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- The Boy Scounts on a Submarine - 2/24 -
Elinor shook her head. "Never," she said.
"Well, don't you fret, Miss Pomeroy. We'll have to find that coat. The man who wears it has the formula. And it won't take long to run down a man who owns a giddy plaid like that. If your brother could only speak, he could help a lot."
"Is he no better?" asked the girl fearfully.
"It's a pretty bad affair, I'm afraid," said the Chief regretfully. "He'll pull through all right after a while, I think, but the doctors say there is a piece of bone pressing on the brain; and they may have to operate. In the meantime, we can't wait. You see this business of the formula puts things on a different basis. I will have to get the government secret service men here as soon as I possibly can. It is a national affair now. Keep cool, Miss Pomeroy, and don't talk to any one. I'm going now, but I will leave a half-dozen men on the place. Don't talk; don't let your brother talk. Who is the old woman crying in the sitting room?"
"It is Aunt Ann," Elinor explained. "She is really no relation. Her husband used to work here, and after he was killed she stayed on and took care of things for mother. Then when mother died, why, of course she stayed. She is all alone in the world. She has or had a son, but he disappeared a good while ago. He was a very bad boy. The last she heard from him he was in South America. We think he is dead. Poor Aunt Ann! She loves Lester as thought he were her own child. I think she would die for him."
"She is all right then," mused the detective. "Well, I'll get along, Miss Pomeroy. Just keep cool."
Elinor followed him to the door and stood leaning against the big porch pillar as the detective crunched briskly down the gravel path. A group of men came hurrying up to meet him, and Elinor listened eagerly.
"We got him, Chief!" she heard a voice say triumphantly. "Walking along the road bold as brass."
"Why shouldn't I?" an angry tone answered. "The street is public. Ain't I got a right to go long it? What you pinchin' me for, anyhow? I ain't full and it ain't vagrancy to walk along the road to Manlius. You leave me go!"
"Put him in the car." said the Chief. "And look here, young fellow. I'll search you later; look here. Here is something for you to chew on for a while. Hold the flash, Dennis. Look here, you! See that piece of cloth? It just fits the torn place in your collar. She nearly got you, didn't she, before you managed to beat her brains out?"
Elinor heard a subdued struggle as the police loaded the prisoner into the car. She rushed into the house to tell Aunt Ann that the man had been caught. Wugs with a couple of smaller scouts came up. Wugs followed his sister into the house, and the two other boys sat down on the steps where they would not miss anything going on.
Philip and Benjamin Potter, known to their intimate friends as Pork and Beans Potter, were twins painfully alike in thought, word and deed as well as size and looks. They sat side by side. Each boy leaned his right elbow on his right knee and supported his chin on his hand.
"Funny 'bout that coat," said Beans. "Did you see it?"
"Yes," said Porky. "I was lookin' all the time. You mean about there bein' two just alike. Kind o'queer, loud pattern. And funny buttons. You know that man in the road was right under the big light, so we seen it plain, didn't we?"
"Sure!" said Beany. He shifted elbows, and in a minute Porky did the same. "But the man we passed in the road didn't look like the murderer, did he? Kind of square built. Looked worse than the real one, I thought."
"I thought so too, agreed Porky. "But they got the real one all right on account of the tear in the collar."
"Yes, of course," agreed Beany. "But suppose they was pals. Think we ought to tell?"
"Naw!" decided Porky. "They bought 'em at the same store like as not. Don't butt in with foolishness. Le's go home and tell mom an pop."
OFF TO SEE THE COLONEL
A week went by. In the jail a sullen prisoner, always swearing his innocence, lay awaiting the outcome of Lester's injury, while day after day he lay tossing on his bed, delirious, or deep in a stupor from which it was difficult to rouse him.
The police were satisfied that they had the man who had struck down Lester, and had killed the dog, but doubts were creeping into Wugs' mind. He himself had interviewed the prisoner, not telling him who he was. The man would say nothing, but Wugs came off with the feeling that there was something queer afoot.
"It's the wrong man," his brain kept telling him over and over; and when he told the police that, and heard their shouts of laughter, the words kept repeating themselves over and over, "The wrong man!"
There was a Boy Scout meeting one night, and Wugs went. After the usual business was over, gathering them around him in a close group, Wugs went over the story of his brother's great invention, its try-out on the herd of cows, his home-coming, and the terrible ending to his triumphant day. Then in a still lower tone, as though he feared the very walls might turn traitor, he told them of his feeling that the man waiting trial for the attack on poor Lester was not the spy who had taken the formula.
"That's the thing to find out," said Wugs. "The Police are dead sure they have the right fellow, but I'll never believe it until I find that paper. You see, he didn't have a chance to mail it unless he had a confederate waiting outside to take it away. That's what we have got to find out."
"Why, 'course he had a what-you-call-it!" the Potter twins broke in.
"Slow down! Slow down!" begged Wugs. "Gee, how do you suppose anybody can tell what you say when you both talk at once? Let's have Porky; you claim to be the oldest."
"See how it was," said Porky, with a free field, leering at his disgusted brother. "'Me 'n' Beany'd been swimmin'. We went down to the old water hole where the springboard is, and some cloze was sitting the bank. We saw a man in the water, an' we watched him. Say, he could swim, he could! He could just live in the water. Well, we took off our cloze by-en-by, and went in, and pretty soon he come out. He never noticed us any more'n if we wasn't there; only he come out a good ways from us and walked back where was his things, without lookin' our way. But we seen him; his lip was twisted sort of funny, and made him look like a grin. We'll, he dressed like a streak, and stalked off; and Beany whispered, 'Where did you get that coat?' but seems we didn't like to yell it right at him. He had a funny look. So we swam and by-en-by we come away too."
"You forgot what we found," reminded Beany. "When we came where his cloze had been we found two papers. One was just a plain paper in a plain envelope, and the other was a card written all up, something about admit bearer to all parts of fairgrounds. I suppose he is going to show something at the fair next week. Anyhow he'll have to get another, because Porky lost it out the hole in his pants pocket goin' home. And the other paper--"
"Wait till you get to it, can't you?" said the other twin, glaring fiercely at himself, or so it seemed to the boys watching. "We ain't come to that. But we seen the coat all right. Well, we got on our wheels and started home."
"I had the paper in my pocket," interrupted Beany.
"Yes," said Porky simply. "Beany's pants was new. We come along through the village, and up just before you get to your first driveway, Wugs, my handle bars come loose, and we had to get off and fix 'em. And Beany looks up, and he says, 'Gosh! Here's another striped coat! And ain't it on a pirate!"
"I looked and, sure 'nuff, there come along another coat just like the one over to the swimmin' hole but if that feller was bad, this one was worse. He had a big black mustache and he looked at us like he'd like to eat us.
"When he went by," Beany says, 'Well, I bet he is a pirate all right!'
"So we went on home. And after supper when we come to your house, Wugs, why, you know about that, and there was another coat like the others being arre'sted. Then we went back; and mother wanted us to write it all to Uncle Jake. And the lamp made Beany's head hot, and he took the funny thin paper we found over to the swimmin' hole and made a sort of shade of it. And when we had our letter done, Beany went to take down the shade and, honest to gosh, boys, it was all written on! Wouldn't that frost you? I s'pose you think we're lyin'; but it's true. All writin' on two sides!"
"What did you do with it then?" demanded Wugs.
"We showed it to mom and she took it and put it in her pocket."
"You see, Wugs, they's three of those coats and every one's worse than the other," finished Porky.
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