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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XV. SIGNAL FIRES IN THE JUNGLE
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XV. SIGNAL FIRES IN THE JUNGLE Post by :jadyn35 Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :1517

Click below to download : Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XV. SIGNAL FIRES IN THE JUNGLE (Format : PDF)

Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XV. SIGNAL FIRES IN THE JUNGLE

CHAPTER XV. SIGNAL FIRES IN THE JUNGLE

"I guess we got 'em," Jimmie cried, as the smoke drifted away.

"I got mine."

Peter spoke proudly, just as if there had been no fear of the result a moment before.

"Mine's lying down to rest," Jimmie went on. "I'm goin' up to feel his pulse."

"If he gets a swipe at you, you'll wish you hadn't been so curious about his old pulse," Peter observed.

But Jimmie did not at once go toward the wounded beast. The great cat lifted its head, gave a cry that echoed and re-echoed through the forest, and sprang for the tree. The boy's revolver spoke again, and the long hours of practice with the weapon in the shooting galleries of New York told. The beast dropped to the ground with a bullet in the brain, sent in exactly between the eyes.

The female lifted her head at the cry and tried to regain her feet, but was not strong enough to do so. With a turn of her pretty head in the direction of her mate, she fell back dead.

"It's almost a shame," Peter said.

"You wouldn't be so sorry for the cats if they had got a claw into you," Jimmie observed. "Just one claw in the flesh and it would have been all off."

Peter turned away from the dead animals.

"Come on," he said, "it seems like a slaughter house here."

"Wait," Jimmie cried. "I want to swing the cats up so they won't be devoured by their friends of the jungle. I want the skins for rugs. Guess they will look pretty poor in our patrol room. What?"

"I'll come back with you in the daylight," Peter said, "if you'll come away now."

Leaving the glade where they had encountered such dangers, the boys moved toward the canal line, keeping the moon, now well toward the horizon, at their back.

"If we had done this before," Jimmie said, as they forced their way through clusters of clinging vines, "we would be at home in bed now."

"But we wouldn't have had the jaguar rugs coming to us," answered Peter. "Glad I didn't think of it before."

Presently they came to the top of a little hill in the jungle and looked out over the country ahead. There were no canal lights in the distance. Afar off they could see a faint streak of dawn.

"I don't believe we're going right, after all," Jimmie said.

"We must keep a little more to the left," Peter replied. "The line of the canal runs almost southeast here, and we are going east. We'll strike it quicker if we turn to the north."

"This ain't much like the Great White Way at daylight," commented Jimmie, as a great creeper settled about his neck, having been pulled from a tree by his companion.

"I don't see what we're doing in here in the night, anyway," Peter observed. "We didn't come down here to get big game, but to prevent enemies of the government getting gay and blowing up the Gatun dam. Whew! They might have blowed it up while we've been shooting snakes and cats. Guess there's one of the explosions now."

A rumbling came toward them from the east. It was such a rumbling as one hears when great masses of fireworks are set off at once. Such a rumbling as one hears in war, when the rifles are speaking along a line of infantry and cannons are roaring out above their patter. The ground shook, and birds, frightened, fled from tree boughs with strange cries.

"Something has gone up," Jimmie said. "I wish we could see over the tops of that next line of trees."

"Sounds like the crack of doom," Peter observed. "I wish we could get out of the tall timber and see what's going on."

"There's a white light," Jimmie cried, excitedly. "That must be the workings."

"That's a cloud, just touched with dawn," Peter replied. "There's no sight of the canal yet. If we could only get out to the cut we'd soon be home."

"Home?" repeated Jimmie, in disgust, "we're more'n fifty miles from camp, the way the roads run. If we can get a train at Culebra, we may be able to get home by dark. You must remember that we rode a long way with the lieutenant. Culebra is almost to the Pacific. The locks are there, or near there."

"We can get a train, I guess," Peter said, sleepily. "I wonder if any of the boys are sitting up for us?"

"You bet they're out hunting for the two of us," Jimmie said. "It takes one half of our party to keep the other half from getting killed," he added.

There were still no signs of the canal line. The jungle was as dense as ever, and seemed more desolate and uncanny than ever under the growing light of day. As the sun arose and looked down into the green pools vapors arose, vapors unpleasant to the nostrils and bewildering to the sight.

Presently the boys came to a little knoll from which they could look a long way into the jungle stretching around them. Below were slimy thickets, tangles of creepers and vines which seemed to be sentient, but no signs of the work of man. It was now eight o'clock in the morning, and the boys were worn out and hungry.

"If they're out lookin' for us," Jimmie said, "I'll give 'em somethin' to follow. Watch me."

"But they won't be anywhere around here," Peter said, as Jimmie began gathering dry twigs and branches from the ground.

"They'll begin where Lieutenant Gordon left us," insisted the boy. "Now you see if I don't wake some Boy Scout up. Here, you carry this bunch of wood over to that other knoll."

"All right," Peter said. "Perhaps another jaguar will see the signal and give us a call."

In a short time the boys had gathered two great piles of dry leaves and branches lying some fifty feet apart. Then a quantity of green boughs were gathered and placed on top of the dry fuel. When matches were touched to the piles a dense smoke ascended far above the tops of the trees. There were two straight columns of it lifting into the sky above the jungle.

"There!" cried Jimmie wiping the sweat from his face, for the morning was hot and the work had been arduous, "if there is a Boy Scout within ten thousand miles he'll know what those two columns of smoke mean."

"Of course," said Peter. "If he's ever been out camping."

In the Indian signs adopted by the Boy Scouts of America one column of smoke means:

"The camp is here."

Two mean:

"Help! I am lost."

Three mean:

"We have good news."

Four mean:

"Come to council."

When the dry wood burned away the boys piled on more, keeping green leaves on top all the time, to make the smudge. After the fires had burned for half an hour a signal came from the thicket--a long, shrill whistle to attract attention, and then a few bars of "The Star Spangled Banner."

"That's a Boy Scout, all right," Jimmie exclaimed, "but it ain't none of our bunch. They wouldn't wait to whistle. They'd jump right in an' tell us where to head in at. You bet they would."

In a moment a human hand, a slender, boyish hand, appeared above a great squatty plant at the foot of the knoll. The thumb and first finger were extended opened out, the three remaining fingers closed over the palm of the hand.

"Whoop!" yelled Jimmie. "The sign of the Silver Wolf."

"Come on up," cried Peter. "The appetite is fine."

Then a boyish figure arose from the shelter of the plant and moved up the hill to where the boys stood. He was apparently about fifteen years of age, was dressed as a lad of his age might appear on Broadway, and presented a fresh, cheerful face, now wrinkled into smiles, to the boys waiting with extended hands.

"I saw you signal," he said.

"Where are you from?" asked Jimmie, shaking the extended hand warmly. "We're from the Black Bear and Wolf Patrols, New York, and we don't know any more about getting along in the woods than a Houston street mucker."

"I'm from the Black Bear Patrol of Chicago," the other replied, "and my name is Anthony Chester, Tony for short. What you doing in the Devil's Hole?"

"Is this the Devil's Hole?" asked Jimmie.

"That is what they call it."

"The Devil seems to be having a good time of it," Peter said. "He's had us on the hip all night."

"We were in camp, father and I, about half way to the cut," Tony said, "and heard your shots a spell ago. What did you kill?"

Briefly the boys told the story of the night, and then Peter asked:

"Why didn't you answer the shots?"

"We were stalking jaguars," was the reply, "and did not want to lose our game. The woods are full of them, for some reason, this spring."

"Did you get them?"

"No; I guess the ones you got were the ones we were after."

"Then I'm glad we got them, for we'll divide the skins with you."

"Then, a little while ago, I saw your smoke signal and read it to Dad, and he told me to come out and bring you to camp for breakfast."

"What?"

"Breakfast?"

"Is it far?"

"Is it cooked?"

The boys fairly danced about their new acquaintance as they asked questions and rubbed their stomachs significantly.

"All cooked and all ready, plenty of it," was the reply.

"Where is the camp?" asked Peter, then.

"Oh, just a short distance from the Culebra cut," was the reply. "Dad came out here some weeks ago with me and one servant, and we're living in a tent all fixed up with screens and things. The jaguars aroused us early this morning, so we got up to shoot them."

"Is your father workin' for the Canal people?" asked Jimmie.

"Oh, no," was the reply. "He takes a great interest in the Culebra cut, and spends a good deal of time out there, but he is not working for the government. He's just loafing, and I'm having the time of my life."

"Does he go out there nights?" asked Jimmie.

"No; Sanee, the servant, is away nights, and Dad stays with me."

"Never mind all that now," Peter put in. "Let us go and see what they've got to eat. I could devour one of the cats we killed."

Young Chester led the way toward the camp he had spoken of, the boys following, nearly exhausted from the exertions of the night. It had been arranged that they should return for the skins of the two jaguars they had slain.

As they straggled along through the jungle, Jimmie's thoughts were busy over a problem which had come to his mind during the talk with the lad who had rescued them. Why was Mr. Chester, of Chicago, encamped in the jungle, at the edge, almost, of the Culebra cut, apparently without other motive than curiosity?

Why did he spend most of his time during daylight watching the work on the cut, and why was his servant invariably away from the camp at night? Were the men watching the work there for some sinister purpose of their own? Or was it merely a general interest in the big job that brought them there?

The man who had accosted them the previous evening had been watching the job, too. Were these men spies, or were they in the service of the government and watching for spies? It seemed odd to the boy that every adventure into which he stumbled had to do with the main object of the trip to the Canal Zone. Or, at least all the others had, and this meeting in the jungle might follow in the train of the others.

He was wondering, too, about the explosion they had heard early in the morning. At the time of his leaving the cottage with Lieutenant Gordon nothing had been decided on concerning the store of explosives which had been discovered in the underground chamber at the ruined temple. He did not believe that Ned would leave the deadly material there, to be used at will by the conspirators, so he was wondering now if the stuff had not been set off by his friends.

After a hard walk of a mile or more the three came out to a little clearing in the jungle and saw a tent with screened openings. Standing in front of the tent, his face turned toward the approaching boys, was a man Jimmie had last seen in the Shaw residence in New York City.

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