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- Boy Scouts in an Airship - 2/32 -
you do and look innocent."
"Aw, why don't they send a warship to do the job?" demanded Jimmie.
"Because," replied the lieutenant, "Uncle Sam has taken the republics of South America under his protection, and he does not care to spank them in the presence of all the nations of the earth! He wants to get this man Lyman--Horace M. Lyman, to be exact--out of the clutches of a crooked gang in Paraguay without wasting money and lives. Hence the arrangement with you boys."
"I have read something about the Lyman case," Ned observed, "but I have forgotten all the material points, I guess."
"Lyman," Gates went on, "took up his residence in Paraguay some years ago and opened negotiations with the government for a cattle concession. The lands known as the 'Chaco' district, lying between the Paraguay and Pilcomayo rivers, are said to be the best for grazing purposes in all South America. Years ago they were considered worthless swamps, but this is all changed now.
"Well, Lyman entered into negotiations with the president of this alleged republic and got his concession. There is no knowing how much he paid for it, for every new president of Paraguay--and they have new ones quite frequently down there--seems to do business on the theory that what he doesn't get while the getting is good he never will get at all. There have been four or five new official heads of this alleged republic within a couple of years.
"The country is on the verge of revolution most of the time and as the army goes so goes the election. Jara was made prisoner last July, and one Rojes put in power. Now, in order to keep in good standing with the army, the government is obliged to have generals who are loyal to whoever is in power. These generals must be paid for their services, of course.
"It seems that Lyman fell under the displeasure of one of these powerful military chaps, probably because he refused to give up all his profits in the cattle business. Anyway, Lyman disappeared from home, quite suddenly, and his manager was notified that settlement could be made with one Senor Lopez, an army chief, said to be a relative of a former president. So Lopez was appealed to.
"Now Lopez is a slippery chap. He denied knowing anything about Lyman, but declared that unless the cattleman appeared shortly and took up his work on the cattle concession the grant would be taken from him. That is like South American justice. Lock a man up and then deprive him of his rights because he can't appear and claim them!"
"Must be a fine healthy country!" Jimmie interposed.
"It is all of that," laughed the lieutenant. "Then this manager, I think his name is Coye, appealed to the United States consul and the consul to the president. Nothing doing! Lyman, they insisted, had not been molested by the authorities. But Lyman's people in this country are kicking up an awful row, and something must be done.
"There is no doubt that the cattleman, is locked up in some of the old military prisons of the country, yet the State department can't get him out. The president offers any assistance in his power, of course! Lopez weeps when the matter is mentioned to him--weeps at the unfounded suspicions which are being cast upon him! So there you are! The only hope for Lyman lies in some such method as has been planned. If you fail, the situation will be desperate, indeed."
"Why don't Lyman buy the fellow off?" asked Jimmie.
"The purpose of Lopez in pursuing the course referred to is undoubtedly to find an excuse for robbing Lyman of the concession and selling it to another at a much greater price. So others besides the general and Lyman are concerned in this mix-up."
"You refer to a person, or corporation, waiting to buy the concession?" asked Ned, the reason for the surveillance in San Francisco coming to him like a flash.
"That is it."
"And these prospective concessionaires are looking to it that Lyman gets no aid from this country?"
"I had not looked at the matter in that way, had not thought of their venturing over here, but presume you are right."
"Look here," Leroy asked, "are you figuring it out that the people who are trying to steal or cripple the Nelson came here from Paraguay for the express purpose of watching this Lyman case and preventing his friends from assisting him?"
"You state the case in a way which gives it a good deal of importance," Gates replied, "But I believe you state it correctly. Just how the men who hope to gain the concession if Lyman loses it came to understand the attitude of our Government is more than I can imagine, but it is quite clear to me that they do understand the situation--that they are thoroughly posted as to every move that has been made by the Government and by the friends of the cattleman."
"It is a good thing to know that we are likely to be chased to South America," Ned said, "for we know exactly what to expect, and shall be on our guard."
"Chased to South America!" laughed Leroy. "They'll have to go some if the keep up with the little old Nelson! She can fly some--if you want to know!"
A FOX JOINS THE WOLVES
Nelson hung like a great gull over New Orleans one hot morning in early August. The boys who occupied seats on the light aluminum form under the sixty-foot wings glimpsed the Gulf of Mexico in the distance, while directly their feet ran the crooked streets of the French Quarter.
The departure from San Francisco had been for a delayed for a long time because of the non-arrival of important instructions from Washington, and because of a slight injury to the aeroplane while out on what Leroy called an "exercise run." Lieutenant Gates had remained with the boys until they started on their long flight to the mouth of the great Mississippi river, and had then returned to Washington.
I had first been the intention to proceed due from San Francisco, then wing toward the east where the coast of Peru showed. This plan was opposed by the lieutenant, for the reason that an airship far out on the Pacific ocean, directly in the steamship route, would be likely to attract attention sailing over the southwestern states and Central America. Daring aviators now venture in all directions and at all altitudes above the solid earth, but they are still cautious about proceeding far out over the merciless waters of the oceans which rim the continent of North America.
So, yielding to the wishes of the lieutenant, the Nelson had been directed by her navigators across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana until the great city of the South lay spread out before them. The distance covered by the airship in this flight was not far from thirty-five hundred miles, and the Nelson, leaving the coast city on Monday morning, August 7, had covered the run so as to reach New Orleans late Wednesday afternoon.
The boys might, it is true, have speeded up and made the distance in thirty-six hours, or less but they realized the necessity of taking good care of themselves, and so they had rested in quiet places both Monday and Tuesday night, landing about midnight and sleeping until long after daylight. Having provisions with them, they had not found it necessary to land except when gasoline was obtained at Santa Fe.
The machine had attracted little attention on the route, for it was painted a dull gray, and its aluminum motors gave forth little sound. It was two merits of the machine, which had been invented by young Leroy, that it could navigate in a clear sky a mile up without being observed from below, and could also run to within a short distance of the earth without making herself conspicuous by the popping of her motors. The United States authorities are now adapting these two qualities to the government airships to be used in the military service.
The boys remained in New Orleans until Thursday morning, August 10, and then, with full provision baskets and gasoline tanks, they set out across the Gulf of Mexico. They soon sighted Yucatan, which is really a province of Mexico, darted over British Honduras, and swung over the forests of Guatemala, the one country in Central America which is never bothered with revolutions.
When an ambitious person wants to wrest the reins of government from the officials in charge, they take him out and stand him up against a stone wall, with a firing squad in front. This manner of preventing revolutions is believed to be conducive to peace and also to the sanctity of human lives. Jimmie, who had been reading up on South and Central America while waiting in San Francisco, explained many points of interest as the Nelson sped on her way.
They took on more gasoline at Panama, and Ned and Jimmie were very glad to renew their acquaintance with that now model city. Those who have read the former books of this series will remember that the Boy Scouts at one time had a commission to stand guard over the great Gatun dam.
They did not remain long in Panama, however, as they were anxious to get to the scene of their future operations. They were all anticipating great fun in exploring "the roof of the world," which extends from Colombia to Argentina, north and south, through Equator, Peru, and Bolivia, more than 2,000 miles, or as far as from New York City to Denver. In many directions from this "roof" may be seen villages, cattle, sheep, llamas, and evidences of mining.
The boys made good progress down the coast of tropical South America. They had heard much of Peru, and were surprised to see only a great strip of sand, lying like a desert, between the Pacific and the mountains. Now and then a little stream, fed by the melting snows in the Andes, comes trailing out toward the sea, but it is
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