“It must be the treasure!” Tessie cried out, jumping up and down.
Nancy lifted Tessie into the hole, and she dug the objects out with her toy shovel. As she handed up a battered tin knife and spoon, she squealed in delight. “Did pirates leave these?”
“I don’t know,” Nancy replied.
“They could have been utensils dropped by a picnicker and buried in the sand,” George pointed out.
Bess examined the pieces carefully. “I’m sure they’re very old,” she said. “They’re probably from a pirate ship.”
“Can I keep them?” Tessie begged.
“Maybe,” Nancy replied.
Tessie looked for more treasure, but reported that there was nothing. Nancy helped her climb out, then offered to dig deeper. A few minutes later, she stopped suddenly and stepped out.
“Tessie, go down and feel around in the sand.”
In a few seconds the little girl handed up a coin. Nancy looked at it and exclaimed, “This is a doubloon! A Spanish doubloon!”
Tessie wanted to know what a doubloon was. Bess explained that many years ago Spanish ships sailed across the ocean to Mexico, which was not far from Florida.
“They captured people and had them do all sorts of work. One thing was to make coins like those they had in Spain. They were called doubloons and were made of pure gold,”
Tessie tried to dig farther, but found it impossible. She had hit solid coral rock. The little girl looked up at Nancy and said, “Please lift me out and then you dig.”
Nancy complied. She assumed that the coral rock had been there a long time, but suspected that something precious might have been buried before the tiny polyps had built their pile of rock on top of it.
She chipped at the coral with the spade, and presently saw a few more doubloons. She handed them up to Tessie, then Nancy broke off more of the rock. In a few moments she climbed out of the hole, but helped Tessie down.
This tune the little girl exclaimed, “Oh, I found a bracelet!” and climbed out.
Nancy explained that all treasure found must be taken to police headquarters and listed. “You can’t keep everything you find,” she added. “It’s against the law.”
George scraped the hole thoroughly, but found nothing more, and came back up.
“Now I suppose we must put all that sand back,” Bess said with a sigh.
“Of course,” George replied. “Otherwise someone could fall in and get hurt. Here, my dear cousin, you haven’t been digging for a while. You start.”
Bess did not look very happy, and the bald-beaded man stepped tip. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it for you,” he offered, and took the spade.
With powerful arms he threw the sand back into the hole and soon the beach looked just as it had before.
“Thanks,” Bess said. “That was very nice of you.”
“Don’t mention it. Want an ice cream?”
“Oh—no, thanks. I—I’m on a diet.”
The man smiled and left to take his spade back to the car.
George chuckled. “How come you’re turning down food?”
Bess blushed. “As I said, I’m on a diet!”
George and Nancy laughed. “Best joke I’ve heard in years!” George exclaimed. “If he had been young and handsome, Bess would have eaten three banana splits!”
Mrs. Turnbull’s children became restless now that the treasure hunt was over and asked if they could have their lunch. The woman nodded and again thanked Nancy for rescuing Tessie. She promised to take the treasure to the authorities on their way home, then beckoned her charges toward the grove. The children waved good-by and followed the woman.
After they had gone, Nancy said, “I’m sore someone else found the rest of that treasure.”
“I hope he reported it,” George said, grinning.
The three friends walked along the beach.
“From Mrs. Cosgrove’s description,” Nancy said, “this should be the way to the old lighthouse.”
“You’re right,” George confirmed a few seconds later, when they saw the building inside a fenced area. It was about sixty feet in height, cone-shaped, and made of brick.
Several other visitors, including a group of boy scouts, had gathered in front of the gate and the girls joined them. “The tour will begin in a few minutes,” the scoutmaster told them.