Chapter XXX. Homeward Bound--Conclusion
 

"The, treasure!"

The boys uttered the cry together and it thrilled those at the top of the opening as nothing else could have done.

"What's that?" cried Mr. Rover.

"We have found one of the chests," answered Dick.

"And it's full of gold pieces!" added Sam and Tom in a breath.

"Then this is the treasure cave after all," said Captain Barforth. "I must say you are in luck."

"I'd like to go down and have a look," put in Songbird eagerly.

All wanted to look, and in the end they came down one after another by way of the rope. The rock on the chest was lifted away and the strong box was dragged forth into the light. Sure enough, it was filled with gold, just as Bahama Bill had said it would be.

"Bahama Bill said there were three chests," said Mr. Rover, after the excitement of finding so much wealth had somewhat subsided. "Do you see anything of the other two?"

"Not yet--but they must be somewhere near," answered his oldest son.

Regardless of the danger of falling rocks, they commenced to dig around where the chest had been uncovered. They soon found a second chest, which contained more gold in leather bags, and also a quantity of jewelry and precious stones. Then, when they were almost ready to give up work for the day, they discovered the third chest, smashed flat under two heavy rocks, with its contents of gold scattered in all directions.

"We'll have to blow up those rocks to get all that gold," said Sam.

"Don't do that," warned Captain Barforth. "If you do you may cave in the whole roof and then the gold may be gone forever."

It was then decided to bring down the log, and pry the rocks away, and late as it was this was done, and they scooped up the loose golden pieces and put them in their pockets.

"It's a fine lot o' money," was the comment of Hollbrook, the sailor. "Wish some o' it was mine."

"You shall be well paid for your work, Hollbrook," answered Mr. Rover. "Only stick by us and help us to get this to safety."

"Oh, I'll stick by you," was the ready answer. "I've got no use for such scoundrels as Carey and Bossermann. I'm only livin' one life, and I'll live that honest like, God helpin' me."

Night was coming on when they got the treasure to the surface of the ground. They hunted around diligently until they were almost certain they had everything of value. Each was exhausted from his labors, but all were happy. The Rovers were particularly delighted.

"This will make the Lanings and the Stanhopes independent for life," said Dick, to his brothers.

"And they deserve it," returned Tom. "Won't they be glad when they hear the news!"

"Remember one thing," said Sam. "We haven't got the treasure from the isle yet, and we don't know how the Rainbow is faring. If those on the Josephine capture our steam yacht I don't know what we are going to do."

"Well, we won't give up the treasure, no matter what happens," said Dick, stoutly.

Mr. Rover calculated that the treasure was worth more than Bahama Bill had said. Roughly estimated it would foot up to over a hundred thousand dollars, and this figure did not take in some jewelry of quaint design with precious stones which were new to the treasure hunters.

"For all we know those stones may be worth another ten thousand or more," said Dick. "I can tell you, it's a great find and no mistake!"

It was decided to take the treasure down to the shore of Horseshoe Bay and there bury it directly behind the sandy beach.

"And we'll leave everything here as near as possible as we found it," said Anderson Rover. "Then, if Sid Merrick comes, he can look for the treasure to his heart's content," and he winked at his sons.

"Good!" cried Tom. "I hope he breaks his back working to move the rocks."

Night had settled over Treasure Isle by the time the shore was reached with the treasure, which was carried in one of the chests and in several bundles and numerous pockets. Men and boys were thoroughly fagged out, and they sat down under the trees to rest before starting to place their find underground again.

"We might as well wait till morning," said Tom. "I want to have a look at that gold and that jewelry by daylight."

"We can wait," said his father. "So long as none of our enemies return to this isle we shall be safe."

They ate what little provisions were left and washed down the scanty meal with what water was left in the bottles. So far they had been unable to find any springs on the isle.

"I believe the want of fresh water is what keeps the natives away," was Captain Barforth's comment, and it is probable that his surmise was correct.

"I see a light!" cried Songbird, when they were on the point of retiring. "It is out on the water."

He pointed, and soon all made out the lights of a vessel in the distance. Then, as the craft came closer, they saw a rocket shoot up in the air, followed by a Roman candle.

"It's the Rainbow!" shouted Dick. "That must be some sort of signal for us!"

"But where is the Josephine" asked Tom.

Nobody knew, and just then nobody cared. Captain Barforth ran down to the water's edge and prepared to launch one of the small boats.

"I am going out to my vessel," he said. "Hollbrook, come along. If everything is all right, we'll send two rockets up or fire the cannon twice. Then you had better bring the treasure on board without delay."

This was agreed to, and in a moment more the captain and his man were afloat and rowing toward the opening of the reef with all their might. Those left behind waited anxiously for what might follow.

"The steam yacht may be in the hands of the enemy," said Songbird, but he was mistaken, for quarter of an hour later up went two rockets into the air. Then the searchlight struck the water, and those on shore saw a rowboat put off and head for land.

"It's Bahama Bill and one of the sailors," cried Tom, a little later. And then he raised his voice as the rowboat shot into the bay. "This way, Bill, this way!"

Soon the rowboat struck the sand and Bahama Bill leaped out. His face was one broad smile.

"So ye got the treasure after all, did ye!" he cried. "I'm powerful glad on it, yes, sir! Now we'll fool that Merrick crowd good!"

"But what of them and of their vessel?" asked Anderson Rover anxiously.

"Broke down an' drifting out on the ocean," answered the old tar, and then he continued: "You know how they tried to board us--after Carey, Bossermann, that skunk o' a Wingate, an' Ulligan went to 'em. Well, fust we kept 'em off with fireworks and with a shotgun. We didn't have much steam up, but Frank Norton--bless his heart-- worked like a beaver, and the boys, Fred and Hans, helped him. I went to steer an' by good luck kept off the rocks an' reefs. They came after us pell mell an' onct or twict we thought sure they had us, an' all o' us got pistols and cutlasses an' prepared to fight. The ladies an' the gals was most scared to death an' locked themselves in their staterooms. But we put some ile on the fire an' putty soon we had steam enough up to bust, an' then we walked right away from 'em. I reckon the captain o' the Josephine was mad, for he kept on a followin' us and onct he got putty close ag'in. But then came some sort o' an explosion from the other boat, an' we see a cloud o' steam rushin' up from below, and somebody jumped overboard. Then the steam blew away an' the engine stopped, an' we went on--an' left them away out in the ocean, fifteen or twenty miles from here. We calkerlated they'd follow us soon as they could make repairs, so we came on at full speed, to take you on board."

"Is everybody safe?" asked Dick.

"Yes. That Dutch boy burnt himself ag'in with a rocket, but it ain't much an' he don't care, for he said the rocket hit a chap named Sobber in the stomach and keeled him over."

"Good for Hans!" cried Sam. "That will give Tad Sobber something to remember him by!"

As quickly as it could be done, the treasure was transferred to the two rowboats, and the entire party set out for the steam yacht. They were careful in going through the opening in the reef, for nobody wanted to see either boat swamped and its precious contents lost. The passage was made in safety, the searchlight aiding them.

"Back again!" cried Dick, as he mounted to the deck.

"Oh, Dick, are you safe?" cried Dora, rushing to him.

"Yes, and we have the treasure!" he answered proudly.

"Oh, how glad I am everybody is safe!" put in Nellie.

"We are all glad," said Mrs. Stanhope. "The last forty eight hours have been so full of peril!"

Of course everybody has to tell his or her story, and for a long time there was a perfect babel of voices. Fred and Hans related how the steam yacht had been rescued from the clutches of the enemy, and how Frank Norton had taken command and prevented anything in the shape of a mutiny. The ladies and girls told of how they had been scared and how they had locked themselves up in a stateroom, as Bahama Bill had said. Then the Rover boys had to tell all about the finding of the great treasure.

"And just to think!" cried Tom. "It is worth more than we at first supposed!" And in his glee he hugged both Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning, and then hugged Nellie. Nellie herself was so excited she never even noticed it.

In the meantime, Captain Barforth was consulting with the chief engineer and learning some of the particulars of how the mate had acted and how the steam yacht had been chased by the tramp steamer.

"I trust I did what was proper, Captain Barforth," said Norton, anxiously. "I tried to use my best judgment. From what Miss Stanhope overheard of the talk between Mr. Carey and that scoundrel of a Wingate I felt Mr. Carey was not the proper man to trust."

"You did exactly right," said the captain, "and what has happened since proves it. If Carey and Bossermann try to kick up any fuss I'll tend to them."

Mr. Rover was called into the consultation, and it was decided to leave the vicinity of Treasure Isle at once, before the Josephine should put in an appearance. It was a cloudy night, so they had to run with care and at reduced speed. They kept a constant lookout for the other vessel, but failed to sight her.

"Carey and Bossermann, as well as Ulligan, will have to remain on board of her," said Captain Barforth. "Mr. Rover wants to get back to Philadelphia as soon as possible with the treasure, and she is under his charter. If they want to kick up a fuss later, why, they can do it, that's all."

"Homeward bound!" cried Sam, enthusiastically.

"And with the treasure safe on board!" added Tom. "It seems almost too good to be true."

"And the enemy left behind," put in Dick. "I hope they go back and hunt for the stuff," he went on, with a grin.

His wish was fulfilled, as they learned a long time later, through one of the sailors composing the crew of the Josephine. The tramp steamer tried all of the next day to locate the steam yacht and then Sid Merrick ordered the craft back to Treasure Isle. Here, Merrick, Tad Sobber, Carey, Bossermann and several others worked for nearly a week trying to unearth the treasure, but, of course, without success. Then they had a quarrel with the Spaniard, Doranez, who would not keep sober. They accused the man of taking them to the wrong place, and in the fight that followed three men were seriously wounded. Then all went aboard the steamer and set sail for Cuba. The very next day the Josephine was caught in a hurricane, one of the worst experienced in the West Indies for many years. It drove the tramp steamer on the rocks, and before she could be gotten off several big holes were pounded into her and she went down. The sailor who told the story said he got away with four other sailors in a rowboat, and after a fearful experience lasting two days was picked up by a steamer bound for Havana. He did not know what had become of the others on board and was of the opinion that the most of them, if not all, had been drowned.

Fortunately for those on the steam yacht, the Rainbow weathered the hurricane well. The craft did a lot of plunging and pitching, and the ladies and girls had to keep below, but that was all. After the hurricane the weather became unusually fine, and the trip back to Philadelphia proved a pleasant one. Arriving at the Quaker City, Mr. Rover had the treasure deposited in a strong box of a local Trust Company, and later it was divided according to the terms of Mr. Stanhope's will. This put a goodly sum in the bank for Dora and her mother, and also large amounts to the credit of Mrs. Laning and Nellie and Grace. The entire expenses of the trip were paid out of the treasure, and Captain Barforth and his men were not forgotten for their services. Mrs. Stanhope wanted to reward the boys, but not one would listen to this.

"Well, you are very kind," she said, to all of them. "If at any time you are in trouble, come to me. I shall not forget you." She, however, insisted upon presenting Dick with a new watch and chain and diamond pin to replace those stolen from him by Cuffer and Shelley.

"Well, that winds up the treasure hunt," observed Tom, as the whole party were on their way home. "Now for the next move on the programme."

"The next move is to go to school once more," said Dick. And he was right, as we shall learn in the next volume of this series, to be entitled, "The Rover Boys at College; Or, The Right Road and the Wrong." In that volume we shall meet many of our old friends once more, and learn the details of a plot against fun-loving Tom which had a most unlooked for ending. We shall also meet Dora and her cousins again, and see how they acted when their boy friends were in deep trouble.

The home coming for the Rover boys was full of pleasure. Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha were at the depot to meet them, and the aunt gave each the warmest kind of a hug and kiss, while the uncle shook hands over and over again. Nor were Anderson Rover and Aleck forgotten.

"Back again, and glad of it," said Tom, as he flung his cap into the air. "The West Indies are all right, but give me Valley Brook farm every time."

"So say we all of us," sung out Dick and Sam, and here we will once again bid our friends goodbye.