“Anything in your house a fellow could carry off in a pocket, Hampton?” he said. “Because the boys tell me there is a thief in it right now, and we’re going up to try to catch him.”
“I don’t think so,” said Mr. Hampton, and then added in a tone of alarm: “Great guns, Temple, yes. There is. There’s a duplicate list among my papers that the Octopus would give anything to obtain possession of. It’s a list of the lessees out here in the oil fields who have joined the independents.”
“All right, Hampton,” said Mr. Temple, “we’re off.”
Removing the headpiece, he hurried Bob back into the power house. There he ordered Tom to switch off the motor, lock up and follow them. Then accompanied by the boys and with Old Davey trotting alongside to keep up, he started in swift strides for the Hampton house, which could be seen above the intervening tree tops, about a quarter of a mile away.
“I thought you came out from town for a little peace and quiet, Dad,” said Bob. “You’re certainly getting it, aren’t you? Hey. There he goes.” And with a shout, Bob started running swiftly toward the figure of a man who had just emerged from the open cellar door at the rear of the Hampton house.
A DARING LEAP
At Bob’s shout the intruder who had just emerged from the Hampton cellar looked back over his shoulder. Seeing he was discovered he broke into a desperate run. He was heading toward the front of the house where ran the long and winding drive which led to the main highroad.
The man shouted hoarsely, and from the front of the house came the sound of a powerful motor engine being set in motion.
“He’s got a car waiting for him,” cried Bob, who was in the lead. “Drat the luck, he’ll escape us yet.”
“Hey, Bob, we can cut ’em off at the Gut,” called Frank, and he struck away at a tangent from their course as the man disappeared around the house and the motor car could be heard roaring off down the drive.
“Righto,” cried Bob, and he followed his chum.
Old Davey had dropped far behind and Mr. Temple and Tom Barnum were laboring along some yards in the rear of the two boys and steadily losing ground.
“Careful, boys,” called Mr. Temple gaspingly, as he grasped the meaning of the boys’ maneuver. “Don’t be rash. May be several of them.”
“All right, Dad,” sang out Bob over his shoulder. “We’ll be careful. Follow along.”
The boys were heading for a place in the woods where the drive ran between six-foot banks before turning a sharp corner. Cars perforce had to be slowed up going through this place which the boys called the Gut. Furthermore, the drive approached this place by a winding, circuitous route, while the boys were not far distant from it by the shortcut through the woods which they were following. Chances were even that they would be in time to intercept the fugitives. Yet what could they do even if they arrived in time? They gave no thought to that as they crashed through the underbrush.