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CHAPTER XXXIII.


into the sunshine once more—conclusion.


"Mark!"

"Is that you, Oliver?"

"Yes. Are you safe?"

"I think so, but I am not sure," I continued. "What in the world has happened?"

"I don't know, excepting that something fell—a part of the cave's roof, more than likely. Where is Dan?"

"I'm here," came from our chum. "Gracious, I thought everything had gone to smash!"

"Well, something has gone to smash," answered Oliver. "Listen!"

We listened, and heard Ramon Delverez calling from a distance. "Help me!" were his words. "I am caught between the rocks! Save me!"

"He is a prisoner," ejaculated Dan. "Where are you?" he demanded.

"Back here where the pearls were. Save me!"

"And where are Merkin and Koloa?" I asked.

"Both dead—smashed to a jelly," groaned Delverez. "Save me—please do!"

We looked at one another. "I'm willing to do what I can," I said promptly. "I wouldn't want to leave a dog to die down here."

"But what can we do?" asked Oliver. "Look around; we are hemmed in ourselves."

"But it is light—there must be some opening," put in Dan quickly. He looked up. "There it is—but out of reach."

After that we were silent, hardly knowing what to do and what to expect. Supposing more of the cave ceiling should come down?

But the shock was over, and soon we plucked up our courage and endeavored to go to Ramon Delverez's assistance. But this was no light task.

"I cannot hold on much longer!" we heard him call out. "I am in a crack of the flooring and the bottom is giving away. May heaven have mercy——"

A grinding crash followed, and listening we heard a dull boom far below us. I shivered and so did my companions. "He has gone to his death," said Oliver soberly, and Dan and I agreed with him.

There now remained nothing for us to do but to get out of the cave, if it could be accomplished. But before we made the attempt Oliver caught Dan and me by the arm.

"We will divide the pearls," he said. "Each can put his share in his pocket. Then if one or the other drops into a hole——" He did not finish, but all of us understood—and shivered.

The treasure was divided in silence, twenty-one pearls, large and small, to each. I tied mine in my handkerchief, pinning the whole inside of my vest. Vaguely I wondered what my share was worth and if I would live to take it to a place of safety.

An examination showed us that the cave ran back to a distance of several hundred yards further and there came to an abrupt ending. It was from fifty to sixty feet wide, and the ceiling sloped up like the dome of a large church, at the top of which was a narrow slit through which came a slanting streak of sunshine.

"We can't go forward and we can't go backward," said Dan dismally. "How we are to get out I don't know."

"We must get out," I said desperately. The thought of being buried alive in that lava tomb was too awful to contemplate.

But speaking in that fashion and escaping were two different things. One method after another was suggested, but without result. "We can't dig our way out, with nothing to dig with," said Oliver. "And what is more, we can't climb up these walls."

While he was speaking I was gazing upward at the crack. Something had appeared at the brink of the opening—the form of a man!

"Hullo, up there!" I yelled with all the strength of my lungs. "Hullo, I say!"

"What is it?" cried Oliver.

"A man. Give him a call." And again I raised my voice, and now my chums joined in.

Soon the man appeared again. "Is anybody down there?" came in a hollow tone.

"Yes, we are down here—three boys. Will you help us out?"

"Great Scott! Three boys!" came in a voice full of wonder and one that sounded strangely familiar. "How did you get down there?"

"Never mind that just now; we want to get out!" I bawled. "Please help us at once."

"We will," was the prompt return. "How deep do you suppose that hole is?"

"All of a hundred feet."

"Phew! Then you'll have to wait until we send off for a rope."

"We can do that," said Dan. "But don't desert us."

"We won't, never fear."

The man disappeared, and I turned to Dan. "Do you know who that was? " I asked.

"No."

"It was Mr. John Palmer."

"So it was!" cried Dan. "I thought his voice sounded familiar. Mr. Carson must be with him."

"They won't desert us," said Oliver, and his words gave us all comfort.

"Hullo, below there!" came presently, in Paul Carson's voice. "Are you hungry?"

"We are!" all of us answered together.

"Then stand from under!" And down came a small valise. We picked it up, to find that it contained several sandwiches, which we devoured with much satisfaction.

It was fully four hours before John Palmer came back, accompanied by a Kanaka guide, who carried a long rope. The rope was let down into the cave, and with great difficulty we were hauled up, one after another.

"Well! well! You!" came from Mr. Palmer. "I'm awfully glad to be of service to you!" and he squeezed our hands warmly. Paul Carson was equally pleased. Later on, when we were alone, they insisted upon hearing our tale, to which they listened with great interest.

"Those rascals deserved their fate!" said John Palmer. "If I were in your place I would keep this story to myself."

"I reckon you are right," said Oliver. "Although we'll have to tell our friend Dr. Barton about it."

It was a happy yet a sober trio that made its way to the Volcano House late that night. None of us wanted to talk, for we were thinking of the terrible fate that had overtaken our enemies as well as poor, half-witted Joe Koloa. "I'll tell you, we are well out of it," said Oliver. "I don't want any more treasure hunts, not for twice what we have picked up."

"Nor I," answered Dan. "And yet, we may talk differently after we are rested up."

"Well, it will have to be a long rest, so far as I'm concerned," I put in, and I meant just what I said.

We remained in and around the Volcano House for three days, and then, in company with Dr. Barton, set sail for Honolulu, Mr. Palmer and Mr. Carson going down to Hilo to see us off. "A speedy trip home for you," said John Palmer. "And no more adventures."

The run to the capital of the Hawaiian Islands was without special interest, and on arriving we immediately caught a steamer bound for San Francisco. As the weather proved fine, the voyage to the Golden Gate took but seven days, and an hour after landing found us on the way to Oliver's home, where we met his father and mine. My readers can imagine how warmly both of us, as well as Dan, were greeted. That evening we remained up until midnight, telling our several stories.

On the day following the pearls were taken to a dealer in precious stones. Many of the smaller ones were found of little value, but we managed to dispose of sixteen of the others, which brought us in nearly forty-five thousand dollars. This sum was divided equally between Oliver, Dan, and myself.

"I want it so," said Oliver. "For each of us ran an equal risk in obtaining the treasure." Of the remaining pearls I kept three, Dan as many more, and we insisted upon Oliver retaining the balance.

And here I will bring to an end this story of "Off for Hawaii" in search of the pearl treasure. We have had numerous adventures, but all has ended well, and that being so, let us ring down the curtain, gentle reader, and bid each other good-by.


THE END.