Roy Rockwood.

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





CHAPTER V
WINGED STEEL

There was a moon that week and the nights were glorious. While most of the Riverdale young folk were skating in the Boat Club Cove, the Speedwell brothers were trying out the iceboat each evening, and learning the ropes.

The proper handling of a craft the size of the one Dan and Billy had built is no small art. With the huge mainsail and jib they had rigged, she could gather terrific speed even when the wind was light. She might better have been called an ice yacht.

When the ringing steel was skimming the ice at express-train speed, the two boys had to have their wits about them every moment of the time. Dan handled the helm and the sheet, while Billy rode the crossbeam for balance, and to keep the outrigger runner on the ice.

For boys who had entered in semi-professional motorcycle races, and had handled a Breton-Melville racing car, the speed gathered under normal conditions by this sailing iceboat seemed merely ordinary. What she would do in a gale was another matter.

While they had been building the craft just enough rain fell to wash the snow from the roads; and as the frost came sharply immediately upon the clearance of the rainstorm, almost the entire river surface was like glass. The cold was intense, and the Colasha froze solid. The icemen were cutting eighteen inches at Karnac Lake, it was reported.

There were few airholes between the Long Bridge and the lake (Dan and Billy covered the entire length of the river between those two places) and almost no spots where the swiftness of the current made the ice weak. As for the tides the ice was too firm now to be affected by ordinary tides above the Boat Club Cove.

As Bromleys dock was above the Long Bridge, few of their mates saw the Speedwells craft at all. The Speedwell house was within a short distance of John Bromleys and not many of the academy boys and girls lived at this end of Riverdale.

So what the Fly-up-the-Creek could do was known only to Dan and Billy. They sailed her one night away up the river, past Meadville, the mills, and the penitentiary, and so on to the entrance to Karnac Lake. It was certainly a great sail.

Would you believe shed slide along so rapidly with nothing but a puff of wind now and then? gasped Billy, as they tacked and came about for the return run.

Thats all right, Dan returned. But suppose we got off so far and the wind gave out on us altogether? Wouldnt that be an awful mess?

Gee! exclaimed Billy, laughing. We ought to have an auxiliary engine on her eh? How about it, boy?

Why, Billy! exclaimed Dan, that might not be such a bad idea.

Wouldnt work; would it? asked the younger boy, curiously. I only said that for a joke.

Well

Youre not serious, Dan? gasped Billy, seeing his brothers thoughtful face.

I dont know

Whoo! burst out Billy. Youre off on a cloud again, Dan, old boy! Whoever heard of a motor iceboat? Zing!

Hits you hard; does it? chuckled Dan.

I should say! Wouldnt it be some pumpkins to own an engine-driven craft that would make Money, and Spink, and Burton Poole, and all the others that are going in for iceboating, look like thirty cents?

I admire your slang, boy, said Dan, in a tone that meant he didnt admire it.

Well, but, Dan! you know that idea is preposterous.

Youre wrong.

There are sleds, or boats, being used on the Antarctic ice right now, propelled by gasoline an air propeller and a series of claws that grip the ice underneath the body of the sledge.

Air propeller? cried Billy. Why, there isnt resistance enough in the air to give her any speed.

Not like a propeller in the water, of course. Yet, how do aeroplanes fly?

Gee! thats so.

But, suppose we had a small engine on here and a sprocket wheel attachment something right under the main beam to grip the ice and force her ahead?

Great, Dannie! exclaimed the younger boy, instantly converted.

Well it might not work, after all, said Dan, slowly.

Lets try it!

Well see. Where we lose headway on this Fly-up-the-Creek is when we head her around, or the wind dies on us altogether. Then the auxiliary engine might help eh?

Great! announced Billy again. We wouldnt get becalmed out here on the river then, thats sure.

The boat was creeping down the river right then, failing a strong current of air to fill the canvas. The string of islands that broke the current of the Colasha below Meadville was on their left hand. The last island or, the first as they sailed up the river was the largest of all, and was called Island Number One.

As the iceboat rumbled down stream Billy asked, suddenly:

What do you think about that dummy, Dan? Suppose hes over yonder?

On the island?

Yep.

Dan viewed the high hogback of the island curiously. It was well wooded, but the boys had often been ashore and had never seen a hut, nor other shelter, upon it. Dan shook his head.

Where would the poor fellow stay? What did he do through that cold rainstorm dont see a sign of smoke. He cant be there, Billy.

I know it doesnt seem probable, admitted the younger boy. But remember that paper Dolph found. Somethings buried there, and Dummy was left to guard it.

How romantic! chuckled Dan.

Well! isnt that so? demanded the younger lad.

We dont know what that line of writing really means, said Dan.

Huh! Its plain enough. Oh, Dan!

The younger boy had turned again to look at the island as the iceboat slid out of its shadow.

Whats the matter now? demanded Dan.

Look there! Up up yonder! Isnt that smoke?

Smoke from what? demanded Dan, glancing over his shoulder quickly. He dared not neglect the course ahead for long, although the boat was not traveling fast.

From fire, of course! snapped Billy. What does smoke usually come from?

Sometimes from a pipe, chuckled Dan. I dont see anything

Above the tops of those trees right in the middle of the island.

I dont see

There! rising straight against the sky.

Why its mist frost something, growled Dan. It cant be smoke.

I tell you it is! cried Billy. What else could it be? Theres no mist in such frosty weather as this.

But smoke?

Why not? cried Billy. I bet that Dummy is over there.

Then he must have his campfire in the tops of the trees, chuckled Dan. Now wheres your smoke, Billy?

A puff of wind swooped down upon them. Dan had to attend to the management of the Fly-up-the-Creek. The puff of wind was followed by another. Soon the current of air became steady and the iceboat whisked down the river at a faster pace.

Wheres your smoke now? Dan repeated.

Winds whipped it away, of course, grinned his brother. Gee! cant this thing travel?

The experience of skimming the crystal surface of the river was yet so new that Billy gave his whole mind to it, and forgot Dummy and the faint trace of smoke he had seen against the starlit sky, hovering over Island Number One.

This slant of wind that had suddenly swooped down the icy channel drove the craft on as though it really were a bird winging its way homeward. The steel rang again, and at every little ripple in the ice the outrigger leaped into the air.

As the speed increased, Billy crept out upon the crossbeam so as to ballast it. A little cloud of fine ice particles followed the boat and the wind whined in the taut rigging.

They had no means of telling how fast the boat flew, for it was impossible to properly time her by their watches and the landmarks along the river bank; but Dan and Billy were quite sure that they had never come down the stream any faster in their power boat than they did now.

There was a piece of pebbly ice inshore, not far below Island Number One, and Dan remembered its location. Therefore he changed the course of the iceboat and she shot over toward the far bank.

Billy shouted something to him, but he could not hear what it was. The younger boy pointed ahead, and Dan stooped to peer under the boom.

The moon had drawn a thin veil of cloud over her face and, for the moment, her light was almost withdrawn. A mist seemed rising from the ice itself; but Dan knew that was a mere illusion.

Suddenly the moon cast aside her veil and her full light scintillated across the river. Billy uttered a yell and waved a warning arm as he gazed ahead. Dan saw it, too.

It seemed as though a wide channel had suddenly opened right ahead of the rushing iceboat they could see the moonlight glinting across the tiny waves of an open stretch of water.

CHAPTER VI
GETTING INTO TRIM

Ready as the Speedwell boys were in most emergencies, here was an occasion in which it seemed that disaster could not be averted. That is the principal peril of iceboating; it is impossible to stop a craft, once she is under fast way, within a reasonable distance.

It was too late to drop the sail and hope to bring the Fly-up-the-Creek to a halt before her nose was in the open water. For the instant Dan Speedwells heart seemed to stand still.

There flashed across his mind the remembrance of how that other iceboat the White Albatross had gone into the open river. Had he and Billy not been on the spot, as they were, Money Stevens and Barrington Spink would doubtless have been drowned.

And here was another such accident. The iceboat flew right down to the wide channel where the moonbeams glanced upon the ripples

But she kept right on in her flight, and to Dans amazement the runners rumbled over the apparently open water with an increasing roar!

Crickey! shrieked Billy, turning a grin upon his brother, didnt you think that was open water, Dan? I thought we were done for I really did! And it was only the moonlight glistening upon a rough piece of ice.

Dans heart resumed its regular beat; but he knew that had it been daylight instead of moonlight his brother would have observed how pale he was. Seldom had his coolness been put to a keener test than at that moment.

I tell you what it is, Dan said, discussing the incident with his brother afterward, iceboating is a job where a fellow has to have his head about him all the time. And weve got to be especially careful if we take the girls riding on this thing.

If we do! grunted Billy. Why, if we dont, Mildred and Lettie will give us no peace you know that, Dan.

Just the same, well not take em with us when theres any sign of a gale on the river. It means too much. There are too many chances in iceboating.

During this week some of the other Riverdale boys had been busy. Monroe Stevenss Redbird arrived and made a pretty show on the river near town. Money maneuvered it about the cove and up and down the stretch of river near the Boat Club very nicely.

Barrington Spink had saved the mast and sail from the wreck of his old boat and local mechanics had built for him another White Albatross. As he had plenty of money he easily obtained what he wanted, including a mate to help handle the iceboat. But, as a whole, the boys and girls of Riverdale did not quite cotton to the new boy.

Came Saturday, however, and there were more than a few of the Outing Club down by the river to watch the maneuvers of the iceboats. Although the skating was excellent, it was neglected while the young folk watched Money Stevens get under way and shoot out of the cove in his Redbird.

The White Albatross was a larger boat than Moneys and it was rigged up quite handsomely. There were cushions in the box-body, and neat hand-rails. Money had taken out his sister Ella and Maybell Turner; so now Barry wanted to inveigle some of the girls into his craft.

Mildred and Lettie were waiting for the appearance of the Speedwells, but not altogether sure that they would come. The girls hadnt had a chance to speak to Dan and Billy for several days.

Do you suppose they have finished the boat they were building? Lettie asked the doctors daughter.

When Dan promises a thing

I know, Lettie broke in, hastily. But he isnt infallible. And I do want to try iceboating. That Barry Spink hinted that hed take me out if I wanted to go. Here he comes now.

Spink came forward, all smiles and costume and the latter was really a wonderful get-up for Riverdale. Most of the boys of the Outing Club were content to wear caps lettered R. O. C. and call it square. That is as near to a uniform as many of them got.

But Barry Spink was dressed for the occasion. His outfit was something between a Canadian tobogganing costume and a hockey suit. He wore white wool knickerbockers, gray stockings, high-laced boots, a crimson sweater and a white night-cap arrangement on his head one of those floppy, pointed caps with a tassel.

Lettie couldnt help giggling when he approached; nevertheless she managed to greet him with some show of calm.

This is my friend, Miss Kent, Mr. Spink, said Lettie. How nice your boat looks, Mr. Spink!

Ya-as, drawled Barry. I think shes the goods, all right. Im just going to hoist the sail. Wouldnt you ladies like to take a little trip?

In the White Albatross? Oh! I dont know that we really could, said Lettie, her eyes dancing.

You neednt be afraid, returned Barry, airily. I have managed iceboats since I was a child relly!

Lets go! whispered Lettie to her friend.

No, said Mildred, firmly. I am obliged to you, Mr. Spink; but we have promised to go out with Dan and Billy Speedwell in their boat if they come down the river. And I would not care to disappoint them.

Oh, pshaw! laughed Spink. I heard they were trying to build an iceboat. But, of course, having no experience, theyll never be able to do it. Money bought his boat all ready to put together, and it is a fairly good one; but it takes experience to build as well as to handle an ice racer.

Whats that coming? cried Lettie, suddenly.

They stood where they could get a view of several miles of the upper reaches of the Colasha. The Redbird was just swooping around to return to the Cove; but beyond Moneys boat there had suddenly appeared another sail.

It was a huge sail and it flew over the ice at a terrific pace. Everybody about the Boat Club landing saw it, and the interest became general.

Theres another iceboat, Mr. Spink, exclaimed Lettie. And see it fly! I guess there are others besides you and Money who know how to sail such craft.

I declare! said Spink, in surprise. Its relly coming finely. Must be, Miss Parker, that you have some professionals here after all.

Its Dan and Billy, of course, declared Mildred.

Spink laughed at that statement. Hardly, he said. I have seen the professional racers on the Hudson, and that is the way they manage their craft. See it! what a swoop. See that fellow standing up on that out-runner, and hanging on just by his teeth, as you might say! Thats some sailing believe me!

It is Billy Speedwell! cried Lettie, suddenly becoming anxious. Hell be killed! The reckless boy!

And its Dan at the helm, added the doctors daughter.

Never! exclaimed Barry. It cant be those milkmen.

But nobody paid any attention to the new boy just then. The crowd all ran to watch the fast-flying ice yacht speed down the river. Monroe Stevenss Redbird was nowhere. The strange craft flew fully two lengths to its one, and was very quickly at the entrance to the Boat Club Cove.

They beheld Billy Speedwell hanging to the wire cable that helped steady the mast, and swinging far out from the out-runner, so as to help keep that steel on the ice as the boat swung into the cove.

Dan let go the sheet at just the right moment, and the sail rattled down into the standing-room. Billy dived for it, and kept the canvas from slatting, or getting overboard under the runners. Thus, under the momentum she had gained, the craft ran in to the landing amid the cheers of the Speedwells school fellows.

Great work?

Ive got something to tell you right now, Billy Speedwell! shouted Jim Stetson, above the confusion.

Shoot, Jim! lets have it, returned the younger Speedwell.

You neednt think youre going to have it all your own way in this iceboat game so now, Billy!

We dont want it all our own way, growled Billy. But I reckon well show you fellows some class, just the same.

Wait! yelled Jim.

What for? demanded Billy.

Wait till you see what Biff Hardy and I have got. Well have the Snow Wraith on the ice next week and then well show you some sailing, declared Jim, confidently.

Bully! cried Billy. The more the merrier. I can see right now that if we have an iceboat regatta here at Riverdale, it will be some occasion.

Indeed, the enthusiasm for the new sport increased hourly. The sight of the Speedwells boat sweeping in to the landing had made the heart of every spectator beat quicker. And, of course, every fellow who was building an iceboat believed that his was the better craft!

The girls had run down to the ice to see the Speedwells boat at closer range.

What under the sun do you call it? gasped Lettie Parker. Thats a name for you! Fly-up-the-Creek! Whoever heard of such a thing?

Its the blue heron; isnt it? asked Mildred, laughing.

Thats what some folks say; but, anyhow, explained Dan, the fly-up-the-creek flies so fast that few people have ever seen one in full flight.

My goodness! arent you smart? quoth Lettie. But why not select a pretty name for it?

Goodness! not if you are going to sail with us, cried Billy. We couldnt afford such a superabundance of beauty. A pretty name for the boat as well as a couple of howling beauties like you and Mildred

But Billy had to dodge Letties vigorous palm then, and for the next few moments he kept well out of her reach.

He and Dan swung the craft around, raised the sail again, tucked the two girls in under the rugs with which they had furnished her, and then shoved the Fly-up-the-Creek out from the land.

Were off! yelled Billy, as he leaped aboard the outrigger. Bid us a fond farewell, and you can reach us by wire at Lake Karnac.

Meanwhile Barry Spink and his helper had got the White Albatross under way. She was already running for the mouth of the cove.

You wont be so lonely as you think, Billy, said Miss Parker, pointing a red mitten at Spinks craft. Mr. Spink is going to show you boys how an iceboat ought to be handled.

Crickey! ejaculated Billy. What a get-up!

Yes! isnt he gay? asked Mildred, smiling.

Just the same, Dan observed, quietly, I reckon that fellow can handle his boat all right. Hes been living where they know all about iceboating.

Huh! exclaimed his brother. The only time I ever saw him handle one he ran it into the water. We ought to be able to do as well.

Oh! cried Mildred. Dont you dare! I wouldnt have come if I thought there was any danger of that.

CHAPTER VII
OUT ON THE ROAD

The humming runners of the Fly-up-the-Creek quickly drowned their voices. The wind was light, and it was not fair for the boats running up stream; yet handled right, the ice craft made good speed in that direction.

Billy, by Dans order, shook out the jib, and with all canvas drawing they made a long leg to the farther shore of the Colasha, so that when they tacked they were ahead of both the Redbird and Barry Spinks craft.

The three iceboats, however, were not far apart at any time as they tacked up the river. Money Stevens did not handle the Redbird as smoothly or as neatly as did Barry Spink and his mate; therefore the White Albatross was the nearer to the Speedwells craft.

Once the Spink boat crossed the bows of the Fly-up-the-Creek, and the excited Lettie cried:

Oh, dear! that boy is beating us. Cant you go faster, Dan? I thought you always were speedy?

No. Only Speedwell, returned Dan, gravely.

I think were going quite fast enough, remarked Mildred, who was clinging tightly to the hempen loop that Dan had put into her hand when they started.

It does not follow that were being left behind because the Albatross crossed in front of us, Dan reassured Lettie.

The girl raised up her head to look, and Billy yelled at her:

Low bridge! Down, I say! Do you want your head knocked off?

For at that moment Dan had brought the helm about. The boom swept across the body of the iceboat. Billy himself dropped to a horizontal posture.

With creaking and groaning the huge sail bellied out at just the right angle and the slant of the wind flung the iceboat forward on the new tack. She fairly leaped from the ice under the momentum of that sudden gust, and both girls screamed.

Billy laughed happily, for nobody was hurt, and the Fly-up-the-Creek was almost at once on even keel again. But the two girls could only cling tight for the next few minutes and gasp their fear into each others ears.

Look behind! commanded Dan, after a minute.

Mildred and Lettie did so. To their amazement both the White Albatross and the Redbird were far astern. At least a mile separated them from the Speedwells craft.

How how did you do it, Dannie? asked Mildred, wonderingly.





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