The Motor Rangers' Cloud Cruiser, p.1John Henry Goldfrap
THE MOTOR RANGERS’ CLOUD CRUISER
Author of “The Motor Rangers’ Lost Mine,” “The Motor RangersThrough the Sierras,” “The Motor Rangers on Blue Water,” etc., etc.
With Illustrations by Charles L. Wrenn
New YorkHurst & CompanyPublishers
Copyright, 1912,ByHurst & Company
CHAPTER PAGE I. THE MAGNETIC ISLAND 5 II. NAT TO THE RESCUE 17 III. THE ISLANDS VANISH 27 IV. PROFESSOR GRIGG AND MR. TUBBS 37 V. TROUBLE WITH A HAT 47 VI. “WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A VOYAGE IN THE AIR?” 55 VII. A STRANGE SAIL APPEARS 63 VIII. TRAPPED BY TWO RASCALS 71 IX. SOME STRATEGY 80 X. “DING-DONG” AND A GUN 88 XI. CAPTAIN LAWLESS TRIES TRICKERY 99 XII. “GOOD WORK, MANUELLO!” 108 XIII. SOUTH AMERICAN JUSTICE 120 XIV. OFF ON THEIR STRANGE VOYAGE 130 XV. A SIGNAL THAT MEANT “DANGER” 140 XVI. INDIANS? 148 XVII. A QUEER SORT OF GUN 156 XVIII. WHAT IT DID 166 XIX. AN INVOLUNTARY PASSENGER 177 XX. “ALL OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT” 187 XXI. “FEATHERED AEROPLANES” 199 XXII. A SERIOUS ACCIDENT 211 XXIII. OVERBOARD!—1950 FEET UP! 223 XXIV. THE CITY OF A VANISHED RACE 231 XXV. A STRANGE ADVENTURE 246 XXVI. SAVED FROM THE SUN GODS 257 XXVII. “DID WE DREAM IT ALL?” 268
THE MOTOR RANGERS’ CLOUD CRUISER
THE MAGNETIC ISLAND.
“What do you make of the weather, Nat?”
Joe Hartley turned to Nat Trevor as he spoke, and scanned the face ofthe young leader of the adventure-seeking Motor Rangers with someanxiety.
But the stout and placid Joe’s unwonted look of apprehension found noreflection on the firm countenance of Nat Trevor, who stood as steadilyat the wheel of the _Nomad_ as if that sixty-foot, gasolene-drivencraft was not, to use Joe’s phrase of a few moments before, pitchingand tumbling “like a bucking broncho.”
“It does look pretty ugly for a fact, Joe,” rejoined Nat, after he hadscrutinized the horizon on every side.
“And this is a part of the Pacific where we were warned before we leftthe Marquesas that we must look out for squalls,” returned Joe, stilllooking worried.
“Oh, well, the _Nomad_ has weathered many a good hard blow, not tomention those waterspouts,” commented Nat. “I guess she’ll last throughwhatever is to come.”
At this moment a third boyish countenance was suddenly protruded from ahatchway leading to the _Nomad’s_ engine-room.
“S-s-s-s-say, y-y-y-you chaps,” sputtered our old acquaintance,William—otherwise and more frequently Ding-Dong—Bell, “w-w-what’s inthe w-w-w-wind?”
“A bit of a storm, I guess, Ding-Dong,” returned Nat, watching hissteering carefully, so as to send the _Nomad_ sliding easily over thelong, oily swells, “but don’t you mind, old chap. She’ll stand it,never fear. How are your engines running?”
“L-l-l-like a d-d-d-dollar w-w-watch,” returned Ding-dong, with a noteof pride in his tones.
“Good. Now if only we were farther to seaward of that island yonder,I’d feel easier,” commented Nat.
“Say, Nat,” struck in Joe, as Ding-dong dived below once more, “itseems to me we are a long time passing that island.”
“I agree with you, Joe. That is what made me ask Ding-dong about hisengines. At the pace they are turning up, we should have left it behindus long ago, yet there it is, still on our starboard bow.”
“And we are getting closer in to it all the time, you’ll notice,”rejoined Joe.
“There must be some powerful currents hereabouts,” said Nat, lookingfor the first time a little bit troubled. “There’s something queerabout that island, anyhow. I can’t find it on the chart. According tothat, this part of the mid-south Pacific is absolutely free fromislands or rocks.”
“Hullo,” cried Joe suddenly, “that’s odd! Look, Nat, the island isn’treally one island at all. It’s two of them.”
This paradoxical speech was really a correct explanation of the case,as it now appeared. The _Nomad_ had, by this time, made some littleprogress over the rising sea, and as the bit of land “opened out,” itcould be seen that there were, as Joe had said, two islands, with anarrow channel running in between them.
“Phew!” whistled Nat. “This complicates the situation. To make mattersworse——” He stopped short.
“Well?” demanded Joe.
“Never mind,” replied Nat; and then in an undertone he added tohimself: “I may be wrong, but I’ll bet the hole out of a doughnut thatwe are being dragged round toward that passage.”
That such was actually the case, he realized to his dismay an instantlater. Head the _Nomad’s_ bow round as he would, some invisible forcestill dragged her in toward the two islands. It soon became apparent,too, that the narrow channel was, in reality, more in the nature of acleft between the two masses of land. Its walls were steep and sheerand formed of grayish rock. It could now be seen that the water in thisabyss was boiling and bubbling as if in a caldron.
Nat and Joe exchanged glances of dismay. It was no longer possible todisguise the fact that they were momentarily being sucked, as though byinvisible yet resistless forces, toward this ominous looking chasm.
The three youths had set out for the California coast, on which wastheir home, some days before, from the Marquesas group of islands,where they had had some surprising adventures. What these were will befound set down in the third volume of this series, “_The Motor Rangerson Blue Water_.” It may be said here, briefly, that their experiencesin the South Seas had included the routing of a rascally band, who hadmade a headquarters on one of the Marquesas Group, and the discoveringof the rightful owner of some valuable sapphires which had come intotheir possession in a truly remarkable way.
Of how they acquired these sapphires, and of the adventures and perilsthrough which they passed before they gained full possession, detailswill be found in the second volume of the Motor Ranger Series, namely,“_The Motor Rangers Through the Sierras_.” In that volume, we followedour youthful and enterprising heroes through the great Sierra range,and learned of their clever flouting of the schemes of the same band ofrascals whom they re-encountered in the South Seas. Among other feats,they located and caused the destruction of the hitherto secret fortressof Colonel Morello, a notorious outlaw. This earned them his undyingenmity, which he was not slow to display. In this volume, too, it wasrelated how the lads found, in a miner’s abandoned hut, the wonderfulsapphires.
It now remains, only briefly, to sketch the earlier experiences of thethree lads, to give our readers a grasp of their characters. In thefirst volume of this series, then, which was called “_T
This errand grew out of Nat’s employment as automobile expert by Mr.Montagu Pomery, the “Lumber King,” as the papers called him, who madehis winter home at Santa Barbara. Nat, who lived with his mother, was,at that time, very poor, and much depended on his situation with themillionaire, in charge of his several cars. But Ed Dayton, whoconsidered that Nat had superseded him in the place, made trouble forhim. Aided by Donald Pomery, the lumber king’s son, a weak,unprincipled youth, he hatched up a plot, which, for a time, put Natunder a cloud. But Mr. Pomery himself proved Nat’s firm friend.
Owing to Mrs. Pomery’s interference, the millionaire was compelled todischarge Nat, but he almost immediately re-employed him on theconfidential mission of which we have spoken. This was to visit LowerCalifornia and investigate conditions on his timber claims there. Muchrare and valuable wood had been going astray, and Mr. Pomery suspectedhis superintendent, Diego Velasco. He lacked proof, however, and Nat heselected as a bright, trustworthy lad, who could carry out aninvestigation painstakingly.
Nat recalled that his dead father had been interested, in his youth, ina rich mine in Lower California, and the prospect of the trip,therefore, had a double fascination for him. Mr. Pomery provided anautomobile, equipped in elaborate fashion, for the long trip, much ofwhich was to be made through desert country. With Mr. Pomery’spermission, Nat invited his two chums, Joe Hartley, son of a well-to-dodepartment store keeper, and William Bell, the stammering lad, toaccompany him. The latter’s mother and the former’s father at firstdemurred considerably to the trip, but at last they gave their consent.Nat, for his part, had some trouble winning his mother over. But soonall was arranged, and they set out. How they discovered the Lost Mine,and Nat became rich, was all told in that book, together with manyother adventures that befell them. The reader is now in a position tounderstand our chief characters, sturdy, intelligent Nat Trevor, withhis curly black hair and dancing blue eyes; stout, red-faced JoeHartley, always good-natured, though inclined to be a bit nervous, andDing-dong Bell, the cheery, stuttering lad, whose eccentricities ofspeech provided much amusement for his companions.
The day on which this story opens was the seventh since their departurefrom the Marquesas on their return voyage to the Pacific Coast. Theyhad left behind them their fellow adventurers, some of whom wished toreturn by steamer, while others were anxious to continue their travelsin the fascinating South Seas. So far, smiling skies and sunny seas hadbeen encountered. But this particular day had dawned with a smoky, redhorizon, through which the rising sun blazed like a red-hot copper ball.
It had been oppressively hot—torrid, in fact. But although the air wasmotionless and heavy, the sea was far from being calm. It heaved with aswell that tossed the _Nomad_ almost on her beam-ends at times. Thatsome peculiar kind of tropical storm, or typhoon, was approaching, Natfelt small doubt. A glance at the barometer showed that that instrumenthad fallen with incredible rapidity. A candle, held in the thick, murkyair, would have flamed straight skyward without a flicker.
Dinner was eaten without a change being observable in the weatherconditions, and, on coming on deck to relieve Joe at the wheel while hewent below to eat, Nat sighted the bit of land toward which they werenow being drawn like a needle to a lodestone. In the meantime theweather had been growing more and more extraordinary. The copperish skyhad deepened in color till a panoply of angry purple overspread theheaving sea. The sun glared weakly through the cloud curtains asthrough a fog. But still there had come no wind.
Hardly had the two lads on the bridge of the _Nomad_ realized that theywere inexorably being drawn toward the two islands, however, when fromfar off to the southwest there came a low, moaning sound. It seemedalmost animal in character; like the lowing of an angry bull, in fact,was the comparison that occurred to Nat. The sound increased inviolence momentarily, while the sky from purple changed to black, and ablast like that from an open oven door fanned their faces. Through thisawe-inspiring twilight the _Nomad_ continued her inexplicable advancetoward the two islands.
“Here it comes!” shouted Joe suddenly, as, from the same quarter asthat from which the wind had proceeded, there came a sudden, angry roar.
“Hold tight for your life!” flung back Nat over his shoulder, grippinghis steering wheel with every ounce of strength he possessed.
And thus began hours of stress and turmoil, which the Motor Rangerswere ever to remember as one of the most soul-racking experiences oftheir young lives.
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