The airplane boys among.., p.4
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.4
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER IV

  SUSPICION

  "F-f-frank!" stammered the new arrival, as he actually fell off hiswheel, allowing the same to drop in a heap on the turf.

  "That's me; what d'ye want, Nat?" asked the one addressed; as heassumed a reassuring air, knowing what a terrible mess the wretchedstutterer often made of his attempt at speech, especially when hehappened to be excited.

  Nat was breathing hard. He always did things with a whirlwind method;and of course the exertion added to his difficulty in forming suchwords as he wanted.

  "D-d-did y-y-you k-k-k-," he started, with a rush; and then seemed tolose his grip entirely; for all he could do was to make a sharp,hissing sound, get red in the face under the strain and tremble allover.

  "I s-s-say, d-d-do y-y-y-," he went on, when there came another fullstop, and as Larry said, a further escape of gas to account for thathissing noise from between his partly closed lips.

  The contortions of his face when poor Nat worked himself into this sortof a fever were simply agonizing. Some boys made it a habit oflaughing coarsely at the afflicted boy. But Frank always felt sorry,and tried the best he knew how to break the spell that seemed to bindup Nat's vocal faculties. For strange to say, there were other timeswhen Nat could really speak calmly and evenly, as if he had neverstammered in his life.

  As though utterly despairing of ever being able to get out what he soeagerly wished to say, the boy suddenly snatched a pencil from onepocket, and a pad of paper from another. These necessities he alwayscarried along with him, though hating to have to make use of such asilly trick at all.

  Rapidly dashing a line or so upon the little pad, Nat tore the sheetoff, and thrust it into Frank's hand.

  Andy had come out of the shop by that time, dressed in dry garments;and bending over his cousin's shoulder he read these words:

  "Percy's new aeroplane has arrived at the station. He's down thereright now, seeing about having it put on a cart and pulled to hisshack."

  "Just about what we expected; eh, Frank?" asked Andy, handing the scrapof paper to Larry, so that he and the runt could read what news Nat hadbrought in such a tremendous hurry.

  It was as if the stammering boy had judged, that of all the people inBloomsbury who would be interested in knowing that Percy had received anew aeroplane, the Bird boys took front rank. For was not PercyCarberry the old-time rival of Frank; and on numerous occasions had henot striven furiously to keep the cousins from winning the laurels thatcame their way, despite all opposition?

  "Yes, I understand that he was going in for aviation again," repliedthe other. "And I don't know whether I'm glad or sorry. If Percy andthat crony of his, Sandy Hollingshead, only believed in the squaredeal, we might have great times in racing and exploring; but thetrouble is, they hate to see anybody getting ahead of them, and lots oftimes as everybody understands, have tried to injure our machine."

  "Oh! I don't know," said the optimistic Andy; "we always managesomehow, to come out of every affair right-side up, and they get therough end of the deal, as they should because they won't leave us aloneto manage our own business. I can see some warm times coming soon,when they get to cruising around once more."

  "Well," said Frank, thoughtfully, "I never believed that Percy hadreally reformed when he said he was through playing mean tricks. He'salways kept quiet about that trip down to South America. Why, he evenaccused me of giving him away just because I told of our adventuresthere, even glossing over the part he played in our little rumpus withthe revolutionists in Columbia, at the time I found my dear father, andrescued him."

  "That's just like Percy," declared Larry. "Don't I size him up,though? He never knew what gratitude meant. I've been told that youand Andy really saved his life down in that upset country."

  "Oh! perhaps it wasn't quite all of that, Larry," protested Frank.

  "All right," spoke up Andy immediately; "at least we got those fellowsout of a mighty tough hole. But it was just like Percy to declare thathe was going to use some chloroform he had with him, to put the wholebunch of revolutionists to sleep, take their guns away, bind them handand foot, and send some of the government troops out to capture 'em.So you see, we spoiled all that fine game by insisting on rescuing himand Sandy."

  Larry laughed uproariously.

  "Too bad about that chap," he remarked, when he could catch his breathagain. "He's that slippery you never know when you've got your fingeron him. And the excuses he gets up to cover his knockouts, they justsizzle. I reckon Percy is bound to be a promoter when he grows up."

  "Say, let's all go down to the railroad yards, and watch Percy get hismachine on the cart?" suggested Elephant, wickedly.

  "Count me out, fellows," remarked Frank, immediately, "I don't want himto think I'm curious about what he bought that time he went to NewYork. Perhaps it's a better aeroplane than we've got here; but I don'tbelieve it yet, after what she did for us in the tryout this day."

  "Besides," observed Larry, "the chances are ten to one such a slyfellow as our Percy ain't going to knock the crates around the manyparts of his machine into flinders right there in the open. He likes alittle bit of mystery too, even if he hasn't got any reason to hidethings."

  "That settles my neat little scheme," sighed the runt, disconsolately."Don't understand why it is that everything I happen to propose, Larryor somebody else always sits down on it, kerchunk! It's discouragingto genius, I say, and might keep a budding inventor from ever attaininghis manifest destiny."

  "Hear! hear!" chuckled Andy.

  As for the tall boy, he came near having a fit, so doubled up withlaughter did this important remark on the part of his small chum leavehim.

  "No danger of you ever being discouraged, or left at the stake,Elephant," he managed to say, presently. "You come up smiling afterevery backset. You've sure got grit, and to spare, if they did forgetyou when handing out bone and muscle."

  "And I bet you if I'd only had the chance, fellows, I'd have droppedinto the bally old lake, just like Andy did, and saved that sweetcherub, Tommy Cragan!" declared the "Bug," as Larry often called hisdiminutive chum, when he tired of using his other misplaced nickname.

  "Sure you would," said Andy. "I was only lucky in having the chance,that's all. Why, I don't see anything in that to make a fuss over. Itwas just like a picnic to me. Frank wanted to go the worst kind, buthe couldn't let go the levers of our new and dandy machine, which mightsail away up in the clouds."

  "Oh! how I envy both of you fellows!" sighed Elephant, placing a handon his breast, though Larry told him that his heart was probablylocated on his right side, which would account for the flutter he fellinto whenever he thought he detected an opportunity for distinguishinghimself approaching.

  But everybody took these sharp sayings of Larry Geohegan in the samehappy-go-lucky spirit in which they were uttered. No one had morefriends and fewer enemies than the tall boy; because he was generous toa fault, humorous in his remarks, and the life of the camp when outwith any of his companions.

  Andy had stalked back into the shop again, though Frank had lookedafter him as though inclined to wonder what ailed his cousin to be somysterious in his actions.

  "Forgot to take his change out of the pockets of those wet clothes?"suggested Larry, noticing the upraised eyebrows of Frank.

  "I don't know about that," returned the other, stepping back a pace towhere he could glance through the open door. "He's gone straight tothe drawer where we keep some of our stuff. There, he's taken out themarine glasses that I just put away. What under the sun do you supposeAndy wants with them? He doesn't look up at the summit of Old ThunderTop, where we landed from our monoplane last summer, being the firsthuman being ever to step there above the big cliffs. No, Andy has goneto a window with the glass. He seems to want to keep out of sight.Now, I wonder why?"

  "Three to one he just saw your sister Janet going along the furtherroad; and couldn't keep from wanting to admire her at close range,"chuckled Larry.


  "But now he's elevating the glasses," Frank went on. "He seems to beinterested in that old mill you can see yonder above the trees. Ideclare, I did see something moving then in one of the upper windows.That beats everything. To think of Andy having such sharp eyes."

  "Oh! the boys used to play there last summer," ventured Elephant;"though since then nobody goes near the old place. I was told it hadbecome the haunt of hoboes this summer. Anyway, the boys fight shy ofit right along now."

  "Here comes Andy; now we'll know," said Nat, just as smartly as any ofthem could have spoken, for his hurry spell was over, and he hadcommand of his vocal chords once more.

  "Wondering what took you inside to get the glasses," remarked Frank, asthe other joined them, a frown marked on his usually placid face. "Andthen, what made you go to a window instead of standing outside openly,and looking?"

  "I'll tell you," returned Andy, solemnly. "I didn't want 'em to see mepeeking."

  "You mean the fellows in the old deserted mill?" asked Larry.

  "No other," came the quick reply, "I don't know how it came to strikeme, because you know as a rule I ain't suspicious; but something aboutthe way those two men in the touring car looked so greedily at our newaeroplane gave me an idea it might be them."

  "Goodness gracious!" gasped Elephant, his eyes round with wonder andexcitement.

  "And was it?" demanded Frank, hastily, frowning at the same time.

  "Nobody else," replied Andy, impressively. "They must have swungaround, passed up to the old mill on that side road, and from the upperwindows have been watching us all the time through the fieldglassesthey carry!"

 
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