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"Here is little Percy again," he groaned. "Frank, if I don't treat him
according to agreement, you are to kick me."

Frank turned. The African jungle faded away. There was Jardin!

He came smiling across the room and joined them.

"Hello, everybody!" he said gaily. "Getting some grub? It didn't take me
very long to get through, so I thought I would wander down the street
and see if I could run across you. Thought you might like to go to see a
movie."

"That is mighty nice of you," said Bill heartily, "but I sort of wanted
to see a little of the town this afternoon."

"I think that is a good idea," said Jardin. "We can go to see the movies
any old time. I saw my dad at the hotel and have some good news to tell
you. We are going to stay here for a couple of weeks. Dad thought that
I would make an awful kick about it, and I would if I hadn't met you
fellows, but between us we ought to be able to start something going. If
I had one of my cars here I could give you a good time, but we will have
to take a fall out of your little steamer."

"Say, that's fine!" said Frank with enthusiasm enough for two. "I will
have a chance to show you the Aviation Field, and Bill can show you the
School of Fire, and there are some dandy fellows over at New Post and up
at Old Post too."

"I would like to see them, especially the Aviation part," said Jardin.
"I might get some pointers about flying my plane. It will be done before
long, - in a couple of months anyway. I worked hard enough for that car,"
he chuckled. "I thought up every kind of mischief you ever heard of and
then some, and tried 'em all out, and all the time I kept hollering for
an airplane. I just wore dad out. He offered me everything you ever
heard of if I would stop cutting up, and at last he hit on this airplane
which was what I had been after from the start. So we made an agreement,
regular business affair you know, and we both signed it. I am to stop
smoking the day school opens and also agree to go to whatever school he
picks out and to keep the rules and remain for the three terms of the
school year. He has got to give me plenty of money, though. You can't
have a decent time in school without your pocket full of money."

"I don't see why you need much," said Bill thoughtfully.

"Take it from me, you do," replied Jardin. "I have been in about every
high-class school around our part of the country and I _know_."

"I am going to boarding-school this fall, and I don't believe I will
have much of an allowance. My folks won't think it is wise, I know."

"A lot of people are like that," said Jardin. "Are you going away to
school too, Frank?"

"I expect I am," said Frank. "I don't know where yet; the folks have not
decided for either of us, but we hope we will go together; don't we,
Bill?"

"Sure!" agreed Bill.

"Wish you knew where you were going," said Jardin. "I would make dad
send me where you were. That would be a lark. The Big Three: how would
that go for a name, eh?"

"Great!" said Bill absently. He finished the last spoonful of his
ice-cream. "Let's go out and see the town," he suggested. "There is a
shooting gallery around the corner that has the cutest moving targets I
ever saw."

"That's the ticket!" said Jardin. "I can shoot almost better than I can
do anything else."

They wandered out, and turned down to the shooting gallery. A soldier
was leaning idly against the door frame. Bill looked twice, grabbed the
young man in a bear hug.

"Lee, you old scamp!" he cried. "How did you happen to get here?"

The dark face of the handsome young half-breed lighted up. "I drove the
car in," he answered. "Your mother is shopping and your father will come
in with Colonel Spratt in time for dinner. I have been watching these
people shoot. Are you boys going to try it?" He glanced at Jardin with a
keen eye, then looked away instantly.

"I can't shoot for sour apples and you know it. I suppose you want to
have a good laugh at me," said Bill. "All right, here goes!" He laid
down his money and received the little rifle.

"No moving targets for me," he said to the man in charge. "And I want
the biggest target you have, at that."

"Here is one we let the ladies shoot at," the gallery man laughed. He
put up a brilliant affair of different colored rings encircling a large
black spot.

"That is the thing for me," said Bill.

"Us ladies!" jeered Frank, laughing.

"Shoot!" commanded Lee.

Bill aimed, breathed hard, blinked and pulled the trigger violently.

There was a black hole in the outside ring.

"Good boy!" said Bill, patting himself. "Good boy! 'If at first you
don't succeed, try, try again.' I have just three tries, I believe."

The next shot was a trifle closer. Bill held a little steadier. The
last shot he took his time about and pulled carefully, using his finger
instead of his whole side. A bell clanged. He had actually hit the
bull's eye! Bill fell against Lee in a make-believe faint.

Frank tried next, Jardin refusing to make an attempt. At last however,
after Frank had repeated Bill's performance, Jardin selected a rifle and
asked for the moving targets to be set in motion.

He aimed quickly at the head of the smallest duck, and it disappeared
behind the painted waves. Again and again he repeated this while the
boys stood spellbound.

"That's easy!" said Jardin, laying the rifle down on the counter. "I can
beat that easily."

"Do it," said Lee, handing him a rifle.

"Put up your hardest target," instructed Jardin. "I want something worth
while."

The target popped into place. It was a pretty little figure of a dancing
girl with a tiny tambourine in her uplifted hand. She whirled and turned
and the little tambourine gleamed and sparkled. Jardin took careful aim
at the tambourine and missed. Three times he missed, the boys exclaiming
that no one could hit anything so delicate. Finally he gave it up,
giving a number of explanations _why_ he did not hit it.

Then, quite idly, Lee picked up a rifle and with a half smile at the
gallery man he shot without raising the rifle to his shoulder. A shower
of tiny flashes burst from the uplifted tambourine. Then three times, as
fast as he could lift a rifle, Lee hit the little tambourine and the
bright flashes leaped up. It was evident that Lee had been there before
because without a word the man removed the little dancer and placed a
row of small and lively dolphins in view. They curved in and out of
sight and looked very funny indeed. But Lee shook his head. The man
removed the target, and feeling under his lapel drew out a pin, a common
white pin which he stuck carefully in the middle of the black cloth at
the end of the gallery. Lee's bullet drove the pin into the cloth as
neatly as though it had been done with a mallet.

"Want to try?" he asked Jardin.

Jardin smiled sourly. "I am no professional," he said.

He and Frank sauntered out, followed by Bill and Lee.

"Who is that soldier?" asked Jardin. "Isn't he just an enlisted man?"

"That's all," said Frank. "He is the Major's orderly."

"I don't like his looks," said Jardin.

"Neither do I," agreed Frank. "But you had better not tell Bill that. He
is crazy over Lee."

"Every man to his taste!" Jardin said with a sneer.




CHAPTER V


About a week later, Bill, accompanied by Lee, drove the Swallow over to
the Aviation Field. They found Horace Jardin staying there at Frank's
quarters, as the houses are called on all army posts. Mr. Jardin had
gone down into the Burkburnett Oil Fields and Frank had invited the boy
to come and stay with him. Mrs. Anderson, a weak and idle person, was
flattered to have the young millionaire as her guest and revelled as
Frank did in his glowing yarns of everything concerning the Jardins.
Horace treated Mrs. Anderson and the Major with all the politeness he
could muster.

It was always his policy to be agreeable to other fellows' parents. It
made things easier all around to have what he privately and rudely
called "the old folks" think he was a fine boy, and he found that they
always "fell for it" when he paid them a little attention.

So he cleverly kept silence whenever the Major was around, only asking
questions that he knew would please him to answer and enlarge upon.

With Mrs. Anderson he worked a different scheme. He launched into
glowing accounts of parties and bridge luncheons his mother had given,
recounting with more or less truth details about the food and the
decorations, and the jewels worn by the guests.

"Seems to be a very quiet, studious boy," was Major Anderson's decision,
and Mrs. Anderson proclaimed him "The sweetest child, with such _lovely_
manners, and perfectly unspoiled by his enormous wealth."

Jardin laughed in his sleeve, and Frank, also a willing listener, but to
a greatly differing line of talk, was rapidly absorbing all the mental
and moral poison that Jardin could think up.

As Bill looked at his friend, he was conscious of a change in him. He
had a worldly, bored air that to Bill was extremely funny. Frank and
Horace did not trouble to speak to Lee, who grinned cheerfully and said
nothing, while he cared even less. Lee saw through the two boys and was
determined to keep them from doing any harm to Bill, for whom he felt
the truest affection. They were growing into a friendship that was
destined to last for many years.

Lee was the soul of honor and had a sense of humor seldom found in one
of Indian blood, and was as ready to romp and roughhouse as a boy of
twelve. His straightforwardness and his tender care of Mrs. Sherman
caused the Major to rejoice every day that he had transferred him to his
service as orderly.

Lee had the Indian gift of silence, so he made no comment at all when he
was alone with Bill and Bill commenced to sputter and fuss about the
change in Frank. He just stared ahead, gazing off across the prairie or
carving delicately on another length of chain which Mrs. Sherman had
asked him to make for her sister back in the east.

"My airplane is finished," said Horace as soon as he could make Bill
hear the glad news. For once he looked genuinely pleased and excited.

"Good enough!" cried Bill. "Is it here?"

"Of course not," scoffed Jardin. "I will not get it until I go back
east. But Major Anderson has arranged for me to learn to fly here. My
father called him on long distance and arranged it."

"I guess I will hang around and pick up some pointers myself," said
Bill. "When do these lessons come off? 'Most any time?"

"Almost any time we want to go over to the Field and get hold of an
instructor," answered Frank. "Now the war is over, the rush is over too
and we are taking our time over here. Stick around all you want to,
Bill; I can fly myself."

Walking over to the hangars, the boys found the field bright with the
giant dragonflies hopping here and there or rising slowly from the
ground, and taking wing with ever increasing noise and speed. Lee
followed the boys and was glad when he found that Bill could not make a
flight without written permission from his parents. This was a rule of
the Field, no minor being allowed to go up without the presentation of
such a paper, which acted as a sort of release in ease of any accident.
Jardin buttoned himself into an elaborate and most expensive leather
coat, carefully, adjusted his goggles, stepped into a plane beside the
usual pilot who winked slyly at Lee, and proceeded, to send his big bug
skimming here and there across the field under the wobbly and uncertain
guidance of Horace. They did not leave the ground, but Frank soon soared
upward on a short flight that filled Bill with joy and envy all at the
same time. He felt that he _must_ fly.

Frank was really mastering the control of a plane in a remarkable
manner. The instructors said that he was a born birdman. He seemed to
know by instinct what to do and when to do it.

Bill and Lee, on the sidelines by the hangars, did not find all this
very exciting. Bill grew more and more crazy to go up, and Lee, who was
an artilleryman and had no use for flying, was sorry to see the craze
for the dangerous sport grow in his favorite.

Finally the lesson was over, and Frank and Horace, both much inclined to
crow, rejoined Bill and Lee to talk it over. They wandered over to the
Andersons' quarters, where Lee left them to go to the men's mess for his
luncheon. Mrs. Anderson was out attending a bridge luncheon, and the
Major did not come home at noon, so the boys had the table to
themselves.

"Well, I have decided to be an aviator," declared Jardin. "There will
be another war sometime perhaps, and there is nothing like being ready.
I suppose I will have to go to school this winter because I agreed to.
Gee, I hate the thought of it! Perhaps there will be some way of getting
out of it, I can almost always work dad one way or another. He is crazy
for me to go through college."

"So is my father," said Frank. "But I am going to be an aviator too, and
I don't see any need of college."

"My father is set on college, too," said Bill, "or at least a good
training school."

"Well, he is only your stepfather, so I suppose you will do just as you
like about it," said Jardin.

"I don't see it that way," replied Bill, flushing, "Of course he is my
stepfather, but he is the kindest and best man I ever knew or heard of
and I will say right now I am perfectly crazy over him. If I hadn't
been, I would never have let mother marry him."

"Much she would have cared what you wanted!" chuckled Jardin.

"She would have done exactly as I said," Bill insisted. "We always talk
things over together and never decide any really _big_ things without a
good old consultation."

"Nobody ever consults me," grumbled Frank.

"None of the women consult me," said Jardin. "They know I won't be
bothered with them. Dad and I usually go over things together."

How Horace Jardin's father would have laughed if he could have heard his
son and heir make that remark! Horace was Mr. Jardin's greatest care and
problem. He often said that his son caused him more trouble than it gave
him to run all his factories. Mr. Jardin was a very unwise man who loved
his only son so much that he did not seem able to make him obey. Horace
had not been a bad boy to start with, but twelve years of having his own
way and feeling that, as he said, he could work his father and mother
for anything that trouble could procure or money buy had made him
selfish, grasping and unreliable. Other and graver faults were
developing in him fast, to his mother's amazement and his father's
sorrow.

When Mr. Jardin found that he must go down into the oil fields to look
after his wells there, he was greatly relieved and pleased to find that
he could leave his son with such pleasant people as the Andersons. He
knew that for awhile at least the novelty of being right at an Aviation
Post would keep Horace out of any serious mischief. In a measure he was
right. The discipline and routine, the sharp commands, the rage of the
instructors if anything went even a shade wrong, impressed Horace as he
had never been impressed before. All the good in him came to the
surface; the bad hid itself away.

Unfortunately, however, while Horace was spending his time in what
seemed to all a highly creditable manner, his influence over Frank was
bad, and grew worse as time went on. He absorbed like a sponge every
word of Jardin's boastful tales; he learned a thousand new ways in which
to gain his own ends; he learned to cheat; he learned to lie without the
feeling of guilt and distress that used to bother him when he slipped
from the truth. And most of all, he was made to feel that there was
nothing so necessary as money, money and still more money. Every letter
from Mr. Jardin brought Horace a check for anything from twenty-five to
a hundred dollars, and this money was spent like water.

Frank, who had thought his allowance of a dollar a week a fine and
generous amount, watched Jardin buy his way and squander money in every
direction. Frank commenced to worry about school. It must be as Horace
said: useless to try to be happy or comfortable unless one had a pocket
full of change all the time. He commenced to wish for some money, then
the wish changed, and he wished for a certain sum, the amount he thought
would be sufficient to carry him through the three terms of school. He
made up his mind that he wanted six hundred dollars. Where this vast sum
was to come from he did not know. He knew very well that his father and
mother would not give it to him. He could not earn it. Only a few weeks
later the boys would be sent east to school. Six hundred dollars he
wanted, and his whole mind seemed to focus on that amount like a burning
glass, and the thought of it scorched him.

All through luncheon Frank thought of the money. He went off into
day-dreams in which he rescued the daughter of the Colonel from all
sorts of dangers and invariably after each rescue, the Colonel would
say, "My boy, thanks are too tame. I insist, in fact I _order_ you to
accept this little token of my regard." And then he would press into
Frank's hand six hundred dollars. It was thrilling; and in a day-dream
so easy.

The fact that the Colonel's only daughter was a strapping damsel who
stood five feet eight and weighed one hundred and sixty pounds and
always took the best of care of herself in all kinds of tight places
without asking odds of anyone, did not affect Frank's day-dreams at all.
Neither did the fact that the Colonel was well known to be so close with
his money that he had learned to read the headlines upside down so that
he seldom had to buy a paper of a newsy! Six hundred dollars ... it
would have killed him!

Frank was called back to the present by hearing Horace say,

"Six hundred dollars! Where does a common soldier get all that?"

Frank looked up from his dessert quite wild-eyed. It was so pat!

"His grandfather sent it to him. He has a lot more than that."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Frank, coming wholly out of his
trance and looking from one to the other. "Who has six hundred dollars,
and whose grandfather sent it to him?"

"Lee's," said Bill.

"I don't believe it!"

"It is true," Bill affirmed. "I was just telling Horace that I went to
Lawton this morning before I came here, so that Lee could bank the
money. He has a nice bank account. He is saving up so he can go into
business when he is discharged."

"Well, I don't believe it," said Frank bitterly. Six hundred
dollars - and someone else had it!

"It is true anyhow," repeated Bill, "and this is the way it happened.
Years and years ago, as the storytellers say, the Government decided to
grant to every Indian a certain amount of ground. I forget how much Lee
told me. Anyhow, it was a nice large farm, and they gave one to each
Indian. Some of the Indians were glad to get the grant and went right
off and settled down and did their best to be farmers. And some of them
didn't want land, and said they wouldn't _have_ land. It looked too much
like work.

"Lee's grandfather was one of those. He just said no, he wouldn't take
it. But the Government knew that what one Indian had, the rest ought to
have or there would be scrapping over it sooner or later, sure as
shooting.

"So old Foxy Grandpa found a farm wished off on him whether he liked it
or not. He was quite mad about it - so mad that for a long while he
wouldn't speak more than once a week instead of once in a day or two,
the way he usually did. Bimeby he built a house and his boys, who were
all getting an education, commenced to work the ground and collect
cattle and horses. This commenced to interest grandpa a little, although
he wouldn't help, and he used to sit on the back porch and look over the
farm and watch his children, and just rattle right along, saying nothing
at all.

"Then all at once oil was discovered in Oklahoma, and the Government
took control of the Indian grants. That; is, they dig the wells and give
the Indians a big royalty. If the well is a dry hole, it does not cost
the Indian anything.

"The fellows who knew about such things came moseying around
grandfather's farm and thought they smelled oil. So they put up a
derrick, and commenced to drill right where the pig yard was, not far
from the house.

"Grandfather just sat right on the back porch and watched them do it.
Didn't keep them from work by his talking; just sat and looked on. It
took several weeks to drill the well, but grandfather kept right on
watching.

"Finally bing, bang! They struck, and it was a gusher. Just poured right
out and most drowned grandfather on the back porch before they could
plug it and fix the tanks.

"The first dividend was five thousand dollars, and grandfather took it
and looked at it and then shoved it over to his oldest son and commenced
to talk. That is, Lee said he spoke _one word_ in the Indian language.
It meant the-car-that-runs-by-itself. He wanted an automobile! Well, his
son went off and got him the biggest he could for the money, and now the
old gentleman is quite satisfied.

"When he isn't riding around the country he still sits and watches that
old gusher keep gushing. He gets about two hundred dollars a day out of
it."

"That's nothing!" said Horace Jardin.

"_Nothing?_" repeated Bill. "Well, it would mean _some_thing to me, I
can tell you!"

"Nothing?" cried Frank in a tone filled with real pain. "_Nothing?_ My
soul! It would be six hundred dollars every three days."

"Why pick on six hundred dollars?" asked Bill. "Why not fourteen hundred
a week? Those old wells go right on working on Sunday, you know."

Frank slammed down his fork and shoved his chair back from the table.

"Oh, it is a _shame_!" he cried bitterly.

Both boys looked at him in surprise.

"What ails you, anyhow?" asked Bill.

"Nothing," said Frank.




CHAPTER VI


Jardin left the following week and the two boys tried to settle down
into the old groove. Bill spent a great deal of time with Frank,
watching the manoeuvers on the Field. Frank kept up the study of
aviation with surprising earnestness. He had a special gift for it and
was really a source of great pride to his instructors. Of course his
father forbade long or very high flights, but Frank soon was able to
execute any of the simpler stunts that make the air so thrilling.

Bill, who refrained from any flying even as a passenger on account of
his mother, tried to absorb as much as he could from the talk and from a
couple of the airmen who took a great fancy to the quiet, handsome boy
who asked such intelligent questions and who so soon mastered all the
technicalities of the monster dragonflies.

With a small maliciousness that surprised even himself, Frank had
dropped a hint here and there that Bill was afraid to fly, and the two
airmen, Lem Saunders and Chauncey Harringford, who were his special
friends at the Field discussed it between themselves. One day they
stopped Lee and asked him if it was true. Lee flushed under his dark,
swarthy skin, and his small, black eyes flashed angrily.

"Who says it?" he demanded.

"I don't know how it started," answered Lem. "I don't know as it matters
whether the kid is afraid or not, but it doesn't seem just like him; and
I sort of hate to think there is a grain of yellow anywhere in that good
body of his."

"I will bet all my month's pay that there isn't," affirmed Chauncey. "I
_know_ there isn't, but I wish I knew how the report started. It makes
it sort of hard for him. The fellows guy him."

"I wish _I_ could be there when they do. I know one soldier who would
have a ticket for the guardhouse for fighting in about ten minutes."

"It is not as bad as that," said Chauncey. "The fellows don't mean any
harm, only young Frank is such a whiz and even that green little sprout
of a Jardin flew like a swallow. And here is Bill, by far the best of
the three, won't go off the ground but just shakes his head and grins if
you ask him why not."

"I know the reason," said Lee firmly. "It is a good one, too. Do you
know his mother? No? Well, she is more like an angel than a human
being." Lee took off his campaign hat as he spoke, as though he could
not talk of Mrs. Sherman while he remained covered.

"She is perfect," he continued. "So gentle, so sweet; and such a true
friend! But she has a very weak heart. There is something wrong, very
wrong about it, and Major Sherman has told me that a shock might kill
her. And what greater shock could there be than something happening to
her only son? Major Sherman told me that he had explained it to Bill,
and that Bill never did one thing to worry his mother. If he says he


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