Part 3 out of 3
"Of course we do," exclaimed Phil. "There isn't one of the Flying
Eagles who hasn't made half a dozen model flying machines, and
Barney here won a prize with a glider he made last spring in the
manual training department of the high school. But we've all studied
up about aeroplanes--that's why we call ourselves the _Flying_
"Another reason," chuckled Mr. Fulton, "why there ought to be a
bunch of Boy Scouts in Watertown. How about it, Jerry?"
"Leave it to us. We'll challenge you Eagles to a tournament next
summer, and you'd better brush up your scouting if you don't want to
come off second best. Is that a go, Tod?"
"That's two go's--one for each of us."
"Well," suggested Mr. Fulton, "those of you who don't know the first
principles of flying go into the second squad. You go to the office--
that's the railed off space yonder--where you'll find plenty of
books for your instruction. As soon as I get gang number one
properly started I'll come back and give you a course of sprouts."
Jerry and Dave and Frank went to the "office," from where they heard
Mr. Fulton putting Tod in charge of one group, while he took the
rest under his personal direction.
"First off," he advised, "we'll take the _Skyrocket_ all apart. All
the broken or strained parts we'll throw over here in this box.
Anything that's too big we'll pile neatly on the floor. I want to
know as soon as possible just what I'll have to get from the city. I
can call on the blacksmith shop at Watertown for some of the hardest
welding, and Job Western did most of the carpentering in the first
place, so I know where to go for my trusses and girders. Examine
every bolt and nut--nothing is to be used that shows the slightest
strain or defect.
"Phil, you and I will tackle the motor. If she isn't smashed, half
the battle's won."
Jerry sat back in the corner awhile, trying his best to get
something definite out of the great array of books he found on a low
shelf. Looking up and seeing Mr. Fulton's eyes on him, a twinkle in
their depths, he threw down the latest collection of algebraic
formulas and walked over.
"I guess I know enough about aeroplanes to unscrew nuts and nip
wires. You can explain the theory of it to us after working hours."
So, with monkey wrench, pliers, hammers and screwdriver, he set
about making himself as busy as any of the others--and as greasy.
Dark came on them before they had made enough headway to be
noticeable. The boys were glad to see the shadows creeping along,
for, truth to tell, they were all thoroughly tired and not a little
hungry. Not a bite had any of them eaten since breakfast.
"Hope Budge has taken it upon himself to hash together a few eats,"
sighed Phil. "I feel hungry enough to tackle my boots."
"Eats?" exclaimed Mr. Fulton in surprise. "You don't mean to tell me
that you're hungry?"
"Oh, no, not hungry. Just plain starved," clamored the whole outfit.
"Good. One of you go over and get your guard, and we'll see what
those mysterious signals mean that Miss Elizabeth has been making
this past half hour. She told me she'd cook us a dinner--if we could
stand domestic science grub. This is the first time she ever kept
real house. Let's wash up."
The supper that Elizabeth brought, smoking hot, to the long, board-
made table the boys quickly set up in the hangar, did not smack very
much of inexperience. Even Budge declared it was well worth the trip
across the river. The boys were inclined to linger over the meal,
and Dave started in to tell a long story about a hunting trip in
which he and his uncle had been the heroes of a bear adventure, but
Mr. Fulton stopped him, even if the yawns of his listeners had not
warned him to cut the tale short.
"We're in for some good hard licks, men," said Mr. Fulton, "and it's
going to mean early to bed and early to rise. That is," he amended,
"if you want to go through with it."
"We'll stick to the bitter end," they cried. "What's the program?"
"Two weeks of the hardest kind of work. Breakfast at six; work at
six-thirty, till twelve; half hour for lunch; work till seven;
dinner; bed. That may not sound like much fun--it isn't."
"Suits us," declared Phil for the rest. "Do we get a front seat at
the circus when the man puts his head in the lion's mouth--and a
ride on the elephant?" he joked, pointing at the dismembered
"I'll give you something better than that, just leave it to me,"
promised Mr. Fulton. "Where you going to turn in?"
"We go over to camp. You'll blow the factory whistle when it's time
to get up, won't you?"
"No," teased Elizabeth, coming in just then, "I'll drop a couple o'
nice smooth pebbles into camp as a gentle reminder."
It was a jolly party that crowded into the two boats and sang and
shouted their way across Plum Run some ten minutes later, but within
the half-hour the night was still, for tired muscles could not long
resist the call of sleep.
But bright and early next morning they were all astir long before
the hour of six and the promised pebbles. A swim in Plum Bun put
them in good trim for a hearty breakfast, and that in turn put them
in shape for a hard day's work.
And a hard day it turned out to be, for Mr. Fulton parceled out the
work and kept everyone on the jump. Jerry and Tod were put at the
motor, which had refused to respond to its owner's coaxing. They
twisted, tightened, adjusted, tested, till their fingers were
cramped and eyes and backs ached.
Lunch gave a most welcome rest, but the half hour was all too short.
Every one of them welcomed Mr. Fulton's decision when he said:
"We've got along so nicely that I think I will call this a six-
o'clock day. Wash up, everybody, and let's see what Elizabeth has
A WILD NIGHT
That was merely the first of a whole week of days that seemed
amazingly alike. Mr. Fulton tried to make the work as interesting as
possible by letting them change off jobs as often as he could. But
even then there was little that under ordinary circumstances would
interest a regular out-of-doors boy. What helped was that the
circumstances were not ordinary. It was all a big game to them--a
fight against odds. Perhaps at times the screwing of greasy nuts on
greasier bolts did not look much like a game, nor did the tedious
pushing of a plane or twisting a brace and bit look like a fight,
but every one of the boys sensed the tense something that was back
of all Mr. Fulton's cheery hustle.
They knew that his arm and shoulder hurt fearfully at times, but
never a complaint did they hear from him, although he was all
sympathy over the blood-blisters and cut hands of their own mishaps.
But the second week made up for any lack of excitement that the boys
had felt. The week was up Wednesday night. On Thursday morning Mr.
Fulton met them with a white face that somehow showed the light of
"Guess you'd better arrange, Boss Jerry, to leave a couple of your
Scouts on guard here nights," was all he said, but the boys felt
that something disturbing had happened the night before. They
questioned Elizabeth when she brought their lunch, which they ate
from benches and boxes to save time, but she would give them no
satisfaction. Tod seemed to know something, but he too was strangely
Jerry decided to remain over that night himself, and Phil, who had
dropped a steel wrench across his toes and so had to remain for
medical attention anyway, offered to share the watch with him. After
Mr. Fulton had left them at about ten o'clock, they talked for
awhile together, but finally they both began to yawn.
"What'll it be?" asked Phil. "Two hours at a stretch, turn and turn
"Suits me," said Jerry. "Ill take the first trick."
Phil's snoring something like fifty-nine seconds later was
sufficient answer. All was still, and Jerry set about to await
midnight, when he could hope for a brief snooze. After a while the
silence began to wear on his nerves and in every night noise he
fancied he heard steps. He sat still and watchful, hardly breathing
at times, his finger poised above a push button that would ring a
bell where Mr. Fulton lay stretched out on a pallet on the floor of
the tiny cabin.
But midnight came and nothing had happened. He roused Phil and then
hunted himself out a soft spot in which to curl up. But he had grown
so used to listening that now he found he could not stop. He tried
counting, only it was fish he was catching instead of sheep going
through the gap in the hedge. It was no use. At last he got up and
"Guess I'll take a turn around in the cool air; I can't seem to
"Gee," grumbled Phil, "and here _I_ can't seem to stay awake. Just
as well have let me slumber on in peace."
"Well, don't slumber while I'm gone, sleepyhead."
Jerry walked across the open ground and after an undecided halt,
broke through the bushes, heavy now with dew, and made for the
shore. He stood for a long time on the bank, looking across to where
the Scout camp lay quiet in the darkness, and then turned and was
about to go back to Phil. But he paused; a steady creaking sound had
broken the night. It was drawing slowly nearer. It was a rowboat.
"Great conspirators, they are!" sniffed Jerry. "They might at least
grease their oars." He heard the mumble of low voices, the _sush_ of
a boat keel on the sand. Reaching down, he caught up a big handful
of pebbles; with a hard overhand swing he let them fly.
He heard a muttered "Ouch!" and then, after a moment's silence, once
more the _creak-crook_ of oars. "Batter out" chuckled Jerry to
himself as he scurried back to the hangar.
After that he slept.
The boys were all excitement when he told his story next morning,
but that was nothing to compare with the exclamation that arose that
same evening when they returned to camp to find that Dave, who had
been left in charge, had disappeared, and that the place had been
rifled and then torn all to pieces. Poor Dave was found not far off,
tied to a tree. His story was somewhat lacking in detail. He had sat
dozing over a book on aeronautics, when suddenly an earthquake came
up and hit him over the head. That was all he knew till he woke up
tied securely to a tree.
"That settles it," declared Phil. "We ought to have done it in the
first place, but the boss didn't think it was worth while."
"What's that?" demanded Jerry, a bit sharply.
"Well, what's the idea of our coming over here every night to sleep,
when there's oodles of room there on Lost Island, where we're
"What's that 'huh'? Boy Scout for sir?" cried Jerry hotly.
Phil jumped to his feet, but to the surprise of Jerry, who had put
up his fists, the Scout Leader brought his heels together with a
click and his right hand went to the salute.
"I stand convicted," he said simply. "You're the boss of this
expedition. What's orders?"
"Orders are to break camp--it's already pretty well broken--and take
ship for Lost Island. Patrol Leader Fulton will take charge of the
job while Boss Ring goes off and kicks himself quietly but firmly."
They all laughed and good feeling was restored. The Scouts made
short work of getting their traps together, even in the dark, and it
was not many minutes before the first load was on the way to Lost
Jerry, Phil and Dave followed silently afterwards in the _Big Four_
with the rest of the dunnage.
"You think _they_ did it?" asked Dave of no one in particular. No
one asked who _they_ were, nor did anyone answer, but each knew what
the others were thinking.
Mr. Fulton showed no surprise when told of their decision to camp
henceforth on the island. "Good idea," was his only comment.
They were not disturbed that night, and the next day passed without
incident, save that Budge had the bad luck to break a truss he had
been all day in making. "Good!" said Mr. Fulton. "That wood might
have caused a serious accident if it had got into the _Skyrocket_."
Budge, knowing his awkwardness and not the timber was to blame, felt
grateful that he had been spared the reproof that would have been
They had been making good progress, in spite of their greenness;
next day Mr. Fulton was planning to stretch the silk over the
planes; it had already been given a preliminary coat of a kind of
flexible varnish which was also a part of Mr. Fulton's invention.
The carpenter had done his part handsomely. The launch had come down
the day before with all of the heavier framework and trusses. A few
rods were still to come from the blacksmith, and the rear elevator
control was still awaited, but enough of the material had been
mended and put in place to make the aeroplane look less like a
Jerry and Mr. Fulton had finally managed to master the secret of the
motor; that is, they finally made it run as smoothly as a top, but
neither one was ever able to tell why it had not done so from the
start. Oiled and polished, it stood on the bench till a final brace
should be forthcoming.
Camp had been pitched on the river side of the open ground, close
beside the path. The second night of their new location Mr. Fulton
and Elizabeth came over, Dick guarding the _Skyrocket_ and Tod
remaining at the cabin to look after poor Billings, who, thanks to
the doctor's daily visits and his daughter's patient nursing, was
growing steadily stronger. Elizabeth brought along a guitar, which
she played daintily, singing the choruses of all the popular songs
the boys could ask for by name. After a little bashful hesitation,
Dave chimed in, while the rest of the boys lay back and listened in
Into this peaceful scene burst Tod, frightened out of his wits. It
was a full minute before he finally managed to gasp:
"They've come--they've been here! I didn't see them!"
"What in the world do you mean?" cried Mr. Fulton, shaking the
excited boy with his left hand. "If you didn't see them, how do you----"
"I didn't. But it's gone--the motor's gone.----"
"What!" yelled the whole crew at once.
"Dick and I sat outside the doorway, listening to you folks having a
good time, and I went in to see what time it was--and there was the
hole in the side of the hang--hang--the shed, and the motor had
disappeared. At least that was all we noticed was gone."
The last of this was delivered on the run, for all had set out for
the machine shop, Mr. Fulton having promptly vetoed Phil's plan to
put a circle of Scouts around the shore.
Sure enough, a big gap showed in the side of the hangar, where two
boards had been pried loose. "Lucky you were outside," grunted Phil
disgustedly, "or they'd have pulled the whole place down over your
"We've got to work fast," urged Mr. Fulton. "If they get away with
the motor the stuff's all off. They're desperate men--I don't want
any of you trying to tackle them. Scout ahead, and when you sight
them, this is the signal:" He whistled the three short notes of the
whippoor-will's call. "I've got my automatic, and I guess I can take
care of them."
As they hurried out into the night they spread out, working toward
the east side of the island. Jerry found himself next to Phil, and
after a few yards he moved over closer to the Scout Leader.
"I say, Phil," he called guardedly; "you ready to listen to the
wildest kind of a notion?"
"Shoot," came the answer.
"I don't believe our visitors came on the island for that motor at
all. What good would it do them?"
"It'd stop our launching the _Skyrocket_, for one thing."
"But there are lots of lighter things that would do that. I don't
trust those two ruffians--or their boss, either."
"Well, who does?"
"That's not the point. Mr. Fulton figures that they merely want to
keep those others from buying his idea, so that when the first
option expires, _they_ can. But if they could steal the plans in the
"I get you. Then you think that stealing the motor was just a blind,
and that they are----"
"Getting us out of the road so they can take their time going
through the workshop. If we're wrong, there's plenty of Scouts out
trailing them--it'd be too late anyway, as it's only a few hundred
feet to where they would have left their boat. What say we sneak
back, see if there's a gun at the cabin, and take them by surprise
when they start burglarizing the hangar?"
Phil turned about by way of answer, and stealthily they approached
the cabin. A light showed dim in the invalid's room, and through the
curtained window they could see Elizabeth's long braids bent over a
book. She merely looked up when they stopped at the window, and at
once came out the back door to where they stood.
"Is there a gun in the house?" questioned Phil.
"A thirty-two Colts," she replied. "Want it?"
"Quick as we can have it. _They_ are on the island."
But she did not wait to hear the rest of his explanation. In a jiffy
she had brought them an ugly looking revolver. "Be careful," she
said as she handed it to Phil; "it shoots when you pull the
The boys stole across the narrow space between the cabin and the
hangar, and flattened themselves against the log walls as they wound
their way toward the little "night door" near the other end. As they
passed the big sliding doors they paused an instant and pressed
their ears close against the planks, but all was still. Both had an
instant of disappointment, for they were counting strongly on being
able to crow over the rest.
But when they came to the crack where the two doors came together,
and looked within, their spirits jumped up till they hardly knew
whether they were pleased or frightened. For just an instant a flash
lamp had lighted up the darkness!
Not quite so cautiously now, and a good deal faster, they made their
way to the little door, guided by their sense of feeling, for the
night was black as the pitch in the old saying. Jerry turned the
catch firmly but slowly, and the door swung open without a creak.
They stepped inside.
They were now in a walled off ante-room used for small supplies. It
opened into the main workshop by means of a narrow doorway. Standing
in the middle of the tiny room they had a full view of the whole
place. Like two monstrous fireflies a pair of dark figures darted
about, ransacking Mr. Fulton's desk, tearing open the lockers and
cupboards, searching out every likely nook and cranny where papers
might be hid, their flashlights throwing dazzling light on each
object of their suspicion.
The two boys realized suddenly that the attention of the two had
been focused in their direction, and Jerry jumped back behind the
shelter of the door-edge just in time to escape the blinding rays of
the flashlights. Phil evidently realized that their time of grace
was over and there was nothing to be gained in further delay.
With raised pistol he stepped out into the light.
"Hands up!" he ordered gruffly. "Your little game is ended for to-
But he had miscalculated somewhat. With startling suddenness
darkness closed in about them, there was a quick rush across the
littered floor, a thud as a heavy body dashed against the shed wall
and crashed through the inch boards. Phil's gun roared out twice. As
the two boys hastened to the gap in the wall they could hear the
crash of the pair as they tore madly through the brush. Then all was
But not for long. Panting from the run, Mr. Fulton and three of the
Scouts came chasing like mad through the darkness.
"What's happened?" he cried when he saw it was Jerry and Phil. He
listened as patiently as possible to their disconnected story,
laughing grimly at the end. "Well, they'll swim it to shore, because
we found their boat, and we sunk it under about a ton of stones."
"Yes, but----" began Jerry, a premonition of further disaster in his
mind and on the tip of his tongue, when from the east shore of Lost
Island came wild cries of rage and chagrin. "Just what I thought!"
exclaimed Jerry, by way of finishing out his sentence.
"What's that?" demanded Mr. Fulton and Phil in a breath.
But Jerry did not answer. There was no need. Down the path came an
excited group, shouting:
"Somebody's made off with the _Big Four!_"
Nothing else happened that night, but the boys had already had
enough excitement to keep them awake long past their usual time for
turning in. Some of them, indeed, were for starting out in pursuit
of the _Big Four_, but Mr. Fulton promptly squelched the plan. There
was little hope of finding the boat in the dense darkness.
Next morning, before breakfast, Sid Walmaly and Dave were sent out
on a scouting expedition, but they were not gone long. The _Big
Four_ had been found, barely half a mile down, stranded on a sand-
bar. A jagged hole in the side showed where the kidnappers had tried
to scuttle the craft.
After this event, the boys settled to their work in high spirits,
undeterred by the fact that the motor was still missing, although
Mr. Fulton felt sure it could not have been taken from the island.
Phil ventured to advance a theory, which the boys were inclined to
scout but which Mr. Fulton finally decided was at least worth the
time and effort it would take to try it out.
The men had had no time to carry the motor far, argued Phil. They
had not gone to their boat, else they could hardly have made their
way back to the hangar. They might of course have picked it up after
they had been frightened away, but there had been hardly time for
that. They had undoubtedly hidden it in the first place. The easiest
place to hide the thing was in the river, and the closest trail to
the river hit the extreme north end, where there was a steep-sided
"Who's the best swimmer in the crowd?" asked Mr. Fulton. "I don't
dare take very many away from the job, but we've got to have the
"Jerry Ring's the best swimmer and diver in Watertown," announced
Dave without hesitation. Mr. Fulton turned inquiringly to the Boy
Scouts, but no one answered his questioning look until Phil at last
spoke up quietly:
"I'll go along if you need another one."
"I do. You two take the Scout boat and bring her around the point.
I'll go through the woods--be there in half an hour or so, when I
get things running smoothly here. Be careful you don't find the gas-
eater before I get there," he jested.
But it was more than half an hour before Mr. Fulton came upon the
two boys, stripped to their B-V-D's and at that instant resting on
the bank. He came up just in time to hear Jerry say: "I used to
think I could dive! Where'd you get onto it?"
"Just Scout stuff," laughed Phil, modestly. "Every Scout in the
patrol's got swimming and diving honors."
"Good!" broke in Mr. Fulton. "Dive me up that motor and I'll get you
a special honor as a substitute submarine."
"We've worked down from the point, scraping bottom for twenty feet
out--that's about as far as they could heave it, we figured. We've
just got to the place where I'd have dived first-off if I had only
one chance at it. Here goes for that leather medal," as Phil rose
and poised himself for the plunge.
It was as pretty a dive as one could want to see. He split the water
with a clean slash, with hardly a bubble. A minute, another, and
another passed, the two on shore watching the surface expectantly.
They began to grow worried.
"He's been beating me right along" confessed Jerry. "I can't come
within a full minute of his ordinary dives. This one is a pippin--
there he blows!"
Spouting like a young whale, Phil broke the water and came ashore in
long reaching strokes.
"I tried my best!" he gasped as he pushed back his hair and rubbed
the water from his eyes. "But I couldn't make it!"
"Better luck next time," encouraged Mr. Fulton. "If you don't find
her in two more dives like that, why she isn't in Plum Run, that's
"Find her? I was talking about _lifting_ her. Guess we'll have to
get a rope on her--she's pretty well down in the mud."
"Hurray!" shouted Jerry, giving his chum a sounding smack on the wet
back. "Man the lifeboats! I chucked a rope in the bow of the boat."
Mr. Fulton stood on the bank to mark the line, while the boys pushed
the boat out to where Phil had come up, some twenty feet from shore.
Jerry slipped over the side, one end of the rope in his hand. He did
not remain long below.
Clambering in at the stern, he shouted: "Hoist away--she's hooked!"
And there was the motor, clogged with mud, to be sure, but
undamaged. Mr. Fulton stepped into the boat and they rowed quickly
back to the "dock." While the two boys put on their clothes over
their wet underwear, he hurried back to the workshop to see how
things were going. A few minutes later they followed with the motor.
They felt, after this fortunate end of the adventure, that Mr.
Fulton ought once more to be his own cheery self, but a look of
gloom seemed to have settled down over his face, and his face looked
haggard except when he was talking to one of the boys. Jerry finally
decided to try to cheer him up.
"Luck was sure breaking our way this morning, wasn't it?" he
exclaimed cheerfully as the man came up to where Jerry sat, removing
the mud from their prize.
"Fine--fine," agreed Mr. Fulton, but without spirit.
"What's the trouble?" demanded Jerry, sympathetically. "Anything
else gone wrong?"
"You look like the ghost of Mike Clancy's goat. Remember how you
always used to be telling Tod and me to grin hardest when we were
getting licked worst?"
"I sure ought to grin now, then."
"We're not licked--not by a long shot!"
"Yes we are--by about twenty-four hours. While you were gone I got
word from the blacksmith. He says he can't possibly have that
propeller shaft we found was snapped, welded before to-morrow
afternoon late. Not if we're to have the other things he promised.
He's lost his helper--quit him cold."
"No!" exclaimed Jerry, his heart sinking at least two feet. Then,
with sudden suspicion, "Do you suppose----"
"I _know_ it," interrupted Mr. Fulton. "Our two friends are working
every scheme they know. Blocking our blacksmithing was one of their
easiest weapons. I'm only surprised they didn't do it before."
"What can we do?"
"Submit gracefully. But I just can't face those two doubters. First
they were so enthusiastic and then so suspicious, that I can't be
satisfied unless I convince them. But the stuff's all off--and I
told Lewis and Harris to come out to-morrow afternoon at three-
thirty to see the _Skyrocket_ make good all my claims!"
"Can't you beg off and get a little more time?"
"They'd be willing enough, I suppose. They don't seem to be in the
slightest hurry. But there's that second option that begins
operations after to-morrow. No, there's no loophole. All we can do
is just peg ahead, and if the blacksmith comes through sooner than
he expects, we may have a bare chance. I just sent Tod in to lend a
The blacksmith did do better than his word, for Tod came back late
in the afternoon bearing the mended shaft and two smaller parts that
were urgently needed.
It took all the rest of that afternoon to lay the shaft in its ball-
bearings and true it up. The propeller was still to be attached, but
Mr. Fulton declared he would take no chances with that or with the
final adjustments in the half light of the growing dusk.
The boys were glad to knock off. They had been working at high
tension for a long while now and were beginning to feel the strain.
They were all frankly sleepy, too, after the excitement of the night
before. As a final precaution against a repetition of the surprise
attack they all slept in the hangar, finding the hard floor an
unwelcome change from their leafy beds in camp.
But the night passed quietly. With daybreak they were all astir, but
the time before breakfast was spent in an invigorating swim in the
Plum. Elizabeth had done herself proud in the way of pancakes this
last morning, and the boys did full justice. It was almost eight
o'clock before anyone returned to the hangar with any intention of
working. After barely half an hour there, chiefly spent in polishing
and tightening up nuts and draw-buckles, Mr. Fulton drove them all
outdoors. "Chase off and play," he insisted. "Tod and I will give
her the finishing touches; then you can all come back and help us
push her out into the sunlight for the final inspection."
But Elizabeth called them before Mr. Fulton was ready for their
services. Heaping platters of beautifully browned perch testified
both to her skill and that of the boys.
"Lunch time already?" exclaimed Mr. Fulton in surprise. "Where's the
morning gone to?" But he showed that if he hadn't noted the passage
of time, his stomach had. As he watched the brown pile diminish
under Mr. Fulton's vigorous attack, Phil threatened to go back to
the river and start fishing again. "You oughtn't to be eating fish,"
he joked. "Birds are more your style. Better let me go out and shoot
you a duck--or a sparrow; they're more in season."
But Mr. Fulton was at last satisfied, as were all the boys. He
sauntered back at once to the hangar. "Guess you chaps can give me a
shoulder now, and we'll take her out to daylight. After that you
keep out of the way till the show starts--about four o'clock. All
but two of you, that is. There's a bearing to grind on the lathe,
and a couple of sets of threads to recut."
Tod could not have been driven away, so Jerry volunteered to be the
other helper. The whole troop made easy work of running out the
_Skyrocket_. After standing about admiringly a while, they all
scattered, some of them, Jerry learned from their conversation, to
try to teach Elizabeth how to catch bass. Jerry grinned to himself
at this; he had heard Tod tell of the exploits of this slip of a
girl, and no boy in camp could do more with a four-ounce bass rod
than she could.
Tod and Jerry went at once at their grinding, and by two o'clock all
was in readiness. Every rod and strut and bolt and screw was in
place, tight as a drum. The nickel and brass of the bearings flashed
in the sun; the _Skyrocket_ looked fit as a fiddle. There was still
a little gasoline in the gallon can that they had been using for
testing the motor, and Tod let it gurgle into the gasoline tank that
curved back on the framework just above the pilot's seat.
"Try her out, dad," he urged.
"I'll try the motor," agreed Mr. Fulton, "but I'm not going up until
there's somebody around to watch her go through her paces. I've got
my shoulder out of splints to-day, but I don't dare use it when
there's any danger of strain. Think you're going to have the nerve
to go up with me, son?"
Jerry opened his eyes wide. This was the first he had heard of any
such plan as _that_.
"Think I'm going to let you go up alone, with a twisted wing that
might give out?" demanded Tod scornfully. "Huh! I'll take her up
alone if you'll let me."
"I'll let you fill her up with gas, if you're so ambitious as all
that. I see an automobile throwing up the dust on the last hill of
the town road. I expect it's our friends. I'll let one of the boys
row me across to meet them. Ask Billings, if you can't find the
wrench to unscrew the cap of the gasoline reservoir."
Billings proved to be sound asleep, napping off the effects of over-
indulgence in browned perch, so the boys decided to await the return
of Mr. Fulton, a search of the workshop having failed to reveal the
wrench, and none of the Stillsons being big enough to take the big
nut that capped the fifty-gallon tank sunk in the ground on the
shady north side of the hangar. So they sat down beside it and
waited for Mr. Fulton to come back with his visitors.
They finally appeared, Lewis and Harris standing about and listening
in unenthusiastic silence as Mr. Fulton glowingly explained the
whyness of the various devices and improvements that made the
_Skyrocket_ a real invention. They did not even venture an
occasional question, although it was easy to see that they were
"What are they made of? Wood?" exclaimed Jerry in fierce impatience.
"Do you know--if it wasn't that we've simply got to beat out those
other fellows, I'd almost like to see these two sleepies get left. I
don't like them a little bit!"
"Huh! Ask me if I do. They give me the willies. Never did like them,
and ever since they acted so nasty about that accident I just plumb
hate 'em. You'd think dad was trying to sandbag them or something
like that. Just listen to them grouching around. I'd hate to be a
woman and married to one of them and have dinner late."
Jerry had seated himself on the top of the reservoir, the cap
between his legs. He caught hold of it with his two hands. "It's too
blamed bad your dad couldn't hitch up with Uncle Sam!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, and if you believe what the papers say, we're going to need
it, too. We might be mixed up in the big war any day."
"Well, I expect we'd better not sit here gassing any longer. Tod,
chase over and ask your dad where that wrench is--unless you've got
a notion I can twist this thing off with my hands." He gave a
playful tug as if to carry out his boast.
"Say!" he cried, "what do you know about this!"
"About what?" asked Tod lazily, a dozen feet away on the way to his
"This," answered Jerry, giving the big cap a twirl with his
forefinger. "Some careful of your gasoline you people are!" The cap
"Something funny about that," declared Tod, coming back. "I saw
Billings screw that on last time myself--with the wrench."
There _was_ something decidedly funny about it, as it turned out. At
Tod's alarmed call Mr. Fulton came on the run. "It's been tampered
with," was his immediate decision. "Screw on the pump, boys, and
force up a gallon or so, If there isn't water in that gas we're the
luckiest folks alive. I might have known those crooks had a final
shot in their locker!"
"What's the idea?" asked Mr. Harris, with the first interest he had
"Somebody's trying to block the game, that's what!" sputtered Mr.
Fulton. "Here, boys, take the canfull in and put it in the shop
engine. If she can take it I guess we're worrying for nothing."
For a moment or so it looked as if that were the case; the engine
chugged away in its usual steady manner. But once the gasoline was
gone that the boys had been unable to empty out of its tank, it
began to kick a little. Within another minute it had stopped dead.
"Show's over," announced Mr. Fulton grimly. "It's way after three
o'clock now, and we can't hope to get a new supply from town this
side of dark. If we just hadn't sent your auto back!"
"You mean to tell us that you cannot go up--that there will be no
flight!" cried Mr. Lewis, making up for all his previous lack of
excitement in one burst of protest. "But, man--it's the last day of
"It's worse than that," countered Mr. Fulton. "It's the day before
the beginning of a new option, held by the people who watered that
gas--and at least a dozen other sneaking tricks."
"But you told us that you would--why, you guaranteed us a trial
"I said you didn't have to buy till you'd seen it work, yes. I'm in
your hands, gentlemen. After midnight to-night I'm in other hands--
and you're going to lose the chance of your lifetime to secure for
your government something that may prove the deciding factor in that
terrific war you're carrying on over there. I'm sure you don't doubt
my good faith."
"Faith! It's performances we want."
"Give me gas and I'll give you a demonstration that can't help but
convince you. I can't use my motor on water. I was willing to risk
my neck--and my boy's--by going up and trying this contraption with
my left hand--but I can't accomplish the impossible."
"But surely you don't expect us to buy a pig in a poke----"
"This is no pig--it's a hawk. Will you do this? Will you buy the
machine and the idea on approval? I'm pledged. If it isn't sold by
night to you, to-morrow those other people will come with cash in
"Harris, you know," drawled Mr. Lewis, "I half believe the fellow's
trying to flimflam us, you know. How do we know?"
"How do you know!" Mr. Fulton's eyes flashed fire. "I'll have you
know I'm a man of honor."
"Sure--sure," agreed Mr. Harris conciliatingly. "But that's not the
idea, old chap. We don't buy this for ourselves, you understand.
We're merely agents, and responsible to our chief. What'd we say if
we came back with a bag of pot metal for our money?"
"What will you say to your conscience when your enemy drops
destruction onto your brave countrymen in the trenches from the
Fulton Aeroplane? That's what you'd better be asking yourselves."
"But we've got to be cautious."
"Cautious! If you saw the goose that laid the golden egg getting off
the nest, you'd hold the egg up to a candle to see if it was fresh!"
"Well, now, Mr. Fulton----" began Mr. Harris, when he was
interrupted by Jerry, who had been holding himself in as long as was
"Don't let's waste any more time talking, Mr. Fulton. Tod and I have
got a scheme that will pull us out on top yet--even if it does mean
helping these doubters against their will!"
THE BIG PLAY
"Look here, Mr. Fulton," began Jerry, almost stammering in his
eagerness. "It wouldn't be any trick at all to get over to the
interurban tracks in time to catch the four o'clock northbound. That
gets to Watertown at four twenty-five--say half-past. We ought to be
able to get the gas and rout out a machine to haul it in inside
another half hour. That's five o'clock. Then an hour certainly would
see us back here, with a good hour and more of daylight left."
"I've gone over all that in my mind a dozen times. But I've also
spent a little time figuring what these men would be doing in the
meanwhile. There's just one place in Watertown that keeps any
quantity of gasoline--the rest buy of him. And he'd die of fright if
he should be caught with more than a hundred gallons at one time."
"But we don't need more than five!" exploded Tod.
"Sure, son, sure. But suppose somebody just ahead of you made it his
business to buy the hundred--how about that?"
"But there's a chance," objected Jerry, returning to the attack. "We
might be able to get away without their seeing us."
"Don't worry; they're watching every move we make."
"Then I've got another scheme. See if you can pick it full of holes
too." There was more than a touch of impatience in Jerry's voice.
"They're watching this side, that's sure; and they know we're bound
to figure on either Watertown or Chester. We'll fool them. I'll swim
across to the other side, reach a telephone, get my dad, who's at
Corliss these days on business. There's a Standard Oil tank at
Corliss. Dad'll start the gas out inside of twenty minutes----"
"Corliss is a good two hours' trip by auto, my boy. It would take at
least half an hour to get the message through, and another to get
the gas here from the road. That means at least seven o'clock, and
it would be dark before we were ready to go up."
"All right," agreed Jerry, refusing to give up. "Suppose it does get
dark: there's such a thing as flying by night, isn't there? All
we've got to do is to build a dozen flaring bonfires to see by----"
"Now you're talking!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton with sudden enthusiasm.
"You've hit it. Not brush--that would smoke us out. But there are
ten or a dozen open air torches here like those they use at street
shows, and there's not enough water in the gasoline to hurt it for
that purpose. Moreover, we can switch our engine onto that dynamo in
the shop, and we'll string incandescent lights all through the
trees; we've got plenty of them. There's at least a mile of bare
copper wire about the place--what you two standing with your mouths
wide open for? Thought you were going to get that gas! Where in
thunder are all those boys?"
"Here they come--tired of waiting out there in the sun, I guess. So
long, dad; I'm going with Jerry."
"You are _not_. You're going to be chief electrician. If Jerry can't
put through his part of the job alone he doesn't deserve credit for
having thought of the whole scheme."
The first part of Jerry's task proved easy enough. It took him well
over the half hour Mr. Fulton had predicted, to find a farmhouse
with a telephone, and Central seemed an unusually long time in
ringing through to the office Jerry's father had been making his
headquarters for the past weeks. Then it developed that Mr. Ring was
out at a conference of business men. Jerry took the telephone number
the girl gave him, and repeated it to Central, who again took her
time in giving the connection. Jerry was about ready to drop with
nervousness before he finally heard his father's gruff voice at the
other end of the line.
The words simply tumbled over themselves as Jerry told his story;
fortunately, Mr. Ring was shrewd enough to guess the half that Jerry
jumbled in his eagerness.
"Where are you--so I can call you back?" was Mr. Ring's only reply.
Fifteen minutes later the telephone rang. Jerry answered, to hear:
"Ten gallons of gasoline, double strained, left here five minutes
ago on a fast delivery truck. It ought to reach the road opposite
Lost Island inside of two hours. You be there to tell them what to
do. Good luck, Jerry--I'm going back to that conference. This
skylark may cost me a five hundred dollar profit."
"It isn't a skylark--it's a sky_rocket_, and Mr. Fulton will pay you
double over!" But it was into a dead transmitter he shouted it, for
Mr. Ring had not waited.
Jerry did not wait long either, but raced across fields and through
woods to the river road. He found a shady spot, which he established
as his headquarters, but he was too restless to wait there long.
They seemed a mighty long two hours. The sun sank lower and lower;
Jerry heard a bell ringing far off, calling the farm hands to
supper--he was getting hungry himself. Shadows began to darken, the
clouds flared up in a sudden crimson, first low down on the horizon,
then high up in the sky. The sun dropped out of sight behind the
Away down the road sounded a faint drumming noise that grew nearer
and louder until around the bend whirred a dust-raising black
monster that came to a halt a few feet away from the boy who had
sprung out, shouting and waving his arms. "You waiting for
gasoline?" a grouchy voice demanded. "Are you Mr. Ring?"
"I sure am!"
"Well, come on back here and help h'ist it out. We're in a hurry to
get back to town--why it's only a kid!" as Jerry came up. "Who's
going to help you handle it? It's in two five-gallon cans."
"I guess I can manage it all right. I've got some friends waiting
down on the river bank."
"All right; it's your funeral. There you are, sealed, signed and
delivered." The motor roared out, then settled to a steady hum; the
man backed and turned and soon was swallowed up in the dust and the
Jerry braced his shoulders for the stiff carry to the Plum, a five-
gallon can in each hand. He was willing to stop now and then for a
breathing spell, but at last he set the load down on the narrow
fringe of sandy beach. Cupping his hands about his mouth, he sent a
lusty shout ringing across the water; he was too weary to swim it,
and there did not seem to be much need for further concealment.
There was an instant answer, showing that the boys had been awaiting
his signal. The splash of oars told him that the boat was on the
way, and he felt suddenly glad that he could now think of a few
It proved to be Dave and Tod and Phil in the Scout boat. They made
quick work of loading in the two cans, and then they all piled in,
Dave and Tod at the oars. They were perhaps halfway across when
Jerry asked, anxiously, it seemed:
"Can't you get any more speed out of her, fellows?"
"What's eating you? It's as dark now as it's going to get," answered
Dave, at the same time letting his oars float idly up against the
side of the boat.
"I'm worried, that's why," exclaimed Jerry, slipping over and
pushing Dave out of his seat. "Do you hear anything?"
They all listened, Tod holding his oars out of the water. Sure
enough, a purring, deeply muffled sound came faintly across the
water. It was unmistakably a motorboat.
"Some camper," suggested Dave.
"It sounds more like--trouble," declared Phil, a significant accent
on the word. "The enemy, I bet, and trying to cut us off."
"Well, we've got a big start on them. They're a long way off" again
"You mean you're a long way off. They've got her tuned down--she
isn't over two hundred yards away and coming like blue blazes. They
mean mischief--they aren't showing a single light. What's our plan?"
"Keep cool," advised Jerry. "They'll probably try to bump us. We'll
row along easy-like, with a big burst of speed at the last second.
Before they can turn and come at us again, we can make shore. Steady
The drone of the motor was almost upon them. The dusk lay heavy over
the water; they could see nothing. Louder and louder sounded the
explosions, but now they had slowed up. A dim shape showed through
"All set!" came the low command from Jerry, just as the boat,
muffler cut out, the engine at top speed, and volleying revolutions
and deafening explosions, seemed to leap through the water.
"Down hard!" cried Jerry, lunging with his oars. Tod grunted as he
put all his strength into the pull. The Scout boat seemed to lift
itself bodily out of the water as it plunged forward--only inches to
spare as a slim hull slipped by the stern.
"Yah!" yelled Phil, jumping to his feet and shaking his fist wildly.
The Scout boat hit shore just then, and Phil, caught off his guard,
took a header and landed astride one of the gasoline cans. "I wonder
if that was a torpedo," he grunted as he picked himself up.
"No," chuckled Tod. "Just a reminder not to crow while your head is
still on the block."
The boys wasted no time in getting the gasoline out of the boat and
up through the bushes, sending a lusty shout ahead of them to tell
the waiting islanders that they were coming.
"Over on the far side of the clearing," directed Tod, who was
carrying one side of a can with Jerry. "We hauled the _Skyrocket_
over there as the ground is more level and free from stumps."
They found the whole crew waiting about the airship, their eager
faces lighted up by the flaring flames of one of the gasoline
torches. "Hooray for Jerry, the Gasoline Scout!" they shouted as the
boys dropped their loads at the first convenient spot.
"Bully for you!" exclaimed Mr. Fulton, coming over and clapping
Jerry on the shoulder. "Have any trouble?"
"You better guess we did," broke in Dave. "A motorboat tried its
best to run us down."
Mr. Fulton looked grave as he listened to the tale of their
adventure. As Dave finished a spirited account of their narrow
escape, the man turned to Tod with:
"Guess you'd better look after filling the tank, son, while I chase
over to the house and get my goggles and my harness," referring to a
leather brace the doctor had brought him a few days before to use
until his shoulder grew stronger. Unfortunately, the thing was not
properly made and it held the arm too stiffly, so Mr. Fulton used it
only when he absolutely had to.
The boys all wanted to have a hand in this final operation and
consequently it took twice as long as was necessary to fill the
tank. Enough was spilled, as Tod said, to run the _Skyrocket_ ten
miles. In the meanwhile, one of the boys took the small can and went
the rounds and filled all the torches with gasoline, while another
came close behind him and started them going.
Tod finally left the rest to finish the job of filling the
_Skyrocket_, and disappeared in the direction of the workshop.
Within five minutes the boys heard the steady chugging of "Old
Faithful" as they had named the shop motor. An instant later the
whole field was suddenly lighted up as the twenty incandescent
lights flashed up brightly.
"_Some_ illumination!" cried Jerry, delightedly, turning to Mr.
Harris, who happened to be nearest him.
"Yes," agreed the man coldly, "but it's all on the ground."
"Sure. Because there's nothing up in the air to see. Wait till the
old _Skyrocket_ shoots up," and Jerry walked over to where the boys
were standing. "Old grouch," he said to himself. "You'd think he
didn't want to see us win out."
Tod came hurrying back from the hangar. "Where's dad?" he asked.
"Hasn't got back yet."
"That's funny. I saw him leave the cabin as I went in to start up
the dynamo. He called something to me about hurrying so as not to
give those fellows any time to think up new tricks. Who's that over
there with Mr. Harris?"
"Phil, I guess. Your dad hasn't come out yet or we'd have seen him--
it's light as day."
"What's the cause of the delay now?" came from behind them. Mr.
Lewis had approached the group unobserved.
"Waiting for my father," answered Tod. "Guess he's having a hard
time with his harness. I'd have stopped for him only I thought he'd
have come back ahead of me. I'll chase over now and see if he needs
any help with his straps."
Tod ambled off across the torch-lighted open. It was a weird sight,
that flaring line of torches, the paler gleam of the electric lights
hung high in the trees, the animated faces of the excited boys, the
two stolid men, and the adventurous looking _Skyrocket_, its engines
throbbing, the tiny searchlight ahead of the pilot's seat sending a
fan-shaped road of white light into the trees. It was like a scene
on the stage--just before the grand climax.
Tod furnished the climax for this scene. Hardly had he disappeared
within the door of the cabin, before he came running out again,
shouting at the top of his voice:
There was a note in his cry that went through the boys like an
electric shock. It was anger and fear and a dozen other emotions at
once. They fairly flew across the hundred yards or so to the cabin,
crowding in till the main room was filled.
"What is it, Tod?" cried Phil, as his cousin flung open the door to
the tiny lean-to bedroom. Tod's face was pasty white and his eyes
"They've--_got_ dad! I'm afraid he's--killed!"
"No!" exclaimed Jerry, pushing past.
But the first look made him believe the worst. On the floor, toppled
over in the chair to which he had been bound, lay Mr. Fulton, his
injured shoulder twisted way out of place, his distorted face the
color of old ivory. Gagged and tightly laced to the bed lay Mr.
Billings, his features working in wildest rage.
But Mr. Fulton was not dead. He came to under the deft handling of
Phil and his fellow Scouts, but it was Mr. Billings who told the
story of the attack.
While Mr. Fulton had been struggling with the strap that held his
shoulder-brace in place, two burly men had burst through the doorway
and quickly overpowered him, handicapped as he was by his useless
arm. They had bound him to the chair, and then, after gagging and
tying Billings, had calmly proceeded to ransack the room, one
holding a pistol at Fulton's head while the other searched.
Papers scattered about on the floor, wrecked furniture and broken
boxes, testified to the thoroughness of the hunt. But they had found
nothing until they had thought to go through the bed on which
Billings lay. Under the mattress was a portfolio packed with
blueprints and plans. That was when Mr. Fulton had fallen; he had
tried to free himself from his bonds and get at the two, no matter
how hopeless the fight.
As Mr. Billings finished the story, Mr. Fulton opened his eyes
weakly. "Tod----" he gasped--"where's Tod?"
"Here, dad," coming close beside him where he lay on a big pile of
"Look quick and see if they found the little flat book--you know."
Tod rummaged hastily through the disordered mess of drawings
littered over the bed and floor. "Not here," he confessed finally.
The man gave a deep groan. "We're done for, then. It had the
contract folded up in it. And it had the combination to the safe at
the house, and there was the list of the specifications Mr. Billings
made out for me when we packed away the first draft of the
"What difference does that make, if they've already got the
blueprints'?" asked Jerry.
"Oh-h!" cried Mr. Fulton, despair in his voice, "don't you see? The
aeroplane itself was made here; Billings did all the work on it. But
Tod and I did all the experimental work at home. All the data
concerning the invention is back there in the safe!"
"And they're already halfway there in their motorboat!" groaned
But Mr. Fulton made no answer. His eyes were closed; he had fainted
Tod jumped up from where he had been kneeling beside his father.
"Look after him, Phil," he directed briskly. "Jerry, you come with
me. Those villains have got the contract and they will soon have
dad's secret--it means that we're cleaned out. There's only one
thing to do in a tight place like this, and you and I are going to
do it--if you've got the nerve!"
"I've got it," responded Jerry quickly. "What is it?"
"We're going after those crooks in the _Skyrocket_!"
A CLOSE FINISH
The incidents of the next hour or so would be hard to picture from
the standpoint of Jerry's emotions. As they half ran over to where
the _Skyrocket_ stood ready, snorting like an impatient racehorse,
his heart was filled with a kind of frightened determination. Once
he was strapped into his seat, his pulses stopped galloping so fast,
but as Tod began an endless fumbling with levers, plainly as nervous
as his chum, Jerry's nerve oozed out at his fingertips; he might
have climbed out had it not been for the straps--and the two men,
who now came forward and insisted that the boys give up their hair-
brained plan. Jerry would have been killed by inches rather than
give in to them.
A sudden terrifying lurch, a dizzy parting company with solid earth
that almost made Jerry part company with his stomach. He yelled, but
it might easily have been through excitement rather than fear. He
hoped the two and Tod would think so. He dared not look down--all he
could do was grip the rod before him with a death-defying clutch.
Faster and faster, higher and higher they mounted, the air whistling
by them like mad.
"Can't you slow her down a little?" he yelled in Tod's ear, but Tod
gave no answer. He could hardly have heard above the roar of the
motor and the sickening whine of the propellers--not to intention a
steady drumming of taut wires and tightly stretched silk. "Can't you
tune her down?" Jerry yelled, louder this time, "and get her level?"
"Can't!" shouted Tod. "I've forgotten which handle to pull, even if
I knew which way to pull it!"
He tried first one and then another, but although they lurched
dangerously, first this way and then that, they kept mounting into
the sky. Finally there was but one chance left--Tod cautiously drew
the lever toward him, then with an "Ah!" heard above all the noise,
brought it all the way. The _Skyrocket_ quivered, dropped to an even
keel, and then turned her nose earthward. But Tod was ready for
that. Halfway back he shoved, the lever and once more the
_Skyrocket_ rode level.
They had left Lost Island far behind, but in which direction they
could not be sure. A long streak of flame to the left told them that
a railroad lay there, and it could be none other than the Belt Line
that ran into Watertown. Through a rift in the clouds a cluster of
stars showed briefly--the Big Dipper. "See!" shouted Tod. "We're
headed north, all right"
They were going much slower now, and the noise was not so deafening;
they could talk without splitting their throats. Dimly they made out
Plum Run directly beneath them, while a haze of lights indicated
Watertown, the goal. Even as they watched it seemed to be drawing
"Were you scared?" asked Tod.
"Stiff," confessed Jerry. "You?"
"Should say. Bet my hair's turned white. Where'll we land?"
"Where can you?"
"Don't know. River, most likely. Say, we're lucky we're alive. I
thought I knew how to run it until we got off the ground. Then I
found I'd forgotten more than I ever learned."
"Did you ever run it before?"
"With dad watching, yes. Once, that is. But I've faked running it a
hundred times there in the hangar. Suppose we could come down in
your back lot? It's level--and big enough, maybe."
"We might hit a horse. Dad's got Daisy in there nights."
"We'll have to chance it, I guess. But you hold on good and tight,
because I'll probably pull the wrong strings at the last minute.
Where are we now?"
"That's the mill yonder, I think. We want to swing west a little
now. Suppose _they_ are at the house by now?"
"Most likely. They had a good start. Shall we get your dad?"
"Uhuh. And several others--with guns. Better have old Bignold." Mr.
Bignold was the only night policeman in Watertown. "There's the city
limits, that switch-tower on the Belt Line. Hadn't we better come
down a bit. I don't like the idea of falling so far."
Tod obediently let the _Skyrocket_ slide down a few hundred feet,
till they were just above the tree-tops. They could see that their
arrival was causing a commotion below. They could even hear the
cries of alarm. "Bet they think we're a comet," chuckled Tod.
Now he began to circle a bit, for it was hard to identify houses and
streets in the dark and from this unfamiliar view. At last Jerry
gave a shout of joy. "There's our house--and I bet that's dad coming
out to see what's up. Hey, dad!" he yelled, but the running figure
below made no answer.
"Well, here goes for Daisy!" chuckled Tod, at the same time pointing
the _Skyrocket_ earthward so sharply that it made Jerry gasp. Down,
down they shot, the black underneath seeming to be rushing up to
crush them. At the last Tod managed to lessen their slant, but even
then they struck the ground with a force that almost overturned the
machine. Over the rough ground the landing wheels jolted, but slower
and slower. A final disrupting jar, and they stopped dead.
Not so the object they had struck. With a wild squeal of fear poor
Daisy struggled to her feet and went tearing out of sight and
hearing at better speed than she had shown for years.
"That'll bring dad on the jump," declared Jerry, climbing painfully
from his seat. "Say, to-morrow I'm going to take a good look at this
rod I've been holding to; I'll bet it shows fingermarks."
"What's the meaning of that rumpus out there?" demanded a stern
"Oh, dad--we need you the worst way."
"That you, Jerry? What in tarnation you up to anyhow?"
"We're not up any longer--we're glad to get back to earth."
"Eh?" said Mr. Ring, perplexed, as he came up to them. "What ye
driving at? What was that thing that just sailed over the house? Did
you see it? I heard Daisy going on out here like the devil before
day--or was it you two who were pestering her? What's that
contraption you're sitting on?"
"The same thing that just sailed over, dad," laughed Jerry, then,
unable to hold in any longer: "We came from Lost Island in Mr.
Fulton's aeroplane that he's just invented, and there's robbers in
Mr. Fulton's house, and we want you to get a gun and Mr. Bignold and
all the neighbors, and go down and get them!" Jerry stopped, but
only because he was out of breath.
"Get them? Who are _them?_ And what in thunder you two doing in an
aero----" "Oh, dad," Jerry almost screamed in his fear that delay
might make them too late, "don't stop to ask questions. Let's get to
the house and Tod can be telephoning while I tell you what it's all
about." He caught hold of his father's arm to hurry him along.
"There are two men breaking into Mr. Fulton's safe this minute, most
likely, and we mustn't let them get away."
"Well, what in thunder's Fulton got in a safe that any robber would
want?" grumbled Mr. Ring, but stepping briskly along nevertheless.
"Two men, you say? Guess Bignold and I can handle them. I've got my
old horse-pistol--if it doesn't blow out backwards."
They had reached the house, and Tod went in to telephone, while Mr.
Ring went upstairs to get his revolver, which, instead of being a
horse pistol, was an automatic of the latest type. Jerry stopped him
for a moment at the stair door. "I'm going ahead. I'll be just
outside the gate over yonder, keeping an eye on the place to see
they don't get away." He was gone before Mr. Ring could object.
But the house was dark and silent. Not a sign of unwelcome visitors
was to be seen. All the windows were tightly closed; both doors were
shut. Jerry felt uncomfortable. Suppose there was no one there--had
been no one there? The two men would roast him and Tod unmercifully.
He heard a light step on the walk behind him and turned, expecting
his father. His words of greeting died in his throat.
Two men, looking unbelievably big and threatening in the darkness,
were almost upon him. He tried to shout for help. His tongue seemed
paralyzed and his throat refused to give out a sound. Jerry was
scared stiff. He knew at once that these two were the men they had
come to capture, and somehow he had a feeling that they knew _that_,
Not a word was said. Jerry had backed up against the gatepost, his
fists doubled up at his sides.
The two pressed in close against him. He felt powerful hands
reaching out to crush the life out of him, but still he made no
outcry. Then one of them spoke.
"You came in the airship?"
Jerry started, for the man's English was perfect, though heavy and
foreign sounding in an unexplainable way. He repeated his question
when the boy did not answer at once.
"Yes--yes," stammered Jerry, hoping that perhaps he might gain time.
"You came alone?" insinuated the same speaker as before, but now an
ominous note of threat in his voice.
Jerry was in a quandary. He realized that if he told them that he
had come alone, that they would kill him. On the other hand, if he
told them the truth, they would get away.
"Answer!" commanded the man, catching Jerry by the throat and
shaking him till the back of Jerry's eyeballs seemed to be red,
searing flames. A sudden rage came over him, numbed as he was by the
pressure on his windpipe. With a mighty wrench he freed himself.
Kicking out with all his might, he caught the farther man full in
the pit of the stomach. He fell, all doubled up. But the man who had
choked Jerry, laughed scornfully as lie caught the boy's arms and
gave the one a twist that almost tore it from its socket.
"More spirit than brains," he laughed derisively. "I'll break you in
two over my knee if you make another break like that."
"You'll kindly put up your hands in the meanwhile," suggested a
pleasant but firm voice which Jerry could hardly recognize as that
of his father. "I think I'll take a little hand in this game
"Look out, dad--there's one on the ground!" warned Jerry. "I kicked
him in the stomach."
"Pleasant way to treat visitors. Why didn't you invite them into the
house, son? Oblige me, gentlemen." He waved his automatic in the
general direction of the Fulton front porch. "I'd ask you to my own
house, but, you know, womenfolks----"
Jerry stepped out of the way. His assailant passed him and turned to
go in the gateway. Then something happened, just what, Jerry was not
sure. Afterwards it developed that he had been picked up bodily and
hurled full at his father. Mr. Ring went down like a tenpin when the
ball hits dead-center. As he fell, his finger pressed the trigger
and six roaring shots flashed into the air. When father and son
regained their feet, they had a last dim glimpse of two forms in
rapid flight. Then the darkness swallowed them up.
"We bungled it," said Mr. Ring, ruefully feeling of a certain soft
spot in his body where Jerry's weight had landed.
"And here come Tod--and Chief Bignold, just a minute too late."
"Hi there, Mr. Ring," called the burly constable. "What is it--a
"A massacre, but all the victims escaped. Two blooming foreigners
trying to steal an airship out of Mr. Fulton's safe down there in
his cellar--wasn't that what you said, boys?"
The boys tried to explain, but both men seemed to insist on taking
the whole affair as a joke, though they talked it over seriously
enough when the youngsters were out of hearing. Tod opened the door
and let them inside the house, but did not go in himself, motioning
to Jerry to stay beside him.
"You two youngsters chase along over to the house and tell Mrs. Ring
to give you your nursing bottles and put you to bed."
"Huh," snorted Tod, "we daren't leave the _Skyrocket_ unguarded."
"Why it's Fulton's kid," exclaimed Bignold, for the first time
recognizing him. "Say, you tell your dad that he's been stirring up
this town till it's wild with excitement. Three telegrams this day,
not to mention a special delivery letter that they've been hunting
all over the country for him with. And on top of that, an important
little man with brass buttons and shoulder-straps, struttin' all
over the place and askin' everybody if he's Mr. Fulton, the
inventor. When'd your dad get to be an inventor?"
"Well, he had to be born sometime," answered Tod dryly.
"Eh? Well, you'd best tell that same little busy-bee where your
father can be found. And the telegrams; don't forget them."
"I won't," answered Tod, starting off toward town on the run. "Watch
the old _Skyrocket_ till I get back, will you, Jerry?" and he was
* * * * * * *
Two stiff, sleepy, disgusted boys sat up in their nest of blankets
and looked at each other through the framework of the _Skyrocket_
next morning at something like seven o'clock.
"And you said you wouldn't go to sleep," each said slowly and
accusingly to the other, then both grinned sheepishly.
"Oh, well, the machine's still here, so why grouch over a couple
hours' sleep?" Tod defended. "Huh--I suppose not. But I'll bet dad
had a good laugh over us when he came down here about breakfast
time. What's that pinned to your blanket?"
Tod crawled out of his nest and pulled loose the scrap of paper that
had been pinned in the region of his big toe.
"It's a note. Want to hear it? It says, 'Mother Ring tells me
pancakes are ready for you when you've finished your guard-mount.
Signed--A Burglar.' That's sure one on us."
It was scant justice that the two did to breakfast that morning.
Four telegrams were burning holes in Tod's pockets; he could hardly
keep from tearing them open, so curious was he to know their
contents. Even the newspaper that Mrs. King brought in and laid
beside their plates, could not entirely hold their attention, in
spite of the startling news headlined on the front page. "BREAK WITH
GERMANY--U. S. on Verge of Being Drawn Into World War."
"We'll take it with us and read it after we get there. No--not
another cake, Mrs. Ring. Excuse us, please--we've got to go."
"It seems a shame----" began Tod, when they were once more outside,
then asked abruptly: "Willing to take a licking, Jerry?"
"And go back on the _Skyrocket_? Did you think we were going any
other way? And leave the machine here for anybody to come along and
study out--or steal? Not much! I'll take a dozen lickings!"
But he didn't. When the _Skyrocket_ finally circled about Lost
Island and settled down over the narrow landing field as easily as a
homing pigeon, to come to a stop with hardly a jar, it was bringing
news to Mr. Fulton that was bound to soften the heart of any dad.
Tod's father was out in front of the little cabin, a bit pale and
shaky, but cheerful. His face lighted up wonderfully when he saw the
_Skyrocket_ aground and the two boys safe. He tried to rise to greet
them, but had to be satisfied to wave his hand instead. The two boys
came running over to where he sat, eager to tell their story.
"What's happened?" Mr. Fulton asked excitedly before they could
begin. He was pointing at the newspaper Jerry had been waving wildly
as they raced across the open.
"War--maybe--with Germany! But we've more important news than that--
for us just now, at least. Telegrams--four of them--look. And an
officer's been looking for you----"
"Police?" asked Mr. Fulton gravely.
"Army!" exploded Tod and Jerry together. "Bet it's about the----"
They paused, for Mr. Fulton was not listening to them. He had torn
one of the telegraph envelopes open and was reading the brief
message, his face going first red and then white.
"What's all the excitement?" demanded a slow voice in which there
was a trace of resentment. It was Mr. Harris, who had appeared in
the doorway of the cabin.
"Nothing much," answered Mr. Fulton. "Nothing at all. In fact, the
excitement's all over. I'm certainly very glad that you balked
yesterday on buying that 'pig in a poke,' my dear baronet. It
seems," flapping the opened telegram against his other hand, "it
seems, my very dear sir, that the American government, being
confronted by a situation which bears more than a promise of war,
has offered to buy the ideas which are embodied in the _Skyrocket_."
"Hooray for Uncle Sammy!" shouted Tod.
All the boys had come crowding around, slapping Tod and Jerry wildly
on the back and cheering till their throats were hoarse. It was
fully five minutes before anyone could make himself heard above the
din. Finally Mr. Fulton raised his hand for a chance to be heard,
and after one rousing shout of "Three cheers for the Scouts of the
Air!" the noisy crew quieted down.
"Phil asked me one day if I'd promise you all a front seat at the
circus and a ride on the elephant. Well, I'm going to keep my word,
I've got a piece of timber about forty miles up the river from here,
and on it there's a log cabin and one of the greatest little old
fishing lakes in the country. I'm going to take you all up there for
a month of the best sport you ever had."
"Bully for you, dad!" shouted Tod, then turned to Jerry with:
"And while we're there, what say we learn the first principles of
Boy Scouting, so that when we get back to Watertown we can organize
a patrol of----"
"The Boy Scouts of the Air!" finished Dave and Frank and Jerry in a