Boy Scounts in the Coal Caverns
Major Archibald Lee Fletcher
Part 2 out of 3
"But Ventner came here to search for the boys himself!" George broke
in. "At least, he says that he did."
"There's a mystery about the whole matter," Sandy declared, "and I'd
like to help clear it up from beginning to end!"
"We're likely to have a chance!" laughed Tommy.
"What are we going to do all the afternoon?" George asked.
"Wander around town," smiled Will, "and find out about the evening
train, and ask fool questions about the pumps and the mine, and laugh
at the idea of anybody living in there. That'll give Ventner the idea
that we're going for good, I reckon. He's a pretty bum skate to pose
as a detective!"
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do most of the afternoon!" Tommy
declared. "I'm going to the hay! I never felt so bunged up for want
of sleep in my innocent life."
"Haven't you forgotten something?" asked Sandy.
"Sure!" shouted Tommy. "I'm forgetting to eat!"
"And you're forgetting something else!" insisted Sandy.
"Nix on the forget!" declared Tommy. "When I forget my eatings and
sleepings, the world will come to an end!"
"You forgot to read a chapter in your dream book!" said Sandy.
"Never you mind that dream book," Tommy replied. "Whenever you want
to find the answer to any puzzle, you look in that dream book!"
After eating another hearty meal the boys, having already packed their
wardrobes, locked the door of their room and addressed themselves to
They were awakened about five o'clock by a loud knocking on the door,
and presently they heard the voice of Canfield calling to them.
"Wake up, boys!" he cried. "I have good news for you!"
"All right, let her go!" shouted Tommy.
"The pumps are working, and the water is lowering in the mine!"
"That's nice!" laughed Sandy.
"And we've found out what caused the sudden flooding," the caretaker
went on. "It seems that a partition, or wall, between the Labyrinth
and the Mixer mine unaccountably gave way. The Mixer mine has been
flooded for a long time and, as it lies above the level of the
Labyrinth, the water naturally flowed into our mine as soon as the
wall was down."
"But what caused the partition to fall?" asked Will, opening the door
for the admission of the caretaker.
"No one knows!" was the answer.
"If you look about a little," Tommy suggested, "I think you'll find
traces of dynamite. Who discovered the break in the dividing wall?"
"A gang under the leadership of Ventner, the detective!" was the
The caretaker was very much surprised and not a little annoyed at the
effect his answer had upon the four boys.
"I don't see anything humorous about that!" he said as the lads threw
themselves down on the bunks and roared with laughter.
"It looks funny to me!" Tommy replied. "It we had never showed up
here, the mine wouldn't have been flooded. As soon as we start away
or promise to leave the district, which amounts to the same thing,
this cheap skate of a detective finds the break, and all is well
"Why, you don't think that he had anything to do with the trouble at
the mine, do you?" questioned the caretaker.
"Oh, of course not!" replied Sandy. "Ventner had nothing to do with
cutting the ladder. That fellow will land in state's prison if he
keeps on trying to murder boys by sawing ladder rungs!"
"I had forgotten that,' said Canfield.
"Well, don't forget that this man Ventner is playing the chief
villain's role in this drama!" Tommy advised. "And another thing you
mustn't forget," the boy continued, "is that you're not to say a word
to him that will inform him that he is suspected."
"I think I can remember that!" replied the caretaker.
The boys prepared a hasty supper and then, suit cases in hand, started
for the little railway station. There they inquired about the arrival
and departure of trains, bought tickets, and made themselves as
conspicuous as possible about the depot.
"Keep your eye out for the third boy," George chuckled, as the lads
walked up and down the platform.
"Don't get excited about the third boy," Will replied. "We'll find
him when the right time comes!"
"There's Ventner!" exclaimed Tommy as the detective came rushing down
the platform. "Of course the good, kind gentleman would want to bid
"I'd like to crack him over the coco!" exclaimed Sandy.
"I'll bet he's got some kind of a fake story to tell," suggested Will.
"He looks like a man who had been working his imagination overtime!"
"News of the two boys!" shouted the detective as he came up smiling.
THE BOY IN THE "EMPTY"
"Didn't I tell you," whispered Will, "that he is there with a product
of his imagination? If you leave it to him, the two boys we're in
search of are somewhere on the Pacific slope!"
"He must think we're a lot of suckers to take in any story he'll
tell!" whispered Tommy. "A person that couldn't get next to his game
ought to be locked up in the foolish house!"
"I've just heard from a railway brakeman," Ventner said, rushing up to
the boys with an air of importance, "that the two lads you are in
search of were seen leaving a box car at a little station in Ohio. I
don't just recall the name of the station now, but I can find it by
looking on the map! It seems the lads left here on the night following
their departure from the breaker, and stole their passage to this little
town I'm telling you about."
"Good thing you came to the depot," declared Will. "We should have
been out of town in ten minutes more."
"Where is this town?" asked George, thinking it best to show great
interest in the statement made by the detective.
"It's a little place on the Lake Erie & Western road!" was the answer.
The detective took a railroad folder from his pocket and consulted a
map. It seemed to take him a long time to decide upon a place, but he
finally spread the map out against the wall of the station and laid
his finger on a point on the Lake Erie & Western railroad.
"Nankin is the name of the place. Strange I should have forgotten the
name of the place. They were put out of the car at Nankin, and are
believed to have started down the railroad right of way on foot."
"But you said they were seen leaving the car at Napkin!" Tommy cut in.
"Now you say they were put out of the car!"
"Well, they were chased out of the car, and that covers both
statements," replied the detective somewhat nervously.
"Thank you very much for the information!" Will exclaimed as the train
the boys were to take came rolling into the station. "The pointer is
undoubtedly a good one, and we'll take a look at the country about
There was a crossing not more than six miles from the station where
the boys had taken the train and they were all ready to jump when the
engineer slowed down and whistled his note of warning. It was quite
dark, although stars were showing in a sky plentifully scattered over
with clouds and, as the boys dropped down out of the illumination of
the windows as soon as they struck the ground, they were not seen to
leave the train by any of the passengers.
In a moment the train rushed on, leaving the four standing on the
roadbed looking disconsolately in the direction of the town.
"Now for a good long hike!" exclaimed Tommy.
"It's for your own good!" laughed Sandy.
"I can always tell when something is for my own good," Tommy
"You don't look it!" chuckled Sandy.
"When anything's for my own good," the boy continued, "it's always
disagreeable! It makes me think of a story I read once where the man
complained that everything he ever wanted in this world was either
expensive, indigestible or immoral."
"Well, get on the hike!" laughed George. "You can stand here and
moralize till the cows come home, and it won't move you half an inch
in the direction of the mine!"
"And look here," Will exclaimed as the boys started up the grade,
"when we get within sight of the lights of the station, we must
scatter and keep our traps closed! We can all make for the mine by
different routes. Ventner thinks we are out of town now, and the
chances are that he'll be plugging around trying to accomplish some
purpose known only to himself. For my part I don't believe he is
employed on the same case we are! He's working for some outside
"That's the way it strikes me!" George agreed. "If the detective had
been honestly trying to assist us, the mine wouldn't have been
flooded, the pumps wouldn't have broken down, and the electric motors
would have been found in excellent working order."
"Did you notice the suit he had on when he stood talking with us at
the station?" asked Will. "That was a blue serge suit, wasn't it?"
"It surely was!" Tommy declared, quick to catch the point. "And there
was a tear down the front of it which looked as if it had been made by
the scraping of a saw! I guess if you'll inspect the shreds we found
on the saw with the breaks in that coat front you'll find where the
saw got in its work, all right!"
"And there was a cut on his, hand, too!" Sandy observed. "Looked
like he had bounced the saw off one of the rungs on top of a finger."
"Oh, he's a clever little boy all right!" Tommy cut in. "But he
forgot to leave his brass band at home when he went out to cut into
that ladder! If he does all his work the way he did that job, he'll
be sitting in some nice, quiet state's prison before he's six months
When the boys came within a quarter of a mile of the station lights,
they parted, Will and George turning off from the right of way and
Sandy and Tommy keeping on for half a dozen rods. When the four boys
were finally clear of the tracks they were walking perhaps twenty rods
apart, and at right angles with the right of way.
"Now, as we approach the mine," Will cautioned his companion, "keep
your eye out for Ventner and this third boy. They are both likely to
be chasing around in the darkness."
The route to the mine, taken by Tommy and his chum crossed a network
of tracks, led up to the weigh-house and so on into the breaker. As
they came to a line of empty cars standing on a spur they heard a
movement in one of the empties and crouched down to listen.
"There's some one in there!" declared Tommy.
"Some old bum, probably!"
This from Sandy who had recently bumped his shins on a pile of ties
and was not in a very pleasant humor.
"It may be the boy we're looking for!" urged Tommy.
Sandy sat down on the end of a tie and rubbed his bruised shin
vigorously, muttering and protesting, against railroad yards in
general and this one in particular as he did so.
Tommy made his way under the empty and sat listening, his ear almost
against the bottom of the car. Presently he heard a movement above
and then it seemed to him that something of considerable weight was
being dragged across the floor. This was followed in a moment by a
slight groan, and then a shadowy figure leaped from the open side door
and started away in the darkness.
Now Sandy had been warned to hang onto the third boy like grim death
if he caught sight of him. He saw this figure bounce out of the car
and start, away. Therefore, he promptly reached out a foot and
tripped the unknown to the ground.
He fell with a grunt of anger and pain and lay rolling on the cinders
which lined the roadbed for a moment without speaking. In the
meantime, Tommy had crawled out from under the car and stood ready to
seize any second person who might make his appearance.
Almost immediately a second body came bouncing out of the empty.
Instead of starting away on a run, however, the second person stopped
where Sandy stood beside the wiggling figure and looked down upon it.
"Hand him one!" he said in a boy's voice.
"Who is it?" asked Sandy.
"Don't know!" was the reply.
"What was he doing to you?"
"He was trying to rob me!"
"I don't think a man would get rich, robbing people who ride in
empties!" laughed Sandy. "I shouldn't think their bank rolls would
make much of a hit with a bold, bad highwayman!"
"There's men riding the rods," was the reply, "who would kill a boy
for a dime! If I wasn't opposed to cruelty to animals, I'd give this
fellow a beating up right now. He tried to drag me from the car by
the leg and nearly broke my ankle!"
"I heard him dragging you across the floor!" Tommy said, coming up to
where the two stood. "Can you see who it is?" he added.
"He's just a tramp!" the other replied. "I saw him sneaking around
the empties just before dark."
"Why were you sleeping in an empty?" asked Sandy.
"Because I like plenty of fresh air!" replied the boy with a chuckle.
While the boys talked the tramp arose and sneaked away, limping over
the ties as if tickled to death to get out of the way of the three
As he disappeared in the darkness Tommy turned to the boy who had
dropped out of the car to ask him a question.
The boy was nowhere to be seen.
"Now we've gone and done it!" cried Sandy.
"I guess we have!" agreed Tommy. "We've let the third boy get away
from us! And we couldn't have done a worse thing!" he went on,
"because the boys in the mine will know that we are still in this
While the boys stood blaming themselves the sharp call of the Wolf
pack came to them.
A KNOCK AT THE DOOR
When Will and George came to the back of the weigh-house they heard
some one moving about at the front.
"That's probably the caretaker, taking his last look for the night,"
suggested Will. "He pokes around all the outbuildings every night
before he goes to bed. At least, he is supposed to."
"But this fellow hasn't got any lantern," urged George.
"The plot deepens!" chuckled Will.
"Can you crawl around there and see who it is," asked George, "or
shall I go? It may be a thief, or it may be Ventner, or it may be
this boy we're looking for. Anyway, we want to know who it is!"
"I'll go!" Will suggested, "and don't you make any racket if you hear
something doing there. The one thing to do at this time is to keep
our presence here a profound secret."
Will moved cautiously around the angle of the weigh-house just in time
to see a figure leaving the side of the building and moving toward the
breaker. There was a little side door in the breaker not far from the
weigh-house, and it was toward this that the prowler was making his
Half way to the little house the fellow stumbled over some obstruction
in his path and fell sprawling to the ground. He arose with an
impatient oath and moved on again, but not before the watcher had
recognized both the figure and the voice. Will, turned back to where
George stood. "That's Ventner," he said.
"Are you sure?"
"Dead sure!" There was a short silence. "What can we do now?"
"I don't know of anything we can do, unless it is to watch the rascal
and see where he goes," answered the other. "The chances are that
he's trying to get into the mine!"
"That shows the fellow is a crook!" Will contended. "He has full
permission to enter the mine at any time he sees fit."
"Of course, he's a crook!" agreed George. "What would he be sneaking
around here in the night for, if he wasn't engaged in some underhand
game? You just wait until we get into the mine," the boy continued,
"and we'll give him a ghost scare that'll hold him for a while."
As Ventner approached the little side door leading into the breaker, a
light flashed in the window of the room which the boys had occupied,
and directly Canfield's voice was heard asking:
"Now if he's on the square, he'll answer!" whispered Will.
There was no reply whatever, and in a moment the caretaker called
again, this time rather peremptorily:
"What are you prowling about the yard for?"
The detective dropped to his knees and began crawling away.
"If I see you around here again," the caretaker shouted in a braver
tone now that the intruder was taking his departure, "I'll do some
Evidently giving over the attempt to enter the mine at that time, the
detective arose to his feet as soon as he gained the shelter of the
weigh-house, and walked away, passing as he did so, within a few feet
of where the boys were standing.
"That settles that bum detective, so far as we are concerned!" Will
said to his chum, in a whisper. "We knew before that he was playing a
rotten game on us, but we didn't know that, his plans included such
surreptitious visits to the mine."
After making sure that the detective was not within sight or sound,
Will and George tapped softly at the little door and were admitted by
the caretaker. Five minutes later they were joined by Tommy and
"Were you boys out there a few moments ago?" asked Canfield.
"Nix!" replied George. "That was Ventner. We saw him from the
weigh-house. He was trying to sneak his way into the mine!"
"But he has full permission to enter at any time he sees fit!" urged
the caretaker. "It doesn't seem as if he would attempt to steal his
way in during the night. You must be mistaken!"
"Yes, and perhaps we were mistaken about the sawing of the ladder,
too!" Tommy broke in.
"Yes, we may all be mistaken about that."
"Not so you could notice it!" declared Sandy.
"If you look at the thief's coat, you'll see that he didn't do all the
sawing on the rungs of the ladder. We've got him too dead to skin!"
Without any lights being shown on the surface, the boys were conducted
down the ladder to the first level. There they found a room very
cozily furnished, indeed. A lounge from the office, a couple of good
sized cupboards, and a large table had been brought down, together
with a serviceable rug and numerous chairs, and the apartment presented
an unexpectedly homelike appearance.
The current was on, and two electric lamps made the room as light as
day. The cooking was to be done over electric coils so that the
presence of the boys would not be disclosed by smoke. One of the
ventilating pipes which supplied the offices in the vicinity of the
shaft with fresh air passed through the room, so there was no lack of
"Have we got plenty of eatings?" asked Tommy.
"Plenty!" was the reply. "I have arranged for fresh meat, milk and
vegetables to be brought in every evening."
"Talk about your bull-headed, obstinate men!" exclaimed Tommy, as the
caretaker finally took his departure. "That fellow takes the cake!
He knows very well that we caught Vintner in the act of sawing on the
ladder, and he knows, too, that we heard Wolf calls while we were in
the mine. Still he shakes his head and says that he don't know about
the boys being there, and don't know about that bum detective being
crooked. If you could get a saw and operate on his head, you'd find
it solid bone!"
"You'll feel better after you get supper!" Sandy declared.
"This isn't any grouch!" insisted Tommy. "This is the true story of
that man's life! If I had a dollar for every time he doesn't know
anything, I'd be the richest boy in the world!"
"Are you thinking of going down the mine tonight?" asked George, with
a wink at Will. "We might try another midnight excursion."
"If you kids go into the mine tonight," declared Will, "I'll send you
both back to Chicago on the first train!"
"Aw, how are you going to find these boys if you don't go into the
mine?" demanded Tommy. "I suppose you'll want us to wait till
daylight when the owners will be looking around to see if any damage
was done by the inundation. The best time is at night!"
"Look here," Will argued, "we've got to do more than lay hands on the
boys! We've got to find out why they are hiding in the mine."
"That's the correct word," agreed George. "Hiding is the word that
expresses the situation exactly!"
"There is no doubt," Will continued, "that the boys were sent here by
some one for some specific purpose. They are hiding in the mine with
a well-defined motive. I have an idea that we might be able to find
them in twenty-four hours, but what is more important, is to find out
what they are up to."
"Well, in order to get the whole story, we'll have to pretend that we
are looking for them and can't find them!" George said.
"That's right!" laughed Tommy. "Give them plenty of rope and they'll
hang themselves. We may as well have the whole story while we're at
Before preparing their beds for the night, the boys paid a visit to
the shaft and made their way down to the rungs which had been cut.
They found that they had been replaced by new ones.
There was still water in the lower levels of the mine, but it was
slowly disappearing through the sump, and the indications were that it
would be dry by morning. The boys listened intently for some evidence
of occupancy as they moved up and down the shaft, but all was still.
"This would be a good place to tell a ghost story," Tommy chuckled as
they moved back to their room on the first level.
"There's about a million stories now, entitled "The Ghost of the
Mine!" declared Sandy. "Perhaps however," he went on, "one more
"If I see a ghost tonight," declared Tommy, "it'll be in my dreams!"
Sandy and Tommy were sound asleep on their cots as soon as supper was
over, and Will and George were getting ready to retire when the soft
patter of a light footstep sounded in the vicinity of the shaft.
"Rats must be thick in the mine!" suggested George.
"Rats nothing!" declared Will. "Those two youngsters are prowling
about in order to see what we are up to!"
As he spoke the boy arose, turned off the electric light and stepped
out into the passage.
A MIDNIGHT ROBBER
There was a quick scamper of feet as Will stepped out, then silence!
"Where did he go?" asked George, joining big chum on the outside.
"Down the ladder!" replied Will.
"Why don't we go and see where he went?"
"That might be a good idea," Will replied. "Do you think it's safe
for us to try to navigate that shaft in the dark?"
"We can stick to the ladders, can't we?" asked George.
"We ought to find out where the kids hang out," Will argued. "I'd
like to get my hands on one of them!"
"I don't think we're likely to do that tonight," George answered.
"It seems to me that about the only way we can catch those fellows is
to set a bear trap. They seem to be rather slippery."
Will, clad only in pajamas and slippers, moved toward the shaft and
looked down. It was dark and still below, and he turned back with a
little shudder. The situation was not at all to his liking.
"Well, are you going down?" asked George.
"Sure, I'm going down!" Will answered. "I'm only waiting to get up my
nerve! It looks pretty dreary down there. If we could use a light I
wouldn't mind, but it's pretty creepy going down that hole in the
"Then suppose we wait until morning," suggested George.
Will leaned against the shaft timbers and laughed. "It'll be just as
dark in here in the morning, as it is now!" he said. "I think we'd
better go on down tonight and see if we can locate the fellows."
The two boys passed swiftly down the ladder, paused a moment at the
second level, and then passed on to the third. The gangways leading
out from the shaft were reasonably dry now. Lower down the dip they
were still under a few inches of water.
"I don't see how we're going to discover anybody down in this blooming
old well!" George grumbled. "There might be a regiment of state
troops here an we wouldn't be able to see a single soldier!"
"We can't show a light, for all that!" declared Will. "We've just got
to wait and see if they won't be kind enough to show a light."
"You guessed it," chuckled George, whispering softly in his chum's
ear, "there's a glimmer of light, now!"
"I see it!" Will replied.
The boys left the ladder and moved out into the center gangway. They
could see a light flickering some distance in advance, and had no
difficulty in following it.
"That's an electric torch!" Will commented.
"Perhaps, if we follow along, we'll be able to track them to their
nest," George suggested, "and, still, I don't care about getting very
far away from the shaft. We might get lost in these crooked
"Yes," replied Will. "Some one might head us off, too. I don't care
about being held up here in pajamas."
The mine was damp and cold, and a wind was sweeping up the passage
toward the shaft. The boys shivered as they walked, yet kept
resolutely on until the light they were following left the main
gangway and disappeared in a cross heading.
That means 'Good-night' for me," whispered Will, "for I'm not going to
get out beyond the reach of the rails. I guess we'll have to go back
and invent some other means of trapping those foxy boys."
As Will spoke the light reappeared and moved on down the gangway
again. Then, for the first time, the boys saw a figure outlined
against the illumination. Will caught his chum by the arm excitedly.
"That isn't one of the boys at all!" he exclaimed.
"Well, how large a population do you think this mine has!" demanded
George. "If it isn't one of the boys, who is it?"
"That bum detective!" answered Will.
"So he got in here at last, did he?" chuckled George. "Well, it's up
to us to find out what he's doing in here!"
"Do you think that is the gink who was prowling around our room?"
asked Will. "If he is, then our little trip in the country doesn't
count for much!"'
"The fellow who visited us," George argued, "was light and quick on
his feet. This bum detective waddles a lot like an old cow."
"Then we've passed the boy who called to see us, and failed to leave a
card," grinned Will. "We may meet him as we return!"
"Here's hoping we bump straight into him if we do meet him," George
exclaimed. "I'm just aching to get my hands on that fellow!"
"I'm not particularly anxious to catch him just yet," Will suggested.
"I want to find out what the kids are up to before we pounce down upon
While the boys stood in the passage, whispering together, the light
moved on until it came to a chamber which seemed to be rather shallow,
for the reflection of the searchlight was still in the gangway.
"Now we've got him!" exclaimed Will. "I think I remember that chamber,
and, unless I'm very much mistaken, it opens only onto this passage!
While he's poking around in there, we'll sneak up and see what's he's
Before the boys reached the entrance to the chamber they heard the
sounds of a pick. When they came nearer and looked in they saw the
detective poking away at heap of "gob" which lay in one corner of the
excavation. He worked industriously, and apparently without fear of
discovery. Now and then he stooped down to peer into a crevice in the
wall, but soon went on again.
"I wonder if he thinks he can find two boys in that heap of refuse?"
laughed George. "I wonder why he don't use a microscope."
The detective busied himself at the heap of refuse for a considerable
length of time, and then began further Investigation of little breaks
in the wall. Using his pick to enlarge the openings he made a
systematic search of one break after another.
Looks like he might be hunting after some pirate treasure," George
chuckled. "I never heard of Captain Kidd sailing over into the
sloughs of Pennsylvania. Did you?"
"That tells the story!" Will whispered. "The fellow is here on some
mission of his own. That story of his about being in quest of the
boys is all a bluff! I reckon he had heard somewhere that two boys
were missing and came here with the fairy tale!"
Well, he's got a good, large mine to look in if he's in search of
treasure," George suggested. "He can spend the rest of his days here,
provided the operators don't get sore on him."
While the boys looked, Ventner turned toward the entrance to the
chamber, and they scampered away. Turning back, they saw him pass out
of the place where he had been working and into a similar excavation
farther on. There he worked as industriously as before.
"You see how it is," Will suggested. "The fellow is hunting for
something, and doesn't know where to look for it! So it's all right
to let him go ahead with his quest for hidden wealth, or whatever it
is he's after. When he finds it, we'll not be far away!"
"I like this walking about in my naked feet," George grunted in a
moment. "I had my slippers on when I came down the ladder, but I
either had to take them off and carry them in my hands or lose them in
"Same here!" Will said. "I'm going back to my little cot bed right
now and go to sleep. I think we have the detective sized up and we
can catch the kids some other night."
"Me for the hay, too," George exclaimed. "I don't think I was ever
quite so sleepy in my life!"
"Now, on the way back," Will cautioned, "we ought to keep still and
keep a sharp lookout for the person who was sneaking around our
"Whoever it was may be between us and the shaft," George suggested.
"If I thought so," Will argued, "I'd just stand around and wait until
they pass us on the way in. I don't want to find those boys just
now. There's a mystery connected with this mine which the caretaker
knows nothing about, and which Mr. Horton never referred to when he
sent us down here.
"We wouldn't be able to breathe if we didn't discover an air of
mystery every fifteen minutes," George declared.
Half way back to the shaft the boys, who were walking very softly in
their stockinged feet, heard a rattle as of a moving stone or piece
of coal in the passage, and at once drew up against the side wall.
While they stood there, scarcely daring to breathe, they sensed that
some one was passing them in the darkness. The tread was light and
brisk, and they thought they heard a soft chuckle as the unseen figure
breezed by them.
"I'll bet the lad who was listening near our door never came down the
shaft until after we did!" George whispered after the figure had
"That's very likely!" agreed Will.
"Then he may have been poking around our quarters while we have been
"That's very likely, too."
Believing the way to be clear now, the boys hastened on toward the
shaft. Just as they reached the foot of the ladder they heard a
sound which sent the blood throbbing to their checks.
"He's making fun of us!" exclaimed George.
"It looks like it," admitted Will.
The sound they heard was the low, complaining snarl of the Wolf.
"The nerve of him!" exclaimed George.
"Perhaps he'll answer now!" Will suggested.
Then followed the "slap, slap, slap!" of the Beaver Patrol.
No answer came from the darkness beyond the shaft.
"He's got his nerve with him!" declared Will. "When I get hold of
him, I'll teach him to answer Boy Scout challenges!"
When the boys got back to their quarters they found Tommy and Sandy
sitting in the darkness with their automatics and their searchlights
in their hands. One of them turned on a finger of light as the boys
entered but immediately shut it off again.
"What's coming off here?" demanded Will.
"Do you know what those fellows did?" asked Tommy. "They came here
while we were asleep and stole about half our provisions!"
ONE MORE HUNGRY BOY
"We may as well turn on the lights!" Will said. "If any one comes in
here to steal Tommy's necktie," he added with a wink at his chum, "we
want to see what he looks like."
"Why didn't you stay here and watch, then?" demanded Tommy. "Why did
you go off and leave the camp all alone? I heard people moving
around, and I thought it was you."
Will and George sat down on the edge of their cots and laughed.
"Yes, you thought it was me!" Will said directly. "You never heard a
thing! You'd better look and see if the midnight visitors didn't
steal your pajamas. Or they might have taken your pillow."
Tommy threw a shoe at his tormentor and turned on the electric light.
"Now that I'm awake," he said with a sly grin, "I think that I'll get
myself something to eat. Seems to me I'm always hungry."
While the boy rattled among canned goods and candled eggs to see if
they were fit for a four-minute boil, Sandy turned to George.
"What did you find in the mine?" he asked.
"We found that bum detective nosing around. We've got his number now,
all right," the boy went on, "and there's something in the mine that
he wants to find and he doesn't know where to look for it. He isn't
looking for Jimmie and Dick any more than we're looking for a pot of
gold at the end of a rainbow. I don't believe he was ever sent here to
make a search for the missing boys!"
"What was he doing when you saw him?" asked Sandy.
"Poking around in worked-out chambers with a pick!"
"Did he see you?"
"You bet he didn't! Do you think we're going to walk six miles in
from the country in order to dodge the detective, and then let him run
across us in the mine?"
"Yes, but what's he looking for?" insisted Sandy.
"That, me son," George replied with a wink, "is locked in the bosom of
the future! We may be able to find out what he's doing here when we
find out who struck Billy Patterson."
"Don't get gay now!" grinned Sandy.
"Well, if you insist upon it," George continued with a smile, "Ventner
was digging in refuse heaps for something which he didn't find!"
"Did you meet the boys who stole our provisions?" was the next
question. "I wish you'd got hold of them!"
"We are certain that one of them passed us while we were returning,"
"The nerve of him!" shouted Sandy.
"The idea of his coming here and swiping our provisions!" Tommy cut
in. "If I ever get hold of that gink, I'll beat his head off!"
"You going back after than bum detective tonight?" asked George.
"Not me!" answered Sandy. "Me for ham and eggs."
"What's the matter with passing the ham and eggs around?"
Every one of the four boys sprang forward as the words came from
somewhere just outside the door.
"That's one of those thieving kids!" declared Tommy.
"You've had your share!" shouted Sandy.
"It has now been nine day's since I've tasted food!" came the answer
from the other side of the door, and the boys thought they caught a
chuckle between the words.
"All right!" replied Tommy. "You go and sit in the deserted mine nine
days more, and then we'll consider whether you have any right to be
hungry. Go on away tonight, anyhow!"
"Not so you could notice it," came the insistent tones from beyond the
door. "I'm going to stay right here until I get something to eat!"
"Eat the stuff you stole!" advised Sandy.
"You're in wrong!" came from the other side of the door. "I haven't
had a thing to eat in forty or fifty days. Come on, now," he added,
"be good fellows and open up. I'm so hungry I could eat a brass
"Aw, let him in!" advised Tommy. "He'll stand there chinning all
night if we don't! We've got enough to eat for the present anyway."
Will unfastened the door and a tall slender young fellow of perhaps
seventeen stopped inside the room and stood blinking a moment under
the strong, electric light. His face was streaked with coal dust and
his clothing was ragged and dirty. Still the boy looked like anything
but a tramp. Tommy eyed him suspiciously for a moment.
"Where'd you come from?" he asked.
"Off the rods!" was the reply.
"And I suppose," Sandy broke in, "that you were just taking a stroll
by starlight and just happened to walk into this mine."
"Sure," answered the other with a provoking grin.
"Well, if anybody should ask you," Tommy continued, "you're the boy
that had a mix-up with the tramp tonight, and ran away while we were
trying to invite you to supper. What do you know about that?"
"Invite me to supper now and see if I'll run away!"
"If you boys will cut out this foolish conversation for a minute,"
Will suggested, "I'll try to find out what this boy wants. Do you
mean to say," he added turning to Tommy, "that you bumped into this
kid while returning to the mine from the tracks?"
"Didn't I tell you about that?" asked Tommy. "I thought I did. We
found him in a mix-up with a tramp, and that's all there is to it!"
"And I told you at the time," the stranger interrupted, "that the
tramp tried to rob me! That was all right, too. He did try to rob
me, but I didn't have a blessed cent in my possession, so he didn't
get anything! The tramp who got a hold of me night before last
stripped me clean! And that, you see, is why I haven't got any money
to buy provisions with. And also that's the reason why I'm hungry."
The four boys gathered around the stranger and began a systematic
course of questions which at first brought forth only unsatisfactory
"And also," the boy went on, taking up the speech he had begun some
minutes before, "that's why two boys are hungry just about this time.
I got rolled for my wad plenty."
"That's South Clark street!" laughed Tommy.
"That's Bowery!" corrected the other.
"What'd you say about other boys being hungry?" asked Sandy.
"I said that's why two other boys are hungry."
"They ain't hungry any more," declared Tommy with a wink.
"That listens good!" the stranger said.
"Because," continued Tommy, "they came in here about an hour ago and
stole everything they could get their hands on."
"Brave boys!" laughed the other.
"You wasn't hiding behind the door when they gave out nerve, either!"
declared Tommy. "Here, these boys come here and steal our grub and you
seem to think they did a noble thing! What's your name anyhow?"
"Buck!" was the reply. "Elmer Cyrus Buck, 409 Lexington Avenue,
N.Y.C. Member of the Wolf Patrol, Boy Scouts of America, and just
about ready to scrap for something to eat!"
"Why didn't you say so before?" Tommy exclaimed, setting a great slice
of ham and several freshly boiled eggs, together with bread and butter
and canned tomatoes before the young man.
"How long since you've seen Jimmie Maynard and Dick Thompson?" asked
Will. "You must have failed to connect with them tonight!"
"How do you know that?"
"Because if you had bumped into them, they would fed you out of the
provisions they stole from us!"
"I haven't been looking for them tonight!" Elmer replied. "I tried
to follow you to the mine," he added turning to Tommy and Sandy, "when
you left me at the car. But, somehow, I lost track of you in the
darkness, and when you finally got into the mine, I had to wait for
things to quiet down before I could force an entrance. I don't think
I could have got in at all if some one hadn't been ahead of me with a
jimmy, or an axe, or something of that kind."
"That must have been Ventner," suggested Will.
"Mother of Moses!" cried Elmer. "Has that fellow got into the mine
again? Does he know you're here?"
"He knew that we were here," was the answer, "but he thinks we've gone
away! He's down in the mine now, hunting for a pot of diamonds in the
refuse cast aside by the miners."
"Well, you've got him into the mine, at last," Will suggested. "What
is the next move you are thinking of making?"
"After I finish my modest supper," Elmer answered with a nod at the
great stack of food which Tommy had piled on his plate, "I'm going to
give you boys the surprise of your lives!"
"You're pretty well done now," laughed Will.
"And I'm going to begin," Elmer resumed, "by fishing two members of
the Wolf Patrol out of the mine and bringing them up here to apologize
for stealing your grub!"
"If you'll do that," replied Will, "we'll forgive you!"
MINE RATS READY FOR WAR
"Wait till I destroy this hen fruit," Elmer said, "and I'll go down
and bring those two foolish youngsters up with me. It's time we had
an understanding with you boys. You're here looking for something,
and we're here looking for something. Perhaps we would meet with
better success if we talked over our plans."
"What are you looking for?" demanded Tommy.
"Keep it dark," grinned Elmer. "I'm not going to tell you a thing
until I bring Jimmie and Dick up here so they can get next to the
whole story! I guess you boys can work together without scrapping,
"When we find the boys," laughed Will, "our job will come to an end!"
"You just wait till I go and bring up Jimmie and Dick, and I'll tell
you all about it! I won't be gone inon, than a minute."
"So that's what you came down here after, isn't it?"
"Yes, we came here to dig two boys out of a mine."
"I don't believe it!" replied Elmer.
"We came here from Chicago for that very purpose," went on Will.
"Who sent you here?" asked Elmer.
"Then Lawyer Horton didn't tell you the 'whole story,'" laughed Elmer.
"He held out on you boys just to see if you wouldn't get the story at
the mine. Of course he didn't know where we were at the time he sent
you down here, but he never sent you for the express purpose of
"Then why did he send us?" asked Tommy.
"You just wait till I go and bring up Jimmie and Dick, and I'll tell
you all about it! I won't be gone more than a minute."
"But hold on," cried Sandy. "You mustn't go chasing down into the mine
now. That bum detective is there, and we don't want him to know that
we're anywhere within a hundred miles of this place."
"He doesn't know that we're here, either," commented Elmer. "His
notion is that he drove us all into the next state when he caused the
mine to be flooded. He thinks he has the whole mine to himself, now."
"So he caused the mine to be flooded, did he?"
"Sure he did," was the curt reply. "The boys saw him digging away at
the wall which protects this dry mine from the wet one next door."
"So you saw him doing it, did you?"
"I didn't, because I haven't been in the mine before any length of
time, but Jimmie and Dick saw him.
"We've been told that he made the trouble," Will agreed, "but we
weren't so very sure of it, after all. At least, we didn't have the
proof. He ought to get twenty years for that!"
"Well, if you keep asking me questions all night," Elmer declared,
"I'll never get the boys up here, and you'll never know why you were
sent here! You can come along with me if you want to."
"But how about this detective?" insisted Sandy.
"We ought to be able to get the boys up here, without letting him know
that we are in the mine," answered Elmer. "We needn't travel with a
fife and drum corps ahead of us, nor even carry any lights down with
us. He's probably working in some inside chamber."
"All right," Will answered, "we've had our trip through the mine
tonight, so we'll let Tommy and Sandy go with you. Are you sure the
boys will come if you ask them to?"
"Sure they'll come!" was the reply.
The two boys drew on their rubber boots with which they had provided
themselves before taking up their quarters in the mine, and which they
had been too excited to use on a previous occasion, and Will loaned a
pair to Elmer, then they started down the ladders.
"It would be something of a joke if we should butt into that detective
now, wouldn't it?" Sandy laughed, as they passed down from the second
"I shouldn't consider it much of a joke," replied Tommy. "We took a
lot of pains to make him think we'd gone out of town!"
As the boys walked softly down the center gangway they heard a fall of
rock which seemed to come from the passage next north. This
passageway was connected by the main one with a cross-heading,
situated perhaps three hundred feet from the shaft.
"I don't know much about mines," whisper Elmer as the boys stopped and
listened to the clatter of the rocks as they settled down on the floor
of the cavern, "but that sounds to me a whole lot like a fall from the
roof. I hope the boys are not injured."
The boys walked faster until they came to the cross-passage and then
turned to the right. Just as they left the main gangway, they heard
the sound of running feet and directly the distant creaking the ladder
"Some one's making a hot-foot for the surface!" exclaimed Tommy.
"That's Ventner!" declared Sandy.
"How do you know that?"
"Because he wears heavy boots. We have rubbers, me and Dick, and
Jimmie and Dick, who are down in the mine, are also wearing rubber
"The farther he gets away from the mine, the better it will suit me,"
Elmer broke in. "I wish he'd go away and stay for a hundred years."
"The chances are that he dug away one of the pillars and caused that
drop from the roof," suggested Sandy.
"I guess that's all right, too," Elmer argued. "If he's been digging
around here the way the boys say he has, he's certainly taking chances
on cutting down more than one column. He ought to be fired out of the
The boys now came to a chamber across the entrance to which a great
mass of shale had been thrown when the fall from the roof took place.
At first they listened, fearful that they would hear voices of the
lads they were in search of beyond the wall, possibly crushed under
the weight of the of stone. Then they passed along for a short
distance and peered into the chamber over the heap of refuse.
What they saw brought excited exclamations to their lips.
Jimmie and Dick stood in the interior of the chamber, hedged in by
fallen debris. They were swinging their searchlights frantically from
side to side, and, while the boys looked, they began the utterance of
such yells as had never before been heard in that gloomy place.
"What's the trouble?" asked Elmer, showing his light at the narrow
opening between the roof of the chamber and the pile of refuse.
"Oh, you're there, are you?" asked one of the boys. "We thought
perhaps you'd gone back to New York and left us to starve to death."
"Well, you didn't starve, did you?" asked Elmer.
"Wow, wow, wow!" yelled Jimmie.
"Now, what is it?" asked Elmer.
"Rats!" yelled the boy. "Millions of rats! They're creeping out by
the regiment from the cribbing where we were hidden!"
"That idiot of a detective," the other boy went on, "undermined a
pillar and let about half an acre of roof down into this chamber.
When the roof fell, it broke the cribbing and the rats began pouring
"They won't hurt you!" declared Tommy. "Only you mustn't go to
picking a quarrel with them. They're fighters when they get their
tempers up. Just let them alone and they'll let you alone!"
"Who's that talking?" demanded Jimmie.
"That's the relief expedition!" laughed Elmer.
"You ought to be fired out of the Wolf Patrol for not answering Boy
Scout signals!" Tommy broke in. "We called to you more than a dozen
times, and you never answered once!"
"Well, we had to wait until Elmer reported kind of fellows you were,
didn't we?" asked Dick. "We couldn't go and make friends with you
with knowing what you were here for, so we kept out of your way until
Elmer could find a way to learn more about you."
"And instead of finding a way," Jimmie took up the argument, "he goes
off and gets lost in a thicket about six feet square and never shows
up with any grub for twenty-four hours! So we had to go and steal
grub of the boys!"
"Yes, and we're going to have you pinched when you get out!" laughed
Tommy. "You'll get ninety days for that."
"Where'd that bum detective go?" asked Jimmie. "When the roof fell,
we heard him go clattering down the gangway running as though he had
only about thirty seconds in which to get to New York."
"He's a long distance from the mine by this time," Elmer suggested.
"Well," Jimmie said, "I don't like the company of these rats, so if
you'll kindly dig into the refuse on your side, we'll work from this
side and we'll soon be out. These rats look hostile."
"You let 'em alone!" advised Tommy.
"Yes, I'll let 'em alone -- not!" shouted Jimmie.
"You wait until I get an armful of rocks and I'll beat some of their
"For the love of Mike, don't do anything of the kind!" yelled Tommy.
"They'll climb onto you nine feet thick if you injure one of them!"
But it was too late! Jimmie acquired an armful of large sized pieces
of slate and began tossing them into the huddle of rats in the corner.
For an instant the rats squealed viciously as they wore struck by the
sharp edges of the slate, then they seemed to confer together for a
moment or two, then they spread out like a fan and began moving toward
the two boys.
"Now you've done it!" cried Tommy. "If you don't get out of. There in
about a second, the rats'll eat your legs off!"
Without waiting for the boys to assume the offensive, the rats began
screaming and springing at their feet.
The three boys on the outside of the barrier, understanding the peril
their friends were in, crawled up to the top of the wall of refuse
which shut the boys into the chamber and turned their lights inside.
It seemed to them then that the rats were two or, three deep on the
floor. There appeared to be hundreds--thousands of them. They
circled around the boys, becoming bolder every moment. They nipped at
the rubber boots and left the marks of their teeth on the tough
"Now, boys," Tommy yelled, as they drew their automatics and leveled
them over the wall, "shoot to kill! This is no Sunday School picnic!
And while we're shooting, boys, you back up to this wall, and see if
you can't work your way to the top. If you can get up here, we can
manage to displace enough slate to let you through."
The boys fired volley after volley, but the, rats came on viciously.
A STICK OF DYNAMITE
By this time Jimmie and Dick had their automatics out and were firing
into the horde of rats. They killed the rodents by the score, yet for
every one slaughtered a dozen seemed to appear.
Presently the chamber became so full of powder smoke, the air so
stifling, that the lads were obliged to cease firing.
"Work your way up this wall," Tommy cried out to the lads as he heard
them panting below. "Work your way up so we can catch hold of you,
and you'll soon be out of that mess!"
"There's a dozen rats hanging to my boot!" cried Dick.
"And mine, too!" declared Jimmie.
The three boys on the outside continued to hurt refuse from the top of
the wall into the chamber. This in a measure kept the rats back, and
before many minutes Jimmie and Dick were drawn to the top of the
Their rubber boots were cut in scores of places by the sharp teeth of
the rats, and even their clothing as high up as their shoulders showed
ragged tears. A dozen or more rats hung to the boys' boots until the
top was reached, then they dropped back screaming with baffled rage.
"Talk about your wild Indians!" exclaimed Tommy. "I never saw
anything as vicious as that was! I told you boys not to open up an
argument with those fellows! Mine rats are noted for their courage
"How many bites did you get?" asked Elmer anxiously.
"I got half a dozen nips!" answered Jimmie.
"And so did I," Dick cut in.
"Well, you boys ought to get back to the room right away," Tommy
suggested, "and have peroxide applied to the wounds. I've known of
people dying of blood poison occasioned by rat bites."
"Have you got it in camp with you?" asked Elmer.
"We're the original field hospital!" laughed Tommy. "We never leave
Chicago without taking with us everything needed in the first aid to
the wounded line. We'd be nice Boy Scouts to go poking about the
country with nothing with which to heal our wounds!"
"Boys," Elmer now said, with a mischievous grin on his face, "I want
to introduce you to Jimmie Maynard and Dick Thompson. I've heard that
your names are Sandy and Tommy, but that's all I know about it!"
"Green and Gregory!" laughed Tommy. "My name's Gregory. Sandy's name
isn't Sandy at all but Charley. We call him Sandy because he looks
like he'd been rolled in sand."
"Well, we may as well be getting back to headquarters!" declared
Sandy after these original introductions had been made. "But hold
on," he continued turning back to Jimmie and Dick, with a look on his
face intended to be severe, "aren't you going to bring our provisions
"The provisions," laughed Jimmie, "were hidden in the chamber where
the rats were, and you're welcome to all you can get your hands on
"Oh, well," Sandy groaned, "I suppose we'll have to buy more."
"One difficulty about passing in and out of the mine so frequently,"
Tommy stated, "is that this man Ventner is likely to catch us at it.
There's no knowing what he'll do next if he finds that we're searching
the place. According to Elmer, you know," he continued, "we didn't
finish our job when we landed on you boys. He says the real game is
now about to begin."
"He's right there!" declared Jimmie.
"Strange thing Mr. Horton didn't tell us all above it!" complained
Tommy. "Where was the use of his sending us down here and making
monkeys of us? He ought to be ashamed of himself!"
"He wanted to see whether you could find out what you were here for!"
laughed Elmer. "Perhaps he understood that after you caught us, we'd
tell you all about it. He's a pretty foxy guy, that man Horton, from
all I hear about him. I'm going to Chicago some day to meet him!"
"Well, what is it we've got to look for now?" demanded Sandy.
"You just wait till we get to headquarters!" replied Jimmie.
"We ought to do that just as quickly as possible," Tommy ventured,
"because there's no knowing when that bum detective may return. I'd
give a whole lot of money right now to know what he is looking for!"
The three strangers regarded each other laughingly, evidently well
pleased at the puzzled look showing on the faces of their friends.
"Wait till we get to headquarters and get a square meal under belts,"
Jimmie promised, "and we'll tell you what this bum detective's looking
for. It won't take long to do it, either."
"You know, then, do you?" asked Tommy.
"Of course, we know!"
"Then why don't you tell?"
"Couldn't think of telling on an empty stomach!" laughed Jimmie
As the boys walked along the passage, only a short distance from the
old tool house, they heard a rattling and bumping on the shaft ladders
and instantly extinguished their lights.
Presently they heard footsteps on the hard floor of the gangway, and
then a light such as those being used by the boys flashed out.
"Now we're in for it!" exclaimed Tommy.
"For the love of Mike, don't let him see us!" whispered Jimmie.
"It'll spoil everything if he does," Dick submitted.
The boys crowded close against the wall of the gangway and waited
impatiently for Ventner to pass along.
He was muttering to himself as he moved down the gangway, and his
round, protruding belly and his little shapeless shoulders reminded
the watching lads of the gnomes they had read about, living in
underground cells and preying at night upon the fairies.
Only for a trifling accident the boys would certainly have been
discovered. Just as the detective same to a position ten or fifteen
feet from where they were standing, when he was in a position to see
their faces by the rays cast on ahead by the flashlight, he partly
turned his ankle in a stumble on the rails, and for a moment the rays
of the light were directed downward. He hobbled along, raving and
cursing, for a few steps and then walked briskly on again.
But the ever-watchful eye of the searchlight no longer struck upon the
wall where the boys stood, and they realized that for the present they
were safe from discovery. Ventner moved on down the gangway and soon
disappeared in a cross cutting which ran to the right.
"That's lucky!" exclaimed Jimmie.
"Why didn't we geezle him?" demanded Tommy.
"Because we want his help!" replied Dick.
"His help?" laughed Sandy. "Yes, you'll get his help, all right!
That fellow would get up in the middle of the night to do you a dirty
trick, and don't you ever forget it!"
"That's the way he's going to help us!" laughed Elmer. "He'll get up
in the middle of some dark night to do us a dirty trick, and before he
knows what he's about, he'll be doing us a great kindness!"
"Suppose I slip back there and see what he's doing?" asked Tommy.
"Can you find your way back to headquarters alone?" asked Sandy.
"If I can't," asserted Tommy, "I won't be sending any wireless
messages to you! If you think I'm likely to get lost, Dick can go
back with me. He ought to know every corner in the old mine."
"Sure he does!" laughed Jimmie. "We've been traveling this mine for a
good many nights now, and we know it like a book."
So Tommy and Dick started back down the passage, the intention being
to hasten to the spot where Ventner disappeared from the gangway, and
then return to their companions immediately.
"We can't stay very long, you know," Tommy explained, "because
you've got to have that peroxide dope put on your bites. It doesn't
pay to fool with wounds of that description!"
"We'll be back to the old tool room as soon as they are!" answered
Dick. "It will take only a minute to run down there and back!"
When the boys reached the cross-cutting into which Ventner had
disappeared, they saw his light some distance away. It seemed to be
in one of the chambers connected with the cross-cutting.
As they looked, the detective stepped forward into the circle of
illumination and began working with a pick.
"Is he always doing that when you see him?", asked Tommy.
"You bet he is!" answered Dick.
"What's he doing it for?"
"You'll have to ask Elmer that."
"But you know, don't you?"
"Of course I know, but I'm not going to tell, cause we all agreed that
the story should never be told by any member of our party until Elmer
gets ready to tell it. So you see you've got to wait!"
"If I had my way about it," gritted Tommy, "I'd go back there and
geezle that bum detective and wall him up in a chamber until he got
hungry enough to tell the story himself. Then we wouldn't have to go
sneaking around the mine in order to keep out of his way!"
"That would be a foolish move," insisted Dick, "because every stroke
of the pick Ventner takes he helps us along in the game we're
"You're the original little mystery boy, ain't you?" said Tommy
rather crossly. "All right, I'll get even."
The detective now moved farther along the cross-cutting and attacked
a column of mingled rock and coal which helped to support the roof.
"The blithering idiot is going to try that trick again!" exclaimed
Dick. "He'll have the whole mine down on our heads if he doesn't stop
that business. He's always cutting down pillars."
"Just say the word," declared Tommy, "and I'll go stop him!"
"Let him go his own gait," replied Dick. "We'll manage to keep out of
the way of the falls, and he can run his own chances."
Presently they saw the detective take something which resembled a
stick of dynamite from a pocket and begin the work of setting it into
the pillar. The boys moved hastily back.
"Now what do you think of that for a fool?" exclaimed Dick. "He'll
have the whole mine down on our heads some day, just as sure as he's a
foot high! I hope he'll be broken in two when the fall comes.
The boys stood some distance away watching the detective as he
awkwardly manipulated the stick of dynamite.
CAUSED BY A FALL
In the meantime Sandy, Elmer and Jimmie reaching the old tool house,
found Will and George very wide awake and doing the most extraordinary
stunts of cooking.
"You said that your friends would be hungry," laughed Will, "and so
we're preparing to feed them up fine. After that, you know, you've
got to go on and tell us why we were sent down here without any real
information as to the work we were to do."
"Where did you leave, Tommy and Dick?" asked George.
"They went back to see what the detective was up to."
"So he's in the mine again, is he?"
"Yes," replied Sandy, "and if I had my way about it, he'd go out so
quick that he'd think he'd struck a barrel of dynamite."
"If he keeps fooling with dynamite, he's likely to do that anyhow,"
Elmer cut in. "The boys say that he uses dynamite in the search of
the mine he is making. He doesn't know how to use it, either!"
"Then he's got to be fired out of the mine!" declared Will. "We can't
have him around here carrying dynamite in his clothes, and dropping it
on the ground. You might as well give a baby a box of matches and a
hammer to play with. Some day there'll be an explosion."
"Aw, leave him alone for a few days!" Jimmie advised. "He's doing us
a lot of good just now, and we don't want to lose his help."
"His help?" repeated Will.
"He's bully help!" shouted George, with fine sarcasm.
"I guess I'll have to tell you about the mystery of the mine," Elmer
laughed. "Tommy ought to be here to get the story with the rest, but
you can tell him about it later on."
"He ought to be here any minute now," Jimmie asserted.
"Oh, he'll be here all right!" George argued. "Go on with the story.
It's been hours since you came in here with the suggestion that there
was a story, and you haven't told it yet!"
"Yes," Will interrupted, "get busy and tell us what Mr. Horton
neglected to say when he sent us down here; and while you are about
it," the boy went on, "you may as well tell us whether you really
became lost in the mine, or whether you were sent here to do the very
things you did do."
"Also," George broke in, "you may as well tell us what the detective
is doing here, and how he is helping you in trying to blow up the
"The boys were never lost in the mine a minute!" replied Elmer, with a
grin, "and Mr. Horton knew it. Mr. Horton received his instructions
from Attorney Burlingame of New York, and I am positive that
Burlingame gave his brother lawyer the whole story."
"Foxy game, eh?" laughed Will.
"I guess they wanted you to find out if we boys were of any account,
and whether we were playing fair!" laughed Jimmie.
"Well, anyway, they expected you to find us and learn the story I'm
now going to tell," Elmer continued.
"Jerusalem!" exclaimed Will. "Why don't you get at it. That story
has been jumping from tongue to tongue clothed in mystery for hours
and we haven't been favored with it yet!"
"The story opens," Elmer began, "on a cold and stormy night in October
in the year 1913. As the wind blew great gusts of rain down upon such
pedestrians as happened to be out of doors--"
"Aw, cut it out!" exclaimed Will. "Why don't you go on and tell the
story? We don't want any more of that Henry James business! You know
he always has a solitary horseman proceeding slowly on foot."
"Well, it was a dark night, and a stormy one!" declared Elmer. "If it
had been clear and bright, Stephen Carson, the Wall street banker,
wouldn't have received a dent in his cupola. In stepping down from
his automobile his foot slipped on the wet pavement, and he fell,
striking on the back of his head.
"What's that got to do with this mine mystery?" demanded George.
"It has a great deal to do with this mine mystery," Elmer answered.
"Stephen Carson arose from the ground, rubbed the back of his head
with his gloved hand, and continued on his way to a meeting of a board
of directors. He appeared to be perfectly sane and responsible for
his acts at the meeting of the board, and when he left in his machine
there were no indications that he had suffered more than a slight
bruise from his fall. He was not seen at home again for two weeks."
"Now you begin to get interesting!" declared Will.
"Where did he go?" asked Sandy.
"That is what his friends don't know," replied Elmer.
"But he must have been seen somewhere!" insisted Sandy.
"He was," answered Elmer. "He was seen in the vicinity of this mine."
"Wow, wow, wow!" exclaimed Sandy.
"What was he doing here?" asked Will.
"Wandering about the premises."
"Now I can tell you the rest," Will said with a chuckle.
"Go on, then," advised Elmer.
"From the meeting of the board of directors that night," Will went on
whimsically, "this man Stephen Carson wept directly to a safety
deposit vault where three or four hundred thousand dollars in the way
of cash and jewelry were hidden. He took the whole bundle and
disappeared. Is that anywhere near right, Elmer?"
"Go on!" Elmer replied.
"Then in two weeks time he comes back and says that he don't know
where he put the jewelry, but that he thinks he hid it in this mine.
And, as they can't find any place where he hocked the jewelry, or put
it up to carry out some gigantic Wall street plan, they are forced to
believe that he really did mislay the jewelry while temporarily out of
his head. Is that anywhere near right?"
"If you'll amend your report so as to show that he went to the Night
and Day bank and drew out something over two hundred thousand dollars
which he had on deposit there, and disappeared with the entire sum,
you'll come nearer to the truth."
Will gave a long whistle of amazement.
"Two hundred thousand dollars in real money!" exclaimed George.
"Yes, he took two hundred thousand dollars in real money away with him
that night," Elmer went on, "and when he returned to his home again,
he was penniless and in rags."
"Was he in his right mind?" asked Will.
"He seemed to be."
"Has he now recovered from the injury he received that night?"
"So the doctors say."
"Then why doesn't he tell what he did with the money?"
"That part of his life is blank. He was seen in the vicinity of this
mine, yet denies it. He was seen loitering in the woods not far away,
but insists that he never visited this mine except to attend meetings
of the board of directors."
"Now I've got you!" laughed Will. "His friends think he hid the money
in this mine and we've been sent here to find it!"
"That's the idea," agreed Elmer.
"And this bum detective is here for the same purpose!"
"Yes, though where he received his information is more than I know.
Upon his return to his home, Mr. Carson immediately made good the two
hundred thousand dollars taken from the Night and Day bank and
employed detectives to look up the missing coin.
"Is Ventner one of them?" asked Will.
"I don't think so," replied Elmer. "We were sent here to look through
the mine, with the understanding that you were to come on from Chicago
in a few days. Mr. Horton recommended you to Mr. Burlingame and so
you were employed."
"Then this detective has no right here at all?"
"None whatever, so far as I can make out."
"Then why not fire him?"
"Because he may accidentally run across the money some day."
"If he does, he'll get away with it!" declared George.
"No, he won't," answered Elmer, "He'll be watched every minute from
now on. You may be sure of that!"
"But you didn't seem to know what he was doing tonight," laughed Will.
"But I knew enough to come to the right place for the information I
desired," replied Elmer.
"Strange thing Tommy and Dick don't come!" Sandy exclaimed, stepping
to the door of the old tool house and listening intently. "They
should I have been here a long time ago!"
"Perhaps they've butted into Ventner," suggested Jimmie.
"They wouldn't do that," Elmer replied. "Every blow he strikes with
his pick saves us the trouble of making one."
"You don't think he had any directions from anyone, do you?" asked
Will. "You don't think he knows, where to look for the money any more
than you do?"
"No, I think he just heard of the loss of the money and came down here
on his own account."
"Well, if he's using dynamite in the mine," Will continued, "he ought
to be turned out of it. If Mr. Carson really hid two hundred thousand
dollars in currency in here, it's in some little pocket easy to find
if we get into the right chamber. The use of dynamite might bury it
twenty feet deep under a load of shale that would never be removed!"
"That's a fact!" cried Elmer.
The boys now stepped to the door and listened again, attracted by the
sound of running feet.
"There's something doing!" exclaimed Sandy. "When Tommy comes home on
a run, there's always something going on."
Directly the boys came panting up, stopping in the doorway to look
behind them. They were both well winded.
"That bum detective back there," Tommy exclaimed as soon as he could
catch his breath, "is putting in dynamite enough to blow up the whole
mine. He's attaching a long fuse, so he can get out before the
explosion comes. We tried to get down far enough to choke off the
fuse, but couldn't do it. In just about another minute, you'll hear
something like a Fourth of July celebration!"
THE SIGNS IN STONES
"We thought he'd send the shot off before we got up the ladders!"
exclaimed Dick. "We're expecting to hear the roar of it every minute
"Perhaps something went wrong," suggested Will.
"What part of the mine is he in?" asked Jimmie.
Tommy explained the location of the cross cutting and Jimmie gave a
whistle of dismay. In a moment he asked:
"Was he cutting into one of the pillars?"
"Yes," was the answer, "he was getting ready to blow it down with
dynamite. It's a wonder we don't hear the explosion!"
"If the spot where he's working is the place I think it is," Jimmie
continued, "the gink stands a pretty good chance of finding something.
We've been searching in that chamber, and just before you boys showed
up tonight we thought we were on the right track. Whether the money
is there or not, it is a sure thing that the walls of the chamber have
been tampered with. We think, though, that the money is there!"
"Then we mustn't let Ventner get it!" exclaimed Will.
"It won't do him any good to get it after that stick of dynamite
explodes!" exclaimed Tommy. "It'll blow him to Kingdom Come."
"Well, why don't we go down and see about it?" asked Will
"Not for me!" exclaimed Tommy.
"He may blow his own head off if he wants to," Dick put in, "but he
can't blow off mine, not with my consent. I've got only one head!"
"I don't believe there's going to be any explosion at all!" exclaimed
Elmer. "He wouldn't be apt to lay a fuse that would burn fifteen or
twenty minutes, and you've certainly been that length of time coming
up here, to say nothing of the time we've been talking!"
"All right!" Tommy exclaimed. "Perhaps he was loading up that pillar
with dynamite just for the fun of it!"
"It would be a nice thing to have him blow that money out of the
pillar and get away with it, wouldn't it?" scoffed Will.
"Come on, then," shouted Tommy, "I can take you to the firing line in
about a minute. If you want to see an earthquake in a coal mine, just
come along with me! You'll see it, all right!"
The boys left the old tool house without spending any more time in
conversation, and hastened down the ladders to the lower level. On
the way down the last gangway they heard some one moving about in the
darkness, and then came a cry of warning.
"Stand clear! Stand clear!"
"That's Ventner's voice!" exclaimed Will.
"There's a blast going off in a minute!" the voice came again.
"Now we've gone and done it!" exclaimed Will. "After all the trouble
we've taken to make that fellow think we've left the country, we've
let him bump right into us. I wonder if he really has fired the
"Stand clear! Stand clear!" shouted the voice. Almost before the
words had died out, the explosion came, tearing more than one pillar
out of position and dropping a great mass of slate down on the floor of
For a moment the gases which filled the chambers were overpowering.
The only wonder was that they were not ignited. The electric lights
carried by the boys shone dimly through the smoke of the confined
"There goes Ventner," whispered Will, pointing to a figure moving
swiftly through the half-light of the place.
"He's going to see what the shot brought down!" suggested Tommy.
The Boys rushed forward in a little group. When they gathered at the
scene of the explosion, the detective was not there.
"If he got hold of the cash, he knew what to do with it all right!"
exclaimed Tommy. "He got away with it before we got a chance to see
what he had. Now we've got to catch him!"
"May as well look for a needle in a load of hay!" grumbled Sandy.
"Look here," Jimmie exclaimed. "There's away to keep him shut up in
the mine if we do the right thing. This cross-cutting runs out to a
gangway on the north, and that, in turn, leads, of course, to the
shaft. Now, one of you boys duck out to the shaft and see that he
doesn't get up. You'll have to go some on the way there, because a
man with two hundred thousand dollars in his pocket will put up some
"I'm off !" shouted Tommy. "I know I can get to the shaft before he
can! He's too fat-bellied to run, anyway!"
Tommy started away at a swift pace, and the other boys closed in on
the gangway, Will alone stopping at the scene of the explosion.
"This gangway," Dick explained, "runs back into the mine for some
distance, but there are no cross passages. I guess the coal wasn't
very good here. At least, they never spread out the drive."
"Then we've got him bottled up unless he got out of the shaft!"
declared Sandy. "We'll soon know whether he got out or not!"
"I don't believe he would try to get out," suggested Elmer. "The
chances are that he'd make for the back of the mine, thinking to hide
away with the plunder, provided he had any plunder to hide away with."
"I'm afraid he found the hidden money," Will said, taking a scorched
ten-dollar bill from a pocket. "I found this back there, where the
pillar fell. I guess he found the cash all right!"
"And that's a nice thing, too!" exclaimed Sandy. "You boys kept
saying that Ventner was helping you find the coin. You were right
about that, for he did find the coin. And now the trick is to get it
away from him!"
"I'd like to know whether Ventner got up the shaft or not,"' suggested
George, "and I believe I'll take a run up there and see."
"That's a good idea!" advised Will. "If he didn't get up the shaft
he's surely imprisoned in the gangway. He may be between this
cross-cutting and the shaft, or he may have gone further in!"
"It'll take a long time to find out about that," suggested Jimmie.
Directly Tommy and George were heard returning from the shaft. They
came through the gangway flashing their lights in every direction.
He never went up the shaft!" Tommy exclaimed as they came near.
"We've got him canned in the mine all right. If he's got the money,
we'll take it away from him! He wouldn't know what to do with it
"First," suggested Will, "we'd better make sure that the fellow got
the money. The bank note I found may have never been in the
possession of Mr. Carson. And even if it was, it may be the only one
to be blown out of its hiding place by the explosion. It strikes me
that we'd better give the place a thorough search before we waste much
time looking for Ventner. If, as Tommy says, he never left the mine
by way of the shaft, we've got him blocked in, all right!"
The boys now began a careful examination of the cross-cutting where
the explosion had taken place. As has been stated, more than one
pillar had been blown out. There was a great heap of debris on floor,
and this the boys attacked with a vim.
Tommy and George were now standing guard at mouth of the cross-cutting
so that no one could pass down the gangway toward the shaft.
"Suppose that fellow did get the money?" asked Sandy, as the boys
cleared away the heaps of slate, "what then?"
"Then we'll have to take it away from him."
"We'll catch him first."
"We've got him blocked in, haven't we?" asked Sandy.
"Oh, we know that he can't get out," Dick cut in, "but we know, too,
that there are a lot of shallow benches along that gangway. We can't
walk in and pick him out in a minute. Besides," the boy continued,
"when we find him, we may find his pockets empty."
"That's just what we will do!" Elmer agreed. "He'll hide the money in
another place, and swear that he never found it!"
"I wish we'd kicked him out of the mine!" exclaimed Sandy.
The boys continued the search until daylight, and then, leaving Tommy
and George still on guard, they went up to the old tool house for
breakfast. The lads were by no means elated over what had taken
place. They believed that Ventner had succeeded in finding the money,
and were certain that, even if located in the mine, he would deny any
knowledge of it.
"I guess we got you boys into a mess by insisting on having the
detective roaming around," admitted Elmer, as the boys were eating a
hastily prepared breakfast. "I guess we should have listened to you
in regard to that. There is no knowing how much trouble we have
"He may help us find the money after all!" laughed Will.
"Yes," cut in Sandy, "it may be easier to get it away from him than to
find the place where it was hidden."
"Oh, yes, if we could lay our hands on him and order him to give up
two hundred thousand dollars, and he, would say: 'Yes, I've been
waiting to find the owner,' that would be all right, too! But the
thing isn't likely to turn out in that way!" He'll hide the money,
and swear he never found it! Then, when everything quiets down,
he'll sneak back and get it!"
This from Jimmie, who seemed to a take a rather gloomy view of the
situation. The boys remained at the old tool house only a short time.
Their minds were fixed so intently on the work in hand that they
hardly knew whether they had had any breakfast at all.
As they passed down the ladders to the lower level, they heard
something which resembled a shot, and almost tumbled over each other
going down into the gangway. Will and Elmer were first to reach the
cross-heading where the explosion of dynamite had taken place.
They called to Tommy and George, but received no answer. They walked
for some distance down the gangway without hearing any sound
indicating the presence of their companions, or of any one else.
"Now that's a funny thing!" exclaimed Will. "I don't see why those
boys should go rambling about the mine at a time like this just for
the fun of the thing!"
"They never did!" replied Elmer. "You remember the shot we heard?"
"It might not have been a shot!" suggested Will.
As the boy spoke he bent over and pointed to stones lying on the floor
of the gangway.
"There!" he said. "The boys have left a record. They not only point
out the trail, but warn us that there is danger in following it!"
TWO HOLD-UP MEN
"That's Boy Scout talk all right!" exclaimed Elmer.
"Yes, the three stones, piled one on top of the other, mean that there
is danger in following the trail. I don't understand exactly what
kind of danger can be threatening us, and so the only thing we cart do
is to go on and find out," Will said with a glance backward.
The other boys now came up and a short consultation was held. It was
decided to leave Sandy and Dick at the point where the explosion had
taken place, while Will, Elmer and Jimmie followed on down the
"Now whatever you do," warned Will as the two boys were left behind,
"don't leave this gangway for a minute. If Ventner isn't out of the
mine now we don't want him to get out. He may money or he may not.
That is one of the things no fellow can find out at this time, but
whether he has or not, we want him to give an account of himself
before he leaves the Labyrinth. He's got several important questions
The boys promised to watch the passage faithfully, and the others
passed on down the gangway, flashing their lights in every direction
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