“All right,” said Ernie; “you girls stay here in the car and keep warm. We’ll be back as soon as we can find the others.”
The boys found the other two automobiles also abandoned and released six more Camp Fire prisoners.
“Now let’s return and get the head auto started back first,” Ernie proposed.
This plan was adopted. Arrived at the machine in which Marion, Hazel and Julietta had been prison-passengers, they found a new and important development in affairs. Jake, the chauffeur, had confessed. He had offered to conduct the boys to Helen’s place of detention and effect her release if the boys would let him go. It was less than half a mile away. The boys agreed. Clifford suggested that the girls remain in the automobile while the Scouts made the proposed raid, but they objected strenuously.
In a short time the rest of the girls were brought forward, informed of the plan, and the start was made. All of the girls insisted on taking part in the expedition. In less than half an hour they were at the door of Helen’s prison, where Jake gave the “open sesame” knock.
An uncouth woman opened the door. Behind her stood a man, who proved to be her husband. Jake pushed the astonished pair aside, and went directly to the side of the room opposite the entrance and lifted a bar across a door opening into another department. As he opened this door, Marion rushed forward and was first to greet a slender, pale-faced girl, who stepped out eagerly toward her rescuers.
“Helen!” cried the girls in a chorus.
Jake slipped out and was seen no more.
* * * * *
A sleighride home.
That was a meeting not soon to be forgotten. It was a signal for the casting away of every element of secrecy, and Helen told her story.
She told the story of her brother, of his sickness when a child, of the resultant distortion of his character into that of a man of strange and incongruous genius and weakness, and of the embarrassment he had caused her and her mother. He, it was, she said, who had written the skull-and-cross-bones letter.
“Who wrote the other anonymous letter that you received at the Institute?” Hazel Edwards inquired.
“I don’t know,” Helen replied with a faint smile. “Perhaps these boys can answer that question.”
“I must plead guilty to that,” announced Clifford, advancing with a bow.
“But what’s the surprise you were going to spring?” inquired Ruth Hazelton, mischievously. “Is this it?”
“Now, never you mind,” said Clifford. “Things didn’t go just right. This kidnapping affair interfered with our plans, and they are hereby called off. We didn’t want you to know we were here.”
Two of the boys had been dispatched as messengers to Hollyhill for vehicles to take the girls back to Marion’s home. About 2 o’clock in the morning Mr. Stanlock, several of his neighbors, and three policemen, led by the two Scout messengers, burst into the room and announced that they had brought three bob-sleds to give them all a sleighride.