“I hope you prove a true prophet. As for myself I’m not saying anything just yet, one way or another,” smiled Paul.
“Yes, but I really believe that you’ve found out something that gives you a pointer, Paul. Your face tells me that. You’re a wonder about following a trail in the woods. And I believe you see light in this darkness around me!” and Jack looked eagerly into the face of his chum as he said this.
“All I’m going to confess is that I believe I’m on the trail, and that it seems to be getting warmer the further I go. Just hold your horses a little while longer, Jack, and perhaps I may be able to tell you something.”
“The way you smile gives me new courage, old fellow. Oh! I will be so glad if only it turns out all right. But here we are at the smithy. Shall you dismiss the troop here, Paul?”
“Yes. The boys must be pretty tired after last night’s work, and this hike; as well as the many stunts they went through with,” and the temporary master scout presently gave the order to break ranks, and head for home.
“Drop in at my house so I can tell my folks not to expect me to dinner,” said Paul, as they approached his home.
There was not the slightest objection to the programme as arranged. His parents trusted Paul fully, knowing that, while as fond of fun as the next lad, he never did things likely to get him into trouble.
“Now, first of all,” remarked Paul, after they were indoors again; “let’s go up, and make sure that anything has happened.”
The door to Jack’s den stood wide open, inviting any one to enter.
Jack had a match lighted in his hand, and with this he quickly touched the wick of a lamp. Paul heard him draw a long breath as he approached the spot where the little box lay upon the table desk at which stood the chair used by the owner of the den when taking his leisure here.
He bent over, and seemed to be counting the coins. They dropped back into the receptacle one by one, and with such a ringing sound that even Paul was able to keep tally. Then Jack turned an anxious and white face around.
“Paul, there are only four here. Two more have gone!” he said.
“Yet you came up here and counted them; you are positive of that?” demanded Paul.
“I counted them, and there were six. Five times I did it, to be sure; yet you saw that there were only four just now?”
“You came up here after you saw Karl off on the train?” persisted his chum.
“Yes, after I returned from the station. But what makes you ask that? Tell me why you are grinning so, Paul? I know I’m awfully dull just now, but who could blame me under the circumstances? Please speak up!” Jack insisted.
“Why, don’t you see, this clears Karl completely. Six here while he was riding away on the train this morning; and two taken when he is fifty miles away! Don’t that satisfy you it wasn’t your brother, after all, Jack?”