The lieutenant was fully as active at the table as the others, and the newcomer, Gastong, as Jack persisted in calling him, seemed to forget that he had invaded the kitchen half an hour before and paid his respects to a pan of baked beans. After the meal a council was called on the porch.
"Well, he told me that it would do no harm to let him know if I saw a mob of New York boys wandering about the works," laughed Gastong. "So that is how you happened to be patrolling the Culebra cut in a motor car on the day the boys ran into Col. Van Ellis at the old house?" "Well," said Gastong, "Tommy, here, kept me posted in a way, and I thought I might be useful out that direction."
The attempt to capture the two boys, as previously told by Gastong, on the previous night, and the unmistakable anxiety of Chester to remain in their company, had led Ned to believe that at last he was getting to some of the people "high up" in the conspiracy against the canal.
"I'm dying to know what has been happening," Ned said, with a laugh. "It looks to me as if you boys had been in something of a mess yourselves." "Time enough for that when we get back to the cottage," Jack said. "Come on, Gastong, and we'll lead the bunch to the festive board. I hope the cook will be there. Say, but why don't you fellows compliment me on me fine appearance in this menial rig?"
"You never found a Boy Scout out here in the jungle?" exclaimed Gordon. "You bet I did," Jack continued. "If you don't believe it, go back there to the cookerie. He's filling up on the beans I was expecting to get myself. Call him my dear Gastong, and he'll come."
Gastong," he added, turning the boy around so that he faced the others, "this is the company of bold, bad men you've enlisted in. What patrol did you say you belonged to?" "The Owl, Philadelphia," was the reply. "Gee," cried Jimmie. "Looks to me like he was a piece of the Isthmus."
"I didn't know that you knew him," Ned said, wondering if every person he had come upon since arriving on the Isthmus was in the secret service. "Well," said Gastong, "Lieutenant Gordon was on the squad here, you know, before he went to Mexico, and I used to meet him now and then." "And he told you, on the first night of our arrival at camp, that we might need looking after?"
"Jaguars rarely come as far north as this," Ned said, "and your serpents are not dangerous," but the other insisted that there were both jaguars and boas in the jungle. "This man Gostel may have gone to the rescue of the boys," suggested Ned. Gastong laughed weakly. "You don't know him," he said. "I tell you he is a spy, a Japanese spy, watching every inch of the canal as it is excavated.
"I stopped at the old house," began Gastong, but Ned cut him short. "About the boys," he said, shaking him fiercely. "What about the boys?" "They are either in the hands of your enemies or lost in the jungle." The words were spoken shrinkingly, as if the news conveyed might be of his own making. "Where did you leave them?"
"You've ducked an' dodged so long that you're afraid of everybody," returned Jimmie. "I guess any of our friends can go where we can." Gastong, however, had not given the true reason for wishing to keep his presence in the car a secret from the lieutenant. The boy had been so considerately treated by the Boy Scouts that he was infatuated with them, and wished to serve them in some important way.