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- The Rover Boys in New York - 6/40 -
The cloudiness increased rapidly, and long before Ashton was gained it commenced to blow, gently at first, and then stronger and stronger. Evidently a storm was in the air.
"We are going to catch it!" was Tom's comment.
"Oh, I don't think it will storm just yet," returned Sam.
"Watch yourself, Sam!" cried Dick, warningly. "If the wind gets too strong bring her down in the first field we come to."
"I will," was the answer.
They were now flying close to the railroad tracks. Presently they saw a glare of light illuminate the rails and a long line of freight cars, drawn by a big locomotive, passed beneath them.
"Wish that was going our way-- we could follow it with ease," said Sam, as the train disappeared from view, leaving the landscape below darker than ever.
The youngest Rover boy now had to give the Dartaway all of his attention. The breeze was coming in fitful gusts, sending the biplane first to one side and then to the other. They struck a "bank," and he had to use all his wit and courage to bring the flying machine to a level keel once more.
"Better go down!" cried Tom. "This is getting dangerous."
"Don't go down here!" sang out Dick. "There are woods on both sides of the track!"
Sam had been working the horizontal rudder, to bring the biplane down, but at Dick's words he shifted again and they went up.
"I'll tell you when we reach an open field," went on the oldest Rover. "Say, this sure is some blow!" he added.
Another fitful gust struck the Dartaway and for one brief moment it looked as if the biplane would be turned over. Had this occurred the machine would have dropped like a shot and most likely all of the boys would have been killed.
But Sam was on guard, and worked his levers like lightning. As quickly as she had tipped, the Dartaway righted herself, and then they shot upward on a long slant.
"Phew! that was some escape!" muttered Tom. "Dick, can't you see any open field where we can land?"
"Must be one ahead," was the answer. "I fancy----"
Dick did not finish, for at that moment came a blast of air stronger than any that had gone before. The Dartaway spun around, left the railroad tracks, made a semi-circle, and then came back again. As it made the final turn there was a crack like that of a pistol.
"What was that?" cried Tom. "Was it the engine?"
"No, it was one of the stays!" answered Dick. He glanced around. "The right plane is giving 'way! Sam, let her down, as quick as you can!"
"On the tracks!" gasped the lad at the wheel.
"Yes-- anywhere-- before we tumble!"
The biplane was already out of control. Sam manipulated the rudders as best he could, and likewise the ailerons, and the machine dropped in several wild dashes.
"The train!" yelled Tom. "Look out for the express!"
There was another gleam of light along the railroad tracks. The evening express was approaching, running at topmost speed, to make up some lost time.
The biplane was coming down swiftly. It veered towards the woods beside the railroad tracks. Then it took another wild turn and hung directly over the railroad. The boys were speechless, not knowing what to do. The light of the express train kept coming closer and closer.
Crash! the biplane had struck the earth, directly beside the railroad tracks. One end of the machine rested across the rails, the other end hung in the bushes bordering the tracks.
As they struck Tom and Dick were thrown out-- the former into the bushes and the latter on the tracks. Sam kept at the wheel, the force of the intact smashing the landing wheels beneath him.
For the instant all three boys were too stunned to do anything. Then, as the gleam from the express train came closer, Tom let out a wild cry.
"Jump! Jump for your lives! We haven't a moment to lose!"
"Dick!" screamed Sam. "Save Dick! He is on the tracks!"
"There!" and Sam pointed with one hand, while he clambered down from his seat. The seat was broken and his coat got caught in the splinters, and it was several seconds before he could release himself.
Tom looked to where his brother pointed and saw Dick lying in a heap, face downward. The fall had been sufficient to stun him and he was thus unable to help himself.
Tom did not hesitate over what to do. Dick was very dear to him and never for an instant did he consider the risk he was running in going to the rescue. He made a flying leap from the bushes to the tracks and took another leap to his brother's side.
"Get up, Dick" he yelled. "Here, let me get you off the tracks! The train is coming!"
Only a faint groan answered him. Dick was still too dazed to think or to act.
Tom caught hold of his brother and raised him up, and commenced to drag him to the other side of the tracks, away from the wrecked biplane. As he did this there came a shrill warning shriek from the locomotive whistle. The engineer had seen the obstruction on the tracks and had put on brakes, in a vain endeavor to stop the express.
As Tom commenced to haul Dick across the tracks, Sam came bounding to his assistance, the shreds of his torn coat flapping behind him. He caught his big brother by one arm.
"Hurry!" he yelled, hoarsely. "The express is almost here!"
Both boys made a wild leap to the edge of the railroad, dragging Dick between them. Tom got his foot caught in the rails and almost pitched headlong. They fairly fell into the bushes, and Dick went down with them.
Then the express thundered up, the whistle shrieking loudly and the sparks flying from the wheels where the brakes gripped them. The locomotive struck the Dartaway, and the next instant the biplane was smashed to pieces, the broken parts flying in all directions!
"That's the last of the Dartaway!"
"Are you hurt, Dick?"
"My, wasn't that a narrow escape!"
"A minute later and it would have been all up with us!"
"I-- I guess I'm all right," stammered Dick, putting one hand to his forehead, where a lump was rapidly rising. "I got some fall though!" he added, grimly.
"Look what hit me!" cried Sam, picking up a section of a bamboo stick-- one which had supported one of the planes of the flying machine.
"I'm glad we weren't closer to that smash-up!"
Having plowed through the biplane, the express train had come to a halt with the last car standing not a great distance beyond the scene of the collision. Already the trainmen were hurrying out, some with lanterns, to learn if anybody had been killed or hurt.
"Why, it's an airship!" cried the conductor. "How in the name of Adam did that get here?"
"Here are three fellows!" cried the engineer, as the rays of a lantern revealed the Rover boys. "Were you in that flying machine?" he called.
"We were," answered Tom, grimly.
"My brother got a bad tumble and is partly stunned."
"We didn't hit anybody, did we?" questioned the engineer, anxiously.
"Nothing but the biplane," answered Sam. "You made mince-meat of that."
"How did you happen to land on the track?" asked the fireman.
"The wind put the machine out of control and we came down quicker than we wanted to," explained Sam. "Then you came along-- before we had a chance to drag the biplane off the tracks."
"Well, I'm glad I didn't hit anybody," said the engineer, in tones of relief.
"We had a close shave," returned Tom, and then he and Sam told of how they had struck, and of how Dick had been dragged out of the way. By this time the oldest Rover boy was feeling more like himself and he managed to stand up, even though somewhat dizzy.
"Well, we're losing time," said the conductor, consulting his watch by
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