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´╗┐Title: The Air Mystery of Isle La Motte
Author: Craine, E. J. (Edith Janice)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Air Mystery of Isle La Motte" ***

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Author of Cap Rock Flyers, The Sky Buddies Secrets Of Cuzko,
Flying to Amy-Ran Fastness, etc.

The World Syndicate Publishing Co.
Cleveland, Ohio    New York, N. Y.

Made in U. S. A.

Copyright 1930
The World Syndicate Publishing Company

Press of
The Commercial Bookbinding Co.


    This is the first book of the Sky Buddies, Jim Austin and Bob
    Caldwell and their plane, properly christened "HER HIGHNESS" in
    which they encounter many thrilling and exciting adventures.



                          I THE STEP-BROTHERS
                         II THE THREE MYSTERIES
                        III THUNDERING WATERS
                         IV A MYSTERIOUS FIND
                          V A DISCOVERY
                         VI A CAPTURE
                        VII A TAIL SPIN
                       VIII ABLAZE
                         IX THE MAIL MUST GO THROUGH
                          X DANGER
                         XI THE CRY FOR HELP
                        XII DETECTIVES


                    The Air Mystery of Isle La Motte

                            THE STEP-BROTHERS

"I say now, why are you fellows landing here?" The Canadian Mounted
Policeman reined in his horse as close to the cock-pit as he could get,
and eyed the two occupants in the plane, which had just landed in the
southern part of the Province of Quebec.

"You want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" the
blue-eyed youth in the passenger's seat drawled in an accent that could
belong to only one part of the world, Texas.

"If you're telling it today," the mounty replied. "If not, we'll get it

"Very true, but you shall have it pronto. From an elevation of three
thousand feet we observed you, so we came down to find out if you are
riding a real horse, or merely an imitation--"

"It isn't a bad plug," interrupted the pilot, whose eyes were blue and
they rested with approval on the animal that had aroused their
curiosity. "But, if you ever visit Cap Bock, we'll fork you on something
superior--we have a pinto that can--"

"Now, look here, I'm not fooling. You hop out of that and give an
account of yourselves," the mounty ordered firmly.

"Yes, sir." The two obeyed willingly enough and the man dismounted. When
they took off their helmets he saw they were boys, both had tow heads,
and they didn't look at all formidable or like a pair he might have to
escort to headquarters. However, duty was duty and he wasn't making any
snap judgments or taking needless risks. There was too much smuggling,
to say nothing of illegal immigration across the border, and orders were
strict. It was not at all outside possibility that a couple of perfectly
innocent looking youths might be the tools or employees of some powerful
gang. The fact that they dropped out of the skies in an airplane was in
itself suspicious.

"I'm Jim Austin, age sixteen years and two months. This is my
step-brother, Bob Caldwell, fifteen years and eleven months," the
grey-eyed boy announced gravely.

"Proud to meet you, sir," Bob bowed, then added. "I'm almost as old as
he is."

"Well, go ahead, get along with the story," the mounty put in more
pleasantly. His horse had walked close to the boy and was nosing about
the pockets of his aviation coat. Soberly Bob drew forth an apple, broke
it in half and fed the big fellow.

"We were both born with a complete pair of parents on ranches, adjoining
ones, along Cap Rock in Texas, but circumstances, over which we had no
control removed my mother and Bob's father," Jim explained. "When I was
twelve I discovered that my father was spending a lot of time on the
Caldwell ranch and I lay awake nights wondering why a Texas gentleman
couldn't shoot a lady."

"And I planned to set a trap for Mr. Austin and fill him full of lead,"
Bob offered. "Give me your apple, Jim." Jim handed it over without
hesitation and it was fed to the horse.

"Then, one day, I happened along by the water-hole and found some
Greasers knocking the stuffing out of Bob. We beat them off, and after
that, I went to the Caldwell's. It was a nice, clean house and Mrs.
Caldwell gave me a square meal, woman cooked."

"My mother is the best cook in Texas," Bob offered softly.

"Yes. That night I started to follow my father and I ran into Bob. We
rode about and talked it over. Bob's mother wanted him to go to school."

"And Bob didn't want to," the officer suggested solemnly.

"Oh yes I did," Bob replied quickly.

"But a mother, ranch, a string of horses and a pair of blue cranes, is a
responsibility," Jim offered, "Then, we rode to the house--"

"And found his father eating a piece of chocolate cake that I didn't
know anything about," said Bob.

"And he'd eaten the last crumbs," Jim added. "Then, we told them they
were a pair of boobs. A week later the knots were tied that united the
ranches and made us step-brothers. We were all at our place--"

"And Bob was to be sent to school?"

"Sure, but his mother said I had to go too," Jim grinned.

"Not so good."

"It was not so bad because his father said that when we finished the
course, it was four years, we could have an airplane, he'd see that we
were properly instructed in its chauffeuring. We were both hipped about
flying," Bob answered.

"So we went to the school, did the work in two years and a half, learned
piloting on the side, then went home and made the old man keep his word.
Meet Her Highness," he waved his hand toward the plane which was a

"I'm glad to," the officer grinned broadly. "Now, tell me what you are
doing here."

"You haven't told us anything about yourself," Bob reminded him.


"Bob's mother has a sister, Mrs. Norman Fenton, and she lives on a farm
on North Hero Island. In the summer time she takes tourists and calls
the house, Stumble Inn. We came to see a bit of the world and to pay her
a visit. Arrived yesterday and this morning took a hop over British
soil. We like it even if it isn't Texas."

"That's generous of you. I'm Sergeant Bradshaw on border patrol duty,
the horse is Patrick. He was imported from one of the western states,
don't know which one, but he was a bloody beast when he was wished on

"Somebody had mistreated him," Bob announced. "He's got a scar on his
leg. Looks like a short-hitch hobble that cut him." The boy stooped
over, took the hoof in his hand and Pat submitted amiably to the

"Reckon it was done with raw-hide," Jim declared. His fingers gently
manipulated the old wound and Pat turned his nose about to sniff at the

"Pat doesn't usually make friends with strangers. You must have a way
with horses," Sergeant Bradshaw told them.

"We came out of the sky to meet him," Bob reminded the man.

"Dad told us before we started north to make our trip as profitable as
possible by learning all we can. It's against our principles to ask
impudent questions, but we should like to know what you have to do," Jim
announced and Bradshaw laughed heartily.

"I have to patrol this territory, watch the roads carefully, and every
place where smugglers of any kind might try to break across the border.
There has been no end of bootlegging--"

"Thought Canada was all wet," Bob grinned.

"The provinces have local option and Quebec went dry, so we have to
enforce it, but the rum runners are the least of our troubles, although
they are bad enough. There's a lot of objectionable people sneaking in
to both this country and yours, besides drugs and jewelry. This is a
pretty wild section and it keeps Pat and me on our toes."

"Noticed from the air it isn't much settled. Didn't know there is so
much open space outside of Texas," Bob said.

"I should think you'd have a plane and you could see what's going on a
lot better. With the glasses we knew all about what you looked like
before we came down," Jim remarked.

"There are some planes on the job, but men and horses are
necessary--mighty necessary," the sergeant answered. "The airmen can
tell us if anything is moving that is suspicious, but we have to be down
here to get it, unless the outlaws are taking the air."

"Anything special afoot now," Jim inquired.

"You bet there is." Both boys looked at him eagerly. "Our men and yours
have been working for months trying to get something on a gang that has
put it over every time. If we don't make a killing soon, I can see where
there will be a general shaking up in both forces and a lot of us will
be sent to hoe hay." The officer spoke seriously and the boys listened
with keen interest.

"Tell you what, we didn't think we'd find anything very exciting so far
north, but I reckon we'll ooze around here and see what we can pick up.
Maybe we can help you. You'll recognize Her Highness if you see her
sailing through again, and if we want to communicate with you, we'll
circle around and drop you a message if we can't land. How will you let
us know if you receive it O.K.?"

"That's fine of you, Jim, but this is a man-sized job. I appreciate your
offer no end, old top, but your Aunt and Uncle, to say nothing of your
mother and father would come down on me hard if I agreed to let you risk
your necks--"

"The parents are sensible people, we picked them out for that very
reason. They both told us to have a good time, and helping you looks to
me like a good time--"

"Besides, what would we risk? All we could do is report to you if we see
anything, and like as not what we see won't be much help because we're
so green. But, if we did see anything real--because we are such a pair
of nuts we might put something over for you. We elect ourselves, you're
in the minority, so, if you hear Her Highness, listen, stop, watch. Come
on, Buddy, your aunt was making cherry pies when we left and if we don't
get a move on, some cadaverous tourist is likely to come along and eat
every snitch of it. They are a greedy lot."

"Isn't your aunt the woman who raises such a flock of turkeys?" the
sergeant asked.

"Sure, she used to. She has them on Isle La Motte, but last year they
didn't do so well, and she said last night that she isn't having much
luck this spring. It's tough because there is money in turkeys if you
can ever make them grow up," Bob replied.

"I drove down there once and got a couple for my family. They were grand
birds. Come on, Pat."

"You haven't told us yet how we will know that you get our message," Jim
reminded him.

"I'll wave my hat, and if I want you to come down, I'll keep it off my
head, but you fellows watch your step and don't go doing anything that
will get us all into the cooler," he warned.

"We'll look out." They both rubbed Pat's nose, then climbed into the
cock-pit of Her Highness, this time Bob took the pilot's seat.

"Need any help?"

"Not a bit, thanks." Bob opened her up, the engine bellowed, the
propeller spun and Her Highness raced forward, lifted her nose as if
sniffing the air, then climbed into it. Jim waved at the man, who
wondered if he had not better telephone the Fentons and tell them to
keep the boys out of any trouble. On second thought, he decided against
it. After all, their own air men were watching from above, and as they
were every one of them experts at the game, they would report things
long before the boys could possibly have their suspicions aroused. It
would be too bad to spoil their fun, and if they would enjoy keeping an
eye on the world, let them do it. They appeared to be a pretty decent
pair of kids.

"You almost flew off with them, Old Top," he remarked, giving the horse
an affectionate pat, "and only yesterday you bared your teeth and scared
the wits, what little he has, out of that Canuck. You _are_ a
discriminating old cuss." He leaped into the saddle, but he waited to
make a note of the meeting of the boys and their account of themselves.
"Even at that they may be stringing me," he remarked a bit uneasily as
he glanced toward the fast disappearing speck in the sky, but he
dismissed the thought immediately for he felt confident the
step-brothers were entirely trustworthy.

In the meantime Her Highness climbed in swift spirals for three thousand
feet, then Bob leveled her off, set his course and started toward North
Hero, which is one of many delightful bits of land in Lake Champlain.
Presently the boys could see a tiny shack with the British Flag floating
on one side, the Stars and Stripes on the other.

"They look like good pals," Jim said into the speaking tube, and Bob
glanced over the side.

"Great pair," he responded. "Not like the border at Texas." He took a
good look at the huge lake that stretched out restlessly between New
York State and Vermont. "We could use that down our way."

"Let's send some of it to Dad. Remember how long it is?"

"One hundred and twenty-eight miles."

"Bigger than the two ranches together." They flew on until they were
flying over the water, and Jim took the glasses to get a better view of
the historic lake. He picked out Rouse's Point, then on to the
picturesque sections of land whose rocky coasts had defied the pounding
waves. There was Isle La Motte, with it's farms at one end and long
wooded stretch at the other where the Fenton's kept their turkeys.
Beyond, united by a long bridge was North Hero Island, cut up into small
homesteads. There were acres of uncultivated land which was now blue and
yellow with flowers, groves of cedar, elm and ash, to say nothing of
delicate green spots that the boys knew were gardens or meadows. Further
on was Grand Isle, also connected by a bridge, but they were not going
that far.

"Let's hop down on the turkey end of La Motte," Jim suggested, and Bob
nodded. He shut the engine off, let Her Highness glide, and circled for
a landing place. "Get on the water." Young Caldwell kicked forward a
lever which shifted landing wheels to water floats, selected a smooth
cove, and in a moment they lighted, splashed and stopped.

"Hey you, get the heck out of here. Get out!" The voice came from back
of a fallen tree, and in a moment a huge man whose face was ugly with
anger, walked along the dead bole and shook his fist at them. "Get out.
You ain't no business around here."

"We just dropped in to have a look at the turkeys," Bob told him.
"We're--" But Jim stepped on his foot.

"What's the matter?" He broke in quickly. "We're not going to hurt
anything. We've never seen a turkey farm and we heard that you have a
fine one here."

"You're right you're not going to hurt anything, and you're not going to
see this turkey farm. Hear! Now, get out! You're on private property and
I'll have the law on you! Don't you see them signs, 'No Trespassing',
right there!" He pointed to a large sign hung between two trees and it
plainly warned off inquisitive, or interested spectators. "Go on, now,
get out."

Bob glanced questioningly at his step-brother. He had started to tell
the caretaker who they were, feeling sure that the information would
naturally assure them a very different reception, but for some reason or
other, the older boy wanted to withhold the fact. Just then the man
broke off a dry branch, raised it over his head, and prepared to throw

"Move out of his range," Jim said tensely. "He might land that in our
propeller or tail." Bob sent Her Highness scurrying over the water and
the stick fell harmlessly behind the plane.

"The ornery old cuss," Bob growled at the indignity. He whirled the
plane about, held her nose low, and set the propeller racing. Instantly
it kicked up a spray of water that shot out on all sides, and before the
man could move, he was drenched to the skin.

"Confound your hides," he bellowed, but Her Highness was circling away,
then she lifted, climbed swiftly and started homeward. Bob taxied her
low across the two miles of water, and brought her down close to the
boat pier, where she "rode at anchor."

"Boys, dinner's ready." Mrs. Fenton, a typical, tall, slender Vermont
woman, came out onto the back veranda of the old house.

"So are we," Bob shouted. The plane made secure, they raced around the
curve, across the wide, sloping lawn, up the high stairs, and into the

"There's basins outside to wash up," Mrs. Fenton told them, and soon
they were splashing the cold water over their faces, and lathering their
hands with the cake of home-made soap.

"Well, you lads get a good look at Vermont?" Mr. Fenton joined them at
his own basin. He too was tall and slender, with kindly grey eyes, and a
broad smile. Although they had never seen him before until their arrival
twenty-four hours earlier, they both liked him enormously.

"Corking. She's some state, Uncle Norman!" Bob answered from behind the
roller towel.

"She's got a lot of her under water," Jim added.

"Expect you'd like some of that in Texas."

"Surely could use it. Cracky, some of those hot spots would seep it up
like a sponge."

"We could spare a good deal of it," Mr. Fenton told them. "Especially
when it's high."

"Does it get much higher than it is now?" Jim asked.

"It has swelled up fifteen feet more, then it does some flooding, but
that doesn't happen often, not so far north, but we get plenty. Well,
come on in. Hope you didn't leave your appetites in the sky."

"We did not."

"I will take the milk now, sir." The boys turned quickly at the voice,
which was deep and musical, and saw a tall, powerfully built man, whose
skin and eyes were dark. He wore the usual overalls, a tan shirt open at
the throat, and carried himself more like a person of importance than a
working man or a farmer.

"All right, Corso. Here it is waiting for you." Mr. Fenton handed down a
covered pail.

"I thank you, sir," Corso replied with dignity.

"Your nephew is doing an interesting job on that mud hole. The boy is a
good worker."

"He is learning. We thank you." The man accepted the pail of milk and
walked away swiftly. The boys noted that he was amazingly light on his
feet for a man of his size.

"Is he a Vermonter, Uncle Norman?" Bob asked as they made they way to
the dining room where the table would have groaned if it had not been
accustomed to such a bounteous load.

"No, he isn't. I really don't know where he comes from, Bob, and my
guess is Spain, although I'm probably miles off on that. He and his
young nephew, a boy about thirteen, or perhaps a little older, rented a
shack a mile or so up the shore; they paid several months in advance.
Seem to spend their time walking, or on the lake, and I believe I'm
about the only person, on North Hero Island Corso talks with, and he
doesn't say very much to me. I've seen the boy, of course, but I don't
know if he can speak English or not, I've never heard him."

"He's a nice looking boy," Mrs. Fenton put in.

"Ever since they came your aunt has longed to get her motherly hands on
him," Mr. Fenton laughed.

"He needs a woman to look after him, see that he gets proper food and
plenty of it. He's as thin as a stick, and I know he was sick this
spring. I did make Corso take some puddings and jellies to him," she

"They sound like an interesting pair," Jim remarked.

"Well, they are, but they mind their own business, and we Vermonters
mind ours. How about it, light meat or dark, Jim?"

"Dark, please."

"What is the boy doing with the mud hole?" Bob wanted to know, for a mud
hole didn't sound very promising.

"I don't know what it will be like when he gets finished but I'm keen to
see. It's a strip about two and a half acres wide, and five long, that
has always been a dead loss for cultivation. It comes between my alfalfa
meadow and the garden; dips down low and toward the middle is quite a
hole. The place catches all the rain and hangs on to it all through the
hottest months. I had an expert here to drain it several years ago, he
sunk some pipes, and although he did get the water off, more came back
inside of a few weeks, and it was full after the first rain storm. The
land is very fertile, and if I could use it, I would raise bumper

"Shame you can't."

"Yes, it is. Corso came to me early this spring, some weeks ago, and
asked if I would rent it to him, and permit him to dig and do anything
he wanted to with it. He assured me he would do it no harm, nor the
surrounding patches. I told him it wasn't good for anything, but he
seemed to want it, so I let him have it. He and the boy spend a great
deal of time there, and they have hauled a lot of rocks from the shore.
You probably noticed the edge of the lake, except around the cliffs, is
all small flat stones, not very brittle, but not so soft as soap-stone."

"Sure, we were looking at them last night. Some have pink and white
streaks, like marble, and are pretty. I'd like to send a box to Mom for
the garden walks. She'd be pleased to pieces to have them."

"They have taken several loads of them and some very large stones. After
dinner you might walk over and see what you make out of the work so far.
I can't make head or tail of it. A few days ago they planted corn, right
in the mud, and in each hole they put a minnow they scooped out of the

"Why put fish in, do they expect to raise sardines?" Jim laughed.

"Can't say," Mr. Fenton answered.

"It's some heathen notion I know." Mrs. Fenton announced positively.
"Are you getting enough to eat, Bob?"


                          THE THREE MYSTERIES

"I say, Uncle Norman, you surely have a crab of a man to look after your
turkeys," Bob remarked when the noonday meal was nearly finished, and
the boy suddenly recalled their very unwelcome reception on Isle La

"A crab?"

"I'll tell the herd he is the prize long horn for meanness," Jim added

"My goodness, boys, what on earth did he do?" Mrs. Fenton asked soberly,
as if she could hardly believe her ears.

"He wouldn't let us near the place," Bob explained, then went on with an
account of their effort to see the turkey farm.

"Hezzy's all right, boys. You didn't tell him who you were."

"No, we didn't, but great snakes, about everybody on the three islands
seemed to know we were coming. Didn't seem reasonable that this fellow
did not have an idea who we were," Jim declared.

"Of course, airplane visitors are not common and the news of your
arriving from Texas did spread, but it's possible Hezzy didn't hear of
it," Mrs. Fenton told them.

"You see, boys, he's been having quite a peck of trouble. Last year they
hatched a big flock of birds, but before they were half grown, a lot of
them were stolen. We know they didn't die--only a few of them--and there
is no way for them to have wandered off. Their wings are clipped as soon
as they are big enough to get any height, and turkeys do not fly very
high or far, anyway. Some one, or some band of thieves must have made
away with them. Hezzy is hired to raise them, I haven't time to and look
after the farm, and he takes real pride in having a big flock. Some of
the young ones have disappeared already and I expect he's keeping a
mighty close watch to save as many as he can. They bring a good price
and last year was the first season we didn't realize a profit on them."

"Any idea where they go?"

"No, we haven't, but it must be outsiders. Probably some tourists
discovered the old farm tucked away there in the woods, and let it be
known, or came back themselves. We have three watchmen, and now one of
them sits up all night, but it hasn't done much good," Mr. Fenton

"Sure Hezzy isn't putting his own brand on them?" Jim suggested.

"My goodness sakes alive, child, don't say anything like that. I
wouldn't have anyone hear you for the world," Aunt Belle said anxiously.

"Hezzy is too honest for his own good, really. He wouldn't take a bent
pin that didn't belong to him. I've known him since I was a boy. He's a
fine poultry man and absolutely reliable. Keeps his records as accurate
as can be. There isn't a cent's worth he doesn't give a detailed account
of every week," Mr. Fenton supplemented.

"I didn't mean to cast reflections on his honesty, but he was such a
bear, it just occurred to me he might be feathering his own nest with
your turkeys," Jim said.

"Oh, dear me, don't say it again. Why, I should be so distressed to have
it get out--"

"We won't breath it, Aunt Belle," Bob promised.

"I'll take you over sometime and you can see the place. I ordered a pair
of good watchdogs to help guard it. They should be here in a day or so,"
Mr. Fenton said, then added. "Well, if you want to go out and inspect
what's being done on the mud hole, come along."

"Perhaps they could eat another piece of pie, Norman."

"No, we couldn't, not a sliver," Bob insisted.

"Much to our regret," Jim grinned.

"Very well," Aunt Belle agreed.

The two boys followed Mr. Fenton out of the front door, down the flower
lined path under a grove of huge maples, across the road onto the farm
proper, past the barns, around the vegetable garden and then he stopped
and made a gesture.

"Here it is." They saw the land, much as he had described it, the
alfalfa meadow rising gently on the further side, and between them was a
long pond of still water which was very dirty.

"Some hole," Jim nodded. They walked on, picking their way until they
saw a boy at work, and they stood quietly watching him. He did not
realize they were there and went on with his task quite as if he was
alone on the island.

"What the heck is he doing?" Bob whispered. The boy had some odd sort of
implement, the handles of which he grasped in both hands, stood it
upright, then jumped, his feet landing in the middle; driving the queer
tool deep into the ground. Then he stepped off, bent the handles as far
as they would go, and raised the earth.

"I think it is some sort of shovel, or plow," Mr. Fenton told them, "but
I never saw anything like it. Listen and you'll hear him sing, it's a
kind of a chant." The step-brothers listened and in a moment they could
hear, but the words and melody were unfamiliar. As the youngster
straightened up, they could see that he was lithe, his skin was dark
like his uncle's, and his heavy hair, which was quite long for a boy's,
waved in the breeze.

"Gosh, he looks a little like an Indian, a good one," Jim remarked.

"Will he mind if we go closer?"

"No, but I wouldn't pay too much attention to him," Mr. Fenton advised.
"I'll go about my job and you amuse yourselves." He left them, and the
boys proceeded to where the young farmer, or whatever he was, was
engaged. They marveled at the speed with which he turned over the earth
and before they were very close they saw that he was making some kind of
trench. At the nearest end the work seemed to be finished, and then they
could tell that he was making a terrace along the edge of the alfalfa
plot. About half way down he had taken some very large rocks, fitted
them with great nicety, filled in the crevices with smaller stones,
filled in the space toward the hill with earth, and above the dark soil
poked two rows of tiny green shoots of young corn.

"Gosh, he's planting as he gets the land ready. Great job, isn't it?"
Bob whispered and his step-brother nodded. Presently they came up to the
boy. When their shadows fell across his plow, he glanced up quickly and
sprang back. They grinned cheerfully to let him know they were friendly,
and Jim pointed to the new terrace.

"Fine," he declared.

The boy smiled, his eyes lost some of the terror which had leaped into
them, and his body relaxed. He eyed them for a moment, then motioning
with one hand, he led them back to the other side where he showed them a
narrow trench. With one scoop of his shovel he removed the earth that
still held the water as a dam, and it started to tumble through and race
off toward the road, where it would be carried away into the lake. For
several minutes they watched, and then they glanced at the useless bog.

"Cracky," Bob shouted with admiration. "Some irrigator. Look, it's
draining off."

Sure enough, the long strip was getting dry around the edges, and
promised to be emptied inside of an hour.

"If it stays dry, Uncle Norman will be tickled pink. Say, Jim, what do
you suppose he is?"

"Search me," Jim responded.

"Seems as if I've got a kind of hazy idea of reading something about
some old race or other using plows like that," Bob remarked.

"Me too. Maybe it was the Egyptians."

"Maybe, but holy hoofs, what's this kid doing it for?"

"As I said before, my esteemed step-brother, you are at liberty to
search me thoroughly, but if you find anything, you have to let me in on
it," Jim laughed. The boy watched them a few minutes longer, then
picking up his tool, he hurried back to his work.

"You know, Jim, we thought this neck of the woods was going to be dull
as ditch-water, but I've got a hunch that if we stick around we may be
able to crowd some real excitement into our visit. I'm dying to know who
this kid is and where he came from, mystery number one; I'd like to do
some flying about Isle La Motte and perhaps we can see something that
will solve mystery number two--what's happening to Uncle Norman's

"I'd like to do some observing and see if we can't get a line on that
gang that is giving friend Bradshaw such deep furrows between his
handsome eyes," Jim laughed.

"Me too, but gosh all hemlock, wouldn't Dad kid the life out of us if he
knew we are out to help the little old world!"

"Not only Dad, but the whole shooting match on the ranch. Tell you
what, Aunt Belle and Uncle Fent said we could stay as long as we
like, and they meant it, even if we are boys. Let's organize a
secret--s-e-c-r-e-t--mind you, detecting bureau, or what ever it is,
and stay until we solve the three mysteries!" Bob proposed.

"I'm on. This end of the world doesn't look so bad to me. We'll let the
folks know we're taking root for a while, the three of us, that includes
Her Highness. We'll keep on the job until we win, or we have to admit
we're licked." Bob held out his hand and the agreement was made, without
further discussion.

"We'll have to explain to Her Highness," the younger boy declared.

"Sure thing. She'll be disappointed unless there's a lot of air work to
it, and I have a hunch there will be."

"Oh, boys--"

"Yes Aunt Belle," Bob shouted.

"Do you know where your uncle is working?" Mrs. Fenton called from the
roadway. "There's a telephone message for him."

"We'll find him for you," Jim promised. They hurried off in the
direction Mr. Fenton had taken when he left them and soon the sound of a
hammer ringing in the distance informed them they were on the right
trail. A moment later they could see the man repairing a place in the
rail fence that bounded the pasture.

"Uncle Norman, you're wanted on the telephone," Bob roared.

"All right, coming," the man waved, and dropping his work, came as fast
as his long legs could carry him.

"Guess you're party's holding the line," Jim volunteered.

"They don't mind that around here," Mr. Fenton replied. He went ahead
and the boys followed more leisurely.

"This certainly is a good looking spot. No wonder the early pioneers
settled in rock-bound Vermont, but, gosh, what a fight they had to put
up to get a living out of those rocks," Bob remarked as his eyes roamed
admiringly over the green hills, across the blue water, on to the
distant mountains.

"It isn't a rich state yet, but it has produced some fine men. Real
rip-snorters, rearin' to go," Jim added. By that time they had reached
the "hole" and could see the strange boy working industriously at his

"You know, Bob, we want to be kind of careful because we don't want to
do any butting-in on that kid. Maybe, far as he's concerned, we had
better mind our own business."

"Reckon you're right, but let's try to make friends with him," Bob
suggested, and that was passed without a dissenting vote.

"Oh boys."

"Here," Bob shouted to his uncle.

"How long would it take you to get me to Burlington?" the man asked as
he came up to them.

"Less than an hour," Bob answered.

"Would it be too much trouble for you to take me?"

"Not one bit," Jim assured him. "Ever been up in a plane, sir?"

"No, I haven't," the man admitted.

"Do you get dizzy easily, that is, does it make you sick to your stomach
when you get on a high place and look over?"

"Oh no. I never get dizzy."

"That's all right then."

"We can strap you in," Bob offered.

"Will the plane carry three of us?" the man asked.

"Sure. There's an emergency seat in the back, and she'll carry some
freight besides," Jim explained.

"Our dad didn't leave anything undone when he bought that plane, and
besides, we helped in the selection. She'll do anything except herd
sheep," Bob said proudly.

"We have parachutes and everything. Maybe you'd like to try one of them
out," Jim offered.

"Not this time unless I have to," Mr. Fenton laughed. "A chap called me
up on important business, and if I can get it attended to today, it will
be a big help."

"Well then, get a heavy coat on. We have an extra helmet--"

"Shall I need rubbers?"

"If you intend to come down with the parachute over the lake," Bob

"It's mighty nice of you--"

"We'll get Her Highness in ship shape."

"I'll be with you in five minutes," Mr. Fenton promised, and he was. He
joined his young guests at the pier, Bob was already in the back, while
Jim was fussing about the pilot's seat. Mr. Fenton was given the extra
helmet and a pair of goggles, both of which he adjusted when he took his
place after he had submitted to having the parachute and safety strap
buckled properly.

"All O.K.?" Jim shouted finally. Mrs. Fenton had come down to see her
husband start on his first flight, and she watched a bit nervously.

"I don't know about those contraptions, Norman," she said anxiously.

"They're great inventions, Belle. When we get rich, we'll have one," he
promised her.

"I'd rather have a good horse and buggy," she retorted.

"A horse is all right, Aunt Belle. He never loses an engine or gets his
wings ripped off," Bob shouted, then added. "All set in the rumble seat,

"Right-you-are." Jim glanced at their passenger, assured himself that he
was secure, then, opened her up, and they sped forward over the water,
which was smooth as a sheet of glass. Mr. Fenton's lips moved, but
whatever he said was lost in the roar of the motor. He grabbed the edge
of the seat as Her Highness lifted her nose eagerly, and he hung on
grimly as she spiraled in wide curves over the lake. At a thousand feet
the young pilot leveled her off and they roared swiftly south toward the
State's largest city. After about ten minutes, Mr. Fenton sat less
rigidly. Jim picked up the speaking tube and handed the end to him,
making motions how to use it.

"How do you like flying, Uncle Norman?" Mr. Fenton nodded and smiled. He
didn't feel quite equal to carrying on a conversation yet. Jim followed
the lake, and as they were approaching their destination, he spoke again
to his passenger. "If we land on the water will that be all right for
you, can you get to your place easily?"

"Yes, the office isn't far from the east shore." Mr. Fenton felt like an
old timer now. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.

"Ten minutes more," Jim told him, and he nodded. Presently the pilot
shut off the engine, and the man looked startled at the sudden silence.
He glanced at Jim, who grinned reassuringly as he kicked the rudder
about and brought Her Highness into a long glide toward the spot he had
selected for the landing. The plane touched the water lightly, sped
along a few yards and stopped beside a long pier.

"Are we here?" Mr. Fenton asked.

"Yes sir. How do you like air traveling?"

"It's wonderful, but I did almost get heart failure when the motor
stopped," he admitted.

"Begun to wish you had brought your rubbers?"

"My rubbers and a boat."

"Is this place near enough?"

"Plenty." Jim helped him out of the straps, and by that time Bob stepped
over the fuselage to give a hand.

"Glad you didn't try to jump over, Uncle Norman. How are your air-legs,

"A bit cramped." He stretched them both, found they would work, and in a
moment he mounted the boat pier. "I don't expect to be more than half an

"We'll wait here," Jim promised.

"Oh, look at the hydroplane," shouted a small boy on the shore.

"They are calling Her Highness names," Bob scowled.

"She's a hydroplane for the minute," Jim replied. "Let's taxi around the

"It's getting kind of rough. Up at North Hero it was as smooth as a
sheet," Bob answered. "Wish I knew more about water and its tricks."

"I think we're going to have a blow," Jim speculated as Her Highness
went rocking over the waves.

"There are some black clouds over south and west and they sure do look
as if they are in a hurry. We'll have them on our tail as we go back.
Got plenty of gas? I read that in some places Lake Champlain is three
hundred feet deep, and it's wet clear to the bottom," said Bob.

"There's an extra tank besides what is in the bus. Guess I'll feed her
up. Somehow, I think a nice Texas desert is pleasanter to land on than
water." Jim busied himself with the task and Bob helped look things

"Why don't you go back above the shore?" he suggested.

"We have to land on the cove when we get home, so why switch gears. If
there's time this evening, we might locate a place to land on the farm,
but we'll have to ask your uncle about that or we'll be coming down on
some field he's planted."

"O.K. with me."

"Whoooo boys," Mr. Fenton shouted from the pier where he was standing
with a group of men and an army of small boys who had come to see the
take off.

"An audience. Do your prettiest, Your Highness," Bob urged the plane as
his step-brother brought it around in fancy style.

"It isn't every farmer who has a couple of pilots to bring him to town
in a private plane, free of charge," one of the men joked.

"Certainly looks like the farmers are getting some relief," another
added. "They are going up in the air about it."

"It's time we did something," Mr. Fenton responded. "Shall I get in now,

"Sure." Bob gave him a hand, the straps were re-adjusted, and the
younger boy crawled back to his seat, attached his own parachute, and
was finally ready. By that time the shore was lined with spectators.

"All ready. Contact," Caldwell shouted. Jim opened the throttle, and
they were off in a jiffy. They could see the people waving and cheering
as they came about a few feet above the lake. Then Her Highness zoomed,
high and handsome and the town was left behind.

Because of the rising wind the return trip was not so smooth. They ran
into bumps and pockets, and the force of the approaching storm drove
hard behind them, pushing them forward swiftly. Jim zoomed to ten
thousand feet in an effort to get above the troubled air, but even at
that altitude there was no improvement. Occasionally he took a second to
glance at his passenger, but Mr. Fenton was facing it bravely, although
his eyes showed that he was a bit anxious. The young pilot took the
speaking tube, signaled to the boy in the back, and almost instantly
there was a red flash on the dial board, which meant Bob was paying

"Better put your cover over, old man."

"Got her up," came the answer. "I'm snug as a bug in a rug. Want to know
the readings back here?"

"Yes." Bob read them off while Jim compared them with the records on his
own control board, and when it was finished, he called.

"All correct."

"You covered up?" Bob demanded.

"Going to fix it now. So long. Meet you on the ice."

"You needn't. I'm not a skate," came the chuckling response. Then Jim
drew the storm cover over the cock-pit, switched on extra lights, and
the plane raced forward, guided entirely by compass, and the sensitive
instruments which kept him fully informed as to how high they were and
how fast they were going.

The coming of the storm suddenly hit them with a bang and the young
fellow fought with the controls to keep Her Highness balanced.

Glancing through the tiny window he was startled to see that it was
pitch dark, and he had to look at his watch to be sure that night was
still several hours away.

"Some storm," he remarked to Mr. Fenton, who answered courageously.

"Lake Champlain is noted for them. They are pretty tempestuous at times
and this looks like a rip-snorter."


                           THUNDERING WATERS

As the sturdy little plane tore along through the thick blackness a
deluge of water hit her suddenly with such force it might have been a
cloud burst and she staggered under the fury of the impact. She wobbled,
side-slipped, twisted and dipped with the strength of the storm beating
her mercilessly every inch of the way, and the gale at her tail spun her
forward like a leaf torn from a branch. Above the roar of the engine and
the shriek of the wind through the wires, came the threatening boom of
the Lake as its mighty waves smashed against the rock-bound shore.

Tensely Jim sat, his eyes watching the dials in front of him, his hands
and feet ready for instant action. It was a struggle to keep her righted
and the boy zoomed her to fifteen thousand feet in an effort to get
above the ceiling of the tempest. But he only climbed into greater
trouble, and after a resounding crash of thunder, the sky was split in a
thousand ways by flashes of forked lightning. Quickly he nosed her down,
eyes on the directional compass, but keeping their course was out of the
question. They were being blown miles out of the way and he hoped they
would not go far enough east to land them somewhere in the mountains. He
had not an instant to glance at his passenger, but once or twice his
hand came in contact with Mr. Fenton, and the man was sitting braced for
all he was worth. Another flash of lightning showed their faces, grim
and white.

The rain continued to pelt them, and finally Jim calculated that they
had traveled in a northerly direction. Allowing for the wind that had
driven them steadily, he turned Her Highness' nose about in an effort to
reach their destination, and the frail little air-craft was almost
rolled over. In Jim's mind was a vision of Champlain and he debated the
advisability of shifting the landing gears from the floats to the
wheels, but he decided to keep the former in place. He knew so little
about the country, and where it was safe to land. In the blackness which
enveloped them he could not hope to come down without a very serious
smash-up. With Bob in the back and Mr. Fenton beside him, it was too
great a risk to take. Then he saw the man pick up the speaking-tube, so
he prepared to listen.

"Anything I can do to help?" was the question. Jim shook his head.

"We ought to be near your place but I don't know where to go down. Is
the water very rough?" he asked.

"Yes. The waves will be high and now they are driving from the southeast
and will be hitting our side of the island. During a storm like this,
boats have to be put under cover or they get beaten to splinters," Mr.
Fenton answered.

"Thanks," said Jim. The prospect wasn't any too cheerful.

Although it was still raining, he shoved back the protecting cover and
tried to peer through the darkness. He could hardly see his hand before
his face, but he waited, until suddenly, an almost blinding flash of
lightning revealed the world. Just ahead of them were farms and patches
of thickly wooded sections. The boy saw small houses, their windows
lighted as if it were late at night. Low growing things, vines and
shrubs were bent to the ground. The trees bowed and groaned in the
throes of the storm. Some of the branches, unable to withstand the
strain, were being ripped off and hurled through space. Beneath the
racing plane the black waters of Champlain were whipped into giant
rollers, and along their edges white-caps foamed ghastly yellow in the
weird light. It was all shut out in a fraction of a minute, and Jim
zoomed higher to get out of harm's way.

"We're about five miles north of our place," Mr. Fenton told him, and
the young fellow grinned with relief. It was some comfort to know where
they were. Grimly he fought to bring Her Highness to face the storm.
Feeding the engine all she could carry he battled to get south, but it
was a hard struggle, like shoving against an immovable, impenetrable
wall. It seemed as if the plane barely moved forward, but her propeller
screwed valiantly, and slowly they gained against the wind, but it drove
them east.

"Any rocks or islands near?" Jim asked.

"Gull Rock, two miles directly east, and Fisher's Island. That's a
couple of miles long. If you can head into the southern point of our
cove, that is protected somewhat from this wind and the water will not
be so bad," the man explained.

"We'll try it. Do these storms last very long?"

"One never can tell. Sometimes they come and go in less than an hour,
and very often they last much longer."

"Then there is no sense in trying to stay up until it beats itself out,"
Jim remarked. He couldn't say anything more. Another flash of light gave
them a brief glimpse of the world but they seemed to be far over the
water. Mr. Fenton leaned out to make observations, but was promptly
forced back to his seat.

"Wow," he whistled.

"Better keep low," Jim advised. Then came a series of flashes, and Mr.
Fenton managed to get their location straightened out.

"We're still a mile north and about half way across the lake," he
volunteered. "I see Fisher's Point, the north end."


Jim brought the plane about hard, raced her across, then shut off the
engine just as a flash revealed the cove at the south end. The boy could
see branches being tossed on the waves and hoped hard that none of them
would cripple Her Highness when she dropped down. Another prayer he sent
up fervently was that the space was wide enough for them to stop short
of the rocks. They hit the water, rocked forward and up and down
choppily, then stopped, just as someone came racing along the shore
waving a lantern.

"Is that you, Norman?" It was Mrs. Fenton and she was so frightened that
she could hardly speak. Her face showed white in the darkness and she
gripped the light as if she would crush it.

"We're all present and accounted for, Belle," her husband answered
quickly as he hastened to get loose from the straps.

"Hello everybody!" That was Bob who bobbed up in the back seat like a
jack in the box. "So, this is London, and here _we_ are!"

"Oh, I've been so terrified. I telephoned to Burlington when I saw the
storm coming and they said that you had started. It--it's been just
awful, awful." Mr. Fenton splashed through the water to reach her side.

"We're a bit damp, Belle, but otherwise perfectly fine."

"I knew you would all be killed--" she insisted.

"But we aren't," he assured her again. "Need any assistance, boys?"

"No. We can manage all right," Jim answered. The rain was coming down
with less force and here and there through the darkness showed streaks
of yellow light. The boys got Her Highness secured to the pier, and
hurried to the house, where they found that Mrs. Fenton was getting out
dry garments for them, and a cheery blaze crackled in the wide
fireplace, while from the kitchen came the welcome fragrance of the
evening meal. They grinned appreciatively at each other and climbed to
their own room under the rafters where they changed their wet clothes.
When they came down Mrs. Fenton was just putting out the lights because
the darkness had lifted, as if by magic, and through the western windows
they could see the glow of the evening sunshine.

"Well, what do you know about that!" Bob exclaimed, hardly able to
believe the evidence of his own eyes.

"Have we been dreaming, or _did_ we come back from Burlington in the
teeth of a rip-snorting gale?" Jim demanded.

"It was no dream," Mrs. Fenton said fervently. "It was more like a
nightmare. I was afraid to switch off the telephone because I expected
every minute to get a call telling me that you had been wrecked on the
Lake and were all drowned. And, I was afraid to leave the switch
connected because I was sure the house would be struck by lightning. My,
it wasn't a dream--not here anyway. Goodness, such a storm. I thought
the house would be ripped from its foundations and come tumbling over my
head. A tree was struck nearby for--oh, it did crash two different
times--something awful. Land sakes alive, you boys must not go up again
in such weather--goodness--"

The good lady stopped for breath and to pour glasses of milk out of a
huge pitcher, while her husband served the rest of the meal. Mr. Fenton
did not seem to have suffered any from his experience, and both boys
considered the whole affair a most worth-while adventure.

"We've got some bus, Aunt Belle. Her Highness is the best in two
countries. Have to say that because the shift landing gear was invented
by an Englishman, but the rest is pure American," Bob smiled, then took
such a long drink that when he looked up from his glass, there was a
perfect white half-moon on his upper lip.

"You better shave," Jim suggested.

"Go on, shave yourself! How do you like air-traveling, Uncle Norman?"

"I think it's perfectly marvelous. Had no idea, really, how wonderful it
is. When especially I think that I never, in all my Life, went so far
and back in so short a time. We always take a full day to make the trip
to Burlington, and today we made it in an afternoon."

"Were you frightened during the storm?" Jim asked.

"Have to admit that I was quite a bit nervous but when I saw you so cool
and managing so easily, and how the plane responded to every move you
made with those controls, why, I just naturally couldn't go on being a
coward. It does not seem to me that Bob is over-stating the facts when
he says the little plane is the best in two countries. I should say that
she is the best in the world to come through such a grilling."

"Like to go up again?"

"I should indeed. Just think how automobiles and other modern inventions
have placed us far ahead of my father's time. He had to use horses and
oxen, and my grandfather did all his traveling, that is, any distance,
on the lake-steamers. Sometimes it took weeks, and a storm such as we
had this afternoon would have driven the boat into the nearest harbor to
wait for fair weather."

"Gee," Bob said soberly. "How did those old boys ever get anywhere or
have time to do anything?"

"When I was a boy I saw some of their primitive methods, Bob, but they
did manage to accomplish a great deal."

"Some real nice day we'll give you a joy ride, Aunt Belle," Bob promised
with a twinkle in his eyes. He fully expected that Mrs. Fenton would
promptly decline such an invitation, but she looked at the men folk very
thoughtfully, then a little pucker came between her eyes.

"Land sakes alive, Bob, you'll probably have to tie me fast and sit on
me to keep me from jumping over-board, but I guess if you all think it's
so fine, I can live through it. After I have the--er--joyous--I mean
joyride, I'll write and tell your mother about it. She said that you
took her up several times and now she wants her husband to get a plane."

"Right you are," Jim laughed heartily. "Mom's a good sport and so are
you. We'll bind you hand and foot, and put weights on you, but I'll bet
you will like it as much as Mom did."

"No doubt I shall," and Mrs. Fenton didn't smile over the prospect.

"Well, don't come down and ask me to buy you an air-plane, that is,
unless the turkeys take a jump and we have a grand flock of them this
fall, but it doesn't look now as if there is much chance," Mr. Fenton
said. The last part of his statement was made soberly.

"Wonder how the boy's draining plan is working after that rain," Jim
remarked as he recalled the work of the strange boy on the bog.

"When we finish supper, we'll go and have a look, but I expect the place
is flooded way above the foot of the alfalfa bed," Mr. Fenton said.

"Now, how do you expect to eat your meal if you talk so much? Norman,
you are not paying a bit of attention to those boys' plates and they are
both empty."

"My plate may be empty, Aunt Belle, but my tummy is beginning to feel
mighty content. I could purr," Bob told them.

"Well don't. It isn't polite at the table. You may roll over on the
floor and kick your feet up if you like," Jim suggested.

"Don't you do anything of the kind," Aunt Belle said hastily. "The very
idea. Is that what you do when you have a good meal at home?"

"No, Mom wouldn't stand that," Bob answered.

"We tried it once at school and it didn't go so well there either," Jim
added gravely, and Mr. Fenton laughed heartily.

"How many demerits did they give you?" he asked.

"Ten apiece," Jim answered.

"And we had to average ninety-five on four subjects to shake them off,"
Bob added. "It's a cruel world."

"The world is a great little old place. It's only the people in it, I
mean some of them, who make it unpleasant," Jim declared. "I can't eat
another mouthful."

"This is my last," Bob announced regretfully as he swallowed the bite of
cherry pie. "That is, I mean the last for the time being."

"All right, it's a good thing you added that because you are not at home
now and you don't know where the pantry is located--"

"Don't kid yourself. I ascertained the location yesterday afternoon,
before I'd been here twenty minutes."

"You would! Where was I?"

"Luxuriating in Champlain. I watched your fair form in the red bathing
suit while I ate gingerbread and milk--"

"Humph, that's nothing, I had some when I came in--four pieces and two
glasses--cream on top. Come along--that is--is there anything we can do
to help you, sir?"

"No, thank you, Jim. I have a couple of chore boys and if you helped
they might think I do not want them any more. We want you to enjoy your
stay in Vermont--"

"Great guns, we are. It's a grand State even if we could put it into a
comer of Texas," Bob replied sincerely.

"You ought to like it, your mother was brought up here, but goodness
sakes, she went off when she wasn't much more than a girl. She was
married right here in the parlor. I can remember it just as if it was
yesterday, then the pair of them drove away in the two seater with old
shoes tied to the end. They did look handsome. Your pa was all spruced
up--and the next year they were in Texas--"

"You boys coming?"

"Yes sir."

As they went out onto the front piazza, the sun was setting and the sky
was streaked with brilliant red and gold which shone magnificently
through the trees. There was no doubting that the storm had been an
actuality, for a deep stream was racing down the run-off toward the
lake, and everywhere the place was strewn with leaves and branches that
had been broken. The Rural Free Delivery Box was leaning wearily against
a maple, as if the struggle to keep upright had been altogether too
much. The three picked their way across the road with water dripping
from trees and shrubs, and the ground soggy underfoot. They were soon
past the garden, and at the further side they could see the foreign boy
busy working, but this time his uncle was with him.

"Whoo-oo," Bob called cheerfully. The boy straightened up and smiled,
then he came toward them and they went to the ditch he had showed them
earlier in the day. It was full to the top with water which was running
off as hard as it could go, and in spite of the storm there was little
more water on the bog than had been there at noon time.

"Huh!" Mr. Fenton gave a little grunt of astonishment.

"Looks as if it's working all right, doesn't it?" Jim remarked.

"It certainly does. It'll be a great thing for me if he gets the place
drained for that land is a piece of the best. Don't see how he's doing
it. I had an expert engineer here to dry up that section and he couldn't
accomplish a thing. Said the only way was to ditch it to the lake, then
fill in the hole, use a lot of lime, like a concrete mixer and bring the
hill forward. A mighty expensive job it would have been and then part of
the land wouldn't be very good," Mr. Fenton explained.

"Reckon this boy is some sort of wizard. He's bewitching it," Jim

"Wish we knew something about him," Bob added.

"Don't blame you for being interested, Bob, but we like to mind our own
business around here. They seem to be honest and capable and don't
interfere with what doesn't concern them--"

"Oh, we're not going to make blooming pests of ourselves, but we thought
it would be fun to get acquainted with him. Wish he could speak
English," Jim explained.

"I don't believe that he's spoken to anyone since they came. His uncle
speaks fairly well. He seems upstanding. There isn't any harm in trying
to make friends with the boy, but I wouldn't--"

"Butt-in? We won't unless he's willing to have us. Know what he reminds
me of, Bob?"


"Some of those Indians, the chiefs, you know the fellows that are so
straight, clear-eyed, and sort of fine. He seems like that, only maybe
an even better sort. The Indians we see now aren't so much like that."

"He is a little like that, but I don't believe he's an Indian. Maybe
he's like they used to be a long time ago before the white men took all
the pep out of them," Bob agreed.

"I don't know any Indians, but I never heard that they were very hard
workers, not farmers I mean. It would be queer for one to be interested
in that sort of thing. They like hunting--"

"Yes, that's right. Dad said a few of them made good cow punchers, but
they never got much chance to show what they might do." Just then Corso
came toward them. His face was grave but his eyes wore a pleased

"It is good?" he said as he motioned toward the receding water.

"Very fine," Mr. Fenton answered heartily, then he added, "You must not
let the boy work too hard. He does not look very strong. Why not have
one of the men help him in what he is doing? I can get a chap who will
do as he's directed, and this piece of work will be a great improvement
to the property." Corso smiled.

"That would be so excellent," he agreed.

"All right. I'll have him here in the morning."

"He can the English speak?"

"Sure. You can talk to him, and I'll tell him I want him to follow any
instructions you give him." Mr. Fenton was glad that Corso agreed to the
plan for as the work promised to be a success he was anxious to get it
finished as quickly as possible.

"We better look after Her Highness before it gets too late," Jim
proposed to his step-brother.

"All right," Bob agreed, then turning to the boy, he grinned. "So long,
Old Top!" The youngster frowned--

"Old Top," he repeated, "so long, Old Top."


                           A MYSTERIOUS FIND

The next morning broke clear and beautiful as only a late spring day can
start. The step-brothers found Aunt Belle busy canning rhubarb, and she
eyed the two dozen jars with keen satisfaction.

"There, that's finished," she announced.

"Did you do all that this morning?" Jim asked for the sun was hardly
well out of the Lake and was sending a golden path dancing across the

"Land o' Goodness, yes. Tomorrow I'm going to make some dandelion wine,
and before sun-up is the best time of day to get work done, to my way of
thinking," she replied as she bustled about getting the meal ready.

"Then suppose we give you that joy-ride right after breakfast," Jim
proposed, and he looked at her to see if she had changed her mind.

"Land o' Goodness, you boys don't believe in giving a body a minute to
worry over doing a thing like that. I don't know--"

"There's no time like the present," Bob teased her, and she smiled.

"I might's well get it over with and it will be a real experience. I can
think of it all winter. All right." They both had a hunch that she was
eager for the adventure, but she was mighty nervous about it, just the
same. "It's kind of like going to have an operation or a tooth pulled,"
she told them and they laughed.

"You won't feel that way about it when you come back."

"Coming back will be a relief, like when the tooth or the appendix has
been taken out. I suppose I'll be kind of shaky and queer, but the agony
will be over. Now, you sit right down and help yourselves. Norman told
me to be sure to wrap up warm." She hurried away and the boys grinned,
then obeyed orders. By the time they had finished, Mrs. Fenton appeared,
wrapped from head to foot almost like an Eskimo. Her lips were set
grimly and her fists were clenched for the ordeal.

"Now, don't you be afraid, Aunt Belle. It isn't any worse than sitting
in a rocking chair, and it's much more exciting."

"I expect you're right. It was exciting watching you drop out of the sky
on a streak of lightning yesterday," she gave a nervous giggle.

"We won't stay up very long, and if we see the tiniest cloud, we'll
bring you right back," Jim promised.

Fifteen minutes later they were ready for the start. Aunt Belle had been
given advice and instructions, strapped fast and parachuted in case of
an emergency, her head encased in one of her nephew's helmets and
goggles adjusted so she could pull them down. The speaking tube and
field glasses were close at hand. This trip Jim was in the back seat
while his step-brother was beside the passenger. Not a word did the lady
utter during the preliminaries, but when young Austin called that all
was as it should be in the rear, she braced herself stiffly, her
frightened eyes searching the velvety-blue heavens for a sign of a cloud
which might possibly spell danger.

"All set!" Bob shouted as he opened her for an easy take-off.

Her Highness seemed to realize the importance of behaving like a member
of the royal family and did her part like a charm. She skimmed over the
lake, circled widely, nosed up speculatively, lifted slowly on a long
gradual climb, the motion of which was truly as pleasant as being rocked
comfortably in a grandmother's big chair. Up they went five hundred feet
and by that time they were beyond the south end of Fisher's Island and
sailing gaily toward the narrows below the Point. Bob leveled off, they
soared ahead, came partly around and climbed again at easy stages until
the altimeter registered twelve hundred feet. The boy was glad that his
aunt had asked no questions about the control board. Her Highness roared
across North Hero Island, turned south again toward Grand Isle, then
curved to come back. By that time Mrs. Fenton was wearing a very
surprised look, and a moment later, she gave a relieved sigh, relaxed,
and even sat up a little. Her lips moved and the boy knew that she was

"My land o' goodness."

"Look," he pointed ahead and she followed the direction with interest,
and after five minutes more, she was gazing over the side with fine
unconcern. Then Bob pressed the glasses upon her, and she raised them to
her eyes, and smiled at the wonders she beheld.

As Mrs. Fenton had never been "joy riding" before, the boys had agreed
not to keep her up too long this first trip, so Bob brought Her Highness
about, roared over the country his aunt knew; crossed the island above
the bridge which connects North Hero with Isle La Motte, and curved over
the latter stretch of land until they were sailing on a line with the
turkey farm.

Jim in the back seat had time for observation, so he took a good look at
the place. He had no difficulty in making out the ancient homestead, the
old house where he guessed that Hezzy Burley, the poultry man, lived
with his helpers. Close by were a number of hatcheries, and further
along high wire-covered pens where turkeys, young and old, strutted
timidly. The boy didn't have time to get a bird's-eye view of the whole
farm, but he did notice that it came down to the lake on one side, and
stretched back over a belt of timber and beyond a hill which looked as
if it might be a very delightful place to ramble, but no good for
landing a plane. As he glanced with interest at the Fenton property, he
thought he saw some men in a ravine and decided they were hikers, or
merely out for a stroll. Then, suddenly it occurred to him that they had
no business on the property and it might be a good idea to tell Mr.
Fenton and have Hezzy keep on the lookout for them. The boy wondered if
the watch dogs had arrived, but his mental query was answered
immediately, for he saw two dogs racing down to the water, and both of
them plunged in for a swim. They looked like a very capable pair and he
hoped they would be able to save Bob's uncle from having to mark off
another bad year in his turkey business.

Her Highness was now soaring as gracefully as the white gulls they
passed on the water, and Bob shut off the engine. The plane began a
beautiful descent, and in a minute more she was floating toward the

"Well, how's the tooth, Aunt Belle?" Bob teased.

"My land sakes alive, if it isn't the beatinest. There, I never slept a
wink all night thinking about it, wishin' I'd been a better Christian in
case I never got down to earth again, and all that worry--"

"Was a dead loss," Jim laughed.

"Yes it was," she admitted honestly. "It was just marvelous. Now, I've
got to hurry. My fruit man comes through in a few minutes and I want
some lemons. Tourists say this fruit wagon is kind of interesting and
curious, maybe you boys would like to look at it," she invited. "It
comes from Montreal, through the customs, and we can buy things cheaper
than we can get them from our own stores. It seems queer, but it's so."
They had unstrapped her and she smiled.

"I'd like to see him. We have some queer covered wagons that are driven
through Texas. How did you like the ride?"

"A lot, and I'm ever so much obliged to you both. My land o'goodness--I
mustn't forget to write to your mother and tell her I've been up with
you. Her Highness is real pretty, isn't she!"

"We think she is," Bob answered with pride.

"You got a right to think that." Aunt Belle stood a moment to admire the
plane, which did look particularly lovely as the sun shone on her broad
wings, and the water beneath her, splashed gently about the floats.
"She's a beauty."

"I saw some men, hikers I guess, back of your turkey farm," Jim
volunteered as they went toward the house.

"There's a lot of people living at the north end of the Isle, and they
are likely to go roaming all over the place. Sometimes the school
teachers take nature classes to study the trees, and the Boy Scouts
asked permission to camp there. Hezzy knows them all and he lets them go
parts where they won't do any damage or scare the birds."

"Probably it's all right then." Jim dismissed the idea that he might
have spotted something important, and followed the others into the

"I got some bananas, Mees Fenton." It was a soft pleasant voice that
spoke, and the lips were parted in a wide smile.

"Little Greaser?" Bob said in an undertone.

"More likely little Canuck," Jim reminded him. "And he's not so little
at that." The man was certainly picturesque in his baggy trousers, tied
at the knees with pieces of new hemp, a red flannel shirt, and velvet
jacket. He stood over six feet in his moccasins, which were of thick
deer skin, and he might have been taller, but the weight of his hat must
have kept him down.

"I'll be right out, Pedro," Mrs. Fenton called and she hurried away to
rid herself of the extra clothing she had donned for the air ride. The
two boys strolled out on the veranda to wait for her, and they could see
the huge covered truck standing under the shade of two of the maples
that edged the winding main road. Being sure of a customer, Pedro
proceeded to his wagon, opened the end doors, leaped lightly over the
tail board, and disappeared.

"Cracky, it doesn't look like any wagon I ever saw before," said Bob.

"No." They studied it with interest. It was heavily built, evidently
constructed for long hauls and to carry heavy loads. The "cover" was of
wood and metal, and the whole thing was painted a brilliant red and deep

"Anyone would recognize that as far as he could see it," laughed Bob.
"Oh, here you are." Mrs. Fenton came out with a basket on her arm and
the three made their way to the caravan.

"Do all these peddlers have wagons like that?" Jim wanted to know.

"Good land, no, only Pedro. He had it made specially. Fills it up in
Canada. He has to carry a great deal of truck to make it pay because
some of the customs are high," she explained.

"Does he pick up American goods to take back?"

"Yes, and sometimes he does a little freighting when he can't buy our
farm products." They had reached the end of the wagon, and the boys were
amazed at its capacity. It seemed to hold a store full of goods. Besides
the early vegetables, lemons, bananas, oranges, and pineapples, there
were moccasins, Indian bows and arrows for youthful purchasers, bright
blankets, and some skins hanging from the top. Mrs. Fenton looked over
the wares, made her selection, and finally the transaction was
completed. Pedro got a pail of water from the lake and gave his engine a
drink, then climbed into the seat, waved cheerfully, and thundered
colorfully off toward the next farm. In a minute he disappeared over the
hill, but it took longer for the noise of his machine to diminish in the

"Golly, he could take half the State over the border in that bus," Bob
declared, then added as he saw the foreign boy coming from the garden,
"Here's our friend. Hello," he called. The boy stopped, eyed them
keenly, then smiled and showed a set of teeth so perfect that any
dentist would have given half his kingdom to use his picture in an

"Old Top, so long."

"Guess that will hold you for a while," Jim roared. "You are dismissed,
my brother, Old Top."

"Aw I say, that's wrong. Hello!"

"Aw," the boy repeated--"Aw, hello."

"That's more like it." He pointed to his step-brother. "Jim." The boy
looked at Jim, who flushed under the scrutiny. "Jim," Bob said again.


"You got it. Jim."

"Aw, Old Top; Jim, so long; hello."

"Will you listen to the vocabulary. Ain't that marvelous!"

"It ain't," Jim scowled, then he pointed to Bob. "Bob," he explained.
The boy seemed to understand that it was some sort of introduction.

"It ain't Bob?"

"Yes it is," Bob insisted, pointing to himself. "Bob."

"Bob? Jim?"

"Great," they both nodded gleefully. "You're a regular chatterbox."

The boy repeated the words he had learned and seemed to enjoy the sound
of them. Then he stood a moment, straight as a young sapling, the
expression on his face changed to a sober one, and into his deep, fine
eyes, came a thoughtful look, which seemed to be habitual to them. As
they met his gaze, any desire they might have had to have fun with him,
disappeared, and the step-brothers felt a strong urge inside them to
befriend this young foreigner.

"Bet my share of Her Highness against a plugged dime that he'd make a
great pal," Jim remarked.

"I'm not taking you up. Let's see if we can't teach him more English.
That won't be butting in," Bob proposed.

"Maybe we can do a little," Jim agreed. But just then a soft whistle
came from further up the road and the boy turned quickly, leaped over
the low fence and started toward the sound. The boys watched him until a
moment later he joined his Uncle, who had evidently called. They both
hurried in the direction of the lake, and a few minutes later, the young
Americans heard the dip of oars as a boat was shoved off onto the water.
Aimlessly Jim and Bob followed more slowly until they were standing on
the shore, and they could see the boat skimming swiftly north.

"They parked it here. Guess they're going home to lunch, and it's easier
than walking up the road," Jim suggested. He glanced at the marks on the
rocks and sand where the boat had been left. Bob stared at the spot as
if he expected to learn something of the two mysterious persons who had
just left it.

"Here's a can, or something." Bob stooped and picked up a small covered
box. It was somewhat the shape of a tobacco box such as men carry in
their pockets, and was no more than an inch thick.

"That isn't tin. Maybe they dropped it," Jim said as he turned it over
in his hand.

"Say, know what that looks like?"

"A box--"

"Sure, but the metal looks like my silver watch did--you remember it got
almost coal-black--sort of brownish."

"So it does. Guess this is silver. We better keep it, and if it belongs
to the kid, return it to him."

"Sure. If it doesn't belong to him, Aunt Belle may know who owns it. Mom
said that in a little place like this everybody knows all about what
everybody else owns." Jim turned the thing over in his hand again, gave
it a little shake, and as he did so, the cover sprang back, as if he had
pressed a concealed spring.

"Well, look here," he exclaimed. The two looked inside but all they
could see was some bits of colored string. Carefully Jim took hold of
one and gave a little pull.

"You'd better not do that. The string may be around something real small
and you'll lose it," Bob suggested, but before the words were out of his
mouth, the entire contents was in Jim's hand. "What do you make of

"Maybe the kid has been trying to be a Boy Scout. It's nothing but
colored strings full of knots, but it's a queer sort of string at that.
I never saw anything like it--"

"You'd better put it back," Bob urged. "It isn't any good, but if the
kid was having fun with it, we don't want to be goops--" Both boys
turned quickly as they heard the sound of oars being plied swiftly as if
someone were rowing in a great hurry. "He's coming back." Hastily Jim
stuffed the odd looking string back into its container and snapped the
lid shut.

"Wish I hadn't been such an inquisitive boob," he muttered. By that time
the boy and his uncle had almost reached the spot, and both of them
seemed to be anxious about something.

"Did you drop a little box here?" Bob called as the boy leaned on the
oars to let the boat come ashore. Corso's face lighted with relief, as
if the thing they had lost were of great value.

"Yes, sir," he answered.

"Well, that's good. We just picked it up." Jim stepped hastily forward
and restored the find to its owners, but to his surprise, they both
leaped out.

"Much sirs, we thank you." The man took Jim's hand, and to that pure
young American's utter embarrassment, stooped and kissed it. Hastily lie
drew it back.

"Aw, that's all right," he said in confusion.

"Glad we saw it before the waves carried it off," Bob declared. He was
congratulating himself that it was his step-brother who received the
homage, but his delight was short-lived, for the boy took his hand and
performed as did his uncle.

"Much thanks, Bob--Jim," he said chokily.

"Aw, it isn't anything to make a fuss over," Bob answered quickly, and
his face flushed to the roots of his hair. In his heart he was glad that
none of the cowpunchers from Cap Rock were there to witness such a
display of gratitude.

"Much thanks," the uncle said again, and the two backed away.

"Don't mention it," Jim said hastily. "We have to go, or we'll be late
for lunch. We would have given it to you this afternoon if you hadn't
come for it." They both bowed low, then sprang into the boat and rowed
off, but now their faces were wreathed in smiles and as the distance
grew between them and the shore, they began a sort of chant which
sounded like the wind sighing through the cedars.

"Come along, let's get a move on. I don't want to be kissed any more.
Gosh, they must be French," Bob exclaimed, and the two started to run as
if the Old Harry were after them. When they came in sight of the house,
they stopped. "I'm not going to tell anyone about that box."

"Mum's the word. If we tell about finding it, we'll have to tell about
giving it back. Perhaps it's some sort of heirloom, but it sure is a
queer sort of thing to make such a fuss over."

"I'll say, maybe now that we gave it back, Corso and the boy will be
friendly and we can ask them where they came from--"

"Maybe we can, but we're not going to be little interrogation points
unless they give us the information without our asking for it. Dad says
a gentleman recognizes another gentleman and they treat each other

"Well, that's O. K. with me," Bob nodded. "But I thought we might get an
answer to one of the mysteries."


                              A DISCOVERY

"I have some errands at Isle La Motte station, boys, and I'm running up
there in the car. If you'll condescend to ride in anything so slow and
primitive, I'm driving down to the turkey farm and you can see what it
looks like," Mr. Fenton invited that afternoon as the boys came up from
a swim.

"Well, of course, sir, we wouldn't be so impolite as to say that we
scorn to use your only mode of conveyance," Jim grinned broadly.

"But we'll accept with pleasure. I'm looking forward to meeting Hezzy
and seeing his face when he learns we are members of the family," Bob
added with relish.

"How soon are you starting?"

"As soon as you are ready," Mr. Fenton told them, so they raced into the
house and made a wild scramble to get into their clothes. In record time
they were out, their faces were flushed from the stampede and the cold

"You surely have a grand lake in your back yard. I never enjoyed a swim
so much in my life," Jim volunteered as they climbed into the seat of
the waiting car.

"Suppose that you have water-holes in Texas and you boys fight over the
swimming privileges just as the cattle men used to fight over keeping
them for their stock," Mr. Fenton remarked.

"We don't kill each other."

"We're not so fond of a bath as all that, Uncle Norman. There are four
creeks on the ranches, and one corner of Mom's takes in a slice of Pearl

"In the spring we have it to burn. Sometimes it fills the gullies and
part way up the canyons, but that's only in the Cap Rock section. Almost
at the edge of the cliff the land stretches away for about three hundred
miles and that's pretty dry. Some of the ranchers drove wells, but they
had to do it a dozen times before they had any luck, and most of them
are driven more than a hundred feet to reach water. They force it to the
surface and make pools," Jim explained.

"Is that for the cattle?" Mr. Fenton was greatly interested.

"Yes, and to irrigate the grain."

As he listened to the bits of description of the boys' home in Texas,
Mr. Fenton was driving along the road which ran in a wavy line all the
way around the Island and in ten minutes they came to the log bridge
which led to Isle La Motte. Here and there they passed Vermonters who
exchanged greetings with the farmer, and occasionally they passed
touring cars. Some of them were carrying full loads, while others were
less crowded. A good percentage were trying to take in all the beauty of
the "Islands" they were crossing, but the rest looked bored and some of
them read. The cars carried plates from almost every state in the Union
and were everything from shiny and new, to rattly and very old.

"Great snakes," Jim remarked. "Looks as if the world and his wife have
taken to their automobiles."

"Glad we have Her Highness. She can't be crowded off the road," Bob
added and he glanced a bit disdainfully at the travelers. They drove
across the bridge, hurried on north and at last came to the little
depot, where Mr. Fenton took on a piece of freight, chattered a moment
with the agent, then took his place again.

"Now, you'll see the farm. The place is one that Mrs. Fenton inherited
from an uncle of hers. That end of Isle La Motte used to be rather
thickly settled for these parts, but the old people died off and the
younger ones went to other places to make their homes. It's quite a
farm, nearly three hundred acres, but most of it is timber land, and
it's too far from the main road to cultivate. If we didn't have the
other place, we should have moved over, but it seemed ideal for a
poultry farm. Vermont turkeys bring a big price, so we started in a
small way and soon it was quite a success. The last couple of years
haven't been so good. The birds are not easy to raise, and we expect
many of them to die and don't mind if a few are stolen, but wholesale
loss--a couple of hundred went two nights before you boys arrived."

"Cracky, that was a wollop," Bob whistled.

"Have many raids like that?" asked Jim. It sounded like the losses on a
big stock ranch.

"There have been quite a few. Well, here we are." They drove up to the
old house which had been built over a hundred years ago, but in spite of
its great age, it was sturdy looking. Its architecture, doors, mullioned
windows, and wide floorings in the "porch" would have gladdened the
heart of a "Colonial" collector. The boys did not know this, of course,
but they could appreciate that it was a great old place. Mr. Fenton
honked, and in a moment the door was opened and Hezzy emerged.

"How are you, Burley? Dropped around to show the nephews from Texas what
a turkey farm looks like." Hezzy came down the steps and the boys eyed
him gravely. "Want you to meet the boys. Jim Austin and Bob Caldwell.
They are going to spend a part of the summer with us."

"Pleased to--" Hezzy was beside the car now, his glasses resting low on
his nose as he could look over them.

"Reckon Mr. Burley has met us before," Bob grinned.

"Oh yes, I forgot. They told me they landed with their plane on the cove
and you drove them away. I explained the troubles you have been having."

"They didn't one of them say they come from your place, just landed on
the lake and said they wanted to see the farm. That was two days, or
less, since we lost that big batch--I wasn't taking no chances," Hezzy
said quickly. He wasn't a very prepossessing man to look at, but now he
smiled at his employer and was most affable.

"Sure, we understand," Bob assured him, but Jim said never a word.

"Want to look around now?" Hezzy invited cordially.

"We will. I haven't much time but they can get an idea and come back
later if they want to see more," Mr. Fenton said as they climbed out of
the car.

"Oh, they can see it in a few minutes," Hezzy answered. "It's pretty
much all alike." He led the way toward the shore, and presently the
three were going through the houses, past the wired run-ways, and to the
larger enclosure where the bigger birds were confined.

"The thieves must have done some damage if they went over those wires,"
Jim remarked as he noted the fine mesh, and that smaller yards were
enclosed like a box.

"They got in through the houses," Hezzy answered promptly. "At night."

"Got good locks?" Bob asked.

"Best we can buy," his uncle replied.

"Wish we could help you find the thieves," said Jim, "but we're kind of
dubs. I lost my watch at school and tried detecting. Began to suspect
the president, then I found it in my other suit pocket, so I swore off

"You bet, it's a dangerous business, but I suppose you have someone on
the job, Uncle Norman!"

"Well, no, we haven't. We just try our best to catch them when they come
for more, but we haven't been able to discover the thieves yet. I see
that you have the watch dogs. Are they good?"

"They seem to be fine dogs, but one of them is sick this morning. I gave
him a physic. It's the only thing I know to do for him, but I guess
he'll come around," Hezzy told them.

"You'd better call up the veterinary. I paid a good price for those
beasts and should not like to have to buy another pair," Mr. Fenton

"I called up the vet. He told me what to give him," Hezzy answered.

"Well, guess that's all you can do. Someone might try to poison them, so
keep an eye on what they eat."

"I'm not taking any chances," Hezzy said hastily. "Want to have a look
at him?"

"Not this afternoon, I want to get back. You boys seen enough to satisfy
you for the time being?"

"Sure," Jim answered. "There isn't much to see. Sometime when you are
coming again, we'll tag along if you'll let us, sir."

"Be glad to have you."

"Sure, bring them along any time," Hezzy spoke up. "I'm sorry you didn't
say you belonged to the Fentons when you were here yesterday, but I
didn't know, and turkeys are the scariest birds that grow wings."

"That's all right, but we thought you might have heard about the plane
and recognize us from that," Jim told him.

"Fent told me you were coming from Texas in an airplane, but when a
man's worried he don't stop to think. Only thing came into my head was
you were some marauders and my men were both away for an hour."

"All right, come along." They made their way to the car and were soon on
the way home.

"It's a great place, Uncle Norman. Maybe when we're flying around we can
locate something which will solve the mystery for you, but you'd better
not say anything to anyone because it might put the thieves wise and
they'd work another way."

"Very well, I'll keep it under my hat, but don't either of you go taking
any chances. I want to send you home with whole bones and not in
sections. That would be a poor ending for your trip."

"We'll be careful. We were over the island with Aunt Belle this morning
and I noticed the other end hasn't much good landing space. Too many
trees and shrubs, except one hill that's kind of bare, but it isn't very
big and it looks steep," Bob explained.

"Your aunt certainly did enjoy her ride," the man smiled.

"Don't we know it! We knew she would, but she was scared blue when we
started--said it was like going to have a tooth drawn." By that time
they were at home and after supper they took a stroll along the rocky

"Got something on your mind besides your cap?" Bob asked his buddy.

"Yes, hair."

"The rest is vacant space--" Bob dodged a stone that his step-brother
threw at him.

"No it isn't, you nut. Keep away from those trees or a squirrel will
mistake you for a part of his supper," Jim retorted. They walked on a
way in silence, then they came to a huge boulder, where the older boy
sat down.

"I say, what are you thinking about? I never saw you still so long
except when you're in Her Highness and her voice keeps you quiet."

"How did you like Hezzy?" Jim asked.

"Oh, he wasn't so bad when we were properly introduced. Guess if we had
just lost two hundred turkeys we'd have been out with shot guns too.
We'd have fired them first and sent apologies to the family afterwards.
What do _you_ think of him?"

"I don't know. It's giving me a brainstorm to find out. Can't blame a
man for being on the war path under those conditions. He's probably the
salt of the earth, as your aunt says, and honest as the day is long, but
I can't get over the idea that if we met him on the range in Texas, we'd
turn the bull loose on him," Jim laughed.

"Maybe we would," Bob admitted, then he grinned, "but you don't want to
forget that you thought the president had your watch."

"Go on!"

"What's eating you besides the man's looks and his reception of us the
other day?"

"Not much. It seemed to me that he wasn't overly anxious to have us come

"Why yes he was--said to come--"

"Any time _with your uncle_. But when Mr. Fenton said we could come by
ourselves and take a look, he said 'we could see it all in a few
minutes.' Like as not, I'm barking up the wrong tree. Let's go up early
in the morning and see what we can see around the border. I'd kind of
like to talk with Bradshaw again. He was real decent and I'd like to
know if he located any of that gang yet," Jim proposed.

"Suits me right down to the ground."

"We've been kind of grounded since we came. Suppose your aunt would mind
letting us take a lunch to eat in the air, or some nice place we pick

"Of course she won't mind. What sort of crab do you think she is?"

"No sort of crab, unless there is a very generous, likable variety, but
we don't want to make extra trouble for her. Your mother said that the
farm takes a lot of work and she has no end of things to do. Tomorrow
she's going to can some more--"

"And she'll be glad to have us out of the way for a while." Bob was
quite positive, and although his aunt showed no desire to be rid of her
two guests, she was perfectly willing to fix them up a picnic lunch and
by the weight of the basket she handed her nephew the next morning, it
promised to be a bountiful meal.

"You boys be careful and if it gets stormy you'd better come right home.
I'd be real worried--"

"You must not do that. Didn't we slide down on the lightning the other
day?" Bob demanded.

"Yes, I know you did--"

"And didn't you enjoy air traveling?"

"Yes, yes indeed I did, I wrote to your mother last night--"

"Then don't waste any good worries about us," Bob grinned. "We'll be
fine and come home to roost, like chickens."

"Hurry up, Her Highness is raring to go," Jim shouted. He was already in
the cock-pit, and his pal raced to join him.

"All O.K.?"

"Sure Mike." Bob took his place beside his step-brother, adjusted
himself, and in a minute Jim opened the throttle, the engine bellowed a
challenge to the world, or a joyous roar that it was about to do
something worth watching. Up they climbed a thousand feet, circled above
North Hero, and as Bob glanced over the side, he caught glimpses of
children and farmer folk staring at them. He waved gaily, then Her
Highness leveled off and shot northwest.

"Going to have a look about Isle La Motte?" Bob asked through the
speaking tube.

"No. If the thief is there I want him to think that we are not
interested in looking for him," Jim answered, then added. "I'm more
interested in seeing if we can find Bradshaw."

"Any special reason?"

"Not one." Jim answered emphatically.

They sped toward the boundary and both boys were filled with delight at
being in the air. Bob kept the glasses to his eyes and every once in a
while would point out something attractive so his step-brother would
miss none of the delights of the trip. Jim did not wish to go straight
north, so he bore westward, following the American side of the border
and after an hour, circled about and returned pretty much along the same
course. Once they saw a passenger plane soaring majestically south, and
then they spied the mail-pilot racing toward them, so they went to meet
him. The young fellow in the cock-pit eyed them for a moment but when
they grinned and waved, he waggled his wings as a return salute. He
seemed such a jolly sort that Jim came about and taxied along beside him
for a while, then with a farewell wave, he spiraled high and circled
away, the U. S. plane thundering toward Montreal.

"We ought to locate Bradshaw soon," Bob remarked as they were nearing
the territory which their Mounty friend patrolled, and Jim nodded. The
younger boy searched the rolling globe beneath them. Through the glasses
he could see tiny homesteads, miles of unsettled stretches broken only
by a rough road, and an occasional traveler scooting along in a car or
seeming to crawl behind a team of horses.

"The place we picked up Bradshaw is about a mile ahead," Jim remarked,
and this time Bob nodded assent. He paid even greater attention to his
observations, and once he picked up something that puzzled him. It was a
wooded ravine, the sides of which rose steeply and were bristling with
overhanging rock. The boy guessed that it was the bed of a stream, but
the water had either dried up or been diverted through another outlet.
He followed its winding course, and calculated that it must be several
miles long and extended well across the borders into the two countries.
Twice he thought he saw something moving about, then he looked more
sharply for he thought it might be a bear. In a moment more he
discovered that it was a man, two of them in fact and they were making
their way warily as if anxious to escape detection.

"Slow up a bit Buddy and zig-zag. I want to see this place." Jim nodded,
reduced the speed, zoomed high and spiraled as if he were reaching for
the ceiling, then dropped, and all the while Bob kept his eyes on that
deep ravine.

"Spot anything, Buddy?"

"I don't know. You have a look, but be careful. Wouldn't that ravine
down there be a corker place for bootleggers or smugglers to go sneaking
from one side to the other? I see some men there now. What do you
think?" Jim was already scrutinizing the place.

"Yes it would, but it's too big for the patrol men to have overlooked,"
Jim answered. "That old road runs pretty close to it. Law-breakers would
keep out of a place like that."

"They might not just because it looks so inviting. They might figure
they could get away with it because it's so easy, and they'd have it
fixed up. See those fellows?" Jim nodded, and by that time he was keenly
interested. He not only saw the two men, but further along he picked up
two more who seemed to be hiding in the underbrush, and not far away he
espied a two-wheel cart, which was painted green.

"Great guns, we've got to find Bradshaw and tell him. He may give us the
ha-ha, but just the same, that's no ordinary bunch down there, and the
men are not even smoking cigarettes. Here." He handed the glasses back
to the younger boy. "Be careful no one notices that you are watching
them," he warned tensely. He kicked the rudder, shot Her Highness' nose
into the air, zoomed higher, and five minutes later, Bob caught his arm
and nodded toward the land.

"Bradshaw is down there on the road! He's about five miles, I guess,
from where I first saw that ravine, and it ends just a little way below
him. Two fellows crawled up after he had passed, got on horses and
separated, and Jim, they are following the Mounty, one on each side, as
if they are watching him. They are just jogging along as if they are on
old plugs, and Jim--there, oh gosh, there are two more coming out a mile
ahead on the road." Bob was so excited that he could hardly speak

"Are they laying for him?" Jim asked tensely.

"I think they are. Come on, do something, and do it quick, for they are
all trotting in close. I think he hears the ones behind, because he's
turning around--Jim--" Jim looked over the side, and just ahead he could
see the drama being enacted two-thousand feet beneath him.

"Hang on to your teeth," he roared.

With a swift flop he turned Her Highness' nose toward the earth, and
with the engine bellowing he came tearing out of the sky. After the
first second he shut off the motor, made it cough and sputter, and the
plane began to spin and twist, tail first, then nose first. Both boys
tried to watch what was taking place beneath them, and Jim's heart
almost stopped beating as he saw that the Mounty was concentrating his
whole attention on them. Even Pat had his eyes upward at the startling
spectacle of a gyrating airplane that promised to be kindling wood in a
few seconds. On they raced, and as they came, Austin saw that two of the
outlaws were galloping swiftly, rifles on their arms, toward their prey.
They seemed to have thrown caution to the winds and were taking
advantage of the commotion above them to complete their wicked crime.

Bob clutched his step-brother's arm as he too took in the scene, but Jim
was not unmindful of their own danger and one eye was on the altitude
meter. At five hundred feet he took the controls, started the engine and
lifted Her Highness' nose, then went on into a glide that brought them,
a moment later, to a scant two feet of the snorting Patrick and the
indignant Mounty. But before the man could utter a protest, Jim bellowed

"Aw yes, suppose you think you own the air, and you're going to give us
a blowing up. Well, come on and do it."

"I surely will," Bradshaw responded. He was surprised at the whole
performance, leaped from his horse, and strode close to them.

"Well, go on and search me if you want to, you half-baked nut--"

"I say, how do you get that way?" Jim was out of the cock-pit, his arms
raised above his head as if he were being held up.

"Go on and search," he shouted. "I'm not afraid of the whole Canadian
army," then he added in a lower tone. "Search me and make out you're mad
as blazes. Rip us both up loud and handsome. We saw some guys out to do
you, and they are not far away. Savvy?"

"Yes, I'll search you, you rough necks." Swiftly his hands went over the
boy from head to foot, while Jim alternated between bitter abuse,
punctuated with bits of their story told in a lower tone. In the middle
of the performance, Bob hopped out beside his step-brother.

"What do you think you're doing?" he yelled, and added, "Get out your
gun, they're just back in some brush." The business-like automatic was
instantly in Bradshaw's hand and he whirled on Caldwell.

"You quit shooting off your mouth," he ordered in fine style. "How did
you chaps discover this bunch?" in a lower tone of voice. He began the
search of Caldwell, and as the three stood they could see on all sides
of them in case the outlaws decided to take a hand.

"We were looking for you," Bob answered while the man went through his
breast pockets. "Saw a ravine back there with a lot of men in it. Looked
queer so we came to give you the message, then as soon as we spotted
you, we saw the bunch, four of them, closing in, so we did our little
stuff with Her Highness. Now don't go taking anything that doesn't
belong to you," he ended with a savage roar as Bradshaw drew a notebook
out of his pocket.


                               A CAPTURE

They stood in rather close formation, Bob and the Mounty facing each
other, Jim so that he could observe anything approaching by either of
two other points of the compass, and Bradshaw scowling fiercely and
thumbing young Caldwell's book.

"You've got to explain this," he thundered.

"It's nothing but school reports, tests and names of classmates. You
needn't go cribbing it," Bob growled angrily.

"What you American kids doing here anyway? Got a permit a fly into
Canada?" Bradshaw demanded, but his eyes were narrowed as he focused
them on the surrounding brush, his gun in hand. Suddenly he whipped it
up almost to Bob's ear, and snapped:

"Come out of that you fellow."

Then followed a snarling curse, a smashing through underbrush, and the
sharp crack of the automatic. Like a panther Bradshaw leaped forward and
in an instant he dragged forth one of the pair who had come to head him
off, but galloping hoofs and wild oaths proclaimed the departure of the
other three. A moment later there wasn't a sound of them. The Mounty
snapped handcuffs on his captive, trussed his feet, and shoved him along
out of earshot.

"Pat," he called and the big horse trotted to his side. "Don't let him
move." Pat promptly stepped over the man, who howled in terror, and
lightly planted one hoof on his coat, pinning him securely.

"Some horse," Bob whispered with admiration.

"Now, you fellows give an account of yourselves. How did you happen to
come down right here just as those lads were getting funny?" He spoke so
sharply that the younger boy was sure the man believed they were a party
to the hold-up, but Jim merely scowled back.

"Aw you ground hog. Our motor stalled up there and I couldn't get it
going until we almost smashed. Can you understand that?"

"It's clear enough. What are you smuggling in that car?" He gave a
little nod and strode with a determined tread to Her Highness.

"Not a blamed thing that doesn't belong to us," Jim shouted as he
followed close.

"No?" Bradshaw leaned over as if to make a thorough inspection. "What's
in the basket. A book of bed-time stories?"

"Grub," Jim answered sharply, then added. "And some apples for Pat."

"Thanks," the Mounty grinned. "Now, tell me, is that ravine the one that
comes along like a letter S, deep and steep on both sides almost all the
way. It ends in a rock cliff about a half mile below here?"

"That's it," Bob whispered and he sighed with relief as he realized that
the officer had been playing the game.

"Great guns, we've had that under inspection, but we'll take another
look into it. Do you know that out-post right on the line?"

"Sure. Has the two flags."

"That's it. My head chief is there now. I wish you'd fly over it and
drop him a message--"

"We can give it to him," Jim offered.

"Don't want you to come down. We've been bluffing that I don't know you
and it may help. Anyway it won't get you into trouble if any of the gang
should see you again. I'll have to get this fellow locked up and make a
report. I'm no end obliged to you. If you hadn't been on the look-out I
might have had a nasty fight all by my lonesome. Wish you'd get away as
soon as you can and drop this to my chief. You did me a mighty good turn
and the department will appreciate your further service. Weight it down
with these rocks, if you haven't anything better. I picked them up when
I was cuffing our friend over there."

"Glad to. We'll keep a look-out from the air and you watch us. If we see
any more surprise parties coming your way, we'll do a tail spin," Jim
said softly.

"Thanks, but I fancy those fellows are willing to call it a day. Don't
know why I've been picked out to bump off, but they may be planning to
pull something in my territory during this beat. I'll be moving." He
raised his voice and handed the note to Jim, then began in a louder
tone. "Sure, I suppose your father is the President of the United
States, but you beat it back over your own line and if you don't you'll
wish he had the power of triplets."

"Aw," growled Jim.

"Smoke bomb," Bob added with relish as the throttle was opened and Her
Highness got under way.

Further pleasantries were cut off by the thundering of the motors but
the younger boy leaned over ostensibly to make faces at the officer,
while his eyes searched the vicinity. He saw Pat still penning the
captive to the earth, but not a glimpse did he get of another human
being in the neighborhood. The plane zoomed a thousand feet, leveled off
and headed for the Post the boys had seen a few days before. Jim had the
stones, which he wrapped with the paper in his handkerchief, and then he
knotted the note inside.

"All quiet on the front?" he asked his step-brother.

"As a mid-summer night's dream," Bob replied, then added. "I see the
post, Buddy." Jim nodded for he too had picked it out and already Her
Highness was gliding to a lower level. Down she rode swiftly, until she
was only five hundred feet in the air, then they noticed the man-on-post
come out, and level his glasses upon them. Jim raised his arm, and at
the right moment he dropped the message over the side, and brought the
plane about in a half circle, while they both watched the thing, the
corners of the handkerchief standing out like a pair of rabbit's ears as
it tumbled to the earth.

"He's got it," Bob shouted gleefully. A second man had come out of the
hut and the boys saw them inspecting the present they had received so
unexpectedly. The first man waved his hand and ducked into the house,
and the boys, quite satisfied with the morning's work, grinned at each

"I'm empty, Buddy," Jim announced as they sailed off. The boys took a
route almost straight west, and in half an hour they were above a rugged
region which the map informed them was in the State of New York. They
selected a plateau with little timber and some kind of stream. They
glided to the landing place, and presently Her Highness was standing
like a great wild bird, poised on the hill. The boys hopped out of the
cockpit, looked about to make sure that there were no warnings posted to
keep off the premises, then out came the basket.

"Want to build a fire and toast some of these marshmallows?" Bob
proposed as he glanced at the food.

"Sure thing," Jim agreed readily. He got busy and cleared a rock while
Bob gathered some bits of wood. In a few minutes they had the blaze
crackling cheerily, and then they prepared to enjoy themselves
thoroughly. Mrs. Fenton had put in almost a loaf of home made bread and
butter sandwiches, a glass of plum jelly, six deviled eggs, slices of
roast ham, olives, pickles, ginger cookies, milk, chocolate cake and

"If we eat all this Her Highness will never be able to take us up," Bob
grinned broadly as the things were set forth on the huge napkin.

"Intend to eat sparingly?" Jim inquired.

"Not so that you could notice it," Bob assured him. "When I come to
think of it, I don't know where you're going to get any. I am hollow in
both legs."

"I know what I'm going to do," Jim retorted promptly. "Pitch right in
and if you get more than a toe full, you'll be lucky." With that threat,
they fell to and ate with keen appetites, and when Bob finally stretched
himself out on the rock with a huge sigh of contentment, the food was
almost all gone.

"Gosh, I feel great."

"I'm right with you, Buddy," Jim answered. He lay on his tummy and for a
few minutes they watched the tiny coil of smoke that rose in a wavering
line from the fire, which was burning low. Austin did manage to throw on
a few more sticks, that caught quickly, and crackled at a lively rate.

"Wonder what Bradshaw and his gang have been doing while we tanked up,"
Bob remarked. "Wish we could have been in on the scrap."

"Wish we could, but we might have been in the way. If we had hung around
that ravine waiting for the fireworks, the chaps who were parked there
might have been warned and that would have spoiled the show," Jim

"Oh sure. By the noise they made, those chaps getting away may not have
heard our little play. Reckon, they beat it to their headquarters to
tell the other fellows. Seeing us again would have queered the party for
the Mounties," Bob agreed.

"Yes, a plane is sort of conspicuous. Bet that message told the Chief,
whoever he is, to surround the ravine and get the outlaws while the
getting promised to be good."

"I saw one of those fellows pull out his gun. Gosh, they would have got
Bradshaw if he had come riding right into their arms."

"It would have been some scrap, you bet. Bradshaw's no slouch."

"Not a bit. Wish he could come and see us at Cap Rock. Say, with Pat to
help him, he's better off than if he were twins, or two policemen," Bob
laughed as he thought of the efficient pony. "Some horse. Glad he's got
a good master."

"You bet." They rested comfortably, and at last Jim broke the silence
again. "Gosh, Buddy, remember that story of the brothers who watched the
smoke go up the chimney?"

"Surely. I was just thinking about them. The Montgolfier boys. They were
watching the fire and the smoke go up the chimney, and that set their
brains to working and they wondered why the smoke went up. Queer isn't
it when you think that a little thing like that happening around one
hundred and thirty years ago, should develop into air travel!" Bob
glanced toward Her Highness affectionately.

"She doesn't look much like the paper bags they made their first
experiments with, does she?"

"I'll say she doesn't, nor the balloons that came a few years later.
Gosh, I'm glad we don't live at a time when people were so ignorant that
they thought everything new was a devil of some kind," Bob replied.

"We'd be in a nice fix if we got shot at or stabbed with pitch forks
every time we came down. But, even at that, Jim, there are places in the
world where the people are mighty savage. Dad says in some of the South
American provinces they've never been able to conquer all the tribes, or
civilize them. They are almost the same as they were when Columbus
landed, and will fill a chauffeur full of poison arrows if they see a
car driving through their land."

"Great horns. I'd like to go sailing over some of those places some
time. Lindbergh must have seen some mighty interesting places when he
went cutting air-paths over Mexico."

"He sure did. And isn't he the grand lad for keeping his eyes open and
his wits about him?" Keen admiration for the Lone Eagle silenced them
for a while, then Bob reached out and took a triangle of chocolate cake.

"I'll divvy up."

"You needn't." Jim made himself another sandwich. "Don't know where my
lunch is disappearing, but I find I have a little vacant space which
needs fueling." At that they both sat up, made a second attack on the
food, but finally were compelled to stop.

"We may as well be soaring along," Jim proposed.

"Let's go over Canada and see if we can see any of the smoke from the
ravine," Bob suggested eagerly.

"All right. You want to drive?"

"You bet, and you watch for the scrap." They packed the remains of the
food in the basket, stored it into the cock-pit, poured water over the
embers of their fire and cleaned the spot with a piece of dry pine
brush, then gave Her Highness an inspection.

"Great old bird," Bob chuckled when they were sure that all was well.
"She did a good job this morning." He took his place and Jim occupied
the passenger seat prepared to be the observer.

A moment later Her Highness ran along the plateau, lifted her nose into
the air, then climbed for all she was worth while Jim examined the earth
beneath them. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the roar of the
engine was a startling contrast to the calm forest they had just left.
Caldwell watched his controls as they raced at three thousand foot
height. Jim thoroughly enjoyed the inspection and occasionally made a
note of something especially interesting, and often called his buddy's
attention to the rolling globe. In less than an hour they were over the
post where they had dropped the message, but if anyone was inside the
shack, they did not come out to examine them. Then Bob turned sharply
north, and soon they were about ten miles beyond the edge of the ravine
and the place where they had stopped the Mounty.

"Slack up a bit and go south," Jim suggested through the speaking tube.

"All right," Bob agreed. He kicked the rudder, Her Highness circled,
proceeded at a slower speed, and presently the spot in which they were
so keenly interested, jumped into the lenses. At first glance it was as
deserted as before, then Jim saw a coil of smoke rolling up into the
wind. Concentrating with all his attention, he saw that some sort of
shack was on fire, and just below the burning building, was a blackened
spot that had been swept bare by the blaze. A couple of puffs snapped
out from down the ravine, and a volley of answering shots spat viciously
from the other end.

"The fight's still on, Buddy," Jim bellowed, and Bob looked over the
side. They were getting close enough now so that they could see the
battle fairly clearly, and they watched with tense interest. At one end
they made out the Canadian policemen closing in on the desperadoes, who
seemed to be sliding back behind a screen of brush they had dug up, and
just a few feet from them the wall of the ravine rose sharply cutting
off their escape.

"They'll have them in a minute," Bob exclaimed excitedly. "Suppose they
can climb up that wall?"

"It looks pretty jagged to me, like tiers of boulders, but, zowee--if
they do get up, there's a line of blue-coats waiting for them," Jim
announced, and he would have danced up and down with joy, if he hadn't
been strapped securely to the seat. Bob paid strict attention to his
business, then, as the attack was started, he decided it would be no
harm to circle about and see the finish of the fight. He knew that his
brother would be in accord with the plan, so he proceeded to carry it
out. He zoomed higher, kicked the rudder, raced the engine and was soon
pounding at three thousand feet, where he leveled off for the ring, and
started to fly so they had a grand view of the drama below. Jim kept his
glasses fixed on the gully, and as the position of Her Highness was
changed, he had a superior view of both sides of the maneuvers. Suddenly
the wall that cut off the criminals was directly in front of his gaze
and he began to wonder about it. It seemed strange that men who were
probably accustomed to protecting themselves and taking every
precaution, should select a place where they could be so easily trapped.

"The Mounties must have given them a special surprise," he remarked to
himself, but just the same, that did not seem entirely possible. It
seemed to the boy that there must be a gang who used the ravine as a
hangout, a means of slipping into the United States or Canada whenever
they wanted to, and they would need quite a force of men in order to
keep themselves well posted on the habits of the men who patrolled the
location. Then it occurred to Jim that the outlaws might not have used
the place long and had not had time to prepare hasty exits. But that
idea as it flashed through his brain did not seem at all plausible.

The boy remembered that Bradshaw had said the "gang" had been
particularly successful in putting over every one of their schemes. That
meant they were taking no chances, and surely they would none of them
let themselves be backed against a high cliff where they were sure to be
picked off with the rifles of the Mounties if they tried to scale it,
and run into the arms of other officers if they did manage to reach the
top. He studied the group of men firing furiously from behind the brush
pile and rocks, then he wondered why the men on top did not fire down at
them. That was soon answered, for he saw that the edge was steep and
soft, and even as he watched, he saw a man slip. His companion grabbed
him by the arm and saved him from going over into the ravine. The slip
dislodged a quantity of gravel and brush which slid down behind the
desperadoes. Two of them instantly whirled about ready to fire in case
they were attacked from the rear. There still remained a few rods to be
traversed before they would reach the cliff, and another man glanced up
at the plane and shook his fist.

"Shouldn't like to kill any of them, but I wish we had a few tear bombs,
or some little thing like that to put them out of business," Jim
lamented. He couldn't help feeling that although it looked as if the
officers would soon get their men, they must have some cards still up
their sleeves.

"Say, Buddy," Bob bellowed, "There comes Pedro's covered wagon." He
pointed, and although Jim could not catch the words, he followed the
direction and had no difficulty in picking out the highly colored truck
which was moving forward slowly along a road that looked as if it was
used very little. It was about a mile from the ravine in an especially
isolated section and Jim's eyes swept the vicinity as he thought that
the huckster must be nearing his own home, but there wasn't a house for
miles, and as near as the boy could make out, the road meandered along
and finally slowed down near a dilapidated old rail fence which might
mark an ancient boundary, or surround a pasture. Rocks and brush were
piled above it, and as the boy looked, he saw that the truck stopped.

"Perhaps the old guy has heard the shooting," he thought, but if Pedro
did, he gave no sign of either assisting or investigating. Instead he
dismounted with agility, with some sort of huge bundle in his arms, and
in a moment he was standing on the rim of the wagon bed. It took but a
moment for Jim to realize that the man was throwing a canvas of dark
green material over the brilliant truck.

"Bob, look," he bellowed. His step-brother, who had been giving his
attention to the plane, glanced over and ahead, and his lips pursed up
in a long drawn out whistle. By this time, which was really only a few
minutes, Her Highness had passed over the end of the ravine, so Bob
zoomed again, banked, and came about. He didn't propose to miss
anything. In that brief interval, the red and blue truck had been turned
into a green one so like the forest surrounding it that it could hardly
be picked out. Jim saw Pedro take his seat again, then move forward a
way until he reached a wide spot where he turned around.

"That old boy isn't all he pretends to be," the boy muttered. He would
have liked to watch the "old boy" but he wanted to know what was going
on in the ravine. He saw that the bandits were stretched in rows, only
two men in the one nearest the blazing shack, while the Mounties were
making their way forward cautiously. As Jim watched, he saw the rear row
of outlaws slide swiftly back, then one of them disappeared under a
rock. Another followed quickly, while the men in front continued to fire
rapidly, as if to cover the fact that there were fewer men at the guns.

"Great Caesar's ghost. They've got an outlet there and are going to get
away under the ground," Jim shouted, but he couldn't make Bob hear and
he didn't want to take his eyes off the event even for an instant.
Quickly he swept the country-side for a cave entrance, and then, in a
moment, he picked it up. A man emerged stealthily, raced through the
woods, and came out close to Pedro and his camouflaged truck.

"By gum and thunder," Jim exploded.


                              A TAIL SPIN

"Buddy," Jim screamed as he clutched Bob by the collar. "They're going
to get away." Bob looked over the side to see what it was all about, and
in a moment he gave a grunt.

"Huh!" Caldwell took in the scene, then for a second he stared at his
step-brother, mechanically bringing Her Highness around in a half
circle. Then Jim had an idea. He pulled his note book from his pocket,
fished out a pencil, and began to scribble hastily. When he had
finished, Bob read the message.

    'They are crawling away under the hill and there's a truck,
    Pedro's, but it's got a green cover, and is on an old road to
    the west, picking them up.

                                                The Flying Buddies.'

Caldwell grinned at the signature, and he was already guiding the plane
toward the Mounties, who were still peppering the cliff with their
rifles. A few of them on both sides were edging up through the brush,
but they were not firing, and the boys guessed that they expected to
close in on the bandits, feeling sure the men could not escape. Jim
glanced about for a weight, but the only thing was the lunch basket, so
he caught it up, saw that the cover was secure, then tied the note on
the handle with his handkerchief so that it could be easily seen.

"Shoot," Bob shouted when he was just enough below the Canadians to
allow the thing to fall close by them and not force a man to expose
himself to the guns at the further end.

The basket went over swiftly, spun around, tipped and tossed, and they
saw it land. A man secured it without difficulty and waved an
acknowledgment, while two others read the message. The boys couldn't see
what action they took, nor did they hear the shrill blast of a whistle
signaling to men stationed above the ravine. Bob brought Her Highness
about, and sent her over so they could get a good look at the scene in
the woods. While they watched, two men slipped across the road and
jumped into the back of the huge fruit truck, which was moving slowly.
Caldwell clenched his fists as he realized that the fellows would surely
slip through the officers' fingers and he looked at Jim, hoping that his
step-brother would have another idea, but Austin shrugged his shoulders.
With anxious eyes Bob scanned the road. He noticed that the truck was
nearing a point which was high and narrow. On either side rain and
winter storms had dug deep gullies, leaving barely room for one vehicle
of any kind to traverse it in safety.

Glancing at the altimeter, Bob read that the plane was less than a
thousand feet up, so he banked, tipped Her Highness' nose, and zoomed in
a swift, steep climb. The needle pointed to twelve hundred, fifteen,
eighteen, but Caldwell held her throttle wide open, going full blast and
climbing at top speed. The wind shrieked through the wires and
threatened to rip the wings from the fuselage, but the pilot did not
stop until he was thirty-five hundred feet and some distance behind the
truck. Then he leveled off and the drama beneath them looked as if it
were being performed by moving dots and dashes. The plane was brought
about with a protesting howl, as Caldwell looked at the globe with its
tiny specks, the narrow, treacherous road and wee puffs of smoke. He
made a swift calculation, came to a decision, and shut off the motor.

The sudden silence was punctuated by faint booms of the guns cracking
far below, and Jim looked inquiringly at his step-brother, who was
sitting calmly, but flushed as Her Highness' tail dropped; nose tipped
foremost, then began to spin slowly, held up by the force of the wind
from underneath, carried forward like a leaf caught in the breeze, and
irresistibly drawn down by the laws of gravitation.

Jim hadn't the faintest idea what his step-brother hoped to gain by the
reckless maneuver, but he saw that Bob had some sort of plan, and that
every fibre of his tense young body was on the alert, hands and mind
ready to carry out his scheme. Once they struck an air-pocket that
bounced Her Highness in a most undignified manner, rolling her over on
her back as if she were a kitten, but she finally tumbled out of it, and
spun on and on. Once the brother's eyes met and they grinned at each
other reassuringly.

"Don't know what you're up to, Buddy, but I'm right with you," said Jim.

"Thanks. You might get your parachute in case I make a fluke. It's more
likely to be that, than it is to do any good," answered Bob, for they
could speak to each other quite easily now.

"How about your own umbrella?" Jim demanded.

"It's O. K.," answered Bob, then added, "See that road?"

"I can't help see it."

"Think there is room--I mean think it's wide enough so we can get into
it without smashing the wings?"

"Ask me another. It's pretty narrow." Jim studied the situation. "That
truck is wide and there's quite a space on each side, but it will take
some fancy landing to get the wheels on the road and miss those trees at
the side. They grow like a wall, and as they are coming up to meet us,
they look like the bottom of a nice torture chamber bristling with
sharpened spikes."

"Nothing wrong with the picture. Keep your eyes on that truck of
Pedro's. I'm going to try to drop in front of it. They can't get by, or
turn back, and all I hope to do is delay them, but that may help, if I
do it. Keep a sharp lookout and tell me if I'm going too far either
side. I don't want to get far ahead of them, not more than a few feet,"
Bob explained.

"Bully idea, old man. If we smash up, I'll meet you at the gate. If you
need any help, I'll tell St. Peter you're a good kid and to let you in,"
Jim promised gravely.

"Go on. _I'll_ have to do some tall lying to get him even to look at
you," Bob retorted. "Here goes."

He started to manipulate the controls, slowly bringing Her Highness as
he wanted her, and Jim scanned the scene ahead. He could see movement in
the brush, men crawling or running on hands and knees, but not a uniform
was in sight. He noted one thing in particular for which he was
thankful. No one seemed to have noticed the falling plane, and that
might be in their favor. Also, he thought ruefully, it might not. If the
Mounties heard them dropping out of the sky, it would direct them more
quickly to the road, but he thought of those men, armed to the teeth,
desperate to get away, and he didn't try to imagine what they would do
to the plane and the boys who threatened to frustrate their plans.

Austin had read of terrific battles with rum-runners who fought to the
last ditch for their lives and stopped at nothing, and now he knew that
if Her Highness was not hung in those spear-like pines, or wrecked on
the treacherous road, the men behind them would instantly open fire and
riddle them with bullets before they could move in the cock-pit. He
glanced about for a sign of the Canadian officers, but not one did he
see, and by now they were so close to the ground that his range of
vision was very limited.

Then Bob brought Her Highness out of the spin, glided forward, her float
ends scraping the edge of the truck as it slipped over, then, in another
breathless second they were over the road, the wheels touched the
ground, raced forward a few rods, slowed down, and at last came to a
dead stop.

"Hey, what the blazes do you think you're doing?" It was the belligerent
voice of the driver and did not sound at all like the musical tones of
Pedro. Jim looked back while Bob loosened the safety strap, but did not
get out of it.

"Hop over and tinker about," Bob directed, and Jim obeyed.

"You get out of the way," bellowed Pedro.

"Oh, hello, Old Man," Jim called good naturedly. "Our engine stalled.
Guess we got something in it. Maybe you can give me a hand."

"I got no time. Get out of the way, fast. I'm in a hurry."

"Sorry, we won't be a minute." Bob was also struggling in the cock-pit
as if something was out of order, and after a minute, during which Pedro
made the air blue with curses, he got back in his seat.

"Guess we got it," he shouted. "Beastly sorry to keep you." Bob tried
out the motor. It thundered smooth as silk, the plane moved a few
inches, coughed apologetically, then stopped.

"Come on, now, old girl," Bob coaxed, and again he set the motor
humming, but the propeller hung idle. Caldwell did not dare to move
forward until he was ready to fly, for there wasn't a foot to spare on
the road ahead, which curved sharply. Frantically the step-brothers
tried out this and that, including the compass, but it didn't seem to
help them a bit, and they were afraid to look over their shoulders at
the fuming truck-man.

"What's the matter with her?" Pedro hadn't been able to sit still a
moment longer, so he climbed from his seat and strode along the gully to
the cock-pit.

"Hanged if I know. She never acted this way before," Jim answered
innocently, and the man scowled savagely.

"What you doing here anyway?" Pedro persisted.

"Great guns," Bob looked up into the man's face. "Didn't you see us
stall up there, and come down tail spinning! You are darned lucky we
didn't smash up in front of you, that would have been something to cuss
about. It takes hours to clear up a busted plane and she digs a hole in
the ground ten feet deep. That would have held you up good and proper.
Now, get back to your bus, we'll fix this thing as fast as we can and be
out of your way."

"You kids look here." Pedro shook his fist in Bob's face. "You be out of
here by the time I get my engine started, or I send you both to hell,
fast, more fast than your plane," he promised.

"Thanks a lot, Old Timer. Every little favor is greatly appreciated,"
Bob answered, and he scowled quite as fiercely as the Canuck.

"And if you send us to hell this afternoon, maybe we won't be lonesome,"
Jim added. "Can you run a plane?"

"No," Pedro snapped savagely.

"Well, we can, but not if we're ghosts. Put that in your peace pipe and
get on your own wave length. You don't own this end of Canada. What are
you doing here? If you can answer that, I've got another to ask you and
it's right on the tip of my tongue--"

"Stick your tongue out at him," Bob suggested.

"I'd rather punch his jaw, I don't like his face. Give me that wrench
and I'll tap him for sap, he's full of it. Run along, old boy--don't you
know your onions, or haven't you got any this load?" Jim demanded.

"You get out of the way."

"You go back to your bus, you make us nervous so we can't tell whether
the tail ensemble is in front or back--"

"You get out--" Pedro insisted, and then as the boys merely stared at
him, he started toward the truck, and through a slit in the big car, Jim
caught a glimpse of a man's face, and heard a soft signaling whistle as
some one called the driver to his seat. Quickly the big fellow climbed
up, and Jim, realizing that trouble was close by, buckled his safety
strap, while Bob too made ready for a quick get-away.

"If I keep the engine going, it will locate us for those Mounties, but
they're afoot, or horseback, and can't come so fast," Bob whispered.

"Start the noise and I'll watch behind. If I give you a kick in the
ribs, lift us up," Jim replied under his breath. In a moment more the
engine was racing again, then it really did stop, but this time it was
by accident and looked as if it was too surprised to go, for at that
instant, Bob caught sight of uniforms, and a sharp command was issued.

"Climb down out of that, Pedro." The boys looked back and saw the
truck-driver's face turn green with terror. "Lively now, no funny
business." Pedro literally tumbled to the ground, his legs shaking as if
he had the ague, and his teeth chattering.

"I--I wasn't touching 'em," he stammered.

"Sure, I know you didn't, but you were impolite to American citizens and
you ought to know better. Stand on your feet." Then the boys saw more
than a dozen silent figures surrounding the truck.

"I didn't lay a hand on 'em," Pedro declared.

"It's well for you that you didn't send them to hell as you promised.
What are you doing here and what have you got a green cover on your bus
for? You went down the line this morning and you aren't reported back
yet. Come, explain yourself." The man was on horseback and evidently the
chief of the outfit. Jim guessed that he was playing for a few minutes
to give his men time to close in, then he snapped again, "Cuff him. You
boys let fly." Immediately the truck wagon was literally alive with men
swarming over it. The doors at both ends were jerked open, and in
another second, crouching outlaws were being tumbled over each other.
Some of them opened fire, but their guns were knocked out of their
hands, and in less time than it takes to tell about it, the fight was
over. Fifteen prisoners were lined up on the road, while the officer
looked at them calmly.

"Put them back in and take them along." The crowd was bundled back, this
time each was securely handcuffed, then a familiar voice called from the

"We got the last of them out of the hole, Chief. What shall we do with

"Pile them in here," the Chief answered, then, as the group came
stumbling forward, the man went on, but his voice was stern, "These your
Texas friends, Bradshaw?"

"Yes sir," Bradshaw replied quickly.

"You'd better bring them to headquarters for obstructing traffic."

"All right, sir," Bradshaw agreed. "What'll we do with Her Highness? Put
her under arrest?"

"Who is Her Highness?"

"The bus. I was introduced a few days ago."

"Thought United States didn't like nobility." There was a tiny smile on
the chief's lips and a twinkle in his eyes. "How do you explain the
title, Bradshaw?"

"I don't know, sir, unless they are of Irish descent--"

"We are not," Jim declared positively.

"You've done devilment enough today to be pure-bloods," Bradshaw
informed them. The chief dismounted and came close to the fuselage and
held out his hand.

"I want to thank you for your devilment, boys," he smiled and they both
thought he was a grand looking man, the sort one reads about.

"We didn't do much of anything," Jim stammered.

"We like Canada," Bob added for he was less fussed and shook the
officer's hand vigorously.

"If we've helped, we're mighty glad," Jim drawled, then went on, "But
we'd have been wash-outs if it hadn't been for Her Highness. I think
being among nobility made her do her job extra well."

"No doubt. Is she all right, or has something gone wrong with her?"

"Her Highness is fine as silk," Bob declared emphatically. "Nothing is
the matter with her, Sir."

"Glad to hear it. Now, can you get her out of this trap?"

"Surely. It'll be a close shave, but she'll do it."

"All right. Wish you would and let the truck by. And, next time you are
in Canada, look me up, there's something important I want to show you,"
the chief told them.

"We'll be mighty glad to see you--"

"But we're not coming if it's one of those parties with all the world
looking on," Jim added quickly. The chief laughed.

"We'll spare your feelings, but if you'll come, we'd be glad to have you
dine with us some evening, only just our own crowd--all these fellows
you know, and the cook."

"That'll be fun," Jim agreed.

"We'll let you know some night when we're not having corned-beef and
cabbage. So long."

"So long." Bob opened her up, the engine thundered, the propeller
whirled madly. Her Highness slid forward, lifted, cleared the curve
gracefully, zoomed and climbed. Both boys waved at the men, and a moment
later Jim saw the truck load of outlaws being driven to some unknown
point. That is, the point was not known to the boys, but they knew it
was a good strong jail.

"It's been quite a day. Anything left in that basket?" Jim asked through
the tube.

"Left in the basket! Well, if there is the squirrels are eating it back
there in that ravine. You nut, you threw it overboard with your note,"
Bob answered.

"Great guns, so I did, and it's your Aunt's basket. Say, hop down in
some town and let's buy another for her," Jim urged.

"Oh she won't mind, there's no hurry. We can get her one when we drive
to North Hero," Bob objected.

"I know she won't mind, but just the same, let's get another to take
back with us, and something because we lost the napkins and dishes," Jim

"Say, what's your rush?" Bob demanded impatiently.

"We want a basket again, don't we? Don't we want to go up tomorrow?
Well, we can't lose all your aunt's baskets and expect her to pack grub
stakes for us, can we?" Jim answered.

"That's so. We better get her a couple," Bob agreed quickly. He
consulted the map. "St. John's is the nearest," he announced, so gravely
he turned Her Highness' nose in the direction of the town, because, when
the matter was put to him that way, he could see the need of keeping
Mrs. Fenton supplied with baskets.



For the next three days after the boys' exploit in Canada, it rained.
Not gentle showers, but a good stiff down-pour that drenched the land,
swelled the Lake, and ruined young crops. Her Highness was kept in the
carriage shed under the tool house, because besides raining as if it
were never going to stop, there was thunder and lightning, and hours of
pitch blackness. Both Jim and Bob would have liked nothing better than
to go soaring up and battle with the elements but they knew that such an
adventure would cause Mrs. Fenton terrific worry every moment they were
out of her sight, so they contented themselves with the radio,
phonograph, some jolly old books they found in the attic, and swims
between storms. Several times they caught glimpses of the strange boy as
he went splashing by to and from the garden, and they watched his
run-off with considerable interest.

"If he keeps the water down on that hole land it will save the alfalfa
meadow," Mr. Fenton remarked thoughtfully.

"Does he seem to be doing it, Uncle Norman?"

"So far the water isn't any higher."

"Jinks, that's great," Jim exclaimed with enthusiasm. He rather envied
Corso's young nephew who disregarded weather and waded barefoot along
the road, his overalls rolled above his knees, and not even a
splattering automobile racing past him, sending sheets of water from all
four wheels, seemed to disturb him.

The morning of the fourth day broke clear and fine, the sky velvet blue,
and not a cloud in sight. The step-brothers came down stairs with joyous
whoops, and young Caldwell danced his aunt about the kitchen.

"Well, my land, if you want me to dance with you Bob, you will have to
make it a reel or a jig--"

"Let it be a jig," Bob answered promptly and taking her hand he began
the clattery dance while Jim played an accompaniment on the mouth organ.
But in a few minutes Mrs. Fenton had to stop for breath.

"Where did you learn to do that?" she demanded. "I never supposed that
any young one could do it these days."

"In school," Bob answered. "You ought to see Jim Highland Fling."

"What's all the shouting about?" Mr. Fenton asked. He had just come in
with the brimming milk pails.

"Look at the weather," Jim laughed.

"It's enough to make an airplane do a tail spin," Bob added.

"No doubt, but I hope Her Highness doesn't do any more--"

"More?" The boys chorused.

"Canadian chap telephoned me yesterday to inquire if you live here, and
he said that you two had made the country safe for the Mounted Police--"

"Aw, go on," Bob exclaimed in disgust.

"What did they do that for?" demanded Jim.

"In the course of his duty," Mr. Fenton smiled. "We'll be very much
obliged if you will give us the details of the war while we breakfast.
We want to know all about it. It isn't every day that exciting things
happen around us and we feel that we have been slighted--"

"That's all right, Mr. Fenton. Bob did most of it. I'll tell you the
whole story--"

"I did not do most of it," Bob denied emphatically. "If you leave out
anything you did, I'll tell them."

"Fair enough," Mr. Fenton laughed. "Now sit down, satisfy the first
pangs of hunger, then begin," he ordered, and the boys took their

Between the two of them, the Fentons were able to get a fairly
interesting account of what happened, and when the story was finished,
Mrs. Fenton looked at them soberly.

"My, my, you might both have been killed. That was why you got me those
new baskets. I thought there was something queer about your losing it,"
Mrs. Fenton exclaimed. "If you had lost it, or forgotten it, I should
not have minded one bit; but if you had told me how you happened to
throw it overboard, I should have been glad."

"We wanted to be sure that we had a basket for next time," Bob grinned
cheerfully. "We expect there will be other next times."

"My land of goodness, there's the mail man. He looks like a drowned rat.
Come right in, Harvey." The R.F.D. man wore boots that came to his
thigh, and even at that he was splashed with mud.

"Got a registered letter, and another one that looks important, so I
didn't put them in the box," the man explained. "Some rain we've had.
Did you know, Fenton, that the Carrying Point is covered? The water is
going over it like a mill race, and I had all I could do to keep the
wheels under me. Loaded the car up with rocks or I'd have been swimming
around after the letters."

"My land sakes alive, is it as bad as that! Here Jim, this letter seems
to be for you." Mrs. Fenton gave Austin a long envelope, which he
accepted with surprise. In the corner was a Canadian stamp.

"Looks like it's from your friends across the border," Mr. Fenton said.
Jim opened it promptly, and scanned the contents, then he smiled with
relief that it wasn't more formidable. The salutation was as he had
signed the note he dropped to the Mounties in the Ravine.

    'Flying Buddies.


    It would give us great pleasure if you will join us in an
    informal dinner tomorrow evening at seven P.M. In going over the
    off duty hours, we find that most of the men who participated in
    the affair at the ravine can be present. You have our solemn
    word that the dinner is merely a friendly one, and you will not
    be embarrassed by speeches. As a matter of fact you may be
    aroused to the fighting point by the uncomplimentary remarks of
    your hosts. Telephone me if the time is not convenient to you,
    and believe me,

                                               Very sincerely yours,
                                                       Allen Ruhel.'

"Great guns and little fish-hooks, that will be fun," Bob shouted.

"It means tonight," Jim reminded his step-brother.

"It says tomorrow."

"But it's dated yesterday."

"That's so. We'll get Her Highness diked out, and be ready. Suppose we
better wear real clothes under our flying suits--"

"Dinner coats," Jim agreed. "If it's informal we don't have to do more
than that--"

"Brush our teeth," Bob suggested. They showed the letter to the Fentons
and the man looked grave.

"I hope they are careful what they say," he remarked seriously.

"What do you mean?" Bob demanded.

"These international affairs are ticklish things. If you get riled and
throw a soup plate, or some little thing like that, it might bring on a
war. It doesn't take much to bring on a war--"

"There isn't a soup plate handy, Uncle Norman, but I know where Aunt
Belle keeps her potato masher. You want to be very careful that you do
not start any internal wars; they are the worst sort."

"Guess I better get outside if that's the case," he chuckled, and went
for his own high boots.

"Let's have a look at the world," Jim proposed, then added, "Old
Champlain looks kind of high to me. Is it usually so?"

"Suppose it would be after so much rain," Bob put in.

"No it isn't," Mrs. Fenton answered, and she looked very serious. "It's
higher now than it's been in years, and with the rain stopped, it will
fill more. There are so many streams, some big ones, that empty into it
all around." She went with the boys to the back veranda and glanced
across anxiously. "I can't see Gull Rock at all, and Fisher's Island
looks as if half of it is under water."

"If it comes flooding too high, we'll take you and Uncle Norman up in
Her Highness out of danger," Bob promised.

"We can get in the boats if necessary, Bob, and we've got a lot of high
land for the stock, so that will be all right, but there are many of the
people here who have small farms. My land sakes alive, I expect that
some of them are in a bad way right this minute. I'll go telephone." She
hurried into the house, and in a moment the boys heard her talking with
some neighbors.

"Let's have a walk around," Bob suggested.

"We won't need to wheel Her Highness out. Look at the carriage shed,"
Jim exclaimed as he happened to glance in that direction and saw the
water lapping up under the wide doors.

"Cracky. Let's see if she's all right."

"We'll have to take our shoes off--or get boots."

"I'll see if Aunt Belle has any extra pairs around." He went inside,
while Jim surveyed the turbulent waters which had risen several feet and
were thrashing up to the edge of Mrs. Fenton's flower garden, and was
more than half way across the lawn when the two boys first saw it.

"Come on," Bob called, and Jim went inside to the shed. "Here are some
boots. Aunt Belle says they are water-proof, but not very handsome. They
have been patched."

"They will be just the thing." Presently the pair had their feet in
boots several sizes too large for them, but they grinned, and went down
into the yard. Their first care was Her Highness. The water had run up a
little way under her, but she hadn't suffered any damage. Jim got into
the cock-pit and shifted the wheels to the floats, and that done the
boys continued the tour of inspection.

"If it rains any more, by George, there will be the deuce to pay." They
went to the edge of the Lake, but could not follow its rim because the
inundations were deep and many of them ended in treacherous swampy
stretches. Where the cedar-rimmed cliff came close to the lake's edge,
the water pounded high above all previous marks, and some of the lower
ones were being undermined by the strength of the waves.

"Looks like a regular ocean," Jim remarked thoughtfully as they stood on
a promontory which jutted out in defiance of Old Champlain's fury. "Say,
where's that Carrying Point?"

"Further down. About half way to the village. Remember the day we were
coming up and you noticed a neck of land, lake on both sides, that
connected the two larger sections of North Hero?"

"Oh sure. Little stretch with a beach and roadway."

"That's it. Mom told me it got its name from Revolutionary days. Pirates
and smugglers coming down from Canada with loads of goods in small
boats, carried their boats across this piece and would get away from the
officers, or whoever happened to be chasing them. It's quite historic. A
bigger craft coming along would have to go all the way around and by
that time the smugglers could lose them plenty. They'd hide among some
of the lower, islands, or even go on straight."

"Great old place. Obliging of Champlain to arrange itself so
conveniently. Smashing guns, look at that water. It's hammering in all
directions. Too bad if it spoils crops, but it sure looks as if it is
going to. Did you hear your Aunt say whether the turkeys are dying off
because of the dampness?"

"Hezzy reported a hundred have turned up their toes."

"Rotten. Why don't they have a good warm place to keep them when the
weather is had?" Jim exclaimed wrathfully.

"That's the funny part of it, Buddy, they have got a real
up-to-the-minute house, brooders and everything," Bob replied soberly,
then added, "Gosh, I do wish we could do something about it."

"Well, we can't keep them from dying off, that's a cinch," Jim answered.
"Let's take Her Highness and have a look over the place."

"Right-O, old man." They turned about away from the destructive waters
and hurried as fast as the clumsy boots would permit, to the carriage
house, where they floated the plane out, closed the door after them, and
piled into the cock-pit. "Got enough gas?"


Presently Her Highness was thundering above the lake and after a few
circles over the land, which gave the boys an idea of the havoc being
wrought among the islands, Jim headed her toward the end of Isle La
Motte and in a few minutes they were cruising at low speed above the
turkey farm. It too had suffered from the rain, but its buildings were
located on high ground which was well drained so that even now it was
drying rapidly. The boys could see the turkeys in the run-ways and they
knew that until the vicinity was no longer drenched, the delicate birds
could not be allowed to roam in the larger pens. As there seemed to be
nothing special they could learn, they proceeded to fly across the
property, and soon they were above the section where they had seen the
men hiking the first day they had attempted to visit Hezzy. Just beyond
the strip of forest, which was quite dense, they saw a long,
comparatively bare slope toward the opposite side of the Isle and they
easily discerned several men moving about as if they were working.

"There's more turkeys," Jim remarked through the tube and Bob nodded
that he could see them.

"Probably they are fixing a place on this side because it's more
sheltered," the younger boy suggested. "I see Hezzy down there." Sure
enough the farm's foreman was striding along the edge of the meadow. He
paused suddenly, glanced up at them, then disappeared quickly among the

"I suspect that he doesn't like us," Jim grinned, and Bob laughed

"Sometime we'll come over and tell him we want to help catch the
thieves," the younger boy suggested.

"Let's hop down now. We can land on that field."

"We'd better not. We might land on some small birds," Bob replied, and
Jim agreed that probably it would be safer to wait and have their talk
with Hezzy at the house. As there didn't seem to be much more to see the
boys rode on, across to the New York side of Champlain, and before they
decided to return they were overtaken by the mail plane. Bob, who was at
the controls, waggled his wings, and instantly the other pilot
responded. He grinned as he flew by, and they waved as if he were an old

"It's the guy we saw the other day," Jim declared, and Bob nodded.

The mail plane went racing north, and the boys started for home. It felt
good being in the air again, but they were going to the dinner and they
wanted to give Her Highness her weekly inspection, besides replenish the
gas supply. That evening, with their best suits under flying togs, they
hopped off again, this time making straight north toward the border.
They soared grandly beneath a brilliant dome of colors reflected by the
setting sun, roared above Canada, and in half an hour came down on the
flying field where they found Allen Ruhel and Sergeant Bradshaw, their
uniforms swank, and their faces wearing wide grins of welcome.

"Glad you could come," Ruhel greeted them.

"We surely owe you a swell spread--" Bradshaw began, but the chief
interrupted him.

"Perhaps we do, but they are not going to get much more than the usual
mess. I had to promise that or they would not have come."

"How's Pat?" Bob inquired as they were led toward the long mess hall.

"He's so set up over my promotion there's no doing anything with him,"
Bradshaw answered soberly. "I may have to trade him off for a yellow

"Any time you want to trade him, let us know," Jim put in quickly.

"I know you boys. You'd spoil him more than I have."

They were ushered into a barracks-like building and were soon in the
mess hall where already two dozen of Canada's finest men were waiting.
The boys recognized a few of their faces, though not many, but
introductions were gotten over with little ceremony, and the dinner
started. Because of the young American guests of honor there was no wine
served, but that did not detract from anyone's good humor, and the party
was an enormous success. Bradshaw told the boys that the outlaw gang
they had been trying to capture for such a long time, were at last
almost all rounded up.

"Thanks to your good help," he added. "Jinks, wish we could have been
down in the battle," Bob lamented.

"I say, didn't you have enough of it?" the chief laughed. "It seems to
me you were rather in the thick of things, you know. I expected any
moment the blighters would turn their guns on your wings. They would
have made their get-away if you had not let us know about the hole they
were crawling through. Did Bradshaw tell you that it was fitted up like
a war-time trench, with living quarters, periscopes and what-not?"

"Great guns--oh, what happened to Pedro?"

"He's a perfectly good Canuck gone wrong. He'll pay for his sins with
the rest. A couple of them got away, and a few of the ones we caught are

"Do you have to send them back?" Jim asked. He rather felt the fellows
should take their punishment with their gang.

"Neither your government nor their families have shown any disposition
to intervene in their behalf," the chief smiled, then went on, "As a
matter of fact, from their records in the States, I think your
Department of Justice is likely to send us a vote of thanks for
apprehending them."

"I hope they do," Jim responded. After that the courses went on merrily.
There were jokes, jolly stories, no end of kidding back and forth, and
finally the dessert was served. A few minutes later the chief rose.

"I promised our American friends that there would be no speeches
tonight, so I've kept my word, but some of the boys will have a
presentation. Stand up, you men of Texas, and take your medicine."

The boys obeyed, and flushed crimson around their collars as the chief
made his way to their places. He opened a small box which seemed to have
some ribbons on the royal purple velvet surface. The man held them up
and solemnly pinned one to each boy's coat. Each medal was of two
ribbons, the American flag and the British, arranged on a bar side by
side, and suspended from them was the Mounty Insignia in the middle, a
pair of wings, and from the wings hung a tiny basket.

                    "To the Flying Buddies"
was engraved on the back.

"You can thank your lucky stars that this isn't the French section of
Canada and you don't have to be kissed," Bradshaw informed them.

"We're grateful for that," Jim laughed in confusion.

"This has been a swell party, but what we did, if it was any good, was
as much for our own country as for yours, but let me tell you this, if
we ever catch you in Texas, we'll get back at you--we'll pin horse-shoes
on every one of you," Bob declared.

"Is that a threat or a promise?"

"Both," Bob laughed.

"My Dad has a sizy sort of ranch. It will hold the whole bunch, so if
any of you come to our state we'll be mortally offended if you don't
show up at our house," Jim supplemented. He was recovering his poise,
and then the Mounties cheered them until the rafters rang. An hour later
they were allowed to depart, and every man promised to call for the

"That was a dandy party," Jim chuckled later as they circled above the
field again.

"They are a grand bunch," Bob declared enthusiastically. He leveled off
Her Highness, and started in a southerly course that would take them
down over New York state a way, but the wind was from the west and would
drive them toward their own goal. The night was starless, although there
seemed to be few clouds, and the air was heavy with moisture as if it
would be raining before morning. The step-brothers did no more talking.
They were both busy with their own thoughts. Their minds were occupied
with the evening's fun, but in a few minutes Bob began to think of his
aunt and uncle and wished very hard that he could do something to help
them. The rain had ruined a large part of the crops, and although there
was time to plant other things, the year promised to be another bad one
for the Fentons. The boy resolved to write and tell his mother. Mom
somehow always had a suggestion that was worth while. If we could only
find out what happens to the turkeys, he sighed and he resolved to pay
Hezzy a visit the next day if possible. Suddenly, in the distance they
caught a glimpse of a flash of light across the sky. It disappeared
almost at once, then they picked it up again.

"Bet it's the mail plane," Jim shouted.

"Guess it is," Bob agreed. He watched the plane getting closer, and
presently there was no mistaking the huge machine that came droning
toward them. Their altitude was five thousand feet, and the other pilot
would pass almost over them. It was mighty chummy to meet a pal of the
air, so Bob zoomed up, and soon Her Highness was racing beside the
bigger machine. The pilots waved greetings, waggled their wings, then,
as the boys had to turn eastward, they waved a good-night, turned
abruptly and shot across the other's course. The man in the cock-pit
nodded, and in a minute they were a mile apart, but Jim was watching the
diminishing lights with interest. Suddenly he caught his brother's arm
and twisted him around.

"Something's gone wrong," he bellowed; He didn't need to, for Bob could
see. At that moment there was a blaze, a leaping tongue of flame and the
plane started to totter crazily toward the ground.

"Thundering Mars--he's on fire!"


                        THE MAIL MUST GO THROUGH

"Bellowing Bulls," Bob yelled at the top of his lungs as he realized
that something catastrophic was taking place in the air and that the
good-natured young pilot was in danger of his life.

"Blistering blazes," Jim exclaimed. Neither boy could hear the other's
ejaculation, but they were tense and rigid as they sat for a paralyzed
instant staring through the darkness toward that flaming plane which was
beginning to drop like some kind of lost star out of the blackness of
the sky.

Mechanically young Caldwell kicked the rudder, his fingers adjusted the
controls, and Her Highness came around with a screech of the wind
through the struts and a shrill whine of the wires. He opened her up
wide, zoomed, then leveling off, raced toward that flaming, careening
plane. With lightning rapidity the boy calculated to a nicety the speed
of the doomed mail-plane, and into both their brains flashed the ghastly
question as to the sort of spot on to which she was making her plunge.
Was it smooth open country, or was it thick forests where the fire would
spread and become a violent furnace before it could be subdued, or was
it into some little sleeping village, whose residents would be seriously

As she made her way downward the plane cast a bright glow about herself,
like a funeral bier, but the light only accentuated the night beyond the
rim. At racing speed Her Highness cut through the heavens like a thin
streak of brightness, and in a minute she was above her falling fellow.
The altimeter read three thousand feet, so Bob climbed higher, circled
when he was sure he would have the grade he wanted, then, tipping the
nose almost vertical, he raced downward, the engine roaring. It was
breath-taking, but both boys were keenly alert. In a moment they were
beside the burning plane and following it, at a safe distance, toward
the ground.

They could see the mail pilot struggling with the controls, then he
noticed them, grinned, and with a wave of his hand, he stopped the
battle, loosened his safety strap, and stepped over the rim of the
cock-pit. He seemed as cool as if he were doing a stunt at a
fair-ground. A moment later he waved again, then jumped into space,
making as wide a leap as possible. The two machines plunged on and the
man's body seemed to roll, then drop swiftly, then the parachute
blossomed out wide and white as it spread open to save him.

"Whew," Bob whistled softly. He could not watch the escaping pilot a
moment longer, but he switched on all the light he had in an effort to
pick out a landing place. One thing they were positive of, they were not
over a village, for there wasn't even a fueling signal visible. On they
went, and at last Jim caught his step-brother's shoulder.

"Woods," he said, making his lips form the word so the boy would get it,
and Bob nodded that he understood. By this time they were so close to
the ground that the descending furnace cast a brighter glow, and they
could see the tree tops standing out like sentinels. At five hundred
feet Bob pulled Her Highness out of the mad drop, leveled off and
circled in swift short turns. He maintained the height, and the two
looked over the side. Presently they saw the pilot dropping toward them
for his speed had been checked by the parachute. At the same instant
there was a dull thud and the mail plane smashed into the ground. The
flames leaped furiously, and while they ate hungrily at their prey, they
lighted the vicinity brilliantly.

"Over there," Jim pointed, and Bob looked. He saw a clear place, and
shutting off the motor, glided to a landing. Before Her Highness came to
a full stop, Jim was out of the cock-pit. He glanced anxiously at the
work of destruction, then looked up to And the pilot, but he gasped with
dismay as he discovered that the fellow was over trees and seemed unable
to spill enough air to guide himself out of their reach. In a second a
huge branch caught the silk and held it firmly, while the man dangled
like a pendulum thirty feet above the hard ground. A fall would mean
broken bones.

As the step-brothers were Texans first and foremost, ranchers' sons,
they never went anywhere without a rope. In fact they would have felt as
if they were not fully dressed, so now long lariats were coiled under
their seats. It took only a second to secure them, then the two raced
toward the tree.

"Hey you lads, get the mail out of the plane," the pilot shouted when he
saw them approaching.

"You go back and do that while I get him down," Jim said quickly to his
brother. "The three of us can probably save it all."

"Take my rope." Bob handed it over, then started to save the mail or as
much of it as he could, while Austin ran on to the tree.

"Be careful. I'm trying to figure out a way to get onto the branch, but
if I swing. I'll come down," the pilot called.

"I'll look out. Hold yourself steady." Jim had the rope in his hands,
but a flying suit is a cumbersome garment and hampering. He stood away
on a slight knoll, gave the lariat a few expert turns, then sent it
forth. It shot under the pilot's feet, opened wide, rose quickly and was
jerked securely.

"Good work, Buddy," the pilot called.

"Fix it so it won't cut you and I'll get in that nearest tree," Jim
answered. He was already beside the tree, and looping the end of the
rope about his wrist as he started to climb. It was no easy task to
prevent the lariat from tangling with the branches, but luckily the tree
was a yellow pine, and one side of its trunk had only a few short stubs.
The boy went like a monkey and was soon a few feet higher than the
pilot. He fastened the end of the rope to a stout branch, took an
instant to decide what his next move would be, then he made up his mind,
and began to crawl out closer to the man he was trying to save.

"Careful that doesn't smash," the chap warned.

"All right. Get loose from your parachute. I'll make a hitch here, so
you'll come just under me--"

"Sure that will hold us both?"

"It's a good green branch."

"You make your hitch, then get back to the trunk," the pilot proposed.
"It will be safer." Jim obeyed. Hanging on with one hand, he leaned
forward to watch. The pilot released himself from the straps, then eased
himself by hanging on with one hand. Finally he let go, and swung
beneath by the lariat. Vigorously he sent his body forward, grasped the
branch, hauled himself upright, then made his way to his rescuer.

"All O. K."

"I'll tell the world. Come along and we'll help the kid." Scrambling to
the ground was much simpler than making the ascent, and presently they
joined young Bob, who was courageously hauling out bags of mail.

"Gosh," he whistled.

"Here, take hold." The pilot directed the work and in a few minutes the
mail bags were all out of the compartment, and none too soon, for the
flames had gained great headway, and were swiftly devouring the plane.
They dragged the bags to a safe distance.

"I say, we have some Pyrene," Bob announced; "I was a boob not to think
of it before." He ran for the tank, they helped him with the tiny hose,
and in a few minutes the blaze was extinguished. The darkness seemed to
settle about them more thickly than ever, but the light from Her
Highness showed clearly so they could see their way to the plane.
Quickly the mail pilot glanced over it and he smiled with admiration.

"Some grand little bus," he told them.

"You bet. Where can we take you?"

"To Albany. We got to get the mail there too," the pilot informed them
and the brothers glanced at each other. Her Highness would certainly
carry the three of them and some freight, but whether she was capable of
such a load was another matter. "The mail must get through," the pilot
repeated. "We'll try it," Jim responded.

"One of you fellows might stay here," the pilot suggested.

"That won't be necessary," Jim said quickly. Taking the mail to Albany
would be a task, but coming back to find the one left behind would be an
all night's job. Anyway, Her Highness had never been pressed into
service for such an emergency and he was determined to leave nothing
behind if that could be avoided. The mail man was already dragging bags
from the pile. Luckily none of them were very bulky and the three set to
work to fit them into the freight compartment. That full, what was left
was stored in the extra passenger seat.

"I'll sit back there," Bob offered. "I'm smallest."

"All right," Jim agreed. He was rather glad the younger boy had made the
suggestion. Caldwell had piloted Her Highness through her latest hazard
and must be fagged. "Pile in." He took a moment to inspect the strip he
would follow in the take-off, then leaped to his own seat. The third
air-man was beside him.

"I'm much obliged to you lads for what you did for me tonight," he said.
"You don't know what a relief it was to see you tearing to help me. Had
an idea that your backs were turned in my direction and didn't hope that
you had seen me."

"I was watching you as we went along. We were about a mile over, so of
course we came back," Jim replied casually. "Glad we were able to get to
you in time."

Further conversation was impossible, for the boy opened the throttle and
Her Highness roared. The engine ran smoothly, the machine started, but
it seemed to Jim as if she would never lift. He could see the pines
leaping toward them, then up went her nose and she was off the ground,
soared laboriously and dangerously close to the trees, then began to
climb. That part accomplished, Austin was relieved, and he concentrated
on the long grill ahead of him. He wished that he had discussed the
course with this man who must know every inch of air along his route,
but the whole affair had taken but a short time. The excitement had
driven a great many things from his mind, so now he began to calculate
his course, tracing it on the map. In coming up from Texas the boys had
stopped off to see the capital city and its twin across the river. He
could depend upon the pilot to direct him to the proper field, so coming
down would be all right.

The unaccustomed load made Her Highness' management quite different from
ordinary occasions when she had carried only an extra passenger, but the
mail had to go through, regardless of men and machines, and the youthful
part-owner of the plane was proud of her performance now, but he hoped
hard that they would meet nothing on the way which would add to their
difficulties. He thought of the Fentons. They were early birds and
probably in bed long ago, but Bob's aunt was a nervous woman and she
might not sleep soundly because of their absence. They could let her
know from Albany what was delaying them, but that might only add to her
anxiety. Well, they had to make the best of it and it was rather an
honor to be entrusted with U. S. mail. He tried to imagine what the bags
contained. Probably a great many of the letters were highly important.
People would not be sending their communications by the swiftest way if
the matters were not urgent.

On, on, and on they soared through the night. The clock on the dial said
twelve thirty. It seemed much longer than that since they had left their
jolly hosts in Canada. Once the mail pilot touched his arm, then raising
his hand as if he were an orchestra leader, he motioned to go higher,
Jim nodded that he understood, so began to climb. They were fifteen
thousand feet when he got the signal to level off. Then he pointed to
the speaking tube, and the pilot nodded that he would use it if he had
anything to say. One o'clock came, and one-thirty. They had been going
over an hour. Probably the mail was late, for Jim was sure the regular
plane was a fast bus. Her Highness could do high speed too, but not with
such a load. It was nearly two o'clock when the pilot picked up the tube
and gave directions. Later he pointed.

"There's the field." It was brilliantly lighted and the boy could see
figures moving about the drome. As he glided down he noticed men looking
at him curiously. He decided that they expected the mail plane and were
surprised at his arrival. When he came to a stop a chap ran to the

"Seen anything of Mason--the--"

"Right here, Old Timer," Mason said quickly.

"Thank the Lord. We got word that a blazing plane was sighted, and we've
been on pins and needles ever since. A couple of Canadians are out
trying to locate you."

"I'm O. K., and so is the mail, thanks to these youngsters." Mason
prepared to hop out, and he turned to Jim. "You didn't tell me your
name. I'm Phil Mason."

"Mine's Jim Austin, and my step-brother is Bob Caldwell. We've been
visiting relatives in Vermont," Jim explained. By that time Bob was out
of his seat and a couple of men were removing the bags.

"Glad to know you lads. You want to bunk here the rest of the night--"

"Thanks, no, but I should appreciate a supply of gas. I'm not sure I
have enough to make the trip back," Jim answered.

"Gas, of course, you can have all you want. Here you--" He shouted
directions, and a mechanic came on the run. The task of re-fueling was
accomplished with efficiency, but the boys had to shake hands with a lot
of relieved pilots who were grateful that one of their number was not
lying wrecked and helpless miles away. Finally they permitted the
buddies to go, and this time Bob was beside his brother.

"Want me to pilot, old man?" he offered.

"Did you get any sleep back there?" Jim demanded.

"No, I watched the duplicate controls. Thought you might need help."

"Then you sit beside me and take a nap now. If I get so my eyes won't
stay open. I'll wake you up and let you do the work," Jim promised.

"So long, Buddies," Mason shouted, just as the throttle was opened. Bob
waved his hand, and Jim nodded. Taking off on the drome was simple, and
in a moment Her Highness, no longer loaded to the hilt, leaped into the

"Great old girl," Jim exclaimed proudly, and the plane responded
eagerly. The course was set, and while they went, roaring back toward
the northern part of Vermont, Bob's head nodded and finally dropped
forward as sleep overtook him. Jim grinned affectionately at the young
fellow and made up his mind that he wouldn't disturb that rest if he
could possibly help it.

The trip home was uneventful but Jim did have to blink hard several
times to keep his eyes open. However, he managed it, but the first
streaks of dawn were softening the sky before the Fenton Cove met his
tired vision. With a whistle of relief that at last it was over, he
glided down toward the carriage house, and as the plane shot forward, he
heard the house door open quickly.

"Is that you, boys?" Mrs. Fenton's tone was distressed. Then Bob woke
up, blinked, and stared.

"Thunder and Mars, why didn't you let me do part of it?" he demanded.

"We're all right," Jim shouted to Aunt Belle, and added to his
step-brother, "I'll let you have the honor of putting her ladyship up if
you like."

"You'd better," Bob growled. "Next time I won't go to sleep. You go in
and hop to bed. I'll explain to Aunt Belle." That arrangement was
entirely satisfactory to Jim, and in five minutes he was in their room,
in ten minutes he was stretched out in his pajamas and sound asleep. It
was noon when he opened his eyes. Bob was on the second cot and was just
turning over.

"Hello, Old Timer."

"Hello yourself. What day is it?"

"Same one. Say, Jim did you notice the lake when we got home?"

"Didn't notice a blooming thing. Is the house afloat?"

"Not yet. It rained some more. Woke me up about nine o'clock. I'd
thought of going over today and have a talk with Hezzy, but I changed my
mind," Bob announced.

"Wise lad."

"You never did cotton up to Hezzy did you?"

"Not so you could notice it."

"Well, I've been doing some thinking. Seems kind of queer to me that he
should have sneaked under those trees yesterday when we were going over.
I've been wondering what he was doing on that side of the property. If
it was all right, what the heck did he dodge us for?"

"Ask me another," Jim yawned. "Did your Aunt think we had flown to the
bottom of the lake?"

"She sure did, but luckily she didn't miss us until she got up. Our door
was open and she saw the beds--then she got scared for fair and came
flying down stairs. About that time we came rolling in. I am glad she
didn't have any more time to fret."

"Same here." Just then they heard Mrs. Fenton come tip-toeing up the
stairs and they both closed their eyes tight, then began to snore
melodiously. Anyone could tell that it was a pretense.

"I was just coming to see if you boys aren't ready to have something to
eat. You must be starved," she exclaimed.

"We are," they wailed.

"Well, dinner's all ready. You get into your bath-robes and come right
down. No one will mind and I guess you deserve some privileges. Someone
called up this morning to know if you got home all right, and I guess
you did more than Bob told me." She looked reproachfully at her nephew
and shook her finger. "Now, hustle up--I've got huckleberry pie--" They
were out of bed before the words were fairly uttered, so she hurried
back to her duties and the two boys were close at her heels, donning
bath robes as they came. They did take time to have a good cold splash,
and glance at the lake, which had risen two feet higher.

Mr. and Mrs. Fenton tried to look cheerful and to joke during the meal,
but it was not a success, for the menacing water creeping steadily
toward them had already seeped into the cellar, and on the road in front
of the house the boys could see automobiles, trucks, hay wagons, and
even a team of oxen hitched to a great cart, plugging slowly forward.
The vehicles were every one of them piled high with household effects
and the people of the island whose homes were already below the danger
line, were looking for a safe place to settle until Champlain should
recede within bounds. The meal over, the two boys went to the veranda at
the back. There was something terrible about the whole situation, and
they wondered dully what could be done about it. Just waiting was nerve
racking. For a minute they watched the water, which was muddy as it
thrashed in the rising wind, and beyond the cove they could see
branches, whole trees, rails of fences, boxes, and all sorts of wreckage
tossed on the waves.

"Let's get out of sight of it," Bob proposed, so they went to the front
of the house, but the view there was no less depressing. An old man
trudged through the water driving his cow, and right behind him, seated
on a queer old carriage was his wife driving a horse that lifted his
hoofs wearily and wheezed with every step. At that moment an automobile
drove to the door, and a huge man, with a booming voice, stuck his head
out of the window.

"Can I get something to eat here?"

"Come right in," Mrs. Fenton answered. The man climbed out clumsily, and
right behind him came a smaller man who had been completely concealed by
his companion.

"This is a blasted neck of the woods," the big fellow bellowed.

"Let's sit over here," Bob suggested. He didn't think the newcomer added
anything attractive to the prevailing discomfort. The fellow talked and
cussed the weather, but the small man didn't utter a word. It wasn't
until they were eating that he ventured to speak.

"I told you, Burnam, this was a fool's errand," he declared. The big man
brought his fist down on the table so hard that the china jumped.

"Don't I know you did. Well, I'm telling you that they are hiding
somewhere around here, understand, and I'm going to find them. You can
get on the train and go to blazes if you like, see!" The words and the
tone made the boys jump, then Jim gripped Bob's arm.

"Shhhhsss." He pointed to the end of the veranda. Bob looked and was
surprised to see Corso standing like a statue close to the step. He
looked as if something had struck him paralyzed, but he recovered
himself in a second, leaped nimbly to the veranda, stepped with amazing
swiftness to the window and cautiously peeped in. It was just one brief
glance he got of the room and the tourists, but it seemed to be enough.
He jumped lightly as a cat to the ground, crouched, then disappeared
around the corner of the house.

"What do you know about that," Bob exclaimed, then added quickly, "Don't
tell me to ask you another. Let's go up and get our clothes on."



"I say, Jim, that was a queer thing for Corso to do!" The two were
putting the finishing touches on their toilet. From the dining room came
the voice of the man called Burnam, who seemed to do considerable
talking while he ate, but if his companion spoke again, his words were

"Yes. Listen, Buddy, I think Corso knows that lad down there."

"Maybe he does," Bob agreed, but that hadn't occurred to him.

"Maybe we can help those two. Come on down, and if the bounders show a
disposition to pump us, let's give them an earful."

"Great guns, we don't want to tell him they are here--"

"Of course not, you nut. We'll see what they lead up to. You follow my
lead. Come along." They raced down stairs quietly and into the dining
room. Mrs. Fenton had finished serving the travelers and had gone to the
cellar where she was rescuing preserves.

"Good car you have," Jim remarked, and Burnam glanced at him.

"Pretty good," he admitted. "Know anything about cars?"

"Enough to run a flivver," Jim answered modestly. Burnam sized them up
as a pair of country hicks and smiled broadly.

"Interesting neighborhood around here," he ventured.

"Oh, fair," Jim drawled.

"Not many strangers," Burnam went on.

"A sprinklin', but nobody wants them," Jim volunteered.

"Exclusive community. What do you do with strangers?"

"Leave 'em alone. There's a colony further up. Summer people, most from
cities, come every year."

"Same ones all the time?"

"Sure. Fellow who owns the land won't let 'em bring outsiders," the boy
explained taking a chair. "Enjoy your dinner?"

"Fine. Ever have any southern people--"

"Few," Jim admitted.

"Chap I know and his nephew came around here for the fishing. He liked
the place. Perhaps you know him."

"How long has he been coming?" Jim asked.

"I understand last fall was the first time, come to think of it."

"Nobody was here last fall," Jim declared positively. "What sort of chap
is he, about your size?"

"No, very slender fellow, dark skin and eyes, rather good looking." Jim
looked at Bob.

"Maybe it's those ginks," he said scornfully.

"Sounds like them," Bob admitted.

"Where they stopping?" Burnam asked, eagerly.

"They ain't," Jim grinned, then added, "They tried this neighborhood for
a week, then went on into Canada. The station agent said their luggage
was shipped to Toronto."

"You don't say." The big man seemed disappointed and the little one
smiled behind his napkin.

"Chap like that wouldn't stay in so small a place," he remarked.

"No, I suppose not. Well, can I pay you--"

"Pay my brother," Jim answered, and strolled out of the house. In the
soft earth he had no difficulty in trailing Corso's foot prints and a
few minutes later saw the man and the boy crouched in the garden where
they were completely hidden from the road. "Hello," he said softly. "I
told those fellows that you two went to Toronto. Know where that is?"

"I do," Corso answered.

"I let them ask me questions, then told them you stayed here a week.
They are so disgusted with the place I don't think they'll hang around,
but you better keep out of sight. I'm going to escort them off the
island, but they don't know that."

"Much in your debt we are, Sir," Corso said quietly. "We shall not
forget, Sir." His eyes turned toward the road. "Bad men, Sir. Very, very
bad men."

"They don't look any too good," Jim admitted. "You stay here until one
of us comes and tells you they are gone." Jim strode quickly back toward
the house and as he crossed the road he saw Burnam getting into the

"Get a move on, Dyke," he growled, and the smaller chap hastily took his
place. Motioning to his step-brother to keep quiet, Jim stepped behind
the huge maple, and when the car hacked into the road, he hopped onto
the spare tires, caught the strap and threw his legs over, ducking his
head so that if the men should either of them glance through the window,
he would not be seem. The car raced off carrying the stow-a-way. "I told
you those lads were in this part of the country," Burnam said shrilly
when they had gone some distance from Stumble Inn. "I know just how to
handle natives, and I got exactly the information we want."

"Yes, but how the blazes do you expect to pick up the trail in Canada?"
Dyke demanded in a lower tone.

"It'll be easier than in the United States," the big fellow replied, and
after that he seemed to concentrate his whole attention on driving, for
the road was rough from the rains and the boy in the back was soon
splashed thickly with mud. Presently they came to the bridge which
connected North Hero with Isle La Motte. Jim could see that the water
had risen until it was splashing through the planking, and dozens of men
were working hard to keep it from being washed away. They were bringing
the biggest rocks they could haul and were distributing them in piles
from one end to the other. Young Austin hoped anxiously that none of the
workmen would call Burnam's attention to the extra passenger he was
carrying, but they passed over quickly, and if anyone noticed the boy,
nothing was done about it. They probably thought him a hiker tired of
walking and unable to get a lift on his way. The car sped on to the
station, but it was deserted, and Jim was mighty thankful that no agent
was there to answer inquiries regarding the travelers who were supposed
to have gone on to Toronto. Half a mile ahead the machine had to slow up
for a sharp curve, so feeling confident that the pair were really headed
for Canada, the boy dropped off and started to trudge home. A
good-natured farmer gave him a lift, and at last he saw Bob anxiously
scanning the road.

"Gosh all hemlock, I was going into the air to look for you. Say, come
on, quick." He led the way to the water's edge, and far across the
thrashing lake Jim saw a tiny boat, with an outboard motor on the stern,
chugging valiantly against the waves and making for Fisher's Island.

"Who is it?" Jim demanded.

"Corso and the boy. I saw them a few minutes after they left the shore.
They have a load of stuff aboard as if they intend to hide over there,"
Bob explained.

"Gee, I wonder if it's safe!" Jim said anxiously.

"I asked Uncle Norman and he said the greater part of the land is under
water now, but there are high spots that may serve them. Let's keep an
eye on the place, Jim. I think that pair is all right, and gosh, I'd
hate like fury to have them carried away in this. Just look at it." Jim
didn't need to look any more than he had for as far as he could see, the
wreckage, large and small, was being tossed and dashed to splinters.

"So should I. We'll keep watch, then if it looks bad we'll go after them
in Her Highness. I say, did you happen to notice the number of that
limousine? I, like a dub, forgot to look at it."

"I wrote it down," Bob answered proudly, and he produced the figures.

"Good work. I'm going to call up Ruhel and tell him to be on the
look-out for that pair. They're no good and the Mounties will keep them
under observation." He hurried into the house, called long distance, and
in five minutes was telling the story to the chief, who listened with

"Thanks no end, Old Man. I take it you'd like us to let them roam around
here for a while and give your friends a chance."

"That's the idea."

"We'll keep them hunting. It will do them good. Oh, by the way, I say,
what time did you lads breeze in to your house this morning--"

"Don't ask personal questions," Jim retorted.

"I don't have to, I know. Mason came in this afternoon and told the
story. You knights had some night. I hope they pin something on you--"

"Probably they will. We ought to have a lemon. Well, thanks for

"Same to you." The connection was cut off, and Jim joined his
step-brother on the veranda.

"Listen, Buddy, that watch dog Uncle Norman bought, died this morning,
and now the other one is sick. What do you know about that?"

"Rotten. Wonder if there was anything the matter with them when they
arrived, or if some one over there didn't want watch dogs?"


"That's the lad I'm going to keep an eye on. Gosh." He jumped to his
feet and started to walk toward the garden. "For a quiet little place,
we surely have found no end of excitement since we landed."

"It hasn't been exactly dull," Bob admitted. They went on in silence and
at last they reached the edge of the alfalfa meadow. The stones the
strange boy had been working with a few days before were neatly arranged
in a low wall, and the land above was terraced as if by someone skilled
in the art. The whole section which the Fenton's had called the bog had
been plowed, smoothed on a slight incline toward the lake, which left
the garden side lower than that land, and this also was built up with a
cleverly set curb of stones. There were three small outlets which acted
as drains, and in spite of the heavy rains the land was comparatively

"Well, anyway, your uncle has got this work to be thankful for. It sure
looks like a grand piece of land. Perhaps he can plant it with something
that he can harvest this season. Must be odd to be in a place where the
summers are as short as they are here. I'd like to see it in the fall.
It must be quite a sight."

"I'd like to see it in the winter. Mom says the lake freezes over, and
the people who live near cut ice, and they can cross to New York, or any
place they want to go. They drive, have races and skate," Bob

"We can't stay to see all that," Jim said regretfully. "The parents
wouldn't stand for it."

"No, I know it."

"Supper," Mr. Fenton called, and the boys made their way back to the
house. They were very thoughtful as they took their places, and the food
was eaten in silence.

"Any more turkey's stolen, Uncle Norman?"

"Some were taken last night," the man answered. Just then the telephone
rang and Aunt Belle answered.

"The Norman's are going to stay here all night," she said quietly.
"Their house is flooded above the kitchen."

That evening Stumble Inn was filled to the brim with neighbors. Belated
supper was served to refugees who straggled in, and the two boys turned
to and helped. They carried down cots, made beds, washed dishes, turned
horses into the pasture, and drove cattle into the meadow. It was late
at night when they were repairing a place in the fence to be sure that
the nervous stock did not break through and get away. When the job was
finished, they made their way back to the house, and all along the road
they could see tents pitched, or families gathered about their cars or
wagons prepared to sleep out of doors. The protection they had was frail
and if another storm should come up suddenly half their worldly goods
would be swept into Champlain.

In spite of their dilemma the Vermonters were facing their troubles
quietly and without a whimper. Although there were as many as fifty
people within earshot, hardly a sound could be heard. Then a child,
whose sleeping quarters was under the big maple, cried in fright. The
mother tried to hush it, but the little fellow's terror did not
diminish. Without an instant's hesitation, Bob leaned over the wagon.

"Don't be afraid, little fellow. You come on in and sleep--"

"There isn't any room in your aunt's house, Bob," the woman answered.
"She would have taken us if she could."

"Come along anyway," Bob insisted. He picked the boy up in his arms,
while Jim offered to help the woman.

"I'll he all right here," she answered, "if you can find a place for the
children." A little girl raised her head.

"Come on, Old Man," Bob urged. The boy came to him willingly, and the
girl reached her arms out to Jim. Together the two went to the house.
The living-room door was wide open, and there were beds spread out on
the chairs as well as the floor.

"I put some more beds in your room, boys," Aunt Belle said softly.

"Anyone in our cots?" Bob asked.

"No," she answered.

"We'll put the babies on them, Aunt Belle. You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not, Bob, but where will you sleep?"

"Oh, in one of the hammocks--"

"You can't, my dear, they are all full."

"We'll find a place. Aunt Belle, maybe you'd better come along. We don't
know much about little fellows." They started to climb the stairs and
his aunt followed. It did not take long for the little codgers to be
tucked in comfortably, and in a moment they were both asleep. It seemed
to the boys as if the very air was charged with impending danger as they
went down stairs again. Some of the Vermont men and women were sitting
around on newspapers on the lawn. They spoke softly, partly because of
their friends trying to rest, and partly because they were making a
brave effort to face the disaster courageously.

"Heard that no more trains can get through," one man remarked.

"Ed Allen's prize sheep ran into the lake and were carried away," said

"Something frightened them."

"The lower end of Canada is in a bad way. The border men asked for all
the milk they could get, even if it's sour."

"Expect we better do some sort of organizing and see what we have,"
another proposed. "Let's talk it over with Fenton." The boys moved on
and sat down against the shed.

"Say Jim, know what this makes me think of, these people I mean?"

"Makes me think of so much, I'm getting brain-storm," Jim answered, but
his tone was sober.

"The history we read--these Vermonters. Those Allen boys. Did you know
the two towns, North Hero and South Hero are given those names because
of the brothers, and a lot of their original tract of land is still in
the families' possession?"

"I heard your mother say so. They were a great gang."

"Sure were. Well, I was thinking how these people, some of them members
of those old families, still stand shoulder to shoulder. Of course most
folks are pretty decent when neighbors are in trouble, but here they are
also quiet and sure of each other. No wonder they are considered a fine
lot. A couple of hundred years ago just a handful of them bucked against
the hardships and won out. Now, Uncle Norman and Aunt Belle are facing
ruin maybe, but they are right with their neighbors, ready to share
everything they have as long as they have it--you see what I mean--it's
a great spirit, I think."

"So do I. I say, let's see if we can find a couple of blankets and sleep
out here," Jim proposed.

"Suits me," Bob agreed. They had no trouble finding bedding and soon
they were ready to turn in. Before they did, they stood staring off
across the black water of Lake Champlain.

"I say, isn't that a light over there on Fisher's?"

"Was just watching it. Perhaps it's Corso's fire. Gosh, that means
they're all right and I'm glad of that." They watched the tiny streak of
red that burned cheerily in the darkness, but finally they stretched out
and were soon asleep.


                            THE CRY FOR HELP

Neither of the boys slept soundly that night. Their dreams were troubled
by a conglomeration of their experiences since their arrival at North
Hero, the weird boom of the waves as Champlain rose steadily, and a
confusion of people going by in search of places of safety. Several
times men stopped to inquire for lodgings or routes, and it seemed as if
a dozen dogs howled gloomily. But above it all, toward morning, there
was one sound that came to their subconscious minds and they stirred
fitfully as if trying to shake off a nightmare. Then suddenly they awoke
and sat up. It was still dark, that pitch darkness that is so thick just
before the first streaks of dawn brush the sky.

"I say, Buddy, did you hear anyone call?" Jim whispered.

"I was just going to ask you the same question," Bob answered. "I
thought I heard a cry for help." They sat listening tensely, straining
their ears to distinguish the call that had broken into their sleep, but
could make out nothing more than the sighing of the wind through the
bowing trees and the noises they had been hearing before. Jim started to
slip into his shoes and Bob followed his example.

"Let's get some clothes on, I can't sleep any more, can you?"

"No. Gosh, Jim, this is spooky." They slipped their trousers and
sweaters on over their pajamas, without stopping to don shirts. In two
minutes they were dressed and made their way carefully to the rim of the
water. "We'd better have a flashlight or we'll be stepping into it."

"I've got the little one in my pocket." Jim took it out and pressed the
button. Its faint tray cast a round glow, not very bright, but
sufficient to show them where to step. Austin led the way while Bob
followed close at his heels and finally they stopped on the edge of a
cliff and stood listening tensely. For what seemed like an hour,
although it was less than a minute, the world was oddly hushed, as if it
too were listening, then, clear and unmistakable from north of them,
somewhere on the lake, came a terrified cry and a shout for help.

"Let's get Her Highness. Somebody's out there," Bob whispered, and as
fast as they could they ran to the carriage shed, where the plane was
bumping the top of her wings on the high roof of the ceiling. In order
to get inside the boys climbed through the window on the opposite end,
and even then had to wade ankle deep in water. They lost no time in
getting ready, just enough to be sure that all was well and there was
plenty of gas in the tanks.

"All O. K.," Jim announced taking the pilot's seat.

"Right with you. I say, Old Man, we never can hear anything with the
engine going, and we can't see much through this pitch."

"I know it, and we don't dare stay on the water or we are likely to get
a tree in the works, but we've got to take a chance. That voice sounded
as if it's a little north, didn't you think so?"

"Yes, and sort of far away--muffled." They floated out into the cove,
all lights on, and Jim gasped as he saw that the wind had changed during
the night and the water on that side was dangerously full of wreckage.
He set his lips grimly, opened the throttle, raced out over great
rollers that teetered them even more than the day they returned from
Burlington in the storm. Her Highness lost no time in lifting herself
above the danger and soared up two hundred feet as her nose was brought
about and her course was set north by north west.

Anxiously Bob leaned over as far as his safety-strap would permit and
scanned the blackness beneath them hoping to catch sight of something
which would account for what they were seeking. Jim sent the plane in
wide circles in order to give Bob a chance to see as far as possible,
and although their lights helped some, they seemed to make the rest of
the night even darker. For ten minutes they rode in a fruitless search,
each time coming around a little further north.

"Jim, things I can make out are being carried fast toward the south.
Perhaps we're too far up," Bob said through the tube, and Jim nodded. He
changed the procedure, while the younger boy watched. Five minutes more
they circled, then Jim decided to climb. He tipped Her Highness' nose at
a sharp angle and zoomed two thousand feet just as fast as she could
scramble through the air, then he shut off the motor and let her glide.
The lake beneath them seemed a regular bedlam of sound, and as they
drifted forward at as gradual a descent as possible, they finally picked
up a frantic call.

"It's over there," Jim exclaimed and his buddy agreed. The plane was so
low now that they dared glide no longer, so Jim set the engine going
full blast as they made for the place.

"There's a light." Bob clutched his arm and pointed. Whoever had cried
out evidently had some dry matches or a cigarette lighter and was trying
to help them locate him. In a moment they were riding in close circles,
and then they made out what looked like the roof of a portable summer
house. They couldn't tell what was on top of it, but by that time the
morning light began to break slowly.

"What the heck can we do?"

"Tie the lariats together," Jim directed. That was but the work of a
moment, then Bob put a weight on one end of it and threw it over.

"If he can grab it, we can give him a tow." Jim nodded, so Bob leaned
over again. "Come a little lower." Her Highness obeyed, and with the
help of the speaking tube, they at last managed to get the plane in
proper position, and almost instantly there was a tug as the rope was
caught. It was evident that since they had come to him the stranded man
had been using his head, for he managed to keep from being dragged off
the roof, and even made the end of the lariat fast to a rod that stuck
out near the metal chimney.

"She's coming," Bob shouted--"Go easy or she'll be banged to bits."

Sturdily Her Highness taxied forward just as low as she could. Bob kept
his eyes on the house they were towing, and several times he caught his
breath sharply as a particularly heavy plank, a broken tree, or a
drowned animal came thumping into it. As it got lighter, the boy was
amazed to see that the roof held more than just the man, who had flung
himself on his face, his body sprawled out flat as he kept a woman and a
tiny baby from being jarred off.

"Oh, great guns," Bob whistled.

"Throw off the line," Jim directed. They were in the cove now, and
already Mr. Fenton and several men were on the shore, while two strong
young fellows were in the row boats, prepared to shove out and help. The
waves battered them all angrily, but Her Highness had to soar up out of
the way, and after a few minutes in the air where she waggled her wings
gaily over her victory, she was brought down again, and the Flying
Buddies hurried to learn about the man and his family.

"Are they all right, Aunt Belle?" Bob called as they went into the

"Yes. Here, you hold the little fellow a minute, while I stir this." She
promptly dumped the baby into her nephew's arms, and Jim grinned at his
brother's discomfort.

"Will it break, Mrs. Fenton?"

"Break--" She looked at Bob and laughed, "No, certainly not, if it can
come alive through such a night. They were driven to the roof hours ago
because the floors of those cottages are fastened to the ground and
can't get away--"

"I don't know how I can ever thank you fellows--" said the rescued man
as he came into the kitchen.

"Aw, please don't try. We thought we heard you call, so we went to see
what it was all about," Jim said quickly, but he had to take the hand
that was extended to him.

"If I had been alone I wouldn't have howled, but with my wife and baby I
had to do anything I could. We were asleep, and it seemed as if an
earth-quake gave us a broadside and we were full of water. We just
managed to get some blankets to keep the baby warm, and climb through
the window. We were on the veranda roof first, but that wasn't very
secure, so we got on the main part. It was good we moved, for the other
sections were battered off--"

"My land sakes alive--how awful. Here now, you take this in to your wife
and tell her to drink every bit of it like a good girl, and just as soon
as I get some more dry things on the baby, she can have him back. He is
a cunning little fellow--" Bob was no end relieved that his services as
a nurse were no longer required.

"Buster," he chuckled as he handed the baby to his aunt.

"My land sakes alive. How did you boys happen to get that man and his
folks? I never saw the like--never. I thought you were asleep by the
barn, and then, all of a sudden, some one said you were out down the
lake and you were coming in slow like. Fent got the glasses and saw
those folks--my land sakes alive, I never saw the like of it. How did
you happen to be out there?"

"We couldn't sleep, and we thought we heard someone call, so we went
out. Reckon we better get dressed, we haven't got much on," he added,
because several people were trooping into the kitchen and he didn't want
to be the center of an admiration meeting.

"Come down as soon as you're ready and have breakfast. You must be most
starved both of you." There is nothing like an early morning rescue
party to sharpen the appetite, so the boys did not take long to get
ready. Jim went down first and just as he came into the living room, the
telephone, which was a party line, gave a long persistent ring.

"That's forever ringing," Mrs. Fenton called to him. "Will you answer
it? I can't put down the baby for a minute."

"Glad to." Jim took down the receiver and heard the operator.

"Please do not try to use your telephone until further notice, unless
the call is _very_ important. The lines are congested. The Selectmen
have given orders that no one is to try to cross the bridges--either at
the north or south end of North Hero Island. Please tell people on the
road they cannot go any further." The girl repeated the same thing three
times to be sure that everybody got it, then there came a click as she
closed the connection. Austin gave the message to Mrs. Fenton, who
sighed heavily.

"My land sakes alive--there, there, you are almost ready, little fellow.
This is a nice baby! Now you can go to your mother." She hustled the
infant to his parents and then hustled back to serve her hungry
household. During the meal two serious-faced men came to the house.

"We heard that your nephews dragged in a family that might have been
drowned, Fent," one of them started.

"Yes they did," Mr. Fenton admitted and introduced the boys to the men,
who shook hands gravely.

"I've heard that there are some families stranded on the islands, and it
may be that some of the summer colonies have suffered just as that
family you brought in. We were wondering if you will help us get any
others, if there are any. We have several good strong power boats, but
we would waste a great deal of time trying to locate people and might
not find them all."

"If you will fly around and watch for signal fires or flags, then we
could send the boats directly and take them off," the other added.

"Of course we'll be mighty glad to help," Bob declared promptly.

"Thank you. Another thing, there may be some who haven't had much to eat
for a couple of days, not being able to use their boats. Could you drop
food to them?"

"Sure thing," Jim replied. "We'll take some weights along because we
don't usually carry anything like that. We just happened to have one
this morning or we might not have been able to give that fellow a tow."

"Thank you. We'll arrange to have boats and rafts at four points of the
island. If you find anyone, give the word to the nearest party. I'll
show you about where they are." He took a map from his pocket and
pointed to four places that would be used for stations. "You can come
down on the water to speak to the men we'll have there?"

"Yes, we'll manage."

"That will be good. We appreciate your help." Then he turned to Mrs.
Fenton. "My wife and some of the neighbors in the village are packing
boxes of food, sandwiches, coffee and milk. We'll send a truck--it ought
to be here in a quarter of an hour--and the boys can take it with them
and use their own judgment about dropping it."

"I can fix them some--"

"Judging by the number of people you have taken in I think that you are
doing your share, Mrs. Fenton. We won't ask you to do any more," the man
replied. "Now, I'll telephone to the boatmen--"

"They just told us not to use the phone," Jim explained.

"They will give me a connection," the man smiled. In a minute he was
giving information, directions and instructions, and finally the rescue
work was well organized. By the time the boys were ready to take off,
the truck appeared with boxes of food, and the chauffeur helped them
store it in the plane.

"We're lucky to have you fellows here," the man said, when finally the
task was accomplished.

"We're in luck to be here," Bob grinned. "My mother always said that I'd
like this place, and I do."

"Come along." Jim waved to the men, opened the throttle and Her Highness
tore across the cove, rose and started on her errand of mercy. She
seemed to appreciate the importance of the work before her, and never
did an airplane behave more beautifully. They went circling north on the
lake and were about to turn when Bob shouted! through the tube.

"There's a raft load, look at it!" Jim glanced in the direction his
step-brother pointed and saw the crude raft being whirled like a top and
it was a marvel that the thing held together. The boys saw two boys,
young fellows, some household effects, and a little girl. Austin glanced
at the map, picked out the nearest station, and they raced to it, coming
down where the water happened to be fairly smooth.

"There's a raft out there," Bob shouted. Instantly the engine of the
power boat gave a bellow almost as furious as the plane's, and off the
party scooted, cutting through the waves and sending a rolling sheet of
foam on either side of them. Her Highness raced back to be sure the
rescuers did not miss their goal, and in a few minutes the first job was
being done well.

"Not a bad stunt," Bob grinned and then the Flying Buddies started to
work again. They discovered families huddled on tiny bits of land that
had been cut off by the water, others on great rocks and a number on
floating buildings that threatened to fall to pieces any minute. Each
time they led the way for the power-boats and had the satisfaction of
knowing that all were saved. About noon the four power-boats were out,
besides several smaller motor-boats and the boys spied two more families
stranded helplessly, so they decided to drop food.

"I'll tell them the men will come for them," Bob announced. He proceeded
to write the message in the box and dropped it over. In that particular
group they counted ten people, so they dropped more boxes. Then on they
circled. The men of the party waved their thanks and an hour later, Her
Highness returned, escorting the boats. The work went on for hours until
finally one of the men at a station shouted,

"Mrs. Fenton says that you fellows must come and eat."

"We'll stay a while longer--"

"No, you mustn't. You show us this bunch, then go home and tank up. It's
the Selectmen's orders and you have to obey."

"All right," Jim agreed, then he looked at the dial. It was half past
one and he could hardly believe his eyes. So the orders were obeyed, and
Her Highness too had to be tanked up for her gas supply was dangerously
low. In the afternoon the boys went up again, and although they circled
miles they discovered only two more people who needed rescuing, then
Bob, who was piloting, had an idea.

"I say, Buddy, I'm going to hop down on Fisher's Island and find Corso."

"We saw them earlier and they were all right," answered Jim.

"I know, but they might not be by morning. Let's just make sure."

"Suits me," Jim acquiesced. Her Highness was brought about and was soon
circling over Fisher's Island, which was more than half submerged, but
it did not look as if anyone on it would be in any immediate danger.
Soon Bob picked out a landing spot on an open space where the ground was
high and fairly smooth. Presently the plane was on the ground, and the
boys began to look about. It did not take them long to locate the
foreign man, who came to meet them.

"Burnam left?" he questioned anxiously.

"He surely did. Went on to Canada, and he can't get back because both
bridges are closed until the flood goes down," Jim explained.

"It is good that he is gone, but we cannot get away," Corso said, and he
scowled thoughtfully. "It may not be many days before he discovers that
you tricked him, then he will come back. He is very determined."

"I guess it must be pretty bad with you if you feel that way," Bob put
in quickly. He couldn't help wondering why the man was afraid.

"It is much bad, Sirs."

"Tell you what, we'll take you across to New York. Will that help?" Jim
offered cordially.

"It would be much help. Come." He led the way through a strip of woods
and around a boulder, where the man stopped, gave a low whistle, waited
for a response, then they went on and in a minute they came to a well
sheltered spot where the trees grew high and thick and the cliff formed
a semi-circle protection with an overhanging top.

"Whew," whistled Bob in astonishment. Back from the opening stood the
mysterious boy, straight as a die, but instead of overalls and brown
shirt, he wore a long white garment of some very fine material, and over
that was a richly embroidered coat, brilliant with peacock-feather
trimming. On his head was a deep fringe arrangement and at his feet a
strong box. The lid was open and its contents made the brothers think of
some Arabian Night treasure.

"You signaled, my uncle!" He spoke in perfect English, and the man
answered, briefly in their own tongue, whatever that was. "It is well,"
the boy nodded. Then he turned toward Jim and about his lips was a faint
smile. "It was considered best that I do not permit it to be known that
I understand your language."

"Holy Hoofs, and we were being little helpfuls trying to teach you," Jim

"You have been most generous to us, also the Fentons."

"Well, we're glad to have been," Bob replied a bit weakly.

"My uncle knows men and I too recognize those who are trustworthy, even
though I am only twelve years old--"

"Only twelve. Why, you are as tall as I am."

"Today I am twelve. Because of your great kindness I shall impart to you
a little about the reason I am here, if you are interested--"

"I say, we've been busting to know ever since we first saw you, but you
needn't tell us a thing unless you want to," Jim assured him.

"You need bust no longer." Across the boy's face a smile flashed. "Let
us be seated. We shall be free from interruption." He spoke as if he
were some great personage giving an audience, but there was something
about his whole bearing that made the step-brothers have perfect faith
in him. They seated themselves on the ground close to him, while his
uncle stood on guard.

"Maybe you better dose this," Bob suggested. "We didn't see anyone else
on the island, but you never can tell. Is that what Burnam's after?"

"Burnam is after much more than this," replied the boy, and he dropped
the lid, shutting the contents from sight. "I was born in a far land.
Its name I shall keep. Five hundred years ago my people were great
rulers of a happy nation. It was ruthlessly invaded, conquered, and
great works wantonly destroyed. A few of my fathers escaped destruction,
they tried to get back their land but their efforts were fruitless.
Later, they united secretly and hid their vast treasure which the
conqueror could never find. They kept together generation after
generation, although few outsiders are aware that any of the pure blood
are alive." The boy paused, but his audience made no comment.

"In my conquered land there is a beautiful statue to one of my blood who
fought successfully and helped free the nation from the devastator's
yoke." A gleam of pride shone in the boy's eyes.

"Did they get it back?" Bob whispered.

"No, but they got rid of the--the yoke. In the generations the number of
men of my race has grown. It is now like a vast army, secretly governed
by wise men. Many are scattered in different countries, learning the
best of the white men's way of living, keeping the best of their own
knowledge of life. There are still parts of my country that are
unsettled, and one day we shall unite there. We shall be versed in the
greatest sciences, and never again can we be conquered or put to rout by
ignorance or brute force--we shall be the conquerors, and we shall rid
ourselves of the waste races as your uncle rids the garden of rank
worthless weeds that would choke and smother the good about them." There
was no malice in the boy's tone, no bravado in his manner, he spoke
impersonally and without bitterness. His eyes shone with a fine
intelligence, he made his statements quietly, and once his eyes wandered
to the horizon as if they beheld that future.

"Accurate records are being kept by every generation and brought
together. I have been taught the ancient arts of my fathers, I have
worked with the soil as my fathers did, and now that I am twelve years
old, I am ready to study the sciences, the languages, higher
mathematics--the classics." He broke off a moment, then went on. "I may
not live to see the establishment of my race, it may not come for
hundreds of years, but it will come when we are fully prepared to take
the reins and hold them firmly." His eyes rested first on Bob, then Jim.
"Whether it is years hence, or centuries, because of what you have done
for one of our princes, the men of your tribe, James Austin, and of
yours, Bob Caldwell, will be spared, even though they be inferior, they
will be given a chance. I have spoken, and my uncle has written it into
the records."

"Gosh," Bob gasped. "If they aren't any good, don't bother with them."
His face flushed suddenly, he didn't know why, but he felt that weeds of
all kinds should be destroyed.

"Now, before you take us to New York, I will give you each a token. Give
it to your son, and your son's son, and on, for one day it will find its
way back to my land." He opened the box, drew out two large green
stones. They were oblong in shape, some marks had been worked into them,
and into a groove in one side was a tiny many-colored tube of exquisite
enameling. The boy pressed an invisible spring and the tube opened
revealing a slip of parchment covered closely with fine writing.

"I say--" Jim started to protest, but the boy paid no attention to him.

"Keep these always, they are fine emeralds. Here are smaller pieces." He
picked up two rings. "Wear these and wherever you are seen by any of my
people you will be helped and protected." He handed the jewels to his
amazed companions, then went on, "Mr. Fenton has been losing his
turkeys. Watch the man who is taking care of them, watch him closely."

"Thundering rattlers, is he the thief?"

"He is a naturally dishonest man. Watch him closely and you will learn
what happened to the turkeys."

"Thanks a lot, old man--gee, Uncle Norman will be no end obliged to you,
and gosh, he is already, for that bog you drained is still dry--"

"It will remain dry--" the boy assured him.

"Maybe we'd better be starting," Jim suggested, "that is, if you are in
a hurry to get to New York."

"We shall be glad to hurry."

"I say," Jim put in, "You know, maybe I'm a nut, but if you people, I
mean you and your uncle, would kind of act like ordinary people, not
wear anything that looks a bit different, or act as if you are trying to
keep out of sight, you wouldn't attract attention--nobody would pay any
attention to you at all, except maybe in a little place like North Hero,
where everybody knows everybody else," he finished hurriedly. The boy
sat thoughtfully for a moment, then he smiled end held out his hand.

"Thank you, it is excellent advice."

"When you are by yourselves you can act naturally, I mean as you do
anyway, but you look as if you are different, you seem to know more--"

"Thank you, we will do that, and I hope we meet again, Jim Austin and
Bob Caldwell."

"If you come to Texas, look us up. This is where we live." He gave the
boy a card, with the address scrawled on the back.

"We will get ready," Corso interrupted.

"Well, I say, where does this Burnam come in?" Jim asked.

"He was employed to do some task for one of our people and he suspected
that somewhere great wealth must be stored. He saw me once in my
father's house. When his work was done, he was paid and dismissed, and
taken away, so that he could not find the place again, but he came upon
my uncle and myself on your western coast. He believes that I know the
secret and tried twice to kidnap me, but he has failed each time, and he
will fail again, for it is written in the forecasts that I shall live to
a great age and that my enemies shall perish. One day you found a box,
it held knotted strings. Long before writing, or signs, tribes made
their records by that method, I know the language of the knots in the
colored strings."

"Why, I've read of that, learned it in school, old language," Bob
exclaimed with enthusiasm.



"I say, what a pair of nuts we are. We don't know that boy's name." Jim,
who was in the passenger seat beside his step-brother, made the
announcement with disgust. Bob made a grimace.

"We do take first prize. Do you think that pair are batty?"

"Not as batty as some of the rest of us," Jim declared emphatically.

"That's what I think. I say, let's not do any talking about them. You
know, sometimes a little thing starts things and evidently this Burnam
bird isn't letting any grass grow under his feet."

"That's a first-rate idea." They had just left Corso and his nephew in
one of the small towns in the northern part of New York state, and the
couple had taken a train south. Now the boys were about ready to return
to North Hero.

"I'm telling the cock-eyed world that we are landing on the turkey farm
and somebody's going to talk turkey. It won't be us," Bob declared.

"Atta boy. You know, Buddy, we agreed with what that boy said just
because we've been suspicious of Hezzy all along, but we couldn't
convince your uncle nor any of the Selectmen on anything as thin as
that. We've got to get something on the fellow; something no one will be
able to think isn't real proof."

"That's right," Bob acknowledged. "It's getting kind of late. Suppose we
drop down there. If Hezzy's around we can get the lay of things, and
maybe find evidence enough so Uncle Norman can act on it. We'll have to
be mighty careful, or Burley will be suspicious."

"We might say we need a little gas, that our tanks are empty," Jim
suggested. "And ask about the dog, if he's getting over that sickness."

"Yes, that's the idea. I've been wondering--if Hezzy is getting away
with the turkeys, he wouldn't want a good watch dog around. I've got a
kind of hunch we'd better be ready to act with a snap."

"Suits me. Let her go." Bob opened the throttle and presently they were
in the air, each thinking soberly of what might be before them. As Jim
recalled the weird experiences of the afternoon and the interview with
the foreign boy, it all seemed mighty unreal, but he had to admit that
the emerald ring on his middle finger was not a dream, and the jewel in
his shirt pocket pressed against his chest was substantial enough. The
air was heavy with clouds that hung low, and the boy knew that another
storm was brewing. He hoped it wouldn't be a bad one, for the Vermonters
had already suffered terrific loss because of the late rains and the
flooding lake which was sweeping everything before it. Looking down he
could see the thrashing waves, and the whimsical idea came to him that
the lake was determined to go somewhere.

"A river has more fun," he grinned to himself. Bob's mind was fully
occupied with his job of piloting, but it did not take long to cross
Champlain. It was dark enough now so that homes were being lighted up.
The bright window squares began to look like jewels suspended on a
rapidly darkening background. In a little while night would be upon
them. As they approached Isle La Motte they were riding five thousand
feet up, and suddenly Jim noticed two other planes flash through the
clouds from the north. He wondered if it was their friend the mail
pilot, but the hour was not right, and besides there would not be two.
He touched Bob on the arm, and pointed.

"There's a couple of planes." Bob picked them out a moment later, then
both boys sat tense and astonished as they noticed that the flying
machines were circling above the eastern side of the turkey farm.
Through breaks in the mist the boys saw that the machines were both
large ones, big enough to carry considerable freight or several
passengers. Why they should be maneuvering through the clouds above Isle
La Motte was puzzling, so Bob, as he watched them, guided Her Highness
in a wide circle a thousand feet higher. He was confident their presence
would not be observed or heard as long as the other engines were racing.
Keeping the planes within their range of vision was difficult, and
several times they lost sight of them, but succeeded in picking them up
again. Jim had his eyes fast to the glasses, and suddenly he made out a
man standing upright on one of the wings. A second man jumped out of the
cock-pit and joined the first, then a third and a fourth got on to the
other side of the fuselage. It took an instant for the boy to guess what
they were going to do, then he shouted.

"They are going to jump!"

"Over the lake."

"The farm. I'm going after them." As soon as the words were out of his
mouth he was busy with the safety straps, and as he unbuckled himself he
noticed their lariats coiled about the hooks. Instinctively, but with no
idea for what he might use them, the young ranch boy reached for the
long plaited leather ropes. It was natural to have them in his hands,
and he hopped out of the cock-pit.

"I'll land over there and join you as fast as I can," Bob bellowed, and
although Jim could understand only one or two of the words, he guessed
the rest and nodded. He glanced down again and by that time counted five
figures dropping through the clouds, but instead of white silk
parachutes blossoming out above them, the huge umbrellas were some dark
color which was soon lost in the haze. Without waiting any longer, Jim
hopped over, while Bob maneuvered to keep out of his way, then the pilot
turned about and started for the nearest shore of the lake.

While dropping through the air toward the Fenton turkey farm, Jim's
brain was working like a trip hammer. His parachute was white and
therefore conspicuous. He did not want to land before the other jumpers
nor did he want to be too near them. As soon as he was clear of Her
Highness, he pulled the cord, and calling to his mind a detailed picture
of the property, he guided himself far enough to the north so that he
would be over the forest. He hoped that the others would be too occupied
in their own arrival to do much looking around. The parachute floated
him gently, and by spilling air carefully, he managed to keep from,
being carried from the course he wanted to follow. Sometimes the mist
was so thick that he couldn't see a thing in any direction, and then he
would be drifting through breaks light enough so that he could keep his
bearings. His drop was a thousand feet more than the men he was
interested in, and each one of them, he noticed, let himself go more
than half of the distance before pulling the cords which opened the

"Wow, there are more," the boy exclaimed and he counted ten tumblers.
"What in heck are they up to?" He couldn't answer the question and he
didn't try, but concentrated all his attention in observing as much as
possible. The first man landed on the smooth space which was familiar to
Jim, and he saw someone coming to meet the new arrival. The chap looked
amazingly like Hezzy, and the boy whistled. He saw the fellow free
himself from his trappings, then the pair scooted out of sight. By the
time Jim was nearly ready to land, he had seen the ten drop out of the
fog, and each one scooted away as quickly as possible. The boy glanced
beneath and saw he was coming to what looked like a grove of young
maples or willows, and he smiled with satisfaction. They were not very
tall and promised him a safe landing. In a moment more it was made, then
he too ducked out of the straps as fast as his fingers could unbuckle
them. Expertly he folded the "umbrella" and hung it where he could find
it again, then made his way stealthily toward the clearing. The fog was
rolling from the east but did not seem inclined to settle, and that
helped him a lot. At the edge of the woods, his lariat in hand, he stood
trying to pick out the spot on which the men had landed. At last he
discovered it, and he made another discovery. Just a few feet below
where he was standing was the edge of a long, narrow fine-wire enclosed
pen, such as were made for young turkeys on the other side of the farm.

"The mystery begins to clear," he muttered softly.

Stepping carefully so he would start not the slightest commotion he made
the way toward the pen, and then he saw there was a shelter over a large
section. The place was built of old boards and seemed to have been made
to appear as inconspicuous as possible. Listening tensely, Jim was sure
that he could hear the queer noise young turkeys make, but he didn't
dare to scrutinize more closely. He was determined to find where Hezzy
and the ten men were located. It occurred to him that they might be
already making their way to the old farm house, which was certainly big
enough to accommodate them all without crowding, but at the same time he
had a hunch that an investigation of his immediate surroundings would be
more to the point for the present.

Before going any further Jim listened for the planes, but not an engine
roared in the skies. He thought that the two had proceeded away from the
place as soon as their passengers discharged themselves and the boy
wondered if these men landing on Isle La Motte had anything to do with
the gang which Allen Ruhel and Bradshaw had raided. The officers had
said that a few got away, but of course they could not know how many.
These might be left-overs who had been compelled to keep in hiding until
they arranged for a safe get-away from Canada. The more he thought, the
more suppositions flashed through his brain. Suddenly he heard a muffled
step, as if made by a man walking cautiously in rubber boots and the boy
dodged quickly behind the biggest tree, then dropped to his stomach and
made a tiny opening in the underbrush so he could look through. For a
breathless minute he waited, then into his range of vision came two men,
one wearing an all-over aviation suit.

"One of the ten," Jim grinned to himself, "and friend Hezzy." They were
coming toward the pen, and the poultry man's face was black with scowls.

"I got them here all right," he muttered, "But how can I get them away?
Where in blazes is Pedro?"

"Now, keep your shirt on, can't you? You've got the birds, nobody knows
a thing about them, and we'll get them away as fast as we can. I don't
know where Pedro is, I told you, but I think he's in the States here
somewhere. One of the boys discovered that the Mounties, blast them, are
hanging around the ravine. We can't go in it, but we do know that some
of the gang went off with the Canuck. He's probably helping to keep them
under cover. You look after your end here--"

"Well, I've been looking after my end, but blast it all, how can I keep
the gang--ten new ones, under cover? The islands are half of them under
water. Know what that means?"

"Sure, they won't be bothering you," the air-man answered promptly.

"That's where you ain't got a grain of sense. There's probably a hundred
people got their homes washed from under them. Everybody will be making
room for them--and there isn't a house in Isle La Motte will take care
of so many. The Fenton's will offer it--if they haven't already fixed to
fill it up," Hezzy growled furiously.

"Whew, that's so, but they ain't likely to bring 'em across tonight,
that's sure. They can't use the bridges even to walk on, and no North
Hero man will bring a boat across until the lake isn't so rough, that's
a cinch. You sit tight and keep a watch so you can slip 'em out if
anyone shows up. This'll be a grand place to stay tonight, and in the
morning some of the planes will be back, then we can make a get-away,
part of us, before daylight. What do you want to do over here?"

"See that the water pans are filled," Hezzy replied sullenly.

"All right, go to it, I'll cross to the house and catch up with the
other fellows. Don't hang around too long--"

"I gotta see they're all right for the night or they'll be dying on me,"
Hezzy insisted. The pair separated, and Jim watched the strange man
strike off through the dusk, while the poultry man made his way further
along the turkey pen.

"Now," whispered Jim. He jumped to his feet as nimbly and quietly as a
cat, and tip-toed after the air-man. Half a dozen plans bobbed into the
boy's mind, but none seemed feasible. If he could only capture the pair
while they were separated he might accomplish something, but how, was
the question. He hesitated a moment as he thought of going back and
fastening Hezzy in the temporary turkey house, but that didn't seem good
because he was sure the man could break his way out. By that time the
stranger was almost across the clearing, and then the boy made a
decision. Swiftly he ran, being careful to make no noise, and as he drew
closer the lariats in his hand were being looped into shape. It was only
the work of a moment to coil one, then taking a quick jump forward, the
boy cast the loop. It swished low along the ground straight to its goal,
rose over the fellow's foot as he made a step, then jumping behind a
small tree, the boy jerked it taut and the chap went down on his face
with a hard thump.

"Hope he landed on a rock," Jim muttered as he hauled it expertly.

It was evident that the fellow had knocked the wind out of himself in
his fall, for he did not struggle, and in a second Jim was standing over
him, trussing him tightly like a chicken.

"He--grr--" Austin's handkerchief was stuffed into his mouth just in
time to prevent further explosives.

"Grr, yourself," Jim grinned pleasantly. At last assured that the fellow
was helpless, the boy rolled him to a tree, and fastened him to that so
he could not get away. "Now, ta-ta," he said softly, and taking a last
glance at the knots, he hurried back toward the pen where he hoped to
capture the unsuspecting Hezzy. He wished he had another rope, but he
hadn't, so he picked up a good stout stick and a couple of rocks. Thus
armed, he ran at top speed, then he stopped suddenly and gasped. He saw
Hezzy was not alone. There was another chap with him, and the other chap
was putting up a rattling good fight, although Burley was bound to be
the victor. Down the pair went and Jim recognized that pair of arms and
legs. It was Bob. In a moment he would be out.

"Howling pole cats," Jim yelled. Hezzy glanced over his shoulder toward
the new attacker, but the stick came down on his head with a sickening
thud and he stretched out beside his would be victim.

"Little Jimmy, my brother. Let me kiss you--"

"I'll knock your block off. How did you happen to get into the scrap?"

"Was coming valiantly to save you from destruction when I stumbled on
this pen." The boy got to his feet, then sat down on his enemy. "Started
to do a bit of rubbering when our esteemed friend arrived. He was very
rude, in fact be promised to send me to hell, I believe he called the

"Thoughtful of him. Well, I've got the big boss, I think, tied up back
there with our ropes. Better let me have your belt so we can arrange
Hezzy as safely." Belts and neckties were used to secure the man's hands
and feet, and into his mouth was stuffed a gag to keep him from getting
boisterous, then the step-brothers took a minute to discuss the

"Tell you what," Jim proposed finally. "You go back for Her Highness,
and land her down here. I'll strike a match so that you can drop close,
then we'll give these boys a ride to North Hero. The Selectmen can lodge
them in jail away from all danger, and somebody else can come later and
collect the gang in the house."

"Guess that's the brightest plan, Buddy," Bob agreed, and he set off to
get the plane. Half an hour later they dropped down in the cove, and as
one of the Selectmen was at the Fenton's, he heard the charge, and
arrested the pair without further ceremony.

"My land sakes alive, Bob, why, it just don't seem possible Hezzy--"

"Well, we have the goods on him, Aunt Belle, and let me tell you
something. There are hundreds of turkeys in that pen over there, guess
your loss won't be so bad after all. Gosh, I'm glad--"

"Well--er--gosh, Bob, I am too--now then, there goes the telephone. You
answer it, I'm so excited I can't talk straight." Bob went, and after
listening a moment he repeated.

"Yes, now, is this right? You have a telegram from Texas, that five
thousand dollars has been deposited in the Burlington bank for Mrs.
Fenton because my mother, that is, Mrs. Austin, read of the flood and
thought her sister could use it. Right?" A pause, "Thanks!" The boys
hung up and turned to his aunt who was leaning helplessly against the
door frame. "Get that, Aunt Belle!" She gave a little choking sob, and
big tears ran down her cheeks.

"Yes, Bob--I did--that's just like your mother--she wouldn't even take
the--time to find out if we needed it--b-but just sent it so we could
have it--"

"Of course," Jim laughed. "That's just like her, I know. She's bully."

"My land--why my land, you haven't had a bite of supper, you must be
starved." Then she flew about to get it ready and Bob turned on the

"Weather report. Fair and warm, tonight and tomorrow," he announced.

"Good news," Mr. Fenton remarked as he came into the room.

"We've got so much good news," his wife beamed. But before the boys got
a chance to eat the meal, the Selectmen came, three of them, and asked
to be taken across to Isle La Motte. They wanted to round up the men in
the old house before they could get away, so Jim took them over. There
wasn't even a fight, and it didn't take the officers long to learn that
the ten were men who had come across the border without authority, and
they were hand-cuffed, placed under guard, and held for deportation.

"We're much obliged, young man," one of the Selectmen smiled at the boy
and held out his hand. "You've done a lot for all of us and we hope that
you will stay with us as long as you can."

"Oh, thank you. If you don't need me any more, I'll fly back or Bob
won't leave me a smell of supper."

"Fly away. I think by morning the bridges will be safe so we can use
them, but if they are not, and you'll pay us a visit here, I'll be
further in your debt--yours and the plane's."

It didn't take long for Jim to get home, and he found that there was
still plenty to eat. When he had "tanked up" comfortably, he glanced at
the green emerald ring on his finger, then at his brother.

"Say, Buddy, suppose we'll ever be lucky enough to meet that kid again?"

"I have a big hunch we will," Bob declared with satisfaction.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Air Mystery of Isle La Motte" ***

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