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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter I. THE PLOT AGAINST THE GATUN DAM
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter I. THE PLOT AGAINST THE GATUN DAM Post by :davetropeano Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1640

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter I. THE PLOT AGAINST THE GATUN DAM


"Five Black Bears, two Wolves, and a Panther. That would be a choice collection of wild animals to take to the Canal Zone."

The remark was greeted with shouts of laughter, and then the boys in the handsome clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol, in the city of New York, settled down to a serious discussion of the topic of the evening. There were seven present, Ned Nestor and Jimmie McGraw, of the Wolf Patrol; George Tolford, Harry Stevens, Glen Howard, and Jack Bosworth, of the famous Black Bear Patrol; and Peter Fenton, of the Panther Patrol. They ranged in age from thirteen to seventeen, Jimmie being the youngest and Ned Nestor the oldest of the group.

They were all enthusiastic Boy Scouts, and their clubrooms were well supplied with boxing gloves, foils, and footballs, as well as weapons and articles necessary on camping expeditions. The clubroom in which the boys were assembled on this gusty night in early April was situated in the upper part of the fine residence of Jack's father, on Fifth avenue. The Black Bear Patrol was composed almost entirely of the sons of very wealthy parents, and the boys were off to the woods and waters whenever opportunity offered.

In company with Lieutenant Gordon, of the United States Secret Service, and Frank Shaw, a member of the Black Bear Patrol, whose arrival was momentarily expected, the boys present had, on the previous day, returned from a series of unusual and exciting experiences in Mexico, and now they were discussing a proposed plan for an excursion to the Canal Zone. Of course they could make the trip if they desired, but what they wanted was to go in the company of Lieutenant Gordon, sent there on a secret mission by the Secretary of War.

"Aw, come on, Ned, an' be a good feller," Jimmie McGraw urged, as Nestor expressed a doubt as to the advisability of taking the boys on the Canal Zone trip, to which he had been invited by the lieutenant, both as assistant and companion. "Let us go! We'll talk the lieutenant into letting us go along if you'll say a good word for us."

During the trip to Mexico to which reference has been made, Ned Nestor had succeeded in averting serious complications between the government of that rebellious republic and the government of the United States. Through his efforts a threatened raid across the Rio Grande from the Mexican side had been checked on the very border, and the secret service men associated with him did not hesitate to declare that his tact and activity had done much to prevent a war between the two countries.

Before leaving the scene of their operations in Mexico, Lieutenant Gordon had been ordered to New York on important official business. Only an inkling of what that official business was contained in his letter of instructions. Only the bare fact that complications in the Canal Zone were placing the Panama Canal in danger was conveyed to him. Later, after his arrival in New York, he had learned that the government suspected plots to destroy the great Gatun dam by the use of explosives.

Only a hint of the threatened danger had been conveyed to the War department, but that was enough to set on foot the investigation of which Lieutenant Gordon was to be the head. One of the lieutenant's first acts after receiving his instructions was to secure the services of Ned Nestor, being guided in this by the wonderful success of the boy's efforts in Mexico.

Thus it chanced that on this night every boy who had had the good fortune to share in the Mexican adventures was importuning Nestor to use his influence with the lieutenant in order that they might all be taken into the party. They had already gained the consent of their parents, Nestor, individually, was willing, and it only remained to convince Lieutenant Gordon that they could be of use to him and the government on the Canal Zone.

"If you don't loosen up and take us with you," Harry Stevens declared, with a grin in the direction of his companions, "we'll give you a chase to the equator. You know how you found Jimmie in George's bed? Well, if you don't take us along with you, you'll find us all in your bed before you get to Panama."

"It seems a pity to unload such a mess of wild animals on the people of the Zone," laughed Nestor, "but we'll leave it all to Lieutenant Gordon. Lavish your honeyed words and smiles on him!"

"What's it all about, anyway?" demanded Jimmie. "It's something concerning the big canal, I know, for I heard you two talking of explosives at the Gatun dam."

"We all heard that," cried Jack Bosworth. "You can't keep secrets from us. What is it all about? Is some one trying to blow up the big dam?"

Nestor looked into the faces of the boys with serious eyes. He had not suspected that they knew anything definite regarding the secret mission, and was annoyed to think that he in part might be to blame for the leak which had been discovered.

"Is that what you're going for?" asked Harry Stevens. "Are you going to mix with governmental affairs again? Because we've got to go if you are. Honest, now, we won't say a word if you tell us."

"Do you all promise that?" asked Nestor.

"Sure we do," came in chorus.

"Well, then," Nestor went on, "we don't know much about the matter, except that there are hostile influences at work down there, directed against the canal. We do not know the proposed point of attack, but presume that the big dam is in the greatest danger. We do not even know where to look for the plotters, or whether they are Americans or of foreign birth. The motive for the contemplated destruction of the great waterway is not even surmised. In fact, for all we know, this may be a scare, but the thing is serious enough to call for rigid investigation, so down there we go."

"Sure you can't get along without us!" cried Jimmie. "If you want to know who is at the bottom of it all, just ask me. It's the railroads. I've heard men say the canal would have been finished years ago only for the determined opposition of the transcontinental lines."

"Much you know about it!" cried Harry Stevens. "If anybody should ask you where to look for the trouble, put your finger on the map of Japan. The little brown men are digging under the Gatun dam if any one is."

"It does not seem possible that either the Japanese government or the railroad interests would descend to such despicable work," Nestor said. "I won't believe it of either of them until I have absolute proof."

"It would be going some to blow up the Gatun dam," Peter Fenton cut in. "Why, when finished, that dam will be more than a hundred feet high, and will cover one hundred and sixty-four square miles with water. Its purpose is to huddle the highland streams into a lake which will become a part of the canal. This lake will cover plantations, small farms, villages, and even the present right of way of the Panama railroad."

"If they succeed in blowing up the Gatun dam," Jack said, "there will be no Canal Completion Exposition in San Francisco in four years. That would be a shame, for we were all going."

"Think of all that land being put down in the bed of a lake!" Harry Stevens exclaimed. "We ought to have taken a tip when the canal was first talked about and bought up that property. Uncle Sam would have bought it of us at a fancy price. Just think of a sure-thing speculation like that."

Peter Fenton, known as the Encyclopedia, sat back in his chair and laughed until his face was as red as the painted snout of the black bear which looked down from a shield on the wall. The boys shook him up until he regained the power of speech.

"If you boys had been one year old when the Panama Canal was first mentioned," he managed to say, choking back his laughter, "you would now stand at the venerable age of four hundred and sixteen years."

"I guess you get your history in the dream book," Jimmie cried.

"Nixy dream book," declared Peter, with the dignity which comes of much knowledge. "The Spaniards who lived in the Province of New Granada, on the Isthmus of Darien, as it was then called, planned a ship canal across the neck in the year 1518, and there has been talk of the big ditch ever since."

"Then it takes a long time to get at the job," suggested Jimmie. "The trench could have been scooped out with a teaspoon in less than four hundred years."

"Wait until you get down there! You'll see what impression your teaspoon would make. I've been reading up since I've returned to New York, and know something about the size of the job. The canal will cost millions more than Congress figured on, and the job is going ahead without graft, at that."

"Still," Harry Stevens interrupted, "it would have been a wise move to have annexed a lot of that land."

"If your speculation had developed when the first talk of the canal was heard," Peter went on, "you would have had to do business with King Ferdinand, of Spain. He would have put the soil on the bargain counter for you one day and shot you up the next. That wouldn't have been so cheerful."

"Nice party to do business with," laughed Harry.

"He was next to his king job, all right," Peter continued. "He was there with the gunpowder when any subject stood to put anything over on him. He caused Columbus to be returned to Spain in chains, and permitted one of his officials to shoot up the first white man who ever looked out on the Pacific from the divide of the Isthmus. He carried things by a large majority, did Ferdinand."

"It was his queen who put her jewels in soak to buy a ship for Columbus," commented Jack Bosworth. "I read about it when I was laid up with my broken arm. You remember the time the horse climbed into my motor car?"

"The police say you never stopped running until you bumped against one of the White Mountains," laughed Harry. "Who was this white man who first climbed the divide?" he asked; "as I'm going down there, I want to know. I may set up a monument to his memory."

"Don't be too sure about going," warned Glen Howard. "Lieutenant Gordon may kick on the whole bunch of us."

"Then we'll all go down in my motor boat," replied Harry. "You can't keep me out of the Canal Zone when there's things doing."

"The man's name was Balboa," said Peter, in answer to the question, as he smiled at this tardy recognition of the services of the explorer. "He went broke at St. Domingo, one day in the year 1510, and hired a fellow to head him up in a wine cask and put the cask on board a ship bound for Darien. He made the trip, all right, and landed broke, but in three years he was captain of the precinct, as they say in Manhattan, and on his way to the Pacific. He looked out on the big ocean for the first time on the 26th of September, 1513. Some say it was the 25th. I don't know which is right."

The door of the clubroom now opened and Lieutenant Gordon entered. He was a man of not more than thirty, with a stern though not forbidding face and an alert military figure. His brown eyes lighted up with sudden humor as he dodged the clamorous boys, and dropped into a chair.

"What about it?" asked Jimmie, who seemed to be a favorite with the officer. "Do we go with you, or do we trail along in the motor boat?"

"The man higher up," began the lieutenant, "says you may go with me if you will try to--"

There was no necessity for the lieutenant going on with the sentence. He had warned the boys so many times as to their conduct on the Isthmus, if permitted to go with the secret service men, that they now knew in advance what he was going to say, and they repeated his former admonitions with shouts of laughter.

"All right," said the lieutenant, trying to look dignified, "if you won't listen you can't go."

"Go on an' talk your chin off," shouted Jimmie. "We'll listen to every word until our arms drop to the floor."

"Never mind that now," laughed the officer. "I'm too busy at present to speak the advice you'll all forget before I'm out of the room. Where is Frank Shaw? I came here to see him."

"He was coming down to-night," George Tolford replied, "but it is so late now that he may not be here. Anything special?"

"Why, yes," was the reply. "I want to know what he has been saying to his father about the difficulty in the Canal Zone."

"Why, he doesn't know anything to tell," said Nestor, "not even as much as the boys here now know, for I have talked the situation over with them but not with him."

"What do they know regarding the situation?" asked the lieutenant, apprehensively.

"Nothing except that the Panama canal is threatened by some unknown influence."

"Well," said the lieutenant, thoughtfully, "some one has been leaking, and it seems as if our first move in the game must be made right here in New York."

"It wasn't Frank that leaked," Jimmie asserted, in defense of his friend. "He wouldn't do such a thing, and he couldn't tell what he didn't know, anyway," with which logical conclusion the boy turned his back to the group.

"There is something wrong somewhere," Lieutenant Gordon said. "Wait until I tell you what took place this afternoon and you will agree with me."

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