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- The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash - 10/38 -
reptile's huge head. In its death agony it straightened out its folds and Frank's senseless body dropped from them, seemingly limp and lifeless.
The boys started to rush in, but Ben held them back with a warning hand.
"Hold on; it may not be dead yet," he warned.
But a brief inspection proved that the great snake had succumbed to Ben's fusillade and, this settled, they dragged Frank to a low bank, where the extent of his injuries could be ascertained.
"No bones broken," pronounced Ben, after a careful examination. It was not long before the boy opened his eyes and in a short time he declared he felt as well as ever.
The serpent on being measured with Frank's pocket rule proved to be a trifle over twenty feet long and of great girth.
"It's an anaconda," said Ben, "there are lots of 'em up along the Amazon and they are as deadly a snake as there is. I've heard tell they can crush a horse in their folds."
"I hope there are no more of them on the island," exclaimed Billy.
"We shall have to be careful," rejoined Ben, "there may be other dangerous creatures here, too. This island, as I should judge, must be all of six miles around and there's room for a lot of ugly critters in that space."
Leaving the dead body of the snake the adventurers made their way back to camp. The first thing that all wanted was a drink of water. They made for the place in which the drinking fluid had been left.
As soon as his eyes fell on the row of improvised water pots Frank gave an exclamation of dismay.
"Look here," he shouted, "there's some one on this island besides ourselves."
"What!" was the amazed chorus.
"There must be," went on the lad, "see here, there were twenty cocoanut shells of water when we went away, and now there are only fifteen."
"Five gone!" exclaimed Ben in an alarmed voice, "and the spring has already dried up."
"Hullo! What's that?" suddenly cried Billy, as something came crashing through the branches.
The next moment one of the missing shells was rolled with great violence into the middle of the group of adventurers. Before they had recovered from their astonishment a strange sharp scream filled the forest. There was a derisive note in its tones.
A strange fear filled the boys' hearts. Their faces paled.
"The island is haunted!" shouted Ben.
CAUGHT IN THE FLAMES.
"Nonsense," said Frank, sharply, although he had been considerably startled by the inexplicable occurrence himself, "you know there are no such things as ghosts, Ben."
"And if there were they wouldn't throw cocoanut shells at us," went on Harry.
"Wall," said Ben, stubbornly, "what else could it have been?"
"A wild man," suggested Billy; "perhaps a whole tribe of them."
This was not a pleasant suggestion. Frank had but a few cartridges left and the others had only their knives. These would be small protection against savages if any of the forest dwellers had really gone adrift on the floating island. It was not a cheerful party that sat down to another meal of oysters and fruit that evening. Moreover the water supply of the little party was almost exhausted and without water they faced a terrible death.
Because of the unknown dangers which, it was felt, surrounded them it was decided to set a watch that night and keep the fire burning through the dark hours. Harry and Ben were to share the first watch and Frank and Billy agreed to take the second one. Nothing had occurred when Ben, at midnight, aroused Frank and the young reporter and told them it was time to go on duty.
The boys had been on sentry duty for perhaps an hour with nothing but the lapping of the waves against the shore of the floating island to break the deep stillness, when suddenly both were startled by a strange and terrible cry that rang through the forest.
With beating hearts they leaped to their feet and strained their ears to see if they could ascertain the origin of the uncanny cry, but they heard nothing more.
Hardly had they resumed their places by the fire, however, before the wild screams rang out again.
"It's some human being," cried Frank.
"They are being killed or something!" cried the affrighted Billy Barnes.
By this time Ben Stubbs and Harry had awakened and were sitting up with scared looks on their faces.
"Seems to come from near at hand," suggested Ben.
Suddenly the yell sounded quite close, and at the same instant it was echoed by the boys as a dozen or more dark forms dashed out of the dark shades of the forest and rushed toward them. Half unnerved with alarm at this sudden and inexplicable attack, Frank fired point-blank into the onrush, and two of the dark forms fell. Their comrades, with the same wild shrieks that had so alarmed the boys, instantly turned and fled, awakening the echoes of the woods with their terrifying clamor.
"A good thing I killed those two," cried Frank; "throw some wood on the fire, Ben, and we'll see who or what it is that I've shot."
In the bright blaze the adventurers bent over the two still forms that lay on the ground as they had fallen.
"Why, they're great apes!" exclaimed Frank in amazement; "what monsters!"
"Howling monkeys, that's what they call 'em," declared Ben, "I've heard of 'em. No wonder we were scared, though. Did you ever hear such cries?"
"I wonder why they attacked the camp?" asked Billy.
"I don't suppose it was an attack at all," said Frank, "most likely they smelled the food and thought they'd come and help themselves to some broiled oysters."
"I'll bet it was the monkeys that took our water and then threw the shells at us," cried Harry.
"I guess you are right, boy," said Ben; "them monkeys are terrors for mischief."
"I hope they don't take it into their heads to annoy us any more," said Harry.
"Not likely," declared Ben, "I guess the firing of the revolver and the sight of them two mates of theirs falling dead scared them out of two years' growth."
Ben's surmise was right. The adventurers passed the remainder of the night in peace.
As soon as day broke over a sea unmarred by a single ripple, there was an eager scrutiny of the horizon by all the castaways, but to their bitter disappointment not a sign of the Southern Cross, or any other vessel, could be descried.
"Looks like we'll have to spend some more time on 'Monkey Island'," said Ben with a shrug.
"We can't spend much more time," said Frank, grimly.
"Why not?" demanded Ben.
"What are we to do for water?"
Things did, indeed, look black. Breakfast was eaten in comparative silence, and after the meal was concluded, at Frank's suggestion, it was decided to explore the island for a spring that could be tapped for further water supply. The boys all admitted to themselves that the chance of finding one was remote, but they determined to try and locate one in any event. At any rate Frank felt it would keep their minds off their troubles to have something to do.
The best part of the morning was spent in the search and although they came across occasional driblets of water,--the remnants of springs started by the heavy rain that marked their first night on the island,--they found nothing that promised an available supply. At noon they sat down in the shade of a huge palm to rest and made a meal off the nuts that lay at its foot. The milk of these proved cool and refreshing and was drunk out of the shell after one end of it had been hacked off with Frank's hunting knife.
"Well, we might as well make a start back for our camp," suggested Frank, after some moments had passed in silence.
"Camp," repeated Harry, bitterly, "that's a fine camp. Why, there's nothing there but trees and sand and howling monkeys."
Nevertheless a start was made for the resting place of the previous
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