The airplane boys among.., p.18
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.18
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER XVIII

  AT THE FOOT OF THE LIBERTY POLE

  "Look out!" shouted Frank, who was trying to find some sort of weaponhimself, armed with which he could hasten to the aid of his chum.

  But Andy kept his senses well about him. Perhaps had he been alone,and there opened a favorable chance whereby he could put a convenientfence between himself and those grim square jaws of the ugly dog, hewould have been only too glad to do so. But that was utterly out ofthe question now. The girl must be defended, come what might.

  He fortunately remained fairly cool, which was a good point in hisfavor. Just then, singular to say, Andy seemed to remember what he hadread about what Old Putnam said to his Colonials at the battle ofBunker Hill: "Wait till you can see the whites in their eyes, boys!"He held himself back until he was positive that he could land a blow onthat massive head of the prize bulldog.

  Whack!

  The wonder was that Andy did not crush the beast's skull in with themonkey wrench. He surely would, had he struck with all his strength;but being afraid that if he missed connections he might lose hisbalance, and be seized by the brute, he only "tapped for a single," ashe afterwards remarked.

  It staggered the beast at any rate, and drove him back a foot, stoppinghis onward rush.

  "Good! give him another like that, Andy! I'm coming right along!"whooped Frank who had managed to lay hold on some sort of tool which hecarried for emergencies, and was jumping forward as fast as he couldmove.

  The dog tried a second time to seize the daring boy in those cruelwhite fangs. He presented a terrible sight just then; for there wasblood showing on his white hair, where the edge of the monkey wrenchhad struck.

  "You will, will you?" gasped the boy, who had thrown himself into aposition of readiness once more, with his novel weapon upraised.

  This time the dog tried to duck the descending blow. Had his ruse beensuccessful undoubtedly Andy would have found his ankle fast in the gripof those terrible teeth before he could recover. But again he hadfigured on such a move; and as he swung the tool downward he jumpedforward a pace himself. It was "meeting the ball before the breakcame," as they would have it in baseball language.

  Crunch!

  That was surely a good sound crack. The force had been visiblyincreased too, so that the brute was knocked completely over into akicking heap.

  "Try it again, if you want to!" shouted the now aroused Andy. "Plentymore like that left! Hi! hold on there; what're you sneaking away for?Not had your fill yet, have you, pup? I guess you've got a streak ofyellow in you! No prize dog about you. Well, good-bye then. Nexttime I call I'll try and do better by you!"

  The dog seemed half dazed by that last blow. Struggling to its feet itbegan to run away, though hardly able to keep a direct course.

  Frank arrived on the scene just too late to be of any assistance; butthen as it turned out, his cousin had not really needed help.

  "Well done, Andy, old fellow!" he exclaimed, proudly, as he seized thehand of his cousin, and shook it heartily. "I'm glad to own you as amember of the Bird family. And you're dead game on dogs, that's sure."

  "Oh! it was splendid!" exclaimed the girl and both boys now saw thatshe was a very pretty little miss, with sparkling blue eyes, and goldenlocks. "I shall never, never forget how brave you were. That terribledog would have bitten me, I just know. I was so silly to cross thisfield to save time."

  She insisted on shaking hands with each of the lads, though naturallyit was Andy who took the greater share of her attention.

  Just then a loud hoarse voice broke in upon them. Looking up they weresurprised to see a big, rough looking man, evidently the farmerhimself, coming toward them. He carried a gun in his hands, and hadall the appearance of anger in his manner.

  "Jest stand whar ye be, ye scamps!" he bellowed as he made threateninggestures with the gun. "Don't ye try to run away, er I'll gie yesomethin' ye'll never furgit. Maul my prize dawg, will ye, and on myown private groun's? I got the law back o' me, and ye'll pay damageser go to jail. Hear that, consarn ye?"

  Of course neither of the boys thought of running. Why should they whentheir precious aeroplane lay there close at hand? Evidently theexcited farmer had not yet noticed this; or if so may have taken it forsome new species of motorcycle. His entire attention seemed to bewrapped up in keeping the boys from fleeing. He was figuring on takingadvantage of his rights, and exacting heavy toll for the assault on his"dawg."

  He came on until within ten feet of the boys. Andy still held thatuseful monkey wrench in his left hand, having transferred it at thetime the girl insisted on his taking her little white hand in his.

  The enraged and suspicious farmer must have just noticed this, for hesuddenly started to bellowing again.

  "Put up your hands, both o' ye!" he exclaimed, waving the gunthreateningly. "Ye be desprite scoundrels, I take it, an' I don't meanto gi'e ye any chance to treat me like ye done my dawg. Fifty dollarswouldn't buy that critter; an' like's not he won't never be any usearter this. I'm goin' to march ye both to the town lockup, right away.Don't ye move a hand, consarn ye!"

  "Mr. Sweesey, how dare you? These boys are my friends!" and as sheuttered these words; in an indignant voice, the girl stamped her littlefoot on the ground.

  "Hey! what! oh! is thet you, Miss Alice? Sho! now, I never knowed ye,Miss," the old man stammered, looking toward the girl for the firsttime.

  "I was coming to your house with an important paper my father asked meto hand you, when he heard me say I meant to take a long walk. Icrossed this field to make a shortcut, as I've often done before. Thatterrible dog of yours was loose, although you have been warned againstallowing it. And he would have attacked me, only that these brave boyscame to my assistance. I shall tell my father about it, you candepend, sir."

  All the bravado had vanished from the farmer by now. He seemed tofairly cringe before the girl. Afterwards the boys learned that therewas good reason for this, since her father was Mayor Stephens, therichest man in Hazenhurst, and the farmer a tenant who was foreverbehind in his rents, and heavily in the debt of the owner of the place.

  "I didn't mean to run 'em in, Miss Alice," he hastened to explain. "Iwas just a-tryin' to skeer 'em, ye know. I've had heaps o' troublewith boys from town, and in course I thought they was up to more o'their tricks. Tige broke loose this mornin'. But p'raps he got justwhat he orter hed from this brave boy. I'm orful glad he didn't biteye, Miss. And I hopes ye won't complain to yer governor."

  "I'll think it over, Mr. Sweesey," replied the girl, somewhat softenedby his abject demeanor. "Here is the paper father wanted me to take toyou. I think I'd better be going back to town after this. And Ipromise you I'll never again cross this field."

  She turned her back on him, and looked toward the biplane.

  "How wonderful that you should have come to my help in that way," shesaid.

  "Well, the fact is, Miss Alice," remarked Andy, quick to catch the nameused by the old farmer, "we were on our way to Hazenhurst, meaning todrop down on the commons and give your people over here a chance to seewhat a biplane looked like, while my cousin Frank Bird was making a fewlittle changes in this new machine; when we happened to see the dogchasing after you. Then we dropped down in a big hurry; butfortunately no damage was done."

  "Oh! are you the famous Bird boys I've heard so much about?" sheexclaimed; at which Andy turned red in the face, and laughingawkwardly, replied:

  "I'm Andy Bird, all right, and this is my cousin Frank, the head andbrains of the combine; but as to our being famous, that's all amistake. We have taken up aviation as a business, and mean to followit. My father was a well-known aviator; so you see it runs in theblood. You live in Hazenhurst, I suppose, Miss Alice?"

  And it was at this point the pretty girl informed them who she was.

  "Oh! I hope you will stay long enough by the liberty pole for me toget back!" she observed, eagerly.

  Andy nodded his head.

>   "Oh! I can promise you that we're not going to be in any very greathurry to start back home. Why, we might even have to wait a wholehour. There are lots of little things to be done, you see;" and as hesaid this Andy gave his cousin a sly kick on the shin with his toe,which was apparently understood by Frank, since he did not venture tosay a word in opposition to what had been spoken; though truth to tell,he believed ten minutes would have sufficed him to make what littlechanges he had in mind.

  "Then I'll start right away," Alice declared. "And as I chance to be agood walker I will show up inside of fifteen minutes at the most."

  She shook hands with them again, and started toward the road. The oldfarmer, with bulging eyes, watched the two lads get their biplaneready; and obeying Frank's request even gave a shove at the properinstant. Then he stood there, craning his scrawny neck as he watchedthe great bird-like object soar upwards, hardly able to believe that hehad actually assisted in the launching of one of the modern miraclesthat had conquered the forces of the upper air currents.

  Andy was watching, and as they sailed over the road where Miss Alicewas trudging back to town he shouted a greeting, and waved hishandkerchief, to be delighted by a return salute.

  "If I'd just dared, Frank," said Andy, regretfully, "I'd have offeredto take her to town along with us; but I was afraid you'd say no."

  "Which I certainly would," replied his cousin, immediately. "It may beall right for us to risk our lives in the way we do, but I don'tbelieve we have any business to take chances with that of another,except under certain conditions. If we had to take up some one to gavethem from peril that would be all right. Now, here we are at thecommons, Andy."

  "Wow! look at the people rushing out of the houses," cried Andy, "wouldyou? I guess this is the biggest thing that's happened at Hazenhurstfor a whole year of Sundays. Hope they give us plenty of elbow-room toland. If they push in too far, somebody is going to get hurt."

  Frank called out in time, and the crowd swayed back, so that presentlythe wonderful biplane dropped as lightly as a feather on the beautifulgreen commons, and close to the foot of the liberty pole.

  "Please keep back before you do any damage!" Frank exclaimed.

  Fortunately there were some sensible fellows present, who realized theneed of care; and when these athletic young chaps had formed a ringaround the aeroplane Frank breathed more freely again.

  He went about making his little changes leisurely, while Andy did mostof the talking, and answering the multitude of questions that werefired at them.

  When the good people of Hazenhurst learned that these two modest youngchaps were the Bird boys, of whom they had heard and read so much, theywere loud in expressions of pleasure at welcoming them to the town.And when later on Andy told them of the contemplated race, theydeclared that everybody in Hazenhurst would surely be on hand to seethe two contestants turn around the liberty pole.

  Of course Miss Alice arrived, even ahead of schedule time; which wouldindicate that she had indeed hurried. And presently the boys wereintroduced to her father, and had to receive his hearty thanks after helearned how greatly the Stephens family were indebted to them.

  But Frank noticed with secret pleasure that the girl entered nocomplaint against the old farmer. From which he understood she hadcome to the wise conclusion that a lot of good had sprung out of thechance meeting, that might never have happened only for Tige's breakingloose that morning.

  And later on, when the biplane arose gracefully from Hazenhurst green,a mighty roar of cheers attested to the fact that the Bird boys hadsucceeded in making a very favorable impression, not only on Miss Aliceand her father, but the rank and file of the townspeople as well.

 
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