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21. The Surprise Attack
Under cover of the thick darkness the cadets crept forward and approached the back of the house. There was no light to be seen, and Vench was worried for fear that they had suddenly decided to move the captive. But when they had ranged themselves alongside the building they found a faint light escaping beneath the black shades.

“They’re still here,” whispered Vench. “What shall we do, rush them?”

“It looks as though we will have to,” returned the senior captain guardedly. “We don’t know how many are in there, but we will have to take a chance on it.”

“There’s no use breaking the windows,” said Jim. “Before we could climb in they would have the light out and disappear. Can we get in from the front porch?”

Vench nodded and they made their way quietly around to the front, stepping with painful care. Once on the porch they cautiously looked in and saw that the light was in an inner room.

“We’ll have to smash the window completely with one blow,” decided Terry. “We can’t waste time by pulling out broken glass, and we don’t want to cut ourselves. Suppose two of us kick this glass through on a given signal, and two kick out the second window? We’ll jam through and go for ‘em!”

“Suppose the light goes out?” asked Jim.

“We mustn’t allow it to go out,” returned Rhodes. “Let’s get ready to board ship.”

Rhodes and Vench took up their place near one window and Terry and Jim took up a position at the other. At a whisper the four boys raised their feet, heels poised near the glass. There was no movement.

“Go!” whispered Rhodes.

Four heels struck the panes of glass with a shattering crash and a tinkling sound echoed through the house. Carried forward by the momentum Jim and Vench hurtled right on through. The leg of Jim’s trousers was cut. Vench was luckier and landed in the room without mishap. He sprinted madly for the door from which the light had come, with Jim a foot behind him.

Rhodes and Terry flung themselves after the first two, with no personal danger, for the bulk of the glass had been carried out by the kicks. By the time they reached the lighted room they found their two comrades busily engaged.

Vench had entered first, his eyes sweeping the room. The colonel sat in a chair, tightly bound, and near him were two men. One of them had been stretched on the couch in the room and the other was standing before a small stove. At the startling sound of breaking glass they had been paralyzed with astonishment, and before any movement could be made Vench was at the door and Jim was just behind him. The man on the couch leaped to his feet and reached for a heavy cane nearby, but the man near the stove leaped for the electric light button.

Vench saw him and jumped. Just as the man’s hand was closing over the button the little cadet bore down on him like a wildcat. His hands closed over the man’s shoulders and he spun him around. Before he could recover his balance Cadet Vench hit him a well-timed blow on the jaw. The man went down and Vench promptly threw himself upon him with enthusiasm.

Jim jumped for the second man, who, club upraised, bore down on Vench. Seeing Jim close to him the man whirled and struck at him with all his strength. Had the blow landed fully it would have ended Jim’s effectiveness that night. But Jim pulled his head to one side just in time. The blow landed on his shoulder near the neck. It caused him intense agony, and he faltered.

Rhodes tore into the room and at sight of him the colonel uttered a cry of delight. Terry followed and they bore down on the man with the cane. The colonel had been bewildered at the sight of the boys, for Vench, Jim and Terry were unknown to him, and only Rhodes was familiar. Seeing that his day had dawned the colonel became impatient and tugged at his bonds, eager to strike a blow in the fight for his liberty. But he was unable to pull himself loose and had to content himself with watching.

The man with the cane had thought Jim and Vench alone, but when he saw the other two cadets drawing near his tactics abruptly changed. He dropped his weapon and reached into his back pocket. It was then that Jim had his opportunity. Although his shoulder pained him greatly he threw himself forward, gripping the man’s arm. Then, while Terry and Rhodes knocked the man down, Jim twisted a revolver from his grasp.

Cadet Vench was having a tough time of it. The man beneath him was powerfully built, and with a single heave he sent the little cadet floundering to one side. From that position the man succeeded in twisting one leg around Vench’s body, cutting off his breath as he pressed his body to the wall. Vench’s eyes bulged and the perspiration stood out on his head, but he was far too plucky to call out. Now safely astride the small cadet the man raised his fist to deal him a savage blow.

Jim saved Vench. Seeing that Rhodes and Terry had the other man quiet he turned to see how Vench was making out. The peril that his friend was in struck him at once, and he dived forward. Fairly and squarely he struck the man, bowling him over like a log, and when Jim raised himself the man lay still, his head against the base of the wall.

Vench rolled over, panting. “Get something and tie these guys up,” he directed.

While ............
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