Chapter XI. 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.

"Information."

"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.