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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XI. JACK AND HIS FRIEND GASTONG
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XI. JACK AND HIS FRIEND GASTONG Post by :johneze Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1604

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XI. JACK AND HIS FRIEND GASTONG

CHAPTER XI. JACK AND HIS FRIEND GASTONG

Lieutenant Gordon sprang to his feet when he saw the boys emerging from the jungle, and stood waiting, his hand on the porch door, while they entered.

"You've given me a good scare," he said.

"There's been a scare comin' to everybody to-day," grinned Jimmie, "even to the dagoes in the bomb chamber."

"The bomb chamber," repeated the lieutenant. "What have you youngsters been up to? Where did you find a bomb room?"

"Back here in the cellar of a ruined temple," Jimmie started to explain, but the lieutenant stopped him.

"Suppose we begin at the beginning," he suggested.

"That is the beginning," Ned replied, "the beginning of the story after we left the cottage in the night."

Then Ned related the story of the finding of the ruined temple and what had taken place there.

"But how did you boys get to the temple?" asked the lieutenant, then. "The last I heard of you one of the plotters had you in tow, and Jack was running off after you in the cook's clothing. Where did you boys connect with each other?"

"Hold on!" Jack broke in. "Where did the cook connect with you? I presume he is the boy that brought you here?"

"Sure," said the cook. "I had no intention of remaining here. I knew about what would happen to you boys, and so started on a run for a 'phone, the idea being to reach the lieutenant. I was mistaken for Jack, and held up by a man who must have been left to spy about the cottage, but I got a chance to hand him one and got to a 'phone. Since then the lieutenant has melted a thousand miles of wire making inquiries for you."

"I'm glad we all got out before the lieutenant got to us," Jimmie cut in. "I guess this bunch of Boy Scouts don't need any United States army to pry us out of our troubles. We almost got here first," he added, with a provoking grin.

"When you get done congratulating yourselves," laughed the lieutenant, "perhaps you will tell me how you boys got to the ruined temple."

"I cannot tell a lie," cried Jack, "I did it. While I was chasing myself along through the dust kicked up by the choo-choo car the boys rolled away in, I came upon a youth who held me up in the middle of the road and asked how I'd like to continue my run against time in an airship. He was a cheeky looking chap, and I felt like giving him a poke in the breather, when he grinned and gave me the Boy Scout high sign."

"You never found a Boy Scout out here in the jungle?" exclaimed Gordon.

"You bet I did," Jack continued. "If you don't believe it, go back there to the cookerie. He's filling up on the beans I was expecting to get myself. Call him my dear Gastong, and he'll come."

"Cripes!" cried Jimmie, and he was away in a second, attacking the great dish of pork and beans which stood on the table in the cookroom.

"Gastong," continued Jack, looking longingly into the cook room, "was born on the Isthmus, and knows all about conditions here, but he's too aristocratic to mix with the inhabitants for any great length of time. He's got the highfaluting blood all right, but he is shy of the skads, so he protects his dignity and pride of race by bumming his way over the world, like an English milord with a ruined castle and an overdraft at the bank. He learned to talk United States in New York, and got to be a Boy Scout in Philadelphia."

"Details of pedigree and biography later," said Ned. "Did he have an airship?"

"He had the next best thing to it," Jack replied. "He had a motor car which he was running for some gazabo over in Gatun. He was out for his health when he saw the boys shooting by in a car with a man he knew to be a crook, and was about to follow on and see what was doing when he saw me speeding up the right of way, looking as if I was obliged to catch the machine ahead.

"He left his car around the corner of the hill and met me on foot, with about a dozen Boy Scout signs on tap and a score of badges of honor hidden away in his ragged clothes. He told me what he thought of the man who was running the car ahead, and I told him how he would be patrol leader on the Golden Streets just because he was a Boy Scout and was there at that time, so we got into his machine and followed the crook in the lead."

"What about the tramps?" laughed Frank.

"When we saw the boys go into that old house, we knew there was something crooked going on, and Gastong said to me that if I wouldn't give him away he would put me wise to a bunch of hoboes that were camping out in the jungle, too lazy to work, and just about ripe for a scrap. So we rounded up the hoboes and made a break for the old house."

"That's all," cried Frank.

"And got there just in time to see Frank and his friends going to the floor with a lot of has-been wrestlers the man in charge of the house had precipitated on them," Jack went on.

"Where are the people who were in the house?" asked Ned.

"Up in the air," cried Frank. "Say, they got out so fast that they melted a path all down the hill to the motor car. We ought to have fixed that so it wouldn't run."

"Where are the hoboes?" asked the lieutenant.

"Gone back to camp, wearied out with their exertions," laughed Jack. "They came to the Isthmus to work on the canal, but found the climate didn't agree with them, so they are taking the rest cure. I was a find for them, all right. They've got money enough to live on for a month, and I've got to wire Dad for more soap."

"It is a pleasure to bump into a nice, bright little boy like you," grinned Jimmie, standing in the doorway with a great slice of bread in his hand. "Here you had an army big enough to surround that old ruin, an' yet you went an' let the fellers get away. An' we've been blowed up, an' locked up, an' chased in motor cars, an' gone without our eatin's, an' nothin' doin'. Up to date we're about as useless on the Isthmus as an elephant's ear on an apple pie--big enough to be in the way, but not good enough to become part of the diversion."

There was now a call from the cook, and there was no further talk of the situation for the next half hour. The lieutenant was fully as active at the table as the others, and the newcomer, Gastong, as Jack persisted in calling him, seemed to forget that he had invaded the kitchen half an hour before and paid his respects to a pan of baked beans. After the meal a council was called on the porch.

"You all understand," Lieutenant Gordon said, "that you cannot remain here without being constantly on guard?"

"Of course," Frank said.

"And you know that the men who have been seen in connection with this plot will now disappear from the game and new men take their places?"

"That is the worst feature of the case," Ned said, thoughtfully. "My theory worked first rate up to a certain point. I was put in communication with some of the underlings in the plot, just as I planned I should be, but they all got away. The men who are at the head of this conspiracy will not permit the fellows who have appeared in one of the roles to appear again. We haven't gained a thing."

"Except a more definite knowledge of the purposes of the plotters," suggested the lieutenant. "We know now that it is the Gatun dam that is threatened, and that the newspaper building in New York will soon become a mass of ruins unless some action is taken at once."

"Also we know where they made their bombs," said Jack.

"But we don't know where they will make them in future," said Frank.

"Well, what about staying here?" asked the lieutenant.

"We are doubtless as safe here as anywhere," Jack suggested.

"Of course I want to stay here," the irrepressible Jimmie put in. "I haven't got on speakin' terms with the scenery yet."

"There may be another bomb under the house this minute," Frank said, starting up from his chair. "The place has been alone all day."

The boys swarmed out of the porch like a colony of bees looking for a new home, and while some crawled under the floor of the cottage, others penetrated the jungle for some distance in every direction. There were no suspicious objects under the floor, and the jungle seemed to present a peaceful attitude.

"What about having the old temple and the deserted house watched for a time?" asked Jack, as all returned to the porch.

"What do you think of that, Ned?" asked the lieutenant.

"If they are watched at all," was the reply, "it is my idea that the work should be done very secretly, and no arrests made there."

"Say," Glen Howard remarked, "there was a dwarf in the house named Jumbo. He didn't seem to like the gang he was training with, and I thought we might be able to get him to keep an eye out for us."

"I'll go and see him," Jimmie said.

"Yes, go walking right up to the front door and knock, and say you would like to sell the lady of the house a carpet sweeper, and you'll get a piece of lead in your anatomy," Jack said.

"All right," Jimmie grinned, "when I go to call on Jumbo I'll get an airship an' drop down out of the blue into the chimney. Say, you fellers make me tired. Do you really want to get this Jumbo person into the game?"

"It might not be a bad idea," Ned replied.

"All right, then," grinned Jimmie, "I'll have me private secretary look him up."

"You might have him look up my emerald necklace, while he is about it," laughed Frank. "I can't afford to lose that."

"As I have before remarked," said the lieutenant, "find Pedro and you'll find the necklace."

"Unless he's soaked it," Frank put in.

About dark Lieutenant Gordon arose to go back to Ancon and Jimmie and Peter Fenton moved down the little path with him.

"Here," the lieutenant said. "You boys mustn't be seen with me. You are not supposed to be connected with the secret service in any way."

"No, I suppose not," chuckled Jimmie. "I suppose they come here an' put bombs under our cottage, an' lug us off to deserted houses, an' all that, thinkin' we're down here in search of a new kind of butterfly. If anybody should ask you, the plotters know just as much about our arrangement as we do."

Ned, who had been following along behind the others, broke into a laugh.

"The boy has the situation sized up correctly," he said.

"Then come along," growled the lieutenant. "Where are you going?"

"We're going to have a look at the Culebra cut," was the reply. "You said we might ramble about the Isthmus all we wanted to."

"But why go with me, and at night?" asked the officer.

"We want to see the work going on under electricity," Peter replied.

"Let them go," advised Ned. "If they can't take care of themselves it is time we found it out."

The fact was that the boys had learned from the cook that the lieutenant had come to the vicinity of the cottage in an automobile, and they thought this a fine chance to secure a ride to the famous excavation. There was at least another member of the party who seemed to think just as they did, for when the machine purred out into the rough road leading from the path to Gatun the slight figure of Gastong vaulted into the back seat with the boys and motioned to them to remain quiet.

"What's up?" whispered Jimmie.

"Perhaps he wouldn't let me go," suggested the other.

"You've ducked an' dodged so long that you're afraid of everybody," returned Jimmie. "I guess any of our friends can go where we can."

Gastong, however, had not given the true reason for wishing to keep his presence in the car a secret from the lieutenant. The boy had been so considerately treated by the Boy Scouts that he was infatuated with them, and wished to serve them in some important way.

Not having any steady occupation or place of residence, the boy had been driven about alike by the native authorities and the army officers until he was, as Jimmie declared, afraid of any one having authority. He had been treated as an equal by the boys, and was determined to serve them. He had heard the talk of enlisting the dwarf, Jumbo, in the cause represented by the secret service men, and was now resolved to return to the deserted house and look the little fellow up.

Therefore, when the machine drew near to the house which the lads had visited that day under such unfavorable circumstances he dropped out and was soon lost in the shadows of the jungle.

"What do you think of that?" Jimmie demanded.

"I think he can do a better job there than either of us could," was the reply.

"Well, when we come back from the cut," Jimmie said, "I'm goin' to drop off here an' see how the chump is gettin' along."

Looking back, they saw a light flare up in the house, and then die out!

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