“Oh, Johnny Twice!” groaned Earl Hamilton. “Don’t spoil your good deed of finding that note by springing any more of that stuff. You’re taking an unfair advantage of us, for we can’t stop now to duck you in a snowdrift.”
The road was not broken all the way for good walking, so that the boys were forced to put forth their best efforts in order to reach the place of the plotted ambush on time.
Their pace therefore varied from a rapid walk to a run, according as their “wind” and leg muscles supplied the needed endurance. Paul and Jerry found it pretty hard to keep up with the other boys during the last three-quarters of a mile, especially when they struck a poorly broken snowdrift or a stretch of ground covered with rocks or rough ice. They were quite elated, however, at their ability to keep their feet in these rough places, after seeing two of the larger boys slip and fall.
It was almost dark by the time they reached the vicinity of the “sand stretch” referred to in the note found by “Johnny Two-Times.” This stretch was a sand bed of several acres in extent, between which and High Peak was a large stone quarry. The road ran between the “sand stretch,” which, of course, was now frozen and covered with snow, and the quarry. The approach to this was sheltered, fortunately for the concealment of the boy rescuers, by a growth of timber extending down the mountain slope to the road.
Ernie called a halt about two hundred yards from the point in the road which appeared the most favorable place for an ambush.
“Let’s leave the road and make our way through the trees,” he suggested.
“There comes the automobile!” exclaimed Paul, excitedly, pointing down the highway to the southwest.
Yes, a machine was approaching, about two miles away. The long stream of light from the electric lamps could be seen, almost hitting the sky, as the auto began to climb a steep hill. Evidently it had just turned into this highway from another thoroughfare leading direct from the city.
“Come on! We must hurry,” said Ernie, dashing into the timber. “Be careful; don’t fall or run any branches in your eyes.”
They made fairly good progress, considering the difficulties before them and the darkness in the woods. However, they kept close to the edge, where the tree growth was not very heavy and where the snow reflected sufficient light to guide their feet. Ernie ordered that none of the flashlights be used, and perhaps it was fortunate for the success of the expedition that this order was issued and obeyed.
The efforts of the boys were well timed. Everything went like clockwork, or so it afterward seemed. Two shadowy forms were discerned standing in the thicker darkness under the trees as the automobile arrived near the Southern edge of the quarry. The boys were within easy attacking distance from the place where the two men stood. Ernie whispered the word “Halt” loud enough for his companions to hear him. They gathered around their leader, who hurriedly spoke thus: