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- The Treasure-Train - 50/54 -


vast sweep of mainland, I reasoned that they were being taken over to secret points on the coast where big ships could not safely go. It was here that blockade-runners were refitted in our Civil War. It is here that this new gun-running plot has been laid."

He turned quickly to Sydney. "The only obstacle between the transfer of the arms and success was the activity of an American consulate. Those lighters were not to carry goods to other islands. They were really destined for Mexico. It was profitable. And the scheme for removing opposition was evidently safe."

Kennedy was holding up another bottle of keratin and some fruit seeds. "I found these in a room in the hotel," he added.

I did not comprehend. "But," I cut in, "the hand-bag--the dinner-- what of them?"

"A plant--a despicable trespass on hospitality--all part of a scheme to throw the guilt on some one else, worthy of a renegade and traitor."

Craig wheeled suddenly, then added, with an incisive gesture, "I suppose you know that there is reputed to have been on one of these hills the headquarters of the old pirate, Teach--'the mildest manner'd man that ever scuttled ship or cut a throat!'"

Kennedy paused, then added, quickly, "In respect to covering up your gun-running, Whitson, you are superior even to Teach!"

XII

THE SUNKEN TREASURE

"Get story Everson and bride yacht Belle Aventure seeking treasure sunk Gulf liner Antilles."

Kennedy and I had proceeded after a few leisurely days in St. Thomas to Porto Rico. We had no particular destination, and San Juan rather appealed to us as an objective point because it was American.

It was there that I found waiting for me the above message by wireless from the Star in New York.

San Juan was, as we had anticipated, a thoroughly Americanized town and I lost no time in getting around at once to the office of the leading newspaper, the Colonial News. The editor, Kenmore, proved to be a former New York reporter who had come out in answer to an advertisement by the proprietors of the paper.

"What's the big story here now?" I asked by way of preface, expecting to find that colonial newspapermen were provincial.

"What's the big story?" repeated Kenmore, impatiently pushing aside a long leader on native politics and regarding me thoughtfully. "Well, I'm not superstitious, but a honeymoon spent trying to break into Davy Jones's locker for sunken treasure--I guess that's a good story, isn't it?"

I showed him my message and he smiled. "You see, I was right," he exclaimed. "They're searching now at the Cay d'Or, the Golden Key, one of the southernmost of the Bahamas, I suppose you would call it. I wish I was like you. I'd like to get away from this political stuff long enough to get the story."

He puffed absently on a fragrant native cigar. "I met them all when they were here, before they started," he resumed, reminiscently. "It was certainly a picturesque outfit--three college chums--one of them on his honeymoon, and the couple chaperoning the bride's sister. There was one of the college boys- -a fellow named Gage--who fairly made news."

"How was that?" inquired Kennedy, who had accompanied me, full of zest at the prospect of mixing in a story so romantic.

"Oh, I don't know that it was his fault--altogether," replied Kenmore. "There's a young lady here in the city, the daughter of a pilot, Dolores Guiteras. She had been a friend of some one in the expedition, I believe. I suppose that's how Gage met her. I don't think either of them really cared for each other. Perhaps she was a bit jealous of the ladies of the party. I don't know anything much about it, only I remember one night in the cafe of the Palace Hotel, I thought Gage and another fellow would fight a duel-- almost--until Everson dropped in and patched the affair up and the next day his yacht left for Golden Key."

"I wish I'd been here to go with them," I considered. "How do you suppose I'll be able to get out there, now?"

"You might be able to hire a tug," shrugged Kenmore. "The only one I know is that of Captain Guiteras. He's the father of this Dolores I told you about."

The suggestion seemed good, and after a few moments more of conversation, absorbing what little Kenmore knew, we threaded our way across the city to the home of the redoubtable Guiteras and his pretty daughter.

Guiteras proved to be a man of about fifty, a sturdy, muscular fellow, his face bronzed by the tropical sun.

I had scarcely broached the purpose of my visit when his restless brown eyes seemed literally to flash. "No, sir," he exclaimed, emphatically. "You cannot get me to go on any such expedition. Mr. Everson came here first and tried to hire my tug. I wouldn't do it. No, sir--he had to get one from Havana. Why, the whole thing is unlucky--hoodooed, you call it. I will not touch it."

"But," I remonstrated, surprised at his unexpected vehemence, "I am not asking you to join the expedition. We are only going to--"

"No, no," he interrupted. "I will not consider it. I--"

He cut short his remarks as a young woman, radiant in her Latin- American beauty, opened the door, hesitated at sight of us, then entered at a nod from him. We did not need to be told that this was the Dolores whom Kenmore's rumor had credited with almost wrecking Everson's expedition at the start. She was a striking type, her face, full of animation and fire, betraying more of passion than of intellect.

A keen glance of inquiry from her wonderful eyes at her father was followed by a momentary faraway look, and she remained silent, while Guiteras paused, as if considering something.

"They say," he continued, slowly, his features drawn sharply, "that there was loot of Mexican churches on that ship--the jewels of Our Lady of the Rosary at Puebla.... That ship was cursed, I tell you!" he added, scowling darkly.

"No one was lost on it, though," I ventured at random.

"I suppose you never heard the story of the Antilles?" he inquired, turning swiftly toward me. Then, without stopping: "She had just sailed from San Juan before she was wrecked--on her way to New York from Vera Cruz with several hundred Mexican refugees. Treasure? Yes; perhaps millions, money that belonged to wealthy families in Mexico--and some that had the curse on it.

"You asked a moment ago if everybody wasn't rescued. Well, everybody was rescued from the wreck except Captain Driggs. I don't know what happened. No one knows. The fire had got into the engine-room and the ship was sinking fast. Passengers saw him, pale, like a ghost, some said. Others say there was blood streaming from his head. When the last boat-load left they couldn't find him. They had to put off without him. It was a miracle that no one else was lost."

"How did the fire start?" inquired Kennedy, much interested.

"No one knows that, either," answered Guiteras, shaking his head slowly. "I think it must have been smoldering in the hold for hours before it was discovered. Then the pumps either didn't work properly or it had gained too great headway for them. I've heard many people talk of it and of the treasure. No, sir, you wouldn't get me to touch it. Maybe you'll call it superstition. But I won't have anything to do with it. I wouldn't go with Mr. Everson and I won't go with you. Perhaps you don't understand, but I can't help it."

Dolores had stood beside her father while he was speaking, but had said nothing, though all the time she had been regarding us from beneath her long black eyelashes. Arguments with the old pilot had no effect, but I could not help feeling that somehow she was on our side, that whether she shared his fears and prejudices, her heart was really somewhere near the Key of Gold.

There seemed to be nothing for us to do but wait until some other way turned up to get out to the expedition, or perhaps Dolores succeeded in changing the captain's mind. We bowed ourselves out, not a little puzzled by the enigma of the obdurate old man and his pretty daughter. Try as I might among the busy shipping of the port, I could find no one else willing at any reasonable price to change his plans to accommodate us.

It was early the next morning that a young lady, very much perturbed, called on us at our hotel, scarcely waiting even the introduction of her plainly engraved card bearing the name, Miss Norma Sanford.

"Perhaps you know of my sister, Asta Sanford, Mrs. Orrin Everson," she began, speaking very rapidly as if under stress. "We're down here on Asta's honeymoon in Orrin's yacht, the Belle Aventure." Craig and I exchanged glances, but she did not give us a chance to interrupt.

"It all seems so sudden, so terrible," she cried, in a burst of wild, incoherent feeling. "Yesterday Bertram Traynor died, and we've put back to San Juan with his body. I'm so worried for Orrin and my sister. I heard you were here, Professor Kennedy, and I couldn't rest until I saw you."

She was looking anxiously at Craig. I wondered whether she had heard of our visit to the Guiterases and what she knew about that other woman.


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