Chapter XXIII. What Wingate Had to Tell
 

After the departure of the Rover boys from the steam yacht Mr. Rover and Captain Barforth held a consultation, and it was decided that the search for the treasure cave should begin in earnest at daybreak.

"I do not think the boys will locate the cave in the coming darkness," said Anderson Rover. "But still it will do no harm to let them have a try at it."

"Mr. Rover, do you suppose those on board the Josephine have landed yet?" asked Fred, who was present.

"There is no telling for certain, Fred. But I should say not, since their steamer is nowhere in sight."

"I hope they do not come for some days," said Mrs. Stanhope. "For if they do, and you meet, I feel sure there will be serious trouble."

After that Anderson Rover had a long talk with Bahama Bill, and the old tar said he thought he could locate the cave without much trouble.

"0' course, the isle has changed since I was here last," said he. "Must have had a hurricane or something like that, to wash the beach and rake down some o' the trees. But I think I can find it as soon as I locate the trail leadin' that way. You know trails are great things. Why, when I was sailing on the Jessie D., from the South Sea Islands, we landed on a place where there was a trail running to a volcano. We took to it, and the first thing we know we went down into that ere volcano about a thousand feet. It made my hair stand on end, I can tell ye! Four o' us went down, an' the others had to git ropes an' haul us up ag'in, an' it took half a day to do it."

"Vos you hurted much?" asked Hans.

"Not a scratch, my hearty, only it broke my pipe, one my brother gave me afore I sailed, an' one I wouldn't have taken a month's pay for," concluded Bahama Bill.

An hour later Songbird, who was on the deck of the steam yacht, composing poetry in the darkness of the night, saw the old tar coming toward him. Bahama Bill was groaning deeply.

"What's the matter?" asked the would be post.

"Oh, I'm a burnin' up on my inside!" answered the old tar, and gave a deep groan. "I want a doctor, I do!"

Seeing Bahama Bill was really sick, Songbird went to his assistance and called Mr. Rover. Then Captain Barforth was consulted and he gave the man some medicine.

"It's queer I took sick so quick," said Bahama Bill, an hour later, when he felt better.

"What did you eat and drink?" asked Anderson Rover.

"I ate a tongue sandwich--one o' them was handed around awhile ago. I put it in my bunk room when I got it and ate it on going to bed. It made me sick the minit I downed it."

"I ate one of those sandwiches and it didn't hurt me," said Fred.

"Yah, and I vos eat two of dem," put in Hans. "Da vos goot, doo!" and he smacked his lips.

"Perhaps you ate something earlier in the day that didn't agree with you," said Captain Barforth; and there the talk ended, and Bahama Bill retired once more.

Less than an hour later came a commotion on the steam yacht. Two men were evidently fighting and the voice of Bahama Bill was heard.

"I've caught ye!" he bellowed. "No, ye ain't goin' to git away nuther!" And then came a crash as some article of furniture was tipped over.

A rush was made by Mr. Rover, the boys and several others, and to the astonishment of all Bahama Bill was discovered on the deck locked arm in arm with Walt Wingate, who was doing his best to break away.

"Wingate, you rascal!" shouted Anderson Rover, and caught the deck hand by the collar.

"Let me go!" yelled the fellow, and struggled to free himself. He held a pistol in one hand and this went off, but the bullet merely cut the air. Then the weapon was taken from him.

"So you are still on board, eh?" roared Captain Barforth, when he confronted the man. "What have you to say for yourself?"

"I--er--I haven't done anything wrong," was Wingate's stubborn reply.

"Oh, no, of course not!"

"He came at me in my sleep," cried Bahama Bill. "He had something in a little white paper and he was trying to put it into my mouth when I woke up an' caught him. I think he was going to poison me!" And he leaped forward and caught the prisoner by the throat.

"Le--let up!" gasped the deck hand. "It--it's all a mis-- mistake! I wasn't going to poi--poison anybody."

"Maybe he vos poison does sandwiches, doo," suggested Hans. "I mean dose dot made Bahama Pill sick."

"Like as not he did," growled the old tar. "He's a bad one, he is!" And he shook the deck hand as a dog shakes a rat.

"He is surely in league with Sid Merrick," said Anderson Rover. He faced Wait Wingate sternly. "Do you dare deny it?"

At first Wingate did deny it, but when threatened with severe punishment unless he told the whole truth, he confessed.

"I used to know Sid Merrick years ago," he said. "He used me for a tool, he did. When we met at Nassau he told me what he wanted done and I agreed to do it, for some money he gave me and for more that he promised me."

"And what did you agree to do?" asked Anderson Rover.

"I agreed to get a job as a deck hand if I could and then, on the sly, cripple the yacht so she couldn't reach Treasure Isle as quick as the Josephine--the steamer Merrick is on. Then I also promised to make Bahama Bill sick if possible, so he couldn't go ashore and show you where the cave was. I wasn't going to poison him. The stuff I used was given to me by Merrick, who bought it at a drug store in Nausau. He said it would make Bahama Bill sleepy dopy, he called it."

"Did he tell you what the stuff was?"

"No."

"Then it may be poison after all," said Captain Barforth. "You took a big risk in using it, not to say anything about the villainy of using anything."

"Oh, jest let me git at him, cap'n!" came from Bahama Bill, who was being held back by Fred and Songbird. "I'll show him wot I think o' sech a measly scoundrel!" And he shook his brawny fist at the prisoner.

"I'm sorry now I had anything to do with Merrick," went on Walt Wingate. "He always did lead me around by the nose."

"Well, he has led many others that way," answered Anderson Rover, remembering the freight robbers.

"I am willing to do anything I can to make matters right," went on Wingate.

"0' course you are, now you're caught," sneered Bahama Bill.

"Can you tell us if the Josephine was coming to this spot?" asked Captain Barforth.

"Is this the south side of the isle?"

"Yes."

"Well, Captain Sackwell said he knew of a landing place on the north side of Treasure Isle, and he was bound for that spot."

"The north side!" cried Anderson Rover. He looked at Captain Barforth. "Can they have tricked us?" he asked.

"I never heard o' any landing on that side," said Bahama Bill. "But then I never visited the place but onct, as I told ye afore."

"Did the Spaniard Doranez know of the landing on the north side?" questioned Songbird.

"So he told Merrick," answered Wingate. "He said he was the one to speak of the isle first, for he had visited it half a dozen times during his voyages among the West Indies."

"Then they may be on the north side of the island now!" cried Fred.

After that Walt Wingate was questioned closely and he told all he knew about Merrick and his plans. He was very humble, and insisted upon it that he had meant to do no more than put Bahama Bill into a sound sleep.

"Well, you are a dangerous character," said Captain Barforth. "For the present I am going to keep you a prisoner," and a few minutes later he had Wingate handcuffed and placed under lock and key in a small storeroom. The deck hand did not like this, but he was thankful to escape a worse fate.

Anxious to know if the Josephine was anywhere in the vicinity of the isle, some of those on board the Rainbow ascended one of the masts and attempted to look across the land. But a hill shut off the view.

"We'll have to wait until morning," said Mr. Rover, and was about to go down to the deck when something attracted his attention. It was a strange shaft of light shooting up from along the trees in the center of Treasure Isle.

"A searchlight!" he cried. "Somebody is on shore, and it must be Merrick with his crowd." And this surmise was correct, as we already know.