The airplane boys among.., p.12
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.12

           John Luther Langworthy
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  "Whoop! now, what d'ye think of that?" shouted Elephant, as soon as heturned the corner of the shed.

  "Percy shies his hat in the ring! Another man-bird come to keep thepot boiling! Now, will you be good, Frank? Look at it eat updistance, will you? Say, that's going some, I tell you!" Larryexclaimed.

  "Percy deserves credit for staying up about all night to assemble theparts of his new biplane, and that's a fact!" Frank candidly admitted;as with kindling eyes he watched the progress of the new wonder thatmarked the latest achievement in the line of aviation, as advanced by awell-known brand of builders.

  His whole heart and soul were wrapped up in the strange calling thatseemed to be his birthright; so that he could even admire the cleverwork of a bitter rival, and applaud his successful evolutions.

  Over the treetops the biplane had arisen. Frank instantly rememberedhow they had seen Percy starting aloft on his initial flight with hisold machine, the one later on seized by the natives of Colombia, andwhich might still be doing duty down in that South American republic,for aught they knew.

  Apparently the young pilot of the new aircraft was filled withexultation over his successful start. He sent the biplane swiftlyaround in eccentric circles, as though testing its ability in variouslines. Now he shot upward as if intending to mount like an eagle ingigantic circles until among the fleecy clouds that floated overhead.Then he would volplane downward at dazzling speed, to resume ahorizontal flight when close to the earth.

  The boys watched as though fascinated. When a particularly daring actturned out to be a success Frank was the first to clap his handsvigorously.

  Possibly those in the aeroplane might not hear the applause; butwhether or no, it proved what the boys of Bloomsbury had always known,and this was that Frank Bird did not have a mean or jealous fibre inhis whole body. He could thoroughly enjoy seeing a rival performbrilliant "stunts;" and the only effect was to spur him on to excelling.

  "Percy is just as daring as ever! That is his one weakness, I'mafraid!" he remarked, as they saw the other make a sudden swoop thatmust have been particularly trying in the planes of his machine.

  "I bet you he's going to break his neck some day," grumbled Andy, whocould not bring himself to feel just the same way toward Percy as hiscousin did; according to the way boys look at these things, Andy wasthe more "human" of the two; having faults that were lacking in Frank.

  "That's certain a better biplane than the one they had last year,"Larry remarked, after he had been thrilled with the daring exhibitionPercy was putting up in his exultation at being once more afloat in theair, after a long absence.

  "A great deal better," Frank admitted. "I knew what the faults werewith that old plane, and so far I fail to discover the same failingswith this one. If Percy would only use a little more sense, and not beso willing to take unnecessary risks, he could have a grand time thissummer."

  "Gee! look at him going it now, would you?" gasped Elephant. "He musthave a bully good motor aboard to eat up space like that. Talk to meabout your mile a minute, he's beating that all hollow!"

  "No doubt of it," laughed Frank; "for everything happens to befavorable just now;" but Andy frowned and remarked:

  "Oh! I just guess that ain't anything so remarkable. Percy hasn't gotthe push on our biplane. I'd take my affidavy that we went faster thanthat at one time when Frank let her out. You wait and see; some fineday we'll show you a sight that'll make your eyes stick out."

  Andy was not a boaster as a rule; but whenever Percy Carberry startedto show what a mighty conqueror of the air he had become, somethingseemed to rise up within the second Bird boy that made him give vent tosuch expressions.

  "He knows we're watching him, that's why he does it!" said wiseElephant.

  "Sure," Larry admitted; "but that don't take away anything from hiscircus stunts, does it? Now he's going to swing around and circle yourfield, Frank. Wish he'd take a notion to drop down here, and let'slook his new article over."

  Andy laughed scornfully.

  "I see him doing that same, Larry, when water runs up hill!" heobserved sarcastically. "Did you ever know Percy to be open and frank?Ain't he always hiding what he knows, and trying to spring surprises onpeople? You don't catch him letting Frank look over his biplane, notif he knows it. Why, he's afraid Frank might get on to some littledevice that he expects will play a big part in the game, if ever heraces us again. Huh! come off your perch, Larry, and take anotherguess."

  "Well, there he goes around the field," the other went on. "Listen tothe hum of the propellers, would you? Don't they make sweet music,though? I'm afraid I'll be like poor little Elephant here, and get theaeroplane fever myself, if this thing keeps on. Then there'll be awhole flock of us bobbing around."

  He laughed heartily at the idea, as though he could imagine himselfwhizzing through the air "like a comet," as he remarked.

  "Look at Sandy swinging his hat!" called out Elephant. "He's yellingsomething too, but I can't make it out, because of the racket themachine makes."

  "Well, it wouldn't be hard to guess," declared Andy; "because you knowhow Sandy Hollingshead likes to boast. The joke of it is, he neverdoes anything but hang on to his crony, and keep up the shouting. He'ssuch a coward naturally that I don't understand how he finds the nerveto go up in that cranky craft with Percy."

  "There! he's making faces at us; or doing something with his hands,"Elephant continued, as he watched the biplane swinging past, somehundreds of feet in the air.

  "I suppose that's meant for a defi," laughed Frank. "You know Sandy'sways, fellows? He always was something of a monkey on the team when heplayed ball. Don't answer back, any of you. A cat may look at a king;and we have a perfect right to stand here in our own dooryard, and gapeat the show. But, Andy, pay attention to the way his machine works.I've caught on to a little idea already that I believe we could usewith benefit ourselves."

  That was practical Frank every time, always keeping an eye out for theusefulness of things, and ready to improve his opportunities asoccasion arose.

  Three times did Percy circle the big practice field, as thoughdetermined to impress upon the lookers-on the marvelous advantages hisnew biplane had over the old.

  Doubtless time had not effaced the bitterness of his former defeats atthe hands of his rival; and he was now fairly burning for a chance towipe the memory out.

  "Now, what d'ye suppose he's hanging around here all this while for?"grumbled Andy, who was nervous just so long as the other aeroplane keptwinging its flight over the encircling fence that marked the confinesof the aviation field.

  "Oh! Percy wants you to know he ain't stingy," sang out Larry. "Lookyour fill, from a distance, but you can't come any nearer."

  "Don't bother your head about him, Andy," remarked Frank. "It's givinghim heaps of pleasure, and doesn't hurt us a whit. In fact, I don'tcare how long he keeps it up; for by degrees I'll be able to understandsome things I'd like to know about that make of biplane. You can seeit differs from ours in lots of ways. Some things may be a bit better,and others not so good."

  "But, Frank, you don't think it could beat us out, do you?" Andyquickly demanded.

  Frank shook his head.

  "I hope not," he said, quietly; "but you can't always tell. That's agreat machine Percy has there now, and it would be silly to deny it. Agood deal depends on how it's going to be run."

  "That's the ticket, Frank!" exclaimed Larry. "And I'm dead sure thatno matter which biplane you handled in a race you'd come out ahead."

  "Sure he would," added Elephant, emphatically. "Because he keeps hishead about him, and knows just what to do in a tight pinch; while Percgets rattled, and loses his judgment."

  "That's good of you to say such things, boys; but I don't think Ideserve them," Frank laughed.

  "You sure do!" declared Andy, who ought to know better than any oneelse the good qualities of his chum, since he had se
en him under firemany a time.

  "L-l-look at 'em!" burst out Nat just then, surprising himself by hisability to actually speak clearly.

  The biplane had again headed across the field at a height of aboutthree hundred feet; only this time, instead of cutting corners it wascoming on directly, and gave promise of passing over the shed.

  "Hey! what's that Sandy's got in his fist?" cried Larry.

  "He's going to drop something, as sure as you live!" echoed Elephant.

  "Mem-mebbe it's a b-b-bomb!" burst out Nat, his mind filled withaccounts he had been reading of what was being done over in Africa bythe Italians in their war against the Turks and Arabs.

  At that Elephant seemed seized with a panic. He was not a valiant boy,generally speaking, and something about the ridiculous suggestionconcerning a bomb seemed to fill him with sudden terror.

  Uttering a howl he started to run one way, and then changing his minddarted in another direction; only to come back and finally crawl undera pile of boards that chanced to be lying near.

  "Hey! what you thinkin' of doing, Sandy?" shouted Larry, shaking hisfist up at the approaching aeroplane. "Don't you dare drop that on us,or I'll take it out of your measly hide, I sure will! Look out, Frank,he's let and here it comes a-sailin' down at us. Whoop!"

  From under the woodpile issued an echoing squawk, as Elephant huggedthe ground, and waited for the expected explosion.

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