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- The Motor Boys on the Pacific - 5/31 -
Bob could distinguish cheers for the red auto.
"We've just got to win!" he cried. "Win, Jerry! Win!"
Try as he did, by "nursing" the engine, Jerry could not gain an inch on Noddy's car. The red machine was fifty feet behind the green one, both going at top speed. Only an accident, it seemed, could make the motor boys win.
As they swung into the last lap Ned cried:
"Noddy isn't going to slow down for the turn!"
"Neither are we!" cried Jerry fiercely. "Quick boys! All of you get out on the inside step! Crouch down! That will help hold us as we go around the bank, or, otherwise, we'll go over."
They all knew what he meant. By hanging out on the runboard or step, nearest the inside of the track, more weight would be added to that side of the car. It was what automobilists call "shifting the center of gravity," and aids in preventing spills.
Giving one glance to see that the boys were in their places, Jerry grasped the steering wheel firmly, and sent the car at the dangerous turn at full speed. Noddy was doing the same, but he had not thought of having any of his passengers hang out on the step.
"Look out now, boys!" called Jerry, as they took the turn.
"Swing out as far as you can, boys, but hang down low!" called Tom Jennings, who had been in races before.
Even with this precaution, and aided as they were by the chains on the rear wheels, the red car skidded or slewed so that Jerry thought it was going over. But it did not. By the narrowest margin it kept on the bank.
Not so, however, with Noddy's green dragon. As soon as his car struck the turn it began to skid. He would not shut off his power, but kept on the high gear, and with the engine going at top speed.
There was a cry of alarm, and then the green car left the track, mounted the bank, slid over the top, and came to a halt in a pool of mud and water on the other side of the field. It went fifty yards before Noddy could stop it.
"Go on! Go on!" yelled Ned. "We win! We win!"
Jerry had all he could do to hold the steering wheel of his slewing car, but, by gripping it desperately, he swung it into place, and the red machine started up the home stretch, crossing the tape a winner, for it was the only car left on the track.
A burst of cheers greeted it, and men crowded up to shake hands with the plucky boys.
"Glad you beat the 'mud lark,'" said the owner of the yellow machine, thus giving Noddy's car a name that stuck to it for some time. "That Nixon chap thought he was going to walk over every one. You taught him a much-needed lesson."
Nothing was talked of in the hotel that night but the race, and the motor boys were the heroes of the occasion. Noddy did not appear, and it was learned that he had to hire men and teams to get his car out of the mud.
The motor boys started for home the next day, and thought they were going to make it in good time, but they had a tire accident on the road, when about twenty-five miles away, and decided to stay in the nearest village over night, as they had no spare shoe for the wheel.
As they left their car by the roadside, and tramped into the town, to send word to the nearest garage, they saw a cloud of dust approaching.
"Here comes a car," said Bob. "Maybe we can get help."
As the machine drew nearer they saw that it was painted green, and, a moment later, Noddy Nixon had brought his auto to a stop, and was grinning at them.
"Had a break-down, eh?" he asked. "That's a fine car you have, ain't it?"
"We can beat you!" exclaimed Ned.
"Yes you can! Not in a thousand years if I hadn't gone off the track! Want any help? Well, you'll not get it, see? Bye-bye! I'll tell 'em you're coming," and, with an ugly leer, the bully started off.
"I wouldn't take help from him if I had to walk ten miles without my supper," said Bob firmly, and that was a strong saying for the stout youth.
The motor boys found a good hotel in the village, and the next day, when their car had been repaired, they resumed their journey, arriving at home about noon.
"There's some mail for you, Jerry," said Mrs. Hopkins, as her son came in, after putting the auto in the barn. "It's from California. I didn't know you knew any one out there."
"Neither did I, mother. We'll see who it's from."
He tore open the letter, read it hurriedly, and gave a cry of mingled delight and surprise.
"It's from Nellie Seabury!" he said. "She says they are in lower California, traveling about, looking for a good place to stay at for a few months for their father's health. When they locate she wants-- that is Mr. Seabury-- wants us to come out and see them. Oh, I wish I could go-- I wish we could all go!"
"Perhaps you can," suggested his mother with a smile. "California is not so far away. But I suppose you'll have to wait until next vacation."
"Yes, I suppose so," admitted Jerry. "And that's a long ways off-- a long ways."
"The time will soon pass," said his mother. "But tell me about your auto trip. Did you have a good time?"
"Fine, and we beat Noddy Nixon in a great race."
"I wish you wouldn't have anything to do with that young man," said Mrs. Hopkins. "You have nothing but trouble when you do."
"I guess he'll not want much more to do with us," returned Jerry. "We manage to beat him every time. But I must go find the boys. This will be great news for them-- this letter from the Seabury family."
"I thought it was from-- Nelly."
"So it is-- but it's all the same," answered Jerry with a blush.
JERRY found Ned, his nearest chum, at home, and told him of the news from the west.
"That's fine!" cried Ned. "Come on and tell Bob."
"Don't have to," said Jerry. "Here he comes now."
The stout youth was, at that moment, walking along the street toward Ned's house.
"Come on in!" cried Ned, as he opened the door while his chum was still on the steps.
"That's what I was going to do," responded Chunky. "Did you think I was going to sit out here? Of course I'm coming in. What's the matter?" for he saw by Ned's face that something unusual had occurred.
"Jerry's got a letter from Nellie Seabury-- they're in lower California-- we're going-- I mean they want us to come and pay them a visit-- I mean--"
"Say, for mercy sakes stop!" cried Bob, holding both hands over his ears.
"I guess Ned's a little excited," suggested Jerry.
"You guess so-- well, I know so," responded Bob. "Are you all done?" and he cautiously removed his hands from his ears.
"Tell him about it, Jerry," said Ned, and Jerry told the news.
"It would be fine to go out there," said Bob, reflectively. "But there's school. We can't get out of that."
They all agreed they could not, and decided the only thing to do was to wait until the following summer.
"Too bad," remarked Bob with a sigh. "Winter is the best time of the year out there, too."
In spite of the fact that they knew, under the present circumstances, they could not go for several months, the boys spent an hour or more discussing what they would do if they could go to California.
"Oh, what's the use!" exclaimed Ned, when Jerry had spoken of how fine it would be to hire a motor boat and cruise along the Pacific coast. "Don't get us all worked up that way, Jerry. Have some regard for our feelings!"
"Well, let's talk about school. It opens Monday."
"Don't mention it!" cried Ned. "I say-- hello, there's the postman's whistle. He's coming here."
He went to the door, and returned carrying a letter, the envelope of which he was closely examining.
"You can find out from who it is by opening it," suggested Jerry.
"Here's a funny thing," spoke Ned. "This letter is addressed to my father, but, down in one corner it says, 'May be opened by Ned, in
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