Roy Rockwood.

The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer: or, Lost in the Great Blizzard





CHAPTER XXII
THE BATTLE IN THE SNOW

Both Mildred Kent and Lettie Parker believed with the latters father that the explosions of the engine near them in the storm meant that Dan and Billy Speedwell were near at hand.

The girls, tossing aside the sheltering robe and the accumulation of snow, stood up, too, and clinging to each other shrieked their boy friends names into the sounding gale.

Their own cries might not have carried very far, save in the lulls of the tempest; but with the voices of Mr. Parker and the sheriff, they raised a cry that was certainly heard by whoever was working the motor iceboat through the blizzard.

The put-put-put came nearer. A hoarse hail reached the ears of the quartette in the sleigh.

Mr. Kimball had brought his horses to a dead stop. Indeed, the beasts were glad to breathe, although they were far from exhaustion. No better pair of colts, as Mr. Kimball said, were to be found in the county.

I dont hear that engine now, cried Mr. Parker. Have they stopped?

He called again, then waited for an answer. The snow seemed to have smothered the sounds. Again Mildred and Lettie shrieked the names of Dan and Billy. They had every confidence in the boys being able to help them if they only heard.

There was another answer this time nearer. Got em! cried the delighted Mr. Parker.

I dont just see how they are going to help us, grumbled Mr. Kimball.

Dan will find a way, asserted Mildred, now the most hopeful of the quartette.

The next moment a figure appeared in the swirling snow. But it was not Dan or Billy. It was much too tall for either.

Hullo, there! exclaimed the stranger, in a very hoarse voice. Whats the matter here?

A second figure appeared before either Mr. Parker or the sheriff could answer. The second man said, quite as roughly as the first:

Gals, by thunder! And a fine pair o horses, Tom.

You hit it right, Jake, said the first man. And just what we want hey?

I wouldnt try ter go on in that blamed old scooter not much! And we wont have to lug the box.

Shut up!

Aw, its all right. This is luck

The sheriff interposed suddenly. I take it you fellows consider that your meeting with us is providential; dont you?

Huh? growled the first speaker. Youre slingin fine language, I guess. What we means ter do is ter take the sled an the hosses. Thats all. And there wont be room for youse gents or the gals.

Why, you scoundrel! exclaimed Mr. Parker. What do you mean?

Cut that out! commanded the man called Tom, stepping quickly to the county clerks side of the sleigh.

Lettie screamed. The man grabbed Mr. Parker by the collar and dragged him out of the sleigh. Mr. Parker shouted aloud in his anger, and tried to grapple with the man, but was struck a hard blow with a short club, or piece of gas pipe, by the other man.

For the moment he was knocked almost senseless.

The sheriff was not frightened, however. He dropped the reins and leaped to the ice, where the snow was now almost knee deep.

Get down in the sleigh, girls down! he commanded. Look out for bullets! Hands up, you two fellows put your hands up, quick! Quick, I tell you, or Ill fire!

He had drawn a pistol and his tone was so earnest that the men must have known that he would use it. They were amazed for the moment.

I am the sheriff of this county. I believe you are two fellows for whom I have been looking. Tom Davis Scar-Faced Tom I recognize you from the wardens description. You were discharged from the Meadville penitentiary only a week ago, and it looks very much to me as though you were going back there again.

The man whom the sheriff addressed the redoubtable Scar-Faced Tom was not a little cowed by the sheriffs speech and extremely so by the business-like look of the revolver. But while Mr. Kimball kept this fellow under surveillance, and Mr. Parker was still lying stunned in the snow, the other fellow dived into the darkness and the storm, yelling for the third, who had remained with the motor iceboat.

The sheriff sent a pistol ball after him; but he would better have refrained. Tom Davis, seizing his opportunity (as he thought) made a great stride for the sheriff as the flame of the discharged revolver flashed right over his shoulder.

Davis would have had Kimball by the throat had it not been for the county clerk. The latter struggled to a sitting posture just at the right moment, and seized the villains ankle. He twisted it and, roaring, the man went down.

Sheriff Kimball tossed his pistol to Mr. Parker, and jumped on the fallen robbers back. His attack was so unexpected that the other was helpless and it seemed as though the sheriff was going to make one capture, at least, without much trouble.

Mildred and Lettie were about as scared as they could be. The firing of the sheriffs pistol, and the rough tones and fighting seemed terrible to both the doctors daughter and her chum.

Once Mildred had been troubled by tramps in the swamp up near Karnac Lake; but Dan had rescued her at that time. So it was not strange that now she should cry aloud:

Oh, dear, me! I wish Dan were here.

And Id like to know whats got Billy Speedwell! rejoined her chum. Do you suppose these awful men have stolen the boys new iceboat?

Oh! theyre wicked enough to do anything, gasped Mildred.

Mr. Parker was staggering to the sheriffs assistance. But before he reached him he dropped the pistol in the snow. In the darkness and storm it was not easy to find the weapon again; and while he was scrambling about on all fours to obtain it, two figures dashed out of the smother and fell upon him. The second robber and his mate had returned.

They overpowered Mr. Parker in a moment. Then they hauled Mr. Kimball off the prostrate ex-convict; but in that minute the sheriff had choked the fellow into subjection.

He could not rise to help his comrades. Mr. Parker and the sheriff faced but two of the gang, but the latter had the advantage.

Mr. Parker was not used to such rough work. The sheriff, however, was a quick and agile man, ready for almost any emergency which might arise.

He was, too, one of those men who never give up till the last gun is fired. He kept on fighting, and the two robbers found him hard to subdue. Suddenly Mr. Parker went down under a swing of the blackjack that had previously felled him.

Oh! my father! My father! shrieked Lettie, who was peering over the back of the sleigh. Billy! Billy Speedwell! Why dont you help us?

She screamed this last question at the top of her voice, and it did not go unanswered. First aroused by the explosions of the motor iceboat engine, and led on by the shouting of the girls and their guardians in the sleigh, the two Speedwell boys and Dummy had come near to the scene of the battle in the snow just as the sheriff fired his pistol.

The boys recognized the girls voices, and also Mr. Parkers.

Mildred! exclaimed Dan, in amazement. Shes in trouble.

And thats Let as sure as shooting! agreed Billy. And her father.

Dummy said nothing, but he kept on with his new friends and he had to travel some to keep up with them. For neither the wind nor the snow retarded the Speedwells just then.

As the two robbers sprang upon Mr. Parker and the sheriff for the second time, Dan, Billy, and Dummy appeared. The Speedwells gave a great shout and plunged into the affray, swinging their clubs. Dummy kept in the rear, but he helped some in the end. The man, Tom Davis, whom the sheriff had overpowered, began to stir. The Dummy ran to him and threatened him with the club he had brought from the cave on Island Number One.

The battle in the blizzard was soon over. The three rascals were down in the snow, rubbing their heads, and begging for mercy almost as soon as reinforcements in shape of the three boys appeared.

CHAPTER XXIII
DUMMY GETS IN GOOD

There was not a weapon found on the three robbers, save the blackjack. The sheriffs pistol was lost; but once the gangsters had been subdued, they made no effort to attack their captors again.

Besides, Billy and Dummy stood over them with their clubs while Dan took one of the dim lights from the sleigh and went through the storm to find the iceboat on which the thieves had reached the spot.

He found it, got some rope, and the wrists of the three captives were tied behind them. And as Dan and Billy were the ones who did the tying you may be sure they made the bonds quite as taut as their own had been!

I dont see as those fellows have done her any harm, Billy, the older boy told his brother in a whisper. But shes almost buried in the snow.

And howll we get her back to-night? demanded Billy, anxiously.

Im afraid were not likely to.

Who knows what will happen to the Follow Me away out here? Crickey, Dan! lets stay and watch her.

But they could not do that. In the first place, the girls would not hear of it.

You stay here, Dan Speedwell? gasped Mildred. No, indeed! You mustnt!

Why, Ill never speak to you again if you dont go back to town with us, Billy, declared Lettie, with quite as much emphasis.

You can see just how we stand with these young ladies, Parker, broke in the jolly sheriff. The Speedwell boys forever! And I dont know but the girls are about right. We wouldnt have got this bunch if it hadnt been for the boys.

Besides, what they tell me makes me believe that this adventure has been a very fortunate one indeed. These men were after those buried plates and the other evidence. They have maltreated this poor chap, and he put his hand on Dummys shoulder. Tom Davis, here, undoubtedly heard about the buried box before he left the penitentiary. Some of his pals are already there, and prisoners have ways of circulating intelligence.

Tom, here, got these other two blacklegs to help him, and they thought theyd make a getaway with the box. Now well take that box along with us to Riverdale.

Dummy and Dan went to the stranded iceboat again and brought back the ironbound box. It was all they cared to stagger under in that storm.

As soon as Dummy had been made to understand who the sheriff was, he made no objection to giving up the box. Indeed, he seemed glad to be quit of the responsibility.

And let me tell you, there is a reward coming to somebody for the recovery of that box, if not for the arrest of these three fellows, said Sheriff Kimball. I shall see to it that this poor lad gets his share.

Well, we may say that this ill wind is going to blow somebody good, then, remarked Mr. Parker. But I believe it is blowing harder than ever, Kimball. Do you know where we are?

The sheriff had little idea; but Dan knew. His compass came into play and they found that the horses had really headed around and were going up stream again when they made their halt.

We certainly got well turned around, admitted the county clerk.

Now, you see, Pa! exclaimed Lettie. You big men would have dragged us around in the snow all night, and wed been lost, and frozen up tight maybe

I dont see that your boy knights are going to do much better, returned Mr. Parker, rather grimly. This is a bad storm. I wish we had never left that farmhouse, Kimball.

So do I, admitted the sheriff.

We cant all pile into this sleigh the horses can scarcely draw it as it is. That box is a weight, and no mistake.

I say, sir, said Dan to the sheriff, again consulting the compass. I know we can get to John Bromleys dock, all right. It is a good distance, but as long as we know which way to head, were bound to bring up there if we keep near enough the shore.

Sensibly said, boy, agreed Parker.

Ill walk ahead of the horses. You cant get them out of a walk, anyway, pursued Dan. You folks get into the sleigh again, and let those fellows walk behind. Billy and Dummy will see that they dont fall out of the procession.

The sheriff made one amendment to this. He refused to ride in the sleigh, but made Mr. Parker and the girls snuggle down under the robes. He declared he preferred to keep moving, anyway, and he led the colts himself.

They acted better with him at their heads, for the poor beasts were frightened and pretty well winded. Thus the procession started and there were no stragglers. The dummy and Billy Speedwell saw to that.

They were all tired and half-blinded by the snow and wind; but the work kept their blood in circulation. Those afoot were better off than Mr. Parker and the girls.

The three prisoners suffered a good deal before long. It is not easy to walk at any time with ones hands tied behind ones back; but to wade through knee-deep snowdrifts under those conditions is very hard indeed.

The cords around their wrists stopped the circulation, too; and the men were in danger of suffering frost-bitten hands. Tom Davis, the ex-convict and the ugliest man in the trio, was the quickest to suffer and make his suffering known.

Like every other bully, he was a coward. He had invented the way to torture Dummy when they desired to know where the hidden box lay, and he had exulted in the lads pain. But he could not have held out against the scorching for a minute.

Now he begged and pleaded with Billy to loosen his bonds. He even cried and declared his hands would freeze and drop off.

Then, by crickey! exclaimed young Speedwell, youll be able to keep them out of other peoples pockets. Get on with you! and he poked the fellow in the back with his stick.

It was all right when you tied us up and left us to starve, or freeze in that cave on the island, pursued Master Billy. You might have known you were bound to get yours.

Tom blubbered along, stumbling through the snow, and even his mates scorned him.

They were not a pleasant party, to say the least. Once or twice one of the prisoners fell. Billy and Dummy helped him up again; and they were sure that the cords held. The guards did not neglect their captives at any stage of the game.

The procession moved slowly on, Dan in the lead. He brought them in near to the high bank of the Colasha. There were farmhouses somewhere along the riverside; but the bank was so steep that it would have been very difficult to get the horses up to the highway. Furthermore, in this blinding snowstorm, it was impossible to see a light.

They struggled on with a desperate attempt at cheerfulness, shouting encouragement to each other, and trying to be brave. But the snow was piling into such drifts against the shore that it was scarcely possible for them to win through.

Dont know but well have to strike out on to the clearer ice again, sir, suggested Dan to Mr. Kimball.

Whered you find a piece of cleared ice unless you cleared it yourself? grumbled the sheriff. This is a nice mess!

Its tough on the team, admitted Dan. But I reckon well pull through after a fashion.

I admire your pluck, lad, grunted the sheriff. And its one oclock right now!

Then we ought to be somewhere near old Johns. He cant be very far ahead There! isnt that a light?

Where? exclaimed the sheriff, excitedly.

Dead ahead. Dont you see? Its moving! I believe thats the little searchlight we rigged on Bromleys wharf. Yes, sir! The good old fellow! Hes hoping we will see it Billy and I and be able to get back in the iceboat.

Iceboat! snorted the sheriff. Youve a fat chance of ever seeing your iceboat tied up at this dock again until the snow goes away.

Well, now! exclaimed Dan, with some emphasis. You just watch. Billy and I dont propose to let our Follow Me lie out there on the river for very long. Were going to win the races next week in that boat, and dont you forget it!

I wish I had your hope, boy, grunted the county officer. Come up, Dandy! Whats the matter with you, Poke?

It was the light on Bromleys dock. The old boatman had recovered from the rough usage he had received at the hands of the three robbers, and was out on the watch for the Speedwell boys.

To say he was surprised at the appearance of the procession is to but faintly express old Johns emotions.

Strike my colors! he ejaculated. This is the beatenest thing I ever see. And Id made up my mind that Master Dan and Billy had got into trouble this time for sure.

And you were quite right we did, admitted Dan, tenderly arranging the bandages on his wrists.

And you got them sculpins? said the boatman, eyeing the three exhausted captives with much disfavor. Well! the rest of you pile into my house an git warm. Let them fellers stay out here and freeze a bit more.

But he was not as bad as all that. Old John opened the fishhouse and built a fire in the little stove there, and soon the three prisoners were getting warm, too.

Mr. Parker telephoned to his home and to Dr. Kents and so relieved the anxiety of the girls mothers. Dan called up his own house and caught his father just before he started for the barn to get the milk truck ready.

Though, in this storm, it is lucky if we get around. I shall take Bob and Betty, rather than the motor truck, said Mr. Speedwell. Your mother says to bring that poor boy home with you. We must look after him.

And I tell you, said the enthusiastic Billy, to Mildred and Lettie, Dummy is going to get in good dont you forget that! Sheriff Kimball says there will be several hundred dollars coming to him.

If theres any chance of a doctors helping him your father will know, Mildred, said Dan. Make him promise to come out and see Dummy just as soon as he can.

I will, Mildred declared. He is a real nice boy, I think. And if he learns to talk and goes to school

Oh, hell do all of that! promised Dan. Well see to it, Billy and I.

Do see that he gets a new name or a better one, at least, suggested Lettie Parker. Anybody would be handicapped with such a nickname as he has had.

CHAPTER XXIV
ITS A RINGER!

It was proved that the nephew of the wild Harry Biggin had a proper name of his own. His unfortunate and ignorant parents had never allowed a doctor to see the boy when he was small, or the discovery that Dr. Kent made as soon as he examined the patient would have resulted in a simple operation and a change for the better in the boys speech.

He had been properly named Albert Biggin. He was not at all a backward boy, save in speech. And he showed his gratitude to the Speedwells in every way possible.

The doctor kindly went with him to the hospital at Compton, and aided in the operation that gave Bert Biggin the proper use of his tongue. Afterward, when the wound was well, he returned to the Speedwell farm, and there went to work cheerfully to repay the boys and their parents for their kindness to him.

He was to make his home with them, and the sheriff put the part of the reward offered for the recovery of the treasure box, which rightfully belonged to Dummy, into the bank in his name.

The three fellows who were captured later were punished by the law for their work. Out of the adventure in the blizzard a number of good things sprang.

But this is somewhat ahead of our story. The morning after the great snowstorm was a busy time for Dan and Billy Speedwell. Although the storm ceased and the sun broke through the clouds, they were worried about the motor iceboat that the robbers had abandoned up the river. Before noon the brothers, with their new chum, started up the river road on the lookout for the lost boat.

Its all right to have the Fly-up-the-Creek over there at Island Number One. We know where she is, said Billy. But if any of the fellows got hold of the other

Barrington Spink, for instance? suggested Dan.

Crickey, Dan! I believe he found those plans of yours. Jim Stetson declares that Barry and that mechanic of his are building a regular wonder of an iceboat. Hes going to call it the Streak o Light.

Well, we cant help that, returned his brother, gruffly. If he beats us, he beats us! Thats all there is to it.

But it isnt fair if he has based his construction on your invention.

Humph! grunted Dan. I wont be the first inventor who has been beaten out of his rights; will I?

They spied the mast of the motor iceboat after a long tramp. She was nearly a mile from the bank of the river.

They hired a pair of horses from the neighboring farmer, and got down on the ice and out to the stranded boat.

Wont be much more iceboating on the Colasha this winter if this snow remains, Billy declared.

Dont you be too sure of that, returned Dan. If there comes a slight thaw, and then she freezes Wow!

My goodness me! gasped Billy, seeing the prospect at once. Then shell be all thank-you-maams and the boats will bound like rubber balls. Say! if that happens theres bound to be some fun.

They dug the Follow Me out of the snowdrift, and dragged her ashore after taking down the mast and stowing the frozen sail. The motor and engine had not been hurt as far as the boys could see.

They dragged the iceboat back to John Bromleys dock on a sledge, and by that time it was dark. One of the boys stayed with Bromley each night after that until the day of the races.





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