“Read that, boys!” he exclaimed, excitedly. “I found it outside. Those men must have dropped it. They’re after Mr. Stanlock—going to hold him up.”
The ten other boys needed no second bidding. They crowded around so eagerly that nobody could read.
“Here, I’ll read it aloud,” said Clifford, picking up the paper and holding it close to the lamp. Here is what he read:
“I will bring Old Stanlock along the foothill pike. Will slow up in the sand stretch. Be there ready to grab him. Jake.”
* * * * *
To the rescue.
“Boys, we’ve got to do something,” declared Patrol Leader Ernie Hunter, breaking the gaping silence that followed the reading of the note.
“What shall we do?” asked Harry Gilbert, who was a good soldier, but no leader.
“We must go to Mr. Stanlock’s rescue,” Ernie replied. “There is no telling what those rascals are plotting. They may kill him if we don’t get there in time to prevent it.”
“It’s a long hike, and we may not be able to get there in time,” Paul Hunter warned.
“That means we’ve got to move mighty fast,” Ernie said. “Boys, get your guns and a supply of shells. I hope we won’t have to use them, but we’d better be well prepared. We’re going to be late getting back, so you may as well grab some bread and dried beef and anything else you can find in a jiffy to eat on the way. We’ve got to start in three minutes. Now everybody hustle.
“Paul, you and Jerry had better run home and stay there till morning,” Ernie added, turning to his brother. Jerry was scarcely any larger than Paul, although the latter was a year younger. Ernie felt a slightly nervous responsibility for the safety of the “twin babies of the bunch,” as some one had already referred to them in the course of the day. Jerry, who, like Paul, was an extremely likable fellow, resented being called the baby of the patrol, a term sometimes applied to him when the Scouts were dealing in jocular personalities.
“Not much are we goin’ home,” declared Paul, energetically; “are we, Jerry? I’m goin’ along and carry my target rifle with the rest. What do you say, Jerry?”
“I’m with you,” the latter announced with spirit. “They can’t leave us behind.”
“But you can’t make the trip fast enough,” Ernie insisted.
“We’ll have to run part of the way, and the ground is rough, and the snow and ice on the road make it hard traveling. We’ve got over two miles of that kind of hiking to do, and less than an hour to do it in.”
“We can make it just as well as anybody else in this bunch,” declared Paul, stoutly.
“Well, come along, then; but you will have to obey orders,” said Ernie, speaking as one with military authority. “We’re operating under martial law tonight, and if you insist on coming along you must expect to be treated like a soldier. Everybody bring your gun and flashlight. It’s cloudy now and will be dark before long.”