They came this way

“Oh, Dave, don’t go!” cried Jessie, as he walked toward the door, and
she caught him by the arm.

“I don’t think I’d trust myself out there alone, Dave,” cautioned Roger
in a low voice. “I think the best thing we can do under the present
circumstances is to stick together.”

Dave hesitated. He realized that what his chum said might be true. Then
his hand went into the pocket where he had his automatic pistol.

“I’ve got this, Roger. I think I can defend myself,” he said.

“Oh, Dave, I’d hate to see any shooting!” whispered his sister.

“There won’t be any shooting unless they start things,” he answered.

“Say, Dave Porter, are you coming out or not?” demanded the voice of the
person in the corridor.

“Is that you, Nick Jasniff?” asked our hero quickly, for he was quite
sure that he recognized the voice.

“Who told you I was Nick Jasniff?” grumbled the fellow outside.

“Never mind that now, Jasniff. What do you want?”

“You are making a mistake about me, Dave Porter. I want you to come
outside so I can talk to you.”

“Is the door unlocked?”

“It is. But don’t you try any funny work, because we are well armed, and
we don’t intend to take any chances so far as you and Roger Morr are
concerned.”

With caution Dave opened the door several inches, and peered out into
the corridor. He saw the disguised person he suspected of being Nick
Jasniff standing there, and behind him were several others, evidently
gypsies.

“This is a fine piece of business for you to be in, Jasniff,” he said
sharply. For a close look at the face in front of him had convinced him
that the rascal was really the fellow who had escaped from prison.

“Humph, you needn’t preach to me, Dave Porter! I guess I’ve now got you
just where I want you!” answered Nick Jasniff, seeing it would be
useless to deny his identity any longer.

“That remains to be seen. Fellows like you always get to the end of
their rope sooner or later.”

“We won’t waste words on that just now, Porter. What I want to know is,
did you and Morr come here alone or are there others hiding in the
woods?”

“Do you think I’d be fool enough to tell you our plans?” demanded Dave.

“You’ll tell me everything, Porter, and do it pretty quick!” snarled
Nick Jasniff, flying into a sudden rage. “Don’t you see that you are
entirely in our hands, and that we can do as we please with all of you?
Unless you tell me everything I want to know, we are coming in there and
take those two girls away and leave you two fellows here, bound and
gagged. Then, if nobody comes to rescue you, you can starve to death. Do
you get me?”

“Oh, Dave! don’t let them do anything like that!” pleaded Jessie, who
had been listening over his shoulder to what was said.

“Don’t worry about their binding and gagging us—at least not while we
are armed,” put in Roger.

“See here, Jasniff, you can talk all you please, but we do not intend to
let you carry out your threats,” said Dave. “Both Morr and I are well
armed, and we know how to shoot. In a very short time this place will be
completely surrounded and you will be made prisoners.”

“It isn’t so!” cried the former bully of Oak Hall; but the tone of his
voice showed his uneasiness.

“It may be so!” cried one of the gypsies quickly. “Remember, Carmenaldo
did not return. That looks bad.”

The gypsies began to whisper among themselves, and then one of them
pulled Jasniff back.

“We had better go out again and take another look around,” he said in a
hoarse whisper. “That young man may speak the truth, and we do not want
to run any chances of being captured in such a game as this. If we find
the woods clear, we can then come back and settle with these intruders.”

“All right, have your own way,” grumbled Jasniff. “Just the same, I
think they came here alone. Didn’t I see them alone at that hotel?”

The gypsies were evidently too disturbed to argue the matter further,
and they pushed forward and closed the door in Dave’s face. Then those
inside the room heard the lock fastened once more and heard the gypsies
tramp away and down the stairs.

“Oh, Dave, I’m so glad you didn’t get into a fight!” cried Jessie, her
face showing momentary relief.

“While they are gone let us see if we can escape by way of the opening
in the top of the closet,” suggested Roger.

“Hush, not so loud!” whispered Dave. “One of the gypsies or Nick Jasniff
may still be in the corridor listening.”

“I’ll tell you what let’s do,” returned the senator’s son in an equally
low voice. “Let the two girls stay here and do some pretty loud talking.
That will cover up any noise that we may make in the closet. Then, if
there is a chance to get out, we’ll have to lay a plan as to just how to
do it.”

This suggestion was carried out, and the two girls began to talk
hurriedly and in a loud tone of voice close to the door leading to the
corridor. In the meantime, Dave and Roger went to the closet, and both
made an investigation of the ceiling. Here, as stated before, one board
was loose, and they soon managed to pry up another.

“Now boost me up, Roger, and I’ll investigate further,” said our hero.

Dave presently found himself in a dark place directly under the sloping
roof of the bungalow. In its highest part, the roof was but four feet
from the flooring, so he had to stoop as he felt his way around. He soon
came to a sort of hatchway; the cover to this he raised cautiously.
Below was a vacant room which had once been used as a bed-chamber.
Around the opening where Dave stood was a mass of discarded household
things and several packages of magazines which had evidently been
brought up to the little garret-like opening by means of a ladder, but
now the ladder was missing.

Our hero lit a match, and this brief illumination showed him several
large bundles of magazines still tied together with some old rope. He
quickly possessed himself of the rope, and found it still usable. Then
he went back to the closet where Roger awaited him, and told of what he
had discovered.

“Do you think we can make our escape that way?” questioned the senator’s
son eagerly.

“I don’t know about that, Roger. We might try.”

The matter was discussed for several minutes with the girls, and all
decided that they had better do what they could to secure their freedom
without delay. Dave brought down one of the boards from the flooring
above, and setting the bench up endways placed one end of the board upon
it, thus making a sort of gangplank. Up this he and Roger assisted the
girls, and then followed to the little garret-like enclosure above.

“Now I think I had better go down into that other room first and look
around,” said our hero, and let himself down by means of the rope which
he had found and which he fastened to a staple at the side of the
hatchway.

Once below, Dave tiptoed his way around cautiously. There was a window
to the room, and this looked out on the top of a little porch, beyond
which were a number of trees. Then he went to the door and opened it
cautiously. He saw a little corridor opening into that which led to the
stairs. From below came a murmur of voices.

“I don’t think we can get away by going below,” he explained to the
others, after they had joined him; “but that looks pretty good to me,”
and he pointed out of the window to the roof of the porch and the trees
so close at hand.

“Oh, that’ll be easy if they don’t catch sight of us getting down,”
answered Roger quickly.

The glass of the window was gone; nevertheless, they had to raise the
lower sash before any of them could get out on the roof of the porch.
This was much dilapidated, and creaked as they stepped upon it.

“Oh, Dave! you don’t suppose it will break down with us?” cried Jessie.

“Jump for the trees if it starts to go,” he answered, and the words had
barely left his lips when the old porch began to sag. A moment later it
collapsed completely, sending all of the young people to the ground.

It was a most unexpected tumble. As they went down Dave made a grab for
Jessie and did what he could to save her from getting hurt. Both landed
in some bushes, and Laura and Roger came down beside them.

With the sudden collapse of the porch, there was a cry of alarm in the
lower part of the bungalow, and some person, evidently one of the
gypsies, set up a yell from somewhere among the trees.

“Come!” cried Dave, as he pulled Jessie to her feet. “We’ve no time to
spare! Let us get out of sight as quickly as possible!”

He glanced over his shoulder, to see that Roger had Laura by the arm and
was forcing her along. All four ran among the trees, not knowing,
however, in which direction they were heading.

“Oh, Dave, they are after us!” panted Jessie.

Our hero glanced back and saw that several gypsies and Nick Jasniff had
just emerged from the bungalow, some with pistols and others with clubs
in their hands.

“This way, quick!” he exclaimed, and pointed to a little gully but a few
feet away.

He and Jessie leaped into this, and Roger and Laura immediately
followed. The hollow was filled with weeds and brushwood.

“Say, can’t we hide here?” asked Roger.

“They’d be after us in a minute, Roger,” answered Dave. “Come on!” and
he pushed his way down along the hollow until they reached the tiny
watercourse which flowed from the spring near the roadway. Here was a
heavy clump of trees, some of the branches close to the ground.

“Now then, up you go!” cried Dave, and he and Roger assisted the two
girls into the nearest tree branches. Then the young men hauled
themselves up.

“Now climb up as high as you can,” directed Dave to Jessie and his
sister. And then all four went up the tree a distance of twenty feet or
more.

“Where did they go?” cried someone who stood close to the watercourse.

“I don’t know. But they must be somewhere in this vicinity,” answered
the voice of Nick Jasniff.

Hardly daring to breathe, the four in the tree listened to what was
taking place below. They heard Nick Jasniff and several of the gypsies
tramping around, first in one direction and then in another.

“Are you sure they all got away?” questioned one of the gypsies, of
another who had just arrived.

“Yes. The room was empty and we have searched the house thoroughly.”

“Then I guess the game is up,” growled a third.

“What’s the use of giving up so soon?” grumbled Nick Jasniff. “I believe
they are hiding around here somewhere, and I don’t believe there is
anybody else near. I think the best thing you can do, Bopeppo, is to
call in all those other fellows and begin a search for them. Eight of us
ought to be able to handle two fellows and two girls without much
trouble.”

After that Jasniff and Bopeppo moved around again through the woods in
the immediate vicinity of the bungalow. One of them had discovered where
the party of four had jumped into the gully leading to the watercourse,
and now he set up a sudden shout:

“They came this way! Here are their footprints!”

“Where do they lead to, Vazala?” questioned Nick Jasniff eagerly.

“They lead to right here!” answered Carlos Vazala, pointing to some
impressions in the damp ground and some overturned stones.

“I bet they went up into these trees!” cried Jasniff. He raised his
voice. “If you are up there you might as well come down,” he commanded.
“If you don’t, we’ll come up there and bring you down.”

“Oh, Dave, do you think——” began Jessie in a low voice, when a look of
warning from our hero stopped her.

“You can’t fool us!” cried Nick Jasniff, after a moment of silence. “Are
you coming down, or shall I come up and bring you down?”

To this none of those in the tree replied. All kept silent, scarcely
daring to breathe. Jessie was clinging to Dave’s arm, and Roger had a
protecting hand on Laura’s shoulder. Each of the young civil engineers
had his pistol ready for any emergency which might arise. They heard a
movement below as if either Nick Jasniff or one of the gypsies was
starting to climb the tree.

“Oh, don’t let them come up here!” whispered Laura, unable to remain
silent longer.

“Yes, yes, make them stay on the ground!” breathed Jessie.

“Stop where you are!” cried Dave in stern tones. “Don’t you dare come a
foot closer if you value your life.”

“Don’t you shoot me!” exclaimed Nick Jasniff.

“Then you get back on the ground, Jasniff, just as quick as you can,”
answered Roger. “We won’t stand any more of your nonsense!” and at these
words Nick Jasniff lost no time in dropping out of the tree.

The gypsies and the fellow who had escaped from prison began to talk
among themselves, but in such a low tone of voice that those in the tree
could not make out what was being said.

“What do you suppose they’ll do next?” questioned Jessie anxiously.

“They’ll try to get us down somehow; but I’m not going,” answered Roger
stubbornly.

“But they may keep us up here all night—or even longer!” returned Laura.

“Are you going to give in or not?” demanded Nick Jasniff in a loud tone
of voice.

“I don’t see why we should give in,” answered Dave.

“You’ll have to do it, Porter, sooner or later. Can’t you see that we’ve
got the bulge on you? If you don’t give in now, we’ll keep you up in
that tree until you change your mind. The best thing you can do is to
drop your pistols and give yourselves up. If you’ll do that we’ll
promise to treat you well and let you go as soon as we receive that
ransom we are expecting.”

“We don’t intend to give in,” answered Dave, after a few words with
Roger.

“All right then, we’ll let it go at that—for the present,” answered Nick
Jasniff. “I think you’ll change your tune after you have spent a night
in that tree and are good and hungry,” he added cunningly. “And let me
tell you, if anybody tries to escape he’ll get shot.”

After that there was a long period of silence. Evidently some of the
gypsies had moved away, but it was more than likely that the others were
keeping on guard in the vicinity of the tree. What had become of Nick
Jasniff those who were concealed among the branches could not surmise.

It must be confessed that Dave and those with him were in a great
quandary. They did not wish to remain in the tree indefinitely, and yet
to make another break for liberty might be decidedly perilous.

The best part of an hour passed, and then Dave and the others heard some
of the gypsies calling to each other.

“Dobado is back, and he has news!” they heard some one cry.

“Did they find Carmenaldo?” asked another voice.

“They did not.”

“Perhaps that half-witted fool has gone back on us,” came in the voice
of Nick Jasniff. “I said it wouldn’t be wise to let that fellow into the
game.”

“Carmenaldo is all right. He can be trusted,” answered the voice of
Mother Domoza. She was an aunt to the half-witted gypsy and she did not
like to have any one speak ill of him.

Then began a hurried consultation among the gypsies, and the whole crowd
moved down in the direction of the tree in which our friends were
hiding.

“Ha, you are a pack of cowards not to get them out of the tree!” cried
Mother Domoza. “Had I the strength to climb, I’d get them out
single-handed.”

“We’d bring them down quick enough, were it not that they are armed,”
answered Tony Bopeppo.

There was a warm discussion, the old gypsy woman urging the men to go up
into the tree and bring down our hero and the others.

In the midst of the discussion Dave heard a sound which thrilled him to
the heart. Far off from the direction of the main road between Frytown
and Cullomburg came the honk of an automobile horn twice repeated.

“Roger, did you hear that?” he cried in a low voice. “Listen!” and a
moment later the double honk was repeated.

“Why, it sounds like the horn on your auto!” exclaimed the senator’s
son.

“That’s just what it is! And didn’t you hear—it sounded out twice in
rapid succession? Listen! there it goes again! That’s the signal from my
Uncle Dunston!”

“Oh, Dave! can it be Uncle Dunston?” exclaimed his sister.

“That’s just who it is!” he answered, great relief showing itself in his
voice. “I’m going to answer back!” and pulling out his pistol, Dave
fired two shots in the air in rapid succession.

“Hi! hi! what are you doing?” roared a voice from below. “Don’t you dare
to shoot at us!”

“We are not shooting at you,” answered Dave quick-wittedly. “I am trying
my pistol to see that it is in good order.”

“Huh, you’ll get no chance to use that pistol on us,” growled Nick
Jasniff.

All in the tree paid but scant attention to what was said below. They
were listening intently. An instant later came two more honks from the
distant automobile.

“Give them two more shots, Roger!” cried our hero. “I’m going up to the
top of the tree to look around,” and he began to climb with vigor.

From the top of the tree Dave could get a fairly good view of the
surroundings. He soon made out the little side-road and the point where
it ran into the main highway. Then he spotted an automobile containing
four or five men. Another auto was on the main highway but a short
distance away.

Standing on the topmost branch of the tree and holding fast with one
hand, Dave waved his cap with the other and then fired two more shots
from his pistol. Those in the automobile were evidently on the alert,
and a second later our hero saw that his signal had been seen. One man
jumped up in the front automobile and waved his arms, and then the
automobile moved forward rapidly up the little side-road.

“They have seen us, and they are coming in this direction!” cried Dave,
as he lowered himself to where the others rested in the tree. “I’ll give
them another signal, so that they won’t go astray,” and a few seconds
later two more shots rent the air.

“Hi, you! what are you doing up there, anyway?” came uneasily from Nick
Jasniff.

“An automobile is coming!” came in a yell from a distance. “An
automobile with a number of men in it!”

“We’ve been betrayed!” added another of the gypsies. “We must run for it
or we’ll be captured!”

“The automobile! Why can not we ride away in the automobile?” asked
Mother Domoza, in sudden panic.

“We can’t use it! That other auto will block the road!” answered Nick
Jasniff.

By this time a shouting was heard from the narrow roadway as the first
automobile came closer, quickly followed by the second car.

“Hello, Uncle Dunston! is that you?” yelled Dave at the top of his
lungs.

“Yes, Dave!” came the answering cry. “Where are you?”

“We are all here in a tree in the woods,” answered Roger.

“Are the girls safe?”

“Yes,” returned Dave. “Never mind us—go after those gypsies and after
Nick Jasniff.”

“We’ll do that all right enough!” answered Dunston Porter.

“They are the kidnappers, don’t let them get away!” yelled Roger.

The men who had accompanied Dunston Porter needed no further urging.
They knew many of the particulars concerning the case, and had been
promised a large reward if they would give their aid in rounding up the
kidnappers and saving the two girls. One man was a local constable, and
two were detectives, while the others were men who had been picked up in
the town and pressed into service because of their strength and
willingness to fight. The whole crowd leaped from the automobiles and
lost no time in giving chase to the fleeing criminals.

“I’m going to join in this hunt, Roger!” exclaimed Dave. And then he
added to the two girls: “You had better remain where you are until we
come back.”

He dropped out of the tree just in time to see his Uncle Dunston making
after one of the gypsies and Nick Jasniff. Several shots were fired,
which, however, took no effect, and then the criminals dived out of
sight between a number of trees.

Dave’s blood was up, and he made up his mind that Nick Jasniff should be
captured if it were possible to do so. Roger had followed him out of the
tree, and now both made after the rascal who had escaped from prison.

“You get back! Don’t you dare to follow me!” howled Jasniff, and
flourished a revolver at them. He pulled the trigger, but the weapon
failed to go off, and then the rascal continued to run.

“We ought to shoot him!” exclaimed the senator’s son.

But as he spoke he saw Nick Jasniff trip over a tree root and go
sprawling. Before the fellow could arise, Dave was on him. Jasniff tried
to catch our hero by the throat, and in return received a blow in the
chin which all but stunned him.

That the chase after the fleeing gypsies was going on in earnest was
testified to by the sounds coming from various quarters of the woods on
the mountainside. Exclamations and cries rent the air, punctuated every
now and then by a pistol shot or the discharge of a shotgun. One of the
gypsy men was hit in the leg and fell, and Mother Domoza received part
of a charge of shot in her right hand.

“We’ll disarm him and tie his hands behind him,” said Dave to Roger,
referring to Jasniff. And despite the protests of the fellow who had
escaped from prison this was speedily done. Then Jasniff was marched
along to the foot of the tree in which the girls were hiding, and there
Roger stood guard over him, while Dave assisted Jessie and his sister to
the ground.

In less than half an hour the impromptu fight came to a finish. Mother
Domoza and three of the leading gypsies had been captured. The others
had escaped into the mountains, but a posse was organized, and all of
them were rounded up inside of twenty-four hours.

“Oh, Uncle Dunston, I am so glad to see you!” cried Laura, when the
uncle put in an appearance.

“And I am glad, too!” exclaimed Jessie.

“Are either of you hurt?” questioned Dunston Porter quickly.

“No, not in the least,” answered the daughter of the jewelry
manufacturer. “But we have been horribly frightened.”

“You didn’t pay the gypsies or Jasniff any reward, did you?” questioned
Dave quickly.

“No, Dave; although we might have done so if we hadn’t got the word that
you sent by telephone.”

As far as our friends went, it was a happy little party that gathered in
the bungalow a short while after. The girls were inclined to be somewhat
hysterical, and the young men and Dunston Porter did all they could to
quiet them.

“As soon as I discovered your automobile in the bushes I knew that you
must be somewhere in this vicinity,” explained Dunston Porter. “We had
come in to Frytown from Crandall less than an hour before.”

“But how did you get to Crandall so quickly?” questioned Roger.

“As soon as I got word from Dave I set the wires to working, and through
the authorities had the Boston Express stop both at Crumville and
Crandall, so that brought us up here in no time.”

“Did you see that fellow we had tied to the tree?” questioned Dave.

“Oh, yes, I found him directly after I located your auto. I tried to get
something out of him, but he seemed a bit off in his mind. Then I
remembered that signal you had spoken about and used it on the auto
horn.”

“Oh, won’t I be glad to get back to Crumville!” murmured Jessie.

“That’s right,” answered Laura. “I don’t think we want to make that trip
to Boston just now. I want to get home and see the rest of the folks.”

* * * * *

And now let me add a few words more and then bring this story of “Dave
Porter’s Great Search” to a close.

The whole party found themselves that night at the Bliss House in
Crandall, where they would have to remain until morning. Word had been
sent to Crumville, and it can well be imagined how happy those at home
were when they received the glad tidings that the girls were safe and
that those who had kidnapped them had been captured.

“Oh, Dave, it was simply wonderful how you and Roger got on the trail of
Jasniff and those awful gypsies!” remarked Jessie, in talking the matter
over.

“It was certainly very clever work,” put in Laura. “I think I’ll have to
have medals of honor struck off for both of you”; and this remark
brought a happy laugh all around.

The criminals had been taken in charge by the authorities, and the
following day found them safe behind the bars. It may be added here that
later on all of the gypsies, including Mother Domoza, were tried and
sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Nick Jasniff was returned to
the prison from which he had escaped.

“He’ll have to serve his old sentence over again,” explained Dunston
Porter. “After he has finished with that, they will probably try him for
this kidnapping affair, so that it’s likely he will not mingle with
honest people for a good many years to come.”

On being taken to prison, Jasniff was closely questioned and finally
gave the particulars of how he had stolen the battered touring-car, come
to Crumville in disguise, learned that the girls were going to take the
trip to Boston, and arranged with the gypsies to do the kidnapping.

“Oh, what a misspent life!” was Laura’s comment.

“Well, he has no one to blame for it but himself,” was Roger’s blunt
reply.

The home-coming of the two girls, accompanied by Dave, Roger and Dunston
Porter, was made a gala occasion at Crumville. Many of their friends
were on hand to greet them, and Mrs. Wadsworth shed tears of joy when
she embraced her daughter and Laura.

“I shall never forget what you have done,” said Mr. Wadsworth to Dave
and Roger. “It was grand—simply grand!” and he wiped the moisture from
his eyes.

“I knew Davy would do it,” quavered Caspar Potts, nodding his head over
and over again. “He’s a great boy—my Davy is!”

As for Dave’s father, the man could hardly speak, but the way he grasped
his son’s hand spoke volumes.

The two young civil engineers could not resist the temptation to send a
so-called night letter over the wires to those at the construction camp
in Montana, telling of what had been accomplished and stating that they
would soon be back at work. This message caused even Ralph Obray to
become enthusiastic.

“They are certainly great boys,” he said to Frank Andrews.

“The finest lads we have in camp,” answered the other. “I’m certainly
glad they joined us. Some day they’ll make their mark.”

“I believe you!”

Now that the young civil engineers had found the two girls they were
loath to separate from them. The young folks had many hours of happiness
together, which the older heads did not have the heart to interrupt.

“They certainly think the world and all of each other,” said Mr. Porter
to Mr. Wadsworth, referring to Dave and Jessie.

“So they do, and I am not sorry for it,” answered the jewelry
manufacturer. “And I notice that Roger thinks a good deal of your
daughter Laura.”

“You are right. And that pleases me, too,” returned Dave’s father.

“Well, we’ve got to start back for the West to-morrow,” announced Dave
one day.

“Right you are!” answered the senator’s son. “I suppose after this there
won’t be anything left for us to do but to work.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Roger. Something else may turn up sooner or later,”
returned our hero.

And he was right. Something else did turn up, and what that was will be
related in our next volume, to be entitled “Dave Porter Under Fire, or A
Young Army Engineer in France,” in which book we shall learn how our
hero and his chum “did their bit” for Uncle Sam.

“Becoming civil engineers has not been such a monotonous existence after
all,” said Roger. “Think of those strenuous times we had along the Rio
Grande and in Mexico, and then all those doings out in Montana, and when
we went after the gypsies and Jasniff.”

“They certainly were strenuous days, Roger,” answered Dave. “But now
we’ve got to buckle down to work if we want to become first-class,
full-fledged civil engineers.”

And here let us take our leave and bid Dave Porter good-bye.