30. A Successful Search--conclusion.

When Sam escaped from big Bill Harney he had but one purpose in view, and that was to reach Dick and the others just as soon as possible and acquaint them with the turn affairs had taken.

He had a fairly good idea of the direction the others had taken, and knew that their tracks in the snow would be plain to follow. The main thing at the start was to keep out of sight of the enemy.

In doing this, he had not only to avoid Harney and Baxter, but also Husty, providing that individual was anywhere around, which was probable. Consequently, although he traveled as fast as the deep snow permitted, he kept a sharp lookout on every side.

The youth soon circled the lower shore of Bear Pond, and he found the trail he was seeking. It led directly to the westward, and he followed it up, almost on a run.

In the meantime Dick, Tom, and John Barrow had journeyed to the third outlet of the lake, the stream which the guide thought must be the original of Perch River. Here, after a good deal of trouble, the party located what looked like the stump of a tree once struck by lightning.

"We've found it at last!" cried Dick. "I feel it in my bones that we are on the right track!"

Again they measured off the distance with care, and now came to a large flat rock, behind which was another, unusually sharp.

"The flat rock!" muttered Tom, and his heart began to thump wildly. "Dick, you're right. We are on the right track. If the treasure isn't here, it's been taken away."

They had brought along a pick and a crowbar, and now all set to work to clear away the snow, and then the dirt from around the pointed rock. The ground was hard, and at first they made but slow progress.

"Perhaps we'll have to build a fire, to thaw out the ground," suggested John Barrow.

"Oh, that will take too long," said Tom. "I wonder if we can't turn the rock over?"

With the crowbar and the pick wedged against the flat rock they pushed upon the pointed rock with all the force at their command. Several times the tools slipped, but at last they held, and slowly the pointed rock went up, until with a thud it rolled over and several feet away.

"Hurrah, a hole full of small stones!" cried Dick, and leaped down to pick the stones out. Tom followed, and so did the guide.

"Dick! Tom! Hullo! hullo!" came the unexpected cry from a short distance away.

"Who is that calling?" demanded Dick.

"It's Sam," replied the guide, looking up. "He's coming here as fast as he can track it."

"Then something is wrong," said Dick, and for the moment the treasure was forgotten.

It did not take Sam long to reach them. He was so out of breath that for several minutes he was unable to talk connectedly. At last he gasped out:

"Dan Baxter and that big guide--they attacked me and I ran away. They--they are in possession of our traps."

"Baxter!" ejaculated Dick. "That's the worst yet. They'll steal all our things and leave us to starve!"

"We might as well go right after them," put in John Barrow.

"Oh, say, let's unearth this treasure first," pleaded Tom. "If we leave that, Baxter may follow up our tracks, as Sam did, and take it from under our very noses."

"Tom is right--get the treasure first," said Dick.

Once more they set to work, Sam watching them while trying to get back his breath and strength. Soon the last of the loose stones were removed from the hole, and they came upon a thin metallic slab having in the center a small ring. They pulled the slab up and disclosed a small square opening, in the middle of which rested a metallic box, about a foot and a half square and a foot in depth. The box was so heavy they could scarcely budge it.

"The treasure at last!" came from all of the boys.

"Putty heavy, no mistake about that," was John Barrow's comment. "If it's silver it's wuth considerable!"

"We must get it out somehow," said Dick, who was as excited as anyone. "Let's get the crowbar under it."

This suggestion was carried out, and after a good deal of trouble the box was brought up out of the hole. Beneath it lay an iron key, which fitted the rusty lock of the treasure casket. Soon they had the box open, and all gazed intently inside.

"Gold and silver!" shouted Tom. "See, the gold is on top, and looks as if it had been put in some time after the silver. Wonder what the stuff is worth?"

"Some thousand dollars, that's sure," said Dick.

Now that the treasure was found the boys scarcely knew what to do with it. Then the guide came forward with a suggestion.

"We'll hide it in the snow for the present. Then the Baxter crowd won't know where it is. The empty hole will throw 'em off the scent."

A nearby place was readily found, and into this the box was placed and the snow was thrown loosely over it. This accomplished, they started back for the camp with all possible speed.

It was a long tramp, and although he did his best Sam lagged behind.

"You go on, don't mind me," said the youngest Rover. "Only keep them from running off with our goods."

It was a good half hour before the camp was reached. When they came in sight of the spot it looked deserted.

"We may as well go slow," cautioned John Barrow. "There may be some sort of a trap set for us."

They advanced with their guns ready for use, but nobody appeared, and presently they stood close to the camp-fire. Then Dick ran into the shelter, to find Jasper Grinder lying as Sam had left him.

"Mr. Grinder, where is the Baxter crowd?" he asked.

"Gone, half an hour ago," replied the wounded man.

"Where did they go to?"

"I don't know. They said something about following you up and spying on you, to see if you had found the treasure."

"Creation!" ejaculated Dick, and ran outside again. "We've made a mess of it!" he said. "They followed us up, and more than likely they've got the treasure box this minute!"

It was found that but little in the camp had been disturbed, excepting that Sam's gun had been taken off. What to do was now the question. Sam could not walk further.

"Better stay here," said Dick. "If the Baxter crowd comes back, you can hide."

Then he, Tom, and John Barrow set out to return to where the treasure had been left. They were still some distance away when they discovered Dan Baxter, Bill Harney, and Lemuel Husty making their way along the snow-covered trail. In a few minutes they came up to the party.

"Baxter, where are you bound?" demanded Dick, striding up.

"You know well enough."

"We are after thet treasure," came from Harney, and it was plain to see that he and Husty had been drinking heavily.

"The treasure is ours, Baxter, and you can't touch it."

"It will belong to whoever finds it," growled the bully.

"That's right," came from Husty. "Whoever gits it, owns it. Eh, Harney?"

"Plain truth, that is," hiccoughed the big guide.

"In that case, it is ours for sure," grinned Dick. "We have it already."

At this announcement Dan Baxter staggered back.

"It--it aint true; you're joking," he faltered.

"It is true, Baxter. Come, I will show you where the treasure was hidden--if that will do you any good. Here is the description." And Dick brought it forth and let the bully read it.

"Where's the tree?" demanded Baxter.

"There is the tree, and over yonder is the rock. We turned it over and found the treasure, just as we anticipated. It's ours, and I am simply telling you this to save you the trouble of looking further for it. Dan Baxter, you have played this game to a finish with your companions, and you have lost."

If ever there was a disappointed and angry individual, it was Dan Baxter. He raved and said all sorts of uncomplimentary things, and Husty and Harney joined in, until John Barrow told all of them to shut up or he would have the law on them.

"You had no right to make prisoners of Tom and Sam," he said. "But if you'll behave yourselves, and not bother us in the future, we'll let that pass."

To this Husty, who was a thorough sneak, consented at once, and then Bill Harney did the same. Baxter remained silent.

"You've defeated me this time," he said, at last. "But, remember, I am done with you."

A little later Baxter moved off, and Bill Harney and Lemuel Husty went with him. It was the last that the Rovers saw of their enemies for a long while to come.

A few words more and we will bring to a close this story of the Rover boys' adventures in the mountains.

Our friends found it no easy matter to get the heavy treasure box safely to camp. In order to move it, they had to construct a drag of a treelimb and hook a rope to this, and then it was all they could do to move it along through the deep snow.

When they got the box into camp they lost no time in examining the treasure. The gold and silver amounted to twenty-five hundred dollars, and there were diamonds and other precious stones worth nearly as much more.

"About five thousand dollars, all told," announced Dick. "That is not such a bad haul, after all."

As there was now nothing more to look for, our friends spent ten days in the camp, taking it easy most of the time, and spending a day in getting back the missing sled. They went hunting twice, and the second time out Dick got a fine shot at a deer, and brought down the creature without trouble. Tom and Sam brought down considerable small game, and all voted the outing a complete success, despite the interference occasioned by their enemies.

At the end of the ten days Jasper Grinder was able to walk around, although still weak. In the meantime John Barrow had constructed a sled for the former school-teacher to sit upon, and on this he rode when they started on the return to Timber Run.

When the settlement was gained the Laning girls, Mrs. Barrow, and Addie were glad to see them back, and delighted to learn of the treasure and its value. They said they had heard of Baxter and his followers, but that all of the party had left Timber Run for parts unknown.

"Well, we don't want to see them again," said Dick. "We've had quite enough of all of them." At Timber Run Jasper Grinder left them, and the Rovers saw no more of him for many days.

The home-coming of the Rover boys was a day long to be remembered. There was a regular party given at the country home, at which many of their friends were present. The Laning girls were there, and also Dora Stanhope, and Larry, Fred, George, and a host of others, not forgetting Captain Putnam himself, who came upon a special invitation sent by Mr. Anderson Rover. Alexander Pop waited upon the table as usual, his face beaming with pleasure.

"Jes tell yo', yo' can't down dem Rober boys nohow," said the colored man to Captain Putnam. "Da is jes like apples in a tub--yo' shoves 'em under, an' up da pops, bright as eber." And the owner of Putnam Hall laughingly agreed with Alexander.

"I trust that you will never be troubled by Dan Baxter again," said Dora Stanhope to Dick, after he had told her the story of the treasure hunt.

"I trust so myself," replied Dick. "But he's like a bad cent, sure to turn up when not wanted." Dick told the truth. How Dan Baxter turned up, and what he did to bring the Rovers more trouble, will be told in another volume, to be entitled, "The Rover Boys on Land and Sea; or, The Crusoes of Seven Islands," a tale full of happenings far out of the ordinary.

But for the time being troubles were of the past, and here let us leave our friends, shouting as did the pupils from the Hall when the party broke up:

"Three cheers for the Rover Boys! Hip, hip, hurrah!"