Doubloons—and the Girl
by John Maxwell Forbes
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He was about to start in again at the task when Ruth laid her hand upon his arm.

"You didn't dig all this out in that minute you were away from me just now," she said quietly. "You must have been working while I lay in there unconscious. Come now, Allen, tell me the whole truth. Remember that I am a sailor's daughter and am not afraid to face things, no matter how bad they may be. The cave entrance is badly blocked up, isn't it?"

"God bless your staunch, plucky heart, Ruth," blurted out Drew, his own heart kindling at her courage. "You're one woman in a thousand, yes, in a million. I might have known you'd face the truth without weeping or hysterics. You're right about the landfall. I'm afraid it's a heavy one. I've been digging at it for some time without making much impression. But after all it's all guess-work and it may not be so thick as it seems to be. We may let daylight through at any minute. At any rate I'm going at it like a tiger. I worked hard before when I thought I was alone, but now that I've got you to look out for I'll do ten times as much. I've only begun to fight. We're just going to get out of this and that's all there is about it."

"And I'll help you," cried Ruth.

"Not with those little hands," replied the man vehemently. "You just stand back there and pray while I do the work."

"Those little hands, as you call them, are stronger than you think. I'm going to work with all my might and help you out. And that won't keep me from praying either. I guess the cave women used to work and fight just about as much as the men, and I'm a cave woman now if I never was before."

Again Drew sought to deter her, but she was determined and he had to let her have her way. The only concession he could gain was to make her put on a pair of buckskin gloves that dangled at his belt. They were woefully large for her shapely hands and at any other time would have furnished a subject for jesting. But nothing now was further from their minds than laughter. They were engaged on a grim work of life or death and both of them knew it.

But though brave, there was a limit to Ruth's physical strength, and under such strenuous and unaccustomed effort it was not long before that limit was reached. Drew discerned it coming before Ruth herself would admit it.

He took her gently but firmly by both wrists and fairly compelled her to sit down on one of the mounds, where he improvised a seat that enabled her to rest her back against one side of the cave. Then he returned to the work with redoubled vigor, tossing the dirt aside as though he were a tireless steam shovel.

But though Ruth's body was resting, her mind was working actively, darting hither and thither in an effort to find a way of escape from their fearful predicament.

"Allen," she said, as he stopped for an instant to rest, "come here and sit down beside me."

He had never hesitated before at accepting that coveted invitation, but just now he wondered whether he ought to stop even for an instant. His herculean efforts had brought him to the very edge of collapse, but he was feverishly eager to keep on.

"Ought I, Ruth?" he questioned. "Every minute now is precious, you know."

"I know it," she admitted, "but you'll drop dead from exhaustion if you don't stop and rest. You must rest."

The gentle tyrant had her way and Drew yielded. He sat down beside her, his chest contracting and expanding under the stress of his labored breathing.

"Poor boy!" she said softly, and Drew thrilled at the sympathy in her tone.

"I've been thinking, Allen, that perhaps we had better not rely entirely on your digging for getting out of here," she continued. "It's all a guess as to how thick that wall of earth and rock is, and we may be using on it the strength that we need for other things. If you had an implement of some kind it would be different. But with your bare hands together with what little help I can give you it may be impossible."

"Yes," he was forced to concede, "I can't go on forever. Sooner or later my strength will give out. But what can we do but keep on trying? I'd go raving mad if I didn't keep on taking the one little chance we have."

"But is it the only chance we have?" she argued. "Did you bring your revolver with you?"

For answer he took it out of his belt and put it in her hand.

"Have you any extra cartridges?" she asked.

"Not a single one, but the revolver itself is fully loaded. That's just six we have to count on."

She was silent for a moment.

"There isn't any likelihood we'll have to use these for defending ourselves," she said at length. "There doesn't seem to be any living thing in this cave of which we need to be afraid. But, nevertheless, suppose we keep two for emergencies. That would give us four to experiment with, wouldn't it?"

"Experiment? How?" he inquired.

"I was thinking that perhaps father"—here her voice faltered a little—"and Tyke might be somewhere in the neighborhood hunting for us. If we should discharge the revolver they might possibly hear one or more of the shots and get some idea of where we were. I know it's only a forlorn hope, but we've got to try everything just now."

"It's a good idea!" exclaimed Drew, though he knew in his heart how slender a chance it offered. "And in the meantime, I'll keep on digging, so that if the shots aren't heard we won't be any worse off anyway. You fire the four shots at intervals of a minute or two and we'll see what happens."

He went savagely to work again and Ruth at short intervals discharged the revolver. The noise and the echoes in that compressed space were deafening and it certainly seemed as though the sound ought to penetrate to the world outside.

But though they fairly held their breath as they listened for a response, no answering sound penetrated from the outside into the cavern, and their hearts sank as they realized that one more of their few hopes had failed them.

"It's of no use," observed Ruth sadly, as she handed the weapon back to Allen. "Either they didn't hear the shots, or, if they did, they thought it was some sound made by the volcano. We'll have to try something else."

Both were silent for a few moments, immersed in bitter thoughts that were as black as the darkness that surrounded them.

"Can you ever forgive me, Ruth, for having gotten you into such a trap as this?" he burst out suddenly.

"You didn't get me in it," protested Ruth. "I came in of my own accord."

"I don't mean that," explained Drew. "But you tried to persuade me not to enter the cave in the first place, and if I'd only had sense enough to listen to you; we'd both of us be out in the sunlight at this minute. Headstrong fool that I was!" he ended in an agony of self condemnation.

"Now don't blame yourself a bit for that, Allen," said Ruth earnestly. "You only did what you thought you ought to do, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred no harm would have come of it."

"And it was our luck to strike the hundredth time," replied Drew bitterly.

"Besides," said Ruth with a trifle of hesitation, "I think I'd have been a little disappointed at the time if you had done as I asked. I'd have felt that perhaps in your secret heart you did it apparently to please me, but really because you were glad enough not to have to take any chances of what you might meet in here."

Drew was somewhat puzzled at this bit of feminine psychology, but he gathered some comfort from it, and this was perhaps after all the result that Ruth was seeking.

"Do you notice, Allen, how fresh the air seems to be in here?" she asked.

"I've been wondering at that," he answered. "To tell the truth my worst fear has been that it would get too close and foul for us to breathe. But it seems to be just as sweet now as it was at the beginning."

"What do you suppose is the reason?"

"It must be that the cave is a little larger than it seems to be. It seemed to be getting bigger and bigger as I went further into it. If that is so, it accounts for the fact that the air supply has not yet begun to be vitiated."

"But mayn't there be any other reason?" she asked.

"I can't think of any other," he answered. Then as a thought suddenly struck him, he jumped as though he had been shot.

"Why didn't I think of that before?" he fairly shouted. "There may be another entrance!"



Unaware of the possible tragedy that was being developed within a few hundred yards of them, Tyke and Captain Hamilton had kept on digging in the excavation. For Tyke had refused to be kept out of the work of recovering the treasure, and when Drew had strolled off with the intention of discovering what had frightened Ruth and had been followed shortly after by the latter, the old man had seized Drew's abandoned shovel and had gone lustily to work.

"Too much of a strain on that game leg of yours to be heaving up those shovelfuls," the captain protested.

"Nary a bit of it," answered Tyke. "I ain't ready to be put on the shelf yet, not by a blamed sight, and I guess if it came to a showdown, Rufe, my muscles are as good as yours."

"You're a tough old knot all right," admitted Captain Hamilton, his eyes twinkling. "But there's no sense in your doing Allen's work. Where in thunder has the boy gone anyway?"

"Oh, he'll turn up in a minute or two," returned Tyke. "Wherever he is you can bet your boots he's doing something connected with this here work of treasure seeking. It simply ain't in that boy to lay down on any job."

"Drew makes a hit with you all right," laughed the captain.

"And why shouldn't he?" asked Tyke belligerently. "He's been with me for some years now, and I've had plenty of chances of sizin' him up. If there was a yellow streak in him, I'd have found it out long ago. If I'd had a son of my own, I wouldn't have asked for him to be any better fellow than Allen is, and nobody could say any more'n that. He's got grit an' brains an' gumption, an' more'n that he's as straight as a string."

"Go ahead," laughed the captain, as Tyke paused for want of breath. "Don't let me stop you."

"I don't mind tellin' you, Rufe, what I've never told yet to any human soul," continued Tyke, waxing confidential, "an' that is that when I lay up in my last harbor, Allen is goin' to come into everything I've got. He don't know it himself yet, but I've got it down shipshape in black and white an' the paper's in my office safe."

"He's a lucky fellow," commented the captain briefly.

"An' let me tell you another thing, Rufe," said Tyke, "an' that is that Allen would make not only a good son, but a mighty good son-in-law."

He nudged the captain in the ribs as he spoke, with the familiarity of old comradeship.

"Lay off on that, Tyke," said the captain, flushing a little beneath his bronze.

"You don't mean to say that you haven't seen the way the wind was blowin'?" rejoined Tyke incredulously. "Why, any one with a pair of good eyes in his head can't help but see that those two are just made for each other."

"I'm not blind, of course," returned the captain, who now that the ice was broken seemed not averse to talking the matter over with his old comrade. "I know of course that I can't keep Ruth forever and that some time some fellow will lay me aboard and carry her off right from under my guns. And I'm not denying that up to a few days ago, I'd rather it would have been young Drew than any one else. But now—" here he paused.

"Well, but now," repeated Tyke.

"You know just as well as I do what I'm meaning," blurted out Captain Hamilton. "This matter of Parmalee's death has got to be cleared up before I'd even consider him in connection with Ruth. You can't blame me for that, Tyke."

The old man's face clouded.

"I ain't exactly blaming you, Rufe," he conceded, for despite his ardent partisanship of Allen, he could realize how Captain Hamilton as a parent must feel; "but I'm mortal sure that thing will be cleared up before long. You know just as well as I do that Allen didn't kill Parmalee any more than you or I did."

"That's what I want to believe," returned the captain. "I mean," he corrected, as he saw the choleric flash in Tyke's eyes, "that's what I do believe."

"It's that scoundrel, Ditty, that did it himself," growled Tyke savagely. "He cooked up the whole thing and then shoved it off on Allen. You've seen enough of him since then to know that he's capable of anything."

"Yes," admitted the captain, "he's a dirty dog. But don't you see, Tyke, that even allowing that Allen is innocent, he's been charged with doing it. And to lots of people, that's just about the same as though he were actually guilty. Then, too, the matter will have to be tried out in the courts. Allen will have to stand trial and even if he gets off, as I hope he will, there'll be a cloud on his name as long as he lives. How could I let Ruth marry a man who had been charged with murder and who got off because there wasn't evidence enough to convict?"

"Mebbe Ruth would be willing to take the chance," persisted Tyke stubbornly.

"Maybe she would," agreed the captain, "but she'd never do it with my consent. She's too good and sweet and pretty a girl to link her life with a man whose name was smirched. I wouldn't stand for it for a minute."

Tyke was framing a reply when suddenly the earthquake which wrought such dire results to the two of whom they were speaking shook the ground. The two men were thrown against each other and both went in a heap to the bottom of the ditch. The breath was knocked out of their bodies, and every thought was driven from their minds except the instinctive desire to remain alive until nature's onslaught had ceased.

When the worst was over, they scrambled to their feet, brushed the dirt from their clothes and faces, and stared grimly at each other.

"If it didn't seem too conceited to think that all this fuss was being made on our account," growled the captain, as he picked up his spade. "I'd surely make up my mind that something was trying to shoo us away from this treasure hunting."

"Yes," agreed Tyke. "Now, if I was superstitious—"

"I wonder," broke in the captain with sudden alarm, as he thought of the two errant members of the party, "where Ruth and Allen were when this quake happened."

"The only safe thing is to say that they were together somewhere," said Tyke. "I notice that they're never far apart. Don't you worry, Rufe. Allen will take good care of her."

But the captain was already climbing out of the excavation. He gave Tyke a hand and helped him up.

"Where did you last see them, Tyke?" Hamilton asked, as his eyes scanned the surrounding landscape without catching a glimpse of the figures he sought.

"The last I saw of Allen he was going down toward them trees," replied Tyke, indicating a corner of the jungle, "an' a little later, out o' the corner of my eye, I saw Ruth going in the same direction. Now, don't fret, Rufe. They'll turn up as right as a trivet in another minute or two."

"The jungle!" gasped the captain in alarm. "Don't you see, Tyke, that some of those trees have been shaken down. Maybe they've been caught under one of them. Hurry! hurry!"

He set off, running hurriedly, and Tyke hastened after him as fast as he could.

They were soon at the jungle's edge. Several giant trees had fallen victims to the earthquake's wrath, but a frantic searching among their trunks revealed no traces of the missing ones.

The captain wiped his brow and gave a great sigh of relief.

"So far, so good!" he exclaimed. "They've escaped that danger anyway. I had a fearful scare. I don't mind admitting that my heart was in my mouth for a minute."

"Same here," assented Tyke, who despite his faith in Drew's resourcefulness had secretly shared the captain's alarm. "But if they're not here, where in Sam Hill can they be?"

They raised their voices in a shout, but no answering sound came back.

Several times they repeated the call, but all to no purpose.

"Strange," muttered the captain uneasily. "It isn't like Ruth to go off to any distance without telling me about it beforehand."

"Nor Allen neither," put in Tyke loyally.

"You might almost think the earth had swallowed them up," pursued the captain, little thinking how near he was to guessing the truth.

"Well, the only thing to do is to keep looking for 'em until we find 'em," said Tyke. "You take that side of the hill, Rufe, and I'll take the other. We'll come across them probably before we meet up with each other."

The two men separated on their quest, calling out at frequent intervals. It did not take them long to skirt the base of the whale's hump, but when at last they met each saw only disappointment and a growing alarm in the eyes of the other.

"We'll have to try it again and make a wider circle," exclaimed Hamilton desperately. "We've simply got to come across them somewhere around here."

"Of course we shall," said Tyke heartily, though the crease in his forehead belied the confidence of his words.

Once more they made the round of the hump, this time ranging out much further from the base. Still their efforts were fruitless, and when they met once more, neither tried to disguise from the other the growing panic in his heart.

"Ruth, Ruth!" groaned the captain.

"Come now, Rufe, brace up," comforted Tyke. "While there's life there's hope."

"That's just it," replied the captain. "But how do we know there is life? Something serious must have happened to them, or they'd never stay away like this. They'd know we'd be worried about them after that shock came and they couldn't have come back to us quick enough, if they'd been able to come."

Tyke could not deny the force of this.

"Well now, Rufe, let's get down to the bottom of this," he said. "I'm afraid just as you be that they're in trouble of some kind. Now what could make trouble for them on this island? There ain't any wild beasts of any account here, do you think?"

"Not that I ever heard of," replied the captain. "We're too far south for mountain lions and too far north for jaguars. There may be an occasional wildcat, but it wouldn't be likely to attack a single person let alone two together. There may be snakes here though for all I know."

"Nothing doing there," said Tyke decisively. "Mebbe there's boas, but if so there're a mild and harmless kind, such as those they make household pets of in some places to keep away the rats. And if there are any poisonous snakes, it's against all likehood that both Ruth and Allen would be bitten. One of them would come scurrying to us at once for help for the other.

"Besides," he went on, "I know that Allen had his revolver along with him and he's a sure shot. No, I don't think we have to worry about animals or snakes."

"What is there left then?" groaned the captain.

"There's two things left," replied Tyke reflectively. "One of 'em is old nature herself. What she can do is a plenty, as we've seen since we come to this island——."

"This infernal island," broke in the captain viciously. "I wish to heaven we'd never seen it. I wish some one of these earthquakes had sent it to the bottom of the sea."

"I don't blame you much," assented Tyke. "But being here, we've got to take things as they come. Now, as I was saying, old nature may have taken a hand in causing trouble for the two young folks. But for the life of me I don't see how. We've already seen that they weren't caught under those falling trees. And there didn't any lava flow come with that last quake. And that being so I can't see where nature's got into the game.

"Now," he continued, "there's just one thing left—and that's men! There may be some natives on this island that feel sore at our butting in on 'em and they may have come across them youngsters and captured 'em."

"I don't think that's at all likely," rejoined the captain. "There'd certainly have been some sign of them, some boat, some hut or something else of the kind. But we haven't seen hide or hair of anything since we landed. The boat's crew, too, have been roaming over the island and they'd have reported to us anything they'd seen that looked as though people lived in this God-forsaken spot."

"Yes," assented Tyke. "And it stands to reason that Allen with his automatic would have put up a fight and we'd have heard the sound of shots. But there are other men besides natives on the island."

"What do you mean?" asked the captain in surprise.

"I mean Ditty and his gang of water rats," replied Tyke.

"You don't think that skunk would dare—" spluttered the captain.

"I think that one-eyed rascal would dare almost anything," answered Tyke. "And it struck me as barely possible that he might have come sneaking around to see what we were doing and perhaps run across Allen and Ruth. There's bad blood there, as you know, and it wouldn't take much to bring about a scrap.

"Not that I think that has happened," he went on, "because it isn't likely that Ditty's plans are far enough forward yet for him to show his hand. Still I may be wrong. I tell you what I think you'd better do. You can git around faster than I can with this old game leg of mine. Suppose you run back to the shore and see if Ditty is hanging around there. If he is and everything seems shipshape we can leave him out of our calculations. Then we'll have to figure out what we're to do next."

It was grasping at straws, but in their utter ignorance of the real facts they had nothing but straws to grasp at. The captain set off hurriedly, while Tyke went once more around the mountain base in the forlorn hope that this time something tangible would come to reward his efforts.

Once he thought he heard something that sounded like shots and he stopped short in his tracks. His old eyes, keen yet, despite his years, looked eagerly around. But as far as his eyes could reach there was nothing to be seen, and he came to the conclusion that he must have imagined the sounds or that they were caused by some rumbling of the earth.

In a surprisingly short time, the captain was back, panting and winded by his exertions.

"Well," asked Tyke eagerly, "did you find out anything?"

"The men were all huddled down on the shore evidently scared out of their wits. I guess we can cross them off our slate. But how about you? Did you find any clue?"

"Nary a thing," answered Tyke dejectedly. "I thought at one time that I heard shots, but when I come to look it up there was nothing in it."

"We must find them!" cried the captain excitedly, pacing back and forth like a wild animal and digging his nails into his palms as he clenched his fists in anguish. "We'll go over every foot of this island. I'll get out every man on the ship and set him to work searching."

"I wouldn't do that—at least not yit," adjured Tyke, laying his hand on the captain's arm. "Of course we may have to do that as a last resort. But you know what sailors are, an' we don't want to have 'em cracking their jokes 'bout Allen an' Ruth going off together. Wait a bit. The day's young yet an' they may turn up any time of their own accord. In the meantime, we'll explore places that we haven't tried before an' mebbe we'll run across 'em. If everything else fails, then we'll turn out every man jack of the crew and go over every inch of the island."

To the agonized father, everything that savored of delay seemed intolerable, but he yielded to the wisdom of Tyke's suggestion and once more they started out in their desperate search.



Drew was all animation in an instant at the new hope that sprang up within him with its offer of possible safety for his companion and himself.

"Why didn't I think of it before?" he repeated, his voice shaken with excitement.

"You didn't think of it before, because you were working like a slave. No man can work like that and think of anything but what he is doing. Oh, Allen, won't it be great if you are right?"

"I'm going to see if I am right," he replied.

"How can you tell?" she asked divining that he was fumbling at his pocket.

"In this way," he answered, drawing out the oilskin bag that contained his precious matches.

He struck a match and held it aloft.

At first the flame mounted straight up in the air. Then an instant later it was deflected and stood out at a distinct angle from the stick.

"See," cried Allen jubilantly. "There's a current of air in the cave. It's too slight for us to feel, but the flame feels it. If we were sealed up utterly in the cave, the air would be still. Somewhere the air is coming in from the outside world and it's up to us to find out where."

"Thank God!" murmured Ruth tremulously.

In the sudden transition from despair to hope, they took little account of the difficulties they might have to overcome before they reached that other entrance—or the exit, from their point of view—which they had reason to believe existed. But as their first jubilation subsided somewhat, a soberer view began to thrust itself upon them.

Admitting that there was an exit, what guarantee had they of reaching it? Suppose a fathomless gulf barred their way? Suppose the passage narrowed to a point too small for them to thrust themselves through? Suppose when the coveted exit should at last be found it should prove to be in the ceiling of the cave instead of the side, and hopelessly out of reach?

But they quickly dismissed these dismal forebodings. Those problems could wait for solution until they faced them. The present at least was illumined by hope.

"Come along, Ruth," cried Allen gaily. "Pack up your trunks and let's be moving."

"Only too gladly," the girl responded, falling into his mood. "I never did care much for this place anyway."

But suddenly a reflection came to her.

"How are we to find our way in this pitch darkness?" she asked. "I don't know how many matches you have with you, but at the most they can't last long. And the time may come when a match would be more precious than a diamond."

Drew took out his bag again, and, taking the greatest precautions not to drop one, counted the matches by the sense of touch.

"Just thirty-two," he announced when he had counted them twice.

"Only thirty-two!" echoed Ruth. "And we may need a hundred and thirty-two before we get to the other mouth of the cave."

For a moment Drew pondered.

"You're right, as always, Ruth," he agreed. "We can't depend on the matches alone. We'll have to get something that will serve as a torch. While I was digging, I remember I came across many branches of trees that had been carried down by the slide in its rush. We'll see if we can't make some torches out of them."

He set lustily to work and soon had as many as ten good-sized sticks that promised to supply his need. He was afraid that not being seasoned wood they would prove difficult to light. But there proved to be a resinous quality in the wood that atoned for its greenness, and before long he had a torch that burned steadily though rather murkily.

"Eureka!" he cried waving it aloft.

"Good for you, Allen," applauded Ruth. "Now give me the rest of those sticks to carry and you go ahead with the lighted torch."

"I'll carry them myself," he protested.

"No you won't," she said decidedly, at the same time gathering them up in her arms. "You'll have the torch in one hand and you need to have the other free for emergencies."

He recognized the common sense of this, but found it hard to let her do it.

"It's too much like the Indians," he said. "You know that with them the buck carries his dignity, while his squaw carries everything else."

"But I'm not your squaw," slipped saucily from Ruth's lips before she could realize the possible significance of her remark.

"Not yet," replied Allen daringly, wanting to bite his tongue out a moment later for having taken advantage of her slip.

"But let's hurry now, Ruth," he went on hastily to cover their mutual confusion. "Follow close in my steps and don't keep more than two or three feet behind me at any time."

They set off on the unknown path whose end meant to them either deliverance or death. The chances were against them, but their hearts were high and their courage steadfast.

They had need of all their fortitude, for they had not advanced forty paces before danger menaced them.

Drew holding his torch high so as to throw its light as far ahead as possible, stepped on what seemed to be a crooked stick in the path. Instantly the stick sprang to life, and a powerful, slimy coil wound itself around the man's leg as high as the knee.

His first impulse was to spring back. His next was to grind down with crushing force on the squirming thing beneath his heel. The second impulse conquered the first and he stood like a statue while a cold sweat broke out all over his body.

For he had realized by the feel that it was the reptile's head that was beneath his heel and must be kept there at all costs until the life was crushed out of it.

Gradually the writhings grew feebler, until at last the coils relaxed and fell in a heap about his foot.

"What is it Allen?" asked Ruth in alarm at his sudden stop and rigid pose. "Do you see anything?"

"There's no danger," he assured her, though his voice was not quite steady. "I must have stepped on a lizard or something like that, and it gave me a start."

He kicked the mangled reptile out of the path, but not before Ruth's horrified glance had seen that it was no lizard but something far more deadly.

Here was a new terror added to the others. For all they knew there might be a colony of the reptiles in the cave. And in that semi-tropical region, the chances were vastly in favor of their being poisonous. At all events it behooved them to advance with redoubled caution.

They kept a wary lookout for anything that looked like a crooked stick after that, and their progress, already slow, became still slower as they went on.

Before long they came to a place where the cave seemed to divide into three separate passageways. Two of them had nothing to distinguish them from each other, but in the third they distinguished a faint light in the distance.

"The blessed light!" exclaimed Ruth fervently.

"I guess that's the path to take, all right," exulted Drew. "In all probability that light comes from the outlet of the cave. Hurrah for us, Ruth!"

Ruth echoed his enthusiasm, and they accelerated their pace. The hope that they had cherished seemed now about to become certainty.

But the way was rougher now, and at one place they had to make a long detour. But they made no complaint. As long as no impassable barrier of rock loomed up before them they could feel that they were getting nearer and nearer to freedom and life.

But before long both became conscious of a steadily-growing heat in the air of the cave. The perspiration flowed from them in streams. At first they were inclined to attribute this to their strenuous exertions and the mental strain under which they were laboring.

"Strange it should be so frightfully hot," remarked Drew, as he stopped for a moment to wipe his brow.

"It's no wonder," responded Ruth. "It's hot enough on this island even when you're in the outer air, and it would naturally be worse still in this confined place."

"But we didn't feel that way ten minutes ago," objected Drew.

"We've done a good deal of walking since then," said Ruth, though rather doubtfully. "But let's get along, Allen. I'm just crazy to get to the outlet."

They were about to resume their journey, when a great flame of fire leaped to the very roof of the cave about a hundred yards in front of them.

They stopped abruptly, and in the smoky light of the torch both of their faces were white as chalk, as they faced each other with a question in their eyes.

"Fire!" gasped the man.

"Yes," assented Ruth quietly but bitterly. "What we thought was daylight is nothing other than fire."

"Shall we keep on?" debated Allen.

"We're so close that we might as well," advised Ruth. "Perhaps we may be able to get around it somehow."

They went forward, though with excessive care, and a moment later stood on the brink of the most awe-inspiring spectacle they had ever witnessed.

In a deep pit perhaps six hundred feet in circumference was a lake of liquid fire! The molten lava twisted and writhed as though a thousand serpents were coiling and uncoiling. A vapor rose from the fiery mass that glowed with a hideous radiance in all the colors of the spectrum.

At intervals, huge geysers of living flame spurted up from the surface to a height of many feet and fell back in a glistening of molten gold and coruscating diamonds.

It was a scene that if it could have been viewed with safety would have drawn tourists in thousands from every corner of the globe.

But to the two spectators the thought that they were looking on one of the marvels of the world brought nothing but desolation and despair.

"This must be the source of the lava flow when the whale's hump is in eruption," said Drew in a toneless voice.

"I suppose so," said Ruth in a voice that for dreariness was a replica of his own. "Do you think it's possible for us to get around it in any way, Allen?"

"Not a chance in the world," answered Drew. "You can see that the passage we followed ends at the brink of the crater. From there on, there's just a wall of solid rock. The only thing left for us to do is to get back to the place where the cave split into three parts."

They retraced their steps with hearts that grew heavier at every step. The passage that had seemed most promising had yielded nothing but bitter disappointment. Only two other chances remained, and who could tell that they led anywhere but to death?

At the juncture of the passageways, they hesitated for a moment only. There was absolutely nothing to indicate that they should take one of the remaining two paths rather than the other. Impenetrable blackness covered both.

"Which shall it be, Ruth?" asked Drew.

"You do the choosing, Allen," Ruth responded.

At a venture he took the one leading to the left, but had not proceeded more than a hundred feet when he stopped abruptly on the very brink of a chasm that spanned the entire width of the passage-way. There was no ledge however narrow to furnish a foothold along its sides. Once more they were absolutely blocked.

Drew checked a groan and Ruth stifled something suspiciously like a sob. The tension under which they were was fast reaching the breaking point.

"Never mind," said Drew, stoutly recovering himself. "There's luck in odd numbers and the third time we win."

"First the worst, second the same, last the best of all the game," responded Ruth with an attempt at heartiness.

Again they went back and took the only way remaining. Upon the ending of that passage their life or death depended.

But as they advanced steadily and no barrier interfered, their spirits rose. Then suddenly they cried aloud in their joy, for on turning a sharp bend in the path a rush of air almost extinguished the torch that Drew was carrying.

A hundred feet ahead was an opening thickly covered with bushes, but large enough to admit of forcing a passage!

Ruth dropped her load of surplus torches. Drew, grasping her arm, hurried her along. He forced the bushes apart and pushed her through. Then he followed. They heard a wild shout and the next minute Ruth was sobbing in her father's arms, while Tyke—hardy grizzled old Tyke—had thrown his arms around Allen in a bear's hug and was blubbering like a baby.



There was a wild babble of questions and answers, and it was a long time before all had calmed down enough to talk coherently.

The captain and Tyke in their frantic search had come just abreast of the outlet at the moment when Ruth and Allen had burst out into daylight and safety.

Their hearts thrilled as they listened to the dreadful perils through which had passed the two who were dearest to them on earth and the narration was punctuated with expressions of consternation and sympathy.

"Well now," suggested Ruth after a half hour had passed, "let's get back to work."

"No more work this afternoon," ejaculated the captain. "You're going straight back to the ship."

"Indeed I'm not, Daddy," rejoined Ruth. "I'm all right now and I'll be vastly happier sitting here and seeing you go on with the work than to feel I've made you lose a day. We've got some hours of daylight yet."

The captain protested, but Ruth coaxed and wheedled him till he consented and they all went back to the ditch they had started and went to work, Ruth alone of the party being forbidden to lift a finger.

They excavated to the volcanic ledge in half a dozen places. In none did they find a trace of treasure—not a sign that this soil had ever before been disturbed by the hand of man.

"Bad mackerel!" grumbled Captain Hamilton, finally climbing out of his last pit. "This looks as if we'd been handed a rotten deal from a cold deck."

Tyke looked up from his work, and began:

"Mebbe that—Now, if I was superstitious—Oh, well," he went on hastily, "you can't expect to find a fortune in a minute."

"But we got the bearings all right, according to the map, didn't we?" demanded the captain with some asperity.

"We certainly did," Drew put it.

"We can't dig over the whole island," complained Captain Hamilton. "It would be foolish. Hush! What's that?"

A rumble, a sound from the very bowels of the hill, smote upon their ears. Ruth ran to them.

"Oh, Daddy!" she cried, "is there going to be another earthquake?"

"Look there!" Drew said pointing upward.

Over the summit of the whale's hump hung a balloon of smoke, or of steam, its underside of a lurid hue.

"I say I've had enough for one day," declared the master of the Bertha Hamilton. "Let's get back to the schooner before anything else occurs. Maybe a night's sleep will put heart in us. But I tell you right now, I, for one, would sell my share in the pirate's treasure at a big discount."

The captain was the most outspoken of the treasure seekers; but they were all despondent. They hid their digging tools, and departed for the shore of the lagoon, the volcano rumbling at times behind them.

They emerged from the forest just as the sun was setting. As they came out on the beach they were surprised to see that it was bare. Neither the longboat nor the smaller one was in sight, nor could anything be seen of the crews.

The captain called some of the men by name. There was no response. Then he cupped his hands at his mouth, and his stentorian voice rang over the waters of the lagoon.

"Ship ahoy!"

In a moment there was an answering hail, and they soon saw that a boat was being manned. It came rapidly inshore, propelled by four members of the crew, and, as it drew nearer, they could see that Rogers was seated at the tiller.

As the boat reached the beach the second officer stepped out.

"What does this mean, Mr. Rogers?" asked the captain sternly.

"Mr. Ditty's orders, sir," replied the second officer. "The men got scared at the earthquake this morning, sir, and after that second quake they flatly refused to stay ashore. So Mr. Ditty let them go back to the ship."

"But why didn't he leave the other boat's crew waiting for me?" asked the captain. "If they were afraid to remain ashore they could have stayed in the boat, rigged an awning to shield them from the sun, and laid off and on within hail."

"That's what I thought, sir, and I said as much to Mr. Ditty. But he shut me up sharp, and said it would be time enough to send a boat when you should come in sight, sir."

The captain bit his lip, but said no more, and the party stepped into the boat. They soon reached the Bertha Hamilton, and all climbed aboard. The first officer was standing near the rail.

"Come aft and report to me after supper, Mr. Ditty," ordered the captain brusquely.

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the mate.

As soon as supper was over and Ruth had gone to her stateroom the captain started to go on deck, but Tyke put his hand on his arm.

"Going to give Ditty a dressing down, I suppose," he remarked.

"He's got it coming to him," snapped Captain Hamilton.

"He surely has," agreed Tyke. "But have you thought that perhaps that's jest what he wants you to do?"

The captain sat down heavily.

"Get it off your chest, Tyke," he said. "Tell me what you mean."

"I mean jest this," said Tyke. "Often there's trouble in the wind that never comes to anything because the feller that's brewing it don't git a chance to start it. He fiddles 'round waiting for an opening; but if he don't find it the trouble jest dies a natural death.

"Now, this Ditty, I think, is looking for an opening. As far as his letting his own boat's crew come on board when you had told him to keep them on shore for the day is concerned, that can be overlooked. You can't blame the men for being scared, an' any mate might be excused for using his own judgment under those conditions.

"But his not keeping your boat's crew waiting for you, even if they stayed a little away from the shore, was rank disrespect. He knew you would take it so. He knew it would weaken your authority with the crew. An' he expects you'll call him down for it. Isn't that so?"

"Of course it is," agreed Captain Hamilton.

"Well then," pursued Tyke, "if he did that deliberately, expecting you'd rake him fore and aft for it, it shows that he wants you to start something, don't it? An' my principle in a fight is to find out what the other feller wants and then not do it. He wants to provoke you. Don't let yourself be provoked or you'll play right into his hands."

"I might as well make him captain of the ship and be done with it," cried Captain Hamilton bitterly. "I've never let a man get away with anything like that yet."

"An' we won't let this feller git away with it for long," answered Tyke. "We'll give him a trimming he'll never forgit. But we'll choose our own time for it, an' that time ain't now. Wait till we've found the treasure an' got it safe on board. Then, my mighty! if he starts anything, put him an' his gang ashore an' sail without 'em."

"You think, then, he wants me to knock the chip off his shoulder?" mused the captain.

"Exactly," replied Tyke. "An' if you don't, he may be so flabbergasted that before he cooks up anything new we'll have the whip hand of him."

"Well, I'll do as you say, though it sure does go against the grain."

Tyke's recipe worked; for when Ditty sauntered to the poop a little later to receive the rebuke which he expected and which he was prepared to resent, the wind was taken out of his sails by the captain's good nature and pleasant smile.

"Quite a little scare the men got, I suppose, when they felt the quake this morning?" Captain Hamilton inquired genially.

"Yes, sir," replied the mate. "There was nothin' to do but to get back to the ship. Some of 'em was so scared that they would 've swum the lagoon, and I didn't want 'em to do that for fear of sharks."

"Quite right, Mr. Ditty," returned the captain approvingly. "That is all."

Still Ditty lingered.

"I ordered the men in your boat to come back too," he said, eyeing the skipper aslant.

"That was all right too," replied the captain absently, as though the matter was of no importance. "The ship was so near that it wasn't worth while keeping the men out there in the sun all day."

Ditty stared. This was not the strict disciplinarian that Captain Hamilton had always been. He hesitated, opened his mouth to say something, found nothing to say, and at last, with his ideas disordered, went sullenly away. If he had planned to bring things to a crisis he had signally failed.

Captain Hamilton watched the retreating back of his mate with a somber glow in his eyes that contrasted strongly with the forced smile of a moment before, and then retired to the cabin to go again into conference with Grimshaw.



Allen Drew had not been a party to the conference between Captain Hamilton and Grimshaw after supper. After the strenuous exertions of the day he had felt the need of a bath and a change of linen.

Once more clothed and feeling refreshed, Drew paced the afterdeck with his cigar, hearing the voices of Captain Hamilton and Tyke in the former's cabin, but having no desire just then to join them.

Although his body was rejuvenated, his mind was far from peaceful. He had not lost hope of their finding what they had come so far to search for; he still believed the pirate hoard to be buried on the side of the whale's hump. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" but hope had not been long enough deferred in this case to sicken any of the party of treasure seekers. Yet there was a great sickness at the heart of Allen Drew.

That particular incident of the afternoon that had brought the remembrance of Parmalee so keenly to his mind, had thrown a pall over his thoughts not easily lifted.

It had shown, too, that Parmalee's strange and awful death had strongly affected Ruth. That mystery was likely to erect a barrier between the girl and himself. Indeed, it had done so already. Drew felt it—he knew it!

There was in her father's attitude something intangible, yet certain enough, which spelled the captain's doubt of him. As long as Parmalee's disappearance remained unexplained, as long as Ditty's story could not be disproved, Drew felt that Captain Hamilton would nurse in his mind a doubt of his innocence.

And that doubt, if it remained, whether Drew was ever tried for the crime of Parmalee's murder or not, just as surely put Ruth out of his grasp as though his hands actually dripped of the dead man's blood.

Captain Hamilton would never see his daughter marry a man under such a cloud. Drew appreciated the character of the schooner's commander too thoroughly to base any illusions upon the fact that Hamilton treated him kindly. They were partners in this treasure hunt. The doubloons once secured, the Bertha Hamilton once in port, Drew well knew that Ruth's father would do what he felt to be his duty. He would be Drew's accuser at the bar of public justice. That, undoubtedly, was a foregone conclusion.

Plunged in the depth of these despairing thoughts, Drew was startled by the light fall of a soft hand upon his arm, and he descried the slight figure of Ruth beside him.

"Walking the deck alone, Allen?" she said softly. "I wondered where you were."

"Just doing my usual forty laps after supper," he responded, trying to speak lightly.

"I should think your work to-day in the digging, to say nothing of our experience in the cave, would have been as much exercise as you really needed," she said, laughing. "And all for nothing!"

"We could scarcely expect success so soon," he replied.

"No? Perhaps success is not to be our portion, Allen. What then?"

"Well," and he tried to say it cheerfully, "we've had a run for our money."

"A run for the pirate's money, you mean. Let's see," she added slyly, "that confession did not state just how many doubloons were buried, did it?"

"The amount specified I failed to make out," he told her. "Time had erased it."

"Then we are after an unknown amount—an unknown quantity of doubloons. And perhaps we are fated never to know the amount of the pirate's hoard," and she laughed again. Then, suddenly, she clutched his arm more tightly as they paced the deck together, crying under her breath: "Oh! look yonder Allen."

A strangely flickering light dispelled the pall that hung above the hilltop. The cloud of smoke or steam, rising from the crater and which they had first seen that afternoon, was now illuminated and shot through with rays of light evidently reflected from the bowels of the hill.

"The volcano is surely alive!" cried the young man.

The crew, loafing on the forecastle, saw the phenomenon, and their chattering voices rose in a chorus of excitement. Tyke came up from below and joined Drew and the captain's daughter. The glare of the volcano illuminated the night, and they could see each other's features distinctly.

"Looks like we'd stirred things up over there," chuckled the old man. "There are more'n ghosts of dead and gone pirates guarding that treasure."

"It—it is rather terrifying, isn't it?" Ruth suggested.

"It is to them ignorant swabs for'ard," growled Tyke. "Good thing, though. They'll be too scared to want to roam over the island. We want it to ourselves till we find the loot. Don't we, Allen?"

"That's true. The disturbance over there may not be an unmitigated evil," was the young man's rejoinder.

Captain Hamilton called Ruth through the open window of his cabin, and she bade Grimshaw and Allen Drew good night and went below. Tyke remained only long enough to finish his cigar, then he departed.

The light over the volcano faded, the rumblings ceased. Drew, in his rubber-soled shoes, paced the deck alone; but he could not be seen ten feet away, for he wore dark clothes.

He knew that Mr. Rogers had long since gone to his room. Most of the crew had either sought their bunks or were stretched out on the forecastle hatch. Yet he heard a low murmur of voices from amidships. When he paced to that end of his walk, the voices reached him quite clearly and he recognized that of the one-eyed mate. The other man he knew to be Bingo, the only English sailor aboard—a shrewd and rat-faced little Cockney.

"Blime me, Bug-eye! but wot Hi sye Hi means. The devil 'imself's near where there's so much brimstone. If that hull bloomin' 'ill blows hup, where'll we be, Hi axes ye?"

"Jest here or hereabouts," growled Ditty.

Drew stepped nearer and frankly listened to the conversation.

"Hi'm as 'ungry for blunt as the next bloke, an' ye sye there's plenty hin it——"

"Slathers of it, Bingo," said the mate earnestly. "Why, man! some of these islands down here are rotten with buried pirate gold. Millions and millions was stole and buried by them old boys."

"Yah! Hi've 'eard hall that before, Hi 'ave. Who hain't?" said Bingo, with considerable shrewdness. "Honly hit halways struck me that if them old buccaneers, as they calls 'em, was proper sailormen, they'd 'ave spent the hull blunt hinstead o' buryin' hof hit."

"Holy heavers, Bingo, they couldn't spend it all!" exclaimed Ditty. "There was too much of it. Millions, mind you!"

"Millions! My heye!" croaked the Cockney. "A million of yer Hamerican dollars or a million sterling?"

"You can lay to it," said Ditty firmly, "that there's more'n one million in English pounds buried in these here islands. And there's a bunch of it somewheres on this island."

"Then, Bug-eye, wye don't we git that map hand dig it hup hourselves on the bloomin' jump? Wye wite? We kin easy 'andle the hafter-guard."

"The boys are balkin', that's why," growled Ditty. "They're like you—afraid of that rotten old volcano."

"Blime me! Hand wye wouldn't they be scare't hof hit?" snarled the Cockney.

"That bein' the general feelin'," Ditty said calmly, "why we'll stick to my plan. Let the old man dig it up hisself and bring it aboard.

"It'll save us the trouble, won't it? And mebbe we can git rid of some of the swabs, one at a time——"

"Huh!" chuckled Bingo. "One's gone halready. Hi see yer bloomin' scheme, Bug-eye."

"Well, then," said the mate, rising from his seat, "keep it to yourself and take your orders from me, like the rest does."

"Hall right, matey, hall right," said Bingo, and likewise stood up.

Drew dared remain no longer. He stole away to the stern and stood for a while, looking over the rail into the black water—no blacker than the rage that filled his heart.

He felt half tempted to attack the treacherous Ditty with his bare hands and strangle the rascal. But he knew that this was no time for a reckless move. There were only himself, the captain, and Tyke to face this promised mutiny. Probably they could trust Rogers, and some few of the men forward might be faithful to the after-guard. The uncertainty of this, however, was appalling.

After a time he went below and rapped lightly on the captain's door. The commander of the Bertha Hamilton opened to him instantly. He was partly undressed.

"Eh? That you, Mr. Drew?"

"Sh! Put out your light, Captain. I'll bring Mr. Grimshaw. I have something to tell you both," whispered the young man.

"All right," said the captain, quick to understand.

His light was out before Drew reached Tyke's door. This was unlocked, but the old man was in his berth. Long years at sea had made Tyke a light sleeper. He often said he slept with one eye open.

"That you, Allen?"

"Yes. Hush! We want you in the captain's room—he and I. Come just as you are."

"Aye, aye!" grunted the old man, instantly out of his berth.

The light was turned low in the saloon. Drew did not know whether Ditty had come down or not; but unmistakable nasal sounds from Mr. Roger's room assured him that the second officer was safe.

Tyke, light-footed as a cat, followed him to Captain Hamilton's door. It was ajar, and they went in. The commander of the schooner sat on the edge of his berth. They could see each other dimly in the faint light that entered through the transom over the door. Captain Hamilton had drawn the blind at the window.

"Well, what's up?" he murmured.

Drew wasted no time, but in whispers repeated the conversation he had overheard between Bingo and the mate. When he had finished, Tyke observed coolly:

"I'd 've bet dollars to doughnuts that that was the way she headed. Now we know. Eh, Cap'n Rufe?"

"Yes," grunted the captain.

"What shall we do?" asked Drew.

"Do? Keep on," Captain Hamilton said firmly. "What d' you say, Tyke?"

"Yes," agreed Grimshaw. "Ditty is playing a waiting game. So will we. An' we have the advantage."

"I don't see that," Drew muttered.

"Why, we know his plans. He don't know ours," explained the old man. "We haven't got to worry about them swabs till we've found the doubloons, anyway."

"If we find 'em," murmured the captain.

"By George! we're bound to find 'em," Tyke said, with confidence. "That's what we come down here for."

His enthusiasm seemed unquenched. Drew could not lose heart when the old man was so hopefully determined.

"But Miss Ruth?" Allen suggested timidly, looking at Captain Hamilton.

"Don't bother about her," answered the captain shortly. "She'll not be out of my sight a minute. She must go ashore with us every day. I'll not trust her aboard alone with these scoundrels."

They talked little more that night; but it was agreed to take all the firearms and much of the ammunition, disguised in wrappings of some kind, ashore with them in the morning and conceal all with the digging tools.

"Jest as well to take them all along," Tyke had advised. "I hope we won't have to use 'em. But if we're going to take Rogers with us to-morrow and leave Ditty in charge here, the rascal might go nosing around an' find them guns."

"I hate to leave Ditty in possession of the schooner," returned the captain, with a worried look.

"So do I," admitted Tyke. "But after all, it isn't only the schooner he wants. She's no good to him until we git the treasure aboard. The only men it will be wise to take with us to-morrow are Rogers an' a boat's crew that you know you can trust."

Immediately after breakfast the next morning the captain summoned the second officer.

"I want you to take me ashore this morning, Mr. Rogers," he said; "and as I have a lot of heavy dunnage that the men will have to carry, I'll want a husky crew. Take six men; and I want you to take special pains in picking out the best men we have. Men whom we can trust and who haven't been mixed up with the whispering and the queer business that you mentioned."

The second officer's eye flashed, and he nodded understandingly.

"Aye, aye, sir," he replied. "As for the men, sir," he went on reflectively, "there's a dozen I could stake my life on who wouldn't be in any crooked game. Suppose," he counted off on his fingers, "we take Olsen and Binney and Barker and Dodd and Thompson and Willis. They're all true blue, and I don't think they're in such a funk over the volcano as some of the others."

"They'll do," assented the captain. "They're the very men I had in mind. Call some of them down now and have them get this stuff up on deck. And tell the cook to send dinner grub along, for we may be gone all day."

"Aye, aye, sir," answered Rogers, as he left the cabin.

A little later the party gathered at the rail, and the captain spoke to the mate.

"Mr. Rogers is going to take us ashore, Mr. Ditty," he said pleasantly. "There are no special orders. You can let some of the men have shore leave if they want it, although after yesterday I don't suppose they will."

"I suppose not," replied Ditty surlily. "They'll all be glad when we turn our backs on this cursed island."

The captain pretended not to hear. The goods were stowed in the boat, the party and crew took their places, and the craft was pulled smartly to the beach.

"Now, my lads," said the captain briskly, as he stepped ashore, "there's quite a trip ahead of you and you've got a man's job in carrying this stuff, but I'll see that you don't lose anything by it. Step up smartly now."

The men shouldered their burdens and started off on the trail that had now grown familiar to the treasure seekers. The men were able to maintain a fairly rapid pace, and before long the party arrived at the edge of the clearing within which the treasure was supposed to be buried.

The captain took Rogers aside.

"Take your men back to the beach now, Mr. Rogers," he directed. "Remember, I want none of them poking about here. We'll rejoin you in good season for supper, if not before."

"Aye, aye, sir!" was the cheerful reply.

Rogers turned with his men, and the captain watched their backs far down the forest path, until they were lost to sight in the greenery of the jungle.

"Well now," he remarked, as he turned again to the others, "lively's the word. Let's get busy and——. Great Scott! Look at that!" he exclaimed, staring at the top of the whale's hump.

A column of black smoke was rising from the crater.

"Looks like the whale was going to blow again," Tyke said, with a feeble attempt at levity to disguise his apprehension.

The next moment the ears of the party were deafened by a terrific explosion.



No thunder that had ever been heard could be compared with the sound of the explosion. It was like the bellowing of a thousand cannon. It was as though the island were being ripped apart.

The earth shook and staggered drunkenly beneath the feet of the treasure seekers. Great trees in the adjacent forest fell with tremendous uproar. The slope of the whale's hump was ridged until it looked like a giant accordion. Crevasses opened, extending from the summit of the hill downward. Rocks came tumbling down by the score, and a column of smoke and flame rose from the crater to a height of two hundred feet or more.

None of the party had been able to keep on a footing. All had been thrown to the ground by the first shock, and there they lay, sick from that awful seismic vibration.

A cloud of almost impalpable dust spread broadly and shrouded the sun. There was not a breath of air astir. Not a living thing was to be seen in the open—even the lizards had disappeared.

The spot where they had delved the day before, was now in plain view to the treasure seekers. They saw the hillside yawn there in an awful paroxysm, till the aperture was several yards wide. Then, from beneath, there shot into the open, smoking rocks, debris of many kinds, and—something else! Drew, seeing this final object, shrieked aloud. His voice could not be heard above the uproar, but the others saw his mouth agape, and struggled to see that at which he was pointing so wildly.

The crevasse closed with a crash and jar that rocked the whole island. It was the final throe of the volcano's travail. The lurid light above the crater subsided. The dust began to fall thick upon the treasure seekers as they lay upon the ground. They sat up, dazed and horror-stricken. It was some time before their palsied tongues could speak, and when they did, the words came almost in whispers.

Drew found that his arm was around Ruth. She had been near him when the first shock came, and he had seized her instinctively. Now he turned to her and asked:

"You're not hurt, are you, Ruth?"

"N—no," she gasped, "but dreadfully frightened! Oh, let's get away from here!"

She realized that he was holding her and drew away with a faint blush. He released her and staggered to his feet.

Tyke and the captain followed suit, and the three men looked at each other.

"Now, if I was superstitious——" began Tyke in a quavering voice.

"Never mind any 'ifs' just now," interrupted the captain. "We've got to get away from here just as fast as the good Lord will let us. I don't believe in tempting Providence."

"And leave the doubloons?" queried Tyke, in dismay.

"Yes, and leave the doubloons," replied the captain stubbornly. "If Ruth weren't here, we men might take a chance, but my daughter is worth more to me than all the pirate gold buried in the Caribbean."

Drew, if inaudibly, agreed with him. "Let's get Ruth down to the shore, anyway," he said. "Then, if you'll come back—— I saw something just at that last crash."

"By the great jib-boom!" roared Tyke, "so did I. What did you see, Allen? Something shot up out o' one o' them pits we dug yesterday. I saw it. An' it wasn't a lava boulder, neither!"

"You're right, there," Drew agreed. "It was a box or something. Too square-shaped to be a rock."

"We can't fool with it now," Captain Hamilton said, with determination, though his eyes sparkled. "Come, Ruth. I must get you down to the boat."

But here the girl exercised a power of veto. "I don't go unless the rest of you do—and to remain, too," she declared. "I am not a child. Of course, I'm afraid of that volcano. But so are you men. And it's all over now. If Allen really saw something that looked like a box or a chest thrown out of that opening, I'm going to——"

She left the rest unspoken, but started boldly for the barren patch where they had dug the day before. It looked now like a piece of plowed ground over which were scattered blocks of lava of all sizes and shapes.

Captain Hamilton hesitated, but Drew ran ahead, reaching the spot first. Anxious and frightened as he had been at the moment of the phenomenon, the young man had noted exactly the spot where the strange object had fallen. Half buried in a heap of earth was a discolored, splintered chest. Its ancient appearance led Drew to utter a shout of satisfaction.

"I guess we've got it," he remarked in a tone that he tried to keep calm, but which trembled in spite of himself.

A cry of delight rose from all. The men joined Drew, and helped him clear away the earth. The chest soon stood revealed. Then by using their spades as levers, they pried it loose and by their united efforts dragged it over to the shade at the jungle's edge. They sat beside it there, panting, almost too exhausted from the excitement and their tremendous efforts to move or speak.

Ruth fluttered about like a humming bird, excited and eager. She looked somewhat less disheveled and begrimed than the men. But if they looked like trench diggers, they felt like plutocrats, and their hearts were swelling with jubilation.

The map had not lied! The paper had not lied! That old pirate, Ramon Alvarez, who had probably told a thousand lies, had told the truth at last in his ardent desire for the shriving of Holy Church. The treasure lay before them!

And how wonderfully the chest had been revealed to them! Not by their own exertions had the pirate hoard been uncovered!

A moment more and they were on their feet, Tyke panting:

"Now, if I was superstitious——"

They would have plenty of time for resting later on. Now a fierce impatience consumed them. They must see the contents of the box!

The chest was about five feet long, two feet wide and three feet deep. It was made of thick oak, and was bound by heavy bands of iron. A huge padlock held it closed.

The box had originally been of enormous strength, but time and nature and the earthquake had done their work. The wood was swollen and warped, the iron bands were eaten with rust. But the lock resisted their efforts when they sought to lift the cover.

"Stand clear!" cried Captain Hamilton, raising his spade.

He struck the padlock a smashing blow. Then he stooped and lifted the cover, which yielded groaningly.

A cry burst simultaneously from the treasure seekers.





Priceless treasures heaped in careless profusion, glinting, glowing, coruscating, scintillating threw back in splendor the rays of the tropic sun.

None of them could remember afterward quite how they acted in those first few minutes of unchained emotion. But they laughed and sang, cheered and shouted, and it was a long time before the rioting of their blood ceased and they regained a measure of self-control.

There was no attempt made to measure the value of the treasure trove. There would be time for that later on. What they did know beyond the shadow of a doubt was that wealth enough lay before them to make them all rich for the rest of their lives.

Gold there was, both coined and melted into bars; Spanish doubloons, Indian rupees, French louis, English guineas; cups and candelabra; chains and watches; jewels too, in whose depths flashed rainbow hues, amethysts, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, strings upon strings of shimmering pearls.

The discoverers bathed their hands in the golden store, running the coins in sparkling streams through their fingers, all the time feeling that they were moving in a dream from which at any moment they must be rudely awakened.

At last the captain's voice, a bit husky from emotion, brought them back to practical realities.

"Well, the first log of our voyage is written up," he said. "But now let's get down to the question of what we're to do next. How are we to get this stuff aboard?"

All sobered a little as they faced the problem.

"We can take the chest just as it is," said Tyke. "A four-man load, though."

"What will the crew think?" Drew asked somewhat anxiously.

"Let 'em think and be hanged to 'em!" replied Captain Hamilton. "Yet," he added a moment later, "with things in the shaky condition they are and that rascal, Ditty, planning mischief, we don't want to take too many chances."

"Couldn't we make a number of trips back and forth and take some of the treasure with us each time until we got it all on board?" suggested Ruth. "We could carry a lot in our clothes and we could wrap some up to look like the bundles we brought ashore."

"Take too long," objected her father.

"How would this do?" was Drew's contribution. "As has already been said, the men would be surprised to see us bring a box aboard if they hadn't first seen us take it ashore. Now, suppose we take one of the ship's chests, load it with some worthless junk that would make it as heavy as this box, and bring it ashore. We could bring it up here, throw away the contents, put the treasure in it, and then call on the men to take it back to the ship. They'd recognize it as the same one they'd brought over, and their thinking would stop right there."

"By Jove, I believe you've hit it, Allen!" exclaimed the captain.

"That sounds sensible," conceded Tyke. "I guess it's the only way."

"Well, now that that's settled," went on the captain, "what are we going to do with the treasure in the meanwhile? It's getting late now. We can't get it aboard to-day. We'll want eight men besides Rogers. Then, there's all this hardware," and he indicated the firearms.

"Couldn't we leave it just where it is until we come back to-morrow?" ventured Ruth. "There isn't a soul on the island, and we'll be here the first thing in the morning."

"A little too risky, I'm afraid," said Tyke. "It's dollars to doughnuts that there's no one on the island but ourselves and the boat's crew; yet we'd go 'round kicking ourselves for the rest of our lives if we found to-morrow that some one had been here an' helped himself."

"Let's pile some of these loose lava blocks on top of the chest," said Drew. "Make a regular mound. It will look as though the earthquake had done it."

That plan seemed the best, and they acted on it. They closed the cover after one more lingering, delighted look at the chest's gleaming contents, then they built the cairn.

"One sure thing," observed Tyke. "There isn't anybody going to come up here for jest a little pleasure jog—not much! That volcano's likely to spit again 'most any time."

The party started for the lagoon with their hearts bounding with exultation. But as they entered the forest path they were startled by the sight of Rogers and his men hastening toward them.

The captain was about to utter a rebuke, but when he saw the pale and frightened faces of the men he checked his tongue.

"Well, Mr. Rogers, what is it?" he asked. "Got a pretty good scare, I suppose, like the rest of us. I guess the quake's all over now."

"I hope so, sir," replied the second officer. "I thought sure it was all over with the lot of us. But it isn't that, sir, that I came back for. The boat's gone."

"Gone!" exclaimed the captain, staring.

"Yes, sir. It must have pushed away from the shore when the earth shook so. Just down here below a bit is a place where you can see the lagoon, and I caught sight of the boat about half-way between the shore and the ship."

"Oh well, if that's all, there isn't any great harm done. Mr. Ditty will send out and pick up the boat."

"But there's something else, sir," went on the seaman hoarsely. "As I looked out, it seemed to me, sir, as if the reef had closed up behind the schooner."

"What?" roared the captain.

"It's gospel truth sir," persisted the second officer. "I thought at first I must be dreaming. But I looked carefully, sir, and you can call me a swab if it isn't so! I couldn't see any sign at all of the passage where we came in, sir."

The captain's bronzed face paled, as the full significance of the news burst upon him.

"Come along and show me the place where you can see the schooner," he commanded, and started to run, followed by the whole party.

They had not far to go. At a place where the earthquake had rooted out a monster tree, a clear view could be had of the entire lagoon.

There lay the Bertha Hamilton, straining at her cable in the commotion of the waters that had been stirred up by the earthquake. And there was the small boat tossing about like a chip. But the captain wasted not a second glance at these. He had seized his binoculars and his gaze was fixed upon the reef. As he looked, his visage became ashen.

The passage through which the ship had come into the lagoon was entirely closed!

A barrier had been thrown up from the ocean floor, and this completely landlocked the lagoon in which the schooner rode at anchor. The lagoon had welcomed the ship as though with extended arms. Now those arms were closed and the hands were interlocked.

The captain groaned at the magnitude of the disaster.

"Oh, Daddy, dear!" cried Ruth, darting to his side. "Don't take it so hard! There'll be some way out!"

"Never!" cried the captain. "The Bertha Hamilton is done for. There's no way to get her out. She'll lie there now until she rots."

"And we're prisoners on this island," gasped Drew.

They looked at each other, appalled. This last statement seemed to be irrefutable. They were captives on the island, which seemed itself to be in the throes of dissolution.



Drew was the first to rally from the shock of this discovery.

"It is a terrible situation, God knows," he said. "And I know, too, Captain, how you must feel the loss of the schooner—if it is lost. But there may be a chance left of releasing her. The reef looks solid from here, but when you get close to it there may be a crevice through which she can be warped.

"She don't draw much water in ballast," comforted Tyke, although in his heart he had little hope. "An' you've got some giant powder on board. Perhaps we can blast a passage."

The captain straightened up and took a grip on himself.

"We won't give up without a fight, anyway," he said; and Ruth rejoiced to hear the old militant ring in his voice. "The first thing to do is to get on board the ship. Come along down to the beach."

The others hurried after him as fast as they could, but, owing to the number of trees that had been thrown down, their progress was exasperatingly slow. But even in the turmoil of his emotion, Drew blessed the chance that made it possible for him to hold Ruth's arm, and in some especially difficult places to lift her over obstacles.

They reached the beach and the captain hailed the ship. Again and again he sent his voice booming over the water, and the others supplemented his efforts by waving their arms. It was impossible that they should not have been heard or seen; but the Bertha Hamilton might have been a phantom vessel for all the response that was evoked.

The captain fumed and stormed with impatience.

"What's the matter with those swabs?" he growled.

"Ah! now they're lowering a boat," cried Drew.

"They've taken their time about it," growled the captain.

The boat put out from the side and headed for the beach. When half-way there, the rowers overtook the captain's boat and secured it. Then, instead of resuming their journey, they turned deliberately about and rowed back. The boats were both hoisted to the davits and quietness again reigned on the schooner.

The stupefied spectators on the beach felt as though they had taken leave of their senses.

"Well, of all the——" raged Captain Hamilton, when he was interrupted by the sound of a shot fired on the schooner. Two others followed in quick succession. Then came a roar of voices. A moment later a man leaped from the mizzen shrouds over the rail. He was shot in midair, and those ashore heard his shriek as he threw up his arms and disappeared in the still heaving waters of the lagoon.

"Mutiny!" roared Captain Hamilton.

"Yes," echoed Tyke; "mutiny!"

Horror was stamped on every face. One blow had been succeeded by another still more crushing. It was now not only a question of the loss of the schooner. Their very lives might be threatened.

"That scoundrel, Ditty!" gasped the captain.

"It's too bad we pulled Allen off him the other day," ejaculated Tyke savagely. "We ought to have let him finish the job."

"Thank God we've got the weapons anyway!" exclaimed Captain Hamilton.

"Don't think that he hasn't got some too," warned Tyke. "You heard those shots. No doubt the rascal's got all the guns and ammunition he wants. You can gamble on it that he isn't figuring on fighting us with his bare hands."

The captain turned to Rogers and the boat's crew.

"What do you know about this, Mr. Rogers?" he said quietly. "Can we count on you?"

"That you can, Captain," replied Rogers heartily. "I only know what I've told you before, sir."

"And how about you, my lads?" Captain Hamilton continued, addressing the boat's crew. "Are you going to stand with your captain?"

There was a chorus of eager assent. Not one of them flinched or wavered, and indignation was hot in their eyes.

"Good!" cried the captain approvingly. "I knew you'd sailed with me too long to desert me when it came to a pinch."

"That makes ten of us altogether," observed Tyke Grimshaw.

"Eleven," put in Ruth. "Don't forget me."

"Eleven," repeated the master of the Bertha Hamilton, looking at her fondly. "You're a true sailor's daughter, Ruth. I'm proud of you, my dear."

"Eleven," said Drew. "That leaves twenty-five on the ship, including Ditty."

"Twenty-four," put in Tyke. "There's one less than there was a few minutes ago."

"Yes," agreed the captain sadly. "And I've no doubt the poor fellow was killed because he wouldn't join the rest of the gang. Twenty-four, then. That's pretty big odds against eleven."

"Beggin' your pardon, sir," said Barker, who was the oldest man of the crew, "but there's some of our mates over there that wouldn't never fight on the side of that Bug-eye—meanin' no disrespect to the mate, sir. Whitlock wouldn't for one, nor Gunther, nor Trent. I'd lay to that, sir."

"No, sir," put in Thompson; "an' Ashley wouldn't neither. No more would Sanders."

"I believe you, my lads," replied the captain. "They've sailed with us before. But even if they don't fight against us, they can't fight with us as things stand now. The very least that Ditty will do with them is to hold them prisoners until he's put the job through."

"But he isn't going to put it through," cried Drew, his eyes kindling.

"Not by a jug full!" declared Tyke. "But we'll know we've been in a fight, I s'pose, before we can prove that to him. He's put his head in the noose now, an' he'll be desperate."

"I only hope I get a chance at him before the hangman does," muttered Drew.

"There's not much to be done until those fellows come over here," said the captain reflectively. "We've no way of getting out there to the schooner. This thing will have to be fought out on land."

"Do you suppose they'll attack us right away, or try to starve us out?" Drew asked. "They've got the advantage in having provisions."

"No chance of starving us," replied Captain Hamilton. "There's plenty of fruit here, and then there are birds and small game. I saw an agouti run by a little while ago."

"Oh! Why, that's a rat, Daddy! Or is it a sort of 'possum?" cried Ruth, with a shudder. "And you men were hinting the other day that poor Wah Lee might serve us up some dainty dish like that!" she added with a chuckle.

"By George!" Tyke suddenly shouted. "There's cookee an' the steward! We forgot them in our calculations. How about 'em, Cap'n Rufe?"

"Oh, that's so!" cried Ruth. "That little Jap boy never would turn against us, surely!"

"Nor Wah Lee," said Captain Hamilton reflectively.

"Neither of 'em would be much good," remarked Tyke. "You know how them critters are—both Chinks and Japs. Cold-blooded as fish. They'll keep on cooking for the mutineers an' serving 'em. It's none of their pidgin whether that rascal, Ditty, bosses 'em or you are at the helm, Cap'n Rufe."

"Well, I expect you're right," agreed Captain Hamilton. "They're poor fish to fry. We can't count on them to supply us with grub, that's sure," and he laughed shortly.

"An' look here!" exclaimed Tyke, coming back to their former discussion. "How about water? We might git along on this sulphur water for a little while, but we couldn't stand it long."

"That's a little more serious," admitted the captain. "But we can get milk from the cocoanuts. There's plenty of them. And there's the chance of rain, too.

"But I don't think it will come to a siege," he continued, aside to Tyke. "Ditty will figure that he's got to have quick action. He knows that a vessel of some kind may come along any time, and then his cake will be dough. Besides, that bunch of rough-necks will be impatient for the loot that I've no doubt he's promised them."

"Where are you going to wait for him?" asked Tyke.

"Up at the whale's hump," replied the captain. "We can build a sort of fortification there that will help make up for our lack of numbers. They'll have to come out of the woods into the open up there, too. We might wait here on the beach, but they could keep out of gunshot, and we wouldn't get a decision. They can't land too quick to suit me."

Acting on this decision, the party started back at once, dropping Rogers by the way at the ledge that overlooked the sea, so that he could bring to them a report of any action taken by the mutineers.

Ruth's presence at his side was very dear to Drew as they toiled along, but he was deeply apprehensive for her safety. The men of the party had only death to fear if the worst came to the worst, but his heart turned to ice as he thought of Ruth left without protection in the hands of the mate and his gang.

She seemed to realize his thoughts, for she looked up at him bravely.

"I wish I had the carpet of Solomon here," he said.

"Why?" she smiled.

"I'd put you on it and have you whisked off to New York in a flash."

"Suppose I refused to go?"

"You wouldn't."

"I would! Why should I go to New York? All whom I love are here."

"Here?" he breathed eagerly.

"Surely. I love my father dearly."

"Oh!" he said disappointedly.

"You don't seem to approve of filial devotion," she observed, darting a mischievous look at him from under her long lashes.

"It's a beautiful thing," he answered promptly. "But there's another kind that——"

"We'd better hurry," the girl broke in hastily. "We're letting them get too far ahead of us."

They hastened on, and the words that were on Drew's lips remained unspoken.

After all, he thought to himself as the old bitter memory, forgotten in the excitement, came back to him, it was better so. They must not be spoken. They never could be spoken while he was under the awful cloud of suspicion. The love that had grown until it absorbed all his life must be ruthlessly crushed under foot.

The party emerged upon the slope of the whale's hump. Nothing had disturbed the cairn they had built over the treasure chest, nor were the rifles and tools displaced. Captain Hamilton's decision to make the stand here was admittedly a wise one. Here was enough lava, rubbish to build a dozen forts.

"Jest the spot," Tyke said vigorously, waving his hand in the direction of the heap of lava blocks that hid the pirate's chest. "What do you say, Cap'n Rufe? Shall we make that pile o' rocks the corner of our breastworks?"

"Good idea, Tyke," agreed the captain. "But pass guns around first, boys. All of you can handle a rifle, I suppose?"

"Aye aye, sir," said Barker, "you'd better believe we kin."

"If it comes to bullets," said Captain Hamilton, "those swabs will be so near to us we can scarcely miss 'em. That is, if they come out of the jungle.

"Suppose they circle around and come at us from above?" Drew suggested.

"We'll build a circular fort, by gosh!" cried Tyke. "An' build the back higher'n the front. How about it, Cap'n Rufe? Then if them swabs climb the hill to git the better of us, they can't shoot over."

"You're right, Tyke," agreed the master of the Bertha Hamilton.

"I don't believe," said Drew, "that Ditty and the men have many firearms. Nothing like these high-powered rifles, that's sure."

"That's so, Drew, I'm sure," said the captain promptly. "Now, boys, get to work," he added. "Roll 'em down! Here, Barker, you're chantey-man. Set 'em the pace."

Weirdly, echoing back from the wall of the jungle and hollowly from the hillside, the improvised chantey was raised by Barker, and the chorus line taken up by the other seamen as though they were jerking aloft the schooner's topsails.

"Oh, Bug-eye's dead an' gone below, Oh, we says so, an' we hopes so; Oh, Bug-eye's dead an' he'll go below Oh, poor—ol'—man!

"He's deader'n the bolt on the fo'c'sle door, Oh, we says so, an' we hopes so; Oh, he'll never knock us flat no more, Oh, poor—ol'—man!"

Under the impetus of this dirge with its innumerable verses the men rolled the boulders down. The fortification began to take form and give promise of shelter in time of need.

And there was no telling how soon that time might come!



The seamen rolled the larger boulders to the line Tyke indicated. Captain Hamilton himself and Drew chocked the interstices between the larger blocks with broken lava. A chance bullet might slip through into the fort, but under a rain of lead those within the fortification would be fairly well protected.

In two hours, and not long before sunset, the work was finished. Facing the jungle, from which the expected attack would come, if at all, the wall was breast high; in the rear, it rose higher so that no man unless he stood fairly in the lip of the crater above, could shoot over the barrier.

"And take it from me," said Tyke Grimshaw, "those bums ain't going to run their legs off to reach the top of this volcano. They're scared to death of it."

"And our own boys aren't much better," muttered Captain Hamilton. "See 'em looking over their shoulders now and again? They're expecting a shoot-off any minute."

"Well," the older man agreed, "that may be so. But it strikes me that the volcano and the earthquakes have been mighty helpful to us. Now, if I was superstitious——"

"How about locking my schooner in that blasted lagoon?" growled the master of the Bertha Hamilton. "This island is hoodooed, I've half a mind to believe."

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