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CHAPTER VIII. THE VILLAIN OUTWITTED.
“Oh!” he ejaculated. “Then you didn’t believe me?”

“Of course, you will understand,” said Wade, diplomatically, “that such a story from the lips of a stranger looked a bit large. We must be excused for a bit of incredulity.”

The villain’s face lit up.

“But you believe it now?” he asked.

“It looks more plausible,” admitted Wade. “We are prepared to accept it as true.”

“I am glad you have come to your senses,” growled the villain. “I haven’t any hard feelings against you, though it was pretty hard usage you gave me on board my own vessel.”

“We acted, as we believed, in self-defense.”

“Well, I reckon so. However, we’ll let by-gones be by-gones. In regard to this offer of mine—do you accept it? One-fifth of the gold shall be yours for the recovery of it.”

“Do you reckon that a fair share?” asked Wade, diplomatically.

The villain swore horribly.

“Why is it not?” he cried. “I am sure that you could get no better terms from any one. It will make you all rich enough.”

Wade feigned avarice.

“I think we ought to have half,” he said.

30Poole uttered a frightful oath.

“Well, you will never get half!” he cried, “nor nobody else.” Then, after a moment’s thought: “Well, I’ll do a little better. I’ll give you one-fourth.”

Wade took a notebook from his pocket and wrote down all in serious fashion.

“Now,” he said, “for other terms. You are to show us the place, and we are to dive for the gold.”

Poole rubbed his hands.

“Yes, yes!” he said, briskly, “but there is a stipulation.”

“Oh!”

“You must allow me and two of my men to go down with you while the gold is being taken up!”

Wade jotted this down.

“What else?” he asked.

“That’s all. What are you doing?”

“I am making a report to present to Mr. Reade. I will give him these terms and return with an answer as quickly as possible. Have no apprehension. He will be quite likely to accept the terms.”

Poole looked annoyed.

“I thought you came prepared to accept them?” he said.

“No, sir!” replied Wade, decisively. “Mr. Reade is the master of the submarine boat.”

“And you are his envoy?”

“Yes.”

“Tell him to come himself next time. I don’t feel like being trifled with. Be quick as you can about the answer.”

“I will report at once!” replied Wade, with a manner which belied his words. “Have another cigar.”

“No; confound your cigars!”

“Sir!”

“Excuse me, but I am nervous over this situation. Bring me an answer as quick as you can.”

Wade pretended to hurry to the gangway. Then he got into the boat. He had been forty minutes aboard the schooner.

The men bent to their oars and rowed to the gangway of the Diver. Wade turned to them and said:

“You are to wait here for me; do not get impatient.”

Then he went into the pilot-house. Frank and Barney were puffing like beavers, amid a heap of debris.

“How is it?” asked Wade.

“You are a brick!” cried Frank. “There is only one more nut to adjust. What did you do?”

Wade told his story.

31Frank was delighted.

“We will send him an answer,” he said. “I will write it.”

He sprung into his private cabin and wrote a hasty note as follows:

“Dear Captain Poole: My friend Wade has brought me your terms. They are hardly liberal enough. However, if I decide to accept them, will let you know at an early day. Very respectfully,
Frank Reade, Jr.”

Wade could not help a chuckle.

“How he will swear!” he said. “He will be as mad as a hornet.”

“But he will not be able to injure us,” said Frank, “for, thanks to your skillful diplomacy, the Diver is all right once more.”

Frank went into the gangway and handed the letter to the coxswain.

“This is for your captain,” he said; “deliver it to him immediately.”

“All right, sir.”

The boat shot away. When it was twenty yards distant Frank cried:

“Into the cabin, everybody! We’re going down!”

The order was obeyed. The doors and Windows were closed instantly.

Then Frank touched the tank-valve. There was a sudden quivering of the boat, and down she went like a flash.

Poole, standing on his schooner’s deck, was astounded.

When a few moments later he read the message sent him he wa............
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