Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure
"Did you hear that, Mr. Mayor?" said the deputy. "Foster says
there's nobody in that cave!"
"Nobody in there!" exclaimed the Mayor.
"Nobody in there!" echoed Henry.
Mayor turned and looked at Henry. "Mulligan," he said.
"But there's got to be somebody in there!" Henry protested. "We
talked to them on the intercom."
"Mulligan!" said the Mayor.
turned and ran. He headed for the intercom jack at the base of the cliff, with
the rest of us hightailing it after him. The Mayor and Chief Putney came
puffing up the path behind us.
"Jeff! Jeff!" Henry hollered into the handset. "Can you hear me
hear you loud and clear!" came Jeff's voice in reply.
"What about Harmon and his gang? Where are they?"
don't know where they are, but they're sure not in here! We've searched the
"Scout's honor, Jeff?"
"Scout's honor, Henry!"
just don't understand it," said Henry helplessly. "We were talking to
them not more'n half an hour ago."
was still standing there, scratching his head and looking crestfallen when the
Mayor and Chief Putney broke through the bushes.
"Well, Mulligan, what's this all about?" puffed the Mayor, all out of
"They're just not in there, Mr. Mayor," said Henry dejectedly.
"I don't understand it. They were there just half an hour ago."
"Why don't you tell 'em the truth, Mulligan?" came Harmon Muldoon's
voice from somewhere in the darkness above us. "You knew we weren't in
that cave." A chorus of raucous laughter almost drowned out the last
words. Henry's jaw dropped open as he stared upward through the darkness toward
the lip of the cliff that towered above us.
"Who's that up there?" Chief Putney demanded, as he flashed his
powerful light along the edge of the cliff.
"Pretty good show, Mulligan!" came the strident voice of Stony
Martin. "Whatta ya do for an encore?" And another wave of raucous
obvious that Harmon's whole gang was sitting up on the cliff above our heads,
watching the proceedings with great relish. The glare from the floodlights on
the rescue van was too bright for us to see into the darkness, but finally
Chief Putney's flashlight picked out the white T-shirt of Stony Martin, perched
in a tree. Stony scrambled back into the shadow with a burst of mocking
laughter. A lot of raspberries and other uncouth sounds split the darkness.
"How did you get up there?" Henry shrilled, rather weakly.
walked up!" Harmon shouted back.
mean, how did you get out of the cavern?"
"That was simple! We weren't in the cavern."
"Aw, c'mon, Harmon. Somebody was in there."
"Yeah, we sent one man in to trip your alarm so we could raid your
clubhouse. We've been up in Crocker's barn all night."
"You mean you were in our clubhouse all the time when we were talking on
"Yeah! After we tripped your alarm system all kinds of things began to
happen. It was rich!"
just stood there, speechless. He didn't even hear Mayor Scragg and Chief Putney
arguing about whether they could arrest anybody, as they beat their way back
through the bushes to the rescue van.
the way, Henry," Stony Martin shouted. "How do you get that cashbox
of yours down off that rafter? We spent most of the night trying to figure it
didn't answer. He just threw the intercom set he was holding against the side
of the cliff and then kicked it into the bushes. It broke into a dozen pieces.
I had never seen Henry lose his temper before.
© 1968 by Bertrand R. Brinley
Illustrations by Charles Geer
of those hot August days in Mammoth
Falls when even the dogs won't go out on the street, and you don't dare open
your mouth for fear of getting your tongue sunburned. I was sitting in old Ned
Carver's barbershop, thumbing through a magazine and waiting for Mr. Carver to
finish cutting Charlie Brown's hair, when Jason Barnaby stumbled in through the
door and flopped down in a chair to fan himself.
"How's the apples look this year, Jason?" mumbled Charlie Brown
through the hot, wet towel wrapped around his face. Jason's apple orchard up on
Brake Hill is the biggest orchard in the county. It's a regular showpiece for
"Ain't gonna be no apples if we don't soon get some rain," whined
Jason, mopping his gray hair back off his forehead. "I never did see such
a hot spell as we're havin' now."
"Yes, sir!" Ned Carver agreed. "That little piece of grass in
front of my place is about burned to a crisp right now. I expect it's been a
month since we've seen a real rain."
"Longer'n that," moaned Jason. "Them leaves on my trees'll snap
right in two in your fingers, they're so dry."
hear tell Mayor Scragg is bringin' in some professional rainmakers," said
Charlie Brown. "Some real experts from the Department of Agriculture and
the State University."
"Won't do no good," muttered Jason, stoically. "They tried that
over in Clinton last year, and it wasn't worth a hill of beans -- all them
birds with their blowin' machines and their silly airplanes! Pshaw! You might
as well get down on your knees and pray. When the Lord says 'Let it rain!'
"That don't say you can't give the Lord a helpin' hand," said Charlie.
"The Mayor and the Town Council know what they're doing." Charlie
Brown is the town treasurer, and he's been on the Town Council for thirty-one
years. He owns the only funeral parlor in Mammoth Falls, and everybody respects
him. He generally knows what's going on in town.
Barnaby didn't answer for a while. He was staring at the highly polished toes
of Charlie's black pumps.
"How come you're always wearing a new pair of shoes?" he asked
finally. "I swear you got more shoes than any man in town."
"Mind your own business!" said Charlie Brown. "We were talkin'
about the dry spell."
hear much of the rest of the conversation, because I kept falling asleep like I
always do in the barbershop -- especially on hot days. I woke up when Mr.
Carver snapped the hair cloth and said "Next!"
"Couldn't you Mad Scientists do something to bring on rain?" he asked
me with a chuckle, as I climbed into the chair. "You kids are always
getting mixed up in something crazy."
s'pose if anybody could make it rain, Henry Mulligan could," I said,
before I fell asleep again.
Carver didn't know it, but he had started something. Before the month was out
he was wishing he'd kept his mouth shut.
Scientists' Club meets almost every day during the summer, because we usually
have some kind of a project going. When I went out to Jeff Crocker's barn that
afternoon to find the rest of the gang, my head was full of crazy notions about
how we might make it rain -- like dipping a huge sponge in Strawberry Lake and
floating it over Mr. Barnaby's apple orchard suspended from big balloons.
clubhouse I found Mortimer Dalrymple fiddling around with the ham radio outfit
and Homer Snodgrass stretched out on the rusty old box-spring mattress in the
corner reading a tattered volume of Rudyard Kipling's poetry.
"Hey, listen to this!" said Homer.
you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on
you, If you can trust yourself --'"
I had your head I wouldn't want to keep it!" said Mortimer in a loud
answered him with a raspberry and rolled over to prop his book against the
"Where's Henry and Jeff?" I asked. "I got important business to
"They're out in back, washing Mr. Crocker's car," said Mortimer.
Crocker's dad makes him wash the family car once a week. We're all supposed to
help, in return for using the barn as our clubhouse, but mostly Jeff ends up
washing it himself. Fortunately, he and Henry were just about finished when I
found them, and I told them all about the conversation I had heard in the
know it's been rough," Jeff said. "All the farmers around here are
complaining. My dad says there won't be enough hay to feed the horses this
winter if it doesn't rain soon."
"It's easy enough to make it rain," said Henry. "All you have to
do is create the proper conditions." Henry stopped wiping off the car, and
I could see he was thinking about the problem. I finished the last fender for
"When are these professional rainmakers coming?" he asked.
don't know. But Homer's father should know, 'cause he's on the Town
suggest we don't do anything until after they've been here," said Jeff, as
he spread the rags out to dry. "After all, the town is probably paying
them a lot of money, and they might just make it rain."
"What do you think, Henry?" I asked.
think I've got an idea!" said Henry, and he walked straight down the lane
to the main road and went home and we didn't see him again for three days --
which isn't unusual when Henry is thinking.
rainmakers came, and we all went out to watch them set up their machines. They
had huge blowers that they used to create a white fog of dust particles in the
air, and they set them up on the hills all around the valley. They also had two
light airplanes operating out of the county airport that they'd send up to seed
the rain clouds whenever any appeared.
Poore was as inquisitive as usual.
"What's that white stuff they're blowin' into the air?" he asked
"That's silver iodide crystals," said Henry. "They're supposed
to make water vapor condense and form into drops of water. The trouble is,
you've got to have water vapor to start with, and the air's so dry right now I
don't think it'll do any good."
rainmakers kept at it for two weeks, but they didn't do much good. They got a
spat of rain now and then, but not enough to sneeze at. And every day they had
a different excuse: The wind wasn't right, or there weren't enough clouds, or
they couldn't get the airplanes into the air in time when a good cloud did
appear. All in all, it was an expensive operation, and the farmers were pretty
skeptical about it and were grumbling about the cost. Finally, Mayor Scragg and
the Town Council held a big public meeting, where everybody had their say, and
the general opinion seemed to be that rainmaking was for the birds. And when
Charlie Brown declared that the town just couldn't afford any more rainmaking
experiments, the whole idea was scrapped.
when Henry Mulligan decided it was time for the Mad Scientists' Club to act. We
had a meeting in the clubhouse, and Henry outlined the plan to us.
"The trouble with most rainmakers," he said, "is that they
spread themselves too thin. You can't go firing silver iodide crystals into the
air willy-nilly. You've got to hit a particular cloud at a particular time, and
you've got to concentrate a lot of stuff in one place, to do any good."
pulled a long sleek-looking piece of tubing with fins on it from under the
table and showed it to us.
"This is a pretty simple rocket," he said, "but it'll go up high
enough to hit most rain clouds. Right here behind the nose cone is a cartridge
with a little gunpowder in it and a lot of silver iodide crystals. All you have
to do is explode the cartridge at the right time and spray the crystals through
the cloud. Grape growers in northern Italy have been using these for twenty
years to make it rain on their vineyards. They just wait until a likely-looking
cloud comes along, and then they blast away at it."
"Holy mackerel!" said Freddy Muldoon. "You think of everything,
didn't think of it," said Henry. "I just read a lot."
do I," said Homer Snodgrass, "but I never seem to read the right stuff."
"You don't learn much from poetry, that's a cinch!" said Mortimer.