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Книга The Polar Treasure. Страница 28

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"Very well, I come from nakroom," Doc persisted. "And I come to do good."

"You speak with a split tongue," he was informed. "Only tongaks, evil spirits, come from nakroom."

Doc decided to drop the subject. He didn't have time to convert their religious beliefs.

Doc took stock of their weapons. They carried harpoons with lines of hair seal thong bent in the detachable tips. Some held oonapiks, short hunting spears. Quite a few bayonets were in evidence. These had evidently been garnered from the Oceanic. No firearms were to be seen.

Not the least dangerous were ordinary dog whips. These had lashes fully eighteen feet long. From his vast knowledge, Doc knew an Eskimo could take one of these whips and cut a man's throat at five paces. Flicking at distant objects with the dog whips bordered on being the Eskimo national pastime.

"Kill him!" clucked the Eskimo leader. "He is only one man! It will be easy!"

The Innuit was underestimating, a mistake Doc's enemies quite often made.

* * *

DOC PICKED up a round-topped table. This would serve as a shield against any weapon his foes had.

He seized a chair, flung it as though it were a chip. Three Innuits were bowled over. They hadn't had time to dodge.

A flight of harpoons and short hunting spears chugged into the table. Doc threw two more chairs. He retreated to a spot far from the nearest flickering blubber lamp. He lowered the table, making sure they all saw he was behind it. Then he flattened to the lounge floor and glided away, unnoticed.

The Eskimos rushed the table, bent on murder. They howled in dismay when they found no one there. The howls turned to pain as hunters in the rear began dropping from bronze fists that exploded like nitro on their jaws.

An Innuit lunged at Doc with a harpoon. Doc picked the harpoon out of the fellow's hands and broke it over his head. A tough walrus lash on a dog whip slit the hood of Doc's parka like a knife stroke.

The bronze giant retreated. Thrown spears and bayonets seemed to whizz through his very body, so quickly did he dodge.

His uncanny skill began to have its effect. The greasy fellows rolled their little eyes at each other. Fear distorted their pudgy faces.

"Truly, he is a tongak, an evil one!" they muttered. "None other could be so hard to kill."

"All gather together!" commanded their leader. "We will rush him in a group!"

The words were hardly off the leader's lips when he dropped, his blank and senseless face looking foolishly through the rungs of the chair which had hit him.

The harm had been done. The Innuits grouped. They took fresh holds on their weapons.

They charged.

They had hit upon the only chance they had of coping with Doc. There were nearly fifty of them. Despite their short stature and fat, they were stout, fierce fighters.

With mad, bloodthirsty squeals, they closed upon the mighty bronze man. For a moment, they covered him completely. A tidal wave of killers!

Then a bronze arrow of a figure shot upward from the squirming pile.

The ceiling of the lounge was criss-crossed with elaborately decorated beams. Doc's sinewy hands grasped these, clinging to a precarious handhold as he moved away.

He dropped to the floor, clear of the fight, before he was hardly missed.

But the Eskimos still had him cut off from the exits. They closed in again. They threw spears and knives and an occasional club, all of which Doc dodged. They shrieked maledictions, largely to renew their own faltering nerve.

The situation was getting desperate. Doc put his back to a bulkhead.

He did not pay particular attention to the fact that he was near the spot where the strange, warm, soft object had touched his neck.

With hideous yells, the killing horde of Innuits charged.

A door opened beside Doc. A soft, strong hand came out. It clutched Doc's arm.

It was a woman's hand.

Chapter 15


DOC SAVAGE whipped through the door. He caught a brief glimpse of the girl.

She was tall. Nothing more than that could be told about her form, since she was muffled in the garb of the arctic — moccasins reaching above her knees, and with the tops decorated with the long hair of the polar bear, trousers of the skin of the arctic hare, a shirt-like garment of auk skins, and an outer parka of a coat fitted with a hood.

But her face! That was different. He could see enough of that to tell she was a creature of gorgeous beauty. Enthralling eyes, an exquisite little upturned nose, lips as inviting as the petals of a red rose — they would have made most men forget all about the fight.

Had there been light to disclose Doc's features, however, an onlooker would have been surprised to note how little the giant bronze man was affected by this entrancing beauty.

Doc worked at the prosaic, but by no means unimportant, task of securing the door. He got it fast.

He turned his flashlight on the girl. He had noted something he wanted to verify. The gaze he bent upon her was the same sort he would give any stranger he might be curious about.

Her hair was white; it was a strange, warm sort of white, like old ivory. The girl was a perfect blonde.

Doc thought of Victor Vail. The violinist had this same sort of hair — a little more white, perhaps.

"You did me a great favor, Miss Vail," Doc told the girl.

She started. She put her hands over her lips. She wore no mittens. Her hands were long, shapely, velvet of skin.

"How did — ?"

"Did I know you were Roxey Vail?" Doc picked up her question. "You could be no one else. You are the image of your father."

"My father!" She said the word softly, as if it were something sacred. "Did you know him?"

Doc thought of that smear of scarlet on the ice near the spot where Victor Vail had disappeared. He changed the subject.

"Did any one besides you escape the massacre aboard this liner?"

The girl hesitated.

Doc turned his flash on his own face. He knew she was uncertain whether to trust him. Doc was not flattering himself when he felt that a look at his strong features would reassure her. He had seen it work before.

"My mother survived," said the girl.

"Is she alive?"

"She is."

Enraged Eskimos beat on the bulkhead door. They hacked at the stout panel with bayonets. They yelled like Indians.

* * *

BEAUTIFUL ROXEY Vail suddenly pressed close to Doc Savage. He could feel the trembling in her rounded, firm body.

"You won't let them — kill me?" she choked.

Doc slipped a corded bronze arm around her — and he didn't often put his arm around young women.

"What a question!" he chided her. "Haven't you any faith in men?"

She shivered. "Not the ones I've seen — lately."

"What do you mean?"

"Do you know why those Eskimos attacked you?" she countered.

"No," Doc admitted. "It surprised me. Eskimos are noted as an unwarlike people. When they get through fighting the north for a living, they've had enough scrapping."

"They attacked you because of — "

A slab breaking out of the door stopped her. The Innuits were smashing the panel!

"We'd better move!" Doc murmured.

He swept the girl up in one arm. She struck at him, thinking he meant her harm. Then, realizing he was only carrying her because he could make more speed in that fashion, she desisted.

Doc glided sternward.

"You haven't visited this death ship often in the passing years, have you?" he hazarded.

She shook her head. "No. You could count the number of times on the fingers of one hand."

They reached a large, rather barren room amidships. Doc knew much of the construction of ships. He veered abruptly to the left, descended a companion, wheeled down a passage.

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