“Wait until I get up there and I’ll give you a hand,” called Ned, who had been left in the motor boat.
“No, you had better stay here and help fasten the ladder when Bob and Jerry lower it,” answered Mr. De Vere. “I’ll need your aid.”
After some little difficulty, for part of the tackle had fouled, Bob and Jerry succeeded in lowering over the ship’s side an accommodation ladder, somewhat like a short flight of steps. It hung above the Ripper’s deck, and when some ropes had been strung for hand rails, Mr. De Vere was able to ascend, holding on by one hand, and was soon on the deck of the brig.
“At last!” he exclaimed. “Here we are! I was afraid we’d never find her, and, if we did, that Blowitz would be ahead of me. But, thanks to you, boys, I have beaten him. Now I must see if my papers are safe.”
“Where will you look for them?” asked Jerry.
“They must be somewhere in the captain’s cabin. That is where the gold will likely be. I suppose we’ll have to hunt for it.”
“Shall we help you?”
“Yes, if you will. Let’s go below. Is the motor boat securely made fast?”
“I’ll guarantee she’ll not drift away,” declared Ned, as he and his companions followed Mr. De Vere to the main cabin.
On every side were evidences of a hurried abandonment of the brig. Some of the sailors had gone off without taking all their clothing, for garments were scattered here and there. Things were in confusion below decks, and the captain’s cabin showed signs of having been ransacked.
“There is something queer about this,” said Mr. De Vere as he surveyed the scene. “The ship is not sinking, and I don’t believe it has leaked a drop, though at first I thought so. There was no collision, for there is no sign of damage. Yet there is every indication that captain and crew deserted the brig in a hurry. Now what made them do that? Why did not Blowitz give me some reason for that? What caused the abandonment of the brig?”
“Perhaps the sailors got superstitious, I’ve often read that they do,” suggested Jerry.
“I hardly think so.”
“Maybe they were afraid of the mad dogs,” said Bob.
“I don’t believe the dogs went mad until after the sailors left,” was Mr. De Vere’s answer. “No, there is some strange secret connected with the brig, and I’d like to solve it. But I must first find my papers and the gold.”
“Suppose the captain took them with him?” remarked Ned.
“He did not know about them. That is he did not know of what the valuables consisted. The gold and papers were put in a safe, and only Blowitz and myself had the combination. The safe was placed in the captain’s cabin, and he was instructed to deliver it, unopened, to a certain man. When they deserted the ship in such a hurry I do not believe they took the safe with them. It must be somewhere on board. We’ll search for it.”