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The Wonder Island Boys: Exploring the Island By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 12008

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The boys secured a convenient pole, over which they slung the braces of game, and started out on the march for the river. It was fully three o'clock before they were ready to start.

"See here, Harry, there is something we have forgotten, and I begin to feel it now."

"What is that?"

"Our luncheon."

"I was so excited and interested that I forgot all about it until now. Why not go back to the spring and take luncheon there?"

"With that water? I'd rather wait until we get to the river."

"Well, let's take something, anyhow. I am mighty hungry. Funny we didn't think of it before."

"Now for our direction. Do you think we can strike the river at the right place?"

"I'll be perfectly satisfied if we strike the river anywhere."

"Then why not go directly north, and we can reach it a mile or two sooner than the way we are now going."

"Good idea! Here we go!"

It was a lucky thing that they decided to take a different course from the river, because they soon discovered that the ridge they were on ran for a long distance almost directly north, and that the woods were not nearly so dense as they were in the course they had followed.

At frequent intervals they came upon new game, and brought down a number of additional specimens, until Harry protested against any further stopping.

"It seems to me we have enough to last a week, and it is getting mighty heavy at this end of the pole."

"Well, it does seem to be an awful distance over to the river. Are you sure we aren't mixed up in the direction?"

"Of course not. The mountains are right behind us, and the shadow at our right. You can't fool me the second time," answered Harry, as he shifted the pole to the other shoulder.

While thus talking they caught the first glimpse of the river, and it was hailed with delight.

"Whenever I get near the old river it feels like home. My! how I would like to put in several days in a further hunt over toward the mountains. I am sure we would turn up something there."

They reached the river a considerable distance above the falls, and without stopping to rest, went down along the bank for a full hour before they came within hearing of the rushing water.

They sat down on the craggy rocks alongside of the stream and took a good rest. "This will be interesting news for the Professor," said George, musingly, as he watched the rushing stream.

"Indeed, it will. I should not be surprised to find that the natives are directly south of us, or rather west of the mountains."

"That may account for the fact that they have never been near our part of the island."

When they took up the load to resume the journey, it was still heavier, apparently, than before, and they were now so thoroughly tired that frequent stops were made, but in another hour they had the satisfaction of seeing the large trees that had been singled out for their guidance.

It was a great relief to deposit the load on the raft, and it did not take long to swing the raft under the wagon and start the yaks on the homeward journey. The Cataract came in sight before six in the evening, and the Professor was on hand to welcome them.

"Did you have a good time?" he inquired; but as he looked over the tailboard and saw the fruit of the hunt, exclaimed: "You must have gotten everything over there."

"Yes, and something else besides that," said Harry in such a tone that the Professor anxiously asked:

"What; have you made any discoveries?"

"Look at that," replied George, as he carefully drew out the discolored paper with the writing on it. "We not only found this, but we discovered some huts-two of them, fully six miles or more southwest of the falls."

The Professor's eyes opened wide. "This is, indeed, interesting. But never mind about telling me now. Let us get the team unhitched and examine this when we get inside. I had a suspicion that the other side of the river would give us some clue."

While Harry and the Professor were putting up the team George prepared several of the pheasants for the evening meal, and they were soon in the oven. By common consent the meal was of more importance than the new finds, and when the dishes were removed the paper was carefully examined.

"If I knew just what was used for the writing, I might suggest something that would bring it out more clearly. It is evident that the writer did not use ink."

"Why do you think so?"

"Simply for the reason that this name, Rogers, which is the most plainly written, has the words only on the surface of the paper. If ink had been used it would have penetrated the fiber, and the writing would thus have been preserved."

"Where did you find the paper?"

"It was among a mass of rubbish, which, on account of the poor light, was raked out to a point nearer the door, so we could examine the material better, and I don't know whether it was with the pile of bones or with the stuff on the other side."

"Was the grass about the hut as high as the grass round about the place?"

"It seemed to be. We made a pretty careful examination all over, so as to give us a fair idea of the condition of things."

"How far was the spring from the hut?"

"Less than a hundred feet."

"By the way," remarked Harry, "we forgot to say that close to the small hut we found some vegetables growing in several rows, and weeds all over the place and between the vegetables."

"Do you think," asked George, "that the vegetable garden is any sign that white people have been living there?"

"It may be; but the lowest savages have usually some form of knowledge about raising and caring for vegetables, so we should not count too much on that. This cup here seems to indicate the presence of some civilized being, whoever he may be."

"It is just as likely, is it not, that the savages may have captured a prisoner who had the cup?"

"That is one solution. This writing is the most important piece of information we have had up to this time. It is not at a

ll likely that the natives would preserve it, so that the only conclusion I can draw from it is, that the one who wrote the message, or the one who got the paper, was at the hut, and now the important thing is to arrive at some sort of idea when, and what the message means."

"It does not seem," remarked Harry, as he carefully scanned the paper, "that we can make out more than a few of the words. Here is the word which looks like 'river.' Yes; I am sure of that."

"And besides that the words 'of' and a capital letter 'B,' and something that looks like 'r-e-n,' which may be simply part of a word," added George.

"As this is simply ordinary wrapping paper, it is likely that it may have no meaning whatever. Still, I have been trying to recall whether anyone on shipboard had a name that these initials would fit. My limited knowledge in that direction does not help me, I confess."

"What do you suppose the cup is made of?"

"That is undoubtedly silver, or some alloy of metals of which silver is the principal part. It is very hard, as you notice. It is certainly a singular thing that a vessel of this kind should be left at the springs, if the owner of it was there, and it is just as remarkable that the natives would permit it to remain there. I now regard the finding of the cup as of far more importance than the paper, because of these considerations."

"Well, the finding of the huts, and these articles, are pretty strong arguments in favor of our purpose to find the people who owned the things we found there," responded Harry.

"But I have also a little news to impart," said the Professor.

"What is it?" asked the boys in concert.

"I have found a companion to the skeleton we discovered on the beach, and also some information about the inhabitants of the island."

"Tell us about it. Where did you come across it?"

"It isn't much of a story, but an hour or so after you left, I felt like taking a little stroll, so I crossed the valley east of us, and skirted the incline beyond, going toward the cliffs fronting the sea. Ever since we found the skeleton I felt that, unless washed out to sea, there might be some other traces of the wreck.

"I was quite unprepared to make any searches along the hillside, except for evidences of minerals, and particularly to note the peculiar outcropping of the rock on this side of the ridge which terminates at Observation Hill.

"The backbone of the ridge is limestone, and after I had reached a certain level I noted, all along, that the rock had remarkably wide cleavages; that is where there had been breaks in the rock the seams opened, and in some places I found recesses fully six feet wide, and thus caverns, sometimes thirty or forty feet in length, would be formed.

"I explored some of them in the hope that it would lead me to a cave of some extent, but in this I was disappointed. Such may be the case, but I have not discovered anything which leads me to believe that there are other caves than the one we explored.

"I entered one of those, which was a long way this side of Observation point, and there, on a rude sort of improvised wooden cot, was a skeleton. I found a half dozen arrows, lying near, but neither a bow nor any other kind of weapon was anywhere in sight.

"The skeleton showed that it was the remains of a tall man, past middle age, undoubtedly, and there was no evidence that he came to his death by any wound which effected a fracture of any of his bones. The cot on which the skeleton reposed was made of pieces of wood, in a complete state of decay, and there was not a vestige of clothing, jewelry or pocket articles at or near the bones.

"I found two of the arrows near one hand, and the others lying about. Here they are. Handle them carefully, as they are decayed, and will readily fall to pieces, unless you use the utmost care. That is my story. I hunted all about the vicinity, hoping that I might find some additional clues, but I was disappointed."

"Do you think he had any connection with the skeleton we found on shore?"

"No; it does not seem likely. My reason for saying so is, that it would take several years for wood to decay, as you see in the case of these arrows, and the cot had the heaviest portions all rotted. In my opinion this skeleton shows greater age."

"Under conditions of that kind, what sort of story could you weave out of it, so as to determine what happened to him?"

"It is decidedly more interesting than our adventure, and about as difficult to gather any information from," answered Harry.

"In my opinion, the man died from starvation, as you say he had no tools or implements of any kind," replied George.

"That may be; but it appears entirely different to me. The man was, undoubtedly, cast ashore, or was shipwrecked. We have evidence that this island is noted for taking in people that way. He may or he may not have had clothing, but in either event, he could not starve in a place like this, with vegetation around him everywhere and at all seasons of the year.

"I am picturing this condition of affairs in my mind: He was, no doubt, out in quest of food, when he was attacked by the natives and escaped from them. He was wounded by them, and when he reached his shelter, removed the arrows, as I found them near his bones. It is probable that his wounds proved fatal shortly after he reached the cave."

"But how do you account for the cot on which he was lying?"

"It would be the most natural thing for him to find a place to shelter himself. That would be the first thing to do; just as he had a place to retreat to, and was fortunate enough to elude his pursuers, who were not aware of the hiding place."

"That seems reasonable," remarked George. "But it seems to point one way sure; that we have a pretty tough lot of people on the island to deal with, and satisfies me that we are going about it the right way, in making the proper preparations for the time when we must meet them."

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