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- The Boy Aviators' Treasure Quest - 6/34 -


seen he was about to take the air again, and a dozen volunteers laid on to the rear frames of his craft and held her back while he started the engine. The Frenchman took his seat with deliberation and adjusted his gloves with care. It was easy to see that he fairly reveled in the admiration he excited.

Just as the Frenchman was about to start his engine, preparatory to giving the word to let go, there was a shout from the crowd and cries of:

"Let him through."

"No, keep him out."

"Who is he, anyhow?"

"Aw, he's an old man; let him get through."

"He's crazy."

"No, he isn't."

"I am not crazy," came in a shrill, cracked voice, "unless it is with my wrongs."

Malvoise looked up quickly.

He saw an old man with long, flowing gray hair and clothes of the shabbiest making his way toward him. Close behind followed a young woman of unusual beauty, who seemed to be endeavoring to stop the aged man from going further. But he was not to be restrained. In a few strides he was at the side of the Buzzard, and gazing with piercing eyes into the French aviator's face.

"Well, what do you want, old man?" asked Malvoise sharply.

"I want the world to know that the Buzzard is my invention, my design, the child of my brain from her top-plane to her landing wheels;" shrilled the old man, who seemed beside himself with excitement.

"Father, do be calm, I beg of you," entreated the young woman.

"Calm, child! how can I be calm when I realize that I have been robbed of the work of years by the craftiness of this old man, Barr?"

"Hush!" exclaimed the Frenchman, as the old man voiced the name of his employer, "don't talk so loud. I know who you are now. You are Eben Joyce, the inventor."

"Yes, I am," replied the old man in a lower voice, for he too saw that the more curious members of the crowd were pressing so close to them that every word of their conversation must have been audible. "I am indeed Eben Joyce, the unfortunate inventor from whom Luther Barr by trickery secured my working drawings and specifications for the Buzzard. For a paltry five hundred I sold them all to him on the understanding that I was to have a share in the business. There will be millions in it--millions in it for him, but not a cent for me; for the agreement that I foolishly signed contains a clause that resigns all my interest in the Buzzards. Fool that I was, in my lack of knowledge of business trickery, I did not realize what the cunningly-worded sentence meant till it was too late. The five hundred went to pay my debts, and my daughter and I now face starvation."

"Well, that's none of my business," was the brutal reply. "I simply am here to drive the Buzzards, not to talk about them."

"What!" stammered the old man, "will you have no pity on us nor even direct where we may find Luther Barr if he is on the grounds?"

"I can't waste any time on you, I tell you," cried the Frenchman, his eye scanning the sky, where the Golden Eagle was maneuvering in circles and swoops.

"Moreover," went on Malvoise, "I should not advise you to mention Barr's name as the manufacturer of the Buzzards. He has a business deal on in which it is important he should not be known as an aeroplane speculator. If he learns that you are giving his secrets away, he will make it hot for you, I can tell you. You were sent to Bellevue yesterday, were you not?"

"I was--yes," pitifully cried the old man, "but I was at once released, and it was with money given me by one of the doctors who heard my story and pitied me that I came down here to-day to find Luther Barr and see whether--although in law he owes me nothing--whether I could not persuade him to at least give me something to keep the wolf from the door till I have perfected my new automatic balancing device for air-craft."

As he spoke, the old man's eyes kindled with pride at the achievement he hoped to accomplish. He shook off the touch of his daughter's hand on his ragged coat-sleeve. In his kindling enthusiasm he seemed to have forgotten his cares and anxieties.

"Oh, sir," he went on eagerly, "it would take very little money now before the invention is ready and if Mr. Barr could find it in his heart to help me I would gladly share the proceeds with him. It is the most needed improvement of the age for air-craft and--"

"Oh, you are like all crazy inventors," brutally blurted out Malvoise, "every idea that enters your cracked brain you think is the greatest improvement of the age, as you say. What good would your inventions be anyway without money to back them up--they'd only be junk for the scrap pile."

The old man's eyes filled with tears as the Frenchman began his rough speech, but the look in them changed rapidly to one of amazed anger as the aviator continued. Drawing himself up to his full height the old man seemed about to launch a terrific denunciation at the other when his daughter once more intervened.

"Come, father," she said gently, "we shall gain nothing by remaining here. You have been robbed of your invention and it is evident that Mr. Barr means to adhere closely to what he and his like call business methods. Come, let us get back to the city and--"

Her words were cut short by a shout from Malvoise. He started up his engine suddenly and before the old man could step back out of the way, the helpers, taken by surprise, let go of the rear structure to which they had been clinging.

"Out of my way!" yelled Malvoise, as like some huge juggernaut the black aeroplane bore down on old Eben Joyce. But the warning came too late.

A horrified cry of:

"He's killed!" went up from the crowd, as the end of one of the planes struck the old man and knocked him on to the grass with crashing force.

His daughter shrieked aloud as she saw the accident and rushed to her father's side as the Buzzard swept on.

Old Mr. Joyce lay very still. There was a deep gash in his head where the aeroplane had struck him.

In the midst of the excitement there fell over the crowd a dark shadow. Everybody looked up to see what had caused it, and there, right above them, was the Golden Eagle. Frank had seen the crowd and driven the aeroplane above it to see what was the matter.

The next minute the great aeroplane glided groundward and landed within a few feet of the crowd. The press made way as the Eagle's occupants hastened to the side of the wounded man.

"Here, Harry, here, Billy, carry him to our shed and lay him on one of the cots," commanded Frank. "I'll tell Le Blanc to get on his motor cycle and hurry back with a doctor."

The boys picked the unconscious man up and carried him to the Golden Eagle's shed. His pitiful emaciation made their task an easy one. The unfortunate old man was reduced almost to a skeleton.

"Oh, thank you so much, sir," exclaimed Eben Joyce's daughter, clasping her hands gratefully, you--you don't think that he is badly hurt, do you?"

"Why, he has a nasty cut," replied Frank, who had hastily examined it, "but I think it is only a flesh wound. He'll pull through, never fear. You are a relative of his, miss?"

"I am his daughter," exclaimed the girl.

At this moment, Malvoise, who had checked the Buzzard and dismounted, hastened up. His face was livid and his hands shook as though with palsy.

"It was an accident--it was all an accident," he cried. "I didn't mean to. Is--is he dead?"

"He is not,--and he is not likely to die," sternly replied Frank, looking full into the Frenchman's cringing face, "do you know who he is?"

"Do I know who he is?" repeated the Frenchman slowly, "why, no, monsieur, I never saw him before in my life."

CHAPTER V.

A STRANGE STORY.

It was not long before, under the friendly administrations of the boys, Old Eben Joyce opened his eyes on a cot in their aerodrome and gave a long sigh. It was several minutes, however, before he realized what had happened.

"How can I thank you--?" he concluded, after he had informed the boys of his name and profession.

"Hush," said Frank, "you must not exhaust yourself by talking now," and the aged inventor remained silent therefore, till Le Blanc returned with a doctor from Mineola.

The physician, after a brief examination, pronounced that the wound in the old man's head was not at all serious, but recommended his removal to the hospital notwithstanding.


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