John Goldfrap.

The Border Boys with the Texas Rangers





Well, I dont see anything of your friend Alvarez, commented Lieut. Sancho, looking about him after they had left the aeroplane.

Nor do I, commented Jack in a rather astonished tone, what can have become of him?

Possibly he has escaped in some way. He is as cunning a fox as there is in the country, declared Lieut. Diaz.

Jack shook his head, however.

There is no chance that he could have gotten out unless he followed my path and I think he was not active enough for that.

Which way did you get out? inquired Lieut. Diaz. Where is that cliff you told us about?

Jack pointed to the frowning precipice he had scaled. The officers, who could hardly be blamed for doubting him, gazed at the boy sharply. But his frank, honest countenance and modest manner of telling his story soon put their suspicions to rout, although Lieut. Diaz frankly confessed:

Se?or, you are an American boy, and therefore tell the truth; but from anyone else we should have laughed at the story.

It was nothing to laugh at, I assure you, said Jack.

I should imagine not, agreed Lieut. Sancho, one would hardly think a fly could find footing on that place.

Looking up at it now, said Jack with a laugh, I myself begin to doubt that I did it.

A systematic search of the valley was begun, and of course ended without result. One thing only was certain, Alvarez had gone. It was a good thing possibly that Jack did not know then the manner of his going, or what part the boys own friends had played in it. Had he done so, he would have felt very downcast over the thought of by how narrow a margin he had missed being reunited to them.

Well, declared Lieut. Diaz as they came to a halt near the Pool of Death, one thing is as certain as daylight, and that is that in some manner Alvarez has escaped.

Not a doubt of it. But how? rejoined his companion. I confess I am at a complete loss to understand how he effected his release.

Maybe another aeroplane came along and took him, suggested Jack. That is the only thing I can think of.

Entirely mystified, the two officers made arrangements for flight once more. It had been agreed that Jack was to be landed in the Rangers camp, or, at any rate, close to it. The prospect of rejoining his friends safe and sound rejoiced the boy, and he was in high spirits when they sat down to partake of lunch before resuming flight.

They had concluded their meal when Jack noticed that there was a peculiar look about the sky. From blue it had turned to a yellowish tinge, and the sun glowed through it like a fiery copper ball. He drew the attention of Lieut. Sancho to this, and the young officer and his comrade in arms held a long consultation about the state of the weather.

At its conclusion Lieut. Sancho announced that, although the weather appeared threatening, yet they would go up. He explained that he and his companion had to be back at their headquarters in time to report the rebel attack and the near approach of the reactionary forces.

If they were to drop Jack on the way, there was no time to be lost.

The aeroplane was swiftly tuned up, and when all were on board Lieut. Diaz, who had relieved Lieut. Sancho at the wheel, sent the big craft up with a velocity that made Jack lose his breath. At a height of about two hundred feet a sudden gust struck the air craft, causing it to careen in a most alarming manner. For one dread instant it appeared to Jack that the whole affair was doomed to turn turtle in midair; but the stability devices worked just in time.

With a clicking and sliding sound the parts that composed the balancing power of the machine slipped into their places and it resumed an even keel.

As if to show his perfect mastery of the military dirigible, Lieut. Diaz drove it straight up toward the overcast sky. A fairly stiff wind was now beginning to blow, and to Jack the maneuver appeared risky in the extreme. But, of course, he said nothing, although, looking downward, earth looked fearfully remote. But to the two Mexican officers all this was evidently part of the days work. At all events, neither of them displayed the least anxiety; on the contrary, Lieut. Sancho was busy noting the action of the barograph and barometer, and jotting down the results of his observations in a small notebook.

All at once Jack, on glancing down, discovered that the earth had been obliterated. A yellow fog, or it seemed to be fog, hid the surface of the country from them. All at once something stinging struck the boys face. It was sand.

With a gasp of alarm Jack realized that a sandstorm was raging below them. He recalled the one near La Hacheta, in which the lads had seen the flight of the ghostly camels. Seriously alarmed, he drew the attention of his companions to what was going on. By this time, so rapidly had the velocity of the wind increased that it was blowing half a gale, great clouds of sand swept bewilderingly round them. The aeroplane pitched and swayed like a ship in an angry sea. Jack held on tight, thinking that every moment would be likely to be his last.

We did wrong to come up so high, admitted Lieut. Diaz.

But you are going higher? objected Jack.

Yes. We must avoid that sand at all hazards. It wont be so bad higher up, I hope.

Why not drop to earth right now? Its all flat country hereabouts, said Jack.

In the first place, the sand would blind us and we would crash to earth and be wrecked, in all probability. In the second place, if even a little sand got into our engine it would ruin it, rejoined the officer.

Jack said no more. He felt rather ashamed, in fact, of having showed his agitation so plainly. After all, the officers knew far more about aeroplanes than he did, and perhaps there was a chance that they would get through safely yet, He fervently prayed that they might.

Lieut. Diaz sat grimly at the wheel, driving the aeroplane ever upward. Jack watched him admiringly. Not a trace of fear or of any other emotion had flickered across his steadfast countenance since the battle with the storm had begun.

They had driven their way far above the yellow sand fog and were battling with the wind at an altitude of almost seven thousand feet, when Lieut. Diaz gave a sudden gasp. He turned deadly pale and lurched forward in his seat. Had not Lieut. Sancho caught him, he would have toppled off into space. The aeroplane, released from a controlling hand, gave a sickening dash downward.

Whawhat has happened? gasped Jack, genuinely alarmed now.

Its air sickness! Seize that controlling handle and do just as I tell you. All our lives may depend on it!

CHAPTER XIX.
THE BATTLE AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE

Air sickness! With the words there flashed through Jacks mind a recollection of having read somewhere about that strange malady of the upper regions which sometimes seizes airmen, paralyzing temporarily their every faculty.

While the thought was still in his mind he had seized the wheel and awaited the next orders from Lieut. Sancho, who was holding the unconscious form of Lieut. Diaz in the machine.

Push that lever forward so! Now a twist of your wheel to the left. Bueno! You are a born airman.

Jack wished he could think so, too. From sheer nervousness the sweat stood out upon him, his hands shook and his pulses throbbed.

But the consciousness that all their lives depended upon his keeping cool and obeying orders steadied him. By a supreme effort he mastered his jumping nerves and obeyed the lieutenants orders implicitly.

To his actual surprise, for he did not think it would have been so easy to handle an air craft, the winged machine righted itself as he manipulated the lever and wheel. Before many seconds it was driving along on an even keel once more. But in its fall it had entered the region of driving sand again. Pitilessly, like needlepointed hailstones, the sharp grains drove about them, pricking their flesh.

Up! We must go up higher! cried Lieut. Sancho. Pull back that lever. Now your wheel to the right that sets the rising warping appliances! There! Thats it! Now your foot on the engine accelerator! Good! You are an aviator already.

As Jack put the lieutenants commands into execution one after another the desired effect was procured. The aeroplane began to rise, fighting its way up through that inferno of yellow sand. Jack feared that at any moment his eyes would be rendered useless, but he stuck to his task without flinching.

At last in the upper regions, they winged along free from the ordeal of the whirling sand spouts, but still in the grasp of the furious wind.

Can we not land? asked Jack after a time. Surely it would be safer.

Safer, doubtless, once we could get to earth; but it would be madness to attempt a landing in this wind.

Then we must stay up here till the wind subsides?

Yes, or at least until the sand thins out. We should be blinded if we got into the thick of it, let alone the danger to our engine.

What speed are we making? was Jacks next question.

About fifty miles an hour, possibly more.

Then we may be driven miles out of our way?

I fear that is possible. But see, Lieut. Diaz appears to be reviving. Can you reach me that medical kit?

Jack, not without being fearful of the consequences of his taking one hand from the controlling devices, did so. Luckily, as we know, the aeroplane was equipped with the latest stability devices, making her comparatively steady compared to the older fashioned craft of the air. Jacks maneuver, therefore, was not so risky as might have been thought.

While the aeroplane bucked and plunged its way through the storm Lieut. Sancho administered stimulants to Lieut. Diaz, who presently began to recover from his spell of air sickness almost as rapidly as he had been taken down with it. It is a peculiarity of such seizures, in fact, that they are not of long duration. Some authorities have held that there are poisoned strata in the air which cause the sickness and on emerging from them the victim becomes well again. However that may be, Lieut. Diaz was soon himself, and Jack was relieved at the wheel by Lieut. Sancho.

How far do you imagine we have been driven? he asked as the officer took the wheel.

That is impossible to say, amigo Jack. I directed you while you were in control of the ship so that as far as possible we should maneuver in circles. Judging by that, we ought not to be much more than fifty miles or so out of our way.

This was cheering news to Jack, who had begun to imagine that they had been driven half way to the Gulf of Mexico at least. As this would have meant a lot of delay in rejoining his comrades, he was naturally worried. For an hour or so more they swung in circles above the storm, and then the furious gale began to lessen.

As the wind fell the sand fog below began to melt away just as if it had actually been mist. Its dissolving brought a view of a stretch of country not unlike that in which the Rangers had been camped when Jack had last seen them.

Below them shone the river between its precipitous banks, and on one side of it Jack could see a small, roughlooking settlement. On the outskirts was a low red building, the shape and form of which at once showed it to be a schoolhouse, even if the Stars and Stripes had not been floating on a pole before the door. The aeroplane was still hovering in the air above the little settlement when the schoolhouse door opened and out rushed teacher and pupils in evident excitement. They gazed upward at the winged manbird in a state of the greatest wonderment.

Suddenly from across the river came a perfect tempest of shots and yells. Looking down, Jack saw that a body of horsemen was galloping for dear life toward the ford at the river. Close behind them came some more mounted men, although the latter were dressed in uniforms, suggesting that they were regulars. Evidently they were in pursuit of the raggedlooking Mestizos who were making for the ford.

On they came at a furious gallop. Gazing from above, Lieut. Sancho announced that the band being pursued was a band of rebels, while the men in pursuit were part of the regular cavalry of the Mexican government.

But they are fleeing on to American soil! exclaimed Jack.

Si, se?or Jack. Evidently the rascally rebels think that if they can gain the protection of the Stars and Stripes they will be safe.

Jack could not help feeling sympathy for the ragged band that was being so remorselessly pursued, even though he knew that the rebels had wrought all sorts of outrages, both on American soil and in their own country. For instance, only a short time before a band of cattle had been driven from an American ranch to feed the starving revolutionary troops.

But such thoughts as these were soon interrupted by the boys absorbed interest in the drama taking place far below them. From the town a few men had come running at the sound of the shooting, but as they saw the armed men come sweeping through the ford they beat a hasty retreat. Only the school teacher, a pretty young girl, so far as Jack could see, and her little flock stood their ground.

Having crossed the ford the pursued Mestizos did not draw rein. Instead, they urged their ponies on still more furiously. The clatter of their hoofs even reached to the aeroplane, which was swinging about in the blue ether some thousands of feet above.

All at once Jack, with a quick intake of his breath, divined their purpose. The hounded band of revolutionaries was spurring and lashing for the schoolhouse. Their evident purpose was to seek refuge within it, under the protection of Old Glory.

But what of the children and their young teacher? In case there should be firing, their position would be a terrible one. As the first of the rebel band dashed into the schoolhouse enclosure and the teacher and her pupils fled within in terror, Jack begged Lieut. Sancho to descend.

In case the Federals open fire on the schoolhouse many of those children will be killed, he cried anxiously.

Lieut. Sancho nodded.

I doubt if we can be of much use, he said, but at any rate we will drop down and see what can be done.

The aeroplane instantly began to descend, but before it was half way down the last of the refugees had dashed into the schoolhouse, and the door was slammed to and bolted. The Federals, close on the fugitives heels, withdrew to a short distance for a parley when they perceived this. From the schoolhouse windows a few scattering shots followed them, but none of them took effect.

But the men who had done the shooting had perceived the approach of the aeroplane, which was now quite close to the ground. It was probably the first they had ever seen and they gazed at it with awe and some superstitious terror.

What do you want? called one of them.

What shall we tell them? Lieut. Sancho whispered to Jack.

Tell them to let the teacher and her scholars out of there at once or we will dynamite the place, replied Jack without hesitation.

Ill tell them that if they dont, we shall drop a bomb from the aeroplane, whispered the lieutenant.

Thats a good idea. Lets hope it will scare them into releasing the children and their teacher.

Lieut. Sancho shouted his ultimatum at the men at the schoolhouse windows, at the same time leaning down as if to pick up some sort of weapon. Doubtless the unfamiliarity of such a war machine as an aeroplane had something to do with it; but at any rate, after some anxious deliberation, during which the aeroplane hovered at closer range, the door was opened and the teacher and her little flock emerged.

Now run to the town. Run for your lives, cried Jack as they came out, and the pretty girl and her pupils were not slow to obey the injunction.

In the meantime the Federals, withdrawn to a little distance, had viewed the operations with amazement. They had been too much excited by the chase to notice the aeroplane till it was at close range. Now they gazed at it with wonder and then broke into a cheer. At first Jack was astonished at this enthusiasm, but then he suddenly recollected that inscribed on the machines upper and lower planes were the arms of the Mexican Republic.

Viva! Viva, Madero! yelled the regulars, as the aeroplane swung above them.

What are you going to do with those rascals in the schoolhouse? yelled down Lieut. Sancho to the officer in charge of the Federals as the great winged machine sailed majestically by over their heads.

Assault the place and capture it, was the reply.

You forget that it is on American territory and that our government will be liable for any outrages inflicted on this side of the Border, was the rejoinder. I will guarantee to get them out of there in far more peaceable fashion.

Very well, se?or lieutenant, as you will, was the reply of the officer, given with a shrug of the shoulders.

Well, I wonder whats going to happen now? thought Jack as the aeroplane was headed back at top speed for the schoolhouse.

Diaz, will you do me the favor to get that round black bottle out of the medicine kit? said Lieut. Sancho in calm tones as he guided the air craft toward the stronghold and retreat of the rebel force.

CHAPTER XX.
WHERE STRATEGY WON OUT

Their coming was viewed by a dozen swarthy faces thrust out of the schoolhouse windows. As the aeroplane drew near the building Lieut. Sancho raised his voice above the humming of the engine.

In a loud authoritative tone he called for attention.

If that schoolhouse is not vacated inside of five minutes, he snapped out, I shall dynamite it.

A derisive chorus of yells greeted this, although a few voices could be heard begging the officer to have mercy.

Hand me that bomb, Diaz, ordered the officer as the aeroplane came in full view of the schoolhouse.

Seizing this opportunity, Lieut. Sancho manipulated the air craft with one hand while he apparently examined the bomb with deep attention. He took good care while doing this to handle it so that it might be plainly seen by the Mestizos.

The aeroplane continued its flight above the schoolhouse roof, and then, swinging round, was driven back again. As they came over for the second time Lieut. Sancho hailed the recalcitrants once more.

Throw your rifles and weapons out of the windows or Ill drop the bomb. The five minutes is almost up.

This time there was no answer but a sullen roar. Apparently the occupants of the schoolhouse were quarreling among each other. The aeroplane was flown a short distance and then turned for another flight toward the schoolhouse.

Here, take the wheel, Diaz, ordered Lieut. Sancho. Im going to let them see that we mean business.

With Lieut. Diaz at the wheel, his brother officer manipulated the bomb in truly alarming manner. Bending low over it and striking a match, he appeared to light its fuse. Then, holding on to a brace, he half rose out of his seat, and as they neared the schoolhouse he raised his arm as if poising the bomb before hurling it.

It was too much for the nerves of the besieged. With wild cries to Lieut. Sancho not to kill them, they began casting their rifles and revolvers out of the windows in a perfect hail. Lieut. Sancho appeared to stay his hand, but was still menacing.

Todos! Todos! (All! All!)

He shouted this as they thundered close above the schoolhouse roof. As he did so the schoolhouse door was opened and out rushed the terrified, demoralized Mestizos, who were swiftly made prisoners by the Federals without their offering more than a nominal resistance.

By the time the last had been captured, while the aeroplane drew close to the scene, from the town, whence the proceedings had been watched with interest, several citizens came running, now that all the danger of bullets seemed to be past.

Well, after what Ive seen, declared Jack, never tell me that the aeroplane isnt any good in warfare. Today it averted what might have been a bloody fight, and, as it was, not a man was even scratched, except in his feelings. By the way, Lieutenant, what was in that bomb?

A very deadly mixture, laughed the officer in return, a solution of Epsom salts!

Here I be, the mayor of that thar berg back thar, said an individual with a bristly strawcolored mustache, hastening up. What be all these here connipations agoin on out hyar?

Why, Mr. Mayor, rejoined Jack, these two gentlemen are officers of the Mexican Federal troops detailed to aerial duty.

Waal, what be they doin this side of ther Border? Ive a good mind ter put em in ther calaboose, the dern longhorns, declared the mayor angrily.

Inasmuch as they saved a lot of children and their teacher from rough treatment by a band of rebels, I dont think that would be very fair, said Jack.

Humph! grunted the mayor, I was comin out hyar to git ther mavericks on ther run myself, but I had an attack of indigestion.

I guess that was when you heard the shooting, thought Jack to himself.

Aloud, though, he continued:

The Mestizos were captured by as clever a ruse as can be imagined, Mr. Mayor.





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