The request was complied with, and the fellow drank thirstily, the strong liquor slipping down his throat like water. He passed the flask back and closed his eyes. Then Big Bob, who had evidently been listening to the conversation, beckoned to Fremont. Wondering what the fellow could have to say to him, the boy approached the side of the dying man.
"You recall my asking bout your first meeting with Cameron?" Big Bob asked.
"Yes, and I wondered at it."
"There was a photograph in the Tolford envelope. Have you ever seen it?"
Fremont shook his head, wondering if the man was going out of his mind. He had often handled the papers, and had never come upon a photograph.
"There was one there," the other insisted. "When you get back to New York look it up. It will pay you to do so."
"Very well," replied the mystified boy, "but why talk of that at such a time?"
Big Bob regarded the boy questioningly, as if doubting his word.
"When the man of the photograph," he said, weakly, "was of your age, he must have looked exactly as you look now. It is no wonder that Cameron recognized in the newsboy the heir to the Tolford estate."
Fremont looked from Big Bob back to Nestor, then swept his eyes around the circle of interested faces.
"He is raving!" the boy said. "What have I to do with the Tolford estate?"
"There can be no mistake," the other declared, with a long pause between the words. "Cameron knew who you were, and that is why he took you into his own home; that is why the settlement of the estate was delayed year after year. He was waiting for you to come of age."
Jim Scoby was glaring at the speaker as if he thought to finish him by a look. The night watchman appeared to be waiting for some development which had not yet been put into words—possibly some revelation regarding the night of the crime.
Nestor saw the look and understood it. Fearful that Big Bob would not have the strength to speak the words which appeared to be forming on his lips, he bent over him and whispered:
"What about that night in the Cameron building? We can work out the problem of the heirship later on. Tell us what took place in the Cameron suite on the night you went there last—the night of the crime."
"Let him tell the truth, then!" almost shouted Jim Scoby. "Let him tell the thing as he found it!"
"So you saw him there that night?" asked Nestor, turning to Scoby.
"Let him answer!" was the rasping reply. "Only make him tell the truth! He might put the crime on the wrong shoulders."
It was long after midnight now, and the storm had died out. Save for an occasional dash of rain and an infrequent roll of electricity over the mountains, the night was normal, and here and there a star crept out to meet the coming dawn.
"I was in the Cameron building that night," Big Bob said, glancing painfully in the direction of the night watchman. "I saw him there!"
"The fourth man!" whispered Frank, nudging Nestor with his elbow. "The fourth man you have been talking about!"
The dying man opened his lips again, but did not speak, for voices were heard outside, and then a sharp command was given. The order was to shoot if resistance was offered by those inside. Then the door was thrown open and a bit of polished steel flashed in the light of the fire. The alarmed boys dropped the weapons they had drawn at a signal from Nestor.
The man in the doorway, wet, draggled, and exhausted with the exertions of the night was Lieutenant Gordon, and back of his stalwart figure the light showed a dozen armed men in plain clothes. Some of them, at least, were known to Nestor.
"You are safe, then?"
With a sigh of relief the lieutenant dropped down on a rude bench that stood against the wall and beckoned his men into the shelter of the hut. Then he noted the two men on the floor and turned inquiringly to Nestor.
"Wait!" the latter said. "We shall have plenty of time for explanations later on. This man is dying, and there is something he wishes to say."
The secret service men, standing before the fire and swarming over the two rooms, uncovered their heads and checked the questions on their lips.
Again Fremont stooped over the big fellow, and again the lips opened, but again there came an interruption. A sharp report came from the outside and Lieutenant Gordon hastened to throw the door open. A rocket was mounting the sky, its red light giving the floor of the hut a tint of blood.
It was followed by another, and another, then the lieutenant stepped out and saw code signals flying in the night above the peaks to the west!
THE STORY OF THE CRIME.
Lieutenant Gordon stood for some moments reading the signals flashing from the mountain, and the boys, regardless of the storm, clustered about him. They were unable to understand what was going on, of course, not being familiar with the code, but still they were greatly interested in the proceedings.
"It must be good news!" Jimmie whispered to Frank Shaw. "Look at him grin!"
The lieutenant did appear to be pleased with the information he was receiving by means of the vaulting rockets, but he said nothing until the signaling ceased, and then he made his way into the hut. He was about to speak when Nestor laid a hand on his arm.
"Wait," the boy said. "This man cannot last much longer, and it is imperative that we listen to what he has to say."
Jim Scoby, sitting against the wall near the hearth, groaning dismally with the pain of his broken leg, cast a keen glance at the big fellow and smiled—an ugly smile which informed those who saw it of his belief that Big Bob was now beyond the power of speech. Indeed, this did seem to be the fact for a moment, but then the renegade opened his eyes and motioned to the lieutenant.
"I want to tell you who attacked Cameron!" he said.
A string of curses escaped the lips of the watchman, but they were almost unnoticed in the excitement caused by the words of the dying man.
Nestor and Fremont drew nearer at a motion from Big Bob. Seeing that his profanity did not avail, the watchman set up a loud cry, in fact, a succession of loud cries, as if with the intention of drowning the voice of the speaker. He was silenced only when one of the secret service men threatened him with a billet of wood picked up from the floor.
"I reckon this story ain't goin' to do that geezer no good!" Jimmie said, in a shrill whisper which brought smiles to the faces of his companions.
"Sure not!" returned Frank. "This is the fourth man, and he was there that night. Can you guess whom he will accuse?" he added, with an eager glance at Jimmie, who promptly shook his head and came closer to the group on the hearth.
"I had been hanging around the Cameron building for some days," Big Bob began, feebly, "hoping to get a look at the Tolford papers. I had bribed Scoby, and he was helping me all he could. It was for me that he got the key to the suite made."
Seeing that the man would not be likely to survive long enough to tell the story as he had begun, Nestor said:
"Wouldn't it answer if I asked you questions on the points we are most interested in clearing up? We can get through quicker that way."
Big Bob nodded, and the boy asked:
"You saw Don Miguel there?"
"Yes; he was there."
"Nod or shake your head if you find your voice failing," advised Lieutenant Gordon, and the big fellow expressed his satisfaction with the arrangement by a look.
"Was Mr. Cameron working at his desk when you left him?"
An emphatic nod.
"Then that clears Don Miguel," said Nestor. "Who next entered the room?"
Big Bob glanced toward Jim Scoby, still snarling at the group.
"Was Felix with him?"
"Yes; Felix and myself," was the unexpected reply.
"It is a lie!" shouted Scoby. "I never saw him that night."
"You'll see stars in a minute, if you have got a broken leg, if you keep on interrupting!" said the secret service man, and Scoby subsided for the time being.
"Was the door locked when you entered?"
A nod from Big bob.
"And was Mr. Cameron there, sitting with the door locked, still at work at his desk?" was the next question.
"He was not there. He had been called away."
This was a new feature of the case, for Nestor had not considered Mr. Cameron's absence from the room as among the possibilities.
"Was he out of the building?" he asked.
Big Bob shook his head.
"And while he was away you three entered with the false key?"
Another nod. Fremont motioned for him to go on, but Nestor laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Let me see if I can't help you," he said. "I think I can state the case now. You were waiting about the building to secure the Tolford papers, and Scoby and Felix were with you. After the departure of Don Miguel you caused a telephone call to be sent to Mr. Cameron—a call taking him to another part of the building. Is that right?"
The injured man smiled faintly and nodded.
"There were no telephone calls there that night!" howled the night watchman. "He is lying to you!"
"Mr. Cameron left the room, locking it after him," Nestor went on, "and you three entered and began looking for the Tolford papers? Is that right?"
Another nod from the big fellow on the floor.
"And you found the papers, after searching the safe and the desk, and Felix held the mine description while you copied it?"
"He read it off to me," was the reply.
"Now, what other paper in the Tolford envelope did you copy?"
This question brought a shake of the head.
"The will was there?"
"And you took that away with you, leaving a forged instrument in its place?"
It was now Fremont's turn to look amazed. He turned to Nestor with an eager look in his eyes.
"How did you know that?" he asked.
Nestor motioned for him to remain quiet. It was clear that Big Bob's hours were numbered, even his minutes.
"You are one of the heirs to the Tolford estate, and you objected to the manner in which the property was left by Julius Tolford, especially as it was left mostly to Cole Tolford and his heirs. So you made a new will, as much like the old one as you could manage, and left it in the envelope?"
"Yes, I did that!"
"I thought so," said Nestor. "And you made a bad job out of it, for I had no difficulty in discovering the deception when I looked through the papers that night. The false will was on stained paper, like the other instruments, but the others were stained with age, while the one you introduced into the lot was colored with chemicals."
Big Bob nodded and looked with astonishment at the boy.
"And Mr. Cameron came back and found you three in the suite?" Nestor went on.
Big Bob shook his head.
"You left before he returned?"
Another shake of the head, then the man whispered:
"Scoby was watching for him outside."
The night watchman seemed like a man about to throw a fit. He writhed about the floor, regardless of his injured leg, and tried to reach the speaker.
"And Scoby struck him down?" asked Nestor.
There was a strained silence in the room as they all waited for the reply, already suggested by Big Bob's previous words.
"Yes," he whispered. "Scoby struck him down with a billy."
The accused man dropped back against the wall and his eyes closed. It was plain that the words, together with his previous exertions and pain, had taken the nerve all out of the fellow.
"But Scoby did not do this of his own notion," Nestor went on, remorselessly. "It was done by your orders. You had bribed him to do it. It was your idea that if Cameron was killed no one would ever be able to detect the substitution of the false will for the original one."
Big Bob nodded, but did not stop there.
"I wanted to take no chances," he said, with a choke in his voice. "I wanted the property! I did not care for the mine especially, but I told Scoby that that was my motive—the securing of the description. I wanted to clear my title to the entire estate. If the boy working there that night had not followed Fremont into the room, he, Fremont, would have been attacked also."
"Then Fremont stood in your way?" asked Nestor.
Fremont, remembering Big Bob's talk with him about his early association with Mr. Cameron, his mention of the will, bent closer, a startled expression on his face.
"Yes, he stood in my way," was the reply. "He is the son of Cole Tolford, who was killed in New York a long time ago, and would have inherited the property."
"And Mr. Cameron knew that?" asked Nestor, his old suspicions, voiced to Fremont at the time they talked of Mother Scanlon, recurring to his mind.
"Of course he knew," was the reply. "With Cameron out of the way, and the boy ignorant of his parentage, I would have been safe. Still, I thought best to put Fremont out of my way also. Then there could have been no danger, for I was the next heir."
"I understand!" Nestor said, greatly shocked at the revelation of the cold-blooded murder plot. "You had seen Fremont about the building, and yet you pretended not to know him after your men had taken him prisoner?"
"I knew him," was the faint reply. "My men captured the boy I described to them. I preferred that my men should think I had captured a marplot who had ruined their plans. Then they would have thought nothing of my killing him. But Ren Downs interfered."
"That is the man who lies dead out there?"
Another nod from the injured man, now almost too weak to talk.
"It was your intention to kill Fremont? You wanted him to try to escape and have him shot down by another?"
"Yes, that was my plan. And Scoby and Felix if necessary. I came here for that."
"Great Scott!" whispered Frank. "I reckon this chap got just what was coming to him! Only he ought to be hanged!"
"Hush!" whispered Nestor. "Look!"
Big Bob opened his eyes wider, shot out one hairy hand, gave a convulsive motion which shook his great frame so that the floor of the frail hut trembled, and then the end came. Later, when the body was given rude burial, the original will was found in a pocket of the dead man's coat, together with letters from his brother, Cole Tolford, asking him to go to New York, search out Mother Scanlon, and protect his son.
"Congratulations are in order, Mr. Black Bear!" Shaw whispered, as the papers were handed to Fremont, "but, somehow, I feel like waiting until we get back to little old New York before showing any enthusiasm. This has been a tragic trip."
The other members of the party seemed to feel the same way, for the revelation of the dreadful plot and the death of Samuel Tolford, known as Big Bob, had cast a gloom over the party which not even the clearing up of the mystery could shake off.
READY FOR THE CANAL ZONE.
"This is the end of the case," Frank Shaw said, covering the face of the dead man with a handkerchief. "Fremont is free to go back to New York, taking his mine with him! Nestor was right when he declared that the solution of the Cameron mystery lay on this side of the Rio Grande."
"But the object of our visit has not yet been accomplished," Nestor said, "and so I can't go back with you. Perhaps you would better leave me in charge of the mine!"
"You are wrong," Lieutenant Gordon said, then, "the object of our journey is accomplished. I was ready to announce the fact when you stopped me to listen to the last words of the poor wretch who lies there."
"Do you mean that the arms and ammunition were stopped on the other side?" demanded Nestor.
"That is what the signals said! When I left Don Miguel in charge of the secret service men at San Jose and came back into the hills to find you, I left word with the men to climb to the top and signal if the news came that the arms had been stopped. I don't know just how they got the news, but it is undoubtedly reliable. The arms are in Uncle Sam's possession. The rag-tag-and-bob-tail-of-creation fellows we have seen skulking about here will have to go away without a fight."
"That is too bad!" grunted Frank. "I wanted to see a raid!"
"It is better as it is," replied Nestor.
"And the signals told me something else," continued the lieutenant. "Something about your end of the case," he added, turning to Fremont.
"About Mr. Cameron?" asked the boy, excitedly. "He is—"
"In his right mind again, and knows who struck him."
Then the Black Bears and the Wolves joined hands and actually danced about the old hut until it seemed about to collapse. The secret service men looked on and smiled at the sight of so much happiness. Then Fremont asked:
"And he will live?"
"There is no doubt of it," was the reply. "I do not know the details, for one rocket told me that he was in his right mind again, and another that he would live."
"Then we can all go back to New York and get ready for the trip down the river!" said Jimmie. "You fellers can ride on cushions and I'll hoof it."
"Say," cried Stevens, in a moment, "if this raid scare is all over, get a couple of drums and let Frank and Peter drum their heads off."
"I don't want to drum," Frank said, "not here, anyway! I don't want to go down the Rio Grande, either. I've had enough of Mexico."
He turned to the night watchman with a shudder and bent over him. The man's face was whiter than before, and his form seemed rigid. Seeing the boy's action, Lieutenant Gordon also stooped down. When he arose his face was grave.
"Prussic acid!" he said. "It seems that he was prepared for an emergency!"
"The last of the three conspirators!" Nestor said. "To wander through the world until past middle age and then to come to this! But it is better so."
It was daylight now, and the burials took place. After taking a very light breakfast, the party started back over the mountain. They passed up the ravines and canyons to the mine, and Lieutenant Gordon ascended the mountain of crushed rock and entered the gold chamber.
"There is a fortune here," he said looking about. "What are you going to do with it?" he added, turning to Fremont.
"I had not thought of that," was the reply.
"You'd better be thinking about it!" said Jimmie. "Some one will come down here and geezle it!"
"No one will ever find it," Fremont said.
"But we found it!" Stevens remarked.
"There are a couple of men in my company," the lieutenant said, then, "who are anxious to get out of the service. Why not leave them here to keep possession? After this revolution is over, you can come down here and work it, or they can handle it for you. They are honest and capable."
When spoken with about the matter the men were eager to undertake the task of guarding the mine until peace should be restored, after which they were willing to undertake its development. And so, when the party left, these men stood on the shelf of rock by the opening, reminding Lieutenant Gordon and Fremont for the twentieth time to be sure to send up provisions. It is needless to add that the provisions were sent!
When the party reached El Paso one of the first men they met was Don Miguel, who smiled in a sarcastic manner as he greeted Nestor.
"And so you were released?" the boy asked.
"On orders from Washington," was the reply.
"The case ended when the arms were captured," Nestor said.
"And if they had not been taken?"
"If a raid had actually taken place, you would have been charged with murder," was the quiet reply.
"Only for you," snarled the other, "my plans would have succeeded."
"Only for the strange combination of circumstances which brought us both to the Cameron building that night, you should say," Nestor replied. "It chanced that we appeared on the scene in time to interrupt a murder plot."
"It is fate!" Don Miguel said, with a frown. "It was to be. Why, half the police officers in New York might have visited the suite without seeing anything significant in those letters. And even if they had found them interesting reading, they would not have been capable of smashing all our plans. At the beginning of the world it was set that you were to be there that night! It is fate!"
Don Miguel bowed to the boy and took himself off. The government, fearing international complications, had ordered his release, and the boy was glad of it. The boys were all back in New York in two days, accompanied by Lieutenant Gordon, who was interested in seeing that Nestor received a suitable reward for what he had done. When the check finally came from Washington Nestor was so surprised at its size that he sought the lieutenant, who laughed at him.
"Uncle Sam always pays well," he said, "and he wants a little more of your time!"
"Wants me?" asked Nestor.
"Well, he asks me to get some keen fellows together and go down to the Canal Zone and look into a bit of treason."
"And you want me to go?" cried the boy, almost disbelieving his own ears.
"It is just this way," the lieutenant said. "I want some one with me who can act and act quickly, and who can think on the spur of the moment. Also some one who will not be suspected of being in the secret service of the government."
"I see!" cried the boy, his eyes flashing.
"And so," continued the lieutenant, "I was thinking that you might get some of the Black Bears and Wolves we had in Mexico to go down there and look about. Where is little Jimmie? I like the boy."
"Fremont has about adopted him!" laughed Nestor. "I guess the boy will have an easy life from this time on."
"And Fremont is now the acknowledged heir?"
"Oh, yes. Mr. Cameron is holding the property until he comes of age, but is giving him the income, which is very large, to say nothing of the mine."
"Mr. Cameron, of course, knew that Fremont was the heir?"
"Oh, yes, he knew, and he had statements from Mother Scanlon to prove it. It was all clear for Fremont before the crime was committed. A lucky boy!"
"Of course he appreciates your efforts in his behalf?"
"Does he? Why, he wants me to stop working and come and play with him for the remainder of my life! Suppose I take him to Panama if you really want me to go?"
"I certainly do, and for the reason given," was the reply. "Get some of the Black Bears and Wolves together and organize an excursion to the Canal Zone. You must not mix with me, or the other secret service men down there, but you must keep us posted as to what you discover."
"That will be a picnic," cried Nestor. "What is doing down there?"
"I don't know much about it myself," was the reply, "except that it is a plot to stop the building of the canal. You'll find out soon enough when you get down there. When can you go?"
"In three days," was the answer. "Just as soon as I can round up the boys. The folks down there will think a menagerie has struck town when they see all the wild animals creeping in on them. Say, what would Uncle Sam do if it wasn't for the Boy Scouts of America?" he added, with a laugh.
"Couldn't exist!" smiled the lieutenant.
It is needless to say that the prospect of a trip to Panama, with a little intrigue thrown in, pleased the boys greatly, and in three days they were ready to start, waiting only for orders from Lieutenant Gordon.
What they did and what they saw and heard in the Canal Zone will be told in the forthcoming book of this series entitled, "Boy Scouts in the Canal Zone; or Plot Against Uncle Sam."