Chapter XXIX. The Hunt for the Treasure
 

With the Rainbow steaming away from Horseshoe Bay, the Rovers and those with them on shore felt that a crisis had been reached. If it was true that Carey, Bossermann and Wingate contemplated joining Sid Merrick there was no telling what the enemy might not accomplish next.

"I have never liked Carey," observed Captain Barforth. "But I did not imagine he would take matters in his own hands in this fashion. I did not think he had the backbone."

"It's the thought of the treasure has done it," answered Anderson Rover. "Many a man's head is turned because of gold."

Those on the shore watched the steam yacht round the eastern point of the isle. Each heart sank as the vessel disappeared from view.

"Well, we can do nothing at present, but hope for the best," observed the captain. "We cannot think of chasing them in the rowboats."

"We might tramp across the isle and see where they go to," suggested Tom. "The Josephine must be over there somewhere."

"Yes, we can do that," answered Mr. Rover. "But it will be a rough journey."

"I have a better idea," came from Dick. "Father has his spyglass with him. Why not ascend that hill back of where the treasure cave is and then get up in the highest tree there? A fellow ought to be able to see all around from that height."

"Hurrah! just the thing!" exclaimed Sam. He did not relish the long tramp through the thorn bushes and tangle of vines.

Dick's idea was acceptable to all, and they set off without further delay. They took the path leading to the shattered cave, and then mounted the small hill Dick had mentioned. Close to the top stood a large tree.

"Let me go up!" exclaimed Tom, who could climb like a cat, and he started without delay.

"Look out that you don't break your neck!" cried his parent.

"I'll be careful," answered the fun-loving youth. "This just suits me!" he added, enthusiastically.

"Can't I go, too?" asked Sam.

"If you are careful," answered Mr. Rover, and up went the lad, right on the heels of his brother. It was rather difficult work getting from limb to limb, for some were wide apart, but the vines, which used the tree as a trellis, aided them greatly. Soon Tom was close to the top and Sam speedily joined him. Then each took his turn at looking through the spyglass.

"I see the Rainbow!" cried Tom. "She is headed for the north side of the isle."

"Yes, and yonder is another vessel," returned Sam, as he pointed the glass in the direction. "That must be the Josephine." And then the two youths shouted the news to those below.

After that the boys watched the progress of the steam yacht with interest, keeping those below informed of all that was going on. They saw the Rainbow draw closer to the other vessel, and saw the small boat leave the steam yacht.

"Four men are rowing to the other vessel," announced Tom. "We can't make out who they are."

They saw the four men board the other vessel and disappear, presumably into the cabin. Then came a wait of over half an hour.

"This is getting tiresome," said Tom.

"You can go below if you want to," answered Dick, who had come up, followed by Songbird.

Tom descended to the ground and Sam followed him. They had just done this when there came a cry from Dick:

"Two boats are putting off from that other vessel! Each of them is filled with men!"

"Are they coming ashore or going to my yacht?" demanded Captain Barforth.

"They are heading for the yacht!"

"They intend to capture the Rainbow!" groaned Mr. Rover. "Oh, if only we were on board!"

In his anxiety to see what was being done, he climbed the tree and so did the captain. Then the others came up, the tree being large and strong even at the top and capable of holding a good weight.

"If those rascals try to take my vessel I'll have them all hung!" roared Captain Barforth, and trembled with rage. "Oh, if only I was on board!" And he clenched his fists.

"Look! look!" ejaculated Dick, who had the spyglass. "I think--yes, the Rainbow is moving!"

"Moving!" came from the others.

"Yes, and she is turning away from the other vessel and from those in the rowboats!"

"Let me see," said the captain and took the spyglass. "You are right, Dick. The Rainbow is running away from them!"

The news was true, the steam yacht was indeed running away from the Josephine and from those in the rowboats who had set out to take possession of her. It was a time of great excitement.

"The rowboats are getting close to the Rainbow," said Tom, who had taken the glass. "The yacht doesn't seem to have much steam up."

"Perhaps the fires were banked when Carey left," suggested the captain. "Maybe they were put out, so the vessel couldn't move."

The steam yacht was moving slowly and those in the two rowboats were making every effort to catch up to her. Then the black smoke began to pour from the funnel of the Josephine.

"The other vessel is getting up steam," said Mr. Rover. "She may catch the Rainbow even if those in the rowboats do not."

Closer and closer to the steam yacht drew the two rowboats, until it looked as if the Rainbow would surely be boarded by the enemy. Then of a sudden there came a cloud of smoke from the deck of the steam yacht, followed by a stream of sparks which went whizzing just over the rowboats. Then followed more sparks, and balls of fire, red, white and blue.

"What in the world are they doing?" murmured Captain Barforth.

"They are shooting off something, but it is not a gun or a cannon," answered Mr. Rover.

"Hurrah! I know what it is!" cried Tom "Good for Fred and Hans! Those are my fireworks--those I had left from the Fourth of July celebration. They are giving them a dose of rockets and Roman candles!"

This news was true, and as the rockets and Roman candles hit the rowboats and the occupants the latter stopped rowing and then began to back water in confusion. Soon the rowboats turned back and hastened to the side of the Josephine.

"That's what I call repelling boarders!" said Captain Barforth, grimly. "I only hope the fireworks hold out."

"It is now to be a race between the Rainbow and that other craft," observed Mr. Rover, and he was right. Inside of fifteen minutes both vessels were headed out to sea, and running at about the same rate of speed. Soon the haze over the water hid both craft from view.

"Well, one thing is certain," said Mr. Rover. "Our friends are alive to their danger and are going to do their best to get away from the enemy."

"And another thing is that we are left marooned on this isle," said the captain.

The party remained in the tree a while longer, and then, as there seemed nothing else to do, they descended to the ground.

"Well, we have one thing in our favor," was Dick's comment. "Sid Merrick and his crowd must be on the Josephine, or they wouldn't chase the Rainbow, and that being so they can't interrupt our treasure hunt, at least for the present."

"But if they capture our steam yacht how are we to get away from here, even if we do uncover the treasure?" said Sam.

"We'll get away somehow--and make it good and hot for them in the bargain," answered Tom, and his father nodded in approval.

With their thoughts on the Rainbow and those on board, the treasure hunters went back to the vicinity of the shattered cave. Nobody felt much like working, yet to remain idle made the time hang heavily on their hands.

"There is no use of our going to work in a haphazard fashion," were Mr. Rover's words. "We must first go over the ground carefully and plan out just what is best to do. Otherwise a good portion of our energies will be wasted."

This was sound advice and was followed out. They surveyed the whole vicinity with care, poking in among the rocks with long sticks, and turning over such as were loose and easily moved.

"This looks as if it was going to be a long winded job," was Sam's comment, and he heaved a sigh. "I thought we'd come here, march into the cave, and put our hands right on the gold and diamonds!"

Dick was a short distance away, poking into a hole with a stick. The stick was over eight feet long, but the end did not appear to touch anything.

"There is some kind of a hollow below here," he said to the others. "I think we ought to investigate and see how large it is."

The others agreed with him, and all set to work to pull aside half a dozen rocks which were in the way. They had to use all their strength and even then the largest of the stones refused to budge.

"Let us get a small tree and use it for a pry," suggested Mr. Rover.

They had an ax with them, and Tom cut down the tree and trimmed it. Then, resting the log on one stone, they inserted the end under the big rock and pressed down with all their might.

"She's coming!" shouted Sam, as the big stone commenced to move.

"Yes, and look at the opening underneath," added Dick. "It must surely be part of the cave!"

The sight of the big hole made all eager to know if it was really a portion of the shattered cave and they worked on the big rock with renewed energy. Twice it slipped back on them, but then they got a new purchase and over it went and rolled out of the way. Then all of the treasure hunters got on their hands and knees to gaze down into the hole.

"It must be part of the cave," said Mr. Rover.

"I'll climb down on the rope," said Tom. "Hurry up, I can't wait!"

"You be careful, Tom, or you'll get hurt," warned his father. But it must be confessed he was as eager as his son to learn whether or not they had discovered the treasure cave.

Tom went down, and Dick and Sam came after him. The bottom of the hole was rough. On one side was another opening, leading to what certainly looked like a cave of considerable extent.

"Drop down the lantern," called Dick, and Captain Barforth did so. With the lantern lit Dick crawled into the side opening and his brothers followed.

"This is certainly a cave," said Tom. "But whether it is the right one or not remains to be seen."

"It must be a part of the original cave, Tom," answered Dick. "Because it is in the spot covered by the other. But it may not be the part that contained the treasure."

They crawled around, over the rough rocks and fallen dirt. It was a dangerous proceeding, for they did not know but what some stones might fall at any moment and crush them.

Suddenly Tom and Sam uttered the single exclamation:

"Look!"

Dick looked and then he, too, gave a cry. From under the edge of a rock they saw one end of a heavy wooden chest. A part of the side was split away and through the hole they saw a quantity of gold money!