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CHAPTER XII


A GRAND ARRIVAL


"Glad to see you, boys! You're looking prime!"

It was the greeting of Mr. Sanderson, as the Rovers stepped from the train at Ashton. The farmer was waiting at the platform with a two-seated carriage to take them to his farm.

"How are you, Mr. Sanderson!" came from the three, and then all continued in a chorus: "Did the biplane get here?"

"Something got here—two boxes an' several big bundles," answered the farmer. "I had everything carted over to my place."

"Two boxes and four bundles," said Dick.

"Right you are. One of 'em putty heavy, too."

"That was the engine, Mr. Sanderson," vouchsafed Sam.

"Is that so! Well, times are sure changin', an' bymeby the hosses won't be in it no more. So you calkerlate to fly over to the college."

"We do, if we can get the machine into shape," answered Tom. "It may be that something got broke on the way and will have to be mended," he added, anxiously.

"Well, we didn't break anything, Tom, take my word on that. If any thing's broke the railroad company done it."

The boys were soon seated in the carriage and Mr. Sanderson took up the reins. As my old readers know, the farmer was proud of his horses and he had good reason to be, for they started off in fine style, and presently were passing everything on that long and somewhat dusty road.

"How is Miss Minnie?" asked Tom, on the way.

"Fust rate, Tom. She went drivin' yesterday with that young feller from Brill that sprouts poetry."

"Oh, then Songbird has really arrived!" cried Tom.

"He has." Mr. Sanderson looked serious for a moment. "Say, is he any good—or is he all—well, all poetry?"

"Songbird is one of the best and smartest boys in the college, Mr. Sanderson," said Dick, bound to put in a good word for their chum. "He likes to make up verses, but that isn't all he can do. Some day he'll be a good business man."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that," answered the farmer; and the three Rover boys knew he was thinking of his only daughter Minnie, and of the attention Songbird Powell was paying to her.

It was not long before they came in sight of the Sanderson homestead, pleasantly located in a grove of trees. Minnie Sanderson was on the lookout for them—a round-faced, jolly young lady—and she waved her hand as the carriage came to a halt.

"Why didn't you come in that wonderful airship!" she sang out gaily. "I'm dying to see you fly!"

"Because you have the machine here!" answered Sam.

"Oh, we've only got some bundles, and they don't look a bit like a flying machine," went on the girl. "But, say," she added, her cheeks dimpling. "What a time I had yesterday, keeping your secret! Mr. Powell took me out riding,"—she blushed a trifle—"and when we came back he wanted to know what the bundles contained. I told him it was some kind of machinery. He saw the canvas and said he guessed pa was going to put up a windmill!"

"Thanks for keeping it dark!" cried Dick. "We want to surprise everybody at Brill."

"You'll have to be careful of what you do then," went on the girl. "Some of the young men have been around, and I—well, I don't like it."

"Who was around?" asked Tom.

"Mr. Flockley, for one," and Minnie bit her lip, for she had not forgotten how that dudish collegian had once insulted her,—the time the Rover boys had come to her rescue, as related in detail in "The Rover Boys at College."

"Did he come to the house?" asked Sam.

"Oh, no, he merely walked through the orchard. But I guess he saw some of the packages."

"He didn't speak to you, did he?" asked Dick, bluntly.

"I didn't give him the chance. When I saw him, I walked into the house, and he didn't dare to follow me."

It was almost supper time, and the boys had arranged to remain at the Sanderson homestead, instead of going to the rather poor hotel at Ashton. They had a merry time with the others over the repast, and then, even though it was late, they went down to the barn to inspect the boxes and bundles comprising the Dartaway.

"Everything seems to be all right," said Dick. "We ought to be able to put her together in a day, if we all work hard enough."

"We'll get up at six in the morning," said Sam.

So it was arranged, and Mr. Sanderson said he would call them. But this was unnecessary, for all were up and downstairs before the appointed hour, and before breakfast was served they had the boxes and bundles open and the various portions of the biplane ready for assembling.

"Can't I help?" asked the farmer, who was much interested in what was going on.

"You can help us lift the engine," said Dick. "That is rather heavy."

The boys and the farmer worked until five o'clock in the afternoon over the biplane, knocking off a half hour for dinner. For that meal they had same fried chicken and fresh vegetables, and an apple pie made by Minnie which Tom declared was "a dream."

"We'll come and board with you," said Dick, to the girl. "This sort of food goes away ahead of the college stuff; eh, boys?"

"Indeed it does!" cried Tom.

"Can't be beaten," put in Sam. And these compliments pleased the farmer's daughter very much.

Gasoline was at hand and also oil, and soon the youths had the engine of the biplane in working order. But it was not started until the Dartaway had been rolled off to the middle of a big field.

"I don't want to scare your horses and cattle," explained Dick, to the farmer. "When the engine starts they'll think Fourth of July has arrived."

Soon all was in readiness, and with a final inspection of the biplane, Dick took his seat in the machine and called to his brothers to work the propellers. Bang! bang! bang! went the cylinders, and around went the big blades, faster and faster, until only a blur could be seen. Then over the field shot the Dartaway and up in the air.

"Oh, my, just to look at that!" gasped Minnie. "Just like a big bird!"

"Well, I'll be switched!" cried Mr. Sanderson. "An airship, sure as you are born! I didn't think I'd live to see one! My! my! just to see that thing a-sailin' through the air!"

Dick made the circuit of the field and then cut a figure eight. The machine seemed to work perfectly, and when he came down he was well satisfied.

"All aboard for Brill College!" he cried. "Through passage only! No stopovers allowed!"

"Shall we sail over now, or wait until to-morrow?" asked Sam.

"Oh, come on now!" cried Tom, impatiently. "Lots of fellows will be on the campus at this hour, and we can do some circling around before we land."

"I'm willing," said Dick. "Who is to do the steering?"

"You do it—you're the oldest," said Sam.

"That's right," added Tom.

"I don't want all the glory," insisted Dick.

"You are not going to have," went on the fun-loving Rover. "See what I've got for Sam and myself." And he brought out a mysterious package he had brought from home. It contained two silken American flags and two tin horns.

"We'll do the patriotic while you run the machine," said Sam.

"And I've got something else—but never mind what it is," went on Tom.

"No fireworks, Tom—they are too dangerous in a flying machine," warned Dick, who knew his brother's love for things that made a noise.

"Nothing dangerous this time, Dick, I'll give you my word."

The Dartaway was given another inspection and then staked to the ground with a strong rope, fastened by a slip knot. Then the engine was started up and the three lads clambered on board.

"Good bye!" they cried to the Sandersons.

"Good bye and good luck!" answered the farmer.

"Let us know how you arrive," added his daughter. Then the knot in the rope was allowed to slide, and with a rush and a whizz the biplane sped over the smooth ground and then soared into the air. By the time Sam had hauled in the dangling rope, the flying machine had left the Sanderson farm far behind.

"Oh, this is simply glorious!" cried Tom. He had his flag in one hand and his horn in the other, and Sam was similarly equipped.

"Of course you know the way, Dick," said the youngest Rover.

"Oh, yes, it's easy. I'll simply follow the road. But I am going up a bit," added Dick. "I don't want to scare any horses, or we may have some damage suits to settle."

"The horses will have to get used to flying machines, just as they had to get used to autos," was Sam's comment.

On and on flew the Dartaway, Dick managing the biplane as skillfully as if he was a seasoned aviator. Over the farms and barns and houses they sailed, creating much astonishment. The inhabitants came rushing forth, some with milk pails, and women with dish cloths and towels in their hands. One boy in his excitement shied a dipper at them, the object falling short of its mark by several hundred yards.

"We are waking folks up," remarked Tom, as he tooted his horn and waved his flag, and Sam followed suit. Then the fun-loving Rover placed his horn under his arm and began to fumble at something in his pocket.

"I see Brill!" cried Sam, presently. "There is the main building!" And he pointed with his hand.

"I see it," answered Dick. "Now for a few circles and a figure eight before we come down. I hope they'll give us room to land."

In a few seconds more the various buildings belonging to the institution of learning were in full view. Dick started up the engine with renewed speed, thereby making more noise, and Tom and Sam added to the din by blowing the horns with all their might. The two boys also waved the flags.

The racket had the desired effect. From one building and another ran the students and the members of the faculty, and also the hired help, and all gazed up into the sky to learn what the poise meant.

"It's an airship!"

"There are three people on board!"

"Say, doesn't she sail along beautifully!"

"Wonder if they are sailing across the state."

"Maybe they are in the ocean-to-ocean race."

"They look like three boys! See, two of them are waving flags! Now what do you think of that!"

"I'm going to get my spyglass," said one of the under teachers, and ran to do so. In the time the Dartaway came closer and circled slowly over the main college building and the broad campus.

"Look! look!" cried several of the students. "What are they up to?"

From the bottom of the craft had suddenly burst a cluster of red, white and blue tissue-paper streamers. These floated under and behind the Dartaway, producing a beautiful effect. Then suddenly came floating down through the air a quantity of many-colored confetti tiny bits of pretty paper that settled everywhere.

"The Rover boys!" cried the teacher who had brought out his spyglass. "They are the three Rover boys!"

"The Rover boys!" cried Songbird Powell, who stood near. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Hurrah!" shouted Stanley Browne. "Now, isn't that just like them? Always up to something new and original."

"Three cheers for the Rover boys!" called out one of the seniors. And the cheers were given with a will, while the Dartaway continued for some time to float over the college grounds and then came settling down like some big white bird, in the very center of the campus.