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- The Motor Boys on the Pacific - 3/31 -
write a letter to the claim department of the Florida Coast Railway, demanding damages for the smashing of the boat.
"Be respectful, but put it good and strong," he said. "I'll write on my own account to the general freight agent. He's a friend of mine, and we have business dealings together-- that is his road and my road," and Mr. Hitter spoke as though he owned the line of which he was the Cresville agent.
"That'll be good," said Bob. "Maybe it will hurry matters up. We're much obliged to you, Mr. Hitter."
"That's what we are," chimed in Jerry and Ned.
The boys lost no time in sending in their claim. Then there was nothing to do but to wait. They knew it would take some days, and they did not expect an answer in less than a week, while Mr. Hitter told them that if they got money in payment for the destroyed boat within three months they would be lucky.
"Well, since the Dartaway's gone, I guess we'll have to go back to the automobile for a change," suggested Jerry one afternoon, early in September, about a week before school was to open. "Let's take a little jaunt out in the country, stay a couple of days, and come back, all ready to pitch in and study."
"Fine!" cried Bob. "We'll stay at a hotel where they have good dinners--"
"Of course!" retorted Ned. "That's Chunky's first idea-- something to eat. I've been waiting for him to say something like that."
The boys were at Jerry's house, talking over various matters. The auto was kept in an unused barn back of his home, but, since the advent of the motor boat, had not seen much service, though occasionally the boys went out in it. Now, it was likely to come into active use again.
"Let's look the machine over," proposed Jerry. "It may need some repairs. It got pretty hard usage, especially in our trips to Mexico and across the plains."
The boys soon found that, beyond two tires which needed repairs, and some minor adjustments to the engine, the car was in good shape. It was in running order and, at Bob's suggestion, they got in it and made a trip to the town garage, where they intended to leave it to be overhauled.
As they were turning a corner, near the automobile shop, they heard a sudden "Honk-honk!" that startled them. Jerry, who was at the steering wheel, shut off the power and applied the emergency brake.
And it was only just in time for, a moment later, from a cross street, there shot out a big green touring car, very powerful, as they could tell by the throbbing of the engine. It almost grazed the mudguards of the machine in which the three boys were, and, skidded dangerously. Then, with what seemed an impudent, warning toot of the horn, it swung around and sped off down the road.
"That was a close shave!" remarked Jerry, as he released the brake.
"I should say yes," agreed Bob. "That was a six-cylinder car. Bur-r-r-r! If she'd hit us--" He did not finish, but the boys knew what he meant.
They proceeded to the garage, leaving their machine to be repaired. It would be ready for them the next day, the man said, and they arranged to call for it, and go for a trip in the country.
"Let's go to Riverton," suggested Bob, naming a summer resort about a hundred miles away. "The season is just about to close there, and, as it isn't crowded, we can get better attention and--"
"Better meals, he means," finished Ned. "All right, Chunky, we'll go."
"It wouldn't be a bad idea," agreed Jerry. "We could make it in one day easily, and wouldn't have to hurry. We could stay there a couple of days, making little side strips, and come back Saturday. That would put us in good shape for Monday, when school opens."
There was no dissension from this plan, and, having secured the consent of their parents, the boys, early the next day, started off on their journey. It was a short one, compared to those they had been in the habit of taking, but they did not have time for a longer jaunt.
They arrived at Riverton in the afternoon, having stopped on the road for dinner. They found the place rather livelier than they expected, for there had been an automobile meet the day previous, including a big race, and several lovers of the sport still remained, for the weather was very pleasant. The sheds about the hotel were filled with all sorts of cars, so that the boys had hardly room to store their machine.
"This is a little more exciting than we counted on," remarked Jerry, as he and his chums entered the hotel to register. "I'm afraid we'll not get such good attention as Bob thought."
"Oh, it's all the better," was the answer of the stout youth. "They'll have all the more to eat, with this crowd here."
"Chunky can argue it any way he likes," declared Ned. "No use trying to corner him, Jerry."
"No, I guess not. But I'm hungry enough to eat almost anything."
As they were turning away from the clerk's desk, having been assigned to rooms, the boys saw a youth, about their own age, standing near a bulletin board fastened on the side wall. The youth was tacking up a notice and, as he turned, having finished, Jerry exclaimed in a whisper:
"Noddy Nixon! What's he doing here?"
At the same moment, Noddy, the long-time enemy of the motor boys, saw them. His face got red, and he swung quickly aside to avoid speaking to the three chums.
The last they had seen of the bully was when he started to accompany them back to Cresville, after his disastrous attempt to make money from a Florida cocoanut grove. Noddy was wanted as a witness by the government authorities, in connection with the attempted wreck of a vessel, in which Bill Berry was concerned; but, after the motor boys had rescued Noddy from an unpleasant position in Florida, and he had agreed to return to Cresville, he suddenly disappeared in the night. This was the first they had seen of him since. They had learned that the government no longer desired his testimony.
"Let's see what notice he put up," suggested Ned. "Maybe he has lost something."
They walked over to the bulletin board. There, in Noddy's rather poor handwriting, was a challenge. It was to the effect that he would race, on the track near the hotel, any automobilist who would choose to compete with him, for money, up to five hundred dollars, or merely for fun.
"Noddy must have a new car," remarked Ned. "His old one couldn't go for a cent. We beat it several times."
"What's the matter with trying again?" asked Jerry, a light of excitement coming into his eyes. "I'd like to have a race. Maybe several cars will enter, and we can have some fun out of it. Our machine has a lot of 'go' left in it yet."
"That's the stuff!" exclaimed Bob. "I'm with you. But let's get supper first, maybe--"
"I guess he's afraid there won't be any left," remarked Jerry. "But come on, I can eat a bit myself."
As the boys left the office of the hotel, they saw several men reading the notice Noddy had tacked up.
"A race on this circular track here!" exclaimed one man to a friend as the boys passed him. "It's very risky! The turns are not banked enough. I wouldn't do it, but I suppose some will take the chance."
"Yes, it will be a dangerous race," responded the other. "Who is this Noddy Nixon?"
"A son of that rich Nixon over in Cresville, I believe. His father made a lot of money in stocks lately, and, I guess the son is helping spend it. He has a powerful car."
The motor boys did not stay to hear more, but went to their rooms to change their clothes, and were soon eating supper. There was talk of nothing but automobile topics in the hotel corridors and office that evening. Many motorists were planning to leave the next day, but some said they would stay and see if the Nixon race would amount to anything.
"Let's accept the challenge," suggested Jerry.
"I don't want to have anything to do with Noddy," objected Ned.
"We don't have to," replied Bob, "I was talking to the clerk about it. All we have to do is register our names, and the name of the car. It's an informal affair, only for fun. They won't race for money. Come on, let's go in it."
Hearing this, Ned agreed, and the boys put their names down. As Noddy had stipulated there must be four passengers in each car it would necessitate the motor boys getting some one else to ride with them. This the clerk agreed to arrange.
There were six entries in the race, which was to take place the next day. Early in the morning, before breakfast, Ned, Jerry and Bob went out in their car to try the course. When they were half way around it they heard a car coming behind them. In a moment it had passed them, and they recognized it as the same machine that had nearly collided with them in Cresville.
"Look who's in it!" cried Bob.
"Who?" asked Ned.
"Noddy Nixon. If that's his car, we haven't any show."
"Humph! I'm afraid not," answered Jerry rather ruefully. "Still, I'm not going to give up now. He's got a new car, but maybe we can beat him. He's a poor driver."
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