Clarence Young.

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





Whats that? asked Ned.

Maybe some one else is falling, suggested Bob.

Jerry hurried out, and immediately called to his chums:

Theres something wrong over at Noddys hangar. Maybe he and Bill are having a fight.

It needed only such a mention as that to bring Ned and Bob out on the run. They looked to where Jerry pointed and saw a big throng gathering about the tent set aside for the use of Noddy and his Winner.

Come on! cried Ned, springing in that direction. Bob and Jerry followed, and when they got near enough they could hear shouts and calls like the following:

He must be crazy!

Perhaps its the heat!

Did he fall from an aeroplane and land on his head?

Whats he trying to do, anyhow?

Give it up. Maybe hes a snake charmer and one of his reptiles got away.

There were screams from several women at this.

Now Jerry, Ned and Bob had pushed their way in, and, just as they half expected when they heard the remarks, they saw Professor Snodgrass on his knees at the edge of the canvas shelter. He was evidently trying to capture some bug.

Might have known hed create some excitement before the day was over, remarked Bob.

Hardly had he spoken than the little scientist jumped up as if he were shot.

Look out! he cried. There he goes! Dont let him get away! Oh, there he goes on top of the tent!

In an instant the professor had pushed his way through the crowd, and seeing a rope hanging from the top of the front pole of the hangar he began to climb up it, the frail structure swaying with his weight.

Come back! Come back! yelled Jerry. That wont hold you! But the scientist kept on up the rope.

CHAPTER XV
A BREAKDOWN

The crowd, which at first had been inclined to be amused at the spectacle of the odd little man shinning up a rope, was somewhat aghast at Jerrys cry. And indeed it was a perilous climb that Professor Snodgrass had essayed.

For the hangars were rather frail, and were only designed as shelters from the sun and rain, being merely poles set in the earth, with a light frame built on them, and muslin, or thin canvas, stretched over.

Come down! pleaded Jerry. Dont trust your weight to that tent, professor!

I must! I must get that insect! he replied. It is a very rare kind of flying grasshopper, and I can see it perched up on the ridge pole!

Whats the matter, is he crazy? asked a man of Ned.

No, hes only a scientific enthusiast, was the reply.

The danger of Mr. Snodgrass was now obvious to all, for the frail shelter was swaying with his weight.

Here! Whats going on! imperiously demanded Noddy Nixon. With Bill Berry, he had been over to the secretarys office, and the bully was now coming back on the run as he saw the crowd about his tent.

Get away from there! he cried. Ah, its that Snodgrass man! Hes trying to get in our hangar, and damage our machine.

Bill, call a policeman and have him arrested. Get down off there, Snodgrass! he called disrespectfully.

Oh, dry up! advised Bob to the bully. Dont you suppose if he wanted to get in there he could have gone in easier than by climbing up a rope?

Well, he has no right on our tent, went on Noddy.

Hes after a new kind of grasshopper, explained Ned.

The professor paid no heed to the cries of warning, nor to Jerrys appeals. Yet he was in grave danger. His motions, as he went up the rope hand over hand, for he was quite an athlete, made the main front pole of the hangar sway more and more, and it was almost on the point of snapping off.

Come back! Come back! pleaded Jerry.

Not until I get that insect! replied the scientist. It is very rare. Ah, I see you, my beauty! Keep still a moment longer and Ill have you!

He tried to reach up with a short net he took from his pocket, meanwhile supporting himself on the rope by one hand and by twisting his legs in the strands. But he could not quite stretch far enough.

Then he seemed to become aware of the dangerously swaying pole, which was becoming loose in the ground. The professor looked down at the crowd below him.

Hell fall in another minute, predicted a man.

Get a net! ordered some one.

There isnt any, was the reply.

A ladder then! Get a ladder! Hell be killed!

The professor looked longingly at the grasshopper, then he gazed down at the crowd below him. To his credit be it said that he was not afraid. Yet he saw the impossibility of keeping on. And, if he slid down, the violent motion of the rope thus occasioned might have disastrous results.

Come on, Ned and Bob, weve got to save him! cried Jerry.

How you going to do it? asked the merchants son.

I saw a big step ladder over here! went on the tall lad, running toward a tent where was housed a dirigible balloon. Its an immense one. We can put it up near the rope, and he can get down on it.

They found the ladder standing outside the tent, and it was the work of but a few seconds to rush it back to where the scientist was still dangling. Nor were they any too soon, for as they got it in place the swaying pole cracked off close to the ground, and the professor just managed to throw himself on the ladder which was grasped and held firm by scores of willing hands.

Oh, dear! the grasshopper got away! exclaimed the scientist as he reached the ground.

The professor thought more of the loss of the insect than he did of his own narrow escape, but a little later, having succeeded in capturing a curious kind of bug in the grass near the tent of the Comet, he forgot his troubles.

There were many interesting aerial exhibitions that afternoon, and several small races in which our heroes did not take part. Noddy Nixon and Bill went in one race and won it, much to the delight of the bully, though really he deserved small credit, for his machine was much more powerful than those of his competitors.

Then came the turn of our friends to show what could be done in their craft, and to the wonder of the crowd they went up almost out of sight, coasted down on a bank of air, propelled themselves as a dirigible balloon, as an aeroplane, making the change high above the earth and then did some other intricate evolutions. They received many vigorous rounds of applause.

That night our friends made a careful examination of their craft in anticipation of the races for high distance that were to take place on the morrow.

Is Noddy going to compete against us? asked Bob. I suppose he will though.

No, he isnt! declared Ned, who had just come in from the secretarys office.

Why not? demanded Jerry.

Oh he and Bill got huffy at something, or else they are afraid, and they have withdrawn their entry. The secretary said Noddy was going to take his machine and leave.

Small loss, commented Bob.

There were not so many entrants in the trial for a record elevation as there had been in the hundred miles race, but there were enough to make it interesting. Our heroes got a good start and began the upward spiral climb, going higher and higher, well in advance of all the others.

They were making good speed, though the Wright biplane was creeping up on them, when there sounded on ominous snapping sound from the motor room.

Whats that? cried Jerry, who was in the pilot house.

Ill see, offered Ned.

He came back with a rueful countenance.

Well, asked Jerry.

One of the cylinders is cracked, reported the merchants son.

Then weve got to go down, declared Jerry.

Were going down already, exclaimed Bob, looking at the barograph. It had registered a little over two miles, but now the hand was rapidly swinging the other way as the motor of the Comet lost speed at every revolution.

CHAPTER XVI
STARTLING NEWS

There was no alarm among those aboard the Comet. Our heroes had, by this time, become used to accidents happening even higher in the air than they now were. In fact their machine was constructed purposely to render them safe in case of a breakdown, for they could instantly change from an aeroplane to a balloon, and thus float even with the motor motionless.

This was what they did in the present emergency. Jerry saw that it was useless, with one cylinder out of commission, to try to get any speed out of the engine.

Shut down! he ordered Bob and Ned, and the big propellers ceased revolving.

Its tough, just when we were after a record, remarked Ned.

Cant we go down, fix her up and try again? asked the stout lad.

No use, Chunky, declared the tall youth. It will take several days to put in a new cylinder. No, weve got to give up. But we ought to be satisfied with the prize we won.

They were not, however; in fact human nature never is, and Jerry and his chums were no different from other lads. As they began falling downward they could hear from below murmurs of fear, for the great crowd thought the motorship was wrecked.

Throw in plenty of gas! called Jerry to his chums, and a moment later the descent of the craft was checked as the lifting vapor rushed into the bag. Then she floated lazily in the air, and, in a few minutes, to reassure the watching, anxious throng, Jerry sent her about in dips and circles, to show that they had her under full control.

A cheer greeted this evidence of skill in aeronautics, and then, there being no necessity for descending farther the boys remained there to watch from that vantage point the other machines climbing upward.

The big Wright passed close by them, the two occupants calling to know what the matter was.

Broken cylinder, answered Jerry.

Too bad, old man! came the sympathetic hail, and then the biplane continued to poke her nose toward the upper regions.

In turn a Bleriot monoplane, a Curtiss biplane, a Baby Wright, a Santos Dumont, and a Farman shot upward, while our heroes had to look on mournfully, being out of the race.

A little later, when all the competing craft had reached earth, it was announced that a biplane had made the best record, having reached a height of over 15,000 feet, establishing a new record.

We could have beaten that if our engine hadnt gone back on us, said Ned mournfully.

I believe we could, assented Jerry. Well, well be out of it the remainder of the meet I guess, but lets get busy, put in a new cylinder, and start for the West to help the professor capture his flying frog.

Thats it, boys! joyfully exclaimed the little scientist. I have had very good success here, and only to-day I caught a little black lizard, very rare and valuable, but I want to get after the frog.

An examination showed that they would have to take out the cylinder and put in a new one, and the preliminary work was started that evening.

Jerry and Ned were laboring in the motor room, and Bob had been sent to tell the secretary that the Comet could not, as her owners had promised, take part in a final exhibition stunt. The stout lad came back in a hurry, exclaiming as he entered the tent:

Hey, fellows, Noddy Nixon is going!

Going where? asked Jerry pausing, monkey wrench in hand.

Going to leave. Hes taking out his biplane, and he and Bill are going to cut the rest of the show just as Ned said. But theyre going off in style. I thought hed pack up his airship, but hes going off in her.

Out on the grounds could be heard the rattle and bang of a powerful motor in operation. Our friends crowded to the tent entrance in time to see the Winner shoot up into the air, with Noddy and Bill in the seats. Then the craft, describing a long curve, shot off toward Harmolet.

I wonder where hes going? mused Ned.

No telling, was Jerrys opinion. But come on, lets get busy. Well have to go to Harmolet to-morrow, and see if we can get another cylinder in place of this cracked one.

There was a trolley line not far from the aviation grounds, and our three boys, catching a car early the next morning, were soon on their way to the city where, so some of the birdmen had assured them, they could easily get a new cylinder, or other parts of their machine or engine. In fact, in anticipation of such calls being made during the meet, one of the automobile dealers in Harmolet had laid in a stock of airship parts.

Passing through a pleasant country, the boys shortly found themselves in a good-sized city. The car was passing through the principal street when, as it went by a bank building, the attention of Jerry and his chum was attracted by a large crowd standing in front. The people overflowed the sidewalk out on the trolley tracks.

Whats the matter, a run on the bank? asked Jerry of the conductor.

Something like that, was the reply.

Did the cashier skip off with the funds? inquired Ned.

No, the safe was blown open last night, and fifty thousand dollars in cash was taken, besides more in securities. It was quite a sum for the bank to lose, and I guess some of the depositors are nervous. But most of the crowd is there out of curiosity. The police are inside looking for clews. I heard the news on my first trip this morning.

Fifty thousand dollars taken! exclaimed Bob. Thats a neat sum. Lets get off here, fellows, and see if we can get a glimpse of the wrecked vault or safe. Ive got my camera, and maybe theyll let me take a snap-shot. That would be a picture worth getting.

All right, agreed Jerry. Theres no special rush about the cylinder.

They joined the throng about the bank, but looked in vain to see some place where the side wall had been blown out with dynamite, or some other explosive.

Guess it wasnt much of a blow-up, remarked Ned in somewhat disappointed tones.

Oh, its all inside, a man in the crowd informed them. They nearly blew the doors off the big safe, but nothing shows from the outside. They got the money all right. Half the police in town are on the job now, but last night, when the explosion took place, not a soul heard it.

I wish we could get inside and see it, murmured Bob Id like to take a picture. But there seemed no chance of this, as the police were keeping the crowd back from the front of the building.

CHAPTER XVII
SEEKING CLEWS

Come on, lets go around this way, proposed Ned in a low voice to his chums, as a little later, he pointed to a side alley that apparently led to the rear of the bank.

Go ahead, urged Bob, who had his small pocket camera ready. There were but few persons near the alley, and our chums were just entering it quietly, when a voice called out:

Hey! Where you fellers goin?

Oh, just up here, replied Jerry, in non-committal tones.

Well, youll have to keep out. I got orders not to allow any strangers in there, and why hello! If it isnt the motor boys from Cresville! Why, how are you? and the man, evidently a watchman, or a policeman in plain clothes, extended his hand toward Jerry, a smile illuminating his face. Howd you come here? went on the man.

Well, if it isnt Mr. Thompson! exclaimed Jerry in amazement. How in the world did you get here?

Sort of a mutual surprise party, murmured Ned. Hello, Mr. Thompson.

All three of you, eh? went on the guard. Jerry, Ned and Bob. Well, Im glad to see you, and he shook hands with each of them in turn. Mr. Thompson had lived in Cresville for many years and had done some work for Mrs. Hopkins at odd times. The boys knew him very well, but of late years had not seen him, for he had moved away from their town.

How comes it that you are here? asked Jerry. Do you work in the bank?

No, Im one of the Harmolet police force. Ive been on about two years now. I knocked about the country after leaving Cresville, and finally settled down here. Im a regular officer now, and if I catch you boys cutting up Ill run you in! and the man laughed at his joke.

Wheres your uniform? asked Bob.

Didnt have time to put it on. Soon as this robbery was discovered the chief sent for all the reserve men. I was home sleeping, after my night on duty, but I had to get up. Weve got all the men we can spare on this job.

What for? asked Jerry. Especially after the money is gone fifty thousand dollars of it?

Sixty thousand would be nearer the figure, declared Mr. Thompson. It does seem sort of like locking the stable door after the horse is stolen, but orders from the chief are orders. Besides, it takes quite a few of us to keep the crowd back, and the rest are looking for clews.

Inside the bank? Ned wanted to know.

Inside and outside. The robbers made a neat job of it, and the funny part of it is that we cant seem to find out how they got in and got out again. However they got the money all right a clean sixty thousand. But what are you boys doing here?

We took part in the airship meet at Colton, said Jerry; and they told Officer Thompson about it, of how they had seen the crowd, and stopped off the car to learn the cause of the excitement.

I wanted to get a picture of the wrecked safe, put in Bob, but I

Say now, Im glad I met you, interrupted Mr. Thompson. Its a little against orders, but I guess I can let you in, especially as no one is looking. Slip around in back of me, and go to the rear door. Wait there for me, and as soon as I can get some one to take my place Ill bring you in, and show you the way they did it. Its worth seeing.

They had not been waiting at the rear door of the bank more than a few minutes, and had seen, through the windows, a number of men hurrying here and there, when their friend came up.

Its all right, said Mr. Thompson. Come on, Ill take you in.

Piloted by the former Cresville resident, our friends entered the bank. A scene of confusion greeted them. The officers and clerks of the institution were hurrying to and fro with books and papers, and from the presidents room came the murmur of voices.

The directors are having a meeting to decide what to do, explained Mr. Thompson. Likely theyll offer a big reward. Id like to pull it down myself, but the detectives will probably get this job. They ought to offer at least five thousand for the recovery of the sixty thousand.

Sixty thousand? They got more than that! exclaimed a policeman in uniform who nodded to Mr. Thompson and the boys in a friendly fashion.

More than that? repeated our heroes friend in surprise.

Sure. The sixty was mostly in paper money bills of big denomination, and a lot of double eagles they left the silver scattered around. Probably it was too heavy to carry, though there was plenty of it. But they took a hundred and fifty thousand dollars more in negotiable securities stocks, bonds and so on.

A hundred and fifty thousand! gasped Bob.

Two hundred and ten thousand dollars in all! half-whispered Ned. That was a haul!

Come on over this way, and Ill show you where they took it from, proceeded Mr. Thompson, and the boys followed. They halted in front of a massive safe, built into the wall in the form of a vault, and a scene of ruin met their eyes.

The big doors were shattered and twisted, and one had been completely torn from the hinges and lay on the floor. The inner doors, of less weight, had also been blown open. Even yet books and papers, and many silver coins, lay scattered about, the clerks not yet having had time to pick them up.

It was a good job all right, explained the former Cresville man; that is, good from a burglars standpoint, though they used more juice than they needed to.

Juice? queried Bob.

Yes, nitro-glycerine you know. They carry it in a bottle, drill a hole in the door, pour it in, tamp it with soap, and set it off with a fuse. They must have blown the doors when a train was going past so as to deaden the noise, for no one heard it.

Where was the watchman? asked Jerry.

The bank didnt keep one, but I guess they will after this, replied Mr. Thompson grimly. Theyd have saved money if they had had a man on guard. Here you can see where they started to drill a hole in the door, and changed their minds. Probably it wasnt in the right place.

He pointed to a small hole, neatly made in the hard steel.

Took a pretty good drill for that, was Jerrys opinion.

Yes, it was a power-drill, said the policeman. Oh, these were up-to-date crooks all right, and they made a good get-away.

Howd they get in? asked Ned.

I dont believe theyve found out yet. You see this is the first time weve had a big robbery like this, and its sort of upset the force. Its a mystery how they got in.

The detectives have about solved it though, put in an officer in uniform.

How? inquired Mr. Thompson.

Through the roof scuttle. One of em Blake I think it was just discovered some finger marks in the dust around the scuttle, and it was found unhooked, so hes pretty sure they came in from the roof.

Howd they get on the roof? asked Jerry.

Thats what theyve got to find out, went on the policeman.

I wonder if I could take these friends of mine up and have a look? ventured Mr. Thompson.

Sure, assented the other. Theres not much to see though. I guess the best clews will be found down here.

Bob wanted to take several snap shots of the wrecked safe, and Ned and Jerry waited for him. Meanwhile two or three detectives were observed poking about in the ruins, and the litter of paper for possible clews.





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