The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasureñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
TWO QUEER MEN
“Don’t try it Jerry, you can’t make it.”
“Yes, I can Bob. There’s more room than you think. Besides, the hay is soft.”
“No, don’t, Jerry. We’re in no hurry,” put in the third member of a trio of boys in a big touring car that was skimming along a pleasant country road behind a load of hay. “Don’t do it!”
“Say, I’m tired of taking in all that fellow’s dust,” returned Jerry Hopkins. “Hold fast fellows, here we go!”
He pressed down the accelerator pedal of the machine and headed the car for a narrow space that showed between the load of hay and the side rails of a bridge that the farm wagon was just crossing.
It was a rather small opening to get through but Jerry was a skillful steersman, and, as he had said, he had traveled behind the load of hay so long, breathing the dust kicked up by the plodding horses, that he was tired of it. The driver had been obstinate and would not pull over, and this was the first chance Jerry had had to pass.
“You’ll have a smash!” predicted Bob Baker.
“Not on your life, Chunky!” called back Jerry.
“Hug the hay – not the bridge – those side rails may be rotten,” advised Ned Slade, as he took a firm grip on the lap-robe rail in front of him.
“Right you are,” admitted Jerry. “Here’s where we hit the red top and timothy. All ready now!”
The big car shot ahead. The farm wagon was rumbling over the bridge, which was none too strong, and when the auto also reached the clattering planks it sounded as if a thunder storm had broken loose.
With quick eyes and ready hands Jerry guided the car. Close up against the sides of the billowy hay he sent the machine to avoid hitting the bridge rail, yet so narrow was the space that the hub caps raked a furrow in a retaining plank, while the hay whipped the faces of the autoists.
“Look out!” yelled Bob.
“Farther over – farther!” cried Ned.
“Oh, all right. Don’t get excited,” advised Jerry calmly. “We’re safe now.”
They would have been, in another instant, for with a quick turn of the steering wheel the tall lad on the front seat was about to send the car cutting in ahead of the horses, having nearly passed the wagon. But whether the steeds were frightened by the shouts of Ned and Bob, or whether the driver unconsciously or intentionally turned toward the auto was not known. At any rate only by a rapid shifting of his course was Jerry able to avoid a collision. He screwed the wheel around to the left, and then, as he saw that he was running the front tires into the bridge rails he twisted his “helm” once more to the right. By this time the end of the bridge was reached, and Jerry saw an open road ahead of him, having emerged from behind the hay wagon.
He cut sharply into it, so sharply in fact that the mud guard on the right rear wheel scraped the nigh horse, causing the animal to swerve against its mate in fright.
“Whoa there! Hold on! I’ll have th’ law on you fellers!” cried the driver of the hay load.
“Say, you did hit his horse,” remarked Bob in a low voice.
“Better pull up and see if he’s going to make trouble.
Otherwise he may take our number and report us,” advised Ned.
There was a grinding and shrieking of brakes and the auto came to a stop just ahead of the farm wagon, the driver of which had now quieted his horses.
“What do you mean?” he roared, as he dismounted, whip in hand. “What right you got to smash into me that way?”
Jerry stood up in the machine, and looked at the steeds before replying. A quick glance told him that beyond a mere scratch that had not even drawn blood, the horse he had struck was not injured. Then the tall lad replied.
“Look here, Mister Man. I don’t want any of your talk!”
“Oh you don’t; hey? Wa’al, I’m goin’ to give you some, an’ then I’m going to make a complaint agin ye!”
“No, you’re not,” declared Jerry with easy assurance. “In the first place you’re a road-hog of the worst type. We kept behind you for nearly a mile, swallowing your dust, and, though there were several places where you could have turned out, and let us pass, you wouldn’t do it. I got tired of tooting my horn, and when I saw a chance to slip by I took it. I wouldn’t have barked your horse, if you’d kept to your own side of the bridge, and you know it.
“As it is, your animal isn’t hurt a bit, but you were nearly the cause of something serious happening to us. Now go ahead and make a complaint if you dare. We’ll come right back at you with a worse one for obstructing the road. That’s all I’ve got to say to you, and you can put it in your pipe and smoke it! Hold fast, fellows, here we go!” And with that Jerry threw in his gear, let the clutch slip into place and they were off down the road before the angry and chagrinned farmer could think of anything to say.
When he did get his brain to working all he could ejaculate was:
“Wa’al, I’ll be gum-swizzled! Them auto fellers is gittin’ wuss an’ wuss every day. I wish I’d upsot ’em!”
Jerry and his chums were too far off, however, to hear this uncharitable wish, and it would probably have given them little concern had it come to their ears.
“Whew! That was hot while it lasted,” remarked Bob, breathing easily for the first time since the beginning of the little scene.
“You certainly had his number all right, Jerry,” said Ned.
“Yes, there are too many farmers like him,” retorted the tall steersman. “We autoists don’t want any more than our rights on the road.”
“Yes, and that’s one disadvantage of traveling in an auto,” went on Ned, when they were once more skimming peacefully along the highway. “Now if we’d been out in our motorship Comet we shouldn’t have had any trouble at all. There’s no blockading of the roads up there,” and he motioned to the blue sky above them.
“No, it’ll be some time before we have to take anybody’s dust up in the air,” was Bob’s opinion.
“Still the upper regions are more crowded than when we first took to ‘sky-larking,’” spoke Jerry. “Especially at an aviation meet. Which reminds me that I saw something in a paper I bought back there in Hammondport about a big gathering of birdmen that’s to take place soon.”
“Where is it?” asked Bob.
“Didn’t have time to look,” replied Jerry. “Here, you and Ned have a peep at it. If the meet is anywhere around here we might take it in.” Jerry reached in his pocket, and pulled out a folded newspaper. He passed it back to Ned, who exclaimed a moment later:
“Say, fellows, we ought to take this in. It’s going to be great, and maybe we can pull down one of the prizes.”
“Where’s it to be?” asked Jerry.
“And where’s Colton?” demanded Bob.
“Not far from the city of Harmolet. We stopped there once to fix up after a blowout.”
“Oh, I remember that place!” exclaimed Bob. “It was there we had such a jolly chicken pot-pie dinner.”
“Hum! Yes! Trust Bob to remember anything that had ‘eats’ in it,” came from Jerry, with a chuckle. “But Colton isn’t so far away. We could take it in. What do you say?”
“I’m for it,” declared Ned.
“Same here,” added Bob. “But, speaking of chicken pot-pie makes me hungry. There’s a good hotel just ahead and what’s the matter with stopping there for dinner?”
“Nothing, I guess,” conceded Jerry. “We’re out for a good time, and we might as well have it. We’ll stop for grub, fellows, and then we can talk about this meet.”
A run of five minutes more brought them to a small country town called Freedon, where they ran their car under the hotel shed, and were soon arranging for dinner.
While waiting for the meal to be served the boys sat in the hotel lobby, which contained quite a few persons; farmers who had come in on business, or to sell produce, traveling men, and one or two well dressed persons, apparently auto tourists like our heroes.
Two men in particular attracted the attention of Jerry and his chums. They were dark-complexioned chaps, evidently used to being out of doors, and their quiet but expensive clothes betokened that they were well off, or posed as being in that condition.
But it was neither the clothes nor the appearance of the men that attracted the attention of the boys as much as their manner. They sat together, not far from the hotel clerk’s desk, and sharply scrutinized every person in the lobby. Nor did our friends escape observation. The dark, eager, shifting gaze of the two men rested on the boys from time to time, and then darted off toward newcomers.
“Have either of you seen those two men before?” asked Jerry of Ned and Bob, in a low voice.
“No,” replied Bob, who because of his fleshiness was still panting from the exertion of climbing the hotel steps.
“How about you, Ned?”
“I agree with Chunky,” was the other lad’s reply, giving his stout chum his often-used nickname. “But they certainly will know us if they see us again.”
“They sure will,” came from Jerry. “But now let’s have a look at that paper. I want to read about the meet. Where did you say it was to take place Ned? I mean that aviation meet.”
“At Colton, near Harmolet. We could put up at Harmolet I think, for there are not likely to be many accommodations in Colton. I know there is a good hotel in Harmolet.”
“Then Harmolet for ours!” exclaimed Bob in rather a loud voice. “I think – ”
At the mention of the name of that city the two queer men, as if moved by the same impulse, stared straight at our heroes. The eyes of Jerry met first those of the man nearest him, and then shifted to the face of his companion. The two men hastily glanced away, and then, as Bob, who had noticed their strange action and who had interrupted himself, resumed his remarks about the desirability of Harmolet as a stopping place, the two strangers whispered eagerly together.
“Hum,” mused Jerry. “That’s rather odd. They must know something about Harmolet.”
“That’s not strange, seeing that it’s a good-sized place,” observed Ned. “But I don’t believe I’d care to have anything to do with those chaps – especially after dark,” he added in a low voice. “I don’t like their looks.”
“Same here,” agreed Jerry. “But we’re not likely to have anything to do with them. Now about this meet. If we’re going we’ll have to give our motorship Comet an overhauling,” and with that our friends fell to talking of air travel, in which they were well-nigh experts.
Dinner was presently announced, and the boys went up to the hotel desk to register. Just in front of them were the two strange men, whose conduct had been the cause of some speculation among the three lads. The men put their names down on the books just ahead of Jerry Hopkins.
“Hum – James Brown and John Black,” mused Jerry as he looked at the signatures. “Couldn’t be any more common names than those I guess.”
“Where are they from?” asked Bob, for Jerry had registered for his two chums.
“It might be almost any place,” was the answer, “for it’s such a scrawl that I can’t read it. Brown and Black; eh? Well, they’re both dark complexioned enough to be called ‘black.’ However let’s go in to dinner. I hope we don’t sit anywhere near them. It would spoil my appetite to be stared at the way they have been looking at us.”
“It’ll take a good deal to spoil my appetite,” observed the stout lad with a heart-felt sigh.
The fears of our heroes were groundless, for they were seated well away from the two odd men, and they managed to do ample justice to the meal.
“Well,” observed Bob, after an eloquent silence, during which knives and forks had been industriously plied. “Now I’m ready to talk business. When do you think we can go to that meet, Jerry?”
“As soon as we like, or, rather, as soon as it opens, which isn’t for two weeks.”
“Will you try for a prize?” asked Ned.
“I don’t see why we can’t,” was the opinion of the tall lad. “I wish they had some water there, so we could do some stunts with our hydroplanes, as we did when we rescued Mr. Jackson. That was a trip worth taking.”
“It sure was,” agreed his chums. “Maybe we can soon take another like it.”
And they fell to talking of their adventures in the past, and of those hoped for in the future.
While they are thus engaged I will take the opportunity of telling you something more about the boys, for I may not get another chance, as they are such rapid-fire chaps. Those of you who have read the previous books in the series need no introduction to the motor boys, but new readers may wish to be formally presented to them.
The boys were Jerry Hopkins, the son of Mrs. Julia Hopkins, a wealthy widow, Bob Baker, whose father, Andrew Baker, was a prominent banker, and Ned Slade. Ned’s father, Mr. Aaron Slade, owned a large department store. The boys had been chums ever since they were in the primary school, and when they were old enough to have motorcycles their friendship was more than ever firmly cemented, for they had many adventures together, as told in the first volume of this series, entitled “The Motor Boys.” Later they got an auto, and made a long trip overland, and some time afterward, in company with Professor Uriah Snodgrass, they went to Mexico to discover a buried city.
Coming home from Mexico across the plains they had more adventures. With some money they had made in a gold mine they had located, they bought a fine motor boat, and in that they spent many pleasant hours. The fifth volume of our series, entitled “The Motor Boys Afloat,” details some of them. In their craft the Dartaway, they took quite a trip along the Atlantic coast, and also down in the everglades of Florida. Later they voyaged on the Pacific ocean, in search of a mysterious derelict.
But staying on the earth, or afloat on the water did not long content our heroes. Airships were coming more and more into prominence, and it was not long before our friends had a fine motorship called the Comet.
You will find this air-craft fully described in the ninth volume of the series, entitled “The Motor Boys in the Clouds,” so I will not take up space to tell of it here. Sufficient to say that it was a combination of a dirigible balloon and an aeroplane, and could sail for many miles without coming down. In it our friends had many adventures, nearly always accompanied by Professor Snodgrass, who was an enthusiastic collector of bugs, reptiles, and scientific specimens of various kinds, for a museum.
It was not always easy sailing for our heroes, for in their town of Cresville, not far from Boston, there lived a bully, Noddy Nixon by name, who with his crony, Bill Berry, made much trouble for them. But our friends generally got the best of Noddy in the end.
The motor boys made a long trip over the Rockies in their motorship, and helped to rescue a band of white persons who were held captives by a strange tribe of Indians. Later, Jerry and his chums, as told in the eleventh book of the series made a flight over the ocean, and succeeded in rescuing a Mr. Jackson, who with some friends and a crew were unconscious in a dirigible balloon that had become disabled at sea. Mr. Jackson, as told in the story “The Motor Boys Over the Ocean,” was being sought by Mr. Slade, to aid him in his department store business, which was on the verge of failure. And Ned and his chums rescued Mr. Jackson just in time, not only to save his life, but to prevent the ruin of Mr. Slade’s business.
The boys had been back from this trip over the ocean some time now, and, after a winter spent at their studies, they were, with the arrival of summer, ready for fresh adventures.
They had been out for a spin in their auto when the events narrated in the first chapter took place, and now we will resume their acquaintance in the hotel where they are just finishing dinner.
“Well, shall we go on?” asked Jerry, as he and his chums arose from the table.
“Oh, let’s sit around a while and rest,” proposed Bob. “It’s bad for digestion to hustle around right after a meal.”
“There’s nothing the matter with your digestion,” declared Jerry with a laugh. “But I guess it won’t hurt us to sit around a bit. Who’s got that paper about the aviation meet?”
“Here it is,” replied Bob, passing it to his tall friend.
“I see you are interested in airships,” remarked the hotel clerk, for the lads were talking in front of the desk where they had paid for their meal. “We have other guests here today who are what you call ‘birdmen’ I guess.”
“What, some aviators here?” exclaimed Ned, and he and his two chums showed the interest they felt.
“Who are they?” demanded Jerry. “I didn’t see any one in the dining room that I’ve ever met in a dirigible or aeroplane.”
“Well, perhaps these fellows are amateurs, but they came sailing here all right in one of those air machines – I don’t know enough about ’em to tell whether or not it’s a dirigible balloon or a monoplane,” said the clerk with a laugh. “But they’re here.”
“Who are they?” asked Jerry again.
“Those two dark-complexioned men standing over near the door,” replied the clerk, nodding his head in that direction.
“What? Not Brown and Black?” exclaimed Ned.
“I think those are their names,” went on the clerk, as he looked at the register. “We had quite a crowd here to-day – yes, it’s Brown and Black all right, though I don’t know which is which.”
“Brown and Black,” mused Jerry. “I never heard of their doing any great stunts in a dirigible balloon or aeroplane.”
“No, they’re only amateurs, they told me that when they arrived,” went on the clerk. “They came out from Boston, and are going back soon. It’s a trial flight for them.”
“Where’s their machine?” asked Bob eagerly.
“Yes, could we get a look at it?” put in Jerry.
“I don’t know,” spoke the clerk doubtfully. “They told me they didn’t want to be bothered with a crowd, and they stored their machine in an enclosed lot back of the carriage sheds. There is a high fence all around it, and the gate is locked. But as long as you boys are air navigators yourselves I guess Mr. Brown and Mr. Black won’t mind if I let you look at their machine. They are busy talking now, anyhow, so you can slip out and take a peep at it. Here’s the key to the gate. Go out this back door, down the alley, and open the first gate you come to. Don’t let any one else in.”
The boys eagerly promised, and making sure that the two strange men were deep in a conversation, our friends slipped out of the hotel rear door, Jerry taking the key.
“Who’d ever think those fellows were birdmen?” asked Bob, as they went along.
“No one,” agreed Ned. “There’s something mysterious about them. Why are they so afraid of any one seeing their machine?”
“Give it up,” answered Jerry. “We’ll soon have a peep at it, and perhaps we can tell then. But I don’t blame them for not wanting a lot of farmers crowding around when they’re trying to land or make a flight. You know what trouble we’ve had at times.”
“That’s right,” agreed Ned. “Well, there’s the gate in the fence. Now for a look.”
In the midst of a small enclosure they saw the air machine – a large-sized biplane of an up-to-date model. It took but a glance to disclose this, and with expressions of admiration the boys hurried up to it, to inspect it more carefully.
“Say, that’s a beaut all right!” declared Bob.
“Some class to it,” exclaimed Ned. “Look at that engine! Why it’s almost as powerful as the first one we had.”
“Yes, it’s a good machine – of its kind,” admitted Jerry. “Of course it isn’t like ours, but it’s got a lot of speed and power, I’ll wager. And look at that gasolene tank. Why they could go several hundred miles with one filling.”
“The Silver Star,” read Bob, as he saw the name of the aeroplane painted on one of the side planes, and on the vertical rudder. “Rather a classy name; eh?”
“It sure is a good machine,” went on Jerry, as he took in the various details. “I wonder if those fellows – Brown and Black – made it themselves, or who did? There are some points about it that are worth copying, if they aren’t patented.”
“Let’s ask ’em,” proposed Bob.
Jerry did not answer. He was looking at the double seat of the aeroplane – for it was built to carry two – and near one of the improvised chairs was a small box, evidently for tools.
The cover of the box was partly raised, and with pardonable curiosity Jerry tilted it all the way back. He was anxious to see all the details possible of the machine that had so interested him and his chums.
As he got a glimpse inside the tool box Jerry uttered a half-suppressed cry of astonishment.
“Look here, fellows!” he exclaimed. “See these queer tools? First time I ever knew an aeroplane operator to carry anything like them.”
“What are they?” asked Bob, peering over his chum’s shoulder.
“Why here’s a powerful drill, some lead hammers, another of copper, and a drill, to be attached to an electric light circuit. And here’s some sort of a fusing torch, to melt or fuse a hole through steel. What in the world can they want with these tools in an aeroplane?”
“Maybe they’re afraid of a break-down,” suggested Ned.
“What good would an electric drill or a fusing torch do even if they did get a break-down?” demanded Jerry. “No, there’s something queer here, and – ”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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