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Title: Motor Matt's Prize - or, The Pluck That Wins
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. 23
  JULY 31, 1909

  FIVE
  CENTS


  MOTOR MATT'S
  PRIZE

  OR THE PLUCK
  THAT WINS

  _BY THE AUTHOR
  OF "MOTOR MATT"_

  [Illustration: _Unaware of his narrow escape
  the king of the motor boys
  flung the Sprite onward
  to victory._]

  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, _79-80 Seventh Avenue,
New York, N. Y._

  No. 23.      NEW YORK, July 31, 1909.      =Price Five Cents.=



MOTOR MATT'S PRIZE

OR,

The Pluck that Wins.

By the author of "MOTOR MATT."



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I. A CLASH IN BLACK AND YELLOW.
  CHAPTER II. PICKEREL PETE'S REVENGE.
  CHAPTER III. A "DARK HORSE."
  CHAPTER IV. PLANS.
  CHAPTER V. AN ORDER TO QUIT.
  CHAPTER VI. FACING THE MUSIC.
  CHAPTER VII. GATHERING CLOUDS.
  CHAPTER VIII. THE PLOTTERS.
  CHAPTER IX. FIREBUGS AT WORK.
  CHAPTER X. SAVING THE "SPRITE."
  CHAPTER XI. OUT OF A BLAZING FURNACE.
  CHAPTER XII. WHAT ABOUT THE RACE?
  CHAPTER XIII. MART RAWLINS WEAKENS.
  CHAPTER XIV. THE RACE--THE START.
  CHAPTER XV. THE FINISH.
  CHAPTER XVI. CONCLUSION.
  TRICKED BY TWO.
  HOMES ON THE RIO GRANDE.
  PIGEONS AS PHOTOGRAPHERS.



CHARACTERS THAT APPEAR IN THIS STORY.


  =Matt King=, otherwise Motor Matt.

  =Joe McGlory=, a young cowboy who proves himself a lad of worth and
  character, and whose eccentricities are all on the humorous side. A
  good chum to tie to--a point Motor Matt is quick to perceive.

  =Ping Pong=, a Chinese boy who insists on working for Motor Matt, and
  who contrives to make himself valuable, perhaps invaluable.

  =George Lorry=, who, befriended by Motor Matt at a critical time in
  his career, proves a credit to himself and to his friends.

  =Mr. Lorry=, George's father; a man who knows how to be generous.

  =Ethel Lorry=, George Lorry's sister; an admirer of Motor Matt.

  =Pickerel Pete=, whose elemental mind evolves a grievance against
  Motor Matt and is further worked upon by an unscrupulous enemy of
  Lorry and Matt. The result is almost a tragedy.

  =Ollie Merton=, a rich man's son with many failings, but rather
  deeper than he appears.



CHAPTER I.

A CLASH IN BLACK AND YELLOW.


"Woosh!"

"Fo' de lan' sakes!"

Then followed a bump, a clatter of displaced stones, and sounds of
a fall. When quiet once more ensued, two surprised youngsters were
on hands and knees, peering at each other like a couple of hostile
bantams. Between them lay a string of perch, and off to one side a
hickory fishpole, and an old tomato can with a choice assortment of
angleworms squirming out of it.

One of the lads was a fifteen-year-old Chinese, in fluttering blouse,
wide trousers, wooden sandals and straw hat; the other was a diminutive
moke, black as the ace of spades, barefooted, and wearing a "hickory"
shirt and ragged trousers.

The bank of Fourth Lake, where they had come together so unexpectedly,
was an admirable place for such collisions. In this place the bank was
some thirty feet high, steep and rocky. A narrow path, thickly bordered
with bushes, angled from top to bottom. At the foot of the path was a
boathouse.

Now, if a Chinese boy, in a good deal of a hurry, went slipping
and sliding downward from the top of the path, it will be readily
understood that he could not put on the brakes in time to avoid an
obstruction appearing suddenly in front of him as he scrambled around a
bushy angle.

And if that obstruction happened to be a diminutive darky, sitting
squarely in the path, sunning himself and half asleep, too drowsy to
take notice of sounds above and behind him, it will also be understood
that a collision was certain.

It happened. The Chinese took a header over the darky, and when each
flopped to his hands and knees, they were looking into each other's
eyes with growing animosity.

"By golly!" flared the negro, "is dem glass eyes en yo' haid? Ef dey
ain't, why doan' yu use dem?"

"Why blackee boy makee sit in China boy's load?" gurgled the other.

"Yo' own dishyer lake?" taunted the little moke; "yo' gotter mo'galidge
on dishyer bank? Go on wif yo' highfalutin' talk! Ah'll sot wherebber
Ah wants, en ef yo' comes erlong en goes tuh shovin', by golly, yo'll
fin' Ah kin do some shovin' mahse'f."

"My gottee light comee down bank," asserted the Chinese boy, picking
himself up. "My makee go allee same boathouse; you makee stay in load,
you gettee shove. My plenty same choo-choo tlain, you makee sleep on
tlack. Savvy? You makee some mo' shove, my makee some mo' shove, too."

The Chinese boy stood his ground. The black-skinned youngster sat up
and pulled his string of fish closer.

"Ah nebber did lak Chinks," he grunted.

"My no likee blackee boy, all same," averred the Celestial.

"Ah reckons Ah kin lick yu' wif one han' tied behin' mah back. Go
'long, yaller trash! Ah's er hurriclone en a cynader, all rolled intuh
one, when Ah gits sta'ted. Look out fo' a big blow en a Chink wreck,
dat's all."

"Woosh! Blackee boy makee plenty blow. Me allee same cannon. My makee
go bang, you makee go top-side. No likee your piecee pidgin."

Then a comical thing happened, and if any third person with a humorous
vein in his make-up had been around, the proceeding would have been
highly enjoyed.

Both youngsters glared at each other. Each had his fists doubled,
and each fiddled back and forth across the steep path. The black boy
sniffed contemptuously. The Chinese lad was a good imitator, and he
also sniffed--even more contemptuously.

"By golly," fumed the little moke, "Ah dunno whut's er holdin' me back.
Ef any one else had done tuh me whut yo' done, Ah'd hab tromped all
ober him befo' now. Ah's gwine tuh dat boathouse mah'se'f. Git outen de
way an' le'me pass, er Ah'll butt yo' wif mah haid!"

"My makee go to boathouse, too."

A little curiosity suddenly crept into the black boy's hostile brain.

"Whut bizness yo' got at dat boathouse, huh?" he demanded.

"Gottee plenty pidgin. My workee fo' Motol Matt."

"Yo' workin' fo' Motor Matt?" grunted the other. "By golly, he's mah
boss."

"Him China boy's boss."

"Naw, he ain't. Yo's talkin' froo yo' hat. Doan' yo' go er prowlin'
erroun' dat 'ar boathouse. Ah ain't a-lettin' nobody git dat job away
f'om me."

"Motol Matt my boss, allee same," insisted the Chinese boy.

"When you all git hiahed by Motor Matt?" demanded the darky.

"Long time, allee same Flisco."

"Den dat let's yo' out, yaller mug. Motor Matt done hiahed me fo' days
ergo, at two dollahs er day. Skun out. Doan' yo' try cuttin' me loose
from dat 'ar job."

The darky took a step downward, but the Celestial planted himself
firmly and put up his fists. Once more there was a hitch in
proceedings, but the affair was growing more ominous.

"Ah shuah hates tuh mangle yo' up," breathed the darky, "but de
'sponsibility fo' what's done gwine tuh happen b'longs on yo' had en
not on mine."

The Chinese lifted his yellow hands and crossed two fingers in front of
his face, then, in a particularly irritating manner, he snorted at the
black boy through his fingers.

That was about as much as flesh and blood could stand. The colored lad
was so full of talk that it just gurgled in his throat.

"Dat's de mos' insulatin' thing what ebber happened tuh me!" he finally
managed to gasp. "By golly, Ah doan' take dat f'om nobody. Dat snortin'
talk Ah won't stan', dat's all."

"Blackee boy makee heap talk," taunted the Chinese; "him 'flaid makee
hit with hands."

"'Fraid?" cried the darky. "Say, you, Pickerel Pete ain't afraid ob all
de Chinks dat eber walked de erf. Chinks--waugh! Ah eat's 'em."

"Mebby you tly eatee Ping Pong?" invited the Celestial.

Pickerel Pete, watching his antagonist warily, stooped to pick up a
small pebble. Very carefully he laid the pebble on his shoulder.

"Knock dat off," he gritted, his hand closing on the string that held
the perch. "Yo' all ain't got de nerve. Yo's got gas enough fo' er
b'loon dissension, but dat's all dere is to yu. Knock de stone offen
mah shoulder! Go on, now, you yaller trash."

Ping leaned over and brushed the pebble away. That settled it. There
was no retreat for either of the two after that.

Pete gave a whoop and struck at Ping with the string of perch. The
string broke, and Ping got a perch down the loose collar of his kimono,
while another slapped him across the eyes. For an instant the air was
full of fish, and under cover of the finny cloud the enraged Chinese
rushed at his enemy and gave him a push.

Pete sat down with a good deal of force, and, as it happened, he sat
down on his fishhook. A fishhook was never known to lie any way but
point up and ready for business, so Pete got up about as quick as he
sat down. The next moment he rushed at Ping, trailing the line and the
fishpole after him.

This time the two boys clinched, and the noise they made as they rolled
about among the perch and pummeled each other caused a commotion at the
boathouse. Motor Matt and George Lorry rushed out of the building and
looked up the path.

"Great spark-plugs!" exclaimed Matt. "There's a fight going on up
there, George."

"It looks that way, that's a fact," answered Lorry. "Let's go up and
put a stop to it."

Matt was already bounding up the path. Before he had ascended more than
fifteen feet he was met by two rolling, plunging, tumbling forms coming
down. A tremendous clatter of sliding stones accompanied the descent,
and a towed fishpole whacked and slammed in the rear.

Bracing himself, Matt succeeded in laying hold of the two closely
grappled forms, and in bringing them to a stop; then, when he
recognized who the fighters were, his astonishment held him speechless.

"Pickerel Pete!" exclaimed George Lorry.

"And Ping Pong," added Matt, as soon as he had recovered a little from
his amazement. "The sight of Ping pretty near gives me a short circuit."

"My gottee job," whooped the breathless Ping; "Pickelel Pete no gottee!"

"Hit's my job, en Ah ain't er quittin' fo' no yaller feller like you!"

Thwack, thwack!

"Here, now," cried Matt, "this won't do. Stop it, you fellows!"

Pickerel Pete had a firm grip on Ping's pigtail--which is about the
worst hold you can get on a Chinaman. Ping had one hand and arm around
Pete's black neck, and the other hand was twisted in the fishline.

Every time Pete would pull the queue a sharp wail would go up from
Ping, and every time the fishline was jerked Pete would howl and squirm.

"You boys ought to be ashamed of yourselves," said Matt, masking his
desire to laugh with all the severity he could muster.

Lorry was leaning against a tree, his head bowed and his whole form in
a quiver.

"Leavee go China boy's pigtail!" chirped Ping.

"Stop yo' pullin' on dat 'ar fishline!" howled Pete.

"Let go, both of you!" ordered Matt; then forcibly he pulled the two
lads apart. "Here, Lorry," he called, "you hang onto Ping and I'll take
care of Pete."

The youngsters were a disordered pair when separated and held at a
distance from each other.

"What's the meaning of this?" demanded Matt.



CHAPTER II.

PICKEREL PETE'S REVENGE.


For several moments neither Pete nor Ping was able to reply to Matt's
question. The darky was busy getting the fishhook out of his trousers,
and the Chinese was hopping up and down on one foot, shaking the perch
out of his flapping garments. Both the fish and the fishhook were
extricated at about the same time.

"Say, boss," cried Pete, "yo' all ain't done passed me up fo' dat
yaller trash, has yu? Ah's workin' fo' yu yit, ain't Ah? Dat 'ar
slant-eye hefun was er sayin' dat he had de job, but Ah 'lows yo'
wouldn't go en cut me offen yo' pay-roll fo' de likes ob him."

"My workee fo' Motol Matt," clamored Ping, "allee time. Blackee boy no
workee. Me one piecee fine China boy. Lickee blackee boy allee same Sam
Hill."

"Yo' nebber!" whooped Pete. "Ah kin git yo' on de mat wif mah eyes
shut, en----"

"Stand right where you are, Pete!" cut in Matt sternly. "I'll not have
any more rowdying. You and Ping ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

"You ketchee boat my sendee by expless, Motol Matt?" inquired Ping.

Matt had "caught" the boat, all right. Ping, without any instructions,
had sent the eighteen-foot _Sprite_, with engine installed and various
accessories in the lockers, from San Francisco to Madison, Wisconsin,
by express, charges collect.

At first the king of the motor boys had been considerably "put out" by
this unauthorized move of Ping's, but later he had been glad that the
_Sprite_ had come into his hands.

"Yes, Ping," said Matt, "I received the boat, and we have now got her
in the boathouse down there, making some changes in her to fit her for
the motor-boat race next week. Where have you been, Ping?"

"Makee come flom Flisco," answered the Chinese, hunting up his sandals
and his hat. "My workee fo' you, so my come findee boss."

"The boat got here quite a while ago. How long have you been in the
town?"

"Ketchee town yessulday. Makee ask chop-chop where my findee Motol
Matt. Thisee molnin' 'Melican man say, so my come. Blackee boy allee
same stone in China boy's load; China boy no see um, takee tumble;
blackee boy velly mad, makee fight. Woosh!"

Pete, with snapping eyes, had been standing back listening to this
talk. Now he thought it about time that he put in his own oar.

"Ah's brack, boss," said he to Matt, "but Ah ain't yaller. Cho'ly yo'
ain't goin' tuh frow me down fo' dat 'ar no-'count hefun, is yo'? Ah's
workin' fo' you fo' two dollahs er day. Ain't dat right?"

"Peter," said Matt, "you're not to be depended on. I hired you for two
dollars a day to pilot me around the lakes, and I paid you for a day
in advance. You went with me through the canal to Fourth Lake, and
then up the Catfish to Whisky Creek. I left you to watch the boat, and
you deserted, and I haven't seen you since until this minute. Now you
bob up, just as though nothing had happened, and want to keep right on
working for me. I don't think I need you any longer, Pete. You didn't
work for me more than three hours, but you got paid for a full day, so
you ought to be satisfied."

Ping puffed himself up delightedly. Pickerel Pete, on the other hand,
seemed struck "all of a heap."

"Yo' doan' mean dat, does yo', boss?" he pleaded. "Ah's er good li'l
moke, en Ah got testimendations f'om de gobernor ob de State. Yo' ain't
gwineter turn down dem testimendations, is yo'?"

"I can't depend on you, Pete," said Matt. "I don't need a boy any more,
anyhow; but I'm under obligations to Ping, so I'll have to take him on."

"Den Ah's kicked out?" shouted Pete.

"No, you're not kicked out. I don't need you, that's all."

"We had er contrack, en yo's done busted hit!" flared Pete savagely.

Matt could not restrain a laugh at the little darky's rage.

"You got the best of our contract, Pete," said Matt. "You owe me about
a dollar and a half, but I'm willing to call it square."

"Ah owes yo' more'n dat," fumed Pete. "Yo's done kicked me out, en Ah
ain't er gwine tur fo'git. Hit's dat yaller trash dat's 'sponsible"--he
shook his black fist at Ping--"but Ah's gwine tuh play eben wif yo' all
fo' whut yo's done. Jess watch mah smoke!"

"You little rascal!" spoke up Lorry; "what do you mean by talking that
way? Get out of here!"

"Ah's gotter right tuh stay anywhere Ah please erround dishyer lake,"
cried Pete. "Yo' kain't drive me off, nuther. Yah! Dat ole boat you's
fixin' up fo' de race ain't worf nuffin'. Ollie Merton he's gotter boat
dat is er boat, en he's gwinter beat yo' outen yo' boots, dat's whut
he is. Ah wouldn't 'sociate wif no sich fellers as you, en Ah wouldn't
work fo' Motor Matt ef he paid me a millyun dollahs er day! Jess yo'
watch mah smoke--Ah'll git eben, yassuh!"

With that the angry little rascal turned and ran up the path. But he
did not run far. As soon as a bend in the crooked course had hidden him
from the eyes of Matt and Lorry, he plunged off along the side of the
bank, hiding himself in the undergrowth, and working his way slowly
down toward the boathouse.

As soon as Pete had vanished, Lorry turned to Matt with a laugh.

"There's another enemy for us to deal with, Matt," said he.

"If he was bigger," returned Matt, "he might prove dangerous; but
Pete's too small to count."

"Blackee boy no good," put in the smirking Ping. "My knockee blame head
off!"

"Don't be so savage, Ping," said Matt humorously.

"So this is the chap that sent the _Sprite_ to Madison by express, eh?"
inquired Lorry, grinning as he gave the Celestial an up-and-down look.

"He's the fellow. Why did you drop out so suddenly in San Francisco,
Ping?" and Matt turned to the Chinese.

"My waitee fo' you by Tiburon landing, you savvy?" said Ping. "Bumby,
my see launly boss come down landing likee house afire. Woosh! No
likee launly boss. My say 'goo'-by' and lun away. One, two, tlee
day, my makee hunt fo' Motol Matt. Him gone. P'licee man say he gone
Ma'son, Wiscon', so my gettee 'Melican man boxee boat, shippee Ma'son.
You ketchee awri'. Velly fine. Now my workee fo' you. Hi-lee-lee,
hi-lo-lo----"

Ping was happy. He had found Matt, and he was back on the job again.
Not only that, but the "blackee boy" was cut out for good.

"Do you remember the three men who made us so much trouble in San
Francisco, Ping?" asked Matt.

"Allee same. Red-whiskels 'Melican----"

"That's the fellow who's called Big John."

"Sure; him Big John, awri', and big lascal, too. Woosh! My lecollect
Kinky and Loss. All thlee makee Matt heap tlouble."

"Big John, Kinky, and Ross, those are the men. Have you seen anything
of them, Ping, since you left Frisco?"

"No see um, Motol Matt. My punchee head, me see um. Where Joe McGloly,
huh? Him big high boy, Joe."

"McGlory's off around Picnic Point on a motor cycle, trying to find
out how fast the boat is that the _Sprite_ has got to beat. As the
_Wyandotte_ races through the lake, Joe was to race along the road
on the lake shore, just keeping abreast of the boat. Then Joe's
speedometer will tell him how fast the boat is going."

"No savvy," murmured Ping, shaking his head.

"Your talk is too deep for him, Matt," laughed Lorry. "Well, let's get
back to the boathouse. You were just going to explain the changes you
were making in the _Sprite_ in order to make her fast enough to beat
the _Wyandotte_."

"When Joe gets back," said Matt, "we'll know just how fast the
_Wyandotte_ can go, and just how fast the _Sprite_ will have to travel."

"Merton may try to fool us, Matt. If he knows Joe is timing him, he'll
not let the _Wyandotte_ put in her best licks."

"I told Joe to be careful and not let any one on the _Wyandotte_ see
him. We've got to be just as careful. I'd hate to have Merton know what
we were doing to the _Sprite_."

"Sure," nodded Lorry, "it won't do to have our hand tipped at this
stage of the game."

Matt and Lorry started back toward the boathouse, Ping following
them and looking back up the path on the chance of catching sight of
Pickerel Pete.

"All the changes I'm making in the _Sprite_," continued Matt, "are
drawn on that roll of papers I left on the work-bench. We'll go
over those diagrams, one at a time, George, and I think I can make
everything clear to you."

"Whatever you say, Matt, goes," returned Lorry. "You've got a head on
you for such things. I know a good motor launch when I see it, and I
can drive such a boat as well as anybody, but I'm no mechanic. All I
want," and Lorry's eyes flashed and his words became sharp, "is to get
a boat that will beat Merton's. You know how much that means to me."

"I do," said Matt, "and we're going to make a fast boat out of the
_Sprite_. We'll give Ollie Merton a run for that prize, and no two ways
about it. When Joe gets back, if he has had any kind of luck, we'll
know just what we're up against."

The boathouse was large and roomy, and the doors were open, front
and rear. Matt had transformed part of the interior into a workshop,
and there was a bench, with a machinist's vise, under an open window
at the side of the building. Tools and parts of the boat's machinery
were scattered about, apparently in great disorder, but really with a
methodical carelessness that left them handily in the spot where they
would next be needed.

As the boys entered the boathouse, Matt started directly for the bench
to get the roll of drawings. They were not where he had left them, and
he turned blankly to Lorry.

"Did you do anything with that bundle of diagrams, George?" he asked.

"Never touched 'em, Matt," replied Lorry, with some excitement, "but I
saw where you laid them--and it was right there."

Lorry dropped a hand on the work-bench, close to the open window.

"They've been stolen!" exclaimed Matt aghast. "They were taken while we
were up the bank! Who could have done it?"

"Who but Merton and some of those rascally friends of his?" queried
Lorry, his eyes flashing.

Matt ran to the other end of the boathouse and stepped out upon the
small platform above the water, but, strain his eyes as he would, he
could see nothing of any boat on that part of the lake.



CHAPTER III.

A "DARK HORSE."


Ollie Merton was the only son of a millionaire lumberman. The
millionaire and his wife were making an extensive tour of Europe, and
while they were away the son was in complete charge of the big Madison
mansion, with a large fund in the bank subject to his personal check.

Never before had such a chance to "spread himself" came young Merton's
way, and he was making the most of it.

The lad was commodore of the Winnequa Yacht Club, which had its
headquarters near Winnequa, on Third Lake. Another institution, known
as the Yahara Motor Boat Club, had its boathouse on Fourth Lake; and
between the Winnequas and the Yaharas there was the most intense
rivalry.

Twice, in two years hand running, the Winnequas had contested against
the Yaharas for power-boat honors. By winning the first race the
Winnequas had secured a trophy known as the "De Lancey Cup," and by
winning the second race they still retained possession of the cup.
By winning a third time the cup would pass to them in perpetuity. The
Yaharas, feeling that their very existence as a club was at stake,
were bitterly determined to snatch the prize from their rivals. A vast
amount of feeling was wrapped up in the approaching contest.

George Lorry was vice commodore of the Yahara Club. In a secret
session, months before, the Yaharas had commissioned Lorry to carry
the honors of the club and secure a boat which would outrun any the
Winnequas might put in the field.

Lorry, no less than Merton, was the son of a rich man. Without
consulting his father, Lorry ordered a five thousand-dollar hydroplane,
and, at the last moment, parental authority stepped in and denied the
young man such an extravagance.

George Lorry at this time had rather more pride and conceit than were
good for him. His father's action, in the matter of the hydroplane,
stung him to the quick. He felt that he had been humiliated, and that
his comrades, the Yaharas, were giving him the cold shoulder on account
of his failure to "make good" with a winning boat.

George had been wrong in this, but, nevertheless, he resigned from
the boat club and went to the other extreme of making a friend and
associate of Ollie Merton.

Merton, recognizing in Lorry the only source of danger to the prestige
of the Winnequas, had advised George to do certain things with the
object of clearing a rival from the field during the forthcoming race.

That Merton had advised unscrupulous acts, and that Lorry had tried to
carry them out, matters little. Motor Matt met Lorry at just the right
time to keep him from doing something which he would have regretted to
the end of his days.

Very recently Lorry had discovered the false friendship of Merton, and,
coming to see the folly of what he had done in a misguided moment, had
gone back to the Yaharas and requested a renewal of the commission to
furnish a boat for the coming race that would regain the De Lancey cup
for his club. Lorry had been received by his former comrades with open
arms, and they had immediately acceded to his request.

From this it will be understood how great a stake George Lorry had
in the third contest with the Winnequas. Apart from the intense club
spirit which prompted a winning boat at any cost, there was a personal
side to the issue which meant everything to Lorry.

Merton's specious counsel, given for the purpose of getting Lorry out
of the race, had almost brought Lorry to ruin. Now, to best Merton
in the contest had come to be regarded by Lorry as almost a personal
justification.

To Motor Matt young Lorry had turned, and the king of the motor boys
had promised a boat that would regain the lost prize for the Yaharas.

Matt felt that the _Sprite_, with certain changes, could beat anything
on the lakes. Lorry shared his confidence, and Matt was working night
and day to get the swift little eighteen-foot launch in shape for
"warming up" on the water before the regatta.

The theft of the drawings was the first backset Matt and Lorry had
received. Well aware of Merton's questionable character, it was easy
for the lads to believe that he had slipped into the boathouse while
they were up the bank and had taken the plans; or he need only have
come to the window and reach in in order to help himself to them.

Lorry was terribly cut up.

"Merton has got the better of us," he muttered disconsolately. "He'll
know just what we're going to do with the _Sprite_ now, and will make
changes in the _Wyandotte_, or else arrange for another boat to stack
up against us. It's too late for us to order another boat, and we'll
have to go on with the _Sprite_ and look at Merton's heels over the
finish line. Oh, thunder! I wish this Chink and that Pickerel Pete were
in the bottom of the lake!"

Noticing the scowl Lorry gave him, Ping slunk away from his vicinity,
and came closer to where Matt was walking thoughtfully back and forth
across the floor of the boathouse.

"Don't lose your nerve, Lorry," counseled Matt, coming to a halt and
leaning against the work-bench. "No fellow ever won a fight unless he
went into it with confidence."

"It's all well enough to talk of confidence," grumbled Lorry, "but this
is enough to undermine all the hopes we ever had."

"Looked at in one way, yes. Those were my working drawings. They
contained all the measurements of the _Sprite's_ hull, my plans for
changing the gasoline tanks from the bow aft where they would not
bring the boat down so much by the head, also my arrangement for a new
reversing-gear, the dimensions of the motor, and the size and pitch of
our new propeller."

Lorry groaned.

"Why, confound it!" he cried, "Merton will be able to figure out just
what the _Sprite's_ speed should be--and he can plan accordingly for
another boat. There's a way of getting those plans away from him, by
Jupiter!" He started angrily to his feet.

"How?" asked Matt quietly.

"The police," returned Lorry.

"No, not the police! We don't know that Merton has the plans; it's a
pretty safe guess, all right, but we don't absolutely know. When you
call in the law to help you, George, you've got to be pretty sure of
your ground."

Lorry dropped back in his chair dejectedly, and Matt resumed his
thoughtful pace back and forth across the room.

"I've thought for the last two days," Matt went on finally, "that
Merton was rather free in showing off the _Wyandotte_. He has her over
here in Fourth Lake when she belongs in Third, and he's trying her out
on the other side of Picnic Point, almost under our noses. I'm not sure
but that Merton wants us to see his boat's performances."

"Then he's not running the _Wyandotte_ at her racing speed, Matt,"
averred Lorry. "He's only pretending to, hoping that we'll watch her
work and get fooled."

"He'll not fool us much. The _Wyandotte_ is a thirty-seven-footer,
five-foot beam, semi-speed model. She has a two-cylinder, twenty-horse,
two-cycle engine, five-and-three-quarter-inch bore by five-inch stroke.
The propeller has elliptical blades, and is nineteen inches in diameter
by twenty-eight-inch pitch----"

Lorry looked up in startled wonder. Motor Matt had reeled off his
figures off-hand as readily as though reading them from a written
memorandum.

"Where, in the name of glory, did you find out all that?" gasped Lorry.

Matt smiled.

"Why," said he, "I got them in a perfectly legitimate manner from the
builder of the boat, who lives in Bay City. The name of the builder
was easily learned, and a letter did the rest. The _Wyandotte_ can log
fourteen or fifteen miles--no trouble to find that out with pencil and
paper, since we have all those dimensions. Now, the _Sprite_, as she
was, could do her mile in four-twelve--possibly in four--and Merton
knows it. Why, then, is he showing off a boat that is not much better
than the _Sprite_ has been all along? Take it from me, Lorry," and Matt
spoke with supreme conviction, "the _Wyandotte_ is not the boat the
Winnequas will have in the race. _There's another one_, and I've felt
morally sure of it all along."

"You're a wonder!" muttered Lorry. "Why, you never told me you'd
written to Bay City about the _Wyandotte_."

"I intended to tell you at the proper time."

"Well, if Merton is going to spring a surprise boat on us the day of
the race, that makes it so much the worse."

"I have other plans for changing the _Sprite_, but I have been holding
them back until I could make sure Merton was holding another speed
boat in reserve. Those plans weren't in that roll that was stolen,
George; as a matter of fact, they're not down on paper at all. From the
drawings and memoranda Merton has secured he can figure the improved
_Sprite's_ speed at a little less than sixteen miles an hour. Let him
figure that way. The other plans I have will enable her to do twenty."

Lorry bounded off his chair.

"Twenty?" he cried. "Matt, you're crazy!"

Before Matt could answer, Joe McGlory staggered into the boathouse,
dragging a motor cycle after him. Both he and the wheel were splashed
with mud, and bore other evidences of wear and tear, but the cowboy's
eyes were bulging with excitement.

"You've been gone two hours longer than I thought you'd be, Joe," said
Matt, studying his chum with considerable curiosity. "What's happened?"

"That's it!" exploded McGlory, breathlessly, leaning the motor cycle
against the bench. "Speak to me about that! Sufferin' thunderbolts! but
I've made a whale of a discovery."

"What is it?" demanded George, wildly impatient.

"Why," cried McGlory, "Merton's got another boat, and she's certainly
a blue streak, if I know the brand. The fat's in the fire, pards. If
the poor old _Sprite_ gets into a race with this new boat of Merton's,
she'll be in the 'also ran' column."

Lorry collapsed.

"A dark horse!" exclaimed Matt. "I'd have bet a farm Merton was
planning to spring something like that. Buck up, Lorry! Perhaps this
isn't so bad, after all. Tell us about it, Joe."



CHAPTER IV.

PLANS.


"When I got over the point, pards," said Joe, dropping into a chair and
fanning himself with his hat, "the _Wyandotte_ was just comin' down
the lake to pull off her usual race with herself. I hauled up in the
road, with the bushes between me and the water, ready to jump into the
saddle the minute the boat came opposite. I was keeping shady, you can
bet your moccasins on that, and it was some sort of a jolt when I saw
a galoot perched on a stone. He looked like a hobo, and the way he
grinned got on my nerves.

"'I'm funny, all right,' I says to him, 'but where I come from a feller
gets shot if he looks that way at some one else.'

"'I ain't laffin' at you,' says the tramp, 'but at the joke them other
mugs is playin' on you an' your push.'

"'Where does the joke come in?' I inquires.

"'Why,' he comes back, 'that other club is foolin' you with a boat
here on Fourth Lake when the real boat is over on Third. If what I'm
a-sayin' is worth a dollar to you, just remember and cough up.'

"Well, say, that hobo wasn't a holy minute grabbin' my attention. I
fell off the chug wheel right there and proceeded to palaver. It turned
out that Merton's gard'ner was sick for a few days, and that the tramp
mowed the lawn and did a few other things around the place. There was
an open window, Ollie and some of his pards were on the other side
of it, and the noise of the lawnmower didn't prevent the tramp from
hearing what was said. You can bet your last dollar it was hot news he
got hold of.

"Merton and the Winnequas were plannin' to fool us with the _Wyandotte_
on Fourth Lake while they were warming up the real boat on Third. The
hobo said I could wait there at the Point till the _Wyandotte_ came
closer, and that I'd see Merton wasn't aboard; then he allowed that if
I'd sizzle over to the gun club on Third Lake I'd see the real prize
winner doing stunts that would curl my hair.

"The tramp was off for Waunakee, and had just dropped down on a stone
to rest. My coming along was a happenchance, as he hadn't intended to
peddle the news he'd got hold of, but he recognized me as being a pard
of Motor Matt's, and a dollar looked pretty big to him.

"I waited till the _Wyandotte_ was close, and then I saw that Merton
wasn't aboard. Would I swallow the hobo's yarn or not? I decided that I
would, so I threw him a dollar and burned the air in the direction of
the gun club and Third Lake.

"Well, t'other boat was there, sliding around like a streak of greased
lightning. Half the time I couldn't see her for the foam she kicked up.
I managed to pick up the label on her bow as she was making a turn,
and it's the _Dart_. But go--speak to me about that! Say, she gets
to a place pretty near before she starts. Merton was aboard, and so
was that red-headed pard of his, Halloran. Halloran was working the
machinery. I watched my chance and kept abreast of the _Dart_ for a
mile. Twenty-one miles is what the speedometer registered, although the
count may be shy a little one way or the other. I was too excited to
be entirely accurate. Our hands are in the air, pards, and no mistake.
The _Sprite_'ll look like a turtle wallowin' along in the wake of a
swordfish."

Matt and Lorry had listened to this recital with varying feelings. Matt
was deeply interested, but Lorry was visibly cast down.

"How big is the _Dart_, Joe?" inquired Matt.

"Twenty-five or thirty feet, Matt."

"You must be a little wrong in your estimate of the _Dart's_ speed. It
doesn't seem possible that she could turn a mile in less than three
minutes."

"Well, look!" exclaimed McGlory, catching his first glimpse of Ping.
"If there ain't little Washee-washee Slant-eyes I'm a Chink myself.
When and how did he flash out in these parts?"

Matt, by way of relieving the tension aroused by McGlory's exciting
news, told of the scuffle in the path leading up the bank, and then
allowed the Celestial to finish with an account of the way he had come
from Frisco.

"Let's get back to the boats," put in Lorry impatiently, when Ping had
got through with his pidgin English. "Hadn't I better withdraw the
_Sprite_, Matt, and let some other fellow meet Merton?"

Matt stared.

"I didn't believe you were that sort of a fellow, Lorry," he returned,
"and I don't think so yet."

"But if the _Sprite_ hasn't any chance----"

"She has a chance, and a good one, after I get her ready. There'll have
to be more extensive changes, that's all."

"What other changes are you thinking about?"

"Ping," said Matt, turning to the Chinese, "you go outside the
boathouse and see that no one hangs around it while we're talking."

"Can do," chirped Ping, and shuffled out.

Matt pulled up a chair close to Lorry's and motioned for McGlory to
join the inner circle. Then Matt explained about the loss of the roll
of drawings.

The cowboy was mad clear through in half a second.

"It was Merton, all right," he scowled, "and you can bet a ten-dollar
note against a last year's bird's nest on that. By this time he'll know
what the improved _Sprite_ can do, and he'll also know that the _Dart_
can run circles around her. We're Jonahed, for fair."

"No, we're not," said Matt. "As long as I thought we had only the
_Wyandotte_ to beat, I was only planning to make the _Sprite_ fast
enough for that purpose. But I can make the _Sprite_ the fastest thing
on the lakes--it'll take a hustle, though, and I'll have to have a
machinist helper."

"I don't care how many men you have to have, Matt, nor how many extra
supplies," returned Lorry, beginning to gather a little confidence from
the quiet, determined air of the king of the motor boys. "Go ahead, and
call on me for what money you need."

"Over at the machine shop, where I've been getting some work done,"
proceeded Matt, "they have a double-opposed, four-cycle automobile
engine, capable of developing from eighteen to twenty horse-power at
eighteen hundred revolutions per minute. The cylinders are five by
five. That's a pretty stiff engine for the _Sprite_, but the hull
could be strengthened, and we could put it in and get about ninety or
ninety-five per cent. of the horse-power by gearing down three to one.
After the gears wear a little, the percentage of horse-power might drop
to eighty. This motor will drive a three-bladed propeller twenty-six
inches diameter, thirty-two inches pitch. If the vibration don't shake
me out of the boat at eighteen hundred revolutions per minute, the
speed we'll get will be astonishing."

"Whoop!" exulted McGlory. "I don't know what it all means, but it
listens good. I reckon there's a kick or two in the old _Sprite_ yet."

"You can't run a boat engine like you run an automobile motor, Matt,"
said Lorry.

"Of course not. A steady load and steady plugging in the water is a
whole lot different from the give-and-take a motor gets in an auto;
but we can keep up the eighteen hundred revolutions for ten minutes,
anyhow--and the race only covers five miles. I'm fixing the _Sprite_
to win the race, that's all."

"By George!" exclaimed Lorry, "it takes you to make a fellow feel good,
Matt! You know what you're doing, every time and all the time. Go ahead
with the work, and bank on me to hold you up with both hands."

"Me, too, pard!" added McGlory.

"What we're doing," said Matt, "we want to keep strictly to ourselves.
Merton has our drawings, and probably thinks he knows just what we're
about. Let him think so. If he springs a 'dark horse' on us, we'll get
even by springing one on him."

"But can you get the _Sprite_ ready in time?" asked Lorry anxiously.

"Sure I can! I'll have to begin at once, though, and some of us will
have to stay in this boathouse night and day to make sure that none of
the Winnequas come prowling around. If you'll stay here with McGlory,
George, I'll borrow your motor cycle to go over to the machine shop and
dicker for that second-hand engine."

"Go on," said Lorry. "While you're there you might get a man to help
you."

Matt got up and pulled the motor cycle away from the bench.

"I'll be back in an hour, fellows," said he.

Leaving the boathouse, he dragged the wheel to the top of the steep
bank, then, getting into the saddle, he gave the pedals a turn and was
off like a shot along the wooded road that led past the insane asylum
and by the Waunakee Road and Sherman Avenue into town.

If Motor Matt loved one thing more than another, it was a good, clean
fight for supremacy, such as the one that now confronted him and his
friends. There was a zest in such a struggle, and the pleasure of
winning out against odds, in a good cause, was its own reward.

As he whizzed along the wooded road, mechanically steering the wheel
while his mind busied itself with other things, he was confronted
suddenly by a rail held breast-high across his course. It was
impossible to turn out at that point, and Matt had to shut off the
power and jam down hard on the brake.

He caught a glimpse of a silent form at each end of the rail, and then,
as he halted, of half a dozen other forms rushing out at him from the
bushes on each side of the road.

In another moment he was caught and dragged from the motor cycle.



CHAPTER V.

AN ORDER TO QUIT.


This unexpected attack, coming so suddenly, had taken Matt at a
disadvantage. He fought as well as he could, in the circumstances, but
there were too many against him.

There were eight of his foes, all told, and Matt was carried into the
timber at one side of the road and dropped unceremoniously in a small
cleared space. Bounding to his feet, he stood staring about him.

His eight enemies had formed a narrow circle, hemming him in. They
were all young fellows, well dressed, and carried themselves with an
air of firmness and determination. The face of each was covered with a
handkerchief, which left only the eyes visible.

"What are you trying to do?" demanded Matt angrily.

"Don't lose your temper, Motor Matt," answered one of the eight, in a
voice that was plainly disguised. "We're not going to hurt you--now. Do
what we want you to and we'll remain good friends. All we've stopped
you for is to have a little talk."

"Did you have to head me off with a rail in order to have a little
talk?" asked Matt sarcastically.

"We wanted to make sure of you for about five minutes, and this was the
only way we could think of. We were going over to your boathouse, but
saw you coming down the hill from the point, and thought we'd better
lay for you."

"Well," said Matt, "here I am. Hurry up with your talk. I'm in a rush,
and don't want to stop here long."

"We want to ask you a question: You're a professional motorist, aren't
you?"

"I've driven a racing automobile, if that's what you mean."

"They say you know gasoline motors forward, backward, and sideways."

"I've studied them, and I've worked in a shop where they were made."

"Then I guess we've got you dead to rights. Do you want to make a
hundred dollars?"

"That depends on how I'm to make it," answered the king of the motor
boys, immediately suspicious.

"You won't have much to do. We'll give you the money now if you promise
to leave town to-night, and not come back to this section for a month."

"Oh!" exclaimed Matt, a light suddenly dawning upon him. "You're
representative members of the Winnequa Club, I take it, and you want to
keep me from running Lorry's boat in that race."

"We don't care how you take it," was the sharp retort. "The question
is, will you accept that hundred and get out?"

"Certainly not," said Matt promptly.

There was a silence. One lad was doing all the talking, the others
remaining silent and watchful.

"Will you leave for two hundred?" went on the spokesman.

"No," was Matt's indignant response, "nor for two thousand! What do you
fellows take me for? I'm George Lorry's friend, and I'm going to see
him through this racing contest."

"I don't think you will," was the significant answer. "You probably
have an idea you will, but you'll change your mind before you're many
days older."

"I understand," observed Matt quietly, "that your club is composed of
pretty decent fellows. I'm pretty sure the rest of the members don't
know what you eight are doing."

"That's nothing to you. You're a professional racer."

"There's nothing in the rules governing the race that bars out a
professional driver," said Matt.

"That may be, but it's hardly fair to stack up a professional driver
against an amateur."

"Halloran is not an amateur," returned Matt. "He has handled motor
boats for two years. I happen to know this. If Halloran is going to
drive Merton's boat, I don't think you fellows can complain if I drive
Lorry's."

Matt's knowledge regarding Halloran must have staggered the eight
masked youths. Silence reigned again for a space, one set of eyes
encountering another and the glance traveling around the circle.

The king of the motor boys was studying those around him. One of the
eight he believed to be Ollie Merton, although of that he could not be
sure. Merton must have made good time from Third Lake, if he had left
the _Dart_, crossed the city, and come around Fourth Lake to that point.

"We're not here to discuss Halloran," went on the young fellow who was
doing the talking for the rest of his party. "We don't want you backing
up young Lorry. There are going to be some bets made on that race, and
we want Merton's boat to have a cinch. If what we've heard of you is
true, you're deep, and when you go into a thing you go in to win. If
you won't take a couple of hundred and leave town, how much will you
ask to throw the race?"

Matt stiffened, and his eyes flashed dangerously. Once before, in the
course of his career, an insult of that sort had been offered him. That
was in Arizona, and a gambler had approached him and offered him money
to "throw" a bicycle race on which the gambler and his friends had been
doing some heavy betting.

Matt had principles, hard and fast principles which he knew to be right
and on which he would not turn his back. He had never seen any good
come of betting, and he was against it.

"I guess," said he sharply, "that if you know me better you wouldn't
make such a proposition. I'm a friend of Lorry's, and I'm going to
stand by him. Not only that, but if you fellows have been foolish
enough to bet on Merton's boat, I'll do my best to see that you lose
your money. I guess that finishes our talk. Break away and let me go
on."

"Don't be in a rush," growled the spokesman. "If you won't take our
money and leave town, and if you won't throw the race for a share of
the proceeds, then we'll hand you an order which you'll do well to
obey. It's an order to quit. Understand? You're an outsider and we
don't want you around here."

"So is Halloran an outsider," said Matt caustically. "He comes from
Milwaukee."

"We're talking about you, now, and not about Halloran. Lorry has got to
stand on his own pins. He's got money enough to see him through this
race without any of your help."

"You're a one-sided lot, you fellows," went on Matt. "All you say about
Lorry applies equally well to Merton. Why don't Merton 'stand on his
own pins,' as you call it? And why do you ask more of Lorry than you do
of Merton?"

"That's our business," snapped the other.

Matt laughed.

"The trouble with you fellows," said he, "is that you're scared. You
think the _Wyandotte_ has got a little more than she can take care of
in the _Sprite_. What kind of sportsmen are you, anyhow, when you try
to load your dice before you go into this game?"

Matt's mention of the _Wyandotte_ was made with the deliberate
intention of hoodwinking the eight. By speaking as he did the masked
youths would infer that Matt and Lorry knew nothing, as yet, about the
_Dart_.

That Matt's remark had gone home was evident from the quick looks that
passed around the circle over the tops of the handkerchiefs.

"We've got you down pretty fine, Motor Matt," pursued the spokesman,
who could not bring himself to give up the attempt to influence Matt.
"If it hadn't been for you, George Lorry would be in San Francisco
now. You brought him back here, and you advised him to get back into
the Yahara Club and go on with the programme the Yaharas had laid down
for him. That was all your doing, and you know it."

"I'm glad to think," said Matt, with spirit, "that I had something to
do with that. But you're mistaken if you think I had _everything_ to do
with it."

"I suppose this McGlory helped a little."

"He did; but the biggest help came from Lorry himself. Lorry has the
right kind of stuff in him, and he'll show you, before long, that he's
worth a dozen Mertons."

This goaded one of the others into speech--and it was the one whom Matt
suspected of being Ollie Merton.

"Oh, splash! Lorry's a sissy and he always was."

It was Merton's voice, Matt felt sure of that. But the king of the
motor boys wanted to make assurance doubly sure.

"_Now_ are you done?" he asked.

"You refuse to meet us half way in an amicable arrangement?"

"Your amicable arrangement," said Matt ironically, "is an insult to a
fellow who tries to be square. I'll have nothing to do with it, and
that's the last word."

"We're going to have the last word, my gay motorist, and from now on
up to the hour of the race you and Lorry are going to have your hands
full of trouble. The _Sprite_ will never enter the contest, and you'll
save yourself something, Motor Matt, if you obey our orders to quit.
There----"

Motor Matt, watching his opportunity, had made a sudden leap forward.
It was toward the side of the circle opposite the place where the chap
whom he believed to be Merton was standing.

Instantly the eight made a concerted move in that direction, leaving a
gap in the cordon behind Matt. Like lightning, the king of the motor
boys whirled about and darted through the gap.

As he raced past the fellow he supposed to be Merton he snatched the
handkerchief from his face. The evidence, then, was plain enough.

"Merton!" shouted Matt as he bounded toward the road.

An angry yell went up behind him, followed by a crashing among the
bushes as the eight began pursuit. But Matt had the lead, and he was
fortunate enough to find the motor cycle leaning against the tree near
the place where it had been halted.

To mount, start the gasoline, switch on the spark and pedal off took
but a few seconds. By the time Merton and his companions reached the
road Matt was sliding around a wooded bend like a shot from a gun.

Around the turn Matt was compelled to sheer off to avoid a big touring
car which, deserted and at a standstill, filled the road.

He noted, as he passed, that it was the Merton touring car. Matt had
seen the car before, and in circumstances almost as dramatic.



CHAPTER VI.

FACING THE MUSIC.


The automobile repair shop which Matt had started for was in Sherman
Avenue, not far from the park that skirted the shore of Fourth Lake.
He did not make for the shop at once, however, but kept out of sight
until Ollie Merton had passed with the big, seven-passenger car loaded
to the limit. As soon as the car had vanished Matt went into the shop.

He was not long in transacting his business there. Before beginning he
placed the proprietor under seal of secrecy. The second-hand motor was
secured at a bargain, Matt paying spot cash for it. The engine was to
be loaded aboard a launch and taken across the lake, in the afternoon,
to the boathouse by Picnic Point.

With the engine was to come a young machinist, a son of the proprietor
of the shop, who was to be well paid for his services, and who promised
to use his hands and eyes and not his tongue.

Matt's final request was that the engine, when carried down to the
landing and while aboard the launch, should be covered with canvas.
This was to prevent curious eyes from securing information which might
be carried to some of the Winnequas, and so to Merton.

From the machine shop Matt rushed on into town for the purpose of
sending a message. The telegram was to a supply house in Milwaukee and
requested immediate shipment of a new propeller. The sudden change in
plans for the _Sprite_ made quick work necessary.

It was long after noon when Matt got back to the boathouse, where Lorry
and McGlory were impatiently awaiting him.

"You were longer than we thought you'd be," remarked Lorry, a look of
relief crossing his face as Matt trundled the motor cycle through the
open door.

"Did you get what you wanted, pard?" inquired McGlory.

"Yes," laughed Matt, leaning the wheel against the wall, "and a little
more than I was expecting. I was stopped by Merton and seven of his
friends, just this side of the asylum and----"

"By Merton!" cried Lorry.

"Sufferin' brain-twisters!" exclaimed the cowboy. "How could that be?
Why, pard, I left Merton on Third Lake, in the _Dart_."

"Merton must have come ashore, Joe, pretty soon after you left. He
picked up seven of his friends somewhere and started around Fourth
Lake to have a talk with me at the boathouse. They saw me coming down
the hill from the point, stopped the automobile around a bend, tied
handkerchiefs over their faces and stopped me with a fence rail. Before
I fairly realized what was going on, the eight of them had me off the
wheel and into the timber."

"What an outrage!" growled Lorry. "You're getting more than your share
of rough work, Matt, seems to me. What did those fellows want?"

Matt pulled out a lunch box of generous size, opened it on the
workbench and invited his two companions to help themselves.

"I went into town to send a telegram for a new propeller," he observed,
"but I didn't even take time to stop at a restaurant for a meal."

"No matter what happens," said Lorry admiringly, "you never forget
anything. But go on and tell us what Merton and those other chaps
stopped you for."

"They were trying to run in a rhinecaboo of some sort. I'll be bound,"
averred McGlory.

"The plain truth of the matter is, fellows," declared Matt, "Merton and
his crowd are scared. They offered me two hundred dollars to leave
town at once and never come back."

"Tell me about that!" chuckled the cowboy. "Scared? You bet they are!
Motor Matt has put a crimp in the confidence they had about the outcome
of the race."

"And that leads me to believe," went on Matt, "that, in spite of the
fact that Merton has that roll of drawings and knows what we were doing
to the _Sprite_, he's still afraid of us. The _Dart_ can't be such a
phenomenally fast boat as you imagined, Joe. If it was, why should
Merton fear the _Sprite_? He's judging her, you understand, according
to our first plans for changing her. He doesn't know a thing about the
automobile engine and the other propeller we're going to install."

"Listen, once," said McGlory; "it's not the plans that's making Merton
sidestep, but Motor Matt. He and his bunch will feel a heap easier if
they can know the king of the motor boys is cut out of Lorry's herd."

"Another thing," continued Matt. "Merton and his friends are doing some
betting on the race."

"I've heard about that," put in Lorry. "Merton is plunging with his
father's bankroll, and going the limit. His friends are in the pool
with him, and they're offering all sorts of fancy odds."

"If I could rake together a stake," said McGlory, "I'd take a little of
that Winnequa money myself."

"No, you wouldn't, Joe," returned Matt. "I'm out with a club for that
sort of thing. Good, clean sport is all right, but when you tangle it
up with a lot of bookmakers it goes to the dogs."

"Mebby you're right, pard," grinned Joe, "but any kind of a chance,
with money in sight, is excitin'."

"Merton and the rest wanted me, if I wouldn't agree to pull out, to
throw the race."

"The scoundrels!" cried Lorry.

"They didn't know our pard very well, George," observed the cowboy.
"What did they say when you turned 'em down, Matt?"

"Ordered me to quit. Said if I didn't the lot of us, over here, would
have to face all kinds of music."

"I always did like music," said the cowboy. "Right this minute I'm
feelin' like a brass band and I've got to toot."

McGlory's "toot" was more like a steam calliope than a brass band, and
it was so hilarious that Ping, who was still acting as outside guard,
pushed his yellow face in at the window over the workbench.

"Who makee low?" he inquired.

"There's no row, you heathen," answered the cowboy, tossing him a
sandwich. "There, take that and stop your face. I'm jubilatin', that's
all."

Ping disappeared with a grin and the sandwich.

"What are you jubilating about, Joe?" inquired Lorry.

"Don't you savvy, George? Why, Motor Matt's on his mettle! All that
talk that Merton and his pards gave him just cinched him up for the
'go' of his life. You'll see things at that race. As for facing the
music--there's nothing to it. Why, the _Sprite's_ as good as passed the
stake boat and over the finish line right now."

There was little doubt but that McGlory's jovial mood and confident
forecast of coming events heartened Lorry wonderfully.

Matt went more into the details of his experience with Merton and his
friends.

"That's a nice way for the commodore of a rival boat club to act,"
remarked Lorry sarcastically.

"How did Merton ever get to be commodore?" said McGlory. "That's what
sticks in my crop."

"Money," was Lorry's brief but significant response.

"Money cuts a pretty wide swath, and that's a fact. That work of
Merton's and his friends, though, was a pretty raw blazer. Wonder what
Merton's thinking of himself, now that Matt's found out he was in the
gang?"

"It won't bother him much," said Lorry. "Between you and me and the
gatepost, I'll bet Merton has been flying too high. When his father
gets back from Europe and finds out what's been going on, there'll be
doings. Like enough, Merton is plunging on the boat race in the hope of
getting back some of the money he has squandered. That would ease the
tension somewhat when he makes an accounting to his father."

"Too bad if he's got himself into money difficulties," observed Matt.

"A little money has made many a good fellow go wrong, Matt," returned
Lorry, with a flush.

George was talking from experience, and it was an experience which he
would never forget.

"There's nothing to do, I reckon," said McGlory, changing the subject,
"but to plug right along and hustle the changes in the _Sprite_."

"That's all, Joe," responded Matt. "We'll have to do some quick work,
and do it well. The engine will be delivered this afternoon, and a
young fellow is coming along with it to help me. We'll have to do more
or less traveling between here and the machine shop, and I suppose it
would be well if we had a boat. Going around the lake takes too long."

"I'll get a motor boat for you, Matt," said Lorry. "I'll bring her over
before night."

"Bring a supply of gasoline and oil, too, Lorry."

"It will all come with the boat. If you can think of anything else
you want, just let me know. Some one ought to stay here all the time,
don't you think? The _Sprite_ ought to be watched every minute, night
and day. It was no empty threat Merton made when he said he'd make us
trouble."

"He and his friends," said Matt gravely, "will do what they can to
bother us. But I don't think they'll dare go too far. Joe and I and
Ping will stay at the boathouse all the time. That will make quite a
respectable force. Then, too, the machinist will be with us during the
day. Whenever I have to cross the lake to the shop, he and Joe can look
after things here."

"I want to do my share, you know," protested Lorry; "I can't let you
fellows do it all."

"You'll have plenty to do, George," laughed Matt. "There's a telephone
at the asylum, and we can always get word to you if it's necessary. As
for----"

Matt was interrupted by a shrill yell. It came from outside the
boathouse and had plainly been raised by Ping. On the instant, all
three of the boys jumped for the door.



CHAPTER VII.

GATHERING CLOUDS.


Much to the relief of Matt, McGlory and Lorry, the Chinese boy had not
encountered intruders. His trouble was of quite another sort.

In order to watch all sides of the boathouse, he had been tramping
around three of its walls, from the waterfront on one side to the
waterfront on the other. The day was hot and the exertion tiring. Ping,
after some reflection, conceived the brilliant idea of climbing to the
roof and watching from the ridgepole.

An elevated position of that kind would enable him to rest and keep
eyes on the vicinity in every direction.

Some empty boxes, piled one on the other, lifted him high enough to
reach the eaves. Kicking off his sandals, he took the slope of the roof
in his stocking feet and was soon by the flagstaff that arose from one
end of the peak on the waterside of the building.

A timber, equipped with rope and tackle, projected outward from the
peak. For no particular reason, other than to test his agility, Ping
lowered himself astride the projecting timber and hitched outward to
the end.

Here a sudden gust of wind struck him. Lifting both hands to save his
hat, he lost his balance and rolled sidewise off the timber. But he
did not fall. His trousers caught in the stout iron hook by which the
pulley was suspended; and, when Matt, McGlory and Lorry finally located
him, he was sprawling in midair, badly scared, but as yet unhurt.

"Motol Matt," howled the youngster, "savee Ping! No lettee fall! Woosh!"

"Sufferin' heathens!" gasped McGlory. "How in the name of Bob did the
Chink ever get in that fix?"

That was no time to guess about the cause. If Ping's clothing was to
give way he would suffer a bad fall on the planks of the boathouse
pier. Pulling the tackle rope from the cleat to which it was fastened,
Matt climbed hand over hand to the projecting timber.

"Catch hold of my shoulders, Ping," he ordered.

Ping's arms went around him in a life-and-death grip. Then, supporting
himself with one hand, Matt detached the Chinaman from the hook with
the other and both slid to the pier in safety.

"You gave us a scare, Ping," said Matt. "We didn't know but you had
found some one sneaking around the boathouse. How did you get in that
fix?"

Ping explained, and the boys had a good laugh. Shortly afterward Lorry
dragged his motor cycle to the top of the bank and chugged away home.

It was about two o'clock when Newt Higgins, the young machinist,
arrived with the new motor. His father had brought him across. The
engine was unloaded by means of the block and tackle and carried inside.

While Higgins was taking the old motor out of the _Sprite_, Matt
connected up the new one with gasoline tank and battery and got it to
going. It ran perfectly.

From that time on there were several days of feverish activity in
the boathouse. The hull of the _Sprite_ had to be strengthened. The
original motor had been installed on short bearers, which, according to
Matt's view, was entirely wrong. The motor bed, he held, must be rigid
and the vibration distributed over as great an area as possible.

A heavy bed was put down, and on this two girders were laid, shaped
up to take the rake of the motor and tapering off at the ends. These
girders extended as far forward and aft as the curve of the hull would
allow.

Lining up the shaft was an operation which Matt attended to himself.
This job gave some trouble, but was finally finished to his
satisfaction.

The new engine was set farther aft than the old one had been. This
enabled Matt to bring the gasoline tanks farther aft, as well. The
hood had to be made longer, and a stout bulkhead was built between the
engine space and the cockpit.

All controls were to be on the bulkhead. The electric outfit was placed
close to the motor, where it would be protected from wet and dampness
by the hood. In addition to this, the eight cells of the battery were
inclosed in a box and filled around with paraffine.

The hull had already been covered with canvas, given two coats of lead
and oil and rubbed down. The last thing would be a coat of spar varnish.

Saturday night Matt dismissed the machinist.

"I wish I knew as much about motors as you do," the machinist had said
as he pocketed his pay. "You're Class A, Motor Matt, and you've given
Lorry a boat that'll win. I'm goin' to see that race. The Yahara boys
are on our lake, you know, and this part o' town is with 'em to a man.
It's surprisin' how this section of town is set on havin' the Yahara
club get back the cup."

"We're going to do our best, Newt," Matt had answered, "and you'll see
a pretty race, no matter how it comes out."

"You bet you!" averred Newt. "Good-by and good luck, Matt. I'd be
tickled if we could work together all the time."

During the work McGlory had made himself generally useful. He could run
the small launch which Lorry had brought to the boathouse for Matt's
use, and whenever there were any errands across the lake not requiring
Matt's attention at the machine shop McGlory attended to them.

Ping proved to be a good cook, and prepared the meals on a gasoline
stove. When he was not busy in the culinary department he was guarding
the boathouse against prowlers.

The boathouse was nicely situated for the work Matt and his friends
were doing. There were no other boathouses for half a mile or more
on either side of it, and the steep banks by which it was surrounded
on every side but toward the water gave it an isolation which had
commended it to Matt and Lorry.

It had not been used for some time when Lorry had leased it from the
owner, but was in a very good state of repair for all that.

It contained a well which opened directly into a protected cove. An
incline fitted with rollers made it easy to launch a boat or to haul
it out upon the floor. The water door came down to the lake level, and
both door and well were wide enough to admit a craft of eight-feet beam.

During all these days of work Ping had not detected a single person
skulking around in the boathouse's vicinity. Matt worked until late
every night, and there was always some one on guard on the outside from
sunset till sunrise. Generally it was McGlory, but occasionally Lorry
would come over and insist that the cowboy should sleep while he did
the sentry duty.

It was nine o'clock Saturday night when Matt finished with the varnish
coat and, dropping his brush, stood back to look at the trim, shadowy
lines of the boat.

"She's a beauty, Matt, and no mistake," called some one from the door.

"Hello, George!" answered Matt, turning to place the lamp on the
workbench and scrubbing his hands with a bunch of waste. "She'll do, I
think. Anyhow, the _Dart_ won't run any rings around us."

"You must be about fagged," said Lorry as Matt dropped down on his cot
by the wall. "You've worked like a galley slave, and if we win the
prize it will be all owing to you."

"I'm tired, and that's a fact," Matt answered, "but I've got some good
feelings in me, as my old Dutch pard used to say. If a fellow's mind is
easy it doesn't matter so much about his body."

"I came over to see if you'd heard anything from our friends the enemy
yet," said Lorry.

"They haven't peeped," Matt laughed. "I guess they've decided to let us
alone."

"Don't you think that for a minute," returned Lorry earnestly. "Merton
and his pals have been lying low, but the clouds have been gathering.
The storm will break before Tuesday, and I'm wondering and worrying as
to how it is going to hit us."

"We'll weather it," said Matt lightly, "no matter what shape it takes.
It's a cinch that Merton hasn't been able to find out a thing about
what we've been doing. That roll of drawings is all he has to base an
opinion on, and the _Sprite_ is as different from those plans as you
can well imagine. We've fooled Merton to the queen's taste."

"And probably he thinks he has fooled us," smiled Lorry.

"Have you been able to discover anything about the _Dart_?"

"Not a thing. The Winnequas are guarding her as though she was a lump
of gold. But there are hair-raising tales, all over town, of the
tremendous speed a new boat on Third Lake is showing."

"The _Wyandotte_ hasn't been kicking up the water around the point for
a couple of days now."

"I guess Merton thinks we're so busy here we won't pay any attention to
her. Ever since he stopped sending the _Wyandotte_ to Fourth Lake he
has been speeding the _Dart_ in the evening on Third."

"Well, Merton's consistent, anyhow, no matter what else you can say
about him."

"I've got orders from dad and sis to take you over to Yankee Hill to
spend to-night and Sunday," said Lorry, after a slight pause. "Will you
go?"

"Sorry, old chap, but I can't," Matt answered regretfully. "I'm going
to be Johnny-on-the-spot right here in this boathouse till the _Sprite_
leaves to enter the race. I'm not taking any chances with her."

"But can't McGlory and Ping look after the boat?"

"They can, yes, and there isn't anybody I'd trust quicker than I would
McGlory; but, if anything should happen to the _Sprite_ between now and
Tuesday, I want to be the one who's to blame."

"I guess I know how you stack up," observed Lorry, with a touch of
genuine feeling. "You're doing a whole lot for me, Matt, and my folks
know it and appreciate it just as much as I do. I hope I can pay you
back some time."

"Nonsense, George!" deprecated Matt. "Do you think there isn't any
fun in this thing for me? I've enjoyed myself every minute I've been
tinkering with the _Sprite_, and the best part of it all will come when
I show the _Dart_ the way across the finish line next Tuesday."

Half an hour later Lorry got into his hired launch and started for
home. All was quiet and peaceable in the boathouse, but, even then, a
storm of trouble was preparing to break--a storm that was to try the
three friends to the uttermost and to come within a hair's breadth of
ruining their prospects in the power-boat contest.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PLOTTERS.


Merton and his seven companions were a disgruntled lot when they
returned to Madison after forcing an interview with Motor Matt, having
their propositions rejected and then watching him get away after
unmasking the "commodore."

Merton drove the touring car straight for home, turned it over to the
gardener--who was also something of a chauffeur--and then ushered his
friends into his father's study, in the house.

The butler and the _chef_ had been left to look after Merton's
comfort. Merton immediately sent the butler to the ice box for several
bottles of beer, and the lads proceeded to drown their disgust and
disappointment in drink.

The idea that any human emotion can be blotted out with an intoxicating
beverage is a fallacy. The mind can be drugged, for a time, but when
it regains its normal state all its impressions are revived even more
harrowingly than they were before.

As soon as the glasses had been emptied Merton produced several
packages of cigarettes, and the air grew thick with the odor of burning
"doctored" tobacco.

"What're we going to do with Motor Matt?" demanded Jimmie Hess. "Take
it from me, you fellows, something has got to be done with him or the
cup goes back to the Yaharas. He's a chap that does things, all right."

"And game as a hornet," struck in Andy Meigs. "Wish we could find out
what he's doing to the _Sprite_."

"That's what's worryin' me," said Perry Jenkins. "If he can coax twenty
miles an hour out of the _Sprite_ he's got the cup nailed down."

"He don't know anything about the _Dart_," spoke up Rush Partington.
"As long as he thinks he's only got the _Wyandotte_ to beat, I guess we
can hold him."

"Hold nothing!" growled Martin Rawlins. "You don't understand how much
that chap knows. Where did he grab all that about Halloran? He gets to
the bottom of things, he does, and it's a fool notion to try and pull
the wool over his eyes by sending the _Wyandotte_ over to Fourth Lake
every day. If I----"

"Mr. Ollie," announced the butler, looking in at the door, "there's a
little negro boy downstairs and he says he won't leave till he sees
you."

"Kick him off the front steps, Peters," scowled Merton.

Peters would probably have carried out his orders had not the little
negro quietly followed him up the stairs. As the butler turned away,
the darky pushed past him and jumped into the study.

"Pickerel Pete!" went up a chorus of voices.

The colored boy was one of the town "characters," and was known by
sight to everybody.

"Come here, you!" cried the exasperated Peters, pushing into the room
and reaching for Pete's collar.

"Drag him out," ordered Merton. "I haven't got any time to bother with
him."

"You all better bothah wif me," cried Pete, squirming in the butler's
grip. "Ah kin tell yo' about dat Motor Matt, en Ah got some papahs dat
yo'd lak tuh have----"

"Come along, now, and stop your howlin'," grunted the butler, making
for the door.

A clamor arose from those in the room.

"Wait, Peters!"

"Hear what he's got to say about Motor Matt!"

"Maybe he can give us a pointer that will be useful. Let's talk with
him, Ollie."

"Leave him here, Peters," said Merton.

The butler let go his hold on Pickerel Pete and went out of the study,
shaking his head in disapproval of Mr. Ollie's orders.

"Now, then, you little rascal," went on Merton sternly, as soon as the
door had closed behind the butler, "if you're trying to fool us you'll
get a thrashing."

"En ef Ah ain't tryin' tuh fool yu," returned Pete, "is Ah gwine tuh
git two dollahs?"

"You say," asked Merton cautiously, "that you've got a roll of papers?"

"Dat's whut Ah has, boss. Ah stole dem f'om de boathouse ovah by the
p'int where Motor Matt is workin' on de _Sprite_."

"Why did you steal them?"

"Tuh git even wif Motor Matt, dat's why," snorted Pete, glaring. "He
done hiahed me fo' two dollahs er day, en den he turned me down fo' er
no-count yaller Chink. When er man gits tuh be 'leben yeahs old, lak
me, he ain't goin' tuh stand fo' dat sort o' work, no, suh. Ah jess
sneaked up on de boathouse en Ah swiped de papahs."

It was plain to Merton that Pickerel Pete believed he had a grievance
against Motor Matt. This might make him valuable.

"Let's see the papers, Pete," said Merton. "If they're worth anything
to me I'll pay you for them."

"Dar dey is, boss," and Pete triumphantly drew the roll from the breast
of his ragged "hickory" shirt.

Merton grabbed the roll eagerly, slipped off the rubber band and began
examining every sheet. While his friends breathlessly watched, Merton
jammed the papers into his pocket, sprang to his feet and paced back
and forth across the room.

"What is it, Ollie?"

"Found out anything important?"

"Do those papers really belong to Motor Matt?"

"Tell us about it, can't you?"

"Shut up a minute," growled Merton. "I'm framing up a plan."

For a little while longer Merton continued to pace the floor; then, at
last, he halted in front of Pete.

"There's five dollars for you, Pete," said Merton, taking a banknote
from his pocket and handing it to the boy.

"Oh, by golly!" sputtered the overwhelmed Pete, grabbing at the bill
as a drowning man grabs at a straw. "Ah's rich, dat's whut Ah is. Say,
boss, is all dis heah money fo' me? Ah ain't got no change."

"It's all yours, Pete," went on Merton; "what's more, if you'll come
here and see me Sunday afternoon at four o'clock, I'll give you a
chance to earn another five-dollar bill. Will you be here?"

"Will er duck swim, boss?" fluttered Pete, kissing the crumpled
banknote and tucking it carefully away in a trousers pocket. "Sunday
aftehnoon at fo' erclock. Ah'll be heah fo' suah, boss."

"Then get out."

Pickerel Pete effaced himself--one hand in his trousers pocket to make
sure the banknote was still there, and that he was not dreaming.

"Now, then, Ollie," said Martin Rawlins, "tell us what your game is."

"Yes, confound it," grumbled Meigs. "We're all on tenterhooks."

"These papers, fellows," answered Merton, drawing the crumpled sheets
from his pocket, "contain Motor Matt's plans for changing the _Sprite_.
Looking over them hastily, I gather the idea that he's making the
_Sprite_ just fast enough to beat the _Wyandotte_."

A snicker went up from the others.

"We've got him fooled, all right," was the general comment.

"Don't be too sure you've got that Motor Matt fooled," counseled
Rawlins. "Maybe he put that roll where the negro could get it, and
expected he _would_ get it. This king of the motor boys is deep--don't
let that get past your guard for a minute. I've put all the money I
could rake and scrape into the betting pool, and I don't want to lose
it by any snap judgments."

That was the way with the rest of them. They had all clubbed their
funds together and the result was a big purse for betting purposes.

"I guess it means as much to the rest of us as it does to you, Martin,
to have the _Dart_ win," said Merton dryly. "Motor Matt's deep, as
you say, but don't make the mistake of crediting him with too much
knowledge. He's only human, like the rest of us. From the way matters
look now, we've got him and Lorry beaten, hands down. Motor Matt isn't
sharp enough to steer those papers into my hands by way of Pete.
Now, in all this betting of ours, the money is being placed with the
understanding that if there is _no race_ we take the cash; in other
words, if the Yaharas back down and fail to send a boat to the starting
line, we take the money."

"They won't back down," said Jimmie Hess. "Great Scott, Ollie, you
don't think for a second that Lorry will back down, do you?"

"He may have to," was Merton's vague reply. "Anyhow, if you fellows
make any bets outside of the pool, just make 'em in that way--that the
stakes are yours if the Yaharas back down and there's no race."

"What's back of that, Ollie?" said Perry Jenkins. "You've got something
up your sleeve, I know blamed well."

"And it's going to stay up my sleeve, so far as you fellows are
concerned," returned Merton. "If I evolve a plan, I don't believe in
advertising it. This Motor Matt _may_ have steered those papers into
our hands, and he _may_ be deep enough to make the _Sprite_ a better
boat than the _Dart_ while not knowing anything about the _Dart_, but
I don't think so. However, I intend to be on the safe side. It means a
whole lot to me to win--personally, and apart from my desire to see the
Winnequas keep the De Lancey cup. Just how much it means"--and Merton
winced--"you fellows are not going to know, any more than you're going
to know what I've got at the back of my head for Sunday night. Put your
trust in the commodore--that's all you've got to do. Open up some of
that beer, Perry. I'm as dry as gunpowder's great-grandfather."

The glasses were filled again.

"To our success in the race," said Merton, lifting his glass and
sweeping his keen eyes over the faces of his friends; "may the _Dart_
win, by fair means"--he paused--"or otherwise."

Four or five peered at Merton distrustfully over their glasses; but, in
the end, they drank the toast.

The success of the _Dart_ meant dollars and cents to them; and money,
for those eight plotters, stood for more than club honors and the De
Lancey cup.



CHAPTER IX.

FIREBUGS AT WORK.


Sunday was a beautiful and a quiet day at the boathouse by the Point.
Mendota, otherwise "Fourth," Lake was never fairer. Across the ripples,
glimmering in the sun, the city of Madison lifted itself out of a mass
of green foliage like a piece of fairyland.

The lake was alive with motor boats, sailboats and rowboats. Matt and
McGlory, sitting in the shade on the little pier in front of their
temporary home, idled and dreamed away the afternoon until, about
four o'clock, a snappy little launch, equipped with canopy and wicker
chairs, untangled itself from the maze of boats out in the lake and
pushed toward the cove.

"Visitors!" exclaimed Matt, jumping out of his chair.

"Speak to me about that!" grumbled McGlory. "Now we've got to get into
our collars and coats and spruce up. Oh, hang it! I like a boiled shirt
about as well as I like the measles."

Mr. Lorry, his daughter, Ethel Lorry, and George were occupying the
wicker chairs under the canopy, while Gus, the Lorry chauffeur, was at
the bulkhead controls.

George waved his hand. Matt returned the salutation and darted
incontinently into the boathouse to fix himself up. Ethel Lorry was a
fine girl and a great admirer of the king of the motor boys, and Matt
felt it a duty to look his best.

By the time the boat drew up in front of the boathouse Matt and
McGlory, in full regalia, were out to welcome their guests.

Lorry, senior, and his daughter were firm friends of Motor Matt. They
realized fully how much the young motorist had done for George.

"A surprise party, Matt!" cried George. "I'll bet you weren't expecting
the Lorrys, eh?"

"Always glad to receive callers," smiled Matt, grabbing the rope Gus
threw to him and making it fast to a post.

"We've got to see the _Sprite_, Matt," said Ethel. "All our hopes are
wrapped up in the _Sprite_, you know."

"And in Motor Matt," chuckled the millionaire, beside her.

A vivid flush suffused Ethel's cheeks, though just why her emotions
should express themselves was something of a mystery.

The party debarked and was conducted into the boathouse. Matt opened
the doors at the other end of the building and admitted a good light
for inspecting the boat.

All three of the boys were intensely proud of the _Sprite_. In her
fresh coat of varnish she looked as spick and span as a new dollar.

McGlory was a nephew of Mr. Lorry's, and, while he was explaining
things at one end of the boat to "Uncle Dan," Matt was performing the
same service for Ethel at the other end of the craft.

When Mr. Lorry and Ethel had expressed their admiration for the
_Sprite_, and their confidence in her ability to "lift" the cup,
chairs were carried out on the pier. McGlory went across the lake for
ice cream, and the party visited gayly until sunset. When the launch
departed, George remained behind, having expressed his intention of
staying with his friends at the boathouse that night.

Ping was engaged in clearing up the dishes--part of the camp
equipment--on which the ice cream had been served, and McGlory was
making the doors at the other end of the boathouse secure. Dusk was
falling gently, and overhead the stars were beginning to glimmer in
a cloudless sky, soft as velvet. It was a time for optimism, and a
lulling sense of security had taken possession of all the boys.

"The clouds don't seem to be gathering very much, after all, George,"
remarked Matt.

"I must have been mistaken about Merton," returned George. "That roll
of drawings, I suppose, has convinced him that the changes we were
making in the _Sprite_ were not of enough account to worry him."

McGlory came from the boathouse in time to hear the words.

"We've got Merton fooled," he chuckled, dropping down in a chair, "and
I ain't sure but that it's the best thing that ever happened to us, the
theft of those drawings."

"That's the way it may turn out, Joe," agreed Matt. "Still, even if
Merton knew exactly what we had done to the _Sprite_ I don't see how he
could help matters any. The _Dart_, from what I can hear, is supposed
to be by long odds the fastest boat on the lakes. How could he improve
on her, even if Merton knew the _Sprite_ was a dangerous rival?"

"Merton wouldn't try to improve on the _Dart_," returned Lorry. "What
he'd do would be to make an attempt to make the _Sprite_ less speedy
than she is."

"I'd like to catch him at that!" exclaimed McGlory. "That tinhorn would
have to hip lock with me some if he ever tried to tamper with the
_Sprite_ while Joe McGlory was around."

"He'd make sure there wasn't anybody around, George," said Lorry,
"before he tried any of his underhand games. I've been thinking over
the loss of those drawings, Matt," he went on, after a pause, "and
it strikes me that they weren't stolen by Merton, after all, but by
Pickerel Pete."

"What!" cried the cowboy, "that sawed-off moke?"

"I've thought a little on that line myself," observed Matt. "Pete was
mad, when he left us up there in the path, and he could have circled
around through the bushes and reached the boathouse before we got down
to it with Ping."

"That's it!" assented George. "He hadn't any idea what sort of papers
were in the roll, but they were handy to him as he looked through
the window, and so he gathered them in. Of course, Pete knew that
the papers would be valuable to Merton, if to anybody. It's a dead
open-and-shut that he carried them at once to the commodore."

"Which may account for the commodore layin' back on his oars and not
botherin' us any while we've been jugglin' with the _Sprite_," deduced
McGlory. "We're all to the good, pards, and your Uncle Joe is as happy
over the outlook as a Piute squaw with a string of glass beads. I'm
feelin' like a brass band again, and----"

"Don't toot, Joe, for Heaven's sake," implored George. "You've got
about as much music in you as a bluejay."

"Some fellows," returned McGlory gloomily, "don't know music when they
hear it. It takes a cultivated ear to appreciate me when I warble."

"I don't know about that," laughed George, "but I do know that it takes
some one with a club to stop you after the warbling begins. When are
you going to 'warm up' the _Sprite_, Matt?" he asked, turning to the
king of the motor boys. "Every ship has got to 'find herself,' you
know. We've Kipling's word for that."

"Then," smiled Matt, "the _Sprite_ is going to begin finding herself in
the gray dawn of to-morrow morning. Glad you made up your mind to stay
with us to-night, Lorry. I was going to suggest it, if you hadn't. I
want you and Joe to hold a stop-watch on the boat."

"I wish we had one of those patent logs," muttered Lorry. "They go on
the bulkhead, and work hydrostatically--no trailing lines behind."

"Too expensive, George," said Matt. "Besides, we didn't have time to
bother installing one."

"You're the most economical chap I ever heard of, Matt," said Lorry
jestingly, "especially when you're using another fellow's money."

"Sufferin' bankrolls!" mourned McGlory, "I wish some one would be kind
enough to ask me to spend his money."

"Dad told me, when we began fixing up the _Sprite_," went on Lorry,
"that he wanted me to be sure and let Motor Matt have free play, no
matter what it cost. That's the way the governor feels. There has been
a big change in him, Matt, and you're the cause of it."

"That's all the more reason, George," answered Matt, "why I should not
abuse his confidence."

"I guess dad knows that, and that it has a lot to do with the way you
stack up in his estimation. He'd trust you with a million."

"I'm glad he feels that way. There isn't any sign of a storm, Joe,"
Matt added to the cowboy, "but we must keep up our guard duty just the
same."

"Keno! We're not going to let Merton and his outfit catch us napping,
if that's their plan. I'll stand guard to-night."

"I'll divide the duty with you, Joe," put in Lorry. "I'll take the
first watch, and will call you at midnight."

"That hits me plumb. I can snooze in good shape for half the night.
We'll let Matt put in full time--he needs it."

"Matt ought not to do a thing between now and Tuesday but rest,"
asserted George. "He's got to be fit as a fiddle for that race."

"I'm generally in shape for whatever comes my way," laughed Matt,
getting up and yawning. "Right now's when I'm going to turn in, and you
can bank on it that I'll sleep like Rip Van Winkle up in the Catskills.
You'll see something surprising in the morning, fellows! If the
_Sprite_, after she gets warmed up, can't do her mile in better than
three minutes, I'm no prophet."

"If she does that," jubilated McGlory, "we're apt to have the _Dart_
lashed to the mast."

"Good night," said Matt.

The parting word was returned, and the king of the motor boys followed
the wall of the dark boathouse past the well and on by the workbench to
his cot.

Inside of two minutes he had turned in, and inside of three he was in
dreamless slumber.

How long Matt slept he did not know, but it must have been well beyond
midnight when he was awakened. He was half stifled, and he sat up in
his cot struggling for breath.

A yellowish gloom was all around him, and a vague snap and crackle came
to his ears.

Suddenly, like a blow in the face, the realization came that the
smothering fog was _smoke_, and that the flickering yellow that played
through it was _flame_.

"Fire!" he yelled, springing from the cot. "Lorry! McGlory! Where are
you?"

Matt's only answer was the whirring rush of the fire and the weird
snapping as the flames licked at the wood. For a moment the heat and
the smoke almost overcame him, and he reeled backward against the wall.



CHAPTER X.

SAVING THE "SPRITE."


After a moment of inaction, Matt realized something else besides the
fact that there was a fire. Ping and either McGlory or Lorry should be
in the boathouse with him; also either McGlory or Lorry ought to be on
guard outside.

Why had no answer been returned to his startled shout? What had
happened to the guard outside, and what had happened to those inside
the boathouse?

In that terrifying moment, when so many dangers threatened him and his
friends, Motor Matt had no time to think of the _Sprite_. First he must
get fresh air, and then he must find out about his friends.

The landward end of the boathouse seemed to be completely wrapped in
flames. A breeze had come up during the night, and it was driving the
fire onward toward the waterfront of the building.

Drawing upon all his reserve strength, Matt staggered to the window
over the workbench. Picking up a wrench, he smashed the glass, and
a draft of cool night air rushed in. For a moment he hung over the
workbench filling his lungs with the clear air; and then, at the top of
his voice, he repeated his call for McGlory and George.

Still there was no response. Bewildered by his failure to hear an
answering shout from his friends, and dazed by the suddenness of the
catastrophe which threatened the boathouse, Matt whirled away from the
window and groped through the blinding smoke toward the other cot.

Some one was lying on the cot, breathing heavily. It was impossible to
tell whether it was Lorry or the cowboy, but, whichever it was, the
form was unconscious from the effects of the foul air.

Making his way to the door, Matt unfastened it and flung it open. The
breeze which swept through the building caused the roar of the fire to
increase, giving an added impetus to the flames.

Darting back to the cot, Matt picked up the form and staggered with it
out into the night, falling heavily when a few yards from the blazing
building.

In the glare that lighted up the vicinity of the boathouse Matt
discovered that it was Lorry whom he had carried to safety. Lorry! That
meant that it was after midnight, and that McGlory had been outside of
the boathouse, on guard.

The fire was not accidental--it could not have been accidental.
Firebugs must have been at work. What had become of McGlory that he had
not interfered?

It was impossible that the cowboy was in the burning building. Ping,
however, should be there. The Chinese usually bunked under the
workbench.

Whirling away, Matt started again for the burning building; but, before
he reached the door, Ping, coughing and spluttering, his arms filled
with clothes, reeled out and fell in a sprawling heap on the ground.

Rushing up to him, and thankful to find that he was safe, Matt grabbed
him by the shoulders and drew him farther from the boathouse.

"Where's McGlory?" shouted Matt.

It was necessary for him to talk at the top of his voice in order to
make himself heard above the roar of the wind and the flames.

"No savvy," panted Ping, lifting himself to his knees, his
terror-stricken face showing weirdly in the glare. "My no makee yell
when you makee yell," he added, digging his knuckles into his smarting
eyes. "My heap full smoke. My blingee clothes----"

"Never mind the clothes," cut in Matt, wildly alarmed on McGlory's
account. "You---- Here, stop that, Ping! Where you going?"

The Chinese had abruptly gained his feet and plunged toward the open
door. At that moment, the door looked like the opening into a raging
furnace.

"My savee _Splite_!" blubbered Ping. "No lettee _Splite_ go top-side!
Woosh!"

The yellow boy was as fond of the boat as were Matt, McGlory and Lorry.
He had watched her rebuilding, in his curious, heathen way, and every
step toward completion lifted his pride and admiration higher and
higher.

Matt had grabbed Ping and was holding him back. His mind, dealing with
McGlory, worked quickly.

The cowboy, he reasoned, had been on guard outside. Those who had fired
the boathouse must have had to take care of McGlory before they could
carry out their nefarious plans. This being true, it could not be
possible that the cowboy was in any danger from the fire. It was the
_Sprite_, therefore, that should now claim Matt's attention. McGlory
could be looked for afterwards.

"We'll save her together, Ping," cried Matt, "but we can't go into the
boathouse that way. We'd be overcome before we got anywhere near the
well. We must get into the building by the other end."

The _Sprite_ was in imminent danger, there could not be the least doubt
about that. After Mr. Lorry and Ethel had left for home, during the
afternoon, the boat had been placed upright on the rollers leading to
the incline of the well.

This, bringing her nearer the landward end of the boathouse made the
boat's danger greater than if she had been left on the skids which had
supported her while the work inside her hulk was going on.

Not only that, but, preparatory to the morning's trial, her tanks had
been filled with gasoline. If the flames should reach the tanks----

"We'll have to hurry!" yelled Matt.

Picking up a coat from the heap of clothing on the ground, Matt ran
to the edge of the lake and plunged the coat into the water; the next
moment he had darted back to the open window, hoping to reach in and
get an ax or hammer from the workbench for use in battering down the
water-door. This door was secured on the inside, and would have to be
broken if entrance was effected from the pier.

Ping, frantically eager to help, but hardly knowing what to do, rushed
around after Matt, copying every move he made.

When Matt picked up a coat and submerged it in the lake, Ping followed
suit; and when Matt, with the dripping garment in his hand, rushed for
the broken window, the Chinese boy was close behind.

As ill-luck would have it, there was nothing in the shape of an ax or
hammer lying on the bench within reach of Matt's groping fingers.

The window was perhaps a dozen feet along the wall from the landward
end of the building. The fire, apparently, had been started at the
extreme end, and, although the flames were driving fiercely through the
building, the blaze was not so formidable near the window as it was by
the door.

Matt changed his plans about entering the boathouse by the water door.
He would make an essay through the window, push the _Sprite_ along the
rollers and down into the well, unlock the water door from the inside,
and then, under her own power, take her out into the cove.

Not a second was to be lost if this plan was to be carried to a
successful conclusion. There was danger, plenty of it, in making the
attempt to save the _Sprite_.

Blazing timbers were already falling from the roof of the doomed
building, and if one of those dropped on the barrel containing the
gasoline supply, an explosion would result and the flaming oil would be
hurled everywhere.

But the king of the motor boys did not hesitate. Hurriedly throwing the
coat over his head and shoulders, he climbed through the window and
rolled off the bench to the smoking floor of the boathouse.

To see anything between the confining walls was now impossible. The
smoke was thick, and the glare that shot through it rendered it opaque
and blinding.

Matt, however, knew every foot of the building's interior as he knew
his two hands. Holding the coat closely around his head to protect
his face, he hurried through the blistering fog and finally stumbled
against the _Sprite_.

Laying hold of the boat, he pushed with all his strength. In spite of
his fiercest efforts, she stuck and hung to the rollers. It was not a
time to hunt for what was wrong, but to force the _Sprite_ into the
well at any cost.

While Matt tugged and strained, the end of the building fell outward
with a crash, and a flurry of sparks and firebrands leaping skyward.
This released a section of the roof, which dropped inward.

One blazing beam landed on Matt's right arm, pinning it against the
rubstreak. A sickening pain rushed through his whole body, and when he
had hurled the timber away with his left hand, the injured arm dropped
numb and helpless at his side.

"Matt! Motol Matt!"

The shrill, frightened cry came from Ping. He had followed through
the window and had been feeling his way about the interior of the
boathouse. The crash of the wall and the roof had frightened him, and
he would have bolted had not the knowledge that Matt was somewhere in
that blazing inferno chained him to the place.

"Here, Ping!" cried Matt, hoarsely. "Lay hold of the boat and help me
get her into the water. Lively, now--for your life!"

Their united strength, even through Matt had only his left hand, was
sufficient. The _Sprite_ started slowly over the rollers, reached the
head of the incline, and her own impetus carried her downward. Matt and
Ping sprang into her blindly as she leaped away.

Across the well ran the _Sprite_, her nose striking the water door and
causing her to recoil backward until her stern brushed the incline.

Matt, dizzy and weak, pawed and floundered toward the bulkhead.

Overhead the roof was all in flames. Any moment it might fall bodily,
sinking the _Sprite_ and those aboard her under the water of the
well--holding them like rats in a blazing trap.

Matt's eyes were of no use to him. They were smarting from the smoke
and heat. But he did not need his eyes. He knew the place of every
lever on the bulkhead.

A pull started the gasoline, another started the oil, and another
switched on the spark. A third lever was connected with the starting
device. Two pulls at this and the boat took the push of the propeller.

_Boom!_

The fire had found the gasoline supply, and shafts of lighter fire shot
through the yellower blaze of burning wood.

There was no time to unlock the water door. Already the fire-eaten
wreck was swaying.

The _Sprite_, urged by the automobile engine, must ram the door and
break it down.

Grabbing his companion, Matt dragged him down under the protection of
the bulkhead, while the _Sprite_ flung herself toward the door, toward
the cove--and toward safety.



CHAPTER XI.

OUT OF A BLAZING FURNACE.


The cool night air quickly wrought its work, so far as George was
concerned. Sitting up on the ground, confused and unable to understand
what had happened, he stared at the conflagration at the edge of the
cove.

Rubbing his eyes and muttering to himself, he stared again. He
remembered calling McGlory, and dropping down into the bunk after
McGlory had got out of it. After that he knew nothing until he sat up
there on the ground, with the fire dancing in front of his eyes.

The fog was slower getting out of his brain than out of his lungs.
Rising to his feet, he started for the path leading up the bank,
animated by the hazy idea that he ought to get word to the fire
department.

He stumbled over something. Being none too steady, he fell headlong,
only to lift himself again as the object over which he had fallen gave
vent to a rumbling, inarticulate sound.

"Is that you, Matt?" he asked.

The answer was a desperate gurgle.

By that time Lorry had, in a great measure, recovered the use of his
wits. Creeping to the side of the person who was trying so hard to
speak, he saw by the glare of the fire that it was McGlory.

"Great Scott!" he murmured, his hands passing over the form. "It's
cousin Joe, and he's tied and gagged!"

Lorry was only a moment in freeing the cowboy's jaws of the twisted
handkerchief.

"Tell me about this!" fumed McGlory. "I thought I'd never be found.
What are you kneeling there for, George, gawping like you were locoed?
Get these ropes off me, and see how quick you can do it. Don't you
know that Matt's in that boathouse, and that he and Ping are trying to
save the _Sprite_? We've got to lend a hand. Sufferin' blockheads, but
you're slow! Cut the ropes with a knife if you can't untie 'em."

"I'm in my underclothes," answered George. "I don't know where my knife
is."

"I've got a knife in my pocket. Take it out, but hustle, for Heaven's
sake, _hustle_!"

George was shaking like a man with a chill. The terrors of the moment
were dawning upon his bewildered mind. His hands trembled while groping
through McGlory's pockets, and they trembled worse when he opened the
knife and tried to use it.

"Who--who set the fire?" he mumbled.

"Do you think I'm a mind reader?" stormed McGlory. "I was to blame, for
I was on guard and ought to have seen those negroes before they downed
me and trussed me up in this fashion. If anything happens to Matt, I'll
be to blame for it, and if the _Sprite_ is burned I'll be to blame for
that, too. Oh, I've got a lot to think of, I have!"

The cowboy's self-reproach was keen.

"Did some one steal up on you, Joe?" asked Lorry.

"What do you take me for, George? Do you think I laid down and put my
hands behind me so the blacks could tie 'em? They got me, right there
at the corner of the boathouse, just as I was coming around. A blow
dazed me, and before I could let out a yip, they had ropes on my wrists
and ankles and that thing between my jaws. I heard Matt calling, and,
sufferin' jailbirds! here I lay without bein' able to say a word. Oh,
_can't_ you cut those ropes? Take a brace--your nerves are in rags."

George managed finally to saw the blade through one coil of the cord
that secured McGlory's hands. With a swift tug from the shoulders the
cowboy released himself, then caught the knife from his cousin's hand
and slashed it through the ropes at his feet.

The next instant he was up and bounding toward the boathouse.

"Where are you going?" shouted George.

McGlory, rendered desperate by the knowledge that Matt was in the
boathouse facing death in a fierce effort to save the _Sprite_, was
heading straight for the door of the building.

The door was merely a riffle in a wall of flame. Before McGlory could
reach it, the whole end of the boathouse crashed outward.

He sprang backward, just in time to avoid the blazing timbers, and
turned to Lorry with a groan.

"We can't help him!" he cried hoarsely. "Motor Matt's done for, the
_Sprite's_ done for--everybody's done for, George. And it was all on my
account."

Here it was that Lorry came to the front with a little common sense.

"You were not to blame, Joe," he asserted. "You were set on by some
negroes, and you could no more help what happened than Matt or I. Pull
yourself together and don't be a fool. Motor Matt knows what he's
about. If he's in that boathouse he'll get out of it again. Anyhow, we
can't help him from this side. We'll go around by the pier and get the
launch. If we can get the launch through the water door, maybe we can
hitch on to the _Sprite_ and tow her out."

This talk had a salutary effect on McGlory.

"The _Sprite_ isn't in the water," he answered. "How could we tow her
out?"

"Matt will get her in the water," said Lorry confidently. "What do you
suppose he's doing in there if he isn't getting the _Sprite_ into the
well? We left her on rollers at the top of the incline, and Matt could
launch her alone without any trouble. Let's get the launch and be ready
to help."

The launch referred to by Lorry was the one he had hired and brought
across the lake for Matt's use during the work on the _Sprite_. The
boat was kept at one end of the pier. While the _Sprite_ was on the
skids, the other boat was housed in the well at night, but this night
she had been left outside so as not to interfere with the launching of
the _Sprite_ in the early morning.

Hoping against hope that they could yet do something that would help
Motor Matt, the two boys ran alongside the boathouse, jumped to the
pier and unfastened the painter of the launch. Just as they tumbled
into it and McGlory was turning the flywheel, a loud explosion came
from inside the boathouse. A cloud of firebrands and sparks geysered up
from the roof.

"What was that?" gasped Lorry.

"The gasoline," answered McGlory, dropping down on the thwartships seat
in front of the motor. "I don't know what we can do now, George."

"We'll get into the boathouse," flung back Lorry. "If----"

Lorry was interrupted by another crash. Under the startled eyes of
the two in the launch, the water door was ripped and splintered, and
through the ragged gap as out of a blazing furnace sped the _Sprite_.

For a moment she reeled as though undecided which way to turn; then,
suddenly, she shot off into the lake. Neither Lorry nor McGlory could
see any one aboard her.

"Where's Matt?" cried the cowboy.

The echoes of his voice were taken up by another crash, and the
remaining walls of the boathouse flattened themselves with a great
hissing as the burning timbers dropped into the well, and off the pier
into the lake.

"If he was in there," added the cowboy huskily, pointing to the wrecked
building, "then there's----"

"He wasn't in there," cut in Lorry. "He couldn't have been. Do you
suppose the _Sprite_ started herself?"

While speaking, Lorry was "turning over" the engine. The motor took up
its cycle, and Lorry steered into the lake after the _Sprite_.

The _Sprite_ was darting this way and that at terrific speed, following
a course so erratic that it would be easily inferred there was no
guiding hand on the steering wheel.

Away the boat would rush, directly into the gloom that hovered over the
lake; then, before she could vanish, she would describe a hair-raising
turn and jump to starboard or port.

"But where's Matt if he is in the boat?" demanded McGlory.

"On the bottom, perhaps," replied Lorry. "He started her, and that's
all he was able to do. We've got to lay the _Sprite_ aboard, somehow."

"That's easier said than done," said McGlory. "She's jumping around
like a pea on a hot griddle, and is just as likely to slam into us and
cut us down as to do anything else. Sufferin' sidewinders, look at
that!"

The _Sprite_ had made a complete turn and was now headed shoreward and
streaking straight towards the boys.

"Here's our chance!" said Lorry. "If the _Sprite_ hangs on as she's
coming she'll pass close to us. Will you jump aboard her, Joe, or shall
I?"

"I'll do it," answered the cowboy. "Can't you turn the launch and
follow the _Sprite_, side by side with her? She'll travel faster than
we will, but it'll make it easier to jump without going into the lake."

This manoeuvre was carried out, and Lorry, who could handle a boat
tolerably well for an amateur, brought the launch about and picked up
the _Sprite_ as she dashed onward.

McGlory cleared a foot of water at a flying leap and dropped into the
_Sprite's_ cockpit. In a few minutes he had checked the boat's aimless
racing and had brought her to a halt.

"Is Matt there?" queried Lorry anxiously, working the launch close to
the _Sprite_.

"He's here," answered McGlory, "but he's unconscious. Ping's here, too,
and his wits are wool-gathering, same as Matt's. They're both alive,
though, and I reckon they'll be all right with a little care."

"Follow me across the lake," said Lorry. "We'll go to the clubhouse.
The quicker we can get a doctor, the better."

The first gray of dawn was just glimmering along the eastern edge of
the sky as the two boats stood away for Madison.



CHAPTER XII.

WHAT ABOUT THE RACE?


Matt opened his eyes in surroundings that were not familiar to him. The
room was big and lofty, and the bed he was lying in was a huge affair
of brass and had a mosquito canopy. He tried to lift his right arm.
The movement was attended with so much pain that he gave it up. He saw
that the arm was swathed in bandages.

A sound of whispering came to him from the bedside. Turning his head on
the pillow, he saw two figures that had escaped him up to that moment.
One was Lorry and the other was McGlory.

"The doctor says he'll have to stay in bed for a week," Lorry was
saying.

"Sufferin' speed boats!" muttered McGlory. "Let's kiss our chances
good-by. It's glory enough, anyhow, just to know Matt got clear of the
burnin' boathouse with his life."

"Don't be in a rush about bidding good-by to our chances," said Matt.

McGlory jumped around in his chair, and Lorry started up and hurried to
the bedside with a glowing face.

"Jupiter, but it's good to hear your voice again, Matt," said Lorry.

"We were expectin' you to wake up any minute, pard," added McGlory.
"How're you feeling?"

"A one, except for my arm. What's the matter with it?"

"A sprain and a bad burn," replied Lorry.

"I remember, now," muttered Matt. "A blazing timber fell from the roof
and pinned my arm against the gunwale of the _Sprite_. It isn't a
fracture?"

"Nary, pard," said McGlory. "You were in a heap of luck to get out of
that blaze as well as you did."

"I guess that's right. Where am I?"

"In the Lorry home on Fourth Lake Ridge," smiled George. "We took you
across the lake to the Yahara Club, and when I called up dad on the
phone, and told him what had happened, he insisted on sending the
carriage after you. The doctor was here when we arrived. He has patched
you up so you'll be as good as new in a week."

"Is Ping all right?"

McGlory chuckled.

"You can't kill a Chink, pard," he answered. "Ping was unconscious,
same as you, when we picked up the _Sprite_, but he drifted back to
earth while we were crossing the lake."

"And the _Sprite_--did she suffer any damage?"

"She's blistered here and there, but otherwise she's just as good as
she was when you hit her the last tap."

"What about the race?"

A glum expression settled over the faces of George and Joe.

"Well," said George, "this is Monday morning, and the race is to-morrow
afternoon. The doctor says you ought to keep quiet for a week. Of
course, the race can't be postponed, and if the _Sprite_ doesn't come
to the line to-morrow, why, the Winnequas keep the cup. Also, Merton
and his clique keep the money they wagered. That has been their game
all along, and every bet they made was with the understanding that if
the Yahara Club failed to furnish a starter in the race the Winnequa
fellows were to pull down all the stakes."

A glimmer came into Matt's gray eyes.

"It looks to me," he remarked, "as though Merton and his friends had a
feeling all along that something was going to happen to the _Sprite_."

McGlory scowled, and Lorry looked grave.

"Have you heard anything about who started that fire?" went on Matt.

"The latest comes from Merton indirectly," said Lorry. "We hear that
he's spreading a report that we were careless with matches, and that we
kept our gasoline in the boathouse."

"Sufferin' boomerangs!" snapped McGlory. "I reckon, if we figure it
down to a fine point, people will find that Merton was careless in
hiring niggers to do his crooked work."

"Negroes?" echoed Matt. "That reminds me, Joe, that I couldn't find you
when I woke up and found the boathouse in flames. Where were you?"

"Speak to me about that!" gurgled McGlory. "Why, pard, I was lashed
hand and foot and smothered with a gag. I could hear you callin', but
it wasn't possible for me to answer you. That was torture, and don't
you forget it. What's more, I could hear you and Ping talking, and by
turning my head I could see you getting into the boathouse through the
window. It was only when George, half-dazed, stumbled over me, that I
was able to let any one know where I was. George got the ropes off me,
and I'd have gone into the boathouse after you, only the front of it
tumbled and blocked the attempt. Then we went around and got in the
launch, thinking we'd get in by the water door and give the _Sprite_ a
lift into the cove. Before we could do that the buildin' began to cave
in, and the gasoline to let go, and then the _Sprite_ came smashing
through the door and began dancing a hornpipe out in the lake. Lorry
and I manoeuvred around until we managed to catch her, and then we
brought you across to the clubhouse. That's where the _Sprite_ is now,
and she'll be well taken care of by the Yahara boys."

"But the negroes!" exclaimed Matt. "You haven't told me anything about
them."

"Keno!" grinned McGlory. "I told the last end of my yarn. I reckon the
first end was left out because it don't reflect any credit on your
Uncle Joe. Lorry called me at midnight to go on guard duty. I slid
out, and hadn't been watching the boathouse more than three hours when
a couple of black villains nailed me as I was going around a corner.
I was dazed with an upper-cut, and before I could get into shape to
do any fighting, they had me on the mat. Then I had to lay there and
listen to 'em setting fire to the boathouse, with you, and Lorry, and
Ping inside, never dreaming of what was going on. I reckon I'm a back
number, pard. It was my fault."

"You can't shoulder the responsibility, Joe," answered Matt. "You
couldn't help being knocked down, and tied, and gagged."

"Nary, I couldn't," was McGlory's gloomy rejoinder; "but I might have
stepped high, wide, and handsome when I went around that corner. If
I'd had as much sense as the law allows I'd have seen that black fist
before it landed, either ducked or side-stepped, and then let off a
yell. All you fellows inside needed was the right sort of a yell. But
I didn't give it. When it came to a showdown, pard, I couldn't deliver
the goods."

"I still maintain that you have no cause to blame yourself," persisted
Matt. "If George or I had been in your place, Joe, the same thing would
have happened."

McGlory bent his head reflectively.

"It's mighty good of you, pard, to put it that way," said he finally.

"Would you know those negroes again if you were to see them?" asked
Matt.

McGlory shook his head.

"It was plumb dark there in the shadow of the boathouse," he answered.
"I could just make out that they were negroes, and that's all. I
reckon, though, that Ollie Merton could tell us who those fellows
were--if he would."

"I'd be a little careful, Joe," cautioned Matt, "about involving Merton
in that fire. If it could be proved against him it would be a mighty
serious business--just as serious as for the fellows who set the fire."

"Well, pard, why was Merton and his friends making their bets in that
queer way? In case there isn't any race because of the failure of the
Yahara Club to produce a starter, the Winnequas take the stakes. That
looks as though Merton and his pals knew what was going to happen. If
the _Sprite_ was burned, there'd be no boat for the Yaharas to produce."

"Joe's right," declared Lorry.

"Well, keep your suspicions to yourselves," said Matt. "In a case of
this kind it's positive proof that's needed, not bare suspicion. Wasn't
the fire seen from the city? Didn't any one go across the lake to help
fight it?"

"We met a couple of boats going over as we were coming across with you
and Ping," replied Lorry. "By that time, though, the boathouse was no
more than a heap of embers. It went quick after it got started. But
what about the race to-morrow? That's the point that's bothering me. I
could take the _Sprite_ over the course, and so could Joe, at a pinch,
but we wouldn't get the speed out of her that you would."

"I'll drive her myself," said Matt.

"Speak to me about that!" gasped McGlory. "Why, pard, you've only got
one hand--and that's the left."

"A man who's any good at automobile driving has a pretty good left
hand. In an automobile race, Joe, the driver's left hand has to do a
big share of the work. The racer steers with the left hand, holding
the right hand free for the emergency brake. The left hand has to be
trained to take full charge at all corners, and in a thousand and one
other places as the need arises. I can do the racing well enough."

"But the doctor says----" began Lorry.

"I know what I can do better than the doctor, George," laughed Matt.
"I'll be in that race every minute--watch me."

Both Lorry and McGlory studied Matt's face carefully.

"Pluck, that's what it is," muttered McGlory. "It's the sort of pluck
that wins. But I don't know whether the doctor will let you----"

Just at that moment a servant stepped into the room.

"What is it, James?" asked Lorry.

"Mr. Martin Rawlins to see Mr. King," was the answer.

Lorry looked bewildered.

"Mart Rawlins!" he exclaimed. "Why, he's one of the Winnequa fellows,
and a crony of Merton's!"

"He's here to pump Matt," growled McGlory, "or else to find out what
his chances are for being in that race to-morrow. Sufferin' tinhorns,
what a nerve!"

"Have him come up, Lorry," said Matt. "It won't do any harm to talk
with him. If he's here to pump me, he's welcome to try."

Lorry nodded to the servant, and a few moments later Mart Rawlins
entered the room.



CHAPTER XIII.

MART RAWLINS WEAKENS.


"Hello, Lorry!" said Rawlins, hesitating, just over the threshold, as
though a little undecided as to how he would be received.

"Hello, Rawlins!" answered Lorry coldly. "You want to see Motor Matt?"

"That's why I came. I hope he isn't hurt very much?"

"There he is," said Lorry, pushing a chair up to the bed; "you can ask
him about that for yourself."

McGlory, feeling sure that Merton was guiltily concerned in the fire,
was far from amiably disposed toward such a close friend of Merton's as
Rawlins. As Rawlins advanced to the bed the cowboy got up, turned his
back, and looked out of a window.

"I'm sorry you had such a rough time of it, Motor Matt," said Rawlins,
visibly embarrassed.

"I was in luck to get out of the scrape as well as I did," returned
Matt. "You're a friend of Merton's?"

"I was. Early this morning we had a quarrel, so we're not quite so
friendly. Have you any idea what caused the fire?"

"Yes," said Matt bluntly; "firebugs."

"You're positive of that?"

"My friend McGlory, there, was watching outside the boathouse. He was
set upon by two negroes, knocked down, tied hand and foot, gagged and
dragged off where he would not be in the way. Then the two scoundrels
set fire to the building while Lorry, the Chinese boy, and I were sound
asleep inside."

Something like trepidation crossed Mart Rawlins' face.

"McGlory is sure that the men were negroes who assaulted him?" queried
Rawlins in a shaking voice.

"He's positive."

"Then," breathed Rawlins, as though to himself, "there's no doubt about
it."

"No doubt about what?" demanded McGlory sharply, whirling away from the
window.

"Why," was the answer, "that there was a conspiracy to destroy the
boathouse and the _Sprite_, and that Ollie Merton was back of it."

Rawlins had paled, and he was nervous, but he spoke deliberately.

Matt, Lorry, and McGlory were surprised at the trend Rawlins' talk was
taking. They were still a little bit suspicious of him, especially
McGlory.

"What makes you think that?" asked Matt, eying his caller keenly.

"Did you lose a roll of drawings a few days ago?"

"Yes."

"And did you have a disagreement with the little negro called Pickerel
Pete?"

"Yes."

"Well, Pete stole those drawings and took them to Merton. It was just
after"--Rawlins flushed--"just after you were stopped in the woods
by Merton and the rest of us, and ordered to quit helping Lorry. We
had got back to Merton's house, and Pete came there with the roll of
papers. Merton bought them from Pete, gave Pete five dollars, and asked
him to come to see him Sunday afternoon at four o'clock--yesterday
afternoon. Merton said he had a plan he was going to carry out that
would make success sure for the Winnequa boat in the race. He wouldn't
tell us what the plan was, but when I heard that the boathouse had been
burned I went over to Merton's and had a talk with him. It wasn't a
pleasant talk, and there was a coldness between Merton and me when I
left."

"You think, then," said Matt, "that Merton hired Pete to get those
negroes to set fire to the boathouse?"

"That's the way it looks to me. As a member of the Winnequa club, and
a representative member, I won't stand for any such work. It's--it's
unsportsman-like, to say the least."

"It's worse than that, Mart," frowned Lorry.

"It was unsportsman-like to stop Matt, drag him off into the woods, and
try to bribe him to leave town, or to 'throw' the race, wasn't it?"
cried McGlory scornfully.

Rawlins stirred uncomfortably.

"Certainly it was," he admitted.

"And yet you helped Merton in that!"

"Merton fooled me. He said Motor Matt was an unscrupulous adventurer,
and a professional motorist, and that the good of the sport made it
necessary for us to get him out of that race. He didn't say he was
going to bribe him to 'throw' the race. I didn't know that offer
was going to be made, and I think there were some others who didn't
know it. If we could have hired Motor Matt to leave town, I'd have
been willing. I've got up all the money I can spare on the race, and
naturally I want our boat to win--but I won't stand for any unfair
practices. Nor will the Winnequa Club, as a whole. We're game to let
our boat face the start on its own merits. If we can't win by fair
means, I want to lose my money."

Rawlins got up.

"That's all I came here for--to find out how you are, Motor Matt, and
to let you know how I stand, and how the rest of the club stands. I
have come out flat-footed, and for the good of motor boating in this
section I hope you will not press this matter to its conclusion. We all
know what that conclusion would mean. It would go hard with Merton,
and there would be a scandal. In order to avoid the scandal, it may be
necessary to spare Merton."

"Sufferin' hoodlums!" cried McGlory. "That's a nice way to tune up.
Here's Merton, pulling off a raw deal, and coming within one of killing
my two pards, say nothing of the way I was treated, and now you want
him spared for the sake of avoiding a scandal!"

A silence followed this outburst.

When Rawlins continued, he turned and addressed himself to Matt.

"I think I know your calibre pretty well, Motor Matt," said he. "The
way you turned down that bribe in the woods and declared that you'd
stand by Lorry at all costs, showed us all you were the right sort.
Of course, I can't presume to influence you; but, if you won't spare
Merton on account of the scandal and the good of the sport, or on his
own account, then think of his father and mother. They'll get back from
abroad to-morrow morning in time for the race. That's all. I'd like to
shake hands with you, if you don't mind."

Rawlins stepped closer to the bed.

"You'll have to take my left hand," laughed Matt. "The right's
temporarily out of business. You're the clear quill, Rawlins," he
added, as they shook hands, "and I'll take no steps against Merton,
providing he acts on the square from now on. You can tell your club
members that."

"Thank you. I half expected you'd say that."

"Will Merton be allowed to race the boat in the contest?" inquired
Lorry.

"We can't very well avoid it. It's his boat, and it's the only entry
on our side. He'll have to race her, with Halloran. The club will
make that concession. After that--well, Merton will cease to act as
commodore, and will no longer be a member of the club. Good-by, Motor
Matt, and may the best boat win, no matter who's at the motor!"

As Rawlins went out, Ethel Lorry and her father stepped into the room.
They had heard the loud voices, and inferring that Matt was able to
receive company, had come upstairs.

"You'd hardly think there was a sick person up here," said Mr. Lorry,
"from the talk that's been going on. How are you, my lad?" and he
stepped toward Matt.

"Doing finely," said Matt.

"I'm glad," said Ethel, drawing close to the bed and slipping her arm
through her father's.

"He's going to race the _Sprite_ to-morrow, Uncle Dan," chirped McGlory.

"No!" exclaimed the astounded Mr. Lorry.

"Fact. You can't down him. He's in that race with only one hand--and
the left, at that."

"It will be the death of you!" cried Ethel. "You mustn't think of it."

"You know, my boy," added Mr. Lorry gravely, "it won't do to take
chances."

"I know that, sir," returned Matt, "but I'm as well as ever, barring my
arm. I can't lie here and let the _Sprite_ get beaten for lack of a man
at the motor who understands her. I'd be in a bad way, for sure, if I
had to do that."

"I think he's a bit flighty," grinned McGlory. "I reckon I can prove
that by telling you what just happened."

"What happened?" and Mr. Lorry turned to face McGlory.

The cowboy repeated all that Rawlins had said, winding up with the
promise Matt had made to spare Merton.

A soft light crept into Ethel's eyes.

"What else could you expect from Motor Matt?" she asked.

"I shall have to shake hands with you myself, Matt," said Mr. Lorry,
taking Matt's left hand and pressing it cordially. "That was fine of
you, but, as Ethel says, no more than we ought to expect. I hope you'll
be able to drive the _Sprite_ to victory, but you'll have to have less
talk in the room and more rest if you're going to be able to take your
place in the boat to-morrow. Come on, Ethel."

Mr. Lorry and his daughter left the room and Lorry and McGlory resumed
their chairs, but gave over their conversation.

An hour later Matt called for something to eat, and a substantial meal
was served to him, piping hot.

The doctor came while he was eating.

"Well," laughed the doctor, "I guess you'll do. Don't eat too much,
that's all."

"He's got to corral enough ginger to get into that race to-morrow
afternoon, doc," sang out the cowboy.

"He don't intend to try that, does he?" asked the doctor aghast.

"I've got to, doctor," said Matt.

"It may be," remarked the doctor, "that action is the sort of tonic
you need. But, whatever you do, don't attempt to use that arm. That'll
be about all. If you do get into the race, though, be sure and win.
You see," he added whimsically, "I live on the Fourth Lake side of the
town."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE RACE--THE START.


The Winnequa-Yahara race was open to all boats of the respective clubs
under forty feet, each boat with a beam one-fifth the water-line
length. It was to be a five-mile contest, each end of the course marked
by a stake boat anchored at each end of Fourth Lake. The stake boat,
with the judges, was to be moored off Maple Bluff. From this boat the
racers would start, round the other stake boat, and finish at the
starting point.

Furthermore, although the race was open to all members of the two
respective clubs with boats under the extreme length, there was a
mutual agreement, from the beginning, that one member of each club
should be commissioned to provide the boat to be entered in the
contest. Inasmuch as a speed boat costs money, it was natural that the
sons of rich men should be told off to carry the honors.

Mr. Merton and Mr. Lorry were both millionaires. They were known to be
indulgent fathers, and it had not been foreseen that Mr. Lorry would
rebel, at first, against George's extravagance.

But George had gone too far. Mr. Lorry, even at that, might have paid
for George's $5,000 hydroplane had he understood that his son was
bearing the Yahara honors on his own shoulders and had been lured into
extravagance by a misguided notion of his responsibility.

However, this initial misunderstanding, with all its disastrous
entanglements, was a thing of the past. Both Mr. Lorry and George had
buried it deep, and were meeting each other in a closer relationship
than they had ever known before.

The struggle for the De Lancey cup had become, to Madison, what the
fight for the America Cup had become to the United States. Only, in
the case of the De Lancey cup, the city was divided against itself.

The entire population had ranged itself on one side or the other.

The gun that started the race was to be fired at 2 o'clock, but early
in the forenoon launches began passing through the chain of lakes, and
through the canal and locks that led to the scene of the contest.

The distance had already been measured and the stake boats placed.
All along the course buoys marked the boundaries. Later there were to
be police boats, darting here and there to see that the boundary line
was respected and the course kept clear. Through this lane of water,
hemmed in by craft of every description, the two boats were to speed to
victory or defeat.

Observers, however, did not confine themselves to the boats. The
cottages on Maple Bluff, and the surrounding heights, offered splendid
vantage ground for sightseers. Early in the forenoon automobiles
began moving out toward Maple Bluff, loaded with passengers. And each
automobile carried a hamper with lunch for those who traveled with it.
Most of the citizens made of the event a picnic affair.

The asylum grounds also held their quota of sightseers with opera
glasses or more powerful binoculars; and Governor's Island, and the
shore all the way around to Picnic Point.

The day was perfect. Fortunately for the many craft assembled, the wind
was light, and what little there was was not from the west. Fourth Lake
was to be as calm as a pond.

Steadily, up to 1 o'clock, the throng of sightseers afloat and ashore
was added to.

The sixty-five-foot motor yacht, serving as stake boat at the starting
and finishing point, was boarded by Mr. Lorry and Ethel. The judges
were from both clubs, and so the boat was given over to the use of a
limited number of Winnequas and Yaharas and their partisans.

As Mr. Lorry and Ethel came over the side of the yacht they were
greeted by a tall, gray-haired man and a stout, middle-aged lady.

"Why, Merton!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry. "You had to get back in time for
the race, eh? Madam," and he doffed his hat to the lady at Merton's
side, "I trust I find you well?"

"Very well, thank you, Mr. Lorry," replied Mrs. Merton. "How are you,
my dear?" and the lady turned and gave her hand to Ethel.

"There's where they start and finish, Lorry," said Mr. Merton, pointing
to the port side of the boat. "Bring up chairs and we'll preëmpt our
places now."

When the four were all comfortably seated, a certain embarrassment born
of the fact that each man was there to watch the performance of his
son's boat crept into their talk.

"Will George be in his boat?" inquired Mr. Merton, taking a glance
around at the gay bunting with which the assembled craft were dressed.

"No," said Mr. Lorry.

"Ollie will be in _his_ launch," and there was ever so small a taunt in
the words.

"Ollie's boat is bigger than George's, Merton," answered the other
mildly. "George's driver figured that an extra hundred-and-forty pounds
had better stay out of the _Sprite_."

"Who drives for George?"

"Motor Matt."

Mr. Merton was startled.

"Why," said he, "I thought he was hurt in that boathouse fire and
couldn't be out of bed?"

"He's hurt, and only one-handed, but he's too plucky to stay out of the
race."

"Probably," said Mr. Merton coolly, "the pay he receives is quite an
item. I understand Motor Matt is poor, and out for all the money he can
get."

"You have been wrongly informed, Merton. Not a word as to what he shall
receive has passed between George and Motor Matt. The boys are friends."

"I'd be a little careful, if I were you, how I allowed my son to pick
up with a needy adventurer."

"Motor Matt is neither needy nor an adventurer," said Mr. Lorry warmly.
"I'm proud to have George on intimate terms with him."

"Oh, well," laughed Mr. Merton; "have a cigar."

Ethel was having a conversation along similar lines with Mrs. Merton,
and she was as staunchly upholding Motor Matt as was her father. So
earnestly did the girl speak that the elder lady drew back and eyed her
through a lorgnette.

"Careful, my dear," said she.

Ethel knew what she meant, and flushed with temper. But both Ethel and
her father, deep down in their hearts, pitied Mr. and Mrs. Merton. If
they had known of the unscrupulous attack their son had caused to be
made on Motor Matt, they would perhaps have spoken differently--or not
at all.

Fortunately, it may be, for the four comprising the little party, a
band on a near-by cruising boat began to play.

Then, a moment later, a din of cheers rolled over the lake.

"There's Ollie!" cried Mrs. Merton, starting up excitedly to flutter
her handkerchief.

Yes, the _Dart_ was coming down the open lane, having entered the
course from the boathouse, where she had been lying ever since early
morning. She was a 25-foot boat, with trim racing lines, and she shot
through the water in a way that left no doubt of her speed.

"How's that?" cried Mr. Merton, nudging Mr. Lorry with his elbow.
"Nearly everybody was expecting the _Wyandotte_, and just look what
we're springing on you!"

"She looks pretty good," acknowledged Mr. Lorry.

"Well, I should say so!"

"But not good enough," went on Mr. Lorry.

"Have you got five thousand that thinks the same way?"

"No, Merton. I quit betting a good many years ago."

The _Dart_ raced up and down the course, showing what she could do in
short stretches, but not going over the line for a record. Halloran,
the red-haired driver of the _Dart_, and Ollie Merton were fine-looking
young fellows in their white yachting caps, white flannel shirts, and
white duck trousers.

From time to time Mr. Lorry consulted his watch, checking off the
quarter hours impatiently and wondering why Motor Matt and the _Sprite_
did not put in an appearance. Could it be possible that Matt had not
been able to leave the house on Yankee Hill, after all? If he was able
to be out, then why didn't he come along and give the _Sprite_ a little
warming up?

The boat had not had an actual try-out since the changes had been made
in her.

Mr. Lorry did not realize that it was too late, then, for a try-out;
nor did he know that Matt was saving himself for the contest, and not
intending to reach the course much before the time arrived for the
starting gun to be fired.

Five minutes before two a little saluting gun barked sharply from the
forward deck of the stake boat.

"I guess your boat isn't coming, Lorry," said Mr. Merton. "There's only
five minutes left for----"

The words were taken out of his mouth by a roaring cheer from down the
line of boats. The cheer was caught up and repeated from boat to boat
until the whole surface of the lake seemed to echo back the frantic
yells.

Mr. Lorry leaped to his feet and waved his hat, while Ethel sprang up
in her chair and excitedly shook her veil.

For the _Sprite_ was coming!

Motor Matt, a little pale and carrying his right arm in a sling, came
jogging down the wide lane toward the stake boat. There was a resolute
light in his keen, gray eyes, and his trained left hand performed its
many duties unerringly.

The danger from which Matt had plucked the _Sprite_ at the burning
boathouse was known far and wide, and it was his gameness in entering
the race handicapped as he was that called forth the tremendous ovation.

Dexterously he passed the stake boat and brought the _Sprite_ slowly
around for the start.

The _Sprite_ was charred and blistered, and, as McGlory had humorously
put it, the "skin was barked all off her nose," because of her
collision with the water door; but there she was, fit and ready for
the race of her life.

She did not compare favorably with the handsome _Dart_; but then,
beauty is only skin deep. It's what's inside of a boat, as well as of a
man, that counts.

Slowly the boats manoeuvred, waiting for the gun. The silence was
intense, breathless. Then----

Bang!

The little saluting gun puffed out its vapory breath. Matt could be
seen leaning against the wheel, holding it firm with his body while his
left hand played over the levers.

It was a pretty start. Both the _Sprite_ and the _Dart_ passed the
stake boat neck and neck.

"They're off," muttered Lorry, with a wheeze, drawing a handkerchief
over his forehead.

It is nothing to his discredit that his hand shook a little.

"Oh, dad," whispered Ethel, clasping her father's arm, "didn't he look
fine and--and determined? I know he'll win, I just _know_ it."

"Say, Lorry," asked Mr. Merton, "who's that youngster over there on
that launch--the one that's making such a fool of himself."

"That?" asked Mr. Lorry, squinting in the direction indicated. "Oh,
that's my nephew, McGlory. But don't blame him for acting the fool--I
feel a little inclined that way myself."



CHAPTER XV.

THE FINISH.


The doctor's guess was a good one. The excitement of that race was
exactly what Motor Matt needed. It was a tonic, and from the moment
he had entered the _Sprite_ in the Yahara Club boathouse, he was the
Mile-a-Minute Matt of motor cycle and automobile days. His nerves were
like steel wires, his brain was steady, and his eye keen and true.

There was a good deal of vibration--much more, in fact, than Matt had
really thought there would be. The more power used up in vibration, the
less power delivered at the wheel. But what would the vibration have
been if he had not exercised so much care in preparing the engine's bed?

Perfectly oblivious of the spectators, and with eyes only for his
course, Matt saw nothing and no one apart from the boundary buoys,
until he turned the _Sprite_ for the start. Then, while waiting for the
starting gun, he caught a glimpse of the taunting face of Ollie Merton.

"Fooled you, eh?" called Merton. "You'll do sixteen miles, at your
best, and we'll go over twenty."

Motor Matt did not reply. If Merton had only known what was under the
hood of the _Sprite_, his gibe would never have been uttered.

As they passed the stake boat side by side, Merton and Halloran began
to suspect something. The _Sprite_ hung to them too persistently for a
sixteen-mile-an-hour boat.

"He's got something in that boat of his," breathed Halloran, "that we
don't know anything about."

"Confound him!" snorted Merton, enraged at the very suspicion. "If he
fools us with any of his low-down tricks, I'll fix him before he leaves
that made-over catamaran of his."

"You'll treat him white, Merton, win or lose," scowled Halloran.

"Then you see to it that you win!" said Merton.

Along the double line of boats rushed the racers. The waves tossed up
from the bows rose high, creamed into froth, and the spray drifted and
eddied around Matt, Halloran, and Merton. At the edge of the lane, the
craft of the sightseers rocked with the heave the flying boats kicked
up.

Halfway between the stake boats the _Dart_ began to draw ahead. A shout
of exultation went up from Merton.

"Good boy, Halloran! In another minute we'll show him our heels."

But what Matt lost on the outward stretch of the course he more than
made up at the turn around the stake boat. The shorter length of the
_Sprite_ enabled her to be brought around with more facility, and she
came to on the inner side and was reaching for the home-stretch when
the _Dart_ got pointed for the straight-away.

The hum of the engine was like a crooning song of victory in Matt's
ears. He _knew_ he was going to win; he felt it in his bones.

Halloran's juggling with gasoline and spark brought the _Dart_ slowly
alongside and gave her the lead by half a length.

But still Matt did not waver. He could juggle a little with the
make-and-break ignition and the fuel supply himself. His brain was full
of calculations. He knew where he was at every minute of the race, and
he knew just when to begin making the throbbing motor spin the wheel at
its maximum.

The rack of the hull was tremendous. It seemed to grow instead of to
lessen.

Would the hull stand the strain with the engine urging the wheel at its
best?

It _must_ stand the strain! The crisis was at hand and there was
nothing else for it.

Hugging the steering wheel with his body, Matt's left hand toyed with
switch and lever. The yacht at the finish line was in plain view.

Matt did not see the waving hats or fluttering handkerchiefs, nor did
he hear the bedlam of yells that went up on every side. All he saw was
the _Dart_, his eye marking the gain of the _Sprite_.

It was already apparent to Ollie Merton and Halloran that the race
was lost--_unless something unexpected happened to Motor Matt or the
Sprite_.

Halloran was getting the last particle of speed out of the _Dart's_
engine, and steadily, relentlessly, the _Sprite_ was creeping ahead.

Deep down in Merton's soul a desperate purpose was fighting with his
better nature. Suddenly the evil got the upper hand. Merton waited, his
sinister face full of relentless determination.

"When the _Sprite_ takes the lead," he said to himself, "something is
going to happen."

In one minute more Matt forged ahead. The finish line was close now,
and Merton was already stung with the bitterness of defeat.

His hand reached inside his sweater. When it was withdrawn, a revolver
came with it.

Why Merton had brought that revolver with him, he alone could tell. It
may have been for some such purpose as this.

Matt's back was toward Merton, and Matt's eyes were peering steadily
ahead.

If that left hand could be touched--just scratched--the king of the
motor boys would be powerless to manage the _Sprite_.

Many of the spectators saw the leveling of the weapon. Cries of
"Coward!" and "Shame!" and "Stop him!" went up from a hundred throats.

Mr. Merton, watching breathlessly, saw the glimmering revolver, and
something very like a sob rushed through his lips as he bowed his head.
What those who saw felt for his son, _he_ felt for him--and for himself.

Before Merton could press the trigger, Halloran turned partly around.

"You're mad!" shouted Halloran, gripping Merton's wrist with a deft
hand and shoving the point of the revolver high in the air.

Unaware of his narrow escape, the king of the motor boys flung the
_Sprite_ onward to victory.

A good half-length ahead of the _Dart_, Matt and his boat crossed the
finish line--regaining the De Lancey cup for the Yahara Club, winning
the race for George Lorry and gaining untold honors for himself.

The lake went wild; and the enthusiasm spilled over its edges and ran
riot along the shores. Steam launches tooted their sirens, and motor
boats emptied their compressed air tanks through their toy whistles;
the band played, but there was so much other noise that it was not
heard. The Yaharas and their partisans went wild.

Somewhere in that jumble of humanity was Newt Higgins, adding his
joyful clamor to the roar of delight; and somewhere, also, was the
doctor, letting off the steam of his pent-up excitement.

But there was one man on the stake boat whose heart was heavy, who had
no word for any one but his wife. To her he offered his arm.

"Come," said he, in a stifled voice, "this is no place for us. Let us
go."

Matt, as soon as he had checked the speed of the _Sprite_ and pointed
her the other way, jogged back along the line of boats and picked Lorry
and McGlory off one of the launches.

Lorry was radiant.

"You've done it, old boy!" he cried. "By Jupiter! you've done it. You
sit down and take it easy--I'll look after the _Sprite_!"

"Speak to me about this!" whooped McGlory, throwing his arms around
Matt in a bear's hug. "Oh, recite this to me, in years to come, and the
blood will bound through my veins with all the--er--the---- Hang it,
pard, you know what I mean! I've gone off the jump entirely. Hooray for
Motor Matt!"

As Lorry laid the _Sprite_ alongside the stake boat, somebody tossed
her a line.

"Come aboard, all of you," called a voice.

It was Spicer, commodore of the Yahara Club.

While Matt, Lorry, and McGlory were going up one side of the yacht, Mr.
and Mrs. Merton were descending the other, getting into the boat that
was to take them ashore to their waiting automobile.

Mr. Lorry, red as a beet, his collar wilted, his high hat on the back
of his head, and his necktie around under his ear, met the victors,
giving one hand to Matt and the other to George.

"Jove!" he said huskily, "I've yelled myself hoarse. Oh, but it was
fine!"

Ethel threw her arms around Matt's neck and gave him a hearty kiss.

"Nice way to treat a one-armed fellow that can't defend himself,"
whooped McGlory; "and sick, at that. He ought to be in bed, this
minute--the doctor said so!"

"I--I thought it was George," faltered Ethel.

"Oh, bang!" howled McGlory. "It's a wonder you didn't think it was me."

The vice commodore of the Winnequa Club came forward, carrying the
silver cup in both hands. He looked sad enough, but he was game.

In a neat little speech, during which he emphasized the sportsman-like
conduct which should prevail at all such events as the one that had
just passed, he tendered the cup to Lorry. Lorry, blushing with
pleasure, in turn tendered it to the commodore of the Yahara Club.

One of the judges, coming forward with an oblong slip of paper in his
hands, waved it to command silence. When a measure of quiet prevailed,
he eased himself of a few pertinent remarks.

"Gentlemen, there was another supplementary prize offered in this
contest. Unlike the De Lancey cup, which may be fought for again next
year, this additional prize inheres to the victor for so long as he
can keep it by him. It is not for the owner of the boat, but to the
gallant youth who presided at the steering wheel and bore the brunt of
the battle. Had the _Dart_ won, this extra prize would have gone to
Halloran, just as surely as it now goes to Motor Matt. It consists of a
check for two thousand dollars, place for the name blank, and signed by
Mr. Daniel Lorry. There you are, son," and the judge pushed the check
into the hand of the astounded Matt.

"Great spark-plugs!" exclaimed Matt. "I--I---- Well, I hardly know
what to say. I was in the game for the love of it, and--and I was not
expecting this!"

"That was dad's idea," said Ethel happily.

"Bully for the governor!" cried George, grabbing his father's hand.
"Why, I didn't know anything about this, myself."

"It was a 'dark horse,'" chuckled Mr. Lorry. "Come on, now, and let's
go home and get out of this hubbub. Matt, you and McGlory will come
with us. We're going to have a spread."



CHAPTER XVI.

CONCLUSION.


All that happened, after Matt received that check for $2,000, was
a good deal like a dream to him. He remembered descending into the
_Sprite_ for a return to the clubhouse, and finding Ping Pong in the
boat.

Where Ping Pong had come from no one seemed to know. Not much attention
had been paid to him after Matt boarded the _Sprite_ and started for
the stake boat. Yet there the little Chinaman was, kneeling at the
bulkhead of the boat, fondling the steering wheel, patting the levers,
laying his yellow cheek against the gunwale, and all the while crooning
a lot of heathen gibberish.

"What's the blooming idiot trying to do?" McGlory shouted.

It seemed impossible for the cowboy to do anything but yell. His
exultation suggested noise, and he talked at the top of his lungs.

"Don't you understand, Joe?" said Lorry. "He's trying to thank the
_Sprite_ for winning the race."

"Sufferin' Hottentots! Why don't he thank the king of the motor boys?"

The next moment Ping was alongside of Matt, sitting in the bottom of
the boat and looking up at him with soulful admiration.

"Him allee same my boss," pattered Ping, catching his breath. "He
one-piecee scoot."

"Oh, tell me about that!" guffawed McGlory. "One-piecee scoot! Say,
Ping's not so far wide of his trail, after all."

The next thing Matt remembered was standing in the clubhouse, in the
locker room, receiving the vociferous congratulations of the Yaharas.
Before he realized what was going on, he and Lorry had been picked up
on the members' shoulders.

"Three times three and a tiger for Motor Matt and Lorry!" went up a
shout.

Well, the Yaharas didn't exactly raise the roof, but they came pretty
near it. Matt was voted an honorary member of the club on the spot, and
given free and perpetual use of all the clubhouse privileges.

"There isn't any one going around handing me ninety-nine-year leases
on a bunch of boats and a lot of bathing suits," caroled McGlory. "But
then, I don't count. I'm only carrying the banner in this procession.
Matt's the big high boy; but he's my pard, don't forget that."

McGlory's wail caused the Yaharas to vote him an honorary membership;
and then, in order not to slight anybody, or make a misdeal while
felicitations were being handed around, Ping was likewise voted in.

After that there was a ride to Yankee Hill in the Lorry motor car, with
Gus at the steering wheel; then a spread, the like of which Motor Matt
had never sat down to before. A good deal was eaten, and a great many
things were said, but Matt was still in a daze.

Every time he made a move he seemed to feel the vibration of the
twenty-horse-power motor sending queer little shivers through his body.

What was the matter with him? he asked himself. Could it be possible
that he was going to be on the sick list?

He remembered crawling into the same big brass bed with the
mosquito-bar canopy, and then he dropped off into dreamless sleep.

When he came to himself he was pleased to find that his brain was
clear, and that he could move around without feeling the vibrations of
the motor.

His health was first class, after all, and he never had felt brighter
in his life.

While he was dressing, McGlory and Lorry came into the room.

"What you going to do with that check, pard?" asked McGlory.

"I'm going to cash it, divide the money into three piles, give one pile
to you, one to Ping, and keep the other for myself," said Matt.

"Don't be foolish, Matt," implored the cowboy. "A third of two thousand
is more'n six hundred and fifty dollars. What do you suppose would
happen to me if all that wealth was shoved into my face?"

"Give it up," laughed Matt; "but I'm going to find out."

"And Ping! Say, the Chink will be crazy."

"I can't help that, Joe. He's entitled to the money. I wonder if you
fellows realize that we've never yet paid Ping for the _Sprite_? Here's
where he gets what's coming to him. He's full of grit, that Ping. You
ought to have seen how he helped me at the burning boathouse."

"What are you going to do with Ping, Matt?" queried Lorry.

"I haven't given that a thought," said Matt, a little blankly.

"Well," suggested McGlory, "you'd better hurry up and think it
over. He's walking around the servants' quarters lording it like a
mandarin. He says he's working for Motor Matt, and that you're the
High Mucky-muck of everything between Waunakee and the Forbidden City.
Better find something for him to do."

"We'll talk that over later," said Matt. "What about Ollie Merton?"

"You can hear all sorts of things, Matt," answered Lorry. "They say he
had a violent scene with his father, that he has squandered fifteen
thousand dollars while his parents were in Europe, and that he is to
be sent to a military school where there are men who will know how to
handle him."

There was a silence between the boys for a moment, broken, at last, by
Matt.

"That's pretty tough!"

"Tough?" echoed McGlory. "If Merton had what's coming to him he'd be in
the reform school. Don't waste any sympathy on him."

"Why," spoke up George, with feeling, "he's just the fellow that needs
sympathy. It's too bad he hasn't a Motor Matt to stand by him and help
him over the rough places he has made for himself."

George Lorry was speaking from the heart. He knew what he was talking
about, for he had "been through the mill" himself.


THE END.



THE NEXT NUMBER (24) WILL CONTAIN

Motor Matt On the Wing;

OR,

Fighting for Fame and Fortune

  Wanted: A Man of Nerve--Foiling a Scoundrel--Matt Makes an
  Investment--Matt Explains to McGlory--Ping and the Bear--A New
  Venture--A Partner in Villainy--Matt Shifts His Plans--Dodging
  Trouble--Blanked--Siwash Shows His Teeth; and His Heels--"Uncle Sam"
  Takes Hold--On the Wing--Dastardly Work--The Government Trial--Fame;
  and a Little Fortune.



MOTOR STORIES

THRILLING ADVENTURE MOTOR FICTION

NEW YORK, July 31, 1909.


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  79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York City.



TRICKED BY TWO.


"This is a public path," said Guy Hereford quietly.

"Ay, but you can't use it," returned the man he faced, with an ugly
glint in his eyes.

"All the same, I'm going to," said Guy coolly. "I'll trouble you to
move out of my way, Mr. Harvey Blissett."

For a moment the two faced one another on the narrow sandy road between
the bare, barbed-wire fences over which hung the fragrantly blooming
orange branches. Both were mounted, Hereford on a well-groomed Florida
pony, Blissett on a big, rough Montana, an ugly beast with a nose like
a camel and a savage eye.

"I'll give you one more chance," growled Blissett. "Turn and make
tracks."

"This is my road," said Hereford, as serenely as ever.

"Then 'twill be your road to kingdom come," roared Blissett, and
flashed his pistol from his hip pocket.

But Hereford's steady eyes had never wavered. He was no tenderfoot.
With the bully's movement he ducked, and at the same moment drove spurs
into his pony's flanks.

As Blissett's bullet whistled harmlessly into the opposite trees the
chest of Hereford's pony met the shoulder of the Montana with a shock
that staggered it, and before Blissett could pull trigger a second time
the loaded end of the other's quirt crashed across his head.

Blissett dropped like a shot rabbit. At the same time the Montana gave
a vicious squeal, lashed out violently, and bolted.

Hereford was off his pony in a moment, and, with an exclamation of
horror ran to Blissett and stooped over him. But a single glance was
enough. One of the Montana's heels had caught the unfortunate man
exactly on the same spot where Hereford's blow had fallen and crushed
his skull like an eggshell.

He was dead as a log.

"This is a rough deal!" said Hereford slowly, as he rose to his feet.
"Wonder what I'd better do."

The trouble was that every one for miles round knew the bad blood which
existed between the young orange grower and his neighbor.

Blissett was a cattleman who had bitterly resented the fencing of the
land which Hereford had bought. He had deliberately cut the wires and
let his scrub cattle in among the young trees, doing endless damage.
Hereford had retaliated by pounding the whole bunch so that Blissett
had to pay heavily to regain them.

Then Blissett had brought a law suit to force Hereford to give a public
road through his place. He had won his suit, but done more than he
intended, for the authorities extended the road through Blissett's own
land and forced him to fence it.

It was on this extension of the road that the tragedy had taken place.

"If I go to the sheriff there's sure to be trouble," said Hereford
aloud. "Ten to one they'll bring it in manslaughter."

"Murder, more likely," came a voice from behind, and Hereford, starting
round, found himself face to face with his cousin, Oliver Deacon, who,
hoe in hand, had just come through the fence from among the orange
trees.

"Why murder?" asked Hereford sharply.

The other, a sallow-faced man some years older than Hereford, gave a
disagreeable chuckle. "My dear Guy, every one knows the terms you and
Blissett were on. There'll be a jury of crackers, all pals of the late
unlamented, and they'll be only too glad to have a chance of taking it
out of a man they think an aristocrat."

"What's the good of talking rot?" exclaimed Hereford impatiently. "If
you were working in the grove I suppose you saw the whole thing?"

"Yes, I saw it," replied Deacon slowly.

"That's all right then. You know he brought it on himself."

There was a very peculiar look in Deacon's close-set eyes as he glanced
at his cousin.

"I saw you hit Blissett over the head with the lead end of your quirt,"
he said in the same measured tones.

"What in thunder do you mean, Oliver? Didn't you see his pony kick him
on the head?"

"I'm not so sure about that," was Deacon's reply.

Guy Hereford stared at his cousin in blank amazement.

"Will you kindly tell me what you do mean?" he asked icily.

"Yes, I'll tell you," said Deacon harshly. "Look here, Guy, I'm full up
with playing bottle washer, and it seems to me this gives me just the
chance I've been looking for. Need I explain?"

"I think you'd better," said Guy Hereford grimly.

"All right. I'll give you straight goods. I want to be paid, and well
paid, for my evidence. Here are you with a place of your own and a good
allowance from your father, you've a decent house and a first-class
pony. And as for me, I haven't a red cent, and am forced to do grove
work like an infernal nigger. As I said before, I'm sick of it, and
it's going to stop right here."

Hereford looked his cousin up and down. Then he said, "I knew you'd
sunk pretty low, Oliver, but I didn't quite realize the depths you've
dropped to. Whose fault is it you are hard up? Your own. You had more
than I ever had, and chucked it all away. People were decent to you
down here until you were caught cheating at poker. And now you want to
force me to pay you hush money under threats of false evidence. May I
ask how much you consider your evidence worth?"

Guy's tone of icy contempt brought a dull red flush to the other's
sallow cheeks. But he answered brazenly, "I'll take a thousand dollars."

Guy laughed.

"I wouldn't give you a thousand cents."

"Then you'll hang," retorted Oliver viciously.

"Well, that won't do you any good."

"Oh, won't it? Plainly, you don't know much about Florida law, my good
Guy. I'm your cousin. Don't forget that. And by the law of this State
I'm your next heir. See? When you've left this vale of tears I come in
for the whole outfit--your grove and everything. Now, perhaps, you'll
sing another song."

Guy's face went white. Not with fear, but anger. And his gray eyes
blazed with a sudden fury that made the other step hastily backward.

"You mean, skulking hound!" he cried. "You're worse--a thousand times
worse--than that fellow who lies dead there. Get out of my sight before
I kill you."

Oliver's eyes had the look of a vicious cur. "All right," he snarled.
"You'll change your tune before I'm done with you. If you don't fork up
the cash by this time to-morrow I'll go and give the sheriff a full and
particular account of how you murdered Harvey Blissett."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What's de matter, boss. Warn't dat supper cooked to suit you?"

"Supper was first-rate, Rufe. Only I've got no appetite," replied Guy.

"You done seem plumb disgruntled 'bout something ebber since you come
in dis evening," said Rufus, Guy's faithful negro retainer.

Guy looked at the man's sympathetic face. He felt a longing to talk
over the black business with somebody, and Rufe, he knew, would never
repeat a word to any one else.

"Heard about Harvey Blissett?" he asked.

"No, sah. What he been doing?"

"He won't do anything more, Rufe. He's dead."

"You doan' mean tell me dat man dead?"

"It's quite true."

"How dat come about?" inquired Rufus, his eyes fairly goggling with
eager interest.

Guy explained how Blissett had come by his end.

"Well, boss, I doan' see nuffin to worry about. 'Twaren't your fault as
dat Montanny animile kick him on de head. An' anyways, we's mighty well
rid ob him. Dat's my 'pinion."

"But suppose I'm accused of killing him, Rufe?"

"Dere ain't nobody as would believe dat, sah," stoutly declared Rufus.

"But if some one who hated me had seen it and gave evidence against me?"

Rufus started.

"I bet five dollar dat's dat low-down white man, Mistah Deacon!" he
exclaimed.

"You're perfectly right, Rufus. That's who it is."

"And he see you, and sw'ar dat it wasn't de hawse, but your quirt done
it?"

"That's about the size of it."

"Hab you done told de sheriff, sah?"

"Yes, I did that at once. Rode straight into Pine Lake."

"And what he say?"

"Told me I must come into the inquest the day after to-morrow."

"Den seem to me, sah, you done took de wind out of dat Deacon's sail.
He ain't seen de sheriff befoah you."

"That's all right, Rufe, as far as it goes. Trouble is that he'll be in
at the inquest to-morrow and he'll swear that it was my quirt did the
trick. That is, unless I give him a thousand dollars to keep his mouth
shut."

The negro's face changed suddenly from its usual smiling expression.
"Den I tell you what, Massa Guy," he exclaimed with sudden ferocity.
"You gib me your gun, an' I sw'ar dat man nebber go to dat inquest
to-morrow."

Guy knew well that Rufe meant what he said. He was touched. "You're a
good chap, Rufe, but I'm afraid your plan is hardly workable. You see
you'd be hung, too."

"Not dis nigger! I nebber be found out!" cried Rufe.

"Still we won't try it," said Guy in his quiet way.

Rufe stood silent for some moments. Then he turned to go back to the
kitchen.

His silence was ominous.

"Mind, Rufe," said Guy sharply. "No violence. You're not to lay a hand
on my cousin."

"All right, sah," said Rufe reluctantly. "I try t'ink ob some odder
plan."

The time dragged by slowly. Guy tried to write letters, but found he
could not settle to anything. The fact was that he was desperately
anxious.

He knew Deacon's callous, revengeful nature, and was perfectly certain
that he would carry out his threat if the money to bribe him was not
forthcoming. It was all true what his cousin had said. A jury of cattle
owners, "crackers," as they are called in Florida, would certainly find
him guilty on his cousin's evidence, and even if he escaped hanging his
fate would be the awful one of twenty years' penitentiary.

For a moment he weakened and thought of paying the price. But to do so
meant selling his place. He could not otherwise raise the money. Sell
the place on which he had spent four years of steady, hard work! No, by
Jove; anything rather than that. And even if he did so, what guarantee
had he that this would be the full extent of his cousin's demands?

Absolutely none. No, he laid himself open to be blackmailed for the
rest of his life. He hardened his heart, and resolved that, come what
would, he would stick it out and let the beggar do his worst.

Presently he got up and went out of his tiny living room onto the
veranda. The house was only a little bit of a two-roomed shack with a
penthouse veranda in front. He had built it when he first came, and had
been intending for some time past to put up a bigger place. Now that
dream was over.

Sick at heart, Guy flung himself into a long cane chair, and presently,
worn out by worry, fell asleep.

He was wakened by the pad pad of a trotting horse, and looking up
sharply saw in the faint light of a late-risen moon a figure mounted
on one horse and leading another passing rapidly along the sandy track
outside his boundary fence.

The something familiar about the figure of the man struck him like a
blow.

"By thunder, it's Deacon! What mischief is the skunk up to?" he
muttered. And on the impulse of the moment he sprang from the veranda,
and, slipping round the dark end of the house, made for the stable.

In a minute he had saddle and bridle on Dandy, and, leading the animal
out through the bars at the far end of the grove, was riding cautiously
on his cousin's track.

At first he made sure Deacon was going to Pine Lake. To his great
surprise the man presently turned off the main road and took a cut
across a creek ford, and round the end of a long cypress swamp.

"Must be going to Orange Port," he muttered. "There's something very
odd about this. And what in thunder is he doing with that second horse?"

They came to a bit of open savanna dotted with great islands of live
oak. The moon was higher now, and the grassy plain was bathed in soft,
silver light. As Deacon passed out of the deep shadow of the pine
forest Guy gave a gasp.

The horse that Deacon was leading was Blissett's Montana pony.

Guy actually chuckled.

"I'll bet a farm he's picked it up and means to sell it in Orange
Port," he said to himself. "Well, it mayn't save me, but at any rate
I'll be able to make things hot for him."

It was sixteen miles to Orange Port. Deacon, with Guy still at his
heels, reached the place about six in the morning, and took the animal
straight to a small livery stable, the owner of which was Sebastian
Gomez, a mulatto of anything but good repute.

Guy dogged him cautiously, and when he had left the stable and ridden
off, went in himself, put Dandy up, and had him fed.

Then he went to work cautiously, and by dint of a tip to one of the
colored men about the place, found that his precious cousin had indeed
sold the Montana to the owner of the stable, and had got fifty dollars
for the animal.

"Not such a bad night's work," said Guy to himself as, after breakfast
and a bath, he rode home again. He reached his place about nine to find
Rufus much disturbed at his long absence. Merely telling the negro that
he had been away on business, he lay down and had a much-needed sleep.

At four he woke and rode off to Pine Lake. He meant to find a lawyer to
whom he could intrust his case on the following day, but to his deep
disappointment Vanbuten, a clever young Bostonian and a great pal of
his, was away at Ormond for a week's sea bathing. There was nothing for
it but to send him an urgent telegram, begging him to return at once,
and then ride home through the warm tropic starlight.

"Wonder if I shall ever ride back to the dear little old shop again,"
thought Guy sadly, as he opened the gate and led his pony in and up the
neat path through the palmetto scrub. He loved every inch of his place,
as a man can only love a property which by the sweat of his own brow he
has carved out of the primeval forest.

Arrived at the house, he stabled Dandy and fed him, a job which he
never trusted to any one else, not even the faithful Rufe.

As he entered the house he could hear Rufe busy with pots and pans in
the kitchen. "He'll miss me, if no one else does," muttered Guy; and,
feeling desperately depressed, he went into his bedroom to change his
boots and coat. Hereford, being a Boston-bred man, was one of those
who, even when baching it alone in the wilds, still try to keep up
something of their old home customs.

He struck a match and lighted the lamp, then, as the glow fell upon his
cot, he started back with a cry of horror.


TO BE CONCLUDED.



HOMES ON THE RIO GRANDE.


The Mexican Indian huts in the villages and upon the ranches of the
lower Rio Grande border region of Texas have a style of architecture
and construction that is distinctly their own. This type of primitive
buildings is rapidly passing out of existence. Modern structures are
taking their places. At many places on the border families of Mexicans
have abandoned their jacals and moved into more pretentious homes.

One thing that recommended the old style of residence to the poorer
Mexicans was its cheapness of construction. No money outlay is
necessary in erecting the picturesque structures, neither is a
knowledge of carpentry needed. A double row of upright poles firmly set
or driven into the ground forms the framework for the walls. Between
these two rows of poles are placed other poles or sticks of shorter
length, forming a thick and compact wall. At each of the four corners
of the building posts are set, reaching to a height of about eight
feet. Roughly hewn stringers are laid from one post to another and to
these stringers are tied the other poles that form the framework of the
walls. The strong fibre from the maguey plant or strips of buckskin
are used to tie the poles into position. The rafters are tied to the
ridgepole and stringers in the same manner. At one end of the building
is built the opening through which the smoke of the inside fire may
ascend. Stoves are unknown among these Mexicans and the cooking is all
done upon the ground.

When the rafters are in position the thatched roof is put on. Palm
leaves form the most satisfactory roof, both as to durability and
effectiveness in shedding the rain, but owing to the scarcity of this
material on the Texas side of the international boundary stream,
grasses and the leaves of plants are used for the purpose. The roofing
material is tied to the rafters in layers. Some of the Mexican house
builders exercise great ingenuity in putting on the thatched roofs.

The only opening in most of these Mexican jacals is the door which
extends from the ground to the roof. The floor is the bare earth. The
ventilation is obtained through the crude chimney opening. The door
itself is seldom closed. The Mexican Indian is usually a man of large
family. A one-room house accommodates all. Perhaps several dogs and
a pig or two may share the comforts of the room with them on cool or
disagreeable nights.



PIGEONS AS PHOTOGRAPHERS.


Many wonderful feats have been credited to the instinct of the homing
or carrier pigeon, but "the limit," to quote the phrase of the moment,
seems to have been reached by Herr Neubronner, a Kronberg chemist, who
has actually trained pigeons to take photographs. For some time Herr
Neubronner has been utilizing pigeons, not only for the transmission
of messages to doctors in the neighborhood, but also to carry small
quantities of medicine. The latter are inclosed in glove fingers slung
about the birds' wings. The method has proved entirely successful,
experiments showing that the pigeon can carry a properly distributed
load of 2-1/2 ounces a distance of 100 miles.

Toward the end of last year one of the birds lost its way and did not
arrive at its cote until after the expiration of four weeks. There
was, of course, no means of ascertaining where and how the bird had
got lost. It then occurred to Herr Neubronner that a pigeon, equipped
with a self-acting camera, would bring in a photographic record of
its journey. He thereupon constructed a camera, weighing less than
3 ounces, which he fixed to the bird's breast by an elastic strap,
leaving the wings completely free. The process of snapshotting is,
of course, automatic. At regular intervals the machine operates by a
clockwork arrangement, and registers pictures of the various places
covered by the bird in its flight.

The German government has taken a keen interest in Herr Neubronner's
notion of utilizing pigeons as photographers, and there certainly seem
great possibilities in the idea. The carrier-pigeon photographer would
prove extremely valuable for obtaining information in times of war of
the country, position, and strength of the enemy.

The carrier pigeon flies at a height of between 150 feet and 300 feet,
safe from small shot and very difficult to hit with bullets. Pigeons
might be released from air ships at any height within the enemy's
lines, and they would carry home with them pictures of great value. The
carrier pigeon is peculiarly well suited to service of this character,
because when set free in a strange place it commences its flight by
describing a spiral curve, in the course of which several pictures
could be taken from various points of view.

Then, when the pigeon has determined the position of its goal, it flies
thither in a straight line at a uniform speed of about 40 miles an
hour. As the moment of exposure can be regulated with a fair amount of
precision, the object which it is desired to photograph can generally
be caught.

In besieged fortresses information concerning the besiegers can be
obtained by tumbler pigeons, which, when released at their home, fly in
circles for a time and then return to their cotes.



LATEST ISSUES


MOTOR STORIES

The latest and best five-cent weekly. We won't say how interesting it
is. See for yourself. =High art colored covers. Thirty-two big pages.
Price, 5 cents.=

  11--Motor Matt's Daring Rescue; or, The Strange Case of Helen Brady.

  12--Motor Matt's Peril; or, Castaway in the Bahamas.

  13--Motor Matt's Queer Find; or, The Secret of the Iron Chest.

  14--Motor Matt's Promise; or, The Wreck of the _Hawk_.

  15--Motor Matt's Submarine; or, The Strange Cruise of the _Grampus_.

  16--Motor Matt's Quest; or, Three Chums in Strange Waters.

  17--Motor Matt's Close Call; or, The Snare of Don Carlos.

  18--Motor Matt in Brazil; or, Under the Amazon.

  19--Motor Matt's Defiance; or, Around the Horn.

  20--Motor Matt Makes Good; or, Another Victory for the Motor Boys.

  21--Motor Matt's Launch; or, A Friend in Need.

  22--Motor Matt's Enemies; or, A Struggle for the Right.

  23--Motor Matt's Prize; or, The Pluck That Wins.

  24--Motor Matt on the Wing; or, Flying for Fame and Fortune.


TIP TOP WEEKLY

The most popular publication for boys. The adventures of Frank and Dick
Merriwell can be had only in this weekly. =High art colored covers.
Thirty-two pages. Price, 5 cents.=

  684--Dick Merriwell at the "Meet"; or, Honors Worth Winning.

  685--Dick Merriwell's Protest; or, The Man Who Would Not Play Clean.

  686--Dick Merriwell In The Marathon; or, The Sensation of the Great
  Run.

  687--Dick Merriwell's Colors; or, All For the Blue.

  688--Dick Merriwell, Driver; or, The Race for the Daremore Cup.

  689--Dick Merriwell on the Deep; or, The Cruise of the _Yale_.

  690--Dick Merriwell in the North Woods; or, The Timber Thieves of the
  Floodwood.

  691--Dick Merriwell's Dandies; or, A Surprise for the Cowboy Nine.

  692--Dick Merriwell's "Skyscooter"; or, Professor Pagan and the
  "Princess."

  693--Dick Merriwell in the Elk Mountains; or, The Search for "Dead
  Injun" Mine.

  694--Dick Merriwell in Utah; or, The Road to "Promised Land."

  695--Dick Merriwell's Bluff; or, The Boy Who Ran Away.

  696--Dick Merriwell in the Saddle; or, The Bunch from the Bar-Z.

  697--Dick Merriwell's Ranch Friends; or, Sport on the Range.


NICK CARTER WEEKLY

The best detective stories on earth. Nick Carter's exploits are read
the world over. =High art colored covers. Thirty-two big pages. Price,
5 cents.=

  646--Three Times Stolen; or, Nick Carter's Strange Clue.

  647--The Great Diamond Syndicate; or, Nick Carter's Cleverest Foes.

  648--The House of the Yellow Door; or, Nick Carter in the Old French
  Quarter.

  649--The Triangle Clue; or, Nick Carter's Greenwich Village Case.

  650--The Hollingsworth Puzzle; or, Nick Carter Three Times Baffled.

  651--The Affair of the Missing Bonds; or, Nick Carter in the Harness.

  652--The Green Box Clue; or, Nick Carter's Good Friend.

  653--The Taxicab Mystery; or, Nick Carter Closes a Deal.

  654--The Mystery of a Hotel Room; or, Nick Carter's Best Work.

  655--The Tragedy of the Well; or, Nick Carter Under Suspicion.

  656--The Black Hand; or, Chick Carter's Well-laid Plot.

  657--The Black Hand Nemesis; or, Chick Carter and the Mysterious
  Woman.

  658--A Masterly Trick; or, Chick and the Beautiful Italian.

  659--A Dangerous Man; or, Nick Carter and the Famous Castor Case.


_For sale by all newsdealers, or will be sent to any address on receipt
of price, 5 cents per copy, in money or postage stamps, by_

STREET & SMITH, Publishers, 79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York


=IF YOU WANT ANY BACK NUMBERS= of our Weeklies and cannot procure them
from your newsdealer, they can be obtained from this office direct.
Fill out the following Order Blank and send it to us with the price
of the Weeklies you want and we will send them to you by return mail.
=POSTAGE STAMPS TAKEN THE SAME AS MONEY.=


                                    ________________________ _190_

  _STREET & SMITH, 79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York City._

      _Dear Sirs: Enclosed please find_ ___________________________
      _cents for which send me_:

  TIP TOP WEEKLY,         Nos. ________________________________

  NICK CARTER WEEKLY,      "   ________________________________

  DIAMOND DICK WEEKLY,     "   ________________________________

  BUFFALO BILL STORIES,    "   ________________________________

  BRAVE AND BOLD WEEKLY,   "   ________________________________

  MOTOR STORIES,           "   ________________________________

  _Name_ ________________ _Street_ ________________

  _City_ ________________ _State_ ________________



A GREAT SUCCESS!!

MOTOR STORIES


Every boy who reads one of the splendid adventures of Motor Matt, which
are making their appearance in this weekly, is at once surprised and
delighted. Surprised at the generous quantity of reading matter that we
are giving for five cents; delighted with the fascinating interest of
the stories, second only to those published in the Tip Top Weekly.

Matt has positive mechanical genius, and while his adventures are
unusual, they are, however, drawn so true to life that the reader can
clearly see how it is possible for the ordinary boy to experience them.


_HERE ARE THE TITLES NOW READY AND THOSE TO BE PUBLISHED_:

  1--Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel.

  2--Motor Matt's Daring; or, True to His Friends.

  3--Motor Matt's Century Run; or, The Governor's Courier.

  4--Motor Matt's Race; or, The Last Flight of the "Comet."

  5--Motor Matt's Mystery; or, Foiling a Secret Plot.

  6--Motor Matt's Red Flier; or, On the High Gear.

  7--Motor Matt's Clue; or, The Phantom Auto.

  8--Motor Matt's Triumph; or, Three Speeds Forward.

  9--Motor Matt's Air Ship; or, The Rival Inventors.

  10--Motor Matt's Hard Luck; or, The Balloon House Plot.

  11--Motor Matt's Daring Rescue; or, The Strange Case of Helen Brady.

  12--Motor Matt's Peril; or, Cast Away in the Bahamas.

  13--Motor Matt's Queer Find; or, The Secret of the Iron Chest.

  14--Motor Matt's Promise; or, The Wreck of the "Hawk."

  15--Motor Matt's Submarine; or, The Strange Cruise of the "Grampus."

  16--Motor Matt's Quest; or, Three Chums in Strange Waters.

  17--Motor Matt's Close Call; or, The Snare of Don Carlos.

  18--Motor Matt in Brazil; or, Under the Amazon.

  19--Motor Matt's Defiance; or, Around the Horn.

  20--Motor Matt Makes Good; or, Another Victory for the Motor Boys.

To be Published on July 12th.

  21--Motor Matt's Launch; or, A Friend in Need.

To be Published on July 19th.

  22--Motor Matt's Enemies; or, A Struggle for the Right.

To be Published on July 26th.

  23--Motor Matt's Prize; or, The Pluck That Wins.

To be Published on August 2nd.

  24--Motor Matt on the Wing; or, Flying for Fame and Fortune.


PRICE, FIVE CENTS

At all newsdealers, or sent, postpaid, by the publishers upon receipt
of the price.

  STREET & SMITH,      _Publishers_,      NEW YORK



Transcriber's Notes:


Added table of contents.

Retained some inconsistent hyphenation ("work-bench" vs. "workbench")
from the original.

For this text edition, oe ligatures have been replaced with the letters
"oe."

Bold text is represented with =equal signs=, italics with _underscores_.

Page 2, changed "inisted" to "insisted" after "Motol Matt my boss, alle
same," and "cred" to "cried" after "Here, now."

Page 3, changed "out" to "ought" in "You and Ping ought to be ashamed."

Page 4, changed "instiution" to "institution" ("Another institution,
known as...").

Page 9, changed "sprit" to "spirit" ("said Matt, with spirit").

Page 10, corrected "stakeboak" to "stake boat" ("As good as passed the
stake boat").

Page 12, changed "wth" to "with" ("forcing an interview with").

Page 19, corrected "Larry" to "Lorry" ("While speaking, Lorry...").

Page 23, added missing close quote after "prove that by telling you
what just happened."

Page 27, corrected "red as a beat" to "red as a beet."

Page 28, corrected "Villiany" to "Villainy" in "next number" table of
contents.





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