The Boy Scouts of the Air at Cape Peril/Chapter 3
Seagulls' Nest was the property of a group of city business men who used it as headquarters for the fall duck hunting and fishing season. Hence, it was readily leased by Hardy for the summer. Leaving out the kitchen ell, the lower floor formed dining-room, lounge, and library in one. Above stairs, one room was appropriated by Turner for developing his pictures and for his drawing work; another was Hardy's workshop; the other three were available for sleeping quarters.
The whole establishment was furnished in the most rough-and-ready camping style. A long table of unfinished wood, nine or ten substantial chairs, a desk, a hanging set of bookshelves, and an improvised cupboard constituted the fittings of the living room. Its walls were adorned with horse, dog, and fish pictures along with a varied assortment of trophies of the chase. In the bedrooms above, were cots and little more. All bathing facilities were abundantly supplied by the ocean.
"Hello, Mother Hubbard!" called out Hardy as the trio mounted the steps to the porch extending the length of the building's front. "Boys, there's my mascot, the only lady on deck, and I'd take my oath she's a witch."
He pointed to a one-eyed coal-black cat sitting near the door and blinking her remaining optic in a way that showed but languid interest in the visitors.
"And now, fellows," he added, as they entered the door, "here's our joint abode, so to speak. Make yourselves 'to hum,' as they say down East. You can bounce on the French furniture, shine up your knives on the damask tablecloth; prop your feet on the Italian mantelpiece, and do anything except monkey with Turner's junk upstairs. If you do that, you might as well get measured by the undertaker."
In a moment, Luke, the cook, a powerful, good-natured looking mulatto, came in to greet the newcomers. He was plainly delighted at the arrival of company to liven up the loneliness. After his enthusiastic welcome, he was directed by Hardy to fetch the eatables from the airplane and prepare his very best dinner with all possible speed.
Then appeared Turner, a tall, sandy-haired fellow of about twenty-five years, with a gaunt, solemn-looking face; "slow but sure" written in every line of his features.
"Hello, Turner!" cried out Hardy. "Here are two of our Seaboard Airline patrol, Legs Hatton and Jimmy Todd. Our old friend Miller will blow in on the motorcycle about two hours from now. Fellows, this is Sockless Turner, a Tarheel from
'Way down on the Pasquotank
Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to bank.'"
"And proud of it," asserted Turner as he gave the boys his most cordial pumphandle shake.
"Now, Turner, while we are waiting for Cat and dinner, take the fellows up and show 'em your movie apparatus and make 'em forget their stomachs. Cat's heard all that dope already."
Up the stairs went the three, the boys taking, en route, an inquisitive glance into their new dormitory. They followed the deliberate Turner into his workshop, littered with charts, maps, drawing material, aerial photo equipment, and many curious-looking objects, which the instructor began to explain in his drawling tone, warming up more and more as he proceeded with his subject.
Having been initiated into the mysteries of aerial photography, the lads were next enlightened concerning the magic of the movies—how to make an auto run backwards, how to create ghosts, how to make the same person appear in different costumes on the same film, how a man is made to seem to jump up a wall of twenty feet, how the dummy is substituted for the flesh-and-blood person in movie accidents such as falls from a fifteenth story, how scenery is worked in to give all the illusion of nature, and many other curious and entertaining facts, the recital of which held the two lads open mouthed and spellbound.
"Gosh! this fellow knows everything," was the thought both began to entertain.
And to confirm their opinion of his boundless knowledge, he wound up with a lesson in topography which entertained Legs immensely, but threw Jimmy into an embarrassed state of perplexity, till he was glad to be relieved by a wild whoop from the seashore announcing the arrival of Cat.
As the other two scouts bounded down the stairs, followed by Turner and joined by Hardy, the newcomer burst into the premises sounding like a whole menagerie of wild animals. The place was not new to him, so he took no time in inspection.
"Great Gee! I'm sore," he exclaimed, rubbing his person vigorously and giving a twist to his spacious mouth. "I sure ought to get a scout badge for—what do you call it—stick-to-it-iveness, darn if I oughtn't. That ride shook the wits out of me. Never again!" he added, holding up his hand with mock solemnity, and then changing his key, "Well, I swear, if here ain't Legs and Jimmy alive and kicking. How was it, fellows?"
And on the instant he insisted on having every detail of the air trip, interspersed with numerous comic and sarcastic comments by himself.
"Well, old scouts," he finally conceded, "I'll shake hands with the Seaboard Airline patrol. We have all three been up, which is an extra cinch on the aviation badge; we've all made models; we've got a good line on famous aviators and airships; and, as soon as Hardy gives us a little more dope on motors and ornithopters and those other opters, we'll be able to give points to the man who makes 'em, we will. And 1 can see that new badge right 'longside the other flock on my sleeve this minute."
Cat surveyed his comrades smilingly.
Hardy and Turner watched the lads' enthusiasm with happy smiles until what Hardy called the dinner "de Luke's" was announced. They all fell to with voracious appetites, even Cat finding himself able to sit down to it, despite his repeated conflicts with the motorcycle.
After the meal, a dip in the surf was voted by the boys as next in order, but the cautious Hardy directed that, although they might get into their trunks forthwith, on no condition were they to enter the water until their dinner was well on its way to digestion, and, besides, they were not to go in until he got there to superintend the job. These directions being acceded to, the lads shuffled off their scout outfits, slipped on their trunks, and made for the beach to kill the required interval.
"Look here, fellows, let's have a little field day while we're waiting to go in," suggested Cat. "Give us a back, Legs. Come on, Jimmy, frog it over the skyscraper."
Legs, with apparent docility, bent his back to accommodate the agile Jimmy; but when Cat attempted to keep the pot boiling, the bent back humped itself abruptly and shot the prospective leaper into a heap on the sand. The discomforted Cat bounded up, harnessed his finger into Legs's trunks and threatened to tear off that flimsy garment while he mauled the offender's head, until Jimmy interfered and diverted their minds to a broad jump.
He lined off taw on the moist sand, leaped a scant six feet as estimated by Cat's eye; then the measurer followed and heeled in at six and a half.
"Now, kangarooster, your turn," said Cat to Legs; "take your fling. You've got it sewed up already."
Legs bounded at least nine feet, landing on the seat of his trunks.
"What shall we do with Wooloomooloo?" asked the grinning Cat.
"Who?" demanded Jimmy.
"Didn't hear about him? He's the new immigrant kangaroo who came in with a Noah's Ark load of four thousand animals for the New York Zoo. He can hop fifty-two feet—pretty near as good as a trained flea. Legs is his first cousin."
"Tell you how to fix Legs," suggested Jimmy. "Load him up to the nozzle with buckshot, and then we could make him trail us the way the guy did in the Jumping Frog Mark Twain wrote about. Gee whizz! Never heard of that? You've got something to live for! When I read that tale, I came near splitting my four sides and rolling right off the chair. Here's the way it goes: The yap in the story had the jumpingest frog anywhere in the whole country, and he cleaned up a barrel of money betting on him till a funny geezer came along and allowed he could lick the prize croaker with any old frog the yap picked up for him. So, while the owner was off hunting another frog in the swamp, the slick guy grabbed up the performing frog and loaded him to the gills with buckshot. Well, 'fore long, here comes the fellow with the new frog, and when the stranger takes it and sets it side by side with the yap's and they give 'em both a shove, blamed if the new frog didn't jump about ten feet and the old prize one couldn't do a darned thing but just flop up and down like a limp jumping-jack."
"That's pretty rich," approved Cat, with a moderate grin. "Though it doesn't make me split my sides, but I guess that's because you're telling it."
Legs, standing off at some distance on the spot where he had landed, showed no signs of amusement.
"Laugh at the man's joke, Legs," exhorted Cat.
The rest of the wait was spent in a game of kitten ball, the details of which abbreviated form of baseball Cat had recently acquired, and much sport resulted from an effort to make three individuals do the work for a whole team.
Hardy finally appeared attired for his plunge and suggested going down to the culvert, for diving. This construction admitted the salt water of the ocean to Lake Herring to prevent the latter from becoming pestilential or furnishing a breeding place for mosquitoes. The ocean mouth of this spillway was formed of piles driven deep into the sea-bed and projecting some distance from the shore line. From the end of it, excellent diving into sufficiently deep water was offered.
With a whoop that started the echoes in the woods beyond the sandhills, the boys made a wild rush for the diving place. Fast and furious was the fun of the swimmers as they plunged one after the other into the briny waters, speeding up the ladder and repeating the performance to "keep the pot boiling." Once Cat followed too close on the gawky Legs, tripped him, and sent him sprawling into the water.
"Gee! that was a buster!" he shouted. "Don't be too rough on the poor ocean, Legs. You might bruise it. You must have taken swimming lessons in the correspondence school and lost most of 'em in the mail," yelled the persecutor as his victim came up sputtering and vowing direst vengeance. As Cat plunged in, a stingaree wrapped itself about his ankles and sent him yelping back up the ladder and Legs was more than avenged.
Hardy kept a close eye on the swimmers, taking an occasional header himself, until they all had their fill of fun and salt water and wended their way back to Seagulls' Nest.
Seven o'clock, the time set for Hardy's promised jamboree, finally arrived. A royal feast was the preliminary—spots and hogfish, ham and celery, vegetables to match, and the most savory plum pudding that a boy ever ate. Even after all this, the chinks had to be filled up with nuts and candy.
Stuffed but happy, the party started the rough-house. There was a jew's-harp performance by Turner, and a guitar offering by Hardy, with a breakdown chorus. Then, as soon as digestion permitted, Legs and Jimmy staged a boxing bout that threw the spectators into a roar. A mock jujutsu exhibition by Cat, with Legs as the victim, was next on the program, which ended with a minstrel show in which the whole establishment participated. Of this last, Luke was easily the star.
Finally, as the evening wore on to the end, Hardy moved that the show be concluded by drinking the health of Windjammer, more notable in its flights than any roc in the Arabian Nights, and by all singing a composition of his own, carbon copies of which were distributed.
"Which ale shall we drink it in," shouted Hardy, "Adam's or ginger!"
"Ginger!" roared the lads with one accord. The suggestion being thus noisily approved, the ginger-ale was produced and drained off with great gusto. Then Hardy, after a few introductory chords on his guitar, started to bellow out his verse to a rollicking tune, while he flourished one hand in the most approved orchestra-leader fashion:
"A jolly rover of the air,
A seasoned bird am I.
There's not a venture I'd not dare,
When sweeping through the sky.
I feel my blood
Surge to the flood,
As I mount up the sky.
"Now, boys," he paused to exhort, "all join in and put plenty of punch in your singing. Now:
"Up, up she wings; the motor sings;
I guide her at my pleasure.
High o'er the world Windjammer swings
To paths no soul can measure.
The sphere below
Shrinks as we go
To heights no gauge can measure.
"Next spasm," shouted the leader. "Rip it out!
"I maul the moon around the rink;
The stars I bowl and batter;
I put the sunball on the blink;
The sheeplike clouds I scatter.
It's bully fun
To see them run—
The curling clouds I shatter.
"I crumple up the hurricanes;
I flip the ticklish breezes;
I smash the hail to window-panes,
And roll the snow in cheeses.
I churn the air
Until the Bear
High in the heavens sneezes.
"Either Bear you choose, boys. Ursa Major or Ursa Minor. We'll go out and take a look at them presently. Now, all together!"
Down came every fist on the table till the glasses bounced and rattled an accompaniment to the last stanza:
Throb, throb, throbby, throbbity;
And purr, purr, purr-purr, purr, purr;
Bob, bob, bobby, bobbity;
Buzz, buzz, buzz;
Suzz, suzz, BUZZ;
Chob, chob, chobby, chobbity.
This rigmarole was rendered time and again, each time with more tremendous clatter than the time before. But even boy energy ebbs at last, and the tumult began to die away.
"It's all slightly exaggerated," said Hardy, "as Mark Twain declared when told of a report of his own death, but it expresses my feelings, and, I believe, the feelings of every flyer that ever trimmed a bird."
"You bet it does," agreed the chorus.
Then the conviviality moderated into a short discussion of the joys of flying.
During all this jollity several hours had hurried by, and when the cuckoo clock announced eleven, and Hardy expressed the conviction that it was time for hard-working lads to be abed, it was with the greatest difficulty that they managed to make a start. Finally, they got to the point of making a rush for their sleeping quarters, but, even then, the easy process of undressing was interrupted by frequent tussles and pillow fights before reaching the pajama stage.
"I am growing old, Mother," remarked Cat whimsically, donning the above-mentioned garment; "my pink pajamas are turning white. Tough the grudge all these laundries have against sporting colors."
Jimmy, meanwhile, was carefully slicking back his hair before retiring—a habit that he always indulged in, with the explanation that he didn't know whom he might meet in his sleep.
"Hullygully, ain't he cutie!" jeered Cat.
A few moments later, all three were stretched out on their cots, and, after a little more jabbering, silence fell.
"What are the wild waves saying, Legs?" abruptly broke forth Jimmy, who had been listening to the gentle wash of the surf on the shore.
"Saying, close your face and let me sleep," growled Legs, just feeling his first delicious drowsiness.
"Got me that time, didn't you?" Jimmy returned, and then he slowly composed:
"There is a young fellow named Legs
Who ... trots on a pair of slim pegs;
He can ... wiggle each ear ...
In a way ... that I fear ...
He's kin to—a—a—a—"
But while drowsily trying to search out a suitable rhyme, he, too, fell asleep.