The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasureñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Jerry brought the car up with a jerk, and, almost before it had ceased moving the professor was out, and had darted to a blackberry bush, net in hand.
He made a swoop, gathered a part of the net in his fingers, looked closely at what was in it, and then exclaimed:
“Oh, pshaw! it’s only a common June bug. I thought I had a seven winged dragon fly. Go ahead Jerry. I hope I have better luck when I look for the flying frog?”
During this time Andy Rush had said little, but the manner in which he fidgeted about on the seat, and the way in which his lips moved, showed that he was holding something back with a great effort.
Jerry swung the car up in front of his house, and as he and his chums and their guest alighted, the excitable little chap asked:
“Say, professor, is there really a flying frog – one that sails through the air – like an aeroplane – over the trees – ’round in a circle – faster and faster – is there really – whoop!”
Andy ended up with a vigorous swinging of his arms. The professor looked curiously at him, and then, without a word, made a jump for the small chap.
Surprise manifested on his face, Andy leaped back out of reach of the butterfly net that was extended toward him. The scientist took another forward step. Andy leaped back still more, and then, as if alarmed at the manner of the bug-collector, the boy turned and ran down the street.
“Hold on! Come back here at once! I want you! You must not get away from me! Stop I say!”
The race was on, each one running at top speed.
“Don’t let him catch me! Don’t!” yelled Andy, working his legs to their limit. “I didn’t mean anything! I wasn’t making fun of the flying frog! Don’t catch me!”
“Stop! Stop I say!” ordered the professor imperiously.
“By Jove!” exclaimed Jerry. “The professor is angry at Andy. He thinks he’s been making game of him. If he catches him he may hurt the little fellow.”
“What, the professor? He wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he wanted it for a specimen,” spoke Ned.
“Maybe that’s what he wants of Andy – he’s so little,” ventured Bob.
“Well, he’ll soon have him at the rate he’s going,” predicted Jerry, for the scientist was now almost up to the small fellow, who was still begging to be let alone, while the professor was shouting:
“Stop! Stop I say! Come back here at once!”
How long the race might have continued no one could have told, but unfortunately several pedestrians got in the path of Andy and he was forced to slacken speed. His youth and fleetness gave him an advantage, but the professor was used to chasing after flitting butterflies and elusive insects, and this training stood him in good stead. So in a few minutes he caught up to Andy, and grasped him by the shoulder.
“Did it get away? Is it still on you?” Jerry and his chums heard the scientist ask the small chap.
“Did what get away? Is what still on me?” gasped Andy.
“Didn’t you – ?” Words failed him. He could only look and pant.
“Ha! I have it!” cried the professor. “The little beauty didn’t get away. One moment, Andy, and I’ll secure it.”
He made a sudden motion, and caught something that had been perched on the small lad’s shoulder.
“A red ant, one of the largest of its kind, and a very fine specimen,” observed the professor, as he carefully put the insect in a small box that he took from his pocket. “You have unconsciously been a great aid to the advancement of science to-day, Andy. That red ant is worth at least five dollars.”
“A red ant! Five dollars!” gasped Andy Rush. “Is that why you were chasing me?”
“Yes, to be sure. What else did you think I was running after you for?” demanded Mr. Snodgrass.
“I thought – that is – the flying frog – I thought that you thought I was – Oh, I guess it’s all right!” exclaimed the small chap quickly. “You jumped at me so I was afraid I had offended you.”
“Offended me? I guess not, especially when you had a valuable red ant on you!” cried the professor heartily.
“You thought he was going to scalp you; didn’t you, Andy?” asked Ned in a low voice.
“That’s what I did! I couldn’t stand for that green flying frog. I thought he was making a joke, and I was going to say something funny. I’m glad I didn’t – but he scared me just the same.”
“The professor never jokes,” said Bob. “If he says there is a flying frog you can depend on it that there is one.”
“Come on in, fellows,” invited Jerry to Ned and Bob, as they reached his house. “We’ll hear what the professor has to say about his plans for catching the flying frog, and then we’ll tell him what we are going to do. We’ll have to make up some sort of a program.”
The next hour was spent in talk, the scientist giving some facts about the curious frog, which he stated, could glide from the ground to low bushes and down again, in search of its insect food.
“But what about this aviation meet?” asked the professor. “I must not be selfish and monopolize all the talk.”
They told him of their plans, and also mentioned meeting the two queer men – Brown and Black.
“If we run across them at the meet I’m going to give them a wide berth,” declared Ned. “I don’t cotton to ’em.”
“Me either,” agreed Jerry.
“And so your old enemy, Noddy Nixon, is also to have an aeroplane?” asked the professor, that fact having been mentioned. “Do you expect to race with him?”
“Not if we can avoid it,” declared Jerry. “He may enter his craft in the meet though, but we haven’t seen anything of it as yet. Perhaps it’s only a rumor.”
But it was more than that, as our friends found a few days later, when as they went down to the freight office to get some duplicate parts for their motor, which they had ordered from the factory, they saw several large packing cases on the platform. The boxes were addressed to Noddy Nixon, and were marked – “Fragile – Handle with Care.”
“Maybe that’s his aeroplane that Andy Rush was telling us about,” suggested Bob.
“Shouldn’t wonder,” agreed Jerry. “Let’s see if we can tell where it’s from. There are several firms making them now.”
They saw no harm in looking at the shipping tag to ascertain what type of aircraft Noddy was getting, and they had just located the card, tacked on the end of one of the boxes, when a rough voice exclaimed:
“Here, get away from there! What are you trying to do; damage our machine?”
The boys turned quickly to observe the unprepossessing countenance of Bill Berry gazing at them. He had come up unheard.
“Your machine?” murmured Jerry.
“Yes, mine – mine and Noddy’s. I’ve got an interest in it. It can carry two. You needn’t think you’re the only ones in town with an aeroplane,” and Bill sneered.
“We were just looking to see where it came from,” said Bob.
“You needn’t give yourselves the trouble,” went on the bully’s crony. “Just keep away from our property. We can do all the looking that’s necessary.”
“What’s the matter? What were they doing?” demanded the angry voice of Noddy himself, as he came quickly from the direction of the freight office, and mounted the platform. He had gone to sign a receipt for his property. “What were they doing, Bill?”
“Oh, snooping around, as usual.”
“That’s not so!” cried Ned hotly.
“Say, if you bother with my aeroplane I’ll have you arrested!” threatened Noddy, with a bluster. “I intend to make a lot of flights, and if you get in my way there’ll be trouble.”
“Don’t worry; we’ll take good care to keep out of your way,” said Jerry significantly. “Come on, fellows. And the next time Noddy gets in a mud hole we’ll let him stick.”
“I guess Noddy means business as far as flying goes,” remarked Ned, when they were on their way home. “That firm he bought his machine from makes good aeroplanes.”
“Yes, he’ll fly if he doesn’t break it the first time he goes out,” said Jerry. “Well, he needn’t trouble us – there’s plenty space to fly in. We’ll go off on a little trip, and take the professor with us when we get the motor fixed.” For the engine of the Comet had developed a slight defect, and it was decided to remedy it before going to the meet.
In the meanwhile the boys worked on other parts of their air machine, while Professor Snodgrass put in his time seeking various insects in Cresville. He had agreed to go to the aeroplane meet with the boys, and later they planned to take a short flight out West, to see if there was any truth in the Professor’s theory that the flying frog might be discovered there.
They heard some reports of Noddy’s aeroplane. An expert from the factory where it was made had come on to Cresville to assemble it, and also to give Noddy lessons in running it. Noddy knew something of aeronautics, though his first attempt at flight in his tin fly had been most disastrous.
“He means business,” said Jerry one day to his chums. “I went past yesterday afternoon, and Andy and Bill were making a trip over Mr. Nixon’s big meadow. Noddy will fly all right.”
“Did he go up high?” inquired Bob.
“Not very. He was just about snipping the tops off the daisies – regular grass-cutting work. Afraid to go up, I guess. But say, I thought of making a trip to-morrow. Will you fellows come?”
“Sure,” agreed Ned. “We’ll take the professor, too. He hasn’t had a ride since he came.”
“Can’t we take considerable food along, and stay several days?” asked Bob.
“No, it’s too near the time for the meet,” decided Jerry. “There are several little changes I want to make in the Comet before we enter her for a prize, and if we go scooting off around the country we can’t get them done. Besides, there’s always the danger of an accident that might put us out of the race. We’ll postpone our trip until after the meet.”
His companions agreed with him, and the next morning, in company with the professor, they started off on a day’s flight, planning to return to Cresville before nightfall.
“Noddy Nixon went off in his machine early this morning,” was the information Andy Rush brought when he appeared at the big shed, for he had been invited to make the trip with our heroes.
“He did, eh?” spoke Ned. “Well, I guess he won’t go far. Come on now, Andy, hop in. We’re ready to start.”
The professor, carrying a number of specimen boxes, and an extra long-handled net with which he hoped to capture insects of the upper regions, entered the cabin of the Comet. Jerry was in the pilot house, with Ned and Bob standing by to give their aid.
“Let her go!” cried the tall lad, as he turned on the power, while Ned turned over the auxiliary fly wheel that was connected with the big propellers. They whirred around with great swiftness, the Comet skimmed lightly over the ground, and a moment later had mounted easily up into the air.
“Whoop! La-la!” cried Andy Rush. “Here we go! Up in the air! Never say die! Never come down! Go on like the Flying Dutchman! Whoop! La-la!”
A DISASTROUS FLIGHT
Higher and higher soared the Comet, mounting upward on the wings of the wind until it was more than a mile in the air. Then Jerry brought her to a level keel, and turned on more power.
“Where you heading for?” asked Ned, noting that the machinery was running almost at the limit of speed. “What’s the haste, Jerry? Are you trying for a record?”
“Not especially, though we might as well hit it up to see how the renovated motor works.”
“It works fine, if you ask me,” came from Bob. “We haven’t traveled so fast since we were after Mr. Jackson. But then I guess if we’re going to try for a prize at the meet we’ll need speed.”
“That’s one reason,” conceded Jerry. “Another is, that I’m going to try to get to Lake Martin and back before night.”
“Ha! I see your game!” cried Ned. “You haven’t had a chance to try the hydroplanes lately, and you are afraid they won’t work.”
“Not at all afraid of that,” declared the tall lad, “but I do want to give them another try-out.”
“It’s quite a trip to Lake Martin and back again – especially when we haven’t much food aboard,” ventured Bob.
“Oh, what’s the matter with you, Chunky?” cried Jerry. “You’re always thinking of eating. Forget it once in a while. We can easily make the lake, and be back for supper.”
“If we don’t have any accidents,” put in the fat boy, somewhat dubiously. “I’m going to see what we have got in the galley,” and despite the laughing objections of his companions he departed to inspect the larder. He came back grinning cheerfully.
“Well?” asked Ned.
“Enough for a week!” exclaimed Bob in satisfied tones. “I forgot that we stocked up the other day. It’s all right. Go as far as you like.”
It was quite a trip to Lake Martin, but Jerry knew the Comet could easily make it. They had gone farther than that in one day, and he wanted to try the hydroplanes on a large body of fresh water. He knew, or was practically certain, that they would work all right, but they had not been used since the trip over the ocean, when the boys rescued Mr. Jackson.
It was about an hour after they had started, and the Comet, was speeding swiftly along, when Mr. Snodgrass quickly arose from his seat amidships, and with a cry of delight, rushed toward the stern of the craft.
“There’s one!” he exclaimed. “One of the upper-air mosquitoes. Look out, Bob, and I’ll get him!”
With uplifted net the scientist headed for the very end of the Comet. Buzzing just out of his reach was a large insect, and so intent on its capture was Mr. Snodgrass that he never noticed his own danger.
The rear of the airship ended in a sort of open deck or platform, that was used for various purposes. Usually a stout iron railing enclosed it, but, in order to make some changes, this railing had been taken down, and had not been replaced, though Jerry intended to do it before going to the meet. But now the end of the craft was unprotected, and the professor was running quickly toward it.
Eager as he was to capture the insect, there was every likelihood that he would hurl himself off into space if he was not stopped. Ned saw his danger and yelled:
“Professor! Professor! Stop! The railing is down! Look out!”
The scientist either did not hear or did not heed, but kept on.
“Stop the ship! Stop her! Send her down! He’ll be killed if he falls!” cried Ned to Jerry. There was little doubt of this, for the Comet was now two miles above the earth.
The professor was now within ten feet of the end of the platform, and it seemed that nothing could save him. But Ned and Jerry, who were looking with horror in their eyes at their friend, reckoned without Bob. The stout lad was on the after part of the motorship, at one edge of the platform. He looked up as he heard the cries, and saw the scientist coming. Then Bob acted.
Instead of calling to Mr. Snodgrass, the fat lad fairly rolled out directly in his path, and lay there. There could be but one result. The professor, his eyes fixed on the insect that was fluttering before him, did not see Bob. But he could not avoid him.
The next instant he had stumbled over him, and went down in a heap, about four feet from the end of the platform, his net slipping from his grasp, and falling off into space.
“Ugh!” grunted Bob, as the breath was knocked from him by the impact with the professor.
“Oh, my dear boy! Did I hurt you?” exclaimed the scientist as he slowly arose.
“Not – not much,” gasped the fat youth.
“Oh dear! My best net is gone! And the insect has disappeared!” lamented Mr. Snodgrass.
“And in another minute you would have disappeared!” declared Jerry half angrily. “You must not take such chances, Professor. Only for Bob you would have been killed.”
“Well, I’m much obliged to Bob, I’m sure,” said Mr. Snodgrass with a curious air. “Very much obliged. I wonder where I can get another handle for the new butterfly net which I must make?”
“And that’s all he thinks about his narrow escape,” commented Ned. “Say, he’ll give us heart disease if he keeps on this way.”
“A miss is as good as two miles,” observed Bob, as he rubbed his hip where the professor had fallen on him. “I’m glad he didn’t go overboard,” he added as he looked at the earth far below them.
The professor, after thinking the matter over, began to realize what he had escaped, and shook hands warmly with Bob. Then he forgot all about the matter, in the work of making a new handle for another net he constructed out of some thin cloth.
Meanwhile the Comet was speeding on, and in less time than our heroes expected they were at Lake Martin. Jerry sent the craft down to the surface of the water, and landed on the hydroplanes. Then, setting the water-screw in motion, he directed the motorship about on the lake, to the no small amazement of some motor-boat enthusiasts who were there. Dinner was eaten afloat, and after giving the professor a chance to look for the flying frog, but without success, preparations were made for the return.
“I told you we could make the trip easily in a day,” observed Jerry to his chums, as, toward the close of the afternoon, they were nearing Cresville.
“Yes, the Comet is doing herself proud,” declared Ned. “I hope we take a prize with her at Colton.”
“Sure we will,” insisted Bob, who was feeling very fine because of a good dinner.
“We wouldn’t if we depended on you,” said Jerry, “though I must say you keep us up to the mark on grub,” and the fat lad grinned in appreciation of this compliment.
They were about three miles from home, and were slowing up their speed, and coming down on a long slant, when Ned, who was looking from the window of the pilot house suddenly exclaimed:
“There’s another aeroplane down there, fellows!”
“Where?” demanded Bob.
“Hovering over that meadow. See, it’s a big biplane, too.”
They looked and saw the white planes of a large aircraft.
“It’s a new one – see how white the canvas is,” commented Jerry.
“Looks just like the Silver Star,” put in Bob. “Maybe Brown and Black have come to apologize to us.”
“Not much,” answered Ned grimly.
“Say, fellows, that’s Noddy Nixon!” cried Andy Rush, who, strange to say, had been rather quiet on this trip. “He has a biplane.”
“So he has,” agreed Jerry. “I shouldn’t be surprised if it was Noddy, boys.”
“Let’s go down and see,” proposed Bob. Accordingly the Comet was headed for the strange aircraft which was slowly skimming along over the big meadow, at no great distance above the ground. There were two figures in it, as our friends could observe, and they were guiding the aeroplane about in easy circles and figures of eight.
“It’s Noddy all right,” declared Jerry, when they had come near enough to make out the occupants of the machine, “and Bill Berry is with him.”
“Let’s watch him for a while,” suggested Bob, and his tall chum shut off the propellers, let some gas blow from the compressor into the big bag, so that the Comet floated in the air like a balloon, at some distance above the slowly-moving aeroplane of Noddy Nixon.
The bully and his crony had noticed the air-audience and, probably to show off, they increased the speed of their craft, though they did not ascend any.
“Guess they’re afraid,” remarked Ned.
Then Andy Rush did something, which, if his companions could have anticipated they would have prevented. Leaning over the side of the Comet, and directing his voice at Noddy and Bill, he loudly shouted:
“Hey, why don’t you go up? Don’t be afraid! Be sports! Come on up, the air is fine! Show us what you can do!”
Whether Noddy imagined it was one of the motor boys calling thus mockingly to him was not learned, but at any rate the bully retorted:
“Huh! afraid, are we? I’ll show you!”
There was an increase to the speed of his motor, as our friends could tell by the more rapid explosions, and the new aeroplane, boastfully named the Winner, shot upward.
“We’ll show you what we can do!” cried Bill Berry. “Go right over their heads, Noddy!”
“I will!” declared Noddy, and he pointed the nose of his craft straight at the Comet on an upward slant.
“He’s coming for us!” cried Ned.
“He may hit us!” added Bob.
“Not much danger I guess,” replied Jerry. “He ought to be able to steer well out of the way.”
But the Winner did seem to be coming alarmingly close to the Comet, and even Jerry was a bit apprehensive.
“Guess I’ll get some steerage way on, and move up a bit, fellows,” decided the tall lad. But before he could do this something happened.
The Winner was coming on rapidly. The malevolent faces of Noddy and Bill could be made out now. They were both grinning.
“We’ll cut over your heads all right!” boasted Noddy. “We’ll show you how to fly.”
An instant later the nose of the Winner was tilted upward still more, as Noddy shifted his rudder. It seemed as if the new craft would clear the Comet, and that Noddy would make good his boast.
But just as Jerry got the propellers in motion, and as the motorship was slowly moving to one side the Winner topped her. Right over the heads of our heroes flew Noddy.
Then came an ominous ripping, tearing sound, a hissing as from compressed air, and the Comet began to sink.
“He’s torn a hole in our gas bag! We’re going down!” yelled Jerry, as he leaped toward the motor room. “Ned – Bob! Start the vapor machine or we’ll crash to earth!”
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