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- The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest - 5/34 -
rivals--as they were universally conceded to be--the Golden Eagle and the Buzzard. There was no difficulty in telling the craft apart, as they circled about high above the now crowded grounds. The spirit of emulation seemed to have seized on Malvoise. He followed the boys closely, and every feat they performed he attempted to imitate.
Frank at first contented himself with practicing swoops and glides, but after a while, tiring of this, he headed his craft due east and the Golden Eagle was soon a diminishing speck against the sky. The crowd watched till the big 'plane became a pin point and then vanished altogether. The Buzzard was off after them in a flash and the crowd cheered her just as impartially as they had the boys, as the graceful, black flyer stopped her soaring and headed off in the direction in which the Golden Eagle had rapidly vanished.
Before she had gone a mile, though, it was apparent to the watchers that something was wrong. A cloud of black smoke enveloped her engine and she wobbled badly. A rush across the field began. Suddenly the black aeroplane made a dash downward at a speed that seemed as if her driver had lost control of her altogether.
"He'll be dashed to death," cried the crowd, as they saw the craft shoot downward.
Indeed it seemed so.
But Malvoise was too experienced an aviator to be caught napping. As soon as his engine began to miss fire and to smoke, he had set his guiding planes at a sharp angle and dropped in the manner described.
Had the Buzzard not been fitted with air-cushion buffers on her landing wheels and steel springs on the skids that supported her stern, a serious accident must have inevitably occurred. But, as it was, the Frenchman only received a severe jarring and was scowling over his engine when the crowd rushed down on him.
As the crowd of curious onlookers swept down on the disabled aeroplane and her furious driver, a loud "honk-honk" was heard and a big touring car came dashing across the plain. The people scattered right and left as soon as it was apparent that the car's destination was the stranded Buzzard.
Beside its driver, the car had only a single occupant, an old man it seemed by the tuft of gray hair that was projected from his chin, and which was all that could be seen of his face. The rest of his features were covered by a motoring mask with large glass eye-holes that made him look not unlike a goggle-eyed frog.
"Come here, Malvoise," croaked the newcomer, in a voice strangely like that of the creature he remotely resembled.
The Frenchman instantly left his engine and hurried to the side of the automobile. The two conversed in low tones, though it was easy to see that the old man was in a violent rage.
"I tell you the Buzzard must win," he concluded, after storming at Malvoise for an accident that had really been no fault of his. "I've put up a $50,000 plant for the manufacture of aeroplanes of her type and I've got to have that cup in order to sell them."
"I told you, Mr. Barr," rejoined the Frenchman, "that I had found a man who would do what we want. I told you that over the 'phone last night, you recollect."
"Oh, yes, I recollect," croaked the old man impatiently, "but he doesn't seem to have done much. You are sure we have no other dangerous rivals?"
"Quite," was the reply. "Old Schmidt's monoplane is the only other one that comes near us and we can easily outdistance her."
"Good! that only leaves the Golden Eagle to contest for the cup with us."
"Yes, and she is never going to get it," grinned the Frenchman.
"She must not," said the old man, earnestly, "I owe those boys a grudge for the way they robbed me of my ivory. I never found the other tusks they said they had left behind either. I believe that ill-favored black rascal, Sikaso, got them."
"You leave it to me," was the rejoinder of the Frenchman, to whom the latter part of this speech had been incomprehensible of course, "the Buzzard will win the cup, never fear."
At this moment, the heavy-set figure of Sanborn was seen shouldering its way through the crowd.
"Why here's our man now," whispered Malvoise to old Barr. "This is the mechanic of the Chester boys of whom I spoke to you."
Old Barr greeted Sanborn graciously, but he seemed somewhat surprised when the mechanic, after some talk, suddenly said:
"I have something important to tell you, Mr. Barr."
"What is it?" demanded the magnate, not without impatience.
"I cannot tell you here, somebody might overhear us. I'll take a ride with you in your car."
"But it won't do for the Chester boys to see us together."
"They won't be back for some time. They are off on a long flight. I can tell you my proposition and be back at the aerodrome by the time they return."
"Very well, I will hear what you have to say."
As the car moved slowly off, the chauffeur steering it carefully among the scattered crowd, the two occupants of the tonneau were engaged in a conversation that must have been deeply interesting, judging from old Barr's gestures and exclamations. If one could have penetrated behind his mask they would have seen his thin lips curled in a delighted smile and his eyes glisten with cupidity at the proposition Sanborn was craftily unfolding.
EBEN JOYCE APPEARS.
Hardly had the automobile containing the old man and the machinist vanished down the road in a cloud of dust before a shout from the crowd proclaimed that the Golden Eagle was once more in sight. At first a mere speck against the blue, she rapidly assumed shape and was soon circling above the heads of the onlookers, her engine droning steadily, as if she had been some gigantic beetle.
"I say, Frank, this is glorious. How much better she flies than when she was laden down with her cabin and fittings."
Billy shouted this comment at the top of his voice, so as to be heard by the others above the roar of the engine.
Far below them--spread out like the figures on a carpet--they could see the plain; with its big crowd massed in one corner and dozens of tiny figures scuttling about so as to get a better view of the air-craft by getting right underneath it.
"Watch, I'm going to give them a scare."
It was Frank who spoke, and, as he did so, he shoved forward his control-wheel post till the front elevating planes were dropped at an acute angle. There was a sharp snap as he opened the circuit and the roar of the propellers came to a sudden stop.
"Good Lord, Frank, what are you going to do?" gasped Billy, to whom floating in the air with the engine cut out was a new and somewhat terrifying sensation.
"Glide," was the reply.
"Hold on tight now!"
Suddenly the great craft began to descend in a quick dropping rush that sent the air tingling against Billy's cheeks as though they had been plunging through a hailstorm. There was a mighty buzzing in his ears, and every stay and wire on the big craft sang its own song, as the wind rushed through them as if the Golden Eagle had been converted into a monster Aeolian harp.
Down and down they dropped.
A sudden fear shot into Billy's mind.
What if Frank couldn't start the engine again?
They would be dashed to death to a certainty.
And now it seemed that instead of the aeroplane gliding down on the earth that the earth was rushing upward with terrific velocity to meet them.
Just as Billy was about to shout aloud in actual terror at the disaster that seemed unavoidable, there was a sharp "click" as Frank closed the circuit with his emergency foot pedal and the engine began to revolve once more.
Her two propellers shoving her ahead with a mighty push, the big aeroplane began to shoot upwards again in a long swinging arc. She had dropped to within twenty feet of the ground.
It was a hair-raising feat and the crowd that had scattered in terror, as the monster craft bore down on them, quickly reassembled and sent up a cheer.
There was an even heavier scowl than his habitual frown on the face of Malvoise as, having completed his repairs on the engine that had caused him to make such an abrupt descent, he prepared to go up once more.
"Sacre!" he muttered, "those pigs of American boys would certainly get the cup if it wasn't for my foresight in providing against such an emergency."
The crowd scampered across the field to the Frenchman's side as it was
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