DAVE DASHAWAY AND HIS HYDROPLANE
Or Daring Adventures Over The Great Lakes
By Roy Rockwood
THE YOUNG AVIATOR
"I'll take it."
The messenger boy who had just entered the hangar of the great prize monoplane of the aero meet at Columbus, stared wonderingly about him while the man in charge of the place receipted for the telegram.
The lad had never been in so queer a place before. He was a lively, active city boy, but the closest he had ever seen an airship was a distance away and five hundred feet up in the air. Now, with big wonder eyes he stared at the strange appearing machine. His fingers moved restlessly, like a street-urchin surveying an automobile and longing to blow its horn.
The man in charge of the place attracted his attention, too. He had only one arm and limped when he walked. His face was scarred and he looked like a war veteran. The only battles this old warrior had been in, however, were fights with the elements. He was a famous "wind wagon" man who had sustained a terrible fall in an endurance race. It had crippled him for life. Now he followed the various professional meets for a living, and also ran an aviation school for amateurs. His name was John Grimshaw.
The messenger boy took a last look about the place and left. The old man put on a cap, went to the door and rather gruesomely faced the elements.
"A cold drizzling rain and gusty weather generally," he said to himself in a grumbling tone. "I'll face it any time for Dashaway, though. The telegram may be important."
The big aero field looked lonely and gloomy as the man crossed it. Lights showed here and there in the various buildings scattered about the enclosure. The ground was wet and soft. The rain came in chilling dashes. Old Grimshaw breasted the storm, and after half a mile's walk came to a hangar a good deal like the one he had left. There was a light inside.
"Hello, there!" he sang out in his big foghorn voice, thrusting the door open with his foot and getting under the shelter, and shaking the rain from his head and shoulders.
Two boys were the occupants of the place. They had a lamp on the table, upon which was outspread pictures and plans of airships. The older of the two got up from his chair with a pleasant smiling face.
"Why, it's Mr. Grimshaw!" he exclaimed.
"That's who it is," joined in the other boy cheerily. "Say, you're welcome, too. We were looking over some sketches of new machines, and you can tell us lots about them, you know."
"Got to get back to my own quarters," declared Grimshaw. "Some other time about those pictures. Boy brought a telegram to Mr. King's hangar. It's for you, Dashaway."
"For me?" inquired the lad who had first addressed the visitor.
"Yes. Here it is. Mr. King's away, but if you need me for anything let me know."
"I'm always needing you," replied Dave Dashaway. "I don't know what we'd do without you."
The young aviator—for such he was in fact and reality—took the proffered envelope. He tore open its end and read the enclosure rapidly.
"Why," he said, "this is strange."
"Any answer? Need me?" asked Grimshaw, moving towards the door.
"No, thank you," replied Dave in a vague, bothered way that made his companion and chum, Hiram Dobbs, study his face with some perplexity.
"I'd better get back home, then," said the old man. "Fine weather for hydroplanes this, eh?"
Both Dave and Hiram proceeded to the door with the grim old fellow who had so kindly taught them all they knew about aeronautics. When their visitor had departed, Dave went back to the table. He sat down and perused the telegram once more. Then he sat looking fixedly at it, as if he was studying some hard problem. Hiram stood it as long as he could. Then he burst out impetuously:
"What is it, Dave?"
"I'm trying to find out," was the abstracted reply.
"Who is it from?"
"The Interstate Aeroplane Co."
That name meant a good deal to Hiram Dobbs, and a great deal more to Dave Dashaway. It marked the starting point in the aviation career of the latter, and that in its turn had meant a first step up the ladder for his faithful comrade, Hiram.
In the first volume of this series, entitled:
"Dave Dashaway, the Young Aviator; Or, In the Clouds for Fame and Fortune," the career of Dave Dashaway has been told. The father of the young airman had been a noted balloonist, and when he died a mean old skinflint named Silas Warner had been appointed Dave's guardian. Warner had acted the tyrant and hard taskmaster for the youth. A natural love for aeronautics had been born in Dave. He had made an airship model which his guardian had maliciously destroyed. Warner had also appropriated a package dropped accidentally by a famous aviator, named Robert King, from a monoplane.
Dave had found this package, containing money, a watch and a medal greatly prized by Mr. King. Dave resolved that this property should be restored to the airman. He got hold of the lost articles, which his guardian had secreted, and ran away from home.
After various adventures, during which he was robbed of the airman's property, Dave managed to reach the aero meet at Fairfield. He found Robert King and described to him the boy thief. The airman took a fancy to Dave from the nerve and ability he showed in experimenting with a parachute garment, and hired him.
About the same time Hiram Dobbs came along, ambitious to change his farm life for an aviation career, and secured work helping about the grounds. Mr. King sent Dave to Grimshaw for training. The Interstate Aeroplane Co. wanted to exhibit its Baby Racer, a novel biplane. Dave made a successful demonstration, and won the admiration and good will of the company.
In a few weeks time Dave scored a big success and won several trophies. His final exploit was taking the place of an aviator who had fainted away in his monoplane, and winning the race for Mr. King's machine. Dave was now the proud possessor of a pilot's license, and had fairly entered the professional field.
The thief who had stolen Mr. King's property from Dave, a graceless youth named Gregg, was found, and the property recovered. He had also got hold of some papers that belonged to Dave's father. Gregg through these had obtained a trace of a Mr. Dale, a great friend of the dead balloonist. He had made Mr. Dale believe he was the real Dave Dashaway, until he was unmasked.
Another bad boy Dave had run across was named Jerry Dawson. From the start in his career as an airman this youth had been an enemy. Dave had succeeded him in the employ of Mr. King, Jerry having been discharged in disgrace. Jerry tried to "get even," as he called it, by trying to wreck Mr. King's monoplane, the Aegis. He also betrayed Dave's whereabouts to his guardian. Because Dave was right and Jerry wrong, there plots rebounded on the schemer and did Dave no harm.
Jerry and his father were exposed. They still followed the various meets, however, just as Mr. King and Dave and Hiram did, but they were shunned by all reputable airmen.
After leaving the aero meet at Dayton the proud possessor of a trophy as winner of a one hundred mile dash, Dave now found himself and his friends on the aero, grounds at Columbus. This was a summer resort located on Lake Michigan. A two weeks' programme had been arranged, in which Dave was to give exhibitions for his employers of their new model hydroplane.
Hiram was practicing for a flight in the Baby Racer. The two friends that rainy summer evening were interested in plans for the coming meet and aviation business generally. The arrival of the telegram once more introduces the reader to Dave Dashaway, now popularly known as the young aviator.
The telegram which Grimshaw had brought to Dave was dated at the headquarters of the Interstate Aeroplane Co., some three hundred miles distant. It was addressed to Dave in care of Mr. King, and it was signed by the manager of the company. It read as follows:
"Our sales agent, Timmins, reported from your quarters at Columbus three days ago. Was due at Kewaukee this morning on big contract with County Fair Amusement Co. Wired Northern Hotel there, where we had forwarded all the contracts and papers, and he is not there. Find him at any expense, and get him to Kewaukee before to-morrow morning, or the Star Aero Co. will get the order. Fear some trick. This means ten thousand dollars to us."
Dave read and reread this message, weighing every word in his mind as he did so. Hiram sat watching him in a fever of suspense and anxiety. Finally he exclaimed:
"See here, Dave Dashaway, is that Greek you can't make out, or have you gone to sleep?"
"I was only trying to figure out this telegram," replied Dave thoughtfully. "Here, read it for yourself, and see what you make of it."
The young aviator passed the yellow sheet over to his curious friend. The latter scanned it rapidly. Then, with startling suddenness, his face twitching with excitement, he jumped to his feet.
"What do I make of it?" shouted Hiram. "Just what the telegram says—a trick! It's come all over me in a flash. Why, Dick, I know all about it."
The "BABY RACER"
"You know all about it?" repeated Dave Dashaway, looking up in great surprise.
"That's what I do," declared Hiram positively.
"What do you mean?"
"I wish you would."
"I'm a blockhead, that's just what I am!" cried Hiram. "I don't know what possessed me that I didn't tell you all about it before."
"See here, Hiram," broke in Dave, "What are you talking about?"
"Why, about Mr. Timmins. You know he here night before last and left us then?"
"Yes, Hiram, to go to Kewaukee."
"Well, he just didn't go to Kewaukee at all."
"That's no news, for this telegram shows that couldn't have done so."
"You see, when Mr. Timmins got telling us about the big sale he was going to make at Kewaukee," continued Hiram, "and how the Star Aero people were bidders for the same contract, you warned him against the Dawsons, and the people they are working for!"
"I know I did. That was because the Dawsons are stunting for the Star people."
"Exactly. Then when I caught Jerry Dawson and Brooks, that precious chum of his, sneaking around the Aegis hangar, I made up my mind that they were up to no good. I know what they were snooping around for, now."
"What was it?"
"To pick up what information they could about Mr. Timmins' plans, so, when Mr. Timmins went away, I was awful glad. I felt pleased, for Mr. King told as you know that he was a free and easy fellow, friendly to everybody, and sometimes drank more than he ought to."
"Yes, I know that, Hiram."
"Well, last night I went to town to get some supplies for Mr. Grimshaw. There's a tavern at the cross roads, and some men were in there. I saw them through an open window. There were six of them. Brooks was there, and Jerry and his father, and three more of the crowd. They were playing cards and making a great deal of noise. Just as I looked in some one pulled down the shade. I caught a sight of the other man, though. Right off, even at the distance I was, it struck me he looked like Mr. Timmins. Then I remembered that Mr. Timmins had certainly gone to Kewaukee the night before, so I put it off my mind. Now, I see the whole trick."
"What is that?"
"The crowd kept Mr. Timmins here, delaying and entertaining him. Maybe later some of them led him still further away from Columbus. Their man is probably on the spot at Kewaukee now, ready to get that big contract for show biplanes."
Dave had been anxiously walking up and down the floor while Hiram was talking. Now he took his cap off a peg and picked up an umbrella.
"You wait here till I come back, Hiram," he said.
"Where are you going, Dave?"
"Down to the Aegis hangar. This telegram disturbs me very much. I have no idea where Mr. Timmins can be, and something must certainly be done about this contract."
"That's so, Dave," agreed Hiram. "It isn't exactly our business, but it would be a big feather in your cap to help out the people who are hiring you."
"That's what I want to do, if I can," replied Dave, as he left the place.
The youth went straight to the Aegis hangar, where he found Grimshaw tinkering over a broken airplane wing. Mr. King had a desk in one corner of what he called his office room.
Dave was free to use this at all times. He opened it now, and for ten minutes was busy with some railroad time tables he found there. Then he consulted an aero guide map.
Grimshaw watched him from under his shaggy eyebrows, but said nothing until Dave got up from the desk, buttoned his coat and prepared to face the storm again.
"What's the trouble, Dashaway?" he asked.
"Why, Mr. Grimshaw?" inquired Dave, wishing to evade direct questioning.
"You seem bothered about something, I see."
"Well, as a matter of fact, I am," confessed Dave.
"What is it?"
"I'm trying to find a way to get to Kewaukee," explained Dave. "Something has come up that makes me think I ought to be there in the interests of my employers early to-morrow morning. I am figuring out how I can make it."
"See here, Dashaway," spoke the old airman in a grim, impressive way, "don't you do anything reckless."
"I won't," answered Dave. "You know you once said I was all business. Well, I'll always try to do my duty without any unnecessary risks."
Dave laughed carelessly and got away from the hangar. A daring idea had come into his mind. Perhaps Grimshaw suspected it, and Dave was afraid he might. The lad knew that the eccentric old fellow liked him, and would try to dissuade him from any exploit of unusual peril.
"I'll do it, I'll have to do it or let the company lose out," breathed Dave, as once outside he broke into a run across the aviation field.
Dave found Hiram winding the alarm clock as he re-entered the half shed, half canvas house where the Baby Racer was stored. Although they got their meals at Mr. King's headquarters, the boys had two light cots and slept near to the machine which Dave had been exhibiting.
Dave glanced at the clock, and Hiram noticing the look, said:
"Eleven thirty, Dave. I've set the alarm clock for five thirty. You know that new hydroplane will probably come in on an early freight. What's the programme?"
"Well, Hiram," responded Dave, throwing off his coat and hat, "I'm going to dress up for a ride."
"Eh?" ejaculated Hiram, staring hard at the set resolute face of his comrade.
"Yes, I've got to get to Kewaukee."
"Oh, you mean going by train?"
"No. Last one left an hour ago. Next one nine o clock to-morrow morning."
"On the country mud roads we've been having for the last week?"
"That's so. Then—"
"It's the airship route or nothing, Hiram," said Dave. "I'm going in the biplane."
"The Baby Racer?"
"On such a night as this! Why, Dave," began Hiram, almost in alarm.
"Don't say a word," interrupted Dave with a preemptory wave of his hand. "I've made up my mind, and that ends it."
"It usually does," said Hiram. "If you're bound to do it, though, Dave—"
"I certainly am."
"Ask Mr. Grimshaw's advice, first."
"Not for worlds."
"I think he would try to stop me. See here, Hiram, I've thought it all over. I know it's a hard, rough night, but I also know what the Baby Racer can do."
"It's a pretty bad night to do any fooling in the air," remarked Hiram.
"There won't be much fooling about it, Hiram. I know the chances and, I shan't look for any fun. It is a bad night, I know, but the wind is right, and I can head straight into it in reaching Kewaukee."
"How far away is Kewaukee, Dave?"
Dave, while he talked, had been putting on his regular aviator's suit. As he finished up with a helmet, he noticed Hiram changing his coat for a sweater.
"What are you up to, Hiram," he inquired quickly.
"Getting ready, of course."
"Getting ready for what?"
"The trip to Kewaukee."
"Oh, you think you're going?"
"If you are," retorted Hiram, "I know I am. Now, see here, Dave," continued Hiram, waving a silencing finger as Dave was about to speak, "I know I'm not an aviator like you, and never will be. All the same, I am some good in an airship, if it's only to act as ballast. The other day when I was up with you in the Racer, you. said I shifted the elevator just in time to save a smash up. In a storm like the one to-night, you my need me worse than ever. Anyhow, Dave Dashaway, I won't let you go alone."
The young airman looked at his loyal, earnest friend with pleasure and pride. Hiram was only a crude country boy. He had, however, shown diamond in the rough, and Dave appreciated the fact.
Hiram had made several ground runs in an aeroplane. He had gone up in the Baby Racer twice with Dave, and had proven himself a model passenger. As he had just hinted, too, he had been familiar enough with the mechanism of the biplane to operate some of its auxiliary machinery so as to avert an accident.
"You are the best company in the world, Hiram," said Dave, "but I wouldn't feel right in letting you take the risk of a hazardous run."
"Dave, I won't let you go alone," persisted Hiram.
Dave said nothing in reply. He went outside, and Hiram followed him. They unlocked the door of the shed adjoining where the Baby Racer was housed, and lit two lanterns.
"Get a couple of the nearest field men, Hiram," directed Dave, "and I will have everything in order by the time you get back."
There was not much for Dave to do. Only the noon of that day they had got the little biplane ready for a cross country spurt. Then the rain came on, and they decided to defer the dash till the weather was more propitious. Dave was looking over the machinery, when a gruff hail startled him.
"Hello!" challenged old Grimshaw, appearing at the open doorway of the hangar. "What you up to, Dashaway?"
Dave flushed guiltily. He was dreadfully embarrassed to be "caught in the act" as it were, by his great friend, the old airman.
"Why—you see, Mr. Grimshaw—" stammered Dave.
"Yes, of course I see," retorted the old man firmly. "You're going to start out a night like this."
"I've got to, Mr. Grimshaw," declared Dave desperately.
"Of the most important kind."
"What is it?"
It was in order for Dave to explain details, and did so briefly.
"H'm," commented Grimshaw, when his pupil concluded his explanation. "And so you thought you'd steal away without letting me know it?"
"Oh, now, Mr. Grimshaw!" Dave hastened to say— "that was not the spirit of the thing at all."
"Go ahead, Dashaway."
"Well, then, I think so very much of you I didn't want it to worry you."
"Roll her out," was all that Grimshaw would say, placing his one hand on the tail of the biplane. "Hold on for a minute. Gasoline supply?"
"That will do. Lubricating oil-all right. Now then, lad, hit that head wind every time, and you'll make it, sure."
A WILD NIGHT RIDE
It was less than half an hour after the appearance of Grimshaw on the scene that the Baby Racer was all ready for its stormy night's flight.
The old aviator had fussed and poked about the dainty little biplane, as if it was some valued friend he was sending out into the world to try its fortune. Every once in a while he had growled out some brief advice to Dave in his characteristic way.
Then he directed and helped, while two field men started the machine on its forward run.
"Look out for telegraph poles, and watch your fuel tank," was Grimshaw's final injunction.
Dave knew the Baby Racer just as an engineer understands his locomotive. Daylight or dirk, once aloft the young aviator did not doubt his own powers. The moment the Racer left the ground, however, with a switch of her flapping tail, Dave knew that he was to have no easy fair-weather cruise.
"Slow it is," the watchful, excited Hiram heard him say, working the wheel as cautiously as an automobilist rounding a sharp curve.
Dave saw that everything depended on getting a start and reaching a higher level. He kept the angle of ascent small, for the maximum power of the engine could not be reached in a moment. The starting speed naturally let down with the machine ascending an inclined plane.
"It's slow enough, that's sure," remarked Hiram. "It's the wind, isn't it, Dave?"
"We don't want to slide back in the air or be blown over backwards," replied Dave, eye, ear, and nerve on the keenest alert.
The wind resistance caused a growing speed reduction. The sensitiveness of the elevating rudder warned Dave that he must maintain a perfect balance until they could strike a steady path of flight. Hiram's rapt gaze followed every skillful maneuver of the master hand at that wheel.
"Good for you!" he chirped, as Dave worked the ailerons to counteract the leaning of the machine. A swing of the rudder had caused the biplane to bank, but quick as a flash Dave righted it by getting the warping control on the opposite tack, avoiding a bad spill.
The machine was tail heavy as Dave directed a forward plunge, coasting slightly. He had, however, pretty good control of the center of gravity.
It was now only a question of fighting the stiff breeze that prevailed, and keeping an even balance.
Hiram's eyes sparkled as the Racer volplaned, caught the head wind at just the right angle, and struck a course due northwest like a sail boat under perfect control.
The engine was near the operator's seat, and on the post just under the wheel were the spark and throttle levers on the fuselage beam. The steering wheel was a solid piece of wood about eight inches in diameter with two holes cut into it to fit the hands.
The passenger's seat now occupied by Hiram was in the center line of the machine, so that, filled or vacant, the lateral balance was not affected.
Hiram knew all about the monoplane dummy or the aerocycle with treadle power for practice work which he had operated under old Grimshaw's direction. As to the practical running of a biplane aloft, however, that was something for him to learn. He was keenly alive to every maneuver that Dave executed, and he stored in his mind every new point he noticed as the Racer seemed fairly started on its way.
"Keep me posted, Dave," spoke the willing Hiram. "If anything happens I want to know what you expect me to do."
"I don't intend to have anything happen if I can help it, Hiram," replied Dave. "This is a famous start."
"It's not half as bad as I thought it would be," said Hiram.
The rain had changed into a fine mist, but the breeze continued choppy and strong at times. Dave had gone over the course with Mr. King in The Aegis twice in the daytime, and had an accurate idea of the route. However, he had landmarks to follow. What guided Dave were the lights of the various towns on the route to Kewaukee and railway signals. These were dimly outlined by a glow only at times, but Dave as he progressed felt that he was keeping fairly close to his outlined programme.
Hiram chuckled and warbled, as he knew from Dave's manner and the way the Baby Racer acted that his friend had it under full control. Our hero attempted no fancy flying nor spurts of swiftness. Up to the end of the first hour the flight had proven far less difficult than he had anticipated.
"There's Medbury," said Dave at length, inclining his head towards a cluster of electric lights below and somewhat beyond them. "That means one-third of our journey covered."
"It's great what you and the Baby Racer can do, Dave," cried the admiring and enthusiastic country boy. "We're going to make it, aren't we?"
"If the wind doesn't change and we meet with no mishaps," answered Dave.
A stretch of steady sailing was an excuse for Hiram to share a brief lunch of ham sandwiches with Dave. The thoughtful Grimshaw had pro- vided these at the last moment of the departure of the biplane.
By the watch Mr. King had given him on the occasion of winning a race for the Aegis, Dave found that it was a little after two o'clock when the Racer passed a town named Creston.
"It's only twenty miles farther, Hiram," announced the young aviator with satisfaction.
"And plenty of juice in the tank left to go on," added Hiram. "This is a trip to talk about, eh, Dave?"
Dave nodded and smiled. He suddenly gave renewed attention to wheel and levers.
"Anything wrong?" inquired Hiram, noticing the movement.
"The wind is shifting slightly," was the reply.
Dave felt of the breeze cautiously after that, keeping his cheek well to windward. It required constant watchfulness and maneuvering for the next fifteen miles to keep the control permanent. Dave was glad when a dim glow of radiance told that they had nearly reached the end of their journey.
Dave "ducked," as the phrase goes, as a swoop from a new quarter sent the machine banking.
He managed the dilemma by circling. There was only five more miles to cover. Dave went up searching for a steadier air current, found it, maintained a steady flight for over a quarter of an hour, and slowed down slightly as they came directly over Kewaukee.
"Going to land?" inquired Hiram, attentively attracted by all these skillful maneuvers.
"Yes," replied Dave. "The question is, though, to find just the right place."
Dave tried to figure out the contour of the landscape beneath them. He passed over high buildings, skirted what seemed like a factory district, and began to volplane.
"Going to drop?" queried Hiram.
"I think so," responded Dave. "According to those electric lights there is a park or some other large vacant space we can strike on this angle."
"The mischief!" exclaimed Hiram abruptly as the Racer struck a lower air current a strong blast of wind made it shake and reel. Then there was a creak, a sway and a snap.
"Something broke!" shouted Hiram in excitement.
"Yes," answered Dave rapidly. "It's one of the right outermost struts between the supporting planes."
"The one that snapped the other day," suggested Hiram.
"Likely. Grimshaw fixed it with glue and bracing, and fitting iron rings about it. The vibration of the motor and the straining have pulled the nail heads through the holes in the rings."
"Can you hold out?"
Dave did not reply. He felt new vibrations, and knew that the strain of warping the wings at the tips had caused more than one of the struts to collapse.
The young aviator realized that it would be a hard drop unless he did something quickly and effectively. There was no time to think. Counterbalance was everything.
Dave tried to restore the disturbed balance of the machine by bringing the left wing under the control. Then he forced the twisting on the right side.
The young aviator held his breath, while his excited companion stared ahead and down, transfixed. They were going at a rapid rate, and every moment the Baby Racer threatened to turn turtle and spill them out.
Dave succeeded in temporarily checking the tendency to tip. All aerial support was gone. He kept the rudder at counterbalance, threw off the power, and wondered what they were headed into.
The next moment the Baby Racer crashed to the ground.
A BUSINESS BOY
"We've landed!" shouted Hiram in a jolty tone, plunging forward in his seat in the biplane.
"Yes, but where?" Dave asked quickly.
"That's so. Whew! What have we drifted into?"
The Baby Racer had struck a mass soft and yielding. It drove through some substance rather than ran on its wheels. There was a dive and a joggle. Then the machine came to a halt—submerged.
Whatever had received it now came up about the puzzled young aviators as might a snowdrift or it heap of hay. Dave dashed a filmy, flake-like substance resembling sawdust from eyes, ears and mouth. Hiram tried to disentangle himself from strips and curls of some light, fluffy substance. Then he cried out:
"Dave, it's shavings!"
"You don't say so."
"Yes, it is—a great heap of shavings, a big mountain of them."
"Lucky for us. If we had hit the bare ground I fear we would have had a smash up."
Gradually and cautiously the two young aviators made their way out of the seats of the machine. They got past the wings. A circle of electric street lamps surrounded them on four sides. Their radiance, dim and distant, seemed to indicate that they were in the center of a factory yard covering several acres.
A little way off they could discern the outlines of high piles of lumber and beyond these several buildings. The biplane lay partly on its side, sunk deep in a heap of long, broad shavings. The mass must have been fully a hundred feet in extent and fifteen to twenty feet high. They reached its side and slid down the slant to the ground.
"Well!" ejaculated Dave.
"Yes, and what?" inquired Hiram, brushing the loose bits of shavings from his soaked tarpaulin coat.
"Business—strictly and quick," replied Dave promptly.
"And leave the Racer where she is?"
"Can you find a better place, Hiram?"
"Well, no, but—"
A man flashing a dark lantern and armed with a heavy cane came upon them around the corner of the buildings. The boys paused. The man, evidently the watchman of the place, challenged them, moving his lantern from face to face.
"Who are you?" he demanded sternly.
"Aviators," replied Dave.
"We just arrived in an airship."
"No nonsense. How did you get in here?"
"Mister," spoke out Hiram, "we just landed in the biplane, the Baby Racer. If you don't believe me, come to the shavings pile yonder and we'll show you the machine, and thank you for having it there, for if you hadn't I guess we'd have needed an ambulance."
The watchman looked incredulous. He followed Dave and Hiram, however, as they led the way back to the heap of shavings. One wing of the biplane stuck up in the air and he made it out.
"This is queer," he observed. "You say it's an airship?"
"Yes, sir," nodded Hiram.
"We had to make a hurried night journey from Columbus," explained Dave. "There were no trains, and we came with the biplane."
"Well, well, well," commented the watchman. He had heard of Columbus and the aero meet there, and began to understand matters.
"You see," spoke Hiram, "we can't land everywhere, or we'd have to settle some damage suits."
"I will be glad to pay you for letting us leave the machine here till after daylight, and watch it to see no harm comes to it," proposed Dave.
"Why, we'll do that," assented the watchman. "You look like two decent young fellows, and I'm sure the company won't object to letting your airship stay up there for a few hours."
"We will be back to see about it in a few hours," promised Dave.
The watchman led the boys to the big gate of' the factory yard and let them out. The rain had ceased and the wind was not blowing so hard as before.
"What now, Dave?" inquired Hiram, as they found themselves in the deserted street.
"The Northern Hotel."
"Oh, going to try and fix things before daylight?"
"We can't afford to lose a minute," declared Dave. "There's a policeman. I want to ask him a question."
They hurried to a corner where a policeman had halted under the street lamp. Dave inquired the location of the Northern Hotel. Then the boys proceeded again on their way, and reached the place in about half an hour.
The night clerk and others were on duty. Dave approached the desk and addressed the clerk.
"Is a Mr. Timmins stopping here?" he asked.
"Why, no," replied the clerk, looking Dave and Hiram over curiously, their somewhat queer garb attracting his attention.
"Do you know him, may I inquire?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Timmins has been here several times. We are holding some mail for him, and expected him several days ago."
"Do you know the company he represents?"
"Airships, isn't it? " propounded the clerk.
"That's right. The Interstate Aeroplane Company."
"Yes, I remember now," added the clerk.
"I am also connected with that company," explained Dave.
The clerk stared vaguely, as if he did not quite understand the situation.
"Yes," eagerly broke in the irrepressible Hiram, as if he was introducing some big magnate, "he's Dave Dashaway, and he's beat the field with the Interstate Baby Racer."
"Oh, Dashaway, eh?" said the clerk, with a pleasant smile. "I've heard of you and read about you."
"I am glad of that," responded Dave, "because it may help you identify me with the Inter-state people. As an employee of theirs and a friend of Mr. Timmins, I will have to be confidential with you."
"That's all right—we are used to confidences in this business," said the hotel clerk.
Dave reflected deeply for a moment. He had a definite plan in view. He realized that he must confide to a degree in the hotel clerk.
"The gist of the matter," said Dave, "is that Mr. Timmins has missed connections. He should have been here two days ago. Here is a telegram I received from the Interstate people."
The clerk read the telegram. He nodded his head and smiled, which the observant Dave took to mean that he was friendly towards Mr. Timmins, but knew of some of his business-lapses in the past.
"What do you want me to do?" asked the clerk.
"You notice that the Interstate people refer in that telegram to some papers sent to the hotel here for Mr. Timmins."
"I noticed that," assented the clerk. "I shouldn't wonder if this is the package."
As he spoke the clerk reached over to the letter case near his desk and took up a large manila envelope. It was addressed to Mr. Timmins, and bore in one corner the printed name and address of the Interstate Aeroplane Co.
"That is the letter, I feel sure," said Dave.
"I have no doubt of it," agreed the clerk.
"Do you suppose it would help you out any to have me give it to you?"
"Why, will you?" questioned Dave eagerly. "I was going to ask you to do so."
"I think I understand the situation now," said the clerk, "and I can see how your getting the letter may help your people out of a tangle. It's taking some responsibility on my part, for the letter is of course the property of Mr. Timmins. I'm going to take the risk, though, and I think Mr. Timmins will say it's all right when he comes along."
"I know he will," declared Dave. "You see, I hope to carry through a contract he has neglected."
Dave took the bulky letter and opened its envelope. He glanced hastily but intelligently over its contents. They were just what he imagined they would be, contracts for eight biplanes ready to sign, and details and plans as to the machines.
"Have you a Kewaukee directory here?" he asked.
The clerk pushed a bulky volume across the marble slab of the counter, with the words:
"Anybody special you are looking up?"
"Why, yes," replied Dave, "the County Fair Amusement Co."
"Oh, you mean Col. Lyon's proposition," observed the clerk at once. "He runs county fair attractions all over the country."
"It must be the same," said Dave.
"I know Col. Lyon very well," proceeded the clerk. "He comes in here very often."
"Where is his office?" inquired Dave.
"I don't think he has any regular office," responded the clerk. "Two or three times a week he calls for mail at the Central Amusement Exchange. He travels a good deal—has side attractions with most of the big shows."
"But he lives in Kewaukee?"
"Not exactly. He has a very fine place called Fernwood, out on the North Boulevard."
Dave thought things over for a minute or two. Then he asked:
"How can I reach Fernwood?"
"You don't mean before daylight?"
"Why, yes," responded Dave, "the sooner the better."
"I think any of the taxi men out at the curb know the location," said the clerk.
"Thank you," replied Dave, "and for all your great kindness about that letter."
He and Hiram went out to the street. There were three or four taxicabs lined up at the curb, their drivers napping in the seats. Dave approached one of them.
"Do you know where Fernwood is?" he inquired of the chauffeur.
"You mean Col. Lyon's place?"
"Was there only last night. I took the Colonel home."
"Then he's there," spoke Dave to Hiram. "All right, take us to Fernwood."
"You won't find anybody stirring at this hour of the morning," suggested the chauffeur.
"Then we'll Wait till the Colonel gets up," said Dave.
In less than half an hour the auto came to a halt before one of a score or more of fine houses lining the most exclusive section of the country boulevard.
Dave got out of the machine and Hiram followed him. They passed through the gates of a large garden. In its center was a mansion with wide porches. No light showed anywhere about the place.
"You're not going to wake anybody up at this outlandish hour?" asked Hiram.
"Well, perhaps not," answered Dave.
"Why didn't you wait and see this Col. Lyon in the city at his office?"
"Because there is no certainty that he will be at his office today. Then, too, that Star fellow may be on hand there to grab the contract. I want to head him off."
By this time they had reached the steps of the front porch.
"See here, Hiram," observed Dave, lowering his voice, "we'll sit down here for a spell. It's about five o'clock, and by six someone will be stirring about."
"Say," said Hiram, staring across the shadowed porch, "the front door there is open."
"Why, so it is," replied Dave, peering towards it.
"That's strange, isn't it?"
"Oh, no—neglected, or left open for ventilation."
Both boys relapsed into silence. Hiram rested his face on his hands and his knees, inclined to doze.
Dave was framing up in his mind how he would approach Col. Lyon. He was deeply immersed in thought, when a sound behind him caused him to start and look behind him.
Somebody with a great bundle done up in a sheet had just passed through the open doorway out upon the porch.
The bundle was so big that its bearer had both hands clasped about it, and its top came above his eyes.
Before Dave could speak a warning, the man carrying the package crossed the porch and stumbled against Hiram, whom he did not see.
"Thunder! what's this?" shouted Hiram, knocked from his position and rolling down the steps.
The man with the bundle echoed the try with one of alarm, as he missed his footing and plunged forward.
"The mischief!" exclaimed Dave, starting at the bundle over which the man tumbled, bursting it open.
There was an immense clatter. Even in the imperfect light of the early morning, the young aviator made out a great heap of clothing, silverware and jewelry, rattling down the steps of the porch.
A TEN THOUSAND DOLLAR ORDER
"What's happened?" cried Hiram, rolling over and over on the gravel walk to which he had tumbled.
"Stop that man!" shouted Dave.
In a flash the young aviator took in the meaning of the situation. The fugitive, for such he now was, made a quick move the instant he gained his feet. Not waiting to see who had obstructed his progress, and probably deciding that it was the police, he bounded in among some bushes.
Dave, running after him, made out his form dimly, swiftly scaling a rear brick wall.
"Why, what is all this?" demanded Hiram, staring at the litter on the steps.
"That man was a thief," explained Dave.
"It looks that way, doesn't it? Hello!"
Both boys stepped back and stared upwards. Over the porch was a second railed-in veranda. A night-robed figure had crossed it from some bed chamber fronting upon it.
"Hey, you down there! What's all this racket?" challenged this newcomer on the scene.
"Are you Colonel Lyon?" inquired Dave.
"Then you had better come down and see what's going on."
"Your house has been burglarized."
"Gracious I you don't say so. Where is the thief?"
"He has escaped."
"Hm. Down in a minute," mumbled the man, retiring from view.
It was several minutes before the owner of the mansion put in a second appearance. He came cautiously out on the porch, clutching a great heavy cane. He looked the boys over suspiciously.
"I don't understand this," he began.
"Neither did we, Mister," returned Hiram, "till the thief came bolting out through that front door. He fell all over me and dropped his bundle. There's what was in it."
Hiram pointed to the scattered plunder. For the first time the colonel caught sight of the scattered stuff. He gasped, and stared, and fidgeted. Then he hastened back across the porch and into the vestibule.
Clang! clang! Clang! rang out a great alarm gong, and almost immediately two men servants of the place came rushing out half-dressed upon the porch.
In a very much excited way the colonel incoherently told of the burglary. He ordered the men to gather up the scattered plunder. Then he turned his attention to Dave and Hiram.
"Now, tell me about the whole thing," he spoke.
"There isn't much to tell, Colonel Lyon," replied Dave. "We were sitting here waiting—"
"Waiting?" repeated the showman sharply.
"To see you."
"Eh?" projected the Colonel, with a stare.
"That's right, Mister," declared Hiram. "You see, it's pretty early, and we didn't want to wake you up."
"Yes, but what brought you here so early?"
"Business," answered Dave.
"Yes, sir. We came in an automobile from the city, so as to be sure to find you early enough. We had just settled down here to wait and rest, when that burglar came out."
"Why, then, you've saved my losing all that valuable stuff!" exclaimed the showman. "I should say so," added the speaker with force, as he moved over and glanced at the heaps his servants were massing together, upon the lower step. "Watches, rings, silverware, my fur winter coat, and hello—my whole collection of rare coins! Hump! the man must have had the run of the house for hours. Here, you two, come inside. You've done me a big service."
Hiram chuckled, nudging Dave in a knowing way.
"What luck!" he whispered. "Dave, you're all right now."
The owner of the place led his young guests through the vestibule into a hallway, and pointed to a large reception room.
"You wait till I get dressed," he directed. "Sit down, and make yourself comfortable."
As he spoke the showman turned on a perfect blaze of electric light. Dave and Hiram took off their helmets, and made themselves look as little like stormy night aviators as was possible under the circumstances.
It was nearly ten minutes before their host reappeared. He was fully dressed now, and presented the appearance of a keen, active business man.
"Think there's any use trying to catch that burglar?" was his first question.
"I don't think so at all," replied Dave.
"All right, then. Carry that truck into the library," the showman ordered his two men, who had gathered it up in a rug taken from the vestibule. "You'll take turns guarding the house, nights after this. Now then, young men, who are you?"
The showman put the question as he plumped down in an armchair besides his two guests.
"We're airship boys," explained Hiram hastily, but proudly.
"Oh!" commented Colonel Lyon slowly, looking the pair over from head to foot.
"That is, Dave is an airman," corrected Hiram. "He's Dave Dashaway."
"Why, I've heard of you. At the Dayton meet, weren't you? Honorable mention, or was it a prize?"
"Both," shot out Hiram promptly.
"That's very good," said the colonel. "I'm pretty well up in the aero field myself. I run that line at county fairs."
"Yes, sir, I know that," said Dave, "and that is why I came to see you."
"That's so—you said it was business, but I must say you are early birds," smiled the showman.
"We had to be," again spoke Hiram.
"How was that?"
"Why," said Dave, "I thought it was very necessary that I should see you first thing this morning. I acted on a wire from my employers, the Interstate Aeroplane Co."
"Your employers?" repeated the colonel, a fresh token of interest in his eyes.
"Yes, sir, I have been exhibiting their Baby Racer at the meets."
"Ah, I understand now."
"I am going to take up hydroplane work at Columbus, now. Last night late I received a telegram from the Interstate people. It led to getting to Kewaukee and seeing you. There were no trains."
"Roads too bad for an automobile," put in Hiram.
"And we came in the Baby Racer," concluded Dave.
"What's that?" exclaimed the showman.
"You came all the way from Columbus in a biplane?"
"Yes, sir," nodded Dave.
"A night like last night—"
"We had to, you see," observed Hiram.
"H'm," observed the colonel, with decided admiration in his manner, "that was a big thing to do. Where is your machine?"
"We landed on a heap of shavings in a city factory yard," explained Dave. "We left the machine in charge of the watchman."
"And automobiled it out here? Why, say, I had some dealings with your company."
"I know you did," said Dave.
"I wrote to them for specifications and figures on light biplanes. They sent outlines that pleased me very much, and I told them so. Their man made an appointment to be at my city office to close up matters day before yesterday. He never showed up."
"I know that," said Dave.
"What was the trouble?"
"I will explain that to you."
"You see, the Star man was here yesterday. He made a pretty fair showing, but I was rather struck on your goods."
"Everybody is that knows them," spoke Hiram.
"Well, I was to let the man know this morning at my city office my decision. You are on deck. All right, what have you got to say?"
"Why, just this," replied Dave: "I'm not much of a business man, of course, but I hurried on to see you because I believe a trick has been played on our people."
"The Star crowd."
"In some way they have sidetracked our agent. I have with me," continued Dave, "the detailed plans and figures on your order, which had been forwarded from the factory to the Northern Hotel, at Kewaukee."
"All right, show them up," directed the colonel briskly.
Dave did so. Hiram sat regarding his friend, with undisguised admiration, as for one half, hour Dave went over papers, explaining the merits of the Interstate biplane with all the clearness and ability of a born salesman.
"You'll do," pronounced the showman with an expansive smile, as Dave concluded. "That's the contract, is it?"
"Yes, sir," and Dave handed the showman the paper in question.
"All right, I'll just go to the library and sign it."
"Dave," whispered Hiram in a triumphant chuckle, as Colonel Lyon left the room. "Great!"
Dave returned a pleased smile. He suppressed partly the great satisfaction he felt.
"You see," remarked the showman, returning in a few minutes and handing the signed contract to Dave, "I favored your machines from the start. It must be a good machine, to make ninety miles on a night like last night. Now then, young gentlemen, I've ordered an early breakfast, and I want you to join me at the meal."
There was no gainsaying the hearty, imperious old fellow. The boys felt first class as they finished a repast that sent them on their way complacent and delighted.
"The company will acknowledge the contract, Colonel Lyon," said Dave, as they left the porch, "and attend to other details."
"I don't suppose, Dashaway," answered the showman, "that you're open for such a week stunt as exhibiting at some of my county fairs?"
"I am under contract with the Interstate people," replied Dave. "If I get out of a job, Colonel Lyon, I shall be glad to have you consider me."
"I fancy I will," declared the showman with enthusiasm. "I'll make you a liberal offer, too. You've saved the carting away of all that stuff the burglar gathered. It make it up to you some way."
Dave waved the contract in reply.
"I couldn't have a better feather in my cap than this," he cried gaily. "Many, many, thanks, Colonel Lyon."
"And you'll find the Interstate biplane just the best in the world," added Hiram.
"We've kept that chauffeur waiting a long time," observed Dave, as they came out upon the boulevard.
"Oh, he's used to that," suggested Hiram.
"I'll give him something extra for his patience," said Dave.
"Yes, the Interstate people can well afford it," commented Hiram. "Think of it: a ten thousand dollar order! Hurrah!"
ABOARD THE HYDROPLANE
"Dashaway, you're a wonder."
"Thank you, sir."
"And I'm proud of you," added Mr. Robert King, the winner of the monoplane endurance prize, and the man who had practically adopted Dave into the aviation field.
"I've got something to say as to the matter of pride," spoke up old Grimshaw. "A lad who can make the run Dashaway did with the Baby Racer, is a boy to holler about."
"If there's anything to be proud about," added Dave, "it's the right good friends I've made."
"My friends, too" put in the impetuous Hiram. "I'm getting along famously. Why, I only tipped out of the dummy airship once yesterday."
All hands were in fine high spirits. It was several days after the wild night race Dave and Hiram had made to Kewaukee. Now the entire party were on their way to the borders of the lake, where the new hydroplane made by the Interstate Aviation Company was ready for a trial trip. Grimshaw knew little of hydroplanes, and the Interstate people had sent an expert demonstrator to the spot to teach their young exhibitor the ropes. Dave had been constantly under this man's tuition.
It was far more easy, he had learned, to acquire a thorough knowledge, of how to run a hydroplane than to operate a monoplane. It was simpler, and besides that his experience with an airship helped wonderfully.
Dave was winning golden opinions from his employers. The way in which he had dosed the Kewaukee contract had pleased them immensely. There was another end to the Kewaukee episode that had brought heaps of satisfaction to all of them, especially to Hiram Dobbs.
The Baby Racer had been quickly repaired at Kewaukee, and had made a speedy return trip to Columbus. Somehow the story of how the Interstate people had outwitted the plots of the Star crowd had gotten noised around the meet. Then a class journal devoted to aeronautics printed the story.
"Well," Hiram had come to Mr. King's hangar that morning to say, "the Dawson crowd are simply squelched. I met Jerry Dawson and his father. You ought to see the looks they gave me when I just grinned at them, and said 'Contract!' It was like a fellow saying 'Baa!' to sheep. Why, those fellows just sneaked away. We've beaten them at every angle, Dave, and I reckon they'll give up their meanness now, and quickly fade away."
"It would be a good thing for honest aeronautics if they would," growled old Grimshaw.
"We'll hasten them with a little help, if they try any more tricks," announced Mr. King.
The hydroplane had been run into a boat house after the practice of the day previous, and was all ready for use. It was equipped to carry two or more passengers, and was driven by a fifty horse power motor. It had two propellers, and these were controlled by chain transmission.
Old Grimshaw had not much use for hydroplanes, he had told Dave. His hobby was air machines. However, because his favorite pupil was going to run the machine, he allowed Dave to explain about the hydroplane, and was quite interested.
The machine had a bulkhead fore and aft, with an upward slope in front and a downward slope to the rear.
"It's safe, comfortable, and quick to rise to control," declared Dave. "See, Mr. Grimshaw, there's a new wrinkle."
Dave touched a little device attached to the flywheel. The latter was made with teeth to fit into another gear, operated from a shaft.
"What do you call that, now?" asked the old airman.
"A self starter. You see, the shaft runs forward alongside the pilot's seat. Here's the handle of it, right at the end of the shaft."
"Looks all right," admitted Grimshaw grudgingly. "Give me the air, though, every time. If you want to be a sailor, why don't you enlist the navy?"
"How about an air and water combination, Grimshaw?" called Mr. King.
"Well, that is a little better," replied Grimshaw.
"I'm dying to see that new aero-hydroplane Dave's people are getting out," remarked the ardent Hiram.
"They wrote me it would be completed this week," said Dave.
"And you are going to run it, Dave?"
"I think so, I hope so. They claim great things for it."
"Well, give your hydroplane a spin, Dashaway," suggested Mr. King. "I want to see how she works, and must get back to the hangars on business."
The Reliance, the new hydroplane of the Interstate people, was twenty feet long and had a fuel gauge and a bilge pump.
Dave got into his seat, and Hiram sat directly beside him. A touch put the machinery in motion.
'There's a puffy eighteen mile wind, Dashaway," cried out Mr. King.
"Yes, I wouldn't venture too far from shore," advised Grimshaw, a trifle anxiously.
The water was quite rough where the flight started. The machine acted all right, however. A crowd had gathered on the beach, and there was some encouraging cheering as the power boat gained good headway.
"Whew I what have you invited me to, Dave—bath?" puffed Hiram.
Dave had neglected to put in place the rubber cover, so that during the preliminary run along the water the waves drenched both of the boys.
Dave stopped the motor and started drifting, at a sudden current or breeze sent the tail before the wind. The rear of the hydroplane was forced under water.
"Look out!" ordered Dave sharply.
"I see—we're in for an upset," spoke Hiram quickly.
The hydroplane was forced over backwards, the tail striking a sand bar.
Dave and Hiram were both ready for the tip. They escaped with only wetting their feet, for they climbed upon the bottom of the upper surface as the hydro capsized.
The hydroplanes prevented the machine from sinking. Almost at once a boat put out from shore. Once back at the boat house, the damage shown was a slight fracture to the main girder and some of the ribs at the trailing edge, and two broken tail spars. Dave sent Hiram at once to the practice grounds to arrange about the repairs.
"It's no weather for a trial, Dashaway," said Mr. King, "I think I would postpone the trial trip until tomorrow, if I were you."
Dave did not commit himself. He stayed about the boat house after the airman and Grimshaw had gone away, watching every move of the repair man.
"She's staunch and sound as she was at the beginning," the latter declared, when he had completed his work.
"Yes, I think that is true," replied Dave.
"What's the programme?" inquired Hiram, "for I see you don't intend to give up."
"Not until I master the Reliance, just as I did the Baby Racer," declared Dave. "That upset was necessary, I guess, to teach me that I must drive on just as little surface as possible in speeding, and make the wings do one half the work."
"Then you are going to try again?" questioned Hiram.
"Yes, Hiram. The waves aren't so choppy now, and the wind has gone down a good deal."
"It's pretty late for much of a run," replied Hiram.
"Oh, we can make the end of the lake and back inside of an hour."
"Well, I'm always ready—with you," laughed Hiram gaily.
From the start this time Dave knew that he had a better grasp of the mechanism than on his first trial. The Reliance behaved splendidly. Once clear of shore obstructions and sandbars, they must have run a stretch at nearly forty miles an hour.
Sand Point, at the rounding end of the great lake, was reached without a mishap. Dave did not wait to try any maneuvering for a crowd that had gathered to watch the Reliance.
"Straight home," he observed, as they made the turn.
"It's time, I'm thinking," said Hiram.
A squall had come up, and the dimness of coming eventide had already spread over the water, but there was no rain. In fact, it had turned too cold for that. A fine baffling mist was falling, however, and this was condensing into a heavy fog.
"Not much to see, eh?" propounded Dave, as they got clear of the shore. "I shouldn't like to run into some stray craft."
It was something of a strain on Dave, the present situation. No air signal had yet been placed on the Reliance, nor was its lighting apparatus installed.
The darkness increased, and the fog became almost an impenetrable shroud.
"What was that?" shouted out Hiram sharply, as there was a heavy jarring shock.
"Grazed a rock, I think," replied Dave. "I don't like this a bit. If I knew my bearings, I'd run straight ashore."
"Do it, anyway, Dave," advised Hiram. "We don't want to wreck the Reliance on her first trip."
Dave gave the wheel a turn. Just then a distinct yell rang out across the muggy waters, and then, in rapid succession, seven quick, snappy explosions.
A RESCUE IN THE FOG
"What do your suppose that was?" inquired Hiram excitedly.
"It was kind of startling," said Dave.
With the power shut off, the hydroplane drifted, Dave checking its slack running. They were now in a dense fog; with night fast coming on. For the moment everything was still. Then there rang through the misty space one word:
"It was in that direction," said Hiram quickly, pointing.
"I think so, too," nodded Dave, "and not far away."
"What could have happened? Those shots?"
"Probably fired to call assistance."
"If you could speed up the hydroplane a little—"
"I would have to get the starter in use, and we might run into something. Hello! Hello! Hello!" Dave shouted loudly. There was a speedy reply.
"Here! Hello! this wa-aa-ay!"
"That's a man's voice, and he's right near to us," declared Hiram, leaning forward and peering through the mist. "Hey, there!"
"I see you. Good!"
There was a tilt of the machine. The person in the water had seized one of the wing stays.
"Careful, there," ordered Dave. "Don't cling to that wing or bear it down."
"I can't hold out."
Dave cautiously edged from his seat towards a form now plainly visible. It was that of a man about thirty years of age.
It was no easy task to take the man aboard. One of his hands was useless. He seemed in pain and half choked with water he had swallowed.
Hiram gave up his seat to the rescued man, who sank back as if overcome with faintness and exhaustion. Hiram himself found a resting place on the platform supporting the two seats.
"Is there anybody else in trouble?" Dave asked of their passenger.
"No, no," replied the man. "The launch is gone up. Get me to land quick as you can. I'm afraid my arm is broken. It pains me terribly. I must get to a surgeon soon as possible."
Dave got the hydroplane under way again.
He was fortunate in striking a course that brought them back to the boat house in about an hour's time.
The rescued man was somewhat revived by this time, and when the hydroplane was safely housed, Dave took his arm and piloted the way from the beach.
"It is less than half a mile to the hangars," the young aviator explained. "When we get there we can find an automobile to take you into town."
"It was when my launch struck a rock that I hurt my arm," the man explained.
"Were you on board alone?" asked the curious Hiram.
"Yes. I was driving ahead full speed, to get ashore out of the fog. I heard your machine, and was afraid I'd get run into. My launch ran into a reef with terrific force. I was thrown against it bulkhead, arm sprained or broken, nearly stunned, and then into the water."
"But the launch, Mister?" questioned the interested Hiram anxiously.
"Smashed. I don't know if I could locate it again in the fog. I couldn't use my hurt arm, and I fired my revolver, yelled, and gave up when your machine came along."
"Where did you come from, Mister?" pressed the persistent Hiram.
"Why—well, I came from up north. Own a launch. Had some business this way, and got well on my way till the craft struck."
Dave noticed as the man spoke that it was in a hesitating, evasive way. He seemed anxious to change the conversation, for he said:
"You are taking me to the Columbus aero field?"
"Yes, we belong there," answered Dave.
"Some people there named Dawson?"
"Yes, father and son."
"That's it. Here, now?"
"Oh, yes, they follow the different meets."
"Why, then, say," observed the man, "if you will just get me up against them, I shall be pleased. You see, they're friends of mine. They'll take care of me."
Dave gave the man a look. Hiram pulled a face at him behind his back. That settled it with Hiram. In his mind he was sure that anybody who knew the Dawsons in a friendly way could not possibly amount to much.
The man did not mention his name. He seemed to care nothing whatever for the fate of the launch. He barely thanked Dave, as, reaching the aero grounds, our hero led him near to the headquarters of the man for whom the Dawsons were working.
"You'll find your friends over there," he said.
"All right," nodded the man he had rescued. "Lucky I met you. Thanks."
"Say, Dave Dashaway, now what do you think of that!" burst out Hiram, as the man got out of earshot.
"Think of what, Hiram?" inquired the young aviator.
"Friend of the Dawsons!"
"Well, they've got to know somebody, haven't they?"
"That's so, but I don't like the fellow you rescued."
"Why not, Hiram?"
"Did you notice the way he hesitated when we asked him where he had come from?"
"And about that launch? He didn't seem to care what had become of it."
"Maybe it didn't belong to him."
"Well, anyway, hadn't he ought to have some concern about other folks' property?"
Dave did not reply. He had his own ideas and opinion of the rescued man. He was due for a public exhibition of the Reliance the next day, and dismissed the incident from his mind as he got back to the Baby Racer hangar.
Mr. King was to make a non-stop race also, and there was plenty of detail to attend to at the Aegis headquarters as well.
That was a busy, exciting day, the one following. The Aegis and her competitors got started by ten o'clock. There was a varied programme from eleven to one. At three o'clock Dave made his run with the hydroplane.
Two other machines engaged in the contest, but not only were they of inferior make, but their operators were clumsy and not up to standard.
Dave won considerable praise. The Reliance made a beautiful run, and he felicitated himself that he had got onto the knack of running it right.
"I don't believe much in hydroplanes," old Grimshaw observed to him as he accompanied Dave back to the aero grounds, "but I believe in you, and I will say you made a clever showing."
"Wait till the Interstate folks send on their latest improved aero-hydroplane, Mr. Grimshaw," said Dave. "You'll see some fine work then."
"There's your friend, young Dobbs," remarked Grimshaw.
Dave saw Hiram on a run, headed towards them. He came up breathless.
"Some one at the hangar to see you, Dave," he reported.
"Who is it, Hiram?"
"He says he's a United States revenue officer."
"Hello!" spoke Grimshaw, "I hope your hydroplane hasn't got you into any trouble running up against the government."
"Oh, I think not," replied Dave with a smile.
"It's a long story and a big story, Dave," replied Hiram. "You know the man you rescued he lake yesterday?"
"Well, it turns out that he is a notorious smuggler and the government is looking for him."
A PUZZLING DISAPPEARANCE
Dave hurried his steps. Old Grimshaw turned off at the Aegis headquarters. Hiram led his companion by a short cut to the Baby Racer hangar.
On a campstool inside the tent where the boys slept, Dave found a keen-eyed, hatchet-faced man. He sat stiff as a poker, and seemed to pierce Dave through and through with his glance as he looked him over critically.
"Dashaway, yes?" he interrogated, and as Dave bowed assent he added: "Thought I'd wait and see you, although our young friend here has been pretty dear."
"About what?" asked Dave.
"Who is he?"
"The man you rescued from the lake last evening. As I have told your friend, the man is a bad one, and we have chased him up and down the lakes clear from Detroit."
"He is a criminal, then?"
"A smuggler. He has outwitted the revenue officers for some time. His last specialty was running Chinese emigrants over the border. When he learned the chase was on, he stole a launch and scudded for other waters. He had the name and color of the launch changed. Why he came to Columbus we don't know."
"To see some people named Dawson, he said."
"Yes, they appear to be fiends."
"Can't Jerry Dawson tell you anything about him?" asked Dave.
"For a very good reason."
"And what is at?"
"Dawsons left last night."
"Left—left the meet?" exclaimed Dave in surprise.
"Yes, bag and baggage."
"That puzzles me," said Dave.
"It baffles us," observed the revenue officer, "for they have left no clew to their future whereabouts."
"Won't Jerry's employer tell you?"
"He says he can't. Professes to be quite at sea as to the meaning of their sudden departure. Angry, too, for it seems they had a contract in the service."
"I wouldn't believe him," broke in Hiram. "Anybody respectable about the meet can tell you that he is not to be trusted."
"Well, the Dawsons are gone and Ridgely went away with them," said the revenue officer definitely. "I fancied you might give me some hint that might help me, Dashaway, as to their antecedents, friends."
"I'm a new one in the aviation line," said Dave. "I found them in the business when I joined it, only a few weeks ago."
"Well, I understand you are two pretty keen young fellows," said the officer, "I'm going to leave you my card. There it is."
Dave glanced at the bit of pasteboard his visitor extended. It bore simply a name: "James Price."
"If you get the faintest clew to Ridgely or the Dawsons," continued Mr. Price, "wire the secret service bureau at Chicago. I will arrange so that I shall be advised at once."
"I will do what I can for you, Mr. Price," promised Dave.
"All right, and send in any reasonable bill you like for your service. We feel certain that this, Ridgely, driven from one district, will begin operations in another. Then, too, from what I learn these Dawsons are not above engaging in of off-color schemes."
"They aren't!" cried Hiram. "If they had stayed, Mr. King said they'd be barred from the meets in a few days."
"Well, help me all you can."
"Queer, isn't it?" spoke Hiram, as the revenue officer left them.
"It is a rather strange proceeding," admitted Dave.
At five o'clock that afternoon the two friends were down at the south pylons awaiting the coming in of the machines engaged in the non-stop race. A great crowd was gathered, for according to estimated schedules some of the monoplanes would be due within the coming half hour.
"If it's the Aegis first," spoke Hiram, "it makes three winning stunts for Mr. King in two days."
A sort of instantaneous flutter pervaded the people as some word starting from the judge's stand passed electrically through the crowd.
"They've sighted something," shouted an excited spectator.
"Yes, there's one of the airships," added a quick voice.
"I see it!"
Hiram stood looking up into the sky, fairly trembling with suspense. A man standing by Dave had a field glass.
"I make out two," he spoke to an inquirer at his side.
"I think I can tell you who they are if you'll give me your glass for a minute," said Dave.
"Certainly," replied the man.
"What is it, Dave? " cried Hiram, as, watching the face of his comrade closely, he discerned an intense expression upon it.
"Aegis in the lead—" began Dave, lowering the field glass.
"Aegis in the lead!" ran from the spot in receding echoes as the news passed down the line.
"That's King's craft."
"I knew it!"
"Butterfly a close second," reported Dave.
"There's another one!"
"See them come!" cried an excited old farmer. "Say, it beats the electric cars down at Poseyville!"
The field was in a wild flutter. The contesting aircraft came nearer and nearer. Finally Hiram could make out the Aegis fully a mile in the lead, the wings set for a drop straight beyond the south pylon.
"He's won—Mr. King has won!" he shouted again and again, fairly dancing up and down.
The crowd surged towards the landing point as the Aegis gracefully sailed to earth, ran a stopping course, and Robert King stepped out amid the frantic cheers of his friends and admiring spectators in general.
The great aviator looked please and proud. Old Grimshaw trotted at his side on the way to the Aegis hangar.
"Say, you're taking about everything there is in sight," he remarked, with one of his grim chuckles.
"I've run the limit on the set spurts, I guess," replied the expert airman. "I'm going to look, for something better."
"What is there that's better than these famous stunts of yours, Mr. King?" inquired Hiram.
"A record beater of some account," was the quick response.
"Record breaker of what?" pressed the persistent Hiram.
"Well," said Mr. King with an animated sparkle in his eye, "you and Dashaway come down to the hangar this evening, and I'll tell you all about it."
A GIANT AIRSHIP
Dave Dashaway and his friend were promptly on hand at the Aegis hangar at eight o'clock that evening.
Usually the boys took their meals with Mr. King. A group of the airman's admirers, however, had insisted on a special dinner at a hotel just outside the grounds. Hiram piloted the way for Dave to the restaurant on the field. He had worked for the man having it in charge, and the best meal possible was set out for them free of charge.
They found Mr. King in the little partitioned off room of the Aegis hangar which he used as an office. The airman sat before a desk littered up with a variety of papers. One of these Dave noticed as he entered, was a detailed drawing of an immense airship.
"Oh, arrived, eh?" spoke the aviator with a pleasant smile, as the boys came into view. "Glad of it. Get comfortable seats and we'll have a little chat."
The boys settled themselves in camp chairs, Mr. King closed the door of the apartment and sat down again. Hiram regarded him eagerly and expectantly.
"I've got something to tell you, lads," began the airman, after a brief thoughtful pause. "This is business, and of course you will be wise enough to treat it confidentially."
"I love to keep secrets," declared the ardent Hiram, and Dave smiled and nodded assent to the sentiment.
"I have been thinking and planning for a big event for some time," continued Mr. King.
"As how, now?" asked Hiram, devoured with suspense.
"Well, in the first place I propose to build a giant airship."
"I know," said Hiram. "A big passenger monoplane."
"No," interrupted the aviator. "What I want is a dirigible airship."
"Pshaw! only a balloon!" remarked Hiram disappointedly.
"Not at all," corrected the good-natured airman. "Except for the self-sustaining power, it will be constructed on the best aeroplane principles. I have been working on it for some months, and only yesterday I got figures on the machine."
"What is it for, Mr. King?" submitted the inquisitive Hiram, "exhibitions?"
"No. It's first big feat is to cross the Atlantic."
"Cross the Atlantic Ocean!" almost gasped the excited Hiram.
"Cross the Atlantic!" repeated Dave, in a startled yet thoughtful manner.
He sat looking fixedly at the aviator as if fascinated. The novelty, the immensity of the proposition, stunned Dave.
"Can it be done?" he asked in a low, intense tone, vast dreams running through his mind a lightning speed.
"According to my calculations, yes," replied Mr. King definitely. "Oh, it is no new idea with me. The project has been the constant ideal of every advanced airman. It has got to come to that, if aeronautics is the progressive science we enthusiasts believe it to be."
"I would like to be the first one to win such a triumph," said Dave.
"Yes, the first one gets the fame," said the airman. "The prize, too. If such an experiment was rationally started I believe the profession and its backers would put up a small fortune to go to the successful winner. Now, boys, I have great confidence in you. What has held me back has been the lack of capital."
"Say, Mr. King," broke in Hiram impetuously, "I've got nearly thirty dollars saved up, and Dave—"
"It will take bigger amounts than we three put together can earn just to get the plans of the giant airship on paper," said Mr. King, with an indulgent smile at his loyal young friends. "If I go to any regular aero promoters they will want all the proceeds. I can raise a few thousand dollars myself and do as much more among my friends but, all put together, the amount wouldn't make even a beginning."
"How much will it take, Mr. King?" asked Dave seriously.
"At least twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Whew!" whistled Hiram.
"It's no child's play. It's a big risk, and there's no doing it half way," declared Mr. King. "Last night while I was planning over it, a sudden idea came to me. Dashaway, you remember that fellow who stole my watch and money and medal from you?"
"You mean the young thief who called himself Briggs, and then Gregg?"
"Yes, Mr. King."
"And how he used some letters sent to your father from a great friend of his?"
"Mr. Dale?" nodded Dave, wondering what all this had to do with the giant airship scheme.
"Well, as you know, that young scamp, Gregg, had gone to Mr. Dale, who had never seen you, and by means of the letters stolen from you made him believe that he was the son of his old friend. So delighted was Mr. Dale, that he practically adopted young Gregg. In fact, he was on the point of making the pretended Dave Dashaway heir to all his fortune."
"You told me about that," said Dave.
"When we left Dayton to come here, we had to make a hurried jump to fill our contract, as you know. I let Gregg go, after recovering my stolen property from him, but I got a written confession of his bold imposture, first. You know my plan was for you and me to go where Mr. Dale lives, and introduce him to the real Dave Dashaway. You see, although I have managed to scare that old tyrant guardian of yours, Silas Warner, into leaving you alone, I feared he might work some trick to get you back in his clutches again."
"I've thought a good deal about that lately," said Dave.
"My plan was to have this Mr. Dale go to Brookville, show up Warner, and apply for your guardianship."
"Yes, then I would feel safe," said Dave.
"Well, Mr. Dale, having been an old balloonist, would probably not object to your remaining in the same line of business in which your father was famous."
"I should think he would be pleased," remarked Hiram, who was always interested and active in any conversation going on.
"I counted on that," resumed the aviator. "At all events, not being able to go or send Dave to Warrenton to meet this Mr. Dale, I wrote to a friend of mine who lives at Warrenton. I told him the whole story, instructing him to inform Mr. Dale, so if this Gregg came around again, he would be ready to treat him as an imposter. My friend wrote me only yesterday that Mr. Dale was off on an automobile trip, and might not be back for a day or two. He said that Mr. Dale was a very lonely old bachelor. He had been delighted to take up Gregg, believing him to be the son of his old balloonist comrade, so you would, be sure to receive a really grand welcome, Dave."
"I'm glad of that," said Dave, filled with deep gratitude as he contrasted his present circumstances with his former forlorn condition.
"Now then, to business," continued Mr. King briskly. "I don't want to 'work' anybody with my personal schemes, but I see a chance to put my giant airship project on its feet."
"Why," cried Dave brightly, "you mean to interest Mr. Dale?"
"That's just what I do mean," assented the aviator.
Dave rose to his feet, excited and pleased.
"Mr. King," he said earnestly, "I not only would do all I could to have Mr. Dale join you, but I feel sure he would be glad to take an interest in your plan."
"It's worth trying, anyway," responded the airman. "I'm going to go by rail to Warrenton to-morrow, in the hope of finding Mr. Dale at home. I shall send you to him later."
"All this isn't grand, or exciting, or anything of that sort, is it, now!" ejaculated Hiram, as Dave and he returned to the Baby Racer hangar.
"I hope Mr. King's plans come out, all right, responded Dave. "I'll do a good deal to repay him for all he has done for me."
"And me, too," echoed Hiram. "He's a fine fellow!"
Mr. King departed on his journey the next day. Dave was not on the programme, so he practiced some with the hydroplane. Coming home for dinner, he found a letter from the Interstate people.
They were cheery and optimistic over the completion of their new model aero-hydroplane. It had been tested and worked splendidly. The company stated that they would ship the machine to the meet at Columbus two days later.
Dave told Hiram about the machine, and the hitter was in a fever of expectation over its anticipated arrival.
The boys were eating their supper at the King hangar later in the day, when a telegraph messenger appeared.
"Message for Mr. Dave Dashaway," he said. "I'm your man," replied Dave.
He signed for the message, tore open the envelope, and glanced rapidly over the enclosure. His face clouded as he did so, for the message was from his employers, the Interstate Aero Company, and it read:
"Cancel all dates. Come on at once. Trouble."
"What is it, Dave? " inquired Hiram, tracing a sudden seriousness in the manner of his comrade.
Dave did not reply. With a thoughtful air he passed the telegram to Hiram.
"Wonder what's up?" queried the latter.
"I can't imagine," said Dave.
"They tell you to cancel your dates," went on Hiram, looking very much worried.
"Yes, that's what bothers me," replied Dave.
"And to come on to the factory at once."
"Perhaps they want to pay me off and let me go," suggested Dave, pretending to smile.
"Don't take any trouble on your mind on that score," cried Hiram. "They'd search a long time before they'd find a better demonstrator than you are."
"Thank you Hiram," said Dave. "The telegram is plain."
"Yes, cancel all dates."
"That's easy, I have nothing on the programme for the rest of the week."
"There's the aero-hydroplane stunt."
"But the machine hasn't arrived."
"Let's go down and see Grimshaw. I want to talk to him about this," said Dave.
They found the airman at the Aegis hangar. Dave read him the telegram. Grimshaw looked bothered.
"Too bad, when things are going so finely for you," he remarked.
"I wish Mr. King was here," said Dave, "but he probably won't be until tomorrow."
"Hardly, I should judge, from what he said," replied Grimshaw.
"I had better start right off for the Interstate plant."
"Yes. I would do that if I were you," advised Grimshaw.
"I wish you would see the managers and explain about this," continued Dave.
"Suppose the Drifter comes Dave?" asked Hiram.
The Drifter was the name of the new model aero-hydroplane concerning which Dave had received a letter from the Interstate people that day, but written the day previous.
"I'll see that it is handled all right," promised Grimshaw.
"Tell Mr. King I will wire him just as soon as I learn what's up," said Dave. "You'll look after the Racer and the hydroplane, won't you, Hiram?"
"Surely I will," pledged Hiram.
Dave returned to his own quarters and packed a small hand bag. Hiram went to the railroad depot with him. They had to wait two hours for a south-bound train.
The factory of the Interstate Aero Company was located at a city in Ohio. It was over three hundred miles from Columbus. The train Dave was on arrived at a junction about daylight the next morning. There he had to wait for a train on another road.
He had slept a few hours and got his breakfast at the depot restaurant. According to schedule he would reach the Interstate plant about ten O'clock in the morning.
Dave had been looking out of the car window enjoying the scenery and thinking over affairs in general, when he chanced to direct his gaze at a newspaper the man in the forward seat was reading. A glaring head line had caught his eye: "A Burglar In The Clouds."
Anything suggestive of the air was of interest to the young aviator. He wondered what the item might refer to. Dave leaned over to try to scan the body matter of the article, when the locomotive whistled and the train slowed up for a station. The man in front of him shoved the newspaper into his pocket to leave the train. Then the incident drifted from the youth's mind.
Dave reached Bolton on schedule time. An inquiry directed him to the extensive works of the Interstate Aeroplane Company. He found it to be a very large plant. The company, besides manufacturing aircraft, also turned out automobiles.
Past the entrance gates of the big establishment, Dave became at once interested in a large building bearing the sign "Aerodrome." He could not resist the impulse to enter it. Then he found himself going from section to section, viewing the splendid assortment of aircraft on exhibition and for sale.
To a devotee of aeronautics the display was most fascinating. There were monoplanes, biplanes, and hydroplanes. In one section were samples of the various accessories of the craft. Dave was looking over a splendid passenger monoplane when some one hailed him.
"Dashaway—say, we've been expecting you."
Dave turned to face the man who had been sent on by the Interstate people to drill him in the use of the hydroplane at Columbus.
"Yes," nodded Dave, I got a hurry call wire, and came on at once."
"Seen the manager?"
"Not yet. I drifted in here and lost myself among so many beauties. I don't see the new hydro-aeroplane."
A quick shade came over the face of Dave's companion.
"No," he hesitatingly replied.
"Has it been shipped to Columbus yet?" inquired Dave.
"Why—that is, I guess I had better let the manager tell you about the machine."
Dave noticed a singular constraint in the manner of his companion.
"Come along, I'll introduce you," volunteered the latter.
Dave accompanied his guide from the aerodrome. They passed several large factory buildings. In their center was a small one story brick structure labeled "Office."
Dave had never met the manager of the Interstate Company. He had transacted all his business with the agent of the company and the hydroplane expert. His companion led him past a row of desks occupied by clerks and stenographers and into a neatly furnished office.
"Here is Dashaway, Mr. Randolph," he said.
A fine looking man writing at a desk wheeled quickly in his chair. He arose to his feet with a pleasant smile and shook Dave's hand in a welcoming way.
"I am glad to meet you," he spoke. "You received our telegram?"
"Yes, sir, and came on at once."
"I suppose you know why we sent for you?" questioned the manager.
"Why, no, sir," replied Dave.
"We tried to keep our loss a secret," proceeded the manager, "but the newspapers got hold of it."
Dave recalled the newspaper heading he had glanced at, "A Burglar In The Clouds," and wondered if that had anything to do with the case.
"I have not read a newspaper since leaving Columbus last night," said Dave.
"Well," explained the manager of the Interstate Company, "our new model aero-hydroplane his been stolen."
"N. A. L."
"Stolen!" exclaimed Dave, in dismay.
"It startles you?" spoke the manager of the Interstate Aeroplane concern. "So it did us."
"You are mystified—unusual occurrence rather. You can follow the track of a stolen automobile. But when it comes to pursuing an airship, you won't find many familiar roads in the clouds."
"How did it happen?" inquired Dave.
"Why, we had tested the machine and it was to have been shipped to you yesterday. The day before, our expert made a very fine and satisfactory demonstration. The tanks were full, everything in perfect shape for another spurt early yesterday morning. During the night some one scaled the fence, evaded the watchman, and broke into the aerodrome."
"It must have been some one familiar with the place here," suggested Dave.
"We don't know that. It is certain, though, that they knew all about airships."
"Because from the trail they left we could trace where they ran the machine outside. They gauged its ground run just right. They must have put on the muffler, for the watchman heard no sounds. Then they flew away."
"Do you suspect anybody?" questioned Dave.
"Could it have been a business rival?"
"Scarcely. We have some hard competitors, but we have canvassed the situation and do not believe they could afford to mix up in a deliberate steal."
"It is strange," commented Dave, in a musing tone.
"Our belief is that the Drifter was selected as the nearest and highest type of aircraft in existence. The people who stole it did so with some definite purpose in view."
"What could that purpose be?" asked Dave.
"We cannot as yet decide. One thing is certain—they will not venture to use it at any of the aero meets."
"Then they must design to take it to a distance."
"You have no trace of it?" asked Dave.
"None whatever. We can account for that, however. The night was dark, they started out when everybody was asleep, and they could have gone in one certain direction and struck a positive wilderness in a few hours time."
"You mean north?"
"Among the pineries, yes."
"Or over the Canadian border?"
Dave sat silent and thoughtful for some moments. The situation was a novel one. He had never heard of any one stealing an airship before. The Interstate manager aroused him from his reverie with the words:
"We sent for you, Dashaway, because you are our most active man in the field."
"That sounds pretty grand for a young fellow like me," returned Dave with a smile, and flushing up, too.
"We gage out men by what they do," replied Mr. Randolph in a matter-of-fact tone. "We have found blood the best in our business. You have made good, Dashaway."
"Thank you, sir."
"Mr. King said you were the most promising aviator in the field."
"Oh, he is always saying something good about me."
"You proved it in your ideal work with the Baby Racer."
"Who wouldn't, with any pride and that perfect machine?" challenged Dave.
"That dash of yours after that Lyon order when you outwitted the Star people was simply brilliant. It showed your loyalty to us. The newspapers have given your hydroplane work so far the biggest kind of a send off."
Dave was silent. He looked modest and embarrassed at all this praise. He could not, however, feel otherwise than pleased at all these eulogies bestowed upon him.
"The Drifter has got to be found," resumed the manager. "It is our first perfected model, and we can hardly build its counterpart in time for full seasonal exhibitions. We think you are the man to find it, Dashaway."
"Oh, Mr. Randolph," said Dave with a slight start.
"I am expressing the opinion of the head men in the company here, who knew your good record. You are young, ambitious, a capable airman, and above all you are loyal to the interest of your employers."
"I should hope it," exclaimed Dave, roused up to genuine emotion. "Just think—you picked me out, a mere boy, and trusted me. And see what you helped me do, already!"
"Exactly," interrupted Mr. Randolph quickly. "That is just the point—you've outdone some of the veterans in the service and jumped to a high place in a bound. That's why we trust you."
"I don't know about what you propose, though," said Dave, sobering down.
"Yes, it's a pretty hard task to set. We're all at sea."
"So am I," admitted Dave.
"Put those keen wits of yours at work, Dashaway," urged the manager encouragingly. "I know after thinking this affair over you'll be ready to suggest something."
"Well, all airmen should know of the theft of the Drifter, and be on the lookout."
"We notified every association and meet in the country after we found that the newspapers had got onto the theft. That advertises it widely. The persons, however, who stole the Drifter knew that would come about. Rest assured of on point, therefore—they won't stay within range of possible identification any longer than they can help."
"That's so," acknowledged Dave musingly.
"The company wishes you to take charge of a search for the Drifter," went on Mr. Randolph. "Any machine we own, half a dozen of them if you like, are at your disposal. You may proceed regardless of the expense. If Mr. King could be induced to assist—"
"I think he is under contract clear up to the end of the season," explained Dave.
"Sorry for that, but he is such a good friend to you and to us, and I fancy he would gladly cooperate with advice and direction."
"Yes, indeed," assented Dave.
"We owe you a good deal more than your contract income already, Dashaway," said the manager. "I don't think there's an aviator living ever had a finer settlement than you will have if you succeed in running down the Drifter."
"I'll try," said Dave.
"Give me a few hours to think it over," suggested Dave.
The young aviator left the Interstate plant very thoughtful and serious. Dave decided that he had assumed a big responsibility. He seemed to feel an actual ponderous weight on his young shoulders.
A score of theories ran riot through his mind its to the motive for the theft of the Drifter. Then he decided that it must be some professional who had done the act. It was hard to fathom the ultimate plans of such an abstractor, who would not dare to use the machine in any public way and could scarcely sell it.
"It's a puzzle, a big, worrying poser," said Dave, walking slowly from the factory grounds.
About half a mile city-wards from the plant Dave passed through a square devoted to public park purposes. He sat down on a tree-shaded rustic bench. There, alone, quiet and undisturbed, he set his wits at work.
Whoever it was who had committed the theft must have been a professional airman. Dave formulated a plan to ask Mr. Randolph if anybody in Bolton, or any employee of the plant was missing. In case this was not discovered then some stranger must have come to Bolton. There might be a trace found of the party at some of the hotels.
"There's a bit of detective work to do by some one besides myself," decided Dave. "I'm going to suggest this plan to Mr. Randolph."
"Hello, boss," spoke an approaching voice as Dave got up to return to the plant.
He observed a man he had noticed on a bench directly opposite to the one he had occupied sidling towards him. The fellow was ragged and trampish looking. There was a queer leer in his face and his eyes were fixed on the coat Dave wore.
"Well, what is it?" inquired Dave.
"Excuse a question, matey?"
"Oh, that's all right."
"Noticed a badge you're wearing," said the tramp.
"Oh, that?" spoke Dave lifting his hand to his coat lapel, and wondering at the man been so observant.
"Yes—N. A. L.," nodded the tramp.
Dave eyed the speaker keenly. At the distance he was, it was doubtful that he could have dearly made out the monogram, yet he named the letters glibly and correctly.
"N. A. L." stood for the National Aero League. Dave was not a member and neither was Hiram Dobbs. Mr. King was and during the meets it had become the custom with professionals to furnish their assistants with duplicate badges, which enabled them to enter and leave the aero grounds unchallenged by the gateman, and ticket takers.