“One of you boys get in front with Jake and show him the way,” suggested the owner of the automobile.
“Jake!” The utterance of that name sent a thrill through every one of the boys, all of whom recognized it as the name signed to the note that “Johnny Two-Times” had found near the cave.
Ernie climbed up with the driver, the sled was taken out and hitched on behind, and six of the boys “piled in” with Mr. Stanlock. As soon as Paul and Jerry called out “Go ahead,” they started.
It was not quite as jolly an adventure for the two boys on the sled as they had expected. The road was pretty rough and, although the chauffeur, obeying his employer’s instruction, drove carefully, the “hitchers” were twice thrown off.
But they refused to give up, declaring it to be the most fun they had had “in a coon’s age,” which was really a boys’ bravery fib, and finally the machine drew up within a hundred and fifty feet of the cave.
The boys and Mr. Stanlock left the automobile in charge of the driver and proceeded to the Scouts’ hunting headquarters. The visitor proved that he had not lost all sympathy for his youthful days, for he declared that he would like nothing better than to return to his ’teens and spend a mid-winter vacation with the young hunters in their cave. After the inspection was completed, Clifford again broached the subject of the highwaymen’s attack, saying:
“Uncle, we didn’t tell you how we happened to be present when those two men stopped you tonight, because we didn’t want the chauffeur to hear what we had to say. The whole story is contained in this note, which one of the boys found after we had seen those men come out of the cave and hurry away. Here it is; read it. As you are more interested in it than anybody else, you may keep it.”
Clifford drew the folded paper from his vest pocket and gave it to Mr. Stanlock. The latter held it close to the lamp and read.
“That’s Jake, my driver; it’s his handwriting I’m certain. What did be want to do that for? He must be in league with the worst element of the strikers. Probably they paid him well for this, or promised him a tempting bribe.”
Mr. Stanlock mused thus aloud as he studied over the note. The situation puzzled him. What ought he to do? Of course, he must have the driver arrested, and there must be an investigation by the police. But, would it be safe for him to trust Jake to drive him home? Probably it would be safe enough, for doubtless the driver had no desire to be openly connected with the plot.
He was about decided to return home with the driver and say nothing to him about the note, when a slight noise at the entrance attracted the attention of all. Listening carefully, they could hear the sound of retreating footsteps.
“That’s Jake,” Mr. Stanlock exclaimed. “He overheard us. After him, or he’ll run away with the machine.”