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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Along the Mohawk Trail » CHAPTER XXI MAKING THE GLIDER
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 “Now, you see, Harry, if I hadn’t stopped to do that good turn for Miss Leslie, and missed the train, you wouldn’t have had a ride in an aeroplane,” said Gordon, as he hitched up his stocking and settled himself comfortably in the boat for the voyage to camp. “And you fellows would have lost the boat-race, too.”
“We don’t appreciate what a blessing G. Lord really is,” said John Walden, Hawk.
“And he wouldn’t have met Miss Crosby, either,” continued Gordon.
“He ought to be very thankful to you,” said Tom Langford, Beaver.
“That’s the great thing about having a good-turn specialist always right on hand,” said Vinton, the Hawks’ corporal. “When things are kind of slow, he just up and does a good turn, and presto! there’s something doing for everybody! Why wouldn’t it be a good idea, Red Deer, to have a ‘good turn’ badge? We have the marksman’s badge, and the trackers’ badge, and so on.”
“We might suggest that to headquarters,” smiled Dr. Brent.
“Well, anyway, Red Deer,” said Gordon, “here’s a sticker for you. Suppose you have your choice of doing a good turn or being prepared, now which should you do?”
Red Deer pondered a moment. “Well, you see, Gordon, if you do a good turn, that includes being prepared; you are prepared—to do the good turn. See? But if you just keep your mind on being prepared, and don’t think about good turns, why, then, the good turn often gets left. Technically, doing a good turn necessitates being prepared. You see, when a scout is a good-turn specialist, as you are, that really carries everything else with it. Of course, it is a nice question that you propound, and scouts might differ about it. Lawyers can never agree as to the law, you know—”
“That’s just what Mr. Danforth said,” interrupted Gordon.
“But if I were you,” continued Dr. Brent, smiling whimsically, “I should go right on and carry out your regular policy—good turns first—then trust to luck.”
“And the best turn you ever did,” said Brick Parks, “was to come up and find us, Kid. The camp wasn’t complete without you.”
“Well, anyway,” said Gordon, “we’re all lopsided.”
“What’s that?” said Dr. Brent, puzzled.
Gordon hitched up his stocking, and launched forth with a complete account of his great discovery, with the result that Dr. Brent, who was steering, had to give the wheel to George Conway, until he was sufficiently recovered to take it in charge again.
Half of the troop had gone on afoot, and by taking a short cut across country reached camp first. The boat made its way to a point about two miles north of the village, then up a stream for half a mile, and there in a grove of silver birches was the Oakwood Scouts camp.
“Well, here’s the needle in the haystack, Gordon,” laughed Dr. Brent, stepping out.
“By the way, Kiddo,” said Harry, as they joined the group ashore, “you were telling me of a way to find a needle in a haystack, the night before we started; you fix a magnet to the end of a long stick—”
“And then poke the stick in here and there,” continued Gordon, “and pretty soon you’ll find the needle sticking to the magnet; but of course there are other ways, and I thought if we didn’t find the troop one way we’d find them another. One way is, you—you—sit around on the haystack and—well—you just—pretty soon, you know, you’ve found the needle.”
“And that’s the way you found the troop,” laughed the doctor.
“Yes,” said Gordon.
“Have an apple, Kid?” said Morrel, pointing to a basket.
“Sure!” said Gordon.
The camp-fire burned late that night, for Gordon Lord recounted their adventures. It was an unabridged version and held the boys spellbound till midnight. It was in vain that Harry tried to modify this or that detail which reflected credit on himself, and it was in vain that Red Deer looked ruefully at his watch when one or other of the party added fuel to the already imposing blaze. Being a wise scoutmaster, he saw that Gordon’s enthusiasm, like the measles, must run its little course, and the sooner it was over the better.
“Now,” said Gordon, finally, “it’s time to discuss our attack on Fort Ticonderoga and—”
But here Red Deer put his foot down, and the discussion was put over until the next day.
That night Gordon and Harry slept in their own tent, with their own patrol, under the Beavers’ banner. And they slept hard. But Dr. Brent, alone in his little tepee, broke the rules unseen, and sat up until the wee hours of the morning. The week they had spent in camp had not been an idle one, and he had in a good-sized wallet various papers and memoranda which would mean promotion and awards upon their return to Oakwood.
For one thing, Brick Parks, in spite of his red head, had succeeded in getting near enough to a variety of birds and woods creatures to shoot them with his camera, which is the only way a scout shoots except in case of need. He needed only to develop his films and make prints, and the stalker’s badge would be his.
Then there was Howard Brent, the doctor’s nephew, who had at last, after a terrific struggle, mastered the Morse code, and would, so the camp gossip said, cease to be a tenderfoot before the summer was over.
Matthew Reed would glory in the marksmanship badge, if he kept up his crack target work, and Dan Swift and Johnnie Walden would wear the first-class badge before another camping season.
To these memoranda Dr. Brent added the letter from Mr. Wade, which recommended Gordon for the medal given for saving or helping to save life, and Harry for the signaler’s badge. On the back of this letter he made a memorandum of his own, about the saving of little Penfield Danforth’s life. Then he wrote a letter to Mr. Lord, and turned in for the night.
The idea of attacking old Ticonderoga, and winding up with a great laugh on the genial, but skeptical, Mr. Wade, took the Oakwood boys by storm, to say nothing of Red Deer, who was having the time of his life among them. He was a man of about thirty-five, was Red Deer, whose great recreation was getting among the boys, and he had organized the Oakwood troop quite as much for his own pleasure as for theirs. None of the boys could beat Red Deer when it came to roughing it He could take off his neat gold spectacles, fold them up, lay aside, his spotless white duck coat, and show you some fencing that was beautiful to see. Whenever he methodically and carefully removed those precious gold specs, and said, “Hold these a minute, Ben,” or “Harry,” as the case might be, the boys knew there was going to be “something doing.”
Whenever Gordon was about to undertake one of his unusual feats, it was his mischievous habit to put his two hands up to his ears, making the funny little twirl as if to remove a pair of spectacles, and by this sign the boys knew that something remarkable was about to take place. The doctor, who saw everything, had seen this, and it amused him greatly.
Whenever Dr. Brent’s trim little runabout stopped before a residence in Oakwood, you might be sure of seeing a boy or two sitting comfortably beside him, for one or several of them were always about him; and the little Red Cross on the front of his white automobile might appropriately have had placed beside it the full badge of the scouts. What is more, Red Deer had the Master-at-Arms badge, for he was not going to be handing out honors and earn none for himself, and his wrestling and jiu jitsu were the envy of his two patrols. In baseball, he played a very heady game at “first,” and his skyscrapers were famous.
For Harry Arnold, Dr. Brent had an unbounded esteem, and since it was one of his pet theories that laughter was a great medicine, he took frequent doses of it at the hands of Gordon Lord. In short, Red Deer was a true sport, and the proposition to go up the lake about the middle of August to repeat the historic assault on the old fort touched him in a susceptible spot. “We’ll do that,” said he, rubbing his glasses with a spotless handkerchief. “Harry, you’ll be Ethan Allen. Don’t argue now—I appoint you—I’ll make other appointments later.”
But there was a full month before this plan could be carried through, and judging from all appearances there was much to occupy the time. For one thing, Gordon was going to pull himself up to the first-class rank this summer, which means that his activities are worth watching.
Harry was full of aviation. His meeting with Penfield had kindled an already existing spark, and his flight with Mr. Goodwin had fanned it to a flame. Now here, to cap the climax, were Howard Brent, Matthew Reed, and Ben McConnell, or Mac, of the Hawks, and Tom Langford of his own patrol, with a good store of pliable, selected willow which they had gathered for the manufacture of their models to be entered in the Oakwood contest that Fall. But not a word did Harry say to them of the wonderful combination motor which Penfield was going to spring on the multitude, for he was not going to lessen the boy’s glory a particle. Meanwhile, the others worked away on their models, introducing rudders and so forth, of any shape and size, to suit their fancies.
One day, about a week after his arrival, Harry came in from one of his rambles (for he was fond of going off alone at times), and squatted on a rock under the cooking lean-to, where several of the boys were binding their frames with coarse linen thread.
“What’s the matter, old chap—blues?” asked Mac, with an end of thread in his mouth.
Harry laughed, for, oddly, it was a question often asked him.
“Where’s G. Lord, Esquire?” asked Matthew Reed.
“Don’t know,” said Harry. “He’s after his first-class badge these days. How’s that old balloon silk shelter you had last year, Howard?”
“Why, it hasn’t written me lately. It was a little under the weather when we camped last season.”
“That a joke, Howard?” said Mac.
“Well, you remember it rained, and the shel—”
“Kill him, if he tries to explain it,” piped up Tom Langford.
“Why, what’s up?” asked Howard.
“I was thinking we might make a glider,” Harry answered. “Red Deer’s talking of having us throw a bridge up, Baden-Powell fashion—over that chasm. A glider would be more sport, and help us over, too.”
“You’ve surely got the aeroplane bee in your bonnet, Harry,” said Mac.
“Well, how about it?” said Harry.
“Looks good to me,” said Langford. “Where would we get the stuff?”
“Now you’re talking,” said Harry. “Has this aero club any financial backing?”
“If you mean, is this aero club able to launch a glider—”
“That meant for another joke?” asked Mac, picking up a stone.
“The answer is, Yes, several of them. The question is, we have one Beaver in the club already; could we stand for another?”
“Of course, it would be an advertisement to have Harry Arnold a member.”
“Let up on that,” said Harry. “Do you want to build one, or don’t you?”
“Surely we do,” said Mac, becoming serious.
“Well, then,” said Harry, “we’ll need four sticks,—spruce sticks would be best,—twenty feet long, and we’ll need Howard’s old piece of balloon-silk, if we’re going to go up against the wind—”
“The first thing is to go up against the doctor,” said Matthew.
So Red Deer was taken into their councils. The upshot of it was that Howard Brent, Matthew Reed, Mac, Tom Langford, and Harry spent the rest of the morning with Dr. Brent making and criticising little diagrams on one of the doctor’s prescription pads.
“I think,” said Red Deer, at length, “that that is about all you’ll need; the cross-ribs that are left over we can use for splints, in case of broken arms and legs—they’ll come in very handy.”
The five boys went into Port Henry in the boat that afternoon in search of a sawmill or lumberyard.
“When G. Lord hears of this taking place in his absence, he’ll explode,” said Tom, as they chugged up the lake.
Their first business was to send a telegram for Howard Brent’s old balloon-silk shelter, which would, with piecing, amply cover the two planes.
“What would you say if I sent for my old wheel?” asked Mac. The suggestion was received with acclaim, for an old bicycle is a perfect treasure house of fittings, wire bars, and various odds and ends useful to the ingenious amateur mechanic. So Mac, with much adding and eliminating and changing of words, finally succeeded in concocting a satisfactory message to his father.
“Better underline the word ‘old,’ Mac,” said Harry, quietly, “or he may send your new one.”
McConnell dutifully obeyed, while the operator grinned. Then, realizing what he had done, Mac proceeded to administer suitable chastisement on Harry.
“Do you think your father can make out your handwriting?” Tom asked innocently, as they went out; “that was a pretty hasty scrawl.”
Mac could hear the operator snicker. “I’ll put a hasty scrawl on your face, Tommy,” he said.
At the mill they bought and had trimmed four spruce sticks about twenty feet long and an inch square. These were considerably thinner than the corresponding timbers of Goodwin’s machine, but they were the best that could be procured.
“And they’re six feet longer than you said, Harry,” said Howard Brent.
“Well, never mind that,” Harry answered.
“Might as well have them cut down to the length we want.”
“No,” said Harry, “leave them this size.”
“Twenty feet is long enough for any glider,” said Langford, eyeing him shrewdly. “I know what you’re up to. You expect to put a motor in her.”
“We’ll see how she goes first,” said Harry.
Besides the four long strips, they managed to root out, with the help of the mill foreman, a couple of dozen strips four feet long and three-quarters of an inch in thickness. Some of these would be used for the horizontal struts, or cross-bars, and some for the upright stanchions. None were according to the regular specifications for a glider, but they were not so far out of the way as to destroy the chance of success and safety; and, as the boys agreed, they “ought to take what they could get and be thankful.” For one thing, the uprights should have been round and highly polished to lessen their resistance to the air, but the boys had to be satisfied with having the edges smoothed off with a few runs of a hand plane.
Up to this point in their negotiations, the mill foreman had exercised his resources to satisfy their peculiar wants, though his manner was not encouraging. But when Mac asked for about forty or so strips, four feet long and thin enough to steam and curve, he could contain himself no longer.
“Ye ain’t buildin’ a hen-coop, then?” he asked.
“No, not a hen-coop,” said Harry.
“Huh. Thought ye was. Well, ye can’t use them long strips for a boat.”
“You have one more guess,” said Harry.
“How’s that?”
“We’re building an airship,” said Harry; “that is, a glider—for gliding.”
The man stared at them, amazed.
“Well, you’ll all break your necks,” said he.
But he condescended to tell them that Marty Forbes might have what they wanted down at his boat-yard. So they sought out Marty, who, on hearing their wishes, was still more discouraging. He had prophesied, he said, that half the boys would go crazy after seeing Goodwin fly, and he guessed he was about right. But he was willing to be a party to their rashness to the extent of selling them some thin strips, which he agreed to steam and curve according to Harry’s directions. So Harry cut a piece of stiff wire to the proper length and bent it as a pattern. “There, that’s a parabolic curve,” he said.
“Paregoric?” said Marty.
“No, parabolic.”
Since the matter is important, and since every boy is interested in aeronautics, you may as well know, once for all, that this is the curve which does the trick:
So don’t waste your time stretching barrel hoops, but cut a wooden pattern, bend your sticks over it, tie them down, then steam them thoroughly.
If the boys had been in the city, they could easily have bought the necessary fittings and bearings; but the hardware resources of Port Henry were limited to one side of the grocery and a rival establishment at the blacksmith’s. They managed to secure, however, a large box half full of little wrought-iron right-angle braces with screw-holes, a good stock of nails, screws, glue, sandpaper, spar varnish, and several rolls of heavy wire.
As for tools, a small chest of handy utensils, pliers, hammer, file, and so forth, had been brought from the city (Red Deer’s surgical outfit, the boys called it), and to this stock they added an extra hammer and a saw.
It was a merry company that started down the lake with this cargo of lumber and other necessities, the result of a half-day’s shopping. Another trip would be made several days later for the bicycle and balloon-silk shelter, when the ribs would also be ready, according to Marty.
“There’s one thing I don’t understand about aeroplanes,” said Matthew Reed, who was at the tiller.
“Only one thing?” asked Tom.
“Well, I don’t mean exactly that.”
“No, we understand,” said Mac. “There might be two or three things.”
“Oh, let up on that,” said Matthew, annoyed. “The Wrights say that every feature of the aeroplane is taken from nature. I suppose they mean from birds. Now, Brick Parks has got snapshots of a couple of dozen birds; he’s after the stalker’s badge, you know, and not a single one of them has a screw propeller.”
“Slap him on the wrist for that, will you, Howard!” called Harry, who was tending the engine.
“Well, you can laugh, but that’s true. Show me a screw propeller in nature, and I’ll—”
“If you’ll promise to be good, I’ll tell you where you can find one,” said Harry. “Did you ever notice the seed pod of an ash tree? Well, you just look at one the next time you get a chance, and watch how it comes to the ground. It’s a little propeller, all right, and it lets the seed down to the ground as easily as Goodwin landed. You just watch how it revolves.”
“That’s the kind of thing he finds out when he goes off in the woods by himself,” said Mac. “Harry, you’ve got us all backed right off the boards. No wonder Miss—”
“When are we going to start building this thing?” Harry asked hastily.
“Right off—why not?”
“Suits me.”
They were all so interested in the proposed glider and in getting the stuff from the boat that Harry did not at first notice Gordon among several boys who came down to the shore.
“Looks like business, hey?” called one.
“Bet your life!” said Harry. “How much do you think the whole business cost us?”
“How much?”
“Seven dollars, all told.”
“Cheap enough.”
“Here, take this box, will you, Ray?” called Matthew, handing out the hardware.
“Haul those sticks out, Raymond,” Harry said. Then, suddenly espying Gordon, “Hello, Kiddo,” he called cheerily. “Here, grab this bundle, and make yourself useful.”
To his astonishment, Gordon turned on his heel and went up the path to the tents. Harry watched him, surprised. The others were too busy to notice. They carried their material to a part of the grove where the trees were sparse, but close enough to afford some shelter. Here they smoothed off a strip of already flat ground and partially sheltered it with Harry’s tenting. Then they sat about, discussing the best way of going to work in the morning. One by one, other members of the troop wandered over, squatted here and there, and contributed suggestions and advice, till Charlie Greer, who was cooking that week, called them in with the welcome sound of his tin horn.
It was the boys’ custom (originating with themselves) to stand at their places till Red Deer took his rustic seat. He sat at the head of the long, narrow board, one patrol occupying each side, the patrol leaders at his right and left hand. The soft evening breeze caught the fresh scent of the woods and wafted it among the merry, hungry campers. The stream which tumbled in a little cascade over rocks a short distance farther up its course, was their accompaniment.
After the early supper, and just before sunset, they gathered about the flagpole and sang the song of the beautiful emblem that fluttered above them. Then Red Deer asked if any one had in mind anything which he had done or said that day which he would like to undo or unsay. It was his custom to ask this. One or two had, but the matters need not be told here. Red Deer never thought of them or mentioned them again, so why should I spread them broadcast? After that, the flag was lowered.
Before camp-fire, Gordon went off to a large rock on the top of a neighboring hill, to get a photo printing-frame which he had left there for exposure. It was a peculiar hill. It looked as if some giant might have sliced an ordinary hill in half, at its very summit, leaving one long slope, terminating at a sheer precipice. On the brink of the precipice stood this solitary, sun-bleached rock and one lonely tree. Below was an expanse of thinly wooded marshy land, enclosing a pond. And out of this pond, through reeds and dank undergrowth, a green, scummy stream wound its sluggish way into Lake Champlain. To look down from the precipice, one might almost imagine that he was gazing upon a tropical landscape.
On the rock where Gordon was accustomed to leave his printing frame were graven the initials “G. L.,” for he seldom identified himself with any place without carving his initials somewhere about; and so completely had he taken possession of this sun-scorched hill that the troop had dubbed it “Kid’s Perch.”
Harry saw him plodding up the hill, and went after him.
“Hello, old man,” he said, as he came up to the rock.
“Hello,” said Gordon, coldly.
Harry stood for a moment, half-puzzled, half-amused. Then he stepped up, slapping him on the shoulder in his familiar way. Gordon turned resentfully.
“What’s the matter, Kid?” Harry asked, his voice serious and full of feeling.
“I’m not bothering you, am I?” said Gordon.
“No, Kid, but what’s the matter? Can’t you tell me?”
“The matter is I don’t want to be followed—now are you satisfied?”
“No, Kid, I’m not. I want to know what’s the matter, old boy. I can’t go down to camp-fire with things this way—you can’t, either.”
“Oh, yes, I can. Besides, I guess you can get along all right. You seem to have plenty of other fellows.”
“Kid, old boy,” said Harry, beginning to see where the trouble lay, “don’t talk like that. You know, as sure as you’re standing there, that I—Why, old man, you don’t forget that week we spent together, do you?”
“You didn’t have any one else, then. Everybody knows it’s easy to play me for a good thing.” He turned to his printing-frame.
Harry watched him.
“Did it print all right, old man?” he asked, almost humbly.
Gordon, ignoring the question, started down the hill, but Harry caught up with him. “Wait a minute, Kid,” said he. “I don’t want Red Deer to know about this. Wait, just a minute, please. You know, we can’t always stick together, here in camp. Naturally, I’m interested in some things and you’re interested in others—photographing, for instance. And I’ve got the aeroplane craze now. I’ll get over it, you know, just as you got over the mumps. Would you have gone to the village with us, if we’d waited? They all say I’ll break my neck yet. Won’t you help us make the glider, Kid? Come ahead.”
“That all you’ve got to say?” said Gordon.
“No, I want you to say that things are all right. I know we haven’t seen much of each other this week, but you know how it is, Kid. I was thinking, coming up the hill,” he added, in a pathetic attempt to arouse the younger boy’s interest, “that your suction-pad—you know, the one you invented—would be great if there were a ledge on that precipice—”
“Oh, give us a rest,” said Gordon. “There’s Langford and Reed waiting for you, down there.”
“Kid,” said Harry, putting his hand on Gordon’s shoulder, “do you remember—”
“Take your hand off me,” cried Gordon, turning.
“You don’t mean that, Kid.”
“It’ll be time enough to crawl,” said Gordon, “when I ask you to.”
“I don’t want to crawl, old man,—or we’ll call it crawling, if you like,—I don’t care. I just want to be friends. Come on, old Black Ranger.”
But Gordon had started down the hill, and Harry stood still, watching him.
The next was a busy day for the aero club, working on the glider. When the troop assembled under the flag at sunset—the several parties of stalkers, trackers, fishers, home from their chosen haunts—and Red Deer asked the usual question, if any had done or said a thing that he would like to undo or unsay, Harry looked wistfully, almost imploringly, toward a certain round head, with a scout hat perched upon the back of it. But the owner of the round head neither spoke nor stirred.


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