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Title: Motor Matt's Air Ship - or, The Rival Inventors
Author: Matthews, Stanley R.
Language: English
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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.

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courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



  MOTOR STORIES

  THRILLING
  ADVENTURE

  MOTOR
  FICTION

  NO. 9
  APRIL 24, 1909

  FIVE
  CENTS

  MOTOR MATT'S
  AIR SHIP

  _OR_ THE RIVAL
  INVENTORS

  [Illustration: _Motor Matt, as he drove
  the air ship steadily
  against the wind, kept
  close watch of the
  captured aeronauts._]

  _Street & Smith
  Publishers
  New York_



MOTOR STORIES

THRILLING ADVENTURE MOTOR FICTION

_Issued Weekly. By subscription $2.50 per year. Entered according to
Act of Congress in the year 1909, in the Office of the Librarian of
Congress, Washington, D. C., by_ STREET & SMITH, _79-89 Seventh Avenue,
New York, N. Y._

  No. 9.      NEW YORK, April 24, 1909.      Price Five Cents.


MOTOR MATT'S AIR-SHIP;

OR,

The Rival Inventors.

By the author of "MOTOR MATT."



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I. CAPTURING AN AIR-SHIP.
  CHAPTER II. A QUEER "FIND."
  CHAPTER III. THE BALLOON HOUSE.
  CHAPTER IV. THE KETTLE CONTINUES TO BOIL.
  CHAPTER V. 2109 HOYNE STREET.
  CHAPTER VI. CARL INVESTIGATES.
  CHAPTER VII. JERROLD, BRADY'S RIVAL.
  CHAPTER VIII. JERROLD'S GRATITUDE.
  CHAPTER IX. ABOARD THE HAWK.
  CHAPTER X. WILLOUGHBY'S SWAMP.
  CHAPTER XI. A FOE IN THE AIR.
  CHAPTER XII. BRADY CHANGES HIS PLANS.
  CHAPTER XIII. INTO THE SWAMP.
  CHAPTER XIV. A DESPERATE CHANCE.
  CHAPTER XV. A DARING ESCAPE.
  CHAPTER XVI. THE END OF THE MID-AIR TRAIL.
  THE BIG CYPRESS.



CHARACTERS THAT APPEAR IN THIS STORY.


  =Matt King=, concerning whom there has always been a mystery--a lad
  of splendid athletic abilities, and never-failing nerve, who has won
  for himself, among the boys of the Western town, the popular name of
  "Mile-a-minute Matt."

  =Carl Pretzel=, a cheerful and rollicking German lad, who is led by a
  fortunate accident to hook up with Motor Matt in double harness.

  =Hamilton Jerrold=, an honest inventor who has devoted his life to
  aeronautics, and who has built a successful air-ship called the Eagle.

  =Hector Brady=, a rival inventor who has stolen his ideas from
  Hamilton Jerrold. His air-ship is called the Hawk and is used for
  criminal purposes. Brady's attempt to secure Motor Matt's services as
  driver of the Hawk brings about the undoing of the criminal gang.

  =Whipple, Needham, Grove, Harper and Pete=, members of the Brady's
  air-ship gang of thieves.

  =Helen Brady=, Hector Brady's daughter, who helps Motor Matt.



CHAPTER I.

CAPTURING AN AIR-SHIP.


"Py shiminy grickets! Vat do you t'ink oof dot! See dere vonce, Matt. A
palloon, or I vas a lopsder! Und vat a funny palloon it iss."

Motor Matt and his Dutch chum, Carl Pretzel, were sitting by a quiet
country roadside, in the shade of some trees. Drawn up near them was a
light touring-car.

The boys were several miles out of the city of Chicago, from which
place they had started about the middle of the forenoon, and they had
halted in that shady spot between Hammond and Hegewisch to eat the
lunch they had brought with them. Carl had just finished the last piece
of fried chicken when, happening to look skyward, he saw something
that brought him to his feet with a jump. As he called to his chum, he
pointed with the "drum-stick," at which he had been nibbling.

Matt's surprise was nearly as great as Carl's, and he likewise sprang
up and gazed at the air-ship, which was coming toward them from the
north and east, making smart headway against the wind.

"Great spark-plugs!" exclaimed Matt. "That's the first air-ship I ever
saw."

"Vat's der tifference bedween a palloon und a air-ship?" asked Carl.

"Well, you can navigate an air-ship with the wind or against it, while
a balloon is at the mercy of every current that blows. A round gas-bag
and a basket is a balloon, Carl, but when you add a gasolene-motor and
a propeller you have an air-ship."

"Dot's blain enough. Der air-ship iss sky-hootin' dis vay to peat four
oof a kindt. Say, it looks like a pig cigar. Vat a funny pitzness! Und
you nefer seen vone pefore, Matt?"

"I never saw one that would travel successfully. This one, though,
seems to be going in good shape."

"You haf seen palloons meppy?"

"More than I can count," said he. "I've been up in balloons a dozen
times. When I was in the Berkshire Hills they used to have races, and
start from Pittsfield. That's where I began making ascensions."

Carl dropped his wondering eyes to Matt for a moment.

"You vas der plamedest feller!" he exclaimed. "You haf tone more t'ings
as any feller I ever see, und you nefer say nodding ondil it shlips
oudt, like vat it toes now."

Motor Matt made no answer to this. Just then his attention was
completely absorbed by the air-craft.

As near as he could judge, the cigar-shaped gas-bag was more than a
hundred feet long. Beneath the bag was suspended a light framework.
Midway of the framework was an open space, containing a chair in which
sat the man who was handling the motor. Out behind the driver the
framework tapered to a point, and at the end of this rearmost point
was the whirling propeller. The glittering blades caught the sun in a
continuous sparkling reflection, which made the air-ship appear to be
trailed by a glow of fire.

Forward of the cockpit, or open space, was the motor. A rail ran around
the cockpit.

There were two men in the car--the one in the driver's seat and
another in front of him, leaning over the rail. This second man seemed
to be looking at the two boys, and to be waving his hand and giving
directions to the driver.

Along the side of the gas-bag Matt was able to read the name "Hawk,"
printed in large letters.

The Hawk was about a hundred feet above the surface of the earth.
A long rope depended from the car, and twenty or thirty feet of it
dragged along the ground as the car moved.

"Vat's der rope for, Matt?" inquired Carl.

"If that was an ordinary balloon," replied Matt, "we'd call the rope
a guide-rope. Usually the guide-rope helps to save gas and ballast.
When you want a balloon to go up, you know, you throw out sand; when
you want it to come down, you let out gas. That trailing rope acts as
ballast. When the gas expands, and the ship wants to rise, part of the
rope that trails is lifted from the ground and throws more weight on
the car; and when the gas contracts, and the car shows a tendency to
descend, more of the rope falls on the ground and takes just that much
weight off the car."

"Dot's as clear as mud!"

"I can't understand why they've got a drag on the air-ship," muttered
Matt. "I supposed the propeller and the steering-blades were enough to
send such a craft wherever it was wanted to go."

As the Hawk came nearer, Matt's trained eyes and ears convinced him
that the driver of the air-ship was a poor motorist. Evidently he did
not understand the engine he was handling. The air-ship zigzagged
erratically on its course, and the long bag ducked upward and downward
in a most hair-raising manner. On top of that, Matt could hear one of
the cylinders misfiring.

The Hawk's drag-rope was trailing along the roadway. First it was on
one side of the road, and then on the other, following the irregular
swaying and plunging of the car.

"Come on, Carl!" called Matt, turning and running for the automobile.
"If that rope strikes our car it may damage it. We've got to fend it
off."

"Dose air-ship fellers vas mighdy careless!" answered Carl, hurrying
after his chum. "Dot rope mighdt knock town fences, und preak vinders,
und do plendy more tamages."

"There isn't power enough at the other end of it to do much damage,"
Matt answered, posting himself at the rear of the automobile and
watching the advancing rope with sharp eyes.

By that time the Hawk was almost over the boys' heads. The rope, of
course, was dragging far out behind, and the trailing part of it bid
fair to pass the car well on the right.

"Hello, there!" shouted the man at the rail of the Hawk, leaning far
over and making a trumpet out of his hands.

He seemed to be excited, for some cause or other.

"Hello yourseluf, vonce!" called back the Dutch boy. "Keep a leedle off
mit your rope--ve don'd vand it to make some drouples for us."

"The air-ship's out of control," the man shouted. "We can't stop the
motor and the ship's running away! Grab the rope, hitch it to your
automobile and tow us back to South Chicago. We'll give you a hundred
dollars for your trouble. Be quick!"

"I like his nerf, I don't t'ink!" growled Carl. "He vants to run off
mit us und der pubble, und----"

"We can tow the air-ship, all right," cried Matt, "providing we can get
the rope fast to the automobile. We'll have to take a half hitch with
the trailing end of the rope around a tree, and bring the air-ship to a
stop."

Matt started for the rope. As he bent down to lay hold of it, the car
gave a lurch sideways and the rope was whisked out of his hands and was
thrown directly against Carl's feet.

Carl grabbed it. At the same moment the air-ship took an upward leap,
on account of the weight which Carl had taken off the car. This leap
flung Carl into the air. He turned a frog-like somersault, hands and
feet sprawled out, and came down with a thump, flat on his back.

"Whoosh!" he yelled, a good deal more startled than hurt, sitting up on
the grass and shaking his fist at the bobbing craft overhead, "you dit
dot on burpose! Vat's der madder mit you, anyvay? Vat for----"

Carl forgot his fancied grievance watching Motor Matt. The latter,
making another leap at the rope as it settled back again after
overturning Carl, succeeded in laying hold of it.

He had the rope by the end, so that when he picked it up none of the
weight was taken from the ship, and Carl's disastrous exploit was not
repeated.

"Wrap it around a tree!" yelled the man at the air-ship's rail; "take a
half-hitch around a tree!"

The man might just as well have saved his breath. That had been Motor
Matt's plan, all along, and even as the aeronaut was shouting his
instructions Matt was jumping for the nearest tree.

The young motorist had little time to make the rope fast. The whirling
propeller was driving the Hawk onward against the wind at a fair rate
of speed. Had there been no opposing wind, Matt would not have had time
enough for the work ahead of him.

"Come on, Carl!" he shouted.

The Dutch boy stopped watching and made haste to lend a hand.

Matt was already at the trunk of the tree, but the rope had traveled
onward so rapidly that he had less than a yard of it in his hands to
work with.

Throwing himself on the opposite side of the tree, Matt laid back on
the end of the rope. At that moment Carl reached his side, dropped near
him and likewise took a grip on the free end of the drag.

"It's der fairst time," panted Carl, "dot I efer heluped make some
captures mit an air-ship. Shinks! Look at dot, vonce!"

The driving propeller had forced the Hawk to the end of its leash. The
boys, with only a half wrap of the rope around the trunk, felt the
quick pull, but easily controlled it. The pull was steady, but, inch
by inch, they worked more and more of the rope around the trunk until
there was enough to make a knot.

"Dot's der dicket!" exulted Carl, scrambling erect. "Ve've got her tied
like a pird mit vone foot. Now how ve going to ged her hitched ondo der
car?"

"We'll have to find out what's the matter with the motor, up there,"
answered Matt, "and see if the power can't be shut off."

As he spoke, he got to his feet and walked down the road to a point
directly under the air-ship.



CHAPTER II.

A QUEER "FIND."


Both passengers in the air-ship were now leaning over the rail of the
suspended car.

"Hitch us on to your automobile," shouted the one who had been doing
the driving, "and tow us back to South Chicago."

The offhand way in which the man spoke proved that he was lacking on
the practicable side of his nature.

"That's a whole lot easier said than done," Matt called back. "It was
only by a happenchance that we got your drag-rope tied to the tree. If
you've got an anchor-rope up there, throw it down and we'll make it
fast to the car before we cast off the other."

"That's the only long rope we've got," answered the man.

"Well," went on Matt, "you ought to be able to see what sort of a job
we're up against. Your motor is pulling hard on the rope, and the
moment we take the rope from the tree it will be jerked out of our
hands. Don't you know how to run a gas-engine?"

"I know how to start a gas-engine," was the amazing response, "but I
don't know how to stop it."

"Py shiminy grickets!" whooped Carl, "you vas a nice pair to shtart off
mit a gasolene-air-ship. You vas in luck nod to make some landings on
Chupiter, Mars or to hit a comic."

Matt likewise thought it was an odd situation, but believed it would
be well to get the two helpless aeronauts down on terra firma before
asking for an explanation of their predicament.

"Do either of you know what the gasolene-tank is?" he asked.

The heads disappeared within the car for a moment, then one reappeared
over the railing.

"Yes, we've found that, all right," said the man.

"And the carburettor--do you know where to look for that?"

"Is that the thing that makes the spark?"

Carl let off a howl of derision.

"Ach, du lieber, vat a ignorance! Der carpuretter makes der gas, dot
makes der exblosions in der cylinter, dot moofs der biston dot makes
der bropellor go 'roundt. I know dot meinseluf, efen dough I vasn't so
pright like Modor Matt."

"There's a pipe leading from the gasolene-tank to the carburettor,"
continued Matt, "and there's a valve which should be worked by a lever.
Close that valve and you'll shut off the supply of gasolene. When you
do that, the motor will stop, and we can work down here to better
advantage."

The head disappeared again and the car rocked and swayed as the two men
scrambled around in it. Their ignorance, however, increased rather than
lessened the difficulty. The misfiring of the one cylinder ceased and
the motor took up its humming rhythm at an even faster speed. The fresh
impetus of the propeller put a harder pull on the rope, and the strain
bore sudden and unexpected results.

With a yell of dismay the driver of the machine leaned over the rail of
the car. He had thrown off his hat and his coat was unbuttoned.

"We're making it worse!" he cried. "I wish to thunder you could come up
here and----"

Just then the drag-rope, which could not have been properly fastened to
the car, let go and dropped earthward in sinuous coils.

The man doubled farther over the rail in a futile and foolish effort to
lay hold of it. Something fell from the pocket of his coat, fluttered
through the air and landed in the top of a tree.

Matt noted the flight of the fallen object only incidentally, for the
major part of his attention was taken up with the actions of the car.

The steering rudder had become elevated, and the air-ship started at
a tremendous clip toward the clouds. The two aeronauts could be seen
rushing around the car like mad. While the two boys watched, the rudder
was brought down to a level; but something else had gone wrong, for the
machine could not be maneuvered.

Swiftly the air-ship diminished to a mere speck in the southern sky,
and then vanished altogether.

Carl turned a blank look at Matt and gave a long whistle.

"Dot proofs, Matt," said he, "dot id don'd vas goot pitzness to monkey
mit t'ings you don'd know nodding aboudt. Oof dose fellers run into a
shooding shdar dere vill be some fine smash oops."

"Why they ever ventured up in the air-ship, knowing so little about how
to manage it, is a mystery."

Matt gave his head an ominous shake.

"Vat vill pecome oof dem?" queried Carl.

"If they can get the steering rudder to working, they can drive the
air-ship to the ground. Anyhow, the supply of gasolene will have to
give out, in time, and then they may be able to come down."

"Dere iss somet'ing crooked aboudt dose fellers. Oddervise, dey
vouldn't be vere dey are."

"Did you see something drop from the driver's pocket, Carl?"

"Nix. Iss dot vat habbened?"

"Yes. It landed in the top of that tree, over there."

"Meppy ve ged holt oof der t'ing und find oudt somet'ing aboudt who
dose fellers vas, und for vy dey vent off for a fly mitoudt knowing how
to manach der flyer?"

Matt proceeded to the foot of the tree in whose branches the fallen
object had alighted. Lifting his gaze upward, he peered sharply into
the foliage.

"I see it," he announced, pointing.

"Und me, too," said Carl. "It vas vite, und round, like a punch oof
bapers rolled oop. How ve ged him down, hey? Meppy ve t'row some
shticks ad him?"

Suiting his action to the word, Carl picked up clubs and stones and
hurled them upward in an endeavor to dislodge the object. Finding that
these efforts were unsuccessful, Matt threw off his coat and hat and
climbed the tree.

The roll of papers was lodged far out in the fork of a branch. Standing
on the branch, he jumped up and down on it and jarred the roll loose.
Carl caught it deftly as it fell.

"Hoop-a-la!" he yelled; "here she vas, Matt. Come down a leedle vile ve
look him ofer."

In a few moments Matt was again on the ground. The roll, which Carl
immediately handed to him, he found to contain a number of sheets
wrapped compactly in a piece of white paper.

"I guess we'll open it and not stand on any ceremony," said Matt.

"Sure!" exclaimed Carl. "For vy nod?"

"It's not exactly the right thing to do. They're not our papers and
we haven't any business tampering with documents that belong to some
one else. Under the circumstances, though, and considering that the
whole affair of the air-ship is a strange one, and that we may be able
to help the two men in some way through the information the roll may
contain, we'll have a look at it."

Going back to the place where they had eaten their lunch, the boys
sat down and Matt opened the little bundle. A dozen blue prints of
mechanical tracings were revealed. In the center of the roll was a
sealed envelope, bearing no address or writing of any sort.

"Dere's nodding aboudt der plue prints to helup us know somet'ing,"
said Carl. "Oben der enfellup, Matt."

"No," returned Matt, "we can't do that. That would be going a little
too far."

"Vell, ve got to do somet'ing oof ve findt oudt who dose fellers vas."

"We'll wait, and give them a chance to claim their property."

"How dey vas going to glaim it, hey? Dey didtn't dell us who dey vas,
und ve ditn't dell dem our names."

"We know the air-ship came from South Chicago. I don't believe there
are very many air-ships in that place, and if we inquire around a
little we ought to be able to find out who owns the Hawk."

"Righdt you vas! Somevay, Matt, you always know vat to do ven eferypody
else iss guessing. Shall ve ged indo der car und go pack to der pig
city py vay oof Sout' Chicago?"

"That's our cue. If we can discover who owns the Hawk we'll leave these
papers there for him."

Matt rolled up the envelope and the papers and stowed them safely away
in his pocket.

"I know dere vas some niggers in der vood-pile, all righdt," averred
Carl. "Two fellers vouldn't go off mit an air-ship dey don'd know how
to run oof eferyt'ing vas like it ought to be."

"There may be a whole lot of sense in what you say, Carl," replied
Matt, "and then, again, the explanation of the queer layout may be
extremely simple. Don't get to imagining things, old chap, but coil
up that rope and throw it into the car. We'll carry it back to South
Chicago and leave it at the same place we leave this roll of blue
prints."

While Carl was coiling up the rope, Matt gave his attention to the
automobile. When Carl arrived and threw the rope into the tonneau, Matt
was busy with the crank.

Presently they were in the car and headed back along the return course.

Hardly had they got under good headway, however, when a flurry of dust
showed in the road ahead of them. As the wind blew the dust aside, a
horse and buggy with two men broke into view.

In accordance with the rules of the road, Matt slowed down to make sure
the horse did not take fright at the automobile. The horse was going at
a run, and the men seemed to be excited.

The one who was driving drew rein as the rig came alongside the car.

"Say," shouted the men, "did you boys see an air-ship anywhere in this
vicinity?"

"Yes," answered Matt. "It was going south."

"Then we're on the right track?"

"So far as we know; but the air-ship was unmanageable and----"

The men in the buggy did not wait to hear any more. The driver began
plying his whip and the horse again leaped onward.

"Who were those two men?" yelled Matt, anxious for a little information.

"Thieves!" came the answer, as rig and passengers once more vanished in
a cloud of dust.



CHAPTER III.

THE BALLOON HOUSE.


"Yah!" shouted Carl. "Vat I dell you, Matt? I knew dere vas somet'ing
der madder! Dem two fellers vas t'ieves, und dey haf shtole der
air-ship. Py shinks, dey haf got demselufs indo drouple, und it vas
goot enough for dem. Vat you going to do?"

Matt had begun turning the machine in the road. When he had pointed it
the other way, he started off at a swift pace on the trail of the two
men in the buggy.

"We'll try and overhaul those two fellows," answered Matt, "and tell
them what we know. The information we've picked up may be valuable to
them."

"Dey don't vas endidled to it," averred Carl. "Vy ditn't dey shtop und
ask us somet'ings? Anyvay, how can dey ketch a flying machine mit a
horse und puggy? You mighdt as vell dry to ketch a sky rocket mit a
papy carriage."

"The Hawk will have to come down," said Matt, "and if those men are
anywhere near it when it hits the earth they'll be able to recover the
machine and catch the thieves."

"Oof der machine hits der eart' so hardt as vat I t'ink, it von't be
vort' nodding, nor der t'ieves neider."

"There's a chance that the rascals will come down safely. If those men
in the buggy had had their wits about them, they'd have hitched their
rig to the fence and have jumped into the automobile. We could have
hustled them over the ground four times as fast as they were going."

A few moments later the boys reached a place where the road branched.
The horse and buggy were not in sight along either road.

"Vich vay now?" queried Carl.

"It's all guesswork," answered Matt, "but it's always a pretty good
plan to keep to the right," and, with that, he drove the car along the
right-hand branch.

After five minutes of fast running, they had not overtaken the rig and
it was still not to be seen anywhere ahead. The boys knew they had
been traveling three or four times as fast as the two men were going,
and that, if they were on the right track, the men should have been
overtaken long before.

Disappointedly, Matt halted the car and turned it in the other
direction.

"No use, Carl," said he. "Those men must have taken the left-hand fork
instead of the right. They're too far away, now, for us to think of
finding them. We'll hike for South Chicago."

"Dot's der pest t'ing dot ve can do," returned Carl. "Ve'll find der
owner oof der Hawk und gif him der trag-rope und der bapers."

"We won't find him. He must have been one of those two men in the
buggy. Probably we can find where he lives, though, and turn the rope
and the papers over to some one who will give them to him."

"Meppy ve pedder take der shtuff to der bolice, hey? Oof der fellers
vas t'ieves, dot enfellup mighdt gif der bolice a line on dem."

"There's something in that, too," muttered Matt. "We'll try to find the
owner of the Hawk, though, before we call on the police."

An hour later, the boys came into South Chicago along a turnpike that
passed the rolling mills. A man on a motor-cycle was just coming out of
a fenced enclosure near one of the mills, and Matt halted him for the
purpose of making a few inquiries. From his looks, the man was of some
consequence in the steel rail plant, and probably was well-informed as
to affairs in South Chicago.

"Do you know of any one around here that has an air-ship?" asked Matt.

The question was something of a novelty, and the man laughed as he
rested one foot on the ground and balanced his motor-cycle upright.

"I suppose air-ships will be thicker'n hops, one of these days," said
he, "but just now they're about as seldom as hen's teeth. I understand
there are a couple of men here who are working at air-ships--one
of them came to the mills to see if he couldn't get some aluminum
castings. He's got a balloon house about a quarter of a mile down the
road, on the left. Drop in there and maybe you'll find the man--and the
ship, too."

Matt thanked the man and followed him slowly as he sputtered off into
town.

The balloon house, which was plainly visible from the road, was a long,
high shed, and occupied a solitary position in the midst of a marshy
field. The doors in one end of the shed, arranged in a series and
reaching from ground to roof peak, were open.

Leaving the automobile at the roadside, the boys climbed a fence and
made their way across the flat ground to the big house. On reaching the
opened doors, one glance showed them that there was no air-ship in the
shed.

On the earth floor, along one side of the great room, were two or
three work benches and a litter of wood and metal scraps. There was
also, in the farther end of the chamber, a number of small tanks,
presumably used for the manufacture of hydrogen gas. As the boys stood
in the doorway, two brawny men showed themselves from behind these
tanks. They wore greasy overclothes and their sleeves were rolled up.

"Get out of here!" yelled one of the men. "We don't allow any reporters
around this shebang."

"We're not reporters," answered Matt, standing his ground. "Do you keep
an air-ship here?"

"Well, that's what this big shed is for."

The two men came closer to the boys, one of them filling and lighting a
cob pipe as he approached.

"Is the name of it the 'Hawk?'" went on Matt.

"Right again," said the man who had been doing the talking.

His eyes were like gimlets, and bored their way into Matt through
narrow slits.

"Who's the owner of the Hawk?" asked Matt.

"I'm the owner, and my name's Hector Brady. If Jerrold has sent you
here----"

"I don't know any one by the name of Jerrold. Who is he, and why should
he send me here?"

The sharp little eyes continued to study Matt.

"Before I say anything more," answered Brady, "you'd better tell me a
little about yourself."

"I don't know as that's necessary, or----"

"You'd know how necessary it is if you were inventing machines and
trying to keep your appliances a secret. I'm not the only man in South
Chicago that's perfecting an air-ship. A fellow named Jerrold has cut
into the same game, and he has some one nosing around here a good share
of the time, trying to get wise to something. If Jerrold has sent you
here----"

"He hasn't," broke in Matt. "I don't know Jerrold from Adam."

"What's your name?"

"King, Matt King."

Brady gave a jump.

"You don't mean to say you're the young Western phenomenon the
Lestrange people have brought to Chicago to run in that five-day
automobile race that's turned on at the Coliseum to-morrow?"

"I'm one of their racers," answered Matt. "They have four more in the
race besides me."

"Well, by thunder!" Brady stood off and regarded Matt as though he was
a natural curiosity. "Why, you're no more than a kid! They had your
picture in the paper, after that Kansas race, but you're a heap younger
than I thought. I guess you've forgotten more about gasolene-motors
than a whole lot of people ever knew."

"Oh, it isn't so bad as that. I came here to do you a good turn, Mr.
Brady, and I can't see the sense of raking up my past history. Your
air-ship has been stolen, hasn't it?"

"Stolen?" Brady gave another startled jump. "Not that anybody knows of.
Why? What put that in your head?"

Matt was "stumped." He looked blankly at Carl and found that Carl had
turned an equally blank look at him.

"Where is the Hawk now?" queried Matt.

"She went out on a trial spin with three men in the car. Expect her
back any moment."

There was a shifty look in Brady's face, and he spoke in a fashion that
aroused Matt's suspicions.

"Then the Hawk wasn't stolen and you didn't send two men with a horse
and buggy to look for her?" queried Matt. "We saw the air-ship, but
there were only a couple of men in the car and the machine was out of
control. We tried to stop the craft by means of the drag-rope, but the
rope broke loose and the Hawk got away. One of the men on board dropped
a roll of papers out of his coat-pocket and we picked it up."

Brady looked at the other man. The glances they exchanged were
significant, and both swore softly.

"Here's a purty kettle o' fish!" growled the fellow with the pipe.
"What dy'ye s'pose has happened, Brady?"

Brady muttered something unintelligible, and whirled to Matt with a
scowl.

"That roll of papers belongs to me," said he. "Just pass 'em over,
King."

"I don't know whether I ought to give them to you, Mr. Brady, or to the
police," answered Matt, making no move to take the roll from his pocket.

"Police!" exclaimed Brady. "What the blazes are you talking about? The
fellow on that car was working for me, and the papers belong to me."

"Then you ought to be able to identify the roll," proceeded Matt,
coolly. "What did it contain, Mr. Brady?"

"Just papers."

"Typewritten-papers?"

"Well, yes, some of them were typewritten."

"How were they tied up? In a piece of yellow paper?"

"That's it. Hand 'em over. It's queer they got lost out of the car in
that way, but mighty lucky you picked 'em up."

"I guess you're thinking of the wrong roll," said Matt, coolly. "The
one you've described isn't the one we found."

"Whether the description is right or wrong, the papers are mine, and
I'll have 'em!"

Brady, in sudden temper, hurled himself at Matt. The other man, taking
his cue from Brady, jumped for Carl and grabbed him by the arm.

"Hoop-e-la!" tuned up Carl. "Be jeerful, eferypody! Here's somet-ing
vat ve ditn't oxbect!" And, with that, the Dutch boy began struggling
and using his fists.



CHAPTER IV.

THE KETTLE CONTINUES TO BOIL.


Both Matt and Carl were well skilled in the art of self-defense. Matt,
perhaps, was a shade more adept in the use of his fists. Neither of the
lads, however, had been looking for violence, and the sudden attack of
Brady and the other man had taken them by surprise.

The two men had plenty of muscle, and Brady was desperately determined
to secure the roll of papers. The very fact that he was using force to
accomplish his designs proved that he was not entitled to the papers.
For that reason, Matt was determined to keep them away from him at all
costs.

"Hold the Dutchman, Pete!" puffed Brady, hanging to the collar of
Matt's leather coat and trying to get one hand into the inside pocket.

"Quiet, Dutchy," threatened Pete, as he and Carl swung back and forth
across the big shed. "I'll strangle ye if ye ain't peaceable. Ye ain't
got no sense, roughin' things up like--wow!"

At that instant, Carl landed a telling blow on the point of Pete's
chin. A bushel of shooting-stars must have danced in front of Pete's
eyes, for the jolt hurled him backward and caused him to claw the air
in an attempt to keep his balance. He was not more than an instant
getting the whip-hand of himself, and when he came out of his brief
daze he was as mad as a hornet.

"I'll kill ye for that!" he yelled, and picked up a heavy hammer that
lay on the floor.

Pete was between Carl and the open end of the shed; he was likewise
between Carl and Matt and Brady. The struggle had carried Pete and the
Dutch boy down toward the middle of the balloon house.

Matt, out of the tails of his eyes, saw the dangerous position in
which Pete's temper was placing Carl. The young motorist had been
successfully fending off the attempt of Brady to get into his coat
pocket; now, thinking Carl might need him, he undertook more aggressive
measures.

An empty box, which had evidently been used as a seat, stood just
within the big door. With a sudden lurch, Matt heaved himself against
Brady and knocked him backward over the box.

As Brady felt himself falling, the instinct to save himself caused him
to let go of Matt. The instant the young motorist found himself with
the free use of his fists, he let drive at Brady and still further
helped him over the box.

With a roar of anger, Brady doubled up on the floor. Matt whirled and
darted for Pete, reaching that scoundrel just in time to catch the arm
that was whirling the heavy hammer.

The hammer was wrenched away, and Matt cast it against the wall of the
balloon house.

"Cut for it, Carl!" cried Matt. "Run for the road!"

"You bed my life!" wheezed Carl. "Dis blace don'd vas gedding fery
comfordable."

Brady was picking himself up from the floor as the boys rushed past
with Pete in hot pursuit.

"Get those papers!" yelled Brady.

"I'll git that Dutch kid if it costs me my life!" whooped Pete.

Brady rushed after Pete, and there was a chase across the marshy meadow
toward the road.

Carl was chunky of build and not nearly so good in a sprint as was
Matt. Matt was in the lead on the rush from the balloon house, but,
anticipating that Carl might have further trouble with Pete, he
slackened his pace.

It was well that he did so. Pete was steadily gaining on Carl and would
undoubtedly have overtaken him had Matt not executed a quick move with
an empty salt barrel that lay in the line of flight.

At the right moment, Matt rolled the salt barrel in front of the
enraged Pete. Pete's shins slammed against it, then he dropped on it
and plowed up the mucky soil with the top of his head.

So far as the set-to was concerned, it was settled right there, Brady
being so far in the rear that the boys were able to clear the fence and
get into the automobile before he could come anywhere near them. As a
matter of fact, Brady gave up the fight as soon as he had witnessed
Pete's mishap with the barrel.

As the two chums glided away toward the more thickly settled part
of South Chicago, they could look back and see Brady assisting the
disgruntled Pete to an erect position. The barrel had been smashed, and
Brady was scraping the mud off Pete with one of the staves.

"How you like dot, hey?" gloried Carl, standing up in the automobile
and shaking his fist. "You vill know pedder der next time dan to make
some foolishness mit Modor Matt und his bard. Yah, yah, yah!"

Carl wanted to be as tantalizing as he could, but the automobile was
getting too far away. Sinking down in the seat beside Matt, the Dutch
boy chuckled blithely.

"Dis has peen a pooty fine leedle trip, Matt," he observed, "und has
peen full oop mit oxcidement oof a nofel kindt, yah, so helup me. Dot's
vat I like. I'll bed my life dose fellers t'ink dey vas fell on mit a
brick house. Vat's der madder mit Prady, anyvays?"

"There's something queer about that air-ship affair," answered Matt,
thoughtfully. "The two men who rode past us in that buggy said the
pair in the car were thieves, but Brady didn't know anything about the
Hawk's being stolen. Brady said, too, that there ought to have been
three men in the car instead of two. The one who was missing may have
been the driver. That would account for the poor work the other two
were making with the engine."

"Ve can make some guesses," said Carl, shaking his head, "aber ve don'd
know nodding. Dot roll oof bapers don'd pelong to Prady. Vell, oof
dot's der gase, whose bapers vas dey?"

"That's a conundrum."

"Vill you dake dem py der bolice?"

"I've been thinking of that, and I believe I'll talk with Mr. Harkrider
before I do anything more. He'll tell us just what to do, and I'm sure
his advice will be good. You see, Carl, we're not entitled to the
papers any more than Brady is, when you come to figure the thing down
to a fine point. If the fellow who lost them out of the car turned up
and claimed them, we'd have to give them to him."

Mr. Harkrider was superintendent for the Lestrange Manufacturing
Company, the Eastern representatives of the Jarrot Automobile Company
of St. Louis. Following the Borden cup race, in Kansas, Matt had
entered the services of the Jarrot people, and they had sent him to
Chicago to take part in the five-day race at the Coliseum. While
waiting for the race to start, Matt and Carl had had the use of any
machine they wanted in the Lestrange garage, so they had put in their
time riding around the city and out into the suburbs. That is how they
happened to be on the road beyond South Chicago at the time the Hawk
was running away with the two aeronauts.

Unusual experiences always seemed to gravitate toward Matt, and this
air-ship affair was one of the most novel that had ever come his way.
What it was leading up to, he did not know, but it was evident there
was a whole lot more to the matter than appeared on the surface.

After a quick and uneventful run into Chicago, Matt drove the
automobile into the Lestrange garage and asked for Mr. Harkrider. To
his disappointment, Mr. Harkrider had left for the day and would not
return to the garage until the following morning.

"Well," said Matt, as he and Carl left the garage and proceeded toward
their boarding house, "I guess the delay won't make much difference.
I'll be busy with the race to-morrow, but you can take the papers,
Carl, and do with them whatever Mr. Harkrider advises."

It was nearly supper time, and after the boys had had a wash, and a
good meal, they went up to their room.

Close to eight o'clock, just as they were getting ready for bed, a rap
fell on the door. Matt answered the summons and found a boy with a
telegram.

The young motorist had been receiving a great many telegrams, since his
Kansas victory, and supposed the message must be from some motor-car
manufacturer who wanted to secure his services.

But he was destined to a surprise.

The telegram had been sent to the Lestrange garage, and by the foreman
there forwarded to the boarding place.

  "MATT KING, Care Lestrange Company, Chicago:

  "Come immediately to twenty-one-naught-nine Hoyne Street, South
  Chicago. Important matter relative to runaway air-ship. I will pay
  your expenses.

                                               "HAMILTON JERROLD."

"More aboudt dot air-ship pitzness," muttered Carl. "Who vas dot
Jerrold feller?"

"He must be the man that Brady told us about," said Matt. "Jerrold
seems to be a rival of Brady's, in this air-ship matter, and the
message looks like a good clue. It won't do any harm to follow it up,
anyhow."

"Dere iss somet'ing about dot vat I don'd like," demurred Carl. "I got
some hunches dere iss underhandt vork afoot."

"I know there's underhand work going on," said Matt, "but we've been
rung in on the deal and have got to see it through. I'm curious to
learn more about the affair."

"Meppy dot same curiosidy vill make you some drouples," suggested Carl.
"You can't haf dot, ven der racing iss on do-morrow."

"The Jarrot people have several good men in the five-day race, so it
won't make much difference if I'm not one of the drivers. Anyhow, I
don't intend to be all day in South Chicago."

"It don'd look righdt for you to go pack dere alone," grumbled Carl. "I
vouldn't be easy a minid."

"I am not going alone," laughed Matt. "You're going along, Carl."

The Dutch boy brightened at once and had no more objections to offer.

"Ach, dot's tifferent! Ve vill shdart ad vonce. How ve go? On a pubble?"

"No, we'll take a railroad train. I don't want to go fooling with a car
at this time of night."

"Is dere a train ve can ketch?"

"Lots of them. South Chicago is a suburb, and we can leave here every
half hour. We ought to be back by midnight."

Without debating the matter further, the boys started forthwith.



CHAPTER V.

2109 HOYNE STREET.


Hoyne Street was easily found. A number of blast furnaces stood so near
the house the two chums were looking for that the flames from their
tall chimneys lighted up the surroundings so brilliantly that they
were able to read the number over the door.

The house was a two-story frame structure. The gas and smoke from the
neighboring iron mills had shriveled and scorched everything in that
part of the town. Even by night, and under the glow of the furnaces,
Hoyne Street had a dismal and dreary appearance.

No. 2109 was set well back from the sidewalk. Two branching wings, in
front, made the house look like a deserted manufacturing plant. This
impression was heightened by several broken windows.

There were no lights in the windows other than the reflected glare from
the high chimneys.

"Whoosh!" muttered Carl, as he and Matt came close to the front of the
house and read the number. "Dot's der blace, Matt, aber it don'd look
pooty goot to me. Der feller vat lifs dere don'd got enough money,
I bed you, to pay for sending dot delegram. Der hen oof drouple iss
aboudt to hatch somet'ing."

"It may be," answered Matt, who likewise had a queer premonition of
trouble, "but we've come this far and I'm going to see the thing
through. If anything goes wrong in that house it will be on account of
that roll of blue prints. I'll leave the roll with you, Carl, and you
can stay outside. I won't be in the house more than fifteen minutes at
most."

"Vell, you look a leedle oudt, Matt, dot's all. Oof somet'ing goes
wrong mit you, led off a yell und I vill come gallywhooping."

"I don't think anything will go wrong with me if I haven't those papers
in my pocket."

Carl shivered.

"Chee, but der leedle fires on der chimneys iss prighdt. Somet'ing
aboudt dis blace gifs me a creepiness oof der skin. Be jeerful, be
jeerful! Don'd shday in dere longer as den minids, Matt, oder I vas
likely to t'row fits."

"I'll come out as soon as I can, Carl," answered Matt. "Don't fret. I'm
able to take care of myself in a pinch."

"Oof you see der pinch fairst, yah, I bed you! Aber oof der pinch come
ven you don'd vas looking, den vat?"

Matt laughed as he turned away, climbed a short flight of steps and
drummed on the front door. He had to rap three or four times before his
summons was answered.

A light showed itself through a fan-shaped transom over the door, and a
hand could be heard fumbling with a rusty bolt. In a minute or so the
door was drawn open and a girl stood revealed. She carried a lamp with
a smoked chimney, and one of her slender hands protected the flame from
the draft.

She was eighteen or nineteen years old, and, in spite of her coarse
calico gown, she was extremely pretty. Her prettiness, however, was
not what impressed Matt. The first thing he noticed was that the hand
shielding the lamp was trembling. Lifting his eyes to the girl's face,
he observed that she wore a frightened look.

"Does Mr. Jerrold live here?" Matt asked.

The girl stared at him; her lips moved, but no sound came through them.
Matt repeated the question.

"Y-y-yes," faltered the girl.

"My name's King," answered Matt. "Mr. Jerrold sent me a telegram and
asked me to come here to-night."

The girl leaned forward eagerly as though she would say something.
Before she could speak, if she had intended to, a sound as of some one
moving in the darkness behind her, caused her to draw back.

"Please come in," she said breathlessly.

Matt entered the hall. The girl closed the door behind him and then,
with the lamp shaking in her hand, led him into a room off the hall.

The room was evidently a parlor, although its furniture was meager and
shabby.

"Please sit down," said the girl, placing the lamp on a table. "Mr.
B--Mr. Jerrold will be here in a few moments. Would you like to read
while you're waiting?"

Matt started to decline, but the girl had already picked up a book from
the table, opened it and was handing it to him.

He looked at her in astonishment. From her frightened face his eyes
fell to the book that was quivering in her hand. There was an appeal in
her manner which caused him to take the book.

"Thank you," said he.

The book was opened at the fly leaf. On the leaf was written the
following:

  "You are trapped. I would have warned you, if I could, but he would
  have killed me. Now you are in the house, you can't get away. Do
  whatever you are told to do and all will be well. Lay the book back
  on the table, and don't let any one know what you have read here."

Matt was astounded. Trapped! And he had walked into the trap with his
eyes wide open!

Who was the girl and why had she run the risk to warn him? And what
good was her warning to do if he did not take advantage of it and make
his escape?

  "Now you are in the house, you can't get away."

He read those words again, and after he had read them he looked about
the room curiously. There were two windows in the room and they were
screened with thick curtains. Matt, however, could see no one. If the
trap had been sprung where were the ones who had sprung it?

He realized that if he made an attempt to get out of the house now,
those who had entrapped him would immediately conclude that the girl
had given him a warning. Thus he would not only fail to get away, but
would bring punishment upon the girl for her attempt to help him.

  "Do whatever you are told to do and all will be well."

He read that over again and made up his mind that he would follow the
advice. He laid the book back on the table, and, just at that moment,
the girl re-entered the room.

"I have read that book," said he.

"Here's a newspaper," said she.

As she held the paper in front of him she pointed to an article,
evidently intending that he should read it.

The girl was a mystery to Matt. From her manner there was no doubt
about her being anxious to do whatever she could to shield him.

Leaving the paper in his hands, she walked over to the table, opened
the book and deftly extracted the fly leaf. Then she vanished from the
room once more.

Matt drew his chair closer to the table so that he could get the full
benefit of the dim light.

The first thing he noticed was that the paper was a week old. It was a
Chicago daily. The column to which the girl had called his attention
was headed, "Burglaries Continue! Astonishing Series of Robberies in
South Chicago are Still Kept Up! Thieves Make Off With Loot and Leave
Not a Clue Behind! Police Authorities Baffled! Latest Victims Hartz &
Greer, Jewelers!"

Here followed an account dealing with a number of mysterious
burglaries, but Matt, because of the danger in which he found himself,
did not give the article the attention he would otherwise have done.

He did wonder, however, why it was that the girl had pointed out the
article to him. While he was wondering, a step sounded in the hall and
a form showed itself in the hall door.

The man was Brady!

Matt sprang up. Brady came into the room with an easy air and gave vent
to a short laugh.

He was quite a different looking man when out of his greasy
overclothes, but there was no doubting his identity. Matt's fist had
left a bruise on the side of Brady's face, and the spot was covered
with a square of court-plaster.

"Surprised?" queried Brady, dropping into a chair.

Before seating himself he was careful to draw the chair in front of the
hall door.

"Were you the one who sent me that telegram?" asked Matt.

"Guilty!" was the chuckling response. "You were expecting to meet
Jerrold, eh? I was a little in doubt as to whether you'd bite at the
bait, but took a chance. You're a mighty accommodating young fellow,
King. Why, you came all the way out here, at this time of night, just
to give Jerrold those papers! Didn't it strike you as being a little
bit queer that Jerrold should have asked you to come and see him when
it was his business to go and see you? And then, again, how did you
think Jerrold got hold of your name and address? Oh, well, you've a lot
to learn yet, my lad."

"I'm learning you pretty fast, Brady," said Matt. "You have fooled me,
but you've gained nothing by it."

"I think I have," was the other's cool reply.

"You'll not get that bundle of papers."

"No? Haven't you got them with you?"

"I left them where they'd be safe."

"Then you suspected there was something a little off-color about that
telegram?"

"Yes."

"Plucky boy! Nevertheless, you dropped into my trap, and that's the
main thing. Those papers cost me a good deal of scheming, and if you
were really thoughtful enough to leave them in a safe place, I'm mighty
sorry."

"You can search me," said Matt, "if you're not willing to take my word."

"I'll search you quick enough."

"Then hurry up; I want to get away from here."

"Those papers are not the whole of it," went on Brady. "I want to make
you a proposition, King. I need a motorist for the Hawk, and I think
you'd about fill the bill. How would five hundred a month strike you?"

"Five thousand a month wouldn't strike me. In the first place, Mr.
Brady, I don't like your methods and wouldn't work for you at any
price; and, in the next place, I am already in the employ of the
Lestrange people."

"You'll work for me all right whether you like my methods or not."
There was an ugly look in Brady's eyes and an ugly note in his voice.
"You're just the sort of youngster I need, and now that I've got a grip
on you I don't intend to let you get away."

"It takes two to make that sort of a bargain!"

Matt had edged around toward one of the windows with the intention of
making a break through the door.

Brady got up.

"What are you waiting for, Pete?" he called.

Matt turned a quick gaze about him, wondering from which direction Pete
was to appear. Then, quick as a lightning flash, the curtain behind him
gave way and fell in smothering folds over his head and shoulders. Two
brawny arms encircled him like the jaws of a vise.

He fought with all his strength, and tried to yell to Carl. But one
effort was as ineffectual as the other.

Pete and Brady had him between them, and he was utterly powerless.



CHAPTER VI.

CARL INVESTIGATES.


Carl hated a "waiting" game. If there was anything going on, he liked
to be right in the midst of it. On top of all this, he was vaguely
suspicious of everything connected with that telegram.

When Matt went up and knocked on the door of the house, Carl was hoping
the summons would not be answered; but when the door opened, and Matt
disappeared inside the house, Carl's real worries began.

Pacing back and forth on the walk, the Dutch boy impatiently counted
the seconds and checked off the minutes. No sound came from the
building, and, after the light had vanished from the hall, not a ray
was to be seen at any of the windows.

"I t'ink, py shiminy," muttered Carl to himself, "dot der fifdeen
minids vas oop. Vell, I count off fife more schust for goot measure.
After dot, oof Matt don'd come, I vill make some infestigations."

Owing to the lateness of the hour, and the obscure section of the town
through which that part of Hoyne Street ran, no one passed the front of
the house. Carl's solitary vigil was not relieved by the sight of any
chance traveler.

Mentally he checked off another five minutes. During the counting
he fancied he heard a noise in the house, but it was so muffled and
indistinct he could not be sure. Matt did not show himself, and Carl
started his investigations.

His first move was to run up the steps and pound on the door. Although
he made enough noise to wake the entire neighborhood, he couldn't
bring anybody to the entrance. He tried the knob, but found the door
fastened. Then he hurled his weight against the door in the hope of
breaking it in. The door must have been in better repair than the rest
of the house, for it withstood his attack with scarcely a shiver.

Carl's temper was always pretty close to the surface, and his failure
to get into the house caused him to forget his forebodings on Matt's
account and to get good and mad on his own.

"I vill find Matt oof I haf to preak down a vinder!" fumed Carl,
jumping down from the steps and starting to run around the side of the
house.

"Hello, there!" shouted a voice most unexpectedly from the sidewalk.
"What're you up to, hey?"

Carl halted and looked around. In the glow of the furnace fires he saw
a man standing in front of the house.

"Vat iss it your pitzness?" he snapped. "I'm going to ged indo dot
blace oof I haf to preak holes in it!"

"I'll make it my business, quick enough!" called the other. "Come here,
and be quick about it."

There was authority in the voice, and the command was accompanied by a
backward sweep of the hand under a long coat. When the hand reappeared,
there was a glimmering object clutched in the fingers. The light also
glimmered on two rows of buttons on the speaker's coat.

"Ach, du lieber!" muttered Carl. "You vas an officer, hey?"

"Come here, quick!" ordered the man. "Tell me where that balloon came
from. It seemed to rise from around in this vicinity somewhere."

By that time, Carl had reached the walk. The officer pointed upward,
and Carl's eyes, following the finger, saw an air-ship clearly outlined
against the glow of the blazing chimneys. The cigar-shaped gas-bag and
the pendent car stood out plainly. The front end of the air-ship was
pointed upward, and it was vanishing swiftly into the night.

"Himmelblitzen!" gasped Carl. "Dot vas der Hawk! It must be der Hawk!"

"Hawk, eh?" returned the officer. "What do you know about it? The thing
seemed to rise up in the air from around here."

"Iss dot so?" cried Carl, excitedly. "Vell, I ditn't see him, und dot's
righdt. I vas drying so hardt as anyt'ing to ged indo der house."

"I heard you tryin' to break in the door. Don't you know it's against
the law to do that?"

"I don'd care for der law! My bard vent indo dot house und left me to
vait. Ven I vait plendy long enough for him und he don'd come, den I
make some infestigations. No vone answers my knock on der door, und for
vy iss dot?"

"You say a friend of yours is in the house?"

"Sure! Don'd I vas delling you?"

"When did he go in?"

"Haluf oof an hour ago--all oof dot."

The officer began questioning Carl and got from him pretty near the
whole of the affair--Matt's name and occupation, the experience with
the air-ship in the early part of the afternoon, nearly everything
concerning the roll of papers, the receipt of the telegram, and the
night visit of the boys to South Chicago.

This policeman was an intelligent member of the force, and he at
once concluded that here was a matter which called for official
investigation.

"We'll get into the house and find out about your friend," said he.
"Your yarn is a queer one, but has the true ring, and it's evident
there's shady work of some kind going on."

"Shaty vork? Vell, you bed you! Vere iss Matt? Dot's vat I vand to know
vorse as anyt'ing else. I ditn't vant him to go in dere, anyvay, aber
ven he makes oop his mindt to do somet'ing, den it vas as goot as done
und vat I say don'd cut some ice."

"If he's in there we'll get him," said the officer, decidedly.

As a preliminary to more drastic operations, he went up to the door
and pounded on it with his night-stick. The summons, although several
times repeated, was not answered. Thereupon the policeman and Carl,
throwing their united weight upon the door, burst the bolt from its
fastenings and tumbled into the hall.

The darkness of the interior was relieved only by the glare of the
furnaces coming in at the transom. Silence reigned everywhere.

"I don'd like der looks oof t'ings," muttered Carl, forebodingly. "Dere
don'd vas anypody ad home now, aber ven Matt come in dere vas plendy
oof people here. Vat toes it mean, officer?"

"We'll try and find out what it means."

There was an electric dark lantern at the policeman's belt. Taking the
lantern in his hand he switched on the light and sent a bright gleam
into every nook and corner of the hall.

No sign of Matt, nor of any of the occupants of the house, was
revealed. There were only two or three rooms furnished on the lower
floor, and none at all on the floor above. Every part of the house was
searched, and the last place of all to pass under the policeman's and
Carl's scrutiny was the shallow basement.

It was evident to both searchers that people had been in the house up
to a very recent moment, for in one of the first-floor rooms there
remained an odor of tobacco smoke, but there was no living person
anywhere in evidence.

"Don'd dot peat ter tickens?" murmured Carl. "Matt come in der front
door, und he ditn't come oudt oof it. Oof he vas daken away it must haf
peen py der pack oof der house. Meppy ve pedder haf a look ad der pack
yardt?"

"Wait a minute," answered the officer.

Bending down he picked some object off the floor and examined it under
the rays of the lantern. An exclamation of surprise and wonder fell
from his lips.

"Vat it iss?" queried Carl.

"Here's the biggest kind of a find!" was the response. "Thunder! this
must be my lucky night."

"How you figger dot?"

"This is a canvas bag."

"Yah, I see dot, aber it ditn't pelong by Matt und it don'd dell us
nodding aboudt vere he vas."

"It's marked 'Hartz & Greer, Jewelers,'" went on the policeman, his
voice shaking with excitement. "That's a firm doing business right here
in South Chicago, and their store was burglarized mysteriously a little
more than a week ago. Some fifteen thousand dollars' worth of jewelry
and diamonds were taken, and this," the officer shook the canvas bag,
"_this_ is the first clue any one has found to the robbers!"

"Shiminy Grismus!" muttered Carl. "Dis must haf peen der blace vere der
t'ieves hat deir hang-oudt. Aber dot don'd got some interest for me.
Vat I vant to know iss, vere iss Modor Matt? Dis pitzness iss gedding
on my nerfs aboudt like dot odder time ven he tissabeared schust pefore
der cup race. Shtick der pag in your bocket, officer, und led's haf
some looks at der pack yardt."

The policeman, now wrapped heart and soul in the hunt, put the bag away
in the breast of his coat.

The door leading into the back yard, as they had already discovered,
was unlocked. The rear premises were enclosed by a high board fence,
and the beacons that capped the neighboring chimneys lighted the
enclosure sufficiently so that the lantern was not needed.

There was a very perceptible odor of gasolene in the back yard. The
moment Carl sniffed it, he gave vent to a stifled yell and grabbed the
policeman's arm with both hands.

"What's to pay now?" demanded the policeman.

"Der air-ship!" gasped Carl.

The officer threw a startled look at the sky.

"No, no, it ain'd oop dere," went on Carl. "It vas in dis pack
yardt--yah, so helup me! Der gasolene used in der modor make der
shmell. Don'd you ondershtand? Dey filled der tank here, und shpilled
some oof der gasolene! Dose fellers haf run off from dis blace mit
Matt, und dey have dook him along. Ach, himmelblitzen, vat a luck!"



CHAPTER VII.

JERROLD, BRADY'S RIVAL.


"Thunder!" cried the policeman, catching the Dutch boy's drift, "you're
right, as sure as my name is Sam Harris! Your friend went off in that
air-ship."

"He ditn't vent," protested Carl, in a temper, "he vas dook."

"Well, he was carried off in the thing, no matter whether he went of
his own free will or was taken by force. If we each of us had a pair
of wings we might follow the flyin' machine, but we ain't got 'em, so
we'll have to do what we can on the ground."

"Dere iss a palloon house oudt on der roadt py der rolling mills,"
suggested Carl. "Meppy der Hawk vas dere. Dot's vere Prady keeps him
ven he ain'd sky-hootin' t'roo der clouds. Meppy ve go und take a look
at der palloon house, eh?"

"I know the place, and it won't do any harm to go there and look--but
the fellow who ran off with your friend would be foolish to drop down
there."

"Vell, foolish or nod, ve look efery blace vat ve can."

The balloon house was not a great way from that part of Hoyne Street,
and Harris and Carl reached it after a cross-lots walk of five minutes.

They found the great doors open, but there was no air-ship in the place
and no one on watch around it. Furthermore, an examination of the
interior showed that an extensive clean-up had been made of the various
tools which Matt and Carl had seen in the place during the afternoon.
Everything of value had been removed.

Carl explained all this for the officer's benefit.

"It's a cinch the owner of the air-ship has changed his headquarters,"
commented Harris. "Brady, you say, the fellow's name is? Well, he's
an inventor. One of his inventions is a patent 'jimmy'--which, of
course, he wouldn't dare to patent. We've been watching his air-ship
operations, here in South Chicago, but they seemed straight and
legitimate enough."

"Do you know dot feller, Hamildon Jerrold?" asked Carl.

"Sure, I know him. He's all right, Jerrold is, although everybody looks
on him as a harmless sort of crank."

"He don'd lif in dot blace vere der chimney fires iss?"

"No; he hangs out in a different part of town."

"Den, you see, it vas a put-oop chob all aroundt. It vas Prady, I bed
you, vat sendt dot delegram, got Matt in a drap, und den flew off mit
him in der Hawk. Meppy ve make a call on Jerrold?"

"I'll call up the department and report," said Harris, "so they can
send another man on my beat while I'm fooling around on this case."

They hurried back into town and the officer unlocked one of the
lamp-post boxes and reported to headquarters.

"All right," said he as he rejoined Carl. "Now we'll put in the rest of
the night, if we have to. If Brady has had a hand in the robberies that
have been going on here, this is liable to be good and profitable work
for me."

Jerrold lived almost a mile from the place where Harris had done his
telephoning. He had a large, rambling old house set far back in a dense
mass of trees and shrubbery.

"He's a good deal of a hermit," explained Harris, as he and Carl
proceeded along the walk to the front door. "A harmless old skate, but
he's pretty broad between the eyes, at that."

It was after midnight, and, as might be supposed, the house was dark. A
knock on the door brought a night-capped head from an upper window.

"Who's down there?" demanded a voice. "Is it you, Payne?"

"No, Mr. Jerrold," answered Harris, "it's a police officer. I've come
to see you on important business."

"Have you found the Hawk?" cried Jerrold; "did you get back the plans
those rascals stole from me?"

"Come down and let us in," said the officer. "We want to talk with you."

"Wait a minute."

The head was withdrawn and the window dropped. A little while later,
the front door opened and Jerrold showed himself, carrying a candle.
Carl recognized him as one of the two men who had been pursuing the
Hawk in the buggy.

"Don'd you know me, Misder Jerrold?" asked Carl.

The inventor stared at him and shook his head. Thereupon Carl explained
where and when they had met. Jerrold's brows wrinkled in a frown.

Leading his callers into a small sitting room he asked them to sit down.

"What do you know about this fellow Brady, Jerrold?" asked Harris, by
way of getting at the business in hand.

"I know he's a scoundrel!" declared Jerrold with emphasis. "He's a good
mechanic, though, and in spite of his shady record I took him on here
to help me build my air-ship, the Eagle. After he had been with me for
a while, I found he was stealing my ideas and building an air-ship of
his own. Then I discharged him. Since then he's been attending to his
own operations and I have been attending to mine. There are several
important points about my machine, though, which Brady has been anxious
to discover. He has tried to bribe Payne, the man who works for me, to
give up a set of my blue prints, and he has tried to get them in other
underhand ways. At about eleven o'clock, yesterday, three of Brady's
men tried out-and-out robbery. That safe was forced"--Jerrold pointed
to a small steel safe in one corner of the room--"and the roll of blue
prints taken out. Payne and I were in the workshop at the time. We had
just put the finishing touches to the Eagle and were inflating the bag
for a trial. I heard a suspicious sound from the house and ran into
this room. One of the thieves had just cleared an open window, another
was getting out and the third was making ready to go. I had a wrench
in my hand and I hurled it at the man in the room. He dropped without a
groan. Payne came, just then, and we went after the other two. Brady's
air-ship was waiting for them in the rear of the house, and the two
robbers got into it and were away before we could catch them. Payne
and I got a horse and buggy, as quick as we could, but by that time
the air-ship was no more than a speck in the sky, off to the south. We
followed, keeping the course the air-ship had taken. The men aboard
didn't seem to know how to handle the craft very well, and I was hoping
some accident would happen, that the craft would come down and that I
would be able to get back my blue prints."

Jerrold halted for a little, his face flaming with anger and
indignation.

"I haven't my patents, yet," he went on, in a few moments, "and haven't
even been able to establish a caveat, so, you see, if Brady should
get ahead of me at the patent office he would snatch a fortune out
of my hands. For," and here the inventor threw back his head with
laudable pride, "I claim to have invented an air-ship that can be
used for commercial purposes--the first machine of the kind that will
successfully navigate the air against the strongest wind that blows.
But if that scoundrel Brady takes from me the fruits of my toil, I
shall be ruined!"

Jerrold's body slumped forward in his chair, and he crouched there in
an attitude of extreme dejection.

"Where's the fellow you knocked down with the wrench?" asked Harris,
his professional mind dealing with the more practicable aspects of the
case.

"When Payne and I got back to the room, after pursuing the other two
rascals to the Hawk," answered Jerrold, "the man had vanished. I
suppose he recovered from the effects of the blow and took himself off."

"He vas der feller vat drove der modor in der Hawk," explained Carl,
"und ven he vas pud down und oudt, der odder fellers made poor vork oof
triving der machine. Aber dot ain'd vat I got on my mindt, schust now."
Carl pulled the roll of blue prints from his pocket. "Dere, Misder
Jerrold," said he, "iss vat you lost. Take it mit der gombliments
oof Modor Matt--my bard who iss gone I don'd know vere. Oof you hat
shtopped a leedle in der puggy, und toldt us vat I haf heardt schust
now, den, by shinks, you vould haf got der bapers pack a long dime ago."

A cry of delight broke from Jerrold's lips. For a moment he stared at
the roll, then swooped down on it with both hands, caught it away from
Carl and began removing the wrapper with trembling fingers.

"Here they are, here they are," he crooned joyfully, pawing the blue
prints over and counting them, one by one; "they're all here, and----"

He stopped short and stared blankly at the envelope, which had fallen
out of the blue-prints and dropped on the carpet.

"What's that?" asked Harris.

"I don't know," replied Jerrold; "it's nothing of mine and wasn't in
the safe, to my recollection, at the time the blue prints were taken."

"Well, it may be yours, for all that. If it was in the roll, it stands
to reason it must have been in the safe. Better open it. Probably you
can tell from the contents whether it is yours or not."

Harris picked up the envelope and handed it to Jerrold. The latter
took it from him with a puzzled expression on his face.

"I'm pretty sure this isn't mine," said he, turning the envelope over
and over.

"Well, you've got to be absolutely sure," returned Harris.

Jerrold, thus urged, tore open the envelope, drew out the sheet and
cast his eyes over it.

"No," he declared, "it doesn't belong to me. The thieves must have put
it in with the blue prints."

"Let's have a look at it," said the officer.

Drawing closer to the candle, Harris proceeded to read the letter.
While he read, his face brightened and a look of surprise and
exultation rose in his eyes.

"Another clue, and a hot one!" he cried. He whirled on Carl. "With this
as a guide," he went on, "it's dollars to doughnuts we can trace your
friend and get him away from that scoundrel, Brady!"

"Ach, vat a habbiness!" expanded Carl. "Readt it oudt to me, Harris,
und be kevick ad it."



CHAPTER VIII.

JERROLD'S GRATITUDE.


"The letter," explained Harris, "was written by Brady, and was
evidently entrusted to the men in the Hawk for delivery to some one
else. It's full of pointers, and a slicker bit of evidence it would be
hard to find. And to think how it dropped into the hands of Motor Matt!
The whole affair sounds like a 'pipe.'"

"Tell me about that!" cried Jerrold, his shock of joy having passed and
left him leisure for other things. "Who is this Motor Matt, and how did
he happen to get hold of the blue prints?"

"Ve vill go ofer dot lader, Misder Jerrold," said Carl, impatiently.
"Schust now, dough, I vant to hear vat der ledder say. Readt him oudt,
Harris! I vas so uneasy ofer it I don'd vas aple to sit shdill."

"It's addressed to a man called Whipple," went on Harris, "and here's
the way it runs:

  "'Grove, Needham and Harper, with one of my improved jimmies, are
  going to make another try for those blue prints of Jerrold's. If they
  get them--and I think they can, for our plans are well laid--they'll
  carry the papers to Willoughby's swamp in the Hawk and leave them
  with you. We will quit our operations in South Chicago, clean out the
  balloon house (I have already sold the building for old lumber) and
  make our future headquarters in the swamp. It will be safer there.
  After we improve the Hawk according to Jerrold's plans, we will
  have a ship in which we can go anywhere, and with which we can do
  anything. All we need is a competent motorist--Harper's good enough
  for an amateur, but we need a professional. I'll try and bring one
  with me, when I come. Meanwhile, until I show up at the swamp, I want
  you to take good care of the blue prints.

                                                         "'H. B.'"

A great light dawned on Carl during the reading of the letter--a light
so strong that it left him blinking.

"Py chimineddy," he gurgled, "I know now vy dot Prady run off mit
Matt! He say in der ledder dot he vants some brofessional to run dot
air-ship. Vell, Matt knows more as anypody aboudt modors, und so Prady
dook him off. Vat a high-hantet pitzness! Und Prady has captured a
hornet oof he dit pud know it! He vill t'ink he has a handtful ven he
dries to make Matt vork for him."

"From this," proceeded Harris, waving the letter, "it seems that Brady
had already laid his plans to quit South Chicago. In the letter,
over his own signature, he admits sending three of his men to steal
the blue prints. By a chance, and owing to the course of events in
keeping the driver of the air-ship from getting away with the other two
thieves, this roll and the letter dropped into the hands of Motor Matt.
Undoubtedly, Motor Matt has been taken to Willoughby's swamp."

"Und vere iss dot?" asked Carl.

"I know about the swamp," went on Harris, "for I helped some Chicago
officers run down a couple of escaped prisoners there, once. It's a
bad hole, but there is a sort of island in the middle of it that has
been the resort of criminals for a good many years. To get through the
water, and mud, and tangled bushes to the island is a hard job for any
one who has to go on foot. Still, it can be done. Brady and his men, of
course, can use the Hawk, and all they have to do is to sail through
the air and drop down where they want to go. The difficulties of the
swamp won't bother them at all. The place is about four miles from Lake
Station, Indiana."

"Vell," said Carl, eagerly, "led's go dere. Der kevicker vat ve go, der
kevicker vat ve can helup Matt. He iss my bard, und he needs me now."

The Dutch boy got up and started for the door. Bounding from his chair,
Jerrold overtook him and grabbed his arm.

"Wait!" he commanded, "I've only got a faint grasp of the situation,
but from what I can figure out you're going to need me. First, though,
I want to hear all about this Motor Matt. He has done a whole lot for
Hamilton Jerrold, and Jerrold is a man who always tries to pay his
debts. Tell me how the blue prints got into the hands of Motor Matt."

"Aber ve vas in a hurry!" cried Carl. "Villoughpy's svamp iss a goot
vays off, und----"

"You'll save time in the end by losing a little here and now," averred
Jerrold, drawing Carl to a chair and pushing him down into it. "Go on!
Give me the whole of it, between you, and be quick."

There was a compelling note in the inventor's words and manner, that
demanded attention. Carl yielded and struck into an explanation of the
events of the preceding afternoon. Whenever his impatience led him
to skip any of the details, Harris, who recognized the advantage of
letting Jerrold know everything, picked up the ignored detail and made
Carl go over it.

Jerrold's interest and excitement increased as he listened. When Carl
described how he and Matt had fought with Brady and Pete at the balloon
house and kept them from getting the blue prints, Jerrold clapped his
hands and shouted "Bravo!" And when Carl told of the bogus telegram
that had brought the boys to South Chicago, Jerrold's face clouded with
indignation and anger.

"Motor Matt," declared Jerrold, when Carl had finally finished, "has
done a lot for me, and he's going to find that Hamilton Jerrold knows
how to be grateful. I agree with Harris that there is hardly a doubt
but that Brady has taken young King to Willoughby's swamp. Brady wants
the young motorist for the Hawk, and intends to have him, whether or
no. According to Harris, the swamp's a difficult place to get at for
those not equipped with an air-ship. That's where I come in. This way,
friends!"

With that, the inventor caught up his candle and led the way through
the house and out at a back door.

By then it was nearly three o'clock, and the very darkest part of the
night. A gust of wind blew out the candle, which had been about as
effective as a glow-worm, and the three were left at the foot of the
rear steps staring at a fluttering expanse of canvas.

The canvas formed a sort of V-shaped tent, long and high and secured
with many guy-ropes. Because of the darkness it was difficult to get
any kind of an idea as to the size of the tent, but that was a minor
point.

"I'll have to get a lantern," said Jerrold. "Wait a minute."

"I've got a dark lantern, Jerrold," interposed Harris, "and I guess
that will do."

"Fine!" exclaimed Jerrold, as Harris switched on the current and swung
the beam of light around him. "This way," the inventor added, and
ducked through the end of the tent.

In the gloomy interior a weird sight was disclosed--something so new
and novel as to send an uncanny sensation along the nerves of Carl and
Harris.

Here was another cigar-shaped gas-bag, and another suspended car. The
car itself was stationary, but the bag, because of the drafts that
surged through the tent, was bobbing and swaying like some monster,
anxious to be unleashed.

The flickering gleam from the dark lantern could only disclose a part
of the air-ship at a time.

"Ach," muttered Carl, "dot makes my nerfs shake und shake like
anyt'ing. Sooch a horrible t'ing vat it iss!"

"That's because you're not familiar with such a craft," said Jerrold.
"Payne and I have worked over it for years, and only yesterday saw the
completion of our labors. It was six o'clock last night before the bag
was fully inflated. We had to use common illuminating-gas, too, and
the not more buoyant hydrogen. I have called the air-ship the 'Eagle,'
and if you sweep that light along the side of the bag you will see the
name."

This was a bit of byplay that took time and was utterly needless, but
a great pride throbbed in the inventor's words, and even the smallest
detail of the air-ship was fraught with the utmost importance to him.

"Everything about the craft," Jerrold went on, "is of the very
best. The motor is the lightest, strongest and most powerful ever
constructed. The car will carry half a dozen, easily. Sand-bags are
suspended from each end of the gas-bag. When I pull in the sand-bag at
the front end, the equilibrium is displaced, the bag points upward, and
the propeller forces the air-ship to rise. So, when I wish to descend,
I pull in the sand-bag at the rear point of the bag. When both bags are
hanging loose, the Eagle swims in the air on an even keel. Now, the
steering rudder, which also helps in maneuvering the ship, is a little
idea of my own and----"

"Ach, hang der shdeering rutter!" broke in Carl, impatiently. "Harris
und I haf got to go afder Matt und ve can't vait aroundt here any
longer. Ve haf got to go py dot svamp, und----"

"Exactly!" broke in the inventor. "The Eagle, fully inflated and with
a tank full of gasoline, is waiting for a trial spin in the morning.
I have the honor to propose that we use the craft now, proceed to
Willoughby's swamp and rescue Motor Matt. That will save time, and a
whole lot of hardships in forcing your way through mud and water and
tangled brush in order to reach the island."

Harris had already gathered the inventor's idea, even before he
began putting it into words; Carl, however, had not anticipated the
suggestion, and he was dazed by it.

"You mean to dake us py der svamp in der Eagle?" he asked, in some
trepidation.

"Yes."

"Ach, himmel! I nefer rode mit a air-ship. Vill I be seasick py it?"

"I don't think so. You see, I have never navigated an air-ship myself,
but I'll bank on the Eagle doing its work. I can run the engine."

"Vat oof it shouldt durn oopside town mit us vile ve vas a mile in der
air?"

"I'll guarantee it won't do that."

"Vell, vedder or nod," said Carl, "I am going afder my bard. Oof der
tangers vas greadt, I take dem; und oof dey vasn't so greadt, den I
take dem, too. Matt vouldt do more as dot for me, yah, I bed you!"

Harris was also afflicted with doubts.

"The ground has always been good enough for me, Jerrold," said he, "and
whenever I get my feet off it and go up any distance I have a bad case
of vertigo. If I should get dizzy and fall off the car----"

"You won't," interrupted the inventor; "people never get dizzy in
balloons."

"You're sure it won't tip over and spill us out?"

"Positive."

"You don't know much about it yourself, you know, having never been up
in it."

"That scoundrel, Brady, has used the Hawk with fair success, and the
Hawk is modeled on the same lines as the Eagle, only the Eagle has
improvements which Brady was not able to get hold of and put on his own
machine. Shall we go to the rescue of Motor Matt? Come, my friends,
time is flying."

"Und ve ought to be flying, too," said Carl, now eager to make the
ascension.

"I'll take a chance," observed Harris.

"Good!" applauded Jerrold.

The next moment he had vanished in the darkness and could be heard
pulling at some ropes. In less than a minute the entire top of the tent
fell away, revealing the stars.

"Get into the car," said Jerrold, "there, just forward of the driver's
seat."

With the aid of his lantern Harris picked out the place where he and
Carl were to stow themselves, and they climbed into the car as directed.

Immediately after that, Jerrold got over the rail and took his seat at
the levers. It was impossible to see just what he was doing, but the
clank of a lever came from his vicinity and slowly the front of the
gas-bag began to point upward.

"Now we're ready," called the inventor.

The popping of a motor began and gradually gathered into a swift murmur.

"And now we're off," added Jerrold. "Stay right where you are and don't
change your positions unless I tell you."

The whir of the propeller started, and the house and shrubbery began
slipping away from under those in the car.

"Ach, du lieber!" gasped Carl. "Der eart' vas falling avay from us. I
vill say my brayers forvarts, packvarts und sidevays, oof it vill helup
any."

"I've got a bad case of rattles, myself," admitted Harris. "But it's
for your pard, my boy."

"You bed my life!" returned Carl, "aber I never dit anyt'ing pefore for
dot bard oof mine dot dook so mooch nerf as vat dis toes. I vill shud
my eyes, und you dell me, blease, ven ve reach der svamp!"



CHAPTER IX.

ABOARD THE HAWK.


Taken at a disadvantage and with two brawny ruffians ranged against
him, Motor Matt was unable to make any defense. As he lay on the floor,
head and shoulders still swathed in the window-curtain, one of his
antagonists held him while the other bound his hands and feet with a
rope. He was then lifted and carried for some distance. Naturally he
could have no idea where or in what direction he was being carried.

A few steps were descended and he heard a door softly closed. The cool
air of outdoors laved his hands--he was sensible of that, although the
hot stuffiness of the curtain prevented the night air from reaching his
face.

He was lifted over something, he did not know what, and laid down in
cramped quarters. A conversation was going on around him, but in tones
so low he was not able to distinguish the words. He fancied that he
heard the girl's voice, although his head was so muffled he could not
be sure.

Presently the unmistakable explosions of a motor came to him.

"Brady is taking me away somewhere in an automobile," he thought, and
wondered where Carl was that he could not see the machine.

A moment later he felt a gentle, swaying motion as though he was being
gently swung in a hammock.

Several minutes passed, and then Brady's voice spoke, in a tone so loud
that Matt was able to hear what he said.

"Take the curtain off his head, Pete, and untie him. It's time he
took hold here. Keep your revolver handy for use in case he gets
obstreperous. He's full of ginger and will have to be tamed."

Matt felt some one working at his cords. They were stripped away
quickly, and the curtain whisked from his head. He jumped up, the floor
under him swinging with the quick move and almost upsetting him.

"Careful, there!" warned Brady. "Where do you think you are, anyhow?"

Matt was dumfounded. Overhead was the long gas-bag of the Hawk. In
front of him, at the mechanism of the machine, sat a dusky form which
he recognized as belonging to Brady. Brady's hands were on the levers.

With a shout of anger Matt jumped toward Brady, the car lurching and
swaying with his frantic movements.

"Stand where ye are!" came the husky, threatening voice of Pete, from
behind. "Do as I tell ye, King, or I'll shoot."

Matt turned around. Standing with his back braced against an upright
timber that held the car to the oval ring under the gas-bag was Brady's
burly assistant. He held a dark object in his hand and Matt knew it
must be a revolver.

"Where are you taking me?" demanded Matt.

"Turn around this way," said Brady. "Now that you know what'll happen
to you if you get too hostile, maybe we can have a bit of a talk
together."

"Don't shoot!" implored a feminine voice; "I don't want to have any
shooting, dad!"

The voice came from a bundle on the floor, close to where Pete was
standing. By looking sharply, Matt was able to see a white, ghost-like
face hovering against the rail.

The girl had been brought along with them! Matt was glad, for her sake,
that he had not got into a rough-and-tumble with Brady.

Without seeming to pay the girl more than passing attention, the young
motorist turned toward the man in the chair.

"Well?" said he, crisply. "What have you got to say about this, Brady?
I guess you could be arrested for what you've done, all right."

Brady laughed.

"How's a policeman coming up here to get at me?" he asked. "An air-ship
is a great thing for a fellow who wants to turn a few tricks in spite
of the law."

"That's your game, is it? Well, what have you to gain by running off
with me? I told you I didn't have that roll of papers."

"I'm out the blue prints, but I'm in a good motorist. I'll not be able
to improve the Hawk according to Jerrold's plans, but I guess I've
got hold of a driver that's good enough to make up for most of the
improvements."

"If you think I'm going to drive this car for you," said Matt, "you're
away off in your calculations."

"That's what you think now, but you'll change your tune before long,"
said Brady, easily. "I know this air-ship pretty well, and I installed
the motor. All it needed for that was a good machinist and a good
inventor. I'm not a good driver, though, and I've picked you for the
job. The offer I made back at the house goes. Five hundred a month.
Pretty good pay, eh, for a boy of your age?"

"I don't care how much you offer, Brady. As I have already told you,
no amount of money could hire me to work for you. You're a scoundrel,
clear through. What you've done to-night proves it.

"Bear a little to the left, Brady!" called Pete, who was evidently on
the lookout. "You're getting too far to the north."

Brady moved one of the levers, and the ease and certainty with which
the air-ship swung to the new direction brought Matt's admiration
uppermost. Never had he been able to resist the lure of untried
machinery, and here was an experience so novel that it carried him
out of his troubled environment, so to speak. For a moment, suspended
in that starlit void and swimming noiselessly through the night, he
yielded himself to the fascinations of the new experience.

"How powerful a motor have you?" he asked.

"Ten horse-power," answered Brady, "and it weighs forty pounds."

"How do you steer the machine up and down, and right and left?"

"That's where I've got the bulge on Jerrold. One rudder with two
cross-section planes does all of that. This lever here--I don't know
whether you can see it or not from where you stand--gives the up and
down 'dip' to the rudder that makes the machine rise or fall. By moving
the lever right or left, the air-ship turns in the corresponding
direction."

"Take me back," ordered Matt, "and land me at the place where you took
me from."

"You've got a picture of me doing that!" scoffed Brady. "Now that I've
caught you, I'm going to keep you, see? You're just the sort of a lad I
need in my business. Grove and Needham, when they finally got back to
South Chicago with the air-ship, told me all about you. If I'd known
what I do now at the time you called at the balloon house, I'd have
taken a different tack."

A muttered imprecation came from Pete. He was thinking of his fall over
the barrel.

"Those fellows got back without breaking their necks, did they?"
queried Matt.

"Just about. When they told me what had happened, I sent off that
telegram."

"We might just as well look this thing square in the face, Brady," said
Matt. "You've acted the part of a scoundrel in your dealings with me,
and you haven't gained anything by it. If you don't turn back and put
me down in South Chicago, I'll make more trouble for you than you can
well take care of."

"I'll take my chances on that, my bantam. I like your spirit, and we're
going to get along fine. Just cast in your lot with mine, and I'll
make a rich man out of you. In the Hawk we can travel all over this
continent, from Hudson Bay to Patagonia. Where men never went before,
we can go. No mountain range is so high that we can't cross it, and no
desert is so barren that we can't wing our way comfortably over it."

Matt stared at the dark figure in the chair. If any honest man had
talked to him in that way, the young motorist would have been tempted
to become an aeronaut, for he could see plainly the possibilities of a
serviceable air-ship; but as for Brady, he was a criminal, and that cut
him off from any consideration on Matt's part.

The young motorist sank down on his knees and looked over the side
of the car. They were perhaps a thousand feet in the air. Houses,
villages, dark expanses of timber and lighter stretches of meadow swept
past them, moving out from under the car like a dark panorama.

Driving an automobile at speed was like flying, but here was flying
itself. The new sensation gripped Matt and thrilled him in every nerve.

"How are we heading, Pete?" called Brady.

Pete was leaning over the opposite side of the car, looking forward.

"I'm jest tryin' to git my bearin's, Brady," he answered. "It's so
pesky dark it's hard to make out jest where we are."

Matt stole a look at Pete's back. The hand gripping the revolver lay on
the rail. By one quick move Matt could have snatched the weapon. As the
idea swept through his mind he cautiously changed his position.

Just then a soft hand rested on his and he saw the girl's face pressed
close.

"Don't do anything desperate!" she whispered, imploringly. "Do whatever
dad says--it will be better for you. When we get to where we're going,
I'll help you escape, and----"

"I think, Brady," called Pete, "that ye're still too fur to the north.
Better shift a leetle more to the left. I won't be sartin, though, that
I'm right."

"I ought to be there on the lookout," answered Brady. "Come here, King,
and take the engine."

The girl's words had influenced Matt powerfully. On top of that was the
alluring prospect of handling a new machine.

"I'll take the engine for a while, Brady," said he, getting up, "but
you're to remember I'll not hire out to you."

"All I ask is for you to handle the motor," replied Brady. "You'll come
to your oats quick enough, I'll gamble on that. You watch King, Pete,"
he added to the other man, "and make sure he sends the Hawk where I
tell him to. If he tries to send her anywhere else, you know what to
do."

"That's no josh," answered Pete.

Brady left the chair and went forward. Matt dropped into the vacant
seat and began studying the various levers with his groping hands.



CHAPTER X.

WILLOUGHBY'S SWAMP.


Pete kept his weapon prominently displayed, and through the gloom
Matt could see the ruffian's arm partly lifted as though ready on the
instant to bring the firearm into use. This alert attitude on Pete's
part, however, was more for show than for anything else--at least, Matt
so regarded it. Brady was not anxious to go to desperate extremes with
Matt, especially since he wanted him as driver for the air-ship.

Brady, taking up a position where he could peer ahead, was scanning the
dim landscape sharply.

"Swing her to the left!" he called.

Matt instantly applied the steering lever. Instead of swinging to the
left, however, the Hawk made a half-turn to the right.

Up came the revolver. With a sharp cry, the girl reached up and caught
Pete's arm.

"To the _left_, I said!" roared Brady.

"You'll have to give me the chance to learn the machine," answered
Matt, coolly, as he continued working the lever and brought the Hawk
around to the proper course. "These levers are new to me. When we steer
an auto we do it with a wheel."

"I thought ye knowed all about motors," jeered Pete.

"I know something about motors," replied Matt, "but not the first thing
about air-ships."

As near as Matt could judge, they were proceeding at a speed of
something like thirty miles an hour. He speeded up the engine a little
and was surprised at the smoothness with which it worked. The propeller
hummed in a low, husky drone that was quite different from the song of
the cylinders.

He moved the steering lever backward a couple of notches. Immediately
the rudder was tilted and the Hawk began to climb upward.

"Stop that!" yelled Brady. "We're high enough. What are you trying to
do?"

"Learning the machine," answered Matt, and threw the lever forward.

The front end of the gas-bag tipped downward, and the air-ship slid
toward the earth with a suddenness that almost threw Brady over the
rail.

"That'll do you!" he whooped. "Get her on a level again, and be quick
about it. You can handle the machine, all right, and I don't want you
to do anything but what you're told."

"All right," said Matt quietly.

For five minutes longer they continued to swim onward through the air.
A long string of lights shot across the gloomy landscape below them,
and a whistle came upward from the earth with startling distinctness.

"There goes a train, whistlin' fer Lake Station," remarked Pete.

"We'll be over the town in a minute," said Brady, "and then it won't be
long until we get to the swamp."

"What swamp?" asked Matt.

"Never ye mind," was Pete's surly rejoinder. "Ye're here to obey orders
an' not ask any fool questions."

"I don't think it very foolish for a fellow to ask where he's being
taken."

"Mebby not, but ye ain't findin' anythin' out, see?"

Matt had been doing a good deal of guessing about Carl. What would his
chum do? What was he doing then? He felt pretty sure that Carl would
get into the house and go through it from cellar to roof.

But Matt knew that Carl had a good sensible head in cases of emergency.
Now and again the Dutch boy's temper was apt to make trouble with his
reasoning, but in the long run Carl could always be counted on to do
the right thing.

So Matt was not worrying very much about his chum. Carl would take good
care of the blue prints and ultimately they would find their rightful
owner.

"Ha!" exclaimed Brady, suddenly, "there's the signal! I'll go back and
take charge of the motor while we make the landing, Pete, and you take
the lookout."

Matt gave place to Brady and then stood at the rail, watching
developments curiously.

Below the air-ship was a great splotch of black shadow, stretching away
on all sides as far as the eye could reach. Evidently this was the
swamp. The Hawk was sailing across the swamp toward a big fire that
glowed in the distance.

With Brady steering and Pete directing, the Hawk approached closer and
closer to the fire.

"Drop 'er, Brady!" Pete presently called; "we're close on the island."

The nose of the air-ship ducked downward and, for perhaps twenty
seconds, she raced earthward; then Brady diminished the speed of their
descent by slow degrees.

Matt, braced on the sloping floor of the car, watched the fire
apparently come up toward them. A little later he was able to make out
three human figures against the firelit background below, and a bare
little plateau took vague form under his eyes.

He watched the landing keenly, and noted how Brady suddenly shifted
the steering rudder so as to bring the Hawk on an even keel, the lower
supports of the car just grazing the ground.

The three figures by the fire ran close.

"How's everything, Brady?" cried a voice.

"Finer than silk," called back Brady. "Stand by to catch the ropes, you
fellows."

The murmur of the motor ceased, the revolving propeller came to a stop,
and Pete flung out two ropes, one on each side of the car.

The ropes were caught by the men on the ground, a bight of each was
thrown around a stout stake driven into the earth at an angle, and the
air-ship was drawn down and safely moored.

Matt was now able to understand why Brady had taken his place as driver
for the landing. Not only was the method of making a landing new to
Matt, but there was also danger, unless one was familiar with the
place, of scraping the trees that covered the swamp and hemmed in the
cleared space called the "island."

Matt started to spring over the rail of the car.

"Stop, King!" cried Brady. "You don't want to make a bolt for the
timber and get mired in the swamp, do you? Just remember you're still
under orders. Take him to the roost, Needham, you and Whipple. Better
tie him up until he gets used to the place and to our society. He's a
bit strange, here, and none too willing to stay."

"Did you bring the loot, Brady?" called one of the men.

"Sure! This is moving-day with us and you didn't think I was going to
leave all that stuff on Hoyne Street, did you? Get out of the car,
King," he went on, to Matt. "Whipple and Needham will take care of you."

Two of the three men had stepped to the side of the car. In the light
of the fire, which was blazing at a safe distance from the air-ship,
Matt discovered that Needham and Grove had been the two aeronauts who
had had such hard luck with the Hawk during the preceding day.

Needham, who, with Whipple, was facing Matt and waiting for him to get
over the air-ship's rail, gave a husky laugh.

"We got out of that scrape, all right," said he, "even if we did lose
our drag-rope."

"And you got me into another scrape," said Matt. "You fellows will pay
for this!"

"Chirp low, young feller," warned Whipple, catching him by the arm as
he gained the ground; "your cue is to make friends with us an' not
bluster about what ye're goin' ter do. There's five husky men here, an'
we're all surrounded by a swamp that would mire ye up ter the eyes if
ye tried ter git through it. Oh, I reckon ye won't git away ter make
any of us pay fer anythin'! This way, an' step lively."

With Needham and Whipple on each side of him and hanging to an arm,
Matt was led across the open space, past the fire, and to the door
of a small, roughly built shanty. A little way off there was another
building, fully as small but apparently somewhat better built.

"This here's the roost," announced Whipple, "an' it's where ye're ter
pass the rest o' the night. Come in, an' come peaceable."

It was part of Matt's plan, hastily formed on the air-ship just after
the girl had spoken to him, to accept passively whatever came his
way--at least for a time. The girl had said that she would help him
escape, and there was that about her which had awakened his confidence.
Not only that, but there was also something in the girl's face that
had aroused his sympathy. She had a history, he was sure, and one that
was far from pleasant.

There were five cots in the "roost," and Matt was told to lie down on
one of them.

"Harper used to sleep there," remarked Needham, as Matt stretched
himself out on the hard bed, "and the deuce only knows where poor old
Harper is now. You're taking his place, King, and so it's only right
you should have his cot."

It was on Matt's tongue to say that Needham had another guess coming,
but he held his peace. He would not show too much of the hostile side
of his feelings until he had had a chance to talk with the girl.

"What's the use of tying me," expostulated Matt, as ropes were being
put in place around his wrists and ankles, "if it's impossible for me
to get away?"

"Orders," answered Whipple, curtly.

After Matt was made secure, Whipple and Needham went out of the
hut. The young motorist had had a trying day, and even his exciting
situation was powerless to keep the sleep from his eyes. He dozed off,
while his thoughts were trying to straighten out the queer tangle
in which events had bound him. He roused up for a moment when Pete,
Whipple, Needham and Grove came into the hut and dropped down on their
cots, but almost immediately he went to sleep again.

It seemed as though he had hardly closed his eyes the second time
before he was awakened by a light hand pressed upon his forehead. The
other cots in the room were empty, it was morning, and the girl was
standing beside him.

"I have brought your breakfast," said she, in a low voice. "We can talk
a little, but will have to be quick. Dad, or some of the men, may come
in here at any second! There's a lot that you've got to know, and----"

She was interrupted by the sharp explosion of a firearm outside.
Stifling a cry, she whirled from the cot and ran to the open door.



CHAPTER XI.

A FOE IN THE AIR.


"What is it?" asked Matt, struggling up on the cot.

No revolver had caused the report he had heard. From the sound he knew
that a rifle had been fired.

A babel of excited voices now came to him from without, accompanied by
sounds of running feet diminishing rapidly in the distance. Then came
another report, and another, both from a more distant point than the
first.

The girl stepped through the doorway and was looking upward.

"Take off these ropes!" called Matt. "Let me get out there and see what
is going on!"

The girl turned and reentered the hut. Her face wore an expression of
the utmost concern.

"No," said she, "I can't release you just now. If dad was to come and
find that I'd set you free, he would suspect me at once and that would
spoil my plans."

"But what was the cause of that shooting?" persisted Matt.

"There's another air-ship over the island----"

"Another air-ship?" echoed Matt.

"Yes. It must be Jerrold's, although how he ever found out where dad
was is more than I know. Dad and the rest were shooting at the air-ship
with rifles."

"I'll bet it's somebody who's come looking for me!" exclaimed Matt. "If
your father and his gang should kill anybody----"

"They won't," interrupted the girl, confidently; "dad knows better than
to do anything of that kind. They'll try to put a bullet or two into
the gas-bag of the air-ship and frighten Jerrold away."

"Go and take another look," said Matt, anxiously. "See what they're
doing."

The girl glided to the doorway again.

"The other air-ship is moving off," the girl reported, with a measure
of relief in her voice, as she came back. "I think the bullets must
have injured the propeller, or some of the machinery, for the air-ship
is moving very slowly and seems to be in trouble."

"Did you see how many were aboard?"

"There were three in the car--one of them was Jerrold, and he was
managing the motor."

"The other two," asked Matt, eagerly, "do you know who they were?"

"One of them was in uniform, and looked like a policeman. The other was
short and thick-set and looked like a German."

"Carl!" exclaimed Matt, jubilantly. "Good old Carl! How did he ever
find out where I was, I wonder?"

"I'll bet dad is trying to guess the same thing," said the girl. "He'll
be badly cut up over this. But it's no more than he ought to expect,"
she added. "Whenever a man breaks the law he'll have to pay for it,
sooner or later."

"What has your father been doing?" asked Matt.

"I came to talk with you about that. While I'm giving you your
breakfast, I'll tell you my plans. Dad, and all the rest except
Whipple, are off in the swamp, somewhere, keeping track of Jerrold's
air-ship, and that will give us a chance."

Matt swung his bound feet over the edge of the cot, and while he sat
there the girl drew a chair close and began giving him his breakfast.

"Dad has been doing a lot of criminal things," said the girl, "and all
he built that air-ship for was to make it easy for him to rob people
and get away without being found out. Didn't you guess that when I
showed you that article in the paper? I thought you might."

"I've been mighty thick-headed," answered Matt, between mouthfuls, "and
I never thought the thing through that far. Possibly it's because so
much has been happening to me since I went into that place on Hoyne
Street."

"It's nearly broken my heart having dad act like he's been doing," said
the girl, her lips quivering. "If mother had lived she'd have kept dad
straight, but when she died dad just seemed to go to the dogs. He has
tried to make the people in South Chicago think he was just an honest
inventor, but, even at that, he stole all his ideas from Jerrold. That
balloon house, that he built out of some of the proceeds of his first
robbery, was put up for what they call a 'blind.' With a big house like
that, out in plain sight, dad felt that everybody would think his work
was open and aboveboard. When he committed any robberies, the Hawk
was taken from the shed in the dead of night, and Harper would steer
it for the place they were to rob. The blackest kind of a night was
always selected, and only flat-topped buildings were robbed. You see,
the air-ship would alight on the roof, and dad and the rest would break
into the building from the top. When they left they always went in the
same way they came, and the police were puzzled because they could not
find any clues in the lower part of the buildings."

"It was a slick scheme," commented Matt.

"That's the way Hartz & Greer's place was robbed," proceeded the girl.
"Dad and the rest got fifteen thousand dollars' worth of goods from
Hartz & Greer, and for more than a week the stuff has been hidden in
that house on Hoyne Street. But now dad has left South Chicago for
good and all. He's afraid the police are beginning to suspect him, and
that Jerrold might try to do something on account of those stolen blue
prints."

It was perfectly plain to Matt that the girl's recital of these crimes,
in which her father had played the leading part, was anything but easy
for her. She was talking from a sense of duty, and Matt honored and
admired her for the stand she was taking.

"It doesn't seem possible," said he, gently, "that Brady is your
father."

"But he is," she answered brokenly, "and he has brought shame and
disgrace on me. But what could I do? Dad knows how I feel about his
actions, and he has watched me and kept me away from other people ever
since he began his stealing. When you came to the house, last night, it
was the first chance I have had to tell what I know. I overheard dad
and Pete planning what they were going to do if you came, and--and I
hoped you would come, although I knew you would never leave the house
until you were taken away as dad's prisoner. I felt sure, though, that
I could help you to escape, and I feel even more sure of that now than
I did before."

"What is your name?" asked Matt, his eyes full on the girl's face.

"Helen," she answered.

"What are your plans, Helen?" he asked.

"My plan," she went on, "is for you to get away from the swamp in the
Hawk, and to take the stuff stolen from Hartz & Greer with you. That
will stop everything, for dad will be perfectly helpless without the
air-ship. Then, too, you can return the stolen diamonds and jewelry to
Hartz & Greer, and that will go far toward righting one wrong. When you
are back in South Chicago, you can send the police here and--and they
can capture dad and the rest."

Matt had finished eating and the girl had put aside the dishes.
Suddenly she broke down and hid her face in her apron. For a few
moments she sobbed convulsively.

Small wonder her feelings overcame her! In carrying out her ideas of
right and justice, she had planned to give her own father into the
hands of the law.

"You're a noble girl, Helen!" declared Matt. "But how am I to get away
in the air-ship and to take the stolen property with me?"

"You already know how to run the machine," said the girl, recovering
herself a little and looking up, "and when the right time arrives I
will come here and take off your ropes. As for the stolen property, I
will see to it that that is put in the car before you start. There will
be danger in what you do, but, from what I have heard, you know how to
win out in spite of it."

"I will run any risk to get away from here," returned Matt, gravely,
"but when I go you must go with me. This is no place for you--with such
a thieving gang!"

"I must stay here," the girl said resolutely. "Even though I am sending
my father to prison I want to be with him to the last. If something
isn't done," she continued passionately, "he will go on and on,
constantly from bad to worse, and perhaps some time"--her face blanched
as she spoke--"he might receive worse than a prison sentence. It is the
only way to save him."

It was clear that Helen Brady had spent much time in thinking out and
planning her present course, and how much mental anguish and bitterness
of spirit her conclusion had cost her, only she could know.

"I am ready to do whatever you want me to," said Matt, "and if you
think it best to stay here, all right. I still believe, though, you
ought to leave this place with me."

"No, no," she replied firmly. "I have thought it all out a dozen times,
and I have made up my mind as to what it is right for me to do. You
must get away from here in the air-ship. With the Hawk taken away from
him, dad will be helpless."

"Haven't you any friends or relatives to whom you could go?" asked Matt.

"I have relatives on my mother's side, but they won't have anything to
do with dad or me--simply because dad is what he is. They have asked me
to leave dad and come to them, but I know my place and what it is right
for me to do."

A brief silence fell between the two, during which Matt turned the
queer problem over in his mind.

"When do you think your plan can be carried out?" he asked presently.

"It has got to be soon, if at all," she answered. "I don't know what
effect this appearance of Jerrold's air-ship over the swamp will have
on dad, but I hope it won't interfere with my plans. We'll have to wait
a little while and see. Whipple is watching the Hawk now, and----"

Just at that moment a heavy step was heard outside. A man appeared in
the doorway, stared in at Matt and the girl for an instant, and then
strode into the hut.

The man was Brady, and his face was black as a thundercloud.

"What're you doing here so long?" he cried angrily to the girl. "Clear
out! I've got something I want to talk over with King."

With a supplicating look at her father, the girl got up and passed out
of the hut.



CHAPTER XII.

BRADY CHANGES HIS PLANS.


"You've played the devil with me, and no mistake!" scowled Brady,
whirling on Matt the moment the girl was gone.

"I don't see how you make that out," said Matt. "You're the one that's
made all the trouble, Brady."

Brady's little eyes glittered as they rested on Matt. For a few moments
he paced angrily back and forth across the hut.

"How in thunder," he cried suddenly, "did Jerrold ever manage to get a
line on me? He was over the swamp, a short time ago, with his air-ship,
and he'd have landed here if we hadn't driven him off. Jerrold knows
where I am, and he has the means of getting to the island. We've
crippled his craft, though, and he's had to haul off for repairs. While
he's gone, I've got to change my plans, somehow, and be ready for him
when he comes back. That Dutch kid who was with you at the balloon
house yesterday was in the car of the air-ship, and there was also a
policeman along. How did that come?"

"You know as much about it as I do, Brady," replied Matt. "I
disappeared from that Hoyne Street house, last night, and I suppose my
chum has been getting clues about me and following them up. That's the
kind of a lad he is."

"Where did he get any clues that would bring him out here?"

"Give it up."

Brady took a few more turns across the room, presently halting in front
of Matt.

"You didn't bring that roll of blue prints to Hoyne Street, last
night," said he. "Where did you leave it?"

"Left it out in front of the house," grinned Matt.

Brady started.

"In front of the house?" he echoed.

"Yes."

"Cached?"

"Certainly."

"Under the sidewalk?"

"No; in the pocket of my Dutch pard."

Brady stared incredulously. Then he swore.

"That Dutchman was out in front all the while you were in the house?"

Matt nodded.

"He came with me from Chicago. I got to thinking there might be a trap
in the house, and that some one was there who wanted the blue prints,
so I made up my mind that it would be a wise move to leave Carl out in
front, and to let him keep the roll."

"That chum of yours must have seen the Hawk when she climbed out of the
back yard," growled Brady, "but how in the fiend's name was he able to
get Jerrold and the Eagle and follow us? It was dark, and we had a long
start of them."

"One guess is as good as another," said Matt, calmly. "I told you you'd
get yourself into trouble if you tried to make a prisoner of me. The
best thing you can do now is to send me back to South Chicago in the
air-ship."

"Think I'm a fool?" snarled Brady. "It may be that you're all that
stands between me and my men and capture. I'll hang onto you, King,
and I'll let that Dutch pard of yours know that if Jerrold don't keep
away from this swamp with his air-ship you're going to connect with
your finish. It's neck or nothing with me, now, and I'll go any length
to keep myself out of the 'pen.' I've laid out a fine campaign for the
Hawk, and I don't intend to have all my plans nipped in the bud, right
at the start-off."

"I suppose," said Matt, scathingly, "that your campaign is one of
robbery, and that you're going to make a pirate ship out of the Hawk?"

"That's where you put your finger on the right button!" declared Brady.
"I'm going to be a freebooter, and take my toll wherever I can find
it. It's easy to swoop down on a lot of spoil, pick it up and make off
with it. And what can the law do?" He laughed mockingly. "Policemen
will have to have wings to get anywhere near me."

"And that's what you wanted me for, is it?" cried Matt, indignantly;
"to drive the Hawk around through the air and help out your villainous
plans! I would let you kill me first."

"Rot! I'm going to stick to my original intentions, but there's got to
be something of a change in my immediate plans. We've all got to pull
out of here and to take what plunder we've got cached in the swamp.
The Hawk will have to make three or four trips, and they must be made
before Jerrold and his air-ship can interfere with us. If Jerrold fixes
up his air-ship and comes back, we'll just tell him what will happen to
you if he lingers in the vicinity of the swamp. I'm banking on that to
send him packing again, and to keep him out of sight until I can make
a change of base. You'll go away on the Hawk's first trip, and it will
probably be only half an hour before you can start."

Brady started for the door, but halted before he reached it and faced
around.

"Either one of two things happened to put that Dutchman and Jerrold on
my track," said he. "Either Harper has been caught, and has told what
he knows, or else a letter I gave Needham to deliver to Whipple, here
in the swamp, has fallen into the hands of the police. It don't make
much difference, though, how Jerrold got next to our hang-out. The
main thing is that he knows where we are, and that you will be put in
a mighty tight corner if he keeps on trying to make trouble for me.
That's about all, King. I want you to understand what you're up against
and be ready for whatever happens. I'm not going to have my plans
knocked galley-west just as I'm on the point of launching them."

With another black scowl, expressive of his savage determination,
Hector Brady strode out of the hut.

Matt was beginning to understand why Helen preferred to see her father
in prison rather than free to carry out his campaign of lawlessness.
Possessing a practical air-ship like the Hawk, Brady could commit
untold depredations and snap his fingers in open defiance of the law.

The young motorist shuddered to think of the scoundrel's comprehensive
plans, and of the part he had intended to make his prisoner play in
them.

Helen's reasoning was logical, and the expedient she had suggested was
as simple as it was effective. By taking the Hawk away from Brady she
would make it impossible for him to follow out his nefarious schemes.
The beautiful simplicity of the countercheck aroused Matt's admiration.

But how was the countercheck to be brought about? The appearance of
Jerrold's air-ship over the swamp had made doubly difficult the work
the girl was counting upon having done. Not only that, but the coming
of the Eagle had increased Matt's peril. There was no doubt in the
young motorist's mind but that Brady would go to any extreme in order
to keep himself and his companions from being captured.

All these different aspects of the situation floated through Motor
Matt's mind swiftly. Two or three minutes after Brady had left the hut,
and while Matt was still considering the problem that confronted the
girl, Helen herself stole in through the door.

Her face was haggard, but her eyes were bright and full of resolution.

"You shouldn't be here," protested Matt. "Your father suspected
something when he found you with me a little while ago and ordered you
away. What if he should come back and see you here again?"

"I don't think he'll come back, but I've got to take the risk, even if
he does." The girl spoke quickly and steadily and made her way swiftly
to Matt's side. "Dad has changed his plans--I was listening to all he
said, out there at the back of the hut. He's going to use the Hawk to
take us all away from the swamp, and _you're going to go on the Hawk's
first trip_! That means that we must do what we can, at once. If we
fail now, everything is lost."

She was breathlessly eager, but her calmness at such a moment surprised
Matt. Lifting her hands she took a small poniard from the bosom of her
dress, bent down and severed the cords that secured Matt's hands. Then,
with one downward stroke of the keen blade, she freed his feet.

"Where are your father and the rest of the men?" asked Matt.

Before she answered, Helen glided to the door and took a cautious look
outside.

"Some of the stolen goods have been hidden among the bushes of the
swamp," said she, returning to Matt. "You are to be sent away with the
loot, on the first trip, and dad himself will have to take you. He,
and everybody except Whipple, have gone to the swamp. Whipple has a
rifle and is guarding the Hawk. Whatever we do, Matt, we've got to do
in a hurry. The bag of goods taken from Hartz & Greer is behind this
hut," she pointed to an unglazed opening in the rear wall as she spoke.
"While the rest are in the swamp, I will go to the Hawk and talk with
Whipple, getting around on the other side of him so that his back will
be in this direction. While I am holding his attention, you will creep
up on him from behind and, between us, we will try and get the rifle.
It's a desperate chance, but we will do the best we can."

"You're a brave girl, Helen!" declared Matt.

"I'm doing what I think is right, and that always helps a person's
courage. I'm more worried about you than I am about myself. If anything
should go wrong--if anything should happen to you because of the help
you are giving me----"

For the first time her voice faltered. Matt reached out and caught her
hand reassuringly.

"Don't fret about me," said he. "There won't be any trouble about my
getting the best of Whipple, with you to help. Is the Hawk all ready
for a flight? I mean is there plenty of gasoline in the tank, and
plenty of oil?"

"Yes, dad has seen to that. So far as the air-ship is concerned, it
is ready to carry you quickly and safely out of the swamp. Now I will
steal out of the hut and talk with Whipple."

Once more she started for the door. Hardly had she reached it, however,
when she drew back with a gasp of consternation. Turning, she beckoned
to Matt.

"Too late!" she whispered, her voice sharp with anguish and
disappointment. "Oh, why have they come just at this time!"

Matt glided quickly to her side and peered out through the half-opened
door.

What he saw was well calculated to discourage him and the girl.



CHAPTER XIII.

INTO THE SWAMP.


Needham, Pete, Grove and Brady had not been long carrying out their
work of recovering the cached goods. They were returning from the edge
of the bushy timber, ascending the slight elevation of the "island" on
their way to the Hawk, each bearing an armful of plunder.

In his stealings, Brady had not bothered with bulky articles but had
confined himself to "lifting" smaller and richer loot. The stuff was
all in small sacks.

As the men walked past the "roost" on their course to the air-ship,
Matt and the girl withdrew from the door to avoid being seen. Through a
crack in the wall, however, they were able to keep close track of what
went on.

On reaching the Hawk, the bundles were deposited on the ground.
Whipple, leaning on his rifle, stood watching while the bags were
heaped up at the side of the air-ship.

For a few moments the villainous crew had their heads together in close
and earnest conversation. Now and again their eyes were lifted aloft,
evidently on the alert for some sign of the Eagle. Brady, it could
be seen, did most of the talking. Suddenly, after a sharp scrutiny
overhead, Brady whirled around and started for the hut.

"He's coming after you!" half sobbed the girl.

"What's the reason I can't escape through that window in the rear
wall," asked Matt, hurriedly, "and take refuge in the swamp?"

The idea seemed to electrify the girl.

"I hadn't thought of that," she whispered, catching his arm and
starting for the window. "The back of the hut is close to the trees and
bushes on this side of the island, and I know something about the reefs
of dry ground running through the swamp in the vicinity of this place.
Come!" she added; "we must hurry."

Her despair had vanished in a flash, and her steadiness and resolution
had all come back. She climbed through the window and, as Matt
followed, she was picking up a small bag that had stood close to the
rear wall.

Without speaking, and once more clasping his arm, she hurried him into
the tangled bushes that came up to within a few feet of the hut. There,
screened by a dense thicket, they paused to note further developments.

Their position, of course, rendered it impossible for them to see the
front of the hut, but they were so close they could hear Brady's oath
of astonishment and alarm when he discovered that Matt was missing.

The next moment Brady could be seen rushing around the side of the hut
and a little way in the direction of the group standing beside the Hawk.

"He's gone!" roared Brady. "The cub's got loose and skipped!"

The rest were roused into frantic activity.

"I'll sw'ar he didn't git out while I was watchin' the Hawk," cried
Whipple. "Anyways, he can't be fur off."

"Hustle around!" fumed Brady. "Get into the swamp, every man-jack of
you, and find that whelp wherever he is. I wouldn't have him get clear
for a thousand, cold!" All the gang forthwith became exceedingly busy.
They darted off in various directions, and Brady himself, accompanied
by Grove, started for the side of the island from which Matt and the
girl were watching.

"We'll have to get away from here!" breathed the girl, turning. "Follow
me, Matt, and be careful where you step. If you're not careful, you may
find yourself mired in the swamp."

"Trust me for that," answered Matt. "I'll carry this," he added, taking
the bag from the girl's hands.

The swamp, into which they were now headed, presented a matted tangle
of undergrowth growing among the trees. Through the bushes could be
seen a glimmer of stagnant water, and the whole place seemed as dank
and loathsome as a tropical jungle.

The girl picked her way carefully, parting the bushes ahead of her and
stepping from hummock to hummock. Finally they reached a little bare
uplift of dry earth, and halted to listen. They could hear nothing of
pursuit, and the girl drew a long breath of relief.

"Dad don't know that I've explored this swamp," said she. "I have lived
on the island for nearly six months--dad used to keep me here while he
was doing his thieving in South Chicago, so I wouldn't be able to tell
what I know and give him away, I guess."

She sank down on the flat piece of turf for a few moments' rest. The
ground, although dry, shivered under them as they moved, and seemed
every moment as though about to give way beneath their weight and let
them down into the morass.

"This is a treacherous-looking place," remarked Matt, peering off into
the trees and bushes that hemmed them in on every side.

"It's all of that," replied the girl.

"It would be easy for a person to get lost."

"Not easy for me, as I know it too well."

"If I can get away in the Hawk," went on Matt, after a brief silence,
"this will make it necessary for you to go with me."

"Why?" she queried, lifting her wide, dark eyes to his.

"Can't you understand? Your father and his men will discover that you
are not on the island, and they will suspect that you helped me out of
the hut. What will your father do when he finds that out?"

A shiver swept through the girl's slight form.

"I suppose he will half kill me," she answered. "But I shall stay with
him. I am his daughter, and it's my duty to be with him to the end."

"You mustn't be foolish," said Matt, inclined to get out of patience.
"You're carrying your idea of duty to your father altogether too far."

"I've thought it all out," she answered firmly, "and my mind is made
up. Please don't try to argue with me. It may not be possible for you
to get away in the air-ship now," she added, with a sigh of regret.
"If you can't, I will try and get you through the swamp. I don't know
anything about it, though, after we get a little away from the island."

"Then," proceeded Matt, not giving up his argument that Helen Brady
should go away with him, "your father will be madder than ever when he
finds out you have taken the goods stolen from Hartz & Greer."

"That's what I expect, but it's right that the stuff should be
returned. A person ought to have principles, Matt, and I don't think a
person amounts to much if he or she can't stand a little suffering on
account of their principles."

"That's right, too," muttered Matt.

"There's fifteen thousand dollars' worth of diamonds and jewelry in
that bag," Helen went on, "and Hartz & Greer have offered a reward of
twenty-five hundred to any one who will return the property."

"That money will go to you," said Matt, promptly. "It's right that it
should. Look at the risks you're taking to have it put into the hands
of its rightful owners again! Some time, Helen, you will be rid of your
father, and then the money will come handy."

She was gazing at him steadily, and there was something of rebuke in
her eyes.

"You don't mean that, Matt," said she, quietly.

"Why not?" he demanded.

"Would it be right for me to take a reward for returning property my
own father had stolen?"

Matt was amazed by the simple directness of the girl's reasoning.
And she was right, entirely right. Nevertheless it took one of fine
character to reason and to act as the girl was doing.

"If you succeed in getting away with the bag," Helen continued, "I want
you to give it back to the rightful owners. Tell them it comes from
Hector Brady's daughter, and that she hopes they will not be too hard
on her father."

"You bet I'll tell them," said Matt. "What's more, I'll get through
this swamp on foot, if I have to, and I'll consider it a mighty fine
thing to lug the bag along and turn it over to Hartz & Greer."

"I felt sure you'd help me," murmured the girl. "There was something in
your face that told me you could be depended on the moment I looked at
you at the door of that Hoyne Street house."

"Then the impression was mutual," said Matt. "If I hadn't read honesty
in your face, along with a desire to help me, I'd have made a rush out
of that room in the Hoyne Street place the moment I read your warning
on the fly leaf of the book."

"It was well you didn't do that. You'd have been caught. Pete was
behind the window curtain all the time. That was why I had to write
what I wanted you to know, and call your attention to it indirectly. If
you had----"

The girl was interrupted by a distant rustle of bushes. Stifling the
words on her lips, she sprang erect.

"Dad's coming this way," she whispered. "I don't think he has the least
idea where we've gone, but he seems to be blundering in the right
direction. We'll have to hurry on."

Once more they resumed their flight, Matt carrying the bag and
carefully following in his companion's footsteps.

The way became increasingly difficult, and the bushes even denser than
they had been at the point where they had entered the swamp. Then, too,
the hummocks which offered them foothold became farther apart so that
it was necessary to leap almost blindly through the brush in getting
from one to another.

Occasionally they halted and listened, but were unable to hear any
sound behind them to indicate that Brady and Grove were still on the
right track.

Just as Matt was congratulating himself that they had again eluded
their pursuers, a cry from the girl, muffled but full of distress,
reached him.

Between him and her a screen of bushes intervened, and the cry had come
a moment after she had taken a headlong plunge through the leafy tangle.

Not knowing what could have happened, and fearing the worst, Matt
shifted the bag to his other arm, drew his leather cap well down over
his forehead so that the visor would protect his eyes, and leaped
boldly after the girl.

By good luck, rather than by any calculation on his part, he landed on
a shaking hummock, and found that Helen had plunged into the watery
morass.

Dropping the bag, he reached down, grasped her about the waist and
dragged her from the clutching grip of the swamp.

"We'll have to go back," were the girl's first words, as he held her on
the narrow foothold.

"Why?" he asked.

She waved her hand in the direction toward which they were going.

An open space, clear of trees and bushes, lay before them--a veritable
quagmire with not a place in all its extent where they could set their
feet.

They would have to go back! With Brady and Grove on one side of them,
and this impassable bog on the other, it looked as though they had been
caught between two fires.



CHAPTER XIV.

A DESPERATE CHANCE.


Once more the girl was plunged into despair.

"We'll have to give up," she whispered, tearfully. "We have tried hard,
but luck is against us. For several minutes we have been traveling over
ground I know nothing about. When I saw that open stretch of swamp, my
heart failed me and I fell off the firm ground. You see what a horrible
place this is, Matt!"

"Isn't there any way to get around to the other side of the island?" he
asked.

"Yes, we could have done that, but I was trying to take you as far as I
could toward the other edge of the swamp."

"We'll have to give that up, now, and work our way around the island."

"In going back," faltered the girl, "we may meet dad and Grove!"

"We must take the chance," he answered; "there's nothing else for it."

"And in going around the island," proceeded the girl, dejectedly, "we
may meet some of the others who are looking for us."

"That's another risk we will have to run. Come on," he continued,
picking up the bag. "I'll lead the way back."

"You've got a way about you," said Helen, "that gives a person courage."

"A fellow would be a pretty poor stick," returned Matt, "who couldn't
keep his nerve with a girl like you to help him."

Helen's dress was torn by the bushes, and her hands and face were
scratched and bleeding; but she seemed to mind her physical discomforts
very little, so eager was she to have Matt's escape prove successful.

Listening intently for any sounds made by Brady and Grove, Matt and the
girl started back over the course they had recently covered.

They had not gone far when the sounds they feared came to them. As they
stood together and listened, they could hear Brady and Grove talking
back and forth. Their voices, and the crashing of the bushes, were
growing rapidly in volume, and proved that they were coming closer.

The girl began to tremble. Matt pressed her hand reassuringly. Off to
the right of the course they had been following his quick eye detected
a foothold among the matted bushes. He pointed it out to his companion.

"Get there, quick!" he whispered.

She leaped for the spot at once, and he was not slow in following her.
Then, crouching down, they peered through the thicket.

Brady came jumping into sight, clutching a revolver in his hand.

"I'm positive I heard something ahead, Grove!" he cried.

"It must be King, then," answered Grove, floundering along in the rear.
"He's been makin' a better hike of it through this blasted swamp than I
ever thought he could."

"There's an open stretch farther along," went on Brady, grimly.
"That'll stop him, and we'll have him in a few minutes."

Brady leaped out of sight, and Grove likewise jumped past and vanished.

The girl had scarcely breathed while the two men were so close to them.

"Now we've got a chance," whispered Matt. "While they're going on
toward that open part of the swamp, we'll get back toward the island
and double around it."

"We won't have to go far, now," rejoined the girl, her hopes rising,
"before we can turn to the right and start around the island."

Matt continued to lead the way back, making the best time he possibly
could. When the girl called softly to him, he stopped.

"Here's where we turn," said she. "I'd better go ahead from now on."

He waited for her to gain his side, then followed as she continued to
make her way onward through the bewildering tangle. Time and again
Matt, if alone, would have lost his bearings, but Helen, being on
familiar ground, was never for one moment at a loss.

Their one fear now was that they should encounter some of the others
who were searching, but they heard nothing to cause them the slightest
uneasiness.

At last, after half an hour of tiring work, Helen drew to a halt.

"We're about opposite the place where the air-ship is moored," said she.

"That's where we want to be," answered Matt. "Make for the edge of the
island, Helen, as close to the air-ship as you can get."

Once more the girl started off. The bushes thinned perceptibly as they
came closer and closer to the solid ground. This rendered the going
easier, and it also enabled Matt and the girl to make less noise in
getting through the undergrowth. In nearing the island they redoubled
their caution, and when they finally reached a spot from which they
could look out and take in the situation in the vicinity of the "roost"
and the air-ship, they congratulated themselves on the care they had
exercised.

They were not more than a dozen feet from the place where the Hawk was
secured.

Two rifles were leaning against the car, and two of the men--Grove and
Needham--were sitting on the ground, occasionally looking aloft.

Brady, Whipple and Pete were no where in sight.

"We must have crippled that air-ship of Jerrold's pretty badly,"
Needham was saying. "If King hadn't made this delay for us, the Hawk
would have been well away on her first trip."

"That kid is a slippery customer," growled Grove. "The old man is riled
for fair over the way he's cuttin' up."

"What's the use o' botherin' with him? The thing to do is to cut out o'
this an' leave King in the swamp."

"I reckon Brady'd do that, if it wasn't for the bag of loot King seems
to have taken along with him."

Both men had thrown off their hats, and Grove was nursing a number of
scratches on his face and hands.

"We had a rough time of it," said he, "an' the old man sent me back
to find out if any of the rest had had any success. If King had been
found, I was to fire a signal-shot with one of the rifles."

"Hang the luck, anyhow!" snorted Needham. "It was the worst thing Brady
ever done when he tangled up with King. The lad has a will of his own,
an' I knew well enough he'd never take hold an' help us out runnin' the
motor."

"King has got more backbone than any fellow of his age I ever saw, and
that's a fact. The girl must have helped him. And that's another place
where Brady has been lame, all along. He ought to have sent the girl
away, somewhere. She hasn't got any business hanging out with a gang
like this."

While Matt had been watching and listening, he had been turning over
several plans in his mind. Here was a chance, albeit a desperate one,
for getting hold of the air-ship.

He turned to the girl.

"Helen," he whispered, "I'm going to see if I can't capture the Hawk."

"You can't," she returned, fearfully. "Grove and Needham are armed
and--and they'll shoot."

"They can't shoot if I get hold of those rifles first," went on Matt,
still speaking in guarded tones.

"How will you do that?"

"Their backs are toward us. I'll creep as close to the Hawk as I can,
then, if they hear me, as they probably will, I'll make a rush for the
guns."

The girl was silent for a moment.

"There's nothing else to be done," she whispered, at last. "Count on
me, Matt, to do whatever I can to help."

"You keep back, Helen," he counseled. "If I succeed in getting the
guns, I won't need your help; if I don't, your help would do little
good. Here I go."

Slowly and cautiously Matt crept out of the bushes. The car of the
air-ship was between him and the men, and this served to screen him,
up to a certain point; but the two rifles were leaning against the
opposite side of the car, and in order to lay hold of them he would
either have to go around the long framework, or else cross the car. He
made up his mind to take the latter course.

Without being discovered, he managed to reach the side of the car;
then, just as he was rising to step over the rail, Needham caught sight
of him.

With a wild yell Needham gained his feet. The yell brought Grove up
like a shot. For an instant, the two rascals were paralyzed by the
unexpected appearance of Matt. Their moment of inaction afforded the
young motorist just the opportunity he needed.

Flinging himself into the car, and across it, he snatched the rifles
away from the rail, just as the hands of Grove and Needham were
outstretched to take them.

One of the weapons he flung behind him.

"Nail him!" cried Grove; "down him, before he gets a chance to shoot!"

Needham, no less than Grove, realized the necessity of capturing Matt.
Matt, however, had no intention of using the remaining rifle on either
of the two men; neither did he have it in mind to let them get away, or
rough-handle him.

As the two rushed forward, Matt flung the rifle to his shoulder, and
his gray eye sparkled menacingly along the barrel.

"Keep off!" he warned, swaying the muzzle of the gun back and forth
so as to keep both men under it; "keep away from me and stand right
where you are! I mean business, right from the drop of the hat, and you
fellows might as well understand it."



CHAPTER XV.

A DARING ESCAPE.


The menace of the steady gray eye and the swaying gun muzzle were
enough for Grove and Needham.

"Here's a go!" growled Needham, casting a yearning look around him toward
the timber.

"I'm going to make a 'go' of it, all right," averred Matt, grimly, "no
two ways about that. What are you doing with your right hand, Needham?"

Needham's hand had wandered toward his hip. Matt was watching both
scoundrels so sharply that not a move they made escaped him.

Needham brought his hand around in front of him.

"What are you trying to do, King?" queried Grove, evidently seeking
to gain time and give Brady, Pete or Whipple a chance to come on the
scene.

"I'm trying to get away from this place," replied Matt, "and I've not
much time to waste in talk. I guess you know that fully as well as I
do."

Still keeping the rifle trained on the two men, he climbed out of the
car to the ground.

"Now," he went on, "I'll tell you fellows what you're to do, and then
we'll be able to work quicker. You will both get into the car, and get
in together so that I can cover you more easily with this one gun.
Needham will then place his back against the upright timber that helps
suspend the car from the hoop--and mind you take the timber farthest
from the driver's seat. On the bottom of the car there's a coil of
small rope. With that, Grove will tie Needham to the upright. Is that
clear?"

"Why, what the blazes----" began Grove, but Matt cut him short.

"There's no time for talk, I tell you!" he called, sharply. "Brady and
the other two may show up here, and I'm going to have this work done
before that happens."

"But----"

"Get into the car!"

Matt's finger flexed ever so slightly upon the trigger of the gun. The
watchful eyes of Grove and Needham detected the movement and both made
haste to tumble into the car.

"I'd give a farm to know what you've got up your sleeve," growled
Needham, as he backed slowly against the upright timber.

"Move more quickly," warned Matt, "or you'll find what I've got in this
gun. I used to be in Arizona, and I know how they deal with matters of
this sort down there. They're not in the habit of wasting so many words
as I'm doing. Pick up that rope, Grove," he added, "and get busy with
it. Mind you tie hard knots! No fast-and-loose plays at this stage of
the game."

Grove was a bit languid in his operations, and as he worked he gave
more attention to the quarters from which Brady, Pete and Whipple might
be expected than he did to the tying of Needham.

"Grove," called Matt, sternly, "I'm not going to bother much more with
you! Move faster, and pass some of that rope around Needham's arms. I
don't want his hands left free. Pull the coils tighter."

After a fashion, Grove got his comrade tied.

"Will that do you?" he demanded, gruffly, turning to glare at Matt.

"That will answer. Now turn your back to Needham's."

"Say, by thunder I'm not going to stand for----"

"_Turn your back!_"

Matt shoved the muzzle of the rifle toward Grove's breast, and the man
made haste to place himself against the upright piece of the car's
framework.

It was Matt's intention, then, to drop the rifle and proceed with the
tying of Grove himself, but the girl suddenly appeared and climbed into
the car.

"I'll do the rest, Matt," said she, picking up the loose end of the
rope.

Matt had planned to have the girl remain in the thicket, taking no part
in his operations; but she had different ideas.

Grove and Needham both glared at the girl.

"The old man will make you sorry for this!" fumed Grove.

"I expect he will," replied the girl. "He has made me sorry for a lot
of things lately."

Around and around the bodies of the two men Helen coiled the rope.
Then, when she had come to the end of it, she made it fast with a knot.

Pausing a moment after she had finished, she drew a revolver out of
Needham's hip-pocket and dropped it on the driver's seat.

"You had better have that in your own hands, Matt," said she, quietly.
"It will be easier to handle than the rifle."

"Don't get out of the car, Helen," called Matt, as the girl was about
to climb over the rail. "You can't stay here after this."

"I can and I must."

Her resolve to remain with her father was unshaken; but there was
a bright light in her eyes which Matt had not seen there before.
Evidently the success that was attending Matt's plans to get away with
the air-ship had lifted a grievous load from her spirits.

Walking around the car, Helen picked up the bag which they had taken
with them into the swamp.

"This must go with you, Matt," she continued, pushing the bag under the
driver's seat, "along with the rest of the stuff piled up on the ground
there."

While she was on that side of the car she cast off the mooring-rope and
flung it into the air-ship.

Matt dropped the rifle and released the rope on the other side.

The Hawk was now in readiness to take to flight. With nothing to hold
it, the gas-bag began to feel the effects of the wind that was blowing
and to move about in answer to the faint gusts. But it rode on an even
keel, for its buoyancy had to be accelerated by the propeller before it
would rise, or could be maneuvered.

The girl had started toward the bags, heaped up on the ground. Before
she could reach them, however, a loud yell from the opposite side of
the island caused her to halt in consternation.

"Dad!" she cried, wildly; "he's coming!"

"Brady! This way, quick!"

The clamoring whoops went up from Needham and Grove as they struggled
fiercely to free themselves.

Matt, seeing that there was not an instant to be lost, leaped into the
car and tilted the steering-rudder at an angle which would carry the
air-ship upward.

"Come along!" he shouted to the girl as he started the engine. "Get
into the car, Helen!"

"Hurry, hurry!" screamed the girl, running directly away from the car
and in the direction of Brady and Pete, who were making for the Hawk at
a run.

A pang of regret ran through Matt at the thought of leaving Helen Brady
behind to bear the brunt of her father's anger; but there was no time
for argument. He started the propeller, and the Hawk began to move up
the airy incline toward the tops of the trees that walled in the edge
of the "island."

The struggles of Matt's two prisoners became desperately frantic. So
violently did they wrestle with their bonds that the car tipped and
swayed dangerously. Matt had no time to give to them, just then, being
wholly wrapped up in the maneuvering of the Hawk.

He gave the rudder a further tilt, throwing the air-ship to an angle
that caused Grove's feet to slip from under him, so that only the
support of the rope and the upright held him to his place.

"Shoot!" he bellowed. "Why don't you blaze away at him, Brady?"

Brady had evidently held his fire, hoping to get the air-ship back
without injury; and, even now, as his rifle and Pete's began to crack
murderously, the target of their bullets was Matt.

Two or three of the leaden spheres zipped past Matt's head, missing
him by the narrowest of margins. Strangely enough, however, Matt was
more worried about the harm the bullets might do the gas-bag, or the
machinery, than he was about any damage they might do him.

Faster and faster he speeded up the engine, and the Hawk raced toward
the clouds. She cleared the tops of the trees, gained the clear sky,
and, at a height of five hundred feet, was brought to an even keel.

Then, and not till then, did Matt venture a look below. He was just in
time to catch one fleeting glimpse of those he had left behind on the
"island." What he saw aroused his anger and indignation.

Helen, still true to her resolve to help Matt, had seized hold of her
father's rifle and was struggling to keep him from using it. The minute
figures were strangely clear, and Matt saw Brady lift his fist and
strike the girl down. Then the tops of the trees interposed and cut off
the unpleasant sight. Matt faced about, a steely glint in his gray eyes.

"Here's a fine lay out!" Grove was clamoring, far gone with chagrin
and baffled rage. "One kid, single-handed, captures two of us and runs
off with the air-ship, right under the noses of Brady and the rest!
Oh, well, we're entitled to all we get out of this. We don't deserve
anything better."

"You'll get something more than you expect," said Matt, picking up the
revolver and pushing it into his pocket, "if you don't stop squirming
around like that. It's hard to steer when you're rocking the car in
such a fashion. You fellows are my prisoners, so make the best of it."

"Yes," growled Grove, "and us two aeronauts will have a fine tale to
tell when you take us where you're going to. You've stolen this car.
That'll cook your goose for you."

"Brady," answered Matt, "can have his air-ship back whenever he wants
to show up and claim it."

There followed a brief silence, during which Matt noted that the wind
was brisk, and from the north, and exulted over the speed the Hawk
developed in the teeth of it.

Needham was first to break the silence.

"If I had my hat, and was able," said he, craning his head around to
get a look at Matt, "I'd take it off to you."

The lad in the driver's seat made no response. He was hurrying toward
South Chicago.

Where was the Eagle? The skies in every direction were clear and the
other air-ship was nowhere to be seen.

Motor Matt, as he drove the air-ship steadily against the wind, kept
close watch of the captured aeronauts.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE END OF THE MID-AIR TRAIL.


The failure of Carl, Harris and Jerrold to make a landing on the
"island" has already been recorded.

They had seen the Hawk, moored at one edge of the cleared space,
and they had seen Brady and the others; but, of course, it had been
impossible for them to see anything of Matt. The young motorist, at
that time, was bound hand and foot and lying on the cot in the hut.

With bullets flying around them and threatening injury to the Eagle,
it was not policy to remain hovering over such a nest of desperate
scoundrels very long.

"We'll get out of here," cried Harris, angrily, "and come back with men
and guns enough to give those fellows a taste of their own medicine.
Don't let any harm come to the air-ship, Jerrold. We're going to need
her, later."

Just as Harris finished speaking, a bullet slapped into the motor and
the machinery at once began to go wrong.

"Too late," responded Jerrold grimly; "they've already nipped us."

"Py chimineddy," roared Carl, "I vish I hat somet'ing vat I could shoot
mit ad dem fillains!"

Limping and staggering, Jerrold managed to urge the Eagle out of harm's
way.

"She won't drop on us, will she?" asked Harris, looking anxiously
downward at the tree-tops.

"No," replied Jerrold, "the gas-bag is uninjured, so we can't fall; and
the motor is working, too, after a fashion, and that enables us to make
a slow rate of speed. But there will have to be some repairs before we
can do anything more with the air-ship."

"Where'll we go to make them? Back to South Chicago?"

"Lake Station is nearer. We'll come down there and ascertain the extent
of the damage. It may be that we shall have to go back to South Chicago
if the injury is at all serious."

"All right," acquiesced Harris. "I'll be able to do some telephoning
and get a few more men out here from headquarters. I'll have them bring
rifles, and then we'll give Brady a set-to that he'll remember."

"I ditn't see Matt in der blace," mourned Carl.

"He may have been there," said Harris. "There were two sheds, and they
may be keeping your chum a prisoner in one of them."

"Vell, vile ve're avay fixing oop der Eagle, meppy dose fellers pack
dere vill fly off mit demselufs in der Hawk. Oof dey do dot, den ve
vill have some drouple for our pains."

"We shall have to keep watch of the sky in the direction of the swamp,"
said Jerrold. "By doing that we can tell whether or not the Hawk gets
away."

Carl made that his work.

"I don'd know how I can see mit der naked eye ven ve ged py Lake
Sdation," he remarked.

"We'll have to hunt up a spyglass, or a pair of binoculars," suggested
Harris.

"Vat oof der Hawk moofs pefore we ged dem?"

"Then we'll be up against it, and no mistake."

There was a lot of excitement in the little town of Lake Station when a
real, sure enough air-ship descended close to the blacksmith shop. The
whole population gathered and stared.

While Jerrold was busy tinkering with his crippled motor, Carl
succeeded in finding an old-fashioned spyglass and climbed with it
to the top of the highest building in town. There he perched himself
on the edge of the roof and watched continually in the direction of
Willoughby's swamp.

Meanwhile, Harris had been talking with police headquarters in South
Chicago. As a result, three officers were detailed to catch the first
train for Lake Station.

The repairs to be made to the Eagle were somewhat extensive, and taxed
the capacity of the blacksmith shop. Had Jerrold been in his own
workroom he could have fixed up the motor more easily and quickly, but
to take the Eagle back to South Chicago would have resulted in a loss
of time.

Hour after hour the inventor labored, helped by the blacksmith and
eyed with wonder by the townspeople. The detail of officers arrived,
and they could do nothing but wait until the Eagle was ready to carry
them to the "island" in the swamp. Any attempt to reach the "island" on
foot was hardly to be considered.

While Jerrold's labors were nearing completion, a yell from Carl called
the attention of Harris.

"What's the matter with you?" he shouted.

Carl was dancing around on the roof top, waving the spyglass
frantically.

"Come oop!" he cried, wildly. "Der Hawk is gedding avay mit itseluf!
Ach, plazes, vat a luck!"

Harris made haste to reach the top of the building where Carl had been
patiently waiting and watching.

"Pud der spyglass to your eye, Harris," said Carl, "und look off to der
nort'. Ach, dose fellers haf made some ged-avays, und I bed you dey
have dook Matt along!"

With the glass at his eye, Harris swept the horizon in the direction
indicated by Carl. Finally he found what he was looking for--an
oblong blot gliding through the heavens and proceeding in a northerly
direction.

"That's the Hawk, all right," said he, in a tone of intense
disappointment, "but why is it heading in that direction?"

"Prady vouldn't dare go pack by Sout' Chicago," said Carl. "I bed you
somet'ing for nodding he has got anodder hang-oudt in dot tirections.
Ach, vat vill I do for dot bard oof mine?"

Gloomily the two descended from the roof, and Carl returned the
spyglass to its owner.

Half an hour later the Eagle was ready for flight, and the officers and
Carl got aboard. It was decided to proceed to the swamp and look over
the "island" and then, if nothing of importance developed, to return to
South Chicago.

The Eagle's motor, apparently, worked as well as ever, and the four
miles separating Willoughby's swamp from Lake Station were covered in
record time.

As they neared the "island" the officers made ready to use their
guns. There was no hostile demonstration, however, and not a soul was
anywhere in sight. The Eagle descended, and the officers, accompanied
by the anxious Carl, proceeded to make a search.

They found nothing but two meagerly furnished houses, apparently
recently deserted. Silence reigned everywhere, ominous of events that
had happened.

"Vell," said Carl, gloomily, "dis means dot I haf got to do some more
looking for Modor Matt. Der gang haf made off mit him some more, und I
vas so tisappointed as I can't dell."

For that matter, they were all disappointed--Jerrold in particular.
Motor Matt had served Jerrold well, and the inventor had been anxious
to make him some repayment in kind.

But there was nothing left for the air-ship party to do but to point
the Eagle toward home. As the air-ship passed the rolling mills and
came close to the balloon house where Brady had formerly housed the
Hawk, it was observed by those in the car that the doors of the big
building were closed, and that two officers had mounted guard in front
of them.

"That means something," muttered Harris. "Drop lower, Jerrold, so I can
talk with those two cops."

Jerrold descended until the top of the car was nearly on a level with
the balloon house, and Harris leaned over the guard rail.

"Hello!" he called. "What are you fellows doing there?"

"Watching the air-ship," was the astounding answer.

"Do you mean to say that Brady's air-ship is in that balloon house?"

"Sure."

"Has Brady been captured?"

"Why, no. You went after him, didn't you?"

"We went after him, but he and his men fired on us and damaged our
motor. We went to Lake Station to fix the machinery, and while we were
there we caught sight of the Hawk, through a spyglass, making north. As
soon as we could, we started for the swamp, but there was no one there.
Naturally, we supposed that Brady and his gang had made their escape,
and it's mighty surprising to hear that the Hawk is back in its old
cage and didn't bring Brady along."

"The Hawk brought Motor Matt----"

Carl gave a yell and nearly fell out of the car.

"Modor Matt?" he shouted. "Vas you shdringing me, oder iss it shdraight
goots?"

"I'm giving it to you straight," answered the officer on the ground.
"Motor Matt got away from the swamp and brought two prisoners with him,
in the Hawk. They were two of the men who robbed Jerrold of his plans."

"Zum lauderbach haben, mich shtets----" began Carl, singing loudly and
then interrupting himself to gloat. "Dot's my bard vat dit dot! Yah,
so! Leedle Modor Matt who iss alvays doing t'ings vat you don'd oxbect.
He has shtarred himseluf some more, you bed you! Vere iss Modor Matt
now, officer?" Carl called down.

"He took a train into Chicago--said he was behind his schedule for that
five-day race. The two prisoners are at police headquarters."

"Well, by thunder!" muttered Harris, mopping his face with a red
handkerchief, "that Motor Matt must be a regular young phenomenon!"

"I never heard of anything to beat him!" averred Jerrold.

"Und you nefer vill!" declared Carl. "He iss vone oof dose fellers vat
can't be peat."

"You might take us to police headquarters, Jerrold," suggested Harris.

"Und you mighdt shtop on der vay py der railroadt sdation," piped Carl.
"I vant to ged py Chicago so kevick as der nation vill led me."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Carl next saw Matt, the young motorist was spinning around the
great oval in a Jarrot machine, which he knew so well and had driven
to victory in Kansas. The five-day race was not for one driver alone,
but several drivers were to be at the steering wheel of each car. Matt
had reached the Coliseum just in time to take his place in the racing
schedule.

Every time Matt whirled around the oval, Carl had something to say
to him, but it was not until evening that the boys were able to get
together for a talk.

They decided between them that Brady, and those whom Matt had left on
the "island," must have made their escape from the swamp by a secret
route known only to themselves.

Where Harper, the driver of the Hawk was, was likewise a mystery to the
police.

Matt had turned the bag of loot stolen from Hartz & Greer over to the
police with instructions to say that it was recovered by Miss Brady,
and that no reward would be accepted for its return.

"How you tink dot air-ship pitzness is, anyvays, Matt?" asked Carl,
when the boys had had their talk out and were ready to crawl into bed.

"I _like_ it," answered Matt, enthusiastically, "and I wish I could
have more of it!"

His wish was destined to fulfillment, for, as events proved, his
thrilling work in South Chicago and at Willoughby's swamp was but
the beginning of a series of air-ship experiences. Matt may have
congratulated himself with the thought that he was through with Hector
Brady, but Brady was by no means done with Matt--as will be made clear
in the story to follow.


THE END.


THE NEXT NUMBER (10) WILL CONTAIN

Motor Matt's Hard Luck;

OR,

THE BALLOON-HOUSE PLOT.

  An Old Friend--A Trap--Overboard--Rescued--Buying the Hawk--Matt
  Scores Against Jameson--At the Balloon House--The Plot of the Brady
  Gang--Carl is Surprised--Helen Brady's Clue--Jerrold Gives His
  Aid--Grand Haven--The Line On Brady--The Woods by the River--Brady a
  Prisoner--Back in South Chicago.



MOTOR STORIES

THRILLING ADVENTURE MOTOR FICTION


NEW YORK, April 24, 1909.

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THE BIG CYPRESS.


The rifle cracked and the piece of boiler plate, which had been erected
as target against the bank fifty yards away, fell shattered like a pane
of glass.

"How's that, Colonel Fearon?" coolly inquired the young fellow, who had
fired the shot, as he turned to the tall, sallow-faced man who stood
beside him.

A curious expression crossed the latter's face, but he answered
quickly, "Amazing, Rutherford! Simply astonishing. I could never have
believed such a thing possible. A pom-pom shell could hardly have
smashed the plate more effectually."

The boy--he was hardly more--laughed. "I thought it would startle you,
colonel. Will you feel justified in sending me up to Washington?"

"I reckon that's the place for you to go to, Rutherford. The war
department'll need that new bullet of yours in their business. You mean
to tell me you invented that bullet all by yourself?"

"I did, colonel. You see, I was always fond of dabbling in chemistry
and the idea for this came to me one day when I was at work in my
father's store. I didn't worry about it much, until the poor old man
went broke, and then it struck me there was money in it. It was the
mayor of our town, Orangeville, told me to come to you. He said that
you could give me the proper introductions."

"He was right," said Colonel Fearon. "I can fix you up with the proper
people. Let me have a shot."

Lionel Rutherford handed the colonel a cartridge, which outwardly
looked precisely similar to an ordinary rifle cartridge. He then walked
across the lawn of fine Bermuda grass, put a fresh piece of steel plate
in position, and came back.

The colonel fired, and, as before, the tough steel simply sprang to
pieces and lay in scattered fragments on the grass.

"I reckon there's more money in this than in keeping store," said the
colonel thoughtfully. "Rutherford, I'll be pleased if you'll stay here
at my house for a day or two till I can write to the proper people."

Young Rutherford thanked him warmly and the two walked back toward the
long, low, wide verandaed house.

Late that night the colonel and his son, Randal Fearon, sat together in
the well-appointed smoking room and talked earnestly in low tones.

"There's thousands in it, father," said the younger man sharply.
"Thousands!"

"I know that as well as yourself," returned the other irritably. "But
the invention's not yours or mine."

"What's Rutherford?" sneered Randal. "Here he is, a fellow who's never
known anything of life, who's lived all his days in a little one-horse
backwoods town, and now he's going to roll in riches while we are on
the edge of bankruptcy."

He paused, and glanced at his father, who sat fidgeting uneasily. The
colonel, fine-looking man that he was, was as weak-willed as his tall,
thin, sharp-faced son was strong.

"A real nice scandal there'll be when we go smash," went on Randal
Fearon. "Think of the headlines. 'Fraudulent Bankruptcy. Prominent
Floridian lives beyond his means.' How the yellow press'll revel in it!"

Again the colonel moved uneasily. "I don't see how you're going to get
the specifications from him, anyhow," he said at last.

"You leave that to me," replied Randal with sneering emphasis.

"Look you here, Randal, I won't have any violence." For once Colonel
Fearon spoke decidedly.

"I guess you needn't worry your head about that," answered Randal.
"I've got the whole plan cut and dried. You've asked him to stay?"

"Yes," said the colonel. "He will stay."

Randal laughed as if pleased. "That's all right. To-morrow we'll settle
it, Pete Dally and I."

"How?"

"I'll tell you in the morning. Don't worry yourself. As you are so
anxious to avoid it, I promise you there shall be no violence."

Randal chuckled in ugly fashion as he got up, flung the stump of his
cigar into the fireplace, and, lighting a small hand lamp, left the
room.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How much farther have we got to go before we run into any of this game
you talked about, Mr. Fearon?" asked Rutherford as he stopped and wiped
the perspiration from his streaming face.

"I thought we'd have seen a buck before now," replied Randal Fearon.
"We don't often have to come this far into the Big Cypress to find
game, do we, Pete?"

"No, sah; we gen'rally finds it quite clos' to the aidge of de swamp,"
said Pete, who was a burly, square-shouldered negro with a face as
black as ebony.

Rutherford was rather puzzled. That morning Randal Fearon had suggested
that it would be very good fun to go shooting in the Big Cypress, a
huge tract of wild, swampy forest, the edge of which was about five
miles from Colonel Fearon's place.

"You might try the effect of some of your explosive bullets," Randal
had suggested; and Rutherford had laughed and said that there wouldn't
be much left of any game smaller than a buffalo or an elephant if
struck by one of his projectiles.

All the same, being a keen sportsman, he had willingly agreed to the
shoot. What puzzled him was that they should have tramped for hours
through this steaming bush, which reeked with signs of game, and yet
not seen a single thing to shoot at.

"Don't you worry. We shall find deer soon," said Randal when Rutherford
expressed his astonishment. "We're getting near a good place now. I
reckon we'd better stop and eat our dinner first. Pete, make a fire."

Pete Dally dropped the big haversack he was carrying over his broad
shoulders, and obeyed. In a very few minutes a fire was blazing,
and the fragrant fumes of frying bacon and strong coffee filled the
close, steamy air. Lionel Rutherford, tired by the long tramp and the
hot-house atmosphere of the jungle, enjoyed the meal greatly.

After they had finished they marched on again. They had left the pine
trees behind, and were pushing along a narrow track through a forest
of great ilex, bastard oak, and magnolia. The undergrowth was of saw
palmetto, growing in huge, impenetrable clumps, among which the muddy
track wound in and out.

The scent of yellow jasmine was almost stifling, but the only life
visible was an occasional cardinal bird with its vivid crimson
plumage, or a stub-tailed water moccasin which raised its triangular,
copper-hued head with an ugly hiss and dragged itself sluggishly out of
sight among the tangled herbage.

The path was so narrow that they were compelled to walk in single file.
Randal made Pete lead the way. More than once the negro had tried to
drop behind, but each time Randal roughly ordered him to push ahead.

The silence of the swamp grew as oppressive as the intense heat. It
began to get upon young Rutherford's nerves.

"A tough place to get lost in," he said at last.

Randal turned quickly. There was a queer expression on his sharp face
as he replied:

"Yes, pretty bad, I reckon."

Somehow, Rutherford fancied there was something sinister in his tone.

"I don't like the chap," he thought to himself. "I wish I hadn't come."
Then common sense got the better of his fears. "It's the place, not the
people, that's worrying me. These big hamaks are worse than a desert.
There you can see the sky; here it's like one great, green prison."

"Look out, sah. Dah's a wild cat in dat tree," suddenly hissed Pete
Dally, and slipped out of the path into the thicket. "Quiet or youse
done frighten him."

Rutherford, all excitement, slipped his rifle from his shoulder.

But Randal barred his way. He was standing still, peering up into the
tree indicated.

"Where? I don't see it," he exclaimed harshly.

"Dere it am, sah. On dat big fork," declared Pete, pointing. And then
as Randal stepped forward, the negro slipped back round a clump of
palmetto, and Rutherford felt a hand fall sharply on his arm, while
these words were whispered in his ear:

"Dat man mean you no good, sah. Watch me, an' doan' do what he say."

He turned in amazement, but Peter was already gone. He had glided back,
and was standing at Randal's elbow, pointing out the exact spot where
he alleged he had seen the cat.

But there was no cat there now, and Rutherford wondered if there ever
had been. Randal cursed Pete angrily, and once more they moved forward.

Rutherford, more worried than he cared to own even to himself,
followed, as before, the last of the little procession.

It was getting late and the bullfrogs had begun to bellow harshly in
unseen pools in the forest. But there was no decrease in the sullen
heat. Not a breath stirred the moist, stagnant air, and the farther
they went the thicker grew the tangled vegetation till there was no
longer any sign of a path. In unbroken silence the three forced their
way through primeval forest.

Presently trees broke away, and they stood upon the muddy marge of a
reedy lagoon, across the stagnant waters of which the low sun cast a
lurid light.

"Here we are," said Randal Fearon sharply. "This is where the deer come
down to drink. You wait, Rutherford, in the bushes here, and you'll
soon get a shot. Pete and I will take up our places on the far side.
Then whatever comes some of us will get a buck."

"Watch me, and don't do what he says." Pete's words were ringing in
Rutherford's ears. He cast a glance at the negro. Pete made a quick
sign, which the English boy took to mean that he was to follow instead
of remaining.

Next moment Randal had plunged off through the palmetto with Pete at
his heels.

"What's it all mean?" muttered Rutherford angrily. "Is Fearon fooling
me, or is it Pete? Of the two, I infinitely prefer the nigger. I'll do
what he says."

He left his shelter, and moved as quietly as possible on the track of
the other two.

Sure enough, they did go round the pool! Rutherford began to wonder if
he was wrong; whether Pete for some unknown reason was fooling him.

The going was dreadful. The ground below the almost impenetrable
palmetto was deep mud. Swarms of mosquitoes rose and stung viciously.
Lionel was afraid that the crashing of the parted bushes would betray
him.

He knew he was falling a long way behind, and panic seized him that he
might lose the others. Though young Rutherford had lived all his life
in America, yet he had never been in a big swamp like this. The store
had kept him busy.

At last he reached the spot which Randal had pointed out as his own
shooting station. To his horror, there was no one there. Randal and
Pete had both disappeared. He was alone in the tangled heart of this
monstrous swamp, and knew that without help he could never hope to find
his way out.

After the first moment of panic Lionel Rutherford pulled himself
together. He had plenty of pluck. He rapidly considered the situation.
For some reason best known to himself Randal Fearon wished to abandon
him, to lose him in the swamp. But he himself had no idea of dying of
hunger, fever, or snakebite in this impenetrable wilderness. He had two
courses open--go back and try to find his way out along the trail they
had come by, or follow after Randal and Pete.

There were no objections to the first. It was a very long way, and it
was doubtful if he could find it even in broad daylight. As it was,
it would be dark in an hour. Besides, Pete had certainly meant him to
follow.

Randal must mean to spend the night in the swamp. That was clear.
Therefore he must have some camping place.

"I'll follow," muttered the boy between set teeth, and started off.

Though the sun was not yet down, it was already dusk beneath the thick
shade of the towering timber, and in the half light the trail was most
difficult to follow. The others had long ago passed out of hearing.

The night life of the swamp was waking. Enormous owls hooted weirdly,
then came the thundering bellow of a bull alligator, and presently
above all these the ghastly, half-human shriek of a panther calling to
its mate.

Stumbling and struggling, Lionel hurried on. In a little he came to a
thick belt of tall saw grass. The two pairs of footmarks entered it,
but the trails beyond were so confused with the passage of deer and
other animals that the boy recognized with a shock that he could not
follow the human footsteps.

Very near despair, he turned back. No, he could not find Randal's
trail. He stopped. "I'm done!" he muttered hopelessly, and stood
straining his ears for any sound of his former companions.

Just then, as he was almost giving up, he caught sight of a morsel of
something white stuck on a broken stem beside the trail. It was a tiny
piece of paper, and on it, marked with a muddy finger tip, an arrow
pointing in a certain direction.

"Pete!" exclaimed Lionel joyfully. A load rolled off his mind. Marking
the direction carefully, he pushed on fast. Now he was on the lookout,
he found other signs; a broken twig, a stick, laid in the path.

Darkness fell rapidly. There is little twilight in Florida.

"They can't go much farther," he said. He was right. In a very short
time the dull glow of a fire showed where the others had camped.

"What shall I do?" he asked himself. "Go right up and tackle Randal
Fearon? No; he'd have some excuse ready, and I'd only get Pete into
trouble. I must wait till Randal goes to sleep."

The mosquitoes were savage. Young Rutherford, tired and hungry, found
it maddening to wait in the damp gloom, and watch Randal gorge on the
supper which Pete cooked. Nearly two hours passed before Randal, having
finished a cigar, rolled himself, head and all, in a blanket and lay
down.

A few minutes more, and a snore told Rutherford it was safe to venture
closer.

Pete heard him, and glided out. The black man chuckled silently when he
saw the boy. "Reckoned you'd be along, sah. You foun' de sign Pete lef'
for you. Now de firs' thing is you eat. Den we talk."

He put corn, bread, and bacon into Rutherford's hands, and the boy made
a hearty meal.

"Now, sah," said Pete. "You see what dat man want to do. He lose you in
de swamp, den go home, say you fell in de water and was drowned. Den he
an' his dad, dey take dat blow-up bullet ob yours an' sell him."

Lionel Rutherford was aghast. He had never dreamed of such wickedness.

"But we beat dem," went on Pete, with a chuckle. "I like you, an' I
hate dat Randal."

"What can we do?" asked Lionel eagerly.

"Why, we play de same trick on him he try play on you. We take all de
stuff, go off, an' leab him. He no more find his way out of de Big
Cypress dan you. Only Pete know de trails."

"That won't do, Pete," returned Lionel sharply. "I won't be any party
to murder."

Pete was amazed. He expostulated strongly.

"No, I'll tell you what we will do, Pete. We'll go off and hide, and
let him think he's lost. We'll follow and watch, and when he's got the
soul nearly scared out of him we'll find him again. See?"

Pete saw. He chuckled again in high good humor. "Dat's a very fine
game, sah. We play dat to-morrow morning. Now I take de things away,
an' when Randal wake he find no breakfast, no Pete, no nothing."

       *       *       *       *       *

"He done lost hisself, sure pop!" declared Pete.

It was nine o'clock next morning, and Lionel Rutherford and the negro
had been following Randal for more than an hour.

His language when he woke up and found Pete gone had been something
appalling.

Having found that this did no good, he had started off back along
the track they had come by on the previous day, but in less than
ten minutes he was off it; and the two, who followed at a discreet
distance, had watched his growing fury and fright when he found himself
quite lost in the pathless depths of the wilderness.

"He can't go dat way much furder," observed Pete. "He gettin' down in
de deal bad swamp. He go in up to his fool neck if he don't be keerful."

Sure enough the quaking muck-land broke beneath the young scoundrel's
weight, and in he went. With a yell of fright he caught at a branch,
pulled himself out, and staggered back.

"What's he going to do now?" whispered Lionel.

"Reckon he going climb dat tree an' see whar he am."

Pete was right. Randal began shinning up the stem of a tall, slender
tree by the water's edge, the only one which seemed to give a possible
view of any of the surrounding country. No doubt he thought he might
spot the trail from the summit.

Rutherford, who had been staring hard at the tree, suddenly clutched
Pete's arm. "What's that thing up in the branches just above him?" he
asked sharply.

Pete took a long stare. "By golly, sah, it am a snake! An' a mighty big
one, sure!"

Rutherford started forward, slipping a cartridge into his rifle.

"Don't shoot, sah," whispered Pete. "Dat ain't no poison snake. It am
only a old white oak snake."

"Looks like an ugly customer," muttered Lionel.

At this moment Randal reached the first boughs and stood up. The
movement alarmed the snake, which raised its ugly head and hissed
sharply.

Randal heard the hiss, and, turning, saw the reptile. He gave a scream
of terror, and almost lost his hold. Then he backed rapidly on to a
branch which actually overhung the creek.

"Time to end this now," said Rutherford, raising his rifle. "I shall
shoot the snake."

Pete seized his arm. "De snake won't hurt him, sah. But dey will."

He pointed to the water. The big alligator had seen Randal, and
silently moved up till it was just beneath him. Another of almost equal
size had also risen to the surface. Yellow eyes agleam, the hideous
brutes were watching for this rash intruder upon their domain.

At the very instant there was a snapping crackle. The bough on which
Randal cowered was breaking. And the wretched man, clinging vainly for
a hold, had caught sight of the huge reptiles below. He screamed till
the forest resounded with his agonizing cries.

He snatched at the branches above, but could reach only twigs, which
broke in his grasp. He was falling clean into the open jaws of the
alligators.

If Rutherford's rifle had been loaded only with an ordinary cartridge
nothing could have saved Randal. It was just pure luck that he had
flung one of his explosives into the breech.

Simultaneous with Randal's fall the rifle spoke. The bullet caught the
nearest alligator on the side of the head, and the air was full of
mangled fragments of flesh and bone.

Into this horrible geyser Randal dropped heavily and vanished.

Next moment he rose again, and struck out madly for the bank.

"I can't shoot again," cried Lionel. "I should kill him if I did."

"Dere ain't no need to," said the negro. "You done scared de stuffin'
out ob dat oder gator."

"Thank goodness he's safe," exclaimed Lionel as Randal scrambled ashore
and fell in a heap on the bank. "Now we'd better get him home."

Pete laughed. "Yes, sah. I reckon he done had enough ob de Big Cypress."

When Randal came round Rutherford soon realized he had no more to
fear. The fellow's nerve was broken. He shivered and trembled like a
frightened child.

They took him home, and then Lionel went boldly to Colonel Fearon, and
told him the whole story plump and plain. When he had finished the
colonel sat speechless. His face was gray and pinched.

Lionel looked at him. "I shan't make any trouble for you," he said
coolly. "All I want is those introductions. Write them now, and I'll
take them myself to Washington."

Without a word the colonel obeyed.

Lionel Rutherford is now a rich and rising man. Pete is his faithful
major-domo. Whenever Lionel gets a holiday the two go off down south
for a week or two of shooting. But they never again penetrated the
desolate depths of the Great Cypress.



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Transcriber's Notes:


Italics are represented with _underscores_; bold with =equal signs=.

Retained inconsistent hyphenation ("reentered" vs. "re-entered").

Page 12, changed "anyhere" to "anywhere" ("we can go anywhere").

Page 13, removed unnecessary quote before "In the letter, over his own
signature." Changed "propellor" to "propeller" ("propeller forces the
air-ship").

Page 16, changed "Yon" to "You" ("You can handle the machine").

Page 18, changed "times" to "time" ("right time arrives").

Page 19, changed "geen" to "been" ("chum has been getting").

Page 26, changed "Mat" to "Matt" ("get a look at Matt").

Page 27, changed "nearer" to "neared" ("As they neared").

Page 28, changed "bulding" to "building" ("big building were closed").

Page 29, changed "crossel" to "crossed" ("curious expression crossed").
Changed "outwarlly" to "outwardly" ("outwardly looked precisely").
Changed "varandaed" to "verandaed."

Page 30, changed "thicked" to "thicker" ("thicker grew the").

Page 31, changed "clutchel" to "clutched" ("clutched Pete's arm").





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