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CHAPTER III A ROYAL INVITATION
They were somewhat dismayed at the professor’s reasoning but at length Don shook his head. “I don’t see that it is necessarily so,” he insisted. “Of course, there is a big chance that such is the reason, but on the other hand it may simply be that the pages have been lost. It can be taken both ways.”

“Yes,” nodded the professor. “It can. That is why I would never allow myself any false hopes.”

“Then you are going out and help Ned look for this treasure?” asked Jim.

“I’m going out more because he wants me to come than for anything else,” said Professor Scott. “And as much for the change as for anything else. I’ve been studying pretty hard of late, and I’m sure a change of air and scenery wouldn’t hurt me a bit. I haven’t any idea that Ned will ever find that legendary treasure, but the fact that he found evidence that the story of the phantom galleon is true interested me greatly.”

“But if you do go out there you will look around for it, won’t you?” inquired Don.
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“Oh, yes, Ned will see to that! He has the idea that he will run across it, and nothing stops him once he gets an idea. I’ll join in with him and do some tramping around, but while he’ll be looking for gold I’ll be looking for health. I’m rather more sure of finding what I am after than he is.”

“Just the same,” murmured Jim. “It is a dandy opportunity, and I wouldn’t mind having a shot at it.”

“You boys are greatly interested,” remarked the professor, looking at them keenly.

“I suppose we are,” admitted Don, smiling. “It appeals to us, and I guess it would to any fellow. If you go, professor, we certainly wish you all kinds of luck.”

“Thanks,” said the professor. “If you went on such a trip, I suppose you’d hunt the treasure with much energy?”

“I guess we would,” nodded Jim. “If it was anywhere near I guess we would uncover it.”

“I don’t doubt it,” the professor smiled. He was silent a moment and then he asked: “Now that you boys are home for a vacation, what do you plan to do? Have you anything definite in mind?”

Don shook his head. “We might do a little sailing,” he replied. “We have a fine thirty-foot sloop, and we may sail for a ways down the coast. Last summer we did and we had a good time.”
22

“I know about that voyage,” the professor returned. “That was the time you ran down those marine bandits, wasn’t it? I remember reading about it.”

“That was the time,” Don answered. “We don’t expect to run down any bandits this summer, but we may take a cruise.”

“That is fine,” said the professor, somewhat absent-mindedly. “So you two boys were interested in what I told you of Ned’s letter, eh?”

“We couldn’t help being,” grinned Jim. “I guess every fellow is interested in treasure hunting.”

“I suppose that is true,” the professor returned. “Well, that is the contents of the letter which made me so interested that I paid very little attention to the ball as it broke the window.”

“I’m sorry about that, professor,” said Don. “How much is it, please? I’m very anxious to have it repaired.”

“Forget it,” said the professor.
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But Don insisted, feeling that it would not rightly do to accept the professor’s generous offer to put it in himself, and at length the teacher agreed that Don should pay for the work. He rather admired Don’s spirit in insisting upon paying his own way through life, and although he knew that the Mercer brothers had plenty of ready money he allowed Don to pay for the broken glass more as a concession to his spirit of the right thing to do than for any other reason. After Don had turned over the money to the professor the boys took their leave.

“Thanks for that interesting story, Professor Scott,” said Jim, as they were leaving.

“Yes, we enjoyed it,” added Don.

“You are very welcome,” smiled the professor. “I thought you would be interested, and may—be—humph, well, let that pass for now. Good morning, boys.”

The boys left the professor and walked slowly down the shady street, discussing the letter and his story. It appealed to them greatly.

“That sure was a strange thing, that finding of the old book relating to the flight of the galleon,” mused Don. “Looks like the hand of fate, eh?”

“It surely does,” chimed in Jim. “Those fellows took that treasure centuries ago, it lays buried in the sand for years and years, and then a chance discovery points to where it is. Sort of like a dead man’s finger pointing at the treasure, isn’t it?”

“Somewhat,” admitted Don. “I rather feel that if the treasure had been found by someone else Ned Scott would not have come across that book. Now, that is my own way of looking at it. Just as the professor says, someone may have torn the valuable leaves, with the location of the creek on them, out and have found it long ago. But I somehow just can’t believe it.”
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“Nor I,” said Jim. “I’d surely like to be along when Ned Scott unearths that old ship and its treasure.”

“Provided that he does,” smiled Don, as they reached their home. “There isn’t any guarantee that he will. It is always possible that the whole thing happened miles down the coast, for if I remember correctly, from my school map, Lower California is a mighty long stretch. Well, all I hope is that he’ll tell us if anything turns up. Just as soon as he comes back, if we are home from school, we’ll hunt him up and ask him all about it.”

“Surely,” agreed Jim. “If he isn’t home by the time we are ready to return to school we can see him during some vacation. Well, what do you say, old man? Shall we go down and tinker with the boat?”

“Don’t think we have time,” decided Don, looking at his watch. “That visit to the professor took up the whole morning, and mother will be waiting dinner.”

The boys entered the quiet but homelike little house which was their home and prepared for dinner. When they sat down at the table Mr. Mercer, a kindly and energetic man, was there. He worked in a local office, where he ran his vast lumber business, and was generally home for meals. Margy Mercer was also there, and the family was complete.
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“Well, what have you two fellows been doing this morning?” asked Mr. Mercer, as he vigorously attacked a piece of steak.

“Don’s been breaking into people’s houses!” chuckled Jim. “This was an expensive morning for Don.”

Don related what had happened, and finding his family deeply interested in the professor’s letter, told them the story of the phantom galleon. Mr. Mercer smiled as he finished.

“I suppose you two wouldn’t mind going along on a trip like that, would you?” he asked.

“I should say not!” exclaimed Jim. “We’d go without mother’s apple pie for a month to go on that trip!”

“Hum!” said Mr. Mercer. “Score one for mother’s pie! I imagine if anything spectacular comes out of the professor’s treasure hunt the newspapers will have it.”
26

The two boys went for a brief sail in a small catboat during the afternoon and later worked at the bench in their boathouse, turning out the sides for some bunks which they planned to place in their little sleeping cottage at the end of the yard. They already had three beds in the little place, but lately Jim had hit upon the idea of constructing regular ships’ bunks and they were now busy making the pieces. They stuck to this job until the time of the evening meal, and after that they remained at home, listening to the radio entertainment.

Don, who was sitting near the living room window, idly looking out, suddenly uttered an exclamation and straightened up.

“What’s the matter, Don?” asked Jim, quickly.

“Here comes Professor Scott!” Don exclaimed.

“In here?” demanded Jim.

“Yes, he’s coming up the walk.” And Don got up and went to the door, to open it for the teacher.

“How do you do, Professor Scott,” he greeted. “Won’t you come in?”

“Yes, thank you,” nodded the professor. “Is your father at home?”

“Yes, he surely is,” said Don. “Come right on in.”

He showed the professor into the living room, where the Mercer family greeted him, and after a few minutes of pleasant talk Mr. Mercer guided him to his study, where they might talk in quietness and alone. Jim looked inquiringly at Don.

“What in the world do you suppose he wants with dad?” he whispered.

“Jiggered if I know,” shrugged Don.
27

In less than half an hours’ time the two men returned, both of them smiling, and Mr. Mercer turned off the radio. Then, as they sat down the father looked with mock sternness at his two boys.

“I want your promise to at least make an effort to keep out of trouble while you are with Professor Scott,” he said.

“With Professor Scott!” echoed Don, while Jim stared. “Where are we going with Professor Scott?”

“Out to tramp all around the sands of Lower California, I think,” Mr. Mercer returned.

“No!” shouted Don, leaping to his feet.

“No? Well, all right. I thought that you wanted to go, but as long as you don’t why——”

That was as far as he got. “Of course we want to go,” cried Jim. “By George, this is great. What made you decide to take us with you, professor?”

“It’s a protective measure,” smiled the professor, pleased at their enthusiasm. “I saw how interested you boys were when I told you about it this morning, and I was wondering if you would care to go and if I could persuade your father to allow you to go. You see, I want to go out there for a rest, and I’m afraid Ned will insist upon dragging me all over the country in search of Spanish treasure, so I’m taking you boys along as buffers, to help him in his mad adventuring.”
28

“Well,” smiled Mrs. Mercer. “We’ll let them go if you’ll try to keep them out of trouble, Professor Scott. They have a very bad habit of getting into plenty of it.”

“I guess Ned will keep them so busy that they won’t have time to get into any scrapes,” said the professor.

They sat and talked for another hour, the boys unable to believe their good fortune, the suddenness of which had stunned them. The professor took his leave at last, telling them that he planned to start at the end of the coming week. After he had gone they sat and talked some more, the boys excited at the prospect of their coming trip.

When at last they went up to bed it was not to sleep immediately. They discussed the event for more than an hour.

“Dad and mother say for us to keep out of trouble,” chuckled Jim. “We’ll try hard to obey orders, but I do hope we have some exciting times.”

“Don’t you worry,” chuckled Don. “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we did!”

The two boys fell asleep, worn out by the events of the day. It is doubtful if they would have slept so peacefully had they been able to foresee the events which loomed before them.



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