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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBoy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVI. A MIGHTY JAR IN THE JUNGLE
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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVI. A MIGHTY JAR IN THE JUNGLE Post by :acos21 Category :Long Stories Author :G. Harvey Ralphson Date :April 2012 Read :946

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Boy Scouts In The Canal Zone - Chapter XVI. A MIGHTY JAR IN THE JUNGLE

CHAPTER XVI. A MIGHTY JAR IN THE JUNGLE

It was half-past two in the morning when Ned Nestor and his companions left the cottage in the jungle. A few fleecy clouds were now drifting over the sky, but, on the whole, the night was fairly clear. It was some distance to Gatun, where Ned hoped to secure a railroad motor for the Culebra trip, so the boys moved along at a swift pace.

However, the party was not destined to reach Gatun as speedily as was anticipated. When the boys came to the spot from which Ned and Jimmie had struck off into the jungle, or into the edge of it, rather, in pursuit of the man who had placed the bomb, Jack called Ned's attention to two skulking figures moving up the swell of the hill which the two boys had climbed the night before.

"There are some of your friends--the bomb-makers," Jack said.

"Yes," Ned replied, "they have been in advance of us for some distance."

"Watching the cottage, I presume," Jack suggested.

"More likely watching to see if we remained at home or went abroad planning mischief for them," Ned replied.

"Then they're next to us," Jimmie broke in. "I'd like to follow 'em up to the old temple an' blow 'em up."

"I have an idea that something of the sort may happen before morning," Ned said. "I had the idea that the fellows would remain away from the bomb-room for a few days, believing that we were watching it, but it seems that they are back again. We mustn't permit them to take the stuff away."

"Goin' to blow it up to-night?" demanded Jimmie, eagerly. "Gee, but that will make a blow-up for your whiskers. Say! I'd like to sell tickets of admission for this performance. That would be poor, wouldn't it?"

"It may not be necessary to blow it up," Ned observed. "If Lieutenant Gordon sent a couple of secret service men back there, as arranged, the fellows have not got into their bomb-chamber. If the secret service men did not arrive, it is likely that the plotters are moving the explosives away. We'll go and see, anyway."

"I'll run on ahead and see what's doin'," Jimmie exclaimed, darting away.

Ned caught him by the collar and drew him back, whereat the boy appeared to be very angry.

"You little dunce," Ned said, "you'll get a bullet into your anatomy if you don't be more careful. Now, you boys go on down the road toward Gatun," he added, turning to the others, "and make all the noise you want to. I'll go up to the old temple and see what is going on there. One of you would better go with me--not close up with me, but within seeing distance."

"That's me," cried Jimmie. "I'll stay near enough to see what becomes of you, and go back and tell the boys if they're needed."

This arrangement was finally decided on, and Ned and Jimmie dropped into the jungle while the others proceeded on the way to Gatun, making plenty of noise as they walked. As they disappeared the two men who had been seen just before made their appearance at a point half way up the hill.

They stood crouching in the moonlight for a moment, pointing and chattering words which reached the ears of the watchers only faintly, and then turned toward the old temple. They walked with less caution now, and it was plain to the watchers that they believed that all the boys had gone on to Gatun.

When Ned and Jimmie came within sight of the old temple half a dozen shadowy forms were seen moving about on the uneven pavements which had at one time formed the floor of a court. When the two Ned was following approached they advanced to meet them.

A conversation lasting perhaps five minutes followed the meeting, and then, leaving one man on guard, the others passed through the doorway under the vines and disappeared from view. The man who had remained outside was evidently the leader of the party, for the others had listened when he talked and had obeyed his orders, as indicated to Ned by gestures.

This man stood at the doorway behind the vines for a moment after the others had gone below and then seated himself on a crumbling wall not far away.

"Why don't you geezle him?" whispered Jimmie, who was not staying back very far, much to Ned's amusement.

"I was thinking of that," Ned replied. "I shall have to circle around so as to get in on him from behind."

"You wait a second," whispered the boy, "and I'll make him turn around so as to face the other way."

Before Ned could offer any objections or restrain the boy's hand, Jimmie launched a stone into the thicket on the other side. The watcher sprang to his feet instantly, moved away a few paces, and turned back.

"He's goin' to call the others," Jimmie whispered.

The fellow approached the doorway as Jimmie spoke, which was exactly what Ned did not want. If the man would remain outside, alone, it might be possible to capture him with little risk. If he called his companions, there would be no hope of taking him prisoner.

Ned motioned to Jimmie and the lad threw another stone into the thicket, and again the watcher moved in that direction. This time he advanced to the edge of the thicket and bent over to peer under the overhanging branches of a tree.

Before he could regain an upright position, or give a cry of warning because of the quick steps he heard behind him, Ned was grappling with him, his fingers closing about the muscular throat. It was a desperate, although a silent, struggle for a minute, and Ned might have been disappointed in the result if Jimmie had not bounced in on the two and terminated the battle by sitting down on the head of the man Ned had already thrown to the ground. As an additional precaution against any noise calculated to alarm the others, Jimmie held his gun close to the captive's nose.

"Nothin' stirrin' here," he panted. "You lie still."

"What does this mean?"

The words were English and the voice was certainly that of a man from one of the Eastern states of the North American republic.

Ned drew a noose around the prisoner's wrists and tied his rather delicate hands together firmly behind his back. Then he searched him for weapons. A revolver was found in a hip pocket, also a package of papers in a breast pocket. The fellow cursed and swore like a pirate when the papers were taken.

"This is highway robbery," he finally calmed down enough to say. "I am an official of the Zone, and you shall suffer for this."

"Gee," said Jimmie, with a chuckle, "you must have a contract to lift the canal an' the Gatun dam into the blue sky."

The prisoner snarled at the lad a moment and turned to Ned.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked.

"What are your men doing down there?" Ned asked, ignoring the question.

"They are removing explosives, explosives to be used in the work at Gatun."

"Why is it stored here?"

"For safety."

"Were your men storing this bomb," taking the clumsy exhibit from his pocket, "under my cottage for safety?" Ned demanded.

"I don't know anything about that," was the reply. "Return my papers."

Instead of returning them, Ned took the packet from his pocket and made a quick examination so far as the light would permit, of the half dozen letters it held.

The captive writhed about and cursed fluently until Jimmie touched his forehead with the muzzle of his gun and warned him against "starting anything he couldn't finish," as the boy expressed it.

"Now," Ned said to Jimmie, restoring the letters to his pocket, "you march this pirate off toward the cottage while I scare the others out of the bomb-room and blow it up."

"Blow it up before they get out," urged the boy.

"I am no executioner," Ned replied. "They doubtless deserve to be put to death, but I'm not the one to do it."

"Wait," said the captive, as Jimmie motioned him away. "If you will give me a chance to tell my side of the story those letters reveal, I may be able to establish my innocence. I can make it worth your while to listen to me," he added, significantly.

"Cripes, I smell money," laughed Jimmie.

"Go on with the boy," Ned replied. "If you want to talk with me you may do so later."

"What are you going to do with me?"

"Turn you over to the Zone government."

The captive would have argued until his friends came out and sized up the situation, and Ned knew it, so he motioned Jimmie to march the fellow away and set about the work he had in hand. He took out the bomb he had brought with him and estimated the length of time the fuse would burn. It was, as has been said, a very long fuse, and the boy was satisfied that he could escape from the danger zone after firing it.

Then, seeing that Jimmie was out of view with his prisoner, he brought out his gun and fired two shots into the air. The result showed that he had planned with judgment, for the men working below came bounding out of the doorway behind the vines and vanished in the jungle, going in a direction opposite to that taken by Jimmie.

The rapidity with which the workers in the bomb-room disappeared astonished Ned until he reflected that he might unconsciously have given a signal agreed upon between the men and the guard. At any rate, he finally concluded, the men were not there to fight in defense of the place if spied upon, but to seek cover at once, as is the habit of those caught in the commission of crime.

He had expected to drive them away by firing from the jungle, but had not anticipated a victory as easily won as this. When the workers had disappeared Ned made his way to the underground room. There he found torches burning, and a fire in the forge. The place was littered with gas-pipe cut into small lengths, and the covers had been removed from the tins of explosives.

It was clear that the bomb-makers had been at work there, and the boy wondered at their nerve. He could account for their returning to their employment there so soon after the place had been visited by hostile interests only on the ground that they believed the secret service men and the boys were being held at bay by others of the conspirators.

Wondering whether the boys who had gone on toward Gatun were safe, he lighted the fuse of the bomb and hastened up the stairs and out into the jungle. A few yards from the broken wall of the temple he met Jimmie, red of face and laboring under great excitement. He turned the boy back with a significant gesture toward the temple, and the two worked their way through the thickets for some moments without finding time or breath for explanations.

When at last they stopped for breath they found themselves about at the point where they had parted from their chums. As they came into the cleared space a flash lighted up the sky, flames went flickering, seemingly, from horizon to horizon, and lifted to the zenith. Then came the awful thunder of the explosion. The ground shook so that Jimmie went tumbling on his face. After the first mighty explosion others came in quick succession.

"That's the little ones," Jimmie cried, rolling over in the knee-deep grass to clutch at Ned's knee. "Talk about your fourth of July."

As he spoke a slab of stone weighing at least twenty pounds came through the air with a vicious whizz and struck a tree close to where the boy lay.

"If we don't get out of here we'll get our blocks knocked off," Jimmie said.

"The shower is over," Ned replied. "What were you running back for? If you had not met me, if I had gone out another way, you might have been right there when the explosion took place."

"Then I'd 'a' been sailin' around the moon by now," the boy grinned.

"Where is the captive?" demanded Ned.

"He went up in the air," replied Jimmie. "I had me eagle eyes on him one second, and the next second he was gone. He didn't shout, or shoot, or run, or do a consarned thing. He just leaked out. Where do you think he went?"

"I think," Ned replied, "that you were looking back to see the explosion and he dodged into a thicket."

"Well," admitted Jimmie, "I did look back."

Ned, rather disgusted at the carelessness of the boy, walked on in silence until the two came to the smooth slopes which led up to Gatun. There they found the boys, waiting for them, eager for the story of the explosion, and wondering at their long delay.

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