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G. Harvey Ralphson.

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bleeding badly and I hoped I might find you to help me again if you can
bring yourselves to do it. I don't deserve it."

"Sure, we'll help you if we can," stoutly maintained Harry.

"How did you happen to be away out here?" asked Jack.

"When I got away from the chain gang, I went to the shipyard and asked
for you. The foreman is furious. He says you jumped your bill. I found
out that you had headed to the eastward and I at once concluded you had
pursued the schooner. Then I thought you'd be coming back, headed for
Biloxi. So I waited."

The boys now tenderly removed the clothing from Madero's bruised and
bleeding back. Cruelly had the lash torn the flesh. Their first aid
chest was speedily opened and soothing lotions and ointments applied.
Their work was skillfully and quickly done.

Madero's gratitude knew no bounds. He could scarcely restrain the tears
as he tried to thank the boys for their kindness.

"Do you happen to know anything about what the gang did with our launch,
the 'Spray'?" inquired Frank. "I hope she's not lost."

"I think you'll find her at Biloxi," answered Carlos. "They were going
to take here there and hide her until this matter had blown over. They
might have repainted her and sold her under some other name after a
while, but at present she's there, I believe."

"That's good news," declared Charley. "I like that boat."

"And you want to watch out," Carlos added, "for a shrimping schooner of
those fellows. They have left Pascagoula already this morning and are
headed for Biloxi Bay. They are determined that you shall not, under any
circumstances, beat them to the treasure."

"So there is a treasure?" asked Jack. "Do you think there is really a
treasure hidden there, or is it all talk?"

"I don't know," replied Carlos. "They believe the story."

A berth was now turned over to Madero and he was urged to lie down and
take what rest he could. As he curled up in the berth, Rowdy came in,
jumped up on the berth and curled up beside the newcomer. Not a sign of
antagonism did the bulldog exhibit.

"Well, you're all right now," declared Harry. "That bulldog's our acid
test. When he thinks a fellow is all right, that settles it."

"That is very comforting," declared Carlos. "I hope Rowdy and I become
great friends. He's a nice dog."

"How's the foot?" inquired Harry. "I forgot to ask before."

"Great," declared Madero. "You boys are fine doctors."

Just at dusk the Fortuna drew into Biloxi bay. The boys had decided that
a few fish would be required for supper and had run out some distance
from shore where they threw over their lines with good success. Several
Spanish Mackerel graced the bag as a result of their efforts. They were
justly proud of their catch.

Charley and Frank were elected cooks for the evening. With Doright's
assistance they soon had a fine supper prepared. Fresh mackerel with a
package of Saratoga chips was the piece de resistance, but the table did
not lack for comforts. It was noticeable that their appetites were
increasing. All were feeling in prime condition.

Just before supper was served the Fortuna was tied up alongside the
wharf of the shrimping factory where the fishing vessels landed their
cargoes. The electric lights were turned on, presenting a cheerful scene
as one viewed the craft from shore. Night was falling rapidly and the
boys were glad they had reached port.

Rowdy interrupted the peaceful scene by growling and moving about
uneasily. He ran whining from one door to the other.

Madero, who was sitting at the end of the table, glanced up from his
plate to peer out of a window. With a gasp he fell back.

"There's Lopez!" he cried, pointing through the window.






CHAPTER XXII

A DESPERATE ATTEMPT


Doright was standing near the door. Rowdy's excitement now increased to
a high pitch. He dashed madly to and fro in the cabin.

"I saw the fellow's face for a minute," cried Jack. "Open the door,
Doright, and let Rowdy out. He wants to meet his friend."

"Go on, dog!" whispered Doright, obeying Jack's order.

Quick footsteps sounded on the wharf. A man was running away. Rowdy lost
no time in scrambling on deck and from there to the wharf. In a moment
came a shriek, followed by a shot. The boys shivered in apprehension.
Their pet was alone in the dark and a shot had been fired. It seemed as
if they must go to his assistance.

Not many minutes passed before the boys felt the Fortuna rock as a body
landed on the deck. Rowdy burst into the cabin.

"Look at the boy!" shouted Arnold. "Good old Rowdy! Good dog!"

"What's that he has in his mouth?" inquired Charley.

"That, my friend," explained Arnold, who sat near Rowdy, "is what every
dog gets when he runs fast - pants."

"Stop your joking, Arnold," cautioned Jack. "Look at that bloody ear of
Rowdy's. He's been shot. That's some of Lopez's work."

At once a rush was made for the white bulldog. Rowdy seemed to pay
little attention to the lacerated ear, pierced by the outlaw's bullet,
but paraded the cabin exhibiting the cloth proudly.

"I do believe he got a piece of Lopez's trousers!" declared Jack
exultantly. Then giving Rowdy an approving slap he continued, "There's
one time Lopez got a reminder his presence wasn't wanted."

"True enough," agreed Frank, "but he may return when things have quieted
down, and when he comes back he may be prepared to do serious damage.
That gang is desperate and will hesitate at nothing."

"Let 'em come," boasted Arnold, jumping up from his position on a locker
where he was trying to cajole Rowdy into parting with the souvenir which
he had brought aboard the Fortuna.

"Yes, let 'em come," stoutly agreed Harry. "There are enough of us here
so we can stand watch and watch tonight and be prepared to keep off all
intruders. And we'll use force, if necessary, too."

"It's a problem," Jack said thoughtfully. "I'm sure I don't know what to
do. Those fellows may contemplate and execute serious damage to the
Fortuna and to her crew. Again, they may be so near the treasure they'll
only think of remaining near that to guard it."

"By the way, Jack, where is this fort? Rather, where was it?"

"As nearly as I am able to determine just now, it was located on the
north side of that point that lies on the east side of the bay. There's
a bayou sets up to the eastward from that point and it is on the chart
here as 'Fort Bayou,' so I think that must have been the place. Anyhow,
that's the place to which I have been directed."

"Here it is," cried Charley, who had been examining the chart. "Here it
says, 'Old Spanish Fort.' It's just where you said it was."

"Then we'll go over there in the morning, if you like."

"Let's go over there tonight," urged Tom. "There's going to be a fine
moon and we're all interested, so we won't sleep any."

"Sure! That would be fine," scorned Harry. "All of us go across the bay
looking for this old treasure and Wyckoff will have a free hand to come
in and sink the good ship Fortuna."

"We can draw straws and leave a watch here," suggested Tom.

"And Wyckoff or Lopez throw a stick of dynamite over on deck and up in
the air they'd go! Why not take the Fortuna along?"

"I don't think there's water enough over there," Jack objected.

"Well, then, I'll tell you what we'll do," began Harry, "we'll all of us
hold an election. Let Doright in on it and Carlos and - "

"Yacht Ahoy!" came a hail from the wharf.

"Answer him, Tom, you're nearest the door," suggested Jack.

"Ahoy there, what do you want?" called Tom.

"Is that the Fortuna?" queried a heavy voice.

"Yes, sir," answered Tom. "What do you want?"

"I'll come aboard, if you please!" replied the stranger.

"Better wait a minute until we can size you up," cried Jack, stepping
into the pilot house and switching on the searchlight, which he trained
upon the man standing on the wharf. "We're not unprepared for callers
and we want to make sure, you know. What do you want?"

"I guess when you see this," laughed the man, exhibiting a star under
his coat, "you won't object to my coming aboard. I am sorry to say," he
continued in a tone of mock seriousness, "I am a United States Marshal.
May I come aboard now?"

"Yes, sir, you may," declared Tom. "But you must excuse us for our
precaution. We've been through some trying experiences and it's no
wonder we feel we must protect ourselves."

"Got away from Pascagoula in a hurry, didn't you?" smiled the stranger
introducing himself as Roger Harrison.

"Yes, we did," stated Jack, introducing the other boys. "We got word
from Doright, here, that our friends and our friends' friend had been
shanghaied aboard a schooner and so we went after them and got them,
too," he proudly stated.

"Well, boys, it seems to me it would have been real easy to stop and pay
your shipyard charges when you were coming back."

The boys all gasped. In the excitement of rescuing their chums the
matter of settling their bill at the shipyard had been crowded out of
their minds. All were amazed and regretful.

"What can we do?" questioned Jack. "I'll jump on a train and go right
back there and pay them. When is the next train?"

"Don't be in a hurry. Hear the rest," said the Marshal.

"Is there anything worse?" wailed Jack. "I feel real cheap."

"Nothing that you can't get out of, I guess," replied Harrison. "Those
fellows were indignant when you slipped away so hurriedly and were about
to telegraph Key West to look out for you when a man named Wyckoff
approached and said you were headed for Biloxi. They couldn't believe it
but he swore it was so."

"And so you came down here to get us?" queried Jack.

"I'm stationed at Gulfport, a short distance west of here," replied
Harrison. "They wired me there and wanted to libel your craft. You know
the United States protects merchants and workmen by seizing the vessel
if their bills are not paid."

"But we'll pay it!" stoutly protested Jack. "We have the money."

"I haven't the least doubt of it," declared Harrison. "It was only a
matter of oversight under the exciting news you got. But tell me," he
went on, "how did Wyckoff know you were headed for this place? He seemed
very positive about your destination."

Then Jack gave Harrison the whole story. He omitted nothing that the
boys considered of importance, even showing Harrison the map. At the
conclusion of the recital Harrison looked serious.

"Well, boys," he said at length, "you've stumbled onto what seems to be
a reality, but I always considered it a myth. For years the report has
been circulated that there was such a treasure and this man Wyckoff and
Lopez claimed to be blood descendants of the officer who buried it. The
name on that map would seem to bear them out. But tonight or tomorrow
night will be the only time you'll have to get at the treasure for
another year, if the whole tale is true."

"How's that?" breathlessly asked the boys.

"I can't explain the whole thing, for I never attempted to memorize
details, always believing the story a fairy tale, but as I recall it,
the moon and tide must both be just right - something like the moon is
tonight and the tide will be in a short time - and then the ground around
the chest softens up and the chest comes to the surface for the rightful
heir to reach out and get it."

"If there's anything at all in that," asserted Jack, "I'll bet the thing
lays in a bed of quicksand. When the tide is just right it softens up
and boils. Then any solid substance may be thrown up to the surface.
Maybe someone has seen a piece of log or some driftwood at some such
time and that's the way the treasure story started."

"But I have the map," declared Harry excitedly. "What do you make of
that? You'll have to go some to explain that."

"I guess that's so," sheepishly admitted Jack. "I forgot that."

"Until tonight," stated Harrison, "I never had much faith in the story,
but this map as a climax to other things is convincing."

Rowdy, who had been lying on a berth with Arnold, now slipped to the
floor. His whole body became tense and rigid while the hairs on his back
rose on end. A low, menacing growl issued in subdued notes from his
throat. His attitude was threatening.

"Watch the dog," whispered Jack. "Look at him."

"Someone's coming," announced Arnold. "He does that only when he gets
near someone who's a sneak or pirate or something."

"Goodness, I'm glad I'm not a pirate," declared Harrison.

"Get a leash on him," ordered Jack. "He's been shot once tonight and
that's enough. Get your guns unlimbered, boys."

"I'll keep a lookout on the water," volunteered Frank.

"And I'll watch the wharf," said Tom. "I wish, though," he continued,
"that the lights were off. I could see better."

"Turn the switch, Charley," was Jack's request. "It's at your hand there
on the bulkhead. It's the middle one."

"I see him," whispered Tom. "It looks like Wyckoff."

"Slide the door open a crack," Harry suggested, "and get the drop on
him. If he starts anything, shoot him in the legs!"

"He's laying down a bundle," whispered Charley. "It's only a small
package. I wonder what he's going to do."

For answer, Wyckoff, for it was none other, deposited the small package
described by the boy on the bow of the Fortuna. He knelt on the wharf a
moment leaning over toward the boat. The boys were unable to see him
well because of the curving lines of the vessel.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Charley, starting from his post toward the
bows. "He lit a fuse and has started away!"

"Come back from there," cried Jack in a tone of authority. "Come back
from there! Do you want to get blown into bits?"

The boys rushed forward to seize their chum and drag him to a place of
safety. He kept on undaunted. Harrison gazed in open mouthed terror from
one to the other. All seemed horror stricken at the situation. Rowdy
tugged fiercely at his leash.

All could now see clearly the sputtering fuse attached to the package
lying on the forward deck. From the gentle manner in which Wyckoff had
handled it they guessed its contents. None knew better than the intrepid
lad approaching the parcel what the result would be were he a second too
late. Even as he hurried forward a chill seemed to run through his veins
with the thought of what might happen were he not able to reach the
package in time.

Harrison often declares that never to his dying day will he forget the
coolness and excellent nerve displayed by Charley as he approached the
sputtering fuse on the other end of which lay lurking probable death for
the whole party. He says that out of all his varied experiences none
stands forth with more distinctness than does the one through which he
passed that night on the Fortuna.

Doright was paralyzed with terror and sank limply to the floor, resting
his head on a bunk and praying as he never had prayed before for
deliverance. His voice was gone, but his lips worked convulsively while
his face took on a drawn and haggard expression seeming to visibly
shrink together, leaving great pouches beneath his eyes and lines
through his cheeks. He gasped for breath.

In his haste Charley stumbled over the free end of the bow line, made
fast to the deck cleat. It had been coiled loosely, leaving the free end
trailing across the deck. Quickly he was up.

Lunging forward again, his arm outstretched, the boy tried to grasp the
package that was still just out of reach. He made a last fierce lunge
and grasped the thing. He stood upright. A shower of sparks flew from
the end of the shortening fuse.






CHAPTER XXIII

AT THE SPANISH FORT


There is no doubt that Charley's bravery and quick action saved the
Fortuna and her crew. With a mighty effort he flung the package far from
him. It fell into the waters of the bay with a splash. The next moment a
muffled roar was heard and a vast column of water was flung skyward. The
Fortuna rocked in the waves.

"Man overboard!" cried Tom, who had been nearer Charley than any other
member of the crew. "Throw me a ring buoy!"

He was over the side in a flying leap. He had paused but an instant to
gauge the spot where he believed he would find the other lad. Charley's
effort to throw the dynamite as far as possible had resulted in his
losing his own balance. The severe motion of the Fortuna had completely
upset him and he had fallen overboard.

Instantly all was activity and bustle. Ring buoys hung in beckets at
either side of the pilot house. A long line was attached to each. Jack
tore one of these free preparing to throw it to his chum when he should
rise to the surface.

"Can he swim?" queried Harrison anxiously coming up the companion-way.
"If he can't, he'll be in a bad way in this mess!"

"They both are Boy Scouts with medals showing proficiency in the art!"
declared Harry. "We can all swim," he continued.

"Hurrah, then it won't be so bad! I'm hoping the explosion hasn't
stunned the boys," cried Harrison hopefully.

"There they are," shouted Frank. "Can you see them?"

"I see them," Jack answered, throwing the ring buoy with true aim.
"Stand by to help them aboard. Charley needs help!"

Dashing the water from his face, Tom seized the ring buoy and with its
assistance supported Charley's face free of the surface until drawn to
the side of the Fortuna and relieved of his burden.

First aid methods were speedily applied. Charley was placed face down
upon the deck, where the boys took turns applying the means of
resuscitation known as the Shaefer method. Harrison stood by in wonder
observing every move. At length he became discouraged.

"I'm afraid, boys, it's no go," he said. "He doesn't seem to be coming
around at all. The explosion must have hit him hard."

"He may be a long time coming, but we're going to keep at it in relays
until we're all exhausted. He gave himself for us and we're prepared to
do the same for him. He's done his good turn today."

"You're right, boys; he certainly has," declared Harrison. "Now, I'm
bigger than you lads and if you'll show me how to do the work, I'll
help. Maybe I could squeeze more water out of him than you."

Under Harrison's manipulations directed by the boys, Charley presently
showed the flicker of an eye. They worked faithfully over him for a
considerable time and were at last rewarded by having him on the road to
recovery from his enforced bath and attendant experience. He had fallen
into the water just as the explosion came.

"Well, Wyckoff won't plant any more dynamite here this evening I hope,"
declared Frank. "That's the second attempt on the Fortuna tonight and
I'm going to take the first watch. We'll see if he does any more while
I'm on guard. I'm tired of this."

"It must be getting on into the shank of the evening - I see the moon.
What is the hour?" asked Jack from the forward deck.

As if in answer to his query the marine clock chimed two bells.

"Two bells," called Harry. "Nine o'clock for landsmen."

"We'd better be getting over to the fort if we're going," urged Arnold.
"We should not wait around here all night."

"Wait a minute," advised Jack. "I think we'd better deliver to Mr.
Harrison the bundle of dynamite we found aboard the Fortuna at
Pascagoula. We don't want it aboard here and we have no safe place to
put it. He'll know what to do with it, won't you, Mr. Harrison? You
understand these things better than we."

"If I had my way, I'd touch it off in the bay here so it would be out of
harm's way," declared Harrison stoutly.

"But we have no fuse," objected Jack. "If we just drop it overboard the
stuff may cause damage later on. I don't know what to do."

"Let's get a fuse and cap somewhere and take the stuff over to the
fort," suggested Harry. "We can find this place shown on the map where
the treasure lies and dig a ways into the sand, plant the 'soup' and
blow a hole big enough to take out a wagon load of treasure. That's the
best way to get rid of it."

"Let's put it to a vote," suggested Jack. "All in favor say - "

A chorus of "ayes" carried the point. The boys were in favor of anything
that savored of excitement. Their experience with the outlaws for the
past few days had so nerved them up that any adventure would have been
welcomed. The prospect of finding the treasure lent added zeal to the
proposed journey across the bay.

"We'll need a shovel or two anyway," said Frank as the boys hastened to
make ready for the trip. "Where can we get the tools?"

"Sure enough," cried Tom. "I hadn't thought of that before. I would have
been just foolish enough to go on over there and not take a shovel with
me at all. There's an exhibition of brains for you."

"I guess you were no worse off than any of the others," Harry declared.
"We were all in a hurry to get started."

"Will Doright and Carlos go with us?" inquired Tom.

"We may need them," Jack replied. "Do you want to go, Carlos?"

"Maybe I wouldn't be of any help," Carlos ventured hesitatingly. It was
evident that he felt timid about joining with the others.

"You'd be the best kind of help," stoutly asserted Arnold, pushing Rowdy
towards the negro. "Take him, Rowdy," he added with a laugh.

"Ah is not in trouble wid mah feet," protested Doright. "If youall wants
valuable help, jes' call on me. Mah name's Doright."

"And we'll leave Rowdy here to guard the boat so Wyckoff and his gang
don't get aboard," suggested Harry, drawing on his jacket.

"You will not," cried Arnold. "Rowdy goes with the crowd."

"We can't all get into the boat," protested Jack. "How shall we manage
that? Counting Mr. Harrison and Rowdy and Doright and Carlos and Charley
and Frank and Arnold and Tom and Harry and myself, there's ten of us.
That's four more than the boat will carry."

"I think I can fix you out in good shape," suggested Harrison, now
becoming thoroughly interested. "I saw several of those big flat
bottomed oyster boats a ways back as I came to your vessel some time
ago. I believe with a little persuasion I could get one."

"Will it take us all?" inquired Harry anxiously.

"I believe it will and more, too, if necessary."

"Then let's get it and be away. I'm getting nervous about the delay. I
can understand why Wyckoff gets excited at strangers."

Accordingly Harrison departed in quest of the large boat he had seen. In
a short time the boys heard the sound of oars and discovered him rowing
the skiff towards the Fortuna.

"I have the boat all right," he cried as he approached the vessel, "but
there is no painter. We haven't a thing to make fast with."

"We've got plenty of line," asserted Jack. "Tom, suppose you hand up a
length of that half inch stuff in the lazarette."

"Here's a long piece coiled up. Will that do?" asked Tom.

"Sure," asserted Harrison. "Anything that's long enough. If it's too
long we'll let the end drag," he added with a laugh.

"Now the shovels and we'll be all right," cried Arnold.

"The man who had charge of the boats has gone after a couple of
shovels," replied Harrison. "By the time we're aboard, he should be
here. He hasn't far to go. Are all of you ready?"

"All ready," declared Jack. "The doors are locked, the kitten out, the
clock wound and everything is snug and comfy."

"He knows how to close up shop," asserted Harry. "Go a voyage with him
and see if I'm not right! I've sailed with him."

"And the cap and fuse for the dynamite?" asked Frank.

"Here in my pocket," replied Harrison. "I got it from the watchman. He
wasn't inclined to let me have it as first, though."

"Gee," said Harry. "I'd like to be a United States Marshal."

"It is not altogether a pleasant business," smiled Harrison. "There are
times when we have disagreeable tasks like the one I had this evening.
Then there are other tasks that are pleasant like another one I
anticipate I may have later on this evening."

"Are you after someone else, too?" queried Arnold.

"Well, yes," admitted Harrison. "But I don't know whether or not I will
be able to locate them. That will, of course, be seen."

"If we can be of any help to you, just let us know and we'll be ready to
render any assistance possible," offered Jack.

"Thank you, boys; I appreciate your kind offer, and you may be able to
help me if my suspicions are correct."

"Why, what has Wyckoff been doing?" inquired Tom.

"Who said it was Wyckoff?" laughingly replied Harrison.

"Well, it seems to be mighty plain that it is he."

"Possibly it is he," admitted the Marshal. "There have been some shady
deals carried through down here lately. Some smuggling and a bad wreck
and one or two other things that the United States Government feels
should be explained. Someone must explain."


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