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CHAPTER III


SAM BRINGS NEWS


As Tom ran over to his brother's side he could not help but give a glance at the flying machine, which was rising higher and higher in the air, with a noise from the engine that sounded like a battery of gattling guns in action.

"Hi! hi! Wot's that?" came in a startled voice from the other side of the barn, and Jack Ness, the Rovers hired man, came running into view.

"By gum, if them boys ain't gone an' flew without waitin' fer that man to show 'em! Who's doin' it? I don't see nobuddy." And the hired man blinked in amazement at the sight before him. "Is Sam in there?"

"Nobody is in the machine," answered Tom, who was kneeling beside his brother. "Oh, gracious! Look at that!" he exclaimed.

"There goes the chimbley!" roared Jack Ness, as the biplane swooped just high enough to clear the roof of the Rover homestead. One of the wheels underneath struck a chimney a glancing blow, hurling the bricks in all directions. As they came clattering down, from the house out ran Mrs. Rover, followed by her husband and the hired help. Anderson Rover was away on business.

"What is the matter—is it a—er—a cyclone?" gasped Randolph Rover.

"I don't know, I'm sure," answered Mrs. Rover. "But it's a terrible noise."

"Look! look!" shrieked the cook, pointing upward. "Saints preserve us!" she moaned. "'Tis the end of the world!"

"A flying machine!" murmured Randolp Rover. He gazed around hurriedly. Can it be the boys?"

"Oh, those boys! They will surely kill themselves!" groaned Mrs. Rover. "They know nothing about airships!"

"Say, dar ain't nobuddy in dat contraption!" came suddenly from Aleck Pop. "It am flyin' all by itself!"

"By itself?" repeated Randolph Rover. "Impossible, Alexander! A flying machine cannot run itself. There must be somebody to steer, and manipulate the engine, and——"

"Oh, maybe whoever was in it fell out!" screamed Mrs. Rover, and now she looked ready to faint.

"We must find out about this!" returned her husband quickly. "They had the machine in the shed back of the barn." And he ran in that direction, followed by the colored man, and then by his wife and the cook. In the meantime the biplane soared on and on, ever rising in the air and moving off in the direction of the river.

When the others arrived they found that Tom had carried poor Dick to the wagon shed and placed him on a pile of horse blankets, and was washing his wounded head with water. At the sight of her nephew lying there so still Mrs, Rover gave a scream.

"Oh, Tom, is he—is he——" she could not go on.

"He's only stunned, I guess, Aunt Martha," was the reply. "But he got a pretty good crack."

"Did the flying machine do it?" queried Randolph Rover.

"Yes. We had it tied fast, but when we started the engine and the propellers it broke loose and ran right over Dick."

"I dun tole you boys to be careful," burst out Aleck. "It's a suah wondah yo' ain't bof killed. Wot kin I do, Massa Tom?" And he got down on his knees beside Dick, for he loved these lads, who had done so much for him in the past.

"He's only stunned, I think—and he's coming around now," answered Tom, and at that moment Dick commenced to stir. Then he gave a gasp, opened his eyes, and suddenly sat up.

"Stop her! Stop her, Tom!" he murmured.

"Dick! Dick, my poor, dear boy!" burst out Mrs. Rover, and got down beside him. "Oh, I am so thankful that you weren't killed!"

"Why—er—why!" stammered the oldest Rover boy. "Say, what's happened?" he went on, looking from one to another of the group. "Where's the biplane?"

"Flew away," answered Tom. "You got struck and knocked down, don't you remember!"

"Ah!" Dick drew a deep breath. "Yes, I remember now. Oh, how my head aches!" He put up his hand and noticed the blood. "Got a pretty good rap, didn't I? What did the machine do, Tom; go to smash?"

"I don't know. The last I saw of her she was sailing over the house."

"She kept right on a-sailin'," answered Aleck. "Went on right ober de woods along de ribber."

"You don't say! Then we'll have a time of it getting her back." Dick gritted his teeth. "Phew! how my head hurts!"

"Bring him to the house, and we'll bind his head up," said Mrs. Rover. "I'll wash the wound first and we can put on some witch hazel."

"Yes, that or some peroxide of hydrogen," added Randolph Rover, who was a scientific farmer and something of a chemist. "That will kill any germs that may lodge there."

Dick was half led and half carried to the house and placed on a couch in the sitting room, and then his aunt went to work to make him comfortable. The cut was not a deep one, and the youth was suffering more from shock than from anything else.

"I'll be all right by to-morrow," he assured his Aunt Martha. "I only got a knock-down blow, that's all."

"The machine didn't fight fairly," added Tom, who had to have his little joke. "It hit Dick before he was ready."

"Well, I am thankful it was no worse," answered Mrs. Rover. "But it is bad enough."

"And we'll have to have a mason here to mend the chimney," added Randolph Rover.

"I'll get a man from the Corners to-morrow," said Tom. "But say, I'd like to know where the biplane went to," he continued anxiously.

"Maybe it landed on some other house," mused Randolph. "If it did you may have more to pay for than a dismantled chimney."

"Oh, houses are few and far between in that direction, Uncle Randolph. "What I am afraid of is, that the biplane came down in the trees or on the rocks and got smashed. That would be a big loss."

"That is true."

"I can send Jack Ness and Aleck Pop out to look for the machine," went on Tom. "And I can go out myself with Sam, when he returns."

"Yes, you'd better do that," answered Dick. "And I'll go out with you to-morrow, if you can't locate the machine to-day."

"Better take it easy, Dick," cautioned his aunt.

"Oh, I'll be all right by to-morrow, Aunt Martha. A good night's sleep will be sure to set me on my feet again. And I can fix this cut up with a bit of adhesive plaster."

"Did you have much gasoline on board?" queried Randolph Rover.

"The tank was full," answered Tom. "Oh, the Dartaway could go a good many miles, if she wanted to," he added, dubiously.

"The Dartaway? Was that the name of the craft?"

"Yes, and she did dart away, didn't she?" and Tom grinned.

"For all we know, she may have gone fifty or A hundred miles," continued Dick. "But I doubt it. With nobody to steer she'd be bound to turn turtle or something before long."

"Well, if she's busted, she's busted, that's all,'* answered Tom, philosophically. Yet the thought of the beautiful biplane being a wreck caused him to sigh.

A few minutes later the honk of an automobile horn was heard in the lane leading to the house, and Sam Rover appeared, driving the family car. He was alone on the front seat and in the tonneau had a variety of things purchased in the village for his aunt and the others.

"Hello! what does this mean?" cried Sam, as he came into the sitting room and saw Dick with his head bound up. "What did you do? Did you get that fussing with the biplane?"

"I did, Sam," was the answer.

"We both had a set-to with her ladyship," put in Tom. "And the biplane floored us on the first round." And then he told his younger brother of what had occurred.

"Humph! that's too bad!" murmured Sam. He took Dick's hand. "Not hurt much, really?" he asked in a lower voice.

"No, Sam, I'll soon be O. K."

"Jumping lobsters! But this beats all!" went on the youngest Rover. "I don't know if I had better tell you or not." And he looked around, to see if anybody but his brothers was present. The grown folks had left the room.

"Tell us what?" demanded Tom, who quickly saw that Sam had something on his mind.

"Tell you the news."

"What news?" asked Dick.

"Maybe you can't stand it, Dick. It will keep till to-morrow."

"See here, Sam, I'm not a baby," retorted the oldest Rover boy. "If you've got anything worth telling tell it."

"But it may make your head ache worse, Dick."

"No, it won't. Now, what's the news? Out with it."

Instead of answering at once, Sam Rover walked over to the door and closed it carefully.

"No use of worrying the others about it," he half whispered.

"But what is it?" demanded Tom, and now he showed that he was as impatient as was Dick.

"I got a letter from Grace Laning," went on Sam, slowly, and turned a bit red. "She told me a piece of news that is bound to upset you, Dick."

"Is it about the Stanhopes—about Dora?" questioned Dick, half rising from the couch on which he rested.

"Yes,—and about some others, too. But don't get excited. Nothing very bad has happened, yet."

"What did happen, Sam? Hurry up and tell us,—don't keep us in suspense!" cried Dick.

"Well; then, if you want it in a few words, here goes. Grace was visiting the Stanhopes a few days ago and she and Dora went to Ithaca to do some shopping. While in that town, coming along the street leading to the boat landing, they almost ran into Tad Sobber and old Josiah Crabtree."

"What! Those rascals in that town—so near to the Stanhope home!" exclaimed Dick. "And after what has happened! We must have them arrested!"

"I don't think you can do it, Dick—not from what Grace says in her letter."

"What does she say?"

"She says she and Dora were very much frightened, especially when they discovered that both Sobber and old Crabtree had been drinking freely. The two got right in front of the girls and commenced to threaten them and threaten us. Nobody else was near, and the girls didn't know what to do. But at last they got away and ran for the boat, and what became of Sobber and old Crabtree they don't know."

"What did the rascals say to them?" questioned Tom, who could see that his brother had not told all of his tale.

"They said that they were going to square up with Dora and with Mrs. Stanhope, and said they would square up with us, too, and in a way we little expected. Grace wrote that Sobber pulled a big roll of bank bills out of his pocket and flourished it in her face. 'Do you see that?' he asked. 'Well, I can get more where that came from, and I am going to use that and more, too, just to get even with the Rovers. I'm getting my trap set for them, and when they fall into it they'll wish they had never been born! I'll blow them and their whole family sky-high, that's what I'll do.'"

"Sobber said that?" asked Dick, slowly.

"So Grace writes. No wonder she and Dora were scared to death."

"Oh, maybe he was only blowing, especially if he had been drinking too much," came from Tom.

"I don't know about that," answered Dick, with a long sigh. "With such a rascal at liberty, and with money in his pocket there is no telling what will happen."

"What do you suppose he meant by blowing us sky-high?" asked Tom. But this question was not answered, for at that moment Mrs. Rover came into the room, and the course of the conversation had to be changed,—the lads not wishing to worry her with their new troubles.