Chapter XII. 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.

"Hongkong."

"What's your name?"

"Hans Christensohnstopf--"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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.