“Perhaps I do too,” remarked Jack; and the two chums looked at each other, with mutual astonishment marked on their faces.
“Oh!” remarked Paul, “are you on, too? Did he tell you the secret?”
“I happened to pick up an envelope he dropped, and wondered whose it was; so I went around, asking. He laughed when I came to him, and told me a little bit of news that surprised me. But Paul, he asked me not to breathe a word, even to you. That was a mean joke, when you knew all along,” Jack complained.
“Remember the red car on the road, and the two men in it?”
“Oh! did they have anything to do with his coming up here? Yes, now that I think of it, you were pretty much excited over that same red car. You guessed something then, didn’t you, Paul?”
“He had asked me to watch out for a red car with a khaki-colored top, that might have two men in it, one of them owning to a glass eye.”
“Good gracious!” said Jack; “that tall chap did have a bogus eye, for a fact. And when you left me in town you hurried around to the post-office to find Mr. Pender, didn’t you? I see it all now. He never came home for supper, as far as I know. I reckon he must have got a rig of some sort, and put out for the mill pond. But what about Solus Smithers—they asked after him, you know?”
Paul pointed to the marks on the ground.
“Unless I’m wrong those are his tracks. I noticed that he had big feet at the time he came out and ordered us to clear away from the pond, and threatened us with his gun. Yes, perhaps he got home to find visitors waiting for him,” Paul observed, just as though he could read all these things from the trail.
“Then we go on, do we?” asked Bobolink, eagerly.
He had been listening to what passed between his two comrades, and while it was partly Greek to him, enough of the truth filtered through to give him a creepy sensation, as though cold water were being poured down his back.
Bobolink was no coward though, and while he shivered it was more through a delicious frame of mind over the chance of an adventure than because he felt fear.
“Straight on, as long as these lanterns hold out. I see yours has begun to flicker already, William. There, it’s puffed out; and my own isn’t near as strong a light as it was.”
Paul seemed to be a true prophet, for inside of five minutes the lanterns “gave up the ghost,” the last to expire being that of Jack.
“What’s doing now?” demanded Jack.
“Gather up all the matches in the crowd. Then I’ll strike them one by one,” was Paul’s immediate response.
This emergency torch lasted for a little while. Finally the last match was gone, and still they were some distance away from the mill pond.
“Listen,” said William, suddenly; with a thrill in his voice; “whatever do you suppose that is?”