The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer: or, Lost in the Great BlizzardŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďOh! whatever you did, donít do it again,Ē gasped Lettie.
ďWe went fast enough to suit you that time; did we, Let?Ē chortled Billy.
ďI merely took advantage of a flaw in the wind,Ē declared Dan. ďYou see, the wind is not steady this afternoon, and really, bye and bye, I expect it will get around into a new quarter and stick there. I was looking for that puff, and Spink wasnít. He tacked too soon and thought he had beaten us. But now Ė Ē
ďHe wonít catch us in a week of Sundays!Ē finished Billy, in delight.
The wind became so uncertain, however, within the next few minutes, that Dan decided it was inexpedient to continue farther than Island Number One. There were clouds in the northeast, too, and a storm might be on the way.
Therefore the boat was headed about and the canvas filled again as the steel runners squealed around the head of the island.
ďDonít see our friend the dummy anywhere, Dan!Ē yelled Billy.
ďPshaw! there isnít anybody on this island,Ē returned his brother.
This attracted the girlsí attention and Lettie asked, curiously: ďWho is Ďthe dummy,í Billy? Anybody I know?Ē
ďGive it up! he may be one of your particular friends for all I know,Ē returned the younger boy. ďBut he doesnít speak English Ė not soís you know what he says; and I never heard, Let, that you were very proficient in French or German. How about it?Ē
ďWhat does he mean, Dan?Ē asked Lettie, turning her back upon the other boy. ďWho is this dummy?Ē
Dan was pretty busy with the steering of the boat, but he managed to tell the girls Ė briefly Ė of his short association with the strange boy whom Billy had almost run over in the snowstorm.
ďIsnít that strange!Ē exclaimed Mildred. ďAnd do you suppose the poor dumb boy is still somewhere about here?Ē
ďBilly says heís camping on the island yonder,Ē chuckled Dan.
ďOf course, thatís just like Billy,Ē scoffed Lettie Parker. ďChock full of romance.Ē
ďAll right, all right,Ē grumbled the younger boy. ďYou folks wait. Dummyíll turn up again when you least expect him.Ē
And oddly enough Billy proved to be a prophet in this event; but the others did not believe it at the time.
The uncertainty of the wind shortened the stay of the Speedwell iceboat on the river that day. The boys took the girls back to the landing and then were quite two hours in getting the Fly-up-the-Creek to John Bromleyís.
There was some snow that night; but not enough to clog the roads, and it all blew off the ice. The intense cold continued and most of the Riverdale Academy pupils spent their spare time on the ice the following week. But Dan and Billy Speedwell had work in another direction.
Their racing car was now four years old, for they had bought it second hand. For short distances there were probably a dozen cars right in Riverdale that could best the boysí racer.
But when it came to the longer runs, Dan and Billy were well aware that skillful handling counted really more than the machine itself.
There were frequent amateur road races and the Speedwells never refused a challenge.
Now they intended to put their old car into tip-top order, and most of the boysí spare time that week was devoted to this object.
They got her out on the road Monday afternoon and despite the cold worked for three hours between their house and the Meadville turnpike. Dan drove her and the speedometer registered what they would have considered very good time indeed for an ordinary run. But they didnít make racing time Ė ďNot by a jugful!Ē as Billy grumbled.
ďThereís something wrong,Ē admitted his brother, seriously.
ďSípose she needs a regular overhauling? Have we got to knock her down and overhaul her from the chassis up?Ē
ďI donít know. Itís not so long ago that we had her in on the machine shop floor, you know, Billy, and Mr. Hardy, Biffís father, went all over her himself. Sheís getting old, of course, and weíve used her a lot.Ē
ďI Ė should Ė say Ė yes,Ē drawled the younger boy. ďNobodyís got more out of a motor car around Riverdale than we have out of this one.Ē
ďBut I believe sheís good for many a race,Ē asserted Dan. ďYou see, it may be some little thing. There might be a leak Ė Ē
ďLeak? pshaw! you know the gas runs as clean as a whistle. And what would that have to do with her losing time?Ē demanded Billy.
ďWait. I mean a leak in the ignition wiring.Ē
ďNever thought of that Ė eh?Ē demanded Dan.
ďNo. And Iím not thinking much of it now, Dannie Ė you old fuss.Ē
ďDonít you be too fresh calling me names, sonny,Ē advised the older youth. ďYou want to remember that the wiring of this car is old. A tiny break in the insulation would be enough to spell Ďtrouble.í Get me, Billy?Ē
ďUh-huh! But I donít see Ė Ē
ďLetís try it. Thatís the only thing to do to make sure.Ē
ďHow are you going to do it?Ē demanded Billy, anxiously.
ďWatch me,Ē returned his brother, with assurance, and he immediately went to work to test the insulation.
Billy was sure he was ďsome punkinsĒ (as he often remarked) when it came to mechanics; but he knew Dan had him ďbeaten to a mileĒ when once the elder boy put his mind to a mechanical problem. So he watched Dan narrowly.
To find a leak in the ignition wiring of a machine is no joke; the break may be of the tiniest and in a remote location, too. But Dan had a practical idea about it and he started right.
First he disconnected the conductors, one at a time, replacing them with temporary connections made with an ample length of free wire, laid outside the motor parts.
It did not take long to do this, and this method of ďbridgingĒ the conductors without dismantling the connections brought about just what Dan wished. There were two tiny leaks and in an hour Dan had corrected the faults and put everything in shape again.
ďNow, weíll give her another spin,Ē he grunted. ďIf Iím not mistaken, Billy, she will act like a different car.Ē
ďCome on. Youíve got to show me,Ē returned the other. ďDoesnít seem as though those two little cracks in the insulation could put her in so bad.Ē
They got the car out on the hard road. There was still an hour before sunset and they could go far in an hour.
And how the old car spun along! Billy was delighted and Dan grinned happily. ďYou sure hit the trouble, old boy!Ē declared the younger brother. ďYou are one smart kid Ė Ē
Dan punched him good-naturedly in the ribs, and said:
ďBe respectful Ė be respectful, sonny. Remember Iím older than you.Ē
ďThat doesnít worry me much,Ē returned Billy. And then suddenly he jumped up, demanding: ďDíye see that, Dan? Look!Ē
They had been going pretty fast, but Dan shut off the power at once. Far ahead of them on the road a red touring car was approaching Ė a brilliant patch of color against the background of saffron sky.
If the color scheme had caught their eye, so much more did it catch the eye of Farmer Bulgerís black bull, that had just broken out of bounds and entered the highway from the barnyard lane.
Instantly the beast saw the red car coming and it bellowed a challenge, pawing the frozen ground and shaking his horns threateningly. His back was to the Speedwellsí gray car, and he paid that no attention; the boys saw that the brilliantly painted touring car was filled with girls.
ďItís Burton Pooleís new car!Ē gasped Billy.
ďAnd Mildred and Lettie are in it!Ē added Dan, quite as excited as his brother.
ďCrickey! why doesnít that Poole know enough to back out. That bull is an ugly fellow.Ē
ďIt isnít Burton at the wheel,Ē growled Dan, suddenly. ďItís Barry Spink Ė By George!Ē
There were other girls in the car besides the doctorís daughter and Lettie. They were all screaming as the red car dashed toward the great beast that barred the way. At last Spink stopped; but then it was too late to turn the car and escape.
With a vicious bellow the bull charged and struck the radiator of the car a solid blow, breaking it. He bounded back from the collision and shook his head from side to side; but he showed every intention of making a second charge and this time he might clamber into the car itself!
ďLemme get out and find a club, Dan!Ē begged Billy, as the gray car continued to approach the red one at a swift pace.
ďWhat could you do with a club?Ē demanded the older lad.
ďIíd bust it over that beastís head!Ē declared his brother, excitedly. ďStop the car!Ē
The occupants of the red car had all crouched down in the bottom, hoping the bull would not see them. They might have been ostriches hiding their heads from pursuit in the desert sand.
The beast charged again, and this time he smashed the windshield and got his forehoofs into the front of the car. Barry Spink vaulted over the back of the seat and left Lettie Parker (who had sat with him) to her fate.
ďWeíre coming, Let!Ē roared Billy, standing up and fairly dancing in the onrushing gray racer.
The next instant the bull backed away and got right into the path of the Speedwellsí car. Dan had intended to run her alongside of the red automobile and give the frightened passengers a chance to escape.
But the bull got in the way. There was a heavy thud, and Mr. Bull flopped over on his side, bellowing in pain and surprise, while the gray car rebounded from his carcass as though it were made of India rubber.
ďGoody-good!Ē shrieked Lettie Parker. ďBump the mean old thing again, Dan! Bump it!Ē
But Dan shut off the power quickly. He was afraid the collision had done the racer no good, as it was.
However, he had no intention of seeing the bull do any further harm to the crowd in Burton Pooleís car. With Billy, he ran at the beast, that had now staggered to his feet. Dan had seized a long-handled wrench from the tool box, and before the bull could lower his head to charge, he hit the tender nose a hard clip.
How the creature roared! He hated to give up the fight and it was not until Dan had struck another blow that the bull backed into the ditch and cleared the road for the passage of the two cars.
ďFor pityís sake get under the wheel yourself, Burton!Ē exclaimed Dan. ďGet those girls out of here.Ē
ďIím going to get into your car, Billy,Ē declared Lettie Parker.
ďAnd I, too!Ē gasped Mildred.
ďWhy, it wasnít my fault the old bull charged us,Ē whined Barrington Spink.
ďYou give me a pain!Ē growled Burton, who was a big, rather slow-witted fellow, but sound of heart. ďYou jumped over the seat and left Let to be gored to death by that beast Ė as far as you cared!Ē
ďI Ė I thought she was coming, too,Ē gasped Spink.
ďSee if you can get any action in your engine, Burton,Ē advised Dan. ďIf that other fellow had had any sense at all he wouldnít have rushed right down upon the bull in the way he did.Ē
ďI Ė I didnít suppose it would dare face the car,Ē continued the explanatory Spink.
ďRats!Ē snapped Billy, in disgust. ďThe carís red enough to give anything the blind staggers! No wonder that old bull went for it.Ē
Burton tried to turn his engine; but he couldnít get a bit of action out of it. Fortunately the bull was whipped, and the Speedwells turned their own machine about, hitched on to the red car, and towed it back to Riverdale, unmolested.
Later in the week, after the boys had tried the racer out to their complete satisfaction, Dan remained up one evening long after his brother had gone to bed. Billy fell asleep seeing Dan bent over certain drawings he had made, and it must have been midnight when the younger boy was startled out of his sound sleep by a sudden sound.
There was Dan hopping about the room in a grotesque, stocking-footed dance.
ďWhat under the sunís the matter with you, Dan?Ē gasped the younger boy.
ďIíve got it! Iíve got it!Ē ejaculated his brother, snapping his fingers and continuing the dance.
ďStop it! stop it, I say!Ē commanded Billy. ďYouíll have mother in here. My goodness! canít you break out with the measles Ė or whatever youíve got Ė at a decent hour?Ē
ďItís something bigger than the measles, Billy,Ē chuckled Dan, falling into his chair before the table again. ďLook here.Ē
ďThose old plans Ė Ē began Billy, sleepily.
ďThese new plans, you mean,Ē responded his brother, vigorously. ďI tell you Iíve struck pay dirt.Ē
The words stung Billy into a keener appreciation of his brotherís excitement. Awakened from a sound sleep, he had been rather dazed at first. Now he knew what Dan meant.
ďYou Ė got Ė it?Ē he gasped, stifling a mighty yawn. ďFigured it all out?Ē
ďIím going to rig a motor-driven sprocket wheel arrangement that will push a car over the ice at good speed Ė yes, sir!Ē
ďGoing to hitch it to the Fly-up-the-Creek?Ē demanded Billy, eagerly, bending over the papers Dan had prepared.
ďNo. Thatís where I was wrong. Weíll build an entirely new iceboat. See here?Ē and he at once began explaining to his brother the idea that developed Ė as it seemed Ė almost of itself since Billy had gone to sleep three hours before.
ďIt sure looks good!Ē exclaimed the younger boy, admiringly, when Dan had concluded. ďYou have got it, Dan! And the boys will be crazy over it.Ē
ďWeíll just keep it to ourselves, you know,Ē warned Dan. ďMr. Robert Darringford is going to offer a handsome prize for the fastest iceboat at the regatta weíre going to hold. Donít you know that?Ē
ďWell Ė er Ė yes.Ē
ďThen weíll just keep still about this scheme. Some of the parts will have to be made in the machine shops, you know. And some parts weíll get old Troutman, at Compton, to make. You remember him?Ē
ďSure! the pattern maker who worked for Mr. Asa Craig when Mr. Craig was building his submarine.Ē
ďThe same. We wonít let anybody but father see the plans as completed. No use in letting íem in on the scheme.Ē
ďCrickey, Dan!Ē exclaimed Billy. ďIf we build a racer that wipes up the whole river, Barry Spink will turn green with envy. I heard him blowing the other day that he was going to have some kind of a mechanical contrivance built for his White Albatross that would make her the fastest thing on the ice.Ē
ďThatís all right. Maybe heís got something good up his sleeve,Ē laughed Dan. ďBut I believe that we have something just a little better here,Ē and he tapped the plans on the table.
THE BOY WHO COULDNíT TALK
The Speedwells were busy boys these days. The excitable Billy had so many irons in the fire (so he said) that he could barely keep all of them hot.
Then, there was the secret building of the new iceboat. Dan and Billy had said little of their scheme outside the family; but it was known in Riverdale that the Speedwells proposed to rig a ďnew-fangledĒ racing machine that would ďjust burn up the iceĒ when the midwinter ice races were held.
ďWhatís she going to be driven by, Billy?Ē asked Biff Hardy, meeting the Speedwells one afternoon at the edge of the Boat Club Cove. ďSteam Ė gas Ė or nitroglycerin? Pa says youíve brought him some patterns for things that he believes belong to a combination aeroplane and motor mowing machine. How about it?Ē
ďNever you mind,Ē returned Billy, grinning, for Bill Hardy, who worked in the Darringford Machine Shops, was one of the Speedwellsí staunchest friends. ďI donít just understand all about the plans myself. But Dan knows.Ē
ďYou bet he does!Ē rejoined the admiring Biff. ďBut Iím not going to ask Dan. If itís a secret I know very well I couldnít get at it even if I hypnotized him!Ē
The Fly-up-the-Creek was very popular, whether the boys built a speedier craft, or not. If Mildred and Lettie didnít care to accompany Dan and Billy whenever they had time to skim the ice in the big craft, there were plenty of their schoolmates ready to enjoy such trips as the Speedwells were willing to give them.
And almost always when Dan and Billy were on the ice, the White Albatross made its appearance. Barrington Spink was forever trying conclusions with the bigger iceboat, and was never willing to admit defeat by her.
It was always ďby a fluke,Ē or because something broke on his own craft, when Dan and Billy chanced to leave the White Albatross behind. There was something ďbull-doggyĒ about Barrington Spink. He never knew when he was beaten.
There was by this time quite a fleet of iceboats on the river, besides those of the Speedwell boys, Monroe Stevens, and Spink. Fisher Greene and his cousin had produced the Flying Squirrel. Jim Stetson and Alf Holloway had bought a boat, too, and named it the Curlew.
There were, besides, other iceboats appearing on the Colasha, built and owned by some of the adult members of the boat club. There were a good many men devoted to sports in Riverdale, and the condition of the ice this season spurred them into joining the game.
The Oldest Inhabitant could not remember when there had been a winter so steadily cold. And, fortunately for the ice sports, there was little snow during these early weeks of the season.
ďThere are going to be great old times on this river before the winterís over, Dan,Ē declared Billy, confidently.
ďProviding the frost continues Ė eh?Ē
ďItís bound to! Look at the almanac.Ē
ďHumph!Ē returned Dan, ďIíve heard of such a thing as an almanac being mistaken.Ē
ďThatís all right,Ē said Billy, not at all shaken. ďEverybody believes this will be a great old winter. Robert Darringford is going in for iceboating, too. Heís having a boat built in the shops Ė and he says itís going to be a wonder.Ē
ďLet íem all rave,Ē grunted Dan. ďYouíll see, Billy. There wonít one of íem get the speed out of their craft that we will out of ours.Ē
ďWhereís those plans, Dannie?Ē asked his brother.
ďRight in my pocket,Ē returned Dan, promptly. ďIím not running the risk of having them picked up somewhere and so find their way into the hands of somebody who might catch on to our idea.Ē
This was on a Saturday when Mildred and Lettie had expressed a desire to take a long trip in the Fly-up-the-Creek.
ďWeíve never gone as far as Karnac Lake yet,Ē Lettie pouted. ďAlways something happens before we get there. If you donít take us this time, boys, weíll go over to the enemy in a body!Ē
ďWhat enemy?Ē demanded Billy.
ďBarrington Spink. Heís always asking us to accompany him on the White Albatross.Ē
ďWhy donít you go with him, then?Ē snapped Billy. ďNobodyís holding you.Ē
ďNow, children!Ē admonished the doctorís daughter. ďDonít quarrel.Ē
Dan and Mildred only laughed over the bickerings of the other couple. Soon the Speedwellsí boat was made ready and the girls got aboard, while Dan and Billy pushed her out from the landing.
There was no gale blowing, but a good, stiff breeze Ė and it was fair. The huge sail of the Fly-up-the-Creek filled almost immediately, and they moved steadily out of the cove.
Outside, the White Albatross was maneuvering, Spink evidently waiting as usual to try a brush with the Speedwellsí craft. Barry shot the white iceboat down toward them as they came out of the cove, and shouted:
ďBetter come aboard here, girls, if you want to reach the lake. Iím on my way!Ē
ďWhoís going to tow you?Ē demanded Billy.
ďI donít need any towing,Ē returned Spink, sharply. ďThereís one thing sure, I can beat that old milkwagon of yours. Better take up my offer, girls!Ē he added, grinning impudently.
He did shoot away in advance at a good pace, and Lettie cried, under her breath: ďOh! donít you dare to let him beat us, Dan Speedwell!Ē
ďThe race is not always to the swift,Ē returned Dan, smiling.
ďI really wouldnít pay any attention to that fellow,Ē said Mildred. ďHe is not worth noticing. And I donít see any reason why he should be so mean to us.Ē
ďLooks to me as though he wanted to cut Dan and me out with you girls,Ē chuckled Billy.
ďWell!Ē said Lettie Parker, in earnest for once, ďthat might be, too. But the particular reason why he dislikes you boys is because you donít Ďmake muchí of him as some of the others do. You know, Barryís mother is rich.Ē
ďSeems to me Iíve heard something about that before,Ē said Dan, laughing.
ďHe got in bad with you boys at the start. Billy only charged him a nickel for saving his life Ė isnít that so, Billy?Ē asked Lettie, with a giggle.
ďI didnít want to overcharge the poor chap,Ē returned Billy, with an answering grin.
ďWell, you canít expect him to feel very kindly towards you, then,Ē said Lettie.
ďHeís going to build a wonderful boat to beat anything you boys can put on the river,Ē sighed Mildred. ďHeís going to win all the ice races at the regatta Mr. Darringford is arranging. Oh! I heard him telling all about it the other evening at Mary Greeneís.Ē
ďDonít let that worry you for a little minute,Ē Billy broke in, with some excitement. ďDanís got the plans of a boat right in his pocket now that will knock the eye out of any craft that will be on the ice this winter.Ē
ďI admire your slang!Ē exclaimed Lettie, with scorn.
ďI bet I caught it from you,Ē returned Billy, ready to ďscrapĒ on the instant.
ďBe good! be good!Ē cried Mildred. ďOh, Dannie! you are overtaking that white boat.Ē
ďThatís what weíre here for,Ē returned the older boy, who had been attending strictly to business since Spink had challenged them.
The Fly-up-the-Creek was making good its name. They were rushing up the river at a terrific pace. The White Albatross, whenever she tacked, lost ground. And finally when they came to the lower end of Island Number One, she had to make a long leg towards the farther side of the river, and so get to the leeward of the island.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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