Infomotions, Inc.The Boy Scout Camera Club, or, the Confession of a Photograph / Ralphson, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1879-1940



Author: Ralphson, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1879-1940
Title: The Boy Scout Camera Club, or, the Confession of a Photograph
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ned; jimmie; bradley; uncle ike; jack; frank; asked ned; camera club; prince; ned replied; ned answered; scout camera; boy scout; ned went; laughed ned; boy
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Identifier: etext7356
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Title: The Boy Scout Camera Club
       The Confession of a Photograph

Author: G. Harvey Ralphson

Release Date: January, 2005 [EBook #7356]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on April 20, 2003]

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Language: English

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE BOY SCOUT CAMERA CLUB ***




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[Illustration: "Say" Cried Frank, "That's a child's face up there!"]


The Boy Scout Camera Club

or

The Confession of a Photograph


By


Scout Master G. Harvey Ralphson



CHAPTER

    I  LOST: A FOREIGN PRINCE!

   II  THE HOLE IN THE ATTIC FLOOR

  III  WHAT THE BOX CONTAINED

   IV  A CAMP IN THE MOUNTAIN

    V  JIMMIE AND TEDDY MISS A MEAL

   VI  SIGNALS IN THE CANYON

  VII  A MINT IN THE MOUNTAINS

 VIII  UNCLE IKE PRESENTS HIMSELF

   IX  A LANK MULE AS A DECOY

    X  "PACKED AWAY LIKE SARDINES"

   XI  JACK'S ELEGANT CHICKEN PIE

  XII  THE BLACK HAND GAME

 XIII  THREE DAYS TO MOVE IN

  XIV  POINTING OUT THE TRAIL

   XV  A NIGHT ON THE SUMMIT

  XVI  THE CALL OF THE PACK

 XVII  JUST A LITTLE DARK WASH

XVIII  BRADLEY BECOMES INDIGNANT

  XIX  NED PLAYS THE MIND-READER

   XX  SHOOTING ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE

  XXI  TOLD BY THE PICTURES

 XXII  A RECRUIT FROM THE ENEMY

XXIII  RACING MOTORS ON THE WAY

 XXIV  THE MAN-TRAP IS SET

  XXV  THE CONFESSION OF A PHOTOGRAPH




The Boy Scout Camera Club

or

The Confession of a Photograph




CHAPTER I

LOST: A FOREIGN PRINCE!


"Two Black Bears!"

"Two Wolves!"

"Three Eagles!"

"Five Moose!"

"Quite a mixture of wild creatures to be found in a splendid clubroom
in the city of New York!" exclaimed Ned Nestor, a handsome, muscular
boy of seventeen. "How many of these denizens of the forests are
ready to join the Boy Scout Camera Club?"

"You may put my name down twice--in red ink!" shouted Jimmie McGraw,
of the Wolf Patrol. "I wouldn't miss it to be president of the United
States!"

"One Wolf," Ned said, writing the name down.

"Two Wolves!" cried Jimmie, red-headed, freckled of face and as
active as a red squirrel, "two wolves! You're a Wolf yourself, Ned
Nestor!"

"Two Wolves, then!" laughed Ned. "Of course Jimmie and I can form a
club all by ourselves, and he can be the officers and I can be the
members, but we'd rather have a menagerie of large size, as we are
going into the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina,
Kentucky and Tennessee."

The boys who had not yet spoken were on their feet in an instant, all
clamoring for membership in the Boy Scout Camera Club. Ned lifted a
hand for silence.

"Why this present rush?" he asked. "I've been thinking that Jimmie
and I would have to go to the mountains alone! Why this impetuosity?"

"The mountains!" shouted Frank Shaw, of the Black Bear Patrol. "It is
the mountains that get us! We've been thinking that the club you were
organizing wouldn't get outside of little old New York, but would
loaf around taking snap-shots of the slums and the trees in the
parks. But when you mention mountains, why--"

"I'm going right down stairs and pack my camera!" Jack Bosworth, of
the Black Bear Patrol, declared. "When it comes to mountains!"

The clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol was on the top floor of the
handsome residence of Jack's father, who was a famous corporation
lawyer, and the boys persuaded Jack to wait until they had completed
the organization of the Camera Club before he started in packing for
the journey to the mountains!

"You'll want an Eagle, if you're going to the mountains!" shouted
Teddy Green, of the Eagle Patrol. "I'll fly home and get my wardrobe
right now!"

Teddy Green was the son of a Harvard professor, and was inclined to
follow in the footsteps of his father in the matter of learning--
after he had first climbed to all the high spots of the world and
descended into all the low ones! He insisted on exploring the earth
before he learned by rote what others had written about it!

"All right!" Ned grinned. "We'll need an Eagle!"

"And a Bull Moose!" yelled Oliver Yentsch, of the Moose Patrol.
"You've got to have a Moose along with you!"

Oliver was the son of a ship builder, and had a launch and a yacht of
his own. He was liked by all his associates in spite of his tendency
to grumble at trifles. However, if he complained at small things, he
met large troubles with a smile on his bright face. He now seized
Teddy about the waist and waltzed around the room with him.

"And that's all!" Ned decided, closing the book. "We can't take more
than six."

A wail went up from the others, but they were promised a chance at
the next "hike" into the hills, and soon departed, leaving the six
members of the Camera Club to perfect arrangements for their
departure. It was a warm May night, still Ned closed the door leading
out into the wide corridor which ran through the house on that floor.

"We can't afford to take others into our plans," he said, "for this
is to be another Secret Service expedition."

"For the Government?" demanded Frank Shaw. "Then," he added, without
waiting for a reply, "I'll call up dad's editorial rooms and have a
reporter sent up here. Top of column, first page, illustrated! That's
our Camera Club in the morning newspaper!"

Frank's father was owner and editor of one of the big New York
dailies, and the boy always took along, on his trips, plenty of blank
paper for "copy," but never sent in a line! His letters to his
father's newspaper were usually addressed to the financial
department, upon which he had permission to draw at will!

"Huh!" Jimmie commented, wrinkling his freckled nose, "if you should
ever furnish an item for your daddy's newspaper he'd never live it
down! You've been on all our trips with Ned, and never wired in a
word!"

The Boy Scouts of the Black Bear and Wolf Patrols had been through
many exciting experiences with Ned Nestor, who, young as he was, was
often in the employ of the Secret Service department of the United
States government. Frank, as Jimmie said, had been with Ned from the
start, and had never sent in a line of "copy" for the paper.

"I'm going to furnish a column a day this trip!" Frank declared,
making a motion to seize Jimmie. "We're going to take pictures,
aren't we? We'll take 'em by the acre, and dad's newspaper is going
to catch every one of them."

"Huh!" Jimmie declared, with a freckled nose in the air. "I'm a
newspaper man, too. You needn't think you're the only cherry in the
pie! I used to sell newspapers before I got into the Secret Service
with Ned!"

From his earliest years Jimmie had indeed been a newsboy on the
Bowery. He had never had a home except that provided by himself, and
this, in the early days of his life, had as often been a box or
barrel in an alley as anything else.

"Why the mountains?" asked Frank Shaw, presently. "Do you have to go
to the hills on this trip? I'm glad if you do, of course, but I'd
like to know something about it before we start. Dad will have to be
shown this time, I reckon! He thinks we rather _overdid_ the stunt
when we went to Lady Franklin bay!"

"Never had so much fun in my life!" laughed Jimmie. "When you get
where it is forty below, there's some delight in living!"

"What are we going to take pictures of?" demanded Teddy Green.

"Moonshiners!" laughed Frank. "Isn't that right, Ned?"

"Not exactly," was the answer. "This is not a whisky case at all."

"Counterfeiters, then?" queried Oliver. "They live in the hills!"

"No, not counterfeiters, either," Ned replied. "The government has
plenty of men to look after counterfeiters and moonshiners. All we've
got to do is to go into the mountains and take pictures, and keep our
eyes open."

"Open for what?" insisted Jimmie. "My peepers will be open for a
venison steak about the first thing! You remember how fine the
venison steaks were up in British Columbia? That Columbia river trip
was some exciting! What?"

"Well," Ned began, "you all know that I'm in the Secret Service, for
you've been with me, some of you, at Panama, in China, and under the
ocean, so we'll let the details go without explanation. I'm going to
the mountains to look after a precious package stolen from
Washington--from almost under the eyes of the president--three days
ago!"

"Papers?" asked Jimmie. "You know we went to Lady Franklin bay after
papers."

"And they think the mountaineers stole this package?" asked Oliver.

"Tell us what it was that was taken first!" insisted Frank. "I'm
beginning to see a front-page story in this, right now!"

"The package stolen," Ned went on, with a smile, "was more precious
than any bundle of papers could be! It wasn't of gold, silver,
diamonds, or anything possessing that kind of value. It was of flesh
and blood!"

"A child stolen!" cried Frank. "This goes to dad's sheet right now!"

"Boy or girl?" asked Oliver. "Age, please!"

"Boy," answered Ned. "A boy belonging to one of the ambassadors! Age
seven!"

"But why should the mountaineers steal such a child?" asked Jimmie.

"I said the boy belonged to one of the ambassadors," Ned corrected
himself. "I should have said he belonged at one of the foreign
embassies."

"The son of one of the attaches?" asked Teddy. "That's strange! Why?"

"Teddy," reproved Jimmie, "you can ask more questions in a minute
than a motion picture machine can take in a hundred years."

"The stolen boy is in no ways related to any one in this country,"
Ned answered, "yet his safety is of the utmost importance. It is up
to us to find him."

"But why should the mountain men make a grab at a kid?" insisted
Jimmie. "I've asked that question numerous times now," he added, with
a wrinkled nose.

"It is not believed that the mountain men know anything about the
matter," Ned replied. "No one suspects them of taking the child.
Mountain men are not up to that sort of thing, as a rule. They will
make moonshine--some of them will--and may hide a counterfeiter, but
they don't steal children!"

"Then who did steal him?" asked Frank. "Don't be so mysterious."

"I want the matter to sink deep into your alleged minds!" was Ned's
smiling rejoinder, "and that is the reason I'm drawing the
explanation out. It is thought the boy was stolen by some one who
came over the sea to do the job--some one never before in this
country."

"I twig!" Jimmie declared, skipping about the room. "The stolen boy
is next of succession to some measly old throne! What? And he was
sent out here to get him out of the zone of danger, and now he's been
nipped?"

The boys looked at Ned with redoubled interest. It had been
interesting, the very idea of going into the mountains in quest of an
abducted child, but the thought of going after a boy who would one
day be a king! That was exciting indeed!

"I can't tell you who the boy is." Ned went on, "but I can tell you
that he must be found! The Secret Service men at Washington have a
pretty good idea as to who got him, and they believe the criminals
are not above committing the crime of murder. In a certain sense,
this boy is in the way in the old country!"

"Oh, they wouldn't kill a kid like that!" Jimmie asserted.

"Wouldn't they?" demanded Teddy Green. "If you read up on history,
you'll soon find out whether ambitious men will murder children who
stand in their way! I half believe the boy was murdered at the very
moment he was taken!"

"He has been seen alive since that time," Ned responded. "This is
Thursday. He was taken on Monday, and was seen yesterday. Or a boy
believed to be the prince was seen yesterday, on a launch on the
Potomac river."

"Prince, eh?" cried Frank. "It is a prince, is it? Say, but won't dad
be glad to hear about this? I'd like to write the headlines!"

"We may as well call him the prince," Ned laughed.

Before more could be said, a servant knocked at the door and Jack
opened it so as to look out. In a moment he turned back inside with a
flushed face.

"Say, boys," he said, "there's something strange going on here
to-night!"




CHAPTER II

THE HOLE IN THE ATTIC FLOOR


Ned sprang to his feet in an instant and beckoned Jack to one side.
The others gathered around, but Ned motioned them back.

"Let us find out exactly what Jack means before any remarks are
made," he said.

"Well," Jack began, almost in a whisper, "the servant who came to the
door said--"

"Wait a moment!" Ned requested. "Let us get this at first hand. Is
the servant you refer to still out in the corridor? Look and see."

Jack opened the door an inch and looked out.

"Yes," he reported, facing Ned, with the door still ajar, "he is
still there."

"Then ask him to come in here," Ned suggested, "and you, boys," he
added, turning to the wondering faces at the other side of the
apartment, "you get as close as you wish while this man is talking,
but don't interrupt. It may be that we shall have to do something
right soon. I reckon our hunt for the prince starts right here, in
the Black Bear Patrol clubroom, in the heart of little old New York."

The servant Jack had beckoned to now entered the room and stood with
his back to the door, looking from one boyish face to another. He was
a heavily built, muscular fellow, evidently an Irishman, judging from
his face and manner.

"Will you kindly come over here and sit down?" Ned asked.

The servant complied and the others gathered around him.

"Now," Jack began, "tell Ned what you just told me--about the man in
the attic, and about the hole in the ceiling."

Every eye in the room was instantly turned toward the lofty ceiling,
but nothing out of the ordinary was to be seen there.

"The hole he refers to," Jack, smiling, explained, "is not in sight.
It is under the ornamental brass piece that circles the rod from
which the chandelier hangs. It was made to listen at, and not to see
through, I take it!"

"That makes a good starter," Ned smiled, "so go on."

"Half an hour ago," the servant began, "I was called to this floor by
one of the maids, Mary Murphy it was, and she was that scared she
looked like a bag of flour! She pointed to the staircase leading to
the attic and asked me to go up there.

"So I says to her: 'Why do you want me to go up there? If there's a
haunt there, or a burglar, or a man after one of the girls, why
should I risk the precious neck of me, when it's the only one I've
got, with no prospect of ever getting another in case this one was
damaged beyond repair?' So she says to me, she says--"

"Never mind what she said," Ned interrupted, fearful of a long,
involved dialogue between the two servants. "Tell me what you did."

"I went up the staircase, three steps at a jump, an' bumped the head
of me on the edge of the door at the top of it. You can see the dent
in my coco now!"

"And what did you find there?" asked Ned.

"There was a rug on the floor and a hole in the floor, and a twinkle
of light shining into the attic from this room. Some one had been
listening there!"

"You saw no one?"

"Never a soul! I'm that sorry I can't express it!"

"When were you in that attic before--the last time before to-night?"

"Late yesterday afternoon it was."

"Was there a rug in the middle of the floor at that time?" Ned went
on.

"No more than there is a bold lion in the middle of this floor, sir."

"Well, what did you do after you got up there to-night?"

"I hunted around for the man who had been lying there listening to
the talk in this room, but I didn't find him, sir."

"Did you ascertain where all the servants were at the time the
listening must have been going on?" asked Jack, after a short pause.

"All but one," was the reply.

"And that one? Where is he now? That is, tell, if you know where he
is?"

"I don't know, sir. He has left the house, I reckon--bag and
baggage."

"Who was it?" demanded Jack, moving toward the door.

"Chang Chu, the Chink, may the Evil One get into his bed!"

"And then you came here and notified Jack?" asked Ned. "As soon as
you learned that Chang Chu was not in the house?"

"Indeed I did--within a minute and a half."

"Where is this girl, Mary Murphy?" asked Ned, turning to Jack. "We
must get hold of her right away. I want to hear her story of what she
saw in the attic."

Jack went out of the room, but was back in a minute with the girl, a
pretty, modest maid of about eighteen. She looked frightened at
finding herself the center of interest, but was soon in the midst of
her story.

"I went up to the attic to get a piece of cloth for a bandage, Sally
having cut her hand with the bread knife. When I got to the door of
that room I heard some one inside of it. I listened at the crack
there is between the panel and the stile and heard footsteps, slow
and soft like. I thought it was one of the maids, and opened the door
quick, so as to give her a scare."

The girl paused and wiped her face with a white apron bordered with
pink.

"Go on," Ned requested. "Tell us what you saw in the attic."

"It wasn't much, sir," was the agitated answer. "I saw just a flash
of dark blue, coming at me like the lightning express, and then I was
keeled over--just as if I had been a bag of meal, sir!"

"He bunted into you, did he?" asked Jack. "Who was it?"

"Indeed I don't know, sir," was the reply. "It was dim in the room,
there being only the light from the hall as I opened the door. Then
he came at me with such a bunt that it took the breath out of me
body!"

"And what followed?" asked Ned.

"She wint down f'r the count!" chuckled the servant who had been
first questioned.

"I did not!" was the indignant retort. "When I got up the man was
still on the stairs leading to this floor, and I picked up the great
shears which had tumbled out of me hand and heaved thim at him. I had
brought the shears up to cut a bandage, sir."

"Did you hit him?" asked Jack with a smile. "Where are the shears?"

"I never went back after them!" answered the girl. "I'll go this
minute."

"Wait," Ned said, "and I'll get them. Now, you say you saw a blue
streak coming at you, head-on! Who wears blue clothes around the
house?"

"Chang Chu, the Chink, sir."

"You saw him dressed in blue to-day?" asked Ned.

"All in blue he was!" the male servant interrupted, "with his shirt
on the outside of his trousers, like the bloody heathen he is."

"And so you looked for him and failed to find him on the premises?"
asked Jack.

"He's gone, bag and baggage," answered Terance, the coachman. "Bad
luck to him!"

"Still, you don't really know that it was the Chinaman?" asked Ned.

"He was dressed like the Chink," was the reply. "He smelled like a
saloon!"

"Does the Chinaman drink?" asked Ned, facing Terance. "Does he get
drunk?"

"He does not," was the reply. "He doesn't know the taste of good
liquor!"

"That's all," Ned concluded. "Now you two keep on looking for the
Chinaman. He may be hiding in the house, or he may be at some of the
dens such people frequent. You, Mary, look for him in the house, and
you, Terance, see if you can learn where he usually went when he left
the house."

"Pell street!" cried Jimmie. "Look in Pell street!"

"Or Doyers!" Jack exclaimed. "Look in the dumps in Doyers street."

The two went away, forgetting all about the shears which Mary had
hurled at the mysterious man she had caught in the attic. Asking the
boys to remain where they were, Ned went out to the staircase and
secured the article. Taking it carefully by the handle, he returned
to the room and held up one blade.

Jack looked at the blade casually at first, then cried out that there
was blood on it, and that Mary had speared the sneak.

"Yes," Ned explained, "there is blood on it. Mary hit the fellow on
the head with this blade. What else do you see on the steel?" he
asked with a smile.

Jimmie looked and backed away in disgust. His freckled face was
thrust out of the door for an instant, and they heard him calling to
Mary, who, being in the kitchen, beyond sound of his voice, did not
respond.

"What do you want of Mary?" demanded Jack. "Shall I call her?"

"She said it was the Chink, didn't she?" the boy asked. "Or, she said
it was a man dressed like the Chink? Well, it wasn't the Chink."

Ned laughed and looked at the boy admiringly.

"How do you know that?" he asked. "Why are you so sure it was not the
Chink?"

Jimmie looked up into Ned's face with a provoking grin.

"You know just as well as I do that it wasn't the Chink," he said.
"Just you look on that blade again! Ever see a Chink with light brown
hair?"

"Now, what do you think of that?" roared Jack. "Sometimes this boy,
Jimmie, seems to me to be possessed of almost human intelligence!"
 The lads gathered closer around the shears, one blade of which Ned
was still holding out for inspection. There was the blood, and there
was the long, blonde hair!

"Hit him on the belfry!" Jimmie grinned. "Knocked off a shingle and
brought away a piece of it! Now, why did the Chink run away? That's
what I'd like to know!"

"Where did the man get the Chink's dress?" asked Oliver. "That's what
you'd better be asking? Why did the Chink let him in and then loan
him the dress?"

"I rather think that's why the Chinaman ran away!" laughed Ned. "You
boys seem to have reasoned it all out. He might have let the sneak in
and then let him have some of his own clothes to wear! And that will
make trouble for us!"

"Do you think the fellow heard about the Camera Club trip, and the
object of it?" asked Oliver. "If he was scared away half an hour ago
he didn't learn much, for we hadn't begun to talk much about it at
that time!"

"He may not have heard anything important," Ned replied, "but the
fact that he was sent here to listen is significant! Some one in
Washington knows that we have been chosen to search the mountains for
the prince! Some one knows that we are going out as an innocent-
looking Boy Scout Camera Club, but really to find the boy. Now, what
will that person do to the Camera Club, after we get out into the
mountains?"

"The question in my mind," Jimmie broke in, "is what we shall do to
him!"

"I'm sorry the information about our going leaked out," Ned said,
gravely. "As boy snapshot friends we might have been able to do
things which the Secret Service men could not do. No one would pay
much attention to a group of boys roaming over the mountains. But now
I'm afraid our investigations will be all in the limelight!"

"Tell you what," Jimmie cut in, "suppose we find the Chink and make
him point out the man who was in the house--listening?"




CHAPTER III

WHAT THE BOX CONTAINED


"All right," Oliver encouraged. "Let's go out and make a throw at
finding him, anyway! He may be in the garage, or the carriage house
right this minute."

Jimmie and Oliver rushed away to find Terance, the coachman, and
undertake the search suggested, while Ned, Jack, Frank and Teddy sat
at the open windows looking out on the street.

"Chang Chu was at liberty to go into the attic at any time?" asked
Ned, tentatively.

"Oh, yes," Jack answered, "the other servants sent him about on
errands. He is a handy man about the premises--or was, rather."

"Is he a man to do such a thing as we are accusing him of?" Ned then
asked.

"I never thought so," was the puzzled reply. "I hope you don't think
that he was beaten up by the man who secured his blue clothes! That
would be tough on the fellow."

"I have been thinking of that," Ned responded, "and while the boys
are looking for the Chinaman in the outbuildings suppose we look for
him in the upper part of the house."

"But if the sneak could get into the upper part of the house without
the use of the disguise," reasoned Jack, "he wouldn't need it at all,
would he?"

"He might have been surprised while at work by the Chinaman," Ned
suggested. "In that case he might have taken the clothes as an
afterthought. Suppose we look and see?"

Leaving Frank and Teddy sitting by the window, looking out on a
perfect May night, Ned and Jack climbed the staircase to the attic
and entered the room directly over the Black Bear Patrol clubroom. It
was a large room, more of a storeroom than an attic, with a hardwood
floor and papered walls and ceiling.

A great sack upon which clothing and odds and ends of all
descriptions were hanging stood at the south end of the apartment,
while a long row of boxes and packing trunks occupied the floor at
the north end. The rug, which had been thrown down on the floor near
the hole bored through a plank, was still there where the servants
had seen it. The listener had, at least, a good notion of personal
comfort!

"Where was this rug taken from?" asked Ned.

"It was on the rack the last time I saw it," Jack answered.

"Was it clean at that time?" Ned continued, examining the rug with a
glass.

"What do you mean by clean? It was dusty, of course, like everything
else here."

"Were there any stains on it--stains like blood?" Ned went on,
dragging the rug under the electric lights which had been switched
on.

"Why, of course not. It was originally in the little den off the
library, but father became tired of it and told Terance to bring it
here."

"How long ago was that?"

"Oh, a month or two. I can't be exact as to the date, you know."

Ned handed his chum the glass and indicated a certain portion of the
rug.

"What do you call that?" he asked. "What does it look like?"

"It looks like a spot of blood," Jack declared. "And it is wet, too!
What do you make of this, Ned? Was Chang Chu attacked and killed by
that sneak thief?"

"That is for us to find out," Ned answered. "At the present moment,
it looks as if Chang Chu wouldn't be found on Pell or Doyers street.
What is there is those boxes--the large ones sitting against the
wall?"

"About everything, I take it. I never looked into them. Why?"

"We may as well see what they contain," Ned replied, advancing to the
largest box and throwing up the cover. "What do you think now?" he
asked, as a huddled figure stirred in the box and opened a pair of
suffering eyes. "This is the Chink, I suppose?"

Before Jack could reply, Ned had the man out of the box, with the
cords cut from his hands and feet, the cruel gag removed from his
mouth. His blue blouse was gone! Chang Chu tumbled over on the floor
when Ned tried to stand him on his feet. There was a small cut on his
head.

"Chang velly much bum!" he said, with his hands on his stomach.

"Chang never forgets a word of slang," Jack laughed. "He will
remember the slang word for anything when he forgets the real word!
What did they do to you, Chang?" he continued, addressing the
Chinaman.

Chang pressed his hands to his nose significantly and dropped his
head back.

"Chloroform!" Ned declared, sniffing at the contents of the box.

The Chinaman could not describe the man who had attacked him. He had
been alone in the attic, putting away old clothes, when he had been
struck and seized from behind by a man he described as a giant for
strength, stripped of his blouse, and lifted bodily into the box.
There he had been bound, gagged and rendered unconscious by the use
of the drug.

"The man who did it," mused Ned, "is an adept at crime, resourceful,
daring. The chloroform would have attracted the attention of the
servants at once if it had been administered in the open air. Then
his taking the Chink's blouse as a disguise shows that he is quick to
take advantage of his opportunities. A clever man."

"And he left no clue!" Jack complained. "Just our luck, Ned!"

"All we know is that he is tall, has light brown hair, and is very
strong," Ned replied. "But there are ten thousand people in New York
this minute who answer to that description."

"How do you know he is tall?" demanded Jack.

"When he lay on the rug," Ned explained, "he stretched out on his
stomach to look through the hole, if he could. He couldn't; he could
only listen, for the cut was made so as to be hidden by the
ornamental brass piece that circles the rod from which the chandelier
swings. The marks of his elbows and toes were on the soft fiber of
the rug, showing him to be a man at least six feet tall."

Ned walked over to the large box again and bent over it.

"Crumbs!" he exclaimed, in a second. "Crumbs!"

"Then he must have brought a lunch up with him," Jack exclaimed
excitedly. "There is no knowing how long he was here!"

"Some one in Washington has leaked!" Ned declared, angrily.

"Why Washington?" demanded Jack. "Why not New York?"

"Because no one in this city knows about our being engaged to hunt
down the abductor. My instructions have all come in cypher, and some
of them have, as you know, been addressed to this house. And there
you are!"

Chang Chu arose limply, rubbing a small wound in his head from which
blood had come, and tottered off toward the staircase. As he did so,
Ned noticed that his pigtail was very black, very long, and very
greasy.

"Did he take you by the cue?" asked the boy. "Did he pull your hair?"

"Velly much lough-neck pull--dam!" answered the Chinaman.

Ned went back to the box where the Chink had been hidden and began
taking out the articles it held, slowly and one by one.

"The cloth he poured the chloroform on must be here," he said. "He
would naturally throw it into the box before shutting down the cover,
as there might still be enough of the drug in it to put the Chink to
sleep."

"Here it is," Jack said, reaching into the box and lifting out a rag
and smelling of it. "Here is the dope cloth, all right and pretty
strong yet."

"That's it, all right," Ned answered. "A worn white handkerchief,
eh?"

"Name or mark on it?" asked Jack, passing the cloth to Ned.

"Nothing of the sort," was the answer, "but there's something better.
When the fellow pulled at the Chink's greasy pigtail he got his hand
smeared with oil. Then he grasped this white cloth fiercely, and
there you are! See! The mark of the thumb couldn't be plainer if it
had been printed on. Observe the long cicatrice on the ball of the
thumb? I'll take this down and photograph it."

"Tall, strong, blonde, scar on the thumb!" laughed Jack. "We are
getting on."

"It would be interesting to know how he got into the house," Ned
mused.

"If we could only catch him and shut his mouth," Jack muttered, "we
wouldn't have such a rotten bad time in the mountains."

"It is not what he knows," Ned suggested. "It is what his master as
Washington knows. We might put this chap under ten feet of earth, but
the opposition from Washington would go right on."

"When was the child abducted?" asked Jack. "When and how?"

"He was taken from in front of the embassy early in the morning. The
ambassador brought him out for a spin in his automobile and left him
out in front a moment. When he went back to continue his morning ride
the automobile and the boy were nowhere to be seen! This was before
nine o'clock Monday morning. Yesterday, along about noon, the boy--or
a lad very much resembling him--was seen by a lieutenant of infantry
in a motor boat, speeding up the Potomac."

"Why didn't he catch him, then?" asked Jack.

"Because he did not know at that time that the prince had been
kidnapped. The authorities kept everything quiet! I presume they
thought the thief didn't know that he had committed a crime, and were
afraid the newspapers would tell him about it!"

"Tell that to Frank!" laughed Jack. "He'll go up in the air!"

The boys found Jimmie and Oliver in the club-room when they went
down. The garage and carriage house had been searched--in vain, of
course, for the boys had encountered the Chinaman on his way down to
the basement as they ascended the stairs, the elevator being closed
for the night.

"I believe that Chink had something to do with it, all the same,"
declared Jimmie. "He ought to be watched every minute of the time!"

"Now, here's another point I don't understand," Jack said, going back
to the conversation he had had with Ned in the attic. "Why do the
authorities think the boy has been taken to the mountains?"

"Because that would be a natural place for the thieves to hide," Ned
answered. "The mountains are easily within reach of Washington, and
they are virtually inaccessible to known officers of the law--at
least so it is reported. The mountains run from central Pennsylvania
to central Alabama, a distance of about a thousand miles, and afford
many desirable hiding places."

"Yes, and we're likely to get our crusts split down there!" Teddy
grinned. "We will if they find out that we belong to the Secret
Service!"

"The Potomac river rises in West Virginia," continued Ned, "and the
prince may have been taken to the foothills in the launch he was seen
in."

"Are we going in a motor boat?" asked Jimmie.

"We are going by rail as far as we can go," Ned answered, "and then
take shank's horses for the wild country, with mules to tote the
baggage. In the eastern part of West Virginia, we are likely to
travel forty miles without seeing a cabin."

"Where do we get our eatings?" demanded Jimmie. "It makes me hungry
to climb mountains. We'll have to have a relief expedition sent after
us if we don't get plenty of eatings," he added, with a wink at
Teddy.

"Plenty of game up there," Ned grinned. "Plenty of deer, turkeys,
coon, rabbits, birds and bears! We can dodge the game laws! Also a
few wildcats are reported to have been seen there. And there is said
to be plenty of moonshine in the caves, too. Oh, we'll have a sweet
old vacation, boys. And we start tomorrow!"




CHAPTER IV

A CAMP IN THE MOUNTAINS


It was early June, and the members of the Boy Scout Camera Club were
camped on a mountain top in West Virginia. They had spent about two
weeks in making the trip to the point where they had established
camp.

Three mules, divested of their burdens now, were "staked out" in a
little corral fragrant with grass down near the timber line. The tent
they had carried was a short distance below the summit, on the
eastern slope, with packages and bags and boxes of provisions piled
around it.

To the south lay Virginia, to the north, east and west stretched the
mountainous district of West Virginia. Far below them ran the North
Fork of the Potomac river.

What they saw was a wild and lonely country, with more deer, wild
turkeys, and raccoons than human beings. On their hard and frequently
delayed journey in they had passed cabins, surrounded here and there
by rail fences, but there were none in sight from where they now
stood.

The sun, a round ball of fire in the west, would be out of sight in
half an hour, and then the desolate darkness of the mountains would
surround them. A wild turkey called to its mate in the distance, and
small creatures of the air fluttered about, as if determined to know
what human beings were doing there, in their ordinarily safe retreat.

The boys had visited Washington the day following the incidents at
the clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol, but had learned nothing of
importance there. The launch in which the young prince had been seen
had been traced up the river to the vicinity of Cumberland, but there
the trail had ended.

"It is a case of needle-in-the-haystack," the Secret Service chief
had said to Ned, on the morning of his departure for the mountains.
"We have men looking over every inch of the large cities. We want you
to rake those mountains with a fine-tooth comb! Personally, I believe
that the prince is there."

"But," Ned had replied, "how are we to communicate with you in case
we require more definite instructions?"

"You know what Sherman did when he left Atlanta?" laughed the chief.

"Why, he cut the wires," returned Ned, "so as not to have his
movements hampered by orders from men who, not being on the
ground, could not possibly know as much as he did of what ought
to be done."

"That is what I want you to do!" the chief continued. "Cut the
wires."

"But that is assuming a great responsibility," urged the boy.

"Very true, but I have an idea that you want to work in your own way,
so go to it. A mess of lively boys running up and down the mountain
sides looking for game and snap-shots ought not to arouse the
suspicion of the thieves if they are there. Make friends with the
mountain people if you can. They are naturally suspicious, but good
as gold at heart."

That was his last talk with the chief. After that supplies had been
bought and transported by rail to the nearest point, and there the
mules had been bought and the difficult journey begun. They had just
made their first permanent camp.

"I wouldn't mind living here a few years!" Teddy said. "It beats the
hot old city! If I had plenty of reading matter and a full larder, I
don't think I would ever go back. I wish Dad could step out of that
Harvard thing and eat supper with us!"

The shrill scream of a mule now came up from the feeding ground
below, and a commotion at the tent showed that one of the animals was
kicking up a row there.

"That's that long-eared Uncle Ike," Jimmie McGraw exclaimed. "I feel
in my bones that I'm going to love that mule! He's so worthless! If
he had two legs less he'd beat Jesse James to the tall timber in
piracy! He won't work if you don't watch him, and he'll steal
everything he gets his eyes on! Yes, sir, I feel that there's a
common sympathy between that mule and me, yet I know that we'll have
a falling out some day! He's so open and above-board in his
mischief."

"Can you see what he's doing now?" asked Teddy.

"Why, I saw him knocking at the door of the tent, and I presume that
by this time he is sitting in my chair picking his teeth, after
devouring the bread! That sure is some highwayman, that mule, yet I
feel that I'm going to love and admonish him!"

The boys dashed down the slope to the tent and found Uncle Ike, as
Jimmie insisted on calling a tall, ungainly, raw-boned mule, chewing
at a slice of ham which he had pilfered from a box by the side of the
fire.

"There's one thing about Uncle Ike," Jimmie grinned, as Ned drove the
animal away with a club. "He always looks like he had been sent for
to lead an experience meeting! He'll put on a face as long as a cable
to a freight train, and then he'll turn to me and wink one eye, as if
explaining that it was all for a joke."

"That's your ham he's chewing, Jimmie!" Ned declared.

"I suppose so," the boy replied. "That's what you get by being
brother to a long-eared mule that for cussedness has Becker's gunmen
backed up a creek with the oars lost!"

While the mule was being restored to his companions, Jimmie and Teddy
began getting supper. They had plenty of tinned goods, plenty of
flour, potatoes, meal and ham and bacon. Still, they thought they
ought to have something in the way of game.

"I saw a wild turkey back there," Teddy volunteered.

"And I saw a coon," Jimmie added.

"Is there any law on turkeys and coons?" asked Jack, who was trying
to make the fire burn bright with lengths of green wood.

"There ain't no law of any kind up here," Frank insisted.

"Then we'll go and get a coon," Jimmie declared. "You boys get a
red-hot fire and I'll have the bird here before Ned gets that mule tied
up!"

"Guess I'll go along," Teddy suggested. "I never did like to have
anyone else go to the trouble of getting my wild meat for me! I'll go
along, and Frank and Ned and Oliver can get supper."

Without waiting for any affirmative replies from their companions,
the two lads darted away, and were soon lost in a canyon which ran at
right angles with the ridge much farther down. Frank and Oliver began
piling dry wood on the fire.

"Those boys will be back here in time for breakfast--just about!"
Frank commented, as the coffee water boiled and the bacon began
sizzling in the pan. "If they get any supper here they'll have to
cook it!"

Presently Ned came back from the little valley where the mules were
feeding and took a field glass from the tent.

"What's up now?" Teddy asked, as Ned walked back to the ridge and
looked down into the valley of the North Fork. "Ned must be seeing,
things!"

Ned remained oh the summit a long time, until the sun sank behind the
range to the west and the valleys became ribbons of black between the
lighter crests of the mountains.

Presently Frank scrambled up the yards of rugged, rock-strewn slope
which led to the summit where Ned was standing, still with his field
glass in his hand.

"Anything in sight over that way?" the boy asked, as he came to Ned's
side.

"There is a column of smoke in the valley," Ned answered. "I thought
at first that there were two, but I may have been mistaken. Do you
remember what two columns of smoke would have indicated?"

"Of course!" laughed Frank. "If I should become lost in woods or
mountains, or anywhere, I'd build two fires and get wet wood to make
smudge, good and plenty. That would mean that I was lost and needed
assistance. That's the Boy Scout Indian signal for help. I remember
when we saw it north of the Arctic Circle, don't you?"

"I won't be apt to forget it right away," was the reply.

The boys remained standing on the summit for some moments, although
it was now too dark for them to distinguish objects in the valley
below. All around the June night called to them with its silences and
its sharp and sudden rasp of sounds. There were the mountains,
brooding, heavy, mysterious, and there were the fleets of flying
clouds reaching down to wrap their summits!

"It is simply great up here!" Ned exclaimed presently. "That is the
only word that seems to express it--great!"

"Yes, it is fine for a change," Frank admitted, "though I don't
believe in the wilds as a permanent thing! Everything in the
mountains and forests seems to me to be crude and half done. This, I
presume, is because the world isn't finished yet. Those who come to
places like this catch the Creator with his sleeves rolled up, if
that isn't a coarse way of saying it."

"I like it, just the same!" Ned declared. "It is glorious! It is
life!"

"It is healthful so far as animal life goes," laughed Frank, "but
what about mental life? There would never have been anything
wonderful in the way of inventions--like the wireless, and the
telephone, and the uses of electricity--if mankind had been content
to live and die in the wilds! It is crude, as I said before,
unfinished, out of line with all the decrees of art. I'll take the
city for mine, with its marble buildings, its wonderful art
galleries, its beautiful parks!"

"Say, you mooners!" came a voice from the camp below, "if you've got
done surveying the beautiful black landscape, suppose you come down
to supper?"

The boys went down to the tent to find Jimmie and Teddy still absent.

"There are two things we'll have to set aside time for," Ned
declared, as he took a seat on the ground before the blaze, with a
great plate of food in his lap. "We'll have to arrange for keeping
Uncle Ike, the mule, out of mischief, and for keeping track of Jimmie
and Teddy. Those boys will get lost in the mountains yet, and go
hungry for a few days. That would be punishment enough for Jimmie--
hunger!"

The boys sat by the campfire a long time, heaping dry wood on the
blaze until they were obliged to widen the circle about it. There was
only the light of the stars, looking down from a cloud-flecked sky,
but there would be a moon shortly after ten o'clock.

"If the boys don't return before long," Frank broke out, after a
moment of silence, "I'm going to take a searchlight and go out
looking for them."

The boy expressed the thought which was brooding in the minds of them
all. They were more than anxious for the safety of the two truants.
Oliver arose and walked away from the fire up the slope, until his
figure was out of sight, but shortly came back and sat down again,
his face expressing impatience as well as anxiety.

"There's no reason why they shouldn't see this fire," he said. "I
walked over the summit a bit to see if the light was reflected over
there. It is. If anywhere within two miles, they ought to see this
blaze or the glow from it. They're just doing this to make us worry.
I'd like to get them by the neck, this minute," he added.

Uncle Ike, the mule, gave vent to a vicious scream at that moment,
and Ned arose and started in the direction of the feeding ground.
When he reached the spot he saw that the mules were agitated, weaving
about on the tying lines in either fear or anger.

"Uncle Ike," Ned said, patting the ugly beast on the neck, "what is
it about your sleeping chamber that you don't like? Or it is your
supper you object to?"

Uncle Ike thrust his long ears forward and elevated his heels, as if
kicking at some imaginary object back of him. Then Ned saw a figure
moving in the darkness.

"Come out of that!" he called. "Why are you sneaking around here?"

The figure advanced toward the boy then--the figure of an old woman!




CHAPTER V

JIMMIE AND TEDDY MISS A MEAL


"I was scared to come up until I heard your voice," the old lady
said, as she came close to Ned. "I didn't know you were only a boy."

The woman appeared to be very old. Her hair was white and her lean
face was wrinkled and leathery with time and storm and exposure to
the winds of the hills. Still, old as she seemed to be, she walked
alertly, with the swinging grace of the true mountain woman. She was
very plainly dressed in a one-piece gown of dark calico. Her head was
not covered at all, and the white hair took on a tinge of gold from
the distant campfire. Her black eyes were sharp, yet kindly in
expression.

"Good evening, mother," Ned said, removing his cap as he greeted the
old lady, "we didn't expect to meet ladies here. Do you live in this
locality?"

"Quite a step," the old lady said, in a gentle, hesitating tone,
"quite a bit down the slope is where I live. I wanted to know what
the fire meant, and so I came up. You don't mind my being here, do
you?"

"Glad to have you come!" Ned responded, truthfully. "If you care to
come up to our camp we'll be glad to give you a cup of tea and
whatever else you want."

"I'll be glad to get a cup of tea" the woman declared. "We don't get
tea up here in the mountains--not very often. We don't have the money
to pay for it, and, then it is such a long way to go after it. Yes,
I'll go with you."

Ned noted that the woman did not speak the dialect of the mountains.
He wondered how long she had lived there, and if she lived alone. She
did not long leave him in doubt on these points, for she seemed
anxious to talk.

"I'm Mary Brady," she said, as they ascended the slope toward the
fire. "I came here years ago with my husband, Michael Brady, to live
in peace. Mike was a good man when he was himself, but the saloon men
of New York were always after him when he had any money. We came here
to be rid of them."

"That was the correct thing to do, it strikes me," Ned said, for want
of something better, as she seemed to expect some friendly comment.

"I don't know," she went on. "We meant it for the best--but there was
the moonshine! I didn't know about the moonshine when we came here.
All I thought of was to get away from Houston street! He fell one day
and they brought him home dead."

Ned was strangely interested in this simple life history. The poor
old woman living there, probably alone and in want, after such an
ending to a hopeful plan!

"And you kept on here?" he asked. "Why didn't you go back to the
city?"

"There was the boy," she answered. "He was ten when we came here. I
didn't want him to get the thirst! After Mike died I lived here to
keep him in the good path. He is a good boy, but when he was twenty
they got him, too--the moonshiners!"

"And he left you?" asked Ned.

"He said he couldn't make anything of himself here, so he went to
Washington. He's never come back, though I've always kept a home for
him, and never ceased to look for him. He writes me now and then that
he's coming home, but he doesn't come! When I saw your fire I thought
he might be with you."

By this time they were at the camp, and Mary Brady was presented to
the boys and made comfortable by the fire, with tea and canned fruit
before her. She enjoyed the lunch immensely and looked the gratitude
she did not speak.

"When did you hear from your boy last?" asked Frank, by way of
keeping the conversation going. "Did he write from Washington? Was it
to Washington you said he went?"

"It was Washington," was the reply. "He wrote me a month or more ago
that he would be here with friends in June. I thought he might be
with you. He has been married since he left home, and has a child,
though his wife is dead."

"And he said he was thinking of bringing the child here?" asked Ned,
glancing significantly at Frank. "Did he say that in his last
letter?"

"Yes, that he was thinking of bringing the boy here. It is only a
mite of a boy--not more than seven years old, he said. I'm anxious
for him to come."

Jack and Oliver gathered closer about the old lady in order to hear
every word that was spoken. One brought her more tea and the other
filled the sauce dish with peaches. Ned motioned to them to remain
silent.

"And so you expect him to drop down on you any time?" Ned asked.

"Yes, my son and the boy. He's a cute little chap, Mike says. Mike
was named for his father, and the lad's name is Mike, too. I'm
anxious for him to get here. And I'm wondering whether he's light and
blonde, with brown hair and blue eyes like his father, or dark, like
my side of the family.

"What do you make of it?" Jack whispered to Oliver.

"What do I make of what?" demanded the other.

"Of the old lady and her three Mikes?" replied Jack, scornfully.
"Have you been asleep all this time?"

"I was waiting for you to express an opinion," Oliver declared. "Do
you think it possible that they would change the name of a prince of
the royal blood to Mike?"

"So you've caught on, at last!" whispered Jack. "Do you really think
we've tumbled on a streak of luck at the send-off?"

"I don't know," was the hesitating reply. "We'll have to cultivate
this old lady."

"Sure thing!"

"Did she say where her cottage is?" asked Oliver, directly. "We ought
to verify her story, it seems to me. I'd like to hear Ned's opinion!"

"Do you remember what she said about Mike II. having blonde hair and
blue eyes?" asked Jack, presently.

"Sure!" was the answer. "That made me sit up and take notice. It
brought back to my memory the light brown hair on the bloody blade of
the shears."

"Same here," announced Jack. "If this Mike II. comes here we'll have
to find out if he has a cicatrice on the right thumb and a scar on
the head, a scar which might have been brought about by a pair of
shears thrown by a frightened maid in the city of New York!"

"Think of a crown prince being called Mike!" chuckled Oliver.

"Ned didn't say it was a crown prince!"

"He might just as well have said it! He didn't dispute me when I
asked if it was a crown prince who had been abducted."

"If Jimmie and Teddy don't return soon," Jack said, changing the
subject, "we'll have to start the Boy Scout Camera Club out looking
for them."

"They'll be back when they get hungry!" laughed the other.

But Jimmie and Teddy were still away when the moon rose over the
ridge to the east. Mrs. Brady was still by the campfire. She appeared
to delight in the companionship of the boys. Having lived alone for
years, she would have been delighted at any companionship whatever,
but the boys were full of life and vitality, they were sympathetic,
and, besides, they were from her old home--New York!

As the moon showed her round face over the summit of the range to the
east she arose and stretched out a withered hand to Ned.

"I'm going," she said. "I've had a pleasant evening. You don't know
how much it has been to me to sit here and talk with you! If you'll
come down to my cabin some day I'll try to make it pleasant for you!"

"Some day," laughed Ned. "What do you say to my going right now? Of
course I've got to see you home! Couldn't think of letting you go
away alone."

"I've walked these mountains night and day for more than twenty
years," faltered the old lady, "and I'm not afraid now!"

"You don't object to my going?" asked Ned.

"I'm awful glad to have you go," was the reply. "But you'll find it a
long walk, there and back," she added.

"If it is too far for me to walk back," Ned laughed, "you may give me
a bunk on the floor! Anyway, I'm going to see you home!"

As the boy spoke he beckoned to Frank to step to one side with him.

"Of course this looks all straight, on the face of it," he said, when
the two were alone together, "but one can never tell. We've got to be
pretty careful, for we are in a strange country, and are here for a
purpose which may be resented by the mountaineers. We can't afford to
take any chances."

"Do you suspect the old lady?" asked Frank, in amazement.

"I don't know what to think," was the hesitating reply. "The first
night we spend in a permanent camp, up she comes with a story about a
son being about to bring in a boy of seven for her to mother! Then,
as if that wasn't enough of a bait for us to snap at, she goes on to
say that the son is blonde, with light brown hair and blue eyes.
Looks like we were being led on!"

"You bet it does," Frank replied. "Jimmie and Teddy have disappeared,
and this may be a frame-up, and so I wouldn't go off alone with her.
And, look here," Frank went on, "do you believe Uncle Ike would have
kicked, and screamed, and made a row generally, if only this old lady
had approached him? Do you, now?"

"She might have frightened him," Ned replied, "for he may not be used
to women. Still, she may have had some one with her! I was thinking
that Uncle Ike sounded a warning on slight cause," he added.

"Well, if I were you, I wouldn't go away alone with her," advised
Frank. "Let me go with you if you insist on going."

"Of course I've got to go now," Ned went on. "I've promised her, and
she is expecting me to go. But I'll tell you what you may do. You can
wait until I have gone some distance and then follow on behind, not
so as to be seen by  any other person trailing us, but still close
enough to be available in case of trouble."

"All right," Frank agreed. "I'll keep back far enough to see any one
who might be following the two of you! I wish Jimmie was here! He'd
be just the one to go with me. And there's always something doing
when Jimmie is around!"

"I'm worried about those boys!" Ned answered. "I'm going to keep a
sharp lookout for them, all the way to the cabin."

"There's something wrong," Frank hastened to say. "They never would
have remained away from camp like this. And without supper, too!
Jimmie is particular to be on hand when it comes to eating time.
There! There's Uncle Ike talking in his sleep! I wonder what's eating
him now? Shall I go and see?"

"No," Ned said, hastily, seizing Frank by the arm. "Don't even look
in that direction. Watch Mrs. Mary Brady!"

The old woman's face was turned toward the spot where the mules were
staked out, her figure was straight, tense, alert. She appeared to be
listening and watching for some agreed-upon signal from the corral.
Ned moved over toward her cautiously.

Once the old woman moved, involuntarily, toward the mules, but she
drew back in a  moment and stood, waiting, with her eyes on the boys,
now in a little group not far from the spot where she stood.




CHAPTER VI

SIGNALS IN THE CANYON


Jimmie and Teddy passed over the summit to the west of the camp and
took their way down a difficult incline toward the headwaters of the
Greenbrier river. They traveled some distance, walking, sliding,
creeping, before they came in sight of a copse which appeared to be
worth looking over for wild game.

"I don't know about this wild turkey business," Teddy said, as the
boys stood on an elevation lifting above the patch of timber. "If
I've got it right, wild turkeys are precious birds in West Virginia."

"I never once thought of that!" Jimmie exclaimed. "Why, we won't have
any fun hunting at all! I wonder if there is a closed season for
coons?"

Teddy took out a memorandum book and turned to an insert pasted on
the inside of the cover. Dropping to the ground, so as not to attract
the attention of any natives who might be near by, he read the slip
by the aid of his electric searchlight.

"Open season for wild turkeys in West Virginia from October fifteen
to December one," he read. "Now, what do you know about that? Rotten,
eh?"

"I guess we can get one to eat, all right," grumbled Jimmie. "Who's
going to know anything about it if we do, I'd like to know? Away off
here in the mountains!"

"I presume there are constables and justices up here who would be
glad to soak us for fifty or a hundred apiece!" Teddy grinned. "I
reckon we'd better eat hens, and coon, and fresh fish--if we can get
them! And deer! We get no venison steaks!"

"Not this season!" Jimmie grunted. "They'd take great joy, as you
say, in getting us into jail and extracting all our vacation money!
I'm going to take photographs of the West Virginia game laws. A man
is about the only creature one can shoot down here during the summer
and get away with it! I'll have Frank put that idea in his dad's
newspaper!"

"We've got enough to eat, anyway," laughed Teddy. "The question
before the house right now is how are we going to get down into that
patch of trees?"

"The laws of gravity will take us down!" answered Jimmie. "Just step
off this ledge and see if I'm not right. What do we want to go down
there for, anyway, if we can't shoot a wild turkey after we get
there? I'm going back to camp."

The night was falling fast, and stars were showing between masses of
clouds. The boys had traveled farther from the camp than they had
intended, and the return journey was all up hill. They surveyed the
prospect gloomily.

"I could eat the top off one of the mountains!" Jimmie declared, as
they turned to make the climb. "I never was so hungry in my life.
Wish we were back in camp!"

Teddy, who had turned to look down into the valley, now caught Jimmie
by the arm and pointed downward, where a low-lying ridge jutted out
of the general slope and made a small canyon between itself and the
body of the mountains, a canyon in which a trinkle of water showed.

"Do you see that column of smoke?" he asked, as Jimmie turned.

"There must be a camp there," Jimmie exclaimed. "I thought we would
be all alone up here for a time--until we got a line on the men who
stole the prince."

"Wait a minute!" Teddy answered. "There! Now do you see two columns
of smoke?"

The two columns lifted skyward for only a second, then died down.

"That's the Boy Scout signal for help!" Jimmie commented. "I wonder
what shut it off so quickly? It would be strange if we found Boy
Scouts here in the mountains--eh?"

"According to all reports," Teddy answered, "you boys found Scouts in
all parts of the world, even in China and the Philippines! If it is a
Scout making that Indian sign for help, he'll get the smoke going
again before long. There they are!"

The two columns of smoke were in the air again, ascending from the
canyon between the mountainside and the outcropping ridge. Directly a
gleam of fire was seen.

"That's the call for help, all right!" Jimmie cried. "What shall we
do about it?"

"We ought to go right there. The boy may have been injured in a fall,
and may be starving! We ought to get there as soon as possible."

"Without going back to camp to tell the boys?" asked Jimmie. "We have
been gone a long time now, remember. They will be worrying about us
pretty soon."

"But we ought to go right now!" insisted Teddy. "The boy may be in
trouble."

"Something else coming!" cried Jimmie, then. "See that blazing stick
working overtime? He's going to talk in the Myer code! Now count
right and left."

"There's one to the right!" Teddy said. "I've lost track of the code
already."

"No. 1 motion is to the right," Jimmie quoted from the wig-wag lesson
he had learned on first becoming a Boy Scout. "It should embrace an
arc of ninety degrees, starting at the vertical and returning to it
without pause, and should be made in a plane exactly at right angles
to the line connecting the two stations.

"And No. 2 motion is the same, only on the left side. And three is
the same, only the signal goes to the ground and comes back to the
vertical! Now I've got it! Then he wig-wags again I'll tell you what
he says. You read, too, and see if we agree."

"One to the right!" cried Jimmie, "and two to the left!"

"That means H," Teddy translated. "What comes next?"

"No. 1 and then No. 2," replied Jimmie. "That's plain enough!"

"It stands for E," Teddy went on, "and I know what the next letter
will be, too."

"No. 2, No. 2, No, 1! I knew it! That is L. The other will be P!"

"No. 1, No. 2, No. 1, No. 2!" read Teddy, following the flight of the
blazing stick as it moved through the darkness. "That's L, and the
word is HELP!"

"And here we go to see about it!" Jimmie decided, moving down the
slope. "The boy can't be very far off. I'd like to know how a Boy
Scout got lost out here."

"We may become lost ourselves," laughed Teddy, "if we don't look out
where we are going. I wouldn't know where to head for if I wanted to
go back to camp right now."

"All we would have to do would be to climb the mountain," Jimmie
declared.

"There's more than one summit," persisted Teddy. "We'd better get a
line on something to guide ourselves by when we go back."

"We came straight west," the other said, "and if we get lost the moon
will tell us which way to go--if it doesn't rise in the west down
here!"

The wig-wag code below was still in evidence, always repeating the
same word, "Help." The boys hesitated no longer, but went rattling
down the slope at a speed which spoke well for their balancing
powers! As they entered the little canyon from the north, Jimmie
halted and settled back on a rock, his hand on Teddy's shoulder.

"Do you suppose he heard us coming down the slope?" he asked.

"He must have been deaf if he didn't," was the reply. "We brought
about half the mountain down with us, it seemed to me. Of course he
heard us."

"Well, we ought to have been more cautious," Jimmie declared.

"I guess we aren't likely to frighten him away," suggested Teddy.

"But this may be a frame-up" warned the other. "Look here! The people
who sent that spy to Jack's house knew the Boy Scouts were going out
to look for the prince, didn't they? We have never seen or heard
anything of them since that night, but there is good reasons for
believing that they have had us under surveillance."

"And you think this may be a trap for us?" asked Teddy.

"It may be," was the reply. "If they wanted to trap us, they would go
about it in just about this way, if they were wise, wouldn't they?
Sure they would."

"Then we'd better sneak up to that campfire and find out what is
going on before we show ourselves," suggested Teddy. "We ought to
have come down here as softly as two flakes of snow? What? We'll know
better then to make so much noise next time!"

"There may be no next time," Jimmie advised, as they moved down the
canyon, in the middle of which ran a small stream of water, a rivulet
connecting with the Greenbrier river farther to the south and west.
It was now quite dark, and they were obliged to feel every step of
their way, for there were numerous crevices in the floor of the
canyon.

Pressing on, slowly, cautiously, their weapons within easy reach, the
boys finally turned a little angle of rock and came within sight of a
camp-fire not far away.

"There!" Jimmie whispered. "I had a notion that we should find more
than one here. Why did the Scout wig-wag for help when there were
three husky men with him?"

Teddy opened his eyes wider, but attempted no solution of the puzzle.

"There's a little chap sitting alone by the fire," Jimmie went on,
peering through his field-glass, "and there are three men gathered in
a huddle on the other side of the fire. They all look like they were
listening for something."

"I don't wonder--the way we came down the slope!" The other grinned.

While the boys watched one of the men strode over to where the boy
was sitting and, evidently, began questioning him. The watchers were
too far away to hear any conversation between the two. Presently the
boy sprang up and started to run.

In a moment the heavy hand of the man was on his shoulder and he was
dragged back to the fire and dumped down like a sack of grain. He lay
quite still for a moment.

"I'd like to know what that means!" Teddy whispered. "That's brutal!"

"That gives me faith in the boy!" exclaimed Jimmie.

"What's the answer to that?" demanded Teddy.

"They probably saw him doing the wig-wag!" was Jimmie's reply.
"They're threatening him."

"And they may have been beating him up for doing it? That may be."

"And, again," the other continued, "that may be a little rehearsal
all for our benefit! There are men in the world sharp enough to put
up just that kind of a bluff."

"That's very true," was the reply. "We've got to lie here until we
know what it all means. We can't go away and leave the little fellow
without knowing more about the signals. Those men may be moonshiners.
We might get a reward!"

"We'll be lucky if we don't get into jail!" Jimmie grunted. "If we
don't, we'll get into an infirmary for the hungry! If I have to lie
on this rock much longer with nothing to eat I'll have to be carried
back on a stretcher!"

"You always were the brave little man with the knife and fork!"
grinned Teddy.

The four figures by the fire remained in the old order for a long
time, the men grouped together, the boy alone on the side of the
blaze next to the watchers.

"I wish I could get up to him?" Teddy said, as if requesting advice
on the question of a nearer approach to the boy. "I'd like to see if
it is the prince!"

"The prince isn't a Boy Scout!" declared Jimmie. "Besides, this boy
is too old to be the prince! The prince is only seven years old--just
a little baby."

"Anyway, I'm going to make a sneak up there," insisted Teddy.

Before Jimmie could stop him he was away, crawling on hands and knees
through the heavy shadows of the cliffs which lay about the camp-
fire. Jimmie watched him anxiously for a moment and then started to
follow him.  The two were not far away from the lad, and were
thinking of doing something to attract his attention when a stone
rolled into a crevice with a great bumping sound. The boys dropped
down on their faces and waited, their hearts beating like trip-
hammers as the men around the fire sprang to their feet.

"What was that?" demanded a hoarse voice. "Who is out there?" he
added, turning to the darkness beyond. "I'm going to shoot out that
way in a minute!"

"I like this!" whispered Jimmie. "This is some adventure! What?"




CHAPTER VII

A MINT IN THE MOUNTAINS


"Why," the old woman said, stepping closer to the group of boys,
"that's Buck!"

A heavily-built man with a scraggly beard stepped away from the
corral and approached the group by the fire, his stubby fingers
twining in and out of his unkempt whiskers as he walked along, his
eyes fixed on the fire and those about it.

"That's Buck Skypole," the old woman went on, as the advancing figure
stopped. "I didn't know you was to come after me Buck," she added,
speaking to the new-comer.

"I 'lowed you'd be right skeered of the dark," the man answered, "so
I 'lowed I'd come on up an' tote you home."

He rubbed his left thigh carefully for a moment and then spoke to
Ned.

"That's a right pert mule," he said.

"Did Uncle Ike kick you?" asked Jack, nudging Oliver in the ribs with
an elbow. "We'll have to wallop him a bit, if he did."

"I reckon I ain't got no mad at the creeter," Buck replied. "A man
must keep out'n reach of a mule. Seein' the mule's got only a few
feet of play in his laigs, he ought to be able to do that! No; I
ain't goin' to recommend no beatin's f'r the mule!"

"Buck," said the old lady, "these are boys from New York, my old
home! They're taking pictures of the mountains."

"They c'n take the mountains, too!" Buck laughed. "F'r all me!"

"I thought Mike might have come in with them," the old lady went on.
"He isn't here, but I've had a real pleasant time with the boys. I'm
much obliged to you, lads," she added, facing Ned. "I'm grateful for
the tea and the fruit. They're rare here."

"I reckoned you wouldn't find Mike here," Buck chuckled, "f'r while
you was gone a message come from Mike. He can't get here now, but
he's sent the kid!"

"He has?" cried the woman, joyfully. "Do you mean to tell me, Buck,
that the boy is right down there this minute, in my cabin?"

"Sure I do," was the reply, "an' a bright little feller he is."

"Give us a guess on that," whispered Jack to Oliver. "Is the kid in
the cabin Mike III., or is he the prince? Give you three guesses!"

"I give it up!" the boy whispered back.

"Why didn't you bring the kid along with you?" asked Frank. "We all
want to see him. His grandmother has been telling us about him."

"Its a right smart walk for a little one!" Buck answered.

"You're welcome to come down and see him" Mrs. Brady said. "I'd be
proud to give you all a snack in the morning."

"Suppose we do go and see the kid?" asked Oliver. "I'm curious to
know all about the little shaver!"

"I'm for it!" Frank exclaimed.

"And I'll be the first one there!" Jack put in. "I always liked kids--
from Washington! No one will molest the camp while we are gone."

"I wouldn't leave it alone, if I were you," advised the old lady.
"There's a heap of bad people come into the mountains sometimes.
Don't all leave at once."

"That's good advice, mother," Ned said. "Two will go and two will
remain here. In a short time the two out in the hills will return,
and then there will be a good-sized guard for what little stuff we
have."

"All right," Jack declared, "if any one is going to stay here, it
will be me! Come to think of it, I'm too blamed tired to walk another
step to-night. Eh, Oliver?"

"I'll remain here if you do," the boy replied. "I'm worn out up to my
knees now, climbing mountains. And, besides, Uncle Ike would be
lonesome without me away!"

"Very well" Ned agreed. "That leaves Frank and me for the visit. When
Jimmie and Teddy come, put them to bed without supper!"

"You'll know when they come, then," laughed Jack, "for Jimmie going
to bed without supper will be a noisy proposition. You can hear him
for ten miles."

"I'm anxious about the boys," Ned went on. "I'm afraid something is
wrong with them. They should have been back here hours ago."

"You remember the Indian signal for help you saw in the valley?"
asked Frank, in a moment. "Well, they may have seen that, too, and
taken a notion to find out about it. They went in that direction when
they left the camp."

"That may be the reason for their delay," Ned answered. "We should
have attended to that signal ourselves," he added. "There may have
been some one in serious trouble down there. I hope the boys did go--
that is, if nothing happens to them because of their going. Boy
Scouts should assist each other at every opportunity."

After a little more talk regarding the boy who had been sent to Mary
Brady by her son in Washington, and after Buck had been given a
couple of cups of steaming hot coffee, the four started down the
slope to the west.

"Did any one say how far it was to the old lady's cabin?" asked Jack
of his chum, as they nestled down by the fire, the mountain air being
cold, even in June.

"Buck said it was three whoops and a holler!" almost shrieked
Oliver. "Do you know what he meant by that?"

"I don't know," answered Jack, "but I should think, from what she
said, that the boys won't feel like walking back up the mountain
to-night. Therefore, if Jimmie and Teddy don't come, well be alone."

"I wonder if they would know the prince if they met him in the road?"
laughed Oliver. "That kid down there is just as much the prince as I
am. What did they steal the kid for, anyway?"

"Politics!" yawned Jack.

"What did they send him over here for, anyway?"

"Politics!" with another yawn.

"Aw, go on to bed!" grinned Oliver. "I'll build up another fire, to
serve as a sort of lighthouse for the boys and sit up for them."

So Jack went into the tent, pulled down a great heap of blankets,
drew off his coat and shoes and stockings, and was soon asleep in a
neat little nest!

Oliver sat by the fire for a short time and then went up to the
summit to look over the valley. The moon was rising now, and he could
see the four who had recently left the camp working their way over a
ridge to the south and west.

Straight down, in a canyon made by an outcropping ledge of rock, he
saw a faint light, as from a campfire which had been allowed to die
down.

"The mountains are full of people to-night!" he mused. "If I thought
I could make Uncle Ike behave himself, I'd ride down there and see
who those campers are."

The boy stood undecided for some moments, then his eyes opened wider
and he moved downward toward the fire. He was thinking of the Boy
Scout signals for help which Ned and Frank had mentioned seeing!

"I wonder if Jack would go down there with me!"

When he reached the camp Jack was in the land of dreams, and he
decided not to awake him. He could go alone just as well!

He went on down to the feeding ground and presented Uncle Ike with a
lump of sugar. The mule thanked him with wiggling ears and dived a
soft muzzle into his coat pocket for another lump.

"Not until you come back, Uncle Ike!" Oliver explained. "If you do a
good job traveling up and down the mountainside, you're going to have
another piece of sugar when we get back!"

The boy saddled and bridled the animal, mounted, and urged him away
from the feeding ground. Uncle Ike, thinking his day's work finished,
objected to being put into harness again, and reared and kicked until
Oliver was obliged to dismount and bribe him with more sugar.

"Will you go now, you fool mule?" he asked.

Uncle Ike finally decided to go, and his sure feet were soon pressing
the slope toward the campfire. Oliver struck the canyon just about
where Jimmie and Teddy had entered it.

He left Uncle Ike there and advanced toward the campfire on foot.
There were only a few embers left, and no signs of the fires which
had sent up the two columns of smoke! There was no one in sight from
the place where Oliver first came in direct view of the blaze.

He stepped along cautiously, listening as he walked, and soon came to
a second fire. This, too, was burned down low. Beyond this he saw the
dark opening of a cave in the outcropping ridge.

As Oliver stepped toward it, thinking the boys might have taken
refuge there for the night, he stumbled over something which rolled
under his foot and nearly fell to the ground. When he stooped over to
see what it was that had tripped him, he saw an electric flashlight
lying before him.

"The boys have been here, all right" he mused. "Now, I wonder if this
was taken from them, or whether they lost it, or whether it was
placed here to mark the trail? Either supposition may be the correct
one!"

The question was settled in a moment, for a voice which he knew came
out of the darkness.

"Found it, eh? Give it to me!"

"Jimmie!" whispered Oliver.

"Get in here out of the light of the fire!" Jimmie whispered, "and
bring the electric in with you. Come on in, and see what we've
found."

The opening in the ridge was a shallow one, Oliver discovered as he
entered it. To his surprise he found three lads there instead of the
two he had been looking for.

"You saw the fires?" asked Jimmie, in a low tone.

"Of course I did. Why didn't you come to camp?"

"This is the boy that built the Boy Scout signals!" Jimmie said,
bringing the other forward. "His name is Dode Surratt, and he's a
bold, bad boy, being at present lookout for a gang of counterfeiters!"

"That's a nice clean job," Oliver replied. "Where are the
counterfeiters?"

"At work in a hole in the ground. Hear the click of their machines?
They are turning out silver dollars faster than we can spend them. We
hid around until they went to work, then came up to talk with Dode."

Jimmie pointed to a crevice in the rock and invited Oliver to look. A
lance of light came up into the cave, and the boy's eyes followed it.
He could see a square room below, with a bright fire burning at one
end and figures moving about it.

"Making counterfeit money, are they?" asked Oliver.

"That's what they're doing! We were just thinking of getting out when
you came. Dode wants to go with us, but we tell him to remain with
the gang until they can be rounded up by the officers."

Dode started to make some remark, but Jimmie stopped him.

"They haven't got any consideration coming from you, have they?" he
asked. "They stole you, didn't they? They brought you here from
Washington to make a thief of you, didn't they?"

"And they beat you up for making the signals, too," Teddy put in.
"And they're coming out now!" he added. "So we'll all git--but Dode!"




CHAPTER VIII

UNCLE IKE PRESENTS HIMSELF


Mrs. Brady and Buck walking together, Ned and Frank discussed the
situation thoroughly as they descended the mountainside.

"This may be a frame-up," Ned observed, "but it is up to us to see it
through. The boy who has just been brought in may be the prince, or
he may be the grandson, and we are here to get the answer."

"Or there may be no boy at the cabin at all!" Frank suggested. "The
conspirators know that we are in the mountains for the purpose of
looking up the prince. What better plan than the one now working
could they have settled on? If they are sharp at all, they would
understand that a story of a child brought on from Washington would
set us in motion--would be likely to get us into a trap!"

They scrambled on down the slope for some distance, too busy keeping
upright to do any talking, then Frank went on.

"You know very well that I'm no prophet of evil, Ned, but it looks to
me that we have betrayed our mission here by taking such an interest
in the child. Would a lot of boys looking for snap-shots trail off in
the night to see a boy when they might have taken a look at him the
next day?"

"If I know anything about human nature" Ned answered, "those two
people ahead of us are honest. If it is a frame-up, they are not in
it."

"Anyway," Frank went on, "I'm glad the plans were changed by the
arrival of Buck. It is much better for us to meet whatever is coming
to us side by side than to have me sneaking back in the distance!"

Ned agreed to this, and the two quickened their pace in order to come
up with Buck and Mrs. Brady, who were now turning from the west to
the south, keeping along the slope of the mountain. Directly they
came to a narrow trail which led into a green valley.

Following this, they soon came to a couple of acres of cleared land,
in the middle of which stood a rough cabin of peeled logs. A dim
light came from a square window by the door, and there came from the
interior the sound of a man's voice humming a song.

The woman drew up and looked suspiciously at Buck.

"Who is that?" she asked. "You didn't tell me my son came, too."

"No," replied Buck, "I didn't, because, you see, Mike didn't come! He
sent this young fellow in with the kid, bringing word that he would
be along later."

"And who is it?" demanded the woman.

"A likely young chap," was the reply. "He asked me to get you home
to-night, because he wants to leave early in the morning."

"He won't leave early in the morning if he sees us here," Ned
whispered to Frank. "If that is the prince in there, the man with him
may be the fellow who made his way into Jack's house and listened
from the attic."

"What are we going to do about it, then?" asked Frank, anxiously.

"We've got to meet him," Ned replied. "Whoever he is, he knows from
Buck that Mrs. Brady went up the mountain to visit a camp of
strangers. We've got to go in and face him! I wish we had kept away
from here to-night."

Mrs. Brady and Buck now opened the door and entered the cabin, the
boys close behind them. A log fire was burning on a stone hearth, and
a tall, rather handsome young man with light hair and blue eyes was
sitting in a homemade chair before it.

He stirred the fire to a brighter blaze as they entered, and the
leaping flames disclosed a dark-haired child of perhaps seven years
asleep on a bed in a corner of the small room. Without speaking,
without so much as a glance at the visitor, the old lady walked
swiftly to the bed and took the child in her arms.

The boy opened his eyes and started to cry, but she quieted him with
low words and sat down on the edge of the bed, swinging him back and
forth with a motion of her arms and shoulders. The man at the fire
glanced sharply at the woman and then turned his eyes to the boys,
now standing not far from the bed.

"The little dear!" the woman cried, mothering the child. "He's all
tired out with his long journey!"

"This is the man that brung the boy in," Buck said, pointing to the
figure by the fire. "A mess of a time he must have had of it, too."

"You are the grandmother?" asked the stranger. "Yes, I understand.
And are these boys your sons, too?" he added, nodding at Ned and
Frank, suspiciously.

"Only New York boys spending a vacation in the mountains," Ned said,
answering the question. "Mrs. Brady came to our camp tonight looking
for her son and we came home with her. We are looking for good
pictures," he added.

The stranger pointed to the old lady, sitting with the sleeping child
on her breast.

"There is one," he said.

"Yes, and I'm sorry I haven't my camera with me."

"Are you thinking of remaining in this section long?" the visitor
asked.

"We can't say," laughed Ned. "We may move on to-morrow, and may stay
here a week."

The man's suspicions seemed to have vanished. He talked frankly with
the boys, and occasionally addressed a word to the old lady. He gave
her, briefly, a good report of her son's progress in Washington, and
handed her a roll of bank-notes.

"He is coming here himself soon," he said, "and he will bring more.
He is doing very nicely there."

Ned was wishing the boy would waken when the old lady arose from the
bed and laid him gently down. He stirred uneasily in his sleep and
she stood by his side, smoothing his dark hair away from his
forehead.

"He favors my side of the family, being dark," she said. "The Stileses
are all dark. If one of you boys will sit with him a moment," she
added, with mountain hospitality, "I'll get you all a snack. It was a
long road over the mountains."

Ned accepted the invitation eagerly and sat down by the child. The
face was dark and slender, the eyebrows turned up a trifle at the
outer comers.

"Is it Mike III., or is it the prince?" he was asking himself when
the boy awoke and sat up in bed with a jerk.

"What's comin' off here?" he demanded, rubbing his sleepy eyes. "What
kind of a bum game is this? I want my daddy."

The visitor by the fire laughed.

"He's up in city slum talk," he said. "And he's learned something of
French, too, knocking around with the boys in school."

"I can talk Franch like a native," asserted the boy.

"And what else?" asked the man by the fire.

"Any old thing!" boasted the child. "They keep me at books all the
time. I'm glad I'm with grandmother in the hills. Are you my
grandmother?" he asked, pointing to the old woman, now bending over
the fire.

"Yes, deary," was the reply. "I'm going to take care of you now."

"I'm glad!"

The boy tumbled back on the bed again and closed his eyes. Frank
looked at Ned significantly.

"There's no doubt about it!" his eyes said. "This child is Mike III."

The old lady made hot corn bread and brewed a pot of mountain tea.
The boys were not at all hungry, but managed to eat and drink
moderately. Then Ned arose.

"We've got to be on our way," he said. "It will be morning before we
get back to camp if we don't start pretty soon!"

When the boys, after a cordial good night from Mrs. Brady and Buck,
left the cabin the visitor followed them out. Ned stopped breathing,
almost, as he took him by the arm.

"There's one thing I want you to explain to the old lady after a
time," the man said. "I suppose I might do it myself, but I prefer to
let her know from personal observation something of the case first.
That boy is not exactly right."

"Not mentally sound, you mean?" asked Ned. "He appeared to be all
right just now."

"Oh, he's bright enough," answered the other, "but he's been ill and
has been in a hospital at Washington, and has been cuddled and
humored so long that he likes to boss! Not good people to boss, the
attendants in a hospital, you will say, but I guess they let this kid
have his way. When he was delirious they told him all sorts of fairy
tales about kings and princes, and he actually thinks some of them
are true. If he breaks out in any of his tantrums before you leave,
kindly tell the old lady what I am telling you, will you?"

Ned almost gasped! So the boy was likely to talk of kings and
princes! He was likely to become masterful in his manners!

"I may have to change my mind," he thought. "This may be the prince,
and not Mike III. But the boy's English, and there's his street
slang! What about that? I reckon that we have a job on our hands!"

The two stood talking together in the moonlight for some moments, the
stranger evidently resolved to make a good impression on the boys,
while Frank walked on along the trail, looking back now and then to
see if his chum was coming.

"This boy's father," the man went on, "has permitted him to have his
own way about everything. That was a mistake, of course, but he is
trying to rectify it now by placing him under the care of his
grandmother, who, if I mistake not, will see that he is properly
disciplined."

"It has been a long time since the father left here," Ned suggested.

"Yes, along time."

"He is doing well in Washington?"

"Yes, he is connected with the State department."

Ned made a mental note of that!

"And is receiving a fair salary?" he asked.

"Oh, yes; he's doing nicely, far better than his mother has any
notion of."

Here was more food for thought. Why had the father delegated the
pleasant duty of taking the boy back to the old mountain home to
another if he had been situated so that he might have taken the
journey himself?

"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?" he kept asking himself.

While they stood there together a great clattering came down the
trail, and they saw Frank turn aside and stand at attention, as if
waiting for some object, seen in the distance, to come up. Directly
the sounds settled down to the rattling of stones and the steady
pounding of hoofs.

"Look what's here!" Frank shouted, pointing.

Ned moved forward, closer to the trail, and in a moment caught sight
of a tall, lank, ungainly mule coming galloping toward him!

"What do you think of him?" called Frank. "He's come to tell us that
it is time we were home and in bed."

"Uncle Ike!" called Ned. "Come here, you foolish mule!"

Uncle Ike, now in plain sight, kicked up his heels in derision but
finally came to an abrupt halt in front of Ned, and stood with ears
pitched forward and forelegs braced back, evidently very much
frightened.




CHAPTER IX

A LANK MULE AS A DECOY


Judd Bradley, the young man who had brought the boy into the
mountains, stood for a moment watching the mule curiously. Then he
stepped nearer to Ned, who was trying to quiet the fractious animal.

"Be careful," Ned warned, as Bradley approached. "Uncle Ike doesn't
take to strangers. He may kick if you come within reach."

"Hell kick you whether you come within reach or not!" grumbled Buck,
who had been brought from the cabin by the clatter of the mule's
hoofs. "He reached over forty acres of rock to hand me one on the
laig!" he added, rubbing his left thigh.

Mrs. Brady came to the doorway of the cabin and stood there, outlined
against the red firelight within, with the boy in her arms. The child
reached forth his arms impatiently, then began beating the old woman
with his small fists.

"Go an' get me the horse!" he commanded. "Mike wants a ride!"

"That's the prince, all right!" whispered Frank to Ned. "That's the
prince of some slum alley in Washington. What he needs is a club,
applied just before and after meals, and just before retiring, with a
dose at intervals during the night!"

"I'm not thinking of the prince now," Ned returned, still in a low
tone, for the others were not far off, "I'm wondering how Uncle Ike
came to be here."

"Broke away and eloped with himself, probably," laughed Frank.

"Yes," grinned Ned, "and put on saddle and bridle before he started!"

Frank's eyes now began to stick out.

"S-a-a-y!" he whispered. "We'd better be getting back to camp!
There's something out of whack there! If the mule could only talk!"

Bradley, who had backed away at Ned's warning, now came up to the
mule's head.

"He doesn't kick with his ears, does he?" he asked, with a smile.

"He's an outlaw," Ned answered, wishing Bradley would return to the
cabin. "He's thrown one of the boys, and we must be on our way. If
you have time before you leave, come up to the camp. We've got the
latest things in cameras and photographic material."

"I may get up there in the morning," was the reply.

Bradley and Mrs. Brady entered the house and closed the door, and Ned
turned to his chum with an odd look on his face.

"I've seen that man somewhere before tonight!" he said.

"Then you'd better try hard to place him" Frank answered, "for we are
going to see more of him in the future, if I'm not mistaken. Perhaps
you saw him on one of your visits to Washington."

"That may be," Ned replied. "Anyway, I may be able to think it out
before morning."

Uncle Ike laid his nose against Ned's shoulder and gave him a push.

"He's in a hurry!" the boy laughed. "We ought to be, too! Is it
possible that one of the boys saddled him for a ride on the mountain
in the night?"

"Just like Jack or Oliver. Or Jimmie may have returned and planned
one of his midnight expeditions!"

"Get up and ride," Ned advised. "I'll walk and try to place that
man's face."

"You might have seen it in the rogue's gallery," suggested Frank,
leaping into the saddle and starting away, the mule pulling and
rearing every moment.

Finally Ned called out to him to stop, and walked up to his side.

"What is the matter with Uncle Ike?" he asked.

"He insists on keeping down toward the canyon," was Frank's reply.
"We came cat-cornering down the slope, didn't we?"

"We certainly did," Ned answered, considering the matter gravely.
"Tell you what you do," he went on, "let the mule have his head! Let
him go just where he wants to. It is the instinct of animals to
follow precedent, same as men. A man will follow a cow path until it
becomes a city street, and a cow, a horse, or a mule will follow a
trail previously used--if only passed over once! Let the mule have
his head, and he may take us to the place where somebody was dumped!"

"Solomon had nothing on you, Ned!" laughed Frank. "Go to it! Uncle
Ike, it is you for the scene of the abduction! And you may go just as
fast as you please!"

The mule started off at a fast pace, keeping to the bottom of the
valley and finally entering the canyon at the south end. Ned walked
by Frank's side, his hand on the stirrup, listening for a sound he
dreaded to hear. He was afraid one of the boys had been thrown from
the animal's back, and might be lying, suffering, in one of the
crevices or breaks which marked the bottom of the canyon.

After traveling some little distance in the canyon, Frank drew up and
pointed ahead.

"Right over there," he said, "is the spot where we saw the smoke
signs!"

"That's a fact!" Ned answered. "One of the boys must have come here
to investigate and left Uncle Ike without tying! The mule has been
here before, or he wouldn't plod along so steadily. Suppose we leave
him here and walk on cautiously?"

"Just what I was about to propose," Frank agreed.

Uncle Ike seemed to resent being left alone in the canyon, which was
now almost as light as day, save where the shadows of the mountain to
the east lay along the wall on that side. The mule was finally
quieted and left in a dark angle.

Moving in the shadows, the boys soon came to an angle in the cut and
looked out on the remains of a campfire. They pushed on until they
came opposite to it, but saw no one. In order to reach it they would
be obliged to cross the canyon, not very wide there, but flooded with
moonlight in the center.

While they stood in the shadow of the mountain a man came stumbling
down the slope ten yards away from them. At first they thought it was
one of their chums, but when the man's figure came into the moonlight
they saw that he was tall, heavily built, and also heavily bearded.
He walked straight across to the fire and passed it, turning into a
shallow cave there was in the rock of the outcropping ridge.

The boys saw him enter the cave and look sharply around, then he
disappeared as suddenly and completely as if he had walked into the
solid rock.

"We're getting all the stage effects!" Frank whispered. "That man
ducked into a moonshiner's establishment!"

"He ducked in somewhere, all right," Ned answered. "I wish we could
get across there without exhibiting ourselves to the whole country."

"I believe the boy that rode the mule is over there!" Frank
suggested.

"Yes; and he's probably been picked up by the moonshiners," Ned
agreed. "We've got to get over there, so here goes!"

The boys went across the streak of moonlight like a couple of
flashes, and drew up at the mouth of the cavern. So far as they could
determine no one had observed them.

They crept to the very back of the cave and huddled close together,
listening.

"Not a soul in sight!" Frank whispered. "That might have been a
ghost!"

"Do ghosts rattle metal?" asked Ned.

There followed another silence, and then the clink of metal came
clearer to the ears of the listening boys.

"Where does it come from?" asked Frank. "There's not a crack in sight
in this rock."

A puff of soft coal gas wafted into the cave, causing the boys to
hold their breaths. Then, in spite of all he could do to prevent it,
Frank sneezed.

Almost instantly a dark figure appeared between the place where the
boys were hidden and the space of moonlight in front. The man stepped
out, looked up and down the canyon, and came slowly back to meet
another figure.

"Nothing doing!" a gruff voice said.

"But that wasn't any bird!" insisted another gruff voice.

"Well, you may look for yourself!"

"I tell you," the second speaker went on, "that those boys are still
out in the hills! When I was at the camp there was only one in the
tent, and he sat there with a gun in his lap, watching for the others
to come back."

"Did you speak with him?"

"What for would I speak with him?"

"To get his story. What are they here for? That is worth knowing."

"Well, I didn't show myself because we're not supposed to be here
ourselves!" came the other voice. "If you hadn't built the fire
outside to-night we'd have been in no danger. Now we've got a lot of
boys sneaking around. What did you do with the others?"

"They're in the work-room."

"In the work-room, seeing everything! You're a bright lot! You know
now, I suppose that we've got to leave those lads here when we go
away?"

"I have known that all along. There are plenty of kids in the world.
These won't be missed. It is a bad job, but it must be done!"

"They shouldn't have come sneaking around!"

The two men disappeared again, but this time Ned saw the opening to
the work-room, as they had termed the underground apartment, when
they swung an imitation rock made of plank aside and stepped down.
For a moment their figures were illumined by the red light of the
fire within, and then they were no longer in sight.

"They're a cheerful pair!" Frank whispered.

"Counterfeiters!" Ned whispered, in reply. "And murderers!"

"How are we going to get the boys out?" asked Frank. "They'll be
killed if we don't."

"One must raise a ruction on the outside, and the other must sneak in
while the outlaws are gone. That is the only way I can think of now.
If you go out there and get Uncle Ike, and coax a couple of sobs out
of him, and rattle stones, and shoot your automatic like rain, the
outlaws may all rush out of the cave."

"I can do all that, but how will you get in?"

"When they run out, they will pass me. Then I'll get in through the
door," Ned replied. "If there's no one in there it won't take me long
to find the boys and turn them loose."

"But if there is some one in there?"

"Then you'll hear shooting," Ned answered, grimly. "In that case,
mount the mule and get back to camp and bring Jack and Oliver and a
lot of guns."

"But one of those boys must be in there," Frank insisted. "Some one
rode Ike here!"

"We don't know who it is that is here," Ned reflected. "Anyway,
you've got to get away with the mule after making all that noise.
Don't go in the direction of the Brady cabin. We don't want that man
Bradley mixing us up with police officers!"

"Every minute counts!" Frank declared, "I'm off. You'll hear a racket
like the blowing up of a world in about three minutes! Good luck!"

The lads shook hands and parted. It seemed to each one that the other
was going to his death, but only encouraging words were spoken.

In five minutes a horrible clamor rang down the canyon. Uncle Ike
screamed, and the beating of hoofs sounded like a charge of cavalry.
Then came sharp, quick pistol shots.

Three men dashed out of the cavern and Ned crept in at the open door!

"I don't know what I shall find in here!" he mused, as he came into
the light of a great fire, "but I'll know all about it right soon!"




CHAPTER X

"PACKED AWAY LIKE SARDINES"


Even in that underground room Ned could hear the shooting outside and
the screams of the aggravated mule. Several weapons seemed to be
pouring out lead, and the boy wondered if the outlaws were getting
the range of his chum.

The firing seemed to grow fainter as he advanced into the room.
Either the outlaws were pursuing Frank or the shooters were taking
refuge behind rocks which deadened the sound.

At first the boy kept his eye out for an attack on himself, but there
seemed to be none of the outlaws left in the subterranean place. The
fire was built at one side, and the light from it filled the whole
apartment. Counterfeit dollars lay about, scattered over the floor as
if dropped in great haste.

Halting in the center of the room, after closing and baring the outer
door, Ned put his fingers to his lips and gave out a low whine, one
of the signals used by the boys of the Wolf Patrol. While he listened
for a response, the firing outside came nearer, or appeared from the
sound to do so.

"I'd be in a nice fix if they should seek to retreat to the cave!"
Ned thought.

While he listened an answer came to his call--the low, sharp signal
of the Wolves!

"That's Jimmie!" Ned muttered. "He's in some of the holes just
outside this room."

"Where are you?" he asked, and the answer came with a giggle.

"We're packed away like sardines! Come get us out! We're only tied
with ropes, but the ropes know their business! Here! To the right of
the fire!"

Ned soon found that the wall at the point indicated was of plank,
like the door, painted and sanded to imitate rock. He had no
difficulty in finding the opening, and in a short time the boys were
relieved of their bonds. Ned opened his eyes wide at sight of Dode,
the fourth boy, and of Oliver, who had been left at the camp.

"What's the shooting outside?" asked Jimmie, stretching his arms,
cramped from long confinement. "Who's out there with Uncle Ike? Say,
but I was glad to hear the gentle voice of that wicked old mule!"

"And now," Teddy observed, "how about getting out of this? I'm
hungry."

"If Frank keeps that racket going," Ned answered, motioning the group
toward the door by which he had entered, "we may be able to get out
without being seen. You can tell me how you got caged later on. Now
we'll try the door."

"Wait!" whispered Jimmie.

"Wait!" said Dode.

Ned turned and faced both boys with enquiring eyes.

"Why wait?" he asked.

"I want my gun!" Jimmie replied. "They searched us and put the
plunder in that alcove in the rock on the other side of the fire.
We'll need the guns, I take it."

The three boys, Jimmie, Teddy, and Oliver, made a quick rush for the
alcove and soon came back with their guns and electrics. The firing
outside was again farther away, and the chances for getting out
without being attacked appeared to be good.

"What is it?" Ned asked Dode, as he pulled at his sleeve.

"There's another door," the lad explained. "It opens on the slope on
the west side of the ridge we are under. We can go that way without
being seen."

"That's just the thing!" Jimmie exclaimed. "We can get out and join
Frank in the mess outside! Then I reckon we'll put the skids under
the outlaws!"

Dode led the way to the opening indicated, passed, with the others at
his heels, through a long passage, and finally came to a plank door
which was securely fastened on the inside. From this position the
racket outside became only a hum.

The boy unfastened the door and swung it inside. Beyond lay the
slope, and, beyond that, the valley and the distant mountains. The
air of the night was sweet and clear after the close atmosphere of
the underground room.

From the other side of the ridge, which was not very high, came shots
and the vicious shrieks of a pestered mule! Ned turned to the south,
from which direction the clamor came, and passed as swiftly as
possible along the slant of the elevation.

"Are you going to attack the outlaws from the rear?" asked Teddy. "We
are taking the wrong course if you want to go back to camp."

"Huh!" Jimmie grunted, trudging along puffing at every breath, "we've
got to find Frank and Uncle Ike, I guess."

When the party came to the end of the ridge under which the
counterfeiters had been working, they faced the valley, some distance
away, in which the cabin of Mary Brady stood. Through the moonlight
they could just distinguish the crude stone chimney of the structure.

"Now, Ned," Jimmie explained, "if we turn up the slope here and do a
little shooting when we reach a good elevation, the counterfeiters
will think they are being attacked by a fresh party and duck back to
the cave. Then Frank can come along with that blessed old mule. Did
you ever hear a lop-eared old rascal of the mule tribe make such a
racket? I wonder what Frank was doing to him?"

"I know!" Teddy broke in. "He was tickling him with his heels. That
makes Uncle Ike half crazy! There goes another yell! Fine old bird,
is Uncle Ike!"

It was plain to the boys that the battle was quite a distance to the
south and leading down into the valley, so they began the ascent of
the rocky slope and continued up until they were all out of breath.
Then they stopped and looked back.

The outlaws came into sight, in a minute, making for their cave. They
fired an occasional shot as they retreated, and this fact convinced
the boys that Frank had not been wounded by any of the shots which
had been fired at him.

"We'll quicken their steps a trifle!" Ned said. "You boys go on up to
the next shelf and I'll fire from here. They may charge us, and if
they do I can cover your retreat. Besides, you will have a longer
start."

"I'm going to stay right here and shoot, too!" Jimmie declared.
"Those men have several bumps coming from me!"

"Ain't he the great little gunman?" snickered Teddy.

"But I need you up there with the others to protect my retreat,"
urged Ned, so Jimmie unwillingly toiled up the acclivity. They came
to a shelf perhaps three hundred feet beyond Ned's stand and crouched
down.

Ned's fire, when it came, had the effect of sending the outlaws on a
run toward their cave, so the boy joined the others without facing a
return fire.

"They'll be out again when they see what's been going on at the
cave!" Jimmie predicted, but the prophecy was not a good one, for no
figures were seen in the canyon after that, and no more shots were
fired from that direction.

"I know what the bogus money-makers will do now," Jimmie snickered.
"They'll pack up their tools and vanish! They'll be thinking the
whole Secret Service bunch is after them!"

"That's just the trouble," Ned said. "I'm afraid the mountaineers
will also think we are Secret Service operatives and spies and make
trouble for us."

"We'll have to get busy with our cameras, then," Jimmie went on, "and
take pictures of everything in sight. We may be believed if we tell
the truth, that we blundered on their cave and they attacked us. I
wonder why Frank doesn't show up? He may have been killed or
wounded!"

"If he has been hurt," Teddy observed, as the sound of hoofs came
From the south, "Uncle Ike hasn't, for here he comes, ugly as ever."

Believing that Frank was indeed approaching, the boys fired a number
of shots to direct his course and waited. The hoofbeats, the labored
breathing of the mule, became more distinct directly, and then Frank
came into sight.

The greeting he received was a warm one, and Uncle Ike was petted and
permitted to search every pocket for sugar!

"I don't see how you escaped being hit," Ned observed. "The outlaws
fired enough shots to cripple an army."

"They never saw me," declared Frank. "I kept behind ridges and
outcropping rocks, and in the shadows. They were afraid to come too
close, for they must have thought a dozen men were attacking them.
Whenever I fired I changed my position, and when Uncle Ike yelled I
hustled him along! I reckon a good many of the shots you heard came
from my gun! When you began shooting that settled it! They will be
fifty miles from here by tomorrow noon!"

"That's likely, for they won't dare remain here after they have been
caught at their work," Ned admitted. "Moonshiners might remain and
fight, but counterfeiters will get away right soon. I take it they
don't belong to this section anyway."

On the way to the camp, during the brief rests, Jimmie explained how
they had been surprised while in the outer cave and had been taken
inside and tied up. The boy Dode was overjoyed at his escape from the
gang, and explained that they had captured him not far from
Washington and forced him to accompany them, the idea being to use
him in the future in getting rid of the spurious coins.

"They are making a lot of it," he declared, "and the country will be
flooded with their work if the government doesn't catch them."

It may be well to state here that the reasoning of the boys with
regard to the future actions of the outlaws was correct, as they
disappeared from that section that night. When the lads visited the
cave later on some of the counterfeit coin which had been made was
still scattered about the subterranean room.

When they first reached the camp Jack was not in sight, but he soon
appeared, coming from a hiding place near the summit.

"I thought I'd better not expose myself by remaining in the tent," he
explained, "so ducked away and hid where I could watch the mules and
the provisions without being seen. I had about made up my mind that
the state militia had been called out, you made such a racket!"

"We're going to give Uncle Ike a medal, also a barrel of sugar, for
heroic conduct in the face of the enemy!" Jimmie declared, and the
mule, for once in his life, found a full pocket when he nosed about
for sweet lumps!

While the lads were eating a delayed supper, Jack turned to Oliver
with a mock frown on his face.

"The next time you go away in the night and leave me alone in camp,"
he said, "I'm going to break your dial in! I might have been shot
while asleep. According to the conversation between the outlaws, just
related by Jimmie, one of the toughs came up here! Don't you ever do
that again, if you want to keep a whole hide."

"I guess Uncle Ike has a larger kick coming than you have!" Jimmie
remarked.

When the boys compared notes and thoughts concerning the child, the
old lady, and the blonde stranger, they could not agree at all. Some
of them insisted that the boy was Mike III., while the others
declared that he was the prince!"

"If he isn't the grandson," one asked, "why this American slang?"

"And if he is," questioned another, "why this talk about French and
other foreign languages? Mike III. wouldn't know a foreign tongue,
would he?"




CHAPTER XI

JACK'S ELEGANT CHICKEN PIE


The sun was high over the mountains when Ned awoke on the morning
following the adventure with the counterfeiters. Leaving Jimmie,
Frank, Teddy and Oliver in their bunks and Dode, the new acquisition
to the party, curled up in a nest of blankets, he issued forth from
the tent and looked about for Jack, who had been left on guard.

The boy was nowhere in sight at first, then he saw him at a spring
which bubbled out of the mountain not far from the corral. It was the
water from this spring which brought forth the tender grass upon
which the mules were feeding.

Jack looked up with a shout when he saw Ned, and came running up to
the camp, carrying in one hand a pail in which three large-sized
chickens lay, nicely boiled, carved and washed.

"What do you think of that?" he demanded, pushing the pail up under
Ned's nose. "I guess we're some hustlers for sustenance!"

"Where did you get the hens?" asked Ned. "They sure look good to me."

"You couldn't guess in a thousand years!" Jack replied. "So I'm going
to tell you, right off the handle! Judd Bradley, the blonde fellow
who brought the boy in, came up with them, with the compliments of
Mrs. Brady, about an hour ago. He brought the boy up with him, too.
What do you know about that?"

"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?" asked Ned, with a smile.

"If you leave it to me," Jack answered quite positively, "it is the
prince!"

"How does he look and act this morning?"

"Like a kid raised under restraint, now free and full of the de--Old
Nick!"

"And Bradley?" asked Ned.

"That's another point! He watches the kid every second of the time,
and when the boy speaks a word of French he looks daggers at him! I
reckon the son of Mike II. wouldn't be talking French! Nor he
wouldn't be here with a chaperon from Washington. We have found the
prince, all right, and I'm sorry for it! It makes our work too easy!"

"Don't crow until you're out of the woods!" laughed Ned. "There may
be a few adventures in store for us yet! So this seven-year-old boy
talks French, does he?"

"You bet he does! Like a native!"

"Where are they now--Bradley and the boy, I mean?"

"Down by the mules! The boy, who is constantly called Mike--
ostentatiously called by that name--wants to ride Uncle Ike! Fat time
hell have if he gets aboard of that argumentative brute!"

"Are they going to help eat the chicken?" asked Ned.

"Sure! I told them to stick around until I got the most beautiful
chicken pie built they ever touched tongue to. They're going to stay.
You go and talk with them while I make the pie. It is going to be a
corker--melt in your mouth, make you dream of the old red barn down
on the farm!"

"Ever make a chicken pie?" asked Ned.

"Of course not! There's got to be a first time to everything! But I
know how. I've got a recipe here which is used by the chef at
Sherry's."

"Go to it!" laughed Ned. "I'll take my chances on having canned meat
for dinner."

"You just wait!" roared Jack, as Ned dashed down to the spring.

Jack stood a moment, pail in hand, watching Ned washing at the
spring, and then went on to the fire, leaving Ned to proceed to the
corral and entertain the guests.

Jimmie was just tumbling out of the tent when Jack came up with the
chicken. That young man immediately set up a shout which awakened the
others and brought them out rubbing their eyes.

"Chicken for breakfast!" he shouted.

"Chicken pie for dinner!" Jack corrected.

"All right!" sighed the boy. "Then I'll cook a couple of pounds of
ham and a couple of dozen eggs for breakfast! That ought to keep us
alive until you get the pie ready!"

"How do you make chicken pie?" demanded Frank. "I've always wanted to
know how to make a pie out of a hen."

"You just watch me," Jack answered, not without a touch of pride,
"and I'll show how it is done. Here, young man, don't set down on my
dough! That's for the crust."

Jimmie bounded off a camp stool where the cook had deposited his
crust-dough on a clean white paper and watched Jack line a six-quart
tin pail with the mixture of flour, water and baking powder.

"That ain't thick enough!" he commented. "The crust ought to be an
inch thick."

"You go out and feed the mules!" ordered Jack. "When I want any help
in making a chicken pie I won't call on you!"

"Anyway," Jimmie insisted, "it ought to be an inch thick."

Jack laid the pieces of chicken in the bed of dough--the chickens
having been cooked tender long before Ned was out of his blankets--
and put in salt, pepper, a small piece of butter--out of a glass
can!--and then poured in some of the liquid the chickens had been
stewed in."

"If there should happen to be a drumstick you can't get in," Jimmie
volunteered, "I can eat it for breakfast!"

"So that's why you wanted the crust so thick!" cried Jack. "You
wanted to crowd the chicken out so you could stuff yourself with a
hen for breakfast! Run along and play you'r a baker's wagon
delivering goods on the Bowery!"

"You're the wise little man--not!" Jimmie grunted and set about
cooking ham and eggs for breakfast.

"How long will it take that chicken pie to cook?" asked Teddy.

"Couple of hours," replied Jack. "Sometimes it takes longer."

Jack prepared a great bed of coals, drew up dry wood to make more,
and set the pail of chicken pie in the heavy double oven to cook.

"I'm making this 'specially light and sweet," he said, poking the
coals up to the oven, "because we're going to have a prince of the
royal blood to breakfast."

"Where is he?" asked Jimmie, with a grin, "Down by the mules! He
brought these chickens to us--or his chaperon did! Rather thoughtful
of him! Say, Frank" Jack added, "will you go down to the corral and
take a lot of snapshots of the kid? I want to send some home to
Chicago, just to convince the boys I've been dining with royalty."

"Dining with Mike III.," Frank laughed. "It is dollars to dills that
the boy trying to get on Uncle Ike's back is fresh from the
Washington slums!"

"Look you here, little man," Jack began, but just at that moment Ned,
Bradley, and the boy appeared on the slope, headed for the camp. The
boy was seated on the back of Uncle Ike, who, for a wonder, was
marching along sedately, as if accustomed to being made the plaything
of children.

"I wouldn't have believed it of him!" Jimmie muttered. "I wouldn't
have trusted a kid on that wild animal's back any sooner than I would
have trusted eggs to a hay-baler. Uncle Ike's sure going into a
decline!"

The boy came riding up ahead of the others and shouted to Jimmie:

"Gardez! A cheval!" he shouted, urging the mule into a trot.

"That's your kid from the Washington slums!" Jack laughed,
scornfully. "Talking French!"

"What does he say?" demanded Jimmie.

"He says for you to be on your guard--to look out for yourself--as he
is coming on horseback. I don't know much French, but that is easy!"

Bradley hastened to the boy's side and said something to him in a
tone which the others could not hear, the lad coloring slightly as he
listened.

"He's jawing him for speaking French!" Jimmie commented.

"It looks like it," Jack observed. "Oh, I reckon we've got the prince
all right. I wonder when we are going to start back to Washington
with him, and if Ned will pinch that blonde beauty who brought him
in?"


Uncle Ike stopped at the campfire and stuck his nose into Jimmie's
pocket, looking for sugar. Mike III., as some of the boys insisted on
thinking of the little fellow, dropped off and seized the animal by
the tail and began to pull. Frank ran to get the child out of his
dangerous position, but Uncle Ike merely looked around to see what it
was that was pulling his tail winked one eye at Frank, and went on
searching pockets.

"That mule sure gets my goat!" grinned Jimmie. "What do you think of
his standing still while his tail is being pulled?"

By this time Jimmie had prepared breakfast, and the boys gathered
about the fire with tin plates on their knees, and devoured ham and
eggs, baked beans, and bread and butter and coffee with a mountain
relish. Mike III. ate what was given to him at the first helping and
then clamored for more. Bradley whispered something in his ear, but
the boy pushed him off with a scowl:

"Alles-vous en!" he cried, angrily.

Jack snickered and Frank looked as if he had made a mistake in his
estimate of the boy and knew it! Bradley drew the boy away, but
Jimmie hastened to replenish his plate.

"Let the kid have all he wants!" he said. "We can cook more. We're
going to have a chicken pie for dinner, and he'll like that."

"Seems to me it is about time Jack was looking after that pie," Frank
suggested.

"Pretty near forgot it!" Jack admitted, going to the oven and opening
the door so as to look inside at the dainty.

Something took place when he did that! The square piece of metal flew
back on its hinges with a thump, and cut of the oven flew the cover
of the tin pail in which the chicken pie had been tucked. It shot
across the fire and struck Jimmie under the ear and then rolled back
into the blaze!

"Jerusalem!" cried the boy. "What you shootin' at me for?"

No attention was paid to what the boy said, for at that moment a wave
of dough, spotted here and there with pieces of chicken, puffed out
of the pail and tumbled over Jack's stooping shoulders and on into
the fire, where it continued to grow until the fire half consumed it.

"Catch the chicken!" yelled Frank. "He's running away."

Jack tried to keep the dough in the oven, but it rolled out and
covered his hands and arms with a sticky mess. The little fellow
screamed with delight.

"Oh, oh, _de mal en pis!_" he shouted.

"Grab the chicken!" shouted Teddy. "We can finish breakfast on that!"

While the mess was being cleared up, Frank asked Jack:

"How much baking powder did you put into that dough?"

"Only one can!" was the reply, and Frank went away and rolled on the
ground!

"Say," Jimmie whispered to Jack, who was scraping the chicken pie off
his clothes, "what did the kid say when he pushed Bradley away, and
when the pie busted?"

"First he said 'be off with you' or 'let me alone' next he said 'from
bad to worse' Or something like that. Look at Bradley. He's calling
him down for it, right now. I'm going, to talk French to that kid
when Bradley goes away. I'm going to know about this three Mike and
this prince business!"




CHAPTER XII

THE BLACK HAND GAME


Shortly after breakfast, and after what remained of the chickens had
been eaten, Bradley and his charge left the camp, after inviting the
boys to visit them in the cabin in the valley. Bradley appeared
anxious to be friendly, and seemed absolutely frank in his talks. The
only suspicious thing they noticed in him was his jealous care of the
boy--his reproaches when the lad had indulged in a word or two of
French!

"You bet I'll visit you at the cabin!" Jack said, as the two
disappeared over the summit. "I'll be there with the lingo, too! I
can soon find out from the boy what he knows of the French language!
Of course I'll be down to the cottage!"

"Bradley will see that you don't talk with the boy alone!" Jimmie
declared.

"I'll catch him doing it!" was Jack's reply.

"What do you think about it, Ned?" asked Frank. "Is that the prince,
or is it Mike III.? You may have all the guesses you need.

"First," Ned said, turning to Jack and Frank, "tell me what the boy
said when he spoke in French."

Jack repeated the interpretations as previously given, and Ned
remained in a thoughtful mood for a long time. Then he went into the
tent, without answering any questions, and began overhauling the
stock of reading matter brought along.

When he found what he wanted to he threw himself on the bunk where he
had slept and read steadily for an hour or more. At least he held to
the book for that length of time, turning the leaves rapidly at
times, and then not at all for several minutes.

"What's he up to?" asked Teddy. "Something on his alleged mind!"

"I'll go and find out what he's reading," Jimmie volunteered.

The boy entered the tent, but was back in a moment with a broad grin
on his face.

"It is a French dictionary!" he gasped. "Ned is learning French, so
he can talk with the prince in his native tongue!"

"The prince isn't French!" Jack declared. "He belongs away in the
East somewhere. French is the polite language of Europe, so of
course, he's been taught it!"

After a time Ned came to the door of the tent and beckoned to Jimmie.

"Suppose we go and get some pictures of the mountains," he said, when
the boy entered. "We haven't taken a snap-shot since we came here.

"I'm strong for it!" Jimmie declared. "We might go and take a few
snaps at the counterfeiter's den. That will be fine!"

"What's that?" demanded Frank Shaw, poking his nose into the tent.
"Going to take pictures of the counterfeiters den! I'm in on that.
We'll take a bunch of pictures--enough for a first-page layout--and
send 'em in to dad's newspaper. Hot stuff! What? And I'll write the
biography of Uncle Ike, and send it in with the rest. His picture
ought to go in the center of the layout. He'll be a hero, all right."

"All right!" Ned agreed. "We'll go and take the pictures, and we'll
send them in when you get the story written! Will that answer?"

"Sure it will!"

So Ned, Jimmie, and Frank started away laughing, for all knew Frank
would never write the story, toward the counterfeiters' cave. When
they came in sight of the ridge which jutted out of the slope to make
the canyon, and under which the workroom was situated, they saw a man
moving northward, keeping close to the jagged summit of the lesser
elevation, and looking sharply about as he advanced.

"That may be one of them," Jimmie suggested.

"I don't believe it!" Frank contradicted. "What do you think, Ned?"
he added.

"Never saw the outlaws," Ned answered, "so I can't decide the
question. Still, I doubt if one of the counterfeiters is within
fifty miles of this spot now."

"That's the idea!" Frank said. "Of course the shooting of last night
would draw out the natives. There'll be dozens around the caves
to-day."

The boys walked on to the canyon, taking snap-shots of everything
they saw. The slope, the canyon, the valley to the west, the green
valley to the south, the shallow cave from which the entrance to the
workroom gave, all were transferred to films to await development.
When at last they entered the shallow cave they paused.

"There may be some of them in here yet," Frank suggested.

"Not to-day!" Ned replied. "There are too many strangers about!"

They entered cautiously. There was now no fire on the stone hearth,
and the atmosphere of the place was damp and chill, as well as dark.
Here and there a break in the rocky roof above--the ceiling of the
apartment was very near to the surface of the outcropping ridge--let
in a shaft of light, but for the most part the apartment was in heavy
shadows.

Ned took out his electric light and turned it enquiringly about the
room. Counterfeit money still lay scattered over the floor. The
melting pot and the dies were on the cold iron shelf where they had
been left, and even a coat hung against the wall.

"They got out in a hurry," Jimmie declared.

"And they are not likely to come back in a hurry!" Ned added.

Frank paced the apartment off, set his camera tripod, and got out his
powder.

"You boys stand over on the other side," he requested, as he moved
back to his tripod, "and when I give the word you, Jimmie, touch off
this flash."

"What do you want a view of that corner for?" asked Jimmie. "You are
too close, anyway, to get a good picture."

"I'm going to have a picture of every corner, and the middle, and the
roof, and the chimney, and everything about the blooming place!"
Frank declared.

"Wait a minute!" Jimmie shouted. "I'll hide in the passage we went
out of last night, and when you are ready to spring the print I'll
look out, with a fierce expression on my pretty face. That will make
the picture look like the real brigandish thing. What?"

"All right," laughed Frank, "get in there! It is only an excuse for
getting your mug into dad's newspaper, but we'll let it go."

Frank and Ned busied themselves for half an hour or more, taking
pictures and looking over the implements used in the manufacture of
spurious coin. At length, when they returned to the outer cave, they
remembered that Jimmie had not returned from the west passage to the
workroom, and Ned went there to look for him. He was not there, nor
was he in any of the niches or shallow openings in the rocky walls.
Ned called to him, but he did not reply. Then Frank came running into
the passage and joined in the hunt. In vain! Jimmie was nowhere to be
found.

"Wherever he is," Frank said, after a long search, "he has his camera
with him."

"I didn't see him have one," Ned replied. "You must be mistaken."

"It was the baby camera he had," Frank explained. "He carried it
under his coat. The little monkey has doubtless gone off on a
picture-making tour of his own."

"That is just like him," Ned agreed, "so we'll go on about our
business and let him present himself when he gets ready."

"He seemed to take quite an interest in that child," Frank suggested,
"and he may have gone on to the cabin."

"We may as well go that way and thank the old lady for the hens Jack
didn't make into a pie," Ned observed. "I'd like another look at that
child myself."

"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?" laughed Frank.

Ned smiled, but made no reply, They walked on down the slope and
connected with the valley at the south end of the ridge. When they
came to the cabin they found Mrs. Mary Brady sitting in the doorway,
the child playing on the ground--beaten hard by years of wear--in
front of her. She arose as they appeared, and the boy darted off into
the fenced garden farther to the south, looking back with a grin from
behind the stake-and-rider fence.

"Good day to you, young gentlemen," the old lady said. "I hope you
passed a pleasant night! The mountain air is good for those who seek
sleep."

Then it occurred to Ned that neither Bradley nor the child had
referred in any way to the shooting of the night before, though, if
at the cabin, they must have heard it. He regarded the old lady
keenly as he said:

"Has any one seen anything of the outlaws to-day?"

"The outlaws?" repeated the other.

"You heard nothing in the night?" Ned asked.

"I thought I heard a gunshot now and then," was the indifferent
reply, "but they are too common here to attract attention. Did the
shooting disturb you?"

Ned did not believe the old lady had slept through the furious
fusilades of shots of the night before. What her motive was in
ignoring the matter he could not understand, but he decided to set
himself right with her and also with her mountain friends by telling
of the events of the night.

If they were to remain long in that section, it was quite necessary,
he thought, that the natives should understand that the boys of the
Camera Club were not there to spy on counterfeiters or the
moonshiners, if any there were in that region.

So he told her that the boys had blundered on the workroom of the
counterfeiters, had been suspected of being spies sent by the
government and seized, and finally had been released by strategy. He
added that they were not there to molest the people of the district,
whatever their occupation might be, but to take pictures and have a
long vacation in the health-giving mountain air."

"And I hope you'll pass the word along," he closed, "so that your
friends will not regard us as enemies. We are anxious to meet as many
of them as possible, and to be on good terms with them."

This was strictly true, as the boys were not there to convict any of
the natives, whatever their offenses might be, but to deal with the
strangers who had abducted the prince from his home in Washington.
Ned was certain that no one belonging in that region had had a hand
in the crime, although he suspected that some of them might
innocently harbor the outlaws he was in quest of.

The old lady listened to Ned's story and his explanation with a
startled face.

"I'm sure," she said, "that no one belonging here was interested in
the counterfeiting gang you boys came upon. I am sure, too, that no
one will blame you for what you did. We are law-abiding people, but
our mountains constitute a secure refuge for some who are not worthy
of protection."

Ned was more than pleased at the outcome of the matter, for he was
sure the old lady would take pains to set the matter before her
friends in the correct light. The conversation soon changed to other
subjects. The child did not return, and directly Frank saw him
walking along a distant hillside, hand-in-hand with Bradley.

"Mr. Bradley seems to stick close to Mike," he said, tentatively.

"Never lets him out of his sight," was the reply, and Mrs. Brady
seemed to resent the face as stated. She evidently had little of the
lad's companionship.

When the boys reached the camp Jimmie had not returned, but their
chums were gathered around a sheet of letter paper which had, no one
knew how, been thrust into the tent. Jack's face was deadly white as
he handed it to Ned.

"We are up against a black hand game," he said. "Jimmie has been
stolen!"




CHAPTER XIII

THREE DAYS TO MOVE IN


Ned took the paper into his hand and read:

"You boys are not wanted in the hills. We give you three days to get
out. On the morning of the fourth day, if you are still here, we
shall send you your friend's right hand. On the fifth day you will
receive his left hand. On the sixth day his right foot. On the
seventh day his left foot. On the eighth day his head. If you obey
this command he will be restored to you, in good health, at
Cumberland."

"Is it a joke?" asked Frank, white to the lips.

"It must be!" cried Jack. "No one would mutilate Jimmie."

"It is a corase joke!" Teddy cut in.

"I'm afraid it is no joke, boys," Ned said. "I'm afraid we'll have to
go."

"But we'll come back again!" shouted Oliver. "We'll come back with a
whole company of Boy Scouts! There are enough Boy Scouts in New York
to tear these mountains up by the roots!"

"But I don't understand how they got him," Teddy wailed. "He went
away with you."

"He went into a hidden passage to make a picturesque effect," Frank
said, "and did not return. We thought it one of his jokes, and paid
little attention to his absence. We might have rescued him if we had
known."

"Of course he was seized in that passage," Dode said. "Did you get
the picture he was to be in?"

"Sure we did!" cried Frank. "I'll see if he was there when the camera
opened."

As he spoke the boy made a rush for his suitcase, took out his
development tank, printing frame and other tools, and set to work on
his film roll. He used two powders instead of one, and in ten minutes
was ready for the printing.

In a few minutes more he was at work in the tent, with the boys
gathered around him. The developer had worked perfectly,
notwithstanding the haste, and the printing was well advanced in the
soft light of the tent. Directly he had the picture taken in the cave
under view--the snapshot of the wall showing the entrance to the
secret passage.

"Quick work!" Ned declared. "What does it show?"

They all gathered around the print, each trying to get the first
glance at it.

"There's Jimmie!" Teddy shouted. "He was looking out of the door when
the picture was taken! I can almost see his freckles!"

"There he is, sure enough!" Frank cried. "The little monkey!"

Ned took the print and examined it carefully, while the others waited
for him to express any discoveries he might make.

"Did you see anything back of Jimmie?" he asked of Frank.

"Just the dark wall," was the reply.

Ned passed the print to him and left the tent.

"Yes," Frank said, with a threat in his voice, there's a face looking
over Jimmie's shoulder. "Oh, I wish we had known!"

"Can you see the face plainly?" asked Teddy.

"Quite plainly," was the reply. "The door was open, as you see, and
Jimmie stood with his hand on the edge of it, looking at the camera,
his head in the room."

"Yes; that makes the picture good," Teddy observed.

"And there was a slant of light from the passage, and the head of the
outlaw shows in that. He's an ugly looking brute!"

"Observe the alfalfa on his map!" exclaimed Teddy.

"That picture may send him to prison!" Frank cried. "I hope so!"

He put the tank, the printing frame, the print, and the other
articles away in his suitcase and went out to where Ned was standing.

"Did you see the face behind the boy?" asked Frank--"get a good look
at it?"

"Yes," was the reply. "It shows that this is not a joke!" Did you
notice the face closely?"

"I think so."

"What about the beard?"

"Quite a growth, I should say."

"Anything else odd about it?" persisted Ned.

"Not that I saw," was the wondering reply. "What about it?"

"It was a false beard! The man was disguised!"

 Frank's face looked, for an instant, as if he had received a blow.

"And I was counting on that beard," he said, "as a means of
identification!"

"Keep the print safe," Ned advised. "It may be useful in that way
yet."

"Well," Frank declared, "we've got to go away! We can take no chances
on Jimmie being murdered. Isn't that your idea?"

"We certainly will take no such chances," Ned responded. "Up to this
time we have been successful in getting out of trouble, though, and
we may be able to rescue the boy without giving up the search for the
abducted lad."

"Here's another question," Frank said, "was that note sent by the
counterfeiters, or are the men interested in the abduction of the
prince resorting to such tactics?"

"I have an idea that the abductors are the ones who are doing it,"
Ned answered.

"It may be moonshiners," suggested Frank.

"I don't think there are any illicit stills in this district," Ned
replied.

"Well, we're up against a desperate gang now, anyway," Frank said,
"and it looks as if they held the high cards! If we had only
suspected what was going on in that passage, we might have rescued
the boy before they got him away!

"I believe we'll do well to watch Bradley," he suggested.

"But Bradley was at the cabin when we got there."

"Oh, he had plenty of time to get Jimmie away and get back to the
cabin!" Frank insisted. "We remained at the cave half an hour after
Jimmie left us, and we took our time in getting to the cottage."

"Also we took a great many snap-shots at the scenery," Ned went on.
"Now, I wish you would take all the films out of the cameras and
develop and print a picture of each."

"I'll go right at it," Frank replied, turning back to the tent.

"And if any of the boys were taking pictures about the tent, or the
corral, have them developed. It may be that one of the snap-shots
will show the person who slipped the note into the tent."

"I don't see how it was ever done without the man being seen," Frank
exclaimed.

"But it was done," Ned replied, "and we've got to find out when and
how if we can."

When Frank left for the tent Ned started on toward the summit. He had
traveled only a short distance when Frank came puffing after him.

"Here's another print Jack and Teddy took," he said. "It shows
something in the cave we never noticed. See if you can tell what it
is."

Ned glanced at the print and returned it.

"There is another opening in the wall at the east side," he said.
"The picture shows it. I noticed something there, but neglected to
investigate."

While the two talked Jack came up the slope, his camera over his
shoulder.

"I think it is about time for me to be having an outing," he said.
"I've been in the camp most of the time since we've been here."

"Come along, then," Ned replied. "I'm going back to the cave, and it
may be just as well to have some one with me."

Frank went down the slope to the tent and Ned and Jack hastened down
the slope on the other side. They were busy with their thoughts and
for a long time neither spoke.

"Of course it is the abductors?" Jack asked, presently.

"I have no doubt of it," was the reply.

"Do you connect the man Bradley with it?" was the next question.

"There is no proof against him," Ned replied.

"But you must have some idea about it," persisted Jack.

"For all we know," Ned remarked, "he may be entirely innocent in the
abduction matter. He may have brought the real grandchild here."

"The grandchild!" repeated Jack. "Here's the old question once more:
'Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?'"

"I have the answer to that question written down in my memorandum
book," Ned said. "I don't want to show it to you now, because I may
be mistaken. When the case is closed I will show you the entry. Then
you may laugh at me if you feel like it."

"I'd like to see it now," Jack coaxed.

"I want all you boys to think for yourselves," Ned went on. "Don't
get a theory and pound away at it. If you do, you'll overlook
everything which doesn't agree with that theory. If I should show you
what I have written, you might look only for clues calculated to
prove it to be correct, or you might look only for opposing clues."

A second examination of the counterfeiters' cave revealed nothing of
importance except that the broken wall on the east side showed a
small room into which Jimmie and his captor might have fled after the
abduction. Still, there was no proof that they had done so, Ned
explained.

"Why didn't the little fellow yell?" asked Jack.

"I think he would have yelled if that had been possible!" Ned said.

The boys left the cave in a short time and passed south, toward the
valley and the cabin. Instead of going directly to the cabin,
however, Ned kept away to the west and came out south of it, in the
section where Bradley had walked with the child.

After a time Jack wandered away to the east, so as to come up on that
side of the cabin. Although the boys had circled the building, no
sign of life had been seen.

While Ned was yet some distance away he saw Jack standing on the
slope of the valley watching the front door. He walked back and
looked in at a small window in the rear wall. The child lay asleep on
a bed in one corner of the room, and Mrs, Brady sat by his side.
Bradley occupied a chair not far away.

"Quite a domestic scene!" Ned muttered.

While the boy watched through the window, the old woman arose and
left the cabin by the front door. Then Bradley arose, went to a
suitcase in a corner by the hearth, took therefrom a small green
paper parcel, and went to the cupboard, hanging on the north wall.

After feeling about for a time he took out a cup, filled it with warm
water from a kettle on the fire and stirred the contents of the green
package into it with a brush which he took from a pocket. Ned could
not see the contents of the cup, but when the man held the brush up
to the light he saw that it was soaked in what seemed to be a black
dye. It appeared too thick to suit the taste of the man, and he
poured in more water out of the kettle.

Then, with the brush wet in one hand and the cup in the other,
Bradley drew closer to the bed where the child slept. Ned watched for
a few seconds more, then the footsteps of the old lady were heard
approaching the door, ringing on the hard earth at the front of it.
Ned made another entry in his memorandum book and turned away.




CHAPTER XIV

POINTING OUT THE TRAIL


After leaving the window at the rear of the cabin, Ned moved to the
north side, where there was no window at all, and stood there,
huddled against the wall, until he heard the old lady enter the house
and close the door. Peering around the corner to see that no one was
in sight, he crossed the open space swiftly and approached the grove
where he had seen Jack.

Jack was not in sight, but a round hole cut in the bark of a tree
told the direction in which he had gone. In the Indian sign language
used by the Boy Scouts this meant:

"This is the trail. Keep on in this direction."

Wondering what had taken Jack away so suddenly, Ned followed on until
he came to an open space where no trees were growing. He, however,
kept straight ahead, taking snapshots as he came to desirable scenes.

A hundred yards from the edge of the grove he came to a small round
stone sitting on top of a large one. Then he walked faster and with
more confidence. This, too, said:

"This is the trail! Keep on!"

It was now after noonday, and the sun poured fiercely down into the
valley between the great ridges. There were patches of forest here
and there, and now and then the boy came to a field which had been
planted to corn. Still, he came upon no human being. The two cabins
he saw seemed empty and deserted.

Weary and hungry as he was, Ned kept on, now reading the trail sign
from a tree, now from a stone, now from a bunch of grass tied at the
top, with the ends of the blades sticking straight up. He walked a
couple of miles without turning to the right or left, and then found
a new signal. The hole in the bole of the tree where the sign stood
was accompanied by a long cut in the bark of the left side.

This, as plainly as a voice from the thicket could have done, said:

"Turn to the left and keep on in that direction until you are further
instructed."

The turn to the left led Ned up the slope. So the field of action was
likely to be in the mountains again! The signs were closer together
now, and Ned followed them with faith that he was on the right track.

But who had made the trail? Was it Jimmie or Jack? Probably the
latter, Ned concluded, for Jimmie would not be likely to have had an
opportunity of so blazing his trail, while Jack was free to do so at
will.

But why had Jack gone away on the trail alone? Why had he not called
to him, Ned, in order that they might proceed together?

It was possible that the boy might be following some person whom he
suspected of the abduction, still that did not seem to be likely, as
any one tracking another in the broad light of day, in such a country
as that, over open places and rocky elevations, would be almost
certain to be discovered. Ned feared the boy was being led into a
trap.

Finally, almost at the edge of the timber, Ned came to a third sign.
There were three holes cut in the bark of a tree, facing the trail he
had followed, and on the right side was the familiar slit in the
bark.

"Turn to the right and be careful, for there may be danger ahead!"

That is what the talk on the tree said!

To the right lay a rim of trees, facing the bare face of the
mountain. Between the trees and the summit lay a long stretch of
rocky slope, in some places actually inaccessible to one not an
expert in mountain climbing.

Obeying the signal, Ned turned to the right and kept under the
shelter of the trees. It was very still there, save for the sharp
raspings of insects hiding in the foliage and the sleepy call of
birds in the sky and in the tops of the trees.

The boy made his way through the underbrush for some distance without
finding any sign. At a loss what course to pursue, he decided to do
nothing! So he sat down in a thicket and waited. And while he waited
he took snapshots!

His thought, sitting there in suspense, was that Jack might have
waited for him at some point on the trail! At best the boy could have
been only a half hour ahead of him. He waited an hour, until the sun
began to touch the tops of the distant western mountains, and then
climbed cautiously up a tree and looked about.

Then there came a rustling in the bushes farther to the south, and
the low, angry growl of a black bear came up to him! Ned began
sliding down the tree at once.

That was the call of the Black Bear Patrol! He knew now that Jack was
not far off. At the bottom of the tree he found the boy waiting for
him!

"Say, but I've had a long wait!" Jack complained.

 "Why didn't you signal before, then?" demanded Ned.

"Why, I thought you'd come right on, come on and meet me!"

"And you never knew I was here until I climbed the tree?"

"Of course not. How should I?"

"Well," Ned observed, "we'll know better next time. I presume I
should have made a sign myself--the call of the pack, for instance."

"Of course," Jack replied. "Now," he went on, "do you know what's
doing here?"

"I'm in quest of information," Ned grinned. "What have you found?"

"I've discovered that the Brady cabin is being watched!"

Ned couldn't understand that, and said so. Jack went on: "When I
stood in front of the house, two men came out of the canyon and
walked down to the tree belt and stopped. They stood there a long
time, talking, and then started off in this direction and I followed
them."

"Are they mountaineers?" asked Ned. "People of this section?"

"Certainly not! They are to all appearances city people, at least in
dress."

"You couldn't hear what they were saying?" asked Ned.

"No, but I could get some idea of their thoughts from their gestures.
One was kicking about something, and the other was trying to pacify
him."

"Well, where did they go? Where did you see them last?" asked Ned.

"They went up the slope, and disappeared behind that chimney of rock.
I've got pictures of that rock!"

"This looks like a three-cornered game!" Ned mused.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Jack. "Where are the three
interests?"

"We'll probably have to come back here tonight," Ned went on, without
answering the question. "We can never get up that slope in daylight
without attracting their attention."

"We must be at least four up-hill miles from camp," Jack calculated.

"All of that," answered Ned. "It is a long walk there and back."

"Then why not remain here?" asked Jack. "I'm hungry, but I'm more in
need of rest than food just now. We can lie here in the thicket until
night, and then creep up the slope and see what's doing."

"I was about to suggest that," Ned observed, "but I thought you'd be
ravenous for the sight of a camp dinner!"

"I have a hunch," Jack declared, after a time, "that Jimmie is
somewhere in this section! I don't know why, but when I saw those
men, strangers, evidently, walking so stealthily over the country I
got the hunch! Then I followed them, because I thought I might get a
clue to the boy's whereabouts by so doing."

"If the boy is here," Ned replied, grimly, "we'll find him!"

"Of course we'll find him! That's what we are here for!"

The boys thus encouraging each other crawled deeper into the thicket
and lay down. They were more than tired, worse than hungry, but they
never thought of sleep, or of leaving their post of observation. The
afternoon passed slowly, the boys taking snapshots now and then.

"The boys will be thinking we've been geezled!" Jack said. "I wish
they knew where to find us. There's no knowing what they will do,
they're so anxious about Jimmie. And if they scatter over the country
others may be captured."

"They usually show good sense in emergencies," Ned commented.

When the first tint of twilight came, the boys crept to the edge of
the thicket and sat looking out on the mountain. There was the broken
way to the summit, and there was the chimney rock behind which the
men had disappeared, but no human being was, for a long time im
sight.

Then a small figure came swinging down the slope, off to the north,
and presently came opposite to where the boys lay. Jack seized Ned by
the arm and pointed.

"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III?" he asked.

Ned got out his field glass and studied the face and figure until,
whistling some childish discord, the boy turned back and disappeared
in the direction of the cabin.

"What is that boy doing off here alone?" asked Jack, then.

"Keep watch of the chimney rock," Ned advised.

"But what do you think of it?" demanded Jack. "How did that boy get
up here?"

"If you see any one moving up there," Ned went on, provokingly, "let
me know."

"Oh, look here!" Jack insisted, half angrily, "what's the use of
shutting up like a clam? What is your idea about that boy? We've
never seen him before except in Bradley's company. Do you think he
ran away? Why can't we go and get him and hold him until Jimmie is
released?"

"So you think the men who have taken Jimmie are the men who are
conducting the abduction game?" asked Ned.

"Yes, don't you?"

"I have written the answer to that down in my little book," smiled
Ned, "and when the right time comes I'll show it to you."

"Well, if we are going to catch the boy we'll have to be moving."

"We are not going to catch the boy."

Jack threw himself down on the ground in disgust.

"You're the Secret Service man," he said, "and I presume you know
what you are about, but it looks to me as if you had been reading a
dream book, or something like that."

"Why should we catch the child?" asked Ned.

"To hold him! To be able to say to the outlaws that we hold the top
hand!"

"And trade the child for Jimmie, as you suggested?"

 "Why, of course!"

"That would make a failure of our mission, me son!"

"But it would save Jimmie's life."

It was now growing quite dark in the valley, especially where the
tree growth was heavy, but upon the slope objects might still be
clearly distinguished some distance away. While the boys watched the
child came out of the thicket to the north and began ascending the
mountain, walking with a light, springing step, as if out for
exercise after a long and tiresome confinement.

"Now keep your eye on the mountain," Ned requested.

In a moment a column of smoke arose from behind the chimney rock. The
boys watched it intently and the child with it, for he was now
approaching the rock.

"Cooking supper!" remarked Jack. "I wish they would pass it around!"

"Does it take two fires to cook supper up there?" asked Ned, with a
smile.

Jack half arose in his excitement, but Ned drew him down again.

"Jimmie's up there!" he whispered. "There's the Boy Scout call for
help!"




CHAPTER XV

A NIGHT ON THE SUMMIT


"Now," Ned said, as the signal columns died down, "we'll hike back to
camp with our pictures and get supper! How does that strike you?"

Jack turned toward Ned impatiently. There was not light enough for
his face to show clearly, but Ned knew how the boy was scowling!

"And go off and leave Jimmie here?" Jack said. "I'd like to know what
you're thinking of! Why have you changed your mind? I'm going to stay
here until it gets good and dark and then go up there."

"You may spoil all my plans if you attempt to reach him to-night,"
Ned replied, in a matter-of-fact tone. "On the way back I want to
stop at the cabin a moment."

"All right," Jack grumbled. "I suppose I'll have to go with you! When
are you thinking of rescuing Jimmie? After they send us one of his
hands?"

"Donft be sarcastic," laughed Ned. "You'll understand it all before
long."

Jack was not at all pleased with the idea of returning to camp, and
said so repeatedly as they walked along both keeping in the thicket
as far as possible, but Ned seemed to take no offense at his remarks.

"What I can't get through my head," Jack finally said, changing the
topic of conversation, "is why they let us travel through here
without nipping us."

"I have an idea," Ned answered, "that they are pretty busy just now."

"Well, what was the use of our going at all if we sneak away as soon
as we get where we might accomplish something?" demanded the boy,
reverting to the old subject.

"You did a good job in finding and following them," Ned replied,
ignoring the question, "and another good job in showing me the way.
We have accomplished more than you think! I'm anxious for the end to
come, so you'll know just how much you have accomplished! There is
the cabin light," he added.

The boys walked boldly up to the door and Ned knocked. Mrs. Brady
looked out with a welcoming smile on her faded face. She invited them
in and tried to appear pleased at their visit, but Ned saw that she
was under a great mental strain.

Judd Bradley sat by the hearth, with the child by his side. He smiled
when Ned nodded to him and pointed to a chair.

"Pardon my not arising," he said. "The fact is that I'm a bit leg-weary
to-night. This little chap ran away to-day, and I had a long chase
after him!"

"We were worried about him," Mrs. Brady added.

"Aw, what's the matter wid youse folks, anyway?" demanded the boy, in
a strident tone. "I didn't promise to sit in a chair an' play wid a
cat all day!"

"I've had quite a busy day myself," Ned observed, "for one of the
boys has been abducted by the counterfeiters, as I suppose, and we've
been looking for him."

"Have you found him?" asked the old lady, anxiously.

"No," was the reply. "He must be securely hidden."

"The poor little fellow!"

Ned glanced casually at Bradley and saw that he was all interest.

"It seems," he went on, "that the counterfeiters blame us for what
took place last night, and want us to leave the district. If we do
they will send the boy out to us unharmed, at least that is what they
promise."

"I don't see how they can blame you for the trouble of last night,"
Bradley said, and Ned caught a tone of irony in his voice.

"That's what I can't see," Ned went on, "but it seems that they do."

"And so they have ordered you out of the hills?" asked Bradley.
"That's too bad, just as we were getting well acquainted. But, then,
you don't have to go!"

"I think we'll go," Ned replied. "There are other localities where we
can take pictures, and we can't afford to take any chances on the boy
being injured."

"Sorry to have you go," Bradley remarked, "but that may be the wisest
course."

"We think so," Ned replied. "Anyway, we're going day after to-morrow,
in time to meet Jimmie at Cumberland. I think we can get packed up
and out by that time."

"Shall we see you again before you go?" asked the old lady,
anxiously.

"Oh, I presume so. I am going now to leave a note in the cave, saying
that we are going out, and then on to camp."

When the boys stepped outside the cabin the old lady followed as far
as the threshold standing with her gray head outside.

"I'm sorry," she said. "If there is anything I can do--"

Jack stood a couple of yards away, whistling shrilly. At a word from
Ned the old lady stepped out into the open air, half closing the door
after her. From the inside came the heavy tread of Bradley
approaching the door.

But before the visitor gained the threshold Ned and Mrs. Bradley had
exchanged half a dozen short sentences, and when Bradley looked out
she was saying.

"I shall look for you if you ever come this way again."

"I'll surely be back, some bright day!" laughed Ned, and the two boys
walked on.

"Well," Jack said, as they left the cabin behind, "of all the fire-
proof, enthusiastic, gilt-edged, slicky-slick members of the Ananias
club I ever heard mentioned, you certainly take the bakery! What did
you go and tell Bradley we were going out for?"

"Because," Ned answered, "we are going out."

"Not by day after to-morrow?"

"I hope so! We ought to get ready by that time!"

"I don't ask any more questions!" grumbled Jack. "I don't know hot
from cold! I'm deaf and dumb and blind from this minute on. Uncle Ike
has a classical education in comparison with what I know. Go to it,
Neddie, boy!"

They stopped at the cave and Ned wrote a note to the effect that they
were going out inside the limit set, placed it in a conspicuous place
on the shelf with the dies, and then the two boys set out for camp.
It was a long, hard climb, but they made it before the boys were in
their bunks.

"You're a nice party!" Frank exclaimed, as Ned came up. "We thought
you had been pinched! There's plenty of hot supper in the oven for
you, but you don't deserve a thing! Square yourself!"

"Don't ask him a single question!" grumbled Jack. "He won't tell you
a thing! We've been within sight of a signal from Jimmie this
afternoon, and we've had a chance to tell the outlaws where they can
go, but he's muffed every play! I'm going to eat and go to bed!"

Jack really was out of temper, so no objections were made to his
going to his bunk as soon as he had finished supper! Ned laughed
goodnaturedly at the boy's remarks and thought no more about them.

Frank came and sat down by Ned while the latter was eating a hearty
supper.

"The worry doesn't seem to affect your appetite!" the boy laughed.
"Have you solved the riddle, that you are so calm through it all? If
you have, just tell me this:

"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?"

"I've written the answer to that in my little red book," laughed Ned.

Frank eyed the other with a grin, but made no reply for a time, then
he merely said:

"You are up to your old tricks! Well, what is on for to-night?"

"Why," Ned answered, "if you would like a stroll by moonlight, I
think we might get a good view of the south country from the top of
the mountain."

"I don't know what you're up to," Frank answered, springing to his
feet, "but I'm game for anything. I've been eating my heart out all
day."

"What about the prints?" asked Ned.

"They are remarkably good," Frank replied, "but there are no special
features. In one picture, taken down in the canyon, there is a face
that we did not see, though."

"What sort of a face?"

"A strange one to me. But I'll show them all to you in the morning.
When are you going out for that stroll in the moonlight?"

"In two hours. That will be about midnight. Between now and that time
I'm going to get a little sleep. Wake me at twelve, will you--and, by
the way, say nothing to the others about it. They'll all want to go!
We can notify whoever is on watch when we get ready to start."

Ned hastened to his bunk and lay down. Five minutes later, when Frank
looked in, he was studying a French dictionary by the light of his
electric candle. Ten minutes later he was sound asleep. At twelve the
boys were ready to start, and Teddy, who was on watch, was warned to
keep wide awake and listen for noises from the south.

"If you hear shooting," Ned said, "two of you jump on Uncle Ike and
charge along the summit to the south. Make all the noise you can!
Don't go down the slope, but keep to the summit."

"Now where?" asked Frank, as they walked over the rocks and wound
around jutting crags. "If you'll give me time I'll take some
moonlight pictures for Dad's newspapers. He must be expecting some by
this time!"

"Poor old Dad!" laughed Ned. "By this time he must have given up
sitting around the New York postoffice, waiting for your pictures to
come!"

"I'm going to send him some on this trip, sure!" declared the boy.
"He deserves them, you know, and his newspaper needs them! Besides,
we are planning another Boy Scout trip, and I shall want a whole lot
of money!"

"I see!" cried Ned. "You are casting an anchor to windward!"

"In other words," grinned Frank, "I'm laying the foundation for
another appropriation! I'm going to send on some of the pictures of
the counterfeiters' den!"

The summit of the ridge was by no means a level pathway. There were
peaks, canyons, gulleys and twistings to east and west which caused
the boys to travel two miles or more for every mile they advanced
toward the point where the two men Jack had followed had taken
refuge.

It was about two o'clock in the morning when they came in sight of
the chimney rock which Ned had noted on the trip of the afternoon. It
rose from the west slope of the mountain like a tower, tall, bulky,
forbidding.

Looking down upon it from the east, Ned saw that there was a small
canyon in between it and the slope, much the same as the formation
near the cave of the counterfeiters. It was evident that the rock had
been cast down from the summit, and had caught there--on a projecting
ridge of stone.

"Looks like a fortress!" Frank whispered as the rock sparkled in the
light of the moon. "Notice the campfire in the canyon?" "There were
two there this afternoon," Ned said, "and we thought one of them was
there simply to make the second column--the Boy Scout call for
assistance."

"If Jimmie isn't tied up hand and foot," Frank suggested, "if he is
allowed to move about, under guard, and help in the cooking, he could
easily build two fires, and the outlaws wouldn't know what he was up
to. That is how Dode came to signal to us, you remember. The
counterfeiters never suspected that he was making Indian talk!"

"I think it was Jimmie," Ned declared. "He would find some way to
make the signal, if he wasn't tied hard and fast! Anyway," the boy
added, "I'm going down the slope right now to see if he is there!"




CHAPTER XVI

THE CALL OF THE PACK


Ned and Frank stood in the shadow behind a protecting rock and peered
down into the moonlit canyon for a long time. At first there was no
one in sight below, but presently a man came out by the fire, which
was burning low now.

It appeared to the boys that he must have crawled out from under the
chimney rock itself! He appeared so suddenly that they knew that, at
least, there must be an underground hiding place in which he had been
concealed when they had first come in view of the canyon and the
rock.

The man mended the fire, gathering up the ends of the logs and limbs
which had burned through in the middle and placing them back on the
coals. Then he opened a box which he had brought from some out-of-
sight place and took out canned food and cooking utensils. He was
evidently going to get an early breakfast.

Presently a second man joined the first arrival, and they sat down by
the fire to wait for water in a great pot to boil. At least, the boys
supposed that they were waiting for it to boil.

"I'd like to know what they are talking about," Frank said. "I'm
going to see if I can get close enough to them to find out."

"I was just thinking of that myself," Ned responded, "so we may as
well be on our way. Keep your gun handy, but don't shoot unless one
of them seizes you."

"I'll take good care they don't get hold of me," Frank answered.
"Say," he went on, "if Jimmie is there, he must be in some hole under
that rock--the one they came out of! If they turn away, I may be able
to get in there and see."

"Wait until there is little danger of detection," Ned advised. "We
don't know how many men there are in the party, remember."

The boys walked softly back to the north, keeping ridges and
outcropping rocks between the canyon and themselves, and then crept
softly down the slope so as to come out at the north end of the
little cut. The men they were watching were frying bacon and boiling
coffee now, and appeared to be thoroughly occupied with their tasks.

In a few moments both boys were within hearing, distance. The men
were not talking much, however. In fact, they both seemed to be
harboring a grouch, from the infrequent low, grumbling complaints
which the boys overheard.

"I'm through with the bunch after this!" one of the men said. "I'm
not going to do all the work and let some one else draw all the
money."

"It is time we got out of here anyway," the other said. "Those fresh
boys were around here this afternoon."

"Why didn't you plug them if you knew they were here?" demanded the
other.

Frank nudged Ned in the side with his fist.

"Cheerful sort of people!" he said. "I'm looking to see something
start soon."

"I didn't know at the time that they were here!" the man replied,
with a snarl. "I'm no Indian sleuth. After they left I started
through the grove and found their tracks. Good thing for them that I
saw their tracks instead of their heads!"

"Well," the other grunted, "if we are agreed that it is time for us
to get out, why don't we get out? I'm not going to take all the
chances! Why don't the others come? They won't come, and that's all
there is to it. They're waiting for us to do the job! Then they'll
claim the pay."

By this time the bacon was crisp and the coffee was simmering
fragrantly in the pot and the two men fell to with an appetite. Frank
watched them eat with an appetite of his own, rubbing his stomach and
trying to show how near the point of starvation he was, although it
had been only a short time since he had eaten a hearty meal!

"They don't trust us!" one of the men muttered, at length.

"We haven't got a thing on them, if they see fit to welch on us," the
other admitted.

"But if we obey orders, they will have so much on us that we won't
dare say a word, even if they make us walk back and buy our own meals
on the way!"

"Is it agreed, then, that we're going to cut it?" asked one. "If it
is, we may as well go now as at any future time."

"All right."

"Now?" asked the other.

"Why not? It will soon be daylight."

"Good idea, for we can't be seen trailing that kid along with us in
the broad light of day," was suggested. "Let's move right now!"

"Now," whispered Frank, "do they mean Jimmie, when they speak of the
kid, or some one else? And if they are speaking of some one else,
here's a question: Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?"

"It seems to me," Ned whispered back, "that I've heard something like
that before."

"Well, get the kid out and feed him!" one of the men commanded.
"We've got to keep him with us until we get pay for what we have
already done."

"Now we'll know!" Frank suggested, as one of the men turned toward
the rock. "If it is Jimmie we'll soon know it. What?"

They were not long kept in doubt. Jimmie shot out of a hole under the
rock like an arrow in full flight and squatted down by the fire.
Frank snickered when he saw the boy, and turned hastily away toward a
ledge which showed back to the north.

While Ned was wondering what the boy was up to, the long, vicious
whine of a wolf reached his ears. The call died away slowly, and was
followed by silence, then by the snarling call of the pack!

The men by the fire started to their feet and seized their revolvers.
Jimmie jumped away from the blaze and held up his hands, bound
tightly together.

"Cut me loose!" he cried. "Are you going to let the wolf come and eat
me?"

"There are no wolves in these mountains," declared one of the men.
"That was a signal of some kind!"

"I've seen wolves since we came in here," Jimmie declared, telling
the exact truth, at that, only the wolves he referred to belonged to
the Wolf Patrol, Boy Scouts of America! "They're fierce wolves, too!"
he added.

Frank crawled back to Ned's side and lay laughing at the commotion
the signal had caused in the little camp. The men hastened their
packing, and one of them who had been about to give Jimmie his
breakfast snatched the bread and bacon away and put them in a pack he
was making up.

"Here!" the boy shouted. "You give me the eats! Think I'm going to
travel over these mountains with me tummy abusing me for not doing
the right thing by it?"

"You're lucky to have any tummy!" snarled one of the men.

"Aw, give the kid his breakfast!" commanded the other.

The men quarreled and growled at each other while the packing was
going on, and Jimmie sat looking around for some sign of the Boy
Scout who had given the signal. In half an hour they were ready, and
then Jimmie was ordered to move on.

"If you try to run away," he was informed, "you'll be chased by a
bullet. We have no time to fool with you! Just keep a pace or two in
advance, and march straight ahead and you'll have no trouble. Get
along, now!"

"But where's the prince?" asked Frank. "I thought we were going to
find the royal prince here!"

"The prince of what?" asked Ned. "The prince of the slums or the
prince of a little patch of ground over the sea?"

"Blessed if I know," Frank commented. "See me throw a scare into
those bums!"

The men stopped still in their tracks when the ugly snarl of a bear
came to them out of the darkness. Frank did himself proud in the
manner in which he put out the bear talk. The men were surely
frightened.

"Now there's a bear!" wailed Jimmie, although Ned thought he caught a
note of fun in his voice. "Don't you know these hills are full of
bears? We saw some at our camp last night," he added, "eating bread
and honey!"

"Bear nothing!" shouted one of the men. "There ain't a bear within a
hundred miles of this place! This is some trick!"

Again the fierce, angry snarl of the bear! Ned caught Frank by the
arm to keep him quiet, but the boy finished the bear talk he had
begun.

Then Jimmie hastened matters by breaking away and running toward the
rock from which the sound had proceeded. Both men took after him, but
a shot from Frank's gun caused them to halt. They stood still for an
instant, their figures tense and tall, and then turned and ran,
almost tumbling over each other in their fright!

They did not stop at slight declivities. They leaped gulleys and
almost fell into canyons which split the summits. In vain Ned called
to them to halt, that they would not be injured. They ran like race
horses, and were soon out of sight. Frank and Jimmie were rolling on
the ground in their delight.

Ned looked grave and annoyed. Without speaking he looked over the
camp where the men had cooked the breakfast and then returned to the
boys.

"I am sorry for that," he said, mildly. "I wanted to put those men
through the third degree! We should have held them up and put on the
handcuffs."

"You didn't say so!" observed Frank sheepishly.

"No use to talk about it now," Ned declared. "Perhaps Jimmie knows
what we expected to learn from them."

"All I know is that the bums got me at the cave and tied me up,"
Jimmie said.

"How many men have you seen in the party?" asked Ned.
 "Just those two. They were always talking about some one else coming
in, but I never saw any one else."

"What did they talk about?" asked Ned.

"They were trying, most of the time, to make me admit that the Camera
Club was a secret service organization," laughed the lad. "Of course
I denied it!"

"What did they say about a child?"

"Not one word! I kept my ears open for that kind of talk!"

"Did they have a boy with them at any one time?" asked Ned.

"This afternoon, or yesterday afternoon, rather, I saw a kid moving
about on the slope. I was cooking, and built two fires so as to make
a signal. Did you see it?"

"Yes, we saw it," answered Ned, "but did not reply to it for the
reason that we feared discovery. We wanted to come here in the night
and release you and capture the two outlaws! But what sort of a child
was it that you saw?"

"Why, it was the kid from the cabin. Say, Ned," he added, with a wink
at Frank, "is that the prince, or is it Mike III.?"

"Cut it out!" roared Frank. "We've heard enough of that."

Ned laid a hand on the shoulder of each boy.

"That shot attracted attention," he whispered, "or the runaways are
coming back. I hear some one tramping over rock, and a moment ago I
caught the gleam of a gun barrel."

"Then it's me for a hole to crawl into!" whispered Jimmie. "I've had
troubles of my own for the past few hours! Say, but I'm hungry,
boys."

The boys left their place of retreat just as a couple of bullets
spattered on rock.




CHAPTER XVII

JUST A LITTLE DARK WASH


More shots were fired, but the boys were soon out of range. A flush
of pink was showing in the sky now, and the sun would be up in half
an hour. Jimmie looked longingly toward the camp, and Ned turned his
footsteps that way.

"Speaking of quitters," Jimmie said, as they moved along, "the two
men who geezled me take the bun! They quarreled all the time because
some one else didn't come and do something they wanted done! No
wonder they ducked when one shot was fired!"

"About the boy you saw yesterday afternoon," Ned asked. "Are you sure
it was the lad who was brought to our camp?"

"Of course it was!"

"Dressed just the same?"

"Just exactly."

"Why didn't you take a picture of him?" asked Frank.

"Huh, don't you ever think I didn't," was the reply. "I've got it in
my camera now. When we get to camp I'll develop it and print some.
I've got pictures of the men, too, and about everything around the
hole in the ground where they hid me."

"That is as it should be!" Ned declared. "But how did you do it!"

"They are easy!" was all the reply Jimmie made.

A quarter of a mile away from the chimney rock Ned paused and looked
back.

"I can't understand where those men went to," he said.

"My friends do you mean?" asked Jimmie with a grin. "They're going on
a hop yet."

"No; the men who did the shooting," said Ned.

"Well," Jimmie went on, in a minute, "there is a place somewhere near
the rock where some friends of the men who ran are camping. I heard
them talking together."

"You little rascal!" Ned exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me that
before?"

"Oh, you won't find them there now!" Jimmie advised. "I'll bet they
ducked when we got away. They won't remain around here now."

"Are they counterfeiters?" asked Frank.

"They're bums from the city, brought here in connection with the
abduction of the prince!" laughed Jimmie.

"How did you manage to cook and take pictures when you were tied up
like a fish for shipment?" asked Frank.

"They didn't tie me up for a time, for I gave them a lot of talk
about liking their society," was the answer. "They just watched me.
When it came night and they wanted to sleep, they put the harness
on!"

"That was careless of them," declared Frank, "not to tie you up
tight."

"They're just cheap bums," Jimmie insisted. "They couldn't kidnap a
bird in a cage."

The sun was up when the boys reached the
 camp, and Teddy was getting breakfast.

The arrival of Jimmie was hailed with manifestations of joy, as may
well be supposed. The boys clustered around him excitedly, and even
Uncle Ike, from the corral, sent forth a he-haw greeting. The
breakfast Teddy prepared for him was a wonder!

The meal was scarcely finished when Bradley came sauntering into the
camp. He stopped suddenly when he saw Jimmie. Watching him closely,
Ned saw that he was dismayed as well as astonished. However, he soon
came forward with a set smile on his face and took the boy by the
hand.

"You're lucky," he said, "to get out of the clutches of the
counterfeiters so soon. I was afraid something serious might have
happened to you. How did you do it?"

"Ned came after me," was the only reply the boy made.

"We've decided to go away," Ned explained, "and so they gave him up,
after a short argument."

"With a gun!" whispered Jimmie to the others.

Bradley loitered about the camp for a long time, asking questions and
talking of a great many things which did not interest the lads at
all.

"And so you are going out to-morrow?" he asked, arising to go.

"We expect to," Ned replied soberly.

"Perhaps I'll meet you outside somewhere," Bradley laughed.

"I hope so!" Ned replied, whispering an aside to Frank.

Frank walked away toward the tent, and directly, while Bradley's face
was in clear outline, Ned heard the click of a shutter and knew that
the snapshot had been made.

When Bradley at last started away Ned called the boys together and
asked them if it wouldn't be a good idea for them to take a prisoner--
just to equalize things!"

"Bradley?" asked Frank and Jimmie in chorus.

"That's the man" laughed Ned. "Do you think you could head him off
and hide him in some out-of-the way hole in the ground?"

"What for?" demanded Jack. "I don't see what you want to do that
for."

"Just for the fun of it!" Jimmie exclaimed. "I'll guard him after he
is taken!" he added, with an appealing look at Ned.

"Well," Ned went on, nodding at Jimmie, "I have an idea that if two
of you work down the slope and come out ahead of him you can coax him
to throw up his hands easily enough."

"Then, after that, if you leave it to me," Jack continued, "you'll go
down to the cabin and get the prince and start away with him!"

"You're sure it is the prince?" asked Ned.

"Of course! I should think any one with sense could see that. Just
see how suspiciously the kid is watched! Of course, if you want to
take the abductor along too, why that will be all right, but I'd get
the prince first!"

"That's good advice," Ned declared, seeking to conciliate the boy,
"and I'll go down to the cabin now and look after that end of the
game!"

"If things work this way," laughed Oliver, "I guess we _will_ get
away to-morrow!"

"Why don't you let me go with the boys and help capture that stiff?"
asked Jack, speaking to Ned. "He may be armed and perfectly willing
to shoot."

"We have messed things up a bit here," Ned answered, "so whatever we
do must be done at once. I have another little errand to do while
they capture Bradley!"

"Oh, we'll get him, all right!" Frank insisted.

"You bet we will!" Jimmie added. "I'll tie him up tight, too! He
won't take no pictures while he is my prisoner."

"Perhaps he won't have a baby camera hidden under his coat! laughed
Frank.

"What are you going to say to him, boys, when you take him?" asked
Teddy.

"We ain't going to say anything," Jimmie answered, "We're just going
to get him!"

"Be careful, boys," was all Ned said as Frank and Jimmie left on
their dangerous mission. "Be careful!"

After they had disappeared up the slope Ned turned to Jack.

"You saw one act of the play yesterday," he said to him. "Suppose you
come with me now and see another act."

Jack came forward with outstretched hand and downcast face.

"Say, Ned," he said, "I'm sore at myself!"

"What's that for?" Ned asked, shaking the hand heartily and lifting
the boy's face by taking him by the chin. "Why are you sore at
yourself?"

"Because I acted like a dunce when we left chimney rock without
signaling to Jimmie," was the reply, "and because I grumbled like a
bear with a sore head when you suggested that Bradley be captured."

"You had a perfect right to express your opinion, my boy," Ned said.

"Yes, but I might have known that you knew what you were about. To be
honest, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw you bringing Jimmie
back."

"The least demonstration on our part at that time," Ned said, then,
"might have caused the men who were guarding Jimmie to shift their
quarters. Besides, I wanted Bradley in the toils before I made the
final break."

"But he wasn't when you released Jimmie," Jack suggested.

"He will be before the final card is laid down," Ned replied. "But
come," he went on, "we must be moving if we get to the cottage before
the trouble begins."

"I'm all in the dark," Jack said, "but I'm willing to take your
judgment now."

Ned and Jack hastened away, traveling down the slope to the west and
south so as to get to the cottage in the quickest possible time. When
they came in sight of the structure they saw Mary Brady sitting in
the doorway, her head bent forward, her face buried in the palms of
her hands.

She arose at the sound of their footsteps and advanced with
outstretched hands to meet them. There were tears on her face and her
manner was excited.

"You came too late!" she cried, wringing Ned's hand. "They have taken
him away."

"When?" asked Ned, leading the old lady into the cabin.

"Oh, I don't know when! Sometime in the night. I awoke and saw that
the bed was empty and called to Bradley. He arose and has been
looking for him ever since."

"He was just up at our camp--looking!" Ned said, with a wink at Jack.

The old lady now went to a cupboard and brought forth a glass in
which a dark fluid rested. A small black brush stood against the side
of the vessel.

"I found this for you, as you asked," she said.

Ned examined the contents of the glass and made a mark on a white
paper with the brush. The color transmitted to the paper was a light
brown, not black.

"You washed the boy, as I asked you to?" Ned then enquired.

"I tried to," was the reply, "but Bradley said he would take him out
and give him a swim in the run down in the valley. He wouldn't let me
touch him."

"Well, what did the pillow case show this morning?"

The old lady pointed to the white paper.

"It was stained like that," she said.

During this talk Jack had been standing looking from Ned to the old
lady with all shades of expression on his face. Now he spoke.

"Say, Ned," he almost gasped, "what is the meaning of all this?"

"Wait a minute!" Ned said, facing the old lady again. "And you
listened to their talk when they sat together last night?"

"Indeed I did, sir, and its the first time I ever played the spy!"

"What was Bradley saying to him?" asked Ned, then.

"He was saying French words over and over for him to repeat!"

Jack dropped into a chair and looked helplessly at his chum.

"Foolish little French phrases, like one finds at the back of any
dictionary?" asked Ned. "He was repeating them so that the boy could
say them after him?"

"Yes, sir, that is just it."

"Now, Jack, what about your prince of the royal blood?" asked Ned.

"I gather from what I hear that he was painted," said Jack, with a
shamed look in his eyes. "Painted!"

"Sure he was!" cried the woman. "Painted and taught foolish little
French words to say! But he is Mike's boy! I know that!"

"This is like the Arabian Nights!" Jack cried.

"Worse!" Ned declared, "for all my plans have gone wrong with the
disappearance of the boy."




CHAPTER XVIII

BRADLEY BECOMES INDIGNANT


Frank and Jimmie hastened down the slope to the west, after toiling
up and crossing the broken summit, and soon caught sight of the man
they had been instructed to take prisoner. Bradley was walking
swiftly, his haste not at all matching the leisurely air he had
affected at the camp.

"How do you feel now?" asked Jimmie, wrinkling his nose at Frank.
"How does it seem to be a bold, bad gunman?"

"I think it is a little shivery," Frank answered. "When I get back to
New York," he went on, "I'm going to write a story for Dad's
newspaper entitled: 'Desperate Desmonds I have Shot Up in the Hills.'
That title ought to make a hit on the East Side, south of First
street!"

"I feel like a second-story man, and a gopher-worker, and a train-
robber, and a confidence operative all rolled into one!" Jimmie
admitted. "This holding people up is new exercise for us! Say, will
you agree to let me push the gun into his face?"

"We'll both have guns, you little highway-man!" Frank replied. "You
needn't think I'm going to look on and miss all the fun!"

"Then you let me tie him up!" coaxed Jimmie. "I won't tie him very
tight, just so he can't breathe, and so his blood won't circulate!"
"You're the fierce little bandit!" declared Frank.

"Well, the gang he belongs to tied me up!" complained the boy. "I'm
going to get even on this geek! We can walk right down on him at any
time now. He'll never suspect that we're pirates."

"First," Frank observed, "I'd like to know where he is going so
fast."

"He may go so fast that he'll get to friends before we harness him!"
warned Jimmie. "Then we couldn't get him at all, but might, instead,
get geezled ourselves."

"There seems to be a little sense left in that head of yours," Frank
laughed, "even if your friends do think it is solid bone! So we'd
better skip along and take him under our protection before we have an
army to fight. Say, but won't he take a tumble to himself when he
finds himself stuck up by two boys?"

Not withstanding their half-humorous talk concerning what they were
about to do, the boys both realized that they were facing a serious
situation. They had every confidence in Ned's judgment, still they
had no knowledge of Bradley which seemed to them to warrant the bold
step they were about to take.

Jimmie was under the impression that Bradley belonged to the coterie
which had taken him prisoner, but he had no proof of it. Bradley had
been, apparently, accepted by Mrs. Mary Brady, and that seemed a good
recommend for him. Still, there were the instructions, and they were
resolved to carry them out. Neither expressed to the other his secret
thought on the subject.

"Where are we going to hide him, after we take him?" asked Jimmie,
after a time, during which the lads had managed by hard work to
decrease the distance between themselves and Bradley. "How about the
old counterfeiters' den?"

"That's the first place his friends will look for him! No, sir, we've
got to find a little retreat of our own, and one of us must guard
him. Do you know how long Ned wants to keep him?" asked Frank.

"Don't know a thing about it," was the reply. "I don't even know why
he wants him captured, or what proof he has against him."

The boys were now not far away from Bradley, and, hearing the rattle
of broken rock behind him, he turned and looked back at the boys, who
were swinging along with their hands in their pockets. He waited for
them to come up.

"Taking a little walk, eh?" he questioned, as the boys came to the
level space on the mountainside where he had paused.

Bradley seemed to be entirely unconscious of danger, for he turned
his back to the boys presently, after a few short sentences had
passed between them, and moved forward, as if to continue his way
down the slope.

"Just a minute!" Frank said, sharply, and he faced them.

Two automatic revolvers were within a foot of his head, and the eyes
of the boys back of them declared that the situation was not the
result of a joke.

"Hold out your hands!" Jimmie ordered. "We want to see if you're
toting any smoke-wagons! Push 'em out, Mister!"

Bradley did not hesitate a second. His hands went out like a flash.
There was a smile on his lips as Jimmie removed his revolver, but his
jaw was threatening.

"And so you are just common thieves?" he said.

"Aw, quit it!" Jimmie answered. "We're taking care of you so you
won't fall over a precipice and hurt yourself."

"You'll find very little money on me," Bradley went on. "I've sent in
to the city for a couple of hundred. You ought to have waited a few
days."

"We don't want your money," Frank cut in, "all we want is the benefit
of your society for a time."

Bradley flushed angrily when Jimmie adroitly snapped a pair of
handcuffs on his outstretched wrists, but he made no protest.

"Now you can put down your hands," Jimmie announced. "They'll get
stiff if you hold 'em out too long. Now, sit down and pick out your
hotel. You may have a room in most any section of this district.
Immaterial to us where we put you!"

"What does it mean?" demanded Bradley. "I presume you boys know what
you are doing. There's law in this state, as wild as this country
looks to be. You'll get years behind prison bars for this."

"Before I forget it," Jimmie asked, with a wink at Frank, "I want you
to tell me something. Will you?"

"That depends. What is it you want to know?"

"This: Is the boy down at the cabin the prince, or is he Mike III?"

The eyes of both boys were fixed keenly on Bradley's face as the
question was put. So far as they could see, it did not change a
particle in color or expression.

"That's a queer question for you to ask," he said. "You'd better
asked Mrs. Brady whether it is her grandson or not! And I don't know
what you mean, talking about a prince. I haven't seen any prince
about here--except the prince of the son of thieves!"

"So you won't tell, eh?" asked Frank.

"The boy I brought in is Michael Brady, son of the son of Mrs.
Brady."

Sitting on the level space half way down to the outcropping ledge
which held the workroom of the counterfeiters, Bradley looked
anxiously in the direction of the canyon.

Jimmie noted the look and took out his field glass. People were
moving about in the canyon, and down in the valley to the south,
where the cabin stood, something out of the ordinary seemed to be
going on.

"You are expecting friends?" asked Frank.

"They are liable to come any minute," was the cool reply.

"Then we'd better be going," Jimmie cut in. "There are men in the
canyon, and in the valley, and they may be coming up here to find out
why you don't meet them, as per agreement! Are they good waiters? If
they are, you may find them still in the valley after you've served a
couple of terms in a Federal prison!"

"Be careful what you say," warned Bradley. "I'm in your power now,
but there'll come a time when I won't be. Remember that!"

Jimmie's glass showed him that the men below were starting up the
slope.

"We'll go back toward camp," he said to Frank. "I guess the fellows
down there are watching us through glasses. If you don't mind," he
added, turning to Bradley with a provoking laugh, "we'll stow you
away in a hole in the rocks somewhere until they get tired of looking
for you!"

"Go as far as you like!" was the reply.

Frank and Jimmie stepped aside and conversed together in low tones,
trying to make up their minds what to do with the prisoner. It had
taken little trouble to capture him, but it seemed to them that it
would be no easy matter to hold him.

"There's a cute little dip in the summit not far from the camp,"
Frank said, at length. "A boulder tumbled out of the slope, and
there's a cave big enough to hide three in, only there is a part of
it which has no roof."

"Don't mind that!" Bradley said, in a sarcastic tone. "We won't have
a long residence in any place you select now."

"The summit is spotted with queer little openings where soft rock has
been washed out," Frank said, "and we can locate not far from the
camp if we want to."

"I suppose you boys are doing this under the orders of this Nestor
boy?" asked Bradley. "When you get to him, kindly ask him to call on
me. I want to know what all this means."

"Let's see, what was it you said about the child you brought in with
you?" asked Jimmie, wrinkling his freckled nose until it did not seem
possible to ever get it out straight again, "what was it you said his
name was? Was it Prince Abductable or Mike the Third?"

Bradley scowled but said nothing. The boys now set off up the slope
with their prisoner. Now and then they turned to look into the canyon
and the valley below.

The men they had observed in the canyon were slowly ascending. There
were four of them, and it seemed to the boys that they were examining
every foot of the ground they covered. Bradley looked downward, too,
and a smile came to his face as he did so. It was plain that he
expected help from that quarter.

The boys walked as swiftly as possible, and soon came to the summit,
where a view of the camp was had. The corral where the mules were
feeding was also in sight, farther down, and Teddy was seen making
friends with Uncle Ike.

The camp looked so quiet and deserted that Jimmie took out his field
glass again and looked closely. The flap of the tent was up, and the
boy could see for some distance into the interior.

Trunks and boxes were open, their contents scattered about the floor.
A figure lay still on the floor, as if asleep. Jimmie could not see
the face, but from the size and expression of the shoulders he
imagined it to be Dode.

Oliver was not to be seen. Then, while the boy watched, with a
premonition of approaching evil in his mind, he saw two men move out
into the center of the tent. They were looking through handfuls of
papers, or pictures, or something similar. Jimmie could not determine
at that distance just what they were carrying.

"Look here, Frank," the boy said, "just take a look at the tent."

Not a word to arouse the interest of the prisoner was said. Frank
looked and handed the glass back to his chum. Jimmie knew what his
chum feared as well as if he had put that fear into words. Bradley
was smiling calmly.

"They have raided the tent!" Jimmie whispered, and Frank nodded.

"And they are destroying our plates and prints," Jimmie went on, "and
so we'd better be getting down there to see about it."




CHAPTER XIX

NED PLAYS THE MIND-READER


Jack stood in the little cabin in the valley and looked Ned
expectantly in the face.

"Tell me," he finally said, "tell me why they painted this boy?"

"To get us off the trail of the prince," replied Ned.

"But it seems that they failed," suggested Jack. "You know?"

"I suspected from the very first," Ned answered. "Yesterday afternoon
I knew."

"Well, it may be all right," Jack muttered, "or the man who brought
him here may need a new wire on his trolley, but I can't see why they
should bring this counterfeit prince here at all."

"They knew that we were coming here," Ned explained, resolved to give
his chum a full understanding of the situation. "They knew we were
coming here in quest of the prince. How they knew I can't make out,
but they knew."

"They might have heard more than we supposed from the attic over the
clubroom," Jack suggested.

"If the story of the maid and the coachman is straight," Ned
continued, "they heard little that night. But they knew! They might
have bribed some of the servants. I don't know. They might have been
in that room before that evening.

"At any rate, when the Boy Scout Camera Club started for West
Virginia by way of Washington the friends of the abductors knew what
was going on. Now, it is my opinion that the prince had been headed
for the mountains before the conspirators became aware of our
connection with the case."

"I begin to see daylight!" Jack cried.

"Well, the prince being on his way to the hills and we having a good
idea as to the locality of his place of hiding, the conspirators
conceived the idea of giving us a false little prince to play with!"

"They're no fools!" Jack exclaimed. "No fools at all!"

"Now," Ned went on, "some of the conspirators knew Mrs. Brady's son
in Washington. They knew of his many promises to his mother to return
to the mountains. They knew of his recent promise to her to come home
and bring the boy with him. They were doubtless very intimate with
Mike Brady, Senior, for they knew all the little details of the life
his mother was living.

"So they got him to permit them to bring the boy to his grandmother.
They knew he would be looking for a prince in the hills, and so they
gave us a false one to engage our attention! Rather clever, that,
Jack."

The old lady was now regarding Ned with eyes which expressed awe as
well as wonder.

"How did you find it all out?" she asked. "How do you know what took
place in the minds of those wicked men?"

"After they took possession of the boy they began bribing him to play
the part he has played here so imperfectly. They taught him cheap
little French phrases from the dictionary, and touched up his already
dusky complexion so as to make him look darker than ever. Yesterday I
saw Bradley at work on his face with a brush!"

"And the lad played his part!" the grandmother declared. "I don't
know how Bradley led him along, but the boy was willing to do as he
was told. I never saw such a wild little chap so thoroughly subdued
before. He wouldn't even tell me the truth when I took him in my old
arms last night and talked to him."

"But he evidently told Bradley what you said to him," Ned continued,
"for he got the child away in the night. Then he came to camp this
morning to see if he could find out how much I knew. He's probably
tied up by this time!"

"You have had him arrested," asked the old lady. "Then he'll never
tell where the boy has been hidden, and he'll die of starvation--die
almost within sound of my voice."

"We'll find him," Ned answered, grimly. "We can make Bradley talk, I
imagine."

"And while this has been going on," Jack said, "the true prince, the
boy we came here to find, has doubtless been carried to some other
part of the country?"

"I don't believe it!" Ned replied. "The conspirators would naturally
expect us to shift our search for him back to Washington, or Chicago,
or New York, wouldn't they? As soon as we discovered that this boy
was not the person we sought, they would expect us to leave the hills
at once, wouldn't they? Well, if they anticipated such a move on our
part, what is more natural than that they should take advantage of
this alleged idea on our part and leave the prince right here?"

"That is just what they would do!" cried Jack. "That is just what
they have done. I wondered why you told Bradley we were going out! I
had no idea that you knew so much about the case."

"Bradley knew that I knew the boy to be an imposter," Ned went on.
"He intended we should make the discovery in time--after he had
watched the grandson for a few days, sized up the situation
generally, and dropped out of sight. He intended me to know in a
couple of weeks, after he was out of harm's way. But I discovered the
trick too quickly for him."

"When did you first suspect?" asked Jack.

"That first morning. The boy's French was from the back of the book,
and there was too strong an atmosphere of Washington about him--an
atmosphere which does not savor of the quiet life of the prince of
the blood. Then when I watched him closer I saw that he had been
painted. Oh, it was all plain enough."

"So you think the prince is here--in these hills?" asked the old
lady.

"I can't say, now," Ned replied. "I am sure that he was here
yesterday. I think I saw him! But the escape of the two men who
captured Jimmie mussed things up a lot. I wanted to put them through
a little examination.

"After their escape I could not pose longer as a lad after snapshots!
I can't say as I deceived the conspirators when I laid the capture of
Jimmie to the counterfeiters. I think I did fool them when I said we
were going out of the hills in order to protect the captive.

"Well, when we released Jimmie and let the two guards escape, that
part of the game was off. If I could have held the men it would have
been different."

"Perhaps Bradley can be made to tell where the prince is," suggested
Jack.

"I hardly thinks he knows," Ned replied. "He has not, I think, been
taken fully into the confidence of the men higher up, any more than
have the men who guarded Jimmie."

"He certainly knows where my grandson is," exclaimed the old lady,
"and I'll tear his heart out but I'll make him tell me. He took him
away!"

"I am not so certain of that, either," Ned mused. "I don't know just
how far the criminal head of the conspiracy has trusted him."

"You'll do all you can to find my boy, won't you?" pleaded the old
lady.

"Don't worry about the boy," Ned urged. "Well find him. If Frank and
Jimmie have had good luck Bradley is under arrest now, and something
will be brought out to lead to his discovery. Besides, with the
disguise penetrated, there is no longer any motive for holding him,
unless he knows too much, which is not likely."

"If his father was here he might help," suggested the old lady.

Jack, who had been looking steadily out of the window for some little
time, now turned to Ned with a smile on his face.

"I know now what you wrote in your little red book!" he said.

"Are you certain of that?"

"Why, of course. You wrote the answer to the question: 'Is it the
prince, or is it Mike III?' Didn't you, now?"

"Yes, I did!" was the reply. "I was almost positive before, but I
knew that day."

"And now we are just where we began," Jack said. "We've solved one
phrase of the case, but we haven't found the prince."

"That will come later," Ned declared, confidently. "Well," he went on,
"we have finished our work here for the present. We have learned of
the disappearance of the grandson and we have confirmed my previous
belief, that the boy was sent in here to draw our attention from the
abducted child. So we may as well go back to camp and see what the
boys have been doing."

The old lady still clung to Ned piteously, begging him to restore her
boy, and Ned promised to do all in his power to place the lad in her
arms.

"If my son would only come!" the woman kept saying.

"If you'll give me his address," Ned promised, "I'll see him when I
get back to Washington, if he is not already here or on his way
here."

The address was given and the boys started
 on the return trip to camp.

"Now, Jack," Ned said, when they were on their way up the slope, "do
you know where the nearest telegraph station is?"

"There's one over on the south fork of the Potomac," Jack replied.

"You are good friends with Uncle Ike?" Ned then asked, with a laugh.

"Sure I am. Uncle Ike is a friend of every person who carries sugar
in his pocket."

"Well, when we get back to camp I'll give you a night message. You
must take the mule and get it to the station. You may not be able to
get there to-night. If you can't, send it when you do get there. Wait
for an answer. When you get it tell Uncle Ike it is important and get
here with it as soon as possible. You've got a hard trip ahead of
you, boy!" he added. "I'm game!" laughed Jack. "If there's any of
this prince trouble leaked out," he added, "what shall I say?"

"Tell the old story. Say that we are in the hills for art's sake, and
that we have been annoyed by counterfeiters! Nothing serious,
understand? Not a word about our real mission here. You notice that
even the men we are battling with want it understood that it is the
counterfeiters who are trying to drive us out."

"There must be something mighty strange about this abduction game,"
Jack grinned. "No one will even admit that there is a prince in the
case."

When the boys came to the vicinity of the summit, south of a point in
line with the camp and the canyon where the counterfeiters had been
discovered, they stopped and took a good survey of the landscape.

"We can probably learn more about what has been going on," Jack
suggested, "by hiking straight for the camp. I'm anxious to be off on
that trip. Uncle Ike will like it--not! But I'll make him like it!
I'll give you a good imitation of a boy sailing over the mountains on
the freight deck of a mule!"

"I was wondering," Ned said, composedly, though his eyes were
troubled, "whether we had any camp left! If you'll look off to the
north, you'll see four men crouching in a dent in the slope. Rough-
looking chaps, eh?"

"I see!" Jack whispered. "Have they seen us? That's the question
now."

"If they saw us," Ned continued, "they would either be making for us
or trying to get out of sight. No; they are watching the camp. See!
They are where they can look over the summit."

"If they haven't been to the camp I'll think ourselves lucky," Ned
said.

"They probably haven't!" Jack cried. "But look there, they are going
on a rush right now! Must be Bradley's friends. What?"




CHAPTER XX

SHOOTING ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE


Bradley smiled cynically as he looked down toward the tent. He could
not, of course, distinguish the figures as plainly as Jimmie could
with the glass, but he knew from the excited manner of the boys that
something unusual was taking place.

"You have visitors at the camp?" he asked cooly, as the lads motioned
to him to move on. "I shall be glad to meet them, you may be sure."

He held out his manacled hands suggestively as he spoke.

"You're not invited!" Jimmie grunted. "We've got private date with
those people. You might muss things up, if we permitted you to go
with us!"

"Very well," Bradley replied. "They'll know where I am. But, for fear
they'll not recognize me, at this distance, I'll just give them
notice that I'm here."

Jimmie and Frank both sprang forward to prevent the promised outcry,
but Bradley proved too quick for them. The cry that rose from his
lips was long, shrill and significant in its insistance. It was
finally stopped by Bradley being thrown to the ground, where he lay
with the old sarcastic smile on his face.

"You've done it now!" Frank gritted. "You ought to be shot."

"You are none too good to commit a murder--to kill an unarmed and
defenseless man."

"If you don't keep that twirler of yours reefed I'll tie it up!"
Jimmie declared, with a threatening motion.

He might have gagged Bradley there and then only that Frank called
his attention to the camp. The two men who had been seen inside were
now hiding on the west side of the tent, and Teddy was coming up the
slope from the corral. Oliver was nowhere to be seen, and the
supposition was that he had been captured by the outlaws.

"We've got to tie this robber hand and foot and gag him!" Frank
cried. "We've got to get down to the camp right away!"

"Perhaps," Bradley observed, with a provoking laugh, "you'll also tie
and gag the men who are coming up the hill from the canyon."

The four men were now nearly half way up the slope from the cut, and
having heard the cry, were making good time in the ascent. The
situation looked anything but peaceful!

The boys were anxious and excited, and Bradley counted on this when
he made the next move. The men on the west slope had of course heard
his call, he reasoned, and were hastening up to his rescue.

Believing this, he took a desperate chance when he sprang away from
the boys, dropped to the ground and went bumping over the broken
slope, handcuffed as he was. Jimmie had his automatic out in a
moment, but by that time Bradley was concealed by one of the boulders
which lay on the declivity.

It was useless to try to recapture the fellow, for the men coming up
the slope had seen something of what had taken place, and were now on
the run wherever the nature of the ground permitted. Besides, they
were already within shooting distance, and the boys would be directly
under fire if they sought to bring Bradley back.

"It is a hopeless case!" Frank cried. "We can't get him!"

"The best thing we can do, then, is to get to the camp," Jimmie
observed.

"Then duck low and cut away to the north!" Frank cried. "Perhaps we
can make most of the distance under cover. Say," he added, as they
moved along, northward on the slope toward the east, "did you ever
see anything like that? That Bradley is some wise guy when it comes
to a pinch!"

"He's daring!" Frank commented. "He will make us trouble yet!"

"I believe," Jimmie went on, "that he's the fellow that got into the
attic over the clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol. When he was down on
the ground, sitting looking over the country, I saw a scar on his
head, a sharp cicatrice, three-cornered. You know how he got that?"

"The maid threw a large pair of shears at some one that night," Frank
said. "You remember we found blood and a blonde hair on one of the
blades."

"Just the sort of hair that gink carries on his dome!" Jimmie added.

The men coming up the west slope had not yet reached the summit, and
the men below were still hiding behind the tent. Teddy was
approaching the fire.

"They'll get the kid in a minute!" Jimmie said.

"I don't know about that," Frank replied. "He seems to me to be
getting suspicious. Notice how he stops and looks around--probably
looking for Oliver or Dode."

It was clear that the men waiting behind the tent were becoming
impatient, for they moved along and made ready to spring upon the
boy. Teddy, however, was not advancing.

Something about the tent had warned him that it was in the hands of
the enemy. With a shout of warning to Oliver and Dode, if they
chanced to be free and within hearing, he turned and dashed toward
the corral.

While the two men were getting under way in pursuit, Frank and Jimmie
came out on an easier slope and moved rapidly downward. Teddy was
soon out of sight, and then the men turned back.

At that moment a shot came from the summit, and the boys turned to
see the four men whom they had observed on the slope heading down for
the camp.

"They've found Bradley, of course!" Frank said.

"Yes," answered Jimmie, "there's no use of playing double now, for
they know that we are next to their game."

"Shall we rush for the camp?" asked Frank.

"Nothing doing," Jimmie answered. "We can't do a thing there, and we
are under cover here! Bradley has, of course, told them that we are
here, but they won't be able to find us for a long time. If they get
too gay with the things at the camp we'll send a few bullets down.
Looks like things were coming their way now, eh?" he added.

"We can't hold the top hand all the time," Frank grunted. "Ned will
come along directly and even things up a little. I wish he was here
now!"

The four men were now scrambling along the slope, looking for the two
boys as they walked, slid and jumped down. The two men who were at
the camp had turned back from the pursuit of Teddy at the sound of
the shot, and were now awaiting the approach of their friends.

"I suppose they'll burn the tent and drive the mules off!" wailed
Jimmie. "I'd like to have a machine gun up here a little while!"

"I reckon they won't!"

This from Frank as a shot came from the slope to the south. The men
who were rushing from the camp paused and looked at each other.

While they waited, uncertain as to what they ought to do, another
shot came, this time from the corral. Teddy was evidently getting
into action!

"Just for luck!" Jimmie shouted.

He fired two shots as he spoke, and two more came from the south and
one from the corral. The four men beckoned to their companions at the
tent--if such they were--and made a break for the summit which they
had just left.

"Whoo--pee!" shouted Jimmie. "Look at the racers!"

At sound of the voice one of the men turned and fired a shot at the
rock against which the boy lay. It broke off a splinter but did no
harm to the boys.

Frank left cover and ran up the slope.

"Come one!" he cried. "We'll get Bradley yet!"

Jimmie was not long in catching up with him. When they gained the
summit the four men were losing no time in their journey to the
canyon. They were on their feet only a part of the time.

The boys saw Bradley rise from a sheltering rock and start after
them, but he fell in a moment. Handcuffed as he was, he could not
keep pace with them. The fugitives paid no attention to his calls for
assistance. It was every man for himself at that moment. Bradley sat
hopelessly down to await the arrival of the boys.

Just as they gained the spot where he sat Ned and Jack came out of
the jungle of broken rocks to the south and looked smilingly down at
the prisoner.

"Good day!" laughed Jack.

Bradley forced a smile and turned away.

"You took that trick!" he said.

Jimmie stepped forward and put his fingers into the blonde hair of
the captive.

"Where did you get this scar?" he asked, and Ned at once bent
forward.

"I fell down and stepped on it!" Bradley answered, still smiling.

"I'll tell you how you got it," Jimmie went on. "You sneaked into a
room in New York where you had no business to be and a girl threw a
pair of shears at you!"

"That's a fine story!" snarled Bradley. "I never was in New York.

"Bring him along, boys," Ned said. "We'll go on down to camp and see
what's been done to our tent and things by this man's friends."

When they once more came to the summit, Teddy was standing outside
the tent with Oliver and Dode and the two outlaws were nowhere to be
seen. After that Bradley complained at the rate of speed the boys
insisted on.

"Your friends must have thought they had butted into an ambuscade!"
Jimmie said to the captive. "Have they had much training in running?
They bobbed along like professionals, it seemed to me."

"You'll see how fast they can run!" Bradley growled. "They'll go fast
enough to send you all over the road."

"Now about this grandson," asked Ned, falling back. "Mrs. Brady wants
to know where he is. No use for you to hide him, now that we all know
he was disguised to look like the prince stolen from Washington. Why
did you paint him if not to imitate this other boy we speak of?"

"I don't know anything about the boy," was the reply. "He was taken
without my knowledge, and that is on the level. I was ordered to do
the paint act."

They trudged on for some minutes in silence, and then Bradley asked:

"What is it about this prince you are always talking about? What is
there about the prince? Where is he? Why is he supposed to be in this
section?"

"You don't know a thing about him, do you?" asked Ned, laughing, "and
yet you painted a boy to represent him?"

Bradley only scowled.

"When I find him," Ned continued, "I'll present him to you!"

When the boys reached the tent they found Oliver and Teddy mourning
over the destruction of a large number of films and plates. Many
pictures, developed and printed with great care, had also been torn
or burned.

"Well," Jimmie declared, "they didn't get their hands on the films in
my baby camera. I've got a few good ones left."

"Now, Jack," Ned said, "suppose you connect with Uncle Ike and make
for the nearest telegraph office? Don't break your neck, and the neck
of the mule, but get there as soon as you can. And get back as soon
as you receive an answer."

"Why can't I go with him?" asked Jimmie. "I guess I want a mule
ride."

"Go it, if you want to!" Ned laughed. "That will leave us one mule to
run away on if things get too hot for us here!"




CHAPTER XXI

TOLD BY THE PICTURES


"You'll think we took great care of the camp!" Teddy said, flushing,
to Ned, as Jack and Jimmie, followed by the cheers and good wishes of
their chums, started away.

"Aw, it wasn't Teddy's fault at all," Oliver declared. "He went down
to tell Uncle Ike what a gentleman and a scholar he was, and I was
supposed to watch the tent."

"And I was to help him," wailed Dode. "See how well I did it!"

He swung a hand around at the mess on the ground.

"So, while Teddy was down at the corral, Dode and I sat down to
develop some snapshots. We never looked out at all! After we had a
lot of pictures ready to show on your return, we heard a noise
outside and thought Teddy had come back."

"And there is when we got it!" Dode cut in.

"Yes, there, is where we got it in the neck," Oliver went on, while
Teddy grinned. "The gun I looked into seemed about as large as the
tunnel under the Hudson, and I became the good little boy without
further argument."

"I thought the gun I saw was a room in a cavern!" grinned Dode.

"So they performed with their ropes and gags, and we lay there like
two little kittens while they tore up our work and smashed things
generally. And the way they wrecked the trunks and boxes was a
caution."

"What did they talk to each other about while they were searching?"
asked Ned.

"Nothing much. They seemed to be too busy looking for papers. From
what I could make out; I reckon they thought you had some official
document with you."

"I have," laughed Ned, "but they did not find it."

"After they had made all the trouble they could," Oliver went on,
"they spoke of burning the tent, and I guess they would haved one it,
too, if other things hadn't attracted their attention just at that
time!" he added, with a wink at Ned.

"Well," Ned observed, "I'm sorry we lost the pictures, but there may
be some of the valuable ones left. We'll look them over right now."

"Jimmie left the films from his baby camera," Teddy remarked. "We can
see what he got while he was in the hands of those cheap skates!"

Nearly all the snapshots taken by Ned and Jack on the afternoon they
had come to the hiding place of Jimmie's captors had been printed by
the boys, and most of them had been destroyed, plates and all.
Stationing Oliver and Dode out on the slope to watch for any approach
which might be made, Ned gave his attention to the pictures.

"The worst of it is," Frank declared, "that the good ones were the
ones the boys printed, and the ones which were burned up."

"I don't know about that," Ned said. "The camera sees things the
human eye does not see! What we want now is a knowledge of the
country near the spot where Jimmie was held. We took plenty of
pictures around there, and Jimmie took some, too, so we may be able
to find what we want."

"I'll work over the baby camera pictures while you handle the
others," suggested Frank, and the two boys were soon busy at their
tasks. Finally Ned handed a torn print to Frank, pointing out a
single feature as he did so.

"You see the tree in the foreground?" he asked.

"Yes, of course."

"Now follow along back to the bush at the left and in the rear."

"I see the bush," Frank said.

"What else do you see there?"

Frank bent closer over the print.

"Is that a face there?" he asked.

"It certainly is a face."

"But it looks too small for a human face. It may be caused be some
odd arrangement of the leaves. Besides, it is very indistinct."

"Sure, because it is in the shade. It is almost a miracle that we see
it at all. I 'll get a better print of it soon and enlarge it. Then
we shall know more about it. Now, look lower down. What do you see
there?"

"Say," cried Frank, "that's a child's face up there! Here is the leg
below. Now, what do you think of that?"

"That is doubtless the boy Jack and I saw," said Ned.

"The grandson?" asked Frank.

"The prince, unless I am much mistaken," Ned said, cooly.

"So you saw him?" asked Frank.

"We saw a child," was the reply. "He came toward us for a few steps
and then ran back! Now we'll look over the remaining pictures and see
what we can find."

"That wasn't the grandson, was it?" asked Frank.

"Mike III. was at the cabin that afternoon," was the reply.

Presently Ned came to another torn print showing the mountain slope
directly in front of Chimney rock. He passed it over to Frank with an
odd look in his eyes.

"Look right in the foreground, between those two stones," he said.

"What is it between the stones?" asked the boy.

"Looks to me like a coat."

"Do you really think it is?"

"Sure thing!" laughed Ned. "I'm going over there directly and see if
it is still there."

Frank looked puzzled.

"But how did it come there?" he asked. "Why should it be left there?"

"I have known children to throw off coats or jackets on a hot day,"
smiled Ned. "I imagine that princes are not different from other
children."

Ned went on with his examination of the pictures. At last he came to
one which was badly torn, almost half of it being missing.

"There," he said. "This is a picture taken right there at Chimney
rock. Do you see the face above it?"

The face referred to was not that of either of the two men Jimmie had
been captured by, or of Bradley, who sat scowling just beyond reach
of their voices.

"That is the man we want," Ned said, with a sigh. "If we had the
other part of the picture we should see the boy looking over the
rock, close at the man's side."

"Very close!" Frank observed. "They seem to have hold of hands.
Doesn't that look like a closed hand down lower?"

"That is just what it is!"

Ned laid the picture aside and Frank brought out those which had been
made from the films taken from the baby camera. There were half a
dozen of them and all were remarkably good.

"Look here," Frank said, "the kid took a picture of the slope back of
the rock. Our pictures do not show that. Look up a short distance!"

Not very far up the slope hung a huge boulder which seemed on the
verge of falling.

"If you'll notice the point of contact with the ground," Frank went
on, "you'll see that the boulder is propped up by wedge-like stones
put under it."

"Exactly!" Ned said. "And that means that the boulder has fallen or
been pried out of its nest, and that the cavity behind it is regarded
as a good hiding place."

"Do you think the prince could have been there?"

"Not when Jack and I were in that section. We saw him out on the
slope."

"But he went back that way?"

"Yes."

"Tell you what!" Frank exclaimed. "I'm going to take these pictures
home to Dad, and let him print them in his newspaper."

"You'll have to write a story to go with them."

"Oh, I suppose so, but stories aren't read when there are pictures.
The cuts tell the story. Dad will like the photographs."

After a time Ned came to the picture of a man with the head torn off!
In destroying the print the outlaws had contented themselves by
merely ripping it into two pieces. The head part was not to be found.

"What's the dangling things in front of the man's breast?" asked
Frank.

"Legs!" replied Ned.

"I never knew a man to wear his legs up there!" laughed Frank.

"But you have known men to lift kids to their backs and let their
little legs hang down in front for handles? What?"

"Never thought of that?" Frank exclaimed.

"If we only had the face!" Ned worried.

Then he paused a moment and went back to the print carrying the
strange face.

"Here it is!" he said. "See! This is the same man. There are the
boots and the buttons. The camera caught the man twice."

"I don't know why you didn't see some of these things when the
pictures were made," laughed Frank. "Next time I go out taking
snapshots I'm going to study the landscape, so I can choose subjects
for my pictures!"

"All this means," Ned began, "that we were watched when we were
taking the pictures that afternoon. These people were looking at us!
We might as well have been walking through an open street."

"But why didn't they do something to you, then?" demanded Frank.
"They captured the ones who entered the workroom."

"Those were counterfeiters, not abductors."

"Well, then, they caught Jimmie and lugged him away?"

"In an effort to drive us out of the country, yes."

"Then why didn't they capture you?"

"Because they thought they had us scared so we'd go, and so didn't
want to show their hand. Remember that it was the counterfeiters who
were supposed by us to have taken Jimmie."

"I understand. When you found that the boy at the cabin was not the
one you were looking for you were supposed to go away so as to save
Jimmie's life, and leave the true prince here in hiding."

"That is just it."

Bradley now called out to the boys that he had something to say to
them, and they hurried to his side.

"I want you to get the widow's grandson and take him to her," he
said. "I was used decent, and I don't like to have her suffer."

"Where is the boy?" asked Ned.

Bradley open his eyes wider in wonder.
 "Do you really think I took him away?" he asked.

"Not a doubt of it!" Frank declared.

"Well, I didn't," Bradley insisted. "I don't know where he is, but I
think I can point out the likeliest place to hunt for him."

"Down at Chimney rock?" asked Frank.

"In that section, yes. And, look here. You will need to be in a
hurry, for the men who have him are anxious to get rid of him--and
they are unscrupulous!"




CHAPTER XXII

A RECRUIT FROM THE ENEMY


"So you know the men who have taken the boy we call Mike III.?" asked
Ned.

"I know him too well," was the bitter answer. "He's one of the men
who use their friends up to the limit and then drop them!"

"You say 'him,'" Ned suggested. "Is there only one in this outrage?"

"There are several, but all bow to the will of the leader. I can't
tell you anything more about it! I don't like the way I have been
treated, or I wouldn't have said as much as I have."

"I thought your motive was to secure the return of the boy to his
grandmother?"

"I want that done, of course, but I wouldn't have suggested it to you
only for the high and mighty airs of the man placed over me."

"Why don't you tell me who this man is?" asked Ned. "Why don't you
tell me the object of this abduction of the prince? Why not tell me
where to find this little chap you seem honestly interested in?"

"I don't know anything about any prince!" insisted Bradley.

"Look here," Ned said, "I believe I can tell you just how this man
you hate looks. If I describe him, will you tell me if I am right?"

"I will tell you nothing, except that you ought to look in the
vicinity of Chimney rock for the grandson--not at the rock, but close
to it! That is more than I ought to tell you."

"This man you speak of," Ned went on, recalling the features of the
face caught above the rock by the camera, "has a very slim face, a
prominent nose, a wide, thin-lipped mouth, high cheek boned, small
eye-orbits, and eyebrows which tip up at the outer corners. He is
fond of children, and will play with any child he comes across. He is
also fond of mountain climbing, and delights in long tramps over the
hills."

Bradley looked at Ned with the old cynical smile on his face.

"Where did you run across him?" he asked eagerly,

"That is enough!" laughed Ned. "You needn't say another word. We have
two snapshots of him--one without a head. In one he has hold of the
hand of a child, and in the other he has the child on his back, with
the little fellow's legs hanging down over his shoulders. A man would
not be apt to ride children about on his shoulders unless he was fond
of little ones generally, would he?"

"I presume not," Bradley admitted.

"And he wears in both pictures a mountain-climbing costume," Ned went
on. "He evidently likes the errand he was sent here on!"

"The man I referred to a few moments ago as unscrupulous does,"
Bradley said.

"But if he likes children he won't be apt to injure this Mike III.,
will he?"

"He is a man who will do anything for expediency's sake. Now go away
and leave me to my very entertaining thoughts! If I ever get out of
these hills alive, and free, I'll never leave Manhattan island
again."

"I remember you saying that you had never set foot in New York!"
laughed Ned. "You'll have to make your stories consistent if you want
them believed!"

"Never mind all that now," Bradley replied. "You get busy restoring
that child to Mrs. Brady! Say, boy, but he is a bright-one!"

"Learned French quickly, didn't he, and consented to being blacked up
like a negro minstrel, in order to pose as a prince?" asked Ned. "I
reckon, however, that the credit does not all belong to the lad. He
seems to have had a good instructor."

"If you'll release me," Bradley offered, after a pause, "I'll go and
get the boy."

"That's an easy promise to make," laughed Ned.

"But I'll go and get him and bring him to you, and you can return him
to his grandmother. Then you may put these bracelets on me again if
you like. But, boy, let me tell you this: You've got nothing on me! I
haven't done a thing in this state at least, to render myself liable
to punishment. I supplied, for good pay, certain information in New
York, and I brought the boy you call Mike III. on here from
Washington, where I know his father well."

"You must have known what you were doing it for?"

"I did know--for money!"

"But you must have known that the boy was to personate some one
else?"

"I didn't care about that. I had my orders! See here, boy, if you
ever work with these highbrow rulers of petty kingdoms, you'll soon
find out that you're to obey and not ask questions! Do you get me?"

"That's enough!" laughed Ned. "You haven't betrayed your employer,
but you have told me all I wanted to know."

The boys unlocked the handcuffs and laid them aside.

"I believe you'll do the right thing," he said. "Go and get the boy.
If you need any help let me know."

Bradley arose and stretched out his arms luxuriously.

"That's the first time I ever stood in the accused row," he said,
"and it will be the last! But, see here, boy, I can't get the kid in
a minute! I'll go to the mother and tell her what I'm doing, if I
live to get there!"

"You think your ex-friends may seek to terminate your lease of life?"

"They surely will--now. And, here's a pointer for you, look out for
yourself."

"I think I can fix you out so they will receive you with open arms,"
Ned grinned. "Here. I'll put these cuffs on again, with one arm
locked carelessly. You can draw the bar out when you pull right hard.
Now, eat what you need and take a run up the slope. We'll follow you
with a serenade of bullets. When you join the outlaws down in the
canyon you'll be a hero."

"That's a fine notion!" said Bradley, actually smiling.

"And don't come back here with the boy. Send him home to the old
lady. Then, if you want to help me in the work I'm on--"

"I don't, and I won't!"

"Don't blame you a mite! I never did like a traitor! If you won't
help me, then cut sticks for New York. Some day when you are in
better mood, come to the Black Bear Patrol clubroom. You know where
it is! Well give you a look into the place without sending you up to
the attic!"

Bradley's face twisted into a laugh, but Ned did not seem to notice
the fact.

"I'm not saying anything more about the prince, understand, or the
attic, or the French, or the black stain, but perhaps you'll tell me
the whole story some day!"

And so, handcuffed again, Bradley was taken back to the tent, where
he was given a hearty meal. Then he carefully made his way out and
ran for the summit. Ned and his chums sat back and laughed at the
tumbles he took in his eagerness to deceive any one who might be
watching the camp. Now and then he fell down behind a rock and lay
there for a moment, peering out in the direction of the tent.

Just before he gained the summit, Ned and the others ran out of the
tent with shouts of alarm and dashed up the slope, firing as they
went. At that time Bradley's speed might have shown a world record if
it had been set down! He cleared the summit, shouting for assistance
from anyone who might be below, and half rolled down toward the
canyon. Ned fired a few shots and went back to the tent.

"What's the game?" asked Frank, as Ned sat down and roared. "This man
Bradley seems to be It--Tag!"

Ned explained the situation and Frank immediately began taking notes
for a story for his father's newspaper.

"If I had had a motion picture machine here," Frank declared, "I
could have made a fortune out of the films! It was glorious, the way
the old boy tore up the rocks on his way down. Think he'll return?"

"I think he will," was the reply.

"But if he doesn't?"

"Then we shall have to find the boy ourselves, just as we are going
to find the prince! That is the next job, you understand."

"And geezle the man who stole him--that's in the job, isn't it?"

"Nothing said about that, but I hope to get him and have the goods on
him, too. When I present him to the chief he can do whatever he likes
with him."

"But how are you going to get the goods on him?" asked Oliver.

"I'll manage that easily," laughed Ned. "The first thing is to catch
him. Now, Frank, you saw where Bradley went?"

"Why, he headed for the old counterfeiter den."

"Think you can keep track of him for a short time?"

"Can I?" You know it!"

"Then take Dode with you, so as to be in communication with the camp,
and follow him! Don't show yourself if you can help it, but if you
are discovered keep busy with your camera. We are here only to take
pictures, you know!"

"So you don't trust that chap, after all?" asked Frank.

"Yes, I trust him, but he won't betray the men he has been working
with. In order to get the boy he'll have to go to the man I want."

"All right!" Frank laughed. "Come on, Dode! I might have known that
Ned was next to his job. I'll come back just before sunset to report,
if not before. If you love me have a supper fit for six of us ready
for me!"

The two boys started away, and Ned, Teddy and Oliver went back to the
pictures. After an hour or more Ned went down to the corral, as if
looking after the mule. He saw no one on the way there, but when he
reached the level spot, rich with June grass, he saw that it had had
visitors during the day.

The grass was beaten down flat behind a boulder on the edge of the
fertile spot, and there were cigarette stubs and half-burned matches
scattered about. The lush grass still carried the odor of tobacco,
and the boy knew that the watcher had not been long absent from his
post.

He went back to the camp, and, much to the surprise of Teddy and
Oliver, began packing.

"What's doing now?" the boy asked.

"Why," laughed Ned, "haven't I agreed to get out of here to-morrow or
next day?"

"Yes, but--"

"We're going to pack, anyway," Ned said, "whether we leave or not!
There are people watching every move we make, and I want to convey to
them the idea that we are going at once."

"If they are watching us," Oliver suggested, "they doubtless saw Jack
and Jimmie leave the camp."

"They undoubtedly did," Ned admitted.

"And will follow them, I'm afraid."

"I've been wondering whether the boys got out of the hills in
safety," Ned went on. "They were well mounted, and should have been
able to dodge the outlaws. Besides, Jimmie and Jack are, as the boys
say on the Bowery, inclined to be 'foolish in the head--like a fox.'
So they are probably safely out by this time."

"But, still, I'm worrying about them!" Oliver replied.




CHAPTER XXIII

RACING MOTORS ON THE WAT


"Some day," Jimmie said, as he urged Uncle Ike down an eastern slope
of the Alleghany mountains, "I'm going to have this mule put in a
book."

"If he keeps up his stealing," Jack declared, "he is more likely to
be put in jail. That mule is certainly a bad actor."

"Huh!" grunted Jimmie. "He's got a sugar tooth, or he wouldn't
steal!"

The boys drew up when nearly to the valley through which runs the
North Fork and looked over the landscape. There was another range of
mountains straight ahead, and beyond that the valley of the South
Branch, for which they were headed.

"Looks like another climb and good-night!" Jack complained. "And Ned
wanted this sent to-night. That's a right smart climb ahead of us,"
he added.

Jimmie coaxed Uncle Ike back to four feet again and patted him on the
head before making any reply. Then he pointed to the south.

"Over there," he said, "is the Virginia line. The ridge ahead of us
does no cross that. I know because I looked up this section once when
Ned and I were thinking of running away for a rest."

"You always need a rest!" grinned Jack. "Why don't you make Uncle Ike
stand still, like Dill Pickles, this old mountain ship of mine does?"
he added.

"Why do you call him Dill Pickles?" asked Jimmie. "He looks more like
a razor-back with sails set in front."

"He's Dill Pickles because he's got a good disposition gone sour,"
Jack explained. "He's just about shaken the life out of me now.
Doesn't look it, does he?"

"Better call him Bones!" Jimmie advised. "As I was saying," he went
on, "the ridge ahead of us drops down this side of the Virginia line,
and we can dodge a climb by going around it."

"And get lost!" Jack grumbled.

"Lost--not. We follow down this valley--or up this valley, rather--
until the ridge drops down. Then we go straight east until we come to
the South Branch. And there you are."

"Here we go, then!" Jack shouted. "Set your sails and come along."

Uncle Ike wanted a test of speed and endurance right there, but
Jimmie held him back. It might be that they would be obliged to
return to the camp that night.

They soon left the high places and wound among foothills. Below lay a
fertile valley, with handsome and well-tilled fields.

"We're making a hit with these mules!" laughed Jimmie, as they passed
along, the people staring at them from gates, doors, windows and
fence-tops. "If these ladies and gentlemen ever see us again they'll
be sure to know us."

It is not a great distance from the place where they came to the
river to the city they sought, and the ground was covered in a couple
of hours. The sun was still shining when they passed through a busy
street, certainly the center of observation.

When they entered the telegraph office Jack took out the message and
handed it to the clerk at the desk without looking at it. The clerk
studied it a moment and asked: "Day rates? This seems to be a night
letter."

The boys eyed each other keenly for a moment, and then Jimmie said:
"I'd have it sent right off if I were you. Ned wouldn't have said
anything about its being a night letter if he had had any idea we'd
get here so soon."

"All right," Jack said. "Send it now. We'll wait for a little while
to see if there's an answer."

"It is in cipher," the clerk said, "and will take some time to send."

"I never looked at it," Jack cried. "I' don't even know where it is
going."

"To the Secret Service chief, Washington," said the clerk. "Are you
boys out here on secret service business?"

"We're out here to take pictures," Jimmie cut in. "We have nothing to
do with that dispatch. It was given to us by an acquaintance to send
out."

"He wanted to make sure it got into the right hands," Jack said.
"Will you call Washington and see if he's there--the chief?"

"You'll have to pay for the message."

Jack laid a banknote of large denomination down on the desk.

"Ask for the chief," he said, "and tell him to wire any instructions
he may have for the sender in cipher if he wants to, but to give any
instructions he may have for us about the delivery of the message in
plain United States!"

"Come back in half an hour," said the clerk, "and I'll probably have
something for you. I suppose this cipher message is an important
one?" he added, suspiciously.

"Don't know what it is," Jack answered, truthfully.

The clerk evidently did not believe the boy for he stood at the desk
gazing after him with a look of distrust on his face. The lads were
no sooner out of the office than a thin, angular gentleman, dusky of
face and very black and bright of eye, entered and walked up to the
clerk.

"I sent a message here by a couple of boys," he said, "and I wish to
withdraw it."

"You'll have to find the boys, then, and have them withdraw it,"
replied the clerk.

"But can't I recall the dispatch--my own dispatch?" demanded the
other, exposing a $100 banknote in his palm. "It is worth something
to me to get it back."

The clerk was angry at the plain attempt at bribery, so he turned
back to a table and took up the message the boys had left.

"We have a message here," he said, "which may be recalled under
proper conditions. Kindly tell me what your dispatch says."

"Which one did they file?" asked the other. "The one to Washington or
the one to New York?"

The clerk laid the paper back on the desk.

"Give me the address you sent your message to at Washington," he
said.

"It was the secretary of state," was the reply.

"And the message? Give me a few opening words."

"Read them!" snarled the other. "Can't you read English?"

"The message is in cipher!" said the clerk, "You also have the
address wrong. You are evidently a fraud. Get out!"

When the boys returned to the office in half an hour the clerk called
them over to the desk at once and told them of what had taken place.

"How did he ever follow us out without our seeing him?" asked Jimmie.

"He must have shot through the air," the other declared.

"Are you sure you kept a good lookout?" smiled the clerk.

"Well, we looked about a good deal," Jimmie admitted, "and I can't
say as I thought of being chased up. What did Washington say?"

"You boys are to wait here until you receive instructions. The cipher
message is now going on the wire."

The boys sat down in a restaurant not far from the telegraph office
and ordered porterhouse steaks, French potatoes, and all the side
dishes that were on the menu.

"We may have to ride to-night," Jack said, "and may as well prepare
for it."

"I don't like the idea of our being followed here," Jimmie observed.
"We'll be apt to come across that chap on the way back. The funny
part of it all is that we never suspected there was a sleuth out
after us!"

"We ought to have known," Jack grumbled. "Somehow everything has gone
wrong with us. If we ride back in the night we'll probably have a
skirmish."

After eating they went back to the telegraph office. The clerk was
waiting for them, that being the usual hour for his supper.

"Here's your orders," he said, with a smile, "right from the chief
himself. He seems to know who you are all right!"

Jack took the dispatch and read:

"Remain where you are until motor cars now on the way from Cumberland
reach you. Our men say the cars can make good time clear to the
foothills. The cipher message will arrive shortly. Be on your guard."

It was signed by the chief of the Secret Service department.

"What do you know about that?" asked Jack, passing the message over
to Jimmie.

"How far is it to Cumberland?" he asked of the clerk.

"Something like eighty miles," was the reply.

"Are the roads good? Can a motor car make good time to-night."

The river roads are fairly good. A fast car ought to get here in
three hours."

"I see that Chinese-looking guy that wanted the message catching us
if we go back in an automobile!" Jimmie laughed.

"But a motor car," Jack interrupted, "is an easy thing to wreck on a
mountain."

"What do you think was in that dispatch?" Jimmie asked of Jack, as
they sat in the telegraph office waiting.

"Something which brings out motor cars and secret service men," Jack
answered. "I guess it made a hit at Washington."

"Perhaps he wired that he was going to bring the prince in!" laughed
Jimmie. "Well, if he did, he'll do it, and that's all I've got to say
about it."

Twice that evening a dark face appeared at the window of the
telegraph office and peered in at the boys. Each time the owner of
the dark face hastened away after a short inspection of the lads and
conferred with two men in a dark little hotel office.

Shortly after ten o'clock two great touring cars, long, lean racers,
ran up to the curb in front of the telegraph office and stopped. The
street was now well-nigh deserted, but what few people were still
astir gathered around the machines.

There were three husky men in each machine, and in each car was room
for one more person. Only one man alighted and entered the office.
When he saw the boys waiting he beckoned to them.

"Got your cipher?" he asked, and Jack nodded.

"Then come along. We'll get to the high climb before the moon comes
up."

"Do you know the way?" asked the clerk.

"Only from verbal description," was the reply, "but we can find it."

"I'm off duty," the clerk said, "and I know every inch of the way. I
was reared in the mountains west of the short ridge. I'd like a
little adventure, too!" he laughed.

"What about the mules?" asked Jimmie, determined that Uncle Ike
should be cared for.

"Get them into a barn, quick," said the chief, sharply. "We must be
off."

When Jimmie came back the clerk and Jack were crowded into one seat
in the rear machine, while a vacant seat in the front car was waiting
for him. The party was off with a snort of motors and faint cheers
from the little crowd which had gathered.

The river road was fairly good, and in an hour they were at the
foothills, around the south end of the short ridge. The driver drew
up there, and in the clear air, from the north came the sound of
galloping horses.

"Get out and under cover, boys!" the chief commanded.




CHAPTER XXIV

THE MAN-TRAP IS SET


Ned, Oliver and Teddy remained in camp all the afternoon--waiting.
They were not, of course, anticipating the immediate return of Jack
and Jimmie, but they were looking every moment, after a couple of
hours had passed, for some signs of the boys who had been sent out in
the wake of Bradley.

"I'll bet a cookie," Teddy exclaimed, as the sun set over the ridge
to the west, "that Frank and Dode have bumped into something hard!"

"I may have made a mistake in not going on that trip myself," Ned
mused, "but I had an idea there would be business for me at the camp.
I don't know what to make of this lack of attention on the part of
our enemies!"

"It may be," Oliver suggested, "that they have taken alarm and ducked
with the prince."

"That is just what I fear," Ned answered. "It will spoil all my plans
if they move now; still, I admit that they've had enough unpleasant
experiences here to make them long for a quieter retreat!"

The boys prepared supper, taking pains to provide enough food for
Frank and Dode, but they did not come. The meal over, Ned made ready
for a trip down the mountain.

"I'm going to Chimney rock," he said to the boys. "I should like to
have one of you with me, but two ought to remain here. I'm going to
take some rockets with me. If I do not return before midnight, one of
you advance along the summit to the south, provided with rockets. If
one of my rockets is seen, the watcher must send one up to notify the
boy in camp. Then both must make a run for Chimney rock, traveling so
as to come upon it from the up-hill side. Is that clear?"

"Perfectly," Oliver declared. "You are going to bring this prince
back with you?"

"Perhaps!" laughed Ned. "I may have to bring Frank and Dode back with
me!"

There was only the light of the stars when Ned reached the vicinity
of Chimney rock, coming in from the slope to the north and moving
with extreme caution. There was a dull glow in the dip back of the
rock, the glow of coals nearly burned out.

The men who had captured Jimmie at the cave of the counterfeiters had
fled before the shooting, and Ned had no idea that they had returned,
or would return. Any fire built by them would have long since turned
to ashes.

"The party having direct charge of the prince has been here," the boy
mused, "though why they should come here is a puzzle to me, as they
have, or had a camp of their own not far away. Still, the theory of
hiding in a place which has been searched is an old one, and these
fellows may have adopted it.

"They certainly adopted a theory something like it," the lad thought,
as he watched the dying embers from a distance--from the secure
shadow, if the stars may be said to have cast a shadow that night, of
a great rock--"when they decided to remain here after the disguise of
the widow's grandson had been discovered. They took it for granted
that no one would look for the real prince where the disguised one
had been found! They might better have taken him away!"

Ned knew very well that the men having charge of the abducted boy had
hidden farther up the slope. His idea was that at the time the
pictures were taken the men in charge were watching the two who had
ran away.

From what Bradley had said, it was not likely that he, Bradley, had
been permitted to associate with the actual custodians of the stolen
lad. This had been the main source of his complaints.

Ned believed that a portion, at least, of the men sent into the hills
as custodians of the prince had followed Jack and Jimmie out While
trembling for the safety of the two boys, Ned had figured on cutting
the force of the enemy in two before making an attempt to seize the
little prisoner.

Even now, he figured, the force left on the ground had been again
divided, for he was positive that the camp was being watched. For
this reason he had caused the packing to be done, thus giving the
impression that his party was going out at once.

The boy lay in the dark spot under the boulder for a long time,
watching, listening, for some indication of human life in that
vicinity. He had a half notion that Bradley would head that way, and
that the boys would follow him.

"If Bradley does come here," Ned thought, "my trap will be set right!
That is, if the dusky little chap from over the sea has not been
taken away. If he has, the trap will not serve; still, I shall be
able to console myself with the thought that it was at least well
set!"

Every clue the boy had gained pointed to the spot where he lay. That
had undoubtedly been the point of communication between the leader
and his subordinates--with Bradley and the men who had taken Jimmie
prisoner.

"That was rather clever," Ned mused, "taking the boy while at the
cave of the counterfeiters in order to give the impression that the
coiners had seized him!"

Ned realized, too; that the capture of the grandson just at that time
had been a master stroke on the part of the conspirators. The lad
would have talked too much when he became satisfied that he was safe
from all coercion.

Ned lay in his hiding place for what appeared to him to be a long
time before he heard anything to indicate that his man-trap had been
set in the right spot. Then the voice he heard caused him to spring
quickly up to his feet. It was the low, soft, plaintive voice of Mary
Brady.

"I haven't seen anything here I could talk about," the old lady was
saying. "I wouldn't think of betraying anyone who put my boy in my
arms. I've seen him with you--I've been waiting about here for a long
time. Bring him out to me and I'll go home and never trouble you any
more."

"Now," thought Ned, "how did the old lady manage to find the boy
here?"

"You shouldn't have come here," a low, well-modulated masculine voice
said. "You have put your own life and the life of the boy in danger
by so doing. How long had you been watching and listening before I
saw you?"

"A long, long time."

"And you heard much of what was said?"

"I heard a good many words, but I don't remember now what they
meant."

The voices came clearly from farther up the slope, and a little to
the south. The figures of the speakers could not be seen by the
watcher.

"Come up to the camp," the masculine voice said, presently. "I'll
turn the boy over to you, but you can't go back to your cabin
to-night."

"Are you going to keep me here against my will?" asked the trembling
old voice.

"You have seen and heard too much," was the almost brutal rejoinder.

There was a rattle of pebbles as footsteps moved along the rocky
surface of the slope. From above came the shrill cry of a child.

"I don't know of any better time to move up and take a peep at the
camp of the man who crossed the sea to steal a child," Ned mused. "I
wish Frank and Dode would come, but if they don't I'll have to take
chances on going alone."

Keeping those in front of him as guides, Ned crept along the slope.
More than once a loose pebble rolled with a great noise from under
his feet, but those ahead seemed to pay no attention to these
evidences of pursuit.

When, perhaps, two hundred paces up the slope the sounds above the
boy ceased. The night was still, save for the rustling and creeping
of the creatures of the air and the forest. For a long time not a
sound indicative of the presence of human life was heard, then a
woman's cry of fright came from above.

Ned was about to hasten forward when a voice came to his ears from
the darkness.

"We can't permit either of them to leave!" the low, well-modulated
voice he had heard before that night said. "Even if we get away with
the prince, their stories would ruin us. There is no knowing how soon
the gabblings of the old woman might reach the ears of the adherents
of the prince."

"Then you propose--"

"Nothing that will not come to them in due course of time! They can
go to sleep in the snug inner room and never wake again. They will
not know when the change comes. They will sleep forever in their
mountain tomb."

"I am opposed to murder," said another voice, harsher, more decisive.

"And so the trap was well set!" mused Ned. "The princeling is still
here! Well, the battle may not bring victory to me, but I will at
least know that I planned it right, acting on the best information at
hand."

It was plain, from what the first speaker had said, that the camp of
the conspirators was in a cave, for he had spoken of a snug inner
room. The entrance to this cave was undoubtedly closely guarded.

The boy crept along cautiously. The slope was steep, with here and
there a ledge which had to be surmounted or circled, always at great
risk. In a few hours the moon would be up, and then the work he had
before him would be more difficult.

"I must get into the cave before the moon rises!" he thought. "But
how?"

When he came to the precipice in the side of the mountain from which
the cave opened, he saw the black spot which marked the entrance. It
was not large, and, close in front, sitting with his back against the
rock, was a guard!

Ned lay down to wait. When the moon rose it would cast the shadow of
the mountain on that spot. For a few hours more he might wait for his
chance.

Directly he heard a call which brought him to an alert attitude in an
instant. It was the call of the wolf pack, sharp, vicious, warning!

There was a movement at the mouth of the cave, and a quick light
showed for only a second. Then came a sound of footsteps negotiating
the gravelly slope.

Ned dropped back to the west. The call had come from that direction.
It might have been uttered either by Frank or by one of the boys left
at the camp.

Presently the snarl was heard in a dark crevice toward which the boy
was descending. Ned dropped down faster then, and soon heard Frank's
voice.

"Are you alone?" he asked.

"Yes; and you?"

"Bradley and Dode are here."

Bradley moved forward and took Ned by the arm.

"Be careful!" he warned. "Those men would toss dynamite down here and
take their own risk of death if they knew."

"We've had a run for our money!" Frank panted. "We've been
everywhere. The cabin is deserted, and the lower camp and the
counterfeiter cave are bare of life. Bradley caught us following him,
and so we joined with him in his search for Mike III."

"Mike III.," Ned answered, "is up there in the cave with the
abductors, and Mrs. Brady is with him. We've got to act quickly."

"They'll be murdered!" Bradley whispered. "What can we do?"

"They'll be spared for a short time," Ned answered, "but we must be
on the move."




CHAPTER XXV

THE CONFESSION OF A PHOTOGRAPH


"There's a ravine off to the right where the machines may be hidden,"
the clerk said, when the racing automobiles stopped at the foot of
the hills.

"Show the way, then, quick," hastily commanded the leader. "We want
to see what sort of people they are who ride at break-neck speed in
the darkness."

The machines were driven into the ravine referred to, and the secret
service men and the boys secreted themselves in a clump of
undergrowth close to the roadside. The horsemen came on swiftly, and
would have passed only that the detectives closed in about them,
three in front and three in the rear.

"What is the meaning of this?" demanded the dark little man who had
shown himself at the telegraph office.

The two men with him whispered together but said nothing in the way
of protest.

"Dismount!" ordered the leader.

The men hesitated, and a bullet cut the air within a fraction of an
inch of the right ear of the leader. There was now no delay in
reaching the ground.

"You shall pay for this!" shouted the little dark man.

"Of course," laughed the leader.

Jimmie pulled at the sleeve of the chief.

"That is one of the men I saw in the mountains," he declared. "He is
the second one in command, as far as I could determine."

"What does the boy say?" demanded the other.

"What are you doing here?" asked the chief, impatiently.

"We are hunting in the hills."

"Hunting at this season?"

"Hunting and resting. Please now do we go on?"

The chief made a significant motion, and before the three men knew
what was going on they were securely handcuffed. They roared at their
captors and at each other in a foreign language for a moment and then
sat down stolidly at the side of the road.

"You, Jerry, and you, Sam, take them back to the town and lock them
up," ordered the chief. "Perhaps you, Charley, would better go with
them. Ride and make them walk!"

"Locked up!" shouted the dark little man. "What for?"

"Treason to your country," was the short reply.

For a moment there was no word spoken, then the three men arose to
their feet and approached the chief, standing with a hand on his
revolver.

"There is money," one of the men said. "Plenty of money."

"Cut that out!" ordered the chief, curtly.

"Not in the thousands!" the other went on, "In the millions!"

"If they renew this proposition on the way in," ordered the chief,
"gag them!"

In a moment the three men were away with their prisoners, the sound
of the horses' feet dying away in soft echoes from the hills.

Then the chief turned to the clerk.

"Does our auto ride end here?" he asked.

The clerk shook his head.

"A few rods further on," he said, "you can turn into the bed of a
half dry stream which runs out of the hills almost at the rocky wall
of the mountain itself."

"And the bottom of the stream?" asked the chief.

"Sand and fine gravel. The grade is not steep."

"And how far from the summit shall we be when we get to the end of
the water route?" asked the chief.

"Not more than three miles, but it is a stiff climb."

"Get under way then," was the order, and the motors sang their tune
in the hills once more.

"What time does the moon rise?" the chief asked, after a few moments
of splashing in the bed of the stream, which at that season of the
year was not more than three inches deep, except in places, which
were avoided.

"About twelve," was the reply.

"We must be well up the hill before that," the chief declared.

When they came to the end of the water course the machines were
hidden in a canyon not far away and the men and the boys proceeded on
up the slope.

In the meantime Ned and those with him were listening for the sound
of footsteps in their immediate vicinity. The call of the pack had
aroused the suspicions of the guard, and it was evident that he had
left his place at the entrance of the cave to learn the meaning of
it.

After a brief wait Ned heard the sound he was listening for and
clutched Frank eagerly by the arm.

"Move away to the right and repeat the wolf call, only lower," he
directed. "When you have done so dodge back here-quick! The guard may
shoot!"

"What are you going to do?" whispered Bradley. "Be careful! Those
Orientals are dangerous people to handle! Be careful!"

"I guess we won't start anything we can't finish," Frank grinned.

The boy did as requested, and Ned moved up the slope. Bradley sat
watching the dim figures disappear and wondered what sort of company
he had fallen into.

When the call of the pack came from the spot indicated by Ned, there
was a rush of footsteps. The guard evidently, was advancing toward
the suspicious sound.

The next event was so sudden, so unexpected, so startling, that
Bradley almost held his breath for an instant. There was a choking
gurgle, a blow, and a noise of falling bodies. Then Ned and the guard
rolled into the little dip where the others were hiding.

Frank, back by this time, threw himself on the struggling mass and
the guard was soon handcuffed and gagged. Then Frank sat back and
laughed until Dode tried to gag him with a handkerchief.

"Come!" Ned whispered, giving the boy a poke in the ribs. "We're
going into the cave now! Are you going, Bradley?" he added, turning
to the blonde fellow.

"If you forget what took place at the club-room in New York, I'll--"

"You're on!" whispered Ned. "Now--quick and cautious!"

The old lady, sitting dejectedly with her grandson in her arms, in a
rough cave-room, saw the boys creeping forward. Ned held up a warning
hand and waited. The old lady, evidently knowing what was wanted,
pointed to a small opening to the south.

"They are in there, two of them, asleep!" she whispered a moment
later, when Ned had reached her side. "The others are away!"

"And the other boy?" asked Ned, anxiously.

"He is with them," was the gratifying reply.

It was Frank who accompanied Ned into the sleeping chamber where the
heads of the conspiracy lay asleep. It was Frank who snapped the
manacles on the wrist of the one who was lying across the entrance as
a guard.

The supreme head of the wicked conspiracy struggled, half awake, as
Ned slipped the handcuffs on and searched him for weapons. But it was
all over in a moment, much to the amazement of Bradley, who,
attracted by a gleam of light, looked through the low opening to see
the searchlights of the Boy Scouts lighting up two angry faces. The
prince--the real prince this time!--was asleep on a costly rug not
far away. Later, when awakened, his attention was at once attracted
to Mike III., who made a pretty good playfellow for him for the time
being.

For there was little sleep in the Boy Scout Camera Club camp that
night. When the boys, the old lady, the prince and the others came
out of the cave, just as the moon was showing above the rim of the
world, a rocket was mounting the sky to the north.

"One of the boys!" Ned exclaimed. "I reckon something is wrong
there!"

But nothing was wrong there--nothing at all, so far as the boys were
concerned. Oliver and Teddy had succeeded in capturing the man who
was watching the camp. Pretending to fall asleep by the fire, they
had lain in wait for the spy and captured him just as he was in the
act of setting fire to the tent.

Dode accompanied Mrs. Brady and her grandson to the cabin, where, at
her request, he remained a welcome guest for many days.

When the stories of the night had been told Jack, Jimmie, and the
three secret service men made their appearance, puffing from their
long climb. Then new stories had to be told, and the prince was by no
means slow in telling of his adventures in the hills.

"The boy lies!" the leader of the conspirators declared. "I had
nothing to do with the boy! I was not here when he was brought in. I
came on separate business with one of the men already here, and did
not know of the lad's presence here until to-night, and even then I
did not know who he was."

"All the others will swear to that," Bradley said, "in an attempt to
save the man's life by sacrificing their own."

"Never mind," Ned said, "you can testify to his interest in the
abduction."

"I don't know a thing about it," was the reply. "I was hired to watch
you in New York, and to bring Mike III. in here. I never saw this man
while here--never saw the prince. I don't even know how they got Mike
III. from his father! They kept me in ignorance of all their moves."

"Well," laughed Ned, "then we'll fall back on the confession that has
been made."

"Confession!" repeated the others. "Who has confessed?"

"The photograph!" smiled Ned, taking out the two pictures in which
the man and the prince were shown. "The pictures show this man in the
company of the prince, and the prince will tell the rest. This closes
the case."

"When are you going out?" asked the chief of the secret service men.

"Why," replied Ned, "I promised the outlaws that I would get away
to-morrow morning. I'm going to keep my word!"

"You'd better go out with us and travel in the machines, then," said
the other.

"And leave Uncle Ike?" demanded Jimmie. "Not for me! I'm going to
ride that blessed mule to Cumberland, and ship him to New York."

And he actually did! While the others were riding at their ease in
the racers, Jimmie was urging his mule along the country road,
alighting now and then to let him thrust a soft muzzle into a pocket
in quest of sugar.

At Cumberland Ned met Mike II., who was going in to spend a long time
with his mother and the boy. He had sent the son in by a Washington
friend, he said! That was all! Dode, he said, would be asked to
remain there permanently. No one even knew how much the father knew
of the trick to be played with his son.

And so, save for a few raveled ends, the story of the Boy Scout
Camera Club is told.

Bradley was given a position by Oliver's father, and became very
friendly with the boys. He insists to this day that he did not know
about the abduction of the prince.

The conspirators were turned over to their own government, and there
the record ends, though none of them was ever seen out of prison
again!

Those who wish to follow the Boy Scouts farther can do so by reading
the next book of this series, entitled: "The Boy Scout Electrician;
or, the Hidden Dynamo."





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