The airplane boys among.., p.17
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.17

           John Luther Langworthy
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  "Good morning, Chief!" said the prisoner, with a cool grin.

  The Head of the Bloomsbury police force looked so utterly amazed thatLarry and some of his mates could not help laughing.

  "Didn't expect to find Jules waiting up for you on the way back, didyou, Chief?" asked Andy, with perhaps a touch of sarcasm in his voice;for to tell the truth the boy did not have a very high opinion of thestout man's abilities in the way of thief catching, though liking himwell enough as a genial townsman.

  "Well, I confess that I never expected such great good luck," admittedthe other. "And now, boys, tell me just how it happened."

  "Oh! he dropped in on us, Chief," Andy went on.

  "And liked the accommodation afforded by the Birdsnest so well that heconcluded to stop over," Larry remarked. "Frank here, expectedsomething of the kind, and got ready to receive visitors."

  "You mean he set a trap?" asked the official, looking admiringly at theparty in question.

  "Well," Larry drawled, "I guess you could call it that, and not get faroff the road. It had a trigger all right, and when Jules touched thisoff a nice heavy plank that was like a log dropped, and pinned him downon his chest. We found him gasping for breath, and his gun with abroken lock."

  "Gun! Then he was armed, and creeping into your shop!" exclaimed theother, with a frown toward the grinning and apparently indifferentprisoner. "That looks bad, now. What would he want to carry a gunfor, if not to injure you boys? And where d'ye suppose he got it at?"

  "Oh!" Frank remarked, "he says he entered a farmhouse, and hooked asuit of old clothes, so he could throw away the striped ones. And atthe same time he helped himself to that old musket, thinking he mighthave to hunt game while he hid in the woods."

  "Look here, Frank, wasn't you telling me about some villain who fired ashot up at you boys when you were flying over the Powell woods?" askedthe Chief.

  "That's so, and we believe it was Jules, all right," Andy took theliberty of saying; for when excited he could not be kept still.

  "But he wisely declines to commit himself, so there is no proof," Frankwent on. "And at any rate, what's the use bothering about that littlething? There was no real harm done, except a little scare. And Ithink Jules will have about all the trouble he wants to handle withoutadding any to it."

  He looked at the prisoner, perhaps with a touch of feeling. At anyrate, to the surprise of them all, Jules actually smiled, and made adeclaration that proved he had been using his eyes and ears sincecoming among the campers.

  "I just want to say right here, Chief, that I was a fool to botherabout these boys. I got what I deserved. I should have left themalone. And mark me, that if ever I have the luck to escape again neverwill I turn one hand to injure them. Now take me to your old lockup.I want to sleep."

  So they took him to the car, and that was the very last the Bird boysever saw of Jules Garrone, once a well-known French aviator, until hefell into evil ways. No doubt he was returned to the penitentiary,where he would have to serve an additional length of time because ofhis flight.

  Of course the talk for an hour or more was all about the recentadventure. But in due course of time Andy began to get uneasy.

  "We're losing a fine chance for a spin, Frank!" he grumbled, glancingup at the sky, across which here and there clouds were slowly moving,but with no indication of coming trouble.

  "Well, do you know," smiled the other, immediately, "I was justthinking that same thing myself. Suppose we do hitch up, and take adrive in our aerial go-cart, Andy. There are a heap of little thingsI'd like to experiment on before that race comes off with Percy."

  "All right. And the sooner we start the better," Andy flashed back."What d'ye say to going all over the course this morning? It wouldonly be the right thing; and when rowing clubs train for a race theyalways study the course foot by foot, so as to learn the currents, thehidden rocks, and the chances for head winds. Will you take me up onthat, Frank?"

  "If you mean that we head across to Hazenhurst, and interview thatliberty pole Percy lays so much stress on, I'm willing. Then again, Iwant to try for height while we're about it. We don't know just whatthis biplane can do, or how it'll act when a mile or so up."

  "Huh! I didn't see anything the matter when we landed on top of thepeak," remarked Andy. "Sure she was all to the good then. Frank,honest Injun now, I'm more in love with this outfit than I ever waswith our first one. I can see possibilities about a biplane that amonoplane never can own."

  "Wait," said Frank, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Afterwe've had this a week we can begin to talk. Just now it's up to us tostudy her every little whim, and try to improve on things."

  The other boys were taking turns in going home and "making theacquaintance of their folks," as Larry quaintly put it. But therewould be a couple of them at the shop all the time. Of course therewas now no danger from Jules, since he had fallen upon evil ways; butas Larry said mysteriously, "you never could tell," and everybody knewwhom he had in mind, although no name was mentioned.

  The Bird boys had that running start down to a fine point. Frank hadmade an especial study of it, so as to rise in the air with as littleground work as possible. And this was what served him well on manyoccasions--for instance when on the plateau of Old Thunder Top, wherethe level space was limited.

  So they rose quickly and successfully. Andy gave a yell ofsatisfaction, to indicate that his confidence in the new aeroplane wasbeing strengthened every minute that he saw her strong points beingdeveloped.

  They rose to a considerable height before starting away in thedirection of Hazenhurst. It looked just like a homing pigeon seekingan altitude, from which it could find its bearings, before starting ina bee line for its loft far away.

  Andy was using the glasses, while Frank drove the machine, and studiedevery little part, touching a straining wire guy here, and tightening avalve there, as he noted minute chances to improve conditions.

  It was this complete mastery of the subject that gave him such controlover his aeroplane; so that when he chose he could develop unexpectedresources of speed, or ability to successfully carry out difficultfeats.

  "I can see the town easy enough from here," announced Andy, presently.

  "Am I headed right?" asked the pilot.

  "Just send her a trifle more to the northwest. There, now we aimstraight for Hazenhurst," Andy called out; for the motor was crackling,and besides, there was more or less noise arising from the stiffenedplanes, so that it became necessary to raise the voice in order to beeasily heard.

  So, for some little time they went humming merrily along, just "eatingup the miles," as Andy remarked delightedly.

  It was a great sensation for these two lads; but having been at thisnow for so long a time they fairly overcome the thrill that is apt toseize upon a novice.

  Frank had dropped down to a lower level. Since they were now passingover territory that they had never before looked down upon from such aheight, it was just as well that they keep to that distance from theearth which would probably be their course during the race that Percyhad forced upon them.

  And all the time they drew nearer the town that was to be their goal.Both boys had been there once or twice. But this was years back whenthey used to wheel all around the surrounding country during vacations.They had now gone a long ways ahead of pedaling a bicycle. After oncesoaring through the air in a biplane no one could ever be content to goback to the old ways.

  "I can see the commons," announced Andy, who was using the glass."Yes, and there's the liberty pole too, right in the middle. See thatbig green stretch, Frank? Will you drop lower, and circle it whilewe're over here?"

  "Why not? Might as well go the whole thing when about it," returnedthe other, as he continued to test first one thing and then another.

  "On the way back let's put her to her level best speed, and see justhow long it takes us to cover the thirty miles
," Andy suggested.

  "All right," was the ready reply; "but before we do that I'd like todrop down to the ground for a bit. I can see several slack guys thatwill be all the better for being tightened a little. Like every othernew machine, this needs constant attention to bring things up to theirbest."

  "Oh! well, what's to hinder our lighting on the green, and giving thegood people of Hazenhurst a chance to see a genuine aeroplane. I don'tbelieve one ever came up here before," Andy remarked.

  In a short time they were skimming along over the tops of the trees,and even dipping lower when openings appeared.

  "Going all right, Frank?" asked Andy, anxiously, as they drew within amile of the town; for if they expected to be watched by hundreds ofcurious eyes he wanted everything to work smoothly.

  "Just running like clock-work," the other announced.

  "I haven't heard you say a single word against this biplane," remarkedAndy.

  "Why should I?" laughed Frank. "I may not be so outspoken as you aboutmy likes and dislikes, but I feel as deeply. And, Andy, I want to sayright here that this machine is a whole lot ahead of anything I've everseen, or handled. She moves like a witch, and answers her rudder likea thing of life. Why, I almost feel that I'm a part of the wholebusiness, and that I have only to think a thing when it is executed."

  That was high praise from so conservative a fellow as Frank, as hiscousin well knew; and it filled Andy with rare delight.

  "Oh! look down there, Frank!" he suddenly cried, pointing beneath them,to where there was an open field.

  Looking quickly Frank saw a sight that filled him with dismay. A younggirl was crossing the open stretch, and as her back was toward them, ofcourse she had not as yet discovered the presence of the biplane.

  Racing back of the girl, and evidently meaning to overtake her, was asavage-looking dog; and it required no effort on Frank's part tounderstand that the intention of the brute was decidedly hostile.

  Frank was a lad of prompt action. He instantly sent the aeroplanedownward, aiming for the running dog; and at the same time starting toshout at the top of his voice, in which last Andy joined with him.

  The animal, attracted by the clamor, looked up, and seeing that monsterbird as he believed swooping down at him, turned tail with frightenedyelps and ran away.

  There was nothing for it now but to alight, since they had alreadydarted close to the earth; and accordingly Frank proceeded toaccomplish this feat as gently as possible.

  It happened that the biplane came to a stop close to the girl, who wasstanding there staring, as though hardly understanding what it allmeant. Andy hopped out the first thing even though he happened to beholding the monkey wrench in his hand at the time, having snatched itup in his excitement when he first discovered the threatening peril ofthe girl.

  He had just reached her side, and was starting to speak when a warningshout from Frank, still in his seat aboard the aeroplane, caused Andyto look around.

  "The dog! Take care, he's going to attack you!" was what Frank shouted.

  Apparently the ugly beast had already recovered from his fright, whenit discovered that human beings were aboard the strange airship. Hehad halted a little distance away, and then, as Andy actually headedtoward him, started to meet the newcomer.

  There could be no mistaking the evil intentions of the beast, he was ofthe savage bulldog strain, and from the cut of his mouth it could beseen that just now he meant business. And as Andy could not retreat,with that pretty girl standing there unprotected, he just had to raisehis monkey wrench and wait for hostilities to begin.

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