The snow fell steadily all the rest of that afternoon and all 카지노사이트 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.