The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer: or, Lost in the Great Blizzardскачать книгу бесплатно
For the regatta, so long looked forward to, was held on the date appointed. On Christmas night there was a rise in the temperature and a gentle rain. In the morning around went the wind again to the northwest, and the mercury went down to almost the zero mark. The snow-covered river was a glare of icy crust.
The boats were soon out in full force, although the skating was not good. For the first time the boys learned just what it meant to maneuver an iceboat on a rough surface.
Dan and Billy, with the help of Bert Biggin, dug out the Fly-up-the-Creek on the shore of Island Number One, and took the girls to Karnac Lake the day before the regatta.
Mildred and Lettie had enjoyed the sport before; but although the breeze was light, the big iceboat got under great headway coming home, and when she leaped from the summit of a particularly big hummock of snow-ice, and did not touch a runner to the surface for forty feet, the girls thought they had come as near to flying as they ever wished to.
“And do you mean to say you believe you can get greater speed out of your new boat than this, Dannie?” panted Lettie Parker. “Why! I can’t believe it.”
“To-morrow will tell the story,” returned Dan, grimly.
“The boys say that Streak o’ Light Barry Spink has built is just a wonder,” said Mildred, anxiously.
“Well, of course,” returned Dan, seriously, “I can’t tell what Barry has built. But it’s got to be a good one to beat our Follow Me, now that we have overhauled her and adjusted her again – eh, Billy?”
“Believe me!” agreed his enthusiastic brother, “it’s some boat, girls. Wait till you see it.”
The Speedwell boys sailed their new invention down to the Boat Club Cove the morning of the regatta, using only her canvas. Barrington Spink and his foreign looking mechanic were running the new boat Spink had built all about the cove to show her paces, using, of course, only the motor. She did not go so very fast, but the owners of ordinary iceboats looked on the Streak o’ Light with envy.
“Say!” grunted Monroe Stevens; “we haven’t the ghost of a show with that thing. And Mr. Darringford’s got a power boat, too. What have you got under that canvas, Dan?”
“Never mind,” said the older Speedwell boy. “We’ll show our engine after the races – not before.”
But the brothers went over to Spink’s boat and examined it. Barry seemed very nervous and eyed the Speedwells askance while Dan was closely examining the mechanism that drove the Streak o’ Light.
“What do you think of it, Dan?” asked Mr. Darringford, who was standing near.
“I – don’t – know,” returned the boy, and backed away from the machine. Billy followed him, his face red and his hands clenched.
“It’s a ringer! It’s a ringer!” the younger boy declared, hotly. “He stole those plans – ”
“He merely found them on the ice and picked them up,” put in Dan, quietly.
“And made use of them!” ejaculated Billy, almost choked for speech in his anger.
“Yes,” observed Dan, slowly.
“He seems to have made some
use of the idea.”
“And if he beats us, it will be because of our plans – your invention, Dan!”
“Hold on! don’t blow up!” warned Dan. “The race isn’t run yet.”
“And if it is – ”
“He’s got to show he knows how to run his boat better than we run ours; hasn’t he?” Dan demanded. “Keep your shirt on, Billy.”
Thus admonished, the younger Speedwell kept silent. Barry Spink raced his White Albatross in the early races, and he actually won two of the short ones.
“That chap thinks he’s going to sweep the whole river,” growled Biff Hardy. “He’s sent up to Appleyard’s for a broom and is going to tie it to his masthead.”
“Oh, Dan! is he really going to beat everybody – win everything?” cried Mildred Kent.
“Wait,” advised Speedwell. “These are only play races. There’s only one real trial of speed to-day; and the Follow Me is going to be in that,” and he laughed.
But Billy didn’t feel like laughing at all. He didn’t have much share of Dan’s courage.
BEATING THE “STREAK O’ LIGHT”
The race Dan referred to was the actual trial of the big craft, and those rigged with motors. The course was to Karnac Lake and return. If the wind held light and fair it was anybody’s race; if it fell calm, undoubtedly the motor iceboats would have an advantage. If the wind increased to a gale there was no knowing who would be the successful one.
Since the big snow nobody knew the course well. The river’s surface was like a rolling plain – a prairie. There was known to be no open water; but otherwise the course was uncertain.
There were five starters. Monroe Stevens would not race his Redbird, nor did the Curlew start. The Speedwells’, Barry Spink’s, Mr. Darringford’s Betty B., an entry from Meadville, and one from Barrington, made up the “card.”
It was a long course, and it called for very good handling to go straight up the river, turn, and make the downward course in any sort of time. The five boats drifted out of the cove under sail and got in some sort of a line so that the referee could start them.
At once Spink’s mechanic started his engine; but the motors on the Betty B. and on the Speedwell craft remained silent. The signal was given and they all got off in some sort of time.
The Speedwells paid strict attention to their own work, and did not watch their rivals. If one is going to race, the way to do so is to attend strictly to one’s own business.
Dan and Billy knew that there was one bad obstacle – the Long Bridge. Although the masts all cleared the under-timbers of the high structure, the canvas was almost sure to lose the wind while going under.
Spink had gone at it just as he went at everything – with marvelous confidence. With motor sputtering and his big sail, bellied full, he shot ahead of the other four boats in the race and was quickly at the Long Bridge.
Here he had to drop the sail, for it interfered with the Streak o’ Light getting through. His motor coughed and the iceboat went ahead jerkily enough.
Dan and Billy had taken a rather long shoot to windward; now the Follow Me came up to the bridge on the other tack, and Dan started the motor just before his sail began to shake.
The momentum they had gathered carried the boat under the structure. At once the sail filled on the upper side, and the Follow Me proved her name to be good. She led the five iceboats, and the crowd of spectators that crowded the bridge cheered the Speedwell boys as their craft darted up the river.
It was not until then that she began to really move.
The boys had sailed pretty fast in her before. But now the whole stretch of the river lay before her. There was nothing in the way, and the wind was fair. Under the pressure of both wind and claw-wheel under the main beam, she hit only the high places, as Billy declared.
Dan tried to steer clear of the higher drifts; but sometimes she would run up the long slope of a hummock and shoot right out into the air. Those on shore could see the daylight between the runners of the Follow Me and the crust of ice.
At such times Dan was glad he had rigged his sprocket wheel so that he could raise her. The motor raced, but the moment the runners connected with the ice again, Dan drove the wheel down and the added impetus of the whirling claws aided in the speed of the boat.
Billy hung to the end of the crossbeam and laughed back at the other boats. He could afford to. Even Barry Spink’s wonderful craft was being left behind. Before they passed the end of Island Number One, the Follow Me was a mile and more in the lead.
And the boys kept this lead for the entire distance to Karnac Lake. When they turned the stake and started to beat back, the pace was more moderate. But here was where Dan’s invention “made good.”
The wind was against them. To tack from side to side of the river as the sailboats did was to lose precious time. They furled the sail, unstepped the mast, and speeded up the engines of the Follow Me.
The machinery worked splendidly. Sometimes, when there was a catspaw of good wind, one or another of the other contestants would get somewhere near Dan and Billy; but the moment the wind shifted, or died down, the motor iceboat scurried ahead.
They never saw Spink’s boat after passing her at Karnac Lake. Mr. Darringford’s Betty B. clung to the Follow Me for a long while; but finally she fell back. The boys were far, far ahead when they came down to the Long Bridge again.
In spite of the extreme cold, there was a goodly crowd to greet them. The Academy boys and girls “rooted” loudly for the brothers and their craft. The Follow Me slid under the bridge and so down to the starting point amid the plaudits of half of Riverdale and, as Billy said, “a good sprinkling of the rest of the county.”
Mr. Darringford, when he came in, a poor second, wanted to make a thorough examination of Dan’s invention, and the boys were glad to have him do so. He at once advised Dan to cover his ingenious work with a patent, and helped the boy do this at once.
“For people are bound to see and steal your idea,” said the gentleman, convinced that young Speedwell was quite a genius in mechanics.
“Huh! they’ve done that already – but it didn’t help ’em much,” scoffed Billy.
“You mean that Spink and his foreigner?” asked Mr. Darringford, with a queer little smile.
“Yes. He stole those plans from Dan.”
Mr. Darringford looked at the older Speedwell and smiled again. “I guess you saw what he did?” he said. “I can see that he tried to steal your idea; but he seems to have got it hind-end foremost – eh?”
“That’s what I noticed,” laughed Dan. “So I wasn’t much afraid of his beating us out.”
The story of what Barry Spink had done, and how he had overreached himself, leaked out, and the boys and girls of Riverdale fairly laughed the fellow out of town. Barry never entered the Riverdale Academy; but Bert Biggin did.
And Bert proved himself to be a pretty smart fellow, despite the nickname of “Dummy” that had clung to him for so many years.
That winter on the Colasha may never be repeated; but while the ice lasted, Dan and Billy, with their friends, managed to enjoy every hour they could get upon the frozen surface of the stream.
And none of those who bore a part in the incident will forget how they were lost in the great blizzard.
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