The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer: or, Lost in the Great Blizzardñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Oh! whatever you did, don’t do it again,” gasped Lettie.
“We went fast enough to suit you that time; did we, Let?” chortled Billy.
“I merely took advantage of a flaw in the wind,” declared Dan. “You 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 wasn’t. He tacked too soon and thought he had beaten us. But now – ”
“He won’t catch us in a week of Sundays!” 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.
“Don’t see our friend the dummy anywhere, Dan!” yelled Billy.
“Pshaw! there isn’t anybody on this island,” returned his brother.
This attracted the girls’ attention and Lettie asked, curiously: “Who is ‘the dummy,’ Billy? Anybody I know?”
“Give it up! he may be one of your particular friends for all I know,” returned the younger boy. “But he doesn’t speak English – not so’s you know what he says; and I never heard, Let, that you were very proficient in French or German. How about it?”
“What does he mean, Dan?” asked Lettie, turning her back upon the other boy. “Who is this dummy?”
Dan was pretty busy with the steering of the boat, but he managed to tell the girls – briefly – of his short association with the strange boy whom Billy had almost run over in the snowstorm.
“Isn’t that strange!” exclaimed Mildred. “And do you suppose the poor dumb boy is still somewhere about here?”
“Billy says he’s camping on the island yonder,” chuckled Dan.
“Of course, that’s just like Billy,” scoffed Lettie Parker. “Chock full of romance.”
“All right, all right,” grumbled the younger boy. “You folks wait. Dummy’ll turn up again when you least expect him.”
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 Bromley’s.
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 boys’ 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 boys’ 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 didn’t make racing time – “Not by a jugful!” as Billy grumbled.
“There’s something wrong,” admitted his brother, seriously.
“S’pose she needs a regular overhauling? Have we got to knock her down and overhaul her from the chassis up?”
“I don’t know. It’s not so long ago that we had her in on the machine shop floor, you know, Billy, and Mr. Hardy, Biff’s father, went all over her himself. She’s getting old, of course, and we’ve used her a lot.”
“I – should – say – yes,” drawled the younger boy. “Nobody’s got more out of a motor car around Riverdale than we have out of this one.”
“But I believe she’s good for many a race,” asserted Dan. “You see, it may be some little thing. There might be a leak – ”
“Leak? pshaw! you know the gas runs as clean as a whistle. And what would that have to do with her losing time?” demanded Billy.
“Wait. I mean a leak in the ignition wiring.”
“Never thought of that – eh?” demanded Dan.
“No. And I’m not thinking much of it now, Dannie – you old fuss.”
“Don’t you be too fresh calling me names, sonny,” advised the older youth. “You want to remember that the wiring of this car is old. A tiny break in the insulation would be enough to spell ‘trouble.’ Get me, Billy?”
“Uh-huh! But I don’t see – ”
“Let’s try it. That’s the only thing to do to make sure.”
“How are you going to do it?” demanded Billy, anxiously.
“Watch me,” returned his brother, with assurance, and he immediately went to work to test the insulation.
Billy was sure he was “some punkins” (as he often remarked) when it came to mechanics; but he knew Dan had him “beaten to a mile” 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 “bridging” 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.
“Now, we’ll give her another spin,” he grunted. “If I’m not mistaken, Billy, she will act like a different car.”
“Come on. You’ve got to show me,” returned the other. “Doesn’t seem as though those two little cracks in the insulation could put her in so bad.”
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. “You sure hit the trouble, old boy!” declared the younger brother. “You are one smart kid – ”
Dan punched him good-naturedly in the ribs, and said:
“Be respectful – be respectful, sonny. Remember I’m older than you.”
“That doesn’t worry me much,” returned Billy. And then suddenly he jumped up, demanding: “D’ye see that, Dan? Look!”
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 – 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 Bulger’s 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 Speedwells’ gray car, and he paid that no attention; the boys saw that the brilliantly painted touring car was filled with girls.
“It’s Burton Poole’s new car!” gasped Billy.
“And Mildred and Lettie are in it!” added Dan, quite as excited as his brother.
“Crickey! why doesn’t that Poole know enough to back out. That bull is an ugly fellow.”
“It isn’t Burton at the wheel,” growled Dan, suddenly. “It’s Barry Spink – By George!”
There were other girls in the car besides the doctor’s 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!
“Lemme get out and find a club, Dan!” begged Billy, as the gray car continued to approach the red one at a swift pace.
“What could you do with a club?” demanded the older lad.
“I’d bust it over that beast’s head!” declared his brother, excitedly. “Stop the car!”
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.
“We’re coming, Let!” 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 Speedwells’ 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.
“Goody-good!” shrieked Lettie Parker. “Bump the mean old thing again, Dan! Bump it!”
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 Poole’s 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.
“For pity’s sake get under the wheel yourself, Burton!” exclaimed Dan. “Get those girls out of here.”
“I’m going to get into your car, Billy,” declared Lettie Parker.
“And I, too!” gasped Mildred.
“Why, it wasn’t my fault the old bull charged us,” whined Barrington Spink.
“You give me a pain!” growled Burton, who was a big, rather slow-witted fellow, but sound of heart. “You jumped over the seat and left Let to be gored to death by that beast – as far as you cared!”
“I – I thought she was coming, too,” gasped Spink.
“See if you can get any action in your engine, Burton,” advised Dan. “If that other fellow had had any sense at all he wouldn’t have rushed right down upon the bull in the way he did.”
“I – I didn’t suppose it would dare face the car,” continued the explanatory Spink.
“Rats!” snapped Billy, in disgust. “The car’s red enough to give anything the blind staggers! No wonder that old bull went for it.”
Burton tried to turn his engine; but he couldn’t 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.
“What under the sun’s the matter with you, Dan?” gasped the younger boy.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” ejaculated his brother, snapping his fingers and continuing the dance.
“Stop it! stop it, I say!” commanded Billy. “You’ll have mother in here. My goodness! can’t you break out with the measles – or whatever you’ve got – at a decent hour?”
“It’s something bigger than the measles, Billy,” chuckled Dan, falling into his chair before the table again. “Look here.”
“Those old plans – ” began Billy, sleepily.
“These new plans, you mean,” responded his brother, vigorously. “I tell you I’ve struck pay dirt.”
The words stung Billy into a keener appreciation of his brother’s excitement. Awakened from a sound sleep, he had been rather dazed at first. Now he knew what Dan meant.
“You – got – it?” he gasped, stifling a mighty yawn. “Figured it all out?”
“I’m going to rig a motor-driven sprocket wheel arrangement that will push a car over the ice at good speed – yes, sir!”
“Going to hitch it to the Fly-up-the-Creek?” demanded Billy, eagerly, bending over the papers Dan had prepared.
“No. That’s where I was wrong. We’ll build an entirely new iceboat. See here?” and he at once began explaining to his brother the idea that developed – as it seemed – almost of itself since Billy had gone to sleep three hours before.
“It sure looks good!” exclaimed the younger boy, admiringly, when Dan had concluded. “You have got it, Dan! And the boys will be crazy over it.”
“We’ll just keep it to ourselves, you know,” warned Dan. “Mr. Robert Darringford is going to offer a handsome prize for the fastest iceboat at the regatta we’re going to hold. Don’t you know that?”
“Well – er – yes.”
“Then we’ll just keep still about this scheme. Some of the parts will have to be made in the machine shops, you know. And some parts we’ll get old Troutman, at Compton, to make. You remember him?”
“Sure! the pattern maker who worked for Mr. Asa Craig when Mr. Craig was building his submarine.”
“The same. We won’t let anybody but father see the plans as completed. No use in letting ’em in on the scheme.”
“Crickey, Dan!” exclaimed Billy. “If 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.”
“That’s all right. Maybe he’s got something good up his sleeve,” laughed Dan. “But I believe that we have something just a little better here,” and he tapped the plans on the table.
THE BOY WHO COULDN’T 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 “new-fangled” racing machine that would “just burn up the ice” when the midwinter ice races were held.
“What’s she going to be driven by, Billy?” asked Biff Hardy, meeting the Speedwells one afternoon at the edge of the Boat Club Cove. “Steam – gas – or nitroglycerin? Pa says you’ve brought him some patterns for things that he believes belong to a combination aeroplane and motor mowing machine. How about it?”
“Never you mind,” returned Billy, grinning, for Bill Hardy, who worked in the Darringford Machine Shops, was one of the Speedwells’ staunchest friends. “I don’t just understand all about the plans myself. But Dan knows.”
“You bet he does!” rejoined the admiring Biff. “But I’m not going to ask Dan. If it’s a secret I know very well I couldn’t get at it even if I hypnotized him!”
The Fly-up-the-Creek was very popular, whether the boys built a speedier craft, or not. If Mildred and Lettie didn’t 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 “by a fluke,” or because something broke on his own craft, when Dan and Billy chanced to leave the White Albatross behind. There was something “bull-doggy” 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.
“There are going to be great old times on this river before the winter’s over, Dan,” declared Billy, confidently.
“Providing the frost continues – eh?”
“It’s bound to! Look at the almanac.”
“Humph!” returned Dan, “I’ve heard of such a thing as an almanac being mistaken.”
“That’s all right,” said Billy, not at all shaken. “Everybody believes this will be a great old winter. Robert Darringford is going in for iceboating, too. He’s having a boat built in the shops – and he says it’s going to be a wonder.”
“Let ’em all rave,” grunted Dan. “You’ll see, Billy. There won’t one of ’em get the speed out of their craft that we will out of ours.”
“Where’s those plans, Dannie?” asked his brother.
“Right in my pocket,” returned Dan, promptly. “I’m 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.”
This was on a Saturday when Mildred and Lettie had expressed a desire to take a long trip in the Fly-up-the-Creek.
“We’ve never gone as far as Karnac Lake yet,” Lettie pouted. “Always something happens before we get there. If you don’t take us this time, boys, we’ll go over to the enemy in a body!”
“What enemy?” demanded Billy.
“Barrington Spink. He’s always asking us to accompany him on the White Albatross.”
“Why don’t you go with him, then?” snapped Billy. “Nobody’s holding you.”
“Now, children!” admonished the doctor’s daughter. “Don’t quarrel.”
Dan and Mildred only laughed over the bickerings of the other couple. Soon the Speedwells’ 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 – 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 Speedwells’ craft. Barry shot the white iceboat down toward them as they came out of the cove, and shouted:
“Better come aboard here, girls, if you want to reach the lake. I’m on my way!”
“Who’s going to tow you?” demanded Billy.
“I don’t need any towing,” returned Spink, sharply. “There’s one thing sure, I can beat that old milkwagon of yours. Better take up my offer, girls!” he added, grinning impudently.
He did shoot away in advance at a good pace, and Lettie cried, under her breath: “Oh! don’t you dare to let him beat us, Dan Speedwell!”
“The race is not always to the swift,” returned Dan, smiling.
“I really wouldn’t pay any attention to that fellow,” said Mildred. “He is not worth noticing. And I don’t see any reason why he should be so mean to us.”
“Looks to me as though he wanted to cut Dan and me out with you girls,” chuckled Billy.
“Well!” said Lettie Parker, in earnest for once, “that might be, too. But the particular reason why he dislikes you boys is because you don’t ‘make much’ of him as some of the others do. You know, Barry’s mother is rich.”
“Seems to me I’ve heard something about that before,” said Dan, laughing.
“He got in bad with you boys at the start. Billy only charged him a nickel for saving his life – isn’t that so, Billy?” asked Lettie, with a giggle.
“I didn’t want to overcharge the poor chap,” returned Billy, with an answering grin.
“Well, you can’t expect him to feel very kindly towards you, then,” said Lettie.
“He’s going to build a wonderful boat to beat anything you boys can put on the river,” sighed Mildred. “He’s 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 Greene’s.”
“Don’t let that worry you for a little minute,” Billy broke in, with some excitement. “Dan’s 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.”
“I admire your slang!” exclaimed Lettie, with scorn.
“I bet I caught it from you,” returned Billy, ready to “scrap” on the instant.
“Be good! be good!” cried Mildred. “Oh, Dannie! you are overtaking that white boat.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” 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.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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