Chester followed Hal’s injunction, but the man made no effort to escape.
“Well?” said Hal, questioningly.
The man thrust a hand into his pocket.
“Hold on there!” cried Hal, sharply, producing his revolver. “No tricks now.”
The man smiled and withdrew his hand from his pocket.
“I wasn’t after a gun,” he said.
He opened his hand and in the palm Hal saw a little round object.
“Can you match that?” the man demanded.
Hal peered closer and made out the nature of the object in the man’s hand.
“A black pea!” he exclaimed. “Yes, I can match it.”
He thrust a hand in his pocket and produced a black pea, which not many days before had rolled from the pocket of Jules Clemenceau.
The stranger looked at it closely.
“All right,” he said. He turned to Chester. “And you?” he demanded.
Chester’s reply was to produce his black pea, which he exhibited to the man.
“Good!” said the stranger. “Follow me.”
“Follow you where?” Chester wanted to know.
“Yes; what’s all this funny business, anyhow?” demanded Hal.
The man smiled enigmatically.
“Best to be careful,” he said. “Come on.”
Chester looked at Hal and the latter nodded.
“Might as well see what it’s all about,” said the latter.
They fell into step behind the stranger.
With many turns and twists the man walked for perhaps half an hour. Apparently he was bent on beclouding the lads’ sense of direction.
“I say!” Hal called a halt finally. “Where are you taking us?”
“It’s not much farther,” the man protested, “and I have been instructed to bring you.”
“Instructed to bring us?” echoed Chester, “and by whom?”
“You’ll learn that later,” was the stranger’s response. “Are you coming?”
Again Hal and Chester exchanged glances. The latter shrugged.
“We’ve started; may as well see it through,” he said.
“All right,” Hal agreed and turned to the stranger, “but cut out all this winding about,” he demanded. “There is a quicker way of reaching our destination, wherever it may be.”
The stranger smiled, but made no reply. He moved off and the boys followed him, and at last they came to their journey’s end.
Before an army tent the man stopped a few moments later.
“In here,” he said.
He entered and Hal and Chester paused long enough to look at each other.
“I guess it’s all right,” said Hal. “Can’t much happen right in the heart of the camp. Come on.”
He entered the tent with Chester close behind him.
Within powerful arms seized them and dragged them down; and before they could cry out gags were stuffed in their mouths. In vain the lads struggled to free themselves. They were soon safely bound.