Chapter XIV. 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."

"A prisoner?"

"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!"