Chapter XXIV. Captive and Captors

"Girls," Betty clutched Mollie by the arm and spoke in a tense undertone, "isn't that the spy?"

The girls gasped, looked, and set off on a dead run. The spy's back was to them. He seemed to be waiting for somebody and he did not see the girls till they were almost upon him.

Then, with an exclamation, he dodged around the corner of the house and commenced to run like a deer.

"Amy!" gasped Betty, as they pursued, fleet of foot, "you go to the camp for help! I'll try to cut him off!"

With the strategy of a general, Betty dodged a couple of dirt piles-- it was a row of small houses, in process of construction near the camp--slipped across between two of the houses and did actually succeed in cutting the spy off.

She caught a fleeting glimpse of him as he dodged into a doorway with the evident intention of hiding till they got tired of the hunt. Also, it was certain he had not seen Betty and had no idea that she had seen him.

With wildly beating heart, but no thought of turning back, the Little Captain picked up a big piece of wood that could serve excellently as a weapon and ran for the doorway through which the spy had disappeared.

Cautiously she opened the door, and the next moment thought her heart would stop beating altogether as she took in the situation. The man was fumbling desperately with the knob of the inside door. Evidently it was locked. He had fallen into a trap!

Breathlessly Betty closed the door and leaned her full weight upon it. If the girls would only come! They might together manage to hold it. But alone----

"Betty, Betty, where are you?" cried a voice close at hand and the Little Captain gave a gasp of dismay. As long as the man had not known he was trapped, there might be a chance that he would remain quiet, hoping they would pass without thinking to look into the house. But now! Some one was pushing against the other side of the door. He was trying to get out!

"Hurry!" she cried agonizedly as Mollie and Grace ran up to her. "Put your weight against the door--quick."

So used were they to obeying her without question that they threw their full weight upon the door, bracing and holding with all their might.

"He's in there," gasped Betty. "I've sent Amy for help. If we can hold on--just a few minutes----"

The man was hurling himself against the door with all the force of desperation, but the girls had not spent most of their life in the open for nothing. They held on gallantly, though in their hearts they knew that if help were very long in coming, there could be but one answer. They were three against one, it is true, but then they were girls and he was a man, and a desperate man.

"Oh, why does it take her so long?" Grace cried after one particularly vigorous lunge which it had taken all their combined strength to withstand. "I don't think we can keep this up much longer----"

"Hush," gasped Betty, "I thought I heard voices."

"Oh, I hope you did!"

They listened breathlessly for a moment--then the wonderful truth dawned. Help was coming, and coming swiftly! There was no sound, save the regular thud-thud of running feet, but the most beautiful music in the world would have had no charms in comparison with that rhythmic sound.

Their prisoner must have heard it too, for he redoubled his efforts to escape and they had to turn all of their attention to the holding of the door.

"If they should come too late!" gasped Mollie.

"Don't talk," hissed Betty, through clenched teeth. "We've got to hold him."

And they did!

A moment later several guards, headed by a man not in uniform, came in sight around the corner of the building and as Will afterward expressed it "the game was all over but the shouting."

For it was Will who headed the relief party and took charge of the capture. And so excited were the girls, that they forgot even to wonder until it was all over.

Adolph Hensler was not easy to handle, even after he found himself looking into the muzzles of two loaded revolvers. Even then he tried to escape and the guard was forced to shoot a couple of bullets over his head before he was scared into submission.

The girls walked home behind captive and captors, too breathless and excited even to think. They had not gone far before they met Amy coming toward them, trembling all over from fatigue and excitement.

"They got him, didn't they?" she asked, linking her arm through Betty's and biting her lip to keep it steady. "I was so afraid they would be too late."

"So were we," said Grace, examining a big black and blue bruise on her arm. "We could have held out just about a minute longer."

"How did you do it, Amy?" cried Mollie. "Did you have to go all the way back to camp to find help?"

"No, I met it coming," she answered.

They stared at her incredulously.

"I was about half way to camp," she explained, "when I saw Will and the three soldiers coming toward me. When I had managed to gasp out what I'd come for they didn't say a word--just put on full speed and ran."

"Mighty lucky for us they did," said Mollie, but Betty interrupted eagerly.

"Doesn't it seem strange to you," she said, "that an armed guard should be coming in this direction just when we needed them? And that Will should be at the head of them?"

"Why, Betty, what do you mean?" Mollie was beginning when Grace interrupted.

"Oh, do you think it can be true?" she cried, seeing Betty's meaning and clinging to it desperately. "Oh, Betty, Betty, if it only is!"

"What are you talking about?" cried Mollie impatiently. "Can what be what?"

"Let's wait," said Betty, quickening her pace, "and let Will tell the story!"