Chapter VII. In Which Something is Missing
 

"Sid Merrick after the treasure!" cried Dick.

"Yes. He wants it both for himself and for his nephew, Tad Sobber. He claims that the revolutionists took it from a ship belonging in part to his brother and consequently he has as much right to it as has Mrs. Stanhope."

"But that isn't so, is it?" asked Sam.

"No; the treasure, if it is found, belongs to Mr. Stanhope's estate absolutely--that is, to Mrs. Stanhope, Dora and the Lanings. The fact that Silas Merrick had an interest in the ship at the time of the stealing of the wealth cuts no figure at all."

"What is Sid Merrick doing?" asked Tom.

"He has been working in secret, looking for Bahama Jack and the Spaniard, Doranez. I found out that he had one talk with Bahama Jack, but the sailor did not like Merrick and told him very little. Then I started to find Doranez--he is the man I have been after during the past week. I found him and he promised to work with me if I would pay him for his trouble. But yesterday he sent me a note, stating he had changed his mind and was going to Spain, to look up some of his relatives. So he is probably out of it from now on."

"Maybe he is going to look for the treasure on his own account," suggested Randolph Rover.

"He cannot do that very well, for he has little or no money."

"And what do you propose to do, father--go on a hunt for the treasure?" asked Dick.

"Yes. From what papers I have on hand and the information gotten from Bahama Jack I think we stand a fair chance of locating that island and of finding the cave where the treasure is secreted. Of course, there is a good deal of guess work about it, but I am convinced the thing is worth trying."

"And how are you going at it?" came from Tom.

"A friend of mine in Philadelphia, a Mr. Dale, has a steam yacht which he is not going to use this summer, as he is going to Europe. I have determined to charter that yacht and go on a cruise among the West Indies. It will be a fine outing for the summer, even if we don't locate Treasure Isle, as Mr. Stanhope called the spot."

"And you'll take us along?" asked Tom, quickly.

"If you want to go."

"If we want to go? Does a duck want to swim, or a dog want to scratch fleas? Of course we want to go."

"Such a trip will suit me to a T," said Sam. "And I hope with all my heart we locate that treasure," he added earnestly.

"Of course you'll take this Bahama Jack along," said Dick.

"Yes, and I have promised him a big reward if the treasure is recovered," answered his father.

"Who else will be in the party?"

At this question Anderson Rover's eyes began to sparkle.

"I was going to keep it a secret, but perhaps I had better tell you. The steam yacht is a large one and can readily accommodate fifteen or twenty passengers. I have decided to ask Mrs. Stanhope to go and bring Dora, and will also ask the Lanings. Then they will know exactly what is being done to recover the treasure. In addition, if you want to take some of your chums with you, as you did on that houseboat trip."

"Hurrah, just the thing!" burst out Sam. "Let us take Fred Garrison by all means."

"Yes, and Songbird Powell and Hans Mueller" added Tom. "They will help to make things lively."

"Can they go?" questioned Dick.

"We can telegraph and find out," answered Tom. "I'll telegraph this afternoon," he added always ready to do things on the rush. "We ought to get an answer to night or to morrow morning.

"When do you want to start on the trip?" asked Dick.

"As soon as the party can be made up, and the steam yacht can be gotten in readiness. I have already instructed the captain to provision her for the trip."

"Then she has a captain and a crew?"

"Oh, Yes, she carries ten men, including an engineer and his assistant."

"That is certainly fine!" said Dick, and he smiled as he thought of what a nice trip they would have with Dora Stanhope on board. Dick was not "moonstruck," but he had a manly regard for Dora that did him credit.

After that Anderson Rover gave them many more details regarding the treasure, and his talks with Bahama Jack and of what he hoped to accomplish. He had a fair idea of the latitude and longitude of Treasure Isle, which, he had been told, was of coral formation, covered with palms and shaped somewhat like a horseshoe.

"Bahama Jack says the treasure cave is about in the center of the inner curve of the island, but that you cannot sail close to it on account of the numerous reefs. You have to land on the island in a small boat, and that is why very few ships stop there. Natives of that vicinity occasionally go there for fruit and for birds, but there is no regular village on the island."

"If the island is shaped like a horseshoe we ought not to have great difficulty in locating it," said Dick.

"The trouble is, you cannot see the formation very well from the sea, Dick. If one were in a balloon it would be different. You must remember that there are many hundreds of islands scattered in that part of our globe."

"Let's take a balloon along," suggested Tom. "Then we could go up and take a look around."

"You couldn't look far enough, Tom, and if you tried to sail in the balloon you'd probably drop into the ocean and be drowned. No, we'll have to do our searching from the steam yacht. But I have several maps and drawings which I think, will aid us."

"The things Cuffer and Shelley were after?" cried Dick.

"Perhaps if they are in league with Sid Merrick. Merrick, of course, would like to get all the information possible."

"I'd like to look at the maps and drawings."

"So would I," added Sam and Tom. The idea of going on a treasure hunt filled them with great interest.

"The maps and drawings I have are only copies," went on Anderson Rover. "The originals are in Mrs. Stanhope's possession."

Mr. Rover turned to his brother. "You have them, Randolf. Will you please get them?"

"I have them?" queried Randolph Rover, in perplexity. As my old readers know, he was at times somewhat absent minded.

"Why, yes, don't you remember my giving them to you? They were in a large yellow envelope. I think you placed them away with your traction company bonds."

"Why--er--so I did," stammered Randolph Rover. "But I--er--I don't quite remember what I did with them." He scratched his head. "I'll go and get my tin box."

He left the sitting room, and after being gone fully ten minutes returned with a flat tin box, in which he kept some papers of value.

"The envelope doesn't seem to be here," he said, turning over the contents of the box.

"Don't you remember it?" asked his brother, anxiously.

"Oh, yes, I remember it very well now. I saw it only a couple of days before I went to Carwell with my bonds."

"Did you take that tin box to Carwell?" asked Tom.

"Yes."

"Was the envelope in it then?"

"I--er--I really don't know, Thomas. You see I was much upset, thinking my bonds were no good. Perhaps the yellow envelope was in the box, under the bonds."

"And did Sid Merrick have hold of the box?" demanded Anderson Rover.

"He may have had. The box was on a side table, and he walked around the room and over to it several times."

"Then, unless you have the envelope now, Sid Merrick stole it," said Anderson Rover, somewhat bitterly.

This announcement filled Randolph Rover with increased anxiety and as a result he looked over all his private papers and ransacked his safe and his desk from end to end. But the precious yellow envelope and its contents were not brought to light.

"Merrick must have gotten hold of that envelope at the time he stole the bonds," said Dick. "Maybe that is what made him trace up this story of the treasure."

"That may be true, Dick," answered his parent.

Randolph Rover was greatly distressed over the disappearance of the maps and drawings and upbraided himself roundly for not having been more careful.

"Now that they are in this Merrick's hands he may make use of them," he said dolefully.

"Undoubtedly he will," answered Anderson Rover.

"If he has those papers and maps why did he send Cuffer and Shelley here?" asked Tom.

"Most likely he thought he could get additional information."

"It seems to me the best thing we can do is to get after that treasure without delay," said Dick. "If we don't, Merrick may form some kind of a party, locate the island, and steal the gold and jewels from under our very noses!"

"Oh, such things are not done in a day, Dick," said his father, with a faint smile. "But I agree with you, the quicker we get after the treasure the better."

After that a discussion lasting well after the dinner hour followed, and was only ended when Mrs. Rover fairly drove them into the dining room for the midday repast. It was resolved that the party to go in search of the treasure should be made up of Anderson Rover and his three sons, Mrs. Stanhope and Dora, the Lannings, and also Fred Garrison, Songbird Powell and Hans Mueller. During the afternoon a number of telegrams and letters were written, and the boys send these off before nightfall.

Aleck Pop was very much interested in such conversation as he had overheard, and as he had accompanied the boys to the jungles of Africa and on the houseboat trip he was very anxious to be a member of the present party.

"I don't see how yo' young gen'men is gwine to get along widout me," he said to Sam. "Don't yo' think you kin squeeze me aboadh somehow?"

"Aren't you afraid you'd get seasick, Aleck?" asked Sam.

"I ain't afraid ob muffin, if only yo'll take me along," answered the darkey earnestly.

"I suppose the steam yacht has its cook."

"Dat might be, Massa Sam, but didn't I cook all right on dot houseboat?"

"You certainly did."

"Might be as how I could gab dot cook on de yacht seem p'ints as to wot yo' young gen'men like, ain't dot so?"

"Perhaps, Aleck. If you wish, I'll speak to father about it."

"T'ank yo' werry much, Massa Sam!"

"But you must promise one thing," put Tom, who was listening to the talk.

"Wot is dat?"

"You won't run off and marry the widow Taylor when you get back."

"Huh! I'se done wid dat trash!" snorted Aleck. "She kin mahrry dat Thomas an' welcome. I don't want her or her chillun neither!"

"All right, then, Aleck, we'll, see what we can do for you," said Tom, and Sam said the same. In the end it was agreed that Aleck should accompany the party as a general helper, and this pleased the colored man very much. It was a lucky thing for the boys that Aleck went along, as certain later events proved.