Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman

THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN ROCK
By F. A. HARDY
(A SERIAL STORY)

CHAPTER XXXI (continued).

"While we have been congratulating ourselves, our dear Florence and her brave companions are in peril."

"Let us hope not," said Roland. "Perhaps these men have deserted the vessel through cowardice."

It was not so.

A diabolical plot had been hatched while the battle had been raging.


CHAPTER XXXII.
THE DESERTERS-A FOUL PLOT-MORE PERILS IN STORE.

In the hurry and excitement of the first attack on the pirate no one had taken any heed of the men who had quitted the ranks of Simon Goldgreed's band and joined the Adairs.

They were not trusted with any part in the attack oil the pirate vesse1.

"There is treachery afloat, after all," said Sir Felix.

Sir Felix feared to trust them.

While the battle was progressing those who were on deck slink below. No one observed them.

They had received a sign from one of their number, a tall, cadaverous man, some forty years of age, named John Gaunt.

They understood the sign well.

It meant that some new move, some villainy was on the tapis.

Below no one was about who would observe them.

"Comades," said Gaunt, "are ye willing to listen to me?"

"I have overheard the plan of Captain Adair in regard to us."

"Well?"

"They are going to seize the treasure, give us a portion, and leave us on the island."

"To starve?"

"Yes."

The man knew he was not speaking the truth.

But like many others who desire to rouse up their fellowmen to feelings of exasperation, he was not particular about veracity.

"What do you propose, then?" asked one of the men, called Thomas Redbolt.

John Gaunt went to the bottom of the companion-ladder glanced round. No one was near.

Certainly no one was on the qui vive.

The traitors had it all to themselves.

"All's well," said John Gaunt. "They're all too much taken up with, the battle. I propose to get out two boats, put some provisions on board them, and row back to the island."

"And then?"

"Seize the treasure ourselves."

Thomas Redbolt laughed.

"We can't eat gold. Every sheep and every goat on the island is dead, and when the Avenger sails away we must all die."

"You are foolish," replied John Gaunt; "you have no mind for adventure or for enterprise. Do you suppose I have offered this plan without setting it all beforehand in in mind?

"When the crew of the Avenger land they will find that all their plottings are of no avail.

"They will have to come to terms with us, not we with, them.

"We will seize Florence Mayburn as hostage, and then we can so arrange that the gold shall be properly divided between all."

"Good!" said Redbolt, "I am with you."

"And I," "And I," was the answer that came from every mouth.

"To work, then!" cried John Gaunt. "You, Redbolt, see to the appropriation of the provisions, and I will creep out of yonder porthole and release the boats."

It was pitch dark.

The first attack was being made on the Two Vultures.

So John Gaunt and his fellow conspirators had it all their own way. While Redbolt and two others forced open the door of the store-rooms, Gaunt crept out of the porthole, and climbing up by the chains, contrived to release the boats from the davits.

In a very short time two were floating in the shadow of the big ship. Then four of the Miser Pirate's band descended.

Two into each boat.

To these the stolen provisions were handed.

Everything was done with wonderful method.

Not one of the Avenger's crew saw anything for a long time.

But presently Bob White, sent below to get something from the captain's cabin, saw what he thought suspicious movements on the part of those who might well be deemed prisoners, and he watched.

He hid himself below the ladder in the utter darkness.

But he, nevertheless, was not safe.

Redbolt's ears were keen.

He had heard a noise-a scuffling sound, it seemed to him, in the darkness.

That was enough for him.

Placing a long, keen-bladed knife between his teeth, he went down upon his hands and knees.

Then he crept slowly toward the spot where he had heard the sound. Bob White could not see him.

The conspirators were moving about in darkness.

What gray light might have been there was obscured by the smoke of battle.

So the all-crafty assailant had the best of it.

He was close on Bob White before the sailor had any intimation of his coming.

The first thing, in fact, that told the brave, honest sailor that he had been discovered was a gleaming white face and a pair of glowing eyes. He instantly prepared for a struggle.

But he was scarcely in time.

A blow from the long-bladed knife struck him in the throat.

In all instant it flashed across the unfortunate man's mind that treachery was afloat.

Treachery in its worst and most murderous form. He made a desperate effort to cry out.

In vain.

The wound seemed to make his voice die away in a faint gurgle. But this did not dishearten him.

He closed with his adversary.

In the midst of the din of battle their strikes were unheard. But it was a terrible conflict, waged as it was in the dark. The pirate had no fire-arms.

And Bob White had no chance of using his.

Redbolt had had the first chance of attack.

He knew he was a doomed man.

And so poor White's strength soon began to give out. The wound he had received was an awful one.

He made a tremendous effort to overcome his foe.

But his loyalty to his commander was such, that even at the supreme moment, when he knew that death was staring him in the face he hoped to get the better of his foe, so that he could crawl up to the deck and inform his captain of the deadly treachery that was afloat. He had no chance, however.

Redbolt gripped him too tightly.

Then ensued an awful struggle.

The combatants swayed violently to and fro.

During the whole of the conflict Bob White tried to call out. But in vain.

Over and over the combatants rolled for full ten minutes.

But, at length, Redbolt, though desperately wounded, contrived to obtain the mastery.

Bob White uttered no sound.

He simply fell dead like a log.

Redbolt, breathless after the fight, remained still for a few momentsby the side of his dead adversary.

Then he joined his companions.

They had not missed him.

In fact, they had been too eagerly engaged to notice his absence. The boats were provisioned and ready to start for the island. The other boats were now returning form the Two Vultures. No time therfore, was to be lost.

Redbolt made his way throught the prothole and dropped into one of the boats.

Then, silently, they drew away from the vessel. No one observed them.

It was wonderful that their absence was not noticed on the following morning till after the engagement between the two vessels was terminated.

But the, as now, the excitement of ballte prevented theri being though of.

It was a difficult matter steering theri way in the dark by the aid of a pocket compass.

They did not dare to use a lantern, because a light on the waters would at once excite suspicion.

So on they went as best they could in the dark. It was a long and tedious journey.

John Gaunt and the others had reckoned to reach shore before daylight. But dawn had already spread over the sea and land ere they did so. Their plans, consequently, had to be modified.

"We must bear away to the other side of the harbor," said Gaunt to Redbolt; "we cannot risk an attack on the little encampment in the daylight."

"You are right, Jack," returned the other; "they are better armed than we are."

"True. We will draw in yonder, where that thick clump of trees is, ad conceal ourselves till dusk."

So they did.

The day passed slowly enough to these rude and lawless spirits. They saw afar off the smoke of battle.

They could hear disstinctly the booming of the distant guns. Presently, too, they saw the sinking of the Two Vultures, and the sialing of the Avenger for the shore.

"We must keep close now," said Redbolt. "Nothing can be done as yet. We must creep to the ruind in the night and carry out our plan."

"Ad then?"

"We must make our way to the ridge of rocks near the treasure cave and defend it, while some of our number are taking possession of the gold." "And how are wer to quit the island?"

"We must take possessio of the Avenger. W must decoy Sir Feliz and the other as far into the interior as we can, and then we must creep up to the vessel and seize it."

No one suspected thier prescence.

They were quite concealed from view when the Avenger cast anchor in the harbor.


(To be continued.)

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