The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasureñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
THE WOUNDED MEN
“Well, what do you make of that?” asked Ned, as they watched their host disappear inside the big structure.
“Didn’t that call come from there?” asked Bob.
“Sure,” assented Jerry. “And Mr. Rossmore ran out there as soon as he heard it. He must have gone from the cellar by the outside door.”
“What do you suppose he ran out to the barn for in the rain?” asked Bob.
“Because he has something there that needs his attention,” decided Jerry. “We heard the yell, out he rushed, and he went suddenly. Whatever he has out there he doesn’t want us to see; that’s evident.”
“We’ll see if we can’t discover it,” suggested Ned. “I don’t like the looks of things around here. Shall we tell Mr. Rossmore why we’re looking for the other airship, Jerry?”
The tall lad shook his head.
“Why not?” persisted Ned. “Don’t you recall what he said when he caught sight of us? – something about it being ‘another one of th’ critters.’ That looks suspicious.”
“There are a lot of things that look suspicious,” agreed the widow’s son, “but we can’t solve them that way. We must be as foxy as this farmer is, that is, if he is trying to play foxy; keep our eyes open, listen with both ears, and we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile say as little as possible, let him think we are falling in with his ideas, and he may betray himself. Here he comes back. Don’t let him see that we’ve been watching.”
Mr. Rossmore must have known that his trip to the barn had been observed, for instead of coming in through the cellar, the way he had gone out, he came in by the back entry of the kitchen.
“I had to go out in the barn – I’ve got a sick horse there,” he explained. “Maybe you boys heard him neighing.”
“We heard some noise out that way, but the storm made such a racket we couldn’t be sure,” spoke Jerry.
“Yes, it was my horse. He’s in a bad way.”
“I shouldn’t think you’d keep him in a barn that was in danger of tumbling down,” remarked Ned, with a wink at his chums.
“Oh, I don’t know as the barn is going to fall right away. Still it’s best to be on the safe side with folks. Now I’ll go ahead and get up the victuals. If you hear any more noises from the barn – well, don’t go out there, that’s all. That horse might get loose and hurt you.”
“We won’t,” promised Jerry. “Not in this rain.”
For it was pouring harder than ever, though the thunder and lightning were not so severe. Mr. Rossmore was drenched by his trip to the barn, but he did not seem to mind. In a short time he had set out a substantial meal, Bob offering to help, of which services the farmer availed himself.
“Isn’t there any blacksmith shop nearer than ten miles?” asked Jerry, after the meal. “That’s too far to go in our airship with a broken brace. If we can’t find one nearer we’ll have to make temporary repairs ourselves.”
“Well, it might not be quite ten miles,” said the farmer, in what the boys thought was an eager tone.
“In fact perhaps it isn’t more than three or four. I guess you could get there all right. When are you going to start?”
“In the morning,” answered Jerry, for it was now unusually dark, because of the heavy clouds overhead.
“Oh, then you’re calculating on staying here all night,” spoke the farmer. “Well, now, I’m sorry, but you see I’ve only got one bed – that is I’ve got more, but they’ve been taken down to be painted, and they’re not dry. The bed clothes have gone to the wash woman’s too. In fact that’s why my wife went away. We’re sort of house cleaning, and the only bed fit to use is a couch I sleep on.”
“Oh, we wouldn’t think of troubling you!” interposed Jerry. “We’ll go aboard the Comet and sleep there. We always do. We have plenty of bunks.” The more he saw of the queer man the less he liked the idea of spending the night under his roof.
“Oh, if you’ve got your own accommodations it’s all right,” went on Mr. Rossmore. “I can give you plenty of victuals.”
“That’s good!” exclaimed Bob, involuntarily.
“We have plenty of things to eat, too,” went on Jerry, who felt a growing distrust of the farmer, “though we are much obliged for what you have given us. We’ll go aboard our craft now, I think, and in the morning we’ll see if we can get to the smithy.”
“Well, it’s quite a bad break,” remarked Jerry a little later when, as they were all on the airship, he and his chums had made another inspection of the fracture. “There must have been a flaw in the steel. I don’t believe we’d better risk going on to the blacksmith shop.”
“What will you do?” asked Ned.
“Make a new brace here. We can build a sort of forge out of stones and heat the metal enough I guess. I can make a temporary repair, that will last until we can get to a machine shop.”
“Then we’ll stay on at this place a little longer, eh?” asked Bob.
“Yes, until to-morrow afternoon anyhow.”
“That will give us a chance to do some investigating,” decided the merchant’s son. “I want to see inside that barn.”
“So do I,” agreed Jerry, “but we’ll have to be careful how we go about it. I guess Mr. Rossmore will be on the lookout.”
“He doesn’t go to bed with the chickens, at any rate,” observed Bob. “He’s got a light in the kitchen, and seems to be moving about, if the shadow on the curtain goes for anything.”
It was evident that the farmer was up and about, for the moving shadow was visible until nearly midnight. By this time the storm was over, and our heroes, who had been waiting up for a chance to make at least a tour outside the barn, had about decided to go to bed.
Jerry could not get to sleep, though he was soon made aware by the heavy breathing of Bob and Ned that they were slumbering. But the tall lad was thinking of many things. At last, after tossing restlessly on his bed for some time, he got up and partly dressed.
“I think I’ll take a turn outside,” he thought. “Maybe I can get in the barn now, if that suspicious farmer is asleep.”
But Jerry’s hopes were doomed to disappointment. He had no sooner gone a few paces toward the forbidden barn than a hail came from the now darkened house.
“Who’s there?” called the voice of the farmer.
“It’s me – Jerry Hopkins,” was the reply.
“Oh – do you want anything – any of you boys sick?”
“No, I – I was just looking out – I couldn’t sleep. I’m going back now.”
“Oh – all right,” was the noncommital answer.
“No use trying that – he’s on guard,” mused Jerry as he got back into bed. “I’ll have to wait.”
The tall lad told his chums the next morning of his experience, and they agreed that there was something very strange about the matter. They got an early breakfast in the Comet, and at once set to work making a temporary forge to weld a new brace.
“I thought you were going to the blacksmith’s,” remarked the farmer, as he saw what they were doing.
“We concluded it wouldn’t be safe,” replied Jerry. “No objection to making a fire here, is there? We’ll keep it inside the stones, and not set the barn afire.”
“Oh, that – that’s all right,” said the farmer with an obvious effort. “But don’t go in – that horse is dangerous.”
All that morning the boys worked hard at the new brace. They had it nearly finished and were getting ready to attach it. In the meanwhile Mr. Rossmore had been hovering about them, never very far away, and always keeping between them and the barn, which structure he entered several times, taking with him bottles of medicine.
“We’ll never get in there,” grumbled Ned.
“Take it easy,” advised Jerry. And then, most unexpectedly, their chance came. A man who was driving past in the road called to Mr. Rossmore, who was hoeing in the garden near his house. The farmer, after a quick glance at the boys, who were busy over their forge, hastened to the fence, and soon was in earnest talk with the horseman.
“Now’s our chance!” exclaimed Ned. “Jerry, you slip over to the barn. Rossmore can’t see you from where he stands. I’ll hang your coat on this stake, and Bob and I will crowd up around it so it will look as if all three of us are here at the fire. Go ahead and be quick about it.”
Jerry saw that the plan was a good one. With a quick glance to assure himself that Mr. Rossmore was still at the fence, the tall lad hurried toward the barn. The big front doors were locked, but Jerry ran around to the back, and there found a portal open. It was the work of but an instant to slip inside.
At first, coming in out of the bright light, he could see nothing. Then his eyes became accustomed to the darkness. He moved forward, and as his feet echoed over the rough boards the lad was startled by a call:
“Who’s there?” asked a voice.
“Where are you?” inquired Jerry in turn. He heard some sharp whispers, and then, before he could move, a door was thrown open. It gave a view of a large, light harness room, but it was not the sight of horse trappings that attracted Jerry’s attention.
Lying on a cot in the room was a man whose head was done up in bandages, while holding the door open was another wounded man leaning on a crutch. The latter caught one view of Jerry, and then the door was slammed shut with a bang. At the same instant there sounded that loud cry that Jerry had heard once before. His blood was chilled as the echoes vibrated through the old barn.
For one instant Jerry Hopkins was almost inclined to believe that what he had seen was part of a dream. Then as the nerve-racking yells continued to vibrate through the barn, he knew that they came from real men.
And the faces of those men!
It was like some vision of the night. He racked his brain for a remembrance.
“Where have I seen them before – those wounded men? I’m sure – ” He paused irresolutely.
His musing was interrupted by the breathless entrance of Ned and Bob.
“Jerry!” cried the stout lad. “Are you hurt?”
“What’s the matter?” gasped Ned. “Was that you calling, Jerry?”
They could not see him at first, coming in from the bright sunlight, but in a few seconds they could make out the form of their tall chum, as he stood staring at the closed door of the harness room whence came those terrific cries.
“I have it!” fairly shouted Jerry. “Now I know who they are! Boys we’ve found the bank robbers!”
“Found the bank robbers?” repeated Ned.
“Yes. Brown and Black! They’re in there – in that harness room! I had a glimpse of them. They’re both wounded. They must have met with an accident. They can’t get away. We’ve found them!”
“Now for the ten thousand dollars reward!” cried Ned.
“And this is why that farmer didn’t want us to come in the barn,” went on Jerry. “He had these men hidden here!”
Hardly had he spoken when the farmer in question came fairly bursting into the barn, entering from the big main doors. Mr. Rossmore was greatly excited. He saw the boys at once.
“Here! What does this mean?” he cried. “Didn’t I tell you to keep out of here? Now get out at once and stay out. Clear out of my place! Get away, do you hear?”
“Yes, we hear, but we’re not going,” said Jerry calmly.
“We came to see that sick horse,” spoke Ned, sarcastically.
“Get out!” cried the farmer angrily, advancing toward them, with a threatening gesture.
“Don’t move, boys,” came the advice from Jerry. “We’ll have this thing out. Go call the professor, Bob,” for Mr. Snodgrass had been catching bugs in a field near where our heroes were working when Jerry decided to investigate the mystery of the barn.
“Look here! What does this mean?” blustered Mr. Rossmore, as Bob slipped out of the small door.
“It means just this,” went on Jerry, while another of the strange cries, though not so loud as the previous ones, echoed through the structure, “it means that you are concealing here two men who robbed the Harmolet National Bank of two hundred and ten thousand dollars, and carried it away in an airship! It means that Brown and Black – to give them the names they go under – are in that harness room, and it means that we have discovered them. It also means that we are going to cause their arrest, and that if you interfere with the course of justice you lay yourself liable to a charge of aiding criminals. That’s what it means!”
Jerry spoke with great firmness, and the attitude of himself and Ned was such that the farmer was cowed.
“Rob – robbers!” he stammered. “Two hundred and ten thousand dollars! Why that’s nonsense! Those men are not thieves.”
“What are they then?” asked Ned.
“One of them has been wrongly confined in a lunatic asylum,” went on the farmer. “He is Mr. Hendrix, and the other man is Mr. Clark, a friend of his. Mr. Clark managed to get his friend out of the asylum, and was taking him away in an airship. They got over my place and had an accident. They both fell from the airship into a tree, and were badly hurt. They appealed to me for help, and offered me a large sum if I would conceal them, so that they would not be captured by the asylum authorities. The asylum people want to keep Mr. Hendrix in their possession so they can get his valuable property, but his friend is trying to prevent this. That is why I am concealing them, and why I did not want you to go near the barn. I deceived you, I admit, but I cannot believe that they are robbers. If I had known that they were – ”
“Suppose you come in that room with us, and let us ask them a few questions, about the box of strange tools they carried on their airship,” suggested Jerry. “I think that will convince you.”
“I’m willing,” agreed the farmer. “I never would have believed such nice gentlemen could be robbers. They told such a straight story. And I saw them fall from their airship. So when I saw you arrive in yours I thought you were from the asylum after them, and I tried to get you away from the barn.”
“Just confront them with us, and we’ll soon prove that the story they told you was all made-up,” said Jerry eagerly.
“All right, come on,” agreed Mr. Rossmore. “I don’t want to do nothing wrong.”
Again there came that terrifying yell.
“My gracious! What’s that?” gasped the professor.
“That’s Mr. Hendrix – the supposed lunatic. He is badly hurt, and delirious from pain,” explained Mr. Rossmore. “His friend and I have to give him quieting medicine whenever he gets one of those fits. That’s why I ran here. He is suffering greatly.”
“Well, we can’t let even a bank burglar suffer,” said the scientist, to whom Jerry quickly explained what the farmer had told them. “I’ll take a look at him, and you boys can make sure you are not mistaken in your identity. Then we can decide on what to do. They can’t get away.”
With the farmer leading the way the boys and the professor entered the harness room. If any other confirmation was needed that the suspicions of our heroes were true, it came when Clark, alias Black, exclaimed as he caught sight of the boys:
“Well, the jig is up!”
“Yes, I guess it is,” said Jerry grimly. “You made a bold effort, but fate was against you. Where is the money?”
“We haven’t got it,” growled the least injured of the two burglars.
“Haven’t got it?”
“No, it’s in the airship. I might as well tell the truth now.”
“In the airship? And where is that?” demanded the professor.
“How should I know?” snapped Black, while his companion tossed feverishly on the narrow cot. “We both fell out when it nearly turned turtle, then it righted itself again, and sailed off over the forest, the engine set at full speed. It’ll run until the gasolene gives out, or until it’s wrecked, I suppose. But we’ll have to have a doctor for him,” and he nodded at his companion. “He’s getting worse. The game’s up. I’m ready to take my medicine. One of my legs is broken, and I’m hurt inside. Oh, how I suffer! We did rob the bank. I confess. We laid our plans a long time ahead and thought if we used an aeroplane no one could trace us.”
“He must have a doctor, and that soon,” declared the professor. “He is in a bad state; indeed both are. Boys, word must be sent to the authorities at once, and these men must be taken to a hospital under police guard.”
“And to think they told me they were escaping from an asylum,” murmured Mr. Rossmore. “I can’t get over it!”
“Was it true what they said about the airship going on after they fell out?” asked Jerry eagerly.
“It was,” replied the farmer. “It went sailing over the trees like a big bird.”
“Which way?” asked Ned, for he was thinking of the treasure on board.
“I didn’t notice,” was the answer.
“Which way did it go?” went on the tall lad, turning to the robber who went by the name of Black or Clark.
“Hey?” The man gazed almost stupidly at Jerry. There was a strange light in his eyes.
“Which way did the airship go?” repeated the lad.
“It went to Africa,” was the unexpected answer. “The engine was set to carry it to Borneo, and from there we are to pick up the Japanese Mikado and go on a pleasure jaunt in the Andes mountains. We’re going to race with the condor birds. Ha! Ha! We’ll lead a jolly life. Pass over that juice, Bill, I’ve got the hole drilled!” he exclaimed. “Look out now! It’s going off! Oh, maybe we haven’t made a haul this time.”
With a shriek he fell back on the cot, beside his companion who was moaning in pain.
“Delirious – out of his head,” murmured Professor Snodgrass. “I doubt if we can get any more information from either of them right away. They must have medical attention, and the police must come here.”
“I’ll go for them,” volunteered Jerry. “Ned and I can manage the Comet if you and Bob will stay here and guard them.”
“I’ll help,” volunteered the farmer. “I’m with you boys now.”
They accepted his offer. Professor Snodgrass administered some quieting medicine to both wounded men. A little later Ned and Jerry started for the nearest town for a doctor and the proper authorities.
“And then we’ll go off after the airship treasure,” decided Jerry.
“We’ll have a hard time hunting it,” declared Ned.
Both robbers were in the delirium of high fever when the doctor reached them. He at once took charge, and the constable formally placed the strange men under arrest as the bank robbers, though Brown and Black of course did not realize this. Then, being made as comfortable as possible, they were taken in the airship to a hospital, Mr. Rossmore remaining at his farmhouse a very much surprised man.
A telegram was sent to the bank authorities telling them of the capture, and stating that the boys would try to recover the treasure. Then, arranging to have the robbers sent to Harmolet for trial as soon as they were well enough, the boys and the professor entered the Comet and headed her once more back toward the farmhouse.
“We’ll get the direction as nearly as we can from Mr. Rossmore in which the Silver Star disappeared after the men fell out,” said Jerry, “and then we’ll go on a hunt. Think of a big fortune being lost somewhere in these woods!” and he pointed to the vast, lonely forest below them.
TOSSED BY THE STORM
Very little information could be obtained from Mr. Rossmore. He was so “flustered,” as he expressed it, from what had taken place, and so unnerved by the thought that he had been harboring in his barn two desperate bank robbers, that he could hardly answer simple questions.
“All I know,” he said, “is that I was out in the garden when their airship whizzed overhead. It flopped on one side, and the men were spilled out. They fell in a tree, or they’d have been killed instantly. I ran to help them, so I didn’t notice which way their machine went off.”
“But you must have some idea,” insisted Jerry.
“Well, as near as I can tell it went over that way,” and he pointed to the west. “It’s a terrible lonesome country there. Once you get lost it’s all up with you.”
“We don’t intend to get lost,” declared Ned.
Nothing more could be gained by questioning the farmer, and, after paying him for his hospitality our friends looked over their craft to see if it was in shape for another long flight.
The repairs made to the brace had been completed, and the machinery was in perfect order. There was also plenty of gasolene and provisions and stores on board.
“We’ll just have to cruise about until we sight the airship that got away from the robbers,” decided Jerry.
“You don’t suppose it’s floating yet; do you?” asked Ned.
“No, it must have run out of gasolene some time ago, to say nothing of being deflected downward by the wind, and crashing into a tree. No, we’ll have to look on the ground in the forest for this craft.”
“And maybe the bank treasure isn’t on it after all,” suggested Bob.
“Maybe not, Chunky. Yet if those robbers had it about them we’d have discovered it. And I don’t believe they have hidden it in the barn. Well, let’s start.”
All the rest of that day they cruised about in the air, occasionally veering to the left or right, for they could not be certain that the pilotless Silver Star would keep to a straight course.
“If we only knew which way the wind was blowing at the time their airship scooted off by herself, we might know better how to search,” observed Bob, pausing in his work of getting supper.
“Yes, and if we knew how much gasolene she carried, we could tell how long her engine would run, and if we knew just where she had fallen in these woods we’d go there and find her,” added Jerry. “But we don’t know those things, so we’ve got to do the best we can.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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