Read CHAPTER XVI - THE SAVAGES AT UNITY of The Wonder Island Boys: Treasures of the Island , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

The boys were simply wild with delight, and George commenced to laugh immoderately, after viewing the brightly-polished machine.

“What is the matter?  Anything wrong?  Is it upside down?” asked Sutoto.

“No; I was just thinking how funny it seems that one of the wild savages of the island should be the first to import an automobile.”

Sutoto didn’t in the least mind this allusion to his former condition, but the boys were the only ones who dared to jest with him in this manner.  He joined in the laugh, but quickly replied: 

“But I am not the only one favored in this way.”

“Why not?”

“I know some other people who are indulging in pleasure cars also.”

“Who is that?”

“Well, Blakely has one, a fine little car he calls a ‘runabout.’”

“He never said anything about it.  Then he brought one over for John, and another for the Professor, but you must keep quiet; they are not to know anything about it.”

“Then there are two more machines down there that have queer names on them, because the fellows themselves are peculiar, and are awfully civilized,” said Sutoto, with a faint attempt at a smile.

Harry laid down the wrench and turned to Sutoto.  “What are the names?” he asked, for the first time interested.

“On one it says ‘Mayfield,’ and ‘Crandall’ on the other.”  And Sutoto said this without cracking a smile, or indicating that he really knew who the names applied to.

Probably, no one on the island, at least among the natives, really knew the boys by any other designation than George and Harry.  The surnames were of no use.  Sutoto was simply “Sutoto,” and no more, and so with Uraso and Muro.

The Professor and the old Chief heard the hilarity, and were soon out of the house, and although the boys and Sutoto tried to push the machine behind the garage, they were too late for the Professor’s quick eye.

He laughed when he saw the commotion.  “It is all right; if I were not so old, I would get one myself.”

“That’s just the time you need it,” said Harry.  “By the way,” he continued, “I will bring it around to your place this afternoon.”

“Bring what?” asked the Professor.

“Your car; of course.”  And Sutoto and the boys laughed at the Professor’s discomfiture.

“I thought there was some job about to be put up on me.  I wondered why Blakely tried to keep me out of the warehouse yesterday.”

But while this merry scene was taking place, five new machines were coming along B Street, with Blakely in the first one, and a competent chauffeur in each of the others.

“The first is yours, Harry, and the next one, with the red body is yours, George,” said Blakely.  “I thought we should surprise you.”

“Why, there is John, too!” exclaimed Sutoto.

“Yes; he is in his car; he was greatly surprised.  But the Professor’s car is a neat one; don’t you think so?”

The boys had no ears for any one or for anything.  Each was a forty-horse power roadster, while the Professor’s car had a five-passenger body, was handsomely upholstered, and equipped with particularly easy-riding springs.  John’s machine was equally well built, and after the boys had made a full examination of their own treasures, they investigated the other cars, and marveled at their beauty and appearance of comfort.

The procession of the machines naturally attracted the people who came from all directions to witness the wonder wagons which ran by themselves.  They crowded around, and listened to every comment.  The old Chief was the one most excited at the strange things.

Neither Sutoto nor Cinda had informed them of the autos, because it was intended to have quite a surprise party, and it was afterwards learned that Blakely and Sutoto had planned to give all of them a surprise.  The fact that the Professor and the boys, having gone to Sutoto that morning, were absent from their homes, precipitated to disclosure, so that John was found and together they went to Sutoto’s house.

You may be sure that it did not take the boys long to learn the mysteries of the machines, and they were with Sutoto, until he got the hang of the motor, and could spin along as fast as any of them.

The old Chief was finally induced to get into the Professor’s machine, and the latter instructed the driver to proceed slowly.  Minda, who was with them, was the braver of the two, by far.  The speed was about six miles an hour, at which the Chief marveled.

Then, gradually, the driver speeded up, until they were making a comfortable speed of fifteen miles an hour.  As confidence increased the pleasure grew stronger, and before they returned on the first trip he was as determined as could be to have one for his own use.

Blakely took note of his wish, and said:  “I shall see to it that on the return trip one of the machines will be shipped to you, but it will be two weeks before the Wonder comes in.”

From that day on Sutoto had his hands full entertaining the Chief, but the boys relieved him of much of this, by taking him from place to place, where he saw the work going on in all parts of the beautiful country, and witnessed the planting of the groves, the gathering of the crops, and the way in which the produce was handled at the wharf.

Sutoto’s home was a beautiful structure of five rooms, all nicely furnished, the gift of the Professor.  The boys enjoyed the visits there.  Sutoto was always a boy to them, and Cinda a happy bride,-and a woman of whom any one might be proud.

When Beralsea, her father, decided that his children must remain and attend the schools there, the adjoining cottage was prepared for them, and Minda consented to stay, but Beralsea, who had now partaken of the commercial instincts, under the tutelage of Blakely, was determined to return at once and revolutionize the condition of affairs in Venture Island.

That day he and Ta Babeda had a long conversation, and together they visited John and Ephraim, and then called in Blakely.  The boys were present, of course, and it then turned out that they had agreed upon a plan to start the agricultural work in the two islands conjointly, and the only question which remained was to take care of the management of the work.

Both of the Chiefs declared that they did not possess the qualifications to direct the work, and Ephraim pleaded age as the reason why it would be impossible to undertake the burdens.

“I have an idea,” he said, “that the best solution would be to make George and Harry the managers for the islands.  I have been with the boys for some time, and see what they are capable of, and every one would be glad to work under them.”

The boys were, of course, somewhat confused at the encomium, and the Professor came to their rescue.  “These are my boys,” he said.  “I have known them ever since they came to the island.  They have been with me under every condition of service.  We have had hours and days of pleasure, and of trials, such as few have undergone, and always, whatever the circumstances, they have been manly, and never gave up, although sometimes things seemed hopeless.

“You have seen how, through their ingenuity, they have built the water wheel, the mills and the factories.  Fortune has been kind to them; they do not need the money that may come to them, as they have found riches here, far greater than you know, but they have loved the work, for the pleasure it has brought them, and it is for them to decide.”

“Harry and I have talked about these things many times,” answered George.  “When we first came to the island, we had nothing.  For our own preservation we set about to better our condition, began to build the things necessary to maintain life, and to protect ourselves.

“What at first was a necessity, later became a pleasure, because we could see, day after day, how we built the shop and the machinery out of the crude things; it would be hard to leave that work now.”

Harry approvingly nodded his head, as he responded:  “I consider it a pleasure to do anything which would help the people here.  George and I feel that it would be wrong to leave them, so long as we can be of service to them.

“The money we have will not make us happy; that I know, unless we can use it to do some good.  And it is so with our time, also.  I am as willing to give that as money, because we have been amply rewarded and now our duty is to the people here.”

As a result of the conference it was agreed that George and Harry should take up the management of the affairs on Venture and Rescue Islands, they to decide which should be the particular sphere of each.

The Chiefs were immensely pleased at this arrangement, and the first steps were taken to put their plans into execution.

John advised them that they should decide which island each would take, and then each should cultivate the acquaintance of the young men that the Chiefs should select, so that the administrative functions could be instilled into them, and that they might be taught the business qualifications necessary.

George laughingly remarked that as the Chief Beralsea had so accommodatingly captured him, when they first arrived on the island, he thought that their intimate acquaintance, which was so long prior to Harry’s should decide the matter in his favor, by taking Venture Island.

“That suits me all right.  I have one advantage over you on Rescue Island; and that is the caves.  You haven’t even an excuse for a cave.”

“But I have Hutoton, that terrible place where the criminals live,” retorted George, with a laugh.

“And that reminds me; what about the copper box?”

The boys wended their way to the Professor, and were delighted to find John there.  “Before we go we want to have the copper box opened,” remarked Harry.

“I have just brought it around, in the machine,” said John, as he noticed the boys peering at it through the window.

“What is that in the package lying on the box?”

“Can’t you guess?”

“No.”

“Have you forgotten the skull with the inscription on it?”

“Do you mean the skull we found on the headland at the eastern end of the island?”

“Yes.”

“Why, what is that for?  Do you think it has anything to do with the box?”

“Probably not; but I was curious to examine it further in view of the similarity of the chart and the inscription.”

The boys could not possibly understand what was meant by such a reference.  While they were talking the Professor entered the room, and remarked, “I have just come from the old fellow, and his reason is returning under the treatment, and he is also better physically.”

“Do you mean the paralytic?”

“Yes; but there is one thing which is singular, and that is the constant muttering of the word triangle.  This morning I could plainly distinguish several other words, such as ‘of’ and ‘three,’ and ’very well,’ and parts of other words, showing that in time, if his improvement continues, we may get more information.”

“I have an idea,” hurriedly shouted George as he broke for the door.  “Wait for me,” he said, as he turned around and cast a glance back into the room.  “I will be back at once,” were the last words they heard.

John laughed at George’s precipitous flight.  “I suppose he has just thought of something that bears on the case.  In the meantime, and while George is away, you, Harry, might get a hammer and a cold chisel.  We may have to cut the top off.”

Harry rushed out and taking John’s machine was quickly at the shop, where he secured a hammer and several cold chisels capable of cutting the copper.

When he returned George was there, and was unfolding the paper scrap which they found below the skull.  “Probably, this will explain the triangle,” said George, as he pointed to the V-shaped mark.  “The upper part of it is very likely worn away, so that we cannot see it.”

John smiled at the suggestion as he took the paper and carefully examined it.  “Your view may be correct,” he responded.

“That looks like a suggestion of a line,” said Harry, pointing to a faint scratch near the upper margin.

The Professor’s messenger came in hurriedly, and announced that the paralytic had sent for him.  “I will return by the time the box is opened,” said the Professor, as he hurriedly went out of the door.

“Now for the box,” said Harry.  The slitting chisel was applied, and he dextrously cut along the top, under the directions of John.

“Direct the chisel downwardly, to see if there is any seam to be found along the side,” directed John.

“Yes; here is the place where the top was put on,” shouted Harry.

“Why, it has been soldered,” said George.  “Well, that means business.”

It was evident that the soldering was effectively done, because the solder had run entirely through the seam, and it was really sweated on.  The copper used was about an eighth of an inch thick, and the soft and ductile character showed that it was pure metal.

“Be very careful as you get around so as not to disturb the contents, by the falling of the lid,” said John.

It still adhered at various places, and this was carefully cut away by one of the thin chisels, and the lid finally raised at one corner, sufficiently to disclose a portion of the contents, which appeared to be round and white, and resting near the center of the space.

All caught a glimpse of it, and involuntarily started back in surprise.  It was a skull, the counterpart of the one lying on the table which contained the inscription.

“Open it wide,” said John in a peculiar voice, and as he did so the Professor rushed in and announced that the paralytic had recovered speech, and he had ordered him to be brought in.

While the Professor was saying this, John was slowly raising the lid, and by a quick motion tore it away, and the Professor was actually taken aback at the sight before him.  He gazed for a moment, and then muttered:  “And the same inscription too!”

All looked toward it in amazement, and while puzzling over its meaning, the paralytic was helped in by two attendants.  He came forward, saw the two skulls, and before either could prevent it he collapsed and fell to the floor, apparently lifeless.

He was gathered up and placed on a couch, and restoratives applied by the Professor.  He lay thus in a stupor for more than a half hour, but soon returning consciousness began to manifest itself, and when he opened his eyes, and glanced about, his lips began to move.  Here the Professor held up a warning hand, which he seemed to heed, for he immediately closed his eyes, and was soon asleep, as his breathing became regular, and the pulse began to act normally.

“There must be no more agitation now,” said the Professor.  “We can take the box to the adjoining room.”  This was done, and John carefully lifted the skull from its resting place, bringing with it a mass of other material, which looked like brown or discolored parchment.

The skulls were placed side by side.  They were singularly alike, the inscription of the one found on the headland, was on the left side, and the like figures of the one taken from the box were on the right side.

“That is a singular thing,” said Harry.

“So it is,” answered John, “but it doubtless has a meaning,” he continued.

Beneath the box, and attached to the wrappings, was a mass of material which John eagerly seized, and began to unwrap, while the Professor interestedly looked on.  There was not the first sign of any treasure in the box, and when the several folds of the parchment were unrolled, the boys could see the hieroglyphics that the Professor and John so eagerly scanned.

“Yes, yes, I knew you would come back,” said the man in the adjoining room, and John dropped the parchment and followed the Professor into the room, where they saw the old man sitting on the couch and staring about with an inquiring countenance.

“What is your name?” said the Professor.

He did not answer at first but looked at John and the Professor in amazement.

“Why do you ask?” he then muttered, without changing his countenance.  “I have told you over and over,” he continued.

“Do you know where you are?” asked John.

“Certainly.  You may ask Walter about that.”

“Walter?  Do you know Walter?” asked George, almost involuntarily.

He smiled and nodded his head.  “He is here.  I saw him yesterday.  I wish he would explain.”  Then he dropped back on the couch and remained motionless.

The effort to arouse him was useless, and the Professor advised patience.  There was something so peculiar about the whole situation that it fascinated the boys.  What did this man know about Walter?  Possibly, through him the great mystery, that commenced with the note in the seat of their boat, would be explained.

After they came back to the island, Retlaw rapidly recovered, and was frequently found wandering around the town.  On several occasions he called on the Professor.  To the surprise of all he appeared at this time, surprised to find John and the boys present, and appeared to be terribly startled on seeing the two skulls.

The moment he saw the paralytic, he became agitated, and started for the door.  John barred the way, and said:  “Do you know that man?”

In a hesitating voice, he answered:  “Yes; I know him well.  Where did you find him?” and notwithstanding he saw the quiet figure he drew back with an expression of fear and hesitancy.

George slyly drew forth the Walter note, referred to in the previous volume, “Adventures on Strange Islands,” and handed it to John.  The latter seized it and said:  “Did you ever see this?”

He grasped the paper, and answered:  “Where did you get this?  Did he have it?”

“No,” replied the Professor; “we found it in a recess at the end of a seat in our boat,-the one we made on this island, three years ago.”

“I do not know how it could have gotten there.  It was written to Clifford,-”

“John B. Clifford?” asked Harry in excitement.

Retlaw turned, when he heard Harry.  “Yes,” was the hesitating answer.

“Do you know Walter?” asked John.

He did not reply, but glanced at all of them, and while doing so Harry came forward, and said:  “Isn’t your name Walter?”

The man started back and held up his hand:  “What makes you think so?” he asked in alarm.

“Because Retlaw reversed, spells Walter,” answered Harry.

It was time for the Professor to show surprise at the acuteness of Harry’s conclusions.  John took the cue at once.  “Why are you trying to deceive us?”

He dropped his eyes, and was silent, and then he slowly turned to the quiet man.

John noticed the movement.  “Who was the man tied to the vessel and wrecked on the island to the south of us?”

This question by John produced an added agitation in the deportment of the man.  He was visibly affected by the question, but there was no reply.

“As you do not feel disposed to answer our questions we must detain or keep you in custody until Clifford recovers,” said John, and motioning to the boys, they gathered around him, and called in the attendants and ordered the men to take charge of him.

As they were about to pass out the door, Ephraim ascended the steps and was about to pass into the open door.  He caught sight of the curious group, and when his eye alighted on the figure on the couch, he drew back for a moment, while his gaze remained fixed.

Then he calmly moved forward, slowly shaking his head from side to side, and muttered:  “That looks like Clifford, my companion on the ship, and the one who aided me to gain a foothold on the spar.  How did he come here?”

“That is the man we found at Hutoton,” said John.  “But do you know this man?” he asked, pointing to Walter.

Ephraim turned, and scrutinized his face.  “No, I have never seen him, to my knowledge.”

Walter moved back with a sigh of relief, while John and the Professor looked at each other with puzzled expressions.

“Then the man we found tied to the boat was not Clifford!” exclaimed George.

John looked at Walter, and he saw him grow pale.

“Who was the man,” he asked, in a threatening tone, as he approached Walter.  The latter hesitated.  “We are determined to ferret out this matter, and it will be to your advantage to tell us the whole story, for we shall find it out sooner or later.”

“I must have time to think,” he answered, as he put his hands to his head, and turned to Clifford.

“You may have until to-morrow, but in the meantime, we shall see to it that you are kept within our sight,” responded John, as he motioned to the men to take him away.

As he left the door Harry said:  “Why do you suppose he wanted time?”

John looked at Clifford for a moment, and answered:  “Evidently, he had hopes that Clifford would not survive.”