12. The Brass-lined Money Casket.
 

It was on the day following Christmas that Dick brought out the brass-lined money casket which he had picked up in the cave on Needle Point Island, in Lake Huron, as related in a previous volume of this series.

As old readers know, this cave was stumbled upon by accident. It had once been the hiding place of a band of smugglers who plied their unlawful calling between the United States and Canada, and the cave was found filled with numerous articles of more or less value. The Rovers had gone back for these things, but had found some money gone, also a curiously shaped dagger and a map, which had been in the cave on a rude table. They were pretty well satisfied in their minds that Dan Baxter had taken these things, but had never been able to prove it.

The brass-lined money casket was an odd-looking affair, which Dick found thrust in a big box of fancy articles of various descriptions. The box was about a foot long, six inches wide, and six inches deep. It was of rosewood, with silver corners, and the lining was of polished brass, curiously engraved. The box had contained a few odd Canadian silver coins, but that was all.

"Do you know, I would like to know the history of this box," observed Dick, as he looked it over. "As it belonged to one of those smugglers it ought to have quite a story to tell."

"It will make a nice jewel casket," put in Tom. "When you settle down with Dora, you can give if to her for her dia----"

"Oh, stow that, Tom! If Dora ever does take me for a husband, it won't be for some years to come, you must know that."

"Let me take a look at the box," put in Sam. "I never got the chance to look it over carefully."

"It's odd that they should engrave it inside," went on Dick. "Especially since the outside silver corners are plain."

"Perhaps there is a secret spring hidden by the engraving," suggested Tom. "Hunt around. It may fly apart and let out a hundred thousand in diamonds."

"Don't be foolish, Tom," said Dick. "It isn't likely there is a spring."

"But there just is a spring!" exclaimed Sam, who was handling the box. "Hark!"

He ran his finger nail over a spot on one side of the box, and there followed a tiny click. Then he ran his finger nail back, and there was another click.

"Hurrah! Sam has solved the mystery of the sphinx!" cried Tom. "Can you open it? I claim a third share of the diamonds!"

"Give me the box," said Dick, also a bit excited. When he got it in his hands he, too, ran his finger nail over the engraved brass. Several tiny clicks followed.

"There must be some opening beneath the brass lining," he said.

"Take it to the window, and perhaps you'll be able to see something more," suggested Sam.

Dick did as advised, and, with his brothers gathered close beside him, worked over the money casket for fully quarter of an hour.

"It seems to click, and that's all," he said disappointedly. "If I could only--- -Oh!"

Dick stopped short. His finger had run across the lining in a certain way. There were three clicks in rapid succession, and on the instant one of the brass plates of the box flew back, revealing a tiny compartment behind it, not over a quarter of an inch in depth.

"No diamonds there," said Tom, his face falling. "Full of emptiness."

"No, here is a sheet of parchment," returned Dick, pulling it forth. "A map!" he added, as he unfolded it. "Well, I never!"

"Never what?" came from Tom and Sam.

"Unless I am mistaken, this is like the map that was on that table in the cave, only this is much smaller."

"That's interesting, too," said Tom.

"The back of the map is full of writing," said Sam. He looked closer. "It's in French."

"This box must have belonged to one of those French-Canadian smugglers," said Dick. "We'll have to get Uncle Randolph to read the writing and tell us what it says."

The three boys had been up to Dick's room. Now they lost no time in going below. In all eagerness they burst into the library, where Anderson Rover sat reading a magazine and Randolph Rover one of his favorite works on scientific farming.

"Dick has got the money casket open!" cried Sam.

"And he has found a map," added Tom. "We want Uncle Randolph to read the writing. It's in French."

"Found a map in that old brass-lined box, eh?" said Anderson Rover. "That's interesting."

"I am afraid my French is a trifle rusty," remarked Randolph Rover, as he put down his book. "Let me see the map."

He took it to the window, and both he and Anderson Rover looked it over with keen interest.

"Why, this is a map of the locality around Timber Run," said Randolph Rover. "That's a great lumbering section in the Adirondacks."

"Timber Run!" echoed Tom, and for the moment said no more. But he remembered what Dora Stanhope had said, that after the holidays Nellie and Grace Laning were going on a visit to an aunt who lived at Timber Run.

"Yes, Thomas, this is a map of Timber Run. This stream is the Perch River, and this is Bear Pond. The naming is in French, but that is the English of it."

"Please read the writing on the back," said Dick. "If the map is worth anything I want to know it."

Without further ado Randolph Rover began to read the writing. It was a hard and tedious task, and the translating was, to him, equally difficult, for his knowledge of French was somewhat limited. Translated, the writing ran somewhat after this fashion:

"To find the box of silver and gold, go to where Bear Pond empties into Perch River. Ten paces to the west is a large pine tree, which was once struck by lightning. Go due southwest from the pine tree sixty-two paces, to the flat rock, behind which is a sharp-pointed rock. Beneath the sharp-pointed rock is the chamber with the box. Stranger, beware of Goupert's ghost."

       *       *       *       *       *

"A treasure in the mountains!" cried Sam. "Hurrah! let's go and get it!"

"Bear Pond lies between two high mountains," said Randolph Rover. "It is in a very wild country, and so far but little of the timber has been taken out."

"Never mind, we'll go anyhow!" put in Tom enthusiastically. "Why, the box may be worth a fortune!"

"Yes, let us go by all means," put in Dick. "I wouldn't like any better fun than hunting for a treasure box."

"Haven't you boys had adventures enough?" questioned Anderson Rover. "You've been to Africa and out West, and on the ocean and the Great Lakes----"

"Oh, this would just be a little winter's outing in the mountains," said Tom. "We could go hunting, and have lots of fun, even if we didn't find the treasure box."

"The treasure box was probably taken away years ago," said Randolph Rover. "Most likely several of the smugglers knew of it."

"And what of that ghost?" asked Anderson Rover, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Pooh! we're not afraid of ghosts," sniffed Sam. "Are we, Tom?"

"If I saw a ghost, I'd be apt to pepper him with shot, if I had my gun," answered Tom. "No, I'm not afraid of such things--and neither is Dick."

"It would be a fine thing to find a big boxful of silver," said Dick seriously. "I know there was lots in that cave, before Dan Baxter scooped it in. And, by the way, he must have that other map yet."

"Perhaps he went for the treasure box!" burst out Sam.

"If the box is gone, we can't help it," said Tom. "But I move we get to Timber Run and Bear Pond just as soon as possible."

"Do you want to start in this cold weather?" asked his father anxiously.

"Pooh! It isn't so very cold."

"It's a good deal colder up in the mountains than it is here, I can tell you that. Why, you might easily freeze to death if you got lost in the snow."

"I wonder if we couldn't find some guide who knows that territory thoroughly," mused Dick.

"If you could find a good guide, I wouldn't mind your going," said his parent. "But I shall object to your going alone."

"Then we'll hunt for a guide, and without delay," said Dick. "I would like to go up there before Putnam Hall opens again."

"So would I," came from his two brothers.

"I think I know where you can get a guide," said Tom, after a pause. "The Lanings have relatives at Timber Run. Let's write to Mr. Laning."

This was agreed to, and a special trip was made to the village by Aleck Pop to post the letter. In the letter they asked Mr. Laning to telegraph, if possible, in reply.

"I feel sure my brother-in-law, John Barrow, of Timber Run, can

supply a reliable guide. Will write to him.

"JOHN LANING."

The telegram came shortly after noon the next day. It ran as follows:

"That settles it," said Dick. "I know the Lanings will do what is right by us, so we may as well get ready to start at once. Are you willing, father?"

"Yes, Dick," was the answer. "But be sure and keep out of danger, and keep Tom and Sam out, too."