The airplane boys among.., p.14
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.14

           John Luther Langworthy
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  "I don't suppose any of you fellows have seen signs of the Chief andhis men returning with any prisoners?" Frank asked, a little later, ashe entered the shed to see how the arrangements for the evening spreadwere progressing.

  "Nary a sign," replied Larry, who was bending over the stove, very redin the face, and yet grinning with pleasure; for he dearly loved tohandle the pots and pans on an occasion like this, and was really aclever cook.

  "Same here!" spoke up Elephant, who was fanning himself near by, andsniffing at the odors that arose from the fire, as though he wished thetime would come when he might partake of the feast Larry had prepared.

  "Then it looks as if the raid hasn't panned out a success so far,"remarked Frank. "I'm sorry, too, because I believe I'd sleep sounderif I only knew our friend Jules was caged once more."

  "Then you really think he'd be mean enough to try and burn the sheddown, and destroy your aeroplanes?" asked Larry.

  "Oh! from all I've heard about Jules, he'd never balk at a little thinglike that," Frank continued. "The scoundrel who could shoot at twoboys sailing hundreds of feet in the air, and take chances of sendingthem down to a terrible death, wouldn't hold back at anything, in myopinion."

  "The Colonel says he'd just like to get in touch with him," remarkedElephant, with a chuckle. "I can just see the old chap dancing aroundwith his war paint on, swinging that crutch of his to beat the band.Wow! wouldn't he just make mincemeat out of Jules though, if ever theymet up?"

  "Don't you forget it, Colonel Josiah still burns with the same spiritthat carried him through a bunch of tight places. He's promised totell us all about his ride with Gomez in Cuba during the war withSpain. And mark me, it'll be worth listening to. He never yarns, andhas the proofs to show for every story he tells. That's the best partof it, because you know all the time you're listening to real hardfacts, and not fiction."

  "There he comes now, stumping along. Bet you he's sniffed some ofthese delicious smells away up at the house. Larry, if you don't get amove on, and announce dinner pretty soon, I declare if I don't start araid on the grub. Can't stand for much more of this," and Elephanthugged himself as though it were only by a determined effort that herefrained from beginning work then and there.

  "Hold on five minutes more, old chap," soothed the cook. "Everything'sready, and as soon as Frank gives the word we'll sit down."

  To enjoy the meal all the more they had taken the table outdoors, andplaces for half a dozen had been made ready. The sun had set, butthere would be light for an hour at least, plenty to last them duringthe meal.

  The old traveler they seated at the head of the table, and Frank wasmade to take the other end. Then Larry and his assistants set to workdishing up. As the lovely aluminum set only carried enough for four,Andy had been compelled to call upon his reserves for additionalplates, cups and such things.

  And that dinner was surely worth remembering. Larry had certainly"done himself proud," as the delighted Colonel declared, after he hadeaten until he could no longer do justice to the spread.

  After the things had been cleared away they started the veteran todipping into certain of his recollections; and once he was set going,he might be likened to a clock, for being wound up, adventure afteradventure fell from his lips in a way to keep the listeners charmed.

  Not that the Colonel was a boaster at all; he never assumed that he haddone anything at all wonderful; but just related facts in his simplethough dramatic way, and those who heard could draw their owninferences.

  The boys would never forget that evening, or the feast that Larry putbefore them. It would ever be marked by a white stone in theirmemories; and doubtless in after years, when fully launched upon themore serious avenues of life, more than one of them would look backwith a smile as the picture arose in their minds' eye, with thatwhite-haired old man sitting near by, and thrilling them with hisrecollections of the past.

  It was long after ten when he bade them good-night, and betook himselfoff to the house, his last words being:

  "Don't forget that your Uncle Josiah is coming like a runaway engine ifso be that bell sounds the alarm! And to tell you the truth, boys, I'mhalf wishing it might be so!"

  After he had gone they began to make their preparations looking to thepassing of another night. Each one believed he could make someimprovement on the former experience. This was especially the casewith Elephant, who had been very uncomfortable in that swinging canoe;though it looked cozy enough.

  Frank seemed to be busying himself after a strange fashion.

  Elephant had cast a curious look that way several times as he laboredto improve his own conditions. Finally his natural desire to knowcompelled him to turn to Larry, and put the question:

  "What's Frank doing over at the end of the shed? Sure he don't mean tochange his bunk for a place like that?"

  "Oh, rats! don't you understand? Frank's making a trap!" Larry replied.

  "Rats--a trap!" repeated the runt, mystified by the coming together ofthese two significant words. "But what does he have to go to all thattrouble for? I'd think one of them ordinary regular wire traps wouldfill the bill as well."

  Larry looked at him queerly, as if making up his mind whether the othermeant it, or was simply joshing him.

  "This is a man-trap!" he said, severely.

  "Oh! my!" Elephant gasped; and then fell to watching Frank moreintently than ever, as he continued to work on.

  "And," continued Larry, "if you wake up in the night, and hear the mostawful racket in the wide world, make sure we've caught something, doyou understand, Elephant?"

  "Meaning Jules?" queried the other, in an awed tone.

  "Meaning Jules," repeated Larry, mocking the other by even assuming hismanner.

  "But do you really think he'll drop in on us, Larry?" the small boyasked.

  "Wouldn't surprise me one little bit," returned his tormentor, calmly."You heard what the Colonel was saying about those Spanish brigands whocaptured him--well, this Jules is just the same sort of customer,revengeful, desperate and ready to take almost any sort of chances, ifhe sees an opening. And Frank is that accommodating, he means to havea most inviting opening ready, so Jules can't resist the temptation tostick his nose in. Then slam! bang! and it's all over with Jules butthe shouting, believe me."

  Naturally all this sort of talk had its effect upon the timid Elephant.He could not keep his thoughts away from the trap Frank was making inthe rear of the shed, and the possibility of that dark-faced escapedconvict being caught in the act of entering the place, on mischief bent.

  "I'll just dream about him coming, see if I don't!" he warned Larry, ashe prepared to crawl into the swinging canoe, where his blankets hadbeen placed.

  "All right," answered the other; "only don't you go to whooping thingsup here too lively. Remember there are others, and that they want tosnooze right along till morning. I'm glad Frank didn't draft you for asentry, though."

  "Oh! it was nice of him," answered the small boy, readily. "But thenyou see, Frank knows I just can't keep awake to save me. And what goodis a sleepy guard, I'd like to know. Hope I've got it fixed now so Iwon't feel the ribs of this blessed Oldtown canoe poking me in my slatstonight. They kept me uneasy last night to beat the band. Aw! I'mawful sleepy, Larry; and I guess I'll turn in."

  "Good. Only go careful, or you'll roll out the other side. That boatswings with a hair trigger. The least touch starts her to going.There you are. It's rockabye baby for you, Elephant. Mother's littledarling boy, go to sleep now like a good kid!"

  Elephant mumbled some sort of answer but in another minute he was off,fast locked in the arms of the dream god. Larry lost little time infollowing his example, for he expected to be called at a certain hourby Frank, who would have the first watch himself.

  Darkness fell upon the interior of the workshop. If there was anysound to be heard, such as the heavy breathing of some sleeper, thesigh and m
oan of the night breeze without deadened this.

  Frank had assumed a comfortable position. He could sit there and allowhis mind to grapple with numerous things that interested him; at thesame time feel that he was keeping a strict watch. Time passed on.The air happened to be coming from the direction of the town, so thatwhen the clock in the church tower struck the hour he could easily hearthe sounds.

  In this way he knew how his watch went on, and when it would be time tochange places with Larry. To the average lad there is somethingapproaching a fascination in this near approach to life in the open.The mere fact that peril threatened, so as to compel a night watch, wasenough to keep Frank from feeling drowsy. But then he always had apeculiar faculty for controlling his weaknesses. Most other boys wouldhave had to fight desperately to remain awake.

  He had just counted the strokes as the town clock droned off themidnight hour, and was wondering whether he had not better let Larrysleep until one had arrived, when without the slightest warning therearose the most dreadful racket any one could well imagine.

  It sounded as though the whole roof might be falling in, what with theclatter of tinpans, the upsetting of chairs and the half muffled shoutsthat punctuated the entire clamor. And Frank leaped to his feet,believing on the spur of the moment that his trap had been sprung!

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