The airplane boys among.., p.5
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.5

           John Luther Langworthy
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  "It begins to look as though you were right, Andy, and that thesestrangers certainly feel an uncommon interest in what we've been doingup here," said Frank, seriously.

  "Oh! I don't take much of the credit for hitting on that idea, Frank,"declared the other Bird boy, quickly. "You kept watching that Marshright from the start. I could see a question in your eye every timeyou looked at him. And it spurred me on to keeping closer tab over hisways."

  "Are they still up there, d'ye think?" queried Frank; while Larry,Elephant, and Stuttering Nat hung around, saying nothing, but listeningfor all they were worth.

  "No," replied Andy; "I've got an idea they began to suspect some of youwere looking that way. Anyhow, I saw Marsh duck his head, and thinkthey came down. No use going in to take a shy at 'em now."

  "I'd give a fit to know what they are up to?" mused Frank, a thoughtfullook on his face.

  "Well, perhaps we can hit somewhere near the facts if we startguessing," remarked Andy, with a knowing nod.

  "Look here, you've been turning it over your mind, then?" asked hiscousin.

  "Sure I have," grinned Andy, promptly. "Never could bear to letanything puzzle me long. Used to lie awake half the night trying toclinch a name that had just slipped a cog in my memory."

  "All right. Suppose you give us the benefit of what you decided mightbe the answer to this problem. Who are these two men, Andy?"

  "You know they admit being well up in aviation?" the other remarked asa preliminary.

  "So Larry and Elephant said," Frank replied.

  "And that not only had they attended many meets but admitted being wellacquainted with a lot of people whose names we see in the papers everyday--men who have done things along the line of aviation. Get that,Frank?"

  "I have. Now go on with your answer," nodded the other, encouragingly.

  "These gentlemen have been sent up here for a purpose! Perhaps theyare in the pay of some unscrupulous manufacturer of aeroplanes, whowould not be above stealing the ideas of two boys, and applying them tohis up-to-date machines, placed on the market, and for sale to thepublic!"

  "Gosh!" exclaimed Elephant.

  "That sounds all to the good to me!" remarked Larry; while Nat tried toexpress himself intelligently along similar lines; but being suddenlyseized with one of his spasms, was obliged to take it out in numerousmouthings, and a working of his facial muscles, all the while makingunintelligible sounds.

  Frank seemed to consider this startling proposition of his cousin, forthere were lines about his forehead, and his eyes took on a reflectivelook.

  "Now, I can see already that you don't agree with me wholly," Andysaid, quickly for he was accustomed to studying that countenance of hiscousin, and could read between the lines.

  "Well, I'd hate to think that any maker of aeroplanes could descendthat low as to want to steal ideas from any one," Frank answered."They are few in number, and so far as we know, honorable men. If theywanted to get something that you and I, or any other fellow, hadhappened to hit on, and which would be of value to aviators, thechances are they'd send somebody to open up negotiations, and offer tobuy the improvement outright, or take it on a royalty basis."

  "Perhaps you're right, Frank," admitted the other; "but all the samethere was something I didn't like about that Mr. Marsh. I warrant youhe's a sharp one in a dicker. He looked it. But see here, what've yougot to offer in place of my poor little kicked-out suggestion? There'ssome sort of answer to the puzzle; and five to one you've guessed it."

  Frank laughed as he replied:

  "Hold on, now, I may be just as far off as you are. As usual we lookat things on opposite sides, you know, Andy. But we never disagree,and that's one good thing about our partnership. Either you convinceme, or I show you."

  "Sure we do, Frank; and nine times out of ten it's your game. When Imake a hit it's a great day for Andy Bird. But please hurry up, andtell us what you think!"

  "Yes," said Larry, who had been moving restlessly about, being consumedwith the fever of curiosity, "who do you say Mr. Marsh and his friendare, Frank?"

  "To begin with, just as you did, the fact that they admit knowing manypeople connected with the game, strengthens my suspicion. I toobelieve they may be connected with some maker of aeroplanes like theWrights; but instead of being sent up here to steal our ideas, theyhave come as detectives, to find out if the Bird boys have been liftingany patented inventions belonging to their employers!"

  "Whew! that takes my breath away!" gasped Andy.

  "It's sure a screamer, that's what!" cried Larry.

  "Frank, go up head!" said Elephant, solemnly.

  Stammering Nat wanted to say something the worst kind; but being stillunder the domination of his nervous excitement, he could only work hisjaws and violently nod his head; but then that stood for acclamation onhis part, and so they all understood it.

  "Frank, I begin to cave already," declared Andy. "Because that wouldaccount for the way they stared so hard at our hydroplane, and thealuminum pontoons under the body. But we bought those from thepatentee, and have the bill of sale to show for it."

  "And there isn't a single stolen idea about the machine," Frank wenton. "I've been mighty careful about that. I believe in an inventorhaving full credit for his work. If ever I do happen on a valuabledevice, I would want to feel that it couldn't be stolen away from me."

  "Listen, boys," Larry spoke up. "That would account for something thatMr. Marsh said when we were talking to them, before little Tommy tookour attention. As near as I can remember I'd been telling them aboutyour shop, and how you fellows just haunted it all winter, working onlots of ideas. He turned to his friend, and he says, says he:'Longley, they might be willing to let us have a little peep into thatwonderful shop of theirs, eh?'"

  "Yes, that sounds interesting," remarked Frank. "Go on, Larry. Whatdid you say to that?"

  "Oh! Elephant here took the words right out of my mouth, Frank. He upand says: 'I wouldn't bank too much on that, mister. Both of us arechums of the Bird boys; and if they wouldn't let us come inside theirshop all winter, I guess they ain't inviting strangers there!'"

  "How did they take that?" continued Frank.

  "Mr. Marsh just laughed, and asked the other man what he thought ofthat. Said it was mighty interesting to run across a couple of brightyoung inventors so unexpectedly; and that Wright and Curtiss ought toknow the Bird boys. Also remarked, as he winked at Longley, that youmight be induced to join the big aeroplane makers' trust that was beingtalked of; but I believed he was just joshing when he said that, Frank."

  "It's all in the wash, though, and mighty interesting," Frankcontinued, still thoughtful.

  "And you can take it from me, them gentlemen never just happened onBloomsbury, like they said," Elephant declared, emphatically.

  "I agree with you there, Elephant," Frank echoed. "They came here todo something. It may be as Andy said, to steal our thunder, if so bewe had anything worth lifting; and then again my idea may be the rightone, and that they represent owners of patents who are determined toprotect their rights in things they've spent time and money inperfecting. Perhaps we may never know the truth. And then againbefore many days, or even hours, we might run across the answer."

  "Well," remarked Andy, complacently, "one thing sure, we've got to takeextra measures to protect our shop, and keep prying fingers frommeddling. I'll speak to my father and Colonel Josiah about it. Theymay hire old Shea again to watch of nights."

  Colonel Josiah Whympers had been Andy's guardian during the time hebelieved his father to be dead. The old man was lame, and used acrutch; but he was a great admirer of the Bird boys, and ready to backanything they advocated. Once a great traveler he had been to everycorner of the world, and was full of the most thrilling stories of whathad happened to him during his forty years of roving in queer places.

  "Excuse me from Shea," laughed Frank. "Don't you remember
how hefailed us last year, and was caught napping. He's as honest as the dayis long, but a mighty poor guard. No, we'll have to do just what wedid before, take up our lodgings right here in the shop, where we candefend our property."

  "That suits me OK," returned the jovial Andy. "And so we'll considerit settled, Frank, that so long as these mysterious strangers arearound Bloomsbury we'll just camp out here."

  "And then some," continued the other; "because, you see, they mightguess what we had up our sleeve, and just pretend to move along."

  "It's a measly shame, that's what!" grumbled Larry.

  Elephant immediately fell upon him and shook his hand vigorously.

  "Me too!" he exclaimed, looking unusually sad.

  "What's all this row about, fellows?" demanded Frank, pretending not tounderstand.

  "It's ghastly to have all the good things pass us by, that's what!"Larry declared.

  "Meaning what?" Andy inquired.

  "Think of the bully good times you two can have here, playing atcamping out. You've even got a stove handy, and a whole outfit ofaluminum cooking ware to be carried along with your aeroplane when yougo off a long ways. There never was a luckier pair than you two Birdboys, that's what," and Larry groaned again to express the envy thatwas burning in his boyish soul.

  "If you'd only let us bring over our blankets, and sleep here with you,it would lighten things up a heap, I tell you, Frank," said Elephant.

  "We wouldn't occupy much room," went on Larry, eagerly, thinking he sawsigns of giving in on the other's face. "Why, you could chuck Elephantunder the workbench and never find him again. And I'd sling a hammockin a corner. Looky here, if you say no I'll feel like jumping in thelake right away."

  Frank and Andy exchanged glances. They were genuinely fond of thestrangely mated pair; and besides, there was no longer any reason whythese old chums should be longer refused the liberty they had onceenjoyed, of entering the workshop as they pleased.

  "It's a go, Larry; eh, Andy?" said the taller of the Bird boys.

  With that the two favored ones indulged in sundry whoops and leaps toexpress the joy that Frank's announcement had given; even StammeringNat grinned, and no doubt wished he had been included in theinvitation; though he knew there would be no room for a furtherincrease in the guardians of the shop.

  "I'm going right home and get my blankets," said Elephant, eagerly.

  "And me ditto," echoed Larry. "Hey, fellows, you know what dandydoughnuts my mother makes; shall I fetch a bunch along, with a loaf ofbread?"

  "Fine," laughed Andy, "and be off with you."

  "Hold on, boys," Frank broke in just then. "Let's see what thisprocession coming along the road means. Two hay wagons, and eachloaded with some crates of merchandise. Beside each driver I notice asecond figure, and unless I'm mistaken the first one is Percy ShelleyCarberry."

  "That's right," remarked Larry. "And it's his crony, SandyHollingshead, on the second wagon. Say, you're gazing right now on thewonderful new aeroplane which your rival Percy has sent for, and inwhich he means to make you fellows look like two cents. Hey! what'sthis I see?"

  "They've stopped short, that's all," observed Andy. "An automobile hasblocked the road, and Percy seems to be having a confab with one of theparties in the car. Frank, do you see who whose men are? The verygents we were talking about. And now they've struck another scent, forthey seem to be bent on learning all about who these boys carrying acrated aeroplane in parts can be. The mystery grows! My word! butthere's going to be lots doing around here soon!"

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