MoboReader > Literature > Boy Scouts in the Coal Caverns; Or, The Light in Tunnel Six

   Chapter 4 A SENSATIONAL DISCOVERY

Boy Scouts in the Coal Caverns; Or, The Light in Tunnel Six By Archibald Lee Fletcher Characters: 10009

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


When Will awoke he began preparations for breakfast before paying any attention whatever to his chums, whom he believed to be sleeping quietly on their cots. It was November, and quite chilly in the apartment, so his next efforts were directed to coaxing the electric coils into a cheery glow.

Presently George came tumbling out in his pajamas and sat down on a rickety chair to talk of the adventures in prospect.

"I wonder if the Labyrinth mine is so much of a labyrinth after all?" he asked. "It seems to me that we might find our way through it without danger of losing ourselves," he continued with a yawn.

"It's some labyrinth, I take it," Will replied.

"Well, we can make chalk marks on the walls as we move along," suggested George. "Besides," he added, "we can string an electric wire through the center gangway and turn on the lights."

"There are probably electric lights there now," answered Will.

"Then there's no danger of our becoming lost," George argued.

"I wish you'd go to the back of the room and tip over those two cots," grinned Will. "It's the hardest kind of work to get Tommy and Sandy to bed, but when you do get them in bed once, it's harder still to get them out of it. Just tip the cots over and roll 'em out on the floor."

George approached the two cots in a stealthy manner and made ready to give Tommy and Sandy the bump of their lives.

"Don't break their necks!" advised Will.

As soon as George reached Tommy's bunk he stretched forth a hand for the purpose of tangling the boy up in the bed clothing so that his fall to the hard floor might be in a measure broken.

As, he swung his hand over the cot, however, his eyes widened and he called out to Will that the boys were not in their cots.

There was a look of alarm as well as of annoyance on each face as the lads thought over the situation.

"The little idiots!" exclaimed Will.

"That isn't strong enough!" George corrected.

"There's no knowing how long they've been gone," Will suggested. "The chances are that they went away as soon as we went to sleep."

"In that case, they're in trouble!" George declared.

"In what kind of trouble?"

"The good Lord only knows!" replied George. "Tommy and Sandy can get into more different kinds of trouble in less time than any other boys on the face of the earth. They're the original lookers for trouble!"

"Do you suppose they've got lost in the mine?" asked Will.

"It may be worse than that!"' cried George. "They may have butted into some of the people the caretaker indirectly referred to last night."

"He did speak of strange noises and mysterious lights, didn't he?"

"He certainly did, and I've got a hunch that Sandy and Tommy have butted into some hostile interests.

"It does seem as if they would be back by this time unless they were in trouble!"

The boys prepared an elaborate breakfast in the hope that Tommy and Sandy, who would be sure to be hungry, would return in time to partake of it. A dozen times during the meal they walked back to the shaft opening and looked anxiously down into the dark bowels of the mine.

"Those fellows are always getting into trouble," Will said, rather crossly, as he stood looking down. "They have a way of running into most of their dangers at night, too. It was the same up on Lake Superior, the same in the snake-haunted Everglades of Florida; the same on the Rocky Mountains, and the same in the Hudson Bay country."

"They sure do keep things moving," grinned George.

"I think," Will suggested after a time, "that we'd better find Canfield and get his advice before we do anything in the way of setting up a search. I hate to admit that two members of our party got into a scrape on the same night we struck the mine, but I guess there's, no way out of it."

While the boys talked together, the door opened softly and the caretaker entered, accompanied by a short, paunchy man with a very red face and eyes which were black, small and suspicious. He was a man well past middle age, but he seemed to be making a bluff at thirty-five. His hair, which had turned white at the temples, and his moustache were both dyed black.

Canfield introduced the new-comer as the detective, Joe Ventner, of

New York, and the boys greeted him courteously.

He accepted their proffered hands with an air of condescension which was most exasperating. He puffed out his chest, and at once began talking of some of his alleged exploits in the secret service of the government.

"How did you pass the night, boys?" ask Canfield.

"Slept like pigs," replied Will with a laugh.

"Where are the others?" asked Canfield.

"They're out getting a breath of fresh air, I reckon," answered

George.

The boys did not take to the detective at all. There was an air of insincerity about the man which at once put them on their guard.

Had Canfield visited them alone, they would have explained to him the exact situation. In the presence of this detective, ho

wever, they decided to do nothing of the kind.

"Now then," the detective said after a moment's silence, "if you boys will outline the course you intend to pursue in this matter, I think we can arrange to work together without our plans clashing."

"We have talked the matter over during the night," Will replied, "and have decided to remain here only long enough to obtain some clue as to the direction taken by the boys in their departure."

"Then you think they are not here?" asked the detective.

"There is no reason why they should be here, is there?" asked Will.

"I don't know that there is," replied Ventner.

"Can you imagine any reason for their wanting to linger about the mine?" asked George.

"No," was the reply. "It has always been my opinion that the boys left the mine because they feared arrest for some boyish offense committed in some other part of the country, and that they are now far away from this place."

Both lads observed that the detective seemed particularly pleased with the statement that they proposed to abandon the search of the mine immediately. Somehow, they caught the impression that they would interfere with his plans if they remained.

"It might be well," Ventner said, directly, "to keep me posted as to any discoveries you may make. We must work together, you know."

"Certainly," replied Will, speaking with a mental reservation which did not include giving up of any information worth while.

"Well, then I'll be going," the detective said, strutting across the room, with his little round belly protruding like that of an insect. "You can always find me at the hotel down here, if I'm in this part of the country. Just ask for me ask for me and I'll show up."

Canfield was turning to depart with the detective when Will motioned him to remain. The caretaker turned back with a surprised look.

Will waited until the door had closed on the detective before speaking. Even then, he went to the door and glanced down the passage.

"Something exciting?" smiled the caretaker, noting the boy's caution.

Will answered, "There's something exciting. Tommy and Sandy disappeared during the night."

"Disappeared?" echoed the caretaker.

"Yes," George cut in, "there was some talk of their visiting the mine just before we went to bed, and we are of the opinion that they went down the shaft shortly after we fell asleep, and failed to find their way to the surface again. We are considerably alarmed."

"I should think you would be!" replied the caretaker. "In the first place, the Labyrinth mine bears the right name. There are old workings below which a stranger might follow for days without finding the way out."

"Then we'll have to organize a search for the boys," George suggested.

"Besides,"' continued Canfield, "there are things going on in the mine which no one understands. I have long believed that there are people living there who have no right to take up such a residence."

"I'm sorry you said anything to this detective about our being here,"

Will said after this phase of the case had been discussed.

"As a matter of fact," the caretaker replied, "I didn't intend to say anything to Ventner about your being here, but in some way he received an intimation that you were about to take up the case and so pumped the whole story out of me."

"Perhaps he received his information from the New York attorney," suggested Will.

"I'm sure that he did not," answered the caretaker. "If the attorney had written to him in regard to the matter at all, he would have posted him so fully that when he cross-examined me such a proceeding would have been unnecessary."

"Has this man Ventner visited the mine often?" asked George.

"Yes, quite frequently."

"Does he always go alone?"

"Yes, he always goes alone," was the answer. "Once I accompanied him to the bottom of the shaft but there he suggested that we go in different directions, and did not seem to want me anywhere near him."

"I don't like the looks of the fellow, and that's a fact!" exclaimed

Will. "He doesn't look good to me."

After some discussion it was decided that the caretaker would accompany the two boys to the bottom of the shaft and direct them down gangways, which they could follow without fear of losing their way, and the illumination of which would be likely to be observed by anyone wandering about the blind chambers and passages of the mine.

When they reached the bottom of the shaft, climbing down the ladders, as Tommy and Sandy had done some hours before, they gathered in a little group at the bottom while the caretaker gave them a few general instructions regarding the general outlines of the Labyrinth of tunnels, chambers and cross passages which lay before them.

"Did any one come down after us?" asked Will directly.

"No one," was the reply. "Why do you ask?"

"Because," Will answered, "there's some one skulking off down that passage, and it looks to me like that bum detective!"

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