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   Chapter 8 REMOVING THE VESSELS FROM THE CAVERNS

The Wonder Island Boys: The Mysteries of the Caverns By Roger Thompson Finlay Characters: 16733

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The boat was finally completed, and the boys were very anxious to have a sail in it to know how it would act. The utmost care had been taken to have it well caulked, and it was again put into the water, after all the leaky spots had been closed up.

For the purpose of the test it was decided to put aboard a load of stone, of a weight equal to what their contemplated load would be, and this they estimated, not counting their combined weight, at six hundred pounds. This would be ample for all purposes.

The day selected was bright, with a fair wind. By agreement Harry was selected as the skipper, as he knew every part of the boat. It devolved on him to take command for the day, but he would not consent to be the permanent captain, as he thought that a duty which devolved on the others as well.

Angel was invited, you may be sure, and he enjoyed the idea of a sail when he recollected, as was no doubt the case, his former trip. There was evidence of the remembrance in the animal, when they saw him at the boat, on more than one occasion, swinging back and forth on the rigging.

The Professor was in his element in the boat. It was a glorious journey for him, and the boys knew it was appreciated on his part. The wind was blowing from the west, so the sails were tacked and an easy sail made for the mouth of the Cataract.

Outside the sea was rolling, but not disagreeably so; but a much stronger breeze sprang up toward midday, and before two o'clock it was very brisk. The cliffs were rounded, and as the wind had not changed quarters, the sails were set for a southern course. This brought them around the bay and toward the headland to the east of the mouth of South River.

That region had always possessed a fascination for George and an attraction for the Professor as well. George, particularly, was anxious to penetrate the river, and sail up to the falls, but Harry's more practical views prevailed. "If we want to explore the river we can do it any day with a wagon, or on foot; but while we have the ship out, why not take a sail down the coast toward the mountains?"

The Professor concurred in this as the most liable to give them the best results, as they were out for the purpose of making tests of the craft on the open sea.

After sailing for an hour along the coast to the south, the shore line turned to a southwesterly direction, and the mountain range was now clearly perceptible, extending southwest, and along which it appeared that the coast followed. The wind changed and came from the mountains, and made progress slow. There was also a decided change in the temperature, and by four o'clock it was impossible to follow the coast except by constant tacking.

The boat was turned to the north, and with the strong wind, which had now perceptibly increased, began to make good time. As evening approached, the wind increased, until it blew with considerable violence, every minute being more boisterous, and the Professor suggested that the jib be taken down, which was done; but the increasing gale, and the terrible strain on the mast and sail, made the boys look inquiringly at the Professor, for a word of warning.

He sat there grimly during the raging storm, and with the halliards gradually let down the mainsail when the tempest had reached such a point that it appeared to sweep everything from the boat.

Where was Angel during all this uproar? Forward in the housed portion of the boat, curled up in a corner, and apparently unconscious, the little creature did not seem at all perturbed.

"Don't you think he is seasick?"

"It is not likely. Seasickness is akin, you know, to that dizzy feeling some people have when at a height. The natural instincts of the animal prevent him from having any feeling of discomfort at a height. The trees are their homes, and for that reason they can swing from branch to branch and sway back and forth in the loftiest trees without an uncomfortable feeling."

The heavy blow continued until they had reached the cliffs, when it abated somewhat, and the boys anxiously inquired whether it would be safe to make the entrance to the river during the gale.

"We are out for the purpose of testing the boat. To make an attempt to round the cliff and steer it into the mouth of the river in this wind will be the best test of its maneuvering ability."

As stated, the wind was now blowing from the southwest, and they were northeast of the mouth of the stream they wished to enter. They stood out to sea in order to make a starboard tack, and it was a gratification to see the magnificent manner in which the vessel responded, and before six o'clock they found themselves sailing up the river, and safely landed at the boathouse.

An examination showed that the crossbeam supporting the mainmast was split from end to end, and only the roof structure held it in place. Thus the trip had a warning lesson for them, and Harry was not slow to take advantage of it and install a larger crosspiece.

George had entirely forgotten the incident of the calcareous slab which had on it the tracings of the cave, and which had been the means of giving the Professor the first hint that they were in a pirate's cave.

The first thing in the morning he went over to the laboratory, and called attention to the slab. "Here it is," said the Professor. "You will note that the light shows some characters which can readily be made out, and at the corner here, where a portion has been chipped away, it has the appearance of something else besides calcium."

"Why, it looks like wood."

"That is what it is. I should not have noticed the wood if the peculiar lettering had not shown up through the coating."

"What are the letters, and do you know what they stand for?"

"We had better not pass judgment on that until we have removed all the calcium."

At this moment Harry came in to view the slab. It was the slab he had carelessly picked up in the cave, and therefore it had a great fascination for him. The calcium was carefully chipped off, and it was found to be a piece of oak board, with a smooth cut-off end, parallel sides, nine inches wide, nearly two inches thick, and about eleven inches long, the opposite end having the appearance of being broken. The only letters which could be made out were "HI," and a portion of another letter which could not be determined.

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Fig. 14. The Slab Found in the Cave

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"What do you think the letters were intended to indicate?"

"They might be the name of a ship, or some sign. I do not think it was part of a ship. I tried to find something in the cave, on the day I went in while you went after the team, which would afford some clue, but so far nothing confirms me in any view which I may have."

"Isn't it curious that these letters should show through only after the slab was exposed to the light?"

"Why is that any more curious than photography is?"

"Because in photography something is put on the glass or the sheet that the negatives are made of, and it turns and makes a mark under certain conditions."

"Well, here is something put on this slab that turns also. Photography is a wonderful thing. Dr. Draper, the first great photographer, and who was also a scientist, says that every wall, or other object, which you stand before, has your photograph imprinted on it. The only question is to find some chemical which will develop the picture."

"What is meant by developing the picture?"

"You remember some time ago we talked about reagents, and the properties of certain chemicals to act on others, and in doing so, to make a change. Sometimes the change is a complete one, and makes a new product; in other cases the result is a complete change of color. Now, in photography, if a certain chemical is placed on a glass or a film, and the film is exposed, the light and dark portions of the object show on the film. The sunlight, or the actinic rays in the sunlight, affect the chemical material so that when the fixing chemical is applied it prevents a change in the condition of the chemical."

"What do you mean by the actinic ray?"

"All light is vibration; the greatest motions which are perceptible to the eye, being known as violet. Now there are still more rapid vibrations than are put forth to make the violet rays, which are called the actinic

rays, and are the ones which affect the chemicals so acutely."

"Is it then possible to photograph with a light that is not perceptible to the eye?"

"You have heard of the x-rays, no doubt; they are the actinic or ultra violet, which are above the visible light. These light vibrations are of such a character that they penetrate many substances. A curious effect of this was shown some time ago when a photograph was taken of the side of a vessel which had several coats of paint over the old name, and the photograph showed not only the new name, but also the old one beneath."

The time had now arrived when they must make preparations for the proposed voyage of discovery around the island. It was a momentous time for them. The boys could not help but look with longing eyes to the cave. Before they went it was felt something more should be learned about its mysteries.

The Professor was not at all backward in encouraging this feeling.

"Wouldn't it be a good thing to take such things out of the cave as we can make use of here, and during our trip?" said Harry.

"What things do you think we could utilize?"

"Probably the guns; and then they have some cooking utensils."

"And why," suggested George, laughingly, "couldn't we take some of the money along?"

"That would be a comfortable feeling to have plenty of money in our pockets. Very well, we'll take this afternoon for the trip."

An early start was made, the lamps carefully trimmed and the guns, together with the bolos, collected. It was a short walk to the opening, and Angel, although not invited, accompanied the party.

Together they descended, and soon reached the scene of the conflict at the large recess to the left of the entrance. The Professor, after reviewing the scene, suggested that the bones should be carefully gathered together and deposited at a place where they could be buried.

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Portugese Coin 1700, Spanish Pistole, Peruvian Dollar.

Fig. 15. Old Coins found in Cave.

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"We do not want them here as evidences of the strife."

After all had been gathered and carried to the spot selected, the first task was to gather the treasure found in the chests. And here a sight met their eyes which staggered them. One of the chests which Harry first found contained not only an immense quantity of gold coin, of Spanish and other mintages, but curious other pieces, all ancient, as shown by the inscriptions, and long yellow bars, the last of which attracted George's attention.

"What are these bars?"

"They are gold bullion, made by melting up various articles, and probably the coin itself, so as to make it convenient for transportation."

"My! how heavy they are! and look at the number!"

When all had been assorted the Professor suggested that as they had plenty of copper utensils, the latter might be used as receptacles for the gold. The other chest contained but little coin, but here the interest was not less pronounced than in the other chest, because the vessels found were not only of beautiful, but many of curious, design. Some were of silver, as well, and the boys knew that those would be serviceable for their table, and at their suggestion all such were laid aside to be removed to the Cataract.

The kitchen utensils afforded a more varied collection than had been anticipated. Six of the larger copper vessels were required to hold the money, jewelry and other articles taken from the two decayed chests, and there were still remaining at least a dozen more smaller jars and pots, some with handles, which would be exceedingly useful in their kitchen.

All these were carefully put aside, and the smaller silver articles deposited in them. And now the guns! Seven skeletons were found, two of which had been removed to the Cataract by the Professor. After all the guns had been collected, twelve were counted.

"I suppose each fellow had two of them," was Harry's conclusion.

"If you will go over into the chamber to the east you will find a sufficient number to assure you that they were not lacking firearms."

The boys now understood. He had told them on the second day's exploration that he did not find anything new, but only something more. Why not go and see it now. But they were restrained. A dozen guns were certainly enough. These were also set aside, and it was then agreed to place the vessels containing the treasure in a secluded nook, in the extreme corner of the large recess. Samples of the clothing, some of the knives or daggers, as well as the little trinkets, found near each of the bodies, were deposited in the receptacles that had been selected for removal.

All this accumulation of material was more than they had bargained for when they left the Cataract, so that the failure to bring the team was keenly felt. However, it was the work of an hour, only, to get the team, and it was a pretty fair load which went from the pirates' haunts to the home on the river.

George's curiosity could not keep him from taking some of the coins which he exhibited when they returned, and which they would have ample leisure to examine.

Harry's thoughts were turned to the firearms. They were certainly of an antiquated pattern. The first thing was their length. Two of them were unusually long, fully six and a half feet.

"I wonder why it was they made their guns so long?" he inquired.

"The reason was, probably, that the quality of powder was so bad that the bullet would get out before all the powder was consumed. All the ancient pistols were very inefficient, because of the short barrel. Even down to the time of the American Revolution the guns on board of war vessels were not capable of throwing shot very far, and the most effective ones were those with long barrels."

"In what respect is the powder of to-day more powerful than in olden times?"

"Particularly in the fact that formulas have been devised which make a higher expansion, or give a greater volume of gas. The other feature of value is, that chemical means have been discovered whereby the moment a sufficient amount of heat has developed in the powder it instantly burns-not a slow fusing, like the old powders-but the combustion is instantaneous. These two factors working together have greatly improved even the black powders."

After their return the interest in the articles was so great, and the inventory took so much time, that the disappearance of Angel had been entirely forgotten. All remembered him going along, and no one had seen him enter the cave. None of them believed he could be induced to go in, hence no particular notice was taken of his movements.

An hour after the return, Harry saw Angel coming over the field at the east of the Cataract, dragging something after him laboriously. All stood and watched him as he neared home. He had a stick, apparently, but it seemed to be unusually heavy.

George ran out to assist him, and when he came up he gravely handed to article to George. It was the barrel of a gun, with part of the flintlock still attached, but it was rusted almost beyond recognition, the bore completely filled with dirt, accumulation and rust.

"Where do you suppose the little rascal found this?"

The Professor examined it. "Outside of the cave, undoubtedly. The curious part about it is, that this weapon is of an entirely different and more modern pattern than those we have samples of."

Harry took the gun and ran in to where the others were deposited, and true enough, it was not only shorter, but it had a smaller bore, and what is more, the outside of the barrel was octagonal, whereas the barrels of those inside of the cave were all round.

As the Professor predicted, the guns which they recovered were too much rusted to be of any service, and furthermore, they were made of iron, very much softer than the steel of which their own guns were constructed, and it is questionable whether they would be able to withstand a charge of the comparatively high power powder which had been made for the modern guns.

As curiosities the weapons were good things to have; otherwise they were of no value. This was not so with the vessels, which could be and were utilized in the kitchen and in that capacity were of the highest use. The table was supplied with articles of the purest silver, and it had a royal look.

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