Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/50

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arm and a powerful shake roused him when he had already opened the cabin door.

"Fo' Lord's sake, C'mander, shet dat do'. Whah you-all goin' in de col'?"

Crayne slumped back, heard the door click shut, and brushed his eyes with the rough fur sleeve of his coat. He blinked at Mose, whose eyes showed their rolling whites in the starlight shining through the thick glass plate of the port-holes. Then he looked about him. Captain Ek was still on the couch, Bjornsen and the mechanics were huddled together, but Murphy was missing.

"Mose, where's Bud?" cried Crayne, and the others stirred at his cry.

"He was gone when I woke up, C'mander. I was dreamin' dat de lights had me, an' dey was laughin' dey heads off an' dancin' around, when somethin' cold hit ma face; den de do' shet. I guess dat was when he went."

"Boys, wake up, Murphy's gone!" yelled Crayne. He was already wrapping himself securely in his furs and tying his hood. "We've got to get him. The boy's lost his head."

A quick glance showed Murphy's furs and gun-belt missing. Crayne did not wait for the others. He plunged from the cabin and was running over the snow, sure that they would follow, and as he ran he saw against that Light of the Bowl reflected like flame from a forest fire on the vast vault of sky, a small dark form.

Crayne called. The night was deathly still, the vast fringes of the aurora wavering thinly in gold and rose and emerald tints. His voice carried a long way, for he saw the running figure of Murphy throw up his arm as a sign he had heard, and plunge on.

Crayne followed, leaving the others far behind. He was aware of the increased radiance of the northern lights streaming from that crater of jagged upthrust brim which looked black on the snow. Running as he had never run before, he was past the first heart-breaking sob and gasp of breath and settling into firmer stride when he was aware of his body's warmth and realized that if he began to sweat it would mean frozen lungs, pneumonia and death. And the party were dependent on him for their return. Yet Murphy was close to the Light, a small black shape speeding, leaping, plunging on until it seemed to Crayne he might at any moment plunge over the top and down.

Already the glow of that strange cauldron was blinding. Crayne snatched goggles from a pocket of his coat and put them over his eyes. The eyeballs burned as if with snow blindness. The air was alive with the sound of rushing flame, hissing, spitting, whistling noises, and behind, the faint cries of the men who followed were lost in that sound from the Bowl. Crayne saw Murphy's pace slacken and heaved a sigh of relief as it was momentarily lost in the darkness of the crater foot, then apparent again as the boy climbed upward until his head was above the serrated edge. There he waited, and in one mad dash Crayne reached the crater foot and began to climb.

"Murphy, you fool, come back!" he shouted, and as if his voice had called