“It must have been the water cask,” declared Jerry, who had seen it on deck, and his theory, which was the correct one, was accepted.
“Now I will finish working the combination, and open the safe,” said Mr. De Vere, when they had breathed in deep of the fresh air, and felt the last influences of the fumes vanish. “We must have been unconscious an hour or more.”
It did not take him long after this to open the strong box. From an inner compartment he drew forth a bundle of papers, and a small box, that seemed quite heavy. This he opened.
“The gold is safe, at any rate,” he announced. “Now to look at the papers.”
A hasty examination of these showed that they were all there.
“This is good news for me, boys,” announced Mr. De Vere. “My fortune is safe now, and that scoundrel Blowitz can not ruin me as he tried to do!”
“Hark! What was that?” asked Jerry suddenly.
From somewhere out on the Pacific there sounded a whistle, long drawn out.
“It’s a steamer!” cried Ned. “It has probably sighted the derelict!”
“A steamer,” murmured Mr. De Vere. “If it is not—”
He did not finish, but the boys knew what he meant.
Mr. De Vere hastily thrust the papers into an inner pocket of his coat.
“Distribute the gold among you,” he told the boys. “When we get it aboard the Ripper we can hide it. There is no telling what might happen. If that steamer—”
“It’s the tug Monarch!” cried Jerry, who had hurried up on deck. “It’s coming this way full speed!”
“Then we must leave at once!” decided Mr. De Vere. “I think our boat can beat theirs. I did hope to be able to tow the brig into harbor, and save the cargo, but that is out of the question now. I do not want a fight with Blowitz. Come, boys, we must escape!”
The boys hurriedly divided the gold among them. It made their pockets bulge out, and was quite heavy. Mr. De Vere had his papers safe.
As the derelict hunters all came out on deck they could see the Monarch was much nearer. In bold relief stood a figure in the bow.
“It’s Blowitz!” exclaimed Mr. De Vere, “and he’s shaking his fist at me. He’s angry because I have beaten him at his own game. But come on, I don’t want a clash with him. I am in no shape for another fight. We’ll have to retreat.”
It was the work of but a few seconds to get into the motor boat. The lines were cast off, and, with one turn of the wheel Ned started the engine, and ran her up to full speed after a few revolutions.
“Now let them have the brig,” said Mr. De Vere. “I’ve gotten the best out of her.”
But Blowitz and his men seemed to have lost interest in the derelict. Instead of continuing on their course toward it they were now coming full speed after the Ripper, the tug being steered to cross her bows. Probably Blowitz took it for granted that De Vere had the papers and gold.