Chapter XIII. 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!"