When morning came, Garry was the first to awake. Glancing mischievously at his sleeping companions, he softly stole to where he had hung the body of the bobcat the night before, and hid it in the lean-to in back of the pile of cut firewood. Phil awoke a moment after, and coming out, looked for the animal to get a closer look at it in the daytime. He inquired in surprise where the carcass had gone.
"If you can keep a straight face and deny everything, we will have a few minutes of fun with Dick," said Garry with a wink.
"Go to it, I'm on," laughed Phil. Garry proceeded to start the coffee and slice the bacon for breakfast.
Then walking over to where Dick lay still soundly sleeping, he stirred him with his foot, shouting:
"Get up, lazybones, and make a mess of flapjacks for breakfast," for it was admitted by the boys that Dick was the best cook of the three.
Dick rolled out of his blanket with a protesting murmur, and then ran to the brook below the spring, where he dashed the cold water into his face until the sleep fog had rolled away. On his way back he glanced at the spot where the animal's body had been hung the night before. Not seeing it, he turned to Garry and asked what he had done with the wildcat.
"What wildcat?" asked Garry in amazement, while Phil looked at Dick with a blank face.
"Why, the bobcat or wildcat or civetcat, or whatever it was, that you shot last night."
Garry turned and shook his head sadly at Phil.
"Poor chap, the strain of the last few days has been too much for him, or else he is eating too much again before he goes to bed. He eats too much anyway, that's why he has such awful dreams."
"Dream nothing," shouted Dick, half angry, half puzzled. "Do you mean to stand there and tell me that you didn't turn the camp upside down last night by shooting some sort of an animal?"
"Absolutely," declared Garry firmly.
"That must have been some dream that you had last night," chimed in Phil, carrying out the joke.
Dick stared at his two companions, but seeing their sober faces, muttered something to himself and set about fixing the flapjacks. By this time he was firmly convinced that he had dreamed the whole occurrence, and on being pressed by the boys, told his "dream," relating exactly the circumstances of the adventure of the night before.
Although it nearly killed them to do it, the others maintained a straight face and listened with interest. Breakfast over, Dick was wandering around the camp when he discovered the beans he had set to soak when he was roused by the shot that killed the nocturnal visitor. Immediately he remembered that he had forgotten to do this before retiring, hence he must have done it when he got up.
Without saying anything to his companions, he quietly prowled about the camp, until he came on the body of the bobcat where Garry had hidden it. Instantly the light broke, and he made a dash for Garry, knocking him over and getting astride of him. Then Dick proceeded to tickle his ribs vigorously.
"Try to string me, will you? Holler nuff and say you're sorry you made fun of an innocent, trusting person like myself. Holler nuff."
"Hey, Phil, pull this wildman off me," gasped Garry between gasps of laughter, both at the tickling and at the recollection of the joke that had been played on the fat boy.
But Phil was rolling on the ground laughing until the tears ran down his cheeks. Both he and Garry had held in as long as it was possible, and now they were making up for lost time.
Dick at last tired of pummeling Garry, and soon he joined in the laughter, for the joke was undeniably on him.
While they were laughing, along came Dud the gum hunter, bearing a chicken with him.
"Here, boys, thought you might like a bit of chicken, and that'll help make up for the bacon and flour of yours that I used yesterday."
The boys thanked him heartily, and then Garry asked if he knew anyone in that region that could stuff a bobcat, explaining how he had shot one the night before. Dud asked to see the animal, and then exclaimed, his eyes popping:
"Bobcat? Why, boy alive. That's the biggest, finest specimen of Canada Lynx I have even seen. It's one of the most savage animals to be found in the whole North Woods!"
A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS.
"A Canada lynx!" ejaculated Garry. "Why, I thought they were to be found only in the wilds of Northern Canada."
"That's what a good many people think, but they can be found almost anywhere in the northern tier of this country. A friend of mine a couple of years ago shot one on the banks of Lake Champlain barely a mile outside the city of Plattsburg. I don't ever recollect seeing one as fine or as big as that one of yours. If you'd like, I'll stuff it and mount it for you."
"That is more than I dared hope," said Garry. "I didn't know whether I could find a taxidermist up here or not."
"You'll find that a good many old woodsmen are pretty skillful at it, especially those who hire out as guides in the deer season," replied Dud. "I mounted a fine deer head for a hunter from New York last year, and he said it was a better job than was done by one of the high-priced animal men in that city. But there's something else I want to tell you. I can't say much, but there is a pernicious lot of activity lately among a certain class of fellows who find a lot of business over the border every now and then. Now mind ye, I ain't saying anything, but I've seen and heard a couple of things since last night. Also, the 'lane' that is used by these fellows isn't a million miles from here, and a nod is as good as a wink to a blind mare. Remember I ain't said nothing at all."
Leaving the boys to ponder over his remarks, the gum hunter threw his bag across his shoulder and departed on his quest of spruce gum.
"Now I wonder why he is so secretive about this business. Evidently he knows all about it, so why shouldn't he come right out and tell what he knows. It's a puzzle," said Garry reflectively.
"Don't you suppose he is that way because he lives here and knows all these people and does not want to become involved in any way, fearing that they might seek revenge on him for giving away their secrets? Perhaps he even has some misguided relative or friend who is mixed up in the mess some way," suggested Phil.
"I believe that is the only solution, Phil. At any rate, it behooves us to be on the move and see what we can find out. He said something about the smugglers' 'lane' being around here. I suppose that he means the trail over which the stuff is brought. I suggest that the business of the morning be to locate it if possible. Let's head toward the boundary stone, and strike up along what is approximately the border from there and see if we can discover anything in the way of a trail. First, however, I suggest that we take all our food supplies and cache them safely in a tree somewhere in this vicinity. Not so much for fear that they will be stolen, but because I don't want the fact advertised of our being here in case someone should come along in our absence. If we are here, then all right, if we are not, these lean-tos look to be only temporary, and no one would give them a second thought. I've also thought it would be a good plan to search out one or two other likely camp-sites and establish camps there. Then we can go from one to another and not advertise our presence so blatantly. So on our march today, keep an eye for a good spring. Now let's go and cache the stuff."
First Garry measured out a two-day ration of food, dividing it among the three. The rest was then packed in a cloth flour bag that Garry had procured at the general store, showing that he had had this idea in the back of his head since they had arrived at the border. Some little distance away, a thick pine tree was located and careful observation was made so that the boys could find it easily.
Phil climbed the tree and then let down his lariat and Garry tied the bag to the end. Phil then drew it up into the tree and placed it securely in a crotch in one of the branches. This done, Phil clambered back down, remarking when he reached the ground:
"If we get a good storm it's goodbye to the sugar and flour in that bag. The stuff will just naturally melt away. If we are going to make a practice of caching the stuff, I suggest that we provide a number of tin cans with tight covers. Then it can rain on the articles for days and never hurt them a bit."
"That's a prime idea, Phil, and next time we go to town, you are delegated to provide said tins," said Garry.
"Ha, that's the time I talked myself into extra work," rejoined Phil with a laugh.
"Believe me, young man, I'll take a lesson from that and make only suggestions that won't entail extra work," chipped in Dick.
"On our way now, but first Dick, you run back to the camp and empty your canteen on the fire, and obliterate all traces of it. Then fill your canteen and rejoin us here, and we'll be off for the boundary monument," ordered Garry, thus proving himself to be a real woodsman and Ranger, never forgetting that a stray spark or ember may smoulder for some little time and perhaps start a fire that would sweep through the forests as though they were so much tinder.
Dick sped away to do Garry's bidding, and in a few moments was back, and the three chums started for the boundary line. This time they were able to proceed directly to it, without wasting precious time hunting for it.
Arriving at the marker, they branched out fanshaped as was their wont when they were in search of a trail or water. For some three or four miles they found nothing in the way of a well-defined trail, or even the remains of a camp, and were beginning to think the whole affair was nothing more nor less than a wild goose chase, when they were called together by a hail from Dick.
They ran speedily to him, and found him gazing at the ground.
"I don't know that what I've found amounts to a continental, but this is an old abandoned tote road, and I've found the marks of three or four different style boots, or rather, different sized boots. To my mind, it is worth following up, as there hasn't been anything yet worth while investigating except this. I wonder if our friend Dud isn't just giving us a wrong steer, or is this what he meant we should find? What say, Garry, what shall we do?"
Garry decided immediately.
"We'll follow this for a bit and see where it leads us. It may amount to nothing at all, and then again it may lead us to a real clue."
They set off down the old tote road, and after a walk of nearly an hour came upon several shacks, all boarded up, and bearing an air of desolation and abandonment.
"By golly, this is a deserted lumber camp. You remember the storekeeper told us there used to be logging operations in this vicinity? This must have been the scene of the camp, although they had quite a haul to reach the river for the drive. Let's take a look-see and find out what's here," cried Phil.
They went to the main building, that is, the largest, evidently what had been the bunkhouse for the lumberjacks, but every window was tightly boarded up. A little to one side was a smaller building, which had probably been the office and home of the camp boss and timber cruisers, who generally lived by themselves.
This, too, had a deserted and forlorn appearance. Phil's keen eyes were roving over the ground, but he found nothing to excite him till he came to the rear of the building. Here was a small door.
"Say, fellows, look at that door. It's been repaired, and only lately. You can see that someone has tried to obliterate the fact that new boards were put in. It looks as though some tramp or woods wanderer had broken in at some time, and the person or persons who have been here lately have repaired it," said Phil, dropping to his knees and examining the ground in front of the door.
"Why might not whoever has charge of this camp have fixed the door? It is very likely that when the logging operations were given up that some person in Hobart was put in charge to see that it was not destroyed, because logging can again be carried on in this section," inquired Dick.
"Why, I dope it out this way. If, as you say, there is a caretaker or an agent, it would be only natural for him to repair the broken door; but why take all the trouble to smear it with dirt and dent it a little to make it appear that it hadn't been touched? You can see that there are different woods used in the door, and the repaired part is of much newer timber. I tell you, there is some reason for this secrecy. By Jove, let's try and get in."
As he spoke, Phil ran to one of the windows. This had been boarded up from the outside, but one of the boards appeared to be loose.
"What say, Garry, shall I try and make an entrance?"
"I think under the circumstances it would be all right, since we are in search of possible evidence," replied Garry, after a moment's consideration.
Carefully inserting the edge of his axe under the loose board, Phil worked the axe handle slowly, until at last he was rewarded by the board giving way, gently withdrawing the nails with it. In a few moments more, he had a second board removed, disclosing a window. It had an ordinary lock, and opening his knife, Phil inserted the blade and soon snapped the lock back. In a few seconds the three had clambered in, and were taking stock of the interior.
Undeniably the place had been recently occupied. On the table were two bottles with the remains of candles stuck in them, while in the fireplace were the remains of a fire. A good woodsman can tell whether a fire has been made recently or not, and the boys saw at once that this was the case.
On the table was a pack of cards, thrown there evidently at the ending of a game. There were four bunks at one side of the room, and these had been cleaned out and fresh boughs were laid there, although there were no blankets.
Garry discovered a closet, and on opening it, found that there was a fair stock of provisions.
"Guess you are right, Phil. Someone is making a headquarters of the shack. It seems logical to think that they are doing so secretly, for if anyone with a right to use the place were living here, they would have removed the boards from the windows, and would have made the place a little bit more habitable. However, we had better dust out of here, for we don't want to be surprised by anyone that happens to come along, especially whoever is using this place. Perhaps it would be a good idea to establish a watch and see who comes here. The chances are whoever uses the place comes at night, or at least in the early evening, and one might be able to get a look at them. At any rate, let's hike out," concluded Garry.
Looking around carefully to see that they left no evidence of their surrepticious visit, they went out through the window.
"Sorry there's no way to lock that window hasp again, but since the windows are evidently not used by the occupants, I don't believe it will ever be noticed," remarked Phil, as he carefully nailed the boards back in place with the back of the hatchet, being careful that his axe did not slip and leave a mark to show that the boards had been pried off.
"When it comes time to watch for the occupants, I have an idea of the proper place to keep an eye on them," said Dick, "and that is the spring. Whoever is living here must have water, and if I'm not mistaken, that's the spring over there."
Following Dick's lead, they went in the indicated direction, and sure enough, there was the spring.
"You can see fairly fresh footprints there. I wish now that we had Sandy with us," said Garry.
"Sandy" was Garry's big Airedale dog, which they had left with Nate Webster when they went off to Augusta. They had not taken him on the trip, for all those with whom they had had trouble, knew the dog, and he would call too obviously attention to the presence of the trio of Rangers.
"Let's take a look at the big bunkhouse and see if that is being used also," suggested Phil.
They returned to the long low shack, and were in search of a window from which the boards might be removed, when suddenly Garry said:
"Listen, do you hear the sound of rifle shots?"
Faintly borne on the breeze, came the sound of a distant shot.
"Probably only some youngster from town out after rabbits," said Dick. They waited for a few minutes, and then again was heard a shot, closely followed by two more.
"The forest distress signal. Some one's in trouble boys!" cried Garry excitedly.
To explain to our readers why the three shots are known as a distress signal is simple. One shot would ordinarily be that of a hunter. Two could be the same thing, provided the man was using a double barrelled shotgun, such as is used in hunting birds. The chances that a hunter would fire three shots in regular succession is very small, hence this is the signal that is the S. O. S. of the woods. It is reported at intervals, and after being heard two or three times, the woods voyager may be sure that someone is in some great difficulty, fallen and broken a leg, or lost in the dense timber.
"It's to the south of us," said Garry, as he wet a finger and held it up to test the direction of the wind. "You see the breeze comes from that direction, and the sound comes with it. Let's take it on the trot, boys."
So saying, he led the way at an easy lope to the southward. They had proceeded a little distance, when again they heard the three shots, this time much nearer.
Breaking into a swift run, they were soon at the source of the call for help.
Laying on the ground, his foot caught in a wicked looking steel trap, was an elderly man. In a feeble tone, he hailed the boys.
"Thank God you've come, boys. I fear in a little while more I should have been too weak to try and summon help. Release me from this trap."
Garry and Dick sprang to the trap, which had closed on the man's ankle, while Phil attempted to lift him up.
"Easy, my boy, easy, my arm's broken. That's why I was unable to release myself sometime ago. I could only reach one spring with my good arm, and even that effort so twisted my leg that I fainted and had to give up attempting it."
While he had been speaking, the two boys had released the springs, and bending back the teeth, released the man's leg. He gave a groan of relief, while trying to raise himself up.
"Better take it easy, sir, while I look you over and see what the extent of your injuries are," said Garry.
Taking his knife, the boy slit the leg of the corduroy trousers, and then carefully rolled the woolen sock down. This disclosed an ugly looking swollen leg. Very gently he felt of the leg, and then asked the man if he could move his foot. After trying, the old man found he could.
"Guess it's not broken, just very badly bruised and swollen," remarked Garry cheerfully.
"That's something to be thankful for anyway, for I know my arm is broken. It was all I could do to load and fire my rifle with one hand," said the sufferer.
"We'll have that in splints in no time, and then see about getting you to your home," said Garry. "Now Phil, you start a little fire and make some coffee to brace the gentleman up with, while I put his arm in splints."
Very gently he ran his fingers up and down the arm, finding that it was a clean break of one of the bones of the forearm, and not the wrist. Searching through his knapsack, he drew out what is known to first aid as a wire gauze bandage. This is nothing more than closely meshed wire, and is recommended for use for a temporary splint until the doctor can be gotten.
Wrapping the arm with some bandage, he put on the splint, and tied it on firmly with a strip of bandage. Then whipping his bandanna handkerchief from around his neck, he made a sling.
The hot coffee was soon forthcoming, and stimulated by it, the man felt considerably better.
Asked how he had been caught by the trap, he explained that while he was walking through the woods in search of a partridge or squirrel, mainly more for the pleasure of hiking than in hope of shooting anything, he had stepped into the trap, which was carefully covered.
"It had evidently been there for some time, for the ground over it looked quite natural as though many successive rains had beaten down upon it, or else I would have noticed that the covering was only artificial. By the way, let me introduce myself. My name is John Everett, and I used to be the Customs officer here, until Uncle Sam decided there was no need for one, and moved the station some twenty-five miles up the border, where another man, a politically influential fellow, was appointed to the new office. Since then I have been living in retirement with my granddaughter. I wonder if it is going to impose on you to ask one of you to go to Hobart, it's only about four miles from here, and get help to take me home, for although my leg does not seem to be broken, I cannot stand on it, much less walk," he concluded.
"Don't worry about getting home. We'll have a snack of food and then make a stretcher and have you there in no time," said Garry.
"I am afraid that will be too much of a task for you," remonstrated Everett.
"Oh, it's nothing at all, sir," Garry hastened to say.
When the man had mentioned that he had been a Customs officer, Dick had given Phil a significant glance. There was every chance that good fortune in being able to do a great favor for the old man might redound to their aid.
A hasty lunch of bacon and spiderbread was made, the man watching admiringly the efficient and speedy manner in which the boys went about preparing the meal.
"You boys act as though you had been born and brought up in the woods. Were you?" he inquired.
"No, although we have always liked woodcraft and forest lore, and have read about it and practiced it in a small way. We are in the Forest Ranger service, doing some special work, and so we have to know something about it," answered Garry.
Lunch over, the effect of the food on the old man being to cheer him up and strengthen him, the fire was stamped out, and then Phil and Dick proceeded to make a litter while Garry cut two strong, tough saplings to make the handles.
They made the litter by taking off their coats and buttoning them securely. Then the coats were turned inside out, so that the arms were inside the jackets. Through the arms were thrust the two saplings, which had been cut sufficiently long to allow them to project a foot and a half or so beyond the two coats. A blanket was then laid atop the coats, and the litter was ready.
Dick and Garry took the first turn at carrying, while Phil went ahead carrying the rifles. Every few moments, the third boy would relieve one of the others. Frequent rests were necessary, and they were not able to make much more than a mile an hour, so that it was late afternoon when they finally reached the outskirts of the town.
"There's my home there, the white house set back in from the street," said Everett. "I am afraid you boys are rather tuckered out."
As a matter of fact they were, for the four-mile hike with the burden on the litter was no mean task.
They had hardly turned in the gate, when a pretty girl of about seventeen or eighteen rushed out to meet them. When she saw her grandfather on the stretcher, she turned pale, and in anxious voice asked what the matter was.
"Don't be alarmed, Ruth, I just had a little accident in the woods and broke my arm. Otherwise I'm fit as a fiddle. Now don't worry, and hold the door open for these young men to carry me in and then run over and get Dr. Mills."
Once in the house, Mr. Everett was laid on a couch and made as comfortable as possible for the time being.
"This is my granddaughter, Ruth," he told the boys. "In the excitement of the day, I quite forgot to ask your names, so you will have to introduce yourselves to her."
This Garry, acting as master of ceremonies, did, and then the girl hastened after the doctor. She returned with him in a few minutes, and the physician promptly began his examination.
He confirmed Garry's finding that the leg was not broken, and complimented him on his neat job of putting on the temporary splint. Since the break was simple, and the old man protested that a little twinge of pain was nothing, the arm was immediately set and the permanent splints set in place.
The chums assisted the doctor to get Mr. Everett to bed, and then bade him goodbye, promising to look in very soon to see how he was getting along.
"Don't fail to call on me, boys, if I can be of any service to you," were his parting words.
"Well, sir, we may do that very soon," said Garry.
"You'll find that I won't fail you," promised Everett.
As they were on their way out, the girl stopped the chums and expressed her gratitude for their rescue of her grandfather.
"I don't know how to thank you boys. Just think, if you hadn't come along, he might have died out there in the woods before someone found him, and he is the only relative I have. I am sure there is nothing I wouldn't do for you that was within my power," she declared.
"Do you really mean that, Miss?" said Garry.
"Indeed I do. Just let me know what I can do," she answered eagerly.
"I don't want you to think I am asking this as a matter of reward," said Garry, "but it's something that is very vital to the success of our mission here. I feel that we can be frank with you, since your grandfather was once in the Customs service. I can't explain just now how we are connected with the matter, but you could do us and the State a great service if you could tell us if you know anything about smuggling operations here. You are practically the only one that we have given so much confidence, and I am sure that you will respect it."
"Oh, of course I will. I don't know who or what you are, but I am sure you are all right. As for what you ask, I don't know much about it, although Granddaddy has confided his suspicions to me many times. Unfortunately, though, they are only suspicions, and he has never been able to get any tangible evidence, for they cover their tracks very cleverly, and especially with him, since they know that he was once in the service. I can tell you this, though, keep sharp watch of a man called Lafe Green. He is a great big red-haired man, and he hangs around that restaurant that is run by a man called Joe Canuck. It's practically the only one in town, perhaps you know of it."
"We do know of it, and we sure thank you for what you have told us, and you will never regret it. Sometime we can tell you more about all this. I hope we shall see you again, for we will come at the first opportunity to see how your grandfather is getting along," said Garry, as the three took their leave, bidding goodbye to the pretty girl.
Out on the street again, Dick could scarcely restrain himself from doing a war dance on the sidewalk.
"Gosh," he ejaculated exuberantly. "Talk about casting your bread upon the waters and having it come back a whole shipload of angel cake. This is luck. Boys, at last we're on the track of the smugglers, and if the firm of Boone, Durant and Wallace doesn't run them down, I'll go back home and spend the rest of the summer working in a grocery store or on a farm pulling weeds!"
THE COMING OF THE BEAR.
"Listen fellows, let's duck back towards the woods for a bit and have a council of war," ordered Garry. "There will be less chance of our being observed there, and no chance of our being overheard." So saying, Garry led the way back for about half a mile.
"We must strike while the iron's hot, and it seems to be hot tonight. What with the young lady's information about watching this Lafe Green person, and Dud's hint that there was something brewing, it strikes me that we ought to get going. There's only one logical place to start, and that is this restaurant," said Garry emphatically.
"We must understand one thing, though. There's an element of danger connected with this, and I don't want to lead anyone into anything that I wouldn't do myself, so I offer to make the first reconnoitre," he concluded.
"That's mighty white, Garry, but I want to make a suggestion. I'm not looking for any personal glory out of this, but I declare I think I am the logical person to go. You know I am the only one of us who can talk French and understand it, and as we have already had one clue in that manner, there's every chance that others may follow in the same way, so I move that I go."
Garry saw the force of the argument, and as Phil was backed up by Dick, decided that after all this was the best move.
A plan of campaign was hastily drawn up. It was decided that the other two should return to the lean-to, and there wait Phil's return. Phil's rifle and knapsack were to be carried back by his chums, while Phil was to take the little automatic that Garry had purchased at Bangor.
"This is only as a measure of safety, Phil," said Garry. "And under no condition show it or use it except as a last resort. Now there's one other thing. We want to keep a check for safety's sake on your movements, yet you want to have time enough to follow up any clue that may arise. So let's make it a point that you be back at the lean-to by sundown tomorrow night. If you are not there by then, we will know that you are in some sort of a pickle and plan to come to your aid. Don't try to do anything single handed; your mission tonight is to find out what is going on if you can. If you can return tonight, so much the better. From now on too, we'll establish a watch, taking two hour sentry duty. There may be no need of it yet, but we will get back in the habit of it, and an ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure. Now go to it, old topper, and the best of luck."
The chums shook hands, and then went their different ways, Garry and Dick back to the lean-to in the woods, and Phil back to town.
Just before he left the fringe of woods that bordered the edge of the town, Phil did a peculiar stunt that was later to stand him in good stead. Taking his knife from his pocket, he made a small slit in the under side of his coat lapel. In this he slipped the knife, and then held the coat at arm's length to see if there was any lump observable. The coat, made as it was of thick khaki, showed no noticeable difference. Satisfied with the appearance, he slipped his coat on again, and went his way. Phil was thinking of the time he had been left chained to the tree in the woods by Anderson and LeBlanc, with no weapon with which he could free himself, and he was determined that this would never happen again if he could prevent it. He was satisfied that the ruse of hiding the knife would not be discovered were he captured, unless his coat was taken away from him.
In a short time Phil had approached the restaurant, and entered. Taking his seat on one of the high stools at the lunch counter, he ordered some supper. The bearded Frenchman, evidently the proprietor, who approached, shot at him a question in French.
Phil know perfectly well that he was asking him in French what he wanted, but he just stared blankly at the man, who, believing that he did not understand, spoke to him in broken English.
"M'sieu does not spik the French, hein?"
Phil shook his head and repeated his order in English. Satisfied, the man turned to the stove back of the counter and dished up a mess of piping hot baked peas, cooked with bacon instead of pork. This is a favorite dish with the French of Canada. A great slab of johnny-cake and a cup of hot coffee seemed to be the only thing on the bill of fare. For dessert there was apple pie and cheese.
The whole was put before him at once, and Phil, with the appetite of a healthy boy, fell to and soon dispatched the food. He ate a second portion of the peas, which evidently pleased the proprietor who was at once cook and waiter.
Following the order for the second helping, the big Frenchman entered into conversation with Phil. He seemed satisfied with Phil's answer to his query as to what he was doing in those parts, when Phil told them he was camping there for a short time, preparatory to a fishing expedition.
Supper over, Phil walked over to one of the tables, where he found a week-old Bangor paper, and a Canadian French paper. Carefully avoiding taking up the French paper and thus betray his knowledge of the language, he took the Commercial and read steadily for an hour or more. During this time the place was steadily filling. Men came in, got their supper, and took seats at the many tables scattered about. Later others came in, evidently villagers who made a sort of a clubhouse of the place. A half a dozen card games were in progress, and at three of the tables couples were playing checkers. By this time Phil had read all the news and was beginning on the advertisements in order to have some ostensible purpose in remaining where he knew nobody. Another half hour passed, and then he decided to get up and watch one of the checker games that was in progress near him.
Both of the players were fairly expert, and he watched for some time with great interest. During the second game, one of the players made a bad move and let his opponent sweep off three pieces and land in the king row to boot. As he made the move, Phil could not repress a little gasp. The lucky opponent looked up at Phil and grinned, and Phil smiled back. The game was lost for the first man, and his friend proceeded to rub it in a little.
"I declare, Hoke, you're gettin' worse every day. You ought to see that I would clean the board if you made that move. I declare, I bet this young fellow here can beat you."
"Bet a doughnut he can't," said the man called Hoke.
"Take ye up on that, an' if you lose I'll make you walk home and get one. They never have 'em here at night. What say, young feller, will ye give this feller a trimming for me?"
"Why, yes, I would like to play a game," said Phil. He wanted to play for two reasons. First, it would give him a legitimate excuse for loitering there a little longer without attracting attention, and secondly, he really enjoyed a good game of checkers.
Phil disposed of his man very easily, for he was a remarkably good player. At the conclusion of the game, the defeated man demanded that his friend try a game with Phil, and accordingly changed places with him. Here was a harder opponent, and Phil was devoting his entire attention to giving him a run for the honors of the game, when the door opened and a couple of men slouched in.
Phil's heart stood still, for they were two of the trio of tramps they had caught in their shack outside their home town. Phil was in a quandary. He couldn't leave the game and rush out of the restaurant without doing the very thing he least wanted to, that was draw particular attention to himself.
There was only one thing to do, and that was stay and face the music. He doubted if the tramps would start anything in the room, but would probably wait outside and seek to wreak revenge on him for being one of those instrumental in their capture that time in the shack.
Then to his great surprise, they passed by him, giving him only a casual glance, but no sign of recognition.
Phil breathed a sigh of relief, and then reflected that it was not strange that they failed to recognize him. In the first place, they would hardly expect to find him in that northern town, and then his khaki clothes were of the sort that is common to the woods, but not to the town where their arrest had taken place. So it was a simple matter, their not knowing him.
He turned his attention to the game again, and had made two moves, when a phrase, spoken in French by a man at the table in back of him, startled him into alert attention.
The man had said:
"Well, Pierre, 'The Bear' will be here in a few moments now."
What was he to do? "The Bear" could be no one but LeBlanc.
He must get out of the room at all costs, but how was he to avoid running into LeBlanc?
There was precious little chance that the guide would fail to recognize him, and he knew that he would be in real danger here among the half-breed's friends and cronies.
Then, too, he must make his exit naturally, so as to arouse no suspicion in the minds of the checker players, who might be foes just as well as friends.
Already the watcher at the table was demanding they finish the game quickly so that he could have another chance at Phil.
His mind working rapidly, Phil figured out what the best course to pursue would be. The main point was to get out of the restaurant, but there was the danger that at the precise moment of his exit, Jean LeBlanc might be coming in the door.
It was not wholly fear of LeBlanc that made him want to escape unobserved, he didn't want the treacherous guide to know that he or his chums were in the vicinity, for it would immediately destroy their usefulness; at least it would hamper their work to a great degree.
While his opponent studied the board, Phil was looking about the room. At one side of the room there was a window looking out on a side street or alley, Phil did not know which. Right beside it was a door. He decided that this was the best means of exit, for in the dark alleyway he could pass anyone coming in without their seeing who it was, and once in the shadows, he could look up and down the street, and make his escape as soon as it looked clear.
The immediate thing to be done was to bring the game to a close. His opponent had made his move, and concentrating on the game, Phil saw an obscure move, which, once made, would give his opponent the game. Without further hesitation, he made it, and the other player seized the advantage and won the game.
While he was chuckling over his victory, the other man was demanding a return chance at Phil, but the Boy Ranger forestalled this by pleading a headache from the heat and the smoke-filled room.
"Tell you what," he said. "You two play a game, while I go outside for a few minutes and clear my head, then I'll come back and take you on again."
This proved to be agreeable to the others, and in another moment they were absorbed in the start of the game. Carefully edging his way over to the side door, he waited till no one was looking at him, then opened the door and slipped through—not into an alleyway, but into another room!
He had been fooled by the close proximity of the window, never dreaming that there was an ell-like extension beginning flush at the side of the window. Hastily glancing about, he saw another door, and running to it, threw it open, only to have Jean LeBlanc enter just as he opened it.
Phil's hand darted to his pocket for the automatic that Garry had given him before he started on his mission, but he was not quick enough, for in less than an instant LeBlanc had leaped upon him, pinioning his arms to his side. Phil was helpless in the grasp of the half-breed. LeBlanc called in French for help, and in another moment the black moustached proprietor came rushing in.
While LeBlanc held Phil, Canuck searched his pockets, taking from him what little money he had, and the automatic revolver. Evidently suspicious that Phil might have some other weapon concealed about him, they made him unlace and take off his shoepacks; here, of course, they found nothing, but fortunately they did not notice the secret pocket that he had made in the lapel of his coat, in which reposed safely his heavy scout knife.
In the meantime, the French restaurant proprietor and LeBlanc carried on a swift conversation in French, all of which, of course, Phil understood perfectly.
"We shall take him up to the room on the third floor that we know about, and keep him there until we shall have decided what to do with him."
Phil was unceremoniously hustled out through the rear door, and with a couple of brutal shoves, was taken up the dark stairway. Still, a second flight he went up, and was then drawn into a dark room. Just before they closed the door upon him, his heart sank, as he heard LeBlanc tell the proprietor:
"This is the fourth time that I have met this boy. He seems fated to work me harm. Once I left him for dead in the Great Woods, but he seemed to have a charmed life and escaped. This time, I promise you he will not."
So saying, they slammed the door, and Phil heard the rasp of the heavy lock being turned in the door. Groping his way about, he found that the room was bare of all furnishing, except for a decrepit old cot, and a rough table. Feeling for the top of the table, he discovered there was an old bottle, with a good-size piece of candle in it. He went through his pockets carefully to see if by chance his searchers had left behind them a stray match, but his hunt was not rewarded.
There was nothing to do but make the best of the darkness. He groped his way to the cot and sat down, taking stock of the situation. There seemed to be nothing he could do except to wait for the morning, provided that he would be allowed to see the morning come, then to look about the room in search of some method of escaping. Thanks to his foresightedness, he still had his knife, and this might prove to him to be salvation as far as escape was concerned. He laid down on the cot, thinking, and after nearly a half of an hour jumped to his feet, inwardly calling himself names for his forgetfulness.
Not until that moment had he remembered that he generally carried several matches, wrapped in a bit of oil silk and tucked under his hat band. It was a trick that Garry had taught him when they first went in the woods.
Fumbling inside of the hat band, he came upon a little package of half a dozen matches, still securely wrapped in the oiled silk in which he had placed them, almost a month before.
"What a fool I was," he muttered to himself. "All that time that I was tied and chained to a tree by LeBlanc and Anderson, I had those matches and never once thought of them."
So saying, he carefully struck one of the matches and lighted the candle. He now had a chance to examine the prison room that he was in. Save for the door, the only other means of egress from the room was a solitary window, but a quick examination showed that escape in this way was impossible, for the shutter of the window, instead of being composed of wood was made of a solid piece of iron.
Phil then examined the door, finding that this was evidently made of several thicknesses of hard wood, so thick was it, that when he rapped strongly with his knuckles, it gave forth a dead heavy sound, showing that it was unusually thick. It was so thick and hard, in fact, as to defy any effort to cut it through with his knife. Phil hardly knew what to do; all way of escaping seemed barred to him.
There was one chance, however, and that was a possibility of attacking whatever guard came to bring him food in the morning, for he did not believe that they intended to starve him to death.
Grasping the bottle that held the candle, he went over and made an examination of the cot. It was an old folding cot, made of fairly heavy cross braces, bound with substantial pieces of metal.
Phil unshipped his knife from the coat lapel cache, and immediately set to work to whittle away one of the cross pieces that supported the cot. He whittled in such a fashion that on one end remained one of the iron braces, screwed securely to the stick of wood. Hefting it in his hand, and then swinging it about his head, Phil discovered that he had a weapon that would almost fell an ox. His plan was to wait beside the door in the morning until whoever brought him his food should have unlocked the door, then to strike him down, and while he was stunned, take a chance on escaping from the house.
The broken cot did not offer a very comfortable sleeping place, but Phil propped it up the best he could and lay down upon it. It was too rickety, so stripping the tattered blanket from it, he lay upon the floor.
This was no hardship to him, as he had spent many a night of his life sleeping upon the hard, solid earth, which is not a whit softer than a flooring made of pine boards.
As he lay dozing, he almost fancied that he could hear a very low murmur of voices. Telling himself that it was only his imagination, he rolled over again and tried to sleep, but the excitement and the uncertainty made him sleepless. Again he heard a low mutter of subdued voices, then he sat straight up in his blanket.
Since he could not sleep, he felt that he might as well be busying himself about something, so drawing a blanket over to a corner of the room, he laid down flat upon it, and with the drill punch on his scout knife, began to bore a hole in the floor. He remembered that the ceiling of the restaurant was made of boards and not of plaster, and he decided that this was probably the case all through the rest of the house. There was probably a double thickness of boards, and the longer he drilled the more certain he became of this.
Finishing, he could feel that he was within the merest fraction of an inch of piercing the double thickness of boards, through which he had carefully bored his way. Instead of piercing his knife blade straight through the thin bit of board that was left, he began to enlarge the hole that he had already made. When he had done this to his satisfaction, he blew out the candle, for he wanted no stray gleam of light to betray to whoever was in the room below him his course of action.
Having extinguished the light, very carefully and slowly, he dug away tiny splinters of the thin bit of board that separated him from hearing, and perhaps seeing, what was taking place in the room below. As he made the hole, the murmur of voices became more and more distinct. At last, the sharp point of the knife pierced the board, and then working as carefully as though he were handling the most deadly explosive, he began to enlarge the little chink that he had made.
Having completed his peep hole, he glued his eye to it, but was unable to make out anyone in the room below him. Evidently, the occupants of the room were outside of his field of vision. Giving up trying to see what was going on, he lay on his side with his ear pressed closely to the aperture that he had made. He could distinguish LeBlanc's voice, also that of the French restaurant proprietor. There seemed to be two other men in the room, for he could make out the difference in voices, but they were strangers to him. Evidently, the two strangers could not speak French, for LeBlanc and the proprietor were talking in English.
Phil could hear the conversation as plainly as though he were sitting in the room with them. As soon as he discovered what they were talking about, he became very much excited, for they were discussing the details of a fur smuggling trip that was to take place that very week. Phil thought to himself, that if he could only get out of the prison room, he had the most valuable clue that he or his chums had yet discovered. He thought it strange that they made no remark about the deserted logging camp, for Phil was certain that this was the headquarters, or at least a rendezvous, of the smuggling band.
Phil had wondered that he had seen or heard nothing of Anderson, for he expected wherever LeBlanc would be, the other would be found also. However, from the conversation he learned that Anderson had already crossed the border line, and was even then busily engaged in buying quantities of furs from Canadian trappers. When they had consulted the minor details of the trip, without, however, mentioning at what point they crossed the border, much to Phil's disappointment, LeBlanc then told his companions that as soon as they had completed the deal in furs, that he had something very much bigger that would net them all a fortune. In fact, he told them, he would not have bothered with the fur trip at all, except that he and Anderson had used practically all their available money in buying furs.
From the bustling sounds of the room below, the others evidently crowded nearer to hear what this new scheme was, when suddenly there was a commotion at the door of the room below, and a voice was heard, demanding admittance.
"Ha," exclaimed Jean LeBlanc, "that is P'tit Vareau. I don't like him, and he shall not come in with us on this big scheme. Tomorrow night I shall discuss it with you at our friend M'sieu Henderson's place. Now, you may let him in, but not a word of anything other than about the furs."
Vareau made his entrance, and there was some desultory conversation, and then all of them left the room.
Phil's heart was bounding in excitement. Here he had all the details of the plot at his finger ends, and all that needed to be done was to keep close tabs on LeBlanc, and he would lead them direct to the headquarters of the smuggling crew.
Truly his attempt at escape next morning must not fail.
* * * * *
Garry and Dick, back at the lean-to, were discussing the possibility of Phil's stumbling upon important information, not knowing at that moment he was a prisoner, trapped in the old French restaurant, and in the hands of the most vengeful enemy that the three possessed.
Throughout the night they kept up a constant sentry duty, not that they really expected anything to happen, but just because it seemed to be better on the safe side—a case of rather be safe then be sorry. Morning came, and they prepared their breakfast. They did not dare to stir from the camp, for there was no telling at what moment they might get a message from Phil, telling them that their help was needed.
* * * * *
Despite the fact that he was worried, Phil slept the normal sleep of a healthy boy, awaking in the morning both hungry and thirsty. He immediately secured the iron tipped stick that he had fashioned the night before, and took his place at the door, ready to strike down whoever entered, and make a dash for liberty. Nearly two hours elapsed, and the strain was beginning to tell upon him, when he heard a sound of shuffling footsteps outside the door. Grasping his club firmly in his hand, he prepared to act, but to his keen disappointment, however, the door was opened only an inch or two, and he heard LeBlanc's voice, bidding him out. Through the crack of the door, he could see LeBlanc's form, and immediately in back of him, that of the big restaurant keeper.
He made no response for a moment, and suddenly the door was thrown open, and LeBlanc and the proprietor came rushing in. LeBlanc seemed to be possessed of second sight, for he seemed to know that Phil had contemplated an attack on whoever came in the room, and he foiled this by rushing at Phil, jamming him close to the wall, and making it impossible for him to raise his club, much less than to use it.
"Aha, mon brave would fight would he? I thought so, and came prepared to care for you. We will see that he has nothing left to fight with."
Bidding his companion in French remove the cot, LeBlanc cast a hasty glance around the room to see if anything was left that by any artifice whatsoever could be converted into a weapon. Phil had carelessly thrown the blanket over the hole that he had made on the floor, and in a fold had tucked away the piece of candle.
LeBlanc paid no attention to the blanket, seeming to think that with the cot broken the boy had slept on the floor. The table and the empty bottle that had served as a candlestick were removed, and then food and water was brought to him and left there.
"Tonight I am ver' busy, but tomorrow you shall be taken from here in a trunk, and you shall be dropped in the river. How you will like that, hein?" and with an evil grin he left the room, leaving Phil again in the darkness to eat his food as best he could.
Phil rescued his candle, and lighted it to eat by, and then carefully extinguished it, for he knew it would not last a great while were it to burn steadily.
He had one wild idea left. It was dangerous in the extreme, it might mean death, but it was death if he stayed in the clutches of the renegade half-breed. This idea was to try to set fire to the door, in the hopes that it would burn enough without setting the whole room on fire until he could battle his way out.
This idea he meant to carry out only as a last resort. There were two chances left to him. One was that he could find some other method of escape, the other was that his chums would come to his rescue when he failed to return at the appointed hour of sundown.
At any rate, he would wait until the last minute before trying his desperate scheme. LeBlanc, he knew, would be gone the greater part of the night, for they did not plan to start until almost midnight for Lafe Green's house.
The long day dragged on and he got hungry and thirsty. No one came again, evidently one meal was all that he was to have. Presently he decided that it must be past sundown, and he lay down on the blanket, and before he knew it dropped off to sleep.
Then out of a sound and dreamless sleep he heard a number of mysterious tappings on the iron shutter that guarded the window.
He ran to the window and listened again.
Yes, there they were, being repeated in a sort of a staccato yet rhythmic measure.
Suddenly it dawned on him what it was. The tappings were dots and dashes of the International Code, and they were spelling out:
P-H-I-L- P-H-I-L- P-H-I-L-
CHUMS TO THE RESCUE.
To return now for a while to the lean-to we shall see what happened when sundown came and no Phil appeared.
"Oh, Dick, I'm sorry I let Phil go alone. We should have gone together, then there would have been less chance of anything having happened," said Garry brokenly.
"Cheer up, Garry, it's only a little past sundown, perhaps he didn't allow himself enough time to get back here, may have thought the distance was less than it was. You know he has been over this distance only two or three times. We'll give him a little while longer and then set our heads together and see what we can do. I have a lot of confidence in Phil, he manages to pull himself out of his scrapes pretty well most of the time," comforted Dick, although he too feared that Phil had gotten into some scrape that proved too much for him. Dick's fear was that Phil had run afoul of the tramps, for neither he nor Garry knew that LeBlanc was in that vicinity.
Nearly an hour passed, and then Garry sprang to his feet.
"There's no use waiting any longer. Phil would move heaven and earth to keep up to the agreement that was made as to the hour of return. Now we must do something. Get your rifle and lariat and hatchet. Stick the handle of the hatchet inside your trousers so that it will not be so evident, or better yet, we can do it just before we get to town. Then, too, we can coil our riatas over one shoulder, and slip our coats on over them. In that way we won't attract so much attention. The rifles won't appear to be out of place, for it would be only natural that we should take them, seeing we are supposed to be campers who will have to go back through the dark woods to camp. First, before we start, take our knapsacks, there's nothing in them that we will need, and cache them in the branches of a nearby tree. Then we'll leg it to town just as fast as we can."
Before Dick cached the knapsacks, Garry poured all the water in the canteens on the fire, thoroughly extinguishing it. Then in a trice the knapsacks were hidden in a tree, and the pair were ready to start for town.
Garry set a terrific pace at first, until Dick toned him down with:
"Look here, Garry, we don't want to get to town all tuckered out. If we do we will be useless if it comes to a pinch. I'm just as anxious about Phil as you are, but we must conserve our strength. We may need it before the night is over."
"Guess you're right old chap, but I just keep thinking that minutes may mean more right now than hours would some other time." Nevertheless he moderated his pace, and in a trifle under an hour they were in the town of Hobart.
Dick was for making at once to the restaurant to institute inquiries as to whether or not Phil had been there and when he was last seen. Garry by this time had grown calmer and cooler and again assumed the leadership.
"That would be a mighty foolish thing to do. If Phil has gotten into a scrape, there is just as good a chance that it was in that place as out in the street. You know we were warned that it wasn't a regular drawing room by any means. I have an idea, and I think you'll agree with me that it is a good one. We'll hike to the home of the chap we towed home with the broken arm the other day, and see if his granddaughter can give us a tip of any sort as to what sort of a place the restaurant is and what sort of a chap runs it and who hangs out there. Of course there is one great chance that Phil stumbled onto a real clue and followed it, but that is very remote, for I don't believe Phil would disobey an order that had been agreed upon by all as a safety measure."
"Jolly good idea, Garry," said Dick. "Let's go."
In a few moments they were at Mr. Everett's house, and were glad to find a light still burning there. They knocked on the door, and Ruth herself answered the knock.
"Goodness gracious," she exclaimed, in a surprised tone. "I never expected to see you boys at this time of night. Where's your other companion?"
"That's just what we would give anything in the world to know right now," remarked Garry. "We've come to you to see if you can give us a bit of help or information."
Then rapidly he told of the plans they had made to try and get evidence, and the agreement that Phil was to have returned at sundown that night.
"You say he went to the restaurant? Oh, that's a wicked place, and if he's gotten into trouble, that place is just where it would have been likely to happen. The owner of that place is dreadful. He helps those smugglers and sells contraband rum, and he and that half-breed LeBlanc have been suspected of several crimes along the border."
"What's that you say?" burst out Garry. "LeBlanc, you don't mean Jean LeBlanc?"
"Why, yes, do you know him or know of him?" returned the girl, amazed at Garry's sudden outburst.
"Yes, to our sorrow we do. I haven't time to tell you all we know of him now, except that he hates us like poison, since we were instrumental in having him jailed for kidnapping once, and then he broke out. Is that diabolic villain in town?"
"He is, I saw him only this afternoon. He used to be around here a great deal, for his original home is in a town not far on the other side of the border. I am so sorry to say it, but if your chum was in the restaurant and LeBlanc saw him there, he could have made him prisoner with the greatest of ease, for he has many friends there, and there are many who would do anything that rascally proprietor told them to."
"Does your grandfather know the ins and outs of that house?" inquired Garry.
"Yes, he does, but he is asleep, and as he had a bad day, the doctor says that he is not to be waked up under any circumstances, so I'm afraid you'll have to put up with my help, such as it is. All you have to do is wait till I run across the street and get Mr. Allen to come in and watch granddaddy and then I'll be ready to help you."
"You're a brick, Miss," said Garry enthusiastically, "but we couldn't think of letting you in for any danger."
"I guess you don't know the border girls, sir. We aren't afraid of anything in the woods or the towns. We've been brought up to take care of ourselves. Besides, I've heard Granddad tell about the Rookery, as he calls it, many times. An' I've an idea that if your chum is held a prisoner in that house, I know just where it is. So just you let me be your guide for a little while."
So saying, she ran across the street and soon returned with an elderly man, the Mr. Allen of whom she spoke, and then bidding the boys wait a minute, she dashed upstairs. In an incredibly short time she was back again, clad in a khaki skirt, high boots, and a heavy sweater. A knit tam was perched on her head, making her quite one of the most attractive girls the boys had ever seen.
"I'll lead you around to the back of the restaurant, where there won't be much chance of you're being observed. There's one window that has always puzzled me. It has a great heavy shutter on it, and I don't ever remember seeing it opened. I've always imagined it was the dungeon keep of the place, like the ones they used to have in old castles, long years ago."
Evidently, thought Garry, the young lady was of an extremely romantic turn of mind.
In a very few minutes she had led them through a dark back street to where they could command a view of the rear of the restaurant.
"There, wait till the moon comes out from behind that cloud. Now. See that window there all barricaded? That's what I think is the prison room for the Canuck's house," said Ruth.
The boys looked and saw the sinister window, which although they did not know it then, was the one to the room in which Phil was at that moment soundly sleeping, worn out by the mental and physical strain that he had been under for the past twenty-four hours.
Under the shuttered window ran a dark alleyway, and the other windows in that side of the house were dark and deserted looking. On the other side of the alley was a low blacksmith shop.
"Well, Garry, if you don't mind my calling you that, have you decided on what you are going to do?" asked Ruth. "I am afraid that you haven't much chance of getting upstairs if you go into the restaurant, for even if the proprietor is not there he has a couple of strong, ugly assistants, and if you tried to force your way upstairs at the point of a rifle, you would only bring the whole place down on you like a swarm of hornets. It's up to us to think out some scheme."
"I think I have that worked out now. See that chimney on the roof? It is just over that dark shuttered window. Now what I propose is this: Dick and I will get up on the roof of the blacksmith shop here, and from there we can throw a lariat up over the chimney, then one of us will go up hand over hand and call to Phil to see if he is in that room. If he is, we'll have him out as soon as you could say Jack Robinson. Miss Ruth, I'm going to ask you to stand guard for us, and if danger approaches, give us some sort of a signal. I suppose you can imitate a whippoorwill?" asked Garry.
"Indeed I can," and in a soft tone she proved it to the satisfaction of both Dick and Garry.
"There, then that much is accomplished. Believe me, I'll be overjoyed if I hear Phil's voice in answer to my hail," said Garry.
"Say, listen Garry. A fine business you'd make of calling through a thick shutter. First place maybe he couldn't hear it, but it's a cinch that everyone on the street will. Use your imagination. What did you ever learn wigwagging and signalling and things for? When you get to the window, take your knife and rap out a message in International Code. That will make no noise down here, but will penetrate into the room, for the shutter will form a natural sounding board."
"Fine, Dick. I must be wool gathering not to have thought of that myself. Now up on the roof with you."
Bracing himself against the wall, Garry formed a step for Dick to crawl up on the roof. Once arrived there, he lay flat, and extending his arms over the edge, gave a pull, and helped Garry up.
It took only four throws to settle the noose of the lariat over the chimney, and they let it swing down on the side of the building. Clambering down from the roof, Garry made ready to go up the rope. He went up in agile fashion, and soon was tapping on the shutter. It was his call that had awakened Phil.
When Phil heard it, he fished out his knife, and soon they were carrying on a brief conversation. Phil told Garry the inside of the shutter was sheathed with iron. Also he told him if anything happened to prevent them getting him out, to keep watch that night on Lafe Green's house, as there was a great plot on the way.
"I'll have you out in a jiffy now." Garry tapped the message to him, and then he slid down the rope. Dick and Ruth came running to him.
"Must have something to pry off that shutter with. My axe isn't strong enough," he told them.
"Oh, I know what," whispered Ruth. "I stumbled over something a minute ago, and it was a crowbar. Darius, the blacksmith, must have forgotten to take it in."
"Fine, let's have your riata, Dick. There, I'll loop it around my wrist and go back up the rope. In the meantime, you tie an end of it to the crowbar and I can haul it up to me."
So saying, Garry swarmed up the rope again. Arriving at the height of the window, he manoeuvered until he had twisted the free end of the rope around his foot several times, thus preventing himself from slipping.
Then he set to work to pry the shutter loose. Fortunately it did not long resist.
"Look out below," he warned softly, and with a loud thud the shutter fell into the alley below. Phil was waiting in the window.
"Quick, slide down after me. Lose no time, Phil," ordered Garry.
Down he went, the friction smarting his hands. In less time than it takes to tell, Phil was down after him. "Never mind the riata on the chimney. Away we go," said Garry.
"Follow me," ordered Ruth, and she sped away followed by the three chums. They were out of sight not a moment too soon, for as they turned a corner, running across a lawn to deaden their footsteps, they heard a howl of rage.
"That's the proprietor's assistant. We just got away in time," said Ruth.
Ruth led the boys to her home, explaining that it would be better for them to get out of sight as quickly as possible, lest they come upon one of their enemies.
"There's no danger of that just now," interrupted Phil, "for I know where most of them are at just this minute. However, it would be nice if you would take us to your home for a minute, for I think I have the keynote to the whole business right now, and I would like to tell my discoveries to Garry and Dick, and also get some directions from you, if you will sit in our council of war and act as chief advisor."
"Come right along. I must be getting back and let Mr. Allen go home. Also Granddad might have waked up, and we can get his advice," said Ruth.
Silently they followed her home. They heard no suspicious sounds, so evidently were not being followed. The chances were that the assistants of the restaurant keeper did not know what to do, and as Phil knew, none of the principals were about, and all that could be done was to await their return.
Garry hated to sacrifice his lariat, as it was an especially fine one, but there was no help for it, since getting it down would have led them all into certain capture again.
Arriving at the house, Ruth found that her grandfather was still asleep, while Mr. Allen was reading a magazine. He told Ruth that he would finish his story before going home, so that gave her an opportunity to hear Phil's story.
Hastily Phil went over the details of what had happened to him since leaving the boys the day before.
"Now the key to the entire matter seems to be the conference that is going to be held tonight at the home of this Lafe Green. He seems to be the leader of the entire business, but LeBlanc holds some sort of position of authority and will probably take the lead tonight, as he has some sort of a scheme to tell the others. They are planning a fur smuggling trip in the very near future, because Anderson is now in Canada buying skins for the trappers. Just what this new plan is I don't know, for just as he was going to tell it, a man called Vareau came to the room, and LeBlanc shut up like a clam, seeming not to like him."
"I wonder," said Garry reflectively, "if we couldn't get hold of this Vareau of whom you speak, and tell him his partners are leaving him out in the cold, and so get him to help us by leading us to the smuggling lane?"
"Don't have a thing to do with him," warned Ruth. "I don't blame LeBlanc for not wanting him to come in on any big plan, for he is like a snake and cannot be trusted even by those he is working for. Very likely if you tried to get his help, he would turn around and betray you to LeBlanc, hoping thereby to be taken in on the new plot."
"That's sound advice," said Garry. "On the whole, it is better for us to play a lone hand in this game, without taking anyone into our confidence, except you, Miss Ruth, for without you we might have failed tonight, and Phil lost forever."
"The first thing to do is to find Lafe Green's house and see if there is not some way in which we can get in to hear what they are planning. I know of no other way in which we can get the proper information, unless we appeal for help to the Customs authorities up the line, and have the entire outfit seized, but that would do us very little good, for we have no evidence on which to have them convicted, and besides that, we would lose all chance of stopping whatever big scheme is now in the wind. I suppose you can tell us where to find Green's house, can't you," asked Phil, turning to the girl.
"Yes, it is about a mile outside of the village in a lonely and secluded place. It is ostensibly a farm that he lives on, but I guess farming occupies but a small place in his mind. I only wish that I could go, and I believe I will see if I can't get Mr. Allen to stay here so I can guide you to the place," she answered, her eyes sparkling with the thought of the possible adventure.
But Garry firmly put his foot down on her running any chance of danger.
"In the first place, it would be bad enough if we were strangers to this crowd, for they would brook no interference with their plans, but there is the added danger in the fact that LeBlanc already has it in store for us, and anyone that takes side with us will meet with his vengeance and that of his friends. Besides, it is almost midnight," he said.
Reluctantly the girl gave up the idea of being in on the adventure.
"But what are your plans now?" she asked. "It seems that you are going on a wildgoose chase, just to go to Green's house, and besides, with all his friends there, you would have no chance of escape if your presence was discovered at the farm."
"Well, to tell the truth, all we can do is go there and be guided by circumstances. We cannot afford to let the slightest chance slip by us, and that seems just now to be the scene of plot, in fact it is the crux of the entire affair," responded Garry.
At that minute, however, fortune favored them. Mr. Allen came down stairs and told them that Mr. Everett was awake, and wanted the boys to come upstairs a minute and say hello to him.
After giving this message, he went home, and led by Ruth, the boys went upstairs to see Mr. Everett.
"Talk about luck!" whispered Garry to Dick. "Now we can get some real dope on all this."
Arriving at Mr. Everett's bedroom, they found him sitting up in bed with a heavy blanket thrown around his shoulders. He expressed his pleasure at seeing the boys again, and then inquired how it was that they happened to be around at such a late hour.
"Time is precious, so we'll have to give you an abbreviated account, sir," said Garry. "Phil, here, was captured by LeBlanc, one of our most vengeful enemies, and through the help of Miss Ruth here, we were able to rescue him," and Garry briefly told how they had broken open the window of the prison room, and released their chum.
"Now we have found out that something is going to take place at Lafe Green's house sometime after midnight, and it is imperative to our success that we go there immediately and see what can be done to find out what is being plotted. I am sure that we can put every trust in you, so I am going to confide in you. We are at present doing some work for the Customs authorities of the State, and as you are a former Customs agent, we are asking you for whatever aid you can give us," concluded Garry.
"H'm," said Everett. "Seems to me you are pretty young to be engaged in that kind of work. I suppose you have your credentials?"
"Indeed we have," and Garry drew from the cunningly made pocket in the waistband of his trousers the little gold shield that stamped them as members of the service.
"That is enough," said old Mr. Everett. "If it wasn't for my misfortune in being laid up, I would be with you tonight and between us we would have the goods on this outfit. As it is, you will have to take the chance yourselves, for I believe I can tell you just what to do. Some little time ago, I discovered a secret passage to Lafe Green's house. It is unlikely that anyone else in the village outside of myself and Green and his accomplices know about it. It wasn't built by Green, but by a former owner of the farm, who was in the same nefarious business. It may even be that Green does not know about it, although that is unlikely. This passage leads from the barn to the house, and was used to store contraband goods in. You see the stuff could be brought to the barn in a load of hay, or wood, and no one be the wiser. Then it could be hidden away in the secret passage, and a search party could look through the house and barn till doomsday and never discover it. Then, too, if the men were in danger of arrest, they could make their way to this passage, and after nightfall escape by way of the barn, as the authorities would of course have only the house under guard.
"This passage is entered by moving a feed box that stands at the end of the barn. When the box is moved away, you will see what appears to be nothing more nor less than ordinary flooring, but if you look carefully you will see a knot in one of the boards near the wall. Pry this out with your knife, and you will then be able to lift the cunningly contrived trap door. This leads to the passage, which is more than forty feet long. The passage leads to the cellar of the house, entrance to the house being made by moving the trapdoor upwards. This requires a little effort, as it is covered by the dirt floor for three or four inches. In this trap is a ring to lift it when you want to get back to the passage. Once you have gotten through the trap, smooth the dirt back over it, leaving a chip or something directly over the spot where the ring is so you will waste no time in finding it when you want to go back.
"I must tell you this, however; once you get in the house, you will be in great peril, as these men are unscrupulous in the highest degree. Green would be behind the bars long before this except for good luck and the extreme precautions that he takes. Add to this the fact that many of the people in this section see no harm in smuggling, and would never give information even if they had it, and you can see how Green has so long managed to escape paying the penalty for his misdeeds. Now that is all I can tell you, and you had better be getting along on your work, as it is now midnight, and it will take you at least fifteen minutes to get to Green's barn."
Mr. Everett concluded by giving them minute instructions as to how to reach the farm of the suspected smuggler leader.
"I know all this is dangerous," said Mr. Everett, "but you boys are now working for your country, and as you have taken the responsibility you must be prepared to carry it out to the end. For safety's sake, however, I am going to propose the following measure. Come back to the house as soon as you have either succeeded or failed in your mission. If you are not here by six o'clock, I will take it on myself to summon help from the Customs authorities up the line, or arm a posse here and search Green's house. I hope that won't be necessary, for it would put an end to discovering what is in the wind, but that is better than that you boys should fall into trouble. Now God speed you on your way."
They said goodbye to Mr. Everett, after shaking hands with him, and once again hearing his wishes for good luck.
Ruth led the way to the door, shyly adding her own wishes for their success.
"Now you are sure you know the way?" she asked, as she opened the door. "I know I won't sleep a wink till you come back in the morning. Just ring the bell whenever you get back, and I will let you in. Good luck to you."
Walking at a brisk pace, they started for Green's farm. There was no moon, and it gave promise of rain, which suited the boys exactly, as there was now little chance of a stray shaft of light disclosing their presence when they arrived at their destination. At the end of fifteen minutes they reached the farm, and carefully making their way across the field, came to the barn, standing like a great black hulk. The boys thrilled with excitement, for they felt they were on the last lap in the search for the smuggler band, that it was their mission to put an end to.
"Now fellows," whispered Garry, "duck around the side of the barn here, while I tell you what I doped out as we walked along. Keep an eye out for dogs."
They followed Garry's lead around the barn.
"Here's what I doped out. Only one of us can enter the house. To have more do it might spell disaster to our plans, for in case of danger one could find a hiding place where two could not. Two of us will go into the barn, while one stays out here as guard. Once in the barn, the feed box will be moved, and the one to enter the passage will do so, while the other replaces the feed box, and rejoins the man on guard. It is now twelve-thirty, and the man who enters the house ought to hear all that's going on and be able to make a getaway in at least three hours and a half, probably a lot sooner. That is allowing the men an hour or more for talking, as they probably will take no longer, and two hours or two hours and a half for everything to get quiet and allow the man in the house to get away. Now to settle who goes into the house, we will follow our custom of drawing lots. Phil is out, for he has already been in danger once, and furthermore, he has had his share of adventure. That leaves it up to either Dick or I to go in. Phil, get your knife out and hold it in one of your hands. Then Dick and I will each choose a hand and the one who guesses rightly will enter the passage."
Phil did as he was bade, and then Garry told Dick to take first choice of hands.
"Right hand," said Dick, after a pause.
"Garry goes," whispered Phil. "I had my knife in my left hand."
Dick muttered a muffled exclamation of disappointment, for he had counted on being the one to undertake the dangerous mission, but he abided by the lot.
Leaving Phil on guard outside the door, Garry and Dick noiselessly rolled back one of the folding doors just enough to allow them to slip through.
The inside of the barn was as black as a pocket. Standing there for a minute or two, the boys waited in silence. They could hear the uneasy stamping of a horse, awakened probably by their entrance.
After what they judged to be a safe interval, Garry snapped on his flashlight, and threw the beam of light playing about the floor, keeping it on only long enough to get a general impression of the interior, and being careful not to allow its rays to strike upward lest it be seen through a window.
What they saw made it apparent that Mr. Everett's words about farming playing a small part in Green's life proved true. There was a single horse in the barn, and one good wagon. The farming implements appeared to be suffering from long disuse.
Garry located at the end of the barn the feed box that marked the passage entrance.
Hastening to it, they moved it forward, and there, as told them by Ruth's grandfather, was the knot. Getting his knife out, Garry dug at the knot which yielded to his efforts and came out.
The trap was lifted, and Garry, shaking hands with Dick, made ready to enter. A musty odor emanated from the passage, making it evident that it had not been used for a long time.
"Push the box back over the passage when I get in," he whispered to Dick. "When I come to get out, I can tip it over when I push upward on the trap. Now you hustle back out and rejoin Phil. Wait for me down the road under that big elm tree that we passed on our way here. I noticed that there was a field back of it, and in case you hear anyone coming along, you can slip back into it and hide until he or they have passed on. Now see you later," and snapping on his flashlight, went down the crude ladder that gave entrance to the passageway.
He waited at the bottom of this ladder until he heard the crunching sound of the feed box being pushed back over the trap door. Then the light of the flashlamp ahead of him in a dancing beam, his heart beating rapidly with excitement, he pushed on.
He was almost startled into an exclamation of dismay, as there came the sound of a squeal, and a small form scurried across his feet. Then he laughed with relief, for it was nothing more than a small rat.
After walking what he judged to be about twenty feet through the passage, which was shored up and roofed with timbers much after the manner of a mine tunnel, he approached a spot where the passage widened, and he found he was in a sort of room.
At one side were a number of casks, but these were empty, as Garry found when he stirred one of them with his feet. At the other side of the room was a crude table, built of pine boards. On this table reposed a stack of fine fur, roped into a bundle. Garry examined it and found the skins to be those of fine seals, caught in Canadian waters, and destined to be sent to New York and sold to some woman who would have no idea that the law of the land had been broken by the making of the coat or neckpiece that she would be wearing.
They had been there for some time, Garry judged, for the dust was thick enough to denote that no one had been there for some days.
He pushed his way on through the passage, and came at last to the end. There was a box to stand on so that one might get up high enough to get a good purchase on the trap.
Now came a crucial moment. There was no telling whether or not the cellar was occupied. All that Garry could do was to push upward and trust to chance. Very carefully and slowly he pushed upward.
It required some exertion, but finally gave way. Pushing it three or four inches, Garry paused, and both looked and listened. There was not a sound, and no beam of light came to disclose the presence of anyone in the cellar.
Giving the trap a last upward fling, Garry was soon in the cellar. Pressing the snap of his light so that it would continue to shine, he covered the trap with the dirt, smoothing it with his hands so that it would show no signs of having been recently displaced.
The first step had been successfully negotiated. Now remained the difficult task of getting upstairs and in a place where he could hear what was being plotted by Green, LeBlanc and their friends.
Walking as near the edge of the steps as he could, for it is at this point that they are less apt to creak, he made his way up the cellar stairs.
Every step was now one of potential danger, for the throwing open of the kitchen door would disclose his presence, and he would be trapped, for there was no exit from the cellar except through the passageway, and he knew that if he were discovered, some of the men would run to the barn and guard that exit. His rifle had been left with the boys, for it would only be a hindrance in his movements in getting into the house.
After a few moments he reached the top of the stairs, and with his ear pressed to the door, listened for sounds that would tell him whether or not the kitchen was occupied. He heard nothing, and then bent to where the latch pierced the door. He could see no bit of light shining through the small crevice, and then carefully raised the latch, taking nearly a minute to do so, that it might give no sharp, warning click.
The latch once raised, he pushed the door open carefully, shoving it barely a fraction of an inch at a time.
After what seemed almost ages, Garry stepped into the kitchen. He knew it was dangerous to press the button on his flashlamp, but there was nothing else to be done, for he could not go moving through the dark, taking the chance of crashing into a chair or table, and thus advertising his presence in the house.
Throwing the beam of light sweeping along the floor for an instant, and concentrating with all his might, he impressed on his mind a mental picture of the interior of the room, noting two doors and locating the various pieces of furniture in the kitchen.
His next act was to untie hastily the strings of his shoepacks, and slipping out the footgear, knotted the laces and strung the shoepacks about his neck. He was now able to move noiselessly.
Standing silently, he listened. He could hear the murmur of voices beyond one of the doors. His heart leaped, for there were probably the plotters. He crept to the door, and listened, but could make out nothing of what was being said. Only an indistinct murmur reached his ears.
It would be foolhardy to try and open the door, for he could not hope to do it without letting those in the room know it, even with all the luck in the world.
Garry was stumped. He began to wish that he had taken a chance and approached the house from the outside, trusting to fortune to get to a window through which he might both see and hear.
The boy stood for a moment and debated as to what was the best course to pursue, whether to go back through the passage and try and approach from the outside, or what.
Then he recollected the other door. Knowing that the construction of old New England houses generally called for a front and back stairs, he guessed that this other door would lead to the upper part of the house.
Noiselessly crossing the floor, he cautiously opened the door, and found that his guess was right, for a single flash of his lamp showed a flight of stairs.
His stockinged feet making no sound, he crept up the stairs. At the top of the flight was another door, and opening this a bit at a time, he entered the room. All was darkness and silence.
He swept his flashlamp around the room, and made a discovery that promised the means of hearing what was going on in the room the plotters were in.
In most small towns, and especially in farm houses, a furnace is an unknown quantity. So to provide heat for the upper rooms without going to the expense of getting extra stoves, holes about a foot in diameter are cut through the ceiling, and an iron grating called a "register" is installed. This allows the heat to mount to the upper rooms.
Garry mentally estimated the location of the room he was in, and decided that it was over the kitchen. Hence the next room on that floor must be the one over that in which the conference of the smugglers was taking place.
Walking as though the floor were covered with eggs, he proceeded to the other door of the room, and pursuing the same tactics of taking several moments, cautiously opened the door. He found that he was in a bedroom.
He stood stock still, and listened.
The room was unoccupied, for there was no sound of breathing coming from the direction of the bed. Deciding to get his bearings before going further, he looked about. By this time his eyes had become accustomed to the dark, and he did not make use of his lamp. A faint bit of light proved to be coming through the window. Creeping across the floor, he examined. It was open, for the night was warm.
Outside the window was a great maple tree. One branch was almost on a level with the sill and not more than two feet distant.
This done, he searched for the light that would disclose the location of the register, and his heart fell when he found nothing. It seemed as if his carefully planned move had fallen like a house of cards.
Since there was evidently no register in the room, it seemed safe to flash his lamp.
It must be explained that Garry's examination of the room occupied only a matter of seconds.
Just as he was about to press the button of the flashlight, he heard the purring voice of LeBlanc, muffled and indistinct.
With a thrill of excitement, he knew that there was a register in the room after all. Getting down on his hands and knees, he felt about the floor. Only the bare boards were his reward, until as he approached the bed he felt a heavy rag rug.
Feeling over this, he discovered it to be slightly raised in the middle. Carefully rolling it back, he was rewarded by seeing light and hearing the hum of voices.
At last Garry was an unseen listener to the plot being hatched below!
THE RUSSIAN'S TALE.
Garry crawled under the bed, laying so that he could both look down into the room and hear what was being said. Then he arranged the rug that it could be flipped back into place in an instant.
Then he peered down into the room below. One was Jean LeBlanc, who, of course, he knew. The second man he placed as Lafe Green, a great hulk of a man with flaming red hair. He recognized him from the description given by Ruth. The other three were strangers. Two wore the ordinary garb of the woods, but the third was dressed in well-made clothes. He was a striking looking man with a lustrous black beard and moustache.
As Garry listened, LeBlanc again took up the conversation. It seemed that the details of the trip to bring the consignment of furs across the border had been settled. Garry was sorry he was too late to hear this, but of course there was no help.
"Now we shall come to the main business of the evening, ma fren's. I have already told you, this man, his name is Boris Borefski, who comes from Russia with a great scheme, a fine scheme, oui, it is magnifique. Beside it, the bringing of a few furs is nothing. Were it not for the fact the furs have been bought, pouf! we should throw away the plan like so many dead leaves. M'sieu Boris shall himself tell you his story. He speaks not the English, so me, I shall act as the interpreter and tell you what he says as he goes along. Eh bien, M'sieu, begin."
Speaking rapidly in French, as many well educated Russians are able to do, and being stopped occasionally by LeBlanc while a translation was being made, Boris began:
"My new acquaintance and already my good friend LeBlanc has told you that I have a plan. True I have, one that will make for us all much money.
"I was for many years the private secretary to the Grand Duke Sidis in Russia, a man immensely wealthy. Among his prized possessions were a number of magnificent jewels. They were only second in value to those of the Grand Duke Boris, cousin to the Czar.
"Of course you know what happened during the war, how the masses arose against the Czar and took the government away from the ruling classes. At first all went well, and then the Bolshevists began their reign. When the homes of the wealthy were raided and despoiled of their valuables, my master confided in me, and together we contrived a secure hiding place for the jewels.
"To save my own life, I pretended to be one of the Bolshevists. But, bah, they were nothing to me. All the time I thought and thought of the magnificent jewels hidden away from the light of day where the Grand Duke and I had placed them.
"The more I thought, the more I pondered over why I should stay in that land, or why I should continue to live a life of poverty. Confiding in my brother, who had joined the Bolshevists as I had, merely to protect his life, we decided that we should make a break for liberty, taking with us the jewels of the Duke.
"Scraping together all the money we could by any means whatsoever, we took the gems one night and fled. Of the long trip across Siberia I shall not bother to tell you; it is sufficient to say that we suffered much. Finally we reached the end, and in a big Japanese fishing vessel were brought to the western part of Canada.
"In British Columbia we made an attempt to cross the border, but in some way suspicion rested upon us, and again we fled. A Canadian Customs man followed us all the way across Canada, but we managed to give him the slip and we landed in the home town of my good friend LeBlanc. Fortune favored us, for we made his acquaintance.
"He has agreed that he will help us bring the jewels across the border, and more than that, he will help us sell them in places he and his companion Green know about. For all of you there is much pay if you help. And that is all there is to tell you," concluded the Russian.
Without waiting for any reply, the Russian fished in an inside pocket, and brought out a small leather bag.
"See, here is only one small part of the fortune," and as he spoke he unloosed the string and shook out on the table a magnificent bracelet, set with diamonds.
In the light of the oil lamp that stood on the table, it flashed and sparkled. The men gazed admiringly at it, and Garry himself could scarcely restrain a gasp of astonishment.
LeBlanc silenced the talk of the men and said:
"We shall help this man in his work, for the pay will be great, very great. The plans to be made are simple. Tomorrow night we shall bring the furs over the regular route and store them in Green's place here till our friends with whom we deal come after them. Saturday night when all is quiet we shall bring the jewels here, where our friend will give us as pay a share of the jewels."
Turning to the Russian he explained something that Garry had wanted to hear since he and his chums had started on their mission; this was the location of the lane over which the stuff was brought.
"We cross the border at a point almost on a line with Green's house here, for then we can come down through the woods and across the fields with little danger of being seen by anyone. Once we are here we are safe, for Lafe here has a place to hide things that is beyond discovery."
Although pressed to stay for a while and join a card game that was about to start, he refused, declaring that he was tired and needed sleep, and would return to the place he was staying for the night, meaning, Garry decided for himself, the restaurant and rooming house conducted by LeBlanc's French friend.
Lafe let the Russian out and then returned to the room, rubbing his hands together with the thought of the big reward they would get for their help in the smuggling of the jewels across the border.
As he returned, one of the men asked:
"I say, Jean, what pay will we get for all this business?"
"Ah, ma fren's, we will get big pay, trust Jean to see to that. Did I not tell you tonight I had the big plan in my head? You have not heard the whole of that plan. Once we get those jewels across the border, we shall simply help ourselves to the whole of them. That will be our pay, share and share alike."
The others looked at Jean in amazement, for this thought had never entered their heads.
"What about old Whiskers, the Russian, and his brother?" asked one.
"Pouf, what can they do? They can appeal to no one, for they are trying to break the law and would only get prison for their pains. We have only to laugh at them. Now let us have a little game of cards, while Lafe goes to the cellar for some of that very excellent stuff he has in there."
Garry thanked fortune that he had not obeyed an impulse to hasten to the cellar and make his getaway while the Russian was being let out.
Then he was startled almost out of a year's growth at the turn that events took at that moment.
"You fellows can play cards all you want, but go out in the kitchen. There's a big table there," said Lafe.
That meant to Garry that his retreat was to be cut off as long as the card game was in progress. This might be so long as to exceed the time limit set for his return to Dick and Phil, and consequently give them cause to worry.
Then followed disaster number two.
"If you chaps want to play cards and drink, you can do it without me. I'm dog tired, too tired even to go home, and I'm going upstairs and turn in for a while," said one of the quartet.
"All right, if you want to, take the room over this one," said Green.
Escape seemed to be cut off at all angles from Garry, not to mention the chances of detection.
Quickly flipping the rug back in place over the register, he rolled back under the bed, hugging up against the wall as close as he could. He didn't know what he was going to do. For the present the only thing possible was to remain where he was, trusting to chance not to be detected.
For a moment he thought of making a dash for the hall or the other room, but decided the danger was too great. It was well that he remained where he was, for the door opened, and the man came in, yawning audibly.
He threw his clothes off and tumbled into bed, while Garry hardly dared breathe for fear that his presence would be detected.
Fortunately the man was so tired that he did not lay awake long, and his stentorous breathing soon told Garry he was asleep. Garry took counsel with himself as to what was the best course to follow. He could stay where he was till the card game broke up, and then steal down the stairs and back through the cellar passageway, or he could make his way down the front stairs and try and let himself out of the front door. There was one drawback to this. Green might have locked the front door and pocketed the key, and then, too, there was the danger that one of those remaining up might go wandering through the house just as Garry made the attempt.
There was one other alternative. He could remain in the house till morning, and then when they had all gone, make his way out easily. Then Garry remembered that this was impossible, as Everett would have a posse come to the house if he were not back at six. That would be disastrous now, for it would halt the bringing of the jewels across the border, and Garry was determined that their seizure should be part of the grand finale in cleaning up the smuggler gang.
He must get out of the house as soon as possible. But how?
Then he bethought himself of the tree outside of the window. He remembered that the branch swung very close to the house. Could he make his way out of the window, then he could swing onto the branch, and so descend to the ground with no danger of being discovered.
The only element of danger was that the man should wake as he was making his escape. Still Garry reflected, he had been in a tight place ever since the moment he had entered the passageway, and this would be no worse.