Chapter XIV.--The Finding Of The Stone Chest.
 

"Help! help!"

Why he uttered the cry Bob could scarcely tell.

He did not imagine that any human beings were within sound of his voice.

Yet it is natural for a person in mortal peril to cry for assistance.

Luckily his cries were heard.

Captain Sumner was returning from the Dart, having hastily summoned Bok, Leeks, and the others.

Glancing in the direction, he saw the polar bear and then Bob.

He did not stop to think, but, taking hasty aim, fired.

Bok also discharged his weapon, and, hit twice in the neck, the beast staggered back.

Bob now saw his friends, and, running up the stream, joined them.

With so many against him the bear tried to flee, but a second bullet from the captain's gun finished him.

"Oh, how thankful I am that you have come," cried Bob gratefully. "I thought I was a goner."

"Don't waste time here," exclaimed Captain Sumner. "These shots will alarm those people we left at the ice cave."

"That is true," said Bob. "Come on--we must rescue my father!"

And he led the way, with the captain at his side.

It was a rough journey up the side of the hill again, and more than once they had to stop to catch their breath.

At the top a surprise awaited them.

The band of strange people had disappeared!

At first Bob could scarcely believe his eyes.

"Where are they?"

"Gone!"

"But to where? I can't see them anywhere."

Captain Sumner shook his head.

A telescope was brought into play, but it did no good.

Captors and captive had alike gone, no one could tell where.

A consultation was held, and it was decided to explore the cave before going back to the Dart.

The descent into the cold spot was not easy, and more than once a member of the party was in danger of breaking a leg.

The bottom reached they made their way to the place where the men had been at work with their axes.

They had cut out a square hole two by three feet and six feet deep.

Gazing down into the bottom of the hole, Bob gave a shout:

"The stone chest, as sure as I live!"

"What!" cried the captain.

He too looked into the opening.

There rested what at first looked to the a square stone of a whitish-blue color.

But a closer examination proved that it was really a stone chest, having two immense hinges of iron. How had the object come there?

"I believe those people were going to dig it out when our firing frightened them off," said Captain Sumner.

"Let us see what the chest contains," returned Bob, in high curiosity.

The others were willing, and by the united efforts of the sailors the top of the chest was pried back.

A murmur of astonishment went up.

The chest contained three iron pots, one filled with silver and the others filled with gold!

"The treasure, sure enough!" ejaculated Jack, who had come along with the sailors.

"There are thousands of dollars there!" said Captain Sumner.

"We ought to take the stuff on board of the Dart," put in Bok. "'Taint no use to leave it out here."

The others agreed with him.

In the chest were two fur-covered sacks, and these the party used, filling them up to the top.

In the midst of the work a far-away shot was heard. Two more followed in quick succession.

"'Tis an alarm from the yacht," cried the captain. "I told my daughter and Mrs. Cromwell to fire in case anything turned up."

Without delay the sailors were sent off in advance.

Captain Sumner, Bob, and Jack started to follow with the treasure sacks, when a shout went up and a band of the hostile savages appeared at the far end of the ice cave.

"We must run for it!" yelled Bob. "Come on--for the ship!"

"Give them a volley first!" shouted the captain.

Six shots, poured into the advancing troop, threw them into confusion.

As the treasure-seekers turned to run a spear glanced over our hero's shoulder and stuck quivering in the ground a dozen yards beyond.

At the top of their speed they rushed toward the shore.

At first they fancied they were not pursued.

After going a hundred yards, however, a wild yell and the patter of feet told them they would have to do their best.

Encumbered as they were, with both the lads partly disabled and the captain no speedy runner, the savages soon gained on them.

"We must give them another volley!" panted the captain.

Though the guns chosen were breech-loaders, it took some little time to reload them whilst at a run.

Suddenly Bob felt a shock, which nearly made him fall.

However, he recovered himself with a stagger.

"The sack saved you," gasped Captain Sumner. "But for that the spear would have pierced your back. Now wheel round and fire!"

As they fronted the natives they found that not thirty yards divided them.

At that short range every bullet told.

Three men fell dead, and as many were wounded.

The captain gave them a couple of shots from his revolver before he once more turned and ran for his life.

"That accounts for about half them," exclaimed our hero.

As they gained the head of the beach Jack stopped short.

"Go on!" he gasped. "My side! I am stuck!"

Bob put his arm through that of his friend, who had dropped his gun, and dragged him onward.

The captain turned and fired the remaining chambers of his revolver among the crowd, now within a score of yards.

The small boat was in waiting, and into it they tumbled, amid a storm of spears.

Both the captain and Bok, who rowed, were stuck.

Our hero seized the oars from the hands of the latter and pulled with all his strength for the yacht.

The gunwale of the little boat was almost level with the water.

It was slow work.

Luckily, nearly all the enemies' spears were exhausted.

An arrow pierced Bob's cap, and the last spear which was thrown again wounded the captain, piercing his leg.

Fortunately the distance was so far that it only entered about an inch and fell out from its own weight.

Our hero and the captain clambered on board the schooner.

Jack was exhausted, but still clung to his bag of silver.

Scarcely had they gained the deck when a yell broke from the dark waters around them, and spears and arrows fell on all sides.

Every gun on board was now fired at the savages.

Yet they came on as if determined to kill every white person in sight.