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CHAPTER VII. A CLOSE CALL.
The three divers in the cabin of the sunken derelict were in by no means a cheerful or agreeable frame of mind.

The swordfish would yet persist in hovering above the deck.

They were apparently hoping that their would-be victims would come out. But they did not.

Hours passed slowly by.

Captain Bell sank down upon the rotting stairs and went to sleep. But Frank and the professor kept unwearying vigil.

They were waiting for the welcome glare of the Dart’s searchlight.

Should that appear they would know that they were saved.

But it did not come.

The Dart was far from the spot at the moment. The likelihood was not strong for an immediate return.

But the state of siege was suddenly raised in an unexpected manner.

There is a small fish which is a habitue of the ocean depths called the torpedo.

It has all the power and characteristics of a powerful electrical battery, and can give a stunning shock to anybody which comes in contact with it.

All manner of fishes, large and small, even the monster whale, stand in dread of the torpedo.

It was a school of these odd fish which now proved the means of raising the siege.

They came down upon the school of swordfish with demoralizing effects.

In less time than it takes to tell it, every swordfish was far from the spot, and speeding for their lives to other depths.

Prof. Von Bulow saw the torpedoes coming and realized their nature.

He put his helmet against Frank’s and shouted:

“Look out! If those little fiends hit one of us they will knock the breath away.”

Frank aroused Captain Bell. Some loose planks were brought and the hatch covered.

This was to prevent the torpedoes from entering; but the latter did not seem at all inclined to attack the divers.

They were of a species which will not attack unless attacked. This was fortunate for our friends.

Neither did they remain long in the vicinity.

In fact they departed very soon, and with a breath of relief Frank opened the hatch and climbed out on deck.

It was at this moment that Barney caught sight of the distant star of light, and this was Frank’s helmet.

At almost the same moment Frank saw the distant glare of the searchlight on the Dart.

A great cry burst from him.

He rushed to the companionway and made excited signs to the others.

At once they rushed upon deck.

The excitement was intense.

There was no doubt but that it was the Dart returning. All waited eagerly, hoping and praying that it would not pass them by.

And as fortune had it, it did not.

Presently its course seemed changed somewhat and it apparently bore down upon the hulk.

“We are saved!” cried Frank.

“Heaven has not deserted us,” said Von Bulow, joyously.

And indeed it was a narrow escape for the trio of divers.

There had been almost the moral certainty that they were doomed to find a grave at the bottom of the sea.

But this danger had passed and rescue was at hand. Their joy cannot be fully imagined or expressed.

Captain Bell was so overcome by it that he danced a hornpipe on the rotten deck of the old hulk.

Just as soon as the hulk came within the radius of the searchlight’s glare Barney had seen it.

It was the work of but a very few moments for the Celt to change the course of the Dart.

He bore down for the hulk with all speed. As they drew nearer the trio of divers were seen upon the deck.

“Glory fo’ goodness!” cried Pomp, wildly; “we am jes’ gwine fo’ to sabe dose chilluns, I’ish, shuah’s yo’ bo’n!”

Barney whistled a jig, and Pomp stood on his head with glee.

“We shall live!” cried Captain Bell. “We will find the Virgin next, and then the great treasure is ours.”

Soon the Dart came to a stop not fifty yards away.

The party left the wreck and quickly clambered aboard the submarine boat.

Once more safely in the cabin of the Dart, joy and mutual congratulations followed.

Barney told his story, and Frank spoke warm words of commendation of his course.

“You did just right,” he declared; “the Dart is all right. I can see nothing the matter with her.”

“Let us continue the search for the pirate ship,” said Captain Bell.

“Which we will do!” declared Frank.

But first refreshments were had, and all took a few hours of sleep. Much recuperated, the journey was continued some while later.

The Dart went on an exploring tour now in the vicinity of the sunken wreck.

In all directions the search for the Virgin was made.

And fortune favored the searchers. Suddenly the wreck was sighted.

It had been difficult to find for the fact that the shifting sands had nearly covered the hull.

The many years which had elapsed had caused the masts and rigging to fall and partly decay.

But Captain Bell declared it his confident belief that it was the Virgin.

“I know her by the outline of her bow and her figurehead,” he declared; “that’s the old pirate, for sure!”

At once the Dart anchored near the treasure ship.

All became excitement, for it was indeed a thrilling thing to think that they were about to investigate a wreck with perhaps millions in gold aboard.

As before, Barney and Pomp were to remain on board the Dart, while the others did the exploring.

Soon they were all in readiness, and Frank led the way.

They left the Dart and crossed the intervening distance without any mishap.

Captain Bell made signs that his belief that this was the Virgin was confirmed when they reached the rail of the sunken vessel.

This was certainly encouraging, and all clambered aboard not without some excitement.

The deck of the pirate ship was deeply covered with seaweed and submarine growth.

But the remains of old cannon and their charges were visible, and much of the paraphernalia of the ship was of an imperishable kind.

Even some of the bones of human skeletons were scattered about.

The Virgin had sunk, as Captain Bell had said, while in the heat of action.

Therefore many of her fiendish crew had gone down with her.

But their bodies were, of course, much consumed with the action of the water and of marine animals.

A brief inspection of the deck was made; but one and all were thinking of the mighty wealth which undoubtedly existed below decks.

And Frank led the way down through the hatches.

The scene upon going into the cabin of the pirate ship was a thrilling one.

Everywhere were skeletons in various positions, some expressing perfect horror and agony, faithfully showing how the wretched souls had departed.

But there was no article of special value in the first cabin.

Corroded cutlasses, muskets and other arms were lying about.

Leaving all this for later inspection Frank pushed forward into the forward cabin.

Here was a horrible sight.

In the walls of the cabin were iron rings from which hung rusted iron chains inclosing the skeletons of unfortunate prisoners.

It was a terrible thing to think of that these poor souls had thus gone down to their death in utter helplessness.

In this cabin a way was found into the hold.

Frank went boldly into this, and was not a little surprised to find that it was cleverly partitioned off in compartments.

Breaking in the door of one of these compartments, it was found to be the powder magazine.

Here were tons of saltpetre, ruined, of course, by the action of the water.

Frank put his helmet against the others and said:

“There was powder enough here to have blown the whole thing to the zenith.”

“You are right,” agreed Von Bulow; “but the magazine was in too secure a place to stand any chance of being fired.”

This was certainly true.

“Let us go on to the next compartment and find the treasure,” said Captain Bell.

“If there is any on board,” said Von Bulow, who was skeptical.

“Of course there is,” declared Bell, with a positive air. “There is no doubt of it.”

“I hope so,” rejoined the scientist.

“At least we will try and find it,” said Frank Reade, Jr. “Come along; let us waste no time in argument.”

So, with this, they passed on through the hold. The result was that they came to another compartment.

But the door of this was much stronger, and Frank was compelled to use his ax to break it in.

The heavy iron hinges, however, were so rusted that it was not a hard job.

But the sight that was revealed to the divers was an astounding one.

The compartment was, perhaps, a dozen feet square. On the floor there was piled a huge heap of coin, almost as perfect as the day it was placed there.

Chests were piled one upon another about the place.

For a moment the treasure hunters paused, overwhelmed at the sight.

At last the pirates’ treasure had been found. There was no doubt of this.

Then their helmets came together.

“What did I tell you?” cried Bell, excitedly. “There are millions!”

“It looks like gold,” gasped Von Bulow.

“It is,” said Frank. “There is a mighty fortune in that heap! We are favored of fortune.”

Then for a moment that peculiar malady, the gold fever, seemed to seize all.

Even Frank Reade, Jr., who was wealthy enough, was constrained to fall to counting the gold.

But this would have been an interminable task.

So, after handling it awhile, they desisted and began to break open the chests which were piled about.

These were in part filled with clothing which was remarkably well preserved, and consisted of gorgeous uniforms of all kinds, undoubtedly spoils from the prize ships captured and preserved by Longboots, who, as Captain Bell declared, was inordinately fond of rich display.

But one of the chests contained something else.
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