The motor rangers cloud.., p.4
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       The Motor Rangers' Cloud Cruiser, p.4




  “So it is. What on earth can it be doing out here? Wait a jiffy, I’llgo below and get the glasses.”

  Joe, now fully recovered, dived into the after cabin and soonreappeared with a pair of powerful binoculars.

  Nat focused them on the distant object, which, by this time, wasvisible, even to the naked eye, and reported it to be a small boat,painted white, and looking like a ship’s dinghy, or small lifeboat.

  Excitement ran high on board the _Nomad_ when Nat proclaimed that hewas almost certain he had seen an arm wave from the small craft.

  “I couldn’t be quite sure, though,” he admitted. “Here, Joe, you take alook.”

  The chubby-faced Joe now bent the glasses on the object of theirscrutiny.

  He gazed intently for a minute, and then uttered a shout.

  “By ginger, Nat, you’re right!” he exclaimed. “There _is_ someone onboard. There must be something the matter with them, though, for theyseem to be collapsed in a kind of bundle on the thwarts.”

  “We must make all speed to their aid,” said Nat, signaling for morepower. “Poor fellows, if they have been adrift in all that flare-up,they must be about dead.”

  “I should say so,” agreed Joe.

  As they neared the boat, Nat began blowing long blasts on the electricwhistle, to let the occupants know that aid was at hand. In response, afigure upreared itself in the drifting craft, waved feebly once ortwice, and then subsided in a limp-looking heap.

  “I reckon we’re only just about in time,” said Nat grimly, coaxinganother knot out of the _Nomad_.

  As they drew alongside the boat, they saw that not one but two personsoccupied it. The one who had signaled them from a distance proved to bea short, stocky little man, with a crop of brilliant red hair and apair of twinkling blue eyes. The merry flash in those optics had notbeen dulled, even by the terrible ordeal through which, it wasapparent, he and his companion had passed.

  “Hullo, shipmates! Glad to see you!” he chirruped, grinning up at theboys on the bridge with a look of intense good humor.

  His white duck clothes were scorched, and his rubicund hair, on closeinspection, proved to be singed, but nothing appeared capable ofdowning his amiability.

  His companion was of a different character entirely. He was dressed induck trousers and black alpaca coat. White canvas shoes adorned hisextremely large feet. But it was his face that attracted the boys’attention. It was large, round and learned looking, with a thin-lippedmouth cutting the lower part of it like a gash. Above this, a huge,bony nose protruded, across which was perched a pair of big,horn-rimmed spectacles. A crop of sparse gray locks crowned his highforehead and was scattered sparingly over his large, but well-shapedhead, which was bare.

  “God bless my soul, George Washington Tubbs, but I’ve lost my hatagain!” he exclaimed to his companion, as the _Nomad_ drew alongside.

  “We’d have lost more than that, I fancy, if it hadn’t been for thishere craft,” observed George Washington Tubbs, with a wink at the boys.“We’d have been a pair of buckwheat cakes, well browned, professor,when they found us.”

  “I wish I could find my hat,” muttered the spectacled individual in acontemplative tone, peering about under the seats.

  “It was blown off when the island busted up,” rejoined Mr. Tubbs. “Butwe’re keeping these gentlemen waiting. I presume,” he went on,addressing the boys, “that it is your intention to rescue us?”

  Nat could hardly keep from laughing. His first impression was that theyhad encountered a pair of harmless lunatics. But something in themanner of both men precluded this idea almost as soon as it was formed.

  “Won’t you come aboard?” he said politely.

  It seemed as inadequate a remark as Stanley’s famous one to Livingstonin the wilds of Africa; but, for the life of him, Nat couldn’t havefound other words.

  “Thanks; yes, we will,” responded Mr. Tubbs, with decisive briskness.“Oh, by the way! Don’t move! Don’t stir! Just as you are, till I tellyou!”

  Nat’s suspicions of lunacy began to revive.

  Mr. Tubbs bent swiftly, and picked up what looked like a large camerafrom the bottom of the boat. Only it was unlike any camera the boys hadever seen. It was a varnished wooden box, with a big handle at theside. Mr. Tubbs gravely set it up on its tripod and began turning thehandle rapidly.

  “Now, you can move about! Let’s get action now!” he shouted, waving hisfree hand.

  “This will be a dandy film!” he continued, addressing the world atlarge. “Gallant rescue of Professor Thaddeus Grigg and an obscureindividual named Tubbs, following the disappearance of the volcanicisles.”

  In good-natured acquiescence to Mr. Tubbs’ orders, the boys beganbustling about. Ding-dong Bell, who had come on deck when he got thesignal to stop his engines, was particularly active.

  “Now, then, professor,” admonished Mr. Tubbs, “up with you.”

  “Without my hat?” moaned the professor; but he nevertheless clamberedover the side of the _Nomad_, the boys helping him, while Mr. Tubbskept up a running fire of directions.

  “Keep in the picture, please. Look around now, professor. Fine! Good!Great!”

  These last exclamations came like a series of pistol shots, andseemingly proclaimed that the speaker was well satisfied with thepictures he had made. The professor being on board, Mr. Tubbs followedhim, the boys helping him up with his machine, and with a box which, sohe informed them, contained extra films.

  Professor Grigg, as the red-headed, moving-picture man had called him,was too much exhausted to remain on deck, but retired to the cabinescorted by Ding-dong. As he went he was still murmuring lamentationsover his hat.

  “It’s his weakness,” explained Mr. Tubbs, who seemed to be in no wisethe worse for his experience, “he’s lost ten hats since we left ’Friscoin the _Tropic Bird_.”

  The name instantly recalled to Nat an item he had read in the paperssome months before, concerning the setting forth on a mysteriousexpedition of Professor Grigg of the Smithsonian Institute and oneGeorge Washington Tubbs, a moving-picture photographer of some fame.The object of the expedition had been kept a secret, and thenewspapermen could elicit no information concerning it. It had beenrumored, however, that its purpose was to record the volcanic phenomenaof the South Pacific.

  “Is—is that _the_ Professor Grigg?” asked Nat, in rather an awestrucktone.

  “It is,” responded Mr. Tubbs, “and this is _the_ Mr. Tubbs. I’ve takenmoving pictures of the Russo-Japanese war, of the coronation, of theDelhi Durbar, of the fleet on battle practice, of—of everything, infact. I’ve been up in balloons, down in submarines, sat on thecowcatchers of locomotives, in the seats of racing automobiles, hung bymy eyebrows from the steel work of new skyscrapers; but I’ll bejiggered if this isn’t the first time I ever took a moving picture ofan island being swallowed up alive—oh, just like you’d swallow anoyster.”

  “Then the island was swallowed?” asked Joe, with wide-open eyes.

  “Swallowed? I should say so. And with a dose of boiling water, too. ButI got my pictures! I got my pictures!” concluded Mr. Tubbs triumphantly.

  “But where’s your schooner? How did you come to be drifting about in anopen boat?” inquired Nat.

  “Ah, as Mr. Kipling says, ‘that’s another story,’” said Mr. Tubbs. “Iguess I’ll have to leave that part of it to the professor. But—hullo,here he comes now. I guess he’s feeling better already. Possibly he’lltell you the story for himself.”

  “I shall be very glad to,” said the professor, who, after partaking ofsome stimulants from the _Nomad’s_ medicine chest, already felt, as hesaid, “much revived.”

  “You see in us, young men,” he continued, “the sole members of thevolcanic phenomena expedition of the Smithsonian Institute and theBritish Royal Geographical Society, who adhered to the duty beforethem. Would you care to hear how we came to be adrift as you found us?”

  “Would we?” came in concert from the boys.

  “Then I——” began the professor, and then broke off and felt his barehead. “Can—can any one lend me a hat?” he asked.

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