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- The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest - 2/34 -
"Several enthusiasts who have watched the Buzzard fly have placed orders for similar machines."
"How much does such a craft cost?" asked his father.
"Oh, ones patterned after the Buzzard sell for $25,000," was the reply; "and if that machine wins this race, of course, it will give the mysterious manufacturer a tremendous prestige. But I think at that," he broke off with a merry smile, "that the Golden Eagle II is going to prove more than the Buzzard's match."
"Did you go over the whole course this afternoon?" asked his father.
"Yes, and the Eagle handled like a race-horse," replied Frank; "if she makes a like performance on the day of the race I think we have the cup as good as won."
"Don't be too sure, my boy," warned his father. "There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip--or rather the aeroplane, you know."
"That's so, father," replied the lad, somewhat abashed, "it doesn't do to be overconfident. There's only one thing I don't like about the course."
"What is that?"
"Why, the 'take off' at the Harrowbrook Club links."
"What do you mean by 'take off'?" inquired his mother.
"I mean the space in which an aeroplane makes its preliminary run, as you might call it, before it takes the air," rejoined the boy. "You see the rules of the race are that we fly from here to the Harrowbrook Club--a distance of twenty miles, alight there and refill our gasolene tanks, drink a cup of coffee in the club-house and then rise up once more and fly back."
"You mean that you are afraid that there will be difficulty in starting back from the Club grounds?" asked his father.
"Yes, father. You see, while we did it all right this afternoon, on the day of the race there will be a lot of 'planes all on the ground at the same time, and it's going to make it more difficult. However, I daresay we shall be able to manage it all right."
"Oh, Frank, do be careful," cautioned his mother.
"Of course I will, mother," the lad reassured her. "If I thought there was any serious risk I would not cause you anxiety by competing."
After a little more talk the elder Chesters drove off, as the boys had decided to sleep in their aerodrome that night, on the two camp cots they had provided for such emergencies. They intended to get an early start in the morning, on another practice sail, as at that hour there was usually little wind.
As they strolled across the grounds which were now rapidly being deserted, as all the aeroplanes were housed for the night, they encountered Armand Malvoise, the French driver of the mysterious Buzzard. He was a heavy-set, blue-chinned man with eyebrows that met in a black band, lending his face a perpetual scowl.
"You made a fine flight this evening," cried Harry cheerfully.
"You think so?" replied the Frenchman. "I shall make a better one on the day of the race. I mean to win that cup."
"Well, give us at least a look-in," laughed Frank good-naturedly.
"Bah, you are boys. I am a seasoned aviator. I have flown at Rheims and Vienna and in the south. It is absurd for you to compete with me."
"Personally I should like to see an American carry off the trophy, but if the best flyer wins I shall be quite satisfied," was Frank's quiet reply.
"You will see the colors of La Belle France floating over my aerodrome after the race," was the rejoinder.
"We shall see," was Frank's quiet answer, as the Frenchman strode off toward the village, where he usually remained gossiping in the hotel and complacently receiving the adulations of his admirers till late at night.
"Ach, he is as goot-natured as a caged lion, dot feller!" came a sudden exclamation behind the boys.
They turned about and faced old August Schmidt, the German aviator, who had started his career as a builder and operator of dirigibles, but was entered in the Hempstead Cup race as the flyer of a monoplane of his own design; and which, on account of its peculiar appearance, the crowds had already nicknamed the Grasshopper. As if in furtherance of this idea the German had painted his queer craft a bright green.
"Vell, you boys have a good chance for der cup got," the old man went on, between puffs at an enormous pipe with a china bowl that formed his inseparable companion when he was not in the air.
"Do you think so?" asked Frank.
"Ches, I do. Der Grasshopper is a goot leedle monoplane, but I am afraid dat some of der principles I have worked oud in her iss all wrong. Some day I break mein neck by der outside I am afraid much."
"Why you've done some good flying in the Grasshopper," consoled Harry.
"Ches, she is a goot leedle ship, bud she vont vin dees race, I dink. By der vay, boys, I have been meaning to warn you aboud dot Frenchman."
"How do you mean--'warn us'?" asked Frank.
"Vell he means to win dis race. I know dot he has bet a lot of money on himself. Den also the manufacturers of der Buzzard will make a lot of money already if der Buzzard wins der cup. If she does not--abend, dey lose. Yah, der is a lot to vin and much to lose for der Buzzard, and dot Frenchman vill do anything to make sure of vinning."
"Well, I guess we can take care of ourselves," laughed Frank, as he and his brother bade the queer old man good-night and entered their shed. It was filled with the appetizing odor of frying steak. On the top of the blue flame stove in a screened-off corner, Le Blanc, one of their mechanics, was cooking the simple meal with the loving care of a ten-thousand-dollar chef.
"Smells good!" remarked Harry sniffing. "Where's Sanborn?"
Sanborn was the other machinist and had been taken on in the place of their faithful old Schultz, who had fallen heir to a large sum of money in Germany, and gone home to spend his days in a cottage on the outskirts of Berlin.
"He has gone down to the village," replied Le Blanc, vigorously shaking the pan of sizzling potatoes.
"He seems to spend a lot of time down there lately," remarked Frank.
"I'd rather see him about the aerodome," put in Harry; "we don't want everybody to know all the details of our trials."
"That's so," assented his brother, "I'll speak to him about it when he comes in to-night."
The two lads fell to with keen appetites on their supper, which was served on tin plates and washed down with coffee out of tin mugs. Not a very aristocratic service, but the boys rather liked roughing it than otherwise, and you may be sure that the "dinner set" off which they ate did not engross a fraction of their attention. The meal disposed of, Le Blanc and the boys fixed up the folding camp cots and spread their blankets. There was still no sign of Sanborn. Frank was still struggling to keep awake in order to read the man a sharp lecture when he returned when drowsiness overcame him and he dropped off to sleep.
It was an hour later, and not far from midnight, when two dark figures crossed the deserted aviation field and threaded their way among the various aerodromes. They paused in front of the one in which the boys were asleep. Had the lads been onlookers they would have seen that one of the men was Sanborn, the new machinist, and the other was Malvoise, the driver of the sable Buzzard.
"You won't lose your nerve?" said the Frenchman.
"Not me. I'm sore at those kids, anyhow," was the reply. "The eldest one undertakes to call me down for going out at night all the time."
"Well, you have a good chance to get back at him and make some money at the same time," was the other's rejoinder.
"You are sure the money will be forthcoming?"
"Well, I should say! Old man Barr, who bought the patent of the Buzzard dirt cheap from her inventor, has a pile of it. He's going to manufacture the Buzzards to make money out of 'em and he'll stop at nothing to gain the prestige of winning this Hempstead Plains Cup."
"I've heard of old Barr before. He's a regular skinflint, but I suppose, if you say it will be all right about the money, I'll have to take your word for it. I need some coin too badly to stick at anything."
"That's the way to talk. By the way, talking of the inventor of the Buzzard, I saw a piece in the paper about him to-night."
"What was it?"
"Why it seems that the poor beggar applied for shelter at the Municipal lodging-house in New York and told them a long tale of Barr having robbed him of his invention. They sized him up as being just another of those inventor bugs and so sent him to the booby hatch in Bellevue."
"A good place for him," was the rejoinder, "these inventors are all crazy."
"Well, Luther Barr's found a way to make this particular crank pay," was the reply.
"That's so. Well, good-night. Oh, say what was the name of the man who planned the Buzzard?"
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