Soon after Mr. Perry announced his intention not to allow any of the boys to have possession of his pistol while on guard, Bud’s mind became busy on plans for the contrivance of a substitute. In accord with Mr. Perry’s concession, each of the boys cut for himself a stout stick to be used as a weapon of defense if necessary, and to supplement this Bud decided first to gather a few dozen stones about the size of a hen’s egg in order that he might exercise his skill at throwing if any suspicious looking objects should appear to his view.
Then he happened to remember that he had a large rubber band in a small and little-used pocket of his coat. He had put it there for no particular reason, perhaps merely to save it. He had found it about three weeks before and the unusual size and strength of elasticity of the band was enough to interest any boy in the habit of seeing the adventurous possibilities of little things.
With the aid of his searchlight, Bud found a small forked limb in a tree at the edge of the open area, immediately after he took charge of the guard post, and cut it off. Then he returned to his seat near the tent and began to whittle. The purpose of this whittling must soon have been evident to an observer, for he held the object up frequently and viewed it, with the calculating eye of a “dead shot,” until at last he was satisfied with the length and “grip” of the handle and the symmetry and trim of the prongs of a fork.
Bud was always very methodical in his youthful mechanics. Everything he made must be “just so,” hence the results were usually effective, as well as artistic to a degree. In this instance, even the notches that he cut around the extreme ends of the prongs were neatly grooved, in spite of the limitation of the light in which he worked. The only regret he had was the fact that he possessed no good strong cord, about the size of fishline, with which to attach two separate sections of the rubber band to the prongs at the grooves. As substitute for such cord he had provided himself with some strands of the rope with which the hands of their prisoner, “Captain” Howard, had been tied. After all the other details of his mechanical labor had been completed, he took from one of his pockets an old and inexpensive pouch-like pocketbook, emptied the contents into a trouser pocket and proceeded to cut out a section of the pouch to a size and shape suited to his needs. The rubber band he had cut into two equal lengths and in the leather section from his pocketbook he cut two small holes near opposite edges.
The assembling of the parts of his contrivance was now speedily accomplished, resulting in a very neat hand-catapult of a kind with which every boy is familiar. After testing the strength of the connections by stretching the rubbers several times to thrice their ordinary length, Bud looked about him and soon gathered a supply of small stones suitable for missiles.