So deeply loaded was the schooner—a large three-masted vessel—that the boys had little difficulty in reaching her rail and vaulting it. Arriving on deck they found an officer and two or three members of the crew standing ready to receive them.
“Well, here are the three men you wanted,” stated Lopez to the officer. “I had hard work gettin’ them, but they wanted a vessel bad so I signed ’em on. Now to settle up if you please.”
“Take these men forward, Johnson, and break ’em in,” commanded the mate, passing some money over to Lopez. “Get a jump on ’em.”
A tug took the schooner in tow. As she passed the shipyard Charley whistled, “Bob White.” The mate’s fist descended on his head.
“He didn’t say,” replied the watchman. “He left this letter.”
Proffering an envelope to Jack the watchman passed on to his duties. Apparently he had lost all interest in the missive.
Jack looked blankly at his comrades. He held the letter in his hand unopened, while the others crowded closer.
“Open it up, Captain,” urged Tom. “Let’s get at this mystery at once. We’re usually shrouded in so much mystery you could cut it with a knife. What’s the good news? Is the treasure discovered?”
“Quit your joking, Tom. This may be more serious than we think. Wyckoff is not writing letters for the fun of it. He means business.”
“I can testify to that,” declared Frank. “He surely does mean business. This treasure stuff is actually real to Wyckoff.”
“And that’s what makes him so dangerous,” Jack mused. “He’s really deluded himself into thinking there is a treasure and that it should rightfully belong to him. Therefore he gets desperate when he imagines anyone is trying to take it from him. He’s bad medicine.”
“Well, let’s get at the letter,” cried Tom impatiently.
“Yes, open it up, Jack, and let’s hear what he has to say.”
“Well, here it is,” Jack replied unfolding the paper. “He says: ’For the last time, go back. Your pals are put out of the way and you are next. The treasure belongs to me and I’m going to have it.’”
“That’s a pretty ‘howdedo,’” declared Tom as Jack’s voice ceased. “I suppose he thinks a Boy Scout will up and go right home.”
“Evidently he doesn’t believe any such thing, but just to be on what he calls the safe side, he’s sent this warning.”
“What did he sign it? Does he leave any address for an answer?”
“Not an address,” declared Jack. “It’s a pretty poor thing to scare a lot of Boy Scouts with, but I suppose it was the best he could do. It wasn’t quite up to his standard of boring holes in boats, though. This is rather mild for Wyckoff.”
“That reminds me,” announced Tom. “We’d better have them drop the Fortuna into the water as quickly as we can, for she won’t improve any where she is and we may want to make a quick getaway.”