“You did mighty good work” declared the wealthy mine operator, enthusiastically.
“Does your Boy Scout training teach you to use your heads so successfully? One would think that this hold-up and the rescue were both plotted and planned some time ahead, judging by the skill with which you worked.”
“Don’t flatter us too much, uncle, or you may tempt us to help along the deception by leading you to believe that we really are a remarkable bunch of boys,” Clifford warned, slyly.
“I not only believe it, but I know it,” replied Mr. Stanlock with stubborn generosity. “So, if I am deceived, the fault is all my own. But, Clifford, I didn’t know you were in town. When did you come? You haven’t been over at the house yet, have you?”
“No, not yet, uncle,” Clifford answered, slowly. “And I’m not coming over for a few days. The fact is, we are here on a hunting trip and a mystery mission, and we want you to help us keep our secret. Since we have proved ourselves to be a very unusual lot of boys, perhaps you will take special care to favor us in this respect. We are planning a surprise on the girls, and we don’t want you to tell them we are in town.”
“My lips are sealed until you unseal them,” Mr. Stanlock assured them. “But where are you staying?”
“All of us are members of one patrol of Scouts at Spring Lake Academy, all except Paul Hunter. We came here on an invitation from Ernie Hunter, and we are living in a cave at the west end of Mr. Hunter’s farm.”
“In a cave!” Mr. Stanlock exclaimed with some concern. “Isn’t that rather an unhealthful place for you to live? You don’t sleep there, I hope?”
“We certainly do, uncle; or, rather, we are going to, for this is our first night. I wish you could come over and see it. It’s as dry and warm as can be. Paul dried it out by keeping a stove burning in it for several days.”
“A stove in a cave!” was Mr. Stanlock’s astonished comment. “That is surely some combination of wild nature and mechanical civilization. I shall certainly inspect your domesticated wild-and-woolly retreat. When am I invited to come?”
“Any time, Mr. Stanlock,” Ernie interposed, with the hospitality of host. “Name your time and we’ll be there to receive you.”
“You’ll have quite a walk to the cave tonight, and the walking isn’t very good, I venture. Pile in and I’ll take you in the machine.”
“I’m afraid we’ll make more of a load than you can carry,” said Ernie.
“This machine can carry seven, nine in a pinch, and eleven in a case of life and death,” assured Mr. Stanlock. “But I’ve got an idea that will cut off the life and death. I am bringing home a large sled that a young manual training student made for my seven-year-old son, Harold. It has a good, strong rope attached, and we will hitch it on behind, and two of you boys can ride on that.”
“Let’s you and me hitch,” said Paul to Jerry, eagerly. Jerry was just as eager, and the problem of carrying ten passengers and the chauffeur was settled.