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"Oh, Dick, are you hurt?"

The cry came from Tom, as he turned over on the ground and struggled to his feet. He had seen his brother hurled backwards, and he saw that Dick made no move to arise. He had been struck in the head, and blood was flowing from a wound over his left ear.

"Oh, maybe he's killed!" gasped poor Tom, and then, for the moment he forgot all about the flying machine, that was rushing so madly through the air towards the Rover homstead. He hurried to his brother's side, at the same time calling for others to come to his assistance.

To my old readers the lads already mentioned will need no introduction. For the benefit of others let me state that the Rover boys were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next, and sturdy Sam being the youngest They were the sons of Anderson Rover, a widower, and when at home, as at present, lived with their father and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha at a pleasant place known as Valley Brook farm, in New York state.

While their father was in Africa on a mission of importance, the three boys had been sent by their uncle to boarding school, as related in the first volume of this series, entitled, "The Rover Boys at School." The place was Putnam Hall Military Academy, and there the lads had made many friends and also a few enemies.

From school the boys had made a short trip on the ocean, and then another trip into the jungle after their father. Then had followed a trip out West, and another on the Great Laks. Later the youths had camped out in the mountains during the winter, shooting quite some game. Then they had returned to school, to go into camp during the summer with the other cadets.

The boys by this time thought their adventures at an end, but more were soon to follow. There came a long trip on land and sea, and then a voyage down the Ohio River, and soon after this the Rovers found themselves on the plains, where they had some adventures far out of the ordinary. From the plains they went further south, and in southern waters—the same being the Gulf of Mexico—they solved the mystery of the deserted steam yacht.

"Now back to the farm for me!" Sam had said at this time, and all were glad to go back, and also to return to Putnam Hall, from which seat of learning they presently graduated with honors. Then Mr. Anderson Rover got word of a valuable treasure, and he and the boys, with a number of their friends, went to Treasure Isle in search of it. They were followed by some of their enemies and the latter did all in their power to cause trouble.

Although the boys had finished at Putnam Hall, their days of learning were not yet over, and soon they set off for Brill College, a high-grade seat of learning located in one of our middle-western states. They had with them an old school chum named John Powell, usually called "Songbird," because of his habit of making up and reciting so-called poetry, and were presently joined by another old school companion named William Philander Tubbs, a dudish chap who thought more of his dress and the society of ladies than he did of his studies. Tom loved to play jokes on Tubbs, who was generally too dense to see where the fun came in.

From the college the boys had taken another trip, as related in the fifteenth volume of this series, called "The Rover Boys Down East." There was a mystery about that trip, of which the outside world knew little, but as that trip has something to do with the events which are to follow in this story, I will here give such details as seem necessary.

When the Rover Boys went to Putnam Hall they met three girls, Dora Stanhope and her two cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. Dora's mother was a widow, living not far from the school, and it was not long before a warm friendship sprang up between Dick and Dora,—a friendship that grew more and more intimate as the days went by. Dick thought the world of Dora, and the two were now practically engaged to be married. As for Tom and Sam, they had taken to the two Laning girls from the start, and though Tom was too full of fun to pay much attention to girls, yet whenever Nellie was mentioned he would grow red in the face; and it was noticed that whenever Grace was present Sam was usually on had to keep her company.

The treasure unearthed on Treasure Isle had belonged to the Stanhope estate, the bulk of it going to Mrs. Stanhope and Dora and the remainder to the Lanings, because Mrs. Laning was Mrs. Stanhope's sister. But the treasure had been claimed by a certain rascal named Sid Merrick and his nephew, Tad Sobber, and when Merrick lost his life during a hurricane at sea, Sobber continued to do all he could to get the money and jewels into his possession.

"It's mine!" he told Dick Rover one day. "It's mine, all mine, and some day I'm going to get it!"

"You keep on, Tad Sobber, and some day you'll land in prison," had been Dick's answer. "We found that treasure, and the courts have decided that it belongs to the Stanhope estate, and you had better keep your hands off."

But Tad Sobber was not satisfied, and soon he made a move that caused the worst kind of trouble. There was a learned but unscrupulous man named Josiah Crabtree who had once been a teacher at Putnam Hall, but who had been discharged and who had, later on, been sent to prison for his misdeeds. This Josiah Crabtree had once sought to marry Mrs. Stanhope, thinking thereby to get control of her money and the money she held in trust for Dora. The lady was weak and sickly, and the teacher had tried to hypnotize her into getting married, and had nearly succeeded, but the plot was nipped in the bud by the Rover boys.

Tad Sobber met Josiah Crabtree and the pair hatched out another plot, this time to abduct Mrs. Stanhope, getting the lady at the time to bring a good share of the treasure with her under the impression that it was to be invested by her friends. The lady was carried off to an island in Casco Bay, off the coast of Maine, and thither the Rover boys and some others followed them. There was a good deal of excitement; but in the end the lady was rescued and the treasure brought back. An effort was made to capture Tad Sobber and Josiah Crabtree, but the two evildoers managed to get away.

The home-coming of the boys with Mrs. Stanhope had been a time of great rejoicing. Dora had embraced Dick over and over again for what he had done for her mother, and Nellie and Grace had not been backward in complimenting Tom and Sam on their good work. There had been a general jubilee which had lasted several days.

"Splendid work, boys, splendid work!" Anderson Rover had said. "I am proud of you!"

"Better work than the authorities could do," had come from Uncle Randolph.

"Now that treasure had better be placed where no outsider can get his hands on it," Mr. Rover had added. And soon after that it was put in the strong box of a safe deposit company, there to remain until it could be properly invested.

At Brill College the Rover boys had fallen in with a number of fine fellows, including Stanley Browne and a German-American student named Max Spangler. They had also encountered some others, among whom were Dudd Flockley, Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur. Led by Koswell, who was a thoroughly bad egg, the three last-named students had tried to get the Rover boys into trouble, and had succeeded. But they overreached themselves and were exposed, and in sheer fright Koswell and Larkspur ran away and refused to return. Dudd Flockley was repentant and was given another chance.

While on the hunt for Mrs. Stanhope, the Rovers had fallen in with Koswell and Larkspur. But instead of getting aid from the pair, the latter did what they could to help old Crabtree and Sobber. This brought on a fight, and Koswell and Larkspur received a thrashing they would long remember. The former college students might have been arrested, but, like Crabtree and Sobber, they kept out of sight.

"They are sure a bunch of bad ones," had been Dick Rover's comment, when referring to Crabtree, Sobber, Koswell and Larkspur. "I wish they were all in jail."

"I reckon we all wish that," had been Sam Rover's reply. "It's an awful shame that we didn't capture at least one of 'em."

"Well, we might have caught old Crabtree and Sobber if we hadn't broken the engine of the motor-boat," put in Tom.

"Well, the engine was broken in a good cause," came from Dick. And he spoke the truth, as my old readers well know.

Following the home-coming of the boys, and the general jubilee, our heroes had settled down to enjoy themselves before going back to Brill. They had intended to take it easy on the farm, but when a great aviation meet was advertised to take place at the county seat they could not resist the temptation to be present.

At this meet there were five flying machines, three biplanes, a monoplane, and a dirigible balloon. All made good records, and the Rover boys became wildly enthusiastic over what they saw^

"Say, this suits me right down to the ground!" cried Tom.

"What fun a fellow could have if he had a flying machine and knew how to run it!" had come from Sam.

"Exactly—if he knew how to run it," had been Dick's words. "But if he didn't know—well, he might have a nasty tumble, that's all."

"Pooh, Dick! If those fellows can run these machines, so can we," had been Tom's confident words.

"We know all about autos and motor-boats," Sam had put in.

"That's true, Sam. But a monoplane or a biplane, or any kind of an aeroplane, isn't an auto or a motor-boat."

"Are you afraid?" demanded Tom.

"Oh, no! Only if we got a flying machine we'd have to be careful about what we tried to do."

"Hurrah! It's settled!" cried Tom, who went headlong into everything. "We'll get a machine to-morrow! How much do they cost?"

"I don't know—several thousand dollars, I fancy," answered his elder brother.

"Boiled umbrellas, Dick! As much as that?"

"I think so."

"Why look at some of 'em," declared Sam. "Nothing but bamboo poles and a few wires, and canvas,—and the engine!"

"Yes, but the poles, wires and canvas have to be put together just right, Sam, and those engines are as powerful as they are light. And then don't forget the propellers, and the steering outfit, and the other things."

"Come on and ask one of the men about them," came from Tom; and a little later they had a long talk with an aviator named Captain Colby, who proved to be a relative to Larry Colby, one of their former chums at Putnam Hall. He had heard about the Rover boys and some of their doings, and willingly told them all they wanted to know.

The boys went home with their minds full of flying machines, and as the Rovers were all well-to-do, and as the three lads had in the past proved capable of taking care of themselves, it was not a very difficult matter for them to pursuade their father to let them buy a biplane. Then, through Captain Colby, they learned where the flying machine could be obtained, and the very next day bought the affair and had it shipped to the farm, and also arranged with the aviator to visit them and give them a number of lessons.

"We've got three weeks before we have to go back to college," Tom had said. "If we are quick to learn we can have lots of fun in that time."

"Yes, and if we do learn, perhaps we can take the biplane to college with us and astonish some of the students and the faculty," Dick had added.

"That's the talk!" cried the youngest Rover. "We'll take it along!"

That morning Sam had gone off on an errand as already mentioned. Then Dick and Tom had gotten out the flying machine and started up the engine and the propellers. The ropes holding the biplane had broken or torn loose from the ground, and now the machine had gone off with a wild swoop, hurling poor Dick flat on his back and injuring him, how seriously was still to be learned.