Chapter IX.--The Volcano Of Ice.
 

For three long days the Dart bore away northwest, the direction in which the last had been seen of the missing boat.

"Luckily it's the right course to steer for the Siberian coast," remarked the captain, as he sat over his wine after midday dinner. "We shall sight the high land to-morrow morning, if not before"

"Surely we shall come across the boat in time, captain?" remarked Bob.

"Well, we have had wonderfully fine weather," replied the captain. "But, after all she was but a cutter, handled by a lunatic."

And he and Bob interchanged looks of despair as they ascended the companion ladder.

"Bok, go to the foremast-head," ordered the captain. "Take the glass, and have a look around."

The sailor slung the telescope over his shoulder and nimbly mounted the rigging.

When he arrived at the topgallant-yard he passed his arm round the skypole, and, adjusting the glass, swept the line of the horizon.

There was a long pause.

"Deck ahoy!"

"What is it?" bellowed the captain.

"Sure, there is a mist, or smoke right ahead, and above it I see what looks like the top of a mountain," replied the Irishman.

"Nothing else?"

"There is a low, flat berg."

"Nothing more? No sign of a boat-sail?"

"Nothing the size of a pocket handkerchief, yer honor."

"Well, we must give up the search for the present and start for the Siberian shore. But I give you my word, Bob, I shall not give up this hunt for many a week."

The wind fell light, and the Dart did not make more than three knots an hour during that afternoon.

The strange misty appearance still hung over the water.

They were gradually approaching it, and it was not more than a couple of miles ahead, when, as the sun set, the captain and the two boys went to supper, leaving Leeks in charge of the deck.

They had just finished their meal when the latter shouted down the companion for them to come up.

An extraordinary scene met their gaze when they reached the deck.

The yacht was still in moderately smooth water, but a quarter of a mile before her the sea was covered with a thick mist, while it was tossed hither and thither in tumbling waves, which met and crossed one another in wild confusion.

As they looked a thick body of smoke was belched from the midst of the turmoil.

"Port! hard aport!" shouted the captain. "Round with the yards! Flatten in the jib! Be smart, there!"

Rushing forward, followed by Bok and Jack, the captain himself seized the rope and aided the sailors to execute his orders, while Leeks attended to the jib.

Bok was at the wheel.

When on the new tack the Dart was not a cable's length from the boiling water.

"It's a subterranean eruption!" exclaimed the captain. "Look--look yonder!"

Where he pointed, from the midst of the curling waves, a great black patch of what seemed to be mud rose above the surface.

Round it were thick columns of smoke, which instantly shut it out from view.

The wind chopped round, and a fierce gust came, laden with steam and smoke, from the north.

The yacht heeled over till her copper sheeting gleamed above the water-line.

Gasping for breath, for a fearful stench accompanied the smoke, which enveloped them, all on board could do nothing but hold on to whatever was handiest.

A rushing, roaring sound filled their ears as the Dart dashed onward, throwing the boiling water in showers of spray over her bows.

The men forward were forced to stagger aft.

It looked as if the Dart was doomed!