Bart followed the tortuous windings of the narrow road, through brush, over hillocks, down into depressions, and finally into the timber.
He came to a clearing, forcing his way past a border of prickly bushes, the tops of which seemed freshly broken, as though a wagon had recently passed over them.
As he got past them, Bart came to a decisive halt, and stared hard and with a thrill of satisfaction.
Twenty feet away, under a spreading tree, a horse was tethered, and right near it was a red wagon—holding a trunk.
FOOLING THE ENEMY
Our hero’s impulse was to at once spring into the wagon and see if the trunk was still intact.
A natural cautiousness checked him, however, and he was glad of it a minute later as he detected a rustling in the thick undergrowth back of the tree.
A human figure seemed suddenly to drop to the ground, and a little distance to the left of it Bart was sure he saw two sharp human eyes fixed upon him.
He never let on that he suspected for a moment that he was not entirely alone, but, walking over to a tree stump, where, spread out on a newspaper, was the remains of a lunch, he acted delighted at the discovery, picked up a hunk of bread in one hand, a piece of cheese in the other, and, throwing himself on the green sward at full length, proceeded to munch the eatables, with every semblance of satisfaction.
Bart’s mind worked quickly. He felt that it was up to him to play a part, and he prepared to do so.
He was morally certain that two persons in fancied hiding were watching his every movement, and they must be Buck and Hank Tolliver.
Bart hoped they had never seen him before; he felt pretty certain that they did not know him at all.
Bart sprang to his feet. He had thrown his cap back on his head in a “sporty,” off-handish way, and he tried hard to impersonate a reckless young adventurer taking things as they came, and audacious enough to pick up a handy meal anyhow or anywhere. He paid not the least apparent attention to the wagon or the trunk, although he cast more than one sidelong glance in that direction.
He walked up to the horse, stroked its nose, and said boisterously:
“Wish I had this layout—wouldn’t I reach California like a nabob, though!”
Then Bart went back to the stump. He purposely faced the patch of brush where he knew his watchers were lurking.
Ransacking his pockets, with a comical, quizzical grin on his face, he produced a solitary nickel, placed it ostentatiously on the tree stump and remarked:
“Honesty is the best policy—there you are, landlord! and much obliged for the handout.”
Then, striking a jaunty dancing step, he started to cross the clearing, whistling a jolly tune.
Bart half expected the summons. He halted in professed wonderment, looked up, to the right, to the left, in every direction except that from which he was well aware the hail had come.