The airplane boys among.., p.16
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.16
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER XVI

  THE CHIEF MEETS AN OLD FRIEND

  There was a tremendous amount of excitement in the workshop when Frankaroused his four chums by this cry. All around him he could hear themcalling out.

  "Another fake alarm, I bet!" grumbled Larry.

  "It's that miserable Elephant again," said Andy in disgust. "He oughtto be taken down to the lake and ducked, that's what!"

  "Me ducked? I'd like to see you do it!" shrilled a voice close besideAndy, and which he recognized as belonging to the runt.

  "Hey! Frank, what is it?" demanded Larry.

  "Light up! we want to see something!" called Andy, now beginning toexperience a strange sensation in the region of his heart, as thepossibility of its being the genuine article of alarm struck home.

  Frank was already doing this very same thing; he struck his match evenwhile Andy was calling so loudly for a light. When the lamp wasbrought into use the boys stared around at each other.

  "Where's Stuttering Nat?" questioned Larry, suspiciously.

  "H-h-here!" came a quavering voice, as the other pushed himselfforward, so that none of them would believe he might be at fault, as hewas not particularly desirous of a bath just then.

  "Then we're all on deck; ain't that so, Frank?" asked Andy.

  "Count noses, and you'll find it that way," returned the other Birdboy, as he calmly picked up his gun.

  "Take the lamp, Andy, and fall in just behind me," he said.

  "O-oh! Frank believes he's caught him!" gasped Elephant, in aquivering voice.

  "Stop talking, and come on, everybody," Frank insisted.

  Each boy had armed himself as best the occasion allowed. One carried ahammer, another a baseball bat, while Elephant had found his club, andLarry picked up a seven foot piece of piping, which he thrust ahead ofhim after the nature of a spear.

  So they advanced in the direction of the end of the shed where Frankhad arranged his trap. Every one of them felt his heart beating like atriphammer as the sound of writhing, accompanied by groans, came totheir ears.

  There seemed no reason to longer doubt but what the trap would be foundsprung, and game of some species within.

  "Hold up that lamp, Andy!" said Frank, sternly. "Here, don't let yourhand tremble so. We must have light, you know. Steady now!"

  "Oh! I see him!" gasped Elephant, whose eyes were almost sticking outof his head with the excitement.

  "I guess it's Jules, all right," Andy managed to say; as he too took ina long breath, while he thrust the lamp out further so that all couldsee better.

  Something lay in the hole, something that took on the outlines of a manflat on his face, and with a heavy log almost squeezing the last bit ofbreath from his body. A broken old gun, that looked like one of themuskets used in the Civil War, lay close beside him, and had evidentlybeen dropped when the trap was sprung without warning, after the victimhad started to crawl into the shed by way of this inviting opening.

  "Yes, it's our old friend, Jules, come to pay us another night visit,"observed Frank, coolly as he handed the shotgun to Larry, and bendingdown proceeded to draw both arms of the senseless man behind him,fastening them securely with a stout cord which he drew from hispocket, having prepared for this same event in advance.

  "Is he killed?" asked Elephant, in an awe-struck voice.

  "Sure he isn't," replied Larry, who had seen the man moving, as thoughhis senses might be coming back.

  Five minutes later he opened his eyes, and stared hard at the array ofboyish faces before him. Evidently Jules may have suspected that theBird boys would be sleeping in their precious shop; but he had hardlyimagined that he would run up against a whole school there.

  Frank had meanwhile tied his ankles as well, and helped drag himfurther into the shop. When the man started to using language that wasoffensive, he warned him plainly that if he kept that up any longerthey would find some means of gagging him. The threat served to keephim quiet, though from the black looks on his face it was evident thatthe fellow was extremely bitter against them all.

  It was now three o'clock. Since all of them were too much excited toeven try to sleep any more, they concluded to remain on guard in abunch. Larry received no end of joshing on account of having slept onhis post; Frank even told him that it was considered so serious amatter that men had been stood up against a wall, and shot for allowingthe enemy to creep into camp.

  "All right," said Larry, who hung onto the gun all the while. "Let'ssee you do it right now. I'm the only one that's got a shooting iron,and I refuse to give it up, or use it on myself. Call it off, Frank,and we'll begin all over," and so, as Larry was a pretty decent sort ofa fellow, as they go, and besides, just as he said, held possession ofthe only weapon, for that musket had been broken by the fall of thelog, they concluded not to shoot him on the spot, but give him anotherchance to make good.

  It was a long wait till morning; but finally the stars vanished beforethe gray light of early dawn. Larry, as soon as he could see decently,started to get breakfast; for he declared that if he was a mighty poorsentry he did have a few good points, one of which was his ability tosling tasty messes together.

  Jules was as "mum as a church mouse," as Elephant called it. But bydegrees he took more or less interest in what the boys were doing.

  "Look out for him," said Larry aside to Frank. "I think he means totry and escape if he gets half a chance. That's why he smiles now andthen."

  "You're away off, Larry," replied Frank. "For I notice that every timethat pleasant look creeps over his face it is when a smell of coffeedrifts this way. Jules hasn't tasted anything like that for more thana year. And while he's got to go back to where the law has sent him,we're going to give him a decent breakfast first."

  When a little later they heard the stamp of the Colonel's crutch theboys looked up expectantly, knowing they would have the laugh on theold veteran traveler, who had flown to the rescue when the alarm wasall a farce, and slept through the real thing.

  "What's all this? Bless me, if they haven't caught the rascal afterall! Why didn't you ring me up? That alarm bell must have played mefalse, Andy, and I believe you juggled with it! The old cry of 'wolf'again; and I'm the victim."

  Expressing his disgust in this way the Colonel stumped in, andproceeded to let the prisoner know what he thought of a man who wouldtry to revenge himself upon a couple of bright lads; especially afterbringing all his troubles down upon his own shoulders.

  It afterwards developed that Jules had stolen the musket, and also thesuit of clothes he was wearing, from a farmhouse that he raided shortlyafter his escape from the prison. Although he never confessed to thefact, Frank never had any reason to doubt but that it had been Juleswho fired that shot at them while they were speeding over the Powellwoods in their biplane.

  Jules was given his fill of good breakfast, and this possibly put himin a better humor. He was not wholly an unscrupulous villain, and thefact of these boys treating him so decently seemed to make animpression on the fellow, for he watched Frank closely.

  The boys were talking the matter over, as to how they might best gettheir prisoner transported to the lockup in town, when sharp-eyed Natbegan to make a great noise, and pointed down the road.

  "It must be the Chief and his officers heading back home!" cried Andy,jumping up from his seat.

  "Here, make a dash toward the fence, and get their attention! Don'ttell them why we want them to come in here, but just let down thebars," said Frank; and at his words Andy went flying away across thepasture.

  By swinging his arms and shouting, he managed to attract the attentionof those in the passing car, which was halted. Then Frank saw Andyspeaking hastily, at the same time letting down the bars; after whichthe car swung in, with the Bird boy perched on the step.

  Chief Waller did not look particularly happy as he sat there alongsidethe man who served as chauffeur. He had lost a night's sleep, andcovered many miles in a useless search of the great Powe
ll woods; andfor so stout a man this was exhausting business.

  "Hello! Frank! How are you, Colonel? Sorry to say we haven't pickedup our man yet; and the chances are we won't do it, either. He musthave taken the alarm, and slipped off before we got there."

  Then the police head must have detected Elephant grinning broadly; andthis no doubt excited his suspicions; for he whirled on Frank, havinglaboriously descended from his car, and burst out with:

  "Looky here, Frank, what you got up your sleeve, anyhow? There'ssomething doing that I ought to know about, I reckon."

  "Oh! we thought it might pay us to set a trap, Chief," returned Frank,keeping as straight a face as possible. "Sometimes you have to go tothe mountain; and then again it comes to you. We made up our minds totry it, anyhow."

  "And it worked?" demanded Chief Waller, his face lighting up witheagerness.

  "Did it, fellows?" asked Frank, turning to the rest of his mates.

  "If the Chief had been anywhere around at three this morning he'd havethought something was working all right," gurgled Andy, his face allaglow.

  "Larry, help our guest out here, won't you?" said Frank; and only toowilling the one addressed stepped inside the shop, to reappear a momentlater and not alone. Chief Waller took but one look and then threw uphis hands, exclaiming:

  "Jules Garrone, and nabbed by a parcel of boys. Men, the joke is onus!"

 
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