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THE AEROPLANE BOYS ON THE WING

or,

Aeroplane Chums in the Tropics



BY
JOHN LUTHER LANGWORTHY


1912



The further trials and triumphs of the venturesome aeroplane lads are
set forth in a particularly thrilling manner in the third volume of this
series, now on sale everywhere, and which is entitled, "The Bird Boys
Among the Clouds; or, Young Aviators in a Wreck."



CONTENTS

CHAPTER


I. ON THE WAY BACK FROM THE GAME

II. FRANK'S WAY

III. SOMETHING ABOUT THE BIRD BOYS

IV. A STARTLING DISCOVERY

V. A WARM FIVE MINUTES

VI. IN SEARCH OF A CLUE

VII. ANDY RECEIVES A SHOCK

VIII. THE MESSAGE

IX. UNDER TROUBLED SKIES

X. NIPPED IN THE BUD

XI. OUT OF THE FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE

XII. A GREAT SURPRISE

XIII. THE "DEVIL-BIRD"

XIV. THE AIRSHIP LAUNCHED AT LAST

XV. AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE

XVI. THE AIR CHASE

XVII. THE CAMP IN THE TROPICAL JUNGLE

XVIII. WHEN FRANK STOOD GUARD

XIX. FIREBRANDS AND JAGUARS

XX. THE AEROPLANE BOYS ONCE MORE AFLOAT

XXI. THE LAST LITTLE HOT AIR BALLOON

XXII. RESCUED

XXIII. HOMEWARD BOUND - CONCLUSION




THE AEROPLANE BOYS ON THE WING

or, Aeroplane Chums in The Tropics

* * * * *




CHAPTER I.


ON THE WAY BACK FROM THE GAME.

"But the Bird boys won the prize of a silver cup!"

"What if they did? It was by a hair's breadth, Mr. Smarty!"

"And their monoplane was proven to be faster than the big biplane you
built, Puss Carberry!"

"Oh! was it? Don't you be too sure of that, Larry!"

"Didn't it land on the summit of Old Thunder Top ahead of you and Sandy,
in the race that afternoon? Tell me that!" and Larry Geohegan bristled
up to the recognized bully of Bloomsbury, while a dozen fellows
clustered around on the deck of the big power boat, listening eagerly to
this war of words.

They were on their way home from a very exciting game of baseball that
had been played at Cranford, across the lake. And after ten innings of
hot work the nine from Bloomsbury had won. But not until they had
changed pitchers, upon tying the score in the ninth, after coming up
from behind.

Puss and Larry both wore the uniform of the home players, and there were
others on the boat who also belonged to the team. In fact, the staunch
vessel had been placed at the disposal of the baseball club for this
day, by Commodore Elliott, the rich owner.

Larry had never been one of the adherents whom Puss could call upon to
back him up when he tried conclusions with a hostile faction; in fact,
Larry had always been an admirer of Frank Bird, who was recognized as
the most persistent rival the bully had ever encountered in his whole
career since coming to Bloomsbury.

Puss allowed a contemptuous expression to take possession of his face,
and even shrugged his broad shoulders, after a nasty fashion he had,
that often angered the one he was arguing with more than words could
have done.

"Aw! rats!" he said, in a disagreeable, rasping voice. "Everybody knows
that I'd won that same race only for trouble with my engine. Frank was
lucky, just like he generally is when he goes in for anything. Look at
him today, being called in to pitch in the tenth! We had 'em badly
rattled, and they were on the toboggan sure. Yet Frank, the great hero,
gets credit for winning that game. Didn't the Bloomsbury crowd cheer
him to the echo, though, and want to ride him on their shoulders? Wow!
it makes me sick, to see such toadyism!"

"What's all this big noise about, fellows? Didn't I hear my name
mentioned?" asked a tall lad with a frank face and clear brown eyes, as
he pushed forward.

It was Frank Bird himself, who had been talking with his cousin Andy,
and several other fellows, in the bow of the launch, and by accident
heard the voices that were raised in dispute.

Percy Carberry, known among his comrades simply as "Puss," did not
flinch when he found himself face to face with the boy he detested so
thoroughly. They had never as yet actually come to blows; but Puss
believed that his muscular powers were far superior to those of his more
slender rival, and just now he was in a particularly bitter frame of
mind.

"Oh! so you're there, are you?" he sneered "I was just telling your good
friend Larry here that I considered you a greatly overrated substitute
pitcher; and that luck had as much to do with our winning that game
today as anything you did."

Frank Bird laughed in his face.

"Sure," he declared, cheerily. "I was a mighty small factor in the
victory, for I only played in one short inning. If I'd faced those hard
hitters of Cranford nine times I reckon it'd be hard to tell what they'd
have done to my poor inshoots and curves."

"But you held them in that inning, Frank, you know you did!" cried
Larry.

"Mere accident, my boy. Happened to be the weak end of their batting
list!" observed Frank, as if determined to agree with his enemy, and
thus spike his guns.

"Is that so?" demanded "Elephant" Small, who did not happen to be on the
nine, because of his customary slow ways. "Perhaps you'll be saying that
dandy two-bagger you whanged out, that brought in the winning run, was
also an accident?"

"Well, I must have just shut my eyes, and struck. I seem to remember
hearing a sound like a shot, and then they all yelled to me to run; so I
did, going on to second in time to see Peterkin gallop home," and Frank
looked as sober as a judge as he said this. The others saw the joke,
however, and, led by Larry, burst out into a laugh that made Puss and
his loyal backers scowl.

"If that bingle was an accident, don't we wish we had a few more players
who could shut their eyes and meet Frazer's terrible speed balls and
curves in the same way!" one fellow exclaimed.

"So say we all of us!" another cried.

Puss realized that the majority on board the _Siren_ were against
him. But he was not given to taking water; even his enemies, and he had
many in Bloomsbury, could hardly say that Puss was lacking in a certain
kind of grit; while stubbornness he possessed in abundance.

So he just shut his white teeth hard together, and looked scowlingly
around the bunch of fellows. And many of them felt a little chill when
those cold gray eyes rested upon them; for they knew of old what
happened when Puss Carberry made up his mind to mark a boy for future
attention.

Frank still stood there by the side of the boat, smiling. Perhaps his
very apparent unconcern served to make the other still more angry. There
had been bad blood between these two lads for a long time, and more than
once it threatened an eruption, which somehow or other had up to now
been stayed.

Although some weeks had passed since the much-talked-of race between the
rival aeroplanes, piloted by these two boys, in which Frank took his
little craft up to the lofty summit of Old Thunder Top ahead of Puss in
his biplane, as narrated in the first volume of this series, entitled
"The Bird Boys; or, The Young Sky Pilot's First Air Voyage," the latter
had never ceased to feel ugly over his defeat.

As usual he had what he considered a good excuse for his arriving
second; but few persons ever knew how Puss and his helper Sandy had
tried to injure Frank's airship when it was directly beneath them, by
deliberately dropping a sand bag, taken along, singularly enough, as
"ballast," but with this very idea in view.

"Seems to me you've gotten the big head ever since you happened to drop
on that rocky plateau on top of the mountain just three little seconds
ahead of me, Frank Bird!" he said, with a steely glitter in his eyes
that those who knew him best understood to mean coming trouble.

"Oh! I hope not, Puss," replied the other, with a smile. "I give you my
word my hat fits me just as comfortably as ever. It was a close race,
and the one who got there first hadn't much to crow about, for a
fact. We happened to be lucky not to have any trouble with our new
little Kinkaid engine, that was all."

"Huh!" grunted his cousin Andy, shaking his head, and scowling at Puss
in turn. "But we had plenty of other sorts of trouble, all the same,
sand bags full of it, in fact. They just rained down on us; but then
Frank knows how to check up his engine suddenly, and the storm passed by
without any hurt!"

Some of the fellows, who happened to know what this sly reference on the
part of the hotheaded Andy meant, began to chuckle. Of course such a
thing would only serve to make Puss more angry. He chose to believe that
they were all only trying to bait him.

Frank in particular came in for his dark looks. And Larry, who had once
run in the same company as Puss, so that he knew his whims better than
many others, took occasion to give Frank Bird a sly nudge in the side,
as he whispered:

"Look out for him, Frank; he's getting near the danger point, sure!"

But Frank did not have to be warned. He had grown tired of warding off
this ever threatening danger of a broil with Puss Carberry. Like his
cousin Andy, the other had no father; and his wealthy mother had long
since given up in despair the idea of controlling the headstrong lad. So
that Puss had his way, whenever he wanted to do anything out of the
ordinary.

Because Mrs. Carberry was one of his father's patients, and Dr. Bird
esteemed her very highly, Frank had postponed the reckoning just as long
as he could endure the insults of the bully. But he believed the last
ditch had been reached, and was determined to no longer raise a hand to
avert the threatening storm.

Puss had turned when Andy spoke, to flash a look in his direction. But
it had no effect upon the other, who could be as reckless at times as
the next one. Indeed, Frank often had to curb the impatience and daring
of his chum.

"Oh! that's what sticks in your craw, does it, Andy Bird?" demanded
Puss. "Just because Sandy happened to drop that ballast, thinking we
might make better time if we lightened ship, you choose to make all
sorts of nasty insinuations about us wanting to knock you out! Shows
where your mind is. Another fellow wouldn't ever let such a fool notion
get a grip on him. And you'd better put a reef in that tongue of yours,
my boy, unless you want to have it get you into trouble."

Andy flared up at once, and would have replied; but Frank calmly stepped
in between the two, as though he claimed first right.

"Neither of us have charged you with intentionally trying to disable our
aeroplane by dropping that sand bag, Puss," he remarked quietly. "All we
say is that it was a queer coincidence you wanted to get rid of your
ballast just when we were walking up on you hand over fist, and about to
pass under you, to take the lead. That's all!"

Again there was a low laugh from among the boys who stood around
listening. To them it was a rich treat to see the recognized bully of
Bloomsbury baited to his very face in this characteristic way; and they
were enjoying it hugely.

"Well, let me tell you it ain't all, not by a jugful!" exclaimed Puss,
his face taking on a purple hue, as it always did when he became
enraged. "Both of you fellows have got to stop speaking about that sand
bag dropping, or there's going to be a licking in store for you. See?"
and he thrust his face close to that of Frank as he said this. Larry
Geohegan fairly held his breath. "Now it's coming; don't I know the
signs?" he whispered to the boy next him.

Frank continued to stand there, close to the side of the speeding
launch. They were about half way across the deep lake at the time.
Evening was coming on, for the sun had just reached the distant rugged
horizon in the west.

"Do you refer to me when you say that, Puss?" he asked, with that same
queer little smile on his face - a look that mystified the other, who
could not understand what it meant.

"Yes, both you and that loud-mouthed cousin of yours. Just because luck
favored you, and you won that blooming race by a head, you think I can't
manage an aeroplane as well as you. Huh! perhaps you don't know that I'm
going to take my machine with me when I go down to the cocoa plantation
we own along the Amazon, and use it exploring where a white man has
seldom been seen. You can just stay here and grow up with the country,
while I'm doing great stunts. But as long as I stay here I'm going to
stop this talk about trickery and low-down dodges. You're responsible
for most of it, Frank Bird. I warn you what's coming to you."
"Perhaps," said Frank, pleasantly, "you would be kind enough to tell me
also when this awful punishment is going to fall on my poor devoted
neck?"

"Any time, hang you! Right now, if you say another word!" roared Puss,
doubling up his fists, and making ready for one of his well known and
feared bull rushes, that had brought him a speedy victory many a time.

"So? That's comforting; and with all these good fellows around to see
how you wipe up the deck with me. Suppose you begin the swabbing act,
Puss!" and Frank pretended to throw himself in a position of defense.

The other gave utterance to a hoarse cry of rage, and lowering his head
after the manner of a bull, jumped forward. But the agile Frank simply
stepped aside; and unable to check himself in time, Puss Carberry shot
over the side of the power boat, disappearing in the clear waters of
Sunrise Lake with a great splash.

"Oh!" shouted his crony, Sandy Hollingshead, standing there as if
petrified; "and Puss can't swim a single stroke, either!"




CHAPTER II.


FRANK'S WAY.

"My goodness, what a splash!"

"Served him right, that's what!"

"He's gone under, fellows! Dove just like a big frog!"

"Stop the boat! He'll drown!"

Half a dozen were shouting in unison, as the boys crowded to the side
over which the bully had pitched when Frank avoided his forward rush.

But Frank heard only that startled exclamation from Sandy Hollingshead:

"Puss can't swim a single stroke, either!"

With Frank Bird to think was to act. The two things were almost
synonymous in his mind. Forgotten was the fact that the imperiled lad
had been endeavoring to strike him in the face at the time of his
submersion in the waters of Sunrise Lake.

Not a single word did he utter, but throwing off his coat, he made a
leap over the side of the boat, already slowing up as the power was cut
off.

"Frank's gone back after him!" cried one.

"And he'll get him, too," another hastened to say; for they understood
that when the leader of the team known as the "Bird boys" attempted
anything he usually got there, as some of them said "with both feet."

Meanwhile Frank was swimming with all his might toward the spot in the
foamy wake of the boat, where he knew the unfortunate Puss must be
battling for his life.

It seems strange that occasionally a boy may be found who has never
taken the trouble to learn how to swim. In the country this is a rare
occurrence; which would make the neglect of such an athletic fellow as
Puss seem more remarkable.

He was threshing about in the deep water like a cat that has fallen
overboard; and managing to keep partly afloat after a fashion; though it
would have been all over with him long ere the power boat could be
turned around and arrive at the spot where he struggled, gasping for
breath, and sucking in much water.

Frank was wise enough to understand that it is always desirable to
approach a drowning person from the rear, so that a grip may be taken
before the would-be rescuer's presence is discovered. Once let those
frenzied fingers clutch hold of him, and the chances of a double tragedy
would be good.

So Frank was keenly on the watch as he swam toward the splashing and
gurgling that announced Puss Carberry's fight for his life.

He could see him by now, and never would Frank be apt to forget the look
of absolute terror he discovered upon the agonized face of the
bully. Puss had detected the presence of some one near by, and was
trying to shout, as well as stretch his appealing hands out, though not
with much success.

He actually went under while Frank looked; and the heart of the would-be
rescuer almost stood still with a terrible fear that that was the end.

But he kept on, and in another moment a head once more bobbed up, with
Puss threshing the water frantically. Once he had gone down. According
to what most people said, he would possibly vanish twice more, and after
that never rise again.

If anything was to be done, there was no time for delay. Frank was
within ten feet of the struggling figure when it came up. He immediately
dove, and managed to rise to the surface behind Puss. Then, just as the
other was floundering beneath the surface of the agitated water again,
Frank caught hold of his sweater close to his neck, and held on with
might and main.

He had a serious job of it, for the half-drowned lad made a desperate
attempt to turn around, doubtless with the intention of throwing his
arms around his rescuer. This was just what Frank was desirous of
avoiding. He simply wanted to keep the head of Puss above water until
the boat could come and willing hands be stretched down to relieve him
of his burden.

So he kept treading water and fighting Puss off as best he was able. It
was no easy task, since he still had his baseball shoes on; and swimming
in one's clothes is always a difficult proposition. But Frank knew no
such word as fail and continued to strive, keeping one eye on Puss and
the other on the approaching power boat.

"Steady now, Puss!" he kept saying, again and again, trying to instill
some sense in the head of the frantic boy, who still believed he must be
going down again. "Keep your breath in your lungs and you'll float!
Don't kick so; I'm going to hold you up till the boys come. It's all
right, Puss; you're safe!"

All the same Frank was mighty well pleased when the launch did swing
close alongside and half a dozen hands reached out to clutch hold of
them both.

"Puss first, fellows!" he said, with a half laugh. "I can crawl in
myself, I guess." But they would not hear of it, so willing hands lifted
him up as soon as the other dripping figure had been deposited in the
bottom of the boat.

Frank made light of the adventure, after his usual style.

"Oh, come, let up on that!" he remarked, when some of the fellows were
patting him on the back and calling him a hero and all such things that
were particularly disagreeable to Frank. "It was just a cinch to me, you
know. I'm half a water spaniel, anyway. Besides, if it hadn't been for
the way I riled him, Puss wouldn't have fallen overboard. Drop it,
please."

By the time the boat reached the landing near the dock where the lake
steamer touched, Puss seemed to have discharged his cargo of water,
swallowed unintentionally.

He made his appearance, with several cronies clustered about him. Frank
was not the one to hold a grudge. Besides, he had come out of the affair
with flying colors and had nothing to regret. So he strode up to Puss at
once, holding out his hand.

Every boy on board crowded around, eager to see how the bully would
behave, for they knew his natural disposition and wondered whether any
sort of miracle had been wrought in his disposition because of his
recent submersion.

"I hope you're feeling all right now, Puss," Frank said, pleasantly. "I
wanted to ask your pardon for treating you so roughly; but knowing you
couldn't swim, I was afraid that if you closed with me we'd both go
down."

"But you struck me once right in the face, you coward!" exclaimed the
other, as he put his still trembling hand up to where a bruise of some
sort could be seen.

"Yes, I admit it," returned Frank, quickly; "and that was what I wanted
to apologize for. You grabbed me and it was the only way I could break
your hold. I've been told by life savers that often they have to strike
a man and knock him senseless to save themselves from being dragged
down. You must understand that it was no time to be particular. I had to
save myself in order to help you!"

The other stared hard at him. Evidently Puss had not yet entirely
recovered after his close call. At any rate it was positive that he
could not understand how he actually owed his very life to the speedy
action of this boy whom he hated so bitterly.

They saw him shake his head, much as a dog might that is worrying a rat.

"Well, you only undid your own dirty work. You pushed me in and then
you got cold feet. For fear that I'd drown and you'd be hung you jumped
in to do your usual grandstand act of hero! Didn't I hear these softies
calling you that right now? No, I don't want to touch your hand. Keep
your friendship for those who can appreciate it. There's a long account
between us that's going to be settled some fine day."

And with these ungrateful words Puss Carberry strode off the boat,
surrounded by his cronies, who were doubtless pleased with the course of
things.

"Well, did you ever hear of such base ingratitude in all your born
days?" exclaimed Larry Geohegan, making a gesture of supreme disgust.

"And to think of the skunk saying Frank pushed him in!" echoed Elephant,
"when he actually risked his life to save the cur. Ain't I glad now I
didn't carry out my first impulse and jump after Puss, even before Frank
went. Why, maybe he'd have even said I tried to drown him!"

The idea of that proverbial slow coach of an Elephant ever doing
anything on the spur of the moment was really too much for the rest of
the boys and a general roar went up. "Don't bother your heads about me,
fellows," remarked Frank, quietly, when the laughter had ceased
again. "That was just about the kind of treatment I should have expected
to get from Puss Carberry. Still, I'm not sorry I did it. Life would
seem very tame without that schemer around to try and liven things up
for me. But I hardly expected him to accuse me of pushing him in when
all I did was to step aside and avoid a blow at his hands. Forget it,
please."

He walked off with his cousin Andy, who had been boiling over at the
time the rescued Puss made his astonishing accusation.

"Wouldn't that jar you some now?" remarked Andy, after his customary
fashion.

"I suppose you're referring to the way Puss turned on me after I went
and got my baseball suit wet just to give him a helping hand?" laughed
Frank, good naturedly. "Oh, I don't bear any malice. Perhaps he was
still a little stunned by that knock I gave him. But I thought he was
going to get his arms around my neck, you see, and then it would be all
up with us both. It worked, too, for he was as limp as a dishrag from
that time on. Remember it, Andy, in case you ever jump over after Puss."

"Me after that snake? Why, hang it, I'd see him in Guinea before I'd
ever lift a hand to save him! I tell you I'd - I'd - " stammered the
indignant Andy.

"I don't believe it of you," declared his cousin, quickly. "You may
think you'd stand by and see him drown, but that's all gammon. I know
you too well to believe you're half as vindictive as you try to make
out. But did you hear what he said about going down there to South
America, visiting a plantation his mother partly owns and taking his
biplane along with him?"

Andy was all excitement now.

"Sure I did," he said. "And ten to one he learned somehow that we
thought of going down in that region for another purpose. It would be
just like Puss and that sneak of a Sandy Hollingshead to try and beat us
out. That fellow wouldn't mind a trip to the other end of the world if
he thought he could get your goat, Frank. He hates you like poison.
Pity you didn't feel a cramp just when you were swimming to him - not
enough to endanger your own life, you see, but sort of make you stop
short."

"Shame on you, Andy," remarked Frank. "I hope I'll always carry myself
so that I won't be afraid to look at myself in a glass. But what do you
know about that place - didn't he call it a cocoa plantation or something
of the kind?"

"Yes," replied the other moodily; "I was told that his mother owned
two-thirds of some such place along the Amazon or somewhere down
there. But let them go. It's a tremendous big country and there isn't
the least danger that we'll ever butt into them, if we _should_ decide
to take a run down."

"Still," observed the taller lad, thoughtfully, "you never can
know. I've heard travelers say that sometimes the world seems to be very
small; when you meet your next door neighbor on the top of some Swiss
mountain. Puss may know nothing about your plans and this is perhaps
only a coincidence, as they say. Since he has had such poor luck


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