Paul stared at the tall gentleman, as though he thought at first the other might be joking him; but seeing not a ripple of a smile on the dark face, he changed his mind.
“Why, no, sir; I can’t seem to remember seeing that particular car. Of course red ones are common; but most of them have black tops, if any at all. Some friends of yours, Mr. Pender?” he remarked, naturally.
The gentleman allowed just a twinkle to appear in the corners of his eyes as he nodded his head, and said:
“Well, er—yes, very particular friends of mine, Paul, and whom I would be glad to see again right now. If you happen to sight such a machine, and I am still at my old friend, Stormways, I wish you would let me know about it.”
“I certainly will, sir; and perhaps you’d like me to speak to the gentlemen, and tell them how anxious you are to see them?” Paul went on; at which the other gave a laugh.
“I see you are on to me, my boy. You guess that such is the very last thing I would want you to do. Now, I’m going to take you into my confidence, Paul,” he went on, bending his head lower, and giving a quick glance around.
“Yes, sir; that’s very kind of you, Mr. Pender,” said the lad, smiling.
“Oh! I don’t know. I have an axe to grind in doing so; for I believe that you can be of assistance to me. The two men in that motor car are criminals, for whose capture I have come to this part of the country, Paul.”
“Goodness! that sounds interesting, sir. What have they been doing?” asked the young scout leader, with boyish curiosity brimming over.
“I won’t tell you that, Paul; but they are wanted by the Government. And sometimes we agents have to go about our business with great caution, in order to discover enough evidence on the suspects to convict. So, above all things, I do not wish to alarm these clever gentlemen unduly, lest they manage to hide, or get rid of the only burden of proof. In other words, as a common expression has it, I want to get them with the goods on. You understand?”
“Yes, sir; I think I do. And if I see or hear anything about that red car, I’ll tell you. But is it true that you and Jack’s father were chums long ago?”
“That’s the positive truth, my boy,” replied the agent, nodding; “why, we took several voyages together, and had lots of queer adventures. I never dreamed that my wild old friend Alan would settle down to this humdrum life, as a lumber merchant, and the head of a family. But I suppose it all came of his meeting a girl. And after knowing his fine wife I don’t blame him a bit; though I’ve kept right along in the same old groove, and see more or less of adventure.”
“He’s a mighty fine man, and they think lots of him here,” declared Paul, who was amazed to learn that his chum’s parent could have, once upon a time, been reckoned a wild blade.
Paul walked on with his lips puckered up as if whistling, and his face filled with the new interest that had taken possession of him.