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OFF FOR HAWAII.




CHAPTER I.


A QUEST OF IMPORTANCE.


"And you really believe in this great treasure, Oliver?"

"I certainly do, Mark. What would make me believe otherwise?"

"Nothing, that I can bring to mind. But to think that there may be fifty thousands dollars' worth of pearls secreted in a cave close to the volcano Kilauea, on the Hawaiian Islands! It's—well, staggering."

"I do not believe that Gaston Brown was the man to deceive anyone, least of all his own son," continued Oliver Raymond. "There was nothing to be gained by such a course."

"The thing of it is, to find this Kanaka known as Joe Koloa," put in Dan Holbrook, who was Oliver's particular chum. "Unless we find him and get him to explain certain things, to look for the pearls will be like looking for a diamond in a coal mine. I understand that the volcano basin is about nine miles in circumference. We can't search every foot of such a large territory as that."

"We haven't got to search every foot of it," went on Oliver, who was highly enthusiastic on the subject and was trying his best to make Dan and myself equally so. "You know, Dan, and so does Mark, that all we've got to do is to locate the double-headed idol carved out of lava, standing at the entrance to the cave. That ought not to be so difficult, even in a territory ten or twelve miles in extent."

"You must remember one thing, Oliver," I returned. "You have both sailed the Pacific, while I have never been west before. Yet I have read enough about the Sandwich Islands, as they used to be called, to know that the gigantic volcano Kalauea is in a constant state of eruption, overflowing its basin at various points and sending its liquid lava flowing in hundreds of directions. If this Cave of Pearls, as the Kanakas called it, existed fifty years ago, it is more than likely that the lava filled it up long since, and the pearls may be a hundred feet underground—or under lava, to speak more correctly."

"Then you don't advise undertaking the expedition, Mark?" said Oliver disappointedly.

"I didn't say that. Our time is our own, we each have quite some money to spend, and a trip to the Hawaiian Islands will suit me about as well as anything. I have always wanted to visit the largest volcano in the world. It must be a grand sight."

"Father says it is the grandest sight he ever saw," said Dan Holbrook. "He stopped at the islands on his first trip to Hong Kong."

"And remember what I said," continued Oliver Raymond. "If we find the treasure I shall insist on giving each of you a liberal portion of it."

"We won't count our chickens before the eggs are laid," I answered gravely. "But we'll go, and that settles it."

"Yes, we'll go," added Dan. "Hurrah for the Hawaiian Islands, Uncle Sam's new mid-Pacific possessions!"

Oliver Raymond and Dan Holbrook were boys between sixteen and seventeen years of age, although outdoor life and travel had given them the appearance of being older. They were the sons of two gentlemen who belonged to a large machinery manufacturing firm, doing business in San Francisco, Hong Kong, Manila, and other cities of this portion of the globe.

In a previous volume of this series, entitled "A Sailor Boy with Dewey," Oliver Raymond was allowed to tell his own story of how he and Dan Holbrook took a trip to the Philippine Islands, where they fell in with the savage Tagals and lost some valuable documents and their money belts. Returning to Hong Kong, they joined Admiral Dewey's fleet, bound for Manila Bay, and served on the Boston during the great naval battle in which the entire Spanish fleet was destroyed. Going ashore later on, they passed through many adventures in and near Manila, trying to get back their belongings and trying to save the firm of Raymond, Holbrook & Smith from losing a valuable business connection in Manila proper.

Among those who participated in some of these adventures was the second mate of a schooner, a Yankee by the name of Watterson Brown. The sailor had a father living on the island of Luzon, and one day Oliver and Dan came upon this old man while some natives were trying to rob him. The elderly man died from wounds inflicted in the struggle, and left to his son some papers relating to the fortune mentioned at the opening of this chapter. These papers had been turned over to Watt Brown, as he was called, and when the second mate was mortally wounded in a battle with some Chinese pirates, he had turned over the documents to Oliver, stating that if he could find the fortune he might keep it, knowing full well that Oliver would give his chum Dan a fair share of his findings.

I had become acquainted with the two boys through Mr. Raymond, whom I had met in Cuba during those stirring war times, which I have tried to depict to the best of my ability in another volume called, "When Santiago Fell." I had had adventures between the Cuban and Spanish lines galore, and when I was captured and placed in a Santiago dungeon, Oliver's father was my cell companion. How we finally escaped has already been related.

My father and I lived in the East, but upon Mr. Raymond's kind invitation we had come on to San Francisco, and here I had first met Oliver and Dan, and the three of us soon became warm friends. They never got done telling of their adventures in the Philippines, nor I of my adventures in Cuba, where I had left an old school chum, a Cuban youth named Alano Guerez. Alano was still at home, trying to do what he could, now the war was over, for his parents on their extensive sugar-cane plantation.

The trip West by my father and myself had been productive of more than friendly relations. My father had been looking for a good business opening to work in connection with what he already possessed in New York and in Santiago and Havana, Cuba. Mr. Smith, of the firm of Raymond, Holbrook & Smith, wished to retire, and now my father was a member of the new firm of Raymond, Holbrook & Carter, and in the future business was to be carried on in the East as well as in the West. This business relationship brought us boys closer together than ever.

"We'll form a club," said Oliver one day, "The Faithful Three," and all of us agreed and shook hands over it. Our parents were all well-to-do and our time was our own, and we looked for good times ahead, never dreaming of the many perils into which the search for the Cave of Pearls was to lead us.