Chapter XIX. Treasure Isle at Last
 

"So this is the work of that new deck hand, eh?" cried Captain Barforth, grimly. "A fine piece of business to be in, I must say!"

"Let us see what is on the other side?" suggested Dick.

This was done, and they brought up another wire, to the end of which were attached two small anchors and some pieces of scrap steel from the tool room.

"He put those overboard for drag anchors," explained the master of the steam yacht. "He did it to delay the Rainbow."

"Yes, and that was done so the Josephine could get ahead of us," added Dick.

"In that case he must be in league with Sid Merrick," came from Sam.

"Perhaps he met Merrick at Nassau and was hired for this work," said Dick.

"That is possible, Dick. I'll have the truth out of him, if I have to put him in irons and on bread and water to do it," added Captain Barforth.

He at once sent for Walt Wingate. The deck hand who went after the man came back five minutes later to report that the fellow could not be located.

"He must be found!" cried Captain Barforth. "He can't skulk out of this!"

A search was instituted, in which all of the boys, Mr. Rover and Aleck joined. But though the steam yacht was searched from stem to stern, the missing deck hand was not located. Some of the men even went down into the hold, but with no success.

"Do you think he jumped overboard?" asked Fred.

"He might, but it would be a foolish thing to do," answered the captain. "We are at least ten miles from any island."

"He may have had a small boat," said Songbird.

"No, the small boats are all here. He is on this vessel, but where is the question."

To stimulate them in their search, the captain offered a reward of ten dollars to any one of his crew who should bring Wingate to light. But this brought no success, and for a very good reason as we shall learn later.

How much the drags had hampered the progress of the Rainbow there was no telling, but freed of them, the steam yacht made good time. All of the machinery was carefully inspected, including the propeller, to which some wire was found twisted. But this had thus far done no damage and was easily pulled out.

"He is certainly in league with Merrick and his crowd," said Anderson Rover, "and that being so, we must be on constant guard against him."

The ladies and the girls were much alarmed to think that such a character as Wingate might be roaming around the vessel in secret, and at night they locked every stateroom door with care. The boys and Mr. Rover were also on the alert, and some of them slept with loaded pistols near at hand. Had Wingate shown himself unexpectedly he might have met with a warm reception.

"That feller's disappearance puts me in mind o' something that happened aboard the Nancy Belden, bound from the Congo to New York, jest eight years ago this summer," said Bahama Bill, who had searched as hard as anybody for the missing man. "We had on board a lot o' wild animals fer a circus man, an' amongst 'em, was an orang outang, big an' fierce, I can tell you. Well, this orang outang got out o' his cage one night, an' in the mornin' he couldn't be found. We hunted an' hunted, an' the next night nobody wanted to go to sleep fer fear he'd wake up dead. The cap'n had his family aboard and the wife she was 'most scart stiff an' wouldn't hardly leave her room."

"And did you find the orang outang?" asked Songbird, with interest.

"We did an' we didn't. The fifth night after he was missing we heard a fearful noise right in a cage wot had a lion in it. We run to the place with shootin' irons an' spears and capstan bars, thinkin' the lion was loose. When we got there we found the orang outang had twisted one o' the bars o' the cage loose an' got inside and disturbed Mr. Lion's best nap. Mr. Lion didn't like it, an' he gets up, and in about two minutes he makes mince meat o' the orang outang. When we got there all we see was bits o' skin, an' the feet an' head o' the orang outang, yes, sir. We was glad he was gone--especially the cap'n wife --but the circus men was mad to lose sech a valerable beast," concluded Bahama Bill.

"That was a pretty good one," was Tom's comment. "Too good to be spoiled," and at this remark the others laughed.

"Vell, it's someding like ven dot snake got loose py Putnam Hall," was Hans' comment. "Dot Vingate vos noddings put a snake, hey?"

"You hit it that time, Hans," answered Dirk, "A snake and of the worst kind."

According to Bahama Bill's reckoning they were now less than two days' sailing from Treasure Isle, and all on board who were in the secret were filled with expectancy. So far nothing had been seen of the Josephine, and they Wondered if the tramp steamer was ahead of them, or if they had passed her in the darkness.

"Of course, she may have come by a different route," said Captain Barforth. "While we passed to the east and south of some of the little islands she may have gone to the north and west of them. One route would be about as good as the other."

That night it grew foggy, and as a consequence they had to slow down, which filled the boys with vexation for, as Tom declared, "they wanted to find that island and the treasure right away."

"Well, you'll have to be patient," said Nellie,

"Aren't you anxious, Nellie?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, Tom; but I don't want to see anybody hurt, or the yacht sunk."

Twenty four hours later the fog rolled away and on the following morning Captain Barforth announced they were in the locality where Treasure Isle was supposed to be located. The boys stationed themselves in various parts of the steam yacht, and Dick and Tom went aloft with a good pair of marine glasses.

"I see an island!" cried Tom, half an hour later.

This announcement thrilled all on board, but an hour later it was discovered that the island was only a small affair and Bahama Bill promptly said it was not that for which they were seeking.

"Come aloft and look through the glass," said Dick to the old tar, and Bahama Bill readily accepted the invitation. Thus two hours more went by, and the course of the steam yacht was changed to a wide circle.

"More land!" cried Dick, presently. "What do you make of that?" he asked and handed the marine glasses to Bahama Bill.

The old tar looked through the glasses for a long time and then put them down with much satisfaction.

"That's the place, or I'll forfeit a month's wages," he said.

"Is it Treasure Isle?" burst out Tom.

"Yes."

"Hurrah!" shouted Tom, running down the ratlines to the deck. "We've found the island!" he shouted. "Hurrah!"

"Where?" asked half a dozen at once.

"Over in that direction. You can't see it with the naked eye, but it's there just the same. Hurrah!" And in his high spirits Tom did a few steps of a fancy jig.

Without delay the bow of the steam yacht was pointed in the direction of the land that had been discovered, and after awhile all made it out, a mere speck on the blue water. But as they approached, the speck grew larger and larger, and they saw it was a beautiful tropical isle, with waving palms reaching down almost to the water's edge.

"We can't land on this side," announced Bahama Bill. "The sea is too dangerous here, We'll have to sail around to the south shore and lay to beyond the reef, and then take small boats to the inside of the horseshoe."

Again the course of the Rainbow was changed, and they skirted the eastern shore of the island, which was truly shaped like a horseshoe, with the opening on the south side. To the north, the east and the west were smaller islands and reefs, sticking out, "like horseshoe nails," as Sam said. Sailing was dangerous here, and they had to go slow and make frequent soundings, so that they did not reach the south side of Treasure Isle until almost nightfall.

"The same old place!" murmured Bahama Bill.

"An' we anchored right out here when we took that treasure ashore! I remember it as well if it was yesterday!" And he nodded over and over again.

"And where is the cave from here?" asked Mr. Rover, who was as anxious as anybody to locate the treasure.

"You can't see it, because it's behind the trees an' rocks," replied the tar.

The reef beyond the horseshoe was a dangerous one, with the sea dashing up many feet over it. There was only one break, less than thirty feet wide, so gaining entrance to the harbor would be no easy matter in a rowboat. "We had better wait until morning before we go ashore," said Captain Barforth. "Even if we land we'll be able to do little in the darkness."

"Oh, don't wait!" pleaded Tom.

"Why can't some of us go ashore?" put in Sam, who was as impatient as his brother.

"I'd like to go myself," added Dick, "even if I had to stay ashore all night. Remember, the Josephine is on the way here, and the sooner some of us get to land and locate that cave the better."

"The Josephine isn't here yet," said Fred.

"No, but she may put in an appear at any time," answered Tom. "I believe in taking time by the forelock, as the saying is."

The matter was talked over for a few minutes, and then it was decided to let Tom, Dick, and Sam go ashore in company with two sailors, who would then bring the rowboat back to the steam yacht. The boys were to take blankets and some provisions with them and spend the night on the island.

"I don't think you'll find the cave without Bahama Bill's aid," said Mr. Rover. "But it will do no harm to look around. If this isle is like the rest of the West Indies there will be little on it to hurt you. There are few wild animals down here, and no savages outside of some negroes who occasionally go on a spree and cut loose.."

The rowboat was soon ready, and the boys embarked, with the best wishes of those left behind. Hans wanted to go very much, but was told he must wait until morning. Bahama Bill said he would rather sleep on shipboard any time than on shore.

"A bunk for me," were his words. "It's better than under the trees or bushes. Once I was ashore sleepin' an' a big snake crawled over my legs. I thought some cannibals were trying to tie me fast and jumped up. When I see the snake I run about three miles without stopping. A bunk fer me every time, yes, sir!"

It was exciting to bring the rowboat through the passage of the reef and once the boys thought they were going to ship a good deal of water. But the two men who were rowing knew their business and brought them into the horseshoe harbor without mishap. They helped the lads to land, on a small sandy strip close to some palms, and then started back to the steam yacht.

"Treasure Isle at last!" cried Dick, when they were left alone. "So far our quest has been successful. Now to locate the cave and unearth that treasure!"

"And may it prove to be worth all that has been said of it," added Sam