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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VIII. EXPLOSIVES FOR THE GATUN DAM
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VIII. EXPLOSIVES FOR THE GATUN DAM Post by :Dwayne_Garrett Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :2904

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter VIII. EXPLOSIVES FOR THE GATUN DAM


Ned and Jimmie listened for some moments to the steady click-click of metal which came, or appeared to come, from the ground directly underneath their feet, and then Ned arose and crept forward.

"Where you goin'?" whispered Jimmie.

"Down there."

Ned pointed to the dark corner.

"You'd better come away," warned the boy.

"We are here to investigate," Ned replied, almost impatiently.

"Then investigate with a bomb, or with a cannon," advised Jimmie.

"No time for that," came the reply. "The conditions which exist now may not exist in an hour's time. It is now or never."

Moving forward, Ned saw a faint finger of light cutting the shadows in the corner Jimmie had pointed out. Jimmie saw it at the same instant.

"I'll bet they've got a blacksmith shop down there," he said.

There was no opening in the great stone slabs of the floor through which a man might make his way--only the crevice through which the ray of light came. Ned turned his attention to the wall to the south.

Behind a luxuriant growth of vines he saw another glimmer of light, and in a moment stood looking down a narrow stairway, at the distant end of which were numerous lines of red flame. Jimmie, looking over Ned's shoulder, uttered a muffled exclamation.

"Looks like a door made out of red-hot bars," he said.

"It is a board door," Ned whispered back, "with wide cracks between the planks. There is an intense red fire in the room beyond."

Ned placed a foot on the top step of the stairway and slowly and cautiously rested the weight of his body upon it, to make certain that no trap for the protection of the place had been set there. The stone step was solid and bore his weight firmly.

At the bottom of the stairway the boys stopped and looked about. Straight ahead was the cracked door, to the south was a solid wall, to the north, under the stone pavement they had crossed to gain the corner, was a dark room, the door to which stood open. The room was close and hot.

"How are your matches, Jimmie?" whispered Ned.

"Got a pocketful," was the reply. "Want a light?"

"Not yet. We would better feel our way into the room. Keep close to me and keep your gun handy."

The room was small, something like a vestibule to a larger one which ran along parallel with the one from which the light came. It was very dark there, and more than once the boys stumbled over obstructions on the floor, which seemed to be of brick or stone. Once Ned heard Jimmie laughing softly as he rolled on the floor.

"I'm thinkin' what the movin' picture men are missin'," the boy said, as he moved forward on his hands and knees.

"This would look rather amusing--on a white canvas on the Bowery," Ned said.

After reaching a wall, the stones of which felt damp and oozy to the touch, Ned ventured to light a match. The underground room was long and narrow, with rock walls in which there was no opening except the one by way of which the boys had entered.

Ned, by the flaring light of the match, brushed away the mould which flourished in that unwholesome place and seated himself on the stone floor, his back against the wall. Jimmie, seeking physical companionship, nestled close to him.

"Gee," the little fellow remarked, with a snicker, "you thinkin' of takin' up a homestead here?"

"I'm going to remain in this room until the workers in the other chamber go away," was the reply. "I've taken a notion to look into that apartment."

"And if they don't go away?"

"I'll wait until they do. It is probable that they do all their work at night."

"Then you won't have to wait long," the boy replied. "It was growing light in the east when we came down here."

Jimmie dropped off into a restless sleep after a time, and Ned sat there waiting and listening, just as Frank, a short time later, waited and listened on the porch of the cottage in the jungle. When the boy awoke it was with a start of anxiety.

"The boys will think we're dead," he exclaimed.

"I hope they won't try to follow us," Ned whispered.

"If they do," the other said, "they'll find signs in twigs and stones all the way along. The stone heaps point the way to this place, and give the warning at the place where the stairs begin."

Reference was here made to Boy Scout methods used in the forest. For instance, a stone with a smaller one on top says:

"This is the trail."

Place a stone to the right of this and the meaning is:

"Turn to the right."

One to the left means:

"Turn to the left."

A smaller stone on top of the other two, with none at the side, means: "Be careful."

"I hope they will keep away," Ned went on. "It is a miracle, almost, that we got in here without being discovered."

"What you think you'll find in there?" asked Jimmie.

"Something concerning the plot," was the reply.

It seemed a long time before the work in the chamber ceased, and Ned had plenty of time in which to review the strange case he was interested in. The transition from gay New York to that weird apartment seemed almost like a whiff of fancy. Then he recalled the painstaking surveillance of the fellow called "His Nobbs" on the way down, and smiled at the thought that the plans he had made at first sight of the spy had worked out remarkably well.

He had submitted gracefully to the surveillance, knowing that in time the man who was following him would track him to his camp on the Isthmus. That was the very point. He would not know where to look for the plotters, but they would know where to look for him. He depended on them to send a man to work him mischief, and reckoned on being able to follow that man back to his principals.

This they had done. The men who had employed the spy on the ship had acted quickly and had sent a bomb-thrower. Ned shuddered as he thought of the risk he had taken that night in going to bed without leaving a guard. He had overlooked a point in the game there, for he had not apprehended such prompt action on the part of the men he had pitted himself against.

However, the plan had miscarried because of his waking at the critical moment, and here he was, at the door of the men who had sent the man about their murderous work. But were these the principals? When he thought of the two who had hastened off toward Gatun in a motor car he did not believe that they were.

"I shall have to look in other places besides subterranean chambers for the men in charge," he thought. "These fellows are merely tools."

Presently the sharp click-click of metal came no more through the heavy air of the room, and Ned, awaking Jimmie, who had fallen asleep again, moved into the small room from which the doorway gave a view of the stairs. He could see from this room that the sun was shining brightly outside.

Ned had scarcely stationed himself in the heavy shadows back of the doorway when four men came down the passage and passed him. He had no doubt that they were the workmen going out for the day. Such work as they did must needs be done in the night.

Two of the men were tall and slim, with Spanish-looking faces, and two were short and stout, with a heavy droop to their shoulders and broad faces almost entirely covered with whiskers.

"The original anarchists," whispered Jimmie, as the two short men passed.

After the disappearance of the workmen all was still in the underground rooms. The door to the work-chamber had been left open, and Ned knew that one of two things was the solution to this.

Either there were other men in the room, or there were watchers on the outside. He ventured out in the passage at the foot of the stairs and looked up. A roughly-dressed man stood half in view, his back to the watcher. When Ned turned back he saw Jimmie disappearing into the work-room. He called softly to him, but the boy passed on through the doorway and was lost to sight.

Annoyed at the unnecessary risk taken by the boy, Ned stepped back into the room he had just left and waited half expecting to hear a call for assistance. He knew that he could be of more assistance there than in the open doorway to the room which the boy had entered. There he would at least have the first shot if Jimmie was pursued and made for the stairs.

While he waited almost holding his breath, he grasped the bomb he had brought with him from the cottage. If Jimmie should be killed in there, the bomb should avenge his death. The ruins of the temple and the work-shop of the plotters should all ascend heavenward in one grand explosion. After a time, however, his fears were set at rest by the appearance of the boy, who came up to the doorway with a grin on his face.

"Nothin' stirrin' in there now," he said. "Come on."

It seemed plain now that those interested in the work which was going on underground were depending on outside watchers to protect them. The fire in a rude forge which stood at the distant end of the chamber was dying out when the boys reached it, and the place was only dimly lighted.

On one side of the room was a pile of gas-pipe, cut in six-inch lengths. In a corner, far away from the fire, and half buried in the earth--a great paving stone having been removed to make way for the excavation--were tin vessels tightly covered. After his experiences of the night, Ned did not have to inspect the contents of these tins. He knew very well that they contained high explosives.

"There's stuff enough here to blow up the continent of South America," Jimmie said, pointing at the gas-pipe lengths and the tin vessels.

"And they are getting the material in shape to do the work," Ned added.

"Yep," Jimmie answered. "We've caught 'em with their workin' clothes on. We've got to the bottom of the plot."

"You go too fast, son," Ned replied. "We haven't got a single clue to the men higher up. It is probable that we have discovered the plant of the men who are planning to destroy Uncle Sam's big job, but the work we have undertaken has only begun."

"Why, catch these men," said Jimmie, "an' you've got 'em."

"Got these men, yes, but the chances are that even they do not know the men who are at the head of the conspiracy."

"Some one is puttin' money into it, anyway," the boy suggested.

"Yes, and we don't even know the interests which are doing it," said Ned.

Ned now busied himself about the chamber, having closed the door so that the light of his matches would not show. There was, of course, danger that the watcher might descend the stairs and discover the closed door, but there was also the chance that he might attribute the changed situation to accident.

Presently Ned came upon a battered old writing desk standing on the head of a large barrel. The slanting top was locked down, but the boy soon had it open. Its contents consisted of two rolls of drawing paper.

Ned took them out, stirred the fire to a sudden glow, and bent over the figures and lines on the sheets. His face grew thoughtful as he looked.

"What is it?" Jimmie asked.

Ned held out the rolls.

"This one," he said, "is a drawing of the Gatun dam, and this other is a crude sketch of the basement of the _Daily Planet building in New York."

"Gee!" cried the boy. "Are they goin' to blow that up, too?"

"They appear to be thinking of it," was the reply. "And there on the margin of the sheets, of each of the sheets, is a date line--Saturday, April 15th. This is the 13th."

"Is that the date set for the explosion?" asked the boy, with wide-open eyes.

"I don't know," was the reply, "but it seems to me that we ought to get out of here and communicate with Lieutenant Gordon, and also with Mr. Shaw, in New York. The date marked here may be the one set for action."

They started at once for the door, Ned taking the sheets with him and hoping to pass the guard without being seen. As they moved forward, however, they heard voices, and then a square of light told them that the door which they had left closed had been opened, and that three men were entering.

"If they turn on the light now," Jimmie whispered in Ned's ear, "there'll be somethin' doin' here."

The newcomers did not light the flaring torches with which the room was usually illuminated, but, closing the door, sat down near the forge.

"I think," Ned whispered, drawing Jimmie toward the door, "that the fate of the Gatun dam and the _Daily Planet building depends on our getting out of here. Move carefully."

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