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- The Treasure-Train - 54/54 -
little wireless-room on the yacht, intending to ask the operator if he had seen her.
"Where's Mr. Kennedy?" he inquired, before I had a chance to put my own question. "Some one has been in this wireless-room this morning and must have been sending messages. Things aren't as I left them. I think he ought to know."
Just then Everson himself came up from below, his face almost as white as the paint on the sides of his yacht. Without a word, he drew me aside, looking about fearfully as though he were afraid of being overheard. "I've just discovered half a dozen sticks of dynamite in the hold," he whispered, hoarsely, staring wide-eyed at me. "There was a timing device, set for to-night. I've severed it. Where's Kennedy?"
"Your wireless has been tampered with, too," I blurted out, telling what I had just learned.
We looked at each other blankly. Clearly some one had plotted to blow up the yacht and all of us on board. Without another word, I took his arm and we walked toward our state-room, where Kennedy was at work. As we entered the narrow passage to it I heard low voices. Some one was there before us. Kennedy had shut the door and was talking in the hall. As we turned the corner I saw that it was Norma, whom I had forgotten in the surprise of the two discoveries that had been so suddenly made.
As we approached she glanced significantly at Kennedy as if appealing to him to tell something. Before he could speak, Everson himself interrupted, telling of his discovery of the dynamite and of what the wireless operator had found.
There was a low exclamation from Norma. "It's a plot to kidnap me!" she cried, in a smothered voice. "Professor Kennedy--I told you I thought so!"
Everson and I could only look our inquiries at the startling new turn of events.
"Miss Sanford has just been to her state-room," hastily explained Craig. "There she found that some one had carefully packed up a number of her things and hidden them, as if waiting a chance to get them off safely. I think her intuition is correct. There would be no motive for robbery--here."
Vainly I tried to reason it out. As I thought, I recalled that Gage had seemed insanely jealous of both Dominick and Kinsale, whenever he saw either with Norma. Did Gage know more about these mysterious happenings than appeared? Why had he so persistently sought her? Had Norma instinctively fled from his attentions?
"Where are the others?" asked Craig, quickly. I turned to Everson. I had not yet had time to find out.
"Gone back to the trawler," he replied.
"Signal them to come aboard here directly," ordered Craig.
It seemed an interminable time as the message was broken out in flags to the trawler, which was not equipped with the wireless. Even the hasty explanation which Kennedy had to give to Asta Everson, as she came out of her cabin, wondering where Orrin had gone, served only to increase the suspense. It was as though we were living over a powder-magazine that threatened to explode at any moment. What did the treachery of one member of the expedition mean? Above all, who was it?
We had been so intent watching from the deck the all too slow approach of the little power-boat from the trawler that we had paid no attention to what was on our other quarter.
"A tug approaching, sir," reported the man on watch to Everson. "Seems to be heading for us, sir."
We turned to look. Who was she, friend or foe? We knew not what to expect. Everson, pale but with a firm grip on his nerves, did not move from the deck as the power-boat came alongside, and Dominick, Gage, and Kinsale swung themselves up the ladder to us.
"It's the tug of that pilot, Guiteras, sir," interposed the man who had spoken before. Not a word was spoken, though I fancied that a quiet smile flitted over Kennedy's face as we waited.
The tug ranged up alongside us. To my utter astonishment, I saw Dolores, her black eyes eagerly scanning our faces. Was she looking for Gage, I wondered? It was only a moment when the party that had put out from the tug also came tumbling aboard.
"I got your message, Kennedy, and brought Guiteras. He wouldn't join the expedition, but he thought more of his daughter than of anything else."
It was Kenmore, who had at last achieved his wish to get on the treasure-hunt story. Everson looked inquiringly at Craig.
"Message?" repeated Kennedy. "I sent no message."
It was Kenmore's turn to stare. Had some one hoaxed him into a wild-goose chase, after all?
"Nothing? About Dolores being deserted, and--"
"He shall marry my daughter!" boomed a gruff voice as Guiteras shouldered his way through the little group, his hand shooting back to a pocket where bulged a huge Colt.
Like a flash Kennedy, who had been watching, caught his wrist. "Just a second, Captain," he shouted, then turned to us, speaking rapidly and excitedly. "This thing has all been carefully, diabolically laid out. All who stood in the way of the whole of the treasure were to be eliminated. One person has sought to get it all--at any cost."
In Craig's own hand now gleamed a deadly automatic while with the other he held Guiteras's wrist.
"But," he added, tensely, "an insane passion has wrecked the desperate scheme. A woman has been playing a part--leading the man on to his own destruction in order to save the man she really loves."
I looked over at Norma. She was pale and agitated, then burning and nervous by turns. It was only by a most heroic effort that she seemed able to restrain herself, her eyes riveted on Kennedy's face, weighing every word to see whether it balanced with a feeling in her own heart.
"The Antilles," shot out Kennedy, suddenly, "was burned and sunk, not by accident, but with a purpose. That purpose has run through all the events I have seen--the use of Mr. Everson, his yacht, his money, his influence. Come!" He strode down the passage to our state-room, and we followed in awed silence.
"It is a vast, dastardly crime--to get the Mexican millions," he went on, pausing, his hand on the knob of the door while we crowded the narrow passage. "I have brought up from the wreck a skull which I found near a safe, unlocked so that entrance would be easy. The skull shows plainly that the man had been hit on the head by some blunt instrument, crushing him. Had he discovered something that it was inconvenient to know? You have heard the stories of the ill-fated ship--"
Craig flung open the door suddenly. We saw a weird face--the head apparently streaming blood from a ghastly wound. There was a shrill cry beside me.
"It's his ghost--Captain Driggs! God save me--it's his ghost come to haunt me and claim the treasure!"
I turned quickly. Dominick had broken down.
"You were--just leading him on--tell me--Norma." I turned again quickly. It was Gage, who had taken Norma's hand, quivering with excitement.
"You never cared for her?" she asked, with the anxiety that showed how in her heart she loved him.
"Never. It was part of the plot. I sent the message to get her here to show you. I didn't know you were playing a game--"
Suddenly the sharp crack of a pistol almost deafened us in the close passageway. As the smoke cleared, I saw Dolores, her eyes blazing with hatred, jealousy, revenge. In her hand was the pistol she had wrenched from her father.
On the floor across the door-sill sprawled a figure. Dominick had paid the price of his faithlessness to her also.
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