For more than two hours Thomas Dean and Jane had been vainly circling about West Point on their motorcycle, striving to pick up some clue that would put them once more on the trail of the Hoffs' car. They had not dared to ask too many questions of any one near the ferry, fearful lest the people they were pursuing might have a guard posted there to warn them in case of a possible pursuit, yet cautious inquiries seemed to indicate that all the automobiles on the ferryboat which had preceded had been headed to the north.
"There's only one thing we can do," Dean had said despondently. "We have got to run out each road we come to until we reach some shop or garage where the people would be likely to have noticed the Hoffs. They may have stopped somewhere, or we may meet some one coming toward us who will remember having passed them."
"It seems like a wild-goose chase," said Jane, "but I suppose there is nothing else to do."
The strain of their bitter disappointment was telling on both of them.
Each felt inclined to blame the other for their having fallen so far behind. They rode along in silence, their nerves becoming more and more keyed up as their hopes grew less. At garage after garage they paused to question the employees.
"Did a big gray car with two men, an old man with a beard and a young man driving, pass this way about an hour ago?"
"I don't remember any such car," was the invariable answer.
Time and time again they repeated their query, wording it always the same, except for lengthening the interval of time in which the car might have passed, for the afternoon was rapidly passing. In their circuit they had now reached the roads pointing to the southward.
"We'll try this one more garage," said Dean, as they approached a wayside shed bearing a large sign "Gasoline."
"I fear it is only wasting time," said Jane wearily.
"Don't you want the Hoffs caught?" snapped her companion.
"Of course I do," she retorted heatedly, "but I don't see you catching them."
"I believe you are half glad of it," snarled her escort as he brought the machine to a stop and repeated his usual question.
"Sure there was a car with two men in it like you describe passed here," the man replied to their amazement and delight. "They stopped here for gas, as they generally do. About three hours ago, I guess it musta been."
Dean shot a triumphant glance at Jane.
"An old man with a gray beard and a smooth-shaven young man driving--does that describe them?" he repeated.