It was a warm evening and the chums took their time in returning to the camp, knowing supper would not be served until a little later. During the day several shots had been heard at a great distance to the southward, and some of the civil engineers had wondered if some sort of a scrimmage was taking place on the other side of the Rio Grande.
"If a fight is in progress I hope it doesn't extend to this neighborhood," remarked one of the engineers, in speaking of the matter. "We've got troubles enough of our own—getting this bridge right—without having the greasers interfering with our work;" and he gave a grim laugh.
When the chums arrived in camp they found that the day's mail had come in. There was a Washington newspaper for Roger containing an address delivered in the Senate by Senator Morr, and also a long letter for our hero from Ben.
"Well, here is news at last!" cried Dave, as he scanned the communication. "Come on out here, away from the crowd, Roger, and I'll read it to you;" and then he led the way to a corner and acquainted his chum with the contents of the letter, which was as follows:
"I know you will be interested to learn that we have at last heard from that rascal, Tim Crapsey, who, with Ward Porton, got the miniatures from my mother. Crapsey sent a very badly written letter to my father, stating that he and Porton had parted company, but that he had the most of the miniatures,—in fact, all but six of them.
"Crapsey wrote that he was in the city of New York, and had the miniatures in a safe place, and that he would return them to us for fifteen thousand dollars. We were to insert a personal advertisement in one of the New York newspapers if we were willing to accept his offer, and then he would send us word how the exchange of money for the miniatures could be made.
"Of course, as you know, my father is still sick. He didn't have anything like fifteen thousand dollars in cash to offer Crapsey, and besides that Mr. Wadsworth and your Uncle Dunston thought it was altogether too much money to offer a thief like that. In fact, your uncle was of the opinion that they should only try to lead Crapsey on, so that they could capture him. But my father, backed up by Mr. Wadsworth, at length agreed to put up five thousand dollars in order to get the miniatures back, and an advertisement was inserted in the newspapers to that effect.
"We waited two days for a reply, and then came a scrawl on a bit of paper signed by Crapsey, stating that he was having trouble of another kind and could not for the present keep on with his negotiations. After that my father inserted another advertisement asking for more information, but up to the present time no additional word has come in.
"My father does not know what to make of it. Your folks and Mr. Wadsworth are of the opinion that either Crapsey was trying to fool them and got scared or else that the rascal has been caught by the police for some other crime and is trying to conceal his identity. They are divided on the question as to whether to believe Crapsey when he wrote that he and Porton had parted company—they are half inclined to believe that Porton is still with him, and that the whole scheme was framed up by Porton."
"That is certainly interesting news," remarked Roger, after both had perused the letter a second time. "And it settles one thing—and that is that Tim Crapsey must have been in New York with Ward Porton at the time we saw the latter."
"Exactly, Roger. And it also proves beyond a doubt that that pair were really the thieves. Previous to this we only supposed such to be the fact—we really couldn't prove it."
"Oh, I was sure of it all along, Dave."
"So was I, Roger. But you know in a court of law it is one thing to know a thing and another to be able to prove it."
The two young civil engineers discussed the letter all through the evening meal and even for some time later. Then, however, Roger turned to his newspaper, to read with care the address that his father had delivered. Dave was also interested in this.
"I'd like to be in the Senate some time when your father was speaking," he remarked to his chum. "It must be a great sight to see such a body as that when it is in session."
"It is, Dave," answered his chum. "And people come thousands of miles to see it."
Before retiring for the night Dave penned a letter to Ben, and also sent a letter to Jessie, and another to his Uncle Dunston which was meant for the entire household. Roger spent the time in a communication to his mother, and also in a long letter to Luke Watson.
The night proved to be unusually warm, for the breeze which was usually stirring had died down completely. Dave fell into a fitful doze, from which he awoke about midnight to find his mouth and throat quite parched.
"I guess I'd better get up and get a drink," he told himself, "and then I may be able to sleep better. Phew! but the thermometer has certainly been going up the last few days."
He arose to his feet and walked out of the room into the hallway of the building, where in one corner there was a water-cooler. He had just finished drinking a glass of water when a sound from outside reached his ears. There was a shout from a distance, followed almost instantly by a rifle shot.
"Hello! what can that mean?" he cried.
A moment later came more shouts, this time a little closer to the camp. Then two more rifle shots rang out sharply through the midnight air.
"Something is wrong, that's sure!" exclaimed the youth. Rushing back into the bedroom he shook Roger vigorously. At the same time he heard others getting up and calling to each other, wanting to know what the shouts and shots meant.
"What do you want, Dave?" asked the senator's son, sleepily.
"Get up, Roger!" answered our hero, quickly. "Hurry up! there is something going on outside! I just heard a number of yells and several rifle shots."
"You don't mean it, Dave!" and now Roger was on his feet with a bound. "Maybe it's the greasers."
"I don't know what it is, Roger. But I guess we had better slip into our clothing. Maybe somebody is— Listen!"
Dave broke off short, and both strained their ears to hear what was taking place outside. They heard a confused shouting, followed by several yells. And then came a volley of shots—five or six in number.
"It's an attack! That's what it is!" cried the senator's son. "I'll bet some of those Mexican bandits are coming over here! Oh, Dave! what do you suppose we had better do?"
"I don't know, except that we had better slip on our clothing and get our pistols," answered Dave. "This looks as if it might be serious."
"Up, boys! Up!" came the cry from somebody outside. "Get your guns and your pistols! The Mexican raiders are coming this way!"
THE MEXICAN RAIDERS
By the time the two chums had hastily donned their clothing and possessed themselves of the pistols they had purchased in San Antonio on the advice of Mr. Watson, the camp was in confusion from end to end, with the various bosses shouting orders and the men themselves wanting to know what the trouble was and what they had better do.
"It's some of those confounded greasers!" cried Frank Andrews, as he, too, arose and armed himself. He had a repeating rifle, and it was known to Dave and Roger that he was an exceptionally good shot.
Andrews led the way from the building, followed by our hero and Roger and several others. In the meantime, the distant shouting and shooting seemed to have moved farther westward, in the direction where the new Catalco bridge was being constructed.
"It can't be their intention to blow up the bridge?" queried Roger. There had been talk of this several times.
"No telling what those rascals are up to," answered Frank Andrews. "This may be only a rumpus kicked up to cover a cattle raid or something like that."
In the midst of the excitement the telephone in the main office began to ring and was answered by one of the clerks. A few minutes later he came rushing out to where Mr. Obray stood talking to his assistant and the boss of the construction camp.
"Just got a telephone from the Tolman ranch," announced the clerk. "Old man Tolman said they had been raided and that half of the raiders were coming this way. I tried to get some details from him, but in the midst of the talk I was shut off. I suppose somebody cut the wire."
"I thought that might be it," answered the head of the engineering corps.
"We ought to help Tolman all we can," announced the boss of the construction camp. "He promised to assist us in case we had any trouble, and turn about is fair play."
"Right you are, Peterson, and any man who wants to go out can do it." And word was passed around to this effect.
Dave and Roger listened to this talk and what followed with much interest. In less than five minutes over thirty men from the construction camp had signified their willingness to go after the raiders, and these men were joined by Frank Andrews and three other civil engineers, all well armed and mounted.
"I'd like to join that crowd and go after those Mexicans!" exclaimed Dave, his eyes sparkling.
"So would I!" returned the senator's son, quickly. "Those fellows can't be anything but plain bandits and cattle thieves."
"Sure! No regular revolutionists would come over the border and act in this fashion."
"What do you say, Dave—shall we go?"
"No, no! You young fellows had better stay in the camp," announced Ralph Obray, who overheard the talk. "Just remember that in a certain sense I am responsible for your safety while you are under me."
"But those others are going," returned Dave, somewhat reproachfully.
"So they are, Porter. But they are all older than you, and most of them have had experience in this sort of thing. I would rather that you stayed here. Maybe if those raiders come this way we'll have our hands full defending the camp."
Dave and Roger realized that for the head of the camp to express his desire in this instance was equal practically to a command; so they at once gave up the idea of following Frank Andrews and the others. The men rode off quickly, and were soon lost to sight in the darkness of the night.
An hour of intense anxiety passed. During that time those left in the camp heard an occasional shot in the distance. Then several shots seemed much closer. There followed some yelling, and, then about five minutes later, came a dull explosion.
"That's at the bridge!" exclaimed Dave. "They must be trying to blow it up!"
The dull explosion was followed by a sudden rattle of rifle and pistol shots and more yelling. Once or twice some men seemed to come quite near to the construction camp, the hoof strokes of the horses being distinctly heard.
All who remained in the camp were on the lookout, and each man stood ready with his weapon to do what he could to defend the place should the occasion arise. But with the explosion and the rattle of rifle and pistol shots that followed, the conflict seemed to die down, and presently all became utter silence; and thus two more hours passed.
"Whoever they were, they seem to have left this vicinity entirely," said Roger.
"I wish it was morning," put in another of the young men present. The watching was beginning to get on his nerves.
At last, just as the first streaks of dawn were beginning to show in the eastern sky, a number of horsemen were descried approaching from the southward. All in the camp were instantly on their guard, but it was soon seen that it was their friends who were coming back. They came in somewhat of a horseshoe formation, driving in their midst four prisoners, one of them with his arm done up in a sling and another with his head bandaged.
"They've got somebody!" exclaimed Roger, as the crowd came closer, "Four greasers!"
"Three of them look like Mexicans, but the other fellow looks like an American," returned Dave, as the party came to a halt in front of the camp buildings.
Those who had come in were at once surrounded by the others, who wanted to know the particulars of what had taken place.
"It was a band of about thirty greasers, and with them were two or three Americans," announced Frank Andrews. "They went down to old man Tolman's corral and tried to drive off about two hundred head of cattle. They got away from the ranch, and then part of the gang came over this way in the vicinity of the new bridge. We had two running fights with them, and then they let the cattle go and started for the Rio Grande. But before they went one of the rascals set off a bomb near the end of the bridge and blew up a corner of the foundation."
"Why in the world did they want to blow up the bridge?" demanded Mr. Obray.
"They weren't all Mexicans, Mr. Obray. Several of them were Americans. We've got one of the Americans right here. And do you know who it is? Jack Pankhurst!"
"What's that!" exclaimed the head of the camp, and then he turned to the prisoners. One man had his sombrero pulled well down over his forehead, as if somewhat ashamed of himself.
"There he is," went on Frank Andrews, pointing to this individual. "That's Jack Pankhurst, who was discharged for drinking and gambling about two months ago."
Mr. Obray strode up to the prisoner and gave him a tap under the chin, thus elevating his face.
"You're a fine specimen of humanity, Pankhurst!" he cried sternly. "A fine business for you to be in—joining Mexican outlaws and becoming a cattle rustler. What have you to say for yourself?"
"I haven't anything to say," grumbled the prisoner. "What's the use? I was caught with the goods, wasn't I?" he sneered.
"I'm ashamed to think an American would go in with a bunch of Mexican bandits," said Mr. Obray; and then gave directions that the prisoners should be well bound so that there would be no possibility of their escaping.
All listened with interest to the details of the cattle raid so far as the men who had gone out from the construction camp could relate. They said that some of the fighting had been exceedingly hot, and they were satisfied that a number of the Mexicans, and also one of the Americans with them, had been wounded.
They themselves had not escaped unscathed, one man being hit in the shoulder and another in the leg. Fortunately, however, neither of these wounds proved serious. The camp doctor was called in to attend them, after which he attended the wounded prisoners. In the meantime, a message was sent to the railroad station and to San Antonio, to acquaint the authorities with what had occurred.
"I was questioning Pankhurst on the way here," said Frank Andrews to the head of the camp. "He wouldn't admit it outright, but I am strongly of the opinion that one of the other Americans who was with him was Bill Jarvey."
"Jarvey!" muttered Mr. Obray. "Well, it would be just like him to join a fellow like Pankhurst. They were quite chummy when they both worked for the company."
"I've got another idea about this affair," went on Andrews. "Do you remember how they said Jarvey vowed he would get square with the company for discharging him? I've got an idea that it was his scheme to attempt to blow up the bridge, and that he was the one who set off that bomb. Their idea was to get the cattle to some safe place first, and then ruin the bridge. More than likely Jarvey and Pankhurst made a deal with the greasers to that effect—the Americans to help with the cattle and the Mexicans to help destroy our work."
"You may be right, Andrews," answered Ralph Obray. "And if you are, it's a pity that you didn't catch Jarvey."
Dave and Roger listened to this talk with interest, and also joined in the general discussion of those in the camp regarding the raid, and what would be done with the prisoners.
"I suppose they will turn the prisoners over to the United States authorities," was Dave's opinion; and in this he was right. Some government officers appeared by noon of the next day, and after a lengthy talk with the head of the camp and a number of others, the prisoners, including Jack Pankhurst, were taken away.
"I wonder if old man Tolman got his cattle back," remarked Roger.
"All but three of the animals," answered one of the men present. "Those were trampled to death during the raid. But three are nothing alongside of two hundred."
The raid had caused so much excitement in the camp that there was but little work done that day. The boys went down with the others to inspect the bridge, and look curiously at the hole which had been torn in the corner of one of the foundations by the bomb.
"That was certainly a mean piece of business," was our hero's comment. "It didn't do anybody a bit of good, and it's going to make a good deal of work to repair the damage."
Several days passed, and the camp at last settled back into its usual routine. Dave and Roger worked as hard as ever, and both were much pleased when Mr. Obray told them that they were doing very well.
"I am going to write a letter to Mr. Ramsdell," said the head of the camp, "and tell him that I am well satisfied with his pupils," and he smiled faintly.
A day or two later word came to the camp which interested the chums as much as it did anybody. It seemed that Jack Pankhurst had been subjected to a "third degree" of questioning. He had broken down completely and confessed that the two other Americans in the raid with him had been former employees of the Mentor Construction Company—one a fellow named Packard Brown, and the other William Jarvey. Pankhurst had also let fall the information that Jarvey had once been an officer in the United States Army, and that he was traveling under an assumed name.
"A former officer of our army and acting in that way!" exclaimed Dave, when he heard this report. "I certainly do hope they'll catch him and punish him as he deserves!"
"My sentiments exactly!" added Roger.
THE CHASE ON THE BRIDGE
"My, Dave! but it's hot!"
"I agree with you, Roger. This is the hottest day we've struck yet. And such a hard day as it's been too!" and our hero paused to wipe the perspiration from his brow.
"What do you say if we take a swim this evening?" went on the senator's son. "A plunge into the river would feel good to me."
"I'm with you, Roger. Let us eat a light supper and get down to the river before it grows too dark."
Four weeks had passed since the events narrated in the last chapter, and matters in and around the construction camp had once more quieted down. Work was being pushed forward rapidly, and Dave and Roger were making excellent progress in their chosen profession. They had made a warm personal friend of Frank Andrews, as well as a friend of Mr. Obray, and both of these individuals gave them many instructions during off hours which proved highly beneficial.
No more had been heard from the Mexican raiders, and it was hoped that those bandits had departed for some other locality along the Rio Grande. The prisoners taken during the raid were still in jail, awaiting trial.
Down along the stream over which the new Catalco bridge was being constructed there was a favorite swimming place used by the civil engineers and their assistants, the men and boys of the construction gang using another spot farther down the stream.
"I'll beat you getting in, Dave!" cried Roger, as the pair neared the bathing place that evening, and he started to take off some of his clothes.
"Don't jump in too quickly, Roger," warned our hero. "Remember you have just been eating and you are rather warm. Better take it easy on the bank for a little while."
"I guess you're right," was the reply. "I don't want to get a cramp or a chill, or anything like that."
To reach the swimming spot, the chums had to pass one end of the new bridge. As they drew closer they saw somebody high up on the skeleton structure gazing at them curiously.
"Hello! who's that up there?" remarked Dave.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Roger. "I thought all our men were back in camp."
As they came still closer the individual on the bridge turned to walk toward them. Suddenly, however, he stopped short and tried his best to hide himself behind some of the steel work.
"Say! that looks rather queer to me," remarked Dave. "He acts just as if he didn't want us to see him."
"Just what I thought, Dave." The senator's son gave a sudden start. "You don't suppose it's one of those Mexican raiders, do you?"
"I can't say anything about that. I'm going up there to find out who he is. It seems to me he is acting very suspiciously. Maybe he's trying to plant some more bombs."
Dave turned back to a point where he could get up on the bridge, and his chum followed. From this point they could not see the person above them nor could he see them. When they reached the flooring of the big bridge they were less than two hundred feet from where the unknown person stood. He was leaning over the side of the structure, evidently trying to find out what had become of them.
"Why, Dave, he—he—looks like you!" burst out the senator's son, as both hurried in the direction of the unknown person.
"I do believe it's Ward Porton!" ejaculated our hero. He began to quicken his pace. "Yes, I'm almost sure it's Porton," he added, a few seconds later.
"If it's Porton what in the world tempted him to follow you to this place?" queried Roger.
"I don't know. But I do know that I'm going to capture him if it is possible to do so," answered Dave, with determination.
The two chums were still almost a hundred feet from the other person when the latter glanced up suddenly and discovered them. He looked them full in the face for just an instant, and then turned and began to run away towards the opposite end of the long bridge.
"It's Porton, sure enough!" burst out Roger.
"Hi there, Porton! Stop!" cried Dave. "Stop, I tell you!"
"You go on back!" yelled Ward Porton, in an ugly voice. "Go on back, I tell you! If you don't it will be the worse for you!" and he shook his fist at the chums.
"You might as well stop," continued Dave, undaunted by the threat. "You can't get away from us. If you try to jump off the unfinished end of the bridge you'll break your neck."
"If you fellows don't go back I'll shoot," returned the fellow who resembled Dave. "Stop right where you are! Don't dare to come a step closer!"
"Oh, Dave! do you suppose he is armed?" questioned Roger, hastily and in a low tone.
"Maybe he is. But I am going to keep on after him until he shows his pistol," was the rapid reply. "You need not come if you don't want to. I'm going to capture him and make him give up the Basswood fortune."
"If you are going after him, so am I," returned the senator's son, sturdily. "Maybe it was only a bluff about shooting after all."
While running along the bridge Dave's eyes fell on a short steel bar left there by one of the workmen. He stopped just long enough to pick the bar up, and then went after Porton with all the speed at his command.
It was a perilous chase, for in many places the flooring of the big bridge was still missing and they had to leap from girder to girder of the steel structure.
"Stop, I tell you!" yelled Ward Porton once more, when Dave was within ten yards of him. And then he turned squarely around and our hero and Roger saw the glint of a pistol as the rascal pointed it toward them.
"He is armed!" cried Roger, and now there was a note of fear in his voice, and not without reason.
"Get behind the steel work," ordered Dave, and lost no time in dodging partly out of sight. As he moved, however, he launched forth the steel bar he had picked up.
More by good luck than anything else the bar sped true to its mark. It struck Ward Porton in the forearm, the hand of which was holding the pistol. In another instant the weapon was clattering down through the steel work of the bridge to the river far below.
"Hurrah, Dave! you've disarmed him!" cried Roger.
For the instant Ward Porton seemed dazed by the sudden turn of affairs. Evidently, however, the blow from the steel bar had not hurt him much, for, turning quickly, he continued his flight along the bridge. Dave and Roger lost no time in following him.
It was not long before the fugitive and those behind him reached a section of the long bridge which was far from completed. Here there was practically no flooring, and Ward Porton had to jump from one piece of steel work to another, while Dave and Roger, of course, had to do the same. Once those in the rear saw the rascal ahead make a misstep and plunge downward. But he saved himself, and, scrambling to his feet, dashed forward as madly as before.
"Take care, Dave, it's dangerous here," gasped Roger; and scarcely had he spoken when he himself made a misstep and shot down below the level of the bridge flooring.
Dave was several feet in advance, but turned instantly when his chum let out a cry of alarm. He saw Roger four or five feet below him, clinging frantically to one of the stays of the bridge.
"Hel—help m—me!" panted the unfortunate youth.
"Hold tight, Roger. I'll help you," returned Dave, quickly.
The stay below was so small in diameter that all Roger could do was to cling to it with both hands and one leg. In this position he hung until Dave let himself down several feet and managed to give him a hand. Then with extreme caution both worked their way back to the unfinished flooring of the bridge.
"Oh my! I thought sure I was a goner!" panted the senator's son, when he found himself safe once more. He had turned white and he was trembling from head to foot.
"I guess you had better not go any farther, Roger," remarked Dave. "This certainly is dangerous work."
"It's a wonder Porton doesn't fall," was the other's comment, as they both watched the fleeing rascal, who was leaping from girder to girder with a recklessness that was truly amazing.
"He's scared stiff at the idea of being captured," was Dave's comment. "If it wasn't for that, I don't believe he would take any such chance;" and in this surmise our hero was probably correct.
Dave hated to give up the chase, so he continued his way along the bridge, making sure, however, of every step and jump he took. Roger remained where he was, too shaken up to proceed farther when he knew that each step would prove more hazardous than the last.
At last Ward Porton gained a point where one of the foundations of the bridge rested on comparatively solid ground, with the river behind and a wide stretch of marshland ahead. Here there was a long ladder used by the workmen, and down this the rascal went as fast as his feet could carry him. By the time Dave reached the top of the ladder, Porton was well on his way over the solid ground. Soon the gathering darkness hid him from view.
Knowing that it would be next to useless to attempt to follow the rascal now that he had left the vicinity of the bridge, Dave returned to where he had left Roger. Then the pair started slowly back to the end of the bridge from which they had come.
"I can't understand what brought Ward Porton here," remarked Roger, when the chums had once more gained the swimming-place. "Do you suppose he knew you were in this vicinity, Dave?"
"Possibly, Roger. But at the same time, I don't think that would explain his presence here. He wouldn't dare to impersonate me around this camp. He'd be sure to be caught at it sooner or later."
"Well, I don't understand it at all."
"Neither do I. I am sorry that we didn't catch the rascal," returned Dave, soberly.
When they went back into camp they informed Frank Andrews, and also Mr. Obray, of what had occurred. These men had already heard some of the particulars regarding Dave's double and the disappearance of the Basswood fortune.
"Too bad you didn't get him," said Frank Andrews. "But you be careful how you run over that unfinished bridge, unless you want to have a nasty fall and either get killed or else crippled for life."
Several days went by, including Sunday, and nothing more was seen or heard of Ward Porton although the lads made a thorough search for him. Dave sent letters home and to Ben Basswood, telling the folks in Crumville of what had happened.
"A little greaser to see you, Dave," remarked one of the civil engineers as Dave was coming from an unusually difficult afternoon's work.
He walked to where his fellow worker had pointed, and there saw a dirty, unkempt Mexican lad standing with a letter in his hand. The communication was addressed to Dave, and, opening it, he read the following:
"I have broken with Tim Crapsey and have the Basswood miniatures here with me safely in Mexico. If the Basswoods will pay me ten thousand dollars in cash they can have the pictures back. Otherwise I am going to destroy them. I will give them two weeks in which to make good.
"As you are so close at hand, maybe you can transact the business for Mr. Basswood. When you are ready to open negotiations, send a letter to the Bilassa camp, across the border, and I will get it.
ACROSS THE RIO GRANDE
Dave read the note from Ward Porton with intense interest, and then passed it over to Roger.
"What do you know about that!" exclaimed the senator's son, after he had perused the communication. "Do you think Porton tells the truth?"
"I don't know what to think, Roger. If he does tell the truth, then it is quite likely that Tim Crapsey was trying to play a double game so far as the Basswoods were concerned."
"It's pretty clever on Porton's part," said Roger, speculatively. "He knows it would be very difficult for us to get hold of him while he is in Mexico, with this revolution going on. And at the same time he is close enough to keep in touch with you, knowing that you can easily transact this business for the Basswoods—providing, of course, that Mr. Basswood is willing."
Dave did not answer to this, for he was looking around for the Mexican youth who had delivered the note. But the boy had slipped away, and a search of the camp failed to reveal what had become of him.
"I guess he was instructed to sneak away without being seen," was our hero's comment. "Porton knew that I wouldn't be in a position to answer him at once, and he didn't want me to follow that boy."
Dave read the note again, and then went off to consult with Frank Andrews and Mr. Obray.
"It's too bad you didn't capture that little greaser," observed the head of the civil engineers. "We might have been able to get some information from him. However, if he's gone that's the end of it. I think the best thing you can do, Porter, is to send a night message to this Mr. Basswood, telling him how the note was received and repeating it word for word. Then the responsibility for what may follow will not rest on your shoulders."
Our hero thought this good advice, and, aided by his chum, he concocted what is familiarly known as a Night Letter, to be sent by telegraph to Crumville.
On the following day came a surprise for our hero in the shape of a short message from Ben Basswood which ran as follows:
"Yours regarding Porton received. Crapsey makes another offer. Pair probably enemies now. Will write or wire instructions later."
"This is certainly getting interesting," remarked Dave, after having read the message. He turned it over to Roger. "I guess Ben is right—Crapsey and Porton have fallen out and each is claiming to have the miniatures."
"Well, one or the other must have them, Dave."
"Perhaps they divided them, Roger. Thieves often do that sort of thing, you know."
"Do you suppose Ward Porton is really around that Bilassa camp in Mexico?" went on the senator's son.
"Probably he is hanging out somewhere in that vicinity. I don't think he has joined General Bilassa. He thinks too much of his own neck to become a soldier in any revolution."
Having sent his message to the Basswoods and received Ben's reply, there seemed nothing further for our hero to do but to wait. He and Roger were very busy helping to survey the route beyond the new Catalco bridge, and in the fascination of this occupation Ward Porton was, for the next few days, almost forgotten.
"If the Basswoods expect you to do anything regarding that note you got from Porton they had better get busy before long," remarked Roger one evening. "Otherwise Porton may do as he threatened—destroy the pictures."
"Oh, I don't believe he'd do anything of that sort, Roger," answered Dave. "What would be the use? I think he would prefer to hide them somewhere, thinking that some day he would be able to make money out of them."
Four days after this came a bulky letter from Ben Basswood which Dave and his chum read eagerly. It was as follows:
"I write to let you know that Tim Crapsey has been caught at last. He was traced to New York and then to Newark, N. J., where the police found him in a second-rate hotel. He had been drinking, and confessed that he had had a row with Ward Porton and that one night, when he was under the influence of liquor, Porton had decamped, taking all but two of the miniatures with him. The two miniatures had been sold to a fence in New York City for one hundred dollars, and the police think they can easily get them back. With the hundred dollars Crapsey had evidently gone on a spree, and it was during this that Porton sneaked away with the other miniatures. Crapsey had an idea that Porton was bound for Boston, where he would take a steamer for Europe. But we know he was mistaken.
"The case being as it is, my father, as well as your folks and Mr. Wadsworth, thinks that Porton must have the pictures with him in Mexico. That being the case, your Uncle Dunston says he will come down to Texas at once to see you, and I am to come with him. What will be done in the matter I don't know, although my father would much rather give up ten thousand dollars than have the miniatures destroyed. If you receive any further word from Ward Porton tell him that I am coming down to negotiate with him. You had better not mention your uncle's name."
"Looks as if Porton told the truth after all," announced Roger. "Probably he watched his opportunity and the first chance he got he decamped and left Crapsey to take care of himself."
"Most likely, Roger. I don't believe there is any honor among thieves."
Ben had not said how soon he and Dunston Porter would arrive. But as they would probably follow the letter the two chums looked for the pair on almost every train. But two days passed, and neither put in an appearance.
"They must have been delayed by something," was Dave's comment.
"Maybe they are trying to get that ten thousand dollars together," suggested Roger.
"I don't believe my Uncle Dunston will offer Porton any such money right away," returned our hero. "He'll see first if he can't work it so as to capture the rascal."
On the following morning Roger was sent southward on an errand for Mr. Obray. When he returned he was very much excited.
"Dave, I think I saw Ward Porton again!" he exclaimed, as he rushed up to our hero.
"Where was that?" questioned Dave, quickly.
"Down on that road which leads to the Rio Grande. There was a fellow talking to a ranchman I've met several times, a Texan named Lawson. As soon as he saw me he took to his heels. I questioned Lawson about him and he said the fellow had come across the river at a point about a quarter of a mile below here."
Dave listened to this explanation with interest, and immediately sought out Mr. Obray. The upshot of the talk was that our hero was given permission to leave the camp for the day, taking Roger with him.
The two chums went off armed with their pistols, not knowing what might happen. They first walked to where Roger had met the ranchman, and there the senator's son pointed out the direction that the young man who had run away had taken. They followed this trail, and presently reached the roadway which ran in sight of the river. There were comparatively few craft on the stream, and none of these looked as if it might be occupied by the young man they were after. But presently they reached a small creek flowing into the Rio Grande, and on this saw two flat-bottomed rowboats.
"There he is now!" exclaimed Dave, suddenly, and pointed to the first of the rowboats, which was being sent down the creek in the direction of the river.
The sole occupant of the craft was the fellow at the oars, and the two chums readily made out that it was the former moving-picture actor. As soon as he made certain of Porton's identity, Dave pulled Roger down in the tall grass which bordered the creek.
"There is no use in letting him see us," explained our hero.
"Do you suppose he is bound for the Mexican shore?" questioned the senator's son.
"More than likely, Roger." Dave looked questioningly at his chum. "Are you game to follow him?" he added.
"What do you mean?"
"We might take that other rowboat and go after him. I see it contains a pair of oars. Either of us ought to be able to row as well as Porton, and if we can catch him before he lands maybe we'll be able to drive him back to the United States side of the river."
"All right, I'll go with you," responded Roger, quickly. "Come ahead!" and he started on a run for the rowboat.
The craft was tied fast to two stakes, but it was an easy matter for them to loosen the ropes. This done, Dave took up the oars, shoved off, and started to row with all the strength at his command.
Evidently Ward Porton had not expected to be followed, for he was rowing leisurely, allowing his flat-bottomed boat to drift with the current. He was much surprised when he saw the other boat come on at a good rate of speed.
"Get back there!" he yelled, when he recognized the occupants of the second craft. "Get back, I tell you, or I'll shoot!"
"If you do we'll do some shooting on our own account, Porton!" called back Roger, and showed his pistol.
The sight of the weapon evidently frightened Porton greatly. Yet he did not cease rowing, and now he headed directly for the Mexican shore.
The river at this point was broad and shallow and contained numerous sand-bars. Almost before they knew it the craft containing our friends ran up on one of the bars and stuck there. In the meantime Ward Porton continued his efforts to gain the shore.
"What's the matter, Dave?" cried Roger, when he saw our hero stop rowing.
"We are aground," was the answer. "Here, Roger, get to the stern of the boat with me, and we'll see if we can't shove her off again."
With the two chums in the stern of the craft, the bow came up out of the sand-bar, and in a few seconds more Dave, aided by the current of the stream, managed to get the rowboat clear. But all this had taken time, and now the two chums saw that Ward Porton had beached his boat and was running across the marshland beyond.
"I'm afraid he is going to get away," remarked Roger, dolefully.
"Not much!" answered Dave. "Anyway, I'm not going to give up yet," and he resumed his rowing.
"Here, let me take a turn at that. You must be getting a little tired," said Roger, and he insisted that Dave allow him to do the rowing.
Soon they reached the Mexican shore, at a point where there was a wide stretch of marshland with not a building in sight. They had gotten several glimpses of Ward Porton making his way through the tall grass. The trail was an easy one to follow.
"Come on! We'll get him yet!" muttered Dave, and started off on the run with Roger behind him.
They had just reached an ill-kept highway when they heard shouting in the distance. They saw Ward Porton running wildly in the direction of a set of low buildings, evidently belonging to some sort of ranch. As the former moving-picture actor disappeared, a band of Mexican cavalry swept into view.
"Quick, Roger! Down in the grass!" cried Dave. "We don't want those soldiers to see us! They may be government troops, but they look more like guerrillas—like the rascals who raided the Tolman ranch!"
"Right you are," answered the senator's son. And then both lay low in the tall grass while the Mexican guerrillas, for they were nothing else, swept past them.
A STRANGE DISCOVERY
As nearly as Dave and Roger could calculate, there were about two hundred of the Mexican guerrillas—dirty and fierce-looking individuals, led by an officer wearing an enormous hat and a long, drooping mustache.
The entire crowd looked disreputable in the extreme, and the youths could not help but shudder as they gazed at the cavalcade.
"My gracious, Dave! do you call those revolutionists?" remarked Roger, after the last of the horsemen had disappeared down the roadway.
"They may be revolutionists, Roger. But to my mind they look more like bandits than anything else. Under the pretense of aiding Mexico they probably steal whenever they get the chance."
"I'd hate awfully to fall into their clutches. I think they'd rob a fellow of every dollar he had."
"Well, never mind those Mexicans, Roger," pursued Dave. "Come on, let us see if we can't locate Ward Porton."
"He went over into one of yonder buildings."
"I know it, and I've got an idea," answered our hero. "Let us see if we can't sneak across the roadway without being seen and then come up to those buildings through the thick grass and behind that chaparral. If we expose ourselves Porton will, of course, keep out of our sight or run away."
With extreme caution the two chums worked their way through the tall grass to the edge of the roadway. Then, watching their chance when nobody seemed to be looking, they dashed to the other side and into the grass again. Then they began to work their way cautiously in the direction of the group of buildings into which the former moving-picture actor had disappeared.
The buildings belonged to a Mexican ranch; but the place had evidently been the scene of a fight at some time in the past, for one of the buildings was completely wrecked and several of the others much battered. There were no horses, cattle, pigs, or chickens anywhere in sight; and the youths came to the conclusion that the ranch had been abandoned by its owner.
"Probably some of those guerrillas came along and cleaned him out," observed Dave, "and after that he didn't think it would be worth while to stay so long as the country was in a state of war."
In a few minutes more Dave and his chum gained the first of the buildings. Here they paused to listen and to look around.
"You want to be on your guard, Roger," whispered our hero. "Porton may be watching us and he may have some of his friends here. For all we know this may be his hang-out."
"I'll be on guard, don't fear," answered the senator's son, and brought forth his pistol.
"Don't use that gun unless you have to," warned Dave, who did not favor any shooting, even in an extreme case like this.
"I'll not give a rascal like Porton the chance to shoot me first," retorted Roger. "That fellow ought to be in jail, and you know it."
To this our hero did not answer. He felt in his pocket to make sure that his own weapon was ready for use.
Not a sound from the other buildings had reached them, nor did any one appear to be in sight.
"Looks to me as if we were in sole possession, now that those guerrillas have gone," announced Roger. "Wow! I hope they don't come back,—at least not until we are safe on our side of the Rio Grande," he added grimly.
"Come on, we'll take a look through the buildings," answered Dave. "Don't make any noise if you can possibly help it."
Leaving the building which they had first entered—an abandoned stable—they moved through a broken-down cow-shed to a long, low structure which had evidently been used by the helpers on the ranch. This building was also deserted, and all that remained in it was some filthy bedding alive with vermin.
"Come on, let us get out of here," remarked Roger, as he looked with disfavor at the squalor presented. "How can human beings live like this, Dave?"
"I don't know, Roger. This place ought to be burned down—it's the only way to get it clean," Dave added, shaking his head in disgust over the sight.
Less than fifty feet away was the corner of the main building of the ranch. Peering out cautiously, to make sure that no one was watching them, the two chums hurried across the open space and crouched down beneath a wide-open window. Then Dave, pistol in hand, looked in through the opening.
The room beyond was deserted, and a glance around showed him that it contained little besides some heavy pieces of furniture which the looters had evidently been unable to remove. On a table rested several empty liquor bottles, and also a number of cigar and cigarette stubs. On the floor were scattered newspapers and some playing cards.
"The fellows who were here evidently got out in a hurry," remarked Dave.
"Are you going to go in?" questioned Roger.
"I guess so. What do you think about it?"
"I'm with you, Dave. Now we have gone so far, we might as well finish the job."
It was an easy matter for the two chums to climb through the low window. Once in the room, they advanced toward a doorway leading to an apartment that opened on the patio of the ranch home—an open courtyard which had once boasted of a well-kept flower garden, but which was now neglected and overrun with weeds.
As Dave gazed out across the patio he saw a movement in a room on the opposite side of the ranch home. The face of a man had appeared for a few seconds. Behind him was some one else—who, however, Dave could not make out.
"My gracious, Roger!" gasped our hero in a low voice. "Did you see that fellow?"
"I saw some one."
"It was William Jarvey!"
"Jarvey! Are you sure?"
"I am certain of it. Now what do you think of that!"
"I'm sure I don't know what to think, Dave. Maybe he is making his headquarters here, the same as Ward Porton."
"I am going to try to find out. Come on."
Our hero made a quick mental calculation as to the ground plan of the ranch homeland then he and Roger began to work their way from one room to another, and then through a long, narrow hallway, until they reached the other side of the building. Here they paused at the end of the hallway to listen.
From a room close at hand came a murmur of voices. By straining his ears Dave made out the tones of William Jarvey. The former bookkeeper for the Mentor Construction Company was evidently talking to another man, but what was being said was not distinguishable.
"It's Jarvey all right enough," whispered Dave.
"Yes. But that isn't Ward Porton with him," returned Roger.
"I know it. It's some man."
Both continued to listen, and presently heard William Jarvey give a sarcastic laugh.
"You've got another guess coming, Packard Brown, if you think you are going to get that much out of the deal!" he cried. "Remember, you haven't done a thing to help us."
"That's all right, Bill Jarvey," retorted the man called Packard Brown. "When we left the U. S. A. and came over here it was understood that we were to share and share alike in everything."
"Yes, but I didn't think this new thing was coming up," growled Jarvey. "We were to share equal on what we happened to get out of the greasers. This is another thing entirely."
"I admit that. Just the same, I think I'm entitled to my share."
"Well, you help us all you can and you'll get a nice little wad out of it, Brown."
What more was said on this subject did not reach the ears of Dave and Roger, for just then the latter pulled our hero by the sleeve.
"Somebody's coming!" he whispered. "Maybe it's Porton."
Dave did not answer. At the end of the semi-dark hallway there was a closet which in years gone by had been used for the storage of guns and clothing. Into this closet the two youths went, closing the door carefully after them.
"It's Porton all right enough," whispered Dave, who a moment later was crouching low and looking through a large keyhole devoid of a key. "There he goes into the room where the two men are."
"Then those two men must be in with him," returned the senator's son. "Say, Dave, this is certainly getting interesting!"
"It's going to make our job a pretty hard one," answered our hero. "If Ward Porton was alone we might be able to capture him. But I don't see how we are going to do it with Jarvey and that man named Brown present."
"Maybe if we offer Jarvey and Brown a large reward they will help us make Porton a prisoner," suggested Roger. "More than likely Jarvey is on his uppers and will do anything to get a little cash."
The two youths came out into the semi-dark hallway once more, and on tiptoes crept toward the door of the room occupied by Ward Porton and the two men.
"I went all around the buildings, and looked up and down the roadway, but I couldn't see anything of them," the former moving-picture actor was saying. "I guess they got cold feet when they saw those soldiers. Say, those greasers certainly were a fierce-looking bunch!"
"I don't believe they were any of General Bilassa's army," returned William Jarvey. "They were probably some detachment out for whatever they could lay their hands on," and he chuckled coarsely. Evidently he considered that such guerrilla warfare under certain circumstances was perfectly justifiable.
Following this there was some talk which neither of those outside the door could catch. Then came a rather loud exclamation from Ward Porton which startled our friends more than anything else that could have been said.
"Well, now, look here, Dad!" cried the former moving-picture actor. "You let me run this affair. I started it, and I know I can put it through successfully."
"That's right, Jarvey!" broke in Packard Brown. "Let your son go ahead and work this deal out to suit himself. He seems to have made a success of it so far—getting the best of that fellow Crapsey," and the speaker chuckled.
Dave and Roger looked at each other knowingly. Here indeed was a revelation. Evidently Ward Porton was the son of the man they knew as William Jarvey.
"My gracious! I remember now!" burst out our hero in a low tone. "When we went to Burlington to see that old man, Obadiah Jones, about Ward don't you remember that he told us that Ward was the son of a good-for-nothing lieutenant in the army named Jarvey Porton? That man Pankhurst who was captured declared that Jarvey was living under an assumed name and had been an officer in the army. It must be true, Roger. This fellow is really Jarvey Porton, and he is Ward Porton's father!"
What Dave said concerning the man he had known as William Jarvey was true. He was in reality Ward Porton's father, his full name being William Jarvey Porton. Years before, however, on entering the United States Army, he had dropped the name William and been known only as Jarvey Porton. Later, on being dismissed from the army for irregularities in his accounts, he had assumed the name of William Jarvey.
A lively discussion lasting several minutes, and which our hero and Roger failed to catch, followed the discovery of Jarvey Porton's identity. Then the listeners heard the former lieutenant say:
"Brown, I think you had better go outside and watch to make sure that no one is coming to this place."
"All right, just as you say," was the other man's answer. Evidently he understood that this was a hint that Jarvey Porton wished to speak to his son in private.
As Packard Brown placed his hand on the door leading to the semi-dark hallway Dave and Roger lost no time in tiptoeing their way back to the closet in which they had before hidden. From this place they saw Brown leave the room and walk outside. Then they returned to their position at the door.
"Are you sure the cases are in a safe place, Ward?" they heard Jarvey Porton ask anxiously.
"Sure of it, Dad. I hid them with great care."
"Are you sure nobody saw you do it?"
"Not a soul."
"Where was the place?"
"On a high knoll not far from where we have been tying up the boats," answered Ward Porton. "There are a number of big rocks there, and I found a fine cache between them."
"It's rather dangerous to leave them around that way," grumbled the man. "Maybe you would have done better if you had brought them over here."
"I thought there would be no use in carting them back and forth," returned the son. "I wanted to have them handy, in case the Basswoods met my demands."
"Well, we'll see what comes of it, Ward. I hope we do get that money. I certainly need some," and Jarvey Porton heaved something of a sigh. Evidently father and son were equally unscrupulous and took no pains to disguise that fact from each other.
More talk followed, Ward telling something of the way in which the miniatures had been obtained and his father relating the particulars of his troubles with the Mentor Construction Company. In the midst of the latter recital Dave and Roger heard Packard Brown returning on the run.
"Hi there!" called out the man in evident alarm. And then as the two chums hid in the closet once more, he burst into the room occupied by the Portons. "Those greasers are coming back and they are heading for this place!" he explained.
"In that case we had better get out," answered Jarvey Porton, quickly.
"But you and Brown helped them in that raid, Dad," interposed the son. "Why should you get out?"
"We had a big quarrel after that raid, Ward," explained the parent. "And now those greasers have no use for us. We'll have to get out, and in a hurry, too."
Shouting could now be heard at a distance, and this was followed by a volley of shots which surprised all the listeners.
"I'll tell you what it must be," said Jarvey Porton, as he led the way from the deserted ranch. "A detachment from the regular army must be after General Bilassa's crowd. Maybe they'll have a fight right here along the border!"
"I don't want to get mixed up in any fight!" exclaimed Ward Porton. "Maybe we had better get back to the United States side of the river."
"That's the talk!" put in Packard Brown. "Come on!"
All left the ranch and headed directly for the river, at the point where Ward had left his flat-bottomed rowboat. Dave and Roger followed them, but did their best to keep out of sight in the tall grass.
"Oh, Dave, I hope they do go over to the other shore!" exclaimed the senator's son. "It will be so much easier to capture them."
"Exactly, Roger. And don't you remember what Ward told his father—that he had left the miniature cases hidden on the other side? He said they were on a high knoll not far from where the boats had been tied up. We ought to be able to find that cache."
By the time the two chums gained the shore of the Rio Grande those ahead of them had already entered Ward Porton's boat. Ward and Brown each had an oar and rowed as rapidly as possible to the other side of the stream. Jarvey Porton sat in the stern of the craft, and looked back from time to time, trying to catch sight of the guerrillas and the other Mexicans, who were still shouting and firing at a distance.
"Hadn't you better hold back a bit, Dave, so they don't see you?" questioned Roger, as he and our hero managed to gain the rowboat they had used, which, fortunately, had been placed some distance away from the other craft.
"Good advice, Roger, if it wasn't for one thing. I don't want to give them a chance to get out of our sight. Let us tie our handkerchiefs over the lower parts of our faces. Then they won't be able to recognize us—at least unless we get pretty close."
With Dave's suggestion carried out, the chums leaped into the rowboat, and, this done, each took an oar. They pulled hard, and as a consequence reached the mouth of the little creek on the United States side in time to see those ahead just disembarking.
"Where do you suppose they are going?" queried the senator's son.
"That remains to be found out," answered Dave. "Duck now, so they won't see us." And with a quick motion of the oar he possessed he sent the flat-bottomed boat in among some tall grass which bordered the creek at this point.
Ward Porton and those with him had tied up their boat and were walking to the higher ground away from the creek. Jarvey Porton paused to look back along the creek and the bosom of the river beyond.
"I don't see anything on the river just now," he announced.
"Look! Some one is coming from the other way!" exclaimed his son, suddenly.
"Is that Lawson, the ranchman?" questioned Packard Brown, anxiously.
"No, I don't think it is," answered Ward Porton. "They seem to be strangers," he added, a minute later.
Two men and a well-grown boy were approaching. They came on slowly, as if looking for some one.
"I'd like to know what those fellows want around here," came from Jarvey Porton, as he gave up looking along the river to inspect the newcomers.
From their position in the tall grass bordering the creek, Dave and Roger looked from the Porton party to those who were approaching. Then, of a sudden, our hero uttered a low exclamation of surprise.
"Look who's here, Roger! Ben Basswood and my Uncle Dunston! And Mr. Andrews is with them!"
"Oh, Dave! are you sure?"
"Of course I am! I would know my Uncle Dunston as far as I could see him. And you ought to know Ben."
"My gracious, Dave, you're right! This sure is luck!"
"I know what I'm going to do," decided our hero, quickly. "I'm going to send both of the boats adrift. Then, no matter what happens, those rascals won't have any easy time of it getting back to Mexico."
In feverish haste Dave sent the flat-bottomed boat out into the creek once more. Roger assisted him, and a few strokes of the oars brought the craft alongside of that which had been used by the Porton party. Then the chums leaped ashore, threw all the oars into the water, and set both of the rowboats adrift.
"Hi there! What are you fellows up to?" came suddenly from Packard Brown, who had happened to look behind him. "See, Jarvey, those two fellows have cast our boat adrift!"
"Who are they?" demanded Jarvey Porton, and looked in some bewilderment at the two figures approaching, each with a handkerchief tied over the lower portion of the face.
"Uncle Dunston! Ben!" cried Dave at the top of his lungs, and at the same time whipped the handkerchief from his face. "Here are Ward Porton and his father! We must capture them!"
"Hurry up! Don't let them get away!" put in Roger, as he, too, uncovered his face.
As he uttered the words Roger drew his pistol, an action which was quickly followed by our hero, for both understood that the criminals before them might prove desperate.
Of course Dunston Porton and Ben Basswood, as well as Frank Andrews, were greatly astonished by the calls from Dave and Roger. But our hero's uncle, while out hunting in various parts of the world, had been in many a tight corner, and thus learned the value of acting quickly. He had with him his pistol, and almost instantly he drew this weapon and came forward on the run, with Ben and Frank Andrews at his heels.
"Stop! Stop! Don't shoot!" yelled Ward Porton in alarm, as he found himself and his companions surrounded by five others, three with drawn pistols.
"We won't shoot, Porton, if you'll surrender," answered Dave.
"Oh, Dave! has he got those miniatures?" burst out Ben.
"He sure has, Ben!"
"I haven't got any miniatures," growled the former moving-picture actor.
His father and Brown looked decidedly uncomfortable. Once the former army officer made a motion as if to draw his own weapon, but Dunston Porter detected the movement and instantly ordered all of the party to throw up their hands.
"Oh, Dave! are you sure he has those pictures?" queried Ben, and his face showed his anxiety.
"I think so, Ben. However, we'll find out as soon as we have made them prisoners."
"That's the talk!" put in Roger. He turned to Dave's uncle. "Can't you bind them or something, so that they can't get away?"
"We'll disarm them," announced Frank Andrews. "Jarvey and Brown are wanted for that raid on old man Tolman's ranch and for using that bomb on the bridge. We can prove through Pankhurst that they were with the party."
"That man is Ward Porton's father," explained Dave to his uncle and Ben, while the evil-doers were being searched and disarmed one after another.
"Ward Porton's father, eh? Well, they seem to be two of a kind," answered Ben.
With their weapons taken from them, the prisoners could do nothing but submit. They were questioned, but all refused to tell anything about what they had done or intended to do.
"You'll never get anything out of me, and you'll never get those miniatures back," growled Ward Porton, as he gazed sourly at Ben and at Dave.
"We'll see about that, Porton," answered our hero. And then he requested his uncle and Frank Andrews to keep an eye on the prisoners while he, Roger and Ben set out for the knoll some distance away from the creek.
"Ward Porton said he had hidden some cases in a cache between some rocks on that knoll," explained our hero. "By cases I think he meant those containing the miniatures."
"Oh, I hope he did!" returned Ben, wistfully. "To get those miniatures back means so much to my folks!"
THE FORTUNE RECOVERED—CONCLUSION
As Dave, Roger, and Ben tramped through the tall grass to where was located a knoll of considerable size, the son of the Crumville real estate dealer related how he and Dunston Porter had arrived in the construction camp and how they had gotten Frank Andrews to show them in what direction our hero and the senator's son had gone.
"We knew you were after Porton, and we hoped to catch sight of that rascal," went on Ben, "but we didn't dream that we were going to capture Ward and also those two men who are wanted for that raid on the Tolman ranch. And to think that one of the men is Ward's father! He certainly must be a bad egg!"
"He is, Ben," answered Dave. "And Ward is a chip of the old block."
The chums were soon ascending the knoll, containing many rocks between which were dense clumps of chaparral. Here they had to advance with care so as not to turn an ankle or get their clothing torn.
Dave had hoped that the search for the missing cases would be an easy one, but in that he was disappointed. The three chums walked all around the knoll several times without getting anything in the way of a clue as to where Porton's cache was located.
"It's a shame!" burst out Roger at length. "If we could only—" He looked quickly at Dave. "What do you see?"
Our hero did not reply. Instead he hurried forward several feet, and then gave a low cry.
"Porton has been here!" he exclaimed, and held up a half-burned cigarette.
It was not much of a clue, but it was something; and working on this all three of the youths searched the vicinity diligently. They soon came upon a somewhat flat rock, and all seized hold of this to cast it to one side.
"Hurrah!" came simultaneously from Dave and Roger, as they saw a large opening under where the stone had been placed.
Ben said nothing, but plunged his hand into the opening, to draw from it an instant later one of the cases that had contained the Enos miniatures. The other cases quickly followed.
"Are the miniatures in them?" questioned the senator's son.
"That's what I'm going to find out," answered Ben.
The cases were fastened by several catches, but these were quickly unfastened and the lids thrown open.
"Good! Good!" exclaimed Ben, and his face showed his intense satisfaction.
There before the eyes of the youths were nearly all of the wonderful collection of miniatures which Mr. Basswood had inherited. Only two were missing—those which the thieves had sold in New York.
"Oh, this is simply grand!" cried Roger, enthusiastically.
"That's what it is," added Dave, and then went on quickly: "We'll have to get these to some safe place and then make sure that they'll never be stolen again."
"Don't you worry about that, Dave. I won't let them out of my sight until they are safe and sound," declared the real estate dealer's son.
Locking up the cases once more, the three youths carried them off the knoll and through the chaparral to where they had left Dunston Porter and the others. Of course, Dave's uncle was much gratified to learn that the miniatures had been recovered, and Frank Andrews was also pleased. Jarvey Porton looked downcast, and his son showed his deep disgust.
"I was a fool not to take them over into Mexico," remarked the former moving-picture actor.
"Well, I told you that was what you should have done," retorted his father. And then he added in a low tone: "We might have purchased our freedom with those miniatures."
While Dunston Porter and Frank Andrews looked after the prisoners to see that they did not get away, Dave and his chums took care of the cases containing the precious miniatures, and thus the whole party made its way to the engineering and construction camp. There the Portons and Packard Brown were handcuffed, and word was sent to the authorities to take charge of them.
"And now I've got to send word home about this good news!" cried Ben, and lost no time in getting off a long telegram to his folks, and asking them to inform Dave's father and the Wadsworths by telephone of the success of the trip to Texas.
"That message ought to do your father more good than a dose of medicine," remarked Dave.
"It will, Dave," answered Ben, his face beaming. "I know father will recover now that he has nothing more to worry about." Ben was right. The recovery of the fortune in miniatures did much toward restoring the real estate dealer to his former good health.
In the camp it was remarked by a number of men how much Ward Porton resembled Dave. But no one at that time dreamed that this resemblance was shortly to come to an end. Yet such was a fact. When being transferred from Texas to the State in which his crimes had been committed, Ward Porton attempted to make his escape by leaping from a rapidly moving railroad train. As a consequence he broke not only both of his legs, but also his nose, and cut his right cheek most frightfully. As a result, when he was retaken he had to remain in the hospital for a long time, and when he came out his face was much disfigured and he walked with a decided limp.
"It's too bad, but he brought it on himself," was Dave's comment, when he heard of this.
"It's a good thing in one respect," was Roger's reply. "With his nose broken and his cheek disfigured and with such a limp, no one will ever take Ward Porton for you again."
It may be mentioned here that when the proper time came Ward Porton and Tim Crapsey were brought to trial and each was given a long term of imprisonment. Ward's father and the other men who had participated in the attack on the Tolman ranch and on the bridge and had been captured were also severely punished.
The store-keepers and the hotel-keeper who suffered through Ward Porton's misrepresentations could get nothing from the young culprit, but they had the satisfaction of knowing that he had now been put where it would be impossible for him to dupe others.
Ben Basswood remained at the camp but a few days, and then he and Dunston Porter started northward. The miniatures had been boxed up and shipped by express, insured for their full value. It may be stated here that they arrived safely at their destination. Those which had been disposed of in New York City were recovered, and in the end Mr. Basswood disposed of the entire collection to the museums in four of our large cities for the sum of seventy-five thousand dollars. With part of this money he went into several heavy real estate deals, taking Ben in with him, and father and son did very well.
"I think the getting back of those miniatures was entirely your work, Dave," declared Roger, one day.
"I don't know about that," answered our hero, modestly. "I think you had a hand in it."
"I had a hand in catching Ward Porton, but you were the one to spot that cache and locate the Basswood fortune."
* * * * *
And now let me add a few words more and then bring to an end this story of "Dave Porter and His Double."
A number of years have passed since Dave graduated from Oak Hall and took up the profession of a civil engineer. Both he and Roger learned rapidly, and at the end of the required time both passed their final examinations with flying colors. They remained with the Mentor Construction Company, journeying all over the United States, and also going down into Mexico and into Central and South Americas. They, of course, met with numerous adventures, some of which I may relate to you at a future time. They returned to Crumville a number of times, and during those visits Dave was more attentive to Jessie than ever, while Roger spent nearly all his time at Laura's side.
"They'll make a fine pair of married couples," declared Dave's Uncle Dunston.
"Well, I hope they'll be happy," answered Dave's father. "They certainly deserve to be."
"You are right. But I guess they had better wait awhile yet."
"Of course. They are young, and Dave and Roger want to get a good foothold in their profession."
"Those boys have had some strenuous doings," continued the uncle. "I wonder what will happen next?"
"Something, that's certain," answered Dave's father; and he was right, as will be related in my next volume, to be entitled, "Dave Porter's Great Search; or, The Perils of a Young Civil Engineer." In that book we will meet all our young friends again, and learn the particulars of Jessie Wadsworth's strange disappearance.
"Great days, those—on the Rio Grande, Dave!" remarked Roger, one day, when the two had been discussing what had taken place in the past.
"Yes, Roger, they certainly were great days," answered our hero. "No matter what exciting times may come in the future, I'll never forget how I helped to capture my double."
"And how we managed to become full-fledged civil engineers, Dave."
"Yes, that was just as good as getting back the Basswood miniatures, if not better," answered Dave.
Here, at the height of his success in his chosen profession, we will wish Dave Porter well, and say good-bye.
* * * * *
Illustrations have been moved closer to their relevant paragraphs.
The page numbers in the List of Illustrations do not reflect the new placement of the illustrations, but are as in the original.
Author's archaic and variable spelling and hyphenation is preserved.
Author's punctuation style is preserved.
Passages in italics indicated by underscores.
Passages in bold indicated by equal signs.
Typographical problems have been changed and are listed below.
Page 152: Was single quote ("Why certainly I haven't been here, Mrs. Basswood," he returned promptly.)
Page 155: Removed extra double quote ("I said 'no,' but told him I was very well acquainted with his handwriting. Then he said he)
Page 213: Was 'Wiliam' (would feel utterly lost without a cigar. Well, I'll see you later." And thus speaking William Jarvey took himself off.)
Page 265: Was 'go you' ("All right, I'll go with you," responded Roger, quickly. "Come ahead!" and he started on a)