The Mystery of Seal Islands
THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING COMPANY
CLEVELAND, O. NEW YORK, N. Y.
Made in U. S. A.
THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING CO.
THE COMMERCIAL BOOKBINDING CO.
“I say, Berta, thought you were going to dosome work for that Mr. Howe of the FederalService. Did it fall through?”
“Haven’t heard much more about it,Harv,” Roberta answered her brother, as shepoured maple syrup over a serving of pipinghot pancakes. Her mother came in at thatmoment with a replenished bowl of oatmeal,and she paused with an anxious glance at heryoung daughter.
“Hope you do not hear anything more aboutit, dear. I feel that your activities in helpingclear up the mystery at Lurtiss Field placedyou in any number of very dangerous situations.Being a pilot is hazardous enough10without adding to the difficulties by runningdown air-gangsters of any kind,” she saidsoberly.
“Perhaps Mr. Howe has discovered thathe does not require your services. In work ofthat nature very often, when men on the jobthink they have struck a hard snag, somethingcomes up suddenly which clears the matter sothey do not require outside assistance,” remarkedMr. Langwell, then smiled at hiswife. “As a maker of pancakes, my dear, youdraw first prize. The only drawback to sucha breakfast is a man’s limited capacity.”
“You aren’t announcing that you have beenlimiting yourself!” Roberta laughed.
“No, that isn’t my claim, but I have to confessthat my limit is in sight,” he told her.
“Tough luck, Dad. Now, I am only gettingwell started,” Roberta said, then addedto her mother, “If you drew prizes for all thegood things you cook you would have to havea museum for them as large as Colonel Lindbergh’sin St. Louis.”
“Second the motion,” Harvey put in, thenwent on to his young sister, “Who’s the ladyyou have been piloting along the coast the11last couple of weeks? Larry Kingsley toldme she’s got loads of money and has taken totaxiing about in the air with no particular objective.”
“Oh, that is Mrs. Pollzoff. Her husbandused to be in the fur business and when hedied she sold her interest to a big syndicate,she told me, because she knew there wasn’tmuch chance of her making a success againstsuch competition. She is keen on aviation,and bought herself a plane but has never beenable to get a license. I asked Mr. Trowbridgeand he said he thought it was because sheshowed very little judgment in an emergency;she cracked-up three times, and they forbadeher to fly alone.”
“I should think they would,” Mrs. Langwellexclaimed indignantly.
“That’s all I know about her, except thatshe is madder than a dozen wet hens at thegovernment for depriving her of the right tofly; and she seems to be interested in fishes.”
“Yes. She always carries a wonderful pairof glasses, and when we are over the waterorders that I fly low and as slowly as possible12while she examines the deep. I have to keepmy eyes on the board, so I haven’t been ableto look at what attracts her attention especially,but a couple of times she has seemed verypleased over what she examined, and appearsto admire the schools of fish we have followeda couple of times. Guess it’s a hobby of hers,and she hasn’t anything special to do, so sherides it—”
“Or rides the air,” Harvey laughed.
“Are you children riding in with me?” Mr.Langwell asked. “The time is getting short.”
“I am, Dad, thanks. If you will take me asfar as the subway in Jamaica, I’ll land just intime for class,” Harvey answered.
“Phil will be here to pick me up, thankyou,” Roberta replied, so, as the meal wasfinished, and the last pancake had disappeared,they left the table to start on the day’soccupations. Harvey raced up the stairs,three at a jump, while his sister gave hermother a hand straightening the dining roomas she waited for Phil Fisher to take her to theflying field.
“I hear the motor, my dear,” Mrs. Langwellinterrupted. “You’d better hurry.”
13“He’s early this morning, but probably hehas something to do before schedule.” Thegirl hastened with her own preparations sothat when the young man appeared at the doorshe was properly helmeted and all ready totake the air.
“Top of the morning to you,” Phil calledcheerily. “Your esteemed passenger wants tomake an early start, so the boys will have Nikewarmed up for you and you can start as soonas you get to the field.”
“It’s mighty good of you to come and fetchme,” Roberta smiled at the president’s son,who had not so many weeks before gonethrough a series of exciting, dangerous air-adventureswith her. But those things wereall in the day’s work and belonged to the past;the new day awaited them.
“It isn’t much of a hop, and as Mrs. Pollzoffhas all the earmarks of being a good customer,she must be humored,” Phil grinned.“Just the same, I’m glad they wished her onyou and Nike instead of the Moth and yourstruly.”
“Well, it’s no particular fun piloting her.I wish she’d decide she wants variety, and14give you all a chance at the job,” Roberta toldhim. They were making their way to wherethe Moth, Phil’s own imported machine,waited to leap in the air with them. “I say,when is Mr. Howe going to start that investigationhe spoke of a few weeks ago. Heardanything about it?”
“You are not so fed up on Mrs. Pollzoffthat you want to get away from us all, areyou?” he demanded.
“No, of course not, but I was wonderingwhat his plan was and what happened to it, ifanything,” Roberta answered.
“Glad to hear you do not want to leave.Gosh, to lose our only girl sky-pilot would be—unthinkable;but, come to think of it, Howecame to the house to see Dad one day lastweek, perhaps they are getting it fixed up foryou to take on the job. I heard the Old Mansay the Federal representative would be atthe office today, so perhaps you’ll get someinformation. Here we are.” They reachedthe plane and Roberta climbed into the seatbeside the pilot’s, adjusted straps and parachute,while the young man gave his machine15a thorough looking-over then took his ownplace.
“Any idea what it’s all about?”
“A small one. Several governments—oursand a couple of others, are trying to tracedown illegal seal fishing; catch the lads whodon’t follow the rules. Contact.” They wereoff, and Roberta inquired no more about thegovernment work because Phil’s account of itsounded quite as tame as piloting Mrs. Pollzoff.Presently the Moth dropped out of thesky, landed near the office of the Lurtiss AirplaneCompany and a bit later the girl sky-pilotpresented herself at the private office ofMr. Trowbridge for whom she worked whenshe first joined the organization as a secretary.Mr. Wallace, one of the special instructors,was already there, and when Roberta entered,they both rose to their feet to wish her goodmorning.
“Anything special?” she asked when greetingswere exchanged.
“Only Mrs. Pollzoff. She ought to be hereany minute,” Mr. Trowbridge replied.
“Howe is coming in this morning,” Mr.Wallace added.
16“Phil told me—”
“Yes, and here I am,” Mr. Howe announcedhimself as he entered. “They toldme you were all in here, so I took the libertyof coming in without knocking; I can goout the same way if you like.”
“You can stay here, without knocking,” Mr.Trowbridge hastened to assure him. “I’mthinking Miss Langwell is glad to see you.”
“She has been handling a job that is dull asditch-water,” Wallace put in quickly.
“She will not find my work dull, but it willbe cold, for it may take her to the Bering Sea,”Mr. Howe informed them. “I expect to beready for her soon.”
“It sounds no end exciting,” Roberta saidand her eyes sparkled. A job that would takeher to the Bering Sea appeared to have endlesspossibilities and she was keenly interested.Just then the phone rang and Mr. Trowbridgeanswered it.
“Your passenger has arrived,” he toldRoberta.
“I’ll go right down.”
“See you later,” Mr. Howe called after heras she hurried away. Ten minutes later Nike,17her own prize plane, was taxied to the edge ofthe field, where Roberta and her passenger, atall, slender woman, whose flying costume,however, gave her huge proportions, waited.The machine came up just as Mr. Wallaceand Mr. Howe, in the company’s carryingautomobile started for the further end of thefield.
“There is to be a test for the racing machinesthis evening, Miss Langwell,” the instructorcalled as he brought the car to a stopclose to where the two were standing. Robertanoticed that the Federal man gave her companiona swift, all-inclusive glance, but sincethat was the way with Mr. Howe, and he alwayslooked everybody up and down, she didnot think anything about it.
“Hope I can watch it,” she replied.
“All set, Miss Langwell.” Nike came to astop a few yards away, so, forgetting everythingelse, Roberta turned her whole attentionto the task at hand. Presently all was ready,and in another moment, Nike was leaping intothe air, carrying her pilot and passenger upa steep climb until they were well in the air,then her nose was leveled and she shot east18and south, as Mrs. Pollzoff designated thedirection she wished to take.
Having taken the woman every day for overtwo weeks, Roberta knew pretty well howhigh and fast she preferred to travel, so theydid not waste any time on discussions, but shotahead swiftly. Almost as soon as she wasseated, Mrs. got the powerful fieldglasses out of their case, and as soon as theywere over the water, trained them on itssmooth surface. The day was clear, the skyblue, and the sea calm, so the task of pilotingwas not arduous, and Roberta let her mindwander on speculations about her companion.That the woman was wealthy was obvious, butfor the first time the girl began to wonderabout her interest in things in the ocean. Itoccurred to her that the woman might belooking for sunken vessels, or something ofthat nature, but she had never let a word dropregarding what she sought. Then it struckRoberta that she was a bit mysterious. Althoughit wasn’t necessary for passengers toexplain their businesses or hobbies, still whenanyone traveled day after day with the samepilot it was only natural that they should establish19more or less friendly relations and exchangeodds and ends about each other.Thinking it over carefully, the girl realizedthat except for the facts that Mrs. Pollzoff’shusband had come to the United States fromRussia when he was a lad, that he had goneinto the fur business, and had been dead twoyears, she knew nothing more than the bit ofinformation gleaned in the office regardingthe failure to pass the flying tests to fly herown machine.
“Follow the coast south and keep outsidethe Government limit,” Mrs. Pollzoff directedafter they had been in the air about an hour.“Have you plenty of gas? I want to remainup several hours.”
“Plenty,” Roberta assured her but she wasbecoming really puzzled about her passenger.It could not be possible that Mrs. Pollzoff wasin search of vessels carrying liquor, for shenever showed the slightest interest in ships ofany description when they were sighted, butthis was the first time she expressed a desireto keep beyond the jurisdiction of the UnitedStates. The request was strange and the girlpilot felt oddly disturbed by it.
20But if Mrs. Pollzoff was doing anythingforbidden by the laws of the United States,she gave no sign of it during the hours whichfollowed. Her glasses swept the water as theyhad every other day, and if she noticed theships, large or small, plowing through them,she was remarkably successful in keeping thefact to herself. Except for her usual directionsregarding the course they were to follow,she said nothing more; and at noon she signifiedher desire to return to land. She requestedthat they come down on the southernpart of New Jersey, but here she merely ledthe way to a restaurant where she orderedlunch for both of them.
Seated across from her, Roberta noted thatshe might be about thirty-five years old, andher mouth, which was rather large, was setfirmly, like a mask. Without consulting hercompanion, she ordered