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- Boy Scouts in an Airship - 1/32 -


Produced by Sean Pobuda

Boy Scouts in an Airship;

or, The Warning From the Sky

BY G. HARVEY RALPHSON

CHAPTER I

SPIES IN THE BOY SCOUT CAMP

Gates, the United States Secret Service man, closed the door gently and remained standing just inside the room, his head bent forward in a listening attitude. Ned Nestor and Jimmie McGraw, Boy Scouts of the Wolf Patrol, New York City, who had been standing by a window, looking out on a crowded San Francisco street, previous to the sudden appearance of the Secret Service man, turned toward the entrance with smiles on their faces.

They evidently thought that Gates was posing, as so many detectives have a silly habit of doing, and so gave little heed to the hand he lifted in warning. The boys knew little about Gates at that time, and so may be pardoned for the uncomplimentary thoughts with which they noted his theatrical conduct.

Young Nestor had been engaged by the United States government to undertake a difficult and dangerous mission to South America, and Gates had been sent on from Washington to post him as to the details of the case. The boys had waited at the San Francisco hotel three days for the arrival of the Secret Service man, and waited impatiently, as Sam Leroy, who was to be the third member of the party, was anxious for the safety of his aeroplane, the Nelson, in which the trip to "the roof of the world" was to be made.

The Nelson was lying, guarded night, and day, in a field just out of the city, on the Pacific side, and Leroy was impatiently keeping his eyes on the guards most of the time. There was a subconscious notion in the minds of all the boys that there were enemies about, and that the aeroplane would never be fully out of danger until she was well over the ocean on her way south. Gates had arrived only that morning, and now the lads were eager to be off.

A couple of hours before his appearance in the room that morning, the Secret Service agent had left the boys in the lobby below to arrange for the necessary papers and funds for the mission. Before going out, however, he had been informed of the boys' suspicions, and had made light of the idea that the aeroplane was in danger from secret enemies, pointing to the fact that no one was supposed to know anything about the proposed journey save the boys and himself as conclusive evidence that the suspicion of constant surveillance was not well founded.

Now, on his return, his cautious movements indicated that he, too, was alarmed and on his guard. While Ned was wondering what it was that had so changed Gates' point of view, there came a quick, imperative knock on the door of the room, which was occupied by Ned and Jimmie as a sleeping apartment.

Instantly, almost before the sound of the knock died away, Gates opened the door and stepped forward. The man who stood in the corridor, facing the doorway, was tall, slender, dark of complexion, like a Spaniard or a Mexican. His black hair was long, straight, thin; his black eyes were bright, treacherous, too close together, with a little vertical wrinkle between the brows. He was dressed in a neat brown business suit of expensive material.

When the door was opened he stepped forward and glanced into the interior of the room, apparently with the purpose of entering. But when Gates moved aside to give him passageway he drew back, the set smile on his face vanishing as he bowed low and swung his slender hands out in elaborate gesture.

"Pardon!" he said. "I have made a mistake in the room."

He was about to move away when Gates gritted out a question.

"For whom were you looking?" he asked. "We may be able to direct you to your friend," he added, more courteously, his alert eyes taking in every detail of the man's face, figure and dress.

"It is nothing!" was the quick reply. "I will make inquiries at the office--which, undoubtedly, I should have done before."

In a moment he was gone, moving gracefully toward the elevator. Gates watched his elegant, well-dressed figure with a smile of quiet satisfaction. When the visitor gained the elevator, he turned and bowed at the still open doorway, and the Secret Service man recognized the grin on his face as expressive of triumph rather than apology.

"What did he want?" asked Jimmie, as Gates, closed the door.

Gates did not answer the question immediately. Instead he asked one:

"Ever see that fellow before?"

Jimmie shook his head, but Ned looked grave as he answered:

"I have seen him about the hotel--frequently. He seems to have a suite off this corridor, or the one above it."

At this moment the door was opened again and Sam Leroy bounced into the room, his eyes shining with enthusiasm, his muscles tense with the joy of youth and health. He drew back when he saw Gates, whom he had not met before, and looked questioningly at Ned.

"This is Lieutenant Gates, for whom we have been waiting," Ned said, "and this, Lieutenant, is Sam Leroy, who is to take us to South America in his aeroplane."

"I hope the machine is above reproach as to strength and speed," laughed Gates, as the two shook hands cordially, "for there is likely to be doings down there."

"The Nelson is warranted for work and wind," said Ned. "She crossed the continent in a rush and spied on us through British Columbia and on down the Columbia river, not long ago, and I can recommend her as a very desirable bird of the air."

"She's all sound now," Leroy said, "but there's no knowing how long she will be if we don't get her out of San Francisco. There was a couple of men hanging around her last night, and one of them went away with a bullet in his leg. I'm glad you're here, Lieutenant, for now we can get away--quick!"

"Did you get a good look at either of the two men you speak of?" asked Ned, his mind going back to what seemed to him to be a secret conspiracy against the Nelson.

"One of them," Leroy answered, "was tall, slender, dark; with long straight hair and eyes like a snake. I noticed, too, that he had a habit of moistening his lips with the end of his tongue, and that made me think of a snake thrusting out his tongue. I got a shot at the other fellow, but not at this one."

Gates and Ned looked at each other with nods of mutual understanding. This was a pretty good description of the man who had just stood before the door of that room. Then the lieutenant turned to Jimmie.

"You asked a moment ago," he said, "what the fellow wanted here. Now I think I can tell you. He wanted to confirm his suspicions that the four of us axe working together. He has been sleuthing about the corridors all the morning, watching me; and his mission to this room was to make sure that my business in San Francisco is with Ned--that we are working together."

"He's sure doing a lot of Sherlock Holmes stunts," Jimmie declared. "And I reckon he's next to his job, for he appears to have inspected all the points of interest, from the field where the Nelson is to the room where the plans are being made."

"Yes," Leroy said, his manner showing apprehension as well as anger, "but how the Old Scratch did he get his knowledge, of what, we are about to do? I thought no one in the West knew except us four. And what's he trying to do, anyway? What difference does it make to him if we do go to South America in an aeroplane?"

"I have a notion," Gates replied, "that he objects to your going in an airship because you will make such swift time. Let me tell you something more about this case. Then you will be able to understand why efforts may be made to prevent your going to South America, in an airship or in any other way."

"It's just the airship they've been after so far," Leroy interrupted. "They haven't troubled us--and they'd better not!"

"I imagine," said the lieutenant, gravely, "that their activities will broaden out as they get warmed up to their work. Understand? What I mean is this: You boys are risking your lives in undertaking this mission. You will be followed and spied upon from the minute you leave San Francisco, and the chances will be all against you when you reach your field of operations. Even the Government cannot protect you in your undertaking, for the Government is not supposed to know anything about this case."

"We are to do something by stealth, then, which the diplomats of the State department are too cautious to undertake?" asked Ned.

"That is it exactly," was the reply. "If the State department should take cognizance of the situation down there and make any sort of a demand, war would be certain to follow in case the demand was denied, which it would be. Therefore, the State department does not wish to make a demand. Still, the American who is in trouble must be protected. You are to go and get him out of his dungeon, or wherever he may be, and the Department of State will wink at what


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