THE SUNKEN WRECK.

Frank had recovered quickly and emerged from his place of safety just in
time to see the sea serpent strike the Dart.

The young inventor had seen and realized the awful risk which this
entailed, and muttered:

“My goodness! We are all lost!”

But the result of the serpent’s attack was indeed gratifying.

And he also saw what he believed to be his opportunity. Drawing his
knife he darted after the monster.

It was lying half dormant on the floor of the cavern from the shock
which it had received.

But as Frank ran toward the Dart he saw Barney coming toward him.

Barney fairly embraced his young master, as he cried, placing his helmet
close to Frank’s:

“Och hone, Misther Frank, an’ I thought it was kilt entoirely ye was!”

“I had a close call,” replied Frank. “But where is the captain?”

“Shure, he’s safe aboard, sor.”

“Good! Now, Barney, we’ve got to kill that monster some way.”

The Celt looked at the dormant serpent a moment, and then swung his ax
aloft, saying:

“Shure, an’ it’s wid yez I am, Misther Frank. Say the worrud an’ I’ll go
up on this side of him an’ cut his head off.”

“Let me take your ax,” said Frank, resolutely.

Barney complied and drew his knife. Frank made a motion for him to
follow.

The serpent was quickly recovering from his stupor.

Frank saw that there was no time to lose, and at once made a bold
attack. When near the monster’s head he rushed forward.

The serpent reared its horrible jaws and seemed about to strike Frank;
but the young inventor struck first.

The keen blade of the ax swung around and took the serpent full in the
jaw.

It was a telling blow.

It fairly sliced away a portion of the monster’s jaw and filled the
water with blood. Again Frank swung the ax aloft.

Barney attacked the body of the serpent, trying to cut the huge coil in
two.

The attack was a success.

Again Frank’s ax struck the serpent full in the neck, cutting a huge
gash.

Then the maddened reptile made a savage blow at Frank.

It just missed him by a narrow margin and proved the end of the
struggle.

Frank saw his opportunity, and gave the reptile a blow which almost
severed its head from its body.

The monster’s huge coils went writhing and twisting into the depths of
the cavern.

The struggle was over.

Frank and Barney, somewhat exhausted by the struggle, climbed aboard the
Dart.

They were joyfully welcomed by the others, and mutual congratulations
were exchanged over the success of the fight.

“Begorra, I thought shure it was the ind av Misther Frank!” cried
Barney. “Shure, it wud have been a sorry day for the loikes av us!”

“Golly, if I had jes’ been out dere I would hab been happy!” declared
Pomp. “I was jes’ itching fo’ to git a crack at dat ar big rapscallion
of a snake.”

“Well, as for me,” said Von Bulow, with a laugh, “I quite distinguished
myself by running away. But I was never cut out for a fighting man
anyway.”

“And I stayed at home,” rejoined Bell. “Frank, you and Barney are the
heroes.”

All were intensely hungry, and Pomp served up a steaming repast.

There was lovely steak from the swordfish, crabs on toast, fresh and
nice, and many other saline delicacies, which were easily procured in
the sea.

The explorers regaled themselves sumptuously, and then all turned in for
a sleep.

Frank had decided to spend some hours longer in the cavern.

When they awoke six hours later, Frank went into the pilot-house and
started the Dart for the mouth of the immense ocean cavern.

In due time this was reached, and soon they were not so very far from
the spot where Captain Bell’s treasure ship had sunk.

All were now eagerly on the lookout for the wreck.

The searchlight’s rays were sent in every direction through the ocean
depths.

Suddenly Captain Bell, who was forward on the lookout, shouted:

“Wreck ahoy!”

The announcement went through the boat with startling force.

Everybody was at once on the qui vive.

And now dead ahead was seen a huge black mass looming up through the
water. It was a sunken ship.

Of course all believed it to be the Vestal Virgin.

But the wreck was so covered with silt and seaweed that its character
could not well be identified.

The submarine boat sailed around it twice, then Frank allowed it to come
to a rest on the ocean floor of white sand.

“What do you make of it, skipper?” asked Captain Bell, as Frank came out
of the pilot-house.

“I hardly know,” replied Frank. “It looks to me, though, like a ship of
more modern build than the pirate vessel.”

“It’s mighty hard to tell for the seaweed over it.”

“Yes.”

“But I think it’s the Virgin!”

“You do?”

“Yes; she’s in about the right location. It must be her.”

“I hope so.”

Preparations were now made to go out and inspect the submarine wreck.
This fell to the lot of Frank, Von Bulow and the captain.

Barney and Pomp remained behind.

They were very quickly equipped for the expedition; armed with axes and
saws and such tools as were deemed necessary, they left the Dart.

It was an easy matter to climb over the kelp-strewn rocks until the
sunken vessel was reached.

It lay half upon its side, and its port rail was nearly on a level with
a drift of hard, white sand.

This made it an easy matter for the explorers to reach the deck.

They simply walked up the sandy slope and climbed over the rail.

In the glare of the electric light, the deck was seen to be in a state
of wild disorder.

Rotting spars and heaps of debris covered it from stem to stern.

It was easy to see that the vessel had passed through a terrible
experience at sea.

The storm which sent it to the bottom must have been a fearful one.

It required no further examination to satisfy the party that this was
not the treasure ship.

Captain Bell saw at once that it was not the Vestal Virgin, and putting
his helmet close to Frank’s, shouted:

“This is not the ship.”

“It looks like a merchantman,” replied Frank.

“It is.”

“Moreover, it was never sent to the bottom by shotted guns. It went down
in a fearful storm.”

“Without a doubt. But the Virgin must have gone down in this vicinity.”

“Yes.”

“We will probably find her not far from here.”

“Well,” said Frank, doubtfully, “is it worth while to explore this hulk?
She probably did not carry money.”

Von Bulow, however, was in favor of exploring the sunken merchantman.

“For curiosity, if nothing else,” he explained. “I’m quite anxious.”

“Very well,” agreed Frank. “It shall be so.”

With which the young inventor crossed the deck. He reached the
companionway which led into the cabin.

This was closed, but a blow with an ax forced it in.

The stairs that led downward into the cabin were crumbling with decay.

Frank led the way down.

The light upon his helmet was sufficiently bright to reveal objects
below quite plainly.

Von Bulow and the captain followed. All stood at the foot of the
companion ladder.

The cabin was in a fearful state of dissolution.

The elegant furnishings were all rotten and in shreds, and even the
cabin table was shredded by sea worms.

But the explorers did not pause here long.

They passed through and into the forward cabin. Here was the long mess
table, and upon it were dishes and eating utensils, just as the men had
been served, which was the last ever eaten on board the ship.

Frank took up one of the plates. In the china was the imperishable mark
usually placed upon all ships’ ware with the name:

“Ship Tempest, Baltimore.”

This was all that could be learned of the identity of the vessel or of
its mission. Yet it was reasonable to suppose that she was a
merchantman.

Little more of interest was found aboard her.

A few skeletons of the members of the crew and some corroded coins. This
was all of value.

The party retraced their steps to the deck. Frank was the first to
spring up out of the companionway, and as he did so he was given a
startling shock.

Until now the wreck had been flooded with a brilliant light from the
searchlight of the Dart.

But this was no longer so.

All was the darkness of the ocean depths about. Nothing could be seen
beyond the slight radius made by the light on their helmets.

The Dart had left them.

What did it mean?

For a moment the explorers were appalled with the most startling
realization.

Left at the bottom of the ocean, upon a sunken wreck.

There was no possible way of ever reaching the surface.

That is unless the Dart should return from where it had gone, and why it
should have left them in this manner was a mystery.

Frank knew that Barney and Pomp would not leave the vicinity for any
light reason.

“Something has happened!” he exclaimed in dismay.

“The Dart has met with a mishap.”

“My goodness!” exclaimed Von Bulow; “then we are lost!”

“What could have happened?” asked Bell in horror.

Their three helmets were close together at this moment. The only logical
conclusion that Frank could arrive at was that the Dart had received
some fearful shock and had gone to the surface.

If this was the case it would perhaps shortly return.

But the one horrifying thought which oppressed Frank was that possibly
Barney and Pomp would lose their bearings and would not be able to find
the three divers.

In this case their fate was certainly sealed.

Lost at the bottom of the sea; lost in the great Atlantic Valley. What
an awful thing to consider!

Frank knew, however, that they could stay death for a number of days.

There was enough material in the generators to keep them alive that
length of time.

But if the Dart should not return in that interval they were truly lost.

It was some while before any one ventured to speak again.

Then Bell said, despairingly:

“How far is it to the land?”

“Fully a thousand miles in any direction,” replied Frank.

“We can hardly walk then?”

“No, I think not.”

“Is there any possibility of the Dart returning?”

“We can only hope that it will. Our only way is to wait here.”

Von Bulow sat down upon the rail of the sunken vessel, Captain Bell
paced the deck, Frank tried to pierce the gloom of the ocean depths for
some sign of the Dart.

And now, at this critical moment, a new and thrilling peril confronted
the trio.

Suddenly Frank saw a long, sinuous body flash through the water some
fifty feet distant.

He saw its outlines and its shining silver scales, and at once
recognized a deadly foe.

“A swordfish,” he muttered.

Then he made a motion of warning to the others.

They leaped out of the way, but were not a moment too soon.

The huge fish, with its keen lance of sharpest bone, had made a dive for
them.

As it dodged past him Frank struck at it with his ax.

The blow nearly severed one of the fins of the huge fish and a cloud of
blood spurted into the water.

But instantly the swordfish turned and came again to the attack.

And now the critical moment had come. In those depths the swordfish was
a fearful foe.

If he should strike any one of the party with his lance, it would mean
instant death.

The monster seemed savagely aggressive as well.

On it came again at fearful speed and accuracy straight at Frank Reade,
Jr.

The young inventor waited until the fish had almost reached him; then
quick as a flash he dodged under it.

And as he did so he threw up his right hand, clutching the knife with
the point upward.

By the sheerest of good luck the knife struck the fish and ripped his
abdomen open to a great length.

This settled the contest. The fish’s entrails dropped out, and the
monster lay upon the deck of the ship dead.

But this did not by any means dispose of the fearful peril which
surrounded the divers.

A literal school of swordfish were seen bearing down upon the party.

It was useless to think of coping with them in such numbers. It was
necessary to make quick and definite action.

Frank sprang toward the companionway and motioned the others to follow
him.

They were not a moment too soon in this, as the fish came about in a
cloud, hovering over the hatchway, and trying to force an entrance.

But the divers were safe for the nonce in their retreat, and it was
deemed best to remain there until the fish should disperse.

But they seemed in no disposition to do this.

Indeed, they remained above the deck, besieging the party quite
effectually.

The position was by no means a pleasant one.

“Well,” cried Frank, as they put their helmets together, “I don’t see
but that we are obliged to stay here whether we will or no.”

“That’s so,” agreed Bill. “I wish the beastly critters would clear out.”

Von Bulow was getting depressed.

“The most of us better make our peace with the Almighty,” he declared.
“We shall never get out of this scrape.”

And there the three divers were held imprisoned in the cabin of the
sunken ship, while a rescue seemed indeed a hopeless thing.

But let us return to the Dart, and learn the fate which had overtaken
it.

Barney and Pomp were faithful and reliable servants.

They were well familiar with the workings of the craft, and no ordinary
accident would have troubled them long.

But the accident which befell the Dart was not an ordinary one.

Left aboard the boat, Barney and Pomp fell to skylarking.

They were as full of fun as a nut is of meat.

After jibing each other for a while they got to wrestling.

“Hi, dar, chile, don’ yo’ put yo’ han’s on me!” cried Pomp, as Barney
closed with him. “If yo’ does yo’ shuah nuff get de wuss ob it!”

“Begorra, I’ll have the best av yez or me name’s not O’Shea!” cried
Barney, hilariously. “Shure, I’ll niver be downed by a naygur!”

“Clar away dar, I’ish!”

But Barney was in for a ruction.

“Whurroo!” he cried. “Here’s at yez!”

Then they went madly whirling about the cabin in a lively tussle.

It was hard to say which had the best of it.

It was certainly a lively contest, and honors were even until suddenly
Barney tripped over a rug.

Then down went Pomp’s head, and plump into the Celt’s stomach it went.

Barney went down, and Pomp was on top of him. The darky hung to his man
like a leech.

“Ki, dar! Yo’ am not in it wif dis chile!” he shrieked. “Yo’ am beat,
I’ish!”

“Divil a bit!” screeched Barney. “I’ll have yez off yet!”

But just at that moment something happened which terminated the friendly
wrestle almost instantly.

There was a sudden severe shock, and the two jokers were thrown half-way
across the cabin.

When they picked themselves up, both were dumbfounded to hear the
electrical machinery buzzing furiously.

The submarine boat was swaying madly, and they had hard work to keep
their feet, so violent was the motion.

“Massy Lordy!” gasped Pomp; “wha’ am de mattah, chile?”

“Matther!” ejaculated Barney. “Shure, the divil is carrying us away.”

“I don’ fink dat am jes’ a fac’!”

Barney sprang into the pilot-house instantly.

He tried to press the lever which shut off the speed current. It would
not answer to his touch.

The submarine boat was shooting like lightning through the water.

How far they had run from the sunken wreck neither knew, but it was very
likely several miles.

Here was a fearful situation.

The two looked at each other aghast. What was to be done? The risk was
something awful.

The Dart was not far from the bottom of the ocean.

At any moment she might strike some projecting hillock or eminence. It
would mean utter destruction.

Barney was pale as a ghost, and Pomp’s eyes bulged like moons.

“Golly, fo’ massy sakes!” wailed the affrighted darky. “We am done fo’!”

“Begorra, it’s kilt we’ll be if we don’t sthop the boat!”

“An’ Marse Frank am lef’ all alone behind dar. Mebbe we kain’t nebber
find him no mo’.”

It was a horrible thought which oppressed the two jokers. But they were
not the kind to remain inactive.

Something must be done.

Barney realized this. If the machinery was out of order the cause must
be found and remedied.

He rushed down into the engine-room and began to examine it.

At once he saw the trouble.

One of the heavy dynamos had become unshelved, and the lever wire was
twisted and broken.

Barney instantly shouted:

“Come down here, naygur!”

Pomp at once responded.

With their united effort the dynamo was relocated and the lever wire
connected. Then Barney operated the lever and it worked all right.

The boat came to a stop.

And not a moment too soon. Just ahead was a mighty eminence, and the
Dart would certainly have struck it at full speed.

“Golly!” gasped Pomp. “Dat am jes’ de berry closest call I ebber knowed
ob!”

“Begorra, a miss is as good as a mile,” said Barney. “Shure, we must go
back now.”

“Does yo’ fink yo’ kin fin’ yo’ way back, chile?”

This was quite a problem. The Dart had undoubtedly run many miles, and
to find the way back, as no note had been taken of their course was all
a matter of chance.

“But fo’ de Lor’ sakes, whatebber struck the boat in de fust place?”
asked Pomp. “Howebber did it git started?”

“I’ll show yez,” said Barney.

He led the way to the pilot-house.

Upon the vessel’s bow was a huge specimen of fish. It was a swordfish.

The monster had dashed against the vessel with such force that a part of
the bulwark had been carried away, and the swordfish had been caught in
the wire hamper of the rail.

It was certainly the shock given the vessel by the huge fish which had
dislocated the dynamo and disarranged the mechanism of the Dart.

As the heavy body of the fish sagged the boat, Barney donned a diving
suit, and going out, cut away the incumbrance.

The damage was repaired as much as possible, and then the boat was
turned about.

The return course, as nearly as could be guessed, was taken.

The Dart sailed on rapidly. But though miles were passed, not sign of
the sunken wreck was seen.

Barney doubled back on his course and sailed for miles. Hours passed and
the anxious searchers were unrewarded.

“Massy sakes!” gasped Pomp. “I done fear dat Marse Frank am done fo’ dis
time. I jes’ fink he nebber come back no mo’!”

“Begorra, he was a good, kind masther!”

“Dat am so, honey!”

“On me worrud, I’ll niver give up looking for him if I have to sail
through these seas fer all me loife!”

“I’m wid yo’, I’ish!”

So they kept sailing about at random for a full day.

Then Barney suddenly cried:

“Look yonder, naygur. Phwat do yez call that?”

It was a little star of light twinkling through the gloom. There was but
one explanation for its presence in those depths.

It was an electric light, and doubtless came from the helmet lamp of one
of the lost divers.

Barney at once shaped the course of the Dart for it. The two jokers
anxiously awaited the result.