Clarence Young.

The Motor Boys on the Wing: or, Seeking the Airship Treasure





CHAPTER X
SUSPICIOUS CONVERSATION

There was intense excitement aboard the Comet. So, for that matter, was there also on the Winner, for at first Noddy and Bill did not know but that their own craft had been damaged. But, as they kept on rising, in response to the uptilted rudder, Noddy was sure they were all right. He quickly brought his craft up on a level keel, and then swept around in a big circle to see what was happening to the Comet.

Lively, boys! cried Jerry. Turn on the machine at full speed, Ned, and that will check us until we can get under way, for they were motionless when the accident occurred.

Ned had acted the instant he heard Jerrys call, and now a double quantity of the lifting gas was pouring into the ripped bag.

Though the rent was a large one, the bag was made in a number of compartments, so that only the two that were ripped open by the Winner lost their vapor. The others were more fully distended and served to check the downward rush of the airship.

After a sickening plunge the Comet gradually slowed up in her descent, and when within a few hundred feet of the earth she glided ahead as an aeroplane, her propellers forcing her onward.

But there was not chance enough to get up much momentum, and, as they ran into an adverse current of air, which continued to force them earthward, and, as for some reason the main motor was not working well, Jerry concluded to make a full descent, so he could see what damage had been done, and then rise again.

Stand by to make a landing! he called to his chums; and a moment later the Comet came to rest on the level green meadow while above her the Winner winged her flight through the air.

Well, wouldnt that jar you! exclaimed Ned in great disgust.

I should say so, remarked Bob. Its just like Noddy Nixons freshness. He ought to learn how to run an aeroplane in the kindergarten class before he comes out with the high school boys.

Ill make him pay for our damaged bag! declared Jerry firmly. He ought to have known better than to try that stunt. Ill make him soak up for it all right.

The boys were standing beside their craft, and Jerry was peering upward trying to discover the extent of the tear in the gas bag.

Im afraid it was all my fault, said Andy Rush, more quietly than he usually spoke. If I hadnt challenged Noddy the way I did it might not have happened.

Oh, well, you didnt mean anything, consoled Ned. Besides, Noddy might have done it anyhow. Even if you did call to him he ought to have known better than to try to cross over us so close. I guess Bill Berry put him up to it. Dont worry Andy. Is it very bad, Jerry?

The tall lad had climbed up in the rigging that held the bag, and was critically examining it.

Two of the compartments are all ripped to pieces, and theres a small tear in a third one, Jerry reported.

Well have to put on big patches. Ill make Noddy pay for this.

Can we get home? asked Bob.

Of course. You forget that as an aeroplane were as good as ever, responded Ned. Say, look at Noddy though, hes flying high.

Indeed, the bully and his crony were making a successful flight, and were now but a mere speck in the sky.

Hes doing better than I ever expected he would, remarked Jerry. I hope he steers clear of us after this. He needs half the upper region to navigate in. If he goes to the Colton meet we wont enter any of the events hes in.

I should say not! exclaimed Ned earnestly.

There was nothing that could be done toward repairing the Comet now, so, after letting all the gas out of the bag, and seeing to the defect in the main motor, which was in the ignition system, the boys made ready to fly home as an aeroplane.

The propellers were started, and the motorship skimmed over the meadow. It was rather an uneven course, and the boys were pretty well jolted up, but they managed to acquire enough speed to lift their craft, and once in the air the machine soared high. In ten minutes they were in front of the hangar, and the Comet had been wheeled inside.

Are you really going to tackle Noddy about paying for the damage? asked Ned, as he walked beside Jerry toward the latters house.

I sure am! Im going over there to-night, and if he wont pay Ill see his father. Its time that bully found out that he cant have everything his own way.

Want Bob or me to come along?

No, I think I can do better alone, thanks. If we all go we might get into a quarrel. Ill tackle him alone.

In accordance with his plan, Jerry set off that evening, leaving Professor Snodgrass at home classifying some of the specimens he had caught that day. There were many lights in the Nixon mansion, which was set in the midst of extensive grounds, for Mr. Nixon was quite wealthy.

Looks as if they had company, mused Jerry. I guess Ill find Noddy home. He always is if theres any eating going on like Bob, and he smiled in the darkness.

But Noddy was not at home at least, that is what the maid said who answered Jerrys ring. The tall lad was right in his surmise that something was going on at the Nixon home, for he could see many guests in the parlors, and he caught the strains of music.

Is Mr. Nixon in? he asked, determined to make an appeal to Noddys father.

He is, but hes very busy. I doubt if hell see you, was the reply, and, after thinking it over Jerry concluded that it was an inopportune time to make his demand.

Ill see him to-morrow, he said as he turned away.

The shed where Noddy kept his aeroplane was some distance from the house, but on the same street, for Mr. Nixon owned a large piece of property adjoining his residence. It was in front of this shed that Jerry found himself a few minutes later.

He gazed up at the big, dark building, and his thoughts were not very pleasant as he recalled the damage the bully had done to the Comet that afternoon.

I wonder where Noddy is? mused the tall lad. He and Bill are probably off somewhere together. I wonder if he could be in here?

Jerry paused. There was no light visible in the shed, and our hero was about to pass on, when something some impulse he could not define, caused him to turn and advance a little way inside the fence that surrounded the building. The gate was open.

Oh, pshaw! They cant be in there, thought Jerry. I might as well go home.

But at that instant there came to his ears the sound of voices in cautious conversation. He listened intently.

I tell you its too risky, he heard some one say, and in a moment he knew it was the tones of Bill Berry.

Oh get out! Youre afraid! retorted Noddy Nixon. We can easily do it, and get safely away.

But the police? objected Bill.

Bah! Theyll never suspect that were going to do anything like that. And, even if they do well have the job done and get away before they know anything about it. I tell you its perfectly safe. Isnt it worth trying for?

Yes, I spose it is but if were nabbed?

We wont be I tell you, and Noddy seemed half angry. Most of the police will be at the Colton meet, anyhow.

Do you think you can handle the machine well enough? asked Bill.

I know I can. Look what I did to-day.

Yes, you did cut it pretty fine, admitted Bill.

And I guess I gave those fellows a scare they wont soon forget! chuckled Noddy.

Jerry clenched his hands in anger. But he was not yet ready to make his presence known.

Then youll go in with me on it? asked Noddy, after a pause.

Oh, I suppose so. If were caught it cant be

Well not get caught! declared Noddy again. The Harmolet police are too sleepy for anything like that to happen. Therell be a big surprise when they wake up in the morning and find it gone, and he chuckled again.

Then the voices died away, and it seemed as if the two cronies had gone inside the shed, outside of which they had evidently been standing in the darkness when Jerry overheard their conversation.

The tall lad hesitated a moment, uncertain what to do. Then he murmured:

I guess I wont say anything to Noddy to-night. Ill wait and see what sort of a game hes up to. It sounds suspicious to me.

CHAPTER XI
OFF TO THE MEET

What do you reckon they were talking about? asked Ned.

Are you sure it was Noddy and Bill? inquired Bob.

The two were questioning their chum Jerry the day following the accident to the Comet, when the tall lad had reported to them the result of his visit to Noddys house.

Im as sure it was Noddy and Bill, as that Im talking to you and Ned this minute, Bob. But as to what they were talking about I give up. Ive been thinking of it all night, but I cant hit it, answered Jerry.

Some mischief Ill wager, came from Ned.

Oh, you can be sure of that, added Bob.

One thing seems to be certain, went on the tall lad, and that is theyre going to the Colton meet. I wish they werent, since weve entered our machine there. But theres no help for it.

This is a free country, declared the stout lad. They can do as they please, I suppose.

Well, if were going to the meet its time we did something to the Comet, suggested the merchants son. What about the rips in the gas bag, Jerry?

Well get right at them. Ive got out the stuff to mend the tears. Ill start you and Bob on that, and Ill make another try to see Noddy. Im going to make him pay up if its possible.

A little later, having seen that his two chums were putting the patches on the gas bag the right way, Jerry again went to the Nixon house. A sleepy-eyed maid answered the bell, yawning, though it was after ten oclock. Evidently the company had stayed late the night before.

Master Noddy is not in, she replied in response to Jerrys inquiry. Hes out of town, and I dont know when he will be back.

Out of town?

Yes, to some balloon show I heard him tell his father. Mr. Nixon is in, if youd like to see him.

Never mind, said the tall lad. Did Noddy take his airship with him?

No, its being packed up now. Some men are out in the shed boxing it up. Its going out to the balloon show I believe. Is there any word youd like to leave, she asked, as she saw Jerry turn to go.

Jerry thought there was none, and hurrying to the shed where Bob and Ned were working away over the Comet, he told his chums the news.

Noddy means business all right, declared Ned, pausing with a cement pot in one hand, while with the other he tried to rub off a daub of tar on his nose.

Maybe hes after our scalp, suggested Bob. But I guess we can do stunts with the Comet that he wouldnt dare dream of.

Sure, assented Jerry. Well, as long as hes gone Ill have to defer collecting damages. Now well get busy.

For more than a week our heroes spent most of their time in the aeroplane shed. The gas bag was repaired, and made stronger than ever, the motor was overhauled, a general cleaning of the machinery took place, a new railing was put around the after platform, and the air craft was put in condition to take part in a distance race, a high flight, or to do startling evolutions about the aviation field.

They had formally entered the Comet in the hundreds miles race which was to take place in a ten-mile circuit about the aviation grounds, and they had also entered in the high-flying event.

One afternoon, when Jerry went to the post-office, he received a letter from the secretary of the meet, enclosing an entrants certificate, and also a list showing those who would take part in the various events.

Well, well have to compete against Noddy in both big races distance and height, said Jerry dubiously to his two chums.

Really? asked Ned.

Sure, heres his name, and hes entered Bill Berry as a passenger.

Hes got nerve, declared Bob. Well, well beat him all right. But I would like to know what game he and Bill are after in Harmolet.

So would I, agreed Jerry. But say, fellows, we havent any too much time. We ought to give the Comet one good try-out, and then take her apart and ship her to the meet.

Whats the matter with going to the meet in her? asked Ned. We can easily do it, and it will save time and work.

The only thing is we might have an accident on the way, and then wed be out of it, if we couldnt get the repairs done in time, objected Jerry.

Oh, take a chance, urged the merchants son; and so it was decided.

The Comet was given a final trial flight the next day, and the boys, in company with Professor Snodgrass, went through some intricate evolutions, as well as testing the speed of the motorship on a straight-away course.

They sailed up to a dizzy height, came down in spirals, volplaned to earth as an aeroplane with the gas entirely out of the bag, floated lazily in the air as a balloon, and went after a height record. The last they did not accomplish, for they had only gotten up about three miles when they ran into a violent snowstorm, and Jerry, not wanting to take any chances with the time of the meet so near at hand, made a quick descent.

Weve gone higher on other occasions, he said to his chums, and we know we can do it, so theres no use taking too many risks. Otherwise the Comet never did better.

And if we dont win at least two prizes Ill eat my hat, observed Bob.

And about everything else on board too, I suspect, Chunky, remarked Ned, with a grin.

While the professor was interested in the working of the motorship, and proud of the ability of his young friends, he spent more time looking for insects in the upper air, than in watching the intricate evolutions.

And how soon after the meet will you start for the West? he inquired anxiously, when they had wheeled the Comet into the shed.

Oh, in a few days, promised Jerry. I believe he cares more about that flying frog than he does about us winning a prize, confided the tall lad to his chums.

Im sure of it, agreed Ned.

The final preparations were made. Plenty of provisions were put aboard, there was enough gasolene for a long flight, and materials for making the lifting gas had been stored away. The Comet was ready for the flight to Colton.

Well, we might as well get aboard, remarked Jerry the day of the start, after he and his chums had looked over every bolt, nut, lever, cam, valve, gear and guy-wire. We can take our time getting there.

Let her go! cried Bob. Ive got everything ready for a meal above the clouds.

Oh, of course, murmured Ned. No danger of you forgetting anything in that line.

Professor Snodgrass was busy mending a hole in his butterfly net. Jerry was in the pilot house, while Ned and Bob were in the engine room.

All ready? inquired the tall lad.

All ready, replied Ned, with a final look at the machinery.

Then here we go!

Jerry pulled the starting lever, just as Andy Rush ran into the enclosure.

Good-bye! called the little lad. Good luck! Off you go! Up in the air! Whizz around! Turn over right side up with care off again high as Gilroys kite win the prize whoop-ee!

Well, Im glad thats over, murmured Jerry with a smile.

Across the level space went the Comet with a whizz and a roar. The next minute it had mounted upward, and the motor boys were on the wing.

CHAPTER XII
NEWS OF BROWN AND BLACK

Well, it seems like old times, remarked Ned as he took an easy chair in the living room, back of the pilot house, and watched Jerry manipulating the various wheels and levers, as the big motorship mounted upward on a long slant.

Yes, were under way again, agreed the tall lad. I wonder what will happen to us this trip?

What makes you think anything will happen? asked Bob.

Well it generally does, Chunky. Either we run over a spotted calf, or rip a cornice off a barn, or have a run-in with Noddy Nixon. Oh, therell be something doing on this trip before its over, mark my words.

I hope were done with mix-ups and Noddy Nixon, came from Ned. More likely well have one with those queer fellows we met at Freedon Black and Green.

Black and Brown you mean, broke in Jerry. Whats the matter with you; are you color blind?

Thats right, it was Black and Brown, assented the merchants son. Well, I hope if we do meet them, that they turn out to be white.

Ha! Ha! laughed Bob. Thats a joke white! Oh my!

Glad you arent color blind, and can see it, said Jerry with a smile. But what makes you think well meet them, Ned?

Oh, its just a notion; thats all. But say, were up high enough. Set the automatic steering gear, and take it easy, cant you?

Guess I will, assented the tall youth. Theres no use wasting gas, for in addition to mounting upward by means of the aeroplanes the lifting vapor was also in use.

For several hours our friends sailed slowly along, high above the earth. They were not running their machine to the limit of speed, for though they could readily have made a quick trip to Colton, the place of the meet, they preferred to take it easy, and avoid chances of a breakdown.

Promptly at noon perhaps a little in advance of that hour Bob announced dinner, which he had been some time in preparing. His chums said it did him credit, and the manner in which they ate was additional testimony. Even Professor Snodgrass, who managed to tear himself away from his specimens long enough to come to the table, condescended to pass his plate for some more of the fried chicken. Bob had installed a small ice chest on the Comet, and victuals could be kept cold by means of ammonia vapors, so it was possible to serve fresh meats.

We ought to be there pretty soon now, observed Jerry, toward the close of the day. I figure well just about get to Colton before dark.

You engaged a hangar for us, didnt you? inquired Ned.

Sure. The secretary of the aeronautic association wrote me that he had picked out for us one of the best on the grounds. Its of heavy canvas over a wooden frame. They didnt have time to put up all wooden ones.

Well, better speed up a little, suggested Bob. We dont want to drop down on a strange ground after dusk. Hit it up a little, Jerry.

The Comet was soon scudding along at a faster clip, when suddenly a little cry from Ned, who was in the pilot house brought Bob and Jerry to his side on the run.

Theres the place! he cried, pointing ahead.

They could see a broad level plateau on which could be made out many tents and hangars, gay with flags and bunting, while here and there the graceful biplanes or monoplanes were interspersed with the more bulky dirigible balloons.

Say, theres a lot of em all right! exclaimed Bob.

Yes, I guess its going to be a good meet, assented Jerry.

You better make the landing, interposed Ned, motioning for the tall lad to take the steering wheel. Youre more used to it than I am, and we want to make a good impression.

You fellows can do it as well as I, declared Jerry. The only thing is that you lack confidence. You must get used to it. However, Ill take her down this time.

He turned on a little more power and then, shutting off the gas he picked out an unoccupied spot, and volplaned to earth with great skill, evoking applause from a crowd of aeronauts and spectators who crowded out to witness the arrival of a new machine.

Here safe, remarked Ned as he prepared to descend from the deck of the motorship.

Look around and see if you can pick out Noddys craft, advised Jerry.

Or that of Brown and Black, added Bob.

But a first glance about the grounds did not disclose the biplanes either of the bully, or the two odd men, and Jerry and his chums could have instantly discerned them had they been in sight, for they were experts in the matter of identifying aircraft.

Glad to see you! Your hangar is right over this way, boys! exclaimed a hearty voice, and looking up Jerry and his chums saw a small, pleasant-faced man making his way through the crowd toward them. Im Mr. Nichols, secretary of the meet, he went on. Were all ready for you. My! Thats a great machine you have! and between shaking hands with our friends and the professor he gazed admiringly at the Comet.

Many willing hands aided the boys in rolling their machine over to the big canvas shed that had been set apart for their use. They had landed not far from it. Of course Professor Snodgrass had disappeared the instant earth was reached, but the boys saw him some distance off, eagerly peering about for specimens.

Hes at home all right, murmured Ned.

Our friends found their hangar well furnished for their use. They did not need to take advantage of the cots and cooking arrangements that had been put in, for their machine was as good as a hotel to them. But not every airship was thus completely fitted up.

Well Ill leave you for a while, said Mr. Nichols at length, when he had explained to the boys some of the details of the meet which was to open officially in two days. Ill see you later.

Oh, by the way, began Jerry, have you another craft here from our city Cresville?

Yes, I believe there is an entrant from there, replied the secretary. Its a big biplane a very good craft too. Run by a fellow named Dixon, I think.





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