The woods were very quiet, and Bessie was rather surprised at the absence of signs of life—human life, that is. Of squirrels and chipmunks and birds there were plenty, but it seemed strange to her that in so thickly settled a part of the country so much land should be left covered with woods. But it was good for their purpose, since she was sure that Holmes would have complained that his car was stolen, and he would not, of course, have told people the reason Bessie’s seemingly mad action. Nor would their word be likely to be taken against his. So the thing for them to do was to escape observation. And until just before the woods began to clear, they seemed likely to do so. But then there was a shock for Bessie, for, right in front, she suddenly heard Jake Hoover’s voice.
FRIENDS IN NEED
Bessie clutched Dolly’s arm and drew her back just in time, for Dolly, growing enthusiastic at the sight of the road, had been about to spring forward with a cry of joy.
“That’s Jake Hoover, the boy who used to bully me and tried to frighten us when we were all in camp. Do you remember, Dolly? We mustn’t let him see us! He’s in with Mr. Holmes and Farmer Weeks, and I’m really more afraid of him than I am of Mr. Holmes. He hates me, anyhow, and he’d do anything he could to hurt me, I believe.”
They crouched down behind some bushes then, and worked their way forward cautiously, making as little noise as possible, until they could see the road and so have a chance to find out what Jake was doing in that neighborhood. At first Bessie, who was in the van, did not see Jake, and, looking hastily up and down, she found that there were no houses in sight and that they had struck a lonely and solitary part of the road. Then she heard Jake’s voice again, and, answering him, Mr. Holmes’s.
“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” growled Holmes. “If old Weeks had got to Jericho on time, we’d have saved all this trouble.”
“He was doing his best, mister,” said Jake. “But he had to take the train. He can’t ride a bicycle, like me, and a horse and buggy would have taken him a long time. The old man done his best. ’Tweren’t his fault he was late.”
“Well, no use crying over spilt milk,” said Holmes. “You’d better walk down this road until you come to the trolley line. Watch that. I think they’ll try to get aboard the car there and get to the railroad that way. That would get them back to Deer Crossing, you see. Once they’re out of this state, we can’t touch Bessie, and the little baggage knows it. She’s too clever for her own good. If they had been coming out this way they would be here by now, I think. But I had an idea they’d strike through the woods. They wouldn’t follow the lane where they left my car, because they would know very well that we’d be watching that.”
“An’ Bessie can find her way through any woods you ever seen,” said Jake Hoover, gloomily. “Used ter run away from maw at home that-away, an’ we never could find her till she got good an’ ready to come home an’ take her lickin’.”