Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 5
A FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION
On the following Monday Snap and Shep were walking down the main street of Fairview when they heard a cry and saw Giant beckoning to them from the post-office steps.
"What's up?" asked Snap, as he came up to the small youth.
"Ham Spink and Carl Dudder just went in to mail some letters," said Giant.
"What of that?"
"Whopper went in after them. Whopper and I are now sure it was Ham and Carl who tried to steal our clothing the day we went swimming."
"How do you know that?" asked the doctor's son.
"By the way they are dressed. They have the same yellow-brown suits on they wore that day."
Giant had scarcely spoken when Whopper came out. His face showed that he was angry.
"I told you they did it," he said to Giant. Then, seeing the others, he explained:
"I accused them of it and they admitted taking the clothes—they said it was nothing but a little joke and they laughed at me. Then when I said they could pay for the missing things they told me to clear out or they'd have me locked up for trespassing on Mr. Spink's land!"
"That's like Ham," answered Snap.
"I wish we could pay them off good," went on Whopper.
Just then Ham Spink and Carl Dudder came out of the post-office. Snap and the others were standing behind some boxes of goods and the dude and his chum did not at once see them.
"We'll have a celebration with those fireworks when they come," Ham was saying. "We'll show Fairview a great sight."
"That's right," returned Carl Dudder. "We'll put them in my father's barn until we want to use them."
Then both boys caught sight of Snap and the others and broke off their talk. They wanted to brush past without speaking, but Snap and Shep blocked the way.
"We want to talk to you," said Snap.
"We have nothing to say," cried Ham, haughtily. "Get out of my way!" And he tried to brush past again.
"Ham Spink, I want to say just one thing," answered Snap. "I think you are as mean as you ever were, and I, for one, am going to pay you back for what you did the day we went swimming."
"Oh, give us a rest!" muttered the dudish youth, and went on, and Carl Dudder followed, sticking his tongue in his cheek as he passed.
"Say, shall we pitch into them?" whispered Whopper. "We can knock them into the middle of next month!"
"No—wait—I've just thought of something," interposed Snap. "Let them go and come with me."
He led the way to a safe distance and then turned to Whopper.
"Did you hear them speak of some fireworks?"
"Did they say anything about the fireworks in the post-office?"
"Why, yes. But what has that got to do with—"
"What did they say. Whopper?"
"Why, it seems Ham and Carl and some other fellows—the same crowd that has been against us for so long—have chipped in and ordered some fireworks from the city. They are going to set the fireworks off in front of the Dudder house on Fourth of July night. The Spink family and some others are to be there. Ham and Carl are boasting what a fine celebration it is to be."
"Then I know what I'm going to do," said Snap.
"What?" came from all of the others.
"They took our clothing—why can't we take the fireworks?"
"Whoop! Just the cheese!" ejaculated Whopper. "We can set them off in the public square."
"Where the whole community can see them," added Giant.
"And we can return the remains after they are shot off," came from the doctor's son.
The matter was talked over for a half hour. All of the boys knew it was not just right to appropriate the fireworks but they were "dead sore" on Ham and Carl and knew no other way to "get square."
The boys had made only a few preparations for the Fourth, for nearly all of their spending money had been used up in buying things for the proposed outing. They had some firecrackers, and some blank cartridges for their pistols, and that was all.
Independence Day dawned bright and clear and throughout the town of Fairview there was the usual amount of noise. During the morning Snap heard from another lad how Ham and Carl were boasting of their fireworks.
"Finest fireworks the town ever saw," Ham had said. All the boys were invited to "hang on the Dudder fence" and see them set off that evening at nine o'clock.
"Now is the time for us to do something," said Snap to his chums, a little later.
The evening before they had visited the Dudder barn but had failed to locate the fireworks.
"That's right," said Giant. "The fireworks are there now—I saw Carl and Ham bringing them from the express office."
With caution the four boys walked down a side street, which connected, by an alleyway, with the Dudder barn. Nobody was in sight, and they slipped into the barn with ease. In a corner, on the floor, they saw a long, flat box, marked "Fireworks! With care!"
"We mustn't take them all!" said Shep. "We must leave a top row—just to fool 'em."
The others understood and went to work with care. In a very few minutes they had most of the fireworks—pinwheels, rockets, Roman candles, flower pots and others—in their possession. Then they stuffed hay in the bottom of the box and on the top placed two pinwheels and three small Roman candles.
"I'm afraid they'll suspect us if we set these off," said Snap, when he and his chums were at a safe distance.
"What if they do?" demanded the doctor's son. "If they say anything we can yell 'stolen clothes' at them."
The boys were afraid Ham and Carl would attempt to sort out the fireworks before the time to set them off, but this fear proved groundless, for Ham and Carl were busy showing off two silver-plated pistols they had purchased. They were firing at a target set up near Ham's house, but they failed to hit the bull'seye more than once in a dozen shots.
"No wonder they can't bring down any game," observed Giant, when he heard of this. "I could do almost as good as that with my eyes shut."
In a quiet way word was passed around to the juvenile element of Fairview that there would be "something doing" at the public square directly it was dark. Secretly a notice was posted up that the "Swimmer Company would give a free exhibition of Carlham fireworks." Several wanted to know who the Swimmer Company were and what Carlham fireworks were like, but no answer could be had to these queries.
At exactly half-past seven that evening there was the flare of a rocket in the public square, followed by the discharge of several Roman candles. Folks came running from all directions, to learn who might be giving the exhibition.
They saw a truly marvelous sight. Four men or boys were there, dressed in fantastic suits and wearing old gloves and big, pointed-top hats. Each had a mask over his face, so that it was utterly impossible to tell who he was.
Boom! bang! sizz! went the fireworks, being set off by all four of the persons at once. Rockets flew high in the sky, leaving a golden train behind them, and Roman candles let out balls of various colors, while on the ground, flower pots spouted forth in great beauty, and pin-wheels whizzed from several trees and hitching-posts.
"This is great!" cried several.
"A bang-up exhibition," added another.
"Never saw a finer display, did you?" put in an old man. "And all free too!" he continued, greatly pleased.
Carl and Ham could not resist the temptation to see what was going on and came running to the square, leaving their box in the barn. They were full of envy, but went through the crowd boasting that their own display would be much better.
At last everything was set off but three large rockets. These were left in charge of one of the masked figures while the other three figures suddenly disappeared in the darkness following a pinwheel flare. The three figures took with them what could be found of the burnt-out Roman candles and other things.
With one grand sizz the three rockets went up into the air simultaneously. The crowd gazed in admiration at the sight. Then as the sky grew dark, they looked out on the square for the last of the masked figures.
It had disappeared.