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Книга The Polar Treasure. Содержание - Chapter 17 THE CAPTIVES

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Once more there was quiet. One of the evil gang broke it with a startled ejaculation.

"What was dat?"

They peered at each other, turtling their vicious faces forward to see in the blizzard.

"I didn't hear nothin'!" muttered one.

"Sounded like de wind," suggested another.

They got up and circled their shelter. They saw nothing. They heard only the hoot of the gale. They gathered behind the outthrust of stone once more, huddling close for warmth.

They had dismissed what they heard as a child of the storm.

Indeed, it almost could have been some vagrant creation of the wind — that strange, low, trilling note which had come into being for a moment, then trailed away into nothingness. However, it was Doc's sound which they had heard.

Doc was now scores of yards away. He had much to do for he had learned a great deal.

The five were Ben O'Gard's thugs. And Doc's listening ears had detected enough to tell him the submarine had not met disaster, as he had thought. Yet he had carried the all-important valve with him in the folding seaplane!

The survival of the Helldiver without the valve could be explained, though. Ben O'Gard's crew had simply fashioned a substitute valve. There was a small machine shop aboard the underseas craft which they could use for this purpose.

No doubt they had started work on the substitute shortly after they marooned Doc on the iceberg during the walrus hunt. It had not been finished in time to use when they were so nearly trapped in the ice. But they had completed it while Doc was locked in the compartment aboard the Helldiver.

This, Doc believed, was the true explanation of their presence on land.

Ben O'Gard was preparing to slay every one on this forlorn spot!

No blood-bathed Jolly Roger ever held more frightful ambitions.

Doc's great bronze form traveled like the wind. He had much to do — not much time in which to accomplish it.

Doc had formulated a plan of action which boded ill for his enemies.

Chapter 17


IT WAS midnight, but the sun shone brightly. The storm had abated as swiftly as it had arisen. Snow no longer swirled. Such drifts as had gathered glittered like tiny, ridged diamonds in the solar rays.

Around the uncharted arctic land, the short, terrific gale had made a startling change. It had pushed the ice pack away. For miles in every direction, comparatively open water could be seen. This was spotted with a few vicious-looking blue growlers, but no ice floes of any size.

In the main lounge of the lost liner Oceanic. Keelhaul de Rosa walked angry circles, kicking chairs out of his path.

"Keelhaul me!" he bellowed. "The bloody treasure has gotta be somewhere!"

He came over and planted himself in front of pretty Roxey Vail. He glowered at the young woman. He had a face that mirrored indescribable evil.

Two rat-faced thugs held Roxey Vail. Their bony claws dug painfully into her shapely arms.

"Where's the swag?" Keelhaul de Rosa roared at her.

"I don't know anything about any treasure!" the girl replied scornfully.

It was perhaps the fiftieth time she had told her captors that.

"You an' your maw swiped the gold an' diamonds!" snarled Keelhaul de Rosa.

Roxey Vail made no answer.

"The Eskimos told me all about you an' your maw," the hulking pirate chief informed her. "Where's she hidin'?"

The young woman gave him a look of scorn. If she had practiced all her life squashing mashers on New York streets, she couldn't have done it better.

"C'mon — cough up!" the man hissed in her face. "Where's your old lady hangin' out? I'll bet she's sittin' right slap-dab on the bloomin' treasure! Keelhaul me if I don't think that!"

"You're wrong!" the girl snapped

"Then where is she?"

Roxey Vail tightened her lips. That was something she would never tell. No horror they could inflict upon her would bring the information from her lips.

"You'll spill the dope, sister, or I'll cut that swab of an ol' man of yorn to pieces right here in front of you!" gritted Keelhaul de Rosa. "I'll start by puttin' out the ol' geezer's bloody eyes again!"

Roxey Vail said nothing to this. What could she say? Her cheeks became pale as damask, though.

Keelhaul de Rosa kicked over a couple of additional chairs. He picked up a book that had lain on a table for more than fifteen years, and threw it at a greasy Eskimo.

Coming back the pirate chief tried softer arguments.

"Listen, sister," he purred, "gimme the swag an' I'll see that you an' yer ol' man gets safe passage back with me an' my crew."

"How can you escape?" Roxey Vail questioned curiously. "Your plane is destroyed. You have no submarine."

"I'm makin' the Eskimos haul the swag to Greenland for me."

"Then you'll kill them, I suppose," the young woman said coldly.

The way Keelhaul de Rosa gave a guilty start showed the young woman's guess had been close to the truth.

"Will you spare the life of the bronze man, also?" Roxey Vail asked tentatively.

Keelhaul de Rosa scowled.

"That swab is already dead," he lied, hoping it would help break the nerve of the beautiful girl.

* * *

THE STATEMENT had an effect exactly opposite. Roxey Vail sprang forward so suddenly that she eluded the pair holding her. She clawed Keelhaul de Rosa's villainous face. She handed him a haymaker that completely closed his left eye.

"Lay aboard her!" he howled in agony. "Pull her off, you swabs! Keelhaul me, but she's a bloody wild cat!"

His two men secured fresh hold on Roxey Vail, but not before one of them collected a flattened nose. Her arctic life had made a very hard young woman out of Roxey Vail.

The pretty girl now broke into sobs. The reason for her grief was easily understood — she believed Doc Savage was dead. It was incredible that the bronze man, mighty as he was, could cope with such odds as confronted him now.

Suddenly a bellowing voice filled the lounge.

"Boarders!" it roared. "Ben O'Gard and his swabs! They're comin'. aboard by the stern!"

Every eye in the lounge went toward the source of that roaring voice. It seemed to come from a small companionway which led off in the direction of the purser's office.

"It's Ben O'Gard, I tell yer!" crashed the voice. "They're crawlin' up some lines danglin' near the stern!"

Any doubt which might have been arising was dispelled by the loud clatter of a machine gun on deck. The sound came from the stern!

Another rapid-firer joined it. A white man — one of Keelhaul de Rosa's small gang — shrieked a warning.

"Ben O'Gard — " The howling of Eskimos drowned out the rest.

Ben O'Gard was indeed making his attack. "One of you hold her!" rasped Keelhaul de Rosa. "Keelhaul me — I gotta look into this!"

He sprinted out of the room. One of the pair who had been holding the young woman followed him.

Roxey Vail promptly engaged in combat with the single rat who now pinioned her arms. She stamped his toes through his soft mukluks. She did her best to bite him.

Although strong and agile for a woman, Roxey Vail would have been overpowered by the man.

But from the spot where that great voice had first roared a warning, there glided a form that might have been liquid bronze. Nearing the struggling man and girl, this became a giant, Herculean man of hard metal. Hands floated out.

They were hands which could have plucked the very head from the rat now belaboring the poor girl with his fists. Yet those hands barely stroked the man's face.

The thug fell senseless.

* * *

ROXEY VAIL stared at her rescuer. It was apparent she could hardly believe her eyes.

"You — oh, thank — "

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