Chapter XVIII. "Making a Good Job of It."
 

"I guess they've got Ned!" Jimmie cried, as the heavy hatch of the Shark closed with a slam. "If they have, we'll ram 'em to the bottom."

"You just wait!" Jack advised. "There's a good deal of a racket going on over there. I guess Hans is putting his educated left into motion. Look at him!"

There was indeed a great commotion on the platform. Presently the hatch was lifted and one of the contestants disappeared.

"Do you mind that, now!" shouted Jimmie. "Ned has captured the boat for keeps! There! Now he's tellin' them where to head in at!"

Through the still night air they heard Ned's voice:

"You people down there know what I am here for. If the thing I want is destroyed you'll all be hanged for piracy. Understand?"

Then the hatch was jammed down again, and Ned and Frank stepped into the rowboat, leaving Hans on the platform. Jimmie threw up his cap when the two boys stepped on the Sea Lion's platform.

"You captured the bunch!" he yelled, "and you stole the boat. You sure made a good job of it."

"What's the proposition?" asked Jack.

"I thought I'd tow the old tub into a port where I can communicate with an American man-of-war," replied Ned.

"This is luck!" Frank exclaimed. "Luck for us, and trouble for the pirates. I wonder if they've got much gold on board."

"If they have," laughed Ned, "Hans will see that they don't get away with it. They're nailed down hard."

"Talk about the luck of the British army!" roared Jack. "It is blind adversity to the luck of the Boy Scouts! Here we've got the pirates bunched! As soon as we communicate with a man-of-war, we'll turn 'em over to Uncle Sam and go back and get the gold."

"The Shark," Frank observed, "was a derelict when we picked her up, wasn't she? She couldn't move a foot. Well, then, we're entitled to salvage. We'll put in a bill that will eat up the whole business!"

"If we get her into port," Ned replied. "The old tub is in bad shape owing to the bunting she gave the Sea Lion. I'm afraid she'll go down before morning."

"Cripes!" Jimmie broke out. "What will we do, then, with all them bold, bad men? We've got our penitentiary full now!"

"And the prisoners are making all kinds of trouble, too," Jack added. "If the door wasn't good and strong, it'd be in splinters by this time. That young Moore is the worst."

"We won't cross any bridges until we come to them," Ned remarked. "The Shark may last until we get to Hongkong. Anyway, I'm counting on quite a run before she goes down."

"How many are there on board?" asked Jack.

"Six, not counting Hans. I think we can accommodate them all on board the Sea Lion, if we have to."

The Sea Lion towed the Shark all through the night, keeping to an easterly direction with the idea of going to Hongkong, something over 150 miles away. All along the eastern coast of Kwang Tung, from the slender peninsula which separates the Gulf of Tongking from the China Sea to the bay which penetrates almost to Canton, there is a succession of little islands, so the submarine and her prize were always in sight of land.

Just at dawn there came a cry from the platform of the Shark, and Hans was discovered waving his cap excitedly in the air.

"Vater! Vater!" he cried. "Dis iss droubles! Make us off dis durdle--gwick!"

"Sinking?" Ned called back.

Further talk with the German informed Ned that water was seeping into the different compartments of the Shark, and that the inmates were already perched on tables and on the stairs leading to the platform.

The boy attached the towing cable to a windlass on the platform of the Sea Lion, turned on the power, and the sinking craft soon lay alongside. She was indeed in a bad predicament. Another half hour would see the last of her.

"Now," Ned said, "we don't know what those fellows will try to do when the hatch is lifted. I've known snakes to sting the hand that fed and warmed them. Anyway, we'll take no chances."

Following his orders, the boys got out their automatic revolvers and ranged themselves on the platform. Then Ned lowered the rowboat, making a bridge between the two. The hulls of the boats met under water, but the platforms, owing to the bulge, were some little distance apart. The railings of the conning towers were not much above the surface.

His arrangements for securing the prisoners without trouble completed, Ned went over to the Shark and lifted the hatch. He was greeted with a chorus of threats, supplications, and questions.

"You'll get yours for sinking the Shark!" one shouted.

"For God's sake let us out; we are drowning!" whined another.

"What's the matter with the boat?" asked a third.

"Listen," Ned said. "The Shark may go down in ten minutes, or she may float, under tow, for a long time. Anyway, you are better out of her. I'll take you all out if you promise to behave yourselves. Come out of the hatch one at a time and be searched for weapons. The man that carries a weapon of any kind on his person will be thrown back, to feed the fish. Do you understand?"

They understood, and not even a penknife was found when search was made. Five of the rescued ones were plain seamen, with little knowledge of submarine work. The other was the captain of the Shark. Under the direction of young Moore he had attempted to make off with everything of value on the wreck, including the papers.

This man was a fair type of marine officer, had, in fact, resigned from the United States service with Captain Moore. He was by no means an ill-looking man, but his snaky eyes and treacherous mouth told Ned to look out for him.

He came out of the hatch last and was stepping onto the rowboat when Ned stopped him with a question:

"Where are the papers?"

"What papers?" snarled the other, Babcock by name.

"The papers you took from the wreck."

"They are below, soaked with water."

"Get them!"

"But--"

"Get them! Quick!"

"But they are afloat, and--"

"Get them!"

Babcock went down the staircase with murder in his eyes. He returned, in a moment, with a sealed packet, which was perfectly dry. Ned broke the seal and glanced at the sheets inside.

The one which met his eyes first was headed:

"General instructions, to be opened only when the demand for the coin is made."

"Now" Ned went on," where are your sailing orders?"

"Lost!" was the reply.

"Get them!" Ned said, quietly.

"They are--"

"Get them," came again from the boy's lips.

Again Babcock went into the submarine, now rapidly filling with water. He returned dripping with sea water, holding in his hand a water-tight tin box which was secured by a brass padlock.

"You now have everything I held concerning the mission of the boat and the disposition of the gold," he said. "I suppose I may get out of the water now?"

Ned stepped aside and Babcock passed over to the Sea Lion. Ned attached a buoy to the tower of the Shark and cut loose from her.

"We'll let some of Uncle Sam's boats pick her up," he said. "I'm for Hongkong with these papers."

The five sailors were not locked up, but were given the run of the cabin, the machine room only being closed against them.

"I'm not going to have them mixing things down here," Jack, who was in charge that day, said.

Babcock, however, was locked up with Captain Moore. When the door closed on the two men the boys heard them both talking at the same time, and their language was not at all complimentary to each other.

"You're a blackmailer!" Moore yelled.

"You're a liar!" was the reply.

"Fight it out!" Jimmie shouted from the door.

"Get to going and see who's to blame for this!"

Then the voices quieted down, and no more words were heard.

"Did you hear what they called each other?" asked Jack. "Well, I'm betting they are both right."

Ned went to his cabin and opened the tin box. He lingered over what he found there until noon and then called Frank into conference with him.

"There's a plot which involves officers at Canton," he said, "and we may as well bag the whole bunch."

"Of course. We ought to make a good job of it, as Jimmie says."

Ned examined his map and called Frank over to the table where it was spread out.

"If we go to Canton," he said, "we'll have to run into the lake-like mouth of the Si River. Guess that's its name. It looks dim on the map. Fifty miles to the north the little stream on which Canton is situated runs into the larger stream.

"We can run to that point and leave the Sea Lion while we go to Canton. I guess the prisoners won't object to a few days more of imprisonment. Anyway, we may meet a ship we can turn them over to."

"They are objecting, right now, it seems," cried Frank, opening the door and looking out into the main cabin. "Hans is sitting on one of the sailors and Jack and Jimmie are holding the others back with their automatics."

Both boys leaped out. The sailors, doubtless alarmed at the arrival of the leaders, sprang for the hatchway. The boys did not fire at them as they passed, and directly splashes in the sea told those on the stairs that the sailors had leaped into the water.

Hans arose, scratching his head, and looked down on the man he had been sitting on. The fellow looked up into the lad's face with a queer expression in his eyes.

"Vot iss?" demanded Hans. "Go py the odders if you schoose! Py schimminy, dose shark haf one feast!"

"Not on your life!" cried the prisoner. "I'm not anxious to get away. I was shanghaied on the Shark, and it's glad I am to be out of that bum crowd."

Jimmie, who had followed the sailors to the platform, now came back with the information that three of them had been picked up by a native canoe which had now disappeared from sight in a group of islands. The other, he said, had gone down.

"How much do those sailors know?" asked Ned of the man Hans had taken prisoner.

"They know a lot," was the reply. "They were all in together. What one knew, all knew, I guess. It is too bad they got away, for they had a definite plan to operate if there was trouble and any got away. They will lay in wait for you when you land."

"They'll have to travel fast if they do!" Frank laughed.