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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VI. A BOMB AND A RUINED TEMPLE
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VI. A BOMB AND A RUINED TEMPLE Post by :allenr Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1301

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VI. A BOMB AND A RUINED TEMPLE

CHAPTER VI. A BOMB AND A RUINED TEMPLE

Ned lay perfectly still and the door was closed again, with the figure still on the outside. There were no lights inside the cottage, and it was a fairly clear night, so the boy could see the man standing on the porch, the wire screen in the door robbing his figure of sharp outline.

The intruder appeared to be listening for some sound within. Now and then he bent his head forward toward the door, and once, when Jimmie snorted out in his sleep, he darted a hand toward his hip, as if reaching for a weapon.

"His Nobbs, or his substitute, has arrived," thought Ned.

After a moment the man left the porch, closing the outer door carefully behind him. Ned was out of bed in an instant, following on after him. When he gained the porch, the intruder was turning the corner of the house.

Fearful of being seen, Ned crouched in a dark corner of the porch and waited. He could hear the fellow moving about, but could not see him, as he kept away from the front of the cottage.

The situation did not change for five minutes. The unwelcome visitor was still moving about outside and Ned was waiting for some decisive move to be made. The cottage did not rest on the knoll itself, but was set up on blocks a foot or more in height, and before long the boy heard sounds which indicated that the man he was watching was creeping in under the floor.

Waiting only long enough to make sure of this, Ned left the porch and hid himself in the jungle, which, on the south, came to within a few feet of the wall. The fellow was indeed under the house, as the boy knew by the sounds he made. It was perfectly dark under there, so his movements could not be observed.

In five minutes more the fellow backed out and arose to his feet. Then Ned saw that he held something in his right hand which looked like a fuse. It seemed that it was the man's benevolent idea to deprive the jungle of the society of the boys by blowing up their cottage.

Ned's first impulse was to shoot the fellow where he stood. He had no doubt that the fellow had put enough explosive under the floor to kill every person in it. That would be murder, and the boy's impulse was to deal out to the ruffian the fate of a murderer.

But he did not fire, for the intruder had not yet lighted the fuse. He stood for a moment with the end in his hand and then moved toward that part of the jungle where Ned was concealed. The boy moved cautiously aside, but even then, as the man crouched down in the vines, he could have touched him with a hand by crawling a yard to the front.

Deliberately the fellow lighted a match and applied it to the fuse. The end of the cord brightened for an instant and then became black again.

"It is wet."

The words were whispered in English.

He struck another match, listened an instant to make sure that the noise of the lighting had not attracted attention inside the cottage, and applied it to the fuse. The fuse burned swiftly, and the boy heard the incendiary go crashing through the tangle of vines and creepers, heading toward the south.

Ned cut the fuse above the crawling coal and stood for a moment listening to the man struggling with the undergrowth. Then he hastened into the cottage and laid a hand on Frank Shaw's shoulder.

"Get up," he whispered. "The fireworks have begun."

Frank sat up in his bunk and rubbed his eyes sleepily.

"What is it?" he asked. "Have you found the necklace?"

"Dress, quick."

"Wonder you wouldn't let a fellow sleep," grumbled Frank.

While the boys were dressing there came a snicker from Jimmie's bed.

"Don't start anythin' you can't stop," they heard the boy whisper.

"Want a midnight ramble among the snakes?" asked Ned, drawing on a pair of rubber boots which came up to his thighs.

"You bet I do," was the reply.

"Then get up and dress, and put on your high boots, for there are crawling things in the jungle."

Leaving the boys dressing, Ned hastened outside and listened. The man who had attempted the destruction of the cottage was still moving through the thicket. It seemed to Ned that an army could have made no more noise than he made. In a moment he was joined by Frank and Jimmie.

In as few words as possible Ned explained the situation to his amazed chums.

"What you goin' to do?" Jimmie asked.

"I want to follow that fellow to his principal," was the reply. "I want to know who set him at such cowardly work."

"It won't be difficult to follow him," Frank said. "He makes a noise like a circus parade."

"One of you must stay here and watch the cottage," Ned said, then. "When the explosion does not come, he may circle back here to see what has happened. The other may go with me."

Both boys insisted on accompanying Ned, but it was finally decided that it would be better policy to leave Frank at the cottage.

"You'll have to make haste," Frank said, regretfully, "for the sounds he is making are becoming fainter. What are you going to do with that fuse?" he added, as Ned drew on the line and hauled about half a foot of gas pipe from under the house.

"It will do no harm to take it with me," Ned replied. "It is not very heavy to carry, and it may be of use."

"I hope you'll blow that chap up with it," exclaimed Jimmie.

"Be careful that you don't blow yourself up with it," warned Frank.

"There are no cigarette smokers in the party, and so there is no danger," was the reply.

"I'll be here listening when the explosion comes," grinned Frank.

The sounds out in the jungle were now growing fainter. The man was either finding the way easier or he was getting some distance away.

"Come on," Jimmie urged. "He'll get away from us."

"If you make as much noise as he does," Frank said, "he'll stop and shoot you before you get anywhere near him."

It was no part of Ned's intention, however, to follow the intruder through the jungle. He was now waiting to make sure of the general direction the fellow was taking. He listened some moments longer, until the sounds grew very faint indeed, and then took the path which led from the cottage to a fairly well-made road ending five miles away at one of the streets of Gatun.

"You're gettin' the wrong steer," Jimmie said, as they moved along. "You'll have to go around the world if you catch him by going this way."

"The fellow is making for the hills," explained Ned, "and we may be able to catch him as he comes out of the jungle."

The boys made good speed along the cleared lane until they came to a rolling, grassy hill, one of many leading up to the summit. Then they turned off to the east, still keeping their pace but taking precautions against being seen, as the night was clearer now than before, and a moon looked down from the sky.

Finally Ned paused in a little valley on a gentle slope.

It was one of the wonderful nights rarely experienced save under the equator, or very close to the middle girdle of the globe. The luxuriant growths of the jungle seemed to be breathing in long, steady pulsations, so uniform was the lifting and falling of the night breeze.

Now and then the call of a night bird or the cry of a wild animal in the thickets came through the heavy air. From the distance came the clamor of the greatest work the world has ever undertaken. The thud and creaking of machinery mingled with the primitive noises of the forest. And far away over the cut flared the white light of the great electric globes which lighted the workers on their tasks.

As the boys looked forth from their depression in the side of the slope, two men came around the rise of the hill and stood at the edge of the jungle, not more than half a dozen yards away. Almost at the same instant it became apparent that some one was floundering about in the thicket immediately in front of them.

A low whistle cut the air, and then the creepers parted and a man's head and shoulders appeared. Ned and Jimmie crouched lower in their dent in the grassy hill.

The man emerged from the thicket and stood with the others, tearing clinging vines and leaves from his clothing as he did so.

"What is wrong?" a voice asked. "There has been no explosion."

"The fuse was wet," was the reply.

"Then why didn't you go back and fix it?" demanded the first speaker. "The sooner the job is done the better."

"I heard some one stirring in the jungle," was the reply.

"A nice man to be given such a task," roared another voice. "You must go back."

"You've landed the plotters, all right," whispered Jimmie. "I'll bet there's plenty more bombs like the one you have, waiting to be tucked under the Gatun dam. Gee! I'd like to take a shot at them gazabos."

Still standing in the moonlight, only a short distance from the listening boys, the three men argued in low tones for a moment. It was clear that the man who had placed the bomb was refusing to obey the orders given by the others.

"I'm not in love with the job, anyway," the fellow snarled, "and you may do it yourselves if you want it done to-night."

The others did not appear to relish the murderous job they were urging the speaker to undertake, and in a few moments the party moved around the base of the hill and then struck for the higher ground by way of a gully which cut between two elevations.

When the boys, mounting the breast of the hill and crouching at the summit, saw the men again, two were making for the cloud of light which lay over the workings while the other was following the crest of the hill toward the east.

Presently the two swung down into a valley, and then twin lights like those of a great touring car showed over a rise.

"What do you think of that?" asked Jimmie. "There must be a good road there."

The car came on a few yards after the lamp showed, and the two men clambered aboard. In five minutes the motor car was speeding toward Gatun.

"Two for the city and one for the tall timber," Jimmie snickered, as the car moved out of view. "There's the solitary individual watching them from the summit."

As the boy spoke the man who had laid the bomb so unsuccessfully faced away to the east and disappeared down the slope. It was not difficult to keep track of him, although the necessity for concealment was imperative, and the fellow proceeded at a swift pace for an hour.

At the end of that time he was in a lonely section of country, where rounded knolls were surrounded by the dense growth of the jungle. In spite of the wildness of the spot, however, Ned saw that civilization had at some distant time made its mark there. Here and there low, broken walls of brick lifted from the grass, and the vegetation was not quite so luxuriant. In numerous places, as they advanced, the boys saw that the ground had once been leveled off as if to make way for a building, the ruins of which were still to be seen.

"One of the ruined cities of the Isthmus," Jimmie whispered. "If Peter could see this he would know all about it."

"It wasn't a very large city," laughed Ned.

"There's the ruins of a temple over there," insisted the boy. "There's a wall standing yet. And there's the man we want going into it."

As the boy spoke the man they were following disappeared behind the wall. Before he could be restrained Jimmie wiggled forward to the foot of the ruin. Nestor saw him peering around the end of the line of brick and hastened forward.

The man they had followed was nowhere in sight when Ned turned the angle, and Jimmie lay on the ground in the shadows, kicking up his heels.

"He went down through the earth," the boy giggled, regardless of the danger of the situation. "He went right down through the ground. Say, but he's a corker, to get out of sight like that."

Ned caught the lad by the arm, to silence him, and listened. A steady click-click came from the ground beneath their feet. The sounds came continuously, almost with the regularity of the ticking of a clock.

"Where was he when he disappeared?" asked Ned.

"Over there in the corner," was the reply. "He walked up to the wall and stepped out of sight. What's that queer smell?" he added, sniffing the air.

"There must be a fire down there in the vaults of the old temple," replied Ned. "They must have a fire, for the smoke is coming out of a crevice at the top of that wall, and they are working on metal."

"Yes," said Jimmie, "an' I'll bet they're makin' more bombs--bombs for the dam."

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