THE ROVER BOYS IN THE AIR
From College Campus to the Clouds
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD Author of "The Rover Boys at School," "The Rover Boys on the Ocean," "The Putnam Hall Cadets," "The Putnam Hall Rivals," Etc.
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
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BOOKS BY ARTHUR M. WINFIELD THE ROVER BOYS SERIES
THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN THE ROVER BOYS IN THE JUNGLE THE ROVER BOYS OUT WEST THE ROVER BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES THE ROVER BOYS IN THE MOUNTAINS THE ROVER BOYS IN CAMP THE ROVER BOYS ON LAND AND SEA THE ROVER BOYS ON THE RIVER THE ROVER BOYS ON THE PLAINS THE ROVER BOYS IN SOUTHERN WATERS THE ROVER BOYS ON THE FARM THE ROVER BOYS ON TREASURE ISLE THE ROVER BOYS AT COLLEGE THE ROVER BOYS DOWN EAST THE ROVER BOYS IN THE AIR
(Other volumes in preparation.)
THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES
THE PUTNAM HALL CADETS THE PUTNAM HALL RIVALS THE PUTNAM HALL CHAMPIONS THE PUTNAM HALL REBELLION THE PUTNAM HALL ENCAMPMENT THE PUTNAM HALL MYSTERY
12mo, Cloth. Illustrated Price, per volume, 60 cents, postpaid
GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, New York
* * * * *
Copyright, 1912, by Edward Stratemeyer
The Rover Boys in the Air
I. THE BOYS AND THE BIPLANE
II. SOMETHING ABOUT THE ROVER BOYS
III. SAM BRINGS NEWS
IV. AT THE TELEPHONE
V. LOOKING FOR THE LOST FLYING MACHINE
VI. TWO OLD ENEMIES
VII. THE RUNAWAY HORSES
VIII. TRIAL FLIGHTS
IX. THE NEW ARRIVAL
X. FUN WITH OLD RICKS
XI. OFF FOR BRILL COLLEGE
XII. A GRAND ARRIVAL
XIII. SOME INTERESTING NEWS
XIV. THE BIRTHDAY FEAST
XV. A PERILOUS FLIGHT
XVI. DICK AND DORA
XVII. CAUGHT IN A HAILSTORM
XVIII. TOM AND HIS FUN
XIX. STARTLING NEWS FROM HOME
XX. GRACE'S REVELATION
XXI. FOLLOWING DORA AND NELLIE
XXII. OVER THE BIG WOODS
XXIII. AT CLOSE QUARTERS
XXIV. AT THE SWAMP
XXV. THE TRAIL OF THE TOURING CAR
XXVI. THE MOONLIT TRAIL
XXVII. THE CHAUFFEUR OF THE TOURING CAR
XXVIII. AT THE OLD MANSION
XXIX. THE ARM OF THE LAW
XXX. THE ROUND-UP—CONCLUSION
MY DEAR BOYS: This is a complete story in itself, but forms the sixteenth volume issued under the general title of "Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
This line was started thirteen years ago by the publication of the first three volumes, "The Rover Boys at School," "On the Ocean," and "In the Jungle." I hoped that the young people would like the stories, but I was hardly prepared for the very warm welcome the volumes received. The three books were followed by a fourth, "The Rover Boys Out West," and then, yearly, by "On the Great Lakes," "In Camp," "On Land and Sea," "On the River," "On the Plains," "In Southern Waters," "On the Farm," "On Treasure Isle," "At College," and then by "Down East," where we last left our heroes and their friends.
Of course, as is but natural, Dick, Tom and Sam are older than when we first met them. Indeed, Dick is thinking of getting married and settling down, and with such a nice girl as Dora Stanhope, who could blame him? All of the boys are at college, finishing their education, and all are as wideawake as ever, and Tom is just as full of merriment. They have some strenuous times, and take a trip through the air that is a good deal out of the ordinary. They meet some of their old enemies, and prove that they are heroes in the best meaning of that much-abused term.
The publishers report a sale of this series of books of over a million copies! This is truly amazing to me, and again, as in the past, I thank my many young friends for their cordial reception of what I have written for them. I trust the present story will interest them and prove of benefit.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD.
THE ROVER BOYS IN THE AIR
THE BOYS AND THE BIPLANE
"Fo' de land sakes, Massa Dick, wot am dat contraption yo' boys dun put togedder back ob de bahn yesterday?"
"Why, Aleck, don't you know what that is?" returned Dick Rover, with a smile at the colored man. "That's a biplane."
"A biplane, eh?" repeated Alexander Pop, the colored helper around the Rover homestead. He scratched his woolly head thoughtfully. "Yo' don't mean to say it am lak a plane a carpenter man uses, does yo', Massa Dick? 'Pears lak to me it was moah lak some ship sails layin' down,—somethin' lak dem ships we see over in Africy, when we went into dem jungles to find yo' fadder."
"No, it has nothing to do with a carpenter's plane, Aleck," answered Dick, with a laugh. "A biplane is a certain kind of a flying machine."
"Wat's dat? A flyin' machine? Shorely, Massa Dick, yo' ain't gwine to try to fly?" exclaimed Aleck, in horror.
"That is just what I am going to do, Aleck, after I have had a few lessons. I hope to fly right over the house, just like a bird."
"No! no! Don't you try dat, Massa Dick! You'll break yo' neck suah! Don't yo' try it! I—I can't allow it nohow—an' yo' aunt won't allow it neither!" And the colored man shook his head most emphatically.
"Now, don't get excited, Aleck," said Dick, calmly. "I won't go up until I am sure of what I am doing. Why, don't you know that flying in the air is getting to be a common thing these days? Tom and Sam and I bought that biplane in New York last week, and a man who knows all about flying is coming out to the farm to teach us how to run it. After we know how to sail through the air we'll take you up with us."
"Me!" ejaculated the colored man, and rolled his eyes wildly. "Not in a thousand years, Massa Dick, an' not fo' all dat treasure yo' dun brung home from Treasure Isle! No, sah, de ground am good enough fo' Aleck Pop!" And he backed away, as if afraid Dick Rover might carry him off then and there.
"Hello, Aleck!" cried a merry voice at this moment, and Tom Rover came into view. "Want to take a sail through the clouds for a change?"
"Massa Tom, am yo' really thinking ob goin' up in dat contraption?" demanded the colored man, earnestly.
"Sure thing, Aleck. And you'll want to go, too, before long. Think of flying along like a bird!" And Tom Rover spread out his arms and moved them slowly up and down. "Oh, it's grand!"
"Yo' won't be no bird when yo' come down ker-flop!" murmured Aleck, soberly. "Yo' will be all busted up, dat's wot yo'll be!"
"We won't fall, don't you worry," continued Tom. "This biplane is a first-class machine, warranted in all kinds of weather."
"If it am a flyin' machine wot fo' you call it a biplane?" asked the colored man curiously.
"Bi stands for two," explained Dick. "A bicycle means two cycles, or two wheels. A biplane means two planes, or two surfaces of canvas. This biplane of ours, as you can see, has two surfaces, or decks, an upper and a lower. A monoplane has only one plane, and a triplane has three. Now you understand, don't you, Aleck?"
"I dun reckon I do, Massa Dick. But look yeah, boys, yo' take my advice an' don't yo' try to sail frough de air in dat bicycleplane, or wot yo' call it. 'Tain't safe nohow! Yo' stick to de hosses, an' dat autermobile, an' de boat on de ribber. A boy wasn't meant to be a bird nohow!"
"How about being an angel, Aleck?" asked Tom, slyly.
"Huh! An angel, eh? Well, if yo' go up in dat bicycleplane maybe yo' will be an angel after yo' fall out, even if yo' ain't one when yo' starts." And with this remark Aleck Pop hurried away to his work in the house.
"That's one on you, Tom," cried Dick, with a broad smile. "Poor Aleck! he evidently has no use for flying machines."
"Well, Dick, now the machine is together, it does look rather scary," answered Tom Rover, slowly. "I want to see that aviator try it out pretty well before I risk my neck going up."
"Oh, so do I. And we'll have to have a good many lessons in running the engine, and in steering, and all that. I begin to think running a flying machine is a good deal harder than running an auto, or a motor boat."
"Yes, I guess it is. Come on down and let us see how the engine works. We can do that easily enough, for it's a good deal like the engine of an auto, or a motor boat," went on Tom.
"Where is Sam?"
"He took the auto and went down to the Corners on an errand for Aunt Martha. He said he'd be back as soon as possible. He's as crazy to get at the biplane as either of us."
The two boys walked to where the biplane had been put together, in a large open wagon shed attached to the rear of the big barn. The biplane has a stretch from side to side of over thirty feet, and the shed had been cleaned out from end to end to make room for it. There was a rudder in front and another behind, and in the centre was a broad cane seat, with a steering wheel, and several levers for controlling the craft. Back of the seat was the engine, lightly built but powerful, and above was a good-sized tank of gasoline. The framework of the biplane was of bamboo, held together by stays of piano wire, and the planes themselves were of canvas, especially prepared so as to be almost if not quite air proof. All told, the machine was a fine one, thoroughly up-to-date, and had cost considerable money.
"We'll have to get a name for this machine," remarked Tom. "Have you any in mind?"
"Well, I—er—thought we might call her the—er——" And then his big brother stopped short and grew slightly red in the face.
"I'll bet an apple you were going to say Dora," cried Tom quickly.
"Humph," murmured Dick. "Maybe you were going to suggest Nellie."
"No, I wasn't," returned Tom, and now he got a little red also. "If I did that, Sam might come along and want to name it the Grace. We had better give the girls' names a rest. Let's call her the Dartaway, that is, if she really does dart away when she flies."
"All right, Tom; that's a first-class name," responded Dick. "And Dartaway she shall become, if Sam is willing. Now then, we'll fill that gasoline tank and let the engine warm up a bit. Probably it will need some adjusting."
"Can we use the same gasoline as we use in the auto?"
"Yes, on ordinary occasions. In a race you can use a higher grade, so that aviator said. But then you'll have to readjust the magneto and carburetor."
"Gracious, Dick! You're not thinking of an air race already, are you!"
"Oh, no! But we might get in a race some day,—and such things are good to know," answered Dick, as he walked off to the garage, where there was a barrel of gasoline sunk in the ground, with a pipe connection. He got out a five-gallon can and filled it, and then poured the gasoline in the tank of the biplane.
"She'll hold more than that," said Tom, watching him. "Here, give me the can and I'll fill the tank while we are at it. We'll want plenty of gas when that aviator gets here."
In a few minutes more the gasoline tank was full, and then the two lads busied themselves putting the engine in running order, and in filling up the lubricating oil box. They also oiled up the working parts, and oiled the propeller bearings and the steering gear.
"Now, I guess she is all ready to run," remarked Dick, at length. "My, but isn't she a beauty, Tom! Just think of sailing around in her!"
"I'd like to go up right now!" answered the brother. "If only I knew more about airships, hang me if I wouldn't try it!"
"Don't you dream of it, yet!" answered Dick. "We've got to learn the art of it, just like a baby has got to learn to walk. If you went up now you'd come down with a smash sure."
"Maybe I would," mused Tom. "Well, let us try the engine anyhow. And maybe we can try the propellers," he added, with a longing glance at the smooth, wooden blades.
"One thing at a time," answered Dick, with a laugh. "We'll try the engine, but we'll have to tie the biplane fast, or else it may run into something and get smashed."
"Let us run her out into the field first. It's too gloomy in the shed. I'll hammer in some stakes and tie her."
The biplane rested on three small rubber-tired wheels, placed in the form of a triangle. Thus it was an easy matter to roll the big machine from the shed to the level field beyond. Then Tom ran back and procured some stakes, several ropes, and a hammer, and soon he had the biplane staked fast to the ground, after the manner of a small circus tent.
"Now she can't break loose, even if you do start the engine and the propellers," said he, as he surveyed his work. "Go ahead, Dick, and turn on the juice!" he cried impatiently.
Dick Rover was just as anxious to see the engine work, and after another critical inspection he turned on the battery and then walked to one of the propellers.
"We'll have to start the engine by turning these," he said.
"All right!" cried Tom, catching hold of the other wooden blades. "Now then, all ready? Heave ahoy, my hearty!" he added, in sailor fashion.
Four times were the wooden blades "turned over" and still the engine refused to respond. It was hard work, and both of the lads perspired freely, for it was a hot day in early September.
"Got that spark connected all right?" panted Tom, as he stopped to catch his breath.
"Yes," was the reply, after Dick had made an inspection. "The engine is cold, that's all."
"Humph, well I'm not! But come on, let us give her another twist."
The brothers took hold again, and, at a word from Dick, each gave the wooden paddles of the propellers a vigorous turn. There came a sudden hiss, followed by a crack and a bang, and then off the engine started with the loudness of a gattling gun.
"Hurrah! she's started!" yelled Tom, triumphantly. "Say, but she makes some noise, doesn't she?" he added.
"I should say yes. That's because airship engines don't have mufflers, like autos," yelled back Dick, to make himself heard above the explosions.
"And see those propellers go around!" went on Tom, in deep admiration. "All you can see is a whirr! We sure have a dandy engine in this craft, Dick!"
"Looks so, doesn't it?" returned Dick, also in admiration. "I reckon the Dartaway will give a good account of herself, when she is properly handled. Now, I had better stop the propellers, I guess," he added, moving toward the front of the biplane to do so.
"Yes! yes! stop em!" yelled Tom, suddenly. "Hurry up, Dick! See how she is straining to break the ropes! Say, she wants to go up!"
Dick was startled and with good reason. Even while his brother was speaking there came a sudden snap, and one of the ropes flew apart. Then up out of the ground came the stake holding another rope. The big biplane, thus released on one side, slewed around, and Tom was knocked flat. Then came another snap and two more ropes flew apart.
"She's going! stop her!" screamed Tom, from where he lay, and the next moment he saw Dick struck full in the face by the machine. Down went the youth backwards, and as he fell, with a rush and a roar, the biplane sped over the level ground for a distance of two hundred feet and then went sailing into the air, headed almost point blank for the Rover homestead, less than fifty rods away!
SOMETHING ABOUT THE ROVER BOYS
"Oh, Dick, are you hurt?"
The cry came from Tom, as he turned over on the ground and struggled to his feet. He had seen his brother hurled backwards, and he saw that Dick made no move to arise. He had been struck in the head, and blood was flowing from a wound over his left ear.
"Oh, maybe he's killed!" gasped poor Tom, and then, for the moment he forgot all about the flying machine, that was rushing so madly through the air towards the Rover homestead. He hurried to his brother's side, at the same time calling for others to come to his assistance.
To my old readers the lads already mentioned will need no introduction. For the benefit of others let me state that the Rover boys were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next, and sturdy Sam being the youngest. They were the sons of Anderson Rover, a widower, and when at home, as at present, lived with their father and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha at a pleasant place known as Valley Brook farm, in New York state.
While their father was in Africa on a mission of importance, the three boys had been sent by their uncle to boarding school, as related in the first volume of this series, entitled, "The Rover Boys at School." The place was Putnam Hall Military Academy, and there the lads had made many friends and also a few enemies.
From school the boys had made a short trip on the ocean, and then another trip into the jungle after their father. Then had followed a trip out West, and another on the Great Lakes. Later the youths had camped out in the mountains during the winter, shooting quite some game. Then they had returned to school, to go into camp during the summer with the other cadets.
The boys by this time thought their adventures at an end, but more were soon to follow. There came a long trip on land and sea, and then a voyage down the Ohio River, and soon after this the Rovers found themselves on the plains, where they had some adventures far out of the ordinary. From the plains they went further south, and in southern waters—the same being the Gulf of Mexico—they solved the mystery of the deserted steam yacht.
"Now back to the farm for me!" Sam had said at this time, and all were glad to go back, and also to return to Putnam Hall, from which seat of learning they presently graduated with honors. Then Mr. Anderson Rover got word of a valuable treasure, and he and the boys, with a number of their friends, went to Treasure Isle in search of it. They were followed by some of their enemies and the latter did all in their power to cause trouble.
Although the boys had finished at Putnam Hall, their days of learning were not yet over, and soon they set off for Brill College, a high-grade seat of learning located in one of our middle-western states. They had with them an old school chum named John Powell, usually called "Songbird," because of his habit of making up and reciting so-called poetry, and were presently joined by another old school companion named William Philander Tubbs, a dudish chap who thought more of his dress and the society of ladies than he did of his studies. Tom loved to play jokes on Tubbs, who was generally too dense to see where the fun came in.
From the college the boys had taken another trip, as related in the fifteenth volume of this series, called "The Rover Boys Down East." There was a mystery about that trip, of which the outside world knew little, but as that trip has something to do with the events which are to follow in this story, I will here give such details as seem necessary.
When the Rover Boys went to Putnam Hall they met three girls, Dora Stanhope and her two cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. Dora's mother was a widow, living not far from the school, and it was not long before a warm friendship sprang up between Dick and Dora,—a friendship that grew more and more intimate as the days went by. Dick thought the world of Dora, and the two were now practically engaged to be married. As for Tom and Sam, they had taken to the two Laning girls from the start, and though Tom was too full of fun to pay much attention to girls, yet whenever Nellie was mentioned, he would grow red in the face; and it was noticed that whenever Grace was present Sam was usually on hand to keep her company.
The treasure unearthed on Treasure Isle had belonged to the Stanhope estate, the bulk of it going to Mrs. Stanhope and Dora and the remainder to the Lanings, because Mrs. Laning was Mrs. Stanhope's sister. But the treasure had been claimed by a certain rascal named Sid Merrick and his nephew, Tad Sobber, and when Merrick lost his life during a hurricane at sea, Sobber continued to do all he could to get the money and jewels into his possession.
"It's mine!" he told Dick Rover one day. "It's mine, all mine, and some day I'm going to get it!"
"You keep on, Tad Sobber, and some day you'll land in prison," had been Dick's answer. "We found that treasure, and the courts have decided that it belongs to the Stanhope estate, and you had better keep your hands off."
But Tad Sobber was not satisfied, and soon he made a move that caused the worst kind of trouble. There was a learned but unscrupulous man named Josiah Crabtree who had once been a teacher at Putnam Hall, but who had been discharged and who had, later on, been sent to prison for his misdeeds. This Josiah Crabtree had once sought to marry Mrs. Stanhope, thinking thereby to get control of her money and the money she held in trust for Dora. The lady was weak and sickly, and the teacher had tried to hypnotize her into getting married, and had nearly succeeded, but the plot was nipped in the bud by the Rover boys.
Tad Sobber met Josiah Crabtree and the pair hatched out another plot, this time to abduct Mrs. Stanhope, getting the lady at the time to bring a good share of the treasure with her under the impression that it was to be invested by her friends. The lady was carried off to an island in Casco Bay, off the coast of Maine, and thither the Rover boys and some others followed them. There was a good deal of excitement; but in the end the lady was rescued and the treasure brought back. An effort was made to capture Tad Sobber and Josiah Crabtree, but the two evildoers managed to get away.
The home-coming of the boys with Mrs. Stanhope had been a time of great rejoicing. Dora had embraced Dick over and over again for what he had done for her mother, and Nellie and Grace had not been backward in complimenting Tom and Sam on their good work. There had been a general jubilee which had lasted several days.
"Splendid work, boys, splendid work!" Anderson Rover had said. "I am proud of you!"
"Better work than the authorities could do," had come from Uncle Randolph.
"Now that treasure had better be placed where no outsider can get his hands on it," Mr. Rover had added. And soon after that it was put in the strong box of a safe deposit company, there to remain until it could be properly invested.
At Brill College the Rover boys had fallen in with a number of fine fellows, including Stanley Browne and a German-American student named Max Spangler. They had also encountered some others, among whom were Dudd Flockley, Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur. Led by Koswell, who was a thoroughly bad egg, the three last-named students had tried to get the Rover boys into trouble, and had succeeded. But they overreached themselves and were exposed, and in sheer fright Koswell and Larkspur ran away and refused to return. Dudd Flockley was repentant and was given another chance.
While on the hunt for Mrs. Stanhope, the Rovers had fallen in with Koswell and Larkspur. But instead of getting aid from the pair, the latter did what they could to help old Crabtree and Sobber. This brought on a fight, and Koswell and Larkspur received a thrashing they would long remember. The former college students might have been arrested, but, like Crabtree and Sobber, they kept out of sight.
"They are sure a bunch of bad ones," had been Dick Rover's comment, when referring to Crabtree, Sobber, Koswell and Larkspur. "I wish they were all in jail."
"I reckon we all wish that," had been Sam Rover's reply. "It's an awful shame that we didn't capture at least one of 'em."
"Well, we might have caught old Crabtree and Sobber if we hadn't broken the engine of the motor-boat," put in Tom.
"Well, the engine was broken in a good cause," came from Dick. And he spoke the truth, as my old readers well know.
Following the home-coming of the boys, and the general jubilee, our heroes had settled down to enjoy themselves before going back to Brill. They had intended to take it easy on the farm, but when a great aviation meet was advertised to take place at the county seat they could not resist the temptation to be present.
At this meet there were five flying machines,—three biplanes, a monoplane, and a dirigible balloon. All made good records, and the Rover boys became wildly enthusiastic over what they saw.
"Say, this suits me right down to the ground!" cried Tom.
"What fun a fellow could have if he had a flying machine and knew how to run it!" had come from Sam.
"Exactly—if he knew how to run it," had been Dick's words. "But if he didn't know—well, he might have a nasty tumble, that's all."
"Pooh, Dick! If those fellows can run these machines, so can we," had been Tom's confident words.
"We know all about autos and motor-boats," Sam had put in.
"That's true, Sam. But a monoplane or a biplane, or any kind of an aeroplane, isn't an auto or a motor-boat."
"Are you afraid?" demanded Tom.
"Oh, no! Only if we got a flying machine we'd have to be careful about what we tried to do."
"Hurrah! It's settled!" cried Tom, who went headlong into everything. "We'll get a machine to-morrow! How much do they cost?"
"I don't know—several thousand dollars, I fancy," answered his elder brother.
"Boiled umbrellas, Dick! As much as that?"
"I think so."
"Why look at some of 'em," declared Sam. "Nothing but bamboo poles and a few wires, and canvas,—and the engine!"
"Yes, but the poles, wires and canvas have to be put together just right, Sam, and those engines are as powerful as they are light. And then don't forget the propellers, and the steering outfit, and the other things."
"Come on and ask one of the men about them," came from Tom; and a little later they had a long talk with an aviator named Captain Colby, who proved to be a relative to Larry Colby, one of their former chums at Putnam Hall. He had heard about the Rover boys and some of their doings, and willingly told them all they wanted to know.
The boys went home with their minds full of flying machines, and as the Rovers were all well-to-do, and as the three lads had in the past proved capable of taking care of themselves, it was not a very difficult matter for them to persuade their father to let them buy a biplane. Then, through Captain Colby, they learned where the flying machine could be obtained, and the very next day bought the affair and had it shipped to the farm, and also arranged with the aviator to visit them and give them a number of lessons.
"We've got three weeks before we have to go back to college," Tom had said. "If we are quick to learn we can have lots of fun in that time."
"Yes, and if we do learn, perhaps we can take the biplane to college with us and astonish some of the students and the faculty," Dick had added.
"That's the talk!" cried the youngest Rover. "We'll take it along!"
That morning Sam had gone off on an errand as already mentioned. Then Dick and Tom had gotten out the flying machine and started up the engine and the propellers. The ropes holding the biplane had broken or torn loose from the ground, and now the machine had gone off with a wild swoop, hurling poor Dick flat on his back and injuring him, how seriously was still to be learned.
SAM BRINGS NEWS
As Tom ran over to his brother's side he could not help but give a glance at the flying machine, which was rising higher and higher in the air, with a noise from the engine that sounded like a battery of gattling guns in action.
"Hi! hi! Wot's that?" came in a startled voice from the other side of the barn, and Jack Ness, the Rovers hired man, came running into view. "By gum, if them boys ain't gone an' flew without waitin' fer that man to show 'em! Who's doin' it? I don't see nobuddy." And the hired man blinked in amazement at the sight before him. "Is Sam in there?"
"Nobody is in the machine," answered Tom, who was kneeling beside his brother. "Oh, gracious! Look at that!" he exclaimed.
"There goes the chimbley!" roared Jack Ness, as the biplane swooped just high enough to clear the roof of the Rover homestead. One of the wheels underneath struck a chimney a glancing blow, hurling the bricks in all directions. As they came clattering down, from the house out ran Mrs. Rover, followed by her husband and the hired help. Anderson Rover was away on business.
"What is the matter—is it a—er—a cyclone?" gasped Randolph Rover.
"I don't know, I'm sure," answered Mrs. Rover. "But it's a terrible noise."
"Look! look!" shrieked the cook, pointing upward. "Saints preserve us!" she moaned. "'Tis the end of the world!"
"A flying machine!" murmured Randolph Rover. He gazed around hurriedly. "Can it be the boys?"
"Oh, those boys! They will surely kill themselves!" groaned Mrs. Rover. "They know nothing about airships!"
"Say, dar ain't nobuddy in dat contraption!" came suddenly from Aleck Pop. "It am flyin' all by itself!"
"By itself?" repeated Randolph Rover. "Impossible, Alexander! A flying machine cannot run itself. There must be somebody to steer, and manipulate the engine, and——"
"Oh, maybe whoever was in it fell out!" screamed Mrs. Rover, and now she looked ready to faint.
"We must find out about this!" returned her husband quickly. "They had the machine in the shed back of the barn." And he ran in that direction, followed by the colored man, and then by his wife and the cook. In the meantime the biplane soared on and on, ever rising in the air and moving off in the direction of the river.
When the others arrived they found that Tom had carried poor Dick to the wagon shed and placed him on a pile of horse blankets, and was washing his wounded head with water. At the sight of her nephew lying there so still Mrs. Rover gave a scream.
"Oh, Tom, is he—is he——" she could not go on.
"He's only stunned, I guess, Aunt Martha," was the reply. "But he got a pretty good crack."
"Did the flying machine do it?" queried Randolph Rover.
"Yes. We had it tied fast, but when we started the engine and the propellers it broke loose and ran right over Dick."
"I dun tole you boys to be careful," burst out Aleck. "It's a suah wondah yo' ain't bof killed. Wot kin I do, Massa Tom?" And he got down on his knees beside Dick, for he loved these lads, who had done so much for him in the past.
"He's only stunned, I think—and he's coming around now," answered Tom, and at that moment Dick commenced to stir. Then he gave a gasp, opened his eyes, and suddenly sat up.
"Stop her! Stop her, Tom!" he murmured.
"Dick! Dick, my poor, dear boy!" burst out Mrs. Rover, and got down beside him. "Oh, I am so thankful that you weren't killed!"
"Why—er—why!" stammered the oldest Rover boy. "Say, what's happened?" he went on, looking from one to another of the group. "Where's the biplane?"
"Flew away," answered Tom. "You got struck and knocked down, don't you remember?"
"Ah!" Dick drew a deep breath. "Yes, I remember now. Oh, how my head aches!" He put up his hand and noticed the blood. "Got a pretty good rap, didn't I? What did the machine do, Tom; go to smash?"
"I don't know. The last I saw of her she was sailing over the house."
"She kept right on a-sailin'," answered Aleck. "Went on right ober de woods along de ribber."
"You don't say! Then we'll have a time of it getting her back." Dick gritted his teeth. "Phew! how my head hurts!"
"Bring him to the house, and we'll bind his head up," said Mrs. Rover. "I'll wash the wound first and we can put on some witch hazel."
"Yes, that or some peroxide of hydrogen," added Randolph Rover, who was a scientific farmer and something of a chemist. "That will kill any germs that may lodge there."
Dick was half led and half carried to the house and placed on a couch in the sitting room, and then his aunt went to work to make him comfortable. The cut was not a deep one, and the youth was suffering more from shock than from anything else.
"I'll be all right by to-morrow," he assured his Aunt Martha. "I only got a knock-down blow, that's all."
"The machine didn't fight fairly," added Tom, who had to have his little joke. "It hit Dick before he was ready."
"Well, I am thankful it was no worse," answered Mrs. Rover. "But it is bad enough."
"And we'll have to have a mason here to mend the chimney," added Randolph Rover.
"I'll get a man from the Corners to-morrow," said Tom. "But say, I'd like to know where the biplane went to," he continued anxiously.
"Maybe it landed on some other house," mused Randolph. "If it did you may have more to pay for than a dismantled chimney."
"Oh, houses are few and far between in that direction, Uncle Randolph. What I am afraid of is, that the biplane came down in the trees or on the rocks and got smashed. That would be a big loss."
"That is true."
"I can send Jack Ness and Aleck Pop out to look for the machine," went on Tom. "And I can go out myself with Sam, when he returns."
"Yes, you'd better do that," answered Dick. "And I'll go out with you to-morrow, if you can't locate the machine to-day."
"Better take it easy, Dick," cautioned his aunt.
"Oh, I'll be all right by to-morrow, Aunt Martha. A good night's sleep will be sure to set me on my feet again. And I can fix this cut up with a bit of adhesive plaster."
"Did you have much gasoline on board?" queried Randolph Rover.
"The tank was full," answered Tom. "Oh, the Dartaway could go a good many miles, if she wanted to," he added, dubiously.
"The Dartaway? Was that the name of the craft?"
"Yes, and she did dart away, didn't she?" and Tom grinned.
"For all we know, she may have gone fifty or a hundred miles," continued Dick. "But I doubt it. With nobody to steer she'd be bound to turn turtle or something before long."
"Well, if she's busted, she's busted, that's all," answered Tom, philosophically. Yet the thought of the beautiful biplane being a wreck caused him to sigh.
A few minutes later the honk of an automobile horn was heard in the lane leading to the house, and Sam Rover appeared, driving the family car. He was alone on the front seat and in the tonneau had a variety of things purchased in the village for his aunt and the others.
"Hello! what does this mean?" cried Sam, as he came into the sitting room and saw Dick with his head bound up. "What did you do? Did you get that fussing with the biplane?"
"I did, Sam," was the answer.
"We both had a set-to with her ladyship," put in Tom. "And the biplane floored us on the first round." And then he told his younger brother of what had occurred.
"Humph! that's too bad!" murmured Sam. He took Dick's hand. "Not hurt much, really?" he asked in a lower voice.
"No, Sam, I'll soon be O. K."
"Jumping lobsters! But this beats all!" went on the youngest Rover. "I don't know if I had better tell you or not." And he looked around, to see if anybody but his brothers was present. The grown folks had left the room.
"Tell us what?" demanded Tom, who quickly saw that Sam had something on his mind.
"Tell you the news."
"What news?" asked Dick.
"Maybe you can't stand it, Dick. It will keep till to-morrow."
"See here, Sam, I'm not a baby," retorted the oldest Rover boy. "If you've got anything worth telling tell it."
"But it may make your head ache worse, Dick."
"No, it won't. Now, what's the news? Out with it."
Instead of answering at once, Sam Rover walked over to the door and closed it carefully.
"No use of worrying the others about it," he half whispered.
"But what is it?" demanded Tom, and now he showed that he was as impatient as was Dick.
"I got a letter from Grace Laning," went on Sam, slowly, and turned a bit red. "She told me a piece of news that is bound to upset you, Dick."
"Is it about the Stanhopes—about Dora?" questioned Dick, half rising from the couch on which he rested.
"Yes,—and about some others, too. But don't get excited. Nothing very bad has happened, yet."
"What did happen, Sam? Hurry up and tell us,—don't keep us in suspense!" cried Dick.
"Well; then, if you want it in a few words, here goes. Grace was visiting the Stanhopes a few days ago and she and Dora went to Ithaca to do some shopping. While in that town, coming along the street leading to the boat landing, they almost ran into Tad Sobber and old Josiah Crabtree."
"What! Those rascals in that town—so near to the Stanhope home!" exclaimed Dick. "And after what has happened! We must have them arrested!"
"I don't think you can do it, Dick—not from what Grace says in her letter."
"What does she say?"
"She says she and Dora were very much frightened, especially when they discovered that both Sobber and old Crabtree had been drinking freely. The two got right in front of the girls and commenced to threaten them and threaten us. Nobody else was near, and the girls didn't know what to do. But at last they got away and ran for the boat, and what became of Sobber and old Crabtree they don't know."
"What did the rascals say to them?" questioned Tom, who could see that his brother had not told all of his tale.
"They said that they were going to square up with Dora and with Mrs. Stanhope, and said they would square up with us, too, and in a way we little expected. Grace wrote that Sobber pulled a big roll of bank bills out of his pocket and flourished it in her face. 'Do you see that?' he asked. 'Well, I can get more where that came from, and I am going to use that and more, too, just to get even with the Rovers. I'm getting my trap set for them, and when they fall into it they'll wish they had never been born! I'll blow them and their whole family sky-high, that's what I'll do.'"
"Sobber said that?" asked Dick, slowly.
"So Grace writes. No wonder she and Dora were scared to death."
"Oh, maybe he was only blowing, especially if he had been drinking too much," came from Tom.
"I don't know about that," answered Dick, with a long sigh. "With such a rascal at liberty,—and with money in his pocket—there is no telling what will happen."
"What do you suppose he meant by blowing us sky-high?" asked Tom. But this question was not answered, for at that moment Mrs. Rover came into the room, and the course of the conversation had to be changed,—the lads not wishing to worry her with their new troubles.
AT THE TELEPHONE
Tom and Sam spent the balance of the day in looking for the missing biplane, walking down to the river, and even visiting Humpback Falls, where the youngest Rover had once had such a thrilling adventure.
"Don't seem to be in sight," remarked Tom, after they had tramped through the woods and over the rocks until they were tired.
"Looks to me as if the Dartaway had gone further than we supposed possible," replied Sam. "Maybe she's a hundred miles from here."
"Oh, she may have gone clean over to the ocean and dropped in," said Tom. "But I don't see how she could—with nobody to steer. How long would an auto keep to the road without somebody steering?"
"Do you know what I think we ought to do? Go back home and telephone to the villages and towns in the direction the biplane took. Somebody must have seen the craft,—if she kept in the air."
"By Jove, Sam, that's the idea! Why didn't you think of that before? It would have saved us quite a tramp."
The two boys turned back, and reached home a little after the supper hour. The meal had been held back for them.
"Any luck?" asked Dick, who sat in an easy chair on the front piazza. His cuts had been plastered up and he felt quite like himself again.
"No luck; but Sam has an idea," answered Tom, and mentioned what it was.
"You must have supper first," said Mrs. Rover. "Then you can do all the telephoning you please." And so it was agreed.
During the past few months the telephone service in the neighborhood of Dexter's Corners had been greatly improved and the lines could be connected with nearly all of the villages and towns roundabout.
"I'll try Carwood first," said Sam. "I'll call up Tom Bender. He's a wideawake fellow and would know if an airship had been seen."
Carwood was soon had on the wire and Sam presently was talking to the boy he had mentioned—a lad who worked in the general store with his father.
"See an airship?" cried Tom Bender. "We sure did—scooting over this burgh like a streak, too! Was it your machine? Who was running it? I tried to make out but couldn't."
"Nobody was running it," answered Sam. "It ran away on its own account, from back of our barn. Where did it go to?"
"Ran away! Suffering toadstools, Sam, you don't mean it! I don't know where it went, it went so fast."
"Which way was it headed? Try to tell me as nearly as you can."
"It was headed over Bear Hill, near the Spring. That would about take it over Rayville."
"Thank you, Tom; then I'll call up somebody in Rayville. Good-bye."
"Oh, say, Sam, hold on a minute. You say the machine broke away. How was that?" Tom Bender was all curiosity.
"We were trying the engine and propellers, that's all. I'll tell you the rest when I see you," answered the youngest Rover, and rang off. "Tom would keep me answering questions for a year if I let him," he added, to his brothers.
He next tried the Rayville general store, but could get no information concerning the missing biplane. Then he tried several farmers who were utter strangers to him but whose names were in the telephone directory.
"Airship, eh?" queried one farmer, a man named Peter Marley. "Well, we sure did see an airship, fer it came nigh onto rippin' off the roof o' the barn. Ef I had the feller here as was runin' it I'd give him a dose o' buckshot! He nigh scart my wife into a fit, he did!"
"Which way did the airship go, Mr. Marley?"
"Went right over into Rocker's Woods,—over where the old saw mill used to be."
"Did the airship come down, do you think?"
"I guess so—leas'wise she looks like she was goin' to come down. But who was the crazy loon as was runnin' her?"
"Nobody was running the craft—she ran away on her own hook."
"By gum! Ye don't tell me! No wonder she acted so blamed crazy like! Any reward fer her?" And the farmer's voice betrayed a sudden interest.
"I don't know—I'll find out," answered Sam, and then consulted hastily with his brothers.
"Tell him the biplane is ours and if he will help locate it and get it to a safe place we will pay him well for his services," said Dick.
"When can we go to Rayville?"
"First thing in the morning. There's a good road, and we can make the sixteen miles in the auto in no time."
"All right," said Sam, and told Peter Marley of what had been said. The farmer agreed to remain around his house until they arrived and then do all in his power to help locate the Dartaway.
"Dick, do you think you'll be able to take that trip?" questioned Randolph Rover. "Hadn't you better remain behind? I can go with Tom and Sam if necessary."
"Oh, I'll be all right in the morning," was the reply.
"But you've got to let me and Sam run the machine," put in Tom. "No use of your doing that."
"All right," answered the eldest Rover boy.
That night, when the others had gone to bed, the three Rover boys gathered in Dick's room to discuss further the news regarding Josiah Crabtree and Tad Sobber.
"Do you suppose it is possible that Sobber thinks to come here and blow the house up?" queried Tom.
"He might be equal to it," answered Dick, soberly. "We'll have to keep our eyes peeled, and, when we go back to Brill, we'll have to warn dad and Uncle Randolph."
"Do you know, dad looked worried when he went away," put in Sam.
"I noticed it, Sam. Did he say anything to you about business?"
"Not a word. Why, do you think it's that?"
"There is some trouble out west—has been ever since there was a strike at that Golden Horseshoe mine in which dad invested so heavily last summer. They had a strike, and now one crowd is trying to get the control from another crowd. I don't know the particulars, but I guess dad is worried."
"Dick, don't you think you ought to help him in these affairs?" came suddenly from Sam. "Uncle Randolph is too absorbed in his books and in scientific farming to pay any attention, and—well, dad isn't as young as he used to be—and we are growing older."
"I've been thinking of that, Sam. I wish I was through college, I'd jump right into the game and try to take the load from his shoulders."
"Are you going to take the full course?"
"No, I talked it over with dad last week and I'm going to take the shorter course. He said you two could take the long course if you wanted to."
"Not much! The short course for yours truly!" cried Tom.
"Ditto here!" came from Sam.
"I want to settle down and get into business," went on Tom.
"He thinks Nellie won't wait much longer," remarked Sam, with a wink at Dick.
"Huh! I guess, you think Grace won't wait!" snorted Tom. "Didn't I see you looking over that furniture and picture catalogue the other day? Ha! I caught you, Sammy, my boy!"
"Rats!" cried Sam, growing suddenly red in the face. "I was thinking of buying a new chair and maybe a picture or two for our quarters at Brill. The old ones are pretty punk, if you'll remember. Besides, we've got to wait until Dick and Dora step off, you know," went on the youngest Rover.
"That's so—so we have," added Tom, with more of a grin than ever. "By the way, Dick, how much longer are you going to linger before you scrape up money enough to pay the minister's fee?"
"Just long enough to hammer some common-sense into the heads of two brothers of mine!" cried Dick, and threw a book at Tom and a pillow at Sam. "Now go to bed and don't forget to wake up early, for we want to be in Rayville by eight o'clock, so we can have all day, if necessary, to locate the biplane." And then he chased Tom and Sam out of the bedroom and locked the door on them.
Left to himself, Dick walked slowly across the room to where the bureau stood. On the top was a small, framed picture of Dora Stanhope, that had been taken only a few months before. Dick could not help but take up the portrait and gaze at it long and earnestly.
"Dear, dear Dora!" he murmured fondly. "The best girl in all this wide world! Some day you are going to be Mrs. Dick Rover, and that day can't come any too soon for me. Oh, I hope those rascals don't do anything more to harm you!"
Dick was still holding the picture when there came a soft knock on the door.
"Who is it? What do you want?" he asked, as he put the picture down.
"Dick, my child," came in a whisper from the fun-loving Tom. "Be careful and don't kiss all the glaze off that photo. She's a sweet girl, warranted all silk and a yard wide, but the glaze may be poisonous, and——"
"Tom, if you don't get to bed I'll—I'll throw a pitcher of water over you!" cried Dick, and started to unlock the door. With a merry laugh Tom ran off; and that was the last seen or heard of him that night.
Before retiring Dick gave his wounded head another application of liniment, and in the morning he was gratified to find that much of the soreness was gone. The cuts, of course, remained, and he bound these up with extra strips of adhesive plaster. The three lads had an early breakfast, and by half-past seven o'clock were in the touring car, bound for Rayville.
"How are you going to get the biplane back here, even if you do find it?" questioned their uncle, before they started off.
"I don't know," answered Dick. "It will depend on what condition the Dartaway is in. She may be so broken up as to be unfit for anything, and then it wouldn't pay to move her."
"Well, better not attempt to fly in the craft," cautioned Randolph Rover.
"Hardly," said Tom. "Maybe we'll telephone for Captain Colby to come and get her."
Tom was at the wheel of the touring car and, once the farm was left behind, and they were on a fairly good country road, he advanced the spark and the gasoline control until they were running at twenty-five and then thirty miles an hour.
"Now, don't get gay, Tom!" warned Dick. "This road wasn't built for racing."
"Pooh, what's thirty miles an hour!" declared the fun-loving Rover, who just then felt like "letting out." "You know this machine can make fifty and better, Dick."
"I know it, but you've got to have a safer road than this, Tom."
"Beware of the turn!" cried Sam, who sat on the front seat with Tom, while Dick was alone in the tonneau. "It's a bad one!"
"I know it, but I'll make it," answered Tom, and then the touring car reached a bend in the road, and went whizzing around it with a sudden lurch that made Sam cling desperately to the seat and sent Dick flying from one side of the tonneau to the other.
"Tom, be careful!" cried Sam. "Do you want to pitch me out on my head?"
"Do that again, and I'll make you let Sam drive," came from Dick.
"It was the brake—it didn't act just right," answered Tom, just a little frightened. "I think it's loose."
"Better stop and look at it," answered Dick, promptly.
"Oh, I guess it's all right," said Tom. The touring car continued to move along, up a winding hill. Then came a level stretch for half a mile, and then a sharp descent, leading into Carwood.
"Now be careful——" commenced Dick. And then stopped short, for a sudden snapping sound reached his ears.
"What's that?" cried Sam, in alarm.
"The brake—it's broken!" answered Tom. And then he set his teeth grimly, to try to guide the heavy touring car down the steep hill without disaster.
LOOKING FOR THE LOST FLYING MACHINE
It was the foot brake that had given away. The hand brake was still fit for use, but each of the Rover boys remembered with dismay that this brake had been loose for some time. They had thought to tighten it up, but other matters had claimed their attention, and they had not deemed it absolutely necessary before taking the short trip to Rayville, since on starting the other brake had seemed to be in good order.
"Can you do it, Tom?" asked Dick, quickly, as the big car gathered headway on the steep hill.
"I'll try!" was Tom's reply. "But it's some hill."
"If only we don't meet anything," put in Sam. "Blow the horn, Dick!"
The oldest Rover boy did as requested, leaning over from the back seat to do so, and thus leaving Tom free to manipulate the steering wheel. Dick also set the hand brake a notch tighter, but this did little good, since it was the bands that were worn.
On and on bounded the touring car, down the long hill. On both sides the road was bound by rocks and trees, with nasty gullies in several spots. Here and there were "resting spots" for teams, and over these indentations flew the automobile with jolts that threatened to break all the springs at once.
"The turn! Beware of the turn!" cried Sam and Dick together, when about three-quarters of the hill had been passed.
Tom nodded but said not a word. He had thrown the motive power to the low gear, and thus the engine was doing something towards holding the car back.
Suddenly Dick uttered a cry, and the next minute Sam saw him dive down to the bottom of the tonneau and bring up several long ropes to which were attached a number of hooks. He had placed these in the automobile for possible use in getting the Dartaway out of the woods or from among the rocks.
With care Dick took the hooks and threw them out of the machine. At the same time he leaned over and allowed the ends of the ropes to catch on the swiftly-revolving wheels of the machine.
"Maybe they'll hold something—anyway I hope so," he said.
They had now reached the turn. Tom was running as closely as possible to the inner side and Dick had commenced to toot the horn again. With a slipping and sliding, the touring car went over the dirt and stones, rushing nearer and nearer to the gully on the outer edge of the highway.
"Look! Look!" screamed Sam, a second later. "A carriage, and three ladies in it!"
He was right, and the carriage was less than a hundred yards ahead. But just now Tom could think of nothing but the turn, for the machine was running closer than ever to the gully. If they went down in that the touring car would most likely turn turtle, and they might all be killed.
But they did not go down into the gully. By sheer good luck Tom managed to throw the automobile back into the roadway, two wheels for a second spinning in midair. Then he had to reckon with the other danger—that of hitting the carriage with the three ladies.
The ladies had heard the tooting of the auto horn and had tried to draw up to the side of the road. But the incline was still steep and the two horses evidently did not like the looks of that gully.
"You can't pass them!" groaned Sam, and just then came a grinding from underneath the touring car. This was followed by a series of jerks, and then came one final jerk that brought the automobile to a standstill and all but sent the Rover boys flying over the engine hood.
"Well, we've stopped!" panted Tom, when he could catch his breath. "I guess the brake held somehow."
"No, it didn't," answered Sam. "It's another brake, one that Dick heaved overboard." And he pointed to the ropes and hooks. One hook, the biggest, had caught in a rock lining the gully, and the ropes were in a mess around the wheels and the rear axle.
"Good for you!" murmured Tom. "It saved us from running into that carriage."
"Are you men going on?" cried one of the ladies, noticing that the automobile had come to a stop.
"Not just yet!" sang out Dick. "You can go ahead if you wish. We'll wait until you get down to the bottom of the hill—and maybe we'll wait longer," he added in an undertone.
"You scared us nearly to death," said another of the ladies, tartly; and then the carriage went on and was soon lost to sight on a side road.
The three youths alighted, and after blocking the wheels with stones, so that it might not get away unexpectedly, commenced an inspection of the car.
"The ropes wouldn't do much damage but the hooks might," said Dick. "But I couldn't think of anything else to do."
"It was grand of you to do that," answered Tom, warmly. "I was a fool to let her out as I did," he added bluntly. "I'll know better next time."
That was Tom, often headstrong but quick to acknowledge a fault.
Not without much difficulty did the three youths manage to get the ropes disentangled from the rear wheels and the back axle. It was found that one of the hooks had gone into a tire, causing a blow-out that, in the general excitement, nobody had noticed. But otherwise everything seemed to be all right, apart, of course, from the broken brake rod, and the boys were thankful.
"I guess we can manage to run to the nearest blacksmith shop," said Dick, "and there we can get the rod mended."
"What a lucky thing that big hook caught in the rock!" cried Sam.
"It's the one thing that saved us from going into the carriage," returned Tom, and his face was very sober as he spoke. For a time being he did not feel like running the car further and readily agreed to let Sam take hold, after another tire had been adjusted. To keep the automobile from going down the remainder of the hill too rapidly, they allowed one of the ropes to remain on the rear axle, and to this tied a small fallen tree, that made an excellent drag.
When the level roadway was gained once more they made good time to Carwood, and there called on the blacksmith to repair the broken brake rod. While waiting they ran into Tom Bender, and the boy was very anxious to know all about the lost aeroplane.
"Say, but you fellows have a cinch!" he said, in admiration. "You get what you please. Wish I was in your shoes!"
"You'd not want to be in our shoes when that brake rod broke," answered Sam bluntly. "Eh, Tom?"
"Not much!" replied his brother.
At last they were on the way again. They had telephoned to Peter Marley, so that the farmer would know the cause of the delay. Sam did the driving and now the machine went along well, and almost before they knew it they were at Rayville and asking the way to the Marley farm. This was on a back road, but the way was good and they reached the farm without trouble, excepting that they had to slow down to let a herd of cows pass them.
"Got here at last, have ye!" cried Peter Marley, as he came out to greet them. "You kin put that 'mobile under the wagon shed if ye want to," he added.
"Can't we use it to go after the biplane?" questioned Dick.
"No, there hain't no fit road. If ye say so, we can go on hosses—if ye want to pay fer ridin'," added the farmer shrewdly. He was a good man, but close, and never allowed a chance to make an honest cent slip by.
"All right, we'll ride," said Dick. "The horses may come in handy for hauling the biplane,—and besides, we can't carry these ropes and hooks if we walk."
So it was arranged; and a little later the party of four set off on horseback, the farmer and Tom carrying the ropes and hooks, and Sam keeping beside Dick, who looked a trifle pale in spite of his efforts to appear all right. The knock-down blow from the flying machine had been harder than the eldest Rover boy was willing to admit.
Rocker's Woods proved to be a large patch of scrub timber, all the large trees having been cut down to feed the old saw-mill, which still stood on the bank of a good-sized stream. The saw-mill had not been used for nine years and the timber was gradually coming up once more.
"This is exactly the way thet airship tuk," said Peter Marley, as he led the way. "An' as she wasn't runnin' very fast I guess she must a-come down not very fur off."
"I hope so," answered Dick. "And I hope, too, she came down gently."
"Huh! How could she come down any other way? Ain't much to 'em, is there, 'ceptin' sticks an' cloth."
"The engine weighs several hundred pounds."
"Gee shoo! Several hundred pounds! Say, if thet's so, it's great how they kin stay up!" burst out the farmer in admiration. "Ain't no bird as weighs as much as thet!"
As they advanced through the woods, all of the party looked to the right and the left for some sign of the missing biplane.
"Here's a tree top down!" cried Tom, when they were close to the river on which the old saw mill was located. "This looks as if it might have been done by the machine."
"Gracious, I wonder if the airship went into the river!" burst out Sam.
"That might be a good thing, if it did," answered Dick. "It might save it from being wrecked, and we might be able to tow it ashore."
In a moment more they came to a halt at the edge of the river, which was broad and smooth at this point. In the middle the stream was ten to twelve feet deep, and the bottom was of sand and smooth rocks.
"I don't see anything that looks like a flying machine," said Sam after a long look around.
"Maybe after all it went over into the woods on the other side," returned Dick.
"That must be it," said Peter Marley. "I'm afraid we'll have to go up the stream a bit to get across. We can't ford here."
"How far to a good ford?" asked Dick.
"About quarter o' a mile tudder side o' the old mill."
"Say, look over there!" cried Tom at this moment. "What does that look like to you, Sam?"
He pointed with his hand, and all in the party gazed in the direction indicated, a point close to the opposite shore, where some brushwood overhung the river.
"Why that looks to me like one of the planes of the flying machine!" cried the youngest Rover.
"Just what I thought," exclaimed Tom. "What do you say, Dick?"
"It certainly does look like one of the planes," answered the older brother. "But don't be too sure, or we may be disappointed."
"Too bad we can't get over here," murmured Sam. "Supposing I swim it?" he continued.
"No, don't bother, Sam," replied Dick. "We'll all go around by way of the ford. You can't do anything alone anyway."
"But I might make sure if it was the machine," insisted Sam.
"Never mind; we want to get over there anyway—to continue the search—if that isn't the machine."
Again Peter Marley led the way, along a trail that ran past the old mill. The boys came close at his heels, and as they advanced Tom questioned the farmer concerning the place.
"It belongs to a lumber company, but it's been closed up fer years," said Peter Marley. "Once in a while tramps hang out there, but thet's all."
Presently they found themselves close to the mill, which was almost ready to fall down from disuse and neglect. As they rode up Tom chanced to glance towards a side window and was surprised to catch sight of a man looking curiously at them. As soon as he saw that he was discovered the man stepped out of sight.
"Well, I never!" gasped Tom. "Did you see him?"
"See who?" asked his brothers.
"That man at the window of the mill! Unless I am greatly mistaken it was Josiah Crabtree!"
TWO OLD ENEMIES
"Josiah Crabtree!" came simultaneously from Dick and Sam Rover.
"Yes," returned Tom.
"How can he be here, in this out-of-the-way place?" demanded Sam.
"You must be mistaken, Tom," came from the eldest Rover boy. "Old Crabtree must be around Cedarville or in Ithaca. He would have no call to come to a place like this."
"Did you say Josiah Crabtree?" questioned Peter Marley, curiously. All had come to a halt on their horses.
"Yes," returned Tom quickly. "Do you know him?"
"I used to know him—fact is, he once stopped at my place to git a ride—when he was a-visitin' thet old mill."
"Then he visits the mill!" exclaimed Dick. "Tom, you must have been right."
"But why does he come here?" questioned Sam.
"Why as near as I know, some relative o' his'n used to have an interest in the lumber company as run the mill," replied the farmer. "It was a man named Foxwell. He's dead now. Maybe he left his share o' the place to this man Crabtree. He was a teacher, wasn't he?"
"He was, years ago. Since then he has been a jailbird," answered Tom.
"Yes, he was in jail for a number of years—and since he has been out he has been trying his best to make trouble for us and for some of our friends," went on Tom. "Come on, let's go after him, instead of talking," he added, as he dismounted.
"That's the talk!" cried Sam. "The biplane can wait."
Dick was as willing as his brothers to go after the former teacher of Putnam Hall, and leaving the farmer to take care of the horses, all three ran up to the door of the old mill. It was unlocked, and one of the hinges was broken, and it was an easy matter for them to push their way into the building.
"Do you think Tad Sobber is with old Crabtree?" asked Sam, in a low voice.
"It may be—since they were together when the girls saw them," returned Dick.
"We ought to have armed ourselves," put in Tom. The boys had no weapons of any kind.
"Here are some old barrel staves," said Tom. "They are better than nothing." And he picked up a stave and his brothers followed suit.
With caution the three Rover boys advanced through the old mill, which, because of the closed doors and dirty windows, was a gloomy place in spite of the brightness of the day outside. All listened intently, but not a sound reached their ears, excepting Mr. Marley's voice as he talked to the restless horses.
"Supposing I call to him?" suggested Dick.
"It can't do any harm," answered Sam.
"Hello, Mr. Crabtree!" sang out Tom, without waiting for his brother. "Where are you? Why don't you show yourself?"
All waited after this call. But no reply came back, and then Dick and Sam called.
"He's a bit bashful," was Tom's grinning comment. "Wants to be hauled out by the coattails, I guess. Come on, we'll soon locate him," and he started forward.
"Be careful, Tom!" warned his elder brother. "He may set a trap for you! You know he and Sobber are not to be trusted."
"I've got my eyes open," answered the fun-loving Rover sturdily.
With the barrel staves in hand, the three Rover boys advanced further and further into the old mill, going from one room to another. Occasionally they stumbled over bits of lumber and piles of sawdust, for when the place had been shut down no attempt had been made to clean up. Even some of the machinery had been left and this was now so rusted that it was practically unfit for use.
"Say, Mr. Crabtree, why don't you show yourself?" called out Dick. "Are you afraid?"
"You get out of here!" came the unexpected answer, from a small toolroom, the door to which was split but tightly closed. "You Rovers have no right on this property!"
The boys recognized the harsh and dictatorial voice of Josiah Crabtree,—less pleasant now than it ever had been. They saw the former teacher glaring at them from the split in the toolroom door.
"Mr. Crabtree, come out here and let us talk to you," said Dick, quietly but firmly.
"I don't want to talk to you—I want you to leave these premises," snarled the man.
"Why should we leave?" asked Tom.
"Because this is my property."
"Your property?" cried Sam. "How so?"
"It was left to me by a distant relative. I won't have you on the place."
"Mr. Crabtree, do you know that we can have you arrested?" said Dick, sharply.
"Arrested? What for?"
"For the abduction of Mrs. Stanhope."
"I didn't abduct her—she went along of her own free will—I can prove it."
"You know that statement is false. You carried her off against her will—and did what you could to hypnotize her into marrying you. Mr. Crabtree, you are a villain, and you ought to be returned to the prison from which you came."
"Don't you dare to talk to me like that! Don't you dare!" fairly shrieked Josiah Crabtree. "I know my rights, and some day I'll have the law on you boys! You are responsible for my being sent to prison, and but for you Mrs. Stanhope would have married me long ago. Now I want you to leave these premises, and don't you dare to come back."
"Is Tad Sobber with you?" asked Tom.
"I am not here to answer questions, Tom Rover. I want to leave, and at once."
"Mr. Crabtree, you listen to me," said Dick, stepping closer to the crack in the door. "We are not afraid of you, and we want you and Tad Sobber to know it. Were it not for the unpleasant publicity for Mrs. Stanhope and her daughter, we'd have you in the lock-up inside of twenty-four hours. We understand that you and Sobber have been threatening the Stanhopes and the Lanings again, and also threatening us. Now these threats have got to stop, and you have got to behave yourself. If you don't behave yourself we are going to make it our business to see that you are arrested, and we'll do our level best to have you placed behind the bars for a long term of years."
"I—I—will—er——" stammered the former teacher of Putnam Hall. He did not know how to proceed.
"Ah, don't you get scared!" came in a low voice from inside the toolroom. "You know what the Rovers are."
"It must be Tad Sobber!" cried Tom. "Sobber, if you are in there why don't you show yourself? Are you scared?"
"Of course he is scared," put in Sam.
"I'm not scared!" roared the bullying voice of the youth who had claimed the fortune from Treasure Isle. "I am not scared and you know it."
"So you are really there, Sobber," put in Dick. "I thought as much. Well, you heard what I said to Crabtree. It applies to you as well."
"Bah, Dick Rover, you can't scare me!" returned Tad Sobber savagely. "Just now you think you are on top. But wait, that's all. That treasure belongs to me and I mean to have it. And I mean to square up for the way you have treated me, too."
"Are you two going to settle down here?" asked Sam, just for something to say.
"That is none of your business," answered Josiah Crabtree. "Now I want you to leave."
"Sobber, what has become of Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur?" asked Dick, wishing to know something of those former good-for-nothing students of Brill College.
"Never you mind what has become of them," answered Sobber. "But don't think you have seen the last of them, Dick Rover. They haven't forgotten how you treated them on Chesoque Island and elsewhere, and they mean to even up that score."
"Are they here with you?"
"No. But I'm going to keep in touch with them, and some day we—— But never mind now. Just you wait, that's all!" finished Tad Sobber, meaningly.
"You'll try to play us foul,—just as you tried in the past," said Dick. "Very well, I'll remember that, Sobber. And you remember what I told you. The next time there is trouble we'll fight it out to the bitter end."
There was a moment of silence.
"I want you to go away," said Josiah Crabtree, and there was just a trace of nervousness in his tones. Evidently Dick's firm words had had some effect.
"We are going," answered Dick. "Both of you remember what I said." And then he motioned to his brothers; and all three left the old mill.
"Well, did ye find the feller ye was after?" queried Peter Marley, as the boys came out to where he stood with the horses.
"We did," answered Dick, and nudged his brothers, to keep them quiet. "It's Josiah Crabtree all right. And we had quite a talk with him."
"Wot's he going to do here?"
"He says it is his property—left to him by a distant relative. He ordered us away."
"Must have been Foxwell left him the place. Is he going to start the mill up ag'in?"
"He didn't say."
"If he's a jailbird I'll hate to see him in these parts," went on the farmer soberly.
"Well, it won't hurt you to keep an eye on him, Mr. Marley," answered Dick, and then, struck with a sudden idea, he continued: "And if you see or hear anything wrong about him, will you do us the favor to let us know at once, over the telephone, or otherwise? I'll pay you for the calls."
"Sure I'll let you know—if I hear anything."
"I might as well tell you that he is down on us and down on some of our friends, and he and a young fellow with him named Tad Sobber may try to play us foul in some way. So, if you hear of anything strange, let us know by all means."
"You can depend on it, I will," replied Peter Marley.
"And now to see if that really was the biplane!" cried Tom, when the party was once more on horseback. "Let us try to forget old Crabtree and Sobber. One trouble at a time is enough. If that was the flying machine, I hope she isn't damaged much," he added, wistfully, for he had hoped to get a good deal of sport out of sailing the Dartaway.
"Well, if that was the biplane, she must have landed in the river, and that would break the shock some," said Sam, hopefully.
"Yes, especially if she came down on a slant," added Dick. "Maybe she struck the water and scaled along like a clamshell."
Along the river they proceeded for quite a distance and then came to the spot that the farmer said was the ford.
"Not so very shallow either," was Dick's comment. "Mr. Marley, are you sure of the footing?"
"Yes, I've been across any number of times," was the answer. "I'll lead the way. Be careful, fer the rocks is slippery an' if a hoss goes down he might give ye a nasty tumble."
And then Peter Marley urged his steed into the river and one by one the Rover boys followed him.
THE RUNAWAY HORSES
In the middle of the river the ford was so deep that the water almost touched the feet of the riders. But fortunately the current was sluggish, so the horses managed to keep their footing. They were allowed to take their own time, so it took several minutes to gain the opposite shore.
"Well, I'm glad we are out of that," was Tom's comment, as they reached a trail on the other bank.
"We'll have to endure it again, to get back," said Sam. "And what about the biplane?"
"Just wait till we find the machine first," answered Dick, with a faint smile. "You know the old saying, 'Don't count your chickens——'"
"Before they are fried," finished Tom, with a grin. "You see, somebody might lift them from the henroost before you had a chance to cook them," he went on soberly.
"By gum! thet ain't no joke nuther!" burst in Peter Marley. "Many a chicken I've lost through tramps an' wuthless niggers."
They had to go around several walls of rocks and through a tangle of brushwood, and then came to a small clearing where was located the remains of a wood-cutter's hut. Not far beyond was the locality where they had seen the object that looked like one of the biplane's wings.
It must be confessed that the hearts of the three boys beat a bit faster as they drew closer. Would they find the flying machine, and if so, would it be in serviceable condition or so smashed up as to be worthless?
"There she is!" burst from Tom's lips, and he pointed out into the water.
"Right down between half a dozen big rocks," added Sam. "Is she smashed much? How about the engine, Dick?"
"The engine is there, but I can't tell if it's broken or not. We'll soon find out."
The big biplane lay among some rocks and bushes, the latter overhanging the water, which at this spot was less than two feet deep. By taking off their shoes and socks, and rolling up their trousers, the boys were able to wade out to the flying machine and make an inspection.
"One of the planes is broken," said Dick. "But as the bamboo poles are merely split I think they can be repaired with some fine wire,—just as we repair a split baseball bat."
"But the engine?" asked Sam, impatiently.
"I think the engine is all right—at least it looks all right to me. Of course we can't be sure until we clean it up and try it."
"Then she must have struck the water on the slant and that must have broken the shock," said Tom; and this surmise was undoubtedly correct, for had the Dartaway come down squarely on the rocks the planes and the engine must have been broken to bits.
"Do you think we can get her ashore?" asked Sam.
"Sure we can, by the aid of the hooks and ropes, and the horses. But we want to be careful how it's done. There is no sense in breaking the machine still more."
"We might get some planks from that old hut and roll the wheels up on them," suggested Tom. "I don't believe anybody uses the hut."
"No, that ain't been used for years," said Peter Marley. "Ye can tear down the hull thing if ye want to."
The boys and the farmer set to work, and presently they had several rough planks taken from the sides of the hut. They had the horses drag these down to the water, and by hard work managed to get the planks under the flying machine. As the planks were of wood they aided in floating the affair.
"By jinks! I've got an idea!" suddenly cried Dick. "We'll want the machine on the other side of the river. Why not build a raft and float her over instead of bringing her ashore here? There is plenty of stuff in that old hut."
"That's the ticket!" answered Tom. "Hurrah for a life on the rolling deep!"
"It's a good idee," was the farmer's comment. "I was wonderin' how we'd git over with the contraption. You kin keep on shovin' planks an' logs under till she floats, an' tie them together with the ropes ye brung along. A good idee."
It was not until noon that they had the so-called raft built and the biplane fastened to it. The work had made them all hungry and they were glad that they had brought along a substantial lunch. They sat down in the shade of the woods to eat, washing the meal down with some water from a spring back of the old hut,—or rather of what was now left of the structure. While the boys ate they talked about Josiah Crabtree and Tad Sobber and the others who were their enemies.
"They'll surely try to do something," said Dick. "But what it will be I can't guess. We'll have to keep on guard."
"Who is going to go on the raft?" asked Sam. "It won't carry all of us."
"I'll pole it over," answered Dick. "The rest of you will have to go around by the ford."
"Don't you want any help?" asked Tom.
"No, I think I can do it alone. If two of us got on the raft it might sink too deep and get stuck on the rocks."
So it was arranged, and a few minutes later Dick set off. Peter Marley had cut for him a slender but tough pole, which he was to use in shoving the novel craft across the stream.
"Don't go overboard!" cried Sam.
"I'm going to take off the most of my clothing," answered the older brother. "You can carry the things for me—and don't drop them at the ford."
Soon Dick was on the way, standing behind the biplane and using the long pole as best he could. He was in water up to his ankles and as the planks were slippery he had to watch his footing. Once he came close to going overboard but saved himself by clutching one of the wire stays of the machine.
In the middle of the stream the current caught the raft and forced it down the river for quite a distance. But Dick had expected this, and kept his eyes on a sandy stretch still further below. He poled along with vigor, and did what he could to avoid the rocks and shallows. Once the raft caught fast, but soon he had it loose again, and a few minutes later the sandy stretch was gained and he sent the raft shoreward with all his force. It came up on the sand and there it stuck; and the voyage was at an end. Somewhat out of breath, Dick sat down to await the coming of the others.
"Safe and sound, eh?" cried Tom, as he galloped up from the ford. "Good enough!"
"Now what's the next move?" asked Sam, who was at his brother's heels.
"We'll let the horses pull the whole concern up into the meadow," answered Dick. And as soon as Peter Marley arrived this was done, and then the biplane was unfastened from the raft and rolled still further inland, to a level, grassy field belonging to a farm of the vicinity.
The boys were anxious to learn if the engine of the flying machine was in running order, and all set to work at once, drying and cleaning the parts. Fortunately the gasoline tank had remained airtight. While Tom looked over the spark plugs and Sam tried the oil feed, Dick adjusted the carburetor and magneto.
"Now I guess we can try it," said the eldest Rover boy, at last. "But we'll tie her down first," he added, with a grin.
"Yes, and good and hard this time," added Tom.
"Rope her to the raft," suggested Sam. "And drive a few stakes in the ground, too," and this was done.
It was a wonder that none of the propeller blades had been broken, yet such was a fact. They were scratched and nicked, but a coat of varnish would soon remedy all that.
Dick turned on the spark, adjusted the gasoline feed, and then he and Tom took hold of the propeller blades. Half a dozen turns proved unavailing and the boys looked glumly at each other. Had the engine been damaged after all?
"Give her another," said Dick, and this was done. Then the engine suddenly responded, and there followed those gatling-gun like explosions that set the horses to prancing wildly.
"Hi! hi! let up with thet racket!" yelled Peter Marley. "If ye don't them hosses will run away!"
"All right, I'll stop her and you can take the horses up into the field," answered Dick.
He sprang to the front of the biplane to stop the engine, but ere he could do so one of the horses broke away and galloped madly away in the direction of the woods. Then another followed.
"There they go!" bawled the farmer, lustily. "Stop 'em!"
Sam and Tom leaped to do as bidden. But they were too late, and so was Peter Marley. Across the field dashed the horses, badly frightened by the noise, and in a few seconds they disappeared into the timber.
"Well, by gum! Now what's to be did?" asked the farmer helplessly.
"Let's go after 'em!" answered Tom, running for the horse he had ridden. "We ought to be able to catch them, Mr. Marley. Dick and Sam can stay here."
"All right, we'll try it," answered the farmer. "But them critters is powerful runners, I can tell ye thet! That black don't like no better fun than to run away."
"Take care of yourself, Tom," called Dick, who had now stopped the engine. And then he and Sam watched their brother and the farmer as they went riding away at top speed after the runaway steeds.
"Well, anyway, the engine seems to be O. K.," remarked Sam, after the others had disappeared. "And the propellers go around like circular saws. Now all we've got to do is to have those bamboo sticks bound up, or replaced by new ones. Wouldn't it be great if we could go home in this machine!" he added, enthusiastically.
The boys inspected the split poles and the canvas, which had been punctured in several places, and then tried the engine once more.
"Makes a lot of noise," was Sam's comment. "You'd think it was half a dozen Fourths of July rolled into one."
Presently they saw a farmer approaching, accompanied by two boys. The farmer had a shotgun in his hands, and each of the boys carried a club.
"Wot's this noise about, an' wot's that thing?" demanded the farmer, and he showed his nervousness by the way he handled his gun.
"This is an airship," answered Dick, pleasantly. "I was trying the engine, that's all."
"Gosh all hemlock! An airship, eh? I thought it was a company o' soldiers firin' their rifles! Wot be you a'doin' here in my pasture lot?"
"Is this your lot?"
"It sure is, an' has been for forty years."
"We came here with Mr. Marley, of Rayville, to get the machine. It got away from us and landed in the river. We dragged it over here," explained Dick. "We'll make it right with you for using the lot," he added, with a smile.
"Oh, so thet's it, eh? Well, you're welcome to use the lot," said John Snubble. "I'm glad o' the chanct to see an airship. Boys, this is one of them airships you read about in the papers," he went on to his two sons. "Ain't no danger o' an explosion, is there?" he asked anxiously, as he slowly drew closer.
"I don't think so," answered Dick. And then he explained to Mr. Snubble how the two horses had become frightened and run away, and how Mr. Marley and Tom had gone after the runaway steeds.
"It's too bad it's broke," said one of the farmer's sons. "I'd like to see her go up."
"So would I," added the other.
"Perhaps you'll see her go up when she's mended," said Sam.
"If this is your farm, could you rent me a shed in which to store this biplane until she is mended?" said Dick, to the farmer.
"Maybe I can," was the slow answer. "But we'd have to keep the thing out o' sight o' the hosses an' cattle, or they'd cut up wuss nor them hoses did wot run away," the man added soberly.
It was a full hour before Tom and Peter Marley came back and even then they did not bring the runaway horses in the field where the biplane was located.
"Won't take no more chances," said the farmer. "I kin tie 'em down here on the edge o' the woods jest as well." And this was done.
"Well, we may as well store the machine here for the present," said Dick. "We'll have to get some piano wire for those broken poles."
"Aren't you going to try to take it home?" asked Tom, in surprise.
"What's the use? This is a good field to fly from. We can mend the Dartaway here and then, if Captain Colby is willing, he can sail her from here to our farm."
A big wagon shed was cleaned out, and John Snubble and his sons aided the others in rolling the biplane under the roof. Some old blankets were thrown over the engine.
"Do you think she'd be safe here?" whispered Dick, to Peter Marley.
"She will be so far as Snubble is concerned," said the farmer. "He'll leave her alone, an' so will his sons. But some outsider may come an' fool with her."
"Well, we've got to take that chance," returned the eldest Rover boy. "We won't leave the biplane here any longer than necessary."
It was not until nearly supper time that the boys got back to Rayville. Here Peter Marley was paid for what he had done, and then the youths lost no time in running out their automobile and going home.
The next day they telegraphed to the aviator who was to give them lessons in sailing the Dartaway, and he came as soon as he could. He listened with much interest to what the lads had to tell him.
"Well, it was certainly a great try-out!" he declared. "It proves that the Dartaway is a well-balanced machine, and that means much."
He had brought with him the necessary wire for repairs, and soon all were on the way to the Snubble farm, taking a road that would land them directly at the door.
"Glad you come!" cried John Snubble on seeing the boys. "Going to take the machine right away, ain't you?"
"We hope to," answered Dick. "Why?" For he saw that the farmer had something on his mind.
"Might have been burnt up last night, that's why."
"Burnt up!" cried Tom. "How?"
"Heard a noise outside about eleven o'clock—my wife did, she ain't well an' don't sleep good. I came down with my shotgun, thinkin' chicken thieves might be around. I heard somebuddy at the flyin' machine and sneaked up to see who it was. Hang my skin if a young feller wasn't there with a lighted candle an' some loose hay, and wantin' to start a fire close to the gasoline tank! I gave a yell, an' he dropped the candle and legged it for dear life."
"Why didn't you stop him, or shoot him?" queried Sam.
"I was too excited, fer the candle dropped into the hay an' it begun to blaze up. I stamped the fire out, an' by that time the feller was out o' sight."
"He must have wanted to blow the biplane up!" exclaimed Captain Colby.
"He sure did, an' he might have burnt up the shed an' the barn, an' the house, too!" added John Snubble.