The airplane boys among.., p.6
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.6
 

           John Luther Langworthy
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  CHAPTER VI

  AN UNKNOWN ENEMY

  "Huh! see there, that Mr. Marsh has got down from his machine, and goneahead to talk some more with Percy," remarked Andy, as they continuedto keep their eyes directed toward the road, not so very far distant,where this little drama was taking place.

  "They certainly seem to be interested in everything touching onaviation," mused Frank. "Going to hang around Bloomsbury several days,are they, while their car is being over-hauled? Did it look brokendown to you, Larry?"

  "Almost new," replied the other, readily "I'd just like to say thatthat was only an excuse for hanging around a while. They came here onpurpose, with something in their noddles; and you mark me, Frank, theydon't mean to skip without having a try at that same."

  "Well, there they go off, and the procession starts again. Percy isturning around to look after the two men, as if they interested him aheap," Andy observed.

  "He's calling something to Sandy, but I can't make out what it is,"Larry declared; for he was noted on account of his unusually keenhearing.

  "Anyhow they seem to be laughing, and looking over this way, Frank,"Andy remarked. "Just as if they thought they had a good joke on us.Say, d'ye suppose now, that Mr. Marsh gave Percy a little hint he hadit in for us? If he did, it would tickle that bunch to beat the band.Don't I know 'em though? Never did take any stock in that conversationof Percy's. He had to say something, after we got him out of the handsof the revolutionists down in old Columbia."

  "Well," Frank went on, "there's no need of our worrying about thingsthat may never happen. We won't cross this bridge till we get to it."

  "But, Frank, while that sounds fine, you know right well that it'salways been your way to prepare for possibilities?" Andy continued,positively.

  "That's correct, and we mean to now by camping out here," Franklaughed, as if quite at his ease. "Besides, we've got things fixedpretty safe by now, so that if what you thought turned out to be true,the thieves couldn't profit by anything in the line of an idea theyhooked out of our shop. Those ideas are being patented, and safe fromthe hands of a robber."

  "Just as you say then," Andy went on, "we'll try and forget aboutMysterious Mr. Marsh--how's that strike you as a stunning title for ournew adventure? Be off with you, Larry and Elephant. Nat, would askyou to join us, but I'm afraid there wouldn't be room for so big acrowd, unless you slept in my boat, which I've not had in the waterthis summer so far."

  Stammering Nat tried to answer, but knowing the uselessness of such athing, instead he darted into the shop, took one look at the open canoeoccupying slings at the further end, and then came hurrying out. Hepounced on Andy, wrung his hand violently, and managed to gasp the oneword:

  "B-b-b-bully!"

  Then he waved his hand toward Frank, and shot after the two boys whowere heading for the road, anxious to return with their belongings.

  Within half an hour they made their reappearance, each laden down witha bulky bundle, under which poor little Elephant seemed almost buried,though he trudged manfully along, and asked no favors from his tallercompanions.

  Evening was now near. Andy had made several trips to his home beyondthe border of the big field, each time returning with a load; though heand Frank had for a long time kept their cooking kit and their blanketsin the shop, so that they would be handy when wanted.

  He had also told his father and Colonel Josiah about their intention tosleep in the workshop. Neither of the gentlemen thought anythingstrange of the proposition, for the Bird boys were well able to lookout after themselves. They had proved this so often in the past, thatby now Frank's father, as well as the parent of Andy, offered noobjection to their projects, however bold they might appear at times.

  "I had your dad on the 'phone, Frank," Andy remarked, the last time hecame back. "He'd just gotten in from his round of afternoon visits;for there's a heap of sickness about Bloomsbury just now, I hear. Andof course he said that he wouldn't worry because you stayed away for afew nights. I tell you, old chum, we've just got the finest governorsever. It's a lucky thing to have an obliging dad!"

  "And be able to wind him around your finger, as I hear you do yours,ever since he came back from South America," laughed Frank.

  By the time darkness began to gather the boys were deep in thedelightful task of cooking a genuine camp supper. The stove was ofgenerous size, so that several could work around it at the same time.Andy took charge, nor would he let Frank have any hand in theproceedings, calling upon Elephant, Larry and Nat when he neededassistance.

  Of course the ham was tender, the coffee nectar fit for the gods, theBoston baked beans just as appetizing as they could possibly be, andall other things on the menu equal to any they had ever tasted. Butthen, hungry boys are not apt to be discriminating, save sometimes athome. Anything eaten under such romantic conditions as this was sureto be classed as prime.

  Larry had been as good as his word, and brought back a generousdonation on the part of his mother, whose doughnuts were reckoned thevery finest in all that section; so that they topped off a heartysupper with several of these apiece.

  After the aluminum cooking outfit had been thoroughly cleaned, andevery piece put away in its exact place, as was the custom of the Birdboys, who could never tell just when they might want to go off in ahurry, and take the camp kit along, they gathered around a table andindulged in some friendly games, Andy having been thoughtful enough tofetch these out from the house.

  About ten Elephant was discovered to be fast asleep, while the otherswere holding a talk fest by themselves.

  "Time we all turned in, fellows," Frank declared, after Larry hadaroused his mate by tickling his ear with a straw.

  So for a short time there was much fussing and blanket turning.Finally one by one they announced themselves settled comfortably, Frankstaying up until the last in order to put out the lamp.

  All of them had arranged it that in case there came a sudden alarm theywould not be more than a dozen seconds getting into some clothes andtheir shoes, so as to rush outside.

  There were several patent fire-extinguishers handy, for the Bird boyshad had one experience with a conflagration that threatened to destroytheir workshop, and with it their precious aeroplane, and they did notmean to be caught unprepared for such an emergency again.

  Many times during that night Frank awoke, and on each occasion he wouldsit up to listen. It was a quiet night, and the windows of the shop,over which heavy wire netting had been secured, were of course open, sothat the air could pass on through.

  Thus, what sounds there might happen to arise without could be plainlyheard. But the hours passed on and there was no cause for alarm.Frank had arranged certain devices whereby he expected to be warnedshould any one attempt to enter the workshop. The fine wire had beensecretly carried to Andy's room in the house, where a bell would soundan alarm, and arouse the sleeper.

  Of course this was not wholly in use while the boys were camping therein the enclosed shed; but in its way it would prove another guardian.

  Once Frank thought he heard murmuring voices; he was so impressed thathe even crept out of his bed and advanced to the nearest opening,thinking to locate the speakers, whether they proved to be PercyCarberry and his crony, bent on mischief, or the mysterious Mr. Marshand Longley, spying around for some secret purpose of their own.

  It turned out to be only little Elephant, who was lying on his back,and breathing heavily. Frank turned him over, and then crept backunder his blankets.

  So morning found them, ravenous as wolves, and each one ready with somesuggestion as to what they could have for breakfast.

  But after all, Andy had assumed the office of high cook, and his wordwas law to the rank and file. He declared that codfish cakes would bea good starter, and that he had the stuff already mixed, as given himby the colored aunty in the Bird kitchen.

  Besides that, he announced that he would treat his guests to pancakes,or as they are always known in camp, flapjacks, whic
h he prided himselfon knowing how to make. Some honey had been smuggled over to makethese more acceptable. Indeed, it would appear that Andy did know howto make light cakes, since it seemed impossible for the others to getenough of them, and he was kept over the fire until as red as a turkeycock in the face.

  "How about taking a turn this morning Frank?" asked Andy, as he foundhimself forced in turn to cry quits, with half of a flapjack still onhis platter.

  "Don't wait to clean up, fellows," said Larry, promptly. "Give therest of us something to do while you're sailing around up among theclouds. I know just where you keep every article, and my word for ityou'll find them in place when you get back again."

  "That's nice of you, Larry," laughed Frank; "and I'm going to take youup on it. It does seem a shame not to take advantage of so fine amorning as this. Hardly a breath of wind as yet, you notice. And yetby noon it may be blowing great guns. You never can tell. Andy, shallwe get the new machine out of the hangar?"

  "Oh! I'm game for anything you offer," asserted the other, getting upslowly, as became one who had just been crammed.

  "We tried the pontoons yesterday, and they worked as fine as silk,"Frank went on to say. "Suppose we leave them off this time, as we willnot be over the lake?"

  "Just as you say," returned the willing Andy. "I tell you what, Frank,let's go up to the top of the mountain again. Haven't been there thisseason, you know."

  "Just what I had in mind myself, and I think you knew it," Frank said,as he led the way outside. "Then we might sail around over the woodsup in that region where we discovered those two hiding jewelry thieves,who were making headquarters of that old shack in the forest. If thisbiplane can climb any better than our little Bug used to do, she'll bea wonder, all right. Come on, and help us get things moving, fellows."

  Many hands made light work, and presently the biplane was ready for thestart.

  When Frank gave the word the others pushed her off; and as the twopropellers hummed, the machine started along the ground on the threebicycle wheels until presently it arose in the air as gracefully as anybird could have done.

  "Now, which way first?" asked Andy, when the shouts of their comradeshad died away in the distance, and they were half a mile from thetrying-out field.

  "I guess we'll take a little twenty-mile spin first," Frank replied,moving a lever; "to see what she can do in a hurry pinch. That newengine seems to work all right; just as the smaller one did, seldomfailing us. Tell me, what could be as fine as this, sailing over theearth? I don't wonder that when a fellow has once started in to be anaviator he can't ever break away. Peril and accidents he laughs at;not because he's reckless always, but just on account of thefascination of the sport."

  "We're the luckiest fellows ever, just as Larry and Elephant say," Andydeclared as they soared upward, and then descended in daring spirals asFrank tried out the new airship, to see what it was capable of doing.

  In a dozen ways had it proven even more than they had expected, andboth boys were wild with enthusiasm over the performance.

  "Let Percy come along with his new one!" cried Andy, after they hadvolplaned successfully down toward the earth, until not more than a fewhundred feet above the tree tops of the forest; "it would tickle me tohave a turn with him again. He has forgotten his other beat, and isbeginning to boast again about what great stunts he means to kick up."

  "Well, who knows what may be in store for us yet," Frank remarked; "andnow, let's head up again, and strike for the summit of Old Thunder Top,ten miles away."

  "Oh!"

  Andy's sudden exclamation was caused by the report of a gun in amongthe scattered trees directly below them; and both young aviatorsdistinctly heard the peculiar "whine" of the bullet, as it passed closeby their ears, actually making a little hole through the cloth of bothplanes!

 
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