No sooner had he come abreast of the car than looking up he found himself staring into the dark face of a man who had a cruel look about him. What thrilled Paul, however, was the fact that one of his eyes was undoubtedly artificial. He had guessed this fact when Jack stated that the party stared so at him.
All doubt was gone now, and he understood that by the strangest of luck he had come upon the parties for whom Mr. Pender was searching. The official must have known that they were headed this way for some purpose or other.
“Live around here, bub?” asked the man with the glass eye, as he looked piercingly at Paul.
“Yes, sir; in Stanhope,” replied the boy, surprised himself to find how steady his voice turned out to be under the trying circumstances.
“How far ahead is that place?” continued the man.
“About half a mile, sir. You can see the steeple of the Methodist church after you turn that bend ahead,” and Paul pointed with a steady finger.
“Huh! I wonder now if either of you happen to know a Mr. Solus Smithers?” and as he put the question the man shot a quick glance toward his companion; at which the shorter party nodded his big head, and grinned approvingly.
Paul turned to his chum.
“Say, Jack, isn’t that the name of the man who took the old Grimes farm up at the milldam?” he asked, though he knew positively that it was so.
“Smithers—why, yes, I reckon it is. Is he a tall man, with a hooked nose; and does he dip snuff?” queried Jack, innocently enough.
“That’s Solus to a dot. You see, boys, he’s from North Caroliny, where even the wimmen use snuff, only they rub it on their teeth with a stick. Now, mebbe one of you boys would be so obligin’ as to direct us to the shortest way to where this old mill stands,” continued the man with the bogus orb.
“I guess the quickest way to get there is to drive through Stanhope, and pick up the Deerfield road on the other side. It’s only a few miles off; but the road turns lots of times to avoid the hills.”
Paul noted that the taller man seemed to invariably look to his companion for support. It was as though they worked in common, and neither wished to become responsible for action without the other’s assent.
After an interchange of low words, which the boys did not catch, the spokesman once more turned around. He held a silver half dollar in his hand.
“Here’s something for your trouble, boys. But look here, ain’t there another way to get to that old abandoned mill without going through the town? To tell you the truth we lost our number away back, and might get hauled up because we can’t show a tag on the back of the car.”
Paul had already noticed this significant fact. It is the business of a scout to take note of even trifles. One of the tests of memory is to look in at a store window for just one full minute; and then, going away, make out as complete a list of articles it contained as is possible.