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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter IX. A FASTING STUNT IS SUGGESTED
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter IX. A FASTING STUNT IS SUGGESTED Post by :SkyKing Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1728

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter IX. A FASTING STUNT IS SUGGESTED

CHAPTER IX. A FASTING STUNT IS SUGGESTED

While Ned and Jimmie were wondering how they were to escape from the subterranean chamber, Frank Shaw sat in the private room in the old house on the road to the Culebra cut, facing the gentleman of military carriage and wondering what would be the next move in the complicated game.

"How long have you known Lieutenant Gordon?" the man asked. "I beg your pardon," he said, without giving the boy opportunity to answer the question, "but I have not yet told you who I am, and you can hardly be expected to answer questions asked by an unknown person, especially when so much is at stake. I am Colonel Sharrow, of the United States army, detailed on Canal Zone duty."

The man's manners were frank and engaging, his personal appearance that of an officer in the service, yet Frank did not trust him. He did not believe that Lieutenant Gordon had sent for the boys. He did not make answer to the question asked concerning the lieutenant, and it was asked again, in this way:

"Have you known Lieutenant Gordon long?"

"A very short time," was the reply.

"You were with him in Mexico?"

"I met him in Mexico. I did not go there with him, nor did I travel in his company, except on the way out."

"Do you think he is entirely loyal to the government?" was the next question.

"I think he is," was the short reply.

"I am glad to hear you say that," Colonel Sharrow continued. "I should be sorry to change the good opinion I have formed of Lieutenant Gordon."

"It seems to me," Frank said, indignantly, "that you are inviting an adverse opinion concerning him."

"Not at all," was the pleasant reply. "It was my purpose, in making the remark I did, to test your loyalty to my very good friend."

There was a short silence in the room, during which Frank could hear his friends moving about excitedly in the adjoining apartment. If they were conversing, they were doing so in whispers, as no words could be heard.

"Lieutenant Gordon," the Colonel said, "is very much devoted to the service, and is especially interested in the investigation upon which he is now engaged. By the way, he seems to have a very able assistant in the person of Ned Nestor."

"Ned can help some," Frank replied, delighted at this appreciation of his chum.

Colonel Sharrow did not seem to be a bad fellow, after all.

"I suppose Ned will be here with the lieutenant?" Frank asked, then.

The Colonel hesitated, smiling more pleasantly than ever.

"To tell you the truth," he said, "the messenger did not tell you the exact truth. Ned is not with the lieutenant."

"Then this is a trap," exclaimed Frank, rising to his feet.

The Colonel laughed heartily.

"You are an impetuous young fellow," he said.

"You will be telling me next," the boy said, "that we are not to meet the lieutenant here."

"You are not to meet him here," was the calm reply.

Frank moved toward the door.

"Then I'll be going," he said.

"In a moment," said the Colonel, stepping forward. "Wait until you hear what I say, and then you may pursue whatever course seems good to you. You were in deadly danger, out there in the cottage, and we thought best to get you away. We knew, too, that you were too loyal to leave the place in defiance of orders, and so we used this ruse to bring you here, to the protection of your friends. If Nestor had been at the cottage we might have explained the situation to him. What time did he leave?"

"Don't you know what time he left, and why he went?" demanded Frank, all his former suspicions returning.

"We only know that he was not there at daybreak," was the reply, "and so we brought you away. Why did he leave so suddenly?"

Frank looked the Colonel in the eyes unflinchingly, determined to have the truth out of him, and asked:

"And so you don't know where he is now?"

The Colonel did not reply, and Frank knew that there was no necessity for continuing the conversation. He was satisfied that the Colonel was one of the plotters, perhaps the leader, that Ned's departure from the cottage had not been detected by the man he had followed into the jungle, and that his friend, at least up to daybreak, had not fallen into the hands of the enemy.

He saw in an instant how the case stood. The plotters, spying about the cottage at daybreak, had noted the absence of Ned. Fearful that he had departed on some errand which might seriously affect their own interests, they had resolved to bring the others away and learn from them, if possible, where Ned had gone.

As the reader has doubtless suspected, this was the exact truth. The plotters, at the time the boys were taken from the cottage, did not know where Ned was. He had not been seen following the would-be murderer, nor had any information from the bomb-boom disclosed his presence there.

Colonel Sharrow had regarded the "pumping" of the boy as certain of success, and was not a little surprised when he failed to go into the details of the incident which had taken Ned and Jimmie away from the cottage. It had seemed certain to him that the boy would hasten into an excited account of the peril of the situation. He did not know how the bomb had been discovered, or how it had been taken from under the floor of the cottage, but he knew that it had been done.

He had depended upon Frank to tell him all about it, and to explain where Ned had gone and why he had left the cottage in the night. He was greatly worried over the disappearance of the boy, for he did not know what had been discovered regarding the attempted destruction of the cottage and the consequent murder of the boys. He did not know what steps Ned might be taking to discover the author of the attempted outrage of the previous night. Besides, he was curious to know just how the destruction of the cottage had been averted.

"We do not know where Ned is," the Colonel said, in reply to Frank's question. "We thought you might assist us in finding him."

"How?" was the sharp demand.

"By telling us what took place at the cottage last night, and where Ned went when he left--also what time he left the cottage."

"I thought so," Frank said, when the case had thus plainly been stated. "I had an idea you wanted to know what steps are being taken to bring you and your bomb-thrower to justice. Well, I refuse to tell you anything about it."

The Colonel was not yet ready to appear under his true colors. He had one more issue to discuss with the boy, and hoped to meet with better success than he had in the other matter.

"You don't seem to understand the situation, or to trust me," he said. "You do not appreciate the peril your friend may be in. If you did, you would tell us all you know about the incident. Now, there is another thing I wish to discuss with you. You are the son of the owner of the _Daily Planet_?"

Frank nodded.

"Have you communicated with your father recently?"

"Not since our arrival on the Isthmus."

"Then you have not heard from him since your arrival here?"

"I have not."

"And consequently do not know of the peril he is in?"

Frank started and turned pale. He knew that this information, like that concerning Ned and the lieutenant, might be false, but he was anxious just the same.

"What peril is he in?" he asked, and the other smiled to think he had struck fire at last.

"Well, it seems that he is accumulating proof against the men who are said to be planning to destroy the big canal, over yonder, and is getting on the wrong track. The men he is about to accuse of complicity in the plot are justly indignant, and are preparing to dynamite his building in case any copy concerning them is sent to the composing room."

"You seem to be conversant with the affairs of these men," Frank suggested, with a frown. "Are you one of the men who sneaked into our home and chloroformed father and stole my necklace?"

"I heard something about that," the Colonel said, "and wondered at it. However, we are not discussing past incidents. What I desire you to do is to communicate with your father, in the cipher you sometimes use in your correspondence, and inform him of what I have just told you. Say to him that he is mistaken in the men, and that his building will be destroyed if he attempts to publish the alleged facts he has on hand."

"I think," Frank said, "that I can trust his good judgment. He can take care of himself."

"Then you refuse to send the message?"

"I certainly do."

"You seem to be a fat, healthy sort of a boy," laughed the other, changing the subject, apparently, with a suddenness which astonished the boy.

"I have no cause to complain," Frank said.

"How long do you think you can live without food?" was the next question.

Frank saw the meaning of the fellow in his angry eyes and dropped back into his chair. The boys in the next room were now talking excitedly, and some of the exclamations could be heard.

"If you don't open the door we'll break it down."

That was Harry Stevens. The reply was too faint to be heard.

"What are you doing to Frank, anyway?"

That was Harry Stevens' voice again. The question was immediately followed by a bang on the door.

"Keep back," a voice said. "This gun is loaded."

The situation was a serious one, and Frank blamed himself for getting into such a trap. If he had remained at the cottage, he thought, there would have been no immediate danger to his friends.

"Perhaps, after a week's fast, you might have strength enough left to write such a communication to your father as I suggest?"

The manner was unbearable, the tone insulting, and Frank could hardly restrain himself from attacking the fellow.

"In a week," he said, his eyes flashing, "you and your associates will be in some federal prison."

"You talk bravely," said the other, "and I observe that you are glancing about in search of some way out of this, to you, disagreeable situation. Spare your pains! Even if you could vanquish me and my associate in the next room, you could not leave the house. It is guarded by a dozen picked men."

"Is that as true as the other things you have said?" asked the boy.

The Colonel laughed until his face turned red and his sides shook.

"You are a bright boy," he said. "It is quite a pleasure to do business with you. A very capable boy."

He went to the door of the room and looked out.

"Where are the men?" he asked.

The dwarf, who had been sitting on a rude table near the door, swinging his short legs in the air, looked up with a slight frown.

"I haven't got 'em," he said.

"Well, see if you can find them."

The dwarf, called Jumbo by those who knew him, got off the table and pointed to a window.

"Use your eyes," he said.

Three men stood there looking in. In the road in front stood the automobile in which the party had reached the house. On a hilltop perhaps sixty rods away a little spurt of dust indicated the approach of another motor car.

The Colonel beckoned to the men to enter. As they stepped inside three more men entered from a rear door. They were all dusky, hungry-looking fellows, with snaky black hair and shrinking black eyes. They were dressed in tattered clothes, and carried revolvers in plain view.

"Quite an army," Frank said.

"This old house," the Colonel began, a sneer on his thin lips, "is larger than you may think. At the top of a wing which stretches back toward the jungle there is a room where Spanish prisoners were once confined. With your permission I'll escort you boys there, advising you, in the meantime, to think the situation over carefully."

The puff of dust on the distant hilltop grew more pronounced, and the chug-chug of a swiftly moving motor reached the ears of those in the ancient structure.

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