小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Along the Mohawk Trail » CHAPTER XIII AN EXTRAORDINARY INVENTION
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
 (Patent not applied for)
They cut up through the woods where Gordon had picked his way to the Albany camp, for he wanted to show Harry the chasm and the path he had taken.
“Now, Kid,” said Harry, “you will be kind enough to keep your beautiful brown eyes straight ahead, or by the great eternal sphinx I’ll put a pair of blinders on you. No more pink arrows! Just look ahead and listen to me. We’ve got three things to do, and one of them is right in your line. First, we’ve got to strike Crown Point and find the elderly lady who lost this bag.”
“How do you know she’s elderly, Harry?”
“On account of the smelling salts. Then we’ve got to find the troop, and if all goes well I’m going to give Mr. E. C. Wade the surprise of his life. How would you like to be Ethan Allen?”
“What!” said Gordon, the idea suddenly dawning on him.
“Well, now,” Harry continued, “Ethan Allen was like you; he was the kind of a fellow who could find a way.”
“That’s like you, Harry.”
“Well, but he liked to talk and make fine speeches, too, so I think it’s up to you. Anyway, I’m going to put the idea up to Red Deer, if we can root him out, and see if we can’t plan an assault. We’ll reconnoiter the locality, send a couple of scouts in, then go over into Vermont, transport our men in dories right under Mr. Wade’s nose, gag his sentries (he’ll have some out, you can wager), and enter the fort, call upstairs and give him Allen’s speech about Jehovah and the Continental Congress. Exactly how we’ll take the fort is a thing I’ll have to think out and talk over with Red Deer. But so far, how does it strike you?”
Gordon was radiant. “It’s great, Harry! It’s simply fine! And I read in a book—the school history—that after it was all over Ethan Allen and Seth Warner made a trip to Philadelphia and received the thanks of Congress; and we’ll do that too, Harry, we—”
“I don’t just see how we could do that,” said Harry.
“Yes, we could, Harry; there’s a way. My uncle belongs to a club where there’s a man who knows a senator, and he—”
“Now just come down to earth,” said Harry. “Do you suppose Allen was figuring on the thanks of Congress before he did anything? You’re a nice kind of patriot!”
They had reached the chasm and explored it together. Harry found a strip of wood which had evidently held the three logs together when they spanned the gully, and found that it contained several nails exactly like the telltale one whose impressions he had followed. He even found another one lying in the mud.
“It’s seldom a man commits a crime,” he said, “without either taking or leaving something that he doesn’t mean to. Sometimes it isn’t large enough to convict him. Sometimes it’s so small that it escapes notice. But a hundred to one, he takes or leaves something. Come on, let’s get away from here. You did great work, Kid.”
That was the last that Harry ever said, voluntarily, about the sordid crime. He seemed disgusted at all mention of it and anxious to forget it.
Emerging on the road where Gordon had seen the pink arrow, they started north for their belated ascent of Dibble Mountain. Their purpose was to get an outlook from its summit and go down its northern slope into the little village of Crown Point. They had almost reached the point where the stream ran under the road in its journey to the lake, when they heard voices ahead, and presently came in sight of a country boy leaning over the railing of the bridge and talking to some one below.
“Never heerd o’ no sech feller outside a book. I seen a book onct with a guy by the name o’ Dan’l Boone onto it, but I never heerd tell o’ no sech a feller in these parts; there’s a Dan’l Berry over to Hammondville. How’s that?”
A voice answered from below, but Harry and Gordon could not hear what it said.
“Oh, why didn’t ye say so?” the country boy called down. “Kind o’ play-actin’ folks, was they?”
By this time the boys had reached the bridge. Underneath, rocking gently in the water, was the handsomest motor boat that Harry Arnold had ever seen. Its brass trimmings shone dazzling in the morning sunlight. Cushions of scarlet plush covered its seats, their vivid color thrown into relief by the color of the boat itself, which was as white as snow. Also as white as snow was the mustache of the gentleman who occupied it, and the eyes which met those of Gordon and Harry as they looked down were genial with just the suggestion of a humorous twinkle. He wore a linen suit, very much wrinkled, and very much wrinkled, also, was the kindly face, and rather scanty were the gray locks that showed under the little blue yatching cap which he wore. A young man in chauffeur’s attire sat near the engine with his hand on the steering-gear.
“Good morning,” said the gentleman. “How far can I get with this thing?”
“Not much farther, I’m afraid,” answered Harry. “How much does she draw?”
“Now, you’ve got me,” said the gentleman, laughing. “How much does she draw, Pat?”
Pat shook his head.
“She draws about twenty dollars a week in the summer,” said the gentleman, “and if she were mine, I’d discharge her.”
“What seems to be the trouble?” laughed Harry.
“The trouble,” responded the gentleman, merrily, “is between herself and my son—it’s not my quarrel. She is occasionally taken with carburitis, which is a complaint of the carbureter. To-day she’s doing very nicely, thank you. Do either of you boys know where the Boy Scouts have their camp—how far up this stream? I’m trying to get to them.”
“We just came from there,” Harry answered. “They’re about two miles up, but I’m afraid you’ll have to foot it. It’s pretty shallow and rocky from here on.”
The gentleman put on his glasses. “Oh, yes,” said he, “I might have noticed. Is that a blue shirt you’ve got on? The sun is right in my eyes—you tall fellow, I mean?”
“It’s supposed to be blue,” laughed Harry.
“He’s got a khaki one,” added Gordon, “but he never wears it.”
“You belong up there, I suppose?”
“No, sir, we’ve been making them a visit. We’re a couple of tramps just now.”
“Is that a leather wristlet you’ve got?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, just come—no, wait a minute—I’ll come up there.”
“Stay where you are, sir,” answered Harry. “We’ll come down.”
He led the way down as if he expected to be charged with a crime. He suspected what was coming.
“Come in here, my boy—you too. My name is Robert E. Danforth. I have a place across the lake. You saved my boy’s life yesterday—don’t attempt to deny it! You’re the very boy I’m looking for. Did you give your name as Buffalo Bill? You did—don’t deny it! Who are you, anyway? Why didn’t you come up to the house so that we could thank you? Do you realize what you did?”
Harry had hoped that he might hear nothing more of the incident, but there was nothing now for him to do but face the music.
Mr. Robert E. Danforth, according to gossip, had begun life with nine cents, and he now had nine million dollars. It was not likely that such a man would permit the modesty of a boy scout to stand in the way of his purpose. And his purpose now was to make suitable acknowledgment to the boy who had saved his little son’s life. In the winter Mr. Danforth worked very hard; in the summer he played very hard, and this was his play season.
He would hear of nothing but that the two boys should go back with him to Overlook, his magnificent estate on the Vermont shore. So the boat’s prow was turned downstream and the little craft went chugging out through the reedy basin and across the lake toward a beautiful boat-house surmounted by an octagonal cupola, in one of the open arches of which they could see a small figure. They were halfway across when suddenly a white object shot from the cupola and dropped into the water a few feet from the boat.
“Get it, Pat,” said Mr. Danforth, and the boat was steered over to the floating object, which Harry reached for and secured. It was a little aeroplane, crude enough in construction, having a plane about twenty inches long, on which dried glue, somewhat sticky now from the plunge, appeared in untidy masses. But as Harry lifted it, the propeller, which was nothing but one of those celluloid fans which shoot into the air when twisted from between the hands, began to revolve with a steady, even motion, continuing for fully half a minute. Mr. Danforth smiled as Harry examined it.
“He thinks he’s going to revolutionize juvenile aeronautics,” said the father.
“Well, I don’t know but what he will!” said Harry. “What is this, anyway?”
“It’s the alarm apparatus from a clock.”
The mechanism was bound with thread under the center of the plane. The brass frame which encased a set of clockwork had been filed into and broken off, so that nothing was left but a little corner of frame holding a small clock spring, one little cogwheel, and the catch and release teeth which create and govern the vibration of the upright striking bar. The little metal knob, or striker, on the top of the bar had been twisted off and, since its weight modified the striking action, its removal created an excess of power which was here taken up by the propeller. This latter was rather clumsily connected with the mechanism by a light, flat-linked brass chain which ran around the cogwheel. The trouble with the whole affair was its weight, which, though small, might easily have been reduced still further.
They had now reached the boat-house, where the man jumped out and hauled the craft in between two others, one a beautiful steam yacht. The other, about the size of an ordinary rowboat, was covered with canvas. The little boy whom Harry had rescued met them on the stairs, his eyes glistening with tears.
“It’s the twenty-third time it wouldn’t go,” he said.
“Never mind, my boy,” said his father, putting his arm affectionately over the little fellow’s shoulder. “Maybe it will go next time.”
“Twenty-three’s a hoodoo number, anyway,” added Harry. “Why do you send it over the water?”
“Because if it flies across the lake, I’ll win the cup. But it won’t—it never does.”
“Well, Pat will row out and get it for you every single time,” said his father, soothingly.
“It’ll get spoiled—it’s spoiled now—the ones you buy go.” He almost broke out crying, and Mr. Danforth looked as if the little fellow’s disappointment actually hurt him.
“I was all this week and two days of last week making it—and it’s spoiled.” He set his lips tight in a manly effort to control his distress.
Harry stepped forward, placing his arm over the boy’s shoulder as his father had done. “You remember me?” he said in his quiet way. “Well, now, you listen a minute. Never mind if your machine is spoiled, you’ve still got the idea and it’s a mighty good one, too. You can work it up again and make it still better.” He smiled encouragingly and patted the little fellow’s shoulder. The father was delighted.
“Hear that, Pen? This is the boy who got you out of the water yesterday—come to see how you are—maybe he can give you some ideas. Take him up to the aviation tower and show him things—show him the cup.” He winked at Harry. “I want you boys to stay here till to-morrow,” he called after them as Penfield led the way upstairs, “as a favor to me.”
“I’m afraid we’ll never find our friends unless we get about it,” Harry protested.
“Well, one day won’t make any difference. I want a chance to talk to you. Come up to the house when you’ve seen his den.”
Penfield led them into a little octagonal room, littered thick with shavings, pieces of silk, tangled masses of reed, and a fishing rod which had been laid under contribution for strips of bamboo. Magazine cuts of the various types of air craft, the Curtis, the Voisin, the Cody, and the Wright, were tacked on the wall.
“That’s the Voisin,” said Penfield, excitedly, as Harry stood before the picture. “It looks like the Wright, but it isn’t, it’s got more longitudinal stability on account of the enclosed ends and partitions. But it can’t coast like the Wright. I like monoplanes best, don’t you? That’s the Bleriot. You can flex the tips of the planes, that’s one thing about it I like. Pat likes the Antoinette model, but I don’t. The Curtis is my favorite,—only, of course, that’s a biplane. You can’t make a toy biplane fly, it needs too much control. But the Curtis is my favorite. It’s the lightest of all, but that isn’t why I like it. And it has the best finish, but that isn’t why I like it, either. It’s the control; you lift and decline the fore planes by shifting the steering wheel. And the balance is controlled by moving your body sideways. Isn’t that a dandy idea? But I like the Wright brothers—my, I’d like to see them!”
“Well, they began just like you,” said Harry.
There was one thing he noticed in particular as he picked up the broken and unfinished models that lay about. The most common, everyday objects had been used for some practical purpose. A circular typewriter eraser acted as wheel to a cog chain. Metal paper clips were used to hold joints. The circular, hollow bar of a gas jet held together and served as ferrule and fore-weight to the three dowel sticks forming a motor-base. The boy seemed to have his own way of doing everything, and everything he had done was ingenious.
On a rough bracket, six feet or so above the floor, stood a battered pewter stein.
“That the cup?” Harry asked.
“Yes, that’s it, but I can’t touch it—not till I’ve won it.”
“Who offered it?” Gordon asked.
“I did, but I make believe it was a club. I’m trying to win it—it’s a trophy. I can’t even touch it till my monoplane flies across the lake.”
Gordon would have laughed, but he encountered Harry’s look, and refrained.
“Well, now, let’s see,” Harry said, sitting down and taking the little model on his knees. “I think we’re just the fellows for you. You’ve heard of the Boy Scouts, I suppose. Well, we belong to the Scouts of Oakwood, New Jersey, and there’s an aero club in our troop—”
“Oh, my father’s building a house there,” cried the boy.
“Yes, we’re going to live there this Fall when it’s finished. We’re not going to live in the city any more.”
“Do you suppose he means the big house they’re putting up on the hill?” Harry asked of Gordon.
“Yes, it’s on the hill,” Penfield spoke up, “and I’m going to sleep outdoors.”
“Well, that’s news,” said Harry. “I wondered who was putting up that house.”
“Yes, and may I join your aero club—if I make one that goes?”
“You certainly may!” said Harry. “You can join the troop, and then if you are interested in aeroplanes you can join the little club six of the boys have formed. There’s going to be a big meet in Oakwood this Fall; any boy that lives in the county can enter his ’plane—provided he made it. I believe the Oakwood News is offering a cup, too, isn’t it, Gordon? I don’t know very much about aeros myself.”
“He does too,” said Gordon.
Penfield was delighted. Excitedly he explained his crude little model to Harry. And Harry saw that the novel motive power which he had used held vast possibilities. He wound up the spring and found that the power sustained the propeller in rapid motion for thirty-four seconds.
“Twelve seconds is the best ever done with elastic band torsion,” said Penfield. It was evident that he had been studying the subject.
“Well, then,” said Harry, in a brown study. “I don’t see why we should lose those twelve seconds. Let’s see, twelve and thirty-four make forty-six. Forty-six seconds in the air will beat any model airship ever made. Say that you lose six seconds for the transfer of power—there you have forty left.”
“What do you mean?” asked both boys.
“Why, see here. The way they run these things usually—those you buy as well as the home-made ones—is by a long, thin strand of elastic from the axis of the propeller to a stationary hook. Wind the propeller and it winds the elastic—there’s your power. Now, see this little jigger here?” He put his finger on the upright wire bar on which the striker of the alarm had been mounted. “This vibrates rapidly while the spring is unwinding. Now, suppose you bend the top of it into a hook, wind up your elastic, then wind up your spring. This striker bar will hold the wound spring stationary until the power of the elastic is exhausted. As soon as the elastic is run down, the spring goes to work. There are half a dozen ways to connect the spring movement with the propeller—the catch chain is one. You’ll have to work it out. I give you the tip—the name is also thrown in—it’s the celebrated Strikastic Multiple Motor, producing a sustained flight of about forty seconds. ‘Strike’ stands for striker; ‘astic’ for elastic.”
“Or you might call it the Clockubber Transfer Motive System—that brings in clock and rubber,” said Gordon. “Or better still, the Penalarm Torsubber Champastic Double Motor—there you’ve got everything in—Penfield, Alarm, Torsion, Rubber, Champlain, Elastic and—and—wait a minute—”
“No aeroplane could carry such a name as that,” said Harry, “it would keel right over. Now, old boy,” he said to Penfield, “if I were you, I’d take time and make this right, and I believe you’ll have a winner. Make your plane bigger—thirty inches anyway, and flex it. You take a wooden pie plate and see how much higher it goes than a flat disk.
“Flex it this way” (he showed with pencil and paper); “then if I were you I’d have the sticks of your motor-base, or backbone, as you might call it, just wide enough apart to wedge this clockwork business between; it’ll stand rigid and you’ll get rid of a lot of friction. You might take away the brass frame altogether and line the wooden casing with aluminum. You’ve got to have the spring farther aft than this so as to have a good long span of elastic. I don’t know what will happen up in the air when the power is transferred. Your propeller will probably slow down a second or two; you’ve got to experiment with that. Your difficulty is going to be in utilizing the power supplied by the spring by some light, simple mechanism. Cogwheels eat up a lot of energy—but there’s a way, as my old college chum here would say, and it’s up to you.”
The boy stood radiant as they rose to go.
“Did you think of using the alarm apparatus?” Harry asked him.
“Yes, but now I see what can be done with it—and—you’re a genius.”
“No, you’re the genius,” Harry answered; “you’d have worked it up this way sooner or later. You see, your plane was too small for your motor; then, again, this isn’t a first-rate propeller, it hasn’t enough slant.”
“I know how to make one,” Penfield broke in. “You cut strips of cigar-box wood, glue them on top of each other, put a nail in the middle, then before they begin to dry, twist them a little, as you do with a pack of cards. When the pile dries, whittle off the uneven edges, and you’ve got a dandy propeller. It’s easier than trying to make one out of one piece.”
“How’d you learn that?” Harry asked.
“Oh, I thought of it when I saw some one twist a pack of cards.”
They went up a gravel walk which wound through the green lawn, and found Mr. and Mrs. Danforth on the porch. Penfield disappeared and Mrs. Danforth greeted the boys, thanking Harry profusely for his service to her son. They found it was true that Mr. Danforth was building a house in Oakwood and that the family were to go there early in the Fall.
“We have done everything we could for Penfield,” said Mrs. Danforth. “We bought this place so that he might have the mountain air, and we are leaving New York for the same reason. Yet we can’t get him to go outdoors and play with other boys. He would much rather sit in the house and read. Last year the boys in Ticonderoga had a baseball eleven, the small boys, and asked him to play quarterstop—”
“Shortstop,” corrected her husband.
“But we couldn’t get him to, he simply wouldn’t. And it was the same with football. He would not go on the frying pan.”
“Gridiron,” said Mr. Danforth.
“Diamond,” said Mrs. Danforth.
“No, ‘diamond’ is in baseball.”
“Well, then, where was it they wanted him to play quarterdeck?”
“Quarterdeck is on a ship; Roger said something about quarterback, but Pen couldn’t play quarter.”
“Why don’t you have him join the scouts?” asked Gordon.
“I wish you boys would take him in hand this Fall,” said Mr. Danforth.
“He spends all his time indoors making aeroplanes and reading about them.”
“Well, that’s a good thing,” said Harry. “But he ought to get outdoors, of course. I’ve been telling him about an aviation contest they’re getting up in Oakwood, and he thinks he’d like to enter. Suppose we get him to join the scouts after we all get home, and then—”
“Do they shoot off guns?” asked Mrs. Danforth, looking fearfully at Harry’s rifle.
“Sometimes, but not the younger ones. It would be a great thing for your boy.”
The answer surprised him. “I think it would be splendid.”
An hour later, as Mr. Danforth was showing the boys over the place, he stopped abruptly.
“You’ll stay over night with us?” Harry thanked him but said it was impossible. He knew the house was full of guests; the tennis courts were crowded with young people, among whom he could distinctly see the valiant hero of the day before bobbing about, and he thought of his own and Gordon’s very limited wardrobe. Then, too, they were anxious to lose no more time.
“Well, then,” said Mr. Danforth, “I won’t urge you, but you know you’re welcome. Now I want to make some little acknowledgment for what you did yesterday—something in the way of a trophy, as you might say.” He had evidently sized Harry up with his wonted business shrewdness, and he avoided the word “reward.” His tact did him small good, however.
“I don’t think you could make any better acknowledgment than you have done,” said Harry, feeling a trifle uncomfortable, as he always did when any one praised him. He spoke in his customary careless tone, but his nervous little smile seemed to say that he would like to have done with all this. This uneasiness of the boy who was always so much the master of himself was amusing.
“Of course, it would be absurd,” Mr. Danforth continued, “to ask you if you are fond of the water.” Gordon’s eyes opened wide and he listened with rapt attention. “The boat we came across in was recently brought up from New York. But before that my elder son, who is away at present, ordered one which we tried, but found too small for our parties. In fact, it’s nothing but a little motor-dory. It’s down by the boat-house now, and I want you to tumble your freight into it and take it along just to remember us by—or leave it here till you come back if you’d rather.” There was an awkward pause. Gordon stood in terrible suspense.
“I couldn’t do that, Mr. Danforth,” said Harry. “I don’t know how to thank you, and if you knew how fond of the water I am, you’d see how the idea of a present of that kind nearly turns my head. You’ve—you’ve hit me in the weakest spot,” he said, kicking the gravel walk and smiling ruefully, “but I can’t take it—I—I—just can’t.”
“Why can’t you?”
“Because it’s one of our rules to accept nothing for service to a stranger. We have our own awards, honors, and of course we can try for those. That’s different. Saving life isn’t always hard, anyway; the little fellow isn’t heavy, and, well, I guess obeying rules is sometimes harder. Maybe that’s the good thing about rules.” His foot still kicked the gravel, nervously.
“Now, look here, my boy, you listen to me. That’s all nonsense, and what’s more, I don’t believe you understand the rule.”
“Yes, I do, Mr. Danforth, it’s part of the law.”
“Well, see how lawyers differ about the law,” he went on cheerfully, “and besides, you can’t have a law that isn’t constitutional—you must know that. Now here’s a rule which infringes on personal liberty, which forbids me to dispose of a boat that I don’t want. That isn’t fair, now, is it?”
“That’s right, Harry,” broke in Gordon, “we have no right to interfere with personal liberty—no one would say that was right. We’d have no right to even if we wanted to, Harry.”
Harry laughed in spite of himself.
“Last year,” Mr. Danforth went on, “I gave a thousand dollars to the library out in the little Western town where I was born. They didn’t refuse it. This year I gave five thousand dollars to help start a hospital. They took it all right.”
“Well,” said Harry, “if you wanted to do something for the Scout organization, I couldn’t stop you, but—”
Mr. Danforth seemed about to speak, then suddenly changed his mind, studying Harry closely. The boy was not aware of the scrutiny, for his eyes were on the ground. Neither did he know that he had put an idea into this kindly gentleman’s shrewd mind.
“What, for instance?” Mr. Danforth asked.
“Oh, I don’t know; I didn’t just mean to say that.”
“Is there any reward, or honor, as you call it, for doing a service to the Boy Scouts?”
“There is, yes, sir. But I think it’s only given in very rare cases. There was one boy up in Maine who stopped a forest fire which threatened a big summer pavilion that the organization owned. I think they made him the award, but that’s the only case I’ve heard of. I think the rule says, ‘rare and exceptional service,’ or something like that. My friend here knows the regulations better than I do. I think that’s the only case.”
“What is it called?”
“The gold cross,” said Harry.
“Where is the headquarters of the organization?”
“It’s in New York, sir,” said Gordon.
“I see.”
Penfield joined them, and they wandered down to the shore. “Let me show you the boat, anyway,” Mr. Danforth urged.
“I’d rather not, sir,” said Harry, hesitatingly. “I—well, I’d just rather not.” Instinctively he held out his hand, and Mr. Danforth shook it cordially.
“There’s no use asking you to think it over?”
“No, sir, but I don’t know how to thank you—I wish I did. You’ll let Penfield join us in the Fall, won’t you?”
“Of course, I want him to.”
“He’s going to walk away with the prize cup,” Harry added.
“Yes, and he’ll accept it, too,” was Mr. Danforth’s final shot, as the two scouts got into the boat in which Pat was to take them across the lake.
“Good-by, Pen,” said Harry, shaking hands with the little fellow. “You work up that idea now, and make your planes large enough, and don’t forget to flex them the way I showed you—get some strips of whalebone. We’ll be home when you get to Oakwood, and we’ll sail in and win that trophy so easily it’ll be a shame to take it.”
“He’s a mighty nice little fellow, and clever too,” Harry said, as they crossed the lake. Gordon disdained to reply. Neither did he speak as they left the boat and started across the quarter-mile stretch of flat country toward Dibble Mountain.
“Where are we going, anyway?” he finally demanded sullenly.
“Up Dibble Mountain to spy round the country—where’d you think?” was Harry’s cheery answer.
“How’d I know?”
“Why, that was the idea, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t care where we go.”
“What’s the matter, Kid?”
“Nothing the matter with me. Goodness, I can speak, can’t I!”
“Well, what are you grouching about, then?”
“Who’s grouching?”
“You are; don’t you want to hunt up the troop?”
“Oh, certainly, if you care to.”
“We’d be a couple of gumps to go back home now.”
“Well, there’s more than one way of being a gump.”
“Refusing a boat, for instance? What do I want of a boat? I’ve got you along, Kid, and that’s all I care about. I’d rather have you than twenty boats. Come now, brace up, old man.”
“You didn’t have sense enough to be convinced by reason. That was a fine argument about the public library and the hospital.”
“I know it, Kid. I don’t claim to have much sense—you’ll just have to put up with me.”
“You won’t gain anything, either,” Gordon continued spitefully. “My father knows him; he belongs to a trust and he’ll manage to get around the law all right.”
“He’s a pretty shrewd business man, I should say,” Harry commented.
“You bet he is, and he’ll think up a way.”
“He’s like you, Kid, eh?”


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533