The airplane boys among.., p.7
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       The Airplane Boys among the Clouds, p.7

           John Luther Langworthy
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  They were already spinning along at a lively clip, and rising too, atthe moment that shot sounded, and the leaden missile whizzed past soclose to them. Almost through sheer instinct Frank instantly shiftedhis lever, and started the biplane upward on a slant that was thelimit, and approaching the danger line.

  The two Bird boys turned and stared at each other. Wonder andindignation seemed struggling for the mastery in their faces.

  "Frank, he fired that shot at us!" exclaimed Andy.

  "Seemed like it," returned the other. "At any rate, it came much tooclose to suit my ideas of comfort. Made me think of those warm timeswe had down in Columbia, when the revolutionists were after us."

  "What a wicked shame!" went on the other fiercely. "And I guess thesilly fool thought he was doing something smart! That's a new dangeraviators will have to face--being shot at by every loon that carries agun, just like they might be some strange bird."

  "Well, we're Birds, all right, but hardly strange ones," Frankcontinued, with a frown on his face. "And we've been knocking aroundthis section of the country in our jolly little monoplane so long, thatI supposed every farmer's boy knew us and felt an interest in our work.That makes me believe it could hardly have been done in a spirit ofwhat some people would call a joke."

  "Good gracious! Frank, do you mean that the fellow really wanted tohit us? Oh! that seems too terrible to believe!" cried Andy, aghast.

  "Stop and think," Frank continued, steadily. "In the first place, whatwould any one be doing, hunting in the middle of summer. Why, outsideof a short spell given over to woodcock, there isn't a thing the lawallows a sportsman to shoot up to Fall. And Andy, did you ever hear ofanybody shooting woodcock with a rifle?"

  "Oh! Frank!"

  "Well, am I right about that? It sounded like the report of a rifle tome; and it was sure a bullet that whistled past us!" Frank pursued, inhis customary positive way.

  "Yes, you're right about that. But who could be so horribly mean as towant to injure us?" said Andy. "Why, even if that bullet had struckour biplane in one of half a dozen places, it might have made us fall.And Frank, that would be just criminal, you know."

  "I suppose you noticed that puff of smoke below us?" Frank went on.

  "It just happened that I was looking down, and I saw it burst out of athicket," came the answer.

  "It was the same way with me," Frank continued. "I had just a glimpseof some fellow throwing himself under the bushes but if you asked me Icouldn't say for certain whether it was a man or a boy."

  "Just like he was afraid of being seen, and recognized; is that whatyou mean?" asked Andy.

  "It looked that way," Frank replied.

  "Don't you see, Frank, he gave himself away in doing that? First, heknew he was doing a dirty mean act; and second, he must have beensomebody we knew, or he wouldn't have been so afraid of being seen."

  "That's so, Andy. Another thing, perhaps it may not have struck youthat once before you and I met with an adventure while almost over thesame spot."

  Andy gave vent to an exclamation that told of excitement revived.

  "You mean the time we sighted those two skulking jewelry thieves, thefellows who had robbed Leffingwell's store, and were hiding until therow quieted down?"

  "Yes, Jules Garrone, and his pal," Frank went on.

  "Jules was the one who had been an aviator over in France, and whotried to steal our Bug, meaning to fly away, and leave no trail behindfor the hunting police. But Frank, you can't possibly believe Juleswas the fellow who fired that shot? It don't stand to reason; becauseyou know, he was sent to the penitentiary for ten years. Oh! no, Iguess we'll have to think up something else this time," and Andy shookhis head vigorously in the negative.

  "Well, time may tell," Frank said, simply.

  "Looky here, Frank, now there's no use denying it, I know you've gotsome sort of idea about finding out who that rascal was," declared Andy.

  "Well, perhaps there is some sort of hazy notion hovering around in mybrain, that I ought to learn more about him," the other smiled back."This thing of being made a target by any fool who happens to own arifle is something that ought to be stopped with a jerk. Yes, I doexpect to try and find out."

  "And you won't tell me what's on your mind?" asked Andy.

  "Not just now. It's too uncertain to speak of, yet. And perhaps,after all, it was only some boy, who thought it would be smart to giveus a little shock; and who sent his bullet closer than he had meant to."

  "You sure don't mean--Percy?" exclaimed Andy.

  "Oh! no, I didn't have him in mind," laughed Frank.

  "Not that he wouldn't be guilty of such meanness if the chancecame--you know that fellow isn't above anything!" declared Andy,vigorously.

  "Well, just at present I can imagine that Percy and his crony SandyHollingshead, are using up every minute of their precious timeassembling the parts of their new aeroplane. Consequently, Andy,neither of them would be apt to wander away up here, miles fromBloomsbury, and carrying a rifle."

  "Guess you're right," grumbled the other, as if loth to entirely giveup the idea that had flashed into his mind. "But it strikes me, Frank,after this, when we're out for a spin, we ought to give that region ofthe old charcoal burner's shack a wide berth. It spells trouble forthe Bird boys."

  "Oh! I don't know; perhaps the trouble may later on be all in storefor the fellow who held that gun. But look up, Andy; we're gettingalong toward the peak at a gay old pace. Say, what do you think of thebiplane now?"

  "She's a peach, that's what!" burst out Andy, impulsively. "I thoughtthe little Bug was the whole thing, and then some; but honestly, Frank,she wasn't in the same class as this new machine."

  "And yet," Frank laughed, "remember that with her we beat Percy and hisbiplane, manufactured by one of the best firms in the market. Thatought to be glory enough for the Bird boys. Now, get ready for yourpart in the landing; because, you know the plateau isn't extra big onOld Thunder Top."

  "I see our old friends, the white-headed eagles soaring around. D'yethink they'll tackle us again, like they did last year?" Andy asked.

  "Oh! I hope that by now they've grown used to us, and consider thatwe've got just as much right up here as they ever had. Besides, wegave 'em an awful walloping you may remember. And this time we've beensmart enough to fetch along a couple of fine sticks to repeat the doseif necessary. Careful now, Andy. Here goes for a snug drop on therock!"

  Almost as lightly as a thistle-down the biplane alighted on the smalltable rock that constituted the apex of grim Old Thunder Top. Highcliffs completely surrounding this summit had kept it from ever beingreached, up to the time Frank and his cousin landed there, in winningthe race for a silver cup; and planted the Stars and Stripes there forthe first time on record.

  Since then the boys of Bloomsbury, not to be wholly outdone, had set towork, and actually carved a set of rough steps, that were hardly morethan footholds, in the uneven rock; so that the most daring had beenable to climb up; and with the aid of a friendly rope carried along forthis purpose, get down again in safety. But in the annals ofBloomsbury the Bird boys would be set down as the pioneers who led theway to the peak.

  Frank and his cousin were soon walking around the rocky plateau, usingtheir fieldglasses to observe the many things that lay stretched out inevery direction. It was well worth all the trouble it cost to enjoythat magnificent view; for they could see for many miles in everydirection.

  Andy more than once turned the glasses toward the quarter where theyhad had their peculiar little adventure that morning. But of course hesaw no sign of the unknown party who had fired the shot. The denseforest would naturally prevent their sighting him when miles away.

  Half an hour they spent in this manner; and then Andy suggested thatthey might just as well be starting for home.

  "I notice that the wind is beginning to come up quite some," heremarked. "And at
such a height I rather guess it can blow for allthat's out, when it wants. Besides, we've got a number of littlethings we had expected to attend to at the shop."

  "All right," replied Frank, who was using the glasses at the time."I'll be ready to join you in a minute or so."

  "You seem to be interested in taking in our practice field," remarkedhis cousin. "See the boys; and are they watching us right now?"

  "I was wondering what was going to happen," said Frank, taking theglasses down.

  "Happen--to us, do you mean?" Andy asked, instantly taking the alarm,because he saw from Frank's manner that the other meant something byhis remark.

  "Here, have a look, and then tell me if you recognize it."

  Andy immediately accepted the glasses, and clapped them to his eyes.He had no sooner done so than he gave vent to an exclamation.

  "I know now what you meant, Frank," he remarked.

  "Well, what do you make of it?" asked the other.

  "The same car, beyond a doubt; and it's stopped in the road right infront of the bars where we enter our field. Yes, and there's thatmysterious Mr. Marsh going into the field right now. Frank, he knowswe're away, for he must have seen us sailing around up here. Andthat's why he's heading for our shop. Perhaps he believes it'sunguarded, and expects to get a chance to spy around. Now, what do youthink it all means? Oh! I wish we had started back long ago. What ifthe boys fall to his dope, and let him see everything with those sharpeyes of his? Frank, let's be going home!"

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