Paying no attention to his pleadings and his groanings the men stood Ted up against a tree. Then the rope brought from the car was wrapped around both boy and tree several times.
“Get busy, Wash, and scrape up all the dead leaves you can find. Then begin and pile up some brush and stuff. Oh! yes, it’s a cold night, but we ain’t agoin’ to let a poor critter what’s lost his way, suffer. Here you, stop that snifflin’. Time enough to beller after it begins to hurt.”
He struck Ted again in the face, making his nose bleed. Paul had crept out from the brush and commenced to approach the spot. He knew that the other four scouts were probably close on his heels.
Every boy’s heart beat like a trip hammer with excitement. They bit their lower lips to keep from shouting out loud, such was the strain upon them. But not one had the least thought of turning back. With such a leader, how could they?
The shorter ruffian was scratching right merrily among the dead leaves, making all the noise he could, so as to impress the prisoner with a sense of his perilous condition. While he worked he kept talking, half to himself, and no doubt uttering all sorts of terrible threats calculated further to alarm the boy.
“We forgot one thing, Wash,” said the other man, suddenly.
“What was that?” asked the one on his knees.
“To search the varmint. I might as well do it right now, while you go on getting his jacket warmer ready.”
At first Ted tried to make all the resistance possible; but this only brought quick punishment in the shape of ugly blows and threats. So Ted had to stand and allow the other to have his way.
A minute later the man uttered a loud cry.
“Look here, Wash, what did I say?”
He was holding something up. Seen in the light from the lamp belonging to the red car it looked very much like a fat wad of greenbacks, tied together with a cord.
Wash sprang up, and bent over to examine the object in the light. Then he laughed harshly.
“It’s the boodle, all right, Brad. He found the bag, sure as thunder! And now he’s got to tell, or it’s all up with him!”
Both men turned furiously on the bound boy. Ted had held out against all odds up to this critical point; but of course he must admit himself beaten, now that they had found the evidence in his pocket.
Nearer crept Paul, with his chums tagging close at his heels. And nobody thought to look beyond the line of brilliant light cast by the lamp which rested on the ground at the foot of the tree. Fortunately its powerful rays were directed away from the quarter occupied by the creeping Boy Scouts.
“Now, I reckon you’re agoin’ to tell all you know about that ere bag, son?” said Brad, in a terrible voice.
“I guess I’ll have to, mister. I was just holdin’ out to see if so be you was what you says. Now I know you be, and I’m ready to tell the hull thing if you’ll only let me go free. I don’t want to be smoked, just yet anyway,” Ted whined.