Part 2 out of 4
ribs of the Andes lay like silver in its light. Strain his eyes as
he might, there was no indication of the Nelson.
"Fine view!" Ned said, presently, giving Collins a nudge in the ribs
with his elbow. "How do you like it?"
Thomas Q. Collins was near bursting with rage. He hitched about in
his seat, but to no purpose.
"What does this mean?" he finally found words to say, screaming at
the top of his voice, for the Vixen was now making good speed.
"I preferred to be the host rather than the guest," the boy said,
with a shrug of the shoulders.
"I don't know what you mean by that," Collins replied.
"You meant to capture me tonight?" asked Ned.
"Nothing of the kind!" roared Collins.
"You got Leroy and Mike in jail, and you thought you'd burst up this
relief expedition by putting me out of the way," Ned went on. "Now,
we'll see who'll be put out of the way."
"What are you here for?" asked Collins.
"You know very well," replied Ned. "But it is too much exertion to
talk at this speed. Wait until we land and I'll tell you all about
your intentions! Understand? All about your intentions."
"Much you know about them," shrieked Collins.
Ned made no reply to this, for, away off to the southeast, he caught
sight of the dipping lights of an airship which might or might not
be the Nelson.
THE BLACK BEAR IN TROUBLE
One still night on the Amazon Jack Bosworth got out a map and turned
a flashlight on it. Frank and Harry stood looking over his
"Right here," Jack said, presently, "is where we leave the main
stream of the Amazon and take to the Madeira."
"How do you know that stream is the Madeira?" asked Frank. "We have
passed so many large tributaries that I'm all mixed up."
"And why not try some other stream?" Harry questioned. "I've heard
that the Madeira is full of falls and rapids."
"Anyway," Jack insisted, "it takes us away up into the Andes, almost
to Lake Titicaca, and that's all any stream will do. As for the
falls and rapids, do you expect any stream to creep down from that
great plateau without jumping off occasionally?"
"All right," Frank cut in. "Go your own way to destruction! But
how do you know that rippling sheet of water off there," swinging an
arm to the south, "is the Madeira river? It looks like a lake to
"I found out while you were asleep this morning," Jack replied. "A
chap came along in a launch and I asked him all about it. He said
he had just come from the Andes, and advised me to turn back."
"Kind-hearted little fellow, eh?" laughed Harry.
"He wasn't very little," answered Jack. "He was six feet two, and
was coming out with a finger off and a cut across a cheek bone which
will last him for a spell, I guess. He cut his finger off because a
poisoned arrow struck it."
"Cannibals?" asked Harry, with a laugh.
"The same," replied Jack. "Said they chased him for miles."
"We'll curb their appetites with lead," Harry observed.
"If we see them first," added Jack.
So the Black Bear was turned into the Madeira river, which is
something like seven hundred miles long, and drains the wooded
country where the black sheep of the land of Brazil live. Away up
in the hills it is fed by the Beni river, which has its source in
the mountains east of Lake Titicaca.
More than once the boys were obliged to haul their motor boat out
on a rocky "bench," take it to pieces, carry it and most of the
stock around rapids, and then put it together and load up again.
Still, they made good time, and on the evening of the third day
found themselves at the junction with the Beni river.
They were now in a wild and dangerous country. The forests swarmed
with wild game, the thickets were full of serpents, and the trees
were often crowded with monkeys. For two days they had seen no
natives. This was suspicious as it was certain that they had
penetrated to the home of the cannibal tribes so greatly dreaded by
hunters and explorers.
It was on the evening of the 21st of August that Jack sent the Black
Bear into a little creek, shut off the power, and turned to put up
the panels. It was not very warm, but the atmosphere was sticky and
heavy with the breath of the woods.
"We'll smother in there tonight," Frank said, observing the actions
of the other. "Why not leave some of 'em out?"
"If you want a poisoned arrow nestling in your ribs you can sleep
outside," Jack answered. "For my part, I want to wake up in this
good old world in the morning."
"I don't think there's any danger yet," Frank said.
But the panels were put up and supper prepared. By this time the
lads had become accustomed to preparing their own meals, as well as
providing the fish from the river, and the repast was soon over.
Then Jack lay back and gazed through the one glass panel of the top
of the Black Bear.
It was a dark, lowering night. The wind is usually from the east in
that part of Brazil. Blowing over the Atlantic it gathers up
moisture to dump on the eastern slope of the Andes. The summits
drain the clouds and makes Peru a dry country. It was murky now,
and the clouds hung low.
"What do you see up there, Jack?" asked Frank. "Trying to study
astronomy, with not a star in sight?"
"There you are wrong," Jack replied. "There is at least one star in
"With that mass of clouds drifting over the sky?" laughed Harry. "I
reckon you must be seeing things not present to the senses!"
"Come and look, then," Jack invited. "Look straight up, and you'll
see a star."
Frank placed himself under the glass panel and looked up.
"Well?" Jack demanded, in a tone of triumph.
"It's something," Frank exclaimed, "but I don't believe it is a
"It may be a reflector at the top of the Flatiron building," grinned
Jack. "What is it, if it isn't a star?"
"Look yourself!" cried Frank.
The boys were all looking now. They saw the light which Jack had
mistaken for a star flashing to and fro under the clouds like a
firefly. It rushed earthward with amazing speed for an instant,
then spiraled upward again. Once it came directly over the Black
Bear, and seemed about to drop down.
Jack threw a couple of panels open, and then the whirr of motors
reached their ears. Frank sprang outside and turned a flashlight
"There's your star!" he shouted to Jack.
"Quick!" Harry cried. "Wigwag with that light. It is the Nelson!
They may be able to see us!"
"Yell, every soul of you!" directed Frank. "Yell! She is going
The boys waved their lights frantically and shouted at the top of
their voices, but the light in the sky crept away to the west and
soon disappeared, evidently passing above the clouds which lay like
a black blanket over the Brazilian forests.
"Great heavens!" Jack sighed. "If we could only have made them
hear! I'll bet they've been to Paraguay and released Lyman. Now
they're going back home! Fine show we now stand of having any fun
"They went west," Harry corrected. "That isn't the way home!"
"I'd like to know just what success they have had," Jack went on.
"Say," he continued, "can't we do something to attract their
attention? Why not set fire to some big dry tree and let her blaze
"I just can't have it this way!" Harry said. "I can't stand it to
have them come so close to us and then go away without knowing we
are here. We've got to bring them down in some way."
"But they've gone!" Frank declared, gravely.
"If we make a big blaze," Jack hastened to say, "the reflection on
the clouds will attract their attention, and they'll come back.
They won't be able to see the fire itself, of course, but they'll
see the reflection, and that will bring them down to investigate.
Then we'll fire our revolvers and wigwag with blazing sticks until
they see who we are."
"It may not be the Nelson," Harry suggested.
"I don't believe there's any other aeroplane sailing about the roof
of the world," Frank replied. "Of course it is the Nelson!"
"Perhaps the Nelson was followed," Harry went on. "I've heard of
such things. The chap in that machine may be looking for Ned.
Anyway," he added, "it won't do any harm to let the aviator, whoever
he is, know that we are here. Come on, let's go ashore and build a
"I certainly would give a year's growth to know whether that is the
Nelson," Harry said, as the boys sought the shore and began
gathering dry wood, which, it may be well to add, was not easy to
find, as there had been quite a shower during the day. "For all we
know," he continued, "there may be another aeroplane here. If the
people who are trying for the Lyman concession are as active here as
they seem to have been in Paraguay, they may have half a dozen
airships out after the Nelson."
Finally a quantity of wood which was fairly dry was secured, and
Jack bundled it up against a dead tree which seemed to run straight
up into the sky until it touched the clouds. But when the boys came
to apply matches they discovered that the wood was not dry enough to
be ignited in that way.
"I'll get a gallon of gasoline and pour over it," Frank explained.
"Then we can run like blazes when we touch her off. What?"
The gasoline was brought, and the blaze started with a mighty
concussion of the air. A portion of the highly inflammable fluid
had entered a great crevice in the dead tree, with the result that
there was an explosion which resounded through the forests for
miles. Then the flames mounted the tree, which was soon blazing
like a great torch.
"I guess that will attract their attention!" Jack said, shielding
his face from the intense heat.
"Yes," Frank replied, "and I'm afraid it will attract the attention
of others, too. You know we were told to sneak through this country
like little mice!"
"It is too late now!" Jack said, a shadow of anxiety coming over his
face. "We are in for it, I guess. What shall we do?"
Above the crackling of the flames, above the drawing and sighing of
the wind, there now came a strange sound which seemed to proceed
from the fire-tinted clouds above. Now and then branches of the
nearby trees stirred mysteriously, and at times a wild shriek rose
above the monotonous chattering.
"Monkeys!" cried Jack. "They've come out to help us bring the
airship to earth. Good little beasts!"
"Don't be in too much of a hurry to give the little devils a
certificate of good character!" Harry answered. "They may make
trouble for us."
After a time the foolish, wrinkled faces of the monkeys were seen
peering from trees. Then, above the din they made, above the
crackling of the fire, constantly mounting higher, came a scream
almost like that of a child.
"That's a jaguar!" Harry declared, "a South American tiger, and we'd
better be getting toward the boat."
"The animals won't come near the fire," Frank said. "We may as well
remain here and see the menagerie."
Directly it seemed to the excited lads that all the wild animals in
South America were assembled about their signal. Harry declared
that he heard the call of the red wolf, the scream of the tiger cat,
the wail of the puma, the vicious snarling of the wild dog.
While the boys listened to the chorus their efforts to attract the
attention of the aeroplane had produced, there came into the discord
another sound--the hissing of a monster serpent. Heretofore the
boys had little to do with Brazilian forms of animal life, for they
had kept near the middle of the main stream of the Amazon, and also
about in the center of the Madeira and the much smaller Beni, which
was only a creek when compared with the other rivers.
Occasionally they had seen a monster cayman nosing against the
current, and at times their progress had been retarded by turtles,
but they had never before seen anything like this. Their fire had
certainly brought out a combination in nature which would have been
decidedly interesting if it hadn't been so threatening.
"Me for the boat!" Jack said, with a shiver, as the serpent launched
his head and a third of his body from the tree and swept about in
widening circles. "I never could endure snakes!"
"I'm going to take a shot at it," Frank said. "I'd like to see him
take a tumble into the fire."
"Better let him alone," Harry advised.
Frank was about to fire when Jack caught his arm and held up his
hand in a listening attitude.
"What is it?" Frank asked.
"Human voices!" was the quick reply.
"Inhuman voices, I should say," Harry observed, after a second of
A chant unlike anything the boys had ever heard before undulated
through the forest. It rose and fell with the gusts of wind, and
always nearer to the fire.
"This is a new one on me!" Jack cried. "It is also another reason
for getting to the boat! Come on, fellows!"
"I'm not going to run until I find out what that is," insisted
Frank. "I'm going to write a newspaper story about this menagerie!"
"If you want your story published in this world," Jack cried, "you'd
better get under cover, for that's the chant of the head hunters!"
"Wow!" cried Frank, and he beat both his chums to the boat.
"I guess we've started something!" Jack said, as he busied himself
putting up the few panels which had been removed when they went
ashore. "Now, some one push that button, and I'll get the Black
Bear out of this creek. A good old scout like the Black Bear has no
business associating with the wild animals on shore."
"Right you are!" shouted Harry, and the propellers began moving.
Still, the boat made no progress to the rear, the reverse being on.
"What's doing?" demanded Jack. "You'd better hurry, for the head
hunters are coming right along. See that big chief over there?
He's got a club that would level the Singer building at a blow!"
"I can't make her back," Harry complained. "There's something the
matter below her in the stream. It was all clear when we came in."
In an instant all was intense excitement on board the motor boat.
There was only one way in which the savages could reach them, and
that was to block their passage out and starve them to death! Had
this system been resorted to? Had the cunning savages obstructed
the little stream while the lads were busy building their fire and
observing their menagerie, as they called it?
These questions were in the minds of all as efforts to back the
Black Bear were redoubled. Finally Jack opened a panel at the rear
and looked out, a thing he should have done at first.
What he saw was a large log blocking the channel. The propellers
were pounding against it, and one of them was broken.
"I guess the little brown men have got us good and plenty," he said,
slowly, as he reached forward and shut off the power. "While we
were playing about the blaze they plugged the river."
"They can't get in here, anyway!" Frank consoled.
"No; they'll wait for us to get good and hungry and go out!" Jack
The situation was a serious one. The head hunters now appeared in
the open space about the blazing tree and shook their spears and
their clubs at the boat. Now and then an arrow with a poisoned tip
struck the side of the Black Bear.
"They'll never leave until they get us!" Jack said, presently, "and
so we may as well get a few of them. Get your guns, boys."
"Just you wait, old hard luck prophet," Frank exclaimed. "Look up
through the glass panel above your head and tell me what you see."
"Well," Jack replied, "it looks like we had established
communication with the Nelson at last. And also with the Greatest
Show on Earth!" he added, as a mighty roar went up from the shore.
The other boys crowded the panel and looked out. The clouds above
were red with the reflection of the blazing tree, yet against the
mass a different light blazed out. This light moved about, from
north to south and back again, as if searching out the reason for
the strange happenings below.
The popping of her motors could be plainly heard, and so it was
probable that those on the airship could hear the wild animal
concert which was going on in the woods. Harry pushed a panel aside
and fired three quick shots. The aeroplane wavered above the river
a moment and then drifted away.
"They must know there's somebody down here in trouble!" said Harry.
"Why don't they throw down dynamite? That would give the savages
all the heads they wanted for a time, I guess."
The boys fired again and again, flashed their lights in wigwag
signals, but the aeroplane did not come nearer. Instead it whirled
swiftly about in a circle for a moment and then shot out of sight
beyond the clouds.
And every moment the circle of savage faces gathered closer about
the Black Bear, effectively blocked in the narrow stream.
THE VIXEN TAKES A TUMBLE
While Ned, from the driver's seat on the aeroplane he had so
cleverly taken from the enemy, watched the distant light flashing
over the mountains, the bulk of an airship came into view. While
the boy was cheering himself with the hope that he would soon be in
touch with Jimmie, however, the light disappeared, and the dark body
of the machine was no longer visible.
"There's been an accident!" Collins muttered maliciously, in Ned's
ear. "That little chap can't run an aeroplane!"
"What is there over in that direction?" Ned asked, without replying
to the other's suggestion of evil. "Can one land there?"
"Not in the night," was the sullen reply. "Unless you want to
commit suicide and murder me in the bargain, you'd better keep in
"What's over there?" repeated Ned.
"Mountains," was the surly reply.
Ned pointed to a dark stretch below.
"That must be a valley," he said. "Anyway," he went on, "I'm going
down, and if we come to a point where it is jump or go down with the
machine, I'll cut you loose, so you'll have the same chance for your
worthless life that I do. That's more than you would do for me
under the circumstances!"
Ned guided the Vixen to, as near as he could make out, the location
of the other airship at the time of her disappearance and dropped
down. As he swept toward the earth the peaks of the Andes rose
Down, down, down he dropped, looking out keenly for trees and jagged
rocks. At last he saw a level stretch of land just below. The
rains had carried sand and ruble down from the mountains and filled
a valley perhaps three hundred feet in diameter with the wash of the
slopes. This formed what seemed to be a pretty good landing spot,
and Ned managed to bring the rubber-tired wheels of the airship down
Then, rolling swiftly under the impetus given by the now shut-off
motors, the wheels carried the bulk of the ship along for some
distance and dropped. Ned felt himself falling.
Thomas Q. Collins cried out in fright, and tried to kick himself
free from the harness, but the leather straps held. When the drop
ended there was, a jar and a crash, and the planes lay in a confused
heap in the bottom of a depression well stocked as to floor and
sides with jagged rocks.
In descending, the dragging propellers had loosened some of the
rocks, and they, rolling down the declivities after the machine, had
fallen upon and crushed the planes. Several great boulders thunked
near Ned's head, and Collins set up a great howl as a small stone
landed on the back of his neck.
Although the stars were shining brightly and the moon was abroad, it
was quite dark down in the hole into which the Vixen had fallen.
Ned could see slanting walls on all sides, and glimpse, above, the
slope of the deceiving level which had first caught the wheels, but
that was about all.
Finding himself uninjured, his first move was to get out his
searchlight and make an inspection of Thomas Q. Collins, who was
roaring like a wounded bull.
"Are you hurt?" the boy asked.
"Hurt!" howled the captive. "My head is broken, and my arms are
smashed! What do you mean by tying me up and then wrecking the
Ned searched the fellow's clothing, removed a revolver and a dagger,
and then snapped off the harness which still held him to the seat.
Collins stretched himself and lunged at the boy.
"Keep away!" warned Ned.
"I'll show you that no Bowery kid can double-cross me!" Collins
screamed, paying no attention to the automatic in Ned's hand. "I'll
The next moment Ned would have fired, with the intention of wounding
the enraged fellow, but a boulder intervened, and Collins went down,
striking his head on a rock. When the boy bent over he found him to
Bringing the leather straps of the harness into use again, Ned bound
the man's hands behind his back, so as to prevent a second attack,
and set out to look for water. He had not long to look, for a tiny
spring bubbled out of the bottom of the pit and found its way toward
the valley below through a crevice in the rock. In a short time
Collins, under the influence of a right cold bath, sat up and
addressed the boy in language which would not have been considered
suitable in the presence of a lady.
"You've done it now!" the alleged steam pump salesman cried.
"You've dumped us into a pit in the heart of the Andes, and we'll
starve before any one comes to our assistance. Take this strap off
my wrists, or I'll have your life!"
"You're an excitable party," Ned laughed. "You want your own way!
I've been wondering, while I've been giving you first aid to the
indignant, what your name really is, and where you live."
"You'd better be trying to ascertain where we are," declared
Collins, "and what chance we have of getting out alive."
"I think I can tell you about where we are," Ned replied. "We were
in the air not far from five hours. The Vixen will run about sixty
miles an hour, therefore we are not fax from three hundred miles
from Lima, in a southeast direction. Do you know if we are near any
Collins sulked a short time and then nodded toward a great peak
which rose above all the others in the distance.
"That may be Vilcanota," he said.
"Old Vilcanota seems to be a whale," Ned observed, looking up at the
"Over 17,000 feet high," was the sullen rejoinder.
"Well," the boy went on, "if that really is Vilcanota, we are still
in the land of the living. In fact, we can't be more than
twenty-five miles from a town, and there is a railroad--so my maps
say--over to the east. It ends at Sicuani, and there the upper
branch of the Uacayli river begins. This river empties into the
Amazon at the head of steamboat navigation, the maps say."
"You seem to know a lot about this part of South America," gritted
"And over to the south," Ned went on, "is Lake Titicaca, and over
the mountains from that body of water is Coroico, where the Beni
river starts on its long run to the Amazon, by way of the Madeira
"Well," snapped Collins, drawing hard at the strap which held his
wrists, "you can't sit here and figure yourself out of this hole.
Why don't you do something?"
"Why, I thought it might be a good plan to wait until dawn," laughed
Ned. "Then I may be able to repair this machine."
"Repair nothing!" stormed Collins. "And in the meantime, I presume
you think you are going to keep me tied up like a calf going to
"About that way," Ned responded, whereat the captive snorted out his
rage and rolled over on his face and pretended to be asleep.
In a short time dawn shone on the tops of the tallest mountains, and
directly it crept slowly down into the pit where the wrecked
aeroplane lay. By this time Ned had mapped out a course of action.
The aeroplane he had seen in the night had descended not far from
this spot, and he had decided to climb to some convenient height and
look about for it. If he could come upon the Nelson, in good
sailing condition, there would be no need of repairing the Vixen, or
trying to do so.
Collins had counterfeited sleep until, utterly exhausted, he had
actually dropped off into slumber, so Ned had no captive to watch
for the time being. Before leaving for a tour of inspection he
examined the broken planes and discovered that it would be
impossible for him to repair them, at least without the necessary
tools and materials.
Climbing to the level bit of sand, then, he faced the east and began
the ascent of a mountain spur which seemed to reach the very
heavens. It was a beautiful morning, the air being sharp and clear
at that height. Ned felt that he could have enjoyed the beauties of
nature more fully, however, if he had something in the way of
He climbed steadily for an hour, and then came to a narrow ledge
which seemed to surround one of the lower peaks of the mountain.
Passing around to the south, he heard a shout, then a fall--a
bumping fall which told of a body bouncing from one rocky level to
He ran around the angle ahead of him and came out on a shelf-like
elevation from which a green little valley, half way up the side of
the mountain, might be seen. In the center of the valley, carefully
blocked against sudden motion, lay the Nelson.
Ned could have danced with delight. The aeroplane appeared to be in
perfect condition, but there was no one insight. Jimmie and Pedro
must be about somewhere, the boy thought, as he considered the most
practical way of reaching the valley, but where were they?
He was about to call out in the hope of arousing one of the aviators
to action when he saw a hand waving at him from underneath the gray
planes. A more careful inspection of the spot revealed the dirty
face of little Jimmie, who was lying on his face, an automatic in
each hand. Pedro was nowhere to be seen.
Ned watched the signaling hand for an instant and then, in response
to what it said to him, scudded around the angle of rock by which he
had reached the shelf. As he did so an arrow whizzed past his right
ear and blunted against the rocky wall.
The situation was not difficult to understand. Jimmie had dropped
the Nelson into the little valley and had there been attacked,
either by savages or those interested in the defeat of the Boy Scout
expedition to Paraguay, though how the latter could have reached
that lonely spot so soon after the landing of the aeroplane was a
mystery which the boy could not fathom.
Following the attack, Jimmie had hidden under the planes, and Pedro
had probably taken to his heels. The situation explained,
doubtless, why the boy had not returned with the airship. He had
been held there by the enemies, virtually a prisoner.
After a short pause, during which Ned listened intently for some
sound of pursuit, the boy moved cautiously to the shoulder of rock
and looked around it to the shelf. There was no one in sight, so
he pressed on, and once more came within view of the aeroplane.
Back of the planes he saw a head lifted from the lip of a gully
which cut the valley like a trench. It was not the head of a
savage, nor yet the head of a Peruvian mountaineer, for it was
covered down to the eyebrows by a flat-topped leather automobile cap
which was adorned with driving goggles! Evidently an American!
While Ned, himself unseen, watched the cap and the goggles, the
wearer lifted himself and looked up over the edge of the gully. He
wore a gray suit, tailor-made, from all appearances.
Back of him three ill-visaged Peruvian Indians also raised
themselves to get a view of what was doing in front.
So the savages were led by an American! Instead of the automatic of
civilized warfare, the enemy was resorting to the poisoned arrow of
An American there and in automobile costume! Where was the machine,
and how in the name of all that was wonderful had it been brought to
that rough country?
And why were the enemies crouching there, when their only opponent
was a boy, hidden if his position may be so termed--under the planes
of an airship--planes which would offer little resistance to an
arrow or a bullet?
But while the boy looked and wondered a shot came from the very
shelf on which he stood, and one of the exposed Indians dropped in
his tracks. Then the situation became a bit clearer.
Pedro had escaped from the valley to the shelf of rock, and was
standing guard there shooting whenever the attacking party attempted
to reach the aeroplane.
In a moment the automobile cap and goggle and the evil faces of the
Indians disappeared from view. The attacking party had dropped back
into the gully, which was some distance from the machine.
Waiting a moment, in order to make sure that no one was stirring
behind the shoulder of rock, Ned called softly:
"Hello!" came the answer back.
"'Where are you?" asked Ned, recognizing the voice of the Peruvian
he had talked with at Lima.
"In a notch of the rock," came the answer, in Spanish.
Ned moved along the shelf, and soon came to where Pedro stood,
sheltered by a jutting ledge. The journey was not accomplished
without attracting the attention of the others, for an arrow whizzed
past his head as he crept into the angle with Pedro.
Pedro expressed great joy at the arrival of the boy, and explained
that the situation as then shown had existed since dawn. On the
afternoon of the previous day Jimmie, being then about to return to
Lima, had found it necessary to land in order to repair a slight
break in a plane.
The driver of the pursuing Vixen, noting the temporary disablement,
had circled around the valley for a short time and then returned to
Lima. It was Pedro's idea that the Vixen would not return with
assistance, but with enemies who would destroy the machine, leaving
Jimmie and himself to find their way out of the mountains as best
Jimmie, Pedro said, had been unable to fix the Nelson for flight
until about daylight, and then the attacking party had appeared.
Since then it had been impossible to get the machine into the air,
as every motion at the airship brought a bullet or a poisoned arrow.
Just before Ned's arrival, an Indian had, by making a long journey
around the cliff, gained the shelf of rock where Pedro was
stationed, and been caught unawares and thrown down into the valley.
It was the cry and the fall of this foe that Ned had heard.
"But," Ned said, "the Vixen must have summoned some one active in
the conspiracy before returning to Lima, for the man over there came
in an automobile, and did not come very far either. He certainly
did not come from Lima, which is more than three hundred miles
"He might have come from Sicuani," replied Pedro. "That is over to
the east, and not more than twenty miles off. I have heard that
there is a path by means of which a motor car can reach this place.
Yes, he must have gone to Sicuani, otherwise this man of the motor
car would not be here," Pedro added.
This cleared the situation not a little, and Ned was now encouraged
to make an attempt to reach the Nelson, which Pedro declared to be
in good condition for flight. If the others had come in an
automobile, there could not be many of them. Probably not more than
six in all, and two had been wounded, or killed.
Pedro insisted that, with Ned guarding him from the shelf, he could
reach the machine, but the boy thought it wiser to make the
desperate journey himself. Even if the Indian reached the Nelson,
the two of them might not be able to get the machine into the air,
as Jimmie had had little experience in running a plane.
So, after explaining to Pedro that he would be taken up later, Ned
began the task of making his way down the almost perpendicular face
of the cliff. Much to his surprise, there were no hostile
demonstrations from the gully in which the attackers had disappeared
a short time before.
Instead of shots and the whiz of arrows, the boy heard, when half
way down the slope, the distant whirr of a motor car!
"There is some trick in the wind," Ned thought. "They would never
run away in that manner because of the wounding of two Indians and
the arrival of one boy from the outside."
It was deathly still in the valley where the aeroplane lay. Sounds
from a distance came with remarkable distinctness, so the popping of
the motors of the automobile were plainly heard, and the direction
taken by the machine was thus made known.
Jimmie sprang up, uninjured, as Ned advanced and the two grasped
hands with more than ordinary feeling. Almost the first thing
Jimmie said was:
"I saw the lights of the Vixen last night, but thought the other
fellows would be in charge of her. How did you manage to geezle
"We stole her--and smashed her." Ned laughed, telling the remainder
of the story in as few words as possible.
Presently Pedro came down from the cliff and went over to the place
where the man he had thrown down the declivity had fallen. He found
him quite dead. With a solemn shake of the head he laid the body in
a sheltered nook and joined the others.
It took only a brief examination of the machine to show that she was
in as good condition as ever, and Ned prepared to mount and leave
the valley. Then the popping of additional motors broke out on the
still air, and Jimmie grinned.
"I guess you didn't smash the Vixen much," he said. "Anyway that
man in the motor car seems to have repaired her broken wings.
Probably had the tools to do it with him. They've got some dirty
"Yes," Ned replied, grimly, "or they wouldn't have left the gully.
Collins will be on deck again in about a minute!"
A TRAGEDY IN THE AIR
"Then we'd better be gettin' up in the air, so we can see what's
going on," Jimmie replied. "I'd like to see where the motor car
"We can satisfy our curiosity on that point without going up in the
air," Ned answered. "The Vixen was left just over that cliff.
There is a valley--a dent in the slope of the mountain--on each side
of that elevation, and the Vixen and the motor car are in one of
them and the Nelson in the other."
Jimmie started away on a run almost before Ned had finished
speaking. In a few moments he was seen on the shelf, then he darted
around the shoulder of rock and was lost to view. The popping of
the motors continued.
Ned hesitated a moment, uncertain as to the advisability of leaving
the machine in the sole care of the Indian, and then followed. When
he gained the shelf on the opposite side he saw the Vixen slowly
lifting in the air. The automobile stood above her, on the level
yet treacherous spot where Ned had landed. In it were Thomas Q.
Collins and the man he had seen in the automobile cap and goggles!
The Vixen did not look to be in good repair, just as Ned had
supposed, for the newcomer had had only a short time to work over
her, but for all that she was slowly leaving the narrow pit into
which she had tumbled. Her motors were working, but did not appear
to be doing any lifting.
Then Ned saw that a rope attached to the machine was doing the work.
The motor car, moving very slowly forward, was pulling her up the
steep acclivity, her rubber-tired wheels drawing and bounding
against the rocks.
"If they get her up on that level space," Jimmie predicted, "they'll
get her up in the air. You can see where they've been patching the
planes, and the motors are workin' all right."
"What I'm interested in, just now," Ned said, "is that automobile.
I'd like to find the highway through which she entered that valley.
It must be through some tunnel, for there's no path over the
"Then we'll keep out of sight an' watch," Jimmie observed. "See
there!" he cried, as the wheels of the Vixen struck the level area.
"She'll be in the air directly. One of the niggers is gettin' in!"
"What's that he's loading on?" asked Ned.
"Stones, as I'm a living boy!" he went on, excitedly. "Jump for the
Nelson, kid, and get her into the air! You see what they are going
It was quite evident what the intentions of the others were. The
Indians were loading the Vixen down with sharp-pointed stones and
long wisps of dry grass; out from the nooks of the valley by
Collins, who had now left the automobile.
"We've just got to get the Nelson up in the air!" Jimmie cried.
"They're gettin' ready to drop stones an' blazin' grass down on her
planes. We've just got to get there before the Vixen sails over
Stopping no longer to observe the motor car, or watch her course out
of the valley, both boys dashed around the shoulder of rock and
began working their way down into the place where the Nelson lay,
with Pedro, all unconscious of the approaching danger, sitting in
the driver's seat and wondering if he was ever going to eat again!
The whirr of the motors in the air soon told the sweating lads that
the Vixen was rising from the ground. Just how they had managed to
repair her so quickly was a wonder to Ned, but he had no time to
consider that side of the case then.
"Do you see her yet?" panted Jimmie, as the two paused a moment on
their toilsome way downwards.
"Not yet," was the reply, and Ned almost dropped a dozen feet and
caught on the point of a rock which jutted out from the wall.
"Gee!" cried Jimmie. "That was a tumble! Got a good hold, there?
Then catch me!"
Before Ned could remonstrate the reckless little fellow had dropped.
The impact of his body forced Ned from the crevice in which he
clung, and together they rolled down a score of feet, bringing up in
an angle from which a fall would have been fatal.
Ned came out of the tumble unharmed, but Jimmie lay like a rag in
his arms as he straightened out and looked upward. The Vixen was
rising over the cliff!
Ned drew his automatic and fired three quick shots in the air, but
the aeroplane sailed on, apparently unharmed. In a moment she was
directly above the Nelson, and Pedro was fleeing for his life.
Standing there helpless, with the unconscious boy in his arms, Ned
saw the driver of the Vixen rain great stones down on the frail
planes of the Nelson. Then a puff of smoke came from the driver's
seat, and Ned saw that the wisps of straw were being ignited to
finish the work begun by the rocks.
He fired volley after volley at the man who was doing the mischief,
but he was so unnerved and excited that his bullets went wild. The
crash of stones on the breaking planes sounded louder to him than
did the explosions of his own revolver.
In a moment a blazing wisp of dry grass, or straw, dropped from the
Vixen and sifted through the still air, the individual pieces of the
bundle falling apart. Some of the little swirls of flame died out
as the material passed downward, but others held, and dropped on the
Ned shouted to Pedro, ordering him to smother else incipient blaze
with his coat, or anything the he could find, but the Peruvian was
nowhere to be seen. Terrified at the movements of the aeroplane, he
had hidden in the rocks.
Again and again the man on the Vixen lighted wisps of dry grass and
hurled them down. Directly the planes were in a blaze. Ned laid
Jimmie down on a narrow ledge and finished emptying his revolver,
but to no purpose. He had never done such bad shooting in his life.
But Fate was abroad in the Andes that morning!
Presently the driver of the Vixen dropped his last wisp and shot
upward, apparently not caring to engage in combat with the boy who
had used him for a target so unsuccessfully.
As the aeroplane passed across the top of the valley, Ned saw a
little tongue of flame on the under plane. The driver evidently did
not understand his peril, for he mounted higher and drove straight
to the north.
Ned watched the finger of flame grow as it bit into the fine fabric
of the plane with something like awe in his heart. If the driver
did not see his danger instantly and hasten down, nothing could save
While the boy watched, almost breathlessly, Jimmie stirred and
opened his eyes. He had a bad cut on his forehead, but otherwise
seemed to have suffered little from his terrible fall.
"Gee!" he cried, looking up at Ned with a grin. "I guess I took a
drop too much!"
Ned did not answer. He was too busy watching the tragedy which was
taking place in the air. Jimmie followed the direction of his eyes
and caught his breath with a gasp of horror.
"He'll burn up!" he cried.
Both planes were now on fire, and the driver knew of his peril. It
seemed to Ned that the fellow's clothes were on fire, too, for he
writhed and twisted about as he turned the aeroplane downward.
"He'll get his'n!" Jimmie declared.
The Vixen came down almost like a shot, leaving a trail of flame and
smoke behind her. Then the end came.
The charred planes gave way and the frame dropped, carrying the
driver with it. They whirled over and over in the air as they came
down. The fall must have been fully five hundred feet, and Ned knew
that it would be useless for him to seek the man who had worked so
much mischief to the Nelson with a view of doing him any service.
Below, the Nelson was sending up sheets of flame. Pedro now ran out
of his hiding place and attempted to check the fire, but his efforts
"It is gone, all right!" Jimmie said, with a sigh. "Now, how are we
goin' to get out of here? That's what I'd like to know."
"We'll have to get out the same way the others do," Ned replied.
"They have lost their aeroplane too."
"Yes," agreed the little fellow, "but they have a motor car, and
we've only our shanks' horses!"
Ned extinguished the burning woodwork on the Nelson and made a hasty
estimate of the damage done.
"The motors are not injured," he reported. "If we can get something
that will do for planes, we can get her out."
"Then," said Jimmie, "I reckon it's me for the highway! I'll chase
that automobile into where it came from. I'll bet I'll find cloth
of some kind there."
"It might be better to send Pedro," said Ned.
"All right!" the little fellow agreed. "Then you and I can sleuth
about this rotten country in search of gold! They say there's gold
in these hills!"
The purr of the motor car's engines now came again, and Pedro
hastened up the ledge and followed down into the valley where she
lay. In a moment she was out of sight, and the Peruvian was moving
toward a rift in the wall of rock to the east.
But Ned, watching from above, saw that there was only one person in
the car. Mr. Thomas Q. Collins had been left behind!
"That's strange!" Ned mused. "Why should he remain here? What
further mischief has the fellow in mind?"
When Ned returned to the machine he found Jimmie busy polishing the
scorched steel work.
"All she needs is new planes!" the lad cried.
"Jimmie," Ned asked, "when you came here yesterday, did the Vixen
follow you closely, or did she stand off and on, as seamen say, and
take note of your course indifferently? What I want to know is
this: Did the driver seem anyway excited when you speeded over this
"He followed tight to my heels," replied the little fellow. "Then,
when he saw me land, he whirled about and went away."
An idea which seemed almost too good to be true was slowly forming
in Ned's brain. Why had the Vixen always followed the Nelson? Why
had she spied upon her without in any way interfering?
Again, why had Thomas Q. Collins been left there in the wilderness?
Surely there were no accommodations in sight in those valleys--nothing
to subsist on, no shelter from the weather.
He might, it is true, have remained out of a spirit of revenge,
hoping to punish Ned for his treatment of him, but this explanation
did not appeal to the boy. With the Nelson hopelessly out of
repair, he could well afford to leave the lads to their fate, as the
chances that they would be able to get out alive--being strangers to
that country and, supposedly, to mountain work--were about one to
And so, Ned reasoned, there must be some other incentive for the
action taken by Collins. He had a subconscious impression that he
knew what that incentive was, but hardly dared to whisper it to
The boy's reverie was interrupted by Jimmie, who had been running
back and forth in the valley in quest of wild berries, or something
which would serve as food.
"I could eat a whale!" the little fellow shouted.
"Catch a hare and cook him," Ned suggested.
"The hares here are not exactly like our rabbits, but they are good
to eat. If you go over into the little jungle below, at the end of
this bowl, you might find one."
Ned, still wondering if what he hoped might be true, turned to the
cliff which separated the two valleys and began a careful inspection
of the rock formation. Away around to the east, under the shelf
which ran like a terrace around the elevation, he came upon what he
was looking for.
The shelf extended outward from the face of the rock, and under it,
setting back into the cliff perhaps a dozen feet, was a cavern which
looked out on the valley where the Nelson lay, but from which the
machine itself was not in sight.
The floor of the cavern showed traces of human habitation. It had
undoubtedly been occupied as a shelter from storms by mountaineers
But the evidences of occupation which Ned saw were not those showing
distant use. There was a tiny fire burning in a crevice which
served as a chimney, carrying the smoke far up into the sky before
Scattered about the fire were tin cans, some empty, some containing
food of various kinds. Thrown over a heap of broken boxes in a
corner was a coat--a tailor-made coat of fine material.
On a little ledge at the rear were a safety razor, a small mirror,
and a shaving mug. Ned picked up the coat and thrust a hand into an
inside pocket. That, he thought, would be an easy way to ascertain
the identity of the owner.
In a moment he drew forth a folded paper, covered with figures in
pencil. The figures were in columns, as if the maker had been
setting down items of expense and adding them up. The total was in
the millions. The calculations of a cattleman, covering shipments
Ned continued his search of the coat and presently came upon a
packet of letters, all enclosed in envelopes and neatly ticketed on
the back. They were enclosed in a rubber band, and showed careful
And the envelopes, every one of them, were addressed to Dr. Horace
M. Lyman, Asuncion, Paraguay!
DINNER IS SERVED
Ned stepped to the mouth of the cavern and looked out. Jimmie was
making his way back to the machine, empty handed and evidently
dejected. Ned gave a sharp whistle and beckoned to the lad when he
He did not care to make any unnecessary noise there, for he believed
that Collins was not far away.
He was now half convinced that Lyman had been secreted in that
vicinity after being abducted from Paraguay; that he had been
closely guarded and comfortably provided for, the idea being to keep
him out of Paraguay until his concession reverted to the government.
It was his notion, too, that Lyman had inhabited this cavern until
the appearance of the Nelson, when he had been removed by his
attendants and placed in custody in some other natural hiding place.
Whether he was still in that locality the boy could not say, but of
one thing he was certain. That was that Lyman had not been taken
away in the motor car.
And so the quest had been shifted! There would now be no need of
proceeding to Asuncion. Probably to prevent getting mixed up in the
crooked game, the plotters in Paraguay had ordered those interested
in the disappearance of Lyman to get him out of the alleged
This would account for his being in the mountains of Peru. It might
also account for the presence in Lima of the Vixen and Mr. Thomas Q.
The telegrams without meaning which Ned had received on his arrival
at Lima pointed out the fact that the conspirators knew that the
Nelson was heading for that city as a base of operations. Ned's
receipting for the telegrams was proof positive that he had arrived.
"A very pretty plot!" Ned thought, as he waited for Jimmie to make
his way up the face of the cliff to the mouth of the cavern.
"Gee!" the little fellow cried, as his head showed above the level
of the floor of the hiding place. "I never was so hungry in me
Ned backed up so as to conceal the tinned food.
"What will you give for a couple of tins of pork and beans?" he
asked, with a provoking smile.
"I'll sign a check for any amount!" grinned the boy.
Ned stepped aside, disclosing the food, and handed Jimmie a small
hatchet which he had found under the rubbish.
"Go to it!" he said.
Jimmie almost dropped with amazement. It was like getting water out
of the desert. Like finding milk in the heart of a rock. Like
uncovering snowballs from a bed of hot coals! American tinned goods
in the mountains of Peru!
The boy examined the cans attentively. They were all correct on the
outside. Then he cut one open with the hatchet and brought out a
spoonful of beans on the corner of the implement.
"Wow!" he cried, in a moment. "They're all right! Come on an' fill
Both boys fell to, and the supply of tinned food was considerably
diminished before they had finished their breakfast. Then, fearful
that the owners of the food might seek to remove it before another
meal time came, they carried a considerable portion of the cans away
and hid them in a small cache near the Nelson.
"We won't starve for a few days," Jimmie said, when this work had
"Now, tell me what it all means. I wanted to ask you before, but,
somehow, I couldn't keep my mouth empty long enough to talk. What
"I think," Ned replied, "that we have blundered on the country
residence of Mr. Horace M. Lyman!"
"What does he come up here for?" asked the little fellow. "Ain't he
got no sense?"
"The decision wasn't up to him, I take it," laughed Ned. "The
schemers in that crooked little country wanted to get him out of the
way, so they wouldn't be getting into a quarrel with the little old
U. S. A."
"I don't see him anywhere around," the other said.
"He doesn't seem to be on exhibition, and that's a fact," Ned
"Perhaps," Jimmie grinned, "we'd better look up this Thomas Q.
Collins! I guess, he could lead us to him."
"No doubt of that," Ned admitted.
Having securely hidden the tinned food, the boys still lingered in
the vicinity of the Nelson. The machine lay shining in the
sunlight, seeming to look reproachfully up at the boys, accusing
them of getting her into a very bad predicament.
"Good old girl!" Jimmie cried, stroking the motors. "We'll get you
out of this mix-up, all right!"
"If we do," Ned replied, studying the ground about the machine,
"we'll have to get cover somewhere and watch her night and day."
He pointed to footprints close up to the motors as he spoke, and
Jimmie began measuring the impressions in the soft earth.
"They've been here since we landed, all right," the boy exclaimed,
in a minute. "We never left these tracks. They're big enough for
an elephant to make!"
"They were made by muckers," Ned continued. "You know the kind of
shoes the men who work in mines wear? Big ones, looking more like a
mud scow than a shoe. They have turned some of the copper workers
loose on us, little man."
"Gee! How long will it take Pedro to get back?"
"Probably three days, if he has no bad luck--if they let him come
back at all," Ned answered.
"You can take it from me that they won't let him come back at all if
they have anything to say about it!" the lad muttered. "I reckon
I'll have to go an' find him."
"I think it will take both of us to prevent the Nelson being broken
up," was Ned's reply. "We shall, as I have already said, have to
guard it night and day. And, besides, we've got to keep out of the
way of bullets and poisoned arrows."
"This is a cute little excursion, when you look at it up one side
and down the other," Jimmie grunted. "We've left Leroy in trouble
at Lima, and we've got the Nelson all banged up. Perhaps they'll
hang Leroy before we get back!"
"Cheer up!" laughed Ned. "The worst is yet to come!"
"And here it comes!" cried the little fellow, as a handkerchief
which might once have been white fluttered above a boulder not far
away, held aloft and waved frantically back and forth by a hand
which could only faintly be seen.
"Come on out!" Ned shouted.
A figure lifted from behind the rock and stood straight up, waving a
dilapidated slouch hat, now, instead of a handkerchief. The fellow
wore a suit of clothes which was much too small for him, so that his
wrists and ankles protruded a good six inches. The clothes were
dirty and ragged too, and the man's face looked as if it had been a
long time since it had been brought into contact with water.
At a motion from Ned he advanced toward the machine. Ned thought he
had never seen a sadder face on a human being.
"Looks like Calamity!" Jimmie muttered
"Have you boys got anything to eat?" asked the stranger, rubbing his
palms over the waist band of his ill-fitting trousers.
"You look like you needed something to eat!" Jimmie put in. "How
long you been sleuthin' at us from that rock?"
"Not long," was the reply, in a slow, sober tone. "Just a minute.
I fell down a mountain not so very long ago."
"Then," said Jimmie, pointing to the wound on his head, "you haven't
got anything on me. I'm quite a hand at fallin' down precipices,
"You didn't say if you had anything to eat," insisted the stranger.
"I'm so hungry that I could eat a fried griddle."
"Well," replied Ned, "we're just out of fried griddles, but we've
got a tin of beans we might give you."
"Slave for life if you do!" drawled the other. "I've been wandering
in the mountains for more than a week, and am so empty that it will
require several tins to fill me up, but if one is the limit, why--"
Jimmie uncovered the cache and brought out a can of beans, which he
opened with the hatchet and presented to the other, with a grave
"Dinner is served, me lud!" he said.
The stranger did not wait for formalities. He had no knife, fork,
or spoon, but he managed to remove the beans from the can and convey
them to his mouth without the aid of such artificial aids to the
hungry. He sighed when the can was empty, and wiped his hands on
the grass at his feet.
"How did you get in here?" asked Ned, then, curious to know how any
one could have the nerve to face a mountain journey in the condition
this man was in.
"I came after the mother lode," was the reply.
"Have you got it in your pocket?" asked the little fellow.
"I didn't say I found it," was the grave reply. "I said I came in
here looking for it. There was a party left Sicuani, over to the
east, two weeks ago, and I trailed in behind. You see, I had a fool
idea that these people were on the track of a big gold find, and so
just naturally sneaked along. They had an automobile. I walked.
They had plenty of provisions. I had no one to grub-stake me. They
feasted while I starved, but the way is rough and slow, especially
when tires break, and I managed to keep up with them until two days
ago. Then they got away from me."
"Did you find gold?" asked Ned.
The stranger shook his head.
"Nothing doing!" he said. "I've been grubstaked all over Australia,
and up the Yukon, and over Death Valley, but I have never found a
spot where there's so little gold as there is in these hills."
"So, you are an American tourist?" asked Ned.
"I am," was the grave reply. "I stowed away on a ship bound for
Asuncion and got a job shoveling coal to pay for the rottenest grub
I ever ate. When we got up the river to Asuncion I hired out to a
man to herd cattle. That was worse, only the air was not so
"So you left and went to Sicuani?" asked Ned.
"Exactly, after many days. I liked the cattle business all right,
but I had to move on. Horace M. Lyman is a good chap to--"
"Wait!" Ned said. "It was Horace M. Lyman you worked for, eh?"
"Sure. He's an American, and a fine fellow."
"Well," Jimmie cut in, "you're likely to see him if you stick around
here. They geezled him, so another gazabo could get his
"And marooned him off here? Is that it?" asked the stranger.
"Well, there's a pair of us, then, that don't find anything
nourishing in the scenery. Where is he?"
"We haven't found him yet," Ned answered, "but we're on the trail.
If you had one more can of beans, do you think you could help us
hunt him up?"
"Certainly. Of course. I'll do that without the beans, but--"
"I see," Ned answered. "You haven't the strength, just now, to do
much looking. All right, we'll fat you up, and then--"
Ned did not complete the sentence, for a long, wavering call came
from the west, and the stranger started off in that direction
without a word of explanation. Ned wondered for a moment whether
this fellow wasn't another hypocrite of the Collins stripe.
"Wait a minute!" he exclaimed. "Suppose you tell us something about
"I'm agreeable," replied the other. "Don't you know what that
coo-coo-ee-ee is? Then you've never lived in the cattle country.
That is a cowboy salute, pard, and my private opinion is that Horace
M. Lyman is the party that uttered it."
"Then he's not far away," Jimmie said.
"Suppose I answer him?" asked the stranger.
"Go on an' do it," the little fellow advised, and Ned nodded.
The cod-coo-ee-ee which the ex-cowboy emitted rang through the
valley and came back in weird echoes from the crags around.
"Now he knows there's some one here looking after him," the stranger
explained. "He knows that Old Mose Jackson is right on the job.
What might your name be, pard?" he added, turning to Ned.
"Nestor," was the reply.
"Ned Nestor, of course!" Jackson exclaimed. "I read about you being
in Mexico, and in the Canal Zone. Strange I should bump into you
away off here! And I'll bet this is Jimmie? What?"
"The same!" the little fellow replied. "Ned can't lose me!"
Hardly had the words left the boy's mouth when a bullet came zipping
through the air. It struck a metal section of the Nelson and
"Before now," Jackson said, coolly, "when I've found myself on the
open plain with redskins popping away at me I've dug a hole in the
ground and stowed myself away in it. What do you think of the
"It looks good to me!" Jimmie cried. "But," he went on, "We've got
nothing to dig with, so we'll just have to move back to that gully,
an' take the grub with us."
The change was soon made, the Nelson being run back to the edge of
the trench-like depression, and then the three awaited the next move
on the part of the enemy.
Presently a shout was heard, and then the flashily-dressed figure of
Mr. Thomas Q. Collins appeared on the shelf of rock.
"Don't shoot!" he cried, swinging both hands aloft. "I want to come
down and talk with you."
"There's some trick in that!" Jimmie said.
A STICK OF DYNAMITE
"If we could only get out of this cul-de-sac," Jack said, as the
savages gathered closer about the Black Bear, "and make the Beni
river, we could leave them behind like they were painted on the
"There ought to be some way," Frank mused.
Harry, who had been rummaging in a trunk of clothing and tools which
stood under the bridge which half concealed the motors, now came
forward with a package in his hand.
"What is it?" asked Jack.
"Dynamite!" was the cool reply.
"That ought to induce them to go on about their business--if
properly administered," Jack said. "I didn't know we had any on
"I didn't know what we might come across up here," Harry replied.
"Shall we light a fuse and give one of these persuaders a toss over
into that mess?"
"It would amount to wholesale murder," Frank replied.
Harry's face hardened as he held up a hand for silence. The howling on the
banks of the little stream was now almost deafening, and every second there
came the thunk of arrows against the boat.
"You see what they would do to us," he said.
"Yes, I know," Jack said, "but we are supposed to be civilized! It
would be a wicked thing to do, to murder fifty or a hundred of those
savages. Suppose we toss a stick where it will do little damage and
still attract their attention from the boat? Then we might get that
log out of the way."
"We'll see what show we have for getting it out of the way-the log,
I mean," Jack replied.
He cautiously opened one of the lower panels at the rear and looked
out. The log which blocked the narrow channel was afloat, for it
was the trunk of a dry tree, and the water was deep. What held it
in place was the end which lay on the shore. It had been rolled in
at a point where the bank was low, and at least two-thirds of it lay
on the ground.
"I'd like to know how they got it in there!" Jack said. "It looks
too big for a hundred men to handle."
"Anyway, there it is," Frank replied, "and there the propellers
are--one of them broken. Can we make speed with that busted wing?"
"We've got to," Harry said. "Just hear the devils! They will rush
the boat in about a minute!"
The cries coming from the forest were now blood-curdling in their
ferocity. The cannibals were evidently working themselves into a
pitch of excitement which would give them courage to charge the
Now and then the frightened howl of some wild beast was heard in the
distance, adding not a little to the excitement of the scene. The
tree which had been set on fire to attract the attention of the
airship still blazed, sending a twist of flame far up into the sky.
In the glare of the fire the savages looked like fiends ready for
any act of deviltry. Now and then three figures larger than the
rest stood together as if in conference, and then the shouts grew
louder, and the line about the boat closer drawn.
"I've got a notion that we can make pretty good speed with that
broken wing," Jack mused. "Anyway, we can drift down stream if we
can't steam up stream, and that will take us out of this mess."
"Then let's blow that log up with dynamite," suggested Frank.
"Yes," said Jack, "and finish the propellers!"
"Blow up the shore end," continued Frank. "Who can pitch it so that
it will knock that blooming dry wood into the stream?"
"I'm willing to try," Harry said. "I used to pitch a tricky ball!
I'll get a fuse ready, open a panel, and give it a throw. While I
have the panel open, though, you fellows open up a loophole in front
and do some shooting out of it to attract attention. I don't want
any poisoned arrows biting me."
This was agreed to, and Harry arranged a fuse and prepared to throw
it. When Jack opened a panel in front and sent a volley of bullets
ashore, the boy pushed open a panel in the rear and, waiting until
the attention of the savages was attracted to the front of the boat,
tossed out the dynamite.
It hurled through the air, flashing in the red light of the fire,
and landed at the very end of the fallen tree, rolling into the
angle between the wood and the earth. A fine throw!
Harry yelled to Jack to close his panel, and all three boys stood on
the tips of their toes, fingers in ears. In a moment the explosion
The Black Bear rocked violently, so that it was with difficulty the
boys kept their footing. Wild cries of distress and fright came
from the forest, and, in a few seconds, the crash of falling trees.
The dynamite had done its work well, at least, so far as noise was
concerned. They could not yet see what effect the explosion had had
on the tree.
Had it loosened the obstructing log so that the boat could pass out
into the Beni river? Had the concussion damaged the propellers so
that the trip up the valley of the Amazon would have to be
These questions were in the minds of all three boys as Jack
cautiously opened a rear panel and looked out. The first thing he
saw was the log, splintered and broken into half a dozen pieces,
floating down stream.
The explosion had whirled the great trunk high up in the air and
brought it down, broken, in the channel of the stream. There seemed
nothing to do now but to set the motors at work and run out of the
But the motors refused to work. Something more than showed on the
surface was the matter with them. Harry looked out at the rear and
saw a great red patch of earth without a single human being in
sight. The fire was still burning brightly, but there were no
savages dancing about in its fierce light.
At the sound of the explosion the head hunters had taken to their
heels. At first view, no one seemed to have been injured by the
dynamite, but, on giving the scene a closer inspection, the boy saw
three bodies lying near where the log had been. They might be dead
or only stunned; the lad had no means of knowing.
While Harry watched for some sign of life, the roar of a wild animal
came from the forest, and he knew that a tiger cat was approaching.
The humans--if the man-eating savages may be so termed--were still
running, it appeared, while the wild beasts of prey were returning
to the scene of the explosion.
"Come," Harry cried, "we must get out of this now if we can get the
propellers to working. There is no one in sight, only three men
lying near where the log lay, and there are man-eating animals
coming, so I'd rather not see what takes place next."
Jack threw open another panel and stepped out. The roar in the
forest was growing again, but no savage was in sight. He moved to
the back of the boat and bent down to look at the propellers.
"I can't see from here!" he shouted, in a moment. "Look out for me,
Like a shot he was in the river, diving under the stem of the Black
Bear. Harry and Frank, knowing the rivers of that district to be
swarming with caymen, grouped at the rear and watched with anxious
eyes for the reappearance of their chum.
In a few seconds Jack's face appeared above the surface of the
water. He seized a rope passed to him and climbed on board, shaking
the water from his clothing like a great dog.
"It is all right," he said, as soon as he could get his breath.
"There was a piece of the log wedged in back of the paddles and I
got it out. Get a pole and push. She's in the mud, I guess."
The pole was used before the motors were turned on again, and the
Black Bear was soon out of the little creek, sailing slowly down the
Beni. However, the boat did not behave well, and it was decided to
tie up for a day and go over her carefully. The propellers needed
fixing, and there might be some other injury which had not been
Not caring to strain the weakened propellers, they permitted the
boat to drift down stream.
When a mile away the illumination of the fire which had been so
injudiciously set could still be seen distinctly, and when the boys
listened they could hear the cries of the savages and the fierce
howls of the wild beasts.
During the day the boys had passed a level plateau on the east bank
of the river, and it was decided to float down to that, as they
could beach the Black Bear there and work without danger of being
attacked from the shelter of a forest.
They gained the spot about midnight and anchored some distance out,
resolved to take no chances on the shore that night. The stream was
quite wide, and they opened the top panels so as to get what fresh
air they could.
Jack was the first one to see the airship hovering over them.
"Look!" he cried. "Look! Look! We've just got to attract their
attention in some way! See! They are going away again! Confound
The airship seemed about to dip down, then it floated off to the
west and whirled to the south.
"They're signaling!" Harry cried.
This seemed to be true, for there were lights moving about in the
air in queer combinations.
"Get a glass!" shouted Jack, in great excitement. "We'll soon see
But the airship seemed interested in the spot where the fire was
burning, and did not remain overhead long enough for the boys to get
a good view of her. At last she disappeared entirely.
Although anchored out in the stream, which was at least two hundred
feet wide at that point, the lads kept a close watch of the shores
that night. Once, just before dawn, they caught the sound of
paddles, but the canoe which appeared on the west soon sneaked away.
The hubbub on shore kept up all night long. The beasts took up the
chorus when the savage tribesmen retreated.
"Beautiful country this!" Jack said, as the, sun rose over the great
valley. "I think I'll like to live here always--not!"
"Yes," grunted Frank, whose eyes were heavy with the long watch,
"even on the Great White Way, the enthusiasm quiets down after three
"It is all in the game!" grinned Harry. "We came out here for
excitement, and you mustn't complain when you get it."
After breakfast, which was keenly enjoyed, the Black Bear was
beached on the cast banks and the injury to the propellers examined.
Some of the blades were broken while others were strained.
"Well," Harry said, as he scratched his head in deliberation, "we've
got extra blades, and we've got the tools, and I don't know as we're
in a hurry anyway. We've got all the time there is!"
"Not if we catch the Nelson before it gets out of the country," Jack
objected. "This is the 22d of August, and the Nelson must have
sighted Lima about the 14th, so you see we've got to do some sailing
if we get to the headwaters of the Beni before the boys get back
If they had only known, the lads might not have been so anxious to
get on, for the boys with the Nelson were having troubles of their
own about that time. Besides, there were difficulties ahead much
greater than those entailed by the breaking of the blades of the
They worked all day at repairing the injuries, and at night were
ready to proceed. It was dark again, and there seemed to be a great
commotion on shore.
"For one," Frank observed, "I don't like the idea of going on up an
unknown river in the night. There are rapids, and there may be
obstructions. And then we may follow off some tributary which will
land us in some swamp after an all night ride."
"I'm not anxious to go on tonight," Harry contributed, "for I'd like
to see what that mess on shore will amount to. There's something
besides the appearance of the Black Bear exciting those fuzzy little
natives, and we may miss something if we run away. I wouldn't like
to do that."
So it was decided to remain where they were until morning. The
panels were put up, leaving only the openings for ventilation, and
the Wolf was brought close alongside.
Frank got the first watch in the drawing of sticks, and stationed
himself at the prow, where he could look out on the river. Jack and
Harry were soon asleep.
About midnight a great clamor arose on the west bank. In a moment
it was echoed from the opposite shore. There was a beating of
drums--the foolish drums which the natives made so crudely--and long
chants, rising in the darkness like the monotonous melodies the boys
had heard in the cotton fields of the South.
Frank shook Jack and Harry out of their bunks, much to the disgust
of the two sleepy-heads. They did not need to ask questions as to
the reason for this, for the chant was coming nearer, and the drums
were beating like mad.
"They're arranging an attack!" Jack said, turning a searchlight out
of the front loophole. "I can see half a dozen canoes hanging off
and on at a bend above. I guess we made a mistake in stopping
"Perhaps we'd better drop down the river," Harry suggested. "I
don't want those heathens swarming over the Black Bear."
Jack went to the stern and looked out on the swirling river from
"If we do," he said, in a moment, "we'll bunt into a fleet of war
canoes. We've got to put on all speed and drive ahead."
"Why not drop back?" asked Harry.
"Because," was the reply, "we can go up stream about as fast as we
can go down stream, and the canoes can't. We'll shut everything
tight but the loopholes and go through them like a shot through
paper. If they board us we'll have to open up and drop them into
the river with our automatics."
"Put the big light out in front then," Harry said, "and stand there
and tell me which way to steer, and let her go!"
The next moment the Black Bear, closely followed by the Wolf, was
nearing the canoes, now drawn up in line of battle in front.
A BRIBE OF HALF A MILLION
"What do you want to talk about?" asked Ned, as Thomas Q. Collins
advanced a step, both hands still high above his head, as an
indication that he was unarmed.
"I want to reach an understanding with you," was the reply.
"About--well, about your errand here."
"Oh! Well, what about it?"
Collins hesitated a moment and then asked:
"Why can't I come to you and sit down? I'm not armed. This is not
an easy or a dignified position for me to hold."
"You say you are not armed," Ned replied. "Will you say as much for
the savages who are with you in this dirty game?"
"There are no savages here with me," Collins protested. "Your
Indian killed one by throwing him from the ledge, one was killed
when the Vixen burned and dropped, and one was shot by one of your
boys. The other went away with the motor car. You must have seen
them riding away?"
"There were five people with him when he first came out here in the
car," Jackson said, under his breath. "Ask him where the other
white man now is."
"Did you see the other white man?" asked Ned of Jackson.
"Would you have recognized him if it had been Lyman?"
"I might. I can't say. I wasn't very near to them. They kept me
scouting over the hills to keep them in sight."
"Well," Collins called out, impatiently, "are you going to let me
come in for a talk? If not, I'll go back and bring some shooters
Without answering that special question, veiled, as it was, with a
threat, Ned asked the one proposed by Jackson.
"Where is the white man who was with you when you first came here in
"I did not come in a motor car," was the reply. "I came in the
"That's a lie!" Jackson whispered. "The Vixen, if that is what they
call their airship, never showed up until a few days ago. I tried
to signal to the driver; or, rather, I did signal to him, but he
ignored me. This man Collins came in with the car more than two
weeks ago, and went out in it, too, and the other white man
remained. The next time he came, he was in the Vixen."
"Who is that fellow who is filling you with prejudice against me?"
demanded Collins, presently. "It looks like a man wanted for
stealing cattle from the Lyman ranch."
"Why didn't you communicate with him, if you were so hungry?" asked
Ned of Jackson, suspiciously. "You say he has been here at least twice."
Jackson frowned and looked away. Then his forehead flushed and he
"I guess there's no use lying about it. I was accused of running
cattle off the Lyman range. That is the man who accused me. I
never did. He knows that. Now you know why I didn't approach him
and ask for food."
"Well," insisted the boy, "why didn't you browse around and find the
white man he left here? That is what he came in here for, isn't it--to
hide some one he wanted out of the way?"
"I thought he came to look for gold," was the reply. "Now, about
the other question. I did try to find the man he left here. I
wanted to eat with him! I knew there was some one in the hills, but
I never found him. It beats the Old Scratch where he is!"
"Come, come!" Collins cried, impatiently, "you can do your visiting
after we have our talk. Shall I come to you, or will you come to
"Don't you go out there!" Jimmie warned. "He's got some one hidden.
You'll be shot if you do. Tell him to come here."
"Keep your hands up and come here," Ned ordered, thinking this good
He had already experienced the treachery of the fellow, and did not
care to take any chances. Collins came along sullenly, stood stock
still, while Jimmie searched him, and then sat down on the framework
of the Nelson.
"That aeroplane would look handsomer," Ned said, grimly, "if your
men had not set it on fire."
"That was war!" Collins replied. "It is war still, unless we can
come to some kind of agreement."
"I haven't much faith in your word," Ned replied. "You played a
dirty game on me at Lima, you know."
"The chances of war!" Collins replied. "Now," he went on, "we can
come to terms without any reference to the International Peace
Congress, if we want to. I'll admit that if things were a little
different I wouldn't be asking for terms, but that is neither here
nor there. I want your assistance."
"On the level?" demanded Jimmie.
Jackson grinned scornfully, and Collins glared at both.
"The man we brought out here--merely as a matter of business--has
disappeared," Collins went on. "We left him in the little cavern
where you found his coat and the food. He's got away."
"You refer to Lyman?"
"You were keeping him a prisoner until his concession should lapse?"
"That's only business."
"When does it lapse, in case he does not appear and make payment?"
"On the 31st of August."
"And this is the 18th?"
"I think so. I'm pretty well mixed as to time, as well as
"Then he has only fourteen days in which to get back to Asuncion and
make a large payment?"
"That is just it."
"And he is lost?"
"When did you see him last?"
"You remember how I came to be here? You brought me, trussed up
like a hen in that aeroplane harness. Well, when the Vixen went
into that pit and you went away to look over the scenery, I knew
that the motor car would be along soon, so I didn't try to get away.
I knew what would happen if I did. You'd shoot! Just as soon as
the car came and I was released--the car brought in food for Lyman--
I sent a man over to the cave to find Lyman. He wasn't there.
Understand? He wasn't there."
"But there were live embers in the cave when I got there," Ned said.
"I know. That was built by one of my men, who wanted to make
coffee, but didn't. The food you stole was brought in by the car as
I said before. You found Lyman's coat, didn't you?"
"Yes, and a packet of letters."
"I knew what you were in Lima for from the first. I knew of your
mission before you left San Francisco. So I did not lie to you when
you asked if the man who was brought in, something over two weeks
ago, in a motor car was Lyman. I knew that you knew. You see, we
had to get him out of Paraguay when it was learned that the United
States had placed the Lyman affair in the hands of the Secret
"Go on," Ned said. "You are getting pretty close to the point now."
"I thought at first," Collins went on, "that you had blundered into
this district just by blind luck. Now I know better. I gave myself
away by my fool antics at Lima. Then the Vixen showing up and
chasing the Nelson around increased your suspicions. Oh, I know how
it happened. You fooled us all. We led you right to the spot where
Lyman was hidden by our attempts to mislead you. More fools we!"
"You have stated the case correctly," Ned said. "If you had kept
away from me at Lima, and the Vixen had kept out of sight, I should
have gone straight on to Asuncion, and should have been wasting my
time there this minute."
"Yes, that's the truth! Well, now I've been perfectly frank with
you, and I want you to be equally honest with me. Do you know where
"I do not."
"You haven't seen him?"
"Never saw him."
"If you find him, what do you propose doing?"
"I shall take him back to Asuncion and see that he gets justice."
"Acting as a Secret Service man of the United States?"
"No, as an individual."
"But you are in the employ of the government?"
"Yes, but I'm not authorized to mix the two countries up in a war."
"Yes, I know, but your government will back you in whatever you do.
That is the point with me. If you report no cause for interference
down in Paraguay, there will be no danger of our getting into
trouble. Your government wouldn't make a demand for Lyman's
release, although it was understood he was kept in duress by a high
official of the republic. Still, it sends you out to act
unofficially. Now, this being the case, you are the person I want
to talk with."
"I want you to help find Lyman, and then I want you to help me come
to terms with him--we can't fight the United States!"
"In other words, you want me to betray my trust and help you rob
"No. There are two sides to everything--where there are not three,
or more. So there are two sides to this cattle concession business.
I think that Lyman will be glad to settle if we find him--if he does
not know that the United States has Secret Service men on the
"So you really do want to buy my silence?"
"I want to make sure that you will not attempt to defeat our plans."
"Nothing doing," Ned replied.
"Wait!" Collins continued. "You haven't heard me out. We'll see
that Lyman gets all his money out of the deal, with something
besides, and also that you get a quarter of a million dollars for
"Nothing doing!" Ned repeated.
Collins actually gasped with amazement. He had offered bribes
before, but had never started out with so large a sum. And he had
never been denied!
"Understand the proposition," Collins said, presently, as soon as he
could catch his breath, "it is not you we want. We don't care a
continental cuss for you. What we want is for you to keep quiet
after we find Lyman. It is the Secret Service of the United States
we axe afraid of. I'll make it half a million."