The rush for the entrance threatened to cause some confusion and delay in getting out. Fortunately, however, the delay, if any, was not serious, and the pursuit soon indicated that there were some real sprinters among the boys. As they emerged from the cave, the driver was already within fifty feet of the machine. But he looked back over his shoulder and evidently thought better of his original purpose, for he turned to the left and raced down the hill toward the road at another point, leaping and striding with such recklessness that it seemed almost miraculous that he should escape a fall and serious injury.
Mr. Stanlock had no desire to attempt a capture of the traitorous chauffeur by physical force, and when he saw that Jake had given up the idea of fleeing in the automobile, he called the pursuit off. Then he announced his intention to drive the machine home himself, taking the route that led past Mr. Hunter’s home. He had no fear of further trouble with the driver or his confederates, for he was certain that Jake was a coward at heart and the two highwaymen could hardly have arrived in the vicinity of the cave on foot, since they were driven off in mad haste in the opposite direction, even if they had been disposed to make another attack.
“Well, good-night, boys,” he said, taking his place in the driver’s seat. “You’ve done me a service tonight that I won’t forget very soon. Come and see me, all of you, after you have sprung your surprise on the girls. I’ll remember to keep your secret all right. Good night.”
He put his foot on the starter, gave the steering wheel a few turns, and the throbbing machine moved over the sloping stretch of ground between the cave and the road. The boys, several of them with guns in their hands, followed him to the road and stood there ready to run to his assistance if they should see any evidences of another attack. They continued the watch for fifteen or twenty minutes, until the lights of the automobile, which pierced the darkness far ahead, indicated that he had proceeded between one and two miles without interference.
* * * * *
Mr. Stanlock surprised.
Perhaps it were better not to attempt to describe with faithfulness of detail the reception given Mr. Stanlock by his wife and family on his return home shortly before 9 o’clock that night. The fear that something of serious nature had intervened to prevent his appearing at the usual dinner hour had taken firm hold of Mrs. Stanlock, Marion, sister Kathryn, and brother Harold. The fact that the police had been searching for him for two hours or more and had been unable to make any hopeful report, had not tended in the least to relieve the tension of suspense, which became almost unbearable.
Then came the vague announcement from Mr. Stanlock’s stenographer at the latter’s home that he had been called away somewhere, but left no definite information. He had been called unexpectedly and left in a hurry. That was all the stenographer could say.