Read CHAPTER XVII - UNRAVELING THE MYSTERIES of The Wonder Island Boys: Treasures of the Island , free online book, by Roger Thompson Finlay, on ReadCentral.com.

At the suggestion of the Professor, Clifford was left in quiet, while John and the boys deferred their further attempts to explore the mysterious occurrences that were looming up.

They canvassed every phase of the situation, in the hope that some explanation might be offered.  What could have been the relations of Walter and Clifford, and who was the man that met his death in the boat at Venture Island?

Why had the sight of the copper box and the skulls so agitated Walter?  The latter, apparently, knew of the missive, which was, evidently, written by him, but why did he not give an outright answer concerning it when John asked him point blank?

It did not take the boys long to inform Sutoto of the development and the mystery concerning the two men.  The old Chief, Beralsea, was taken over to see Walter, in order to identify him if possible, and then Harry suggested that Ta Babeda might know something of his early history, as Walter was found a prisoner at his village when John and the boys arrived there.

Beralsea had never seen nor heard of him, and Ta Babeda gave the following account of his capture:  “About three years previously several men, of whom Walter was one, arrived at the island, on a small boat, something like the one carried by the Pioneer, and which was used at the landing.”

(It should be stated that one of the boats, and probably, the one referred to, was the identical lifeboat, N, which the boys had fitted up for use on the Pioneer.)

“This boat was kept by them at the inlet directly east of the cave where the Korinos were lodged.  I did not know anything of this for some time, but the Korinos learned of the presence of the men, and my warriors were set to watch the men.  A few days afterwards, another boat, much smaller, appeared with two men, but from all appearances they were a different party, and after they had a conference, it appeared as though there was trouble between the different parties.”

“We were about to close in on them, when at the height of their quarrel, but they caught sight of us, and joined in resisting the attack against us.  With the guns they had we were no match for them, so we had to retire to the village.

“The next morning we learned that they had gone, and on searching the shore found something with marks on, it, that had no meaning to us so it was destroyed.”

“Was it something like this?” asked Harry, handing him a sketch.

The Chief studied it for a few moments, and answered:  “It seems to me it was like that.  The marks were something like these,” and he pointed to the crosses.

Harry had made the identical marking which were on the two skulls, which, it will be remembered, showed the characters + V, and below these three X X X, followed by a star.

“I suspected as much,” said John.  “They were, quite possibly, on the same quest.  But where did they get the information?” And he turned to the Professor for a possible explanation.

The latter was now thoroughly interested.  “Unless Walter chooses to tell, the matter may not be solved, unless Clifford recovers, and even though he should regain his physical powers, the mind may have relapsed into its late condition.”

By agreement John and the boys remained at the Professor’s home that night, awaiting symptoms of the patient’s disease, and during the night they recounted over and over again the adventures they had undergone, and the experiences with the natives.

They conversed about the new enterprise into which they were to embark, and the Professor congratulated them on the decision to remain and enter the commercial, or business field.  “After all,” he said, “there is nothing which so broadens a man as to have an occupation, and give to that business the energies of his mind.”

“Of course, there are many things that the natives must learn, but they are so willing to work, that it is a pleasure to show them,” said Harry.  “The best men we have had in the shops were the common natives, but there is one thing that has always been troublesome, and that is to give them different names.”

“That is just what I had in mind for some time,” added George.  “It didn’t make much difference where there were only a few,-a hundred or so, but now, when we have three hundred or more it is rather confusing to have a dozen or more Lolos, and as many more Walbes, and names like that.”

“It might be a good idea to suggest that each one have a sort of surname, so that there will be no difficulty of that kind hereafter,” suggested John.

“A family name would be the proper thing,” added the Professor.

“For my part, I don’t see how people can get along without it,” remarked George.

“But it has not always been the custom to have surnames, or family names,” suggested the Professor.

“But the Romans did,” exclaimed George.

“Yes, they had three names:  the first was the prenomen, which was a distinctive mark of the individual; then the nomen, or the name of the clan; and third, the cognomen, which was the family name.  The first name was usually written with a capital letter only, like M. Thus, M. Tullius Cicero.”

“Well, that is the first time it ever occurred to me that the Romans parted their names in the middle,” said George, as he smiled at the allusion.

“The ancient Greeks, with the exception of a few of the leading families in Athens and Sparta, had only a single name.  Among the German and Celtic nations each individual had only one name, and that was also true of the ancient Hebrews; the names Abraham, David, Aaron and the others were used singly, and this was also the case in Egypt, Syria and Persia, and throughout all of Western Asia.”

“But it has never been so in England, has it?” asked Harry.

“During the entire period that England was under the dominion of the Saxons, the single name was prevalent.  But that was changed later when feudalism was established and the different lords began to gather their vassals, and to register them.”

“But what is the principle on which the names are built?”

“In various ways; at first they distinguished father and son by adding the word son to the father’s name.  If he was of German descent sohn would be added; if of Danish origin, the word sen, so that the son’s name in either case would be William_son_, or Ander_sohn_, or Thorwald_sen_, or a given name with the designation son added.”

“But how about the many other names, and those coming after the second generation?”

“They had to be named after the locality, like John Brook, or David Hill, or something of that kind, even to an occupation, like the Smiths, or the Fishers, as well as qualifications, such as Wise and Good were adopted as surnames.”

Every hour Clifford’s condition was noted, and before morning his pulse began to beat with greater regularity, and all felt that it would be well to take a nap, to prepare for what they knew must be an interesting, if not exciting chapter, to round out their adventures, and to lay bare the few mysteries which yet remained to be solved.

Sutoto came to the Professor’s house quite early, with news from Blakely that Walter had disappeared.  He had learned of the imprisonment and that Walter was placed in the regular lock-up, where a few recalcitrants were confined.

How he escaped was not known.  True, not much of a guard was maintained, and the natives had no idea that the prisoner was of more than ordinary importance.

John was very much disappointed, but he felt that he alone was to blame, because in the anxiety for Clifford he had entirely overlooked the precaution necessary.  He went down to the jail, with the boys, and learned from the inmates that when the man was brought in he appeared to be unconcerned, and immediately selected his sleeping quarters, and that was the last they knew of him.

As the boys were going to their own rooms, a messenger came from the Professor that Clifford was awake, and appeared to be rational, and was now partaking of food.  After breakfast they hurried over to the Professor, and found John there smiling.

“I have had a little talk with him.”

“What does he say?”

“I have not yet questioned him.”

Clifford looked at the boys curiously.  “Are you the boys that Mr. Varney spoke about?”

“I suppose we are,” said Harry.

“His story interested me very much.  I learn that you have a regular manufacturing town here, and that you built all these things without any outside help, before you communicated with the outside world.”

“Yes; and we had a glorious time doing it, too, but we owe everything to the Professor and John.”

“That is really commendable to hear you say so.  But you said, Mr. Varney, that Walter told you Clifford limped, and it was on account of this peculiarity you were led to believe that the dead man on Venture Island was Clifford?”

“One of the three men with Walter, was lame.”

“Then it must have been one of his party that was murdered?”

“But Walter was explicit to tell us that one of your legs was shorter than the other.  I early learned that such was not the case, and that is what confused me in identifying you.  But there is also another thing which I could not understand.”

“What is that?”

“Ephraim Wilmar.”

“Stop! stop!” almost shouted Clifford.  “You said Ephraim Wilmar.  Do you know him?”

“Know him?  He is here on the island.”

“When did he come?  Where is he?”

“He lives on an island north of the place we found you, and is Chief of a tribe there.”

“Chief of a tribe!” he exclaimed.  “An island to the north,-the triangle,”-and the boys rose from their seats in the excitement.

“Where is Walter’s letter?-Quick,” said Harry.

George fumbled in his pockets with eagerness.  “Is that the triangle?” eagerly questioned Harry.

“Yes, yes; there it is again.  The three islands, and the arrow.”

“But what does the star mean,-the star that follows, as you see?”

“That,-that is to show the position of the three islands.”

“Position of the three islands?  What islands? and how does it tell the positions?” George was fairly frantic now.

“There must be three islands, and one of them was the one I was on when you found me, and one is here, because Mr. Varney told me about this one, and then there is another, which you said was to the north of,-of-”

“Hutoton,” said John.

“Yes; Hutoton.  But the positions!  Yes; you will understand!  One point is the Southern Cross, near the South polar Circle, the second point is the fixed star Antares, and the third is the fixed star Spica, which, together form a perfect triangle, one limb of which passes through a cluster of stars called the Compasses.”

“But what has that to do with the locations of the three islands?”

“They are situated, with relation to each other, exactly the same as the three stars are placed in the heavens.”

“What was the object of the three crosses before the star?”

“The three represented thirty.”

“Thirty what?”

“Leagues.”

“And the arrow?”

“The direction from Spica.”

“Why from Spica?”

“Because that star is the one which represents the island on which this particular chart happens to be found.”

“Do you mean that a similar chart will be found on each island?”

“No; on only two of them.”

The boys were astounded at this information.  John and the Professor remained quiet while the boys thus questioned Clifford.

John interrupted to inquire why there were only two charts.

“The record is found on the third.”

“So Wonder and Venture Islands are the only ones which have the inscriptions on the skulls?” asked Harry.

Clifford sat up with such a sudden start that the boys were alarmed.  He leaned forward, and hurriedly asked the following questions:  “You say, ‘Inscriptions on the skulls?’ How do you know? and why do you say that they are on Wonder and Venture Islands?”

“Because we have two of them.”

He dropped back on the pillow, and reflected for some time, and then slowly said:  “But there must be three.  One of them is still with the records.”

“No; we have the one with the records.”

A smile illuminated his features, the tension was relaxed, and he dropped back, and pressed his hands over his forehead, as he muttered:  “I am so glad, so glad, so glad,” and his voice died down, and he remained quiet, as though in sleep.

The questioners sat there in silence, and watched him as he slept.  The Professor motioned them to withdraw, and they passed into the adjoining room.

“It is clear to me now,” remarked John.  “The knowledge of the record was known to others, and I was not aware that any one besides ourselves really had figured out the secret,” remarked John, as he turned to the Professor.

“Well, I came pretty close to it,” exclaimed Harry.  “I told you that the three X’s meant thirty leagues.”

“So you did,” said John.  “Prior to the finding of the skull I did not know of the full inscription.  Its significance did not come to me until we reached Venture Island.”

“I remember now!  I told George that I saw the chart you had made.”

John smiled.  “It would have deceived you, however.”

“Why?” asked Harry.

“Because, if you remember it the third island was to the south of Venture, and not to the north as we really found it.”