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will come home at a certain time, he gets there. When he is away, at
Lawton or Medicine Park or any place like that, he telephones her a
couple of times to let her know he is all right. That boy is a peach, I
can tell you! There are dozens of things he doesn't do on her account.
And he never complains. He doesn't wait for her to ask him not to,
either. It is awfully hard on him, I can tell you, because he is the
most fearless and daring boy of his age I have ever seen. He wants to
try everything going." Lee looked wistful. "I wish _I_ could hear
someone say Bill is a coward!"

"They don't go as far as that," said Chauncey soothingly. "They just guy
him a little."

"They will stop guying if _I_ hear them," said Lee doggedly. "The boy
has every kind of courage that there is and some day will prove it. But
never, never if it will distress his mother. He will bear all the slurs
and insults in the world rather than hurt her."

"Jimminy, old fellow, you take it too hard!" said Lem, laughing. "All
the fellows do is guy him, and we will see to it that they stop that,
you can bank on it. Chance here and me will never see the kid abused. I
am some scrapper myself, if it comes to that!"

He pounded Lee cheerfully on the back and that young man smiled in spite
of himself. Turning, he caught Lem, a six footer and heavy, and with
what seemed a playful little clasp raised him from the ground and tossed
him over his shoulder where he hung balanced for a minute before Lee
gently eased him to the ground. Chauncey was round-eyed with amazement
and Lem sputtered, "Lee, you wizard, you! How in the world did you do
that? Why, I am twice your size!"

"Just a little Indian trick that I learned a good while ago when I used
to visit some cousins of mine. There were two young bucks who used to
wrestle with me, and I learned a lot from them. I have been teaching
Bill, and he can almost beat me at my own game. You don't have to be big
like you, Lem. Do you want to see me throw you twenty feet over my
head?"

"Why, you loon, I should say not!" said Lem, backing off.

"Oh, be a sport, Lem, and let me see the fun!" cried Chauncey.

But Lem refused to be obliging. For a man who did not care how high or
how far he flew, he was strangely unwilling to let himself be tossed out
on the prairie to amuse Chance or anyone else.

Lee walked off laughing. The others stood looking after him.

"The only Indian thing about him is his color and his walk. Do you
notice how he puts one foot down right in front of the other as though
he was walking along a narrow trail?"

"He is one of the straightest fellows I have ever known," said Lem,
feeling of his neck and waggling his head to see if it was all right
after its late experience with Lee. "I am glad to know about Bill. He
understands every last thing there is about a plane, and it did seem so
funny that he would never leave the ground. It is a wonderful chance for
those kids to stand in over here, you know. They are getting the best
training in the world in the flying game. I had commenced to think Bill
was a perfect sissy. That little automobile of his is a wonder - a
regular racing car on a small scale - and yet he goes crawling along at
fifteen miles an hour. Well, I am glad to know how it is."

Lem fished in his pocket and found some chewing gum which he offered to
Chauncey. They strolled away in the direction of the hangars and Lee
hurried over to Major Anderson's quarters, where he found the two boys
sitting on the wide, screened veranda.

"Just waiting for you, Lee," said Bill, looking at his watch. "We must
be getting along. Do you know what I am doing these days?" he asked
Frank, who was moodily staring at Lee. "I am packing up for school."

"Why didn't you begin last Christmas?" asked Frank, coming out of his
dream.

"There is always such a lot of things to attend to at the last second
and I am getting all my traps in shape."

"Mother is packing for me," said Frank. "I wish we didn't have to go. I
will be all out of practice with the planes by the time we have a chance
to fly again. I wonder where Jardin is going to school?"

"Have you heard from him lately?" asked Bill.

"Not a word since he went away. Mother thought it was funny he didn't
write her a note to thank her for entertaining him. His father wrote her
instead."

"Did Jardin know where we are going?" asked Bill.

"We didn't know ourselves when he left, and I can't write and tell him,
because for all I know he may be in Europe by this time."

"_I_ am just as well pleased," said Bill. "You know I never did have any
use for him, and I think we will get along a good deal better with the
other fellows and with the teachers if he is not there as a friend of
ours."

"You were always down on him and for nothing," said Frank. "I think he
is all right. And he has the money, too."

"Well, you don't want to sponge, do you?" asked Bill.

"Of course not!" said Frank, flushing. "You are such a nut about things!
Of course I don't mean _sponge_, but money is the only thing that will
put you in right at school or anywhere else."

"That sounds just like Jardin," replied Bill. "Well, if that is so, what
do you suppose I am going to do on about nine cents a week? What are you
going to do yourself?"

"I don't know, but if there is any money to be had, I am going to get
it."

"How are you going to go about it?" asked Bill as he stepped into the
Swallow and prepared to start.

"I don't know," answered Frank, still sitting with his chin in his
hands. "Beg it, or borrow it, or steal it."

Bill threw in the clutch and the Swallow sped away.

Frank was left to his own bitter thoughts. Money! He had brooded over
his lack of it and had remembered Jardin's assurance that to have a good
time in school he must have a pocketful of money at all times. Frank had
changed his mind about school. He was going for the good time he
expected to have. He only wished that he was going with Jardin instead
of with Bill Sherman. What Bill had said about sponging had stung him.
Now he knew that he must obtain what he wanted somehow and somewhere.
His mother could not give it to him; his father would not. He had
nothing to sell that was of any value. Yes, there was one thing. He
could pawn his watch, that beautiful watch that had been his
grandfather's and which he was to use when he was twenty-one. In the
meantime it was _his_, left him by his grandfather's will. On the spur
of the moment he rose and hurried into the house. Why had he not thought
of it before? It was a repeater, that watch, and his grandfather had
paid nearly a thousand dollars for it. He would sell it. He hurried into
the house and to his mother's room: he knew where she always kept her
jewel case hidden. The watch was there and putting it in his pocket,
Frank hurried out of the house.

Bill and Lee took it slowly as usual going back to school, stopping to
watch the big observation balloon come down to anchor.

"I am sorry about Frank," Bill remarked as they turned and skirted the
parade ground in New Post. "I never saw a fellow change so in such a
short time. He is brooding all the time and is as grouchy as he can be.
I wish there was something I could do for him."

"Just what I was thinking," said Lee. "Do you suppose his folks would
mind if I gave him the money he wants? I am getting an awful wad down
there in the bank. I am always in right with my grandfather because I
can talk his sign language and because I look more like an Indian than
some of the real ones. I would be awfully glad to give him five or six
hundred dollars."

"That is perfectly fine of you, Lee, but I know they would not want you
to do such a thing, because they would think it was simply wild to have
Frank have a large sum. At the school we are going to, there is a rule
that the boys are not to have money. There is a small sum deposited with
the principal and he gives us what he thinks we ought to have. More for
the big fellows and less for the little ones, and none at all if we
don't behave."

Lee looked disappointed.

"That's too bad," he said, patting Bill on the shoulder with a rare
caress. "I was going to get Major Sherman to let me divvy up with you."

"You are all right, Lee, old man," said Bill, "but honest, I won't need
money. What I will want is a letter from you once in awhile. That will
be the best thing you can do for me. Gee, I know I am just about going
to die with homesickness. Why, I was never away from my mother before in
my life! I can tell you, I will never be away from home any more than I
can help. Home folks are good enough for me," he laughed.

Lee stuck to the subject. "What if I should _lend_ Frank the money he
wants?" he persisted.

"I tell you, old dear, he won't be allowed to have money at all."

"What is to prevent it if they don't know it?" asked Lee.

"Why, _he_ wouldn't want to break the rules," said Bill. "There is no
fun in breaking rules. You can get enough fun without that."

"All right," said Lee, "but the Indian part of me is having a bad hunch
about Frank. You watch and see. He is going to get into trouble, and I
think it will have something to do with this money he wants so much."

"I hate to have you say that," from Bill. "Your hunches come to time
pretty sharply; but I will simply keep an eye on him and try to keep him
out of trouble. It is lucky we are not going to the same school with
Jardin."

"Do you know that you are not?" said Lee with a queer smile.

"Yes, I _do_ know, and for two reasons. We did not know where we were
going when he was here and, second place, the school we are going to is
not swell enough for Jardin."

"Look for him when you get there," remarked Lee.

"Oh, wow!" cried Bill, sending the Swallow in a long sweep to the back
step of the quarters in B2. "If you keep this hunch business up, Lee,
you will be getting up as a fortune-teller. We are through with Jardin
for a good while, I am thinking."

They were not through with Jardin's influence at least. If it had not
been for his tales and suggestions, Frank would not at that moment have
been walking the streets of Lawton, his grandfather's splendid watch in
his pocket, hunting for a pawnshop that looked inviting. He came to one
with a window filled with diamond rings and watches that were certainly
not in the class with the timepiece he was carrying. That seemed a good
place to go. With so many ordinary watches on hand, they would
appreciate as fine a one as he carried.

He looked in the window, then walked boldly in with the air of a person
who wishes to buy something. He did it so well that the proprietor came
forward with a beaming smile.

The smile faded when Frank laid the watch on the counter and the man
pierced him with a keen look. He took the watch and turned it over.

"What is your name?" he asked suddenly.

Frank looked up in surprise.

"I don't see as that has anything to do with it," he replied stiffly.

"It has a good deal to do with it," said the man. "That is not the sort
of a watch a boy your age carries. Not on your life it isn't! Now where
did you get that watch? Did you steal it? That is the question. Are you
selling it for someone else? That's what I want to know. We are
licensed dealers here, and we got to be pertected. Come across, young
feller, come across! What's your name?"

"Bill Sherman," said Frank, and was sorry as soon as he had said it. But
he did not dare retract his words.

"So far, so good!" said the man to whom the name meant nothing. "Now,
Bill Sherman, where did you get this watch?"

"It is mine," said Frank, "and I am not selling it; I want to pawn it."

"If Bill Sherman can afford to own a watch like that, why then should he
pawn it? Looks like he ought to have plenty of money."

"I do mostly," said Frank, red and fidgeting. "But I am short just at
present, and that is my own watch that my grandfather willed to me so I
thought I would pawn it for awhile."

"I don't know," said the man. "I got boys of my own. But if I don't take
it you will go somewhere else. So what's the difference? What do you
expect to get for it?"

"Grandfather paid nearly a thousand dollars for it!" said Frank. "Would
you think six hundred dollars about right?"

Then for a moment Frank thought the pawnshop man was going to have a
fit, a fit of large and dreadful proportions, right on the premises. His
eyes bulged; he choked and gurgled. It was really awful, and Frank could
not help wishing himself home again, watch and all. Even with the
coveted sum so close within reach, he was sick of the whole thing.

Presently the pawnshop man came to himself a little.

He leaned across the counter and said softly, "Would you please say that
again?"

"Six hundred dollars," repeated Frank.

"Say," said the man, leaning confidentially toward the boy, "what a
joker you are! That's good enough for vaudeville, I'll say! Well, we've
laughed enough at that, ain't we? And I feel so funny about it that I
will give you a good price for the watch. What do you guess it is?" He
leaned closer. "Twenty-five dollars."

"_Twenty-five dollars!_" gasped Frank. "Why, my grandfather paid 'most a
thousand dollars for it!"

"Sure, I don't doubt it; and so did George Washington have a watch
bigger than this that cost a lot of money but I would not give more than
twenty-five dollars for either one of 'em."

"I can't take that," said Frank, looking so shocked and disappointed
that the man knew that he would end by accepting.

"Twenty-five is as high as I can go," said the man. "We got to pertect
ourselves."




CHAPTER VII


With a bitter feeling of disappointment and shame, Frank took the
proffered twenty-five dollars, after a long wrangle had convinced him
that there was positively no more to be wrung from the pawnshop man. He
left the shop with dragging feet, half inclined to go back and throw
down the money with a demand for his watch. But the thought of Jardin
deterred him. As he went out he could see the man leaning into the
window where he rearranged the group of watches already displayed there,
and placed the watch, Frank's beautiful watch, in the place of honor on
a purple velvet cushion in the center.

Two weeks passed, and one day remained before the boys were to start to
school. Frank finally heard from Horace Jardin. Horace urged him again
to collect what he termed a "_wad_," assuring him that life would be
really terrible without a lot of money. Also he hinted darkly of
something very surprising that he would have to tell later. That it only
concerned Jardin himself Frank did not question, as Jardin was never
interested in anything concerning other people except as it had some
bearing on himself in one way or another.

Money - money! Frank thought of nothing else. Then, as though it had been
a terrible unseen monster waiting to spring on the boy, his temptation
leaped upon him.

Temptation only attacks the weak. If we allow ourselves to harbor
unworthy or wicked thoughts, if we pave the way with wicked and unworthy
deeds, temptation has an easy time. Temptation is like a big bully. He
does not like to be laughed off, or to be scorned. He prefers to be
parleyed with. Then there is always a good chance for him. Better still,
he prefers to dash up to the weak and sinning, and say hurriedly, "Here:
quick, quick! Here's the easy way out! It's the _only_ way out! Just you
tell this lie, disobey your parents, or take this money. It isn't
stealing, you know, because you mean to put it back as soon as you can
and everything will be all right."

That is the way temptation talks, and on that last day before the boys
started off to school Frank listened.

He was over at Bill's quarters, in B2, when the telephone rang. Now
there are just two telephones to each building at the School of Fire,
one upstairs and one down. They are wall phones, fastened on the outside
of the buildings, midway of the porch that runs the whole length. When
the bell rings, whoever is nearest answers and calls the person who is
wanted. So Frank, standing in Bill's doorway and close to the phone,
stepped out and took down the receiver. While he waited for an answer,
he leaned his elbow on the sill of the window beside him and idly
scanned the confusion of papers on the big desk shoved close to the sill
inside. A strong wind fluttered the papers.

Frank, waiting on a dead line, stared at the desk and his eyes grew
wild. Down at the end of the porch a grey-haired Colonel sat with his
eyes glued to the _Army and Navy Journal_. He was reading about a
proposed increase in pay, and he had no interest in small boys. Across
the sandy space on the porch of the opposite quarters two ladies sat
embroidering.

In the Sherman quarters, he could hear Mrs. Sherman and Bill and Lee
talking as they finished packing Bill's trunk.

No one noticed Frank. No one saw what he did next, so stealthily and
rapidly. But in a moment he put the receiver down on the shelf, hurried
to the Shermans' door, and called for Lee.

"Someone wants you on the phone," Frank said, and as Lee hurried out,
Frank sat down on the door sill and whistled shrilly to the Shermans'
Airdale, who was trying to chum with the pretty ladies across the way.
They looked up, saw Lee at the phone but did not see Frank who had
dodged inside the door. The Colonel looked up from his paper, scowling.
He laid the whistle to Lee and glared.

Lee called "Hello!" half a dozen times. He too leaned on the sill of the
open window. No one answering the phone, he hung up and went back to the
packing.

And the next morning, Bill and Frank, feeling fearfully overdressed in
new suits, and bearing spotless shiny yellow suitcases, stood on the
train waving to two rather damp looking mothers and two fathers who
stood up almost _too_ straight, and started away on their long journey.

Lee did not wave at them. The half of Lee that was Indian was afraid
that the half that was white would look too sorry and lonesome if he
stood on the platform watching the two small figures waving on the train
while a friendly porter clutched a shoulder of each. So Lee stayed in
the machine and listened as the train pulled out, and felt very blue and
lonesome, and fell to planning how he would ask for a furlough and go
shoot some wildcats to make rugs for Bill's room. And he wondered how
soon the boys would look inside their suitcases. Lee had opened both
those suitcases!

The boys, wildly excited over the charm and novelty of travelling alone,
went to their seats and gravely studied the flat bleakness of Oklahoma.
As yet they had no regrets at leaving the Post, although Bill felt
rather low whenever he thought of his mother. Her picture, as radiant
and lovely as any of the girls who came visiting on the Post, he had
pasted on the dial of his wrist watch, the Major helping. They had had
lots of fun doing it, the Major pretending to be awfully jealous. But
when the picture was fastened safely on the dial, it was the Major, who
was something of an artist, who got out his color-kit and delicately
tinted the lovely features until the cut-out snapshot looked rare and
lovely as a portrait painted right on the watch. Then he carefully
fastened the crystal, and Frank slipped it on his wrist, more than
pleased.

"In old times," said the Major, washing his brushes in the tumbler of
water, "the knights always wore a ribbon or a glove belonging to the
lady they loved the best. They did not hide their keepsakes in their
inside pockets but bound them boldly on their helmets, to remind
themselves that they must be loyal, faithful, fearless, brave and true
for her sake, and to show all who cared to look that they were proud to
do their best for one so fair. No doubt there were dark days and hard
times when they needed every ounce of support and encouragement they
could get.

"You will find it so, old man. I can't help you, but," he gently touched
the watch, "_she_ will, always. You know it, don't you?"

"Yes, sir, I do!" said Bill, looking down on the smiling face.

"Then you don't need another word from me, son," said the Major. They
were alone. He bent and kissed the boy on the cheek. Then he smiled.

"That is allowable between men, you know, son, on the eve of battle. Put
up a good fight." He left the room, and something that was part promise
and part prayer went up from his soul.

"I _will_ put up a good fight!" he whispered.

Frank had spent his last evening alone, a throng of distressful thoughts
crowding in on him. His father was on some official business in town and
his mother had not thought it necessary to break her weekly engagement
with her bridge club. Frank wandered over to the hangars but he missed
Lem and Chauncey and soon returned home. He was greatly excited over the
coming trip, and had other and most serious reasons for wishing to go
away. So many unpleasant thoughts crowded upon him that it was not until
ten o'clock that he happened to think of his watch, still in Lawton at
the pawnshop. He had not redeemed it, and the twenty-five dollars
reposed in the bottom of his kit bag, in an envelope that had thread
wound around it.

He reflected that he could send the money and his ticket back to the
pawnshop man, for it was too late to take the trip to town. His parents
were apt to return at any time. They did not come very soon, however,
and Frank went to bed, a lonely, unhappy and sinning boy.

The boys had so much to look at that for awhile they were quite silent.
Then Bill remembered something.

"Say!" he suddenly exclaimed. "We are having the deuce of a time at the
school. Right in our quarters, too. Did you hear?"

"No," said Frank, still staring out. "What was it?"

"Somebody stole six hundred dollars from Captain Jennings next door to
us. It was money he had to pay the Battery, and it is gone. There is an
awful fuss about it."

"Will they arrest him?" asked Frank.

"Why, no; they won't do that, of course. He didn't steal it from
_himself_, and Dad says he has money besides what he gets as captain,
but I don't suppose he likes the idea of making it good. There is going
to be an _awful_ fuss about it."

"Did he lose it out of his pocket?" asked Frank.

"No; that's the funny part," said Bill. "He had it on his desk in his
study, under a paperweight, in an envelope, and that's the last he ever
saw of it. Oh, there will be an _awful_ fuss over it! Whoever took it
will go to Leavenworth for so many years that he will have a good chance
to be sorry about it. It is an awful thing."

"Do they suspect anyone?" asked Frank.

"I didn't hear anything this morning," said Bill. "We left too early.
But there will be an awful fuss. Why, it is an _awful_ thing, you know.
I didn't know there was anyone over there low enough to steal. It makes
me feel kind of queer!"




CHAPTER VIII


The day passed rapidly. The boys were the first in the dining-car when a
meal was announced, and be it said they were almost the last to leave.
They had been provided with plenty of money for "eats," as the two
Major-fathers wisely remembered that a boy is never so hungry as when
travelling. Also their section was the first one made up. They were
tired, and sleepy.

They tossed up to see which should take the upper berth, both boys
wanting it, and Frank won.

They spread their suitcases out on Bill's bed to open them, then Frank
decided to take his up with him and climbed up into his lofty berth
while Bill boosted and lifted the suitcase after him. Bill had packed
his own suitcase for the first time, and his mother had smiled as she
saw him carefully plant his pajamas on the very bottom. She said
nothing, however, as she knew that another time he would lay them on the
top where he could get them without any trouble. Frank had done the same
thing, so for a little there was silence as the boys spread everything
on the beds in a wild effort to locate the missing garments. At last
they were found, and the suitcases repacked, hair brushes and tooth
paste being salvaged as they went.

As Bill slipped into his pajama coat something pricked him. The pocket
was pinned together with a large, rusty pin. He drew it out and from the
pocket took a folded envelope.

"What in time is this?" he murmured to himself, then smiled as he
reflected that it must be a little love letter from his mother. He
winked mischievously at her picture on his wrist as he tore open the
envelope. But there was no letter from mother in the envelope. Instead
it was stuffed with perfectly new, crisp five-dollar bills. There were
twenty of them. Twenty! Bill counted them twice. Then still disbelieving


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