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The Girl Aviators' Motor Butterfly by Margaret Burnham

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[Illustration: "What are you doing to this child?" demanded Roy







I. Preparations and Plans.

II. Off on the Flight.

III. Little Wren and the Gipsies.

IV. The Approach of the Storm.

V. Peggy's Thoughtfulness Saves the Farm.

VI. The Girl Aviators in Deadly Peril.

VII. A Stop for the Night.

VIII. Roy Makes an Enemy.

IX. Jimsy Falls Asleep.

X. Peggy's Intuition.

XI. A Mean Revenge!

XII. The Finding of the "Butterfly"

XIII. Prisoners in the Hut.

XIV. What's To Be Done with The Wren?

XV. A Rambunctious Ram.

XVI. An Invitation to Race.

XVII. The Twisted Spark Plug.

XVIII. In Search of a New Plug.

XIX. The Trap.

XX. An Attack in the Air.

XXI. Peggy's Splendid Race.

XXII. Peggy's Generosity.

XXIII. The Moonshiners and the Aeroplane.

XXIV. Mr. Parker's Story.

XXV. The Wren Disappears.

XXVI. Captured by Gipsies.

XXVII. Deliverance.

The Girl Aviators' Motor Butterfly



"It will be another 'sky cruise,' longer and daintier and lovelier!"
exclaimed Jess Bancroft, clapping her hands. "Peggy, you're nothing
if not original."

"Well, there are automobile tours and sailing trips, and driving
parties--" "And railroad journeys and mountain tramps--" interrupted
Jess, laughing.

"Yes, and there are wonderful, long-distance migrations of birds, so
why not a cross-country flight of motor butterflies?"

"It would be splendid fun," agreed Jess eagerly; "we could take the
_Golden Butterfly_ and the _Red Dragon_ and----" "Don't forget that
Bess Marshall has a small monoplane, too, now. I guess she would go
in with us."

"Not a doubt of it. Let's go and find the boys and see what they say
to it."

"No need to go after them, here they come now."

As the golden-haired Peggy spoke, two good-looking youths came round the
corner of the old-fashioned house at Sandy Bay, Long Island, where the
two young Prescotts made their home with their maiden aunt, Miss Sally
Prescott. One of the lads was Roy Prescott, Peggy's brother, and the
other was Jimsy Bancroft.

"Well, girls, what's up now?" inquired Roy, as both girls sprang to
their feet, their faces flushed and eyes shining.

"Oh, nothing particular," rejoined Peggy, with assumed indifference,
"except that we've just solved the problem of what to do with the
rest of the summer."

"And what's that,--lie in hammocks and indulge in ice-cream sodas and
chocolates?" asked Jimsy mockingly.

"No, indeed, you impertinent person; the young lady of the twentieth
century has left all that far behind her," was Jess's Parthian shot,
"for proof I refer you to our adventures on the Great Alkali."

"Hello! what's this?" asked Roy, holding up a dainty cardboard box,
and giving vent to a mischievous smile.

"Chocolates!" cried Jimsy.

"It _was_ chocolates," corrected Peggy reproachfully.

"And yet shall be," declared Jimsy, producing from some mysterious
place in a long auto coat another box, beribboned and decorated like
the first.

"Jimsy, you're an angel!" cried both girls at once.

"So I've been told before," responded the imperturbable Jimsy, "but
I never really believed it till now."

Peggy rewarded him for the compliment by popping a chocolate into his

Gravely munching it, Jimsy proceeded to interrogation.

"And how did you solve the problem of what to do with the rest of the
summer?" he asked.

For answer Peggy pointed to the sky, a delicate blue dome flecked with
tiny cloudlets like cherub's wings.

"By circling way up yonder in the cloudfields," she laughed.

"But that's no novelty," objected Roy, "we've been up 5,000 feet
already, and----" "But we're talking about a tour through cloudland,"
burst out Jess, unable to retain the secret any longer, "a sort of
Cook's tour above the earth."

"Wow!" gasped both boys. "There's nothing slow," added Roy, "in that
or about you two. And, incidentally, just read this letter I got this
morning, or rather I'll read it for you."

So saying Roy produced from his coat a letter closely written in an
old-fashioned handwriting. It was as follows:

"My Dear Niece and Nephew: No doubt you will be surprised to hear from
your Uncle Jack. Possibly you will hardly recall him. This has, in a
great measure, been his own fault as, since your poor father's death,
I have not paid the attention I should to my correspondence.

"This letter, then, is to offer what compensation lies in my power for
my neglect. Having read in the papers of your wonderful flying feats in
Nevada it struck me that you and your young friends might like to pay
me a 'flying trip,' making the excursion via aeroplane.

"We are to have some flying contests in Marysville during the latter
part of the month, and you might care to participate in them. Of course
I expect your Aunt Sallie to accompany you. Hoping sincerely to see you,
I am

"Your affectionate uncle,
"James Parker.
"Marysville, North Carolina."

As Roy concluded the reading the quartet of merry youngsters exchanged
delighted glances. As if by magic here was an objective point descried
for their projected motor flight.

"Well, that's what I call modern magic," declared Jimsy glowingly;
"consider me as having accepted the invitation."

"Accepting likewise for me, of course," said Jess, shaking her black
locks and blinking round, expectant eyes.

"Of course," struck in Peggy affectionately, "the Girl Aviators cannot
be parted."

Just at this moment came a whirring sound from high in the air above
them. Looking up, they saw a dainty green monoplane, with widespread
wings and whirring propeller, descending to earth. An instant later
the machine had come to a halt on the lawn, alighting as lightly as
wind-blown gossamer. In the machine was seated a pretty girl of about
Peggy's age, though rather stouter. In harmony with the color of the
machine she drove, the newly arrived girl aviator wore a green aviation
costume, with a close-fitting motor bonnet. From the beruffled edge of
this some golden strands of hair had escaped, and waved above two
laughing blue eyes.

"Hello, people!" she hailed, as the porch party hastily adjourned and
ran to welcome her, "how's that for a novice only recently out of the
Mineola School?"

"Bess Marshall, you're a wonder!" cried Peggy, embracing her; "the
_Dart_ is the prettiest little machine I've seen for a long time."

"Isn't it a darling," agreed Bess warmly, "but, my! how I had to beg and
pray dad before he would buy it for me. He said that no daughter of his
should ever go up in an aeroplane, much less drive one. It wasn't till I
got him down at Mineola and persuaded him to take a ride himself that he
consented to buying me my dear little _Dart_."

She laid one daintily gloved hand on the steering wheel of the little
monoplane and patted it affectionately.

"It's pretty enough, but it wouldn't fly very far," commented Roy
teasingly, "sort of aerial taxicab, I'd call it."

"Is that so, Mr. Roy Prescott? Well, I'd like you to know that the
_Dart_ could fly just as far and as fast as the _Red Dragon_ or the
_Golden Butterfly_."

"Well, if you wanted to take a trip to North Carolina with us you'd have
an opportunity to test that idea out," laughed Peggy.

"A trip to North Carolina? What do you mean? Are you dreaming?"

"No, not even day-dreaming."

Just then Miss Prescott, her gentle face wreathed in smiles, appeared
at the door.

"Children! children!" she exclaimed, "what is all this? Adjourn your
discussion for a while and come in and have tea."

While the happy group of young fliers are entering the pretty,
old-fashioned house with its clustering roses and green-shuttered
casements, let us relate a little more about the young personages
to whose enthusiastic talk the reader has just listened.

Roy and Peggy Prescott were orphans living in the care of their aunt,
Miss Prescott, the location of whose home on Long Island has already
been described. At school Roy had imbibed the aerial fever, and after
many vicissitudes had built a fine monoplane, the _Golden Butterfly_,
with which he had won a big money prize, besides encountering a series
of extraordinary aerial adventures. In these Peggy participated, and on
more than one occasion was the means of materially aiding her brother
out of difficulties. All this part of their experiences was related in
the first volume of this series, "The Girl Aviators and the Phantom

In the second volume, "The Girl Aviators on Golden Wings," a combination
of strange circumstances took our friends out to the Great Alkali of the
Nevada desert. Here intrigues concerning a hidden gold mine provided
much excitement and peril, and the girls proved that, after all, a
fellow's sisters can be splendid companions in fun and hardship. An
exciting race with an express train, and the adventure of the "Human
Coyote," provided stirring times in this story, which also related the
queer antics of Professor Wandering William, an odd character indeed.
Space does not permit to relate their previous adventures in more
detail, but in "The Girl Aviators' Sky Cruise" still other interesting
and unusual experiences are described,--experiences that tested both
themselves and their machines in endurance flights.

Of Roy and Peggy's devoted friends, Jess and Jimsy Bancroft, it is
enough to say that both were children of Mr. Bancroft, a wealthy banker,
who had a palatial summer home near to the Prescotts' less pretentious
dwelling. Since we last met Jess and Jimsy their father had allowed them
to purchase an aeroplane known as the _White Flier_. It was in this
craft that Jimsy and Roy had flown over for mail when they made their
entrance at the beginning of this chapter. Of the letter they found
awaiting them we already know.

Jolly, good-natured Bess Marshall had taken up aviation as a lark. She
was a typical specimen of an American girl. Light-hearted, wholesome and
devoted to all sorts of sports, tennis, swimming, golf, motoring and
finally aviation had, in turn, claimed her attention.

And now, having introduced our heroes and heroines of the sky to those
who have not already met them, we will proceed to see how Miss Prescott
receives the startling plans that her young charges are about to lay
before her.



"But, my dear children, do you realize what such a trip means?"

The gentle-voiced Miss Prescott leaned back in her easy-chair and
gazed at Peggy and Roy with an approach to consternation.

"It means fun, adventure, and--oh, everything!" cried Peggy, clapping
her hands.

"You can't have the heart to refuse us," sighed Jess.

"If it were only the boys it might be different, but two young ladies--"
"Three," corrected Bess.

"Three, then. For three young ladies, supposedly of sound mind, to go
flying across country like, like--" "Butterflies," struck in Jimsy.

"Wait a minute," cried Jess, "there'd have to be four ladies--"
"Of course; a chaperon," breathed Peggy, with a mischievous glance.

Miss Prescott dropped her knitting.

"Peggy Prescott, you mean me?"

"Of course; who else could go?"

"My dear child, do you actually contemplate taking me flying through
the air at my time of life?"

"Why not? It isn't as if you'd never been up," urged Peggy.

"You said you liked it, too," struck in Jess.

"Um--well, I may have said so," admitted Miss Prescott, visibly
weakening from the stand she had taken, and she went on: "I would
like to see James again."

"And here is your opportunity ready to hand, as the advertisements say,"
declared Bess, her blue eyes shining.

"But how could I go?"

The question was an outward and visible sign of capitulation on Miss
Prescott's part.

"Why, I was thinking we could use that big biplane I was building for
Mr. Bell's use out in Nevada," spoke up Roy; "it will seat three, and is
as steady as a church, thanks to that balancing device Jimsy and I
figured out."

"I'd fly my little _Dart_," declared Bess.

"And you and I would take the _Golden Butterfly_," cried Peggy, crossing
to Jessie and placing her arm round the dark-haired girl's neck.

"Jimsy can fly the _Red Dragon_, and that leaves Roy and auntie for the
biplane," she went on, bubbling over with enthusiasm as her plans
matured and took form.

"Goodness gracious, an aerial circus!" cried Miss Prescott. "We would
attract crowds, and that wouldn't be pleasant."

"I was planning to make it a sort of picnic," declared Peggy, who
appeared to have an answer for every objection that could be interposed
to her project.

"What, camp out every night? Well, you are a wonder," exclaimed Jimsy,
"if there's one thing I love it's camping out."

"How long would it take us to get to Marysville?" asked Bess.

"I'll get the atlas," cried Peggy, "but if we have good weather not more
than three or four days."

"I hardly think it would take as long as that," declared Roy, as five
eager heads were bent over the atlas.

"But camping out!" exclaimed Miss Prescott, "think of colds and
rheumatism, not to mention snakes and robbers."

"Tell you what," cried Jimsy suddenly, "what's the matter with Miss
Prescott going along in an automobile? We can map out the route, arrange
our stops and meet every evening at some small town where we won't
attract too much of a crowd."

"Jimsy, I always said you were a genius," cried Peggy.

"Behold the last objection swept away," struck in Bess.

"Surely you can't refuse now?" urged Jess.

"Please say yes," came from them all.

"But--but who would drive the car?" asked Miss Prescott, in the voice of
one who is thinking up a feeble last objection.

"Why, Jake Rickets, of course," declared Roy, referring to the man who
helped the boys in the machine shop in which the aeroplanes for the
desert mines were manufactured.

After this Miss Prescott could make but a poor stand against the united
urgings of five impetuous, enthusiastic young people. The air was filled
with plans of all sorts. Jimsy was for going at once, but it was finally
decided to meet again and set a definite date for a start. In the
meantime there were parents' consents to be obtained, plans laid for the
route to be followed, and various things purchased for the aerial trip.

All this occupied some time, and it was not till a week later that the
last difficulty in connection with the motor flight had been
straightened out and the three aeroplanes stood ready, in Roy's hangar,
for a tour that was to prove eventful in more ways than one.

It was just after dawn on the day of the start that Roy and Jimsy for
the last time went over every nut and bolt on the machines and declared
everything in perfect readiness for the trip. Breakfast was a mere
pretence at a meal; excitement got the better of appetites that morning.

Beside the winged machines sputtering and coughing as if impatient at
the delay, was a large and comfortable red touring car. At the driver's
wheel of this vehicle was seated a small, "under-done"-looking man, in a
chauffeur's uniform of black leather. This was Jake Rickets.

"Well, Jake, we're all ready for a start," announced Roy, at last.

The small man, whose hair was fair, not to say pale, glanced at the
glowing boy with an expression of deep melancholy.

"Yes, if something don't happen," he declared, in tones of deep

"Jake's never happy unless he's foreboding some disaster," explained
Roy to Bess, who happened to be standing by drawing on her gloves.

"It don't never do to be too sure," murmured the melancholy Jake,
"'cos why? Well, you can't most generally always tell."

"Everything ready?" cried Peggy at last, as Miss Prescott got into
the car.

"As ready as it ever will be," merrily called back Bess, who was already
seated in the little green _Dart_.

The chorus of engine pantings and explosions was swelled by the roar of
Roy's big biplane and the rattling exhaust of Jimsy's fierce-looking
_Red Dragon_.

The _Golden Butterfly_, which was equipped with a silencing device, ran
smoothly and silently as a sewing machine. Peggy sat at the wheel, while
Jess reclined on the padded seat placed tandemwise behind her. It made a
wonderful picture, the big white biplane with its boy driver, the
scarlet and silver machine of Jimsy Bancroft and the delicate green and
gold color schemes of the other two flying machines.

"The first stop will be Palenville," announced Roy, "the biplane will be
the pathfinder."

Despite the earliness of the hour and the efforts that had been made to
keep the motor flight a secret, the information of the novel experiment
had, in some way, leaked out. Quite a small crowd gave a loud cheer as
Roy cried:


"We're off!" cried Peggy, athrill with excitement.

Propellers flashed in the sunlight and the next instant the biplane,
after a short run, soared aloft toward a sky of cloudless, clean-swept
blue. In rapid succession the _Dart, Golden Butterfly_ and _Red Dragon_

"Come on," cried Bess to Jimsy, waving her hand challengingly.

"Ladies first, even off the earth," came back from Jimsy gallantly,
as he skillfully "banked" his machine in an upward spiral.

Then upward and outward soared the gayly colored sky racers, like a
flock of wonderful birds. It was the greatest sight that the crowd left
behind and below had ever witnessed, although one or two shook their
heads and prophesied dire results from young ladies tampering with
them blamed "sky buggies."

But not a thought of this entered the heads of the aerial adventurers.
With sparkling eyes, and bounding pulses they flew steadily southward,
from time to time glancing below at the touring car. Even though they
were flying slowly it was plain that the big auto had hard work to keep
up with them. The unique motor flight was on, and was about to develop
experiences of which none of them at the moment dreamed.



They flew on, keeping the motor car beneath them in constant sight till
about noon. Then, from the tonneau of the machine, came the waving of a
red square of silk. This had been agreed upon as a signal to halt for a
brief lunch.

Shouting joyously, the young adventurers of the air began circling their
machines about, dropping closer earthward with every sweep. Beneath them
was a green meadow, bordered on one side by a country road and on the
other by a small brook of clear water and a patch of dark woods. It was
an ideal place to halt for a roadside lunch, and as one after the other
the machines dropped to earth Miss Prescott was warmly congratulated on
her choice of a halting place.

The car was left in the road, and the melancholy Jake Rickets set to
work getting wood for a fire, for it was not to be thought of that Miss
Prescott could go without her cup of tea. In the meantime the girls
spread a cloth and set out their fare. There were dainty chicken
sandwiches with crisp lettuce leaves lurking between the thin white
"wrappers," cold meat and half a dozen other little picnic delicacies,
which all the girls, despite their aerial craze, had not forgotten how
to make.

The boys set up a shout as, returning from attending to the aeroplanes,
they beheld the inviting table.

"This beats camping out by ourselves," declared Roy, "girls, we're glad
we brought you."

"Thank you for the compliment," laughed Jess. "I suppose you mean that
you are glad _we_ brought all this."

She waved her hand at the "spread" dramatically.

"Both," rejoined Jimsy, throwing himself on the grass. By this time
Jake's kettle was bubbling merrily, and soon the refreshing aroma of
Miss Prescott's own particular kind of tea was in the air. The boys
preferred to try the water from the brook, despite Jake's dire hints at
typhoid and other germs holding a convention in it. It was sweet and
cool, and the girls voted it as good as ice-cream soda.

"At any rate as we can't get any we might as well pretend it is,"
declared Bess.

So the meal passed merrily. After it had been concluded, amid gay
chatter and fun, Peggy proposed an excursion to the woods for wild
flowers which grew in great profusion on the opposite side of the
stream. Crossing it by a plank bridge, the young people plunged into the
cool woods, dark and green, and carpeted with flowering shrubs and

For some time they gathered the blossoms, and were just about to return
to the aeroplanes and resume their journey when Peggy uttered a sudden
sharp exclamation:

"Hark! What's that?" she cried.

They all listened. Again came the sound that had arrested her attention;
a sharp cry, as if some one was in pain or fright.

Then came definite words:

"Don't! Please; don't hit me again!"

"It's a child!" exclaimed Jimsy.

"A girl!" cried Peggy, "some one is ill-treating her."

"We'll soon find out!" cried Roy hotly. It infuriated the boy to think
that a child was being subjected to ill-treatment, and the nature of the
cries left no doubt that such was the case.

"Stand back here, girls, while we see what's up!" struck in Jimsy.

"Indeed we'll do no such thing!" rejoined the plucky Bess, bridling

"At any rate let us go in advance," advised Roy; "we don't know just
what we may run up against."

This appeared reasonable even to Bess, and with the boys slightly in
advance the little group pressed rapidly forward. After traveling about
two hundred yards they found themselves in a small clearing where a most
unusual sight presented itself; a sight that brought a quick flash of
indignation to the face of every one of them.

Cowering under the blows of a tall, swarthy woman was a small girl, so
fragile as to appear almost elfin. The woman wore the garb of a gipsy,
and the presence of some squalid tents and tethered horses showed our
young friends at once that it was a gipsy encampment upon which they
had happened.

The woman was so intent on belaboring the shrieking child that at first
she did not see the newcomers. It was not till Roy stepped up to her,
in fact, that she became aware of their presence.

"What are you doing to this child?" demanded Roy indignantly.

"That's none of your business," was the retort, as the woman for an
instant released her hold on the child.

Instantly the little creature darted to the sheltering arms of Peggy,
sobbing piteously.

"Oh! Save me from her, she will kill me," the child cried, in a broken

"There! there!" soothed Peggy tenderly, "don't cry. We won't let her
harm you any more."

But like a fury the woman flew at the girls. Before she could lay hands
on them, however, Roy and Jimsy had seized her arms and held them. At
this the crone set up a hideous shriek and, as if it had been a signal,
two swarthy men, with dark skins and big earrings in their ears, came
running from behind the tents.

"What's the trouble?" they cried, as they ran up, regarding the boys

"It's the Wren; they're trying to steal the Wren!" shrilled out the

At this the men rushed at the boys, one of them waving a thick cudgel
he carried.

"Let go of that woman," they shouted furiously.

Another instant and the boys would have been in a bad position, for both
the gipsies were powerful fellows, and appeared determined to commit
violence. But Roy, releasing his hold of the struggling gipsy woman,
put up his fists in such a scientific manner that, for an instant, the
attack paused. This gave Jimsy time to rush to his side. The instant
she was released the woman darted to the side of the men.

"Beat them! Kill them!" she cried frantically.

The men resumed their rush, and the next moment the boys found
themselves fighting to escape a furious assault. Neither of the lads was
a weakling, and good habits and constant athletic exercise had placed
them in the pink of condition.

But the two gipsies were no mean antagonists. Then, too, the one with
the cudgel wielded it skillfully. Time and again Jimsy avoided a heavy
blow which, if successful, must have injured him seriously. The girls,
screaming, rushed off, carrying "the Wren," as the woman called her,
with them. They dashed at top speed back to the spot where the
aeroplanes had been left, and summoned Jake.

"I knew something would happen," declared that worthy, as he picked up a
monkey wrench, the only weapon at hand, and started off for the woods.

The girls followed him, Miss Prescott not having been vouchsafed
anything but a most hurried explanation of what was going on. Just as
Jake appeared on the scene Jimsy had received a terrific blow on the arm
from one of the gipsy's cudgels. The boy's arm dropped as if paralyzed.
With a howl of triumph the ruffian who had dealt him the blow rushed in
on the injured lad. In another instant it would have looked bad indeed
for Jimsy, but Roy, landing a hard blow against his assailant, hastened
to his chum's rescue.

"You look after that fellow. I'll take care of this one," cried Jake,
rushing into the melee, whirling his monkey wrench in a formidable

The girls, huddled in a group, gazed on in frank alarm.

"Oh, they'll be killed!" shrilled Jess.

"Roy! Roy! Be careful!" cried Peggy.

"Oh, I wish we could get a policeman," cried Bess, clasping her hands
nervously. But as it happened a policeman, even if such a personage had
been within a dozen miles, was not needed. A clever blow from Roy laid
the cudgel wielder low, and the other man, not liking the look of Jake's
monkey wrench, capitulated by taking to his heels. The woman cowered
back among the tents.

"Come on, let's be going," cried Roy, as he saw that the battle was

"Ouch! my wrist!" exclaimed Jimsy, wringing his left hand; "I believe
that fellow has broken it."

"Let's have a look," said Roy, as the two boys made their way to the
huddled group of girls.

"Nothing but a nasty whack," he pronounced, after an examination. "Well,
girls, was it an exciting battle?"

"Oh, it was terrible," cried Jess; "we thought you'd be badly beaten."

"But as it is we appear to be future 'white hopes,' not forgetting
Jake," smiled Roy, who was still panting from his exertions.

"You were awfully brave, I think," cried Bess admiringly, giving the
three "heroes" a warm glance.

"Well, there wasn't anything to do but fight, unless we'd run away,"
laughed Roy, "and now what about the cause of all the trouble?"

He glanced at the little girl clinging to Peggy's hand. The child was
pitifully emaciated, with drawn features and large, dark eyes that gazed
about her bewilderedly. Her clothing was a red gingham dress that fitted
her like a sack. She was shoeless and stockingless. Her brown hair,
unkempt and ragged, hung in elf locks about her sad little face.
Certainly, as regarded size and general appearance, her name, "The
Wren," fitted her admirably.

"I don't know what to do about her," admitted Peggy; "suppose we ask
Aunt Sally? I don't want to let the gipsies have her again, and yet I
don't see how we can take her."

At the words the little creature burst into a frantic outbreak.

"Don't let those people have me back; don't," she begged; "they'll
kill me if you do."

She clung passionately to Peggy's dress. Tears came to the girl's eyes
at the pitiful manifestation of fear.

"There! there, dear," soothed Peggy, stroking the child's head,
"you shan't go back if we can help it. Come with us for the time being,

"But we have no legal right to take her," objected Roy.

"Don't say another word," snapped the usually gentle Peggy, whose
indignation had been fully aroused, "come on. Let's get back to where
we left Aunt Sally, then we can decide what to do."

"Incidentally, we'll do well to get out of this vicinity before any more
of those fellows come up. There must be several more somewhere close at
hand," exclaimed Jimsy.

"Yes; and I'll bet the others, the two who ran off, have gone to call
them," put in Roy; "that woman has disappeared, too."

No time was lost in getting back to the aeroplanes, "The Wren," as the
gipsies called her, keeping tight hold of Peggy's hand. The boys walked
behind and, with Jake, formed a sort of rear guard to ward off any
possible attack. But either the other members of the band were far off,
or else they did not care to attempt an assault, for the party reached
the aeroplanes without further incident or molestation.

Miss Prescott's consternation may be imagined as she listened to the
tale they had to tell. From time to time during its relation she glanced
pityingly at the Wren.

"Poor child!" she exclaimed, gazing at the wizened little creature's
bruised arms. They were black and blue from rough handling, and bore
painful testimony to the life she had lived among the gipsies.

"What is your name, dear?" she asked, motioning to the child as Peggy
finished her story.

"The Wren, that's what they always called me," was the response, in
a thin little wisp of a voice.

"Have you no other name?" asked Miss Prescott kindly.

The child shook her head.

"I don't know. Perhaps I did once. I wasn't always with the tribe.
I remember a home and my mother, but that was all so long ago that
it isn't clear."

"Then she's not a gipsy," declared Peggy emphatically.

"I'll bet they kidnapped her some place," exclaimed Roy.

"That doesn't solve the problem of what to do with her," struck in Jess.

"We can't send her back to those people," declared Bess, with some

"On the other hand, how are we to look after her?" said Jimsy.

"It's a problem that will have to solve itself," said Miss Prescott,
after a few moments of deep thinking.

"How is that?" asked Peggy.

"Because she goes with us no matter what happens. It may not be legal,
but humanity comes above the law sometimes," declared Miss Prescott,
with emphasis.

"Hurrah for Aunt Sally!" cried the boys, "she's as militant as a newly
blossomed suffragette. Cheer up, Wren, you're all right now."

"Then I'm to stay with you?" questioned the child.

"Of course," came from Aunt Sally.

The child buried her head on the kind-hearted lady's lap and burst into
a passion of weeping that fairly shook her frail frame.

It was at this juncture that Jake set up a shout and pointed toward the
woods. From them a group of men had burst, armed with sticks and stones.
They came rushing straight at the little group, uttering ferocious

"We're in for it now," exclaimed Roy; "girls, you had better get in the
machine and drive a safe distance. Those fellows mean mischief."



It was apparent enough that mean mischief they did. Their dark eyes
gleamed fiercely out of their swarthy faces. One or two wore a vivid red
or blue handkerchief knotted about sinewy necks, this means of adornment
only adding to their generally sinister look.

"I knew we wouldn't get far without running into trouble," moaned Jake

Roy turned on him sharply, almost angrily.

"You get the ladies in that machine and drive off down the road a bit,"
he said; "I'll attend to this thing. Jimsy, come here."

Jake hesitated a moment and then strode off to the auto.

"Can't we stay and help?" asked Bess.

"No; we can help Roy best by doing what he; wants us to. He's got some
plan in his head," rejoined Peggy firmly, "come along, Wren; Jess, help
me with her, she's terrified to death."

This was no exaggeration. At sight of the gipsy band, the child so
recently taken from their clutches shrank and cowered against her young

"Don't let them take me--don't!" she kept wailing.

"Never mind; don't be scared, Wren," Peggy comforted, "they won't get

A flash of determined fire came into Peggy's eyes as she spoke.

"Peg! You're magnificent," exclaimed Jess, as, headed by Miss Prescott,
they hastened toward the car which Jake had already cranked.

The gipsies had paused for an instant. Evidently the sight of the
aeroplanes bewildered and amazed them. Expecting to come on a camp of
young folks they had suddenly encountered a group of machines which, to
them, must have savored of the supernatural. But as the auto drove off
they were due for an even greater surprise.

Following a swift whisper from Roy both boys had jumped into the _Red
Dragon_. In an instant came the sharp barking of the engine. The flying
machine dashed forward almost simultaneously. Straight at the angry
nomads Roy headed it. It was as if a war chariot of old was charging
into a group of defiant barbarians.

For a few moments the gipsies stood their ground. But as the machine
rose from the ground, skimmed it, as it were, Roy thrust on full power.
The machine darted over the spot where the gipsies had stood but an
instant before; but they had gone. Scattering with wild cries of fear,
they could be seen running for their lives toward the wood.

"I don't think they'll trouble us again in a hurry," declared Roy
grimly, as he brought the _Red Dragon_ round in a circle and headed back
for the rest.

From the machine came a cheer, Miss Prescott's voice ringing out as
loudly as any.

"The idea just came to me in a second," explained Roy modestly, in
answer to the ladies' congratulations and praise, "it worked, though,
didn't it?"

"Like a charm," they all agreed.

"Hadn't we better be getting on?" asked Jimsy, a minute later.

"Yes; there's no knowing if those fellows won't try a flank attack,
although I think they've had a big enough scare thrown into them to last
them quite a while with economy," laughed Roy.

"Who is going to take care of Wren?" asked Bess.

"She'll ride right in the car with me," declared Miss Prescott
positively, "you don't think I'm going to risk her in one of those
things of yours, do you?"

They all laughed. As a matter of fact, there was not one of the party
that was not more at home in the air than on a road. Then, too, Roy's
balancing device had about removed the last peril of air traveling. It
was agreed to stop at Meadville, which the map showed was about thirty
miles to the southeast, and purchase a dress and other necessities for
their new ward. As to what was to be done with her after that nobody
had any very definite plans. And so the journey was resumed, with
congratulations flying over the way in which they came out of what,
for a time, looked like a really serious scrape.

The weather had held fair till a short time after the start was made
from the scene of the encounter with the gipsies. It was Peggy who first
observed a change in the sky.

From the southwest billowy masses of slate-colored clouds came rolling
on, obscuring the sunlit landscape beneath with an effect of lights
turned down on a stage. Turning to Jess, who occupied the seat behind
her, she remarked:

"We're going to have some bad kind of a storm, girlie."

Jess nodded.

"Wonder how far we are from Meadville?" she asked.

"Quite a way yet. I'm afraid that we can't make it before the storm

"Look, there's Roy coming back, and Jimsy, too. I guess they want to
talk about it."

This turned out to be the case. As Roy came swinging by he held a small
megaphone to his mouth with one hand, while the other gripped the
steering wheel tightly.

"We're in for a storm, girls, and a hummer, too, from the look of it."

"Better drop down," counseled Jimsy.

Jess nodded, and, as at this moment Bess, who had seen the boy's
maneuver, came by, the news was communicated to her.

The next thing to do was to look about for a suitable place to land. The
country over which they were passing was heavily wooded, and seemingly
sparsely populated. Beneath them wound a road, along which, but at some
distance behind, the touring car could be seen coming in a cloud of
yellow dust.

The wind began to grow puffy, and it required all the skill of the young
aviators to keep their flock of motor-driven birds on even wings. Before
long, just as the distant, but fast approaching, cloud curtain began to
be ripped and slashed by vivid scimitars of lightning, Roy espied,
beneath them, a field, at one end of which stood a prosperous-looking
farmhouse, surrounded by buildings and hay stacks.

It was an ideal spot in which to land, and as the road was near by they
would have no difficulty in attracting the attention of Miss Prescott
when she went by. In graceful volplanes the aeroplanes lit in the field
like an alighting flight of carrier pigeons. But hardly had they
touched the ground when from the farmhouse a man came running in his
shirtsleeves, his lower limbs being garbed in overalls and knee-boots.
On his chin was a goatee, and as he drew closer they saw that his face
was thin and hatchet shaped and anything but agreeable.

"You git out of thar! You git out of thar!" he kept shouting as he came
along, stumbling over the stubble, for the field had been newly reaped.

"Why, what's the matter? We're not hurting anything," objected Roy;
"surely you don't mind our occupying the field for an hour or so till
the storm blows over?"

"I daon't, hey? Wa'al, I do, by heck. I own all the way daown and all
the way up frum this farm, and thet's ther law."

"If we didn't have these ladies with us we'd be only too glad to leave
your field," rejoined Jimsy, "but you can see for yourself a nasty storm
is coming up."

"What bizness hes gals riding round in them sky-buggies," stormed the
farmer; "ef any darter uv mine did it I'd lock her up on bread an'
water, by Jim Hill."

"I don't doubt it in the least," smiled Peggy sweetly.

"Humph!" grunted the cantankerous old agriculturist, not quite sure if
he was being made fun of or if his resolution was being admired; "all
I got to say is thet ef you want to stay here you gotter pay."

"That can be arranged," spoke Jimsy, with quiet sarcasm.

"An' pay wa'al, too," resumed the farmer tenaciously.

"How much do you think the lease of your field for an hour or so is
worth?" asked Roy.

The farmer considered an instant, and then, with an avaricious look in
his pin-point blue eyes, he looked up.

"'Bout ten dollars," he said, at length.

"We don't want to buy it, we just want to rent it for a very short
time," struck in Bess, with her most innocent expression.

"Wa'al, it's ten or git off!" snapped the farmer.

"I'll pay you a fair price for it," spoke up Roy, "and not a cent more."

"Then I'll drive you off with a shot-gun, by chowder."

"Oh, no, you won't."

"Won't, hey? What'll stop me?"

"The law."

"Ther law? Thet's a good one."

"I think it is, a very good one," struck in Jimsy, who now saw what Roy
was driving at.

"Humph! wa'al, if yer a'goin' te talk law I'll jes' tell yer quick thet
this is my land and thet you're all a-trespassing."

"You are not very well up on aerial law, it seems," replied Roy, in an
absolutely unruffled tone.

"Don't know nuthin' 'bout this air-ile law," grumbled the fellow, but
somewhat impressed by Roy's calm, deliberate exterior.

"Well, then, for your information I'll tell you that under the laws of
the country recently enacted aviators are entitled to land in any safe
landing place in times of emergency. If they do any damage they must pay
for it. If not the owner of the land is not entitled to anything for the
temporary use of his place."

"Five dollars or nothing," spoke Jimsy, "and if you try to put us off
you'll get into serious trouble."

"Wa'al, yer a-robbin' me," muttered the man, much impressed by Roy's
oratory, "gimme ther five."

It was quickly forthcoming. The old fellow took it without a word and
shuffled off. As he did so there was a vivid flash of lightning and the
growl of a big crash of thunder. While it was still resounding the auto
came puffing up. Jake had put up the storm top and made it as snug and
comfortable as a house.

"Come on, boys and girls," urged Roy, "let's get the engines covered up
and then beat it for the car. The rain will hit in in torrents in a few

Indeed they were still making fast the waterproof covers constructed to
throw over the motors in just such emergencies when the big drops began
to fall.

There was a helter-skelter race for the car. In they all crowded, and
none too soon. The air was almost as dark as at dusk, and there was a
heavy sulphurous feeling in the atmosphere. But within the curtains of
the car all was fun and merriment. The case of the old farmer was
discussed at length, and Jimsy convulsed them all by his clever
imitation of the way the bargain was driven.

He was in the midst of his description when a fearfully vivid flash lit
up the interior of the car as brightly as day. As it did so The Wren
uttered a sharp cry.

"What is it, dear? Afraid of the lightning?" asked Miss Prescott, while
a thunder volley boomed and reverberated.

"No, no," shivered the child, drawing closer to her, "but when I see
a flash like that I sometimes remember."

"Remember what?" asked Miss Prescott tenderly.

"Oh, I don't know," wailed the child, "people and places. They come for
a moment and then disappear again as quickly as they came."



Flash after flash, roar after roar, the lightning and thunder crashed
and blazed as the full fury of the storm struck in. Miss Prescott, who
was in deadly fear of lightning, covered her eyes with a thick veil and
sank back in the cushions of the tonneau.

But the rest of the party regarded the furious storm with interest. The
rain was coming down in sheets, but not one drop penetrated the
water-proof top of the big touring car.

"It's grand, isn't it?" asked Peggy, after a particularly brilliant

"Um--ah, I don't just know," rejoined Jess, "it's rather too grand if
anything. I----" Bang!

There was a sharp report, like that of a large cannon. The air was
filled with an eye-blistering blaze of blue fire. Stunned for an
instant, and half blinded, not one of the young folks in the touring
car uttered a word.

The storm, too, appeared to be "holding its breath" after that terrific

"That struck close by," declared Roy, the first to recover his speech.

"Oh! oh!" moaned Miss Prescott, "then the next will hit us!"

"Don't be a goose, Aunt Sally," comforted Peggy; "don't you know that
lightning never strikes twice in the same place?"

Miss Prescott made no answer. In fact she had no opportunity to do so.

From close at hand shouts were coming. Loud, frightened shouts.

"Fire! fire!"

"Gracious! something's on fire at that farmhouse!" cried Peggy.

"That's what!" came in excited tones from Roy as he peered out through
the rain.

"Look at them running about," chimed in Jimsy.

"It's from that haystack! See the smoke roll up!" cried Bess.

"The lightning must have struck it. Say, we'd better go and help,"
exclaimed Roy anxiously.

"I don't see that the old man who was so mean to us deserves any help,"
murmured Bess, rather angrily.

"Why, Bess, for shame!" reproved Peggy. "Go on, boys, the rain's letting
up, maybe you can help them."

"All right, sis. Come on, Jimsy!"

The boys dived out of the car and set off running at top speed for the
scene of the blaze, which was in a haystack back of the main barn of the
farmhouse. Several farm hands, under the direction of the disagreeable
old man, whose name was Zenas Hutchings, were running about with buckets
of water, which were about as effective as trying to sweep the sea back
with a broom, so far as gaining any headway against the flames was

Had the rain continued it might have been possible for the farm hands to
quell the blaze with the assistance of the elements; but the storm had
ceased almost as suddenly as it began, and only a few scattering drops
were now falling. Off to the southwest the sky was blue once more.

The farmer turned despairingly to the boys as they came running up.

"'Clare ter goodness if it ain't them kids ag'in," he exclaimed; "wa'al,
you ain't brought me nuthin' but bad luck so far as I kin see. Hyars a
hundred dollars' worth of hay goin' up in smoke an'--"

A farm hand came bustling up. His face was pale under the grime of soot
that overlaid it.

"Ef we don't git ther fire under control purty soon," he cried, "ther
whole place 'ull go."

"What's thet, Jed?" snapped old Hutchings anxiously.

"I said that ther sparks is beginning ter fly. If ther fire gits much
hotter it'll set suthin' else ablaze."

"By heck! That's so!" cried old Hutchings, in an alarmed voice.

He gazed about him perplexedly.

"Isn't there any fire apparatus near here?" asked Roy.

"Yep; at Topman's Corners. But that's five miles off."

"Have you telephoned them?" asked Jimsy, who had noticed that the
Hutchings farm, like most up-to-date ones, was equipped with a
telephone; at least there were wires running into the place which
appeared to be of that nature.

"Ain't no use telephoning" was the disconsolate rejoinder.


"Wire's busted. Reckon ther storm put it out of business. I guess it's
all up with me now. I hoped ter pay off ther part of ther mortgage with
ther hay and grain in thet barn yonder, an' now----" He broke off in
a half sob. Cantankerous as the old man had shown himself to be, and
grasping withal, the boys could not help but feel sorry for the stricken
old fellow. He looked pitifully bowed and old and wretched in the midst
of his distracted farm hands, who were running about and shouting and
not doing much of anything else.

"Wa'al," he said, at length, pulling himself together with a visible
effort, "thar's no chance of gitting ther fire ingines, so it'll hev
ter go, I guess."

"Yes there is a chance of getting the engines, and a good one, too."

They all turned at the sound of a girlish voice, and there stood Peggy
with Jess by her side. The two girls had stolen up unnoticed in the

"Bravo, Peg!" exclaimed Roy heartily, glancing approvingly at his
sister, "what's your idea?"

"Fly over and get help."

"Fly over! Wa'al, I'll be switched!" gasped old Hutchings.

"I don't see why not," struck in Jimsy, "it's five miles, you say. Well,
we ought to make that in ten minutes or so, or even quicker."

"How fast can the engines get back?" asked Roy practically.

"Wa'al, ther roads be good and Bob Shields hez a right smart team,"
was the rejoinder. "They ought ter make it in half an hour."

"Good. Then if you can hold the flames in check for a short time longer
we can save your place yet."

Beckoning to Jimsy, the boy darted off for the _Red Dragon_. This
machine he selected because, with the exception of the _Dart_, it was
the fastest and lightest of the aeroplanes they had with them. Farmer
Hutchings had hardly closed his mouth from its gaping expression of
surprise when a whirr of the motor announced that the _Red Dragon_ was
off. Its lithe body shot into the air with tremendous impetus.

"Ther Corners is off thar to ther westward," shouted up the farmer, "you
can't miss it. It's got a red brick church with a high tower on it right
in the middle of a clump of elms."

Speeding above fields and woodland the red messenger of pending disaster
raced through the air. Five minutes after taking flight Jimsy espied a
high red tower. Eight and one half minutes after the _Dragon_ had shot
aloft it fluttered to earth on the village street of Topman's Corners,
amid an amazed group of citizens who had seen it approaching.

It was the first aeroplane ever seen in the remote Pennsylvanian hamlet,
and it created commensurate excitement. But the boys had no time to
answer the scores of questions, foolish and otherwise, that were
volleyed at them from all sides.

"There's a fire!" exclaimed Jimsy breathlessly, "a fire at Hutchings's
farm. How soon can you get the engines there?"

A stalwart-looking young fellow stepped up.

"I'm chief of the department," he said, "we're the 'Valiants.' I'll be
there in twenty-five minutes if I have to kill the horses. It's downhill
most of the way, anyhow. Jim, you run off and ring ther bell."

A second later the fire bell was loudly clanging and several of the
crowd melted away to don their helmets and coats. In less time than the
boys would have thought it possible a good-looking engine came rumbling
out of the fire house half a block down the street. Behind it came a
hook and ladder truck.

Fine horses were attached to each, and from the way they leaped off the
boys saw that the "Chief" meant to make good his promise.

"Race you to ther fire!" shouted the latter functionary, as, in a storm
of cheers, his apparatus swept out of sight down the elm-bordered

"You're on," laughed Roy, whisking aloft while the Topman's Cornerites
were still wondering within themselves if they were waking or dreaming.



The fire was out. A smoldering, blackened hillock was all that remained
of the stack ignited by the lightning bolt; but the others and the main
buildings of the farm had been saved.

Such work was a new task for aeroplanes--but there is no doubt that, had
it not been for Peggy's suggestion, the Hutchings farm would have been
burned to the ground. As it was, when the firemen, their horses in a
lather, arrived at the scene, the farm hands, who had been fighting the
flames, were almost exhausted.

Had they possessed the time, the young folks would have been glad to
tell the curious firemen something about their aeroplanes. But it was
well into the afternoon, and if they intended to keep up their itinerary
it was necessary for them to be hurrying on. A short time after the
blaze had been declared "out" the aeroplanes once more soared aloft,
and the auto chugged off in the direction of Meadville.

The afternoon sun shone sparklingly on the trees and fields below, all
freshened by the downpour of the early afternoon. The spirits of all
rose as did their machines as they raced along. Before leaving the
Hutchings farm the old man had been so moved to generosity by the novel
manner in which his farm had been saved from destruction that he had
offered to give back $2.50 of the $5 he had demanded for the rent of his
field. Of course they had not taken it, but the evident anguish with
which the offer was made afforded much amusement to the young aviators
as they soared along.

In Peggy's machine the talk between herself and Jess was of the strange
finding of The Wren, and of the child's curious ways. Both girls
recalled her odd conduct during the storm and what she had said about
the peculiar influence of lightning on her memory.

"Depend on it, Jess," declared Peggy, with conviction, "that child is
no more a gipsy than you or I."

"Do you think she was stolen from somewhere?" asked Jess, readily
guessing the drift of her friend's thoughts.

"I don't know, but I'm sure they had no legal right to her," was the

"Oh, Peg! Suppose she should turn out to be a missing heiress!" Jess,
who loved a romance, clasped her gauntleted hands.

Peggy laughed.

"Missing heiresses are not so common as you might suppose," she said;
"I never met any one who had encountered any, except in story books."

"Still, it would be great if we had really found a long missing child,
or--or something like that," concluded Jess, rather lamely.

"I can't see how we would be benefiting the child or its parents,
either, since we have no way of knowing who the latter are," rejoined
the practical Peggy, which remark closed the discussion for the time

It was not more than half an hour later when Jess uttered a sharp cry
of alarm. From the forward part of the aeroplane a wisp of smoke had
suddenly curled upward. Like a blue serpent of vapor it dissolved in the
air almost so quickly as to make Jess believe, for an instant, that she
had been the victim of an hallucination.

But that it was no figment of the imagination was evidenced a few
moments later by Peggy herself. Aroused by Jess's cry, she had made
an inspection of the machine, with alarming results. What these were
speedily became manifest.

"Jess! The machine is on fire!" she cried afrightedly.

As if in verification of her words there came a puff of flame and a
strong reek of gasoline. It was just then that both girls recalled that
the _Golden Butterfly_ carried twenty-five gallons of gasoline, without
counting the reserve supply.

Fire on an aeroplane is even more terrifying than a similar casualty on
any other type of machine. Hardly had Peggy's words confirming the
alarming news left her lips when there came a cry from Jess.

The girl had just glanced at the barograph. It showed that they were
then 1,500 feet above the surface of the earth. The girl had hardly made
this discovery before, from beneath the "bow" of the monoplane, came a
wave of flame; driven from the steering wheel by the heat, Peggy drew
back toward her companion. Her face was ashen white.

Left to itself the aeroplane "yawed" wildly, like a craft without a
rudder. Then suddenly it dashed down toward the earth, smoke and flames
leaping from its front part.

Both girls uttered a cry of terror as the aircraft fell like a stone
hurled into space. Faster and faster it dashed earthward without a
controlling hand to guide it. It was at this instant that Roy and
Jimsy became aware of what had happened.

[Illustration: Both girls uttered a cry of terror as the air craft fell
like a stone hurled into space.]

Instantly they swung their machine around in time to see the _Golden
Butterfly_ make her sickening downward swoop. Both lads uttered a cry of
fear as they saw what appeared to mean certain death for the two Girl

Roy's fingers scarcely grasped the wheel of his machine as he saw the
downward drop. Jimsy was as badly affected. But almost before they could
grasp a full realization of the accident the _Golden Butterfly_ was
almost on the ground. It was in a hilly bit of country, interspersed by
small lakes or ponds.

A freak of the wind caught the blazing aeroplane as it fell and drove
it right over one of these small bodies of water.

The _Golden Butterfly_ appeared to hesitate for one instant and then
plunged right into the water, flinging the two girls out. Both were
expert swimmers, but the shock of the sudden descent, and the abrupt
manner in which they had been flung into the water had badly unstrung
their nerves.

Jess struck out valiantly, but the next instant uttered a cry:

"Peg! Peg! I'm sinking!"

Peggy pluckily struck out for her chum and succeeded in seizing her.
Then with brisk strokes she made for the shore, luckily only a few yards
distant. It was at this juncture that the boys' machines came to earth
almost simultaneously. High above Bess's _Dart_ hovered, and presently
it, too, began to drop downward. Apparently the accident had not been
seen from the auto, at any rate the car was not turned back toward the
scene of the accident.

As the boys' aeroplanes struck the earth not far from the bank of the
pond toward which Peggy was at that moment valiantly struggling, the
two young aviators leaped out and set out at a run to the rescue. They
reached the bank in the nick of time to pull out the two drenched,
half-exhausted girls.

"At any rate the fall was a lucky one in a way!" gasped the optimistic
Peggy, as soon as she caught her breath, "it put out the fire."

And so it had. Not only that, but the aeroplane, buoyed up by its broad
wings, was still floating. On board the _Red Dragon_ was a long bit of
rope. Jimsy produced this and then swam out to the drifting _Butterfly_.
The rope was made fast to it and the craft dragged ashore. But when they
got it to the bank the problem arose as to how they were going to drag
it up the steep acclivity.

Again and again they tried; Bess, who had by this time alighted, aiding
them. But it was all to no purpose. Even their united strength failed to
move the heavy apparatus.

"I've got an idea!" shouted Jimsy suddenly, during a pause in their
laborious operations.

"Good! Don't let it get away, I beg of you!" implored Peggy.

"Oh, Peg! Don't tease, besides, you don't look a bit cute with your hair
all wet and draggled, and as for your dress--goodness!"

This came from Jess, herself sadly "rumpled" and in addition wet
through. Before Peggy could reply to her chum's half rallying remark
Jimsy, unabashed, continued:

"We'll hitch this rope to the _Red Dragon_ and then start her up for all
she's worth."

"Jimsy, you're a genius!"

"A modern marvel!"

"A solid promontory of pure gray matter!"

In turn the remarks came from each of the party. But Jimsy, bothering
not at all at the laughing encomiums, proceeded to secure the rope to
the _Red Dragon_. This done, he started up the engine and clambered into
his seat.

"All ashore that's going ashore!" he yelled, in mocking imitation of the
stewards of an ocean liner.

There wasn't an instant's hesitation as he threw the load upon the
engine. Then the rope tautened. It grew tight as a fiddle string.

"Goodness! It'll snap and the _Dragon_ will be broken!" cried Jess,
in alarm.

But no such thing happened. Instead, as the _Dragon's_ powerful
propeller blades "bit" into the air, the _Golden Butterfly_ obediently
mounted the steep bank of the pond. Five minutes later the pretty craft
stood on dry land and the party of young aviators were eagerly making
an investigation of the damage done.

The cause of the fire was soon found. A tiny leak in the tank had
allowed some gasoline to drip into the bottom of the chassis, or
passenger carrier. Collecting here, it was plain that a back fire
from the carburetor had ignited it.

Neither of the girls could repress a shudder as they thought of what
might have occurred had they been higher in the air and no convenient
pond handy for them to drop into. In such a case the flames might have
reached the gasoline tank before they could be extinguished and
inevitably a fearful explosion would have followed.

"I think you are the two luckiest girls in the world," declared Roy
solemnly, as he concluded his examination and announced his conclusions.
Naturally they fully agreed with him.



It was some two hours later that Meadville received the greatest
excitement of its career. People rushed out of stores and houses as
the "flock" of aeroplanes came into sight.

As they gazed down the young aviators felt a momentary regret that they
had chosen a town in which to pass the first night of their motor
flight. It appeared that they would get into difficulties when they
attempted to make a landing.

But almost simultaneously they spied a public park, which appeared
to offer a favorable landing place. As soon as their intention of
descending there became manifest, however, the crowd made a headlong
rush for the spot.

It was too late to seek some other location to alight even had there
been one available. Trusting to luck that the eager spectators would get
out of their way the four aeroplanes began their spiraling descent.

Roy was first in his big biplane. As the ponderous, white machine ranged
down close to the park the crowd became well-nigh uncontrollable. They
swarmed beneath the big machine, despite Roy's shouts of warning.

Skillfully as the boy manipulated the aircraft he could not check its
descent once begun.

"Out of the way! I don't want to hurt you!" he shouted, as he dashed

But the crowd, sheeplike in their stupidity, refused to budge. Into the
midst of them Roy, perforce, was compelled to drive. Once the throng
perceived his intention, however, they scattered wildly. That is, all
sought positions of safety but one man, a stout, red-faced individual,
who appeared dazed or befuddled.

He stood his ground, glaring foolishly at the sky ship. With a quick
turn of his wrist Roy swept the big biplane aside, but a wing tip
brushed the stout man, toppling him over in a twinkling. By the time
Roy had stopped his machine the man was on his feet again, bellowing
furiously. He was not hurt, but his face was contorted with anger.

He pushed his way through the crowd toward the young aviator.

"You young scoundrel!" he yelled, "I'll fix you for that! I'll--" "Look
out, here come the rest of them!" shouted the crowd at this juncture.

Nobody needed any warning this time. They fled in all directions as one
after the other the _Golden Butterfly_, the _Red Dragon_ and the pretty,
graceful _Dart_ dropped to earth.

"Wa'al, look at them gals, will yer!" shouted a voice in the crowd.

"What's the country coming to?" demanded another man. "Gals gallivanting
around like gol-dinged birds!"

But the majority of the crowd took the pretty girl aviators to its
heart. Somebody set up a cheer.

It was still ringing out when, to the huge relief of the embarrassed
girls, the auto came rolling up with Miss Prescott and "The Wren," as
they still called the latter.

The girls, leaving the boys to look after the aeroplanes, ran to the
side of the car and were speedily ensconced in its roomy tonneau. "We'll
see you at the hotel!" cried Roy, as the car rolled off again, much to
the disappointment of the crowd.

Two local constables came up at this juncture and helped the boys keep
the crowd back from the machines. The throng seemed souvenir mad. Many
of them insisted on writing their names with pencils on the wings of
the air craft. Others would have gone further and actually stripped
the aeroplanes of odd parts had they not been held back.

"This is the last time we'll land in a town of this size," declared Roy
indignantly, as he helped the constables shove back an obstreperous
individual who insisted on examining the motor of the _Dart_.

With the help of the constables a sheltering place for the machines was
finally found. A livery stable that had gone out of business the week
before was located across the street from the small park in which they
had alighted. The owner of the property happened to be in the crowd and
a bargain with him was soon struck. The aeroplanes were then trundled on
their landing wheels into this shelter and the doors closed. Roy, for a
small sum, engaged a tall, gangling-looking youth, whose name was Tam
Tammas, to guard the doors and keep off the inquisitive. This done,
thoroughly tired out, the boys sought the hotel. Like most towns of its
size and importance Meadville only boasted one hostelry worthy of the
name. This place, the Fountain House, as it was called, was a decent
enough looking hotel and the young aviators were warmly welcomed. After
supper, for in Meadville nobody "dined," Miss Prescott and the girls
sauntered out with The Wren to obtain some clothing for the waif who had
so strangely come into their possession. It was odd, but somehow they
none of them even suggested giving up the queer little foundling to the
authorities as had originally been their intention. Instead, although
none of them actually voiced it, it appeared that tacitly they had
decided to keep the child with them.

While they were gone on their errand of helpfulness Roy and Jimsy were
seated on the porch of the hotel watching, with more or less languid
interest, the inhabitants of the town passing back and forth. Many of
them lingered in front of the hotel, for aviators were not common
objects in that part of the country, and already the party had become
local celebrities.

"I guess we'll go inside," said Roy, at length, "I'm getting sick
of being looked at as if I was some sort of natural curiosity."

"Same here," rejoined Jimsy, "we'll go in and I'll play you a game
of checkers."

"You're on," was the response.

But as the boys rose to go, or rather the instant before they left their
seats, there came a heavy step behind Roy and a gruff voice snarled:

"What are you doing in that chair?"

"Sitting in it," responded Roy, in not too pleasant a voice. The tone in
which he had been addressed had aroused a hot resentment in him toward
the speaker.

Turning he saw the same red-faced man whom he had been unfortunate
enough to knock down.

Instantly his manner changed. He felt genuinely sorry for the accident
and hastened to explain that such was the case. But a glowering glance
was the only response he received. "You done it a-purpose. Don't tell
me," snarled the red-faced individual, "an' now you git right out uv
that chair or--or I'll make you!"

Both boys stared at the man in amazement. His tone was coarse and
bullying to a degree.

"We are not occupying these chairs to your inconvenience," declared
Roy stoutly, "there are lots of others."

He indicated several rockers placed at intervals along the hotel porch,
and all empty.

"That chair you're sitting in is mine," snapped the man, in response.

"Got a mortgage on it, eh?" smiled Jimsy amiably.

"I'll show you kids how much of a mortgage I've got on it," was the

It was just then that a lad of about Roy's own age, but with a surly,
hang-dog sort of look, emerged from the smoking-room of the hotel.

"What's up, father?" he demanded, addressing the red-faced man.

"Why, Dan, the kids have appropriated my chair."

"Oh, those flying kids. Well, they'll see that they ain't everything
around here," responded the lad; "I reckon Jim Cassell has some say
here, eh, dad?"

"I reckon so, son," grinned the red-faced man, in response to this
elegant speech; "now, then, are you going to give up that chair or not?"

"I was just leaving it when you came out," rejoined Roy, who, by this
time, was fairly boiling over. "Under the present conditions, however,
I think I shall continue to occupy it."

"You will, eh?" snarled out Dan Cassell, "then I'll show you how to
vacate it--so!"

With the words he laid hands on the back of the chair and jerked it from
under the young aviator. Roy, caught entirely off his guard, was flung
to the floor of the porch. He was up in a flash, but as he rose to his
feet Dan Cassell, evidently excited by what he deemed a great triumph,
aimed a savage blow at him.

Jimsy was rushing to his assistance but the red-faced man suddenly
blocked his path.

"Hold off, son! hold off!" he warned, "unless you want to get the
same dose."



In the meantime Roy had skillfully avoided Dan Cassell's blow, and
was aggressively on the defensive. He was a lad who did not care for
fighting, but notwithstanding was a trained boxer. Something of this
seemed to dawn on Dan Cassell as the boy he sought to pummel dodged
his attack with such cleverness.

For a moment Dan stood stock-still with doubled up fists and a scowl
on his not unhandsome, though weak and vicious features. Then, with a
bellow, he rushed upon Roy, who contented himself by sidestepping the
furious onslaught.

This appeared to enrage Dan Cassell the more. Either he interpreted it
as portraying cowardice, or else he deemed that he had his opponent at
his mercy. At any rate, after an instant's pause he rushed at Roy with
both fists. It was the young aviator's opportunity.

"Look out!" he warned.

The next instant the pugnacious Dan Cassell found himself upon his back,
regarding a multitude of constellations.

At almost precisely the same time Jimsy's fist happened to collide with
the point of the jaw of the fallen battler's father.

"Sorry; but I simply had to, you know," remarked the nonchalant Jimsy,
as the red-faced man found himself occupying a position not dissimilar
to that of his son.

Both boys were heartily sorry for what had happened, the more so for
the reason that at the very instant that both crestfallen bullies were
scrambling to their feet the hotel door opened and several of the guests
came out to ascertain the cause of the trouble.

Among them was Jonas Hardcastle, the proprietor of the place.

"What's up? What's the trouble?" he demanded, in dismay, as he viewed
the scene of the confusion.

"It's those brats of aviators, or whatever they call themselves,"
bellowed Cassell, who was purple with fury; "they attacked Dan and
me and assaulted us brutally."

The landlord looked doubtingly at the man. Then he turned to Roy.

"What are the facts?" he asked.

Roy told him unhesitatingly the whole truth. When he had concluded Jonas
Hardcastle spoke.

"You've been hanging around here too long, Jim Cassell," he said, in a
voice that quivered with indignation; "now make yourself scarce, both
you and your son. Don't annoy my guests any more."

Cassell, nursing a spot on his jaw which was rapidly growing a beautiful
plum color, lurched off without a word. His son followed. It was not
until he reached the street that he spoke. Then, in a voice that
trembled from suppressed fury, he hissed out:

"All right for you kids. You think you've played a smart trick on Dan
and me; but I'll fix you! Just watch!"

Without uttering another syllable he slouched off into the gathering
darkness, followed by his son, who bestowed a parting scowl on Roy
and Jimsy.

"I'm sorry that you had a row with them," remarked Jonas Hardcastle,
as the pair vanished.

"How's that?" inquired Roy. "They forced it on us, and--" "I know. I
know all about that," was the rejoinder, "but Cassell is quite by way of
being a politician hereabouts, and he might try to make it uncomfortable
for you."

"In what way?" demanded Jimsy.

"Oh, many ways. Those fellows have no scruples. To tell you the truth,
boys, I guess you haven't heard the last of this."

With this he left them, a prey to no very comfortable thoughts.

"I'm half inclined to believe what he said," declared Jimsy.

"In just what way?"

"Why, about the harm this fellow Cassell can do us. In every community
like this you'll find one local 'Pooh-bah' who runs things pretty much
as he likes. They have satellites who will do just about as they're

"You mean--" "That we'd better keep a good lookout on the aeroplanes.
From my judgment of Cassell I don't think he's got nerve enough to
attack us directly, but he can wreak his vengeance on our machines if
we don't watch pretty closely."

"I'm inclined to think you're right. But don't say a word of all this
to the girls. It might upset them. You and I will decide on a plan of
action later on. To tell you the truth, I'm not any too sure of our
newly acquired watchman, Tam Tammas."

"Nor I. We'll wait till the rest get back and then take a stroll down to
that livery stable. Seems funny, doesn't it, to stable aeroplanes in a
livery stable?"

"Well, why not? Wasn't Pegasus, the first flying machine on record,
a horse?"

"Humph; that's so," agreed Jimsy, whose supply of classical knowledge
was none too plentiful.

It was not long after this that the girls returned. With them came The
Wren in a neat dress and new shoes, an altogether different looking
little personage from the waif of the woods whom they had rescued at

"Why, Wren," cried Peggy, "you are positively pretty. In a month's time
we won't know you."

"A month's time?" sighed the child; "am I going to stay with you as long
as that?"

Miss Prescott caught the wan little figure in her arms.

"Yes, and many months after that," she cried.

Roy and Jimsy exchanged glances.

"Another member of the family," exclaimed Roy; "if we go at this rate
we'll have acquired an entire set of new sisters by the time we reach
the Big Smokies."



"Anybody been around, Tam?"

Roy asked the question, as later on that evening he and Jimsy dropped
around to the disused livery stable in accordance with their plan.

Tam shook his head.

"Nobody bane round," he rejoined, and then, after a moment's pause,
"'cept Yim Cassell and his boy Dan."

"Jim Cassell and his son," echoed Roy, "the very people we don't want
around here. What did they want?"

"They want know where you bane," rejoined the Norwegian youth.

"Yes; and what did you tell them?"

"I bane tell them I skall not know," responded Tam.

"And then?"

"They bane ask me if ay have key by door."

"Oh, they did, eh? What did you say?"

"I say I bane not have key."

"Then what did they do?"

"They bane go 'way."

"Didn't say anything else?"

"No, they must go."

"Said nothing about coming back?"


"All right, Tarn, you can go home now. Here's your money."

"You bane want me no more?"

"No; we'll watch here ourselves to-night. Good night."

"Good night," rejoined Tam, pocketing his money and shuffling off down
the street.

He had hardly gone two blocks when from the shadow of an elm-shaded yard
the figure of Dan Cassell slipped out and intercepted him.

"So you've been fired, eh?"

He shot the question at the simple-minded Norwegian lad with vicious

"No, I no bane fired; they bane tell me no want me more."

"Well, isn't that being fired? Moreover, I can tell you that they've
hired another fellow in your place."

The Norwegian youth's light blue eyes lit up with indignant fire. Like
most of his race he was keenly sensitive once aroused, and while he was
quite agreeable to being dropped from his temporary job, he hated to
think of being supplanted in it. Crafty Dan Cassell was playing his
cards well, for a purpose that will be seen ere long.

"So they bane fire me," ejaculated Tam.

"That's the size of it. I guess you feel pretty sore, Tam, don't you?"

"No, they bane pay me wale; but I no like being fired."

"I should think not. The idea of a man like you being dropped. What
did they tell you when they let you go?"

"That they bane watch place themselves."

Dan Cassell smiled. His crafty methods had elicited something of real
value after all.

"Did they say they were going to watch all night?" he asked.

"Yes," rejoined the Norwegian, "they ask about you, too."

"Humph! What did they want to know?"

"If you'd been round by stable and what I bane tale you."

"What did you say?"

"I tale them the truth. I say that you and your father bane by stable
this evening."

Dan's face darkened.

"You had no business to tell them anything," he snarled. Then, with a
sudden change of front: "See here, Tam, do you want to make some money?"

"Sure, I bane like make money."

"Then come into the house a minute. Dad and I want to talk to you."

So saying Dan took the Norwegian by the arm and led him in through a
gate in a whitewashed picket fence. Beyond the fence was a fairly
prosperous looking house, on the piazza of which lounged Jim Cassell
smoking a cigar.

"Well, Tam," he said, "lost your job?"

The Norwegian replied in the affirmative.

"Well, never mind, I've got another for you," replied Jim Cassell,
in what was for him an unwontedly amiable tone; "can you go to work
at once?"

"Ay bane work any time skol be," spoke the Norwegian, and a puzzled
expression flitted over his face as both Cassells broke into what was
to him an inexplicable fit of laughter at his words.

In the meantime the boys had telephoned to the hotel that work on the
aeroplanes would detain them till late. They did not wish to inform the
girls that they were undertaking a night watch, as that would have led
to all sorts of questions, and if their fears proved ungrounded they
felt pretty sure of coming in for a lot of "joshing."

They agreed to divide the night into two parts, Jimsy watching till
midnight and then awakening Roy who would take up the vigil till dawn.
This arrangement having been made they secured a light lantern from
an adjacent hardware store and, entering the deserted livery stable,
prepared to carry out their plans. With the canvas covers of the
aeroplanes Roy managed to fix up quite a comfortable bed on a pile
of hay left in a sort of loft over the abandoned stable.

As for Jimsy, he made himself as comfortable as possible in the chassis
of the _Golden Butterfly_, the seats of which were padded as luxuriously
as those of a touring car. He had a book dealing with aeronautic
subjects with him, and, drawing the lantern close to the aeroplane,
he buried himself in the volume.

In the meantime Roy had rolled himself up in his canvas coverings and
was sound asleep. For a long time Jimsy read on. At first frequent
footsteps passed the door of the stable, but as it grew later these
ceased. Folks went to bed early in Meadville. Long before midnight
there was not a sound on the streets.

Jimsy read doggedly on. But he was painfully conscious of an almost
irresistible desire to lie back and doze off, if only for a few seconds.
The exciting events of the day had tired him out, nor was the book he
was reading one calculated to keep his wits stirring. It was a technical
work of abstruse character.

Jimsy's head began to nod. With a sharp effort he aroused himself only
to catch himself dozing off once more.

"See here, Jim Bancroft, this won't do," he sharply admonished himself,
"you're on duty, understand? On duty! Wake up and keep your eyes open."

But try as he would tired Nature finally asserted herself. Jimsy's head
fell forward, his eyes closed for good and he snored in right good
earnest. He was sound asleep.

It was about half an hour after he dozed off that a window in the rear
of the stable framed a face. A crafty, eager face it was, as the yellow
light of the lantern revealed its outlines. Dan Cassell, for it was he,
gazed sharply about him. He swiftly took in the posture of the sleeping
boy and a smile spread over his countenance.

Dropping from the ladder he had raised outside, he joined two figures
waiting for him in the shadow of the livery barn.

"It's too easy," he chuckled, "only one kid there and he's sound asleep.
Got everything ready?"

"Dey all bane ready, Maister Cassell," rejoined the slow, drawling voice
of the Norwegian Tam.

"Now don't botch the job," warned the elder Cassell, who was the third
member of the party; "remember it means a lot of trouble for us if
we're caught."

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