They appeared to be forcing an entrance into the lower hold of the ship through a small break in the shell. This led him to the conclusion that the way to the very bottom was blocked from the inside, and that the gold—if it had been stored there—had not yet been removed.
He returned to his chums and all three started back to the Sea Lion. The men about the wreck were all so busy that it did not seem to Ned that they knew of the presence there of his submarine.
Still, he searched the bottom, as he passed along, with both hands and feet for any line which, leaving the stranger, might be leading to her rival. Finally he discovered, much to his annoyance, a hauling line and an air-hose leading in the direction he was going.
"I'm afraid," he thought, "that Jimmie is in trouble."
"JIMMIE'S FOOLISH—LIKE A FOX"
Left alone in the Sea Lion, Jimmie spent most of his time watching from a darkened window. He could distinguish little in the faint sifting of moonlight which dropped down from the sparkling surface of the sea, but there was companionship even in that.
He had been instructed by Ned to keep the interior dark, and so he watched the ocean floor for the lights which his chums might be obliged to turn on. As the reader knows, however, the exploring party showed no lights at all until the interior of the wreck had been gained.
Listening and waiting, half inclined to admit that he was just a little bit lonesome, the boy stood at his post for about a quarter of an hour. Then he saw an opaque object moving toward the submarine.
It was not a shark or other monster of the sea, for it walked upright and seemed to move up and down as it came to the little undulations in the ocean floor. When it came nearer Jimmie moved toward the door of the water chamber.
"That must be Ned," he thought, "comin' back alone. Now, I wonder if anythin' has happened to Frank an' Jack?"
For a moment the heart of the lad throbbed wildly, then he calmed himself with the thought that in case of accident he would have been notified by the lifting lines. The air machine was working perfectly, too, and this indicated that all was well below.
Finally the moving object came to a position about ten yards distant from the submarine and stopped. He was now about fifty feet below the window out of which Jimmie looked, for the Sea Lion, as has been said, lay well up from the bottom, not exactly over the wreck but not far from it.
In a moment the boy saw the glimmer of a lamp down where the man was, and saw that it was moving about on the bottom. Lights, of course, do not show in water as they do in air, and so it was only a faint illumination that Jimmie observed.
Still, he could see that whoever was carrying the light was fumbling about on the bottom. He watched intently for a moment and then saw the man coming toward him, swimming straight up.
"I guess it's one of the boys," Jimmie mused. "He must have lost his line, and when I saw him fumbling he must have been removing the weights designed to hold him down in spite of the air in the helmet."
This appeared to be a good explanation, and the boy stood with his face pressed against the glass panel of the water chamber door, waiting for whoever it was to enter, close the apartment, and push the lever that controlled the exhaust which emptied the chamber.
At last the swimmer clambered into the chamber, and the waiting boy was about to switch on a light when a suspicious action on the part of the other caused him to hesitate. He could observe the actions of the man in the water on the other side of the glass panel quite clearly now, and was alarmed at what he saw him doing.
Instead of drawing his air-hose in with him and coiling it carefully so as to clear the doorway and still leave free passage for the air which was being pumped into it, he laid the hose carefully in a slide- covered groove in the edge of the door. The hose did not seem to be quite large enough to fill the groove, and the fellow took something soft and pliable from a pocket and wrapped around it.
Then he closed the door and pushed the lever which released the power that forced the water out of the chamber. Only one inference was to be drawn from the scene which Jimmie had witnessed.
The man in the water chamber was a stranger. This was merely an attempt to get possession of the Sea Lion.
The fellow was breathing air pumped into his hose by some other boat than the Sea Lion. He had cast off his weights in order to gain the chamber, which neither one of the boys would have found necessary, as they would have been carried up by the machinery which worked the lifting and descending lines.
Another thing the boy realized, as he waited with anxiety for the next move. The man, whoever he was, was thoroughly familiar with the plan of the Sea Lion.
The grooves in the edge of the door had been planned so as to give entrance to visitors who were not receiving their air from the Sea Lion. No one was believed to know anything about this arrangement—no one save the builders and the Secret Service men.
While Jimmie watched, the intruder moved the lever and the water in the chamber began to lower. When the water was forced out fresh air was automatically forced in.
Before long the intruder disconnected his hose with his helmet and threw the end over a hook provided for that purpose. When the water was all out he knocked heavily on the door leading to the room where Jimmie stood.
"There'll be doings here directly," the boy thought.
Again and again the visitor beat upon the door, but Jimmie gave no sign. He could not well observe the man now, for, with the water out of the chamber, the light carried by the man inside shone brightly against the glass panel, and the boy would have been observed had he stood close to it.
Jimmie grew more anxious as the seconds passed. He was trying to put away the thought that the intruder had cut the air-hose attached to the helmets of his friends.
For all he knew all three boys might be lying drowned, on the floor of the ocean. The thought was unbearable, and he resolved to banish it in action.
His first impulse was to disconnect the exhaust and fill the chamber with water. The man in there had disconnected his air-hose and would soon drown.
But the brutality of such a course soon presented itself, and Jimmie cast about for some other method of meeting the dangerous situation. He could hear the visitor fumbling at the door, and wondered if he knew the secret of opening it.
After a time it seemed to the listening boy that the fellow was feeling in the right locality for the hidden spring which would open the door from the other side, and sprang for the bar which secured it against such entrance. Then he dropped the bar and stood wiping the sweat from his forehead.
"If I bar the door," he mused, "that robber will cut the air-hose protecting the boys outside, if he has not already done so. I've just got to let him in here an' take chances."
He hastened to the back of the room and brought a long coil of rope. Making a running noose in one end, he released several loops from the big coil and held them loosely in his hand.
"I wonder if I can assist him into our princely apartments?" thought the boy, whimsically. "If I can get this rope around his body and over his arms, I'll be the boss of the precinct! I expect he'll tumble around a good deal, but I guess I can quell him!"
The boy waited in the darkness until a faint click told him that the intruder had discovered the spring. This was followed by a slam as the sliding door fell back.
Then all was still. Jimmie, hidden in the shadows, prepared to throw his lasso as soon as the visitor left the doorway.
The voice carried a hoarse challenge.
"Any one here?"
The man was still in the doorway, and was swinging his light about so as to give him a better view of the room.
"If he would only drop his arms!" Jimmie mused. "I'd like to hit him with a ballclub!"
Directly the fellow did drop his arms, and at the same moment stepped out of the shelter of the doorway. This was what Jimmie had been waiting for, and he lost no time in acting.
The rope cut the air and descended over the intruder's head and arms. The lad's hours of practice while playing cowboy now proved to be of great worth.
Jimmie gave a quick jerk as the rope landed and he ran to the back of the room. He heard the other fall, and knew by the weight that he was dragging him.
When he gained the wall he switched on the light and reached to a shelf for a weapon. When he faced his captive he held an automatic revolver in his hand.
By this time a torrent of expletives was coming through the helmet opening where the air-hose had entered. The prisoner rolled about on the floor, trying to get to his feet.
"Whoo-pee!" shouted the boy. "Look what one can catch out of the ocean!"
A roar of rage was the only answer.
"Take off that helmet!" commanded the boy.
A muffled challenge came from the interior.
"All right," said the boy, "then I'll take it off for you. But I'll have this gun handy, and if you try any foolishness you won't hold water when I get done shootin'."
Before long the helmet was off, and Jimmie was looking into as evil a face as he had ever seen. It was the face of a stranger, and yet there seemed something familiar about it.
"What sort of a game is this?" demanded the captive. "If you know what's good for you, you'll quit this cowboy business."
"Who are you?" asked Jimmie.
A snarl was the only reply. The enraged man was tugging fiercely at the rope.
"Quit it!" warned Jimmie. "I'll have to put you to sleep if you try that."
"You don't dare!"
"Don't four-flush!" the boy advised.
Jimmie sat down and leveled the weapon at the struggling man.
"I guess I'd better shoot," he said, calmly. "I suppose you've cut the boys' air-hose, and I'll have to get back to New York the best way I can—alone. So, you see, I can't be bothered with you."
The captive ceased his struggles and managed to rise to a sitting position. His eyes were not so threatening as before.
"No," he declared, "I didn't cut the hose."
"Why? You're equal to such a trick."
"I was told not to."
Jimmie hesitated a moment. He wished devoutly that he could believe what the fellow said.
"Who told you not to?" he then asked.
The captive shook his head.
"I don't know his name," he said.
"And you are sailing with him?"
"All I know is that he is called the Captain."
"I see," said the boy. "Now, how comes it that you know so much of the plans of the Sea Lion?"
"What makes you think I do?"
"You found the groove in the door, and also the spring that opens the door to the water chamber."
"Well?" the boy flourished his weapon, though nothing could have induced him to fire on the unarmed man.
"I was told what to do when I got here," was the reply.
"Did you see my chums on the way here?" The captive nodded.
"At the wreck."
"Where is your boat?" was the next question.
"On the other side of the wreck."
"And you are after the gold?"
"And important papers?"
"I know nothing about that."
"What is the name of your boat?"
"Appropriate name that!" laughed Jimmie. "Used to be the Diver, didn't she?"
"I don't know."
"What did you come here for?"
"To get the boat."
"And remove it?"
"That would have meant death to the boys who are out in the water at this time?"
"I suppose so. Say, there's something wrong with your air machine. I know something about such contrivances, and this one acts as if a hose out in the sea had been cut!"
A CHASE ON THE OCEAN FLOOR
Jimmie listened for an instant. There certainly was something the matter with the air machine.
"Get a move on!" shouted the captive, "or we'll all be food for the sharks directly."
"Remain quietly where you are, then," Jimmie said, with a significant flourish at the gun which he had no intention of using, except in a case of the direst necessity.
"Go!" shouted the other.
Jimmie did not know what to do. While he had learned a good deal about the submarine, he was by no means an expert in the handling of her. His experience with the air machines had been very slight, as the boys had made little use of them.
"It's getting close in here already!" cried the captive in alarm. "Why don't you do something?"
"What is there for me to do?" asked the boy.
"Release me and I'll fix it," suggested the other.
Before Jimmie could explain the foolishness of this proposition, he heard a pounding at the outer door of the water chamber. He bounded through the open doorway and looked out.
There was a helmeted face against the pane. The boy was motioning for the door to be opened.
"Now," mused Jimmie, "I wonder how he got up there? The lifting lines haven't moved. Why didn't he let me know he was coming up?"
"Hurry!" called the captive.
Jimmie knew, from the flounderings on the floor, that the fellow was again trying to get rid of the rope. He stepped to the door and lifted a hand in warning, then slid the bolts and guards so the water chamber door would open from the outside, then stepped back into the larger apartment and closed the door.
He heard a rush of water and knew that some one was entering. Then, satisfied that all was well, he turned to his prisoner.
The fellow was half out of the rope, and one hand was sneaking toward a heavy ax which lay not far off.
"Cut that!" cried the boy.
He stood guarding the man while the water chamber filled and emptied. Then the door opened and Ned came in, helmet in hand. First, he turned a screw and the trouble at the air machine ceased.
"What the dickens!"
Ned stopped short in the middle of the room as he turned and gazed in amazement at the prisoner.
"I've been fishin'," Jimmie explained, with a chuckle.
"What is it you caught?" asked Ned.
"This," said Jimmie, "is the original sea serpent!"
"Looks to me like Moore, Jr.," Ned said.
"No?" exclaimed the boy.
"Are you the son of Captain Moore?" asked Ned.
The other nodded.
"I thought you'd recognize me," he grunted. "I was a fool to come here."
"That's about the only true word you've said since you came on board, I take it," Ned went on.
Young Moore scowled and bent his eyes to the floor.
Ned now turned to Jimmie and asked:
"Why didn't you draw us up?"
"Why," replied the little fellow, "I never got the signal."
"Guess you were too busy getting your sea serpent," smiled Ned.
"Did you pull?" asked Jimmie.
"Sure. Jack and Frank are out there now, ready to beat you up for keeping them out so long."
The prisoner turned his face away from the two and sulked.
"There's the boys now," Jimmie said. "Let them in."
In ten minutes Jack and Frank were in the large room, busily engaged in taking off their deep-sea clothes.
As Frank threw his helmet into a corner he held up the end of a line.
"You see," he said, glancing angrily at the prisoner, who had moved as far away as possible. "The line was cut."
"Aw, it would have come away in your hand when you pulled, then," said Jimmie. "You'd have found that out quick enough."
"I tell you it was cut," Frank insisted. "It was cut and tied to a rock that lies at the bottom. When we pulled we pulled at the big old boulder we saw lying there on the sand. Now, what do you think of that?"
"Why did you do it?" asked Ned, turning to Moore.
"I didn't," was the reply.
"I don't know."
"I don't believe you."
"There were others besides me," insisted Moore.
Ned made an examination of the end of the three cords. All had been cut. All had been tied to something, for the ends were frayed as if by being twisted about in the hands.
"I presume you thought you were cutting the air-hose?" asked Ned, tentatively.
"I reckon I know a line from a hose," was the reply.
"So you did cut them?"
Frank sprang toward the prisoner with flashing eyes. "I'll show you what such sneaks get here."
Ned drew the enraged boy away.
"He'll get what's coming to him at some other time," he said. "Let him alone for the present."
"But he did attempt to cut the hose!" Jack exclaimed. "We ought to throw him out to the sharks."
"Not now," said Ned, coolly.
"Anyway," Frank said, a smile showing on his face, "he made us swim to the boat."
"He did that himself," laughed Jimmie, "and lost his weights."
"That's the worst of it," Jack remarked, "we've lost our weights, and there's no knowing how we are to get more."
Jimmie now pointed to the air machine.
"Was there something wrong with it?" he asked.
Ned shook his head.
"Working perfectly," he said. "There wasn't a screw loose."
"Well, he," pointing to the prisoner, "said there was something wrong, and I began to think he was right."
"Imagination!" laughed Jack.
Ned now faced Moore and asked:
"Have you taken the gold out of the wreck?"
A shake of the head was the answer.
"Have you discovered any important papers? You know what I mean by 'important.'"
"We have not."
"You came in the Diver?"
"Run her across?"
"No; came on a tow-line."
"I thought so. What steamer towed you over?"
"I can't answer that."
"I'm not permitted to."
"It was a Japanese boat?"
"Well, yes, it was."
"And she kept you out of sight all the way over and dropped you here to do this dirty work?"
"She didn't put a brass band on board of us," replied the captive, sullenly. "What is the meaning of this third degree business? Who do you think you are?"
"Your people know that we are here, of course?"
"Oh, yes, we're not fools. We saw you from the first."
"And they know where you started for?"
"Is your father in the Diver?"
"I refuse to answer any more questions," Moore stormed. "You've got the upper hand now, but the time will come when things will be reversed. Release me!"
"Of course," replied Ned, "we'll release you and give you the run of the boat! You came here to murder us, and so are entitled to the most courteous treatment!"
"Well, quit asking impertinent questions, then," snarled the other. "You can at least do that."
Ned hunted up two pairs of handcuffs, ironed the prisoner, and then conveyed him to a little room used for storage purposes. Moore did not appear to like this program.
"If anything should happen," he declared, "I'd be left here to die like a dog."
"And serve you good an' right!" Jimmie consoled.
"What do you expect is going to happen?" asked Jack.
"Oh, I don't know," was the hesitating reply. "Something might, you know."
The boys went out and shut the door, leaving young Moore protesting against the treatment he was receiving.
"Now," Ned said, when the boys were assembled in the large room, "it is plain that the rascals on board the Diver are preparing to attack us, or do something to imperil our lives. You saw how frightened Moore was when he was locked in that room."
"Yes, he seems to fear that he will be brought to death by his own friends," Frank said.
"What do you suggest?" asked Ned.
"Stay an' fight!" urged Jimmie.
"Hide away from them!" Frank proposed.
"Wait here until we see what they propose doing," Jack ventured.
"I think," laughed Ned, "that we'll bunch your advice and utilize it all. We'll hide in some deep spot until we see what they're up to, and then we'll fight."
"I reckon they are about five to one."
This from Frank, who preferred meeting the enemy on dry land.
"Oh, we can't come to a hand-to-hand battle," Ned replied. "We've got to fight submarine fashion."
Without attempting any explanation of this observation Ned proceeded to make a careful inspection of the boat. There was a torpedo tube at the prow, and this he studied over for a long time.
"Goin' to blow 'em up?" asked Jimmie.
"I was thinking," was the reply, "that we might use this as a bluff if we come to a tight place."
"Aw, what's the use?" demanded Jimmie. "You don't make bluffs! You get the winning hand before you call! If I had my way, I'd blow 'em out of the water!"
"Yes, you would!" Frank said. "You'd be the first one to kick if we should attempt to put that thief in there out of the boat. You're the tender-hearted little child of the bunch!"
All the boys laughed, including Jimmie, for they knew that what Frank said was the truth. Jimmie liked to talk of merciless measures, but he was not inclined to put them into practice.
"Well," Ned said, presently, "the Diver people will soon understand that something has happened to Moore, and will be after us. We may as well take a moonlight stroll."
The water tanks were filled, the power turned on, and the Sea Lion, with no lights in sight, save the one at the prow from which Frank watched the level ahead, began feeling her way to the south.
"The charts show a deep pit not far off," Ned said, "and we'll hide there for a time and see if they give up the job of looting the wreck. The loss of young Moore may scare them out."
"Why not go to the surface and air out the boat?" asked Jack. "Our air apparatus is all right, of course, but I like the real thing better. We can drop down again in a few minutes."
"That's a good idea," Ned replied, and in a moment the Sea Lion was lifting to the surface.
In half an hour she was down again, dark and silent, in the pit of which Ned had spoken. Occasionally the submarine was lifted a few fathoms in order that anything unusual in the vicinity of the wreck might be observed.
Sometime near morning the Diver was seen making her way to the north as if setting out for a long voyage. The lights of the craft showed plainly—that is, as plainly as lights ever show at that depth—and the Sea Lion had no difficulty in following her.
"She's steamin' up!" Jimmie cried, presently. "I believe she knows we're after her."
But the Sea Lion was equal to the task set for her, and all the remainder of the night the chase went on.
JIMMIE GOES OUT HUNTING
"I hope she'll make for some port where there is an American man-of- war," Ned said, as the sea grew shallower.
"You bet she won't," Jack replied. "She'll make for some out-of-the- way place where she can get rid of her plunder."
"Why don't we go back an' see if she took all the plunder out of the wreck?" asked Jimmie.
"If we lose sight of her now," Ned answered, "we may have hard work picking her up again. If there is anything left in the wreck it will keep. The thing to do now is to catch her and recover what she took away, then have her held to await the action of the Washington authorities."
"But we ain't catchin' her!" urged the little fellow.
"Well, we are not losing her," Jack replied, "and that is the principal thing."
"She may give us a long chase," Ned went on, "for she undoubtedly knows that we are in pursuit, so we must get ready to travel over a good deal of ocean floor before we get our hands on the thieves."
The chase went on all day and all the ensuing night. At dawn of the second day the Diver ran up into what seemed to be a little bay protected by two long points of land. The Sea Lion halted outside and waited. Once she came to the surface in order to purify the boat, and Ned took observations.
"Where are we?" Jimmie asked.
"We're here!" laughed Jack.
"This is all new land to me," Ned replied.
Frank clattered down the staircase into the bowels of the submarine and brought out a map, which he spread out on the floor of the conning tower. It was pretty crowded there, with the three boys grouped about it, for the hatch was still open.
"We've been going north all the time?" he asked.
"Just a trifle east of north," Ned answered.
"And we've been running at the rate of about twenty miles an hour for 24 hours," continued Frank. "Figure that out."
"Not far from 480 miles," cried Jimmie.
"Then measure," Frank continued. "This map shows about 400 miles to the inch. Now, where would a run of 480 miles bring us?"
"To the coast of Kwang Tung," suggested the little fellow.
"But this is an island," Ned explained, looking through his glass. "I can see water where the main land ought to be."
"Figure it out, then," persisted Frank. "We've come to an island in the China Sea by running 480 miles a little east of north. Where would that bring us?"
"Hailing island," suggested Jimmie.
"Wise little chap!" laughed Frank. "You've hit it!"
Ned was silent for a moment. He was wondering why the Diver, or the Shark as she was now appropriately called, had put in there. Could it be that she was expecting to be met there by some vessel commissioned to remove the plunder she had taken from the wreck?
Or was it true that the plot had included a hiding of the plunder on the shore and the delivery of the documents—if any had been found—to some official of the accusing power?
These thoughts were disquieting. The boy had already missed the opportunity of searching the wreck in advance of all others, though the fault was not his own. The best he could do now was to secure the plunder from the pirates who had removed it.
In case assistance came to the people of the rival boat at that distant point, he would not be able to do this. The conspirators might hide the gold in the country near the port and deliver the papers and he would be powerless to prevent.
"I wonder," he mused, "if anything can be gotten out of young Moore? It is possible that he has been in solitary confinement long enough to comb down that sneering attitude."
Leaving the boys on the conning tower, therefore, he hastened to the room where Moore was incarcerated, although the irons had been removed from his hands and feet.
"Well," snarled the young man, "you've come to the jumping off place, have you?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"You've chased the Shark to her lair, eh?" Moore added, with a leer.
"How do you know that we've been chasing the Shark?" demanded Ned.
"Oh, you wouldn't be running full speed unless you were after her."
"How do you know that we're not in Hong-kong harbor, ready to communicate with Washington and an American man-of-war?"
Ned thought the fellow's face turned a shade whiter as the suggestive words were spoken. However, he said nothing.
"Do you know where we are, if, as you seem to think, we have followed the Shark?" asked Ned.
"How should I know?"
Moore had evidently reached the conclusion that he had said too much at the opening of the conversation.
"You know where the Shark was headed for?" asked Ned.
"She's headed for a place where you can't butt in on her," answered the young man with a snarl. "When are you going to turn me loose? Aw, what's the matter with you?" he continued, assuming an air of good- fellowship. "I never did anything to you. Why can't you let me go, and say nothing about it?'
"Because," Ned answered, "you are a dangerous person to be at large. The next time you attempt to murder the crew of a submarine you may have better luck."
"Well, you keep right on," Moore scowled, "and you'll come to a place where there'll be no such word as luck in your dictionary. You might save yourself now by letting me go."
"You're a snake," cried Ned. "I wouldn't trust you with the life of a rat I cared for. Such people as you ought to be smothered at birth."
"Pile it on, now that you have the inning," said Moore. "Pretty soon you'll be playing second fiddle."
Ned went out of the temporary prison and locked the door without further talk. He had gained the point he sought.
Nothing could be clearer, now, than that the Shark was to meet fellow conspirators there. The boy was up against a tough proposition.
He believed that the Shark had secured the important papers. She would hardly have left the wreck without them.
The gold did not matter so much, yet he did not like the idea of his rival taking it out from under his very nose. He did not believe that all the gold had been secured, and figured that the Shark would go back after the remainder—but not until the important papers had been delivered to the conspirators.
In order to clear her skirts of the false accusations being whispered through foreign court circles, the Government must get possession of those documents. Ned had no idea where they were, where they had been stored, but he believed that, somewhere in the shipment of gold, full instructions for its use had been given.
The papers might have been tucked away in a keg or package of gold coins. At least they would have been placed where the revolutionary leaders could find them, and where the Chinese federal officers could not—or would not be apt to—find them in case the plans of the conspirators failed in any way.
It struck Ned as a crude arrangement from start to finish. The idea of shipping gold to the Chinese government in such a way that the revolutionary leaders were sure to seize it looked too childish for diplomats to entertain. The fact that it had miscarried was proof that it was not well conceived.
A certain foreign nation, put wise to the conspiracy, had sent a ship out to ram the gold bearing craft, and there she lay at the bottom of the China Sea, with all sorts of rumors concerning her cargo and mission circulating through Europe—greatly to the loss of Uncle Sam's reputation as a square-dealing old chap.
Ned had no doubt that the foreign government which was kicking up the most noise over the affair had sent the Shark to the China Sea to search for the papers in the hope that they would bear out the accusations that had been made. In case they did not the papers would doubtless be destroyed—and the charges would continue to be made—the charges that the subtreasury in New York had shipped the gold to aid the revolutionary junta in making a republic of China.
So it will be seen that Ned was in no position to give further attention to the wreck, or the gold it might or might not contain until he had done everything in his power to secure the papers, if any had been found, before they could be destroyed or delivered.
And now the question was this:
"How can I get to the Shark and have a look through the plunder taken from the wreck?"
The decision was that he could not accomplish such a mission. It would be impossible for him to board the Shark, or make a search even if he should succeed in getting into the rival submarine.
What next? The men on board the Shark would undoubtedly go ashore if the boat remained long in the bay. Why not land and watch about the island for the arrival of the foreign conspirators?
The island was not a large one, and there were few inhabitants, so a meeting such as Ned believed was set for the place could not fail to attract some attention. Well, the first thing to do, he reasoned, was to discover if the Shark was sending her men on shore.
"Jimmie," he said, as he returned to the conning tower, "how would you like to go hunting in the bottom of the sea?"
"Fine!" shouted the lad.
"Bring in a catfish with a bunch of kittens," Frank laughed. "I'm afraid we have mice in the provision room."
"I'll find a dogfish with a couple of puppies," replied Jimmie, "so we can have plenty of bark to build fires with."
"A bad joke," Frank replied. "If you'd quit studying up slang and read the best authors you wouldn't inflict such pain-giving jolts."
"Who's going with the kid?" asked Jack, sticking his nose up through the open hatchway.
"I am," replied Frank, calmly. "It is not safe to trust him on the island alone."
"What do you want me to hunt?" asked Jimmie, turning his back on the two boys.
"I can get that in a book," said Jimmie, with a wink at Frank.
"Get into your promenade suit," Ned continued, "and I'll let you out on the bottom. Then I'll warp the Sea Lion around that point of land, so you can see where the Shark lies and what is going on, if anything."
"Carry me around the point of land before you drop me," suggested the little fellow.
"No," Ned answered. "I want you to search the ocean floor on the way around the point. The rascals may have laid mines there, or the people on board may be making trips to the point, just to see what we are up to. Understand?"
"Oh, yes, I see the point, all right," was the reply. "And you want me to go out in the wet and inspect another point?"
"Cut it out!" cried Jack.
Jimmie ran off, laughing, to put on his deep-sea suit, and in a moment was back asking Ned to set his helmet in place.
"When you get down to the bottom," Ned said, before attaching the heavy headpiece, "keep hold of your lifting line and signal stop or forward, just as you find it easy or difficult to make your way along the level. One jerk for stop and two to go ahead. You won't forget that. Think of the signals on the surface cars in little Old New York."
"And keep your eyes out for signs of air-hose and lines on the bottom," Frank put in.
"All right," the boy cried, cheerfully.
"You have a long air-hose and a very long line," Ned went on, "so you can go up the bay where the Shark lies quite a distance after we stop the Sea Lion at the point."
The helmet was now put on, the lad passed through the water chamber, and directly there came a signal on the line—two quick jerks.
The submarine moved slowly ahead, and Jimmie almost crawled on the bed of the ocean. The water was not very deep, not more than ten fathoms, and the bright sunlight enabled the boy to see quite well.
Fishes, large and small, sea reptiles, hideous in aspect and attractive as to coloring, swam around him, and terrifying forms rose from the bottom and rubbed against his helmet windows. He felt safer on the bottom, for then the creatures could come at him in only one way.
Presently the sand in front of him showed commotion. It stirred and clouded the water. Jimmie stopped and looked, drawing his weapon—the razor-pointed steel bar—to the front as he did so. Then he felt something close about an ankle and draw him down. A serpent's head showed on a level with his shoulder.
JACK MAKES A DISCOVERY
"Now," Ned said, when the Sea Lion stopped in response to a quick pull from below, "who is going to shore with me?"
"Me for the shore!"
Both boys spoke at once.
"But one must remain on board," declared Ned.
"Then let Frank stay," laughed Jack. "Somehow, I always get into trouble when I am left on guard."
Frank looked disappointed, but said nothing, and Ned and Jack prepared to go ashore. When they were ready the submarine was carefully raised so that the conning tower was out of water.
The boys did not know, while they were doing this, that the signal to stop was an involuntary one on the part of the boy who was exploring the ocean floor. They did know, however, that Jimmie had a very long air-and signal-system, and that under ordinary circumstances it could do no harm to lift the Sea Lion to the surface. The exact effect of this action on the little fellow will be seen in a short time.
When the conning tower was out of water, the point showed still ahead of the submarine, and Ned wondered why Jimmie had ordered a halt there. In one way this was an advantage, as the people at the head of the bay, if any were there, would not be able to see what was going on at the spot where the Sea Lion lay.
As soon as the hatch was opened Ned and Jack brought up a small boat and launched it. It was a narrow boat and seemed almost too small to carry two husky boys, but she was capable of harder service than that.
"Keep a sharp watch for the line," Ned warned, as they left Frank looking sadly over the rim of the tower. "Jimmie would be in a bad box down there if you should forget him."
"All right!" Frank answered, cheerfully. "I'll take care of the little scamp, but I don't believe there is water enough in the ocean to drown him!"
The boys, paddling the boat softly, proceeded to the west of the point of land near which the Sea lion had stationed herself. Ahead of them they saw a sloping shore, running white and smooth as to surface for some distance from the water. Then, at the back, rose a line of wooded hills. There were no natives in sight.
"I'd like to know what kind of people live on this island," Jack said as they landed and drew the boat up on the beach. "Whoever they are, they don't appear to have houses."
They crossed the white rim of beach, keeping their eyes on the boat as they advanced, and came to an elevation in the wild country beyond. From this elevation a small clearing showed to the east, and in the clearing were a number of buildings, some residences of a poor type and some evidently erected for business purposes.
"There," Ned said, pointing, "if we could get down into the cluster of buildings, with an interpreter, we might find out whether the Shark fellows have landed yet, and whether there are strangers loitering about the island."
"Yes," Jack answered, "the place is so small that any strange faces would be instantly noted. Suppose I skip down there and see what I can learn?"
"I think that a good idea," replied Ned, "only you're such a reckless chap that you're likely to get into trouble."
"I'll be the good little lad," laughed Jack. "You remain here and see that no one steals the boat while I size up that burg."
Jack was off, creeping through the undergrowth, before Ned could utter a warning, and the latter sat down to wait for his return. The cluster of buildings was not very far away, and Jack could not be gone very long.
Ned was pretty well satisfied with the arrangements made to corner the men who had plundered the wreck. With Jimmie watching operations from the bottom and Jack investigating from the land, it seemed to him that the robbers could not well make any important move without being observed.
In the meantime Jack was making his way toward the little town, if such it may be called, at the head of the bay. He could see people moving about in the one lane-like street, but there was no one nearer him than that—as he at first believed.
Presently, however, he heard a low whistle, coming, apparently, from a thicket just ahead. It seemed to be an amazed whistle, at that, and Jack paused in wonder.
Who could it be? If any of the people on the Shark had come onto the island they certainly wouldn't be whistling to attract his attention.
More likely, he thought, they would be lying in wait for him with a gun. What he hoped was that some American, familiar with the island and friendly with the natives, had strayed into the thicket.
Jack whistled in reply and then stepped back out of sight. He had an idea that he wanted to see the other fellow first.
Before long a voice came out of the thicket, a voice which might have come from a tenement on Thompkins Square, in the city of New York.
"Vot iss?" were the words Jack heard.
"Show yourself!" commanded Jack.
"Py schimminy," came the answer, "you gif me in the pack one, two, dree pain. What?"
"You're Dutch!" said Jack.
"Chermany!" corrected the other. "Come a liddle oudt."
Jack stepped out of the shelter and soon saw a boy of about seventeen do likewise. The boy was short, round, fat, muscular, and big and red of face. He was dressed in a checkered suit of ready-mades which did not fit him, and his blond head was covered with a cap such as German comedians use on the stage.
"Hello, Dutch!" Jack called out.
"Irish!" exclaimed the other.
Jack threw out his right hand in full salute, wondering if the German boy was a member of the Boy Scout army, and was pleased to see him make an awkward attempt to respond.
"I got it my headt in," the German said, "but I can't get it oudt. It shticks. Vot is? I'm the Owl Padrol, Philadelphia."
"No one from Philadelphia ever does remember," laughed Jack. "What are you doing here?"
The boy took himself by the back of the trousers with his right hand and by the back of his neck with the other, then bounced himself forward, as if being thrown out of a vessel or a building.
"You mean that you got fired off a ship here?" asked Jack, almost choking with laughter.
"You bet me I didt!" exclaimed the other. "I hidt in a lifeboad to get me pack to Gott's goundry, an' they foundt me. Shoo! Kick! Den I schwim! Gott un himmel! Vot a goundry!"
"Where did you get aboard the ship?" asked Jack.
"What's your name?"
"Never mind the rest of it," laughed Jack. "I'll call you Hans. How long have you been here?"
Hans ran his hands around his waist as if counting time by the number of meals he had missed.
"Month," he finally said.
"Where are you stopping?"
Hans explained that there was one English trader in the place, and that he was giving him about half what he needed to eat and a place to sleep in return for about ten hours work each day.
"Do you want to get away?" asked Jack.
"Aindt it?" cried Hans. "I think I'm foolish to stay here. You schwim here?"
Jack knew that it would take a long time to make Hans understand the means of transportation he had used in reaching that part of the world, so he merely shook his head and went on:
"If you'll do something for me, Hans, I'll take you off the island."
"Me—sure!" was the quick reply.
Jack then explained that he wished to know if there were any strangers in the town, and if anything had been seen of the submarine people. Hans listened attentively.
"I'll remain here until you come back," Jack said, after concluding his instructions. "Get the information and I'll take you off the island and land you in Philadelphia."
"Sure!" cried Hans, and disappeared from view in the thicket.
Jack lay a long time watching the sky and listening to the singing leaves about him. He wished that he had instructed Hans to return to the place where he had left Ned and gone there himself to await the information he sought. The time passed heavily on his hands.
Once he moved out to the place where he had entered the thicket and looked down toward the spot where Ned was. There was a certain amount of companionship in that. He did not dare leave the thicket entirely, for fear Hans would miss him on his return from the village.
When he returned to his waiting place, after this visit, and looked down on the village, shimmering in the hot sun, he saw that something unusual was going on there. Natives, clad in the long skirts worn by many Chinamen, were flying up and down the street, and Jack recognized three Europeans mixing into the excitement.
Then he saw people running toward the little wharf at the head of the bay. Hans did not appear to be within the range of Jack's vision.
"There are doings of some kind down there," Jack mused, "and it seems to me that the foreigners created the row, whatever it is. I wonder if Hans will get out of it alive?"
The next moment Hans was there to answer for himself.
Jack saw the German lad chasing through the undergrowth as if the very Old Nick was after him, swinging his cap as he ran, and shouting out some words which he could not understand.
Finally Hans turned square about, pointed in the direction from which he had come, and resumed his flight toward Jack.
"I guess some one is chasing the boy," Jack concluded, stationing himself close to a slender path which Hans was certain to follow.
In a moment the wisdom of this remark and this arrangement became apparent. Hans came nearer, puffing and grunting, and a second after a runner who was gaining on the German shot around an angle of undergrowth and reached out for Hans.
Hans had passed the spot where Jack crouched by this time, and the pursuer was proceeding to foot it after him when Jack stuck out a leg and brought him to the ground. Hans saw the action and fell flat on the ground, blowing like a fat man on a thousand-step climb.
The man who had fallen, apparently an Englishman, middle aged, well dressed for that country, and with a red, passionate face, sat up and scowled at Jack.
"Wot the bloomin' mischief did ye do thot f'r?" he asked.
"To stop you," replied Jack.
"You're bloody roight ye stopped me!" cried the other, trying to get on his feet. "An' now I'll be stoppin' of ye!"
Jack placed his hand on the man's shoulder and pushed him back to the ground.
"Rest yourself," he said.
"You just wait, you bounder!" threatened the Englishman.
"What's it all about?" asked Jack, as Hans arose and cautiously approached.
"Don't let that bloody robber get away!" shouted the Englishman, trying once more to get up.
Jack presented his automatic, which he would not have used under any circumstances, unless his life was actually in danger.
"Keep quiet," he said.
"I'll have your head for this!" bawled the other.
"What is it, Hans?" asked Jack, paying no attention to the threat of the angry Englishman.
"I'll tell you what it is!" cried the Englishman. "That Dutch bounder stole from my safe. I chased him up here an' you took occasion to hinterfere, worse luck. Who are you, anyhow?"
"Did you steal anything from him, Hans?" asked Jack.
Hans shook his head.
Then explanations settled the trouble. A man from the submarine had met another at the trader's store. Hans, in his anxiety to hear what was being said, had crawled in behind a counter, near the safe, and had been discovered there.
The event had created no little excitement in the town, for the chase through the street had been witnessed by and participated in by about half the population. To satisfy the Englishman, Hans was searched, and nothing found. Then Ned asked him a question:
"Where did the submarine people go?"
"Back to their boat," was the prompt reply.
"And the man who met them there?"
"He went with them."
"Where did the latter come from?"
"From Hongkong, he said."
"How long ago?"
"Something over a week."
"He was waiting for the submarine?"
"I think so."
"What, if anything, did the submarine land?"
"Nothing at all."
"You are certain of that?"
"Oh, yes, of course. The submarine man brought some sealed papers with him, and the discussion was all about them. The submarine man wanted money, I guess, and the other wouldn't give it."
"So the submarine people still have the papers?"
"But the other man went on board?"
"Yes, that is the way of it."
"Do you know who that Hongkong man is?"
"He is an Englishman."
"Now," said Jack, "I wish you would come down to the beach with me. I have a friend there I want you to talk with."
The Englishman, seeing that something interesting was in the air, went without objection, but when they reached the beach they saw Ned making for the Sea Lion in the boat. And just before he reached her, they saw the conning tower disappear beneath the surface of the water.
JIMMIE DEMANDS A MEDAL
Jimmie's first thought, as he saw the flattened head of the sea monster sliding upward toward his helmet, was that he had encountered the original sea serpent. There seemed to be a coil about the boy's leg, and he dropped down lower to see what the chances were for cutting it away with his weapon.
The prospects did not seem favorable, for his steel bar, while very sharp at the point, was not intended for chopping work. He could pierce the body of the reptile, but could not weaken its strength so that the coil would drop away.
It was when he dropped down that the spasmodic jerks on the line were given. The sea monster had included the line in his coil, and it drew as the boy bent lower.
The air-hose seemed to be clear, but Jimmie was afraid that the flounderings of the serpent might break it. The horror was certain to do some thrashing about when he felt the keen edge of the steel.
The only way was to strike some vital spot. That would end the combat at once. The serpent's head lowered with the boy, as if he had great curiosity to find out exactly what sort of a being it was that had invaded his kingdom.
The boy was cheered by the thought that the submarine had stopped, although he did not realize at the time that the signal had been given by the action of his enemy. If the boat had continued on her course, the air-hose and the lifting line must both have been broken in a short time, as the boy's progress was stopped by the great weight of his terrifying foe. Then the end would have come instantly.
The coil about the leg was drawing tighter now, and the boy was in considerable pain. Also the coils were ascending as the head of the sea monster swung around.
It was not only the pain and the deadly danger that brought a momentary shiver to the boy. It was the fact that the repulsive body of the serpent was winding closer and closer about him.
He seemed to feel the slimy skin of the deep sea terror slipping through his waterproof suit, although his common sense told him that such could not be the case. He even thought he scented the sickening odor which he had now and then experienced in the Central Park Zoo. He knew, too, that this was purely imaginary, but the horror of a nightmare was on him, and for only an instant he lost his nerve.
Once more the head swung around and the boy presented his weapon and struck with all his might. The needle-like point entered the throat of the serpent and passed through just at the back of the long, spotted head.
There was a great switching in the water for an instant, and then the coils loosened. The blow, as Jimmie afterwards discovered, had broken the spinal cord.
While not yet dead, the serpent was incapable of moving the lower part of his body. With a sense of loathing he pulled at the coils until he was clear of them.
The water where he stood was now taking on a faint reddish hue, and Jimmie hastened away. At first, weakened and shaken as he was by the disgusting encounter, he determined to return to the submarine, then the thought of what his chums would say to him if he gave up caused him to proceed in the direction of the Shark.
He moved over the level bottom, looking for lines which would indicate that the Shark people were out watching the movements of their rival, but found none. When he came to the end of his line he signaled for the submarine to go ahead.
In this manner, by slow degrees, and always keeping his eyes out for creatures similar to the one he had vanquished, he advanced until he saw the bulk of the Shark only a short distance away. Then he called for a stop.
He remained there some moments, watching the Shark lift to the surface. Then a dark object passed shoreward, and the boy was certain that a boat had been sent to the little wharf.
"I guess that will be about all," he thought. "I've secured the information Ned wants, and may as well go back."
To tell the truth, he was delighted at the thought of getting out of the water again. His encounter with the serpent had considerably lessened his enthusiasm for deep-sea work.
The Sea Lion dropped down when Jimmie gave the signal, and he was soon in the water chamber, where he found Frank in sea dress. The two were out of the water in a short time, with the chamber empty again.
"What did you do that for?" asked Jimmie, as soon as the helmets were removed.
"Do what?" asked Frank, with a smile.
"Drop down and wait for me in the water chamber."
"Did you notice the color of the water?" asked Frank.
"Yes, down there, but up here—say," he added, "the blood of that champion sea serpent never got to the surface, did it?"
"Just enough of it to cause me to think a shark was making a meal down there," replied Frank.
Jimmie told the story of the encounter, laughing at the peril which was past, but Frank looked grave.
"We'll have to be more careful how we wander about on the bottom of the sea," he said. "It was just luck that brought you out alive. You might wound a serpent a hundred times with that steel bar and never again strike a vital spot."
"Then," Jimmie laughed, "when we get back to New York you put in a claim for a Carnegie medal for me! It would look fine on the front of me hat." "I'll have Ned make you a medal out of a fish's fin," laughed Frank.
"All right!" cried Jimmie. "It will be all right, just so it is a medal."
Then Jimmie told of what he had seen in the vicinity of the Shark, and Frank complimented him on his courage and good judgment in keeping down until he had secured the desired information.
"We know now,' he said, "that the Shark people are communicating with the shore. Perhaps Ned and Jack will learn just what they are doing there. If they do, we shall know just what course to pursue."
"What's the answer?" asked the little fellow.
"Why, if the Shark people dispose of the documents—if there were any documents in the plunder—we'll have to chase after the men who take them. The gold doesn't count."
"Yes," laughed Jimmie, "and I suppose we'll leave the Sea Lion and go over the mountains in an open boat! I'm goin' to stick to the little old Sea Lion."
"Well," Frank remarked, after a short wait, "we must get back to the spot where Ned left us."
"Never thought of that!" Jimmie cried. "He may be yelling his head off because he can't come on board."
The boys lost no time in getting back to the first position, and then lifted to the surface. The conning tower, as before, was out of sight of anyone on the bay, the point of land intervening.
As the time passed the boys became anxious about Ned and Jack. They might have returned while the Sea Lion was away, they thought, and gone into the interior thinking that some accident had happened to the submarine.
"Anyway," Jimmie declared, "Ned told us to move along as my line gave out, and he must know that we'd come back to pick him up."
While the lads speculated on the possible outcome of the visit to the shore there came a sharp collision which keeled the Sea Lion over to port. Both were active in an instant.
"That's the Shark!" exclaimed Jimmie.
"It must be," Frank agreed.
Jimmie hastened to the stern and looked out of the plate glass panel there.
"What do you see?" asked Frank, nervously.
"It is the Shark, all right," was the reply, "and she is backing off. She may be going to ram us."
"Then it's us for the bottom," cried Frank.
"Why the bottom?" asked Jimmie.
Frank did not answer for a moment. He was still standing back of the little fellow and looking over his shoulder, out of the glass panel.
"Because," he said, "the Shark takes chances in bumping us at a considerable depth. She is higher than we are, and her prow sits a great deal above our vulnerable parts. If she strikes us when we are nestling on the bottom, her blow will glance off."
"If she knows it, then," Jimmie said, "she won't follow us down. What will she do?"
"Chase herself off."
"I hope so!" cried Jimmie.
"It beats the Old Scratch why Ned and Jack don't come," Frank said, presently. "I'm afraid something has happened to them."
"There is no use of their staying ashore," Jimmie said, "for I found out what Ned wanted to know. He asked me to find out if the Shark communicated with the shore, and I did it. He ought to know I wouldn't fall down on a little thing like that," the boy added, with a grin. "I'm the only original snake charmer!"
While this sharp exchange of ideas had been going on, Frank had been working the various levers which controlled the altitude of the submarine, and the gauge showed that she was close to the bottom as the last word was spoken.
Jimmie turned away from the panel and caught hold of a railing which ran along in front.
"Look out for the bumps!" he cried!
Then there came a shock which threw both boys off their feet. The staunch craft shivered for an instant, then righted, swaying just a little under the heavy pressure of the depth she was in.
Frank sprang to the delicate machinery which controlled the air supply and the lights. No harm seemed to have been done to them.
"The Shark can't do that again!" Jimmie said, with a sigh of relief. "We're on the bottom now, and her prow would slip over our back. The only mischief she would do would be to knock off our conning tower, and that would not disable us."
"Can you see her now?" asked Frank.
"Sure," replied the boy. "Her lights are on."
"What is she doing?"
"Rolling on the bottom. Say, 'bo, I believe she hurt herself when she tried to soak us."
The ex-newsboy moved away from the panel and Frank took his place as lookout.
"She's crippled, all right," the latter said, after a moment's inspection of their rival, "but I can't see what's the matter."
"Course you can't. The hurt's on the inside."
"Anyway, she doesn't seem to be able to move. I know she is trying to get off by the way the water changes around her stern."
"Bump her!" advised Jimmie.
"I reckon that would settle her," Frank replied, "but I'm not in the pirate business just now."
The boys watched the Shark for half an hour or more, and then saw her move slowly away.
"She's going toward Hongkong," Frank said, "and we may as well bid her good-by."
"Not!" exclaimed Jimmie. "We've got to follow her."
"And leave Ned and Jack?"
Jimmie's jaw fell. This was something he had not thought of. The boys were still on the island—might be in great peril.
"Well, jump up to the surface," the lad said, then, "and I'll go to the island and see what's up."
"Fine chance you'd stand!" laughed Frank.
"Bet I can go ashore an' find a Boy Scout!" returned Jimmie. "We've found 'em in every part of the world."
The Shark was still in view, her lights creating faint mists under the water, but the boys did not consider her a formidable opponent now, so they lifted to the top of the ocean.
Jimmie was first out on the conning tower. The sun was still shining brightly and the water lay as quiet as the surface of a pond on a still day.
When the boy turned to the white line of sand at the rim of the sea he saw Ned and Jack standing there with two others. He waved his hat and Jack swung back from where he stood.
"Guess they've found some one worth talking with," Frank remarked, stepping up on the conning tower.
"Guess they have," responded Jimmie, "but there's some one creeping up to 'em from the thicket," he added, lifting his glasses. "Look out, boys!" he shouted, waving one hand frantically. "Look out! There's some one makin' a sneak on you!"
"They don't catch what you say!" Frank exclaimed. "Look there!"
A BOY SCOUT WITH A "PUNCH"
When Ned saw the conning tower of the submarine drop out of sight he rowed over to the spot where she had gone down and tried to look into the depths of the sea.
The water was fairly clear, and he could see two great bulks below instead of one. He knew then what was taking place.
"The Shark is bent on murder," he mused. "Perhaps they wouldn't be so ready to sink the Sea Lion if they knew that the manager of the whole rotten business was a prisoner on her."
He could not see clearly, of course, but he waited and watched for some moments. Then the Shark crashed with the Sea Lion and fell off, apparently crippled.
"So that's the reason Frank dropped to the bottom!" thought Ned. "He knew the Shark couldn't get a good crack at the Sea Lion when she lay on the bottom. Wonder if the Shark is injured seriously?"
He watched until the Shark turned to the east, curving around the point of land which she had passed to the attack, then turned toward the shore. Jack was still there, and he must find him before nightfall.
Much to his surprise, he saw Jack, Hans and the Englishman, Hamblin by name, watching him from the beach. He waved his hat and shouted to them, wondering all the time where Jack had picked up his acquaintances. In five minutes he was on the beach.
"Is this the boy you wanted me to talk with?" asked Hamblin, as Ned drew up his boat and approached the group.
"The same," laughed Jack, "only you mustn't call him a boy! He's a big man in his own country."
Hamblin eyed Ned critically for a minute and extended his hand. Ned laughed as he took it.
"I've met you before!" he said.
"In a cheap lodging house on the Bowery," said Hamblin. "You were looking for a man who had robbed a bank an' made a run for it."
"Exactly," Ned said.
"An' the bloomin' moocher was in the next room to mine, an' you got him. I was bloody well glad to get the five p'un' note you tipped me then. Stone broke I was."
"You earned it," Ned replied.
"It put me on me legs again," Hamblin went on. "An' I took ship an' come out to this blasted country. I wish I was on the Bowery again, blast me eyes if I don't."
"What are you doing here?" asked Ned.
"Runnin' a bloomin' store an' scrappin' with the Chinks," was the reply. "It's a bally bad game, out here."
"Rotten!" echoed Hans.
Hamblin made a break for the German.
"You thief!" he shouted.
"Hold on," cried Jack, "let me tell you about it," and he proceeded to inform the Englishman of the exact situation of affairs.
"I thought he was a bloomin' moocher," said Hamblin, in a moment. "He acted like one."
"Who is he?" asked Ned of Jack, pointing toward Hans, who now sat on the sand with his knees hunched up in his hands.
"That's Hans," laughed Jack.
Hans threw out his hand in Boy Scout salute.
"Owl Padrol, Philadelphia!" he said.
"Looks like an Owl, eh?" asked Jack.
"He is an Owl!" roared the Englishman. "He works for me, an' he wants to sleep all day an' sit up all the bloomin' night. He's an Owl all but the wise look."
"You loaver!" cried Hans, well knowing that Hamblin would not be permitted to attack him again. "You starf mine pelly! You put bugs to sleep in mine ped! How should the nights get me sleep when the ped is one processions of pugs?"
Jack now called Ned aside and told him of the meeting of the conspirators at the Hamblin store, of the sealed packet, and of the seeming quarrel, as described by Hans. Ned turned to the Englishman.
"They met there by appointment," he asked, "the man from the Shark and the man who waited for him?"
"Yes, by appointment."
"It was about papers?"
"Yes, and gold."
"Where did the man who waited here come from?"
"Some point in China."
Jack gave a low whistle.
"China!" he cried. "I wouldn't have believed it."
"Did you know either of the men who met there—ever see either of them before?" asked Ned, then.
"One of them—a Captain Moore, formerly of the United States Navy," was the astonishing reply.
"Where had you seen him?" asked Ned, motioning to Jack to remain silent.
"He first came here on a man-of-war about six months ago."
"Well, the documents were taken back on board the Shark, then?" asked Ned.
"Yes, I think so."
"You don't know what the packet contained?"
"Papers, they said."
"Then it's all right!" Jack cried. "We can now bunch our hits! The papers and the men we want are on board the Shark. All we've got to do is to catch the Shark!"
Just then the Sea Lion rose out of the ocean and they saw Frank and Jimmie waving to them.
"So they're all right," Ned said. "A moment ago the Shark was ramming them!"
"Why don't we go on board, then?" demanded Jack. "If there's going to be a fight on the bottom I want to be in on it. Bet your sweet life I do! Hurry on board!"
"Look a liddle oudt!" cried Hans at this moment. "They say with their hats unt hands somedings. Look a liddle oudt!"
Ned did "look a liddle oudt" just then, and saw Captain Moore and a dozen or more natives crowding through the thicket, the Captain carrying a revolver in a threatening manner.
"Stand quiet," the ex-naval officer said. "I don't intend to harm any of you. Especially you, Mr. Hamblin. I only want to know where my son Arthur is."
"I haven't got your son!" blustered Hamblin.
"Make me a search!" cried Hans.
"I'm not talking to you two," snarled the Captain. "I'm directing my talk to this sneak," pointing a shaking finger at Ned, whose muscles drew under the insult.
Hans flushed and started forward, but the natives closed about the ex- naval officer.
"Where is my son?" demanded Moore, flourishing his gun nervously.
"Where did you see him last?" asked Ned.
"That is neither here nor there," the Captain replied. "I want to know what you have done with him."
"You sent him on a dangerous mission—a mission of murder," Ned said, presently.
"I don't know what you are talking about."
"You sent him to wreck the Sea Lion."
"That is not true. I have not been on board the Shark."
"Well, some one sent him. Anyway, he came on board the Sea Lion and got caught. Now, what would you have done under the circumstances? You would have given him a banquet, I presume, if he had tried to murder you and got caught at it."
"I don't care what he has done," stormed the Captain. "I want to know where he is now."
"He's at the bottom of the sea!" Jack cut in.
The Captain staggered and turned a white face to the speaker. Ned was about to explain by saying that young Moore was at the bottom of the sea in the Sea Lion when Moore sprang toward him.
"You murdered him!" shouted the enraged Captain. "You murdered him, and I'll have your life."
He lifted his pistol and fired, but the bullet went whistling through the air instead of finding the mark intended for it. Hans, seeing the peril Ned was in, had stepped forward and landed a knock-out blow on the Captain's jaw.
"You loaver!" he shouted, standing over him.
The natives rushed forward as the Captain fell, uttering a jargon which no one understood save the trader. Hamblin saw the danger in the threatening looks of the fellows and sprang for the gun, which had dropped from Moore's hand.
He reached it not a second too soon, for a brawny native was already snatching at it. The fellow seized the trader's wrist as he lifted the weapon and uttered a few words in a menacing tone.
This was enough for Hans, who stood close by, rubbing the bruised knuckles of his right hand. He struck out again, throwing the whole weight of his body into the blow. The native went down and the others drew away from the group about him.
"Great clip!" shouted Jack, as the trader threatened the natives with the gun. "You seem to be the White Man's Hope!"
Hans rubbed the knuckles again and grinned, such a bland grin that both Ned and Jack burst into laughter.
"You sure have a punch!" Jack went on. "Where did you get it?"
"Py the verein just," was the reply.
"You're all right, anyhow," Ned said.
The trader was now addressing the natives in a language—if it was a language—which the boys could not at all understand. They noted the result of the talk with joy, however, for the black-skinned group turned toward the village and soon disappeared in the thicket, taking the knocked out fellow with them.
Captain Moore now opened his eyes and staggered to his feet. His face was deadly pale and his eyes flashed like those of an enraged wolf.
"You shall pay for this!" he shouted.
"Jack did not finish his sentence when he told you that your son was at the bottom of the sea," Ned said, thinking that the deception had gone far enough. "He should have added that he was safe in the Sea Lion."
"Then I demand his release!" shouted the other.
"I can't bring him to you," Ned said, "but I'll take you where he is."
"And if I refuse to go?"
"You'll go just the same."
"Certainly—a prisoner charged with piracy on the high seas."
"You're a meddling fool!" roared the Captain.
Ned paid no attention to the personal abuse of the angry man, but turned to Hamblin.
"I want to talk with you," he said, "but I must get this man on board the Sea Lion first. You'll wait here?"
Before the trader could reply, a shout came over the water from the submarine, and a column of smoke came out of the open hatch.
"I guess you've got all the trouble on the Sea Lion you need there," snarled Moore, "without taking me on board. Your ship's on fire!"
A DESPERATE PRISONER
Just as the attention of Frank and Jimmie was called to the Captain and the natives advancing upon Ned and Jack from the thicket, they heard a great beating on a door or wall below. There was only one person in the submarine save themselves, and so they knew that it was the captive who was kicking up the row.
"He knows something unusual has been going on," Jimmie observed, "and wants to turn whatever takes place to his own advantage. Suppose we go below and see what he's doing."
"He's frightened half to death, I take it," Frank surmised. "The two bumps the Sea Lion got from the Shark must have given him the impression that we had collided with a rock or reef."
"Serves him right," Jimmie replied. "He ought to be willing to take a little of his own medicine occasionally. He tried to kill us when he came on board."
The pounding below continued, and the boys went down to the door of the room where young Moore was held captive. The noise came from within, sure enough.
"What do you want?" demanded Frank, calling loudly so that his voice might penetrate the thick door.
"Let me out!"
"You've got your nerve!" answered Jimmie.
"Let me out, please!" continued the prisoner.
"Why?" asked Frank.
"Open the door and you'll see," was the reply.
Jimmie sniffed at the air in the larger apartment and pulled Frank by the arm.
"Smell anything?" he asked.
"Something does seem queer," the latter replied.
In a second there was an unmistakable odor of burning cloth in the room, and the boys began hunting about for the source of it. The pounding on the door continued.
"Open up!" young Moore shouted. "Open up if you don't want to lose your ship."
"I'll bet the fire's in there," Jimmie ventured. "I'm goin' to open the door and find out."
He turned the key, which was in the lock on the outside, and in a second the door was open. A burst of smoke shot out into the larger apartment.
Through the thick veil of the smoke, in a corner of the room, the boys saw a spurt of flame. It was running along the floor, nipping at the fringe on an expensive rug.
When the door was opened young Moore dashed out, as if desiring to pass the two boys before they got the smoke out of their eyes. Frank caught him by the arm and held him fast.
By this time the large room where the boys stood was well filled with smoke, and Jimmie opened every avenue by which it might travel to the main hatch in the conning tower. In a few moments the interior of the submarine was comparatively free from smoke.
Jimmie took a pail of water from the tap and tossed it on the creeping flame in the little room. It served its purpose and the danger was over. Frank, still holding Moore by the arm, pointed to a chair. The young fellow seemed to have no notion of taking the seat, however, for he made a dash for the hatch, which was wide open.
In order to gain the staircase it was necessary for him to pass the place where Jimmie stood. As he came up to the boy he struck out with all his force and continued his flight—for a second.
When the boy saw him getting by, he dropped to the floor and seized him by the ankles, with the result that both were rolling about in the rich rug in no time.
"Go to it!" shouted Jimmie, as Moore tried to break away from him. "Catch him, Frank!" he continued, as the stronger man pulled away.
It was quite a neat little battle, but in the end numbers won, and Moore was ornamented with the irons once more.
"Why didn't you say the boat was on fire?" asked Frank. "You might have smothered in there."
"Wish I had!" gritted Moore.
"Go back and do it over again," Jimmie suggested. "You can have all the time you want!"
"Why didn't you let us know at first?" insisted Frank.
"Well, if you must know," the captive replied, "I was afraid you would extinguish the fire by flooding the room, if I told what the trouble was. Besides, I thought I could get away if you opened the door."
"Did you set the fire?"
"I was lighting a cigarette, and—"
"That's enough," Frank said. "Any one who will smoke cigarettes deserves to be burned alive. Wish we had flooded the room after you got well scorched and left you in it."
"You may wish so before you have done with me," threatened the other. "I'll get you yet—both of you."
"Well, get back into the den," Frank commanded. "We have had about all the lip we can stand from you. You tried to murder Lieutenant Scott at Mare Island Navy Yard, you attempted our lives when you came to this boat, and now you set us on fire and attempt to run away. You've got a long account to settle, young man."
"You can bluff now," Moore retorted, "but that is all you can do. My father is on the lookout for you and that wise guy you call Ned Nestor. When you go back, without the gold, he'll get you good and plenty. You know it! Now lock me up and go away, for I'm sick of the sight of your impudent faces."
Jimmie forced the prisoner into his room and closed the door.
"You'll have to make a supper off that smoke!" he called out through the keyhole. "You're too fly a guy to take food to."
"I'll charge it up to you!" came back from the den.
"Nervy chap!" Frank said, as the two boys hastened back to the conning tower to see what had become of Ned and Jack.
"Cheekiest fellow I ever saw!" Jimmie added. "He really thinks he's goin' to give us the slip. He really believes we daren't do a thing to him. I'll show him!"
When the boys came in sight of the beach again they saw Captain Moore threatening Ned with a revolver. Then they saw the Captain tumble over on the sand, with the German standing over him.
"Gee!" Jimmie shouted. "Prize fight!"
"Looks like it."
There was silence in the conning tower for a second, then both boys shouted out their joy as they saw Ned and Jack getting the upper hand of Moore and the natives.
"Now they'll soon be on board," Frank observed, "and we'll find out what they've been up to."
"Bet they didn't find out any more than I did," Jimmie cried. "I'll bet they had a scrap too, and that's the only thing I wanted that I didn't get."
"Wonder who that Dutch-looking fellow is?" Frank mused. "I believe Ned is putting him into the boat!"
"I'll go a dollar to a doughnut that it's a Boy Scout!" laughed Jimmie. "Don't look the part, though, does he?"
"Why do you think it is a Boy Scout?"
"Because we've always found one. If we should go to the North Pole, we'd find one there—always busy an' ready to do a fellow a good turn, too. You know it!"
"And that big fellow, with the paunch and the important look seems familiar to me," mused Frank. "Don't you recognize him?"
"Sure," was the reply. "That is Captain Moore. Don't you remember the bluff he put up in the Black Bear clubroom before we left little old New York?"
"I believe you are right."
"Well, we'll soon know all about it," said the boy. "Ned is bringin' the Captain an' the Dutch guy off to us. Funny you'll see so many rare specimens when you hain't got no gun!"
Hans grinned delightedly when he set foot on the conning tower of the submarine and glanced inquisitively into the interior. His round, baby blue eyes protruded in wonder as they fell on the comfortably furnished apartment below.
"Jump down, Dutch!" Jimmie laughed. "There is where they make men out of Dutchmen. Don't be afraid."
"Iss dot so?" grunted Hans. "Vell, if mens iss madt dere, vy dondt you go pelow?"
"Good for you, Dutch!" cried Frank. "Hit him again. He's too fresh, anyway."
"Where did you get it, Ned?" asked Jimmie. "You'll have to bake it when we get back to New York."
"Better look out, lad," Ned replied, "this boy has the kick of a mule in his left. Let him alone."
During this short by-play Captain Moore stood scowling on the conning tower, crowded close against the boys, for the platform was a small one. He now faced Ned angrily.
"What is the proposition?" he demanded.
"I have brought you here to see your son," Ned replied. "If you'll step down the stairs I'll show you where he is."
"He ought to be at the bottom of the sea," Frank said, "for he tried to fire the boat."
"I have no doubt that he resents his treatment," said Moore. "I, myself, would sink your craft this moment if it lay in my power."
"No doubt of it," Ned said. "You've come to the end of your rope, though. All the mischief you can do now is to yourself."
Moore snarled out some reply intended to be exasperating, but which made no impression on the boys, and set his feet to the stairs. The boys followed him, but the ex-naval officer reached the floor first, and, with a bound, reached the mechanism which gave forward motion to the submarine, the prow of which was turned toward the beach.
Ned sprang forward, but the boat was already under motion. It was unquestionably the intention of the prisoner to wreck her on the beach, hoping to rescue his son and make his own escape in the confusion.
Moore struck savagely at Ned as he attempted to draw him away from the lever, but missed. In a second Jimmie had his arms about those of the Captain and they went down together.
Ned leaped to the lever and shut off the power. In three minutes more the Sea Lion must have been wrecked on the shelving shore. As it was she stopped within a few yards of the danger line.
"You're a pair of murderers!" said Ned, coolly, as he seized Moore by the throat and flung him into the room where his son was incarcerated.
Young Moore's face appeared at the door as his father was forced in, and angry words between the two followed as the door was closed.
"There'll be a social session in there now," laughed Ned. "Each one will blame the other for the predicament they are in!"
"Let 'em fight it out," Jimmie advised, rubbing a bruise on his arm, which had been somewhat injured in the fall.
Hans was now gazing about the boat with something more than curiosity in his eyes. He had observed how quickly the submarine had responded to a touch of the lever, and was actually wondering if he wasn't on board one of the magic ships he had read of in the nursery.
"Sit down outside this door and see that nothing more happens in the kick line," Ned directed, thinking to give the uneasy youth something to occupy his mind. "If they get the door open, give them one of those left-hand jolts."
With another glance about the German sat down contentedly. Then Ned went to the stern and looked out of the glass panel.
"Is the Shark still in sight?" asked Frank. "Look out to the east and you'll see her if she's anywhere about."
"I'm afraid she's too far away by this time," Ned replied.
"Then we'd better be moving!" Frank said. "I'll take the boat and go after Jack, then we'll be off."
"Don't lose any time," advised Ned.
Frank, accompanied by Jimmie, was off in the rowboat in short order, and before long Jack was on board.
"Hamblin, the trader, wants to talk with you, Ned," he said as he came down into the cabin.
"He'll have to wait until we catch the Shark," Ned said. "I'm afraid we have lost too much time now."
Jack's report had shown him that the sealed packet was still on the Shark, and it was his purpose to keep after the submarine until he caught up with her. Just what would take place then he did not know, but he was willing to take great risks in order to get hold of the packet.
He did not know what it contained, but he did know that it was claimed by the enemies of his government, that it held papers which, if brought out, might smash several international treaties. His own belief was that the packet would establish the fair dealing of the Washington officials, but this was only a matter of opinion.
While the Sea Lion was dropping down and getting under way he talked the matter over with Frank. That young man was inclined to be rather pessimistic over the matter.
"If the papers in the packet are of the sort you think they are," he declared, "they will destroy them before they will permit you to get hold of them."
"They might do so only for the fact that this is a money-loving world we are living in," Ned declared, with a smile. "Those papers, whatever they are, are worth a lot of cash to some one, and they will not be destroyed."
The submarine was soon moving swiftly through the water, only a few yards from the sandy bottom. The general direction was east, toward the harbor of Hongkong.
Just before the night fell Jack, who was on the lookout in front, peering through the glass panel, declared that the Shark, or some other submarine, was in sight.
"She's crippled, too," he cried. "She advances a few paces and then stops. They are having all kinds of trouble with her. Just lie still a short time, and you'll see her mounting to the surface."
The Sea Lion was brought to a halt, and the boys watched the dark bulk ahead with all their eyes. Their own boat was dark, but directly lights flared out ahead.
"There she goes to the top!" Jimmie cried.
"And there," exclaimed Frank, "is a signal from Hans which shows that there's something doing with the prisoners!"
A BLUFF THAT DIDN'T WORK
Leaving the prow, Ned hastened down a little passage and came out in the room where Hans sat, grinning, before a door behind which there was a great commotion. The pounding was incessant, and the voices of the prisoners came clearly through the solid panels.
"Open!" cried the voice of Captain Moore. "There's danger ahead for you. Open the door."
"Little he cares for our hides!" Jimmie commented. "If there was any danger he'd be the last one to warn us."
"Just a crack," pleaded Moore. "Just a crack, and I'll tell you what you are facing."
Ned opened the door a trifle and saw Moore's face there, looking almost frantic in the strong light.
"Well?" Ned asked.
"There's death for us all if you go ahead," the Captain declared. "Stop where you are."
"Soh!" grunted the German.
"Oh, I'm not pretending that I care for your rascally lives," Moore went on, vindictively. "I'd kill you all this moment if it lay in my power to do so. I'm thinking of my own safety."
"Well?" repeated Ned. "What is it?"
"The boat you are chasing has dynamite on board, and a tube gun. If you go nearer, she'll blow you out of the water."
"That's cheerful," Jimmie grinned. "Why didn't she do it before?"
"Probably because she thought to get away. I've been watching her through the little port and I know that she is now waiting for you to come up and receive a dynamite ball."
"It strikes me," Ned replied, "that she is halting because her running gear is out of whack. She rammed us not long ago and got the worst of it."