No doubt he had assumed the innocent air of a rustic, and tried to make himself appear as stupid as he could. The two men in the red car were no longer calling, for they had seen that the boy on the road showed no signs of wanting to run.
As they bore down upon the spot the car slowed up, and came to a full stop within a few yards of the waiting Ted. Every scout lying in the screen of bushes held his breath as he listened to catch what was going to follow.
“Say, gimme a ride, mister?”
That was Ted speaking, before either of the men could say the first word. Indeed they were too busy clambering out of the car to surround him, and cut off any chance of escape, to think of anything else.
Without answering they bore down on Ted, and he found himself confronted by two eager faces, while a rough hand clutched his arm.
“He ain’t got it, Brad!” exclaimed the shorter of the pair, as though disappointed over something.
“Hey, what’d you do with it, son?” demanded the taller traveler, looking furiously at Ted, though pretending to speak gently.
“With what, boss? I ain’t got nothin’ that belongs to you, sure I ain’t!” whimpered the boy; and Paul came near to chuckling at the way Ted put on the agony.
“We lost a leather bag out of the car. I saw it after we turned into this here twisting side road just back a piece. We’ve looked over every foot between here and the mill pond, and ain’t seen it. I’m going to ask you again, son, what did you do with it?”
The man did not threaten, as yet, but there was something deep down in his voice that seemed to tell of all sorts of terrible things that might happen to the boy unless he came to time, and confessed.
But at any rate Ted was game. His covetous nature had been aroused by something he had glimpsed inside of that same bag; and he did not mean to give it up unless pushed to the last resort.
“Ain’t seen no bag, mister, ‘deed an’ I ain’t,” he whimpered; “I got a lantern here, an’ I was ahuntin’ a little boy that was lost from home. Lots of other fellers in the woods adoin’ that same. But my light give out. Then I struck this here road. I’m clean tired out, mister, and I’d like to get a ride home, if so be you’re goin’ my way. A bag, mister? Sure I ain’t knowin’ nawthin’ about no bag. Cross my heart if I do. Gimme a ride to Stanhope, mister, please!”
FORCED TO TELL
The two men looked at each other.
Apparently they hardly knew whether to believe Ted or not. Paul saw them put their heads close together, as though exchanging confidences. Then the tall fellow once more whirled on Ted, who had been standing on one leg, with a most forlorn look upon his face.
“We both think that you lie, son,” said the man who was minus one of his optics, as he thrust his face close down to that of Ted, as though he would look straight into his heart; but this was something that no one else had ever succeeded in doing, and the attempt did not prove very successful.