The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer: or, Lost in the Great Blizzardñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
ON THE ROAD AND ON THE ICE
“Crickey! this is some snow, Dan. Never saw it come so fast in my life,” declared Billy Speedwell earnestly, as his brother rolled the heavy cans of milk out of the cooling room at Fifield’s.
Their new motor-truck, in which the boys picked up the milk from the various dairies under contract to Mr. Speedwell, stood near. One at a time the brothers lifted the heavy cans and tossed them into the wagon.
“You’ll likely see a lot more snow before this winter’s over, Billy,” grunted the older lad, as the last can was placed.
“If it gets deep in the roads we may have to go back to using Bob and Betty and the old delivery wagons.”
“Not much!” exclaimed Dan, with confidence. “We’ve got seventy horses in this old engine; that ought to push her through the drifts.”
“We’ll have to put the chains on her tires before we start out to-morrow morning – unless I miss my guess. This is going to be some snow,” remarked Billy.
“According to the almanac,” his brother responded, “we’re going to have many big storms this winter and lots of ice. Why! there’s a regular blizzard due before Christmas.”
“Well, I like the winter,” declared Billy. “But if the Colasha stays frozen over we’ll not use the Red Arrow again till spring.”
“No; I suppose not.”
“And with the roads deep in snow we won’t do much fast riding on either our Flying Feathers, or our racing-auto.”
“Oh! there’ll be good weather for motor-car races yet.”
“That’s so,” cried Billy. “I guess we can get a bit of fun out of the old car, eh?”
“We’ll try,” agreed Dan, who was just as much of a motor enthusiast as his younger brother.
Billy had hopped in and taken the wheel. The motor was singing beneath them and in a moment the electric truck lurched forward and they slid out of the Fifield yard.
When they turned into the road, heading for home, the wind and snow struck them with all their force.
“Some storm!” Billy muttered, with set teeth, and trying to peer ahead.
The lamps did little good in such a smother. The flakes whipped into his face and clung to his goggles. Again and again he wiped away the accumulated moisture with his mittened hand – thereby blurring his sight for a moment entirely.
It was just after one of these attempts to clear his vision that the accident happened. The truck was steaming along at a good clip, for the Speedwells were anxious to get home to shelter and a warm supper.
Dan shouted and seized his brother’s shoulder. The latter felt the jar as the mudguard struck the dim figure that he had only seen when the truck was right upon it.
Down went the foot passenger, who had been plowing against the storm, too, deaf and blind to the motor-truck. Billy shouted, but was not too excited to stop the motor and brake the car.
He leaped into the gathering snow on one side, while Dan left the truck on the other.
Fortunately the wayfarer had been flung aside; the wheels had not passed over him.
“He must be badly hurt, Dan!” gasped Billy, in great distress, on his knees beside the fallen figure.
“Does he move?”
“I – I can’t tell. Try it, Dannie,” choked the younger Speedwell. “I – I’m afraid to do so.”
Dan had the wrist of the unfortunate in his own bare fingers. “His pulse is all right,” he said.
Just then the unknown stirred and muttered. What he said neither of the Speedwells could understand; but they were both delighted. Certainly the victim of the accident was far from dead!
“Who are you? Are you hurt?” asked Dan.
The other made a strange sound – it was as though he said several words, but they were unlike any speech the boys had ever heard before.
“He can’t be intoxicated; can he?” gasped Billy.
“Why, he’s only a boy!” declared Dan, dragging the unknown into a sitting posture in the snow.
“There’s a cut along his cheek. See! it’s bleeding.”
Billy brought out his handkerchief and wiped the blood away. The mysterious youth – he wasn’t as old as Dan – tried to speak again. The sounds that issued from his lips were so strange that the younger Speedwell was startled.
“I never heard the like, Dan!” he gasped. “Is he some kind of a foreigner?”
“It doesn’t sound human,” drawled Dan. “He must be a stranger from Mars.”
But it was not altogether a joke, although the youth now staggered to his feet with the aid of the brothers, one on either side. He had been much shaken, it was evident. His cheek still bled, and he seemed strangely weak.
“Come along home with us, old man,” Dan said, patting him on the shoulder. “We’ll see what’s the matter with you there.”
The stranger seemed to understand. Although he could not speak intelligibly, it was plain that he understood what the Speedwells said to him. And he did not lack intelligence – Dan and Billy were sure of that. His eyes were bright and he wasn’t at all dazed. The blow had knocked him out for only a minute.
They helped him into the seat and again Billy started the truck. The snow whirled down upon them faster and faster; but this time there was no stop made until they turned in at the Speedwell gate and the outline of the big barn and cow stables loomed before them.
Dan hurried the strange youth into the kitchen, where the odorous steam of supper attacked them cheerfully as soon as the outer door was opened.
“What is the matter?” cried Mrs. Speedwell, who was a motherly person, as soon as she saw her older son and the strange boy. “Is he hurt? Who is he, Daniel?”
“I don’t believe he’s badly hurt, Mother,” explained Dan. “But he doesn’t seem able to tell – ”
Again the unknown mumbled something. His eyes roved eagerly toward the table, already laid with a bountiful repast.
“I know he’s hungry,” exclaimed Mrs. Speedwell. “Let him wash his face and hands, Daniel, and sit down at once.”
The strange boy could do that. Carrie brought a bottle of antiseptic and little ’Dolph stood by and watched the stranger in childish curiosity. In a few moments Billy and their father came in, and then all sat down to the table.
The visitor was undeniably hungry. Adolph could scarcely eat his own supper he was so greatly interested in seeing the unknown youth “mow away” the heaping plateful good-natured Mr. Speedwell put before him.
“Why!” declared Mrs. Speedwell, “that young fellow was pretty near starved. And he’s only a boy, too! What can his folks be thinking of – ?”
The visitor looked at her, smiled, and nodded. He tried to say something, too, but it was such a jumble of sounds that they all looked amazed, and even the boys’ father shook his head.
“That certainly beats me!” he exclaimed. “What do you think he means, Mother?”
“I am sure I do not know. But we must find out about him. He ought not to be wandering around alone.”
“On a night like this, too!” from Dan.
“Oh, we’ll put him up,” said Billy, quickly. “Won’t we, Mom?”
“Surely, my son,” agreed his mother.
“Maybe he is some kind of a foreigner,” said Carrie, the boys’ sister.
“Sounds more like hog-Latin,” chuckled Billy, to his brother.
“Sh! he can understand English well enough, even if he doesn’t speak it plainly,” said the older boy.
“Guess you are right there,” agreed Billy.
The entire family was deeply interested in the youth. He had been hungry indeed; and when supper was finished he appeared sleepy, too.
“No knowing how far he had tramped in the snow and storm before you boys ran across him,” Mr. Speedwell observed.
“We didn’t exactly run across him,” Billy said, with a chuckle. “But we come pretty near it, Dad. Too near for comfort.”
At any rate, Mrs. Speedwell and Carrie prepared a room for the stranger. He had a suit of Dan’s pajamas to sleep in, and little ’Dolph had become so friendly with him that he insisted on the visitor’s taking to bed with him one of Adolph’s newest and most precious toys – an air-gun.
The visitor retired after saying something that must have been a grateful response to Mrs. Speedwell’s kindliness.
“By gracious!” exclaimed Mr. Speedwell, slapping his knee, “that surely sounds like English – only he mumbles it so. Sounds just as though he were tongue-tied.”
“He surely isn’t dumb,” agreed Dan.
“Not at all,” Billy added. “But I never heard anybody as tongue-tied as all that.”
The Speedwells were not late to bed – especially on such a night as this. The wind howled and the snow continued until midnight; but when the alarm clock awoke Billy and Dan in their room at two o’clock, the storm had ceased and a faint strip of moon was struggling amidst the breaking clouds.
The snow was not too deep for the auto-truck, although the brothers could not get over their long route as quickly as usual. School was in session and Dan and Billy put in full time every school day, in spite of the milk delivery.
They were spinning out the river road towards Colonel Sudds’s place, beyond the Darringford Machine Shops, about half past seven, with only a few more customers to deliver to, when Billy caught sight of something on the river that interested him immensely.
“Look at that flyer, Dan!” he cried. “Iceboat, sure as you are an inch high!”
“I’m several feet more than an inch tall, Billy,” chuckled his brother, “so that must be an iceboat and no hallucination.”
“Don’t pull any of the ‘high brow stuff,’ as Biff Hardy calls it,” returned slangy Billy Speedwell. “And tell me, pray, who owns an iceboat around Riverdale?”
“I didn’t even suppose the ice was thick enough to bear a boat,” returned Dan, who was quite as surprised at the appearance of the swooping craft as his brother.
The river bank fell abruptly from the edge of the road. Dan had brought the truck to a halt, for both boys were immensely interested.
Anything that flew like that craft on the ice below, was bound to hold the attention of the brothers. They were well named, their chums at the Riverdale Academy declared. Billy Speedwell had never yet traveled fast enough to suit him, and Dan was just as much of a “speed maniac.”
However, Dan’s natural caution usually kept the brothers from reckless racing of any kind; but they had won prizes and made records with their motorcycles, racing car, and motorboat.
Now they stared hard at the craft flying down the river toward the buildings belonging to the Colasha Boat Club. The ice was firm in patches, but from this height the Speedwells could see that there were open strips of water, yards in width.
The tides did not affect the river much so far from its mouth; yet there was some brine in it and despite the severe cold of the last few days, the ice was not entirely safe.
“Two fellows in her,” announced Billy.
“I see ’em.”
“And just as reckless as they can be. See there! Don’t they see that channel ahead? My goodness, Dan! It’s fifty feet wide if it is a foot!”
“You’re right, Billy; they’re going to have a spill!”
“Worse than that,” cried the younger brother, and he hopped out of his seat. “Come on, Dan! there’s going to be something doing down there in another minute. We’re going to be needed – ”
He halted in his speech, for at that very moment the skimming iceboat shot over the edge of the firm ice, its runners cut through the shell-like crystal beyond, and the heavy body of the boat splashed into the open water.
Its momentum carried it far; but only the front runner hit the ice on the other side of the open channel. The runner slipped under the firm ice, and the careening boat stopped. With a crash heard plainly up on the highroad, the mast went by the board, and the craft and its passengers disappeared under the falling canvas.
A BIG IDEA
Dan and Billy Speedwell, now seventeen and sixteen years of age respectively, were, as has been observed, famous in the county as speed experts. In “The Speedwell Boys on Motorcycles” are related several of their first speed trials at the Compton Motordrome and on the road, and in the second volume of the series, “The Speedwell Boys and Their Racing Auto,” is told the winning of a thousand-mile endurance test.
The brothers later obtain possession of a motorboat and adventures connected with the great regatta of the Colasha Boat Club are narrated in “The Speedwell Boys and Their Power Launch,” and in the fourth volume, entitled “The Speedwell Boys in a Submarine,” the brothers are two of an adventurous party that find a submerged wreck and the treasure aboard it.
The boys’ father had been merely a small dairyman and farmer, and the boys had to work hard between school sessions to help him. By certain fortuitous circumstances they had been enabled to obtain motorcycles, a racing auto, and a power launch; but the disposal of the recovered treasure had made the Speedwell family quite independent.
Something like twenty thousand dollars had been wisely invested for Dan and Billy, and in addition they were able to help their father increase his business and give the family many luxuries which had before been beyond their reach.
As we have seen, however, the Speedwells lived plainly and were busy and industrious folk. The brothers went to school faithfully and helped as they had for several years in the delivery of the milk to their father’s customers in and about Riverdale.
The interest of the two boys in the career of the strange iceboat had brought them to a halt on the river road. Dan and Billy were both descending the steep bank at breakneck speed before the fall of the mast spelled utter ruin to the ice craft.
“They’ll be drowned, Dan!” gasped Billy, hurrying on the slippery path.
“They’ll be mighty wet – that’s sure,” returned the older boy. “Hold on, Billy! Let’s take some of these rails. We’ll need ’em.”
It was always Dan who thought the more clearly. Billy was as brave as a young lion; but he lacked his brother’s judgment and caution. He would have gone empty-handed to the rescue of the victims of the wreck; but Dan saw ahead.
The boys immediately tore down a couple of lengths of rail fence which here marked the boundary of some old pasture. With the rails on their shoulders they hurried on.
Just then a faint cry for help came from the half-submerged iceboat. Billy returned a shout of encouragement as he and Dan hurried to get around the open stretch of water.
When the boys leaped down upon the ice they chose a firm spot for their attempt. They were able to run right out toward the middle of the river (which was here at least two miles wide) without venturing upon any thin ice. Their principal peril was from holes hidden by the heaped-up snow of the night before.
The weight of this snow had broken down great patches of ice, leaving open places like this into which the iceboatmen had fallen. And there had been a very high tide not four hours before, which had raised the level of the Colasha River even as far up-stream as this point.
Naturally the ice – not yet very thick – had given way in many places. The two on the wrecked boat had been very reckless indeed.
This was no time to tell them so, however. Dan and Billy went to work in the most approved fashion to reach the half-frozen castaways clinging to the outrigger of the ice craft.
“Keep up your pluck! We’re coming!” yelled Billy.
“So – so’s – Christmas!” stammered one of the castaways.
“Crickey!” gasped Billy. “That’s Monroe Stevens – sure’s you live, Dan!”
The Speedwells had cast the fence rails on the ice in a criss-cross fashion and now Dan was creeping out upon the frail platform thus made, to the very thin ice. He said:
“If he was going to be hanged the next minute, Monroe would joke. Hi, there! Save your breath to cool your porridge, Monroe! Who’s with you?”
“B-b-barry Spink,” chattered young Stevens. “Don’t y-y-you know – know Barrington Spink, Dan? Lem-lem-lemme present you.”
This introduction seemed a little unnecessary, for the next moment Dan Speedwell seized Barrington Spink by the wrist and fairly “yanked” him out of the water. Young Spink was all but helpless from cold and exhaustion.
As Dan backed away from the hole, dragging Spink with him, Billy swarmed over them both and seized upon Monroe Stevens.
“Hold tight, old man,” he cried. “We’ll get you out.”
“All – all right,” chattered Stevens. “But d-d-don’t be too-o-o long about it, Billy. They certainly for – for – forgot to heat th – this bawth!”
Billy clutched him tightly by the collar and in a few moments he felt Dan tugging at his own heels. Barry Spink was lying, panting, on the ice – but fast freezing to it, for the thermometer was still far down the scale.
“Come on! come on!” gasped Billy, when the four of them were on their feet. “Let’s get where there’s a fire.”
“Y – y – you bet!” agreed Monroe Stevens. “I – I never was so shivery in – in all – all my life!”
Spink could hardly speak. But he moaned occasionally something about the lost iceboat, which he called the White Albatross.
“Goodness knows!” chattered Stevens, “we deserved to lose the silly thing. I knew better than to try her out to-day – and I – I told you so, Barry.”
“I didn’t know there was an iceboat on the river,” said Dan, as they all climbed the steep hill to the road and the waiting motor car.
“It – it was the only one on the Colasha,” mumbled Spink.
“We’ve been building it on the q. t., Dannie,” exclaimed Stevens, grinning. “And she certainly could travel some. We got one on you and Billy that time.”
“You seem to have got one on yourselves,” returned Dan, grimly.
“Didn’t you know enough to wait till the river really froze over, Money?” questioned Billy, with some disgust.
“Aw, that Barry!” grumbled young Stevens. “He was crazy to try her out. And we got up this morning before sun-up. Sure, she whizzed – ”
“We were watching you come down the river,” admitted Dan.
“Say! couldn’t she travel?” exclaimed Stevens.
“You bet,” agreed Billy. “How far up the Colasha did you go?”
“Went around Island Number One – ”
“And we’d been all right,” snarled Barry Spink, who seemed to take an interest in affairs for the first time, “if it hadn’t been for that dummy. He put the jinx on us.”
“The jinx!” exclaimed Billy, laughing.
But Dan had noticed something else, and he repeated, curiously: “‘Dummy?’ What d’ye mean – dummy?”
They had reached the motor-truck and Billy hustled the half-drowned youths into the seat and bundled them up in the robe and blankets while Dan started the motor.
“Back to the fire house – eh, Dan?” he asked his brother, as he slid under the wheel.
“The boiler room at the shops is nearer. They’ll take ’em in and dry them,” advised the older Speedwell.
“I – I don’t care where in the world you take us as – as long’s it’s hot,” wailed Barrington Spink.
“But how about this ‘dummy’?” demanded Dan, of Monroe Stevens.
“Why, we had stopped at Island Number One and were repairing the rudder, when along come this feller who couldn’t talk.”
“Couldn’t talk?” cried Billy, waking up to the coincidence, too, and looking at Dan, amazed. “Why! there must be two of them.”
“Two what?” queried Stevens.
“You called him a dummy. Is he really dumb?”
“He mumbled something or other when we asked him to help us,” explained Monroe; “but it wasn’t anything human. And Barry declared it was bad luck to meet a dummy.”
“And so it is!” snapped young Spink. “Doesn’t this prove it?”
“Funny about there being two fellows who act like dummies being at large,” remarked Dan to Billy.
“I should say so,” agreed the younger brother. “Say, Money! where’d your dummy go to when he wouldn’t help you chaps?”
“He was comin’ across from the mainland, and he went up into the woods on Island Number One. I bet he’s stopping there,” answered Stevens.
“Nonsense! there’s nothing on that island. No hut, nor any shelter. Bet he was going right along across the river.”
“Well, he didn’t go on while we were up that way, for when we got the White Albatross fixed, we sailed around the island and come down on the far side – and the snow lay all along the edge of the island there, and there wasn’t a footprint in it. Oh! here’s the shops. My goodness! won’t it be – be go-o-od to get next to – a fire,” chattered Stevens.
When the Speedwells had seen the shivering castaways humped upon stools before the boilers, they hurried away to deliver the remainder of their bottled milk. On the way to Colonel Sudds’s Dan said:
“What do you think of this ‘dummy’ they talk about, Billy?”
“Funny. Wonder if he’s the twin of the one we’ve got at our house?”
“Question is, have we got him at our house?” returned Dan, thoughtfully.
“Pshaw! the folks wouldn’t let him leave so soon. If he was at Island Number One so early, he must have left our house soon after we did,” declared Billy. “And that isn’t troubling me,” he added.
“What is?” asked his brother, smiling.
“Why – it’s no trouble. Not really. But there is something that is buzzing in my head, Dan.”
“I knew there was a bee in your bonnet,” chuckled his elder.
“Oh, you did? How smart you are! But I don’t believe you can guess what sort of a bee it is?”
“No-o. Some new idea, I reckon?”
“You bet it is, old man!” declared Billy, with enthusiasm. “And a big idea, too.”
“Let’s have it,” urged the older Speedwell.
“Well! you know about this Barry Spink; don’t you?”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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