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Chapter 11
The missing Ones.—What has become of them?—Theories about Bart and Pat.—The Decision.—A new Disappointment, and a very serious one.—A bad Substitute.—The Voyage to Aspotogon.—The mysterious Cove.—A romantic Spot.—Picturesque Scenery.—Speculations about the Buccaneers.—The very Place.—The Knoll.—New Themes.—The Mound over the Treasure of the Seas.—Plans to get at said Treasure.—A most unpleasant Discovery.—Their Plans knocked in the Head.—New Plans, by which to avoid all Difficulties.

THE other boys rose that morning at the usual hour, and descended leisurely to breakfast. The absence of Bart and Pat was noticed and commented on. It was supposed, however, that they had gone off somewhere to get up an appetite for breakfast, and that they would be along before the meal was over. Time passed, and the breakfast was ended; but still no signs appeared of the absentees. It was now nearly time to start, and they all strolled down to the wharf where the Antelope was, thinking that the two boys might possibly be there. On reaching the place they looked around, but saw no signs of them. Captain Corbet had not seen them, nor had Solomon. Everything was ready, and it was only a few minutes of the time.

“It’s queer where those fellows can have gone to,” said Bruce.

“They’ve gone on a walk, of course,” said Arthur; “and I dare say they’ve gone farther than they intended.”

“O, they’ll be along soon,” said Phil, “and won’t they be half starved? Methinks!”

“It’s a strange thing,” said Tom, “that they should have slipped off in this way. No one knows anything about them. No one at the inn saw them go out. They must have got up precious early.”

“Well, they’re both rather early risers,” said Arthur; “and they may have gone off fishing.”

“I dare say they have,” said Bruce. “Bart is crazy about fishing, and if he has got one solitary bite, he’ll give up the expedition to Aspotogon.”

“And Pat’s as bad, every bit,” said Phil. “Depend upon it, those two have gone out to catch fish for breakfast, and won’t be back till somewhere about evening.”

“For my part,” said Tom, “I shouldn’t wonder if they’ve both backed out deliberately.”

“Backed out?”

“Yes. I don’t believe they cared about going to Aspotogon.”

“Pooh! nonsense! What makes you think that?”

“Why, last evening I noticed that they didn’t say a single word. Both of those fellows were as muni as mice, and all the rest of us were in full cry about the expedition. Depend upon it, they didn’t want to go, and have backed out. They didn’t want to say anything about it, for fear we’d tease them to come, but quietly dropped off, leaving us to go without them. O, that’s the way, beyond a doubt.”

“Now that you mention it, Tom,” said Phil, “I do remember that they didn’t say anything last night, neither of them.”

“Neither did they,” said Arthur.

“Pact,” said Bruce; “it looks very much as if they had talked the matter over, and concluded to back out in this quiet way; and I don’t know but what they have concocted some scheme of their own.”

“O, some fishing scheme, of course. Bart was crazy about it, you know, and he’s persuaded Pat to go with him.”

“Well, in that case we needn’t wait.”

“O, we may as well hang on till ten—in case they should turn up after all.”

Such was the opinion, then, to which the other boys came, about the disappearance of Bart and Pat. It was a perfectly natural one under the circumstances. Bart and Pat were distinguished above all things for their fondness for fishing; their silence during the conversation of the preceding evening really made it seem as though they had no desire to go to Aspotogon, but had some plan of their own. This plan seemed to the boys to be undoubtedly a fishing expedition. There was, therefore, not the slightest feeling of uneasiness in the mind of any of them, nor did even Captain Corbet, who had listened to the conversation, imagine that there was any cause for alarm. To have imagined danger to them in such a place as this, on dry ground, in a civilized country, was out of the question. Notwithstanding this conviction, they thought it possible, however, that the two might yet return in time, and therefore they decided to wait for them till ten.

The conversation about Bart and Pat was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the landlord, who brought them another disappointment. He told them that important business had most unexpectedly required him to go up the country for twenty miles or so, and that he should not be able to accompany them. He expressed the greatest possible regret, and the boys expressed still more. They at once offered to postpone their expedition till the following day; but the landlord was not certain whether he should be back by that time or not, and advised them to go without him. He said a friend of his would go, who knew the whole country, and could tell them all that they wanted to know about it.

Great was the disappointment of the boys at this unexpected occurrence. They had particularly wished to have the landlord’s company, for reasons already stated. He was so genial, so communicative, and so destitute of inquisitiveness, that he seemed the very man whom they might be able to pump to their hearts’ content, without making their purpose apparent to him. One great charm of the expedition lay in their belief that Aspotogon and Deep Cove had been the haunts of the buccaneers, and that the landlord would show them the traditionary place where the treasure had been deposited. They did not think that another man could supply his place; and when, shortly after, the landlord brought his friend along, they were sure of it. For the friend, whose name the landlord gave as Turnbull, was a heavy, dull-looking man, and the last in the world whom they would have chosen in the landlord’s place. However, there was no help for it. It was useless to postpone it, and, consequently, at ten o’clock the Antelope started on her voyage.

On emerging from the little harbor of Chester into the bay, the scene that presented itself was beautiful in the extreme. Much of it was familiar to their eyes, owing to their previous cruise about the bay on the first day of their arrival; but they now saw it under a somewhat different aspect.

On one side arose an island, bare of trees, and covered with grass, of no great size, but conspicuous from its position. In its neighborhood were other islands, some all wooded from the shore to the summit, others showing green meadows peeping forth from encircling foliage. Before them spread the shores of Tancook, all green with verdure, dotted with white houses, and showing, here and there, the darker hue of forest trees, amid the green, grassy meadows. Beyond this, and far out to sea, was Ironbound, which, from this distance, looked dark and repellent. It was more wooded than the other islands, and did not seem popular as a dwelling-place. Naturally so, for at that distance out, it was exposed to the storms and the fogs of the ocean, while those islands within the bay were in the possession of a far more genial soil and climate. On the left, the coast-line ran on beyond a neighboring point, till it terminated in a distant headland; and here, on that line of coast, several miles this side of the headland, the land arose to a wooded eminence, which was no other than the very place which they were seeking—Aspotogon.

The boys were disappointed, for they had expected something much higher. It did not seem to them to be more than a very ordinary hill, nor did it rise very high above the level of the surrounding land. Still, they were willing to be pleased, and therefore tried to think that it might really be much higher than it seemed.

The line of coast ran on, showing cleared fields along the shore, which, farther back, were succeeded by wooded slopes. In this line of shore there did not appear the slightest opening, nor could they imagine how it was possible for a schooner to reach the base of Aspotogon. That there was a passage, however, they were again and again assured by Turnbull, who, though not at all inclined to give any information, was yet capable of answering direct questions, and telling the names of places. The existence of a cove, or strait, in such a place, where there seemed nothing but an unbroken line of coast, gave additional strength to that fancy in which the boys had already been indulging, and made them think that this place, so completely hidden, must be, above all others, the place once chosen as a secure retreat by the buccaneers. This feeling gained strength as they went on. The distance was not far. The wind was fair. The Antelope did her best, and so they gradually drew nearer and nearer. Still, no sign appeared of any opening, nor could they make out any place where an opening might be likely to be found. At last Turnbull remarked that this was the place, and that the Antelope would have to anchor here, as it would be inconvenient, in this wind, to get out of Deep Cove if they were to enter it in the schooner. Down went the Antelope’s anchor, and the boat was hauled up alongside.

They were not more than a quarter of a mile from the shore. Deep Cove was there,—for so Turnbull said,—and they were about to visit it, yet there was still no more appearance of any opening than before. The shore seemed to run on without any break, and the boys sought in vain to find some place into which a boat might go; but the boat was ready, and this mystery was soon to be solved.

They drew very near to the shore before the long-sought-for opening appeared. The opening was at such an angle that it could not be detected from the direction in which they had approached, and the curve made by the cove was of such a kind that it was difficult to detect it from any direction. On entering it they saw that it was deep and spacious, with the shore on one side covered with forest trees, and on the other side cleared. Rowing on a little farther, the cove curved, and the cleared land was left behind. Now a scene of grandeur appeared. The cove ran between lofty heights, which bordered it, now with precipitous rocky cliffs, now with steep slopes, heavily wooded. After rowing a few hundred yards, it seemed as though they were shut out from all the world. Behind and before there was a circle of hills, and they seemed to be rather upon the bosom of some sequestered lake than upon an inlet of the sea close by the waters of the stormy Atlantic.

They still moved on, and as they advanced, the scenery retained the same general features, possessing an air of wild and romantic grandeur of the most striking description. At length they came to a place where the cove widened into a smooth basin, surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills. The water was as smooth as glass, and as black as ink. This, they were informed, was the head of the cove; and straight in front of them was the base of Aspotogon, which was bathed by these waters. The boat approached a grassy knoll close by this, and the boys all got out.

Here, then, the mystery was solved, for they had come up by this passage-way to Aspotogon itself. Close beside them there was a steep declivity, bare of trees just here, and covered with stones. Far up trees began, and hid the summit of the hill.

The picturesque beauty of this place, the deep, black water, the high, encircling hills, the sombre, primeval forests, the utter seclusion, all produced a profound impression upon the minds of the boys, who always were alive to the beauties of nature, and who here had something in addition to natural beauty. For their thoughts turned at once to that which had been for days the supreme subject in their minds—the treasure of the buccaneers. Was not this the haunt of the pirates spoken of by the governor of Sable Island. They all felt sure that it must be. No better place than this could be found in all the world. Here was a hiding-place without a parallel. Here a vessel might pass from the outer seas into absolute seclusion, and find a haven safe from all storms, shut in by high hills. Here, too, was a place to bury their treasure, if such was their desire; and, if the governor of Sable Island had spoken the truth, the place best fitted to receive the pirate’s deposit must be the very knoll on which they were standing.

Here it was, on this spot, that they regretted most deeply the absence of the landlord. It was this knoll, above all things, that seemed to them to contain the plunder of the Spanish Main, and they felt sure that, if the landlord had been here, he would have told them all about it, and confirmed their suspicions. But he was not here, and his substitute Turnbull was of no use whatever. He either could or would tell them nothing. He would only answer in monosyllables, and the boys, after a fruitless effort to draw him out on the subject of Deep Cove and its local traditions, gave up the task in despair. They could only console themselves by the thought that they could pump the landlord on their return to Chester, and then, if their suspicions were confirmed, they could visit the place again, and dig for the buried treasure.

And what a glorious place it was to dig, if this indeed was the place which they supposed it to be! How completely shut out it was from all observation. Here they might dig to their hearts’ content, and nobody would know it. Perhaps the treasure was not very far down. The knoll rose not more than ten feet or so above the sea. Some of them, indeed, thought that the whole knoll was the work of the pirates, and was neither more nor less than the mound of earth with which they had covered up their treasure. This view was even more charming than the other, and they went about it on every side, examining it all over, and scrutinizing it most carefully.

Suddenly Tom made a discovery of a very unpleasant character. As he wandered about, he found himself, all at once, upon a regular carriage road. It was not a first-class road by any means, but it was a road for wheeled vehicles, and, from its appearance, was evidently in constant use. The sight of this created at once a deep disappointment, in which all the others shared as soon as they saw it. They found that the seclusion of the place was broken up. To dig for gold here, by the side of a public road, would be a difficult matter, and a very different thing from what they had at first supposed. So completely had their minds been impressed by the apparent seclusion of Deep Cove, that they had forgotten all about the houses and settlements which they had seen, only a short time before, on the outer coast. Yet these settlements were only a little distance away, and this was, no doubt, the road that joined them together, which had to make the circuit of Deep Cove, in order to effect a connection.

The boys now seated themselves apart, out of hearing of Turnbull, in order to discuss the situation.

“There can’t be any doubt,” said Tom, “that this is the mound made by the pirates to cover up their treasure. They didn’t dig a hole, but covered up the treasure by piling earth over it.”

“That’s about it,” said ‘Phil; “and what’s more, I don’t believe that we’ll have to go very far down, either.”

“I wonder if any one has ever tried it,” said Arthur.

“I don’t believe it,” said Tom. “There isn’t the slightest mark on the place.”

“But wouldn’t people have tried it, if it is really the place?”

“Perhaps they don’t know the actual place; and we may be the first who ever suspected this mound. It isn’t impossible.”

“No; it may be that the people here are too dull; or it may be just a happy guess of ours, which has never occurred to any one else.”

“And this miserable road here,” said Tom, dolefully, “is going to spoil all.”

“I wonder if we couldn’t manage to dig, in spite of the road.”

“How?”

“Why, we might stick up the sail of the Antelope, and make a big tent, and pretend to be fishing, or roughing it.”

“Well, there may be something in that.”

“Something! Of course there’s everything in that. I call it a good idea, and the only way we can go about it.”

“But wouldn’t we be bothered with visitors?”

“No; certainly not; or, at any rate, they couldn’t get in.”

“They’d see the earth thrown up.”

“O, we wouldn’t throw up much. I don’t believe we’d have to dig far, and we could put up both sails, so as to cover up everything. Some of us could watch, to give notice to the diggers to knock off in case any one passed by.”

“Well, it’s not a bad idea; and it’s the only thing we can do. So it’s worth trying.”

“Yes; but there’s one thing first.”

“What’s that?”

“Why, we’ll have to talk with the landlord, and see if we can find out from him what the probabilities are about this place being really the resort of the old buccaneers.”


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