Direct Action

Terry and Jim ran with all the speed they could muster across the
fields, believing that Don was close behind them.

But Jim finally realized that no one was close to them and he came to a
halt, calling to Terry in a low tone. The red-headed boy stopped and
joined him.

“Did we lose our pursuers?” Terry panted.

“Yes,” gasped Jim, gulping in the fresh air. “And I’m afraid that we
have lost Don!”

“Isn’t he around?” cried Terry.

“No. I don’t know what has happened to him. I heard him pounding along
after us and then I lost the sound. Maybe he just branched off in
another direction.”

“Let’s give him the old signal,” urged Terry, puckering up his lips. He
whistled in a low, penetrating note, the signal which had always been
known to the three friends and which had been agreed upon before they
had left on their night’s quest. The sound went across the fields but
there was no answer, though they strained their ears to listen.

“I wonder if those men caught Don?” said Jim.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” reassured Terry. “I guess he just got separated
from us. Before we came out we agreed to meet under the lamp post in
case we got separated. Let’s go over to the street and see if he is
waiting there.”

Together they crossed the lots and emerged on the street upon which the
Gannon House faced, approaching the lamp light with some degree of
caution. But after they had waited in the shadow of a tree for ten
minutes they were both forced to the same conclusion.

“Not a doubt in the world that he was captured,” sighed Terry.

“I’m afraid so,” agreed Jim. “If he had gone off in another direction he
would surely have come here directly. At this moment he must be a
prisoner in Gates’ house.”

“What are we going to do about it?” demanded Terry practically.

“What can we do?” asked Jim helplessly.

“I think we need a little direct action,” said Terry. “Let’s go back to
the house and see if we can get a look at him. We may even be able to
set him free.”

“OK, I’m willing,” responded Jim, moving off down the street. “Perhaps
they have turned him over to the police.”

“That isn’t likely to do them any good,” explained Terry. “We have the
colonel back of us and have nothing to worry about. Anyway, I think that
Don will drop a word or two that will give ’em something to think
about.”

“Take it easy now,” warned Jim, as they drew close to the gate before
the big house. “No telling who is snooping around the grounds.”

Seeing no one in immediate range of vision they flitted across the
sidewalk and entered the grounds of the old place. Keeping close to the
hedge they made their way along it up to the house and then paused.

“Lights are none too plentiful in the house,” whispered Terry.

There was only one lighted room in the downstairs. A low light burned in
a bedroom on the second floor and two rooms were lighted on the third
floor. With one accord, after a hasty glance around, the two cadets
crept to the window and looked under the shade into the library.

“No one in there,” Jim whispered.

The room was empty. A single reading lamp burned in the place but there
was no sign of life. At that moment Terry nudged his companion’s arm.

“Say! Doesn’t something occur to you?”

“No,” said Jim. “What?”

“It was under this same window that the patriots stood and saw that spy
school teacher talking with British officers!”

“Gee, that’s right,” mused Jim. “But we have one consolation. The Gates’
won’t take Don out and hang him!”

“No,” agreed Terry, with a half chuckle. “But they’ll want to do it to
us if they catch us around here.”

“You missed your cue,” grinned Jim. “You should have said that we are
doing all the hanging around here!”

“Oof! Bad pun,” snorted Terry. “But what are we going to do now?”

“Golly, I don’t know,” admitted Jim. “There is no question that Don is
in the house, and that we have got to get in and rescue him. But how the
devil are we to do it?”

“Don’t know how many of my ancestors were burglars!” said Terry, grimly.
“But let’s see how we stand in regard to windows.”

He reached up and pushed on the frame of the window but found that it
was locked. He tried another with the same result.

“Careless people!” he grunted. “Leave their windows locked every night!”

“Perhaps we can find one open on the other side of the house,” suggested
Jim. “Suppose we take a look.”

They passed around the back of the house, but just as Jim turned the
corner of the kitchen pantry he stopped and crouched down, pulling his
companion with him.

“What’s up?” Terry whispered.

“Caretaker prowling around,” returned Jim. “Keep still, he’s coming this
way.”

The form of a man loomed up before them and they held their breath as
the man passed within five feet of them. When he had turned the corner
of the house back of them they breathed in relief.

“Narrow escape, that,” commented Chucklehead.

“Yeah,” agreed Jim. “Well, I guess he has gone around to the other side
of the house. Lucky thing he didn’t come and catch us under the window.
Let’s look this side over before he returns.”

They crept along the side of the house, examining windows and testing
them, but they were all firm. At last the two friends drew back under a
tree.

“It’s no use,” groaned Jim. “We can’t get into the house.”

“It would be a rough joke on us if Don wasn’t in there, after all,”
commented the disappointed Terry.

“But he must be. Too bad we can’t get at the second floor windows.
Surely a bedroom window must be open.”

“No doubt. But who wants to climb into a bedroom, to have a lady yell
blue murder or get shot at?”

“I hope it wouldn’t be as bad as all that. Say! This tree arches right
over that porch roof!”

Jim had been looking up into the branches of the tree thoughtfully and
now his friend followed his gaze. He saw that the tree, which grew so
close to the house, extended at least two strong limbs a few feet over
the roof of the porch shelter.

“There isn’t any reason why we shouldn’t climb this tree and drop onto
the roof,” Terry said. “There are four windows that we can reach.”

“Yes, and the roof can’t be seen from the street,” Jim pointed out.
“Think we had better go to it?”

“Yes, I do. The trunk of the tree isn’t so big that we can’t climb it.
But I’m afraid that we’ll get our uniforms fearfully dirty, because
we’ll have to take off our overcoats to climb.”

“Bother the uniforms!” cried Jim, impatiently. “We can have them
cleaned. I’m going up.”

“Wait until I take a look around, to see if the gentleman is still
taking a walk,” suggested Terry. “Stay here and keep close to the tree
until I get back.”

With this final word the red-head glided off into the darkness and was
lost to Jim’s sight. Two or three minutes passed, and Jim was just
growing restless, when young Mr. Mackson rejoined him.

“Coast is clear,” he informed him. “The caretaker is around on the other
side and just bound for the back garden. I don’t think we’ll be troubled
with him. So here goes my overcoat.”

Without wasting further time the cadets slipped out of their heavy coats
and Terry dropped his carelessly on the ground nearby. But Jim shook his
head at that.

“Don’t leave the coats lying around here,” he warned. “That fellow may
be back at any time, and we don’t want him to find the coats while we
are up aloft.”

“Good head you have, Jimmie boy,” approved Terry. “Never thought it of
you. Let’s park them behind these bushes, close to the porch.”

When the two boys had stowed the overcoats away so that there was no
likely chance that they would be found, they returned to the foot of the
tree and Terry gave Jim a boost as far up the tapering trunk as he
could. From his shoulders Jim began his climb and stuck doggedly to it
until he reached a small limb below the level of the tin roof. Then he
called down for Terry to follow him.

His friend had a much harder job of it because he had to start from the
ground but he moved slowly and surely upward. It was some years since
Terry had “shinnied” up a tree and he found it hard work, but, resting
at intervals, he soon joined Jim at the small limb. Without words they
moved on, and before long wormed their way out on a limb that hung
suspended over the roof.

“Be awfully careful when you drop on that roof,” whispered Jim. “Try to
land on your toes and don’t thump if you can help it.”

Jim then swung down under the limb, hanging by his hands, and measured
the distance to the roof. It was a matter of less than a foot, he
discovered, and with his toes pointing downward he let go and dropped.
There was scarcely a sound as he landed.

“Come on,” he whispered.

Terry swung down under the limb and after a moment of steadying himself
dropped to the roof. Jim steadied him as he landed and they stood
together on the tin surface and looked around.

“Hooray, a partially opened window!” breathed Jim.

Close to them a window had been left open some few inches and they made
their way to it quietly. Both of them felt a tingle of excitement.

“We’ll want to get into the upper hall, if possible,” said Terry,
guardedly. “Let’s hope this isn’t a bedroom. What does it look like?”

Jim was in the lead and he peered into the room, finally raising the
window noiselessly in order to see better. He turned to his waiting
friend.

“It doesn’t seem to be a bedroom,” he informed him. “Looks more like
some kind of a study. I can see a table and an armchair, and a little
light comes in from the hall. I guess this is just the kind of a room we
are looking for.”

“Then let’s get in and go a-snooping,” urged Terry.

Jim raised the window fully and stepped into the room, Terry following
closely at his heels. They paused to make out their surroundings, when
Terry gripped Jim’s arm tightly.

“Somebody in this room!” he hissed.

Before Jim could move someone stepped out of the closet and confronted
them. For a single instant there was a silence that froze them, and then
the light from the hall fell on the features of the one who stared at
them.

“Don!” they whispered.

A sigh of pure relief broke from the one who had stepped out of the
closet. “Boy, oh boy,” Don returned. “You two fellows scared me out of a
year’s growth!”

“You gave us a mighty good start, too,” returned Terry as they moved
close to him. “What are you doing in here?”

“I have the cup!” Don replied.

“No fooling?” gasped Jim.

“Yes, it was in that closet. Listen, we have got to get out of here. The
two Gates—”

A cry broke out on the third floor and a door slammed. They waited to
hear no more.

“Quickly, out the window with you,” cried Don. “We’ve got to clear this
house on the double!”

Terry skipped through the window like lightning and Jim threw himself
after him. Just before Don followed he could hear Arthur Gates roaring
at the butler on the third floor. He joined his companions on the roof.

“Go on down and I’ll toss the cup to you,” he told Jim.

“Shall I take a chance by dropping off the roof?” asked Jim.

“No,” said Don. “You might break a leg, and you don’t know where you’ll
land.”

Jim measured his distance and jumped up, catching the limb and swinging
out on it with the agility of a monkey. He slid down the tree and
dropped safely to the ground.

“Drop the cup,” he called.

Don dropped the cup over the edge of the roof and it fell to the ground.
It was still boxed and he had no fear that any harm would come to it.
Terry was already in the tree and swinging down toward the ground.

Jim, leaning down to pick up the box, felt himself gripped by a strong
hand, which fastened itself on his shoulder. Before he could cry out he
was dragged upright, to find himself in the grasp of the caretaker.
Terry landed at the foot of the tree and was immediately seized by the
other hand of the man. So taken by surprise were they that for the
moment they uttered no sound.

“Goodnight!” flashed through the mind of the red-headed boy. “The end of
a perfect day!”