J. Duffield.

Bert Wilson's Twin Cylinder Racer





Accordingly he started the motor and threw in the clutch on low speed. He made no attempt to mount, however, but contented himself with walking beside the machine, guiding it through the deep sand.

He had no need to announce his arrival. The unmuffled exhaust did that for him. As he approached the cabin from which the light emanated, he could see the whole family grouped on the doorstep, peering into the night, for by now it was quite dark.

The head of the house was a little in advance of the others, and as Bert and the Blue Streak approached the door he stepped forward.

Wall, stranger, what kind of a contraption do you-all reckon to have thar? he drawled, gazing curiously at the palpitating motorcycle.

Bert shut off the motor before he replied.

Why, he said, thats my motorcycle, and its one of the best friends I have. I took the wrong road a way back, I guess, and I was just going to camp out over night, when I saw the light from your window. If you can put me up for the night youll be doing me a big favor.

Not another word, son, replied the big mountaineer, come right in an set down. You look nigh dead beat.

I am about all in, confessed Bert. Ill leave my machine right here, I guess.

Shore, shore, said the big Kentuckian, I reckin thar aint nobuddy within a hundred miles hereabouts that could make off with the blamed machine ef he had a mind to. Hosses is considerable more common in these parts. The pumps around the side of the house ef you low to wash up, he continued, as an afterthought.

All right, thanks, replied Bert, Ill be with you in no time. He disappeared in the direction indicated, and soon returned, much refreshed by a thorough sousing under the pump.

As he entered the cabin, a tired-looking but motherly woman bustled forward. Jest you set over there to the right of paw, she said, indicating Berts place at the table, an make yourself comfortable. We aint got much to offer you, but sech as it is, your welcome.

There was not much variety to the viands, it must be confessed, but there was plenty of corn pone and bacon, and rich milk with which to wash it down. After his strenuous day in the open he ate ravenously. The mountaineer uttered hardly a word during the meal, and indeed none of the family seemed very talkative.

The children, of whom there were six, gazed round-eyed at the unexpected guest, and seemed, if one were to judge from their looks, to regard him as a being from another world.

After the meal was dispatched, the mountaineer produced a blackened old pipe, and, filling it from a shabby leather pouch, lit it. Do you smoke, son? he asked, holding the pouch out to Bert, ef you do, help yourself.

No, thanks, said Bert, declining the hospitable offer with a smile.

Dont smoke, eh? commented the other. Wall, yed ought to. Theres a heap of comfort in baccy, let me tell you.

I dont doubt it, replied Bert, but Ive been in training so long for one thing or another that Ive never had a chance to form the habit.

Everybody that smokes seems to get a lot of fun out of it though, so I suppose it must be a great pleasure.

It shore is, affirmed the big Kentuckian. But its hot in here. What do you say we light out and take a squint at that machine of yourn? I aint never got a good look at one close up. Theyre ginerally travelin too fast to make out details, with a grin.

Well, theyre not the slowest things in the world, thats certain, laughed Bert, but come ahead out and Ill be glad to explain it to you.

They went outside together, the Kentuckian carrying a lantern, and followed by the children, who gazed wide-eyed at the strange machine. Bert explained the simpler points of the mechanism to the mountaineer, who seemed much interested.

I kin see its a mighty neat contraption, he admitted, at length. But Id rether ride quietlike behind a good bit o hoss flesh. You cant make me believe that thet machine has got the strength o seven hosses in it, nohow. It aint reasonable.

Bert saw that he might argue for a week, and still fail to shake the obstinacy of his host, so he wisely forbore to make the attempt. Instead he guided the conversation around to the conditions and pursuits of the surrounding country, and here the Kentuckian was on firm ground. He discoursed on local politics with considerable shrewdness and good sense, and proved himself well up on such topics.

They talked on this subject quite a while, and then the conversation in some way shifted to the feuds a few years back that had aroused such widespread criticism. Although I havent seen any sign of them since Ive been in Kentucky, confessed Bert, with a smile.

No, said his host, with a ruminative look in his eyes, theyre dyin out, an a good thing it is fer the country, too. They never did do the least mite o good, an they often did a sight o harm.

Why, it warnt such a long time back that the Judsons an the Berkeleys were at it hammer an tongs, right in this country roundabout. One was layin fer tother all the time, an the folks thet wasnt in the fracas was afraid to go huntin even, fer fear o bein picked off by mistake. They wasnt none too particular about makin sure o their man, neither, before they pulled trigger. Theyd shoot fust, an ef they found theyd bagged the wrong man they might be peeved, but thets all. Moren once Ive had a close shave myself.

But what started the feud in the first place? asked Bert. It must have been a pretty big thing to have set people to shooting each other up like that, I should think.

Not sos you could notice it, was the answer. Blamed ef I rightly remember just what it was. Seems to me, now I come to think of it, that ole Seth Judson an Adam Berkeley got mixed up in the fust place over cuttin down a tree thet was smack on the line atween their farms. Ole Seth he swore hed cut thet tree down, an Adam he lowed as how it would be a mighty unhealthy thing fer any man as how even took a chip out of it.

Wall, a couple o days later Adam went to town on one errand or another, and when he got back the cussed ole tree had been cut down an carted away. When Adam saw nothin but the stump left, he never said a word, good or bad, but turned around and went back to his house an got his gun. He tracks over to Seth Judsons house an calls him by name. Seth, he walks out large as life, an Adam pumps a bullet clean through his heart. Them two men had been friends off an on fer over thirty year, an I allow thet ef Adam hed took time to think an cool off a little, hed never a done what he did.

Howsomever, theres no bringin the dead back to life, an Adam tromps off home, leavin Seth lyin there on his front porch.

Twasnt moren a week later, I reckon, when we all heard thet Seths son, Jed, had up an killed Adam, shootin at him from behind a fence.

Waal, thets the way it started, an it seemed as though it war never goin to end. Young Adam, he lowed as how no man could shoot his daddy an live, so he laid fer Jed as he was goin to the village, an shot him atween the eyes as neat as could be. Then the younger sons, thet were still not much more than boys, as you might say, they took to lyin in wait fer each other in the woods an behind fences. Pretty soon their relatives took to backin them up, and jined in on their own account. O course, most o the folks hereabouts is related to one another in some way.

I wasnt a native o these parts myself, an so managed to keep clear o the trouble. It was a hard thing for me to set by an see my neighbors killin each other off like a passel o mad dogs, though, an all the more because I knew there wasnt any real call fer it in the first place.

Howsumever, theyve stopped fightin now, an its none too soon, nuther. Another year, an I reckon there wouldnt a been a Berkeley or a Judson left alive in the hull State.

The farmer stopped speaking, and gazed reflectively into the night.

But what put an end to it finally, inquired Bert, who had listened to this narrative with absorbed interest.

Waal, there was considerable romance consarned in it, as you might say, said his host. Young Buck Judson, he met one o ole Berkeleys daughters somewhere, an those two young fools hed to go an fall in love with each other. O course, their families were dead sot agin it, but nothin would do the critters short o gettin hitched up, an at last they talked their families into a peace meetin, as you might say. All the neighbors was invited, an o course we-all went. An, believe me, those people reminded me of a room full o tom cats, all wantin to start a shindy, but all hatin to be the fust to begin.

But all we-uns thet wanted to stop such goins on did our best to keep peace in the family. To make a long story short, everythin went off quiet an easy like, an Buck an his gal was hitched up all proper. The hard feelin gradually calmed down, an now the two families is tolerable good friends, considerin everything. But that cost a heap of more or less valable lives while it lasted, I can tell you.

After a short pause, he continued, But there was some turrible strong feelins on both sides while it lasted, son. Why, people was afraid to get atween a light an a winder, for fear of a bullet comin through and puttin a sudden an onpleasant end to them. Ole Sam Judson, as how always had a streak o yaller in him at the best o times, got so at last thet he wouldnt stir out o the house without he toted his little grandarter, Mary, along with him. O course, he figured thet with the baby in his arms nobuddyd take a chanst on wingin him and mebbe killin the kid, an he was right. He never even got scratched the hull time. An I could tell you a hundred other things o the same kind, only youd probably get tired listenin to them.

It certainly was a bad state of things, said Bert at last, after a thoughtful silence, but couldnt the authorities do something to stop such wholesale killing?

Not much, replied the mountaineer, it would a taken every constable in Kentucky to cover this part o the country, an even then I reckon there wouldnt a been anywhere near enough. They must a realized that, he added drily, cause they didnt try very hard, leastways, not as fur as I could see.

Im glad its over now, at any rate, commented Bert. A needless waste of life like that is a terrible thing.

It shore is, agreed his host, and puffed meditatively at his pipe. At last he knocked the ashes from it and rose to his feet.

Its gettin late, son, he said, an I reckon you-all must be might tuckered out after a day on that there fire spoutin motorbike o yourn. The ole ladys got a bunk fixed up fer you, I reckon, an you can turn in any time you feel like it.

I am tired out, for a fact, acknowledged Bert, and I dont care how soon I tumble in.

Come along, then, said Anderson, as his host was named, come on inside, an well put you up.

So saying, he entered the cabin, followed by Bert.

Mrs. Anderson had fixed a bed for him in a little loft over the main room, reached by a ladder. After bidding his host and hostess good night, Bert climbed the rungs and ten minutes later was sleeping soundly.

When he was awakened by a call from the farmer, he jumped up much refreshed, and, dressing quickly, descended the ladder to the living room, where the entire family was already assembled. After exchanging greetings, he took his place at the table and made a substantial meal from plain but hearty fare.

This over, he bade a cordial farewell to the kind farmer and his wife, who refused pointblank to accept the slightest payment for the hospitality they had extended him. Bert thanked them again and again, and then shook hands and left them, first being told of a short cut that would save him several miles and land him on a good road.

The good old Blue Streak was in fine shape, and after a few minor adjustments he started the motor. The whole family had followed him out, and were grouped in an interested semicircle about him. At last he was ready to start, and threw one leg over the saddle.

Good-bye, he called, waving his hand, and thanks once more.

Good-bye, good luck, they cried in chorus, and Bert moved off slowly, on low gear.

At first the going was atrocious, and he was forced to pick his way with great caution. The road steadily improved, however, and in a short time a sudden turn brought him out on an exceptionally good turnpike, the one of which his host of the night before had told him.

All right, he thought to himself, here goes to make speed while the road lasts, and he grinned at this paraphrase of a well-worn saying. He opened up more and more, and his motor took up its familiar deep-toned road song. Mile after mile raced back from the spinning wheels. The indicator on the speedometer reached the fifty mark, and stayed there hour after hour. At times the road ran more to sand, but then he simply opened the throttle a trifle wider, and kept to the same speed.

The air was like wine, and riding was a keen pleasure. The trees and bushes waving in the early morning breeze the beautiful green country spread out on every side the steady, exhilarating speed all made life seem a very fine thing indeed, and Bert sang snatches of wild, meaningless songs as he flew along. For three hours he never slackened speed, and then only pulled up in a fair-sized town to replenish his oil and gasoline. Then he was off again. The road became worse after he had gone ten or fifteen miles, but still he contrived to make fair time, and about noon he rode into Louisville.

His arrival there was eagerly awaited, and he was warmly received at the local agency. While his machine was being cleaned and oiled, he took the opportunity of reporting to the proper authorities. Upon his return the Blue Streak was turned over to him, shining and polished, and he once more took the road. Several motorcyclists accompanied him to the outskirts of the city. He experienced varying road conditions, and was twice delayed by punctures. But the rattling work of the early morning made up for the afternoons delays, and dusk found him two hundred and eighty miles nearer the goal of his ambition.

CHAPTER VIII
The Forged Telegram

Berts stay in Louisville was brief, and all the more so, because neither Tom nor Dick was there to meet him, as they had planned. Bert took it for granted that something out of the ordinary had happened, however, and bore his disappointment as philosophically as he could.

No doubt theyve been delayed, he thought, and will meet me in the next town. That will be a spur to me to go faster so that I can see them sooner.

He had a refreshing sleep, and was up early, resolved to make a profitable day of it. After he had eaten breakfast, he paid his bill, and was just going out the door when the clerk stopped him. Just a minute, sir, he said. Heres a telegram for you. I almost forgot to give it to you.

When did it come? asked Bert, as he took the yellow envelope and prepared to open it.

Oh, just about an hour ago, replied the clerk, no bad news I hope?

This question was occasioned no doubt by the expression of Berts face. Come quick, the telegram read, Tom very sick; may die. We are in Maysville. Dick.

Berts voice shook as he addressed the hotel clerk. One of my friends is very sick, he said. Hes in Maysville. How long will it take me to get there?

Well, its a matter of close on two hundred miles, replied the clerk, in a sympathetic voice, but the roads are fair, and you can make pretty fast time with that machine of yours.

Bert whipped out his map of Kentucky, and the clerk pointed out to him the little dot marked Maysville.

All right, thanks, said Bert, briefly, good-bye.

Good-bye, said the other, I hope your friend isnt as bad as you fear.

But before he finished speaking Bert was on the Blue Streak, and was flying down the street. In a moment his mind had grasped every angle of the catastrophe. If he went to Tom, it would very likely mean the loss of the race, for a matter of four hundred miles out of his road would be a fearful handicap. But what was the race compared to dear old Tom, Tom, who at this very moment might be calling for him? Every other consideration wiped from his mind, Bert leaned over and fairly flew along the dusty road. Fences, trees, houses, streaked past him, and still he rode faster and faster, recklessly, taking chances that he would have shunned had he been bound on any other errand. He shot around sharp bends in the road at breakneck speed, sometimes escaping running into the ditch by a margin of an inch or so. Fast as the Blue Streak was, it was all too slow to keep pace with his feverish impatience, and Bert fumed at the long miles that lay between him and his friend.

Now a steep hill loomed up in front of him, and he rushed it at breakneck speed. Slowly the motorcycle lost speed under the awful drag of the steep ascent, and at last Bert was forced to change to low gear. The Blue Streak toiled upward, and at last reached the top. A wonderful view lay spread out before him, but Bert had no eye just now for the beauties of nature. All he saw was a road that dipped and curved below him until it was lost in the green shades of a valley. Bert saw he would have no need of his motor in making that descent, so threw out the clutch and coasted. Faster and faster he flew, gaining speed with every revolution of the wheels. With the engine stopped, the motorcycle swept along in absolute silence, save for the slight hissing noise made by the contact of the tires with the road. The speed augmented until he was traveling almost with the speed of a cannon ball. At this speed, brakes were useless, even had he been inclined to use them, which he was not. Two-thirds of the way down he flashed past a wagon, that was negotiating the descent with one wheel chained, so steep was it. Had the slightest thing gone wrong then; had a nut worked loose, a tire punctured, a chain broken or jumped the sprockets, Bert would have been hurled through the air like a stone from a catapult. Fortunately for him, everything held, and now he was nearing the bottom of the hill. Ten seconds later, and he was sweeping up the opposite slope at a speed that it seemed could never slacken. But gradually gravitation slowed him down to a safer pace, and at last he slipped in the clutch and started the motor. In the wild descent his cap had flown off, but he hardly noticed it.

Ill soon be there at this rate, he thought, glancing at the speedometer. Ive come over a hundred and fifty miles now, so Maysville cant be much further. And, indeed, less than an hours additional riding brought him to the town of that name.

He went immediately to the hotel at which his friends were supposed to be. But when he stated his object to the hotel clerk, the latter gazed at him blankly. There are no parties of that name stopping here, he said. I guess you have the wrong address, young man. Bert showed him the telegram, but the clerk only shook his head. Theres something wrong somewhere, he said; suppose you see Bently, the telegrapher. He could probably give you a description of the person that sent the telegram, anyway.

Thanks, I will, said Bert, and hastened out. A dim idea of the true state of affairs was beginning to form in his brain, but it hardly seemed possible his suspicions could be true. He soon reached the telegraph office, and accosted the operator.

Can you tell me, he asked, who sent that telegram early this morning?

The station agent glanced at the telegram, and replied: Why, I cant give you a very good description of the man, for I didnt take special notice of him. He was a young man of medium build, though, with light hair, and now I come to think of it, he wore goggles. Seems to me I heard some one say he was riding a motorcycle in some cross country race, but that I cant vouch for.

I think I know who he was, all right, said Bert, and Im much obliged to you.

Dont mention it, returned the other, and turned again to his work.

Bert walked out of the station with clenched fists and blazing eyes. Its Hayward who sent that telegram, he muttered, between clenched teeth. Id stake my soul on it. But Ill win this race in spite of that crook and his tricks. And anyway, he thought, with his eyes softening, old Tom isnt sick after all, and thats almost enough to make me forgive Hayward. I feel as though I had just awakened from an awful nightmare.

It was characteristic of Bert that his anger and chagrin at being tricked in this dastardly way were swallowed up in his relief at finding the report of his friends illness false.

Bert consulted his map, and found that by taking a different route than that by which he had come he could save quite some distance, and started out again, after filling the Blue Streaks tanks with oil and gasoline, with the grim resolve to have revenge for the despicable trick that had been played on him, by snatching from Hayward the prize that he was willing to stoop to such depths to gain.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13