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CHAPTER XI. A SERIOUS ACCIDENT.
Frank now began to make more accurate calculations as to their exact position.

The result was that the party was soon scrambling down the mountain side and rapidly approaching the Scorcher, for the firing every moment grew more distinct.

Suddenly a dull glow was seen through the mist. Frank gave a cry of joy.

“That is the searchlight,” he cried. “We shall soon be there!”

And his prediction was verified. After a hard scramble the Scorcher was reached.

All were glad of this.

The expedition around the range had been a failure. The fate of Captain Ward and his men remained unsolved.

But it was safe to assume that they had perished in the waters of the inland sea. All were agreed upon this point.

Frank examined the barometer with some alarm.

“I’m afraid,” he said, “that if we do not make a move very quickly to return to the Pearl that we will never get there.”

“That’s correct, mate,” declared Wendel. “I agree with ye. The winter storms will block the fiord. If the ship stands the nipping the spring thaw will carry her into the northward current and we shall never see her again.”

“Enough!” cried Randall. “Why do we delay here, then?”

“I fear to start out in this deadly mist,” replied Frank.

“We must risk it!”

A long and earnest consultation was held.

Of course, there was no telling how long the mist would last. It might disappear in a few hours: it might not do so for a week.

However, it was finally decided to make the attempt.

The searchlight was trimmed to its fullest power, and the Scorcher began to feel its way down the mountain side.

Mains and the three sailors rode on the deck, for there was not room for all in the cabin comfortably.

For hours the Scorcher made its uncertain way down the mountain to the plain, and the pass which would take them into the fiord.

It was not an easy matter to thus fumble along in the darkness. There were innumerable perils.

But Frank kept the machine on its course as well as he could, and exercised all due caution.

At length the pass was reached.

Here the mist lessened and it was easier to see the way. The machine threaded its way through the defile with greater ease.

And when its end was reached the plain and river extending to the ice-belt lay clear of mist or cloud.

The storm was peculiar to the volcanic region alone. Frank was even enabled to dispense with the searchlight.

A chill wind blew from the north, and the voyagers were obliged to wrap themselves up warmly. The machine ran along the banks of the river.

The spirits of all began to rise. Even the seamen on the Scorcher’s deck were much lighter of spirit.

“If we only find the ship unharmed,” cried Frank, “we will be able to find our way home yet.”

Home!

The word seemed to have a magic charm to each one in the party. It was true that it had been a long time since they had seen it.

Indeed, it had seemed at times as if they were doomed to spend their lives in this place. That it was to become their tomb.

But there was a chance of liberation, and all looked forward hopefully.

Camp was made on the river banks. Barney and Pomp improved the opportunity to try fishing.

There were delicious trout in the clear waters, and they rose readily to the fly.

They returned with a goodly mess, and it was an agreeable change from the stale food which they had been eating.

Down the river’s course the Scorcher went until patches of ice and snow began to appear.

Soon they crossed the belt and were in the ice region.

It became necessary now to don their fur suits and prepare for the chill winds. Frost formed on the pilot-house windows exceedingly thick.

The four seamen were ensconced in cramped quarters in the cabin, for they could not have existed outside. All preparations were made for a rough trip.

And this was what they had, as events will prove.

Soon they were in the heart of the fiord and upon the surface of the river.

Here the first mishap befell them.

It happened this way:

Barney was at the wheel and the Scorcher was gliding between two huge bergs of ice, when there was a crash and a sullen roar and one of them fell.

It struck the forward trucks of the machine. There was a ripping, rending sound, and then the machine pitched forward heavily.

Not a man but was thrown upon his face and all realized that the machine had met with a serious mishap.

Luckily no one was injured.

Frank sprung out of the cabin door. He gave a cry of dismay at the sight before him.

There lay a heap of crushed material, the trucks and forward running gear of the machine. They were fearfully mixed up with the ice.

Here was a catastrophe of no mild sort. Pallid and nerveless he was joined by the others.

“Gee whiz!” exclaimed Randall, in dismay, “we’re done for, Frank!”

“Begorra, the masheen is spoilt, intoirely!” wailed Barney.

For a moment Frank seemed utterly unable to act.

Then he walked slowly about the Scorcher. He examined the broken gear long and slowly.

Then he said:

“Barney and Pomp, bring out tools and help me clear away this debris.”

The two jokers hastily obeyed.

Frank proceeded to disentangle the wreck. All went silently to work to help him.

The forward part of the Scorcher was set upon a support, while Frank endeavored to repair the wheels. But presently he said:

“My friends, I’m afraid we are bad............
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