The Boys' Big Game Series
The PIRATE SHARK
Illustrated by Fred J. Arting
COPYRIGHT, 1914 by THE REILLY & BRITTON CO.
I "What's Tringanu?"
II Jerry Smith, Quartermaster
III Off for Tringanu
IV The Pirate Shark
V What Happened at Honolulu
VI The Far Seas
VII "Where's Peters?"
VIII Kuala Besut
IX The Black Fin
X Off for Tigers
XI The Storm Breaks
XII The Elephant Gun
XIV A Truce
XV Mart Goes Down
XVI The Battle
XVII The Mystery o' the Sea
The Pirate Shark
"I don't care what your orders are. Cap'n Hollinger sent for me, and I'm going aboard or I'll know the reason why!"
"Well, ain't you just heard the reason why, son? He ain't here, and orders is orders. There ain't no one comin' aboard the Seamew, that's all. Nothin' was said about any Mart Judson, kid."
"Then I guess your ears need tuning up. I'm comin' aboard, see?"
"Ye'll go overboard then. Well, if the kid ain't goin' to walk right up to me! Look out there, kid—get off that gangplank in a hurry!"
Trouble was in the air. At the rail of the trim yacht Seamew lounged Swanson, her burly first officer, pipe in mouth. He was evidently angry, for his heavy features were dark and lowering and his deep-set blue eyes glittered ominously. But the boy who faced him from the wharf was no less stirred up.
Mart Judson looked a good deal more than his seventeen years, for he had worked his own way in the world and his face had a serious air of responsibility. He wore a smudgy mechanic's cap and greasy overalls, and from his keen gray eyes, determined mouth and chin, and straight black hair, an observer might have deduced that he could be a hard worker and a stubborn fighter if need were.
Yet it was small wonder that Swanson had laughed at him. A boy mechanic asking for Stephen Hollinger personally, insisting that the millionaire had sent for him! Mart started obstinately up the gangplank and the mate laid his pipe on the rail, gave a hitch to his trousers, and moved forward to repel boarders.
Before he reached the open gangway, however, there came an interrupting shout from the deck:
"Hello, old Mart Judson! How're ye?"
A second later Mart found himself clasping hands with his friend, Bob Hollinger, better known as "Holly," the son of the mining expert and millionaire who owned the yacht. It was a hearty greeting, in spite of the greasy, cheap clothes of the one, and the carelessly costly dress of the other. The fact that Mart Judson worked for his living mattered nothing to Bob or to his father; the boys were the same age and had gone through high school together, and the two were firm friends.
Stephen Hollinger was an eccentric yet sensible "old-timer," whose habits were rough and ready and who made Bob work for his pocket-money most of the time. He had been working just at present, Mart noted; his fingers were ink-stained, his blue-eyed, freckled, careless face was smudged, and he seemed both dirty and happy.
Mart glanced about in frank admiration at the white decks and evident luxury aboard the yacht. It was his first visit to the Seamew, for she was seldom used by her owner. Swanson moved off, grumbling. Mart sent a good-humored laugh after the discomfited mate, and turned to his chum.
"What's on your mind, Holly? I had a mighty hard time gettin' away—we're rushed up at the shop. Blurt it out, 'cause I ain't got time for visitin' to-day. Some seamen had a scrap down at the Peniel Mission, and I've got to get down there with some new bulbs and fixtures before dark. What's goin' on?"
"You are," grinned Holly in delight. "Say, Mart—I've got the best news you ever heard! See those boxes over there on the wharf? They're cabin stores for a cruise. And you're goin' along with us."
Mart stared blankly at his friend. Bob was plainly in earnest, for all that his blue eyes were dancing.
"Cut out the funny business! I've got to get back. Did you send that message or did your dad?"
"Nothing doing on going back," laughed Bob, seizing his arm. "Hold on—this isn't any pipe dream, old scout. Mother's gone east for a month. Dad's got to quit work—got indigestion or gastritis or some o' those stomach things. So we're goin' across the Pacific. You're going along."
"Not me!" ejaculated Mart quickly, wondering if his chum were crazy. "I got to hold my job. I'll get a chance at a real wireless job in the spring, maybe."
"Well," and Bob shrugged his shoulders, "if you'd sooner work in the shop for eight a week than be wireless man on the Seamew at forty a month and all found, you can. And if you like San Francisco better'n the other side o' the world, suit yourself. I ain't your boss, of course!"
The two stared at each other, and slowly the reality of the thing grew in Mart Judson's brain. Yet it was impossible! He had his wireless license, but no one would employ him at his age. But Holly was plainly in dead earnest. Mart could only stare.
"Where you going?" he asked suddenly.
Bob hesitated. "Well, I'm not quite sure myself," he answered. Then his face brightened quickly. "Here's dad coming now—we'll ask him. It struck me kind o' sudden too."
Mart turned as a step sounded behind him, and his hand met that of Stephen Hollinger. The millionaire was dressed roughly in serge and yachting cap, for he was his own captain aboard the yacht. His strong, whimsical face lighted up in a smile at Mart's expression.
"So you got down, eh! Glad to see you. Bob told you about it yet?"
"I just got here," replied Mart. "If he wasn't joking, Mr. Hollinger—"
"Where's Tringanu, dad?" broke in Bob excitedly.
Captain Hollinger—for he assumed this title aboard the Seamew—looked at the two boys amusedly, then took each by an arm and propelled them toward the companionway.
"Come along to the cabin; I'll give you half an hour. You see, Mart, we've been so rushed that even Bob hasn't had time to get an explanation. I got doctor's orders two days ago to drop business and do it quick. So we came up from Pasadena, the yacht will be in commission in another day or so, and off we go to Tringanu!"
Five minutes later Mart Judson found himself at a big mahogany table, his chum opposite him, while the captain got charts from another cabin. The luxury about him was astonishing; mahogany furnishings, walls, bookcases, a talking machine and a piano, electric lights and fans. Everything that could add to comfort or convenience was there, and he was soon to find that the rest of the yacht was fitted up in like manner.
"Now," began Captain Hollinger, returning with his maps and charts, "maybe you know, Mart, that I'm something of a big game hunter, eh?"
"I should guess!" grinned Mart. Like everyone else in San Francisco he knew that Stephen Hollinger was an enthusiastic sportsman; indeed, mining and hunting were said to be his chief pleasures in life.
"Well, I'm going hunting. And I'm going here—" he put his finger on the map as the two boys craned their necks over it. "Tringanu is one of the Malay states, on the mainland of Asia; it's not exactly civilized, but I'm thinking of getting a mining concession there at a place I heard of.
"Here it is, on this chart of the China Sea. About halfway up the coast of Tringanu, see? It's this bay and the lagoon, where the river drains that big basin, that ought to have gold. There are tigers in the hills, so I'm going over there on my vacation, maybe get a gold-mining concession from the government, shoot a tiger or so, and come home happier, healthier and wealthier. Isn't that a good program, Mart?"
"You bet your life it is!" cried the boy, his eyes shining eagerly. "Golly! Say, was Bob talking turkey about my going?"
"I guess he was," laughed the captain, looking at Bob. "I told him I could use a wireless man—had to have one, in fact—and he said you had your license."
"Got it two weeks ago," admitted Mart with some pride. It had cost him many hours of nightwork and study, had that license as wireless operator. Then his face fell suddenly. "I'm not old enough to take the job, though—"
"Shucks, that don't matter!" broke in Holly. "This isn't a reg'lar job."
"No," assented his father. "All you would have to do is to get market reports every few days and send some messages back. Look at these maps again, boys. Now, here's the place, I figure that we'll go to Honolulu, then hit straight for our goal. The river is named Kuala Besut, and we'll probably stay there a couple of weeks or more, using divers. All the gold along there has to be dredged up, you see. While the diving is going on, we can run up-country shooting."
"Who put you wise to the gold mine, dad?" inquired Bob curiously.
"Old Jerry Smith—a man who has spent all his life out there. He's going to sail with us. Now hush up for a minute, both of you. From Honolulu we go direct to the Malay coast, cutting in through the Philippines without stopping. On the way back we can do all the visiting we want to.
"There's the plan, boys. We'd like to have you go along, Mart, to take care of our wireless. Salary, forty a month and all found. Of course you'd mess with us, at the officers' mess, and you boys could have great old times. How about it? I believe you are free to go, Mart?"
"Plenty free, sir," nodded Mart. "I've had no one to worry over me since mother died, two years ago. Only—it's an awful big thing for a fellow to make up his mind to, right off the bat like this. These here Malay States—aren't they pretty wild and woolly! I've got a notion that's where the pirates come from—"
The financier broke into a laugh.
"Not to-day, Judson! Why, in Tringanu they make some of the best steel in the world—the natives, I mean. That's where those curly krisses and Malay daggers come from. But the piracy is all over. Tringanu isn't exactly civilized, I'll admit, but it's under British protection, like all the rest of the Malay States.
"This place where we're going, Kuala Besut, is inside these islands here, and Jerry Smith says that we can go right up the river in the yacht. Also, he says, it will be easy to take trips into the jungle with some of the native chiefs, and bag a tiger or so."
"Who's this Jerry Smith?" asked Mart.
"He's an old-timer—been beating around the Pacific most of his life. They say he used to be a pirate and blackbirder and that he can tell strange yarns if he will—but that's all talk. He's just a quiet, white-haired old man. I've found from other sources that there'll be no trouble getting a concession on the place—if there's any gold there. Now that's all I know about the thing. It's up to you, Mart!"
"Well," grinned the gray-eyed boy, glancing at his friend, "you needn't worry about me. If you really mean it, I'd—I'd pay you to take me along, sir!"
"Not much," laughed the captain. "It's the other way around, Mart. Well, we sail Monday morning. Old Jerry is getting a crew for us and he'll come aboard Sunday night with the men. You'd better quit work at the shop to-night, get our wireless in shape over to-morrow, to pass the port inspectors, and rest up Sunday. I'll detail Bob to help you—he's been acting as supercargo up to date."
"Much obliged," grunted Bob sarcastically, "How about an outfit? Will Mart have to get any clothes?"
"Not on my ship. They'll come out of the slop-chest. Oh, you needn't look that way, Mart," and the financier laughed at Mart's dismay. "Slop-chest is sailors' slang for ship's stores. Just fetch your ordinary clothes. Bob, you'd better get that stateroom next to yours fixed up; then you boys can be together. Now, is there anything more you fellows want to know?"
"Lots," shot out Mart with a sigh as he rose to his feet. "I want to know so much that it makes my head ache to think of it—but I've got to get back and get these fixtures down to the Peniel before dark. I'll turn up in the morning ready for work. And, say, I'm sure grateful to you, Mr.—er—Captain Hollinger! And I'll do my best to earn my salary, you can be sure of—"
"Well, get along with you," broke in the financier, smiling. "See you to-morrow!"
Bob walked up the wharf with his friend, and as they parted, Mart turned to him.
"By golly, Bob," he said slowly, "I can't believe it! Say, won't we have one peach of a time, though? S'pose your dad will take us along after the tigers?"
"Of course he will!" agreed Holly, who had stout confidence in his father. "We've got more rifles and guns coming down to-morrow than you can shake a stick at. And we'll go down in the diving suits, too—dad's promised that already. Well, so long! See you to-morrow."
As Mart Judson walked up the street, he trod on air. It was like a dream come true. He would be crossing the Pacific, going to foreign lands, getting the very job he had been vainly longing for—and getting paid for it all!
"I wonder if it's really true," he thought, staring with unseeing eyes at the scenes around him. "Blamed if it ain't too good to be true—tiger shooting and diving and gold mines—Oh, what's the use! I'm dreaming!"
JERRY SMITH, QUARTERMASTER
"How's she coming? It's 'most noon, Mart."
"Huh? Oh, she's great. I can't find anything wrong, except a little rust. I'll take a look at that transmitting jigger and send out a flash, I guess."
"What's the transmitting jigger?"
"This—the oscillation transformer. It transfers the primary circuit energy, which has low potential, to the aerial circuit, where it reaches a mighty high potential at the free insulated end—"
"Hey! What d'you think I am—a walking 'cyclopaedia?" broke in Bob indignantly. "Cut out that high-flown talk with me, Mart, and get down to where I can collect on you. Going to send a message?"
"Golly, no!" returned Mart, busily, adjusting his current. "We'd have the port officers down on us in a jiffy. It's all right to pick up messages, but to do any private monkey-work by sendin' them is liable to get a fellow in bad. No, I'm just going to see that the sparker's workin' right—"
"Never mind a technical description," broke in Bob. "Just go ahead and I'll be satisfied to watch. But when you get through, there's some stuff down in the cabin that you might like to look over."
"All right," grunted the other, pressing down his key. The blue spark leaped out for a long moment, but Mart was careful not to break it, and with a satisfied nod he threw off the current. The Seamew's wireless, in spite of a year of disuse, was in splendid shape; like other merchant ship stations of modern type, it was almost perfect in its conveniences. The whole transmitting apparatus, from the generator to the aerial tuning inductance, was in a special silence cabinet; this not only kept the noise of the spark and generator down, but shut off all high-tension apparatus from the operator. Mart explained this at some length to his chum.
"It's strictly fool-proof, so I'll give you some lessons when we get out in the ocean," he grinned. "We can send messages all we please there, but not in port."
"Well, you come along down to the cabin," returned Bob ungraciously. He had no knowledge of things mechanical, and no liking for them. His tastes ran to athletics, and by careful cultivation of his body he had made himself the physical equal, or nearly so, of Mart Judson, whose strength and alertness were entirely natural.
Leaving the wireless house, which was on the upper bridge deck just abaft the chart house and signal locker, the two boys slid down the ladders to the lower deck. Cases of provisions and supplies were being slung down the fore hold by the steam winch, and except for the two mates and a couple of wharf hands, no one was in sight. The engine-room crew was aboard, together with the Chinese steward, but the crew of a dozen men would not come aboard until the next night.
Indeed, the principal use for a crew aboard the Seamew was to keep the brasswork polished and the decks holystoned, it seemed to Mart. Everything was done by steam-power; while the wheel-house had a helm, the steam steering-gear was used entirely, the anchor was worked by steam, and the boats and launch carried on the bridge deck could be swung out by the same power.
"What's waiting for us?" queried Mart as they turned to the after companionway leading to the cabins.
"You come along and see," returned Bob Hollinger mysteriously. "Dad's gone uptown, so we got the craft to ourselves right now."
Mart followed his friend down into the cabin, then stopped suddenly and caught his breath. A big mahogany chest stood open at one side, and on the table was laid out an astonishing array of hunting supplies. There were guns of every conceivable size and shape, it seemed to him. He picked up the first to hand and examined it, while Bob excitedly explained.
"That's a Mannlicher-Schoener. It's dad's favorite for big game, Mart."
"Huh!" exclaimed Mart critically. "She ain't much bigger'n the old twenty-two I used to have, Holly. I'll eat all the big game your dad ever shoots with that gun!"
"Don't you believe it! That's the Austrian army gun—she's a two-fifty-six caliber cordite, hasn't any kick to speak of, and they use it on elephants in Africa. Why, she'll kill at a mile, Mart!"
"Mebbe," and Mart doubtfully laid the weapon down. "You'll have to show me first, though. Whew! this looks like a regular hardware shop! That's a beaut of a shotgun."
While it hardly seemed possible that the Austrian gun could be all Bob said, Mart knew that his chum was well posted. However, there were guns of all sizes and kinds, from target rifles to heavy twenty-gauge Parker shotguns, as well as four ugly-looking automatic pistols. Besides these there were half a dozen long hunting-knives, bandoliers, belts, and other articles of equipment.
"Dad sent down his whole outfit," explained Bob gleefully. "We're likely to get a chance for some fine shooting on the voyage. But say! Come in here a minute! This'll make you sit up, sure!"
He hastily led his chum into the smoking-room beyond. A large packing-case stood on the floor, and on the table was a small but complete moving-picture machine, at sight of which Mart gave a yell of delight.
"By golly!" he cried, examining it. "It's one o' those English things, Holly—I was reading about it last week! You take 'em around with you and—why, she's a wonder! No bigger'n a camera, either!"
In fact, the whole machine was no larger than a good-sized camera, and Mart decided on the spot that he would be moving-picture operator. It was Captain Hollinger's intention to take pictures of Kuala Besut, of his prospective gold-concession, of the whole vicinity, and of his tiger hunts if possible, and the two boys were wild over the prospect. Suddenly Mart turned as a quiet voice broke in from behind.
"Hm—hm—beg pardon, gentlemen!"
A stoop-shouldered, gentle-faced old man stood in the doorway, cap in hand. He had very watery blue eyes, his expression was mild in the extreme, and long white hair fell on his shoulders; but for his tanned, leathery skin, Mart would have taken him for an old clerk in a bank.
"Yes?" inquired Bob. "You wanted someone here?"
"Why, I was looking for the cap'n," said the old man. His voice was soft, but carried far. "My name's Smith, Jerry Smith, quartermaster."
"Oh, you're the Jerry Smith that's to sail with us!" Bob spoke in no little astonishment, for the old man looked anything but a tarry sailor. "Why, dad's gone uptown for the afternoon, Mr. Smith. I'm Bob Hollinger, and this is Mart Judson, who goes with us."
"Pleased, gentlemen," and the other jerked his head slightly, gazing around with mild interest. "That's a sight o' hardware, here in the main cabin. My stars! Is the cap'n going to shoot all those weapons, young sir?"
"Well, he hopes to," grinned Mart easily, shoving back the mop of black hair from his brow. "Going to take moving pictures, too. I'm the wireless operator."
"Eh?" Jerry Smith looked astonished. "Why, young sir, that is surprising! I did not know we—we were going to have a wireless operator!" His watery eyes blinked a little, and his soft voice dropped to a deeper tone. "Well, well! And I was just about your age, I imagine, when I first put to sea!"
Mart hoped for a moment that the old man was going to spin a yarn, but instead he only heaved a sigh and mopped at his nose with a huge bandanna.
"Well," he said to Bob, "I'm sorry to miss your father, young sir. And would you please to tell him that the crew'll come aboard to-morrow night, and that I'll be aboard afore then with the papers? I'll have to sign on as quartermaster, you know, and the cap'n—"
"Eh?" Bob struck in with a frown. "Why, you're going as a guest, Mr. Smith! Dad doesn't want you to sign on at all."
"Just Jerry, if you please!" the old man smiled quietly. "Jerry is my handle, young sirs, just Jerry. About signing on, now. I've never put to sea yet, young sirs, but what I've been entered shipshape and Bristol fashion, and I'm not going to start wrong at this time o' life. I want to be on the ship's articles as quartermaster, that's all—that's all. I got my discharges all proper, and if we should lose an officer, I've got a first officer's ticket. I don't want any wages, young sirs, but I want to be signed on all shipshape. It'll make me feel a sight better. You'll tell the cap'n that?"
"Why, sure!" returned Bob heartily. "And I'm glad to meet you, Jerry. You'd better keep in mind that I'm Bob, or Holly—either one hits the right spot—and I don't like that 'young sir' business."
"Nor me," put in the gray-eyed boy, stepping forward with his hand out. "I'm plain Mart, without any Mister either, Jerry, and I'm glad to meet up with you."
The three shook hands. Mart noted that old Jerry had a very strong chin and a tight-lipped mouth, for all his gentle appearance, and his hands were very gnarled and knotted. His dress was old and weatherstained, but had nothing of the sailor in it. Mart had seen enough of sailors along the waterfront, however, to know that clothes do not count in such cases.
With a final duck of his head, Jerry Smith turned and shuffled away.
"Well, what d'you think o' that!" Bob stared at his chum as the stoop-shouldered figure vanished up the companion. "Pirate! Say, do you reckon he ever saw a pirate ship? I guess dad has things twisted about him, eh?"
"I'm not so sure," returned Mart slowly, thinking of that firm chin and knotted hand. "I'm not so sure, Holly. You can't go by what you read in books, always. Sure, I know he's a nice old fellow, but he's a queer fish just the same. And as for bein' a pirate, there's that man Morris, who's workin' on the Tribune now as city editor. He's as quiet and nice as you ever see 'em, but they say he's been all kinds of things. That shows you, Holly, that you can't go by looks."
"Anyhow, I guess he's reformed by now," stated Bob decisively. "And pirating is out of date these days. He's only an interesting character, as the books say."
"He sure is," agreed Mart promptly. "Say, Holly, we're going to have a whopper of a time in the next month or so, ain't we?"
Bob grinned happily. "You're dead right, old boy! Say, it's noon—"
"By golly, that's right! When do we eat? I'm some empty."
"Right now. Ah Sing has the grub ready, I guess. Hike along, you pirate!"
And Mart hiked with a wide grin.
OFF FOR TRINGANU
It was Sunday afternoon. Joe Swanson and the second mate, "Liverpool" Peters, had departed that morning to enjoy their last few hours on shore. Captain Hollinger, Mart, and Bob were alone on board, save for the steward, and the three were sitting around a big pitcher of lemonade under the after-deck awnings. The financier-yachtsman was enthusiastically outlining his plans for sport during his trip.
"We're going to have a great time, boys," he exclaimed heartily, "I've got everything on board you can think of, from tackle for sharks to dynamite."
"Huh? Dynamite?" asked Mart quickly. "What's that for, Cap'n?"
"I don't know," returned the captain coolly. The two boys stared.
"What—you don't know?" asked Bob in surprise. His father laughed.
"No. I put it aboard at the suggestion of old Jerry Smith. He said we might have need for it during the diving operations, and I simply took his advice. He's pretty well posted on everything out in that section of the world, and promises me some exciting sport shooting tigers."
"I thought tigers were found only in India," put in Mart, puzzled. "That's where they usually shoot 'em, isn't it?"
"No," said the captain, leaning back and lighting his cigar. "No, Mart, you're off there. You'll find tigers all through the Malay States and up into China proper—I believe they've even been found in parts of Japan. We're going to have some great shooting, boys! And while I'm off with you in the jungle, or hills—for I'm not sure which we'll find—old Jerry can be managing the diving and dredging operations at the other end without bothering me till the work's ready for inspection."
"What's Jerry gettin' out o' this?" queried Mart thoughtfully.
"Oh, I'm to allow him one-third of the stock. Our consul at Singapore is already getting us the concession, and Jerry has letters from the Sultan of Tringanu to all the native chiefs."
"What're they like, dad?" Bob sat up. "The letters, I mean."
"They're written in Arabic," laughed his father. "There are a good many Arabs out in that part of the world, and I suppose Arabic is the usual written language; or rather, the Malays use the Arabic characters. They're all Mohammedans, anyway."
"Can't we take a squint at those diving outfits?" Mart looked out at the sparkling waters of the bay, and sighed. "Oh, I'd give 'most anything to go down and really get underneath the ocean! Where are the outfits, Cap'n?"
"Boxed up in the hold, Judson. There's no chance of our using them till after we get to Tringanu. Swanson knows a good deal about diving, and Jerry Smith promised to pick up a couple of men who were used to it, so we'll be all right there."
"Oh!" Mart suddenly sat up and squared around in his seat. "Am I under Swanson's orders, Cap'n?"
"Nominally, yes, as a member of the crew. But in actual fact, no. Why?"
The boy's face was troubled, and he hesitated an instant.
"Nothing much," he said at last, his gray eyes suddenly hard and cold. "Only, I had an argument with Swanson Friday, and by somethin' he said yesterday I wondered if I was under him."
"I guess not!" cried Bob indignantly. "You're an officer, and you're under no one but the captain—who is dad."
"That's right, Mart," nodded Captain Hollinger. "You take your orders from me, and that's all. Hello, there's Swanson now!"
The boys looked up to see the burly mate coming along the dock. Without heeding them, he crossed the gangplank and went forward, doubtless to remove his "shore clothes," in order to prepare for the night's work.
Captain Hollinger had heard the message left by Jerry Smith, saying that the old man could sign articles and draw wages if he liked. It looked to Mart as though the old seaman was cranky and wanted to have things just so, in which opinion Bob agreed, but as Jerry was to all intents a partner in the expedition, it mattered little.
The sun was just going down, and the boys were looking for the last time on the hills of San Francisco, when Swanson came along the deck and touched his hat to the captain in a hesitant fashion. Mr. Hollinger, who was no mere amateur sailor, nodded.
"Yes, Mr. Swanson? Mr. Peters come aboard yet?"
"Not yet, sir." Swanson hesitated again. "I—I wanted to ask you something, sir, meanin' no offense. Yesterday mornin', sir, there was a little round-shouldered man come aboard—gray hair, he had, and—"
"You mean old Jerry Smith?" asked Captain Hollinger. Somehow both he and the boys always thought of the man as "Old Jerry."
"Yes, sir, that's him. If I might ask, sir, is he a-going to ship aboard us?"
"Why, he was going as passenger, Mr. Swanson, but seems to have changed his mind. Yes, he'll sign articles as quartermaster. Why, do you know him?"
"No, sir, not rightly," and the mate shuffled awkwardly. "He—he ain't said to be a lucky shipmate, Cap'n. They tell queer yarns about him; I've heard say as he was off his head a bit. Is he the one what's bringing the crew abroad, sir!"
"Yes—why? This talk is all nonsense, Swanson. Smith is as sound in his head as you or I, and he certainly knows the sea."
"Yes, sir," agreed the mate quickly—a little too quickly, thought Mart, who was watching him keenly. "Yes, sir. He does that. And he'll bring a crew, Cap'n Hollinger, as'll take handlin'. I was thinkin', sir, that mebbe we'd have quite a ruction to-night—"
The financier laughed. He, as well as the boys, saw now what was on the mate's mind. Swanson believed that old Jerry would pick up a scoundrelly crew, most of them drunk when they came aboard, and that the millionaire might get drawn into a fight with them. Much as he disliked the big mate, Mart gave him credit for being true to his salt, as indeed he was.
"Look here," smiled the captain, getting to his feet and facing the mate, who was an inch shorter than he. "I wouldn't be captain of this yacht unless I could take care of myself, Mr. Swanson. If you doubt it, I'll put on the gloves with you now!"
Swanson grinned. "No, sir, not me! I'm satisfied if you are, Cap'n Hollinger. I just wanted to ease off steam a bit—"
"I understand," laughed the financier. "But I guess you and Peters can handle the crew right enough. Now, you come down and mess with us, and Mr. Peters can take the deck when he comes."
All four descended into the mess cabin as Ah Sing rang the bell, and during the meal Mart revised his opinion of the mate to some extent. He saw that Swanson did not like him because he considered the wireless job a sinecure, and wanted to keep all the crew hard at work all the time. It was the usage of the sea, and the big mate himself was blunt and well-meaning. But Mart Judson had no mind to be ordered about by anyone, and he determined that if Swanson tried it, the mate would find out something.
Peters, the second mate, came aboard before dark, and put the engine-room crew to work, so that after mess the boys went on deck to find steam up and the lines ready to be flung off at a moment's notice. By ten o'clock no crew had come aboard, however, and Captain Hollinger finally ordered the boys to their cabins, in order to get to sleep early.
"Holly!" said Mart softly, when they had left the main cabin. "You going to bed?"
"Huh! With a scrap due to arrive? Not much!"
"Me neither. Let's get up in the bow."
So, treading very softly, they made their way to the bow and crouched there as comfortably as possible. Hardly fifteen minutes had passed when there came a tramp of feet from the wharf, and a confused murmur of voices. Looking down the deck, by the gangway light the two boys could see Captain Hollinger and "Liverpool" Peters waiting. Swanson had disappeared, as it was his watch below.
The noise of feet swelled up into a steady stamping; then, as Mart and Bob got to the rail and looked over, they made out the figures of eight or ten men in the dim glow from the gangway. But, to their great disappointment, there was no fight whatever, and neither did any of the new arrivals seem to be intoxicated. Instead, all halted at sight of the two waiting officers, and the boys saw the stoop-shouldered Jerry Smith come forward and touch his hat.
"We've come aboard, sir, all shipshape and Bristol fashion."
"Very good, quartermaster," replied Captain Hollinger briskly. "Mr. Peters, if you'll see that these men sign articles, we'll be off at the turn of the tide. I'd better come with you, while you send someone after Mr. Swanson. We'll want all hands—"
"On deck, sir," came the voice of Swanson, and Mart looked aft to see the burly mate come to the gangway. Captain Hollinger nodded and led the way below, followed by the first mate and the crew, all of whom seemed to be decent-looking fellows, and far from what Swanson had so gloomily predicted. But, as they vanished, the boys saw the stoop-shouldered figure of Jerry Smith stop abruptly by the gangway; then came Swanson's voice once more, aggressive and heavy.
"Look a-here, Shark Smith! I don't know what your game is aboard this craft, but you lay a fair course or I'll trim you. Savvy that? This ain't the old Coralie, not by a long shot. I'm workin' honest now, an' you ain't goin' to get me from behind neither, like you got poor Bucko Tom!"
Mart, watching in wild astonishment, saw old Jerry crouch abjectly. Then with the mate's final words the old man straightened up as if in accusation. His white hair shone dimly in the light.
"You're right, Joe Swanson, you're right!" he said in his quiet voice, that carried clearly and distinctly to the boys at the forward rail. "But if it was me as got Bucko Tom, who was it got the officers o' the Melbourne, eh? No, no, Joe Swanson! I'm a new man now, and let's forget the past. Fish tell no tales, Joe; fish tell no tales. I'm an old man, but I'm quartermaster o' this packet. I'm an old man, but I'm a new man inside—"
And turning abruptly, muttering as if he was actually out of his head, old Jerry Smith shuffled to the companionway and vanished. For a moment Swanson stared after him as if in surprise, then Mart felt his chum's hand on his arm.
"Better get out o' here, Mart! They'll be sendin' the men forward pretty soon."
"You're right," Mart cautiously led the way aft, as Swanson began ascending the ladder to the bridge deck. When he had vanished, the two boys hurriedly gained their own staterooms, and Bob stopped with Mart for a short chat.
"What d'you reckon those old fellows meant?" asked Mart, rumpling his black hair in perplexity. "Think they knew each other before this?"
"Looks like it," agreed Bob thoughtfully, his blue eyes narrowed. "What did they mean by 'getting' Bucko Tom, an' the Melbourne officers? Do you s'pose—"
"Pirates!" cried Mart excitedly, and dropped his voice. "They were pirates together on a ship called the Coralie! Bet you a dollar on it!"
"Then we're off to sea with a couple o' pirates aboard," responded Bob, as they heard shouted orders above, and the engines began to throb. "Shucks—forget it, Mart—we'll wake up plumb out of sight o' land. We're off—hooray for Tringanu!"
And the Seamew had begun her long voyage.
THE PIRATE SHARK
During the days that followed, the boys saw little of Captain Hollinger. He was largely occupied with getting everything running smoothly aboard ship, during his watches on deck, and except at mealtime he kept to his stateroom at work over maps and papers.
Mart's work was extremely nominal, although necessary. He had few messages to send out and invariably directed that answers be sent at a given time of day, so that he had little more than four hours of work each morning. Bob usually stuck close to the wireless house at this time, and in fact the boys made it a sort of headquarters during the day. It stood back of the chart house on the lower bridge, and the second mate or old Jerry Smith would spend many a "watch below" with them. Swanson, however, kept surlily to himself.
"Liverpool" Peters, the second mate, was a pleasant young Britisher who had been at sea practically all his life, while old Jerry was full of odd ways and tales which delighted both boys, though it was seldom that he would open up to them. He seemed to take a great fancy to Mart, and often when the boys were alone he would wander up, fill his cutty pipe, and settle down for a chat.
The crew was a strange lot. Of the nine men, five were brown-skinned Kanakas, but the other four were white, and seemed to be all old men, though they moved about spryly enough. Dailey was wrinkled and leathery, Birch had only one very black and sparkling eye, Yorke's mouth was twisted into a perpetual smile, and Borden was a quiet little man like old Jerry, gray-haired and respectful.
"They're a queer lookin' bunch," observed Bob one morning, as they left the wireless house and went forward to the bridge, watching the men sluicing down the decks forward.
"You bet," nodded Mart, laughing with sheer enjoyment of the blue sky and bluer ocean. "Where'd you pick 'em up, Jerry?"
Both boys turned to the quartermaster, who was at the wheel in the little house behind them. He smiled, as watches were changed and Dailey came up to relieve him.
"Where'd I find them, Mart? Oh, I just ran across 'em. Dailey, here, used to be on a ship wi' me, once." He looked around, and the leathery seaman grinned slightly.
"Who'll do the diving?" asked Bob, as they walked back to the wireless house and flung themselves into deck chairs, while old Jerry filled his pipe.
"Two o' the Kanakas, lad. They're main good at that."
"Are you goin' hunting with us?" shot out Mart. "Tiger hunting?"
"That depends, lad, that depends," and Jerry wagged his head solemnly. "I never killed a tiger yet. I've killed whales, though, aye, and tiger sharks! Think of the mystery of the sea, lads—wave after wave, with the fish down below and us up here above! Fish tell no tales, lads, fish tell no tales. There's strange things out where we be bound for."
"What?" asked Bob eagerly. "Sharks?"
The quartermaster nodded. For a moment he seemed to hesitate, then turned to Mart and laid a hand on the boy's knee.
"Lads, did you ever hear tell o' the Pirate Shark?"
Mart thrilled at the name, and the tone of the old man's voice gave him a creepy feeling, as it often did.
"No!" he exclaimed delightedly, scenting a yarn. "What about him?"
"Well, I've heard as he's livin' in the very place we're going to—that Kuala Besut, off Tringanu."
"Huh?" grunted Bob, sitting up quickly. "And us going to dive? Not much!"
Jerry laughed softly, gazing out at the sparkling waters.
"The Kanakas ain't afraid, lad. Only they don't know—they don't know. You see, this here Pirate Shark is pretty famous down through the Chiny Sea. But old Jerry Smith, he's the only one that knows. He's the only white man, lads. The Chinks know, and the Malays know, but they wouldn't go near the place. The mystery o' the sea, lads—wave after wave! The gold down below, and us up above—and fish tell no tales, lads—"
He fell silent, still gazing at the horizon. Mart glanced at Bob, and caught a significant wink as Holly tapped his forehead. Mart frowned.
"What do you mean?" he asked sharply. "Is there a shark by that name? What kind o' stuff are you handing us, Jerry?"
The old man turned and looked square at him, and his gentle face seemed suddenly changed into a swift vehemence that was amazing. But it vanished instantly, and he was himself again—as if he had put on a mask, thought Mart quickly.
"The Pirate Shark," answered old Jerry slowly. "Yes, I'll tell you about it, lads. There ain't many as knows where the Pirate Shark is, but old Jerry Smith, he knows. He's a big shark, he is—mighty big, an' a man-killer. He come up first at Thursday Island, years ago, an' caught half a dozen Jap pearlers. Then he showed up in the Flores Sea, an' for a year the fishers didn't dare visit the pearlin' beds. After that he went over to the Sulu Islands, down to Java, back to the Chiny Sea—always killin' men, natives or white. Then he vanished for a while—mystery o' the sea, lads, wave after wave—"
Again the old man paused, dreaminess on his gentle face. The boys were leaning forward eagerly, and Bob brought him back abruptly to the subject.
"But what about this place we're goin' to? Is he there now?"
Once more that peculiar look flitted across the wrinkled face—a look of swift suspicion, that vanished as quickly as it came. Jerry smiled softly.
"Why, yes! See here, lads, you promise you'll say nothing? I likes you fine, but I don't want news leakin' out. I'm an old man—fish tell no tales, lads—"
"Of course," agreed Mart instantly. "We'll keep quiet, Jerry." Bob nodded.
"Well, this is a yarn as a Chink told me, lads. But it's true, gospel true! A long time ago there was only Portugees an' Dutch in the Chiny sea, an' they carried on somethin' awful, fightin' an' robbin'. Once there was a big battle—"
"Yes!" volunteered Bob eagerly. "I was readin' about it last night—that time back about 1600 when the Dutch fought a Spanish armada for a week an' licked 'em!"
"It was a big battle," went on old Jerry. "One o' the ships drifted up to the coast of Tringanu an' sunk. Some o' the men got away, but she's there still—right where we're goin', lads, in Kuala Besut Bay. She's got treasure aboard, gold an' pearls an' such, an' the Pirate Shark's guarding her."
"Oh, rats!" laughed Mart, to whose practical mind treasure stories were all absurd. "If there'd been any treasure there it'd be gone long ago."
"So?" Jerry looked at him, and Mart felt suddenly afraid, so strange was the look in the bleared old eyes. "So? This Chink had been there wi' some Chink divers, after pearls, lads. O' course, folks know the wreck is down there, eight fathom down, lads. The Dutch has been there, the Japs, the Chinks—but they didn't get the gold, lads! 'Cause why? The Pirate Shark is there, keepin' watch. The divers went down, but he cut their air lines—he cut their air lines, lads! And they didn't come up. He's got a black fin, a big black back fin, which is one reason why he's called the Pirate Shark.
"But there's another reason, lads. That's because he went from one pearl fishery to another, cuttin' air hose, killin' men, keepin' the pearlers off the grounds. They were scared of him all through the south seas. When the big black fin cut the water, not even a Jap would go down. Fish tell no tales, lads, fish tell no tales! Man after man he ate, Malay an' Chink an' Britisher an' Arab, and now he's got the old galleon an' her gold, and no one knows where it is but the old quartermaster. The fish down below, lads, and us up above—"
"I guess you're mixed up, Jerry," said Bob quickly. "A little while ago you said that lots o' people know the wreck is there, but just now you say no one knows where it is except you. How 'bout that?"
Jerry chuckled, rising slowly to his feet.
"She's inside the lagoon, lad, eight fathom down, an' no one knows but old Jerry Smith where she is now. She used to be under the sand, but the tide and the river dug her out and she drifted, drifted, down with the fish. Fish tell no tales, lads—fish tell no tales! Now she's wedged up among the rocks, eight fathom down, wi' the Pirate Shark's flag over her. Lads, ye won't tell the cap'n or Joe Swanson that old Jerry told ye about the Pirate Shark, will you?"
"Sure not, Jerry," chorused the two together. Jerry nodded and turned.
"Well, I got to get down an' see to gettin' that cable flaked." And he shuffled away, muttering still of "wave after wave—the fish down below and us up above!"
The two boys stared at each other, their eyes sparkling. Incredible, wild and fantastic as the yarn sounded, something about the old quartermaster's manner had impressed them both with the fact that he believed it firmly.
"Do you s'pose it's true, Holly?" asked Mart.
"Blamed if I know," returned Bob slowly, for he seldom gave any direct opinion on a subject. "O' course it isn't true, because if he knew about that place and the gold and the wreck, he'd get after that shark in short order. It's prob'ly a sea yarn."
"I ain't so sure," returned Mart. "It sounds fishy," and Bob grinned. "Well, it does, for a fact. But Jerry believes it himself, that's sure. I tell you what, Holly, if that Pirate Shark's really there, and them Kanakas get to diving, we're goin' to see something! Some idea, though! A big shark cruising around the pearling beds, killing men, and finally taking possession of an old wreck full o' treasure! Why, it reads like—like a Jules Verne story! Say—you remember that dynamite your dad said Jerry wanted put aboard?"
Bob looked up, startled, and gave a nod.
"Well, I bet a cookie Jerry's goin' after that Pirate Shark with it!"
"What!" Bob's blue eyes widened and his face lost its careless expression. "By juniper! Mart, do you s'pose he's after the gold? Let's ask dad—maybe that's what he meant all along by gold mining—"
"Hold on there," cried Mart, hauling back the eager Holly. "We promised we wouldn't say anything to your dad or the mate, remember? Hello, here comes Birch with a message I've got to send, prob'ly."
"I'll ask him," began Bob, then the one-eyed seaman entered and touched his brow.
"Cap'n's compliments, Mr. Judson," he said in his ever-respectful way, "and he wants you to send this here message."
"All right, Birch," and Mart took the note. "Just a moment! Did you ever hear of the Pirate Shark?"
For a moment both boys were frightened by the effect of those words. The old seaman whirled about, his one black eye blazing weirdly and his face contorted. Then he collected himself with a little laugh.
"Beg pardon, sir. That there word 'pirate' allus gets me, 'count of a brush I oncet had with pirates in the Sulu Sea. Why, sir, I've heard summat o' that there fish; they say he's a monster shark with a black fin, that he's a man-eater, an' haunts the pearl fisheries. Beggin' your pardon, sir, but where might you have heard of him?"
"Oh, we just heard some of the men talking," answered Bob carelessly, and Birch touched his forelock again and was gone. For a second time the boys' eyes met.
"Holly, this doesn't look right to me," said Mart finally, his gray eyes hard. "Birch knows more'n he said. That explanation of his don't go down with me, not a bit! I wouldn't wonder if there was such a fish—right where we're going, too!"
"By juniper!" Holly's face was troubled. "Of course, it's likely; such a fish would hang around the pearl beds, 'cause that's where he'd most likely meet up with divers. If he's a man-eater, he'd do that. The story sticks together pretty well, Mart! Of course we've got to remember that sailor yarns generally are stretched."
"Well, you lay low," cautioned Mart, reaching for his key and sending out a crashing spark in call, over and over. Then he leaned back and waited for an answer. "We can't go to your dad with this, and anyway, Bob, there ain't much behind it. Here—I'll tell you! Mebbe that shark is there, and old Jerry got the dynamite to have some fun with on his own hook. If there was any wreck or treasure, he'd have kept his mouth shut."
"That sounds more like it, Mart. Still, he's a talkative old guy, and he likes us a heap, you in particular. There's somethin' queer about it, though. Jerry said that Dailey—the leathery old scoundrel—had sailed with him before; then there was that talk between him and Swanson. And have you noticed anythin' queer about the way those men hang together?"
Mart sent him a quick look, as he adjusted his headpiece.
"Huh? Well, I've noticed that they obey Swanson a heap quicker than they do Peters. Peters got mad yesterday an' knocked that grinnin' Yorke galley-west! But they're old men, Bob."
"That's just it," returned Holly earnestly. "So's Jerry old, and Swanson ain't a spring chicken by any means. They hang together, that's all. And remember, Jerry was the one that signed 'em all on. I'll get dad to mention the Coralie one o' these days."
"Well, you go slow," cautioned Mart again. "Hello—there's a call—" he leaned forward. "TTY—that's the Tenyo Maru. She's just out o' San Francisco, so she can relay a message, I guess. Golly, your dad's keepin' close watch on the stock market!"
He grinned as he sent out the message and Bob watched the blue spark leaping in fascinated silence. After all, this story of the Pirate Shark was a wild fancy, and these were the prosaic days of wireless and steam power; the whole tale was doubtless one of those strange and utterly improbable yarns that some intoxicated sailor cooks up and other sailors improve upon and embellish. At least, that was the opinion of the two boys as they left the wireless house and joined Captain Hollinger, who had just come to take the bridge. Mart wished they had not made Jerry that promise, however.
WHAT HAPPENED AT HONOLULU
Back in Honolulu Bay lay the Seamew, and here at Waikiki were Captain Hollinger, Bob, and Mart, spending two days at the great Moana Hotel. For Waikiki is the great seaside resort of Honolulu—throbbing with motor cars, gay with villas and stately with hotels; trolley cars running to the city brought out the tourists and surf-bathers, as well as everyone in Honolulu who could get a day off to go on a picnic.
To Mart it was wonderful in the extreme. Captain Hollinger was busy with his cables and letters, for after leaving Honolulu he would not be in touch with business or friends for three weeks or a month, except by wireless. So the two boys were seeing the sights by themselves, more or less, which did not detract from their enjoyment a bit.
It was the evening of their first day ashore, and the captain had gone over to the cable office. The boys, after dinner, had wandered around through the crowds, avidly watching everything, from the Portuguese women selling fruit, to the phosphorescent surf rolling in across the reef in the moonlight.
Finally they turned in at the big gateway of the Japanese Inn, tired and thirsty and with curiosity somewhat satisfied. A Japanese waiter, dressed in his white garments, received them smilingly and led them in through the building to the lanai, or veranda, opening on the beach.
They passed between the tables, where sat every kind of people—millionaire tourists, common sailors, magnificently gowned women, natives, townfolk—and finally dropped into chairs at a small table set among the palms and looking out on the sea. The place was set aside by itself, out of the glare of electric lights, and the two boys sighed contentedly as the music blared out inside and their little waiter bobbed respectfully.
"Mebbe you have some whiskey?" he queried with bland innocence. Bob grinned.
"No, thanks," chuckled Mart. "Nothing in that line for us. Plain ice cream and melon for me."
"Same here," nodded Bob. The little waiter bobbed again and was gone.
"Golly, ain't this quiet an' restful!" breathed Mart. "This place is just like fairyland to me, Holly. I'd like to stay here a week instead of two days!"
"Oh, we got enough ahead of us," laughed the other happily. "By juniper, this place is crowded! He must have stuck us off here in the corner because we didn't look like good spenders, eh?"
At this juncture the little Japanese returned with their melon and ice cream, which he set down rather superciliously. Mart, who had been paid off that day, in common with the rest of the crew, handed him a dollar.
"Here, keep the change, and don't come back for a while. We won't order any more, and we're going to stay right here, savvy?"
The little waiter bowed low, grinned cheerfully, and vanished behind the palms that hedged in their table. Both boys were rather glad to be out of the crowd, however; they could hear perfectly, could get occasional glimpses of the people around them, and out beyond them the white surf broke and maintained its low thunder as the tide came in.
Mart, who believed in "resting while the resting was good," as he termed it, leaned back comfortably after his melon had vanished, and listened to the orchestra. Bob was too excited to keep quiet, however; he was taking peeps through the encircling palm branches, commenting on the curious jumble of people all about, and wishing that his father had been able to come with them.
"There's a couple o' British officers from the warship in the harbor, Mart!" he cried hastily. "There go those Chinese who were chattering away at the table next to us—wonder who'll take their place?"
Mart grinned easily, taking no interest. Suddenly he saw Bob lean forward, as if unbelieving his own eyes; a flush came into the eager lad's face, then he breathed a single incredulous gasp.
"What's the matter now?" queried his chum unconcernedly.
"By juniper!" exclaimed Bob again, more slowly. Then he leaned forward, watching. "Look, Mart! Of all the nerve!"
His tone roused Mart, who leaned over the table, glancing through the same opening which Bob was utilizing. A waiter stood over the table just on the other side of the palms, pulling back the chairs; slouching into their places were three men. Mart's eyes opened at sight of them, for they were no other than old Jerry Smith, the one-eyed seaman Birch, and Yorke, the old seaman with the twisted, leering mouth that was always smiling horribly. Mart chuckled.
"Well, what about it, Holly? Haven't they as much right here as we have?"
"But the nerve o' them!" Bob straightened up, his blue eyes flashing angrily. "Seamen like them comin' out here to Waikiki as if they were millionaires!"
"Well, I'm no millionaire myself," rejoined Mart quickly. "Judging from the crowd, everybody's welcome here that's got the price to pay, Bob. You're no better than anyone else, are you?"
"I didn't mean that!" retorted his chum, flaring up. "And you know it. Only it seems funny. Huh! look at that!"
Mart looked again, and saw Jerry fling a gold piece to the waiter. The crew had been given their wages up to date, he knew, so there was nothing strange in this, but when the quartermaster carelessly waved the waiter to keep the change, it did look queer.
"Well, boys," and the thin clear voice of old Jerry pierced to them, "here's a health to the old crowd, and a quick passing to the Pirate Shark! Pity all the boys ain't here."
"Blast that Swanson!" growled the one-eyed Birch evilly. "He kep' Jimmy Dailey an' Borden in his watch—"
"Shut up!" snapped out Yorke, with a leer around. Jerry laughed softly.
"Perfectly safe, Yorke, perfectly safe! Best place to talk is in the middle of a crowd, as old Bucko Tom used to say. You mind old Bucko Tom, boys? Fish tell no tales—"
"Stow that jaw o' yours," exclaimed Yorke again. "I say it ain't safe."
The two boys looked at each other. Bob's eyes were burning, and Mart knew his own cheeks were flushed.
"Lay low," he said softly, his hand on Bob's wrist. "There's somethin' going on here, Holly. Remember when Swanson an' Jerry met, the night we sailed?"
Bob nodded excitedly, and Mart pressed him back out of sight. The young wireless operator was more deeply alarmed than he showed, and had no scruples about listening. They were not intentionally spying, and even if they had been, he would have thought little of it.
He remembered the strange things that had already chanced—the evident acquaintance between Swanson and the rest of their crew, the significant conversation between the first mate and the quartermaster, the tales about Jerry's former life. Then there was this toast to the Pirate Shark! What did it all mean? And Bucko Tom—that was the man Jerry had "got" according to Swanson's talk that first night. What was going on here beneath the surface? Could these old men really have all been part of a pirate crew in other days?
"That's what it looks like," concluded Mart under his breath, as he outlined his thoughts to Bob. Then he repressed his chum's answer, for old Jerry's voice was once more reaching them, soft and gentle as ever.
"The mystery o' the sea, lads, wave after wave, wi' the fish down below and us up above. Now, how'll we make out with it? Singapore?"
"Singapore nothin'!" growled Birch, his one eye blazing darkly. "No British investigations for me, Shark Smith! No, I say let's go up to Saigon or one o' them there French ports."
Yorke leered, his twisted mouth grimacing. "Birch is right, Shark. Keep away from the Britishers. You lads mind the time when the Coralie put into Sarawak—"
"None of that, Yorke, none o' that!" warned Jerry, his voice piercing like a knife. "We ain't back in 'Frisco now, remember that. Keep names out of it, lads."
Mart thrilled excitedly as he caught a glance from Bob. Inwardly he determined to find out more about this mysterious ship Coralie.
As if they had taken caution, the three old men leaned over the table and spoke in whispers, Yorke's twisted mouth leering, and Birch's one black eye flaming across the table at the gentle, white-haired quartermaster. Mart noticed that they seemed to pay him deference, and he did most of the conversing, but so softly that no word reached the startled boys. Then the three rose, and Birch spoke in a louder voice.
"Well, Shark Smith's got a head on him, lads! That's the thing to do—wait. Joe Swanson won't leave his old mates in a hole, neither. Wait—that's the word!"
All three lurched off, but Bob gazed over at his chum in wild surmise.
"Mart, there's somethin' wrong, by juniper! What's in the wind?"
"Search me, Holly. Of course it looks queer—but they're all old men. I wouldn't be s'prised if old Jerry was off his head, mumbling like he does. As far as being pirates goes, that's all foolishness; pirates ain't old men like them, and besides, piratin' is gone out of style these days."
"I guess that's true, Mart. They're all old men, for a fact, and I've noticed that Borden complains of rheumatism pretty bad. Pirates don't have rheumatism, in any book I ever read. Still, they're a queer gang—Birch with his one eye and Yorke with that silly-lookin' twisted mouth of his."
"Yes, they're queer," agreed Mart thoughtfully. "I tell you, Holly, let's go back and put it up to your dad. He said he'd have more time to give us, now, and he's a mighty square sort of man."
"Yes, but we promised Jerry to keep quiet!" objected Bob hastily.
"Well, we don't have to say anythin' about the Pirate Shark, do we? That ain't what's on my mind, anyhow. I'm thinking about what they said about getting to Singapore or Saigon, and about the Coralie and the Melbourne, and all that. If they're a gang of pirates, we want to know it. And your dad's level-headed, Holly."
To this Bob agreed, being himself in no little alarm over the things he had heard and the other things he imagined. So without more ado the two boys made their way back to the hotel, and with every step their imaginations rose higher. By the time they located Captain Hollinger in the writing room, both were flushed and bursting with their tidings. When the captain saw them, he gave a startled exclamation.
"Good gracious! What've you boys been up to? What's the matter?"
"Come along up to the rooms," said Bob mysteriously. "We've got some news."
Captain Hollinger followed them, with laughing questions as to their evening's amusement, but neither boy would say a word until they were safely within their rooms. Then Mart whirled about excitedly.
"Say, Cap'n, do you know we got a bunch o' pirates aboard the Seamew?"
"You bet!" added Bob hastily. "Old Jerry Smith's the head of the gang, and Joe Swanson was with 'em on a pirate ship!"
"Look here, what's happened to you two?" exclaimed the captain wonderingly. "Are you trying to put up a joke on me?"
"Not much," retorted Mart, and plunged into their story. With interruptions and additions from his chum, he managed to finish it with some degree of coherence, Captain Hollinger listening without comment. When they had done, he looked at Mart soberly.
"And you honestly believe those old men are pirates, eh?"
"Well, don't it look like it?" answered Mart stoutly.
Captain Hollinger looked from him to the excited Bob, then with a stifled shout of laughter he dropped into a chair. For a moment he gave way completely to a wild spasm of mirth, laughing as Mart had never seen him laugh before, while the two boys began to feel sheepish and uncomfortable.
"Pirates!" gasped the captain at length. "Pirates! Oh, this is rich! Old Jerry Smith—steady Joe Swanson—Wow! It's the best joke I ever heard!"
"Well, isn't there something in it?" queried Bob sharply. His father wiped his streaming eyes and sat up.
"Why, of course not! Can't you hear a gang of old sailors romancing and dreaming about the things they'd like to do, without going off at half cock this way! Oh, you'll never hear the last of this, you two!"
And he went off into another fit of laughter.
"Never mind," and Mart grimaced sourly; "you wait and see. You ask Swanson some day if he ever sailed on a ship called the Melbourne."
"Of course he did!" returned the captain, to the boys' chagrin. "She was a ship lost at sea ten years ago—he was on his third voyage then, and drifted about in an open boat for three weeks before being picked up. Don't I know his whole record? Look here, boys. There's not a sailor alive who hasn't had some mighty queer experiences, and you haven't taken that into consideration. I never heard of the Coralie, and while I admit that Jerry may have seen piratical days, and probably has, the whole thing's absurd on the face of it. Now get off to bed, and don't chase any more wild geese!"
None the less, Mart turned to Bob while they sought their own rooms.
"That's all right, Holly—but you just remember one thing. Your dad didn't know anything about that Pirate Shark yarn—"
"Oh, shut up and go to bed!" grinned Bob delightedly. "We got excited, that was all. Forget it!"
But Mart did not forget it.
THE FAR SEAS
Honolulu Bay, with its beautiful shores and white houses with red roofs, faded out behind the Seamew one sunny morning, and the two boys, up in the chart house with the captain, began to see wild visions of what lay before them. Taking a chart, Captain Hollinger traced out their future course across the Pacific.
"You see, boys, we can take a straight course east-south-east from the Islands. That brings us here, to the Philippines, but we'll not stop. Going right ahead under Mindanao, we'll round up into the Sulu Sea and cut through Balabac Straits, north of Bornea. That brings us in among the coral reefs—see how thick they're marked on the chart?—and so straight across the south China Sea to Tringanu."
"And this here's Kuala Besut, eh?" Mart placed his finger on the Malay coast, just inside the Redang Islands.
"Right you are, Mart! You see how the coast is low all along there, with lagoons? Wait a minute—here's a larger chart."
Bringing out another chart showing the Malay coasts, the captain pointed to the river mouth in question.
"You see, there's a lagoon inside the entrance, about nine miles long, and closed in from the sea by this island. Jerry says that the lagoon makes a fine harbor, and is deep enough for the yacht. There are no hills close to the coast, but there's plenty of jungle, and we'll find some tigers without trouble."
"Sure?" asked Bob skeptically. His father laughed.
"Why, until late years they used to shoot them down at the city of Singapore itself! I'll take a trip in first, to make sure it'll be all right for you to come along, and while I'm gone you can take care of the yacht. Then we'll make up a grand hunting party, and everybody will get a tiger, eh?"
"Bully!" exclaimed Mart eagerly, and departed to his wireless with a sheaf of messages to be sent off via Honolulu. Having sent them and arranged for answers to be sent at two o'clock that afternoon, he rejoined Bob and went down to mess.
That afternoon they gained their last sight of land for many days, as the Seamew entered the Kamukahi Channel, passing between the green-clad hills of Niihau and Kauai, and then struck out on her straight course for the southernmost of the Philippines, with nearly five thousand miles of sea before her and seventeen days of journeying, if all went well.
For two days all went well, indeed, and then came on what Liverpool Peters described as a moderate gale, but which seemed like a hurricane to Mart. They had had fine weather so far, and Mart had long ago dismissed all thoughts of seasickness, but now he gave up completely. Bob had long since been seasoned, of course, and poor Mart suffered alone for three terrible days.
On the third day he felt sure that he was dying, but when Bob came down to the stateroom and grinningly offered him a big chunk of raw fat pork, Mart forgot his symptoms suddenly. Flinging himself out, he caught his tormentor and bore him to the floor. Bob rose with a bleeding nose, wiped the pork from his face, and fled; and Mart found that he had recovered his health suddenly. After a good meal he was himself again, and the two boys were too firm in friendship to be shaken by a good-humored "scrap" of such a nature.
Then ensued such days as Mart Judson had never dreamed of, when they got into the doldrums, the powerful engines of the yacht forcing her ahead at a steady fifteen knots through calm and glassy waters. The sun was tremendously hot, of course, but the yacht's motion created a perpetual breeze, while her awnings kept the bridge and lower decks cool.
They were far out of the course of steamers, and saw no craft of any kind, save fleets of "Portuguese men-o'-war," as Joe Swanson and the others called the jellyfish squadrons. Indeed, there was no lack of sea life all about them. Mart ate fried flying-fish for the first time in his life, and one day the Kanakas on watch set up a yell of "Shark! Him shark!"
All hands rushed out on deck for the fun. Getting in the extreme stern, Mart and Bob thrilled at sight of the dorsal fin cutting the water twenty feet astern, while the shark could plainly be seen gobbling the refuse which the cook had just flung out from the galley. His long, dirty-white body was anything but pleasant, and when he turned over to catch a morsel and his V-shaped mouth became evident, Mart felt a repulsion that was little short of fear.
The whole crew came aft in high glee, while "Liverpool" Peters, the second officer, bore an immense hook made fast to a line. Having baited the hook with a lump of pork, he flung it over the rail; the boys craned forward eagerly, and an instant later they saw the floating pork vanish in the maw of the shark.
"Pull!" yelled Peters, and the men made fast to the line. Then ensued an hour of the wildest excitement, for the shark fought gamely, but he could not bite through the big steel shank of the hook, and was finally drawn alongside. Peters finished him with a revolver bullet, and the Kanakas dined on roast shark that night.
More than once after that they caught sharks, as well as several of the pilot fish which were continually leaping beneath the bows of the yacht, while the boys managed to get good sport with smaller fish. Best of all, however, was the shooting at porpoises.
Every morning Captain Hollinger would fetch his rifles up to the chart house, and the boys would join him. There, sitting in their deck chairs beneath the awnings, they would load up the rifles and sit watching.
Suddenly, leaping out of the sea abruptly, perhaps half a mile off and perhaps fifty feet away, something would break the water. Up would shoot the great dark body, the whole fish darting clear in the air to fall back with hardly a splash, in a graceful curve. When he first saw the sight, Mart could hardly contain himself; the thrill of seeing that great body swirl up into the air in plain sight was wonderful. Over and over again it would be repeated, as the huge fish circled the vessel; then it would vanish as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come.
"But s'pose we wounded 'em?" asked Bob hesitatingly the first morning.
"Nonsense!" laughed the captain, taking a quick shot at one of the flashing bodies a hundred yards away. "In the first place, you're not likely to score a hit, Bob. In the next place, these are little twenty-two caliber bullets; unless it happened to penetrate a vital part, one of these little pellets won't bother a ten or fifteen-foot porpoise. It might sting him a little, if it penetrated his hide, but that's all. It'll give you the best kind of shooting practice, too."
Reassured by this speech, the two boys pitched in. There was no lack of ammunition aboard the Seamew, and there seemed to be no lack of porpoises anxious to serve as moving targets. And, indeed, Mart soon found that he need spend no worry over leaving wounded fish to flounder out their lives.
So rapidly did he have to shoot, so quickly did he have to meet the unexpected risings of the porpoises, that it was several days before he could begin to come anywhere near the mark. Bob did better, having had more practice in shooting, and the captain proved himself a past master. But at no time did any thought of cruelty occur to either of the boys again, since it proved to be exactly as Captain Hollinger had said, and they saw no sign of dead or wounded fish in their wake.
"I wouldn't mind shooting a shark," declared Mart one morning to his chum. "Do you s'pose one of these rifles would kill one?"
"What—twenty-twos? Not much!" and Bob laughed scornfully. "They can stand an awful lot o' bullets, Mart. I tell you—next time you sight a shark after us, I'll get a couple o' dad's thirty-thirty rifles and we'll have some real shooting."
Two days after this, indeed, a shark was attracted under their counter, and each boy got a shot at him. What effect the bullets had, they never knew, for the shark turned and disappeared rapidly. Mart had missed, not allowing for refraction, while Bob's shot had gone true, but they had learned their lesson. The next time a shark showed up, they hooked him first, then began target-practice with the heavy rifles.
The shark, while having comparative freedom of action, was forced to follow the ship, and the two boys pumped bullet after bullet, while the crew cheered or mocked their efforts in impartial criticism. Mart was amazed to find that after scoring twenty or thirty hits, the shark still plunged and leaped as strongly as ever, although a red trail was seeping out into the water behind him. Finally Captain Hollinger took a hand in the game and with three well-placed bullets killed the shark.
"That's enough for me," declared Mart disgustedly putting down his rifle. "It doesn't give the brute a fair show and it's too much like butchery. I'm satisfied."
"Here too," nodded Bob, disdaining his father's laughter. "I guess I'll stick to the twenty-twos and porpoises. Too much blood in sharks."
So that, after this, there was no more shooting at sharks. And for that matter, something occurred the very next day that served to take the boys' minds off sharks for some time to come.
Up until now there had been no trouble whatever aboard the Seamew. The crew were paid good wages, and their food was far superior to that of the ordinary forecastle galley. The engine-room crew was composed of two Scotch engineers and a gang of Kanakas, and the brown-skinned sailors were all willing and cheerful workers.
The second mate, however, did not get on well with the men who had been shipped by old Jerry Smith. Peters was an excellent seaman, and was far easier on the men than was the first mate, Swanson. Yet Swanson was obeyed with great alacrity, probably because he did not hesitate to bully the men, while Peters had some difficulty in making the men adopt what he considered their proper attitude. With Captain Hollinger there was of course no trouble whatever.
The day after they had shot the shark, the boys were waiting for mess-call, and were looking over some magazines in the library saloon. Suddenly they heard voices in altercation on the deck, and the tramp of feet, while the angry tones of Peters rose deep and vehement.
"Something wrong!" exclaimed Mart, springing to the companionway.
"Hold on," cried Bob hastily, joining him. "Don't get mixed up in any row, Mart."
"No danger," chuckled the other. "Hello! By golly, Liverpool's mad for fair!"
And so he was. Looking out the door of the companionway on to the starboard deck-alley of the yacht, they saw that the awnings were up and the decks were being holystoned. Outside the door stood a bucket of water, a big holystone beside it, while the one-eyed seaman Birch was just rising to his feet from the deck. Peters was standing over him, his face dark.
"Don't go to sleep, there," commanded the mate sharply. "If I catch you again with a pipe alight aft of the fo'c'sle, you'll get worse than that. Move lively!"
Birch wiped his cheek, where the second officer's fist had evidently landed, his one eye flamed angrily and his hand dropped to his sheath knife.
"Blast you!" he muttered thickly. "I'll have the law on you—"
Without a word Peters' fist shot out, caught the evil-faced seaman full on the jaw, and Birch went back with a crash. Peters looked calmly at him as he rose.
"Say 'sir' when you talk to an officer, an' no back talk either," ordered the mate. "And you get gay with that knife again, Birch, and I'll give you what-for! Now move lively with that work, you lazy dog."
Birch stooped over his holystone, and Peters turned to go forward again. As he did so, Birch straightened up suddenly. Gazing malevolently at the broad back of the retreating mate, the one-eyed seaman whipped out his sheath knife, a wild spasm of fury contracting his wrinkled face.
Instinctively Mart took a step forward, but Bob caught his arm and held him back with a muttered word. Before Birch could move, a shadow fell across the deck and old Jerry Smith came padding along in his bare feet, his white hair flying in the wind. He caught Birch's arm, and for a second the two men stared into each other's faces. And when Mart saw the features of old Jerry, he did not wonder that Birch paused, for the quartermaster's face was absolutely livid with mingled fear and anger, while his blue eyes shone out clear and baleful.
"You fool!" muttered Jerry, as Peters disappeared forward. "You fool!"
"Mebbe I'm a fool an' mebbe I ain't," responded Birch sullenly. "But I'm goin' to git that bucko mate yet, Shark Smith!"
"Stow your jaw and get to work!" snapped Jerry, and passed on like a shadow.
Mart drew back and looked at his chum. Bob's face was white.
"That's no way to treat men," exclaimed Mart softly. "If I was Birch—"
"Oh, shucks—what's the matter with you?" Bob's eyes blazed excitedly. "That's nothin'—you've got to handle sailors like that. But did you hear what he said to Jerry? Called him 'Shark Smith'—and Jerry heard him make threats and said nothing!"
"It's funny discipline," admitted Mart slowly. "But a quartermaster ain't an officer, remember. And I don't blame Birch for being mad."
So the incident passed, for indeed it was a mere incident in the sea-routine. Officers are quick to exact instant obedience, and the least show of rebellion or "back talk" is answered with a blow. But even so, the evil face of the one-eyed seaman flitted through Mart's dreams for many a night thereafter, although Birch seemed doubly respectful toward the second mate, as indeed did all the crew.
The Seamew had passed through Balabac Strait and was standing out into the reef-strewn South China Sea, on the last leg of her course, when it happened.
That afternoon the diving suits and pumps had been broken out and put in order, after which the grinning Kanakas and Jerry Smith had given Mart and Bob some practical lessons in dressing up in the cumbersome water-tight outfit, and in working the pumps. In the evening they had sat up late with Captain Hollinger, talking rifles and ammunition, and they were weary enough to sleep soundly.
Mart's porthole was open that night, as usual. He woke up suddenly to find the setting moon streaming in across his face, and got up to hang a towel across the open port, in order not to exclude the fresh air. As he did so, he heard the ship's bell forward strike eight bells, and knew that it was midnight.
There came a faint pad of bare feet forward—the watches being changed. Then, as he stood for a moment gazing out at the moonlit sea, he heard the deep voice of the second mate, Liverpool Peters, who had apparently just taken charge of the deck.
"All right, Mr. Swanson. I'll keep a sharp eye on that chart. Sou'-sou'-east by a half east it is."
Mart went sleepily back to bed and thought no more of it. He knew that they were in dangerous waters, but the yacht had a splendid outfit of charts and there was no danger for her among the coral reefs. He was wakened at dawn, however, to find Bob pounding on his door.
"Hey, Mart!" came the voice of his chum excitedly. "Tumble out here."
Mart growled out an unintelligible reply, but Bob resumed his pounding, so the wireless operator reflected that there must be "something doing." Hastily flinging on his clothes, he opened the door and gained the deck.
"Well, what's up, Holly? Why, it's hardly dawn yet!"
"Shut up an' come along to the bridge!" exclaimed Bob. "Dad's up there—Joe Swanson came an' roused him up just now. That's what woke me up."
"Well, what's the matter?" demanded Mart vigorously. "We ain't struck a reef, have we?"
"I'm not quite sure myself, Mart. Swanson said something about Liverpool, so mebbe he's had another scrap. I heard dad tell him to call all hands, then he was out on deck like a house afire, and I came after you."
"Much obliged, old scout," chattered Mart, for the dawn was cold. While they talked, they had been hastening forward, and now they scrambled hastily up to the bridge deck, where they found everyone but the engine-room crew assembled. Jerry Smith was at the wheel, and he wagged his head solemnly at the boys, but they were too excited to notice him.
Pushing through the crowd, they entered the chart house. Captain Hollinger was seated at the table, but merely glanced at them with a nod. Swanson and the old rheumatic seaman Borden stood before him.
"Yes, sir," the mate was saying, and Mart noticed that his burly, rugged face looked queer. "He was all right at eight bells, sir. Borden was at the wheel when the port watch came up, an' Liverpool put Birch there in his place."
"All right, Borden," returned the captain quietly. "You may go. Tell Birch to step in here."
The boys glanced at each other, pale-faced. Each was exceedingly anxious to know what had happened, but at sight of Captain Hollinger's tight-lipped mouth and drawn face, they dared ask no questions.
The one-eyed Birch came in, ducking his head respectfully.
"When did you last see Mr. Peters, Birch?" asked the captain.
"At six bells, Cap'n. Mr. Peters said he was goin' below for a drink, but he didn't come to the bridge again, sir."
"You heard nothing suspicious?"
"Who else was on the bridge?"
"The quartermaster, sir."
"Send him in here. You may go."
Birch left. The two boys again met each other's eyes, hardly able to believe what they had heard. Then old Jerry shuffled in.
"Quartermaster, did Birch leave the wheel about six bells?"
"No, sir—he wasn't off the bridge at all, sir."
"Hm!" Captain Hollinger leaned forward, fixing his eyes on the old seaman. "Look here, Jerry. What do you think happened to Mr. Peters? Did he meet with foul play?"
Jerry hesitated, glancing at the open door. Swanson moved forward and closed it.
"No, sir, I don't think as he did," returned Jerry slowly. "The men didn't like him, Mr. Hollinger; I will say they fair hated him, but not so bad as that, sir. Take Birch there—he's threatened Mr. Peters' life before now, sir, but that's no more'n fo'c'sle talk, sir, as you know very well. No, sir, I think that Mr. Peters went below to get a drink, as Birch said, and in some way fell overboard. Me and Birch was on the bridge, and the rest in the port watch are Kanakas."
There ensued a brisk discussion, in the course of which the horrified boys learned that some time during the night the second mate had vanished. The ship had been searched, but he was not aboard her, nor had there been any sign of struggle. Remembering the scene which they had witnessed between Peters and Birch, Mart immediately suspected the one-eyed seaman, while Swanson openly announced his belief that the second officer had met with foul play; but in no long time all such thoughts were sent flying, when the engine-room crew came up for questioning.
Two of the Kanaka stokers, both of them simple, frank-faced fellows who were above all suspicion, stated that they had come up on deck for a breath of air shortly after six bells and had seen Peters standing by the stern rail, looking down at the swirling waters as they rose from the churn of the propeller. Having no business in that part of the ship, they had gone forward again.
"I think there's no doubt of it," exclaimed the captain at last, even Swanson nodding gloomily. "Poor Peters must have either committed suicide, or else he fell overboard. Stand by for another hour, Mr. Swanson, then put the ship on her course again."
Only then did the boys become aware that the yacht was retracing her course in the vain effort to pick up her lost second mate. Later on that morning, when all hope had been given up, Bob and Mart sat in the wireless house and talked over the matter in sober earnest. As gladly as they could have suspected Birch, however, they agreed that there was no foul play involved.
"Your dad's no fool," declared Mart positively. "He sized up everything pretty square, and Swanson didn't overlook anything either. Joe is sore at Jerry for something—prob'ly suspects him of being a pirate."
"Well, I wouldn't be surprised myself," asserted Bob. "Poor Liverpool! He was a fine chap, for all his rough ways. Still, there's no doubt that Birch was innocent. I shouldn't wonder if Liverpool got moonstruck and just pitched overboard. I've heard of that happening before, Mart. Look out—there's old Jerry coming aft now."
Sure enough, Mart looked out to see the slightly stooping figure of the old quartermaster coming aft to the wireless house. Jerry entered, ducked his head in silent greeting, and said nothing for some moments. After his pipe was filled, he looked out at the ocean, glittering in the morning sun, and then turned to glance solemnly at the two boys.
"Mystery o' the sea, lads—wave after wave! Fish down below, lads, and us up above. Fish tell no tales, fish tell no tales! Poor Liverpool Peters, he's—"
"Look here, Jerry," exclaimed Mart, breaking in abruptly on the old man's talk and forcing the bleary blue eyes to meet his. "I'd like to know just how much stock to take in your talk. How long is it since you and the rest of 'em were shipmates together aboard the Coralie, eh?"
Mart fully expected that Jerry would break out into vehement denial, and might even be surprised into making some admission. Bob, also, while no little astonished at his chum's unexpected attack, nodded his support and craned forward as he watched the quartermaster.
But to their mutual disconcertion, old Jerry's face did not change, save for a slight widening of his blue eyes as they met the hard gray ones of Mart. When he replied to the question, it was with a little chuckle as of inward amusement.
"Well, well! So you lads have heard about the old Coralie, hey? There ain't many in these seas as haven't, 'cause why, men are bound to talk. Only fish tell no tales, lads. Aye, the old Coralie was a sweet little schooner, she was! But that was all years ago—and now she's lyin' ninety fathom deep, lads, off the South Lyconia reef. Not very far from here, neither, where she went down."
Mart sent a blank gaze at his chum, as Jerry replaced his pipe in his mouth and gazed calmly out at the ocean. This cool reception of his bomb was dismaying to say the least; but Bob came promptly to the rescue, and more successfully.
"Why do they call you Shark Smith, Jerry?" he asked carelessly.
This time the boys scored visibly. The quartermaster's position did not change, but his bleared eyes suddenly flashed out quick and keen and bright, while his wrinkled old face lost its gently benignant expression as his firm mouth snapped shut on his pipe. This was not the first time the boys had seen that swift alteration of his features; and now it passed as quickly as it had passed before. Jerry turned slowly and looked at them, a slow smile crinkling up his eyes.
"Why, lads, ye main surprised me, ye did that! How come you to learn that old Jerry was called Shark Smith, now?"
"Oh, we heard about it," laughed Mart carelessly. "What's the reason, Jerry?"
The quartermaster chuckled again, tapped down his pipe, and replied frankly.
"Well, lads, I like both o' you, so I'll tell you. You mind me tellin' you about that there Pirate Shark, one day?"
They answered his questioning look with a nod.
"Well, when we was in the old Coralie, tradin' among the islands and doin' a bit o' pearl-fishin' on the side, we met up wi' that there Pirate Shark. He nipped two of our men, he did, and I been chasing him ever since, lads. I'm goin' to get him, an' I'm goin' to lay him out where he won't kill no more men, lads. My mates know this and that's why they call me Shark Smith, 'cause why I've been after that there Pirate Shark for a long time. Now I'm goin' to get him this cruise."
Mart's eyes flashed suddenly. He thought he understood everything now.
"So that's why you've got that dynamite aboard!" he cried accusingly. "You lied to Captain Hollinger about that river having gold, just to get—"
"Tut, tut, lad!" Under Jerry's reproachful glance his words died away. "No, I told no lies, lad. That river has gold in it all right. I'm goin' to get the Pirate Shark, and the cap'n gets the gold concession. Ain't that fair, lads? Ain't that fair, I asks you?"
Mart looked into the reproachful blue eyes an instant, then nodded. He suddenly felt ashamed of suspecting this gentle, half-crazy old man of any wrong. It lay plain before him now—the Pirate Shark had killed two of Jerry's shipmates, years before, and ever since that time the old quartermaster had been pursuing his enemy, until it had become a fixed mania with him. After all, he did not blame old Jerry so very much, he thought.
Bob also was quite satisfied now, as appeared after Jerry had slouched away below again and the two boys talked over the matter.
"By juniper, Mart," exclaimed Bob, "I guess dad was right. We were foolish to suspect old Jerry. He's got a bug about killing that Pirate Shark, see?"
"Sure he has," agreed Mart at once. "He's a little bit touched in the head, Holly, but that's about all. Did you notice that he never budged an eyelash when I shot out the Coralie at him?"
"Uh-huh," nodded Bob thoughtfully. "So the Coralie was just a trading schooner among the islands, eh? That straightens out things pretty well, Mart. I s'pose she was a pretty tough craft, like most of 'em were in the old days, and prob'ly she did a little pirating on the side. But just as dad says, there aren't any pirates any more. Especially on the Seamew. Believe me, we've been knocking at the wrong door."
"Looks like it to me," assented Mart. "Let's just forget the whole thing, Holly, and call it square. I guess there's no doubt that poor Liverpool fell overboard, either. But if Jerry got that dynamite put aboard to kill the Pirate Shark, I see where we're going to have some fun, Holly!"
"Say, that's right!" Bob sat up suddenly, looking at Mart. Then they both grinned.
"We'll let your dad get off after his tigers, an' when he gets back we'll have some surprising news for him, eh?"
"You bet!" agreed Bob, chortling.
But if Mart had been able to look into the future, he would hardly have greeted the prospect with such unalloyed delight. For old Jerry Smith was not quite so crazy as he was credited with being.
Early one morning the two magic words had thrilled the Seamew, and since breakfast the two boys had been perched on the upper bridge with their binoculars. They were different from the pair that had left San Francisco, weeks before; sun and salt wind had tanned them, self-confidence and energy had filled their hearts, and Mart in particular had gained an added air of resoluteness that became his strong features well.
And they had met with strange sights—unwieldy Chinese junks with matting sails, island trading schooners, slimmer craft containing natives, and even immense canoes which came from distant islands with fish and fruit to barter at sight of the yacht's smoke.
But now Asia itself lay before them—and the most uncivilized part of Asia, which nevertheless was held by the flag of England. They had passed the Redang Islands, and were now standing in for the wide river mouth which denoted their goal, Kuala Besut. On the right lay a low, palm-grown island some two miles long, which Jerry Smith declared uninhabited, as it was often awash at the rainy season. Directly ahead of them, the harbor deepened in to meet the river, and to right and left the long lagoons slowly opened out.
"By juniper!" exclaimed Bob delightedly, as the captain and Jerry joined them. "Let's you and me run over to that island some time, Mart! I'll bet we'd pick up some great old shells there!"
"That you would, lads," said the quartermaster, wagging his white hair in the breeze. "There be some fine shells hereabouts! Cap'n, we'd best not run up the river."
"Looks pretty good sized to me," returned Captain Hollinger, as he swept the harbor with his glasses. Although the river was still two miles away, they could see that it was large and apparently of good depth. "Had we better send out a boat to make soundings first, do you think?"
"No, sir—it ain't that. It's the natives, sir. They'll be off in boats as soon as they see us slip our anchor over into the mud, and I'll talk to 'em. They'll remember me, 'cause why I've been in here before, trading."
"Very well, then. You'd better go to the wheel."
Jerry shuffled to the wheel house and took the steam steering-gear in hand, his blue eyes sweeping over their course. The shores ahead and on either hand were low and thickly overgrown, but rose into hill-slopes behind. All was a tangle of dark green jungle, and as the brown river opened out before them, the boys saw that it was very sluggish and appeared to merge its waters with those of the lagoon.
The lagoon proved to be curious in this respect, for to the northeast of the river mouth, on the starboard side of the yacht, it ran far up inside the island, and its waters were here distinctly sea-green, owing to the channels beyond the island. Where the yacht was, however, and to the south, the water was of a muddy brown color, proving that the river-current tended to empty toward the southward instead of diverging generally into the entire lagoon.
Captain Hollinger had barely pointed out this fact when Jerry ordered their speed slowed down, and turned their course to the northeast. The Seamew slowly ran into the lagoon, turned inside the island, where the green water narrowed into a half-mile stretch, and there the engines were stopped. The anchor plunged over and the cable roared out, then a leadsman forward gave their soundings.
"Six fathom, sir!"
Captain Hollinger, who had the deck, went to the chart house for his sextant. It was just noon, and he wished to log their exact position. Mart gave Bob a meaning glance and the two boys went to the wheel house, where old Jerry was leaning on the idle wheel and gazing at the shore.
"Well, Jerry," said Bob, "where's the wreck of that old galleon, eh? The one where the Pirate Shark hangs out, I mean."
Jerry chuckled, and pointed with his pipe to the northern end of the lagoon.
"Up there, lads, up there inside the channel beyond the end o' the island. Eight fathom down, she is—down there among the rocks, and us up above. Fish tell no tales, lads, fish tell no tales! Old Jerry's the only man who knows—"
"How soon will any boats come out?" asked Mart, who had resolved to bother no more about the Pirate Shark, as he had a shrewd notion that Jerry was not quite right in the head. "Will they bring fruit?"
"Aye, lads, plenty o' that. But they'll not be out for an hour or two yet, not they! Time for mess, lads—eight bells, time for mess!"
The captain got his sights, to be worked out later, and joined them. As he did so, Jerry made the request that he be given shore leave, as he might want to go ashore with any boats that came out. He had been here before on a trading trip, he said, and knew the natives in the village at the river mouth; so if he spent a day ashore he could arrange for their hunting trip and make firm friends of the Malays.
"Why, of course!" smiled Captain Hollinger, as they went down to mess. "You're a guest as far as I'm concerned, Jerry, so do as you please."
The old quartermaster nodded and no more was said on the subject. To the boys, it seemed that Jerry's desire to go ashore was a good sign. Since he was willing to trust himself alone to the natives, it showed that on his previous visit he must have made friends with them. The boys had read and heard a good deal of how the more unscrupulous trading schooners treated the natives, and they perceived at once that Jerry's previous visits must have been made in peace and good will.
Mart Judson, indeed, inclined strongly to the opinion that the white-haired old quartermaster was slightly "bughouse," as he expressed it. As to the dynamite on board, he concluded that whether the Pirate Shark was an hallucination of the old man's brain or not, the explosive might come in useful in their diving operations. He gave no credence whatever to the story of the wrecked galleon out in the lagoon "eight fathom down."
What Bob thought in the matter did not appear, for although the freckled, blue-eyed chap seemed careless enough, in reality he was cautious in giving vent to any opinion whatever. He merely grunted in reply to Mart's arguments, that afternoon, and waved a hand beyond the island, to the place Jerry had indicated.
"Six fathom here, Mart, and Jerry says it's eight up there. There's a channel to the sea, there, and rocks pointing up. The channel would be apt to cut it out deeper, and twelve feet makes a lot o' difference."
Beyond that he would say nothing at all, though indeed he got small chance, for a few moments later they made out two Malay fishing boats reaching out from the mouth of the river.
Behind them came others, approaching cautiously, and an hour later the yacht was surrounded by a dozen craft. All hands were on deck, but there was no need for any fears. When the leading boat approached cautiously, Jerry Smith stepped up on the rail, shouting something in a strange tongue, and without further hesitation the boat darted up to the ladder and gangway, which had been put over the side, with a large floating platform.
Contrary to the ideas which the boys had formed, the Malays looked anything but savages. They wore fez-like round caps, bright shirts, and sarongs or wrapped skirts of gay cloth, while all wore krisses of various patterns, and a few carried old flint-lock muskets.
"Tell them we'll let only ten at a time on deck," said Captain Hollinger to Jerry. Swanson was up forward, looking on with the men. Jerry repeated the order in Malay, and a moment later he was surrounded by a group of grinning, chattering, excited natives who plainly recognized him as an old friend.
Captain Hollinger had already ordered a case of trading goods broken out, and a few moments later the yacht was well supplied with bananas, pineapples, cocoanuts, rice and fresh fish. One of the Malays, who wore a resplendent sarong of crimson silk, Jerry introduced as the headman of the village; he was a rather dried-up looking man, but his face was intelligent and bright, and he shook hands all around in a hearty manner.
As Jerry was interpreting the captain's address to him, Mart noticed that one of the men next to him wore a kris without any sheath. Glancing at the weapon, he drew Bob's attention to it; the blade was flame-shaped, about three feet in length, and was inlaid with silver lines. Bob jerked the quartermaster's arm and pointed at the kris.
"Ask him if he'll sell it, Jerry!"
"Aye, lad, he'll sell it right enough. I'll ask him, and you get something he'd like—say, some kind o' weapon."
Bob darted off, returning with an old-fashioned Colt cap-revolver, which he had hanging on his stateroom wall as a souvenir. Mart laughed at sight of it, but to his surprise the Malay eagerly made the trade, and the kris was Bob's. Captain Hollinger examined it with some interest, and promptly made an offer through Jerry for a dozen more of the weapons, to keep as souvenirs.
"Better let that wait, sir," said the quartermaster. "It ain't best to be in too much hurry, Cap'n. When you've gone ashore, after that there huntin' trip, sir, then's the time to trade for such stuff. Wait till they know as they're goin' to lose you, and you'll get bargains."
The wisdom of this was quite evident, so Captain Hollinger nodded. Then the quartermaster turned to the headman and spoke for some moments at length, after which he announced that he was going ashore and would return to report to the captain in the morning. He said it would be necessary to consult men from other villages as to where tigers might be found, as well as to arrange for beaters and a party of hunters, but that all would be arranged that night or in the morning.