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Title: Bob Dexter and the Storm Mountain Mystery - or, The Secret of the Log Cabin
Author: Baker, Willard F.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bob Dexter and the Storm Mountain Mystery - or, The Secret of the Log Cabin" ***

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MOUNTAIN MYSTERY ***



 [Illustration: We finally got to the island with the maps and papers.]



               Bob Dexter and the Storm Mountain Mystery


                      The Secret of the Log Cabin


                                   By

                            WILLARD F. BAKER



           Author of “Bob Dexter and the Club House Mystery,”
               “Bob Dexter and the Beacon Beach Mystery,”
                          “The Boy Ranchers,”
                 “The Boy Ranchers on the Trail,” etc.



                              ILLUSTRATED


                                NEW YORK

                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY



                       BOOKS BY WILLARD F. BAKER


                     THE BOB DEXTER MYSTERY SERIES

                       12 mo. Cloth. Illustrated.

                 BOB DEXTER AND THE CLUB HOUSE MYSTERY
                BOB DEXTER AND THE BEACON BEACH MYSTERY
               BOB DEXTER AND THE STORM MOUNTAIN MYSTERY
                      Other Volumes in preparation


                        THE BOY RANCHERS SERIES

                            THE BOY RANCHERS
                        THE BOY RANCHERS IN CAMP
                     THE BOY RANCHERS ON THE TRAIL
                   THE BOY RANCHERS AMONG THE INDIANS
                     THE BOY RANCHERS AT SPUR CREEK
                     THE BOY RANCHERS IN THE DESERT


                    CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, New York


                          Copyright, 1925, by
                         Cupples & Leon Company


               Bob Dexter and the Storm Mountain Mystery

                        Printed in the U. S. A.



                               *Contents*

      I. The Man with the Box
     II. The Log Cabin
    III. Startling News
     IV. Wooden Leg
      V. A Mysterious Robbery
     VI. Strange Marks
    VII. The Key Experiment
   VIII. Jolly Bill’s Tale
     IX. On the Trail
      X. Sailor’s Knots
     XI. No Potatoes
    XII. Monkey Land
   XIII. Queer Planting
    XIV. A Night Pursuit
     XV. A Singer in the Dark
    XVI. The Worm Digger
   XVII. Bob Gives a Party
  XVIII. The Man with the Hook
    XIX. The Last Chord
     XX. New Suspicions
    XXI. New Tactics
   XXII. The Brass Box
  XXIII. Solving a Puzzle
   XXIV. The Treasure
    XXV. The Key Trick



              *BOB DEXTER AND THE STORM MOUNTAIN MYSTERY*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                         *THE MAN WITH THE BOX*


“Come on, Bob, going to the ball game!”

“It’s going to be a corker! Better hurry if you want a good seat!”

Two young men paused at the front gate of a neat cottage, standing
somewhat back from a quiet side street of the village, and looked toward
another youth who was seated on the porch. This lad glanced up from a
book he was reading as his two chums, Harry Pierce and Ned Fuller,
hailed him.

“Come on, Bob!” urged Harry, opening the gate. “What’s the idea? You’re
usually the first one in the grand stand when our club plays the Midvale
nine.”

“Looks as if you didn’t want to root for the home team,” went on Ned as
he followed his companion up the front walk.

“Oh, I’d like to root for them all right, and I’d like to see them win,
of course,” answered Bob Dexter, as he closed the book he had been
reading. But his chums noticed that he kept one finger in between the
pages so he would not lose his place.

“Well, then, you’d better get a move on!” urged Harry. “They won’t keep
club members’ seats for them much longer, and there’ll be a big mob
there—this is the deciding game of the series.”

“Yes, I know,” said Bob, “but I’m not going!”

“Not going!” cried the other two, and there was much surprise in their
voices.

“What’s wrong?” demanded Harry. “You aren’t soured on the club, are
you?”

“Of course I’m not,” and Bob smiled. “I should have said I can’t go.
I’ve got something to do.”

“What do you mean—finish that book—a detective story, I’ll stake a
cookie on it!” exclaimed Ned. “I thought so!” he added, as he turned the
book over in Bob’s hand and disclosed the title which was “The Strange
Case of the Twisted Ear.”

“Say, look here!” broke in Harry, as he playfully snatched the book from
Bob. “If you’re going to stay here and read one of your everlasting
detective stories, when the most important club ball game of the season
is being played—well, all I’ve got to say is that Ned and I won’t let
you!”

“Atta boy! You let out an earful that time!” cried Ned.

The two chums caught hold of Bob and pulled him from the chair.
Laughingly he protested and made fast to one of the porch pillars to
avoid being yanked off.

“Cut it out, fellows! Cut it out!” begged Bob. “It isn’t that at all!
I’m not staying here to read a detective story, though I was glancing
over this French one while I was waiting. But I’ve got to do something
for my uncle, and that’s why I’m staying here. I want to go to the ball
game as badly as you fellows do. And I’m coming as soon as a certain man
appears with some important papers for Uncle Joel. But I can’t go until
then—really, I can’t. Uncle Joel told me to stay here, waiting for this
man. It’s very important.”

There was that in Bob’s voice which impressed his chums. They released
their holds on him, rather reluctantly be it said, and Bob picked up the
book that had fallen to the porch floor, and resumed his seat in the
chair, albeit somewhat ruffled by the dragging process.

“Well, that’s different, of course,” admitted Ned as he straightened his
collar which had been shifted in the struggle.

“Why didn’t you say at first that you were staying here because your
uncle asked you to?” inquired Harry. He and Ned knew the stern qualities
of Bob’s Uncle Joel. Though a just man, Mr. Dexter, who was brother to
Bob’s dead father, insisted on strict obedience from his nephew,
especially in matters of business.

“This is a business matter,” said Bob. “I would have told you fellows,
if you’d given me a chance. But you went off, half cocked, and I
couldn’t make myself heard.”

“Oh, all right. Maybe we were a bit hasty,” conceded Ned.

“But when we saw you sitting here, doing nothing but reading a detective
story, we concluded you didn’t have anything else to do, and that you
could just as well as not come to the ball game with us,” added Harry.

“I’d come in a minute if Uncle Joel hadn’t wished this job on me!”
declared Bob. “But you know how it is—I’m not exactly my own boss.”

“Yes, we know,” admitted Harry.

Bob Dexter was an orphan, dependent on his uncle, and while Mr. Dexter
was just and kind, still he had rights that must be respected, and Bob
realized this.

“Uncle Joel is pretty good to me,” went on Bob. “And I’ve got to pay him
back as much as I can. Look how he let me have a lot of time to myself
going to Beacon Beach this summer.”

“And a mighty good thing you did go to Beacon Beach!” exclaimed Ned. “If
you hadn’t the mystery there never would have been solved.”

“Oh, I guess some one else would have stumbled on it,” said Bob,
modestly.

“I’m not so sure of that,” chimed in Harry. “Anyhow, we won’t bother you
any more. Go on—finish the job, whatever it is.”

“Couldn’t you come to the ball game and do it afterward—whatever your
uncle wants you to do?” asked Ned.

Bob shook his head.

“It can’t be done,” he replied. “If I can get over to the park later
I’ll be there. I hope I can see the last half of the game, anyhow. But
it’s like this. Mr. Sheldon, a man with whom my uncle does a lot of
business of one kind or another, is sending some important papers on
to-day to be signed. If they aren’t signed to-day it means the loss of a
lot of money. Mr. Sheldon is passing through Cliffside on the train that
gets here at 2:30. He hasn’t time to get off, as he has to go on to a
conference with his lawyer. But he’s going to hand me the papers at the
depot, when the train stops, and I’ve got to rush them up to my uncle’s
office. That’s why I can’t go to the ball game.”

“Why doesn’t your uncle himself meet this Mr. Sheldon at the train and
sign the papers?” asked Ned. “Oh why can’t some one else meet this man
who’s in such a hurry?”

“I don’t know why it can’t be done that way, but it can’t, or my uncle
wouldn’t ask me to do it,” said Bob, simply. “I suppose he has good
reasons for not going to the train himself. And he doesn’t want to trust
an ordinary messenger to get the papers. So I’ll have to do it. Then,
after I get through, if there’s time enough, I’ll come to the game.”

“All right,” assented Harry, satisfied with this explanation. “We’ll try
and save a seat for you—you know where we usually sit.”

“Yes, I know,” said Bob, as he laid his book just inside the front door.

“And if you’re going to meet that 2:30 train it’s time you got a move
on,” added Ned.

“Yes, I’m going to start now,” said Bob. “Have to make a time allowance
for the little old flivver,” he added with a laugh. “If you fellows like
I’ll drop you off at the ball park.”

“Drop us off is good!” laughed Ned.

“If the old flivver doesn’t drop apart itself on the way down,” added
Harry.

“Oh, I guess she’ll hold together that long,” chuckled the young
detective—for Bob was just that, as some of you know, and as others of
you will learn in the course of this story. Bob walked around to the
side drive where stood an ancient and honorable automobile of the class
generally called flivvers. Truly it was ancient, and Bob had added the
title honorable, for it had given him good service in spite of the small
price he paid for it.

“Can you get her going?” asked Ned, as he and his chum looked somewhat
dubiously at the machine.

“Well, I don’t want to make any rash statements,” chuckled Bob, “but I
think if I give her a good dose of talcum powder, and rub a lip stick on
the carburetor she may be induced to give us service. Hop in and I’ll
have a go at her.”

“Better wait until he gets her started before you hop in,” cautioned Ned
to Harry. “She may buck with you.”

“Oh, she isn’t as temperamental as all that,” laughed Bob. He climbed to
the seat, turned on the ignition and pressed the self-starter pedal.
There was a sort of groaning hum.

“I thought so! Come on, Ned, we’ll walk!” laughed Harry.

But a moment later the engine began to turn over with a steady throb,
hum and roar that told of plenty of power, each of the four cylinders
firing evenly and regularly.

“Not so bad!” announced Ned, listening with a critical ear.

“Yes, I’ve got her pretty well tuned up,” admitted Bob with pardonable
pride. “I guess she’ll take me there and back.”

“Well, we’ll take a chance,” said Harry, and soon the three chums were
rattling down the road. Rattling is the proper word, for though the
flivver certainly moved, she also rattled, as do most of her kind. But
rattling is no crime.

“Say, there’s going to be a big crowd,” observed Bob as he slowed up at
the ball park to let his chums jump off. “Wish I could see the game!”

“Same here,” remarked Harry. “Yes, there’s going to be a mob all right!”

Though it would be nearly an hour before the game started, already
throngs were congregating at the park. For the contest was an important
one.

There had long been a rivalry between the Boys’ Athletic Club, to which
Bob, Ned and Harry belonged, and the team from Midvale, a town about ten
miles from Cliffside where Bob Dexter lived. Each year a series of games
took place, and up to date the championship had wavered between the two.

This year the rivalry was keener than before, and should the Boys’ Club
clinch this contest it meant _winning_ the pennant for the season. Hence
the interest.

“Root hard, fellows!” begged Bob as he started his machine off again,
while his chums hastened to get the seats reserved for club members.
“I’ll get back in time for the last inning if I can!”

“Atta boy!” called Ned.

It was with rather a disappointed air that Bob continued on to the
railroad station. But, after all, he knew he must do his duty, and
helping his uncle, who was bringing him up, was part of this.

The 2:30 train pulled in a little late, and Bob, who had been told what
Mr. Sheldon looked like, so he would know him, caught sight of this
individual out on the platform of one of the cars, while the train was
yet moving. Mr. Dexter had arranged for the transfer of the papers, and
to make sure that Mr. Sheldon would know Bob, the latter carried in his
hand a red dahlia from his aunt’s garden.

“You’re Bob Dexter, aren’t you?” cried Mr. Sheldon as he held a bundle
of legal-looking documents to the lad. “Yes, I see you have the red
flower. It’s all right, tell your uncle, but the papers must be signed
before two witnesses before three o’clock. I’ll look after the other
matters for him. Glad the train wasn’t any later and I’m glad you are
here on time. I was getting a bit worried. If things had gone wrong it
would mean a big loss. Don’t lose any time getting those papers back to
your uncle now. Good-by!”

“Good-by,” was all Bob had time to say, and then the train pulled out
again, for it seldom stopped long at Cliffside. Mr. Sheldon went back to
his seat in his car, waving his hand to Bob. The latter looked at the
bundle of papers, though they told him nothing of the business they
represented. However, Bob did not think much about that. His affair was
to get the documents to his uncle as soon as he could. And it was now
twenty minutes to three by the depot clock.

“Hope the old flivver doesn’t go back on me!” mused Bob as he climbed to
his seat. He was glad to find that the motor turned over at the first
touch on the self-starter pedal, and he was about to let in the clutch
and dart away when he was hailed by a voice calling:

“I say there young feller, can you give me a lift?”

He turned to see, beckoning to him, an old man—a grizzled old man with a
short, stubby beard. Under his arm the man, whose clothing was not of
the best nor most up to date, carried a small brass-bound box—a box such
as might contain papers or other things of value. And yet the appearance
of the man did not indicate that he was in the habit of carrying things
of value.

He was, to put it bluntly, but a few degrees removed in appearance from
a tramp, though Bob noticed his face and hands were clean, which is not
often the case with tramps.

“I’m in a hurry,” said Bob, as civilly as he could under the
circumstances.

“So am I,” said the man with the box. “I’ve got to get to Storm Mountain
as quick as I can.”

Storm Mountain was a town well up amid the hills, about five miles from
Cliffside. It was located on the side of a big hill also called Storm
Mountain.

“Sorry, but I’m not going up Storm Mountain way,” said Bob, as he slowly
allowed the flivver to get up speed.

“But I’m willing to pay you!” said the man, shifting his brass-bound box
under his other arm as he limped forward—Bob noticed that he walked with
a slight limp.

“I’m not a taxicab—you can hire one in town or over there,” and Bob
pointed to where usually some ancient autos stood—representing the
jitney and taxi service of Cliffside. Just now there were no vehicles
there, as they seldom met the 2:30 train.

“I’d hire one if I could,” said the man with the box. “But I can’t. I’ll
pay you well to take me to Storm Mountain.”

“I’m sorry, but I have an important engagement in town,” said Bob, as he
let his car gather speed. “You’ll have to get some one else.”

“All right,” said the man good-naturedly enough. He turned back to the
station, and as he drove off Bob was rather glad that he could
conscientiously refuse the service.

“For, to tell the truth,” said Bob to himself, “I don’t altogether like
your looks, nor the looks of that box you carry. You may be all right,
but I’ve got important papers and I’ve got to look after them.” He made
good time to his uncle’s office, and found Mr. Dexter rather anxiously
waiting for him.

“Oh, you have them, I see!” exclaimed Mr. Dexter as he took the bundle
of papers from his nephew. “Mr. Sheldon was there all right, I take it?”

“Yes, and he said he’d attend to the other matters. But these must be
signed before two witnesses by three o’clock.”

“I know it, Bob. I’ll attend to it right away. You had no other trouble,
did you—I mean no one stopped you to ask to look at the papers—or
anything like that?” Mr. Dexter seemed anxious and nervous.

“No, I wasn’t exactly stopped,” Bob answered. “But there was an old man
with a box who wanted me to take him to Storm Mountain.”

“What sort of a man, Bob?” eagerly asked his uncle.

Bob described the individual, and a look of relief came over Mr.
Dexter’s face.

“It isn’t any one I know,” he said. “I guess it’s all right, Bob. You
may go now. Thanks for attending to this for me. I can look after
matters now.”

“Then I’ll go to the ball game,” announced Bob.

He was on his way to the park, taking a short cut along a back road
when, in a lonely spot he saw a huddled figure lying beside the road.

“It’s a man!” exclaimed Bob, as he stopped his machine and jumped out.
“The man with the box—looks as if he’d been killed!”



                              *CHAPTER II*

                            *THE LOG CABIN*


Bob Dexter, young as he was, had been through too many strenuous
experiences to be turned aside at the thought of a dead man. Besides,
this was right in the line of Bob’s ambition, if you get my meaning.
That is, he had fully determined to become a detective, and here seemed
right at hand a mystery that needed solving. He was first on the scene—a
most advantageous thing from a detective’s standpoint.

“I’ve got to keep my wits about me,” thought the lad to himself as he
approached the prostrate man who lay suspiciously still and quiet in the
grass beside the lonely road.

And while Bob is getting ready to solve what he hopes may be a most
baffling mystery, perhaps it would be just as well if I told my new
readers a little about the youth who is to figure as the hero of this
story.

Bob Dexter’s father and mother died when he was quite young, and his
uncle Joel Dexter agreed to care for the lad and bring him up as his own
son. Uncle Joel and his wife Aunt Hannah had faithfully kept their
promise, and Bob could not have asked for a better home nor for more
loving care than he received.

But though loving and kind, Mr. Dexter insisted on Bob “toeing the
mark,” as he called it in the matter of work and duties, including
attending school. Bob’s uncle was “well fixed” as regards this world’s
goods, though not exactly a man of wealth. He was interested in several
businesses in Cliffside, including a hardware store he owned. He also
loaned money on mortgages and kept a private office over the First
National Bank, in which enterprise he was said to own several shares.

Thus Bob grew from boyhood to young manhood, and when he began to
develop a taste for detective stories, and, not only that but a desire
to solve local crimes and mysteries, Uncle Joel rather “put his foot
down,” as he expressed it.

However, when Bob scored a point on the Cliffside police, by finding
Jennie Thorp, who, it was supposed, had been kidnaped (though she
wasn’t) Bob’s stock went up several points. And when, as I have told you
in the first volume of this series, entitled “Bob Dexter and the Club
House Mystery,” the youth solved the secret of the Golden Eagle, well,
then Uncle Joel “drew in his horns,” as his wife said, and Bob
“detected” to his heart’s content.

The Golden Eagle was the mascot of the Boys’ Athletic Club, and when it
vanished there was a great deal of astonishment, which only subsided
when Bob got the eagle back.

Following that, in the volume just preceding this one, called “Bob
Dexter and the Beacon Beach Mystery,” the lad added other laurels.

He and his chums, Ned and Harry, had gone camping at Beacon Beach for
their summer vacation. Almost as soon as they arrived they were
enveloped in a mystery which did not end until Bob had found out why the
beacon in the lighthouse went out so often, and until he had learned
what the “yellow boys” were in the wreck of the _Sea Hawk_.

“And now I seem to be up against something else,” murmured Bob, as he
approached the prostrate man in the grass, and caught sight of the
brass-bound box lying near his motionless hand. “Just got back from the
Beacon Beach trouble and I run into this. Well, the more the better for
me—though I hope this poor old chap isn’t dead!”

He wasn’t, as Bob soon discovered. The man was breathing, and when the
lad had dashed into his face some water from a nearby spring, and had
poured between the stranger’s lips some from a cup Bob carried in his
car for use in filling his storage battery, the man opened his eyes,
looked at the youth and cried:

“Did he get it?”

“Did who get what?” Bob wanted to know.

The man’s eyes wildly roved the ground about him, and, lighting on the
box he breathed a sigh of relief. He reached out a hand, drew the little
chest to him and then, slipping it under his legs as he sat up on the
ground he put both hands to the back of his head.

“Um!” he murmured, with a wince of pain. “Quite a lump there. Big as a
hen’s egg, I guess. Would you mind taking a look, young feller, and
seeing how badly I’m cut? Though I guess I’m not cut at all,” he went
on, as he looked at his fingers and saw no sign of blood.

“No, you aren’t cut,” said Bob, taking a look as requested. “But what
happened to you? Did you fall?”

“Sort of,” admitted the man with a half smile. “But I reckon I was
tapped on the head first, or else struck with a rock to help in the
falling business. Though they didn’t dare take it after they knocked me
out. Rod Marbury’s nerve must have failed him in the pinch. So much the
better for me. I told him I’d play fair, but he hasn’t. Now he can
whistle for his share! He can whistle for a wind that he’ll never get!”
and the old man, who looked but a few degrees removed from a tramp,
started to get up.

“Better wait a minute,” advised Bob kindly. “You’ve been knocked out. If
you rest a bit longer, and take some more water you’ll feel stronger.”

“Oh, I’m all right, young feller!” was the answer, and the man’s actions
and voice betokened that he was almost his vigorous self again. “It
takes more than a knock on the head with a belaying pin to do for old
Hiram Beegle. I’m all right. Rod didn’t get the box, and that’s what he
was after. Did you see anything of him?”

“Of whom?” Bob wanted to know.

“Of Rodney Marbury, the slickest chap I ever dealt with. He’s cute, Rod
is, but his nerve failed him at the last minute, even after he knocked
me out. He must have been hiding in the bushes and heaved a rock out at
me as I went by. Then I passed out and he must have been frightened away
by hearing you coming along.”

“It’s possible that he did,” admitted Bob. “My old machine rattles
enough to be heard a long distance. But I didn’t see anybody running
away from you.”

“You didn’t, eh?” asked Hiram Beegle, for that, evidently, was his name.
“Well, very likely he run the other way so he wouldn’t meet you. But I’m
much obliged to you, and now I’ll be on my way.”

He got to his feet and stowed the box under his left arm. Then he looked
about and found a stout cudgel which he grasped in his right hand. He
was the vigorous figure of a man now, ready for a fray.

“Excuse me,” said Bob, “but didn’t I see you down at the station a
little while ago?”

“Yes, I was there. I asked some young feller to give me a lift to Storm
Mountain, but——”

“You asked me,” spoke Bob with a smile. “I’m sorry, but I had an
important engagement just then and couldn’t spare the time to take you.”

“Hum! Yes, you’re the same chap,” said Mr. Beegle, looking critically at
Bob. “I don’t blame you a bit. Business first always—that’s a good rule.
I waited for one of them taxi fellers like you told me to, but they
wanted ten dollars to take me to Storm Mountain. I said I wanted to
_hire_ one of their cars, not _buy_ it, and they laughed at me.”

“Ten dollars was too much,” observed Bob, looking at his watch, and
trying to decide if he could make the baseball park in time to see the
end of the big game. He wanted to do the Samaritan act, also, in looking
after this stranger, for he did not think it either kind or wise to let
him go off by himself on the five mile tramp.

“It was about eight dollars too much,” said the old man. “I would be
willing to pay two, but not ten. Well, I can walk it.”

“No,” said Bob, coming to a sudden decision, “I’ll take you. I have a
car and I’ve got nothing important to do now.” He had a somewhat selfish
motive in making this offer—he wanted to find out more about Hiram
Beegle and about Rod Marbury. He wanted to know what valuables the box
contained, and why the attack had been made.

“Well, it’s mighty decent of you to want to give me a lift,” said Mr.
Beegle. “I take it right kind of you. But if you do take me to my cabin
I want to pay you. I’ll give you two dollars.”

“I don’t want your money,” laughed Bob.

“Then I won’t ride with you!” The old man was very firm about this.
“Hiram Beegle can pay his way—there are a few shots left in the locker
yet, and if things go right I’ll be rich some day,” and he shook the
brass-bound box, “I’ll pay you two dollars or I’ll walk!” he concluded
with a shake of his grizzled head.

“Oh, well, have it your own way,” chuckled the lad. “I’m in neither the
taxi nor jitney business, but I’ll take your money, though it won’t take
that much gasolene or oil to put you in Storm Mountain. Where in the
town do you live?”

“I don’t live in the town, exactly,” said the old man. “I live all alone
in a log cabin up on the side of the mountain. It’s a fairly good road
there, or I wouldn’t let you take your car up it.”

“A flivver can go anywhere!” said Bob.

“Yes, I reckon they can. Well, I’m much obliged to you—both for coming
along and scaring away Rod Marbury after he knocked me out, and for
giving me a lift.”

“I’m not sure I scared away any one,” said Bob. “I didn’t see any one at
all. I was coming along the road and saw you stretched out.”

“Yes, I was stretched out, all right,” chuckled Mr. Beegle, who seemed
to have quite recovered now, except for the lump on the back of his
head. “And I didn’t exactly see Rod myself. But I’d be willing to wager
a marlin spike to a rope’s end that he had a hand in it.”

Mr. Beegle headed for Bob’s machine, the engine of which was still
running, but before starting off with the old man the young detective
bethought him that he had better make a few inquiries.

“Look here, Mr. Beegle,” said the lad frankly, “I’m very glad to be able
to help you and give you a lift, but I must know that this is all
straight. I don’t want to find out afterward that I’ve been taking part
in a crime.”

“A crime, what do you mean?” the old man seemed indignant.

“I mean there’s been violence done to you. You carry something you
intimate is valuable,” and Bob nodded toward the box. “You say some one
tried to get it away from you. Now has there been a robbery—is that part
of the spoil and is there a fight over the division of it? I have a
right to know before I take you to Storm Mountain.”

Mr. Beegle seemed greatly surprised and then a smile came over his
grizzled face.

“Young man, you’re right!” he exclaimed. “You have a right to know
certain things. But I’ll tell you at once there has been no robbery. I
came into possession of this box in a legal way, though some one would
be glad to get it away from me. I inherited this. Here, I’ll prove it to
you. Do you know Judge Weston?”

“The lawyer? Of course I do!” exclaimed Bob.

“Then stop at his office on the way to my cabin. Judge Weston will tell
you how I came by this box. I’ll not say another word until you talk to
Judge Weston.”

Bob felt a trifle mean at seeming to doubt the old man’s word, but he
felt he had a right to be assured that everything was all right. So,
accordingly, he drove to the office of the lawyer, who had once been a
county judge, the title still clinging to him as such titles will.

“Hello, Mr. Beegle, back again!” greeted the lawyer, as Bob and his new
friend entered. “Wasn’t everything in the box all right?”

“Why, yes, Judge, I think so,” was the answer. “I only took a casual
look inside, but all the papers seem to be there. But I ran into a
little trouble after leaving your office,” and he told of the assault on
him. “Then this young feller comes along,” resumed Hiram Beegle, “and
offers to take me home. But he wants to be sure I didn’t steal this
box,” and Mr. Beegle chuckled.

“No, I can testify to that,” said Judge Weston with a smile. “You came
into possession of it rightfully and legally. I can see Bob’s point
though, and it is well taken, you being a stranger to him.

“But it’s all right, Bob. I handed this box to Mr. Beegle about two
hours ago. He inherited it under the will of Hank Denby, a client of
mine who died in Fayetteville about a month ago. I have been settling up
the Denby estate—what there was of it—and this box comes to Mr. Beegle.
I just turned it over to him.”

“And Rod Marbury didn’t have a share in it—did he?” asked the old man.

“He was not mentioned in Mr. Denby’s will,” was the lawyer’s answer. “In
fact, I know nothing of this Rod Marbury except what you have told me,
Mr. Beegle. And you told me in confidence so I cannot reveal that.”

“Oh, I don’t want to know any more!” broke in Bob. “I just wanted to
know, after I heard there was a fight over the possession of this box,
that Mr. Beegle had a right to it. Now I’ll take him home.”

“That’s very kind of you, Bob,” said the former judge. “You have my word
that everything is all right, as far as Mr. Beegle’s legal possession of
that box is concerned.”

“Well, are you satisfied?” asked the old man.

“Perfectly,” answered the young detective. And he made up his mind that
if there was a further mystery in the matter he would try to solve it
later.

“Then let’s pull up our mud hook,” went on Mr. Beegle. “It’s getting
late and I’d like soon to be back safe in my log cabin. Much obliged to
you, Judge.”

“Don’t mention it. The case is now closed as far as I am concerned.”

As Bob drove his machine out through Cliffside, in the direction of
Storm Mountain, he saw some of his friends coming home from the ball
game.

“Who won?” he called to Fred Merton.

“We did, eight to six!”

“Wow! Good enough!”

The lad and his old companion were soon on a quiet country road. Mr.
Beegle had not talked a great deal, occasionally putting his hand up to
his injured head.

“Does it hurt much?” asked Bob. “Had you better stop and see a doctor?”

“No, thanks. I’ll be all right. I’m not going to give Marbury another
chance at me.”

“Do you think he might try to waylay you again?” asked Bob, not a little
apprehensive of being in the companionship of a man against whom, it was
evident, some one had a grudge.

“Oh, he won’t get me now,” was the chuckled answer. “I’ve got the
weather gage on him all right. We’ll soon be at my place.”

Storm Mountain was a small village at the foot of the mountain bearing
that name, and Bob soon was driving through it, taking the turns pointed
out by Mr. Beegle who sat beside him.

“The next turn to the left is the road that leads to my place,” said the
old man, pointing ahead. They were on a quiet stretch of country
thoroughfare, steadily ascending the grade. The flivver puffed and
wheezed, but kept on going.

“Here we are—my shack!” exclaimed Mr. Beegle a little later, after the
turn had been made into a sort of dirt lane. “Now I’m all right.”

Bob saw before him a small log cabin, rather neat and trim, with a
flower garden in front, or, rather, the remains of one, for it was now
October. And in the rear were standing some lima bean poles and shocks
of dried corn.

Hiram Beegle leaped out of the flivver and stood still for a moment. He
looked fixedly at the log cabin and then in a low voice said to Bob:

“Would you mind waiting here a moment?”

“No. What for?” inquired the lad.

“Well, I just want to make sure nobody’s hiding in there to give me
another knock on the head. I’ve been away all day—the place has been
shut up. It’s just possible——”

“I’ll wait until you see if it’s all right,” said Bob, as the old man
began a cautious approach toward his cabin.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                            *STARTLING NEWS*


Since noon that day so many things had happened in Bob Dexter’s life
that as he watched the old man walk toward the log cabin, the lad was
almost prepared for something else of a startling nature.

To begin with there had been that hurried trip to the train to get the
important papers from Mr. Sheldon. And then there had been his Uncle
Joel’s fear lest some one might have tried to get the documents away
from Bob.

Followed then his discovery of Hiram Beegle, knocked out at the side of
the road, after the young detective’s encounter with him at the railroad
station, and mixed up with this was the mystery of the brass-bound box,
the vindictive Rod Marbury and the lawyer’s guarantee as to Hiram’s
legal right to the little chest.

And now, on top of this, some enemy might burst forth from the lonely
log cabin.

But Bob was spared this last act, though as a matter of fact the strong,
healthy and excitement-loving young detective would have welcomed
something more to bring the day to a fitting close.

However, nothing happened. For after Hiram Beegle had cautiously scouted
about the cabin for several minutes he unlocked the door, swung it back
and himself jumped to one side, flattening his body out against the side
of the cabin.

Bob almost wanted to laugh at this—it was like something in a moving
picture melodrama. Doubtless the old man had good reason for his
caution, but there was no need of it. No one leaped out at him, there
was no shooting and no flashing of a thrown knife.

All was peace and quietness.

“It’s just as well to be on the safe side,” remarked Mr. Beegle as he
stepped away from the side of the cabin and prepared to enter it. “No
telling what Rod might be up to. Now, young man, I’ll pay you off, say
much obliged and give you a drink of buttermilk right cold out of my
spring house if you’ll take it.”

“Thanks,” answered Bob. “I’m very fond of buttermilk, but I’d rather not
take your money,” for the old man passed over two one dollar bills.

“You got to take it—that was the bargain. And if you’ll come in and sit
down a minute I’ll get you the buttermilk. I buy it off Jason Studder,
down the road, and keep it cool in the spring. But first I’ll just take
care of this. I’ve had trouble enough to get it, and I don’t want to
lose it again.”

Bob followed the old man into the long cabin. Hiram Beegle carried the
box under his arm, and without setting it down he went to a cupboard in
the wall and thrust in his hand. There was a sort of clicking sound, as
if machinery was operating and Bob started.

Well he might, for close beside him, as he stood near a wall of the log
cabin—a wall made of smooth boards—a sort of secret panel dropped,
revealing a little recess or hiding place. And in this niche was a large
brass key.

“It isn’t every one I let see the place I keep the key to my strong
room,” chuckled the old man. “But I trust you and Judge Weston. Rod
Marbury could search a week and never find this, I’m thinking.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” replied Bob. “I think I could get at it.”

“No, you couldn’t—not even knowing that there’s a catch in this
cupboard,” challenged Mr. Beegle. “Here, you try it.”

He closed the dropped panel, leaving the big brass key in the niche, and
then waved his hand toward the cupboard beside the fireplace—an
invitation to Bob to try.

The young detective could not see much in the cupboard—it was too
small—but he felt about with trained fingers. He found a number of knobs
and catches, but pressing and pulling on them one after another, and on
several at the same time, produced no effect.

“You couldn’t work it in a year unless you knew how,” boasted the old
man. “Of course you could tear the cabin apart and find the key that
way—but it would take time.”

Once more, after Bob’s failure, Hiram put his hand within the cupboard
and an instant later the secret panel dropped. So cleverly was the
hidden niche made and so closely did the sliding panel fit into place,
that not even with his sharp eyes could Bob see where the joining was in
the wall, after the niche had been closed again.

For the old man closed it after taking out the brass key. And with this
key in one hand, and the mysterious box in the other, he approached a
small inner door.

“This is what I call my strong room,” he said to Bob, as he put the
ponderous key in the lock. And it was a big key—like one that might be
part of the great lock on some prison door. There was a clicking of the
wards and tumblers of the lock, and the door was opened. It was of heavy
oak, cross planks being spiked to the inner side.

Bob had his first glimpse into a room that, soon, was to play a part in
a strange mystery. In fact, this was Bob’s first view of the cabin where
Hiram Beegle lived, though he knew the cabin was situated on this road,
for he had seen it before, some years ago. Then no one lived in it, and
the place was somewhat in ruins. Now it was a most picturesque home for
the old man who lived alone in it.

Bob expected to see a sort of vault when the ponderous door swung back,
but he was rather surprised to note that the place contained a table, a
chair and a bed, in addition to a strong chest, iron-bound and fastened
with a heavy black padlock.

“Do you sleep in here, Mr. Beegle?” asked the lad and he accented the
word “sleep,” so that the old man looked at him in some surprise and
remarked:

“Of course I sleep here. Why not?”

“Well, there aren’t any windows in the place. How do you get fresh air?”

“Oh, that!” he laughed. “I reckon you can tell that I like fresh air as
much as anybody. I’m an outdoor man—always was. Well, I don’t make a
practice of sleeping here, but when I do I get plenty of fresh air
through the fireplace,” and he pointed to a hearth in the room. Bob knew
that an open fireplace is one of the best methods known of ventilating a
room.

And certainly if ever a room needed ventilation this inner one in the
lonely log cabin did, for the strong door was the only opening in it.
Not a window, not a porthole, nor so much as a crack gave on the
outside. It was a veritable vault, the chimney opening being the only
one by which a person shut in the room could save himself from
smothering.

“Yes, once I’m shut up in here not even Rod Marbury can get at me!”
chuckled Hiram Beegle.

“Couldn’t he get down the chimney?” asked Bob.

“I’d like to see him try it I There’s a crook in the flue and a raccoon
that once tried to get down, though why I don’t know, was stuck until I
tore a hole in the outside and set the poor thing free. That’s what
would happen to Rod Marbury if he tried it. No, he’d better not try to
play Santa Claus with me!” and again the old man chuckled.

While Bob looked about the room, noting how strong the walls were and
the thickness of the door, the old man opened the chest in the corner
and in it placed the brass-bound box, snapping the padlock shut after he
made his deposit.

“There!” he announced, “I guess it’s all right now. It’s safe! Rod
Marbury can whistle for a breeze but that’s all the good it will do him.
Now for your buttermilk, young man.”

“Oh, don’t trouble about me!” begged Bob.

“It isn’t any trouble. It’s only a step to the spring and I’d like a
drink myself after what I’ve been through.”

“Aren’t you going to notify the police?” asked Bob as he preceded the
old man from the strong room, watching him turn the ponderous key in the
lock.

“Notify the police? What about?” asked Hiram Beegle.

“About the attack on you—by Rodney Marbury as you think.”

“As I know, you mean, young man. But I don’t need the police. I can deal
with that chap myself if need comes. But I guess he knows he’s through.
He won’t bother me again. Now for the buttermilk.”

There was a small spring house not far from the log cabin, and from this
cool repository Hiram brought a can of rich, cool buttermilk, which was
most refreshing to Bob, for the day was hot, even though It was October.

“Well, much obliged to you, Bob Dexter,” said Hiram, as Bob was about to
take his leave, having seen the big brass key deposited in the secret
niche and the panel closed. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d just as
soon you wouldn’t tell everybody what you’ve seen and heard to-day.”

“I’ll keep quiet about it,” the lad promised.

He rode off down the mountain trail in his flivver, looking back to see
the odd but kindly old man waving a farewell to him. Bob little knew
under what circumstances he would see Hiram Beegle again.

It was late afternoon when Bob returned home, for he got a puncture when
halfway to Cliffside and had to stop to change a tire. As he drew up in
front of his house he met his two chums, Harry and Ned.

“Too bad you missed the game,” remarked Ned.

“Yes,” assented Bob, “I’m sorry, too.”

“What did you do with Rip Van Winkle?” asked Harry.

“Rip Van Winkle?” repeated Bob, wondering.

“Yes. The old codger Fred Merton saw you with.”

“Oh, Hiram Beegle,” chuckled Bob. “Yes, he is a queer character,” and he
told as much of the story as would not violate his promise.

“Well, I s’pose you know what you’re doing,” said Ned. “But from what
Fred said about this old codger I wouldn’t want to meet him alone after
dark, Bob.”

“Oh, he’s all right,” protested the young detective with a laugh. “But I
suppose there’ll be great doings at the club house to-night.”

“There sure will—to celebrate the game to-day. Going to be there?”

“Surest thing you know. I’ll see you there. So long!”

“So long, Bob!”

The two chums went on their way and Bob went into the house after
putting his car in the barn that had been turned into a garage.

The Boys’ Athletic Club had a jollification meeting that night over the
baseball victory, and the Golden Eagle mascot looked down most
approvingly from his perch to which he had been restored by the efforts
of the young detective.

“I don’t believe we’d have had half such a good game out of it to-day if
it hadn’t been for the Golden Eagle,” remarked Ned, as he sat with his
chums, looking up at the mascot bird.

“You’re right!” chimed in Harry.

“Oh, I guess you imagine a lot of that,” laughed Bob. “Still, I’m glad
the old bird is back in place.”

“You said it!” exclaimed his chums.

It was next morning, when Bob was on his way to his uncle’s hardware
store where he now worked, that the lad met Harry and Ned.

“Did you hear the news?” cried Harry.

“What news?” asked Bob, slowing up his flivver so his chums might leap
in.

“Old Hiram Beegle was murdered last night in his cabin!” cried Ned.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                              *WOODEN LEG*


Suspecting that his chums were playing some joke on him, though he
thought this rather a poor subject for humor, and believing that Harry
and Ned wanted to get a rise out of him, Bob Dexter did not at once show
the astonishment that was expected. Instead he merely smiled and
remarked:

“Hop in! If I believe that I s’pose you’ll tell me another!”

“Say, this is straight!” cried Ned.

“No kidding!” added Harry. “The old man was killed last night. You know
who we mean—Rip Van Winkle—the old codger you took over to Storm
Mountain in this very flivver.”

“Yes, I know, who you mean all right,” assented Bob. “But who told you
he was killed? How, why, when, where and all the rest of it?”

“We didn’t hear any of the particulars,” explained Harry. “But Chief
Drayton, of the Storm Mountain police force—guess he’s the whole force
as a matter of fact—Drayton just came over here to get our chief to help
solve the mystery.”

“Oh, then there’s a mystery about it, is there?” asked Bob, and his
chums noticed that he at once began to pay close attention to what they
were saying.

“Sure there’s a mystery,” asserted Ned. “Wouldn’t you call it a mystery
if a man was found dead in a locked room—a room without a window in it,
and only one door, and that locked on the inside and the man dead
inside? Isn’t that a mystery, Bob Dexter—just as much of a mystery as
who took our Golden Eagle?”

“Or what the ‘yellow boys’ were in the wreck of the _Sea Hawk_?” added
Harry.

“Sure that would be a mystery if everything is as you say it is,”
asserted Bob. “But in the first place if old Hiram Beegle has been
killed and if his body is in that room, with only one door leading into
it, how do the authorities know anything about it? Why, you can’t even
see into that room when the door is shut!”

“How do you know?” asked Ned quickly.

“Because I’ve been in that room. I was in there yesterday afternoon with
Hiram Beegle. There is only one entrance to it and that by the door, for
the fireplace doesn’t count.”

“You were in that room?” cried Harry in surprise.

“Certainly I was.”

“Why didn’t you tell us?” asked Ned, feeling that his announcement of
the murder was as nothing compared with this news.

“Oh, well, there wasn’t any need of speaking about it,” said Bob.

“Well, I guess you’ve seen the last of Hiram Beegle,” went on Harry.
“That is unless you want to go to the scene of the crime, as the _Weekly
Banner_ will put it.”

“Yes, I’d like to go there,” said Bob quietly. “There may be a mystery
about who killed Hiram Beegle, but to my mind there’s a greater mystery
in discovering how it is Chief Drayton knows the old man was killed,
instead of, let us say, dying a natural death, if he can’t get in the
room.”

“Who said he couldn’t get in the room?” asked Ned.

“Well, it stands to reason he can’t get in the room, if the only door to
it is locked on the inside, if Hiram Beegle is dead inside; for I’ve
been there and you can’t go down the chimney. How does the chief know
Hiram is dead?”

“You got me there,” admitted Ned. “I didn’t get it directly from Chief
Drayton. Tom Wilson was telling me—he heard it from some one else, I
guess.”

“That’s the trouble,” remarked Bob as he guided the flivver around a
corner and brought it to a stop in front of his uncle’s hardware store.
“There’s too much second-hand talk.”

“Then let’s go over to Storm Mountain and get some first-hand
information!” cried Ned.

“Yes—what do you say to that?” added Harry.

Bob considered for a moment.

“I guess I can go in about an hour if you fellows can,” he replied.
“Uncle Joel will let me have some time off.”

“I think I can string dad so he’ll let me go,” remarked Ned.

“Same here,” echoed Harry.

The two lads worked for their respective fathers, and the latter were
not too exacting. Bob and his chums attended High School, but owing to
the fact that the building was being repaired the usual fall term would
be two months late in opening. Hence they still had considerable of a
vacation before them, for which they were duly grateful.

Many thoughts were surging through the mind of Bob Dexter as he went
about his duties in the hardware store. It was rather a shock to him to
learn that the odd but kindly old man, with whom he had been drinking
buttermilk less than twenty-four hours ago, was now dead.

“But who killed him, and why?” mused Bob.

“He was fearfully afraid of some one he called Rod Marbury. Could that
fellow have had a hand in it? And if the old man was locked in his
strong room how could anyone get in to kill him? I should like to find
out all about this, and I’m going to.”

Uncle Joel chuckled silently when Bob asked if he could be excused for
the remainder of the day.

“Going fishing, Bob?” he asked.

“No, not exactly,” was the answer.

“Well, I can guess. You’ll be heading for Storm Mountain, I suppose.”

“Did you hear about the murder?” exclaimed the lad.

“Murder!” repeated his uncle. “I didn’t hear there was a murder. Old
Hiram Beegle was badly hurt but he wasn’t killed. He was robbed,
though—robbed of some treasure box he had.”

“Robbed!” murmured Bob. “The treasure box! It must have been that
brass-bound little chest he had when I saw him. But are you sure he
wasn’t killed, Uncle Joel?”

“Well, I’m as sure of it as I can be of anything that Sam Drayton
tells.”

“You mean Chief Drayton of Storm Mountain?”

“Huh! Chief Drayton! I like that. He’s nothing but a constable, and
never will be anything but a constable. He calls himself chief because
the selectmen wouldn’t raise his salary. I’ve known Sam Drayton ever
since he was knee high to a grasshopper and he’s no more fit to be Chief
of Police than I am—not half as much as you are, Bob Dexter, though I
don’t set any great store by your detective work.”

Bob smiled. His uncle poked good-natured fun at his abilities as a
sleuth, but, at the same time, Uncle Joel was rather proud of his
nephew, particularly since the affair of the Golden Eagle.

“Well, I’m glad the old man isn’t dead,” said Bob. “But how did the
robbery happen? How did the thief get in the strong room?”

“I don’t know. You’d better go over and find out for yourself. There’s
no use asking Sam Drayton, for he won’t know.”

“I understand he came over here to get help from our police,” stated
Bob.

“I don’t know that he’s much better off than if he stayed at home,”
chuckled Mr. Dexter. “But go ahead, Bob. I guess the store will still be
doing business when you get back.”

“I hope so, Uncle Joel. Thanks,” and Bob ran out to his flivver,
intending to hurry and pick up Ned and Harry and make a quick trip to
Storm Mountain.

However, he found his chums already on hand. They had come over to get
him, having prevailed on their fathers to let them off for the remainder
of the day.

“Old Rip Van Winkle isn’t dead after all—that was a false report, Bob!”
exclaimed Ned, who, with Harry, insisted on giving Hiram Beegle the name
of Irving’s mythical character.

“So I heard.”

“But there’s been a big robbery,” said Harry.

“I heard that, too.”

“Say, is there anything you haven’t heard?” inquired Ned, admiringly.

“Well, that’s really all I do know,” admitted Bob. “I haven’t any
particulars and it seems as much of a mystery as before. Let’s go!”

They found a curious throng gathered about the lonely cabin of the old
man, with Chief Drayton fussing about trying to keep the crowd back.

“Don’t tramp all over the place!” he kept saying. “How am I goin’ to
examine for footprints of the robber if you tramp and mush all over the
place? Keep back!”

But it was a waste of words to admonish the curiosity seekers who
crowded up toward the front door. Then out came Chief Miles Duncan of
the Cliffside police. He noticed Bob and his chums in the forefront of
the gathering.

“Hello, Bob!” he greeted pleasantly. “This is one of those things you’ll
be interested in—quite a mystery. Come in and take a look.”

“Now look here—!” began Sam Drayton.

“It’s all right—Bob can do more with this than you or I could,” said the
Cliffside official in a low voice. “I’ll tell you about him later. He’s
got the makings of a great detective in him.”

Bob, much pleased at the invitation, started to push his way through the
crowd, envious murmurs accompanying him.

“Stick by me, fellows,” he told Ned and Bob. “We’ll all go in together.”

“Say, look here!” objected Sam Drayton as he saw three lads approaching,
“Chief Duncan only told Bob Dexter to come in and——”

“These are my assistants,” said Bob gravely, but, at the same time
winking at Chief Duncan. And Mr. Duncan winked back.

“That’s right,” he backed up Bob.

“Oh, well, let ’em in then,” grudgingly conceded Mr. Drayton.

Bob’s first sight, on entering the main room of the log cabin, was of
Hiram Beegle propped up in a chair covered with bed quilts. The old man
looked worn and ill—there was a drawn, pinched look on his face, and he
was pale.

“What happened, Mr. Beegle?” asked Bob, noting that the door to the
strong room stood ajar, and that the oaken chest, in one corner, was
also open.

Hiram Beegle opened his mouth, but instead of words there came out only
a meaningless jumble of sounds.

“He’s been poisoned,” explained Chief Duncan.

“Poisoned?” cried Bob.

“Or something like that,” went on the Cliffside official. “It’s dope, or
something that the robber gave him—maybe it’s chloroform, for all I can
tell, though it doesn’t smell like that. Anyhow he’s knocked out and
can’t tell much that’s happened.”

“Robbed! Robbed!” gasped Hiram Beegle, bringing out the words with
pitiful effort.

“Yes, he’s been robbed—we’re sure of that,” said Sam Drayton.

“Box! Box!” and again the old man in the chair brought out the words as
if they pained him.

“That’s right,” assented the Storm Mountain chief. “As near as we can
make out he’s been robbed of some sort of a small treasure chest. It was
taken from that larger chest in there.”

“Yes, I know about it,” said Bob quietly.

“You know about it?” cried both chiefs at once.

“I mean I saw the small treasure box Mr. Beegle speaks of,” said Bob. “I
brought him home yesterday with it. But what I can’t understand is how
the robber got in the strong room.”

“No, and there can’t anybody else either, I reckon,” declared Mr.
Drayton. “It’s a big mystery.”

“Mysteries seem to be about the best little thing Bob runs into lately,”
chuckled Harry. “He doesn’t more than get finished with one, than he has
another on his hands. Why don’t you open a shop, Bob?”

“Cut out the comedy,” advised Ned in a low voice to his chum. “Can’t you
see that these self-important chiefs don’t like this kind of
talk—especially this Storm Mountain fellow?”

It was evident that this was so, and Harry, with a wink at Ned,
subsided.

“I’d like to hear how it all happened, and I suppose Bob would, too,”
remarked Mr. Duncan.

“I’d like to hear the details,” suggested the young detective.

“We’ll tell you all we know, Bob,” said Miles Duncan. “You see——”

But at that moment a loud and hearty voice from without cried:

“Where is he! Where’s my old friend Hiram Beegle? Tell him Jolly Bill
Hickey is here! Where’s my old friend Hiram Beegle!”

A man, broadly smiling, his bald head shining in the sun, stumped into
the room, one wooden leg making a thumping sound on the floor.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                         *A MYSTERIOUS ROBBERY*


Jolly Bill Hickey—for so he called himself—stood staring in the middle
of the room—staring at the huddled figure of the old man in the chair
covered with bed clothes.

“Why, Hiram—why—what has happened?” cried the man with the wooden leg—an
old-fashioned wooden peg, his stump strapped fast to it—and the wooden
leg showed signs of wear. “What has happened to my old shipmate Hiram?”
demanded Jolly Bill Hickey.

Again that pitiful effort to talk, but only a meaningless jumble of
sounds came forth.

“Hiram, did they ram you?” demanded he of the wooden leg. “Did they let
go a broadside at you? Did they try to sink you?”

Hiram Beegle nodded his head.

“Look here!” spluttered Chief Drayton. “You’re not supposed to come in
here, you know.”

“But I _am_ in, you see!” chuckled the wooden-legged man. “I am in and
I’m going to stay with my old messmate Hiram. You can’t keep Jolly Bill
Hickey out when he wants to come in.”

That was very evident.

“Are you a friend of his?” asked Chief Duncan.

“Am I? I should say I was! Ask him—ask Hiram I But no, what’s the use.
He’s been rammed—the enemy has broadsided him and he’s out of action.
But I’ll tell you I’m a friend of his, and he’ll tell you so, too, when
he gets going again. But what happened here? Tell me—tell Jolly Bill
Hickey!” demanded he of the wooden leg.

“Hiram Beegle has been nearly killed and completely robbed,” said Chief
Duncan.

“No! You don’t mean it! Almost killed—and robbed! Who did it? Where are
the scoundrels?” Jolly Bill Hickey did not seem very jolly now. He
looked around with a vindictive air and fanned his bald head with his
cap.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” spoke Chief Drayton. “Do you know
anything about this crime?”

“Do I know anything about it? Say, I just got here!” exclaimed Jolly
Bill. “I came in on the morning train to see my old messmate Hiram
Beegle, and I find this crowd around his bunk and him knocked out like a
broadside had been delivered right in his teeth! How should I know
anything about it?”

“Well, I just asked,” said Chief Drayton rather mildly for a police
official. Truth to tell the manner of Jolly Bill Hickey was a bit
overpowering.

“If you’re a friend of Hiram’s you might as well stay in and see if you
can help us,” suggested Chief Duncan.

“Sure I’ll help!” said Jolly Bill. “But we don’t want too much help. Who
are these lads?” and he glanced sharply at Bob and his chums.

“Friends of mine,” said the Cliffside chief, shortly.

“Oh, well, then that’s all right—friends of yours—friends of Jolly Bill
Hickey. Shake!” He extended a hard palm and gave the lads grips they
long remembered. “Shake, Hiram!” and he clasped hands with the stricken
man, though more gently, it seemed.

“No use letting all outdoors in,” went on Jolly Bill as he stumped over
and closed the outer portal, bringing thereby a chorus of protests from
the curious ones assembled outside. “Now let’s spin the yarn,” he
suggested. “But first has anything been done for my old messmate Hiram
Beegle?”

“A doctor has been here—yes,” said Chief Drayton. “He says Hiram has had
a shock. There’s a lump on his head——”

“He got that yesterday!” broke in Bob. “I picked him up right after it
happened. He thinks a man named Rod Marbury did it.”

“And he did!” burst forth Jolly Bill. “A scoundrel if ever there was
one—Rod Marbury! So he whanged Hiram, did he?”

“There are two lumps on Hiram’s head,” went on Chief Drayton. “We know
about the first one—the one you spoke of,” he said to Bob. “But he was
hit again last night. He was also either given some sort of poison that
knocked him out—some sort of dope, the doctor thinks, or else it was
some sort of vapor that made him unconscious. And while he was that way
he was robbed.”

“But how did it all happen?” asked Bob Dexter. “How could a thief get in
the strong room when he didn’t know the secret of the big brass key?”

“Whoever it was must have known some of the secrets,” said the Cliffside
chief, “for he got in the strong room when it was locked, and when Hiram
was inside, and the thief got out again, leaving Hiram and the key
inside.”

“He got out leaving Mr. Beegle and the key inside?” asked Bob. “Why, it
couldn’t be done! There’s no way out of that room except by the door,
and if the key was inside, and the door locked—why, it’s impossible! Mr.
Beegle showed me that yesterday afternoon. The only opening to the outer
air is the chimney—no man could get in or out that way.”

“But somebody did!” said Chief Drayton. “And that’s where the mystery
comes in.”

“Let’s hear how it happened—from the beginning,” suggested Harry.
“Suppose you tell your story first, Bob, so we’ll know just how much of
it you saw.”

“Do you want me to tell, Mr. Beegle?” asked Bob, for he remembered his
promise to the old man.

Hiram Beegle tried to talk, but about the only words Bob could
distinguish were “cupboard” and “key.” He judged from this that the old
sailor, for so he seemed to be, did not want disclosed the information
as to where he kept the big brass key of his strange strong room. The
key was not now in sight, but Bob understood. He resolved to keep quiet
on this point, but to tell the rest.

Thereupon he related how he had found the old man stricken beside the
road the afternoon before. How he had gone with him to the office of
Judge Weston, who told of the brass-bound box coming as an inheritance
to Hiram Beegle from Hank Denby.

“That’s right!” chimed in Jolly Bill. “I can testify to that. We were
all shipmates together—Hiram, Hank, that scoundrel Rod Marbury and me.
Hank Denby was the richest of the lot. He left the box to Hiram—I know
he promised to, and what Hank promised he carried out. He gave you the
box, didn’t he, Hiram?”

The stricken man nodded.

“Well, I brought him home here with the box,” went on Bob, “and he
brought me into this room. He explained how it could only be entered
from the door which he unlocked with a big brass key. He said he was
going to put his treasure in that chest,” and the lad pointed to the
open one in the strong room.

“He did put it there, it seems,” said Chief Duncan, “but it didn’t stay
there long. In the night somebody got in and took the little treasure
chest away, nearly killing Hiram before doing so. Then they left him
locked up in the room, with the brass key near him, and came out.”

“But how could they?” cried Bob. “They couldn’t get out of the room if
it was locked. They couldn’t leave the key inside. There’s no other way
of getting out except by the door. And if that was locked, and the key
was inside——”

“That’s where the mystery comes in,” interrupted Chief Duncan.

“And it sure Is a mystery,” added Chief Drayton. “If Hiram could talk he
might explain, but, as it is, we can only guess at it. I needed help on
this—that’s why I sent for you, Miles,” he said to his fellow officer.

“Hum! I don’t know as I can do much more than you,” ruefully replied the
Cliffside chief. “What do you think of it, Bob?”

“Huh! A lot he can tell!” sniffed Mr. Drayton.

“You don’t know Bob Dexter as well as I do,” stated Mr. Duncan quietly.
“I should like to have his opinion on this.”

For the Cliffside chief remembered the case of Jennie Thorp, in which he
and his men had not shone very brilliantly.

“Let me see if I understand this,” said Bob, looking at Hiram Beegle.
“Will you nod your head if I’m right?” he asked. “Don’t try to talk—just
nod your head, will you?”

Hiram gave a sign of assent and understanding. Then Bob began to make a
statement of the mysterious robbery as he understood it, while those in
the room listened eagerly.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                            *STRANGE MARKS*


“When I left you yesterday afternoon, after we drank the buttermilk
together,” said Bob, speaking slowly, “you were going to put the
brass-bound box in your chest and lock it up, weren’t you?”

Hiram Beegle nodded vigorously an assent to this.

“You did this, we’ll say,” resumed Bob, “but after I had gone, or after
you had locked up your treasure, you took it out to look at it again,
and count it perhaps—and you sat here in your strong room to do
that—with the door open—is that it?”

Again Hiram nodded to show that this was the truth.

“While you were doing that,” continued the young detective, “some one—an
enemy or a robber—slipped in and overpowered you, taking away the
treasure box and locking you in the strong room. Is that how It
happened? And can you tell us who it was that struck you the second time
and who robbed you?”

Hiram Beegle nodded vigorously, but in both directions. Now his head
indicated an affirmative and again a negative.

“What does he mean?” questioned Harry.

“He’s making queer motions,” said Ned.

The stricken man was moving in an odd way the fingers of his right hand
on the arm of his chair. And then Bob Dexter guessed what it was he
wanted.

“He will write it out!” exclaimed the lad. “Give him pencil and paper
and he can write out what happened since he can’t talk straight. Why
didn’t we think of that before?”

“I said it would be a good thing to have Bob here,” remarked Chief
Duncan while Chief Drayton looked for pencil and paper. And when these
were given to Hiram Beegle a look of satisfaction came over his face. He
began writing more rapidly than one would have supposed an old sailor
could have done, and he handed the finished sheet to Bob.

“Read it,” suggested Harry.

Bob read:

“The young man has partly the right of it. After he left me I locked up
the box Judge Weston gave me. It was mine by right but I knew some who
might try to take it from me. Never mind about them now.

“After supper I sat here thinking of many things, and then I wanted to
look in my box again. I opened my strong room, left the door ajar, took
the brass-bound box out of my chest and sat looking over the contents
when, all of a sudden, I felt faint. Then I fell out of my chair—I
remember falling—and that’s all I remember until I woke up early this
morning.

“I was lying on the floor, and beside me, close to my right hand, was
the big brass key to my strong room. But the door was locked, and my box
was gone. I couldn’t understand it. First I thought I had just fainted
from the blow I got in the afternoon. I thought maybe I had put my box
back in the chest, but it wasn’t there. I had been robbed, and there was
another lump on my head. Whether I was hit again, or whether I hit
myself when I fell out of my chair I don’t know.

“But there I was, locked in my own strong room, the key was beside me
and my treasure was gone. That’s all I know about it.”

“But didn’t he see anybody?”

“How did he feel just before he keeled over?”

“Didn’t he hear any noise?”

“Did anybody make him drink anything that might have had poison or
knock-out drops in it?”

These were some of the questions from Ned, Harry, Jolly Bill and the two
police chiefs when Bob finished reading the document.

“Wait!” begged the young detective. “One at a time. I’ll ask him the
questions and let him write the answer. We’ll get along faster that
way.”

“Let’s see, first, how he got doped, if he was,” suggested Chief Duncan.
So Bob wrote that question.

“No one gave me anything that I know of,” was the written reply. “And
the only thing I drank was some buttermilk.”

“I had some of that and I know there was nothing wrong with it,”
testified Bob. “But did you see any one around your cabin just before
you fainted and were robbed?”

“I saw no one,” wrote Hiram, “It was very strange.”

“I’ll say it was!” exclaimed Harry.

“What did you do after you came to?” was the next question.

“I sat up and looked around. I couldn’t understand it at all. I felt
sick—I couldn’t talk—something seemed to have hold of my tongue. It’s
that way yet but I can feel it wearing off. I saw that I had been
robbed.

“But the queer part of it was that whoever had robbed me had gone out,
locked the door from the outside and then, in some way, they got the key
back in here, so that it lay on the floor close to my right hand, as if
it had dropped from my fingers.”

“Why, that’s easy!” chuckled Jolly Bill. “They locked the door—that is
the robber did, and threw the key in over the transom. I’ve heard of
cases like that.”

“There isn’t any transom over this door,” said Bob, pointing. “There
isn’t a single opening to this room, either from inside the cabin or out
of doors. The keyhole is the only opening, and it Is impossible to push
a big key, like this, in through the keyhole.”

“I have it!” cried Ned. “They climbed up on the roof and dropped the key
down the chimney. You said the chimney was barred inside, and too small
for a man to climb down, Bob, but a key could fall down.”

“Yes,” admitted the young detective dryly, “a key would fall down all
right, but it would drop in the fireplace, or in the ashes of the fire
if one had been built Mr. Beegle says the key was lying close to his
hand, and he was on the floor, ten feet away from the hearth. That won’t
do, Ned.”

“Couldn’t the key bounce from the brick hearth, over to where Mr. Beegle
lay?” asked the lad, who hated to see his theory riddled like this.

In answer Bob pointed to the hearth. There was a thick layer of wood
ashes on it, for a fire had been burning in the place recently.

“Any key dropping in those ashes would fall as dead as a golf ball in a
mud bank,” stated the young sleuth. “It wouldn’t bounce a foot, let
alone ten feet, and land close beside Mr. Beegle’s hand.”

“Then there must be two keys, or else the door was locked with a
skeleton key,” said Harry.

“No! No!” suddenly exclaimed the stricken man. He wrote rapidly.

“There is only one key, and no skeleton key would fit this lock,” which
was easy to believe when its ponderous nature was taken into
consideration.

“Um!” mused Harry, when this had been read to those in the room. “Then
it’s simmering down to a question of who it was knocked him out, and how
they managed to lock the door after they had left with the treasure, and
how they got the key back inside.”

“That’s the question,” assented Bob.

“But why should the thief go to such trouble to get the key back in the
room, after he had left Mr. Beegle unconscious?” asked Ned. “That’s what
I can’t understand.”

“He probably did it to throw suspicion off,” suggested Bob. “By leaving
the key close to Mr. Beegle’s hand he might have thought his victim
would come to the conclusion that he hadn’t been robbed at all—or else
that in a sort of dream or sleep-walking act he had taken away his own
valuables and hidden them.”

“Of course that’s possible,” said Chief Duncan.

“No! No!” cried Hiram, with more power than he had yet spoken since he
was stricken. Once more he quickly wrote:

“I did not hide that box. Why should I? It was mine and is yet, no
matter who has it. Someone sneaked in here while I was looking at my
treasure and overpowered me with some powerful drug, I believe—some sort
of gas, maybe the kind they used in the Great War. When I toppled over
they came in, got the box, went out and locked me in.”

“But how could they get out and lock you in?” asked Chief Duncan. “The
key was here with you all the while.”

Hiram Beegle shook his head. It was beyond his comprehension, and, for
that matter, beyond the comprehension of all present. Even Bob Dexter,
skillful and clever as he was, shook his head.

“I don’t see how the key got back here,” he mused. “But there are some
other things to find out yet. How did this robbery become known? Did any
one find Mr. Beegle in the strong room? They couldn’t see him lying
there, for there aren’t any windows. There aren’t any panes of glass in
the door. Did he call for help? And if he did, how did he get the key
out to some one to come in and pick him up?”

“He didn’t have to do that,” said Chief Drayton. “He managed to crawl to
the door and unlock it himself. Then he staggered out doors and hailed
Tom Shan, a neighboring farmer, who was driving past. Shan did what he
could and then came and told me.”

“I see,” murmured Bob Dexter. “Then the two important points in this
mystery are to discover who robbed Mr. Beegle and how it was they got
the key back in the room after they went out and locked the door. And
that’s the hardest nut to crack, for there isn’t any opening in this
room through which a key could be put back.”

“Except the chimney,” commented Jolly Bill.

“We’ve eliminated that,” declared Bob. “But, just to be on the safe
side, I’ll climb up on the roof and drop the key down. We’ll see where
it lands.”

“Better first find out where the key really was,” suggested Ned. “I mean
where Mr. Beegle was lying on the floor with the key near his hand.”

“A good idea,” declared Bob. “Can you show us how it was?” he asked.

The old man seemed rapidly to be getting better, for he arose from his
chair and tottered into his strong room. There he stretched out on the
floor in the position he had found himself in when he became conscious.
He laid the key in the position where he had first noted it on opening
his eyes.

“Well, we have that to start with,” remarked Bob, as the old man arose
and went back to his chair. “Ill just mark the spot on the floor with a
pencil.” As he stooped over to do this he seemed to take notice of
something, for Ned saw his chum give a little start.

“Did you get a clew then, Bob?” he asked.

“A clew? No—no clews here, I’m afraid.”

“I thought you saw something.”

“No—nothing to amount to anything. Now I’ll get up on the roof and drop
the key down. You fellows stay here and tell me where it lands. I’ll try
it half a dozen times.”

They helped Hiram Beegle back to his blanketed chair, and by this time
the doctor had come back. He said his patient was much better and that
gradually all the effects of the attack would wear off.

“But you had better not stay here all alone,” the physician suggested.
“I stopped at Tom Shan’s on my way here and he and his wife want you to
come and stay with them a few days. You’ll be well taken care of there.”

“Yes—yes,” slowly assented Hiram. “I’ll—go. There’s nothing here, now,
to be taken. They have my treasure.”

He spoke sadly, as one who has lost hope.

“We’ll get it back for you,” said Chief Duncan cheerfully.

“Sure we will!” cried Jolly Bill. “I’ll get in the wake of that
scoundrel Rod Marbury and take it away from him. Trust an old messmate
for that!”

He seemed so hale and hearty that one could not help having a friendly
feeling for him, and his weather-beaten face shone with the honesty of
his purpose, while his shiny bald head seemed to give promise of a
brighter sun rising on the affairs of Hiram Beegle.

“I’ll take you over to Shan’s place now, in my car,” offered Dr. Martin.
“You need rest and quiet more than anything else. The police will look
after things here.”

“Yes, we’ll look after things,” promised Chief Drayton. “I’ll lock up
the cabin and bring you the key after this young man gets through
dropping the key down the chimney, though I don’t see what good it’s
going to do. I’ll lock up the place for you.”

“There isn’t much—to—to lock up—now,” said the old man slowly. “The
treasure is gone!”

“Oh, we’ll get it back!” promised Chief Duncan. “What was in the
box—diamonds or gold?”

“Neither one,” was the answer.

“Neither one? Then what was the treasure?” Chief Drayton wanted to know.

“Papers! Papers!” somewhat testily answered Mr. Beegle.

“Oh, stocks and bonds, I reckon. Well, you can stop payment on them.
Better tell Judge Weston about it.”

“Yes! Yes! He must be told,” mumbled Hiram. “Now I want to sleep.”

He closed his eyes weakly, and the physician and others helped him into
the auto. Bob had taken the big brass key, and as he and his chums went
outside, followed by the police officers and a curious crowd, the young
detective said to Jolly Bill:

“How long have you known Mr. Beegle?”

“Off and on all my life.”

“Do you know anything about this Rod Marbury and what sort of
inheritance it was that Mr. Denby left?”

“I don’t know anything good about Rod Marbury,” was the answer. “As for
Hiram’s treasure, well, I can tell a story about that if you want me
to.”

“I wish you would,” said Bob, as he looked about for a way of getting up
on the roof to drop the key down the chimney in the experiment. “It
might help some in solving the mystery.”

Ned, who had gone on ahead a little way, around the side of the house
where the chimney was built, suddenly uttered a cry of surprise.

“Look at these queer marks!” he called. He pointed to broad, flat
impressions in the soft ground—impressions as though made by the foot of
an elephant!



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                          *THE KEY EXPERIMENT*


Bob Dexter, when he had caught sight of the carious marks, to which
attention was called by his chum Ned, found himself wishing that he was
a little more alone on this mystery case.

“There are altogether too many cooks here—they’ll spoil the broth,”
mused Bob, as he saw the ever-growing crowd following him and his
companions around to the side of the cabin where the chimney of the
fireplace was erected.

True though the “murder” had turned out to be only a mysterious robbery,
coupled with an assault on the old hermit, and in this way spoiling a
sensation, there was still much curiosity regarding everything connected
with the matter. Even though Hiram had been taken away in the
physician’s automobile.

“Where they going?” asked more than one in the throng, as he followed
the milling crowd, when the police chiefs, Bob and his two chums and
Jolly Bill Hickey had started away from the front door of the cabin.
“What are they after?”

“I guess they think the murderer is hiding around here,” was one of the
answers.

“Shucks! There ain’t been no murder!” declared a teamster who had left
his load of sand near the home of Hiram Beegle. “It’s only a robbery,
and not much of one at that I’m going to quit!”

Then, unexpectedly, there came a burst of hand organ music out in front,
and Storm Mountain was such an isolated place that even the wheezy tones
of an ancient hand organ was sufficient to create diversion. Coupled
with this was a cry from some one:

“He’s got a monkey!”

This was enough to attract away most of the crowd that was following Bob
and his friends (much to the annoyance of the young detective) so that
by the time he reached the place of the queer marks, to which Ned had
referred, the most interested investigators had that side of the cabin
comparatively to themselves. And by the term “most interested
investigators,” I mean Bob and the police chiefs. Of course, Jolly Bill
Hickey, a lifelong messmate of the stricken man, must be included. And,
of course, Ned and Harry were always anxious to help Bob.

The wheezy organ continued to grind out its “music,” if such it could be
called, and accompanying it was the shrill chatter of a monkey. The
crowd of men and youths laughed in delight. It did not take much to make
a Storm Mountain crowd laugh.

“Well, I’m glad that dago happened along,” remarked Bob to Ned, as he
bent over the marks in the soft ground.

“Do you mean you think he can help you solve this mystery?” asked Harry.

“No, but he’ll keep the crowd back while we experiment with the key by
dropping it down the chimney, though I know now what the result will
be.”

“Yes, he’ll keep the crowd busy,” agreed Ned. “But what do you suppose
these marks are, Bob?”

Well might he ask that, for the impressions were curious. They were
about a foot in diameter, and roughly circular in shape. As much as
anything they resembled the marks left by an elephant’s foot.

And yet it needed but an instant’s thought to shatter that theory. There
had been no small circus in the vicinity of Cliffside in many months.
The place was not large enough to attract the large traveling shows. And
even if it had been no show would go so far off the beaten path as to
ascend Storm Mountain with a herd of elephants.

Granting that a circus had been there, and that a lone elephant had
wandered off to tramp around the lonely cabin of Hiram Beegle, the marks
were too few in number to have been made by any normal elephant.

“What are they, Bob?” asked Ned again. “How could they be made by an
elephant?”

The young detective did not answer for a moment, but he was rapidly
thinking. The elephant idea was absurd, of course. An elephant has four
feet. Taking ten steps would result in forty marks having been made, and
there were not half this number visible. Granting that an elephant could
jump from one stand to another, and so leaving a place without any marks
for a considerable distance, did not fit in with the theory.

“I can tell you what made these marks,” broke out Jolly Bill with his
characteristic laugh, while Bob was on the verge of saying something.

“What did?” asked Harry. “A bird?”

“No,” replied the bald-headed, and wooden-legged man who had appeared so
unexpectedly on the scene, claiming to be a friend of Hiram Beegle. “No!
They were made by some one carrying a sack of potatoes, and setting it
down every now and then to rest. Isn’t that it, my young detective
friend?” he asked, appealing to Bob. If the latter wondered how Jolly
Bill knew his claims to being a sleuth, the lad said nothing. He only
remarked:

“Yes, a heavy bag of potatoes, set here and there to ease the arms of
whoever was carrying it, would make just such marks as these.”

“That’s right!” cried Chief Drayton. “I’d never have thought of that—a
potato sack sure enough! What do you know about that? I s’pose, Chief,”
he went on, addressing the head of the Cliffside police, “that it wasn’t
a sack of potatoes though, at all.”

“What do you mean—not a sack of potatoes?” asked Mr. Duncan.

“Well, I mean the scoundrel that robbed old Hiram Beegle piled his booty
in a potato sack and carried it off this way. He left us a good clew,
I’ll say. We can see jist which way he went with his potato sack full of
booty!”

The chief seemed to relish this word “booty,” rolling it around on his
tongue as if it were a choice tidbit.

“We’ve got him now!” he declared. “Come on over this way!”

“Just a moment!” spoke Chief Duncan. “We came out here to let Bob
experiment with a key dropped down the chimney. We want to see if it was
possible for the thief to have assaulted Hiram, gone out, locked the
door after him and then have gotten the key back inside.”

“Sure we want to find that out,” agreed the Storm Mountain police force.

“Well, let’s stick to business,” proposed Mr. Duncan.

“What, and let this feller get away with his potato sack of booty?”

“There wasn’t any potato sack or any other kind of a sack of booty!”
somewhat testily declared Mr. Duncan. “The only thing stolen was a small
box belonging to Hiram. The thief could have tucked it under his arm. He
didn’t need to carry it in a sack.”

“Oh,” murmured Mr. Drayton, somewhat crestfallen, “that’s so. I forgot
about the booty being in a small box. But who was here with a sack of
potatoes?” he demanded, as if no one could answer.

“Might have been Hiram himself,” suggested Jolly Bill. “He always was a
great hand for potatoes when he and I were shipmates together. Like as
not he lugged some spuds in for the winter.”

“Or some farmer may have brought him a bag,” added Harry. “I guess, Ned,
this clew isn’t going to amount to anything.”

“Just my luck!” said Ned with a quizzical smile. “We’ll have to let Bob
work this out. What say, Bob?”

“It looks as if it was a sack of potatoes that had been set down and
picked up again, several times,” answered the young detective. “I guess
it doesn’t mean anything in connection with this robbery. Though, of
course, it won’t do any harm to ask Mr. Beegle if he carried the sack
around or if some one brought him potatoes. But I’d like to try this key
experiment now.”

“Yes, let’s clear up one thing at a time,” suggested Mr. Duncan. “I
can’t spend all my time over in Storm Mountain. It’s the folks in
Cliffside who pay my salary, and I’ve got to do my work there.”

“But I’d like to have you help me out a bit,” complained Chief Drayton.
“Course Storm Mountain isn’t any such place as Cliffside, but we police
chiefs ought to stick together.”

“Oh, I’ll help you all I can,” readily agreed Mr. Duncan. “But Bob here
can do more than I can.”

“Shucks! a youngster like him!” sniffed Mr. Drayton.

“That’s all right—he’s got an old head on young shoulders,” declared Mr.
Duncan in a low voice.

Fortunately Bob was engaged just then in climbing up a tree by which
easy access could be had to the sloping roof of the log cabin. The lad
carried with him the brass key, which he had first carefully examined
for any marks that might lead to the discovery of anything. So Bob heard
nothing of this alternating talk against him and in his favor.

His examination of the key had disclosed nothing. It was a heavy,
ponderous affair, almost as if it had been made by a local locksmith who
might have forged it by hand, as he might also have done in respect to
the lock on the strong room where Hiram Beegle had been overpowered and
robbed.

And aside from numerous scratches on the key Bob could see nothing. The
scratches, he knew, must have come there naturally, for they would have
resulted from the many times Hiram must have taken the lock-opener from
his secret niche and put it back. Also, the key would have been
scratched by being put in and taken out of the lock.

“And as for looking for fingerprints on it, I believe it would be worth
while to have this photographed with that end in view,” thought Bob. He
knew the value of fingerprint comparisons as a means of tracing
criminals.

But Bob knew the brass key had passed through many hands that very
morning, since the discovery of the crime. And Hiram’s own fingers and
thumbs would have left on the surface marks that would have obliterated
any of the whorls, curves and twists of the criminal.

As you doubtless know if you take up a shiny piece of metal in your
fingers you will leave on it the impression of the tips, or balls, of
your fingers or thumbs, as is also the case if you thus handle a piece
of looking-glass. And it is possible, by taking a photograph of these
marks, to get a picture of the fingerprints of the person handling the
metal or glass. Sometimes prints invisible to the unaided eye are
brought out in the photograph.

And by comparing these reproduced prints with the finger marks of
criminals on file in all large police headquarters, it is sometimes
possible to trace the guilty ones.

But Bob Dexter knew that it would be worse than useless in a case like
this, for the reasons I have mentioned. So he resolved to do the next
best thing, use the key to learn whether or not it was possible to have
gotten it where it was found—near the hand of the prostrate Hiram Beegle
on the floor of his strong room—by dropping the lock-opener down the
fireplace.

“Is any one in the room to notice where the key falls when I drop it?”
asked Bob, when he was up on the roof.

“I’ll go in,” offered Chief Drayton. “I’d like to see just how it does
fall.”

“I’ll wait until you call up the chimney that you’re ready,” said Bob.
“You can call to me up the flue.”

“All right, but don’t drop the key down on me while I’m hollering at
you,” begged the Storm Mountain chief. “It’s heavy and it might bang me
in the eye.”

“I’ll be careful,” promised Bob, with a smile, in which his chums
joined.

The hand organ music was still wailing away out in the road, and the
antics of the monkey must have been amusing, for the crowd was kept
interested, and thus held away from the cabin for a time, for which Bob
was glad.

The lad, up on the roof, was looking at the edges of the brick chimney,
but they told him nothing. They were covered with soot from the wood
smoke, and this did not appear to have been disturbed.

“Though,” mused Bob to himself as he waited for word from inside, and
looked at the black stuff on the chimney, “there might be all sorts of
marks and evidence here and I couldn’t see it without a magnifying
glass. Guess maybe I’d better get one of those things. I’d look like a
regular Sherlock Holmes with one, I reckon. But a photograph camera is
better. I wonder how they could take any pictures of this black stuff?”
and idly he lingered the soot on the edge of the chimney. “Guess it
won’t pay to bother with that on this case,” he went on with his
thoughts. “But if I’m going to continue in this line of work I’m going
in for all that sort of thing.”

He heard a slight noise down below him and stood at attention.

“All ready—drop the key!” called up Chief Drayton from within the cabin.
The voice came to Bob as through a speaking tube, carried up the
fireplace flue.

“Here it comes!” answered the lad.

The next instant he had dropped the brass key down the black opening.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                          *JOLLY BILL’S TALE*


Tense was the silence that had fallen over the little group of
experimenters—Bob on the roof of the log cabin, Ned, Harry, Chief Duncan
and Jolly Bill Hickey on the ground below—Chief Drayton inside the
cabin, squatting down near the embers of a dead fire on the hearth.

The key had fallen.

What was the result?

They were not long left in doubt. Up the flue came the voice of Chief
Drayton reporting on the first test. “No good!” he called to Bob.

“What do you mean?” asked the young detective, and his words, as well as
those of the chief inside the cabin came plainly to his listeners.

“I mean the key just plopped into the ashes and stayed there.”

“Didn’t it bounce out at all?”

“Nary a bounce.”

“Well, then we’ll try it again.”

Which they did—a dozen times or more—but always with the same result.
The key fell down the flue with many a tinkle as it struck the cross
pieces of iron bars which Hiram had set in to prevent night-prowling
animals from entering his strong room. Then the brass implement fell
into the soft ashes where it remained.

“Well, that settles one point,” declared Ned, as they all went inside
the cabin after the test. “The man who robbed Mr. Beegle and locked him
inside the room, putting the key back in after he went out, didn’t use
the chimney.”

“That’s right!” chimed in Harry.

“And yet what other opening is there by which the key could have been
gotten back in this room, and placed close to the hand of Mr. Beegle, so
it would look as if he had locked himself in, robbed himself and made
himself unconscious with chloroform or something?” asked Ned. “What
other opening is there?”

“None!” declared Chief Drayton. “I went all over that Hiram made his
room as tight as a bank vault. The fireplace is the only opening in or
out, and the key didn’t come down there!”

“There must be some other opening!” insisted Ned.

“Well, the best way is to have a look,” suggested Bob. “Now the crowd
seems to be gone for good, let’s have a look.” For the throng of curious
ones had followed the organ grinder down the mountain trail, it seemed.
Not often did one of these traveling musicians, if such they may be
called, invade Storm Mountain, and the simple inhabitants of that
isolated and rural community welcomed their visits.

Such careful examination as Bob and his chums, with the aid of the
police chiefs and Jolly Bill Hickey, gave to the strong room, or vault
in the log cabin, revealed no visible means by which a large brass key
could have been passed inside after the door was locked.

The keyhole theory was, obviously, not to be mentioned again. A moment’s
test proved the utter impossibility of forcing the key through the
opening by which the lock was operated. And, granting that the key could
have been pushed through the hole into which it was intended to be
inserted, it would merely have dropped on the floor inside, and would
not have fallen near the hand of the stricken man.

The walls of the room appeared very solid, nor was any hollow sound
developed when they were tapped.

“How about a trap door in the floor?” asked Ned, when it had been fairly
well established that there was no opening through the walls.

“That’s so!” cried Chief Drayton. “I never thought of that! There must
be a trap door!”

There wasn’t much he really thought of until some one else suggested it,
be it noticed.

But hopeful and feasible as this plan seemed when Ned had mentioned it,
nothing developed. The floor was smooth and without any secret flap or
trap door, as far as they could see.

“Well, I guess well just have to give it up,” said the Storm Mountain
officer with a gesture of despair. “I’ll have to work along the line of
catching the criminal. If I do that and get back Hiram’s box of valuable
papers I guess that will be all I’m expected to do.”

“Yes, if you do that you’ll be doing well,” said Chief Duncan with a
laugh.

“Oh, I’ll do it!” declared the other. “After all, the key mystery
doesn’t amount to much. I’ll drop that.”

But there was one present who had made up his mind not to drop the
mystery of the brass key, and that individual was Bob Dexter. For here
was a mystery just to his liking—no sordid crime was involved, nothing
like a sensational murder, such as rumor first had it—only a mysterious
robbery, and that of papers which perhaps were of value only to the
recent inheritor of them.

“I’ll have a go at it!” Bob Dexter told himself. “But I want to look
around when there aren’t so many present. I’m not altogether satisfied
that it isn’t possible to get a key in through the walls of this strong
room. And I’d like to know why Hiram Beegle built such a strong room.
What did he have to guard? What was he afraid of, or, rather, of whom
was he afraid? I’d like to find out about these things, and I’m going
to.”

He was enlightened on some of these points sooner than he expected.

With the taking away of Hiram by the physician, to the home of Tom Shan,
where the old man would be nursed back to health, there was little more
that could be done at the lonely log cabin.

“I’ll just lock it up and keep the key,” said Chief Drayton who, in the
absence of any relatives of the old man, would seem to have this right
under the law. “I’ll keep the brass key, too, though I reckon there
isn’t much left in here to steal.”

They were in the strong room at the time, taking a final look around,
and the empty chest in the corner bore mute evidence of the futility of
keeping guard over the place. Other things of Hiram’s than the
brass-bound box might have been taken, but he said nothing about them.
His most valuable treasure seemed to be that which Judge Weston had
given him the day before, and now that was gone.

“Yes, lock up and we’ll get out,” suggested Chief Duncan. “I’ve got to
be getting back to Cliffside. You boys coming with me?” he looked at Ned
and Harry.

“We’ll ride back with Bob in his Rolls Royce,” chuckled Harry.

“All right, but don’t speed in my territory or I’ll have to lock you
up,” laughed the police head.

“And I think I’ll be pulling up my mud hook and making for some port
myself,” said Jolly Bill Hickey with a laugh. “There isn’t any hotel
around here,” he added as he stumped around on his wooden leg. “How
about it over in your port, my lads?” and he looked at Bob and his
chums.

“There’s the Mansion House,” Harry informed him.

“Suits me!” cried Jolly Bill. “I came here to spend a few days with my
old shipmate Hiram Beegle, but since he’s in the sick bay I’ll have to
make other plans. So I’ll stay at the Mansion House for a while. I’ve
got the shot in my locker to pay my passage, too!” he cried, pulling out
a plump wallet, and showing it with a flourish. “Don’t be afraid that
the Mansion House will see me skipping my board bill, even if I have a
wooden leg,” and he tapped against his tree-like ember a heavy knurled
and knobbed stick that assisted him in his hobbling walk.

“That’s between you and the Mansion House,” observed Ned.

“If you like I’ll drive you down,” offered Bob. “You know you said you
could tell us something about Mr. Beegle,” he added as he and his chums
were left alone with this odd bald-headed character, while the two
police chiefs saw to securing the cabin. The crowd of curious ones
seemed to have followed the organ grinder away, as did the children
after the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

“That’s what I said, and that’s what I’ll do!” cried Jolly Bill. “I can
tell you almost as much about old Hiram Beegle as he can himself. Man
and boy we sailed together!”

“Come on then,” urged Bob.

Jolly Bill, chuckling to himself as if at some joke he had not shared
with the others, stumped in the wake of Ned and Harry as Bob led the way
to where he had parked his flivver.

“I can talk while we breeze along,” said the odd character as he took
his place beside Bob, Ned and Harry occupying the rear seat. “For when I
get to the Mansion House I’m going to take a rest. I’ve traveled a long
way to get here. Thought I’d be in time for old Hank Denby’s funeral,
but I missed him.”

“Do you know him?” asked Bob.

“I did, son,” replied Jolly Bill with the trace of an accent on the
second word. “I knew him well. Had a letter from him just before he went
on his last long voyage. Pals we were—Hank and I and Hiram.”

“What about Rod Marbury?” asked Bob.

“Bah! That pest and scoundrel! He sailed with us, of course, but he
wasn’t a true messmate in the real meaning of the name. You never could
trust Rod Marbury—that’s why Hiram built his strong room.”

“I was wondering why he had the place so much like a bank vault, with
the key hid in a secret place,” spoke Bob.

“Secret place—for the key—say, boy, what do you know about that?” cried
Jolly Bill, all the jollity gone from him now. “What do you know?” and
he gripped Bob’s arm, so that the latter had to shake loose the grip in
order to steer down the trail.

“Don’t do that again,” he said, somewhat sharply. “This is a bad hill.”

“Excuse me,” murmured Bill, obviously ashamed of his show of feeling.
“But I was wondering if Hiram had showed you any of his secrets.”

Conscious that he had made a mistake in betraying any knowledge of the
place where the old man hid the key to his strong room, Bob tried to
shift it off with a laugh as he said:

“Oh, well, it stands to reason that careful as Mr. Beegle was of that
room, he’d keep the key to it in a secret place, wouldn’t he?”

“Oh, yes, I reckon he would,” admitted Jolly Bill. “I see what you mean.
I beg your pardon.” Bob was glad it had passed off this way, for, truth
to tell, he had not meant to say what he did.

“Well, Mr. Hickey, we’re ready to hear your story,” said Harry, when
they had reached a place in the road from Storm Mountain where the going
was safer and easier. “It seems like a sort of pirate yarn to me.”

“Pirate yarn!” cried Jolly Bill. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you three—or four if you like to count in Rod Marbury——”

“I don’t like to count Rod in and I’m not going to!” cried Bill.

“Well, then, you three, yourself, Mr. Beegle and Mr. Denby—seem to have
been associated in some voyages where you got wealth—not to say a
fortune,” went on Harry.

“No, not a fortune—considerable money, but far from a fortune,” said
Jolly Bill. “Enough for us to live on without risking our lives going
aloft in a storm, but not much more. I’ll spin you the yarn.”

He settled himself comfortably in the auto and began:

“Originally there were four of us, Hiram, Hank, myself and that rat
Rodney Marbury. We sailed together many a year, putting up with hard
work and worse food in good ships and bad ships. We were wrecked
together and saved together more than once.

“Then, one day, Hank struck it rich—that is he got hold of an old sailor
who was dying. This sailor had been what I reckon you might call a
pirate if there are such critters nowadays—or were then. And this fellow
had gotten possession of a store of gold. It was where it couldn’t be
come at easy—hidden on an island in the South Seas, to be exact, but he
had papers and a map to show just where it was, and these papers and map
he gave to Hank Denby.

“Now we four—that is before we knew what a rat and skunk Rod Marbury
was, had made a vow to share and share alike if ever one of us got rich.
So when Hank got possession of these papers showing where some gold—and
a good store there was of it—was buried on an island in the South Seas,
of course he told us. And we set out to get it.

“I won’t bother to tell you what trouble and hardships we went through
to get this hidden gold—maybe it was pirate gold—I don’t know. We had to
work and save and scrimp—live as low as we could—until we could make a
trip together to this island.”

“And did you?” cried Ned, whose eyes, like those of Harry and Bob, were
shining with excitement over this romantic tale.

“We did, lad, yes. We finally got to the island with the map and papers
which Hank Denby always carried, as was his right.”

“And when you got there——” began Bob.

“The cupboard was bare!” finished Harry, laughing as he completed the
old nursery rhyme. “I mean there wasn’t any gold there.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” said Jolly Bill with a smile, “for we found
the gold buried just where the old map said it would be, and, what’s
more, we took it out—that is some of it.”

“Did the natives attack you—did you have a fight or anything like that?”
Harry wanted to know.

“Nope—nothing as exciting as that,” replied Jolly Bill.

“Crickety! I wish I could have been there!” sighed Ned. “I’ve always
wanted to go to the South Seas. It’s nice and warm there, isn’t it?” he
asked. “You don’t have to wear many clothes and dress up do you?”

“Not a great deal,” chuckled the sailor. “Well, as I was saying, we took
some of the gold.”

“Why did you leave any of it?” asked Bob, curiously.

“Because—I’ll tell you why—because——”

“Hark!” cautioned Ned. “Listen!”

They listened and heard, just ahead of them the strains of a hand organ.

A worried look came over the face of Jolly Bill Hickey as he stopped the
telling of his curious tale.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                             *ON THE TRAIL*


“That—that music!” murmured the wooden-legged sailor. “Are there two of
those organ grinders? There was one playing at Hiram’s cabin, and now
down here—another one—I don’t like it!”

“Why not?” asked Ned, struck by a peculiar look on the man’s generally
smiling face.

“Just superstition, I reckon,” was the answer. “But I never yet heard
two different hand organs close together on the same day, but what bad
luck followed me. I don’t like it, I tell you!”

“This isn’t, necessarily, another hand organ grinder,” remarked Bob as
the music came nearer, or, rather the nearer they approached it, for the
auto was still progressing.

“Do you mean it could be the same one we heard back at the cabin?” asked
Jolly Bill. “That was five miles back. Those dagoes don’t travel that
fast.”

“There’s a short trail down Storm Mountain a man can take on foot and
beat an auto that has to go by the road,” explained Bob. “Or this man
may have been given a lift by some motorist and have started before we
did.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” murmured Jolly Bill. “But I’d like to make sure
it’s the same one.”

“It is—there he stands,” exclaimed Harry, pointing as they made a turn
in the road, and saw the dispenser of music grinding away near a house,
out in front of which were several children laughing with delight at the
antics of the monkey.

Jolly Bill stared hard at the organ grinder as Bob’s flivver passed him,
and it may be said that the grinder also favored the party in the car
with a searching glance. However, it appeared to be more of curiosity
than anything else, for the man turned aside and called to his monkey,
yanking on the long string that was fastened to the collar on the neck
of the simian.

“Yes, it’s the same one all right,” murmured Jolly Bill, as they left
him behind. “The same one—I’m glad of it.”

He seemed to be brooding over something not connected with the matter in
hand, and it was not until Harry made a remark that he took up the
telling of the tale.

“Why did you leave any of the gold on the South Sea island?” the lad
wanted to know.

“Oh, yes, I started to tell you when that music came along. Well, the
reason was that it was Hank Denby’s plan. Hank always had a better head
on him than any of the rest of us—he was more business-like. Maybe
that’s why the old pirate sailor picked him out to give him the map of
the treasure.

“But after we’d located it and got it out—and a precious hard time we
had of it to do it in secret so as not to let the natives and some of
the worse whites on the island know about it—after that Hank talked to
us.

“He reminded us what sailors were like—free spenders when they had
anything—saving nothing against a rainy day, and he persuaded us to let
him take charge of most of the money—that is the biggest parts of our
three shares. He said he’d put it in a safe place and pay it out to us
as we needed it. He first divided it all up fair and square—a quarter of
the lot to each man—and then asked us to let him handle all of ours but
a few thousands we wanted to spend right away.”

“Did you agree to that?” asked Bob, who, with his chums, was eagerly
interested in the tale.

“Yes, we did. We knew Hank had a better head than the rest of us, so we
turned our shares over to him.”

“And buried it back on that island?” asked Harry.

“Oh, no, we brought it away with us. That island was too far away and
too hard to get at to leave any gold there. Hank said there was just as
good hiding places in the town where he lived.”

“You mean here in Cliffside?” cried Ned.

“Cliffside’s the place!” announced Jolly Bill Hickey. “Hank said he
could hide the money where nobody would ever find it without a map, and
that’s just what he’s done. And now he’s dead and the map is in that
brass-bound box and who’s got the box I don’t know! It’s fair
maddening—that’s what it is!”

Jolly Bill seemed anything but like his name then.

“But say—look here!” exclaimed Ned. “Do you mean to say that after Mr.
Denby got you three to intrust the most of your shares to him, that he
wouldn’t give them back to you?”

“That’s what he did!” exclaimed Jolly Bill. “Not but what he had a right
to under the circumstances. I’ll say that for him.”

“What circumstances?” asked Bob.

“Well, we acted foolish,” confessed the one-legged sailor, as if
somewhat ashamed of himself. “At least Rod and I did, but I was led into
it by that skunk. After we three had spent most of the first lot we took
out of the treasure, Rod proposed that he and I and Hiram rob old Hank
of all that was left—take Hank’s share as well as our own.

“I fell in with the scheme, when Rod told me that Hiram was in it also,
but I’ve found out since that this was a lie. Hiram wouldn’t do it. And
I wouldn’t have gone into it with Rod except that he had me fozzled with
strong drink. That cured me—I never touched another drop since. It was
how I lost my leg.”

The story was rapidly approaching a dramatic climax, and seeing a quiet
place beside the road. Bob drew the car in there and stopped it.

“That’s better,” commented Jolly Bill. “I can talk better when I’m not
so rattled about. To make a long story short, I believed what that rat
Rod told me—that he and I and Hiram, together, could steal the map of
the new place where the treasure was hid, and take it from Hank. Hank
had made a lot of money with his first share—he was getting to be fair
rich, and we’d spent ours—that is Rod and I had, though I found out that
Hiram had done almost as well as Hank had. He had some money put away
for a rainy day.

“Well, one night we carried out the plans. It was dark and stormy and
Rod and I were to meet at a certain place, get into Hank’s house on
pretense of wanting to ask for more of our shares, and then we were to
attack him and get the map. I wondered why Hiram wasn’t with us, but Rod
said he’d meet us at Hank’s house.

“I found out since that Rod tried to get Hiram in on the wicked scheme,
but Hiram wouldn’t come, and threatened to tell Hank. However, it was
too late for that. Rod and I went at it alone, but Hank showed fight. I
got a bullet in my leg and had to have it taken off. Rod ran and I
haven’t seen him since. Hiram wasn’t in on the mean trick, as I realize
now it was, and I was laid up!

“That ended the attempt to get more than our share away from Hank, and,
not only that, but we had forfeited our right to any more of the
treasure.”

“How was that?” asked Ned.

“Well, we agreed when the first division was made, and Hank had been
made banker, so to speak, that if any one of us tried to trick, or
over-reach, the other, he would lose his rights to any further share in
the remainder of the gold. As we all signed a paper to this
effect—signed it in blood, too, for we had our superstitions—as we’d all
signed, that was all there was to it. Rod and I were out of it. The rest
of the gold went to Hank and Hiram.”

“And Mr. Denby is dead,” remarked Bob.

“Yes, but he and Hiram remained friends to the last on account of what
had happened—Hiram not going into the rotten trick. And in the course of
events Hank left his share—and there was more than when he started with
it—he left it all to Hiram. Not only that, but he left our two shares
also—Rod’s and mine—as he had a right to do.”

“How do you know all this?” asked Harry.

“I got a letter from a lawyer here in town, telling me about that,” said
Jolly Bill, now quite serious. “This lawyer—Judge Weston is his
name—said Hank had left a will, and some instructions—and the
instructions were for this lawyer to write to us after Hank’s death,
telling how everything went to Hiram, under the rules we had all agreed
to.

“So Hiram got the brass-bound box, in which Hank kept the map, showing
where the treasure is still buried. For you must know, boys, that Hank,
like the rest of us, was a bit afraid of banks. He kept most of the
money hid and it’s hid yet. The map’s the only thing to tell where it
is. Not even the lawyer knows, he wrote me.”

“And did he write the same news to Rodney Marbury?” asked Bob.

“I suppose he did—that was the agreement—the first one to die was to let
the others know, writing to the last address he had. So I s’pose Rod
knows how his trick didn’t do him any good, nor me neither. We were both
bilked out of our shares, but we had a right to be. It served us good
and proper.

“However, I made some money in another way—not much—but enough to exist
on—and when I heard Hank was dead I came on to see my old messmate
Hiram. And I got here just too late.”

“Yes,” agreed Bob, “some one got the treasure map and they may have the
treasure by this time.”

“It’s likely,” agreed Jolly Bill with a sigh. “But it can’t be helped.
But I think I know who robbed Hiram.”

“I guess we can make a pretty good stab at it,” said Bob. “If what Mr.
Beegle thinks is true, it must be this same Rodney Marbury.”

“Correct, my lad. And you said he waylaid him on the way home from the
lawyer’s office?” asked Bill.

“That’s what he thinks,” stated Bob. “I found him unconscious beside the
road, but he then had the box.”

“Which he hasn’t now,” added Bill “Well, I s’pose it’s all up. Rod will
get the treasure after all.”

“Maybe not,” spoke Bob quietly.

“What do you mean?” asked the wooden-legged man.

“I mean that he’ll be trailed,” said the lad. “The police of this and
other towns will get after him.”

“A lot of good that will do!” laughed Harry. “The police—whoop!”

“Well, then, I’ll take a hand myself!” declared Bob.

“Now you’re talking!” cried Ned. “Detective Bob Dexter on the trail!
Hurray!”

“Cut it out!” said his chum in a low voice. “There’s that hand organ
grinder again!”

And, as he spoke the man with the monkey and wheezy music box came
tramping along the road.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                            *SAILOR’S KNOTS*


Just why Bob Dexter didn’t want Ned to wax enthusiastic over the fact
that Bob intended taking the trail after the thief who had robbed Hiram
Beegle wasn’t quite clear. Perhaps it was Bob’s modesty over ever being
praised for his detective work. Perhaps it was just natural caution in
the presence of the strange Italian—for certainly he seemed of that
nationality.

However it was, Ned desisted from his words of praise, and a silence
fell over the group in the auto as the man with the organ and monkey
shuffled along.

He had cast a quick glance at all in the machine, his glance lasting
longest, perhaps, on the jolly face of Bill Hickey, for on that odd
character’s shining countenance a smile was again visible. Bill seemed
to have recovered his spirits after telling his story.

The organ man appeared inclined to stop and grind out a tune, hoping,
perhaps, to charm some pennies from the pockets of those in the flivver,
either by his music, of which the less said the better, or by the antics
of his monkey, which was the usual small variety, attired in coat,
trousers and a cap—a shameful degrading of a decent simian.

But Bob exclaimed:

“You needn’t play any music for us—we’re going to move along.”

“That’s right,” chimed in Jolly Bill. “I reckon I’ve spun about all of
the yarn you need to hear.”

“No music—you no like?” questioned the Italian, with his shock of hair
and his curling, matted beard.

“No like,” said Ned, with a laugh.

Once more the auto rolled along the quiet country road, leaving the
organ grinder and his monkey staring after them.

“Looks like he was going to settle down here permanently,” remarked
Harry.

“Yes,” agreed Bob. “This is the third time we’ve seen him the same day.
They don’t often come to Cliffside.”

“Well, as I was saying,” remarked Ned, “if anybody can locate this Rod
Marbury it can be done by our young detective friend Bob Dexter.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” said Bob with a smile. “But I’d like to have
a go at it, if Mr. Beegle will let me.”

“Let you?” cried Jolly Bill Hickey, “why he’ll be glad to have you get
his map back! He wants that treasure—any man would, and he can’t tell
where old Hank Denby hid it until he looks at the map. Of course he’ll
be glad to have you get it back for him.”

“I don’t know that I can do it—or even find this man he suspects,”
stated Bob.

“Well, you can have a try at it, anyhow,” decided Harry. “And you did
pretty well down at Beacon Beach.”

“There was a lot of luck in that,” admitted Bob.

“Well, maybe luck will break here for you, too,” put in Jolly Bill. “I
hope so, for Hiram’s sake.”

“But look here,” spoke out Ned. “Mr. Beegle must have opened his
brass-bound box and have looked at the map inside between the time he
got home with it and the time it was taken from him. And by looking at
the map he must know where the stuff is buried.”

“That’s so,” agreed Harry.

“Not so fast!” exclaimed Jolly Bill. “It isn’t so easy to look at a map
and then find the place it refers to. We found that out when we went to
the South Sea island. You’ve got to have the map right with you, and
work your course along fathom by fathom. Hiram would need the map to
find where Hank had hid anything. Hank wouldn’t hide it in any easy
place, or a place you could find by one look at the map. And Hiram
didn’t have much time to study it.

“No, what I think, is that Rod heard, through the letter he got from
Judge Weston, that everything had gone to Hiram. This made him mad and
he decided to do things his own way, like he did once before when this
happened to me,” and Jolly Bill tapped his wooden leg. “So he got the
best of Hiram before Hiram had a chance to study the map. Rod has it now
and he’ll dig up that treasure as soon as he gets the chance.”

“Do you think it’s buried around here?” asked Ned eagerly.

“It’s likely to be somewhere around Cliffside,” admitted Bill. “Hank
wasn’t much of a hand to go far away from home after our South Sea
trip.”

“Then all we’ll have to do is to watch where any stranger begins digging
operations,” was Ned’s opinion. “I say stranger, for we don’t any of us
know this Rod Marbury.”

“I know him—to my sorrow!” remarked Jolly Bill. “But as for watching for
a digger—gosh! any number of holes could be sunk, off in the woods—in
the mountains—even at Storm Mountain—and no one in the village would
ever know it—not even the police.”

“I guess that’s right,” agreed Ned. “We’ll have to leave it to Bob
Dexter.”

“Well, Bob Dexter isn’t going to do anything about it right away,”
declared the young detective himself. “I’ve got to get back and report
to Uncle Joel. I’ve been away a long time as it is.”

“That’s right,” said his chums.

“Well, I’ll see you again some time,” remarked Jolly Bill, as they left
him at the Mansion House—a hotel hardly living up to its name—but good
enough for the purpose. “I’m going to stick around a while and see if I
can help Hiram. Of course I feel a bit sore that I didn’t get a share in
the big part of the treasure, but it served me right for letting Rod
lead me astray in attacking Hank. I deserve all I’m getting, and I’m not
complaining.”

He seemed quite humble and not a bit jolly now.

“But I’ll do all I can to help Hiram,” he went on, as he stumped into
the hotel, attracting many curious glances, for he was as odd a
character as had been seen in those parts in many a long day. “And if I
can help you solve this mystery, my young detective, call on me,” he
said to Bob.

“Thanks, I shall,” was the answer. “I don’t know that I can do anything,
but I’m going to try, if my uncle will let me.”

All Cliffside was soon buzzing with the news of the attack on the lonely
old man, and there were various rumors as to the size of the fortune
taken from him. Of course there was some disappointment that there had
been no murder—I mean disappointment from a strictly sensational
standpoint, for no one wanted to see the harmless old man killed. But,
all in all, there was plenty of excitement for a time.

The real story was known only to Bob, his two chums and Jolly Bill, and
the lads had agreed to keep silent about it. Jolly Bill had no
inducement to tell something that was not to his credit. And Ned and
Harry wanted to give Bob a chance to exercise his detective abilities,
in which they hoped to share.

As for Rod Marbury, he would have the greatest incentive in the world to
remain in hiding, and Hiram was so ill and hazy as to what had happened
that he would not be likely to tell the story of the buried and
recovered treasure. Re-buried to be exact, for it had been hidden by
Hank Denby and was still hidden, unless Rod Marbury had used the map to
get the location of it and had removed it.

“Well, Bob,” remarked his uncle at home that evening, when they were
talking the matter over, “of course I want you should make your way in
life. I did hope you’d sort of succeed to my business, but I can see
you’re not cut out for a hardware merchant I don’t altogether hold with
this detective business, but I like to see a young man go in for what he
likes best, other things being equal. Now you’re asking me to let you
off from your regular work so you can solve this Storm Mountain
mystery.”

“That’s what I’d like, Uncle Joel.”

“Well, then, I’ll agree to it with this understanding, that you don’t
run into danger. I’m responsible for you—almost as much as if I was your
father.”

“You have been a good father to me,” said Bob, feelingly.

“I’ve tried to be,” said Mr. Dexter, quietly. “So I want you to take
care of yourself.”

“I will,” promised the lad. “Thanks, Uncle Joel.”

“I don’t reckon you’ll find out much,” went on the hardware man. “From
what you tell me it’s as queer and complicated as some of the moving
pictures we’ve had here in town. But they always work out some way, and
maybe this will.”

“I’m sure it will,” said Bob, who had told his uncle the whole story.
“Of course there are some points that seem pretty hazy—especially about
this Rod Marbury—how he could be around, attack Hiram on the road and
get in his cabin without being seen either time. And that trick of
getting the key back in the locked room—that is a puzzler!”

“There must be some secret about the old log cabin,” ventured Mr.
Dexter.

“A secret! I’ll say there is!” declared Bob. “But I’ll find it!”

Having arranged with his uncle to get time off from his work in the
store, which work he had promised to do since there was no school for a
time, Bob began to lay out some plans. Most of all he wanted a talk with
Hiram Beegle, to clear up some points.

“I want to know more about this mysterious Rod Marbury,” said the lad to
himself. “When Mr. Beegle gets better he can talk more about what
happened just before he was stricken.”

The next day Bob went to see the log cabin hermit at the home of Tom
Shan, but Mr. Beegle was still a bit weak and uncertain in his mind, and
the physician forbade any one bothering him with vexing questions.

“Those two chiefs of police have been here,” said Tom to Bob, “but they
didn’t find out much, and I guess they never will.”

“Well, I’ll be around again to-morrow,” said Bob, as he took his leave,
followed by a friendly smile from Hiram Beegle who was slowly improving.
He had been knocked out by some sort of gas, or else by something given
him to drink, the doctor decided. But the effects were passing off.

On his way back from visiting the chief character in this new mystery
that had engaged him, Bob took the road to Storm Mountain and passed
near the log cabin. It was deserted and locked, for Chief Drayton still
had the keys, though he promised to give them to Mr. Beegle as soon as
the latter wanted to get back in his home.

“I wish you could talk,” murmured Bob to the silent logs. “You’d tell me
how that key got inside the locked room. As soon as I can I’m going to
have a look at that room more closely, and have a talk with Hiram. He’ll
know whether there are any secret sliding panels in the walls, through
which the key could have been tossed in as it could have been had there
been a transom over the door.”

Bob then walked around to the chimney side. He wanted again to look at
those marks in the soft ground—the marks that his chum had first taken
for the prints of an elephant’s foot They were somewhat less plain
now—those queer marks, but Bob could think of nothing more that they
looked like than a sack of potatoes set down again and again because of
its weight.

“It’s a queer case,” mused Bob as he turned away from the old log cabin.
“A queer case—more so than that of the Golden Eagle or the wreck of the
_Sea Hawk_. I don’t know how I’m going to make out on it.”

As he walked around to the front of the little dwelling, he saw, sitting
on the low doorstep, the organ grinder. The Italian had leaned his
wheezy instrument up against a tree, and the monkey was swinging from a
low branch.

“Nobody home,” said Bob, thinking the fellow might have stopped to play,
hoping, thereby, to earn some pennies.

“Nobody home,” murmured the other.

He held in his hand the long string that was attached to the collar of
his monkey, and as Bob looked the fingers of the man began tying into
the cord a number of sailors’ knots.

Idly, and seemingly unconsciously, the man made a square knot, he
loosened that and threw a clove hitch—then a half hitch. Next he made a
running bowline, all the while looking at the lad.

“Nobody home,” the Italian said, musingly. “Aw-right. I go—come, Jacko!”

And jerking on the string, which was a signal for the monkey to perch on
top of the organ, the fellow shouldered his instrument and walked off
toward the road.

“Sailors’ knot!” mused Bob to himself as he stood watching. “Sailors’
knots—I wonder——”

But his wondering was interrupted by hearing footsteps at the rear of
the log cabin.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                             *NO POTATOES*


Bob Dexter was not at all alarmed by hearing the footsteps of some one
in the rear of the log cabin where Hiram. Beegle had his home. The young
detective knew that it had been, and probably would be, visited by many
curiosity seekers, though now that the first wave of excitement was over
there was less morbidness about the cabin.

But the lad was somewhat surprised when he met, coming around the corner
of the shack, Chief Drayton of the Storm Mountain force—the whole force,
one might say, though the chief did swear in constables on the few
occasions when they were needed.

“Hello! What are you doing here, young man?” demanded Mr. Drayton in
rather a harsh voice. He did not seem to have recognized Bob.

“Oh, just looking around the same as you are,” was the lad’s easy reply.

“You can’t be looking around the same as me!” snapped out the officer.

“Why not?” coolly demanded Bob, thinking the chief was going to question
his right to be on the premises.

“Because I’m here in my official capacity as chief of the Storm Mountain
police. I’m here to solve this mystery, and you can’t be here on any
such errand as that.”

“Well, I happen to be,” and Bob smiled. “I have permission from Chief
Duncan of the Cliffside police to do what I can on this case.”

A light seemed to break over Mr. Drayton.

“Oh, now I know who you be!” he said, though not much more genially than
at first. “You’re that young detective feller that was here the day
Hiram was knocked out. Um, what you doin’ here?” and there was suspicion
in the question.

“Just looking around—that’s all—same as you are.”

“Um! Find out anything?”

“No, not a thing. It’s as deep a mystery as ever. I was wishing I could
get inside. I’d like to take a look at the walls of that room again, and
see if there was a secret opening in them. There must be, in order for
that key to have gotten back inside.”

“Um, maybe there is—unless Hiram did all this himself.”

“Do you believe that, Chief?”

“Um, I’m not sayin’ what I believe. But I know one thing.”

“What’s that, Chief?” Bob thought it best to give the man his tide. It
might make him more friendly.

“I know that you aren’t going to get inside—not while I got the keys!”
and the self-important individual drew himself up like a turkey gobbler.

“Oh, there’s no hurry,” said Bob, easily. “Any time will do. I was just
wondering—that’s all.”

“Yes, there’s a lot of folks wondering about this case,” said the Storm
Mountain official. “And they’ll wonder a lot more when I arrest the man
that robbed Hiram Beegle.”

“I thought you said Hiram did it himself—locked himself in the room and
then told a story of being held up,” said Bob with a sly smile. He was
not averse to taking a “fall” out of the conceited chief.

“I never said no such thing, young feller, and you know it!”

“You said Hiram might have done all this himself.”

“Well, I may have _said_ it, but I didn’t _mean_ it. And don’t you go to
takin’ me up so short, neither! I’m in charge here and if I don’t want
to let you snoop around I don’t have to.”

“No, I suppose you don’t,” agreed Bob. “But I didn’t intend to take you
up short. I want to get at the bottom of this mystery as much as you do.
I don’t believe Hiram Beegle robbed himself. What object would he have?”

“Um! I’m not here to discuss this case with you! I’ll solve it in the
official way. And I don’t need any help from outsiders. I called in
Chief Duncan because I thought he’d like to be associated with me in
this, but I really don’t need him. I can get along alone, and I’m going
to!”

“Suit yourself,” replied Bob easily, and he smiled as he moved away. He
had left his flivver out in the road, and as he got into it he saw,
farther down the highway, the Italian organ grinder trudging along.

“You’re a queer character,” mused Bob to himself as he started off. “You
certainly were tying sailors’ knots in that rope. Must have picked it up
on your way over from Italy in a ship. If you weren’t what you are, I’d
say you had been a sailor some day.”

Bob had an errand to do for his uncle in a town beyond Storm Mountain,
and it was not until late in the evening when he returned. He found Ned
and Harry at the house waiting for him.

“Come on to the movies,” urged Harry. “You haven’t anything to do, have
you, except eat?”

“I haven’t got to do even that,” answered Bob. “I had supper in Yardley.
Yes, I’ll go to the movies with you.”

“Unless you’re going to work on your latest case,” added Ned with a
laugh.

“No, there isn’t much I can do until I have a talk with old Hiram,”
replied Bob. “There are one or two points I want him to help me clear up
before I get down to brass tacks. I guess it will do me good to get a
sight of a movie. Is the show any good?”

“It’s a sort of a circus yarn,” answered Ned. “They show a lot of the
acts in the big tent, so Joe Wright was telling me.”

“Good! Let’s go!”

It was a lively movie and the boys enjoyed every moment of it. There was
one act where a performer slid down a slanting wire cable, attached to
the highest point of the tent, suspending himself by his teeth on a sort
of trolley wheel that spanned the taut wire.

He whizzed down the inclined cable with great speed, landing on a big
mattress at the lower end where the wire was fast to a peg in the
ground.

“Say, that was nifty!” whispered Ned to Bob. “Wasn’t it?”

“What was?” asked Bob, somewhat absently.

“For cats’ sakes! Didn’t you see that fellow slide down the inclined
wire rope?”

“Oh, you mean that?”

“Sure! What else would I mean? Did you see it?”

“No, I didn’t take particular notice,” replied Bob. “I was thinking of
something else.”

“Well, for the love of stamps! Say, what did you come for, anyhow, if
you aren’t enjoying it?” chuckled Harry.

“Oh, I’m enjoying it all right,” remarked Bob.

His chums shook their heads knowingly at each other. Well they realized
that the detective virus was working in the veins of Bob Dexter.

It was two days after this, during which time Bob and his chums had paid
a visit to Jolly Bill at the Mansion House, that something else
happened. Jolly Bill had made himself at home in the town’s most
pretentious hostelry, though that isn’t saying much. He was an easy
person to make friends, and seemed to be well liked.

“Well, have you located the treasure yet, or that rascal Rod?” he asked
Bob.

“No, not yet. I’ve been waiting to have a talk with Mr. Beegle.”

“So have I,” said Jolly Bill. “That’s why I left my home out west and
traveled here. And no sooner do I arrive than I find my old messmate in
difficulties. But I reckon he’ll soon be better, and then we’ll visit
and spin many a yarn together. He may be able to give you a clew that
will lead to Rod Marbury.

“I’m hoping he will,” said Bob. “I expect to see him to-morrow.”

“I’ll try and stump my way up there,” said the wooden-legged man. “It’s
a fair walk, but——”

“I’ll take you,” kindly offered Bob.

“Thanks—that’s good of you. Let me know when you go.”

But Bob wanted a private and lone conversation with Hiram Beegle before
he took the wooden-legged man to Storm Mountain, and so, with that end
in view, the young detective decided to anticipate the visit by one day.

“I think he’ll be well enough to talk to me now,” Bob reasoned.

On his way to the log cabin the lad in his flivver passed a small hotel
or boarding house on the outskirts of the town. It was not a very choice
or reputable place, and it did not much surprise Bob to see, sunning
himself out in front, the bewhiskered Italian organ grinder.

“Business must be pretty good that he can afford to stay there,” thought
the lad. “Of course the board isn’t so very expensive, but I always
thought these organ grinders had to sleep under hay stacks and beg their
food in order to get along. But there he is!”

The Italian seemed to know Bob, or at least remember him, for he nodded
in friendly fashion as the flivver chugged past.

“He’s taking a day off from grinding,” thought the young sleuth, for he
had sight of neither the monkey nor the organ.

Arriving at the house of Tom Shan, Bob was met by the farmer’s wife who
said:

“He isn’t here!”

“Who?” asked the youth.

“Hiram,” was the answer. “He’s much better now and he’s gone back to his
cabin.”

“That’s good!” exclaimed Bob. “I’ll go on over there to talk to him. How
did he get back? I sort of figured on coming after him.”

“Oh, Tom hitched up and took him over this morning. Hiram is much
better. He says his head is all clear now.”

“Then can he remember what happened—I mean when he was robbed in his
strong room?” asked Bob.

“Well, not exactly,” answered Mrs. Shan. “But you better talk with him
yourself.”

“I will,” decided Bob, and he drove over to the log cabin.

“Who’s there?” demanded a voice inside, when he had knocked at the
door—a voice he recognized as that of the old sailor.

“I am—Bob Dexter,” was the reply.

There was a moment of silence, and then a movement within—the sound of a
chair being pushed back over the floor.

“Oh—all right—I’ll let you in,” went on Hiram Beegle.

There was the sound of a key being turned in the lock, and a rattle,
denoting a chain being slipped from its fastenings.

“He isn’t taking any more chances,” thought Bob with a smile.

The door was finally opened, and the old man peered out. That dazed look
was gone from his face, but he seemed a trifle weak. As he caught sight
of Bob he murmured:

“Oh, the young detective who helped me! I remember. Come in. But is
there any one with you?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Not a soul,” answered Bob.

“Good! All right, come in.”

The place had been straightened out since the night of the robbery, and
there were evidences of a woman’s hand. So Bob judged Mrs. Shan had been
putting the log cabin to rights.

“I thought I’d like to satisfy myself on a few points about this case,”
began Bob. “Chief Duncan said I might try my hand at solving it.”

“Somebody needs to do it,” spoke Hiram Beegle. “It’s a queer case. If I
don’t get back that map I’ll never know where the treasure is hid, and
I’ll never get it.”

“Did you have a chance to look at the map and find the location before
you were robbed?” asked Bob.

“No, I only glanced at the papers in the box Hank Denby left me in his
will. The map was quite complicated—it would take a deal of study to
puzzle it out. But now it’s gone.”

“And is all that story true that Jolly Bill told—about treasure on a
South Sea island?” asked Bob.

“Well, I don’t know what Bill told you,” was the reply. “But there was
treasure on an island. It was dug up and we four agreed to share it—that
is until Rod and Bill went to the bad when they forfeited their shares.
It wasn’t so much Bill’s fault though—I don’t hold it against him. It
was that Rod Marbury.”

“So I understand,” spoke Bob. “We’ll pass over that for a while,” he
said, glad to have, however, this much confirmation of the tale told by
the wooden-legged sailor. “What I’d like to find out now, Mr. Beegle, is
how that key got inside the room where you were lying unconscious. Are
there any secret openings by which the key could have been tossed in—the
opening being closed later?”

“No, Bob, not a one. I watched that room built and I know. That’s the
deepest mystery of all.”

“Well, we’ll pass that for the time being. But tell me—were you out
around your cabin, just before you were attacked, carrying a bag of
potatoes which you had to set down every now and then because it was too
heavy? Were you?”

“A bag of potatoes? No!” exclaimed Hiram, wonderingly.

“Did anybody bring you a sack of potatoes, or did you sell any one a
sack, which they carried away?” went on the lad. “There are marks of a
potato sack having been set down in the soft ground near the side of
your cabin where the chimney of the fireplace in your strong room is
built. Somebody had a sack of potatoes.”

“No potatoes!” cried Mr. Beegle. “I didn’t carry any, and no one brought
me any. It must be something else, my boy. But no potatoes!”

He looked at the young detective earnestly. Then some sort of doubt, or
suspicion seemed to enter his mind, for he said:

“Look here, Bob, my boy! You aren’t stringing me, are you?”

“Stringing you, Mr. Beegle? No, of course not! Why do you ask that?”

“Because of this potato business. I thought maybe you were trying to
play a joke. Lots of people think they can joke with a sailor.”

“No,” replied the lad, “I’m in dead seriousness. I want to find out all
I can about this matter. If you say there weren’t any potatoes that ends
my theory in that direction.”

“But what could have made those marks if it wasn’t a sack of potatoes?”
thought Bob in wonderment as he went back over the case.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                             *MONKEY LAND*


Hiram Beegle was feeling much better. Several days had passed since the
two assaults on him—being knocked down on his way home with the
brass-bound box, and the attack in his own cabin. He was almost his own,
hearty self again as he sat there looking at Bob, trying to fathom what
the young detective was driving at.

“I don’t understand this potato business, young man,” said the old
sailor.

“Neither do I,” admitted Bob, “unless you have a pet elephant somewhere
around this cabin,” and he laughed.

“An elephant! I should say not, though I’ve seen plenty of ’em, and wild
ones, too, in my time. More likely I’d have a monkey.”

“A monkey?” questioned the lad.

“Yes, I heard there was one camping on my doorstep while I was sick over
at Tom Shan’s.”

“Oh, the organ grinder’s monkey—yes. But he’s gone away. He’s stopping
over in Cliffside—at the Railroad House.”

“You don’t tell me! What’s the idea?”

“Guess he must be making money with his wheezy music,” laughed Bob. “But
to get back to this subject, have you any idea what made the funny marks
around at the side of your cabin, Mr. Beegle?”

“No, I haven’t, but I’ll go out with you and take a look at them. And
say, I wish you wouldn’t call me Mr. Beegle?”

“Isn’t that your name?” asked Bob, thinking perhaps the inheritor of
some of the old pirate’s hidden treasure might be masquerading.

“Yes, it’s my name, but all my friends call me Hiram, and since you’re
one of my friends—I’m sure you must be or you wouldn’t go to all this
work on my account—why can’t you call me Hiram?”

“I will, if you wish it,” answered Bob. “But as for work—I don’t call
this work—I mean trying to solve a mystery.”

“You don’t? Well, have it your own way. Now let’s go out and have a look
at those marks. Though I’m afraid there aren’t many of them left. We had
a shower in the night, and that fellow who calls himself the chief of
the Storm Mountain police has been pottering around.”

“Was he here to-day?” asked Bob.

“Yes, just before you came. He didn’t know anything, though, and never
will, in my opinion.”

Bob did not subscribe to this, feeling that it was not just exactly
ethical, since Mr. Drayton was a sort of fellow practitioner so to
speak.

Hiram Beegle was right in his surmise that not many of the “potato
marks,” as Bob called them, remained. There had been a little shower
over Storm Mountain early that morning, and the raindrops, together with
the tramping of feet about the cabin, had obliterated, for a great part,
the strange impressions.

But Bob found a place, sheltered by the trunk of the tree which grew
close to the cabin, where there was one mark plainly visible.

“And if that isn’t the impression of a jute bag, the kind that holds
potatoes, I don’t know what is,” declared the young detective.

Hiram Beegle put on his spectacles and bent over to make a closer
inspection. Long and earnestly he gazed at the mark.

“That’s been made by a bit of bagging,” he declared. “I wouldn’t go so
far as to say the bag had potatoes in it, though.”

“No, it needn’t have had potatoes in,” agreed Bob. “But it was a bag and
it had something heavy in. You could tell that more easily, before, by
seeing the depth of the impressions. Chief Drayton would have it that
your box was carried off in a sack and it was so heavy that the thief
had to set it down every now and then.”

“Nonsense!” laughed the old sailor. “That box wasn’t at all heavy nor
big, but it did contain a treasure. It had a map in that showed where
old Hank had buried his share of the gold—his share and that which would
have gone to Jolly Bill and Rod if they had done what was right. It’s
partly my treasure, too, for I didn’t use up my share.”

“And haven’t you any idea where it is buried, even without reference to
the map?” asked the lad.

“Nary an idea,” was the answer with a dubious shake of the head. “I
don’t reckon I’ll ever lay my eyes on it now.”

“Oh, you may,” said Bob, cheerfully. “Of course I’m pretty young at this
business, but——”

“I’ve heard good reports of you,” complimented Hiram.

“Thanks. But of course there’s lots I’ve got to learn. But I know enough
about cases like this to feel sure that, somewhere or other, the thief
has made a slip. He’s left some sort of a clew, and if I can get on the
trail of it we may catch this Rod Marbury.”

“Yes, Rod did it all right,” declared Hiram. “He and Jolly Bill were the
only ones, except me, that knew of the treasure. Old Hank wrote to each
of them, just before he died, telling how he had willed the treasure to
me, and had left me the brass box in which the map was always kept.

“Now Jolly Bill appears, fair and square and above board, and he’s man
enough to say he’s sorry for what he did. Well, he may be, for he’s out
of pocket by it.

“But this scoundrel Rod sneaks into town, waylays me to get the box away
and when he can’t do that, because he’s scared off, he comes back to my
cabin, drugs me in some way, either by dropping something into my
buttermilk, or by throwing a gas bomb into my room, and then he takes
the box, after tapping me on the head.”

“Do you think that’s how it happened?” asked Bob.

“Of course it was! I’ve told you, but I’ll tell you again. I went in my
strong room, and I was looking at the brass box and the map, when all of
a sudden I felt sort of weak like. The next I knew was when I came to,
and found myself lying on the floor, locked in, the big key close to my
hand, and my box and map gone.”

“And you never saw Rod nor any one else?”

“Nary a soul. It was like a dream.”

“But you must have been expecting some sort of attack as this,” reasoned
Bob, “else why did you build the strong room, with no entrance to it
except by the door, and the chimney barred? Why did you do that?”

“I’ll tell you why, son,” was the answer, “it was because I have always
feared this Rod Marbury! I’ve feared him ever since he and Jolly Bill
tried to bilk old Hank—not that Bill started that plan—it was Rod. But I
knew from that he was a desperate man, though Jolly Bill got the worst
of the deal—he lost a leg and the fortune that had been his, while Rod
only lost the money. But now he’ll get it all—that’s the way in this
world—the wicked sure do flourish like a green bay tree, as the Good
Book says, and many’s the bay tree that I’ve sat under, though I never
thought, at the time, I’d have this bad luck.”

“Maybe it will turn out all right,” suggested Bob, hopefully.

“I’m afraid not,” was the gloomy answer. “Anyhow, as I was telling you,
I built this strong room in my cabin after I heard what Rod had tried to
do to Hank. I thought my turn would come some day, and it did—but not as
I planned. It was the first time I ever went in my strong room, to do
anything, without locking the door behind me. If I had done that Rod
couldn’t have gotten in. But I figured that after he got fooled on the
road he wouldn’t try again. But he got in, and of course, after that, it
was easy for him to get out, after locking me in.”

“But how did he get the key back in?” asked Bob. “That’s the secret of
this log cabin that I’d like solved.”

“I’ll never tell you,” said old Hiram with a shake of his head. “Any
more than I can tell you what made those funny marks, like a sack of
potatoes.”

“Well, that’s what I’ve got to work on,” decided Bob. “I’ve got to
discover the secret of the log cabin, and locate Rod. But you might help
in the last.”

“How?” asked Hiram.

“By giving me some idea of where he might start to dig for the hidden
treasure—telling me the probable location of the place where Hank Denby
might have hidden it.”

Hiram Beegle shook his head dubiously.

“Might as well try to look for a needle in a hay stack,” he said. “Hank
was a strange man. He’d pick out a hiding place you nor I would never
dream of. He must have taken a leaf out of the book of the old pirate
who originally had this money. How he got it—I mean how the pirate came
by the wealth—no one knows. Perhaps it’s just as well not to inquire.
Anyhow the real owners couldn’t be found after all these years. And I
intended doing good with the money after I got it. I was going to leave
most of it to a hospital.”

“That would be good,” remarked Bob. “So we’ll have to try to get it back
for you. But can’t you give me a clew as to where this Rod might start
to look for the wealth? He’ll know where it is, having the map, you
see.”

“Oh, yes, he’ll know,” agreed Hiram. “But I can’t say, for the life of
me, where it might be.”

“Do you think it would be in Cliffside?”

“Yes, I should say so. Hank never went far from home of late years, and
he certainly would keep the treasure near him. He didn’t believe in
banks, you know.”

“So I’ve heard. Well, well see what can be done about it. There isn’t
anything more I can find out here, since you say there was no secret
opening into the strong room.”

“Not an opening, but the chimney.”

“And when we dropped the key down the flue it just fell in the ashes,”
said Bob. “So it couldn’t have been that way.”

He remained a little longer, talking to Hiram and puzzling over the
queer case, and then rode back to town. As he passed the office of Judge
Weston, the lad saw, coming from it, the Italian organ grinder.

Surprised at this, Bob stopped his car and looked after the man who had
neither his organ nor monkey with him this time. Then, as the Italian
passed on down the street, Judge Weston came out.

So excited that he hardly observed the veneration due the old gentleman,
Bob exclaimed:

“What was he after?”

He pointed to the retreating Italian.

“Why, he came in to buy monkey land!” answered the judge with a laugh.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                            *QUEER PLANTING*


Bob Dexter did not know whether to laugh with Judge Weston or to remain
serious, for he felt there might be something serious in the visit of
the Italian to the lawyer’s office. Bob was seeing altogether too much
of that Italian organ grinder of late—at least so thought the young
detective.

However, as Judge Weston continued to smile, as though amused at
something, the lad thought it couldn’t be very serious, so he repeated:

“Monkey land?”

“Yes,” went on the lawyer. “It seems he is a traveling organ grinder,
and——”

“Yes, I know him,” interrupted Bob. “I beg your pardon,” he hastened to
add, as he saw the legal man look at him somewhat strangely. “But I was
trying to save your time in explanation.”

“You say you know this Italian, Bob—er—let me see, I put his name down
somewhere—Pietro Margolis, he calls himself.”

“Well, I don’t exactly _know_ him, Judge Weston, but I’ve seen him
around town a lot. He’s staying at the Railroad House. I first saw him
at the log cabin of Hiram Beegle, right after the robbery. He walked
down the road playing his wheezy old organ and showing off his monkey’s
tricks.”

“Yes, that’s what he came to see me about,” said the lawyer. “It was his
monkey. It seems the animal must have a certain kind of food, and it
doesn’t grow in this country. So this Margolis wanted to buy a piece of
land and plant the peanuts or whatever it is that monkeys eat. I know he
doesn’t want to plant peanuts, though I know monkeys eat them, but I use
peanuts for an illustration. He told me the name of the nut, or fruit or
whatever it was he intended to plant, but I’ve forgotten.”

“And he wants to buy land for that purpose?” exclaimed Bob. “Why, it’s
too late to plant anything now. It might not be in the tropics, where
monkeys come from, but here——”

“Oh, he doesn’t intend to start planting until spring,” said the lawyer.
“He just wants to get the land now.”

“But you aren’t a real estate agent,” said Bob. “Why didn’t he go to Mr.
Landry for what he wanted?”

“I suppose he came to me because he happened to learn that I controlled
the very piece of land he wanted to rent, or buy,” said the judge.

“Some of your property?”

“No, Bob. Some that belongs to the estate of old Hank Denby. You see,
I’m executor of Hank’s will, and there are several pieces of land to
dispose of.”

“Yes, I heard he left quite a little,” admitted Bob. “He was pretty well
off, even if he didn’t use all the pirate gold he dug up at the South
Sea islands.”

“Oh, you know that story, do you, Bob?” asked the lawyer in some
surprise.

“Yes, Jolly Bill Hickey told me part of it and Hiram Beegle the rest.”

“Um! Well, I didn’t know it was out, but I wouldn’t spread it too
widely, if I were you. Folks think Hiram queer enough as it is, without
having this added to his reputation. Of course if it’s necessary, in
order to capture the scoundrel who robbed him, to tell the story, I
wouldn’t ask you to hold it back.”

“I understand,” stated Bob. “There doesn’t seem to be any need, at
present, of broadcasting it. The police don’t need to know it in order
to catch this Rod Marbury.”

Again Judge Weston laughed.

“Offhand, Bob, I should say the kind of police we have around here would
need to know a great more than this story in order to capture this
fellow Marbury. But that’s neither here nor there. Are you working on
the case?”

“In a way, yes. Of course I’m not officially connected with it. Uncle
Joel wouldn’t allow that. But some day I’m going to be a regular
detective. However, he said I could do whatever I might think was right
in trying to find out things about this mystery.”

“I wish you luck, Bob.”

“Thanks. But did you rent or sell this Italian any land for his monkey
food?”

“I have, practically, Bob, though the deal isn’t closed yet. He was
willing to pay a good price for a piece of otherwise waste land on which
he could raise these monkey nuts, or whatever they were. He doesn’t want
to start planting until spring, but he wants to get control of the land
now to prepare it, he says.”

“Where’s the land?” asked Bob. “I didn’t know we had any in Cliffside
that was suitable for monkey business,” and he laughed.

“Why, this Pietro Margolis said he had been looking at land around here,
and he found a piece that just suited him. It’s that overgrown bramble
patch back of the house where Hank Denby lived at the time of his
death.”

“You mean some of Mr. Denby’s land?”

“Yes, Bob. I’ve practically rented this Italian, for a year, that
bramble patch, and I consider, as executor of the estate of the old man,
that I got a good price for it. You know it’s the duty of an executor,
Bob, to Increase the estate if possible. And though I don’t imagine the
nieces and nephews of Hank—for those are all the relatives he left—I
don’t imagine they appreciate what I’ve done, still it was my duty.”

“Yes,” agreed Bob. “So he left his estate to nieces and nephews, did he?
But what about the pirate fortune that went to Hiram Beegle—that is if
Hiram ever gets it—what about that? Won’t these nieces and nephews want
a part of that?”

“It wouldn’t do them any good to want it, Bob,” stated the lawyer. “You
see that gold, or whatever form the wealth was in that was dug up on the
island—that fortune was held by Hank in trust, so to speak. At his death
it went to the survivors of the original four—or such of them as had
played fair and kept the agreement Hiram Beegle was the only one, so he
got all the others’ shares.”

“That is he has them to get,” remarked Bob, somewhat grimly. For the
stealing of the brass-bound box, containing the directions for finding
the hidden wealth, had effectually blocked Mr. Beegle’s chances.

“Yes, it’s very much in distant prospect, Bob. But perhaps you’ll be
able to help the old man.”

“Maybe. I don’t suppose Hank ever intimated to you where he had buried
the stuff?”

“Never a word, Bob. He was as close as an oyster on that point, though
he told me everything else about his affairs. He said Hiram would have
no trouble locating the gold if he followed directions on the map in the
brass-bound box. It was very peculiar on the part of Hank to bury the
fortune this way, instead of keeping it in a bank vault, but it was his
business, not mine, and though I did my best to persuade him to use
business methods, it was of no use. He clung to his old sailor
superstitions.”

“Yes,” agreed Bob, “and Hiram and Jolly Bill Hickey are much the same. I
suppose you know Jolly Bill is staying at the Mansion House?”

“So I heard, yes. Well, I think I’ll go up and look over this piece of
old Hank’s land this monkey merchant wants to rent to raise food for his
nimble charge. I want to see that he has no ulterior motive, so to
speak.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bob, a bit puzzled.

“Well, he may know of some land development out in that
neighborhood—something like a railroad going through or a new trolley
line. If he had a lease on some property that was needed, he might hold
up matters until we paid him a big price.”

“Oh, I see,” remarked Bob. “These Italians are sharp and tricky when it
comes to matters of property, I’ve heard.”

“That’s right, Bob. This fellow may be all right, but I owe it to the
estate not to take any chances. So I’ll take a look over the ground
before I sign the lease.”

“I’ll run you up there, if you’re going now,” offered Bob. “That is if
you don’t mind riding in my flivver.”

“I’ve ridden in many a worse car. Bob. And I was on my way to look over
old Hank’s property. Come on, we’ll go together.”

Judge Weston had truly spoken of the vacant lot near the Denby house as
a “bramble patch.” It was just that and nothing more. Nor were there any
signs in the neighborhood of any real estate boom. It was far off the
line of the railroad, and not near the trolley.

“I guess there’s no harm in letting Pietro have this place on a lease,”
said the judge, when he had gone around the bramble patch. Going over or
through it was out of the question.

“It doesn’t seem to be good even for monkey food,” laughed Bob.

“No, I should say not. But then we don’t know what monkeys like. I’ll go
back and draw up the papers.”

Bob drove the lawyer back to his office, and as they parted Mr. Weston
said:

“If you get any trace of this Rod Marbury, Bob, or get a line on where
Hiram can find the missing map, let me know, will you?”

“I will,” promised the lad.

“I feel a friendly interest in Hiram,” went on the lawyer, “and I’d like
to see him get what’s coming to him.”

“I’m going to help him all I can,” declared the young detective.

It was several days after this, during which time Bob had worked in vain
to get a clew to the mysterious happenings at the log cabin on Storm
Mountain that, one evening, on his way home in his car, having done an
errand for his uncle, he passed the old house where Hank Denby had died.

In the glow of the setting sun Bob saw some one moving about in the
field behind the house—the field which Judge Weston had rented to Pietro
Margolis as a garden in which to raise monkey food.

“It’s the Italian organ grinder himself!” exclaimed Bob as he caught
sight of the black-bearded fellow.

Bob stopped his flivver, and the noise of the squeaking brakes caused
the Italian to look up. He saw and must have recognized the lad. But if
he was at all disturbed at being observed he did not show it. Instead he
smiled, showing his white, even teeth.

“Hallo!” greeted Pietro. “Hallo-hallo!” He had a queer pronunciation of
it—not unpleasant, though.

“Hello,” replied Bob. “You grow monkeys here?” he jokingly asked.

“No—not maka da _monk_ grow—maka him _eats_ grow.”

“You mean peanuts?” asked Bob, though he knew it couldn’t be goobers, or
ground-nuts, that Pietro contemplated raising in the bramble patch. The
lad was throwing out feelers, so to speak.

“No peanuts!” laughed the Italian. “Look—monkey lika deese!”

He held out in his hand, having taken them from the pocket of his
coat—some sort of dried fruit or nuts, Bob couldn’t decide which.

“Oh, you’re going to plant these, eh, Pietro?”

“Sure—plant for da monk.”

“But they won’t grow this time of year, Pietro. Cold weather, you
know—Jack Frost kill ’em. Look, everything now almost dead,” and Bob
waved his hand over the sear and yellow weeds in the bramble patch.

“Oh, sure, I know—cold—not plant now—plant by next summer time. Just dig
now—maka da holes.”

“Holes!” exclaimed Bob.

And then he became aware of some curious digging operations that the
Italian had been carrying on. There were a number of deep holes here and
there in the bramble patch—holes newly dug.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                           *A NIGHT PURSUIT*


Smilingly, Pietro Margolis leaned on his spade and regarded Bob Dexter.
The Italian had been using a spade to good advantage in the bramble
patch of old Hank Denby.

“You plant these monkey nuts very deep, don’t you?” asked Bob, calling
the objects the Italian had shown him “nuts,” though he was not certain
on this point.

“Sure—got to be deep,” said the organ grinder, though he had temporarily
abandoned that occupation it seemed. “No deep—no grow.”

He tossed into the last hole he had dug a few of the dried objects from
his coat pocket, shoveled in the earth and tramped it down.

Bob Dexter knew, or thought he knew, something of farming.

“You’ll never make anything grow planting it as deep as that and then
stamping the ground down as hard as a brick!” declared the lad.

“Oh, sure da monkey nuts grow!” declared the Italian with a smile. “Alla
same we plant dem lika deese in Italy.”

He smiled his white-tooth smile.

“Oh, in Italy,” conceded Bob. He couldn’t dispute this. He had never
been in Italy and knew nothing of these strange fruits or nuts.

“Sure—Italy. Deese grow fine when da warm weather he come back. Put ’em
in deep so no freeze.”

There might be something in that theory Bob admitted to himself. Idly he
watched the Italian dig. He cut aside, with wide sweeps of the sharp
spade, the dead and dying weeds and brambles, and when he had a cleared
place he began on another hole, not far from where he had dug several
others, as evidenced by the mounds of fresh earth.

“How’s the monkey?” asked Bob, seeing no object in lingering longer on
the scene.

“Jacko—he good—I leave him by friend while I plant hees food for da next
year.”

“What does he live on while these things are growing—there won’t be any
until next year,” said the young detective.

“I got some I breeng from Italy—’nough, mebby, to last. I dunno! Jacko
eat da banana too, mebby.”

“Um,” mused Bob. “Well, I wish you luck, but I don’t think much of your
farm,” and he laughed as he started away.

“Sure, I have da good luck—t’anks,” and the Italian smiled and waved a
hand in farewell. Then he resumed his digging.

Bob Dexter was doing some hard thinking as he drove his little flivver
down the road and away from the bramble patch, where he left the Italian
digging away at the holes, into which he dropped those queer, dried nuts
or fruits. And Bob was still thinking on the many problems caused by the
robbery and assault on Hiram Beegle as he went to his uncle’s store and
reported on the business matter that had taken him out of town.

The young detective was still puzzling away over the many queer angles
to the case when he reached home, and in the twilight he rather started
nervously as he heard his name called when he was putting the car in the
garage.

“Hello, Bob!” some one hailed him.

“Who’s that?”

“What’s the matter?” laughed the voice of Harry Pierce. “Any one would
think I was a detective after you.”

“Oh—yes, I was thinking of something else,” admitted Bob with a laugh.
“Come on in! Seen anything of Ned?”

“I’m here,” replied the other chum, as he stepped out of the darkness.
“Where you been?”

“Over to the courthouse for Uncle Joel. Anything happened in town while
I was away?”

“Nothing much. Say, what you going to do to-morrow?”

“Same answer, Harry—nothing much.”

“Then let’s go after chestnuts.”

“Chestnuts! There aren’t any left!” declared Bob. “The blight has killed
them all.”

“Not all,” declared Ned. “I know a grove on Storm Mountain where there
are still a few good trees left. I found it by accident this summer.
I’ve been saving it.”

“Good enough!” cried Bob. “I’m with you. Chestnuts are great, but I
didn’t think there were any left. Sure I’ll go.”

“All right—Harry and I’ll stop for you early in the morning. There’s
likely to be a hard frost to-night and that will open the burrs,” spoke
Ned.

Bob thought of the frost and the holes the Italian was digging to plant
his monkey nuts. But the holes seemed to be below the effect of anything
but a hard and deep frost, and that kind didn’t come so early in the
season.

“I’ll be ready,” promised the young detective, “Is the chestnut grove
anywhere near Hiram Beegle’s log cabin?”

“Not so far away—why?” asked Harry.

“Oh, I thought I might want to stop over and see the old man—just to see
if there’s anything new in the case.”

“Sure, we can do that,” agreed Ned.

“How you coming on with the case?” Harry wanted to know.

“I’m not coming on at all, fellows. It’s at a dead standstill, as far as
I’m concerned.”

“Oh, well, you’ll pop off with something unexpectedly, like you did when
you discovered the wireless station that was putting out the lighthouse
beacon,” said Harry.

“Maybe—I hope so,” sighed Bob.

His chums called for him next morning before he had finished his
breakfast. But Bob hurried through the meal, found an old sack to hold
the chestnuts he hoped to gather, and soon the three chums were chugging
in the flivver up the trail of Storm Mountain.

The day was pleasant, with just the tang of winter in the air, for Ned’s
prediction of a heavy frost had been borne out and there was every
prospect of a good fall of the sweet, brown nuts.

“If the squirrels and chipmunks haven’t been there ahead of us,”
remarked Harry as they talked over the possibilities.

“Or that dago’s monkey!” added Ned. “Say, what do you know about that
fellow, anyhow? He’s still hanging around town. Lives at the Railroad
House and goes out with his organ every night. Charlie McGill was
telling me he takes in a lot of nickels, too, playing down around the
post office. His monkey does a lot of tricks.”

“So I’ve heard,” admitted Bob. But he did not tell of what he had seen
in the bramble patch.

“But I guess he won’t be up here with his monkey,” stated Ned.

“Do monkeys eat chestnuts?” asked Harry.

“Sure they do!” declared Bob. “Don’t you remember the story we used to
read in school, of the monkey who hired a cat to pull the roasted
chestnuts out of the fire?”

“Oh—that’s moving picture stuff!” laughed Ned.

Talking and joking they wended their way up Storm Mountain. They passed
the cabin of Hiram Beegle, but saw no signs of life about it, and, as it
was rather early, Bob thought it best not to stop then to speak to the
old sailor.

“We’ll give him a hail on our way back,” he decided, the others agreeing
to this.

Ned’s promise to lead his chums to a grove of chestnut trees not killed
by the blight which swept over this country a few years ago, was carried
out. And, parking the car in a quiet lane, the boys were soon gathering
a goodly supply of the new, brown nuts.

The lads were not alone in their garnering, for the grove was a scene of
activity on the part of squirrels and chipmunks who took this
opportunity of laying up their winter’s store of food. But there were
enough chestnuts for all, and having filled the bags they had brought
with them, the boys began to think of returning.

The sun was higher and warmer when they passed the log cabin again, and
Hiram Beegle was pulling weeds from between his rows of dahlias, for he
had a small but beautiful garden of these large and showy flowers.

“Hello, boys!” greeted the old sailor heartily, for he was by this time
fully recovered from the effects of the strange attack made on him at
the time of the robbery of the treasure map.

“Hello!” greeted Bob, Ned and Harry.

“Come on in,” invited the old man. “I can give you some cookies and
milk.”

“That sounds good to me!” declared Ned.

His long years of sailor life had fitted Hiram Beegle to keep house by
himself, and, not only do that but cook well—an art to which his three
visitors soon bore testimony. For not only did he set out a plate of
excellent molasses cookies before them, but some sandwiches and pie, all
of which he had made himself.

The boys had eaten an early breakfast, and chest-nutting, or, indeed,
any excursion in the open, creates a good appetite, of which our heroes
had no lack. So they did full justice to the little lunch the old seaman
prepared for them.

“I don’t s’pose you’ve heard anything about your missing box, or about
Rod Marbury, have you?” asked Bob when a lull came in the eating.

“Nary a word. I’ve kept pretty close to my cabin. I didn’t want that
scoundrel attacking me again.”

“Oh, he won’t come around again,” said Harry.

“I guess not. He got what he was after,” remarked Ned.

“While we’re here,” proceeded Bob, “I’d like to have another look at
this room, Mr. Beegle. It seems as if there must be some way of getting
a key in through the wall.”

“Well, Bob, look as much as you like, but you won’t find even a crack. I
took good care of that. The chimney hole is the only opening, and you
proved that couldn’t have been used.”

In spite of the assertion of the old sailor, Bob went carefully over
each foot of the partition wall, aided by Ned and Harry. The strong room
was built across one end of the log cabin, in the end. The three outer
sides were of solid logs, chinked and sealed with real mortar, not mud
as is sometimes used. There was no break in this. The chimney was built
at the rear, and on the outside. It was made of field stone, both
attractive in appearance and strong. There were no chinks or cracks
through which the key might have been tossed.

The inside wall was of a double thickness of narrow wooden boards, and
Bob thought there might be some secret panel in this, as there was a
concealed slide hiding the niche where the brass key was kept.

But a careful examination showed no opening, and Hiram declared there
was no secret panel.

“What I was thinking of,” said Bob, “was that the thief, using a very
fine saw, might have sawed out a piece and have fitted the piece back
again, after throwing the key inside.”

But the boards were so closely fitted and as solidly nailed to the
partition uprights as when Hiram had the work done, some years before.

“Well, I guess I’ll have to give it up,” remarked Bob in disappointed
and baffled tones at the conclusion of the examination. “It’s a deep
mystery,” The lads thanked the old sailor for his hospitality and rode
on back to Cliffside, bearing with them a goodly supply of chestnuts
which they divided among their friends.

It was after supper that evening when Bob was settling down to read a
book that the telephone in his uncle’s house rang a summons. Mr. Dexter
answered it and, after listening a moment, said:

“It’s you they want, Bob. Chief of Police Duncan!”

“The chief!” exclaimed the lad, his heart suddenly beating fast. “I
wonder if he’s found out anything?”

He greeted the officer.

“Say, Bob,” came the eager voice, “I think we’re on the trail of that
fellow who robbed Hiram!”

“You mean Rod Marbury?”

“Yes. I just got a tip that there’s a strange sailor over in Cardiff,
spending money freely. I’m going over and have a look at him. Would you
like to come along? You heard Hiram describe this chap—you might know
him. Want to come?”

“Sure I do! Wait a minute!”

Bob quickly explained to his uncle the nature of the summons.

“You mean chase off in the night after this suspect?” asked Mr. Dexter,
not at all pleased.

“Yes. The chief wants to catch him. May I go?”

“Oh, I suppose so, Bob. But be careful!” The consent was reluctantly
given.

“I will, Uncle Joel.”

“Oh, Bob, I hate to have you go out at night on this detective
business!” objected Aunt Hannah.

“You’ve got to do night work if you’re going to be a detective,” said
Bob cheerfully. He was even elated at the prospect before him of a night
pursuit.

Quickly he made ready and soon he was chugging in his flivver down to
police headquarters.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                         *A SINGER IN THE DARK*


“This tip just came in,” explained Chief Duncan when Bob had joined him,
a little excited by the news and by his quick trip from home. “I thought
I’d rather have you with me chasing it down, than to take Caleb or even
Sam Drayton.”

“Glad you thought of me,” murmured Bob. Caleb Tarton was the chief
constable of Cliffside, while Mr. Drayton, of course, was the chief of
Storm Mountain.

“Yes,” went on Mr. Duncan as he got into Bob’s car, for it had been
decided to use that. “Of course this may be only a wild goose chase, but
often you can catch chickens when you’re after geese. And, speaking of
chickens, that’s the sort of case Caleb is on now. That’s another reason
I couldn’t bring him.”

“A chicken case?” murmured Bob.

“Yes, seems that Tume Mellick has been missing a lot of his fowls
lately, and he asked us to investigate. So I sent Caleb over.”

“Hope he finds the thief,” said Bob.

“Yes. Well, he’ll get a chicken supper out of it, anyhow. Tume always
serves chicken to his company. But now about this case, Bob. Do you
think you would know this fellow Rod Marbury if you were to see him?”

“It’s hard to say. I’ve never laid eyes on him, as far as I know. All I
have to go by is the description Hiram gives.”

“Yes, that’s all I have. I wrote it down but I remember it. A short,
stout fellow, with dark hair and a long scar on one cheek that he got in
a fight.”

“That’s the description I remember,” stated Bob. “But of course if this
fellow didn’t want to be discovered he could disguise himself.”

“Oh, sure,” agreed the Cliffside chief. “But they can’t hide all the
marks. And when you take into consideration the fact that this suspect
is a sailor, and bound to act like one, that may give him away.”

“There’s something in that,” admitted the lad. “How did you hear about
him?”

“Oh, Hank Miller just got back from Cardiff—went over to sell a load of
apples to the cider mill, and I’ve got my suspicions of that cider mill;
by the way, I think they make a whole lot stronger cider than the law
allows. But that’s for the Cardiff police to look after—’tisn’t in my
territory. Anyhow, Hank was telling me about a fellow he saw in town,
spending money pretty freely, and boasting that he could get a lot more
when that was gone. He acted like a sailor, so Hank said, and right away
it occurred to me it might be this Rod.”

“Yes, it might be,” assented Bob. “But it doesn’t seem likely, that if
this is Rod Marbury, he’d stay around here and spend the money so close
to the place where he robbed Hiram Beegle.”

“You can’t always tell by that,” declared the chief wisely. “I’ve known
many a criminal to keep out of the hands of the detectives a long time
just by staying right near the spot where the crime was committed. He
figured out they’d never look for him there, and they didn’t. They went
to all sorts of other places and never thought of looking or inquiring
near home.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of such cases,” admitted Bob. “I suppose it would be a
good plan for a robber to live next door to the place he robbed—or very
near it—for no one would think he had the nerve to do that.”

“There’s a whole lot to that!” declared the chief.

It was a dark night, and a storm was coming up, but this did not daunt
the old chief nor the young detective. They made as good time as was
possible to Cardiff and then there confronted them the problem of
finding the suspect.

Hank Miller had said the fellow whom he supposed might be Rod Marbury
had been seen in many places in Cardiff, spending his money freely and
foolishly. Of course the Cardiff police might have knowledge of such an
individual. He could hardly escape notice. But neither Bob nor Chief
Duncan wanted to disclose their hand In this matter. That is they wanted
to make the capture alone, if capture there was to be made.

“I tell you what we can do,” said the chief, as they passed slowly into
the town. “We can park the car and shift about a bit on foot. We’ll
learn more that way. And we can drop into some of these pool parlors
where Hank said he saw this fellow.”

“Yes, we can do that,” agreed Bob.

It was not a very pleasant way to spend an evening, particularly as it
was now beginning to drizzle, and was cold, too. But Bob and the chief
grimly resolved to go through with it.

“I don’t much care for any of the Cardiff police to see me,” remarked
Mr. Duncan as Bob parked the flivver. “Not that they’re any great shakes
at picking out folks, but one of them might spot me and it would make
talk. So I’ll just pull my hat down over my eyes and turn up my coat
collar—the rain will be a good excuse, anyhow.”

“Good idea,” declared Bob, and a little later hardly any of their
friends would have recognized the two had they seen them slouching
through the streets of Cardiff—the place was rather more of a city than
was Cliffside.

Chief Duncan knew the less inviting parts of Cardiff—the haunts which
would, most likely, prove attractive to those who liked their pleasures
strong, or who had reason to keep out of the ken of the police. So it
was to not very respectable pool rooms and cigar stores that Bob was
led. However, he steeled himself against the sights he saw and went
through with it.

All sorts and conditions of men were met with—young men, old men and
middle-aged men—far too many young men, be it said, who seemed to have
nothing better to do this evening than to hang around a pool table, a
flopping cigarette dangling from their lips as they squinted down the
length of a cue.

The places were blue with smoke—vile tobacco it was, too—but those
moving about in the blue, acrid haze seemed to like it. However, it
wasn’t very good for complexions. Most of the faces were a pasty white
in hue.

There were many men, it seemed, who might be wanted for one criminal
charge or other, but not one of them seemed to be a free spender. In
fact, few of those in the pool rooms and cigar stores appeared to have
any more money than they actually needed. They were a poor lot.

“Tin horn sports and cheap skate gamblers,” was the way Chief Duncan
characterized them, and Bob agreed.

In some places there were dance halls attached to the pool rooms, and
these were the worst of all, for women and girls were there who might
have done better to have remained away.

The blare of horrible “jazz” shot out of many an open door, and in their
quest Bob and the chief entered. The air in some of the dance places was
almost as blue with smoke as in the pool “parlors,” but the women and
girls—nearly all the latter with bobbed hair—did not seem to mind. In
fact, some of the girls were leeringly puffing on cigarettes.

“Not very nice places, eh, Bob?” asked the chief as they left one,
filling their lungs with the clean air outside—air filled with rain and
frost, but clean—just clean!

“They’re rotten!” declared Bob Dexter.

“Well, there aren’t many more,” said Mr. Duncan. “Are you game?”

“Oh, sure! We’ll go through with it. But the sailor doesn’t seem to be
on hand.”

“We may locate him yet. These fellows drift from one night haunt to
another. We may go back to the first place and pick him up.”

The rain was now falling smartly, but our seekers did not turn back.
They kept on with the quest.

“There’s one place down this street I’d like to look into,” murmured Mr.
Duncan.

He turned down what was more of an alley than a street. Here and there a
dim gas lamp flickered, adding to rather than relieving the blackness.
Halfway down there was a blur of brightness, showing where the light
streamed from the doors of another pool place.

“We’ll take a look in there,” said the chief.

They made their way down the alley, splashing in puddles, tramping in
the mud and getting more and more wet and miserable every moment.

Suddenly, out of the shadow of some ramshackle building, or perhaps from
some hole in the ground, there lurched a swaying figure. And the figure
was that of a man who raised his cracked voice in what he doubtless
intended for a melody and howled, rather than sang:

    “Then spend yer money free,
    An’ come along o’ me,
    An’ I’ll show yer where th’ elephant is hidin’!”

The chief caught Bob by the arm, halting him.

“Maybe that’s Rod!” he whispered.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                           *THE WORM DIGGER*


Somehow Bob Dexter thought that the game wasn’t going to fall into their
hands as easily as all that It would be too good to be true. Of course
they had trailed after the suspect through a long, dreary evening, and
at much personal discomfort But here, in front of them, it being only
necessary for the chief to step forward and arrest him, was the man
answering the description of the free spender.

He had betrayed himself, and yet—Bob could not credit their good luck.

“Never say die, boys! Set ’em up in th’ other alley! I got money to
spend an’ I’m spendin’ it! Whoop-la!”

It was a characteristic attitude of one in his condition.

“We won’t have any trouble with him, Bob,” whispered the chief. “He’ll
come along with us for the asking.”

“Unless some of his friends, or would-be friends object,” remarked Bob.
For, as he spoke, the doors of several dark hovel-like buildings opened,
letting out dim shafts of light. And in this illumination stood
half-revealed, sinister figures—men and women, too, who were on the
lookout for just such a gay and reckless spender as this foolish fellow
proclaimed himself to be.

“Oh, I’ll handle them all right,” said the chief.

“You’ve got to be quick then,” remarked the young detective. “There goes
some one after him now.”

A moment later there darted from one of the evil buildings, a slouching
figure of a man. The shaft of light from the open door put him in dark
relief. He ran to the swaying, staggering figure of the singer, who was
now mumbling to himself, clapped it jovially on the back and cried:

“Come on, Jack! We’ve been looking for you! Everything is all ready!
Right in here, Jack! Everything’s lovely!”

He swung the victim around, and the latter, taken by surprise, followed
for a few steps. Then, as Bob and the chief watched, the singer
unexpectedly stiffened and braced himself back.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed. “Hold on! Where you goin’?”

“For a good time, Jack! To see the elephants you know!”

“Yep—I know! I seen elephants before—big ones, too—in India! I’m
elephant hunter, I am—but my name ain’t Jack.”

“Oh, well, Jill then—Jack or Jill, it’s all the same to me. I’m a friend
of yours.”

But a spirit of opposition had been awakened in the victim. It was a
small matter—that of a name, but small matters turn the tide in cases
like these.

“If you’re friend of mine, you oughter know my name,” went on the
celebrator, swaying and reeling as the other held him up, “You tell me
my name an’ I’ll go with you.”

The other laughed and then tried a bluff.

“Sure, I know your name!” he declared. “It’s Bill—good old Bill! Now
come on!”

He had made a shot in the dark—in the dark in more ways than one. The
chances were in his favor. Bill is a fairly common name, and many a
“sport” answers to it even though he may be Tom, Dick or Harry. But
again the spirit of perverseness took control of the victim.

“No ’tain’t!” he cried. “I ain’t Bill—never was—never will be. You
guessed wrong—you’re no friend of mine. Now lemme be! I’m goin’ to find
elephant. Tom’s my name—Tom Black, an’ I’m proud of it. Now lemme go!”

He shook off the hold of the other, and the man who had slipped out of
the den of thieves stood irresolute for a moment. He was taken aback,
but did not want to use too much force in getting his victim within his
clutches. He must try another game, and still be gentle about it.

But at the mention of the name Tom Black the chief nudged Bob.

“Guess we’re on the wrong lay,” he said.

“Do you think he’d give his right name?” asked the lad.

“They generally do—in his condition. Of course he may be going under two
names, but I don’t believe this is Rod Marbury.”

Bob had begun to think so from the moment he had seen how easy it
was—that is comparatively easy—to pick up the trail of the suspect.

“If we could get a look at him,” the young detective suggested.

“That’s what we’ve got to do, Bob. Come on. It’s getting lighter now.
We’ll catch him in front of one of these doorways.”

It was getting lighter, but not because the blackness of the night was
passing, nor because the blessed sun was rising, nor because the rain
was ceasing—for none of these things were happening. It was still night
and the rain was coming down harder than ever.

But down the lane of the sordid street more doors were opening, and from
each one streaked a shaft of light. In some mysterious way, like the
smoke signal of the Indians, it was being telegraphed through the
district of crime that “pickings” were on the way. The aforesaid
“pickings” being an intoxicated man with money in his pockets. This was
the sort of victim much sought after by the dwellers of the “Barbary
Coast,” as the district was called by the police.

The man who had accosted the singer, if such he might be called, had
slipped away in the darkness, either to get help, to concoct some new
scheme, or to await a more propitious occasion.

But, meanwhile, other would-be despoilers were on the scene. And Chief
Duncan proposed to take advantage of the light they were letting into
the darkness.

“Come on, Bob,” he whispered. “He’s in a good position now to get a look
at.”

The man was again singing, or, rather, groaning about his desire to see
where the elephant was hiding. And just as he came in focus of one of
the better lighted doorways, the young detective and the officer walked
alongside of him. As they did so another man darted from the lighted
doorway as if to swoop down like some foul bird of prey.

But, seeing the other two figures—and a glance told him they were not of
his ilk—he drew back.

It needed but a glance on the part of Bob and the chief to let them see
that this man bore no resemblance whatever to the description they had
of Rod Marbury. Neither in build, stature nor appearance did he bear any
likeness to the suspected sailor.

“No go, Bob,” spoke the chief, turning to flash a look full in the face
of the staggering man.

“No,” was the answer.

“Who says I shan’t go?” angrily demanded the man, mistaking the words
spoken. “I’m my own boss. I’ll go see elephant if I like!”

“I’m not going to stop you,” declared the chief. “You’re your own boss,
though I wouldn’t give much for your pocketbook when you come off the
Barbary Coast. Go ahead, I don’t want you.”

“Don’t you think it would be a good plan,” suggested Bob, “to get him
away from this neighborhood? He’s sure to be robbed and maybe injured if
he stays here.”

“You never said a truer thing in all your life, Bob Dexter,” spoke the
chief. “But trying to get him to come with us wouldn’t do a bit of good.
We couldn’t keep him with us all night, or until he is in better senses.
He’d only be an elephant on our hands. And if we took him away from here
he’d wander back again in a few hours. The night is young yet.”

“Then what can we do? I hate to see him get plucked.”

“So do I, and I have a plan. I don’t want the Cardiff police to know I’m
in town. But I can telephone to headquarters, in the guise of a citizen
who has seen a man with money in this dangerous neighborhood, and
they’ll send the wagon and a couple of men in uniform. Brass buttons are
the only thing that will impress this fellow.

“Of course they can’t arrest him, for he hasn’t done anything more than
get himself into a foolish and miserable state. But they can detain him
until morning, when he’ll be sober. That’s often done, and that will
save his money for him. Come on, we’ll slip out of here and find a
telephone.”

“Yes, but while we’re gone some one of these sharks will pull him into
their holes.”

“He’ll be easy to find, Bob. Every resident here wants a chance at
picking his bones, and for the one who gets him there’ll be a dozen
envious ones ready to squeal. A stool-pigeon will tip the police off as
to what den this fellow was hauled into, and they can take him out.
There’s time enough—he won’t give up his roll easily. It takes a little
time to work the game and before it’s played out I’ll have the officers
here.”

Content with this Bob followed the chief out of the vile and evil
district. The telephone tip was gladly received, for the police of
Cardiff were not anxious to have it broadcasted that irresponsible and
foolish strangers were robbed, even along the Barbary Coast. Word was
given to the chief, who, of course, did not reveal his identity, that
the matter would be looked after.

Having done their duty, Bob and the chief returned to the district long
enough to see the clanging wagon rumble in and take away the “elephant
hunter.” He had been enticed into one of the dens, but, as Mr. Duncan
had said, some one “squealed,” and the police easily located the place.

“Well, I guess this ends it, Bob,” remarked the head of the Cliffside
police. “It was a wild goose chase.”

“I wish it had been a wild duck,” murmured Bob.

“Why?”

“Well, a duck’s back would have shed water better than mine. I’m
soaked.”

“So ’m I. But it couldn’t be helped. You’ll have to get used to worse
than this, Bob, if you’re going to be a detective. And not only one
night but many nights in succession.”

“Oh, I know that. I’m not kicking. Only I wish we had picked up Rod.”

“So do I. But it wasn’t to be. It was a good tip, as far as it went. But
I guess Rod is safe enough, for a time. But we’ll have another shot at
finding him.”

“Of course,” agreed Bob, as they chugged back to Cliffside in the rain
and darkness.

It cannot be said that the young detective was very much discouraged or
disappointed at the result of this excursion. It had been but a slim
chance, at best, but slim chances must be taken when trying to solve
mysteries or catch criminals.

As a matter of fact Bob Dexter would have been rather sorry, in a way,
had the foolish man turned out to be Rod Marbury. For the credit of the
capture would have gone to Chief Duncan. And Bob wanted to solve the
mystery himself.

“And I want to find out the secret of the log cabin,” he told himself as
he got into bed late that night, or, rather, early the next morning. “I
want to find out how the key got back in the room.”

For about a week there were no more moves in the case—that is, moves
which appeared on the surface. What was going on beneath no one could
tell.

Pietro Margolis continued to dig holes and plant his “monkey nuts,” as
Bob called them. Jolly Bill Hickey continued to reside at the Mansion
House, now and then going to Storm Mountain to visit Hiram Beegle. The
old sailor was now quite himself again, but he could throw no additional
light on the strange robbery.

“I don’t know where the treasure is, nor whether Rod is digging it up or
not,” he said. “I’m fogbound—that’s about it—fogbound.”

But Bob Dexter was anything except discouraged. He had youth and health,
and these are the two best tonics in the world. Of course he would have
been glad to come at a quick solution of the mystery.

“Though if I did there wouldn’t be much credit in solving it,” he told
himself more than once. “If it was as easy as all that, Ned or Harry
could do as well as I, and I wouldn’t like to think that. A regular
detective wouldn’t give up now, and I’m not going to!”

Bob squared his shoulders, clenched his hands and walked about with such
a defiant air that his chums, more than once, asked him after that why
he was carrying a “chip on his shoulder.”

It was one day, about two weeks after Bob’s night trip to Cardiff that,
as he passed the log cabin he saw, in what was the garden during the
summer, a figure using a spade.

“I wonder if that dago is planting monkey nuts on Hiram’s place?”
thought Bob, for the figure, that of a man, had his back turned. “It
isn’t Hiram. I wonder——”

The man with the spade straightened up. It was Jolly Bill. He saw Bob
and waved a hand.

“I’m digging worms!” he called. “Not having much luck though.”

“Digging worms?” repeated the young detective in questioning tones. “I
wonder what his game is?” he said to himself as he alighted from his
flivver.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                          *BOB GIVES A PARTY*


Had Jolly Bill Hickey announced that he was digging in Hiram’s old
garden to locate the treasure buried by the dead and gone Hank Denby,
the young detective would not have been more surprised than he was when
the laughing sailor declared that he was digging worms.

“Worms!” repeated Bob as he made his way toward the gate in the fence.
“Worms!” He spoke the last aloud.

“Sure—worms!” declared Jolly Bill. “Guess I’ve got as much right to dig
worms to go fishing with as that dago has to plant monkey nuts!” and he
laughed genially.

“Oh—you’re going _fishing_,” exclaimed Bob.

“Sure I am—what else would I be digging worms for? Hiram and I are going
fishing.”

“Oh—of course,” murmured Bob.

It was perfectly obvious and natural now. There was good fishing in Lake
Netcong or Rockaway river, both near Cliffside. Bob had been to both
places, with both good and bad luck at times. And he had fished with
worms as well as with hellgrammites, and grasshoppers. The lads of
Cliffside inclined to natural bait rather than spinners, plugs or
artificial flies.

“Don’t you want to come along?” invited Jolly Bill as Bob stood looking
at him turn over the brown earth, scanning each spadeful, meanwhile, for
a sight of worms.

“Don’t believe I can,” answered the lad. “But you won’t find any worms
here, no matter how long you dig. It isn’t the right kind of earth.”

“Do you know,” said Jolly Bill with a frank and engaging smile, “I am
beginning to believe that myself. All I’ve turned up the last half hour
has been one poor, miserable little worm. Must be an orphan, I reckon,”
and he laughed heartily.

“That’s what I been telling him,” spoke the voice of Hiram Beegle from
the doorway of his log cabin. “You’ll never get any bait there, Bill,
and you might as well quit. Down back where the stable used to be are
worms aplenty.”

“Oh, all right,” assented the other. “You ought to know the lay of the
land better than I do. And I certainly haven’t had any luck here. I’ll
take your advice.”

At one time Hiram had kept a horse which hauled a ramshackle wagon that
took him to and from Cliffside. But he had sold the animal some years
ago, as requiring too much care from an old man.

However, land about a stable, no matter how long the equine dweller has
been away, seems to be a homestead for worms, a fact which Jolly Bill
soon demonstrated. From his digging he called:

“I’m getting slathers of ’em now. Get your pole ready, Hiram.”

“All right,” was the answer.

Bob had been talking to the old man while Jolly Bill had transferred the
scene of his digging operations.

“Think you’ll get any fish this time of year?” asked the young
detective, for it was rather late in the season for the fish to bite
well. The finny tribes were “holing up” for the winter, or doing
whatever fish do in preparation for snow and ice covering the lake and
river.

“Well, no, Bob, I don’t expect we’ll get many,” was the cautious answer.
“It was Bill’s idea to take me fishing. He proposed it.”

Bob had begun to suspect that much.

“And he suggested coming here to dig for worms, didn’t he?” asked the
lad.

“Why, that’s what he did!” exclaimed old Hiram. “How’d you know that,
Bob Dexter?”

“Oh, I sort of guessed it, I reckon. Has he been digging long?”

“No, he just started a little while before you came around. But he says
he and I will go fishing every day as long as the weather holds good.
I’m not much of a hand for fish myself, but I didn’t want to refuse
Bill.”

“He has a jolly way with him,” conceded the lad. The wooden-legged
sailor stumped up with a tomato can half filled with worms.

“If we have luck like that at fishing,” he remarked as he scraped some
mud off his timber-leg on the spade, “well be doing well.”

“I should say so!” laughed Bob. He had marveled at the skill with which
Bill used the wooden leg. It served him at spading almost as well as did
the foot and leg of a normal person. Bill stood on his good foot, and
putting the end of his wooden stump on the top edge of the spade, where
it is made wider to give purchase, he pressed the keen, straight, garden
implement down in the soft soil. Then, with a quick motion, the spadeful
of earth was turned over, and beaten apart with a quick blow, revealing
the crawling worms.

“Then you won’t come, Bob?” asked Hiram as he got down his pole from
inside the cabin.

“No, thank you—not this time.”

“If you’re passing back this way, later in the day, stop and well give
you some fish for your uncle,” promised Hiram. “That is if we catch
any.”

“Oh, well catch plenty!” predicted Jolly Bill.

“Thanks,” replied Bob. “I’ll stop if I pass this way. And now, if you
like, I’ll run you down to the lake, or river—which are you going to try
first?”

“The lake,” decided Hiram, as Bill looked to him to answer this
question. “And it’s right kind of you, Bob, to do this. I was going to
ask Tom Shan to hitch up and ride us down, but your machine’ll be a lot
quicker.”

It was, and when Bob had left the fishermen at the lake, promising, if
he had time, to call and take them home, he went on to his uncle’s
store.

Contrary to expectation, Bob did not find anything to do. Mr. Dexter had
wanted him to deliver a special order over in Cardiff, but the man
called for it himself, and this gave the lad some free time.

“I think I’ll just take a run back to Storm Mountain,” mused the young
detective. “Hiram won’t be back for some time, and I’d like to take a
look around the place all by myself. He wouldn’t mind if he knew of it,
especially when I’m trying to help him. But I’d rather not have to ask
him. This gives me a chance to get in alone.”

Bob told himself that he would go in the cabin, and he knew he could do
this, for he knew the old man never carried with him the key of the
outer door, hiding it in a secret place near the doorstep. No one had
ever yet found it, and probably Bob was the only one the old man had
taken into the secret—and this only after Bob’s attention to Hiram after
the latter was attacked when carrying home his treasure box.

“I’ll just slip in and have a look around,” decided the lad. “Maybe I
might discover something, though what it can be I don’t know. If I could
only figure out a way by which that key was put back in the room, after
the door was locked on the outside, I might begin to unravel this
mystery.”

Bob flivvered up to the log cabin, but he did not alight at once from
his little car. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t observed. Not that he
was doing anything wrong, for it was all along the line of helping Hiram
Beegle. But he felt it would be just as well to work unobserved.

Satisfied, after having sat in his auto for five minutes, that no one
was in hiding around the log cabin, and making sure that no one was
ascending or descending the Storm Mountain road, Bob ran his car in the
weed-grown drive and parked it out of casual sight behind what had once
been a hen house. But Hiram had given up his chickens as he had his
horse. They required too much care, he said.

Bob found the key where Hiram had told him it would be hidden. Then,
with a last look up and down the lonely road in front of the log cabin,
the lad entered.

Ghostly silent and still it was, his footfalls echoing through the
rooms. But Bob was not overly sentimental and he was soon pressing the
hidden spring that opened the niche where the key to the strong room was
concealed.

It was this room that held the secret, or, rather that had held it, and
it was in this room that the young detective was most interested.

“But it seems to hold its secret pretty well,” mused the lad as he
walked about it, gazing intently on the wooden walls. “There must be
some secret opening in them,” thought the boy. “Though if there was why
doesn’t Hiram know it? Or, if he knows it, why does he not admit it? Of
course he might have his own reasons for keeping quiet. I wish I could
find out!”

Bob looked, he tapped, he hammered he pounded. But all to no purpose.
The walls would not give up their secret. He even stuck his head up the
chimney flue as far as he could, thereby getting smudges of black on his
face, but this effort was no more fruitful than the others.

“The key could come down the chimney, of course,” mused Bob, “but it
couldn’t jump itself out of the ashes into the middle of the room.
That’s the puzzle.”

He had spent more time than he reckoned on in seeking the secret and he
was surprised, on looking at his watch, to find how late it was.

“I’d better be going after those two,” thought the lad. “They’ll have
fish enough by this time, if they get any at all.”

As Bob was locking the strong room, and preparing to put the key back in
its hiding place, he heard something that gave him a start. This was a
knock on the front door of the log cabin.

“Gosh! Are they back so soon?” thought the lad.

He did not realize, for the moment, that Hiram would not have knocked at
his own door. It must be some one else.

Quickly the lad closed the niche and then, going to the door opened it.

Standing on the threshold was—Pietro Margolis—the Italian music grinder.
He had with him neither his monkey nor organ, but on his face there was
a look of surprise, and he started back at the sight of Bob Dexter.

“Oh—excuse—please!” he murmured. “I t’ink to find the old man but—you
have been cleaning his chimney—maybe?”

At first Bob did not understand. Then as he looked at a daub of soot on
his hand, and remembered that there must be some on his face, he
realized how natural was the visitor’s mistake.

“Hello, Pietro!” greeted the youth. “Mr. Beegle isn’t home. I—I’ve been
doing some work for him while he’s gone fishing.”

“Yes—I see him go—with other man.”

“Hum! Maybe that’s the reason you came here—because you saw Hiram go
away,” thought Bob. But he did not say this to the Italian. The latter
carried something in a bundle, and, noting that Bob’s eyes were directed
toward it, the caller, with a white-tooth smile, opened it, revealing
some of those same strange nuts, or dried fruits he had been planting in
the bramble patch.

“I come see mebby Senor Beegle let me try plant monkey nuts on his
land,” explained Pietro.

“Mebby so they no grow where I put ’em,” and he waved his hand in the
direction of Cliffside.

“I don’t believe anything would grow, the way you planted it,” chuckled
Bob, remembering the deep holes the Italian had dug.

Pietro looked across the deserted garden. He saw where Jolly Bill had
been trying for worms.

“Senor Beegle—he dig holes, too!” exclaimed the caller. He seemed
strangely excited. “Mebby so he plant monkey nuts!”

“I don’t believe so,” stated Bob. “Hiram hasn’t any monkey. They have
been digging worms,” he explained.

“Worms—what for worms?” asked the Italian with a vacant look.

“For fishing. That’s where they are, you know—after fish.”

“Oh, sure—feesh. Well, mebby so I leave these nuts for Senor Beegle—he
plant them and try them—you t’ink?” He held the odd things out to Bob.

“You better come back and explain about them yourself,” said Bob. “I’m
going after them now. Come back to-morrow.”

“Aw-right. I come back!”

The Italian did not seem disappointed. With a patience characteristic of
his kind, he smiled and turned away. Bob watched until he saw the organ
grinder tramping down the Storm Mountain trail.

Then Bob locked up the log cabin, hid the key where he had found it and
took another road back to Cliffside in order to pick up Hiram and Jolly
Bill.

They had had good luck fishing, contrary to what Bob had expected and he
brought home to his aunt some welcome specimens of the lake. Hiram was
left at his cabin and Jolly Bill at the Mansion House.

“Well, I know one thing I’m going to do,” said Bob to himself that night
in his room. “I’m going to give a party!”

Rather a queer decision you might think, until you knew the reason for
it.

There was a room in the headquarters of the Boys’ Athletic Club
available for gatherings of various sorts. It could be hired for dances
and parties by the members or friends of the latter, and often the boys
and girls would give little affairs there.

So it did not surprise the chums of Bob Dexter to receive, in the next
few days, invitations to a little affair of this sort at the club. On
the bottom of some invitations was a line:

“Please bring peanuts.”

“What’s the idea, Bob?” asked Ned, reading this command. “Aren’t you
going to feed us?”

“Oh, yes, but the peanuts are for the monkey.”

“What monkey?”

“The organ grinder’s.”

“Is he coming to the party—I mean the dago?”

“Yes, and he’s going to bring his organ and monkey.”

For a moment Ned stared at his chum, and then, seeing that Bob was
serious, Ned broke out into a laugh.

“Oh, ho! I get you!” he chuckled. “It’s a dandy idea! Organ music and
monkey tricks at your party! Quite a stunt! Good idea!”

“Yes, I think it’s quite an idea,” said Bob quietly.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                        *THE MAN WITH THE HOOK*


Many of Bob Dexter’s friends came to his party—in fact nearly all of
them were present. Whether it was the admonition to “bring peanuts,” or
whether Ned Fuller had spread the news that there would be “something
doing” at the affair, is not clear. At any rate there was a goodly
attendance in the club, where Bob had arranged to entertain his guests.

At first even Ned had been somewhat skeptical about Bob’s expressed
intention of having “the dago,” as they jokingly called the Italian, at
the party, with his organ and monkey. And many another lad, to whom Ned
imparted the news, smiled knowingly and said:

“Aw, quit your kidding!”

“No, it’s a fact—honest!” Ned declared.

And so it proved.

For when the lads and lassies (for the girls were invited) filed into
the hall, there, in a place of honor on a platform, was the Italian
organist and his pet simian.

“Oh, but we can’t dance to that doleful music!” objected Nina Farnsworth
as she saw what some of the girls called the “orchestra.”

“Don’t worry!” laughed Blanche Richmond, “Bob has the jazz band from
Cardiff over—talk about music—my feet are aching to begin!”

Bob had his own special object in hiring Pietro to come to the party
with Jacko, and making dance music wasn’t it. In due time it shall be
made known to you.

And, knowing that his young friends liked to dance as much as he did
himself, Bob had provided the wherewithal, so to speak. Cardiff—the city
where the “elephant man” had engaged the attention of the chief and the
young detective that rainy night—Cardiff had an orchestra of young men,
noted for their jazz ability—that is if you grant it takes any ability
to play jazz music. And this Bob had engaged.

It was the custom for members of the Boys’ Athletic Club to take turns
giving little affairs, such as dances and parties, so it was not unusual
that Bob should do so.

He had been a little diffident about approaching Pietro on the matter,
but he had put it in such a way that the Italian had consented after a
little thought, and a quick, shrewd look into Bob’s face.

“You no maka bad tricks with Jacko?” he asked.

“Of course not!” cried Bob. “You and the monkey will be treated
perfectly fair. It’s just that I want a little something different at my
party—something to make the boys and girls laugh. The monkey will do
that.”

“Oh, sure! Jacko—he do many tricks. I show you!”

Bob had called on the queer Italian at the latter’s room in the Railroad
House. It was a poor enough place to live, but it suited Pietro and
others of his kind.

“Sure, the dago’s up in his room,” Mike Brennan, proprietor of the hotel
had said in response to Bob’s inquiry. “Go on up—we don’t keep elevators
or bell boys here!”

So Bob had found the man in his dirty, dingy room, with a heap of rags
in the corner for the monkey to sleep on.

“He do many fine tricks,” said the Italian, once he understood the
object of Bob’s call. And he put Jacko through his stunts.

The compensation was agreed upon, Bob giving the man a few dollars more
than he had asked, and now it was the night of the party, and Pietro,
his organ and Jacko were on hand.

“Oh, isn’t he a dear!”

“So cute!”

“Will he bite?”

“I’d love to hold him! May I?”

Thus the girls in raptures over the monkey which sat perched on his
master’s organ, his wizened face looking pathetically at the gay throng
about him.

“Jacko no bite!” murmured Pietro, and he seemed proud of the attention
his simian was attracting. “You take him!”

He held the little creature out to Nina, but she drew back with a scream
of real or pretended fright.

“I’d love to hold him!” exclaimed Mary Wilson. “Do let me! Come on, you
queer little imp!” she murmured.

The monkey whimpered but went to her and put his little hairy paw about
the girl’s neck.

“Oh, I wouldn’t do it for the _world_!” cried Nina.

“He’s a dear!” murmured Mary. “His hands are as soft as a baby’s.”

The monkey readily made friends, and he had a feast of peanuts, for all
the boys had done as Bob requested, and there were enough of the goobers
to last Jacko a year, it seemed.

“Go on—play something!” cried Bob to his organ orchestra, and the wheezy
instrument was set in operation. The boys and girls laughed,
particularly when Jacko did some of his tricks, which he performed
better to the strains of the organ, it seemed.

Then the jazz took its turn and the party was on.

This isn’t a story of Bob Dexter’s party, and I don’t propose to tell
you of the jolly times that went on there—for it was a jolly affair—no
doubting that. The jazz was of the jazziest, the monkey and organ made a
great hit, and the refreshments were all that could be desired.

But there was something more than this.

It would not have been exactly correct to say that Bob Dexter gave this
party solely for the purpose of advancing him toward a solution of the
Storm Mountain mystery—to help him discover the secret of the log cabin.
For he had been planning to give a party for six months back—before he
ever even dreamed that Hiram Beegle would be robbed of the treasure map.

However, the party now fitted well into Bob’s plans, and he took
advantage of it to carry out a scheme he wanted to try.

The party was at its merriest, and the boys and girls were gathered in a
ring about the organ grinder and his monkey, when Bob touched Ned Fuller
on the arm.

Ned, who had been tossing nuts to the monkey, turned about and, in
answer to Bob’s nod of the head, followed his chum to a quiet corner.

“What’s up?” asked Ned. “Want me to help you dish out the ice cream,
Bob?”

“No, the steward will do that.”

“But something’s up—you look serious. Those fellows haven’t got old
Hiram for good this time; have they?”

“Not that I know of. But I want you to take charge of things here for a
little while.”

“Take charge of things?”

“Yes. Take my place—act as a sort of deputy host”

“What’s the idea?”

“I’m going away for a while.”

“You aren’t sick, are you?”

“Far from it. But I want to do something. I may as well tell you what it
is, and then, if anything happens, you’ll know where I am.”

“Say, this seems like it was getting serious!” murmured Ned, looking
closely at his chum. “You haven’t caught that Rod chap, have you?”

“Well, no, not exactly, but I may get on his track, if I have luck.
Listen, Ned. I had that Italian come here to-night for a special
purpose.”

“And a good purpose it was, I’ll say if you ask me. He’s the hit of the
evening, outside of myself!” And Ned puffed out his chest.

“Stow that talk!” chuckled Bob. “But I mean I got the Italian here so he
would be out of his room at the Railroad House.”

“Ah, noble youth! Providing entertainment—to say nothing of food—for the
poor and downtrodden! Atta boy, Bob!”

“Cut it out! I don’t mean that way! I asked the dago here so he wouldn’t
be in his room.”

“Naturally if he’s here he can’t be in his room,” bantered Ned. “Two
objects can’t occupy the same place at the same time. Neither can even
an Italian organ grinder be in two places at once. Q.E.D. you know,
Bob!”

“Oh, will you be serious!”

“Is this serious?” asked Ned.

“It may be—yes. Listen! I’m going out—I’m going to take a run down to
the Railroad House and make a search through the room of this fellow.
That’s why I got him here—so as to give me a clear coast. I can run down
in my flivver and be back inside of half an hour. Can you keep things
moving that long—until I come back?”

“I’ll try, even if I have to stand on my head to amuse ’em!”

“Good boy! But don’t do anything rash. Don’t raise a rumpus, and if any
one asks for me cover my absence. Above all don’t let the dago know I’ve
gone to his dump.”

“Trust your old college chum for that, Bob. I’m Little Old On The Job
for yours truly. Shoot! When you going?”

“Right away. It will soon be time to serve the ice cream and cake, and
they can think I’m looking after that. Mum’s the word now!”

“Mum is right!” echoed Ned with a wink.

They had conversed rapidly and in low voices in one corner of the room,
while nearly all the guests were gathered about the monkey and the
Italian.

Seeing that they were likely to be thus amused for some time, Bob
slipped out. Ned was on the alert to forestall possible embarrassing
questions.

“I’m going up to the Italian’s room a minute,” said Bob to the Railroad
House proprietor, a little later.

“Help yourself,” indifferently replied Mike Brennan. “He’s out, though.”

“Yes, I know. He’s entertaining over at the Boys’ Club.”

“Oh, sure! Now I remember ye!” cried Mike. “You’re th’ lad that come and
hired him. I s’pose he forgot his music!” and he chuckled. “So ye had t’
come for it, did ye? Sure these dagos aren’t any good, though Pietro is
as decent as any. Go on up wid ye!”

Bob made his way along the dimly-lighted hall until he came to the door
of the room where the Italian slept. Bob had been in the Railroad House
before, once when it was raided by the police. He knew that the locks on
the doors were old-fashioned and that a buttonhook would open most of
them. An ordinary slender key, with one ward on it, would more than do
the trick, and Bob had several keys of the skeleton variety.

He was not surprised to find the door unlocked, when he tried it before
using any of the keys he had brought. But if he wasn’t surprised at the
ease with which he entered, he was surprised at the sight he saw when he
pushed back the portal.

For the room was lighted by a dim gas jet, partly turned down. And in
the sickly gleam Bob saw a man in the room—a man stooping over a chest
in one corner.

At first Bob believed that Pietro had gotten there ahead of him. But the
manifest impossibility of this soon made itself known to him.

The man bending over the Italian’s chest straightened up suddenly at the
noise of the opening door.

He was a man of rough appearance, and his left hand was missing. In
place of it was an iron hook—for all the world like Captain Cuttle.

With a sharp intaking of his breath, the man with the hook faced the
young detective. Bob, on his part, could not repress a gasp of surprise.

“Well!” snarled the man at last. “What do you want?”

“Who are you?” demanded the lad.

The two glared at each other in the dim light of the turned-down gas
jet.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                            *THE LAST CHORD*


Bob Dexter had to do some quick thinking. He had not counted on finding
any one in the Italian’s room, when he left the party to make a quick
survey of the sordid apartment. That is all Bob wanted to do—to look
about and either confirm or do away with certain suspicions that had
entered his mind.

For he had begun to get suspicious of Pietro, in spite of the ingenuous
ways of the smiling Italian, and the suspicions began when the man hired
the bramble patch from Judge Weston, with the avowed purpose of planting
food for the monkey.

Now that he had come, and found a stranger in the room, and a sinister
stranger, with his ugly iron hook in place of a hand and arm—Bob hardly
knew what to do or say. He could not make the inspection he wished with
this suspicious man present.

And the man with the hook was not only suspicious in himself, but he
regarded Bob with suspicion. The lad knew that at once—it was evident
not only in his manner but in his look.

Quickly Bob’s eyes roved about the room, seeking that on which he could
either build further suspicions, or begin to manufacture new ones.
However, what he wanted could not be found by a casual inspection.

What Bob was after was something to connect this man with the sea. Since
the time he had seen him idly plaiting sailors’ knots in the monkey’s
cord, the lad had had an idea, in the back of his brain, that the fellow
at one time had been a hand before the mast. But that one little slip,
if such it was—the idle tying of the odd knots—was the only evidence, so
far, that Bob had. He wanted more.

Hence, when he had decided to give his party, and had thought of hiring
Pietro, the idea had occurred to him that he could easily slip away for
a half hour or so and look through the man’s room. Some of the many
objects, associated with sailors from time immemorial, would turn the
trick and prove that Pietro was not exactly what he pretended to be—a
traveling maker of music.

Whence had come this man with the iron hook strapped fast to his arm? He
might have stepped directly from the pages of “Dombey and Son.” Who was
he?

That is what Bob wanted to know.

For perhaps half a minute—and that is a long time when under such stress
as were the two—for perhaps half a minute they remained staring at each
other—Bob tense and ready for anything that might happen—the man with
the hook ugly and suspicious.

Then, at last, the man seemed to give way to the lad. At least he did to
this extent that the angry look faded from his face, and he
laughed—albeit uneasily.

“Guess you got in the wrong room, didn’t you, lad?” asked the man. “You
don’t belong here!”

Bob resolved to chance all on a bold throw. He felt pretty certain that
Pietro had not taken in a partner. The man did not seem to be an
Italian—far from it. And neither Pietro nor the landlord had said
anything about a visitor.

Yet here was this man with the hook making himself very much at home in
Pietro’s place. So Bob resolved on a bit of bluff.

“Aren’t you in the wrong room?” came the demand again.

“No more than you are!” countered Bob shortly. “Who are you, and what
are you doing in Margolis’ place?”

The shot went home.

“Oh, you know him, do you?” asked the man.

“Of course I do!” and Bob followed up the advantage he thought he had
gained. “I hired him to play at a party for me to-night.”

Bob would have been stuck there but for something that came into his
mind. How could he explain his presence there in the absence of the
room’s rightful inmate, when he had admitted that Pietro was at the
party?

The lad, somehow, remembered that hand organs are operated by a round
piece of brass, called a “barrel,” and that on this barrel are points of
steel, like tiny pins. As the barrel revolves, to the turning of the
crank, which operates a worm gear, these points open valves, allowing
air to pass over the brass reed-tongues, thus producing “music.” Each
barrel has on it a certain number of steel points, set in such a way
that they play a set number of tunes, no more. To enable a hand organ,
or a street piano, to play other melodies it is necessary to insert
another barrel, with different pins on.

Why would not his party guests become tired of a repetition of a set
number of tunes? Wouldn’t they demand others? And to get them it would
be necessary to insert a new barrel in the organ, even as a new roll is
put in a player piano.

“I have it!” mused Bob to himself. “I came here to get another barrel so
Pietro could play other tunes. That will do the trick!”

So he spoke up and said:

“Have you seen anything of the other barrel?” He was careful not to say
that he had come for it, for that was not his original object.

“What barrel?” asked the man.

“To go in the organ—to play different tunes,” the lad explained.

“Huh! I don’t know anything about tunes!” growled the man with the hook.
“If Pietro sent you for it—all right. Take it if you can find it. But I
didn’t come here for that. What time’s he coming back from this party of
yours?”

“Oh, not for a long while yet. It’s only just started.”

“Urn! Well, I’d like to see him. I got particular business with him. He
doesn’t know I’m here, but I am!”

The man flung himself into a chair which creaked under his weight.

“Look for the barrel—or whatever it is if you like,” he growled.

But now Bob had lost all desire to explore the dirty room and its almost
as dirty contents. Suddenly another idea had come into his mind.

This man—the stranger with the hook—had claimed to be a friend to the
Italian. Otherwise he would not have been allowed to enter his room in
the absence of Pietro—as was evident he had done. Though for that matter
Mike Brennan did not operate his Railroad House with any real regard for
his guests. Those with valuable possessions did not put up at his hotel.

But this man’s air was anything but friendly. Somehow Bob got the
impression that the visit was distinctly unfriendly. The man with the
hook seemed angry. It was evident in his words and manner.

“No, I won’t disturb things,” said Bob, as he prepared to leave. “I’ll
send Pietro for it himself. He’ll know just where it is. I’ll go back
and send him.”

“And tell him to hustle back here!” growled the other. “I’ve waited long
enough—I’m getting tired. Tell him Jake Dauber is waiting for him.”

“Jake Dauber!” repeated Bob.

“That’s the name—yes—want me to write it out for you?” there was anger
and impatience in the voice.

“Oh, I think I can remember,” said Bob, vainly trying to piece together
broken bits of the puzzle that was in his mind. “I’ll tell him.”

He did not linger longer. There was no use. He could not have done what
he came for. But perhaps now there would be no need. The man with the
hook presented a new complication in the Storm Mountain mystery.

“I’ll tell him—good-night—Mr. Dauber,” murmured Bob as he stepped out
into the dim hall.

“Um!” was all the answer he received. Though the man with the hook
shouted after him: “Tell him to git a move on.”

At first Bob had, it in mind to disobey the injunction he had received.
He wasn’t going to deliver the message to the Italian. His chief
objection to this was that to do so he would have to admit having been
in the room of Pietro.

“But he’ll know it anyhow,” decided Bob. “Ill tell him, after all. Or,
rather I’ll give him the message. Then later, if Pietro wants to know
why I went to his room I can tell him I thought maybe he had another
barrel to his organ. And I really wish he had—his tunes are getting
monotonous.”

This was a way out—a fair and square way.

“I’ll tell him about the man with the hook!” decided Bob.

And when he gave the message, such a look of terror and despair came
over the face of the Italian that Bob felt sorry for him. The jazz
orchestra was playing its best or its worst, however you look at it, and
the Italian had nothing to do. The guests were dancing and had partaken
of some of the refreshments. No one seemed to have noticed the short
absence of the young detective.

“You—say—man—with hook arm?” faltered the Italian.

“Yes—at your hotel—in your room. He wants you.”

“Wants me?”

“Yes—in a hurry.”

“Oh—I—I go—but I promise you, Senor Dexter—I say I come to make monkey
do tricks at your party—I play——”

“You’ve played enough—you’ve earned your money,” said Bob with a smile.
“Better go back. That man with the hook—he’s anxious to see you. Who is
he? He says his name is Dauber.”

“He is—one devil!” hissed the Italian, as, shouldering his instrument,
and calling to his monkey, he hurried out.

“There’s going to be trouble there, if I’m any good at guessing,”
declared Bob to himself. “And after this party I’m going back to the
Railroad House and see what has happened.”

It was early morning when the last guest had gone, and Bob jumped into
his flivver, making his way to the Railroad House. Mike Brennan boasted
that he never closed, that he had “lost the key,” and couldn’t.
Consequently the place was lighted even at the hour of two in the
morning.

“What, you back again?” growled Mike, who acted as his own night clerk.

“Yes. Is that Italian here?”

“Who, Pietro and his monkey?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“You mean!” exclaimed Bob. “You mean he——”

“He’s gone—yes! Paid what he owed and skipped out—he and that feller
with the iron hook that came earlier in the evening. And say, there was
something queer between them two.”

“Something queer?” questioned Bob.

“Sure! That dago was in a sweat of fear of the man with the hook. Why,
even the monkey seemed to be scairt! I never see anything like it.
Honest I didn’t.”

“Maybe they had some sort of a quarrel,” suggested Bob.

“Maybe. Though I didn’t hear anything of that. I did hear something,
though, that made me think there was a phoney game in it.”

“What did you hear?” asked Bob.

“Why all along this dago has been calling himself Pietro—Pietro
Margolis, you know.”

“Yes,” agreed the lad.

“Well, when he was going out—after paying what he owed me—and I must say
he was fair and square—when he was going out he gave one last squeak to
his organ—queer sort of a squeak, too.”

“Yes,” said Bob. “A sort of last chord, perhaps.”

“Maybe; but then I don’t know nothing about music. But what I started to
say was this fellow’s name isn’t Pietro at all!”

“It isn’t?”

“No. This man with the hook called him Rodney!”

You could almost have knocked Bob Dexter over with a feather then.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                            *NEW SUSPICIONS*


Realizing that it would not be wise to show too much emotion and
surprise in front of Mike Brennan, the young detective controlled his
astonishment as much as possible, though it was difficult.

“Oh, well,” he murmured, as if it was the most natural thing in the
world, “maybe Rodney was Pietro’s middle name.”

“Maybe, but I don’t believe so,” asserted the proprietor of the Railroad
House. “Rodney isn’t a dago’s name at all, and, what’s more, I don’t
believe this chap is an Italian at all.”

“You don’t?” asked Bob, and then he elaborately yawned and stretched, as
though wearied with his night of pleasure, and as though what he was
hearing didn’t at all matter to him. But it did—very much.

“No, I don’t!” declared Mike Brennan.

“Well, that isn’t going to make me lose any more sleep,” declared Bob,
again yawning. “I just came to tell him something, but if he’s gone some
other time will do.” He gave the impression of elaborate indifference,
so much so as even to deceive Mr. Brennan.

“There won’t be any other time,” declared the proprietor. “This
fellow—Rodney or Pietro or whatever his name is has gone for good.”

“Good riddance, I say,” exclaimed Bob, though he didn’t really mean it.
“He wasn’t any credit to the town, playing that wheezy music and digging
holes in a bramble patch to plant monkey nuts—crazy stuff I call it. But
what makes you think he wasn’t an Italian, Mr. Brennan? He looked like
one and talked like one, and nobody but a dago would go around with a
hand organ and a monkey.”

“I don’t know about that, but when this man with the iron hook called
the other ‘Rodney,’ your hand organ man turned around and in as good
United States’ talk as I ever heard he said: ‘Shut up, you big chump. Do
you want to spill the beans?’ And that’s no kind of talk for an Italian
who pretends he can’t use English.”

“No, maybe not,” laughed Bob, though within he was far from laughing. He
saw big events just ahead of him—he saw a glimmering of daylight where
there had been darkness, in the queer mystery of Storm Mountain. “Well,
was that all?”

“Yes, except that they went off together in a sort of huff, mainly, I
think, because this man with the hook called this Pietro by a name he
hasn’t been using.”

“Oh, that man with the hook was a quarrelsome sort of chap,” observed
Bob, easily, “he had a perpetual grouch on, I’d say. It isn’t going to
worry me. I’m glad my party’s over, or those two might have called and
tried to break it up,” he finished with a laugh.

“His remark could not have been better calculated to draw a reply from
Mike Brennan—a reply that gave Bob just the information he wanted but
for which he hesitated to ask. For the hotel man said:

“Naw, they weren’t goin’ to any party! They wanted to catch the milk
train to get out of town. There was something in the wind, I’m sure of
that. And I’m just as glad they got out of my hotel. I keep a
respectable place, I do!” growled the big, burly Irishman.

He did—when he thought it served his purpose to do so. The police, more
than once, had combed Mike Brennan’s place in a search for criminals,
and Bob knew this.

“So they took the milk train, did they?” he asked.

“Yep! Got out of town as soon as they could—hand organ, monkey and all.”

“Well, then I can’t give him another job,” remarked the young detective,
as if this was the object which had brought him at that early morning
hour to the Railroad House. “We’ll have to get a man with a harp next
time we want special music,” and he laughed.

“A harp is good!” chuckled Mike Brennan. “Sure, I might have a go at
that meself! Good-night t’ you!”

“Good-night!” echoed Bob, as he jumped into his flivver. “I guess he
hasn’t tumbled,” he said to himself as he steered in the direction of
the railroad station. “I may have this all to myself yet.”

Bob’s idea is clear to you, I suppose. The name Rodney had opened up big
possibilities to him. Rodney—Rod—Rod Marbury—the suspect. And yet Mike
Brennan either had not heard this name used in connection with the
robbery at Storm Mountain, or he did not connect Rodney with Rod. For
Rod was the name most often used by the police and in the stories
circulated about the queer case.

“Rodney doesn’t mean anything to him, except that his Italian guest was
masquerading under a false name,” thought Bob to himself. “And that’s so
common he isn’t likely to talk about it. If I work fast I may pull this
thing off myself without the police coming in on it. But I’ve had a lot
of surprises to-night, and I don’t quite see all the ends of this thing.
Who was that man with the iron hook? His name was no more Dauber than
mine is, though he must have used it more than once or Pietro wouldn’t
have recognized it—no, not Pietro—Rodney Marbury—the man who has the
brass box!”

This thought excited Bob and he stepped on the gas, sending his flivver
along at a fast clip. He had had a foot gas pedal attached to his car,
enabling him to drive it more easily.

“And so he isn’t an Italian at all,” was his further musing.

“Queer I never suspected that. Though of course this Rod may be of
Italian birth—enough so as to enable him to disguise himself as a dago
organ grinder and talk broken English. He did it to perfection, though.
But hold on—wait a minute——”

Bob was doing some quick thinking and this had its effect on his speed,
for he cut along at a lively clip. However, at this hour of the early
morning the roads were practically deserted.

“If this fellow was Rodney Marbury, the shipmate of Jolly Bill and Hiram
Beegle—why didn’t either of them recognize him? They ought to, for they
saw him often enough. They had sailed with him—they went on the treasure
hunt together. And yet this supposed Italian comes to town, and passes
close to Hiram and Jolly Bill, and neither of them says a word. Hiram
ought to, if anybody would—for he was assaulted by this chap. And yet
this Pietro didn’t hang back any. He associated right with Bill and
Hiram. I can’t understand it unless——”

Bob ceased his musing for a moment and made a turn around a bad place in
the highway. He was on a straight stretch now to the station.

“Disguised!” he exclaimed aloud, the word floating out into the cool,
night air. “That’s it—he was disguised as a dago, with false hair and a
false beard, I’m sure! Queer I never thought of that. He had an awful
thick mop of hair and enough beard for a sofa cushion. But I never
tumbled. Must have been pretty well made and stuck on. Or he may have
let his own hair and beard grow—that would be the best disguise ever!
Say, I’ve missed a lot of tricks in this—I’ve got to get busy and redeem
myself. But I’m on some sort of a track now, and that’s better than
chasing off through the bushes as I’ve been doing.

“Speaking of bushes—I wonder if this Rod—or Pietro—really was planting
monkey nuts in that bramble patch or—or—jimminity crickets!” fairly
shouted Bob in his excitement—“I have it now! He was digging after the
treasure! Of course! That’s it. He had the map from the brass box and he
was searching over Hank’s land for the treasure. Why didn’t I think of
that before? Digging holes to plant monkey nuts! I might have known
nothing of that sort could have been done. He was on the search for the
treasure, of course. Oh, if I can only catch him!”

But as Bob neared the station another thought came to him.

“If he had the map, which told exactly where the treasure was buried,
why did he have to dig all over the bramble patch on a chance of finding
it? A man who buries treasure, and makes a map of it, gives the exact
location so he can find it again, or so he can direct those whom he
wants to find it.

“Now Hank buried the treasure and he made a map of it so Hiram, coming
after him, could find it. Hiram isn’t any too well educated so the map
would have to be fairly simple. Any one could read it.

“Then this Rodney could follow the directions, and if he had the map he
could have gone at once to the right spot and dug up the treasure.
Instead he digs holes all over the bramble patch. What’s the answer?

“He didn’t have the map—of course. Or, if he did, he didn’t know how to
read it. The answer is that he didn’t have it and was making a blind
hunt.

“Then, if he didn’t have the map who has it? Who is the other party most
interested?”

There was but one answer to this. New suspicions were fast forming in
the mind of Bob Dexter—new suspicions which might mean the solving of
the Storm Mountain mystery.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                             *NEW TACTICS*


With a grinding and squeaking of the brakes, which was a reminder to Bob
that he must get some new lining, the little car came to a stop near the
silent and deserted railroad station in Cliffside. Deserted it was save
for the presence of the lone agent in the ticket office, as evidenced by
a gleam of light shining out into the cold and clammy mists of the
night.

The milk train had just left, Bob knew. If he had hoped to intercept
either the man with the hook or the man with the monkey he was
disappointed, but Bob did not show any signs of this.

“Hello, Mr. Dawson,” he greeted the agent, who peered wonderingly out at
him through the brass bars of his window.

“Well, bless my ticket stamp—if it isn’t Bob Dexter!” exclaimed the
agent. “What in the world are you doing here at this hour? The milk
train’s gone, Bob!”

“I know it. Heard her pulling up Storm Mountain.”

“And there isn’t another until the accommodation at 5:15.”

“Which I’m not going to take, thank goodness.”

“Well, then—” there was mild questioning in the agent’s voice.

“It’s just a private matter I’m working on, Mr. Dawson,” said Bob,
making sure no early morning travelers were sitting on the deserted
benches in the dimly-lighted waiting room of the station.

“Oh, up to your old tricks, eh, Bob?” The agent knew the reputation the
lad was earning for himself.

“Something like that—yes.”

“Another Jennie Thorp case, Bob?”

“Not exactly. But tell me, Mr. Dawson, did a couple of men get on the
milk train just now?”

“Yes—two men—one with an iron hook in place of a hand.”

“Those are the ones. The other was a fellow with a big bunch of whiskers
and hair enough to stuff a sofa pillow, and a hand organ and a monkey.”

“No, Bob, not exactly.”

“Not exactly—what do you mean, Mr. Dawson?”

“I mean there wasn’t any man with a hand organ and a monkey.”

“Oh, well, he could have left that behind, though what the poor monk
will do I don’t know. Anyhow he had a lot of hair and whiskers, didn’t
he?”

“No, Bob,” answered the agent, “he didn’t. You got that one man right—he
had a hook all right. But the other was smooth-shaved and his hair
wasn’t any longer than mine.”

Bob was staggered for a minute. Then a light broke in on him.

“Of course!” he cried. “He could have taken off the false beard and wig,
or have stopped long enough, somewhere, to get a hair cut and a shave.”

“He had a shave, Bob, I’ll testify to that. I was close to him when he
bought the tickets.”

“Bought tickets, did he? Where to, Mr. Dawson?”

“Perry Junction.”

“Um, down where they can catch the fast trains. But there aren’t so many
trains at this time of the morning. Maybe I can nab them yet.”

“What are you going to do, Bob?” asked Mr. Dawson, as the lad started
from the station.

“I’m going to take the short cut to Perry Junction. I can beat the milk,
for it’s got half a dozen stops between here and there to pick up cans.
I want to see these fellows.”

“Better not take any chances with them, Bob,” advised Mr. Dawson. “They
didn’t look like very nice customers, especially that man with the iron
hook. If he made a dig at you with that—zowie, boy!” The agent drew in
his breath sharply.

“Don’t worry—I’m not going to take any chances, Mr. Dawson. I’m going to
stop and pick up an officer at headquarters.”

“I think that’s wise. I didn’t like the looks of these chaps from the
time they came in. I was suspicious of them, and I thought I might be in
for a hold-up, until I remembered that I didn’t have enough money on
hand to make it worth while. But they were civil enough.”

“And you say the man with the smooth face bought the tickets?”

“Yes—two, for Ferry Junction.”

“Did he talk like an Italian?”

“No, Bob, I can’t say he did. Talked like as American, as far as I could
judge.”

“Then he must have dropped his pretended Italian jargon along with his
hair and whiskers,” thought the young detective. “Well, things are
beginning to work out—though what the end will be I can’t tell.” Aloud,
to the agent, he said:

“Well, I guess I’ll be getting along if I’m going to beat the milk,
though that won’t be so hard. She’s got a bad grade ahead of her up
Storm Mountain. Much obliged for your information, Mr. Dawson.”

“Don’t mention it, Bob. Hope you make out all right with your case.”

“Thanks, I hope I do.”

“I reckon, before long, you’ll be on the police force of some big city,
Bob.”

“No such luck as that, Mr. Dawson. But that’s what I’m working for.
Good-night.”

“Good-morning, you mean!” chuckled Mr. Dawson as he smiled at the lad.
“It’ll soon be daylight.”

So it will. Well, I’ve got to get a hustle on.

The young detective found Constable Tarton on night duty at police
headquarters. Mr. Tarton had considerable respect for Bob, for he knew
of the outcome of the case of the Golden Eagle. In fact Caleb would
rather work with Bob than with Chief Miles Duncan.

So it was with eagerness that Mr. Tarton agreed to accompany the lad in
the flivver to Perry Junction, there, if need arose, to make an arrest
on suspicion.

“I’ll just wake up Sim Nettlebury, and let him take charge of matters,”
the constable said with a chuckle. “Not that anything is likely to
happen in Cliffside at this hour of the morning, but I got to follow
regulations. Sim won’t like it, though, being woke up.”

Sim didn’t, as was evident from his grumbles and growls as the night
constable aroused him in the room over the main office of police
headquarters. A certain proportion of the limited police force of
Cliffside slept on the premises, taking turns the different nights.

“Now I’m ready to go with you, Bob,” announced Mr. Tarton, as the
half-awake Sim, rubbing his eyes, tried to find a comfortable place
behind the desk with its green-shaded lamp.

Bob Dexter had thought out his plan carefully, and yet he was not at all
sure of the outcome. The identity of Rod Marbury, the man suspected of
assaulting Hiram and stealing the brass-bound box, with Pietro Margolis
was a surprise to the young detective. How the man with the iron hook
fitted into the mystery Bob could not yet fathom.

But that something had occurred between the two to make Rod leave off
his disguise, and hurry out of town was evident.

“He fooled Hiram and he fooled Jolly Bill,” thought Bob. “The question
is now can he fool me. I was taken in by his monkey nuts, but from now
on I’ll be on my guard. And yet I don’t believe he took the brass box.
But he may know who did. The man with the iron hook couldn’t have—I’m
sure. Hiram never mentioned such a character, and he would have done so,
I’m sure, if there had been any such character to mention. You don’t
meet a man with an iron hook every day. Well, it may be working out—this
Storm Mountain mystery—but it’s doing so in a queer way.”

“All set, Bob,” said the constable, as he got in the flivver.

“Let’s go!” was the grim rejoinder.

The roads were clear of traffic, save for an occasional farmer bringing
to town, for the early market, a load of produce. And, as Bob had said,
he could take a short cut, intercepting the milk train, almost before it
reached Perry Junction. The train, as the lad had stated, would have to
make a number of stops to pick up cans of milk which the dairymen had
left at the different stations along the route.

“Those fellows must have been in a desperate hurry, Bob, to take the
milk train,” said the constable, as they jolted along side by side in
the flivver.

“Hurry—on the milk?” laughed Bob.

“Well, I mean in a hurry to get out of town. Of course the train is a
slow-poke, but they could get out of Cliffside on her, and that’s what
they wanted, maybe.”

“That’s so,” agreed Bob. “I didn’t think of that”

“Think of what?” asked Caleb Tarton.

“Oh—nothing much. Hold fast now, here’s a bit of rough road.”

It was rough—so much so that at the speed which Bob drove all the
constable could do was to hold on. And he didn’t dare open his mouth to
ask questions for fear of biting off his tongue.

Which, perhaps, was Bob’s object. I’m not saying it was, but it would
have been a good way to insure silence.

Then they got onto a smooth, concrete highway, leading directly to Perry
Junction. A faint light was showing, now, in the east.

“Soon be sun-up, Bob,” remarked Mr. Tarton.

“Yep. It’s been a long night, I’ll say. I haven’t been to bed yet”

“You haven’t?”

“No. I ran off a party. Then I ran onto this clew and I’ve been busy on
it ever since.”

“Well, we’ll soon know what’s what, Bob. There’s the station right ahead
of us.”

“Yes, and here comes the milk,” added Bob, as a shrill whistle cut the
keen, morning air.

“We’re just about in time,” remarked the constable.

Perry Junction was not a station of any importance save that certain
fast trains stopped there to pick up passengers from other points along
the line. And it was evidently the object of the two men to take
advantage of this. Bob had made his plans well, and they would have
worked out admirably save for one thing.

The two men he was after weren’t on the train. A simple thing, but it
loomed big.

Bob and the constable leaped from their flivver as the milk train drew
to a screeching stop, and the two hid themselves behind a corner of the
station. It was now light enough so that they could see who got off the
milk train. But the man with the iron hook and the man who had been
masquerading as an organ grinder, were not among the passengers that
alighted.

“Looks like they give us the slip, Bob,” observed Mr. Tarton.

“Yes, it does. But they may be on there yet. This isn’t the end of the
milk run. I’ll ask the conductor.”

The latter was walking up and down the platform waiting for the
completion of loading on more rattling cans of milk. He knew Bob, and
greeted him.

“Man with an iron hook?” questioned the ticket puncher. “Yes, he got on
at Cliffside.”

“Was there another man with him—a smooth-shaved man?”

“Yes, Bob, there was. I didn’t have many passengers—we seldom do this
time of year, with the excursion business over. But I remember those
two.”

“They had tickets for Perry Junction, didn’t they?”

“Yes, now I recall it, they did.”

“But they aren’t here.”

“No, Bob, they got off somewhere between Tottenville and Andover. I
noticed them at Tottenville, but I didn’t see them at Andover.”

“But there isn’t a station between those two places.”

“No station, Bob, but we stop at three white posts to pick up milk.
Farm-stations we call them—not regular stops for any except my train.
These fellows could have gotten off anywhere along there, and they
probably did.”

“Shucks!” ejaculated Bob. “That’s it! I might have known they wouldn’t
give themselves away by coming to the place for which they have tickets.
They got off at some place where they wouldn’t be noticed. Well, I guess
we might as well go back,” he told the constable.

“How about searching the train?” asked the latter eagerly. “They might
be concealed somewhere on board, Bob.”

“No, I don’t think so,” said the conductor. “They just dropped off at
one of the white post stops between Tottenville and Andover. Why, was
there anything wrong about them?”

“Suspicions, mostly, that’s all,” said Bob.

The last can rattled aboard, the conductor gave the signal, the engineer
gave two toots to the whistle and the milk train pulled away from Perry
Junction.

“Guess they had you barkin’ up the wrong tree, didn’t they, Bob?” asked
the constable as they rode on back to Cliffside.

“In a way, yes. But, after all, maybe it’s just as well it turned out
like this.”

“Just as well, Bob? Why, don’t you want to help find the rascal that
robbed Hiram?”

“Yes, but I don’t believe either of these fellows did.”

“Who did then?”

“That’s what I’m going to find out.”

It was with this end in view that, two days later, Bob paid a visit to
the Mansion House where Jolly Bill Hickey was still staying. Bob had a
long talk with Nelson Beel, the proprietor.

“Certainly, Bob, I’ll let you do it,” was the permission given. “But I
don’t like any disturbance about my place.”

“There won’t be any, Mr. Beel, I promise you that. It will all be done
very quietly.”

“All right, Bob, go to it.”

Thereupon the young detective began some new tactics.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                            *THE BRASS BOX*


Nearly every town, or small city has, or had at one time, a large hotel
known as the “Mansion House.” In this Cliffside was no exception, and
the chief hostelry bore that name. It was a big, rambling, old-fashioned
structure and, in its day, had housed many a “gay and festive scene,” to
quote the Cliffside _Weekly Banner_ which once ran a series of stories
about famous men and places in the community.

However, though the Mansion House may once have had such a distinction
as being a place (one of several thousand) where George Washington
stayed overnight, now were its glories departed, and it was but an
ordinary hotel. Some old residents, who had given up their homes, lived
there the year around. It was the stopping place of such traveling men,
or drummers, who occasionally came to the place, and the annual
“assembly ball” was held there.

Being an old-fashioned hotel it had many connecting and adjoining rooms,
with doors between, and transoms of glass over the said doors. It was a
“family” hotel, to use the expression Mr. Beel often applied to his
place.

Consequently it wasn’t difficult for Bob Dexter to secure a place of
observation near the room where Jolly Bill Hickey had elected to stay
for a time.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” Bill had said to Mr. Beel, when
Bob drove him to the place the morning of the discovery of the crime on
Storm Mountain.

“Stay as long as you like—we’ll try and make you welcome!” Mr. Beel had
said with the bluff heartiness that characterized him when greeting a
new guest.

“And you’re sure no one will object to my wooden leg?” asked Jolly Bill.

“Huh! I’d like to see ’em!” snapped out the proprietor. “You got just as
good a right to have a wooden leg as another man has to have two of
flesh and blood, I reckon.”

“Thanks. I’ll do my best not to make any trouble.”

So had Jolly Bill taken up his residence, and his reference to having a
“few shots left in the locker” to pay his way was amply borne out, for
he met his weekly bills with great regularity.

“There’s a little cubbyhole of a room next to his,” Mr. Beel had said
when Bob broached his new tactics. “It used to be used to store
drummers’ trunks in, when Cliffside did a bigger business than it does
now. You can get in there and look over the transom if you like.”

“Well, I’ll try it. Maybe it will be a longer session than I anticipate.
But don’t let it be known that I’m there.”

“I won’t, Bob. You can slip in any time you like. I’ll furnish you with
a key. And you’ll have a good excuse in being here.”

“Yes—arranging for the annual banquet of the Boys’ Club.”

For there was such a function, and it was always held at the Mansion
House, the club house not being large enough. Bob had gone to the
trouble of getting himself appointed a member of the Banquet Committee,
and though it was still some weeks before that affair would take place,
it gave sufficient excuse, in case he was questioned, to account for his
presence in the hotel.

Thus it was arranged and Bob, deserting his friends and relatives for
the time being, took up his quarters in the little cubbyhole of a room,
adjoining that which harbored Jolly Bill and his wooden leg.

Just what Bob hoped to find out or prove he hardly knew in his own mind.
Certainly he did not tell Ned or Harry, for he couldn’t. It was all so
vague—merely a suspicion.

“What’s got into old Bob lately?” asked Harry of Ned, a few days after
the futile chase of the milk train.

“Oh, he’s working on that Storm Mountain mystery, you can depend on
that.”

“Has he said anything to you about it?”

“Nothing special. Bob never does when he’s following close on a clew.
But he said he might not see us for a few days.”

“Well, I guess we’d just better let him alone.”

“Sure. He won’t thank us for butting in, and if he wants any help he
knows we’ll give it to him.”

“Sure.”

Thereupon the two chums had gone off nutting again, leaving Bob Dexter
to his own devices.

Taking advantage of the fact that there were few late arrivals in the
Mansion House, which, unlike the Railroad hotel, did not keep open all
night, Bob made his entry as an unregistered guest in his little room
about two o’clock one morning. Mr. Beel was the only one around at the
time.

“Good luck to you, Bob,” the proprietor had said, as he watched the lad
enter his room quietly. “He’s in there,” and he motioned to the
apartment of Jolly Bill and his wooden leg.

Bob’s first activity, after settling himself, was to mount on a chair
and examine, as best he could in the feeble light of one electric bulb
in his room, the transom over the door between his apartment and that of
Jolly Bill.

At one time these two rooms had formed part of a suite, but when there
was little call except for single rooms, the transom had been closed and
painted black to prevent surreptitious views from one room to the other.

“And the paint’s on my side,” exclaimed Bob. “That makes it easier. I’ll
scrape a peep-hole in the morning, after Jolly Bill goes out.”

Bob was concentrating his efforts and suspicions on this wooden-legged
sailor now, since all efforts to trace the man with the iron hook, and
his companion, had failed.

Bob did not sleep very well the remainder of that night. His mind was
too filled with the possibilities that might follow his action. But
toward morning he fell asleep, and the early winter sun was quite high
when he opened his eyes.

“Gosh,” he exclaimed in a whisper. “I ought to have been up long ago.
Wonder if he’s gone out?”

He listened but could hear no sound from the next room.

“I wish I hadn’t gone to sleep,” mused Bob, rather chagrined at himself.
“Maybe he’s flown the coop and gone out on the milk train.”

But he was reassured, a little later, by hearing the voice of Jolly Bill
himself. The voice followed a knock on his door—evidently a summons to
arise—for there were no room telephones in the Mansion House. A
chambermaid or bell boy had to come up and knock on the doors of guests
to arouse them in case they requested such attention.

“All right I All right!” sounded the voice of the man with the wooden
leg. “All right! I’m getting up! Got lots to do to-day!”

This was rather amusing, from the fact that since he had arrived in
Cliffside Jolly Bill had done nothing in the line of work—unless digging
worms to go fishing could be so called.

“All right! I’m on the job, too!” said Bob, silently to himself. Quickly
he mounted to a chair which raised him so that he could look through the
transom over his door. He moved silently. He did not want Bill to know,
if it could be avoided, that there was a guest in the next room.

With the point of a knife blade, Bob removed a little of the black paint
on his side of the transom. It gave him a peep-hole and he applied his
eye to it.

Rather a mean and sneaking business, this of spying through peep-holes,
the lad thought. The only consolation was that he was going through it
in a good cause—his desire to bring criminals to justice and aid Hiram
Beegle.

To Bob’s delight he found that he had a good view of the interior of
Jolly Bill’s room, and he had sight of that individual himself, sitting
on the edge of his bed and vigorously stretching himself as a
preliminary to his morning ablutions.

Bill’s wooden leg was unstrapped from the stump, and lay on a chair near
him, as did the heavy cane he used to balance himself, for he was a
stout man.

“It couldn’t be better—if it works out the way I think it will,” mused
the lad. Eagerly and anxiously he watched now for the next move on the
part of the old sailor. For it was on this move that much might depend.

Having stretched himself, and rubbed his eyes to remove therefrom as
much as possible of the “sleep,” by a process of dry washing, Jolly Bill
prepared for his day’s activities by reaching out for his wooden leg.

“Now,” whispered Bob to himself, as he stood gazing through his
peep-hole in the painted transom, “am I right or am I wrong? It won’t
take long to tell if things work out the way I expect they will. Steady
now!” he told himself.

Jolly Bill pulled his wooden leg toward him as he sat on the bed. He
must strap it on before he could begin stumping about to begin his day
of “work,” whatever that mysterious occupation was.

And then, as Bob watched, the old sailor, with a look toward the window,
to make sure the shades were pulled down, plunged his hand into the
interior of his wooden leg.

This artificial limb, like many of its kind, was hollow to make it
lighter. There was quite a cavity within.

Another look toward the curtained window, but never a glance did Jolly
Bill bestow on the painted transom over the door between his room and
the cubbyhole. Why should he look there? No one had occupied it since he
had been in the Mansion House. And it was unoccupied when Bill went to
bed last night. He had made sure of that as he always did. But Bob had
come in since.

And then, as the young detective peered through his peep-hole, he saw a
sight which thrilled him.

For, from the hollow interior of his wooden leg, Jolly Bill pulled out
the brass-bound box that had been so mysteriously stolen from the strong
room of Hiram Beegle—the strong room which was locked in such a queer
way, with the key inside and the criminal outside.

Jolly Bill held up the brass box, and smiled as he observed it.

“I guess,” he murmured, “I guess it’s about time I had another go at
you, to see if I can get at what you mean. For blessed if I’ve been able
to make head or tail of you yet! Not head or tail!”

And, sitting on the bed, his wooden leg beside him, Jolly Bill Hickey
began fumbling with the brass box.

The eyes of Bob Dexter shone eagerly.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                           *SOLVING A PUZZLE*


Many a detective, amateur or professional, having seen what Bob Dexter
saw through the scratched hole in the painted transom, would have rushed
in and demanded the box which held the secret of the buried treasure.
But Bob knew that his case was only half completed when he discovered
who had the box.

Up to within a few days ago he had suspected the mysterious and missing
Rod Marbury. But with the linking up of that character with the organ
grinder, and the departure of the latter with the hook-armed man, Bob
had to cast some new theories.

Now he had succeeded beyond his wildest hopes, but still he was not
ready to spring the trap. There were many things yet to be established.

True, there was the brass box, and as Bill, with his wooden leg not yet
strapped to his stump sat looking at it on the edge of his bed, Bob
could not but believe that it was the treasure box willed to Hiram
Beegle, and stolen from that old sailor.

The half-whispered, exulting words of Jolly Bill himself as he eagerly
eyed the box proved it to be the one sought. But Bill’s words also
indicated that there was still some mystery connected with the
casket—some secret about it that needed solving.

For the wooden-legged man had said:

“I’ve not been able to make head or tail of you—not head or tail!”

That indicated a failure to ascertain the hiding place of the gold
buried by Hank Denby.

“But Bill’s had a try for it,” mused Bob as he watched the man. “That
digging of fish worms was only a bluff. He was digging to see if the
treasure might not be buried on Hiram’s place.

“And that story of monkey nuts—that was bluff, too. The Italian, or
whatever Rod is, was digging for the treasure. But he didn’t have
whatever is in the box to guide him. Now I wonder what’s in that box?”

Bob did not have to wait long in wonder, for the wooden-legged man,
after fumbling with what seemed to be a complicated lock or catch,
opened the brass-bound box, and took out a folded paper. That was all
there was in the box it seemed, bearing out Hiram’s story to the effect
that Hank had left him directions for finding the treasure—a most
peculiar proceeding. But then the whole story of digging up the treasure
on the South Sea island was peculiar—like a dream, Bob thought.
Sometimes he found himself doubting the whole yarn.

But there was a paper in the brass box, that was certain, and Jolly Bill
had gone to considerable trouble, not to say risk, in securing it. He
had played his cards well, not to have been suspected by Hiram, Bob
thought.

“But if Bill, smart as he is, can’t make head or tail of that paper,
which tells where the treasure is buried, how can Hiram do so?” mused
Bob. “He hasn’t as much education as Bill has. They were all common
sailors, though Hank may have been the best educated—he probably was.
But he would know Hiram couldn’t solve any complicated directions for
digging up buried treasure, so he would have to leave him simple rules
to follow.

“Now if Bill can’t make head or tail of it, how could Hiram be expected
to?” That was bothering Bob now more than he liked to admit. But he was
far from giving up the quest. He must watch Bill.

The one-legged sailor, unconscious that he was being observed in his
“undress uniform,” was eagerly looking over the paper. He held it
right-side up, and upside down. He turned it this way and that, and held
it up to the light. But all to no purpose as indicated by his slowly
shaking head.

“No, I can’t make head or tail of you, and that’s a fact,” he said with
a sigh. “I’ll have to get help on this. But I don’t want to if I don’t
have to. If I could only get Hiram to talk he might give me the lead I
want. I’ll have another go at Hiram, I guess. He doesn’t suspect
anything yet.”

Bill returned the paper to the little casket, closed the lid with a snap
and then put the brass box back in the interior of his wooden leg.
Having done this Bill proceeded to get dressed for the day.

And Bob Dexter prepared to make so quiet an exit from the Mansion House
that the old sailor would not know he had been there. To this end Bob
left before Bill was downstairs, slipping out the back way as arranged
with Mr. Beel.

In first planning his work looking to the discovery of the thief who had
taken Hiram’s box, Bob Dexter had in mind a very spectacular bit of
play. It was based on some of the stories of celebrated detectives—real
or imagined sleuths.

How Bob had come, by a process of elimination, to suspect that Jolly
Bill was the thief, I think you can reason out for yourselves. If not I
shall disclose it to you. Sufficient now to say that Bob did suspect
Jolly Bill, and with good reason, though there was one big gap in the
sequence of steps leading to the crime. And that was to learn how the
key had been put back in the room where the unconscious Hiram lay. But
of that more later.

As I say, Bob had in mind a daring bit of work as soon as he discovered
for a fact that Bill had the box. This was nothing more or less than a
false alarm of fire at the Mansion House. Bob reasoned that if the cry
of fire were to be shouted Bill, and all the other guests, would at once
rush to save that which they considered most valuable. And that if Bill
kept the brass box locked somewhere in his room, he would rush to get it
out, Bob fully believed.

However the discovery that the sailor kept the box in what, to him, was
the best hiding place in the world, namely his wooden leg, made it
unnecessary for Bob to go to the length he had planned.

Bill, himself, had given away the secret. The box was always with him.
It was only necessary to take off his wooden leg and the secret of the
treasure would be laid bare, so to speak.

“That is I’ll get the directions for finding the gold,” mused Bob. “But
whether I can make any sense of the directions is another matter.
However, well have a try.”

Bob’s first act, after emerging from the hotel by the back way, was to
go home and get a good breakfast. He was just in time to eat with his
uncle who was preparing to leave for his office.

“Well, Bob, you’re quite a stranger,” said Mr. Dexter, smiling.

“Yes,” admitted the lad. “But I’m going to be at home more, from now
on.”

“I do hope so,” sighed his aunt. “I’m so worried about you, Bob! You
aren’t going to get into danger, are you?”

“No, indeed, Aunt Hannah.”

“Well, I know one thing he’s going to get into next week,” said Uncle
Joel dryly.

“What’s that?” asked Bob.

“School,” was the laconic reply. “School opens next week.”

“I shan’t be sorry,” replied Bob. “I’ll clean up this case and be glad
to get back to my books. There’s a lot of fun at school.”

But there yet remained considerable work to be done on the Storm
Mountain mystery and the solving of the secret of the log cabin. To this
end the young detective visited Hiram Beegle in the lonely shack that
morning. To the old sailor Bob told certain things, and certain things
he didn’t tell him. But what he said was enough to cause Hiram to sit
down and write Jolly Bill a letter, a letter worded as Bob suggested.

Whether it was this letter, or because he wanted to see his old messmate
is not certain, but, at any rate, Jolly Bill Hickey called at the log
cabin next day. And Bob Dexter was there.

So, also, were Bob’s chums, Ned and Harry. None of the lads, however,
was in evidence, being in fact, concealed in the strong room—that same
room which had been so mysteriously locked after the theft of the brass
box.

Bob had given up, for the time being, any attempt to solve the mystery
of the key. He found it better to concentrate on one thing at a time,
and the principal matter was to get Hiram into possession of the
treasure that was rightfully his.

“What do you want us to do, Bob?” asked Ned as, with Harry, he sat in
the strong room, waiting the development of the plot.

“Well, well have to be guided pretty much by circumstances,” Bob
answered. “Jolly Bill is coming here, and Hiram is going to talk to him.
Bill doesn’t know we’re here. At least I hope he doesn’t. Perhaps you’d
just better leave it to me. Follow me when I go out and back me up.”

“Sure well do that,” promised Harry.

So they waited and, in due time, Bill came stumping up the path. He had
engaged a taxicab, or one of the decrepit autos in Cliffside which
passed for such, and so rode up to the log cabin in style. At Bob’s
suggestion, Hiram had offered to pay for the taxi, in order to insure
Bill’s presence.

“Well, here I am, old timer! Here’s your old friend Jolly Bill Hickey!
Here’s your old messmate!” greeted the one-legged man as he clapped
Hiram heartily on the shoulder. “We must stick together, messmate.
You’ve had hard luck and I’ve had hard luck. Now well stick together.”

“He’ll stick Hiram all right, if he gets the chance,” whispered Ned.

“Quiet,” urged Bob, who was listening at the keyhole of the strong room,
the door of which was closed, but not locked.

After some general conversation, during which Bill emphasized his
friendship for Hiram, the one-legged man asked:

“Haven’t you any idea, Hiram, where old Hank would be likely to bury
that treasure of his? If you had you could go dig it up, you know,
without waiting to find the box with the map in. If you had an idea, you
know, I could help you dig. I only got one leg, that’s true, but I can
dig. Look how I dug the fish worms.”

“Yes, you did dig worms, Bill,” admitted Hiram gently. “And I don’t see
how you did it. It must have hurt your leg—I mean the stump where your
wooden leg is fastened on. Why don’t you take off your wooden leg, Bill,
and rest yourself. Come on, take off your wooden leg.”

“What’s that!” cried Bill, with more emphasis than the simple request
seemed to call for. “Take off my leg? I guess not! I only take it off
when I go to bed.”

“Well, take it off now, and go to bed,” urged Hiram. He was following a
line of talk suggested by Bob, though the latter had not disclosed the
reason therefor.

“What—take off my wooden leg and go to bed—in the morning?” cried Bill.
“You must be crazy, Hiram! What’s gotten into you?”

“I want to see you take off that wooden leg, Bill,” was the mild reply.
“I’d like to see that wooden leg off you.”

“Well, you aren’t going to see it off me!” snapped out Jolly Bill, who
was anything but that now. “I’m not going to take off my wooden leg to
please any one! There’s something wrong with you, Hiram. I can tell
that.”

His voice was suspicious. Bob looked toward his silent chums. The time
to act was approaching.

“You won’t take off your wooden leg, Bill?” asked Hiram.

“Not for anybody—not until I go to bed!” declared the other vigorously.

“Well, then, it’s time you went to bed!” cried Bob, as he swung open the
door and walked out into the main room of the log cabin, closely
followed by Ned and Harry.

“Wha—what—what’s the meaning of this?” cried Jolly Bill, when he could
get his breath. “What—why, it’s my friend Bob!” he cried, with seeming
pleasure as he arose and stumped forward with extended hands. “My old
friend Bob. Shake with Jolly Bill!”

“We’ll shake your leg—that’s all we’ll shake!” cried Ned, taking his cue
from what Bob had said.

“And you might as well go to bed now,” added Harry.

Jolly Bill was standing near a couch, and suddenly, with a gentle push,
Harry sent him backward so that he fell, full length on this improvised
bed.

So sudden was the push, gentle as it was, that it took away the breath
of Jolly Bill. He gasped and spluttered on the couch, trying in vain to
raise his head, for Ned was holding him down. And as a horse cannot rise
if you hold his head down, so, neither, can a man, and Bill was in just
this situation.

“Let me up, you young rascals! Let me up! I’ll have the law on you for
this! I’ll call the police! What do you mean? Hiram, what’s the game?
You asked me here to talk about the treasure—you said you might divide
it, and now—stop! stop!” yelled Jolly Bill.

And well might he yell “stop!” for he felt many hands fumbling at his
wooden leg. Hands were unbuckling the straps that held the wooden limbs
to his stump. And Hiram’s hands were among these.

“Stop! Stop!” angrily cried Bill. “What are you doing to me?”

“Taking off your leg—that’s all,” answered Bob quietly as he finally
pulled the wooden member away from its owner. “But it isn’t going to
hurt you, Jolly Bill. This is all we want—now you may have your leg back
again!”

As Bob spoke he pulled from the hollow interior of the wooden limb the
brass-bound box. At the sight of it Hiram raised a cry of delight.

“That’s mine! That’s mine!” he shouted. “It was stolen from me! It holds
the secret of the buried treasure. And you had it all the while, Bill
Hickey. You tried to rob me! Give me that box! Scoundrel!”

Bob, with a smile, passed it over. Nor could he cease smiling at the
look of chagrin in the face of Jolly Bill Hickey. That individual seemed
in a daze as he fumbled at his wooden leg and looked within the hollow
of it.

“Empty! Gone!” he gasped.

“Yes, Bill, the jig is up for you,” remarked Bob. “You had your try at
solving the puzzle, but you couldn’t make head or tail of it, could you?
Not head or tail!”

At hearing repeated to him the very words he had used in reference to
the brass box, Bill turned pale.

“Wha—what’s it all about? Who are you, anyhow?” he gasped and there was
a look of fear on his face as he gazed at Bob.

“He’s just an amateur detective, that’s all,” chuckled Harry.

“But I guess he’s solved this mystery,” added Ned.

“No, not quite all,” admitted Bob with a smile. “We have yet to find the
treasure. Bill had a try at it, but he couldn’t locate it. Now we’ve got
to solve the puzzle. Do you mind opening that box, Mr. Beegle? It isn’t
difficult. The difficulty lies inside, I think.

“And don’t try any of your tricks, Bill Hickey,” he sternly warned the
wooden-legged sailor, who was still holding his artificial limb with a
look of wonder on his face. “If things turn out all right, and Hiram
doesn’t want to make a complaint against you, we’ll let you stump off.
But if you cut up rough—we’ll have the police here in no time.”

“I’m not going to cut up rough,” said Bill, humbly enough, “But you
won’t make anything out of that,” he added, as Hiram drew a folded paper
from the brass box. “I tried. I might as well admit it, for you seem to
know all about it,” he went on. “I tried but I couldn’t make head or
tail of it. There’s no sense to it. I don’t believe there is any
treasure. I believe Hank used it all up himself and then left this silly
paper to tease you, Hiram. It’s a lot of bosh!”

And when Bob Dexter and his chums glanced at the paper they were
inclined to agree with Jolly Bill, who now was far from what his name
indicated.

For written in a plain, legible hand in black ink on what seemed to be a
bit of old parchment, was this strange message:

    It will not do to dignify, or, let us say, to magnify a sun
    spot. For ten million years thousands of feet have, to give them
    their due, tried to travel east or west, and have not found ten
    of these spots. The sunny south of the Red Sea makes a gateway
    that entices many away from their post of duty. In summer cows
    eat buttercups and they fatten up a lot.

“Whew!” ejaculated Ned as he read this. “What does it mean?”

“Reads like some of the stuff we have to translate in High School,”
added Harry.

“It’s a puzzle, that’s what it is,” said Bob. “But we’ll have to solve
it. Now, Mr. Beegle——”

“Look out—there he goes!” cried the sailor, as he jumped toward the
door. But he was too late to intercept Bill Hickey who, having strapped
on his wooden leg, was now pegging away at top speed down the trail from
Storm Mountain.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                             *THE TREASURE*


“Let him go,” suggested Bob with a laugh. “His game’s played out and he
knows it. No use arresting him and having a long-drawn out case in the
police court. That is if you’re satisfied, Mr. Beegle?”

Hiram looked a bit disappointed at the escape of Jolly Bill. The old
sailor was accustomed to seeing punishment meted out to those who
deserved it. And certainly Bill deserved something in this line. But,
after all, Hiram was a bit of a philosopher.

“If he isn’t taking away any of my treasure with him, I don’t mind
letting him go,” he said, as he stood in his doorway and watched Bill
stumping off down the rugged trail.

“No, he won’t take any of the treasure with him,” said Bob. “I’ll
guarantee that. But whether we can find it or not is another question.
Bill tried his best and didn’t succeed.”

“I don’t see how anybody could succeed with this to work on,” complained
Ned as he looked at the seeming jumble of words which had been written
down by Hank Denby, to guide his heir to the buried treasure, and to
keep others from finding it. It looked as if he might succeed in keeping
it even from the one entitled to it. “There’s no making any sense of
this,” concluded Ned, dubiously.

“Oh, we haven’t had a real try at it yet,” said Bob, cheerfully. “Let’s
go at it systematically. But first I’d like to clear up a few loose
ends. Do you know anything about this man with the hook arm, Mr. Beegle?
The one who calls himself Jake Dauber, and who went off with Rod in such
a hurry?”

“No, he’s a stranger to me,” answered the old sailor. “He wasn’t one of
us in on the secret of the treasure. But he might have had some deal
with Rod to help him get my share away from me. And when Rod couldn’t,
this man with the hook got tired and took Rod off on some other trick.”

“Perhaps,” admitted Bob. “But in the light of what has come out, Mr.
Beegle, do you still think it was the organ grinder who attacked you on
the road and tried to take the box away from you? And do you think he
visited you here in the cabin, and made his way into your strong room
while you were looking at this paper,” and Bob indicated the cipher, for
such it was.

“I don’t know what to think,” admitted the old sailor with a puzzled
shake of his head. “I certainly didn’t see any one like an organ grinder
attack me on the road that day you found-me, Bob. And, as I say, I
didn’t see the man who got in here, made me senseless and took this
box.”

“I think it’s pretty safe to assume,” said Bob, as he sat down at a
table and spread the mysterious square of parchment out in front of him,
“it’s pretty safe to assume that Jolly Bill was the guilty man in both
instances. He sneaked out on you from the bushes, Mr. Beegle, and struck
you down before you had a chance to get a good look at him. You assumed
that it was Rod because you had him in your mind.

“Then, finding that his first assault wasn’t a success, Bill tried other
tactics. He sneaked up here in the night, and saw you in the room,
looking over the paper from the brass box. He made use of some
mysterious chemical, I think—something that overpowered you and made you
fall unconscious. He could have tossed a sponge, saturated with it, into
the room while you were intent on studying this cipher, Mr. Beegle.
Then, when the fumes had blown away, after having knocked you out, he
entered, took the box away with him, locked you in and put the key
back.”

“But how did he do that?” demanded the sailor. “I can understand all but
that part of the key.”

“We’ll come to that in time,” said Bob. “I’m not worrying about that.
The main mystery is solved. We know who stole the brass box, and we have
it back—with the cipher, or map, if you want to call it that, which
tells where the treasure is buried.”

“But does it tell?” asked Ned. “It isn’t exactly a map. But does it tell
about the treasure?”

“Of course it does!” declared Bob.

“Then you’re smarter than I give you credit for being if you can make
head or tail of this,” commented Harry.

“We’ll see,” and the young detective smiled. “At any rate we have
cleaned up the loose ends. Jolly Bill was the robber, and as many
another criminal has done, instead of fleeing he remained on the spot to
throw suspicion off, which he succeeded in doing very well. Then came
Rod on the scene, disguised as an Italian organ grinder to see if he
couldn’t get at the treasure after Hank Denby died. It was a good game
but it didn’t work.”

“Rod was always up to tricks like that,” said Hiram. “He would play them
on board the ships we sailed in. I think he had some Italian blood in
him, for once, when we were at an Italian port, he was as much at home
as any of the natives, and he could talk their lingo, too. But I didn’t
know him in his false beard and wig. He was always smooth-shaven.”

“It wasn’t a false beard nor wig, either,” said Bob. “He just let his
hair and whiskers grow. He was clean shaved when he and the man with the
iron hook took the milk train. Well, we’ll let them go. They don’t
figure in this mystery any more.”

“Unless they’ve already dug up the treasure and skipped out with it,”
suggested Ned.

“It couldn’t have been done,” declared Bob. “Rod was only digging at
random in the bramble patch, though why he hit on that is more than I
can tell. But we’d better get to work on this.”

“I’ll say you had!” exclaimed Harry. “And there’s a long trail ahead of
you—a long, long trail.”

However, Bob Dexter went to work with a certain system in mind. He had
made a sort of study of puzzles, ciphers and the like, and knew certain
fundamental rules governing them. That the secret of the treasure was a
comparatively simple one he felt convinced.

“One of the things to do is to see if this paper contains any secret
writing,” he said. “I mean certain words may be written in with a
chemical so as to remain invisible until heated or treated with other
chemicals.

“Now Mr. Denby wouldn’t be very likely to make a complicated affair—one
that would need other chemicals to bring out the writing. He would know
that Mr. Beegle, here, couldn’t have such chemicals at hand.
Consequently the simplest way would be the one he would select—that is
heat. Let’s see if, like the cipher in Poe’s ‘Gold Bug,’ heat will bring
out anything.”

They held the parchment near the flame of a candle, but aside from
producing rather an unpleasant odor, nothing developed. The writing
remained the same.

“The next thing,” said Bob, “is to pick out from this mass of words
certain ones that mean something. As it stands it might be just part of
an essay on astronomy or geography. Now in ciphers of this kind certain
key words are used, say beginning with the second or third from the
start of the message, and then letting the words follow in a certain
numerical sequence. Let’s try that.”

He and his chums tried—over and over again they picked out certain
words, setting them down on separate sheets of paper, but all they got
were meaningless, jumbled sentences.

“Perhaps it’s certain letters in certain words,” suggested Ned.

“Maybe,” agreed Bob. “We’ll try that way.”

But that was of little use, either, and finally, in despair, the young
detective turned to Hiram, who had done little toward helping solve the
riddle, and asked:

“Did Mr. Denby ever say anything to you about how you were to proceed to
search for the treasure?”

“Well,” remarked Hiram slowly, “he said he’d leave me something in his
will, and he left me that,” and he motioned to the box.

“Yes, I know!” exclaimed Bob, impatiently. “But did he ever tell you how
to use what he left you? He knew he was going to leave the directions to
you in a cipher. Now did he give you the key to it?”

“You mean this brass key?” and Hiram held up the big one that locked his
strong room.

“No, I mean some sort of directions for solving this puzzle.”

The old sailor arose and went to the strong chest in the corner of the
strong room. He brought back an envelope.

“He gave me this letter, some years ago,” he said. “It just tells me
that he’s going to leave me the gold as my share, being the only
survivor that kept the agreement Here’s the letter.”

Bob eagerly read it. As Hiram had said, it contained just that
information, and nothing more. But at the end of the letter were these
words:

“Don’t destroy the envelope.”

“Now what did he mean by that?” asked Bob, puzzled. “Is there anything
else in the envelope? Let’s look, Harry.”

He took from his chum the envelope that had contained the letter.
Looking inside Bob gave a cry of surprise and exultation.

“I’ve found it! I’ve got it!” he cried “What?” asked his chums.

“The key to the cipher! Look!”

With his knife Bob slit the envelope down each end. It was of thick,
manila paper, and on the inside of what was the front there were marked
off in black ink a number of small oblong spaces, placed here and there
irregularly.

“I don’t see how that’s going to help any,” observed Ned.

“You don’t? Just wait a minute!” cried Bob.

With his knife he cut away from the envelope the loose flap and the
back, leaving an oblong piece of opaque, manila paper, marked off in
those queer blank spaces. Then Bob began to cut out the spaces along the
black border lines until he had a piece of paper containing fifteen
oblong holes. The holes were at irregular places, and arranged in lines.

There was one space on the first line, two on the second, three on the
third, five on the fourth and two each on the fifth and sixth lines.

“It’s getting more complicated than ever!” sighed Harry.

“On the contrary it’s getting clearer and clearer,” cried Bob. “Give me
the cipher,” and he reached for it. “How many lines in it, Ned?”

“Just six,” was the answer.

“Exactly the number of lines represented by these cut-out spaces. Now
look!”

Bob placed the piece of envelope over the parchment containing the
seemingly meaningless message. Only the words now showed that could be
read through the cut-out openings. All the others were covered by the
opaque manila. And these words stood out like a message in flame.

“Listen!” read Bob:

“Dig ten feet due east and ten south of Red gate post in buttercup lot.”

For a moment no one spoke. Then Ned cried:

“The buttercup lot! That must be Mr. Denby’s pasture near the bramble
patch. Why, Rod was away off! He was in the wrong lot!”

“That’s right!” exclaimed Bob. “I think this gives us the secret of the
treasure.”

They looked again at the message as revealed by the cut-out key. There
was no doubt as to its meaning. Hank Denby had adopted a very simple
form of cipher, yet one almost impossible to solve if one hasn’t the
key-paper. He had put in several points of the compass, and a number of
measurements in his queer message and one might have dug for a long time
without hitting on the right spot. But now it was easy.

“So that’s why he didn’t want me to destroy the envelope!” murmured
Hiram, as he saw to what use it could be put. “Well, I’m glad I saved it
all these years. Oh, he was a cute one, Hank was!”

“Do you think he planned it all this way?” asked Ned.

“He must have,” asserted Bob.

“It was leaving a good deal to chance,” was Harry’s opinion. “Just
supposing Hiram hadn’t saved that envelope?”

“In that case we’d be out of luck,” Bob said. “But I think Mr. Denby
must have known Hiram would save the key to the cipher. If he hadn’t
thought that he’d have made up some other way of letting it be known
where the treasure was buried.”

“Maybe it’s all a joke,” murmured Ned. “I mean, maybe there isn’t any
treasure buried after all. How’ll we know?”

“Well, let’s get busy!” suggested Bob. “Let’s see if the story of the
cipher is borne out. Let’s dig for the treasure!”

“That’s the idea!” cried Hiram. “Wait, I’ll get some shovels. We’ll go
to the buttercup lot. Hank always called it that, for it’s fair like a
plate of butter in the summer time, with yellow flowers. But he never
pastured any cows there. I wondered at him writing about cows.”

“You should worry now!” joked Ned. “You’ll be a rich man in a little
while, if things turn out right.”

Then they set out to dig up the treasure.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                            *THE KEY TRICK*


Hank Denby had been a thrifty man after settling down in Cliffside
following his life on the sea. Few there were who knew him well—not even
his own lawyer, Judge Weston. And perhaps even fewer knew of his early
association with Hiram Beegle and that the two had formed a quartette
which had dug for treasure on the mystic South Sea isle.

But such was the case, strange as it may seem. The four had found the
old pirate’s treasure, they had made an agreement, doubtless influenced
by the dominant mind of Hank Denby, and they had done just as he said.

“But you got to give him credit for being honest,” declared Hiram, on
their way to the buttercup lot. “Hank did just as he said he would do.”

“I believe that,” stated Bob. “The thing of it was that Jolly Bill and
Rod didn’t live up to their agreement, and, in consequence, they
forfeited their rights to that share of the treasure which Hank was
keeping for them. So much the more for you, Mr. Beegle.”

“Yes, I hope so. But I’m going to pay you boys for your trouble,” he
insisted.

“Trouble? There wasn’t any trouble!” laughed Ned.

“We’ve had a lot of fun out of it,” added Harry. “But maybe, after all,
there won’t be any treasure.”

“No treasure! What do you mean?” cried Hiram.

“Well, that fellow Rod, or whatever his name was—going off in such a
hurry with that hook-armed man—they may have found out where the stuff
was buried and have dug it up ahead of you. Their going off in such a
hurry and secretly in the night looks bad.”

“No, I don’t believe so,” spoke Bob. “Rod had an idea where the treasure
was, I’ll say that, though how he got the hint is more than I can figure
out. He just must have reasoned that Hank would bury it somewhere on his
own premises, and the bramble patch looked like a good place to hide
gold.”

“He made up a good story about it—wanting to plant monkey nuts!” laughed
Harry.

“He sure did,” agreed Bob. “He had me fooled for a time. And when I saw
Jolly Bill digging for worms, I thought he was on the right track.
Though it didn’t seem reasonable to suppose that Hank would bury the
stuff on Mr. Beegle’s land.”

Thus talking and speculating on the mystery, they reached the pasture
lot spoken of as the buttercup pasture. But the field was now sear and
brown, the buttercups of summer long since having died.

They had brought with them spades and shovels, and also a tape line.
This was necessary to measure off the distance from the red gate post.

“But is there a red post?” asked Harry, as they approached the lot. “I
don’t seem to remember one.”

“There’s a gate, anyhow,” observed Ned, “or what’s left of one. And
maybe the posts were painted red, once upon a time.”

This they found to be the case, though there was but a faint trace of
red left on the weather-beaten wood now. But there was only one post
which had any vestige of color on it, and this made their task simpler.
The other post had long since rotted away.

With tape line and compass, the latter being one that Hiram Beegle
always carried with him, a distance ten feet due east was measured off
from the red gate post. Then the same distance was measured off due
south. When this had been done, and stakes driven in at each of these
points, Ned suddenly uttered an exclamation of disgust.

“What’s the matter?” asked Bob.

“Why, we’re as badly off as we were before,” declared Ned. “Look, we’ve
got _two_ places to dig. Which one contains the treasure?” and he
indicated the south mark and the east.

“Maybe there’s treasure under each one,” suggested Harry.

“That’s it!” cried Bob. “I was waiting for one of you to suggest that,
for it occurred to me as soon as I saw that the cipher gave us two
points. It’s either that—treasure at both places, divided to make it
less easily found, or else we’ve got to draw a line from the two points,
making a triangle and then dig at the middle point of the longest line.
But we’ll try the two points first.”

With beating hearts they began digging at the south point first. The
ground was soft, the early frosts not yet having penetrated deeply, and
as the brown soil was tossed out, shovelful after shovelful, each one
was eagerly looked at.

They took turns, making an excavation large enough to stand in, and
going deeper gradually. They had gone down five feet, and there was, as
yet no indication of hidden wealth. Ned climbed out of the hole and
dubiously shook his head.

“Looks like a hoax to me,” he said.

But Bob, whose turn was next, had not taken out more than three
shovelsful of earth than he uttered a cry of delight.

“I’ve struck something!” he shouted.

Quickly he began tossing out the soil, and, a moment later, there was
revealed the rusted top of an iron box. It did not take long to uncover
the chest—a veritable strong box—and haul it up on top of the ground.
The chest was closed with a heavy padlock, but it was so rusted that a
few blows from a spade shattered it.

The lid was pried back, on squeaking hinges and there, revealed in the
light of the sun, was, what seemed to the boys, millions of dollars in
gold—old gold coins of a bygone age.

“We’ve found it!” shouted Harry, capering about. “We have it!”

“That’s the treasure all right!” added Ned. “You’re a millionaire, Mr.
Beegle!”

“Not so loud!” cautioned Bob. “You don’t want all Cliffside rushing out
here. Go easy!”

His chums calmed down and then an examination of the gold was made.
Bob’s keen eyes soon estimated that there wasn’t anything like a million
dollars—only a few thousands at most, but it was a fortune to the old
sailor.

“But we’ve got another hole to dig!” said Ned, somewhat disappointed at
finding the gold to total less than had been hoped for. “Maybe that’ll
run higher.”

They soon uncovered a second iron chest, which contained about the same
amount of old gold, and some ornaments which, Bob said, might be sold
for a large sum as antiques. So, take it all in all, it was a very tidy
little fortune that was dug up that day.

While Bob and Harry remained on guard, Ned and Hiram went to the village
to get a horse and wagon to haul the stuff to the local bank. For Hiram
did not share Hank’s distrust of these institutions and declared that he
wasn’t going to run any more chances.

That there was a sensation in Cliffside, when it became known that the
long-buried pirate treasure had been dug up, and that Bob Dexter had
been instrumental in locating it, you can well believe.

“That boy’s got stuff in him! I always said it!” declared Chief Duncan
who was not at all peeved because he had not solved the mystery. “Mark
my words, the police of the big cities will yet hear of Bob Dexter.”

“But he can’t tell how that key got back in the locked room,” sneered
Caleb Tarton, who was a little miffed that he had had no part in
unraveling the tangle of the case.

“Maybe he will,” said the chief. “Give him time. They only just got the
treasure.”

And when the gold had been safely put in the bank vaults, after Judge
Weston had confirmed Hiram’s right to it, Bob and his chums paid another
visit to the log cabin. They found Chief Drayton there talking to the
old sailor.

“I could ’a’ figgered all this out if they’d give me time,” declared Mr.
Drayton. “Gosh, but when I got to act as postmaster, pound keeper and be
my own constable I ain’t got any too much time t’ be chief of police.
I’m goin’ t’ talk t’ th’ selectmen ’bout it at next meetin’. I want a
helper, that’s what I want.”

“Yes, you need one!” chuckled Hiram.

“But, anyhow, I know one thing!” declared Mr. Drayton. “You locked that
door yourself, Hiram. That key was never put back in from the outside.”

“Oh, yes, it was,” said Bob, quietly.

“It was? How?” cried Ned and Harry.

“It couldn’t be!” insisted Chief Drayton. “Chuckin’ it down the chimbley
wouldn’t do it.”

“Not exactly _chucking_ it,” said Bob, still quietly. “But the chimney
was used. I’ll show you how it was done. Mr. Beegle, do you mind going
in your strong room, and lying on the floor just in the position you
were in when you recovered consciousness after you were robbed?”

“Sure I’ll do that,” agreed Hiram.

The others watched him take his place. Then they went outside on Bob’s
request and watched him solve the key trick. The lad climbed up in the
tree that grew beside the log cabin, and in a minute he was on the roof,
beside the chimney.

“I’m dropping down the flue a piece of fish line with a piece of lead on
the end to carry it,” he said, suiting the action to the word. “Now go
inside again.”

They entered the room, where Hiram was lying on the floor, waiting for
what was to happen next. Dangling in the fireplace was the weighted
string.

The fish line extended up the chimney flue, coming out at the top, where
Bob fastened it temporarily.

The young detective then removed the lead weight and pulled the slack of
the cord across the floor, until the end was close to the hand of Mr.
Beegle as the sailor lay on the floor. With a small nail, passed through
a knot he tied in the end of the cord, Bob fastened the line lightly to
the floor.

“We now have,” he said, “a cord extending from this point up through the
flue and out of the chimney at the top. Now if you will all remain here
you’ll see the conclusion of the experiment.”

They waited expectantly while Bob went outside. Presently they heard him
up on the roof.

“Watch now!” he called down the flue.

A moment later there was a tinkling, metallic sound and sliding down the
string came the big brass key of the strong room. It was guided down the
chimney, and out from the fireplace, the ashes of which it cleared,
across the room, until it fell on the floor, close to Mr. Beegle’s hand.
There was a twitching of the cord that was fast to the little nail
driven lightly into the floor. Out came the nail on the string. The cord
was pulled up out of the chimney, leaving the key on the floor beside
Mr. Beegle.

“Gosh!” gasped Ned.

“Easy as pie!” murmured Harry. “When you know how it’s done.”

“That was how the key trick was worked,” said Bob, as he joined his
friends. “I got the idea after I’d seen that fellow in the circus movie
slide down the inclined wire,” he added. “And I also saw a little hole
in the floor near where Hiram lay the night he was made unconscious. It
was a hole left by the nail Bill drove in for his string.

“If a man could slide down a wire, I said to myself,” a key could be
made to slide the same way. I tried it with a string, passing it through
the hole in the hand-end of the key, and it worked fine.

“This is what Jolly Bill did. He sneaked up, used his gas bomb, or
whatever it was that overpowered Mr. Beegle, slipped in the open door of
the strong room, and took the brass box. Then, to make the robbery seem
mysterious, he came out and locked the door. To get the key inside he
climbed the tree and slid the key down the cord he had previously
prepared. Twitching out the cord and nail left not a trace except the
tiny hole in the floor, of how the key got inside the locked room
without an opening. The chimney flue did the trick. Though when we tried
dropping the key down, finding that it only stayed in the ashes, I was
puzzled for a time.”

“But could Jolly Bill climb up in a tree with his wooden leg?” asked
Harry.

“Oh, he was pretty nimble—I watched him use a spade,” said Bob.

“And was there an elephant here?” Ned wanted to know.

“No, that, too, was Jolly Bill,” said the young detective. “He bound
pieces of burlap bags on his good foot and on his wooden leg—making a
wad on the latter to expand it, and so he walked around, not making any
shoe prints. We thought it was sacks of potatoes set down, but it was
Bill’s trick.”

“He was full of tricks,” said Ned.

“But Bob went him one better each time!” laughed Harry.

“He sure did!” murmured Hiram. “And I’m mighty thankful to you boys for
what you’ve done. I’m going to pay you—I’m well off now.”

However, the boys would not listen to this. Though later, when Hiram
insisted on making a contribution to the Athletic Club, his offer was
accepted and he was made an honorary member.

“Well, I guess this is the end of the Storm Mountain mystery,” remarked
Ned, as with Bob and some other chums, they were talking over the matter
one day.

“Yes, the secret of the log cabin—how the key got in the locked room—has
been solved,” added Harry.

“Did the police get any trace of those two that ran away in the
night—the hook-armed man and the fellow with the monkey?” asked Fred
Merton.

“No, I guess they didn’t,” Bob answered. “There really wasn’t much use
chasing after them, or Jolly Bill, either. Mr. Beegle has the money and
that’s all he wants.”

And that, really, was all that remained of the celebrated mystery. As
summed up by Bob it ran this way:

“Jolly Bill and Rod, who were roaming around the country, living as best
they could on what they first got out of the buried treasure, learned,
at the same time, of Hank’s death through letters he had caused to be
sent them. They also knew Hiram had succeeded to the fortune.

“They came on to Cliffside, separately, but with the same end in view,
that of robbing Hiram. Rod adopted a disguise he had used before, it
seems. Jolly Bill depended on sneaking tactics, and it was he who got
ahead of Rod. Of course Rod must have known Bill, for the latter did not
disguise himself. But it is doubtful if Bill knew Rod under all that
hair and whiskers.

“Bill succeeded in his robbery after the second attempt, but, instead of
fleeing he remained on the scene and tried, by pretending friendship
with Hiram, to throw suspicion from himself. Rod, knowing he had been
forestalled, hung around trying to find some way of coming at the
treasure. He even dug for it. But after Bill had the map, or, rather,
the cipher, he couldn’t do anything without the key, which Hiram had but
didn’t know it. As for the hook-armed man, there must have been some
secret between him and Rod which we don’t know anything about. It may
have had nothing to do with this case.”

“But I suppose you want another case to work on, don’t you, Bob?” asked
Ned.

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind,” was the answer.

“If you could have your choice, what sort of a case would you want to
work on, Bob?” asked Harry.

“A case of soda water!” exclaimed Ned.

“No, cut it out! I’m serious,” went on Harry. “I’d just like to see what
Bob’s ideas are on the matter.”

“I don’t know that I have any,” said Bob with a laugh. “In this
detective business you can’t pick and choose. At least I’ve never heard
of any of them doing it. Of course one man may be better working on bank
robberies and another on murder cases.”

“A good murder case would be all to the cheese!” exclaimed Harry, but he
was not quite as brutal as it looks in print.

“I don’t know that I’d care for a murder case,” mused Bob. “But I guess,
if I ever really get into the game, I’ll have to take everything that
comes along.”

“Get into the game? What do you mean?” cried Ned. “Aren’t you in the
game for fair, now? Look how you solved the golden eagle mystery. Then
we went to Beacon Beach and you cleaned up there. And now you found
Hiram’s treasure.”

“And it was nearly a murder case at that!” remarked Bob in a low voice.
“If the blow had been a little harder, Hiram would have passed out. But
what’s the use speculating on what will happen next? If another case
comes my way I’ll tackle it.”

And the young detective soon had another case, as you may read of in the
next volume of this series to be called “Bob Dexter and the Silver Lake
Mystery, or the Dweller of the Black Cavern.”

“But now I’m going to get ready to go back to school,” said Bob. “And if
we’re going to have a football team it’s time we got in some practice.
Come on, fellows!”

And with whoops of joy they followed their leader.


                                THE END



THE BOB DEXTER SERIES

BY WILLARD F. BAKER


12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors

Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid


This is a new line of stories for boys, by the author of the Boy
Ranchers series. The Bob Dexter books are of the character that may be
called detective stories, yet they are without the objectionable
features of the impossible characters and absurd situations that mark so
many of the books in that class. These stories deed with the up-to-date
adventures of a normal, healthy lad who has a great desire to solve
mysteries.


1. BOB DEXTER AND THE CLUB HOUSE MYSTERY, or The Missing Golden Eagle

This story tells how the Boys’ Athletic Club was despoiled of its
trophies in a strange manner, and how, among other things stolen, was
the Golden Eagle mascot. How Bob Dexter turned himself into an amateur
detective and found not only the mascot, but who had taken it, makes
interesting and exciting reading.


2. BOB DEXTER AND THE BEACON BEACH MYSTERY, or The Wreck of the Sea Hawk

When Bob and his chum went to Beacon Beach for their summer vacation,
they were plunged, almost at once, into a strange series of events, not
the least of which was the sinking of the Sea Hawk. How some men tried
to get the treasure off the sunken vessel, and how Bob and his chum
foiled them, and learned the secret of the lighthouse, form a great
story.


3. BOB DEXTER AND THE STORM MOUNTAIN MYSTERY, or The Secret of the Log
Cabin

Bob Dexter came upon a man mysteriously injured and befriended him. This
led the young detective into the swirling midst of a series of strange
events and into the companionship of strange persons, not the least of
whom was the man with the wooden leg. But Bob got the best of this
vindictive individual, and solved the mystery of the log cabin, showing
his friends how the secret entrance to the house was accomplished.


Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, PUBLISHERS New York



THE JEWEL SERIES

BY AMES THOMPSON


12mo, Cloth, Illustrated, Jacket in colors

Price per volume, 65 cents


A series of stories brimming with hardy adventure, vivid and accurate in
detail, and with a good foundation of probability. They take the reader
realistically to the scene of action, Besides being lively and full of
real situations, they are written in a straight-forward way very
attractive to boy readers.


1. THE ADVENTURE BOYS AND THE VALLEY OF DIAMONDS

Malcolm Edwards and his son Ralph are adventurers with ample means for
following up their interest in jewel clues. In this book they form a
party of five, including Jimmy Stone and Bret Hartson, boys of Ralph’s
age, and a shrewd level-headed sailor named Stanley Greene. They find a
valley of diamonds in the heart of Africa.


2. THE ADVENTURE BOYS AND THE RIVER OF EMERALDS

The five adventurers, staying at a hotel in San Francisco, find that
Pedro the elevator man has an interesting story of a hidden “river of
emeralds” in Peru, to tell. With him as guide, they set out to find it,
escape various traps set for them by jealous Peruvians, and are much
amused by Pedro all through the experience.


3. THE ADVENTURE BOYS AND THE LAGOON OF PEARLS

This time the group starts out on a cruise simply for pleasure, but
their adventuresome spirits lead them into the thick of things on a
South Sea cannibal island.


Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, PUBLISHERS New York





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