“Well, if we—” began Jerry but he could not finish.
He let go his hold of the scientist’s arm, and Ned at the same time loosened his grip on the supposed burglar’s leg. The professor arose, smoothed out his rumpled clothing, and remarked in a sad tone:
“I suppose it’s got away, now.”
“What?” asked Ned.
“The horned toad. I was chasing one through the garden by the light of my portable electric lantern. I cornered him under the window, and I was just casting the net over him when you jumped on me. The toad got away. It’s too bad, but of course you didn’t know it. I must continue my hunt, for at last I am really on the track.”
“Whar am dat bug’lar man?” suddenly demanded Ponto, opening the side door a crack, and thrusting a gun out. “Whar am he? Jest hold him up agin this yeah shootin’ iron, young gem’mens, an’ Ponto’ll make him wish he done gone stayed home? Whar am he?”
“Lookout for that gun,” cautioned Ned. “It might be loaded. There’s no burglar, Ponto. It’s all a mistake. It was Professor Snodgrass, hunting for horned toads.”
“Yes,” added the scientist. “I heard they were always out just before a storm, and so I went after them. I saw a fine specimen, but he got away. However I shall catch him.”
“No bug’lar, eh?” mused Ponto, in disappointed tones. “Golly, it shorely am lucky fo’ him dat dere ain’t. I shorely would hab plugged him full ob holes, dat’s a fact!”
By this time Mr. Seabury had dressed and come down, and the girls were calling in anxious voices to know what all the excitement was about. Matters were soon explained, and the awakened household prepared to return to its normal state. That is all but the professor; he decided to continue his toad hunt, and, probably would have done so, but for the fact that it began to rain just then, and there was such a down-pour that it was out of the question to search in the garden.
“Anyway,” the scientist consoled himself, “I don’t believe the toads would be out in the rain. I shall probably find one to-morrow,” and, with that comforting reflection he went to sleep.
Though it was rather late Mr. Seabury insisted on hearing from the boys the rest of the adventure, part of which his daughters had told him. He was much surprised at the disclosure of Blowitz’s acts, and congratulated the boys that they had had nothing to do with him.
“Do you think it would be safe to go with Mr. De Vere?” asked Ned.
“I think so,” replied Mr. Seabury. “Of course you want to make an investigation, but, if you find him all right, I see no reason why you should not go off on a cruise after the derelict.”
“Oh, I wish we could go,” spoke Rose wistfully, but she knew it was out of the question.
Mr. De Vere was much better the next day. The swelling in his ankle had gone down, and he could walk around, though he had to carry his arm in a sling. He sent for his lawyer, who soon proved that what the injured man had said was true. The boys consulted further with Mr. Seabury during the next two days, and made up their minds to go on the cruise.