me in rebuke. The face was grave, ominous, and I read disaster in its every line.

Commanded by a look, Prebble and I trailed af...

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